This article recommends going to the grocery story more often and buying less so as to avoid wasting money on food that eventually gets thrown away. But for most of us, that means wasting money on gas. Or else wasting time walking.
The Rich Have an Advantage Getting into Colleges? No Kidding
See here. This comes from our more socialist-oriented friends across the ocean, and it is why I am suspicious of the idea of making college free. Since lots of poor people won’t benefit, it just looks like welfare for the rich.
Plus, I have to say that I’ve never understood the British educational system, and this article just confirms it. Why would anyone want to restrict the number of institutions that potential students can apply to? Yet, that seems to be what they want to do. Five? Two? You’ve got to be kidding.
Hey, Turkey, Figure Things Out
Turkey is upset with European countries because they are supporting their Kurdish enemies, the PKK. (See here.) Well, for once Europeans are actually being consistent. Their support for the PKK seems of a piece with their support for the Palestinians. If they are linked together, what do you want them to do, give up support for both or keep supporting both?
Palestine and UNESCO
Palestine has become a member of UNESCO. See here. Of course, Palestine has long been a member of FIFA. Has this done them any good? Not really. For the last World Cup qualifiers, they didn’t exactly shine (here). In the one game they actually played, they lost 0-4. Hey, who said soccer was a low-scoring sport?
See here. They say it like Iranophobia was a bad thing.
In today’s Los Angeles Times, there is a story (here) about a poor single mother of three who wanted a car and ended up buying one from some shady operators. That isn’t the story I’m interested in, except as it affords insight into what life is like for the poor. The story I’m really interested in comes in the second sentence: “She was weary of the two-hour bus ride to her job at a UCLA Health System clinic.” This says it all. A two-hour bus ride is outrageous, and of course that is only one way. The total time spent per day would be double that, four hours. Yet, the left wants more people to use mass transit. Do these idiots ever actually use it themselves? Mass transit is usually so inconvenient that anyone with sense tries to get a car as soon as they can.
Instead of promoting mass transit, the left would be better advised to make it easier for poor people to own cars.
Two hundred years ago today Jane Austen got her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, published. At least, the first advertisement for it appeared on Oct. 30, 1811, so it’s reasonable to assume that it had been published, if not that very day, then just a few days prior to that announcement. (See here and scroll down to this date in 1811.) I’ve heard two different accounts of the contract under which it was published. One account is that she was told she’d have to pay for any unsold copies, and the other is that she paid to have it published. On either account, she did not exactly look like a world-class author to her publisher.
Now I’ve talked a little about Austen’s problems with getting published (here). She finished her first novel (an early version of Pride and Prejudice) in 1797, and her father was impressed enough with it to send a query letter to a publisher. Nothing was heard from them. In 1803 she had a novel accepted for publication, but for no obvious reason, it was never actually published. So, it wasn’t until 1811, fourteen long years after that first query, that she finally broke into print.
What I’m curious about are any transformations that Austen went through in those years. It took me eleven years to get published, and I went through a huge transformation during that period, a transformation that was mostly a result of the lengthy period it took me to get published. At the beginning of it, I was a fairly typical leftist who subscribed to The Nation and In These Times. By the end of that period I didn’t want to have anything to do with those leftist magazines and was developing self-critical leftism. So what transformations did Austen go through during those fourteen long years of frustration? I leave it to others to figure out.
All I want to do now is to reiterate the dilemma that Austen poses for scholars, because the hottest Austen scholar is someone who will have gotten published right away, yet such a person has no idea personally what it was like to take fourteen years to break into print.
Paul Krugman has written a column (here) criticizing the way that Republicans want to ease up on pollution controls in order to create more jobs. He insists that this will do little or nothing to create jobs. In fact, he says that the GOP plan will make us “both poorer and sicker.” This really takes the cake, but let me analyze what he’s saying.
