Tag: Academe

Follow the Money

You know those people wringing their hands over the “incivility” on college campuses?

They are bought and paid for by the Koch Brothers, so we know that they are not paid to tell the truth:

There is a war on free speech, and the front lines are YouTube ads.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that, following the outcry of politicians and commentators over YouTube’s temporary decision to demonetize the videos of conservative pundit Steven Crowder, who makes money from the ads provided by YouTube’s platform. Crowder had been called out by Vox journalist Carlos Maza for a long history of homophobic abuse, including calling Maza “a lispy queer” and selling T-shirts that say “Socialism Is for Fags.”

The incident set a certain set of free-speech warriors ablaze. Ben Shapiro, Joe Rogan, and other pundits who have made their name online for defending free speech—particularly those organized under the umbrella of the so-called “Intellectual Dark Web,” or IDW—have made Crowder a martyr of a pernicious war on civil discourse.

You’ve probably heard their arguments before: They claim to be opposed to censorship, “no-platforming” (when people are excluded from online or offline forums because of the views they express), and any attempts to discourage the open expression of ideas. These figures—who self-identify as classical liberals, conservatives, and libertarians—say that their project is completely non-ideological: It’s just about giving everyone a fair hearing.


TO UNDERSTAND THE origins of the free-speech movement, its priorities, and its funding, you have to start not at today’s social media battlefields, but at college campuses. The narrative that has emerged in recent years is familiar: College campuses have become ground zero for a new generation of intolerant leftists.


These actions go far beyond mere personal animus. In peeling back the curtain on the funding networks that have popularized the IDW’s cause, an even more nefarious picture emerges: a coordinated, strategic effort by right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers to extinguish any opposition to their political, economic, and social agenda.

Don’t take my word for it—Richard Fink, president of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, has openly bragged about it. According to his “Structure of Social Change” philosophy, the goal of the Koch Foundation’s philanthropy is to make grants in a strategic way so as to best affect public policy and influence broader social change. And what does Fink insist is a key part of this strategy? You guessed it—college campuses. Koch money is all over organizations that advocate for campus free speech, like the infamous astroturf group Speech First.

But it goes much deeper than the obvious, ideological nonprofits—many members of the IDW are directly involved with Koch cash.

Dave Rubin’s influential podcast, The Rubin Report, for example, has a financial partnership with Learn Liberty, a think tank started by the Koch-funded Institute for Humane Studies (IHS), where Charles G. Koch himself sits on the board. When the Canadian government denied Jordan Peterson funding for his work, Rebel Media—a group funded with Koch money and headed by Ezra Levant, a far-right Islamophobe with ties to the Koch networkraised cash for him (Peterson has since returned the favor, fundraising for the IHS). Ben Shapiro has collected speaker fees from the Koch-funded Young America’s Foundation and Turning Point USA. And Bret Weinstein was hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Stout’s Free Speech Week, a project of their Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation—funded by, you guessed it, the Charles G. Koch Foundation.

It’s not just the IDW itself: Some of its key popularizers also get Koch funding. Bari Weiss and The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf—who has been one of the most visible defenders of Peterson in the mainstream media—have both received cash prizes from the Koch-funded Reason Foundation, where David Koch himself sits on the board of trustees. And remember “The Coddling of the American Mind”? Well, one of its co-authors, Greg Lukianoff, is the head of that campus free-speech watchdog, FIRE. That organization is funded, of course, by the Koch brothers (for good measure, the Charles Koch Institute also did a laudatory write-up of the piece).

The Atlantic is perhaps the worst offender. Last year it launched “The Speech Wars,” a reporting project that seeks “to understand where free speech is in danger and where it has been abused.” Even though the magazine had just been bought by billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs and was seeing all-time high circulation and web traffic, The Atlantic solicited funding for the project from none other than the Charles Koch Foundation (the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Fetzer Institute are also underwriters).


The mission of the free-speech movement, from its IDW evangelists to its Koch funders, is to advance right-wing ideas, to marginalize those on the left who challenge them, and to mobilize useful idiots of the center as political cover. It’s tempting to dismiss this as conspiracy, but the Kochs have left a paper trail of their designs on suppressing the speech of any who disagree with them. Documents released last year by George Mason University—a hotbed of libertarian scholarship—show that in exchange for giving millions of dollars to the university, Koch-controlled entities were given influence over academic affairs, including faculty appointments and hires, and even student admissions. A similar controversy had emerged years earlier over a Koch Foundation gift to Florida State University. With the Koch brothers estimated to have spent over $250 million on more than 500 colleges and universities, it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see the impact that could have on suppressing left-wing speech.

It’s not just the Kochs. FIRE, for example, has also received funding from the right-wing billionaire Olin and Scaife families. Through the right-wing media sites The Daily Wire and PragerU, the billionaire Wilks brothers have helped bankroll the rise of IDW stars Ben Shapiro and Joe Rogan. In the U.K., William Davies has written about how the right wing promotes its agenda under the guise of “free speech” in the exact same way. And as investigative reporters like The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer have shown, this isn’t just about a couple of billionaires throwing some money around: It’s an organized project by an elite class to preserve its power in the face of an existential threat from the left.


What makes the free-speech movement most nefarious is it takes those of us best equipped to stop this trend—the left and marginalized communities—and claims that we, who have for so long been silenced by those in power, are the real threat to free speech. That’s an issue far greater than Steven Crowder and YouTube ads, and one that we must all work to fight. Our very freedom—to speak, to protest, to challenge power and live dignified, fulfilled lives—is at risk.

