Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Harvard's divestments: Israel and fossil fuels

Harvard-related fun news: Next Tuesday, on October 9th at 10 am, Czech President Václav Klaus will host Larry Summers at the Prague Castle. Two important politically incorrect economists who know me in person. ;-)
When I was at faculty of Harvard, I also got familiar with many undergraduate students, went to the (usually Harvard) Pub with some of them, and deduced a realistic picture what they look like and what they care about.

There is a very high percentage of highly talented young people among them. (Philip Streich from Howard Georgi's house who tragically died a week ago in a family farm accident was probably one of them: an Intel Foundation bronze medal winner, a graphene company CEO since his teenage.) On the other hand, when it comes to aptitudes, I believe that the average Harvard undergraduate doesn't differ "strikingly" from the average student at other colleges that are just OK. Those folks are later unusually successful as well – but I tend to think that the Harvard diploma (and the contacts they develop over the years in the college) may be more important for that than their actual skills and hard work.

While the Harvard faculty is insanely super duper left-wing, Harvard students are much more moderate. This is manifested in many ways. For example, they would largely endorse Larry Summers when the far left (for readers who are U.S. conservatives: Larry doesn't belong to this set, according to Harvard's conventions!) organized the witch hunts against him. Of course, Harvard students are far less ideological and more practically oriented than the Harvard faculty. After all, we could say that they're normal kids with pretty normal interests.

While they drink stuff and have lots of sex, they are publishing an "adult" daily newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, too. I feel that the students – because everyone knows that they pay tuition etc. – have a significant impact on the Harvard policies. And Harvard University is a sort of a role model for many other U.S. universities, institutions, and even corporations. So you may want to follow what those kids think. They are kids who are programmed to "control the world" and to be pro-actual-establishment in every single dimension you may think of. So they're still highly politically correct – especially the self-proclaimed spokespeople of the student body. When it comes to students whom the Harvard environment naturally converts into spokesmen, think of slick, superficial, and self-centered folks like Sean Carroll; he used to be a Harvard graduate, not undergraduate student, but you may still get the idea.

I will discuss divestments – decisions to sell all holdings related to XY whenever XY becomes politically inconvenient or politically incorrect.

In 2002, a community of Harvard's anti-Semites and outcast Semites decided to ventilate their anger with the most functional country in the Middle East by proposing that Harvard isolates itself from the "dirty Jewish state" and that its management company should sell all its holdings related to Israel.

Many people at Harvard supported the move. Alan Dershowitz was one of the brave exceptions who were fighting the bigots. The discussion continued for years and the divestment wasn't coming. However, it was suddenly revealed in August 2010 that Harvard had sold all its Israeli holdings even though two days later, Harvard stated it wasn't divestment (because Harvard stated it wasn't one), it was just financially indistinguishable from one. ;-)

Clearly, the management company chose to please the anti-Semites while verbally pretending to be a "neutral party". Still, Harvard has helped to legitimize the efforts to treat Israel in a bad way – in a way that no rogue state in the region could ever be treated. The direct impact of the decision on Israel was negligible, of course; however, the indirect impact caused by the "legal" anti-Israel attitudes seen at Harvard may be significant.

Now, the climate

In 2009, some Harvard students founded a college chapter of Students for a Just and Stable Future which – despite the vague progressive name – is just another climate alarmist organization. They want Harvard to sell all its holdings that are related to fossil fuels and perhaps any other carbon-dependent industry, too.

Five days ago, the Crimson published an editorial which said that Harvard students should help the alarmist cause by all other means but the divestment was a bad idea because in the past, all proposals for a divestment were restricted to companies linked to human rights violation (I guess that the implicit assertion was that the most respectable country in the Middle East when it comes to human rights, Israel, may also be criticized for human rights violation).

However, two students who are fighting for the "just and stable future" were allowed to publish a response today. So they scream that the divestment is necessary, repeat some usual alarmist talking points, and – now, this is the shocking point – they argue that global warming is a human rights issue, indeed. Holy cow.

