Archive for September, 2011
30 Sep 2011

Michael Rubin ’94: Yale’s Not What It Used To Be

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The dining hall of Berkeley College, one of the twelve residential colleges at Yale.

This is where I used to eat lunch.

Michael Rubin (Davenport ’94) warns us that Yale is going to hell in a handbasket, the colleges are losing their distinctive individual identities, the left is running the place into the ground, and la patrie est en danger!

For decades, residential colleges have both been Yale University’s chief selling point and the feature by which the university differentiates itself from its Ivy League companions and other top tier universities. All freshmen are subdivided randomly into one of 12 colleges, remaining affiliated with it for four years and living there for three or four years. The net effect is that the colleges provide a sense of community—the chief benefit of a small college experience—with the classroom and campus resources of a much larger university. In a society in which identity groups often self-segregate themselves, the residential colleges also enable Yalies to meet a diverse array of people.

While in theory each residential college is equal, over time, they develop different characteristics. Each college is led by a master. Some masters are disinterested: When I was an undergraduate, I was in Davenport College. In my freshman year, the master was a professor of 19th-century Germany and ran the college like a Prussian general. In my subsequent three years, the master was a retired admiral, who, it turned out, was retired not only from the Navy but also from anything which required effort. In contrast, when I was a graduate student, I was for a year a resident graduate affiliate in Pierson College. Harvey Goldblatt, a professor of medieval Slavic literature, was master and quickly catapulted Pierson into the envy of all other colleges: He knew each student not only by name, but also made an effort to interact with everyone. He cheered on the residential college’s intramural sports teams, and even undertook his own alumni endowment to allow, for example, a spring break trip to Italy for most seniors. Behind the scenes, he was involved in administrative issues and stayed on top of everything from employee morale in the dining hall to the length of time scaffolding remained up after work was completed.

Alas, Yale has changed. In the twelve years since I have left New Haven, faculty members tell me that the number of administrators has almost doubled. While Yale University once encouraged autonomy among students to set up organizations, fix problems, and take responsibility for their own decisions, today, an ever-increasing number of deans get involved to regulate all aspects of life and administration. Whereas Yale students could once choose to excel in extracurricular activities or academics, today there is little differentiation: grade inflation and administration intervention has evened the playing field so that a lazy and irresponsible student will, from his or her record, appear equal to one who in the past might have been able to differentiate themselves academically.

The quest for equality and the bolstering of safety nets has not only blurred distinctions amongst students, but also faculty. At some point, administrators—for whom bureaucracy rather than education is a career—decided that it was unfair to have inequality among colleges. After all, if a college master managed to energize both students and alumni, students in other colleges might resent that another master was not up to the job.

Enter President Richard Levin: Replicating what too often happens in liberal society, rather than celebrating success or encouraging competition to keep up, Levin instead sought to encourage mediocrity by “equalizing” the college experience.

Read the whole thing.

He’s basically not wrong, of course. But the rot set in long, long ago. Kingman Brewster, brilliant, talented, and impeccably bred from the bluest blood of Plymouth Colony descent, personified Yale’s style, ethos, and tradition perfectly, better, one thought inevitably, than any other living, breathing person could, but the King was already leading Yale full tilt down the primrose path of fashion, Modernism, and leftism.

One’s other quibble is that no one really goes to Yale for the residential colleges.

Most people admitted don’t even know about the residential college system, a New World, early 20th century attempt to emulate the British Oxbridge style of elite education, until they have read thoroughly their admissions material.

I think it isn’t really possible for Yale colleges to feature the colorful individuality and eclat, which in earlier days reflected the personalities of great men like Basil Duke Henning (a direct descendant of a famous Confederate Kentucky cavalry officer) or Beekman Cannon (whose marriage and private life inspired Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf). America just does not supply a suitable contigent of illustrious, flamboyant, and idiosyncratic WASP gentlemen scholars anymore. Besides, today’s Yale values “diversity” over cultural continuity and arete.

30 Sep 2011

Good Elizabeth Warren Rejoinder

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Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds via Bird Dog.

30 Sep 2011

President Obama Is Not Satisfied With Us

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He is being polite about it, saying that we are still “a great country” which has, in recent decades, “gotten a little soft.”

