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Post WAIS Editorial Bias?
Created by John Eipper on 02/17/21 3:26 AM

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WAIS Editorial Bias? (A. J. Cave, USA, 02/17/21 3:26 am)

At the heart of the tug-of-war between the anti-Trump pro-Biden debates at WAIS is not the constitutional freedom of speech, but personal editorial bias. They're not one and the same.

Just like any other "media" outlet, WAIS is hungry for content--good, bad or chewy.

I don't see any published post being censored for falling into one bucket or the other. However, John decidedly falls, favors and even writes original posts on behalf of the Biden camp and the Democratic party.

So, the question is whether the editor's personal political views matter? Or, should he get out of the way (opt out of airing his own political views altogether) and let the two factions beat up on each other until the cows come home?

JE comments: I don't consider myself pro-Biden, but I am unapologetically anti-Trump.  More precisely, Trump is anti-me:  I see Trump as an enemy to democracy and a national embarrassment.

Should I butt out of our political discussions, as A. J. Cave asks?  This would be a tough order, unless I were to abandon the trademark "JE comments" genre altogether.  At that point WAIS would turn into a chat room.  In my comments I strive, with varying degrees of success, to "add value"--to clarify, to invite colleagues to sharpen their arguments, and to inspire future posts.  And we've had over 43,000 of them--from all over the political spectrum.  As one example from the Right, stay tuned for George Aucoin (next).


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  • Is the WAIS Editor Too Political? Remembering George Shultz (John Eipper, USA 02/18/21 3:22 PM)

    A. J. Cave asked the following on February 17th: 


    The question is whether the editor's personal political views
    matter? Or, should he get out of the way (opt out of airing his own
    political views altogether) and let the two factions [on WAIS] beat up on each
    other until the cows come home?


    (JE):  So far, the answers have been overwhelmingly supportive of my occasional forays into the political arena.  Read on for a compendium.


    from Jordi Molins (Spain):  In relation to "JE comments" and his views on Donald Trump: I completely agree with the freedom of John Eipper to comment on anything related to Trump. Even more, I think John Eipper's comments are an invaluable addition to WAIS.


    The limit cannot be that the Editor abstains from giving his own opinion. The limit is when the Editor does not allow the "enemies" to describe their arguments and opinions. And for sure, WAIS is one of the media with a widest range of opinions on the political spectrum. I am proud of being part of WAIS, and this is one of the main reasons for that.


    from Cameron Sawyer (Russia):  I find John's editorial work to be quite even-handed and well done.  Of course he is not free from bias, and I often disagree with him, but the bias is moderate and visible and I think does no harm.  The editorial function greatly facilitates people listening to each other, which is not what usually happens in unedited and lightly moderated chat rooms.  I wouldn't change anything.


    from Eugenio Battaglia (Italy):  PLEASE DO NOT CHANGE the "JE COMMENTS"!


    from Francisco Ramírez (US): I think A. J. Cave merely raised the question and did not ask our editor to butt out. 

    In my view it would be silly to cancel our editor's views. Trumpists among WAISers are not shy about turning on the heat, often with the favorite phrases from the former president. Where I come from, if you cannot handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen


    Change of Subjects: Perhaps there are WAISers who knew the late George Shultz and have stories to share. 


    JE again:  Jordi, Chiqui, Cameron and Eugenio, your words of support remind me of why editing WAIS is the best part-time job in the world!  Still, I'm always open for criticism and suggestions.  So here's a question for the WAISitudes:  what would you like WAIS to do more of?  Less of?


    And yes, we haven't yet discussed the legacy of Secretary of State (and Treasury and Labor) George Shultz, who passed away on February 6th at the age of 100.  Ed Jajko's office was not far away from Shultz's at the Hoover, but they never met.  Did anyone cross paths with Shultz at Stanford?  He lived down the street from Prof. Hilton, so I'm sure Phyllis Gardner (another neighbor) knew him.  Phyllis?  Unfortunately, Shultz's final years were clouded by his association with the Theranos fraud, although he may well have been naively hoodwinked, as were many others, by the 21st century's greatest young charlatan, Elizabeth Holmes.


