Hey! Randy

Archive for August, 2009

Will You Come?

Posted by heyrandy on August 31, 2009

The Shadow University Alan Kors and Harvey Silvergate, The Free Press, 1998. 415pgs., index, end notes

This book reveals the world of the modern college. This world is hidden behind the rhetoric of free speech and academic freedom. Parents and students are shielded from the ugly reality. The truth is that all that talk about freedom is a lie.

Kors and Silvergate should know. They represented many of the accused in the hearings that universities conduct when student and faculty misconduct is alleged.  The authors examine what happens to the accused when violations of speech and behavior codes are alleged.

The basis of the problem is the misguided and patronizing effort to protect and empower the groups of people that have been traditionally marginalized in our society. The result is a horrendous miscarriage of justice. The accused are plunged into a politically correct swamp of threats, bribes, intimidation, insults, and fear. The only consistency is the lack of justice.

The system is simple: you are guilty based upon your ethnic and gender status. The facts do not count. The methods used are those of the Star Chamber and Inquisition. All that is lacking are the thumb screws and the rack.

The procedures used to resolve the accusations vary with the school. The major common points are closed hearings, lack of respect for the constitutional rights of the accused, and an overwhelming desire to keep the entire matter secret. The schools are terrified of exposure. The schools are not stupid.

The schools are so adverse to bad publicity that allegations of rape are dealt with internally. Such matters must by law be reported to the police.

Publicity is the accused’s best weapon. The authors show how the schools retreat when the hypocrisy and fraud of the resolution processes are pilloried in the press. This often causes the alumni and the politicians to become involved. Faced with this opposition, the schools back down, fast. The authors relate how the Chancellor of Indiana University capitulated in his effort to discipline famous Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight. Knight made a stupid remark about rape, and the Chancellor went after him. Knight was famous for producing winning teams and national championships. The alumni and politicians rallied to Knight’s defense. The Chancellor’s job was in jeopardy. The Chancellor gave in. It was close, but a important career was saved: the Chancellor’s. And an important double standard was perpetuated.

One wonders how well Knight would have fared if he had been an obscure junior professor in the Classics Department. (Can you say Left with the trash pickup?)

This careerism is the heart of the problem. The bureaucrats at the schools do not want any trouble. All must go smoothly; there must be no trouble while the bureaucrat is responsible. If this means a double standard of justice, then that is the price the bureaucrat is willing for the accused to pay, even if it means violating the written procedures of the university grievance process.

The authors trace this to the bureaucrats’ memory of he 1960’s. The student protests of that era revealed the university administrators as impotent cowards. To avoid a recurrence of this embarrassment, and damage to their promotion potential, the administrators have given the campus ideological zealots carte blanche to turn the schools into indoctrination and reeducation camps. The politically favored groups quickly learn that if they make enough noise or even threaten to make noise, the administration surrenders to the their demands. Non-militant groups are ignored. The stories of the student and faculty victims of this doctrinaire stupidity are what make concrete such a book.

Actually it is the stories of the fighters that compose the book. Most victims simply acquiesce to the proffered punishment, usually sensitivity training,  letters of censure placed temporarily in their academic files, and community service. The dunce caps and the scarlet letters are passe. Only those with enough courage (and money) stand out. The fights are ugly, protracted, and one sided. Often the accusations against the accused, especially if they are faculty, are leaked to the press even though the university agency dealing with the matter has enjoined all to secrecy. So much for fairness or the First Amendment.

The First Amendment that is the bane of the publicly funded university. Here the school is at odds with the Constitution. The authors (Silvergate is a criminal defense lawyer) show that federal courts have consistently upheld the student’s right to free speech on the public university campus. The authors also point out that the schools have not learned from this. One school’s loss should be another school’s education. Not in the academic world.

Private schools are more immune to the strictures of the First Amendment, but crumble under the ire of the alumni and the exposure by the press. These speech code trials are a public relations catastrophe. The highest and mightiest university is no match for the front page. Most Americans can readily understand the double speak of maintaining both a speech code and free speech. The only ones who cannot are the academics.

