Tuesday, November 12, 2013
You don't want this firefighter to save you
SHE'S the Teflon firie. Despite failing a required New York Fire Department (FDNY) running test five times, Wendy Tapia was allowed to graduate from the Fire Academy and become a firefighter. On December 2, she is taking the test for an unprecedented sixth time.
Tapia was one of only five women among 285 new firefighters who graduated from the FDNY’s Randall’s Island training academy on May 17.
The class was hailed as the most diverse group of rookies ever, all of them EMTs or paramedics seeking promotion to firefighter. She joined a group of just 35 women among the 11,000 Bravest.
But Tapia, 31, has yet to work a shift at her firehouse, Engine No. 316 in East Elmhurst, Queens, where she was assigned May 18.
At the end of 18 weeks of probationary training, Tapia failed to run 2.4km in 12 minutes without gear, as required by the academy. She blamed a foot injury.
The FDNY let her graduate anyway - and gave her five more deadlines over the past six months to pass the running test. She failed all five times, insiders said.
Normally, probationary firefighters who fail the running test at the end of academy training don’t graduate — period. They flunk out but can join the next academy class, start over and get another chance to pass the course.
Tapia's treatment has inflamed male and female colleagues alike.
"I don't know how she got to graduate. It never should have happened," a female firefighter told The New York Post. "You should not graduate if you can’t meet all the requirements — male, female, black or white."
After graduation, instead of joining fellow firefighters in the field, Tapia went on medical leave from May 20 to June 10 to recover from her foot injury. She then went on light duty until July 2, reporting to FDNY headquarters in Downtown Brooklyn.
She "reports to work . . . wearing our uniform? F- -KING JOKE!" one firefighter fumed on an online rant site.
Tapia returned to full duty — but was sent back to Randall's Island for extra help.
"They put so many resources into training just her," an insider said. "Every time she fails, she has a different excuse."
Tapia failed the running test once in August, once in September and three times in October, said sources familiar with her situation.
In her last try, on Halloween, she clocked a 12:23, still too slow.
But FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano gave Tapia another break after United Women Firefighters (UWF), a fraternal group of active and retired FDNY women, intervened to block her potential firing. They said she had an upper respiratory infection.
But suffering a cold is no excuse, the female firefighter said.
"We have to do our job in all types of situations," she said. "If I go to a fire, what am going to do — tell the guys I’m staying out by the engine because I’m not feeling so good? It’s 100 percent unheard of."
She said FDNY brass, under pressure from a court order to hire more minorities, "want their numbers — that's all it is."
But that does female firefighters no favors, she added.
"It's making us look bad. It's undermining everything we’ve strived for and achieved of our own accord," she said.
Another insider said it also undermines confidence in the Fire Department.
"If someone’s life is hanging on the line, you only get one try. There's no do-overs when it’s for real," the insider said.
Tapia was "unavailable for an interview," the FDNY said.
A spokesman said Tapia "successfully completed every requirement to graduate from the academy except the run — which she was unable to do after sustaining a work-related injury. We have provided her time to recover from her injury and will test her again on December 2."
He did not address Tapia's five failed attempts since graduation.
Officials from UWF did not return calls or e-mails.
Does the First Amendment stop at 35 feet?
by Jeff Jacoby
EARLY NEXT YEAR, the Supreme Court will take up McCullen v. Coakley, a case challenging the Massachusetts statute that requires anti-abortion protesters and "sidewalk counselors" to stay at least 35 feet away from abortion-clinic entrances. Signed by Governor Deval Patrick in 2007, it is the strictest such "buffer zone" law in the nation; violators can be punished with up to 30 months in prison and fines as high as $5,000.
Eleanor McCullen, a 76-year-old mother and grandmother, stands near a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Boston, peacefully offering pregnant women alternatives to abortion.
But McCullen v. Coakley isn't about abortion. It's about freedom of speech. Can Massachusetts make it a crime for private citizens to stand on a public sidewalk and peacefully express their view?
