All That and a Bag of Mail

I’m currently in the air flying to Las Vegas with my fingers crossed that the Southwest Wifi is going to hold up and allow me to post the mailbag. Well, that, and that North Korea doesn’t decide to fire a missile at Las Vegas over the weekend and wipe me out. (Spoiler, the Southwest wifi is presently completely out so I can’t click publish at the normal time).

So not much prelude here, straight to your questions. As always, send your questions to claytravis@gmail.com, Tuesday is the anonymous mailbag and Friday is the regular mailbag.

Here we go.

John writes:

“I’m 100% with you on the Colin Kaepernick and Google “sexist memo” controversies. But when the Google guy was fired, my immediate thought was that it really sucks for this guy because he’ll probably get blackballed by a bunch of companies now because of his “sexist” views. However, I also agree with you that NFL owners have very good reason not to sign Kaep. In both cases, though, don’t Kaep’s and the Google guy’s problems for an employer exceed their talents in a way? The same could be said for conservatives getting fired by MSESPN: they hold views that upset viewers on the left, so they’re not worth employing.
I think it’s a really bad sign for our society that Google guy is taking this much heat for totally reasonable comments, but I guess some would make the same argument for Kaep. Want to get your thoughts on this.”
You’re right on many levels here. I’ve long said that most people in America don’t defend the first amendment, they defend the first amendment when the person being attacked has the same views as them. Having said that, I think what Kaepernick did is quite a bit different than the Google engineer.
Let me explain.
To begin with the Google engineer was specifically endeavoring to make his company better by writing about diversity in a company created database where employees debate ideas. And, if you read the memo — which hardly any of this guy’s critics actually did — his goal was to actually get more women employed at the company. So the Google engineer’s opinion — along with his coworkers — was specifically sought out on issues such as these. Moreover, he didn’t share anything but facts. And we’ve entered a strange world where facts make people uncomfortable if they don’t also correspond with their opinions. (I’ll explain this below).
What Colin Kaepernick did was take an individual stand while on the job. Take Kaepernick away from the football field and what would you think if someone at your office showed up with a Clinton or Trump sign and put it in the front yard of your office building? I think we’d all agree that someone doing that at home in their yard would be perfectly fine. But once you enter the physical premises of your employer, I think most people would say that putting up a yard sign in front of the office building would be a step too far.
Think of it this way, what would you think if the next time a UPS or Fed Ex driver showed up at your house and drove away with a Hillary or Trump sticker on his truck? That’s basically what Kap did. Once that same employee parks his company truck and gets into his own car, everyone would agree he or she can put a bumper sticker on that personal vehicle. But would anyone dispute that UPS and Fed Ex should fire a guy who refused to take a bumper sticker off his car?
Moreover, unlike the Google engineer Kaepernick’s stance had nothing to do with making his team better at their job or business. If Kaepernick had shown up at the 49ers facility with his own playbook and said he thought the team should run these plays instead of the ones they were running, the offensive coordinator might not agree with him, but he’d probably consider his suggestions. It’s unlikely that the offensive coordinator would look at Kap’s playbook and fire him because he found the suggestion of the plays he wanted to run to be unacceptable.
So I think there’s a pretty big distinction here between Kap and the Google engineer.
I do agree, however, that if Elon Musk had written the same memo he would have kept his job. Just like Aaron Rodgers would still have a job if he’d taken a knee in protest during the national anthem.
Having said that, I’ve asked all of you to think about this hypothetical, imagine Colin Kaepernick takes a knee during the national anthem to protest gay marriage being legal. Do you think the same people would be demanding that Kap be on an NFL roster? Of course not. That’s because most people use the First Amendment as a fig leaf to cover up the fact that the vast, vast majority of the time, it’s not the speech itself you think should be protected, it’s the speech you agree with you think should be protected.
I’m a first amendment absolutist, I think we need more speech, not less. I believe in the marketplace of ideas. And I believe that we’ve entered an era in our country when our national discourse is artificially circumscribed. That means our national debate is lacking because all elements of discussion are not adequately engaged. Why aren’t issues debated in a robust and uninhibited fashion? Because the left wing in this country now brands any speech that challenges their views on race, gender, or sex, racist, sexist or homophobic. It’s not a debate when you personally attack the person who presents facts that make you uncomfortable.
Here are some further thoughts I have on this issue: 99% of the people who were offended never read the memo. Shouldn’t you at least have to invest the time to read the entire memo in order to get offended and demand someone be fired? Even worse, most MEDIA WHO WROTE ABOUT IT DIDN’T read the memo. They just trotted out liberal orthodoxy and tried to turn this into something it wasn’t.
