• Chinese Censorship of Cambridge University Press, which Caves In to Pressure

    Cambridge University Press is the oldest publishing house in the world–it was chartered by Henry VIII in 1534–and is one of the most distinguished.

    Like many academic presses, they publish some prominent academic journals, including several that deal with China.

    The last thing China wants to see is its own people reading critical, outside views of their country.

    So, like all dictatorships, Beijing has told CUP to cut it out–and made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. Or, rather, an offer they didn’t refuse, though such a refusal would have been the only way to maintain their scholarly integrity.

    There is an ironic twist. The “banned list” (available here) is now a go-to list for critical articles, a familiar story for all lists of banned articles and books.

    Still, this caving to dictatorial pressure is shameful and contradicts the basic purpose of a university and its scholarly press.

    Here’s the story in a post:

     

     

  • Censoring those statues: When YOU do it, you are an uncultured redneck. When I do it, I am respecting diversity

    If you have a long memory, you might recall George W. Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft deciding to change the backdrop at the Department of Justice.

    Initially, when he held press conferences, he stood in front of the Department’s half-nude, art deco statue, “Spirit of Justice.”

    He preferred a more modest, less distracting backdrop, so he had blue curtains installed.

    It seemed a little silly, but harmless enough.

    The national media had a field day mocking him as a cultural cretin.

    “What kind of backwoods idiot is he?” was the view in Manhattan, Cambridge, and the swankier sections of Washington. They deigned to look down their collective noses at him and his kind of people, much as they laughed at Victorians who covered up piano “legs.”

    Typical were the views of always-grating Maureen Dowd (link here):

    A Blue Burka for Justice

    By Maureen Dowd

    New York Times, January 30, 2002

    I had to call Attorney General John Ashcroft recently to ask if he had instructed his advance team to remove naked lady statues and calico cats from his vicinity because they were wicked.

    I know it sounds loopy. But with these guys, you never know. –NYT

    Yuck, yuck, yuck!! Those rubes.

    (Btw, Dowd’s column is not an example of newspaper bias, IMO. You can agree or disagree with her, but she is writing an opinion column, and it is clearly labeled as such. The Times’ problem with bias is not that its opinion columns tilt one way but that its editorial opinions suffuse its hard-news coverage.)

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    Now, the tables have turned, and I await the mockery from the NYT, the Post, and others.

    I suspect I’ll have a long wait.

    Here’s the story:

    Yale University censors ‘hostile’ historic artwork (Link here)

    Officials at Yale University recently censored a stone work of art on campus depicting an armed Native American and Puritan side by side, which has been described as a “hostile” image by the Ivy League institution’s alumni magazine.

    The stone carving was edited to cover up the Puritan’s musket, while the Native American’s bow was left as is, reports Yale Alumni Magazine (link here).

    The decision to censor the carving was made by both head librarian Susan Gibbons and Yale’s Committee on Art in Public Spaces, the latter of which advises President Peter Salovey “on ways to better represent the diversity of the Yale community through the art and other symbolic representations found around campus,” according to the university’s website. –The College Fix, referencing Yale Alumni Magazine

    Did anybody complain or even notice the shocking musket? Nope, no record of any complaints.

    Is Yale unique in such censorship? Alas, no.

    A number of universities in recent years have censored or concealed art on campus. Earlier this year, Pepperdine University removed a Christopher Columbus statue from its grounds while late last summer the University of Wisconsin-Stout moved a painting of Native Americans and French frontier trappers from a public area to a private conference room. The art in these two cases was deemed “painful” and “harmful,” respectively. –College Fix

    I just hope the New York Times doesn’t find out. Surely they will be outraged at this artistic censorship.

    Yeah, sure.