If you think that this is tin foil hat, you have not been paying attention to what the right wing has been doing since August 23, 1971.

What the F%$# Do You Put on Your Resume

I was reading an article about how researchers, using shark vomit, have determined that baby tiger in the Gulf of Mexico sharks eat lots of song birds. (NOT seabirds)

Normally, I would file this under, “Huh, that’s interesting,” and I might post a link in my linkage posts.

But then a thought hit me, which is that a fairly large number of researchers are involved in this, including research assistants, graduate students, and maybe some undergrads as well.

Doubtless these folks will be going to other jobs, and other schools, where they will want to relate this experience to future employers or educators.

This raises a question for me, what is the best way to put, “Shark Vomit Analyst on a resume?”

They Have Learned Nothing, and They Have Forgotten Nothing

It appears that mainstream economists are still refusing to learn the lessons of the Great Depression.

They continue to insist that the solution to any economics problem is to make ordinary people poorer, and their lives more precarious:

A couple of years ago yours truly had a discussion with the chairman of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences (yes, the one that yearly presents the winners of ‘The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel’). What started the discussion was the allegation that the level of employment in the long run is a result of people’s own rational intertemporal choices and that how much people work basically is a question of incentives.

Somehow the argument sounded familiar.

When being awarded the ‘Nobel prize’ in 2011, Thomas Sargent declared that workers ought to be prepared for having low unemployment compensations in order to get the right incentives to search for jobs. The Swedish right-wing finance minister at the time appreciated Sargent’s statement and declared it to be a “healthy warning” for those who wanted to increase compensation levels.

The view is symptomatic. As in the 1930s, more and more right-wing politicians — and economists — now suggest that lowering wages is the right medicine to strengthen the competitiveness of their faltering economies, get the economy going, increase employment and create growth that will get rid of towering debts and create balance in the state budgets.

But, intimating that one could solve economic problems by wage cuts and impairing unemployment compensations, in these dire times, should really be taken more as a sign of how low the confidence in our economic system has sunk. Wage cuts and lower unemployment compensation levels do not save neither competitiveness nor jobs.


It’s an atomistic fallacy to think that a policy of general wage cuts would strengthen the economy. On the contrary. The aggregate effects of wage cuts would, as shown by Keynes, be catastrophic . They would start a cumulative spiral of lower prices that would make the real debts of individuals and firms increase since the nominal debts wouldn’t be affected by the general price and wage decrease. In an economy that more and more has come to rest on increased debt and borrowing this would be the entrance-gate to a debt deflation crises with decreasing investments and higher unemployment. In short, it would make depression knock on the door.

They are SO like the Bourbon Kings.

Economists Discover the Obvious

Economists are now (begrudgingly) announcing that Seattle’s $15/hour minimum wage did not cause an apocalypse, and that, in fact, it benefited the poorest workers in the city:

Earlier this year, a group of business school researchers from the University of Washington and NYU, as well as Amazon, published an influential paper claiming that the rising Seattle minimum wage had decreased take-home pay for workers by 6% due to cuts to work hours — the paper was trumpeted by right-wing ideologues as examples of how “liberal policies” hurt the workers they are meant to help.

But a new paper by the same authors (Sci-Hub mirror) shows that the rising minimum wage generated major increases for the workers who had the most hours, whose hours were only cut a little, but still came out ahead thanks to the wage increase; workers with fewer hours saw no financial harm from the rising minimum wage, working fewer hours and bringing home the same sum; and they found some harm to people who had the smallest number of hours) (which may actually reflect stronger demand for workers and fewer workers in this category of very-low-hour work).


Also Yes

It appears that people screening Brett Kavanaugh’s potential law clerks, spoecifically Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother author Amy Chua and her husband Jed Rubenfeld, both of Yale Law School, advised women who applied to clerk for Brett Kavanaugh to try to look like models:

A top professor at Yale Law School who strongly endorsed supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a “mentor to women” privately told a group of law students last year that it was “not an accident” that Kavanaugh’s female law clerks all “looked like models” and would provide advice to students about their physical appearance if they wanted to work for him, the Guardian has learned.

Amy Chua, a Yale professor who wrote a bestselling book on parenting called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was known for instructing female law students who were preparing for interviews with Kavanaugh on ways they could dress to exude a “model-like” femininity to help them win a post in Kavanaugh’s chambers, according to sources.

Kavanaugh is facing intense scrutiny in Washington following an allegation made by Christine Blasey Ford that he forcibly held her down and groped her while they were in high school. He has denied the allegation. The accusation has mired Kavanaugh’s confirmation in controversy, drawing parallels to allegations of sexual harassment against Justice Clarence Thomas by Anita Hill in the 1990s.

Yale provided Kavanaugh with many of the judge’s clerks over the years, and Chua played an outsized role in vetting the clerks who worked for him. But the process made some students deeply uncomfortable.

One source said that in at least one case, a law student was so put off by Chua’s advice about how she needed to look, and its implications, that she decided not to pursue a clerkship with Kavanaugh, a powerful member of the judiciary who had a formal role in vetting clerks who served in the US supreme court.

In one case, Jed Rubenfeld, also an influential professor at Yale and who is married to Chua, told a prospective clerk that Kavanaugh liked a certain “look”.

“He told me, ‘You should know that Judge Kavanaugh hires women with a certain look,’” one woman told the Guardian. “He did not say what the look was and I did not ask.”

