Water machines as micro-aggression

Increasingly, we hear the term “micro-aggression” tossed around by the infantile left. But what does it mean?

As far as I can tell, a micro-aggression is an affront — real or imagined for the sake of being affronted — so trivial that few stable adults would notice it and none would give it a second thought. When the term is used, the only aggression in sight is that committed by the grievance industry against the English language for the purpose of political bullying.

With this definition in mind, we can try to make sense of the latest story from the grievance industry manufacturing plant known as Harvard.

Katherine Timpf of NRO reports:

Harvard University Dining Services has decided stop buying water machines from the Israeli company SodaStream due to concerns that their very presence might be a microaggression against Palestinian students.

“These machines can be seen as a microaggression to Palestinian students and their families and like the University doesn’t care about Palestinian human rights,” Rachel J. Sandalow-Ash, sophomore and member of the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance, told the Harvard Crimson.

In the meantime, the school will also be removing the “SodaStream” stickers from any of the existing water machines, just to make sure no student has to see one and have a traumatic experience or something.

Fortunately, Harvard will not remove existing SodaStream machines and replace them with machines purchased from another vendor. That would be a micro-aggression against Harvard’s bottom line.

But by bowing to pressure from Ms. Sandalow-Ash and the College’s Progressive Jewish Alliance, Harvard’s dining services operation has committed a micro-aggression against non-self-hating Jews.

UPDATE: From Twitchy comes word that Harvard’s president has ordered an investigation into the boycott of SodaStream machines.

JOHN adds: Of course, Harvard could make this more fair by also boycotting all of the otherwise-desirable products made by the Palestinians. No, wait…

Thoughts on Cuba

The late William Rusher used to criticize our Cuban embargo because he liked to smoke Cuban cigars, and rightly reasoned, “Well—if we can’t bomb their cities, at least we could burn their crops.” To which I added, if blue jeans helped bring down the Soviet Union, imagine what a boatload of Spandex will do to Castro’s Cuba.

We’ll see how much of this Obama can implement on his own. Much of our Cuban policy is a matter of statute passed by Congress, and while Obama might be violating some parts of the law, this may be another one of those legal no-man’s lands where no member of Congress will have standing to bring an action in federal court.

Not surprisingly there is a lot of blowback against this development coming from . . . the Left! Cultural lefties worry that with normalized relations and trade Cuba will be ruined by American fast food, big league baseball contracts, sitcoms, etc. Another bit of evidence that it is the Left that is the most reactionary and nostalgic faction in the modern world today (“Downton Democrats” as George Will puts it), pining for a romantic vision of egalitarian poverty.

I think the real fear is that Cubans, like so many eastern Europeans, will eventually be very pro-American, and will dish on how awful the Castro years have been, which will deflate the last limp leftist balloon. Who have they got left after Cuba? Venezuela? Argentina? Bolivia?   Pffffffttt.

Our friend Stephen Knott notes the situational ethics of Obama on Cuba. Sanctions haven’t worked, we’re told, but when it comes to Iran and Russia, Obama’s position is, “Give sanctions time to work.” Steve also notes this:

Raul Castro said sanctions “caused enormous human and economic damage”

Obama says: “50 years that didn’t work.”

It strikes me that Castro had the more accurate assessment.

P.S. Brian Williams opened with NBC Nightly News last night with a surprising phrase: “Four out of five Americans alive today have never known a free Cuba.”   (Emphasis added.)  Curious that he didn’t say “Non-Communist Cuba,” or some other euphemism.  Someone must have misplaced the Liberal Media Style Book and screwed up.

Democrats to Colbert: Thanks For Your Help!

I have never seen Stephen Colbert’s show on Comedy Central, but I take it that it consists of an endless series of anti-Republican “jokes.” If asked, would Colbert admit to being a loyal Democratic Party foot soldier, or would he claim to be a stubbornly independent sort who socks it to both sides? I don’t know, but the Democrats aren’t in any doubt. Yesterday the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent this email to the party faithful; click to enlarge:

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 4.05.43 PM

That was followed by a link to an official Democratic Party web page called “Thank You Stephen Colbert!” So I guess the Democrats have known all along that Colbert’s show was an hour-long commercial for their party and its candidates.

I am not in favor of restricting anyone’s right to free speech, but if federal law is going to bar a businessman from contributing enough to buy more than a minimal amount of television time on behalf of his party or his candidates, why shouldn’t Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central be prohibited from airing millions of dollars worth of pro-Democratic Party propaganda?

“Green” Cars Are Actually Very Brown

Seth Borenstein, environmental writer for the AP, notes a new study out Monday from the National Academy of Sciences that finds electric cars have a strongly negative air pollution effect if they are run in states that generate most of their electricity from coal:

People who own all-electric cars where coal generates the power may think they are helping the environment. But a new study finds their vehicles actually make the air dirtier, worsening global warming.

The EPA knew this more than 20 years ago, and this finding has been replicated over and over again, but somehow it always seems like “news” to environmental journalists when it happens again. Anyway, next sentence:

Ethanol isn’t so green, either.

Well duh. This has been known for a long time, too.

