Sina-cism: What if Trump is right about something?

I realize some of you would prefer to simply dismiss everything Trump does, says, or believes as wrong, simply because he did, said or believed it.
Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

It has been three months since Donald Trump occupied the White House, and I can’t decide which has been more amusing: Watching the administration learn as it goes, or watching the left demonize its every move.

To be sure, our nation’s forty-fifth president is often less than presidential. Botched immigration orders and tweets worthy of junior high school come to mind.

But Trump’s resolve to stand up to the Assad regime in Syria and Vladimir Putin’s heinous role there could mark a refreshing change from the Obama years — provided Trump follows tough talk with clear goals and coherent strategy.

And Neil Gorsuch was a superb choice for the Supreme Court — with a brilliant legal mind, personal grace, and a nonpartisan attitude the nation needs.

Usually, however, things aren’t so clear. That is the case when it comes to H-1B visas.

Sina-cism: Fear what’s just around the corner

What more evidence does one need to conclude that distractions are killing us — drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians alike?
Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

In 1935, Grant Wood produced one of his most iconic paintings, “Death on the Ridge Road,” a dark commentary on the perilousness of life on the American road — and perhaps a commentary on life itself.

In the painting a red box truck and two sleek black cars seem to be headed for a fatal encounter on a narrow country road.

The 1930s were hard times in many ways in the U.S., and not least on the nation’s roads, where nearly 35,000 perished, at a time when there were many fewer vehicles and a lot less driving. The death rate stood at an astounding 15.09 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles of travel (VMT).

Things have gotten a lot better since 1935. Recently, however, the data have veered in the wrong direction.

Sina-cism: When it comes to education, licensure has nothing to do with it

Do you know the difference between schooling and education?

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

A recent cover story in Worcester Magazine — which touched upon the difficulties of obtaining a teaching license and concerns about teachers in the Worcester Public Schools whose licenses may be nearing expiration — reminded me of that distinction.

“Not all schooling is education nor all education, schooling,” economist Milton Friedman wrote in “Capitalism and Freedom,” his 1962 manifesto on economic and political liberty. “The proper subject of concern is education. The activities of government are mostly limited to schooling.”

When Friedman wrote those words, the federal Department of Education did not exist. It was created by President Jimmy Carter on Oct. 17, 1979. In 2016, the DoED employed 4,400 people and had a $68 billion budget — proving Americans possess a genius for creating useless bureaucracies.

Sina-cism: ‘Coming Apart,’ at Middlebury and elsewhere

How did the privileged youth of Middlebury arrive at such a state of intellectual poverty? Perhaps because they live in a social bubble, and are unable or unwilling to face the social truths Murray outlines.
Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

The recent, lamentable history of anti-intellectualism at American colleges reached a new low on March 2, when students at Vermont’s Middlebury College shouted down and derided sociologist and author Charles Murray, preventing him from delivering a talk about his book “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.”

An explanation of what happened, including a video of the students’ behavior, is available here [or watch the video below] from Middlebury faculty member Matthew Dickinson.

After the abortive talk, Murray was taken to a private room to conduct an interview with faculty member Allison Stanger. Later, leaving the building, they were blocked by a mob, which pushed and shoved them, then rocked and pounded on their car.

Stanger sustained whiplash and a concussion. She wrote about her experience in this New York Times column.

While the behavior of students and other agitators was disturbingly violent and close-minded, Stanger writes that she was “…genuinely surprised and troubled to learn that some of my faculty colleagues had rendered judgment on Dr. Murray’s work and character without ever having read anything he has written,” and that “Intelligent members of the Middlebury community — including some of my own students and advisees — concluded that Charles Murray was an anti-gay white nationalist from what they were hearing from one another, and what they read on the Southern Poverty Law Center website.”

Related Sina-cism: On guns, college profs rarely straight shooters

Sina-cism: On guns, what professors ‘know’ just ain’t so

As a rule, college professors tend not to appreciate firearms.

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

But when it comes to the teaching of history and law, they need to put personal feelings aside and arm their students with the truth.

A March 16 gun-control forum at Clark University illustrates exactly how many academics engage in a selective reading of history in order to advance particular viewpoints and interpretations.

Clark Professor of Political Science Mark Miller, commenting on the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), said that decision reflected a rural/urban divide on gun ownership.

And George Washington University professor Lois Schwoerer, author of a major study on the history of firearms in early English history, asserted that when our Founding Fathers set about crafting the Bill of Rights, they didn’t place a lot of emphasis on the English notion of gun control as a way of keeping government subjects unarmed.

In Schwoerer’s view, the amendments that emerged were, as the Telegram & Gazette paraphrased her, “more a way of pleasing opposing viewpoints.”

I am sure both professors understand a lot more about the history of firearms and the Bill of Rights than could be conveyed in a short forum and a still shorter newspaper account, but their views as summarized here are wrong.

Sina-cism: Holy Cross should continue its crusade

Whatever the proximate cause for the Holy Cross community’s Crusader debate, it is possible (and to be hoped) that students and faculty will have a meaningful debate.
Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

More than half a century ago, when editors at the student newspaper at Worcester’s College of the Holy Cross decided to change the name of their publication from The Tomahawk to The Crusader, it must have seemed a safe enough move.

