Friday, January 31, 2014

Omar Barghouti’s Lectures: A Case Study of Dangerous Propaganda. By Roberta Seid and

Omar Barghouti’s Lectures: A case study of dangerous propaganda. By Roberta Seid and Roz Rothstein. StandWithUs.

StandWithUs on JLTV: BDS on Campus. By Roz Rothstein and Roberta Seid. Video. StandWithUs, June 24, 2013. YouTube.

Barghouti’s blood libel., January 29, 2014.

Omar Barghouti, Founder of BDS: “No Palestinian Will Ever Accept a Jewish State In Any Part of Palestine.” NJBR, January 12, 2014. Compilation of articles and videos.

Seid and Rothstein:

If you ever wondered how groups like the Nazis, Hutus, or America’s southern racists incited hatred and prejudice, you have a case study every time Omar Barghouti speaks on a college campus. Consider his comments when he toured California campuses in January 2012.
A co-founder of the anti-Israel boycott movement, Barghouti hurled distortions, half-truths, and lies about Israel.  He invoked—and consistently misrepresented—principles of human rights, international law, and justice to try to convince audiences that the Jewish state is so uniquely evil, and the Palestinian situation so uniquely unjust, that Israel should be punished as the pariah of nations. His real agenda, as he has frequently written, is marshaling support for destroying Israel and replacing it with one Palestinian-majority state.
Barghouti distorted history and facts in order to charge that Israel has practiced the worst evils of the 20th century.  He stripped away context to accuse Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” conveniently ignoring the Arab and Palestinian wars against Israel that caused displacement of Palestinian Arabs. He  characterized Palestinian opposition to Israel as “non violent resistance,” despite the campaign of suicide bombing and terrorism that began in 2000, which claimed the lives of over 1,000 Israelis and wounded over 7,000.  And he ignored the fact that in 1948, Israel urged Arabs to stay and accept citizenship, with 160,000 deciding to do so, and that their population has soared to over 1.2 million Israeli Arab citizens. He also neglected to mention that since 1967, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have had among the highest population growth rates in the world. This is the opposite of ethnic cleansing.
Furthermore, Barghouti claimed that Israel constantly violates international law and committed “willful acts of genocide” during its war against Hamas from December 2008 to January 2009, and he cited the UN Goldstone report as proof. He didn’t mention the human rights of the Israelis, who were unrelentingly assaulted by over 7,000 rockets launched by Hamas, which necessitated the war, or that the Goldstone Report itself said it had “proved nothing” and was discredited by the world’s liberal democracies for being hopelessly biased and unreliable. He also neglected to tell audiences that Judge Goldstone himself retracted key accusations in the UN Report.
Barghouti charged that Israel is guilty of “apartheid” and “racism.” But even he knows that while Israel, like other liberal democracies, has challenges fully integrating its minorities, it is one of the world’s most multicultural, ethnically diverse nations, and its progressive legal system enforces the equality of all citizens—women, gays, Christians, Muslims, Arabs, and others. In the face of this reality, he justified smearing Israel as practicing apartheid by absurdly arguing that there are different forms of apartheid—apparently including its mirror opposite.
And he tried to prove the smear of apartheid through deception, such as claiming that Israeli Arabs are restricted from buying land. In fact, 93 percent of the land is state land. No one can buy it, but all Israelis—Jewish and non-Jewish—can lease the land. Barghouti can’t even accept Israel’s status as one of the world’s most progressive nations on LGBT issues. He denigrated praise of Israel’s LGBT record as “pink washing,” allegedly a ploy to distract people from the plight of Palestinians, even though Palestinians regularly seek refuge in Israel to escape virulent anti-gay persecution in the West Bank and Gaza.
When Barghouti could not come up with facts to prove his charge that Israel cruelly mistreats Palestinians, he invented them. He charged that Israel “steals” Palestinian water, when in fact, Israel is giving some of its own water to Palestinians—40 percent more water than it promised to give in the 1993 Oslo Accords—and Israel has helped Palestinians modernize their water system. Barghouti also used singular examples of misdeeds to claim they are general Israeli policy. For example, he declared that Israel performs medical experiments on Palestinians, but the example he cited for proof demonstrates the high standards of Israel’s medical system and the fact that Palestinians receive the same high-quality care as Israeli Jews. Six doctors at a Kfar Saba hospital compared the effectiveness of two drugs commonly used for diabetes but received approval from the ethics committee only after the study was completed. Israeli doctors discovered the infraction, reprimanded the six doctors, and withdrew the study.   The 60 patients were Palestinians and Jews.
Finally, Barghouti accused Israel of trying to “colonize” Palestinian minds. He made the absurd charge that Israel “criminalized” Palestinian education during the First Intifada, converting a temporary measure—closing universities that were identified as breeding grounds for violence during the Intifada—into a general policy motivated by malice. He completely neglected the fact that it was Israel that oversaw the establishment of the seven universities that now exist in the West Bank, it was Israel that greatly expanded elementary and vocational education, and it was Israel that enforced freedom of the press after the years of Jordanian repression.
Nor does Barghouti admit that Israel fosters Palestinian education and accepts Palestinians as students at Israeli universities. Barghouti himself is working on an advanced degree at Tel Aviv University. When he has been asked why he isn’t following his own advice and boycotting the school, he has responded that “oppressed people can’t choose” their schools—even though he could have gone to any of the universities in the West Bank or resumed his studies at Columbia University in New York, where he got his undergraduate degree.
Even more astonishing, Barghouti claimed that in 1948 and after, Israel destroyed tens of thousands of Palestinian books in order to commit a “cultural massacre” and “Judaize Palestine.” In fact, Barghouti’s source reveals that Israel collected books from abandoned Palestinian libraries to save them from destruction in the chaos during and after the 1948 War, and it painstakingly catalogued and stored them. They are available in Israeli libraries for all researchers to use. Barghouti simply turned the facts upside down in order to stigmatize Israel. Israel preserved, not destroyed, Palestinian books and the culture they represented.
After this litany of lies, Barghouti shamelessly posted a slide that claimed the boycott movement supports “Freedom, Justice, and Equality,” and he tried to associate it with the American civil rights movement, asking, “What would Martin Luther King do?” Barghouti may claim that the boycott movement is a “rights” movement, but it is not. It is an effort to vilify and deny the rights of Israeli Jews. Its real agenda is to destroy Israel’s image through misinformation and to enlist support for a Palestinian state without Israel.
As mirrored in the boycott movement he founded, Barghouti is an extremist who opposes peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestinians and who will violate facts and reason to spread hatred for Israel. Our universities should invite Barghouti to speak on their campuses, not because he represents a legitimate and informed point of view, but because his presentation is a case study of dangerous propaganda. Tragically, history is replete with examples of what such lies and demonization can lead to.

