Greg Allman died

According to CNN, one of my music heroes, Greg Allman, just died at the age of 69, The details:

Gregg Allman, a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band who overcame family tragedy, drug addiction and health problems to become a grizzled elder statesman for the blues music he loved, has died. He was 69.

Allman died due to liver cancer complications at his home in Savannah, Georgia, and he was “surrounded by his family and friends,” Michael Lehman, Allman’s longtime manager and close friend, told CNN.
He will be buried at Rose Hill cemetery in Macon, GA, though a funeral date has not yet been set, Lehman said.
According to a statement posted to his official website, Allman had struggled with many health issues over the past several years.
Allman was of course a long-time drug user, and also had hepatitis C; you can see a video of him explaining his disease at the CNN site. I was shocked at how thin and wasted he looked.

There’s a lot I could say about his music—his great songs, his gutsy blues voice, and the wonderful synergy of the Allman Brothers Band, of which he was an integral part. But I’ll let two of songs stand for his legacy.

The first, “One Way Out“, was written by Sonny Boy Williamson and redone by the Allman Brothers. It also features Dickey Betts, who (amazingly) is still alive:

That’s a smoking band!

. . . and an acoustic version of another of my favorites, “Melissa“, written by Greg himself (read about the genesis of “Melissa” at the link). It’s a haunting and beautiful song. Wikipedia notes this about it:

When Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1971, his brother performed the song at his funeral, as he had grown to like the song over the years. Gregg Allman commented that it “didn’t sit right” that he used one of his brother’s old guitars for the performance, but he nonetheless got through it; he called it “my brother’s favorite song that I ever wrote.”

There was never a band like the Allman Brothers, and there won’t be one again. (n.b.: Allman and Betts are both wearing cowboy boots.)

You may remember that for a short time he was married to Cher, and here’s her reaction on Twitter (go here for a collection of reactions by musicians and others).

Finally, a 7½-minute PBS mini-documentary of Greg Allman, made five years ago:

Daily reading: the Manchester attacks and ISIS

Well here’s a surprise: The Independent, a Leftist newspaper, has managed to transcend the hypocrisy of sites like the Guardian to publish the following op-ed piece (click on the screenshot to read). Sadly, the Independent ceased on-paper publication in March of last year, and is now found only online. I used to read it when I lived in the UK.

A quote from author Patrick Cockburn, who’s speaking of Wahhabi Islam:

This approach of not blaming Muslims in general but targeting “radicalisation” or simply “evil” may appear sensible and moderate, but in practice it makes the motivation of the killers in Manchester or the Bataclan theatre in Paris in 2015 appear vaguer and less identifiable than it really is. Such generalities have the unfortunate effect of preventing people pointing an accusing finger at the variant of Islam which certainly is responsible for preparing the soil for the beliefs and actions likely to have inspired the suicide bomber Salman Abedi.

. . . The real causes of “radicalisation” have long been known, but the government, the BBC and others seldom if ever refer to it because they do not want to offend the Saudis or be accused of anti-Islamic bias. It is much easier to say, piously but quite inaccurately, that Isis and al-Qaeda and their murderous foot soldiers “have nothing to do with Islam”. This has been the track record of US and UK governments since 9/11. They will look in any direction except Saudi Arabia when seeking the causes of terrorism. President Trump has been justly denounced and derided in the US for last Sunday accusing Iran and, in effect, the Shia community of responsibility for the wave of terrorism that has engulfed the region when it ultimately emanates from one small but immensely influential Sunni sect. One of the great cultural changes in the world over the last 50 years is the way in which Wahhabism, once an isolated splinter group, has become an increasingly dominant influence over mainstream Sunni Islam, thanks to Saudi financial support.

. . . The culpability of Western governments for terrorist attacks on their own citizens is glaring but is seldom even referred to. Leaders want to have a political and commercial alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf oil states. They have never held them to account for supporting a repressive and sectarian ideology which is likely to have inspired Salman Abedi.


