8.12.16

TAIL TRACK.

Barring signal troubles, links to any posts of substance ought to work.

LESSONS RELEVANT FOR TODAY'S SAECULAR CRISIS?

Some years ago, I discovered and wrote favorably about Jay Winik's April 1865: The Month that Saved America.  With that in mind, I spotted a paperback edition of his 1944:  FDR and the Year That Changed History for Book Review No. 24.  There's a lot going on in 1944, including the advance of the Soviets into Greater Germany, the liberation of Rome, and the Normandy invasion.  There's also the Allies slowly discovering the industrial-scale murder of Jews and other enemies of the people, as word of Auschwitz II - Birkenau gets out.  By that time, most of the butchery had been accomplished, in smaller death camps closer to the Russian Front, as well as over pits throughout the bloodlands.

But the Jewish population of Hungary was still mostly dying of natural causes rather than state action at the beginning of 1944, the range of the air forces was increasing, and the industrial plants east of the Oder were coming in range.  Thus the possibility of military action to disrupt the machinery of deportation and murder for plunder existed.  What's instructive, though, might be the passages devoted to debate in the United States, in the United Kingdom and Canada, and among potential host countries for refugees.  If the authorities then viewed stateless Jews as security risks, what hope might stateless Moslems not being so explicitly viewed as social inferiors have of being admitted.

That appears to be Mr Winik's final word on the war won, the peace secured.  "Why does a beheading, a famine, or wholesale slaughter in one nation draw our attention and intervention, while we avert our gaze from another nation?  One has to wonder.  How much can be traced to our ambivalence in World War II? Could it be that our halting, tentative measures then have left later presidents feeling conflicted and uncertain?"

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

A CURATED LOOK AT CANADA'S HOLIDAY TRAIN.

Dave Tufte chose some highlights of Neil Zeller's chase of the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train, including a spectacular shot on the Nipigon River bridge, where working for the railroad helps to arrange the shot.  Enjoy.

BROADENING WHAT WE DON'T HAVE TO DO.

The Foundation for Economic Education's Sarah Skwire attempts to square Adam Smith and Alfred North Whitehead.
The division of labor and the increasing specialization of modern life mean that when I need my lawn mowed, I call a lawn guy. When I need a clean house, I call the housecleaning company. When I need a hornet’s nest removed, I panic, pour a drink, and call the hornet and bee removal guy. Before specialization, I would have had to be my own lawn guy, my own housecleaner, and my own terrified hornet removal guy. And as I can attest from my experience in the days when I was too broke to afford any of these specialists, I would have had an overgrown lawn, a messy house, and the best hornet hotel in Indiana.

The division of labor means that none of that is true. The world is full of people who can do for me the things that I do badly, while I concentrate on doing the things that I do well. All I need to do is give them some of the money I make for doing my stuff well and they’ll come right over and do their stuff well.
Put another way, civilization advances by extending the number of important operations we can perform by thinking of someone to hire in?

RECONSIDERING EPISTEMIC CLOSURE.

Frederik deBoer has had enough of smug virtue signalling not backed up by analysis.
This is a constant condition for me: interacting with liberals and leftists who affect a stance of bored impatience, who insist that the answers to moral and political questions are so obvious that every reasonable person already agrees, who then lack the ability to explain the thinking underlying their answers to those questions in a remotely compelling way. Everything is obvious; all the hard work is done; only an idiot couldn’t see what the right thing to do is. And then you poke a little bit at the foundation and it just collapses. I suppose the condescension and the fragility are related conditions, the bluster a product of the insecurity at the heart of it all. You act like everything is obvious precisely because you can’t articulate your position.
It gets better, though, even in the sectarian disputes (I suppose that's how an Oppression Olympics gets adjudicated) the protagonists aren't capable of convincing each other.
Few things are more deadly to a broad political tendency than a eye-rolling assumption that there is no work to be done. You combine that with the way challenging questions have come to be seen as themselves offensive, particularly in academia, and you have a left-of-center that cannot do the work of figuring out what it is and what it stands for at precisely the time its mission is most important. Our opposition’s taken control of everything, so how do we respond?
What makes things more interesting is that the opposition in control is not conservative in any of the traditional senses of the word.  But Damon Linker discovers that, even in national politics, Donald Trump's rent-seeking populism or identity politics notwithstanding, the hidden influence of scribblers on the madmen in authority is there.
[C]onservatives are much better placed than progressives to do the work of examining the intellectual foundations of the liberal political order. But that doesn't mean liberals who are willing to distance themselves from progressive assumptions couldn’t follow [Molly] Worthen's advice and do something similar.
And University of Puget Sound mathematician Mike Spivey finds himself in an odd place.
"It’s kind of odd that I’m here to be the conservative on this panel; I’m not that conservative. I’m probably more of a right-leaning moderate. I also didn’t vote for Trump, as I have concerns about his judgment and temperament. Instead, I voted for Gary Johnson. But this is Puget Sound, and so here I am representing the conservative perspective.

"Right now I feel a lot of things. I feel fear and worry. As I said, I’m concerned about Trump’s judgment. I’m also concerned because of the anger and division that I see, as well as the bad behavior by some of Trump’s supporters.

"As I watched the election returns roll in last night, though, I was surprised to discover that I also felt kind of excited, maybe even elated. And so why is that?

"I grew up in a small town in north Louisiana in the 1980s: a world that is Southern, rural, conservative and Christian. I’m second-generation college: my grandparents worked at jobs like coal miner, gas station attendant, department-store clerk, farmer, beautician. For most of my adult life I’ve been an academic, though, and for the past 11 years, I’ve worked at a very progressive liberal arts college in one of the most progressive parts of the country. That has given me a sort of double vision or cultural whiplash at times.

"Hillary Clinton called my people 'deplorable.' She said we were 'irredeemable.' Our current president, who I think sees the world similarly, said that my people are bitter clingers who hold on to guns and religion because we don’t have anything else worthwhile in our lives. Why would I want to support someone like that? Someone who talks that way about my people is not going to do a good job representing me. I’m glad she lost. I’ve got some concerns about Trump, but I’m glad Hillary Clinton lost.
But then he gets into the commonplaces that don't usually get deconstructed.
On the literal level, the discussion is about Donald Trump or Barack Obama or George W. Bush or racism or transgender rights or environmental policy. But really the conversation is often about sacred values. When you don’t share the group norms, you feel shut out of the conversation because its very framing assumes the group norms. People don’t listen to the stories you use to explain your views because your stories are tied up with your norms -- not theirs -- and they don’t have a good mental place to connect them to. As a result, your stories get explained away.