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    Comments:

    1. It is not unexpected that Yale would censor anything it considers politically incorrect. That’s its standard practice today.
      • It encourages the same kind of robust diversity of political opinion you find on the back of a cereal box.
      • Yale sets standards for free and open discourse Google can only aspire to.
    2. Judging from Yale’s abject behavior, and the lack of public criticism, John Ashcroft should have tried a different spin. He should have said the magic words, “This statue is offensive to the vital cause of female equality in the workplace.”
    3. I look forward to Maureen Dowd, New York Times, WaPo, and others attacking Yale’s censorship. So far, crickets.
    4. My own comment, as an alum is simple
      • Free Speech at universities is the most important issue in higher education today.
      • Yale doesn’t just fail on this issue. Under Pres. Peter Salovey and his administration, it sets the gold standard for politically-correct suppression of speech, all in the name of social justice. It is, I’m afraid, a standard made of fools’ gold.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, August 7

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    China tells North Korea to “be smart” and stop testing its missiles and nuclear devices (Washington Post)

    US Sec. of State Rex Tillerson held out the possibility of direct talks with North Korea “when conditions are right.”

    China delivered frank advice to North Korea, its outcast neighbor, telling Pyongyang to make a “smart decision” and stop conducting missile launches and nuclear tests.

    The statement by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi came on the heels of a U.N. Security Council decision to impose additional sanctions on North Korea and its exports, and it suggested that the American push to further isolate the regime of Kim Jong Un is reaping some dividends. But Wang also called on the United States to dial back the tension. –Washington Post

    Comment: If North Korea continues to test after China’s open statement, Xi and his government will lose face and be forced to react. Still, my guess is that China won’t put harsh pressure on North Korea because it fears the regime’s collapse. The only calculation that will change that? If Beijing thinks Japan could go nuclear or that the US will take military action.

    Baltimore’s community leaders proposed a “weekend without killing.” The city made it til Saturday night (Hot Air)

    Baltimore is on-track for another near-record number of killings this year.

    Unfortunately, the group organizing the ceasefire took to their social media pages to decry the violence but somehow couldn’t resist the temptation to spread the blame around a bit too far.

    “There is a war going on in Baltimore right now. We are experiencing genocide among our African-American males, both by the hands of the Police Department and from one another.” –quoted in Hot Air

    Baltimore’s City Paper reports 205 murders (as of August 2, 2017), about one per day.

    Hot Air’s reporter found only one involved a police shooting.

    And that guy was holding a foot-long knife to the throats of a one year old and a four year old when negotiations finally broke down and the cops took him out. –Hot Air

    Comment:  So, does the statement about a “genocide” by the police look accurate–or like blame-shifting or even incitement? Not a difficult call.

    University of Southern California in midst of a nasty scandal (Los Angeles Times)

    The case [involves] former medical school dean Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito. The [LA] Times reported last month that Puliafito, while leading USC’s Keck School of Medicine, partied with a circle of addicts, prostitutes and other criminals who said he used drugs with them, including on campus.

    The problem is compounded by the fact Puliafito’s behavior had been a subject of controversy for some time, as this headline indicates:

    Complaints of Drinking, Abusive Behavior Dogged USC Medical School Dean for Years–KTLA

    USC had reappointed Puliafito after those complaints five years ago, raising questions about the school’s administrative oversight.

    Entrenched poverty tough to shake in the Mississippi Delta (ABC News)

    Otibehia Allen is a single mother who lives in a rented mobile home in the same isolated, poor community where she grew up among the cotton and soybean fields of the Mississippi Delta.

    During a summer that feels like a sauna, the trailer’s air conditioner has conked out. Some nights, Allen and her five children find cooler accommodations with friends and relatives.

    Comment: The story is about Jonestown, Mississippi, about 15 miles from my hometown of Marks. The poverty in these small towns is grinding, and lives are hard. Otibehia Allen’s life, as it is described in the story, sounds like a modern version of Dickensian poverty.

    But there is something missing from the story, which focuses entirely on poverty, the Great Society programs, and the promises of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

    There is no interest at all in three “elephants in the room.”

