Keeping my wallet tightly closed

 

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The above greeted me as I opened my mail this morning.  My almost alma mater shaking a tin cup in my face.  Again.  What’s wrong with this message?

First, private colleges aren’t hurting for money.  They have allowed their costs to balloon way out of proportion to inflation.  Tuition, room and board was about $1200 when I started with the class of ’64.  Now it is about $50,000 for the same school.  That’s a compound annual rate of increase of 7.7%.  My salary when I graduated in 1966 was about $8,000 per year, five times the tuition.  Today’s college grad is lucky if he can earn as much per year as his tuition cost.

Looking at it from the other end, being a tenured professor today is a highly paid position.  It was not then.  Being a college president is a gold mine.  And there are now more administrators than teaching faculty at almost every school.  They don’t need more money – they need to do more with what they have.

Secondly, I don’t believe in their product.  The pitchwoman here exemplifies much of what I find wrong in society today:

  • Self righteousness
  • Self-absorption
  • Abandonment of tradition

An alumnus of Bowdoin College has written a damning critique that seems to apply fairly well to liberal arts colleges across the board, mine included.

Our intrepid fundraiser is an avid mountain climber.  This pursuit seems to have eclipsed other pursuits such as family.  Her web site mentions a daughter, still with her maiden name, who must be in her 40s.  No mention of husband or grandchildren.  A couple of women in her party perished on one of the mountains she tackled.

As a good progressive, she seems to believe that only selfless watchdogs such as herself are capable of protecting the public against evildoers.  Progressives have no faith in the marketplace to figure out what works and what doesn’t.  Invited or not, they use the courts intrude themselves into the marketplace.  In this case, harmful flame retardants.  I cannot argue the merits of this particular instance, but progressives are quite consistent in overblowing the supposed dangers of whatever they fight to combat.  They earn the right to considerable moral preening, as well as a fairly good paycheck, from shaking down the supposed evildoers.  They were probably guilty of little more than naiveté, trying to do the right thing, protecting kids from burns, and inadvertently exposing them to chemicals that may or may not have been very dangerous in the first place.  DDT and alar fears have been judged in retrospect to have been overblown.  This may have been as well

How much worse is a society where this does not happen?  Not much.  The former Soviet Union had no such consumer activism, and they seem to have gotten along quite well, thank you.  The people, after all, and despite the fears of the bien pensants, are not total idiots.

As evolutionary psychologist Kevin MacDonald has pointed out, seconded by many Jews such as David Gelernter, there is a religious/ethnic cast to this. Progressives, the fault-finders, skew Jewish. The nuts-and-bolts entrepreneurs who built the smokestack industries progressives criticize skew towards Christian, and the poor and downtrodden progressives claim to be defending skew minority. Through the civil rights movement, for instance, Jews are claimed to have brought down white Christians in the name of equality. The case is weaker today, as computer and internet businesses are more likely to have been founded by Jewish entrepreneurs like Sergei Brin, Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Ellison. Nevertheless, it seems to me that they get somewhat less grief from professional do-gooders than the likes of MacDonald’s, Walmart and the oil companies. The financiers, guys like Jaime Dimon and Steve Cohen, get a pass despite the fact that they are almost universally considered to be criminals.

Beyond a doubt, the ability of white Christians to reproduce themselves has been severely impacted.  Their institutions have been shattered, their schools ruined, and their jobs threatened by diversity.  The claim that it is the Jews’ fault is weaker, and the idea that they did it on purpose seems wholly unsupported.  The best evidence is that the sea changes in society have impacted the Jews’ ability to reproduce just as badly, if not worse, than the Christians.  Our fundraiser here is a case in point.  She is absorbed in climbing mountains to the apparent exclusion of a healthy family, and absorbed in righting the wrongs of productive members of society in lieu of making any constructive contribution herself.  Her Orthodox Jewish grandparents must have had strong opinions about a grandchild who did not carry on the faith and the three millennium old bloodline.  My opinions are the same as I would impute to them.  What a waste of human potential!  All that investment in raising and educating such a daughter, and for what?  An evolutionary dead-end.

No, I’m keeping my wallet closed.  If my genome is to succeed – narrowly construed as my direct descendants, or writ large via all of Christian society – it will be despite, not due to colleges like this.

