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 want...you 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.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Open Letter to Yale's President Salovey


I just sent this today. If you went to Yale, I would urge you to do the same. I am told the president's office is getting A LOT of calls.

Dear President Salovey,

I have been a faithful Yalie for a long time. I am a Pierson Fellow, I taught a college seminar for a few years. I come to games. I have never been anything but filled with pride to be a Yale graduate. That is, until now.

In the last few days, I have been bombarded with calls and emails from colleagues and friends – many from Yale, many not - all say basically the same thing: what the hell has happened to Yale? Many vow their kids will never go there. The Yale Class of 1982 Facebook page has literally lighted up over this, and you should know the shock, disappointment, and outrage is spread across the ideological spectrum.

Perhaps you will say I need to understand the broader context. Well, I was at the Buckley conference, and I saw first hand the amount of respect the students have for free speech, which is to say none, unless it’s what they want to hear. Make no mistake, those students would have entered and disrupted our conference had security not prevented it. (Apparently, the irony of interrupting a conference on free speech is lost on today’s Yale students.)

What I wish to know is the following:

1. Will there be repercussions for the student, Jerelyn Luther, who called Master Christakis “disgusting,” among other things, or are students now allowed to address faculty members this way?

2. Is there an investigation into the alleged spitting incident at the Buckley event? If I’m not mistaken, spitting is categorized as assault.

3. If the allegation against SAE turns out to be fabricated (as many of these campus incidents turn out to be), what will the repercussions be for the woman who made them up? Did she not do the equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded movie theatre?

I won't stop loving Yale - I had too good an experience for that. I also know what a difficult position you find yourself, and I hope you find the wisdom to navigate through this crisis. But I think you are going to have to make some people mad, particularly the activists. You will be picketed and shouted at, maybe worse. But the alternative, to allow Yale to further slip into the hands of those whose views are completely antithetical to Yale’s tradition of intellectual discourse, is far worse.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Scott C. Johnston ‘82

Monday, November 9, 2015

Yale at a Free Speech Crossroads

"I normally, don't do this, and I apologize, but due to the events of the last seventy-two hours, I will have to leave right after my speech. I also apologize for reading my speech, but I haven't slept in four days."

Nicholas Christakis, a professor and Master of Silliman College (one of Yale's twelve undergraduate residential houses) looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders, but few of us had any idea what was going on. It would become apparent as the afternoon unfolded as two stories intertwined to tell one: free speech is in critical danger at Yale.

Professor Christakis

We were there for a William F. Buckley Program conference. The title? The Future of Free Speech. Consider this a trigger warning if irony is something you find offensive, because it will bludgeon you over the head, momentarily. The Buckley Program is dedicated to bringing intellectual diversity to campus. Not just the occasional conservative, but speakers like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an activist for women's rights in the Muslim world. (That was a saga unto itself.) They also have an annual "Disinvitation Dinner," where the keynote is delivered by someone who has been disinvited to speak on a college campus. That would have amused Buckley.

The Buckley Program, mind you, is not supported by Yale. It is privately funded, and its office space is off campus. Yale - the administration, anyway - tolerates it. That's something, anyway.

Christakis began by saying he was a proud liberal and he probably would have disagreed with just about everything Buckley stood for. But, he believed, the left was taking its crusade against free speech too far, that it was a dangerous thing, and that we had to re-learn civil discourse. We didn't realize just how much he was speaking from experience. 

Master Christakis, looking very much in a hurry, finished and left the room, and the conference moved on, albeit with unanswered questions hanging in the air. 

Fast forward about two hours. Another speaker, Greg Lukianoff, clues us in about the events on campus. Master Christakis's wife, Erika, had sent out an email to students about Halloween and campus activists went nuts. This is where the second part of the story starts. Lukianoff says the reaction of students was so strong, "that you'd think someone had burned down a Native American village."

 While Lukianoff was speaking, a campus activist had sneaked in the event and was taping up posters, one after the other. They read:

"Stand with your sisters of sisters of color. Now, here. Always, Everywhere."