    1. Why on earth would a 32-year-old single woman have five children? How can even the best-hearted parent hope to give them the guidance and support they need?
      • Who could manage that, even with lots of money? With hardly any money, how can even the most loving mother give these children the attention and direction they need?
      • Yet having five kids–and beginning to have them as a teenager–is simply taken as a “given” in this article. Nobody seems to be responsible for it. People are just victims.
    2. Why are things in our poorest communities is such bad shape all over the country after five decades of big-government programs designed in Washington to deal specifically with poverty, crime, unemployment, and poor education? The article doesn’t bother asking.
      • That question needs asking because these problems are as pervasive in Detroit as in the Delta. (See the article on Baltimore above).
    3. As heart-wrenching as stories about the Delta or Appalachia are, shouldn’t we be focused on getting people to adapt to a changing environment, to move to where jobs are growing, and to get the skills they need for those jobs?
      • Of course, it would be great if the jobs came to where people already lived. But that’s magical thinking. Gary, Indiana, was built when steel was produced in giant mills. The Mississippi Delta was populated when small farms needed lots of agricultural workers, and they needed to live near the farms because transportation was so bad. If cities can transform their economic base, as Pittsburgh and Chicago have, that’s great. But our focus needs to be on people, not places.
      • Unfortunately, nobody with five kids can move easily. Nobody who starts having multiple kids as a teenager is going to gain many job skills after that. It’s hard to even imagine solutions for people in these terrible situations.

    Please don’t mistake these tough questions for a hard heart. That poor mother and her five children deserve our sympathy. The kids, in particular, deserve our support, all the more so because it is hard to see how they can avoid being trapped themselves.

    But a sympathetic heart doesn’t mean a soft head. It doesn’t imply that well-intentioned policies lead to good results. They might. They might not.

    In America’s poorest areas, things will not get better by repeating the same failed policies, by refusing to confront the cycle of generation-after-generation remaining poor and uneducated, and then well-meaning people strutting with pride over how much we care.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, August 3

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Trump proposes new immigration bill; uses point-based system to favor those with high skills; will cut total legal immigration in half (ABC News)

    The bill aims to prioritize workers’ skills over family ties, and amounts to the “most significant reform to our immigration system in half a century,” Trump said. The goal of the bill would be to knock down the number of legal immigrants admitted into the U.S. each year from about 1 million to 500,000 by 2027.

    The RAISE bill would cut out the four-tiered family immigration category for green cards, paving way for a new merit-based system that prioritizes high-skilled workers who have a high level of English and “entrepreneurial initiative.” –ABC News

    Comment: The two central elements of the bill are inherently separable. Shifting to a merit-based system does not entail raising or lowering the number of people legally admitted. If lower-skilled workers are still needed for some jobs, then an amendment could admit them on a temporary basis–but only if there was some tough measures to ensure they left after that period. Right now, there aren’t.

    Bipartisan support? Not a chance. The Democrats are already lining up to say how racist it is. It isn’t.

    What’s interesting is that the cutbacks will clear bolster employment opportunities and wages for lower-income Americans–precisely the people Democrats claim they want to help. Unfortunately for Democrats, it cuts into Hispanic immigration, or, to put it differently, into the Identity Politics that is now the true heart of the party. Forced to choose between Identity Politics and Lower-income workers (including many blacks and Hispanics), the Democrats are going with Identity.

    Interesting question: will African-American Democrats go along? My bet is that they will, but that they will try to keep a low profile to avoid attention from their voters (who will be harmed). Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders will say, “If blacks and Hispanic members split on this, we’ll lose our leverage.”

    Actually, they don’t have any leverage. The real leverage will come from the US Chamber of Commerce, and it will be on Republicans, some of whom will cave.

    ⇒ Followup: What Did the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) leaders say today? Crickets

    I checked the Twitter feeds for these officers of the CBC:

    None tweeting anything about the immigration proposal. Most of the other members, even the most voluble, such as Maxine Waters, maintained twitter silence on immigration.

    Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee was the only prominent CBC member I found who weighed in. Her tweet lays out the likely response of African-American Democrats: We hate Trump, so we hate his immigration bill.

     Venice “Invaded by Tourists, Risks Becoming ‘Disneyland on the Sea’” (New York Times)

    Comment:

    • It’s true, but what’s new? Mainly increasing numbers of “day trippers” and stops by large cruise boats.
    • Venice has earned its living from tourists like these for about 400 years. Nothing new here. Nobody’s rowing ships to the Ottoman Empire anymore.
    • The solution is easy: charge day trippers to come during peak months. You see, NYT, it would work sort of like you charging more for the Sunday paper. . .
    • The more difficult problem is rising sea levels, which now flood Venetian streets and squares with depressing regularity.