But college campuses back in 1955 were nothing like college campuses in 2017, where almost any word or action, no matter how innocuous, can cause an individual or group to take offense, launch a protest, or issue a cry for discussions regarding diversity and respect.

Related Sina-cism: The trouble with trigger warnings

It is hardly surprising that faculty and students at Holy Cross have decided to discuss the name of their newspaper. The crusader is, after all, an unmistakably Christian image that belongs to a particularly sanguinary period of world history, the 175 or so years from 1095 to 1272, when Christian kings and nobles in Europe organized military campaigns to wrest back control of the Holy Land from Muslim conquerors.

Perhaps only divine protection can explain how an image so historically burdened has managed to survive this long. Imagine the microaggressions Holy Cross students have suffered during these last six decades.

If only their consciousness had been raised years ago!

Sina-cism: Warren prescribes a liberal dose of ‘No’

Since January 3, 2013 — the day Elizabeth Warren put former Sen. Scott Brown in his pickup for his puzzling and peripatetic post-political pilgrimage — I have been watching the state’s allegedly senior senator for any hint of moderation.

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

As compelling as Brown’s underdog story was, Massachusetts mythology includes demigod status for the Kennedy clan. The late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat was fit only for a liberal Democrat.

But does Warren represent anyone outside Boston or the Berkshires?

Consider that in 18 nomination votes taken to date on President Trump’s Cabinet picks, Warren has voted “no” 15 times. And it’s easy to understand why Warren would oppose some of Trump’s more right-leaning choices, such as Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary or Scott Pruitt at EPA.

But Elaine Chao? She served as Peace Corps director under George H.W. Bush, Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush, and led the United Way.

Apparently, being married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is Chao’s unpardonable offense, for Warren articulated no legitimate reason to oppose Chao.

Warren was also among 11 senators to oppose John F. Kelly as Secretary of Homeland Security. Heck, even Bernie Sanders voted for Kelly.

Sina-cism: Among the true-blue believers

They say Massachusetts is the bluest state, but Washington can’t be far behind.

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

While I haven’t yet perfected my Liberal-O-Meter, preliminary readings from the prototype recently were of a magnitude never yet recorded.

The first signals were received shortly after we left Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and saw the first of many billboards touting the best cannabis in town. Smaller versions of these ads can be found in various publications, such as Seattle Weekly, the Feb. 22 issue of which carried a back-cover ad for Dutchy (“Fine cannabis. Pass it to the left.”)

Based on limited research — a couple hours of walking around the University District, downtown and Pioneer Square neighborhoods — it appears impossible to go more than one block in any direction in Seattle without seeing a poster, sign or handbill urging solidarity against the fascist dictator now occupying the White House.

Many restaurants and retail shops display posters declaring they are “no place for hate” and that refugees and immigrants are welcome. Such posters are common in parts of Massachusetts, as well, but in Seattle they are ubiquitous and inescapable.

I was even offered a bumper sticker urging the immediate impeachment of the aforementioned fascist dictator. I declined, since my car’s bumper is no place for hate.

Sina-cism: On healthcare reform, Baker earns his ‘D’

Massachusetts residents have now had two full years to evaluate the leadership of Gov. Charlie Baker, whose victory over Democrat Martha Coakley in the fall of 2014 restored what passes for balance in the Bay State — a moderate Republican governor working side-by-side with a Legislature just to the right of Vladimir Lenin.

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

In evaluating Baker, only one measure matters, and it isn’t the price of lobster or the fortunes of the New England Patriots.

Thanks to former Gov. Mitt Romney, what matters most for any Massachusetts governor in the early 21st century is how he or she handles the cost of health insurance.

By that measure, Charlie Baker simply isn’t a moderate Republican. He’s a Democrat.

Baker earns his “D” not because the cost of the MassHealth program is skyrocketing, to an estimated $16.2 billion, or about 40 percent of Baker’s proposed $40.5 billion budget, in fiscal 2018. It is unfair to hold Baker responsible for a decade of healthcare history in the United States and Massachusetts.

Rather, Baker earns the “D” — and should earn a “D” among Massachusetts’ perennially disappointed Republicans — because his approach to controlling costs is indistinguishable from that of Democrats.

Sina-cism: Oh, but it’s for the children, after all

A recent story leaves no doubt that the schools are starved for funds, a complaint which has been voiced by urban public schools for about the last 50 years.
Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

According to a report in last week’s Telegram & Gazette, Worcester Superintendent of Schools Maureen Binienda is spending about one-fifth of her time pursuing private funds to bolster the city’s public school budget.

As the story puts it:

“From the development of a district strategic plan to pencils for the PSAT, Ms. Binienda has sought the help of local businesses and groups to provide what her system’s own slim budget can’t …”

It’s not clear who’s calling the WPS budget slim, but the story leaves no doubt that the schools are starved for funds, a complaint which has been voiced by urban public schools for about the last 50 years, ever since post-World War II America ran into the financial realities of financing the Great Society welfare state.

Before we examine the finances, one general observation: While advocates for district public schools object vociferously to every dollar “drained” by public charter schools — which, in their illogic, amounts to the “privatization” of public education — no one seems to mind when public schools pursue actual private funding.

Not that I blame Binienda for seeking more money. Most organizations prefer more money to less, and the stuff does come in handy.