Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 10th, 2022

Ivy League Cartel Sued for Price-Fixing

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Matt Stiller writes in Big:

Last April, Sam Haselby and I wrote a piece titled “Break up the Ivy League Cartel,’ offering a history of the elitism of top universities in America. For hundreds of years, these top schools have policed the moral, cultural, and economic boundaries of what forms the American elite, and in the post World War II era, the global elite. They are in many ways a cartel of institutions that share strategy on endowment funds, academic trends, cultural capital and student management.

But it’s not just this informal elite-production model that makes such universities a cartel; they are also an *actual cartel.* Today, a group of class action law firms sued 16 universities for price-fixing against low-income students in the admissions process, which is the key gatekeeping mechanism designed to enhance prestige. The defendants are the wealthiest and most powerful academic institutions in America: Brown, CalTech, the University of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Emory, Georgetown, MIT, Northwestern, Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania, Rice, Vanderbilt, and Yale.

The specific charge is that these universities colluded to price-fix the terms of financial aid. Working together to provide scholarships isn’t necessarily illegal. A lot of universities give out scholarships based on income, under the premise that higher education should be an equalizing force in American society. Some schools even say they make admissions ‘need-blind,’ which means that they don’t take into account ability to pay when determining which students to accept. Instead, the admissions department accepts students based on merit, and then gives accepted students scholarships to make sure they can afford the schooling.

But what specifically makes someone ‘needy’ in a ‘need-blind’ system? The answer to that is an accounting question, so universities work together through an organization called the 568 President’s Group to set the terms for what makes someone needy. Now, if this also sounds like open price-fixing, that’s because it is. But done properly, it’s not necessarily illegal. The reason is universities have been caught before for price-fixing, and part of the settlement of that suit was that they were given an antitrust exemption so they could work together to price scholarships, within certain bounds.

In 1991, the Justice Department investigated 23 prestigious Northeastern universities – including Harvard, Yale, and MIT – for holding an annual meeting in which they “discussed the financial aid applications of 10,000 students who had been accepted to more than one institution in the group,” ultimately colluding to offer the same financial package to these students. The Attorney General called them a “collegiate cartel.” After the settlement, top universities agreed to stop the meetings, but it’s hard to watch the Ivy Leagues without concluding that they are watching each other and mimicking each other carefully.

This settlement was codified when Congress passed the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994. Universities were allowed to work together to establish standards for who is needy, and how much they would need. However, to qualify for the antitrust exemption, universities had to admit “all students” on a need-blind basis. If they aren’t need-blind for everyone, they can’t work with other universities to price admissions.

Do these universities have a need-blind policy for all students? Most of them say that they do. But as it turns out, admissions officers have a nasty habit of letting in the children of the wealthy and powerful, in return for donations and prestige. “At Dartmouth,” so goes the complaint, “development officers meet with admissions staff to review a list created by the development office. Each year, up to 50 applicants may be considered through this special process, most of whom are admitted, accounting for 4-5% of Dartmouth’s student body.” Selling admissions to the powerful is policy at many of these schools.

Sometimes the individual cases are jaw-dropping. For example, the CEO of Sony, Michal Lynton, was trying to get his daughter into college, and the private equity baron Leon Black, who had been on the board of Dartmouth, tried to recruit her to that school, because of the assumption that a large donation would accompany her to campus.

Alas, Black failed. Lynton went to Brown, as did her father’s $1 million donation.

 

It’s not always about money. At Georgetown, the dean of admissions said, “On the fundraising side, we also have a small number of ‘development potential’ candidates. If Bill Gates wants his kid to come to Georgetown, we’d be more than happy to have him come and talk to us.” But don’t worry, he added, “not all those special cases end up being people who give a lot of money. We have children of Supreme Court justices, senators, and so on apply. We may give extra consideration to them because of the opportunities that may bring.”

So these schools do not accept all students on a need-blind basis. And that creates a problem, because high-end universities restrict their incoming classes, which generates scarcity and prestige. Class size doesn’t increase with increasing population size, it is fixed, with the goal of these universities turning themselves into, as Scott Galloway notes, luxury brands. For instance, in 1940, the acceptance rate at Harvard was eighty-five percent. In 1970, it was twenty percent. For the class of 2025, it was 3.4 percent.

This zero sum situation means that if there are a preset number of slots that go to the wealthy, to alumni, or to the powerful, then that number of slots is not going to people who don’t have the money to attend. If you do favors for the wealthy in the admissions process, then you aren’t a need-blind admission system, and you don’t quality for the antitrust exemption. But the complaint also shows that, far from merely letting in the children of the wealthy while otherwise in all other areas being need-blind, many of these institutions actually discriminate against students who need scholarships. Vanderbilt, Penn, and Columbia don’t seem to be need-blind, with Penn and Vanderbilt officials conceding that who they accept off the waiting list depends in part on who needs financial aid. So they really don’t qualify for any antitrust exemption.

