• Michigan’s infamous Mddle East specialist, Juan Cole, comes up with another doozy

    Carbon dioxide, Cole says, is “a far more deadly gas” than what was used in “the gas attack in Syria on April 4.”

    His basic argument is encapsulated in the headline of his recent article in The Nation:

    The Other Poison Gas Killing Syrians: Carbon Dioxide Emissions

    If Trump and his cronies really cared about children killed by noxious gases, they wouldn’t be trying to spew ever more CO2 into the atmosphere –Juan Cole

    You see, it’s about drought. Yeah, that’s the ticket. It’s the drought that caused everything to go wrong in Syria.

    Oh, yes, and Trump is to blame. Plus, he’s a hypocrite for bombing a Syrian base to stop more chemical weapon attacks because Trump doesn’t also agree with Al Gore on climate change. If you can follow that logic, check with your doctor. If you agree with it, apply to graduate studies with Prof. Cole at Michigan.

    Again, to quote the professor:

    The Syrian civil war has left more than 400,000 people dead, among them graveyards full of children and innocent noncombatants. About half the country’s 23 million people have been left homeless, and of those, 4 million have been driven abroad (some of them contributing to Europe’s refugee crisis and its consequent rightward political shift). The war occurred for many complex reasons, including social and political ones. The severest drought in recorded modern Syrian history in 2007–10, however, made its contribution. –Juan Cole

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Comment:  Notice that, in the fine print, Cole relegates the drought to a much more ambiguous status. It “made a contribution” to the humanitarian disaster, he now says. How much contribution? He refuses to say.

    Yet the whole point of the article is that carbon dioxide in Syria is more deadly than poison gas attacks, which are war crimes (for good reasons). In short, the article is bait-and-switch, seasoned with hyperbole, political correctness, and a steadfast refusal to look true evil in the eye.

    The most appropriate comment comes from the movie, Billy Madison. It is pitch perfect for Prof. Cole’s analysis:

    In other words, a drought may have contributed, indirectly, to the carnage in Syria. But to emphasize it as a major cause is misleading, tendentious, and wrong.

    To put it differently, California had multiple years of drought and, according to recent statistics, the civil war there has claimed far fewer than 400,000 lives. Perhaps under 300,000.

    Hey, let’s at least give Jerry Brown some credit for avoiding barrel bombs in the Central Valley. So far.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Hat Tip: Daniel Pipes and Campus Watch. They found the Cole article and publicized it. Kudos.

    Tom Blumer at NewsBusters, who initially publicized the article.

  • Fascinating personal reflections by Prof. Jean Yarbrough: “How I Became a Conservative”

    Jean Yarbrough, a distinguished political philosopher at Bowdoin College, describes her personal and intellectual journey in a brief, engaging campus talk, published here.

    She entered college in the mid-1960s a liberal Democrat, from a “blue collar/middle class” neighborhood on Long Island, the first generation in her family to attend university.

    In those heady days on campus, she moved left and eventually joined the Students for a Democratic Society, the most prominent leftist group of the era.

    In graduate school, though, she began to rethink her views as she grappled with truly great books.

    “Having wasted my undergraduate years protesting,” she said the first peg of her conservatism developed when she began studying the “great texts” in her graduate program at the New School for Social Research in New York City. “I read great books, and these books changed my life. They made me think more seriously about the world around me.” . . .

    The books she read during this period pushed her to carefully consider the importance of natural rights, constitutional government, statesmanship, and virtue — its role in society and how it can be cultivated.

    She goes on to discuss her changing views about foreign policy, marriage-motherhood-and-feminism, religion, and economics. It’s thoughtful, candid, and accessible.

    At a time when students at so many schools refuse to hear alternative views, it’s wonderful to see Prof. Yarbrough given a respectful hearing on her campus and a chance to engage students with serious, often-difficult and controversial ideas. That’s what higher education should be about.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    As an addendum, Prof. Yarbrough includes some of her favorite books on politics. A specialist in American political thought, she knows the field well and has written highly-regarded books on Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt. Her list is worth pondering–and pursuing.

    • Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War
    • Plato, Apology, Republic, Gorgias, Symposium, Laws
    • Aristotle, Politics, Rhetoric, and Nicomachean Ethics
    • Locke, Second Treatise of Government
    • Rousseau, Second Discourse, Emile
    • Tocqueville, Democracy in America
    • Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
    • The Federalist Papers
    • Abraham Lincoln’s writings
    • Hannah Arendt, On Revolution and The Human Condition
    • Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History and his Selected Essays
    • Harvey Mansfield, Taming the Prince
    • Harry Jaffa, Crisis of the House Divided

    Comment: If you read these books–and only these–you would have an unsurpassed education in political thought.

  • Berkeley: A Feckless Administration Caves, in advance, to the Heckler’s Veto

    Why not free speech at colleges?

    The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has the story here.

    Since [the riots protesting a planned but cancelled speech by Milo Yiannopoulo], the Berkeley College Republicans’ property has been destroyed, the group cancelled a speech by conservative activist and Berkeley alumnus David Horowitz after the administration threw up numerous roadblocks, and now it has been told that conservative commentator Ann Coulter may not speak as planned due to the danger posed by potentially violent protesters.

    This is a chilling and dangerous precedent. –FIRE

    FIRE has it exactly right, as usual. They are a politically-neutral organization that supports free speech and does more than any organization to promote it.

    Hecklers should never receive a veto. NEVER.

    At Berkeley, the hecklers and rioters not only have a veto, they have established an effective deterrent threat. They can merely threaten to go berserk and prevent speech they oppose.

    The rights (and limitations) surrounding the First Amendment should apply fully on campuses, even at, gasp, the University of California, Berkeley.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    The three keys:

    1. Universities need to state strong free speech principles. Those are essential, and it is essential to state them without weasel words. But even the best principles are not enough. Berkeley falsely stated its commitment to free speech in cancelling speeches.
    2. Universities need to enforce those on the ground through its deans and safety officers
    3. Students and outsiders who violate those rules need to face sure and serious punishments.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    To see the right example, look at Purdue, Chicago, or others. I have some positive examples and a wonderful video here. And remember…

  • A WONDERFUL video on the value of free speech at universities

    The University of Chicago doesn’t hide its defense of free speech and open discourse in the footnotes. It puts free speech front and center, in a video directed at all students thinking of applying to the University. It states our university values forthrightly, explains why they matter, and shows that we have held them since the university was founded, sometimes against rich and powerful opposition.

    What’s amazing–and disheartening–is that these same values are not adopted by every college and university. What’s their principled objection to diversity of thought and free speech?

    A few may have such principled objections, based on their notions of “social justice.” They know what is socially just; they know what is not; and they know the whole topic is just too important to debate. So, they reason, agree with us or at least have the courtesy to keep quiet.

    DePaul is like that. It took away the students’ chalk last year after someone had the temerity to write “Trump 2016” on a sidewalk. This Catholic school banned a poster, “Unborn Lives Matter,” for fear it would upset black students. There’s more robust debate on the back of a cereal box.

    But most university administrators have no principled objections to free speech. They just go with the flow, unwilling to face the opposition from students and faculty that would greet them if they urged a hearing for unpopular viewpoints.

    The poster boy for this invertebrate position is Peter Salovey, president of Yale. It’s bad enough he fails to defend free speech. He goes further, patting himself on the back for supporting the First Amendment. “Lux et Veritas” may be the university motto, but only if the lux is environmentally-friendly and the veritas is approved by local truth squad. Otherwise, not so much.

    Salovey’s stance is similar to most college administrators. They simply do what successful career bureaucrats always do: protect their positions and that of their institutions from any controversy. That may keep the campus quiet, but is that really the highest goal of education?

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    I’m reluctant to post too much about my own university, despite my great admiration for its intellectual traditions and commitment to free speech.