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Why are we here? (A recent speech)

Why are we here? If you think about it, this amounts to two questions. How did we get here, and what should we do now that we are here?

A couple hundred years ago the answers to both were easy. God created us and put us here to rule the earth. We are here to fulfill God’s will which includes making more Christians to follow in our footsteps. It was a very successful formula. Christians filled Europe, North America and South America. The Muslims believe the same thing and they’re still doing a good job of filling Asia and Africa with more Muslims.

The God explanation was not good enough for scientific man. It left some important questions unanswered. Darwinism did a better job.

Darwin’s explanation, based on evolution, is pretty simple. We are here because our parents had children. They got here because their parents had children. And that chain goes back 1 billion years – successful animals begetting children who also had children. Along the way we improved ourselves. The animals who survived from one generation to the next were a bit smarter, bigger, and faster.  That’s survival of the fittest.  The slow, weak and stupid didn’t have as many surviving offspring.

Humans within the last 200,000 years acquired language, and with that we acquired a sense of morality. That has been a two-edged sword.

On the one hand, we were able to grow into larger groups and monkeys. Monkeys know how to behave in their own troops, more or less, but it is limited to about 150 monkeys. With language people were able to come together into clans, tribes and nations. They were able to work together to hold onto their territory and they were able to conquer other territories. Survival of the fittest again.

My wife Oksana asks why people can’t be nicer to each other. When I look at her blue eyes and tall frame, I say, “Sweetheart, if your Viking ancestors had been nice people they would’ve gotten wiped out and you wouldn’t be here.” We are the product of survival of the fittest. We’re here because our ancestors were tougher and nastier than the other peoples around, and they were the tribes who survived.

When we believed in Christ, we were told what to do now that we were here. We now look around and say there’s no guidance.  We arrive without a user’s manual.  What do we do now that we’re here?

For many people, life is to enjoy.  They do what they want – drinking, drugs, recreational sex and video games.  They don’t have children, but they don’t care.

Other people get carried away with the morality question.  They have extended the idea of altruism, supporting their family, tribe and nation, to the whole world.  They are kind to everybody, even animals.  This turns survival of the fittest on its head: other tribes and nations don’t see it that way.

Both choices mess up evolution.  Survival of the fittest only works if you have kids.  People whose lifestyle is based on enjoying themselves don’t have many kids.  The ones who proclaim a universal morality think it is immoral to loose more human vermin on the world.  They think our tribe is too successful. They want to change the rules to hold us back and help others.  They also don’t have many kids.

There is no God-given answer, but there is an answer that works.  You can be sure that the people who are around in fifty years will come from families that had children.  I predict that today’s generation of lifestyle addicts and one-worlders is a phase that will have passed.  The world will once again belong to people who believe in having kids.  I want my grandchildren to be among them.  How about you?

Who rules over the supposedly dominant European people?

Voltaire wrote “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”  Among the most strongly forbidden criticism in our times is of immigrants and those who enable immigration.  They are universally shunned as haters and shut up with appropriate hate speech laws.  The laws apply specifically, only to whites.  Others are free to call us whatever they want with impunity.

Jared Taylor of American Renaissance has been most eloquent and persistent in calling attention to this.  Last week he was a lead speaker at a conference of similarly-minded Europeans in Budapest .  Read related articles on their web site.   The Hungarians busted up the conference, refused entry to speakers, jailed some and inconvenienced many.

What are they afraid of, and who is afraid?  Africans and Arabs are many, but not that strong.  Who benefits from diversity, and why do they so vociferously defend its sanctity?

A 48 hour vacation in Ternopil, Western Ukraine

Oksana and I took our first vacation without Eddie this week. Anna, who has been living with us for about a month now, covered for us as we went to Ternopil.

The six o’clock fast train got us in at noon. I splurged for first class – all of about $30 per ticket. We had the car pretty much to ourselves and a very solicitous and doctors came by on the hour to offer us tea and coffee.

Oksana called the car rental company from the train to reconfirm our reservation. They told her that the taxi from the train station to their location, about a mile away, should cost $1.20. That was an introduction to the amazingly low wartime prices outside the big city.

