Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Emerging, Populist, Cruz Narrative

One of the more remarkable, and under-reported, political developments this campaign season is that Ted Cruz is actively opposing ethanol subsidies. Philosophically, of course, Republican should oppose subsidizing any industry. Subsidies mean your playing favorites in the marketplace, something no Republican, at least no conservative, should ever do.

And yet, almost all do, because they like to buy votes. To be fair, the GOP isn't a party entirely based on vote-buying, like the Democrats, but that doesn't mean they are guilt free. In particular, Republicans with presidential aspirations have always shown enthusiastic support for ethanol, a circumstance rising from the fact that ethanol comes from corn, and Iowa grows lots of corn.

No one can ever win Iowa without sucking up to the farmers, the conventional wisdom goes. So, every four years, a parade of GOP hopefuls sell their free market souls on the cheap to a single industry in a small Mid-Western state. If they're willing to do that, what other conservative principles are they willing to sell out once they get in office? Lots, if recent GOP history is a guide.

No wonder the base is as angry as a hornet's nest at its own party. The Karl Roves and Jeb Bushes are still getting their arms around this.

Enter Ted Cruz. He is visiting every county in Iowa, and he is actively opposing the very issue Iowans are said to hold most dear. And he's winning. A van full of protesters, paid for by the ethanol lobby, harasses Cruz at every campaign stop, but no matter. Previous presidential hopefuls were unwilling to trust that Iowa Republicans value a principled position more than another four years of the government teat. It appears they are. How wonderful is that?

Should Cruz win Iowa, he will have a powerful case that he won't sacrifice principle for political expediency. He will further say that he opposes oil & gas subsidies, something that hurts him in his home state, sugar subsidies, something Marco Rubio supports because he takes money from the sugar barons, and all the stupid, market-distorting green subsidies favored by Obama. In fact, no subsidies of any kind. The government shouldn't play favorites.

All this ties into a bigger narrative: anti-cronyism. When the government plays favorites in the marketplace, the winners of federal largess turn out to be - hold on to your hats - big campaign contributors. Ending subsidies will do away with all that. Want to succeed? Produce something that people want.

Let's take it a step further. Cruz wants to eliminate our current tax code. As I've written about before, the tax code is our nation's single biggest source of corruption. In short, companies donate money to politicians and get favorable tax treatment in return, always buried deeply somewhere in the code's 75,000 pages. (This is called crony capitalism, but I hate that term, because playing favorites has nothing to do with capitalism, which is all about a level playing field. It should be called crony federalism.)

Do you see where this goes? Cruz can then unite his tax policy and his anti-subsidies policy under one theme, one that favors the little guy over fat cats and special interests. It's very populist, and it's one that should appeal to the Occupy types as much as the supply-siders. Yes, I know, it's a theme that almost sounds trite because just about every politician tries to sound this way.

But here's the thing: none of those politicians went to Iowa and opposed ethanol subsidies. You have to walk the walk.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Why I Love the Cruz Tax Plan

Note: The following is an email I wrote to a liberal college classmate who asked my why I liked the Cruz tax plan. He did some research himself, and cited this New York Times article, which I refer to in my response.

Dear Xxxx,

The first thing you should know is that we're on the same side, in the sense that we want the same basic things. No one wants to see people suffer, although my guess is you would make the social safety net a bit bigger than I would. (Mine is smaller not out of meanness, but because I worry about how moral hazards can keep people poor.) Where we differ is that I don't see the government as an effective solution to just about anything. It's inefficient, and has its own agenda. It's poorly incentivized, and rarely accountable. If anything, it tends to only worsen problems it tries to solve. There are other, better, ways, none of which involve coercion, as government solutions must. You fear any Republican will dismantle the New Deal and Great Society, but you should want them dismantled because they have been failures at the very things they set out to do. And yet, we still have the TVA, the FCA, etc. (The FDIC can stay, that one's good.) Think of the good those trillions of dollars could have done had they been better allocated.