While resistant to First Amendment challenges, the private schools are vulnerable to legal challenges on contract law grounds. All that blather the schools write in their catalogs about freedom of speech and equal justice constitutes a contract. Failure to provide what the catalog states is fraud. The schools have lost the court battles here. The authors report that many schools are now following the advice of their lawyers to tone down such statements. Too bad they did not tone down the climate of political correctness. But that would anger the militants, and that is bad for careers.

To cure the problem the authors suggest academic honesty; advertise the school as it really is: “Let them say to their public what they say to themselves: ‘This University believes  that your sons and daughters are the racist, sexist, homophobic, oppressive progeny– or the innocent victims–of a racist, sexist, homophobic, oppressive America. For $30,000 per year, we will assign them rights on an unequal and compensatory basis and undertake by coercion their moral and political enlightenment.’ Let them advertise themselves honestly and then see who comes.” (p. 371)

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She Did

Posted by heyrandy on August 29, 2009

I have received a reply from Mrs. Behlok. She thanked me for viewing her website and restated her promise of open government. I suggested that it would go a long way toward open government if we put the check book registers of the Town of Henrietta and the Rush-Henrietta School District on line.

I expressed disappointment that she wanted effect her goals by using state and federal moneys. I told her that the money we get from higher government levels is not free but comes from taxpayers. I pointed out that the electric company sent its customers a notice that the state is requiring the utility to collect a new tax. The utility does not profit from this. “Where,” I asked, “does it end?”

At least I got a response. It is a start on a long road that ends at the cliff.

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The Ten Percent Solution

Posted by heyrandy on August 20, 2009

The War Against the Weak Edwin Black, Four Walls Eight Windows, 2003. 550pgs, index, end notes.

Most Americans have not heard of Francis Galton. They do not know that he discovered fingerprints, was the distant cousin of Charles Darwin, and was  obsessed with counting and organizing everything he came across. He also invented eugenics.

What is eugenics? It is the mostly forgotten attempt to improve the human race. It sounds like a noble goal. After all, who can be against improvement? Don’t we improve animal and plant strains. Its a process has produced much good. What is wrong with that?

If all we were talking about was an improvement in cows and corn we would let Mr. Galton’s invention be forgotten. But the eugenics movement didn’t confine itself to farm husbandry. The movement spread, metastasized would be a better term, using the principles of heredity to try to engineer a super race. Galton’s ideas would be the basis of a movement that he would protest against. Galton wanted to increase the population of the upper 10% and leave the rest alone. Being an evolutionist he figured the worst of mankind would die of by itself. He did.

The goal of the movement as it was practiced in America was to eradicate the worst 10% of the human population. This would ensure improvement of the rest of the mankind. That was the dream. The reality was the nightmare.

Originating in England with Galton, the movement did not ever catch on there but instead spread to America in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the Progressive Era. The movement caught on with racial bigots. It seemed so easy to divide up the human race into subordinate racial divisions and then classify the divisions into the desirable and undesirable categories. Who gets to make the distinctions, and who decides which is the most acceptable race? The politicians influenced by the self-certified experts appointed the bureaucrats who passed judgment on the helpless. These bureaucrats deciding, often on little evidence, into which category each person should be place. In areas of great racial segregation the consequences of being in a less esteemed class could be serious. But politics influenced everything. In Virginia when the eugenics laws were being drafted, the prominent families that traced their lineage back to the Indians objected to classifying the Indians as inferior. An exception was made.

The underlying arrogance was that those who decide who is desirable always classified themselves as desirable. No big surprise. But as Black shows, the matter of race (the eugenicists had trouble deciding who was what) was not the only issue. What were considered inherited diseases were a major factor in the eugenics movement. Listed as hereditary were such diseases as drunkenness, pauperism, and prostitution.

Huge efforts, funded by the Carnegie and the Rockefeller foundations, were made to trace ancestry. Questionnaires were used to determine such characteristics as loyalty, honesty, faithfulness, and sobriety in addition to physical characteristics. All of this information was filed at the eugenics movement’s headquarters in Cold Spring Harbor, NY. The information would remain in storage for decades, ignored because it was useless.