I know that there are many sensible people among the students at Harvard but the environment and its habits just immediately downgrades them to "also students" who are obliged to be quiet. Be sure that I have met a couple of Harvard undergraduates who complained that they were heavily harassed for their world view – especially those who were practicing Christians. This is apparently the "good", semi-officially sponsored harassment.

Kids who propose to launch a war against fossil fuel companies – which belong among the pillars of the modern civilization – should be intensely spanked by their parents at least for half an hour. At Harvard, some of these deeply confused, spoiled frats not only fail to be spanked but they indirectly influence the thinking in the whole American society. Many of us are underestimating how much harm stupid kids at disproportionately influential places may do.

And that's the memo.


  1. The traditional program of the Israeli right, in the days before the Oslo Accords, was to expand Jewish
    settlements in the occupied territories, aiming to keep the West Bank and Gaza as a permanent part of Israel
    without making any provision at all for civil or political rights of the Arab inhabitants. In effect, they wanted
    the land without the people.

    Since the Oslo Accords of 1993, the leaders of the Israeli right wing who present themselves as "realists''
    have advocated that Israel should allow the formation of a Palestinian state in the tiny, fragmented pockets of
    land that the Palestinians currently control, and concentrate on incorporating the rest into Israel. Their vision
    of Israel's future is chillingly like the apartheid conception of South Africa, where whites aimed to promote
    independent black states in isolated parcels of land. Whatever one thinks of the justice of this approach, it just
    won't work. It isn't a sound basis for Israel's existence in the 21st century. It doesn't offer any way for the
    Palestinians to wind down their resentment of Israel and concentrate on normal life, even if they want to.

  2. Is your stance on Israel in anyway connected to your denial of the Israeli connection to the WTC attacks in Sept. 2001

  3. These young people screeming in the response today and all people with similar naive and insane attitudes are not even able to think as far as their nose reaches. They never think about the bad consequences it would have for the whole civilized world if one would stop or abolish everything related to the use of fossil fuels immediately. They would probably be happier when living in the stone age anyway ...

    I'm wondering how they could get into Harward and why they dont drop out hitting their first exam ...? As a student I had some colleagues of this type ... They were always recognizable by their outfit and style, very naive, and they had neither a clue about nor were they seriously interested in the "harder" but cooler science subjects. They always complained about having to learn such things, were very noisy during the lectures, etc ...

  4. Somewhat – but it is equally connected to my denial of all other prejudiced, unhinged, and unjustifiable conspiracy theories as well, including Islam. ;-)

  5. Dear Lubos, for a while I would ride the Mass Ave bus from Cambridge across the Charles River into Boston every morning, hopping on one stop south of Central Square and getting off at Newbury. A scenic ride, with the "bomb factory" a.k.a. MIT to the left and a good view of the fabled falafel stand in front of the marble columns and of the research nuclear reactor on campus (funny how nobody ever complained about that.)

    It was common knowledge then that MIT had a brutally competitive admissions policy (incidentally they are again rated the world's best university) and I doubt this has changed. Likewise, I would expect that Harvard is still setting aside a large contingent of undergrad places for scions of alumni (it does not hurt if they also donate generously). So, that is just one reason why the undergraduate student body at Harvard in the aggregate is... not bad but certainly not stellar. But it's certainly true that Harvard and Yale are the two top places to be if maximizing contacts that will be useful in your later career is the primary goal.

    Oddly enough I cannot remember even a single MIT student, in contrast to a number of Harvard undergrads as well as people studying at BU, Northeastern, Tufts, etc. I guess the poor MIT students were always hitting the books and never had time to go out for drinks :)

  6. Dear Eugene, I would have trouble to associate names of any Harvard undergrads with faces today – except a Czech one I didn't teach and except for exceptions such as this one https://www.google.cz/search?q=limor+spector&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=cs&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=zgFrUO-ZL5OGswbBoYCgBQ&biw=1355&bih=705&sei=0QFrUP3BHMzCtAa9_oG4Bg and except for those who became string theorists and I knew as non-undergraduate-students as well, too. ;-)

    Your Harvard/MIT comparisons are fun. It reminds me of Summers' introduction of a speaker from MIT - as a guy from the best university in Cambridge Massachusetts, East from Central Square. :-)

    Otherwise I do tend to think that MIT students are more geeky, less social, and less dressed-up than Harvard students...

