Clarity

January 9th, 2015

Choudary in USA Today of all places:

Contrary to popular misconception, Islam does not mean peace but rather means submission to the commands of Allah alone. Therefore, Muslims do not believe in the concept of freedom of expression, as their speech and actions are determined by divine revelation and not based on people’s desires.

Although Muslims may not agree about the idea of freedom of expression, even non-Muslims who espouse it say it comes with responsibilities. In an increasingly unstable and insecure world, the potential consequences of insulting the Messenger Muhammad are known to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Muslims consider the honor of the Prophet Muhammad to be dearer to them than that of their parents or even themselves. To defend it is considered to be an obligation upon them. The strict punishment if found guilty of this crime under sharia (Islamic law) is capital punishment implementable by an Islamic State. This is because the Messenger Muhammad said, “Whoever insults a Prophet kill him.”

However, because the honor of the Prophet is something which all Muslims want to defend, many will take the law into their own hands, as we often see. Within liberal democracies, freedom of expression has curtailments, such as laws against incitement and hatred.

The truth is that Western governments are content to sacrifice liberties and freedoms when being complicit to torture and rendition — or when restricting the freedom of movement of Muslims, under the guise of protecting national security.

So why in this case did the French government allow the magazine Charlie Hebdo to continue to provoke Muslims, thereby placing the sanctity of its citizens at risk? It is time that the sanctity of a Prophet revered by up to one-quarter of the world’s population was protected.

Gosh this has taken a long time, and still there are fools who refuse to take such simplicity and clarity seriously. We live in Dar Al-Harb. It’s a long war and sharia is on the other side, as we pointed out a decade ago. (We have another oldie but goodie on art, statuary, and guess-who at the Supreme Court.)

The usual suspects 2

January 8th, 2015

Departures from the pattern by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a brave guy it seems, and, surprisingly in The New Yorker. Enough of this: here’s a piece on a fun kind of criminal.

The usual suspects

January 7th, 2015

CNN: the motive behind Wednesday’s massacre is not yet clear. We won’t even quote Howard Dean. On the other hand, Mr. Choudary is clear as a bell. So are these old-timers. And a helpful hint from Inspire Magazine: “It’s not necessary to do what Muhammad Atta did, it’s enough to do what Nidal Hassan did.” Hassan? Wait a sec, wasn’t that just workplace violence and not something else? Finally, Andy McCarthy provides an update from al Azhar University.

Though many of the usual suspects are still saying the usual things, the toleration for BS seems to have gone way down. It does seem different this time.

Toxic brew

January 6th, 2015

Cultures that teach their kids that they are victims manage to do several cruel things at once. They program the young for failure and simultaneously create a false sense of entitlement in them. The results are predictably horrible. But wait, there’s more! Since the young haven’t read Shakespeare or the Bible, and since they live in a world of constantly changing technology, they believe human nature is malleable and perfectible, if it weren’t for the meanies out there. Sometimes this leads to lots of laughs, but for the most part it’s tragic.

Odds and ends: nice piece on Shelby Foote. Victimhood, entitlement, perfectible, meanies; hey, what does that add up to?

Chicken, meet roost

January 5th, 2015

NYT:

Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.

Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the heart of the 378-year-old university, voted overwhelmingly in November to oppose changes that would require them and thousands of other Harvard employees to pay more for health care. The university says the increases are in part a result of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which many Harvard professors championed.

The faculty vote came too late to stop the cost increases from taking effect this month, and the anger on campus remains focused on questions that are agitating many workplaces: How should the burden of health costs be shared by employers and employees? If employees have to bear more of the cost, will they skimp on medically necessary care, curtail the use of less valuable services, or both?

“Harvard is a microcosm of what’s happening in health care in the country,” said David M. Cutler, a health economist at the university who was an adviser to President Obama’s 2008 campaign. But only up to a point: Professors at Harvard have until now generally avoided the higher expenses that other employers have been passing on to employees. That makes the outrage among the faculty remarkable, Mr. Cutler said, because “Harvard was and remains a very generous employer.”