     Without exactly apologizing for a misleading story, the NYT now says that the DOJ is focusing on discrimination against Asian-Americans by affirmative action programs (New York Times)

    The NYT also reports on the Asian-American lawsuit against Harvard. Harvard is not alone; there are similar suits pending against Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and Penn.

    Comment: It is blindingly obvious, at least to me, that these universities discriminate against Asian-Americans. Just look at their percentages (15-25%), compared to about 50% at Berkeley, which is legally prohibited from such discrimination–and would have a hard time doing it politically in California. Granted, California has more Asian-Americans, but the proportions at the Ivies are out of whack.

    My guess is that the admissions departments say what they did about Jews 60 years ago: “We just have too many of these students who score 800 in math, 700 in verbal, and play the violin. They just aren’t ‘well-rounded.’ ” No matter that these students’ parents, like Jewish parents of an earlier generation, had modest incomes, encouraged their bright kids to study hard, and then watched as Harvard and Princeton smacked them down for far less-qualified students.

    The only argument in Harvard’s favor is one they would never use: we are a private university and, until the government nationalizes us, we can set our own damned admissions standards, even if you think they are unfair.

    The government’s response, “Hey, buddy, nice genetic research program you got there. Hate to see all the money taken away from it.” That, of course, is how the government enforces its Title IX rules on athletic programs.

     NAACP issues travel advisory, warning blacks it is dangerous for them to travel to Missouri  (The Root)

    State NAACP leaders told the [Kansas City] Star that the decision to issue the advisory was made after recent legislation passed in the state which makes it harder to win discrimination suits, the longtime and continued racial disparities in traffic enforcement, and a number of incidents that exemplify harm coming to both minority residents and minority visitors to the state. –The Root

     White House finally admits those calls to Trump from the Boy Scouts and President of Mexico didn’t actually happen (New York Times)

    Comment: If only we had a cliché to describe that thing when somebody says something he knows is not true, and then does it over and over.

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  • VERY good news on university free speech: Honoring student Matt Foldi

    The national organization that does the best job promoting free speech is FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. It is tenacious in fighting for students’ and faculty rights to speak freely and to listen to varied viewpoints.

    This year they have selected three outstanding undergraduates for their “remarkable dedication to advocacy . . . to protect free expression and due process in higher education.”

    One, Brittany Wilson, is from UNC-Charlotte.

    Another, Natalie Bao Tram Le, is from Harvard.

    And one is my friend and former student, Matt Foldi, at the University of Chicago.

    Here’s what they say about him (the whole article is here):

    Bravo, FIRE.

    Bravo, the University of Chicago, which is now in the forefront of supporting free speech, with the strong backing of students like Matt, faculty like Geoff Stone and Randy Picker, and administrators with backbone, including Pres. Bob Zimmer, Provost Dan Diermeier, Dean of the College John Boyer, and Dean of Students, John Ellison, whose letter to incoming students a year ago, clearly stating the university’s support for free-and-open discourse, stimulated a national conversation.

    And bravo to Matt, Brittany, and Natalie.

    Your fellow students don’t always know it, but you are really helping them to get a better education and a better platform to enter a world where people have different viewpoints–and need to learn how to engage each other intelligently. 

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, July 9

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

     Donald Trump, Jr., says he, Paul Manafort, and other campaign aides met with a Russian lawyer. The New York Times (here) and Washington Post (here) both play this as big news, but they don’t explain why. The Russian lawyer is connected to Putin’s circle, though it is not clear if Jr. or others knew. It was a brief meeting (20 minutes) and mostly raised the issue of resuming US adoptions in Russia.

    Comment: There are two reasons the meeting could be significant.

    First, Trump’s people had earlier denied any meetings at all. There was at least this one brief meeting.  Were there more? Did they go anywhere?

    Second, there is speculation (at the Daily Beast) the meeting was surreptitiously set up by a Democratic group, the Fusion GPS people. These are the fine folks who produced the dicey dossier on Trump. We don’t know a lot about Fusion GPS, including which Democrats paid for their services and why they were hired, but they seem to be part of an opposition research program. If that speculation pans out, then it looks like the Democrats were leading Trump’s people into a trap–not because anything really happened at the meeting but because the mere fact of a meeting with Russians looks bad in this increasingly anti-Russian environment.

