Common Sense Is Not Common

We came across a six-week old opinion piece from Rhea Suh in Detroit Free Press.  Here is how she starts out:

We all want to buy less gasoline for our daily commute, grocery run or trip to the beach. We want to promote innovation, create jobs and leave our children a livable world.

Well, let’s start with the first sentence.  We suppose theoretically it might be true.  We would like to buy less gas.  Even more, we would like to pay less for gas.  But our actions are exactly the opposite.  MPG goes down as MPG go above 50:

While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 mph.

You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas.

We tried an experiment this weekend.  On a trip with 220 miles of highway driving we set the cruise control at the speed limit, 70 MPH.  Excluding commercial vehicles, RV, and folks towing stuff (not many of any of those) we passed seven vehicles.  We couldn’t count all the cars that passed us but it was several hundred.  We got the nice improvement on MPG that each one of those vehicles passed up.

Then there are the vehicles that we are driving.  It is obvious on the highway that there are lots of big ones.  This list for 2016 shows the top three sellers as pick-up trucks.  So folks are driving big vehicles fast.  Their actions show that they don’t care much about the amount of gas they use.

Then there is the second sentence about promoting innovation, jobs, and a livable world.  That doesn’t seem universal given the actions of the previous administration but Rhea puts it as a difference of opinion when she reports:

On Tuesday, Pruitt announced plans to weaken the successful clean car and fuel economy standards the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Transportation Department put in place in 2012.  [Emphasis added]

We have no doubt that Pruit’s actions will promote innovation, jobs, and a livable planet but Rhea thinks we can regulate the economy to success.  Here is a fun irony from her:

And, building on the success of its all-electric Chevy Bolt, General Motors is planning to add 20 new electric models by 2023.

Sidebar: We got confused between a Volt and a Bolt.  We actually saw one of the former on our trip.  We are yet to make the acquaintance of the latter.  End Sidebar.

Success? Well we can’t find Bolt sales but HybridCars tells us

The first-generation extended-range electric Volt was launched late 2010 for model year 2011 and sold just 7,671 units during a protracted rollout. Its peak sales in 2012 amounted to 23,461 units. In 2013, sales were flat with 23,094 units; in 2014 they dropped to 18,805 units, and in 2015 as word of the pending second-generation Volt spread, sales were just 15,393.

The only success of the Volt is in garnering subsidies.  This estimate of over $250,000 per car might be high but electric vehicles are highly subsidized.  We are delighted that the current administration has cut back on the foolish regulations of the previous administration that would reduce innovation, jobs, and safety.  We often disagree with The Donald but here he is on the correct side and perhaps too reticent.  A more interesting question is: why does the federal government have any interest in the average MPG of any auto maker?  Let’s go the common sense route and continue to reduce regulations.

Great Terminology

The great terminology is not Intellectual Dark Web even though it is a useful term.  It comes from Holman W. Jenkins, jr. at WSJ.  He says:

Careers like Mr. Cuomo’s are built on running down what might be called “good policy” political capital. Mr. Cuomo is using up the state’s margin of energy survival to burnish his green potentials. He is sacrificing upstate’s economy to burnish his green credentials.

We agree.  Later Holman says:

This is the good-policy capital buffer at work. Mr. Cuomo is doing statewide what Mayor David Dinkins did for New York City in the early 1990s, using up the buffer. [Emphasis added]

Well said.  We think the term we have bolded, good-policy capital buffer, is great.  It fits with our conception of the growth fairy.  When you engage in good policy you feed the growth fairy and when you engage in bad policy you starve the growth fairy.  A great example of bad policy was the Obama requirement to raise MPG standards (CAFE) to 54.5.  Interestingly, the Washington Post called it uncontroversial.  Foolish would have been kind.  Fortunately, The Donald and friends have been undoing Obama’s handiwork.  The linked author is not happy but you should be.  The connection is not always instantaneous but it gives a buffer to all the anti-growth things that governments do.  Let’s call it the good-policy capital buffer in the future.



We rarely watch TV shows when broadcast so we are always behind schedule but a benefit is that it sometimes shows a commonality that we would otherwise notice.  The two shows in question are Instinct (Owned, episode seven, season one, broadcast on 5/6/18) and NCIS New Orleans (Welcome to the Jungle, episode 18, season four, broadcast 3/27/18).

There are lots of superficial differences between the two episodes but the summaries look like they came from the same plot books.  In both cases the main suspect is black.  It is a man in Instinct and a woman in NCIS: NO.  In both cases the secondary suspect is ethic.  An Eastern European in Instinct and an Argentinian in NCIS:NO.  In both cases there is a white male waiting around to be identified as the perp.

