does it mention how much of a performance hit one's car will take in the modifications. My guess is a lot, or else they would not have risked so blatant of a legal evasion in the first place. If I had a VW diesel there would be no way I would take the car in for this modification, certainly not before others have had a chance to share their experience. My guess is that VW will require dealers to make these changes whenever a car comes in for any sort of service, so I wonder if there will be a boomlet for non-dealer VW shops who are willing to fix your air conditioning without implementing these changes?
Archive for November 2015
Dear Conservatives: This Is Why We Hate All Your Civil Rights Restrictions in the Name of Fighting Terror
Because about 5 seconds after they are passed, government officials .
Twenty-four environmental activists have been placed under house arrest ahead of the Paris climate summit, using Franceâs state of emergency laws. Two of them slammed an attack on civil liberties in an interview with FRANCE 24....
The officers handed AmÃ©lie a restraining order informing her that she can no longer leave Rennes, is required to register three times a day at the local police station, and must stay at k彩平台登陆 between 8pm and 6am.
The order ends on December 12, the day the draws to a close....
Citing the heightened terrorist threat, French authorities have issued a blanket ban on demonstrations â including all rallies planned to coincide with the climate summit, which Hollande is due to formally open on Monday.
This justification is about as lame as them come:
AFP news agency has had access to the restraining notices. It says they point to the âthreat to public orderâ posed by radical campaigners, noting that security forces âmust not be distracted from the task of combating the terrorist threatâ.
Note that the police had absolutely no evidence that these folks were planning any violence, or even that they were planning any particular sort of protest. This was a classic "round up the usual suspects" dragnet of anyone who had made a name for themselves protesting at green causes in the past.
Postscript: Yes, I know that these protesters and I would have very little common ground on environmental issues. So what? There is nothing more important than supporting the civil rights of those with whom one disagrees.
And yes, I do have the sneaking suspicion that many of the very same people caught up in this dragnet would cheer if I and other skeptics were similarly rounded up for our speech by the government. But that is exactly the point. There are people who, if in power, would like to have me rounded up. So it is important to stand firm against any precedent allowing the government to have these powers. Else the only thing standing between me and jail is a single election.
Update: Think that last bit is overly dramatic? Think again. I can guarantee you that you have some characteristic or belief that would cause someone in the world today, and probably many people, to want to put you up against the wall if they had the power to do so. As proof, see: all of history.
Campus Progressives are becoming increasingly open about their opposition to unfettered free speech. As a minimum, they seem to want restrictions on (and thus punishments for) speech they feel disparages ethnic minorities, homosexuals, various flavors of trans-gendered people, etc. If pressed, many might extend these restrictions to other speech they don't like, e.g. climate skepticism or advocating for the Second Amendment.
What often confuses outsiders about these calls for speech restrictions is that they are generally asymmetrical -- eg it is OK to criticize Christians but not to criticize Muslims. You can impugn the motives of rich white males but not of blacks or Hispanics. Critics of these limitations will say, "aha, you are a hypocrite" but in fact Progressives are quite open about this asymmetry. They argue from a framework where everything comes back to the powerful vs. the powerless. In this framework, it is OK for the powerless to criticize the powerful, but the reverse is not allowed -- they call it "punching down". Thus the need for asymmetric speech limitations to protect the powerless from the powerful.
But this is where we get to a massive contradiction. Because whoever is in a position to enforce speech limitations is always going to be the person with power. By definition. The powerless don't write and succesfully enforce speech codes, or else if they do, we now have to call them powerful. And historically, people in power always use speech limitations to protect their own power. That is why the First Amendment exists, to protect minorities of any sort from the power of the majority. If historically disenfranchised people suddenly start making speech codes stick that protect them from criticism, it only means that the in-group and out-group tags have been shifted and the new in-group is acting just like all the other in-groups have in the past. That is why we don't rely on assurances of good behavior by people in power, we try to circumscribe them with Constitutional limitations.
