Berkeley Officials in Conspiracy to Violate Civil Rights?

A lot of people have been wondering why Berkeley police haven’t done more to contain rioting, both in February and earlier this month.

The February rioting in particular involved a suppression of free speech–a Civil Rights violation–as an appearance at UC by Milo Yiannopolous had to be canceled. We’ve noted previously that conspiring to violate people’s Constitutional Rights is a federal felony under 18 U.S. Code § 241. Now evidence suggests that, in Berkeley, the criminal conspiracy may have gone all the way to the top.

Berkley [sic] Mayor Jesse Arreguin was revealed to be a member of the anti-fascist group, By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), on Facebook. BAMN orchestrated the violence that shut down a scheduled lecture at UC Berkeley featuring Milo Yiannopoulos in early 2017. Arreguin is allegedly also friends with BAMN leader, Yvette Felarca, on Facebook.

Attorney General Sessions, please call your office.

Aside from criminal prosecution, federal law also allows victims of civil rights violations to sue for damages.

[I]n any case of conspiracy set forth in this section, if one or more persons engaged therein do, or cause to be done, any act in furtherance of the object of such conspiracy, whereby another is injured in his person or property, or deprived of having and exercising any right or privilege of a citizen of the United States, the party so injured or deprived may have an action for the recovery of damages occasioned by such injury or deprivation, against any one or more of the conspirators.

I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that Milo Yiannopolous might have a case against Berkeley officials. At the very least, the discovery process would be quite interesting.

If some of the Big Money men on the political right really want to strike a blow for freedom, they should stop funding loser pols like Jeb Bush and Little Marco Rubio and start bankrolling some civil rights lawsuits.

Earth Day: Be Very Afraid

Today is Earth Day, an annual event during which scammers traditionally attempt to frighten people into giving up their money and freedom. Our friend Mark Perry offers an amusing list of 18 scaremongering predictions made around the time of the first Earth Day in 1970. For the full list, go to Mark’s site, but here are my favorites.

6. [Paul] Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the 1970 Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.”

9. In January 1970, Life reported, “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”

13. Paul Ehrlich warned in the May 1970 issue of Audubon that DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbons “may have substantially reduced the life expectancy of people born since 1945.” Ehrlich warned that Americans born since 1946…now had a life expectancy of only 49 years, and he predicted that if current patterns continued this expectancy would reach 42 years by 1980, when it might level out. (Note: According to the most recent CDC report, life expectancy in the US is 78.8 years).

14. Ecologist Kenneth Watt declared, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’”

15. Harrison Brown, a scientist at the National Academy of Sciences, published a chart in Scientific American that looked at metal reserves and estimated the humanity would totally run out of copper shortly after 2000. Lead, zinc, tin, gold, and silver would be gone before 1990.

16. Sen. Gaylord Nelson wrote in Look that, “Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.”

Nelson, by the way, was one of the principal organizers of the first Earth Day.

18. Kenneth Watt warned about a pending Ice Age in a speech. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

Mark, however, somehow missed this one from Ehrlich.

On the first Earth Day in 1970, he warned that “[i]n ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.”

Personally, I’m far less afraid of environmental degradation than I am of environmentalists.

Reminder: Campus Violence that Suppresses Speech is a Federal Crime

A New York Post editorial offers a good roundup of prominent speakers who have recently been prevented from giving speeches by what Ace calls the “feral humanoids” who infest university campuses.

UC-Berkeley this week canceled an April 27 Ann Coulter speech, fearing riots….

Masked, rock-throwing thugs prevented a February speech by Milo Yiannopoulos….

Berkeley’s move follows the Black Lives Matter disruption of a UCLA speech by the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald, and efforts to muzzle her the next night at Claremont-Pomona College….

Last month, goons stopped American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray from delivering a moderately conservative talk at Middlebury College, with Professor Allison Stanger hospitalized by the violence.

Of course, only speakers on the political right are muzzled; the commandant of a North Korean gulag could probably speak unimpeded, as did Iran’s Ahmadinejad at Columbia a few years ago. And the excuse given by university officials is always the same: safety. Here, for instance, is Berkeley’s statement on nixing Coulter.

“We have been unable to find a safe and suitable venue,” said the letter from Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton. “Given current active security threats, it is not possible to assure that the event could be held successfully.”

