FIRE report: 9 out of 10 Universities (Still) Restrict Free Speech

 

For more than a decade now, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has published its Spotlight on Speech Codes report, an annual survey of speech policies at hundreds of universities across the United States. Yesterday, we unveiled our latest report.

I’ll start with the good news. First, the percentage of universities receiving FIRE’s worst, “red-light” rating, has fallen to its lowest ever, at 28.5%. Compare this to our first report, when three quarters of all universities bore this distinction. Second, the number of schools receiving our “green-light” rating, meaning that their policies, as written, are fully consistent with the First Amendment’s requirements. This year, 42 such institutions can claim the honor.

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Veneration: The Practicing Jew

 

They live their lives by a sacred code; it isn’t secret, but few people actually know its inner sanctum. Life entails a commitment to consciousness, discipline and faith, and because of the lure of everyday secular life, many fall away, believing they are not up to the task or are unwilling to comply with the demands. Those who remain are deeply committed to living virtuous lives, to raising loving and principled children, and to following the Law.

They are practicing or Orthodox Jews who embrace Torah, love G-d and revere acts of kindness. I have witnessed these three qualities among my practicing Jewish friends, and I venerate them for the life choices they have made.

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Have American Living Standards Been Stagnant for Decades? Almost Certainly Not.

 

American middle-class incomes have gone nowhere for decades. Unless they’ve gone up more than 50 percent, even accounting for inflation. Or maybe it’s somewhere in between as this table — from the Urban Institute’s Stephen Rose — summing up various studies indicates:

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ACF Middlebrow #21: Brooklyn

 

Flagg Taylor and I bring you a movie fit for the festive season — a beautiful piece of selective nostalgia, a story devoid of anything sordid. A girl from Ireland is sent to America in the 1950s, to make something of herself, to find herself a future — to find her path to a decent happiness. You get to see her adventures in Brooklyn and it’s a perfectly Tocquevillian story of America’s many voluntary associations. It was a success and earned three important Oscar nominations, including protagonist Saoirse Ronan’s second actress nomination — she has earned a third meanwhile. I have an introductory essay over at The Federalist and, of course, the podcast for an in-depth, loving conversation about a wonderful movie.

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Beware the Big-Government Right

 

Traditional conservatives and modern progressive intellectuals have had pointed, often bitter, debates in recent years over the future of American domestic policy. One of the major arenas in that struggle is the law of labor and employment. The left wants to toughen minimum wage and overtime laws, strengthen antidiscrimination laws, and promote diversity, affirmative action, and, increasingly, inclusive hiring. They also hope to restore unions to their pre-1970 glory days. The right opposes each of these initiatives by seeking to deregulate labor markets in order to let competitive forces increase overall productivity, indirectly benefitting workers through higher wages. My classical liberal credentials put me squarely on the conservative side of this debate.

Oren Cass, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, has written a forceful and well-received book, The Once and Future Worker, which he hopes will change the terms of the debate. He has also summarized his position at length in an article in the American Interest, titled The Working Hypothesis, to which I also refer. Cass rejects the gospel of growth that is touted by traditional conservative economists, whom his book berates for insisting that things would be better “if only government had been smaller, with lower taxes and spending, and thus more room for economic dynamism.” It then chides progressives for wishing that government had been bigger, “with more infrastructure investment, more checks on the market, a more generous safety net, and thus a prosperity widely shared.” In contrast to both, his bottom line is that “we can provide a subsidy for low-wage work, funded with higher tax rates and reduced transfer payments”, and thereafter “we can repurpose unions to help workers and employers optimize workplace conditions.”

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Paris

 

View original artwork here.

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Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

 

Andrew Sullivan has a terrific piece in the New York Times on the new religions of the right and left.

And so we’re mistaken if we believe that the collapse of Christianity in America has led to a decline in religion. It has merely led to religious impulses being expressed by political cults. Like almost all new cultish impulses, they see no boundary between politics and their religion. And both cults really do minimize the importance of the individual in favor of either the oppressed group or the leader.