The quackery is now evident to us, but at the time there were only a few voices raising the protest. Black lists some, such as H.L Mencken, and an the author of a pseudonymous booklet that used the principal eugenicists’ own words against them. While there was incisive criticism by the opponents, it was not enough to sway the politicians from enacting laws permitting compulsory sterilization and laws prohibiting miscegenation.

The Supreme Court would later overturn the miscegenation laws, but the sterilization laws were upheld by no less a light the Oliver Wendell Holmes who wrote for the majority (8-1) in the case of Bell vs. Buck that “three generation of imbeciles is enough.” Justice Holmes’ comments did not apply to those on the Supreme Court who voted with him.

The Buck case was a setup from the beginning. Its purpose was to get a favorable court ruling concerning forced sterilization. Carrie Buck was the daughter of a woman who was confined to a state hospital for the unfit because she said that she was a prostitute. Carrie was removed from her custody by an administrative court judge who had her place in his home so his wife could use her as free domestic help and rent her out to other families.

Carrie gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, Vivian, who was declared abnormal by a bogus expert. The expert testified that there was something wrong with the infant. Just what was never stated. That assertion was enough for the court to rule that Carrie should be sterilized. The court arranged for her court appointed lawyer, an arrant eugenicist, to appeal. The whole process was a sham. (Such is administrative law, but that is another essay.)

Once the Supreme Court ruled, thousands of men and women were forcibly sterilized, some without their even knowing that it had been done.

The most controversial aspect of eugenics was euthanasia. There were vocal advocates of euthanasia in the U.S., but there was little practice, only a few very ill babies were left alone to die, and this without legal cover. Germany would make up for the lack.

As bad as eugenics was in the U.S., it reached the malignant state in Germany. Hitler adopted it with alacrity. Eugenics would provide the science he needed to proceed with his racial program. The eugenic ideal race was Nordic, exactly what Hitler needed. No thought was given to how this Nordic standard became to be the ideal, nor was any thought given as to how the Nordic race became distinct from the rest of mankind. The irony of the Nazi eugenics is that Germany was allied with the Japanese, who were regarded as an inferior group, yet at war with the British, a group deemed to be superior.

There is the even greater irony of the war crimes trials. Here Germans were judged by Americans for eugenic practices that the Americans inspired. (The additional irony is that “crimes against humanity” is an undefined law; it was created ex post facto, illegal under the American constitution; all the eugenic acts performed by the Nazis were legal under German law; and, most amazingly, the biggest criminals of all, the Russians, were allowed to be judges. For more, see Victor’s Justice. It is well known that the war started when Germany invaded Poland. It is also well known but ignored that when Germany invade Poland from the west, Russia invaded Poland from the east. Why did England and France declare war on Germany but not Russia? For more, see Buchanan’s controversial book, Hitler, Churchill and the Unnecessary War.)

Black’s documentation is extensive. Much of his research was probably done when he was working on his previous book about IBM and the Nazis. It turns out that the IBM company sold the Germans computer equipment that enabled the Nazis to quickly sort out who had the most Aryan blood. Black says that the only records that he could not get access to were those of IBM. The company would not grant any access to him.

Black ends his book with a chapter of speculation on the future of genetics. Genetics is not the same thing as eugenics, but it is an development from the remains of the eugenics movement. With the advances in genetics what is the future? There is already widespread gender specific abortion (causing a huge imbalance in the population in China) as well as talk of designer babies. While the eugenics movement is gone from memory, it is not as dead as its victims.

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Out of Gas

Posted by heyrandy on August 14, 2009

The Long Emergency James Kunstler Atlantic Monthly Press, 2005 307p, footnotes, no index

The world is running out of oil. What are we going to do? James Kunsler speculates about the situation that will happen as the planet’s supply of petroleum is diminishing.  While he cannot say for sure what will be the effects of global petroleum shortages, Kunsler does offer some interesting and frightening possibilities. We live in an age of cheap oil. The effects of this have been profound.

