• Not this year: The Clintons cancel their annual gala for world leaders

     For more than a decade, Bill Clinton’s Clinton Global Initiative—his annual meeting/gala/fundraiser–has been staged to coincide with the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.

    Not this year.

    CGI has other events listed on its website, but not the main event that attracted the biggest names in the world–prime ministers, presidents, secretaries of state, CEOs movie stars, etc.

    That was the genius of staging CGI during the UN meeting. People of huge international stature were gathered in New York. The top contributors were, by custom, summoned to the stage for a hug from Bill. Hillary was almost always there, and, of course, Chelsea.

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    Quietly Ditched, at least for 2017

    It occurred to me a couple of days ago that I haven’t heard any of the usual promotion and media buzz about CGI 2017. It might have been scrapped on purpose because of the sense of certainty in the Clinton camp, in the media, and almost everywhere else, that Hillary would win.

    If she were POTUS and Bill were First Gentleman, then it would, by any standard, seem inappropriate. We should probably expect that it’ll reappear during the UN General Assembly meeting in September 2018.

    Here’s the CGI meetings link for 2016 which suddenly feels so out of date (link here)

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    Will the CGI Gala Resume in 2018?

     I, for one, hope it does, because, as usual with the Clintons, the suspicions and allegations of impropriety overtake the fact that CGI does much good work.

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    Carol Felsenthal is much-published author. She has written extensively about CGI in her book on Bill: Clinton in Exile: a President Out of the White House

    Besides a long list of magazine credits, she has written a number of acclaimed biographies:

    • Citizen Newhouse: Portrait of a Media Merchant,
    • Power, Privilege, and the Post: The Katharine Graham Story,
    • Princess Alice: The Life and Times of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and

    She is also a contributing writer for Chicago Magazine and the political blogger for their website, Chicagomag.com.

    She has taught biographical writing at the University of Chicago and written profiles of everyone from Ann Landers to Michelle Obama.

  • Journalism Standards Collapsed in the 2016 Election. So says Michael Goodwin, one of America’s most prominent reporters

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    They are not getting better after the election, either

    Goodwin is the chief political columnist for the New York Post and led the editorial board of the NY Daily News to a Pulitzer. Before this, he taught at Columbia Journalism School and worked as a reporter for the NY Times.

    So, he speaks about journalistic standards with deep experience–and considerable passion for what he sees as their collapse.

    His article at Hillsdale College’s Imprimis magazine (link here) makes the case.

    There was a time not so long ago when journalists were trusted and admired. We were generally seen as trying to report the news in a fair and straightforward manner. Today, all that has changed. For that, we can blame the 2016 election or, more accurately, how some news organizations chose to cover it. Among the many firsts, last year’s election gave us the gobsmacking revelation that most of the mainstream media puts both thumbs on the scale—that most of what you read, watch, and listen to is distorted by intentional bias and hostility. I have never seen anything like it. Not even close. –Michael Goodwin in Imprimis

    His main point is not that journalists are generally progressives and leftists. That’s been true for a long time, he says. What shocked him was the reporters’ and editors’ “whole new approach to politics” and to reporting about it. “No one in modern times,” he says, “had seen anything like it.”

    Trump was savaged like no other candidate in memory. We were watching the total collapse of standards, with fairness and balance tossed overboard. Every story was an opinion masquerading as news, and every opinion ran in the same direction—toward Clinton and away from Trump.

    For the most part, I blame The New York Times and The Washington Post for causing this breakdown. The two leading liberal newspapers were trying to top each other in their demonization of Trump and his supporters. They set the tone, and most of the rest of the media followed like lemmings.

    The issue, he says, is not tough scrutiny of the candidate but papers and broadcasters  that “dropped the pretense of fairness and jumped headlong into the tank for one candidate over the other.”

    Now, he adds, even the “letters to the editor” they print uniformly agree with their editorial view.

    These once-respected papers have reached a new low.

    In the process, they have damaged journalism and civic discourse. He cites chapter and verse to prove his point. That, alas, is all too easy.

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    Comment: Sadly, Goodwin is completely correct, and all news readers are worse off for it, even those who agree with the slanted coverage.

    Watching the NYT morph into MSNBC is a grim spectacle.

    ZipDialog has focused repeatedly on the egregious bias in news reporting at the NYT, Washington Post, and the MSM.

    There’s no sign yet of any turn for the better.

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    Hat tip to Clarice Feldman for Goodwin’s important article

  • Michael Oren on the Legacy of the Six Day War (1967-2017)

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    Yesterday, Robert Lieber posted at ZipDialog on “Why the Six Day War Remains So Important” (link here)

    Today’s op-ed by Michael Oren in the New York Times is the perfect complement to Lieber’s piece.

    Oren is a rare combination: a serious historian, whose book on the 1967 War was widely praised by all sides, and a serious policymaker, who served as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States during Pres. Obama’s first term, a difficult time for bilateral relations. He is currently Deputy Minister for Diplomacy in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.

