The ‘Other’ College Scandal.

Effiin A, and A, and A

From Forbes, by Tom Lindsay, March 30, 2019: “Consider these facts: A 50-plus-year nationwide study of the history of college grading finds that, in the early 1960s, an A grade was awarded in colleges nationwide 15 percent of the time. But today, an A is the most common grade given in college; the percentage of A grades has tripled, to 45 percent nationwide. Seventy-five percent of all grades awarded now are either A’s and B’s. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported in 2013 that “66 percent of employers screen candidates by grade point average (GPA).” The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation also has studied college grading. The Foundation confirms the alarming findings recited above. It found that in 1969, only 7 percent of students at two- and four-year colleges reported that their grade point average was A-minus or higher. Yet in 2009, 41 percent of students reported as same. During the same period, the percentage of C grades given dropped from 25 to five percent.”

So, I guess students have gotten smarter, more articulate? What phenomena of modern life wrought such a miracle? Twitter? Facebook? Instagram? Snapchat? Or maybe something else is going on. The other recent college scandal was the kids of very wealthy parents getting into colleges that they weren’t qualified for, or would not have been selected for on the basis of actual achievements. If you haven’t been hiding under the proverbial rock, or not off the grid, preparing for the end of the world 12 years hence, you have read about the celebrity college scandal and tut tutted in all the right places, except one.

When I say some students would not have been selected on the basis of their achievements, that is not to imply that any of the colleges—Ivy League schools, Stanford, University of Southern California, UCLA, etc—were worth applying to. The Forbes article goes on to say that the Ivy League colleges are the worst offenders in grade inflation. Well, if that doesn’t answer your searching question, “how the heck do these unqualified kids graduate?”……it does kind of answer that question. Even in a community college the standards have eroded. My 24 year old daughter graduated from University of Idaho, and is taking some courses at Spokane Community College to satisfy nursing school requirements. She is studious, much more than I was. She does the work. Imagine her dismay when, after studying many hours for an exam, she gets to class to find that the teacher is having groups of four students take the test as a group instead of individuals. Three others copied her answers, admitting they didn’t study, after discussing each question. They got a group grade. When she met with the teacher and asked his rationale for the group test, his answer was quite revealing. “If I had everyone test individually, you might be the only one to get an A” (implying he would look bad).

These days, integrity seems to be measured by glibness. That daughter of the hedge fund manager—Isabelle Hernandez her name is—that got into Georgetown and participated knowingly in her parents’ end run around the requirements, said later, on her resume, that she has a “great moral compass.” Sorry Izzy, your needle is bent. As I said, glib integrity.

Speaking of glib integrity, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) “Adam Schiff is a patriot,” the Democratic congressman declared. “He has more integrity in his little finger than [Donald Trump] or any of the Republicans in Congress today will have in their lifetimes.”

Integrity? How about the following item from The Daily Wire:

“Welcoming fellow combat veterans Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) and Jim Baird (R-IN) to the House floor,” posted Florida lawmaker and combat veteran Brian Mast. “5 eyes. 5 arms. 4 legs. All American.”

Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, a Republican and former Navy SEAL, highlighted the absurdity of the message on Friday morning. “So, Wow. In my whole lifetime, huh?” Crenshaw mocked. After losing his eye, Crenshaw served two additional deployments. The veteran has earned two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, among many other awards. In January, the freshman congressman took a photo alongside two other Republican representatives who also suffered injuries while fighting for our country. Mast, who served in the U.S. Army for over 12 years, lost both his legs while deployed in Afghanistan in 2010 as a bomb disposal expert. “The last improvised explosive device that he found resulted in catastrophic injuries, which included the loss of both of his legs,” said Mast, according to his website. The combat vet has earned multiple awards for his service, including a Bronze Star Medal and a Purple Heart. Baird, a Republican representative for Indiana, was a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, serving in the Vietnam War from 1970-71. The Purple Heart recipient tragically lost an arm during his tenure.

Words are cheap Cicilline. Maybe you should borrow Isabelle’s moral compass!

Blessed and woe.

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.“- Luke 6:22-25

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”– Luke 6:22-31.

The words of Jesus Christ, as clear as can be. Do you think you truly belong to Him? Do you Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy when you are unpopular with the crowd, the Twitterverse, the social justice mob,  or those who hate your savior? That part has been easy for me since Jesus Christ claimed me in 1986. That’s my personality. Much harder, for me at least, is Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. In fact, no matter how much I love my savior, almost everything He commands is difficult for His followers.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” – Luke 6:46-49

But we know we should build on the Rock, not on sand, or some other shaky foundation. How do we do that?“With his stripes we are healed.”
Isaiah 53:5 “Pilate delivered our Lord to the lictors to be scourged. The Roman scourge was a most dreadful instrument of torture. It was made of the sinews of oxen, and sharp bones were inter-twisted every here and there among the sinews; so that every time the lash came down these pieces of bone inflicted fearful laceration, and tore off the flesh from the bone. The Saviour was, no doubt, bound to the column, and thus beaten. He had been beaten before; but this of the Roman lictors was probably the most severe of his flagellations. My soul, stand here and weep over his poor stricken body. Believer in Jesus, can you gaze upon him without tears, as he stands before you the mirror of agonizing love? He is at once fair as the lily for innocence, and red as the rose with the crimson of his own blood. As we feel the sure and blessed healing which his stripes have wrought in us, does not our heart melt at once with love and grief?”

That meditation by Charles Spurgeon holds the key. If you have trouble imagining what our savior went through, gladly, for us, I recommend you watch the movie, The Passion Of Christ. I think of those images frequently, not just with horror, but with gratitude. But something else is needed. Diligence in Vigilance.

“And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night.”2 Samuel 21:10.

