Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Why the Claudine Gay story now?

We begin today with the now former president of Harvard, Claudine Gay, writing for The New York Times that it’s the forces which led to her resignation have a much bigger agenda.

As I depart, I must offer a few words of warning. The campaign against me was about more than one university and one leader. This was merely a single skirmish in a broader war to unravel public faith in pillars of American society. Campaigns of this kind often start with attacks on education and expertise, because these are the tools that best equip communities to see through propaganda. But such campaigns don’t end there. Trusted institutions of all types — from public health agencies to news organizations — will continue to fall victim to coordinated attempts to undermine their legitimacy and ruin their leaders’ credibility. For the opportunists driving cynicism about our institutions, no single victory or toppled leader exhausts their zeal.

Yes, I made mistakes. In my initial response to the atrocities of Oct. 7, I should have stated more forcefully what all people of good conscience know: Hamas is a terrorist organization that seeks to eradicate the Jewish state. And at a congressional hearing last month, I fell into a well-laid trap. I neglected to clearly articulate that calls for the genocide of Jewish people are abhorrent and unacceptable and that I would use every tool at my disposal to protect students from that kind of hate. […]

Never did I imagine needing to defend decades-old and broadly respected research, but the past several weeks have laid waste to truth. Those who had relentlessly campaigned to oust me since the fall often trafficked in lies and ad hominem insults, not reasoned argument. They recycled tired racial stereotypes about Black talent and temperament. They pushed a false narrative of indifference and incompetence.

Kimberly Atkins Stohr of The Boston Globe says that yes, of course, Black women took note of what happened to Claudine Gay and why it happened.

Whatever your views about Claudine Gay, the plagiarism accusations against her, or her handling of antisemitism on campus, the mode of her downfall should ring alarm bells for everyone in academia. The voices of deep-pocketed donors with even deeper animosity for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts drowned out those of the members of Harvard University’s own governing board, which supported Gay until they didn’t. If some folks missed that piece of context in this controversy, Black women surely did not.

As Joy Gaston Gayles, a professor and a former president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, told me, Black women in academia feel disposable.

“It’s no secret that if you are a Black woman, in order to rise to certain levels of leadership — especially at a place like Harvard — you’ve got to do 10 times more than people who are privileged and who don’t share your identities have to do,” said Gayles, who heads the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development at North Carolina State University but clarified that she was expressing her personal views. […]

Even among Black women who succeed in academia, the toll can be great. The deaths of two Black female college presidents last year —  JoAnne A. Epps of Temple University and Orinthia Montague of Vol State — led some Black academics to speculate if their deaths were hastened by the stress Black women feel on the job. Given the medical data supporting the fact that racism shortens Black people’s lives by weathering our bodies, I can understand the suggestion.

Charles Blow had a few words to say about the resignation of Claudine Gay on TikTok.

You can read Blow’s column in The New York Times (on the same topic) here.

David Roberts of the “Volts” Substack went on a tweetstorm about the ease with which center-left pundits allow themselves to be used to peddle the right-wing framing of news topics.


The center-left pundit approach to these things is simply to accept the frame that the right has established and dutifully make judgments within it. In this case, they focus tightly on the question of whether particular instances qualify as plagiarism as described in the rules. […]

Why are we talking about this? Is there any reasonable political or journalistic justification for *this* being the center of US discourse for weeks on end? Who has pushed this to the fore, and why, and what are they trying to achieve? […]

There are a lot of important things going on right now. Why are we talking about this and not any of those?  

We know why: the right is expert at ginning up these artificial controversies and manipulating media. Again, they brag about it publicly! […]

My one, futile plea to everyone is simply: before you jump in with an opinion on the discourse of the day, ask yourself *why* it is the discourse of the day and whose interests the discourse is serving

Note: I understand and even agree, somewhat, with people who would rather not see embedded posts from Twitter/X. However, some relevant material is only available on Twitter/X.

Author Ishmael Reed describes how America’s so-called “media elite” are Trump’s willing Barnumesque “suckers” for El País in English.

Playwright Wajahat Ali, the fastest and most prepared mind on television panels, was discontinued at CNN because he talked about white racism too much. Because whites buy their products, TV reporters and pundits are instructed to refrain from calling the Trump followers racists or anti-Semites, so they give tepid reasoning for why whites are attracted to a man charged with 91 felonies. Though they might spend 24/7 criticizing the former president, they assist him by making excuses for those who support him, millions of deplorables, and thousands who are deranged like the man who attacked Representative Pelosi’s husband.

On Dec. 26, both media elite members, Chris Matthews, and Tim Miller, appearing on MSNBC, said that Trump followers are rural people who vote for him because the Eastern elites insult and ridicule them. Are they suggesting that if the Eastern elite hadn’t mocked them, the insurgency of Jan. 6 would never have happened? Maybe bought them a beer? […]

Trump has to be one of the greatest showmen in history. He believes with circus entrepreneur P.T. Barnum that there’s a sucker born every minute. Not only is the media Trump’s sucker, but the sucker earns money by being taken. Trump knows that if he says outrageous things, it would make round-the-clock news. So the media reacts to his every tweet. He called political opponents “vermin,” which became a subject in TV panels for days to come, or his desire that President Biden “rot in hell.” Instead of covering the world like the BBC and Al Jazeera, American media owners involve all-day panels in answering Trump’s tweets, something that’s entertaining and inexpensive.

