Should the “Ukraine Phone Call” Transcript Be Released?

Democrats are demanding the release of the transcript of Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. During this phone call, which was the subject of a whistleblower report, Trump allegedly used U.S. aid to Ukraine as leverage to persuade Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden’s son’s business dealings in Ukraine. Should America get to see the transcript? More at The Hill.

Now it’s up to members of Congress — not just Democrats but also Republicans who claim to believe in the rule of law — to get to the bottom of this latest tawdry tale by holding hearings, obtaining transcripts, and finding a way to gain access to the whistleblower complaint or that person’s testimony.

More troubling is that none of the whistleblower’s cheerleaders in the press and Congress seem to care about the precedent of making a President’s private calls with other world leaders open to public scrutiny… We have reached a dangerous pass if intelligence officials feel they have open season to use whistleblower laws whenever they dislike a President or one of his policies.

Though the White House will surely continue to stonewall, the three House committees that already announced an investigation of the Ukraine affair must pursue it as aggressively as possible. We’d like to hope it will be a bipartisan effort. Republicans as well as Democrats ought to be anxious to determine just what transpired between Trump and Zelensky.

What’s Behind Trump’s War with California?

Trump’s attempts to abolish California’s auto-emissions standards and “solve” California’s homelessness crisis have stirred concerns that the president is waging “war on California.” Is he really gunning for the golden state? Or is he just doing his job?

… states’ rights has become a liberal thing. And that’s pretty strange for someone of my generation… This new tilt, empowering states at the expense of the federal government, might feel good for some of the people some of the time, but it sure doesn’t bode well for all of the people all of the time.

What should you take away from Trump’s war on California? [.] The apparent weaponization of the Environmental Protection Agency is more evidence that Trump — whose party fundamentally doesn’t believe in democracy — is following the modern authoritarian playbook, in which every institution is corrupted, every function of government is perverted into a tool for rewarding friends and punishing enemies.

Trump’s adversarial stance is helping to shape California’s twenty-first-century identity as the Resistance State. In its shadow, Trump’s insecurities grow: the leader of the free world can’t control his unruly golden child.

Is Betsy DeVos Defending Judaism or Attacking Free Speech?

The joint Middle East studies program of Duke University and the University of North Carolina has come under scrutiny for antisemitism, anti-Jewish bias, and anti-Israel bias. As a response, Betsy DeVos has ordered the schools to restructure the program or else lose federal funding. Is this a step forward for Israel’s fair treatment at universities? Or a step backward for academic freedom? More at Jewish Journal.

The number of faculty abusing their positions to push their own personal anti-Israel agendas on students is deeply alarming… Last year, incidents where faculty or academic departments promoted or attempted to implement academic BDS nearly quadrupled… Some of the worst offenders are recipients of millions in Title VI funding.

For years I’ve been arguing that the real threats to free speech emerge when those in power, regardless of their ideology, try to coerce teachers and students. That’s just what’s happening here.

Tuesday’s complaint is couched in seemingly reasonable terms, demanding “balance” rather than spouting bigotry. But it is just as alarming, because it is seeking to compel speech that aligns with the administration’s agenda.

Should Adults Protect Young People from Climate Anxiety?

Sixteen-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg is in the news, and images of kids with signs at climate protests are circulating online. Children and teens are rapidly becoming the leaders in the fight to save the planet—but is it fair for adults to put them in that role?

Children today should be enjoying their youth. They arguably live in the greatest time ever, with unparalleled access to information, connectivity around the globe, advances in health care and tremendous opportunity. But instead of embracing optimism, the adults in their lives are filling them with fear.

Today’s school students know they will inherit the fallout of climate change. They will live to see their children and grandchildren doing the same. So they have reason to be concerned, and anxiety may mobilise useful action… Listening to the valid concerns of school students, and engaging them in discussions about the mitigation and adaptation strategies we will need to adopt, will go some way towards easing their fears and anxieties.

These kids sense something adults seem to have missed: that we are running out of time. Whatever predictions science makes about the climate, climate beats the prediction. Oceans are rising more rapidly, wildfires are burning hotter, ice caps are melting more quickly, species are vanishing faster: it is all unfolding sooner than expected. It is here, now.

Why Didn’t the Emmys Have a Host?

The Emmys proceeded on Sunday night without a host. Perhaps it was merely a practical concern after the Oscars’ recent host controversy. Perhaps they just couldn’t find the right person for the job. Or perhaps they think that the role of the host is unnecessary.

Is going host-less the mostest? Producers of Sunday night’s Emmy Awards sure hope so. Of course, it’s not like they had much to lose by shaking things up. Last year’s show drew a mere 10 million viewers, the lowest ever for the ceremony, despite television’s current status as the center of the entertainment universe.

The Emmys tried to emulate this year’s smooth and uncontroversial Oscars, that did fine without a host. But whereas the Oscars leaned into the quick pacing and low-key nature of a hostless show, the Emmys kept trying to replace a host with extended presenter bits… You know what could have added a little humor to the night in a slightly more streamlined way? A host!

The Emmys is without a traditional opening monologue because they have no host this year. So, we wrote one: “It might seem strange to you that there’s no host tonight but frankly we couldn’t trust any potential male host to go the four-month promotion period without getting himself cancelled. And as for giving it to a woman, we decided not to.”

Can a Remake Ruin the Original?

Rumors about a remake of the cult classic “The Princess Bride” had the internet up in arms, with nervous fans lamenting that a remake will ruin the original. Is such a thing possible?

The Hollywood remake machine has no sympathy for your precious childhood. It’s going to chew up everything that can even remotely be deemed “nostalgic” and regurgitate it back up, likely as a big-budget, mediocre, soulless lump. Human culture has always been littered with recycled parts; the difference is, now it’s not even bothering to dress them up.

It seems self-evident that no film is literally damaged by a remake—and that if any damage results it’s of a psychological, not a cinematic, nature. There are people who think that Jim McBride’s 1983 remake of “Breathless” is better than the original; some viewers find Brian De Palma’s 1983 “Scarface” superior to Howard Hawks’s 1932 version. They are wrong, of course, but their critical delusions don’t prevent anyone from enjoying the originals.

To be clear, the consensus on social media is not that the movie is actually good: There are die-hards, like those above, campaigning to avoid a remake of the film to protect what they love, but there are also some jokingly suggesting that the film get remade so that, perhaps, it will be good this time around.

Today’s Hot Issues

Should the “Ukraine Phone Call” Transcript Be Released? What’s Behind Trump’s War with California? Is Betsy DeVos Defending Judaism or Attacking Free Speech? Should Adults Protect Young People from Climate Anxiety? Why Didn’t the Emmys Have a Host? Can a Remake Ruin the Original?