As we were trying to understand the relevance of this, a security guard walked over and told the fellow he had to take it outside, that this was a registration-only event. He refused. The guard asked again. Nope, nothing doing. In fact he objected, loudly, and yelled that none of us understood America's history of oppression.

Now the guard had had enough, and he wrestled the kid and his beard though the double doors. Just before they swung closed, he yelled, "And you're talking about burning down Native American villages!"

Things settled down, but I leaned to my friend next to me and said, "This isn't over." I had no idea.

So what had happened to the Christakises? Here are the facts, so you be the judge. The university sent around an email that basically warned students to watch what they wore on Halloween, and that they shouldn't be culturally insensitive. Erika Christakis thought the email went too far, and wrote to the students in Silliman. The is her entire email:

Dear Sillimanders:
Nicholas and I have heard from a number of students who were frustrated by the mass email sent to the student body about appropriate Halloween-wear [more on that below -EV]. I’ve always found Halloween an interesting embodiment of more general adult worries about young people. As some of you may be aware, I teach a class on “The Concept of the Problem Child,” and I was speaking with some of my students yesterday about the ways in which Halloween — traditionally a day of subversion for children and young people — is also an occasion for adults to exert their control.
When I was young, adults were freaked out by the specter of Halloween candy poisoned by lunatics, or spiked with razor blades (despite the absence of a single recorded case of such an event). Now, we’ve grown to fear the sugary candy itself. And this year, we seem afraid that college students are unable to decide how to dress themselves on Halloween.
I don’t wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation, and other challenges to our lived experience in a plural community. I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.
It seems to me that we can have this discussion of costumes on many levels: we can talk about complex issues of identify, free speech, cultural appropriation, and virtue “signalling.” But I wanted to share my thoughts with you from a totally different angle, as an educator concerned with the developmental stages of childhood and young adulthood.
As a former preschool teacher, for example, it is hard for me to give credence to a claim that there is something objectionably “appropriative” about a blonde-haired child’s wanting to be Mulan for a day. Pretend play is the foundation of most cognitive tasks, and it seems to me that we want to be in the business of encouraging the exercise of imagination, not constraining it. I suppose we could agree that there is a difference between fantasizing about an individual character vs. appropriating a culture, wholesale, the latter of which could be seen as (tacky)(offensive)(jejeune)(hurtful), take your pick. But, then, I wonder what is the statute of limitations on dreaming of dressing as Tiana the Frog Princess if you aren’t a black girl from New Orleans? Is it okay if you are eight, but not 18? I don’t know the answer to these questions; they seem unanswerable. Or at the least, they put us on slippery terrain that I, for one, prefer not to cross.
Which is my point. I don’t, actually, trust myself to foist my Halloweenish standards and motives on others. I can’t defend them anymore than you could defend yours. Why do we dress up on Halloween, anyway? Should we start explaining that too? I’ve always been a good mimic and I enjoy accents. I love to travel, too, and have been to every continent but Antarctica. When I lived in Bangladesh, I bought a sari because it was beautiful, even though I looked stupid in it and never wore it once. Am I fetishizing and appropriating others’ cultural experiences? Probably. But I really, really like them too.
Even if we could agree on how to avoid offense — and I’ll note that no one around campus seems overly concerned about the offense taken by religiously conservative folks to skin-revealing costumes — I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition. And the censure and prohibition come from above, not from yourselves! Are we all okay with this transfer of power? Have we lost faith in young people’s capacity — in your capacity — to exercise self-censure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you? We tend to view this shift from individual to institutional agency as a tradeoff between libertarian vs. liberal values (“liberal” in the American, not European sense of the word).
Nicholas says, if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offense are the hallmarks of a free and open society.
But — again, speaking as a child development specialist — I think there might be something missing in our discourse about the exercise of free speech (including how we dress ourselves) on campus, and it is this: What does this debate about Halloween costumes say about our view of young adults, of their strength and judgment?
In other words: Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people? It’s not mine, I know that.
Happy Halloween.
Yours sincerely,

When Lukianoff said, "You'd think they burned down a Native American village," he was referring to the reaction of the campus left to this email. Here is a little taste. Watch, as the left eats its own, in this case the unfortunate Master Christakis:

Best quote: "You are not here to create an intellectual environment, you are here to create a home!!!"

