The Melissa Chinery and Laura Medlin cases against American Airlines, cases currently being litigated by my firm, the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C., have been featured in many articles across the country. These articles have been featured in this blog and are all linked below.
World News Network (“Allegedly called a ‘sow:’ 2 flight attendants sue American Airlines over online harassment”)
CBS8 San Diego(“Flight Attendants Sue American Airlines Claiming They Were Called ‘Sows’ and Prostitutes”)
Inside Edition(“Flight Attendants Sue American Airlines Claiming They Were Called ‘Sows’ and Prostitutes”)
The Charlotte Observer (“American Airlines flight attendants sue, say they’ve been called sows, prostitutes and worse on Facebook”)
The Sacramento Bee (“Flight attendants sue, say they’ve been called sows, prostitutes and worse on Facebook”)
WBTV.com On Your Side (“Flight attendants sue, say they’ve been called sows, prostitutes and worse on Facebook”)
BVT News (“Allegedly Called a ‘Sow:’ 2 Flight Attendants Sue American Airlines Over Online Harassment”)
The Philly Voice (“Philly Flight Attendant Sues American Airlines Over Alleged Facebook Harassment”)
Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in Conservative Review which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.
A state-level marriage bill in Alabama is showing a potential way forward for balancing marriage and religious freedom in post-Obergefell America.
It’s been nearly two years since the Supreme Court issued its Obergefell ruling. Since then, Kim Davis went to jail, was released, and finally ended her lawsuit just a few months ago, but that really doesn’t give an answer the serious questions about the nature of marriage and the power of the government to redefine.
Last week, the Yellowhammer State’s Senate passed a measure that would abolish marriage licenses altogether while removing ceremonial requirements for obtaining marriage.
Instead of the state issuing documents and requiring that agents of the state take part in the marriage process, the state would simply record affidavits of marriage between two consenting parties.
The measure’s sponsor, Sen. Greg Albritton, (R), introduced similar legislation last year, which never became law. It’s also similar to a measure that was introduced in the Oklahoma legislature in 2015.
“When you invite the state into those matters of personal or religious import, it creates difficulties,” Albritton told the Associated Press in regards to his efforts last year. He continued, saying:
Early twentieth century, if you go back and look and try to find marriage licenses for your grandparents or great grandparents, you won’t find it. What you will find instead is where people have come in and recorded when a marriage has occurred.
This would eliminate situations in which conscientious objectors to same sex marriage in the government could be forced to directly cooperate with something contrary to their faith, while not blocking access to marriage contracts for same-sex couples. More importantly, it gets the state closer to its appropriate level of involvement, which should be close to nothing.
Whether you believe that marriage is a covenant from God (in which case your church should be the primary arbiter) or a simple contract between two people with happy feelings (in which your interest in equal application of the law) this arrangement looks like it would work out for everyone.
Firstly, marriage is something that is rightly handled by institutions and communities to begin with, not by bureaucrats and politicians. Sure, the government has abiding interests therein, but — in a system where the institution has been reduced as Scalia put it “to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie” — those should be limited to little more than property rights.
The idea that the modern state should act as a barrier between free people and that institution has created a crisis of federalism between the states and the Supreme Court. Furthermore, the government’s involvement provided the legal track for Obergefell to happen in the first place. In other words, if marriage is the government’s business it only made sense that government would redefine it once the cultural winds shifted.
The only reasons to preserve the current state of things is if you either 1. Entertain the idea of states being able to uphold natural marriage (which didn’t work pre-Obergefell) or 2. Want to continue treating the state as an arbiter of a pre-political institution, which doesn’t make sense either.
Which is precisely why this new Alabama marriage bill could be the solution for everyone.
Nate Madden is a Staff Writer for Conservative Review, focusing on religious freedom, immigration, and the judiciary. He previously served as the Director of Policy Relations for the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. A Publius Fellow, John Jay Fellow, Citadel Parliamentary Fellow and National Journalism Center alumnus, Nate’s writing has previously appeared in several religious and news publications. Follow him @NateMaddenCR and on Facebook.
By Nate Madden and originally published in Conservative Review on March 15, 2017 and can be seen here.