    He understands America as well as he understands Israel, have been born, raised, and educated here.

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    Oren’s op-ed is entitled “Israel’s 1967 Victory is Something to Celebrate” (link here)

    What makes it valuable, besides Oren’s deep background in the subject?

    Two things: First, you won’t find a more helpful or succinct summary of the background to Israeli-Arab disputes before the 1967 war. That background is valuable; those who don’t know it assume that the region’s problems with the Jews and Israel began in 1967, or perhaps 1948 (when modern Israel was founded). That foreshortening also foreshortens understanding.

    Second, although Oren is unabashedly an Israeli patriot, he has a clear-eyed view of how each side sees the conflict. He understand that, as the Israelis celebrate, the Palestinians mourn, as they mourn the founding of the Jewish State itself.

    While the war certainly shaped the modern Middle East, it alone cannot account for the contradictory ways Israelis and Palestinians commemorate it. The chasm can only be explained by events that preceded it. Far beyond 1967, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is in fact about 1917, 1937 and 1947. Those anniversaries can teach us much about the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and why peace has proved so elusive. –Michael Oren in the New York Times

    Oren follows with a succinct history of the dispute, a remarkably clear summary in such a short space. He concludes:

    We’ll hear a lot this week about occupation and lack of Palestinian independence. Israel has a clear policy on this score: It does not want to rule over another people and is ready to begin immediate negotiations. Yet while Palestinian leaders claim they support a two-state solution, until they state that they favor “two states for two peoples,” affirming both Jewish and Palestinian peoplehood and rights, the conflict will tragically persist. It is only through mutual recognition that Israelis and Palestinians will both be able to celebrate, rather than mourn, future anniversaries. –Oren

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    Oren’s op-ed is well worth reading, as is Lieber’s post.

    Two other brief pieces also worth your time:

    For an article-length treatment, see the new piece by Profs. Efraim Karsh, Gabriel Glickman, and Efraim Inbar, “Rethinking the Six-Day War” (link here) Their summary:

    It has long been conventional wisdom to view the June 1967 war as an accidental conflagration that neither Arabs nor Israelis desired, yet none were able to prevent. This could not be further from the truth. Its specific timing resulted of course from the convergence of a number of particular causes at a particular juncture. But its general cause—the total Arab rejection of Jewish statehood—made another all-out Arab-Israeli war a foregone conclusion. –Karsh, Glickman, and Inbar

  • Outstanding Concept, Beautifully Executed: Ben Austen’s short essays on the Valedictorians at Chicago Public Schools

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    Plus a story about Ben’s family and mine

    Ben Austen is one of the best non-fiction writers around. He’s published some great pieces, including major stories in the NY Times Magazine and Harper’s, often about race or life in modern American cities, sometimes both.

    He’s currently finishing a book on what happened after Chicago tore down one of its infamous public housing projects, Cabrini Green.

    Now, he’s posted a wonderful set of his short essays here. Each deals with a kid who graduated No. 1 in his or her Chicago public school.

    Just click on each picture here for a brief essay about that student.

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    For another example of Ben’s writing, here’s his story in the Times about Theaster Gates, an innovator in urban arts programs. Gates and his work are well-known in Chicago. Ben told everyone else.

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    A family aside

    I’m proud to say Ben is a distant cousin. He grew up in Chicago, not far from us, and I’ve known him and his family since he was a high schooler.

    Actually, I knew Ben’s Mom and Dad before I learned we were related. We all go to the same synagogue, and I teach at the University of Chicago, where Ben’s father, Ralph, also teaches.

    Ralph Austen is a distinguished historian of Africa. We had even taught a seminar or two together before we discovered the connection.

    Ben’s mother, Ernestine, is also a long-time friend and works alongside my wife, Susan, on social justice projects, including volunteering at an elementary school for impoverished kids.

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    One touching connection in our family is that my mother’s side, long settled in America, helped their cousins escape from Germany as the Nazis closed in.

    I learned that first-hand from Ralph’s late father, Hans, some years ago, when we met at his home in Switzerland.  After escaping the Nazis, he lived on Long Island, where Ralph was raised. Late in life, Hans wanted to return to Europe to live. He couldn’t bring himself to return to Germany, so he and his wife moved to Zug, in the German-speaking area of Switzerland.

    It was in Zug that I first met him. He went over to a closet and took out a box, opened it, and began showing me the pieces of paper documenting our family history over hundreds of year.

    Stunning and touching.

    Some documents, such as marriage certificates, dated back to the early 1700s in Bohemia. At the time, our family, the Steiners, did not have a last name. That came later, as the European regions developed state bureaucracies and began giving names to people so they count and tax them.

    Hans also told me he remembered my grandmother (my mother’s mother from Alabama; I visited her often in Mobile as a child). Her father was German, and he sometimes took the family there for summer visits.