And, mirabile dictu, the Guardian—the HuffPo of England—has published an article by Nick Cohen, whose voice we desperately need in these tumultuous days. His article: “After Manchester, our values will only prevail if we speak up for them.” (I’ll ignore the misplaced word “only”, which belongs after rather than before “prevail”, and assume it’s the work of a copywriter.) What bothered me a bit about the British reaction to the Manchester bombings—which in the main was an admirable display of courage, stoicism, and empathy—was the incessant mantra of: “We must go on just as before or the terrorists will win.” Well, no, no Western country can go on as before—not unless we want more innocent civilians blown to bits. I don’t know what the solution is, but it doesn’t seem to be taking off your shoes in airports or avoiding crowds. We’re facing a new age now, and an enemy willing to die to kill the rest of us, assured by their faith that they’ll gain Paradise.  An enemy that doesn’t mind dying for his cause, indeed wants to die for his cause, is the most dangerous enemy of all. Our tactics and behaviors must somehow change.

And that is, in part, what Nick Cohen wrote about. A few excerpts:

But warm words about “our way of life prevailing” rub up against scratchy questions about what our “life” is now and which way it is taking. Talk to anti-Islamist Muslim writers and activists and they are worried. They don’t see “diversity” and “community”, those warmest of 21st century words, as synonyms but opposites. No one knows the level of Islamic State support in Britain, they say, but with MI5 monitoring 3,000 suspects it isn’t negligible. Beyond the violent and potentially violent lie fractured and isolated ghettos, where large numbers are prey to religious demagogues.

. . . I don’t wish to sound alarmist. There is no conveyor belt that picks up believers in reactionary religion and transports them to religious violence. You can spend your life believing women should be second-class citizens and homosexuality and apostasy are crimes that in an ideal Islamic state deserve the death sentence and never harm anyone apart from your wife and children. Equally, desegregating the school system is a modest reform, not a panacea. As for the silence of mainstream conservatives, I am sure that if Theresa May is re-elected she will not call for a Muslim travel ban.

But if you believe ideas have power, then you must believe in the power of bad ideas to harm when they are left uncontested. Liberal Muslims suffer from the widespread belief that to be “liberal is a contradiction of the faith”, as Rabbil Sikdar put it. With honourable exceptions, white liberals prefer the safe life and hold that it is “Islamophobic” to help their cause and argue their case. Liberal conservatives say nothing because they fear their party leadership won’t support them and know the rightwing press will denounce them. They too cede the field without striking a blow.

“Our values will prevail,” says Theresa May. No they won’t. Not if no one is prepared to say what they are, let alone prepared to fight for them


Finally. we have Maajid Nawaz on the radio station “Leading Britain’s Conversation”. His six-minute video is described in this way:

Leading figures from the Didsbury Mosque have spoken out against Isis, and condemned member Salman Ramadan Abedi – the 22-year-old responsible for the Manchester bombing.

In a strongly worded statement, Didsbury mosque and Manchester Islamic Centre called the terrorist attack an act of cowardice, adding that it has worked peacefully at the heart of the community for more than 50 years.

But Maajid Nawaz is not impressed.

In this clip he explains how the Mosque will have to do a lot more to gain his respect, given their track record.

Click on the screenshot to view the video, and remember that Nawaz, who fights incessantly against radical and extremist Islamism, has been labeled an “Anti-Muslim Extremist” by the increasingly ridiculous Southern Poverty Law Center.  Do his words make him seem “anti-Muslim”? I don’t think so: he’s asking for his own faith to be enlightened and liberalized. He and the SPLC are on the same side!

How can Progressives possibly have any objection to these views?

h/t: Simon, Grania

Scott Simon interviews Richard Dawkins on NPR

While driving to the grocery store this morning, I heard National Public Radio’s Scott Simon do a short interview with Richard Dawkins, which took place the morning of Wednesday’s event in Washington, D. C.

Click on the screenshot below to go to the link where you can hear it. Of course it’s all about atheism and terrorism; there’s not a mention of Richard’s thoughts on evolution.

Simon asks the usual semi-aggressive questions, including why religious people show up at tragedies but “organized groups of atheists” don’t. The problem with this is that nonbelievers who do humanitarian work don’t have visible signs of their nonbelief, but a nun or priest does.

