ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, May 27

Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

 Trump’s back home and the Russian mess is still dogging him.

He’s considering major changes at the White House to cope. Washington Post says the allegations “threaten to consume his Presidency”

The White House plans to far more aggressively combat the cascading revelations about contacts between Trump associates — including Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser — and Russia.

White House officials also are trying to find ways to revive Trump’s stalled policy agenda in Congress and to more broadly overhaul the way the White House communicates with the public.

That includes proposals for more travel and campaign-style rallies nationwide so that Trump can speak directly to his supporters, as well as changes in the pace and nature of news briefings, probably including a diminished role for embattled White House press secretary Sean Spicer. –Washington Post

Comment: These allegations are why the investigation by Special Council Robert Mueller are so important–and why it needs to move quickly. If there really was collusion with the Russians, the public and Congress need to know. Same if there was no collusion since the allegations themselves are making it hard to govern.

 The most important comment in US politics this week:

Mitch McConnell’s “I don’t know how we get to 50,” votes to pass a health-care reform bill

He did express some optimism on tax reform. (Reuters via Business Insider)

Politico reports: “McConnell Steps Into ObamaCare Firing Line”

Comment: This process is going to be very painful as the insurance markets narrow and premiums go up. Those who pay them are going to be mad as hell. Those who might be harmed by reforms are going to be just as mad.

Politically, the question is whether voters will hold Democrats responsible for making the mess or Republicans for failing to fix it.

My hunch: it is much easier to be the party out of power, casting the blame for failure. Since the Republicans hold both Houses and the Presidency, they won’t have much luck pointing the finger at Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi.

 American Airlines passenger tried to bite flight attendant, then ran off the plane. Now in custody.  (Washington Post)

Likely Sentence: To be dragged repeatedly up and down the aisle of a United flight while listening to an endless loop of instructions on how to buckle your seat belt.

(Btw, is there anybody left who doesn’t grasp the vexing concept of buckling a seat belt? Still, I am delighted to hear the detailed explanation on every single flight. I’m sure the flight attendants love doing it, too. Also, except for Sully Sullenberger, is there any such thing as a “water landing”? Isn’t there another term for that?)

 Uber and Lyft beat the city of Austin, will return on their terms  (The Verge)

Austin didn’t give in on the requirements that led the ride-sharing companies to pull out for a year. But the Texas legislature just passed a bill that says the state, not the city, is in charge of setting the requirements. The key state requirement is annual background checks on the drivers.

 Little Caesar’s delivered a pizza (allegedly) labeled “halal.” The recipient says it was pepperoni. So, naturally, he is suing . . . for $100 million  (USA Today)

Comment: I can see the plaintiff’s point. Pepperoni is virtually impossible to detect on pizza.

But is $100 million really enough?

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Gregg Allman, Rest in Peace

Here are Gregg, Duane, Dickey Betts, and the Band in their iconic 1970 performance at Fillmore West

“Tie Me to the Whipping Post”

Blending southern blues-rock with the acid-rock rhythms of San Francisco, they created something unique.

And lasting, unlike nearly all the acid music of that era, which sounds like a time capsule.

Btw, also on the bill that night: The Byrds, Elvin Bishop, and Van Morrison. Good ticket, I’d say.

Billboard has a first-rate remembrance of Gregg.

Here’s Gregg, chatting with Conan in 2012, remembering that concert.

My favorite song of Gregg’s is Southbound. It’s what kick-ass Southern rock is about. Here’s a great performance–so live you can feel the electricity in the room–done when the song came out in 1973.

Rest in Peace, Gregg, wherever you are bound.

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Yale Limbos Under the Lowest Standards for Free Speech and Integrity. It Honors Students who Bullied Teachers over “Halloween Costumes”

Remember when a couple of faculty members who supervised a Yale dorm were run out of their position by screaming bullies? (The supervisory position was called “College Master” until recently. That term was dropped because students said it reminded them of slavery. You can’t make this up.)

Remember what the bullies were so mad about? It was an email from the College Master who gently told them they could choose whatever Halloween costumes they wanted and, if they saw others wearing costumes they didn’t like, they should try to shrug it off.

Sensible advice? If you think that, you clearly have no moral compass. You are certainly not fit for today’s Yale.

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The “Halloween episode” occurred in 2015, and, when the students bullied, Yale’s most senior leaders immediately buckled. The bullies won.

Now, it has doubled down on its mistake. It has showered the bullies with honor. They were recognized and rewarded for their “exemplary leadership.”