Frequently people will use the existence of threats, including death threats, over the Internet as proof that their cause is more just because their opponents are violent and _________ (fill in the blank with racist, misogynist, etc.). Most folks firmly believe that only their side is getting these death threats, since they only really talk to and read people on their side. But as a libertarian that makes common cause with all kinds of groups, what I see is that EVERYONE that says something even mildly controversial gets Internet threats. The gamergaters get threats and the anti-gamergaters get threats. BLM gets threats and police defenders get threats. Heck, I get threats, mostly on climate and immigration issues, and I am a nobody. And here is the latest source of death threats: Katherine Timpf
More than a month ago, I made some jokes about Star Wars on Red Eye, a satirical political comedy show that airs at 3 a.m., and it has resulted in me being verbally abused and told to die by a mob of enraged fans for the past four days now. ...Then, this week, one Star Wars super-super-super fan who calls himself “AlphaOmegaSin” made a ten-minute (!) video brutally ripping me apart. The YouTube comments on his manifesto were even better. You know, stuff like:
justin 12 hours ago Maybe a SW nerd needs to sneak into her dark room, dressed like her bf, rape her, but she doesn’t know it’s rape because she thinks it’s her BF.
needmypunk 16 hours ago I hope she gets acid thrown in her pretty little face.
sdgaara2 1 day ago Wouldn’t it be great if she was beaten to death with “space nerd sticks”
etc. etc. Now, I understand there are a few folks out there who have had to deal with scary and legitimate stalking episodes online. But in the vast majority of cases, does anyone really treat these as serious threats? Like actually get scared? I know I don't. I would suggest that most folks respond just like Ms. Timpf did -- they treat them as a badge of honor and of proof of the rightness of their cause and the bankruptcy of their intellectual opposition. I have done the exact same thing. We have a term called humble brag, e.g. "I was so stupid last night -- Johnny Depp came by my table to say hi and I didn't recognize him." We need a term for this -- "victim brag", maybe?
I have come to the conclusion that there are a core of people on the Internet that are simply morons, and will react stupidly to about anything. We should stop ascribing any significance to their showing up in an online discussion. The fact they show up making their stupid threats has no more meaning than the fact that ants inevitably show up when you drop food on the ground. You wouldn't write an article that "ants hate me because they swarmed all over the potato chip I dropped." Let's treat Internet trolls just like we do these insects.
With news that even due to fears of Westerners appropriating from other cultures, I am led to wonder -- why don't these prohibitions go both ways? If as a white western male, I can't do yoga or host a Cinco de Mayo party or play the blues on the guitar, why does everyone else get to feed greedily from the trough of western culture? If I can't wear a sombrero, why do other cultures get to wear Lakers jerseys, use calculus, or even have polio vaccines? Heck, all this angst tends to occur at Universities, which are a quintessentially western cultural invention. Isn't the very act of attending Harvard a cultural appropriation for non-Westerners?
I say this all tongue in cheek just to demonstrate how stupid this whole thing is. Some of the greatest advances, both of science and culture, have occurred when cultures cross-pollinate. I have read several auto-biographies of musicians and artists and they all boil down to "I was exposed to this art/music from a different culture and it sent me off in a new direction." The British rock and roll invasion resulted from American black blues music being dropped into England, mutating for a few years, and coming back as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
Or here is an even better example: the movie"A fistful of Dollars". That was an American western with what has become a quintessentially American actor, Clint Eastwood. However, it was originally an Italian movie by Italian director Sergio Leone (it was not released in the US until 3 years after its Italian release). But Sergio Leone borrowed wholesale for this movie from famed Japanese director Akiro Kurosawa's Yojimbo. But Kurosawa himself often borrowed from American sources, fusing it with Japanese culture and history to produce many of his famous movies. While there is some debate on this, Yojimbo appears to be based on Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest, a classic of American noir fiction.
I could write a book on Progressive reform efforts which begin as sensible liberalization efforts and then overshoot into authoritarianism. Gay marriage is a great example. Liberalizing stage 1: Let's give gay folks equal access to the benefits of protections of legal marriage. Authoritarian state 2: Let's punish any small business who refuses to serve a gay wedding.
I ran into another example the other day. Hillary tweeted out, "Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported" which is a common refrain among women's groups (we will leave aside the irony of Hillary making this statement after she has crushed a number of women who have made sexual assault claims against her husband).
In what I believe to be the initial meaning of this phrase, it was quite reasonable. In the past (and presumably on occasion today) women have gone to police or some other authority and claimed to have been raped or assaulted, and have been essentially ignored. A pat on the head and the little lady is sent k彩平台登陆. Women, reasonably, wanted their charges to be taken seriously and investigated seriously. This is my memory of where this phrase, then, originally came from. It meant that when women claim to have been assaulted, authorities need to take these charges seriously and investigate them seriously.
