Clinton promises steady hand in dangerous world

Fox 4

Originally Posted: July 29, 2016

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Promising Americans a steady hand, Hillary Clinton cast herself Thursday night as a unifier for divided times, an experienced leader steeled for a volatile world. She aggressively challenged Republican Donald Trump’s ability to do the same.

“Imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis,” Clinton said as she accepted the Democratic nomination for president. “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.” READ MORE


The Democrats have Meryl Streep, Alicia Keys; GOP has Scott Baio. Does it matter?

Dallas News

Originally Posted: July 28, 2016

If celebrity endorsements determined the next president of the United States, The Donald wouldn’t stand a chance against the Democratic juggernaut.

The Democrats filled their primetime schedule this week  with A-list celebrities who the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

The Republicans, on the other hand, struggled to lure stars not named Trump last week in Cleveland. Scott Baio, of Happy DaysCharles in Charge and more recently Arrested Development, Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty and two daytime soap-opera actors were the biggest- named celebs aboard the Trump Train.

Trump, no stranger to to TV stardom, had promised serious star power for the  convention. Tim Tebow, Mike Tyson, Tom Brady and Serena Williams were all rumored to appear, but none did.

“For people in these high-profile entertainment fields, association with Donald Trump could be toxic for their careers,” said Matthew Wilson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University.

“There is a real concern that being associated with the Trump campaign could get you black-listed or boycotted.”

The Republicans have not always had this amount of trouble landing A-listers. In 2012, Clint Eastwood made headlines in which he had a conversation with an imaginary President Barack Obama during a GOP convention address. READ MORE

Will Hillary Clinton be overshadowed by guests at her own party?

Washington Examiner

Originally Posted: July 27, 2016

The final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia is supposed to be all about presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, but she is in danger of being overshadowed by guests at her own party.

By scheduling former President Bill Clinton to speak on Tuesday and President Obama to address the convention on the eve of her acceptance speech, Clinton and her running mate, former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, must now compete with two of their party’s most celebrated public speakers.

“Hillary Clinton is not a good speaker,” political commentator Jon Ralston told the Washington Examiner’s media desk. “She has to worry about being overshadowed by two of the best speakers her party has ever seen.”

“She is just not a dynamic speaker,” he added. “I’ve seen her when she gives pretty good speeches. But generally she … is just not nearly as dynamic as either Obama or Clinton.”

J. Matthew Wilson, a professor of political science at the Southern Methodist University, agreed, and told the Examiner separately that the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential ticket stands a good chance of being outdone by guests at the convention in Philadelphia.

“Neither Hillary Clinton nor Tim Kaine is renowned as a particularly powerful orator,” he said, adding, “There is definitely a danger that Obama and Clinton overshadow Clinton and Kaine, particularly given that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are both regarded as good speakers.”

“Hillary Clinton does not have the rhetorical gifts of either the two former presidents. And that’s a comparison some people will draw,” Wilson said.

Bill Clinton spoke Tuesday evening at the Democratic convention, and delivered a lengthy address in which he praised the former secretary of state as a progressive trailblazer.

Though his prepared remarks drew some mild media criticism, they provoked deafening cheers and applause from the audience inside the Wells Fargo Convention Center. READ MORE

Dedman College faculty expert recap of day 1 and 2 of the Democratic National Convention


SMU Associate Political Science Professor Matthew Wilson analyzes the Democratic Convention on FOX4 Tuesday – Friday of this week at 7:20am. More detailed comments from SMU experts can be found here.

Here are the Fox4 highlights from Day 1 and Day 2.

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image


Laser Beats Rock: Armored Dinosaur May Have Relied Most on Sense of Smell

Laser Beats Rock

Originally Posted: July 25, 2016

Independent science journalist Sarah Puschmann covered the research of SMU Earth Sciences Professor Louis L. Jacobs in a post on her blog “Armored Dinosaur May Have Relied Most on Sense of Smell.”

