No offense, please. That’s the hyper-sensitive approach to that nameless holiday in late December

I am happy–I repeat–happy to wish people a Merry Christmas.

Perhaps that’s because I actually hope they have a Merry Christmas.

I say that even though I celebrate Hanukkah. True, I am never quite sure how to spell it. Its English spelling seems to meander, at least for me.

Back to Christmas . . . as a kid, I was always delighted to see friends riding around on their new bicycles and going to church with their families to celebrate the day.

I had my holiday. They had their’s. No harm, no foul.

All was well between us, even if no one had ever heard of multiculturalism.

I remembered these warm sentiments the other day, as I walked past DePaul’s building in the Chicago Loop.  (It’s a satellite campus. Their main one is farther north.)

There, taking up the side of a building, was a big sign wishing everyone, “Happy Holidays.”

DePaul, mind you, is a private school, so they can wish you anything they want.

It’s also a Catholic school, which would seem to give it some connection to . . . well, Christmas.

But, nooooooo.

I wanted to see if DePaul’s website was more forthright. Nope.

I assume DePaul’s administrators have only the most benign sentiments. They are probably thinking, “If we said, ‘Merry Christmas,’ it might not be inclusive enough. It might offend. There are lots of other faiths and lots of agnostics and atheists out there, and we want to wish them a happy time, too.” That’s a fine thought, but it assumes we wouldn’t respect their integrity as a Catholic institution for saying what they really believe. The only people it will hurt, IMO, is people who are rigid and intolerant, either because of their own religious beliefs or because they hate all religions. Why give them a veto?

When people wish me a Merry Christmas, I take it with the good cheer with which it is extended.  Why not?

The University of Minnesota goes much further in stamping out these greetings. Granted, it is a public university, which places some limits on what they can and cannot do legally. But I don’t see why that should prevent the employees from wishing each other all kinds of holiday greetings and putting up Christmas decorations or Hanukkah decorations if they wish.

Not so, they say.

Employees of the University of Minnesota received a document this week saying:

In general, the following are not appropriate for gatherings and displays at this time of year since they typically represent specific religious iconography:

Santa Claus, Angels, Christmas trees, Star of Bethlehem, Dreidels, Nativity scene, Bows/wrapped gifts, Menorah, Bells, Doves, Red and Green or Blue and White/Silver decoration themes (red and green are representative of the Christian tradition as blue and white/silver are for Jewish Hanukkah that is also celebrated at this time of year).” University of Minnesota memo to employees, reported at Intellectual Takeout


Documents that authoritarian tend to come from offices named “Diversity” and “Inclusion.” And those are the Orwellian Scrooges behind this gem.

Got that? RED and GREEN are forbidden as “religious iconography.” So are BLUE and White (because they are Jewish religious iconography, I guess).

Santa Claus? Oh, the horror.

And why, pray tell, is Festivus excluded? Are they not worthy enough to be prohibited?

Somewhere, I fear, the University of Minnesota’s librarians are burning “A Christmas Carol” to keep the administrators warm for the season.

A balanced analysis of Mueller and his team by a leading conservative

Amid strenuous conservative criticism of the Mueller team (the best of it by Trey Gowdy and Tucker Carlson), and equally strenuous pushback from progressives (led by Adam Schiff), Andrew McCarthy offers a serious analysis of what should–and shouldn’t–concern the public about the investigation’s fairness.

McCarthy is a former federal prosecutor with considerable experience. His stance is conservative but not doctrinaire, and his analysis is not a prosecutor’s case against Mueller.

The op-ed was published in the Washington Post (link here).

Key excerpts:

Is special counsel Robert S. Mueller III running an impartial investigation?

That this is a fair question to ask is itself troubling.

In Mueller’s case, there are various grounds for worry. Mueller’s investigation was triggered when former FBI director James B. Comey, no fan of the president who dismissed him, leaked a memo of a meeting with President Trump. Comey admitted hoping this revelation would lead to appointment of a special counsel….