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The failed recovery is obviously our fault, not this administration’s. We all know that Barack Obama is a higher being, who could have delivered Hope and Change; who could have “ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth;” who could have made the rise of the oceans begin to slow and the earth begin to heal; if only we had been worthy of his magnificent leadership.

These considerations cause Frank Fleming to engage in some serious introspection.

Obama was elected on the promise of hope and change; he was going to make everything better by fixing the economy, ending all wars, and making every rainbow a double rainbow. As smart and capable as we all knew he was, he should have succeeded beyond our wildest imaginations. But instead, we’re even worse off than before — I don’t remember the last time I even saw a single rainbow. The only explanation is that somehow we’ve angered Obama and caused him to turn against us. It’s just that I’m not sure how.

Now, we could go to a town hall and ask Obama, “What have we done to make you want to destroy this country?” I think that is a horrible idea, though, as Obama will only glare at us and become even angrier. Obviously what we’ve done is extremely bad based on the way Obama is treating us, and it would only be worse if he knew we were ignorant of our exact slight against him.

We just need to accept the fact that we’re a bad country, and that’s why Obama is not following through on the hope and change he promised. So now what we need to do is try to figure out how to become a better country so Obama will like us and decide that he doesn’t need to destroy us. So I’ve done my best to study Obama and figure out some ideas to make us a country he considers worth saving.

Read the whole thing.

30 Sep 2011

“Hunting Dog For Sale”

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Hat tip to Piv.

30 Sep 2011

Regrets

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30 Sep 2011

Better in the South

New Jersey native Lee Habeeb moved to Mississippi. He explains to the unfortunates he left behind in the liberal-misgoverned, decaying rust bucket Northeast why he made the right move.

“Have you lost your mind?” is the refrain I heard over and over from friends up north when I told them the news. It was as if I’d just told them I was moving to Madagascar.

I then explained the move. I started with some humor. I explained that we have electricity in Mississippi. And indoor plumbing. We even have dentists. I told them we have the internet in Mississippi. And cable TV. I told them I travel a lot, and Memphis airport has planes, too.

I then told them about the quality of life in Oxford, and how far a dollar stretches. And the ease of doing business. When I show them pictures of my house, and get around to my property taxes, things get positively somber. On a home valued at $400,000, my tax tab is $2,000. My parents in New Jersey pay $12,000. And for a whole lot less house. On no land. When I remind friends about the pension liabilities they’ll be inheriting from the state unions, things get downright gloomy.

I then explain that my work is mostly done by the phone or internet. So where I live has little bearing on how much I earn. But it has a whole lot to do with how much I keep.

Having disposed of the economic arguments, I knew that one big question lurked: “Okay, Lee, but what’s it like living with a bunch of slow-talking, gun-toting, Bible-thumping racists?”

My friends didn’t use those exact words, but I knew it’s what they were thinking. I knew because I thought the same thing about the South before I moved here. Most of what we Yankees know about the South comes from TV and movies. Think Hee-Haw meets Mississippi Burning meets The Help and you get the picture.

But my own prejudices bore little resemblance to the reality I encountered when I moved south. I fell in love with the place. With the pace of life, for openers. Things got done, and done well, but it always seemed as if people had time for one another.

Though I’d never owned a firearm, I learned that the locals took personal protection into their own hands, knowing that a call to a county sheriff wasn’t a solid defense strategy. I also learned how much fun it was to shoot stuff, from targets to tin cans to turkeys.

The Bible thumpers proved to be more caricature than anything. The people I met didn’t impose their religion on me. They tried to live by the standards of their faith. Sometimes they did; sometimes they didn’t. But the pervasive pursuit of those standards made the South a better place to live. …

[I]t is with a sense of puzzlement that this Jersey boy turned Mississippian watches the decision making of President Obama. Millions of Americans may have voted for him in 2008, but millions have been voting with their feet, and he doesn’t seem the least bit interested in understanding why.

Last December, gun manufacturer Winchester moved one of its plants — and 1,000 jobs — from East Alton, Ill., to my small town of Oxford. Joseph Rupp, who runs the company, explained: “While I am disappointed that employees represented by the International Association of Machinists chose to reject a proposal that would have allowed us to remain competitive in East Alton, we look forward to expanding our existing operations in Mississippi.”