    It seems too much like preening.

    (CAVEAT: Even at Chicago, there are some departments and centers that fall well short of the aspiration of diverse viewpoints. They are the same ones that rot and stink in the sun on all campuses.

    There are also student groups that are happy to stomp out speech with which they disagree. The misnamed “Students for Justice in Palestine” leads this vile pack, as they do on many campuses. They show no signs of accepting John Locke’s 1689 “Letter Concerning on Toleration,” or the Enlightenment ideals that build upon it and serve as this country’s foundation.

    Even with these gaps and missteps, Chicago’s values in principle and in practice are far better than at places like Swarthmore, Yale, or Berkeley, where free speech and discordant views go to die. They are buried in unmarked graves, unmourned by students who fritter away hard-won constitutional freedoms so they can signal their higher virtue.)

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    This University of Chicago video is exactly what all schools should be saying to their prospective students. The punchline comes in the first 3 minutes, but the whole 10 minutes are worth watching.

    Kudos to the university’s faculty and administrators who put free speech and diversity of ideas front and center. Kudos to the Dean of the College and the admissions department for underscoring these principled commitments.

    Kudos, too, for adopting the informal motto: 

    Audiatur et Altera Pars: Listen Even to the Other Side.

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, April 15

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     North Korea displays new missiles but holds off another nuclear test (Washington Post)

    Comment: The situation is incredibly dangerous. North Korea’s leader is not only bellicose. He may well be mentally unstable. No one is sure.

    South Korea’s capital and largest city, Seoul, is very close to the DMZ, and very vulnerable to attack–including a nuclear attack by Pyongyang.

    China could put the squeeze on North Korea, but that does not mean it has control over the Kim regime’s actions. Beijing knows that China’s population is also threatened by North Korean weapons and that the two countries have a complicated, sometimes fraught history.

    My hunch is that Beijing would prefer to engineer a change of leadership that is friendly to China, less bellicose, and willing to pursue a Chinese-style market opening. But trying to achieve that is very risky.

     Good news on free speech at one college, Wichita State They tried hard to do the wrong thing, but they eventually got it right.

    An embattled student group at Wichita State University is finally free to engage in on-campus activism as a registered student organization. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the Wichita State University Student Government overturned the Student Government Association’s unconstitutional decision to deny recognition to Young Americans for Liberty, a libertarian student group, because of the group’s belief in First Amendment principles. –FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

    Comment: If you support free speech and don’t already know about FIRE, you’ll be happy to learn about it. It is truly even-handed, defending right and left alike.

     Related Story: Meanwhile, at Wellesley, a very selective liberal arts college, the student newspaper writes:

    Wellesley is certainly not a place for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or any other type of discriminatory speech. Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech. (The Wellesley News via HotAir)

    These students actually say that the “Founding Fathers” (a phrase that must stick in their craw) “put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised . . . [and] suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.”

    Comment: The First Amendment does not mean “anything is acceptable.” As everyone knows, you cannot yell fire falsely in a crowded theater. Nor can you take a bullhorn and wake up the whole neighborhood at 3 am with your rendition of “I did it my way.” There are, in other words, some legal restrictions on the time, place, and conditions for speech. There are legal remedies for “damaging” speech, if it is false and defamatory (and perhaps known to be false when uttered).

    But for Wellesley students to actually defend their speech suppression as being true to the First Amendment is either disingenuous or historically clueless. Either way, it is wrong. 

     Two data-driven opinion pieces on wealth disparities between blacks and whites with college degrees

    Comment: The disparity is troubling and thoughtful, open-minded discussion is valuable.

    Going back to the previous two stories: this kind of discussion is much harder to have on campuses where everyone walks on eggshells, fearing a wrong word might offend.

     How deep is the Clinton camp’s denial?