Yale has awarded them the Nakanishi Prize for the “two graduating seniors who, while maintaining high academic achievement, have provided exemplary leadership in enhancing race and/or ethnic relations at Yale College.”

You can easily imagine the committee that picked the winners.

  • Burgwell Howard, Chair, Assoc. Vice President for Student Life, Dean of Student Engagement
  • Risë Nelson, Assistant Dean of Yale College; Director, Afro-American Cultural Center
  • Kelly Fayard, Assistant Dean of Yale College; Director, Native American Cultural Center
  • Eileen Galvez, Assistant Dean of Yale College; Director, La Casa Cultural
  • and so on

If you think these administrators want to stop the screaming and bullying in the Holy Name of Social Justice, you would be sadly mistaken.

They have just demonstrated they wish to honor it. They think it “enhances race and/or ethnic relations at Yale College.”

If they knew the intellectual heritage of their position–a doubtful proposition–they would trace it to the Frankfurt School of cultural Marxism, which teaches that speech can and should be suppressed for a higher goal, that of staunching the power of existing elites and ultimately overthrowing them, violently if necessary (as it surely will be), to create a better society.

“Who determines this better society?” you ask. “Who determines who get to speak?”

“Shut up,” they thoughtfully reply.

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James Kirchick tells the contemptible story in The Tablet:

Yale Cements Its Line in the Academic Sand by Awarding the Student ‘Truthtellers’ Who Bullied Faculty

In 2015, an email over Halloween costume propriety prompted a public debate over free speech and race. Its conclusion is telling.

The professors being bullied were Nicholas and Erika Christakis, masters of Silliman College at Yale. The low point came when a student mob surrounded Mr. Christakis, not to engage in rational discourse but to demand an apology:

Of the 100 or so students who confronted Christakis that day, a young woman who called him “disgusting” and shouted “who the fuck hired you?” before storming off in tears became the most infamous, thanks to an 81-second YouTube clip that went viral. (The video also—thanks to its promotion by various right-wing websites—brought this student a torrent of anonymous harassment). The videos that Tablet exclusively posted last year, which showed a further 25 minutes of what was ultimately an hours-long confrontation, depicted a procession of students berating Christakis. In one clip, a male student strides up to Christakis and, standing mere inches from his face, orders the professor to “look at me.” Assuming this position of physical intimidation, the student then proceeds to declare that Christakis is incapable of understanding what he and his classmates are feeling because Christakis is white, and, ipso facto, cannot be a victim of racism. In another clip, a female student accuses Christakis of “strip[ping] people of their humanity” and “creat[ing] a space for violence to happen,” a line later mocked in an episode of The Simpsons. In the videos, Howard, the dean who wrote the costume provisions, can be seen lurking along the periphery of the mob.

Of Yale’s graduating class, it was these two students whom the Nakanishi Prize selection committee deemed most deserving of a prize for “enhancing race and/or ethnic relations” on campus.–James Kirchick in Tablet

Kirchick has another article on the 2015 episode here.

Here’s one of the videos, of Shrieking Girl. This is not just a terrible viewpoint, backed not by reason but by emotion.

It is simply bullying, cloaked in the impregnable armor of victimhood-as-moral-righteousness.

She yelled “who the fuck hired you?”

A better question would be to the admissions department.

The Simpsons captures this zeitgeist perfectly:

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Comment: This is Boolah Bull Shit. To honor it is worse than disgusting.

It shows the people who run this university do not understand the most basic feature of a serious educational institution has to be the right to speak and inquire freely and to dispute others’ views through rational discourse, not shouting and bullying.

That the heads of student affairs and various victims’ studies departments don’t understand this is not surprising. That’s par for the course on college campuses these days. They either agree with the shouting students or don’t want to risk irritating them and imperilling their jobs.

What’s shocking is that senior administrators at Yale let this continue. Worse, they actually defend their spinelessness with transparently false statements that they support free speech. They don’t.