They are now demanding that Master Christakis, and his wife, be fired. If any of this is surprising you, you are out of touch with what's happening on college campuses.

Back to the conference. The noise outside was building. "They're here," I said to my friend. Out of curiosity, I went out to look. There were perhaps twenty students, in high dudgeon, trying to get in to disrupt the conference (did I mention it was about free speech?). I engaged them, which was probably silly. "Why are you here?"

"We are Native Americans and you are talking about burning down Native American villages." (They looked about as Native American as Elizabeth Warren - were they appropriating a culture?) 

"You realize, right, that no one in there is advocating burning down villages, Native American or otherwise? That it was merely an analogy to describe something bad?"

Apparently they did, but that didn't matter. We said the words, and that "trivialized" genocide, and that was the offense. I said, "You do realize that you don't have the right not to be offended, right?"

How wrong I was about that, I later reflected. That may be true, Constitutionally, but I was in a "safe space" where the these delicate orchids are protected from hearing unpleasant things. The right not to be offended now always trumps the right to free speech.

The conference went on for another two hours, and the crowd grew. It was as if they had a button they pushed that sent out an alert - get to these GPS coordinates now, someone said something offensive! Is there an app called Grievance?

They got quite noisy, often making it hard to hear inside, and only an expanding police presence kept them out. At the end, we were escorted out through a phalanx of about 150 students, chanting "Genocide is not a joke." They even found the time to make signs that said things like "You cannot silence us." (There's that irony thing again.)

I filmed our exit:

That wasn't all of them, there were at least one hundred more outside.

Don't imagine any of this is just Yale. It's virtually all of academia, liberal arts schools in particular. They are all at a free speech crossroads. Teachers are now widely afraid of their own liberal students, because the slightest slip - the absence of a trigger warning, for instance - can result in accusations of microaggressions, racism, sexism, cisgenderism, whateverism, and that can result in getting tossed from tenure track. The administrators who make these decisions are afraid of the students, too, because fundamentally, the left has become a mob, and mobs are dangerous. 

These are the bullies of our time.

UPDATE: Two conference attendees claim they were spit on and called racists. I can't claim to have seen this, but I was one of the first people to walk out. The activist who interrupted the conference has been identified as Edward Columbia '18.

UPDATE 2: The Buckley people are circulating a petition in defense of free speech at Yale. It also calls on Yale to reject some of the ridiculous (and dangerous) demands that activists have made on President Salovey. I would urge anyone to sign it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Obama: Great for Liberalism, Bad for Democrats

There have been two remarkable, countervailing, trends since Barack Obama was first elected. The first is that the cause of liberalism has been advanced at a breathtaking rate. Obamacare, higher taxes, open borders, gay marriage...hell, the mere fact we just voted on transgender bathrooms is proof enough (see: Houston). These have been salad days for liberals.

But very bad days for Democrats. With the loss of another governor's mansion yesterday - Kentucky - ponder the shift in the political landscape since Obama was elected:

                                   2008                Now             Difference

Governorships             29                    17                     -12

Senate seats                58                    44                     -14

House seats                257                   188                   -69

State House seats      4082                 3172                 -910

These numbers are breathtaking. Democrats are being eviscerated up and down the ballot. This will have implications that last a generation as the party will have no bench - in particular, no bench from moderate precincts - to elevate to higher races. Who's in line to run at the top of their next ticket, assuming Hillary loses? Have you even heard of Amy Klobuchar? Julian Castro? Consider yourself very informed if you have.

And yet, with a Constitution-ignoring president, a compliant GOP establishment, and left-leaning courts, liberalism marches on. It's no wonder the Republican base is on fire, and is expressing itself with a months long primal scream that takes the form of Donald Trump.