You can always try to go deeper, of course. However, trying to get the group to look hard at its assumptions and then trying to explain why you don’t share them is difficult and exhausting. And even when you do have the energy, it’s easy to transgress some norm that you didn’t see and then face an unexpected blast directed at you. That makes you want to engage even less.

Besides, there are much easier options. You can become cynical. You can become angry. You can start hating the group. You can nurture your pain and envision yourself as a beleaguered minority.
But outside the academic bubble, there's no reason not to deconstruct those commonplaces, particularly as higher education beclowns itself, time after time.

Fortunately, the people of Puget Sound are backing away from the sideshow top.
After it was over, one of my faculty colleagues made her way up to the table. “Thank you,” she said, “Your remarks made this all worthwhile.” The next person in line was a student. “My father is really conservative. I don’t agree with him on a lot of things, and I’m scared about Thanksgiving. Do you have any advice for me?” She started tearing up. I hope what I said was helpful. Another student: “I’m a moderate. Thank you for giving another perspective.” “Just … thank you,” from a student in one of my classes this term. Then more expressions of thanks from faculty colleagues: “We should talk more,” “That’s exactly what we needed” and even “Nice pedagogy.”

Then, that night, I started getting emails. They continued to trickle in over the next several days. They said things like “That gave me a sense of courage,” “I realized I haven’t been listening well or asking the right questions,” “While you and I don’t agree, it was important for me to hear that” and “Thank you for pointing out that we are not all evil.” All in all, somewhere around 25 or 30 people have made a point of expressing gratitude for my remarks. The feedback hasn’t been uniformly positive -- I’ve also received some pushback -- but even that has been collegial.
If you can't play with ideas at university, where do you play with ideas? They're more dangerous than power tools (something else academics fear) but the user manuals are simpler.

SHAKING UP THE MANAGEMENT DIDN'T WORK. SHAKE IT UP AGAIN.

The Green Bay Packers somehow stay in the playoff conversation, most years, with stability in the executive suite.

The Chicago Bears, on the other hand, use the Celebrity Apprentice approach.

Lovie Smith: you're fired.

Marc Trestman: you're fired.

Is it already time for a boardroom clearing of Trumpian proportions, or, as I would have it, a purge of Stalinesque proportions, at Halas Hall?  Steve Rosenbloom of Chicago's Tribune speculates.
First, the head coach’s job status should be atop the hit parade after Fox failed to post a better record than Marc Trestman over two seasons.

Second, the head coach should have his intelligence questioned for wanting to bring back an entire coaching staff of a 3-9 team with an offense that can’t score 24 points unless it’s playing Prairie View A&M and a special teams unit that could apply for funds from FEMA.

Fangio’s defense is the unit that is working. The offense and special teams are the issues. And same goes for the head coach’s oft-inexplicable clock management. That covers a lot of coaches, and something has to change, but it’s not the coaching staff? Seriously? Does Bears ownership appreciate the way the head coach is playing the fans for stupid?
Do the fans realize they're being played by the ownership?

THE FATAL CONCEIT, WITH TRANSVERSALITY CONDITIONS.

The review section of the house organ for business as usual in higher education has Marshall Steinbaum and Bernard Weisberger yearning for those thrilling days of yesteryear, When Economics Was Radical.
[A] young professor of political economy at Yale named Arthur Hadley sent a letter to his colleague Henry Carter Adams at the University of Michigan to express his reluctance to join the newly formed American Economic Association (AEA), on whose executive committee Adams sat.

The AEA had been conceived as an upstart challenge to classical economic orthodoxy. Its founding platform stated, "We regard the state as an educational and ethical agency whose positive aid is an indispensable condition of human progress" — a polemical sentiment that worried Hadley.
At the time, that might have been radical, but we have the Welfare Economics Paradigm laying out all the (restrictive, if you reflect on them) sufficient conditions under which Market Failure Warrants Government Intervention. There's also been a lot of research, since then, on all the ways that conceit goes wrong.

That's missing from the review article.
The founders of the AEA, on the other hand, looked first to study economic outcomes as they found them. Treating wealth, work, wages, depressions, trade, and so on as contingent realities, as opposed to abstract truths, naturally led to the conclusion that they could be altered by policy. That implication clashed with the reigning mood against so-called class legislation, namely any attempt to alter the social hierarchy through collective action or public policy. At all levels, therefore, the AEA’s early approach defied the intellectual foundations of classical economics.
Superficially, yes. But that which the leading edge scholars of the time thought they could do, later vanguards of scholars suggested might not be so easy.  Complex adaptive systems and all that ...

It's much more fun to propose that economists succumb to the same virtue signalling and epistemic closure that's destroying so much else of the academy.
In contrast with other social sciences, which could be said to lean left, economists have a reputation for ideological diversity, if not conservatism, which is exactly how it comes to be that their research is lavishly funded in prestigious business schools and marquee departments. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that in exiling radicalism from the AEA and from mainstream economics, its practitioners attained enormous intellectual prestige and elite approval by sacrificing the disinterested search for answers to the most controversial questions in economics.

That they abandoned "advocacy" under the banner of "objectivity" only raises the question of what that distinction really means in practice. Perhaps actual objectivity does not require that the scholar noisily disclaim advocacy. It may, in fact, require the opposite.
I'm not sure it's so much that mainstream economists exiled "radicalism" (referring to of the left) for self-serving reasons as much as some combination of failures such as the labor theory of value to produce testable implications that stood up, or of the notion of a well-informed government official able to tax and regulate optimally, or of any attempt to be able to plan the outcomes of emergent and distributed network.

Marginal Revolution's Alex Tabarrok reacts, albeit in a more colorful way, to the essay. Richard T. Ely, Alt-Right Founder of the American Economic Association.  He's being outrageous to make a point, but it's a more general point about where Governance by Wise Experts can go.  "To Ely property was a bundle of rights and no stick in that bundle was inherently more valuable than the others. If it’s ok to take a person’s property then it’s ok to take a person’s property full stop whether that be physical goods, the right to procreate, the right to associate, the right to speak and so forth." That's one of the tamer passages, and there's quite the bull session going on over there. Enjoy.

