Rays Of Sunshine

In our cultural wars there are an enormous amount of battle lines that have been drawn.  According to the partisans, the last two presidents could either do nothing right or are playing six-dimensional chess.  There are all kind of trenches for various religious groups and races and ethnicities.  We see it as the bigotry of bigotry.  If those folks on the other side are against us then we can’t admit that they could  be right about anything.

The rays of sunshine come from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar via Jay Nordlinger at NRO.  Kareem’s “Where Is The Outrage At Anti-Semitism In Sports And Hollywood?” makes us see sunshine, rainbows and more for two reasons.  First, it is well done.  Of course you should read it it all but here is a great story about the wonderful Billie Holliday from Kareem:

One of the most powerful songs in the struggle against racism is Billie Holiday’s melancholic “Strange Fruit,” which was first recorded in 1939. The song met strong resistance from radio stations afraid of its graphic lyrics about lynching:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Despite those who wanted to suppress the song, it went on to sell a million copies that year and became Holiday’s best-selling record ever. The song was written by a white, Jewish high school teacher, Abel Meeropol, who performed it with his wife around New York before it was given to Holiday.

One small quibble: We expect that Abel got his royalties.  He didn’t give the song to Billie.  He gave her the right to sing it.

What makes us joyful about Kareem’s op-ed is that he black Muslim.  He began using his Muslim name many years ago at the age of 24.

Sidebar: Kareem’s Wikipedia entry might need some explaining.  He did win three consecutive NCAA championships.  Back in those days you couldn’t leave college early for the NBA and you couldn’t, how quaint, play varsity as a freshman.  End Sidebar.

Before that he was Lew Alcindor.  Kareem’s history makes his op-ed infinitely more powerful.  When Kareem takes Louis Farrakhan to task folks might listen.  He ends with this:

The lesson never changes, so why is it so hard for some people to learn: No one is free until everyone is free. As Martin Luther King Jr. explained: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” So, let’s act like it. If we’re going to be outraged by injustice, let’s be outraged by injustice against anyone.

We can still disagree about when X’s freedom impairs Y’s freedom but we need to first look at ourselves.  We are glad that Kareem found his voice.  We hope he will be a role model for others in every group.



More Perspective On The Harper’s Letter

Earlier we said that we did not share David French’s rosy view on the Harper’s letter on Justice and Open Debate.  Our perspective was based on events at universities around the country.  Douglas Murray at Unherd has a similar perspective to us based on the letter’s contents, the letter’s signatories, and the reaction to the letter.  Of course you should read everything that Douglas writes.

We find Douglas convincing.  The letter is so bland and obvious it hardly needs to be written.  Then why is The Donald the only person or organization that is specifically mentioned?  If you were creating a list of the enemies of free speech The Donald would be well down the list.  Why is the political cutoff for signatories a millimeter to the right of the political center?  As Douglas says, Victor Davis Hanson, among others, would be a great addition.  Then Douglas covers the reactions to the letter and the reaction of the signatories to the challenges.  Here is a great paragraph on the agonized reactions of the signatories:

It must be an awful thing to discover, that. You wake one morning believing that you have just signed the usual “well-meaning, if vague” letter alongside a genocide-denier and other reputable Left-wing authors, only to discover that a former speechwriter to a Republican president is on the same list of names as yours. What a lot of weight that must be to bear. Almost intolerable in its way.

At the very least, it is not clear that the letter has improved attitudes towards free speech.  It is too soon to tell but it is entirely possible that the letter has failed and free speech is only a value of some on the right.

Still, David could be right.  The letter, in Churchill’s phrase, could be the end of the beginning.  Perhaps hate and cancellation will start to be more contested and include more folks from the left.  This would be the process that eventually would turn the tide back towards free speech.  We agree with David that it can’t be done without some help on the left.  We, like Douglas, are unconvinced help is coming from the left but it is possible.

Post-Peak COVID-19 Universities

Universities will have big changes in the post-peak COVID-19 (PPC-19) era.  We are not sure they are convinced of it yet as our former school is emphasizing increasing its diversity police.  Universities are not fully a free market but the market will have a big impact on them at the margin because tuition is a large portion of university revenue.  There are some great ideas.  Charles Lipton at Real Clear Politicsis worth reading several times.  Will anyone listen to him?