    So far, a lotta would-a, could-a. Not much did-a, so far.

     ISIS, its “caliphate” in ruins, its capital of Raqqa about to fall, still inspires jihadis globally (New York Times)

    In Iraq, the group still controls Tal Afar, Hawija, other towns and much of Anbar Province. In Syria, most of its top operatives have fled Raqqa in the past six months for other towns still under ISIS control in the Euphrates River valley . . . .

    Many have relocated to Mayadeen, a town 110 miles southeast of Raqqa near oil facilities and with supply lines through the surrounding desert. They have taken with them the group’s most important recruiting, financing, propaganda and external operations functions, American officials said. Other leaders have been spirited out of Raqqa by a trusted network of aides. –New York Times

    Comment: About 18% of the ISIS-inspired attacks in Europe and North America involved fighters who returned from the battlefield. The other 82% were terrorists who had not been on the battlefield but were “inspired” by ISIS propaganda and radical imams, either in-person on online.

    Since these are typically low-tech attacks on soft targets, such as pedestrians on sidewalks, they are very hard to stop.

     The latest in aggie tech: farms inside shipping containers, using precise LEDs (Washington Post)

    Local Roots, a California company, has created an indoor farm that can turn any produce into local produce, anywhere. They grow fruits and vegetables in shipping containers that are stacked in old warehouses or parking lots, which can either be connected to the grid or, eventually, powered by solar energy. Local Roots has designed the custom growing technology and hardware, and it owns and operates the farms, selling its produce to restaurants and food distributors under its own brand. The fact that the company is vertically integrated differentiates it from other container farming systems. . . .

    Local Roots has figured out how to make the farm efficient enough that it can sell produce at a comparable cost to conventionally-grown fruits and veggies.

     Parental vetoes? Reports they are increasingly concerned about children attending universities with little tolerance for different ideas, little protection for free speech, and a uniform, “progressive” ideology (Inside Higher Ed)

    Comment: The parents are absolutely right. But the impact of the “parental veto” is probably exaggerated.

    There is no evidence that top schools like Brown are pinched–or intend to change. They still get the cream-of-the-SAT-crop and teach them to march in lock-step ideologically.

     Corrupt Illinois totters along: Passed the first budget in two years, huge tax increases, ZERO reforms  As the Chicago Tribune reports:

    Illinois’ bruising two-year run without a state budget is over, but business leaders are left feeling they got the short end of the stick: higher taxes with virtually none of the regulatory and political changes they sought.

    The $36.1 billion budget plan increases the corporate income tax rate to 7 percent from 5.25 percent and the personal rate to 4.95 percent from 3.75 percent. –Chicago Tribune

    Comment: The Democrats delivered for the public-sector unions and shafted taxpayers, once again. 

     This is real. I swear.

    Comment: It sounds eerily like the scene at the Star Wars bar.

     

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Ed Vidal
    for the article on parental vetoes of elite colleges
    ◆ Christina Sommers for VIDA survey

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, June 30

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

     Trump’s twitter fury, aimed at MSNBC’s Morning Joe and its hosts, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski

    The Washington Post headline says, quite accurately: ” Trump and ‘Morning Joe’: How a long and ugly feud just got even uglier

    Comments: 

    1. Yes, Scarborough and Brzezinski have said outrageous, hyperbolic, defamatory things about Donald Trump
      • Many other media outlets have done the same
      • Far more show consistent partisan bias, damaging their reputations, hurting the President, and eroding trust in media
    2. No, that is absolutely no excuse for the President of the United States to respond with noxious, personal attacks
      • Trump’s response would be objectionable, but not so different from many Twitter spats, if he were merely a private citizen
      • But he is not a private citizen and should not be held to those standards. As President, he is not only a political figure, he is the head of state. One requirement of that office is to maintain dignity and decorum consistent with the office.

    Politically, this is self-inflicted damage to Trump. Few approve it except for his most avid supporters. And it takes him off-message, at a time when Americans want results on healthcare and taxes.