    Here's a brief 2001 note from Prof. H:


    https://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=62061&objectTypeId=56311&topicId=44


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    • WAIS Editorial Bias? Memories of George Shultz (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 02/19/21 3:25 AM)
      I agree with the viewpoint that JE has the right to express his opinion in every WAIS post. His coletilla is never demeaning or aggressive. But the fact is that, as we all know, his notes sometimes reveal that he is a misguided University of Michigan left-leaning liberal alumnus. We never crossed paths in wonderful Ann Arbor, so I carry some responsibility for that ideological misstep.

      Re George Shultz: I have mixed personal recollections. We belonged to a couple of policy-oriented organizations where he was always on the front row or at the podium. He was very observant and exhibited what intelligence professionals call situational awareness. I assumed he must have been threatened at some point in his life.


      He was a man of power, not super friendly but aloof bordering on the distant, but in a gentlemanly way. He impressed me with his clarity of mind and ability to express complex issues in simplified form. At the Hoover Institution he was a real heavyweight despite the presence of other luminaries like former Secretary of Defense Dr. William Perry. Shultz was married to a renowned San Francisco socialite, and the two always made the social pages. As a team they were seen frequently in public. One of the subrosa insider conversations at such events was his famous tattoo from his Marine Corps military service days.


      JE comments:  Francisco, you and I prove that political differences should never get in the way of a friendship.  Thank you!  I hope we will someday return to Ann Arbor together, and revisit our respective haunts.  Despite living just an hour away, I rarely go to downtown AA or the U Michigan campus.  Fear of parking?  Ann Arbor is the only Michigan locale with New York- and San Francisco-like parking challenges.


      Ed Jajko has also sent a note on George Shultz from their shared time at the Hoover Institution.  Ed's post will appear later today.


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    • More on WAIS Editorial Bias (Tor Guimaraes, USA 02/19/21 3:49 AM)
      Much to my disbelief I read some posts complaining about John Eipper's editorial bias. I just want to make some personal observations on such topic.

      Yes, I have noticed some of John's editorial bias but in the sense that he seems to be more kind and controlled regarding freedom of expression on this Forum. He has pruned some of my postings, improved the language to make it more civil and polite. Sometimes I wished he had not done this, only to understand later that he was right and just doing his job as the editor keeping a constructive exchange of opinions, ideas, and facts.


      The other issue is how can an editor be balanced when an author makes statements which are irrational, sponsoring ideas or leaders whose behavior our society historically abhors, such as racism, violence, disrespect for our Constitution, excuses or callousness regarding criminal behavior, or just plain making statements possible only in an alternative reality?


      JE comments:  Tor, we've WAISed together for many years, yet somehow we've never met.  But thank you for all you've done for the Forum.  I view your role as the "short seller" of our political and economic life:  like the "hedger" seeking out fraudulent or doomed companies, you expose the weaknesses, the lies and the hypocrisy of the modern condition.  My late father always said he wasn't a pessimist, just a realist.  It's hard to disagree with such a brutal truth.

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    • George Shultz at the Hoover Institution (Edward Jajko, USA 02/19/21 10:59 AM)

      Our esteemed editor asked more than a week ago if I might post some words about George Shultz, who died Saturday February 6 at the enviable age of 100 in his home on the Stanford University campus.


      JE asked this because of our connection through the Hoover. I explained to JE that I had not known Mr. Shultz personally and had never met him. He was a highly exalted Distinguished Fellow and I a mere academic staff member. As it happened, our offices were opposite each other but in adjacent buildings, his in the Herbert Hoover Memorial Building and mine in the Hoover Tower. I have rather vague recollections of being at Hoover functions at which Mr. Shultz was feted along with his first wife, the late Helena O'Brien Shultz, who went by "Obie." After she died in the 1990s, Mr. Shultz married again, into San Francisco society.


      My only contacts with Mr. Shultz were indirect. When he was writing his memoirs, I remember being asked

      to verify some things, a drop in a vast sea of reminiscence and information.