On to taxes. I love Cruz's plan for many reasons. It massively shifts incentives towards work, savings and investment. These things increase economic growth and nothing is better at solving societal problems, particularly poverty, than economic growth. It eliminates the estate tax. I'm sure you like that one, but it collects relatively little money, breaks up family businesses, and causes the wealthy to jump through ridiculous legal hoops to minimize its impact - a huge waste of time and resources, where society is concerned.

I used to live in Hong Kong, where they have a 15% flat tax. It is wondrous. I literally spent 5 minutes on my taxes. Places like Singapore and Russia (the irony!) are also having great success with flat taxes. (It works because it's simple. And because of the lower nominal rates, compliance goes through the roof.) Last year, I had almost no taxable income (such is the startup life!), and yet my tax return was 113 pages. What a phenomenal waste of time and money! A flat tax will save millions of hours and billions of dollars in preparation work. And imagine the psychic benefit to our nation of not having an IRS. Cruz is proposing a 10% rate, but I suspect that is a starting point for negotiation. Most countries that have a flat tax are in the 12-15% range.

The 10% tax on repatriating foreign cash for corporations will bring trillions of dollars back home, a win for everyone as that money gets reinvested in America. It's doing no one any good right now, and the only reason it doesn't come home is that we have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. Capital flows to where it is well treated, and it always will.

One of my favorite things, and one where you might agree, is that eliminating traditional corporate income taxes will eliminate our country's biggest source of corruption, which is the tax code itself. This is something Cruz always points out. There's a reason the tax code is 75,000 pages long - companies hire expensive lobbyists who get legislators to carve out special exemptions in the code, all in exchange for campaign contributions. And this is all legal! Most call it crony capitalism, but I don't like that term because there's nothing capitalistic about it. Rigging the game is precisely the opposite of free enterprise. It strikes me that this is where economic conservatives, like me, and Occupy types might have common ground. The only way to get rid of this plague on our society is to scrap our current code. It can't possibly be repaired.

Cruz's plan is radical, indeed, as the Times points out, if one's starting point is our current code. It's not radical at all to the many countries that do something similar. The Times author seems to be singularly focused on the corporate VAT part of the plan. I will admit, that I have always been leery of the VAT, but only because it represented a second tax regime. The last thing we need is a VAT and an IRS. To me, that doubles the potential for political chicanery. But, Cruz's plan eliminates the IRS entirely, so the VAT becomes palatable. I like the VAT, because like any cost you impose on a business, it tends to be spread around to a lot of parties - shareholders, management, employees, and consumers. This is true because it's unlikely that businesses will be able to pass through 100% of the costs. They rarely can, as the market won't bear it. But yes, it tends to be a consumption tax.

But, in trying to think why a liberal might like the VAT, I would say it's because it taxes the very activities by the 1% that they might find objectionable - the yachts, the fast cars, and the like. The more you spend, the more you're taxed. On the other hand, if you don't spend, the money is invested into the economy where it creates growth and jobs. It's numbers on a brokerage statement to you, but a job to someone else. Culturally, the VAT will incentive the rich not to act like assholes. I like that part too.

Where I will disagree vehemently with most liberals is this: the tax code is not there to carry out anyone's views of social justice. It is there to raise money for the operation of the government. Social engineering is a dangerous and ultimately corrupt game. But, really, if you want to rich to pay more, you should cheer lower rates. This is the part the drives me nuts about liberal logic. Did you know that after Reagan cut rates (from 70 to 28!), and after Bush II did the same, the rich paid both a higher percentage of tax receipts as well as more absolute dollars that everyone else? This happened because growth accelerated, they worked harder, and they shifted assets away from tax shelters. There was also likely far less cheating, although that's harder to document. Hurrah, right? Isn't having the rich pay more what the left wants?

