Thursday’s Forum

FILED UNDER: Open Forum
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    An interesting perspective on the NYU-Jones-student kerfuffle that @James wrote about the other day.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/05/opinion/nyu-chemistry-fired.html

    Jones taught organic chemistry as a contingent (or adjunct) faculty member at a private university. The majority of higher education professors are now contingent, meaning that they do not get the protections of tenure. This is true even at highly selective institutions like N.Y.U. Generally speaking, contingent faculty members are low paid and low status. That combination can make contingent professors very vulnerable. When teaching contracts are fungible, administrators rely more heavily on student evaluations than they do peer evaluations. Even if the administrators do not weigh student evaluations in judging professors’ performance, it is easy to see how contingent faculty members could construe them as a kind of up-or-down vote. Student satisfaction is an easy metric for the university to use to measure success, if only because, by definition, it means professors are not causing bureaucratic headaches for higher-ups.

    ———————–

    Jones’s teaching struggles are common when generations collide in the classroom. But it isn’t just about generational differences. It is about a course like organic chemistry, which is, in part, designed to filter out students unsuited to rigorous pre-med curriculums. At an expensive private university, however, students do not expect to fail out. The estimated total cost of attendance for an on- or off-campus student attending N.Y.U. over the 2022-23 school year is $83,250. Administrators at such tuition-dependent universities have a lot of incentives to make sure that their students do not fail out. That isn’t about snowflakes but about the economics of modern higher education. Any battle in the culture war is always about the culture of economics. (Emphasis added)

    In the final analysis, this is not a great example of academic standards adrift. Organic chemistry has always been challenging. Many majors have similar courses, courses that have to be taught at scale, which means bringing in a lot of contingent labor to meet demand. Anxieties around such funnel classes — in which failing means starting over or changing majors — are as old as these kinds of courses themselves. This is not an invention of the student consumer model. The tell is that the students who petitioned against Jones were surprised that he was fired; that’s not what the petition asked for. This does not exactly smack of the inmates running the asylum. It’s more likely a case of the administration treating Jones the way it has undoubtedly treated other contingent faculty members over the years. This episode is a bureaucratic resolution to a worker widget that created one too many bureaucratic problems. The labor issue is by far the bigger social problem.

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  2. gVOR08 says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Thanks. I had made a note to link to that article. Everyone, especially the MSM, fit it into narratives about woke, those kids today, out of touch olds, and it’s really about the grubby commercialism of modern education.

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  3. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    Busy day today, to make up for a laid back Wednesday. Happy Friday Eve, everyone!

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  4. Scott says:

    This is a long opinion piece and hard to excerpt but recommend reading it as an example on how public-facing officials have to take bullying by private actors. And the dangers of social media.

    Why is the Army punishing a general for calling out MAGA lies?

    The U.S. military is under assault, as I noted recently, from MAGA extremists who seek to harness it to carry out their malign agenda — and who disparage anyone who stands in their way as a “woke loser.” This is arguably the most dangerous civil-military challenge since the heyday of McCarthyism in the 1950s. The military is rightly eager to stay out of politics, but this laudable instinct can lead it to run away from controversy even at the cost of ceding the information battlefield to the far-right forces trying to subvert American democracy.

    The treatment of Maj. Gen. Patrick J. Donahoe is a case in point. Until recently, this combat veteran was commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning in Georgia, home of the Army’s infantry and armor schools. Now, his retirement is being held up while Army leadership considers how to respond to an inspector general’s investigation that concluded that he had “failed to display Army values and core leader competencies.”

    What did Donahoe do wrong? Ironically, his only offense was to champion on social media the very values the Army claims to stand for. Having a senior officer defend the Army’s policies should not be seen as improper involvement in politics — but that is how it is being portrayed, not just by the Army’s right-wing critics but also by the Army’s own inspector general.