It took us almost an hour to execute the rental contract. I still have it – six pages long! They photocopied every document we had. They work without credit cards. I left a $400 cash deposit for the car. Oksana took advantage of the long negotiation to quiz the other guy in the booth on what there was to see and do in the area. She had a full page of notes by the time we were ready to go.

I was apprehensive – this was the first time I had driven in more than three years. We went slowly, slowly at first. We stopped at a restaurant on the way out of town. Driving in Ternopil reminded me of driving in Vietnam. There were narrow streets, lots of pedestrians, and people coming at you at odd angles. It was hardly the ideal circumstance to reappoint myself with driving. We parked and went in to get something to eat.

The second story restaurant overlooked our parking place and I could see how precarious it was. People were having to squeak by our car very carefully. I bolted my lunch quickly and told Oksana she could go shopping, I was going to move the car before it got hit. And so I did. Oksana went to the grocery store and got a bag of travel supplies and we got on the road.

I had insisted that we buy a paper map. Although our marriage contract says nothing about it, one of the most attractive features one can find in a wife is an ability to navigate. Oksana did well. She was able to read the street signs, follow the map, and tell me where to go. Most of the time – street signs in Ukraine are an iffy thing even for a pedestrian.

Her fourth and most viable ability is to accost anybody and ask any question. We stopped the car every 10 minutes to ask somebody for directions.

Let me add a fifth quality. Discernment. People in Ukraine will provide an answer whether or not they have information relevant to the question. Oksana is able to figure out when somebody is answering the question out of knowledge, and when they are answering simply to be polite. She knows when to stop somebody else and get a second opinion.

In any case, we headed north up to our supposed destination, the Pochaev Lavra, the second most impressive church complex in Ukraine.

About 15 miles up the road was a town that was mentioned in the guidebook, which the fellow in the car rental had also recommended to Oksana. It is a 17th century castle in the town of Zbarazh (pronounced zzzbarrage). It was a proper castle, with the moat, a deep well that they used the fill the moat and for drinking water during sieges, and a residence. The epoch of its construction marked the end of the fortified castle – cannons were too effective at knocking them down – so the owners focused more on increasingly fancy houses. This one had marble floors and a lot of ornate curved furniture. Still seemed cold and uncomfortable.

Most interesting to me was a small museum. It seems out of place to put an archaeological Museum in a castle, but so it was. They had stone artifacts from the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic ages. Their definition of the timescale was a little different than I recalled, so I just looked it up. The ending dates are 10,000, 7000 and 4000 BC by their reckoning.

The Paleolithic stone tools were large and crude. You don’t kill a mammoth with a bow and arrow – you trick them into running into a ravine and doing themselves in. Ironically, it was small game that required the better stone tools of the later ages. They had arrowheads, daggers, fishhooks and other pretty refined stuff. The museum included the bones of mammoths and other prey animals.

Oksana observed that history is a history of slaughter and cruelty. Yes. The things they considered worth displaying all seem to have to do with warfare, culminating with suits of armor and cannons. Somewhere along the line they got better at agriculture, but it wasn’t documented here. I observed that Oksana’s stature and blonde good looks didn’t come from rice farmers. It was those savage, cruel Norsemen who dominated Europe a thousand years back.

We continued north to Kremenets and then turned west to Pochaev. Road signs being what they are, we missed the turn we intend to take. When we arrived at the first one marked “Pochaev” it looked to me as if I had my choice between going against traffic on either of two lanes. Rather than make that choice, I took the wrong direction and looked for a place to turn around. I took a hard look at that intersection going by it from the other side, and it still did not make sense, but we were on our way.

We got to Pochaev with enough sunlight left to take a very thorough walk-through the place. Like the Pechersk Lavra in Kiev, it consists of a large number of churches and chapels. Whereas in the West there will be one huge building, like Notre Dame or St. Peter’s, Orthodox holy sites feature numerous large but not overwhelmingly big chapels.

The largest of the chapels seems to have services continually. This is another difference between the Orthodox and Western faiths. People do not sit during the service, and they are free to walk in and out. It is all ritual and ceremony – there is no sermon, and there is very little participation from the worshipers. There are one or two pieces of music that they all know, one of which I think is the Lord’s Prayer.