“If the love of a woman to her slain sons could make her prolong her mournful vigil for so long a period, shall we weary of considering the sufferings of our blessed Lord? She drove away the birds of prey, and shall not we chase from our meditations those worldly and sinful thoughts which defile both our minds and the sacred themes upon which we are occupied? She bore the heats of summer, the night dews and the rains, unsheltered and alone. Sleep was chased from her weeping eyes: her heart was too full for slumber. Behold how she loved her children! Shall Rizpah thus endure, and shall we start at the first little inconvenience or trial? Are we such cowards that we cannot bear to suffer with our Lord? She chased away even the wild beasts. These her children were slain by other hands than hers, and yet she wept and watched: what ought we to do who have by our sins crucified our Lord? Our obligations are boundless, our love should be fervent and our repentance thorough. To watch with Jesus should be our business, to protect his honor our occupation, to abide by his cross our solace. Those ghastly corpses might well have frightened Rizpah, especially by night, but in our Lord, at whose cross-foot we are sitting, there is nothing revolting, but everything attractive.”

This meditation by Spurgeon is instructive. 7 sons of Saul were put to death for the sins of their father, even though they were personally innocent of the crimes. Two sons of Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, and five sons of Merab, Saul’s daughter, were hanged. Look at Rizpah’s diligence in vigilance. What about Merab? No mention is made of her vigil, she passes from history with nothing to her credit. Rizpah’s love for her sons modeled Christ’s love for His children.

Shall we be Rizpah, or Merab? Shall we court popularity with the crowd, or care only for our Savior? Shall we live for ourselves and our own pleasures, or shall we obey Christ?


Follow-up to self-deception post: More on medical decisions

The End

This explanation is from the Washington State Medical Association, but it will probably apply in most states. Check yours out. If you have a serious health condition, you need to make decisions about life-sustaining treatment. Your physician can use the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) to represent your wishes as clear and specific medical orders, indicating what types of life-sustaining treatment you want or do not want at the end of life. POLST is not for everyone. POLST is designed for seriously ill individuals, or those who are in very poor health, regardless of their age. POLST complements an advance directive and is not intended to replace that document.

An advance directive is still necessary to appoint a legal health care decision-maker, and is recommended for all adults, regardless of their health status. And unlike an advance directive, POLST must be signed by both the patient and the attending physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant-certified. The attending physician, ARNP or PA-C who signs the form assumes full responsibility for its accuracy.

The term ‘advance directive’ refers to your oral and written instructions about your future medical care in the event you are unable to express your medical wishes. There are two types of advance directives: a health care directive (also known as a living will) and a durable power of attorney for health care.

Health care directive (living will)

If you had a terminal condition, would you want your dying artificially prolonged? The health care directive is a legal document allowing you to answer this question in writing. This directive is used only if you have a terminal condition as certified by your physician, where life-sustaining treatment would only artificially prolong the process of dying; or you are certified by two physicians to be in an irreversible coma or other permanent unconscious condition and there is no reasonable hope of recovery. In either situation, the directive allows treatment to be withheld or withdrawn so that you may die naturally.

You may also direct whether you would want artificially provided nutrition (food) and hydration (water) stopped under these circumstances. Also in the directive, you can give further instructions regarding your care. The health care directive must be signed by you and two witnesses who are not related to you and will not inherit anything from you. You can change or revoke this directive at any time. The health care directive allows people who clearly do not want their lives artificially prolonged under the above conditions to make their wishes known.

Durable power of attorney for health care

Who would you want making your health care decisions if you were unable? The durable power of attorney for health care is a legal document allowing you to name a person as your health care agent—someone who is authorized to consent to, stop or refuse most medical treatment for you if a physician determines you cannot make these decisions yourself. The person you choose should be a trusted family member or friend with whom you have discussed your values and medical treatment choices.

Who can make decisions for me if I’m unable?

If you lose the ability to communicate and make decisions, Washington state law enables the following people, in order of priority, to make health care decisions for you, including withdrawing or withholding care: 1. A guardian with health care decision-making authority, if one has been appointed.

2. The person named in the durable power of attorney with health care decision-making authority.

3. Your spouse or state-registered domestic partner.

4. Your adult children.

5. Your parents.

6. Your adult brothers and sisters.

When there is more than one person, such as children, parents, or brothers and sisters, all must agree on the health care decision.

Making your wishes known in an advance directive will provide your doctor and your agent the clear guidance necessary to respect your wishes. The medical decisions made by your health care agent (as named in your durable power of attorney for health care) is as meaningful and valid as your own. The wishes of other family members should not override your own clearly expressed choices or those made by your agent on your behalf.

A durable power of attorney will allow for some flexibility regarding treatment decisions, since the agent that you choose to represent your wishes will be able to respond to unexpected changes in your condition and base decisions not just on your written wishes, but also on their familiarity with you and your feelings regarding your care.

A living will is necessary to provide instruction in case your agent is unable to serve, to provide evidence that the agent is acting in good faith in case the agent’s decisions are challenged, or to serve as the primary record of your wishes in case you are unable to appoint a health care agent.

Will advance directives be recognized in emergencies?

No. During most emergencies, there is not enough time for emergency service personnel to consult the patient’s advance directive. Once the patient is under the direct care of a physician, there will be time for the advance directive to be evaluated and/or the health care agent to be consulted.

What to do with these forms

Signed copies of your completed directives should be included in your medical record, given to any person to whom you give your durable power of attorney—including any alternate people you may have named—and to your personal attorney. Originals should be in a safe but accessible place (not a safe deposit box) or given to someone you trust and who can obtain them in an emergency.

The ultimate slavery: Self deception.