The Melissa Chinery and Laura Medlin cases against American Airlines, cases currently being litigated by my firm, the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C., have been featured in an article entitled “Allegedly called a ‘sow:’ 2 flight attendants sue American Airlines over online harassment,” on World News Network by Mark Price and Ely Portillo and published on March 29, 2017, which can be found here.
Nathan Rudolph, my friend and fellow parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, has started a comic strip which I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated. With his permission, I will repost them here after he posts them. I think my readers will appreciate them as much as I do as they are rather insightful with a snarky edge. Enjoy!
Here are the links to the previously posted strips:
The Melissa Chinery and Laura Medlin cases against American Airlines, cases currently being litigated by my firm, the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C., have been featured in an article entitled “Flight Attendants Sue American Airlines Claiming They Were Called ‘Sows’ and Prostitutes,” on CBS8 San Diego by Deborah Hastings and published on March 14, 2017, which can be found here.
Two flight attendants are suing American Airlines, claiming they were called “sows” — and worse — by male colleagues on Facebook and other social media sites.
The federal lawsuits were filed in Pennsylvania and allege the airline failed to enforce its policies barring online slurs and insults by employees, including on private accounts.
The women claim the bullying and harassment occurred on Facebook and online accounts where thousands of airline workers talk to each other.
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified monetary damages.
One flight attendant, Laura Medlin, said the bullying began after she resigned from a union position. A group of male employees began calling her names including “sow,” she said.
The other, Melissa Chinery, said she was harassed after announcing she was running for a union slot. Male flight attendants posted online comments calling her a “flipper,” a synonym for prostitute, as well as “c***,” her lawsuit claims.
Both allege they reported their abuse to the airline’s human resources division, but that no action was taken.
This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:
“In Singh v. Carter, (D DC, March 3, 2016), the D.C. federal district court, invoking RFRA, granted a preliminary injunction protecting religious rights of an Army officer. The Army had ordered a decorated Sikh Army captain to undergo costly specialized testing with his helmet and protective mask to assure that his religiously required head covering, beard and uncut hair will not interfere with the functions of the helmet and mask. The court said:
At first blush, the challenged order appears to reflect a reasonably thorough and even benevolent decision by the Army to fulfill its duty of protecting the health and safety of this particular Sikh officer.
Yet, that is far from the complete picture. Thousands of other soldiers are permitted to wear long hair and beards for medical or other reasons, without being subjected to such specialized and costly expert testing of their helmets and gas masks. Moreover, other Sikh soldiers have been permitted to maintain their articles of faith without such specialized testing.
Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in New Republic which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.
In his youthful second book, an enthusiastically received novel called The Romantics (2000), Pankaj Mishra portrays young men from provincial India who immerse themselves in modern intellectual history. Like many students from the provinces before him, Mishra’s main character seeks his place largely through reading. But unlike those earlier generations, he explores who to become not just in his new city, but in globalized modernity.
Mishra’s hero reads Gustave Flaubert’s coming-of-age novel, Sentimental Education, and Edmund Wilson’s interpretation of it as a commentary on exclusion and its consequences. He shares his reading with a more politically aware friend, almost embarrassed by his own bookishness. But when they meet again years later, it turns out that his friend has taken Wilson’s essay very seriously. For in nineteenth-century Europe and its struggles, he discovered an environment much like his own. Although a new world of moral and material possibilities seemed to open up before the young men of his generation, now, as then, only a few would actually succeed in their strivings. Flaubert captured the mismatch that a modern youth experienced between “large, passionate, but imprecise longings” and the “slow, steady shrinking of horizons.” The European bildungsroman addressed what has become a worldwide situation in our time.
Mishra’s novel went on to diagnose the consequences of such a mismatch. After the students witness some rioting on campus, the friend explains with “a new vehemence” that the perpetrators were mainly “young men with nothing to do, nowhere to go, with no future, no prospects, nothing, nothing at all.” The bookish young man is clearly Mishra in another guise, down to their common birth year and education. His friend, who is more familiar, not simply with politics but also with criminality and violence, is also based on a real person; they met the year Mishra moved from Allahabad to Benares and fell in love himself with the literary criticism of Edmund Wilson. Mishra has not published another novel since. But in his admirable career writing on politics, he closely identifies with the lesson of his erstwhile friend (who later became a contract killer): If people are exposed to grandeur and then their horizons shrink, the results can prove dangerous.
