Monthly Archives: December 2008

Charles Murray Wants to Discredit the BA

So he says in the NYTimes.  He believes the supply of education in the liberal arts is too high because the demand for BA-carrying labor is too high.  As ennobling as it can be, the BA confers no skills upon its recipient. Instead, Murray says we need certification tests for entry level jobs.  He writes: 

Certification tests would not eliminate the role of innate ability — the most gifted applicants would still have an edge — but they would strip away much of the unwarranted halo effect that goes with a degree from a prestigious university

I agree the old Ivy League halo ought to lose some of its golden splendor. But this is wishful thinking.  You can (a) hire a guy who says he completed MIT’s free online courses and who has also scored perfectly on the certification test or (b) you hire the guy who went to Princeton and who scored well on the certification test.  Most employers who aim to hire these types will continue to hire (b).  Now if (b) had gone to a state school…

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Larry Says Government to Spend Trillions Wisely

Summers outlines Obama’s stimulus plan in very broad strokes. One gobbit caught my eye: 

Some argue that instead of attempting to both create jobs and invest in our long-run growth, we should focus exclusively on short-term policies that generate consumer spending. But that approach led to some of the challenges we face today — and it is that approach that we must reject if we are going to strengthen our middle class and our economy over the long run.

If by short-term policies, he means lowering interest rates to an all time low and stoking inflation, then that’s one thing.  Strangely, part of the set of policies that created this mess may also help to solve it, as some have argued. But what I think Larry is really saying, is that the Obama spending spree will work because the government will spend your money more wisely than you will. Larry emphasizes transparency, but he’s not being honest. He should just come out and say people are stupid and tend to spend their money foolishly. Remember the statist boner for Keynesian multipliers is really a post hoc rationalization for the moral judgement that you’re stupid.

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The Death of the Ivy League Journalist

Another Christmas present

Seeking to fortify its core assets, New York Times Co. is actively shopping its stake in the holding company of the Boston Red Sox baseball club…

My favorite bit: 

former General Electric CEO Jack Welch took a serious look at the [Boston] Globe two years ago, when people close to them said they were valuing it at $550-600 million at the time. The Times rebuffed the inquiries. The Globe was recently valued by Barclay’s at $20 million.

Boy, did Neutron Jack dodge a bullet.  That’s a $530 million loss in value over two years.  Mommy!!!  The time has come for the old media to awaken from their dogmatic slumber.  New media is bringing the old Gray Bitch to her knees.  Her arteries, filled with generations of mental cholesterol, have clogged.  I eagerly await the day when all of those former Harvard Crimson writers flee like rats from the headquarters on 43rd Street, scurrying away in every direction before the building collapses in bankruptcy, frantically looking for some other institution to shield their beliefs from confronting reality.  Other credential makers, indifferent to truth seeking, will call out to these souls like sirens.  My guess, applications to PhD programs in English and History increase.  We may even hear calls for universities to subsume newspapers into their mission.  They’ll rehash old arguments the Roman citizens would offer in defense of slavery.  A civilized community is not self-sustaining, they’ll claim.  A barbarous substratum, the capitalists, must be whipped into the social structure so as to support the civilized apex embodied by the Times.  And like the Romans, they’ll say this large slave population is required to perform ancillary services, anything which is deemed unworthy for a truly civilized man to engage in–like creating wealth–all to sustain them, the enlightened taste-makers.  There are books to review, damn it.  We’ll hear all sorts of blather about how investigative reporting is a public good, yada yada yada, and how we need public financing to support it.  Remember the Crimson!  They’ll cry.  The rats will rally around the Crimson idea: a newspaper supported by a nanny who can help them pull their punches.  Maybe newspapers should start calling themselves banks? TARP funds may be in their future yet!

But let’s have a sober moment to reflect on the public good that is the NYTimes.  Ah, yes.  The first person they should fire: Thomas Friedman.  I can’t believe they pay this Horatio Hack a salary, a pension and even health benefits.  Worse, they seem to fly the man around world, at great expense, like some kind of cuddly mascot for mild left wing mediocrity.  Yesterday he wrote: 

Landing at Kennedy Airport from Hong Kong was, as I’ve argued before, like going from the Jetsons to the Flintstones.

In September 2007, he wrote: 

Fly from Zurich’s ultramodern airport to La Guardia’s dump. It is like flying from the Jetsons to the Flintstones.

In May 2008, he wrote: 

we landed at Singapore’s ultramodern airport, with free Internet portals and children’s play zones throughout. We felt, as we have before, like we had just flown from the Flintstones to the Jetsons.

In January 2002, he wrote: 

For all the talk about the vaunted Afghan fighters, this was a war between the Jetsons and the Flintstones–and the Jetsons won and the Flintstones know it.

Now that’s some hard hitting investigative reporting.  Novel use of old TV shows to illustrate a concept.  Hat tip to James Taranto.

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The Drunken Priest’s Sober Christmas Thought

The idea of Santa is both strange and noble.  For animals primed to cooperate together for mutual advantage, we here attribute our generosity to an outsider.

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Life Imitates Blog

Over a month ago, I wrote

GM, Ford and Chrysler have completely mis-framed their appeal for a bailout. Who says they have to make cars? Why not turn the big three into the big lending tree? 

On Christmas Eve, I read in the Wall Street Journal

The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday approved GMAC Financial Services’ application to become a bank-holding company, a status that would give the auto-financing arm of General Motors Corp. access to government bailout dollars and the Fed’s discount window.

The moral of the story: Santa doesn’t care who’s naughty or nice. Merry Christmas.

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The Wolfe Tells Larry He Should’ve Barked

Another great Wolfe interview–does he have a new publicist?–this time for the National Association of Scholars. Wolfe recounts the Larry Summers gaffe.  He raises a point that speaks to the weakness of Jonathan Haidt’s theory of political psychology.  The intuitions fueling the rage against Larry arose as they did because he had so flagrantly violated the egalitarian taboo:

They weren’t attacking him on intellectual grounds but on religious grounds. They were treating him as a heretic, a transgressor. They were assaulting his character. We learned how to deal with that one in our sophomore year at St. Christopher’s. If someone impugns your character, you can’t waste time trying to defend it. You’ll just end up sitting there wringing your hands and bleating something lame like, “I am, too,a good person.”
 
Iannone: So you should do what instead?
 
Wolfe: Attack the attacker. Attack his—in this case, their—character. All he had to say was, “I cannot…believe…what I am now witnessing…members of the Harvard faculty taking a grossly anti-intellectual stance, violating their implicit vow to cherish the free exchange of ideas, going mad because a hypothesis that has been openly discussed for almost half a century offends some ideological passion of the moment, acting like the most benighted of Puritans from three centuries ago ransacking all that is decent and rational in search of witches, causing this great university to become the laughingstock of the academic world here and abroad, sacrificing your very integrity in the name of some smelly little orthodoxy, as Orwell called beliefs like the ones you profess. I’m more than disappointed in you. I’m ashamed of you. Is that really how you see your mission here? If so, you should resign…now!…forthwith!…and take to the streets under your own names, not Harvard’s, and forbear being so small-minded and egotistical as to try to drag Harvard down to your level. Ladies, gentlemen…kindly do not display your ignorance…on these hallowed premises…while holding aloft the flags, the standards, of this university. Be honest with yourselves, even if you can’t be honest with Harvard. Look…think…and see…what you have become.” That would have taken care of the whole thing.

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Rocky Balboa: Libertarian?

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