Further, Simon says (LOL!), “I do wonder. . . am I just not seeing the world correctly to see large numbers of well-motivated atheists lending their lives to better the world. Let me put it this way. . .  are they more concerned with just being right—intellectually? 

Now that is simply an ignorant question that totally misunderstands atheism and atheists. Richard answered it properly: “Oh I don’t think so at all. If I may say so, you haven’t looked hard enough.”

And Simon asks that question three times.  He’s incredulous that atheists could actually want to help people.

As I’ve written before, Simon is a bit of a faithhead, but of the worst kind: he tries to force himself to believe what he doesn’t really think is true. Here’s part of a conversation he had in an interview with filmmaker Sheila Nevins:

JAC comment: Scott Simon went into some detail about his personal theology in an interview on today’s show:

NEVINS: Do you know where you’re going? I don’t believe in heaven or hell. So…
SIMON: No. I know what I tell myself, but do I know that for sure?
NEVINS: What do you tell – what do you say?
SIMON: Oh, I – you know, I believe in a heaven and I’ll be reunited…
NEVINS: You think that?
SIMON: I’ll be reunited with my parents and with my lost sister and with, you know, every pet I’ve ever had and loved. And I’ll be up there waiting for my wife and children. Is that for real? Of course not. But that’s what I tell myself to get through the day.

I pity Simon if he can’t get through the day without trying to fool himself with superstition!

A critic “analyzes” my dream: I am Pol Pot!

Yesterday I recounted a dream in which I witnessed the torture of people by the Khmer Rouge, but I had no idea what it meant.  Well, two people took it upon themselves to analyze the dream for me in emails, except that they seemed to be using their analysis as a way to to go after me. Here was the dream I had:

Last night’s was especially vivid. I was taken to a torture center run by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge (perhaps the infamous Security Prison 21, about which I recently read), and was placed by the door, forced to watch the prisoners dragged in, kicking and screaming. Then I was taken inside and made to watch the torture. That consisted of prisoners being tied to horizontal metal poles by their arms. Then guards would apply blowtorches to the poles, which became red hot. Seared by the metal, the prisoners would scream horribly. And then I woke up.

And here’s an email I got a short time ago from a butthurt reader—a coward who lacked the guts to even identify him/herself:

Everything and everyone in a dream is you.  This dream is highlighting your own authoritarian, brutally judgmental attitudes that cut you off from and torture the feeling/accepting side of your personality.  You indeed are Pol Pot.   And it’s something your dream is telling you you need to work on.  On a superficial level your own authoritarianism is manifested in your overly zealous/somewhat silly application of your “roolz” to shut down debate and eliminate any spirited opposition to your positions by banning commenters for slight or imagined infractions or assaults on your dignity.  Similarly, your pleasure in labeling people like Aaron Hanlon who disagree with you as “miscreants” and posting their picture as part of their humiliation.  Interestingly, it’s your own authoritarian attitudes, which you seem to be quite unconscious of, which you predictably project onto the SJWs you so gleefully attack and humiliate.  It’s because a large part of your own personality is authoritarian in nature that you are triggered by them.  That’s how psychological projection works. And sadly such a harshly judgmental attitude as that indicated by the dream makes long-lasting intimate relationships very difficult, especially when you are unconscious of that destructive aspect of your personality. Highly intelligent people like you can be just as unconscious of what’s really going at the deeper emotional levels of their brain functioning as those who are uneducated.  That seems to be the case with you.

Umm. . . this person knows nothing about me save what’s on the website, much less anything about my relationships. All I can say is that he’s wrong about that, and as for the rest, well, you can be the judge.

The other email “analyst” had a completely different interpretation! I suspect that what these people are doing is presenting their own projection, arguing that what they don’t like about me is what actually caused my dream. As for my own analysis, I have none: the dream was completely different from all my other dreams, in which I am usually late for a final exam or taking an exam in a class I know nothing about. I’ve always been dubious about dream analysis, except that sometimes the reasons why things appear in a dream are obvious. There’s clearly reasons why we have specific dreams, at least in part, but I do know this: Freud’s own method of analysis, which I’ve read in his books, was bogus.

