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Gender Discrimination at the Times

[ 144 ] May 14, 2014 |

My usual response over turmoil at major media outlets is to make fun of the media spending a day on its favorite theme: talking about itself. And I really don’t care about rich people losing their jobs. But this is quite notable and significant so I will make an exception:

As with any such upheaval, there’s a history behind it. Several weeks ago, I’m told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs. “She confronted the top brass,” one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was “pushy,” a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect. Sulzberger is known to believe that the Times, as a financially beleaguered newspaper, needed to retreat on some of its generous pay and pension benefits; Abramson had also been at the Times for far fewer years than Keller, having spent much of her career at the Wall Street Journal, accounting for some of the pension disparity. (I was also told by another friend of hers that the pay gap with Keller has since been closed.) But, to women at an institution that was once sued by its female employees for discriminatory practices, the question brings up ugly memories. Whether Abramson was right or wrong, both sides were left unhappy. A third associate told me, “She found out that a former deputy managing editor”—a man—“made more money than she did” while she was managing editor. “She had a lawyer make polite inquiries about the pay and pension disparities, which set them off.”

[SL] See also:

Original 6 Game 7

[ 74 ] May 14, 2014 |

I missed last night’s Game 7 because I had Springsteen tickets. (Really good show, despite setlist issues; maybe I’ll do a separate post on that.) I had it recorded, but the multiple “Let’s Go Rangers” chants on the way out of the show made the result pretty clear. Anyway, hopefully there will be another good game tonight. For those interested in Bruins/Habs things, here’s a good article on the most famous too many men on the ice penalty in NHL history and the classic game it was embedded in.

The Annotated John McCain

[ 49 ] May 14, 2014 |

A reminder guy who has never met a problem that guns and bombs couldn’t solve was a major party’s candidate for president. It’s also a useful reminder that “international law means whatever my vague moral intuitions think it must mean” isn’t a bad argument confined to the left.

The university speaker fee racket

[ 133 ] May 14, 2014 |

Updated below

In his post about free speech on campus arguments, Scott mentions the tangential issue of exactly how much celebrity speakers at commencements and other university events are getting paid for casting their pearls before students, parents, alumni, etc.

The University of Colorado holds what I can only hope is some sort of record in this regard, although this is a rare case in which absurdly reckless spending on campus can’t be laid at the doorstep of university administrators per se. CU-Boulder has an extraordinarily well-funded

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student government (essentially all the money comes from student fees, above and beyond tuition). I became aware of this after almost literally running into Kofi Annan a few years ago at the bar of a swank Boulder hotel (I was there for a law school event), as both of us strove to order gin and tonics and help bring about world peace.

I was curious as to how much it was costing the student government (annual budget at that time: $33 million) to bring Annan to campus, where his official duties were limited to giving one 50-minute speech. Inquiries revealed the answer was $160,000, with $100,000 of that representing his speaking fee, and the rest travel expenses for himself and his retinue. I was shocked enough by this figure to inquire further, only to discover this wasn’t a one-off event: in the previous two years the student government had paid the same $100,000 speaking fee to Rudy Giuliani and B.B. King.

Anyway, five-and six (!)-figure speaking fees for the sorts of minor celebrities who speak at commencements etc., are indeed, as Scott notes, part of a complacent racket by which the elites celebrate their wonderfulness through pecuniary gestures that grow increasingly grotesque.

Update: A commenter links to a story revealing that between leaving the White House and July 2012, Bill Clinton had received $89 million in speaking fees (a figure which by this point has almost certainly hit nine figures, as he made $13.4 million from speaking fees in 2011 alone). Over that time Clinton’s average speaking fee was $189,000, with a high of $750,000 for a speech in Hong Kong to Ericcson.

There Is No Free Speech Right to 30 Grand For Giving A Speech

[ 122 ] May 14, 2014 |

Michelle Goldberg makes a very smart point here:

Are the protests against commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients an example of the anti-liberal left?

I think there’s a difference between stopping someone from speaking and stopping a college from honoring them. Everybody gets to speak, but not everybody gets to be honored.

Not everyone deserves a $35,000 speaking gig. I think that Brandeis was right to revoke Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s honorary degree. It was madness to have a Jewish institution putting its imprimatur on someone who has called for the massive repression and conversion of Muslims. It was their fault for not doing their due diligence and not realizing what she said.

What about commencement speeches? Are they invitations to speak, or are they honors that colleges are conferring?

