College is a Poor Investment

If you’re considering sending your son or daughter to a college, it’s worthwhile to read, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, by Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. I’ve included excerpts below describing campus tyranny and why you’re wasting your money.

The dramatic expansion of the administrative class on campus may be the most important factor in the growth of campus intrusions into free speech and thought. While FIRE has long been concerned about the harmful results of swelling campus bureaucracy, Professor Benjamin Ginsberg of Johns Hopkins University made the case in detail in his stinging 2011 book, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters. Ginsberg exposed the dizzying growth of the administrative class at universities, the usurpation of powers that once belonged strictly to the faculty, the surprising lack of qualifications of many administrators, the unseemly rise in the salaries of administrators (especially university presidents), and how a burgeoning bureaucracy jacks up costs while diluting educational quality. This ever-expanding bureaucracy creates and enforces an environment of censorship on campus….

Students are not paying for an exponential increase in the quality of their education, but rather for a massive increase in campus bureaucracy. This includes an expansion in the number of residence life officials (who are in charge of dormitories), student judicial affairs personnel (who administer campus discipline), and university attorneys. The administrative class is largely responsible for the hyperregulation of students’ lives, the lowering of due process standards for students accused of offenses, the extension of administrative jurisdiction far off campus, the proliferation of speech codes, and outright attempts to impose ideological conformity (like the ones you will see in Chapter 5). Parents and students are paying tens—even hundreds—of thousands of dollars for the privilege of being censored!

….As Alan Charles Kors has pointed out, one of the great ironies of contemporary censorship on campus is that it constitutes a “great generational swindle”: the same baby boomers who fought so hard for free speech on campus under the banner of “Question Authority” turned around and imposed speech codes and free speech zones when it was their turn to be in charge of the academy. This change can be seen in the excesses of campus police, some of which have been caught on video and circulated around the planet. Whether it’s the infamous “Don’t tase me, bro!” incident at the University of Florida in 2007 or the more recent video of campus security officers at UC Davis casually spraying a dozen or more peacefully protesting students in the face with an industrial-sized can of pepper spray, the public is becoming aware that universities are getting increasingly aggressive with students who get out of line….

Universities are afraid of being sued even for frivolous claims of harassment and discrimination by students or employees. Currently, the logic seems to be that a free speech lawsuit is comparatively rare and will not cost much in court, while lawsuits for harassment and discrimination are far more common and costly. Therefore, university attorneys conclude that it is best to have broad speech-restrictive policies that you can point to during litigation to show you were proactive against “offensive speech,” and that protecting speech must be secondary. Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus examined universities’ fear of liability and the link between legal fees and out-of-control tuition in their book Higher Education? (2010). They concluded that “[a] big slice of the tuition pie ends up with lawyers and their clients. After hospitals, colleges may be our society’s most sued institutions.” While some legal threats to universities are valid (say, a lawsuit for the denial of free speech), many others contribute to an overly cautious, overly regulated atmosphere that’s hostile to free speech….

Freshmen arriving at Harvard in the fall of 2011 made history: For the first time in Harvard’s multicentury existence, students were asked to sign a pledge to specific ideological values. They were asked to pledge “to sustain a community characterized by inclusiveness and civility” and to affirm that “the exercise of kindness holds a place on a par with intellectual attainment.” Who could possibly object to such a warm and fuzzy pledge? Well, for starters, Harvard’s former dean Harry Lewis.

In an eloquent blog post on August 30, 2011, Lewis explained why pressuring students to sign loyalty oaths to seemingly unobjectionable values goes completely against what Harvard has always represented. He argued that “Harvard should not condone the sacrifice of rights to speech and thought simply because they can be inconvenient in a residential college.” He also debunked the claim that the pledge was voluntary in any meaningful sense: freshmen were approached by resident advisors with disciplinary powers when they first arrived on campus and were “encouraged” to sign the pledge, and if they did so, their names were added to a list of signatories that was posted on dormitory entryways. Students not signing the agreement were therefore subject to “public shaming.” Lewis went on to add, “Few students, in their first week at Harvard, would have the courage to refuse this invitation. I am not sure I would advise any student to do so.” Still, students and some commentators didn’t see what the fuss was all about, or what made the pledge so objectionable.

