Friday, April 12, 2019

Bureaucracy in Massachusetts

Typical Leftist contempt for the little guy.  It took a newspaper approach to awaken them

In 1982, Michael Coomey paid $1,100 for a Triumph sports car, knowing it needed a lot of work. In fact, it was more a pile of parts than a motor vehicle.

Coomey did not pay sales tax on his new sort-of car. It was a private sale, with no dealer involved, and he believed you didn’t pay sales tax on a car until you registered it.

Coomey didn’t get his Triumph close to being ready for 37 years. And finally, when he did, last month, he got hit with an $11,232 bump in the road.

With work on his car advancing quickly, Coomey recently began making inquiries at the state Registry of Motor Vehicles.

A half dozen trips later, he had established ownership (no easy feat) and completed an application for title to his vehicle.

Coomey dreamed of being on the road by summer.

But the clerk reviewing his application at the RMV in Worcester pointed out to him that he owed sales tax, dating back to 1982, plus a penalty and interest.

The sales tax was $617.50, she said. He winced. It didn’t sound right. But he said nothing. And the penalty and interest?

That would be $11,232, she said.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Coomey blurted out.

“You are supposed to pay the sales taxes within 10 days of your purchase,” she said matter-of-factly.

The clerk slid a one-page document itemizing what he owed across the counter to him.

Coomey staggered out of the office. “I was dumbfounded,” he said last week while showing me his Triumph, which is still in pieces, though much larger ones than before, in the garage of his home in Paxton.

Coomey, 60, had been too stunned to ask for a breakdown of the penalty and interest. But he was convinced it was a mistake. So he returned to the RMV the next day.

“You have to contact the state Department of Revenue,” the RMV told him, referring to the state agency that oversees tax collection.

When Coomey was a kid, his father taught him auto mechanics (and some other valuable lessons) as they spent long hours together restoring a 1930 Ford Model A in the family garage.

Almost 50 years later, restoring the Triumph became a similarly personal endeavor, and not only because it stirred good memories of his father.

In 2016, Coomey’s world was turned upside down when his wife, Susan, died of ovarian cancer. “It was devastating,” he said, his eyes tearing up.

At a group bereavement meeting shortly after her death, one piece of advice that clicked with Coomey was to get busy with something, maybe a hobby that has long been on the back burner.

It was time to whip that pile of parts into something he could be proud of.

After being turned away by the RMV, Coomey went to the Department of Revenue in Worcester. Sorry, he was told, there was nobody available. Instead, they gave him a telephone number to call.

When he did, it was another dead end. Coomey attempted to explain his situation. But he was cut off. “You can appeal online or on paper,” he was told (repeatedly).

Coomey tried a couple of times to elicit more information on the phone but got nowhere. So he read up on the Department of Revenue’s website about tax abatements, which seemed like the only thing even remotely related to his dilemma. It occurred to him the only way for him to dispute the $11,232 penalty and interest was to pay it and then apply for an abatement. Not a good plan.

“I can’t pay out that kind of money and just hope I’ll get it back someday,” he told me.

I e-mailed Coomey’s one-page document — the one from the RMV clerk — to the Department of Revenue. Two days later, Coomey got an apologetic call from the agency.

One of the managers told Coomey that a review of his case showed the agency had incorrectly calculated Coomey’s sales tax by grossly inflating the sale price for the Triumph. When it calculates taxes on the sales of motor vehicles, the state uses as a sale price the higher of two numbers: the actual amount paid for the vehicle or its “book value.” (It guards against unscrupulously low values being claimed).

The state used the book value of the Triumph. But it used the wrong one. Why? Because there is no book value for that vehicle in 1982, when Coomey bought it. It apparently was never computed. So instead, the state used the 2019 book value of Coomey’s Triumph: $12,350. That’s a lot more than it was worth in 1982.

What the state should have done is use the actual sale value. After all, Coomey had the bill of sale showing he paid $1,100 (“I’m an engineer; I save things”).

