Middlebury, Groupthink, and Riots

Thomas Sowell had a few things to say the other day about the fracas at Middlebury College. As always, it is very worth listening to.

Where have all these shocked people been all these years? What happened at Middlebury College has been happening for decades, all across the country, from Berkeley to Harvard. Moreover, even critics of the Middlebury College rioters betray some of the same irresponsible mindset as that of the young rioters.

The moral dry rot in academia — and beyond — goes far deeper than student storm troopers at one college.

Frank Bruni of the New York Times, for example, while criticizing the rioters, lent credence to the claim that Charles Murray was “a white nationalist.” Similar — and worse — things have been said, in supposedly reputable publications, by people who could not cite one statement from any of Dr. Murray’s books that bears any resemblance to their smears.

It seems to me increasingly that book reviews have become a political litmus test, where one writes what one believes about the author, whether or not (usually not) one has read the book in question. Not all, of course, there are plenty of good, useful reviews out there, but far too often.

The professors don’t usually riot against people whose ideas they disagree with, because they can just dismiss those ideas, with some characterization that there is no one on hand to challenge.

Professor William Julius Wilson of Harvard, for example, said of Justice Clarence Thomas, “He’ll say he pulled himself up by his own bootstraps. I say I was in the right place at the right time.”

Just where did Justice Thomas say that he pulled himself up by his own bootstraps? The central theme of his autobiography, titled “My Grandfather’s Son,” credits the wisdom of the grandfather who raised him as what saved him.

Nuns who taught him in school were brought to Washington, at his expense, to be present to see him sworn in as a Justice of the Supreme Court, to see that their dedicated efforts on his behalf had not been in vain.

But has anyone ever asked Professor Wilson on just what he based his claim about Justice Thomas? The central tragedy of academia today is that you don’t have to have anything on which to base dismissals of people and ideas you disagree with.

Of course not, He’s a Harvard professor, which in much of our society, is akin to a demigod. Well, I’d ask, because I learned long ago that Harvard professors believe many things that are just not so.

Why should we expect students to welcome debate about differences of opinion, when so many of their professors seem to think cheap shot dismissals are all you need? Lacking their professors’ verbal dexterity or aura of authority, students use cruder methods of dismissing things they disagree with.

So long as academia talks demographic “diversity” and practices groupthink when it comes to ideas, we have little reason to expect better of student mobs that riot with impunity.

via The Real Lessons of Middlebury College by Dr. Thomas Sowell | Creators Syndicate

And so we get riots, while fools look on from their ivory towers.

Budget Day

Yesterday, OMB Director Mulvaney had a press conference on the new budget. Pretty good one in my view. $0 for NPR, PBS, and NEA, 50% reduction for the UN, down 30% + for EPA, a lot for State as well, more for the Pentagon which needs it (it also needs much better and leaner management). Nothing about entitlements in this one, that comes later.

Here’s Mulvaney, he a joy to listen to, a man who knows his subject thoroughly, stays calm and answers the question. And the budget is a good start.

What is a Good Judge?

Poise the cause in justice’s equal scales,
Whose beam stands sure, whose rightful cause prevails.
William Shakespeare

The other day, the AP wrote this:

Many conservation groups say U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is too conservative and too much like the man he would replace, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, to be considered a friend of the environment.

But when it comes to Gorsuch’s judicial record on issues like pollution and environmental regulation, he can’t be painted as someone who always finds in favor of businesses, according to an Associated Press review of his rulings.

Funny thing, maybe the AP doesn’t understand is that judges represent neither the environment, business, employees, the people, or even the government. Their mission is to represent the law, and justice, and to ensure its fair and equitable dispensation upon all parties, notwithstanding any other factors.

As a judge for the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch has ruled both for and against causes that environmentalists hold dear.

He voted in 2015 to uphold a Colorado law that requires 20 percent of electricity sold to consumers in the state come from renewable sources.
***
But Gorsuch has also ruled against the EPA, as in a 2010 case in which the court found that the agency was wrong to classify land in New Mexico as Indian country when a company sought to obtain a mining permit.

