Rex Murphy Saw We Are Governed by People Who Look Down on Us

(p. B12) Rex Murphy, a Canadian newspaper, radio and television commentator who delighted his country’s conservatives with sharp attacks on environmentalists, liberal politicians and what he called their “woke politics,” died on May 9 [2024] in Toronto. He was 77.

His death, from cancer, was announced on the front page of The National Post, the widely read daily newspaper for which he wrote a column, one of several he had over the years in Canadian papers, including The Globe and Mail in Toronto. His editor at The National Post, Kevin Libin, said Mr. Murphy died in a hospital.

. . .

Mr. Murphy’s sharp political turn to the right — from commenting for centrist outlets like the CBC and The Globe and Mail, where he had a regular column until 2010, to the right-wing views he espoused at The National Post — had its roots in his own working-class background, in the view of those who knew him.

. . .

He regularly took on what he deemed the sins of “woke” politics and “wokeism.” In a February 2023 column, he wrote: “I have finally fixed upon the definition of progressivism. It means the dismissal of everything that counts, unconcern with what makes life hard for most, and a scorn for the realities of day to day; instead shepherding to very particular political interest groups.”

In his final days there were diatribes against critics of Israel during its war with Hamas and against the liberalism of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

. . .

Mr. Murphy was animated, Mr. Libin said, by “the sense that we were being governed by people who looked down on us.”

. . .

Throughout his career, Mr. Murphy set great store by verbal expression. His fans and his critics agreed that his distinctive, sometimes high-flown use of English was what set him apart from his country’s other journalists. Profiles noted that he was as devoted to the works of John Milton as he was to “The Simpsons.”

For the full obituary see:

Adam Nossiter. “Rex Murphy, 77, a Pundit on the Right in Canada.” The New York Times (Friday, May 24, 2024): B12.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated May 23, 2024, and has the title “Rex Murphy, a Dominant Pundit on the Right in Canada, Dies at 77.”)

As Temps Rise, Trees Adapt to Global Warming by Slowing Their Increasing Release of Carbon Dioxide

The late great physicist Freeman Dyson was courageously skeptical of global warming based on forces that move Earth back toward equilibrium when initially nudged away. The story quoted below provides evidence consistent with Dyson’s narrative.

(p. D2) The bend-don’t-break adaptability of trees extends to handling climate change, according to a new study that says forests may be able to deal with hotter temperatures and contribute less carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than scientists previously thought.

In addition to taking in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, plants also release it through a process called respiration. Globally, plant respiration contributes six times as much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as fossil fuel emissions, much of which is reabsorbed by plants, the oceans and other elements of nature. Until now, most scientists have thought that a warming planet would cause plants to release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which in turn would cause more warming.

But in a study published Wednesday [March 16, 2016 [sic]] in Nature, scientists showed that plants were able to adapt their respiration to increases in temperature over long periods of time, releasing only 5 percent more carbon dioxide than they did under normal conditions.

Based on measurements of short-term temperature responses in this study and others, the scientists expected that the plants would increase their respiration by nearly five times that much.

At two forest-research sites in Minnesota, scientists tested how the respiration rates of 10 different species of trees — from boreal and temperate forests — were affected by increases in temperature over a period of three to five years, using heating cables to warm some of the trees.

The trees were monitored in two conditions: ambient, and about 6 degrees warmer than that.

To demonstrate how the plants adapted to long-term temperature increases, the scientists compared three things: how much carbon dioxide the trees released in ambient conditions; how much the trees released in the warmer conditions; and how much carbon dioxide the trees released when they were exposed to the warmer temperature for a short period of time (minutes or hours).

When the scientists compared the results, they found that the trees that were acclimated to the warmer temperatures increased their carbon dioxide release by a much smaller amount than the trees that were only exposed to a short-term temperature increase of the same magnitude.

Boreal and temperate forests account for a third of the world’s forest areas. If they are able to adapt respiration rates as this study suggests, the planet will breathe easier.

