A Beautiful And Improbable Idea

Jason Riley at WSJ has some advice for the Black Lives Matters (BLM) leadership.  It is extraordinarily unlikely that they will take it but it wonderfully done and worth our appreciation even if it won’t change anything.  Do read it all.  In the fourth paragraph he gets to the question of where BLM should go:

Some BLM leaders want to integrate political institutions further. Others want the organization to expand its focus to immigrants’ rights. Still others want to create a society “free from pain being inflicted on it by police, racist structures, and capitalism.” Apparently, there are places in the world where blacks living in noncapitalist societies are thriving in comparison with their U.S. brethren.

We love the last sentence.  He then reviews the evidence of less shootings by police and the economic problems that blacks face.  He concludes that BLM out to work on things like school choice to help reduce those problems:

Of course, improving educational and employment prospects for the black underclass would lower black crime rates and thus go a long way toward reducing encounters with police, the goal that is so near and dear to the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s a win-win, but first the activists have to decide whether the real goal is to help black people or to help themselves.

It is a great idea forcefully argued but it is unlikely that it will even be consider.  Adoption of such a course of action is even more far fetched because BLM and so many similar organizations are tied to being victims.   We know what their goal is and it is a shame.

Firing Adjunct Professors

Adjunct professors at both the University of Delaware and Essex County College in Newark, NJ have been fired.  Delaware fired (it says here that she will not be rehired and that makes more sense) Katherine Dettwyler  for her comments about Otto Warmbier on Facebook and in the comment section of David French NRO article on the Left’s hate as shown toward Otto and others.  David concluded:

It’s incumbent on each of America’s great political movements to do their best to police their own, and the Left has failed, utterly, to address the hatred in its midst. [We agree]

It appears that Katherine took exception with David’s point although her comment has been taken down.  Here is what she reportedly said on Facebook:

[Katherine] wrote in part that [Otto] “got exactly what he deserved.” She continued by saying that [Otto] was “typical of a mindset a lot of the young, white, rich, clueless males” she teaches.

Essex fired Lisa Durden because:

[She] appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to defend a black-only Black Lives Matter event has been fired after the college’s president said she made racially insensitive comments on the show, according to reports.

We have three issues to consider: Public schools, adjunct professors, and free speech.  Both of these are public schools so free speech is a real issue.  Private schools have more legal flexibility in hiring and firing.

These are adjunct professors.  That usually means that they teach one or two classes, are hired on a short-term basis, e.g., a semester at a time, and are not paid much.  Neither school had to “fire” them because it was unlikely that Katherine and Lisa had a contract for the fall.  It is an important point that both schools chose to act in such a public matter.  Although we disagree with Katherine and Lisa’s opinions, we also think that the schools acted improperly.

Sidebar: We don’t agree with Katherine that being white and male was the cause of of Otto’s death but we do wonder why he chose to go to North Korea.  We crossed a few feet into the North inside a building at the DMZ with an ROK guard to protect us and still felt nervous.  End sidebar

We support Katherine and Lisa’s right to free speech.  They chose to give their opinions on Facebook, NRO, and Tucker Carlson.  We don’t see that they give up their First Amendment rights because of their opinions.

The political part of this is very interesting.  We see that schools are taking actions against what appears to be leftists.  School are aware that their brands are slipping because of identity politics.  They need, however, to work on bigger issues like majors offered, curriculum, and external speakers and not make such a big, and inappropriate, fight about a couple of part-timers.

Three Small Things

When we were department chair that was a faculty member that liked to come to visit but somebody had told him, perhaps the previous chair, that if it was not time sensitive than three little things were needed for such a meeting.  It was fun to watch the struggle to come up with the third.  We have three little things today.

First, we heard Paul McCartney cover the Beatles tune, The Things We Said Today.  It was really strange to hear one of the same voices singing the song but without The Beatles harmony.

Second, we are finishing the collection of Victor Davis Hanson 2016 NRO columns: From One Revolution To The Next.  We envy his writing skills.  It is a great read and an excellent way to revisit the the tumultuous year of 2016.  His consistent insights on The Donald are impressive.  We’re not sure how you can buy it as it is not listed at the NRO store and it is a National Review Book.

Third, there was a follow up in Ask Amy about a contractor with a Trump bumper sticker.  A reader wrote in and said polled friends and all of them said, “Chase him off the property.”  Amy said it was nothing to be proud of.  We were impressed that she published the response and that she took her reader to task.  If only the university administrators had courage like that.


