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.

A Matter Of Perspective

David French, at The Dispatch, thinks this is the week that liberalism fought back.  He is looking at pundits while we are looking at universities.  We end up with very different answers.  Here is David:

Now back to this week. On Tuesday, a broad range of (mainly) left-leaning academics, pundits, authors, and other public figures published “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” in Harper’s Magazine. This was not your standard coalition of civil libertarians for free speech. It not only included arguably the most famous living novelist (J.K. Rowling), it included a range of leftist luminaries, such as Gloria Steinem and Noam Chomsky.

We agree with David that this is good news.  You should read it all.  You should read it all now because we have bad news.  Lots of it.  Here are five recent items from various universities.  They may not have been this week but that was when we saw them.

Mike Adams is retiring from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.  We are happy for Mike.  He was an even worse high school student than MWG but he too became a college professor.  We hope Mike enjoys retirement but the email from Chancellor Jose Sartarelli is shows his, and we think UNC-Wilmington’s attitude towards free speech.  Here is Jose’s first point:

Have [Mike] continue as a faculty member and accept the ongoing disruption to our educational mission, the hurt and anger in the UNCW community, and the damage to the institution.

You should read the whole letter.  You will find that they gave Mike over a half a million dollars to retire early.  That is what stopping free speech is worth to them.  We found the letter vindictive.  We hope Mike gets something extra from them.

Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine has a story on members of the Princeton faculty recommending  creating a new committee.  Paul says they demand an end to academic freedom.  He is not wrong.  The faculty members want to create a committee with absolute power to punish racist behavior.  No appeals.  No due process.  It is a group of faculty rather than an official faculty action so it is only on the horizon.

John Hinderaker, also at PowerLine, has a series of posts including this one that deal with Samantha Pfefferle, a supporter of The Donald, and if she would have her admission to Marquette University revoked for her support.  It appears she didn’t but we wonder what might have happened without PowerLine.

Heather MacDonald in the WSJ has the headline, “I Cited Their Study So They Disavowed It.”  Heather says:

The authors [of the study] don’t say how I misused their work. Instead, they attribute to me a position I have never taken: that the “probability of being shot by police did not differ between Black and White Americans.” To the contrary, I have, like them, stressed that racial disparities in policing reflect differences in violent crime rates. The only thing wrong with their article, and my citation of it, is that its conclusion is unacceptable in our current political climate.

We are not sure if the authors are running scared or if they just can’t believe that conservative writers understood them.

Then there was the tweet welcoming conservative students to Penn State that was quickly withdrawn.  You need good eyesight to pick it up but it won’t take long to read.

We hope David is right and the left is coming to accept free speech again.  We hope that universities are a lagging indicator.  We don’t think so.


Derek Chauvin’s Pension

Derek Chauvin in the former police officer charged with murdering George Floyd.  Zachary Evans at NRO has a CNN report with the headline: Officer Charged With Killing George Floyd Still Eligible For Pension Worth More Than $1 Million.  CNN’s first sentence tells us that the headline is incorrect:

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin could receive more than $1 million in pension benefits during his retirement years even if he is convicted of killing George Floyd.

So it is not worth $1 million but Derek might get that much if he survives prison and lives a long life.  It is like the “million dollar” lottery games where you can win $50,000 a year for 20 years.  There is usually an alternative to get a much smaller amount in cash now or there are folks that will do it.  We remember ad and found the organization that does it.  It is basic present value.  A dollar today is worth more than a dollar at some later date.

Let’s ignore legal niceties and convict Derek.  Should he still receive his pension?  Here is some background from CNN:

The laws governing whether pensions can be stripped from police accused of misconduct vary depending on the state. Less than half of states have laws that allow for pensions to be taken away from police who were convicted of any kind of felony, while some other states allow pensions to be taken away for specific crimes like corruption or sexual crimes against minors but not for the conviction of an officer for using excessive force, according to 2017 research published in the Journal of Law, Economics and Policy.

