Wednesday Highlights

Good morning.

  1. Off the beaten track information regarding Mr Wood.
  2. Music and … heaven?
  3. Misquote is a political strategy, alas practiced on both sides.
  4. Our government overreach in action.
  5. Beauty and church adornment.
  6. Advice and academia from a very fast man.
  7. Competition and moving power down not up.
  8. Blank bang and the 3-d printing process.
  9. Intimations of danger.
  10. I disagree. It seems to me that wisdom/fool has a similar relationship as saint/sinner, the more you increase in wisdom the more you feel yourself to be the fool.
  11. Yikes. And … it seems to me America and China would have a different reaction in the ensuing tort courts … and I’m not of the opinion that America is better in that regard.
  12. Not getting “the sisterhood thing”.
  13. Next stop the shooting range?
  14. Marines then and now … which approach was better?
  15. So, four strikes?
  16. And a verse to recommend to close out this list.

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  1. Boonton says:

    9.Intimations of danger.


    The basic man still has some advantages over the supreme intellectual in the immediate face of danger. What saved Michael and Lulu Campbell was not their education or refinement. It was the memory of living in dangerous places and the instincts formed thereby. Levi understood that education as much as anything else, prepared many Jews to voluntarily walk into the gates of Auschwitz. They could not conceive of something as awful, as barbarous as that death camp, even as they passed it portals. Only the men who had seen others at their worst could perceive the danger and ready themselves to resist what rational man could not apprehend. Levi wrote:

    Logic and morality made it impossible to accept an illogical and immoral reality; they engendered a rejection of reality which as a rule led the cultivated man rapidly to despair. But the varieties of the man-animal are innumerable, and I saw and have described men of refined culture, especially if young, throw all this overboard, simplify and barbarize themselves, and survive. A simple man, accustomed not to ask questions of himself, was beyond the reach of the useless torment of asking himself why.

    This seems to set up a ying-yang dynamic with human society. If people start getting too nice, too civilized, too good to each other, the potential rewards for barbaric, criminal behavior go up expodentially. think of that silly Stallon movie Demolition Man. Society became so super nice that when a really bad criminal broke free, he was like a lone wolf among a flock of sheep. On the other hand, if you get too far down the barbaric side the opposite happens. If everyone’s a thug, then acting like a thug offers little reward. No one’s a sucker to fall for it. Think now of Godfather II. Don Corleone dispatched the thuggish representative of the ‘Black hand’ whose approach was to shake down everyone for the sake of shaking down everyone. He succeeded by replacing the thuggish regime with a more civilized one of the ‘family’ which offered favors to the needy (the poor widow whose landlord was trying to evict her), limited violence (the man who wanted his daughter’s rapists killed was told and instituted a system of negotiation over direct warfare.

    Later on, though, the Don’s son was unable to keep following down the path of greater civility. As he tried to make the family more legitimate, the ‘thugish’ methods became more rewarding causing Michael to keep ‘getting pulled back in’.

  2. Boonton says:

    3.Misquote is a political strategy, alas practiced on both sides.

    This is an odd example because Obama’s misquote actually does a favor to the Republican Congress woman. We learn that the woman was misquoted as saying she has no sympathy for students who graduate with debt because there’s ‘no need for it’….that she worked as a HS janitor and took 7 years to graduate college in order to avoid having any debt.

    What she actually said, though, was that she has no sympathy for students who borrow $200,000 to $800,000 for college! I didn’t put too many zeros on that figure! Volokh notes that he can’t find any evidence it’s even possible to rack up that much Federal student loan debt. Even getting $80K in debt is rather tricky and most people do far less than that. A quick calculation using $54,500 as Harvard’s yearly cost (incl. room and board and everything else) shows that someone would need to be there 14+ years borrowing 100% of it to get $800K in debt. Even going from HS grad to full fledged surgeon wouldn’t take that long.

    So we are left with the following:

    1. The woman wasn’t really misquoted. She asserted that not only did she have no sympathy for $200-$800K in student debt, she felt it was possible in this day and age to avoid all student debt by working low skilled, low wage jobs like being a janitor.

    2. If you wanted Obama to quote the woman more accurately, then you’re confronted with the fact that she is a moran. She…

    a. Has no idea what the typical level of student debt really is or even can possibly be even in exceptional cases.

    b. She seems to think that *if* you needed $200K-$800K for college, you could get it by being a HS janitor for a few years.