For a town of Oxford’s size — about 12,000 people — this was cause for celebration. For East Alton, which has 7,000 residents, it was a catastrophe.

And I wondered as I read that story, “Does anyone on President Obama’s staff read the business section of the paper?” He should be studying the Winchester story, and why those jobs fled his home state of Illinois. He should be talking to Richard Fisher, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Fisher’s recent report revealed that since June 2009, Texas alone was responsible for 37 percent of all net new American jobs.

He should ask Americans like me who’ve moved South why we did it. And he should be especially interested in understanding why African Americans are fleeing his home city of Chicago for the South, too.

If he dared to ask, he’d learn that we are all fleeing liberalism and chasing economic freedom, just as our immigrant parents and grandparents did.

But he won’t bother asking. Our ideological academic-in-chief is content to expand the size and scope of the federal government and ignore the successes of our economic laboratories known as the states. He is pursuing 1960s-style policies that got us Detroit, while ignoring those that got us 21st-century Dallas.

In the downtown square of Oxford sits a bronze statue of our most famous storyteller, William Faulkner. “The past is never dead,” he once famously wrote. “In fact, it’s not even past.”

That line has great depth, but in an important sense it’s not quite right.

It turns out that white Yankee migrants like me, African American migrants from Chicago, and businessmen owners in Illinois and around the world, see something in the South that novelists, journalists, academics, and our current president cannot.

The future.

29 Sep 2011

Indulgences

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29 Sep 2011

What Rick Perry Does On His Day Off

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29 Sep 2011

Earliest Surviving Hitchcock Film Found in New Zealand Archive

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Looks like the naughty sister to me.

Roughly half of a 1923 silent film representing the earliest surviving work from Alfred Hitchcock’s pre-directorially-credited career was discovered, after sitting for 22 years in the collection of the New Zealand Film Archive.

The film’s discovery was the result of the American National Film Preservation Foundation‘s efforts to recover lost films preserved by New Zealand collector James Murtagh, which were donated to the New Zealand Film Archive at the time of his death in 1989. New Zealand’s remoteness and the high expense of shipping films caused distributors to treat the island as an end of the road screening destination. Films were sent there last, and were intended to be destroyed, rather than returned, after their theatrical run.

The White Shadow (1923), a melodrama revolving around the conflict between two sisters (both played by Betty Compson), one angelic, one “without a soul,” featured the 24 year-old Hitchcock serving as writer, art drector, assistant director, and editor.

The surviving half of the film was screened last Thursday for cineastes at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Los Angeles

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences article

LA Times


Long-Lost Hitchcock Film Found

28 Sep 2011

The Regulatory State Abandons Ancient Principle of Law

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“An unwarrantable act without vicious will is no crime at all.” –4 Bl. Comm. 21.

‘Historically, our substantive criminal law is based upon a theory of punishing the vicious will. It postulates a free agent confronted with a choice between doing right and doing wrong and choosing freely to do wrong.’ — Pound, Introduction to Sayre, Cases on Criminal Law (1927).

The Wall Street Journal yesterday published an important article describing the impact of the ever-expanding number of federal crimes, commonly resulting from feel-good legislation passed recklessly with little serious consideration, on one of the fundamental principles of justice, genuine intent.

Even in Classical Antiquity, Roman justice recognized the principle that a defendant needed to possess actual intent to commit a crime to deserve conviction and punishment. In today’s United States, however, citizens cannot possibly be familiar the entire body of federal law and regulation, so the basic principle of mens rea, “a guilty mind,” is commonly eliminated by the dilution of standards.

For centuries, a bedrock principle of criminal law has held that people must know they are doing something wrong before they can be found guilty. The concept is known as mens rea, Latin for a “guilty mind.”

This legal protection is now being eroded as the U.S. federal criminal code dramatically swells. In recent decades, Congress has repeatedly crafted laws that weaken or disregard the notion of criminal intent. Today not only are there thousands more criminal laws than before, but it is easier to fall afoul of them.

As a result, what once might have been considered simply a mistake is now sometimes punishable by jail time.

Some of the cases described will make your blood boil with indignation.

This is the kind of article which proves the crucial importance of the Wall Street Journal to American society. The Journal commonly substitutes effectively for all the rest of the media combined in addressing the serious issues. Read the whole thing.