I like the way John Hinderaker puts it here…

There is no “but” about it. A competent judge will rule for or against a party based on the law and the facts, not the identity of the parties. Only a corrupt judge–we have several such liberals on the current Supreme Court–will ascertain a political narrative and vote to advance it.

Indeed we do!

Then the AP offers very high praise to Judge Gorsuch, although I doubt that they understand that they do.

“He follows the law,” said Merrill Davidoff, the landowners’ attorney. “And in this case the law favored the plaintiffs — the landowners — not the government or the government contractors.”

If only all our judges did!

And that brings us to something that John and I have both written much about: administrative law. John says this

There is one major contemporary issue on which judicial philosophy bears strongly. That is the legitimacy of the administrative state. As I have said repeatedly, the government we live under does not resemble the one that is described in the Constitution. Today, we are governed mostly by a fourth branch, nowhere mentioned in the Constitution, the permanent federal bureaucracy. These office-holders persist from one administration to another, and in many cases resist any effort to bring them into line with a new administration’s policies. They are unelected, unaccountable, frequently incompetent, and almost always Democrats.

If I were president, the only question I would ask a prospective Supreme Court nominee is whether he or she will be willing to take a hard look at whether the administrative state comports with the Constitution. The AP eventually gets to this central issue:

A ruling that most worries some environmental groups came in a case that had nothing to do with the environment. In a much-noted immigration case, Gorsuch was critical of the longstanding Chevron doctrine, which gives deference to federal agencies’ interpretations of ambiguous statutes. Conservationists say that could be trouble for agencies like the EPA, which have the task of interpreting and implementing rules.

“If you look back at the Supreme Court’s rulings involving Chevron, most of those are environmental cases,” said Billy Corriher, deputy director of legal progress at The Center for American Progress, a nonprofit liberal advocacy group. “And I think that’s because the EPA really enforces a lot of statutes that are pretty broad, it gives them broad authority to regulate certain pollution and it leaves it up to the experts to determine exactly what threshold of pollution is acceptable and what threshold is dangerous. Judge Gorsuch would want to get rid of that standard and basically allow judges to substitute their own judgment for the judgment of the agency experts.”

That’s about as twisted as a corkscrew. The problem with administrative law (and Chevron gives overmuch weight to the agencies) is that legislation is not to be made by the agencies, they are there to execute the law the Congress has passed. That the Congress has abrogated their responsibilities under the law is no excuse. As John says.

The Constitution is not about rule by experts (even real ones, as opposed to bureaucrats) but rule by the sovereign people. Hopefully, Judge Gorsuch understands that.

via A Pro-Environment Judge Is a Bad Judge | Power Line

Neptunus Lex

Blogging is a very personal effort. NEO is not the same as any other blog, even though I may draw on many of them for inspiration, or even long quotes. It has been so as long as I’ve been around. One of the blogs I read, even before I started was Neptunus Lex, the blog of Carrol Le Fon, a naval aviator. He made me laugh, he made me cry and he made me think, what more can a man do for another. Lex died on 6  March 2012 doing what he loved best: making naval aviators even better. That’s a legacy that any man can aspire to.

Our blogs overlapped, but I don’t think I ever referred to him. I was amazed, reading the Victory Girls last night, that he still appeared on their blogroll. On a nostalgic whim, I followed the link. As I thought, the site disappeared shortly after his death, but what I didn’t know is that it was preserved. YAY!!! It is here, mostly. It’s not the same as having Lex amongst us, but I think it will serve. A sample of why so many of us loved him, and still do.

Well, and I very much appreciate all those who offered their thoughts. They pushed and pulled in many different directions, and apart from those who counselled immediate retirement – sorry, that’s not me – I have shared in all of them, all in a moment. Funny how things can swirl so quickly through your mind, between the moment when you hear unlooked for news, and the moment after, when you are asked what you think of it.

Is there a moment of wounded pride, wherein you ask: What? How can I be offered up? How can I be spared? As busy as I am, and as much as I contribute?

