Monday, June 04, 2018

Cruising the Web

The Chicago Tribune has an outrageous story about how many Chicago students were raped or sexually abused by people working for the Chicago Public Schools with the school district doing little to protect students.
When students summoned the courage to disclose abuse, teachers and principals failed to alert child welfare investigators or police despite the state’s mandated reporter law.

Even in cases where school employees acted swiftly, they subjected young victims to repeated interrogations, inflicting more psychological pain and defying basic principles intended to preserve the integrity of an investigation.

Ineffective background checks exposed students to educators with criminal convictions and arrests for sex crimes against children. And CPS failed to disclose to other districts that past employees had resigned after investigators found credible evidence of abuse and harassment.

Whether the sexual attacks were brutal rapes, frightening verbal come-ons or “creepy,” groping touches, the students often felt betrayed by school officials and wounded for years.

One young athlete, a 16-year-old honors student aiming for a law career, began cutting advanced chemistry and math classes to avoid a track coach who raped her repeatedly in his office at Simeon Career Academy. Even after he was arrested, “she didn’t know if she wanted to go to school any more. She told me she felt alone. … She talked about suicide,” Simeon Principal Sheldon House testified at the coach’s 2016 criminal trial....

The exact number of cases in which school workers sexually assaulted students remains elusive, in part because CPS does so little to understand and tackle the problem. The district acknowledges that it does not track child abuse by its employees in a consistent or formal manner.

After the Tribune threatened to file a lawsuit to force public disclosure of basic CPS documents and data related to sexual misconduct, the district acknowledged that its Law Department had investigated 430 reports that school employees had sexually abused, assaulted or harassed students since 2011.

In 230 of these cases, or more than half, investigators found credible evidence of misconduct, the district said.

But CPS supplied only raw numbers — revealing nothing about what happened or which schools were involved.
Read the whole report. It's just horrifying. There are mistakes up and down the line as adults failed to protect children.
The student-protection failures started in schoolhouses but include the CPS central office and the district’s Law Department, which kept the results of its investigations secret and even sought to undermine the athlete raped at Simeon when they fought her civil lawsuit.

The child-protection failures also extend to state government. Weaknesses in Illinois law help protect predators, and the State Board of Education sometimes takes years to discipline disgraced educators.

At the federal level, powerful agencies in Washington, D.C., fail to collect basic data on sexual violence in America’s public schools, the Tribune found.
It seems only now that the local media are involved is the school district trying to clean things up. The schools and school district failed to alert child welfare as they are required to do whenever there is an allegation of abuse. In one instance there were reports of possible abuse by a security guard, but it took three years and more abused girls before they brought in investigators and reported to the police. This is contrary to the law which requires that Family Services be informed right away. Too many school officials chose to investigate allegations without calling the police.
When officials at Black Elementary School discovered in 2015 that a substitute teacher was sending lewd texts and graphic sexual propositions to an eighth-grader, they confiscated the girl’s phone. The next day, the principal summoned her mother, Lenett Reccord, and asked what she knew. The officials seemed to be missing the point, Reccord told the Tribune.

Stunned and frustrated, she recalled asking: “Where are the police?”

School officials’ detective work not only can muddle subsequent law enforcement and disciplinary cases, it can inflict more trauma on students by subjecting them to repeated interrogations, experts said.

In other districts across the state and country, school employees have been imprisoned for failing to report abuse. But the Tribune found no evidence that Chicago school employees who kept quiet about allegations were charged criminally.
The school district also employed people with criminal records, even prior findings of child abuse.

When some parents sued the school, the school's lawyers attacked the victim.
When the primary victim of Simeon coach Gaddy sued the district for monetary damages, the CPS Law Department attacked her credibility in court papers.

CPS lawyers accused her of engaging in “repeated instances of active concealment, denial, and dishonesty” by not coming forward immediately. They asserted that the 16-year-old girl “factually consented” to his sexual assaults.

Yet this same department had previously investigated the student’s allegations and found her account credible.