      One personal reminiscence not related to the Hoover was his testimony before the congressional Committee investigating the Iran-Contra scandal while he was serving as 60th Secretary of State under Reagan. In this cause célèbre, Lt Col Oliver North USMC of the National Security Council testified at great length about his own actions and those of the office he directed, with reference to and reliance on the prominent attorney acting in his defense. It made for a great TV spectacle. But when it was Mr. Shultz's turn to testify, he very pointedly and dramatically sat alone at the witness table, no notes, no attorney, and freely answered every question from the committee, in marked and deliberate contrast to Ollie North.


      A more vague recollection but one that gnaws at my mind is of the days of the Refuseniks and Shultz's work with them and the Israeli government of the day. I have this vague recollection of Secretary of State George Shultz being quoted as saying that he was working on making the ties between the US and Israel so tight that they could not be broken or undone.


      The newspaper coverage of his death intrigued me. It was front page news in the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, with each paper devoting more than a full Interior page to the story. The Chronicle, some days later, published a fine editorial tribute. Shultz's Stanford home, where he died, is in Santa Clara County, 35 miles south of San Francisco. The newspaper of record of the county used to be the San Jose Mercury News. It was an excellent paper when published by Knight Ridder. Now it has become an inferior rag without "San Jose" in its title, published by the Bay Area News Group. The death of this important man in the county was acknowledged by a rip-and-print notice on page 8. The column space allotted was the same as that given to the paper's Mr. Roadshow column of advice to drivers. An insult to Shultz and to the readers. Finally, the Hoover Institution, in which Mr. Shultz had been a Fellow for 30 years, posted an excellent tribute on its website.


      This was a brilliant man who served his country in several important capacities. Were ours a parliamentary system, he would likely have been prime minister--Conservative, of course.


      JE comments:  George Shultz lived a full century, yet he achieved enough for two or three (centuries).  Four cabinet posts.  Wow.  Next, from David Duggan we'll learn of Schultz's tenure as Dean at the U of Chicago.

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      • George Shultz at U Chicago (David Duggan, USA 02/20/21 3:26 AM)
        My father's diploma from the University of Chicago's graduate school of business (1967) was signed by the dean, George Shultz, also a Marine officer.

        He's the only person to have held four cabinet positions: Secretary of Labor, head of the Office of Management and Budget, Secretary of the Treasury, and Secretary of State.


        JE comments:  Shultz had an educational pedigree few could rival:  Princeton and MIT, from where he received a PhD in industrial economics.  Later, on the faculty at U Chicago, he was influenced by the free-market theories of Milton Friedman and George Stigler.  The Chileans were the first to model an entire nation's economy on these ideas, but Shultz may have been the original "Chicago Boy."


        One correction to the above:  Shultz was one of two people to hold four different cabinet positions, the other being a household name in the Nixon and Ford years:  Elliot Richardson.  Coincidentally, Shultz and Richardson were both born in 1920 (Richardson died in 1999).

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        • George Shultz, Marine Officer (George Aucoin, -France 02/20/21 2:35 PM)
          To follow up David Duggan's note on Secretary George Shultz's life of servant leadership, David is quite right to mention his early service as a Marine Officer.

          The Secretary served on active duty from 1942 to 1945 as an artillery officer. He saw action in the Pacific Campaign on the islands of Tarawa and Peleliu. After the War, he served an additional eight years in the Marine Corps Reserve, retiring as a Major.


          In large sum, I can attest Secretary Shultz saw his contribution to America through the lens of a Marine whose fidelity to the United States as a Constitutional Republic was fundamental.


          My wife and I spent Nov. 10, 2014 in the company of George and Charlotte Shultz at the Marine's Memorial Club in San Francisco where he felt most comfortable for social engagements. It was relatively close to his home on the campus at Stanford and he was always among friends. He was the VIP at this special place. His consummate steward at the time was Maj General Mike Myatt USMC (Ret), then the club President and CEO.


          It was a privilege to engage with Secretary Shultz in the place he felt most comfortable. Fair Winds and Following Seas to an American Warrior and Statesman.