There is. But we are none of us irreplaceable, the wheel continues to turn. And it does not surprise me that I am offered up: I made a decision some time ago that this would be my last tour, which obviated the need for self-promotion. I do my work quietly, accept no thanks, offer it instead to others. It’s really quite astonishing what you can do, when you don’t care who gets the credit.

Is there a moment when the old joy of battle sings again in your heart? When you think of joining the fray rather than reading about it? When you think of qualifiying in weapons whose range is measured in meters rather than in miles? Of strapping on and suiting up once more? Of hurling yourself into the fight?

There is such a moment. A moment only. And then you reflect that no one places super-annuated FA-18 pilots on the deck in order to carry the fight to the foe. You reflect that of all the things you might learn in Sojer School, the most valuable would be to count your rounds as they went down range, in order to save the last one for the end. Because just like in the days when I strapped an airplane on to go to war, if it comes at last to a pilot with a pistol in his hand and dust on his boots, something has already gone horribly wrong, and the odds of it getting any better are vanishingly small.

From Now is the autumn of our discontent Who amongst us older people can’t relate to that? It’s happened to me and I’ll bet it’s happened to you as well. All we can do is try to pass on all those lessons we’ve learned, often to youngsters who think they know it all, but it’s our duty.

I note that Lex died a few days before the USS Enterprise set out on its last tour. Is it connected? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised, legends are like that.

Of Free Speech and #Resistance

Steven Hayward at PowerLine tells us about a Bloomberg column, here, by Professor Stephen Carter of Yale law school. It’s a good one, explaining The Ideology Behind Intolerant College Students. Both links are excellent, and here’s Steve.

Alas, the downshouters represent something more insidious. They are, I am sorry to say, Marcusians. A half-century-old contagion has returned.

The German-born Herbert Marcuse was a brilliant and controversial philosopher whose writing became almost a sacred text for new-left intellectuals of the 1960s and 1970s. Nowadays, his best-known work  is the essay “Repressive Tolerance.” There he sets out the argument that the downshouters are putting into practice.

For Marcuse, the fact that liberal democracies made tolerance an absolute virtue posed a problem. If society includes two groups, one powerful and one weak, then tolerating the ideas of both will mean that the voice and influence of the strong will always be greater. To treat the arguments of both sides with equal respect “mainly serves the protection and preservation of a repressive society.” That is why, for Marcuse, tolerance is antithetical to genuine democracy and thus “repressive.”

He proposes that we practice what he calls a “liberating” or “discriminating” tolerance. He is quite clear about what he means: “tolerance against movements from the Right, and tolerance of movements from the Left.” Otherwise the majority, even if deluded by false consciousness, will always beat back efforts at necessary change. The only way to build a “subversive majority,” he writes, is to refuse to give ear to those on the wrong side. The wrong is specified only in part, but Marcuse has in mind particularly capitalism and inequality.

Opening the minds of the majority by pressing one message and burdening another “may require apparently undemocratic means.” But the forces of power are so entrenched that to do otherwise — to tolerate the intolerable — is to leave authority in the hands of those who will deny equality to the workers and to minorities. That is why tolerance, unless it discriminates, will always be repressive.

Marcuse is quite clear that the academy must also swallow the tough medicine he prescribes: “Here, too, in the education of those who are not yet maturely integrated, in the mind of the young, the ground for liberating tolerance is still to be created.”

Today’s campus downshouters, whether they have read Marcuse or not, have plainly undertaken his project. Probably they believe that their protests will genuinely hasten a better world. They are mistaken. Their theory possesses the same weakness as his. They presume to know the truth, to know it with such certainty that they are comfortable — indeed enthusiastic — at the notion of shutting down debate on the propositions they hold dear.

Excellent articles, but the main thing we must remember is this: Without free speech, there is simply no freedom. How can one have what one cannot describe?

Steve also informs us that The Economist has some questions about that disgraceful episode at Middlebury.