Pensions are different than entitlements like Social Security.  Public pensions in states like Minnesota are often underfunded but they are real obligations.  If we wait to fix Social Security we will almost certainly see a reduction in benefits.  Will they be across the board or means tested is the real question?  Pensions, on the other hand, are real obligations.  Derek has earned his.  He is entitled to receive his pension based on the almost 20 years he has worked on the police force.  There are choices but basically his pension is  computed as salary (usually average of highest three) * years (19 for Derek) * a multiplier.  We no longer have access to that data but our recollection was police in Wisconsin got 2.2 percent.  We are going to use that figure for our rough calculations that follow.  As a comparison faculty in Wisconsin got 1.6 percent for some years and 1.8 percent for others.  So 30 years on the force got you 66 percent of your highest salary.  It is hard and dangerous work but a nice pension.

Derek will get a decent pension for work he has already done.  He also leaves an enormous amount on the table by getting fired.  He had 11 years to age 55 retirement.  That would add 24.2 percent to his multiplier.  If he got a average raise of 3.1 percent his salary would be up by 40 percent.  And, often in their last few years folks work lots of overtime to boost their salary average even more.

Sidebar: Here is something CNN reported that we didn’t know and can’t confirm:

Officers also usually pay some of their own salaries into the funds and typically receive their pensions in lieu of Social Security.

It would be another reason to meet the obligations to Derek.  End Sidebar.

So Derek has earned his pension.  There are lots of reasons to be concerned about state and local pensions but Derek isn’t one of them.

After COVID-19; When?

There is a danger in discussing what to do after COVID-19.  The danger of discussing alternatives is that you send a message that the danger is over.  It is not.  It may not ever be fully over but we need to have adults discuss the future.  If you are not up for that then here is a video from Mean Girls.  There are ads before the show.  The adults can discuss the possibilities of a second wave or vaccines.

The Dispatch is careful not to send the message that the danger is over but it doesn’t have much to say because it only discusses the cost of COVID-19 and not the cost of the current lockdowns.  In How Swede It Is they discuss the results from the Swedish model with less severe lockdowns.  They have a comparison between Sweden and Denmark that suggests the Swedish model is leading to more COVID-19 deaths.  It is not a robust model.  Then they say:

Nor is Sweden likely to be spared the economic devastation we are currently experiencing in more locked down countries. As several writers have pointed out, Sweden’s own government expects the Swedish economy to contract more dramatically this year than America’s.

This is misunderstanding binary choices.  The choice is not economic devastation or not.  The question is how much.  Comparing the US and Swedish economies is even less robust that Denmark versus Sweden on COVID.  The comparison is Sweden with severe lockdown versus Sweden with less severe lockdown.  And it is more that just the economy.

A more serious discussion comes from Jonathan Geach, M.D. in Eight Reasons To End The Lockdowns As Soon As Possible.  Jonathan’s publication was removed until he put a disclaimer that he was not advocating an end to policies like social distancing now.  It should have already been obvious from the title but such is the world we live in.

You should read the whole thing but two of the eight items that hit home for us were suicides and the delay of non-COVID care.  Quantifications and comparisons are going to be difficult.  The solution is federalism.  Some communities and states will take the legal steps to open up earlier than others.  Some folks will take advantage of those opportunities while others will not.  We should have a serious conversation about the alternatives.  The reaction to Jonathan’s article suggests it won’t happen.


Really Unimpressed

Earlier we wrote that we were unimpressed by Ron Kind’s vote against Nancy Pelosi as he called for new leadership for House Democrats.  We hadn’t seen who he voted for.  Several members voted present but Kind voted for John Lewis.  As far as new leadership it is a poor signal since John is a month (and a bit) older than Nancy.  Both John and Nancy have been members of Congress since 1987.

Ron’s call for new leadership falls flat.  We hope he takes it seriously because both parties could use it.  We are really unimpressed but still hopeful.


Our local Democrat Congress Critter, Ron Kind, voted against Nancy Pelosi in the Speaker of the House race.  Of course, Nancy won.  Ron’s office said:

“My first priority has always been standing up for Wisconsin, and the values that Wisconsinites hold. I thank Nancy Pelosi for her years of service to the House of Representatives and the Democratic Party, but I believe it is time for new leadership that moves Wisconsin — and America — forward,”

Ron might be trying to signal that he is not with Nancy and the Democrats as they lurch leftward.  There are two problems with his signal.  First, it is a meaningless vote because Nancy was going to win anyways.  Second, he offers no alternative other than to quote the Wisconsin Motto, forward.  It looks like signals without meaning.  We await the serious stuff to see what Ron will do.