    Well, Hillary’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, told a Yale audience “Ukraine and the horrible ISIS beheadings” were “sort of manufactured press stories” (Daily Caller)

    There were the obvious crazy things happening like the website melting down, Ukraine, and the horrible ISIS beheadings; these sort of manufactured press stories that hopefully you all have forgotten about. –Daily Caller

    Comment: Those manufactured stories were nothing compared to that fake moon landing.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Many thanks to Christopher Buckley for the Wellesley story

     

  • Drowning in politically-correct language

     Quick tip on how to spot a university drowning in politically-correct ideology:

    ⇒ Your daughter’s acceptance letter calls her “they” so the school can avoid a gender-specific pronoun

    No surprise here, the school is Brown. (James Freeman in the Wall Street Journal)

    Other schools may be equally PC, but none tops good ole Brown. No, siree.

    There were labor camps in the Cultural Revolution that had more robust political differences.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Comment: Even tough-minded universities have succumbed. Alas.

    At the University of Chicago, where the Dean of Students sent out the famous “no safe spaces here” letter to incoming students, some Deans end their emails with a standard signature that explains “my preferred pronouns.”

    The last one I received was from a person named Stephanie, and I was shocked to discover her preferred pronouns are “she, her,” and . . . wait for it, yes . . . “hers.” That’s right. These administrators think you are so dumb, so clueless you need to be told the correct possessive. 

    Why? First, they are probably trying to show how oh-so-sensitive they are to people who are “gender fluid” and who, as a personal preference, use other pronouns. I am happy for folks to use whatever pronouns they want. Honestly. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. So, why not simply let them include that “preferred pronoun” thingy in their letters, without everyone else having to follow them like lemmings? Because, of course, it is crucial to display how sensitive and politically correct you are. Or, perhaps you simply fear your “sensitive” boss, who effectively demands conformity from underlings. That is an all-too-familiar type on campus: sensitive-but-tyrannical.

    Another group that might want to include preferred pronouns are people with names from other languages. Since I don’t speak Chinese, I wouldn’t know “Bojing” was male, “Bingwen” female. Again, if they want to include their preferred pronouns, that’s fine. In fact, I would find it helpful. 

    But don’t make everyone do it to display how earnest and sensitive they are.

    My name is Charles, and I’m going to make a wild assumption here that I don’t need to tell you  I prefer the pronouns “he, him, and his.” 

    As a special bonus, I won’t assume you are such a dunderhead that I prefer the pronoun “he.” An odd choice, I know.

    I will also assume that, knowing I’m a “he,” I gonna go with “him” and “his.”

    But I fervantly hope, dear reader, you could have figured that out on your own.

    Even if you went to Brown.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Thanks to James Freeman for the article and David Herro for sharing it  

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, April 13

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     US-Russia: “Candid discussions,” as the diplomats say. The rest of us say: “frosty”

    • Sec. of State Tillerson and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, hold a chilly press conference.
    • Pres. Trump shrewdly holds a press conference with NATO head at the same time

    NYT headline: U.S. Takes Sharper Tone on Russia’s Role in Syria

    President Trump and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson sought on Wednesday to isolate President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for backing the Syrian government in the wake of its lethal chemical weapons attack on civilians, and worked to build international pressure on Moscow to change course.

    In Washington, Moscow and New York, the Trump administration publicly chastised Mr. Putin but privately worked to hash out increasingly bitter differences with him. At the same time, Mr. Trump embraced NATO — a military alliance he had previously derided as obsolete — as an effective and vital force for peace and security in a region where Russia has been an aggressive actor. –New York Times

    Comment: Right now, the issue is Syria, but tomorrow it could be Ukraine or the Baltics. There is a full plate of differences and, despite Russia’s high hopes that Trump would be a friendly patsy, he has been tougher than Obama (though not necessarily tougher than Hillary would have been). As Tillerson say today, relations are at a low point, and that’s a dangerous thing when both are bristling with nuclear weapons.