What I haven’t figured out is this: why do so many academics have the “final exam–can’t hack it” dream? Were we really under that much anxiety and stress about college exams that that anxiety would embed itself in the crannies of our brain, coming out at night to haunt us for the rest of our lives? I suppose someone’s written about this, but I can’t be arsed to check.

One needs a thick skin to run a website under your own name, as the internet can be a rough place. But I’ve learned to laugh off passive-aggressive jerks like this; life is simply too short. But really, if you want to take me to task in an email, have the guts to use your own name, for I’ve promised not to reveal names unless someone actually threatens me.

Caturday felid trifecta: “Catios”, cat “makes biscuits” while watching chef, cats raised with rabbits learn to hop (?)

This is a good way to keep your cats indoors, avoiding the dangers of outdoor life and saving the birds they might kill. It is the “catio“, an outdoor extension of your house that allows your moggie to experience the outdoors without running free. They start with do-it-yourself sets of plans for $40-60 like these; your cat enters from a catflap in the window. 

Or you can buy some fancy ones that are pre-made:

Or you can have them customized; this one enables you to enjoy being outdoors with your cat:



There are various names for the “kneading” behavior that cats make, said to be a remnant of the motion that nursing kittens make to stimulate their mother. My favorite term for this is “making biscuits.” Here’s an awesome video of a cat making biscuits while he watches Gordon Ramsey knead dough. Is the cat learning? Will it eventually be able to produce puff pastry?


Finally, these tweet claims that these kittens, raised with rabbits, have learned to imitate the rabbits’ behavior by hopping about. And indeed, they do hop about, but perhaps that’s normal kitten behavior and not an imitation. You be the judge:

h/t: Douglas, Charleen, Grania

Readers’ wildlife photos

I don’t know if that many people will be reading this site over the weekend, as most readers are in America and most of those will be taking off for Memorial Day. But PCC(E) never rests, so here are a few lovely insect photos from a regular contributor, Mark Sturtevant. His notes are indented:

A while ago I had shared some pictures of our last major summer vacation, which was to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Pictures from that trip continue here. The first two show a fulfillment of a long-term desire of mine: to see a genuine butterfly ‘puddle party’. This is where Lepidopterans gather in a group to sip water, seeking amino acids and salts that are hard to get from their nectar diet. This one is of course a party of Eastern tiger swallowtails (Papillio glaucus), having a good ‘ol time along a clear forest stream. Tiger swallowtails were so abundant in the park that one soon stopped noticing them. Picture driving through hilly and windy forest roads with tall trees on either side, and imagine seeing large yellow butterflies constantly flittering by in twos, threes, and fours. That was what it was like. I could stop by a stream, and there I would generally see a huddled clique of swallowtails. It was completely wonderful.

The next picture is another such gathering in a secluded parking lot, but here I was all like “Ermahgerd! Pipevines!!” because it included pipevine swallowtails (Battus philenor). This was very thrilling! Pipevine swallowtails are toxic, and they advertise this with their brilliant iridescent blue colors on the hind wings. You can see that the blue changes at different angles, so they were very ‘flashy’.

An interesting spin on this is that there is a melanistic mutation in female tiger swallowtails which causes them to become very dark brown, and these are thought to benefit from the mutation because they resemble the poisonous pipevine swallowtails. Consistent with this view, the mutation is most common in the Southern US where the pipevine swallowtails are found. Here is one of those melanistic female tiger swallowtails from BugGuide. You can still make out the black tiger swallowtail stripes in this example. I saw two of these in the park (which also was totally awesome), but was not able to get an acceptable picture.

Next is another insect that was also common in the area. Evenings down there were filled with the sounds of night-calling insects, and among the loudest insect calls are from the common ‘true katydid’ (Pterophylla camellifolia), which is an impressive though flightless species of katydid. This species has some fame because the name ‘katydid’ is based on the mating call of males of this species, like the male in this picture.

Its loud stridulations vary from a three-part call to a two-part call, and is said to sound like: ‘kat-y-did! Kat-y-did! She didn’t! She did!’ Well, you can hear some of this for yourself in the video below. Imagine hearing a lot of these calling from near and far. They have a rather large range through the Eastern U.S., and the exact call will differ with the region.

