Friday, September 9, 2016

Correspondence: These are the times

True & faux

Edited by Moristotle

Trump continues to receive ill-deserved respect: “Donald Trump’s Campaign Stands By Embrace of Putin” [Jonathan Martin & Amy Chozick, NY Times, September 8]. Excerpt:
Democrats and even some Republicans said the fury would have been unceasing on the right had a Democratic presidential candidate held up the leader of a hostile power to deride a Republican president.
    Scholars could recall few parallels in modern American history. Only the campaign of Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party nominee in 1948, was so willing to align itself with Russia, the historian Richard Norton Smith said. “We’ve become to some degree numbed to this, saying, ‘That’s just Trump,’” he said. “And that’s dangerous.” [read more]
Is it because she’s a woman? Why is it that: “Hillary Clinton Gets Gored” [Paul Krugman, NY Times, September 5]. Excerpt:
Americans of a certain age who follow politics and policy closely still have vivid memories of the 2000 election — bad memories, and not just because the man who lost the popular vote somehow ended up in office. For the campaign leading up to that end game was nightmarish too.
    You see, one candidate, George W. Bush, was dishonest in a way that was unprecedented in U.S. politics. Most notably, he proposed big tax cuts for the rich while insisting, in raw denial of arithmetic, that they were targeted for the middle class. These campaign lies presaged what would happen during his administration — an administration that, let us not forget, took America to war on false pretenses.
    Yet throughout the campaign most media coverage gave the impression that Mr. Bush was a bluff, straightforward guy, while portraying Al Gore — whose policy proposals added up, and whose critiques of the Bush plan were completely accurate — as slippery and dishonest. Mr. Gore’s mendacity was supposedly demonstrated by trivial anecdotes, none significant, some of them simply false. No, he never claimed to have invented the internet. But the image stuck.
    And right now I and many others have the sick, sinking feeling that it’s happening again.
    True, there aren’t many efforts to pretend that Donald Trump is a paragon of honesty. But it’s hard to escape the impression that he’s being graded on a curve. If he manages to read from a TelePrompter without going off script, he’s being presidential. If he seems to suggest that he wouldn’t round up all 11 million undocumented immigrants right away, he’s moving into the mainstream. And many of his multiple scandals, like what appear to be clear payoffs to state attorneys general to back off investigating Trump University, get remarkably little attention.
    Meanwhile, we have the presumption that anything Hillary Clinton does must be corrupt, most spectacularly illustrated by the increasingly bizarre coverage of the Clinton Foundation.
    Step back for a moment, and think about what that foundation is about. When Bill Clinton left office, he was a popular, globally respected figure. What should he have done with that reputation? Raising large sums for a charity that saves the lives of poor children sounds like a pretty reasonable, virtuous course of action. And the Clinton Foundation is, by all accounts, a big force for good in the world. For example, Charity Watch, an independent watchdog, gives it an “A” rating — better than the American Red Cross.
    Now, any operation that raises and spends billions of dollars creates the potential for conflicts of interest. You could imagine the Clintons using the foundation as a slush fund to reward their friends, or, alternatively, Mrs. Clinton using her positions in public office to reward donors. So it was right and appropriate to investigate the foundation’s operations to see if there were any improper quid pro quos. As reporters like to say, the sheer size of the foundation “raises questions.”
    But nobody seems willing to accept the answers to those questions, which are, very clearly, “no.” [read more]
The NY Times is the least objective media outlet around. If they were objective, their stories would not be biased, but they are. The NY Times is so biased that it isn’t worth reading.
    [Editor’s Note: The correspondent who told me that admitted to preferring Fox News, but seemed unaware that “Faux News” is a popular label for that network among the better-informed, for she asked, “Why is my news faux and yours truth?” Of course, it hasn’t anything to do with hers & mine....]