We walked to our hotel which is about half a block from the Lavra. As the restaurant closes at seven o’clock, we had missed dinner. We weren’t hungry in the first place, so we ate a few cookies in our room and went to bed.

We had a leisurely morning Friday. The hotel did not open for breakfast until nine o’clock. Oksana wanted to go back to the Lavra one more time, so we spent another hour walking around and seeing pretty much the same things we had seen on Thursday.

Among the things that Oksana had heard was worth visiting was the spring of Saint Anna. It is a small oasis in the middle of nowhere where the water has supposedly miraculous powers. It was about 20 miles north, bringing us into Rivne Oblast.

There is nothing natural about the spring anymore. It is totally walled in, like a swimming pool. The bottom is natural, which is presumably where the water seeps in. It is about three feet deep, with steps leading into it so that pilgrims can send to the water. The sign says that the water is about 40 degrees Fahrenheit year round. I do not know of what that would cure me of except perhaps a hangover, but three or four carfuls of people during the hour we were there we actually went in the water. You can undress in a changing room and go down the stairs, or else dip yourself in a secluded corner behind walls, presumably without any clothes on.

I found the place where they served tea and told Oksana I would wait. Two long cups of tea later, there she was, radiant and beaming about the rejuvenating experience. I was ready to get on the road. We took off our warm clothes in the car, turned the heat on full blast, and pointed it all at Oksana so she could dry her hair.

The third time we touched the town of Kremenets we actually drove through it. The tour guide said that the only thing really worth seeing was the old castle, the only one in all of Ukraine which had withstood the Mongol attacks in the 13th and 14th century. It had, however, fallen to cannon fire in later centuries, and was thus a ruin.

As we drove through town, we saw this impressive castle upon a hill to our left, and a while later we saw the sign for the road. We couldn’t resist an indication like that so we went. Although the hill couldn’t have been more than about a thousand feet above the highway, it took us 15 minutes to get there.

Walking into the castle one is impressed by the surrounding countryside. The hill is the tallest one around, and there are a great many species of trees. I recognized some of the pines and firs, but there were others that were totally new to me. The guidebook said that this is indeed a national park celebrating Ukraine’s wilderness. They pointed out that the rugged landscape is due to the place’s geological history. It is all sedimentary rock, but as often happens there is a layer of hard rock over a layer of softer sediment. The hardpan dissolves rather unpredictably. When it does, it results in steep cliffs as the soft layers underneath are rapidly eroded. That was what we saw – flat-topped mountains with fairly steep sides.

It had started to rain a little bit when we left from Kremenets. I wanted to get rid of the car as soon as possible, so we drove straight through to Ternopil. All things considered, it worked out pretty well. Try to envision a two lane highway going through the gold country of California 60 years ago, and you have an impression of the quality of the pavement and the traffic density that I was dealing with. There were, as always, slow trucks. I needed to pass periodically. Passing on a two lane road in the rain has always been a fairly dangerous undertaking. However, I felt just as confident as I would have 50 years ago.

Returning the rental car was almost as much of an adventure is getting it. They inspected the whole car top to bottom, inside and out, make sure that there wasn’t a scratch. To their credit, they did not invent any scratches, and decided to return the full $400 deposit that they were holding. The car had gotten dirty in the rain, and they charged me four dollars to wash it. The whole process of giving a back must’ve taken 45 minutes.

We had eight hours until the train. Oksana and I consulted our map and decided to walk through thecity park. It is an absolutely beautiful place, stretching for a long ways along a lovely stream about the size of Rock Creek in Washington DC or Wildcat Creek flowing through Orinda.

Upstream from the park this river is restrained by an earthen dam about 15 feet high, behind which there is a lake a couple of miles long and half a mile wide. Somebody had the wisdom not to build the road along the lake front, but simply a wide, paved pedestrian path. It is gorgeous, set with a very nice playground and a few restaurants. We had sushi overlooking the lake where we watched a replica of a Viking ship – a very small scale replica – with about 10 oarsmen making pretty good time up and down the lake.

We dawdled in a pedestrian square on our way back to the train station, and caught the 10:45 sleeper back to Kiev. We got in at seven in the morning, overpaid for a taxi, and got home in time to change for the Toastmasters club meeting that Saturday morning.