Wishful thinking, a misnomer if ever there was one, since thinking’s not involved, is not the same as self deception. The latter really believes the lies to self, while the former is a type of hope. If wishful thinking becomes a habit though, it can solidify into self deception, which has probably caused more misery in the world than any other human habit. It’s very noticeable in addicts. They wish they were more clear headed, more reliable, and eventually convince themselves that they will be….. the next time. Probably my most dramatic encounter with self deception was in Vietnam, November 1969. I was waiting with my infantry platoon for the helicopters near the staging point for my first combat assault. Being the newest guy, I was intent on not showing the other guys how scared I was, so I kept my mouth shut and listened to the banter. Mostly, the theme was “I’m not worried, it’s the guys next to me that are going to get hit.” I asked an older guy if the others believed that. He said, “if we didn’t convince ourselves that someone else would get shot, we might not get on those helicopters.”

In war, the bullet that finds you, or the mine you step on, is the sudden, unexpected end of wishful thinking. But the same goes for ordinary life, except substitute drunk driver for bullet and cancer for a mine. Any moment can be your last, or at least the last moment of normalcy. March 11, 2016, I was flying high. I had just snagged a job that was perfect for me, and was starting to cook dinner, dreaming about how my second day of work was going to be so good. Suddenly, I was on the ground, partially paralyzed by a hemorrhagic stroke. When something like that suddenly happens, what usually follows immediately? “This can’t be happening” or “any second this will wear off.” More wishful thinking. That’s more picturesque than self deception, and since I really didn’t believe it, I wasn’t deceived. Believing you will get better is necessary for hope, which is necessary for the motivation to put in the work to get better. That’s a constructive form of wishful thinking. I worked hard in rehab, overcame a lot of frustration when I wanted to give up, because I believed the work would pay off.

It did. Within 6 months of the stroke, I was walking almost normally. Months went by, and a part of me noticed that not only was I not getting better, but slowly, subtly, I didn’t was losing function. “It’s just a temporary plateau” I told myself, “I will start improving soon. It’s been three years since the stroke. I am considerably worse than 6 months after the stroke. Do I still think I will get better? Did I seek every remedy, from physical and occupational therapy to scans, medications, diet and exercise? Yes. What do I tell myself now? “I might get better, but after 30 months of no progress, I probably won’t. Nevertheless, I will continue to exercise to the limits of my ability, and arrange my life to make it easier to function within my limitations.”

I resisted putting the house up for sale, resisted using a cane all the time, as long as I maintained the wishful thinking that I would get better. It took 30 months of stasis to admit that I am a disabled person, and to make appropriate arrangements. Selling the house too large and inconvenient for me, moving to a fully furnished ADA compliant apartment on the ground floor, getting a smartwatch which connects to a monitoring service, and using a quad cane most of the time fit my reality rather than my hopes. I don’t intend to be one of those people who hold onto the illusion or self deception that they are as independent as always when they are actually unsafe in their lifestyle, resisting help or advice to change to a more manageable lifestyle. I’ve seen how that usually ends. Broken hips or other injuries, hospitalizations and children obsessed with fear about how their parents are doing. I have three daughters in their 20’s, and I want them to live their lives without worrying about my health.

If you are reading this, and either an older adult, or the adult child of elderly parents, there’s an important document you need to create. For anyone, regardless of health, life or consciousness could end in an instant, even more so for the elderly and infirm. If you suddenly died, will your survivors know how to deal with and access your assets and debts? I created a document that lists my assets, including websites, usernames and passwords, and debts, where income is coming from and where it is deposited and how I pay bills (all are paid online). This document is both physical and electronic, on a password protected memory stick. I have told my children and former wife–their mother–the password and the location of the physical document, and have a will which names my personal representative, a durable power of attorney (in case I am alive but incapable of making financial decisions) and a healthcare directive (also called healthcare power of attorney). The latter two documents are on my refrigerator along with a comprehensive list of medications, allergies (none), medical history and my blood type. I also have a healthcare directive on file with my main medical providers. The documents on the refrigerator are so the paramedics can grab that information. I also have a lockbox on the front door containing a house key. I was alone when the stroke hit, and managed to call 911, and worried paramedics would have to break in, but the door was open. The combination to the lockbox is on file with a website, along with a lot of other information for paramedics. Anyone can sign up for an account. I would advise readers who live alone to go on their website and see what information they can file for paramedics or the police and fire departments.

When I started this post, I didn’t intend to get personal in it. But then I thought, maybe this can do readers a service. Delaying taking care of things like I suggested is usually the product of self deception. You don’t want to leave your loved ones with a mess, do you?

Wealth gap: Ignorant cliche #2.

Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet

Ta-Nehisi Coates, maven for black reparations: “Perhaps no statistic better illustrates the enduring legacy of our country’s shameful history of treating black people as sub-citizens, sub-Americans, and sub-humans than the wealth gap.”

Ignorant cliche #1 is still intersectionality. Until the woke universe invents a more ignorant one, anyway, and they will. But wealth gap may remain a favorite for a long time, because envy never dies.  My daughter is taking a sociology class, and the teacher had the students write essays about the wealth gap between genders. Two genders that is. Because who knows what the latest woke gender count is (I saw an article that said 221). The students put their essays online, so each could read and critique everyone’s essays. There was no critique, no disagreement, and no understanding. Wealth gap = bad because it’s evidence of discrimination!

In the face of such accumulated brain power, or not, I will defend my blog post title. Here goes. Pew Research concluded that family and individual net worth fluctuated less, and could be more accurately assessed, than income. Net worth or wealth, is the market value of assets – debt. What is market value? The formal definition is “what an informed buyer is willing to pay a seller at any given time.” Let’s consider how this works for various assets, in order of how easy it is to set a market value on them. Cash is easy to value; at any given time, it’s the face value of the currency, or the bottom line of your bank statement. Cash also includes “cash equivalents, like money market funds. Now it gets harder. Next to cash, publicly traded stocks and mutual funds, which includes assets in most retirement accounts, are the easiest to value. The stock market (I am using the New York stock exchange NYSE, as the proxy for the stock market) establishes the market value of stocks, minute by minute throughout the day, until 4p.m. e.s.t., when the NYSE closes. Mutual funds hold many different stocks, and the fund’s value is set once, at the end of the trading day. The market value is what you can sell for or what you have to pay to buy, but it’s set by the stock market (which is the sum total of every transaction of a stock during the day).