In Harvard’s health care enrollment guide for 2015, the university said it “must respond to the national trend of rising health care costs, including some driven by health care reform,” otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act. The guide said that Harvard faced “added costs” because of provisions in the health care law that extend coverage for children up to age 26, offer free preventive services like mammograms and colonoscopies and, starting in 2018, add a tax on high-cost insurance, known as the Cadillac tax.

Richard F. Thomas, a Harvard professor of classics and one of the world’s leading authorities on Virgil, called the changes “deplorable, deeply regressive, a sign of the corporatization of the university.”

Mary D. Lewis, a professor who specializes in the history of modern France and has led opposition to the benefit changes, said they were tantamount to a pay cut. “Moreover,” she said, “this pay cut will be timed to come at precisely the moment when you are sick, stressed or facing the challenges of being a new parent.”

The university is adopting standard features of most employer-sponsored health plans

Also from Harvard: “climate scientists offered an increase of 2 degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) as the ‘safe’ limit or ceiling for the long-term warming of the planet. We are now seeing dangerous effects worldwide, even as we approach a rise of only 1 degree Celsius…we have underreacted to the reality, now unfolding before our eyes, of dangerous climate change.” BTW, Harvard professors are very well paid, indeed too well paid based on the foregoing.

31 years ago — wow

January 4th, 2015

We can’t stand the insipid controversies that highlight the ineptitude, the projection, and the ignorance of the young people in media (and their elders too). Here’s Scott Johnson; here’s Clarice of course — it’s Sunday!!! So here’s something from decades ago this month, when we attended the gala at the Paris Opera honoring Martha Graham; our old pal and roommate EJ Dionne recorded the festivities for the NYT. For some reason we’ve thought both Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov performed at the event, but apparently we’ve been wrong about that all these years. (We just watched Charade again on TCM so that probably sparked this.) Have a good night!

Irritants, Part One

January 3rd, 2015

Seth Mandel has a fun piece at Commentary about Rudy Giuliani annoying the heck out of the media. They really are annoyed; we saw this CNN bit a while back and you can see how ticked off the interviwer was when the attempted “gotcha” didn’t stick. If we get a chance, Part Two will address Heather Mac Donald.

Something new

January 2nd, 2015

Thomas Sowell:

If science could cross breed a jellyfish with a parrot, it could create academic administrators.

More here and here.

Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2015

It’s finally 2015. Whew! Don’t want to take note of the usual nonsense, so here’s a little link to a nice story to end 2014 on. Happy New Year!

First the hissy fit, then some comments

December 31st, 2014

NYT editors:

de Blasio isn’t going to say it, but somebody has to: With these acts of passive-aggressive contempt and self-pity, many New York police officers, led by their union, are squandering the department’s credibility, defacing its reputation, shredding its hard-earned respect. They have taken the most grave and solemn of civic moments — a funeral of a fallen colleague — and hijacked it for their own petty look-at-us gesture. In doing so, they also turned their backs on Mr. Ramos’s widow and her two young sons, and others in that grief-struck family. These are disgraceful acts, which will be compounded if anyone repeats the stunt at Officer Liu’s funeral on Sunday. The New York Police Department is going through a terrible time, and the assassinations of those officers only underscore the dreadful dangers that rank-and-file cops face every day. And, in truth, there is some thanklessness to being a cop. Officers often feel beleaguered, jerked around by supervisors and politicians, obligated to follow rules and policies that can be misguided, held responsible for their mistakes in ways that the public is not, exposed to frequent ridicule and hostility from the people they are sworn to serve. It has always been that way with cops. But none of those grievances can justify the snarling sense of victimhood

What a bunch of jerks at the NYT. BTW, arrests are down 66% in recent days. Small wonder. Also, how about Sheriff David Clarke for president? HT: PL

All this anti-police stuff boggles the mind. It could have made some sense if there were a pattern of individual policemen repeatedly involved in these incidents, but the total killings are only 200 a year by policemen of every stripe. So you have the bizarre spectacle of the media running from city to city and village to village to find an event to fit the narrative. Boy, these progressive narratives, one after the other and non-stop, are getting to be really annoying.

