URLs du Jour

2018-09-17

  • Justice Don Willett, the guy Trump should have nominated to the Supreme Court, wishes us all a Happy Constitution Day, if You Can Keep It. Serious stuff, which you should read, assuming you can evade the paywall, with a cute story buried in the middle:

    Let me introduce you to a tenacious Texan with a Mensa-level civics IQ named Gregory Watson.

    In 1982 Mr. Watson wrote a paper as a University of Texas sophomore arguing that one of Madison’s proposed amendments to the Constitution was still eligible for ratification. The proposal barred Congress from raising its salary midterm; it set no ratification deadline. Unconvinced, Mr. Watson’s professor awarded him a C.

     Fueled by righteous indignation, Mr. Watson spent the next decade writing letters, bending ears and twisting arms in state capitals from sea to shining sea. And in 1992 the 27th Amendment was ratified—203 years after Congress proposed it.

    Gregory Watson got a bad grade. So he amended the Constitution. All it took was aptitude and attitude. (In 2017 the university officially changed Mr. Watson’s grade from C to A-plus.)

    You know that scene in Annie Hall, where Woody Allen's character debunks some loudmouth pontificating on Marshall McLuhan by dragging in Marshall McLuhan himself as an authority?

    This is much better.


  • Jonah Goldberg's recent G-File brings the bad news: The Government Can’t Love You. Well, bad news to those who thought otherwise.

    Even now, you can hear the growing clamor for the government to take control of Facebook or Google because the libruls there don’t like us. I’m open to sensible regulation, and if more is needed, fine. But if the idea that bringing these businesses under the control of the state — make them utilities! — is merely economically and philosophically blinkered if Republicans are in office, it becomes an incandescent bonfire of insipidity when you realize that one day — perhaps one day soon — progressives will take charge. Thinking that the same people who favor silencing speech, spiking politically incorrect science, and using the government to punish institutions that are non-compliant with the progressive agenda (I’m looking at you wedding-cake bakers, birth-control-eschewing octogenarian nuns, and Catholic adoption agencies) would shirk from using these shiny toys for their own ends is absurd.

    Moreover, as we learned — or should have learned — under Wilson and FDR, when the government “reins in” business, businesses often grab the reins of government. U.S. Steel, AT&T, and other corporate behemoths welcomed regulation precisely because they understood that the government was uniquely equipped to protect them from competition. Cartelized social media wouldn’t become friendlier to conservatives; social media would then have men with badges and guns to enforce their hostility to conservatives.

    Disclaimer: Jonah's post is a rebuttal to a disparaging review (or, as Jonah puts it, a "review") of his book The Suicide of the West. Even if you're uninterested in that debate, Jonah makes good points, as above, that stand on their own.


  • Over at Reason, Nick Gillespie debunks an advocacy piece from a magazine that used to be interested in straight news reporting: Are Teachers Really 'Not Paid for the Work [They] Do'? Time Says Yes, Reality Begs To Differ. The Time piece features Kentucky teacher Hope Brown, who sells blood plasma and works two extra jobs to make ends meet. It is based on a report "from the progressive Economic Policy Institute on what [authors] Sylvia Allegretto and Lawrence Mishel call "the teacher pay penalty" or "the percent by which public school teachers are paid less than comparable workers."

    You can read the study here. Allegretto and Mishel argue that teacher demonstrations and shortages around the country are driven by the fact that educators in K-12 public schools are making less money compared to other college graduates and "professionals" over the past several decades. "The teacher wage penalty was 1.8 percent in 1994, grew to 4.3 percent in 1996, and reached a record 18.7 percent in 2017," they write. According to their analysis, the "penalty" shrinks to 11.1 percent when you add in total compensation.

    Their agenda is straightforward: They think teachers should be paid more, both in absolute terms and relative to other workers with college degrees or professional status. They have amassed a number of statistics from credible sources which show that inflation-adjusted teacher wages have in fact been flat for about the past 20 years.

    I don't agree with Allegretto and Mishel that average teacher pay should be increased and I don't buy into their framework of a teacher "pay penalty." But that's besides the point that the Time story constitutes something akin to journalistic malpractice by suggesting that teachers such as Brown, who are pulling down salaries in the mid-50s, are being forced to sell bodily fluids to make ends meet. Indeed, according to Time's sister publication, Money, the median household income in Kentucky is $45,215, meaning that Brown is making about $10,000 more than half of all other households in the Bluegrass State.

    I like teachers just fine. But there's no reason to pay them above market wages. As long as you have qualified people willing to do the job…

    It also makes me want to do some analysis on the money management strategies of the Hope Brown household. She's making $55K/yr, she's got two other jobs, she's got a working husband, Kentucky has a low cost of living…. You don't need to be Suze Orman to suspect that maybe there's some wastage going on, or some major part of the picture we aren't being told about.


  • The folks running Our World In Data have constructed The map we need if we want to think about how global living conditions are changing. A deceptively simple idea: it adjusts each country's area by the size of its population. A very scaled-down version:

    [World Population Cartogram]

    If you're like me (and you are, aren't you?) your first thought was: "Hey, where's Russia?". Answer: we didn't think it would be that dinky. The cartographers' explanation:

    The area of Russia takes up 11% of the world’s land and the gigantic country borders both Norway and North Korea. But Russia is home to only less than 2% of the world population and is therefore shrunken in this cartogram to the size of Bangladesh, a country that is smaller than Florida.

    Fun and insightful to look at, as are many entries at that site. Check it out.


Last Modified 2018-09-17 1:07 PM EDT