Nope. The left only seems to focus on what rate people pay, not the amount of dollars they pay. This is because they are focused on their perception of social justice, not the actual results.

Sorry for how long winded this was, but as you can tell, I'm fairly passionate on the subject. Not because I want to save money on my taxes next year, but because I feel strongly there is a moral imperative to do something like what Cruz is suggesting.

And, the person who authored Cruz's plan is none other than (another college classmate). He and I have been talking about this stuff for years. You know both of us, so I assume/hope you know that we are not animated greed on this subject. Nor are other conservatives I know, for the record.



Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Rubio vs. Cruz (Oh Yeah, and Trump)

Barring something shocking, the race for the GOP nomination, having started with every known (and unknown) Republican, is really down to three people: Trump, Rubio, and Cruz. This is an interesting outcome, because none of these guys is AAA-Certified by the establishment. (Rubio may be closer than any, but I'm sorry, no.) The establishment, normally a king-maker in GOP primaries, has already lost, which is quite delicious. Heads are exploding.

Trump continues to lead in the polls, although real-money prediction markets have Rubio and Cruz ahead. Personally, I have no idea at all whether Trump can prevail. Anyone who tells you otherwise should be banned from punditry.

How to sum up Trump? His demeanor is highly unpresidential, which frankly appeals to a lot of people right now. We've had some pretty bad presidents with very presidential demeanors, but personally, I don't think that presidents should make faces and use the word schlong. Plus, the man is ideologically scattershot, and I'm just not willing to gamble on his policy preferences. Perhaps most importantly, I have more than one source that say he cheats at golf. Golf is the only sport where you call infractions on yourself, so cheating is held in the worst possible regard. Presidents should not be cheaters.

I will concede that I wish there was some parallel universe where Trump was president and I could go live there for a few months, just to see. But I'd have to be able to come back. Pretty sure I'd want to. 

Trump, to me, represents a primal scream from the base. It feels good, let it out. Move on.

Which brings us to the two candidates most people I know are wrestling with, Rubio and Cruz. What an interesting coincidence that both are Cuban-American, not that this fact will count for much with the left. It counts about as much as it counts that Clarence Thomas is black. It does, at least, negate the diversity argument, and undercuts the history-making aspect of Hillary Clinton's candidacy.

Both men are quite conservative. You'd have to go back to Reagan to find a GOP candidate as conservative as either. There are differences, though, and Cruz is the more perfect fit for me, ideologically. His tax plan is better (awesome, to be precise), he vows to eliminate five entire federal departments (be still my heart), and his foreign policy views are a welcome departure from recent GOP history. Further, one senses he's less prone to Beltway Disease, that strange affliction to causes politicians to seek encomium from the New York Times (he's grown in the office...).

My hesitation over Cruz, until recently, was born of the fact that he seemed less electable than Rubio. In my liberal part of the country, even some of my moderate GOP friends get a viscerally negative reaction when Cruz comes up in conversation. I always challenge them as to why, and they never really have a specific reason, not anything to do with policy, anyway. They just don't like him.

I attribute this to two things. First, the media has done an excellent job of casting Cruz as some kind of right-wing lunatic. Mind you, all Republicans have to be either stupid or crazy, and since Cruz can't plausibly be called stupid, they're running with crazy. "He's the most hated man in Washington," a friend of mine, who's editor of a major political journal, told me.

The other reason is a bit more base, which is that Cruz has a nasal speaking voice and looks a bit hang dog, particularly on television. People think they're above judging candidates this way, but I think it's just human nature. (In person, he's much better, but that matters not.)

But back to the media. To borrow from Obama, let's be clear: the media is going to completely eviscerate the GOP candidate no matter who it is. Exhibit A is John McCain, the media's "favorite" Republican. Because McCain frequently bucked his own party - he's a maverick - the scribes all had nothing but nice things to say, right up until the moment he was the nominee. Then they turned on him like piranha on a drowning cow. Remember how they floated bogus stories about alleged affairs? It was ugly.