While Mishra long ago recognized the uses of Western thought in understanding the causes of global rage, in his new book, Age of Anger, he turns to intellectual history to counter civilizational or theological explanations for that rage in its more recent forms. After September 11, 2001, a crew of specialists arose to designate Islam the cause of hatred and violence; their essential goal was to immunize our own way of life from blame and scrutiny. Such analysts could never anticipate how their own states and cultures gave rise to a broader discontent—including in Europe and the United States. After votes for Brexit and Donald Trump, it turns out it was not just “radicalized” Muslim youths who resented elites and resorted to violence as a means of revenge.
Instead, Mishra argues that the European past was a dry run for our global present. In the German and Russian populists and terrorists of the nineteenth century, Mishra finds avatars of the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, and the Muslim radical preacher Anwar al-Awlaki. In the “Frenchmen who bombed music halls, cafés, and the Paris stock exchange” in the 1880s and ’90s, he sees forerunners of today’s “English and Chinese nationalists, Somali pirates, human traffickers, and anonymous cyber-hackers.” Understanding political and economic inequality is vital to understanding these convulsions; but we also have to examine how the ideals we live with—of capitalism and liberalism—have long produced unbearable disillusionment. To grasp the fear and desire behind violent reaction, Mishra contends, we need not just Karl Marx and Thomas Piketty, but also analysts of the psyche and spirit.
Age of Anger traces today’s discontent back to the beginning of modernity, when Europe underwent commercial and, later, industrial revolutions, toppled its aristocratic elites and sometimes kings, and trumpeted freedom and equality, even as it redoubled the prestige of luxury and the lure of hierarchy. It was the start of the process of building a world of plenty and self-transformation, but also of distinction and envy. Philosophers of the eighteenth century diagnosed the likely outcome of this divide; the nineteenth century experienced that outcome, in furious, violent responses to it.
Mishra starts with a set piece on Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who offer us two opposing views of modernity and how to think about its shortcomings. Voltaire, the mainstream rationalist, embraced commerce and progress; he saw little daylight between the celebration of the one and the inevitability of the other. He endorsed individual freedom and pluralistic tolerance up to a point. Compared to the democratic mob, hereditary rulers—especially if well tutored by freethinkers like Voltaire himself—were less likely to become oppressive. He held a low opinion of Rousseau, the rebellious son of a Genevan watchmaker. Rousseau returned the compliment, writing to Voltaire in 1760, “I hate you.”
Rousseau, on the other hand, thought modernity was bringing about not progress but tragedy. Modern men and women learned to envy the magnificence of the winners and to define their ends in a triangular process of assessing what others valued first. In his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Rousseau depicted how enraging it is to subordinate oneself to the desires of others, in a state of exclusion from Voltaire’s opulent civilization. Because Rousseau had experienced the life of a social climber himself, he understood “the many uprooted men” who failed to “adapt themselves to a stable life in society,” and began to see that failure as the product of a larger “injustice against the human race.” Enslaved by manufactured desires, most Europeans experienced merely the frustration of never seeing them realized. Commercial modernity imprisoned the rich as much as the poor in a syndrome of “envy, fascination, revulsion, and rejection.”
It is Voltaire’s vision of modernity, however, that has been the more seductive one throughout much of history. His theory fueled the first age of globalization before World War I, and has gained currency again in the enthusiasm for markets that burgeoned after the end of the Cold War. “As Louis Vuitton opened in Borneo,” Mishra observes sarcastically, “it seemed only a matter of time before the love of luxury was followed by the rule of law, the enhanced use of critical reason, and the expansion of individual freedom.” But in part because the results benefit only a few, in part because modernity is a cage for everyone, Rousseau’s heirs await the moment to strike.
