Wednesday, March 29, 2017

College campus free-speech zones face new scrutiny, lawsuit
(OC Reg)
On some college campuses, students and outsiders are allowed to protest and distribute flyers only in free-speech zones. Supporters say it’s a way to protect against disruptions to school operations, but opponents call it censorship….
Fired Because He Wouldn't Dumb Down a Course?
(Inside Higher Ed)
AAUP report concludes that a professor at Community College of Aurora was likely fired for refusing to compromise on rigor in his courses as part of a "student success" initiative….

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The man behind the Trumpian curtain: Robert Mercer (and the war on information)

Read this (or watch the video)!

Excerpts from
[New Yorker writer] Jane Mayer on Robert Mercer & the Dark Money Behind Trump and Bannon (Transcript, Democracy Now broadcast)

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about that moment [August 2016], … This was the time that [Paul] Manafort was forced out as the campaign manager for Donald Trump. The campaign was in disarray. He was being forced out because of his ties to Ukraine and Russia….

JANE MAYER: … Trump’s campaign was…floundering. It was in August, and there was headline after headline that was suggesting that Paul Manafort, who had been the campaign manager, had really nefarious ties to the Ukrainian oligarchs and pro-Putin forces….
     And the campaign was…spinning in a kind of a downward spiral, when, at a fundraiser out in Long Island, …Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of this hedge-fund tycoon, Bob Mercer, sort of cornered Trump and said, "You know, we’d like to give money to your campaign. We’ll back you, but you’ve got to try to, you know, stabilize it." And basically, she said, "And I’ve got just the people for you to do the job."
     …[O]ne being Steve Bannon…. The other was Kellyanne Conway, who had been running this superfund…for the Cruz campaign, that was filled with the money from the Mercers. And so she became the campaign manager. Bannon became the campaign chairman. And a third person, David Bossie, whose organization Citizens United was also very heavily backed by the Mercer family, he became the deputy campaign manager. So, basically, as Trump’s campaign is rescued by this gang, they encircle Trump. And since then, they’ve also encircled Trump’s White House and become very key to him. And they are the Mercers’ people.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: …Rebekah Mercer, whom you mentioned, is known—described as "the first lady of the alt-right." Now, you tried to get Rebekah and Robert Mercer to speak to you for this piece. What response did you get?

JANE MAYER: Oh, I mean, it was hopeless, clearly, from the start. They have nothing but disdain for…the mainstream media. Robert Mercer…he much prefers the company of cats to humans….
     His daughter, Rebekah Mercer, who’s 43 and has also worked at the family’s hedge fund a little bit and is a graduate of Stanford, she’s a little more outspoken. … But she doesn’t speak to the press….
. . .
     …Robert and his daughter Rebekah met Andrew Breitbart back—I think it was late 2011 or early 2012, speaking at a conference of the Club for Growth…. And they were completely taken with Andrew Breitbart. … Breitbart was outspoken and gleefully provocative and loved to offend people and use vulgar language just to catch their attention.…
     And…[Robert Mercer] was captivated by, I think, was Breitbart’s vision, which was, … "Conservatives can never win until we basically take on the mainstream media and build up our own source of information." He was talking about declaring information warfare in this country on fact-based reporting and substituting it with their own vision. And what he needed, Breitbart, at that point, was money….
. . .
JANE MAYER: …Andrew Breitbart had helped The Huffington Post get set up. And his idea was that he was going to launch The Huffington Post of the right. And so, he was setting it up, and his very close friend was Steve Bannon. ... So Bannon got the Mercers to put $10 million into turning this venture into something that was really going to pack a punch. And they were just about to launch it…when Andrew Breitbart died. … And that’s when Steve Bannon stepped in and became the head of Breitbart News.
     And in Bannon’s hands, it became a force of economic nationalism and, in some people’s view, white supremacism. It ran…a regular feature on black crime. It hosted and pretty much launched the career of Milo Yiannopoulos…. [It] just…became, as Bannon had said, a platform for the alt-right, meaning the alternative to the old right, a new right that was far more angry and aggressive about others….
. . .
     … [The Mercers] became the sponsors, really, behind [Breitbart News]. [Rebekah] reads every story, I’m told, … [T]here is a force behind Breitbart News that people don’t realize, and it’s the Mercer family. …[Breitbart News] pushed the conservatives in this country towards this economic nationalism, nativism, anti-immigration, pro-harsh borders, anti-free trade, protectionist. And it spoke the language of populism, but right-wing populism.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: … But can you also talk about the Government Accountability Institute…?

JANE MAYER: …You’ve got this family with all the money in the world, wanting to change American politics. And they hadn’t been very effective in their earlier efforts at this, until they joined forces with Steve Bannon…. And so, he very much focused their efforts on this information warfare, first with Breitbart…. And then, after 2012, when the Mercers were very disappointed that Obama got re-elected, at Bannon’s direction, they started to fund a brand-new organization called the Government Accountability Institute. It’s based in Tallahassee. It’s small. It’s really a platform for one major figure, Peter Schweizer, who is a conservative kind of investigative reporter.
     And what they did with this organization, which the Mercers poured millions of dollars into, was…drive the political narrative in the 2016 campaign. They created a book called Clinton Cash, which was a compendium of all the kinds of corruption allegations against the Clintons. And they aimed to get it into the mainstream media…. It was like an opposition research organization, sort of masked as a charity and nonprofit. And they took this book, Clinton Cash, gave it to The New York Times exclusively, early, and the Times then ran with a story out of it, that they said they corroborated. …
[This]…launched this whole narrative of Hillary Clinton as corrupt. And it just kept echoing and echoing through the media after that. So, it was a real home run for them….
 …[W]hat I finally was able to do what was talk to partners and people [the Mercers] work with in business and people who’ve known them a long time, who paint this picture of them as having these really peculiar beliefs, and based on kind of strange far-right media. …Bob Mercer…is convinced that the Clintons are murderers, literally, have murdered people. ... OK, so he’s driven by this just hatred of the Clintons and, coming into 2016, is determined to try to stop Hillary Clinton, and looking for a vehicle who would do that, who eventually becomes Trump….

Mayer’s New Yorker article:
How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency.
By Jane Mayer


Hell Freezes Over: USC Faculty vow to "fight on" against Trump

On page 7 of today's LA Times:
We are USC Faculty.

We are scientists, artists, and thinkers from over 115 countries, working together every day, side by side, to understand the world around us and to share what we’ve learned with future generations.
We proudly affirm the core mission of the university as a place for the generation of knowledge, the preservation of scholarship, and informed discussion and debate, all of which are vital to a healthy democracy.

We will vigorously defend our core values of academic freedom, high standards of evidence, free inquiry, openness, and inclusion against policies and actions driven by fear, bigotry, and propaganda.
We are committed to:
-- protecting the human rights of our students, our fellow faculty, staff, and all members of the USC community, irrespective of their race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, nationality, or citizenship status.
-- supporting and encouraging all university efforts to provide critical resources for staff, students and faculty who are most vulnerable and at greatest risk.
-- supporting faculty, students, and staff who engage in civil disobedience and protest if members of the academic community are harmed or deported due to targeted state actions.
We will Fight On!

It was funded through a Go Fund Me page. Check it out:


Wednesday, March 22, 2017