Furthermore, the investigative team Mueller has assembled includes Democratic donors and supporters, including one lawyer who represented the Clinton Foundation and one who represented a subject in the Hillary Clinton email investigation. This month, moreover, it came to light that two members of the team, who had also worked on the Clinton email investigation, were having an extramarital affair and exchanged text messages expressing partisan political views — favoring Clinton and depicting Trump as “loathsome.”

Worse, in one August 2016 text, one of them, FBI agent Peter Strzok, asserted that the FBI “can’t take that risk” that Trump could be elected, equating some unspecified action against this seemingly unlikely possibility to “an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.” Dismayingly, this text, which crosses the line between political banter and tainted law enforcement, refers to a meeting in the office of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, then (and now) the bureau’s No. 2 official.

McCarthy praises Mueller for his results (which “so far appear free of political taint”) and for removing Strzok from the investigation. He is not alarmed that Mueller’s staff has strong political views, but is concerned about Andrew Weissman for a specific reason.

A gifted career Justice Department lawyer, Weissmann sent former acting attorney general Sally Yates an effusive email shortly after Yates was fired for insubordinately defying Trump on enforcement of the so-called travel ban. The obstruction aspect of Mueller’s investigation calls for an objective evaluation of how much independence law-enforcement officials have from the chief executive. Weissmann’s lauding of Yates suggests he is not objective on this point.

McCarthy’s conclusion: Remove Weissman to ensure the public perception of fairness.

Today in University Snowflakes, figuratively and literally: “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” is Now Deemed Racist

It happened in London, but it could just as easily have happened at any American university.

The outrage, which is either feigned or hypersensitive, illustrates the usual combo that work together to suppress independent thinking on campus after campus:

  1. Group A, progressive students (“I am offended by everything”) and
  2. Group B, spineless university administrators (“I apologize completely, abjectly, and with total humility. You are my moral superior. I will go and work in the rice fields with the peasants and learn from their wisdom.”)

Today’s example comes from London’s large, distinguished university: UCL (University College London)

Here is the tweet and the abject apology. I will spare you the “outraged” tweets from SJWs.

What saddens me most is how singing groups like the Drifters buy into this invidious White Supremacist Ideology.

Btw, their version is wonderful!

Roy Moore Loses with the Same Dignity He’s Always Shown. None

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Yes, the Republicans desperately wanted to keep this seat.

But, as Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said, they didn’t want to keep it with this candidate.

The story in the Alabama papers tells a crucial story:

Recount in Alabama Senate race unlikely to help Roy Moore win –

All the votes are counted, and, although some will be challenged, that won’t change the outcome.

Moreover, the margin is more than the 0.5% needed for an automatic recount.

Not that Judge Roy has conceded. He didn’t concede to legitimate rulings by federal courts, and he won’t concede to this.  As Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” And Judge Roy’s mind seems no more capacious than his horse’s.

The Second Most Important Number in the Alabama Election

Jones received 671,151 votes.

Moore received 650,436.

Write-Ins received 22,819.

  • That number is more than Doug Jones’ margin of victory. 
  • Those are Republicans who took the trouble to go vote, couldn’t vote for the Democrat and used their write-in to say Roy Moore was unacceptable. 

Richard Shelby had said that. Now, enough of his fellow Alabama Republicans did so to put Judge Roy on his horse for a slow ride home.

Other Messages from the Election

Meanwhile, the political class will reflect that

  1. The Republicans in the Senate missed a bullet, especially those who are up for election in 2018.
    • They won’t have Roy Moore chained around their necks.
  2. The Republicans in Alabama screwed up their primary. Either of the two defeated candidates could have won the general election.
  3. Donald Trump managed to lose twice in Alabama.
    • Actually, Trump lost three times: once in the primaries, once in the general, and once in picking an AG he doesn’t like, leaving the Senate seat vacant.
  4. Steve Bannon managed to damage his own position badly before the 2018 races, making it harder for him to raise money.
  5. The tax cut bill is on a fast track since it has to pass before Jones is seated in a few weeks.

She Will A Peel

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Here’s the story. It’s real, unfortunately.

Her lawyer erred badly with his closing argument:

She was just happy to see me.