“Pro-Palestinians” Versus Real Palestinians. By Evelyn Gordon.

“Pro-Palestinians” Versus Real Palestinians. By Evelyn Gordon. Commentary, January 31, 2014.

The Orwellian World of Israel’s Opponents. By Seth Mandel. Commentary, January 31, 2014.

Sodastream is a factory, not a settlement. By Yaacov Lozowick. Yaacov Lozowick’s Ruminations, January 31, 2014.

Demonizing Israel; Demonizing ScarJo. By Jonathan S. Tobin. NJBR, January 28, 2014. With related articles and video.


If you want to understand the difference between people who are actually pro-Palestinian and those who routinely but falsely claim that label, it’s worth reading the Forward’s interview with SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum. The headline, of course, was Birnbaum’s admission that having a plant in a West Bank settlement is “a pain in the ass,” and he would “never” locate there today. But the most striking comment was his answer to the question of why, in that case, he doesn’t shut the West Bank plant and transfer its operations to SodaStream’s new facility in the Negev, which has ample capacity:
The reason for staying is loyalty to approximately 500 Palestinians who are among the plant’s 1,300 employees, Birnbaum claimed. While other employees could relocate on the other side of the Green Line if the plant moved, the West Bank Palestinian workers could not, and would suffer financially, he argued.
“We will not throw our employees under the bus to promote anyone’s political agenda,” he said, adding that he “just can’t see how it would help the cause of the Palestinians if we fired them.”
In other words, Birnbaum is concerned about real live Palestinians whose families need to eat. That’s a concern noticeably absent among the usual “pro-Palestinian” types, who couldn’t care less about ordinary Palestinians’ welfare unless it happens to serve their primary goal of attacking Israel: See, for instance, the shocking indifference by “pro-Palestinian” groups to the literal starvation of Palestinians in Syria (since Israel can’t be blamed for it), or the Dutch and German governments’ efforts to halt sewage treatment and landfill projects that would primarily benefit Palestinians because Jewish settlers would also benefit. But it’s a concern ardently shared by ordinary Palestinians themselves, as a 2010 poll showed: By an overwhelming majority of 60 percent to 38 percent, Palestinians opposed the idea that they themselves should refuse to work in the settlements. Real Palestinians care about feeding their families, and they don’t want to be barred from jobs that enable them to do so.
Yet that’s exactly what boycotting companies like SodaStream would primarily accomplish. Though SodaStream says it won’t leave, other Israeli companies have decided they don’t need the hassle and relocated inside the Green Line, throwing their erstwhile Palestinian employees out of work. Countless others choose not to locate in the West Bank to begin with, as Birnbaum admits he would do today.
Currently, 20,000 Palestinians work in the settlements. Eliminating their jobs would cause the number of unemployed people in the West Bank to jump 14 percent–hardly a helpful proposition for an economy already suffering 19 percent unemployment.
This same disregard for actual Palestinians also characterizes other forms of anti-Israel boycotts. Take, for instance, the effort to impose an academic boycott on Israel. As one Palestinian pharmacy professor, who understandably feared to give his name, told the New York Times this month, “more than 50 Palestinian professors were engaged in joint research projects with Israeli universities, funded by international agencies,” and “without those grants, Palestinian academic research would collapse because ‘not a single dollar’ was available from other places.”
Boycott proponents claim that by reducing Israelis’ academic freedom, they seek to “enlarge” Palestinians’ academic freedom. Yet in fact, as this Palestinian professor admitted, Israeli academia is the lifeline keeping its Palestinian counterpart alive. So how would killing off academic research in Palestinian universities “enlarge” Palestinians’ academic freedom? It wouldn’t, of course–but the “pro-Palestinian” crowd doesn’t care about that.
In fact, the only thing these self-proclaimed “pro-Palestinians” do care about is undermining Israel–which is why it’s high time to stop dignifying them with the name “pro-Palestinian.” They are anti-Israel, pure and simple. And that’s what they should be called.

