Musk Jabs the SEC as “the Shortseller Enrichment Commission”

(p. B1) Elon Musk risked reigniting a battle with federal securities regulators on Thursday when he appeared to openly mock the Securities and Exchange Commission only days after the Tesla Inc. chief executive settled fraud charges with the agency.
Seemingly without prompt, Mr. Musk sent a tweet in the early afternoon that suggested the SEC was enriching investors betting against the electric-car maker. “Just want to [say] that the Shortseller Enrichment Commission is doing incredible work,” Mr. Musk tweeted. “And the name change is so on point!”

For the full story, see:
Tim Higgins and Gabriel T. Rubin. “Tweet by Elon Musk Takes Jab at the SEC.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, October 5, 2018): B1 & B4.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 4, 2018, and has the title “Elon Musk Tweet Mocks the Securities and Exchange Commission.”)

“Eye-Popping” Lack of Ideological Diversity in Universities

Cass Sunstein, the author of the passages quoted below, was the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs from 2009 to 2012 during the Obama administration. He is currently a professor at the Harvard Law School. His spouse is Samantha Powers who he met while advising the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. She went on to be appointed by Obama as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

(p. 7B) In recent years, concern has grown over what many people see as a left-of-center political bias at colleges and universities. A few months ago, Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor of business at Brooklyn College, published a study of the political affiliations of faculty members at 51 of the 66 liberal-arts colleges ranked highest by U.S. News in 2017.

The findings are eye-popping (even if they do not come as a great surprise to many people in academia). Democrats dominate most fields. In religion, Langbert’s survey found that the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 70 to 1. In music, it is 33 to 1. In biology, it is 21 to 1. In philosophy, history and psychology, it is 17 to 1. In political science, it is 8 to 1.
. . .
. . . , the current numbers make two points unmistakably clear. First, those who teach in departments lacking ideological diversity have an obligation to offer competing views and to present them fairly and with respect. A political philosopher who leans left should be willing and able to ask students to think about the force of the argument for free markets, even if they produce a lot of inequality.
Second, those who run departments lacking ideological diversity have an obligation to find people who will represent competing views — visiting speakers, visiting professors and new hires. Faculties need not be expected to mirror their societies, but students and teachers ought not live in information cocoons.
John Stuart Mill put it well: “It is hardly possible to overrate the value … of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Such communication has always been, and is peculiarly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress.”

For the full commentary, see:
Cass Sunstein. “The problem with All Those Liberal College Professors.” Omaha World-Herald (Sunday, May 1, 2018): 7B.
(Note: the ellipsis internal to last paragraph was in original; the other ellipses were added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 30, 2018.)

“An Insular Fortress of Thought Coercion”

(p. A3) WASHINGTON–A day before Google’s chief was set to meet with high-ranking Republicans, critics in a congressional hearing accused the internet giant and other tech firms of being “insular” and dismissive of the free-speech rights of conservatives.
. . .
At Thursday’s House subcommittee hearing, Rep. Steve King (R., Iowa) warned that tech companies’ alleged bias is beginning to be noticed by the public. “Americans are beginning to recognize this quiet trend in our society in which one group or another systemically silences another’s beliefs with which they disagree,” he said in his opening statement.
Harmeet Dhillon, an attorney representing a group of conservative Google employees claiming employment discrimination by the company, directed lawmakers to media reports concerning its alleged blacklisting of phrases, articles and websites, and the blocking of conservative YouTube videos.
“Big Tech has become an insular fortress of thought coercion and vindictive behavioral control,” she said.

For the full story, see:
McKinnon, John D. “Tech Firms Face Political Bias Accusations.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, September 28, 2018): A3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 27, 2018, and has the title “Tech Firms Face Bias Accusations at Congressional Hearing.” The online version includes additional paragraphs, but the passages quoted above appear in both the online and print versions. The formatting above, follows the print version.)

