Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Cruising the Web

Whoa! That was fast. Who saw this story coming? Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer have a blockbuster of a story about four women's allegations of sexual violence against Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general last night and a few hours later he's resigned. The New Yorker scores again in bringing down a giant based on reporting his own conduct.

As Farrow and Mayer point out, the liberal Democrat has been raising his profile in the #MeToo movement.
Now Schneiderman is facing a reckoning of his own. As his prominence as a voice against sexual misconduct has risen, so, too, has the distress of four women with whom he has had romantic relationships or encounters. They accuse Schneiderman of having subjected them to nonconsensual physical violence. All have been reluctant to speak out, fearing reprisal. But two of the women, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, have talked to The New Yorker on the record, because they feel that doing so could protect other women. They allege that he repeatedly hit them, often after drinking, frequently in bed and never with their consent. Manning Barish and Selvaratnam categorize the abuse he inflicted on them as “assault.” They did not report their allegations to the police at the time, but both say that they eventually sought medical attention after having been slapped hard across the ear and face, and also choked. Selvaratnam says that Schneiderman warned her he could have her followed and her phones tapped, and both say that he threatened to kill them if they broke up with him. (Schneiderman’s spokesperson said that he “never made any of these threats.”)

A third former romantic partner of Schneiderman’s told Manning Barish and Selvaratnam that he also repeatedly subjected her to nonconsensual physical violence, but she told them that she is too frightened of him to come forward. (The New Yorker has independently vetted the accounts that they gave of her allegations.) A fourth woman, an attorney who has held prominent positions in the New York legal community, says that Schneiderman made an advance toward her; when she rebuffed him, he slapped her across the face with such force that it left a mark that lingered the next day. She recalls screaming in surprise and pain, and beginning to cry, and says that she felt frightened. She has asked to remain unidentified, but shared a photograph of the injury with The New Yorker.

In a statement, Schneiderman said, “In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.”
The women who are accusing him are Democratic feminists and professional women. Part of the reason they are coming forward is disgust at Schneiderman's posing as a defender of women against sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein. One woman, Manning Barish, who was in a romantic relationship with him, details an episode in which he slapped and choked her and then accused her of scratching him and threatened her that "hitting an officer of the law is a felon." She told three women as well as the novelist Salman Rusdie about the episode.
contemporaneously. HIs behavior in their relationship sounds like that of a prototypical abuser. And she's not the only woman making these sorts of allegations of hitting them. Another woman, after an encounter in which she says he "smacked" her, told friends and took a picture that she showed her friends.

Given that four women have now come forward with very similar allegations, and there might be more, we'll see if those people who were cheering Schneiderman's very public efforts against sexual violence will still support him. This story seems to be coming out now because these women started searching out other women who had debated Schneiderman to see if they had similar stories. And they did. And they also have common tales of his threatening them that he would use the power of his office against them. But how many women will have this response?
After the former girlfriend ended the relationship, she told several friends about the abuse. A number of them advised her to keep the story to herself, arguing that Schneiderman was too valuable a politician for the Democrats to lose.
Sounds familiar to what we've heard too often from partisans of both parties.

The whole thing is a powerful story with a lot of supporting details from various witnesses. I wouldn't be surprised if more women come forward since it sounds as if Schneiderman has a pattern of behavior with women whom he dated. He's still denying them, but says that he can't lead his office in the midst of these serious allegations. What a quick political fall. And, ironically, since Schneiderman was using his office to oppose Trump in New York's courts, the attorney general's political demise gives the President, who has his own sleazy history (though not violent) with women, an opportunity to gloat.
Since 2017, Mr. Schneiderman had raised his profile nationally by taking on President Trump’s agenda repeatedly in the courts. He was pushing to change state law so that his office could prosecute Mr. Trump’s aides even if the president pardoned them; his resignation makes the status of that effort less certain....

Mr. Schneiderman has long been regarded as one of the state’s most progressive politicians, even before his 2013 lawsuit against Trump University and his subsequent suits against the Trump administration made him the darling of the political left. Last fall, Mr. Schneiderman’s office proudly pointed to a segment on the late-night comedy show “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” in which the attorney general was described as “a hero who stood up to democracy’s nemesis,” a Superman-like character known as Schneider-man.

His credentials as an advocate for women, in particular, had gone unquestioned....

Also on Monday evening, Mr. Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. dug up an old tweet from Mr. Schneiderman in which he said, “No one is above the law” and tweeted at him, “You were saying???”
Well, Junior, remember that pride goes before a fall and all that. Don't get hubristic. That's what brought down Weinstein, Cosby, and now Schneiderman.