At Least One Punch For Free

The Wisconsin Assembly has passed a law supporting free speech at the University of Wisconsin System campuses.  It would still need to be passed by the WI Senate and signed by Governor Walker.  NPR reports:

Students who disrupt campus events at University of Wisconsin System schools could be expelled under a bill approved Wednesday by the state Assembly.

Under the proposal, students who are found guilty of engaging in “violent or other disorderly conduct that materially and substantially disrupts” others’ free expression would be suspended after two offenses and expelled after three.

The measure is sponsored by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who has said he believes it to be “one of the most important” bills to be taken up by lawmakers this session.

“One of our fundamental rights, one of the most important parts of being an American, the right to free speech, is under attack,” Vos said during debate. “On far too many college campuses, different points of view are not even allowed.”

The bill would allow any person to report another person for disrupting free expression. A formal investigation and disciplinary hearing overseen by the UW System’s Board of Regents would be required for anyone who has been reported twice for such disruptions.

The proposal also requires UW System institutions to provide training and orientation on the new speech policies to students and employees.

We are not big fans of handling free speech at the state level but this looks to be extraordinarily weak tea.  It seems to give protesters one or two free punches.  We think, depending on the circumstances, penalties for one violent disruption of speech should include suspending or expelling a student.  Naturally, the left is in a tizzy as indicated by a Facebook comment:

Making Wisconsin safe for the right wing nazis. “ve muss haff order.”

The opportunities for left wing Nazis was unspecified.  More troubling is the attitude of elected Democrats as reported by NPR:

“The problems with this bill: it is an unconstitutional bill, it is a gag order,” said Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison. “It basically gags and bags the First Amendment.”

Representative Taylor seems to be unfamiliar with the First Amendment.

The potentially useful part of the bill is in the last paragraph of the first quote.  First Amendment training might be useful to students and employees at UW System.  Perhaps we can sign up elected officials too.  We do not expect much from this bill in the event that it is passed.  The same folks will still be running the schools.


Book Analysis

We are big fans of Iceland: The place, the soccer team, and Arnaldur Indridason.

Sidebar: We saw the Iceland soccer team play a FiFA qualifier in Reykjavik in 2002 or so.  They tied an eastern European team, Romania, we think.  The echoing cheers of Is-land and the folks that looked like Vikings made the game great fun.  We enjoyed, on TV, their success at the recent European tournament.  End Sidebar.

Arnaldur has written many books about Inspector Erlendur but we just finished reading a stand alone book: Operation Napoleon written in 1999.  All the books are written in Icelandic and translated into British English.  It might be described a political fantasy that pokes fun at Americans and Icelanders alike.  What got our attention was this on page 50:

“They [American politicians] were always putting themselves centre-stage.  Especially Democrats, with their demands for open government, for having everything transparent and above board.”

When we first saw it we thought that Arnaldur was just another clueless European leftist but the rest of the book led us to believe he as capable of deeper insights.  We would like to ask him but we think it is tongue-in-cheek.  Remember that is was published in 1999 so it was written during the height of one of the Clinton scandals.  Democrats arguing for open government would have seem dated by then.  Certainly Obama has convinced everyone that the Venn Diagrams of open government and Democrats do not intersect.

Capitalism Question

George Will has a great article at NRO on capitalism.  He puts the choice that Americans face this way:

In the accelerated churning of today’s capitalism, changing tastes and expanding choices destroy some jobs and create others, with net gains in price and quality. But disruption is never restful, and America now faces a decision unique in its history: Is it tired — tired of the turmoil of creative destruction? If so, it had better be ready to do without creativity. And ready to stop being what it has always been: restless.

You should read the whole thing but in case you don’t, we want to reinforce what he did say and note what he doesn’t say.  George has some nice examples of the changes that capitalism has wrought in the grocery business.  Capitalism leads to net gains with constant disruptions.  We would like to discuss two things that George does not mention in the article.

First, what is the alternative to capitalism?  A good analogy is earthquakes.  With capitalism you get small quakes all the time as the market reacts to new conditions.  Over time you get the results that George notices where, in just over a century, the A&P goes from zero to a 75 percent share of the grocery business to bankrupt.  The alternative is to try and forestall the little earthquakes.  The pressure still builds up and we get epic economic events like the former USSR, eastern Europe, and Venezuela to name a few.  Economic change is coming.  The question is how do you want it?

Second, George makes no comment but capitalism and open borders are not connected.  Folks try to connect the two because the Venn Diagram of the two groups of supporters has a substantial overlap but they are unrelated things.  We support the former but not the latter.