Mr. Murray is left to worry about academic freedom and to note that many of his assailants resembled figures from “a film of brownshirt rallies.” Middlebury’s agitators might ask themselves how a man whose work they regard as racist acquired the right to compare them to fascists. Students everywhere should wonder how free speech, a central liberal value, is instead becoming the banner of conservatives.

Of course, anybody with two brain cells to rub together knows perfectly well that those who shut down such events don’t really resemble “a film of brownshirt rallies.” They simply are fascists, the characters portrayed in those films.

Over at History News Network, an article contains short reviews of four books that are on our topic today, I haven’t read them so can neither agree nor disagree, but the tone of the article is quite balanced and interesting.

This article concerns these four books

● Frank Furedi, What’s Happened to the University?  A Sociological Exploration of Its Infantilisation (Routledge, 2017)

● Claire Fox, ‘I Find that Offensive!’ (Biteback Publishing, 2016)

●  Jonathan Zimmerman, Campus Politics:  What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 2016)

●  Campus Speech in Crisis:  What the Yale Experience Can Teach America, Introduction by Nathaniel A.G. Zelinsky (Encounter Books, 2016).

Throughout American history, every genuinely progressive reform movement has found free speech to be its friend.  This is notably true of the abolitionist movement and then the civil rights movement.  And it has been especially true of student movements—most prominently, the aptly-named Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in 1964.  Nowadays, however, in the words of more than one observer, students seem not to want freedom of speech but freedom from speech.  How and why did this come about?  And what does it mean?  The four books reviewed here offer some answers.

That paragraph is certainly true, and quite frankly, if you can’t win in the marketplace of freely expressed ideas, you don’t deserve to win, go figure out what you’re doing wrong, or simply admit that you’re wrong, and get on with life.

Then there is this, and it angers me greatly, too. Far too often our leftist friends can’t be bothered to express their ideas (if any) and simply appropriate labels that belong to other, often very brave, people, for example ‘#Resistance’. Sadly these leftists aren’t brave at all, they’re simply snowflakes, running away from debate, let alone real opposition. Joel D. Hirst puts it very well.

Resistance is fleeing from North Korea’s monstrous regime (buy this book!); resistance is a Tuareg man in Gao, Mali boldly going on television to demand that his clan, his people put down their guns; resistance is dousing yourself in gasoline as a final desperate act of violence in protest at a seemingly endless dictatorship, not because you want to die but because the police just seized your entire livelihood and you don’t know what else to do; resistance is joining a pro-bono law firm, running around behind the tens, hundreds of people arrested by Venezuela’s totalitarian regime, trying futilely to bend the regime to the law through the force your will and your righteousness alone – and sometimes even paying the ultimate prize.

No, sorry, you aren’t a resistance, because USA is not a dictatorship. Nobody is persecuting you; none of your rights are being violated; no illegal purges enacted; no tortures and disappearances. You didn’t like the results of an election – and want to pretend it is illegitimate, because you don’t want to do the hard work of rebuilding a constituency alienated, “Because you thought correcting people’s attitudes was more important than finding them jobs. Because you turned ‘white man’ from a description into an insult (…) Because you cried when someone mocked the Koran but laughed when they mocked the Bible. (…) Because you kept telling people, ‘You can’t think that, you can’t say that, you can’t do that’,” as Brendan O’Neill has said. Alas, the only people losing their legitimacy are you; who wear little pink hats and take off all your clothes and wander through public spaces offending friend and foe alike; who vandalize coffee shops and write little slogans misspelled on cardboard. No, you aren’t a resistance, and you don’t get to have that word.

For those who have fought and suffered for their liberties, it is far too sacred to let it – too – be defiled.

Bravo Zulu, sir!

Trump vs.the Deep State: Herbert Meyer’s Perspective

From PowerLine and very much worth your time, as are the comments over there, as is Meyer’s speech at Imprimis. Steven gives us the highlights.