    Example:

    It all began in March 2021 when Fox “News” host Tucker Carlson expressed outrage over Air Force plans to develop a maternity flight suit. “It’s a mockery of the U.S. military,” huffed Carlson at the time, arguing that while “China’s military becomes more masculine,” ours becomes “more feminine.” In reply, Donahoe posted on Twitter a video of himself conducting a reenlistment ceremony for a female soldier. “Just a reminder,” he wrote, “that @TuckerCarlson couldn’t be more wrong.”

    Donahoe’s retort earned the ire of the MAGA right. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who had compared the “emasculated” U.S. military unfavorably with the supposedly more macho Russian army, sent a letter of complaint to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, falsely accusing Donahoe and other officers who defended the role of women in the military of expressing partisan political views.

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  5. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    There was a tweet yesterday by a former student of Jones who is now herself a professor of psychology who mentioned Jones has been a long time example of a terrible teacher to her. One specific example she gave us he apparently has a habit of singling out whoever did worst on an assignment and publicly humiliates them in front of the entire class.

    Several responses suggested students interviewed for the article had brought up similar accusations, but the NYT report told them they wouldn’t be used fir the story.

    So this looks like another example of the times deliberately framing a story to fit a particular narrative likely to drive traffic and then ignoring any journalism that would contradict that narrative.

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  6. Kathy says:

    The latest from his most trumpy majesty Manuel Andres I, is to set up a state airline that will be run by the armed forces.

    This naturally sounds very weird, but his trumpiness has been militarizing the government for years now, which doesn’t get enough coverage even here. It started by keeping the army doing law enforcement against drug cartels, and then by placing the defence dept. in charge of customs. Now the armed forces run things like the new airport outside Mexico City, and other white elephant projects like the tourist train in Yucatan and Quintana Roo (the Maya Train).

    To add insult, the new airline will take the branding of the deceased Mexicana.

    And to top it off, while the plan calls for ten leased planes (no make released as yet), rumor is it will incorporate the erstwhile presidential plane, which his trumpiness has been trying to sell since he took office in December 2018.

    It will cost a bundle to redo the interior to a passenger configuration. That’s why it hasn’t seen many interested buyers. But, at least, it’s rather young as regard takeoff/landing cycles.

    Not that another airline isn’t needed. Not only did Interjet die late in 2020, but the hole left by the death of Mexicana in 2010 still hasn’t been fully filled. Involving the army in commercial travel, though, doesn’t seem like the way to go.

  7. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Scott: I’m guessing he shouldn’t have mentioned Tucker Carlson by name.

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  8. Kathy says:

    Carry over from yesterday’s thread on TV and movies. There were a few references to She Hulk. I’ve bene following the show. Thus far, my one complaint is that Jameela Jamil doesn’t get enough screen time.

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  9. MarkedMan says:

    @Scott: I read the article and came away feeling that the army was justified. The officer seemed to be stooping to the level of social media tit for tat and needlessly politicizing everything.

  10. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: I’m not really the target audience for She-Hulk but started watching because I am a huge fan of Tatiana Maslany’s “Orphan Black”. FWIW I think it’s well written and well done in a goofy sitcom kind of way. Sort of a PG rated, teenager-y “Dead Pool” vibe. I mean, in the last episode I watched she literally turned to the viewers in mid scene, asked if we remember the guy that had just entered the set, speculated that he might have been in the “previously on”, then said “the heck with it” and called for another “previously on” just about him, which we got. And then resumed the scene as if nothing had happened. This isn’t “Logan”…

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  11. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    They’ve done other fourth wall breaks. Once she even asked something about Wong being back.

    BTW, isn’t it time for Wong to get a movie or streaming TV show?

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  12. gVOR08 says:

    Don’t know that it’s anything new, but wanted to make sure JohnSF and others saw this piece in NYT about the origins of Trussonomics. Basically blames the Tufton Street glibertarians quite explicitly as a UK Kochtopus, with many of the same secretive funders.