A TRAVEL JOURNALIST LEARNS ABOUT THE COUNTRY.

The money quote:  "See the country by rail, it might be the absolute best way to go about seeing our vast and beautiful country. You get to meet people you'd likely never run across anywhere else, you get to sleep comfortably, eat good food, and you don't have to fly, which no one really likes."  More details at the link.

7.12.16

DAYS OF INFAMY.

Former speaker of the House and current Donald Trump guru Newt Gingrich also collaborated with William R Forstchen on some speculative alternative histories.  We've already looked at one trilogy, in which Robert E. Lee gets himself trapped in Maryland after winning at Gettysburg, and at a vision of Pearl Harbor in which Admiral Yamamoto orders the third strike on the tank farms.

That was the first of what I understood to be a trilogy, similar to the alternate end to the Southern Rebellion, but it appears as though they stopped with Days of Infamy.  For the 75th observance of the Day of Infamy, a brief Book Review No. 23.  Let's say that Admiral Yamamoto lets his force run wild with the carriers not accounted for (something he was inclined to do anyway, as he had advised his political masters in Tokyo that United States production would begin to tell in six months to a year) and Admiral Halsey does what Admiral Halsey does, and a few ships that lasted until later in the war go to Davy Jones.  Some of the ideas that occurred to both sides as the war went on emerge quickly.  I wonder if some of the characters are descendants of characters who were at Gettysburg or Frederick.

But without that third book, there will be a lot of what ifs for the reader to contemplate.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

DENY COHERENT BELIEFS OF ANY KIND, ENJOY THE INCOHERENCE.

Rod Dreher elaborates.  He quotes at length from a message originating somewhere in the fever swamps.
I go to faculty meetings with these people and listen to English and History professors congratulate themselves for the “unlearning” they do, and cheer each other for “freeing” their students from Judeo-Christian tradition. This is the whole point of the Critical Theory movement: professors are to always and everywhere fight discourses of power, and the best place to do that is the classroom, where they still hold some semblance of authority. It’s especially bad at conferences and in journals, where total groupthink has taken hold. I do a lot of scholarly writing on conservative thinkers, and I’ve had journal editors tell me flat-out that they will not publish anything that does not explicitly challenge conservative thinking because the backlash from other professors is so brutal: such journals would be seen as being complicit in oppression. I mean that totally seriously.

Consider the terms of choice among humanities professors in how they describe their work: trouble, interrogate, destabilize, critically examine, problematize, and on and on. These are not the terms of people who see themselves as part of an institutional tradition. I cannot stress this enough: they see their core mission as disrupting that very institution.

So what we are left with is essentially an insurrection. And it will come crashing down, of course: as we saw in the French Revolution, you can’t preach the subversion of all authority from an authoritative position and expect to remain in that position forever.
Perhaps all that deconstruction is abetted by vulgar use of "disrupt," which itself is already being vulgarized by business gurus, but the rot has been a long time in coming.  But it leads to precisely the kind of irony a serious postmodernist might appreciate: the Trump vote on campus as protest against the way things are.

THERE'S THE GREAT WESTERN WAY. THEN THERE'S THE WRONG WAY.

It's long been tempting for people to think of railroads the same way they might think of carriageways, or the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  One entity owns the right of way, and other entities run the vehicles that run thereon.  In the absence of transaction costs, it might work.  On the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the transaction costs manifest themselves as traffic jams, or as rolling roadblocks when the semi going 46 pulls out to go around the semi going 45.

But in The Motherland of Railways, where for the past twenty years or so, something as close to a libertarian fantasy when it comes to unbundling the track from the trains, a rediscovery of the old ways seems the way to attain a state of good repair.
Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, will say he wants the publicly-owned Network Rail to share responsibility for running the tracks with private train operators.

It means that rail companies such as Virgin and Southern would become responsible for repairs and maintenance for the first time, ending Network Rail's monopoly.
It's the transaction costs, stupid. “Too many people and organisations are now involved in getting things done - so nothing happens.” Or what happens isn't good service, such as taking tracks out of service for repair during the Festive Season.  Passenger complains to carrier, carrier complains to Network Rail, Network Rail consults the Archbishop of Canterbury, and perhaps the passenger gets a partial refund.  If you haven't got a ha'penny ...

In time they'll learn. Railroads would like to have the kind of control over scheduling and reliability that comes from common mechanical standards, dispatching, and scheduling.

PROCESS, NUANCE, FAILURE.

Rush Limbaugh on the error the Political Establishment is making.
Their business is to remain mired in process.  They call it deliberation, thoughtful, reasonable deliberation.  Trump doesn't know any of that.  Trump is not a process guy.  To him, process is delay.  Process is obfuscation.  Process is incompetence.  People engaging in process are a bunch of people masking the fact they don't know what they're doing, and he has no time for 'em and no patience.

Donald Trump gets things done.  That's all there is, getting things done, accomplishing objectives.  And you watch.  The reaction to Trump is, "We can't do it that way.  This is not the way we do it. That's not the way it's always been done."  It's almost cliched, but that is what I expect is gonna happen, and the Democrats, I think, are gonna end up falling even flatter on their face than they have to date because they still are living in a state denial.

And part of that denial is a supremacy or a superiority about themselves and I think they're telling themselves in private, "Yeah, just wait 'til this guy gets here, we'll show him.  Ha-ha-ha, Trump may think he's ruling the roost right now, Trump may be owning all the media, Trump may have all the momentum, but wait 'til he runs up against us and the way we do things." And I think they are gonna be bulldozed.

I think they're gonna steamrolled and I don't think they have the slightest idea yet, and if you watched what happened last night in Cincinnati, if you enjoyed it, buckle up, because I predict you are going to have day after day after day of overwhelming enjoyment once Trump actually gets inaugurated.  There are gonna be setback days, obviously.  But we haven't seen anything like this.
The best response to "This is not the way we do it," as regular readers know is,  How well has that worked out?

ACADEMIC PAY PACKETS ARE PARSIMONIOUS. WOMEN AND MINORITIES HARDEST HIT.

