Dec 18 2016

Liberty Update: Post-It Hate Crime, Failing Public Ed, & Libertarian “Russian Propaganda”

A Massachusetts college has chosen to stop flying the American flag this week after students raised concerns that the flag promoted racism and hatred. This is a local story involving Hampshire College in Amherst, so I want to provide a little context. Around here Hampshire College is known for their pot-to-student ratio and their shoes-optional policy. They actually take a pretty cool kind of unschooling approach, but they apply it to ridiculous programs like “feminist studies” and “peace and world security” and “ethics and the common good.” They have a whole department dedicated to studying how science is studied and received in Muslim communities. At Hampshire College, you can get a “degree” in reproductive rights, global migration, or Latina studies, or you can get a certificate in activism at their “Institute for Transforming Social Justice.” Knowing all of that will make this story make a lot more sense.

The day after the election, students at Hampshire raised the concern that, with Donald Trump’s win, the flag was now a symbol of everything social justice warriors hate – racism, sexism, etc. Students lowered the flag overnight and, the next night, burned it sometime before damn on Veteran’s Day. The college replaced the flag and announced that it would be flown at half-staff in an attempt to “acknowledge the grief and pain experienced by so many and to enable the full complexity of voices and experiences to be heard.”

To some, that would seem like a safe compromise, at least when surrounded by a whole campus of angry, barefoot social justice warriors. Unfortunately for college president Jonathan Lash, even more people got offended, and the school suffered a tremendous backlash, especially from veterans and military families who felt the lowered flag was an insult and disrespectful to the tradition of mourning. Lash told the campus that, since too many people were offended, the decision was made the remove the flag entirely. He expressed concerns that while some viewed the flag as a symbol of pride and aspiration, others viewed it as “a very powerful symbol of fear they’ve felt all their lives because they grew up as people of color, never feeling safe.” In a campus-wide email, he wrote that college leaders hoped the flag removal would allow the community to focus on discussion and activism.

In protest, a local veteran’s group has plans tomorrow to line the streets outside the college with hundreds of US flags and will be meeting for a demonstration at the school’s entrance. The local post of Veterans of Foreign Wars is expecting supporters from all across New England to attend.
The school has also received criticism from local state Reps and even from Ben Carson, who posted about it on Facebook. The college has shut down discussion on their own Facebook page due to being unable to moderate the comments. Some critics have argued for the flag to be replaced, while others have suggested the campus be moved to Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, at least one company has shown their support by vowing not to hire any Hampshire graduates.

Edgewood College in Wisconsin is responding to post-election woes with a police investigation of a post-it note. After the election, students were invited to express their fear and concern by writing their feelings on post-it notes and placing those post-its on a specific designated table. However, someone took a post-it and wrote “suck it up, pussies” with a winking tongue face and stuck it in the window of the Office of Student Diversity. That post-it is now being investigated as a hate crime.

I’ll repeat – the school is investigating a post-it note WITH A SMILEY FACE on it as a hate crime, after asking students to express their feelings via post-it note.

Vice President of Student Development Tony Chambers sent out a campus-wide letter informing the community of the infraction, the decision to involve the police, and admonished the mysterious-post-it-noter for inciting fear, sadness, and anger among both students and staff. Chambers laments “covert micro-aggressions and overt macro-aggressions appear to have taken on new fervor in higher education” and that the note is part of what he calls “a new era of intolerance, fear, and mistrust in higher education.”

The school is asking anyone with any information about the incident to come forward to the police.

Also in the realm of education, Trump announced his pick for Secretary of Education this week. He is nominating Betsy DeVos, chair of the American Federation for Children and former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, the Alliance for School Choice, and board member for the Education Freedom Fund. Many teachers’ unions are up in arms over the pick, largely due to her work around school choice and charter schools. Groups such as the National Education Association are accusing DeVos of wanting a corporate take-over of American schools. The American Federation of Teachers made a statement accusing Trump and DeVos of wanting to put forth a policy of “privatizing, defunding, and destroying public education.” Groups complain that students will suffer with the administration’s “cookie cutter” approach to education and have even suggested that she is pro-bullying just because her focus has not been bullying in schools. Still other groups suggest that it’s part of a secret plan to do away with the separation of church and state, as many private schools hold religious affiliations.

Both private and charter schools are typically far less unionized than public schools and, in Massachusetts at least, are typically chosen for their higher education standards, despite claims that Massachusetts has the best public school system in the country. It’s true, MA does have some good schools, but according to Neighborhood Scout’s list of 100 Worst Performing Schools, MA also has the number 1 worst performing school with International High School in Lawrence, and only one school made the 2015 top 20 list, with Mason-Rice in affluent Newton taking the number 17 spot. Meanwhile, MA holds 7 of Business Insider’s top 50 Private School spots, including the number 1 spot, with each school having an average SAT score over 600 points above the state average for public schools, and almost 1000 points above the average for public schools in the city where I grew up. Now granted, SAT scores are not necessarily a sign of success, but they are often used as a measurement of that success.