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  13. Neil Hudelson says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I’ve enjoyed She-Hulk as light entertainment, except the fourth-wall thing really gets under my skin. I’ve seen plenty of shows where breaking the 4th wall is a trope. If done with rhyme and reason–Malcolm in the Middle springs to mind–it’s great. With She-Hulk there’s such long stretches without the 4th wall being addressed that I forget it’s a thing in the show; when it happens, it’s jarring and takes me out of the suspension of disbelief necessary for the show.

    Other than that, I’ve enjoyed it. Like Kathy, I love Jamil chewing up scenery.

  14. Kathy says:

    I’m reading a a book about Boeing, and in particular the 737 MAX disasters. Fittingly it’s titled “Flying Blind.”

    Thus far it has answered the question of how McDonnell Douglas really took over Boeing, despite the latter having bought the former.

    The gist is Boeing paid for McDD with stock. This made the McDonnell Douglas CEO and other high executives the largest Boeing shareholders. naturally they sat on the board and took high positions in Boeing, and assimilated Boeing.

    Thus the change from an engineering company to a shareholder value company. You know, the thing that’s eating the world right now.

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  15. Scott says:

    @Kathy: In addition, Boeing moved corporate HQs from Seattle to Chicago emphasizing the primacy of financial engineering over real engineering.

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  16. Kathy says:

    @Scott:

    That happened post assimilation.

    Still a bonehead move.

    Granted a large industrial company will be very spread out with plants in many locations, and the corporate HQ can only be in one place. But it should be at the biggest or most important manufacturing plant.

  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: To the degree to which I can recall correctly, the move was claimed to be necessary because of proximity to O’Hare Airport (why that mattered mystified me) and secondarily (so the most important reason–pay no attention to the man behind the curtain) because the city or state was offering a tax benefit for the move.

    @Scott: What always also mystifies me about modern business theory is the amazing myopia reflected in the inability to see the relationship between shareholder value and product quality. [linked to the wrong comment, should be the next one up]

  18. wr says:

    @Kathy: ” Once she even asked something about Wong being back.”

    The line was even better than that. “God, everyone loves Wong. It’s like giving the show Twitter armor for a week.”

  19. wr says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: “the move was claimed to be necessary because of proximity to O’Hare Airport (why that mattered mystified me) ”

    And that’s doubly baffling, because everyone else in America will do anything they can to stay far away from O’Hare…

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  20. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    IIRC, She-hulk is one of several Marvel characters (other examples being Deadpool and Squirrel Girl) that are aware of the fact they’re characters in a comic book. Translating that kind of metatextualness into a TV and movie has often been difficult.

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  21. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    That was in the book. the CEO at the time, I forget whom*, traveled a great deal, mostly to DC. Chicago is better located than Seattle for widespread travel within the US.

    At that, Bowing also staged a headquarters bidding war the way Amazon would later do. Another candidate city was Denver.

    What always also mystifies me about modern business theory is the amazing myopia reflected in the inability to see the relationship between shareholder value and product quality.

    You’re in good company.

    Boeing is pretty much half of a duopoly, the other half being Airbus. They’ve built all narrow body mainline planes, and all wide bodies for the past few decades. Only now they may face competition from China and Russia (and that will take a while).

    Therefore, Boeing might think an inferior plane which costs much less to develop and/or make, could still bring in money. Even if the Airbus competitor is better and everyone wants it, Airbus cannot possibly fill all the demand.

    *You need a scorecard to keep up with various CEOs, presidents, presidents of divisions, etc.

  22. Kathy says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Jamil was my favorite in The Good Place, both the actor and character. I liked her arc a great deal more than the others. Especially where she ended.

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  23. MarkedMan says:

    @wr: Don’t underestimate the draw of O’Hare for certain things. I have a friend who travelled extensively for business, and I mean extensively. Like, 3-6 American cities per week. He moved to within a 25 minute taxi drive of O’Hare and promised his wife that he would be home either for breakfast or dinner every day. For years his usual luggage consisted of a magazine on most flights, because almost every significant city has a direct flight to ORD. Kept it up for 25+ years until the pandemic and, with the exception of cancelled or delayed flights, he pretty much kept his promise. Is there another airport you could do that from? Houston? Dallas?