 

ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, May 27

Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

◆ Comment: Trump’s Trip in a Nutshell 

  • Saudi: Completely reverses Obama’s disastrous tilt toward Iran, reorients US policy to fight Iran and terrorism, makes a promising effort to incorporate a large coalition of Muslim states in the fight; good speech, too
  • Israel: Hard to say whether the Palestinian-Israel talks will go anywhere; what Trump did in Saudi does set a positive context, but it is still a stretch; the negatives are that Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas will do everything they can to stop it, and the Palestinians have no effective government to make peace with, nor has their population come to grips with the far-reaching and permanent concessions they will have to make; the Israelis have no confidence that a peace deal would be adhered to or give them more security
  • NATO: Telling the Europeans the hard truth that they need to pay up is good. What’s bad is Trump’s failure to restate the core principle of NATO, that an attack on one is an attack on all (Article 5). That omission could send a catastrophic signal to Russia about the vulnerable Baltic states, which are NATO members. The only reasonable explanation is that Trump is signaling the Europeans that, if you don’t pay up, you cannot expect us to treat you as full alliance partners. Very risky business.

 Jared Kushner’s talk with Russians during transition included possibility of establishing back channel to discuss issues such as Syria  (Washington Post)

Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports. . . .

The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.

The White House disclosed the meeting only in March, playing down its significance. But people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest.

Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team. –Washington Post

Comment: Initial public interest has focused on the idea of a “back channel.” That’s not what’s important here; back channel communications are common. What’s important here is two things. First, the idea of using the Russians’ equipment to communicate this is amazingly amateurish and reckless (or at least at seems that way to me, as a non-professional in secret communications with adversaries). This scheme was probably Flynn’s misjudgment and Kushner’s inexperience. Second, it says the Trump team was extremely concerned the Obama administration was monitoring everything they had to figure out a different way to communicate securely.

A third issue is bound to come up. What did they want to talk about? If they were talking about Syria, you could criticize them for undermining the sitting president. If they were doing anything that affected the business interests of private parties–and there is no indication they were–then that would be corruption.

 Hillary reappears at Wellesley Commencement, bitter, and attacking Trump (Washington Post)

Comment: This has to be a Republican plot. It has to be.

Only the Republicans could possibly gain from having Hillary out there hectoring the crowds, her shrill voice and tone-deaf delivery proving she still cannot give a decent speech, despite her having received tens of millions for giving them. (That’s a cruel joke, of course. She was paid because she and Bill provided access to power. It was a corrupt, rent-extraction game on a vast scale.)

For Democrats, the real problem is that she reminds people of the none-too-glorious past and makes it harder for the party to develop new faces for the future. To recharge things, the Democrats need some new voices. It would help if they were not yet living in a retirement community on Social Security and a Reverse Mortgage.  

 US, worried about North Korea, plans a test shoot-down of ICBM  (ABC)

Comment: The dangers from North Korean nukes are real and present. Their last test was a solid-fuel rocket (which means it can be launched quickly) and went to a very high altitude (which means it can already hit targets as far away as Guam).

To kill these intercontinental missiles, which leave the atmosphere, is different from killing shorter-range missiles.

The US has been working on this incredibly complex technical task since Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars). The latest iteration is what they will be testing.

There is a partisan-political dimension here, too, aside from the need to fund the program. Now that America needs a serious anti-missile defense to protect against a North Korean attack on the continental US, people might want to look back and ask who has opposed, undermined, and underfunded that research at every stage over the past three decades. These political opponents, unlike North Korean missiles, won’t be especially hard to identify.

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NATO Summit Underscores Durable Alliance. The US Should Do Nothing to Undermine It

Guest Author: Arthur Cyr

Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College and author of After the Cold War.” (Palgrave Macmillan and NYU Press).

[Editor’s note: ZipDialog is delighted to include this post. The opinions are those of the guest author. Readers are invited to respond, both here and on social media. At ZipDialog, we take dialog seriously.]

 The NATO summit in Brussels on May 25 has received relatively little attention, thanks to the crowded schedule of President Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East and Europe.

 The diplomatic whirlwind commenced with the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh Saudi Arabia. Leaders from 55 nations addressed the threat of terrorism. The NATO summit is followed immediately by a meeting of the G7, comprised of the world’s principal industrial nations, in Taormina Italy. Since World War II, economic collaboration has been consciously employed as a counter to militarism.

 The brief Brussels meeting contained heavy symbolism. Remnants of the Berlin Wall, and World Trade Center destroyed in the 9/11 attacks, were dedicated. Traditional United States complaints that European allies should spend more on defense are rightly overshadowed by the momentous events these symbols represent. European military aircraft under NATO were patrolling the skies over North American quickly after 9/11.

 The terrorist attack in Manchester in the United Kingdom underscores the continued importance of military cooperation, and doubtless muted the sorts of disagreements which can become public when allied nations gather.