Which brings me to this — THE MEMO WASN’T SEXIST. It analyzed actual statistical data and sought to explain why that data might exist without automatically assuming the reason was sexism. Isn’t that what intelligent people should do, consider a variety of factors at play instead of assuming one root cause? His goal in writing the memo was to suggest that multiple factors might be at play here. In other words, maybe liberal orthodoxy wasn’t 100% right.
He provided, wait for it, diversity of thought!
That’s why I argue diversity of thought is more important in companies today than diversity of color or sex. Why do companies want people who look different but think the same? Shouldn’t your goal be to have as many different opinions as possible, regardless of what the people look like? (The underlying rationale for diversity is also racist because it presumes that people are going to think differently based on the color of their skin.)
I talked about this on Outkick the Show this week, but I’ve seen this mindless quest for cosmetic diversity in my own legal career. When I was a 2L the hiring partner of the law firm I worked at my 2L summer called me up and said he couldn’t make an offer to me because they had too many white male partners already. (This was in 2003 and the legal economy had taken a big hit after 9/11 and legal hiring was declining.) The hiring partner said they had to offer women and minorities their summer associate spots this year because they were being criticized for having too many white guys. So in our class of ten summer associates, they made four offers: one white guy, two white women, and a black woman. They specifically said if they were hiring based on merit I would have gotten an offer.
What’s crazy is when I was told this back then I thought, “Oh, that makes sense. I’m a white guy. I should have to be way better than everyone else to get a job.” That’s because I had bought into the liberal orthodoxy, that I was less valuable because of my skin color and my gender. But now that I look back on it, I think, “Isn’t it crazy that a business is intentionally hiring worse employees just so they have cosmetic diversity?” (Of course this has all worked out very well for me. If I take that job I never end up moving to the Virgin Islands to work, which would have meant I never would have gone on an NFL pudding strike and started writing online in 2004. Which means I may have never founded Outkick or ended up doing sports on radio and TV. So it worked out well for me, but it’s still crazy that companies make worse hiring decisions based on race and gender considerations).
Further, it’s a major discussion point now that women don’t have enough law partnerships at big firms. But having worked in law firm culture, I think this is totally crap. The reason women don’t have as many law partnerships is because they don’t bill as many hours as the men do. Law firms are a brutal meritocracy. The more hours you bill, the more money you make your firm. Yes, that can suck when it comes to work/life balance, but that’s the way the business works. If a client wants you to get work done, you don’t get to leave the office at five.
If you want flexible hours you make less money. Now you can argue the billable hour’s a fundamental flaw of the legal profession — and I’d agree with you in many ways — but that’s the business. If you want to become a rich lawyer at a major law firm, you’re going to have to work your ass off.
I didn’t want that lifestyle — it’s one reason I left the law –but my law school class at Vandy was majority female. And many of those women were tough as hell and worked their asses off. But men in my class are more likely to be partners. Do you know why? It’s not sexist, it’s because those men are billing more hours.
Which brings me to another big issue with this Google memo in general: why do we assume that all jobs should reflect the population in the country? Many jobs skew male or female or include an overabundance of one race or another without any bias being present at all. For instance, the NFL is a 70% black league. I don’t see anyone out there arguing the NFL needs to provide more Asians or Hispanics or whites opportunities to play the sport at a high level. Given that the American population is only 12% black, black people are vastly over represented in football and would be required to give up jobs to make the NFL reflect the diversity of the nation’s population.
Most of you think that’s ridiculous, right?
Yet I don’t think black people are over represented in the NFL because teams are biased in their favor or because Asian, Hispanic and white guys like football less and don’t want to be pro athletes, I think it’s just because black guys are better at football than other races are.
That’s because I believe football is a meritocracy.
If we believe the best football players play regardless of race — and I think most of you would agree that they do — why do we think Google is picking less qualified employees simply because they’re male and white or Asian? Especially when, and this is important, the competitive stakes for Google’s business are much higher than the competitive stakes are for an NFL football team’s business. What I mean by that is this, an NFL team isn’t going bankrupt no matter how bad it is. The Cleveland Browns suck, but they are a good business and will exist as long as the NFL exists.
What’s more, the NFL is not a competitive business marketplace. You or I couldn’t go out and start our own football team to beat an NFL team in football and win the Super Bowl. But we could definitely create a company to compete with Google. That’s why just about every American company eventually disappears. Because no matter how dominant you are eventually someone else comes along and is better at a business than you are. The capitalistic American marketplace is all about competitive destruction, you win or your company dies.
So the stakes for Google having the best possible employees are much greater than the stakes are for an NFL team.
