Friday, April 01, 2016

Cruising the Web

Some college students have become increasingly fragile that it is difficult to understand how low they'll go. Ashe Schow writes,
I originally thought we had jumped the shark of campus whining last December, when students at Lebanon Valley College demanded the administration change the name of the "Lynch Memorial Building" because of the word "lynch."

As ludicrous as that demand was, it was soon surpassed in January when students at the University of Oregon decided Martin Luther King, Jr. — a man revered for his devotion to and sacrifices on behalf of civil rights — was not inclusive enough. They specifically objected to King's famous quotation: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

The quote was hanging above the lobby at Oregon's Erb Memorial Union. But because skin color was the only thing MLK referred to, students considered asking to remove it.
And now we have students who want counseling because they're seeing "Trump 2016" written around the campus. And university officials sympathize with the pain and suffering of students.
It's chalk, people. It's not Trump himself out to get you. It's not even another human being out to get you. It's a form of calcium carbonate. You draw things with it, sometimes in different colors. The only way chalk could really hurt you is if someone threw a chunk of it at you. But even the message itself was just a political exhortation to vote for someone.

Heaven forbid they ever go on Twitter.

Seriously, kids, grow up. You're at college to learn how to be adults and live in the real world. The real world isn't going to offer you counseling every time you disagree with someone. Buck up, buttercup.
I yield to no one in how much I detest Donald Trump, but his name alone is not an act of aggression. These kids need to get over themselves in a big hurry.

In my AP US and European history classes, I try to point out to students on a regular basis how much better their lives are in all respects from the lives of young people in the past. As we read testimony of children who worked in British factories and mines during the Industrial Revolution when children as young as eight would work 14-hour days under the threat of beatings if they didn't keep working, I'm hoping my students develop a real sense of gratitude for what their lives are like today. I usually end up saying to the students that, having read such testimony, they'll understand my lack of sympathy when they complain about how tough their lives are because they have a lot of homework.

We just finished studying the Great Depression and World War Two and I hope my students came to appreciate how tough it would be to grow up in the 1930s and then be thrust into the horrors of World War Two. Last week we read about the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Can you even imagine the brave students who stood up to Bull Connor's dogs or fire hoses or traveled South for the Freedom Rides trembling before a chalk presidential endorsement?

I think these fragile college students worrying about Trump's name or MLK's quote or a building named after someone with the last name "Lynch" need to read a bit about what young people have had to endure throughout history. Once again, an ignorance of history is debilitating a new generation.

Apparently, this is what racism is today.
A “cultural competency workshop” at the taxpayer-funded University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is assigning scores to students based on how much “white privilege” they allegedly have.

The “cultural competency” workshop, which appears to be mandatory for certain students, requires participants to “examine white privilege and how it is more powerful than other types of benefits afforded by society” by completing surveys, reports Campus Reform.
Oh, Heavens! If this is what racism has become today, then we have made miraculous progress in just my lifetime.

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Larry Summers, who knows about hypersensitive college campuses, has an interesting question.
It has seemed to me that a vast double standard regarding what constitutes prejudice exists on American college campuses. There is hypersensitivity to prejudice against most minority groups but what might be called hyper-insensitivity to anti-Semitism.

At Bowdoin College, holding parties with sombreros and tequila is deemed to be an act of prejudice against Mexicans. At Emory, the chalking of an endorsement of the likely Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, on a sidewalk is deemed to require a review of security tapes. The existence of a college named after a widely admired former U.S. president has been condemned at Princeton, under the duress of a student occupation. At Yale, Halloween costumes are the subject of administrative edict. The dean of Harvard Law School has acknowledged that hers is a racist institution, while the freshman dean at Harvard College has used dinner place mats to propagandize the student body on aspects of diversity. Professors acquiesce as students insist that they not be exposed to views on issues, such as abortion, that make them uncomfortable.
Summers reminds us that the State Department has characterized demonization of Israel as anti-Semitism and points to all the examples of anti-Semitism on campuses.
Instances of anti-Semitism by this standard are ubiquitous in American academic life. Nearly a dozen academic associations have enacted formal boycotts of Israeli institutions and in some cases Israeli scholars. Student governments at dozens of universities have demanded the divestiture of companies that do business in Israel or the West Bank. Guest speakers and even some faculty in their classrooms compare Israel to Nazi Germany and question its right to continued existence as a Jewish state.

