URLs du Jour

2019-03-15

[Amazon Link]

The Amazon product du jour is from the engagingly-named "English Department Apparel Co." Unfortunately, that appears to be the only product they sell at Amazon. But if the apparel apparently appeals to you, click away!

  • What does the college admissions scam reveal? Fortunately, Megan McArdle is here to tell us: The college admissions scam reveals a truth about our self-perpetuating elites.

    Let us have a moment of silence for all the affluent parents who have spent the past decade or so frantically preparing their kids for college admissions. They vastly overpaid for homes near excellent public schools — or perhaps forked over the annual price of a new car to private ones — paid for extracurriculars, tutors, college-essay coaches . . . but as we now realize, they could have saved some money and a lot of effort if they had just paid a sleazy consultant to fake a record of achievement, rather than going to all the trouble of pushing their kids into actually acquiring one.

    Yes. But the truth to which Megan refers? It's this: "The closing of most secure and well-paid employment to all but the college-educated means selective colleges are now far more effective gatekeepers of elites than they were in the days when a certain class of father rushed out of the hospital to put his newborn son’s name down for Groton and Harvard."

    Power corrupts, or at least that's what I've heard. And it seems ironic (assuming, dubiously, that I know what that means) that the "progressive" institutions of higher ed most zealously maintain the myths and privileges that sustain them.


  • The otherwise-tedious Time magazine opens its pages to Bryan Caplan, who reveals The Larger Lie Beyond the College Admissions Bribery Case.

    [Amazon Link]

    […] Despite the grand aspirations that students avow on their admission essays, their overriding goal is not enlightenment, but status.

    Consider why these parents would even desire to fake their kids’ SAT scores. We can imagine them thinking, I desperately want my child to master mathematics, writing and history — and no one teaches math, writing and history like Yale does! But we all know this is fanciful. People don’t cheat because they want to learn more. They cheat to get a diploma from Yale or Stanford — modernity’s preferred passport to great careers and high society.

    What, then, is the point of sneaking into an elite school, if you lack the ability to master the material? If the cheaters planned to major in one of the rare subjects with clear standards and well-defined career paths — like computer science, electrical engineering or chemistry — this would be a show-stopping question. Most majors, however, ask little of their students — and get less. Standards were higher in the 1960s, when typical college students toiled about 40 hours a week. Today, however, students work only two-thirds as hard. Full-time college has become a part-time job.

    I continue to recommend Bryan's book, available via the link at your right.


  • Steve Landsburg on What I Get and What I Don’t Get about the scandal (unexcerpted):

    If you get accepted to college because you faked being a sports star, pretty much everyone is outraged. I get that.

    If you get accepted at college because you are a sports star, almost nobody seems to mind. That’s what I don’t get.

    Either way, you’ve climbed the ladder by prevailing in a largely meaningless zero-sum (and hence socially useless) game, thereby signalling a dollop of narcissism together with a few mostly irrelevant talents or advantages. What’s the difference?

    Um. Indeed. It shouldn't be surprising that college sports is an unusually corrupt sector of higher ed.


  • Well, let's talk about something else, like yesterday's Senate vote on Trump's emergency-that-isn't declaration. Specifically, at Reason, Eric Boehm asks: What the Heck, Ben Sasse?.

    When the Senate voted Thursday afternoon to block President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency on the southern border, most Republicans stood with the president and opposed the effort.

    But none of those "nay" votes seems quite as loud, or discordant, as the one cast by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who is fond of talking about the importance of Congress as a check on runaway executive power but who declined Thursday to play his part in stopping exactly such a power grab. The joint resolution passed easily—59-41, with 12 Republicans supporting it—so Sasse's vote didn't change the outcome, but that really only makes Sasse's opposition more curious.

    My high regard for Senator Ben has slipped a bit. That still makes him way better than (approximately) 15 of his colleagues.


