False Statements and Superfluous Details

It is always fascinating to read about a very old mystery that is finally solved.

In 1984, a twelve-year-old girl, Jonelle Matthews, disappeared from her home in Greely, Colorado.  Police say they have been “haunted” by the case since then.  Last week, the mystery was “solved”.  A man named Steve Pankey was convicted of her kidnapping and murder.

Wow!  DNA evidence, right?  Fingerprints?  A witness?  A confession?

Well, we now know better than to trust confessions.

The evidence, as far as can be determined from the news article in the New York Times and Wiki, consists mostly of Pankey making “odd” comments about the case, showing an “unusual” interest in it, and …  well, read about it.   It’s get weirder and weirder.  Apparently, Pankey, who is divorced, and whose wife seems to have provided police with some of the evidence of Pankey’s “odd” interest in the case, admits to being a celibate homosexual, even while he served as an assistant pastor at his church.

His wife, apparently, does not remember that his alibi– that he was with her the night of the kidnapping– was a lie.  She was there with him, just a few nights before they left for a trip to California.  The car was already partly packed.  Would she not remember if he had been out that evening, if she remembers that he listened to radio accounts with suspiciously strong curiosity, or that he asked her to read newspaper accounts of the story aloud to him after they arrived home?

Jonelle’s body was found in 2019 by a construction crew working on a pipeline.  There is no DNA evidence, no finger-prints, no photos, no witnesses.  There is, in short, nothing but a rather bizarre interpretation of some odd but not really strange verbal expressions by the suspect.

This is not the first time some odd person has made curious statements about an unsolved murder.  We should know better by now: it’s a psychological condition, a personality quirk, a bizarre compulsion.  If a person behaves “oddly”, by all means, check it out.  But if there is no supporting evidence, you probably have something similar to this case.

Ask yourself this: would the police have ever excluded a possible suspect because he didn’t provide “superfluous details” when discussing the case with them?

But to bring a case like that to court, based sole on the “superfluous” detail or “excessive” interest is worse than inadequate.  It borders on criminal abuse.  Close enough!  Hang him!  Great police work!  Medals for everybody.

And Jonelle’s family is glad to have “closure”.  If I were in Jonelle’s family, I would tell the police, “are you fucking kidding me?”  Get back to work.

This is all absurd.  It’s idiotic.  And, as if we don’t already know from election-deniers,  it is further evidence that a lot of people are, frankly, stupid: a jury voted unanimously that, by golly, if the police think he’s guilty, he must be guilty.  They convicted him.

Pankey insists he is innocent.  He says he is being persecuted because of his homosexuality.  He might be right.

I love the “superfluous details”.  The police felt that the “superfluous details” implicated him.  Because there is some kind of magical police science that tells you that men who provide “superfluous details” likely committed a crime.  Just as, when I was little, my mother believed that giggling if someone stared at you and asked if you were lying meant that you were lying.

I know people who put on a grave, serious expression when talking about police who were killed or injured on duty, as if there is something solemn or sacred about them.   It is very hard, especially recently, especially after the numerous incidents in which police behaved very, very badly (even to the point of homicide) and not one of the officers who saw or heard of the incident reported it, to not believe that most police don’t deserve our respect.

Interesting side-note: Jonelle was born to a 13-year-old girl, and then adopted.

“A chokecherry tree was planted in front of Franklin Middle School in memory of Jonelle. The tree died after a few years and a plaque inscribed with Jonelle’s name disappeared.[18]”  (Wiki)  So much for that solemn commitment to commemorate and honor her memory.  I guess it was a superfluous detail.


Inventor of the GPS

Dr. Gladys West, The Black Woman Who Invented The GPS, Gets Honored By U.S. Air Force At The Pentagon  [BusinessGhana]

That seems remarkable.  Not just a woman– a black woman!  Of course, those mean men in charge of the Pentagon made sure she didn’t get credit.   For inventing the GPS.  Everybody knows its true.

Or is it.

The first clue is that most of the websites that refer to Gladys West (the “Dr.” came much later in life– she was not a “Dr.” when she worked for the Air Force)  is the oblique tone of the reference: her work contributed to, was essential to, helped, contributed largely to, and so on.