Now the task of measuring market value becomes much harder. Homes, land and other real estate values are very dependent upon local conditions. A home in Atherton, California and an equally impressive home in Detroit, Michigan, will have markedly different market values, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of $$ different. Even homes in different neighborhoods will differ significantly in market values. What about when the market value is measured? From 2006, towards the end of the run up in home values due to lending shenanigans (called the housing crisis, but really a lending crisis) to the end of 2008, a median home in Monterey county, California lost 49% of its market value. The stock market as a whole lost about 50% of its value from late 2007 to March of 2009.

What about even more difficult to value assets, like privately held stock and business assets, or farms, or commodities, like precious metals or timber? How do they get counted? You might say, “well, if those aren’t counted, wealthy people are even wealthier than the wealth gap indicates.” Perhaps, but then we will also have to count the value of tax transfer payments to poorer people, like welfare payments, food stamps, and Medicaid. While the stream of payments is technically income, the promise of future payments, as long as you’re poor enough to qualify, functions like an income-producing asset. The most important principle to remember about the wealth gap is: the real value of an asset is it’s ability to furnish an income stream, or to sell for an income-producing asset.

Let’s get into a specific example to understand what I have said to this point. Individual #1, Mr. Rich, owns a home in California with a market value of $2,000,000 and a mortgage of $950,000, a SEP-IRA retirement account of stock mutual funds worth $300,000, leases a new Porsche Cayenne and a Range Rover, and has a net income (after business expenses) from his prosthetics practice (80% Medicaid and Medicare patients) of $300,000/yr. Being “self-employed”, he must buy health insurance from the state marketplace for his family, at a cost of $1,200/month to get a low deductible policy. His property taxes, based on home value, have just gone up to $11,000/yr. His mortgage payments are about $4,300/month and home insurance is $1,200/year. Total housing cost is $63,800/yr. The lease payments on the vehicles total $20,000/yr. Individual #2, Mr. Poor, owns a home in Michigan with a market value of $120,000 (mortgage of $60,000), a savings account worth $3,000, owns a 10 year old Toyota Camry outright, and earns $38,000 from his job at General Motors, qualifies for Medicaid and food stamps for his family of 5. His property taxes are $2,000/yr. Mortgage payments of $3,540/yr., home insurance of $200/year.

Now, let’s apply my lifestyle effective net income rule. I call it that, as a way to determine how secure and comfortable a lifestyle really is. Medicaid and Medicare just raised their inflation-adjusted benefits, but lowered their payouts to medical providers like Mr. Rich. His income suddenly dropped by 20% due to that change, and the large hospital down the block just added a department for making prosthetics, and no longer refers business to him. There goes another 30% of his income.  Due to the loss of income, his bank has insisted on renegotiating his lease on his office building, increasing his costs. Suddenly his net income is $120,000/yr. Subtract his lifestyle costs of $63,800 (housing), $14,400 health insurance, $20,000 vehicles, $12,000 groceries, leaves $9,800/yr. for utilities and other incidentals. He would like to terminate the vehicle leases, but that is extremely expensive. He could begin liquidating his SEP-IRA, but would pay a 10% early withdrawal tax penalty, plus income taxes on the amount withdrawn. If his troubles hit in 2008, he would also take a 50% loss on the value of his mutual funds! Mr. Rich’s lifestyle effective net income (gross income after taxes, housing, food and health insurance) is -$21,100. What? His income and self-employment taxes in 2008 were $30,700. Subtract that from the $9,800 after housing, food and health insurance. He will have to liquidate around $27,000 of his retirement funds to pay the normal taxes plus tax penalties.

Mr. Poor just got a slight raise from G.M., but still qualifies for food stamps worth $9,120/yr., Medicaid, worth $13,000/yr. (what he would pay for similar health insurance). Mr. Poor’s life style effective net income is $56,380, subtracting housing and adding the value of tax transfer payments. The asset equivalent value (how much of an income-producing asset would be required to generate the annual value of the $22,120 payments if the asset produced a 3% return–which is generous for these days) of the transfer payments (food stamps, Medicaid) is $737,333! So qualifying for those payments by dint of poverty is like OWNING $737,333.

Am I implying we should be more sympathetic to the rich? No. What about the three richest people in the graphic, above? Bill Gates’ primary wealth is Microsoft stock. Does he own the most? No, you might (I will explain in a moment). Over 73% of Microsoft stock is owned by mutual funds, and much if not most of that is in millions of retirement accounts. Jeff Bezos’ wealth is primarily in Amazon stock. Does he own the most? He owns about 17%. Mutual funds own over 56%. The rest is owned by individuals, including Amazon employees. Warren Buffet’s wealth is mainly stock in Berkshire Hathaway, a holding company for many stocks. Forbes estimates he owns about 32% of the company, even after donating hundreds of thousands of shares, but the market value rose faster than the amount he gave away. The point is that these people are insanely wealthy because the companies they had the vision to start many years ago, and the faith to hold onto, have become extremely valuable. Why? Because millions of people want to buy those stocks. Why? They know that stock ownership is the biggest key to wealth and future security. You probably own shares of these stocks if you have mutual funds or retirement accounts. Why? They are the most popular, therefore the most successful. If Bezos is richer tomorrow, so are millions of others. Meanwhile, when you see the cliche wealth gap, keep in mind that for every Bezos, Gates and Buffet, there are thousands, possibly even millions, of Mr. Rich’s. Rich on paper, or at a certain moment in time, and whose wealth on paper contributes to the so-called wealth gap, while the asset equivalent value of tax transfer payments to the poor are not counted as an asset.