It turns out that Chua and Rubenfeld are, “Towering figures at Yale and were described by one student as being the centre of gravity at the elite law school,” and also, “The Guardian has learned that Rubenfeld is currently the subject of an internal investigation at Yale. The investigation is focused on Rubenfeld’s conduct, particularly with female law students.” (Karma, neh?)

Well, now we know why Yale reflexively endorsed Kavanaugh when Trump nominated him, the law school hip deep in his sh%$.

Ken Starr is Pond Scum

While he was trying to coverup sexual assaults by athletes at Baylor, he planted a mole to spy on sexual survivor support groups.

What an awful, evil,, pathetic, little man:

Baylor University infiltrated sexual assault survivor groups to shape PR strategy and talking points on how to handle the groups and student demonstrations, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

A Title IX lawsuit, filed by 10 unnamed former students, has alleged Baylor downplayed sexual assaults at the university. Some of the Jane Does say they were assaulted as far back as 2004, according to court documents.………

In the same month that Ukwuachu was convicted, Baylor’s office of general counsel retained [big league PR flacks] Ketchum for comms support, according to Jason Cook, Baylor’s VP for marketing and comms and CMO.

James Peters, former partner and director of Ketchum South, served as the account lead. A Ketchum representative declined to make Peters available for comment.


One source familiar with the matter identified the “mole” as Matt Burchett, director of student activities at Baylor, whose job is to coordinate student pursuits such as picnics, parties, and demonstrations. The source said Burchett, acting as a liaison with university officials, played damage control on their behalf.

Burchett helped to arrange demonstrations for survivor groups and passed on what he learned to school officials and the communications department, sources said.

“Baylor had – I don’t know what else you’d call it – a mole that would interact with survivor groups,” said the source.


When these groups organized on campus to comfort each other and demand action from former chancellor Kenneth Starr, “[Burchett] would coordinate with them, befriend them, and pretend he was helping them organize vigils and demonstrations [about] sexual assault,” the source added.

Burchett would pass on what he learned to school officials, the communications department, and Ketchum, the source added. In an email described to PRWeek, Kevin Jackson, VP of student life and Burchett’s supervisor, said the director of student activities was “adept at this kind of thing.”


[Baylor VP for Marketing and Communications Jason] Cook objected to the notion that Burchett collected information without the survivor groups’ knowledge. When counsel for the plaintiffs deposed Burchett on July 31, “[Burchett] indicated in his deposition testimony that he had advised the students up front that he would be coordinating with university personnel, including media, security, parking, facilities, pastoral care, and so on,” Cook said. “This is standard operating procedure for any significant student event on our university campus.”


Since 2015, Baylor has jettisoned administration and athletic department officials, including former head football coach Art Briles, former athletic director Ian McCaw, and former chancellor Starr

Spying on rape survivors to undermine their efforts:  What a bunch of contemptible excuses for human beings.

More #MeToo

Only this time, the accused is a female feminist academic who is widely acclaimed in her community, and people who have previously espoused zero tolerance are calling for restraint and further investigation.

As the saying goes, where you stand depends upon where you sit:

The case seems like a familiar story turned on its head: Avital Ronell, a world-renowned female professor of German and Comparative Literature at New York University, was found responsible for sexually harassing a male former graduate student, Nimrod Reitman.

An 11-month Title IX investigation found Professor Ronell, described by a colleague as “one of the very few philosopher-stars of this world,” responsible for sexual harassment, both physical and verbal, to the extent that her behavior was “sufficiently pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of Mr. Reitman’s learning environment.” The university has suspended Professor Ronell for the coming academic year.

In the Title IX final report, excerpts of which were obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Reitman said that she had sexually harassed him for three years, and shared dozens of emails in which she referred to him as “my most adored one,” “Sweet cuddly Baby,” “cock-er spaniel,” and “my astounding and beautiful Nimrod.”

Coming in the middle of the #MeToo movement’s reckoning over sexual misconduct, it raised a challenge for feminists — how to respond when one of their own behaved badly. And the response has roiled a corner of academia.

Soon after the university made its final, confidential determination this spring, a group of scholars from around the world, including prominent feminists, sent a letter to N.Y.U. in defense of Professor Ronell. Judith Butler, the author of the book “Gender Trouble” and one of the most influential feminist scholars today, was first on the list.

“Although we have no access to the confidential dossier, we have all worked for many years in close proximity to Professor Ronell,” the professors wrote in a draft letter posted on a philosophy blog in June. “We have all seen her relationship with students, and some of us know the individual who has waged this malicious campaign against her.”

Critics saw the letter, with its focus on the potential damage to Professor Ronell’s reputation and the force of her personality, as echoing past defenses of powerful men.

“We testify to the grace, the keen wit, and the intellectual commitment of Professor Ronell and ask that she be accorded the dignity rightly deserved by someone of her international standing and reputation,” the professors wrote.

And Harvey Weinstein produced some critically acclaimed movies.

Skepticism by friends and colleagues upon hearing the news is to be expected, but this response is literally the response to every episode of harassment from a top performer basically ever.

It’s the same thing.

Let me repeat that, It’s ……… the ……… Same ……… Thing.

Also the response from her peers, who dismiss the alleged victim as, “The individual who has waged this malicious campaign against her,” is a classic circling of the wagons.

They are basically saying, “Bitches be crazy.”

It’s not acceptable.

It is never acceptable.

Shame on them.

So, Nu?

