Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Cruising the Web

Bernie Sanders thinks that those who warn that Democrats might be picking candidates who are too progressive to win the general election are just whistling past the graveyard. In his view, the nation is ready for other self-identified socialist candidates.
Sanders did not single out a specific person or institution, but argued Sunday the public is ready for more progressive candidates.

"I think that they are wrong, and I think they are misreading where the American people are at,” Sanders said to "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd's suggestion that "national Democrats" are uneasy about Kara Eastman's primary win in Nebraska’s Second Congressional District.
And why shouldn't he think that after his success in 2016? Of course, just like the questions about Trump, we don't know how well Sanders would have done against a less unpopular candidate.



The left still hasn't given up on their unreasoning fear of the Koch brothers. A pair of guys who are libertarians and fund conservative candidates seems the ultimate threat to leftists. Somehow, when two guys on the right side of the spectrum funding their causes and candidates who are in accord with their positions, as well as charities and university programs, it is beyond the pale to leftists despite leftist multi-millionaires who do the same for their side. Daniele Struppa, president of Chaman University, writes in the WSJ about the newest efforts to prevent the Kochs from donating money to universities.
We recently received a $15 million grant to establish an institute dedicated to challenging the perceived tension between economics and the humanities, reintegrating their study in the spirit of Adam Smith. The institute is the brainchild of my distinguished colleague Vernon Smith, a Nobel laureate in economics, and his collaborators. Appropriately enough, the institute is called the Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy, where “Smith” refers to both Adam and Vernon.
This has led to an effort called "UnKoch My Campus" as critics of the Kochs are going to the mattresses to prevent universities from being polluted by the "evil" Koch money.
Ultimately, the critics’ complaint is that the gift is a challenge to academic freedom.

But here’s the paradox. The UnKoch people and their allies want universities to decline Koch money, and in so demanding they are asking administrators to curtail the academic freedom of faculty like Vernon Smith and his co-workers.

As president, I am being asked to turn down donations from the dreaded Koch brothers, even when, as in this case, the proposal for funding was inspired, developed and fully fleshed out by my faculty, in the most important exercise of their own academic freedom. The demand that research funding be declined because of its origin poses a grave threat to academic freedom.

The protesters want administrators to exert ideological control over the kind of research that can be funded and which donations are acceptable. That would establish a very dangerous precedent. Those who really care about academic freedom must protect the freedoms of those with whom they disagree.
It's the same mindset that wants to shut down any conservative voices on college campuses. I don't know why they are so afraid of any contrary ideology having a voice. Don't they have confidence in the strength of their own arguments?


Robert Weissberg, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois-Urbana, has a very good recommendation for university administrators faced with unreasonable demands from angry leftist students. As such students win any victory, they demand more and more.
Even a middling campus activist might over a semester demand the university divest from companies producing fossil fuels, recruit more students of color, eliminate offensive names from school buildings, require mandatory anti-racism training for all faculty, increasing the penalties for sexual harassment, offer racially segregated “safe space” dormitories, eliminate homophobia and Islamophobia, drop racist sports symbols, or monitor micro-aggressions against stigmatized, marginalized groups.

Moreover, since no central control exists over this menu, options continually expand and cannot be anticipated. This is a far cry from when campus Marxists had to toe the party line. Nor is there any rule that requires demands to be financially or legally possible. Impossible demands may well signify a higher commitment and can be incomprehensible — for example, hiring counselors for those anxious over their “inter-sex” identity.
Administrators are faced with giving in or being labeled racist or sexist or something else equally dire. So how can administrators cut down on these demands? Make the kids fill out forms for their requests.
Let me now offer a concrete suggestion, one even feasible for spineless administrators. In a nutshell, ending the current PC mania will only come when the costs of “doing good” are dramatically increased. Let students think twice about offering up their non-negotiable nonsense. Here’s how.

When social justice warriors arrive with their usual dog’s breakfast of airhead ideas, the university apparatchik will immediately hand them “University Form 101, Request for University Intervention to Solve a Pressing Problem.” No different than the typical paperwork necessary for, say, creating a new major. Fifteen or so dense pages filled with IRS-like terminology will suffice. Note well, university administrators may be spineless, but when it comes to imposing paperwork, they are world class!

Form 101 will require the names of all those pressuring the university, their personal information, a brief (500 word) statement of objectives, a detailed listing of how the university is uniquely suited to accomplish this worthy cause, the value of this endeavor vis-à-vis already existing university and non-university ameliorative measures, potential sources of public and private funding, a specific project time-table, a history of the past successes (and failures) of comparable measures elsewhere, a legal analysis of the proposed initiative, and time-specific benchmarks necessary to calibrate success. A separate Form 101 will be required for each list item, and if social justice warriors are perplexed by the paperwork, the administration will happily provide workshops to complete the form-filling. Even though this paperwork nightmare is familiar to anyone on campus who has attempted to accomplish any policy change, the research and interviews necessary to complete Form 101 are a valuable learning experience.

If social justice warriors object, they will be told that if their quest is really that important, completing Form 101 is hardly an obstacle and, most importantly, the university is powerless to act unless all forms are properly completed and submitted. Until that time arrives, all demands will be put on hold.

Naturally, submitted forms may be returned with requests for additional information and clarifications. Alas, it takes time—perhaps an entire semester– before anything can happen but the smart money will bet that the passion for saving the world will wilt a day or two after receiving Form 101. The bureaucratic blob wins again.
I love this idea. Adults know how daunting filling out such bureaucratic forms can be. Students don't like writing papers and homework for their classes; they'd have to be really dedicated to fill out such forms which sound similar to what any professor petitioning for a substantive change in university policy would have to fill out. They could still scream and protest, but the administrators would have a nice fallback position allowing sympathy for the students' position, but shrug their shoulders in the face of the all-powerful academic bureaucracy.
In other words, who needs courageous deans to resist the PC idiots when you can just stop them with mind-dulling paperwork. And, as any academic can attest, university administrators excel at this task.