  • [Amazon Link]

    I am a sympathetic listener to those (like Ben Sasse and Arthur Brooks) who think we should (see book link at right). But Don Boudreaux, at Cafe Hayek makes an implicit counter-argument when he asks, concerning pols: What Motivates these Creatures?. And (sorry) I found it impossible to excerpt, so here's the Whole Thing:

    Hearing this morning that Beto O’Rourke is running for the office of president of the executive branch of the national government of the United States prompted me to wonder what motivates someone such as Mr. O’Rourke. I can, I think, sort of empathize with someone who seeks political office for the purpose of helping to reduce or simply to restrain the reach and power of the state. But I cannot begin to empathize with someone who seeks political office for the purpose of using state power to ‘do good’ for others.

    I do understand the lust for acclaim, fame, and material wealth that often are the spoils of power. I condemn this lust as immoral, but I understand it. What I don’t understand is the lust to ‘help’ strangers by using force to prevent them from doing A, B, and C, and to compel them to do X, Y, and Z.

    I cannot comprehend how any human being fancies himself or herself to be intellectually and ethically fit to order peaceful people about. Seriously, if I try to put myself into the head of someone such as O’Rourke or Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump or Chuck Schumer or … I discover that I cannot do so. Successfully putting myself into the heads of such power-seekers is, for me, no more possible than putting myself into the head of a grizzly bear or a speckled trout. These creatures differ from me so fundamentally that I can only wonder at what motivates them and what it must be like to be moved by such motivations and to see the world as they see it. I have no idea what motivates them, and I cannot imagine what it must be like to possess any such motivations.

    And just as I, perhaps out of ignorance, thank the fates for not making me a bear or a trout, I thank the fates for not making me whatever is the humanoid creature who seeks power over others.

    The Brooks/Sasse argument says not to hate your enemies. I get that. But Brooks (at least) argues against my previous default of contempt. I'm not sure that's right. I think Don implicitly makes a pretty good case for contempt.


  • At Forbes, Bruce Y. Lee tells us What Anne Hathaway's Prank On 'Ellen' Said About Pseudoscience. Ms. Hathaway, an excellent actress, told the story of "Dr. Q" who wrote "Citrus Health", and advocated incorporating fruit into meditation practice.

    She got everyone in the audience to hold peeled clementine oranges to their mouths and blow in and out of them, their mouths and the clementines. Not only that, she encouraged them to simultaneously make a sound a bit like Yoda saying "WTH?" She then asked, "Do you guys feel a little bit better? Do you feel good?" While a few audience member had a "this blows" look on their faces and others appeared a bit confused, there were audience members actually nodding in agreement with Hathaway. To that Hathaway responded, "That's impossible, I made the whole thing up!"

    Lesson learned? Don't believe celebrities about anything. Especially when they tell you to give up booze or vote Democrat. They're probably just seeing if they can prank you.


  • And the Google LFOD alert rang for an LTE from Durham State Rep Judith Spang (pronounced "SPANNNNG", like a cartoon character getting hit with a frypan): Should plastic pollution be partisan?.

    Most shoppers leaving grocery stores with a dozen plastic bags know these bags are about to become waste. So do diners receiving plastic straws they didn’t ask for or want. Recently the House Commerce Committee passed HB 560 and HB 558 which will reduce the use of plastic bags and plastic straws. To my disappointment, the votes on the bills were strictly down party lines, with every Republican on the Committee voting against them.

    I asked why those Republicans did not support control of plastic given the problems it causes. Scores of citizens, municipalities and businesses had just testified in favor of the need to pass these bills now.

    What I heard was that it was a Live Free or Die issue. To some, living free might mean being free to choose to amass and throw out dozens of plastic bags and straws. To others, it means being free of trash polluting our waters and roadsides. Free of pollution caused by burying or incinerating millions of bags and straws. Free to enjoy wildlife that have not been injured or killed by ingesting plastic litter. Free of the costs to communities of disposing of unrecyclable plastic waste. Free of totally unnecessary plastic.

    Blogger's note: Representative Spang is the sort of person who harangues total strangers in parking lots for Unacceptable Plastic Bag Counts in their shopping carts. And, yes, to her, LFOD means: free to use her unfortunately-granted political power to tell other people what to do.