These people aren’t being invited to share their ideas or argue their ideas. They’re being invited to solemnize an important occasion for these students. I don’t know how meaningful of a distinction that is, but it’s a difference.

You invite someone to be a commencement speaker presumably because you see them as a model and a potential inspiration for your students, whereas you invite someone to speak because they have something interesting and potentially provocative to say.

While I’m kind of uncomfortable with this trend, and I think that these protests should be maybe used sparingly, I think that being a commencement speaker has a certain honor attached to it that’s different from just being involved in the regular exchange of ideas on college campuses.

I was furious when [evangelical pastor] Rick Warren was invited to give the invocation at Obama’s first inauguration, even though I feel very strongly that Rick Warren has the right to say whatever he wants to say. I believe very strongly in Rick Warren’s freedom of speech. I also feel his presence at that event was an insult to a lot of Obama’s supporters.

Right. Free speech norms should mean that people just invited to give a talk on campus for no or modest fees should generally be allowed to speak. Ornamental degrees or commencement speeches are a completely different thing for the reasons Goldberg explains, and I’ve tried to as well.

This is Paul’s department, but aren’t most five figure commencement speeches essentially a racket? Left, right, or center, and no matter how smart the speaker, given the format it’s very difficult to craft a commencement speech that doesn’t fall in between “platitudinously unmemorable” and “terrible.” Large fees to speak at these ceremonies seem like another way for elites to ivory backscratch each other with student/taxpayer money.

The Gerry Adams Arrest and the Future of Oral History

[ 188 ] May 14, 2014 |

From a historian’s perspective, the most interesting thing about the arrest of Gerry Adams on murder charges is the central role of oral histories given under an understanding of confidentiality. The interviews were stored as Boston College as part of the Belfast Project but the British government managed to undue their confidentiality in court. This is a real threat to the future of oral history projects of controversial matters. If these histories are not confidential, who is going to give them?

But what began as an oral history archive designed to promote reconciliation in Northern Ireland in the future is now tearing open old wounds.

For the last four years the agreement to keep the tapes secret unto death has been the subject of intense controversy, academic dispute and international litigation.

A federal court forced Boston College to hand over some of its sensitive archive after British authorities invoked a treaty with the U.S. requiring the exchange of information in violent criminal cases.

Now, after another tape was released implicating Sinn Fein President Adams in an IRA murder he denies, Boston College has had a change of heart and is changing the rules for the oral history project, says Dunn.

“If individuals contact us who desire to have their specific interviews returned then we will accommodate them once we verify their names, but there will never be a disclosure of people who participated in the project,” Dunn said.

But that guarantee is not iron-clad. The troubling archive could potentially be subpoenaed again. Dunn won’t speculate.

“You know that’s something that we’ll just see what happens down the road,” he said.

More than 60 nations have signed the international agreement that was used to force BC to give up some of the oral archive. The case sends a message oral historians have heard ’round the world.

“Researchers will always have to be aware of this precedent,” Dunn said. “So if they’re recording information on criminal or violent activities, you’re gonna have to be aware of this precedent.”

I’m not saying this the most important issue at play here. I am saying it is an important issue for how future people will understand their past. Former IRA members are now suing Boston College. This is all pretty chill-inducing for historians.

Median household income by household size

[ 123 ] May 14, 2014 |

I’ve been looking at various demographic breakdowns of income in the USA. Here’s an interesting one from the Census Bureau, based on household size (A household is everyone who lives in the same house or apartment unit, so household size is not exactly the same things as family size, since for example two unrelated people sharing a 2-bedroom apartment would count as one household, whether or not they had any relationship with each other beyond shared housing expenses. Still it’s a pretty close approximation to family size).

Median income by household size (2012):

One person households: $26.2K

2: $56,727K

3: $64,614K

4: $78,177K

5: $71,185K

6: $67,634K

7 or more people: $66,612K


(1) The low figure for one-person households is probably a product of a high percentage of very old and very young adults in this cohort.

(2) The nearly 10% decline in income seen in five as opposed to four-person households, and the further decline among households of six or more people, suggests something about what is considered an appropriate family size among upper-middle and upper class people these days, i.e., having two kids is fine, three is considered a “big” family, and four is basically declasse.

A Political Conundrum

[ 70 ] May 13, 2014 |

By 1896, the beard trend of the Gilded Age was fading, especially among younger men. The Civil War vets would keep their grizzled old beards, but the Progressives would eschew such resplendent facial hair. Williams’ Shaving Soap actively worked to take advantage. What better way to advertise than bipartisanship? Especially in 1896. Gold bug or silverite, imperialist or anti-imperialist, strong tariff man or weak tariff man, who didn’t need to shave?