The title of my September 7, 2011 Huffington Post article about the pledge effectively sums up the heart of my objection: “Does Harvard Want Bold Thinkers or Good Little Boys and Girls?” To me, nothing better exemplifies the problem of cultivating in students a mindless certainty about serious issues than such an oath. The comparative merits of civility, kindness, industry, etc. versus intellectual attainment is a great topic for debate, but here Harvard basically said, “Oh screw it, it’s much too hard to actually discuss the relative merits of all these competing values. Just sign this damn pledge.” This is intellectual laziness, and it teaches terrible lessons about the way an intellectual community is supposed to work, as it places conformity above deep and meaningful questioning. It’s as if Harvard suddenly came to believe, after hundreds of years of existence, that it could take a shortcut to solving profound questions of ethics and moral philosophy. Trying to sidestep the ethical questions and simply inject a set of qualities through a piece of paper is a glowing path to groupthink. As John Stuart Mill well knew, those in power often invoke civility to punish speech they dislike, but overlook the equally acid-tongued statements that are in agreement with their own assumptions.

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Summer 2016 Videos and Pictures

The videos below are of Mary performing “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” at Twigs Restaurant in Rochester, MN; several scenes from Steamboat Springs; and the gymnastics of the herd of deer in our backyard, including one buck who always looks both ways before crossing the street.

Mary riding her bike in Laramie, Wyoming.

Mary riding her bike in Laramie, Wyoming.

Mark climbing a wall at Breckenridge.

Mark climbing a wall at Breckenridge.

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A Trip to Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming, and Minnesota

I enjoyed a 3 week driving vacation in 4 states in June and July and here are some things I saw.

Pedestrian bridge across the Missouri River connecting Omaha, Nebraska to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Pedestrian bridge across the Missouri River connecting Omaha, Nebraska to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Pedestrian and biker view of bridge named after the politician who got the federal earmark money used for its construction.

Pedestrian and biker view of bridge named after the politician who got the federal earmark money used for its construction.

Sculpture in downtown Omaha, a spiffy place worth visiting.

Sculpture in downtown Omaha, a spiffy place worth visiting.

Bench at Lake Mac, western Nebraska, halfway between Omaha and Denver. It is congested in summer but clears out after Labor Day.

Bench at Lake Mac, western Nebraska, halfway between Omaha and Denver. It is congested in summer but clears out after Labor Day.

Sculpture at a new park in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Sculpture at a new park in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Pyramid house in Clear Lake, Iowa, the last town Buddy Holly played in before he died. The ballroom is still there and still plays live music.

Pyramid house in Clear Lake, Iowa, the last town Buddy Holly played in before he died. The ballroom is still there and still plays live music.

The Iowa Capital building where Mary worked as a teenager.

The Iowa Capital building where Mary worked as a teenager.

Chet and his new dog.

Chet and his new dog.

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National Geographic Discusses Dead Chilean Fish

National Geographic wrote about the Chilean seafood industry, excerpted below.

Images of death have been arriving from southern Chile for weeks, each one seemingly more apocalyptic than the last. First there were thousands of dead salmon in aquaculture cages. Then there were rafts of dead sardines floating along the coast. Next, beached clams covered miles of shoreline. Then there were die-offs of jellyfish, birds, and even mammals.

So much death has sown panic among the public. Worried that their livelihoods are at risk, fishermen have taken to the streets, blocking roads and sowing unrest.

“People don’t dare to eat our fish because they’re afraid it is contaminated, so we are all affected on the island,” says Marcos Salas, president of the Fishermen’s Union of Quellón, one of the main towns on the Chilean island of Chiloé….

Globally, microalgae blooms have been more prevalent this year, with scientists pointing to warmer waters from El Niño as a likely culprit. In fact, this year’s cycle has been so powerful that some have dubbed it Niño Godzilla….

From February to March this year, one of these blooms killed 25 million salmon in 45 farming centers in Chile. What happened next would prove to be controversial.

About thirty percent of the dead fish were taken to landfills. But the rest were thrown into the sea, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) from Chiloé island. That operation was authorized by the Chilean Navy and the fisheries managers.

A few weeks later, a wave of more dead sealife washed up on Chiloé. While the government has blamed El Niño, many on the island suspect the dumping of the dead salmon might have had something to do with it. It’s one more example of the lax regulations of the country’s aquaculture industry, they say, which has exploded since the 1970s, making Chile the world’s second largest exporter of salmon.

Environmentalists have complained for years that Chile’s aquaculture industry has polluted the water through feces and unfinished food, which may build up on the seafloor.

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Why Are Governments Regulating Bathrooms?