A wonderful, uplifting article from the biased NY Times [from a correspondent to whom I quoted the item above]: “Traveling Alone, With Help” [as told to Daniel Krieger, NY Times, September 1]. Excerpt:
I was driving through the Nevada desert on a hot morning in late July, going from Las Vegas to Los Angeles in a brand-new silver Nissan Versa. This was my first time driving in the United States and my first time driving an automatic car. I had asked for a manual transmission, but the rental agency didn’t have one. In my country, Argentina, everyone drives a manual.
    After entering California on Interstate 15, I stopped to get gas, and for the first time in my life I had to put it in the tank by myself. In Argentina, a guy in a uniform always does this for you. I had to choose the fuel, but I don’t know anything about fuel, and I don’t know anything about cars. I just know how to drive. I thought any gas would work, and I picked one.
    This was also my first time traveling alone. I really needed a break. I spent my 20s building my own travel agency, and now I felt like I should travel myself and have new experiences. But a woman traveling by herself is an easy target, and I knew I had to be really careful. I was thinking about the horror stories I had heard, like the two Argentine girls who were murdered this year by two men while traveling in Ecuador. So I took precautions, like not accepting drinks from men I didn’t know, not having more than one drink and not going out at night alone. I was focused on bad things that could happen to me and on people with bad intentions.
   A while later, getting closer to Los Angeles, there was some traffic on the highway, and I slowed down. That’s when the car suddenly died.... [read more]
In that 75-year Harvard study of human happiness mentioned last week, among the factors they consider to be directly linked to success and longevity is personal and real interaction with others that results in true happiness. It has nothing to do with our “things” or business acumen. It has to do with our interactions with each other in a real, truthful, meaningful way.
    This brings me to us Americans, generally speaking – but of course by no means all. My observation is – we tend not to listen simply to the words that are being said, but internally judge and consider what we “perceive” is being said. That’s the first step to things going awry. Rather than jump to our own “perceived” assumptions, I think we should question, clarify, and move on – straightaway. The moving on is important. But do we take that time? We ought to, for better interaction with others.