First, he relies on a study done by researchers at Yale and Middlebury College that argues that certain industries inflict more environmental damage than the sum of the wages they pay. Well, I guess that the existence of a single study proves it, then. He chastises the GOP for relying on a study from the American Petroleum Institute, which of course has an interest in saying that there isn’t a problem. But why not assume that the academic study is also dubious? What Krugman and so many other liberals and leftists these days haven’t figured out is that since academia is dominated by liberals and leftists, any study they do is likely to be tainted just as much as that done by a private group like the American Petroleum Institute. This is one big reason why I am suspicious of claims about global warming.
Second, he says this is a new study. But why should we trust a new study so implicitly? An older study, which has survived many criticisms and so has stood a “test of time,” will be more reliable than a new study, which may end up being discredited in a few weeks. I think the impression that many of us have is that the environmentalists overstate problems, not that they understate them, and there is no reason to think this new study is any different.
Third, I took a brief look at this study (here). What it seems to come down to is that certain industries pollute to such an extent that it affects mortality rates. Presumably, this means that it will affect such rates in the future, say ten, twenty, or thirty years from now. But there are several problems with this. Krugman with his policy demanding more government spending is not the person to be complaining about problems in the future. Plus, the whole point of the GOP’s plan is that we ought to make this sacrifice for the sake of the unemployed. It will add jobs now while the problems, if any, will come later. Claiming that we will be poorer and sicker doesn’t mean much if the problems won’t emerge for quite awhile after the unemployed get jobs. And there may be medical advances available by the time those affected need help, so the problems may be much less severe than we now think.
Krugman also argues that the American Petroleum Institute’s claim that there is a multiplier effect of 2.5 – that is, that every new job in the oil industry leads to the creation of 2.5 jobs elsewhere – is suspect since “Republicans, you may recall, were scornful of claims that government aid that helps avoid layoffs of schoolteachers also indirectly helps save jobs in the private sector. But I guess the laws of economics change when it’s an oil company rather than a school district doing the hiring.”
I don’t know about either claim, but I think it makes perfect sense to say that if we relax our vigilance on pollution, it will be very advantageous for us in terms of helping the poor. The Keystone XL pipeline illustrates this. By allowing this to be built, we would first of all provide more jobs of the sort that poor people would like. Second, it would lower the cost of gasoline, and that would help the poor, also. Third, it would lower the costs for many businesses that depend on shipping costs, which in turn are affected by the price of gasoline; these lower costs would show up as lower prices, and that again would help the poor. Will government aid to help keep schoolteachers from being laid off have a comparable effect? Not that I can see.
Let me conclude with this observation: when the right talks this way, when the right nixes some initiative that will help the poor, the left says that the right hates the poor. Why can’t we say that the left hates the poor when they nix an initiative that will help the poor?
By the way, a few weeks ago I wrote a critique (here) of a Paul Krugman column in which he claimed that repeated surveys showed that the main problem of small businesses is not government regulations but lack of demand. I observed that the one survey he linked to didn’t exactly show this, but now a Gallop poll has shown that complying with government regulations is at the top of the list of problems while lack of demand is only third. See here.
Yes, I know, it was directed by and stars that reprobate, Roman Polanski, but I still like it. It does such a wonderful job of evoking old Europe with its aristocrats and castles and balls, but at the same time academia in all its eccentricity. Set a couple hundred years ago, a professor from Konigsberg, Professor Abronsius, is scouring eastern Europe looking for vampires. He is absent-minded, but at the same time fearless and, even more important, eager in a scholarly way to locate the vampires he wants to study. When his scared-out-of-his-wits assistant has an encounter with a vampire and noticed that he couldn’t see the vampire’s reflection in a mirror, Abronsius’ reaction is, “I’d love to have seen that.” There are various comic elements in this movie (so it isn’t purely horror), such as a Jewish vampire and a gay vampire, which considering that this was filmed in 1967 is rather advanced.
There is also a scene that is now funny in a new way, given that it involves the attempted seduction of the assistant, who is played by Polanski.