I am simultaneously experiencing a feeling of surprise and a complete lack of surprise upon hearing that a study shows that multiculturalist training actually increases bigoted attitudes:

As the United States—and much of the world—becomes more ethnically diverse, how can we all get along? For many, the obvious answer is multiculturalism, the belief that respecting cultural differences can create a more just and equitable society for all.

But new research provides evidence that promoting this philosophy can be highly problematic. In a sad irony, it finds exposure to a multicultural mindset prompts people to inflate the importance of race, bolstering the assumption that individuals can be fundamentally defined by their skin tone.

“Well-intentioned efforts to portray the value of differences may reinforce the belief that fixed, biological characteristics underpin them,” writes a research team led by psychologist Leigh Wilton of Skidmore College.

“Multicultural philosophies, which stress the strengths that cultural variation can provide to society, may reinforce beliefs” that racial differences are deep-rooted and unalterable, the researchers write in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Wilton and her colleagues describe two studies, the first of which featured 165 Rutgers University undergraduates. Each read and thought about one of three 200-word essays they were told were excerpted from the university’s long-term strategic plan.

One version used multicultural language, including “We value the identity of each group, and we recognize its existence and its importance to the social fabric.” Another used color-blind language, including: “We must look beyond skin color and understand the person within, to see each person as an individual who is part of the larger group.” The third did not address race or culture.

All then completed a “race essentialism” scale, which was designed to determine the degree to which people feel race is unchangeable and biologically determined. Using a one-to-seven scale, they reported their level of agreement or disagreement with such statements as “I believe physical features determine race”; “No one can change his or her race—you are what you are”; and “It’s easy to tell what race people are by looking at them.”

The researchers report that the students who had been thinking about the concept of multiculturalism and how it pertains to their campus reported higher levels of racial essentialism. Thinking about racial and cultural differences fed the idea that they are somehow determinative.

This finding was replicated in a second study featuring 150 American adults recruited online. Once again, those who read an essay “valuing differences between diverse groups” had greater racial essentialist beliefs than those who read a different essay “emphasizing similarities among diverse groups.”

Even more problematically, “participants expressing greater racial essentialist beliefs were less likely to believe racial inequality is a problem in need of change.” As the researchers note, this makes sense, in that if “inequalities are rooted in real, unchangeable differences in racial groups,” there’s no point in addressing them.

This is not surprising:  If you are repeatedly told that you must hold people who are different from to the different standards, it is natural to start believing that any differences are innate.

Epic Fail by Koch Suckers

Yes, Bernie Sanders is thanking the Koch Brothers

In the wholly owned Koch industries subsidiary formerly known as George Mason University, their even more owned think tank known as the Mercatus Center released a study on Medicare for all.

They headlined that it would cost the federal government $32 tillion over the next 10 years. What they relegated to the small print was that it would save $34 trillion over the same period.


The US could insure 30 million more Americans and virtually eliminate out-of-pocket health care expenses while saving $2 trillion in the process, according to a new report about Medicare for All released by the libertarian Mercatus Center.

In the report, Charles Blahous attempts to roughly score Bernie Sanders’s most recent Medicare-for-All bill and reaches the somewhat surprising (for Mercatus) conclusion that, if the bill were enacted, the new costs it creates would be more than offset by the new savings it generates through administrative efficiencies and reductions in unit prices.

……… The net change across the whole ten-year period is a savings of $2.054 trillion.

When talking about Medicare for All, it is important to distinguish between two concepts: national health expenditures and federal health expenditures. National health expenditures refer to all health spending from any source whether made by private employers, state Medicaid programs, or the federal government. It is national health expenditures that, according to the report, will decline by $2.054 trillion.

Federal health expenditures refer to health spending from the federal government in particular. Since the federal government takes on nearly all health spending under Medicare for All, federal health expenditures will necessarily go up a lot, $32.6 trillion over the ten-year period according to Blahous. But this is more of an accounting thing than anything else: rather than paying premiums, deductibles, and co-pays for health care, people will instead pay a tax that is, on average, a bit less than they currently pay into the health care system and, for those on lower incomes, a lot less.


But the real game here for Mercatus is to bury the money-saving finding in the report’s tables while headlining the incomprehensibly large $32.6 trillion number in order to trick dim reporters into splashing that number everywhere and freaking out. This is a strategy that already appears to be working, as the Associated Press headline reads: “Study: ‘Medicare for all’ projected to cost $32.6 trillion.”


But even if you take the report’s headline figures at face value, the picture it paints is that of an enormous bargain. We get to insure every single person in the country, virtually eliminate cost-sharing, and save everyone from the hell of constantly changing health insurance all while saving money. You would have to be a fool to pass that offer up.

The real problem that Mercatus has with Medicare for all is that people named Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch will be paying more in taxes than they will personally get in benefits, so it must be fought tooth and nail.

I Did Not Expect This in the Chronicle of Higher Education

I tend to think of the Chronicle of Higher Education as the official journal of bullsh%$ jobs in academe.

As such, I am shocked, shocked I tell you, that they published an article calling out BS jobs in the university world: (%$# mine, and the original is paywalled)

I would like to write about the bullsh%$ization of academic life: that is, the degree to which those involved in teaching and academic management spend more and more of their time involved in tasks which they secretly — or not so secretly — believe to be entirely pointless.

For a number of years now, I have been conducting research on forms of employment seen as utterly pointless by those who perform them. The proportion of these jobs is startlingly high. Surveys in Britain and Holland reveal that 37 to 40 percent of all workers there are convinced that their jobs make no meaningful contribution to the world. And there seems every reason to believe that numbers in other wealthy countries are much the same. There would appear to be whole industries — telemarketing, corporate law, financial or management consulting, lobbying — in which almost everyone involved finds the enterprise a waste of time, and believes that if their jobs disappeared it would either make no difference or make the world a better place.