Despite having the “best public schools,” our public schools were so bad that in 1993, the state passed a law to develop new charter schools and a rigorous standardized testing schedule called MCAS because people were going through grade school and high school without ever learning how to read. Breakdowns of the scores the first few years that the tests were implemented showed most students falling into the “failing” or “needs improvement” category, with some schools that didn’t have a single student getting a grade of “proficient.” Brockton High, the largest school in the state, saw 75% of the student body fail in 1999 and had a drop-out rate of 1/3. Even now, I know kids who go to Brockton High and only have two or three classes a day because so many of their teachers decide not to show up and the school doesn’t hire substitutes. These also see students getting in fights and getting pepper sprayed and tazed by school police on a regular basis. And yet Brockton is one of the state’s “most improved.”

These are the schools in the so-called best school system in America. And these teacher’s unions are worried that school choice and private schools will make public education “less professional” and that school choice hurt students. Why shouldn’t students and their families be able to choose their school? Why shouldn’t a kid be able to choose some other school over going to Brockton? To me, it sounds like teachers are a lot more worried about their jobs than their students’ success.

Many of Trump’s picks for his administration could easily be argued as stereotypically conservative and some, like his pick for CIA Director, are downright scary. But according to Bloomberg Politics, one of the considerations for Treasury Secretary is John Allison, former president and CEO of the Cato Institute. Allison is still on the libertarian group’s board of directors and is a harsh critic of the Federal Reserve and the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which was part of the government’s solution to help banks out of the mortgage crisis. He’s also worked to promote teaching Austrian economics and Randian philosophy in college business and political science programs. He’s scheduled for a meeting with Trump on Monday. Of course, Allison is not Trump’s top pick, and the rumored number one candidate is Steve Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker who later founded another bank that has been the subject of several multi-million dollar lawsuits.

Jill Stein, who was the Green Party nominee in both this election and in 2012, has announced a fundraising effort to demand vote recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. According to Stein’s facebook page, the recount effort is in response to reports by Clinton campaign cyber experts that hacking and security breaches may have caused Clinton to lose those states. According to these experts, Clinton received 7% fewer votes in counties with electronic voting machines, a statistic they have provided as proof of a hack.

Stein’s original effort called for a goal of $2.5 million to pay for recounts. But as the goal was met, the price of those recounts has mysteriously continued to grow. The effort raised over $3 million in the course of a single day. The original figures presented were $2.2 million in filing fees and .3 million for attorneys, though the fundraising page suggested the attorneys may cost $1 million. 12 hours later, after the campaign had reached its goals, the goal jumped to 4.5 million and the cost of attorneys was estimated at $2-3 million, plus the costs of recount observers, which Stein estimated would bring the effort to a total of $6 or 7 million. Still, her goal was only $4.5 and she planned to somehow cover the rest. The next day, the effort surpassed its second goal, with Stein posting a new goal of $7 million. As of this recording, Stein has raised over $5.8 million for recount efforts.

Stein claims this is a fully grass-roots effort and is in no way affiliated with Hillary Clinton. Her website states that all money will go towards recount efforts, but also states that a recount is not a guarantee. If they don’t get the recount, the money will supposedly go towards other election integrity efforts. She also appeared on CNN claiming that this year’s election was full of hacks, while also stating she doesn’t actually know if results were hacked.

The supposed need for a recount originally surfaced in a report in New York Magazine on Tuesday, but on Wednesday another report came out, directly conflicting with the first report. In the second report, the “computer experts” named in the original report said that their data had been misreported and their position misrepresented. In the second report, experts claimed that the recount should be based on the possibility that voting machines COULD be hacked, and stated that they did not have any evidence that the machines WERE hacked.

According to the director of Michigan’s Bureau of Elections, the state does not use the electronic voting machines condemned by the Stein and Clinton camps. Nate Silver, prominent election predictor, agreed that Clinton did better in counties using paper ballots – but pointed out that the effect completely disappears when data is controlled for race, education level, and population. According to most recent counts, Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes, making him the first Republican candidate to win the state since 1988.

For our final story this week, the Washington Post published a report this week claiming that independent researchers have found an undercover Russian propaganda plot to throw the election to Trump via “fake news” websites. The report accuses Russians as using paid trolls to paint Clinton as a criminal and amplify conservative views. The Post names one researcher as Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and another as the group PropOrNot. The Post states that these groups have scientific proof that Russia influenced the election with fake news, and that the delivery of this propaganda can be traced back to over 200 websites, including the Ron Paul Institute, Wikileaks, Lew Rockwell, the Drudge Report, Liberty Blitzkrieg, and Antimedia.org, among others. Noticing a trend? Also, this plot somehow directly involves the KGB and has been in the works since 2014 but somehow avoided being put on blast by Alex Jones and InfoWars.

Meanwhile, “real news” outlet CNN accidentally aired a full half hour of hardcore trans porn to Boston viewers due to an error with a New Jersey-based cable provider. The porno starred Riley Quinn and aired during Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.

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