Joanne Jacobs, "Why poor blacks don’t want to be professors."  Get beyond the usual identity politics stuff and focus on the job descriptions, and the career ladder.
I remember myself and a couple of my postdoc colleagues having a conversation with two really talented young black women who were technicians. We were trying to persuade them to go to graduate school and get on the academia track.

They laughed at us. They told us that we were women in our early thirties who couldn’t afford to buy houses or have children, who spent our nights and weekends working, who didn’t have retirement savings, and who were still struggling to get permanent jobs. Why on earth would they want to be like us? I felt they made a good point.
I'm told that once upon a time the academic career was for intellectually inclined younger heirs, or perhaps for people willing to take vows of poverty.  But if you want to expand the employment pool, improve the job descriptions.  Other types of employers might also have affirmative action commitments.

DOWNSIZING IS A FALSE ECONOMY.

Chipotle discovers that you don't improve the guest experience by asking fewer people to do more things.  Gotta love that business-speak, and no doubt somewhere there's some self-justifying boiler plate for all of it.  But market tests have steep grading curves.
[Founder Steve] Ells told analysts that he gives only half of Chipotle’s restaurants, or about 1,000 locations nationwide, an A or a B grade. Most of the rest get a C (a passing grade), and those weak stores are concentrated primarily in the Northeast, Ells said, noting that the company is changing its leadership structure in the region to address that. He described those weak restaurants as having dirty dining rooms, messy soda filling stations and slow lines. Lines are back not because of a massive customer return but because of staff shortages.
Must. Do. More. With. Less. OK, make do with less business.
But those problems stem from many of the safeguards Chipotle has put in to avoid a repeat of the devastating food crisis: Chipotle added 80 operating procedures, overwhelming workers and causing higher employee turnover, which in turn has hurt service.

“We threw a lot at our employees,” Ells said. He added: “We took our eye off the ball on customer service.”
Now come increases in the minimum wage. Has anyone considered that asking people to take on more responsibilities might be reason to increase pay package.

Oh, and if anyone at Chipotle is reading this: putting the wrapped burrito into the drink cup is an unsafe form of packaging.  The outside of the burrito has been on the counter, and the pop goes into the inside of the cup before it goes into the belly of the customer, er, guest.

Thus does Chipotle become Right Wisconsin's Loser of the Day.

6.12.16

THE WAY TO LEARN ABOUT THE COUNTRY.

Take the train.
These days, if you’re going to travel across this country, you have three choices: fly, drive or train. You can’t see America from 30,000 feet and the Interstate Highway System bypasses all the cities and towns.

The fact is, there is only one way you can cross great stretches of this country and actually see it—and it’s by Amtrak. That’s what I tell people when they ask why I take the train when I could fly there in four hours. A lot of them still don’t get it, and that’s really a pity. But some do, and I do believe they all have a better understanding of this country as a result.
Yes, you can drive cross-country on the blue highways, and you can patronize the local eateries rather than the predictable McDonald's or Applebee's or Ruth's Chris, depending on your budget, but people might be more willing to engage in conversation in the diner or the lounge car.

DOUBLE DOWN ON THE MOONBATTERY.

"Democrats Need to Embrace Progressivism," asserts Steven Singer.  Meaning:  "Democrats have traded in their progressive principles for neoliberal ones. They have sold out their concern for social justice, labor and equity in favor of slavish devotion to the same market-driven principles that used to characterize the other side."  The era of Hope and Change?  A snare, and a delusion.
[Mr Obama] gets credit for bringing back 16 million jobs lost under Bush. But we haven’t forgotten that they’re mostly minimum wage jobs. He gets credit for reducing unemployment to only 4.7%. But we haven’t forgotten that nearly 50 million Americans aren’t included in those statistics because they haven’t been able to find a job in two years and have given up even looking for one.
In another month the palace-guard media will rediscover the participation rate, but I digress.

Time for a purge, comrades.
Will we let party insiders continue in the same neoliberal direction or will we change course?

Re-electing Nancy Pelosi to House Democratic leadership isn’t a good sign. She represents the same failed administration. But we’ve kept her in place for another term, repeating our mistakes.

Maybe we’ll make a change with U.S. Rep Keith Ellison as DNC chair. It would certainly be a good start to put a real progressive in charge of the party. What better way to challenge Trump’s anti-Muslim propaganda than by promoting the only Muslim representative in the House to the head of our movement! That’s a sure way of showing that Democrats include all peoples, creeds and religions in contrast to the Republicans insularity. But there’s no guarantee we’re going to do it, and even if we did, it would only be a start.

It’s time to clean house.

We need to take back what it means to be a Democrat. We can’t have organizations funded by hedge fund managers and the wealthy elite pretending to be in our camp while espousing all the beliefs of Republicans.
I love a good fight. Let the CTRL-L and the ALT-R have one!

That seems to be the theme of the day on the left.
Progressives who were not entirely with her were told that they were sexist or were guilty of having internalized the attacks that the right had level against the Clintons over the years.  Even when Hillary stumbled, the left rushed to her defense rather than acknowledge the establishment’s dangerous self-righteousness.  And it is worth being clear, despite protests to the contrary that attempted to justify Hillary’s position, characterizing half of Trump supporters as “deplorables” who are “irredeemable” was and is the sort of holier-than-thou perspective that contributes to the sad state of the Democratic Party.

Within the echo chamber of the coastal elites, a steady stream of Facebook posts deny the reality that Republicans won and won big in 2016.
What is to be done, comrades?
The Clinton era is over and hopefully so too is the strategy of triangulation.  It is time for the Democratic Party to unapologetically return to those values—a commitment to economic and racial equality on the domestic front and to being a voice for peace not for war in foreign affairs—that were core values of the Party but that have gotten a bit tarnished with time. Egomaniacs tend either to believe that they are infallible or to blame their failures on others, but Democrats cannot afford—more importantly, the poor, the vulnerable, and the country cannot afford—to let the party elite’s self-righteousness prevent progressives from reflecting critically on the 2016 election and making necessary course corrections as far as the Democratic Party’s orientation.
More identity politics? When white folks are starting to figure out how to play that game? It's not likely to end well.
White supremacy was the norm for much of American history, and there would be racists today no matter what tactics the Left engaged in.

But there is no question that the liberal cultural fixation on race and gender over the past generation—the academic dismissal of “dead white males,” the corporate celebration of diversity training, the championing of multiculturalism rather than assimilation—has made right-wing identity appeals more palatable to a broader constituency.