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  24. Gustopher says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I’m not really the target audience for She-Hulk but started watching because I am a huge fan of Tatiana Maslany’s “Orphan Black”. FWIW I think it’s well written and well done in a goofy sitcom kind of way.

    Maybe you are the target audience. You may not be a “college educated woman aged X to Y with an olive complexion” but these things are written to also have broad crossover appeal. “Enjoys a light trifle” is also likely part of the target audience.

  25. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: When companies move, it’s often so the CEO has a shorter commute.

    One company I worked at was stymied by the fact that each of the three founders lived as far away from each other as possible (happenstance, rather than desire to avoid each other, I think), and was looking for new office space forever, but could never agree.

    “We can’t move there, it’s too far out of the way. What about our employees in the Lesser East Doodleyfuck Highlands?”

    “That’s just you, Joel.”

    “I thought we should hire my kid as an intern…”

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  26. JohnSF says:

    Some snippets from Russia:

    …earlier today in Moscow police detained an employee of Prigozhin’s media group Patriot Aleksey Slobodenyuk who runs a network of telegram channels known for attacking Shoigu…
    Internal power struggles?

    Chechen deputy Adam Deilmkhanov threatens all students of Russian universities with consequences if they stand against the regime
    A Chechen threatening ethnic Russian?
    This is NOT going to go down well with large chunk of the Russian middle class.
    Again, possible evidence sections of the ruling groups may be starting to “freelance”.

    Russian social media ad warns of the consequences of fleeing to the West:

    …same-sex marriages, vegetarian food aaand… having to use the same toilets as black people?

    People really should read Putin’s annexation speech: the FSB “social media greatest hits” are all present and correct.
    The striking thing is, if you take a quick glance at some social media indicators, is how readily his non-Russian audiences (note plural) pick up on specific “triggers” for their obsessions, and ignore other parts.
    Campists and Qanon MAGAts, neo-fasciscts and Bolshevik nostalgics, white nationalists and anti-imperialists all cherry picking the phrases aimed at them.

    External audiences are a significant target of the whole political operation IMO; not working as desired, but as with the decision to invade, when in doubt, Putin tends to double down.

  27. Michael Cain says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Is there another airport you could do that from? Houston? Dallas?

    Denver but only if you’re not going much farther east then Chicago.

    Most of my travel after I’d settled in Denver was to and from the West Coast. Hated it when the bosses figured out that every major city on the West Coast is 2:10 flying time, plus or minus ten minutes, from Denver. So I got up a bit early, flew to the Coast in time for a 10:00 am meeting (time zone change worked in favor of that), then flew home and was in my own bed by 10:30 pm. The day after was always kind of rugged. Everything felt like I’d been jammed back into reality slightly off-kilter.

  28. JohnSF says:

    News from the UK:
    National Grid warns:

    British households could lose power for up to three hours at a time this winter if gas supplies run extremely low

    Customers would be warned at least a day in advance about the power cuts, which would occur at times of high demand, possibly in the morning, or more likely between 4pm and 9pm.

    They would be rotated so not all areas of the country were affected at the same time.

    Still lowish probability: would require sustained very cold weather, and LNG inputs below max terminal capacity.

    Nice introduction to the job for His Majesty, I suppose.

    The emergency plan would need to be approved by King Charles on the recommendation of the business secretary.

    Also, the interest rate on a typical five-year fixed rate mortgage has topped 6% for the first time in 12 years.

    In a bit of good news, at least we are getting some value for our taxes:
    British and German MLRS are doing good work in Ukraine.

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  29. CSK says:

    @JohnSF:
    I recall that when I lived in Edinburgh, people would talk about the coming winter power cuts as if they were routine matters.