But, as with most other things, Progressive reform which began as liberalizing and empowering has transitioned to being Stalinist. The meaning today of this phrase when used by most women's groups is that any such claims by women should not immediately trigger an investigation but should trigger an immediate conviction. The accused male should be immediately treated as guilty and punished, and any exercise of due process represents an assault on women -- never mind that the same SJW's taking this stance would take exactly the opposite stance on due process if the accused were, say, a black male in Ferguson accused of theft.
has a good question in this post on secular stagnation. For most questions of the sort "would you rather the 1985 version of X for the 1985 (nominal) price or the 2015 version at the 2015 price, I would choose the latter. TV's? Cars? k彩平台登陆Phones? Computers? All way better for the price today. This of course implies that for many of these items, the inflation rate is really negative if we could adequately take into account quality and technology changes. k彩平台登陆 are a different story. For health care, I would take the 2015 version and price. I would have to think about my answer for a while in air travel (I think folks overly romanticize their memory of air travel -- I was travelling PeopleExpress to Newark in the early 80's and that really, really sucked. My seat and meal are worse nowadays but I am more likely to be on time).
So Kling then asks about college education. These are convenient dates for me since I graduated in 1984. So would I rather Princeton in 1984 at about $10,000 or Princeton today at $60,000. I guess education-wise, the liberal arts course catalog at Princeton in 1984 was more closely matched to my interests, and I don't get any sense the faculty today is better or worse in either period but it likely was more politically diverse in 1984. So academically, I would easily give the nod to 1984. For the ancillary stuff, though, the change in quality has been substantial. The dorms, the dining options, the residential college system, the student center -- all the non-academic stuff is way better today. However, all that stuff is a lot of what is driving up the nominal price -- is it worth it? Yes, I suppose so if someone else is paying, lol. Probably not if I am paying my own way through.
I find this meme to be silly and unconvincing.
It is not unreasonable to expect that 0.1% of any population is potentially dangerous. By this meme's implied logic (that if any of the refugees are bad we should not take any of them) we would never have allowed so much immigration of any sort in the past, immigration that has been undeniably beneficial to this country. But going further, by this logic we would not even allow procreation -- the number is hard to get at but 0.1% is not an unreasonable guess as to the chance that any person born today might end up being a murderer.
A smart reader of mine pointed to this post and observed that given recent college events, we will likely see some changes. In that post I had pointed to something written by Peter Thiel:
Peter Thiel describes higher education as a "giant selection mechanism" and estimates that only 10% of the value of a college degree comes from actual learning, and 50% of the value comes from selection (getting into a selective university) and 40% comes from signalling (graduating from a selective college becomes known to employers). If employers could use intelligence tests instead of college degrees as measures of aptitude, it might be a lot more efficient and more cost-effective than the current practice of using very expensive four-year college degrees that add very little in terms of educational value (at least according to Thiel).
What does being a Yale grad signal after the last few weeks? What does Yale appear to be selecting for?
I further observed:
There is some rationality in this approach [to hiring mainly from the Ivies] – it is not all mindless snobbism. Take Princeton. It screens something like 25,000 already exceptional applicants down to just 1500, and then further carefully monitors their performance through intensive contact over a four year period. This is WAY more work and resources than a private firm could ever apply to the hiring process. In effect, by limiting their hiring to just a few top schools, they are outsourcing a lot of their performance evaluation work to those schools.
All this pre-supposed that colleges were looking for the same things that corporations were looking for -- bright, hard-working, clear-thinking, rational, easily educable people. But what if that is not what the Ivy League is selecting for any more? Do I really want to hire thin-skinned authoritarians who are unable to reasonably handle disagreement and will shut down the work of their peers over the smallest grievance? I had already quit the Princeton high school interviewing team because I no longer wanted to be part of a process that I thought was hosing hard-working Asian students. Now that I see who is being admitted in their stead, I am even more reluctant to be part of the admissions process.
According to my son, who is a senior at Amherst (one of the recent sites where the SJW Olympics have been held), more and more firms are doing different sorts of testing. Consultants all do case interviews now, which is a form of testing, and at least once he has been in investment banking interviews where he had to sit down and take an Excel skills test.
Can you imagine the tyranny you would bring upon yourself by actually hiring one of these self-righteous complainers. Within a month they’d be slapping you with a lawsuit for not having a transgender bathroom. And you’ll be thinking: Right, but did you actually finish that assignment I gave you? Employers tell me despondently that the millennials are by far the highest maintenance generation they’ve ever seen. One recruiter recently told me: “They need their hands held, they demand affirmation, they are forever whining about their feelings. We really don’t have time to deal with their petty grievances.”
Between 1989 and 2010, U.S. attorneys seized an estimated in asset forfeiture cases. The growth rate during that time averaged +19.4% annually. In 2010 alone, the value of assets seized grew by +52.8% from 2009 and was six times greater than the total for 1989. Then by 2014, that number had ballooned to roughly for the year, making this 35% of the entire number of assets collected from 1989 to 2010 in a single year. According to the FBI, the total amount of goods stolen by criminals in 2014 burglary offenses suffered an estimated $3.9 billion in property losses. This means that the police are now taking more assets than the criminals.