A professor in Dedman College‘s Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Jacobs is co-author of a new analysis of the Cretaceous Period dinosaur Pawpawsaurus based on the first CT scans ever taken of the dinosaur’s skull.

A Texas native from what is now Tarrant County, Pawpawsaurus lived 100 million years ago, making its home along the shores of an inland sea that split North America from Texas northward to the Arctic Sea.



By Sarah Puschmann
Laser Beats Rock

In 1819, the German naturalist Lorenz Oken found something astonishing inside a pterodactyl’s broken skull: petrified mud in the form of the long deceased dinosaur’s brain, so well molded into the crevices as to reveal the brain’s two distinct halves.

This so-called “fossil brain” is one of the first known instances of a cranial endocast, an internal cast of the skull that makes the impressions of the decayed soft tissue visible. For paleoneurologists not lucky enough to uncover a natural endocast, some have opted to slice open skulls and made molds using liquid latex rubber or plaster of Paris.

But cutting open a skull for study isn’t always an option, particularly if it is a holotype, the singular specimen used to define a species for the first time. This is the case for the 100 million year old skull from a dinosaur called Pawpawsaurus campbelli studied by Ariana Paulina-Carabajal of the National Research Council of Argentina (CONICET) and the Institute of Investigations in Biodiversity and the Environment (INIBIOMA) and her team, led by Louis Jacobs.

By CT scanning the skull, it was possible to make important insights about the dinosaur’s olfaction and hearing while leaving the precious holotype intact. Their analysis led the researchers to conclude that smell was the sense Pawpawsaurus most likely relied on most, as reported in the journal PLOS ONE.

This is valuable information, especially because so little is known about this dinosaur. What is known is that the four-legged herbivore most likely had long spines on its shoulders and neck, as was the case for other members of the same family of nodosaurids. It also probable that Pawpawsaurus wasn’t endowed with the knob of bone in its tail characteristic of ankylosaurids, a related dinosaur family, nor did it experience the satisfaction of slamming a club tail against, well, anything. (Was there such a thing as tail envy?)

State officials work to shut down casino-style gaming in East Texas

Star Telegram

Originally Posted: July 26, 2016

For the Alabama-Coushatta tribe, this could become a case of deja vu.

In 2002, a casino the Indian tribe operated in East Texas was closed by state officials who successfully argued that state law trumps national Indian law — and casino gambling isn’t allowed in Texas.

The tribe reopened a casino-like facility two months ago, after national Indian and federal officials ruled that the tribe can oversee gaming at its 10,000-acre reservation south of Livingston, about 240 miles southeast of Fort Worth.

Now, court documents filed in Lufkin’s federal court show state officials have made the first move to again shut the gaming down.

“This certainly was expected,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “The Indian tribal leadership has attempted to fine tune, or tweak, the types of games they offer in order to satisfy the political officials in the state of Texas this time.

“I don’t think they’ll be successful,” he said. “State officials have always been reluctant to allow gaming in the state because they are so deeply concerned about our morals.” READ MORE

SMU Adventures: Working with the FARDC

SMU Adventures

Originally Posted: July 26, 2016

Lindsay G. is a rising senior majoring in international studies and human rights. This summer she traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Army ROTC for closer study of the country’s culture and language.

Lindsay1-e1469546975476-600x392This week began with quarantine in our hotel due to political unrest throughout the country. This was extremely fitting since this next week we were going to be working with the FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Day 1 we went to the military school for English language, which aimed to help soldiers in the FARDC learn basic English. At the language school we got the opportunity to meet officers in the FARDC who had been given the opportunity to come to San Antonio to learn English at the Defense Language Institute. These gentlemen (no women were given the opportunity to go) spoke perfect English, and prided themselves on knowing various aspects of American culture that only a native would know. During our time at the English Institute we gave classes in basic Army doctrine in hopes of helping to improve the basic functions of the Congolese military. All of the soldiers of the FARDC were eager to learn about the functions of the U.S. Army, and took great pride in their country when we attempted to teach the class in French, their national language.