Generally speaking, we should trust people’s instincts in such matters. (Some of them might be wrong, but no one else is in a position to know better.) If one includes the work of those who unwittingly perform real labor in support of all this — for instance, the cleaners, guards, and mechanics who maintain the office buildings where people perform bullsh%$ jobs — it’s clear that 50 percent of all work could be eliminated with no downside. (I am assuming here that provision is made such that those whose jobs were eliminated continue to be supported.) If nothing else, this would have immediate salutary effects on carbon emissions, not to mention overall social happiness and wellbeing.


And then there’s higher education.
(emphasis mine)

In most universities nowadays — and this seems to be true almost everywhere — academic staff find themselves spending less and less time studying, teaching, and writing about things, and more and more time measuring, assessing, discussing, and quantifying the way in which they study, teach, and write about things (or the way in which they propose to do so in the future. European universities, reportedly, now spend at least 1.4 billion euros [about 1.7 billion dollars] a year on failed grant applications.). It’s gotten to the point where “admin” now takes up so much of most professors’ time that complaining about it is the default mode of socializing among academic colleagues; indeed, insisting on talking instead about one’s latest research project or course idea is considered somewhat rude. All of this will hardly be news to most Chronicle readers. What strikes me as insufficiently discussed is that this has happened at a time when the number of administrative-support staff in most universities has skyrocketed. Consider here some figures culled from Benjamin Ginsberg’s book The Fall of the Faculty (Oxford, 2011). In American universities from 1985 to 2005, the number of both students and faculty members went up by about half, the number of full-fledged administrative positions by 85 percent — and the number of administrative staff by 240 percent.

In theory, these are support-staff. They exist to make other peoples’ jobs easier. In the classic conception of the university, at least, they are there to save scholars the trouble of having to think about how to organize room assignments or authorize travel payments, allowing them to instead think great thoughts or grade papers. No doubt most supportstaff still do perform such work. But if that were their primary role, then logically, when they double or triple in number, lecturers and researchers should have to do much less admin as a result. Instead they appear to be doing far more.

This is a conundrum. Let me suggest a solution. Support staff no longer mainly exist to support the faculty. In fact, not only are many of these newly created jobs in academic administration classic bullsh%$ jobs, but it is the proliferation of these pointless jobs that is responsible for the bullsh%$ization of real work — real work, here, defined not only as teaching and scholarship but also as actually useful administrative work in support of either. What’s more, it seems to me this is a direct effect of the death of the university, at least in its original medieval conception as a guild of self-organized scholars. Gayatri Spivak, a literary critic and university professor at Columbia, has observed that, in her student days, when people spoke of “the university,” it was assumed they were referring to the faculty. Nowadays it’s assumed they are referring to the administration. And this administration is increasingly modeling itself on corporate management.

To get a sense of how total the shift of power has become, consider a story I heard recently, about a prominent scholar who had just been rejected for a named chair at Cambridge. The man was acknowledged to be at the top of his field, but he didn’t even make the shortlist. The kiss of death came when a high-ranking administrator glanced over his CV and remarked, “He’s obviously a very smart guy. But I have no use for him.” That judgment settled the matter. When even Cambridge dons are presumed to exist to further the purposes of managers, rather than the other way around, we know the corporate takeover of the global university system is complete. (emphasis mine)


But it’s possible to connect the dots. Let me begin by introducing a concept: managerial feudalism. Rich and powerful people have always surrounded themselves with flashy entourages; you can’t be really magnificent without one. Even at the height of industrial capitalism, CEOs and high-ranking executives would surround themselves with a certain number of secretaries (who often did most of their actual work), along with a variety of flunkies and yes men (who often did very little). In the contemporary corporation, the accumulation of the equivalent of feudal retainers often becomes the main principle of organization. The power and prestige of managers tend to be measured by the number of people they have working under them — in fact, in my research, I found that efficiency experts complained that it’s well-nigh impossible to get most executives, for all their “lean and mean” rhetoric, to trim the fat in their own corporations (apart from bluecollar workers, who are ruthlessly exploited). Office workers are typically kept on even if they are doing literally nothing, lest somebody’s prestige suffer. This is the real reason for the explosion of administrative staff in higher education. If a university hires a new dean or deanlet (to use Ginsberg’s charming formulation), then, in order to ensure that he or she feels appropriately impressive and powerful, the new hire must be provided with a tiny army of flunkies. Three or four positions are created — and only then do negotiations begin over what they are actually going to do. True, if the testimonies I’ve received are anything to go by, many of those people don’t end up doing much; some administrative-staff will inevitably end up sitting around playing fruit mahjong all day or watching cat videos. But it’s generally considered good form to give all staff members at least a few hours of actual work to do each week. Some managers, who have more thoroughly absorbed the corporate spirit, will insist that all of their minions come up with a way to at least look busy for the full eight hours of the day.

There is a lot more there, but it does describe a cancer at the core of academe, and at the core of the current MBA driven managerial culture.

Reason to Revoke Tenure

When a college professor conspired to dig up embarrassing personal information on a student because they do not like their views, they are no longer an academic, they are just a thug.