You ask yourself: is it in the interests of the Air Force to quietly accede to some exaggeration here?  So they could be seen to be honoring a black woman?  So they could be seen to be addressing a historical injustice?  So they could be seen as progressive and enlightened?  If someone thought they were now exaggerating her role, would that person dare to speak up?

The header, “The Black Woman Who Invented the GPS”, is a lie.  She was involved in some of the research required for the project, but to say she “invented GPS” is a gross distortion of her role.   It’s the kind of lie Hollywood embraces.  It’s the kind of lie middling America adores.  It doesn’t really offend conservatives (because it makes it look like they always were colorblind when it came to talent) and it totally gratifies white liberals because it vindicates their politics and their self-satisfaction, and everyone else is glad to feel like they are not really racist because, after all, they enjoyed this film, just like they enjoyed “The Green Book” and “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”.

It does not help your cause to exaggerate.  To lie.  The next time I see a headline insisting that a black woman saved hundreds of lives or stopped a war or built an airplane or solved pi or defeated the Nazis– well?  Did you really?

The Implications

Today it was revealed that the Supreme Court is likely to rule to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Everyone is hopefully clear on the fact that overturning “Roe vs Wade” does not make abortion illegal.  It throws the problem back to the states which now may either ban it, partially ban it, or allow it, depending on the whims of state legislators.

States will now be allowed to compel women to carry a pregnancy to full term whether they wish to or not, even in the case of incest or rape.

If this indeed is going to be the ruling (which will be handed down in June), there are some enormous implications.  Off hand, I can think of these:

  • The Democratic base will be energized going into the fall congressional elections.  This is Mitch McConnell’s nightmare.  Mid-term elections generally favor the opposition party at least partly because the government doesn’t have a burning issue to run against– it is the government many people like to vote against no matter what stripe.  But overturning Roe vs Wade may light a fire under the Democrats.
  • The issue should play well for the Democrats.  About 60-65% of Americans support the general right to abortion, though they also think limits should apply.  Democrats can cite the government telling women what they may or may not do with their bodies.  Republican state governments are going to “compel” women to carry pregnancies to term which can be spun as intrusive or egregious or over-reach or patriarchal.  Republicans cannot really run on “life begins at conception”– at least, I’ll believe it when I see it.
  • Further to that — evangelical Christians will not be satisfied with overturning Roe vs. Wade.  They want the Supreme Court to go further and ban all abortions.  Life, to them, begins at conception.  They may begin to demand that their Republican trolls reflect that in their legislation, which may be a bridge too far for independents and moderate Republican women.
  • Why stop at Roe vs Wade?  There are host of privacy rights implied in the principle that the Constitution does not protect them.  Strip searches?  Infrared scans of homes?  Drones?  Cell phone messages?  Library records?  Who says we (the FBI, Homeland Security) can’t look?   Who says those records are private (unless the police have a warrant)?
  • So when really does life begin?  If state governments begin debating this issue, and pass legislation, and this legislation is appealed to the Supreme Court, we will have an even bigger can of worms.
  • State Senate races in close states could swing.  Susan Collins is safe for now– she has five years left in her term.  Lisa Murkowski– lucky for her– voted against Kavanaugh, so she is probably safe.  But many other Republicans running in purple states will have to answer the question of who they would confirm to Supreme Court given that they might make another really stupid decision.  (Is “stupid” a blunt instrument?  I mean, Alito and Thomas are obviously not fools, but I stand by my conclusion of the fundamental soundness of their reasoning behind their votes on Roe vs Wade.  In the totality of their disregard for history, culture, justice, and just plain common sense: stupid.  Just plain stupid.  It can stand with the Dred Scott decision– that negroes are not “persons”.)

As you would think is obvious, the ruling is at odds with conservative ideals about government being restrained from intruding into areas of personal freedom.  The government should not be able to require you to wear a mask  around vulnerable people even if you could be infected with Covid 19, but it should be allowed to compel you to carry a pregnancy to full term.


The Father of Violence

The logic of the militarist is this. The only way to stop the enemy from committing violence against us is to threaten to retaliate as swiftly and surely as possible. The proof for the militarist is this: immediately after we have retaliated, the enemy, applying the same logic, will commit more violence, justifying further decisive and immediate retaliation.

Inevitably, there will be peace talks in the Middle East because even mule-headed politicians like Ariel Sharon eventually get it through their thick skulls that this is not a war he can win.