Presumably, these two trends can't go in opposite directions forever, but given the pusillanimous nature of the GOP leadership, it will surely go on for another two years. Should the GOP take the White House, they will have, I think, one last chance to keep conservatives in the fold. When you consider that there are actually more self-identified conservatives in the U.S, than there are registered Republicans, that might seem like a good idea, but the GOP establishment hates conservatives more than they hate Democrats, so don't count on it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Bumper Sticker Left

Someone - I can't remember who - said that conservatives think, while liberals feel. Rarely do so few words capture so much. The Naked Dollar tried to explain this phenomenon in an earlier post called Conservatives Are from Mars, Liberals from Venus. The reason it's so hard for us to talk to each other is that we have completely different mental processes.

Feeling is way easier, of course, because you get to skip the whole critical analysis bit. You just...feel, and that's sufficient to get your ticket stamped with fellow travelers of the left.

Since an emotion doesn't need to be explained - or even justified - a good liberal finds it's easy to distill their views down to a very few words. So few, that bumper stickers frequently do the trick. Let's take a critical look at some my favorites...

Ah, you know this one. It comes with drivers sporting a mien of smug self-satisfaction, wrapped not merely in the aluminum body of their Prius, but in the knowledge that they are a good, open-minded, people. 

I think that six out of the seven letters are perfectly happy to coexist, there's just this teensie problem with the first one. In fact, when an artist, who goes by the name of "Combo," recently painted this sign in a Muslim suburb of Paris, a mob of open-minded sorts pummeled poor Combo after he refused to take the sign down. He suffered a dislocated shoulder, bruises, and a black eye.

But, you see, the Prius driver isn't telling Muslims to Coexist. No, the message is aimed squarely at the rest of us, who no doubt commit culturally insensitive acts every day. That's why I constantly need to control my impulse to introduce a two-by-four to this bumper sticker and its attendant vehicle. Coexist this.

We saw a lot of these around during the Bush years, didn't we? I once traced them to a particular bookstore in my neighborhood, and about a month after Obama was elected I went in and asked for one. They didn't have them anymore, I was told. "Why not?" I asked. "Isn't dissent still patriotic?" I got a blank stare. Move along.

The fact is, this bumper sticker makes little sense. Dissent, of itself, isn't patriotic. It can be courageous, sometimes noble. But it can also be stupid, idiotic, or even racist. Were the Senators who fought the Civil Rights Act being patriotic? I'm sure they thought so, but I'm also sure that the people who sport this bumper sticker don't. 

I would also point out that in the precincts of the left, particularly college campuses, dissent (of the conservative kind) is now dealt with quite harshly. Just check out the latest atrocities at Wesleyan. No matter: figuring out that particular hypocrisy would involve thinking more than feeling, and that might involve some cognitive dissonance, so why bother.

Oh, come on. Sometimes it is. Like when it stopped, say, Hitler, or ended slavery. 

And then there's this one...

I'm not sure what it means, but it scares the hell out of me.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Interesting: GOP Betting Markets Beg to Differ With Polls

As Naked Dollar readers know, I am a big fan of prediction markets. These are markets where people bet real money on political outcomes. I like them because they tend to be more accurate than polls. People don't always tell pollsters the truth, but they damn well don't bet money on things they don't think will pay off.

Right now, the prediction markets are taking quite a different view than the polls on the GOP race:

                         RCP Polling Avg.       Nomination Probability

Trump                       23%                                  12%
Carson                      20%                                    6%
Rubio                        10%                                  23%
Bush                           8%                                  15%
Fiorina                        8%                                    6%
Cruz                            8%                                   10%
Huckabee                   3%                                     3%
Paul                            3%                                     4%
Kasich                         3%                                    6%

The market is saying that it's not a buyer of the outsider thesis, at least not yet. Trump and Carson are both trading way below where their poll numbers suggest they should be. Carson, in particular, is getting no love from the market, and this despite the fact he raised an astonishing $20 million last quarter.

On the more establishment side, Rubio, Bush, and Kasich all trade higher than their poll numbers would suggest. Rubio is, in fact, the market favorite right now. Kasich, who is barely registering in the polls, has the same odds of winning as Carson. Wow.

One other fact to ponder: the Iowa Caucus is fourteen weeks away, and no one is at more than 23% to win the nomination. Has there ever been a more wide open race this late?

Stay tuned.