Cheap oil has lead to an life of affluence and ease for most Americans. That life will change when oil supplies begin to fail. Oil is often thought of as mostly a fuel, gasoline, diesel, and heating oil. It is also a major component in fertilizer. So is natural gas (methane). The coming crisis in fossil fuel resources will have major consequences for the production of food. Can we eat as well as we do if we don’t have the fertilizer?

Kunsler poses many good questions but also paints a picture that may be prematurely bleak. He is a neo-Malthusian. He thinks that the world’s population has been artificially sustained by the influence of cheap oil. Once the cheap oil is gone there will be catastrophe everywhere. He proposes no solution for the supposed overcrowding of the world.

He also holds to man-made global warming.  He admits that the most serious greenhouse gas is water vapor, but still thinks the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide will cause widespread damage and upheaval. He does not mention the effect the sun has on our atmosphere.

Kunsler makes the mistake of thinking we have a free market economy.  He of course call for more government regulation. He mocks the free market system for not giving us everything by magic. He displays no knowledge of the source of inflation. He is another bigger- government-can-do-it-better-than-smaller-government advocate.

He correctly points out that the largest sources of oil lie in regions that are controlled by the most unstable governments. Those governments are oppressive. They are the ones that have long been supported by the United States government. Once these governments fall, their successors will likely cut off oil supplies to the west. Or not. Here the author fails to see that as much as we need the oil, those countries need the money. New governments need money just as much as their predecessors.

Kunsler also fails to understand that there an invisible subsidy to oil. It is all those financial and military supports we give to ensure that our allies remain in power. If this practice was withdrawn the price of oil would be at its real free market level.  If the price was high enough, there might be a real conservation movement rather than a forced, government mandated one. All of this escapes Kunsler, who has no idea how price drives conservation and innovation.

While Kunsler does make the case that our military presence in the oil producing countries is a source of anger for the local populations, he does not address the larger issue of the worldwide spread of US military bases.  He does not display any notion that the US is a global empire. He also fails to see that this empire is heading the way of all previous empires:  death by inflation through currency debasement.

He does spend time bashing Wal-Mart. Evil Wal-Mart has destroyed American small businesses and so wrecked all of community life. I guess he shops around so he can pay a higher price. He does not mention that many small, long established businesses are still doing well. Neither does he mention that business failure is common in small businesses that take their customers for granted. Don’t expect him to even consider that local governments hamper or even prevent the revitalization of their towns.  Implied in all this is his belief in top down solutions.

Kunsler does do us service by raising the issue of a post cheap oil world, but he does not give much in the way of solutions to the problems. Here he runs out of gas.

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Sighted In

Posted by heyrandy on August 5, 2009

Target: Patton Robert Wilcox, Regnery, 2008.  444 p., end notes, index

There are a lot of famous generals in American history.  One can think of Washington, Lee, Grant, Pershing.  When one mentions George Patton, there is often a silence.  No one is quite like George S. Patton.  After reading Target: Patton I know why.

Patton was a class apart.  Outspoken, prescient, irascible,  Patton did not well tolerate the political machinations that accompany the conduct of war.  Patton did not tolerate incompetence.  Patton was very good at making enemies.

Wilcox raises some serious issues about Patton’s death.  The rumors have long swirled about how Patton died.  Wilcox suggests that what is commonly known about the general’s death is a mixture of the true and the false.

The evidence that Wilcox presents is intriguing.  But much of the evidence is that there is a lack of evidence.  The mystery is one of what does a missing report mean.  In the case of Patton’s death it is a matter of missing reports–all of them.  All of the official reports about the car crash that injured General Patton are missing.

Wilcox has sifted through a mountain of material  to come up with mostly second hand sources.  The primary players are mostly dead.  Some of the witnesses vanished without a trace.  Many of those witnesses still alive are of questionable probity.  One claims that he was a gunman that tried to assassinate Patton at the crash scene by using a special rifle that shot a piece of debris as a bullet.

