Real Genius

November 25, 2015

Someone added fake Black Friday posters to his local Target bulletin board.  (source)

Cuomo Pisses on the First Amendment over Amazon Ads

November 25, 2015

The Man in the High Castle is a piece of alternative history fiction.  It imagines an alternate future in which the Axis powers won World War II.  The Nazis occupy the eastern part of the United States, while the Japanese take up residence in the west.  I have only seen the pilot, so I’m not sure if the Italians get anything, but it seems kinda bullshit that they don’t get anything.  You would think that they would get Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey… but I digress.

So there is an alternate future in which America loses, is occupied, and everything is different.  There is a surveillance state.  Political dissent is not tolerated.  Hmm… add in a butterfly ballot and some hanging chads and its… well, I digress again.

Suffice to say, it is quite thought-provoking to imagine this alternate future.  What lessons does it teach us?  There is something for everyone in it.  Stand up to fascism?  Defend the homeland?  We should all be armed?

But, in a day and age when Americans flee both left and right to avoid thought, it just couldn’t be without some controversy.

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 4.43.46 PM

I got news for you, we have eagles like that on our shit too

To advertise the series, Amazon bought some subway ads displaying the flags of the fictional Japanese and Nazi puppet regimes.  Entire subway cars appeared as you might imagine them if The Man in the High Castle were a work of non-fiction.

People freaked the fuck out.

Seeing pictures of this, it makes me say “it kinda makes you think, doesn’t it?”

That’s the point.

It makes you think.

It makes you think about “what if….”  Or, at the very least, it makes you think “what the hell is going on here?”  Then, maybe you ask someone, “what the fuck is all this shit?”  You think… you talk… you discuss…

Holy Hello Kitty Christ Eating a Chinchilla, Amazon went and threw a big box of wares into the marketplace of ideas.  Instead of inane visual junk food, Amazon is selling an intellectually compelling series, and decided to advertise it in a way that was also intellectually compelling.

And therein lies the national freak out.

Some people complained that it was “inappropriate” to put symbols of these defeated regimes on display.

Local politicians also joined in on the uproar Monday evening. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio urged Amazon to pull the “offensive” ads, and Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn democrat, even called for a boycott against the Seattle company.

“While these ads technically may be within MTA guidelines, they’re irresponsible and offensive to World War II and Holocaust survivors, their families, and countless other New Yorkers,” de Blasio said in a statement. “Amazon should take them down.” (source)

What?  Too soon?

Irresponsible?  What in the FUCK does that mean?


There are certainly a couple of Holocaust survivors left in New York City, and yes, I could not fault them if a few had an anxiety attack upon seeing a Nazi-esque eagle on the American flag.  So, I see that side of it.  But, I’m not about to call to ban Mel Brooks movies for them.  Further, if there’s one group of people who I would imagine would want us to consider what might have been had we not fought the Nazis hard enough, it should be their remaining living victims and the bad ass motherfuckers who fucking defeated them.

Seriously, I can’t believe I’m saying this to Holocaust survivors and The Greatest Generation, but sack the fuck up, will you?   You won.  You survived, or you kicked the shit out of those Hugo Boss wearing bastards.  Now there is a piece of fiction that makes us think, “wow, there could have been concentration camps here.”  That ought to fit in with the “never again” credo that every Holocaust survivor has.  And WWII vets?  These fuckers jumped out of planes into Normandy, or fought hand to hand with the Japanese at Iwo Jima, and Bill Fucking DeBlasio has the audacity to say “they might be offended?”  These are people who have seen real fucking offensiveness.  These are not Smith or Amherst College pussy crybaby fucks.

You want “offensive?”  I can think of a way to advertise this offensively.  The fact is, had the Axis won WWII, there would probably be ads for German feces porn on one side of the car, and Japanese tentacle porn on the other.  Try that, and I might give a sweaty fuck if you say it is inappropriate.

But, unless there are pictures of octopi coming out of 12 year old girls’ vaginas or people shitting on other people’s faces, while wearing zippered masks, the word “offended” or “inappropriate” do not have any place in this discussion.