Arafat is a different problem. Arafat had led a war against Israel for thirty years. Confronted with the real prospect of peace at Camp David in 2000, he demurred. Why? Possibly because he was afraid that the entire structure and culture of his power, the on-going struggle against the imperialist west, would be washed away into a complex labyrinth of regulation and policy. Without administrative skills, his power would be diminished and hemmed in by the demands of constructive engagement.

Is Sharon all that different? His reputation is built upon his military successes. Without Arafat to bash around, he would have to develop real economic and social policies that would benefit the voters. Anger and threats don’t settle strikes, reduce inflation, or generate jobs or tourism.  But the country rallies, usually, around a war-time leader.


Ketanji Brown Jackson

I really wish Biden had not announced, during his campaign for the presidency, that he would appoint the first black woman justice to the Supreme Court.

There was no need.  He should have said nothing and then gone ahead and appointed Ketanji Brown Jackson out of the blue, as his choice as the most qualified candidate.

Not because he was wrong.  But because it fed into the false far-right narrative that deliberately choosing a black woman and excluding all white men or women is a form of racial discrimination.

So if a black person is charged with a crime and appeals his verdict all the way to the Supreme Court and is a confronted with 9 old white men who will arbitrate his fate, there is no problem.  They are the best.  They are the most qualified.  And there could not possibly be the slightest racial bias embedded in their judgements.

That’s what the far-right would have you believe because, to be blunt, they are too stupid to see a problem.

What they ignore, of course, is, first of all, that there very likely is a racist element to the selection of those judges.  Every single Senator who voted to confirm those justices could openly, sincerely declare that race did not play a role in their choice to confirm.  But that would imply the belief that racism played no role in the establishment that created the network of personal connections, criteria, cultural institutions, inflections, language, and so on that provided them with the nominees from which they chose the members of the Supreme Court.  They might even sincerely believe that these old white male justices would have enough amazing insights into all of the issues and conditions that black people experience to render an objective and fair verdict on each case.  They might believe that black people experience the same law and the same enforcement strategies as white people and that, therefore, there could not possibly be any discriminations or injustice in the way the police and prosecutors conduct their prosecutions.  The police are just as likely to stop or pull over a white citizen for a “random” check as a black citizen.  They are just as like to respect his rights and assume innocence as a they would for a white suspect.  They are just as likely to use physical force.

That is a fantasy.

I don’t think they really believe it themselves.  They know they cannot openly declare that only white people (or black conservatives) should be on the Supreme Court because they are white.  They can’t openly declare that black people are trying to steal the material benefits created by hard-working white people.

They can’t admit that Clarence Thomas was chosen because he was a black conservative and they relished the idea of liberals having to consider rejecting a black nominee just because he was a lousy ideologically driven judge.

For What it’s Worth

Though a large majority of Americans thought it was right and good and natural for the government to pay off the families of victims of the 9/11 attacks, it was not. This was a completely original application of government resources that had never been done before, and it was at the behest of the airline industry which convinced the government– and the makers of this movie– that the nation would suffer immense economic harm if existing law was permitted to prevail and the airlines were sued, like they should have been in a capitalist free enterprise economy.

Have the airlines ever sued somebody?  Have any of the executives or large shareholders of the airlines ever sued somebody?  Did they think, before 9/11, that unlimited jury awards in tort cases might be a bad idea (actually, Republicans generally do)?  Why were gun manufacturers specifically exempted from tort law in 2005?   (As the link clarifies, gun makers could still be liable for “defects” in their product, if a product designed to kill and maim people can ever be said to have defects– does it not kill and maim?  Take it back to the store!)

Remember all that blather you heard about government hand-outs leading to toxic dependency? Yeah, that’s only for immigrants and black people.  In a capitalist system, as we claim to have, and as we say justifies letting poor people fend for themselves instead of helping them, the courts provide a system by which a good citizen can address compensation for deficiencies in a product or service that causes personal loss and suffering.

So the U.S. government broke all of it’s own rules and principles and decided that it would pay off the families of victims so the airlines could continue to pay off its shareholders and executives.

Next problem: how to decide who gets what?