Few things drive me crazier than when Republicans say we can't nominate so-and-so because the "media will crush him." They're going to crush any of them, so we might as well nominate whom we want. They crushed Reagan (dumb actor, dangerous cowboy), they crushed H.W. Bush (out-of-touch, elitist, doesn't know what a checkout scanner is), and they crushed W (dumb, probably a drunk). The three of them won five elections anyway. Don't get me wrong, the media has a huge amount of influence, probably five points worth, but that shouldn't have any bearing on who we choose.

As far as Cruz being unpopular inside the Beltway, well, as I told my editor friend, in some precincts that's what you put at the top of your resume. Cruz himself points out that the DC establishment, including the GOP, hated Reagan "with the heat of a thousand suns." He dared primary a sitting president (Ford) in '76, and then he beat establishment darling Bush in '80. A then he beat a sitting Democrat, Carter. And he was an actor. The hatred was evenly spread on both sides of the aisle. 

And yet, he got things done. Lots of things. He did it by selling his ideas directly to the public. I remember well his prime time address pitching his radical idea to cut marginal tax rates from 70 to 28. You think Tip O'Neill was on board with that? He hated the idea with every fiber of his being, but eventually had to go along because Reagan built up so much public support. In a nutshell, this is Cruz's plan.

But back to electability. I have always subscribed to the Buckley Rule, which is to vote for the most conservative candidate who can be elected. My completely unscientific assumption had been that Cruz's unpopularity with my RINO friends would cost him two points in the general versus Rubio, and that this would lead to defeat. The electoral map is too blue to concede two points. Hello Hillary.

I have changed my mind, and I actually think Cruz has a better chance than Rubio. I base this on three factors...

First, Cruz has staked out some interesting ground on foreign policy. He has come out very much against the Bush/neo-con idea of intervention-for-the-sake-of-democracy-building. Our recent history in the Middle East has taught us - including me - that this is a fool's errand. Cruz only wants to use the U.S. military when there's a vital U.S. interest at stake. After the exhaustion of Iran and Iraq, this is a view likely to be welcomed by the voting public. Rubio, on the other hand, has cast himself quite thoroughly as an enthusiastic interventionist in the mold of Bush/Cheney.

Interestingly, Cruz has the chance to position himself to the left of Hillary in this regard, unless Hillary wants to completely repudiate her entire political career, which she probably will.

Second, the voting public right now is pissed about immigration. It is an animating issue. Rubio, having joined the Gang of Eight, will have an impossible time differentiating himself from Hillary on this one. It takes the issue off the table, not unlike Romneycare taking away the healthcare issue from Romney in '12.

Third, there's the evangelical vote. The key to any GOP win has never been about winning independents - Romney crushed with independents and still lost to Obama - but rather turning out conservatives, who consistently make up 40% of the country. To get conservatives, you have to go to where the numbers are, and that's with evangelicals. Cruz himself points out there are 90 million evangelicals, a stunning number that I confirmed for myself, and they vote overwhelmingly Republican; that is, when they vote. They didn't show up for Romney, who had an uneasy relationship with them from the start. The plain fact is that no GOP candidate will win without enthusiastic evangelical support. (Sorry, northeastern supply-siders, but there just aren't enough of us to elect a president.)

Cruz has assiduously courted evangelicals, and it is paying off, particularly in Iowa, where he is poised for a win. Rubio is nowhere in Iowa. I will note that the necessity of winning this group causes Cruz to say some culturally conservative things that will disquiet my northeastern friends, but we're not going to win New York anyway. Bottom line, we won't win at all without evangelicals, so you're going to have to trust that what really animates Cruz are things like eliminating the IRS.

One more thought: Cruz has come out against ethanol subsidies (and all subsidies, for that matter). This is a courageous act, considering the Iowa caucus, and demonstrates he is a man of principle.

Cruz for president. That's where I come out.