The source of the story is:

Tatiana Schlossberg. “Energy Appetite in U.S. Endangers Goals on Climate.” The New York Times (Tuesday, March 22, 2016 [sic]): D2.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated March 16, 2016 [sic], and has the title “Trees Deal With Climate Change Better Than Expected.” The last two sentences quoted above differ in a non-trivial way in the print and the online versions. Above I choose to quote the less politically correct print version. The wimpish politically correct online version is: “Boreal and temperate forests account for a third of the world’s forest areas, and if they adapt their respiration rates in the way this study suggests, the forests, the planet’s lungs, can breathe easy.”)

The Nature article mentioned above is:

Reich, Peter B., Kerrie M. Sendall, Artur Stefanski, Xiaorong Wei, Roy L. Rich, and Rebecca A. Montgomery. “Boreal and Temperate Trees Show Strong Acclimation of Respiration to Warming.” Nature 531, no. 7596 (March 16, 2016): 633-36.

Mirsky Saw Communist “Soldiers Shoot Parents,” Doctors and Nurses Trying to Help Students in Tiananmen Square

(p. A21) Dr. Mirsky was a professor of Chinese language and history at Dartmouth College when he visited China for the first time, in 1972. An antiwar activist and a self-described “Mao fan,” he went as part of a group representing the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars, a radical coalition dedicated to ending the war in Vietnam.

. . .

Not long after arriving in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, the visiting group was whisked off to meet what was described as a “typical Chinese worker family.” Mr. Mirsky came away impressed. The family seemed prosperous, with a nicely appointed home. Crime, the group was told, was nonexistent.

The next morning, on a stroll around the neighborhood, Dr. Mirsky bumped into the father from that “typical” family. He invited Dr. Mirsky, who was fluent in Mandarin, into his real home, a shabby apartment, and explained that the group had in fact been in a show apartment arranged by the Chinese authorities for “foreign friends.” The man said further that there was no shortage of crime.

“I returned to the hotel, stunned by what I had seen and heard,” Dr. Mirsky recalled in an account of the trip that was published in the 2012 book “My First Trip to China: Scholars, Diplomats and Journalists Reflect on Their First Encounters With China,” edited by Kin-Ming Liu. Afterward, he wrote, he became “suspicious of every venue, every briefing, and every account of how everything should be understood.”

In just 48 hours, Dr. Mirsky went from being a “Mao fan” to a disillusioned skeptic, foreshadowing a similar shift in how left-leaning American intellectuals would come to see the Communist government in China.

“He had a sharp eye for the abuses of totalitarian dictatorship,” said Mr. Garside, the author most recently of “China Coup: The Great Leap to Freedom” (2021). “He was early to denounce the evils of the Mao regime before it became fashionable to do so.”

Dr. Mirsky maintained that skeptical stance even as he made the transition from academia to journalism.

As China correspondent for The Observer, he was at Tiananmen Square in the early morning of June 4, 1989, when the People’s Liberation Army, acting on government orders, launched a bloody crackdown on peaceful protesters. About 3 a.m., he was leaving the scene to file a report with the newspaper when he came upon a group of armed police officers. When they found out he was a journalist, they beat him, fracturing his left arm and knocking out multiple teeth.

Dr. Mirsky managed to dictate his article, which would appear on The Observer’s front page, by phone. The next morning he returned to Tiananmen, where, he said, he saw soldiers shoot parents trying to enter the square to look for children who had not returned home. They also shot doctors and nurses who had come to help the injured, he said.  (. . .)

“Tiananmen Square became a place of horror,” Dr. Mirsky wrote in his article on the day of the crackdown, “where tanks and troops fought with students and workers, where armored personnel carriers burned and blood lay in pools on the stones.”

He was named international reporter of the year at the 1989 British Press Awards ceremony for his Tiananmen coverage.

. . .