Mr. Rich is an actual person, a friend of mine, and that stuff actually happened to him. He declared bankruptcy in 2009.

Biblical intersectionality.

Joshua leading the Israelites

I am leaving the links intact because they are worth following, some for their pure confusion and silliness and others which argue with clarity.

From Merrill Perlman, in the Columbia Journalism Review: “Intersectionality” was coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a civil rights activist and legal scholar. In a paper for the University of Chicago Legal Forum, Crenshaw wrote that traditional feminist ideas and antiracist policies exclude black women because they face overlapping discrimination unique to them. “Because the intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism, any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated,” she wrote in the paper. “Intersectionality” quickly caught on and made it into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015, which calls it a sociological term meaning “The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage; a theoretical approach based on such a premise.” Merriam-Webster’s definition is a little less academic: “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.”

“But as often happens with new jargon or buzzwords, ‘intersectionality’ has been adopted by groups far outside the original targets. Where Crenshaw was discussing the ‘intersection’ of race and gender, others took their own identities and discussed how their pieces overlapped, whether those pieces were physical ability, race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, politics, citizenship, or socioeconomic status. As The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote in 2017, ‘The word has migrated from women’s-studies journals and conference keynotes into everyday conversation, turning what was once highbrow discourse into hashtag chatter.’

“When that happens, everyone claims a piece of it, and fights break out. So ‘intersectionality’ is called “Marxist culture theory” by a columnist arguing that it is not for Christians; a college’s Pride Week activities include a ‘Queer Intersectionality Panel’ with “students discussing their identities on campus and giving advice to attendees on a wide array from topics, from being comfortable with themselves to embodying allyship’; a college group called “Hillelin’ with Melanin” offers Jewish people of color “a space where aspects of members’ intersectionalidentities are supported at once”; and a panel sponsored by The New York Times discusses “The Effect of Intersectionality in the Workplace.

I want to focus on the words “marginalized individuals or groups“, “social categorizations” and “discrimination or disadvantage.” While the definition includes individuals with marginalized groups, those who use the term intersectionality don’t think in terms of individuals, because individuals who feel they are marginalized have the choice to leave the margins, though that’s not to say it won’t be a challenging road. All the social categorizations are about groups, though race is hardly just social. The only thing that ties any of the groups that intersect together is that they are “marginalized”, meaning what? Living on the margins, being pushed to the margins? By whom? The visual such a word brings up is a high school dance, where the cool and popular kids are all together in the center of the room, and the nerds, goths, dorks and unpopular are lingering out in the margins of the room, hoping that one of the cool kids will ask for a dance. In the woke universe, an individual embodying more than one “marginalized” trait—there are so many that it’s easier to list what isn’t marginalized—has more grievance capital than one with fewer of those traits. What, by their definition, is not marginalized: male, white, Christian, wealthy.

According to Erick Erickson, “Intersectionalism comes into play thus: The more you identify with supposedly powerless classes, the more power society must give you. In other words, a one-armed black Muslim homeless lesbian must be given greater standing in society than a one-legged white Southern heterosexual Christian male who lost his leg in Afghanistan because he represents the white male patriarchy. Ultimately, the problem with social justice, the social gospel and intersectionality is that they embrace classes and identity politics where authentic Christianity teaches that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galations 3:28).

What few writing about intersectionality or intersectionalism seem to understand is that it ultimately preaches that there are only two groups in the world: the “marginalized”, and the “marginalizers”, also known as the exploiters, the privileged. The Bible agrees that there are only two groups in the world: the people of God, and the people of satan. The illustration I used for this post is Joshua leading the Israelites into battle. God gave them the promised land conditionally.

”After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses”. – Joshua 1:1-3. The condition was that Israel destroy the inhabitants of the land. Joshua sent out spies to confirm that the Lord had indeed given the inhabitants of the land into his hands. And they said to Joshua, “Truly the LORD has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.” – Joshua 2:24.

Many more passages from the Old Testament and the New Testament divide God’s people from satan’s. That’s biblical intersectionality.

Black American reparations, part deux.

Yesterday, I commented on The Case For Reparations, an article in The Atlantic magazine, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. His arguments for reparations are entirely based on group guilt rather than individual guilt. Yet, a significant portion of his essay focuses on individual black Americans who were wronged, and the groups, rather than individuals, who wronged them, with the exception of a specific British loyalist slave holder. If you wonder, “who is Mr. Coates writing too, via The Atlantic,” we would need to know something more about the readership of that magazine.

The Atlantic has, by far, the oldest readership by median age. Pew research classified 7 magazines by median age of readership from 1995 to 2006. In every year starting with 1997, The Atlantic had the oldest, and in every year they were older than the U.S. adult population. Other magazines in the study were Jet, Newsweek, the New Yorker, Time, The Economist. Yes, in 2006, The Atlantic’s readership was even older than that of The Economist. Since there are no figures I could find regarding the racial composition of any magazine’s readership, I am going to assume, by dint of the age and other descriptions of The Atlantic’s readership, that the majority of the readers are white, liberal leaning, tend to want more detail than readers of most magazines.

Regardless, many of the people Mr. Coates was appealing to are white, and by including lots of individual stories and their sad aftermath, he expected the readers to care about them. There’s a contradiction here. You blame “every aspect of American society” for the present day plight of black Americans, you want reparations to help clean up “white guilt”–group guilt arguments–yet your appeal is to individuals, most of whom are likely to be white i.e. guilty (by virtue of group membership), whom you expect to care about the black individuals who were wronged. I am white, I care about the black individuals who were wronged, I support redress in the form of restitution from the individuals (including board members of corporations) who did the wronging to those who were wronged, but according to your central argument, I am guilty by virtue of being white, therefore I have no reason to care or want to redress the wrongs.