Obama Is Not a Post-Racial President. By Jonathan Holloway.

Obama Is Not a Post-Racial President. By Jonathan Holloway. Foreign Affairs, January 26, 2014. Also here, here.

The Enduring Political Legacy of Amiri Baraka.

The Decline and Fall of “Hope and Change.” By Conor Friedersdorf. The Atlantic, January 30, 2013.

President Obama’s achievements are many. But he has utterly failed to keep a promise core to the rationale for his candidacy.

The Return of the Tiger Mother. By Richard Kim.

The Return of the Tiger Mother. By Richard Kim. The Nation, January 29, 2014. From the February 17 issue.

A new book raises the question: Are Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld racists—or just equal opportunity trolls?

Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars. By Michelle Goldberg.

Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars. By Michelle Goldberg. The Nation, January 29, 2014. From the February 17, 2014 issue.

Empowered by social media, feminists are calling one another out for ideological offenses. Is it good for the movement? And whose movement is it?

The Death of the Humanities. By Victor Davis Hanson.

The Death of the Humanities. By Victor Davis Hanson. Defining Ideas, January 28, 2014.

The Last Generation of the West and the Thin Strand of Civilization. By Victor Davis Hanson. PJ Media, January 19, 2014.

Victor Davis Hanson interviewed by Mark Levin, January 30, 2014. Audio. Douglas Woods, January 30, 2014. YouTube. Runs from 51:15 to 1:08:51.

Victor Davis Hanson interviewed by John Batchelor and Mary Kissel. Audio Podcast. The John Batchelor Show, January 30, 2014, Hour 1. Runs from 31:47 to 39:45.

Hanson [Humanities]:

The humanities are in their latest periodic crisis. Though the causes of the ongoing decline may be debated, everyone accepts the dismal news about eroding university enrollments, ever fewer new faculty positions, the decline in majors, and the lack of jobs for humanities graduates. Less than 8% of current BA degrees are awarded to humanities majors. The New York Times recently reported that while 45% of the undergraduate faculty at Stanford teach in the humanities, only 15% of the students major in them.
Of course, the numbers of humanities majors have been in decline since the 1970s. But what seems different today is that the humanities are less sacrosanct in the university. Literature, philosophy, and art are no longer immune from budget cuts by virtue of their traditional intrinsic value to the university. Either humanities professors can no longer make the case for the traditional role of their subjects or no one cares to listen to what they have to say.
About 15 years ago, John Heath and I coauthored Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom, a pessimistic warning about where current trends would take classics in particular and the humanities in general. It was easy enough then to identify the causes of the implosion. At the very time the protocols of the universities were proving unsustainable—more expensive administrators and non-teaching personnel, soaring tuition hikes, vast non-instructional expenditures in student services and social recreation, more release time for full professors, greater exploitation of part-time teachers, and more emphasis on practical education—the humanities had turned against themselves in the fashion of an autoimmune disease.
For example, esoteric university press publications, not undergraduate teaching and advocacy, came to define the successful humanities professor. Literature, history, art, music, and philosophy classes—even if these courses retained their traditional course titles—became shells of their former selves, now focusing on race, class, and gender indictments of the ancient and modern Western worlds.
These trendy classes did the nearly impossible task of turning the plays of Euripides, the poetry of Dante, and the history of the Civil War into monotonous subjects. The result was predictable: cash-strapped students increasingly avoided these classes. Moreover, if humanists did not display enthusiasm for Western literature, ideas, and history, or, as advocates, seek to help students appreciate the exceptional wisdom and beauty of Sophocles or Virgil, why, then, would the Chairman of the Chicano Studies Department, the Assistant Dean of Social Science, the Associate Provost for Diversity, or the Professor of Accounting who Chaired the General Education Committee worry about the declining enrollments in humanities?
Even more paradoxical, humanities professors began to adopt the very values of the caricatured corporate world to define the successful humanist. The campus exemplar became the grandee who won the most time off from teaching, garnered the most grants, taught the fewest undergraduates, and wrote the most university press books that in turn were largely critical of the subject matter that ensured his university position in the first place. Now, in the latest round of declining interest in the liberal arts, the problem is not just one of declining enrollments and interest, but also that there is no longer any institutional safety net to subsidize an eroding but still vital mode of education.
A trillion-dollar student loan bubble is proving unsustainable for all students, business and humanities majors alike. This time around, arguments rage not over the value of a humanities major, but whether college itself is worth attending. Will earning a bachelor’s degree still ensure greater lifetime earnings than bypassing college altogether?
Meanwhile, the new technology of online courses and for-profit tech schools offer a far cheaper antidote to the high cost and often partisan corruption of the traditional university experience. For-profit ventures are not worried about skipping the humanities and losing a broader college learning experience. And they certainly have a point, given that humanities professors themselves have not effectively argued that well conceived and taught liberal arts programs can restore the reputations of colleges that graduate ever more indebted students who often read, write, and think no more effectively than their non-college competitors.
If the humanities could have adopted a worse strategy to combat these larger economic and cultural trends over the last decade, it would be hard to see how. In short, the humanities have been exhausted by a half-century of therapeutic “studies” courses: Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies, Post-Colonial Studies, Environmental Studies, Chicano Studies, Women’s Studies, Black Studies, Asian Studies, Cultural Studies, and Gay Studies. Any contemporary topic that could not otherwise justify itself as literary, historical, philosophical, or cultural simply tacked on the suffix “studies” and thereby found its way into the curriculum.
These “studies” courses shared an emphasis on race, class, and gender oppression that in turn had three negative consequences. First, they turned the study of literature and history from tragedy to melodrama, from beauty and paradox into banal predictability, and thus lost an entire generation of students. Second, they created a climate of advocacy that permeated the entire university, as the great works and events of the past were distorted and enlisted in advancing contemporary political agendas. Finally, the university lost not just the students, but the public as well, which turned to other sources—filmmakers, civic organizations, non-academic authors, and popular culture—for humanistic study.
The way this indoctrination played itself out in the typical humanities class was often comical. Homer’s Odyssey was not about an early epic Greek hero, who, with his wits, muscle, and courage overcomes natural and human challenges to return home to restore his family and to reestablish the foundations of his community on Ithaca—a primer on how the institutions of the early polis gradually superseded tribal and savage precursors. Instead, the Odyssey could be used to lecture students about the foundations of white male oppression. At the dawn of Western civilization, powerful women, such as Calypso and Circe, were marginalized and depicted as anti-social misfits, sorceresses on enchanted islands who paid a high social price for taking control of their own sexuality and establishing careers on their own terms. Penelope was either a suburban Edith Bunker, clueless about the ramifications of her own monotonous domesticity, or, contrarily, an emancipated proto-Betty Friedman, who came of age only in the 20-year absence of her oppressive husband and finally forged outlets for her previously repressed and unappreciated talents. The problem is not necessarily that such interpretations were completely untrue, but that they remain subsidiary themes in a far larger epic about the universal human experience.
Students were to discover how oppressive and unfair contemporary life was through the literature, history, and culture of our past—a discovery that had no time for ambiguity such as the irony of Sophocles’s Ajax, or the tragedy of Robert E. Lee. Instead, those of the past were reduced to cut-out, cardboard figurines, who drew our interest largely to the extent that they might become indicted as insensitive to women, gays, minorities, and the poor of their age—judged wanting by comfortable contemporary academic prosecutors who were deemed enlightened for their criticism. To the extent that these dreary reeducation seminars were not required as part of the General Education curriculum, students voted with their feet to pass them up; when enrollment was mandatory, students resigned themselves never to suffer through similar elective classes in the future.
A final irony was that classical liberal education—despite the fashionable critique that it had never been disinterested—for a century was largely apolitical. Odysseus was critiqued as everyman, not an American CEO, a proto-Christian saint, or the caricature of white patriarchal privilege. Instead Homer made students of all races and classes and both genders think twice about the contradictions of the human experience: which is the greatest danger to civilization, the Lala land of the comfortable Lotus Eaters, or the brutal pre-polis savagery of the tribal Cyclopes? Telemachus was incidentally white, rich, and male, but essentially a youthful everyman coming of age, with all the angst and insecurities that will either overwhelm the inexperienced and lead to perpetual adolescence, or must be conquered on the path to adulthood. Odysseus towers among his lesser conniving and squabbling crewmen—but why then does his curiosity and audacity ensure that all his crewmen who hitch their star to the great man end up dead?
In the zero-sum game of the college curricula, what was crowded out over the last half-century was often the very sort of instruction that had once made employers take a risk in hiring a liberal arts major. Humanities students were more likely to craft good prose. They were trained to be inductive rather than deductive in their reasoning, possessed an appreciation of language and art, and knew the referents of the past well enough to put contemporary events into some sort of larger abstract context. In short, they were often considered ideal prospects as future captains of business, law, medicine, or engineering.
Not now. The world beyond the campus has learned that college students know how and why to take a political position but not how to defend it through logic and example. If employers are turned off by a lack of real knowledge, they are even more so when it is accompanied by zealousness. Ignorance and arrogance are a fatal combination.
When the humanities failed to make the case that its students were trained to be exceptionally good writers, logical debaters, and well informed about the events, people, literature and issues of the past, then the liberal arts no longer were granted immunity from the general reckoning that the university now faces. Colleges charge too much and provide too little quality education; they exploit students and part-time faculty to serve a much smaller tenured and administrative elite; and they no longer believe in enriching society as much as radically changing it according to their own partisan visions.
Given that university humanities programs have enabled these trends, it is no wonder that they too are being held accountable.

Israel Boycott will Fail for Same Reason Seal Boycott Succeeded. By Lawrence Solomon.

Israel boycott will fail for same reason seal boycott succeeded. By Lawrence Solomon. Financial Post, January 30, 2014.

Demonizing Israel; Demonizing ScarJo. By Jonathan S. Tobin. NJBR, January 28, 2014. With related articles and video.


Paul McCartney, a determined opponent of the seal hunt, was just as determined in opposing the Israeli boycott.