Is there really harm? Yes. The complaint shows that when universities move away from the consensus methodology for calculating the cost of college, the price they charge goes down. So there are financial costs at issue, and the 170,000 alumni who were overcharged when they went to these schools with underpowered financial aid packages deserve compensation.

It’s a very clever suit, legally speaking. No one can reasonably dispute whether universities have colluded, or whether they maintain policies favoring potential donors. There’s no need to establish a secret conspiracy, as it’s out in the open. The only real question is whether what universities have done is illegal. It’s a simple question of law, with few disputes on the facts. It’s no surprise that the suit was brought by some of the savvier plaintiff firms (Roche Freedman, Berger Montague, FeganScott, and Gilbert Litigators & Counselors).

It’s also a profoundly embarrassing suit. Every university gets a little profile in the complaint, showing how basically the students are nearly all rich kids, and the endowments of these schools are ridiculousHere, for instance, is the profile of the University of Pennsylvania. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 January 2022 at 7:14 pm

Like coffee? Want to know more about brewing coffee? Have I got a YouTube channel for you.

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Take a look at this channel. Here’s a sample:

Written by Leisureguy

10 January 2022 at 6:54 pm

The Jan. 6 Insurrectionists Begging for Pardons Sound an Awful Lot Like Confederate Soldiers

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In Mother Jones Anthony Conwright points out an interesting similarity:

Receiving a presidential pardon for subverting the government is not a novelty in the United States, though the Trump era made it almost a stamp of approval for criminal behavior. In an interview with Rolling Stone, an organizer of the “Stop the Steal” movement claimed that, before the Capitol breach, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Az.) promised a “full pardon” for their “hard work” and said Trump was also on board.

“I would have done it either way with or without the pardon,” the organizer, who was granted anonymity by Rolling Stone, added. Gosar joined 197 other House Republicans who voted not to impeach Donald Trump for “incitement of insurrection,” absolving Trump of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which forbids any person who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the United States from “hold[ing] any office…under the United States,” itself a pardon of sorts.

Of course, now that Trump is out of office, the January 6 rioters aren’t going to get pardoned anytime soon. But the insurrectionists and their leaders have an awful lot in common with another group of white people who tried to destroy the country: Confederate soldiers. And the era of Reconstruction offers lessons for what happens when the government allows traitors posing as patriotic legislators to remain in its midst.

On December 8, 1863, while the war was still raging, Abraham Lincoln issued his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which, in a bid to popularize emancipation, gave a full pardon to all Confederates who took an oath of allegiance to the United States, excepting the highest-ranking officials. Once 10 percent of those who voted in the 1860 election took the oath of allegiance, a state could be readmitted to the union. Private property of Southerners would be restored, so long as emancipation was accepted. The goals of Lincoln’s proclamation were to “suppress the insurrection” and provide a pathway for Confederate states to join the union; in other words, to allow the South to turn over a new leaf and help the country move forward.

Radical Republicans feared Lincoln’s 10 percent plan was too lenient. They were proved right when, after Lincoln’s assassination, President Andrew Johnson—who not a year earlier gave a speech saying, “I am for a white man’s government, and in favor of free white qualified voters controlling this country, without regard to negroes”—began undermining Reconstruction. He started by pardoning high-ranking Confederates. Among them was Harry T. Hayes, a former Confederate general who led the rebels at Gettysburg. Following Hayes’ pardon, he became sheriff of New Orleans and in 1866 deputized fellow Confederates to disrupt a Louisiana constitutional convention. When a delegation of 130 Black citizens marched to the convention to extend voting rights to free Black people, remove Black Codes, and disenfranchise ex-Confederates, Hayes and his deputies fired upon the group, killing at least 40 free Black people in what is known as the New Orleans massacre.

In a speech, Johnson blamed the massacre on the “Radical Congress” pushing for a “new government” that intended “to enfranchise one portion of the population, called the colored population, who had just been emancipated, and at the same time disenfranchise white men.”

Trump, who opposed redesignating military bases named after Confederate generals, echoed Johnson days after the insurrection, blaming “antifa people.” He repeated the refrains he’d been pounding on for months, falsely accusing predominantly Black counties of election fraud. “All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical-left Democrats.” Trump’s “radical-left Democrats” are Johnson’s “Radical Congress,” a coalition of progressives who attempted to thwart their president’s anti-Black agenda. Like Johnson, Trump views Black suffrage as antithetical to his political existence. “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Trump’s lies about the insurrection were a remastering of the South’s “lost cause,” a Confederate myth that the Civil War was not a battle for slavery but for “states’ rights” against Northern aggressors, and that white enslavers were benevolent owners of Black human beings. The lost cause presented Confederates with an attractive concession: The South lost the war not because their position was morally repugnant but because the North had superior resources.

Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, touted the “lost cause” in his autobiographyThe Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. “I confidently refer for the establishment of the fact that whatever of bloodshed, of devastation, or shock to republican government has resulted from the war, is to be charged to the Northern States.” Davis was pardoned on December 25, 1868, when Johnson extended amnesty to each person who’d participated in the rebellion—which jettisoned Davis’ trial for treason and contravened Republicans’ attempts to punish Confederate soldiers—ultimately expunging every Confederate of crimes against the United States. (Although Davis was pardoned by Johnson, he was not allowed to vote or hold office. Davis was posthumously awarded “full rights of citizenship” in 1978 by Jimmy Carter.)

Trump reappraised the violence, treachery, and death his supporters caused on January 6 as honorable protest of “innocent people” whose rights were plundered. In Trump’s contemporary fiction, he did not lose the election—his presidency was overthrown by Democratic marauders, and he lacked the political resources to surmount their coup. In the year since,  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

10 January 2022 at 4:25 pm

5 best web browsers as of now

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I use Vivaldi. How about you?

Written by Leisureguy

10 January 2022 at 3:38 pm

BBQ Butler Soy Curls

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I normally don’t eat highly processed foods — and Butler Soy Curls are definitely processed to the point that they no longer resemble soybeans, though that is what they are — nothing else. I was intrigued after watching Derek Simnett’s lunch burrito in the video below (previously blogged). His BBQ soy curls, cooked in his air “fryer,” sound like something I might like.

As you can tell from the first link above, Butler soy curls are essentially just cooked, mashed, and dried whole soybeans — no other ingredients (no preservatives, no salt, no sugar, no artificial color — just soybeans).

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) is quite different. TVP is a by-product of soybean oil production. TVP was created simply as a way to monetize leftovers from oil production. TVP is not for me.

I don’t much like store-bought BBQ sauce, though, since those generally contain refined sugar, which I try to avoid. So I looked at a recipe online and then modified it to match what I have on hand. Here’s my version:

Ham’s Homemade BBQ Sauce (V. 1 — see V. 2, which is what I actually made)

• 2 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped 
• 1 Meyer lemon, roughly diced

Put that into the beaker for the immersion blender and blend well, then pour into a saucepan and add:

• 2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste (from a tube works best)
• 1 tablespoon fish sauce (can substitute tamari or soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce)
• 1 tablespoon Huy Fong Sriracha
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander 
• 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon ground ancho
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
• 1/2 teaspoon rosemary salt

Stir to mix and simmer until thickened. Taste for sweet/acid balance, and add some apple-cider vinegar (1-2 teaspoons) if more acid is needed. 

Instead of the ground ancho, I might heat one of my dried chiles in a skillet and grind it in my spice & herb grinder and use that.

Written by Leisureguy

10 January 2022 at 3:30 pm

How useful is personalized nutrition?

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The comment on caffeine was particularly interesting. 

Written by Leisureguy

10 January 2022 at 11:14 am

Buster Keaton – The Art of the Gag

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Written by Leisureguy

10 January 2022 at 10:30 am

Posted in Movies & TV, Video

Organism 46-B to start the week

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Fragrances are very much YMMV. For example, I love the coffee+honey fragrance of Planet Java Hive, but I know that some don’t like it at all. And the fragrance of Organism 46-B appeals strongly to me. (Link is to CK-6 formula, but it’s also available in the regular formula for about $10 less.) 

Scent Notes: burnt sugar – bitter orange – brandy – Hedione – tobacco absolute – benzoin resin – ambergris 

My RazoRock Amici brush worked up a very nice lather indeed. I loaded the almost-dry brush well (twice adding a driblet of water to fully load the brush), then as I worked up the lather on my face, I added two more good dollops of water, which the lather absorbed readily growing in volume while maintaining a good consistency. I like that Amici a lot: very nice handle, and the 20mm knot feels very nice while holding a lot of lather.

Prep done, I pick up my Fatip Lo Storto and set to work. This is an extremely nice slant, and I don’t me just the aesthetics (which indeed are very nice); smooth, easy shave and a totally smooth result: the Monday morning reward for getting through the weekend.

A good splash of Organism 46-B aftershave, augmented with a squirt of Hydrating Gel, and the week begins — with a very dark and overcast day, though not at the moment raining. Time for tea.

Written by Leisureguy

10 January 2022 at 10:29 am

Posted in Shaving

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