Sidebar: As an additional progressive fantasy in both cases there are women beating up men.  On Instinct it is the star Bojana Novakovic, who’s is listed as an Australian but hails from Serbia.  Check the picture on the link and give your probability that all men in the police force would be unwilling to spar with her because of the beatings they receive.   On NCIS: NO it is the black suspect who we suspect will soon be part of the cast.  The latter was more convincing than the former but there is a reason why fighters have different weight classes.  End Sidebar.

Even though the basics of the story sound the same we don’t think it is plagiarism because it is too widespread.  If you create a Venn Diagram with rich, white, and men the intersection will often give you the perp.  Sometimes you are not sure if the CIA perp was rich.  It would be a fun research project.  All is we need is a bunch of grad assistants to watch crime shows on TV.

Gatekeeping: A Theory

We are supportive of Bari Weiss and her efforts on free speech but we recently took issue with her comment that she wanted to have gatekeepers.  When she was summarizing the Intellectual Dark Web (I.D.W.) she said:

I get the appeal of the I.D.W. I share the belief that our institutional gatekeepers need to crack the gates open much more. I don’t, however, want to live in a culture where there are no gatekeepers at all. Given how influential this group is becoming, I can’t be alone in hoping the I.D.W. finds a way to eschew the cranks, grifters and bigots and sticks to the truth-seeking.

We think that this paragraph could be interpreted in several different ways but Bari seems explicit on supporting the need for gatekeepers.  Before we propose a theory we have some information on Bari, some current examples, and some information about us.

David French at NRO provides information about how Bari got started in the opinion business around 2004.  She was a student at Columbia and David was president of FIRE (consider donating).  There was a dustup at Columbia between the professors and the students.  Read the whole thing but David’s summary is:

In other words, Bari is doing exactly what she did in 2004 and 2005. She perceived intolerance and called it out. She decried an unwillingness to debate and a university that seemed closed off to dissenting ideas. It is not censorship to critique censorship. It’s not bullying to criticize bullying. And it’s most definitely not “racism” to raise credible concerns about anti-Semitism.

She has dealt with bullies before.  It has long been a goal of folks on the left to limit the speech of others.  There are some recent examples.  The WSJ covers the trashing of George Mason University.  Here is part of it:

All of this UnKoch nonsense is part of the left’s attempt to stifle conservative ideas in the guise of an attack on “dark money.” The Kochs are so “dark” that the progressives decided to use their name. And speaking of dark money, UnKoch My Campus isn’t a nonprofit and doesn’t file regular financial disclosures.

In addition, several of the folks in Bari’s story on the I.D.W. are attempts by the left to silence dissent.  We worry about meeting our standards in putting forth a theory on gatekeepers.  Expertise is important and we can’t be expert in all the areas necessary for our theory.  Still, that is the nature of theories.  They can be falsified or supported by empirical evidence.  Let’s give it a try.

Our theory is that we can compare political information to economic information.  No individual can deal with the either set of information but somehow the market can distill it.  We doubt that the market for political information is as efficient as the market for economic information but we think it is a reasonable description.  Let’s call it the Nearly Efficient Market for Political Information (NEMPI).

Thus, there are an extraordinarily large number of gatekeepers in NEMPI.  Some have large influence and others have close to no influence but enough folks are aware of their history and most of the gatekeepers worry about their history.  Their history causes their influence to wax and wane.  The I.D.W. is waxing in the NEMPI.

Free speech is the key attribute of the NEMPI.  With reasonably free speech we get NEMPI.  Folks want to reduce free speech or designate gatekeepers in order to eliminate the NEMPI.

The one difference we see between financial markets and NEMPI is timing.  Financial markets react quickly while the NEMPI takes more time.  We think that is OK because elections only happen every so often.

So our NEMPI theory is that everybody is a gatekeeper and the influence of each gatekeeper varies over time.  No individual can evaluate all the gatekeepers but free speech allows different individuals with different talents and points of view to provide information over time.  Bari, the I.D.W., legacy media, and all the others contribute information that informs politics.  NEMPI, let’s test it.

Bari And The Intellectual DarkWeb

Bari Weiss is riding the Intellectual Dark Web (IDW) at the NYT.  Kyle Smith at NRO is excited and the Left is aghast.  Quote from an NYT Letter to the Editor:

The “dangerous” ideas put forth by the people in Bari Weiss’s article are no longer discussed because we have collectively agreed that they are wrong.

Ah, we love appeals to authority that don’t identify the authority.

