Free Speech And Diversity

We are back from vacation and catching up on a variety of things.  One is David French’s excellent article at NRO recognizing that free speech empowers marginalized groups rather than the opposite.  Do read it all but here is the paragraph that is crux of it:

The true tension in the First Amendment isn’t between freedom and diversity or freedom and inclusion. History teaches us that the tension is between freedom and power. Free speech, by its very nature, leads to questioning, debate, and — eventually — accountability.

David is exactly right.  What we see at almost all universities is that the power is on the left and they want to keep it.  David explains and we agree that the best way to keep power is to limit speech.  The right agrees on the usefulness of such a strategy.


Vacation In Venezuela

We provide transportation to four-year-old kindergarten for one of the grand-deGloves. The letter of the week was V and one of the teachers said today’s subject would be Vacation In Venezuela.  In fact, they liked Vacation In Venezuela so much that they extended it to two days.

Of course, our immediate thought was why are you glorifying that hell-hole? Yet we refrained from comment despite the facts.  On the Heritage ranking of economic freedom it is 179 of 180.  Six countries are not ranked.  To put it kindly, it is a violent place without a reliable government.  About a year ago the LA Times said:

Venezuela’s violent crime epidemic appears to be escalating into a full-blown humanitarian crisis. The precise dimensions are hard to know, however, because along with the collapse of the economy and widespread hunger has come a near blackout of reliable government crime statistics.

Nothing we have seen suggests the situation has improved since then.  We are convinced that it was appropriate to leave this as a politics free zone.  There are not many countries that start with V: Vanuatu, Viet Nam, Venezuela.  The kids are just four.  The discussion is not about governments but geography and letters.  We are happy with our choice.  The question is when should we speak up?

Those Countries

The Donald has put his foot in mouth again by describing certain countries as shitholes or perhaps some other scatological comparison.  We think some of the reactions are silly and some are overwrought.  Let’s look at two:

A Facebook comment:

My ancestors came from a shithole country, Ireland, looking for a sustainable life, escaping famine.  [Emphasis added]

A comment on Jim Geraghty in the Morning Jolt:

The message from the president – and the subsequent refusal to deny, retract, or disavow the comments – is clear: people from these places have no value.

Wikipedia takes care of the Facebook comment in one sentence:

The famine was a watershed in the history of Ireland,[1] which was then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

So, in fact, those ancestors left the greatest economic and military power in the world to try an up and coming United States.  The folks in Ireland could have gone elsewhere but they were often looking to avoid the British who were near the height of their empire.

Jim’s comment might be more over the top than the one on Facebook.  Jim doesn’t like profanity and we would like to see less of it too but we can’t see how The Donald is saying people in those countries have no value.  He is denigrating the country rather than the people.  Denigrating the a country in a large meeting with both parties is not the height of wisdom.  Yet we do not want to end up as the overflow valve for failed countries.  We want countries to be able to verify their citizens for travel and other purposes.

We got the message.  It was poorly crafted.  It was especially poorly crafted considering the audience.  There is no need to try and create another message.

Tax Cut Complaints

The WSJ is good about bringing in opposing views on its opinion page.  Recently Alan Blinder had a headline of: Almost Everything Is Wrong With The New Tax Law.  We were curious as we have supported it.  We first checked to see his background: Professor of economics at Princeton and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve.  The first qualification makes us nervous about his seriousness but it is probably worth reading.

If you are trying to convince the unconvinced then you start with your best shot.  Here is how Alan starts with specifics after saying it offers mere crumbs to the middle class:

Further, once the phase-outs occur at the end of 2025, even most of the crumbs disappear. The Tax Policy Center estimates that the share of tax cuts accruing to the top 0.1% of taxpayers will rise from 8% in 2018 to an astounding 60% in 2027 if Congress doesn’t extend the expiring cuts. [Emphasis added]

So, Alan is telling us they should extend the tax cuts.  We agree.  In addition he slays his “mere crumbs” argument.  The top 0.1% of tax payers get 8% of the benefits in 2018.  We can’t find an exact figure for the percentage of tax paid by the top 0.1% but we estimate it at 19%.

Sidebar: The top 1% paid 38.1% of income taxes in 2012.  Comparing the top 0.1% taxable income versus the top 1% in table 3 shows it to be about half.   Another table shows that the tax rates for the top 0.1% are slightly lower than the top 1%.  So 38 percent multiplied by a half is a reasonable approximation.  End Sidebar.