We are the government: we have trillions. Line up and put your hands out everyone. And remember, repeat after me, “it’s not about the money”. Let’s work on the euphemisms for it: to bring closure; to ensure dignity; to make sure this never happens again; to bless the children and the kittens and the apple pie.

Meet Ken Feinberg, who, you should know, has been repeatedly hired (subsequent to 9/11) by large, powerful corporations like BP and Boeing to handle massive claims distributions after great big disasters. (Most recently, he has managed the 737 Max victim fund). Feinberg is asked by John Ashcroft to be the master of the compensation fund for victims of 9/11 and to the credit of “Worth” he is shown to be, at first, pretty clueless about managing the delicate feelings of the victim’s families.  (Except that he does refuse a salary– but then, we know how that works: somewhere down the road he will receive another appointment, maybe to a board or government post, that does pay, very, very well).  But the film does want it both ways: the families cannot be seen to be a mob of greedy materialists salivating at huge financial rewards. It’s not about the money, right? But it is always about the money and even the supposedly “pure” Donato family that sneers at the idea of taking compensation eventually joins the suit. Possibly the gravest hypocrisy in the U.S. right now is this absolute bullshit that people get away with when suing someone for a grievous loss. It is always about the money. “Worth” is far more honest than I expected about that, and presents some interesting dialogue about how the “worth” of a human life is determined. Should a janitor’s family get the same payout as a rich executive? (The initial plan, which rightly offended so many of the litigants, said: the CEO should get more since more potential earnings were lost.) And what about the children of a fireman by a woman with whom he was having a secret affair? Even more delicate: the gay partner of one man who lived in Virginia which did not allow for gay spouses. “Worth” is above average in it’s handling of these subjects, and relatively self-effacing– for a time– about Feinberg himself. Perhaps that is because it was critical to present him credibly while soft-pedalling the fact that this was all, all, really about sparing the airlines’ shareholders from shouldering the cost of their liability for 9/11, and for allowing juries to award scads and scads of millions of dollars for “pain and suffering” to family members who can cry on cue on the stand during a trial. We are also shielded from detailed discussion about the percentage of a settlement sucked up by the lawyers in cases like this.  The most depressing thing about this entire episode is how the government continues to resist any serious discussion about compensating the families of victims of slavery, or racial violence, in any form whatsoever. I’m not saying there is no argument against it– there is. I’m just noting how obvious the difference is between these two constituencies, and how quickly we can disregard and make exceptions to policy whenever we feel like it.

Astonishingly, Feinberg’s entry in Wikipedia contains no personal information about the man.  That is wondrous, for someone who was pivotal to some of the biggest and most controversial disasters in recent memory.

Martin Vrieze

When I did a search for a philosophy professor I took a course with 40 years ago at Trinity Christian College, I found nothing.  Except for one indirect reference.

This is shocking to me.  Can a man devote so large part of his life to teaching philosophy to hundreds of students and disappear with barely a trace on the Internet?  Well, of course, this was all before the Internet, but still, you would think there would be a few pages somewhere honoring his memory.  Maybe some former student fondly remembering the required perspectives courses we all had to take our first year (What is this?  A chair?  How you know it’s a chair and not an umbrella?)

Here is my note on Dr. Marin Vrieze, so there is at least one page somewhere devoted to him:

2 plus 2 does not Equal 4

Probably the best course I took at Trinity was Dr. Vrieze’s “Philosophy of History” class.

Until then, we had studied philosophy in various eras, medieval, modern, 19th Century. We studied Kant and Descartes and Hume, all relics of a different era, relevant but quaintly insular. Who really cares about Kant’s categories of being in the era of Woodstock and Watergate and Viet Nam and Bob Dylan and the Beatles?

The revolutionary aspect of Vrieze’s course was it’s reliance on current, living philosophers, and the course texts consisted of periodicals instead of text books. It was here I was introduced to Karl Popper, Imre Lakatos, Paul Feyerabend, Schopenhauer, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. And it was here, for the first time, I was convinced that 2 plus 2 might not equal 4. This mathematical equation was not some transcendent logic that would always be true no matter what you believed about God or reality or physics. It was the product of rigid doctrines promulgated by the rationalists and the 19th century systematizers.