The question is: What are those left behind to do with their frustration? They can convert it, as Rousseau did, into insight into the limits of modernity, even for those who win the game. Or, sensing that there will be no chance of winning for all, especially as the competition goes global, they can wreak vengeance on the system.Mishra sees an early example of such revenge in the German Romantics, whom he calls “the first angry young nationalists.” By the start of the nineteenth century, Germany—decades away from industrial modernity or even political unity—had failed to keep pace with the power and wealth that made Britain and France so opulent. Educated young Germans shared a sense of being belated, peripheral, and weak. They looked to France as “the home of the worldly, elegant, and sensuous philosopher, who spoke a language of unparalleled clarity and precision.” Yet when they arrived there, they perceived the same shallowness that Rousseau had seen before them. In 1769, the incisive philosopher J.G. Herder set out from the Baltic port of Riga to Paris, hoping to become gallicized. He left the next year, acutely disappointed, and convinced of the need to formulate a sturdy alternative to what he saw as hollow cosmopolitanism.
Building on Rousseau, German poets and philosophers such as Herder and Friedrich Schiller introduced a profound diagnosis of their own alienation. A feeling of being divided from the world, and even from one’s very self—as well as from one’s own work, as their follower Karl Marx added—was the worst thing about modern consciousness. Along with J.G. Fichte, Herder proposed a nationalist cure for this sense of estrangement. Herder extolled the popular genius of German Kultur, as well as the ineffability of particular cultures across the board. It was the opposite of the French idea of civilisation. Instead of seeking justification for their culture in progress and the promise of the future, Germans looked to the distant past to confirm their sense of national greatness, elevating folklore and myths to the pinnacle of high art. Whereas civilisation was centered on commerce, luxury, and urbanity, Kultur infused local ties and traditions with fervent spirituality, and idealized the Volk.
In the nineteenth century, such ideas drove German unification and national awakenings across Europe, and found their nadir in Adolf Hitler’s Germany in the twentieth century. Not only did nationalism give the world’s peasantries an outlet for their rage, but it now tempts those countries once at the apex of civilization toward populism. The Brexit vote and Trump’s unexpected win illustrate that when stagnation sets in at the center, anger can drive nationalist backlash. A nostalgia for “little England” takes revenge on cosmopolitan and diverse London, while calls to “make America great again” imply xenophobic and militaristic policies. Even Voltaire’s France is now a battleground in liberalism’s fight for survival against explosive nationalist resentment.
Mishra also lavishes attention on Russia, the first global hinterland where the Enlightenment’s liberatory wave crashed against the wall of a massive peasantry—sparking the invention of nihilism and terrorism. Since the Enlightenment, Russia’s ruling class had debated whether to westernize, and foreign kibitzers were divided over whether and how to extend civilization to Russia’s feudal society of aristocrats and serfs. (While Rousseau doubted it made sense to “tutor” Russia, Voltaire advised Empress Catherine the Great, and she bought his library after he died, hoping it would help.) But as the nineteenth century dragged on, autocratic rule did not bring forth progress fast enough to forestall its critics.
When you start so far behind, the very attempt to catch up breeds self-hatred. Your “conscience murmurs,” Fyodor Dostoevsky lamented, that you are “a hollow man,” condemned in advance to a “state of insatiable, bilious malice.” But whereas Dostoevsky only wrote about this discontent, other Russians took the route of terroristic deeds. The activist and thinker Mikhail Bakunin argued for the need to bring the system down in one swift stroke; he believed that “heroic acts” could “transform the world from an authoritarian cage into an arcadia of human freedom.” Battling against Marx for intellectual leadership of Europe’s working classes, Bakunin spawned a countercultural tradition of “lethal individualism,” whereby vivid destruction, instead of patient creation, would serve to define a self. His fellow critics of capitalism and empire were transnational. They bombed cities and assassinated political leaders across the Atlantic, inaugurating “the first phase of global jihad,” and anticipating the long-distance networks of lone wolves and terrorist cells of today.