It was a foolish and lazy way for the state to deal with Coomey’s missed taxes. And just as bad was the way the state mindlessly fended off Coomey’s every polite request for an explanation.

With that crucial adjustment in the sale price, the sales tax Coomey owed plummeted from $617 to $55 (note: the sales tax in 1982 was 5 percent; it is now 6.25 percent).

And the penalty and interest plunged from $11,232 to $980.

So until my involvement, the state was prepared to overcharge Coomey by $10,814. It doesn’t inspire great confidence in our state tax collection agency.

But Coomey said he’s appreciative of a fair resolution.

And now he’s back to dreaming of getting behind the wheel of his Triumph by summer.


How Professional Merit and Scientific Objectivity Became Casualties of Social Justice Insanity

The idea of merit has fallen on evil times, as has its corollary concept, objectivity. These principles have now been breached by a consortium of the ideologically minded, who resemble a gang of robbers tunneling under a bank vault. The masterminds planning and executing this operation are a class of “treasonous” intellectuals as Julien Benda defined them, primarily academics, along with members of the political left.

In the interests of creating a society based on the axioms of “social justice”—which is really socialist justice—the principles of professional merit and scientific objectivity are dismissed by our mandarin class as forms of bigotry. As the professions, the educational institution, the political arena, and the scientific establishment engage in a process of diversification, accommodating claimants who trade on race and gender rather than ability and native endowment, merit is in the process of being replaced by outright mediocrity.

In the university, for example, no department is safe from the “inclusion and diversity” mania that is bringing higher education into the slough of disrepute—not law, not medicine, not business, not even the STEM subjects. As is, or should be, common knowledge, literature and the social sciences have long succumbed to the social justice, disparate impact, and feminist miasma that has clouded the atmosphere of thought, paving the way for pervasive academic decadence.

When even classics programs are contaminated by race and gender issues, we know the end is nigh. In the "Notes & Comments" to the recent issue of The New Criterion, Roger Kimball documents the shameful degradation of this once elite, non-politicized academic study. “Classics has fallen under the spell of grievance warriors,” he writes, “who have injected an obsession with race and sexual exoticism into a discipline that, until recently, was mostly innocent of such politicized deformations.” Unlike the plethora of “cultural studies” programs that now command the academic landscape—Women’s Studies, Black Studies, Queer Studies, Chicano Studies, Peace Studies, Fat Studies, etc.—in classics, after all, “You actually have to know something.” The challenging nature of the subject, as well as the fact that most of its representative scholars and students appear to be white males, have rendered it suspect and ripe for demolition.

Kimball cites the fate of the classics journal Eidolon, now a travesty of its original purpose, which was to foreground the relevance of classics. It has fallen to the progressivist tampering of Donna Zuckerberg (the sister of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg) whose mandate, as she declares on her Patreon site, is to make “the classics political and personal, feminist and fun.” (I always found Latin and Greek, though difficult to master, plenty fun just as they were.) Zuckerberg requires that “at least 70 percent of our contributors be women and 20 percent POC.” White males beware! “I have no interest,” she pontificates, “in providing bland and false reassurances that we only care about good ideas and good writing and not who our authors are.”

For Zuckerberg, as for most of our cultural and political power brokers, “appeals to merit” are merely “white supremacist dog-whistles.” Eidolon will enlighten us all, not only shedding “new light on the works of Alcaeus, Vergil, Horace, and Cato,” the ineffable Zuckerberg assures us in the journal Society for Classical Studies, but also commentary on “Sports Illustrated Magazine, the conflict between Israel and Palestine, contemporary poets’ responses to the sinking of the Titanic, and the hipster obsession with kale.” The entire spectrum of a once pure and arduous discipline has been thrown under the progressivist bus and reduced to triviality and partisan hype. What goes for classics goes for the rest of the culture—a deracination of the sources of the civilized West.

