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Ivy Poisons

Summers' continuing education. Also: Presidential Condi. Uranium mixes. Fits of moderation. Plus much more.

2.23.05

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CONTINUING EDUCATION
Re: George Neumayr's Summers is Over:

Another very fine piece, this time on Lawrence Summers, who is really on the ropes, I'm afraid, and for all the wrong reasons. Interesting to me that someone like him, so silver-tongued and I always thought pretty decent as Sec. Treas. under Clinton, should have run so badly afoul of the harpies, harridans, fakers, wastrels, and low-crawlers that populate the Ivy League these days. As I recall, they were the ones who wanted him and set great store by his coming to Harvard. Just goes to show you: make one wrong move in academia these days -- altho' so far not so much in my alma mater Washington & Lee -- and offend one blinkered dingbat with a bad case of righteous rage, and you're dead. Yeesh.
-- Tony Outhwaite
New York City

George Neumayr, in "Summers is Over," says repeatedly that the problem with the Harvard faculty is that they don't care about their students. This is an unfortunate, yet all too common, misstatement of the grave crisis in today's academy. What Mr. Neumayr should have said is that the professors don't care about education. They care plenty about their students -- way too much in fact. Today's universities are "student-centered," revolving around student's expressed and perceived needs and desires to the exclusion of the fundamental mission of the university, which is the transmission of knowledge. See, for example, Kay Hymowitz's article, "J Crew U," in the spring 1996 City Journal.
-- Lawrence Auster
New York City

Isn't it too much of a "beautiful mind" to endure one of Clinton's enablers, Larry Summers, who everyone claims is a genius, get burned at the PC stake in Massachusetts? Ah, you know what I mean.

He is serving mankind by "dehydrating" under the salt thrown on him. Did you ever, when a kid, put sodium chloride on a slug? Let us freedom lovers enjoy the same kind of TRIP which Democrats, even "smart" ones like Summers, are now lawfully being done in by.

By the way, "intelligent" people, like Hillary and Summers, can be deluded. Or, to be soft, confused. I have no doubt about that!
-- James Crystal

I understand from reliable sources that the real dissatisfaction for Harvard's President is really all about a physical move of some campus facilities, including those belonging to faculty -- and some of the faculty are unhappy with the President's decisions about who gets what in accommodations. So he is being charged with "poor management," "poor leadership" etc., and the "gender" issue is all smoke.
-- Peter Hughes
Sacramento, California

Remember the Delta House trial in Animal House? Hilarious, right? It is, but not in real life. No kangaroo court is acceptable in the real world, and especially not at what is supposed to be one of America's pre-eminent universities. If this weren't so dangerous an indication that higher education has gone 'round the bend, it would be as hilarious as Dean Wormer's admonition to the men of Delta: "You'll be out of here faster than s--- through a goose." Perhaps Larry Summers should organize a toga party in retaliation.
-- Joseph Baum
Newton Falls, Ohio

As always, Mr. Neumayr is dead on target and a hoot to read. Men and women are innately different. Different does not mean one is inferior to the other; it just means we are different. We approach problem solving differently, we even socialize and communicate differently. Case in point, how many men do you know that while out to dinner with family and/or friends can leave to use the facilities and come back a few minutes later and describe to you the life of the man he just met in the loo? Not a one I would venture. However, women are known for this. We get up, we leave, we come back and we proceed to tell you about the woman we just met who is here with her husband celebrating their anniversary, they've been married 15 years and have a set of triplets! And by the way she had on the most unusual pair of earrings [which is how the conversation started in the first place]. So, is it Nature or Nurture? Thanks to the enquiring minds at Harvard we may never know.

Oh and one more thought. How is it that Ward Churchill is being afforded the defense of academic freedom but Mr. Summers is not? Gives credence to the arguments set forth in Mr. Neumayr's article, don't you think?
-- Mary L. Gilbert
Bristow, Virginia

The whole Summers at Harvard episode reminds one of "The Ribbon" on Seinfeld. This is where Kramer, while registering for an AIDS Walk, does not choose to wear the ribbon. Soon he is hounded by all who wear the ribbon. He ends up beaten senseless and crawling over the finish line.

Summers has refused to wear the ribbon and is now in the process of being beaten senseless. MEDIC!
-- Darrell Judd

CONDILENCES
Re: John Tabin's They Dream of Condi:

I guess that I missed the memo. When did POTUS become an entry level job in the field of electoral politics? Should someone have demonstrated that they can get more than just their family and friends to vote for them first, before going for POTUS? This is a HUGE reason why I would not, in the past, support Steve Forbes for POTUS.

Who, pray tell, was the last Secretary of State to accede to the presidency without ever having held elective office at any previous level?