Btw, that wonderful line was first uttered as an improvisation. Mae West said it on Broadway, not (as is sometimes thought) in a scripted film.

According to Quote Investigator:

In 1944 the play “Catherine Was Great” which was produced by [Michael] Todd and starred Mae West opened on Broadway. The author [Art] Cohn stated that West improvised the humorous line of dialog when she was interacting with her fellow star Gene Barry:

Barry, playing Lieutenant Bunin, was unaccustomed to carrying a sword, and in the second act, during an embrace, his scabbard came between him and his Empress.

A covert smile stole over Mae’s face. “Lieutenant,” she ad-libbed with a Westian leer, “is that your sword or are you just glad to see me?” –Mae West, in Quote Investigator

Professor Wants to Drop “Rigor” in Engineering Education. Why? Because It “Reinforces White Male Heterosexual Privilege”

Purdue professor, Donna Riley, has a great way to make the engineering profession more inclusive.

No, my friend, it is not to recruit more widely and offer supplementary courses to bring everyone up-to-speed.

No, it is not to offer mentoring to underrepresented groups.

No, siree. (Ooops, sorry for that patriarchal phrase.)

The leader of Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education recently declared that academic “rigor” reinforces “white male heterosexual privilege.”

Defining rigor as “the aspirational quality academics apply to disciplinary standards of quality,” Riley asserts that “rigor is used to maintain disciplinary boundaries, with exclusionary implications for marginalized groups and marginalized ways of knowing.”

“One of rigor’s purposes is, to put it bluntly, a thinly veiled assertion of white male (hetero)sexuality,” she writes, explaining that rigor “has a historical lineage of being about hardness, stiffness, and erectness; its sexual connotations—and links to masculinity in particular—are undeniable.”

Hence, Riley remarks that “My visceral reaction in many conversations where I have seen rigor asserted has been to tell parties involved (regardless of gender) to whip them out and measure them already.”  –Donna Riley, Purdue Prof. of Engineering Education, quoted in Campus Reform (link here)


If this kind of academic malpractice were rare, it wouldn’t be worth mocking.

If this response to academic failure were rare, it wouldn’t be worth mentioning.

In fact, these specious arguments, seemingly in favor of marginalized groups, are commonplace on campus. They need to be rebutted. They have also gained favor on among progressive politicians. Eric Holder’s Department of Justice made police and fire departments lower their standards–and pass students who had failed their competency tests–not because the tests were biased (they were not), not because the tests were irrelevant to performance (they were directly relevant), but simply because, in Holder’s opinion, too many of his preferred groups did not pass.

Turning to the Purdue Engineering professor . . .

  1. Prof. Riley is not just any professor. She’s the head of the entire school of engineering education at a major research university, known for its science, math, and engineering.
  2. Notice the patronizing argument. The clear implication of Riley’s position is that “marginalized groups” cannot actually do difficult, mathematical work. Even if that were true, the right response wouldn’t be to lower standards but to remedy the underlying problem.
  3. Notice the ad hoc inclusion of different groups, mainly because they are part of Prof. Riley’s putative coalition. Is there any evidence that gays cannot perform engineering courses at the same level as non-gay students? I haven’t heard of any. Same for women. If they are underrepresented, then try and recruit them. If any other group is having problems–as a group–then figure out why and solve the problem. Don’t say, “Rigor is just too demanding for, say, brain surgeons.”
    • Btw, I just clicked on Purdue’s School of Engineering Education and the first picture is of a female student being named a prestigious Marshall School, a major national competition across all fields.
  4. “Whip them out and measure them already.” Is this Blazing Saddles or an academic journal? Moreover, ask yourself whether this phrase is itself a form of invidious sexism and even harassment. Ask yourself what would happen if any male professor made the same statement in print about women’s breasts? The over/under on that professor’s severe punishment and possible firing is 3 seconds.
  5. However laudable your aims, you marginalize your own position when your argue in favor of dangerously lowering standards. Moreover, you patronize the “marginalized” and offer ideological nostrums instead of real solutions.
  6. Finally, let’s assume that Purdue’s Engineering School does exactly what you say. How would potential employers cope? They would hire from other schools or demand real proof of competence beyond your degree. If every engineering school followed your silly advice, then employers would institute their own tests for competence and other schools would see a huge opportunity to enter the field and offer rigorous training.