“Active security threats,” you say? And where might those threats be coming from? ISIS? North Korea? Why no, the threat of violence is coming from Berkeley’s own students and employees. So what the Berkeley Vice Chancellors are saying is that they cannot maintain order among their own people. This is a huge admission of failure on the part of the university administration.

The primary mission of the university is to maintain an environment of free intellectual inquiry. But instead of fulfilling that mission, the university administrators prefer to run their institutions as left-wing indoctrination camps. The administrators probably have it within their power to maintain order. The universities (scandalously) even have their own armed police forces. They could arrest, and subsequently suspend or expel students who engage in disorderly conduct. As Thomas Lifson points out,

There are plenty of law enforcement resources available to the University of California if it wished to preserve the tradition of open inquiry upon which the many public (i.e., taxpayer) subsidies and privileges available to U.C. are premised. When Governor Ronald Reagan faced a campus insurrection at Berkeley, he called in the National Guard and tear-gassed the protesters in Sproul Plaza – the very place the anti-Milo rioters used to destroy property and threaten lives.

If they took action, Berkeley officials could insure freedom of speech and assembly. But they choose not to. They willingly allow the Heckler’s Veto to censor speech, because they agree with the hecklers.

Unless these universities restore free speech and inquiry, they are not worthy of continued support from the public. Maybe a few lefties are willing to pay tuition and taxes to support far-left camps posing as institutions of intellectual inquiry, but most people are not. It is high time that taxpayers and their elected representatives insist that universities clean up their act. When administrators like Berkeley’s Scott Biddy and Stephen Sutton claim that they cannot allow speech–because safety–the state legislature should respond by asking for their resignations. Or as the New York Post put it,

Increasingly, US campuses are the exact opposite of the bastions of free thought and debate they’re supposed to be. If the schools can’t save themselves, society has every right to demand new management.
[Emphasis added.]

Not only should people lose their jobs, but the civil rights division of the Justice Department would be justified in launching a criminal investigation, particularly in the case of Berkeley. Many of these schools including Berkeley are state-run institutions, which means they must abide by the First Amendment. Back in February, Berkeley city and university officials let rioters run wild, making no arrests, even though they were beating people and causing over $500,000 in damages.

Moreover, complicity in violence and intimidation that prevents people from exercising their Constitutional rights is a crime under 18 U.S. Code § 241.

If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same;…They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years…

Every time campus leftists organize to use intimidation to shut down conservative speakers, they haven’t just been rude or unsporting, they have committed a federal crime. It is a crime, and long overdue that the Justice Department start treating it as such.

I also agree with Professor Glenn Reynolds that President Trump would be justified in sending in the National Guard to protect campus speakers, as Eisenhower did in Little Rock to allow black students to safely attend high school. Both cases involve not just public safety, but also an essential issue of Civil Rights.

Coming Soon: Drug Test Nation?

Over the ages, classical liberal thinkers have produced a lot of dense prose attempting to explain that socialism is incompatible with freedom. In order to truly appreciate the point, however, most people require vivid examples. To that end, consider the proposal of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to force a wide range of recipients of government assistance to submit to drug tests.

Under the proposal, the state’s Medicaid program, called BadgerCare, would require beneficiaries to be assessed for substance abuse and undergo a drug test “if indicated.” People would not become ineligible for Medicaid if they tested positive for drugs, but would be referred to a treatment program or otherwise have benefits delayed for six months. Anyone who refuses testing or assessment would not be eligible to receive Medicaid.

A drug test is a pretty intrusive invasion of personal privacy, but this is the sort of rollback of freedom that normies and standard-issue conservatives love because it applies only to welfare recipients, people whom conservatives resent. A true lover of freedom, however, cares about everyone’s freedom, not just the freedom of those of whom we approve.

Furthermore, if drug testing Medicaid recipients becomes the norm, a lot of people outside the stereotypical welfare class are going to end up getting tested. That’s because most states (though not Wisconsin) under Obamacare have expanded Medicaid to include many people in the working class and lower middle-class.

Governor Walker has also proposed testing people other than those receiving Medicaid.

Walker recently has also proposed drug testing able-bodied adults who are on food assistance and people who receive unemployment benefits.

Unemployment compensation is not even a welfare program. What’s next, testing student loan recipients? Oh wait, that was already proposed at least as far back as the Clinton Administration.