Tribalism on one side, in other words, strengthens tribalism on the other. Saving liberalism will require arresting this cycle of mutual escalation. We need a politics that is longer on solidarity and shorter on difference.
Here's how that solidarity used to be encouraged, before "white" became an all-purpose aggregate including the Briton, the Hungarian, and the Italian alike.


Yeah, we had the banning of the teaching of German, and proposals to register all German aliens, and perhaps Prohibition was a way of putting it to those German beer barons, but the country got past it.

BANNED IN BOSTON.

Or, perhaps, the Index is back.  "Membership in the Republican Party, Daughters of the American Revolution or Roman Catholic Church could be grounds for student punishment at Harvard University if its leaders continue on the same trajectory."  Some courageous faculty members are having none of it.  "None of us is defending the final clubs, nor do we fear change or inclusion. But ends do not always justify means, and the new policy is deeply objectionable, on both substantive and procedural grounds."  The Student Affairs types are likely to get crazier, the longer the Trumpening goes on.

5.12.16

THE THIRD WORLD ON THE COASTS.

In Conservative Insurgency, Kurt Schlichter contemplates how eight years of Hillary Clinton excess leads to a restoration of constitutional principles, relatively peacefully.  But that doesn't give him much opportunity to write an action thriller with police chases and insurgency and counterinsurgency tactics or Tom Clancy stuff.  So he wrote People's Republic, in which an unspecified number of years of Hillary Clinton excess leads to a messy secession.

Book Review No. 22 suggests it's an opportunity for the Tom Clancy stuff, plus a chance to have some fun at the expense of "a bunch of useless college professors, untalented artists, moronic movie stars, and San Francisco chardonnay sippers who think they can personally run every aspect of a country when they know absolutely nothing."  That's from chapter 14, read it yourself to find out who said it.  Or perhaps there's a more substantive message: the only thing more hazardous to dispossessed communities of color than a professional police force is a politically reliable police force, that goes Chekist when Comrade Nyetnyev says so.

Most of the action takes place in California, which, in the way of third world hell-holes everywhere, is carefully guarded gated communities surrounded by misery.  With revolution simmering.  The idea of California turning into some sort of Third World experience does turn up in other works, with different focuses, and it's the perfect foil for the overweening identity politics and polymorphous perversity that Mr Schlichter revels in sending up.  And the story is about the Tom Clancy stuff.

Thus, the railroader in me, or perhaps Mr Schlichter's quartermaster, have to imagine what is going on elsewhere in the People's Republic of North America.  The text refers to a border conflict going on north of the Ohio River.  But I have to contemplate the Twin Cities, Madison, and Milwaukee, islands of appletini sippers and food-stamp recipients in the middle of hunt country (recall, yeomen with deer rifles, not toffs with hounds), or Cleveland and Chicago, which could be blockaded easily enough, particularly if the Cubs and the Indians revert to form and the Bears and Browns (would there be either Indians or Browns in Cleveland?) continue to do badly.  Chicago itself is already taking on aspects of that gated community, anyway?  I anticipated this part.
The elite live east of Wrigleyville or along the lake or near the Magnificent Mile or the Loop, including, for whatever it's worth, in Chicago's Trump Tower. Go south from Wrigleyville to Printers Row in the South Loop, and east to the lake, you have what, fifteen square miles of privilege surrounded by the Third World. How long can the Democratic part of that bicoastal, bipartisan elite sustain that coalition?
Perhaps, though, with Mr Trump winning, the talk of a separation, amicable or not, will originate on the coasts.  I hope it's all in fun.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

FLY TO THUNDER BAY AND CHASE THE TRAIN.

Photographer Neil Zeller, in the service of Canadian Pacific, obtaining scenic and human interest photographs of the Canadian edition of the Holiday Train.  Too many good pictures to tease you with only one.  Just go, enjoy, and envy the photographer who can enlist Montreal's help when there's a really good photo opportunity.  "OK, can you please relay to them that I was brought out here specifically by CP Rail to capture this shot, on this bridge, on this night, and there is only one chance for this shot and it must be at a very slow crawl or a dead stop." Just go there. I'll wait.

DONALD TRUMP'S INDUSTRIAL POLICY.

It might be the case that Mr Trump's recent deal with Carrier (which involves the kind of state tax incentives governors such as incoming vice president Mike Pence more frequently make with renegade sports teams) is of greater importance symbolically (the political class talks of the global economy and offers job training, the people who get the retraining lose ground) than substantively.

But in a public radio interview featuring former commerce secretary Don Evans and George Mason's Tyler "Marginal Revolution" Cowen, Arnold Kling sees a way to get people thinking about the limits of state action.  It might be that some people object to the Carrier accord because they want Mr Trump to fail.  There's not much one can do with that argument.  But there are several principled objections to the accord, including this.
They do not agree that keeping this plant in Indiana served a compelling and long-standing public purpose. They might even understand that we have an economy in which free trade ultimately is what serves the public purpose.
But where the public purpose comes by way of a mandate, you might get this, referring to what must be bundled in company insurance policies these days.
Progressives believe that contraception coverage is important. However, if you took a vote, I bet that more people would prioritize “keeping jobs in America” than having contraception coverage in health insurance. It seems to me that the “compelling and long-standing public purpose” argument would be a stretch.
Thus, freer trade in company health benefits, or in job contracts, such that Hobby Lobby might be able to compete for workers on different margins?
As a libertarian, I do not believe that “keeping plants in America” should be a goal for public policy. I believe instead in patterns of sustainable specialization and trade, which includes making efficient use of labor and other resources from other countries. I also believe that contraception coverage is something that should be negotiated between individual households and health insurance providers.
Politics, however, is not for purists, and John Cochrane sees a possible tempering of practicality with principle ahead.
Yes, presidential politics is not ivory tower economics, and occasionally Presidents have to do something abjectly wrong to garner support for a greater purpose. It's a delicate and dangerous act though -- if this is where we're going, early in an administration is the best time to do some hard things, set in motion policies that actually work, set a high bar against demands for cronyist payouts, and trust that four years of good policy will pay off.

The best hope in this direction is for the President to score some points, and for a loud chorus of serious policy people, from left and right, to denounce any more moves in this direction. This is exactly what has happened. Really, it gives one great hope that just about every commentator left and right says this is not the way to go.
Better, still, that the discussion of crony capitalism and industrial policy begins before the inauguration.