In last week’s Chronicle of Higher Education, there was an article (here) about how because of the recession, certain professors who had gotten special deals resulting in less teaching were finding their institutions less than thrilled with these deals. Some of them got these deals because of particular work they once did, but the deal remained even when the work was done. But others got these deals because they were “stars” – people so valued that institutions were competing for them – and so they were hired with very light teaching duties. One such star is Judith Butler, a feminist philosopher. Yes, a person who is on the left and who thereby counts as an egalitarian is nevertheless part of a system that values her way above other professors, allowing her to get light teaching duties.
As an aside, I can’t see what’s so special about her. She "won" a bad writing contest a few years back (see here), but that didn’t seem to faze her. Martha Nussbaum took apart the sentence that won the contest in an article in the New Republic (here), and argued that it said nothing that couldn’t have been said in a much simpler way. But lots of academics thrive on this sort of bilge, generally people in the English department.
Another article that struck me was one that celebrated the Occupy Wall Street protesters (here). There was not a single word suggesting that these protesters were naive, got themselves into trouble on their own, were aiming at the wrong target, and so on. Instead, the article praised academia for providing the intellectual roots for their protests.
Nothing, of course, was said about the fact that some of them got into trouble financially because of their students loans, trouble that was in part caused by the needlessly high tuition rates in academia. Nor was anything said about the plight of adjuncts or any of the other manifold problems in academia that its liberals and leftists refuse to address.
Following the lead of Keith Burgess-Jackson, who every now and then reports on the price of gas in his area (here, for example), I want to note that while yesterday the price of gas here was about $3.159, today it has shot up to $3.459.
Other people are writing open letters to you, so I thought I’d do the same. I’m going to make the assumption that you are pretty much like me and that you come from the bottom half economically. My claim is that you’ve been conned (or as good as). It’s possible that most of you don’t come from the bottom half, that you come from the top half but got into trouble by majoring in gender studies and finding no jobs when you graduated. I’d still say you were conned, but my message would be different.
Anyway, assuming that you come from the bottom half, let me say that I come from the bottom half, too. And because I came from the bottom half, it looked to me when I was younger that liberals and leftists were on my side, that they were supporting people like me, while conservatives were uninterested in the plight of the poor. The rhetoric of the left is pleasing to those of us in the bottom half, and I fell for it. I bought into their view that there was a party of the rich and a party of the poor, and it was pretty clear which was which. And I was taught to hate rich conservatives because they refused to pay their fair share of taxes. I also learned that there were rich liberals and leftists, and I admired them for lending their support to the cause.
But at that time I knew only one rich conservative, an uncle whom I seldom saw, and I didn’t know any rich liberals or leftists. Now that I have come to know such people, I can see that they are frauds. After all, why should there be any rich liberals or leftists at all? Shouldn’t they be giving away all their wealth? This was the subject of the last chapter of G.A. Cohen’s book If You’re an Egalitarian, How Come You’re So Rich? The author, who himself came from a modest background, examined a number of excuses that rich liberals and leftists use to justify not giving up their wealth, and while he rejected some of them, he decided that others were reasonable; I thought that all were bad and that the people giving them were hypocrites. However, you should read it and decide for yourselves. (And see my post about it here.)
Anyway, my experiences with rich liberals and leftists comes from academia, where one day I sort of woke up and realized that most academics were, unlike me, from fairly well-off backgrounds. I saw how they dealt with problems of the poor in academia and how they dealt with fairness, and what I saw was that they came up lamentably short. I’ve talked about this elsewhere (see here), so I won’t waste your time talking about it again.
Seeing up close how wealthy liberals and leftists operated led me to rethink leftism, because it was pretty clear that most of it, or even all of it, was influenced by wealthy people. These people are well-meaning – it’s pretty clear that they feel guilty about their wealth – but at the same time the talking points they push on us are really designed with themselves in mind rather than us. For example, because they feel so guilty about being rich, they get angry when other rich people do not feel guilty, and the rich people in question are generally conservative. But what in fact would getting rich conservatives to pay more in taxes do for us? Not much. There are plenty of loopholes for the rich to avoid paying taxes, and even if there weren’t such loopholes, they can engage in other behavior that won’t help us at all (like making less money, for example). But the real kicker, the one I really resent, is that even if you managed to get all the tax money you wanted out of rich conservatives, some or maybe even most of that money would not come to us, but would instead go to rich liberals and leftists. This is one of the big lessons I learned in academia. Much of the money sloshing around in academia comes from our taxes, and it goes to people from wealthy backgrounds. Am I supposed to cheer because the recipients happen to be left-of-center instead of right-of-center?