Sidebar One: We don’t know if the picture of Bari in Kyle’s article is recent but we were astonished by her youthfulness.  We asked the Lady deGloves to estimate her age.  She her estimate was exactly the same as ours: the year Sheldon Cooper started college.  End Sidebar One

Sidebar Two: To find out Bari’s age we Googled her.  The link to Wikipedia had a comment on the NYT that most might find ironic:

Bari Weiss is an American journalist. In 2017 Weiss joined The New Zionist Times as a staff editor in its opinion section.

Wikipedia didn’t exactly agree with the link:

Bari Weiss is Zionist filth. In 2017 Weiss joined The New York Times as a staff editor in its opinion section.

Well, assuming that Wikipedia got her graduation date from Columbia right she is much older than we thought.  On the other hand, we might guess that her religion and support for Israel might be a substantial part of why she is controversial when she seems so Milquetoast.  End Sidebar Two.

Bari’s article on the IDW interviews many of the characters and discusses their success in monetizing their fame.  Many of them are doing quite well.  At the end Bari discusses her opinion of the IDW:

Am I a member of this movement? A few months ago, someone suggested on Twitter that I should join this club I’d never heard of. I looked into it. Like many in this group, I am a classical liberal who has run afoul of the left, often for voicing my convictions and sometimes simply by accident. This has won me praise from libertarians and conservatives. And having been attacked by the left, I know I run the risk of focusing inordinately on its excesses — and providing succor to some people whom I deeply oppose. [Emphasis added]

I get the appeal of the I.D.W. I share the belief that our institutional gatekeepers need to crack the gates open much more. I don’t, however, want to live in a culture where there are no gatekeepers at all. Given how influential this group is becoming, I can’t be alone in hoping the I.D.W. finds a way to eschew the cranks, grifters and bigots and sticks to the truth-seeking.

Sidebar Three: We are curious about her definition of classical liberal.  We think the answer is conservative.  She doesn’t seem to think so.  We want to read more of her stuff to find out about her.  End Sidebar Three.

She gets the appeal free speech but she wants gatekeepers.  It is the problem with free speech.  You get cranks, grifters, bigots, and worse.  There are folks that will try to be gatekeepers but we need to be sure that they are not effective.


We’re With Pat … But

Pat Toomey in the WSJ is challenging The Donald on NAFTA:

If presented with this ultimatum, I will vote “no,” urge my colleagues to do likewise, and oppose any effort by the administration to withdraw unilaterally. Pulling out of Nafta by executive fiat would be economically harmful and unconstitutional.

We agree.  We hope that Pat and the rest of the GOP Senate enforce their right of advice and consent and support free trade.

We would like it to be an easy call.  Lower tariffs (taxes on American consumers) and fewer restrictions on trade are always good.  Pat suggests:

[T]he administration can accept the advice from many members of Congress and others to modernize Nafta in ways that expand trade opportunities without curtailing American consumers’ freedom.

We entirely agree.  It is not, however, likely to come down to an easy choice like that.  The likely choice is a “new” NAFTA that expands trade freedom in some areas while restricting it in others. We need a full discussion rather than name calling to make the decision.  Compromise is not necessarily a bad thing but neither is rejecting the potential new treaty.  To get two-thirds support The Donald is going to need to be in the compromise business too.

Yin And Yang In Baseball

In Toronto James Paxton, a Canadian, threw a no-hitter for Seattle.  At the other end of the spectrum, Dylan Bundy threw a no-outer versus Kansas City at home in Baltimore.  Dylan’s line was zero innings pitched, five hits, two walks, and four homers.  We wonder what the worst no-outer in history is?  We checked the AL record for runs in the first inning, 14 twice and neither had as bad a start.  The NL record was in 1894 so there was no box score.  Mike Wright, jr managed to trade outs for runs in the first (three outs and three more runs) so KC got ten in the first.  Good luck to Dylan on his next start.  He might need it.

Baseball, Conservatism, Expertise

Baseball and conservatism are at least loosely tied together.  George Will is the classic, but not only, example.  We read all sorts of blogs and other communication devices to take advantage of gathering expertise.  Unfortunately, everyone that puts out these communications is going to say something that he shouldn’t.  The reason that it gets said is we can’t help ourselves.  There was an NRO article that asserted that the NFL undervalued black quarterbacks.  Perhaps only because we were busy, we just managed to refrain from commenting.  We are convinced that neither the author nor MWG is an expert on the qualities of an NFL quarterback.

We all want to go beyond our expertise.  Although we sometimes refrain, it is a problem for everyone who opines for fun or profit.  In his newsletter, Jonah Goldberg, who admits to being not much of a sports guy says:

Baseball, as Al Capone explains in The Untouchables, is a game that marries team effort with individual achievement. But the team effort is only on defense. On offense, the player stands alone.