KEEP FOCUSED ON THE PRIZE.

Football team owners who focus on the short-term might underachieve relative to owners and managers who understand a division of responsibility.  Consider the Green Bay Packers, a team that does not have an ego-tripping owner in the first place.  The absence of such an owner has become a sore point for fans, as the team performed badly in November, and perhaps the spectre of a Donald Trump - like "you're fired" approach was on their minds.
[The Packers] don’t have a majority owner who can shake things up and put fear into everyone in the organization by walking into the building and firing someone on the football staff in midseason.

Anyone who believes that’s the Packers’ problem this season has a fundamental misunderstanding of the hierarchy and management structure that has made them the NFL’s second-winningest franchise since 1992. Their .631 winning percentage is behind only New England’s .650 in that time.

For starters, the Packers have a definitive hierarchy even if they don’t have a single owner.
Many Packer fans may be frustrated, because the Patriots seem to get to the Super Bowl more frequently, and there are still the memories of five titles in seven years with Vince Lombardi.

It is to the business organization, however, that I wish to speak.
Most importantly, it puts football decisions in the hands of people trained in football. The GM sinks or swims based on the team’s performance, and the hierarchy is clearly defined: The president hires and fires the GM, and the GM hires and fires the coach.

The president's and executive committee’s expertise is in the business world, or in Murphy’s case athletics administration and NFL business matters, not in building a football team. They don’t tell the GM how to run the club. If the president doesn’t like the way football is going, he can fire the GM.  But he and the committee are not involved in actual football decisions, and rightly so.
Specialization, division of labor, span of control. So far, so good. Better: no cult of the disruptive CEO.
The separation of authority also has served a second purpose: It has made the Packers’ GM job – and by extension, coaching and scouting in the organization – one of  the most attractive in the league.

If you’re the Packers’ GM, you can run the organization your way, with minimal interference from your boss. You succeed or fail based on your decisions, not decisions forced on you from above. And because the team doesn’t have an owner siphoning off profits for his own enrichment, all the money the franchise makes goes back into football. The Packers are among the best-resourced teams in the league.
More to the point, there's no short-termism. (Because of the way the league allocates resources, and because each team confronts a salary cap, loading up on marquee free agents for a Super Bowl run depletes capital. The marquee players get hurt, or the team doesn't get to the big game?)
So teams with a majority owner can be patient, even if it’s the exception, not the rule. And it’s worth noting that [Pittsburgh's] Rooneys are among the few owners in the league whose primary business is football.

As for the Packers, [Ron] Wolf or [Ted] Thompson has been the GM for 21 of the last 25 seasons. Their scouting system and staff have been stable, and they’ve had only four head coaches over that time.

To be clear, this isn’t an argument for the Packers to do nothing this offseason. The season needs to play out before we weigh in on that.

But the Packers have a structure in place to make changes. [Head coach Mike] McCarthy can fire any assistant coach at any time. Thompson can fire McCarthy at any time. And ditto for [president Mike] Murphy with Thompson.
Patience: something investment managers and corporate leaders, particularly in capital-intensive businesses might consider.

YOU WANT POLITICAL CORRECTNESS?

The heirs to Leon Trotsky find Black Lives Matter deficient therein.
Black Lives Matter feels betrayed by “white people.” But the organization and the social layers for which it speaks, for all their denunciations of Trump, also see in his election a potential opportunity. They are prepared to accommodate themselves to the new regime so long as they get a cut of the spoils from Trump’s austerity policies.

In an interview with the online news site Quartz, published the very day Black Lives Matter issued its statement on Trump’s election, November 15, spokeswoman and co-founder Patrisse Cullors declared, “This is an opportunity to imagine a black future that we’ve never imagined before.”
You may not be interested in the class struggle, comrade. But the class struggle is interested in you.
The claim that American society is based on white supremacy, widely promoted by academics and purveyors of “critical race theory,” is radically at odds with reality. Black Lives Matter and similar organizations, as well as the various pseudo-left organizations that promote them, never provide a serious answer to a simple question: How could a white supremacist society elect an African-American as president—twice?

In fact, the American ruling elite has over a period of decades increasingly made use of the politics of race, gender and sexual orientation to divert attention from the fundamental class divide in society and the immense growth of economic inequality. It has, by means of programs such as affirmative action, promoted into political office, corporate administration and the media a privileged upper layer within the African-American and Latino populations and among women to defend the profit system and the capitalist state. The Democratic Party has become the political vehicle for this type of politics, even as it has repudiated social reform policies and linked itself more directly to Wall Street and the military/intelligence apparatus.
The first paragraph echoes a talking point also popular on the right, where the counties that flipped from Obama to Trump get a lot of play. The second, well, it's a gripe that goes back at least as far as the New Deal ("Reform if you would preserve," saith Franklin D.) But catch that dig at affirmative action. They say "privileged upper layer."  I say "asterisk."  We concur: the policy is symbolic, not substantive.
The vast majority of workers and low-income people who voted for Trump were not voting for anti-black racism, war or authoritarianism. They voted for Trump to protest a political establishment in both big business parties that has presided over the devastation of jobs and living standards and a colossal growth of economic inequality. A breakdown of the vote shows that there was no “surge” of white working class votes for Trump, but rather a mass abstention in which the collapse in turnout among traditional Democratic voters—including black, Hispanic and young voters—predominated.
Bring on the Fourth Turning. Or the final fatal crisis of capitalism.
Black Lives Matter is incapable of identifying any objective basis for the unification of working people and youth of all races. In fact, it opposes such a struggle, because it defends the capitalist status quo.
Perhaps, although petit-bourgeois elements operating convenience stores, nail salons, and taverns might view the trashings and burnings of such establishments as something other than status quo.

CAPTAIN BECOMES LIEUTENANT.

That's current Northern Illinois basketball captain and Army ROTC Cadet Ally Lehman.
Lehman, the first student-athlete to go through the ROTC program at NIU, was competing for active-duty, but it wasn’t guaranteed she would receive the opportunity. She was panicking, texting her friends to have chocolate ready because she was going to eat away her emotions if things didn’t work out.