I thought Donald Trump was the silliest man in politics but I was wrong as Roy Cordato explains in We Need Separation of Bathroom and State:

In late February the Charlotte, North Carolina, city council passed an “antidiscrimination” law, scheduled to go into effect on April 1. It was aimed at protecting what, in the view of the city council, are the rights of those in the gay, lesbian, and transgender community. The centerpiece of this law was a provision that prohibits businesses providing bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers from segregating usage of those facilities by gender, biologically defined. Biological males or females must be allowed to use the facilities of the opposite sex if they claim that that is the sex they identify with psychologically….

While religious liberty is an important concern, the issue is much broader. This ordinance was an assault on the rights of private property owners and economic freedom, regardless of one’s religious beliefs.

The primary targets of the Charlotte ordinance were privately owned businesses that offer bathrooms, changing rooms, showers, etc., for their customer’s convenience. The decision of how to structure access to these facilities may, for some, be based on their religious beliefs but for many others it is a secular business decision. Their goal is customer satisfaction driven by the desire to make a profit and earn a living. The property that they use is privately owned, the investments that they make come from private funds, and those who reap the rewards or suffer the losses are private entrepreneurs. The bathrooms in their establishments are part of the product that they provide.

In a free society based on property rights and free markets, as all free societies must be, a privately owned business would have the right to decide whether or not it wants separate bathrooms strictly for men and women biologically defined, bathrooms for men and women subjectively or psychologically defined, completely gender neutral bathrooms with no labels on the doors, or no bathrooms at all.

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The History of Food, 1850-present

One of the best business books Mary and I have read in the past few years is, The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America. There have been huge improvements in food production and distribution during the last 150 years, chronicled well in this book. A&P was a much larger company than Wal-Mart 50 years ago. I excerpted two passages.

Canned goods, like cardboard boxes, were an old idea that became economical only in the 1880s. Canned goods were first used to feed Napoleon’s army in 1795, and the first U.S. canning plant was established in 1819. But cans were expensive: each was made of tin pieces individually cut with shears and then soldered together, with a skilled can maker turning out a hundred cans per day. The industry got a boost from military orders during the Civil War and the start of salmon canning on the Pacific coast in 1864, and by 1870 the United States had over a hundred plants canning fruits, vegetables, fish, and oysters. The key inventions came in 1874, when two Baltimore men, A. K. Shriver and John Fisher, found alternative ways of controlling temperature to avoid explosions during the canning process. A new machine to cap cans was introduced in the mid-1880s, reducing the need for skilled cappers, and the first successful labeling machine was invented in 1893. Automation made canning cheap: one man could cook five thousand cans of tomatoes a day in 1865 but four times that many in 1894, at a lower daily wage. More than a thousand canneries were operating in 1890, and expansion was so rapid that by 1900 food processing accounted for one-fifth of all manufacturing in the United States. Cheap canning provided grocers a wide assortment of branded merchandise to sell.

Like many successful companies, A&P was constantly harassed by the government.

The cold financial details revealed in days of such testimony presented a compelling yet simple story. Firm orders from a retailer with the size and national scale of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company enabled grocery manufacturers to lower their production costs and promote their products in ways that would otherwise have been impossible, and in return the chain expected a share of the manufacturers’ gains. But while business school professors saw such testimony as evidence of economic rationality, the anti-chain forces read it precisely the opposite way. A&P’s prices were “close to 10 percent” below his own, testified the grocer Harry Wadsworth of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, “and if I had their discounts and allowances, I could meet them easily.”

In any event, evidence about efficiency would never address the underlying concerns of Wright Patman and millions of others, who feared the demise of a society in which personal relationships were all-important and hardworking men had the opportunity to rise through their own efforts. Where experts pointed to scientific management and consumer benefits, Patman saw “the huge chain stores sapping the civic life of local communities with an absentee overlordship, draining off their earnings to his coffers, and reducing their independent business men to employees or to idleness.” The disagreement concerned worldview far more than economics, and it could not be bridged with explanations about the cost of advertising yeast.

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Gerry Spence on Freedom

One of my favorite writers is Wyoming trial lawyer Gerry Spence, best known for his work on the Karen Silkwood case that was made into the film, Silkwood. I enjoyed Seven Simple Steps to Personal Freedom: An Owner’s Manual for Life, excerpted below.