School marm

December 30th, 2014

Foreign Policy:

the top 10 countries for whom “unacceptable” was most often used in conjunction with since the start of the administration: Syria (147), Iran (118), North Korea (115), Israel (87), Pakistan (83), Russia (78), Egypt (77), China (74), Afghanistan (66), and Iraq (63).

Now behave of we’ll rap you knuckles with a ruler or open an embassy in your country or something really really bad! HT: PL

Strange days are coming

December 29th, 2014

In case you’re feeling good, we can deal with that. Clarice takes up the post-truth America we live in. Hey, lighten up! you’re either in the party of love or the party of hate; that’s what defines truth now. Sheeesh! Meanwhile John Hinderaker and Colin Flaherty catalogue what the party of love is up to in the Christmas season. Ho Ho Ho!! VDH is pessimistic about all this. (Miscellaneous tip: don’t get married on a golf course.) Finally, in what is by far the most interesting piece of the day, Jared Diamond imagines America as Chile at the brink of going Allende-to-Pinochet:

Americans are divided almost equally between liberals and conservatives…our politicians have been increasingly unwilling or unable to craft compromises. The most recent Congress passed fewer laws than any Congress in decades. Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill couldn’t agree even on matters that should have been noncontroversial, such as funding the Federal Aviation Administration and confirming the nominations of judges and second-level government officers. And American democracy is being eroded by partisan measures aimed at preventing registration or voting by citizens likely to prefer the other party, and by massive distortion of elections by big money. You may object that the American armed forces, unlike those in Chile or Indonesia or Spain, have no precedent at all for interfering in American politics. That’s true. But consider what happened in 1933 in Austria, where private citizens had increasingly been arming themselves and forming private militias. When Austria’s Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss abolished the country’s legislature and established an authoritarian right-wing government, he didn’t use an Austrian army to crush his left-wing political opponents. He did it with a militia of his own armed supporters. Could that be possible here? Already, plenty of Americans are asserting the right to carry guns in previously unlikely places

Gosh, it must be those darned Tea Party types! Guns! BTW, Diamond is a sucker for the Voter ID calumny, which also tells you where he’s coming from. However, he may be on to something, but not because, as he avers, “Americans are divided almost equally between liberals and conservatives.” No, that’s not the case. The US soi-disant intelligentsia and the US average Joes are probably more likely split against each other on some critical issues (95-5 one way, 62-38 the other) — are you de Blasio or a cop, for example. Perhaps the danger Diamond senses but not articulate is in the self-styled intellectual elites losing big for a long time if the average Joes found a guy with a clear mind and strong voice. Pity Walter Williams is probably a little too old to run.

Well worth reading

December 29th, 2014

Walter Williams:

There is no question, though it’s not acknowledged enough, that black Americans have made greater gains, over some of the highest hurdles and in a very short span of time, than any other racial group in mankind’s history. What’s the evidence? If black Americans were thought of as anation with their own gross domestic product, they’d rank among the 20 wealthiest nations. It was a black American, Gen. Colin Powell, who headed the mightiest military in mankind’s history. A few black Americans are among the world’s wealthiest. Many black Americans are among the world’s most famous personalities.

The significance of all this is that in 1865, neither an ex-­slave nor an ex­-slave owner would have believed that such progress would be possible in less than a century and a half. As such, it speaks to the intestinal fortitude of a people. Just as importantly, it speaks to the greatness of a nation within which such progress was possible. That progress would have been impossible anywhere except in the United States of America. The challenge that lies before us is how those gains can be extended to a large percentage of black people for whom they appear elusive.

