• ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, March 10

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     “Scientists Closer to Creating a Fully Synthetic Yeast Genome” (NPR)

    An international research consortium reports Thursday that it has figured out an efficient method for synthesizing a substantial part of the genetic code of yeast. . . .

    The milestone is the latest development in the intensifying quest to create living, complex organisms from scratch in the lab. This group previously reported it had completely synthesized one of yeast’s 16 chromosomes, which are the molecular structures that carry all of an organism’s genes. –NPR

    Comment: THIS IS ASTOUNDING.

     South Korean president removed from office after impeachment by parliament is upheld by Constitutional Court

    New elections to replace Park Geun-hye must be held within 60 days. The leader, far and away, is a leftist who wants to pursue more accommodation with North Korea and might well ask the US to remove its newly arrived anti-missile system. (Washington Post)

    Comment: Beijing and Pyongyang would welcome such an appeasement policy toward the increasingly aggressive and erratic regime in North Korea. Indeed, Chinese pressure on Seoul to do just that has been ratcheting up.

     Students at Wellesley College: Transgender Woman Can’t Be Diversity Officer Because She’s a White Man Now (National Review Online)

    Timothy Boatwright was born a girl, and checked off the “female” box when applying to the Massachusetts all-women’s school, according to an article in the New York Times.

    But when he got there, he introduced himself as a “masculine-of-center genderqueer” person named “Timothy” (the name he picked for himself) and asked them to use male pronouns when referring to him.

    And, by all accounts, Boatwright felt welcome on campus — until the day he announced that he wanted to run for the school’s office of multicultural affairs coordinator, whose job is to promote a “culture of diversity” on campus.  –National Review Online

    Comment: You have to watch with fascination the world of “diversity politics” when Wellesley students reject–as insufficiently diverse–what could be planet earth’s only self-identified female who uses the descriptor, “masculine-of-center genderqueer.” 

    At Wellesley’s diversity carnival, the prime attraction seems to be an ancient mythical symbol, the Ouroboros. This serpent is eating its own tail.

     More evidence for those who think the end is near:
    “Toxic wild boars reportedly stalk Fukushima residents”
      (Fox News)

    Hundreds of boars carrying highly radioactive material are reportedly stalking residents hoping the Japanese town of Fukushima six years after the meltdown of the nuclear plant. –Fox News

     NYT: “After halting start, Trump plunges into Effort to Repeal Health Law”  (New York Times)

    There are East Room meetings, evening dinners and sumptuous lunches — even a White House bowling soiree. Mr. Trump is deploying the salesman tactics he sharpened over several decades in New York real estate. His pitch: He is fully behind the bill to scotch President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, but he is open to negotiations on the details. –New York Times

     

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ A friend who forwarded the Wellesley story
     

     

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Tuesday, February 7

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Conrad Black op-ed: “Struggle for America’s Heart Is Erupting on a Scale Unseen Since the Civil War (New York Sun)

    This battle will continue to escalate. The Democrats have promised scorched earth . . . . ” [They] are trying to sandbag Mr. Trump’s Cabinet nominees, especially those who have promised to promote charter schools, crack down on the abuses of labor organizations, strip all the bunk about global warming out of environmental policy, promote oil and gas production, incentivize job-creating economic growth, reform health care, and reactivate the Justice Department. The Democrats will probably not be able to stop confirmation of his Cabinet nominees, but he will have to engage in some degree of cajolery from the driver’s seat of the Trump bulldozer to get his program through.

    The level of antagonism of his opponents is obvious almost every day, and is not unrequited by the president and his supporters. . . . 

    Against such witless and compulsive animus, the president and his supporters should prevail, but he might like to be more careful and have occasional recourse to subtlety. The reason the country appears so divided is that it is divided. About half the country thinks the entire power structure is flabby, corrupt, and useless; and the other half, including the serried ranks of its members, think it is adequate to commendable and that it has been assaulted by a maniacal demagogue. Most of the Trump program will work if he can enact it, and then he will have his honeymoon.

    We are witnessing a struggle for the heart and mind of America, and for the apparatus of its government, on a scale that has not been seen since the Civil War. –Conrad Black

     “Berkeley, Identity Politics, and the Progressive Assault on Campus Free Speech,” an opinion piece by Richard Cravatts (Times of Israel)

    Of the many intellectual perversions currently taking root on college campuses, perhaps none is more contradictory to what should be one of higher education’s core values than the suppression of free speech. With alarming regularity, speakers are shouted down, booed, jeered, and barraged with vitriol, all at the hands of progressive groups who give lip service to the notion of academic free speech, and who demand it when their own speech is at issue, but have no interest in listening to, or letting others listen to, ideas that contradict their own world view. –Richard Cravatts

    Cravatts is particularly critical of a “on the one hand, on the other hand” letter sent out by Cal-Berkeley’s chancellor.

     One of those amazing personal stories of Cold War spies (New York Times) The story is told in the obituary of a CIA officer, John Platt.

    John C. Platt, a Central Intelligence Agency officer who forged a remarkable and secret friendship with a Soviet K.G.B. agent in the midst of the Cold War, only to see their friendship betrayed by a Russian mole inside the C.I.A., died on Jan. 4 at his home in Potomac Falls, Va. He was 80.

    Mr. Platt, who was known as Jack, was a gruff former Marine officer who for years ran a training program in Washington to teach C.I.A. case officers how to operate under cover. But he was best known in the spy world for his longtime friendship with Gennadiy Vasilenko, a K.G.B. officer whose betrayal by Aldrich Ames, the Soviet mole at the C.I.A., led to Mr. Vasilenko’s imprisonment in Moscow. …

    Even as they developed a friendship, Mr. Platt kept trying to recruit Mr. Vasilenko to become an American spy, but Mr. Vasilenko always rebuffed him.

    “I never stopped trying to recruit him,” Mr. Platt said in 1997. “But he never crossed the line.”  –New York Times

     “What Steve Bannon Really Wants”  (Quartz) The article is a personal profile–and an interesting one.

    Bannon’s political philosophy boils down to three things that a Western country, and America in particular, needs to be successful: Capitalism, nationalism, and “Judeo-Christian values.” These are all deeply related, and essential.

    America, says Bannon, is suffering a “crisis of capitalism.” (He uses the word “crisis” a lot—more on that later.) Capitalism used to be all about moderation, an entrepreneurial American spirit, and respect for one’s fellow Christian man. …

    Underlying all of this is the philosophy of Edmund Burke. [In Burke’s] view that the basis of a successful society should not be abstract notions like human rights, social justice, or equality. Rather, societies work best when traditions that have been shown to work are passed from generation to generation. The baby boomers . . . failed to live up to that Burkean responsibility by abandoning the tried-and-true values of their parents (nationalism, modesty, patriarchy, religion) in favor of new abstractions (pluralism, sexuality, egalitarianism, secularism).

    For both Burke and Bannon, failure to pass the torch results in social chaos. . . .

    Once in power, the liberal, secular, global-minded elite overhauled the institutions of democracy and capitalism to tighten its grip on power and the ability to enrich itself. . . .

    In short, in Bannonism, the crisis of capitalism has led to socialism and the suffering of the middle class. And it has made it impossible for the current generation to bequeath a better future to its successors, to fulfill its Burkean duty. –Gwynn Guilford and Nikhil Sonnad, Quartz profile of Steve Bannon

     FBI agent under investigation for leaking  (New York Sun)

    [The alleged misconduct] could fuel already substantial public and congressional concern, stemming from the presidential election and the probes of Hillary Clinton’s emails and of Russian political interference, about lack of professionalism by the FBI related to disclosure of investigative information. –New York Sun

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ John Kriegsmann
    for the Steve Bannon story

  • Fierce Debate over “The End of Identity Liberalism”

    Mark Lilla’s article says his party has been badly damaged by embracing Identity Politics

    His critics disagree–sharply

    Mark Lilla, a distinguished intellectual historian, formerly at the University of Chicago, now at Columbia, wrote an opinion piece after the election urging his fellow Democrats to move beyond what he calls “identity liberalism.”

    ◆ The heart of Lilla’s argument is this:

    A convenient liberal interpretation of the recent presidential election would have it that Mr. Trump won in large part because he managed to transform economic disadvantage into racial rage — the “whitelash” thesis. This is convenient because it sanctions a conviction of moral superiority and allows liberals to ignore what those voters said were their overriding concerns. It also encourages the fantasy that the Republican right is doomed to demographic extinction in the long run — which means liberals have only to wait for the country to fall into their laps. The surprisingly high percentage of the Latino vote that went to Mr. Trump should remind us that the longer ethnic groups are here in this country, the more politically diverse they become.