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A Jobs Report That Reminds Us of the Power of Economic Growth

 

The November jobs report produced plenty of decent news: the 3.7 percent jobless rate held at the lowest level since 1969, 3.1 percent year-over-year wage growth matched October’s pace as the best since 2009, and even the lighter-than-forecasted 155,000 jobs gained means the rolling three-month average is still a solid 170,000. (On that last point, Barclays notes the jobs gain magnitude is about twice that needed to absorb growth in the labor force and push the unemployment rate lower over time.)

But maybe the best news of all is how the growing economy keeps grinding down the jobless rate for those at the bottom. The 3.5 percent unemployment rate for Americans with just a high school diploma is the lowest since 2000. Moreover, we’re seeing strong wage gains for the least-skilled workers. For instance: Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees in the leisure and hospitality sector were up 4.4 percent from a year ago, easily beating inflation no matter who you slice. (And keep in mind that all this is happening even as the bugaboo U.S. trade deficit is at a 10-year high.)

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Veneration at Pearl Harbor

 

77 years ago, today, December 7, 1941, America was formally at peace, while much of the world was in flames. It was a sunny Sunday morning in Pearl Harbor, when the skies filled with Japanese attack aircraft and a peaceful day exploded into war. The strike was aimed at the old heart of the U.S. Pacific fleet, the battleships floating at anchor in Pearl Harbor.

Before dawn on 7 December 1941, the American strategic center of gravity in the Pacific reposed in the seven battleships then moored along “Battleship Row”, the six pairs of interrupted quays located along Ford Island’s eastern side. Quay F-2, the southernmost, which usually hosted an aircraft carrier, was empty. Northeastward, Battle Force flagship California was next, moored at F-3. Then came two pairs, moored side by side: Maryland with Oklahoma outboard, and Tennessee with West Virginia outboard. Astern of Tennessee lay Arizona, which had the repair ship Vestal alongside. Last in line was USS Nevada, by herself at quay F-8. These seven battleships, ranging in age from eighteen to twenty-five years, represented all but two of those available to the Pacific Fleet. The Fleet flagship, Pennsylvania, was also in Pearl Harbor, drydocked at the nearby Navy Yard. The ninth, USS Colorado, was undergoing overhaul on the west coast.

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Veneration and Vulnerability: Suicide in the Midst of Prosperity

 

Man does not live by bread alone. As bread was being earned at a record clip, and more people got off the dole, more people in their prime years cut their own lives short. Reflecting back on the U.S. military’s Herculean effort to end suicide in the service, an unwon battle, I am painfully aware there is no clear solution, no magic pill or words. And. I wonder if our changing societal habits and beliefs make vulnerable people more vulnerable.

2017 brought unbroken good economic news, and not just for stockholders. President Trump repeated at every occasion the good news for everyone, including demographic groups who had been lagging in employment. Wages started to rise. And in the midst of all this, the suicide rate increased to a 50-year peak.

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Katy Tur, France’s Riots, and Panic Mode

 

NBC’s Katy Tur, responding to an article in the New Yorker about climate, looked into the camera and asked “How pointless is my life? And how pointless are the decisions that I make on a day-to-day basis when we are not focused on climate change every day, when it’s not leading every one of our newscasts?”

It’s a safe bet that not only will climate change not lead all newscasts, it will not even lead Katy Tur’s very often. And the reason is not any of those often proffered for failure to act in the ways activists prefer. It won’t be that she is a climate change denier. It won’t be that she was bought off by the fossil fuel industry. And it won’t be that she doesn’t care.