The last bolded sentence is false.  If you are the hitter do you want Rickey Henderson (1406 stolen bases) or Harmon Killebrew (19 stolen bases in 23 years) on first?  If you are the hitter do you want Babe Ruth or Mario Mendoza coming up next?  If you are trying to score from third do you want to stand alone or do you want the on-deck hitter to tell you how to slide?  Yes, the batter does literally stand alone at the plate versus the pitcher but it is more complicated than that.  We are sure that like Jonah we will be equally guilty of opining beyond our expertise soon.  It is a danger and we should welcome the feedback.

Good News

Jim Geraghty has good news for the GOP and particularly Wisconsin when he reports a poll that shows Tammy Baldwin 14 points underwater a question of deserves reelection versus time for a new person.  Perhaps it is her offensive ads suggesting that she can stop Wisconsin companies being acquired by companies in other states.  Perhaps she wants to stop leveraged buyouts (LBO).  Any honest reporting of LBOs will create a list of hits and misses (just in Wisconsin) and that most of the misses would have gone bankrupt in any case.  Heileman might be an exception.  Harley Davidson would be a positive example.

Sidebar: Stop laughing.  We know that there won’t be honest reporting on any economic issues.  We wish the right and the GOP would go honest but they are afraid to do that.  End Sidebar.

Of course, the WI GOP will need to find a fair impression of Ron Johnson to win.  We hope they can.


Academic Freedom And …

Jay M. Smith from the University of North Carolina has an interesting article at the WSJ about “How Sports Ate Academic Freedom.”  We agree with Jay that NCAA Division I sports do pressure academic freedom but the battle to maintain academic freedom has many more fronts.

Jay is the co-author, with Mary Willingham, of the book Cheated: The UNC [University of North Carolina] Scandal, The Education Of College Athletes, and The Future Of Big-time College Sports.  Based on his book Jay tells us:

As these events unfolded [an NCAA investigation and the UNC reaction], I co-authored a book that chronicled UNC’s handling of its scandal and placed the story in the context of the relationship between academics and athletics. Later, I developed a history course on big-time college sports. In that course, students learned about the conflicts of interest that had defined intercollegiate athletics from their beginning in the 19th century. They read about how the prime beneficiaries of college sports—coaches, university presidents, alumni and governing boards, the NCAA—had created a system that kept money rolling in but kept athletes always disadvantaged. They learned about the long-term origins of the systematic educational fraud that the UNC case exemplified.

The course Jay had developed did get taught once:

The course had flown under the radar of academic administrators in 2016, but when they discovered that I planned to teach it again in 2017, they intervened to suppress it.

We find it amazing that the course was taught once.  Jay’s book was published in 2015 and, usually, courses are approved by curriculum committees at a variety of levels.  At the university level there would be input from the relevant parties and the Athletics Department would be one.  There would be no surprise is what Jay was teaching on athletics.  Perhaps, this was what we call an umbrella course that can be taught a couple of times before it is approved for the catalogue.

The administrators were able to override faculty objections and remove the course.  Jay concedes that (emphasis added):

Controversial courses will remain vulnerable to suppression.

Jay is right but, as is rarely true, it is more general than the example at hand.  There are several areas of that cause controversies for academic freedom.  Mark Perry reports that the University of California – San Diego now requires all applicants for faculty positions to submit a diversity statement:

All candidates applying for faculty appointments at UC San Diego are required to submit a personal statement on their contributions to diversity. The purpose of the statement is to identify candidates who have the professional skills, experience, and/or willingness to engage in activities that will advance our campus diversity and equity goals.

Departments and search committees should consider a candidate’s statement as part of a comprehensive and transparent evaluation of their qualifications.

The hired faculty will have academic freedom if they really meant what they said in their statement while others won’t be considered if they are honest.  We wonder if Jay would appeal to them.  We were thinking of applying and using an example of educating a student at a Polish university wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt [We are not making this up.]  It might have been fun for us and the search committee.

Faculty have also given away their academic freedom to a variety of other folks on campus by letting them create required activities without faculty oversight.  Faculty have given up academic freedom cheaply and now folks like Jay lament that it is gone.  It is a major reason why universities are in such a precarious position.  If you don’t think so read Instapundit and check out the recurring Higher Education Bubble post like this one:

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE, SELF-DESTRUCTIVE IDEOLOGY EDITION: Montana State’s Faculty Senate narrowly votes down proposed economics research center to be funded by an active Charles Koch Foundation grant.

Balancing the restoration of academic freedom with the becoming a welcoming place for students, faculty, and staff on the right and center too is the challenge of the 21st century.  It is going badly so far.