A good start to meeting that challenge is to recognize that much of the pathology seen in many black communities is entirely new in black history. Let’s look at some of that history. In the late 1800s, depending on the city, 70 to 80 percent of black households were two ­parent. In 1925 New York City, 85 percent of black households were two­ parent. As late as 1950, only 18 percent of black households were single­ parent. From 1890 to 1940, a slightly higher percentage of black adults had married than white adults. In 1940, black illegitimacy was about 14 percent.

Today it’s an entirely different story. Black illegitimacy is 75 percent. Close to 50 percent of marriage age blacks never marry. Close to 70 percent of black households are female ­headed. If one thinks family structure doesn’t matter, consider that the poverty rate among black female ­headed families is about 47 percent but among married families it has been in the single digits for more than two decades. It’s not just poverty. Children raised by single parents are likelier to be physically abused; use drugs; engage in violent, delinquent and criminal behavior; have emotional and behavioral problems; and drop out of school.

What about employment? Every census from 1890 to 1950 showed that black labor force participation rates were higher than those of whites. Today it’s a mere fraction. Prior to the mid­’50s, the unemployment rate for black 16­ and 17­ year ­olds was under 10 percent and less than that of whites. Who would argue that this more favorable employment picture was because there was less racial discrimination in the job market in earlier times? Labor laws such as the Davis­ Bacon Act of 1931 — a federal minimum wage law for construction workers — and the 1938 federal minimum wage law for all workers reduced work opportunities for blacks.

Then there’s the high crime rate. Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person. Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation’s population, they are more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, the black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it’s 22 times that of whites. Along with being most of the nation’s homicide victims, blacks are most of the victims of violent personal crimes, such as assault and robbery.

Older black people, who were raised in an era when there was far greater discrimination and who faced far fewer opportunities, need to speak out against behavior and excuses that their parents would have never accepted. Otherwise, the race hustlers, poverty pimps and white liberals will continue with the narrative that black problems are a result of racism and racist cops and condemn future generations of blacks to a lifetime of mediocrity…

In 2013, there were 6,261 black homicide victims in the U.S.—almost all killed by black civilians—resulting in a death risk in inner cities that is ten times higher for blacks than for whites. None of those killings triggered mass protests; they are deemed normal and beneath notice. The police, by contrast, according to published reports, kill roughly 200 blacks a year, most of them armed and dangerous, out of about 40 million police-civilian contacts a year. Blacks are in fact killed by police at a lower rate than their threat to officers would predict. In 2013, blacks made up 42 percent of all cop killers whose race was known, even though blacks are only 13 percent of the nation’s population. The percentage of black suspects killed by the police nationally is 29 percent lower than the percentage of blacks mortally threatening them.

The last graph is from the HMD piece.

China changes

December 28th, 2014

FT:

Beijing lifted controls on credit and flooded the economy with cash, much of which was funnelled into an expanding property bubble. The result was a construction boom and an unprecedented increase in total debt to GDP from 147 per cent at the end of 2008 to 251 per cent by the end of June this year, according to estimates from Standard Chartered. Credit expansion has slowed in recent months but is still growing a lot faster than GDP while providing less and less growth for each renminbi borrowed…Despite many years of extreme overcapacity and falling profits – the price of steel is now less than the price of cabbage in China – steel production in China was up 5.4 per cent in the first nine months of this year. Bankruptcies are another area where the pain has not yet really begun.

NYT:

Mr. Xing borrowed heavily to expand. The debt could be serviced as long as coal prices were high, but they began to fall in 2012 as the economy slowed. Mr. Xing sought to diversify, using his close ties with local officials to lease farmland and build apartment blocks, small dams, walnut plantations and a paved, solar lamp-lit road from the city to his home village. When coal prices collapsed, Mr. Xing’s company filed to restructure $5 billion in unpayable loans. The housing blocks are still concrete shells, and farmers say that the walnut plantations are not mature enough yet to harvest and that Liansheng owes them money. Mr. Xing was detained in March, and his whereabouts is unknown.

