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Category: General

That Word “Democracy,” I Do Not Think…

[ 12 ] January 8, 2015 |

Shorter Joe Manchin: “elected public officials using their constitutional powers is not how democracy works, if I don’t get my way.”

The democratic theory Manchin used to reach this conclusion remains unspecified.

How much did Yale spend to educate Tom Buchanan?

[ 80 ] January 8, 2015 |

This is the first of a projected series of posts on the economics of American higher education.

“Civilization’s going to pieces,” broke out Tom violently. “I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read ‘The Rise of the Colored Empires’ by this man Goddard?”

“Why, no,” I answered, rather surprised by his tone.

“Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be — will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.”

“Tom’s getting very profound,” said Daisy, with an expression of unthoughtful sadness. “He reads deep books with long words in them. What was that word we ——”

“Well, these books are all scientific,” insisted Tom, glancing at her impatiently. “This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.”

“We’ve got to beat them down,” whispered Daisy, winking ferociously toward the fervent sun.

“You ought to live in California —” began Miss Baker, but Tom interrupted her by shifting heavily in his chair.

“This idea is that we’re Nordics. I am, and you are, and you are, and ——” After an infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a slight nod, and she winked at me again. “— And we’ve produced all the things that go to make civilization — oh, science and art, and all that. Do you see?”

Tom Buchanan and Nick Carraway were freshmen at New Haven in 1910, if I’ve got my literary math right. How much did the school spend to turn them into Yale men?

The answer can be deduced from the following:

Yale’s endowment was $12.1 million in 1910. Assuming that 4.5% of this was expendable income that year, this means Yale’s total operating budget was $1,089,000, given that, according to this, the endowment that year generated exactly half the school’s budget.

How much is that in 2014 dollars? Using standard CPI inflation calculators, the answer is about $25.3 million. Yale’s total enrollment that year in all its various schools and colleges was 3,319 students, meaning that it cost $7623 per year, in 2014 dollars to enlighten Nick and Tom. (They paid about $3,000 per year, in 2014 dollars, for tuition and room and board)

One hundred years later, how much did it cost to bring their institutional descendants into the light?

By 2010, Yale’s endowment had grown to $16.7 billion (it was $23.9 billion in June of last year). This sum generated about $751,500,000 in expendable income, which in turn provided 41% of the school’s general fund budget. $751,500,000 is 41% of roughly $1.83 billion. In 2010 Yale had a total enrollment of 11,520, which means the school was spending, in 2014 dollars, about $172,030 per student. (In comments, Mal points out that you could properly back out the nearly 20% of the total budget that represents the operations of the medical complex, as these costs have only a very tangential relation to the cost of educating the vast majority of Yale students. So you might want to reduce that $172,000 to around $140,000). Yale technically charged its students $467,000,000 in tuition, but the school actually distributed 63% of that total — $295,000,000 — back to students in grants, which means that in 2010 the average Yale student paid $14,931, or somewhere around 8% to 12% of the total cost of his or her education, depending on various budgetary assumptions.

We shook hands and I started away. Just before I reached the hedge I remembered something and turned around.

“They’re a rotten crowd,” I shouted across the lawn. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”

I’ve always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end. First he nodded politely, and then his face broke into that radiant and understanding smile, as if we’d been in ecstatic cahoots on that fact all the time. His gorgeous pink rag of a suit made a bright spot of color against the white steps, and I thought of the night when I first came to his ancestral home, three months before. The lawn and drive had been crowded with the faces of those who guessed at his corruption — and he had stood on those steps, concealing his incorruptible dream, as he waved them good-by.

I thanked him for his hospitality. We were always thanking him for that — I and the others.

Boxer’s Replacement

[ 72 ] January 8, 2015 |

Given the California electorate, whoever replaces Barbara Boxer should be someone around the Elizabeth Warren/Sherrod Brown wing of the Democratic Party. Of course. many of her likely replacements would likely be be far worse than Boxer. At the very least, can you people not elect some Silicon Valley capitalist or Gavin Newsom?


[ 35 ] January 8, 2015 |

It is 23°F and SEK is rolling home from the store with a car full of cat litter and sushi when he spots his HAT-HATING NEMESIS wearing a hat while taking out the trash.

SEK: (to himself) The worm has turned!

SEK slows the car down as he approaches his HAT-HATING NEMESIS.

SEK: (to himself) This is gonna be great — I’m gonna nail his hat-hating ass for wearing a hat in the middle of winter. I’m gonna be even more Internet-famous now!