28 Sep 2011

No Free Speech in Australia

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Andrew Bolt

This news agency story is relevant even to Americans, because the American left-wing establishment is very much in favor of adopting domestically progressive policies observed in other countries. So far, speech that “offends, insults, humiliates, or (supposedly) intimidates” is commonly outlawed on university campuses, but it is by no means beyond the ambitions of American progressives to try to enact such curbs on expression here.

A popular right-wing commentator was found guilty Wednesday of breaking Australian discrimination law by implying that fair-skinned Aborigines chose to identify as indigenous for profit and career advancement.

Federal Court Justice Mordy Bromberg ruled that fair-skinned Aborigines were likely to have been “offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated by the imputations” included in columnist Andrew Bolt‘s two articles published by the Herald Sun newspaper in Melbourne in 2009.

Bromberg ruled out Bolt and his publisher’s defense under a clause of the Racial Discrimination Act that exempts “fair comment.” Bromberg said he will prohibit reproduction of the offending articles and will consider ordering the newspaper to publish a correction if it doesn’t print an apology.

Bolt, who writes opinion pieces for newspapers around Australia and hosts a nationally broadcast weekly public affairs television program, described the ruling as a defeat for freedom of speech.

“This is a terrible day for free speech in this country,” he told reporters outside court.

Andrew Bolt’s Blog

27 Sep 2011

Elizabeth Warren’s Statist Fallacy

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Dan Greenfield replies decisively to Elizabeth Warren’s “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.” argument.

“You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did,” Warren says.

This is the stationary bandit theory of government. The problem with it is that it really means you’re paying for government marauding bands who can come and seize everything in your factory. As the CEO of Gibson Guitars found out. …

Warren’s argument is that no one got rich on their own. True. By her definition, also no one makes breakfast on their own. Or does anything at all. No one writes on their own either, someone had to make the pencil or the typewriter or the computer. Why shouldn’t that collective “we” then have a say in what you write?

Here the sleight of hand assumes that the greater society is equivalent to the state, and that any activity makes the individual obligated to pay back the collective whole somehow embodied by the state.

There are two holes in this. It assumes that the individual is somehow getting a free ride at the expense of the other people in the equation. That whatever benefit they receive from participating in the arrangement is insufficient and exploitative. There’s an obvious whiff of Marx to this, but not much common sense.

And the final hole is that the state stands in place of the society, that it is the legal recipient of the net benefits due to society and can claim them. That when you’re expected to pay it forward to the next kid, that doesn’t mean hiring a kid and giving him a leg up, it means paying higher taxes.

This proposition is at the heart of the broken case against private property. If there is indeed a greater claim on private property by the society, why is an oligarchy of Harvard lawyers and government appointees the one to lay claim to it?

This precise form of argument is made by my liberal classmates all the time: “You received Shakespeare, modern medicine, and all sorts of other social benefits, so you owe the government whatever amount of taxes the left might care to demand.”

Greenfield identifies precisely the false logic. The federal government did not create human culture and society, write Shakespeare’s plays, or develop modern medicine. The state-worshipping left’s continual attempt to place government in the position of claiming ownership of human culture and every form of social interaction and cooperation is a grand-scale form of fraud.

Hat tip to the Barrister.

27 Sep 2011

Hunting Season

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Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

27 Sep 2011

Ne Comprehend Pas Department

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Jim Geraghty forwards Jim Lileks’ tweeted comment on a new song titled “Moves Like Jagger” by a group called Maroon 5, and marvels himself that today’s youth sings tributes to the masculine appeal of a (once androgynous) geezer.

You kids know Mick Jagger is 68, right? I’m sure he’s in relatively limber, perhaps drug-preserved state for a near-septuagenarian, but really? Tim Noah’s nephew [Adam Levine] is singing that he can dance like him and Kesha’s only interested in guys collecting Social Security? Did our pop culture get stuck on “pause” at some point?

It seems a bit strange to me that he still performs and that people so young even know who Mick Jagger is. The Stones ought to be, at this point, headlining on Cruise ships and in Florida retirement homes.

Personally, I have a suspicion that on very damp mornings like this, I move exactly like Jagger (before he’s had plenty of meds).

NSFW

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