Well, Trump no longer “tweets,” technically. Members of the “media elite” screenshot his every post on TruthSocial and tweet his message for him.

Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post says that an amicus brief filed by never-Trump Republicans in support of Tanya Chutkan’s ruling that presidents do not have any sort of “privileged immunity” reflects “true conservatism.”

First and foremost, the amicus brief demonstrates fidelity to the clear meaning of the Constitution. When its writers argue that the Constitution’s text omits any reference to presidential immunity and that the Framers could have put one in had they intended to shield the office from prosecution (as they did for members of Congress in the speech or debate clause), the writers are deploying honest originalism. Because the text lacks an immunity provision, the courts have no power to invent such a protection. They likewise find no basis in the Constitution for Trump’s argument that prosecution must be preceded by impeachment and conviction. In deploying an originalist analysis, the amicus brief returns to a principle that the current right-wing majority on the Supreme Court has kicked to the curb: judicial restraint.

Second, these true conservatives embrace the concept of limited government. Citing Federalist Paper No. 69, they note that the president should not be regarded as a king but rather as something akin to the governor of New York (hence, subject to prosecution). To back up their argument that the president has never been regarded as beyond the reach of criminal laws, they cite, among other things, the pardon for Richard M. Nixon (unnecessary if he was immune) and Trump’s own arguments in the second impeachment trial.

Trump’s notion that Article II means he can do whatever he wants is a repudiation of our constitutional system that rejected a monarchy. In an era in which the GOP attempts to intrude into every corner of life — from banning abortion and books to micromanaging health care for LGBTQ+ youths — it’s helpful to remember that limited government used to be a fundamental principle for conservatives. Presidents are not kings; government is not all-powerful. Such ideas are now an anathema to Trump’s MAGA party.

Phyllis Cha of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that some abortion rights advocates and LGBTQ+ groups are already gearing up to protest at the 2024 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Abortion rights advocates want to send delegates a message when they come to Chicago for the Democratic National Convention in August: They’re tired of what they say is “lip service” from the Democratic Party when it comes to reproductive and LGBTQ+ rights, and they’re demanding action. […]

In addition to CFAR, Bodies Outside of Unjust Laws: Coalition for Reproductive Justice and LGBTQ+ Liberation includes members of local abortion rights and LGBTQ+ advocate groups Stop-Trans Genocide, Chicago Abortion Fund, Reproductive Transparency Now and the Gay Liberation Network.

The Chicago Department of Transportation has 10 days to make a decision on the permit and notify the applicant. Permits are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, a CDOT spokesperson said, and are reviewed by multiple city departments. Approval of the permit depends on whether the event can be held safely.

CDOT hasn’t received any other applications for the time period when the convention is in town, the spokesperson said, but more applications are expected as convention dates approach.

Patrick Wintour of the Guardian analyzes South Africa’s request before the International Court seeking an Interim measure in order to prevent Israel from carrying out the intent of genocide.

Crack legal teams are being assembled, countries are issuing statements in support of South Africa, and Israel has said it will defend itself in court, reversing a decades-old policy of boycotting the UN’s top court and its 15 elected judges.

The first hearing in The Hague is set for 11 and 12 January. If precedent is any guide, it is possible the ICJ will issue a provisional ruling within weeks, and certainly while the Israeli attacks on Gaza are likely to be still under way.

The wheels of global justice – at least interim justice – do not always grind slowly.

South Africa’s request for a provisional ruling is in line with a broader trend at the ICJ for such rulings. Parties have been seeking – and obtaining – provisional measures with increasing frequency: in the last decade the court has indicated provisional measures in 11 cases, compared with 10 in the first 50 years of the court’s existence (1945-1995).

Finally today, Kyle Orland of Ars Technia writes about the 13-year old kid that killed Tetris.

For decades after its 1989 release, each of the hundreds of millions of standard NES Tetris games ended the same way: A block reaches the top of the screen and triggers a “game over” message. That 34-year streak was finally broken on December 21, 2023, when 13-year-old phenom BlueScuti became the first human to reach the game’s “kill screen” after a 40-minute, 1,511-line performance, crashing the game by reaching its functional limits.

What makes BlueScuti’s achievement even more incredible (as noted in some excellent YouTube summaries of the scene) is that, until just a few years ago, the Tetris community at large assumed it was functionally impossible for a human to get much past 290 lines. The road to the first NES Tetris kill screen highlights the surprisingly robust competitive scene that still surrounds the classic game and just how much that competitive community has been able to collectively improve in a relatively short time.

And yes, I do play Tetris on my smartphone.

Everyone try to have the best possible day.


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