The next day we headed to the Logistics School of the FARDC, where soldiers learn basic skills including mechanics, field first aid and cooking. The U.S. Army heads this school, and we were able to meet two U.S. soldiers who had been deployed to the Congo for over a year in the hopes of ensuring this school functions properly. They gave us a tour of the grounds and introduced us to the staff and students of the school. The Congolese general in charge of this school proved to be a complete juxtaposition for how the rest of the country worked. While most of the log school was without power and had little airflow, the Generals quarters had air conditioning, a TV and cold drinks for his guests. This experience was the most eye-opening moment of the whole trip because the power structure of the country was highlighted and made very apparent.


Jeffrey Kahn: At SMU visit, Trump’s foreign policy adviser was a modern-day Joe McCarthy

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: July 25, 2016

Tower Center Fellow Jeffrey Kahn wrote an opinion piece for the Dallas Morning News July 25. Kahn teaches and writes about American constitutional law, Russian law, human rights, and counterterrorism in SMU’s Dedman School of Law.

By Jeffrey Kahn
SMU law professor

Sen. Joe McCarthy built his name, and ruined it, by destroying the reputations of others. His M.O. was to insinuate guilt by linking his victims to people he had already brought down.

I had the misfortune to hear a practitioner of the new McCarthyism when Joseph Schmitz — foreign policy adviser to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump — spoke at Southern Methodist University a year before Trump tapped him for his current position.

The encounter left me chilled. I had witnessed a ghost from McCarthy’s staff.

Law students who organized Schmitz’s talk had asked me to be the responding speaker for an event addressing the “impact of the communist worldview and the current state of affairs geopolitically with the west.”

In planning the match-up, I doubt the students looked past Schmitz’s brightest credential: a stint as inspector general at the U.S. Department of Defense that ended with his resignation under mounting criticism led by Sen. Charles Grassley.

My scholarship, focused on American and Russian law, likely explained my invitation. Schmitz, a student organizer said, could offer “an insider’s opinions” though also conceding, “this is a new topic area of presentation for him.”

Despite my unfamiliarity with Schmitz, and a seemingly muddled event taking shape, I agreed to participate. The clash of ideas, after all, is the heart of a university.

I was stunned by what I heard.

Early in his rambling presentation, Schmitz held up a book, The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis — The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor, that would form the basis of his attack on President Obama. Soon, another book was raised: Marx and Satan. The poet Langston Hughes came in for smearing, his communist credentials duly noted. At one point, Schmitz declared that President Barack Obama was the second-most-revered person in China (after Mao, apparently).

Schmitz revealed himself an unrepentant McCarthyite. And not just in his obvious, if inarticulate, hatred of communism. His methods were similar, too. Recollecting his remarks, a single startling feature shines through. Schmitz never attacked a single specific policy advanced by Obama, nor a single presidential decision, action or statement. Only the president’s connections to other people, often in the distant past, were his targets.

Had we time-warped to the Red Scare of the 1950s? I had never seen anyone paint with as broad a brush or with as careless a hand.

When my turn came, I took time to describe the dangerous history we had just seen re-enacted. I asked the students to examine actual ideas – not accept smears of people with implied associations. And as for learning more about Langston Hughes, I suggested a good start would be to read some of his poetry (which Schmitz’s talk gave no evidence that he had).

Schmitz was all about insinuation and dark connections. He had little time for hard thinking, just cheap shots — a quality he evidently shares with his current boss. Trump has smeared Muslims and Mexicans. He has attacked Sen. John McCain and a federal judge he called a hater and falsely labeled foreign.

Another Trump adviser, channeling McCarthy, claimed Hillary Clinton’s State Department was “permeated at the highest levels” by Saudi spies and disloyal Americans, and attacked one of Clinton’s aides with factless, fear-drenched defamation. Aspirants to Trump’s entourage shout for return of the House Un-American Affairs Committee.