So, everybody on Medicaid, expanded Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment compensation, student loans…that’s a helluva lot of people potentially getting drug tested.

You may not think drug testing is intrusive, but if the government tried to mandate it for everyone, the courts would almost certainly strike down the policy. But if the government limits the testing to recipients of government benefits, then it’s considered acceptable because government can set conditions on giving out money. He who pays the piper, calls the tune.

But what happens when the government is paying for nearly everybody? A lot of people believe that ‘single-payer’ or ‘Medicare for all’ health insurance is inevitable in America. Once the government is paying for nearly everybody, will everybody have to take a drug test?

That’s something people who love liberty should be worried about, but sad to say, it won’t worry too many suburban normies. Governor Walker is already a hero to many conservatives and libertarians for taking on the labor unions, and his drug policies, unfortunately, won’t cost him much support.

The End of Men Means the End of Marriage

For decades now, the labor market has trended away from male-dominated jobs in manufacturing and agriculture and toward female-dominated jobs such as education and health care. As we noted previously, an adverse consequence of the disappearance of traditionally male jobs is an impedance of marriage and family formation.

Lowering the economic status of males relative to females makes males less marriageable. In marriage, pretty much the only value a man can bring to the table is as an economic provider. Taking away a man’s advantage in providing economic resources leaves him without leverage in the marriage market.

Now a new report predicts that the labor market will continue to trend against men and towards women.

Overall, occupations that are more than 80% female are projected to grow at nearly twice the rate of jobs that are at least 60% male between 2014 and 2024, according to research out this week from the jobs site Indeed and its chief economist, Jed Kolko. The site researched Bureau of Labor Statistics and found that many are jobs that are traditionally dominated by women — including occupational therapy assistants, physical therapy assistants and nurse practitioners — are growing at the fastest rate. They will grow at about a 40% rate, compared to an overall rate of 6.5% for all jobs.

Meanwhile, the male-dominated jobs are expected to contract.

[M]anufacturing and agriculture, which have traditionally employed more men than women, are projected to lose jobs in the next decade.

This article does not even mention that, over perhaps a bit longer horizon, huge numbers of driving jobs done my men are under threat from self-driving vehicles.

Anyone who values the traditional family unit as an important social institution should be very concerned with the increasing economic irrelevance of men. So should anyone concerned with low and declining birth rates. The way things are going, the only economically viable men are going to be the cognitive elite who work in science and technology. The rest of the men, however, are going to have generally poor marriage prospects. The women gainfully employed in health care are not going to want to marry unemployable men just so they can stay home and play Mr. Mom. That sort of traditional role-reversal might sound appealing in the abstract, but as a practical matter it won’t play out in the real world.

Historically, about 10 percent of 35-year-old women were unmarried, and a fair number of those would have been widows. Now, about 40 percent of 35-year-old American women are unmarried. Look for this figure to just keep increasing.

I’m not sure what we can do to solve or alleviate this problem. The default response from government seems to be to make the problem even worse by subsidizing single motherhood with various benefits such as subsidized day care. Another way that government exacerbates the problem is by making women beneficiaries of ‘affirmative action.’ Such policies, at the very least, need to be resisted.

Confirmed: Students at Elite Colleges are Spoiled Brats

I always believed that students at exclusive colleges must disproportionately come from high-income families, but this statistic cited by Joanne Jacobs surprised me.

At 38 elite colleges, more students come from the top 1 percent of the income scale than the bottom 60 percent, according to an Equality of Opportunity Project study.

And these are the very same schools noted for campus activism, with students out protesting ‘the one percent.’ To find ‘the one percent,’ they apparently don’t need to look very far.

Jacobs offers the following analysis.

High-income achievers may turn to activism because they feel guilty about their privilege, writes Riley. Since they think they know it all, they “shut down outside speakers and demand that professors censor their lectures,” demand safe spaces and trigger warnings.

Indeed, it takes more than a little chutzpah to be 19, 20 years old, never having accomplished anything in the world of adults, and telling professors and administrators how they should be doing their jobs. At that age, I never would have presumed such a thing. But the phenomenon gets easier to understand if we keep in mind that a lot of these students are rich, and therefore believe they’re better than everybody else.

And undoubtedly a lot of what motivates campus leftists is guilt, because they know, deep down, that they are highly privileged. That’s why they talk so much about privilege: white privilege, male privilege, etc. It’s a way of expiating their own privilege.

