To See What Is Right, and Not To Do It, Is Want Of Courage Or Of Principle.

I read about this in a recent issue of National Review, but here's a straight news story:

The University of Chicago has suspended negotiations to renew its agreement to host a Confucius Institute after objecting to an unflattering article that appeared in the Chinese press. The decision follows a petition, signed by more than 100 faculty members this spring, calling for the closure of the institute. The petition raised concerns that in hosting the Chinese government-funded center for research and language teaching, Chicago was ceding control over faculty hiring, course content, and programming to Confucius Institute headquarters in Beijing, which is also known as Hanban.

Since then, Penn State has dumped its Confucius Institute program. The American Association of University Professors has recommended "universities cease their involvement in Confucius Institutes unless the agreement between the university and Hanban is renegotiated". I'm slightly amazed that I find myself linking to an article in The Nation subheadlined:

Confucius Institutes censor political discussions and restrain the free exchange of ideas. Why, then, do American universities sponsor them?

But (as indicated above) it's not just left-wing AAUP/Nation types sounding the alarm. The "This Week" blurb in National Review cheering the Chicago decision, was even more straightforward: "Confucius Institutes are learning centers that are funded, staffed, and controlled by the Chinese Communist Party." (Yes, that's a bad thing.)

It's an unusual issue that unites National Review and The Nation.

Why am I interested? Because the University Near Here has a Confucius Institute too. I've heard nary a peep, pro or con, about it. We lead a sheltered life.

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URLs du Jour — 2014-10-16

  • Reason is an equal-opportunity offender when it comes to the major political parties:

    I hear you saying: only four each? It's a graphic, so they probably had space limitations.

  • But it's not just the Dems and Reps. Ellen Carmichael notes the "Freedom Socialist Party" in Seattle, which supports a $15/hour minimum wage, is looking for a Web Content Manager, and offering… $13/hour.

  • You might be surprised at the tastelessness of some of the Getty Images you get when searching for "shit". Today's embedded image is one of the less objectionable.

  • Kevin Williamson has an unusually good knack of piercing through delusion, euphemism, and cant. A recent example is his brief refutation of an assertion in a Slate review of a pro-abortion book. The reviewer, Hannah Rosin, notes only 7-20% of Americans want to "totally ban abortion", so why is it still an issue politicians tiptoe around?

    The number of people who wish to ban abortion in all instances is not small; it amounts to, as Rosin notes, about one in five Americans. The flip-side proposition is held by about one in four Americans — until you start talking specifics, in which case it falls down to about one in ten. The majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in some cases, but they also support significant restrictions beyond those currently enacted in law. The actual “absolutism” — the unrestricted abortion license through the third trimester — is in fact a distinctly minority inclination, held by about 10 percent of the population.

    Read the whole thing. It's short.

  • Your Tweet du Jour:

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URLs du Jour — 2014-10-15

  • At Reason, Robby Soave analyzes Ezra Klein's advocacy of California's "Yes Means Yes" law. (Which is also being proposed in New Hampshire.)

    One hint that it's worth analysis: Klein says it's "a terrible law, and I completely support it." Wha?

    So there's obviously some politician's fallacy at work between young Ezra's ears. ("We must do something; this is something; therefore we must do this.")

    But more important is young Ezra's reliance on panic-inducing, yet dubious, evidence for the fallacy's major premise. Wny must something be done? Because "one in five women is the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault while in college". Comments Robby:

    […], the 1-in-5 statistic is hotly contested, as Klein surely knows. (See The Washington Examiner's Ashe Schow and American Enterprise Institute's Christina Hoff Sommers for thorough debunking.) That statistic was produced by a survey of just two colleges; the survey had a high non-response rate, and critics contend that victims of sexual assault were more likely to respond in the first place, skewing the results. The 1-in-5 statistic is also out of whack with national figures: just 1.3 in 1,000 people age 12 and up are victims of sexual assault nationwide, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

    Why, one might suspect that the actual purpose of "Yes Means Yes" is not to make women safer. Maybe it's simply to increase government power?

    Or it could be the "progressive" side of "boob bait for the bubbas", Daniel Moynihan's term for demagogic legislation designed to jerk the knees of low-information voters?

    Hey, no reason it can't be both!

    [Also see Taranto's Best of the Web Today if you can.]