I will remind folks that civil asset forfeiture is by definition taken from innocent people, ie those not convicted of a crime.
Update: It would be interesting to see the racial/ethnic mix of those whose stuff is seized. Somehow, I don't imagine the victims of theft-by-cop are a bunch of rich white people.
makes the (updated) case for index funds. I need no convincing, as most** of my savings (such that they are) are in Vanguard index funds of various sorts.
But as I was reading his article, I couldn't help thinking that there is a flaw with the "everyone should be in index funds" advice -- if everyone actually was 100% in index funds, they would not work. Index funds are premised on the idea that stock prices are pretty well reflective of the information out there in the marketplace -- the company's future prospects, the strength of its market position, the direction of external factors such as economic growth and interest rates, etc. But this is only going to be true if there are investors out there trying to pick stocks and beat the market -- ie if everyone is not in index funds.
It sort of reminds me of the old economics joke where a man is walking down the street with an economist, and the economist walks right past a $20 bill lying on the ground. The man says to the economist -- "do you realize you just walked past a $20 bill?" and the economist answered, "It couldn't really be there -- in an efficient market, someone would have already picked it up."
In some ways, the stock pricing paradox here is just an example of a larger phenomena which for the lack of a better name I call "the joy of shopping." People make fun of shopping all the time, but economically shopping is really a miracle. All the things we attribute to prices and efficient markets and competition and the accountability of markets depend on shopping. Individuals have to be out there making price-value trade-offs between products, or between buying something and not buying something. For example, at least half of everything wrong with health care economics can be explained by lack of shopping.
The interesting thing is that only a small percentage of consumers in any particular market have to be hard-core shoppers (meaning they do tons of research and compare prices across multiple sellers) for all of us to benefit. I seldom look at a price in Wal-Mart because I know other people who care a lot have enforced a discipline on Wal-Mart. Just as with my Vanguard mutual funds, I depend on that core of folks who walks the aisles of Wal-Mart checking every price against Amazon and Target.
** I do enjoy picking stocks, and have a particular affinity for shorting things too early. I never, ever let this portfolio grow to more than 5% of my total savings, and treat it explicitly as a sandbox to play in rather than real investments on which my future well-being depends.
Four taxi drivers are suing Uber and seeking class-action status, alleging they’ve seen up to a 40 percent dip in business since the ride-hailing service began operating in violation of local regulations.
Which gives me the idea that every portrait in a public space of FDR needs to begin by talking about the unconscionable internship of Japanese and every portrait of Wilson needs to start with what an awful racist he was. Time to rename the Wilson school at Princeton!
, a group of Princeton students occupied the President's office (wow, everything old is new again) and, among their demands was the insistence that the Woodrow Wilson school be renamed because Wilson was a racist.
I have no quibble about calling Wilson a racist. However, I suggested removing his name mainly because I thought it was one racist the protesters would not challenge. Wilson was one of the fathers of the Constitutional reinterpretation in the 20th century that allowed the Progressive agenda to go forward at the Federal level, when so much of it wouldn't (and didn't) seem allowable by a straight-forward reading of the Constitution. Wilson is thus a sort of Godfather to the New Deal and the Great Society and even to Obama's end-runs around the legislature through executive action.
I would be all for reductions in tax levels, but I don't think that current Federal tax rates are particularly a barrier to growth and prosperity. A much bigger, and ever-growing barrier to growth is regulation.
5-10 years ago, in my small business, I spent my free time, and most of our organization's training time, on new business initiatives (e.g. growth into new businesses, new out-warding-facing technologies for customers, etc). Over the last five years, all of my time and the organization's free bandwidth has been spent on regulatory compliance. Obamacare alone has sucked up endless hours and hassles -- and continues to do so as we work through . But changing Federal and state OSHA requirements, changing minimum wage and other labor regulations, and numerous changes to state and local legislation have also consumed an inordinate amount of our time. We spent over a year in trial and error just trying to work out how to comply with California meal break law, with each successive approach we took challenged in some court case, forcing us to start over. For next year, we are working to figure out how to comply with the 2015 Obama mandate that all of our salaried managers now have to punch a time clock and get paid hourly.
points to a by Steven Davis. For years I have been saying that one effect of all this regulation is to essentially increase the minimum viable size of any business, because of the fixed compliance costs. A corollary to this rising minimum size hypothesis is that the rate of new business formation is likely dropping, since more and more capital is needed just to overcome the compliance costs before one reaches this rising minimum viable size. The author has a nice chart on this point, which is actually pretty scary. This is probably the best single chart I have seen to illustrate the rise of the corporate state:
Postscript: I had thought that all the difficult years converting all of our employees from full to part time to avoid Obamacare sanctions would be the end of our compliance hassles (no company will write health insurance for us, so our only defense against the mandates and penalties is to make everyone part-time). But the hassles have not ended. For every employee, next year we must provide a statement that has a series of codes, by month, for that employee's health care status. It is so complicated that knowledgeable people are still arguing about what codes we should be using.