Yet if the Cleveland Browns owner insisted on starting a football team that was a perfect representation of the American population — over 60% white, 12% black, 14% Hispanic, a few percent Asian — fans would lose their minds because it would ensure the best people aren’t getting the jobs.
Imagine what would happen if a football team owner said he wanted to make his football team 50% women because he was tired of women being excluded from these jobs.
He’d be ridiculed to the high heavens.
So why do we assume Google’s hiring practices are biased and the NFL’s aren’t? After all, Google has much more to lose than an NFL team does. (And if you don’t think Google’s hiring decisions matter then the company should be aggressively investigated because they have a monopoly.)
Chris writes:
“I’m sure you have read the memo the Google employee wrote about lack of intellectual diversity, political diversity, gender differences, etc at Google.
The memo seemed to be pretty straightforward and (for a radical moderate with conservative leanings such as myself) I completely understand where he’s coming from.
I know you only deal in facts and have said on countless occasions that biology isn’t sexist. What do you think about this situation? Is this another instance where the left has over stepped because people are “offended”? Doesn’t his firing show that Google is intolerant of different viewpoints while at the same time they claim to promote inclusivity and equality?
Shit is getting weird in America. Keep leading the fight for moderates. #dbap”
As you guys can tell, I am absolutely fascinated by this Google story and think it gives us a great window into modern society.
I believe it represents what I’ll call “offended creep.” What I mean by this is we’ve moved beyond most direct and readily apparent racism, sexism, and homophobia in this country — I’m not saying these things don’t exist, I’m just saying that they’re comparatively rare and governments aren’t implementing oppressive policies  — yet people are still aggressively policing these issues. Absent direct racism, sexism and homophobia, the focus has shifted to the point where merely discussing any of these issues in any way other than saying things like, “Racism is awful,” is considered racist.
The left wing now polices not just racism, they police what people are allowed to say about race, even if those statements are factual. This is exactly what happened to the Google engineer. He was fired for sharing facts about biological differences between the sexes that made people uncomfortable.
Newsflash: Biology is sexist, y’all.
Go look at what happens when I Tweet, write or talk about violent crime rates in America today and mention race at all. Left wing social justice warriors lose their minds when I point out that police have only killed eight unarmed black men in America this year. And 28 unarmed people overall, including 13 white people and seven Hispanic people. (Keep in mind, by the way, that unarmed doesn’t mean without danger. A guy could be beating up his wife or girlfriend, attacking a police officer, threatening a child; my point in sharing these statistics is to point out how rare they are.)
More unarmed people have been killed by lightning this year and five times as many unarmed people have been killed by trains. The reason I share this data is the same reason I’ll share terrorism statistics, to point out that people tend to fear things that aren’t actually a threat to them. And because I believe you can’t resolve or improve a complex issue without examining the underlying factual issues at play. You have to analyze complex issues using facts not feelings.
Yet we’ve created a modern world where if you hurt someone’s feelings, it’s now considered by many left wingers to be an actual attack upon them. Worse, it’s considered racist or sexist or homophobic to do so.  For instance when Black Lives Matter activists lose their minds online over a police shooting and protest those shootings they are actually working against the overall safety of the community. (Black murder rates have skyrocketed in the cities where Black Lives Matter protesters have been the most active). Did you know that black men represent 6% of the United States population and commit over half of all murders, 93% of those murders, by the way, with black victims? Probably not because a newscast that shared these statistics on CNN or MSNBC would be labeled racist.
Really.
Facts are racist now.
But if you want to reduce the murder rate in the country — which should be the goal of every American — shouldn’t you focus on reducing the biggest parts of the murder rate? Leaving aside the fact that the vast majority of people shot and killed by police this year are armed and dangerous, even if police didn’t shoot and kill a single black person this year, 98% of black murders would still happen. The Black Lives Matter obsession with police shootings on social media is like a 600 pound man being concerned that his thumb is too fat.
My belief is most online outrage isn’t about making things better, it’s about making yourself feel better because you can find someone else to blame. And the Internet has become, in the 21st century, one big arena where people just argue about who is to blame for everything.
And when I see situations like the Google firing, it scares me.
Because what it tells others in the country is be careful discussing facts because if you do that you’ll be branded a racist or a sexist or whatever -ist is in vogue now and you might find yourself unemployable.
That’s antithetical to the most important right we have in this country, the first amendment right to robustly debate issues. Yes, we’re talking about a private company here, but who employ most people in the country today? Private companies. Who is more powerful, the CEO of Google or the Governor of South Dakota? When big companies restrict employee speech, they have an incredibly chilling effect on our national discourse.
Jacob writes:
“Good morning Clay, I really enjoy your work.  I’m heading to China for 2 weeks and Singapore for 1 week for work starting tomorrow.  Should I be worried with all this North Korea stuff going on?”