Who you are, what you feel, your race, your gender, your presumptive marginal status—these attributes now constitute your primary qualifications for preference and advancement. White heterosexual males, regardless of talent, aptitude and intellectual distinction, are naturally excluded from the new imperium. Thus, in her 2008 edited volume Gendered Innovations in Science and Engineering, Stanford University scholar Londa Schiebinger argued that knowledge and technics had to be opened to “new perspectives, new questions, and new missions,” thus opposing “codes governing language, styles of interactions, modes of dress [and] hierarchies of values and practices” inherent in the male-dominated science and engineering faculties. She had nothing to say about levels of motivation and discipline-specific intelligence parameters. No matter. “We need to be open to the possibility that human knowledge—what we know, what we value, what we consider important—may change dramatically as women become full partners.”

That is the “mission.” It does not acknowledge that the vaunted “opening” feminists like to speak of has been in place for decades. Women now outnumber men in the university by a factor of 3 to 2 and the ratio is far higher in K-12 pedagogy. Women also predominate in the medical and legal professions, with no end in sight to their burgeoning numbers.

Nor does the sacred “mission” entail the obvious, namely, that anyone with the intellectual wherewithal and passionate commitment to long hours and unbroken personal discipline demanded by the subject is entitled to become a “full partner.” Schiebinger’s efforts to erase so-called gender bias in hiring practices by “restructuring the academic work/life balance, offering parental leave, stopping the tenure clock, and the like” are precisely what militate against laborious and dedicated high achievement. The ancillary perks, compromises, and forfeitures that many women and certainly feminists seem to require effectively detract from the relentless pursuit of complex scientific knowledge in the most taxing and formidable of disciplines. Rather, whoever has the smarts and is willing to commit to the grueling lifelong schedule necessary for the advancement of top-tier science should be welcomed into the scientific community. But race, marginality, and gender are, in themselves, utterly irrelevant.

Tomas Brage, director of the undergraduate program of studies in physics at Lund University in Sweden, has recently published an essay circulating in the scientific community titled "What Does Gender Have to Do with Physics?" which articulates the same premises as Schiebinger’s. It is an exemplary document, worth considering not only as a screen grab of the current state of affairs but as a harbinger of worse to come. Science, like classics, the last bastion of cognitive purity, is on the way out the door. Clinical and professional debasement is now the rule in order to foster a social justice agenda.

Brage is worried about horizontal and vertical segregation, the former showing that “women and men gravitate to different fields” and the latter indicating that in academia and in physics “men are promoted at the expense of women.” Brage will not countenance the idea that men and women are different, that they tend to make different choices in careers and professions, and that while men and women perform equally well under the umbrella of the Bell curve, male nerds tend to preponderate in the mathematical and scientific standard deviation territory. For Brage, this is the result of a “strongly ‘Herculean’ institutional character”—in other words, it’s the patriarchy at work again, privileging its own, wielding the weapons of merit and objectivity to subjugate the marginal, especially women. Brage will have none of it. “Meritocracy is a myth,” he avers; “the more convinced a group is that it follows meritocratic principles, the more it is affected by bias.”

Consequently, the system must be changed. Institutional culture must admit “bias-awareness training, support... teamwork over a ‘Herculean’ culture’” that favors the individual researcher or genius, create gender diversity programs, “introduce ‘counter-spaces’ such as conferences and networks, where minorities can become the norm,” and “counteract horizontal segregation in STEM, but avoid approaches that aim to ‘change the women.’” In other words, women’s needs come first, the requisites of science toggle a distant second. “Changing the women” is code for making them more competitive, work-dedicated, intensely focused-on-task at personal cost, less susceptible to the claims of biology and leisure, more willing to sacrifice personal time and resist the appeal of Zuckerbergian “fun,” more “Herculean,” that is, more like men. This cannot be tolerated.