Dr. Mirsky was unsparing in his criticism of China’s Communist rulers and the Western leaders whom he believed were overlooking Beijing’s rights abuses to preserve economic ties. Throughout his career he wrote of the Communist Party’s insistence on controlling the narrative of China and, in his view, the deleterious effects this had on Chinese society as a whole.

“For the Chinese, lying creates a universe of uncertainty in which one of the commonest answers to questions is ‘bu qingchu’ — ‘I’m not clear about that’,” he wrote in The Observer in 1993. “There is virtually no aspect of life outside the immediate family or close circle of friends where one can be certain about the truth.”

For the full obituary, see:

Amy Qin. “Jonathan Mirsky, 88, Scholar on China Affairs.” The New York Times (Thursday, September 30, 2021 [sic]): A21.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated Sept. 29, 2021 [sic], and has the title “Jonathan Mirsky, Journalist and Historian of China, Dies at 88.”)

Mirsky’s account of the experience that changed him “from being a ‘Mao Fan’ to a disillusioned skeptic” appears in Mirsky’s section of the edited book:

Liu, Kin-ming, ed. My First Trip to China: Scholars, Diplomats, and Journalists Reflect on Their First Encounters with China. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2013.

The book by Garside, mentioned above, is:

Garside, Roger. China Coup: The Great Leap to Freedom. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2021.

Communist China Increases Censorship of Negative News and Views of “Struggling Economy”

(p. A16) BEIJING—Several prominent commentaries by economists and journalists in China have vanished from the internet in recent weeks, raising concerns that Beijing is stepping up its censorship efforts as it tries to put a positive spin on a struggling economy.

. . .

. . ., Li Xunlei, an economist at state-owned Zhongtai Securities, warned in a column published on Chinese news outlet Yicai that insufficient household consumption would persist unless China’s leadership took steps to help lower-income families. Li also highlighted a study conducted by Beijing Normal University showing that some 964 million Chinese people, representing roughly 70% of the population, were living on a monthly income of less than 2,000 yuan, equivalent to about $280.

That data point quickly went viral on Weibo before it disappeared from the Chinese microblogging platform’s official list of trending topics. Before long, Li’s column vanished from Yicai’s website too. It has also become inaccessible on Li’s public account on Chinese messaging platform WeChat, where a message read: “The content can’t be viewed due to violation of regulations.”

For the full story, see:

Jonathan Cheng. “Negative Takes on China’s Economy Vanish Online.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, February 1, 2024): A16.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated January 31, 2024, and has the title “Negative Takes on China’s Economy Are Disappearing From the Internet.”)

Covid Mandates and Firms Restricting Employee Speech Led Democrat to Invest in Tucker Carlson Media Venture

(p. A18) Five years ago, Omeed Malik was a self-described “run-of-the-mill corporate Democrat,” with a seat on the Council on Foreign Relations, a summer house in the Hamptons, and stints at Bank of America and white-shoe law firm Weil, Gotshal under his belt.

Then Covid happened. Chafing under government mandates he found illogical and corporate limits on speech that felt to him like censorship, he moved from Manhattan to Florida and began hanging out with Republican donors. He discovered a business opportunity in a so-called parallel economy of conservative-friendly companies.

Now, he is one of their financiers. Malik this year launched 1789 Capital, which aims to capitalize on the opportunities that it sees left open by the “wokeness” of more traditional sources of capital.

Its first fund, with a modest $150 million, made its initial investment Monday [Oct. 16, 2023], leading a $15 million seed round with other private investors into Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel’s new media company.

For the full story, see:

Keach Hagey. “1789 Invests in Carlson’s Media Firm.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023): B1-B2.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date October 17, 2023, and has the title “Tucker Carlson’s Media Company Secures Investment Led by ‘Anti-Woke’ Firm.”)

“MSNBC’s Business Model . . . Is Flaying Trump 24 Hours a Day”

Maureen Dowd, a leading opinion columnist at The New York Times, is left-wing but sometimes refreshingly blunt, as in some of her comments from right after the Iowa Republican caucuses.