“Large parts of Asia and Africa,” Mishra concludes, “are now plunging deeper” into their own “fateful experience of that modernity.” They are told they live on a flat earth, but find it impossible to claw their way forward on what feels like a vertical cliff of hierarchy. Westernization destroyed existing beliefs and institutions in these countries, promoting instead a culture of individual freedoms and rights. But, as Mishra points out, “Most newly created ‘individuals’ toil within poorly imagined social and political communities and/or states with weakening sovereignty,” narrowing the opportunities for personal flourishing. Western modernity opens up fault lines that “run through human souls as well as nations and societies undergoing massive change.” Out of the gap between expected liberation and experienced limits, fury boils.
A self-proclaimed history of the present, Age of Anger also feels like a blast from the past. In its literacy and literariness, it has the feel of Edmund Wilson’s extraordinary dramas of modern ideas—books like To the Finland Station—but with a different endpoint and a more global canvas. Mishra reads like a brilliant autodidact, putting to shame the many students who dutifully did the reading for their classes but missed the incandescent fire and penetrating insight in canonical texts. Yet his narrative of the outcasts of modernity has been told before, at different times and with different emphases, to explain earlier episodes of revolt and revolution: He is not the first to locate the origins of fascism in nineteenth-century German malcontents, and it was once popular to tag Rousseau for paving the way for communism and the student movement.
Nor is Mishra ready to offer solutions. Though he looks at the bleak record of commercial modernity in propagating itself across the world and marks its self-defeating expansion, he holds out no defined alternative. It is unclear whether Mishra feels the chief flaw lies in modernity’s failures—its false promise to liberate everyone—or in its successes, and the devastation that has accompanied them.
Of course, true freedom and equality beckon, which is why Mishra shows an occasional soft spot for lone wolves—including Timothy McVeigh—who hope a spectacular blow will shatter the glass. But ultimately, he does not hold up such anarchists as models. Indeed, even though they unceremoniously dismiss the “gaudy cult of progress,” it seems to Mishra nonetheless that “the men trying to radicalize the liberal principle of freedom and autonomy, of individual power and agency, seem more rootless and desperate than before.” In a world that can no longer count on progress, and that fears its consequences for the planet, Mishra praises Pope Francis’s exemplary moral stances on behalf of the environment and the poor—if only because no one else is offering hope. Yet he also acknowledges there is no going back to a premodern metaphysics or economy, when ambition has come to seem everyone’s birthright, first in Europe, later everywhere.
If intellectual history matters in this parlous situation, then getting Rousseau right does, too. Interpreting him, as Mishra does, as nostalgic for ancient liberty or protective of interior freedom in the face of the modern catastrophe, will ultimately not work. After all, Rousseau also rejected the viability of reviving the Sparta he sometimes idealized. For that reason, he thought carefully about how to bring about free communities of equals in our economic and political circumstances.
And he also wrote The Social Contract, a text Mishra barely addresses. After reading The Social Contract’s commitment to modern freedom and equality, a fellow Enlightenment thinker, Immanuel Kant, early saw that Rousseau’s main impulses between a lamentation for modernity and an emancipatory program for it have to be reconciled at all costs. There is no way to sever Rousseau’s critique of painful exclusion and “glittering misery”—now, as Mishra shows, applicable across the world and into its smallest byways—from a political attempt to answer it.
“Rousseau,” Kant remarked, “was not far wrong in preferring the state of savages—so long, that is, as the last stage to which the human race must climb is not attained.” Starting from his remote corner in the Benares library reading Edmund Wilson, no one has discerned better than Mishra just how far we still are from the top.
By Samuel Moyn and originally published in New Republic on January 31, 2017 and can be seen here.
What was it that distinguished the modern scientific method inaugurated by Bacon, Galileo, Descartes, and Co. from the science of the medievals? One common answer is that the moderns required empirical evidence, whereas the medievals contented themselves with appeals to the authority of Aristotle. The famous story about Galileo’s Scholastic critics’ refusing to look through his telescope is supposed to illustrate this difference in attitudes.
The problem with this answer, of course, is that it is false. For one thing, the telescope story is (like so many other things everyone “knows” about the Scholastics and about the Galileo affair) a legend. For another, part of the reason Galileo’s position was resisted was precisely because there were a number of respects in which it appeared to conflict with the empirical evidence. (For example, the Copernican theory predicted that Venus should sometimes appear six times larger than it does at other times, but at first the empirical evidence seemed not to confirm this, until telescopes were developed which could detect the difference; the predicted stellar parallax did not receive empirical confirmation for a long time; and so forth.)