Experts say CPS creates a conflict of interest by assigning its Law Department to investigate allegations of abuse and then drawing on the investigative files to defend the district if the victim sues.

The district told the Tribune this is not unusual.

But that kind of dual role gives districts an incentive to bury damaging information, said education law specialist Phillip Buckley, an assistant professor of educational leadership and research methodology at Florida Atlantic University.

“As investigators, they are probing the entirety of the incident and asking victims to share their experience. I don’t think I would want my kid talking to an investigator if what they say may be later used against them,” Buckley said.

“If there is something they didn’t do right, they will make it go away,” he said. “Things get swept under the rug.”

In New York City schools, by contrast, wrongdoing by school employees is investigated by a city inspector general squad that operates independently of the school district.
The entire story is just terrible and kudos to the Tribune for following through on their investigation. It seems that this was the only thing that has spurred the school district to changing its policies.

I also note the different policies in place in most school districts for rape and sexual abuse allegations for minors as compared to college students. The standard procedure, not followed by Chicago, is to report allegations to authorities such as Child Welfare Services and the police and for them to investigate. But in most colleges, the university itself conducts the investigation, trial, and metes out punishment. In both instances, the police should be called in so that both the alleged victim and perpetrator are protected. It seems that Chicago school administrators wanted to protect their employees over the students in their care. Perhaps they feared the bad publicity. It is totally shameful and people should be losing their jobs. These students deserve their own #MeToo moment.

Due to the lack of western media present in Iran, we don't get a full idea of what is really going on there. I'm not blaming the media - I wouldn't want to be responsible for sending a reporter to a place that is quite happy to hold westerners hostage. But the result is that we in the West don't have a very good idea of what goes on there. For example, there is a truck drivers strike that has been going on for close to two weeks now that is having a deep impact on the country. It began on May 22 in 25 provinces and 60 cities across Iran and it's been spreading to other industries. The Teamsters have issued a statement of support. It reminds me of when unions strongly supported the Solidarity movement in Poland. There is reporting on the strikes on social media. Of course, that might be giving us a skewed idea of how widespread support for the strikes goes. I'd love to have some more reporting on what is going on in Iran, but such stories indicate that Iran is not as sturdy internally as the mullahs might like us to believe.

Matthew Continetti has a great column
reacting the story about the memoir coming out soon from Obama's national security advisor Ben Rhodes, The World As It Is. Remember, Rhodes is the one who bragged to the media about the Obama administration manipulated the media to sell the Iran deal because they figured out that the reporters covering the case were too clueless to figure out what was wrong with the deal. And the same media that now knows how they were lied to keep perpetrating the false stories that the Obama administration fed them. Continetti's column looks at Rhodes' report on Obama's reaction to Trump's election victory.
he shock, disgust, confusion, and horror with which Obama and his team greeted the election results exemplified the very attitudes toward democratic procedure and populist conservatism that fueled Trump's rise. The only lesson Barack Obama drew from the election was confirmation of his own moral superiority.

Even the former president's moments of "self-doubt" were framed as opportunities for lackeys to remind him of his greatness. Rhodes describes a ride in the presidential limousine during which Obama asked, "What if we were wrong?" A leading question no matter the situation, particularly when the man posing it is president of the United States. What did Obama expect Rhodes to say—"Yes, Mr. President, we royally screwed the pooch?"