  • In related news, 28 members of the Harvard Law School Faculty issued a statement about Harvard's new sexual harassment policy:

    As teachers responsible for educating our students about due process of law, the substantive law governing discrimination and violence, appropriate administrative decision-making, and the rule of law generally, we find the new sexual harassment policy inconsistent with many of the most basic principles we teach. We also find the process by which this policy was decided and imposed on all parts of the university inconsistent with the finest traditions of Harvard University, of faculty governance, and of academic freedom.

    Very bad. And it's coming to an institution of higher education near you.

  • Today's embedded Getty image, by the way, is one of the results when you search their site for "yes means yes". I don't know what the connection is, but I couldn't resist. Sorry.

  • Numerous people are pointing out the subpoenas issued by the City of Houston Texas to a number of conservative Houston preachers, demanding (among other things) transcripts of any sermons given referring to (among other things) the city's mayor. Conservatives are upset about a recent ordinance that prohibits public businesses from denying "transgendered" customers access to the restroom corresponding to their transgender.

    Matt K. Lewis asks the relevant question: shouldn't liberals defend religious liberty?

    Could it be that all this talk about tolerating diverse viewpoints and opinions was merely a political tactic employed by the left — just so long as their viewpoints were out of political power and out of touch with mainstream opinion?

    Yes, it could. Matt also wonders where the heck the ACLU is.

  • Glenn Kessler awards a coveted Four Pinocchios to the claim that we'd have an Ebola vaccine now if it weren't for those pesky Republicans.

    Obama’s Republican predecessor oversaw big increases in public-health sector spending, and both Democrats and Republicans in recent years have broadly supported efforts to rein in federal spending. Sequestration resulted from a bipartisan agreement. In some years, Congress has allocated more money for NIH and CDC than the Obama administration requested. Meanwhile, contrary to the suggestion of the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] ad, there never was a specific vote on funding to prevent Ebola.

    Related is Michelle Malkin's column at NR, concentrating on the CDC, perhaps best summarized in the subtitle: "What does $7 billion buy us? A power-hungry busybody brigade of politicized blame-mongers."

    Kessler points out that the CDC also gets about $4 billion in mandatory fees.

    Also, they were totally worthless against the Walking Dead.

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URLs du Jour — 2014-10-13

  • Nick Gillespie does a fine job of shooting down a developing attack on the GOP. A group deploying ads in states with close electoral races is unsubtly titled "Republican Cuts Kill", blaming GOP efforts to constrain Federal spending (weak as they are) for lack of an Ebola vaccine. A desperate, dishonest, despicable charge.

    I can understand why Democrats are trying to turn the Ebola outbreak here and abroad into a campaign issue. But that sort of gambit is more likely to draw attention to the failure and incompetency of public health bureaucrats here and abroad. That's probably not good for Democrats, given that the[y] run the White House and the agencies in question.

    An article of faith in the Progressive religion is that all major problems can be "solved" by putting more money and power in government hands. Which leads to the obvious logical corollaries:

    • When problems occur, it's because government didn't have enough money and power.

    • Anyone not in favor of giving the government more money and power is a vile—nay, heretical—person, in favor of problems.

    QED, in the Progressive mindset.

  • Kevin D. Williamson reviews Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, as recently performed in Central Park. Sample:

    To say that The Winter’s Tale is the worst thing I ever have seen staged would be an understatement. It represents nothing less than the complete abandonment of artistic and intellectual standards—to say nothing of self-respect—and what may as well be the last word in the degradation of theater and its reduction into a branch of politics. Every professional involved with this supine display of sycophancy should, after a thorough examination of conscience, go into retirement, or else be forcibly driven to it. No reputation should survive.

    I encourage you to read the entire review, because it is a hoot. Big Bird shows up.

  • Ever wonder what it's like to carry your Nobel Prize through airport security? Yeah, probably not, but you can nevertheless find out the answer in "What It’s Like to Carry Your Nobel Prize through Airport Security".

    The punchline comes at the end of the article, and I won't spoil it.

  • And your tweet du jour:

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Jeanne Shaheen, Corporate Welfare Queen

[A letter sent to my local newspaper, Foster's Daily Democrat.]

A recent letter in Foster's by Sean O’Kane sings the praises of the "Travel Promotion Act" (TPA). He lauds Senator Jeanne Shaheen for supporting it, and excoriates then-Senator Scott Brown for voting against it back in 2010. Mr. O'Kane's cheerleading for the TPA should not go unchallenged.