Wrecking Ball for Bureaucracy That “Is Killing the Country”

(p. B4) America’s big tech companies are facing some of their toughest political challenges as they flirt with or surpass trillion-dollar valuations. Before lawmakers try to rein them in, Reid Hoffman argues government officials better be careful what they wish for.
Mr. Hoffman was chief operating officer of PayPal while it was still a small payments startup before he co-founded the professional social-network LinkedIn.
. . .
WSJ: You’re vociferously opposed to President Trump and even commissioned an anti-Trump card game. Does Silicon Valley have a problem with liberal bias?
Mr. Hoffman: I do think that there is a reflexive bias to liberalism that causes discomfort. I think you have that kind of left bias within the Silicon Valley culture, too, which is, “I’m so convinced that’s idiotic, I’m not listening to anything about it.” And that’s the problem. The problem is not actively listening. But that’s human. It’s not only here. Part of the reason [for strong negative reactions] to Trump is the flat-out lies.
WSJ: When you talk politics with Peter Thiel, PayPal’s co-founder and a well-known Trump supporter, what are those conversations like?
Mr. Hoffman: He’s a friend of mine, but we’ve disagreed about politics since we were college undergraduates. One thing we argue about is how much does Trump lie? I’ve been trying to advance him the case that there’s always been some lying around politicians, but Trump is one or two orders of magnitude worse than ever before. He says Obama is a bigger liar than Trump–based on, for example, the claim that under Obamacare you’d be able to spend as much time with your primary doctor as you did before Obamacare.
Peter thinks that the bureaucracy is killing the country and that you need a wrecking ball to shake it up, and maybe Trump is the only wrecking ball you get. His pro-Trump arguments are that someone needed to stand up to China. Trump at least is, [while] everyone else gave it lip service.

For the full interview, see:
Rolfe Winkler, interviewer. “A Silicon Valley Warning.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018): B4.
(Note: ellipsis added; bolded and bracketed words in original.)
(Note: the online version of the interview has the date Sept. 26, 2018, and the title “LinkedIn’s Co-Founder Warns of Perils in Regulating Big Tech.” The last question and answer quoted above, is included in the online, but not the print, version of the interview.)

Carter and Reagan “Linked Human Rights and Foreign Policy”

(p. A21) Fifty years ago this Sunday [July 22, 2018], this paper devoted three broadsheet pages to an essay that had been circulating secretly in the Soviet Union for weeks. The manifesto, written by Andrei Sakharov, championed an essential idea at grave risk today: that those of us lucky enough to live in open societies should fight for the freedom of those born into closed ones. This radical argument changed the course of history.
Sakharov’s essay carried a mild title — “Thoughts on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom” — but it was explosive. “Freedom of thought is the only guarantee against an infection of mankind by mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorships,” he wrote. Suddenly the Soviet Union’s most decorated physicist became its most prominent dissident.
. . .
As Sakharov and his fellow dissidents in the 1970s and ’80s challenged a détente disconnected from human rights, Democrats and Republicans of conscience followed suit. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan disagreed about many specific policies, but both presidents linked human rights and foreign policy. President Carter treated Soviet dissidents not as distractions but as respected partners in a united struggle for freedom. President Reagan went further, tying the fate of specific dissidents to America’s relations with what he called the “evil empire.”

For the full commentary, see:
Natan Sharansky. “The Manifesto That Crippled the Soviets.” The New York Times (Saturday, April 21, 2018): A21.
(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 20, 2018, and has the title “The Essay That Helped Bring Down the Soviet Union.”)