(p. 2) . . . MSNBC refused to carry Trump’s victory speech at all and CNN cut away from the 25-minute remarks after 10 minutes. Fox News, of course, played it all.

Rachel Maddow said her network’s decision was “not out of spite.” It’s not personal — it’s strictly business, as Michael Corleone said. MSNBC’s business model, after all, is flaying Trump 24 hours a day.

For the full commentary, see:

Maureen Dowd. “Can the MAGA Shrew Be Tamed?” The New York Times, SundayOpinion Section (Sunday, January 21, 2024): 2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 20, 2024, and has the same title as the print version.)

Four Entities Succeeded in Sending a Capsule to Orbit and Returning It to Earth: “the United States, Russia, China and Elon Musk”

(p. A14) “In the history of space flight,” Scott Pelley intones in a “60 Minutes” segment, “only four entities have launched a space capsule into orbit and successfully brought it back to the Earth—the United States, Russia, China and Elon Musk.”

For the full film review, see:

Joe Morgenstern. “‘Return to Space’: A Double Booster.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, April 8, 2022): A14.

(Note: the online version of the film review was updated April 7, 2022, and has the title “FILM REVIEW; ‘Return to Space’ Review: A Double Booster.”)

The Enemies of Horatio Alger “Are Out to Get the American Dream”

(p. A13) Of all the institutions for investigative journalists to put under the microscope, the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans sure is a strange target.

The charity says it has awarded more than $245 million in college scholarships to 35,000 students since 1984. Its 300 or so members cross the political, cultural and business-success spectrum and include Michael Bloomberg and Oprah Winfrey.

So what explains the recent onslaught of critical press coverage? The New York Times has put eight reporters on the case and devoted two 4,000-word Sunday front-page pieces in the past two months to the Horatio Alger Association and its members. ProPublica, which styles itself “an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force,” produced a 5,000-word article that credited four reporters.

The journalists and the advocates they quote say it’s a matter of judicial ethics, highlighting Justice Clarence Thomas’s role as an honorary board member of the Horatio Alger Association and his friendships with the association’s members, some of whom are prosperous.

. . .

The venom directed at the Horatio Alger Association, though, isn’t only about Justice Thomas and the court. The association’s critics are out to get the American dream.

The association’s website explains that its mission is to “educate all youth about the limitless possibilities that are available through the American free-enterprise system.” The group was founded to dispel the myth “that the American dream was no longer attainable.” Its members are “role models whose experiences exemplify that opportunities for a successful life are available to all individuals who are dedicated to the principles of integrity, hard work, perseverance and compassion for others.”

For the full commentary, see:

Ira Stoll. “Why the Left Hates Horatio Alger.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date August 11, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

Feds Release Covid Origin Report on a Friday Evening–A Time to “Put Out News They Want Buried or Ignored”

(p. A12) The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a long-awaited declassified report, which included spy agencies’ findings on the so-called lab leak theory, . . .

The 10-page report said scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology did conduct research on coronaviruses, in some cases had inadequate safety measures and had genetically engineered coronaviruses.

. . .

After three years of study, some senior U.S. officials have said that the spy agencies are unlikely to come to any satisfactory conclusion, in large measure because China has not cooperated with international inquiries and some officials in Beijing are not interested in digging deeper into the cause of the pandemic.

. . .

The report was released on a Friday evening, traditionally a time when administrations put out news they want buried or ignored. Conservatives had criticized the government for failing to meet a deadline of the beginning of the week, though few congressionally mandated reports are delivered precisely on time.

While Biden administration officials have said they have ordered investigations without favoring one theory over another, Republicans have harshly criticized how the White House and its intelligence agencies have investigated Covid’s origins.

“The lab leak is the only theory supported by science, intelligence and common sense,” John Ratcliffe, who served as the director of national intelligence in the Trump administration, said as the report was released Friday [June 23, 2023], adding: “The Biden administration’s continued obfuscation of Covid origins is a disservice to the intelligence community.”