It's easy to defend free speech when you agree with the speaker's message. The challenge is to do so when the message is one you despise. "If liberty means anything at all," George Orwell wrote, "it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." A lot of people don't want to hear that abortion is wrong, or to be confronted with images of babies in the womb, or to be reminded that "choice" is a euphemism for the destruction of human life. Many Americans may find such messages alarming, outrageous, or upsetting, especially when they are directed at girls or women going to get an abortion. But the First Amendment wasn't written to shield citizens in public spaces from unpopular or distressing speech. It was written to shield unpopular or distressing speech from being suppressed in public spaces.
There have always been messages that some Americans despise, and there have usually been government officials prepared to stifle the messenger.
At the State Capitol in South Carolina in 1961, the sight of black students carrying signs reading "Down with segregation" was one that white onlookers may have found genuinely offensive. But that didn't entitle police to arrest the students for breach of the peace and throw them in jail, as the Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. South Carolina two years later.
In the 1930s, Jersey City's notorious mayor, Frank "Boss" Hague, denied permits to union organizers, preventing them from holding meetings or distributing literature in streets and city parks. Hague blasted labor activists as unpatriotic Communists, and many residents — 15,000 of whom attended a "Reds Keep Out!" rally headlined by the mayor — no doubt agreed. But the Supreme Court shot Hague down, pointedly reminding him that he had no right to silence controversial opinions in the kind of public spaces that, "time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions."
And just as the First Amendment protects the speech of civil-rights marchers and labor organizers, it protects the speech of Holocaust deniers and antiwar demonstrators, of same-sex marriage advocates and flag-burners. It protects the odious Westboro Baptist Church fanatics who mock the dead at military funerals. It protects the Lyndon LaRouche cultists with their disgusting Obama-as-Hitler posters.
And with equal vigor it protects both pro-life and pro-choice speech.
Which is why the Massachusetts zone of exclusion is such an affront to the Bill of Rights.
To be sure, no constitutional liberty is absolute. It is well-established that impartial "time, place, and manner" restrictions may lawfully curb speech in a public forum. But such restrictions must be scrupulously content-neutral and the Massachusetts law plainly is not. It applies only to abortion clinics — not to all medical facilities — so the only kind of speech it effectively restricts is speech related to abortion.
Public spaces such as sidewalks have been used "time out of mind … for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions."
Even more egregious is the law's explicit exception for all "employees or agents" of the abortion clinic while "acting within the scope of their employment." It's hard to imagine a less impartial rule. Someone wishing to talk to a pregnant woman about alternatives to abortion is forced to shout from 35 feet away; someone on the abortion-clinic's payroll can move at will within the buffer zone, with no speech restriction at all. Like any private business, abortion facilities are perfectly free to exclude protesters, critics, or anyone else from their own premises. But Massachusetts in effect has extended abortion clinics' proprietary rights over everything within a 35-foot radius, including public sidewalks and streets.
Worse yet, the law doesn't let pro-life speakers approach even pregnant women who want to hear their message.
McCullen v. Coakley isn't about abortion. It is about the denial of free speech rights for one side — and only one side — of one the most unsettled controversies in American life.
Even in Massachusetts, that's unconstitutional
Confused Atheists Argue Gov't Is Forcing Them to Compromise Their 'Religious Scruples'
Atheism is a religion? I suspect it is for some
Atheists told the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday that the town of Greece, N.Y. has no business opening its public meetings with Christian or other sectarian prayers.
"We hope the Supreme Court will agree that civic participation should not be conditioned on compromising one's religious scruples," said Americans United Legal Director Ayesha Khan.
"It's important to understand that we are not asking the board to discontinue its practice of presenting prayers," she told reporters outside the court. "We are asking that citizens not be pressured to participate in those prayers and that the prayers be nondenominational and inclusive."
"I do not support the right to use the power of government to impose on religious minorities, and that's what's going on here," said Douglas Laycock, who argued the case for the plaintiffs.
He called the town's prayer practices "highly coercive" as well as a sectarian endorsement, both of which "violate all the principles of the Establishment Clause."