Anthony Bourdain “Let the Locals Shine”

(p. A15) People are mourning celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain all over the world–from Kurdistan to South Africa, from Gaza to Mexico. That may surprise American social-justice warriors who have turned food into a battlefield for what they call “cultural appropriation.”
“When you’re cooking a country’s dish for other people,” an Oberlin College student wrote last year, “you’re also representing the meaning of the dish as well as its culture. So if people not from that heritage take food, modify it and serve it as ‘authentic,’ it is appropriative.” This was prompted by a dining-hall menu that included sushi and banh mi. Celebrity alumna Lena Dunham weighed in on the side of the social-justice warriors.
. . .
Bourdain was a frequent target of similar criticism. When he declared Filipino food the next big thing, a writer for London’s Independent newspaper complained that his “well-meaning” comments were “the latest from a Western (usually white) celebrity chef or food critic to take a once scoffed at cuisine, legitimize it and call it a trend.”
Bourdain took it in stride. Asked on his CNN show, “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” what he thought about culinary cultural appropriation, he said: “Look, the story of food is the story of appropriation, of invasion and mixed marriages and war and, you know . . . it constantly changes. You know, what’s authentic anyway?”
. . .
When Bourdain took us to places like Libya and Venezuela and West Virginia, he let the locals shine. His vocation was about more than food. It was about people–understanding their cultures and their lives, lifting them up and making their dishes.

For the full commentary, see:
Elisha Maldonado. “Bourdain vs. the Social-Justice Warriors; The celebrity chef scoffed at the notion of opposing ‘cultural appropriation.'” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, June 12, 2018): A15.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 11, 2018.)

“Books Were Systematically Burned”

(p. 12) Vandalizing the Parthenon temple in Athens has been a tenacious tradition. Most famously, Lord Elgin appropriated the “Elgin marbles” in 1801-5. But that was hardly the first example. In the Byzantine era, when the temple had been turned into a church, two bishops — Marinos and Theodosios — carved their names on its monumental columns. The Ottomans used the Parthenon as a gunpowder magazine, hence its pockmarked masonry — the result of an attack by Venetian forces in the 17th century. Now Catherine Nixey, a classics teacher turned writer and journalist, takes us back to earlier desecrations, the destruction of the premier artworks of antiquity by Christian zealots (from the Greek zelos — ardor, eager rivalry) in what she calls “The Darkening Age.”
. . .
Debate — philosophically and physiologically — makes us human, whereas dogma cauterizes our potential as a species. Through the sharing of new ideas the ancients identified the atom, measured the circumference of the earth, grasped the environmental benefits of vegetarianism.
To be sure, Christians would not have a monopoly on orthodoxy, or indeed on suppression: The history of the ancient world typically makes for stomach-churning reading. Pagan philosophers too who flew in the face of religious consensus risked persecution; Socrates, we must not forget, was condemned to death on a religious charge.
But Christians did fetishize dogma. In A.D. 386 a law was passed declaring that those “who contend about religion … shall pay with their lives and blood.” Books were systematically burned.
. . .
. . . she opens her book with a potent description of black-robed zealots from 16 centuries ago taking iron bars to the beautiful statue of Athena in the sanctuary of Palmyra, located in modern-day Syria. Intellectuals in Antioch (in ancient Syria) were tortured and beheaded, as were the statues around them.
. . .
Nixey closes her book with the description of another Athena, in the city of her name, being decapitated around A.D. 529, her defiled body used as a steppingstone into what was once a world-renowned school of philosophy. Athena was the deity of wisdom. The words “wisdom” and “historian” have a common ancestor, a proto-Indo-European word meaning to see things clearly. Nixey delivers this ballista-bolt of a book with her eyes wide open and in an attempt to bring light as well as heat to the sad story of intellectual monoculture and religious intolerance. Her sympathy, corruscatingly, compellingly, is with the Roman orator Symmachus: “We see the same stars, the sky is shared by all, the same world surrounds us. What does it matter what wisdom a person uses to seek for the truth?”

For the full review, see:
Bettany Hughes. “‘How the Ancient World Was Destroyed.” The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, June 10, 2018): 12.
(Note: ellipses between, and at the start of, paragraphs, added; ellipsis internal to paragraph, in original.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date June 8, 2018, and has the title “How Christians Destroyed the Ancient World.”)

The book under review, is:
Nixey, Catherine. The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.