(Technical note: the prediction market data come from Predicit.org. Since the probabilities for all the candidates adds up to much greater than 100% - a market inefficiency - I reduced them all proportionately. I also didn't show a number of candidates that don't have a pulse.)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Multiculturalism and the Death of the Melting Pot

Give me your tired, your poor, your...angry

The melting pot, that uniquely American concept, has met its match.
It was a nice run. The melting pot was probably responsible for elevating more people out of poverty than any societal construct before or since, anywhere in the world.

The formula was simple. Immigrants would come to the U.S., find work, and with the dream that the next generation might live a better life, assimilate. Work hard. Join civic organizations. Emphasize English around the home. Figure out the rules to baseball and who Joe DiMaggio was. Root for him, even.

Once, it was important to know who this was

A handful of years later, the next generation was graduating from college, witnessed by teary-eyed parents who perhaps still spoke halting English.

There were bumps. The first generation or two often dealt with some cultural hostility, but it passed. Remember the "shanty" Irish? Nor do most people. Perhaps it's because no one insisted on being called "Irish-American." No one was throwing their cultural heritages overboard, mind you, but they came to America for something better, and becoming "American" was a dream, not a compromise. And it required an extraordinary work ethic and dedication in pursuing new-found opportunities and freedoms unavailable in their home countries. 

Immigrants, and America, were better for it.

And now, in an astonishingly short period of time, the idea of the melting pot has been dismantled by the rising tide of progessivism. It isn't simply that the government's dissipative approach to welfare benefits has undermined the work ethic, it's more than that - it's cultural. In fact, it has a rather pleasant name: multiculturalism.

The Free Dictionary defines multiculturalism thus:

Of or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture.

So what's wrong with that? A lot, as it turns out, because it emphasizes our differences rather than those things that bring us together. It's supposed to be a celebratory thing, but in reality it breeds Balkanization, resentment, and class envy. This isn't an issue confined to our immigrant community, either.

At a well-known boarding school (that my son attended), they employ a full time "diversity coordinator." As best I can tell, her job is to get everybody mad at one another, and in particular at the prevailing culture. If you happen to fall into her definition of a protected class, you are marinated in righteous anger, often against the culture of the very school that has welcomed you as a student, probably with a scholarship. If you arrive without anger, it will sure graduate with you.

Did I mention the school pays this woman a salary?

There are benefits, of course, for the protected. For example, as a diversity student no one would risk doing anything or saying anything to you that might be turned on you in the form of a racism charge. Few crimes are taken more seriously, and the mere accusation often puts the burden of proof on the accused. 

Some learn to use it to advantage.

Not long ago, at my old high school a black student brandished a letter that he claimed someone had shoved under his door. It contained the "n" word, of course, and phrases like, "You don't belong here in our world." (First hoax clue: who has said anything like that since maybe the 1950s?)

The school, a bastion of Massachusetts liberalism, went into paroxysms of collective soul searching, with town hall meetings and days off for general anguish. The Massachusetts Attorney General got involved, even though it was completely unclear what laws might have been broken. The aggrieved boy gained rarefied victimhood status, at least until it was discovered he wrote the note himself. He had learned well from the grievance industry how to push the right buttons, he just blew the execution. 

Assimilate into traditionally white boarding school culture? You are a racist for even suggesting it. Check your privilege.

Really, it's a shame. Whatever the perceived benefits may be for being a protected class, it winds up being an island of diminished opportunity, just as it is for immigrants who spurn acculturation.

One of multiculturalism's chief tenets is that all cultures are equally deserving of celebration, even though this is demonstrably untrue, and especially so by the very standards trumpeted by the left. Do I need to list the various deprivations of women in most Islamic nations?

The one culture that multiculturalism doesn't celebrate - indeed, has open contempt for - is our American culture. According to all the appointed and self-appointed diversity counselors out there, America is racist, sexist, homophobic, environmentally foolhardy, etc., etc. Thus, like the kids encouraged to resist embracing a boarding school's history and culture, new immigrants are encouraged to hang on to their old cultures and resist becoming "American."