The nature of any investigation into the matter is hampered by the passage of time, the confusion of the area just after the war, and the secrecy of the various governments involved.

Why kill Patton?  Patton was finished as a general.  He knew it.  He had been relieved as commanding officer of the Third Army and given an administrative post in Bavaria.  Here he created controversy by using former low level Nazis to man administrative posts in the province.  Patton’s reasoning was that they had the experience, and their former affiliation with the Nazi party was merely a matter of convenience.   Patton objected to using the Communists as Washington wanted to do because he saw Stalin as a brutal monster.  This incurred Stalin’s wrath.

It is well known that the Russians wanted to control post war Europe.  They used every means without any regard to legitimacy.  Assassinations by them were common.  Truck accidents were a common method.

Wilcox is not the first researcher to discover all the problems in investigating Patton’s death.  But he did aid future researchers by discovering that the car on display in the Patton Museum at Fort Knox, Kentucky is not the real car.  It is a 1939 model, not 1938.  He also discovered that the true name of the sergeant driving the jeep that accompanied Patton’s car is Scruce, not Spruce as everyone else writes.

The story is intriguing, but the evidence does not compel one to the conclusion that Patton was murdered.  It is odd that all the reports are missing, but this does not prove assassination.  It is not unusual that most of the witnesses are dead, even if some of them died odd deaths.  The phony car could be attributed to someone making a quick profit on the black market.  The claim that the OSS and the NKVD conspired to kill Patton is impossible to prove.  Such a conspiracy would not be written down.  In the end I think that Target: Patton is a miss.

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Turning Iron into Gold

Posted by heyrandy on August 1, 2009

We have all heard about the federal government’s Cash for Clunkers program.  If your old car meets certain criteria, the federal government has authorized itself to force taxpayers to subsidize your new car purchase if you trade in your old car.

It was just recently announced that the program is so successful that it ran out of money in the first week.  The federal government is in the process of authorizing itself to force the taxpayers to spend even more money on this subsidy.

I hope the government hurries.  If there is no new money for the program, there are going to be a lot of walking people.  That is bad for the program.  It seems that the car dealers cannot submit the paperwork for their reimbursement unless the dealers certify that the engines of the old cars have been destroyed.  If the program is out of money, how will all those who are awaiting for their new car get around if they are forced to take back their old car, now with a destroyed engine?

So far no one has addressed the issue of how this program is going to affect the used car market.  Most of us can not afford a new car even with the subsidy.  We have to buy used.

No one is saying how this will affect the used car parts market.  Those destroyed engines were once quite valuable.  Now they are scrap iron.  This greatly reduces the vaue of these “clunkers” to the junk yards.  Is it even worth the junk yard’s time to come and tow away the now immobile clunker?

This program of scrapping usable cars is another example of the government’s short sightedness.  There was not thought given about the consequences.  It is characteristic of the political class to pander to the prevailing pressure group without thinking through the secondary issues.  All that matters is image.  It must appear that something was done.  Most voters demand that.  Most voters are suckers.

This whole program is a giant boondoggle.  It is a political gift to the auto companies and their unions.  It is a political pay back for votes cast.

So what else is new?

Has anyone thought of what will happen next year?  The pool of eligible buyers will be vastly depleted by this year’s program.  Who will buy a new car next year?  Will the government have a new program, a “Cash for Clunkers II”?

You have to ask?  This is the same group of folks that handled so well the transition to digital television.  How is your reception?

The US auto industry is doomed.  Once an industry is nationalized it always declines.  Nationalize industries are in effect monopolies.  They do not have competition to force the needed changes  to keep the industry healthy.   No government bureaucrat looses his job because his bureau looses money.  The most that happens is that a low level nobody is cashiered.  Never underestimate the power of a sacrificial lamb.  No senior managers are ever punished.  Just look at the military torture scandals.

If you don’t get your cash for the clunker you traded in at someone elses’ expense, just wait until next year.  Then you can tow that old hunk of iron to the mint and cash it in for gold.  Taxpayers are standing by.  And they never run out of money.

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