    Both these facts would seem to indicate she is deeply out of touch with the lives of real Americans, except maybe for the nursing home set who came of age in a different time when college costs were minor and low skilled jobs offered relatively decent wages.

    To make matters even worse, who is this dingbat? Some old woman calling up Rush Limbaugh’s show? A drunk barfly spouting nonesense about her glory days? No, she is in fact the “chairwoman of the house Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training”! So the truth is the person the Republicans have choosen for leadership on higher education it totallly out of touch with both the basic facts about higher education today and the nature of today’s workforce! Amazing. If I were you I would be very happy Obama did you guys a favor by ‘misquoting’ her. Kind of like having a Chairman of Technology and Innovation talking about how this new fangled electric lighting stuff is just a big bubble and can’t be expected to take off. If Obama ‘misquoted’ such a fellow as saying he’s against innovation I’d say he was doing the guy a favor.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m kind of skeptical of these claims that student debt is ‘crushing’. You basically get your entire work life to pay it off and despite the claims of cynics that college grads can’t get good jobs or that their degrees are worthless, fact is the market pays more over your lifetime for having a degree than it ever did in the past. I can sympathize with some student debt problems….students who got hooked into private sector trade schools and now have $40K+ in debt with degrees that don’t really help them much….or the student who ends up living a long life of low paid work. I’m all for establishing some type of system where such people can get their debts partially forgiven or modified. But seriously the standard loan of $40K-$80K even which you can pay back over 30+ years out of an income that is on average $1-$2M higher because of your degree doesn’t seem like a huge problem to me. Keep in mind you can easily get $30K in debt on some cars and they typically require paying back in 5-7 years.

  3. Mark says:

    You’re quoting 800k. Volokh, 80. 80-200 is still beyond the 95th percentile of debt on leaving. The Huff-Po link also says 80. Whence the 800. Where does Volokh say “Volokh notes that he can’t find any evidence it’s even possible to rack up that much Federal student loan debt.” … I don’t see that at all anywhere.

    Misquotes indeed.

  4. Boonton says:

    Volokh quotes the Congresswoman as saying she has no sympathy for those with $200,000 to $800,000 in student debt. Volokh asserts that $80,000 would put one within an upper percentile of student debt load, but can’t locate data on how many, if any, hold debts in the huge zone of $200K+. Usually you put the lower number first so if you wanted to talk about those with $80K to $200K of debt you’d say $80 first. If you’re talking $200 to $800 you’d put the $200 first.

    If the Congresswoman had really said $20-$80K or had simply mispoke when and said $200-$800 when everyone knows she really meant $20-$80K then you can’t allege she is the victim of being misquoted. $20-$80K is within range of a ‘normal’ student debt load and if she said she had no sympathy for such people then Obama isn’t misquoting her.

    I see perhaps her meaning was to take the most extreme, $200K and then present the lower bound of what she would view as a ‘high’ level of debt ($80K). That would make her second comment about proudly not having any debt from college sound odd. Wouldn’t a janitor’s job be more likelly to help one avoid a modest student loan of $20-$80K than it would a mega-loan of $80K-$200k?

  5. Mark says:

    Look again, I see 800k or 800,000 nowhere on the page. 80k everywhere. Just because you can’t imagine why someone might say “200k or even 80k” as a phrase instead of “80k to 200k” doesn’t mean it wasn’t said. However, 800k, 800,000 is not printed anywhere.

  6. Mark says:

    As Volokh points out the 80-90 percentile of debt is 45k. 80k is a high level of debt. No scare quotes required.

  7. Boonton says:

    Blahh, it seems as if my perception was off. I read the page(s) way too fast and the five zeros of 200,000 blurred with the four zeros of $80,000 to make it seem like her statement was about debts between $200,000-$800,000. And I notice that she didn’t say ‘sympathy’ but tolerance…..

    But then try to answer the question of what exactly she isn’t tolerant of? Does she have tolerance for people with, say, $10,000 in debt but not $45,000? Why? Her assertion seems to be that people shouldn’t have college debt because ‘there’s no need for that’ and she cites her working as a janitor to get her through college debt free…..