Monday, December 28, 2015

No One Cares About the Next Election (Yet)

As Naked Dollar readers know, I am an avid student of bumper stickers. (Click here to read my unflattering interpretation of some of my favorites.) Last week, I had the mind numbing task of driving a car solo from New York to the Florida Keys, about 1400 miles. I relied heavily on podcasts to pass the time (some recommended ones: Hardcore History, Uncommon Knowledge, and Freakonomics).

But podcasts still leave one staring out the front window for hours upon hours. So, before I left, I decided to gauge the political season by counting bumper stickers.

It turned out to be a very poor way to pass the time. Here are the grand totals:

Obama/Biden       3  (all with DC plates, I should add)
Bernie Sanders     1

1400 miles, 4 bumper stickers. One every 350 miles. And only one related to the 2016 election.

Conclusion: while we political nerds obsess over every poll and Trump utterance, no one else is really paying any attention, yet.

P.S. As much as it is alarming that even a single person, anywhere, believes that electing Bernie Sanders is a good idea, I love "Feel the Bern."

UPDATE: Just drove the 1400 miles back. Saw the following:

Cruz         1
Trump      1
Sanders    1

There is an alarming bumper sticker shortage!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The New Red Guard

In 1966, at the beginning of Mao's murderous Cultural Revolution, a small group of students at Tsinghua University, upset with the "bourgeois tendencies" of their school's teachers and administrators, plastered some protest posters up around campus. Displeased school administrators denounced the group as counter-revolutionaries. Getting wind of things, Mao himself, concerned his nascent revolution wasn't moving with appropriate avidity, decided to embrace the group, ordering that their manifesto be broadcast on national radio.

Thus empowered, the group, now calling itself the Red Guard, spread their tentacles quickly, establishing themselves in every school in China within a few months. Their first major directive from the Communist Party was to attack the "Four Olds," namely old customs, culture, habits, and ideas.

Attack they did. Books contaminated with unacceptable thoughts or ideas were burned. Museums were destroyed, and the names of many things were changed away from the people they meant to honor to things more ideologically appropriate. No dissent was brooked, and only revolutionary ideas could be openly discussed.

Hmm, does any of this sound familiar?

While today's campus left isn't as violent, they are every bit the philosophical siblings of the Red Guard. There's the open contempt for free speech and the shouting down of those who offer a differing opinion. Tradition is vilified, complete with demands to rename things that honored founders our forefathers (oh, sorry, "forebearers") when it is decided that those forebearers didn't conduct themselves by standards acceptable to today's left. 

And then there's just the smarmy, self-righteousness and frightening certitude of the mob. When possessed of so much conviction as to the righteousness of one's actions, it's suddenly easy to justify cutting off any corner one pleases. Like, say, the Constitution.

One senses the violence isn't far off. Just look at the hatred in the eyes of this Missouri professor as she called out for some "muscle over here" in order to chase off a student reporter...

This woman, Professor Melissa Click, still has a job at the University of Missouri.

The fervor of the Red Guard didn't begin and end with soft philosophical targets, of course; they quickly went after people. Red Guard mobs would parade offenders - often educators - through the streets, calling them "capitalist roaders" and the like, donning them with dunce caps or hanging confessional signs around their necks. How history rhymes today, with two college presidents forced to resign for imaginary offenses, and professors, liberal but not ideologically pure, are surrounded by mobs of finger-snapping zealots:

The professor in this video has taken a leave of absence from Yale, likely never to return. His wife, also a professor, has permanently resigned. The screaming student is enjoying the rest of her senior year.

Red Guard targets were sent off to re-education camps. Today's left demands the same, with re-education coming in the guise of "diversity" training, "sexual harassment" training, or some other form of ideological haranguing disguised as a social good. To wit, activists at Amherst demand that the author of a poster lamenting the death of free speech be required to go through "extensive training on racial and cultural competency." Yikes!