To be clear, I didn’t necessarily believe that 2 plus 2 was a subjective idea that could be discarded at will. I was skeptical of that too. But my readings, especially of Feyerabend and Lakatos, convinced me that you could make an argument for the idea that it really was an arbitrary construct judged by presuppositions about the nature of physical reality, and that if you assumed a different nature of reality— say, for example, that time is a river, not sequence of atomic moments— you could end up with a universe in which 2 plus 2 does not equal 4.

Karl Popper presented the idea of paradigms: that we can understand the world in the framework of a model or set of assumptions which endure as long as they are “useful” and productive in some way. This idea has been useful to me over and over again: look at the people who support Donald Trump. They operate according to a different paradigm. And it is almost impossible to shift someone’s paradigm until it begins to break down or disintegrate under them.
Wittgenstein believed that all of reality is essentially the product of language. It was in the language expression itself that constructs our experience of the world. I found this idea very intriguing.

Mark Vandervennen who was in the course with me kept asking, “what is the Christian response to these philosophies? How do we answer them with our own truth?” Until then, every course on philosophy concluded with a survey of the “correct” Christian response to these pagan ideas. Most of the time, this consisted of nominally Christian thinkers like Herman Dooyeweerd who rather obviously adapted parts of the pagan ideas into his own scheme, in Dooyeweerd’s case, particularly, categories of being.

Vrieze steadfastly refused to provide an out. He would sometimes repeat the question to the class: “How do we respond to Wittgenstein? Tell me.”
I began to believe that this course was Vrieze’s revenge on the entire edifice of Christian College philosophy and theology. He seemed to be demonstrating to me that none of the pat answers we received in all of our earlier perspective and philosophy courses were adequate to address the real issues raised by the most powerful living philosophers.  Perhaps he was addressing his own professional disappointments.  He never seemed to rise to a position of prestige or professional recognition that I think he felt he deserved.

Google Dr. Martin Vrieze. It is shocking to me that there is almost references to him on the Internet. I need to do a page and make the link: someone should have a tribute to this gregarious, entertaining, provocative teacher.

Trooper of the Year

No all police are corrupt, self-serving, fascist pigs.

Of course not.  I am occasionally reminded by friends that you should not judge all police by the bad behavior of a few.  They are right, of course.  But when you read a story like this, you begin to wonder if the people who advocate defunding the police aren’t right.  Here you have a police officer arriving at a scene in which a emotionally disturbed young man is threatening to take his own life.  The sensitive, kindly, thoughtful State Trooper demands that the man drop his weapon.  When he doesn’t– he had it taped to his neck– the distinguished officer shoots him dead.

Now, it is one thing to argue that this outcome was unfortunate.  It is one thing to argue that this outcome was unnecessary (the man in question was in his own room in his own house and not threatening to kill anybody but himself).  It is one thing to argue that the situation was unclear.  But it is something else entirely to give the officer an award for “Trooper of the Year”.

The officer, Jay Splain, went on to kill three more people.  Is there a bigger award than “Trooper of the Year” we can give him?

So the institution of the state police are all in on it.  So many of them felt so strongly that there was nothing wrong with this outcome that they called public attention to it and gave him a prize and a commendation.

Even some conservatives will tell you that this kind of incident could be avoided with a little common sense: there was no need for the police to even escalate the situation at all.

But he had a gun.  But isn’t that his god-given all-American Jesus-Loving wholesome family values right?

Mr. Martin saw nothing wrong with allowing the police to investigate themselves.

Mr. Martin thinks people like me think people like him are stupid.  He’s right.

But I would love to ask Mr. Martin, since the principle of allowing police to investigate themselves is alright with him, would he mind if allegations of welfare fraud were investigated by, say, local black church leaders?  Drug dealers?  Let’s get representatives of the pharmaceutical companies to judge.  Traffic violations?  I think NASCAR should send us some reps.


Those We Can

The chair of the Columbia University department of psychiatry was suspended on Wednesday, “effective immediately,” after referring to a dark-skinned model as possibly a “freak of nature” on Twitter.  NY Times

What the hell is wrong with that?

The Grand Canyon is a “freak of nature”.  A peacock is a “freak of nature”.  The Northern Lights are a “freak of nature”.  They are beautiful and wonderful.

It is quite notable that most of the great cancellations of the “woke” era are of people who are fundamentally allied politically with those who do the cancelling.  [See, most recently, Jane Campion.]