HAT-HATING NEMESIS looks at SEK as he performs a patented “Prairieville drift” into 20 mph terrority.

SEK: (to himself) Time to roll down the window and give that fucking hypocrite what he deserves.

HAT-HATING NEMESIS raises his arm and politely waves at SEK. SEK prepares to roll down the window and give him the ol’ what-for when…

SEK’S CAR STEREO: Shouldn’t I have all of this — shouldn’t I have this — shouldn’t I have all of this and — passionate kisses!


SEK hits the gas and speeds off in shame.

The Most Consistent Reactionary

[ 38 ] January 8, 2015 |

Linda Greenhouse states what should be obvious about Sam Alito:

Conservatives are confident that unlike Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who committed the unpardonable sin of saving the Affordable Care Act, Sam Alito will never go soft in the crunch. Unlike Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, he is utterly reliable. (Will Justice Alito vote for a right to same-sex marriage, as Justice Kennedy is widely expected to do? Not on your life.) Unlike Justice Antonin Scalia, whose rhetorical excesses yield diminishing returns these days (his perfervid dissent in the 2013 Defense of Marriage Act case has been widely cited by lower court judges as demonstrating that the constitutional basis for a right to same-sex marriage is now beyond debate), Sam Alito is never bombastic. And he avoids the self-indulgent eccentricity that has rendered Justice Clarence Thomas a nonplayer.

In the November issue of the religious journal First Things, Prof. Michael Stokes Paulsen, describing Justice Alito as the “man of the hour,” accurately labeled him “the most consistent, solid, successful conservative on the court,” adding: “There are louder talkers, flashier stylists, wittier wits, more-poisonous pens, but no one with a more level and solid swing than Justice Samuel Alito.”


This month marks the start of Justice Alito’s 10 year on the Supreme Court. He took his seat on Jan. 31, 2006, chosen by President George W. Bush to succeed Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and confirmed by a vote of 58 to 42 after a feeble Democratic filibuster effort collapsed. The Alito-for-O’Connor substitution was the most consequential change on the court since the first President Bush picked Clarence Thomas to replace Justice Thurgood Marshall in 1991. None of the six subsequent departures (in addition to Justice O’Connor, they were Justices Byron R. White and Harry A. Blackmun, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, and Justices Souter and John Paul Stevens) produced anything like the ideological lurch caused by the replacement of a moderately conservative compromise seeker with a lifelong movement conservative. In 1985, a 35-year-old Samuel Alito applied for a job in the Reagan Justice Department with an essay asserting that as a teenager in the 1960s, “the greatest influences on my views were the writings of William F. Buckley Jr., the National Review, and Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign.”

And there is nothing at all surprising about the fact that Alito has been a human manifestation of the Republican Party platform on the Supreme Court. It was obvious at the time of his nomination. Much of the mainstream coverage of the Alito nomination was scandalously incompetent precisely because it focused on his tone and whether or not he liked baseball rather than his votes. But the conservatives in the DOJ — who didn’t see a single vote objectionable from their perspective in his entire circuit court tenure — knew exactly what they were doing.

Nazi Cattle

[ 103 ] January 8, 2015 |

I suppose if one is going to raise a breed of cattle created by the Nazis, one should expect it to be a killer breed.

Republican Priorities II

[ 71 ] January 7, 2015 |

In addition to the wars on Social Security and math, let us not forget the War on Women:

Never ones to waste a second in their unending quest to fuck you over, on the first day of the new Congress, House Republicans re-introduced a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks. It’ll pass, and then it’ll go to the Senate, where it’ll also pass, and then it’ll go to the president, who will veto it. This is a solid, non-bullshit use of our tax dollars! [Violently rage-barfs.]

The bill, HR 36, known as the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, was introduced by Reps. Trent Franks of Arizona and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee; it would ban all abortions after 20 weeks, under the completely bogus premise that fetuses feel pain at that point in gestation. Franks introduced an identical measure last session, as he has for years, even though, as RH Reality Check points out, a fetal pain measure was found to be unconstitutional in his home state. Last year, the bill passed in a party-line vote before dying in the Senate.

Hmm, odd that it failed in the Senate last year, but is likelier to pass this year.  What could explain the difference? I’m sure Mitt Romney would be equally likely to veto it, though; the partisan control of federal offices has nothing to do with women’s rights, as surely history teaches us that both parties will respond identically to public opinion on a given issue.

Republican Priorities

[ 91 ] January 7, 2015 |

Ah, the first day of a unified Republican Congress.  For the first day, this means a war on Social Security benefits for the disabled and math.  It’s only a matter of time before we get the “Stealing Candy From A Baby Act of 2015,” with a provision declaring that Sam Brownback’s policies produced a massive surplus.

