• 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

     

  • Remembering a GREAT Journalist: Bill Minor, who reported on Mississippi civil rights

    Those were hard years–and dangerous for straight-up reporters, as Bill Minor was.

    After seven decades of reporting, including the James Meredith enrollment at Ole Miss, Bill Minor has died at age 94. He began covering Mississippi politics in 1947, reporting on Theodore Bilbo!

    The Jackson Clarion-Ledger has a wonderful remembrance, including interviews with Bill.

    That is particularly moving to me since the Clarion-Ledger was on the wrong side of these issues in the 1960s.

    Two Tweets are worth adding:

  • When the “wrong people” fail the test . . . stop giving the test? Another case of identity-group politics harming kids

     New York state requires prospective teachers to take a basic test for reading and writing.

     A federal judge has evaluated the test and ruled it is fair and not discriminatory.

     No matter. This competency test for teachers is being stopped because it screens out too many minorities, reports the Associated Press.

    NEW YORK (AP) – New York education officials are poised to scrap a test designed to measure the reading and writing skills of people trying to become teachers, in part because an outsized percentage of black and Hispanic candidates were failing it. . . .

    Leaders of the education reform movement have complained for years about the caliber of students entering education schools and the quality of the instruction they receive there. A December 2016 study by the National Council on Teacher Quality found that 44 percent of the teacher preparation programs it surveyed accepted students from the bottom half of their high school classes.

    The reformers believe tests like New York’s Academic Literacy Skills Test can serve to weed out aspiring teachers who aren’t strong students.

    But the literacy test raised alarms from the beginning because just 46 percent of Hispanic test takers and 41 percent of black test takers passed it on the first try, compared with 64 percent of white candidates. –AP

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Comment #1: This revision is designed to help adult school employees (and potential employees) at the expense of children’s learning. 

    That misses the whole point of proper K-12 Education Policy. It should focus exclusively on what is best for the students, not the adult employees. In too many cities and states, it doesn’t.

    If what is best for kids is also best for teachers, as it often is, that’s great. If the two diverge, go with what is best for the kids. That should be the goal of education policy, even though students don’t have well-paid lobbyists or union organizations working for them. (Ah, see the problem!)

    In New York’s case, any help to minority teachers from slackening requirement will surely come at the expense of minority students in classes taught by poorly-qualified teachers. Who speaks for the kids?

    Comment #2: If the test’s content is not biased, and if it is directly related to the job, then the test is not biased, regardless of the outcome. Period.

    Unfortunately, progressives now consider a test biased if the outcome does not suit them, even if the underlying process is neutral and non-discriminatory.

    The test itself has been ruled non-discriminatory, meaning that it has neutral content. The Obama Administration was moving to reverse these rulings based solely on outcomes they did not like, even if the content was neutral and the process fair. Under Eric Holder, the Dept. of Justice filed suits against employment tests, even if they were fair and directly relevant to the job requirements, solely because more minorities failed them. That viewpoint is firmly embedded in the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, inherited by Jeff Sessions. Any wonder the “career civil servants” in that department are pushing back, reading to do everything they can to undermine the Administration? They have civil service protection, but the are highly politicized advocates and were put there by previous administrations for that very reason.

    More broadly, the whole idea that outcomes, not process, should be the legal measure of discrimination is wrong. If the outcomes show “too few” of group X or Y, we should focus on correcting the underlying reasons, not changing a subsequent result reached by a fair process.

    Comment #3: MEDIA BIAS: The Associated Press gave this story a seriously misleading headline. Local papers are repeating it.

    That headline is both slanted and inaccurate. The key word is “instead.”

    According to the article, the test did screen teachers for competence in reading and writing. That it, it did its job and did it using a neutral test, pre-tested for non-discrimination and approved by a federal judge. It also “weeded out” people who could not pass, whatever their race. More minorities than white failed, but many whites failed, too.

    But the test did not “weed out minorities” instead of screening teachers for competence. It weeded them out because it screened teachers for competence.

    The AP has written an editorial instead of a neutral, descriptive headline.

    Once upon a time, readers could count on the Associated Press for fair reporting, adhering to the Joe Friday rule, “Just the facts, m’am.” No more.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • President Trump’s Address to Congress: Thoughtful in tone, Effective in selling a big agenda

    (Note: When I comment on events like this, I watch the event itself but not the commentators so I can avoid the “echo chamber” effect.)

    Bottom Line: The speech was quite good, both as a performance and as an outline of Pres. Trump’s policy agenda.

    • You can like the agenda, or loathe it, but he put its best foot forward.
    • Most of all, the speech was “Presidential” and far more effective than the sharp tone of his Inaugural Address.

    As a performance, it was serious but uplifting, outlining his big agenda in affirmative terms.

    His decision to begin by condemning racial and religious hatred, and doing so with a bow to Black History Month, was perfect. It set the right tone.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    The most riveting moment, one that brought together this deeply divided audience, was the President’s recognition of the widow of U.S. Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens. It was heart-wrenching to watch her stand there, crying over her loss and visibly praying for strength. Pres. Trump’s phrase that his sacrifice for our country is “etched into eternity” was perfect.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    The most disheartening moments, at least for me, came when the Democrats refused to stand for even the most banal and uncontroversial applause lines. Why sit on their hands? Part of it, naturally, is policy. But part is politics, a party base seething over all-things-Trump and demanding full-frontal opposition from their representatives. Democrats who stand and clap do so at their electoral peril.

    I was even more disheartened by the gasps, thumbs down, and even a few boos that came when Trump laid out the more contentious elements of his agenda, particular his plans to recognize and help victims of immigrant violence. The Democrats hated his reference to “draining the swamp,” and made that plain. I’m sure many Republicans did, too, but they were smart enough to shut up.

    Again, my objection here is not to the Democrats’ substantive views here (though I do disagree with them). I simply wish they had listened respectfully in the chamber and then expressed their opposition outside it.

    Along the same lines, I did not like the one or two moments when President Trump seemed to point out House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. At least he didn’t repeat her infamous line about needing to pass Obamacare to find out what was in the bill. In this setting, it’s unfair of the President, just as it was unfair of Pres. Obama to attack the Supreme Court Justices sitting in front of him. Pelosi had no chance to respond to Trump’s attacks during the speech. All she can do is sit there. She did, grumbling and visibly fuming.

    Related point: I am not sure about the appropriateness of female representatives wearing “suffragette white,” which was done to support a variety of feminist political issues and take some attention away from the President. I can see both sides of the “appropriateness argument.” Again, the issue is the time and place, not the substance. It was a very visible political gesture, meant to counter the President. I couldn’t help but think that, grouped together, they looked like a church choir.

    This hostile gesture will surely initiate a tit-for-tat spiral of clothing to indicate political stances at future addresses. I much prefer those statements to come before and after the speech, not during the speech itself.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Substantively, the most important takeaway is Trump’s embrace of the Paul Ryan approach to health-care reform. The package will emphasize market-oriented solutions, insurance sales across state lines, and health savings accounts. Trump made clear that he would include (costly) coverage for pre-existing conditions, though he did not say how he intends to pay for it. He underscored that there would be no mandates and that consumers could buy whatever plans they want. These health-care issues will be on the front burner for the next month and Trump turned up the heat.

    Other issues were treated in broad terms, with a big emphasis on patriotism, “America First,” and (alas) economic nationalism. He underscored that he was elected President of the United States, not the world, but explicitly said that the US was committed to NATO and would remain engaged abroad.

    As Trump laid out his agenda, he repeatedly said he is keeping promises made during the campaign.  That’s smart politically, not only because it buttresses his reputation but because it tells Congress, “I ran specifically on these promises and won.” It tells them he has a mandate to accomplish these policy goals.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Trump’s plea for bipartisanship will fall unheeded, of course, but the Democrats will have to determine whether they are more endangered by their “hell no” base or by a “get something done” general public. My hunch: the base wins.

    ⇒ For Trump and his Republican allies, the speech was a strong, effective performance. They’ll need it for the coming battles on health care and taxes, battles within the party and with Democrats.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, February 24

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

     Last year, Trump skipped the premier conservative event, CPAC

    The year before, he was boo’d

    Now, he is the hero and will be become the first President to address it in his inaugural year

      Richard Spencer, a founder of the alt-right movement, expelled from CPAC after conference organizer denounces “fascist group” (Washington Post)

      Vice President Pence to CPAC: “We’re in the Promise-Keeping Business” (NPR) Steve Bannon said exactly the same thing.

     Everybody who assassinated their brother, please raise your hand 

      Malaysian police find nerve agent on Kim Jong-Un’s dead half-brother. (USA Today)

    Comment: To undertake such a risky act is a sign of the regime’s paranoia and internal instability. 

     SEVEN people killed yesterday in Chicago. SEVEN (Chicago Tribune)

    Here’s My Comment

     “Thank you, Jack”  Tribute to a Marine who “served his country quietly, died for it violently (at Iowa Jima), and had a small part in the storied history of the United States Marine Corps.” Bob Beattie, writing eloquently about the Uncle Jack he never knew (Medium.com)

    Comment: What a touching story. My friend, Jim Vincent, was named for an uncle he never knew, another soldier who died fighting in World War II. Jim’s uncle died in the long battle for Monte Cassino in Italy. Jim’s daughter, Ruth, researched that battle and found some of her great uncle’s buddies, who were alongside him when he fell.

     University of Michigan Students Demand “Black-Only’ Space”  (Pajamas Media)

    Comment: I am perfectly fine with African-American students forming their own clubs and societies and including (or excluding) whomever they wish.

    That is what a robust civil society should permit. But it is wrong to ask the state of Michigan to do it officially and to pay for it.

    It is also perfectly appropriate for anyone who doesn’t like a private club’s rules to protest them. Lots of all-male clubs were changed that way. Their corporate members resigned when the memberships became controversial and the clubs either changed or didn’t, as they chose.

    Yes, we can have all these “private” arrangements regulated by laws and statutes, but, in doing so, the arrangements cease to be private, cease to be voluntary associations. That is a huge loss, even if the goals of the laws and statutes are admirable.

     “ABC 7 suspends [sports anchor] Mark Giangreco for ‘lunatic’ Trump tweet” (RobertFeder.com)

    Comment: So, after sending this tweet, who exactly is the simpleton?

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Ed Vidal
     for the University of Michigan story
    ◆ Robert Feder, outstanding reporter on Chicago media, for the Mark Giangreco tweet

     

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Saturday, February 4

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

     Congressional Black Caucus very upset at “Latino” who wants to join. 

    Actually, he is a Dominican of African descent.  (Politico)

    [Representative Adriano] Espaillat’s district, while majority Latino, has a sizable African-American population and includes Harlem, long the intellectual and cultural center for black America.

    “See that complicates matters. Even though our agendas are typically parallel, occasionally they are not. So it may be problematic if someone wants to belong to two ethnic caucuses,” said. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), a former chairman of the CBC. “If he’s considered an African-American then he’s certainly welcome in the caucus. But I can’t speak for the caucus.” –Politico

    Comment: “Oh what a tangled web we weave. When first we organize as identity-politics cheerleaders.” Why? Because it is unclear how to determine identity and who gets to determine it. As the CBC dispute illustrates, the left is now in the odd position of asserting that “male” and “female” are subjective, fluid categories, to be determined by each individual and accommodated by others, but that somehow “race” is not a largely-subjective category to be determined by each individual.

    As far as I’m concerned, the CBC should be able to determine their own rules for membership. But it is interesting to watch their hypocrisy in dealing with these identity issues.

    ◆ Post of the Day: “Some Typos Are Worse Than Others,” says Judge Rakoff

    Comment:  “I’m so embarrassed,” said the editor. “This went out prematurely.”

     New Defense Secretary, Mattis, faces big problems in Europe (Russia, NATO), the Middle East (Iran, ISIS, other terrorism), and Asia-Pacific (China). He goes to Asia first  CNN reports key American allies, Japan and South Korea, are reassured by the meeting but still anxious about China’s aggressive actions.

    Predictably, China pushes back (AP)

    Comment: The global problems are so vexing and manifold that the new Administration would be well advised to move very carefully in establishing priorities and clear strategies. We have limited resources. 

    Mattis did make one clear, strong statement. In a modulated tone, he said that any use of North Korean nuclear weapons would lead to an “overwhelming” US response. The US also committed itself to installing high-tech missile defense in South Korea.

     Islamist attacks the Louvre and its tourists with machete. (NYT) Good lord, why? Still grumpy over Charles Martel and the Battle of Tours?

    Updated reports from France24 are here, covering not only the Louvre attack but also French raids on Islamists in its aftermath. 

     Another Putin opponent poisoned and near death (Daily Beast)

    Comment: This thuggish regime will face increasing trouble as its economy continues to decline and its population continues to age. Yes, they are playing a weak handle well internationally, but it is hard to see how the regime gains much tangibly from its costly international engagements.

     Prominent German weekly, Der Spiegel, has cover of Pres. Trump beheading the Statue of Liberty  (Daily Mail)

    An Irish publication, The Village, features a cover with a rifle sight centered on Trump’s head.

    Comment: Seeing this cover, a sense of revulsion should run through all decent people. You don’t have to like Trump to understand that democratic governance cannot tolerate casual discussion of assassination as a political strategy. 