To be fair, re-education here does not yet involve hard labor or imprisonment, but the principle is much the same: only one viewpoint is acceptable, and there will be consequences for you if you don't accept this fact. 

Yale's president Salovey, no doubt fearful for his job before the ululations of the student mob, confessed his sins almost immediately, even if he was unsure what they were. For good measure, he threw tens of millions into various programs, cultural centers, and other ideological effluvia. Having established himself as an easy mark, one wonders how soon the students will return to that well.

This cancer will spread because the radicals are getting what they want, almost without lifting a finger (although occasionally snapping them). Such is the moral cowardice of those in charge of our greatest universities. Where is the leader with the backbone to stand and say, enough!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

How About Clarence Thomas College?

It seems a given, at this point, that Calhoun College, one of Yale's residential colleges, will be renamed. Calhoun was a Southerner and unapologetic slave owner. So, what to name Calhoun, not to mention Yale's two new colleges (set to open a little over a year from now)?

The tradition at Yale has been to name colleges after prominent, deceased, alumni, and ones that have contributed somehow to the human race. Morse College, for instance, is named after Samuel Morse, of the eponymous Morse Code.

Yale will feel immense pressure to rename Calhoun for a minority figure, but who? Of Yale's deceased minority alumni, no one leaps to mind. Someone suggested Levi Jackson, which I thought was a nice idea, but Jackson isn't well known outside Yale circles, and I doubt any of today's students have any idea who he is.

It seems likely Yale might jettison the "being dead" requirement. If that turns out to be the case, how about Clarence Thomas? He is easily Yale's most prominent black alum, even if he wasn't an undergrad.

I am joking of course. While I would be proud if this came about, the left would sooner burn Calhoun to the ground than let it be named for a black conservative, only going to show that this isn't about race, it's about power and politics.

One other thought: Elihu Yale was apparently a slave trader, among other things. How soon before the activists set there sights on renaming the entire university?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Deconstructing and Responding to the Yale Left

Here, we will respond to particular (anonymous) comments in response to the last post, which concerned the ongoing drama at Yale.

He begins:

"As a fellow Yale '82 graduate, I am appalled by this diatribe."

Okay, no surprise here. Read through the rest of my blog. If I'm not constantly appalling you, I'm doing something wrong. But, interestingly, on this issue, many liberals are as shocked and disappointed as I with events on campus, as well as Salovey's response. I guess you're not one of them.

"You clearly have completely missed the point in your pie-eyed nostalgic remembrance of Milton, Yale, and beyond." 

Here, our friend is trying to establish my bona fides as a privileged white male, a tactic designed to limit my participation in the debate. I should "check my privilege," as they now say on campus. I might add that the schools I went to, Milton and Yale, are perhaps two of the most liberal in the nation, so I'm pretty sure I'm better versed in the progressive canon than vice verse. 

"Seriously. Can you not take one second to TRY and walk in the other shoes or at least pretend to imagine what it is like? Or better, imagine what it was likely like in 1982, whether YOU experienced it or not? Seriously? YOUR experience has nothing to do with this."

Our friend means I should try to understand what is was - or is - like to be a minority student. No, I can't imagine what it's like. It's not the life I'm living. I can try to imagine, but I will no doubt come up short. This is why I, and others, rely on others to tell us what it's like. We listen, and we listen very carefully. And this is where many of us have a problem: we're not hearing anything of substance.

If I did hear of something, an actual proven incident, I would be just as appalled as my liberal detractor is with me. I would expect that the university would deal with the issue harshly, and no doubt they would. Yet all I hear are vague charges, like "marginalization," without anyone actually giving substance to the claim. This is why it's very hard to believe that this is anything other than a political power grab.

