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Parkland and Gun Control

February 14, 2019

A year ago today, a murder of innocent high school students in Parkland, Florida raised the issue of gun control to the front and center of public consciousness.

My own reaction was related to my experience of having attended a “big box” high school in North Miami, Florida. My graduation class had more than 1,000 graduates!

That structure of “big box” schools preceded desegregation of public schools and was designed to address massive increases in the population of Florida’s cities. Ideally, no school should “warehouse” more than five hundred students. Smaller numbers of students will enable teachers and school administrators to identify and focus efforts on students before they return with intent to kill.

Placed in areas where students reside, schools will cease to be “warehouses” and become community schools.

Parkland, and all the other school tragedies, cannot be resolved by increased control of guns.  Reduce the size of public schools with large student populations and place them where the students live.

 

Trump’s Foreign Policy and America’s Readiness

February 11, 2019

President Trump’s personal diplomacy with the leader of North Korea’s communist regime will enter Round 2 in Vietnam, of all places. “Little Rocket Man” and his father before him were frequent targets for assassination, so precautions are taken to visit only societies controlled by Communist governments.

With no foreign policy team in place to negotiate with officials of North Korea before the President’s first, and now his second, meeting with Kim Jong-un, the President is campaigning for re-election in Vietnam.

A future meeting with the People’s Republic of China’s Xi Jinping is being planned, again, without proper staffing.

All this is occurring as serious questions are raised about the President’s business interests in Russia and Saudi Arabia. Credible critics suggest that the President’s policies toward Vladimir Putin and Mohammed bin Salman are designed to enrich himself while governing.

These issues are interesting, but let’s jump ahead and consider what the President and his not-very-skilled White House assistants will do in a crisis. That question came to me on January 21 when so many female voices were heard announcing intentions to run for President in 2020. A scary thought came to mind: What if we need a “War President.” Much to my surprise, former Reagan speechwriter, Peggy Noonan asked the same question in the Wall Street Journal on February 7. Ms. Noonan asks, “Can Trump Handle a Foreign Crisis?” The answer to Peggy Noonan’s question, and mine, is a very big “NO.”

Press Freedom according to MSNBC and The Atlantic

February 11, 2019

Jill Wine-Banks, a frequent commentator at MSNBC, was a member of the staff of special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, during the Watergate hearings and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve as General Counsel of the Army.

Jill Wine-Banks knows the law but last week in a discussion about the National Enquirer’s publication of private-mail between Jeff Bezos and a woman with whom he was conducting an extramarital affair, Ms. Wine-Banks suggested that the type of journalism practiced by the National Enquirer was not protected by the First Amendment.

At 11:45 AM on Monday, February 11, that argument was repeated on MSNBC by The Atlantic’s David Graham, Graham is described by the Atlantic as having reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

It’s extraordinary that a skilled attorney and a journalist who publishes in The Atlantic should argue that a journal should not receive protections of the First Amendment, except for the fact that their arguments are made on MSNBC, a cable “news” service that is committed to bringing down Donald Trump.

Also writing in The Atlantic, New York University School of Law scholar, Bob Bauer, writes:

“As The Washington Post, owned by Bezos, editorialized, AMI should face the consequences of not engaging in “legitimate journalism” in threatening Bezos. And Bezos, in his Medium posting, put this same emphasis on AMI’s departure from standard journalistic practice. He wrote that “no real journalists ever propose anything like what is happening here.”

Forgive me, but isn’t it dangerous to selectively decide what journalism is “legitimate” and what is not?

Abuse of Congressional Staff

February 11, 2019

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Presidential candidate is the object of critics who argue that the Senator abused her staff. If you work on Capitol Hill or in policy organizations in the Washington, DC area, you’ll hear complaints that some Members require staff to do laundry, follow extreme rules for handling food, or baby-sit their children. I personally heard such complaints about a Senator and a House Member from my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Good manners alone should constrain Members of Congress from using paid Congressional staff as personal servants. And anyone running, especially, for the Office of President should be aware that such behavior will be made public.

Members of the Congress of the United States are human beings, however, and bring to office all the personal failures for which humans are well known. Sexual relationships between Members and subordinates are common, less so is the taking of bribes, but lying is a professional skill well-honed by American politicians. And even treasonous acts have occurred. But, when an elected official crosses those lines, it is worthy of notice.