Apparently Obama had read a column—I have an idea of which one—about the role of identity in shaping peoples' lives and political choices. "Maybe we pushed too far," he mused. "Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe." No question his fellow passengers that day reassured him that no, no, he did everything he could to bend the arc of history a little more toward justice. It's not your fault, Mr. President. You didn't push too far. All you did was troll Donald Trump into running for president in the first place, stand by while Ferguson and Baltimore rioted and burned, give Iran billions in exchange for empty promises, allow Russia to establish a beachhead in the Middle East for the first time in half a century, browbeat Israel at every opportunity, ram through Obamacare after Scott Brown's election in Massachusetts, preside over the mass migration of children across the southern border in 2014, expand the DACA amnesty despite saying 22 times you lacked authority to do so, use the permanent structure of government to devastate the Appalachian economy, convince half of America that liberals were ready to take their guns (this wasn't hard to do), have your Education Department issue orders that led to the campus-assault craze and the deterioration of classroom discipline and that, months before a presidential election, mandated trans-bathrooms in schools, have your Justice Department preside over a sloppy (I'm being charitable) investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server that included, at one point, your attorney general secretly meeting with the husband of the subject of the investigation on an airport tarmac, muscle out Joe Biden, who might have won, from the race, and hand the party back to the less-likable half of America's most polarizing and corrupt political couple. Not to mention the eight years of lecturing. Oh, the lecturing.

One of the refrains of the Obama presidency was that, yes, America may have let Obama down in the past, and America may let him down still, but America remains worthwhile, so long as it maintains the capacity to become more like Obama. "Sometimes I wonder whether I was 10 or 20 years too early," he says in the book. What was he early for? "Fundamentally transforming America"? "The moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow"? For the death of the olds who stood in his way?

Imagine carrying the burden of Barack Obama, of being too enlightened, sophisticated, mature for his time. In his conceit that historical progress is assured and irreversible, and that challenges to such progress are reducible to irrational prejudice, Obama is a paradigmatic liberal. Yet America's frequent elections, tendency to rotate offices, decentralization of power, avenues for the expression of popular discontent, and multiple veto points continually frustrated his desires. By the end of his second term, he was expending a great deal of energy working around the constitutional structure established in 1789 and amended 27 times since.
Remember Michelle Obama saying that the first time she felt proud of America was when we had the good sense to support her husband and be ready for change? I wonder if she's no longer proud of the country?

Guy Benson links to a story that demonstrates how phony were the promises that Iran made in the deal that John Kerry negotiated.
President Obama has effectively admitted as much, just as he's allowed that the regime has almost certainly exploited its new financial windfall to finance terrorism, and has breached the "spirit" of the agreement through its ongoing pursuit of technology to deliver the nuclear weapons they continue to covet. And now we can add even more clandestine treachery to the rap sheet, via the New York Times:
When an explosion nearly razed Iran’s long-range missile research facility in 2011 — and killed the military scientist who ran it — many Western intelligence analysts viewed it as devastating to Tehran’s technological ambitions. Since then, there has been little indication of Iranian work on a missile that could reach significantly beyond the Middle East, and Iranian leaders have said they do not intend to build one. So, this spring, when a team of California-based weapons researchers reviewed new Iranian state TV programs glorifying the military scientist, they expected a history lesson with, at most, new details on a long-dormant program. Instead, they stumbled on a series of clues that led them to a startling conclusion: Shortly before his death, the scientist, Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, oversaw the development of a secret, second facility in the remote Iranian desert that, they say, is operating to this day...

For weeks, the researchers picked through satellite photos of the facility. They found, they say, that work on the site now appears to focus on advanced rocket engines and rocket fuel, and is often conducted under cover of night. It is possible that the facility is developing only medium-range missiles, which Iran already possesses, or perhaps an unusually sophisticated space program...But an analysis of structures and ground markings at the facility strongly suggests, though does not prove, that it is developing the technology for long-range missiles, the researchers say...If completed, [an Iranian long range missile program] could threaten Europe and potentially the United States...Five outside experts who independently reviewed the findings agreed that there was compelling evidence that Iran is developing long-range missile technology.
Of course, the Iranians have denied that they were working on long-range missile technology. I know how shocked we should be that they lied, but that seems pretty clear now. Benson writes,
Again, Iran is either directly violating international law, or at least thumbing its nose at the clear "spirit" of the international nuclear pact to which it has ostensibly agreed. Defenders of that deal will eagerly point to this detail: "Such a program would not violate the international deal intended to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon." It's true: In a major eleventh-hour giveaway to Tehran, the Obama administration caved to Iranian demands that the West also ease sanctions against its illicit ballistic missiles program, and lift the existing international weapons embargo. The fact that the discovery of a (growing) secret desert facility designed for the development of long-range missiles (the pursuit of which Iranian leaders have denied), largely operating in the dark of night, would not constitute a violation of the Iran deal is not a compelling defense of the Iran deal. It is a devastating indictment of it.