Examples abound. History books in high schools have rewritten American history into a amalgam of conquest and exploitation. Perhaps the worst example is the trend towards teaching immigrant kids in their native Spanish. I can't think of a more efficient way to keep someone poor than to not give them the gift of English. But that would be culturally insensitive, and we can't have that.

Like I said, it was a nice run.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Lazy Summer

Okay, so you may have noticed I took the summer off. Or maybe not, but many of you gave me grief, so I suppose it's nice someone's paying attention.

There were stories I meant to write, of course, but, well...I mentioned it was summer, right? That, and I'm pretty busy with my new startup, LiquidSky. So here are a few thoughts that accumulated during the dog days.

In June, we had the whole Bruce/Caitlin Jenner thing.

My immediate reaction was if people can just decide what sex they are because it's how they feel, why not race? Why couldn't some white kid, rejected by Harvard for checking the "African American" box, sue Harvard's pants off, saying he identifies black? After all, how you feel now trumps objective fact on a fairly routine basis.

I was about to travel to France with my family, so I figured my piece could wait. 

It couldn't:

While we were in France, the Rachel Dolezal story broke. Damn, that'll teach me to sit on an idea.

It's breathtaking to ponder how much our culture has moved in the last decade or so, and not in the right direction. Miss Dolezal neatly captures many of our current perversities. 

Speaking of France, I hadn't been in a while, and I found it a very perplexing place. Beautiful, for sure. We visited WWI sights in La Somme, WWII sights in Normandy, chateau country in Loire, and finally Paris for a few days. But this is a country so caught up in its own self-identity, that they have achieved a weird, unhealthy, stasis. While the rest of the world moves forward, France remains frozen by choice.

Ever hear of a movie called Bottle Shock? It was made by a classmate of mine, Mark Lhormer. It's a wonderful movie about wine and the "Judgement of Paris," a blind tasting back in the 70s when California wines trounced French wines. The judges were all French, and they were predictably horrified. At that time California wines were thought of as screw-top jugs, maybe from Gallo, perhaps a step removed from Welch's grape juice.

It's a great movie, go rent it. But the point is that the Californians, the crazy cowboys of the industry, were trying new methods. There was no set way of doing things, so they innovated. The French had their methods, and everyone knew French wine was the best, so creativity ground to a halt. To do anything else meant you weren't doing it the "French" way.

So, the Americans blew by them.

I found Bottle Shock to be an apt metaphor for all of France. There is a French way, and you don't mess with it. In all matters cultural, France has immersed itself in a cryogenic chamber of its own making. Honestly, I had very few good meals in two weeks. The art is wonderful, but none of it was created in the last half century. The language itself is tightly regulated by the government, lest "un-French" words dilute its purity. On the business side, well, name one French startup.

All this is also why France has never encouraged the melting pot concept for its immigrants. As a result, Muslims have evolved their own ghettos where Sharia dominates and little French is heard. As Arab immigrants swarm over Europe, it will be interesting to see how France survives as "France."

Which brings me, of course, to Donald Trump.

Look at that hair, would you? It looks like an orange wave, cresting over his face. But whatever. I get asked a lot for my take, so I'll get this out of the way: I don't support him. For one, I don't really know where he stands on many things, and I'm not sure I'd trust him anyway. His views seemed to have "evolved" quite a bit over the years. A little is okay. A lot, not so much.

More importantly, I don't believe he's a man of high character. His business dealings are said to be borderline sleazy, and I've heard many times over the years, from many people, that he cheats at golf. There is absolutely no way someone who cheats at golf - a game where you self-police - should ever be president of the United States. You better believe Mitt Romney would never cheat at golf (but of course he had other issues).

Having said this, Trump is GREAT for the race. Ratings for the debates - debates where many in the field have distinguished themselves - have gone through the roof. Millions of people now know who, say, Carly Fiorina, is because of Trump. I also think he's showing the others how to not be afraid of their own shadows, or the media. I believe that most of the Trump "phenomenon" is explained by his lack of political correctness. People are awfully tired of the ever-growing list of proscribed words and thoughts, and finally, here, someone says, "I couldn't give a crap what you think."

So, Trump has been good for the process, but it's nearing the time to put this flight of fancy to bed.