URLs du Jour

2022-04-21

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Sad news from FIRE. That's the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and they report: Caltech silent on FIRE request to review event funding guidelines that contradict school’s free speech policy, violate state law.

    Last year, FIRE contacted the California Institute of Technology with concerns that new event funding guidelines issued by the university’s Graduate Student Council risk viewpoint discrimination and threaten student rights — maybe even break the law.

    The university’s response? Not much.

    Caltech has apparently decided to stonewall. We'll see how that works out for them.

    Here's a bit from the funding guidelines document emitted from the Graduate Student Council. It's very broad and very vague, basically a blank check to would-be censors:

    Speakers that discriminate or promote discrimination (in their own actions or words, not by affiliation) based on race, colour [sic], ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, caste, class, socio-economic status, disability, health condition are grounds for denial of funding.

    Well, first: colour? Is this some weird spelling that's meant to convey some wokist meaning beyond that expressed by "color"?

    But, spelling quibbles aside, note that the GSC also looks askance at speakers who discriminate based on "political or other opinion".

    Isn't that exactly what the GSC is trying to do itself?


  • Just nine? Elliot Axelman is a proud member of the lunatic fringe, but I like him anyway, and we are on the same page with respect to the Separation of School and State: 9 Reasons We Must Abolish Government Schools. Here's number five:

    Public schools are based on coercion. – and teach obedience and acquiescence to coercion as a part of their structure. The entire government is founded upon the idea that some people are superior to others (like royalty vs peasants or white people vs slaves). We should not allow our children to be educated by the elite class who believes that they are inherently allowed to use coercion and violence to maintain obedience. Taxation, regulations, gun control, and nearly all other laws imposed by politicians violate our natural rights. We should leave their system entirely.

    I'm a little more moderate, but (almost certainly) advocate an equally completely unrealistic position: repeal New Hampshire's compulsory attendance law; that's the beating heart of coercion right there.

    People point to the original New Hampshire Constitution language from 1784 that charges "legislators and magistrates" to "cherish … public schools". Among other Good Things.

    But the compulsory attendance law originated in 1903. So for 119 years, our state was perfectly OK with non-compulsory public schools. Have we really done any better in the past 119 years under compulsion?


  • Speaking of getting rid of bad ideas. FEE's Patrick Carroll has some good news on that front: Reagan’s Goal to End the Department of Education Is Finally Gaining Momentum.

    The debate over the federal role in education has been going on for decades. Some say the feds should have a relatively large role while others say it should be relatively small. But while most people believe there should be at least some federal oversight, some believe there should be none at all.

    Rep. Thomas Massie is one of those who believes there should be no federal involvement in education, and he is actively working to make that a reality. In February 2021, he introduced H.R. 899, a bill that perfectly encapsulates his views on this issue. It consists of one sentence:

    “This bill terminates the Department of Education on December 31, 2022.”

    Well, that would be an interesting freakout. Certainly a welcome change from arguing over whether the Department of Education budget should be $77 billion or $88 billion.


  • Just how "renewable" are unicorn farts, anyway? Among the things Matt Ridley, the self-described Rational Optimist, is optimistic about is fusion power. But he notes: The hair shirt eco-elite don’t want pain-free fusion power. After reviewing the state of play:

    So it’s worth casting our minds forward to how the world might look if small power stations start making huge quantities of energy from tiny quantities of water (the source of deuterium) and lithium (the source of tritium). We could heat our homes and power our cars with cheap electricity. We could synthesise fuel for planes and rockets. We could speed up productivity through automation. We could desalinate seawater. We could suck carbon dioxide out of the air, achieving net zero painlessly. We could rewild all wind and solar farms. Above all, we could tell the eco-killjoys who preach that our use of energy is not just a problem but a sin to get lost.

    And therein lies the problem, because they will fight us every step of the way, inventing ludicrous objections to fusion. Remember, for the eco-elite, hair-shirt asceticism is a feature not a bug. Giving ordinary people unlimited energy would horrify these high priests. What they love about climate change is the excuse it gives them to disapprove of people having fun. Imagine the scowl on Greta’s face when we tell her electricity is going to be abundant, cheap, reliable and low-carbon. It’s shooting their fox.

    Notice too how it would make a mockery of the urgent rush to net zero today. The BBC’s Jon Amos delivered a predictable sermon on this theme this week following the fusion announcement: “Fusion is not a solution to get us to 2050 net zero. This is a solution to power society in the second half of this century.”

    He’s got it backwards: if fusion does come after 2050, why spend trillions and force people into austerity in the rush to net zero by 2050 instead of say 2070? We are hurrying to shut down coal, gas and nuclear prematurely with no reliable replacement. Looking back that might prove to have been very foolish.

    Linguistic note: "shooting their fox" is (I think it's fair to say) an obscure Britishism. I think it means (more or less) "pulling the rug out from under one of their main talking points."


  • Will fairy tales fix the economy? Our man on the street, Kevin D. Williamson, has the answer to that burning question: Fairy Tales Won’t Fix the Economy.

    When your party controls the presidency and Congress but produces disappointing results, that ought to tell you something about your political assumptions.

    Joe Biden, like many (probably most) Democrats, often speaks about the economy in moralistic terms. Like most politicians, he is more likely to speak about it in moralistic terms when he and his party are out of power than when they are in power, for reasons that should be obvious enough. When the other guys are in charge, the indictment reads: “We know what policies will bring about economic growth, higher wages and employment, and more economic opportunity for those most in need of it, but those rat bastards won’t enact those policies, because they are bad people and don’t care about people like you.” This is silly to the point of stupidity, but it is the dominant theme of popular economic-policy discourse.

    To believe that it is true would require believing that politicians are too committed to some principle to act in their own self-interest, a claim that brings with it a very heavy burden of proof. In reality, the president and the party in power always want to see strong economic growth, low unemployment, and high wages — and, though we didn’t talk about it very much for a generation or so, no president wants to see high inflation on his watch. If there were some magical policy sweet spot that would provide all of the economic results we want in a predictable, consistent way, craven political self-interest — a force more powerful than gravity — alone would ensure that these policies were the No. 1 item on everybody’s list. There would never be a recession, or a financial crisis, or runaway inflation. President Biden is not an especially smart, honest, or decent human being, but he doesn’t want to see food and fuel prices going supersonic during his presidency. The fact is that nobody really knows how to deal with the inflation problem without inviting a whole raft of other economic problems. The economy is complex — it isn’t a LEGO set that will all come together the right way if we just follow the instructions.

    KDW makes a bold prediction: the [party out of power] will continue to blame the country's woes on the [party in power]. True yesterday, true today, true tomorrow, no matter who wins.