The full PNAS paper, “Life cycle air quality impacts of conventional and alternative light-duty transportation in the United States,” can be found here, written in the usual hard-to-follow style if you’re a layperson (but worth trying for some of the regional variations that show up on the color maps). Here’s the key sentence from the abstract:

We find that powering vehicles with corn ethanol or with coal-based or “grid average” electricity increases monetized environmental health impacts by 80% or more relative to using conventional gasoline.

I used to remark that if you’d been an environmentalist 100 years ago, you would have wanted to have a bumper sticker that said, “Save Farmland—Drive a Car,” since in 1915 we were still using over 90 million acres of land to grow feed for our draft horses and such. Much of the re-forestation of the northeast that has taken place over the last century owes to the coming of the internal combustion engine.

Sounds like we need a new bumper strip for today: “Reduce Air Pollution: Drive A Gasoline Powered Car.” Heh. Nice going environmental idiots.

Mistaken identity

President Obama has complained about being mistaken for a valet. He attributes this case of mistaken identity to his race, though it must be said that, race aside, Obama does sort of look like a valet (also, until he turned gray, like the man on the top of a wedding cake).

Michelle Obama complains that, as first lady no less, she has been asked by a customer to bring down merchandise from a shelf. As John points out, Michelle’s original version of the story described the event, with amusement, in non-racial terms.

We can probably stipulate, however, that on occasion both Barack and Michelle, along with many other successful black Americans, have been assumed on first glance to have a lower status than that which they achieved. And though such incidents are hardly the end of the world, one need not be inordinately thin-skinned to mildly resent being stereotyped into a station one has surpassed.

I speak from personal experience. As a middle-aged Jew living in an upscale Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. I was on several occasions assumed at social gatherings to be a liberal.

No one asked me for his car keys, nor was I pressed into performing physical labor. But having years earlier moved up from liberalism, it was, in equal parts, amusing and disconcerting to be relegated in people’s eyes to that unfortunate status.

The gift of books, Gulag edition

Thinking about President Obama’s announcement of our new policy toward Cuba, I would like to take the liberty of adding a few books to my holiday list for Power Line readers.

Armando Valladares, Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro’s Gulag. A great, inspirational memoir: the passion of Armando Valladares, kept in print by our friends at Encounter Books.

Alexander Dolgun, Alexander Dolgun’s Story: An American in the Gulag. I have found this to be among the most accessible of the memoirs of life in the Soviet Gulag, perhaps because Dolgun was an American.

Fan Shen, Gang of One: Memoirs of a Red Guard. Jay Nordlinger describes it as “a book of stunning power” and adds: “Gang of One is a high literary achievement, documenting an even greater achievement, by which I mean the life of this awe-inspiring man, Fan Shen.” Jay subsequently noted: “Frankly, his memoirs are among the best I’ve ever read.”

Erik Larson, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin. An account of the United States ambassador to Germany at the time of Hitler’s rise, this book raises the questions: what would you have thought? what would you have said? what would you have done? I offered ten notes on the book here.

President Obama — we know what he has said and done. He stands with anti-American thugs and tyrants all over the world, and always has.

Transform this

It’s a good thing that President Obama wasn’t in charge of American foreign policy during the Cold War. He could have decried the policy of containment followed by more or less faithfully by successive administrations for more than 40 years as an utter failure. At any given point, the Soviet Union was still standing and looked like a permanent fixture on the international scene, right up until the moment it didn’t.

The failure of our policy toward Cuba to achieve its avowed aims is what Obama pitched in his statement announcing our new policy yesterday (video below). I don’t take the statement at face value and don’t think it can withstand much scrutiny.

In his statement Obama referred to the origins of our policy toward Cuba in the Cold War. Let us recall that in the Cold War Obama was a fool for the Soviet Union. The New York Times has reported that in 1983, as a Columbia undergraduate, Barack Obama was among the “useful idiots” expressing high-minded disparagement of Ronald Reagan’s defense policies in support of the nuclear freeze movement orchestrated by the Soviet Union. (That’s not how the Times put it, but it’s the case.) In the Cold War Obama’s heart was on the other side, partial to the causes championed by the other side.

We could write this off to youthful enthusiasm if Obama showed any sign of intellectual growth since 1983, but there is none. The enthusiasm remains. He’s thrilled to be lending a hand to the Castro brothers as they confront the loss of their patrons in Russia and Venezuela. Here is how the editors of the Washington Post put it today:

On Wednesday, the Castros suddenly obtained a comprehensive bailout — from the Obama administration. President Obama granted the regime everything on its wish list that was within his power to grant; a full lifting of the trade embargo requires congressional action. Full diplomatic relations will be established, Cuba’s place on the list of terrorism sponsors reviewed and restrictions lifted on U.S. investment and most travel to Cuba. That liberalization will provide Havana with a fresh source of desperately needed hard currency and eliminate U.S. leverage for political reforms.

Why would he do that? It would be rude to conclude that Obama doesn’t support “political reforms” in Cuba, but it would comport with the evidence. In Obama’s view, it’s not Cuba that is in need of the “fundamental transform[ation]“ he promised just before his election in 2008.