29 04 2012

This pretty much says it all

Come to think of it: Sanjay Gupta was a great commencement speaker and all, but Alice Cooper would have given him a run for the money. Have you ever heard Nights with Alice Cooper? Cooper has a surprisingly charming personality and knows how to spin a yarn. To think, we could have had the first commencement speech accompanied by pyrotechnics.


Occupy UMich: mad as hell, clueless as ever

4 04 2012

The Occupy Movement, or whatever is left of it, has been characterized by a series of ideological near-misses. Protesters accurately identify a problem – Wall Street cronyism, the rising cost of healthcare, the lack of quality jobs – before demanding more of the intervention that accelerated those problems in the first place. Short-term social justice always trumps long-term solutions.

The University of Michigan’s own Occupy group, “Occupy UMich,” is no different. I got excited when I saw their banners; they seemed to echo what I have been saying since I came to campus. Raise hell not tuition! Right on! Let’s show those fat cat administrators!

A sit-in this is not

Then I went to their website. Their mission statement told me everything I needed to know:

We, the true motor of the university, have two options: either continue to be passive consumers of a product that should not, cannot, and must not be for sale; or, reclaim the university as a public space whose true owners are the students, the faculty, the staff, and the community members who make it run. In solidarity with our peers across the country, we opt for the latter vision. We will not stop until we realize it. We are Occupy U of M and we are the 99%!

A stirring manifesto, to be sure. It’s certainly more than one can expect in the age of  flash-in-the-pan Facebook protests. And on the surface, Occupy UMich has a lot going for it; generally, any group that is willing to take a jab at Mary Sue Coleman is getting at least something right. Read the rest of this entry »

LaFaive brings the fight for freer alcohol to U-M

20 03 2012

Ever tasted a great craft beer at a microbrewery and then tried in vain to find it for sale at a local bar? Ever wondered why your favorite whiskey seems to cost so much more in Michigan than it does in, say, Indiana? There’s no mystery behind these frustrations: you can thank the State of Michigan and powerful special interest groups for our inefficient and costly statewide alcohol distribution system.

Whether you purchase your beer or wine at a store or enjoy it at a bar, it first passes through Michigan’s “three-tiered” distribution system. Under this system, beer and wine suppliers are required to sell their products to state-sanctioned beer and wine wholesalers. These wholesalers are granted a monopoly on beer and wine sales in a given region – and retailers within these regions must deal with their designated wholesaler. The wholesalers both determine the beer and wine selections available to establishments within their regions and tack on additional costs that retailers have no choice but to pay.

Liquor is handled in a slightly different, but equally deleterious, manner. Rather than granting private companies explosive distribution rights for spirits, the state of Michigan has set itself up as sole distributor. Yet like the beer and wine wholesalers, the state takes a hefty cut before selling booze to private establishments. Lansing marks up the price of every bottle by 65% and pockets the difference – and that’s before further state taxes are applied.

This Byzantine system was put in place after the end of Prohibition in 1933 – and its beneficiaries, including the members of the Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association, have made sure it has remained in place ever since. Most consumers are unaware of the existence of this monopolistic distribution system, let alone its impact on their choices and budgets. That’s exactly how the wholesalers want it to stay; their distribution monopoly is a virtual license to extort money from Michigan’s alcohol retailers. Read the rest of this entry »

U-M: Obamatons

31 01 2012

I’ve often written optimistically of the young people resisting the urge to conform to the campus status quo, proclaiming the ideals of liberty deep behind the enemy lines of a hostile academia.

Nowhere was that trend less apparent that at the University of Michigan’s Al Glick Field House this past Friday morning, where Obama spoke to an adoring crowd of 4,000.

The students and faculty who packed the Field House and filled overflow rooms were not there to be challenged. They weren’t there for insight. They were there for a performance.

And Obama delivered. From the requisite “Go Blue!” and references to U-M athletes (which seem so endearing to supporters and so trite to opponents) to a healthy dose of leftist rhetoric, Obama hit all the right notes.

Education for all! Jobs of the future! Redistribution! Class warfare! Warren Buffett’s secretary! Clean energy!

“We’ve already doubled fuel economy standards on cars,” said Obama.

No, Mr. President, we didn’t double fuel economy standards. You most certainly didn’t. If anything, automotive engineers did – and the consumer picked up the tab racked up by the ever-increasing burdens of regulation.

Law can be changed by edict, but reality can’t – not that the audience of supposedly well-educated Wolverines cared to take notice of Obama’s arrogantly fallacious statements. They didn’t seem to notice the vacuousness of his grand plan for education reform, either. Read the rest of this entry »

Obama, political rock star

26 01 2012

College graduates may be slowly but surely souring on President Obama, but the Commander in Chief can still command an adoring audience in Ann Arbor.

I mingled with the crowd queued for tickets between classes this morning. At 10AM, there were hundreds of students still lined up alongside the Michigan Union. Many were wrapped in blankets; they had been there since dawn or earlier.

It's like a Star Wars premiere for Obama geeks

The masses were enthusiastic, to say the least. Even the passers by wanted to participate in the madness. I stopped to snap a few photos, and when I turned to walk away, I saw that there were six or seven others doing the same.

I won’t be at the speech tomorrow. Though I do wish that I could attend, I have a sneaking suspicion that the event will be as substance-free as his previous U-M appearance – the Class of 2010 commencement ceremony.

It will likely go something like this: Read the rest of this entry »

Globetrotting Mary Sue

24 01 2012

In an editorial published in the newest issue of the Michigan Review, my colleagues and I examine University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman’s travel and expense budget. Surprise, surprise – it’s as super-sized as her salary:

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman spent $59,553 on travel and $70,593 on meals during the 2010 calendar year, according to a report by the Detroit Free Press. It is inevitable for a university president to accrue substantial expenses while conducting official business. Yet Coleman’s $130,146 in spending seems all the more extravagant when it is compared to that of other university presidents. Read the rest of this entry »

President Coleman, U of Entitlement

5 01 2012

While her students were busy cramming for finals last month, UM President Mary Sue Coleman bravely took on the college tuition bubble. . . by penning an open letter to America’s Man of Action, Barack Obama.

I’m glad I was too busy studying to notice the story. I would have blown a gasket.

Never mind the fact that Coleman – one of the most generously compensated university presidents in the nation – can bemoan the endless upward climb of tuition rates while raking in over $750,000-a-year in salary, deferred pay, bonuses, and benefits. Her gall is endemic in the industry that is modern-day higher education.

It's good to be so revered by the establishment that you are completely beyond reproach for your hypocrisy–just ask either of these two

Ranting about Coleman’s hypocrisy is satisfying – but it is neither groundbreaking nor constructive. So I read the full text of her open letter (if you enjoy digesting such pap, you can do so here). But there’s only one statement in the letter that matters – and it is as clarifying as it is brief:

Read the rest of this entry »