 Indirectly, the attacks draw attention to Britain’s important historic and current roles in transatlantic alliance. Winston Churchill’s World War II government worked assiduously to court American public and leadership opinion.

Britain steadily fostered cross-Atlantic military cooperation as the Cold War developed. Britain’s Foreign Secretary after World War II, Ernest Bevin, kept the far left of his Labour Party at bay. He was effective in dealing with European leaders in forging the European Coal and Steel Community and forming NATO, key building blocs of modern Europe and the trans-Atlantic relationship with America.

◆ In a time of uncertainty, NATO continues to provide promising transatlantic cooperation. The U.S. should do nothing to undermine this.

The opinions in this post are those of the guest author, Arthur I. Cyr . He and ZipDialog welcome your response here or on social media. Prof. Cyr can also be reached at [email protected]

ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, May 26

Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

 Montana Republican wins the Special Election for the US House. He’s a fighter. Unfortunately, he means that literally.

Greg Gianforte captured the House seat left open when Ryan Zinke became Trump’s Sec. of the Interior.

Normally, a Republican victory in a Red State isn’t news. But it is in this case because Gianforte went berserk the day before the election and body-slammed a reporter. The candidate was charged with a misdemeanor. Didn’t stop him from winning.

Comment: Whether or not the reporter was aggressively questioning the candidate, Gianforte’s behavior is despicable. It should be condemned bluntly and clearly.

My hunch is that Republican leaders like Paul Ryan will condemn it and that reporters will ask him over and over and over. It’s a game. But Ryan won’t do much more than mouth the words. He has a thin margin in the House and needs every vote. He won’t toss this one away.

The Democrats ran a folksy, appealing candidate in Montana. He was as good a candidate as they could hope for (except, perhaps, for his proximity to Bernie Sanders). It ought to worry Democrats that a candidate as lousy as Gianforte, who was considered lousy before he attacked a reporter, still won by seven points. (The local report on the election is here, in the Missoulian.)

 FBI investigating Trumps’ son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for his contacts with Russians. (CNN)

CNN, the Washington Post, and NBC are all over it. According to CNN,

There is no indication Kushner is currently a target of the probe and there are no allegations he committed any wrongdoing.

Comment: FBI investigations are secret and leaks about them are, of course, illegal. Once Trump was elected, though, they began pouring out like Niagara. A cynic would think folks in the intel community want to bring down the administration. Looks like public servants with access to secret information have reporters on their speed dial. 

 Trump publicly scolds NATO members for failing to pay their fair share, failing to meet their agreed target of 2% of GDP for defense. (Washington Post)

European leaders gazed unsmilingly at Trump while he said that “23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying,” and that they owe “massive amounts” from past years — a misstatement of NATO’s spending targets, which guide individual nations’ own domestic spending decisions.

The harsh tone had a toll, as Trump was left largely on his own after the speech as leaders mingled and laughed with each other, leaving the U.S. president to stand silently on a stage ahead of a group photo. –Washington Post

Comment: The Europeans don’t like hearing it, but Trump is stating a hard truth, and one that needs to be told. 

A half-billion dollar opium poppy field found in . . . North Carolina, about 40 miles north of Charlotte (NBC) 

 Manchester police find huge stash of chemical explosives at bomber’s house. Fear the terrorists might have already built a second bomb (Telegraph)

Comment: Good reporting by the Telegraph.

Check the New York Times to see if any new, highly-secret information about the investigation becomes available. They will be glad to publish it. (See the ZipDialog post here, excoriating the NYT and making fun of their fecklessness.)

 Why Norm Macdonald, one of the funniest people alive, never reached showbiz heights (GQ)

Comment: He is my favorite comedian, by far, even though he’s really an anti-comedian. There’s some Andy Kaufman in him. Kaufman was more path-breaking, but Macdonald is much funnier.

Here’s a brief clip (about a minute) of Norm discussing German history. It’s so simple–but it is funny, profound, and true.

 

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NYT leaks on Manchester terror bombing pale beside their Scoop on the D-Day Invasion

Sure, there’s a lot of furor about the New York Times needlessly publishing secret police information about the Manchester terror bombing, hampering the on-going investigation. (Washington Post)

Pres. Trump wants the leaks investigated, and rightly so. The US leaks caused the Brits to immediately suspend sharing information about terrorists, something vital to US homeland security. Beyond that, they damage the trust essential between US and British intelligence.