I am talking, of course, about Niall Ferguson, who has, of course, never really been an academic. He’s just been a white power worshiping thug, and one who does sloppy research at that:

Campus arguments over diversity and free speech are causing some distinguished academics to do extremely strange things. Ferguson, a historian affiliated with both Oxford and Stanford University and much celebrated for his books on the topics like the First World War and the British Empire, is a prime example. At Stanford, Ferguson had been a member of the Cardinal Conversations program which brought in guest speakers to the university. In that capacity, Ferguson was anxious about student criticism of some speakers such as Charles Murray, the social scientist notorious for his views on race and IQ who spoke at Stanford in February.

As The Stanford Daily reported on Thursday, newly public emails show that Ferguson’s eagerness to fight off what he saw as encroaching political correctness led the historian to some bizarre extracurricular activity. Ferguson teamed up with a group of student Republicans, led by John Rice-Cameron, to wage a covert political battle against Michael Ocon, a student they viewed as excessively left-wing. In the e-mails they refer to Ocon as “Mr. O” and talk about ways to discredit him. “Some opposition research on Mr. O might also be worthwhile,” Ferguson wrote. Ferguson’s research assistant Max Minshull was tasked with the job of collecting the dirt on Ocon.


Ferguson was more than just “rash.” It invites the question: Why does the defense of free speech require a scholar to engage in political dirty tricks?

The answer is pretty obvious:  This man is not a scholar, though I am sure that he fancies himself one, he just plays one of Fox News.

If You Believe that the Market is Everything, then Everything is for Sale

Case in point, the the academic integrity of the economics program at George Mason University, more specifically its Mercatus “Think Tank”, which, rather unsurprisingly, turns out to be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Koch brothers.

Not a surprise. Bribery and undeserved adulation of the rich is pretty much what the Mercatus Center is all about:

In defending its financial ties to the Charles Koch Foundation — some $50 million worth, as of 2016 — George Mason University has cited its academic independence from donors.

Yet George Mason is less independent than it has let on, according to documents released last week via an open-records request, and amid an ongoing suit about donor transparency brought by student activists.

Angel Cabrera, university president since 2012, shared the news with faculty members in an email, saying, “I was made aware of a number of gift agreements that were accepted by the university between 2003 and 2011 and raise questions concerning donor influence in academic matters.”

The gifts, in support of faculty positions in economics, “granted donors some participation in faculty selection and evaluation,” Cabrera said, noting that one such agreement is still active (the rest have expired).

All 10 of the now-public agreements relate to the university’s Mercatus Center for free market research, a locus of Koch-funded activity. Three of the agreements involve Koch. The two most recent, from 2007 and 2009, stipulate the creation of a five-member selection committee to select a professor, with two of those committee members chosen by donors. The other Koch agreement, from 1990, also afforded Koch a role in naming a professor to fund.

George Mason also allowed Koch a role in evaluating professors’ performance via advisory boards. And while the agreements assert that final say in faculty appointments will be based on normal university procedures, the 2009 agreement says that funds will be returned to the donor if the provost and the selection committee can’t agree on a candidate.

It is of course common for donors who support professorships to specify the academic field or subfield. So while the Koch family’s extensive giving to antiregulatory causes in politics is controversial, it is not necessarily controversial that they fund professorships in economics and even free-market economics. But academic values have long held that donors don’t get to pick who holds chairs, or evaluate them.

Such details are similar to those in a now-defunct agreement with Florida State University, from 2008, that defenders of Koch have said was a one-off. It was previously revealed that Utah State University’s grant agreement with Koch from around the same time had similar language, however.


Student activists are currently in court in Virginia, arguing for their right to view agreements made between donors and the university’s foundation, saying they, too, should be subject to state open-records laws for public institutions. In particular, the students — and many faculty observers — have questions about the identity of an anonymous donor who agreed to give $20 million dollars to rename George Mason’s law school after the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in 2016.

The university has consistently said that the foundation is a private entity and that compromising the confidential nature of donations through that avenue by releasing such documents could chill giving. Koch was a joint, $10 million donor on the law school deal.

The new documents were released as part of an open-records request by Samantha Parsons, a former student at George Mason who is now involved in the lawsuit through her organization, UnKoch My Campus. In addition to the approval-based agreements, emails released name Leonard Leo, executive director of the Federalist Society, as a representative of the anonymous donor to the law school.

John Hardin, Koch’s director of university relations, said in a statement that “while our grant agreements have evolved over time, we have always been committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and freedom.”


They have done this before, repeatedly, and each time they have given the same tired line.

The Brothers Koch, and their supporters, are a truly pernicious and toxic influence in our society.

They poison everything they touch, sometimes morally, as with their attempts to secretly buy academic programs, and sometimes literally, as with their petcoke play.

In any case, people of good conscience and good reputation should wash their hands of the Kochs.

Headline of the Day

How to Make Economists Fight Like Ferrets in a Sack

The Spectator

This relates how economists of the Chicago School dealt with the allocation of office space when they moved to a new building.

If only there was something that would help these world renowned figures of academe deal with allocation of scarce resources like corner offices.

If there were only some sort of science of scarcity that they could avail themselves of to resolve this situation.

Love Me, I’m A Liberal

Roll Phil Ochs

Liberalism is all well and good for papered staff at elite educational institutions when it doesn’t actually cost them anything personally:

Georgetown University this week refused to support a movement by graduate students to unionize, arguing that teaching and research assistants are students, not employees.

The decision arrives a month after the Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees asked university president John DeGioia to support their union campaign. The students said that embracing a union would align with the school’s Jesuit values affirming the dignity of labor. University leaders, however, maintain the work that graduate students contribute is fundamental to their studies and should be considered part of their education.