End The Debt Ceiling

Jason Furman and Rohit Kumar have an excellent idea over at the WSJ: End the debt ceiling.  Too bad it will never happen.  This is one area where conservatives will have to bear their share of the blame.

Why is it a good idea?  What have been the positive outcomes from the debt ceiling debates?  The sequester.  That is not much to show for all of the effort expended and the negative atmosphere it creates.

Why are conservatives to blame.  Because they think that either they might eventually win one of these dramatic showdowns or that it is a way to rally the base.  It won’t happen until they control the media.  For those of you reading this before your morning coffee or other means of caffeine intake that means it won’t happen.

Trump And Russia

Kevin Williamson at NRO has an alternative for Putin that is closer to  but not exactly what we think:

Some Russia-watchers believe that the goal of the 2016 Russian campaign shenanigans was not to elect Trump but to damage Clinton before her election. That would make a certain kind of sense: Putin does not want a President Trump or a President Clinton — he wants an American president so hamstrung by political rancor, personal weakness, and petty venality that American leadership around the world is compromised.

We think it is more simple than what Kevin reports.  Putin, like most everyone, thought Herself would win and he was laying down a marker to keep Herself off his case.  He had the goods on her and so she better behave.  It just happened that Putin was wrong, like almost everybody else, about who would win.


Teaching Universities A Lesson

There is a clamor to teach public universities a budgetary lesson for their behavior towards free speech and intellectual diversity.  A few weeks ago Tiana Lowe at NRO recommended that we defund Evergreen State University in Washington:

Public funding constitutes 46 percent of Evergreen’s annual revenue — $55.2 million from state appropriations and $32.3 million in state and federal grants. A public college that cannot defend the First Amendment or even the basic safety of its professors doesn’t deserve a cent of the taxpayers’ money.

Republicans in the Washington legislature have introduced such a bill.

In North Carolina it is about the UNC School of Law as Frank Pray reports:

The North Carolina Senate’s budget proposal, now being debated in the House, includes a $4 million reduction in funding to the law school, constituting nearly a third of the school’sbudget.

We agree with Frank when he says:

Instead of incentivizing greater intellectual diversity, in the long run it could endanger the school’s academic standing and embolden campus radicals. Case studies in other states show why legislators should think twice about this kind of meddling.

We think that such moves will drive all of the state schools to the left in support of their colleagues.  It might feel good to conservatives to batter the crazies financially but it will not lead to conservative results.  We need to  find ways to stop explicit behaviors and create incentives for free speech and intellectual diversity.  It is hard legislative work to create such incentives but that is the direction that we need to go.  As in most situations, the conservative solution takes time and effort.


A Trip To The Dentist

The WSJ editorial on apprentices reminded us of last week’s trip to the dentist.  We support all manner of on-the-job training (OJT).  Formal education is an important part of building human capital but OJT is likely more important.  That’s why we were struck by this part of the editorial:

An especially odd objection is that apprenticeship training is a mistake because skills become out of date over time, especially later in one’s work life. But that’s a risk throughout the economy, and all the more reason to get young people skills to enter the job market now and build up savings for the future.

We agree with the first sentence that it is an odd objection but don’t see the second sentence as the answer to why.  Our current trip to the dentist compared to the one some years ago will explain why.

Some years ago our dentist had acquired technology that used a camera and what seemed to be CAD/CAM software (yup) to make a crown in-house.  It took lots of the dentist’s time but it was pretty cool to get the crown in one sitting.  Last week we went and got two crowns at once and the assistant did some of the CAD/CAM work.

Sidebar: We looked at the data on price changes in dental costs and were surprised by the continuing increases.  We wonder about the measurement of quality issues.  Some years ago we would have had four visits to the dentist to get two crowns and would have spent several weeks wearing those awful temporary crowns.  Although the crowns may not have increased in quality the service has.  End Sidebar.

The dentist or the CAD/CAM provider has trained the assistant to do some of the work.  The technology associated with work changes.  OJT is all of your life.  Accounting, dentistry, and welding will all change.  Some might even go away but if you continue to accumulate human capital you will find opportunities.  As the WSJ says in another editorial:

Lowering the cost of goods and services through automation allows capital—financial and human—to attack even harder problems. Wake me up when we run out of problems.

All manner of folks are solving problems.  Our dentist was able to save us three trips and a few weeks of discomfort.  Now the dental assistant is part of that.  Don’t neglect formal education because these things will eventually become part of it but we need to push OJT even more.