The TPA subsidizes the private tourism industry by imposing a new "Mickey Mouse tax" on some foreign visitors to the US. It's not surprising that the tourism industry, at least the part of it that's politically well-connected, is largely in favor of this handout. (The major driving force behind the bill was Nevada Senator Harry Reid, with the enthusiastic backing of Vegas casinos, the Disney Corporation, etc.) The hand-waving assurances that the benefits will eventually "trickle down" to the rest of us are dubious at best.

Is the TPA, as claimed, vital to the American tourism industry? This doesn't pass a simple credibility check: TPA has only existed for a few years, and somehow the tourism industry managed to get along without it for the previous couple of centuries.

If travel promotion has the massive benefits that Mr. O'Kane alleges, certainly it could and should be carried by out by the private tourism industry itself. The Federal Government has no magical powers in this field, other than extracting extra fees from foreign travelers and funneling the money to the TPA slush fund. The "success" of the TPA will simply lead to more and more industries lining up to get their similar government largesse.

O'Kane paints the opposition to TPA as the product of scary "far-right, extreme political organizations". These organizations are easy enough to track down, and include the Heritage Foundation and the Club For Growth. Mud-slinging labels aside, there's nothing particularly scary about them, except that they consistently oppose corporate welfare programs like TPA. Apparently that's a right-wing position these days.

In its brief life, the TPA has behaved poorly, even by government standards. A report authored by Senators Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint found a "history of questionable expenditures, lavish spending, inappropriate lobbying activity and corporate cronyism" at the "Brand USA" corporation established by the TPA legislation. A lavish party held at the British Maritime Museum for "560 VIP guests" cost hundreds of thousands; a luxury-suite bash at a Washington Nationals ballgame cost thousands more. (I wasn't invited, were you?) In order to extract "matching funds" from the US Treasury, board members charged their "volunteer" time ($258 per hour), first-class airplane fares, private car services, and more. Even though the TPA legislation banned lobbying activities by Brand USA, the corporation went ahead and bought themselves a Patton Boggs lobbyist anyway.

Unsurprisingly, the Brand USA Board of Directors was found to be stuffed with "heavy contributors to President Obama and Democratic campaigns."

There are more direct ways the Federal Government could promote tourism to the US, mainly by getting out of the way: making visa and customs processes easier, consistent with maintaining security requirements. This would, however, not be something that allows politicians to easily dole out Federal goodies to their corporate buddies/contributors. If Scott Brown and Jeanne Shaheen are truly on opposite sides of this issue, it's a good reason to vote for Brown.

Last Modified 2014-10-13 12:18 PM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2014-10-10

  • Must read for all Chandlerphiles: "Philip Marlowe Attends a Court-Mandated Women’s Studies Workshop"

    The air in Silver Lake was a fresh as a drunkard’s breath on Sunday morning. I drove until I found the place, a YMCA with a façade that had last been scrubbed during the Eisenhower administration. I parked next to a green sedan with a COEXIST sticker on the bumper. Yeah, this was the place.

  • I am fully prepared to believe that Gwyneth Paltrow is the greatest actress alive. Because I've seen her play movie characters with intelligence and wit. Yet, it's increasingly clear that the space between her ears is mostly twigs, bits of string, and loose screws.

    On Thursday, Oscar winning Actress Gwyneth Paltrow concluded her introductory remarks about President Obama at a star studded fundraiser held in the backyard of her upscale Brentwood home in Los Angeles, saying that she was turning the microphone over to him because “you’re so handsome that I can’t speak properly.”

    Paltrow’s adoration of the President was palpable, according to a press pool report. She told Obama that “I am one of your biggest fans, if not the biggest… It would be wonderful if we were able to give this man all of the power that he needs to pass the things that he needs to pass” she said.

  • Reason's five most anti-libertarian TV shows ever!:

    … includes two of my favorites (I'll let you guess which ones), but I can see their point even there.