A code must be entered for each calendar month January through December, even if the employee was not a full-time employee for one or more of the calendar months. Enter the code identifying the type of health coverage actually offered by the employer (or on behalf of the employer) to the employee, if any. Do not enter a code for any other type of health coverage the employer is treated as having offered (but the employee was not actually offered coverage). For example, do not enter a code for health coverage the employer is treated as having offered (but did not actually offer) under the dependent coverage transition relief, or non-calendar year transition relief, even if the employee is included in the count of full-time employees offered minimum essential coverage for purposes of Form 1094-C, Part III, column (a). If the employee was not actually offered coverage, enter Code 1H (no offer of coverage) on line 14. For reporting offers of coverage for 2015, an employer relying on the multiemployer arrangement interim guidance should enter code 1H on line 14 for any month for which the employer enters code 2E on line 16 (indicating that the employer was required to contribute to a multiemployer plan on behalf of the employee for that month and therefore is eligible for multiemployer interim rule relief). For a description of the multiemployer arrangement interim guidance, see Offer of health coverage in the Definitions section. For reporting for 2015, Code 1H may be entered without regard to whether the employee was eligible to enroll or enrolled in coverage under the multiemployer plan. For reporting for 2016 and future years, ALE Members relying on the multiemployer arrangement interim guidance may be required to report offers of coverage made through a multiemployer plan in a different manner.
Here are some of the codes:
- 1A. Qualifying Offer: Minimum essential coverage providing minimum value offered to full-time employee with employee contribution for self-only coverage equal to or less than 9.5% mainland single federal poverty line and at least minimum essential coverage offered to spouse and dependent(s).
This code may be used to report for specific months for which a Qualifying Offer was made, even if the employee did not receive a Qualifying Offer for all 12 months of the calendar year. However, an employer may not use the Alternative Furnishing Method for an employee who did not receive a Qualifying Offer for all 12 calendar months (except in cases in which the employer is eligible for and reports using the Alternative Furnishing Method for 2015 Qualifying Offer Method Transition Relief as described in these instructions).
- 1B. Minimum essential coverage providing minimum value offered to employee only.
- 1C. Minimum essential coverage providing minimum value offered to employee and at least minimum essential coverage offered to dependent(s) (not spouse).
- 1D. Minimum essential coverage providing minimum value offered to employee and at least minimum essential coverage offered to spouse (not dependent(s)).
- 1E. Minimum essential coverage providing minimum value offered to employee and at least minimum essential coverage offered to dependent(s) and spouse.
- 1F. Minimum essential coverage NOT providing minimum value offered to employee; employee and spouse or dependent(s); or employee, spouse and dependents.
- 1G. Offer of coverage to employee who was not a full-time employee for any month of the calendar year (which may include one or more months in which the individual was not an employee) and who enrolled in self-insured coverage for one or more months of the calendar year.
- 1H. No offer of coverage (employee not offered any health coverage or employee offered coverage that is not minimum essential coverage, which may include one or more months in which the individual was not an employee).
- 1I. Qualifying Offer Transition Relief 2015: Employee (and spouse or dependents) received no offer of coverage; received an offer that is not a qualifying offer; or received a qualifying offer for less than 12 months.
Apparently Beats headphones are now a "symbol of oppression" and .
Now, I always thought Beats were over-priced and over-hyped, and thought they were mainly a marker for people who preferred brand signaling over performance (at the risk of angering some of you, I would put Louis Vuitton bags as the leader of this category of products).
Apparently, making Dr. Dre wealthy(er) from his involvement as a co-founder of the product, and enriching the bank accounts of many other hip hop artists for their endorsements, is now "oppression." Hmm. Well, I am happy to do a public service here and take their endorsement checks and thus the burden of this oppression off their shoulders and on to myself. Who says we libertarians are not public spirited?
So what is next? I can't see any particular different between Dre's involvement with Beats and Michael Jordan's involvement with Nike -- are Air Jordans the next symbol of oppression? What am I missing here?