Steven Hayward has a terrific statement that a fellow conservative is going to use as a preface to his introductory history course.  We an interested and excited to see the outcome of such a statement.  The big question is what will the administration (department chair, dean, and CEO) do when the students protest?

Mark Hemingway at Real Clear Investigations tells us of an alternative that is not market based.  Mark says:

Currently, the conservative National Association of Scholars is working with four states – Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and Arizona – to go further: pass laws to increase “intellectual diversity” at public universities.

It is clear that the right can succumb to the siren call of fascism.  We are not in favor of people with guns enforcing intellectual diversity.  It shows that groups respond ro the problem that the university has created.

TaxProf Blog reprints an op-ed from Arlene S. Kanter that asks if professors can be forced back on campus in PPC-19.  She convinces us that the answer is no.  At the very least there will be professors that litigate such coercion.  Faculty and student demands related to protecting them from COVID-19 adds another element to the chaos that PPC-19 will produce.

Our background is in a public university so we will consider them only.  Here is the situation as the 2020-21 school year approaches.  They are largely controlled by folks accepting of the far left mob although there are pockets of conservatism as in Steven’s report.  State universities have severe budget problems because of tuition shortfalls and state budget shortfalls.  On average, state representatives are closer to the center than the university.  So are the parents of students. Thus, we see potential solutions like forced intellectual diversity that Mark discusses.  We will also see reduced attendance in the fall.  Nobody knows how much.

Charles has a much better idea but it is much more difficult.  Of course, the main problem is getting the university to reject the demands of the mob.  Do read all of what Charles says.  We would suggest that you give a copy to any administrator you work with or know.  He says:

Universities must publicly reassert the first principle of academic inquiry: free and open debate is essential to research and learning. Bad arguments should be rebutted with better ones, bad data and methods with better ones. How do we know which arguments, data, and methods are bad? Only through vigorous debate.

The statement that Steven reports says that and more. He goes on to say there must be a safe harbor for faculty members.  Again, this would require administration to stand up to the mob.  He suggests that state legislators can help by insisting that universities adhere to the First Amendment.  Charles doesn’t mention it but FIRE can help too. We like his ideas but we don’t know if the administrators are up to them.

We think that the budget problems will be exacerbated by the mob because most administrators will not, at least initially, stand up to them.  Students will stay away so they don’t run afoul of the mob.  As universities approach the brink of failure what will happen?  Will the state close several campuses to save the rest?  Will some administrators with backbones lead the way?  Will the state insist on leadership?

We expect there will be different outcomes in different places.  We are sure that there will be big changes.

Our Favorite Statue

The local barbarians have torn down the statue of Hans Christian Heg, the immigrant abolitionist who died in the Civil war trying to free the slaves.  Sigh.  And, of course, we have the suit for a governor so there will be no leadership.  Reading such sad news led us to reading the Atlas Obscura for a little escapism.  Here is the website.  They will tell you about the book if you go there.  We found our favorite statue at the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility (SPI).

And what, you might ask, is the SPI?  It is the point on Antartica farthest from the ocean.  In simple terms, it might be the hardest place to visit in the world.  It also has an average temperature of minus 73 degrees (that is F not C if it matters to you).

And what is the statue?  The notorious Communist dictator Vladimir Lenin.  It, actually a bust on a box, was put there by the Soviets in 1958 when there was a USSR and it was Communist.

It is our favorite because of the combination of subject and location.  Any of the barbarians that what to tear down statues of white men will have a challenge getting there.  Any of the fools that think socialism is a good idea will surely freeze getting there to appreciate it.  It is close to the perfect statue for this day and age.



Tempests, Tea Cups, And Conservatives

Recently David French had some interesting ideas on creating “Bill of Rights Republicans.”  They would replace law and order Republicans. We like Bill of Rights conservatives so we don’t need to associate with either party.   It is an interesting idea and you should read the whole thing.  There are four planks to David’s platform:

  1. End or substantially reform qualified immunity.
  2. Reform civil asset forfeiture and end “policing for profit.”
  3. Roll back “no-knock” raids.
  4. Rethink cash bail. 