    But the worse damage is to our public life and discourse, which had already sunk so low, and to trust in our institutions, which are crucial to our democracy.

     Far Different from the first time: “Trump travel ban takes effect to minimal disruption (Fox News)

    The revised order, which the US Supreme Court approved in part (with some aspects reserved for future decisions), covers 6 countries and does not block foreign individuals with strong personal ties to the US.

    A scaled-down version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban took effect at 8 p.m. ET Thursday, with none of the dramatic scenes of protest and chaos that greeted the original version of Trump’s executive order five months ago.

    The Departments of Homeland Security, State and Justice went ahead with the implementation after the Supreme Court partially restored the order earlier this week. –Fox News

    Comment on Media bias:

    The Fox report was straightforward. Others, not so much.

    It was almost impossible to find a news report that actually gave the news instead of an editorial. The news is that the revised ban went into effect, worked smoothly (so far), and met with only modest demonstrations at airports, far different from the bureaucratic mess and large demonstrations that surrounded the initial order.

    Kudos to the BBC for this neutral headline: “Trump travel ban comes into effect for six countries.”

    Bronx cheer for many others. CNN headline makes no mention of the smooth rollout and modest demonstrations. It does mention further court challenges, even though the main one will come in the autumn at SCOTUS. The challenges are from Democratic state AGs, such as Hawaii, and they mainly ask for clarification. A nothingburger.

    Most of the headlines looked like this. Others emphasized the demonstrations.

     

    Major legal victory: Jury decides US can seize a major Manhattan skyscraper, owned by Iran (New York Times)

    The jury . . . found that the Alavi Foundation, which owns 60 percent of the 36-floor skyscraper at 650 Fifth Avenue, violated United States sanctions against Iran and engaged in money laundering through its partnership with Assa Corporation, a shell company for an Iranian state-controlled bank that had owned the remaining 40 percent. . . .

    The [US] government has agreed to distribute proceeds from the building’s sale, which could bring as much as $1 billion, to the families of victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorist attacks, including the Sept. 11 attacks. –New York Times

    Comment: The same foundation has made donations to Columbia University (link here). The stench runs deep.

    ◆  Washington football team will remain the Redskins. Native American groups and DOJ drop lawsuit after Supreme Court ruling.  (Washington Post)

     Major lawsuit again San Francisco State University over its systematic anti-Semitism, including violent suppression of Jewish speakers, shouted curses, calls for an “intifada,” etc. The suit alleges the university administration was indifferent to repeated complains and actively protected the disrupters.  (Newsweek)

    The lawsuit has been filed by a pro bono organization, the Lawfare Project. The suit

    calls SFSU “among the worst of the worst offenders and is largely recognized as being among the most anti-Semitic campuses in the country.”

    The heckling of Barkat is one of several incidents that the suit argues contributed to an atmosphere hostile to Jewish students, one that was created with the alleged complicity of the school’s administrations. –Newsweek, reporting on Lawfare Project’s suit against SFSU

    Comment: Long overdue. The SFSU administration actually blamed the Israelis for one disruption against them, saying the only reason the mayor of Jerusalem (Nir Barkat) came to speak at SFSU was that he knew the Palestinians and the leftist allies at SFSU would riot to prevent it–and that’s just what Barkat wanted.

    So, this is the logic: the mayor of a large city comes to speak at your university; your students riot and prevent him; you blame the mayor; and then, after promising citizens the rioters would be punished, you do nothing at all.

    Those administrators should be held fully and personally accountable. Their next jobs should be flipping burgers until they are replaced by robots.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, June 25

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

    ◆ Speculation grows that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will announce his retirement.

    The current Court year ends Monday, and any announcement would come soon after.

    Kennedy is 80, was appointed by a Republican, and has served 29 years on the Court, recently as a crucial swing vote.

    There are several elderly Democrats on the court, but they want to hang on (if health permits) in hopes of another Democratic president.

    Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane, have lawyered up to defend against allegations of bank fraud(CBS)

    When Jane was president of Burlington (VT) College, she got big bank loans for an expansion project that ultimately failed and bankrupted the college.