Of all the stupidities coming out of modern college Progressivism, perhaps one of the dumbest is the opposition to cultural appropriation. Progress comes from cultural mixing -- a good way to think of this is to imagine the opposite of "cultural appropriation" which would likely be something like "cultural apartheid". That doesn't sound good.
Take just one example -- popular music over the last century. For a variety of reasons (including their outsider status for much of American history), African Americans have been a font of musical innovation unmatched in the entire world. Jazz, blues, rock, Motown-style pop, funk, disco, and hip hop all owe much or all of their origins and power to American black music. Go ask even famous white groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin who their inspirations were, and they will rattle off mostly black names from Howlin Wolf to Chuck Berry to George Clinton. Seriously, what Renaissance Italians were to painting, American blacks have been to music.
Being of German decent, I am not going to spend my life listening to just Wagner and polka music. Which reminds me of a story -- not to go all Godwin on you, but the Nazis were a great example of that "cultural apartheid" term I made up earlier. They didn't want pure Germanic culture to be tainted by other (they felt inferior) cultural influences. I have seen the Germans interviewed after the war joking that they were sick of "der fledermaus" because it seemed to be the only opera that could get past the Nazi cultural appropriation police and get played in the years just before the war.
I refuse to inflict this on myself. I am going to appropriate music from African Americans and anywhere else I feel like.
Postscript: By the way, Black music in America is in some sense a story of the improvement of the fortunes of African Americans. In the 1950's and 60's, Black blues musicians couldn't reach white audiences, and bands like the Rolling Stones made a fortune because they played blues music but with safely (for the time) white faces. White performers ended up with most of the financial rewards from black music. In the 70's-80's, black musicians started to reach white audiences directly, and enjoy some of the financial rewards, but still were mainly controlled by white producers and record labels. Today, innovative black musicians (often from the rap / hi hop world) are not just performers but have staked out powerful positions in the industry itself.
To answer Drum's question, I think the problem may be the name. "Oxford comma" sounds stuffy and pretentious and 19th century. Maybe we can call it the Kardashian comma or something.
So if Yale and Amherst are institutionally racist despite giving African-Americans (on average) a 100+ point break on SAT requirements for entry, why aren't Asian Americans exploding given they start in a 100+ point hole? And can anyone imagine a college president turning around from her trip to London (as did Biddy Martin of Amherst) to talk to a group of aggrieved Asian students? I would contend that Asian Americans get stereotyped and discriminated against in far more meaningful ways on major college campuses than do Blacks and Hispanics.
Bonus: watch Asian student get
Using "diversity" to justify totalitarianism, and "tolerance" to justify speech restrictions.
First they came for the college presidents, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a college president
I have seen Conservatives arguing that we should just sit back and laugh at what is going on at college campuses, as Progressive college faculty reap what they have sown. .
I am on the road and really don't have much time to write, but I feel compelled to give a few thoughts on the whole Amherst College situation that has blown up in social media over the last 24 hours.
Yesterday (Thursday) my son called me to tell me about a sit-in he found himself a part of in the library (I must admit to being vaguely happy he was actually in the library). He is not like me, and tends to observe these kinds of thing with an amazing dispassion. He is fascinated by people with extreme views and loves to observe them. For example, he always enjoys stopping and listening to the religious zealots preaching outside of Comicon when we visit. It is almost an anthropological approach.
So I will say up front that most of the views here are mine, not his, since he reported most of the events as merely something interesting that happened to him. I also say this because I don't want anyone on campus getting the idea they need to start some sort of totalitarian campaign against him, a fear that you will see is well-justified below.
His main observation of the original sit-in was that people seemed to have enormously negative experiences as persons of color on campus and he found that surprising. He reported that people talked about their life at Amherst as, say, a black female, being a living hell, one that my son found hard to jibe with the general intolerance in the classroom for even an ambiguously racist comment.
I certainly understand that people of color still face a headwind of at least minor racist B*llshit. I am reminded of one Amherst student telling me about having guests at a southern country club function trying to order drinks from him because he was black.
But when I grew up in the 60's in Texas racism meant that kids I knew actually went out gay-bashing in Montrose (the traditionally gay district in Houston) and the new black kid in an all-white school got beaten up every day (I will confess I had mixed fealings about both of these, since I was otherwise the bullying target of choice in the class and sometimes appreciated the split focus). Against this backdrop, it is hard for me to consider a school that gives black applicants a substantial break on SAT scores for entrance and whose President turned around from a trip to London to address concerns of ethnic minorities to be institutionally racist.
Besides, it seems like kind of an insult to your parents and grandparents to call an Anglo wearing a sombrero to a party "violence" when those previous generations faced the real thing. It's a bit like telling your granddad who lived through the Bataan death march that the University starved you by letting you out of class 30 minutes late for lunch.