Georgetown’s decision echoes opposition to graduate student unions at other prestigious universities. Yale University, Boston College and Columbia University have railed against a 2016 National Labor Relations Board ruling that granted teaching and research assistants the legal protection to unionize. Yale, Columbia and Princeton posted information on their websites warning students that unionizing could alter their relationship with faculty and limit their individual rights once a union becomes their collective voice.

In a letter sent this week to the school’s graduate student alliance, Georgetown provost Robert M. Groves and Edward B. Healton, the school’s executive vice president for health sciences, said the university is “eager” to address issues that affect graduate students, but not through collective bargaining.


The union organizers want to join the American Federation of Teachers. To do that, they need to file a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for an election. Organizers say they wanted the university’s backing, but will forge ahead regardless.

“We were hoping to negotiate with Georgetown administrators about the terms of the election, but now we’ll have to proceed on our own, without their help and anticipating their active push-back,” said Hailey Huget, a doctoral candidate in philosophy and a member of the graduate student alliance. “We hoped that Georgetown would be better than this.”

University leaders say they have discussed the collective bargaining campaign with the faculty senate, academic departments and the executive committee of graduate studies, the principal policy-making body for graduate programs. That committee has since passed a resolution affirming the position that students enrolled in degree programs are students and should be treated as students, not employees.

Silly grad students, don’t you realize that respect for human dignity and labor rights is only for OTHER people, and that it cannot be allowed to INCONVENIENCE the august denizens of the ivory towers of academy.

You need to focus on the bad people, you know  ……… The “Deplorables”.

If You Have a Problem Understanding Monetary Theory, Read This

Rebecca Rojer has done meticulous work describing Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), and seeing as how it is an approach that is both becoming more popular, and is in opposition to the (almost always wrong) economic orthodoxy, it pays to understand this:

Too often the origins of our economic ills are cloaked by a mystical reverence for some autonomous money spirit. The economists behind Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) seek to lift money’s veil by studying the specific actions that occur as money is created, circulated, and destroyed.

For those seeking a grand, unifying sociopolitical economic theory, MMT will disappoint. But as an analytic tool, MMT clarifies who holds genuine power—sovereignty—within society, and how they organize the money system to serve their interests. Unsurprisingly, this is often a story of tremendous cruelty and exploitation.

But the revelation that the rules of money are not immutable laws of nature but are instead created and constantly modified by people opens up possibilities beyond the scope of our current political imagination. The questions become: What sort of society do we want? Do we have the physical resources to support that society? And finally, how the hell do we muster the political will to get there?

At its core, MMT sees money as being a construct that derives from the willingness of the state to use coercion, and frequently violence, to enforce the use of a token for value.

Typically, this is done through taxation. The sequence runs like this:

  1. Government: Pay your taxes.
  2. Citizen: Here is some grain.
  3. Government: Nope, you have to use my coin.
  4. Citizen: But I have no coin.
  5. Government: Then sell your grain to give coin to me.
  6. Citizen: Sell my grain to who?
  7. Government: You can sell it to me, or to the blacksmith who I paid for spears, or to whoever the blacksmith paid with my coin.

Thus, Money is born.

Read the rest.  It opens a world of possibilities not imagined by our current leaders..


In the past week, the hypocrites at Harvard University have denied entry to their PhD program to a world renowned candidate* in history and the Harvard Kennedy School denied has denied visiting fellow status to Chelsea Manning.

As near as I can ascertain, this is because they are worried that right wing talk show host will say nasty things about them:

Yesterday, we discussed Harvard overriding a decision to admit Michelle Jones to the History Ph.D program, based at lest in part of the well-known sacred moral principle What Would Tucker Carlson Say? Well, capitulating to criticism from vocal reactionaries (pre-emptive or otherwise) is now becoming a hot trend:

Facing harsh criticism, a Harvard dean said early Friday morning that he was revoking his invitation to Chelsea Manning, a former United States soldier convicted of leaking classified information, to be a visiting fellow at the university.

The sudden turnabout by the Harvard Kennedy School came after a day of intense backlash over the university’s announcement on Wednesday that Ms. Manning would become a visiting fellow at the Institute of Politics this school year. Douglas W. Elmendorf, the dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, said that while the university encourages a diversity of opinions and does not shy from controversy, naming Ms. Manning a fellow was a mistake for which he accepted responsibility.

It should be noted that the Harvard Kennedy School granted visiting fellow status to serial liar Sean Spicer and failed Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

The deal is, you give a talk, hang around for questions, and you become a “Visiting Fellow.”

Only the torturers and the torturer apologists in the US state security apparatus has major butt-hurt over this, so they folded.

The case of Michelle Jones is even more egregious, though the reason for potential outrage, a horrific crime for which she served her time, is marginally more understandable, though the two professors who went jihad against her admission to the history program were crystal clear as to their motivations, they were motivated by cowardice:

“We didn’t have some preconceived idea about crucifying Michelle,” said John Stauffer, one of the two American studies professors. “But frankly, we knew that anyone could just punch her crime into Google, and Fox News would probably say that P.C. liberal Harvard gave 200 grand of funding to a child murderer, who also happened to be a minority. I mean, c’mon.”

I believe that these two professors pictures appear in the dictionary next to the definition of “Limousine Liberals.”

This is amazing.  The current administration at Harvard is making me long for the days of Lawrence Summers as University President.

On the bright side, the current President of Harvard, the incredibly aptly named Dr. Faust, is leaving in about a 10 months.