A fellow Yalie, who blogs under the name Manhattan Contrarian, summed this up well: 

"I'm trying to figure out what the term "marginalization" could mean in the context of something the school is somehow doing to the student, but I keep coming up short. In my own day, here was my entire relationship with the academic end of the school: I chose my classes; I went to the classes; I did the homework; I wrote the assigned papers; I took the tests; I got my grades. Now, suppose somebody had wanted to "marginalize" me. What could they have done to me in the context of this relationship? I can't even imagine what it might have been. Not let me go to class?  Not let me do the homework? Not let me take the test?  Never happened, of course.  But more important,  I equally don't believe that anything like this has happened to any of these protesters who claim they have been "marginalized." Meanwhile, on the non-academic side, I lived in the dormitory and I ate in the dining hall. Nobody ever tried to stop me. I also don't believe that anyone has ever stopped one of these protesters from doing the same.

"So they must be talking about something else. But what? Maybe that they were expecting to develop some kind of deep personal relationships with the professors and it hasn't happened? For myself, I never had the slightest interest in getting to know the professors personally, and I never did it. Occasionally there were lunches where professors would come to the dining hall and eat with a table of students, and talk about their area of scholarship.  Those were open to all, and I went to a few of them. Again, I can't believe for a minute that some students are excluded from those things today, particularly in a systematic way based on race. If someone has an instance, I'd like to hear about it."

You see, we want to understand. Perhaps it's simpler for our anonymous poster to think that all conservatives are heartless bigots, but we simply aren't. If there's real racism going on, we are just as interested in rooting it out as anyone else. For one, it deeply conflicts with our belief in personal liberty. But someone, anyone, needs to articulate the problem before we can understand it. Stop berating us for not understanding something you refuse to explain.

Here's what we do understand. Minority applicants are given an enormous advantage in Yale admissions. Then, most are given substantial aid to attend. While there, the university spends millions on resources to help them through (before, even, Salovey's adding millions more). I'm not arguing for or against any of these policies, at least not at the moment, I'm just stating them as a fact.

I also see one of the most liberal universities anywhere, one that has always taken the concerns of minority students seriously (for the last few decades, anyway). So, if you're going to throw around accusations of "institutionalized racism," I think it's fair for any of us to ask for the details.

"By the way, if you are going to spout intellectualism, read it ALL - - not just the stuff you want to read. Think about it all. Consider it all."

I'm not sure what intellectualism I was spouting, but thanks for the compliment. As for the holes in my reading list, perhaps our friend could recommend some things? Bear in mind, I don't have time to read it ALL, and please don't say Proust.

"And by the way - - this has nothing to do with Free Speech. You get that, right? There is no irony. William F Buckley conference or none.
(or perhaps THERE is the irony...)"

This is where things get risible. This has everything to do with free speech. On campuses, the left has been shutting down conservative voices for years (without a single case the other way around, to my knowledge), but this latest strain of activism has gotten far bolder. I'm sure most readers saw the Mizzou professor calling for "muscle" to get rid of a reporter. At Yale, protesters tried to prevent Ayaan Hirsi Ali from speaking last year. More recently, Gerald Walpin law students at Yale nearly blocked Gerald Walpin's planned speech on the 14th Amendment. I could go on, there are a thousand examples. The campus left does not want differing opinions to be heard. 

No irony? Protesters try to shut down a conference on free speech, and it's not ironic? I must be misinformed as to the definition of irony. And for what it's worth, "You get that, right?" is not a rhetorical device that wins a lot of debates.

"And regarding the woman in the Silliman courtyard - - she will regret her loss of control for the rest of her life. That is done. But instead of focusing on and vilifying a barely young adult's loss of control in a moment, at least ask WHY such a promising and otherwise lovely (apparently) young woman WOULD lose control..."

I kind of doubt she's regretting it, frankly. I suspect she's a hero to many, and there are apparently no actual consequences for her actions. I very much doubt she's learning any lesson at all. As for trying to understand her, well that's exactly what we've been trying to do, but frankly, no one's cluing us in. Halloween costumes? Really, is that it? Because if that's it, I think she's been seriously brainwashed by the campus outrage industry.