Am I missing something here?  He also doesn’t want to focus on details like “who pays”, “how much”, or “to whom.” Since any reparations proposal is going to involve government paying, how will black Americans living now feel about their tax dollars going to other black Americans? Unless, somehow, HR 40 or similar proposals conclude that enforcement officials will have to demand money from only white Americans. No, that won’t divide the country any more than it already is (another of his arguments).


A case for reparations?

broken windows theory?

I ended my previous post with the preamble of the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…..” Yet many of the same men who signed that document “owned” slaves.

Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a very long article for The Atlantic Magazine entitled The Case For Reparations. It begins thus: “And if thy brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing today.” Deuteronomy 15: 12–15.

It ends thus: “In 2011, Bank of America agreed to pay $355 million to settle charges of discrimination against its Countrywide unit. The following year, Wells Fargo settled its discrimination suit for more than $175 million. But the damage had been done. In 2009, half the properties in Baltimore whose owners had been granted loans by Wells Fargo between 2005 and 2008 were vacant; 71 percent of these properties were in predominantly black neighborhoods.”

So, he starts with a passage from the Old Testament that lays out some commandments from God to the people of Israel about how to treat a “brother” who is indentured to you. Just as God redeemed the Israelites from bondage, the Hebrew believer was to mimic that redemption in their behavior. Good, great even, that Mr. Coates has such respect for the Bible that he builds his case for reparations on it. Or does he? He starts with a biblical admonition and ends with an economic settlement statement. I am going to present quite a lot of his argument here, so this will be a very long post. Most of the word-count in his article is personal stories of enslaved, disenfranchised or cheated black Americans. That makes sense, because there is no better way to build a rapport between people than sharing individual stories. Individual stories are more likely to connect emotionally than statistics or polemics. I will come back to that point, but REMEMBER THAT AS YOU READ. My commentary comes after his quotes.

“The lives of black Americans are better than they were half a century ago. The humiliation of whites only signs are gone. Rates of black poverty have decreased. Black teen-pregnancy rates are at record lows—and the gap between black and white teen-pregnancy rates has shrunk significantly. But such progress rests on a shaky foundation, and fault lines are everywhere. The income gap between black and white households is roughly the same today as it was in 1970. Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at New York University, studied children born from 1955 through 1970 and found that 4 percent of whites and 62 percent of blacks across America had been raised in poor neighborhoods. A generation later, the same study showed, virtually nothing had changed. And whereas whites born into affluent neighborhoods tended to remain in affluent neighborhoods, blacks tended to fall out of them.

“This is not surprising. Black families, regardless of income, are significantly less wealthy than white families. The Pew Research Center estimates that white households are worth roughly 20 times as much as black households, and that whereas only 15 percent of whites have zero or negative wealth, more than a third of blacks do. Effectively, the black family in America is working without a safety net. When financial calamity strike—a medical emergency, divorce, job loss—the fall is precipitous.

“And just as black families of all incomes remain handicapped by a lack of wealth, so too do they remain handicapped by their restricted choice of neighborhood. Black people with upper-middle-class incomes do not generally live in upper-middle-class neighborhoods. Sharkey’s research shows that black families making $100,000 typically live in the kinds of neighborhoods inhabited by white families making $30,000. “Blacks and whites inhabit such different neighborhoods,” Sharkey writes, “that it is not possible to compare the economic outcomes of black and white children.”

“Even seeming evidence of progress withers under harsh light. In 2012, the Manhattan Institute cheerily noted that segregation had declined since the 1960s. And yet African Americans still remained—by far—the most segregated ethnic group in the country. With segregation, with the isolation of the injured and the robbed, comes the concentration of disadvantage. An unsegregated America might see poverty, and all its effects, spread across the country with no particular bias toward skin color. Instead, the concentration of poverty has been paired with a concentration of melanin.

“One thread of thinking in the African American community holds that these depressing numbers partially stem from cultural pathologies that can be altered through individual grit and exceptionally good behavior. (In 2011, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, responding to violence among young black males, put the blame on the family: “Too many men making too many babies they don’t want to take care of, and then we end up dealing with your children.” Nutter turned to those presumably fatherless babies: “Pull your pants up and buy a belt, because no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt.”) The thread is as old as black politics itself. It is also wrong. The kind of trenchant racism to which black people have persistently been subjected can never be defeated by making its victims more respectable. The essence of American racism is disrespect. And in the wake of the grim numbers, we see the grim inheritance.

“In 1783, the freedwoman Belinda Royall petitioned the commonwealth of Massachusetts for reparations. Belinda had been born in modern-day Ghana. She was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery. She endured the Middle Passage and 50 years of enslavement at the hands of Isaac Royall and his son. But the junior Royall, a British loyalist, fled the country during the Revolution. Belinda, now free after half a century of labor, beseeched the nascent Massachusetts legislature: Belinda Royall was granted a pension of 15 pounds and 12 shillings, to be paid out of the estate of Isaac Royall—one of the earliest successful attempts to petition for reparations. At the time, black people in America had endured more than 150 years of enslavement, and the idea that they might be owed something in return was, if not the national consensus, at least not outrageous.

“As the historian Roy E. Finkenbine has documented, at the dawn of this country, black reparations were actively considered and often effected. Quakers in New York, New England, and Baltimore went so far as to make “membership contingent upon compensating one’s former slaves.” In 1782, the Quaker Robert Pleasants emancipated his 78 slaves, granted them 350 acres, and later built a school on their property and provided for their education. “The doing of this justice to the injured Africans,” wrote Pleasants, “would be an acceptable offering to him who ‘Rules in the kingdom of men.’