Charlie Hebdo

[ 328 ] January 7, 2015 |


…some useful background here.


On Sam Adams

[ 380 ] January 6, 2015 |

Being in East Coast exile, nothing bothers me more than the mediocre and overpriced beers I am forced to drink. In Oregon, a $4 beer is normal, a $5 beer expensive. In New England, a $6 beer is normal, an $8 beer expensive. Not to mention that I can get amazing beer during $3 happy hours in Oregon whereas happy hour is illegal in Massachusetts and mostly in Rhode Island. The difference in beer scenes between the coasts is night and day and the only states that can even begin to approach the four great beer states of the West are Michigan and Vermont, and they are decidedly inferior.

Given this situation, I have spent more time in the last few years drinking and thinking about the big microbrew powers than I ever would have done in Oregon. By this, I mean Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, and Brooklyn. I have really come to appreciate Sierra Nevada. They rarely produce a mediocre beer and nearly everything is excellent, including the seasonal Celebration IPA I wish I had enjoyed more of. Sierra just makes great beer and because of their size, can offer it at a reasonable price. I enjoy Brooklyn’s higher end beers but the stock releases are largely not very good. But Sam Adams? I just don’t think most of their beers are very good. Some of the releases offered only in bombers are pretty tasty but that’s really about it. Its attempt at a west coast IPA, the Rebel IPA, was poor. So it’s hardly surprising that Sam Adams is starting to struggle in a more discerning and demanding beer market. The solution is to make better beer, but that seems unlikely since it is so stodgy and behind the times now. I doubt Sam Adams is going to become the next Pete’s Wicked Ale, a beer very popular when I was in college that is now defunct, since it has such a large market share, but it is clearly a brewery on the decline.

I don’t root for that decline, as I always desire more good beer to drink. But I am skeptical that it will become a leader in the beer world again.

And, In Conclusion, Kirby Delauter

[ 90 ] January 6, 2015 |

If there’s one thing we can all agree on in this polarized political environment, it’s Kirby Delauter. Hopefully we can all find more time to discuss Kirby Delauter. No one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle. Even… and I want to make this absolutely clear… even if they do say, “Kirby Delauter.”

“I am so flooded with awe that I cannot move”

[ 37 ] January 6, 2015 |

There is some sentiment that the atrocious William Giraldi piece discussed yesterday was “satire.” Any maybe it was so intended, but this really doesn’t make it less sexist or poorly written. (I’d also read this before giving a charitable interpretation. The best part of the “gelid wilds of Alaksa” line is that a primary complaint in his infamous attack on Alix Ohlin was that her descriptions were redundant. Leaving aside the fact that “white teeth” isn’t a redundancy, apparently it’s OK to use an actually redundant adjective as long as it’s pompous enough.)

Anyway, Giraldi has at least inspired an example of successful satire:

When my employer called me into his office and granted me paternity leave on the birth of my first child, I had no idea what I was in for. Most of my male coworkers had already left the office at this point, having impregnated willing strangers in order to take twelve weeks’ paid time off in exchange for eighteen years of financial and personal responsibility.

“It’s twelve weeks’ time off,” Daniel shouted when he learned he’d successfully created a child with the head of the mechanics department. “I’m going to finally finish my heli-skiing novel!”

I simply wasn’t prepared for what all of this free time would do to me. I had planned, of course, to participate actively as a member of the household and as my wife’s partner — grease the dryer, dust the teakettle, rearrange the cat, and so on — but then, shortly after I walked in the door, I was tragically trapped under something heavy and have been unable to move from this spot in the living room. No one can move this burden from me, save the pure-hearted seventh son of a seventh son, and I do not believe that such a person exists.


I wonder what my son’s name is. Perhaps it is Jonathant.

How I wish I were capable of providing my son with the same kind of loving, careful attention as my wife is. But how can I compete? Her hands are made of dish scrubbers and teddy bears. Mine have been duct taped to these bottles of Hennessey and Old Crow, and I am too drunk to remember the difference between the wall and the floor. My wife has a diaper genie built into the back of her right calf. I have been forced by an evil wizard to watch the entire series run of Sons of Anarchy, through no fault of my own. Were I to lift my eyes from the Shakespearean machinations of a Californian biker and drug-smuggling family that loves as fiercely as they drug-smuggle for even a moment, I would surely turn to stone, and what good would I be to my child, or possibly children, then?

See the difference? And really do read the whole etc.

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