Then there is the fact that the medievals were simply by no means hostile to the idea that empirical evidence is the foundation of knowledge; on the contrary, it was a standard Scholastic slogan that “there is nothing in the intellect that was not first in the senses.” Indeed, Bacon regarded his Scholastic predecessors as if anything too quick to believe the evidence of the senses. The first of the “Idols of the Mind” that he famously critiques, namely the “Idols of the Tribe,” included a tendency to take the deliverances of sensory experience for granted. The senses could, in Bacon’s view, too readily be deceived, and needed to be corrected by carefully controlling the conditions of observation and developing scientific instruments. And in general, the early moderns regarded much of what the senses tell us about the natural world — such as what they tell us about secondary qualities like color and temperature — to be false.
So, it is simply not the case that the difference between the medievals and the early moderns was that the latter were more inclined to trust empirical evidence. On the contrary, there is a sense in which that is precisely the reverse of the truth.
Where empirical evidence is concerned, the real difference might, to oversimplify, be put as follows. Both the medievals and the early moderns regarded sensory experience as a crucial witness to the truth about the natural world. But whereas the medievals regarded it as a more or less friendly witness, the moderns regarded it as a more or less hostile witness. You can, from both sorts of witness, derive the truth. But the methods will be different.
Hence, a friendly witness can more or less be asked directly for the information you want. That doesn’t mean he might not sometimes need to be prodded to answer. Even if he is honest, he might be shy, or reluctant to divulge something embarrassing, or just not very articulate. It also doesn’t mean that everything he says can be taken at face value. He may be forgetful, or confused, or just mistaken now and again. A hostile witness, by contrast, though he has the information you want, cannot with confidence be asked directly. Even if he is articulate, has a crystal clear memory, etc., he may simply refuse to answer, or may persistently beat around the bush, or may flat-out lie, seriously and repeatedly. Thus, he may have to be tricked into giving you the information you want, like the Jack Nicholson character in A Few Good Men. Or you may be tempted to threaten or beat it out of him, like one of the cops in L.A. Confidential would. So, you might say that whereas the medieval Aristotelian scientist has a conversation with nature, the early modern Baconian scientist waterboards nature. Hence the notorious Baconian talk about putting nature to the rack, torturing her for her secrets, etc.
Of course, this is melodramatic. And to be fair, Bacon himself seems not to have put things quite the way commonly attributed to him (i.e. the stuff about torture and the rack). All the same, the medievals and moderns do disagree about the degree to which the world of ordinary experience and the world that science reveals — what Wilfrid Sellars called “the manifest image” and “the scientific image” — correspond. For the Aristotelian, philosophy and science are largely in harmony with common sense and ordinary experience. To be sure, they get at much deeper levels of reality, and they correct common sense and ordinary experience around the edges, but they don’t overthrow common sense and ordinary experience wholesale. For the moderns, by contrast, philosophy and science are likely radically to conflict with common sense and ordinary experience, and may indeed end up overthrowing them wholesale.
(This is not a difference concerning whether to accept the results of modern science, by the way. It is a difference about how to interpret those results. For example, it is a difference over whether to regard modern science as giving us a correct but merely partial description of nature — a description which needs to be supplemented by and embedded within an Aristotelian metaphysics and philosophy of nature — or whether to regard modern science instead as an exhaustive description of nature, and a complete metaphysics in its own right.)
The early moderns’ attitude of treating nature as a hostile witness — of thinking that the truth about nature is largely contrary to what ordinary experience would indicate — is one of the sources of the modern tendency to suppose that “things are never what they seem,” that traditional ideas are typically mere prejudices, that authorities and official stories of every kind need to be “unmasked,” and so forth. Michael Levin has called this the “skim milk fallacy,” and I’ve often noted some of its social and moral consequences (e.g. here, here and here). But these are merely byproducts of a much deeper metaphysical and epistemological revolution.