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URLs du Jour — 2014-10-09

  • Kevin Williamson has some fun with the comments of a Chicago law enforcement officer worried about Apple's decision to implement new data encryption behavior in its iOS:

    "Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile. The average pedophile at this point is probably thinking, I’ve got to get an Apple phone.” Setting aside the question of what, exactly, an average pedophile is (or an above-average pedophile, for that matter), take a moment to savor the paranoid, intellectually dishonest, and technologically illiterate imagination of John J. Escalante, Chicago PD’s chief of detectives. He is not alone in his fear: Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI boss James B. Comey, and the editors of the Washington Post are united in their horror of the fact that Apple has taken the radical step of . . . changing the default privacy arrangements on its new telephones.

    As near as I can tell, iOS has long had the ability to encrypt some data on your iThing; the difference now is: not only is encryption now the default behavior, the scope of the encryption is much wider.

    Based on experience, I'm virtually certain that large swaths of users will make (or, more precisely, continue to make) poor choices here: rendering their data unrecoverable, assuming their data is secure when it's not, protecting it with a weak key. Still, Apple has moved the sticks a bit away from the snoopers and toward the users, so it's probably a net win.

  • If the GOP does poorer than expected on November 4, you should remember this article from Neil Munro at the Daily Caller.

    President Barack Obama delayed his planned unilateral amnesty until after the election to prevent GOP legislators or the media from recognizing it as an election-winner for the GOP, according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

    Okay, so Obama's neither courageous nor honest enough to put this issue on the front burner where voters can turn thumbs up-or-down on it. It's slightly surprising that Josh Earnest admits it, but other than that, what's new?

    The frustrating part (as the article makes clear) is that the GOP leadership (largely pro-amnesty) is cooperating with Obama in keeping the heat off the issue. All the better to claim on November 5 that the voters didn't express their preferences clearly.

    Same point made more incindiarily (not an actual word, as near as I can tell, but it should be): Ann Coulter.

  • Speaking of dishonest Democrats [but I repeat myself], Senatorial candidate Scott Brown's daughter, Ayla Brown, is pretty darn mad about the attack ad designed to scare low-information women voters into voting for his opponent, Jeanne Shaheen. [In my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat]

    Jeanne Shaheen should be ashamed of herself. The attack ad she’s running against my dad, Scott Brown, is flat-out wrong, and is a desperate attempt to scare women. As a young voter, I find Shaheen’s smear campaign highly offensive. It’s clearly a last-ditch attempt to distract the people of New Hampshire from her record of voting 99 percent of the time with President Obama.

    I believe Jeanne's ad accuses young Scott Brown of dipping girls' pigtails in his inkwell back in elementary school. I'm pretty sure I remember that.

  • Your Tweet du Jour:

    I believe Thomas Jefferson said something similar.

Last Modified 2014-10-10 4:22 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2014-10-08

  • Traditional marriage (or, as I like to think of it, "marriage") is apparently headed toward the ash heap of history. At the Federalist, David Harsanyi makes a small plea for language honesty:

    […], I’m asking on what logical grounds can a person argue that gay marriage is okay but polygamy is not—or any other type of marriage? If your answer is an arbitrary declaration like “the ideal union is between only two individuals” then all you’ve done is redefine the parameters of marriage. You support gay marriage, not “marriage equality.”

  • Nick Gillespie is at his snarky best writing about Harvard students asking—nay, demanding—that the college sever ties to the "Teach For America" program (which puts college grads directly into schools that lack quality teachers and/or resources) unless TFA only places participants in unionized government schools.

    The Harvard prodigies and the organizers at USAS ["United Students Against Sweatshops"] are about the last people standing who think that unionizing teachers is the last, best hope of improving American education, especially for students from lower-income, higher-risk-for-failure backgrounds. Good luck to them as their reactionary attitudes leave them further and further in the rear-view window as the rest of the country moves into a future of increased options for all, regardless of family income and ability to pay.

    I can only imagine the thought processes of the typical Harvard student who tries to reconcile these demands with their default moral preening about their compassion.

  • From Charles C. W. Cooke, more analysis of Scripps College's disinvitation to George F. Will.

    For all the elaborate apologias and tortuous self-justifications, the enemies of open expression are in practice singing the same song now as they ever were: “Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up, we don’t want you here!” That, of course, is their right, but it is not a right that can be exercised without cost. To deprive a speaker of his chance to speak is, by definition, to deprive his listeners of a chance to listen — no small crime in a school purporting to teach “liberal arts.” Today, we roll our eyes at the peculiar uniformity of the American college campus. Tomorrow, though, we should laugh, for the losers here are not George Will and the nation’s many conservatives, but instead the students of Scripps, who, thanks to the prim and delicate scolds who run their grubby, insipid little establishment, will remain cosseted in their bubble for yet another day.