For the full story, see:

Julian E. Barnes. “Intelligence Agencies Remain Divided Over Theory That Covid Came From Lab.” The New York Times (Saturday, June 24, 2023): A11.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 23, 2023, and has the title “U.S. Intelligence Report Finds No Clear Evidence of Covid Origins in Wuhan Lab.”)

When Free Speech Could Be Defended in The New York Times

In 2017, an eloquent op-ed in The New York Times defended free speech by objecting to the students at Middlebury College who violently canceled a speech by Charles Murray. Would The New York Times run such an op-ed today?

(p. 9) The talk that the political scientist Charles Murray attempted to deliver last month at Middlebury College in Vermont must have been quite provocative — perhaps even offensive or an instance of hate speech. How else to explain the vehement opposition to it?

. . .

Some of the protesters became unruly and physically violent, forcing Mr. Murray to flee..

. . .

. . . Mr. Murray’s speech was neither offensive nor even particularly conservative.

. . .

Of course, many of the protesters may have been offended by Mr. Murray’s other scholarship, in particular his controversial 1994 book, “The Bell Curve,” written with the Harvard psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein, which examined intelligence, social class and race in America. Or rather, they may have been offended, as many people have been, by what they assume “The Bell Curve” says; only a small fraction of the people who have opinions about that book have actually read it. (Indeed, some people protesting Mr. Murray openly acknowledged not having read any of his work.)

“The Bell Curve” has generated an enormous literature of scholarly response and rebuttal, a process that is still underway. Many scholars have deemed the book’s most provocative argument — that differences in average I.Q. scores among races may have genetic as well as environmental causes — to be flawed and racist. Some have judged it to be judicious and reasoned, if still controversial. But its academic critics have nonetheless treated it not as hate speech to be censored but as a data-based argument with which they must engage in order to disagree.

This is not how the Middlebury protesters treated Mr. Murray’s talk, and that is an intellectual disappointment. It is incumbent on each of us, in the spirit of free inquiry, to make a decision for ourselves — after actually reading a book or listening to a speaker — about how the views in question hold up to critical scrutiny. It is also incumbent upon colleges to offer protesters meaningful opportunities to share alternative views.

Not everyone deserves to get to speak at a college campus. But those like Mr. Murray who use reasoned, evidence-based approaches to investigate matters of scholarly concern shouldn’t be forcibly silenced after they have been invited to do so.

For the full commentary, see:

Wendy M. Williams and Stephen J. Ceci. “Charles Murray’s ‘Provocative’ Talk.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sunday, April 16, 2017): 9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 15, 2017, and has the same title as the print version.)

The New York Times Informs Its Readers That It May Be a Marketing Mistake to Open a Pro-Castro Restaurant in Miami

(p. D4) MIAMI — A Manhattan restaurant planning an expansion to Miami has drawn the ire of some Cuban Americans after its use of Communist lore was pointed out on social media.

Café Habana, which plans to open a branch in the Brickell neighborhood this spring, was inspired by the Mexico City restaurant where Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were rumored to have planned the Cuban revolution, according to a history now deleted from the restaurant’s website.

. . .

Last weekend, protesters demonstrated outside the proposed Café Habana.

“Many Cubans living in Miami now, and its descendants, blame Fidel personally for being here,” said Jorge Duany, the director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. “The level of hatred, for quite a number of Cuban immigrants, is quite intense.”

. . .

“I was honestly shocked they had the audacity to open up in Miami,” said Josue Alvarez, 31, the son of Cubans who left the island in 1980. He was inspired to post a TikTok that spread on social media.

For the full story, see:

Christina Morales. “Restaurant’s Move Is Risky in Miami.” The New York Times (Wednesday, February 16, 2022): D4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 10, 2022, and has the title “Opening a Restaurant in Miami? Invoking Cuban Communism Might Backfire.” The sentence that starts with “Last weekend” appears in the print, but not in the online, version of the article.)