     Melania Trump, defamed by British tabloid, takes them to the cleaners. The UK’s Daily Mail pays her big money and issues an apology.Here’s what a fair headline looks like: Melania Trump wins damages from Daily Mail over ‘escort’ allegation (BBC)

    Now, watch here’s the Washington Post‘s effort to deny Melania won: Melania Trump settles lawsuits with Daily Mail.

    That headline actively avoids giving readers the story, which they could have done by using the words: “Melania Trump triumphs in lawsuit with Daily Mail”

     Today in WTF: Cursing banned at Philadelphia construction site

    The site is at Temple University, where students apparently need a lot of protection. (Fox News)

    Comment: Of course, they mostly need protection getting back and forth to school in that neighborhood. But I digress. Philadelphia is actually best known as the city that actually booed Santa Claus. (True.)

     CNN doubles down on its attack angle: Trump’s people colluded with Russia.

    Today’s CNN headline: “The Russia story just keeps getting worse for President Trump” (CNN)

    Comment: I watched some of Don Lemon’s show tonight. He had on several guests, but it was a charade. 

    The network plans to continue until an airplane is lost at sea. That always struck me as odd because airports are the main venue for CNN.

     Two men from Zion, Illinois, charged with giving support to terrorist Islamic State. (Chicago Tribune)

    Comment: Odd choice for Zionists.

     Three Steps to Making Solar Power More Efficient (Edgy Labs) Two banal, one wrong.

    1. Put solar power into the grid instead of storing it
    2. Improve the cells’ efficiency
    3. Create practical infrastructure for solar

    Comment: The last two qualify as “well, d’uh.”

    And the first one seems wrong. We do want to put it into the grid, of course, but it is intermittent so we need better storage.

    What’s right about the article is that solar installation costs are falling and greater use would reduce pollution. 

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • Today in college crazies: Just having Chick-fil-A on campus makes students feel unsafe

    Hey, think about the chickens. They are ones who should feel unsafe.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Students at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne Univ. “fear for the safety” of fellow students because Chick-fil-A might be another dining option next year (Campus Reform)

    Analysis: The chain operates completely fairly and lawfully. No unfair or discriminatory practices. None.

    Anyone can be hired there, regardless of sexual orientation, race, gender, religion, etc.

    Anyone can step up to the counter and order a chicken sandwich. No surprise questions about your personal characteristics.

    So, what makes the Duquesne students, as opposed to the local chickens, run around with their heads cut off?

    Answer: The chain’s devout founder personally opposes gay marriage.

    So, obviously, total panic among students is understandable.

    Actually, this is virtue signalling so blatant a peacock would blush. It is merely posing as a “safety” issue.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, April 4

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     St. Petersburg, Russia hit by deadly Islamacist terrorist attack, probably retaliation for Russian action in Syria. (Washington Post)

    At least 11 dead, 30+ injured.

    No one has claimed responsibility yet, but everyone suspects Islamic terrorists associated with the fighting in Syria.

    A crackdown by Putin is certain.

     Democrats have enough votes to filibuster Gorsuch. (New York Times)

    Comment: Mitch McConnell won’t let it prevent Gorsuch’s confirmation. For D’s in purple and red states, this opposition is perilous. Their base loves it, their donors love it, but the general public does not.

     President of Northern Arizona Univ. rejects idea of “safe spaces.” Students now demand her resignation.  (Heat Street)

    Rita Cheng had the courage to tell students they had to confront ideas they don’t like.

    Comment: Well, they didn’t like that idea.

     White House says mainstream media not showing interest in Obama-era spying (Washington Post)

    Comment: Absolutely right. In a separate post (here), I show screenshots from CNN, NYT, and WaPo that completely ignored the revelations about Susan Rice on Monday.  That’s worse than spin. 

     CNN’s chief national security correspondent say Susan Rice story is a “distraction” that the Trump Administration “ginned up” (Daily Caller)

    Comment: CNN is the name of a former news organization

     Odd, new job titles: “Sales Enablement Associate” Yes, someone just emailed me with that title.

    Comment: Like all right-thinking people at universities, I object to Enableism.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