According to Laycock, "Both sides of the (Supreme) Court, both the liberals and the conservatives, have agreed sectarian endorsements are prohibited and coercion is prohibited, and we have both those things in this case."
Religious coercion -- being forced to compromise one's "religious scruples" -- is at the heart of another issue that is expected to make its way to the Supreme Court.
If government can't trample atheists' "religious scruples," and if "coercion is prohibited," can the Obama administration force Roman Catholics to buy health insurance that covers services, which violate church teachings?
Forcing Catholics, under penalty of a fine, to pay for birth control, abortifacients, and sterilization, for example -- all of which violate Catholics' deeply held religious beliefs -- is an unconstitutional infringement of religious liberty, they argue.
It should be noted that the The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which led the charge against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, sided with the town of Greece, against the atheists, in Wednesday's arguments.
"The Founders knew what it meant to have a state church and legislative prayer doesn't come close," said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund.
"This case is about whether the professionally offended will be able to strong-arm cities into banning anything that could be remotely interpreted as religious."
Backlash against British Prosecution Service’s ‘homophobic witch-hunt’
Obscenity law expert fears CPS using porn laws to persecute gay men
The CPS is targeting gay men for looking at legal adult pornography, an experienced defence solicitor warns. The Crown Prosecution Service pursued a gay man for possession of alleged indecent pornographic images over a 580-day ordeal. They continued long after the man’s defence produced conclusive evidence that all participants in the pornographic images were of legal age of consent.
The charges were finally dismissed when solicitor advocate Myles Jackman,Backlash legal adviser and expert in obscenity law, proved to prosecutors there was no case to answer. Wrongfully accused of viewing images of child abuse, the defendant suffered severe psychological harm and disruption to his life. This could have been avoided had the CPS taken a more common-sense approach to what was easy to establish as legitimate adult gay pornography.
The false charges related to an incident in September 2011, when the defendant stayed overnight for a conference and used a computer provided in his bedroom to browse gay pornography. These images, of young-looking adult men, often known as ‘twink porn’ within the gay community, were discovered by a subsequent guest using the same room and reported.
Myles Jackman, Backlash legal advisor and advocate at Hodge Jones & Allen solicitors, used forensic experts to establish the age of all actors in the images. However, this was not sufficient to bring the prosecution to a halt. The CPS continued to pursue the case long after receiving conclusive evidence that all the images were legitimate gay adult pornography, and not of child abuse. In Jackman’s opinion, these actions could amount to a ‘homophobic witch-hunt’.
Badly written anti-sex laws encourage discrimination
Jackman has defended several gay men on allegations relating to their sexual identity. Charges have been made under the Obscene Publications Act, possession of so-called ‘extreme pornography’, and alleged indecent images.
In each case, the prosecution has either been thrown out before trial, or rejected by the jury on hearing the evidence. This suggests that the CPS’s charging decisions regarding possession and distribution of pornography are significantly out of step with what the general public consider to be criminal acts.
The minority status of the defendants suggests that the CPS is targeting gay men for disproportionate scrutiny of their private sex lives. Even defendants eventually found innocent face having their most intimate sexual interests revealed and shamed in a public court.
Urgent action is necessary to prevent badly written legislation and poor charging procedures from discriminating against gay people and offering a state-sanction to hatred of sexual minorities.
The CPS’s pattern of victimisation:
Michael Peacock (#ObscenityTrial) – sex worker, prosecuted for distributing gay fisting pornography. Found not guilty by jury in Southwark Crown Court in January 2012.
Simon Walsh (#Porntrial) – former aide to Mayor Boris Johnson and barrister specialising in police misconduct. Prosecuted for possession of images of a private adult sex party, in which he was a participant. Found not guilty by jury in Kingston Crown Court in August 2012.
#TwinkTrial – A gay man of high professional standing, charged by CPS in November 2012 with possessing pornographic images of alleged underage participants. Case dismissed months after evidence of no underage participants shown, 1 November 2013.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.