          JE comments:  A Marine is always a Marine!  Thank you for the memory, George.  I learned from our late colleague Bob Gibbs, a retired Army Lt Colonel, that the artillery branch takes only the very highest scorers on aptitude tests.  Is this also the case for the USMC?  I also wonder if Secretary Shultz suffered from hearing loss, which is too often the fate of the artilleryman.

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    • What is a Moderator? On WAIS Editorial Bias (David A. Westbrook, USA 02/20/21 3:54 AM)
      I hope this finds each of you and yours well. I have respect and even affection for the WAISers who posted on the topic of editorial bias, but cannot recall agreeing with all of them on the same point. So this is a joyous day!

      John is a dear friend, even though I often think he is dunderheaded, focuses on the wrong things, and so forth. And I tell him so. To make things much worse, sometimes JE comments on my writing, which is of course perfect. I get over it.


      But John's ideas, right or wrong (in my arrogant opinion), are really not the point here. Nor is the point editorializing, much less censorship, nor even fine-grained analysis. John has been remarkably open, even-handed. The point of moderation (nice word, that) is active, not passive. The idea is to keep the conversation going. I have never met anyone who is half as good at making WAIS go, i.e., at keeping very, very different voices in the conversation.


      We have a gem here, comrades.


      JE comments:  Bert, it's only 7 AM, but you've already made my day.  As for being a dunderhead...any chance you've been comparing notes with Aldona?  (The etymology goes back to 1630, with "dunder" coming from the Dutch donder or thunder.)

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    • More on Editorial Bias (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 02/20/21 4:22 AM)
      I want to comment on the issue raised by A. J. Cave in relation to the alleged bias of our extraordinary editor in relation to the Trump-Biden debate, and I will "stick a spike in Flanders" for him, as they used to say in Spain.

      This matter has been discussed before by myself, and I would like to say that I think it is logical that John has his own views and contributes them to the debates proposed here. In most matters under discussion, John's comments normally maintain an objective and prudent distance, raising questions and proposing ideas, and that is in my opinion an extraordinary editorial task. If he sometimes propose his own opinions, they are welcome. His comments are always appreciated and well received, even if I do not agree with them.


      Not even in the scientific community does absolute objectivity exist. All subjects carry intellectual, ideological, political, and/or religious biases.


      JE comments:  Nacho, you are too kind.  We have always seen eye-to-eye except on one matter, and it's a hemisphere away:  you are strongly opposed to Catalonian independence, and I have a "let the Catalans decide" position.


      Either way, I'm grateful to have a Venezuelan colleague and friend.  Just yesterday some of my students were fondly recalling your virtual visit last fall to our Spanish class. 


      Please, when time permits, send us an update from the Caracas front lines.  Has the transition to Biden had any ripple effect on the mood in your city?


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    • More Thoughts on Editorial Editorializing (Patrick Mears, -Germany 02/21/21 4:22 AM)
      I am relatively new to WAIS and obviously did not come up "through the ranks" via Professor Hilton's program.

      In brief, I believe that it would be a huge mistake for John E to withdraw from his role as moderator. I am afraid that an open-ended, undisciplined "chat room" for WAIS would ultimately descend into chaos, causing many members to "vote with their feet" and decide to leave, in one form or another.


      In one sense, this entire episode concerning our former President who lost the election fairly and squarely gave me some valuable insights as to how the group dynamics work and should work in this Forum. So I vote "No"-that you should not cut your communication cables and retreat to a rural refuge in historic Lenawee County, Michigan.



      Keep up your valuable work here, please.


      JE comments: Pat, once again I'm flattered by the encouragement.  I note with relief that the events of November 3rd, the following uncertainty, the January 6th "Putsch," and now the Trump impeachment trial are fading into history.  Tempers have cooled for the time being, a good thing.  On the other hand, the number of "clicks" on WAIS more than doubled during the election brouhaha.


      Pat, you first appeared on WAIS in February 2014--happy anniversary!  After seven years, I consider you a WAIS veteran.  You are one of our most active and gracious colleagues, and a fellow Michigander to boot.  Bless you.


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