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As the US Economy Keeps Growing, Real Wages Keep Rising for Everyone

 

What happens when an economy keeps expanding year after year — even if industry is growing more concentrated and trade deficits stay big and unions aren’t what they used to be? Well, this is what happens, via the Indeed Hiring Lab:

More people returned to work in 2018. The unemployment rate fell from 4.1% in December 2017 to 3.7% in October 2018 — well below what the Federal Reserve thinks unemployment will be in the long run. A broader measure that includes labor force re-entrants — the ratio of employed people of prime working age (25 to 54) to their population — rose from 79.1% to 79.7%. And the share of workers involuntarily working part-time fell from 3.1% to 2.8%. Even better, the tightening labor market brought rising wage gains in 2018. Wage growth for private-sector workers topped 3% this year and looks to continue gaining next year.

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Confederate Statues Are Torn Down—Who’s Next?

 
Margaret Thatcher, at Hillsdale College

The latest brouhaha about moving a Confederate statue called Silent Sam took place at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The statue was originally pulled down in August, and now university administrators must keep it on campus; a state law was passed in 2015 prohibiting state agencies from “permanently removing or relocating state-owned memorials or statues.” UNC Chancellor Carol Folt stated, “I have a preference to move it off campus, but, like everyone here, I swore to obey the law.” How noble of her.

The university is considering a proposal to build a history and education center to house the statue and other historical artifacts; the announcement of this proposal on Monday led to the latest campus protest. The administrators will decide next week whether to move forward with the proposal for the new center.

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ACF Middlebrow #20: The Thing

 

Last week, my friend Scott Beauchamp and I talked about the Catholic horror, The Exorcist. This week, we turn to its antithetical double, the scientific horror, in this case, John Carpenter’s The Thing. We talk about body horror and its relation to nihilism, horror of life in its meaningless, destructive quest for reproduction. About science, the cold universe, and fire — the power behind technology. About post-Vietnam manliness retrieving the darkness of the noir detective or the cowboy who cannot live in the community he saves.

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Republicans Cave in to James Comey

 

At first glance, the Republicans got their way in their “demand” that James Comey testify privately before Congress. Big deal.

The House Judiciary Committee also agreed to release the transcript within 24 hours so that Comey can release all or part of it to the public.

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It’s Still Unclear What the US-China Trade War Is Really All About

 

“Jaw, jaw is better than war, war” is one of those well known Winston Churchill quotes that Churchill apparently never said. (Or at least not exactly like that.) But it’s still a pretty catchy phrase and not a bad first instinct. So from that perspective, perhaps, the results from the US-China trade negotiations in Buenos Aires are to be welcomed. Talks resulting in an agreement for more talks over the next three months is a pretty good alternative to a severe intensification in the ongoing trade conflict between the nations.

So here we are: The American tariff rate on $200 billion in imports from China will stay at 10 percent rather than rising to 25 percent. And China, according to the Trump administration, will “purchase a very substantial amount of agricultural, industrial and energy, products.”

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Decorum at the death of a former president

 

http://bloviatingzeppelin.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/George-HW-Bush-1.jpgThe passing of a president is inherently a political event, overlaid on the private grief of family and friends. How ought we respond, in an age and a society completely suffused with politics? Mark Davis, broadcasting out of the Dallas Fort Worth area, put it this way:

Politics is only the fourth most important thing in life. The three most important things are:

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The Gracious Toughness of My Old Boss, George H.W. Bush

 

An excerpt from my remembrance in the New York Post:

Graciousness and toughness. Contradictory attributes though these may seem, in George Herbert Walker Bush they existed in equal, remarkably abundant measure.

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Trump v. General Motors

 

If President Donald J. Trump is to be believed, General Motors CEO Mary Barra committed a high crime when she announced recently that GM will close up to seven plants in the United States and Canada. One of those plants will be its Lordstown, Ohio plant, which now employs about 1,600 workers, including 1,435 hourly workers, when it ceases production in 2019 of the slow-selling Chevrolet Cruze. In total, GM plans to lay off over 14,000 hourly and salaried workers worldwide, including 25% of the company’s salaried executives. Trump had no patience for Barra’s considered view that the rapid transformation in the automotive market requires, as she put it, “a highly agile, resilient and profitable GM to stay in front of changing market conditions and customer preferences to position our company for long-term success.”

