New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, whose clear-eyed analysis of the widening Middle East war have been so valuable since Oct. 7, sat down with Ezra Klein for an hour-long podcast last week. Highly recommended.
Category: News Page 1 of 12
Thomas Friedman has been indispensable in the aftermath of Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel and the war that is now under way in Gaza. Here’s a free link to his latest, which is very dark indeed.
He calls Benjamin Netanyahu “the worst leader in its [Israel’s] history — maybe in all of Jewish history,” someone who is incapable or unwilling to make any of the diplomatic concessions needed to bring about even the slightest glimmer of a more hopeful future. Friedman also argues that, unlike in previous conflicts, Israel really does face an existential threat, with Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic militias in Iraq, Houthis in Yemen, Iran and even Vladimir Putin’s Russia “threatening Israel with a 360-degree war all at once.”
“It is crystal clear to me, Friedman writes, “that Israel is in real danger — more danger than at any other time since its War of Independence in 1948.”
Ezra Klein’s New York Times podcast is always worth listening to, and now he’s back at the mic following a break so that he could finish a book project. I recommend this conversation with Zack Beauchamp of Vox, who recently wrote a deeply reported article headlined “What Israel should do now.” I should go back and read it, though I doubt I’m going to learn anything I didn’t already learn from the wide-ranging, hour-long podcast.
I couldn’t possibly summarize everything that Beauchamp and Klein have to say, but the top-line takeaway is that Israel should stop its all-out war in Gaza and instead switch to a counterterrorism campaign aimed at rooting out the Hamas leadership — and that should include targeted assassinations. The reason (other than basic decency), Beauchamp explains, is that Hamas wants as many Palestinian civilians to die as possible in order to advance its propaganda efforts.
Even if Israel is successful at ending the terrorist threat, it’s not at all clear what should happen next. It’s a horrible dilemma with no good solutions.
It’s hard to describe how outrageous it is that the brand-new, $2.3 billion Green Line Extension was built with miles of tracks that are too close together. Bruce Mohl writes at CommonWealth:
At a confusing press conference on Thursday that raised almost as many questions as answers, MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng said it appears the prefabricated plated rail ties for the Green Line extension were made to incorrect specifications and then installed. A plated rail tie consists of a wooden tie with steel plates on either end for holding the rail in place.
Gov. Maura Healey blamed her predecessor, Charlie Baker, which is a pretty safe call — the GLX was built on his watch, so surely someone in his administration was responsible. The Boston Globe reports that Eng also said his underlings didn’t inform him of the problem in a timely manner. Let the firings begin.
One thought that occurs to me is that Baker canceled a more expensive version of the GLX approved by his predecessor, Deval Patrick. It would not surprise me if Baker let an unqualified contractor sweet-talk his administration into doing the job on the cheap.
I don’t usually take the GLX because the Medford/Tufts terminus is too far from my house and is s-l-o-w. Instead, I generally take the commuter rail to North Station and then the Orange Line. But the GLX can be valuable as a backup, and of course a lot of people depend on it. This is literally unbelievable, except that it’s the MBTA.
I don’t intend to overwhelm you with news from Northeastern, but it seems appropriate in the days following Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel. Besides, all news is local.
The first story, from our in-house operation, Northeastern Global News, is about the evacuation of three students who were working in Israel on co-op jobs. Cesareo Contreras writes:
All three Northeastern students who were in Israel during Hamas’ surprise attack have been safely evacuated from the country with the help of the university’s global security team.
Two of the students, Jesse Ruigomez and Keren Doherty, were completing co-ops in Tel Aviv. The third student, Joshua Einhorn, is an N.U.in student studying in Greece. He was in Jerusalem visiting family and friends for the Jewish holiday Simchat Torah.
The second story was published by The Huntington News, our independent student newspaper. Zoe MacDiarmid reported on a vigil that drew hundreds to the Cabot Quad Tuesday night. The account begins:
Hundreds of Northeastern community members gathered Tuesday night on Cabot Quad in solidarity with Israel. Since Hamas’ Saturday assault on Israel, over 1,200 people in Israel and 900 people in Gaza have been killed, with thousands more injured.
The Quad was saturated with the blue-and-white colors of the Israeli flag as students, faculty and other community members gathered to show support for the country. Many wore the flag like a cloak. Most men wore kippot. As Jewish student organization leaders and rabbis spoke, the crowd cheered, embraced one another and cried.
Northeastern University has issued a statement about the war between Israel and Hamas. I’d like to share it with you:
To all Members of the Northeastern Community,
The terror and bloodshed inflicted by Hamas’s attacks on Israel are cause for the deepest sorrow and most vehement condemnation. As war now ravages Gaza and Israel, we mourn for all the innocent lives that have been lost. To the many members of our community directly affected by these horrific events, you have our utmost solidarity and support.
Three of our students who were in Israel at the time of the attacks are safe and secure. We are also in touch with students, faculty and staff with connections to the region to ensure their wellbeing in this traumatic time.
We realize that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ignites strong views on all sides. As an academic institution, we welcome peaceful dialogue and debate that is inclusive of all viewpoints. But we should all be united in our condemnation of terrorism and the killing of innocent civilians.
Northeastern is a global community of learning, and our fundamental values are rooted in knowledge over hate, harmony over division, and reason over brutality. These values will continue to guide us as we move forward together.
These resources are available to all who may need them during this painful time …
As we hope for a peaceful resolution to the violence and suffering, let us affirm our commitment to our shared values. Northeastern will always stand against hatred.
Joseph E. Aoun
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Kenneth W. Henderson
Chancellor and Senior Vice President for Learning
The MBTA has botched its latest round of service interruptions, inconveniencing riders so that the Government Center Garage demolition can proceed for the benefit of wealthy private interests.
It normally takes me about 50 minutes, door to door, to commute to Northeastern. I’m a short walk from the West Medford commuter rail station. After a 12-minute ride to North Station, I can choose the Orange or the Green Line. Starting this past Monday, though, Green Line service has been halted between North Station and Government Station.
I generally commute to campus three days a week. On Tuesday, hordes of people tried to cram onto overpacked Orange Line cars, which were running every 10 minutes around 8 a.m. — clearly not frequently enough to accommodate the riders. I made it onto the second one. Today was a nice day, so I decided to walk from North Station to Government Center, only to be confronted with more hordes and no sign that an E Line train to Northeastern was coming any time soon. I ended up walking nearly three and a half miles to campus. I can’t complain too much — it was beautiful. But it’s not how I wanted to spend a busy weekday morning.
The time suck was pretty severe — an hour and 20 minutes door to door on Tuesday and an hour and 45 minutes today.
Fortunately my commute home hasn’t been affected, since getting onto the Orange Line at Ruggles isn’t an issue. I’m also assuming (hoping?) that Friday won’t be too bad because, for many people, Thursday is the new Friday.
But how much pain does the T expect commuters to endure? I can ride my bike to Northeastern in about 40 minutes, and I’ll probably do it a few times before this ends, supposedly on Oct. 12. Other people will start driving, which isn’t good for the city or the environment.
I love the T. I spent 29 years driving from the North Shore to Boston, and moving closer to the city — and closer to public transportation — has transformed my life. And it works well most of the time. But the deterioration of the service in recent years has been pretty horrendous, and it has been a major contributor to increases in private vehicle traffic. The last governor who really seemed to care about the T was Michael Dukakis. I’m hoping that will the case with Maura Healey as well. We all have great hopes for the newish general manager and CEO, Phil Eng. But we need to see some improvements — soon.
The conversation between Mr. Lukashenko and Mr. Prigozhin was “very difficult,” said Mr. Gigin, who this month became the director of the National Library of Belarus. “They immediately blurted out such vulgar things it would make any mother cry. The conversation was hard, and as I was told, masculine.”
In Amherst, student journalists have reported that three middle school counselors engaged in anti-transphobic behavior, leading to suspensions while school officials investigate. In Middleborough, a seventh-grader who was sent home from school for wearing anti-trans T-shirts is claiming that his First Amendments rights have been violated.
Fortunately, the struggle for transgender dignity and respect is playing out differently in Massachusetts than it is in places like Florida and other red states, where the very existence of trans folks is under attack. Still, transphobia is everywhere, and all of us are faced with the challenge of protecting the LGBTQ community in a way that acknowledges everyone’s right to be heard.
I want take a look at the situation in Amherst first because it was brought to light by an intrepid group of students at Amherst Regional High School — 16 of them, who helped report a 4,800-word story for The Graphic, a 109-year-old student publication produced by the school’s journalism classes.
According to their story, published on May 9, three middle school counselors have “routinely misgendered and deadnamed transgender students and staff, invoked anti-LGBTQ prayer at school, allowed religion to overflow into conversations with students and staff, and failed to provide support to students who were facing gender-based bullying or intimidation at school.”
The article is deeply reported and well-documented, although I should add that the three counselors, Hector Santos, Delinda Dykes and Tania Cabrera, have denied the allegations. Cabrera is Santos’ daughter and is a new hire, though her actions reportedly are in a similar vein.