The Super Bowl will host more than the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks Sunday. It will also highlight the most divisive and bitterly contested trade boycott campaign since the 1980s and 1990s, when environmental and animal rights activists successfully demonized the Newfoundland seal fishery.
Today’s high-profile boycott is the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign – designed to force Israel both to leave the West Bank and to remove its security fence. But the boycott against Israeli goods and services will fail for much the same reason the seal boycott succeeded – boycotts require wholly unsympathetic targets. Israel is trendsetting, hip and inspirational, a magnet for winners from all walks of life. The same movers and shakers who recoiled at the sight of bludgeoned baby seals are drawn to Israel’s verve. They refuse to demonize Israel in a conflict too complex to reduce to crude anti-Israel slogans.
The off-field Sunday clash involves a Super Bowl ad for Israel-based SodaStream and its brand ambassador, Scarlett Johansson, the “sexiest woman alive” according to Esquire. BDS supporters, livid that Johansson would back SodaStream, which manufactures home seltzer makers in a West Bank Israeli settlement, has graphically vilified her support of “blood bubbles,” giving her an “A for Apartheid,” comparing her to white slave owners, and noting she’s a Jew. Oxfam, for whom she travelled the world to raise funds, publicly chastised her.
Johansson, long identified with liberal causes, ended her ties with Oxfam and stood her ground. “I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine,” she stated. “SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbours working alongside each other.”
In fact, the 900 Palestinian employees at the SodaStream plant belie the claim that Israel is an apartheid state that exploits cheap labour. Arabs not only work on the same assembly line with Jews, they eat together in the same cafeteria, receive the same health benefits and earn the same amount – often four to five times as much as Palestinian employers pay. To the chagrin of the BDS movement, in an article entitled “Boycott of Israel’s SodaStream may affect Palestinian workers,” Dubai-based Al Arabiya expressed concern that Palestinians may be among BDS’s victims.
The BDS movement occasionally succeeds in bullying celebrities into boycotting Israel – Elvis Costello is one performer who cancelled an appearance in Israel under pressure. But most stars stand up to the bullying to play in Israel, which has become one of the world’s premier venues – they include Barbra Streisand, Alicia Keyes, Elton John, Rihanna, Bob Dylan, Madonna, and Costello’s wife, Diana Krall. Later this year Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and the Rolling Stones are expected to come.
They come from the business world, too – Apple, Microsoft, Intel and dozens of other industry icons. After completing a purchase of Israel’s Iscar last year, Warren Buffett said it “will stay in Israel as long as I’m alive. We’re the world’s fifth-biggest investment firm, but for me, the number-one country is Israel, which is far ahead of larger and richer countries…. Israel reminds me of the United States after its birth. The determination, motivation, intelligence and initiative of its people are remarkable and extraordinary.”
Fears that a boycott of Israel could succeed are not entirely unfounded. Anti-semitism, the chief fuel for the boycott of the sole Middle East country that is democratic, empowers gays, and respects religious diversity, is enduring and today resurgent in much of Europe. Just this week, Israel’s finance minister warned that Israel’s largest trading partner, the EU, could turn against it, leading to a 1.1% reduction in GDP. Under “a European boycott, even a very partial one, the Israeli economy will retreat, the cost of living will rise, budgets for education, health, welfare and security will be cut [and] many international markets will be closed to us,” he said.
But even a partial boycott could not stick, not when Israeli products and services in medicine, defense, computers and electronics have become central to advanced economies, not when A-list celebrities are willing to challenge death threats to share in the allure of Israel.
Paul McCartney, a determined opponent of the seal hunt, was just as determined in opposing the Israeli boycott. “I got explicit death threats, but I have no intention of surrendering. I refuse to cancel my performances in Israel,” he said prior to playing to 40,000 fans in a mutual love-in. “I do what I think and I have many friends who support Israel.”

The Folly of “Symmetrical Negotiation.” By Seth Mandel.

The Folly of “Symmetrical Negotiation.” By Seth Mandel. Commentary, January 29, 2014.

Why Kerry Is Scary. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York Times, January 28, 2014.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Israel Needs to Learn Some Manners. By Avi Shlaim.

Israel Needs to Learn Some Manners. By Avi Shlaim. New York Times, January 30, 2014.

The Great War’s Long Shadow. By Joschka Fischer.

The Great War’s Long Shadow. By Joschka Fischer. Project Syndicate, January 29, 2014.

The Dead Dream of Charlemagne. By Father Raymond J. de Souza.

The dead dream of Charlemagne. By Father Raymond J. de Souza. National Post, January 30, 2014.

I Have a Plan to Destroy America. By Richard D. Lamm.

I have a plan to destroy America. By Richard D. Lamm., February 9, 2008. Also at WND.

Mark Levin on how to destroy America. Audio. The Right Scoop, January 30, 2014. On Lamm article.

Mark Levin on Illegal Immigration and Amnesty, January 30, 2014. Audio. Douglas Woods, January 30, 2014. YouTube. Discussion of Lamm article runs from 4:51 to 13:30 Victor Davis Hanson interview runs from 51:15 to 1:08:51.

A Middle East Primer. By Roger Cohen.

A Middle East Primer. By Roger Cohen. New York Times, January 30, 2014.

Capitalism vs. Democracy. By Thomas B. Edsall.

Capitalism vs. Democracy. By Thomas B. Edsall. New York Times, January 28, 2014.

Our Founding Fathers Must Have Been Paranoid Too, Like Tom Perkins. By Paul Roderick Gregory.