One thing my son reported was that there were a lot of threats made against white students who somehow were not present in the library at the sit-in, as if non-presence at an unannounced event was somehow in and of itself racist. The general tone of the discussion was very authoritarian -- everyone should be forced to be here, everyone should be forced to take diversity courses, etc.
The other thing that came out of the meeting was substantial vitriol aimed at a sign that appeared in a dorm window. The media has not really been very specific about the sign, but it read "Free Speech 1776-2015". All things being considered, this was a pretty tame commentary, especially since the protesters themselves kept talking about the concepts of free speech being dated. But none-the-less, the student who posted it was being treated like the second coming of Adolf Hitler.
So today, some of the students confronted the school President Biddy Martin (who had turned around from a trip to London to meet them) and basically served her with an ultimatum, demanding that on the spot she sign a . The demands are alternately non-nonsensical and and totalitarian. A few highlights:
- The document essentially demands that Ms. Martin and the Board of Trustees apologize for all manner of past sins that have nothing to do with their own actions, or those of the College, or even those of the alumni of the College.
"President Martin must issue a statement of apology to students, alumni and former students, faculty, administration and staff who have been victims of several injustices including but not limited to our institutional legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism, anti-Latinx racism, anti-Native American racism, anti-Native/ indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Middle Eastern racism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, mental health stigma, and classism."
This is a sort of secular original sin, and is common among these SJW movement. The error of racism is that it puts on people an original sin based on the circumstances of their birth which they cannot erase through any sort of good behavior. This movement shares the same error, putting on whites and straights and rich people and males and the Amherst community and a variety of other groups the same sort of original sin.
I will add one irony, that Ms. Martin is probably a lot closer in her beliefs to the protesters than I am. I do not know her politics, but it is impossible to imagine she would be made President of Amherst College without being vetted in advance as reliably Liberal/Progressive. This is not Left vs. Right, but Robespierre turning on his fellow revolutionaries.
- I find this bit scary: "Amherst College Police Department must issue a statement of protection and defense from any form of violence, threats, or retaliation of any kind resulting from this movement." I will bet you a million dollars that a) you are thinking this means physical violence or disciplinary action but b) the authors mean "retaliation" to include verbal criticism of any sort, such that this very article would be considered "retaliation".
- "President Martin must issue a statement of apology to faculty, staff and administrators of color as well as their allies, neither of whom were provided a safe space for them to thrive while at Amherst College." I am willing to believe Amherst is not perfect and that there are *ssholes that make life difficult at times for people of color there, but it would be hard to find another place on the entire planet that is a safer and more welcoming environment for ethnic minorities that Amherst College. What are they going to do in the real world?
- This paragraph has gotten a lot of attention, as it should:
5. President Martin must issue a statement to the Amherst College community at large that states we do not tolerate the actions of student(s) who posted the âAll Lives Matterâ posters, and the âFree Speechâ posters that stated that âin memoriam of the true victim of the Missouri Protests: Free Speech.â Also let the student body know that it was racially insensitive to the students of color on our college campus and beyond who are victim to racial harassment and death threats; alert them that Student Affairs may require them to go through the Disciplinary Process if a formal complaint is filed, and that they will be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.
The author of the fee speech poster needs to be punished because, why? Because he or she was obviously dead-on correct in their analysis of the movement's goals? Essentially they are saying, "yes you are right, we want to destroy free speech but you are not allowed to tell people that is what we are doing."
- I have no problem with ditching "Lord Jeffs" as a mascot. First, it is a terrible mascot name. Second, while ironically Amherst would have been considered a pretty enlightened and tolerant master by the colonists of the time, he did suggest the whole TB blankets to the Native Americans thing and since that is the only story anyone knows any more about him, its really a bad association. I suggest "Redskins" instead (OK, just kidding. I am not a Redskin name supporter.) The "moose" (Meese?) suggestion is awful. I would support a Dartmouth style solution of calling them the "Purple" before I could climb on board with "moose". Or maybe in the spirit of the times they can be the "mauve".As an aside, Amherst College has a nice little art museum (which owes most of its existance to Standard Oil money, which I am sure the faculty and students try to ignore). There is a really interesting portrait of Lindberg there I have never seen before. Anyway, all the pictures have a short descriptor about the work as one would expect. EXCEPT the one for the painting of Lord Amherst himself, which has a descriptor about 20 inches long because about 18 inches have been tacked on up front making sure everyone understands what a horrible idea the TB blankets were. It reminds me of the Enola Gay in the Smithsonian, which I am told is still without any kind of label or plaque because no one could agree on how much vitriol needed to be spilled in the description about how bad dropping atomic bombs on civilians is. Which gives me the idea that every portrait in a public space of FDR needs to begin by talking about the unconscionable internship of Japanese and every portrait of Wilson needs to start with what an awful racist he was. Time to rename the Wilson school at Princeton!