Astonishingly, The Graphic also reports that students, parents and school staff members have expressed concerns to top administrators, yet no action was taken until after their story was published. On May 11, Scott Merzbach of The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported that three counselors have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. School Supt. Michael Morris declined to identify the three or to confirm if they were the trio named by The Graphic.
The Graphic’s story is filled with disturbing details, but I want to focus on one anecdote that I found particularly telling. A secretary identified pseudonymously as John said he was once invited to take part in a private prayer circle held on school property by Santos and Dykes. According to The Graphic:
At first, he didn’t see the harm. He said he identifies as both a Christian and an LGBTQ supporter.
“I was exploring my spiritual side at that time,” he said, noting that the circle did not involve students or teachers. “I thought we were just going to pray for strength to get us through the day. Who doesn’t need that?” But things shifted quickly. He alleges that after some introductory prayers, Dykes changed lanes, saying, “‘In the name of Jesus, we bind that LGBTQ gay demon that wants to confuse our children.”
John said he felt an immediate “tightness in my chest. I looked to the door, wanting to run.” He left shortly afterward, told a trusted colleague he felt they “were crazy to be saying that,” never joined their prayer circle again, and tried to avoid the two at work, making polite talk but keeping his distance.
According to the article, John reported the incident to Marta Guevara, the school’s director of student and family engagement, who in turn reported it to Supt. Morris — one of several disturbing incidents she brought to Morris’ attention. Yet there is no evidence that Morris did anything about it before he announced last week’s suspensions.
I also want to highlight The Graphic’s explanation of the care that it took in reporting the story, which appears at the bottom of the article:
All sources who are referred to by a first-name-only pseudonym wished to remain anonymous. Parents and children sought anonymity on the basis of privacy and an ongoing legal investigation. Some staff members sought anonymity due to fear of retaliation. Some staff members who are named did not speak to The Graphic but were copied on email correspondences that were shared with us by parents or hold district titles related to this report. Nothing in this article was reported secondhand; all stories and facts were provided by firsthand sources in person or via Zoom, phone, or email interviews. We reached out to everyone who was described as engaging in behaviors by others — rather than by their own account — and offered them the right of reply to each allegation. The children interviewed consented to the publication of their stories, as did their parents. The students and their journalism adviser consulted with a lawyer from the Student Press Law Center before publishing this report.
The adviser, by the way, is Sara Barber-Just, an English teacher at Amherst Regional High School who in 2014 was honored by Williams College with the George Olmsted Jr. Class of 1924 Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching. It sounds like the student journalists at her school are being extraordinarily well served.
If school officials in Amherst were slow to investigate incidents of anti-trans hate, officials in Middleborough might have been a little too quick. Liam Morrison, a seventh-grader at the Nichols Middle School, has been sent home from school twice, according to Christopher Butler of The Enterprise — the first time for wearing a T-shirt that read “There Are Only Two Genders” and, the second time, for amending that to “There Are (Censored) Genders.”
Now, there’s no doubt that Liam is learning some hateful lessons at home. The question, though, is whether he has a First Amendment right to express those views in a school setting. Sandy Quadros Bowles of Nemasket Week reports that his choice of attire has been the subject of a school committee meeting as well as a demonstration by anti-trans activists and counterprotesters.
Liam is being represented by the American Family Institute, a religious-right organization that says that it’s planning to take legal action against the school system. Samuel Whiting, lawyer with the institute, claims that Middleborough educators are “doubling down on its violation of Liam’s free speech rights.”
School officials, by contrast, argue that the T-shirts violate state law because they “may be reasonably considered intimidating, hostile, offensive or other unwelcome.’’ In addition, the school system’s dress code states: “Clothing must not state, imply, or depict hate speech or imagery that target groups based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, or any other classification.”
So, are Liam’s free speech rights being violated or not? I think it’s a close call. State law presumably has more to do with how teachers, administrators and other employees behave than with students. School dress codes, on the other hand, may be enforced as long as they are reasonable. This ACLU guide to dress codes suggests that the Middleborough code might go too far, though, noting, “All students, whether transgender or cisgender, must be allowed to wear clothing consistent with their gender identity and expression,” and “Schools can’t discriminate based on the viewpoint expressed by your clothing.”
Given all that, it seems likely that Liam Morrison may be correct in claiming that his free speech rights are being violated. His choice of wardrobe is unfortunate, to say the least, and he and his parents really ought to think about why they find it necessary to express hatred toward his transgender classmates. But he has a right to do it.
Let’s hope that he’s soon confronted with a sea of pro-LGBTQ T-shirts.