Yet, with very few exceptions, university leaders who are so quick to stand up against microagressions against other groups remain silent in the face of anti-Semitism. Indeed, many major American universities, including Harvard, remain institutional members of associations that are engaged in boycotts of Israel. The idea of divesting Israel is opposed only in the same way that divesting apartheid South Africa was opposed — as an inappropriate intrusion into politics, not as immoral or anti-Semitic.
Good for Larry Summers.

Kudos to George Mason University for renaming their law school in honor of Justice Antonin Scalia.
The renaming is apparently related to a pair of donations the school has received totaling $30 million. The first donation of $20 million is anonymous, while the second of $10 million is coming from The Charles Koch Foundation. The name change is being voted on by the school’s board of directors Thursday afternoon, and the final decision will have to be approved by Virginia’s higher education authority before taking effect.

Scalia was not an alumnus of George Mason, but the school is a fitting place to rename in honor of the Court’s most outspoken conservative justice. Recently, George Mason has become known for the significant number of libertarian and conservative law and economics professors who work there. For instance, three members of the high-profile conservative legal blog, The Volokh Conspiracy, are professors at GMU, and the school also hosts the Mercatus Center, a free-market think tank.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Scalia’s close friend and ideological foe on the Court, praised the renaming as a fitting tribute to him. But other left-leaning voices and alumni are already denouncing the renaming.
If Justice Ginsburg thinks it is a "fitting tribute," can't the critics just calm down.

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Charles C. W. Cooke, whose wife just had a baby so he might be pondering acceptable behavior in children, writes that Trump's behavior would be unacceptable in an eight-year-old.
Such brazen changeability is par for the Trumpian course. Thus far during Fieldsgate, Trump has argued that nothing at all happened and that the charges were “made up”; that something happened but that the incident has been blown out of proportion; and that, when you think about it, Lewandowski is a hero for saving a presidential candidate from a terrorist attack.

To his apologists, this malleability has suggested that Trump is willing to do “what needs to be done.” To those of us who value truth, however, it has demonstrated just how readily the man will abandon evidence and virtue if he believes that it will help him in the moment. One expects dishonesty from politicians; mendacity, sadly, is a part of how the game has always been played. But at this late stage in the proceedings, one is left wondering less whether Trump is lying routinely in an attempt to get ahead, and more whether he is in fact capable of comprehending the difference between fiction and reality. There is a good reason that when pushed on policy, he either picks the most bombastic position available or issues an assurance that his policies will be “terrific.” That good reason? That in order to devise a coherent policy platform one has to have a coherent grasp on reality. And Donald Trump doesn’t.

Alas, it seems that a substantial portion of the Republican electorate considers this approach to be cute — or, at least, necessary. I do not. When William Brown believes that he is Blackbeard because he has a fencepost in his hand and some soil smushed into his face, it is endearing; when Donald Trump believes that he can will himself into Lincoln’s shoes simply by mentioning his name, it is scary. When William Brown offers up whatever expedient lies will help him escape the scrape he’s got himself into, it is diverting and funny; when Donald Trump demonstrates his willingness to say anything so that he can live another day, it is an alarming preview of the manner in which he would wield power.

My husband and I have always marveled at the ability of the Clintons to find people to work for them who will defend their dishonesty and corruption. Donald Trump seems to have a similar ability.
The Clintons perfected the art of the lie, paired it with ridicule of the honest, and learned how to win with dishonor. Recall the horror show that ensued after Clinton said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” A decent man wouldn’t have had an affair with an intern. An honorable man would have confessed. But Clinton was neither decent nor honorable, so for months his apologists repeated his lies and mocked those who sought the truth.

It was the same game Trump plays. For Clinton’s defenders, the matter was important enough to lie about but not important enough to investigate. It was important enough that accusers and investigators had to be destroyed but not important enough that the actual liars should be held to account. And they won. As evidenced by Hillary’s Clinton’s ascendancy in the Democratic primary, they’re still winning today.