Once Lehman was in [lieutenant colonel Jerome] Morrison’s office, Morrison jokingly asked her about her resume for a civilian career—a career outside of the Army for Army Reserves and the National Guard. If Lehman didn’t receive active-duty, she would go to the Army Reserves to try and play basketball overseas, but she didn’t have to worry about that because Morrison informed Lehman she would be going active-duty. Lehman responded by jumping up and high-fiving Morrison, although Morrison was unsure whether he was going to be receiving a high-five or a punch as he said Lehman can be a bit intimidating.
She screened for infantry.
Going active-duty has made all of the training's, practices, and mornings where she questioned waking up worthwhile for Lehman.

As of right now, she would love to be in the Army for the rest of her life. She wants to be a barrier breaker for females in a society that tells females they can’t handle the same things as men.

In the Occupational Physical Assessment Test taken over the summer, Lehman scored as the number one female in her company—there are four different platoons in a company and each platoon had 40-60 cadets.

She also finished above some of her male peers.

“I want to show women that it is possible,” Lehman said. “I want to show men that we can hang with them any day.”
Stay safe.

3.12.16

THE LITTLE PLATOONS OF CIVIL SOCIETY.

During the Festive Season, the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train does its part to help food pantries in stressed areas.

We have followed its travels, along the Route of the Hiawatha at Gurnee and Sturtevant, and along former Milwaukee Road metals that have returned to the Canadian Pacific fold at Pingree Grove.  The next stop west of Pingree Grove is Byron, where The Milwaukee Road crossed the Chicago Great Western.  The train is on a day schedule through Illinois to Savanna, where it will get onto the old Dubuque Division for Marquette.


The crossing protection is deactivated in order that the bells not overwhelm the music.  Local law enforcement keeps spectators back from the tracks.  How many different types of diesel prowl the rails as a GP20, which is Canadian Pacific's designation for this rebuild.


The title cars, with the lighting doing what it can to dispel the midday gloom.  Overcast, but no snow.  The track protected by the derail is the old Chicago Great Western, which, in addition to serving the nuclear power plant east of the Rock River, features a respectable number of in-town industrial spurs.


A little work in the darkroom, er, computer, and the lighting shines through on this box car.


What it's about ... the train called at a crossing hard by the high school and one of the elementary schools, at lunchtime, and the kindergarteners walking to trackside behind had a successful food drive, if the hampers their teachers were carrying was any indication.  The local food bank left with a fully-loaded pickup truck.  The preschoolers got their fresh air, and more than a few of them brought canned goods.


A concert by Kelly Prescott and Colin James, and Canadian Pacific officials presenting a check to Byron officials.


Time to go.  Business car Strathcona carries the markers, and Santa.

LOSING SKIPPERS USUALLY DON'T BLAME THE SPECTATOR FLEET.

Barack Obama, however, does.
I think that part of it has to do with our inability, our failure, to reach those voters effectively. Part of it is Fox News in every bar and restaurant in big chunks of the country, but part of it is also Democrats not working at a grassroots level, being in there, showing up, making arguments. That part of the critique of the Democratic Party is accurate. We spend a lot of time focused on international policy and national policy and less time being on the ground. And when we’re on the ground, we do well.
But where were those Democrat operatives?  Those arguments play well with 22 year old Ivy League types, but 22 year old Ivy League types turn off much of the rest of the country.

Rush Limbaugh has some fun with Mr Obama giving this scoop to ... Rolling Stone?
Can you imagine how he feels? His ego will probably not allow him to feel as a normal person would feel, but if his ego and his narcissism were not such he would feel really small and irrelevant right now and he would be questioning what his whole value the last eight years was for because it's all coming undone. It's all in the process already of being unraveled. But more than that, Barack Obama is the reason his party lost. I'm not trying to take Trump out of the equation.

Trump is definitely part of it. But Obama's agenda -- policy agenda, substantive agenda -- was repudiated. It was sent packing. This was an election that was ideological. People are trying to tell you it was a change election or it was anything but an issues election. "Eh, people are just tired. You know, they wanted a new face. They wanted a change of direction." No, no, no, no. This was a direct repudiation, because it's a continuation. In 2008, Obama wins. But in 2010 when the midterms come, the first wave of massive Democrat defeats occurs. The next wave was the 2014 midterms, and then this election, last November.
But the Democrat leadership retreats to its bunker.

Megyn Kelly is still with Fox News, rumors of a career move or not, and she's not having any of Mr Obama's whining.



I'm reminded of Harry S. Truman's "I didn't give them hell. I told the truth and they thought it was hell."  Aloha, Obama.

2.12.16

COMPARE AND CONTRAST.

What the rulers of a Mickey Mouse system used to look like.



What the Democrat House leadership looks like.


"We have to pass the bill to find out what's in it."

The people found out, and their caucus is much-shrunken compared to the early days of Hope and Change.

But the Democrat Caucus, in its wisdom, renewed their contracts.  "The top three Democrats in leadership in the House are 76 (Nancy Pelosi), 77 (Steny Hoyer) and 76 (Jim Clyburn). The average age of the Democratic Party leadership is 76."

Why not.  As Young Democrats, these three were likely caught up in the cult of the New Deal.  The people have changed over the years, but the cliches, and the faith in Governance by Wise Experts, is still the same.

WELCOME TO THE THIRD GENERATION OF THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION.

Maggie Gallagher, in National Review.  "Trump may seem to us to represent a decline in family values and sexual standards. But for many of our fellow Americans, mired in economic stagnation and sexual chaos, he represents an unattainable ideal, rather than a problem."  Plus a link to peer-reviewed social science.  "If there are dynamic complementarities between early and later investments in children, high-resource men and women may respond to rising returns to human capital by using marriage as a commitment device that supports childrearing as a joint investment project. The uncertain economic prospects of the less-educated may discourage them from doing so."  But the children growing up in those splintery less-educated households get less external support, in the form of bourgeois social norms, than they did back when the conventional wisdom was "the rich get richer and the poor get children."

TEN YEARS AGO.

The second day of December was a dig-out day.


That's the old Cold Spring Shops headquarters.  Plans for the relocation were already under way.

The snow mostly melted in the following two weeks.

1.12.16

YOU ALL ARE JUST THE NEXT ONES UP.