    The investigation is (1) whether the loans were based on Jane’s false representations about the college’s fundraising and (2) whether Bernie used his office to pressure the bank to make the loan.

     The battle for post-ISIS Syria is shaping up

    The background: the Obama Administration did nothing in Syria and pulled out of Iraq, opening the door wide for Iran to control Baghdad and Damascus (the Assad government) and providing political space for ISIS to build its “caliphate” for Sunnis.

    The change: Trump dramatically altered US policy, and, under the leadership of Mattis at DOD and McMaster at NSC, the US has been taking the fight to ISIS.

    The result: Iran is closing in on ISIS from one direction, the US from the other.

    There are three big issues in this end-game:

    1. Will ISIS turn to move civilian attacks in Europe (and possibly America)?
    2. Will US and Iranian forces be able to avoid direct military confrontation as they converge on ISIS’ last strongholds
    3. Who controls what territory in post-ISIS Syria?

    An excellent primer on the emerging issues is Udi Dekel’s “East-West-North-South: The Race for Syria after the Islamic State” from the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS, Israel)

    The current race for control of territory in Syria now appears to be a competition between Iran and the United States, which have established two respective axes – with a vertical American (north-south) effort on the one hand, and a horizontal Iranian (east-west) effort on the other hand. In practice, this is another stage in the shaping of Syria in preparation for the day after the Islamic State. In the meantime, the country’s southwestern region, from Daraa to the Golan Heights, remains open for activity and influence by Israel and Jordan, which must begin taking action before it is too late. Contacts are apparently underway to formulate a joint Israeli-Jordanian-American strategy aimed at preventing Iranian influence and the presence of its proxies, especially Hezbollah and Shiite militias, in the southern Syria. –Udi Dekel

    ◆ Political correctness to stop free speech in Arkansas? Yep.

    But the University stepped in and did the right thing.

    The Univ. of Arkansas’ King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies decided to hold a symposium on honor killings.

    The Center’s director, a geosciences professor named Tom Paradise, included Prof. Phyllis Chesler (from CUNY) on one panel since she has published widely on the subject, arguing that scholars have underplayed the role of Islam in these killings.

    Three Arkansas professors raised holy hell about it, saying the could never “countenance” Chesler’s participation, even though it would simply be a Skype call.

    The Center caved and disinvited Chesler, according to an editorial in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

    Now, the University has done the right thing.

    They removed Prof. Paradise from the center’s leadership, saying “The decision to disinvite a participant for his or her views is not reflective of the values and practices of our institution.”

    Comment: The university did the right thing.

     Palestinians “disappointed” after “tense meeting” with Jared Kushner, Trump’s special emissary (The Hill)

    Key disagreement: US wants Palestinians to stop paying terrorists for killing Jews.

    Palestinian Authority likes paying them. Abbas told Trump it would stop and simply assumed the president knew he was lying.

    Trump held him to account.

    The PA has also been adamant about keeping incendiary, anti-Semitic materials in their school textbooks.

    The larger problems for Abbas: no succession lined up, and the Middle East is moving forward without them.

    Comment: My guess: Trump will look at Kushner’s report of the meetings and decide this is not a good time to push forward with negotiations.

    Trump has always understood something about these negotiations that most presidents don’t: the US can help if both parties want an agreement. But it cannot force an agreement on parties that don’t want one and aren’t prepared to make serious concessions.

     Oklahoma doctor prescribed so many painkillers, she’s being charged with murder in one patient’s death  (Washington Post)

    The patient, Sheila Bartels, received

    what drug addicts call “the holy trinity” of prescription drugs: the powerful painkiller Hydrocodone, the anti-anxiety medication Xanax and a muscle relaxant known as Soma.

    In total, pharmacists handed her 510 pills that day — all legal, because she had a prescription with the signature of her doctor, Regan Ganoung Nichols, scrawled at the bottom, according to a probable cause affidavit. –Washington Post

    Comment: Cracking down on excessive prescriptions is crucial in this fight.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Sam Stubbs
     for the Sanders bank fraud story
    ◆ Gregg Roman for the University of Arkansas speech-suppression story