Now the GOP has a Clinton of its very own — complete with millions of Clintonistas, people willing to say anything and even believe anything in the quest to “just win.” The Clinton/Trump ethic doesn’t just reflect a post-truth culture but one that’s positively anti-truth. Post-truth implies that the truth doesn’t really matter. Anti-truth means that the truth is your enemy — and so are its advocates.

In an anti-truth world, honesty is a threat. Scrutiny is dangerous. And a candidate and his supporters can say literally anything they want so long as it gets them past the news cycle and moves the ball down the political field. In the meantime, those who care about reality are mocked as suckers — as losers.

But to give up on investigating the truth because the lie is “minor” or because one feels vaguely silly reviewing a Florida surveillance tape like it’s the Zapruder Film is to give up on honesty itself. And that’s exactly Trump’s hope. That was Clinton’s hope. If you can make virtue look bad enough, vice can prevail.

Hillary Clinton is just sick of Bernie Sanders daring to question her. Look at her lose her temper with a question asked on a rope line. Allahpundit is amused.
To cleanse the palate, here’s our next president ably channeling the public mood of feeling thisclose to punching one’s political opponents in the face. Somehow Bernie Sanders and his fans got it in their heads that Hillary Clinton, of all people, might be guilty of influence peddling. In reality, her campaign doesn’t accept money from fossil-fuel companies. If you want to buy political favors from the Clintons, that’s what the Clinton Foundation is for. Then again, if Bernie’s not going to talk about her possibly criminal corruption in mishandling classified information, talking about more pedestrian forms of corruption is a decent consolation prize.
And, of course, Hillary is lying about never taking money from fossil fuel companies.
Although Clinton denied taking money from such companies, records show that over the course of her career Clinton has taken over $2.3 million from energy or natural resources industries.

There could actually be real consequences for Donald Trump's saying that he is going back on his pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee.
Donald Trump’s announcement that he no longer stands by a pledge to support the GOP has thrown his hold on South Carolina’s 50 delegates in doubt.

The Palmetto State was one of several that required candidates to pledge their loyalty to the party’s eventual nominee in order to secure a slot on the primary ballot. Though Trump won all of the state’s delegates in the Feb. 20 primary, anti-Trump forces are plotting to contest their binding to Trump because of his threat on the pledge Tuesday.

The loyalty pledge is nothing new in South Carolina, where it has been required for decades, but took on new focus in light of Trump’s public musings about a third party run or withdrawing his support from the eventual nominee if he is stopped at a contested convention.
There are other states that have similar loyalty pledges. I suspect that Trump will quickly change his statements once it's brought home to him that there are real-world consequences of his words. And of course, no one should have any faith in any one of his statements.

Mother Jones found another weird statement from Trump's town hall with Chris Matthews.
Donald Trump told a Wisconsin town hall on Wednesday that his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States would have an exception for the billionaire's rich friends.

"I have actually—believe it or not—I have a lot of friends that are Muslim and they call me," Trump said, when asked about his plan by MSNBC's Chris Matthews, the event's moderator. "In most cases, they're very rich Muslims, okay?"

Matthews then asked Trump if his rich Muslim friends would be able enter the country under Trump's Muslim ban. "They'll come in," Trump said. "You'll have exceptions."
So if you're a rich Muslim who's a friend of Trump, you could get through his proposed ban on Muslims entering the country. Because any rich friend of Trump should get special treatment.

And the crazy didn't stop there. In addition to musing about punishing women who got abortions, he also wouldn't rule out using nukes in Europe.
Trump has recently talked about letting more nations have access to nuclear weapons, and Matthews asked him about using them in the Middle East or Europe.

Trump said he would be “very slow and hesitant” on the matter, but Matthews wanted to know why he’s openly talking about using nukes at all, saying, “You got hooked into something you shouldn’t have talked about.”

The Donald continued to explain, “Look, nuclear should be off the table. But would there be a time when it could be used, possibly?”

He refused to take it off the table in the Middle East, and even Europe. Matthews bewilderedly asked, “You might use it in Europe?”

Trump said “I don’t think so,” but when Matthews pressed him to give a straight answer, Trump again said he can’t take any cards off the table.
What a disaster when Trump just riffs without a net.