The remaining pictures are from back home in Michigan. The next picture is the rarely seen mystery red-headed caterpillar (Enigmatus whatthehellisithuh). It has so far completely stumped me, as I cannot find a match among the lappet or tent caterpillars even though it looks like one of them. I must be barking up the wrong tree. Do you see what I did there? Moving on… [JAC: Can readers help with the ID?]

Late in the summer, one can fairly regularly find the European mantis (Mantis religiosa) out in the fields. The first picture shows a male, and here you can barely see a distinguishing character of this species: a black ring marking at the base of the fore-legs. The second picture is a female, taken on the day that I released her after a couple days of being pampered and generally fussed over while in captivity. The same mantises were seen before in WEIT for some of the ‘Spot the mantis’ challenges.



Saturday: Hili dialogue

Good morning! It’s May 27, the start of the Memorial Day weekend in America (Monday’s a holiday), and Chicago has largely emptied out. And it’s a special food holiday here: National Italian Beef Day, a sandwich made famous in this town. It consists of thinly sliced roast beef slopped onto a sliced Italian roll, and best served “dipped” (with the beef-fillled roll dunked in the beef jus), and then topped with hot Italian giardiniera, an Italian pickled vegetable relish. The relish can be hot or mild, but the true Chicagoan asks for their sandwich “hot and wet” meaning dunked in jus and topped with spicy rather than wussy relish. It looks like this:

Are you hungry yet?

In Australia, it’s the beginning of National Reconciliation Week, celebrating the unity of ancient versus recent immigrants.

On this day in 1703, Peter the Great founded the city of St. Petersburg, a lovely town and the only place I’ve ever visited in Russia. The Hermitage and Dostoyevsky’s House are worth the trip alone. On May 27, 1927, the last Model T rolled off the assembly line of the Ford Motor Company, immediately replaced with the Model A. You could have the model T in any color you wanted, said Ford, so long as it was black, but the Model A came in colors:

Ford Model T

Ford Model A

On this day in 1933, the song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” was introduced to the public with the release of the The Walt Disney cartoon Silly Symphony: Three Little Pigs. Here it is; the song begins at 2:18:

On May 27, 1937 , the Golden Gate Bridge opened; first to pedestrians and soon to cars.  Exactly 5 years later, Nazi officer Reinhard Heydrich, one of the architects of the Holocaust and of Kristallnacht, was fatally wounded in Prague in an assassination plot by the Czech government-in-exile. He died of infection after 8 days. In reprisal, the infuriated Nazis arrested and imprisoned 13,000 people (the assassins committed suicide rather than be caught) and, in an act of reprisal that will live in infamy, leveled the town of Lidice, killed every male over the age of 16 in the villages of both Lidice and Ležáky, and shot every woman in Ležáky, sending the women of Lidice to concentration camps.

Notables born on this day include Julia Ward Howe (1819), Wild Bill Hickok (1837), Hubert Humphrey and Vincent Price (both 1911), John Cheever and Sam Snead (both 1912), Henry Kissinger (1923, the old warlord is 94 today!), and Cilla Black (1943). Those who died on this day include John Calvin (1564), Nobel LaureateRobert Koch, who identified the microbes causing cholera, tuberculosis and anthrax and is regarded as the Father of Microbiology, and one of my heroes: Jawaharlal Nehru (1964). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is pretending to care about Andrzej:

Cyrus: I want to be here as well.
Hili: Don’t disturb him because then I wouldn’t have a place to lie down.
In Polish:
Cyrus: Ja też chcę tu być.
Hili: Nie przeszkadzaj mu czytać, bo ja nie mam się gdzie położyć.
Reader Jiten spotted this tweet on the feed of Sean Carroll, our Official Website Physicist™. You can tweet him at @seanmcarroll, telling him to KEEP THE KITTENS!

Finally, the latest picture of Gus from Winnipeg, with a note from his staff.

Here’s a picture of Gus sitting in the middle of a bunch of pussy toes [Antennaria]. The flowers have fluffy little tufts bunched together and it’s like looking at the bottom of a cat’s paw.