Our Founding Fathers Must Have Been Paranoid Too, Like Tom Perkins. By Paul Roderick Gregory. Forbes, January 28, 2014.

Progressive Kristallnacht Coming? By Tom Perkins. Wall Street Journal, January 24, 2014.

Paranoia of the Plutocrats. By Paul Krugman. New York Times, January 26, 2014.

Tom Perkins and the guilt of the gilded. By Katrina vanden Heuvel. Washington Post, February 4, 2014. Also here.

This College Professor Has a Message for Liberal Arts Majors. By Hunter Baker.

This College Professor Has a Message for Liberal Arts Majors. By Hunter Baker. The Federalist, January 30, 2014.


It’s not a waste of a degree.

As long as I have been alive (more than four decades), the knock on liberal arts majors has been in force.  I heard it as a student.  I hear it as a professor and academic administrator. “It’s great that you love history (or English or philosophy), but what are you going to DO with that?”  The answer, based on the results of a study published in the Wall Street Journal, may surprise you.  It turns that out that while students who major in a wide variety of professional fields out-earn their liberal arts peers at the outset, the liberal arts majors tend to pull ahead in later years.

How can this be?  The liberal arts major doesn’t learn a market-driven skill such as nursing or business management.  On what basis would they earn more money at any point in their careers?  There are a variety of answers available, but I would like to focus on one in particular.  By doing so, I think I can also make a case, not only for liberal arts majors, but also for strengthening (rather than cutting or eliminating) the liberal arts core.
College is a time of preparation. Thanks to the high cost of tuition, we are looking for a highly predictable runway to successful and well-compensated employment.  It is easier to envision that sort of dynamic playing out when your student is a nursing or business major than it is when the young person wants to major in English.  The problem with this view is that it gives too much credit to the professional fields and not enough to the liberal arts.
If you really think about learning, there are some master disciplines which unlock all the others.  They are philosophy, history, mathematics, language (reading/writing), and science (mainly mastery of the scientific method).  These disciplines form the core of learning and comprise the engine of its expression.  The student who gains proficiency in these areas will maintain, for virtually the rest of his/her life, the capacity to learn new things and to organize those new things within the context of the older things.  The learning that takes place in these areas does not really expire.  It does not become dated.  It is a fund that maintains its value.  The same is not necessarily true of knowledge gained in professional programs.

The great management theorist Peter Drucker addressed the matter insightfully in his 1957 book Landmarks of Tomorrow (emphasis mine):

Whatever does not add to the capacity for sustained growth of personality or contribution is impractical – and may indeed be deleterious.  That this or that subject adds to a man’s ability to get a job, or to do well on his first job, is not irrelevant.  But as a measure of the effectiveness of a long-term advanced investment it may be the most impractical yardstick, may indeed cost heavily in terms of the really practical results.  The practical test of education in educated society is whether it prepares for the demands of the world fifteen years after graduation.  Since we live in an age of innovation, a practical education must prepare a man for work that does not yet exist and cannot yet be clearly defined.  To be able to do this a man must have learned to learn.  He must be conscious of how much there is still to learn.  He must acquire basic tools of analysis, of expression, of understanding.  Above all he must have the desire for self-development.
The person who has mastered a particular market-driven skill of today is in a good position to profit in the short term, but given that we live in a highly dynamic society, the better long term investment is an education that equips the person to learn for the rest of his life.  The liberal arts, if taught well and approached with desire by the student, have the ability to unlock almost any subject the student wishes to learn for years to come.  If you understand how to think, how to draw lessons from past experience, how to write and speak, how to calculate, and how to put information through the kinds of tests which yield knowledge, then you have the tools you need.
Drucker was right about the kind of education people require in order to thrive.  But if we are to put the liberal arts to work and get the most out of them that we can, we have to address our cultural expectations.  All the players in the higher education world – students, parents, colleges, governments – need to give proper priority to the traditional arts and sciences as the keys to further learning.  In other words, we have to throw out the self-defeating view that those courses are just hurdles students must jump because they have in the past.  They are not hurdles.  The traditional fields are fulcrums, levers, and pulleys that magnify the strength of subsequent learning.  Institutions should stop throwing together core curricula on the basis of turf battles, faculty preference, and expedience and instead should come up with principled plans for liberal arts cores that will make them what they should be.  Various professional majors should stop demanding more and more hours at the expense of liberal arts core curricula.  Without a solid foundation at the bottom, the education at the top will be poured into a sieve.  At a minimum, it will not be as effective as it otherwise would have been.
Finally, to return to the issue of liberal arts majors where we began, it is time we stopped treating them as though they were merely aesthetic in value.  The student who has taken the time to read and understand Shakespeare’s plays and the novels of Jane Austen and Fyodor Dostoevsky as part of an English literature major is no one to be taken lightly or dismissed as some kind of throwback relic.  She is a person who is capable of sustaining attention and learning what she needs to as her life and career develop.

2014: A Risky Year in Geopolitics? By Ian Bremmer.

2014: A Risky Year in Geopolitics? By Ian Bremmer. The National Interest, January 29, 2014.

State of the Union: Platitudes of a Post-Imperial Presidency. By Simon Tisdall.

State of the Union: Platitudes of a post-imperial presidency. By Simon Tisdall. The Guardian, January 29, 2014.