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  30. Kathy says:

    @JohnSF:
    @CSK:

    There was a time in the 80s when a drought caused hydroelectric dams to run at reduced capacity, so there were cuts in power in sections of Mexico City and the metro area.

    I don’t recall much about it or how it was handled. There’d be no power in the afternoon, pretty much. I think it went on for weeks. Also, for some reason, I associate those days with English classes. I suppose the brownouts happened while I was learning English.

  31. dazedandconfused says:

    @wr:

    As the major northern hub it has direct flights to everywhere, pretty much.

    Our military procurement for large things (like jets) has been deliberately configured so the parts come from as many congressional districts as possible. Helps get those projects approved in Congress. This means Boeing people have to regularly meet with suppliers from all over the country.

    I be guessin…

  32. Kathy says:

    Ah, light dawns on the never-ending St. Elon soap opera.

    TL;DR: St. Elon’s latest offer to buy Twitter comes with terms different from those first offered. Twitter says:

    ..the deal included unacceptable clauses and was an “invitation to further mischief and delay”

    This leads me to formulate Kathy’s First Law of Corporate Finance: Nothing is not only never so simple, it’s never simple at all.

    It’s still possible Twitter doesn’t want to become the private preserve of some erratic mogul, but instead is angling for the $1 billion breakup fee.

    Of course, nothing is not only never so simple, it’s never simple at all.

  33. JohnSF says:

    @CSK:
    Last national scale cuts I can recall were 1973–1974.
    I have a vague recollection from somewhere about Edinburgh not having very good grid connectivity pre-1980s, so maybe prone to localised cuts even after that?
    But after the big AGR nuke plant at Torness opened 1988, I thought they were pretty secure.

  34. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    I dimly remember that the power cuts then were caused by the miners regularly going on strike. People accepted it as the price of doing business. Winter approaches, the miners strike. Business as usual.

  35. CSK says:

    Ben Sasse is resigning his senate seat to take a job at the University of Florida.

  36. JohnSF says:

    @CSK:
    Aha: I’d forgotten the miners strike 84/85.
    Similar to 73/74 but instead of national rotating cuts, they were limited to certain areas, and for shorter periods.
    Probably stuck it to Edinburgh on purpose, LOL.

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  37. CSK says:

    @JohnSF:
    It just struck me as a little odd how casually people accepted it.

  38. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: Part of the hoo hah of the move was also related to Boeing Plant #1 and Boeing Field being outside of the Seattle city limits despite the complex being surrounded on all 4 sides by Seattle. The city had proposed annexing the territory into Seattle and Boeing objected.

  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JohnSF: “aaand… having to use the same toilets as black people?”

    WA! Russia and the US are more alike than I’d realized!

  40. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    Before the drought blackouts, power outrages were quite common. Completely unpredictable, but very common. You knew you’d lose power a few times per year. It was even common for the cable to go out when there was an outage in a nearby neighborhood, as a signal relay there lost power. Everything else in the house worked, but there was no cable.

    Out of habit, to this day I keep a candle and a flashlight in my room just in case.

    To this day, I keep candle and a flashlight in my room. Habit.

  41. CSK says:

    @Kathy:

    I have three battery-powered lanterns.

  42. Mikey says:

    @Kathy: The episode that dropped today is fantastic.

  43. Gustopher says:

    Google Home would (before a hasty update) say the n-word.

    https://gizmodo.com/google-home-assistant-n-word-songs-tiktok-1849626491

    Now, I can sort of see why that might happen (although, who wants their Google Home device to recite rap lyrics is beyond me — the meterless recitation seems awful), except… they censor “shit”.

    I can think of no reason to have a list of banned words that have “shit” but not the n-word.

    (And, I wouldn’t want the Google Home thing censoring either of them in song lyrics — you should get what you ask for — but that’s another issue)

  44. Kathy says:

    @Mikey:

    It was a different take on the walk of shame.

  45. Jax says: