Wednesday afternoon quick hits (and Open Thread)

Victorian posy of pansiesIt’s raining!!!  In California, that’s cause for celebration.  Rain in Marin doesn’t mean it’s raining elsewhere, but it certainly matters to use Marin-ites — we have our own reservoir system, so we’re wholly dependent on local rainfall.  Ironically, the rain is slowing down our major yard renovation, and we have to get that renovation down before April 1, when rationing kicks in (and rationing will happen unless we get enormous amounts of rain).  Sigh.  To ever silver lining, there seems to be a cloud.

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Since I’m on the subject of weather, here’s a two-fer about the grand hoax that is climate change. The first, from American Thinker, provides compelling evidence that every single carbon centered computer model about the climate has proven to be wrong. Not just sort of wrong, mind you, but absolutely, completely, super-duper wrong. Climate theorists are now blaming volcanoes for the warming failure, but they’ll blame anything, won’t they? If you have a non-falsifiable doctrine, you can always blame external forces for your doctrine’s inevitable failure.

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I’ve also got three great articles about Israel. The first looks as all the wonderful things going on in Israel despite the world’s efforts to squash that tiny, brilliant nation. The second looks at the grotesque hypocrisy that sees gay rights advocates champion Palestinians at the expense of Israel. The third looks as the fact that Israel stands poised to save Syrians, the rest of the Middle East, and perhaps the whole world, from the unfathomable danger of a nuclear Syria.

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Traditionally in America, a state attorney general is sworn to uphold the laws of the state. After all, if the AG doesn’t do that, what’s his purpose? He’s there to represent and ensure the stability, reliability, and credibility of the law.  If he doesn’t carry out that task, he just becomes another functionary in a banana republic. And that banana republic status is precisely what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder dreams of, for he has instructed state AG’s to ignore any law that supports traditional marriage.

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I’ve written here frequently about the lunacy that is the modern American college or university. This is a subject that exercises me a great deal because I have two children heading towards college in the next few years. As many Americans do, I’m deeply offended by the cost of college, especially the cost of the once prestigious liberal arts colleges back East. It’s insane to spend or borrow $250,000 so that your child can move into your basement and become a barista. In a changing world, colleges have actually changed in the wrong direction.  They’ve turned away entirely from educating young people to become useful and productive citizens.

What colleges have done, instead, is train youngsters to become lunatics, which is my second reason for being upset about modern American higher education. Last week, Bruce Bawer warned about a lunatic Leftist at Harvard. This week, Chicks on the Right warns about a whole cadre of potentially violent lunatic Leftists as Dartmouth. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this collection of young people expensively unmoored from reality comes from deep within the fever swamps of the gay rights movement.

I’ll say here what I always say: I believe that the government should stay out of people’s bedrooms. I believe that gay people should be free from discrimination, harassment, violence, etc. I believe that the heart loves where it will. But let’s get real here: These loony-toonz aren’t about gay rights.  They are about using the gay agenda as a wedge issue to destroy America as a free-market, individual-centered society, and to replace it with a hard-core centralized government and a socialized economy. I wonder if these “idealists” have any inkling that, when/if they’ve finally achieved their agenda they’ll meet the same fate that leading-edge revolutionaries always experience, whether in 18th Century France, or Russia, or China:  The new statist government identifies them as troublemakers and kills them first.

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My sister lives in Oregon, a state that has as its primary goal the creation of happiness. We’ve talked before about the fact that a state can impose “happiness” only if it first has the right to define “happiness.”  The reality, is that there’s only a slender likelihood that the state bureaucrat’s idea of what constitutes “happiness” is the same as your idea.  Moreover, if not everyone is happy — and no one can ever be — the situation is ripe for constant revolution. Still, Oregon tries. The libertarians on the Eastern side are constantly besieged by the statists on the Western, coastal side, who have turned Oregon into one of the most heavily regulated, and least economically successful, states in America. (For more on happiness, at a deep, philosophical level, rather than at a pop-culture, “everything is free” level, check out Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual.)

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And finally, knowledge that I gleaned in my youth catches up with the present. I’ve written before about my years at Berkeley, when I socialized with ultra-Leftist professors who lived in lavish houses in the Berkeley hillside, all of which seemed to be tended by Hispanic maids and Japanese gardeners. These effete, armchair revolutionaries enjoyed their Marxism because they lived on the straining back of the servant class.

That was a long time ago, but one modern-day Leftist has finally admitted that, yes, needing servants is precisely why the Leftist idle rich are so gung-ho about illegal immigrants:

As a friend of mine said after watching that, “If a conservative of any stripe were to insinuate undocumented workers were all gardeners, landscapers, and hotel workers the race card would have been played before he could even finish the sentence.”

Two interesting articles about higher education in America *UPDATED*

Harvard Gay and Lesbian ReviewYesterday I briefly wrote about Emmett Rensin, a University of Chicago grad who is deeply, abjectly in love with socialism.  Yesterday was also the day that Bruce Bawer looked closely at Sandra Y. L. Korn, a Harvard student who makes Rensin look like a stodgy banker:

Who is Sandra Y.L. Korn? The contributor’s note identifies her as a member of the class of 2014, a Crimson editorial writer and columnist, and “a joint history of science and studies of women, gender and sexuality concentrator in Eliot House.” “Concentrator” is apparently Harvardese for “major.” Ms. Korn’s college education consists, then, of courses in Women’s Studies and in “History of Science,” which, according to Harvard’s website, “offers students the possibility of studying the history and social relations of science” but “does not require students to take science courses.” (Which, of course, is ridiculous: how can you begin to understand what science is without actually studying a science?) Ms. Korn, I also discovered, is working on a thesis about “how biologists have tried over and over again to explain gender difference by invoking ‘science.’” In other words, she’s learned about science – without really learning any science – in order to discredit “science,” a word she puts in scare quotes. (Her project is, note well, entirely consistent with Women’s Studies dogma, which teaches that science is “masculinist.”)

Ms. Korn, I further discovered, is not only a prolific columnist – writing regularly for both the Crimson and the Harvard Political Review – but an active member of Occupy Harvard, the Progressive Jewish Allliance, the Student Labor Action Movement, and BAGELS, “Harvard’s group for bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgendered Jews.” In her columns, she’s paid tribute to the Black Panthers, celebrated the Occupy movement, and chided those who cheered Kim Jong-Il’s death. She’s opposed allowing ROTC back onto the Harvard campus, one reason being that “[i]nternational students…from countries not allied with the United States” might object to their presence. She’s criticized Harvard’s plans to distribute lecture courses on the Internet as the latest development in “a long history of imperialism in which U.S. elites have told an increasingly globalized world that what they thought was best.” She’s written that “[w]hile violent resistance through Hamas is not right,” it’s “not incomprehensible,” given that “non-violent resistance cannot make the international community pay attention to the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza.” And she’s dismissed as “Islamophobia” any statement of the objective fact that anti-Semitism is a core element of contemporary Palestinian identity.

Read the whole thing here.  It’s a superb insight into why I’m grateful neither of my children will probably have the grades to get into Harvard, and why a small part of me wishes that they wouldn’t have the grades to get into anything.

Animal HouseFor a completely different view of college issues, check out Caitlin Flanagan’s in-depth article about college fraternities.  It’s long, but I found every word riveting, and because it stirred up college memories, not of being in a sorority (I wasn’t), but of seeing Greeks in action.  I arrived at Cal shortly after Animal House had revitalized the Greek system.  Often, because I commuted, I found myself walking past fraternity row to get to and from my car.  It was an edifying look at binge drinking and chronic alcoholism.  Too many fraternities still seem to suffer from those plagues, and all that flows from them:  rank stupidity, dangerous and deadly falls, and rape.  Anyway, how could you help but love an article that starts this way:

One warm spring night in 2011, a young man named Travis Hughes stood on the back deck of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at Marshall University, in West Virginia, and was struck by what seemed to him—under the influence of powerful inebriants, not least among them the clear ether of youth itself—to be an excellent idea: he would shove a bottle rocket up his ass and blast it into the sweet night air. And perhaps it was an excellent idea. What was not an excellent idea, however, was to misjudge the relative tightness of a 20-year-old sphincter and the propulsive reliability of a 20-cent bottle rocket. What followed ignition was not the bright report of a successful blastoff, but the muffled thud of fire in the hole.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds was less impressed by the fraternity story than I was. Maybe I looked at it differently because I remember being a non-Greek on campuses with heavy Greek presences and because I have children who are nearing college.

Thoughts on the “terror threat” at Harvard

Sproul Hall, scene of numerous, unexecuted bomb threats

Sproul Hall, scene of numerous, unexecuted bomb threats

When I was at Cal, one of the great inconveniences was bomb threats against Sproul Hall, which was then (and I presume is now) Cal’s administrative building.  From my point of view, the scenario was unchanging:  I’d stand in an endless line in order to get or return some piece of paper that was essential to my academic career.  Sometimes I’d be waiting an hour or more.  And then, just as I got within spitting distance of the clerk’s window, the clerk would announce, “Sorry, there’s been a bomb threat.  Everyone needs to evacuate the building.”  Nobody panicked; everybody grumbled.  These bomb threats all had a “been there, done that” feeling about them.  As far as I know, no one has ever detonated a bomb at Berkeley, at least not since I first arrived there in 1979.

Not only was the bomb threat boring (although inconvenient) to me, it was to everyone else too, including the media.  These things never made  news.

Now, though, in our internet society, a bomb threat anywhere is big news everywhere.  Today’s Drudge headline is that there was a bomb scare at Harvard, and there’s a story at the WSJ about it.  While it used to take an actual explosion to make the media care, now all it takes is a phone call.

We all have the sense that we live in very scary times.  Indeed, I think that 9/11 shows that we do live in dangerous times, with determined enemies.  Islamists want to kill us, and they’ll do so with big attacks (9/11) or comparatively small ones (Fort Hood).

Having acknowledged that reality, though, it’s also necessary to acknowledge that a world-wide, 24-hour, instantly accessible media cycle means that things that we used to ignore or treat solely as local news are now presented to the public as immediate, imminent concerns in everybody’s back yard.  For once, I don’t blame the media for this.  They’re just doing their job in a reconfigured landscape.  I do wish, though, that there was some countervailing force or belief system that would quell the fear and panic we feel when we view a headline that, in the past, the media would probably have ignored.

Grade inflation in the Ivy Leagues (and their non-Ivy peers)

If these were Harvard students, all of them would have above-average grades

If these were Harvard students, all of them would have above-average grades

Sometimes my posts just re-write themselves.  This is me writing in May 2009:

Twenty years ago, a Stanford professor let me in on a little secret:  In a Lake Woebegone-ish way, all the students at Stanford are above average.  Truly.  The faculty was not allowed to fail anyone, so much so that, if it looked as if a student was failing, up to and including the final exam, the student was just “dropped out” of the class.  “A” grades were handed out like candy.  After all, Stanford got some of the best students in America.  You couldn’t let them, or their paying parents, down by giving them bad grades.  The notion that it might be good for them to compete against others as smart as they were, so as to winnow out the best of the best, was anathema.

And this is the latest report on the grade scam in the Ivy Leagues:

Life is very, very good for the select few who gain entrance to Harvard University as undergraduates. Thanks to Harvey Mansfield, the very rarest of phenomena, an outspokenly conservative member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the world now knows that the average grade at Harvard College (the undergraduate portion of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences) is A minus.

Read the rest here, because Thomas Lifson has written a long, fact-filled, analytical post about the Ivy League (and comparable colleges) scam.

Yale Prof. offers a revealing glimpse into the Ivy League’s epistemic closure

A lot of sites have been linking to a blog post from Daniel Kahan, a law professor at Yale because it contains a very surprising confession.  To appreciate both what Kahan said (which was good) and what he refused to do (which was very, very bad), you need to know a little more about Kahan’s specialty.  According to the Wikipedia entry about Kahan, he’s a “leading scholar in the fields of criminal law and evidence and is known for his theory of Cultural cognition.“  (Emphasis mine.)

For the Luddites among us (and I proudly include myself in that number), “cultural cognition” is defined as follows:

The Cultural Cognition Project is a group of scholars interested in studying how cultural values shape public risk perceptions and related policy beliefs. Cultural cognition refers to the tendency of individuals to conform their beliefs about disputed matters of fact (e.g., whether global warming is a serious threat; whether the death penalty deters murder; whether gun control makes society more safe or less) to values that define their cultural identities. Project members are using the methods of various disciplines — including social psychology, anthropology, communications, and political science — to chart the impact of this phenomenon and to identify the mechanisms through which it operates. The Project also has an explicit normative objective: to identify processes of democratic decisionmaking [sic] by which society can resolve culturally grounded differences in belief in a manner that is both congenial to persons of diverse cultural outlooks and consistent with sound public policymaking [sic].

In English:  the good professor thinks that people use their preexisting values and data to analyze new information.  If you can get people to think the right way (I believe the Chinese communists called it “reeducation”), then you can get them to agree to Progressive policies.  (If you read on, you’ll understand why I translate “sound public policymaking” to mean “Leftist policies.”)

As an aside, shouldn’t Yale professors know that “policy making” and “decision making” are two words, rather than each being one portmanteau word?  Yeah, yeah.  Just call me fussy.

For those wondering about the value of a modern Ivy League education that little paragraph pretty much tells you what you need to know:  The Ivy League needs a guy with an expensive Harvard J.D. (and you know how highly I value those pieces of paper) and an even more valuable Yale job to figure out that people operate from their biases, both in collecting and analyzing data.

And speaking of people operating from their biases, Kahan has now confessed that his biases just received a stunning blow.  In the next few paragraphs, I’ll give him some credit for being honest about his recent discovery, but I’ll then explain why he only gets a small nod from me, not a big one.  For the most part, his post leaves me both disdainful and depressed.

Oh, I didn’t tell you what his discovery is.  It turns out that Tea Partiers, the ones who think that AlBore is a scam artist; that humans can pollute but that they lack the power to change the climate, something the sun has been doing fine on its own for several billion years; and that a country that insists on spending money it doesn’t have will soon go broke, are actually more scientifically knowledgeable than the Progressives who worship at the altars of global warming and Keynesian economicsYes, really.  Buried in a sea  of really awesomely impressive statistical jargon, that’s exactly what Kahan says:

In this dataset, I found that there is a small correlation (r = -0.05, p = 0.03) between the science comprehension measure and a left-right political outlook measure, Conservrepub, which aggregates liberal-conservative ideology and party self-identification. The sign of the correlation indicates that science comprehension decreases as political outlooks move in the rightward direction–i.e., the more “liberal” and “Democrat,” the more science comprehending.

Do you think this helps explain conflicts over climate change or other forms of decision-relevant science? I don’t.

But if you do, then maybe you’ll find this interesting.  The dataset happened to have an item in it that asked respondents if they considered themselves “part of the Tea Party movement.” Nineteen percent said yes.

It turns out that there is about as strong a correlation between scores on the science comprehension scale and identifying with the Tea Party as there is between scores on the science comprehension scale and Conservrepub.

Except that it has the opposite sign: that is, identifying with the Tea Party correlates positively (r = 0.05, p = 0.05) with scores on the science comprehension measure:

Again, the relationship is trivially small, and can’t possibly be contributing in any way to the ferocious conflicts over decision-relevant science that we are experiencing.

(I must confess that reading the above made me just ecstatically happy that I no longer practice law.  Think how much academic writing that spares me.)

You’ve probably seen the above quotation everywhere over the last two days.  It certainly makes sense to conservatives, because people who pay attention to actual facts are more likely to conclude that Anthropogenic Global Warming is a hoax.  (If you’re a data junkie, I recommend Watts Up With That.)  It’s the believers who are stuck in the epistemic closure loop.  Climate warmer?  AGW!!  Climate cooler?  AGW!!  No climate movement at all?  AGW.  Models wrong?  Still AGW!  That’s faith, my friends, not science.

But getting back to Professor Kahan.  What’s really fascinating is what comes after his confession regarding what is, to him, a counter-intuitive statistical anomaly.

May I take a moment here to remind you what Professor Kahan’s specialty is?  It’s “cultural cognition,” an expensive sounding theory that posits what your grandmother could have told you for free:  Our biases predispose us to interpret information in certain ways.  This obviously includes as a subset the fact that people look to certain authorities for information.  I can guarantee you that Obama reads the New York Times, and not National Review.  In this way, of course, he is distinct from conservatives, who read both.

Kahan believes that, if he can render cultural cognition into set data points, he can drag people into “sound public policymaking.”  (I believe George Orwell called it “groupthink.”)  Lift their blinders, and they will see the light.

But what about Kahan’s own blinders?  And that’s where his little post gets really interesting.  If you want to see a closed intellectual universe, Kahan invites you right into his:

I’ve got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I’d be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension.

But then again, I don’t know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party.  All my impressions come from watching cable tv — & I don’t watch Fox News very often — and reading the “paper” (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico).

I’m a little embarrassed, but mainly I’m just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view.

Of course, I still subscribe to my various political and moral assessments–all very negative– of what I understand the “Tea Party movement” to stand for. I just no longer assume that the people who happen to hold those values are less likely than people who share my political outlooks to have acquired the sorts of knowledge and dispositions that a decent science comprehension scale measures.

I’ll now be much less surprised, too, if it turns out that someone I meet at, say, the Museum of Science in Boston, or the Chabot Space and Science Museum in Oakland, or the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is part of the 20% (geez– I must know some of them) who would answer “yes” when asked if he or she identifies with the Tea Party.  If the person is there, then it will almost certainly be the case that that he or she & I will agree on how cool the stuff is at the museum, even if we don’t agree about many other matters of consequence.

What a charming confession.  It even includes an embarrassed moue, along the lines of “I’m so embarrassed that I assumed Tea Partiers were dumb.”  That almost hides a rather spectacular omission.  Kahan fails to include the logical follow-up that any intelligent person invested in cultural cognition should make.  What he should say after his little confession is “Maybe I should check out what these surprisingly intelligent people believe and argue.”

Instead, what Kahan says after admitting to his intellectual bubble is that he’s just fine with it.  He has no interest in actual data.  Instead, based solely on his predefined values, he will continue “to subscribe to [his] various political and moral assessments — all very negative — of what I understand the ‘Tea Party movement’ to stand for.”  Or as I translate that, “Please, people!  I’m a Yale genius who’s looking for ways to re-educate you.  Don’t bother me with facts and, to the extent that I inadvertently stumbled onto some facts myself, be assured that I will assiduously ignore them.”

I have said for years that, while I’ve never met a post-1984 Harvard Law grad who wasn’t arrogant and ill-informed,* I’ve been impressed with Yale grads.  After my little insight into the thought process of a current Yale professor, I fear that, should any recent Yale grads pop up on my legal radar, I’m going to discover that Yale has gone all Harvard.  Clearly, you’re getting what you pay for at the premier law schools only if you desire social and professional cachet layered upon close-mindedness, chronic epistemic closure, arrogance, and ignorance.

We can all guess, of course, why the Ivy League crowd is so incurious.  They’re afraid that, if they look beyond the narrow confines of their own Progressive cultural cognition, they might follow David Mamet’s path.  Next thing you know, they’ll be cranking up the air conditioner, using excess amounts of toilet paper, and listening to Rush Limbaugh, while muttering “Ditto!”

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*And yes, I know Ted Cruz is a post-1984 Harvard Law, but I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him.  I’m just basing my “Harvard lawyers are not people I’d ever hire for myself” attitude on the people I have worked with and opposite.  And of course, if Cruz is a Harvard anomaly, Obama, serenely enveloped in his ignorance and arrogance, is a Harvard poster child.

Elizabeth Warren’s “minority status” certainly goes a long way to explaining her career trajectory

I had some brilliant teachers when I was at law school in Texas.  Elizabeth Warren was not among their number.  While she knew her stuff, her disjointed, elliptical communication style made her one of the poorer teachers I’ve had during my 20 years as student (from kindergarten through my J.D.).  I’ve always said that she was a nice lady (never mean or cutting to students), but teaching was not her skill.

I didn’t follow Warren’s career after she left Texas, so I was unaware that she had moved on to Harvard.  I learned that only recently, when the Obama election caused her to become a player on the national scene.  By then, I was so focused on what she was saying or doing, that it didn’t occur to me to ask how the heck she got to Harvard.  After all, she really wasn’t “all that.”

Now that the news has broken that she falsely claimed minority status based upon her alleged 3% (or may 1.5%) drop of Native American, her Harvard employment makes sense.  Harvard needed a Native American law professor — and there Warren was.

I realize that Warren’s coming out as a race hustler is somewhat stale news, but my history with her popped into my mind when I read Alana Goodman’s little summary of the effect Warren’s lies are having on her campaign:

The growing narrative about Warren, on the other hand, is that she’s an ivory tower liberal with some shady character flaws. This latest Trail of Tears development also makes her something of a punchline, similar to how Coakley became a running joke after she cluelessly claimed former Red Sox pitcher and Brown supporter Curt Schilling was a Yankee fan. While the Coakley’s meltdown happened shortly before Election Day, Warren still has time to repair her image. But her window of opportunity is quickly closing, and the drip-drip of details like this will make it difficult for her to turn things around.

Reading that made me realize that her shady days go back a long time, and have propelled her forward on a body of lies.

Talking with Jesse Kornbluth again, this time about whether Harvard grads get a free pass

Jesse Kornbluth was again good enough to visit my post commenting upon his article lauding Andrew Sullivan as a blogger amongst bloggers.  If I was a guy, and he and I had met in person, I would have slapped up on the back with a cheery “Hey, Jesse man, great to see you again.”  I’ve discovered that I disagree with Jesse on a whole lot of things, but I certainly appreciate his willingness to come back here and take his stand on the things in which he believes.  So, welcome, Jesse, and let me get right to your points.

Because his is a short comment, I’ll first print it in its entirety here, and then take on what I believe to be its fundamental deficiencies.  As always, my answer will be longer, because I tend to develop my ideas at greater length.  I’ll assume that Jesse does not do so because he is being a polite guest at another’s forum, rather than because he lacks the energy, will or data.

One of your message board commenters has said you’ve heard the last of me. Not so. I was raised to write thank you notes, and I do want to thank you, Bookworm, for taking the time and thought to deal both with my piece and my defense of it.
And I also wish to encourage you. You say you were not among those who doubted Barack Obama’s citizenship, but you do want to investigate his alleged brilliance as a student. You write:
As for me, I’m much more interested in Obama’s college and law school grades. I’d be interested to see whether they support the narrative that he [is] an unusually brilliant man. Since I find his off-teleprompter speech limited, unmusical and ill-informed, I have my doubts.
I can only speak to this investigation as it refers to Harvard. Consider:
BARACK OBAMA
— He was the first African American president in the history of the Harvard Law Journal. [This is generally considered the highest honor you can get at Harvard Law School.]
ANDREW SULLIVAN
— Harkness Fellowship to the Kennedy School
— His Harvard doctoral thesis, “Intimations Pursued: The Voice of Practice in the Conversation of Michael Oakeshott,” won the government department’s Toppan Prize, for the best dissertation “upon a subject of Political Science.”
JESSE KORNBLUTH
summa cum laude thesis, “The Contradictions of Commitment in the Work of George Orwell”
magna cum laude Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature
Just on the record of those three Harvard guys, you should feel encouraged to persist in this effort.
All best.

One of the fundamental differences between Jesse and me is that he thinks Ivy League credentials cover a multitude of sins.  I do not.  Whether you went to Podunk Community College or Hah-vahd Law, if you’re a dishonorable man (that would be Sullivan) or man who fails to demonstrate a well-furnished mind or any analytical ability (that would be Obama), or perhaps a man who is too forgiving of or naive about those who share his alma mater (Jesse himself), my focus will be on the matter at issue, rather than some yellowing diploma.

Much has been written about Obama’s tenure at Harvard.  Indeed, I’ve written on the subject myself, so my regular readers will pardon me for the repetition here.

I attended a premier public, not private, law school at roughly the same time Obama was gracing Harvard’s halls.  I was a good student, and a sociable one, so I interacted with many lawyers who worked at huge, well-paying, reputable firms.  Rather consistently, they told me that they hired Ivy League grads for the cachet, not because they were any good.

The lawyers’ complaints were always the same:  the Ivy Leagues had done away with reliable grading, either because of massive grade inflation or because they’d switched to a pass/fail system.  This meant that all the Ivy League (plus the Boalt) graduates they interviewed presented themselves as top-of-the-class brilliant people.  For a large percentage of them, this was a lie.  From the lawyers’ perspective, hiring one of these grads was like buying a pig in a poke.  It was reasonable to assume that the grads were smart because they’d gotten into a cachet school in the first place, but it was fatal to assume that they had the knowledge, skills or attitude necessary to become a good lawyer.  If you were lucky, you hired someone wonderful; if you weren’t, you could still boast that your firm was a draw to Ivy League lawyers.

Now that Obama’s past is no longer untouchable, people are revisiting his law school experience.  As Ace shows, even absent actual grades, one can figure out a lot of things about Obama’s law school performance.

Using a variety of sources, Ace explains that, when Obama attended Harvard, neither grades nor Law Review were done anonymously.  This was quite different from my own experience.  At my law school, our tests didn’t have our names, just random numbers, so the professors graded based solely on the test’s quality, not the test taker’s relationship with the professor or the test taker’s skin color.  Law Review admission was based upon those same blind grades or upon an essay that was submitted anonymously.  Again, no favoritism based upon anything but the work’s quality.

At Harvard, however, grades were not anonymous, which left a lot of wiggle room for those professors committed to affirmative action.  Also, when Obama was there, in the interests of that same affirmative action, the Law Review had an explicit set-aside of spaces for blacks.  The obvious message to those blacks who made it to Harvard law was that, once there, they didn’t have to try very hard.  The driven ones worked hard because it was their nature.  As for the less driven ones, though, why bother?  You’d still get the perks and honors. Obama’s failure to publish anything of note while on Law Review is so unusual that, in the absence of his academic records, it’s reasonable to assume that he was not one of the driven ones and that he got his august position for reasons other than academic merit.

The magna designation beside Obama’s degree leaves me equally cold.  It turns out that about half the Harvard law class was magna.  Garrison Keillor must have been thinking of Harvard when he spoke of a place in which “all of the children are above average.”

Because Obama has refused to release any of his academic information, because his off-teleprompter speeches reveal a surprisingly ill-informed man (his is the opposite of a well-furnished mind), because his work history is invisible or lacking in any achievement beyond getting a series of  increasingly higher ranking jobs, and because racial preference was rampant in the grade-free environment that was Harvard law, I can’t pretend to be impressed by his diploma.  The diploma is a mere piece of paper when compared to a man whose most significant accomplishment seems to be impressing gullible liberals.

Andrew Sullivan’s academic credentials don’t move me either.  The world of academia is a hermetically sealed world in which having the right ideas (by which I really mean the Left ideas) regularly trumps the more important markers of decency, morality and common sense.  As only a sort of aside, my uncle was reputed to be the most brilliant student ever to graduate from the Jewish Gymnasium in pre-war Berlin.  He was also a miserable, angry Communist who ended his days, not in a haze of academic glory, but as a low-level civil servant pushing paper in a small government office in Denmark.  His embittered, ugly personality were of much more importance in his life than either his brains or his education (an education far exceeding in quality anything Harvard has to offer).

Sullivan is too old to point to his sheepskin as a mark of intellectual quality.  The true evidence of his intellectual and moral quality — or, as I argue, his striking deficiencies in both those categories — is his current work product.  As I’ve demonstrated in other posts, so won’t belabor here, that work product is dishonest, disingenuous, lazy, mean-spirited, defamatory, obsessive and antisemitic.  But other than that, he’s a great product of America’s finest school.

As for Jesse himself, as one of my readers commented, he graduated with high honors at a time before Harvard’s grading system was corrupted by the modern post-deconstructionist Marxist garbage that passes for education in this day and age (not to mention the fact that professors today are embarrassed to give bad grades to young people whose parents have coughed up $50,000 per year for them to hear the tripe that so often passes for knowledge at schools today).  For that, I commend him.  He’s clearly a bright man.  But my focus has been narrow:  I think Jesse betrayed his intelligence and education when he blithely praised Andrew Sullivan, a man with no moral compass and a vicious streak as wide as the Charles.

Back to you, Jesse.  You know you’re always welcome here.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land,
available in e-format for $4.99 at Amazon or Smashwords.

Harvard Magazine and the Left’s Andrew Sullivan love affair

Speaking of Harvard, I just got a gander at Harvard Magazine, which has a smugly grinning Andrew Sullivan on the cover, as the exemplar of “The New Media.”  I thought the article would be about bloggers generally, but the table of contents tells me I’m wrong:  “World’s Best Blogger?” it asks.  It then explains that the article is about “Andrew Sullivan, fiscal conservative [huh?] and social liberal, navigates the changing media landscape.”  Turn to the article itself, and the caption says:  “World’s Best Blogger?  Andrew Sullivan’s views are predictable in only one way:  always stimulating.”

To give you an inkling of the level of research that goes into this type of sycophancy — sycophancy that’s mailed on a regular basis to all Harvard grads — get a load of this exchange between one reader of the article (which is on the internet) and the article’s author, Jesse Kornbluth.  First, the reader comment:

Andrew Sullivan didn’t engage in partisan speculation (or, for that matter, ascribe partisan blame) after the Tuscon shootings?? Really??

What world are you living in??

Perhaps it is the same one Sullivan is living in, there one where he still believes that Sarah Palin faked her pregnancy.

The guy is one step short of wearing tin foil on his head. If that’s your criteria for world’s best blogger, then you’ve made a very good choice. Just ask yourself this question: If Andrew Sullivan were as “relentless” in asking Barack Obama for HIS birth certificate, would you still consider him the blogger of the year?

Yeah, didn’t think so. (nor should you; but I guess it’s OK, because his utter lunacy is directed at someone you both mutually hate).

Second, Jesse Kornbluth’s polite, but utterly clueless, reply:

As the author of the piece, I could respond better to these charges if you’d cite some specifics. Namely: could you provide a link to Sullivan’s Tuscon coverage in which he points a finger at a group or person who directed the shooter? And, in regard to Governor Palin, could you provide a link to a passage in the Dish where Sullivan makes the claim that she’s not Trig’s mother? Many thanks. JK

In about one second, any doofus can summon up myriad posts Sullivan did about Palin and Trig, or can find conservative comments castigating him for his lunatic monomania.  Here are a bazillion such links.  The same holds true for Sullivan’s hysterical screeds about Tucson.  But someone who wrote an entire article about Sullivan for the glossy Harvard Magazine was not only unable to find evidence of his quixotic little obsessions in the first place, but also was either unable to do so (or couldn’t be bothered to do so) in the second instance, when someone brought those facts to his attention.  You’d think that a Harvard grad (Class of ’68) could do better than that.

Andrew Sullivan is a bright guy.  He’s also one of the people I credit with helping me cross the Rubicon from political Left to political Right.  I was a New Republic subscriber for years.  When he took over as editor, his editorials were so ludicrous and hysterical, I started getting jaundiced with the magazine and ended up being open to new influences.  (Same holds true for Paul Krugman, whose anti-Bush hysteria leeched out any credibility from his writings, again sending me looking for more intelligence in political and economic commentary.)  I have reason, therefore, to be grateful to Sullivan.  But to laud the guy as a great thinker — he’s simply not.  And for someone to write a whole laudatory article about the man without being aware of one of his overriding political passions (that his, his obsession with the identity of Trig’s birth mother) or of his ill-informed, partisan, post-Tucson rants, reveals lazy thinking, lazy research and lazy writing — which, sadly, is about all I expect from a lot of Harvard’s brand nowadays.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land,
available in e-format for $4.99 at Amazon or Smashwords.

Iowahawk on the Harvard factor

The language is blue, but don’t let that stop you.  Read it.  Read it all.

My favorite line, incidentally, is this one:

Despite her underprivileged background Professor Kagan rose to the challenge and graduated magna cum laude, an honor reserved for the top 89% of Harvard Law alumni.

Right there is one of the dirty little secrets of the America’s top private universities back in the 1980s, when Elena Kagan (and Barack Obama) attended.  I don’t know if it’s true know, but I know it was true then.

It was in 1988 that a Stanford math professor explained to me how the system worked back then:

People paid a whole lot to get their little darlings into Stanford (or Harvard, or Yale, or whatever other prestigious school you can think of).  And coming in, there was no doubt but that their little darlings were the best of the best back at the hometown prep schools and high schools.

Each of those incoming students suddenly found himself in a Garrison Keillor situation, with all “all of the kids . . . above average.”  Once they were all packed into that little brilliant pond together, logic would dictate that a bell curve would come into play, with some of those above average kids showing academic skills ahead of or, sadly, behind the pack.

It turned out, though, that Mummy and Daddy got upset when their darling, who was class valedictorian at her fancy New York prep school, proved to be less capable than her college classmates.  After all, why would Mummy and Daddy pay Stanford $50,000 a year so that their baby could bring home a C or, worse, fail?  The answer was for the school to say that, because everyone was brilliant, regardless of actual classroom performance, everyone should therefore get a good grade.  Or failing that, students who could not possibly satisfy even the minimal grade requirement for a given class should be asked, quite politely, to leave that class, with no record and no repercussions. Net result:  Students happy, parents happy, school happy.  Future employers . . . well, not so happy.

What the Stanford professor told me wasn’t anomalous.  When I was a law student down in Texas, also in the 1980s, I knew a lot of employers, employers at big, fancy, well-paying Texas firms, who wouldn’t hire Boalt grads.  They still hired Harvard grads, because they couldn’t make themselves back away from the cachet (which is a big deal in Texas), but they drew the line at Boalt.  They told me that Boalt’s grading system was so “student friendly,” they had no idea if they were getting someone who was solidly in the middle of the bell curve, or the kid who couldn’t be bothered to show up to any classes.  Texas, by the way, graded on a very strict bell curve.

So read and enjoy Iowahawk but know that, despite the tongue in cheek, every word of it is true!

The perils of an affirmative action president *UPDATED*

Jennifer Rubin has a very good post today about the reasons that the “smart” Obama may be struggling so mightily to be a good president.  She offers three basic reasons that may explain Obama’s ineptitude, whether it touches economics, diplomacy, or national security:

First, the punditocracy confused credentials with knowledge or smarts.

[snip]

Second, even intelligent and well-schooled people can be poor managers, bad decision makers, and indecisive leaders.

[snip]

And finally, as Ronald Reagan said, “The trouble with our liberal friends isn’t that they are ignorant; it is that they know so much that isn’t so.”

I agree with everything Rubin says about the gross inefficiencies and thinking errors even smart people can display, except for one thing:  I disagree with her fundamental premise.  I don’t think Obama is smart at all.  I think his reputation for smarts is one of the great cons foisted on the American people, greater even than the con that Gore and Kerry, both of whom were undistinguished college students, as their transcripts show, were smarter than Bush, whose transcripts reveal him to  be a slightly better student than those two “men of genius.”

We have absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Obama is smart.  To begin with, we have no evidence at all of his academic abilities.  (And I will concede that, while academic smarts don’t demonstrate functional intelligence, they are still a good yardstick of a brain that operates at a fairly high level.)  We do not know how he did in Indonesia, his high school years are a blur, we do not know what happened during his stint at Occidental, we know nothing about his Columbia years, and the only thing we know about his Harvard years is that he made Law Review.

Liberals like to point to the Columbia and Harvard attendance (let alone the Law Review) as evidence in and of itself that the guy is smart.  After all, only smart people go to those schools.  Au contraire, my friends.  Thanks to the poisonous influence of affirmative action, an influence alive and well during Obama’s entire academic career, only smart whites and Asians go to those schools.  If you’re black and ambitious, you can into and stay in those schools despite less than stellar academic showings.  Columbia and Harvard need black admissions, and neither can afford for those blacks, once they’re in the school, to appear to be failing.

Let me insert here that I very strongly believe that that blacks can qualify for Columbia and Harvard on their own terms.  I am not publishing here a racist disquisition about black intelligence.  Anyone who reads that into what I’m writing here is reading me wrong.

What I am saying, is that if you set the standards lower for one racial group than for others, three things will happen:  First, the race that has the lower hurdles will stop trying as hard.  After all, humans are rational creatures, and people working towards a goal are wise to work only as hard as they need, and no harder.  Why expend energy unnecessarily?