GE China CEO:

China is going through some fundamental changes. The next decade or two or three will be very different. If you look at some of the challenges the country is facing, they’re very much lined up with where GE’s core competencies are. Energy demand is going to continue to increase. Urbanization is going to continue. There will be more roads and more airports. There are definitely more people aging. Quality and affordable health care will be a big priority for the government. The point here is that, our portfolio and our technologies, they are a good fit…GE has over 18,000 employees in China today. Over 90% of employees are local…the direction the new administration is taking the country is the right one. They are trading the speed of growth for the quality of growth, shifting to more consumer-oriented growth.

Reuters:

China’s trade will grow 3.5 percent in 2014, implying the country will fall short of a current 7.5 percent official growth target, according to a report on the Ministry of Commerce’s website that was subsequently revised to remove the numbers. The initial version of the report published on the website on Saturday, which quoted Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng, was replaced with a new version that had identical wording but with all the numbers and percentages removed…

Foreign direct investment will amount to $120 billion for the year, the earlier version of Ministry of Commerce report said, in line with official forecasts. The earlier version of the report also said outward non-financial investment from China could also come in around the same level. That would mark the first time outward flows have pulled even with inward investment flows in China, and would imply a major surge in outward investment…The earlier version of the report also predicted that retail sales growth would come in at 12 percent for 2014, in line with the current average growth rate.

Stratfor:

The rules that Beijing issued Dec. 22 will require local governments above the county level to create special departments for registering ownership and land use rights, housing and a variety of natural resources. They will mandate that local authorities keep entries electronically and in print and that they update them regularly. These records will then be subject to both central and provincial oversight. According to news reports, the regulations will require property owners to register their holdings with local authorities. Anyone found guilty of “abuse of power” or otherwise failing to fully disclose their holdings will be prosecuted…

the central government’s effort to expand a property tax scheme, which it is currently being piloted in Chongqing and Shanghai municipalities, to the national level. If effectively implemented, the effects of such a tax on China’s property markets would be manifold. Such a tax could provide a crucial supplemental revenue source for local governments, which are responsible for the vast majority of government-related expenditures in China today. Similarly placing a regular tax on homeownership would incentivize those who own more than one property to put their additional properties to productive use. Currently, homebuyers pay taxes at purchase but not thereafter. This means that many treat second and third homes as investments rather than as sources of income through rent. The new tax would create the basis for a more stable and sustainable rental market and curb extreme property speculation…

Beijing’s efforts to widen a municipal bond pilot program currently in progress in 10 regions and cities across the country will also be critical. By opening municipal bond markets, central authorities aim to create new ways for local governments to raise capital. This would allow these governments to repay outstanding debts and to cover new expenditures, further reducing their reliance on land sales for revenue generation. Beijing will need to implement bond markets and the national property registry in tandem over the coming years. This is essential. For a national property registry to be effective in curbing speculation, a municipal bond market must be in place. This would give investors new avenues for generating reasonable returns on their investments…

Opposition to these and other reforms still in the planning stages will run high. Most objection will come from local governments and a range of local-level actors — particularly property developers and speculators. Municipal governments will hesitate to carry out top-down reform initiatives that, in spite of long-term benefits, will likely result in direct revenue loss, slowing local economic activity and causing a rise in unemployment. Local government officials, too, are often directly and indirectly tied to property developers and speculators. Because of this, they will hesitate to carry out measures that either limit their own financial prospects or implicate them in illegal activity.

Stratfor addressed some related issues a few months ago. This is impressive stuff; these are difficult and complex changes. Obviously the changes are essential to getting to a self-sustaining economy and not the one that was 70% dependent on exports for success. Good luck!