Not A Surprise

We saw a link to this on Facebook.  We don’t know if the study is bona fide or not but the analysis is another one of those surprises that does not surprise anyone that actually thinks about the question.  Perhaps the 44th president was surprised.  The study was comparing the longevity of women that owned horses to those who didn’t.  It doesn’t mention men.

By the end of the study, they found surprising results. Women who owned a horse lived for 15 years longer. This result was true for women of different ages and nationalities. The scientists even looked at data from 50 countries to see if the results were accurate. It turns out that owning a horse is extremely good for your health. [Emphasis added]

Well, we are pretty sure that owning a horse implies wealth and exercise.  Both of those things are good for your health.  Charles Murray has shown the connection between wealth and health and Coming Apart.  The connection between excise and health seems obvious.  It is not the horse.  It is the horse that is a proxy for other things.  For example, we predict that almost all horse owners have a dog.  The dog is equally unlikely to be the cause of longevity.  If you want to live longer walk up the stairs instead of buying a horse.

Hating The Donald

We were wandering around the Internet.  First we went to Tyler Cowen’s Marginal Revolution site. Tyler is a serious economist.  Wikipedia tell us that:

He was ranked #72 among the “Top 100 Global Thinkers” in 2011 by Foreign Policy Magazine “for finding markets in everything.”[4] In a 2011 poll of experts by The Economist, Cowen was included in the top 36 nominations of “which economists were most influential over the past decade.”

He said that Christopher Lebron at the Boston Review had the best review of Black Panther.  We are interested in the movie and want another review.  Armond White has never been very helpful for us.  Armond is too worried about philosophy and has too many reference to movies we haven’t seen.  We want to know if the movie is entertaining.  We thought the Greatest Showman was a really entertaining movie.  We were shocked at how good it was after so many poor movies recently.  Interestingly, the preview from the star and director suggests that they wanted to make an entertaining movie.  Perhaps it is not hard to make an entertaining movie if that is your goal.

Tyler does say the review is via Hollis Robbins but we think he should read it to link to it.  Here is part of the first paragraph of Christopher’s review:

This is a tall order, especially in the time of [The Donald], who insists that blacks live in hell and wishes that (black) sons of bitches would get fired for protesting police violence.

We wonder what somebody would need to say about a political figure to have it be a bad review?  We don’t know much about the Boston Review.  They might think it crucial that they signal their hate of The Donald to their audience.   We are, however, disappointed in Tyler.  He should understand the importance of  rhetoric.

Sexual Harassment

We saw a comment in the WSJ that we need to address.  We have avoiding the topic because it is too complex.  The function goes something like this: Our Anger (OA) = f(number of offenses, type of offenses, dates of offenses, credibility of complaints, power relationships, R or D, private sector or public sector, etc).  We find it too confusing to get involved because we don’t know any of the values of the parameters.  Sometimes we don’t even know the sign.

But when the WSJ said this:

The status quo ante on serious sexual harassment—which is to say, a lot of men got away with it—is over. The new status quo is that it will not be tolerated.

Based on the evidence to date it might be true in the private sector where there have been many firings but it doesn’t seem to be true in the public sector.  Of course, we can argue about the modifier serious but it seems that Al, Tom, and Roy were all involved in serious stuff to us although it would depend on how you judge OA.  Two of them are still office holders and the other is still a candidate.  Unless all three are dismissed shortly we would conclude that the status quo ante has not changed.

Funny But Biased

The WSJ and the WSJ Editorial Page are quite different.  The Editorial Page is conservative to libertarian while the rest of the paper is not.  A report on Congressional spending by Kristina Peterson and Nick Timiraos has a classic example.  In discussing how the increase spending will be divided they say:

On spending, major sticking points have yet to be resolved, including how much of that sum will have to be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget, and how the additional funding will be divided between defense and nondefense spending, aides said. Republicans generally want more money to go to defense, while Democrats have argued that any increase in spending should be fairly divided. [Emphasis added]

We wonder what Kristina and Nick think is a fair division?  Since we already know the answer to that question (Nancy Pelosi will tell them what is fair), we are more interested why Kristina and Nick didn’t cover entitlements in a story on Congressional spending.