Elsewhere, the responses to Barra’s announcement were more or less as expected. The stock market was pleased, as the price of GM shares soared by as much as 7.9 percent. Market judgments are a solid reflection of the worth of such long-term corporate planning. In contrast, Terry Dittes of the United Auto Worker denounced “this callous decision,” which put “profits before the working families of this country,” a stock union refrain in all collective bargaining negotiations. North of the border, Jerry Dias, the head of the Canadian union, Unifor, promised “one hell of a fight here in Canada” without any clear knowledge of what deal might emerge when GM’s Canadian labor contracts are renegotiated in 2020.

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Uncommon Knowledge: Thomas Sowell On The Myths Of Economic Inequality

 

Thomas Sowell discusses economic inequality, racial inequality, and the myths that have continued to falsely describe the system of poverty among different racial and economic classes. He explains the economic theories behind these pervasive myths and proposes fact-based solutions for seemingly intractable situations.

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Ricochet Meetup Day, Fort Lauderdale—A Success!

 

We had a wonderful time meeting at Tap 42 before the National Review cruise left the next day! Since my photos were so poor, I’ve included some of my photos from Butterfly World nearby, which are a bit better. (You really must visit there if you’re ever in South Florida!)

Barkha Herman, James Lileks, Boss Mongo, Susan Quinn and her husband Jerry, Stad and Neutral Observer, and formerlawprof got caught up or acquainted, telling stories about all of you who weren’t there! (Just kidding.) I have two pictures because I didn’t get everyone in just one:

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Quote of the Day: Anti-Semitic or Anti-Israel—or Both?

 

“Now, it isn’t inherently anti-Semitic to be critical of Israeli political leadership or policies. The Democratic Party antagonism toward the Jewish state has been well-established over the past decade. But [Ilhan] Omar used a well-worn anti-Semitic trope about the preternatural ability of a nefarious Jewish cabal to deceive the world.

“It’s something you would expect to read in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or hear from a professor of comparative literature at Columbia University, not a US congresswoman.

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A Note on George H. W. Bush

 

President George Bush’s visit to Dartmouth College for an honorary degree in 2011 produced an array of memorable moments. When the former president came forward to receive his degree, to name one, the graduating students rose in an ovation. Then, as President Jim Kim read the citation—“George Herbert Walker Bush…[you have led] one of the most distinguished careers of public service in the history of this Republic”—Mrs. Bush teared up. Minutes later Conan O’Brien began his Commencement address (in accepting the College’s invitation, the former president had asked to be excused from any speaking duties himself). “I must point out,” O’Brien said, “that behind me sits a highly admired president of the United States and decorated war hero, while I, a cable television talk show host, have been chosen to stand here and impart wisdom.” (Laughter.) “I pray I never witness a more damning example of what is wrong with America today.” (Roars of laughter, in which the former president and first lady participated.)

To me, though, the most memorable aspect of the fortieth chief executive’s visit is that it nearly didn’t happen.

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ACF Middlebrow #19: The Exorcist

 

The podcast turns to horror, Catholic and scientific. I am joined by veteran and writer Scott Beauchamp to talk about William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist and about Russell Kirk’s views on horror — having read his very humanistic essay on horror in Modern Age. We talk about body horror as a way of confronting evil, of raising existential questions: Is being human special, after all, or just another meaningless accident? Next week, we turn to the scientific horror for comparison–The Thing.

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Real Hate Speech and Actually Unsafe Community [UPDATE: 30 November]

 

The suspect in the first of two closely timed attacks on Orthodox Jewish boys sure doesn’t look like a skinhead or Klansman, which is why there is not a word about the suspects’ race.

The boy was walking home with his mother around 6 p.m. Sunday near Throop Avenue and Walton Street in Williamsburg.

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