The sixties are back, this time without the fun

December 27th, 2014

CUNY, early December:

In Support of Violence…The time for peace has passed, indeed it never existed in this country. It doesn’t matter if Brown robbed a convenience store, or even if he assaulted Wilson. What matters is that the case highlights the depths to which the capitalist state and its police forces will protect their own and attempt to stifle any sort of dissent…The violence of the police is almost always defensible in the eyes of the ruling elite…So, why then is the violence of the protestor so reviled? It is confounding that the people seem more concerned about the loss of property than the loss of life in the aftermath of the Ferguson decision. While there are opportunists who have used the protests to their own end, the acts of looting, destruction of property, and violence directed towards state representatives is not only warranted, it is necessary. If people could, they would target the police…

The violence of the police is almost always defensible in the eyes of the ruling elite…So, why then is the violence of the protestor so reviled? It is confounding that the people seem more concerned about the loss of property than the loss of life in the aftermath of the Ferguson decision. While there are opportunists who have used the protests to their own end, the acts of looting, destruction of property, and violence directed towards state representatives is not only warranted, it is necessary. If people could, they would target the police…During the protests in New York City in the days after the decision to not indict Wilson, thousands took to the streets empathetically chanting “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” Some, however, went even further, shouting the slogan “Arms Up, Shoot Back!” The former statement represents an appeal to state authorities, namely the police, to cease its murderous rampage upon those living in this country…The attacks on property in Ferguson only need be redirected for a magnificent transformation of consciousness…

Calls for calm emanating from the upper strata of society are an attempt to mitigate the popular indignation that has long been bubbling under the surface of the society. The violence against property, that is destruction and theft, is only an unorganized form of something with the potential to be far more revolutionary and inspiring. To say that an all-out class war is on the horizon would be hyperbolic at this point, and maybe even myopic, but the undergirding social structures that position disenfranchised and working class peoples well below the dictatorship of capital are being pressured, the police being only one such institution. With increased organization, the Ferguson protests and riots do have the potential to transform from seemingly random attacks to ones that aim at puncturing the status quo

Fairly prescient piece, considering that today marked the funeral of Rafael Ramos, with 25,000 policemen in attendance. The mayor got the predictable reaction. We again draw your attention to the Heather Mac Donald piece addressing the big — and frankly, obvious — lies being told about cops by these ardent leftists.

They had things going their way for a little while. It was clever of the organizers to promote blocking freeways and the like, commanding media attention and making their numbers and power seem far greater than they actually were. Now it’s unclear where things are going to go. The murders of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu have produced a kind of litmus test: are you a de Blasio or a cop? America has degenerated a lot since the days of Richard Nixon’s silent majority, but that choice is still an easy call.

Meanwhile, back in grad school

December 26th, 2014

The other day we looked in on college life. Here’s grad school:

Val Rust’s dissertation-prep class had devolved into a highly charged arena of competing victim ideologies, impenetrable to anyone outside academia. For example: Were white feminists who use “standpoint theory”—a feminist critique of allegedly male-centered epistemology—illegitimately appropriating the “testimonial” genre used by Chicana feminists to narrate their stories of oppression? Rust took little part in these “methodological” disputes—if one can describe “Chicana testimonials” as a scholarly “method”—but let the more theoretically up-to-date students hash it out among themselves. Other debates centered on the political implications of punctuation. Rust had changed a student’s capitalization of the word “indigenous” in her dissertation proposal to the lowercase, thus allegedly showing disrespect for the student’s ideological point of view. Tensions arose over Rust’s insistence that students use the more academic Chicago Manual of Style for citation format; some students felt that the less formal American Psychological Association conventions better reflected their political commitments. During one of these heated discussions, Rust reached over and patted the arm of the class’s most vociferous critical race–theory advocate to try to calm him down—a gesture typical of the physically demonstrative Rust, who is prone to hugs. The student, Kenjus Watson, dramatically jerked his arm away, as a burst of nervous energy coursed through the room. After each of these debates, the self-professed “students of color” exchanged e-mails about their treatment by the class’s “whites.” (Asians are not considered “persons of color” on college campuses, presumably because they are academically successful.) Finally, on November 14, 2013, the class’s five “students of color,” accompanied by “students of color” from elsewhere at UCLA, as well as by reporters and photographers from the campus newspaper, made their surprise entrance into Rust’s class as a “collective statement of Resistance by Graduate Students of Color.” The protesters formed a circle around Rust and the remaining five students (one American, two Europeans, and two Asian nationals) and read aloud their “Day of Action Statement.” That statement suggests that Rust’s modest efforts to help students with their writing faced obstacles too great to overcome. The Day of Action Statement contains hardly a sentence without some awkwardness of grammar or usage. “The silence on the repeated assailment of our work by white female colleagues, our professor’s failure to acknowledge and assuage the escalating hostility directed at the only Male of Color in this cohort, as well as his own repeated questioning of this male’s intellectual and professional decisions all support a complacency in this hostile and unsafe climate for Scholars of Color,” the manifesto asserts. The Day of Action Statement denounces the class’s “racial microaggressions,” which it claims have been “directed at our epistemologies, our intellectual rigor and to a misconstruction of the methodological genealogies that we have shared with the class.” (Though it has only caught on in recent years, the “microaggression” concept was first coined in the 1970s by a black psychiatrist.) Reaching its peroration, the statement unleashes a few more linguistic head-scratchers: “It is, at its most benign, disingenuous to the next generations of Scholars of Color to not seek material and systematic changes in this department. It is a toxic, unsafe and intellectually stifling environment at its current worse.” The Ph.D. candidates who authored this statement are at the threshold of a career in academia—and not just any career in academia but one teaching teachers. The Day of Action Statement should have been a wake-up call to the school’s authorities—not about UCLA’s “hostile racial climate” but about their own pedagogical failure to prepare students for scholarly writing

The above was a footnote to a Heather Mac Donald piece on the big lie of today. You can see from what goes on in grad school that this pernicious foolishness isn’t going to stop on its own any time soon. Too many people have too much invested in this nonsense. Actually, we’re pretty optimistic that things can change; look at the pathetic level of jibber-jabber from allegedly smart people. Oops, we watched a replay of the MTV music awards yesterday, and we’re depressed again. There’s no hope for this country if this is what the culture has become. Help!!

Merry Christmas

December 25th, 2014

NY Post:

airline workers wished him a merry Christmas. The man was waiting to board American Airlines Flight 1140 to Dallas when a cheerful gate agent began welcoming everyone with the Yuletide greeting while checking boarding passes. The grumpy passenger, who appeared to be traveling alone, barked at the woman, “You shouldn’t say that because not everyone celebrates Christmas.” The agent replied, “Well, what should I say then?” “Don’t say, ‘Merry Christmas!’ ” the man shouted before brushing past her. Once on the plane, he was warmly greeted by a flight attendant who also wished him a “merry Christmas.” That was the last straw. “Don’t say, ‘Merry Christmas!’ ” the man raged before lecturing the attendants and the pilot about their faux pas. The crew tried to calm the unidentified man, but he refused to back down and continued hectoring them. He was escorted off the plane as other fliers burst into cheers and applause.

What a nice story. Merry Christmas!

Squirrelly

December 24th, 2014

BBC:

“Carbon has been accumulating in permafrost for tens of thousands of years. The temperature is very cold, the soils are saturated, so that when plants and animals die, rather than decompose, the carbon has been slowly, slowly building up. “Right now the carbon storage is about 1,500 petagrams (1,500 billion tonnes). To put that in perspective, that’s about twice as much as is contained in the atmosphere.” The fear is that as the planet warms, the permafrost will thaw, releasing even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and causing temperatures to rise further still…

“If ground squirrels are adding nitrogen to an area – and that area doesn’t have plants because they dug them up – this may result in increased loss of carbon from the system.” She concluded that squirrels were playing “a far more important role in this permafrost carbon cycle than we thought”. The team now wants to return to the area to quantify how much carbon is being unlocked by the squirrels

Squirrels? And we thought cows were the greatest threat to the planet. Can’t keep us with all this. (And in case you’re looking for something that’s a bit of fun, don’t read this.)