The lady is, herself, brilliant, but when or where has she demonstrated a superior skill level or deftness for organizing and directing a large diverse organization with millions of employees and trillions of dollars of economic resource management required. Now should she go and get herself elected Governor in California or another large state, and demonstrate a successful track record, then the whole dynamic changes.

Besides, she has said on more than one occasion that what she really wants is to be the Commissioner of the National Football League.
-- Ken Shreve
New Hampshire

I think both you and Mr. Morris are putting too much focus on Dr. Rice's race or gender. The question is not, should we have an African American president or should we have a female president, or even who should run against Hillary to save America from certain destruction (the answers being why not, why not, and Condoleezza Rice), but rather the question should be, which person has the strength, abilities, and moral courage to stand up for this country, defend its citizens and continue the policies of President George W. Bush in fighting and defeating terrorism. The answer to that question happens to be a person who is both African American and female and most definitely can defeat Hillary in 2008.

The main purpose of the Draft Rice movements is not to "desperately court" a candidate who can defeat a Democrat, the main purpose of these movements is to nominate a candidate who is best for this country. And in 2008 that is Dr. Condoleezza Rice, one of the most brilliant and morally strong people I know.
-- Charles B. Garman
Nebraska Chair, Americans For Rice

For what it's worth (admittedly, very little), I wrote an article for American Thinker (February 15) rebutting Dick Morris' call for a Rice candidacy in 2008, very much along the lines of John Tabin's article (but more expansive). It has sparked some interest in the blogger community, and was mentioned by Michelle Malkin on her website (my big claim to "fame").
-- Steven M. Warshawsky
New York City

MENDICANTS
Re: Jay D. Homnick's Fend Menaces:

Kudos for the questioning of whether -- and if -- the President should view this European trip as an opportunity to "mend fences." Quite the contrary, this is an opportunity for France and Germany to say to the newly-reelected President Bush, after the success of the Iraqi election, after the exposed mendacity of the U.N. and the involvement of those countries in the scandal, "You were right…we were wrong." Fat chance to see the MSM demanding such a concession from Chirac or Schroeder, though.
-- Warren Mowry

TRY THAT DOG ON ME
Re: Jeremy Lott's When Animals Attack:

The owner of that dog should be thankful that it attacked an unprepared person, otherwise it could have been killed with a bullet or a very sharp Spyderco Delica carried by people prepared for such a situation.
-- Robert Jones
Austin, Texas

PRO-OPPORTUNITY
Re: W. James Antle III's Mitt Romney's Choice:

No waffling at all. Prior to getting involved in politics Mitt was a pro-life Mormon of the traditional kind. After getting involved in politics in Massachusetts he became pro-choice. For the country at large he may move back toward pro-life. He went from being traditionally pro-life to traditionally opportunist.
-- Darrell Judd

ISN'T IT RICH?
Re: Jed Babbin's Dubya Goes Euro-Stroking:

In the article "Dubya Goes Euro-Stroking" Mr. Babbin makes the following statement: "The mullahs won't trade their heavy-water nuclear plant, which can produce enriched uranium useful for weapons, for a light-water plant that can't."

Say what? I'm no expert on nuclear reactors, but I don't believe any reactor will produce enriched uranium. The big fuss I've been hearing about is that Iran proposes to make its own enriched uranium (hence the big deal over converting yellowcake to hex). The problem is that enrichment capabilities are an all or nothing deal; if you can make 3% U235 for a reactor, you can make 90% (weapons grade) for a bomb. I don't know what kind of reactor Iran is building, but any type can be used to make plutonium, which is also an excellent bomb material. As I understand it, a heavy water reactor can run on natural abundance uranium (.7% U235), thus allowing entry into the bomb making business without recourse to enriched uranium, but a light water reactor will produce plutonium just as well, as long as you have access to reactor grade enriched uranium. That was what Kedwards proposed to give the mullahs during the campaign last year, in an effort to get them to forswear enrichment. I would like Mr. Babbin to comment on and clarify this, if he would.
-- Rick Skeean

Jed Babbin replies:
Well, I'm sure no nuclear physicist, but from my research I understand that heavy-water reactors -- which use the compound deuterium oxide, D2O, heavy water -- are commonly used to produce fissionable plutonium from U-238 natural uranium. That's how India, Pakistan, North Korea -- and probably Israel -- produced enough enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons without separate enrichment facilities. You can't do that with a light-water reactor because the water can't retard the passage of nuclear particles, making enrichment all but impossible. If Iran's intentions were peaceful, there would be no reason whatever to refuse the light-water reactor option. Beyond that, deponent sayeth not.