Here's another appalling detail about what seemed to turn Schneiderman on.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called his Sri Lankan girlfriend his “brown slave” and wanted her to refer to him as “Master,” the woman says.

Harvard-educated activist writer Tanya Selvaratnam told the New Yorker magazine that her yearlong affair with Schneiderman “was a fairytale that became a nightmare” — and quickly escalated into violence in the bedroom, even as he begged for threesomes.

“Sometimes, he’d tell me to call him Master, and he’d slap me until I did,” Selvaratnam said.

He started calling me his ‘brown slave’ and demanding that I repeat that I was ‘his property.’”
Selvaratnam said, “The slaps started after we’d gotten to know each other.

“It was at first as if he were testing me. Then it got stronger and harder. It wasn’t consensual. This wasn’t sexual playacting. This was abusive, demeaning, threatening behavior.”

She said that as the violence grew, so did his sexual demands.

“He was obsessed with having a threesome and said it was my job to find a woman,” Selvaratnam said. “He said he’d have nothing to look forward to if I didn’t and would hit me until I agreed.”
Schneiderman has succeeded in making Eliot Spitzer look good.

With teachers across the nation (or at least in states controlled by Republicans) leading protests, it's worthwhile questioning the underlying arguments the teachers are making that they are underpaid. Andrew Biggs of AEI and Jason Richwine look more closely at those claims. First of all, there is the claim that teachers earn less than average college graduates.
This is true, but in what other context do we assume that every occupation requiring a college degree should get paid the same? Engineers make about 25 percent more than accountants, but “underpaid” accountants are not demonstrating in the streets.

Wages are not determined by years of schooling but by the supply and demand for skills. These skills vary by field of study. About half of teachers major in education, among the least-rigorous fields at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Incoming education majors have lower SAT or GRE scores than candidates in other fields, but—thanks to grade inflation—they enjoy the highest GPAs. Data from the Collegiate Learning Assessment indicate that students majoring in social science, humanities, and STEM fields not only start college with greater skills than education majors but also learn more along the way.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) analyzes the skill requirements of different jobs, assigning each a pay grade based on the federal government’s General Schedule (GS). At the lowest skill levels—a GS-6 on the federal scale—teachers earn salaries about 26 percent higher than similar white-collar workers. At GS-11, the highest skill level, teaching pays 17 percent less than other white-collar jobs. This explains how shortages can exist for specialized positions teaching STEM, languages, or students with disabilities, while elementary education postings may receive dozens of applications per job opening. The average public school teaching position rated an 8.8 on the federal GS scale. After adjustment to reflect the time that teachers work outside the formal school day, the BLS data show that public school teachers on average receive salaries about 8 percent above similar private-sector jobs.
Also, the opportunity costs of teachers staying in teaching aren't necessarily greater than if they left education.
Contrary to myth, teachers are generally not foregoing higher salaries by staying in the classroom. Data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation show that teachers who change to non-teaching jobs take an average salary cut of about 3 percent. Studies using administrative records in Florida, Missouri, Georgia, and Montana showed similar results; the Georgia study found “strong evidence that very few of those who leave teaching take jobs that pay more than their salary as teachers.”
Even in the states where salaries are lagging, if you figure in their pension benefits, things don't look as bad as activists claim.
It’s true that teacher salaries in several states are lagging. Teachers in Arizona, West Virginia, and Oklahoma have good reason to be dissatisfied: their salaries rank near the bottom nationally, even after controlling for cost of living. Even in these seemingly underpaying states, though, pensions can more than make up the difference. Oklahoma teachers accrue new pension benefits each year, with a present value equal to 30 percent of their annual salaries. Subtract Oklahoma teachers’ own contribution of 7 percent, and employer-paid retirement benefits are worth 23 percent of annual salaries. By contrast, the typical private-sector employer contribution to a 401k plan amounts only to about 3 percent of employee pay.

Many teachers also qualify for retiree health coverage, now practically extinct in the private sector. In some states, retiree health care is modest: Oklahoma teachers get an insurance supplement of about $100 per month. But for teachers in Illinois, future retiree health benefits are worth an additional 8 percent of annual pay, while in North Carolina, retiree health benefits are worth an additional 12.5 percent.
I'm sure it's just a coincidence that the education unions don't include those benefits into their calculations. And states are moving away from those sorts of pensions because some of them are already going broke paying those pensions. And, in areas where there are teacher shortages, such as in special education jobs or STEM positions, the states should be able to offer premiums on their salaries instead of being forced to pay all teachers the same wage regardless of the demand for those positions. But that isn't the sort of reform teachers' unions are willing to accept. They want everyone to be paid the same except for step increases for experience or post-graduate degrees. And they resist charter schools which specialize in finding innovative ways to get more with less money.
Teachers enjoy widespread public favor, and their desire for higher pay is understandable. But no nationwide crisis of teacher compensation exists. Most teachers receive market-level salaries and generous retirement benefits. Local hiring problems can and should be addressed without granting windfall benefits to teachers whose compensation is already better than adequate.
Well, tell that to my home county, Wake County, which just announced that they will close schools next week so that teachers can go rally at the state capital.
The N.C. Association of Educators estimates more than 10,000 teachers may attend the May 16 teacher march and rally in Raleigh. Six school districts have already announced they are closing for the day, with an optional teacher work day.