Business Cat gets audited

I forgot it was Friday! Let’s end the week with the latest strip of Tom Fonder’s wonderful Business Cat, where BC is playing Donald Trump (click to enlarge):

h/t: Blue

Texas legislature protects groups that deny adoptions to non-Christians, gays, and single parents “on religious grounds”

I had no idea that state-funded adoption agencies in Texas could refuse to allow children to be adopted by gays, non-Christians, or single parents—on religious grounds alone. Although some of these organizations are faith-based, all concerned with Texas bill HB 3859 also get taxpayer funds. That means that discriminating against adoptive parents on religious grounds would seem to violate both the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In practice, these agencies are Christian, and so could (and have) denied adoption rights to couples (or single people) of the “wrong” faith (read Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc.)

Here’s one bit of that bill, protecting those agencies from being sued for discriminating (my emphasis); note the gratuitous clause 3, which protects those agencies that refuse to help people get contraceptives or abortions:

CHILD WELFARE SERVICES PROVIDERS PROTECTED. A governmental entity or any person that contracts with this state or operates under governmental authority to refer or place children for child welfare services may not discriminate or take any adverse action against a child welfare services provider on the basis, wholly or partly, that the provider: (1) has declined or will decline to provide, facilitate, or refer a person for child welfare services that conflict with, or under circumstances that conflict with, the provider ’s sincerely held religious beliefs; (2) provides or intends to provide children under the control, care, guardianship, or direction of the provider with a religious education, including through placing the children in a private or parochial school or otherwise providing a religious education in accordance with the laws of this state; (3) has declined or will decline to provide, facilitate, or refer a person for abortions, contraceptives, or drugs, devices, or services that are potentially abortion-inducing; or (4) refuses to enter into a contract that is inconsistent with or would in any way interfere with or force a provider to surrender the rights created by this chapter.

As PBS reported on May 7:

Five other states have passed similar laws protecting faith-based adoption organizations that refuse to place children with gay parents or other households on religious grounds — but Texas’ rule would extend to state-funded agencies. Only South Dakota’s is similarly sweepingly.

The bill had been scheduled for debate and approval Saturday in the state House, but lawmakers bogged down with other matters. It now is expected to come up next week.

Republican sponsors of Texas’ bill say it is designed to support the religious freedom of adoption agencies and foster care providers. Many of the agencies are private and faith-based but receive state funds.

But opponents say it robs children of stable homes while funding discrimination with taxpayer dollars.

“This would allow adoption agencies to turn away qualified, loving parents who are perhaps perfect in every way because the agency has a difference in religious belief,” said Catherine Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign. “This goes against the best interest of the child.”

On May 9, the Texas House passed that bill 94-51, and then it was sent to the Texas Senate.

Last Sunday, the Texas Senate passed the bill, It now goes to Texas Governor Greg Abbott. who will sign it because, according to CNN, it was a bill he wanted. Further, to add discrimination to discrimination, Texas passed a bathroom bill the same day:

The same day, the Texas House of Representatives approved a limited “bathroom bill” that would require public high school students to use restrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates. The measure now goes back to the Senate, which previously approved a broader version mandating that standard for everyone using public restrooms.

Abbott had made the issue a priority for the legislative session. Meanwhile, Texas lawmakers also have proposed bills or amendments allowing “religious liberty” exemptions for lawyers, pharmacists and nurses.
Opponents of the bills, who say they target vulnerable children, are outraged. One critic on Twitter called it “discrimination Sunday.”

Indeed it was.  Since children aren’t born with a stamp that says “Christian,” or have genes that make them accept Jesus, discriminating against adoptive parents this way not only is government-funded proselytizing, but deprives children of loving homes. Let us hope that some aggrieved and deprived parent takes this bill to Federal court, and, that with respect to the bathroom bill, Texas will suffer the same opprobrium as did North Carolina, which repealed a similar bathroom bill in March after nationwide criticism and the creation of economic boycotts.

We are two countries now, but I hope this won’t hold. Bills like these are the last gasp of Christians and homophobes against an increasingly secular (and moral) populace. Yes, Trump was elected, but it was close, and I have my trust in the thesis of Steve Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, which shows pretty convincingly that the world is getting better. (Do read that book; it’s great and only $13 in paperback.) That improvement also means a country less religious and less bigoted.

