Thursday, October 5, 2023

Thursday Night Links

  • The Supreme Court did far more than overturn affirmative action; it also explicitly confirmed a strict race-neutral interpretation of the 14th Amendment. Recent federal rulings are already anticipating wide implications beyond college admissions. The university’s legal counsel needs to outline the broadest interpretation of race-neutral policies, including “hostile work environment” type claims that may be lodged by students targeted because of their perceived privilege. If the university’s current attorneys are backward in their thinking on this, find more forward-looking counsel. A broad-based interpretation as official policy, promulgated to all parts of the university, will make your job easier and help facilitate voluntary compliance among mostly risk-averse academics. Non-compliance with official policy, as a violation of civil rights law, should be considered “gross misconduct” in violation of tenure or other employment contracts. Every employee of the university needs to know that any violation of race-neutral policies, including the pseudo-scholarly stigmatizing of white, Christian, and/or heterosexual students, can result in significant liability for the university among a body of law and jury pools disgusted by these policies and risks their future employment. The plaintiff’s attorneys smell blood and are just getting started. [The Tom File]
  • When Abbott sent a letter prohibiting state agencies and public universities from considering diversity in hiring, labeling them as political litmus tests, Sharp went a step further. Days later, he banned the use of “diversity statements” in job applications and prohibited the consideration of race in admissions, even though Texas A&M had not considered race in admissions for two decades. “No university or agency in the A&M System will admit any student, nor hire any employee based on any factor other than merit,” Sharp said in a directive to university leaders. (This occurred a few months before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the use of race in college admissions this summer.) [Texas Tribune]
  • Most of the New Right’s leaders either come from or immersed themselves in Puritan milieus. The number of Ivy League degrees claimed by New Right thinkers is one proof of this. That Claremont is based in California—instead of, say, Texas—is another example of the phenomena. Yankee thinking seeps into the thought of those who long swim through it. About a year ago I met with a young post-liberal who expressed a passionate loathing of everything American. American culture was not home to her. And how could it be? New England born, Ivy-educated, committed to the politics of the “common good” — here was a spiritual descendant of the Puritans if there ever was one. But of course all the other Puritans, whose religion now runs woke, would not have her. She has no place at their table. This outcast was instead forced into the other coalition, the coalition led by the raucous individualists of the backcountry tradition. [Scholar's Stage]
  • The typical homeowner, of course, won’t do the renovation every 20 years, so he/she/ze/they will spend less and also live in an increasingly decrepit house (or move!). For calculating inflation, the BLS uses the fictitious “owners’ equivalent rent” (OEI). Home maintenance costs rise with the price of labor, which in turns rises with the cost of health insurance and, thus, at a higher rate than overall CPI. I wonder if inflation is understated partly because it assumes that Americans will live in ever-shabbier houses. The shabbiness wouldn’t be compensated for in OEI because owners aren’t likely to notice how crummy their house has become compared to a new house (boiling frog syndrome, another false premise of Science). In other words, our houses cost us way more than we think, either explicitly in money if we do keep them up or implicitly in shabbiness if we don’t, and that might lead to inflation being understated (since we would have to spend a lot more to maintain our lifestyle). [Phil G]
  • A 52-book year strikes many in the twitterati as unrealistic or unwise. Many maintain that reading at such a clip would trim comprehension down to nil, reducing these books a disorganized jumble of pages only dimly remembered. I doubt all this. Those of you who have followed this blog over the years understand why: most years I average some 70 books. I did not reach that number this year (more on that in a moment), but I can certainly testify that a 52 book year is possible. Nor am I convinced that speed of reading is negatively correlated with comprehension. If anything, it might improve comprehension, as it allows you to read several books on a similar subject in a row, each reinforcing what was read directly before it. At least once a year someone asks me for tips on quicker reading. I have none to give. I have been able to read faster than most people since I was a young child. I never learned how to read faster and thus can offer no advice on how to do so. I can only give this bit of practical guidance: spend more time reading. [Scholar's Stage]
  • Because of technical advances that occurred between 1867 and 1914, the modes of human travel, the mediums of human communication, the methods by which humans heated, formed, and shaped their environment, and the source of the energy flows that powered all these wonders all changed. Two generations of scientists and inventors birthed a new form of human civilization. It is the civilization we still live in today. The list of technical inventions that made this new world possible is fairly small. Smil focuses on steam turbines, internal combustion engines, electric motors, alternators, transformers and rectifiers, incandescent light, electromagnetic waves, recorded sound, linotype machines, sulfate pulp, photographic film, aluminum smelting, dephosphorised steel and steel alloys, reinforced concrete, nitroglycerin, and synthesized ammonia. Most of these inventions had commercial applications before the First World War. Very few inventions from the 20th century have had equal impact. [Scholar's Stage]
  • Suncor Energy announced today that it has agreed to purchase TotalEnergies EP Canada Ltd., which holds a 31.23% working interest in the Fort Hills oil sands mining project (Fort Hills) for $1.468 billion. The acquisition adds 61,000 barrels per day of net bitumen production capacity and 675 million barrels of proved and probable reserves to Suncor's existing oil sands portfolio. Regulatory approvals have been received and, subject to closing, the transaction will have an effective date of April 1, 2023. "The transaction secures additional long-term bitumen supply to fill our Base Plant upgraders at a competitive supply cost, addressing a key uncertainty for the company and adding long-term shareholder value," said Rich Kruger, President and Chief Executive Officer. [Suncor Energy]

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