“For the past 25 years, Congressman John Conyers Jr., who represents the Detroit area, has marked every session of Congress by introducing a bill calling for a congressional study of slavery and its lingering effects as well as recommendations for “appropriate remedies.” A country curious about how reparations might actually work has an easy solution in Conyers’s bill, now called HR 40, the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. We would support this bill, submit the question to study, and then assess the possible solutions. But we are not interested.

“That HR 40 has never—under either Democrats or Republicans—made it to the House floor suggests our concerns are rooted not in the impracticality of reparations but in something more existential. A crime that implicates the entire American people deserves its hearing in the legislative body that represents them. John Conyers’s HR 40 is the vehicle for that hearing. No one can know what would come out of such a debate. Perhaps no number can fully capture the multi-century plunder of black people in America. Perhaps the number is so large that it can’t be imagined, let alone calculated and dispensed. But I believe that wrestling publicly with these questions matters as much as—if not more than—the specific answers that might be produced. An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future. More important than any single check cut to any African American, the payment of reparations would represent America’s maturation out of the childhood myth of its innocence into a wisdom worthy of its founders.

“Perhaps no statistic better illustrates the enduring legacy of our country’s shameful history of treating black people as sub-citizens, sub-Americans, and sub-humans than the wealth gap. Reparations would seek to close this chasm. But as surely as the creation of the wealth gap required the cooperation of every aspect of the society, bridging it will require the same. Black nationalists have always perceived something unmentionable about America that integrationists dare not acknowledge—that white supremacy is not merely the work of hotheaded demagogues, or a matter of false consciousness, but a force so fundamental to America that it is difficult to imagine the country without it.

“And so we must imagine a new country. Reparations—by which I mean the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences—is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely. The recovering alcoholic may well have to live with his illness for the rest of his life. But at least he is not living a drunken lie. Reparations beckons us to reject the intoxication of hubris and see America as it is—the work of fallible humans. Won’t reparations divide us? Not any more than we are already divided. The wealth gap merely puts a number on something we feel but cannot say—that American prosperity was ill-gotten and selective in its distribution. What is needed is a healing of the American psyche and the banishment of white guilt. What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal.” My commentary now follows.

The two examples of reparations he provided in the article show how the actual injured party could be compensated by the person, or the estate of the person, who actually did the injuring. This is the biblical principle of restitution. Belinda Royall was granted her restitution from the estate of a person who was now an enemy of the administration, a far cry from the example set by Zaccheus in Luke 19:8, who voluntarily gave half his goods to the poor and offered to pay back four fold whatever he had stolen. Still, even forced restitution is not “reparations”, in the sense that the writer is arguing for. Now I cannot square the words of the Declaration of Independence with the actual treatment of slaves, or even with the concept of chattel slavery, and I agree that black Americans have been treated shabbily by all the institutions he mentions in the article (there were far more than I reprinted here), most of which were lending and real estate institutions. Doesn’t that sentence put me in favor of his concept of reparations?

No, because I would then have to agree with the principles he is espousing: Every aspect of American society “cooperated” in creating the “wealth gap” between black and white Americans (structural racism); The wealth gap is the statistic which best illustrates the “country’s” history of treating blacks as sub-human; Reparations would seek to close the gap; The wealth disparity between black and white Americans is evidence of “structural racism”, not the fruit of individual decisions; The best way to redress wrongs committed against a certain segment of the population—blacks—is seeking to take what never belonged to them in the first place from those who have not actually wronged them personally, directly, or otherwise, to begin with. What, then, is the difference between “reparations”, as he is calling for, and state-sponsored theft? The wealth gap is due to lots of factors, including defrauding, but will taking from one color and giving to another color, even assuming an equitable and valid method of taking could be thought of through HR 40 or it’s like, actually close the gap? We have to consider how a wealth gap actually comes to be. The wealthy strategically organize their money so that it will produce profit. Affluent people are more likely to allocate their money to financial assets such as stocks, bonds, and other investments which hold the possibility of capital appreciation. Those who are not wealthy are more likely to have their money in savings accounts and home ownership. This difference comprises the largest reason for the continuation of wealth inequality in America: the rich are accumulating more assets because they are investing in growth assets while the middle and working classes are just getting by. You might be tempted to say “if I was high income like the rich, I could afford to invest in growth assets too!”

I bought 100 shares of Amazon stock during 1997 for an average of $34/share, by allocating 10% of my paychecks. Amazon’s stock then split three times in quick succession, so my 100 shares would have grown to 1,200 shares. Had I not panicked about Y2K and sold my shares in 1999, my original investment would be worth about $2.3 million! Sad, for me, but true. My central objection to his arguments for reparations is simple: Only individuals can wrong other individuals, and therefore only individuals who did the wronging can make it right. He starts out with a biblical passage and ends with financial settlements. Both examples are restitution, in the biblical sense, and I agree with them, because in the Deuteronomy example, individual actions are involved, and in the bank settlements, individuals on the board of directors approved the fraudulent policies, and individuals had to approve the settlements. In the latter case, I don’t know who actually got the settlement money—it should have been those defrauded. Forced restitution can still be legitimate restitution. The Bible gives examples of criminals having to pay back victims, even from jail. The difference between what I call legitimate restitution and race reparations is that in the former, individuals or their estates are compensating those they defrauded or cheated, and the latter can’t even identify individuals on either side of the dishonest transactions!