As I look back, the most fortunate events in my life, although deeply painful, were the rejections I suffered. They proved to be immensely liberating gifts. I shudder to think what would have been my fate had I become a congressman or a professor or a judge. Had any taken me—the voters, the dean, the governor—I would surely have been irretrievably enslaved. Had I been elected to Congress, I would have become enslaved to backroom politicians, to corporate money, and to the fear that one day my decisions might not be pleasing to the voters, without regard to whether or not they might be pleasing to me. One can only imagine the stultifying environment of a law professor in a small Wyoming law school. And imagine the likes of me sitting on the bench as a judge enslaved to the structured life and mentality of the sitting jurist. All along what I failed to recognize were the forces that had always been at work within. Though I had been born into slavery and taught to follow the rules of a good slave, I had an irresistible longing to be free. Certainly it would be expected that one who had suffered so much rejection during his lifetime might have learned along the way to conform, to make himself more agreeable, to become less offensive, less intimidating, less outspoken, less spontaneous, more predictable, and more structured. I had not yet understood that freedom finally meant I must take myself, accept myself, own myself, be myself, value myself, discover myself, nurture myself, and reject all that violates, imprisons, diminishes, or tends to capture the self. I had not yet learned that, in the end, we are our own slave masters.


On the underside of freedom lurks the sense that we are as puny as a particle of dust at sea. We stay imprisoned in bad marriages because we are afraid to be alone. We endure every manner of indignity and outrage, every agony and tedium, because we are afraid—afraid to throw off the traces and experience the naked terror that so dominates the idea of freedom. We kiss our shackles. We stay at home with the old folks, or never leave the farm or the neighborhood. We linger on in daddy’s business or hang on to the old job until we have worn a track around it like the knee-deep trail of the old gristmill horse, because we are too frightened to march out into the wilderness alone.


I remember when one simply bought one’s ticket and hopped on the airplane. Today we have constructed new cages in old zoos. Today we are terrorized by terrorists. Yet there are probably no more than a few score people in the entire nation whose madness would cause them to plot the willful destruction of hundreds of innocent passengers. As a consequence, these few, whoever they might be, control 260 million people. Today we take it as an unquestioned part of travel, as the way of things, that we must identify ourselves with an official picture identification—the precursor of tattoos on our wrists. Today we accept as the way of things that our bodies must be searched mechanically, that our luggage must be inspected, that once aboard, we must behave in numerous purposeless ways that have little or nothing to do with our safety but control us perfectly like cattle run through the chutes. We know that if someone wants to manufacture a bomb and blow up the plane and its passengers, all of the endless procedures we have endured will have proven to be only the known landscape over which any terrorist can travel with ease.


Slavery provides a special kind of security—security from making one’s own decisions, security from thinking for one’s self, security from being responsible for one’s acts, and security from experiencing one’s life. A strange security persists—the security against being free. Only the dead are utterly secure. The struggle between freedom and security is eternal. The American colonists, by wresting their liberty from the king, gave up the security of his protection, of his armies and his powerful navy. They gave up the security of his laws, and of his exchequer. Yet there is no security under the yoke. The chicken in the chicken house is not secure. Saved from the coyote, the chicken will be eaten by the farmer.


It’s especially telling how young people, today, deal with their debts. So many debtors just seem okay about it. No one, of course, likes his or her debt, and everyone, of course, wants it gone, but among many debtors there is a curious lack of urgency. They exhibit an almost brazen indifference about owing tens of thousands of dollars, or going into forbearance, or having hundreds of dollars taken from their monthly incomes. Most are fine with going on the twenty-year repayment plan, as if nothing was at stake. They thought of their debt as some annoying, inevitable bill like car insurance, not the steel bars that kept them confined to lives of everlasting obligation.


The worker who seeks security cannot exhibit the free mind necessary to spring ahead on his own. He requires an overseer, a time clock, rules of work, rules of vacations, rules of sick leave, rules about having babies, rules about rules. He requires laws to protect him, and commissions to hear his complaints and representatives to represent him. It takes endless paper and energy, and the ugly wrestling deadens the spirit of both master and slave and leaves them both weary and both full of hate.

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Biking in Pueblo, Colorado

I rode my bike yesterday in Pueblo, Colorado, the second largest city in Colorado in 1960, and saw some interesting buildings and houses.

James Poole

New Courthouse

Old House

Rosemount Museum

Semicircle House

Treed Stone House

Union far

Union close


WW Memorial

Big Stone House

Bike rack

Carriage House

Hill House

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Venus Climbs Texas Cliffs

One of our most memorable days with Venus was when Dave and Gina Edrich took us to Pedernales Falls State Park near Austin, Texas in May 2004. Venus was 3 years old and could ascend a vertical rock face as fast and easily as a goat!

Pedernales Group

Dave Ascent

Venus Jumping

Mary Ascent

Gina Ascent

Venus Ascent

Venus Descent
Water Dogs

Dave Venus

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Music Using Marbles

I found an interesting musical instrument using marbles via, a video sharing platform.

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