The Wake County Public School System was the latest to join that list, making the announcement Monday afternoon.
If I were a parent of a student in one of those county schools, I would be furious if I have to rush around trying to find childcare so that teachers can go demand more money that those very parents would end up having to pay for in tax increases. And what about the teaching that won't get done on that day. There are still Advanced Placement tests going on that week. Are the schools going to be able to staff those tests? Are teachers just going to write off that day of reviewing? What about the reviewing that is going on before final exams that are coming up? I have never had patience for teachers who walk out on their students, and make no mistake, that is what is happening. Remember, Wake County is the county in which the state legislature is located. Couldn't they have scheduled their protest for after school hours or on a weekend instead of inconveniencing families and shortchanges students?

Apparently, some in Jersey City who are upset about a monument in the city to the victims of the Katyn Massacre.
The Katyn memorial, a 34-foot-tall monument depicting a bound-and-gagged soldier impaled in the back by a bayoneted rifle, has been a fixture at Exchange Place since 1991. The city plans to put it in storage during a planned transformation of the Exchange Place plaza into a public park, and the statue may not return to its current location....

The park creation is a project of the Exchange Place Special Improvement District. Its chair, Mike DeMarco, who is also CEO of real-estate firm Mack-Cali, said it's the city's decision whether the statue remains there after the plaza renovation is complete. His personal preference is that it is moved elsewhere.

"I don't think the statue's appropriate for a major metropolitan area," DeMarco told The Jersey Journal. "It's a little gruesome ... I can't imagine how many mothers go by and have to explain it to their children."

DeMarco added that the notion that Russians are backstabbers is "not exactly a politically correct idea nowadays."
Kirsten Zadroga-Hart, a descendant of Polish immigrants, is not impressed with such an argument.
As a proud Polish-American, I am deeply bothered by the recent quote from the Exchange Place SID chairman and local developer when he said, "It's a little gruesome...I can't imagine how many mothers go by and have to explain it to their children."

The insensitivity of this statement is astounding. Just a few paces over is a memorial commemorating the events of September 11th. Just up the block on Montgomery Street near City Hall is the fallen police officer's memorial. Would any of those be just as "inappropriate"?

It is unfortunate that the reality of the Katyn Massacre does not fit his vision of a pocket park or a pedestrian plaza, however, to dismiss the history of the very people who helped to build Exchange Place and contributed to the fabric of Jersey City is disheartening. It's even more disheartening that our Mayor would capitulate to such a callous desire by a developer, but I can't say I'm surprised anymore.

Mayor Fulop has repeatedly emphasized that he desires Jersey City to be a model for diversity, and he endeavors to make Jersey City a relevant community in the shadow of New York City. But removing a memorial that has such significance to the Polish community beyond Jersey City is inconsistent with his stated objectives. This entire issue wouldn't be as problematic if the Mayor engaged in a dialogue with the community regarding a plan for the statue's return.
The time to have the debate was when the monument was put up in the first place. Now that it is up, removing it makes a statement about what sorts of victims, the city is willing to memorialize. It's a powerful monument and should spark valuable discussions of the event that is being commemorated and what exactly happened there. The city shouldn't try to erase that history. This isn't a debate over a problematic figure in history such as a Confederate general or a Spanish conquistador, but a memorial to the victims of the brutality of Josef Stalin and his secret police.
One of the earliest--and certainly the most infamous--mass shootings of prisoners of war during World War II did not occur in the heat of battle but was a cold-blooded act of political murder. The victims were Polish officers, soldiers, and civilians captured by the Red Army after it invaded eastern Poland in September 1939. Strictly speaking, even the Polish servicemen were not POWs. The USSR had not declared war, and the Polish commander in chief had ordered his troops not to engage Soviet forces....

On 5 March 1940, Stalin signed their death warrant--an NKVD order condemning 21,857 prisoners to "the supreme penalty: shooting." They had been condemned as "hardened and uncompromising enemies of Soviet authority."