Meet one of Donald Trump's foreign policy advisers.
Over the course of his campaign, Trump has been a contrarian on Russia, floating the idea of reducing the American commitment to NATO and calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “strong leader.” “I think I would have a very good relationship with Putin,” he said last year. So it makes sense that Trump tapped [Carter] Page for his foreign-policy team. In writings posted online, Page is a reliable defender of Russian intentions, and portrays U.S. policymakers as stuck in an outdated Cold War mindset.

Page’s career path, too, seems to mesh with Trump’s philosophy. A billionaire developer and entertainer with no government experience, Trump isn’t hiring the typical Washington policy wonks as he pursues the Republican presidential nomination. Instead, he favors advisers with what one of his staffers described to the New York Times as “real world” experience.

That background also carries risks, as Page, 44, readily acknowledges. Page says his parallel career as a foreign-policy expert has occasionally faced skepticism over his business ties to Russia and his favorable view of its leadership.
“It is a question I get so frequently—I lost count many decades ago,” he said. “There's a very negative conventional wisdom that these are all crooks and bad guys.”

Page said his experience advising Russian companies and pitching deals in places like Turkmenistan will offer Trump a more practical perspective than what’s available from “people from afar, sitting in the comfort of their think tanks in Washington.”
He's deeply connected to Gazprom, the Russian oil corporation controlled by the government. Can you imagine if any other candidate had an adviser who had been advising Gazprom and working with Putin as he consolidated his control over the economy. No wonder he opposes any sanctions against Russia; he's lost money on deals because of those sanctions.

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Ron Radosh examines some newly released letters of Ronald Reagan from 1946 and his thoughts about communist sympathizers in Hollywood.

So, this is what happened when Obama's administration tried to cut back on red tape.
The Obama administration’s effort to eliminate red tape added $16 billion in regulatory costs, according to a new report by the American Action Forum obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

“President Obama signed executive orders (13,563 and 13,610) as part of an effort to ‘eliminate red tape.’ Federal agencies were told to ‘modify, streamline expand, or repeal’ existing regulations,” according to the report released by AAF, a center-right nonprofit led by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office.

The American Action Forum has found the reviews consist mostly of recycled regulations by federal agencies that have actually increased regulatory costs.

“The recent ‘retrospective reports’ from the administration reveal that executive agencies have added more than $16 billion in regulatory costs, up from $14.7 billion in the previous update, and 6.5 million paperwork hours,” the report said.

The agency reviews are a result of President Barack Obama’s initiative for a “government-wide review of rules on the books,” which the White House claims to have led to $28 billion in net five-year savings since 2011.

However, the American Action Forum has found retrospective reviews often add additional costs to the economy. A review in 2014 added $23 billion in costs and 8.9 million paperwork burden hours.

“Too often for this administration, regulations are regularly expanded and rarely repealed or modified,” the organization said.

The most recent review listed 409 rules, up from last year, with agencies averaging 20 regulations apiece. The rules increased net costs by over $16.4 billion, with only two agencies reducing costs. One silver lining of the report was the Department of Transportation, which eliminated $847 million in costs and more than 21 million hours of paperwork.

Regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services were far and away the most costly, including Obamacare regulations and a proposed rule entitled the “Protection of Human Subjects” that would cost $13.3 million while saving only $2.7 million.

Is this a thing now for avoiding testifying under oath?
Lawyers representing a former University of Virginia student who claimed she was the victim of a gang rape in a discredited Rolling Stone story have asked a judge to cancel her scheduled deposition in a lawsuit against the magazine, arguing that she would be “re-traumatized” if she is compelled to recount her ordeal in proceedings under oath.
Can you imagine if this became an accepted excuse for getting out of testifying? Soon all sorts of witnesses would be claiming that they would be re-traumatized if they had to testify. The irony is that she caused her own supposed trauma by lying about what happened to a reporter. The true trauma is having to face up to her despicable lies.
"Foorcing her to revisit her sexual assault, and then the re-victimization that took place after the Rolling Stone article came out, will inevitably lead to a worsening of her symptoms and current mental health,” Jackie’s attorneys wrote, citing “extensive support in the medical literature” that shows “sexual assault victims will experience trauma if they are forced to revisit the details of their assault.”

But attorneys for Eramo contend in court documents that Jackie is a “serial liar” who concocted her tale of sexual assault in an unusual ploy to win the affection of a male U-Va. student she wanted to date.