Brage seems blissfully unaware that, aside from unadulterated brilliance, meritocratic traits and criteria are precisely those that STEM demands if it is to prosper. He concludes: “Clearly, the subject of all physics is affected by the background of the researcher, teacher and student, and it follows that a gender perspective is needed.” No, it manifestly does not follow. The individual’s practice of physics may indeed be affected by “the background of the researcher,” but the subject of physics is not. The laws of nature are the laws of nature and must be dealt with on their own terms. Physics is physics—nature’s handmaiden, not feminism’s. Mathematics is mathematics irrespective of whether you are white, black, brown, male, female or marginal. Engineering relies on the grammar of reality, not on the rhetoric of politics or the shibboleths and fashions of the day. Rocket science is, in fact, rocket science. The only question is: how adept are you, in the light of aptitude, desire, and intelligence, at mastering the discipline.

The issue at stake is a perennial one. The Greek comic playwright Aristophanes in a late play (392 B.C.) Assembly of Women (Ecclesiazusae) humorously pilloried the female takeover of the Athenian Assembly and dominion over the wider cultural practice. Its instigator, the early feminist firebrand Praxagora, manages to persuade her beta-male husband Blepyrus of the virtues of female control and convinces the male Assembly to hand over the reins of power to their women. The results are as hilarious in context as they are predictable in the larger world, a society descending into mayhem, pagan ritual, lack of distinction and ruthless feuding for freebies, including sexual favors for unattractive hags at the expense of their more beautiful rivals—an apposite metaphor for the war between mediocrity and merit. As scholar and translator Robert Mayhew summarizes, “Misery is not abolished, it is merely redistributed.”

What does gender have to do with physics? Brage, our contemporary Blepyrus advocating for his Praxagora, asks. The question is fraudulent, a category mistake at best. The question is not a question but a commutational statement, to wit: women should be programmatically advanced regardless of aptitude, strict and undeviating devotion to the particular job at hand, examination results, and credentials in the field. It is rhetorical sleight of hand. Of course gender has something to do with physics, as it does with innumerable other aspects of life and work and preference—but gender in this sense is not exclusionary. There is always crossover, always women in fields where men tend to excel and men in fields where women reign. This is as it should be.

The same caveat applies to all the other strata of politically correct discrimination favoring race, ethnicity, caste, marginal, and identity status. Claims of “oppression” should not be permitted to dilute and bypass norms of accomplishment that govern the properties and exactions of any discipline or profession, whether it be physics, engineering, technology, law, medicine, business and economics, English literature, classics, or any other trade, craft, function or vocation one can think of. Neither from the moral, epistemological nor economic point of view can “outcomes,” ideological “inclusion,” or the phantom of “diversity” be legitimately compelled or manufactured. Indeed, it is why “diversity is our strength,” as the slogan has it, has never been adequately explained. It is just as likely, as we have seen, to generate conflict and disunity, disparities of talent and motivation, the tendency to ghettoize and the weakening of common standards. That way lies societal perdition. No culture or nation can long survive collectively enforced mediocrity.

In short, all should enjoy the opportunity to compete and perform to prove they satisfy the conditions of a particular field of endeavor, to demonstrate excellence, merit and respect for truth and objectivity. No concessions should be made that adulterate the principles of the discipline, trade, service or profession under the loupe—unless we are willing to allow discovery and inventiveness to flag, analytical and conceptual quality to decline across the board to everyone’s disadvantage, and “misery to be redistributed.” Plainly, no one should be prevented from lining up at the starting gate, but the race must not be fixed. To cite the poet John Keats, that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.


‘Blame Whitey Movement’ — Former ACLU Exec Slams Reparations ‘Buffoonery’

Former ACLU Executive Committee member Michael Meyers criticized the slavery reparations movement as “sheer racial rhetoric” and “buffoonery.”

Appearing on Friday night’s edition of “The Ingraham Angle,” Meyers also slammed civil rights leader Al Sharpton, who last week made it a point to directly ask Democratic presidential candidates who appeared at his National Action Network conference whether or not they would support a bill to study the issue.

“Of course, it is,” Meyers said, responding to Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s request to explain why he thinks the movement is a “scam.” “It is more of the blame Whitey movement mania and madness. Sheer racial rhetoric, and that’s what you get with Al Sharpton’s so-called house of justice.”