I took my family to Europe this summer and a ton of people on Twitter and Facebook were like, “What in the world are you doing taking your family to London to Paris while all those terror attacks are going on overseas? Are you crazy?!”
But this is a classic example of allowing the media to scare you.
None of you would have blinked if I’d taken my family to Chicago instead of London or Paris. Yet right now Chicago’s murder rate is about 10x what the murder rate is in London or Paris. My family was actually safer from violence in Europe than we would have been in any major city in America.
Now if a legitimate war breaks out, I’d feel differently, but for now you can’t adjust your plans.
Have fun in China and Singapore.
Seels writes:
“The gender wage gap is a complete crock of bologna. The recent Google Memo only helps to strengthen the side that most people, sorry, most Twitter social justice warriors, want the world to believe…That women are paid less compared to what men make. Now here is where Gunner came in with the most convincing argument these ears have ever heard. 
You are paid by how many eyeballs want to see you. Why do people complain about male actors getting paid more than female actors? Take a look at the 50 highest grossing movies of all time worldwide. How many of them have a female lead? TWO, and one is an animated movie! Why is this? People like watching male actors because they are exciting. 
Now, take this in to the world of porn. Female porn actresses get paid considerably more than male porn actors. This is never brought up. Why is that? More eyes want to watch women having sex then men having sex. This is no secret. Depending on where you look, at most, only about 25% of the highest paid people in porn are male. Why is there no outrage over female porn actresses getting paid way more than male porn actors? That is because the majority of people want to see female boobs compared to people wanting to see male ween. Go to any online porn site and take a look at the initial photo for whatever video. How many of them show a female? 99.938% of them. The porn industry understands who is watching and what they want to watch, so they pay the actors/actresses relative to who will better sell the video. 
Why can’t people, especially Hollywood with Natalie Portman and Robin Wright, seem to grasp this simple fact? Why would a company pay someone equal pay strictly based off of gender? In a capitalistic society, you are paid what you are worth to the market. So unless everyone watching a show like House of Cards feels that Claire Underwood is just as valuable as Frank, then she will not be paid the same money. More people would rather watch The Rock do crazy stunts than Jennifer Lawrence. Just how more people would rather watch Kendra Lust get piped than Mandingo lay pipe. 
Let’s start boycotting the porn industry until the pay increases for male actors! I’m sure we could get Lexington Steele to join in our fight!”
It’s not just porn, female models make way more than male models too.
And so do female singers, by the way.
I think any argument about pay imbalance in entertainment is dead on arrival. That’s because the market dictates salary. And the market is a function of interest. LeBron James probably makes more than every WNBA player combined. That’s not because of sexism, it’s because the public market values what LeBron does and not what WNBA players do.
The same is true in law firms or any business where you can directly tie pay to performance; I don’t believe wage gaps exist here.
In non-competitive industry jobs — government and public sector work, for instance — salaries are pegged the exact same. So that, for instance, a male and female teacher of the same age and experience make the exact same salary so long as they work in the same school district.
But dynamic salaries exist in the private sector, where individual compensation isn’t pegged by law or regulation.
Here’s the easiest argument against gender imbalance in pay that’s virtually impossible to refute — why wouldn’t American businesses only hire women if they could pay them 20% less? Wouldn’t cutting labor costs by 20% be a brilliant move for all American businesses? The simple truth is this, most of the “wage gap” is a function of choices.
And due to sexist biology women have to make a really difficult choice that men don’t — do I want to have children or not? If they do, that presents an incredible difficulty in competitive careers. Men don’t have to make that decision. (Although many men do leave more competitive fields to attain greater work/life balance too.) Highly educated women who don’t have children make about the same as men. The unfair balancing act here is that men can have children and still achieve high levels of professional success.
Honestly, the biggest issue here isn’t the wage gap, it’s that more men married to highly successful women don’t agree to stay home and become the primary caregiver for children.
If your wife makes several hundred grand a year and you make $50k as a government employee — knowing your salary is never going to rise very much — the smart play would be to support your wife and let her be the primary wage earner. But these couples are still comparatively rare. Why? Because most highly successful women want to marry highly successful men. That is, the more successful a woman is, the more she craves a successful mate.
There aren’t many women making a million dollars a year married to guys making $50k, but there are many men making a million dollars a year married to women making $50k a year. (There are also tons of couples where both are high wage earners. That’s because people tend to marry others of similar educational levels. There aren’t many doctors married to janitors). When that couple has a child, who is likely to take on more of the child rearing burden, the high earner or the low earner? That’s not sexism, that’s just rational economic reality.
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