Senator Mike Lee Gives the Tea Party Response to the State of the Union.

Tea Party Response to the State of the Union. By Senator Mike Lee. Video. Real Clear Politics, January 28, 2014. YouTube. Text at PolicyMic.

Six reasons why Mike Lee’s tea party response to the State of the Union was amazing. By Patrick Howley. The Daily Caller, January 28, 2014.


Today, Americans know in their hearts that something is wrong. Much of what is wrong relates to the sense that the “American Dream” is falling out of reach for far too many of us. We are facing an inequality crisis — one to which the President has paid lip-service, but seems uninterested in truly confronting or correcting.
This inequality crisis presents itself in three principal forms:
– immobility among the poor, who are being trapped in poverty by big-government programs;
– insecurity in the middle class, where families are struggling just to get by and can’t seem to get ahead;
– and cronyist privilege at the top, where political and economic insiders twist the immense power of the federal government to profit at the expense of everyone else.
To be fair, President Obama and his party did not create all of these problems. The Republican Establishment in Washington can be just as out-of-touch as the Democratic Establishment.
However, tonight, as on numerous occasions of late, the President’s lofty rhetoric ignored the fact that his administration continues to leave poor and middle-class families further behind, while he and his allies insist that the real problem is “inequality” itself.
But where does this new inequality come from? From government — every time it takes rights and opportunities away from the American people and gives them instead to politicians, bureaucrats, and special interests.
Inequality – real inequality - is trapping poor children in failing schools to benefit bureaucrats and union bosses. It’s penalizing low-income parents for getting married, or getting better jobs.
It’s guaranteeing insurance companies taxpayer bailouts if Obamacare cuts into their profits.
Inequality is blocking thousands of middle-class jobs in the energy industry as a favor to partisan donors and radical environmental activists.
Inequality is denying viable, unborn children any protection under the law, while exempting unsanitary, late-term abortion clinics from basic safety standards.
It’s denying citizens their right to define marriage in their states as traditionally or as broadly as their diverse values dictate.
It’s the federal government hurting rural communities, especially in the west, by controlling and mismanaging public lands.
It’s changing laws without congressional approval, and spying on American citizens without constitutional authority.
And of course, Obamacare – all by itself – is an inequality Godzilla that has robbed working families of their insurance, their doctors, their wages and their jobs. Many Americans are now seeing why some of us fought so hard to stop this train-wreck over the last four years.
Government-driven inequality is the reason why, as hard-working families across the country struggle to make ends meet, six of the ten wealthiest counties in America are now suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Little Bit of Neanderthal in All of Us. By Carl Zimmer.

A reconstruction of a Neanderthal skeleton, right, with a modern human skeleton in the background. Frank Franklin II/Associated Press.

The Little Bit of Neanderthal in All of Us. By Carl Zimmer. New York Times, January 29, 2014.

Toe Fossil Provides Complete Neanderthal Genome. By Carl Zimmer. NJBR, December 20, 2013. With related articles.

The genomic landscape of Neanderthal ancestry in present-day humans. By Siriram Sankararaman et al. Nature, published online January 29, 2014.


Genomic studies have shown that Neanderthals interbred with modern humans, and that non-Africans today are the products of this mixture. The antiquity of Neanderthal gene flow into modern humans means that genomic regions that derive from Neanderthals in any one human today are usually less than a hundred kilobases in size. However, Neanderthal haplotypes are also distinctive enough that several studies have been able to detect Neanderthal ancestry at specific loci. We systematically infer Neanderthal haplotypes in the genomes of 1,004 present-day humans. Regions that harbour a high frequency of Neanderthal alleles are enriched for genes affecting keratin filaments, suggesting that Neanderthal alleles may have helped modern humans to adapt to non-African environments. We identify multiple Neanderthal-derived alleles that confer risk for disease, suggesting that Neanderthal alleles continue to shape human biology. An unexpected finding is that regions with reduced Neanderthal ancestry are enriched in genes, implying selection to remove genetic material derived from Neanderthals. Genes that are more highly expressed in testes than in any other tissue are especially reduced in Neanderthal ancestry, and there is an approximately fivefold reduction of Neanderthal ancestry on the X chromosome, which is known from studies of diverse species to be especially dense in male hybrid sterility genes. These results suggest that part of the explanation for genomic regions of reduced Neanderthal ancestry is Neanderthal alleles that caused decreased fertility in males when moved to a modern human genetic background.

The Date of Interbreeding between Neandertals and Modern Humans. By Siriram Sankararaman et al. PLOS Genetics, October 4, 2012. Also here.


Comparisons of DNA sequences between Neandertals and present-day humans have shown that Neandertals share more genetic variants with non-Africans than with Africans. This could be due to interbreeding between Neandertals and modern humans when the two groups met subsequent to the emergence of modern humans outside Africa. However, it could also be due to population structure that antedates the origin of Neandertal ancestors in Africa. We measure the extent of linkage disequilibrium (LD) in the genomes of present-day Europeans and find that the last gene flow from Neandertals (or their relatives) into Europeans likely occurred 37,000–86,000 years before the present (BP), and most likely 47,000–65,000 years ago. This supports the recent interbreeding hypothesis and suggests that interbreeding may have occurred when modern humans carrying Upper Paleolithic technologies encountered Neandertals as they expanded out of Africa.