We want to discuss the crucial wording in the first one and why conservatives want to be careful about embracing the whole platform.  We are absolutely on board with number two and three.  There is a wide variety of conservatives but one thing that most of us agree on it that we are reluctant to tear down stuff.  Yes, we know stuff is really vague but it is still true.  One reason to be reluctant to join David’s group is that the Bill of Rights isn’t being trampled by police.  The most serious problems in big cities and beyond lie elsewhere.  Here is Jason L. Riley at the WSJ using Chicago as an example of big city problems:

The reality is that the carnage we witness in Chicago is what’s typical, law enforcement has next to nothing to do with black homicides, and the number of interactions between police and low-income blacks is driven by crime rates, not bias. According to the Sun-Times, there were 492 homicides in Chicago last year, and only three of them involved police.

David’s recommendations may help a few people a great deal but they won’t help any of the big problems in cities.

We think there is a big difference between end versus substantially reform qualified immunity.  Qualified immunity prevents government workers like police officers from civil suits:

“government officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”

It seems likely that eliminating qualified immunity will lead to a plethora of law suits. We expect that teacher and school administrators to be a major target.  There might be a way to reform qualified immunity so in an egregious case like George Floyd and Derek Chauvin there might be a place for a civil case.  We should, however, be reminded that Derek has lost his job and faces substantial prison time.  We only know from TV shows but it rings true with us that former police officers in prison will have a tough time.  It appears that Derek will keep his pension. We will have a separate post on that later.  Surely, if Derek wasn’t deterred by prison and the financial losses then the possibility of a civil suit would not be an influence either.  So the only reasons for civil suits is to employ lawyers, possible financial compensation for the injured or heirs, and to harass government workers.

Neither is complete but the existing processes have worked in two very different cases in Minneapolis.  This story form over a year ago tries to argue that the response to the killing of a white woman by a black police officer in Minneapolis of all places show the existence of racism.  Some theories don’t stand up to the facts.  In both cases the existing criminal processes seem to be working.  As the woman’s family in the earlier case has received $20 million from the Minneapolis police we are unconvinced on the need to expand the legal opportunities to sue government workers.

We would generally be a bill of rights conservative.  We just don’t see that it will do much for cities or minorities.  If the GOP is to make political inroads in places like Minneapolis we would be disappointed if they did it with window dressing.  The people these often misgoverned cities deserve political competition.






Dr. King’s Humility

Jerome Christenson writes Op-eds for the Winona Daily News and La Crosse Tribune but the papers put them places other than the opinion section.  Recently, he helped us better understand one of our least favorite quotes.  Read the whole thing.  We did.  Jerome wrote:

“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” Martin Luther King famously observed, and events and attitudes indicate him to be right.

As a theory, Dr. King’s statement is problematic because we don’t have any timeframe. It took humans centuries to get to the Magna Carta.  Since WWII results are mixed.  Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela, to name only a few, have bent the wrong way while Germany and Japan are notable successes.  What Jerome gets right is that the United States has been one of those successes:

But change was afoot. In the space of a short lifetime, we went from Jim Crow to Barack Obama – from a rigidly segregated military force to an African-American commander-in-chief.

Jerome is our age so we don’t think of it as a short life time and we are going to add segregated baseball but otherwise he is on point.  The United States has continued to make great strides forward in liberty in the last century.  Where we disagree is on the cause of those strides.  Jerome seems to buy into the discredited 1619 Project and might be confused about dates.

Let’s not minimize the depth of the racial divide challenging each and every one of us. Four hundred years ago, Africans were brought here as property and designated by the framers of the Constitution as being 3/5 of a human being – the former declaration of all men being created equal notwithstanding. [Emphasis added]

The Declaration and the Constitution set the framework for people to act but they are much more recent than four hundred years ago.  Freedom was rare and always limited at the time of the American founding.  Slavery was not.  Freedom is now more common and sometimes more complete now but it is far from ubiquitous and slavery is still too common.  We would argue that it is people rather than an arc.  The American Founders improved freedom in the US and encouraged the world.  The Founding wasn’t perfect, immediate, or everywhere.  Wikipedia confirms that Harry Truman desegregated the US armed forces:

 In 1948, [Harry] submitted the first comprehensive civil rights legislation and issued Executive Order 9981 to start racial integration in the military and federal agencies.

Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson, and Pee Wee Reese led the successful breaching of MLB’s color barrier a year earlier.

Double Sidebar: We are not concerned that Branch, Jackie and Pee Wee all profited from their actions.  Capitalism, with its emphasis on voluntary actions rather than coerced ones, often, but unfortunately not always, leads to this happy state of affairs.
Pee Wee was a minor actor compared to Branch and Jackie in the integration of MLB.  We point him out because minor actors are important too.  And it helps explain why a lifetime .269 hitter is in the Baseball Hall Of Fame.  End Double Sidebar.