    Finally, the whitelash thesis is convenient because it absolves liberals of not recognizing how their own obsession with diversity has encouraged white, rural, religious Americans to think of themselves as a disadvantaged group whose identity is being threatened or ignored. Such people are not actually reacting against the reality of our diverse America (they tend, after all, to live in homogeneous areas of the country). But they are reacting against the omnipresent rhetoric of identity, which is what they mean by “political correctness.” Liberals should bear in mind that the first identity movement in American politics was the Ku Klux Klan, which still exists. Those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it. –Mark Lilla, “The End of Identity Liberalism,” New York Times

    dividing-not-uniting-labeled-groups-divided-by-barbed-wire-300px-margin-on-right

    Predictably, the Left Did Not Agree

    ◆ Jim Sleeper (of Yale) writes, “What NY Times Op-Ed Writer Mark Lilla Gets Wrong About ‘Identity Liberalism'” (AlterNet)

    It’s with bemusement, then puzzlement, and then distaste that I’ve read Mark Lilla’s destructive and, in the end, deeply perverse rendering of these otherwise valid admonitions in his “The End of Identity Liberalism” in Sunday’s New York Times. –Jim Sleeper in AlterNet

    Sleeper is critical of liberal pieties, too, but says they are no worse than the campus environment they replaced.

    Liberal political correctness that inhibits open inquiry and expression shouldn’t be excused because it has long had a conservative counterpart. But having taught undergraduates at Yale for more than 15 years now, . . .  I won’t be easily convinced that what’s wrong on campus now is worse than it was before identity liberalism was in vogue.

    ◆ The New Republic, a shell of its former self, weighs in with Lovia Gyarkye’s “The Enduring Importance of Identity Liberalism”

    The subtitle tells the story: “Mark Lilla argues that the Democratic Party needs to move beyond identity politics. But that’s precisely where the country’s salvation lies.”

    Lilla argues for a post-identity liberalism, one that exchanges “diversity issues” and “the omnipresent rhetoric of identity” for appeals to “Americans as Americans.” A post-identity liberalism would treat issues of race, gender, sexuality, or religion “with a proper sense of scale” and focus on teaching American citizens about their political responsibilities in both the domestic and international spheres.

    While seemingly well-intentioned, Lilla’s arguments—when read closely—parallel the uncomfortable demands of the president-elect to “Make America Great Again.” The problem with Lilla’s line of thinking is that it depends on a nostalgic and incomplete rendering of this nation’s past, while merely nodding at the necessity of identity politics in forming a more perfect union. He refuses to discard the myth, and avoids the challenge of genuinely reimagining American liberalism. –Lovia Gyarkye in the New Republic

    The Most Vitriolic–and Disgusting–Response Comes from Prof. Katherine Franke

    ◆ Franke, like Lilla, is a professor at Columbia.

    Her title–hyperbolic to the point of insanity–says of Lilla: “Making White Supremacy Respectable. Again” Her thesis is less a coherent argument than a furious rant. It is scurrilous:

    In the new political climate we now inhabit, [Ku Klux Klansman David] Duke and Lilla were contributing to the same ideological project, the former cloaked in a KKK hood, the latter in an academic gown. Both men are underwriting the whitening of American nationalism, and the re-centering of white lives as lives that matter most in the U.S. Duke is happy to own the white supremacy of his statements, while Lilla’s op-ed does the more nefarious background work of making white supremacy respectable. Again. –Katherine Franke in the Los Angeles Review of Books

    Here is Prof. Franke’s self-description at the Columbia Law School website:

    Katherine Franke is the Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, where she also directs the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law and is the faculty director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project. She is a member of the Executive Committee for the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, a member of the Steering Committee for the Center for the Study of Social Difference, and an Affiliated Faculty member for the Center for Palestine Studies. She is among the nation’s leading scholars writing on law, religion and rights, drawing from feminist, queer, and critical race theory.  …  She works regularly in Palestine, most recently serving as an academic mentor for the human rights faculty at Al Quds University in East Jerusalem, and sits on the steering committee of the Academic Advisory Council of Jewish Voice for Peace.   -Katherine Franke

    The Ideal of Shared Citizenship

    ◆ Finally, Peter Augustine Lawler offers an intelligent conservative rebuttal of the “whitelash” thesis (National Review Online)

    Liberal professor of political philosophy Mark Lilla is all for the gains on behalf of diversity rightly understood over the last generation. And we conservatives agree there really has been progress on this front, and our country in some key respects is more just than it used to be.  –Peter Augustine Lawler

    Lawler’s most important point, in my opinion is this: “Let’s get back to the liberalism of shared citizenship.” I agree completely.

    ♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Thanks to Josh Kantrow
     for suggesting the Mark Lilla article