Quote of the day

December 23rd, 2014

Clift:

the rest of us are all going to be rushing to get to Cuba before it turns into Miami Beach, while it’s still that unspoiled seemingly place, with the classic cars

It never seems to occur to these people that if your cars are 60 years out of date, that probably goes for things like medical care too.

Bright college years

December 22nd, 2014

What’s happening in Michigan?

As members of the Arab, Latina/o, Desi, and Asian-American communities, we are severely disappointed and humiliated by the formal response of an Asian-American fraternity member who “authored” and organized the anti-Black event, “World Star Hip Hop Presents: Hood Ratchet Thursday.” The subsequent apology by the fraternity’s president reframed this as an isolated incident instead of examining the event as a form of structural racism thriving in the University at large. We must move the conversation beyond addressing “micro-aggressions” to interrogating the racial landscape of our campus. As it stands today, white student enrollment is at 70 percent while Asian-American student enrollment has been exponentially increasing. However, Black enrollment, at less than 4 percent, is the lowest since 2006. These statistics are more than just numbers; they translate into real, unequal power relations within and outside of communities of color. We write this letter to provoke critical conversations in our communities that examine how non-Black communities of color contribute to and benefit from the status quo. As non-Black people of color it is time we hold ourselves accountable for our communities’ complicity in anti-Blackness. We don’t share common racialized experiences with Black students at the University of Michigan. All “minorities” do not have the same experience with institutionalized racism. It is disingenuous for any of us to say we “sympathize as a fellow minority” as this erases differences and suggests that the University is an equal playing field for all students of color. It is not. This racist event, hosted by a multicultural fraternity, reflects a broader trend on campus in which non-Black people of color co-opt Black voices. Now that more non-Black people are consuming hip-hop, our communities have created and fetishized caricatures of Black people for our own pleasure and entertainment. Non-Black people of color need to interrogate our own racist, essentialist notions about “Black culture.” We cannot “transcend” “racial definitions” when hip-hop music was created as a form of Black resistance. As non-Black people of color we cannot claim to “appreciate” music without understanding its historical origins. We cannot consume mainstream hip-hop without considering that most popular hip-hop today is produced and regulated by six corporations, all headed by white men, who control 90 percent of mainstream media. Just as mainstream media’s construction of Black culture does not define blackness, Theta Xi’s appropriation of Black culture does not define Blackness. Additionally, let us not pretend that this incident along with other hate crimes affect all marginalized groups in the same way. It is important to recognize that not “all women” have been traumatized by this event in the same manner. Gendered and racialized words like “ratchet” and “twerking” specifically target Black women. To say that this affects all women is reductive and clearly ignores that race and gender cannot be separated. We cannot erase the specificity of Black experiences by using selectively collective language like “our community” to discuss how this incident exacerbated the“problematic campus climate.” It is time for ourselves and for our communities to examine how we benefit from existing US racial structures. As non-Black people of color, we are granted the ability to assimilate and reproduce whiteness. By umbrellaing under “people of color” we absolve ourselves of political accountability. A white/non-white racial paradigm dismisses how the reality of anti-Black racism structures racial inequalities. While the term “people-of-color” may be useful in building movements across communities, it should not lead to “people-of-color-blindness.” On our campus, we cannot “foster healthy values” by exploiting Black students’ lived experiences to enlighten us on anti-Black racism. Instead we should work to examine our relationships to Blackness with the same specificity we use to examine our relationships to whiteness. For our racial justice work to be meaningful and sustainable, we must constantly work to unlearn anti-Black attitudes and practices, specifically in our respective non-Black communities. We do not write this letter to claim authority, but to incite political meditations on how our communities can reimagine our anti-racist work on campus and beyond

Wow, someone’s parents are sure wasting a lot of money. Hmmmm, we know an ex-mayor who’d fit right in as university president at Michigan. Hey, Brandeis is cool too!