Another Massachusetts Lawmaker Charged. Ran his State Senate Office as a “Criminal Enterprise,” according to the 113-Count Indictment

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Former Senator Brian Joyce, who had served as the Democrats’ assistant majority leader, is charged with receiving over $1 million in bribes and kickbacks.

The charges in the 102-page indictment include

racketeering, extortion, honest services fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the IRS and other charges. Newsweek (link here)

Among other things, he is charged with extorting over 700 pounds of coffee from a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise.

Joyce is accused, for example, of accepting “hundreds of pounds” of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in exchange for helping a franchise owner navigate the permitting process by pressuring town administrators in his district for favors. He also is accused of using his office to help an insurance company who paid him with a free Jeep, and writing legislation to help a Philadelphia based solar energy company in exchange for $50,000 in payoffs.

Prosecutors say Joyce used his law practice, which he ran while working as a full-time legislator, to launder the proceeds of his schemes by “falsely characterizing the bribe and kickback payments as legal referral fees,” and that he lied to the state Ethics Commission about the payments. …

The nine-term senator did not seek re-election after the FBI and IRS raided his Canton law office last year.--Newsweek

Not just any coffee would do, according to one report:

“No decaf,” Joyce wrote in a December 2014 email to the [Dunkin’ Donuts] franchise owner. “… We like k cups (sic) at my office if possible.” –Boston Herald

The story would have received a lot of local coverage anyway, but the Dunkin’ Donut angle was too good for the media to ignore.

This is the second big scandal for the Massachusetts legislature recently.

Last week, the President of the State Senate, Stan Rosenberg (D), temporarily resigned his leadership post while his husband, Bryon Hefner, is being investigated for at least four cases of inappropriate sexual contact, including sending unsolicited nude photos.

A Wonderful Way to Begin Reading Proust . . . or To Return

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For many, Marcel Proust’s masterpiece of memories, In Search of Lost Time, is the greatest work of 20th century literature, ranking with the greatest of 19th century writers such as Tolstoy and Austen.

True, Proust’s exquisite memories and interior monologues are not to everyone’s taste, but they carry you into a world of his own, amid the salons of fin de siècle Paris and the family’s country retreat at Combray.

The main obstacle for most of us is the sheer length of the project, originally some seven volumes. I, for one, have only read the first volume, Swann’s Way.

Recently, a friend told me that the first volume has now been produced as a graphic novel. Normally, that wouldn’t interest me–but, then, he explained that the translator is Arthur Goldhammer (who is always superb) and that the drawings by French illustrator Stéphane Heuet evoke the streets of Paris and Combray and the interiors and people Proust remembers.

I was intrigued–and confident in my friend’s judgment–bought it and plunged ahead.

Goldhammer likens the graphic novel to “a piano reduction of an orchestral score.” That’s too modest for such an achievement.

I have just finished the book and hated to see it end. That’s always the best evidence the book was engaging.

If you’ve always wanted to try reading Proust but hesitated because of the length and complexity, you might consider the graphic version of Swann’s Way (link to Amazon here).

The NPR review by Glen Weldon captures my view:

To be clear: this is a dense read. Yes, it’s a comic, but given that so much of it has to do with petty judgments and perceived slights among various levels of Parisian society, pages and pages are devoted to static conversations in well-appointed drawing rooms. But those drawing rooms are richly realized, which is another way the graphic novel brings an immediacy to the infrastructure of Proust’s story, which he set in real neighborhoods boasting recognizable landmarks, all reproduced here in exacting detail.

Is it any real substitute for reading Proust’s prose, in French or in English? Of course not, and I don’t see anyone seriously suggesting it is.

But it makes for an intriguing introduction to the novels, if you’ve never made the leap — a kind of literary gateway drug — and a tantalizing refresher course, if you have. –Glen Weldon for NPR