So folks the super-rich folks paying 18% of taxes get 8% of the benefits.  We would have liked to see the tax cut be more pro growth but Alan winning the argument against himself.  Next he goes for the trickle down slur and then he complains about process.  In between he brings up a real issue: The deficit.  We agree.  It needs to be fixed.  Part of the fix is increasing economic growth through tax policy and regulation reductions.  Another part is reforming entitlements.  We expect Alan’s support as entitlements will come up soon.

Alan convinces that we should continue to support the new tax bill and the provisions should be extended.  It is not perfect but it is a good start.





A Great Phrase

Here is Sam Altman discussing how China has become more open than San Francisco.  He starts out:

Earlier this year, I noticed something in China that really surprised me.  I realized I felt more comfortable discussing controversial ideas in Beijing than in San Francisco.  I didn’t feel completely comfortable—this was China, after all—just more comfortable than at home. [Emphasis added]

Sam has put it nicely.  China isn’t free as the bold phrase makes clear but San Francisco is worse.  It is like picking The Donald over Herself.  Then he comes up with the sentence we all hope to write.  We need to set it up with another:

Political correctness (PC) often comes from a good place—I think we should all be willing to make accommodations to treat others well.  But too often it ends up being used as a club for something orthogonal to protecting actual victims.

We don’t find the often in the first sentence convincing and the second sentence shows how PC can be the opposite of accommodations but the second sentence is sublime.  It makes a great point in a pithy manner.

We have been working on a piece about how leftist nasty has infected conservative writers.  We know there are reasonable leftists out there but that the nasty on both sides can drown the analysis.  It is nice to find one like Sam.

Appropriate Comments And Not

Some time ago The Donald stirred the pot by commenting on the kneelers in the NFL.  He said:

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!” You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, “That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.” And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.

The Donald is right.  People would love it.  We are not big fans of these comments in the manner of The Donald’s immediate predecessor but we recognize the nature of politics.  We would like presidents to be more presidential but the events of the last 25 years have argued against it.

Meanwhile, in India, Vidhi Doshi in the WaPo reports:

The release of a highly anticipated Bollywood blockbuster has been delayed after a politician from India’s governing party offered a bounty of $1.5 million for the heads of the movie’s star and director amid outcry that the film distorted Hindu legend.

Others have threatened to break the legs of the actor who plays the Muslim villain.  Two things:  First, and obviously, the comments of The Donald and the Indian politician are entirely different.  It does’t matter if the latter’s speech constitutes fighting words or not.  This is not a legal issue.  It is an issue of appropriate behavior.  The Donald is OK and the other is not.

The other point is how the WaPo categorized this outbreak of incivility.  Was it intolerance, racism, or something else?  Here is what they said:

The violent reaction to the film’s release further suggests a groundswell of conservatism in Modi’s India.

It appears that conservatism is consistent with calling for cutting off heads and breaking legs.  We are not sure how Vidhi came to that conclusion.  We would be interested to hear Vidhi’s description of conservatism.

Never Sorry On The Left

Jim Geraghty in The Morning Jolt provides a summary showing how free speech exists for the Left.  He reports:

A lot of right-of-center sports fans don’t particularly like Jamele Hill, the co-host of the 6 p.m. Sportscenter on ESPN, who tweeted Monday that “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”
Late last night, she issued the statement: “My comments on Twitter expressed my personal beliefs. My regret is that my comments and the public way I made them painted ESPN in an unfair light. My respect for the company and my colleagues remains unconditional.”

Think about how everyone spent eight years criticizing any mild comment about The Donald’s immediate predecessor.  Mentioning his middle name was verboten.  Now we have The Donald being accused of not just a being racist but a white supremacist surrounded by other white supremacists.  We would like to know who Jamele thinks they are.  Perhaps it is Betsy DeVos who is helping to reinstate due process at colleges for folks accused of rape and provide educational opportunities for inner city children.

Then there is Jamele’s statement.  It sure isn’t an apology.  We’re unsure as to why she thinks they painted ESPN in an unfair light.  She should show her love for ESPN because they didn’t fire her.  We don’t want Jamele fired but we didn’t want Curt Schilling fired either.  After that ESPN said:

ESPN is an inclusive company,” ESPN said in a statement. “Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.”

ESPN can fire folks as they see fit.  We don’t want to boycott them but their programming is less interesting lately so we watch less of it and rarely visit their website.  We would like them and the press to have some consistency in these situations but that isn’t going to happen.  Jamele deserves the same as Curt under ESPN’s criteria.  We don’t have a solution but it is easy to see why they are in financial trouble and perhaps the market will provide that solution.  Insulting half your audience is never a good idea for a mass marketer.  Doing it at a time when it is easy to cut the cord seems like bad business.  It will take the market awhile but ESPN and Disney will get a response for their behavior.  We do love markets.