The performance of our country’s intelligence service is the latest example of an issue exploding into the headlines and becoming a shouting match, while failing to clarify anything about the issue itself. This explosion was ignited last fall by allegations that the Russians hacked into Hillary Clinton’s campaign to help Donald Trump win the election. The blast radius expanded after the election, when rumors surfaced that the Russians had deployed their nasty tactic of kompromat to undermine President Trump’s credibility by spreading rumors about his private behavior while in Moscow years ago. All this, on top of failures that had already wreaked havoc at the CIA and our other intelligence agencies—the 9/11 attacks themselves, the mess over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the weird 2007 National Intelligence Estimate whose key judgment was that Iran had abandoned its nuclear bomb program, Edward Snowden’s NSA espionage activities—has kept the issue of our intelligence service in the headlines. . .

Back in January, when U.S. intelligence chiefs released an unclassified version of the briefing they gave to President-Elect Trump about Russian efforts to influence the November election, Americans learned a phrase that’s unique to the world of intelligence: key judgment. It was a key judgment that Russia had hacked into John Podesta’s email server, and a key judgment that Vladimir Putin preferred Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton. Since these key judgments understandably erupted into a nasty political brawl, let’s take a moment to understand what a key judgment really is. Simply put, it’s the conclusion reached by our most senior intelligence officials, based not only on the evidence they were able to collect, but also on the insights it enabled them to reach based on their knowledge and experience.

A key judgment isn’t the same as a jury verdict. A jury verdict is based solely on the evidence presented to it. In a murder trial, unless the prosecutors can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty, you must vote for acquittal. But in a National Intelligence Estimate, you reach a key judgment by starting with the evidence, then combining it with your own knowledge and experience to reach a conclusion. . .

So why has our intelligence service suffered so many failures during the last decade or so, losing the trust of so many? Because it’s been run by career bureaucrats and administrators who rose to the top by managing intelligence rather than actually doing it. That’s like putting an airline executive with an MBA and a law degree into the cockpit of a jumbo jet. And like bureaucrats and administrators everywhere, our recent intelligence chiefs focused on structure rather than on people. Of course all organizations, including intelligence services, need the proper structure. But especially in an intelligence service, good structure is worthless without the right people—in this case world-class analysts who are deeply knowledgeable about the Mideast, China, Russia, terrorism, and all the rest. Make a list of our country’s leading experts on these subjects. How many of them have held top-level jobs in our intelligence service during the last dozen or so years? How often have the leaders of our intelligence service reached out to these people to seek their advice? The correct answers are: none and rarely.

We are still in the early days of the Trump administration, but to borrow an overused Washington cliché, we should be cautiously optimistic about the future of our intelligence service. Neither Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats nor Director of Central Intelligence Mike Pompeo are professional bureaucrats. They’ve built their careers on substance rather than on management. Each of them has proven he can talk about the key issues that confront us with an impressive level of personal knowledge and insight. Each is capable of actually doing intelligence rather than merely overseeing it. . .

via Trump Vs. The Deep State: Herbert Meyer’s Perspective | Power Line

Meyer also talks a bit about why the CIA never looked at weaknesses in the Soviet Union. He says they were never asked. I have no problem with believing that, until Reagan, we were playing defense, playing to not lose, not to win. Part of the trouble is, I think, playing not to lose is a sucker bet. It a winner for administrators and bureaucrats. Why? Because it maintains the status quo, over entire careers and lifetimes. But it isn’t a winner for the country. Winning is a winner for the country.

What for example, would the world be like if the Soviet Union had disappeared at the time of the Hungarian uprising in 1956? From all the information I’ve seen, we would have been very lucky indeed to have made that happen. But Eisenhower didn’t try. I like Eisenhower, but even as a general he tended to be too tied to the plan, and the plan for the cold war was not to lose, it was never to win. Makes you wonder what MacArthur or Patton in the White House might have done. Maybe the same thing, neither was foolhardy.

Anyway, something to think about. What? You thought I had all the answers? I don’t even have all the questions. But I’ll say this, Trump needs, above all, to get control of the government, that has to be ‘Job 1’. If he doesn’t he’ll accomplish very little.

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