Speaking of which, one word that does not appear anywhere in the New York Times piece (which is worth a thorough read for a summary of multiple incriminating details) is "inspections." It may be too late by now, but shouldn't the West be able to gain virtually instant access to this compound to determine its purpose and examine its progress? Maybe not. For all of the "echo chamber's" bragging about robust inspections, military sites are off limits, according to the Iranians. And as the deal makes clear, Iran is in the driver's seat, happy to exploit the rest of the vaunted "international community" desperation to maintain their precious agreement.

Jonah Goldberg ponders the double standards that have applied to recent stories of celebrities saying, writing or tweeting obnoxious things.
“Why does Roseanne get fired but Samantha Bee doesn’t!?” is just the latest iteration of this recurring grievance. And, let me be clear, I’m largely in the conservative camp on the merits of the question. There is much more tolerance for liberals to be asinine, grotesque, bigoted, and even wildly anti-democratic in their rhetoric and “comedy.”

There are many reasons for this. Charlie Cooke got at one of them in the latest episode of The Editors. When someone tweeted a picture of little illegal-immigrant kids in what were essentially jail cells or kennels, the Left instantaneously went into overdrive denouncing the dystopian horror that is Trump’s America. When it was revealed that the picture was from 2014 and that the warehousing of these kids was on Obama’s watch, a storm of “well, actually” rained down across the Internet. Suddenly, immigration policy became complicated and Obama was dealing with a difficult situation.

The assumption is that liberals’ hearts are in the right place, thus, when they stray off the path rhetorically or in some other way, it’s not seen as revelatory of something darker or more sinister. Of course, conservatives do the same thing. We assume the best of our own tribe and can dismiss a joke or errant tweet quite easily from one of our own.

The key difference is that liberals dominate the commanding heights of the culture. When Tom Friedman heaps praise on an evil and authoritarian regime, it’s seen as a thoughtful exercise in creative thinking and analysis. Joy Ann Reid can be guilty of precisely the kind of rhetoric that serves as proof of bigotry when it comes from conservatives, because she’s on the side of social justice. Ta-Nehisi Coates can write sweeping denunciations of white people — and it’s speaking truth to power or some such. They can get away with it not because their arguments are less radical or their jokes less offensive but because the gatekeeping institutions of our culture are largely on their side.

Do I find it frustrating? Of course. Does the double standard vex me? Yes, I’m terribly vexed. But here’s the thing: If you’re only willing to hold your principles on the condition that people you hate hold them too, they’re not really principles.
It seems that conservatives are so fed up with this double standard that they are ready to chuck their principles out the window in order to go after liberals. Goldberg is write - principles should be solid whether it means condemning those on your own side or those with whom you disagree. Otherwise, those supposed principles are just tools to use against your opponents.
Right now, Twitter and cable TV overflow with arguments that boil down to “Our a**holes are okay because look at what your a**holes got away with.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think social norms and standards are worthwhile on utilitarian grounds. Consider traffic lights. There’s no compelling moral reason for green to mean “go” and for red to mean “stop.” But there is a compelling moral argument for the existence of traffic lights and the need for everyone to obey them. If progressives decide that traffic lights are only for conservatives, it won’t be long before no one obeys them. Why be a sucker? (And if the state only gives tickets to conservative drivers, one can hardly blame conservatives for thinking the system is unfairly rigged.) Of course, the end result is that lots of people, conservative and liberal alike, will end up in smoldering wrecks.