The former ACLU executive and current New York Civil Rights Coalition executive director then had a few words for the goings-on at Sharton’s NAN conference:

At that house of so-called justice, you have either a horror picture show showing or you have a farce. Either way it is not to be taken seriously. I can’t understand how serious presidential contenders can give legitimacy to a racial blowhard and I think it is outrageous and silly on the part of the presidential candidates. Anybody who thinks that white Americans are going to take the blame or going to feel guilty or give their land and their property away in some sort of reparations pot because they feel responsibility for the sins of their forebears. They are not.

“I cannot take Al Sharpton seriously,” he continued. “The whole racial movement is anti-intellectual. It is unintelligent. I can’t take buffoonery seriously …” (RELATED: Here’s Where Each 2020 Democratic Candidate Stands On Slavery Reparations)

Ingraham and Meyers later discussed how such a policy would be implemented, where the money would come from, and how it would eventually go to the “hustlers” instead of those who need it.

“The guy that came here from Serbia six months ago is going to have to write a check for a Somali refugee that came here 20 years ago,” Ingraham noted.

“That’s why I say it is unintelligent,” responded Meyers. “Nobody is giving up their house. Nobody is giving up their land. Nobody is giving away acres. The 40 acres are gone. Not even a building is going into the reparations pot. So what are they talking about? These people they are chasing thoughts.”

“It is a campaign issue,” said Ingraham. “This is all a power grab. It’s a total distraction.”


Rugby Australia slams Israel Folau for his controversial post declaring homosexuals will go to hell – as his career hangs in the balance

What he says is straight from Romans chapter 1 so maybe they should ban the Bible too?  And it's another wimpy woman crying over it.  Why can't they have a man in charge of a man's game?

Rugby Australia have slammed Israel Folau for his latest homophobic social media post - as the scandal threatens to derail the star player's career.

Folau, 30, shared a 'warning' to 'drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters' to Instagram on Wednesday, saying 'hell awaits' them.

The devout Christian has shared similar sentiments in the past and was previously warned by Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle.

A Rugby Australia spokesman said Folau's post was 'unacceptable' and that the organisation's integrity unit was 'engaged on the matter'.

'Rugby Australia is aware of a post made by Israel on his Instagram account this afternoon,' the spokesman said. 'The content within the post is unacceptable. It does not represent the values of the sport and is disrespectful to members of the Rugby community. 'The Rugby Australia integrity unit has been engaged on the matter tonight.'

In February, Folau signed a multi-million dollar contract extension with the New South Wales Waratahs and Rugby Australia until the end of 2022.

Widely considered as one of the game's best players, Folau became Super Rugby's all-time leading try scorer on Saturday.

His post on Wednesday warned that those 'living in sin will end up in Hell unless you repent'. 'Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him,' Folau posted alongside two bible verses.

The star fullback also retweeted a story about Tasmania allowing gender to be optional on birth certificates.

'The devil has blinded so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways. Turn to Jesus Christ who will set you free,' Folau tweeted.

In April 2018, Folau said gay people deserved to go to 'HELL... unless they repent of their sins and turn to God'.

Folau made the comment on Instagram in reply to a question about God's plan for gay people.

His comments forced a meeting with Ms Castle and Waratahs chief executive Andrew Hore, after major Wallabies sponsor Qantas said Folau's statements were 'very disappointing'.

Ms Castle acknowledged Folau had caused 'grief to some people'. 'Israel has presented his situation to us, where his views are, where his beliefs are,' Ms Castle said.

'But at the same time Rugby Australia has also got a policy and a position of inclusion and using social media with respect.

'Now both of us are going to go away and continue that dialogue, and work through how we continue to use how our social media platforms in a way that can ensure that all of our stakeholders are respected in the use of social media.'

During 2017's same sex-marriage vote, Folau tweeted that he would not be supporting any change to the existing law.

'I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions, but personally, I will not support gay marriage,' he said.

Folau married New Zealand netball star Maria Tutaia in 2017. He was raised as a Mormon and switched to the Australian Christian Churches with his family in 2011.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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