I never discuss my personal politics with students. It gets in the way of prying open difficult legal puzzles and evaluating arguments. I keep my conclusions out of view so that students can engage each other in an open forum.

But at this turning point for our country, I want to be on record about where I stand. And who I stand against.

I’m not surprised Trump would turn to a person like Schmitz, or that Schmitz would be attracted to Trump’s obscene cult of personality.

What foreign policy advice will Schmitz whisper into Trump’s ear? I shudder to think what he might do in such a position of power.

report he co-authored declared, “The United States has been infiltrated and deeply influenced by an enemy within that is openly determined to replace the U.S. Constitution with shariah.”

But for the very last word, Joe McCarthy could have penned that himself.

# # #


Scientists offer explanation on how oil and gas activity triggers North Texas earthquakes

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: July 25, 2016

In a long-awaited study, researchers have offered a possible explanation for how oil and gas activity may have triggered earthquakes in Dallas and Irving last year.

The disposal of wastewater from oil and gas production and hydraulic fracturing “plausibly” set off the tremors, which shook Dallas, Irving, Highland Park and other cities from April 2014 through January 2016, said Matthew Hornbach, the study’s lead author and professor of geophysics at Southern Methodist University.

While the quakes were too small to cause much damage to buildings, they spread alarm through a metro area unaccustomed to feeling the ground shift.

The quakes contributed to a tenfold increase in North Texas’ earthquake hazard level, prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency to warn of stronger quakes that could cause billions of dollars of damage, and moved local emergency managers to begin preparing for worst-case scenarios.

The study, posted online this week in the peer-reviewed journal Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, is the first scientific work to offer an explanation for the Dallas and Irving quakes. It also provides new evidence that other recent quakes in North Texas’ were likely induced by humans.

Such findings in recent years have prompted pushback from oil and gas companies. This week, through a trade group, they again came out swinging. Steve Everley, a spokesman for an arm of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, questioned the scientists’ work. “Were they looking for media attention?” Everley said in an email. “The authors’ willingness to shift assumptions to fit a particular narrative is concerning, to say the least.”

The state agency that regulates oil and gas, the Railroad Commission, said in a statement that it was reviewing the report “to fully understand its methodology and conclusions.”

Independent experts contacted by The Dallas Morning News praised the study, while cautioning that more work remains before the cause of the Dallas and Irving earthquakes can be firmly established.

“It’s the single best explanation for the increase in earthquakes within the Dallas-Fort Worth basin,” said Rall Walsh, a Ph.D. candidate in geophysics at Stanford University who studies human-triggered earthquakes. READ MORE

Did Trump win GOP nod because of the way he talks?

Christian Science Monitor

Originally Posted: July 20, 2016

Cleveland — Suddenly Donald Trump’s face loomed over the delegates, tanned, jaw set, and a story high.

From the giant video screen on the Republican National Convention stage Mr. Trump thanked everyone for nominating him as the GOP presidential pick. The film – shown Tuesday in Cleveland after the official roll call vote – was short. Parts were clearly ad-libbed. When Trump began to speak, his sentences were looping and repetitive.

“The party seal, I mean, what we did, getting the party’s nomination, I’ll never forget it. It’s something I will never, ever forget,” he said. . .

Here’s a thought sparked by watching this presentation and its rapturous response: It’s not just the border proposal or the possible Muslim ban. Donald Trump’s extraordinary victory in the Republican presidential primaries was due in part to the way he communicates. His words, his gestures, his expressions, his emphasis – all are uniquely suited to the pace and attention span of our social-media saturated age. . .

“Trump is brilliant in manipulating – and I mean ‘manipulating’ as a positive – the new media, the social media of the day,” says Jeffrey Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “There is no discussion on Twitter. The way you win an argument on Twitter is, you say it again, and you say it in capital letters.” READ MORE