*She did groundbreaking original research that found that prostitutes were not sent to prison in Indiana, but rather they were sent to forced labor laundries operated by the Catholic Church (see Magdalene Laundries) as opposed to being sent to prison around the turn of the 19th century.

Righteous Indignation

If one day the situation were reversed and the fate of the vanquished lay in my hands, then I would let all the ordinary folk go and even some of the leaders, who might perhaps after all have had honourable intentions and not known what they were doing. But I would have all the intellectuals strung up, and the professors three feet higher than the rest; they would be left hanging from the lamp posts for as long as was compatible with hygiene.

Victor Klemperer* in his book I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years

Cory Robin uses this quote to explain his dissatisfaction with American Political Science Association, which has decided to have John Yoo, a man who supported the crushing of the testicles of a child of a terror suspect to extract information.

Dr. Robins is unamused by this, and explains the parallels:

The reason Klemperer reserved such special contempt for the professors and intellectuals of the 1920s and 1930s was that professors and intellectuals played a special role in bringing on the horrors of the Nazi regime, as Claudia Koonz and other historians have documented. Not only did those professors and intellectuals provide some of the leading arguments for the rise of that regime, but they also served in that regime: as doctors, population experts, engineers, propagandists. And lawyers.


I fear that with this invitation to Yoo to address our profession, as if he were simply the author of controversial and heterodox opinions rather than the architect of a regime of torture and barbarity, the American Political Science Association has written itself a chapter in those future histories.

The APSA should be ashamed of themselves.

Attendees of the conference should bring extra pairs of shoes to throw at John Yoo.

*Yes he was a cousin of actor Werner “Colonel Klink” Klemperer.

Best Analogy Ever

Dean Baker, who called the housing bubble collapse, and sold his house before it happened has a remarkably evocative and accurate description of modern economics. He calls them the inept firefighters club:

Suppose that our fire department was staffed with out-of-shape incompetents who didn’t know how to handle a fire hose. That would be really bad news, but it wouldn’t be obvious most of the time because we don’t often see major fires. The inadequacy of the fire department would become apparent only when a major fire hit and we were left with a vast amount of unnecessary death and destruction. This is essentially the story of modern economics.

The problem is not that modern economics lacks the tools needed to understand the economy. Just as with firefighting, the basics have been well known for a long time. The problem is with the behavior and the incentive structure of the practitioners. There is overwhelming pressure to produce work that supports the status quo (i.e. redistributing to the rich), that doesn’t question authority, and that is needlessly complex. The result is a discipline in which much of the work is of little use, except to legitimate the existing power structure. In terms of the poor quality of work, it is easy to point to the failure to recognize the size and risks posed by the housing bubble in the last decade. This failure has been unbelievably costly to the United States and the rest of the world. If we compare the most recent estimates of the potential GDP of the U.S. economy from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) with the projections made in 2008, before the severity of the crash was recognized, the difference is $1.8 trillion. This is an annual figure; it implies a loss of $18 trillion over the course of the decade. This amount averages out to more than $54,000 for every person in the country. Other countries have seen even larger losses.


I have suggested that economists who prescribe policies that turn out badly, or who can’t see multi-trillion dollar housing bubbles coming whose collapse sinks the economy, ought to pay a price in terms of their careers. Invariably people think I am joking. When they realize I am serious, they think I am crazy or vindictive.

Leaving aside motives, let me just speak to the economics. If we have a profession in which people are rewarded with high pay and career advancement for saying the same thing as everyone else, and never face any consequences when the accepted wisdom proves to be wrong, then we should expect to see economists like the firefighters mentioned at the beginning of this piece. They aren’t qualified to do the job and our only hope is that we don’t see any more major fires.

Read the rest of the article, because it addresses some more serious deficiencies in economics, particularly the tendency of people in the field to take simple concepts and obfuscate.

Why J-School Sucks

In the old days, someone would become a journalist by working as a copy boy or a cub reporter and working their way up, and they saw themselves as tradesmen.

Now, they get a Bachelors in Journalism, and they fancy themselves professionals, and the contrast is both striking and depressing:

I was talking to this person whom I’d just met. They told me about their job and where they worked. They asked me about mine. I told them I’d worked in public media in Alaska before moving to the Lower 48. I was a couple of months from wrapping up my time as a John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford. They asked about what I worked on and I explained my research around collaboration in journalism and that I intended to continue working in this space after the fellowship ended.

“Well, what does your husband do?”

“He’s a truck driver and a mechanic.”


“Yeah, right now he drives for a trash company.”

“That must be…an interesting perspective to have around.”

While they didn’t explicitly say it, the person was very much thrown off by the nature of my husband’s work. I was left with a very strong feeling they were expecting a more middle-class answer than a garbage worker. Their facial reaction has been stuck in my head for a while now. Surprise. A little confusion. And just enough distaste to notice. Obviously, this one instance isn’t representative of an entire industry. But it is a symptom.

The last two ‘graphs say it all:

If that conference interaction is how a journalist responds to my husband’s job while idly chatting, how do they cover the sanitation worker that ends up in a story they are working on? If talking about someone to that person’s spouse isn’t enough to cause one to mask aversion, how do they talk about people to whom they feel even more distance from? What does this mean for our audience’s ability to trust us?

Our industry needs to think hard about the worlds we’re living in, the kinds we’re building with each hire we make and ones that we want to reach with our reporting.

It’s natural for professors to see themselves as professionals, but by inculcating their students in this mindset, they have created a generation of journalists who afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable.

This is not a recipe for good or responsible journalism.