Give us something real, and we will have all the sympathy in the world, but meltdowns over the mere prospect of someone dressing as the Frito Bandito ain't gonna cut it.

So, my empathetic friend, if you know something the rest of us don't, we're all ears. Tell us.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Full Philosophical Meltdown at Yale

President Salovey's response to recent events at Yale is nothing short of disastrous. In a wide-ranging letter sent to the Yale community, he gives a full-throated endorsement to nearly everything the activists could want, and then some. Yale is jumping gleefully into the festering swamp of identity politics where racial and gender identity trumps all. So much for the day when we might be judged for the contents of our characters and not the color of our skin.

Naturally, Salovey says that Yale is still committed to free speech. And yet, he simultaneously says there will be no consequences for anyone's actions in recent events. That includes:

  • Jerelyn Luther, the senior who cursed at Master Christakis, telling him he was "disgusting" and to "shut the f*ck up."
  • Edward Columbia, the activist who disrupted the free speech conference.
  • Other activists outside that same conference, who acknowledge that attendees were spit on.
  • Neema Githere, the sophomore who it now appears fabricated, or at least exaggerated, the racial incident at the SAE fraternity that partially sparked all this.
So Salovey's definition of free speech now includes lies, harassment, and assault as long as progressives or minorities are doing it. Can you imagine, for even one moment, if conservative students had done any of these things? I shudder.

Salovey states that "social identity should be a focus of particularly intense study at a great university." In other words, let's study all things that separate us, not what brings us together. He promises more money for just about every diversity initiative you can imagine, plus five years of conferences on "race, gender, inequality, and inclusion." I wonder if campus conservatives will be included.

Yale has also set aside $50 million to find more minorities to populate their faculty. Seriously, are professors that hard to find? Is Yale that tough a draw that they have to spend $50 million to get teachers? Hey, I taught there for nothing (as an adjunct), and considered it a high privilege.

As day follows night, this will be the result: lots more gender and racial studies courses. I wish it were otherwise, but there simply aren't enough black physics professors to go around. If the goal is as shallow as getting more minority faces in the faculty lounge, Yale will be forced to hire them where they find them. Do you suppose Cornell West wants to move schools again?

These disciplines are little more than grievance factories, and they undermine Yale's academic legitimacy. They also drive people further apart. If you arrive at Yale and you're not already mad, you will be after a couple of identity studies courses have re-educated you.

This is why everything Salovey is doing will backfire. He is adding massive fuel to the flame. How naive to think the activists are going to say, "excellent, we won, let's hit the books." The left is never satisfied. Each victory only makes them angrier, demanding ever more.

Easy wins for the activists at Yale and Missouri are now causing this to spread like a malicious virus. At Princeton, students are demanding that Woodrow Wilson's name be eradicated (ironic, that one, as Wilson was their philosophical progenitor). At Dartmouth, they want to make "social justice" the theme of the Winter Carnival (no one has accused the activists of being a fun lot). They also stormed the library, shouting things like, "f*ck you, you filthy white f*cks." At Ithaca, they get the picture. For the movement, finding offense is like a addictive drug, and this crowd needs frequent hits.

All this, based on a handful of racial incidents that may or may not have happened, and if they did, are of unclear provenance. Still, the hunt is on, and activists are searching for affront like ten year-olds looking for Waldo. If they can't find any, it's sufficient to make something up, or to at least massively re-define our current understanding of what such thing are (see: microaggressions). Why not, after all? Ethical considerations aside, the payoff is huge.

This is all going to get much worse before it gets better, until the grown-ups reassert themselves. Sadly, there are few left in academia.

P.S. My abiding love for my alma mater has taken a serious hit, and I am very depressed about it.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Education Today (or Maybe the Day After Tomorrow)

This is a funny and chilling video, one that only stretches current reality slightly, and has relevance to today's campus politics. I met people like this last week at Yale.