My bottom line is this: Group guilt doesn’t exist. Any group, whether corporation, army or church, cannot do anything. The individuals within the group can. Guilt is not a feeling, it’s a judicial decision. You are guilty or are not, because you did something wrong or failed to do something right, not because of what you feel. Mr. Coates condemns “the country”, “white guilt”, “every aspect of American society”, even black politicians and economists who don’t agree with him. I am totally in favor of restitution and punishment for any white person who cheated a black person… or any person. The same for a black who cheated a black. Reparations, the way he sees them, represent the monetizing of guilty feelings, not of judicial guilt, because only individuals can be judicially guilty of a crime.

Behavioral finance and political calculus.

My last post raised a discipline called behavioral finance, specifically one of its concepts, prospect theory. Four other concepts described by behavioral finance that help explain human irrationality are: Confirmation bias shows that people tend to be more attentive toward new information which confirms a preconceived opinion or belief. Hindsight bias, on the other hand, explains why we might believe that, after the fact, the occurrence of an event was obvious. Herd behavior is our propensity for following the decisions of a large group, whether or not those decisions are rational. Overconfidence allows us to believe that we are better able to perform a certain action or task than we actually are. I applied prospect theory to the irrationality of arguing against objective truth, at least if you are living as if there is objective truth.

I think it’s equally bad, if not worse, to equate your political agenda with objective truth, rather than it being simply your opinion. Carl Trueman recently wrote, in The Gospel Coalition: “ can be argued that, culturally speaking, Marx did win—because his vision of a society where everything’s political is our world. From cake-baking to what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms, from the gendered membership of school sports teams to the ordination requirements of a church to the casting of an actor in a movie, everything has taken on universal political significance. This is now part of the intuitive way in which we all think about society—whether we’re on the right or the left. Once one side decides, for example, that the Boy Scouts needs to admit girls in order to break down gender inequalities, then those who oppose this change aren’t acting in a politically neutral way. They too are taking a political stand.” How did this happen? The latter four behavioral finance concepts, or biases, partly explain it. I could cite a number of examples of each of those biases in political headlines, but I think it’s more worthwhile to understand the forces and agendas behind the politicization of our world.

John Marini, author of Unmasking The Administrative State, has questioned the legitimacy of rule by experts, and exposed it as an attack on the constitutional system of the separation of powers, balances and checks, and accountability to the electorate. Marini points out that now we have achieved unwittingly something no previous crisis managed to accomplish. We have a clear opposition between populism and Progressiveness. The very accumulation of power in Washington has made it the favorite target of political ire. The American people can now decide between the Founders’ Constitution and the progressive—or “living”—Constitution. The latter, the doctrine of the Perfectionist Progressives, is reducible to rational control of human affairs, organized through the federal government, especially the non-elected parts, whether federal courts or executive agencies (which are under very limited control by the president). Central planning, like a socialist state.

The former, the Constitution and the real American Way, admits that governments do not create human rights—they only recognize or violate them. Where does the idea of human rights come from? “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…..” Sound familiar?

No objective truth? We’ll see.

There are those who say things like: “There is no objective truth. Everything is relative. There are no objective standards of beauty, value, right or wrong. There is only opinion and no truthful way of judging opinions.” These statements, taken together, form a “philosophy” labeled relativism, subjectivity or postmodernism. If my 40+ year career in psychology and financial planning has taught me anything, it’s that people will say anything, no matter how absurd or irrational (like those statements in quotes) until their own money is on the line. When their stated beliefs are almost certain to lose money, they can temporarily become, or try to become, rational.

In 1979, behavioral finance founders Kahneman and Tversky presented a concept called prospect theory. Prospect theory holds that people tend to value gains and losses differently from one another, and suggests that losses hit us harder. There is a greater emotional impact associated with a loss than with an equivalent gain. As an example, consider how you may react to the following two scenarios: 1) you win $50, 2) you win $100, then you lose $50. Either way, you end up ahead $50, but the pain of the loss is greater than the pure gain. Lets apply this and another principle of behavior to the person who insists there’s no objective truth, whom I’ll call doubter. Cognitive Dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values simultaneously (Festinger, 1957). Typically it is triggered by a situation in which a person’s belief clashes with new evidence perceived by the person. Note how almost everything in this paragraph contradicts doubter’s assertion that there’s no objective truth. If you presented the $50 scenarios to doubter, and assured him he would really get the money, it doesn’t matter which he would prefer, because by choosing either one, he is admitting that the $50 is real and has value. That fact just caused cognitive dissonance, because he is simultaneously holding the belief that there’s no objective reality while admitting he would value ending up with $50, which is objective reality. Even the very definition of cognitive dissonance admits to objective reality, since if two beliefs are contradictory and there’s evidence for one of them, the other is likely to be false. That’s objectivity. The existence of evidence itself contradicts subjectivity.

My favorite real world example of debunking relativism was J. Gresham Machen, a theologian who founded Westminster seminary, teaching a course when one of his students loudly proclaimed “there’s no truth, everything is relative” in class. Machen paused, and asked, “do you absolutely believe that?” Ignoring the fact that the word “absolutely” contradicts his assertion, the student blundered ahead. “I certainly do.” Machen’s response: “Then I’m giving you a failing grade.” The student spluttered, “you can’t do that, I have high scores.” Machen pointed out that in a world without objective truth, his scores were meaningless.

Going back to the finance example, give doubter the following choice: I will trade you a certain multiple of stock value for all the money you have saved (ignoring the obvious that if he’s saved money, he must believe in objective reality). You can have either twice the value of your savings in Amazon stock, or three times the value in Microsoft stock. You can have a full day to decide. Which would you take? I guarantee you, mr. there’s no objective reality would be checking P/E ratios, growth history, analysts’ reports. You don’t even need to know about prospect theory or cognitive dissonance.

A friend of mine, who firmly believes that we are all god, would argue that doubter’s belief in his money only proves that he is under the illusion that the material world is real. She would say that human beings don’t perceive the true reality of the universe. Okay, but she still lives mainly off her investments.