    Yes, said Hans, with a German accent, “She vas my first cousin. We met in Leipzig in 1911.”

    He didn’t have to state the unspoken truth.

    Not long after they met and my grandmother returned to the safety of America came the chilling decades of European catastrophe.

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  • The Caddyshack Presidency. That’s the undertone of the Times’ sneering coverage of Melania’s fashion

    Commentary: The Times even uses its style pages to snark at the Trumps.

    Their headline: “Melania Trump on Display, Dressed in Ambivalence and Armor” (New York Times)

    Let’s decode:

    “On Display” likens her to a non-human mannequin.

    “Ambivalence” is less clear. But they quickly add she is ” a cipher cloistered in a gilded New York penthouse.” 

    And, of course, she is armored, as opposed to open and authentic.

    The Times continues, plunging in the knife and twisting it:

    And her embrace of the high-end, and refusal to go through the motions of adopting the occasional accessible item, was fully in line with her husband’s gold-toned dollar-sign spiel–Vanessa Friedman in the New York Times

    The phrase “gold-toned dollar-sign spiel” is particularly revealing. First, they use “gold-toned” instead of “gold” to indicate it is fake class, not the real thing you find in old-money living rooms on Central Park and Park Avenue.

    This line of criticism highlights one of the things that most irritates the NYT and intellectuals.

    The Trumps, they sneer, are so brash, so brassy, so . . . nouveau riche. They are not sophisticates like us.

    They are, of course, right that Donald Trump himself is a poster child for brash, brassy, and nouveau riche. He made his name hyping that lifestyle to people who wanted to buy in.

    And, as everyone knowns, Pres. Trump can be blunt, rude and crude.

    But Melania is none of those.. Neither are Jared and Ivanka. (I don’t know enough about the others to say.)

    So why smear Melania except to throw mud on her husband?

    For that noble purpose, they overlook no opportunity.

    The media, intellectuals, and the left basically think Trump and his ilk are Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack.

    If Melania is his spouse, she must be Mrs. Dangerfield.

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    Trump’s supporters have their own cartoon image of the left, the media, and their ilk. They are Ted Knight’s pretentious Judge Elihu Smails. (The “Elihu” is a nice touch, says this Yalie.)

    Only the NYT would look at Caddyshack and root for the Judge.

    As Carl Spackler would say, “So Trump’s got that going for him.”

    And Trump would reply, “The Times. Oh, they must have been something before electricity.”

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    Post script: After I wrote this, I looked through the NYT files and found that, lo and behold, they had run an op-ed piece calling Trump “The Caddyshack President.” They were not laughing.

    Since the NYT op-ed pages run the gamut of opinions, from A to B, we can assume they agreed with the opinion.

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  • The Shrinking World of Newspapers: Chicago Edition

    ◆ A key factor is missing in the hand-wringing analysis over the inevitable purchase of the Sun-Times by Tronc’s Chicago Tribune, and it’s this:

    The sales and marketing departments of the Tribune and Sun-Times will be combined.

    ⇒ And that foreshadows the death of the Sun-Times.

    A Little History

    The same death dance played out in the 1970s, when the Sun-Times and the Chicago Daily News comprised Field Enterprises’ two-newspaper portfolio, with ad sales staffers selling space in both newspapers to advertisers such as Sears, Carson’s, Z Frank and First National Bank.

    But those sales pitches lasted microseconds when advertisers balked at buying space in two newspapers when the Sun-Times had more than twice the circulation of the Daily News.

    It mattered not a whit that the demographics of the evening Daily News were superior to  the Sun-Times or that the quality of the content in the Daily News was more distinguished.

    Advertisers weren’t interested in advertising in its pages, and ad sales staffers weren’t about to waste their sales call trying to convince advertisers otherwise.

    By 1975, the Tribune had killed its afternoon paper, Chicago Today, and absorbed its 400,000 daily circulation into its million-plus base. That meant Tribune ad sales people could offer far more circulation and at a cheaper cost-per-thousand in a single newspaper and with a single sales pitch than the Sun-Times could by offering two newspapers and two sales pitches.

    Why buy space in two newspapers when you could do better in one?

    Sales efforts focused on the Sun-Times’ circulation, and the Daily News was ignored to death.

    What’s Past Is Prologue

    The same logic will apply in 2017.

    When it comes time for a Tribune sales staffer to pitch an ad schedule to an advertiser, he’ll focus on the Tribune’s superior circulation.

    Maybe on the way out the door, he’ll say, “Oh, wait. I have a Sun-Times media kit here. Want me to leave it?”

    The answer already is all too clear.

     

    Dan Miller is one of Chicago’s most respected and experienced economic journalists.

    He served as Chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission in the 1990s, then business editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, and, in recent years, as policy adviser to the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank.  He also co-founded the Chicago Innovation Awards, which as recognized best-practices in products and services for over 15 years.

  • 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

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    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.

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    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.