A scientist who stepped away from experimenting on monkeys says society needs to rethink the ethics of animal research: “Second Thoughts of an Animal Researcher” [John P. Gluck, NY Times, September 2]. Excerpt:
Albuquerque, N.M. — Five years ago, the National Institutes of Health all but ended biomedical and behavioral research on chimpanzees, concluding that, as the closest human relative, they deserved “special consideration and respect.”
    But chimpanzees were far from the only nonhuman primates used in research then, or now. About 70,000 other primates are still living their lives as research subjects in labs across the United States.
    On Wednesday, the N.I.H. will hold a workshop on “continued responsible research” with these animals. This sounds like a positive development. But as someone who spent decades working almost daily with macaque monkeys in primate research laboratories, I know firsthand that “responsible” research is not enough. What we really need to examine is the very moral ground of animal research itself….
    One of my areas of study focused on the effects of early social deprivation on the intellectual abilities of rhesus monkeys. We kept young, intelligent monkeys separated from their families and others of their kind for many months in soundproof cages that remained lit 24 hours a day, then measured how their potential for complex social and intellectual lives unraveled. All the while, I comforted myself with the idea that these monkeys were my research partners, and that by creating developmental disorders in monkeys born in a lab, we could better understand these disorders in humans.
    But it was impossible to fully quell my repugnance at all that I continued to witness and to inflict. At the same time, in the classroom, I began to face questions from students who had become increasingly concerned about the predicament of lab animals. When one of my graduate students wanted to dedicate his doctoral dissertation to G44, a female rhesus monkey who had unexpectedly died during his research, I thought he was joking; then I realized that to him G44 was an individual with a unique personality, not just an animated object that produced data points. It became harder and harder for me to argue that the importance of my work always outweighed the pain I caused in doing it. [read more]
“What Kids Wish Their Teachers Knew” [Donna De La Cruz, NY Times, August 31]. Excerpt:
When Kyle Schwartz started teaching third grade at Doull Elementary School in Denver, she wanted to get to know her students better. She asked them to finish the sentence “I wish my teacher knew.”
    The responses were eye-opening for Ms. Schwartz. Some children were struggling with poverty (“I wish my teacher knew I don’t have pencils at home to do my homework”); an absent parent (“I wish my teacher knew that sometimes my reading log is not signed because my mom isn’t around a lot”); and a parent taken away (“I wish my teacher knew how much I miss my dad because he got deported to Mexico when I was 3 years old and I haven’t seen him in six years”). [read more]
The pronounced poverty rate seems evidence that this Hasidic community is regularly receiving a public subsidy for its religious practices: “In Brooklyn, Stifling Higher Learning Among Hasidic Women” [Ginia Bellafante, NY Times, September 2]. Excerpt:
Among the Satmar in Brooklyn, use of the internet is condemned and secular education is considered of little use. In recent years, though, it became the fashion among some Satmar women to pursue special-education degrees after high school, typically online or through religious colleges. The women often go to work not in philosophically suspect places like Greenwich Village, but in schools within their community. Now, even that minor advance has been rolled back; some Satmar leaders issued a decree proclaiming that the practice would no longer be tolerated. A letter from the United Talmudical Academy, the governing body for a consortium of schools, meant for girls entering the 12th grade and their parents, stated that they “shouldn’t God forbid take a degree which is according to our sages, dangerous and damaging.”
    The letter went on to say that girls shouldn’t learn college subjects and that those who refused to obey would be denied positions as teachers. Leaders, they said, had a responsibility to protect the religious educational system from outside influences. The notion is not an invention of the Hasidim, Allan Nadler, the director of Jewish studies at Drew University and a scholar of Hasidic practice, explained. The Mishna, a multivolume compilation of Jewish law that predates the Talmud, contains a prohibition against “external books.” Still, Mr. Nadler maintained, the recent decree reflects what he has observed over the years as a deepening fear of wider society.
    The Talmudical Academy did not return calls seeking comment.
    A history of pandering to the ultra-Orthodox in Brooklyn goes back at least to the days of Mario M. Cuomo. Politicians who might otherwise feel free to lecture black and Hispanic communities on the importance of grit, self-reliance and the sacred path of higher learning express remarkably little outrage over the habits of a group that essentially enshrines its own dependency on the system. According to a 2011 study by the UJA-Federation of New York, the Jewish philanthropic organization, just 11 percent of Hasidic men and 6 percent of Hasidic women in and around New York City hold bachelor’s degrees, while the poverty rate among Hasidic households stands at 43 percent, nearly twice the figure citywide.
    A reliance on public assistance is remarkably common among the Hasidim, explained Lani Santo, the executive director of Footsteps, an organization begun in 2003 to help those who decide to leave the ultra-Orthodox world. “Even if you want to be able to have a community that is maintaining its own traditions,” she told me, “you still need to be able to have the tools and skills to support your family.” Political leaders, beholden to the enormous voting bloc that the Hasidim, and especially the Satmar, provide, remain reluctant to say something so obvious. [read more]
Like Walt Whitman before me, “I celebrate myself, and sing myself”—
     Nobody remembered my birthday.

At a recent Great Books discussion, of the play Hamlet, the old question arose whether Shakespeare actually wrote it.
    The Great Books Foundation rules out this sort of consideration as irrelevant to a discussion of the ideas of a particular work. Accordingly, the leader attempted to dismiss it by asking, “What if every book we’ve read this year were ghost-written? What difference would it make to our discussions?”
    One Great Books devotee answered, “There have been a lot of great ghosts!”

On her first day at the seniors complex, the new manager told the seniors some of her new rules:
    “The female sleeping quarters will be out-of-bounds for all males, and the male dormitory to the females. Anybody caught breaking this rule will be fined $20 the first time.”
    She continued, “Anybody caught breaking this rule the second time will be fined $60. Being caught a third time will cost you a fine of $180. Are there any questions?”
    At this point, one of the men inquired: “How much for a season pass?”

Grateful for correspondence, Moristotle


  1. And the NY TIMES captures them in truth & fact - whatever followers of Fox "News" like to believe.

  2. True or faux. Where do you go for your news?