Ultimately, the goddamned governor of New York demanded that the ads come down or he would “order” that they be ripped out.  (source)

Yes, the Governor ordered that First Amendment protected expression, expression that might even border on political speech, be suppressed because someone was offended.

How’s your irony meter working?

If you’re offended at anything, it ought to be at what Governor Cuomo did.

Just unpack it for a moment.  Amazon makes a series that is supposed to make us imagine a world where we don’t have our basic freedoms.  Ads about the series “offend” a handful of people, so the goddamned governor, without any authority to do so, simply orders the speech suppressed.  No due process.  No nothing.  Just “that offends me, so suppress it.”  That’s called prior restraint, and FOR YOUR INFORMATION, THE SUPREME COURT HAS ROUNDLY REJECTED PRIOR RESTRAINT.

One might think that this was performance art — that maybe Cuomo was trying to give us a taste in the real world of what it might be like if we had a dictator ruling over us, with no First Amendment to protect our freedom of expression.

Open your mind and think.  Maybe even talk about things.  If you’re not careful, you might actually think.  Maybe you’ll think about what Liberty is, and what the fuck could happen if you don’t defend it with everything you’ve got.

A breath of fresh air at Princeton

November 25, 2015

It seems that not all Princeton students are politically correct idiots who can’t string together a coherent sentence.

While the victim studies types are whining to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from a building, because he apparently harbored racist views, there are at least a few who paid attention in their high school classes. (source)

Academic discourse consists of reasoned arguments. We simply wish to present our own reasoned arguments and engage you and other senior administrators in dialogue. We will not occupy your office, and, though we respectfully request a minimum of an hour of your time, we will only stay for as long as you wish. We will conduct ourselves in the civil manner that it is our hope to maintain and reinforce as the norm at Princeton.


That’s an interesting idea.  It doesn’t work rhythmically with “hey hey, ho ho,” but who am I to judge?

But here is the jewel in their statement:

We firmly believe that there should be no space at a university in which any member of the community, student or faculty, is “safe” from having his or her most cherished and even identity-forming values challenged.


Porn Actor Cum Math Tutor Loses First Amendment Case

November 24, 2015

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Happy, Fun, but we don’t want “that kind of thing”

This is sort of a sad story.  David Mech was once known as “Dave Pounder,” a porn actor.  I do not know him personally, but everything I can find out about him suggests that he is a pretty smart guy.  (example)

He has a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, a master’s degree from Arizona State University, and is enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Florida Atlantic University. He has taught mathematics at Palm Beach State College and is certified to teach secondary math in Florida. Mech is also a retired porn star. (Op.)

Dave also happens to run a math tutoring program, “The Happy Fun Math Tutor.”

Beginning in 2010, Mech inquired about displaying a banner for The Happy/Fun Math Tutor at three schools in Palm Beach County: Omni Middle School, Spanish River Community High School, and Boca Raton Community Middle School. Representatives from the schools encouraged Mech to apply: Mech specializes in the math courses that are taught at those schools and, according to a representative of the School Board, “[h]e apparently is a very good tutor.” The schools require banners to be printed in school colors and to include the message “[School Initials] Partner in Excellence.” The banners can include only the name, phone number, web address, and logo of the business partner. To obtain a banner, the schools require a minimum donation of $250–$650. (Op.)

Unfortunately, everything worked out just fine for three years.  Then, someone wiggled in their chair, and the stick up their ass penetrated their brain sac.

In 2013, the schools removed the banners for The Happy/Fun Math Tutor. Several parents complained about the banners after discovering the common ownership of The Happy/Fun Math Tutor and Dave Pounder Productions. The schools informed Mech that his “position with Dave Pounder Productions, together with the fact that Dave Pounder Productions utilizes the same principal place of business and mailing address as The Happy/Fun Math Tutor creates a situation that is inconsistent with the educational mission of the Palm Beach County School Board and the community values.” (Op.)

Mind you, there was never any question that Dave behaved improperly.  Dave didn’t fondle anyone.  Dave didn’t try and recruit anyone into porn.  Dave’s greatest sin was that he owned a porn company too.

And that is inconsistent with the “educational mission” of a public school system that gave us the fucking idiots who couldn’t figure out the butterfly ballot.