Witness poor Jeffrey Lieberman, the chair of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York.  It is immediately apparent from his abject apology and self-flagellating acknowledgment that he, unlike the real enemies of racial justice, is sympathetic to the cause.  I believe his sense of guilt is entirely derived from the self-righteous piety of those accusing him.  He thinks he did something wrong because a bunch of puritanical zealots told him he did.  He even added that he now knows that he had no idea how racist he was. The  horrified expressions and vindictive passion of his accusers overwhelmed his good sense.  His attackers feel righteous and holy, having once again stomped out another residue of institutional black oppression.

He absorbed a terrible insult and I dearly wish he had had the character to stand up to this bullshit and refuse to apologize or acknowledge that there was anything wrong with his tweet.  Let them fire him and let it play out.  It will not go well for his attackers.  They will have provided Tucker Carlson with more fodder.  And then sue the damned University for damages and wrongful dismissal.  Let it play in a court of law: I was fired over a phrase.  Let us learn what the meaning is of “freak of nature”.

What did he do?  He remarked upon the surreal beauty of model Nyakim Gatwech.  I’ll join him in his transgression: Ms. Gatwech is a surreal beauty of utterly remarkable skin coloring.   She is unique and unusual.  Yes, a “freak of nature”, like Wayne Gretzky, Einstein, and Tuesday Weld.

“Freak of nature”: that’s the phrase that set off people:

“Dark skin is normal, dark skin is just part of the normal variation of human existence,” Dr. Lett said. “Stigmatizing language has psychological impacts. It hurts people.”

Yet Ms. Gatwech herself proudly advertises her colouring as a valuable and commodifiable quality.  She is paid to show her skin to the marketers of cosmetics and clothing, to photograph and broadcast.  Ms. Gatwech, for your information, is cashing in on the character of her skin colour.  Is there a note of hypocrisy here?  Well, it’s not just a note; it’s a symphony of hypocrisy.

Dr. Lett assumes that “freak of nature” is pejorative.  It is not.  It is fundamentally similar to the first part of my comment, that Ms. Gatwech’s skin colouring and shape is a unique and remarkable expression of various attributes of gender, race, and heredity.  Unusual.  Distinctive.  Uncommon.  Poetically, she could be said to be a Mona Lisa, a Venus, a Madonna.

How different really is it from this more “anodyne” comment from TeenVogue?

It was then the dark skinned beauty started to build her portfolio, taking two years in New York and countless weekends during college to have photo shoots.

“Dark-skinned”?  Does that phrase stigmatize Ms. Gatwech?  Does it stereotype her?  Does the word “beauty” sexualize her?

It is clear from the rest of Dr.  Lieberman’s tweet that his comment is complimentary.  He admires Ms. Gatwech’s beauty.  It takes a perverse mind to construe his tweet as “stigmatizing” or “stereotyping” especially when the very attribute he is amazed by is her particularity.

Is it racist?  I don’t see it.  I see someone stating the obvious: Ms. Gatwech is a very unusual beauty, with extremely dark skin.

He added that he was “deeply ashamed” of his “prejudices and stereotypical assumptions.”

WTF?  What prejudice?  What “assumptions”?  Is there something else he said that we are missing that expressed prejudice?  Do the people making the accusation even know what a “stereotypical assumption” is?  Where is it, in the tweet?

I cringe at Dr. Liberman’s pathetic surrender to the puritanical fanatics of this culture of victimization.  You give liberals and progressives a bad name.  You make some right-wing commentators sound reasonable when they decry your extremism.

As for his judges, I hope I never, ever, ever meet you.

More on the scandal from NYTimes

An Excellent Rebuke to the culture of purity and assonance.

As for Jane Campion, what she said, in accepting her award for “Best Director”, is absolutely accurate: the Williams sisters did not, like her, have to compete against men for their prizes and awards.  Some critics counter that they did, indeed, play on mixed doubles teams, where they did play men.  Give me a break: that’s is not remotely the same as playing one-on-one against Nadel or Djokovic, against whom neither sister would stand a chance.  It is also a pity “King Richard”, the film about how they were “encouraged” to succeed by their father, never raises the issue of steroid abuse, even if to insist Serena was not using them, and that she had a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) for prednisone, prednisolone and oxycodone.