Dr. King led the struggle to continue to desegregate the United States.  People make decisions and those decisions matter.  The framework matters too.  The Declaration and the Constitution are gifts from the Founders to folks seeking freedom.  Dr. King connected with the Declaration.  On the other hand, we are reading Joseph Kanon’s The Good German.   It isn’t a great novel but it does make a great point that during Hitler’s regime  “ordinary” Germans often had extraordinarily difficult choices.

We don’t see that the moral universe is an actor.  We are the actors that choose to increase or decrease political and economic freedom.  Of course, when folks want to reduce your political freedom they say that they want to do something like stop hate speech.  And when they want to reduce your economic freedom they will say it is to give you security.

The direction towards or away from freedom is, at least in part, up to us.  The Founders gave the framework for freedom.  Amendments have improved it. Leadership matters.  We think Dr. King was being humble when he said that impersonal forces moved America towards justice.  He made a big positive impact on justice in America.  We can too.

Private Justice

The always interesting Kevin D. Williamson exceeds expectations with his The Tuesday newsletter on Justice And Neighborliness.  Yes, you should subscribe to NR and be sure  to get The Tuesday and Morning Jolt newsletters.  We will wait….

Sidebar: Yesterday we discussed the failure of current city governments and the opportunity for the GOP.  We were not suggesting it would be easy to succeed.  FDR was a political genius because he landed the first quadruple Lutz.  He blamed the GOP rather than the progressives like Hoover for the start of the Depression.  He escaped blame for making the Depression Great.  He lived past the 1944 election.  He accepted Harry Truman as his ’44 running mate.  Can you imagine how different our history would be if Henry A. Wallace became president?  End Sidebar.

Back?  Good.  Here is Kevin on private justice:

I had very high hopes for private justice, by which I do not mean the abolition of the state and its legal mechanisms but the supersession of it by more fruitful alternatives in some circumstances. Many good-faith disputes already are better handled in voluntary arbitration than through the traditional courts, especially when they involve highly specialized matters with which judges and juries are sure to be unfamiliar.

If you haven’t already done so, read the whole thing to get some examples of the failure of private justice including the recent riots.  We would like to add an example that Kevin did not include: The fellow officers of Derek Chauvin, the accused police officer.  Kevin has a private justice theory for the rioters:

One theory of the riots is this: Believing, with good reason, that the police will seek to protect their own and that officers who break the law will enjoy considerations that that typical offender would not, that racial injustice is systemic, and that reform is unlikely or impossible in the foreseeable future, the disorder and destruction is understood as a kind of fine on society at large.

The officers should be well aware of this theory.  Derek made their lives Hell.  Why did they not retaliate against him?  Why are not they administering private justice on Derek for all the pain he has caused them?  The answer would seem to be that we are tribal rather than rational beings.  The police wagon train is in a circle.  The governor, mayor, and bureaucrat train is (or are those three more trains?) another circle as is the racial grievance one and so on.  Our tribal nature makes solutions difficult and justice, public or private, close to impossible.

Failure Of Politics

We see politics as the way to get to an accepted and sometimes legal solution.  Early in our career when the College of Business Administration needed a curriculum we got together and had intense discussions.  Eventually we passed a curriculum by the narrowest of votes that held together for decades.  A political solution rarely makes anyone happy but often is long lasting.

We first wrote about the failure of politics over forty years ago with regard to the end of slavery.  We know from Fogel and Engermanthat the market for slaves was robust.  How come there couldn’t be a market solution to end slavery over time?  That is, the expected cost of the Civil War, which both side grossly underestimated, would be enough to free the slaves over time.  Birth and death would be one reasonable alternative.  It wasn’t published so you will have to trust us on the computations.

We don’t expect another Civil War but we do see another failure of politics with regard to the George Floyd situation.  Here is what the Chancellor of our former school said in an email we received recently:

In recent weeks, we’ve seen many responses to the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Tony McDade among countless others. More broadly, we’ve been reminded of the ever-present issues of systemic racism, injustice, police violence, bias and racial profiling throughout our country.  [Emphasis added]

Seriously, we have seen countless deaths in recent weeks? There have been many deaths from COVID-19 but we work very hard at counting each one.   Later on, without a trace of irony, the email says:

As an institution, we are at our best when we support, uplift and — perhaps most of all — take the time to listen to one another.