Let me note that I used to hate rich conservatives because I thought they weren’t paying their fair share of taxes, but now I hate rich liberals and leftists because they hog all the good jobs (such as the best jobs in academia). Let me also note that while one party is the party of the rich conservatives, the other party is the party of the rich liberals and leftists. Don’t assume it is your party just because they say it is.
Another talking point of rich liberals and leftists is the disparity between the rich and the poor. This is just another way of talking about how rich conservatives need to pay more in taxes, so I won’t say anything more about it.
Still another talking point is to turn us against capitalism. I’ve already argued against that (see here for the links), so I won’t do it again. Then there is the slogan “People before profits.” Mine is somewhat different; it is “People before the environment.” One way you can tell that someone is caught up in what I call Rich People’s Leftism is when they reject ideas that would help us because it might hurt the environment. (See here.) Similarly, non-profits are supposed to be wonderful, but take a look at how big Harvard’s endowment is. I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it: that endowment could be used to help all the poor adjuncts across the country, but of course it won’t be used for that. So much for non-profits being wonderful.
Then there is the idea that people in corporations are greedy, but that liberals and leftists aren’t. I saw differently in academia, which is one of the arguments I’ve used to show that capitalism isn’t the problem that the rich liberals and leftists say it is. It’s true that what I saw would be more accurately called stinginess than greed, but it amounts to the same thing in the end. There’s a lot of talk about redistributing the wealth among academics, but of course they don’t mean their own wealth. They are really talking about rich conservatives and not themselves, which is why I think they are frauds and that they are conning us.
So my suggestion is that you stop listening to these people and start listening to me. I claim that what we at the bottom need is good jobs that allow us to thrive and to move up the ladder. Talk of taxing the rich or of the disparity between rich and poor just distracts us from what is really important, which is jobs. When there are plenty of jobs to go around, people seldom think about how rich the rich are and what amount they pay in taxes, because they are busy getting on with their careers and moving up the ladder. It’s only when jobs are in short supply that we get conned into believing that taxing the rich is any kind of solution. It isn’t. It is focusing on job creation that is our solution.
And here’s what you might find to be a disturbing fact. The people who have thought most about job creation are the conservatives and not the liberals and leftists. The result is that they have better ideas on this issue. While it’s true that I don’t agree with everything they say, I’m sticking with them for the time being. After all, what am I supposed to think when I see leftists protesting against the pipeline from Canada, a project that would both give poor people jobs and bring down the cost of gas for us? I’m just not a bit inclined to trust them.
A couple days ago we had dinner with some friends, one of whom showed us something written by a candidate for some local office. He was quite disturbed by it because the candidate was so obviously an evangelical who (he thought) was going to ruin our schools with his demands that Christianity be taught. Yes, he was disturbed even though the candidate in question said pretty clearly that while he thought that we needed to teach about religion (for the sake of history since so much of American history was wrapped up in Christianity), at the same time we ought to keep the line between church and state clear and not turn it into a Christian school.
I thought this was pretty mild and replied that it was nothing compared with what I was hearing about the indoctrination our students were getting in Islam. They gaped at me as though I had just claimed that I had been abducted by aliens who took me to Betelgeuse. Being immersed in the battle against Islamification, I tend to forget that for most Americans this isn’t happening. A small minority are bothered that people like me are “prejudiced,” or so they think. And another small minority is concerned about Islamification. But the vast majority are pretty clueless. A number of my friends and acquaintances still see evangelical Christians as a huge threat to our republic, which was what I thought twenty-five years ago. Today, I am more likely to see them as allies against Islamification, a process that is partly being pushed by Muslims but which is mostly being pushed by either suicidal (cultural speaking) or clueless liberals and leftists.
It will be a big job getting through to these people.