Not a pretty picture.

In any event, if some of these snooty schools are really, as they say, interested in ‘diversity’ they can start by admitting more kids from the poor and working classes.

How Much is an Asteroid Worth?

The ever-entertaining New York Post published a piece on the feasibility of mining asteroids.

The global investment bank Goldman Sachs has claimed mining asteroids for precious metals is a “realistic” goal.

It has released a report exploring the possibility of using an “asteroid-grabbing spacecraft” to extract platinum from space rocks.

“While the psychological barrier to mining asteroids is high, the actual financial and technological barriers are far lower,” the report said, according to Business Insider.

“Prospecting probes can likely be built for tens of millions of dollars each and Caltech has suggested an asteroid-grabbing spacecraft could cost $2.6 billion.”

The bank added: “Space mining could be more realistic than perceived.”

It is believed an asteroid the size of a football field could be worth up to $50 billion.

I’m not qualified to comment on the technical and economic specifics of the Goldman-Sachs report, but some of the economic assertions made by the Post are patently absurd.

Earlier this year, NASA said it was planning a mission to an asteroid so valuable it could cause the world’s economy to collapse.

It is called 16 Psyche and is a massive hunk of the precious metals iron and nickel.

The mysterious “metal world” was formed during the turbulent birth of our solar system.

It is valued at $10,000 quadrillion, according to Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the lead scientist on the NASA mission.

Bringing back large quantities of metals could definitely depress prices in metals markets. That would be bad for Earth-based mining industries and other people invested in metals, but these costs would be more than offset by lower costs for industrial users of the metals. Overall, the increased supply of metal would be beneficial to humanity. Economically, ‘plenty’ is better than ‘scarcity.’

Moreover, I can’t think of any valid economic reason why asteroid metal, no matter how plentiful, would “collapse” the “world’s economy.” I notice the article did not quote an actual economist on this assertion. The only way an asteroid crashes the global economy is by literally crashing into it, like a replay of the dinosaur extinction.

Furthermore, the “$10,000 quadrillion” figure cannot literally be true. This number is about 90,000 times as large as the entire world’s GDP.

Best case scenario is that the asteroid enabled humanity to effectively abolish scarcity in metals so that metals literally became as free as the air. How much would this be worth? Global mining revenue equals about $400 billion per year, but this includes coal and many other minerals not present in the 16 Psyche asteroid. Adding in lower-valued uses of metals perhaps brings the value to $600 billion per year. If we discount this figure at a modest 2 percent rate, the perpetuity value comes to $30 trillion, or about one-quarter of world GDP. If so, then the Post’s figure overvalues the asteroid by a factor of 330,000. Close enough, I guess, for clickbait journalism, except that the article quotes a scientist at NASA. Is this what passes for economic analysis at NASA?

Worse than a Crime (Updated)

Perhaps the most viral story online at the moment concerns the passenger violently removed from a United flight just because the airline had overbooked. The story in fact is quite astonishing and brings to mind Boulay de la Meurthe’s famous line: “C’est pire qu’un crime, c’est un faute.” (It’s worse than a crime, it’s a blunder.)

The blunder on the part of United’s management was huge, as United now looks like the nastiest company in the world, and it’s stock price has taken a significant hit.

The airline reportedly offered passengers as much as $800 to voluntarily give up seats on the overbooked flight, but nobody accepted that offer. That’s when United decided to resort to police state tactics. Of course, the thing to do would have been to ratchet up the $800 offer. At some point, passengers would have been willing to accept. As Ted DiBiase, the Million Dollar Man, said, “Every man has his price.” Even if United had to offer $1600 to four passengers, that extra $3200 is a pittance compared to the legal and public relations costs United is now facing.

There are always two ways to get compliance from people. You can offer them value, or you can threaten them with force. The carrot or the stick. The carrot is always preferable, and is in fact the civilized way to proceed. And that, frankly, is the difference between the free market and communism. One relies on voluntarism, the other, force.

For United, this is apparently not the first time they’ve threatened their own customers. Here’s a story about United threatening to slap a guy in handcuffs unless he gave up his first-class seat. That allegedly happened just last week.

Civilized men do not settle disputes with force. United in these cases is guilty of behavior so uncivilized that the company should be shunned by all decent people. If United were forced out of business over this incident, the outcome would be justified.