Texas is swimming against the current.

University of Chicago students demand more ethnic segregation, punishment of fraternities and no punishment for disrupting speakers

I am working on a campus where I see Regressive Leftism daily, and now it’s taking the form of requests to create segregated facilities and curricula, to make fraternities official University of Chicago organizations so they can be punished, and to exempt students themselves from being punished when they disrupt talks they don’t like (this happened three times here in the last two years).

According to both the student newspaper, the Maroon, and to Campus Reform (a right-wing site), a group of U of C student multicultural organizations had a rally for an umbrella organization called UChicago United, and issued a list of no fewer than 43 demands. From the Maroon:

The organizations leading the rally, titled “We Demand,” were the African Caribbean Students Association (ACSA), Arab Student Association, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan (MEChA), Organization of Black Students (OBS), Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), and PanAsia Solidarity Coalition.

Around 50 people attended the rally, which was held outside Levi Hall, the University’s main administrative building.

During the rally, second-year MEChA member Maya Ruiz described the circumstances leading to UChicago United’s formation. The campaign grew out of a letter penned by several multicultural organizations in response to a construction-themed party held by Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) on Cinco de Mayo. Ruiz stressed, however, that FIJI’s party did not represent a unique incident.

“What FIJI did was not an isolated misunderstanding. It was just one event in a long and continuous history of racism and exclusion that runs deep into the culture and logic of this University,” she said.

Ruiz referenced e-mails exchanged by brothers of Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) that were leaked in February 2016 and included several racial slurs.

“Black, Palestinian, and Muslim students shouldn’t have to endure the pain of racist, xenophobic, sexist e-mails last year only to have the university step farther away from the fraternities today,” she said.

I wrote about the fraternity construction party earlier, which in no way I see can be construed as racist, but those earlier emails were reprehensible. However, since fraternities for University of Chicago students have no formal affiliation with the University (they’re purely private), the students can’t be punished for what they say, and one might consider that what their members say, however offensive, is still free speech.

Regardless. this week the the University of Chicago Faculty Senate approved the “Picker Report” on how to deal with student disruptions during demonstrations and talks. The previous codes were created after the campus disruptions of the Sixties, during which some students were actually expelled, but the 1970-1990s student disciplinary codes were a bit unclear because they didn’t define “disruptive conduct”, and sanctions were rarely if ever employed. Thus, in view of recent disruptions of speakers on campus, my University convened the “Picker Committee” (named after the law professor who headed it) to formulate University policy to clarify “disruptive conduct.” Students didn’t like this–at least the Regressive Leftists ones–for they want the right to disrupt any speaker they want without any possibility of suffering for their actions.

The report (Appendix V here) sets out in detail investigatory and disciplinary procedures for students who disrupt talks or campus activities.  Disruptive conduct was defined, with emendations of the previous definition, as follows:

Sanctions were laid out, including these:

  • Warning: An official letter is placed in the student’s educational record. A prior warning related to misconduct under Statute 21 must be considered in determining a sanction for a current offense.
  • Disciplinary Probation: During this defined period, a student may continue to enjoy all the rights and privileges of a student except as the Committee stipulates. A prior disciplinary probation related to misconduct under Statute 21 must be considered in determining a sanction for a current offense.
  • Loss of University Privileges: Specific student rights and privileges, such as access to certain University buildings, events, organizations, or employment, may be suspended for a defined period.
  • Discretionary Sanctions: The Committee may require the completion of additional academic work, community service, or restitution/fines by a given deadline
  • Disciplinary Suspension: For a period of no more than nine consecutive quarters, a student is prohibited from exercising any rights or privileges of a student at the University
  • Disciplinary Expulsion: An expelled student forfeits the rights and privileges of a student at the University. Ordinarily, the University will not consider a re-application for eleven consecutive quarters following the date of the expulsion.
  • Revocation of a Degree: A policy violation that occurred before a degree was awarded may lead to a Committee recommendation that a degree be revoked.