"TRANSITION" THIS!
Re: William Tucker's Democratic Moderates in Exile:

William Tucker's article on what appears to be a dying breed, moderate Democrats, was excellent. As a Democrat (in name only, I love to tweak the noses of my liberal brethren by telling them, truthfully, that I'm a Dem and that they're nut cases), I've often wondered where the moderates went. Now I know. They simply couldn't stand to deal with the Deaniacs, maniacs and mental cases that run the party and decided to get out of town by sundown.

I do want to point out that Milton Friedman isn't the only one to indicate that the biggest red herring of the whole debate on privatizing Social Security, the earth-shattering "transition costs," is nothing but a myth, but that a whole string of others, including Jim Miller and Arnold Kling of Tech Central Station, NRO's Don Luskin, Stephen Moore, and 2004 Nobel Prize winner in economics Edward Prescott, have also basically said that, no matter how you slice it and dice it, it's still baloney. The left-wing pundits and the Dummycrats continue to hang onto this miserable excuse like a drunk hanging onto an empty bottle of old grand-dad. Perhaps if the moderate Dems would open their mouths a little more and a little more often, we can dispense with this frivolity and get on with the job of saving Social Security and giving future generations a chance to have more to their names in their retirement years.
-- Jim Bjaloncik
Stow, Ohio

William Tucker's article makes many valid points, and
misses or fails to fully develop several:

Senator Kerrey's proposal to give every child a $1,000 savings account at birth, if invested in a broad-based stock index account, would accumulate around $270,000 by retirement age. This would throw off, after-tax, around $1100 per month. And the $270,000 would belong to the worker, not the Congress -- can't have that! The cost per year: around $4 billion. Now, where could we go with that? By 2070 that would have cost $270 billion, about 14% of the total hypothetical $2 trillion transition costs of the President's plan. Pretty cheap, if you ask the average guy on the street.

Paraphrasing Dick Morris, Paul Krugman's next original thought will be his first, if he has any thoughts at all that aren't imported directly from the Democrat National Committee.

The idea of billing the Democrats' head-in-the-sand approach by saying, "We'll only have a 27 percent cut in benefits" if we do nothing is brilliant. Some Social Security reform advocate in Congress should introduce "The Solving the Non-crisis of Social Security Without Increasing the Deficit Act of 2005." This bill would state that the Congress has determined that there is no Social Security crisis, that the deficit cannot be increased to solve the non-crisis, and that only the following changes need to be made to insure the solvency of Social Security in perpetuity. Then list the annual benefit cuts to be enacted into law that will have to be made, beginning in 2018, in order to make the sure that it never becomes insolvent and deficit doesn't increase. Make the Democrats vote yes or no on future cuts right now. Then see how many change their tune pronto.

Milton Friedman is exactly correct about "transition Costs." What is not stated is that the so-called present value transition costs are the amount in cold, hard cash that would have to be deposited right now to insure solvency of the system. While the exact amount is debatable, it's approximately $10-11 TRILLION, or, the GDP of the entire country for this year. Surely the Congress can come up with this amount without delay. What are they waiting for?

A recent study, the authors of which I cannot recall off hand, demonstrated that switching from wage indexing to price indexing of benefits would solve the non-crisis in perpetuity all by itself. The logic of that is inescapably brilliant. Wage increases stem primarily from productivity increases. As productivity increases the increase in prices is proportionally slowed. The inherent inequity in the present indexing formula is that those receiving Social Security benefits contribute not one iota to productivity increases, only those people who are working do. But productivity increases created by the working population slow price increases which benefits both those working and those who are retired. Why should those whose retirement benefits are being funded by those of working age poach more of the gains the working population is creating, until they consume it all? Ask Paul Krugman to explain that. Surely he can trot out a new circular argument right on cue.

What President Bush is trying to do is enable those at the bottom of the economic ladder accumulate wealth. Personal retirement accounts would do exactly that. But the Democrat Party will have none of that; the less dependent they are on the government the less rationale there is for Democrats to be in government. Diverting $1000 per year to a personal retirement account (President Bush's plan) would accumulate $525,000 over a 45-year working life, throwing off $2200 per month after-tax. And the $525,000 would belong to the worker, not the Congress -- can't have that!

Tucker's comment "the maverick stances of the Senate's three 'moderate Republicans' -- John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island" is an insult to both mavericks and moderates. They are neither; they are renegades. A maverick is, by definition, "One that refuses to abide by the dictates of or resists adherence to a group; a dissenter." They are not dissenting from Republican principles or positions or the President's position, they are embracing Democrat values. If they were honest they would switch parties. And they certainly don't fit Baroness Thatcher's definition of a moderate, "A moderate is a person who doesn't believe in anything." They believe in what the Democrat Party believes. And, of course, the adoring mainstream media spotlight shined on them constantly when they toe the Democrat Party line is irresistible. A wolf in sheep's clothing is a more appropriate description of McCain, Collins and Chafee.