Resurrecting Surviving Neandertal Lineages from Modern Human Genomes. By Benjamin Vernot and Joshua M. Akey. Science, published online January 29, 2014.


Anatomically modern humans overlapped and mated with Neandertals such that non-African humans inherit ~1-3% of their genomes from Neandertal ancestors. We identified Neandertal lineages that persist in the DNA of modern humans, in whole-genome sequences from 379 European and 286 East Asian individuals, recovering over 15 Gb of introgressed sequence that spans ~20% of the Neandertal genome (FDR = 5%). Analyses of surviving archaic lineages suggests that there were fitness costs to hybridization, admixture occurred both before and subsequent to divergence of non-African modern humans, and Neandertals were a source of adaptive variation for loci involved in skin phenotypes. Our results provide a new avenue for paleogenomics studies, allowing substantial amounts of population-level DNA sequence information to be obtained from extinct groups even in the absence of fossilized remains.


Ever since the discovery in 2010 that Neanderthals interbred with the ancestors of living humans, scientists have been trying to determine how their DNA affects people today. Now two new studies have traced the history of Neanderthal DNA, and have pinpointed a number of genes that may have medical importance today.
Among the findings, the studies have found clues to the evolution of skin and fertility, as well as susceptibility to diseases like diabetes. More broadly, they show how the legacy of Neanderthals has endured 30,000 years after their extinction.
“It’s something that everyone wanted to know,” said Laurent Excoffier, a geneticist at the University of Bern in Switzerland who was not involved in the research.
Neanderthals, who became extinct about 30,000 years ago, were among the closest relatives of modern humans. They shared a common ancestor with us that lived about 600,000 years ago.
In the 1990s, researchers began finding fragments of Neanderthal DNA in fossils. By 2010 they had reconstructed most of the Neanderthal genome. When they compared it with the genomes of five living humans, they found similarities to small portions of the DNA in the Europeans and Asians.
The researchers concluded that Neanderthals and modern humans must have interbred. Modern humans evolved in Africa and then expanded out into Asia and Europe, where Neanderthals lived. In a 2012 study, the researchers estimated that this interbreeding took place between 37,000 and 85,000 years ago.
Sir Paul A. Mellars, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the research, said the archaeological evidence suggested the opportunity for modern humans to mate with Neanderthals would have been common once they expanded out of Africa. “They’d be bumping into Neanderthals at every street corner,” he joked.
The first draft of the Neanderthal genome was too rough to allow scientists to draw further conclusions. But recently, researchers sequenced a far more accurate genome from a Neanderthal toe bone.
Scientists at Harvard Medical School and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany compared this high-quality Neanderthal genome to the genomes of 1,004 living people. They were able to identify specific segments of Neanderthal DNA from each person’s genome.
“It’s a personal map of Neanderthal ancestry,” said David Reich of Harvard Medical School, who led the research team. He and his colleagues published their results in the journal Nature.
Living humans do not have a lot of Neanderthal DNA, Dr. Reich and his colleagues found, but some Neanderthal genes have become very common. That’s because, with natural selection, useful genes survive as species evolve. “What this proves is that these genes were helpful for non-Africans in adapting to the environment,” Dr. Reich said.
In a separate study published in Science, Benjamin Vernot and Joshua M. Akey of the University of Washington came to a similar conclusion, using a different method.
Mr. Vernot and Dr. Akey looked for unusual mutations in the genomes of 379 Europeans and 286 Asians. The segments of DNA that contained these mutations turned out to be from Neanderthals.
Both studies suggest that Neanderthal genes involved in skin and hair were favored by natural selection in humans. Today, they are very common in living non-Africans.
The fact that two independent studies pinpointed these genes lends support to their importance, said Sriram Sankararaman of Harvard Medical School, a co-author on the Nature paper. “The two methods seem to be converging on the same results.”
It is possible, Dr. Akey speculated, that the genes developed to help Neanderthal skin adapt to the cold climate of Europe and Asia.
But Dr. Akey pointed out that skin performs other important jobs, like shielding us from pathogens. “We don’t understand enough about the biology of those particular genes yet,” he said. “It makes it hard to pinpoint a reason why they’re beneficial.”
Both teams of scientists also found long stretches of the living human genomes where Neanderthal DNA was glaringly absent. This pattern could be produced if modern humans with certain Neanderthal genes could not have as many children on average as people without them. For example, living humans have very few genes from Neanderthals involved in making sperm. That suggests that male human-Neanderthal hybrids might have had lower fertility or were even sterile.
Overall, said Dr. Reich, “most of the Neanderthal genetic material was more bad than good.”
Some of the Neanderthal genes that have endured until today may be influencing people’s health. Dr. Reich and his colleagues identified nine Neanderthal genes in living humans that are known to raise or reduce the risk of various diseases, including diabetes and lupus.
To better understand the legacy of Neanderthals, Dr. Reich and his colleagues are collaborating with the UK Biobank, which collects genetic information from hundreds of thousands of volunteers. The scientists will search for Neanderthal genetic markers, and investigate whether Neanderthal genes cause any noticeable differences in anything from weight to blood pressure to scores on memory tests.
“This experiment of nature has been done,” said Dr. Reich, “and we can study it.”