The Vote Fraud Fraud: Still Fraudulent

[ 106 ] May 13, 2014 |

Iowa Republicans conducted a study trying to show voter fraud, and found essentially no voter fraud of any kind and literally no fraud that would be prevented by Voter ID laws:

Nearly two years and $250,000 later, Schultz said that 238 total cases of suspected election misconduct were investigated. Investigators “found evidence of election misconduct in 117 cases that cancelled out the votes of legitimate Iowa voters,” he notes, and 17 more cases are still being investigated. One of those cases resulted in a not-guilty verdict and four cases were dismissed. Combined, that means at most 134 instances of fraudulent voting were found in Iowa over several elections, compared with 1,589,951 votes cast in the 2012 general elections alone. That means, at most, the investigation found a 0.008427933% rate of voter fraud.

But notably, that total includes more than just non-citizen voting. Sixty eight of the 238 investigated cases involved convicted felons who allegedly were registered to vote and/or voted despite not having had their voting rights restored. And of the 147 registered voters suspected of being non-citizens even after thorough review of the 3,582 people initially flagged, 70 of those turned out to also be citizens (more than 47 percent).

The report also notes that 23 cases examined “potential election misconduct” by people other than non-citizens and felons without restored voting rights. According to the AP, these cases involved people who had cast votes in more than one state — possibly by absentee in one and in person in the other. There was not a single identified case of impersonation fraud at the polls — people showing up and pretending to be another voter — meaning that Schultz’s own investigation found no cases at all that would have been prevented with his proposed voter identification law.

In conclusion, here are the reasons why Republicans want to enact Voter ID laws:

  • Vote suppression
  • That’s it.

Today In the Noble Ideals of Amateurism, II

[ 25 ] May 13, 2014 |

No investigation is too intrusive to insure that NCAA players aren’t receiving voluntary payments from third parties:

Former Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard signed as an undrafted free agent with the Titans this weekend, and it sounds like he’s ready to get out of college. On a radio show last week, Ikard revealed that OU made both him and his girlfriend sign affidavits declaring that their love is real and not an impermissible benefit.

Ikard is a familiar face at OKC Thunder games, sitting courtside with his girlfriend. She owns those seats, so Oklahoma’s compliance office decided to start snooping around to confirm everything was on the up-and-up. “We had to sign a signed affidavit that she was not dating me just because I was a football player,” Ikard said, via SoonerScoop. The implication is clear: Oklahoma was just making sure the entire relationship wasn’t just a sham to get Ikard Thunder tickets.

I’m sure Bob Stoops is also prevented from accepting endorsements and comp tickets too, right? I would hate to think that the Noble Ideals of Amatuerism are being corrupted anywhere by filthy lucre.

The Catholic Church, 2014

[ 212 ] May 13, 2014 |

The Catholic Church is an institution really prepared to move into the future:

The new pope, exorcists say, has become their champion in the face of modern skeptics, many of them within the Catholic faith. Officially, those claiming to be possessed must first undergo psychiatric evaluations. But exorcists say that liberal Catholic bishops have often rejected their services even after such due diligence.

“The sad truth is that there are many bishops and priests in our church who do not really believe in the Devil,” said the Rev. Gabriele Amorth, the 89-year-old priest who is perhaps the closest thing the church has to a Hollywood-style exorcist. “I believe Pope Francis is speaking to them. Because when you don’t believe, the Devil wins.”

During the conference, the Rev. Cesar Truqui, an exorcist based in Switzerland, recounted one experience he had aboard a Swissair flight. “Two lesbians,” he said, had sat behind him on the plane. Soon afterward, he said, he felt Satan’s presence. As he silently sought to repel the evil spirit through prayer, one of the women, he said, began growling demonically and threw chocolates at his head.

Asked how he knew the woman was possessed, he said that “once you hear a Satanic growl, you never forget it. It’s like smelling Margherita pizza for the first time. It’s something you never forget.”

From his small room in a south Rome rectory fitted with a hospital bed, Amorth praised Francis for so fully embracing the biblical notion of the Devil as the personified overlord of hell.

If lesbians remind one of margherita pizza, what pizza can we compare gay men too? What about women who have had an abortion? Or those living with someone outside marriage? Because this is high theology here my friends.

Let’s Ram Our Heterosexuality Down America’s Throat

[ 102 ] May 13, 2014 |

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you America’s most manly, heterosexual sport:

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