And these recommendations have already been incorporated into the University’s student manual on the University Disciplinary System. I do approve of the clarification of “disruptive conduct” and the spelling out of how student interruptions and disruptions will be investigated and punished. My own view, which I’ve stated here frequently, is that students should be removed from talks that they disrupt, that no student should be allowed to block access to a talk or shout down speakers, but that they have every right to protest without violating the conduct rules and every right to issue counter-speech or have counter-talks or demonstrations. And sufficiently severe or repeated disruption should mandate disciplinary action. That, it seems, is the University’s policy as well.

I think the approved Picker report is fair, but of course many students want to protest disruptively without being punished, and so that request is part of the 43 demands issued by UChicago United, which are here. They include these “demands”:


We demand that The University of Chicago formally recognize all Greek organizations active on the University of Chicago campus as Registered Student Organizations (RSOs). [JAC: This allows the University to discipline fraternities.]

We demand the creation of a University funded and run cultural houses, specifically a Black House, a Latinx House, and an Asian House that stand independent of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. These houses shall function similarly to The Center for Identity + Inclusion but will focus on the specified community.

We demand a Race and Ethnic Studies Department as well as an increased budget for programming carried out through the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture.

We demand that the University hire more faculty of color.

We demand that the university keep the 1970 Disciplinary System for Disruptive Conduct for the time being and suspend the faculty senate vote on the Picker Report. [JAC: That is, they want no real punishment for disrupting events.]

It goes on and on; remember, there are 43 of these.

Campus Reform summarizes the rest of the demands:

. . . a coalition of student groups known as “UChicago United” has called for the establishment of a “Race and Ethnic Studies Department,” a “Black Studies Academic Department,” an “African Studies Department,” a “Caribbean Studies Department,” an “Asian American Studies Program,” plus a “Center for African and Caribbean Studies” and a “Latinx Affairs Office,” all of which would exist independently but receive funding from the university.

The ultimatum also asks for a set of “university-funded and run cultural houses, specifically a Black House, a Latinx House, and an Asian House,” before turning its attention to the school’s core curriculum, demanding “a new ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ graduation requirement” that would be “primarily focused on any US-centric structural oppression, such as race, gender, and sexuality.”

Additionally, the document twice calls for “the creation of a pre-orientation program specifically for incoming students of color,” which would “familiarize students with campus resources and multicultural registered student organizations” while easing “the transition to the university’s campus climate and academic demands.”

The coalition also demands a “revitalization of the Bias Response Team,” including additional funding, the hiring of “individuals with the specific responsibility of running” the program, and the building of “infrastructure for transparent disciplinary processes against faculty and staff who are reported to the Bias Response Team.”

In contrast to its own appeals for money to fund the new initiatives, UChicago United also requests that “limits and/or restrictions” should be placed “on the funding allotted to student organizations that are accused and/or found guilty of discriminatory behavior.”

Finally, the set of demands concludes with specific requests for illegal immigrant students, asking for an increase in the “recruitment and admission” of “undocumented Latinx students,” as well as “full financial, legal, and mental health resources” for such students.

Having lived my academic life here, I’m trying to see which demands are justified, but right now all I can see is that students want more balkanization of the University, dividing up curricula and perhaps housing by race alone, even though they’d probably maintain that race is a social construct (it’s not clear whether the cultural centers would include student housing segregated by ethnicity).  In effect, the students are demanding that the University become a place of Identity Politics, with every group having its own center, grievances, and demands for hiring and changes in curricula.

This is sad, but I have confidence that the University won’t cave to most of these demands, as some other schools have. Insofar as there really is bigotry here, that should be investigated and if it violates student codes, punished; but it makes me sad that what seems like segregation is increasing, not only here but elsewhere. Perhaps it’s just my Sixties idealism, but it seems to me that what we want is not more separation of groups, but finding ways to bring them together, for it’s my belief that the best way to eliminate bigotry is to get to know people from other classes, ethnic groups, nations, and so on. Yet students everywhere seem to want to separate themselves as much as possible from other groups, and of course from “cis-het white males”. And while students are welcome to give input into the curriculum, it’s presumptuous to think that they should dictate their curriculum.

h/t: Mark