In the past, I’ve defended corporate executives from criticism that they are overpaid, saying that, if you want top talent, you’ve got to pay. There must be a lot of very highly paid talent at a company as large as United Airlines, yet somehow amidst all that purported business acumen, the company adopted a policy that anyone with common sense would have known to be disastrous.

One final point. I could be wrong, but I can’t imagine an incident like this occurring 30 years ago. At that time, I believe cooler heads would have prevailed. Something bad has happened to our society. Levels of civility and trust have waned. In this case, not just the airline, but also the passenger behaved very poorly. The passenger did not conduct himself with dignity. Everybody on both sides comes off looking very bad.

Update. Turns out that many media reports about this incident were riddled with errors. First, the reason the airline needed the passenger removed was not over booking. Instead, the airline wanted to fly some of its own employees who were running late to staff a flight.

Also, many media outlets claimed that the airline’s actions, while deplorable, were perfectly legal. But the excellent nakedcapitalism.com notices that a lawyer posting on Reddit argues persuasively that United’s actions were in fact unlawful. The law states that United cannot give precedence to its own employees over customers with confirmed reserved seats.

[T]he law is unambiguously clear that airlines have to give preference to everyone with reserved confirmed seats when choosing to involuntarily deny boarding. They have to always choose the solution that will affect the least amount of reserved confirmed seats. This rule is straightforward, and United makes very clear in their own contract of carriage that employees of their own or of other carriers may be denied boarding without compensation because they do not have reserved confirmed seats. On its face, it’s clear that what they did was illegal– they gave preference to their employees over people who had reserved confirmed seats, in violation of 14 CFR 250.2a.

The victim is going to get a very nice settlement. And given that United broke the law, I should think a hefty fine from the FAA would be in order, although I’m not holding my breath, since the regulators basically work for the airlines.

The Death of Inland California: Exaggerated?

Joel Kotkin likes to write about how the social and political elites in Coastal California are screwing over the inland part of the state, and his articles usually contain much truth and insight. In a recent piece, he returns to this theme in somewhat florid rhetorical terms.

California may never secede, or divide into different states, but it has effectively split into entities that could not be more different. On one side is the much-celebrated, post-industrial, coastal California, beneficiary of both the Tech Boom 2.0 and a relentlessly inflating property market. The other California, located in the state’s interior, is still tied to basic industries like homebuilding, manufacturing, energy and agriculture. It is populated largely by working- and middle-class people who, overall, earn roughly half that of those on the coast.

Fresno, Bakersfield, Ontario and San Bernardino are rapidly becoming the Bantustans — the impoverished areas designed for Africans under the racist South African regime — in California’s geographic apartheid. Poverty rates in the Central Valley and Inland Empire reach over a third of the population, well above the share in the Bay Area. By some estimates, rural California counties suffer the highest unemployment rate in the country; six of the 10 metropolitan areas in the country with the highest percentage of jobless are located in the central and eastern parts of the state. The interior counties — from San Bernardino to Merced — also suffer the worst health conditions in the state.

Just a couple paragraphs later, however, Kotkin unwittingly contradicts this narrative that the Inland Empire has been declining economically.

Between 2000 and 2013, the Inland region experienced a 91 percent jump in its population with bachelor’s degrees or higher, a far more rapid increase than either Orange or Los Angeles counties.

By curtailing new housing supply, California is systematically shutting off this aspirational migration. Chapman University forecaster James Doti notes that, in large part due to regulation, Inland Empire housing prices have jumped 80 percent since 2009 — almost twice the rate for Orange County.

I have no doubt that housing prices are higher than they should be due to regulation, particularly restrictions on land use and development. So the housing price situation is not ideal. But let’s step back and consider what rapidly rising housing prices imply about the Inland economy. If the economy were really in a tailspin, housing prices would not be rising, they would be falling or at least failing to keep up with the rise in other regions. But that’s not the case; Kotkin says Inland prices have experienced a more rapid rate of increase than at least some prominent parts of the coastal region.

Also the huge jump in the population with bachelor’s degrees is not indicative of economic decline, and on this metric Kotkin again notes that the rate of increase exceeds that for key coastal counties.

Kotkin’s reporting makes me think the death of the Inland Empire has been greatly exaggerated. The region undoubtedly trails the coast by most social and economic metrics, but that has always been true. Bakersfield in (say) the 1970s was not some kind of economic paradise.