    Mamas, don't let your daughters grow up to go to Scripps.

  • Some default-view readers may be interested in my take on Bourgeois Dignity by Deirdre N. McCloskey, over on the Pun Salad books area.

  • Your Tweet du Jour:

    Background if necessary here and here and (even) here.

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URLs du Jour — 2014-10-07

Sometimes it seems like all Pun Salad content is about the multiple-front battle by "progressives" to reallocate power from the private/individual sphere to the political/collective sphere. For example…

  • I wish every voter could watch George F. Will speak briefly (5 minutes and 48 seconds) about the illiberal attack on free speech masquerading as "campaign finance reform".

    Especially I wish that every New Hampshire voter even considering voting for Jeanne Shaheen would watch it, after learning that she co-sponsored and voted for Senate Joint Resolution 19, a Constitutional amendment that would trample free speech in the name of "campaign finance reform". She should be electorally retired, come home to Madbury, and write her memoirs. (Suggested title: How I Wish I Could Figure Out a Way to Make My Political Opponents Shut UP!)

  • Mr. Will's opinions are considered too controversial for the delicate ears of the ladies of Scripps College. Apparently "Disinvitation Season" is starting early this year. (Or perhaps running late.)

    Ed Morrissey digs out Scripps' "Core curriculum" description that promises to "encourage students to think critically and challenge ideas." Just, y'know, not icky ones.

  • Kevin D. Williamson writes "They Are Coming for Your Children", about the effort in Connecticut to suppress the home-schoolers, using Sandy Hook as a pretext. Kevin puts it together:

    Contrary to the crude cartoon of them, home-schooling families are a motley bunch, including everybody from heartland Evangelicals to Brooklyn’s quinoa-and-yoga set. Many of them are amused and surprised when I describe them as “radicals,” but that is what they are — people who have told the state that they’ll pay their taxes but are not handing over their children, that they will render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s but not a mite more. Home-schooling isn’t for everybody, but every home-school student, like every firearm in private hands, is a quiet little declaration of independence. It’s no accident that the people who want to seize your guns are also the ones who want to seize your children. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s desire to imprison people who hold the wrong views on climate change and Harry Reid’s plot to gut the Bill of Rights are not aberrations in an otherwise genuinely liberal agenda; the Left desires to put every aspect of every human life under political discipline, from which history books your children read to what kind of cheese you eat.

    Kevin's more than a tad irritated, and he is a wonderful writer when irritated.

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URLs du Jour — 2014-10-06

  • It must be a blue moon, because I am going to quote the opening paragraph from an article by Katha Pollitt of The Nation magazine.

    Here’s a great way to make a movement: have your most famous and powerful public figures obsess over Henry Higgins’s famous question, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Why aren’t they more into critical thinking, argument, logic? more rational? Why do they accuse a man of sexual harassment when he’s just trying to chat them up in an elevator at 4 in the morning? Why do they get drunk and then accuse men of rape? Then, having alienated a huge number of actual and potential members, to whom you sound arrogant, vain, sexist and clueless, look around and wonder, Gee, where are the women? They must be even less rational than we thought!

    Katha is talking about atheists. On and on, she does. Conclusion:

    Why would women join a movement led by sexists and populated by trolls? If this is atheism, I’m becoming a Catholic.

    I find this odd that atheism is a "movement" that one might "join". I'm pretty sure that all you need do to be an atheist is follow the first half of Psalm 14:1:

    The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

    Pretty simple. You don't have to join anything, attend any meetings, send in dues. You don't even have to say anything out loud.

    If you're looking for fellow fools, though… Well, you shouldn't be surprised if you find foolish ("arrogant, vain, sexist and clueless") people doing foolish things.

    [Atheism is a surprisingly hot topic at Pun Salad. Previous posts at least tangentially related here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.]

  • Need verification? You can always ask the Google autocompleter:

    [why are atheists...]

    Tough, but why should you care? You're an atheist, man!

  • A pretty neat tweet from Virginia Postrel:

    That leads to a very neat article at Slate. Apparently they're doing map stuff all week. "Tomorrow: Remapping America based on baseball player birthplaces."

Last Modified 2014-10-07 4:54 AM EDT
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