NFL coaches hate Thursday night games, because their players have essentially only half the preparation and recovery time as they do on a normal Sunday game schedule.
So here is my (partial) solution. Where possible, teams playing Thursday night should have their bye week the previous weekend. For teams with the bye week the previous week, a Thursday night game is no issue -- in fact, it might even be a benefit, breaking up a single long-preparation period between games into two longer-than-average periods.
This is probably only a partial solution. Only 8 weeks have bye weeks, and since for week 1 the Thursday game is no issue, this only solves the Thursday problem on 9 of the 17 regular season weeks. I suppose we could extend by weeks to more weeks of the season, but even as they exist today a partial solution is better than none at all, right?
At some point in the election, based on some criteria I do not understand, a Presidential candidate crosses some threshold of seriousness and they are given Secret Service protection.
I have a similar idea. At some point in the election, candidates should have the ability to have a certain number of their proposals (spending, regulatory, tax plans) scored by the CBO, just as legislation is scored. Use of such services would not be mandatory, but I would assume that there would be a certain pressure to get one's own plan scored if one's opponent is waving around a scored plan.
CBO scoring has all sorts of problems, not least of which is the common trick of spending like crazy for 9 years and then inserting some huge imaginary savings in year 10 that makes the whole thing score as budget neutral. But folks will be able to see that (if they want to) and I think the advantage of being able to see actual costs and revenues of candidate plans in the same way they would be viewed as legislation (which presumably is the goal of candidate proposals, to turn them into real legislation) would outweigh these shortcomings.
After criticizing Obamacare at a party, another person said something like "well you can't criticize it without suggesting an alternative." This of course is total bullsh*t. The passage of a bad law to imperfectly achieve objectives with which I disagree does not obligate me to craft alternative legislation to achieve those objectives.
But I decided to take a swing at it anyway. Taking a step back, I said that I thought there were two overriding problems in health care that the government might address.
The first is a problem largely of the government's own creation, that incentives (non-tax-ability of health care benefits) and programs (e.g. Medicare) have been created for first dollar third-party payment of medical expenses. This growth of third-party payment has eliminated the incentives for consumers to shop and make tradeoffs for health care purchases, the very activities that impose price and quality discipline on most other markets.
The second problem that likely dominates everyone's fears is getting a bankrupting medical expense whose costs are multiples of one's income, and having that care be either uninsured or leading to cancellation of one's insurance or future years.
So my suggestion I made up on the spot (and I am a little fuzzy on the details as my friend had actually cracked open a bottle of Van Winkle bourbon for a few of us, my first taste of that magic elixir) was to scrap whatever we are doing now and have the government pay all medical expenses over 10% of one's income. Anything under that was the individual's responsibility, though some sort of tax-advantaged health savings account would be a logical adjunct program.
I obviously make policy better when I am drinking absurdly rare and expensive bourbons, (who knows a hell of a lot more than I about health care economics) has apparently been advocating something similar for quite a while
How would a similar program work for health care? The government would pick up 100 percent of the tab for health care over a certain percentage of adjusted gross income—the number would have to be negotiated through the political process, but I have suggested between 15 and 20 percent. There could be special treatment for people living at or near the poverty line, and for people who have medical bills that exceed the set percentage of their income for five years in a row, so that the poor and people with chronic illness are not disadvantaged by the system.
In exchange, we would get rid of the tax deduction for employer-sponsored health insurance, and all the other government health insurance programs, with the exception of the military’s system, which for obvious reasons does need to be run by the government. People would be free to insure the gap if they wanted, and such insurance would be relatively cheap, because the insurers would see their losses strictly limited. Or people could choose to save money in a tax-deductible health savings account to cover the eventual likelihood of a serious medical problem.
The missing piece here, as was in my plan, is I have no idea how much this would cost.
For years college presidents cut a Faustian bargain with their football programs. The University would shield athletes from having to take any actual classes and shower the program with money meant for academics in return for the football program raising the visibility and prestige of the university and at least nominally pretending that academics come first. For years Presidents consoled themselves that they still held the whip hand in the relationship, even when it was increasingly clear they did not (e.g. at Penn State). This week, it was proved for all the world who is in charge. University Presidents can keep their jobs only so long as the football players are kept happy.
. This is great.