Dave sued the school district, alleging that their suppression of his commercial speech in this manner violated his First Amendment rights.  He lost because the district court held that the school did not remove the banners because of their content, but rather because of the stick up the board’s ass.

On appeal, the 11th Circuit affirmed, but not for that reason – but rather because the banners were deemed to be “government speech.”

When the government exercises “the right to ‘speak for itself,’” it can freely “select the views that it wants to express.” Id. at 467–68, 129 S. Ct. at 1131 (quoting Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Wis. Sys. v. Southworth, 529 U.S. 217, 229, 120 S. Ct. 1346, 1354 (2000)). This freedom includes “choosing not to speak” and “speaking through the . . . removal” of speech that the government disapproves. Downs v. L.A. Unified Sch. Dist., 228 F.3d 1003, 1012 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing Ark. Educ. Television Comm’n v. Forbes, 523 U.S. 666, 674, 118 S. Ct. 1633, 1639 (1998)). (Op.)

Since the banners are on government property, contain government seals of approval, and there is no historical exception present, they are government speech, not Dave’s speech.

The schools do not allow the banners to list anything but the sponsor’s name, contact information, and preexisting business logo. “The message set out in [a banner] is from beginning to end the message established by the [school].” Johanns, 544 U.S. at 560, 125 S. Ct. at 2062. (Op.)

Unfortunately, this seems like it could be the right legal result.  These banners do come with an endorsement by the school, and do not only suggest, but explicitly contain, an imprimatur from the District. On the other hand, if these banners are “government speech,” there are banners there from churches. That comes up at 25:15 and 35:50 at oral argument (recording below). When that comes up, the school district’s attorney gets a bit cagey and evasive. In fact, the school district’s attorney doesn’t seem prepared for that argument at all.

Unfortunately, the court let her off, intellectual dishonesty and all. But, that’s what happens when you throw the word “porn” into a case. Nevertheless, the school board is, in its zeal to get rid of something that chafes its ass, is now admitting that it is engaged in religious proselytizing.

Right or wrong on the law, the facts are troubling.  I find it virtually impossible to imagine that someone driving by the school would ever think to themselves “I should look up the public records surrounding that tutoring business, and see what else is located at that P.O. Box.”  More likely, a competitor or someone with an axe to grind decided to fuck with Dave.

Would you care if your kids’ teacher used to be a porn actor?  Would you even care if they were a current porn actor?  If your answer is “yes,” then ask yourself “why?” What would you be worried about?  What is he going to do, fuck your kids after teaching them the pythagorean theorem?  Is he going to use his dick as an example of calculating the volume of a cylinder?  Go look for sex offenders in porn, and sex offenders in the clergy.  Now tell me you’d rather have a clergy member with your kid than Dave.

So, I am not so sure on the decision, but I’d like to offer a “go fuck yourself” to the uptight prick who decided to use Dave’s alter ego against him.

Are you afraid of refugees?

November 24, 2015

I have a friend who came to the United States from Chile, fleeing the Pinochet regime.  I see the irony in fleeing Chile to the United States because of Pinochet, but lets set that aside.   On September 12, 2001, he called me to tell me he was going to give up his law practice to join the military, the NSA, the CIA, or whatever he could do to help.  “This country gave me everything,” he said.  “Now, if it needs me, I need to be there.”

I have another friend, this one from Afghanistan.  Her family fled in the 1980s, after the Soviets invaded.  Her father became a doctor here.  She became a lawyer.  We spoke recently about what it was to “love your country.”  I could not claim to “love” my country.  My family?  Sure.  My home town?  Yes.  That doesn’t mean I hate the United States, but I could not call what I feel for it “love.”  I live here.  I’m invested in the place.  But, if it fit with my family and professional plans, I could just as easily live in Cabo San Lucas and never look back.

My “migrant” friend from Afghanistan?  She loves this country.  Just like my Chilean friend, she feels that the United States gave her and her family shelter when they needed it.  America took them in, gave them an opportunity for a better life, and she loves this place as much, or more, than anyone I know.