Gil Troy puts forth his thesis as to why the left hates Israel and "buys into every anti-Israel smear." There were so many of these anti-Israel stories just in the past few weeks of attempts by Hamas to break through into Israel so that they could send in terrorists to kill Israelis. Yet, the media and the left seemed to swallow every story without doing the barest research that would reveal what is actually going on.
It’s striking how easy it is to discover the truth — or at least see some complexity behind these stereotypes. You need not be a pro-Israel fanatic to assume the story must be more complicated — just as you can be a pro-Palestinian critic of Israel without caricaturing Israelis as Nazis or Ku Klux Klanners.

When people so willingly engage in self-deception, something deeper is taking place.

While in the Middle East and Europe, Jew-hatred still fans the flames of anti-Israel ugliness, Gallup polls consistently report that over 70 percent of Americans sympathize with Israel. Such numbers, despite negative media coverage, suggest something deeper fuels this pile-on and mass misconception.

Call it “what’s-wrong-with-us-ism.” If in the 1940s and 1950s, America suffered from too much “what’s-right-with-us-ism,” since the 1960s, we’ve been overcompensating. Our culture — and especially our media — emphasizes our social flaws, political failures, moral defects.

Such self-criticism helped encourage some reforms. It opened society to necessary protests, especially from African-Americans, women and other once-disenfranchised groups.

But this sensationalist New Nihilism has also shaken American confidence, undermined faith in our institutions, treated many of our leaders as punchlines — long before this president.

And, while the breast-beating appears to be a mass act of humility, there’s an arrogance to it, too. We take blame for much that goes wrong, for the same reason we used to take credit for much that went right: If the world revolves around us, we dismiss others as bit players and cast ourselves as the main actors.

While that sense of “us-ness” is mostly “we Americans,” it extends to our closest allies. This explanation, then, uncovers two mysteries.

We have been conditioned like smokers to nicotine; we buy into the obviously simplistic, one-sided, sensationalist media narrative about Israel because we have become too used to buying into similarly crude, finger-pointing stories about ourselves.

That explains the bigger whodunit: Israel has suffered such harsh media coverage yet remained popular with most Americans because, as Pogo’s cartoonist Walt Kelly famously put it, “we have met the enemy and he is us.” We criticize Israelis because we identify with them, citizens of the Middle East’s only democracy, forced to make difficult calls in defending themselves against dictatorships and terrorists calling for their destruction.

Sometimes criticism is a compliment.


Just be glad that we aren't experiencing what Indian voters experience in election season.
For Gurupad Kolli, a 40-year-old lawyer who lives in a remote Indian village, the torrent of WhatsApp messages surging to his phone a few weeks ago meant one thing: election day was near.

They’re at turns strident, angry, buoyant, informative, misleading, gripping and confusing, he says. Some days he received as many as 1,000 of them through the popular messaging service. Pleased to no longer “depend on the mass media like newspapers,” the resident of Ramapur village in the southern state of Karnataka nonetheless also conceded “there’s so much false and fake news going around.”

....India is home to more WhatsApp users than any other country, accounting for more than 200 million of the 1.5 billion monthly active global users. That rivals the popularity in India of Facebook Inc., which owns WhatsApp. Tens of millions of Indians of all ages have made the messaging service, which is simple to join and use, their entry point to the world of digital communication, especially in poor, remote areas where users are flocking to the internet for the first time.

Neha Dharia, a Bangalore-based analyst with research firm Warp Speed Reads, estimates some 13.7 billion WhatsApp messages are sent every day in India, up about 50% from last year. This year began with Indians sending more than 20 billion New Years messages to each other on WhatsApp, a record, and more than any other country, according to the company.

Other big emerging economies such as Indonesia and Brazil have seen a similar pattern where new internet users sign up for WhatsApp first and use it often. In India, the messaging service is at the forefront of a wave of connectivity that is beginning to change how these communities do everything from entertain themselves to how they buy and sell things.

And how they vote, if India’s hyperactive political parties have their way. Always keen for the attention of the masses, India’s politicians have been among the first globally to systematically exploit WhatsApp—including ways that even the service itself is unable to keep up with or control—to get out their policy message, counter with a retort, or fend off an accusation of “fake news” to voters.
Imagine getting a thousand political text a day! I'm afraid that we'll be heading there in a few years. It's just a step ahead of the sort of microtargeting that campaigns are conducting these days.
WhatsApp, based in Menlo Park, Calif., doesn’t have Twitter’s ability to blast out a message publicly to tens of millions in one go. It doesn’t host content itself like Facebook or promise a Facebook advertisement’s ability to target audiences based on their own expressed preferences and profiles. Messages are relayed from person to person, or from an individual to a relatively small group of no more than 256 members. WhatsApp makes only limited information about a user available to contacts, such as their phone number and profile photo.

Yet India’s campaign operatives say they use computers to automatically send messages to tens of thousands of groups that are carefully managed and monitored by campaign staff and volunteers. Those recipients forward them to other groups also managed by campaign workers and from there onward to reach either a narrow list of recipients with shared traits—such as location, gender and language—or a swath of tens of millions of voters.

How do they get personal information about WhatsApp users to organize the groups? Mostly the old-fashioned way, offline through campaign volunteers gathering it in person or by hiring companies that do the legwork, according to campaign workers.
Ugh. Something to look forward to.


An interesting question.

Put that question to those who are making arguments today about the "independence of the Department of Justice."