“There is no evidence whatsoever that the story that Jackie told her friends, or the very different story she told Rolling Stone, actually transpired,” Eramo’s attorneys wrote. “Instead, it appears that Jackie fabricated her perpetrator and the details of the alleged assault.”
She's lucky that she isn't facing a defamation suit herself.

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Mark Hemingway explains how dishonest John Kasich
is being about his expansion of Obamacare in Ohio. Kasich claims that he did it to get federal money to help the poor in Ohio and that it has been a fiscal success that has helped Ohio run a surplus.
As for the fiscal part of the equation, Kasich's blather about bringing "innovation to the system" and rates of increase seems transparently designed to distract voters from the fact that Ohio's Medicaid expansion is a financial disaster in the making.

Kasich keeps bragging about Ohio's $2 billion budget surplus, but he's going to need it to pay for the Medicaid expansion. In two years, the Medicaid expansion in Ohio cost $7 billion, and the program is on track to double the original fiscal projections by 2020. There's absolutely no rational argument to support Kasich's absurd assertion "our Medicaid program is completely under control."

Which brings us to Kasich's other rationale for expanding Medicaid -- it brought in $14 billion in federal largesse to pay for the expansion. The country is $19 trillion in debt, and while the Ohio governor might want to care for Ohio's poor, that Medicaid expansion is being paid for with federal deficit spending that inevitably burdens taxpayers in other states who have their own poor citizens to take care of.

Finally, and this is what many people find especially galling, Kasich keeps framing his decision as a matter of compassion. At a later question in the same town hall, Kasich cites the Obamacare expansion as an example of "moral courage in the face of public opposition." The clear implication is that those who oppose Kasich's decision just don't care about the poor as much as he does.

He's been pretty explicit about this and has invoked his faith to defend it.

"Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he's probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small," he said, defending the Medicaid expansion. "But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer. "

Invoking Christianity to justify supporting a failing federal program with money you don't have is downright offensive. (And it's especially baffling because Kasich has an extremely narrow view of religious liberty; Kasich's Jesus would compel you to pay for Medicaid and force you to bake gay wedding cakes.)

In sum, the basic facts make Kasich's Obamacare expansion unsupportable on the grounds of effective policy, fiscal responsibility, and moral authority. It's possibly the most liberal position ever articulated and defended by a major GOP presidential candidate in the last several decades.

Anna Garvey writes at the Huffington Post about the difference between so-called Generation X born in the late 1970s and early 1980s compared to the Millennials who came of age around the turn of the millennium. The older generation grew up in a different era of technology.
A big part of what makes us the square peg in the round hole of named generations is our strange relationship with technology and the Internet. We came of age just as the very essence of communication was experiencing a seismic shift, and it’s given us a unique perspective that’s half analog old school and half digital new school.

If you can distinctly recall the excitement of walking into your weekly computer lab session and seeing a room full of Apple 2Es displaying the start screen of Oregon Trail, you’re a member of this nameless generation, my friend.
I remember having a student about 15 years ago on my quiz bowl team start reminiscing when there was a clue about the actual Oregon Trail. He said that the day they played Oregon Trail in elementary school was the very best day in his entire educational career. And everyone on the team got all excited reminiscing about how they loved playing that game. Apparently, it was a regular part of their social studies curriculum to go play the game in the computer lab. This came up recently this year when there was another clue about the Oregon Trail and none of the students on the team had ever played the game.

I sometimes think that, if my daughters had grown up in the era with all the social media and the internet being so prominent, they never would have developed the love of reading that they now have. So I guess I'm very grateful that they were in the 1980s. I'm struck these days about how much time my students, who are mostly extremely smart kids, spend on social media. And I've also noticed how more limited their vocabularies are. I have a real-world example of this as my students take tests with some questions that I wrote 15 years ago when I first started teaching high school. These days I have kids come up to ask what words mean when never before have I felt that students not know what those words mean. For example, I have an essay question asking them to explain the ways in which the Supreme Court is "insulated" from public pressure. The past few years, I've had students come up to ask what "insulated" means. I ask them if they know what "insulation" in an attic is and they seem to get the idea, but I was struck at how it was only in the past few years that I got students not knowing that word. I blame the lack of time the spend actually reading something that is more than 140 characters at a time for their smaller vocabularies.