Jay Cost refutes the idea
that Donald Trump is a threat to democracy.
However, the notion that Trump is a danger to our democracy is hyperbolic. Democracy depends upon regularly scheduled, free, and fair elections. Suspending those is the “core feature” of authoritarianism — and Trump has attempted to do no such thing. Moreover, the idea that our First Amendment freedoms are under threat is belied by the fact that Clinton was able to give this speech without being fettered by the Trump administration.

Regarding the assault on the rule of law, Trump’s approach to Robert Mueller’s investigation is more or less a re-creation of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s strategy from the mid 1990s. Recognizing that investigations into the conduct of the president are inherently political, the Clintons waged a successful public-relations war to delegitimize the Kenneth Starr investigation. Putting aside the propriety of this strategy, or the specific tactics Trump is employing in pursuit of it, we should acknowledge that it is not unprecedented.
Remember how Republicans objected to the Clintons' attacks on Kenneth Starr. Here comes that principle thing. If we didn't like attacks on a special prosecutor while the investigation was ongoing when the Clintons did it, we shouldn't tolerate it when Trump does it. Cost has another explanation of why liberals are so convinced that Trump is a danger.
I think Clinton and other liberals are mainly reacting to the fact that President Trump is a liar. No doubt he is, but it isn’t merely that, is it? After all, President Clinton was a liar. What do you think “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky” was? So also was President Barack Obama. His “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” was a lie, and a highly consequential one at that. In the mid 1960s, the term “credibility gap” was coined to describe the persistent disconnect between what the Lyndon Johnson administration was saying about Vietnam, and what was actually happening. Considering that roughly 50,000 Americans lost their lives in that war, I would say that LBJ’s lies were much more dangerous than anything of recent vintage.

Politicians lie. It is what they do. I think the main problem with Trump is that he is not just a liar, he is an incorrigible blowhard.. He exaggerates here, elides there, connects dots that should not be connected, adds a few phony details to spice things up, omits facts that do not serve his agenda, throws around gratuitous insults at real (or perceived) foes, and so on. And he does it all the time, even when he does not need to.
Sadly, people voted for him when it was quite clear during the campaign that he was a liar. He's been one all his life.
His whole career has been built on this public-relations strategy. After all, a lot of people made billions in the 1980s; it was a good decade to get rich. But only Trump leveraged that into winning the presidency of the United States. If you read The Art of the Deal, you can see that he is surprisingly honest about this tactic: “I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration, and a very effective form of promotion.” He can call it whatever he wants. The rest of us usually call it bull.
As Cost writes, it's exhausting and extremely irritating to have a president whose words are totally unbelievable and whose word can't be counted on. I spend my life teaching students about our nation's history and for most of that history, our leaders have basically been people whose statements could be trusted. They might have been spinning things, but they weren't out and out liars. Every year, when we're covering Eisenhower's administration and the U-2 incident and I tell the kids the reaction that so many people had of amazement that Ike would just lie to the public about our flying spy planes over Russia. And my students all laugh at the idea that the public would have been surprised that a president lied to them. After Vietnam and Watergate and the past couple of decades, the idea that we should automatically trust a president just seems quaint to today's teenagers. That is extremely sad. But it doesn't mean that our entire political system is threatened.
Without excusing Trump’s rhetoric, I would encourage the cultivation of equanimity. Our republic has a lot of problems, no doubt. I have written about them extensively over the years. But our Constitution is the oldest written instrument of government today in force, and that should count for something. We will be fine. Trump is not a would-be totalitarian. He’s just full of it.
Hey, if Trump were a totalitarian or a treat to democracy, he would have repealed Obamacare by now or passed the sort of budget that he wanted.

When universities complain about rising costs that necessitate high tuitions, there is one area that they cut spending on and probably no one would notice - huge bureaucracies devoted to diversity. For example, the University of Michigan has almost 100 full-time employees. That's just crazy. It's all part of a trend of ballooning administrative costs. Mark J. Perry of AEI reports,
1. The University of Michigan currently employs a diversity staff of nearly 100 (93) full-time diversity administrators, officers, directors, vice-provosts, deans, consultants, specialists, investigators, managers, executive assistants, administrative assistants, analysts, and coordinators.