I’ll close with a few additional observations about Ternopil. Everything is amazingly cheap: restaurants, taxis, and hotels.

Africans are much more visible in Ternopil than they are in Kiev. God knows why they are there, but they are. They are clustered in downtown, hanging around in languorous knots, shambling loosely and loudly down the streets. My guess is that some of the powers that be in Kiev succumbed to pressure from Europeans to take refugees, and they put them in a place that was too backwards and powerless to resist.

Ternopil is definitely Western Ukraine. They do not speak Russian, and they don’t seem to want to hear it. I was very glad that Oksana, with her excellent Ukrainian, was there to conduct most of the business. When I needed to get something done, I found English to be almost as useful as Russian.

This 48 hour vacation was a good experience in many ways. Perhaps the best is that after about 36 hours Oksana was saying she was ready to go home. We really are homebodies. However, the next time we feel the urge to get out it is a pretty good bet that we will take another vacation in Ukraine. Though the guidebook doesn’t make the places it names sound terribly exciting, once you were there you find attractions that aren’t even mentioned. I was happy to discover as well that Oksana is a pretty good navigator and as always, she is fun to be with.

Liars to the left of me, liars to the right

Libertarian blog Zero-hedge is making a big deal out of the fact that labor force participation rate is only 62.7 percent, having fallen rather continuously since the year 2000. Disaster!

Obama is crowing that unemployment is down to 5.9% Whoopee!

What am I to make of this? I tried a chart. Try to pigeonhole everybody in the population. Nice idea, but it is impossible. Trying, however, leads to some wisdom.

employment

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the number of people employed. This is backed up by payroll company ADP and the IRS. The numbers can be fudged, but not too much.

Equally reliable are the number of people not in the labor force: kids under 16 and the number of people in prisons and institutions and the Armed Forces. I would quibble that our soldiers are employed and our jailbirds unemployed. Fine – but at least we can count them.

Below that (on the chart above) it gets murky. Kids between the age of 16 and college are generally in an undefined status.

The claim that 21 million people – that’s almost eight years’ worth of high school grads – are in college seems exaggerated. Without doubt, a good number of them are claiming student status, perhaps to knock down student loans, rather than simply admitting they don’t want to work. Conversely, lots of bona fide students work. The numbers are fuzzy.

Lots of people over 65 continue to work. At one point I was a retiree, a PhD student and an employee simultaneously. Assuming that people over 65 are retired makes the numbers work, but it doesn’t represent reality.

The 5.9% unemployed are people actually looking for work. They are a distinct minority of the people without jobs. The people not looking – stay-at-home moms, unpublished authors, disabled people, discouraged workers, etc. – make up twice as many by my arithmetic, 27.1 million.  Some are making essential contributions to society, others are simply a drag.  Who is who?

When one makes intelligent guesses about the number of retirement-aged people who continue to work, students who are also working, and so on, if leaves the number of bums – people who aren’t studying, retired or working, in the neighborhood of 60 to 70 million. That’s almost 2/3 as large as the number of people employed full time. The work ethic, one can safely say, is a relic of the Americana of former times.

The demographic outlook isn’t promising. Boomers are retiring – see the population pyramid below – with fewer people in the succeeding generations to pay taxes to support their PAYGO Social Security and Medicare.pyramid

There is a shift in attitude. The millennial generation isn’t as successful as their predecessors, which is why older folks are able to deny them jobs by avoiding retirement.

There is a shift in demographics. The founding stock Anglo Saxons, successor European immigrant stock, Asians and Jews who run the place are just not having enough kids. Those kids there are in the bottom tiers of the population pyramid are increasingly of traditionally less successful minorities. US K12 education is becoming majority minority this year. It takes a cockeyed optimist to assume that they are capable, and willing, to support us Anglo retirees in the style to which we have accustomed ourselves.

I would love to see somebody from either camp of liars, left or right, challenge my numbers. The major difference between mine and theirs is that I readily admit that mine have to be wrong. Question – what is right? Larger question – how will you pay my Social Security in twenty years? Largest question of all – how will the American republic, and my grandchildren, survive?