During April-May 1940, the Polish prisoners were moved from their internment camps and taken to three execution sites. The place most identified with the Soviet atrocity is Katyn Forest, located 12 miles west of Smolensk, Russia. For years historians assumed that the grounds of an NKVD rest and recreation facility were both an execution and burial site for nearly a fifth of the unfortunate Poles who found themselves in Soviet captivity. Post-Cold War revelations, however, suggest that the victims were shot in the basement of the NKVD headquarters in Smolensk and at an abattoir in the same city, although some may have been executed at a site in the forest itself. In any event, the Katyn Forest is--and will probably long remain--the main symbol of the atrocity, even if it was not the actual killing field.
It was a noble choice to put up that monument in the first place. It will be despicable if they take it down just because the monument is "gruesome." Well, the event it commemorates represented one of the more gruesome moments in an extremely gruesome war. We should not have problems in a monument honoring those tragic victims.

Melanie Phillips explains why Netanyahu chose to make the announcement about the Mossad's amazing intelligence coup last week. She disputes the idea that Netanyahu made the announcement in order to pressure Trump to pull out of the deal since the Israelis had already informed the U.S. about what they had acquired and what the documents showed. No, Phillips argues, the purpose was to humiliate and demoralize the Iranian regime.
The value of this intelligence coup, however, may be not so much the content of the material the Mossad obtained, but the fact that it obtained it at all.

For the Mossad’s achievement was simply stupendous. The Iranian regime considered this material to be so important that it went to huge lengths to conceal it, moving it from location to location before storing it all in a shabby warehouse in Tehran.

The Mossad not only discovered it in February 2016, but managed to spirit virtually the whole lot away under the Iranian nose. And it wasn’t just a few documents, but virtually the entire nuclear archive—half a ton of paper and digital files.

How the Mossad did this remains necessarily a mystery. Reportedly no fewer than 100 operatives were involved.

And here’s what’s so important about this. The Iranians now know that, in obtaining this most closely guarded information, the Mossad penetrated the innermost sanctums of the Iranian security apparatus.

What’s more, they did it in the most audacious way by making off with the whole treasure trove. This is surely the reason for Netanyahu’s pyrotechnical display.

The regime knew last January that the archive had been stolen; reportedly, it has been arresting people as a result. Netanyahu’s presentation was designed publicly to humiliate it and throw it into chaos by demonstrating to both the Iranian people and the world that Israel had compromised the whole nuclear project and quite possibly the rest of the regime’s activities, too.

If the Mossad could suborn the system to bring this off, the regime must now be asking itself, how many others might be working clandestinely or maybe even unknowingly for Israel from the inside? Just how many traitors are there—and how high up do they go?

This is likely to induce demoralizing paranoia and panic in the regime. After all, it has expended so much energy hiding its nuclear program, burying it deep inside mountains, hooking gullible Europeans (and the Obama administration) through guile and duplicity and concealing the records. Yet suddenly it finds its security betrayed from within and to an extent which is unknowable.
And now they have been exposed in the region as not being as awesome as they always brag about being.
Iran’s public humiliation by Netanyahu has a further important function. Because of its advances in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, Iran has been viewed by the Arab world as the strongest horse in the region. And the Arab world always gravitates towards the strongest horse.

Iran constantly boasts that it is about to wipe Israel off the map, that Israel has only a short time left to survive, that Israel is powerless. Yet Israel has now stolen its most closely guarded secrets and compromised the entire regime.

Moreover, the document store was hidden under the watch of the Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence organization. The Revolutionary Guards have hitherto enjoyed a fearsome reputation; they are the regime’s guarantee of survival. Now their mystique has been shattered, possibly forever.

At a stroke, the impression of Iranian invincibility has been destroyed. The entire region will be taking note. So will other actors making mischief, such as Russia. For the message is that it’s not Iran but its putative victim, Israel, where power really lies.

Israel has been showing this recently in other ways, too. In February, it bombed Iranian facilities in Syria involved in sending an armed drone across the Israeli border. Last week, it bombed two Iran-linked bases inside Syria, causing massive explosions and killing dozens of Iranian and Syrian fighters.
And perhaps the message will resonate within Iran.
The people have the power to bring the regime down, and it knows it. In order to continue to risk their lives, however, such protesters have to believe that victory is achievable.

By strengthening Iran so unforgivably over the past few years, the West effectively abandoned the Iranian people. The blow struck by the Mossad may do more than signal a new and more muscular phase in Israel’s defense. It may now also help empower the Iranian people to bring down the regime itself.