     Immediately after Trump imposes sanctions on Iran, the Mullahs schedule weekend military exercises to test its missile and radar systems and cyber warfare capabilities  (Reuters)

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

     

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Thursday, January 12

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

     Rex Tillerson takes a tough stand on the South China Sea.  Tells Senate confirmation hearing that China “must be denied access to artificial islands built in the disputed waters.” (Bloomberg)

    We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that first the island-building stops and second your access to those islands is also not going to be allowed,” [Tillerson] said when asked whether he would support a more aggressive posture in the South China Sea. –Bloomberg

     Spreading gossip and calling it news

    Only sleazy sites do what BuzzFeed did, publish unsubstantiated rumors saying Donald Trump is effectively the Russians’ Manchurian Candidate. The charge is that the Kremlin has blackmailed him over sex acts during his business visits to Russia.

    Trump furiously denies the story, which gained wider currency after CNN spread it, while withholding the salacious details and saying the story is unsubstantiated.

    Senior officials in the US intelligence community have reportedly called Trump to say their agencies were not involved in developing the “information” or spreading rumors about it.

    The Wall Street Journal has confirmed that the dossier was compiled privately by a former British spy, who runs a small, private intelligence firm.

    Aside from CNN and The Guardian (UK), mainstream news outlets have been wary of running the story as “news.” Instead, they have said there is currently no proof for the allegations.

    Here is a brief clip from Trump’s news conference denouncing CNN for spreading the rumor, following by Fox’s media analyst, Howie Kurtz, calling the story a “bubbling stew of unverified rumors and allegations.”

     North Korea now has enough plutonium for 10 bombs, according to a Time magazine report (story here). The regime will be one of the toughest challenges for the Trump administration, one his predecessors made no headway resolving.


     Three black lawmakers testify against Jeff Sessions for Attorney General
      The appearance of Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) was unprecedented because he was testifying against a fellow Senator. That of John Lewis, a Civil Rights hero, lent more weight. That of another lawmaker, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), was the harshest, including a charge that the committee’s decision to have them testify last was, in Richmond’s words, ” the equivalent of being made to go to the back of the bus.” (CNN story here.)

    Comment: Harsh and tense as the hearings were, they elicited no new and damaging information that could harm Session’s confirmation chances.

     China’s inexpensive electric cars, made for their local market  They don’t go as far as Tesla and other US models, but they are much cheaper–around 1/4 of the cost of the Chevy Volt. They are popular with Chinese buyers, too. In fact, the country has more electric cars on the road than the rest of the world, combined. That’s a welcome development in a country suffering from terrible smog pollution. The Reuters story is here.

     Good Economic News  US property foreclosures at a 10-year low. (Reuters via Business Insider)

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Wednesday, Dec. 28

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

    ◆ Mall brawls in 9 states. “Police suspect social media.” says ABC News, careful to avoid any awkward analysis. 

    Comment: Oh, yeah. The problem is social media. Not the breakdown of the family and social order in poor, African-American communities. Let’s blame it on cell phones. That’s the ticket.

    ◆ A powerful argument by Bill Galston for the Obama administration’s vote against Israel at the UN and against Trump’s appointment of a hardline ambassador to Israel. Galston, a centrist Democrat, thinks the Trump appointment could spell the end of US support for a two-state solution. That, he thinks, would be a grave mistake. The opinion piece is here in the WSJ.

    ◆ Helluva Headline‘F**K YOU. GO TO HELL’: Georgetown Prof Loses It On Muslim Trump Voter. (Daily Caller)

    The victim: Asra Q. Nomani

    …a former Georgetown journalism professor and Wall Street Journal reporter, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post Nov. 10 explaining why she, as a Muslim woman and “long-time liberal,” voted for Trump.

    The attacker: Prof. Christine Fair

    C. Christine Fair, a previously “friendly colleague,” went on a 31-day screed against Nomani spanning across Twitter and Facebook. According to Nomani’s Dec. 23 follow-up complaint to the university, the “Peace and Security Studies” professor called her a “wretch,” “clueless dolt” and a fame-monger.

    Fair also compared Trump to Adolf Hitler and asserted that Nomani’s vote for Trump “helped normalize Nazis in DC.” –Daily Caller

    ◆ Germany’s catastrophic intelligence failure. The headline tells it all: Morocco Warned Germany Twice About Berlin Killer Anis Amri; German Intel Did Nothing (PJ Media)

    ◆ Hacking law firms’ secret info for insider trading. After indicting several Chinese individuals for their insider trading, based on hacking law firms’ secret information, US Attorney warns law firms of the problem. (Washington Times)

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Alex Gobman
     for the Galston article.
    ◆ Tom Elia for the Georgetown meltdown