My own Great grandmother was the same.  She came from Sicily, and loved America so much that she went back and brought half the town with her.  She almost immediately became naturalized, and never looked back.  The way she saw it, she left hunger and fear behind, and landed in a place of safety and opportunity.

This is the immigrant experience that I know.  I take America for granted.  It came easy to me.  I popped out at the right place, at the right time, and they stuck American citizenship in my hands as an entitlement.  I did not have to work for it.  I did not dream of it.  It was not something that I ever yearned for.  It isn’t that I have no affection for it — after all, I’ve devoted my career to defending the Constitution.  You don’t do that if you are just “meh” about your country.  But love?

Not the way immigrants love America.

So lets square that with xenophobia about Syrian immigrants.  I presume that if you read my blog, you have some degree of intelligence, which puts you statistically more likely to welcome immigrants than reject them.  Although there are plenty of super smart people who would rather they not come here, the critical mass of anti-immigrant sentiment does not come from our Fulbright Scholar program.  Lets just put it that way.

But who are these people?  Who are these Americans who would prefer to pull up the ladder, now that their families have climbed up onto America’s warm and welcoming decks?  Are they nazis, as they’ve been called?  Are they awful people?  Are they cruel?


If you are in favor of opening our doors to poor huddled masses, then you’re likely thinking about these immigrants as individuals.  You’re thinking of them one person to another.  You are empathizing with them as fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters.  You see the little boy lying face down on the beach in Turkey, dead, and you think “how could that be better than him living here?”

And then you get angry.  And then you think, “anyone who disagrees with me is awful.”

No.  They are not awful.  They are afraid.

They look at this problem on a macro level.  Imagine for a moment, you are on a boat.  There is room to carry 10 people safely.  An 11th is in the water, reaching for the side of the boat.  If he comes in, the boat will be 10% more likely to capsize, and everyone will drown.  You might say “that is worth it.”  That is a wonderful and kind position to take.  I hope that is the position I would take, if I were in that situation.  But, you can not argue that the contrary position is evil.  In fact, if the bleeding heart is the only one making decisions, what happens when the 12th, 13th, or 14th person shows up?  Where do you draw the line?  Eventually, if you help everyone, the boat will capsize.  Eventually, you have to either leave someone in the water, or you all sink.

I’m not saying that logic fits when it comes to immigrants.  Immigrants usually wind up making the boat bigger.  My Afghan friend?  Her family took public assistance, and had to pay it all back.  It took some time, but the government didn’t just take your tax dollars and give it to her family as a gift.  But, lets say that they didn’t pay it back.  She employs people at her law firm.  She created jobs.  The rest of her family, similarly, gave plenty to us.  We gave them their lives, they gave us a doctor, a lawyer, and made the boat a little bigger.  At the end of the day, immigrants usually are a net positive — not a drain.

But what about the fear that they will “take our jobs?”  In my comfy gated community, all the men who keep the grass nice and the bushes trimmed happen to be immigrants from Latin America.  Did they steal my job?  I’m neither qualified for, nor do I want that job.  Is there an American standing in line to get his welfare check, who would rather be doing that?

If you were born here, with the immediate advantage of speaking English and having a U.S. passport, and your family has been here for one, two, ten generations, and you can’t compete with Juan, then that says more about you than it does about him.

No, you’re not angry at Juan.  You’re afraid of him.  You’re afraid because you called a 1-800 number, and it said “por español, marque numero nueve.”  That’s scary.  You spent your whole life here, studying English, and now all of a sudden, there is this language you don’t understand, and people around you are conducting business in it.  You might go to Miami and walk into a store and realize, nobody speaks your language.  You might walk through Los Angeles, and wind up in a neighborhood where you don’t even know what language they’re speaking, much less understand it.

That can be scary.

Me?  I think its fantastic.  No, I’m not a better person.  I’m just afraid of different things.  I’m not afraid of immigrants, or foreign languages, or “strange customs.”  I wish we had mandatory bilingual education in the United States.  But, that’s me.  Other people find that scary.