2. More than one-quarter (26) of these “diversicrats” earn annual salaries of more than $100,000, and the total payroll for this small army is $8.4 million. When you add to cash salaries an estimated 32.45% for UM’s very generous fringe benefit package for the average employee in this group (retirement, health care, dental insurance, life insurance, long-term disability, paid leave, paid vacation, social security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, etc.) the total employee compensation for this group tops $11 million per year. And of course that doesn’t count the cost of office space, telephones, computers and printers, printing, postage, programs, training, or travel expenses.
And, of course, if you have that many employees devoted to diversity, they have to do something to justify their payroll. So they'll require extra paperwork and meetings. They will require seminars for employees and students to attend. Their costs go beyond their office expenses and salaries. It includes all the opportunity costs of the time and money that could be spent elsewhere or just not spent at all.

This is a strange story about the romance novel industry and the efforts by one author to trademark the word "cocky" as a title for romance novels. Who knew that there was such a demand for "cocky" romance titles? But there is and one author of a series of "cocky" books has been able to trademark the word. It's amazing to me that this would have gone through since authors can't trademark entire titles so why should they be able to trademark one word, especially one that is not uncommon in the universe of romance novels? Apparently, this doesn't accord with trademark laws and so the Romance Writers Association has entered the lists to defend the rights of authors to use the word. This could go beyond the romance novel industry since we wouldn't like to see authors in other genres starting to trademark parts of their titles.
So with all that said, here’s the central question: Can just anyone go around trademarking common dictionary words?

“It depends,” Mark McKenna tells me. McKenna is a law professor at Notre Dame who specializes in intellectual property law.

“It’s not necessarily a problem to claim trademark rights on a common word,” he explains. “The way trademark law works is you only acquire rights in relation to certain goods and services. For instance, “apple” is a common word, but Apple has it trademarked in relation to computers. It would be a lot different if they were trying to claim rights to the word ‘apple’ for fruits.”

Hopkins’s trademark gives her rights to the word “cocky” in relation to a series of romance novels, and that, McKenna says, is sort of a gray area. “Trademark law is not supposed to let you claim rights on a title because trademark indicates a source of goods. If you buy a pair of shoes with the Nike logo on them, that tells you that they’re coming from the Nike brand, which tells you about how the shoe is made and under what conditions,” he says. “A single work of authorship isn’t produced in ways such that you need information about the physical characteristics of the book, like the way it’s bound or anything like that. The title is telling you about the content, and we usually think of things related to the contents as being copyright’s domain.”

Broadly speaking, copyright is designed to protect creative and intellectual property, like the contents of a book, although a book’s title cannot be copyrighted. Trademark, meanwhile, is designed to protect a brand, so that consumers don’t confuse one similar-looking product with another. You don’t trademark a book series title unless you can prove that the title is part of your specific brand.

That said, book series titles do get trademarked. McKenna points to the Magic School Bus books, which have a trademarked title. “But even those claims are a little questionable,” he says, “because it’s telling you about authorship and not the production of the physical good.”

The way Hopkins is using her trademark, however, is not a gray area. “It’s almost classic overreach,” McKenna says. “Some would call it trademark bullying.”

“It’s quite clear that you can’t enforce your trademark rights against somebody else who’s using the term just in the title of the book or in the content of the book,” McKenna says. “It’s a doctrine that exists to keep trademark law from treading on First Amendment territory. It’s a pretty well-established doctrine with a whole bunch of cases.”
There seems to be quite a difference from trademarking a set of words together that define the series of books such as "Magic School Bus" or "The Hardy Boys" and trademarking one adjective.

As soon as I saw the picture of LeBron remonstrating with JR Smith after Smith totally screwed the pooch at the end of Game One, I knew that it would launch a thousand memes. And it didn't disappoint. Josh Jordan was a one-man meme machine, but this one is my favorite.