This is how Berkeley, the home of the Free Speech Movement, regards the shout-downs of conservative speakers on its campus. Do they condemn the students who use the heckler's veto to keep conservatives from being able to speak? Nope. They take the innovative route of blaming conservatives for "inciting" those on the left to violence.
“Although those speakers had every right to speak and were entitled to protection, they did not need to be on campus to exercise the right of free speech,” the report says. “Indeed, at least some of the 2017 events at Berkeley can now be seen to be part of a coordinated campaign to organize appearances on American campuses likely to incite a violent reaction, in order to advance a facile narrative that universities are not tolerant of conservative speech.”

The report specifically cites Yiannopoulos and Coulter, who the commission says “expressed little interest in reasoned discussion of contentious issues or in defending or revising their views through argument.” Coulter could not be reached for comment.

The Berkeley College Republicans, who helped organize events there last year and have sued the school, also could not be reached for comment.

The report continues: “Many Commission members are skeptical of these speakers’ commitment to anything other than the pursuit of wealth and fame through the instigation of anger, fear, and vengefulness in their hard-right constituency. Speech of this kind is hard to defend, especially in light of the acute distress it caused (and was intended to cause) to staff and students, many of whom felt threatened and targeted by the speakers and by the outside groups financing their appearances.”
John Sexton comments,
This is the sort of bass-ackward argument I would expect from a commission at Berkeley. The report is saying right-wing speakers knew the far left would use violence to enforce their heckler’s veto, therefore they (the speakers) are responsible for inciting that violence. After all, they didn’t “need” to exercise their rights at Berkeley.

SCOTUS decision
There’s no other realm in which this argument would be considered reasonable. Try this variation: Police didn’t need to show up in that high crime neighborhood, knowing it would incite violence from local gangs. How about: She didn’t need to wear that short skirt to the party, knowing it would incite sexual harassment and assault. Or maybe: Being openly gay, he didn’t need to go to that bar, knowing it would incite gay-bashing violence. These arguments all seek to blame violent behavior on the victim for going somewhere he or she wasn’t wanted.

Even if Berkeley is absolutely correct about the speaker’s motives (I think they’re partially correct at best), it’s completely irrelevant. A line exists legally and morally between speech and violence. The conservatives went to Berkeley for constitutionally protected speech. The masked goons on the far left were there for intimidation and violence. Appeals to the “acute distress” this speech might have caused if allowed to happen are special pleading. Anyone who claims speech incited violence on the grounds of psychic pain is endorsing the heckler’s veto. The correct answer here is very simple: There was no excuse for the left-wing violence at Berkeley.
Exactly! Only when the victims are conservatives is it, apparently, correct to blame the victims for inciting those on the left to violence.

Wait!, I'm so confused. Isn't this cultural appropriation?
Forget Halloween, for celebrities dress-up time happens in May - at the annual Met Gala.

And fashion's biggest night didn't let style fans down on Monday, as the stars revealed their imaginative takes on the theme Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, .

Dripping in gold, a busty Kim Kardashian showed off her heavenly body in a skin-tight Versace sheath, while Jennifer Lopez went all out in a bedazzled jeweled Balmain gown.

But it was pop star Rihanna, always one to push the boundaries of fashion, who took over the carpet at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in a jaw dropping Pope inspired mini dress and jacket with a matching hat by Maison Margiela.

This year's Met Gala's is in conjunction with the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination exhibition, which has been described as a bid 'to create a dialogue between fashion and the masterworks of religious art in the museum’s holdings'.

The exhibit will display work from Coco Chanel, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Donatella Versace, among many others, with the items sitting along historic ecclesiastical pieces. The theme has been met with some controversy due to the fact the event was held alongside precious ancient artifacts.
Some of these get-ups have to be seen to be believed. I guess it doesn't count as cultural appropriation if you're dressing up in someone's religion if that religion is Christian. Though some Catholics are not amused.
On Tuesday, Catholics vented their fury at the 'disrespectful' and 'blasphemous' theme, which encouraged stars to wear Christianity-inspired outfits. Leading the red carpet displays was Rihanna, who dazzled in her heavily beaded white and black mini with a matching jacket and hat - from Maison Margiela by John Galliano.

Her hat was a fashion take on a Mitre, a hat known as the traditional head-dress of bishops and abbots in Christianity. Encompassing the theme, Mitres are worn in the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, Lutheran churches, Anglican Communion, the Oriental Orthodox Churches and Eastern Catholic Churches.
So what are the chances that the Met would host a similar gala devoted to Islam and invite all the celebrities to come with costumes mocking or honoring (depending on your view of those dresses) that religion?

Yeah,....we know that will never happen.