    But then shouldn’t that mean she should have little tolerance for small student debt rather than big debt? If you need, say, $80,000, to get through medical school and become a doctor you probably can’t pay that with working janitor type jobs here and there but if you need only $10,000 to finish two years of a community college you probably can pull that off by doing numerous part time jobs. The first case sounds like there really is a need for student debt and delaying your medical career by 7 years to simply avoid debt would be penny wise and pound foolish. The second case sounds like debt could be avoided by just working extra jobs and spending wisely. Yet if we apply Volokh’s reading we’d have to conclude she has no tolerance for the first case because that’s between $80K-$200K but is ok with the second because that’s less than $80K.

    It really sounds like the chairwoman is arguing that students shouldn’t go into debt for college at all and she has ‘little tolerance’ for those that do. If that’s the case then how is she being misquoted?

    And just say you assume she is just talking about $80K-$200K of debt. Does that mean she agrees with Obama’s concerns about students with the more average figure of $25K in debt and she was on the Gordon Liddy show to support him….except to say that she would want to throw students at the upper end of the debt distribution under the bus? Sounds kind of doubtful to me. Seems more likely Volokh is wrong, $80K-$200K are not qualifiers to her statement but merely examples. She has ‘little tolerance’ for any concern about student debt and examples of people who she has no tolerance for are those that tell her they are in hawk for $200K or even $80K. No logical reason to think the more average debtor with $25K or less is exempt from her ire. And that means Obama is not misquoting her. She honestly asserted that she has no tolerance for people who graduate with student debt because ‘there’s no need for that’ period.

  8. Mark says:

    It seems to me that Volokh is more likely right, that she has little tolerance for what she sees as excessive debt, not no debt as if I’m not mistaken she admits having some small debts after school was complete. And that means, yes Obama was misquoting her, which in turn is why you misread her in the first place because of your presumption that Mr Obama “got it right”, when alas he did not.

  9. Boonton says:

    That doesn’t fit, though, with her statement about using low-skilled jobs and spacing education out over time to pay for her college. Go back to the chap who needs $80K to do medical school versus the chap who needs $10K to do two years of community college. The community guy has less excuse to have student debt. He can more easily use a part time, low wage job to pay his way. Doing $80K by being a janitor is not realistic.

    Perhaps she doesn’t have tolerance for excessive debt when measured relative to the degree the person was going after. Perhaps she means the person who ends up $80K in debt with a certificate to fix cars or do hair and makeup. But if we go there we are just making up words she didn’t say. Her actual quote was she has no toleranace for student debt and from what she actually said it sounds like that means just about any debt (granted she might be a bit inconsistent in saying she had some small debts after..)

    As you seem to admit, she can be read as using the $200K-$80K as either a range (you’re ok if you’re under $80K!) or as an example (debt is bad, look at silly people who come crying to me with debts of $200K or even $80K!). If she is OK with debt under $80K then what exactly was her purpose on the radio show? GOP House members do not often show up on the B-level talk radio circuit to support Obama’s policies. Since Obama’s support of studends who are carrying debt consists of a population that is almost entirely under that $80K mark she would have nothing to carp about…..

    So what’s more likely, right wing dingbat House Rep on right wing dingbat talk radio show to either support Obama or be mostly neutral about his latest initiative or showing up on show to bash Obama? I vote for the latter which would make it more likely $200K-$80K was an example not a qualifier.

    Since, though, her words seem to be able to be validly read in a couple of ways the assertion she was being misquoted doesn’t stand. You are free to believe she was ‘more likely’ using the range as a qualifier, but the fact that your speaking in terms of probability indicates that her meaning was not clear.

  10. Mark says:

    Apropos of nothing, my father put himself through college working road crew in the summer. Tuition and room/board was a lot lower in the early 50s.

  11. Boonton says:

    Over on the blog someone posted the tuition in 1961 vs now at the congresswoman’s college. I looked up the min. wage. Back then you could pay for college there with 130 hours of work at the then min. wage….basically doing a month or two of a summer job. Today at min. wage you’d need nearly 1000 hours of work, about half a year of @ 40 hours a week.

    That would seem to belie her assertion that college debt is ‘not necessary’. Like I said that wouldn’t be odd if she was some shut in from a nursing home but this is the woman who supposedly is an expert on higher education financing.