You know what else some people think is scary?  When they see people on T.V. who blow up planes and shopping malls, and they look weird to them.  They’re swarthy and wearing weird clothes, speaking weird languages.  Then, you get on a plane, and right there in 14B next to you, is Beardsley McTurbanhead, and he looks exactly (to you, at least) like the guy you saw on TV.  And you know what?  Eventually, someone is going to come to the United States in a crowd of refugees, and he is going to be an ISIS agent, and he is going to blow something up in the United States.  It will happen.

That is scary.

But, you know what else?  Someone might charge into my kids school with a machine gun.  Some random guy on the street might want my wallet, and he gets scared that I’ll call the police after I give it to him, so he stabs me.  That washing machine on the pickup truck in front of me might break loose, and fall off, and land right on my face.  I might swim in a public pool that has e coli in it, and die.

Or ISIS could just recruit some Irish kid from the housing projects in Southie, or a black kid from New Orleans, someone who feels like their life is meaningless, who feels like this country hasn’t ever given them anything, and who thinks they can make some difference for something.  Someone with an American passport is just as likely to work for ISIS as Beardsley McTurbanhead.

Yeah, so be scared of that too.

Despite all these fears, the government could keep us all 99.99% safe.  But, we wouldn’t like what our country would look like.  Lets say that they put surveillance cameras in every room in our homes, tracking devices in our spines, had someone track every dollar we spend, and every second we pass.  Every meal we eat is regulated, every time we go to the bathroom, we ask for permission.  We could remove all fear.  But, who would watch the watchers?  Could we trust anyone with that kind of power?

So what can we do?

Fucked if I know.

If I were on that boat, you would probably have to knock me out to keep me from pulling more people out of the water.  Its not that I’m a better person.  Arguably, the better person is the guy who would knock me out, and save the 10 of us from drowning, at the cost of that one guy we left in the water.  Some might even call that courage.  I might call it courage to fight your inherent humanity, to watch someone die, to save other people.  I do not have the courage to do that.

But, for now, what do we do?  Our boat is not about to capsize.  There is room in the boat.  Juan is not going to take your job.  You are not going to be forced to learn Farsi.  But a lot of people think that all those things are going to happen.  And their fear is both currency and poison.  That fear is the currency that you see being cashed in during a lot of political speeches.  And that fear is what they use to divide us, to make sure that we don’t focus on the fact that the boat would fit 20 people, but one guy decided to take up half the boat with his suitcases full of supplies — supplies he is not going to share with the other nine of us.

But that poison that eats away at us keeps getting spent.  Those checks get cashed, and then the fear currency gains value.  And right now, fear currency is the best investment a politician can make.  Unfortunately, the return on that investment is power.  And power gained through fear is scary fucking power.

That is what I am afraid of.

If you’re with me, you need to recognize that our job is to figure out how to make them less afraid.  This is not going to be easy, especially since the fear investors are glued to FOX, which tries to scare the shit out of them 24/7.  It is not going to be easy, because in part, they want to be afraid.

But, if you can understand that they’re afraid, maybe you can figure out how to make that change. I lack the intellect or the creativity to figure it out myself, but maybe someone reading this has a clue.  If you do, lets hear it — because I’m afraid.

Alla Mafia, No Grazie

November 23, 2015

Giovanni Gambino, dalla famiglia Gambino, cioè una famiglia famosa per la sua criminalità, ha offerto aiuto agli stati uniti per risolvere il problema di ISIS. (rif) Forse ha preso l’idea da Toto Riina che ha offerto la stessa cosa all’europa. (rif)

Non abbiamo bisogno di una terrorista per difenderci dagli altri.  È come se il Ku Klux Klan avesse offerto ad aiutare con l’applicazione della legge.  Non paghiamo il pizzo, e non apriamo la porta per invitare d’entro la spazzatura — neanche la spazzatura che promette ad pulire la cucina dopo la cena.

La cosa più triste di questa storia è il fatto che tanti italo-americani sono tifosi per la loro fantasia della “mafia.” Riina e Gambino non sono eroi. Se cercasse per eroi nella storia della mafia, ti consiglio di cercare per i nomi “Falcone” e “Borsellino.”