We should be watching Amy Klobuchar’s actions over the next months to see if her abuse of her staff portends to abuse of power.

 

Saving Higher Education

February 6, 2019

The Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey will conduct a conference on February 12. Title of the event is Putting the Ivory Tower Together Again. The event will feature a new Cato volume Unprofitable Schooling: Examining Causes of, and Fixes for, America’s Broken Ivory Tower.

Dr. Richard Vedder may be expected to say a few words about his new book, Restoring the Promise: Higher Education in America. And with a little encouragement I may remark on my Coming Death and Future Resurrection of American Higher Education: 1885–2017.

Starting at 9:15 AM on Tuesday, February 12, you can watch it live online at www.cato.org/live

Donald Trump: America’s Caudillo

February 3, 2019

After the collapse of Spain’s control of Latin America, countries adjacent to America’s southern border experienced political and economic revolutions. Many were led by the Venezuelan radical, Simon Bolivar. When civil order in these new democracies collapsed, order was restored by a strongman, a Caudillo. That President Donald Trump aspires to become America’s caudillo is evident in a number of actions he has taken, or proposed to take, and the lasting impression made upon him during his years as a cadet at New York Military Academy.

Due to the President’s dyslexia, his academic career was undistinguished. The greatest academic influence on him was that military academy. At Fordham University, the young Donald was compelled to leave after two years and entered the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. That program required students to count, not read, nor did Wharton require learning a foreign language, so Trump was able to graduate. The only real influence on his education were former military officers at New York Military Academy.

Though, periodically, American Presidents have tapped military officers to serve at the head of civil agencies and  departments of government, the damn burst with the election of President Donald Trump who did not serve in the U.S. military, but has demonstrated a loyalty to, and fondness for, former General and Flag Officers.

Though most of these appointments of military officers were unsuccessful, the President sees himself as a Commander in the Latin American mold of caudillo. Only that explains his threat to declare a national emergency and deploy U.S. military to construct a physical wall along our southern border.

Unfortunately, The New York Times reports that the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law has identified 123 provisions of law granting presidents a range of such powers. We will return to this topic with some suggestions of how to constrain this American caudillo, if President Trump uses his State of the Union address to announce his intention to declare a national emergency.

 

Professors who Hate

January 29, 2019

Conservative organizations like YAF and ISI (once known as the Intercollegiate Society of Individualist) have supported campus conservatives for close to sixty years. Accuracy in Academia, an offshoot of Accuracy in Media, publishes Campus Report that tracks Leftist campus activity. Campus Reform, a production of The Leadership Institute, forms a fourth link in a chain of organized conservative opposition to the subversion of higher education by Leftist movements. The definitive study of Progressives in higher education by Dr. James Piereson titled “The Left University” was published in The Weekly Standard in October, 2005.

Newer ones like Professor Watchlist compile reports on instructors who are Leftists and accused of indoctrinating their students. Some instructors are retaliating with policies aimed at removing students purposefully engaged in harassment. Students not concerned about bad grades and, perhaps, not motivated to earn a degree, will harass their instructors. In my first teaching assignment, a student trained in the Straussian “school” of close reading of texts made clear his objection to my philosophical approach. After I left, that Department ultimately hired, with one exception, only Strauss educated PhDs. from Boston College.

That was clearly an extreme exception to the general rule that scholarship is not the preserve of any one school of thought or religion. However, instructors are usually highly committed to what they teach or support politically.

Boards of Directors will intervene sometimes and terminate employment of instructors who commit actions that are contrary to freedom of speech protections. A good example is Melissa Click an instructor at the University of Missouri.

More common are actions taken against conservative instructors. I once interviewed an instructor at the University of Vermont who offered to develop an online course for Yorktown University. When we talked, he told me that he had accepted another position and, when that became known, a member of the University of Vermont Faculty told him, “We know who you are, and we would have gotten you.”

In 2012 I gave a presentation at a conference of the National Association of Scholars. I stated that academic tenure should be modified permitting some to accept more income in exchange for teaching without tenure. A young 40ish scholar rose to say that he waited until attaining tenure before attending a NAS event.

In most instances, college Administrators and Faculty attack conservative instructors. This is a real problem and explains why Professor Watchlist is being scrutinized.