I DO NOT work for the White House or any political organization and I do not make campaign contributions to politicians. I am a lonely figure with a Ph.D. in economics who has an interest in the subject, and an understanding of it. And I do vote. Of course, it is against my religion to vote for Democrats, I am a capitalist. THE expert on Social Security is Martin Feldstein, and I doubt seriously that he would disagree with anything I said. Ask him. I would be interested in his response.
-- C. R. Melton
Arlington, Virginia

CRINGE FACTORS
Re: J.N. Webb's letter (under "Who's Next?") in Reader Mail's The New Wilsonians:

I for one would like to applaud and thank you for removing the AARP ad showing the male homosexual couple kissing. As much as my homophobic tendencies made me cringe at the sight of this ad, I have to wonder what the reaction would have been if the two subjects in the ad had been hot looking buxomly lesbians.
-- William Weaver

ALTERNATIVE FINANCING
Re: David Hogberg's Small Business Buster:

I wanted to add another dimension to your "Small Business Buster" analysis of busting the cap on Social Security payroll tax that does not seem to see the light of day enough (especially in Ivins' writings). I'm a Property Casualty actuary so my direct expertise is not in Social Security but I've had to study more about SS in my actuarial training than many people could stomach. The issue is... In exchange for capping the amount of payroll tax contributed by high wage earners (i.e., those making over the cap) high wage earners receive a relatively lower amount of benefits upon retirement by way of a lower wage replacement ratio used in the formula to calculate retiree benefits. The lower wage replacement ratio for high earners does not seem to get a lot of attention in this debate but the fact that there is a cap on SS wages does. The cap on SS wages has been misused to suggest that SS taxes are regressive. The regressive idea is flawed because it does not look at the benefits side of the equation which is higher for low wage earners and lower for high wage earners when measured as a percentage of preretirement wages. The interplay between the cap and the wage replacement ratio instills an element of actuarial fairness in the program.
-- Chaz Yesker

David Hogberg says it is unfair to raise taxes on those who make over $90,000 and get nothing in return. What about all the schmucks who got taxed and will get nothing in return because, as Hogberg seems to advocate, the surplus that was loaned to other govt. departments is worthless. In other words, all the poor people were paying a huge regressive tax for the last 20 years. They did so with the promise they would get it back. Now conservatives are flipping the script. Is it fair to tax the rich in this case? You bet.
-- Unsigned

David Hogberg replies:
Could you explain to me why it is fair to tax the rich because the government screwed up the Social Security system for the poor? (By the way, the poor will still get their Social Security benefits -- how that will happen is one of the reasons we are having the debate over reform.) It was not the "rich" who caused this mess, so how is it fair to single them out for fixing it?

BYRD WATCHER
Re: Michael Gronewaller's letter (under "Thanks A Lott") in Reader Mail's The New Wilsonians:

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, "They [former Democratic Party members] joined the Republicans, we didn't join them." The Republicans voted in greater percentages for the Civil Rights acts than the Democratic Party.

Also, not "every bigoted racist pig of a Democrat" left the party; the Democrats still have Klansman Senator Robert Byrd. If you want to lynch someone for being the wrong color, ask Senator Byrd for instructions, not Trent Lott.
-- Hugh Dempsey

In the letter from one Michael Gronewaller, his level of hatred is exceeded only by his abysmal ignorance of history in general and civil rights legislation in particular. The Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s, opposed and indeed filibustered by leading Democrats, including Al Gore's daddy, was only passed into law by the support of the Republicans. Mr. Gronewaller, were he interested in facts instead of spewing hatred for Republicans, could check the voting record for that legislation. Then, with the new Chairman of the DNC on record as "hating all Republicans and everything they stand for," little Mikey is obviously an archetypical Democrat.
-- W. B. Heffernan, Jr.

JUST A LITTLE TO THE RIGHT
Re: Joy Losee's letter (under "The Independent Spectator") in Reader Mail's The New Wilsonians:

This should make you happy -- to know that you have never flinched from your distorted, destructive tactics. Not once. I will wait a long time to peruse your writings again, hoping that, somehow, the truth will someday set you free from your hateful observations. -- Joy Losee

It looks as though the author of that paragraph managed to typo her own last name.

Memo to "Joy": Difficult though it might be for you to move to the right, I humbly suggest that you should've done so -- by one key -- when typing the ultimate letter of said name.
-- David Gonzalez
Wheeling, Illinois

If Joy Losee is an "independent thinker" then I'm Batman! You can see me in my new movie this June 17th.
-- Greg Barnard
Franklin, Tennessee

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