Professor “Under Investigation” for Using the Word “Nigger”

November 23, 2015

A Kansas professor is “under investigation” because the word “nigger” touched her lips, and this supposedly left a student “in tears.” (source)

The professor was teaching a seminar about how to address racial issues. She admitted her view that she didn’t experience racism, so it was hard for her to fully understand it. Here is what she allegedly said:

“As a white woman I just never have seen the racism…It’s not like I see ‘Nigger’ spray painted on walls…”

When I read that, I don’t see someone saying “racism doesn’t happen.” I see someone saying, “when I come out of my house, there isn’t going to be a slur spray painted on the wall that is aimed at me. But, black folks sure have dealt with that in their lives.”

She clarified:

“I tried to preface everything I said with, ‘I don’t experience racial discrimination so it’s hard for me to understand the challenges that other people face, because I don’t often see those,” (source)


But that wasn’t good enough.  Five students wrote a letter calling for her termination.  The letter reads like someone trying to parody dipshit millennial crybaby language.

But ultimately, the most offensive part of all of this, is everyone writing about it is afraid to use the damn word.

Look, the word she said was “nigger.”  Not “n-word.”  When quoting her, its ok to use it.

Lenny Bruce said:

it’s the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness. Dig: if President Kennedy would just go on television, and say, “I would like to introduce you to all the niggers in my cabinet,” and if he’d just say “nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger” to every nigger he saw, “boogie boogie boogie boogie boogie,” “nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger” ’til nigger didn’t mean anything anymore, then you could never make some six-year-old black kid cry because somebody called him a nigger at school.

Just in that quote alone, Lenny Bruce said “nigger” 14 times, yet nobody could credibly say that Lenny Bruce was a bigot.

Of course, context is everything.  Lenny Bruce can say it 14 times, and he’s not a bigot. But, you can whisper it under your breath at someone, and that makes it a pretty nasty verbal barb.

That seems pretty simple to me. Context matters.

I went to law school with a guy who wasn’t the least racist guy I have ever met. He didn’t ever use the word “nigger.” However, he explained to me that he called black people “Canadians.” Why? “So when you see some black person acting like a dumb nigger, you can roll your eyes and say ‘Canadians,’ and nobody knows that you’re being racist.”

Context is everything.

This kind of thing gives critical crybaby theorists and every other kind of “victim studies” blowhard a raging boner. But, for those of us who actually contribute something to society, all it does is get us to a place where the message gets lost in endless quibbling over words. The Newspeak police are so damned hypersensitive that innocent use of the word “niggardly,” a word derived from Old Norse (which means “cheap” or “miserly” can create a national freak out, and even “Water Buffalo” (a Hebrew translation) can be perceived as racist, thus labeling the user as a thinker of racist thoughts, ergo someone who needs re-education sensitivity training.

More times than I care to remember, I meet idiots who quote from the movie “True Romance,” after they ask if “Randazza” is a Sicilian name. I don’t like being called a “nigger” either. I don’t like being called a daygo, a wop, a guinea, a greaseball, or anything of the sort.

But, the words are not magic words that I will not tolerate being uttered by others. There’s a country called “New Guinea.” I take no offense. I don’t insist that we change the name of the Guinea Pig to something less racist.

If we’re going to have words that are so magical, so blasphemous that we can’t use them — EVER — not to quote someone else, not to demonstrate a point, not to use them in any way at all, because some useless bag of shit might feel “offended” at the mere sound of the word, then I want to submit my list of words to the thought police as well.

Or, we could just go with Plan A: Take the power from the word and think about the real issues underlying the discussion. That’s why I will never say “n-word” when “nigger” is what I really mean. Because if I want to be an asshole, I can just as easily say “fuckin’ Canadian,” and it means the same damn thing in a nasty, racist context.

Please don’t say “nigger” as an insult. It makes you an asshole. It might even get you a much-deserved ass kicking. But, no matter what the word, there is a time and a place for it, and context matters. If we let these fuckheads take ONE word and put it in the “magic words” bin, then the process of linguistic devolution is already complete. Don’t give them that power.

Save the word “nigger.” Even if you save it just so that we can kill it, Lenny Bruce style, by finally making it not mean anything anymore.


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