As rumors of steroid abuse swirled around the WTA in the late ’90s and early 2000s, the WTA finally took action and called for offseason steroids testing. That testing was blocked by the top three women’s tennis players at the time. Those players were Serena and Venus Williams, along with Jennifer Capriati.  Bleacherreport

The claim is that these therapeutics help a sick athlete get better.  But very few therapeutics actually do that.  Usually, a virus runs it’s course and diminishes over time.  Therapeutics merely help you feel better.  And if someone was paying you millions of dollars to perform without raising questions about the integrity of your performance….

How Dare you Defend Yourself

The New York Review (of Books) is one of the best periodicals I have ever read.  It is up there with the long lost “American Film” and “Musician” magazines: couriers of superlative, thoughtful, original journalism unlike almost everything else out there.  Like “Wired” for it’s first year before it immediately declined into commercial crap gadget marketing manual.  Or “Byte Magazine” before it got bought out and began approving of Microsoft and got destroyed.

No– it is better than all of them ever were.

But, in the past few years, a couple of missteps.  First, Editor Ian Buruma is fired because he had the shameless audacity to allow Jian Ghomeshi to defend himself after the women who charged him with abusive behavior were caught lying to the police and to the judge at his trial.  I repeat, for emphasis: the women who charged him with abuse and assault lied to the police, to the crown attorneys, and the judge.  The evidence of this is indisputable.  There is no doubt but that the court would have loved– more than anything– to nail Jian Ghomeshi, but they didn’t because, by any reasonable standard of justice, they could not.

All of the charges were, as a result, dismissed.

But Mr. Buruma’s publisher decided that the lies did not matter.  The fact that some women made the charge against Ghomeshi is sufficient to determine his guilt.  Women never lie.  And if they do, the men they lie about are still guilty, because they are men.

And so we get to a deeply regrettable review by Joyce Carol Oates in the February 11, 2021 issue of New York Review, “Chronicle of a Death Ignored”.   Ms. Oates is discussing a book by Becky Cooper, “We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence”, about the murder of a Harvard graduate student, Jane Britton, in January, 1969.  Becky Cooper– to Ms. Oates pleasure– writes mostly, really, about herself, how she connected to the story, how she felt about it, and how important it is for us to know all about her.  Full disclosure: I don’t like that kind of “journalism”.  It’s not journalism.  It’s about me.

She also spends considerable time and effort to condemn Harvard University for not finding the killer among their abusive or “callow” professors for surely they were– as men– abusive or callow or both– and must certainly answer for Ms.  Britton’s murder.   But Becky Cooper is on to them: she confronts them with courage and conviction and persistence and forces them to admit that they are abusive and callow.

She is selective, of course.  Some students felt that Jane was in an abusive relationship with a professor at the time.  That must surely be true.  Jane’s brother thought she was promiscuous, a drug abuser, and “a bitch”.  That must surely be false, since it came from a man.

There is a development that is incredibly inconvenient for Cooper, which explains the odd first three paragraphs of Oates’ review.  Cooper has developed her entire project around the assumption that it was a Harvard professor, most likely Professor Lamberg-Karlovsky, who raped and murdered Britton.   Thus she is shocked and horrified that Harvard University actively  provided legal support to Lamberg-Karlovsky and others.

So, having spent 10 years developing this thesis and marshalling all your rhetorical energy to condemn the Harvard patriarchy, what do you do when the murderer turns out to be someone who had absolutely nothing to do with Harvard University?  Well, Oates would have you believe that there is some kind of essential, magical truth that makes Cooper’s narrative “a brilliantly idiosyncratic variant of generic true crime, rather more a memoir than a conventional work of reportage”.


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

Harvard was indeed “silent”: but there was nothing to hide or disclose.  It didn’t know who murdered Jane Britton and, as it turns out, there was no reason to think it should have known.  Harvard didn’t “ignore” the death.   It’s just that Ms. Cooper and Ms. Oates think the Harvard patriarchy is complicit in some way regardless of the facts.

And they are not personally satisfied with the grandiosity of Harvard’s response, as if Harvard owed it to them, as women, to scale it all up.

Well, as in the case of Ghomeshi, it is sufficient to make the charge.  How dare they defend themselves!  If a woman says you did something wrong, you did something wrong, whether you did it or not.

More Harvard Cancellation.