Critics charge (rightly, I think) that the Times published the terrorist’s name and crime scene photos out of badly misguided editorial judgment. Some Times’ readers may enjoy it, but the editors surely knew it would damage the frantic race to track down the members of the bomber’s cell.

All true. So is the loathsome conduct of US spies who illegally shared this secret information, serving no public purpose.

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Still, it all pales beside these two amazing NYT scoops from June 1944.

Choose the right news photo to help your friends and hurt your foes

This is not a story about one paper or website’s bias. It’s a story about how easy it is for them to do it, if they wish, without readers notice. It can work because it’s subtle.

In this case, it’s the choices faced by news photo editors. Look at these options, and you’ll see how easy it is to favor the politicians you like and hurt the ones you loathe.

The pictures show two US presidents meeting Pope Francis. In every picture, the presidents are smiling.

But the pope not. He is smiling in some, frowning (or somber) in others.

All an editor has to do, if he wishes to tilt the coverageis pick the smiling or frowning Pope.

Those kinds of options are almost always available at news events.

Fair-minded photo editors play it straight.

But not all editors are fair. Their bias works because we don’t notice what we don’t see.

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These pictures were posted on Imgur and shared with me by Michael Lipson. Thanks to him and the person who posted them.

Massachusetts Teachers Union is all about great teaching. That’s why they voted AGAINST honoring America’s Teacher of the Year, from their home state

Go ahead. Guess why.

Yes, she teaches at a charter school. Those are public schools, not private ones, but the teachers have not voted to unionize.

Those miscreants cannot be recognized for good teaching. Otherwise, parents might get the wrong ideas.

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The next time you hear the teachers unions say, “It’s all about the kids,” remember this shameful, if symbolic, incident.

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Here is the recognition of Ms. Sydney Chaffee, named 2017 National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

As a humanities teacher at Codman Academy public charter school in Boston, Sydney takes risks every day to improve learning for all of her students. In the classroom, she strives to create lessons that demonstrate how education can be a transformative tool for social justice, and she encourages her students to see themselves as having the power to make change in the world based on lessons from the past. . . .

She tries to infuse the hard work of learning with joy, not only in her classroom but throughout the school. For example, she is the coordinator of a schoolwide Community Circle every Thursday where all students in the school come together to celebrate successes, share good news and dig into serious conversations together. . . .

Sydney has taught for the past 10 years, 9 of which have been in her current role. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and a Masters of Education from Lesley University. Sydney is a National Board Certified Teacher.

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With this disturbing record, it’s easy to see why the Massachusetts Teachers Union would find Ms. Chaffee noxious.

As The Commonwealth puts it

Sydney Chaffee was welcomed to the White House last month. She was honored at an event in Boston by the governor and the state education commissioner. But the first Massachusetts educator ever named National Teacher of Year was given the cold shoulder by the state’s largest teachers union.

Delegates at the Massachusetts Teachers Association annual state convention last Saturday voted down a motion to “publicly and formally congratulate and recognize Sydney Chaffee” on receiving the award.

In previous years, the state’s teacher of the year (as Ms. Chaffee is) has been invited to address the Massachusetts Teachers Association convention.

Not this year.

Ms. Chaffee’s school isn’t even a private one. It’s a public school, as charter schools are. So, what’s the unions’ beef? It’s simply that teachers in many charters have not voted to unionize. 

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NOT APPROVED: “Students for Free Thought” rejected at Lawrence University

You read that correctly.

A voluntary student organization at a liberal-arts college was rejected by the student government because some students had watched a movie recently screened by the organization, “Can We Take a Joke?” and answered “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!! We cannot.” They said they were “triggered” by it, whatever that means. The story is here at Campus Reform.

What being triggered means in this case is grabbing an ideological hammer and smashing in the heads of everyone who disagrees.

Surely, some adults will step in. And they did . . . to help with the suppression.

In a campus-wide email two days earlier, however, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Dr. Kimberly Barrett supportively acknowledged the “understandable anger” that students felt, adding ominously that she was “certain” that the issue would affect the prospective club’s application. –Campus Reform

Quick Tip: Vice Presidents for Diversity and Inclusion are Kafkaesque creatures. They oppose diversity of thought. They are all about excluding the people they don’t want. They are essentially union-reps for rent-extraction politics on campus, giving special benefits to approved groups and helping them crush others.

Special moment of Irony: Lawrence University is in Appleton, Wisconsin, the home of Joe McCarthy. They have adopted his tactics of fear and smear. It’s no more appealing from the left than it was from the right.