  7. Ed, I wonder if you are so dishonest, or just utterly miss-informed, but I'll go with option 2 and try to give you some facts. You can easily check them, I am sure. Here we go:
    Palestine had originally plenty of room. After WW1 (1922, end of Ottoman empire) was established British Mandate for Palestine (roughly size of Syria) with <1 M of people. That area was divided later to two parts - one of which, roughly 80 % of area (Transjordan), became the later state of Jordan and is state of Palestinian Arabs. So you can see that Palestinians Arabs got their state and if it was what they are interested in, that should have been end of the story. Unfortunately their goal is not to have their own state but rather destroy the Jewish state. Later the reminding 20% got split to halves one for Arabs, one for Jews. Again, this was not enough, even though by then Arabs had 90% of the original Palestinian mandate, meant for a Jewish state. And the story keeps evolving ...

  8. Personally, I liked my Government better when it was run by "Big Oil"
    because seeing my Government run by "Big Banks" has been much worse than
    anything I could have ever imagined.

  9. It's been four years since the government, in the name of preventing a
    depression, saved this megabank from ruin by pumping $45 billion of
    taxpayer money into its arm. Since then, the Obama administration has
    looked the other way as the bank committed an astonishing variety of
    crimes – some elaborate and brilliant in their conception, some so crude
    that they'd be beneath your average street thug. Bank of America has
    systematically ripped off almost everyone with whom it has a significant
    business relationship, cheating investors, insurers, depositors,
    homeowners, shareholders, pensioners and taxpayers. It brought tens of
    thousands of Americans to foreclosure court using bogus, "robo-signed"
    evidence – a type of mass perjury that it helped pioneer. It hawked
    worthless mortgages to dozens of unions and state pension funds,
    draining them of hundreds of millions in value. And when it wasn't
    ripping off workers and pensioners, it was helping to push insurance
    giants like AMBAC into bankruptcy by fraudulently inducing them to spend
    hundreds of millions insuring those same worthless mortgages.

    But despite being the very definition of an unaccountable corporate
    villain, Bank of America is now bigger and more dangerous than ever. It
    controls more than 12 percent of America's bank deposits (skirting a
    federal law designed to prohibit any firm from controlling more than 10
    percent), as well as 17 percent of all American home mortgages. By
    looking the other way and rewarding the bank's bad behavior with a
    massive government bailout, we actually allowed a huge financial company
    to not just grow so big that its collapse would imperil the whole
    economy, but to get away with any and all crimes it might commit. Too
    Big to Fail is one thing; it's also far too corrupt to survive.

    ...Matt Taibbi

    Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/bank-of-america-too-crooked-to-fail-20120314#ixzz28BjYk45T

  10. Edward Witten, the awesome Jewish string theorist, wrote the text Honza has replied to, demonstrating the mental difference between Motl and Witten on this issue (and I'm sure many other issues). Witten wrote it, and more, in 2005 in this link: http://peacenow.org/entries/archive296
    Reply to Honza:
    You said Arabs have 90% of original Mandate "meant for Jewish state". Actually the Zionists back then requested only slightly more than current amount, so only about 10-15% was meant there. Check Wikipedia.
    I agree Arab league armies tried to destroy Israel, but the settlements since '67 and accelerated in 2000's violate international treaties and aggravates situation. Cramming all Palestinians into Jordan is not economical, so currently 2 states seems best.

  11. Dear "Ed" or "non-Ed",

    after you tried to post another anti-Semitic rant in which you strongly claimed your previous comment to have been written by Ed Witten, although you are sitting at the University of Sydney, I banned you according to the IP address and all social network coordinates you have filled. I won't tolerate fucked-up anti-Semitic assholes writing anonymous comments and pretending to be from Edward Witten's, and if someone needed a signature for a death penalty for you, it would be a trivial formality, too.

    Cheers, LM

  12. News article on TBTF

    (First link in article is broken, go here directly.)