It is clear that the Chancellor is only interested in lecturing.  Universities are not the only ones that are not listening to folks or paying attention to data.  Jim Geraghty in the Morning Jolt reports that the Saint Paul Mayor said every person arrested in the recent riots was from out of state and:

Minnesota governor Tim Walz and Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey made similar comments Saturday morning. But data from arrest reports released later that day indicated that was not the case. “In Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis, 47 of the 57 people arrested in protest incidents through Saturday morning had provided a Minnesota address to authorities, according to Jeremy Zoss, a spokesman for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.”

Conservatives and the GOP have similar problems getting facts right but for our discussion the biggest problem is the there hasn’t been a Republican mayor of Minneapolis since just before we were writing about the Civil War.  As the WSJ puts it the government has failed:

The violence that broke out in American cities this weekend goes far beyond justified anger at the killing of George Floyd on Monday. The rioters are looting shops and attacking police with impunity, and they threaten a larger breakdown of public order. Protecting the innocent and restoring order is the first duty of government.

The government is made of Democrats and it has failed to protect citizens from the police and citizens from other citizens.  Yet what is the chance that GOP sweep into mayoral positions in major cities like Minneapolis?  Zero?  Less?

The Democrats and the left have failed in cities all over America.  It is a failure of politics because the Democrats have no reason to improve because the GOP and conservatives can’t find a reasonable offering that would even compete with failure.




An Old Problem

Ask Amy received a letter from a person who described himself as a conservative intellectual in Berkeley CA.  He is having problems at dinner parties as:

When I tell them that I’m fairly conservative, they just don’t get it. They freely disparage “right-wing hillbillies” and say that all conservatives are “evil people.”

We are not surprised but it seems that Amy is.  She says that the friends of the conservative are just reacting to The Donald:

My take on the phenomenon you describe is that one unexpected and unfortunate consequence of our president’s personal and public comportment is that it seems to have inspired a parallel mindset in the opposition.

Sidebar: There has been much discussion about Republicans and conservatives.  It is clear who are Republicans but conservatives are harder to identify.  As we see it, The Donald is not a conservative.  Thus there is nothing parallel about it.  End Sidebar.

Of course, the mindset of the opposition has been like that for decades.  As it happens, on the same day over at InstaPundit, Ed Driscoll posted a cover of Time magazine from the 1990-something that has a drawing of Newt Gingrich breaking Tiny Tim’s crutch and it says: “Uncle Scrooge [that’s Newt, the guy that revived the economy after the Clinton disaster of 1993-4] ‘Tis the season to bash the poor.  But is Newt Gingrich’s America really that heartless?” To understand the significance of this you should remember that Time was a really important publication in those days.  This Wikipedia entry gives a few details on Time’s circulation.  Here is a quote from The Atlantic:

[Time] kept on growing after that. At its zenith [roughly around the Newt cover] the brand could reach more than 20 million people around the world each week. Time practically defined what it meant to be mass media.

Time now is just a shadow of what it was twenty plus years ago.   Bad behavior towards conservatives and Republicans is not new.  If you are a conservative or a Republican and you haven’t been called a Nazi then people must think that you aren’t important. Remember Mitt in 2012?  Amy ends with this:

Surely anyone worthy of being called a “liberal” should defend your right to speak your own mind, and should maintain an attitude of open-minded curiosity about people who think differently than they do.

We think that everyone should defend the right to speak and be curious about what folks on the other side of the aisle think.  The right is far from perfect on these counts but Amy is going to have a hard time finding leftists she can call  liberals out there.


Document The Obvious

Congratulations and good luck to Boris in implementing Brexit.  In discussing the British election yesterday we noted the extreme reaction of Labor supporters to their loss.  We said that the left tends to lash out at electoral losses.  Today, John Hinderaker at PowerLine reports on a UK poll from YouGov to convince all of us on the applicability of our observations.

Labour voters (41%) and Remain voters (40%) are much more likely to judge someone else negatively for voting differently to them than Conservative voters (19%) and Leave voters (13%)https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/12/09/brexit-has-caused-more-arguments-general-election?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=website_article&utm_campaign=sarah_election_arguments 

We have the evidence from our observations and now more generalized data from a poll in a single country.  It should be confirmed in the US.  Then the next question would be why are folks on the left intolerant and judgmental about political issues?