Thursday, August 28, 2003

Spiders With Tenure
Ben Stein

There is a great scene in "Richard II" in which the imprisoned monarch paces in a cell. He has only one companion, a spider. He is thinking of how he got into that mess of getting deposed by Bolingbroke. He says he will do something like make his soul the mate to his brain and try to produce the thoughts that will answer his crisis.

The reason I am thinking of this is that I am down in my office in my house in Malibu. I came out here late last night. As always happens at least once a year, there was an attack of house flies. They always congregate in one place right next to my desk, swarming against a floor-to-ceiling window. They are young and dumb, and it takes me a while to kill them all, but eventually I do. Then I sweep them up and flush them down the toilet. But in the meantime, a group of spiders has usually come along to eat the flies, and I have to kill them, too. It is a lot of work being a homeowner.

Anyway, I am thinking about thinking because I have a question that is perpetually going through my brain, and like the imprisoned Plantagenet, I am trying to figure it out in my spidery cell. This is roughly how it goes: Why are universities in this country so determinedly left-wing and anti-American? How did this come about? Who made it come about? What are the psychological and sociological factors that led to this dismal state?

I recently heard a story about a man who taught at a school in North Carolina who was so anti-American that although he was assigned to teach American history, he simply refused to do it. Instead, he selected two big black students to be his bodyguards like in the famous photo of Huey Newton, and they stood guard in his classroom while he paced back and forth inveighing against America.

Then I think of other teachers who talk about how they are rooting for al-Qaeda or for Saddam Hussein. Then I think of how when I was at UC Santa Cruz, in the election of 1972, in the campus polling precinct, there were something like 1,500 votes cast, of which 1,497 went for McGovern. The remaining three were yours truly, my girlfriend Pat Kane (who has not spoken to me in about twenty-eight years) and a friend who was a returning Marine going to school on the GI Bill. Why was there such a powerful left-wing monolith? Why is it even more pronounced now?

Ben Stein

Read the whole illuminating article

The hoax of disappearing manufacturing


Back in 1995, right in the middle of a nine-year economic boom, Louis Uchitelle co-authored an absurdly downbeat series of New York Times articles on "The Downsizing of America." That series was full of opinion polls, as though popular illusions could substitute for facts. More recently, there has been hope that scandals at The New York Times might have given new editors at least a casual interest in factual accuracy. Apparently not. A couple of weeks ago, the unrepentant Mr. Uchitelle wrote yet another weirdly apocalyptic piece claiming, "Manufacturing is slowly disappearing in the United States."

If you were hoping for some proof this time, be prepared to be disappointed again. Uchitelle says, "Manufacturing's share of real gross domestic product . . . has dropped to between 16 and 17 percent, from 18 to 19 percent in the 1950s. . . . the downward trends are alarming." Similar statistical exercises recently led to an interesting debate between my old friends Bruce Bartlett and Paul Craig Roberts. Yet the National Association of Manufacturers' Web site shows that "manufacturing's share of the U.S. economy, as measured by real GDP, has been stable since the late 1940s.

Alan Reynolds

Get the facts here.