Second, those members of the race who are fully capable of competing without a handicap will also behave rationally and conserve their energy, because it’s the smart thing to do.  This means that the lower hurdles will deprive them of the psychology opportunity stretch and prove themselves.

Third, a lot of people who would not normally have been in the race at all will bob up to the top, thanks to that handicap.  Worse, if there is a critical mass of mediocrity floating along on this tide of affirmative action, those mediocre people will inevitably, through sheer numbers, become representative of the racial group.  In other words, if you give enough mediocre people in a specific racial group a head start so that they win, it looks as if all the winners from that particular racial group are mediocre.

The above realities mean that you end up with two dire situations for the racial group that affirmative action infantilizing:  First, an enormous number of useless people become very poor representatives of their race.  And second, people who are genuinely good and deserving of recognition end up being thrown in the hopper of useless beneficiaries who achieved high status without ability or effort.

My argument is that Barack Obama is one of the number of useless, mediocre people who, thanks to affirmative action, have been elevated to a position far above their natural abilities.  The absence of grades is not the only indication of Obama’s intellectual weakness.  (And believe me, if his grades were good, they’d be published in every paper in America, including the want ads.)

Everything Obama’s turned his hand to — except for using people to advance his career — has failed.  The Annenberg Challenge was a $100 million disaster.  His legal career was, to say that least, undistinguished.  (I should add here that junior associates always have undistinguished careers.  There’s just not that much scope there.)  His tenure as an Illinois State Senator was marked by dithering indecision, coupled with the intelligent strategy, for a stupid person, of simply vanishing when the votes came around.  The same holds true for his career in the United States Senator.  If you examine those two tenures in political office without the gloss of the media love affair, all you’ve got is plenty of nothing.

Obama’s professorship at the U. of Chicago law school was equally undistinguished.  He published nothing.  His disquisitions on the Constitution show he knows nothing.  That is, he doesn’t even have the true intellectual’s excuse of fully understanding, but nevertheless arguing against, the language of the Constitution itself or the standard interpretations of that language.   I pity the students who had his class.

All that the liberals can hang their hat on is that one book:  Dreams.  And even that is proving to be a remarkably weak reed.  Jack Cashill has argued compellingly that Bill Ayers was the book’s principle author.  Cashill has a two pronged attack for this.  He demonstrates first, that Obama’s known prose stylings at the time (wooden, obfuscatory, cant-like), are completely unlike the fluid, artistic prose that gets people so excited about Dreams.  I personally find that argument compelling, because I’ve always been struck by Obama’s ugly language when he’s off a teleprompter.  This is not a man with any love for English.

The stylistic argument is also an easy argument to bat down.  It’s always possible to point to a moment of incredible inspiration, when everything in the brain clicks and things just roll out like magic.  That’s why I have a tab at my blog with an old poem of mine.  I like to have it there because it’s a reminder that when we are inspired, when someone makes incredible demands upon us, we’re all capable of great things.

Cashill, though, is too smart to stop with the “it doesn’t really seem like his writing” argument.  In article after article, he’s demonstrated that, stylistically, the writing is just like Ayers’ writing; that in terms of world view, the writing is just like Ayers’ writing (including all the nautical references that sit so well with Ayers, the former merchant marine); that anecdotally, the narratives precisely track events in Ayers’ life, right down to the description of the lavish mansion in which Ayers’ one-time girlfriend lived.  I won’t summarize everything Cashill writes, but I do urge you to read his whole series of articles on the subject, which you can find here.

Conspiracy theories, of course, are easy.  More than thirty percent of the American public believes that the Bush government brought down the Twin Towers so that Cheney would have an excuse to get government contracts for Halliburton in Iraq.   Never mind the death of 3,000 innocents, never mind the impossibility of keeping such a vast conspiracy absolutely secret, nevermind the fact that Cheney didn’t work for Halliburton, and nevermind that those government contracts were anathema to Halliburton, because it had contracted for them a decade before, in a different economy — to the conspiracy theorists, all of the dots always connect.

For conspiracy theorists, life is always like that scene in the movie A Beautiful Mind, in which the genius gazes at thousands of random newspaper clippings taped to his wall and, in an instant of inspired schizophrenia, sees them all connect in a vast network of relationships.  Except . . . except that Cashill has one weapon in his arsenal that no conspiracy theorist would ever have:  completely independent corroboration of the fact that a panicked Obama, sitting on a $150,000 advance and utterly incapable of writing, high tailed it over to Bill Ayers house, and got all the help he needed.

All of which gets me back to Obama.  None of the apparent indices of brains pan out:  no grades, no job record, no book.  Nothing at all.   His sole talent, and I have to say that it’s a spectacular one, is to be a con man.  He has a deep voice, good looks, and a network of behind the scenes operators who have been deeply invested in his advancement.  The only problem with running a con, as Harold Hill discovered when he had to produce that “boys band,” is that, if you stick around after you’ve run the con, people expect you to perform.  And Obama, who has none of the advertised talents, is utterly trapped.

The great pity for the American people is that, unlike the clever con man in a Broadway show/Hollywood musical, there is no miracle at the end when faith and love suddenly operate to produce the strained tones of the Minuet in G.  All we’re hearing now is silence, a few cricket chirps, and the scary drone of muezzins and nuclear bombers in the background.

UPDATE:  Right on schedule, a link about the genius that is Al Gore.  This is not the only example, of course; just the latest.