Book Review No. 21 is Wesley Lowery's They Can't Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America's Racial Justice Movement.  Mr Lowery is one of the reporters who was detained by Ferguson, Missouri police while using his laptop computer to file a story in a McDonald's that local officials wanted cleared of loiterers.  And thus did his beat become the coverage of stories of the protests that followed police shootings of black people in a variety of cities.

The story, and the reporter, and the national mood, all might induce a writer to polemical fits.  They Can't Kill Us All does anything but that: we begin with straightforward reporting: the analysis, if that's even the right word, doesn't begin until the reader is a hundred pages in.  And that, ultimately, is straightforward.  From page 190:  "For most of the year after Michael Brown's death, my reporting focused on policing policy -- tactics, training, best practices, and reform -- with race serving as an ever-present subplot.  My goal was and is to pull back the veil over a profession that had become among the least accessible and least transparent corners of government."  The protests after the police shootings?  Might it simply be people pushed too far, for too long?  Page 195: "Who is a perfect victim?  Michael Brown?  Kajeme Powell?  Eric Garner?  Sandra Bland?  Freddie Gray?  Young activists reframed the question: Does it matter?"

The social science?  Left to others.  Police behaving as an occupying army?  That's one perception.  It's also an opportunity for further research.  Financially strapped suburbs shaking poor people down with all sorts of niggling fines (a Strong Towns theme)?  Hinted at, not of immediate relevance to the story.  Maryland, particularly Baltimore,  being ruined by Democrats?  See page 141, but don't read too much into it.

Understand this much, dear reader: what began with abolition and continued with voting rights is not yet done.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

THE PROPER ANSWER TO SPEECH IS MORE SPEECH.

The council of elders at Heterodox Academy raise a principled objection to the new Professor Watchlist.  "Rather than seeking to discourage certain voices on campus, we think the better approach is to encourage a variety of voices—heterodox voices—so that bad arguments can be answered with good ones and scholarly ideas can be tested by the strongest minds on both sides."  Yes, but as I cautioned in noting the social necessity of the list, "The enemies list exists, dear reader, because there are faculty members less conscientious, or perhaps so marinated in the culture-studies hothouses that they can't advance a monarchist or fascist or Marxist argument with any coherence."

That, loosely, is the perspective of Psychology Today's conservative social psychologist, Robert D. Mather.
I agree with the Heterodox Academy that such a watchlist does not facilitate collegial discourse. Indeed, this watchlist is a response to events such as the bias response teams and trigger warnings that have covered many campuses and predominantly silenced conservative but not liberal discourse. For conservative students, speaking in class already registers you on the informal watchlist in the predominantly liberal academy. For conservative professors, offering their perspective does the same. The idea of a watchlist is similar to the informal blacklisting that occurs for conservative faculty. While there may be unpleasant implications of a Professor Watchlist for liberal professors who stifle viewpoint diversity, free speech is a double edged sword and conservative professors have felt the sharp edge of blacklisted ideology for many years.
Or, perhaps, it's simple unfamiliarity with the counter arguments that leads to Tenured Radicals Behaving Badly.  I'll give Rod Dreher the final words.  "The fact that Professor Watchlist exists, and that there is an actual need for it, is evidence of a profound institutional failure, and a failure of trust."  He backs that up, with additional evidence and commentary.  Do go there.

DEMOCRATS USED TO BE MORE EFFECTIVE AT BUYING PROXIES.

That is, when they could buy additional representation in Congress, and the additional electoral votes, at the exchange rate of three proxies for the price of five slaves.  But today, when the proxies are clustered in places like Chicago, Baltimore, and big cities in California, New York, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, the Democrats occasionally find themselves losing a presidential election despite massive turnout by their proxies in the safest states (California, Illinois, and New York: I'm looking at you.)

Thus, we get a switch from Donald J. Trump complaining about a rigged system (great theater, in my view: he won the presidential and he got Hillary's media to pay for it) in advance of the election, and the Hillary cheering section complaining about the rigging afterward.

We'll start with a nuanced complaint about the rigging from, of all sources, Vox.  Sean Illing interviews Yale's A. R. Amar.  Professor Amar gets directly to the matter of the proxies.
In a direct election system, the South would have lost every time because a huge percentage of its population was slaves, and slaves couldn't vote. But an Electoral College allows states to count slaves, albeit at a discount (the three-fifths clause), and that's what gave the South the inside track in presidential elections. And thus it's no surprise that eight of the first nine presidential races were won by a Virginian. (Virginia was the most populous state at the time, and had a massive slave population that boosted its electoral vote count.)

This pro-slavery compromise was not clear to everyone when the Constitution was adopted, but it was clearly evident to everyone when the Electoral College was amended after the Jefferson-Adams contest of 1796 and 1800. These elections were decided, in large part, by the extra electoral votes created by slavery.
There's probably a separate strain of analysis, on the importance of the diffusion of the cotton gin after 1794, and Britannia ruling the waves in such a way as to impede the importation of slaves, with the concurrence of the United States, after 1807.  I wonder if there's anyone adventurous enough to suggest that apportioning the House of Representatives on the basis of free population, or that going to direct election of presidents would have headed off secession ...

But Professor Amar suggests that reformers be careful about casting off the current method of electing the President of the United States too casually.
There are always transition costs. Brilliant reformers never fully anticipate possible defects in their reforms, and there are always unintended consequences.

We've managed to limp along with this system. It's not highly skewed to either party today. The Democrats tend, in general, to win more big states. The Republicans tend, in general, to win more states overall. And these skews offset for the most part.

If we have a direct election, we're going to need far more federal oversight over the process, and that's a massive undertaking. States might also have incentives to push democracy too far, like lowering [voting age] to 16, for example. Hence you'll need more federal regulation over the process.
Yes, and yes.  The conventional wisdom until 12.01 on November 9 was that the so-called blue wall would hold, with Mrs Clinton narrowly winning the popular vote and Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  As recently as 2012 it was the Republicans trashing the electoral college in the 48 states that vote winner-take-all, as Mr Romney picked up pluralities in sufficiently many congressional districts in states such as California, Illinois, and New York to have carried the electoral vote under the Nebraska and Maine rules: and he, too, would have lost the popular vote.  That gets into more complications than I wish to deal with today, but stay tuned.

That second yes?  The universal 55 mph speed limit on interstate highways, and funding for highways tied to a 21 year drinking age turned out so well, didn't they?  Perhaps there's something to be said for devolving federal powers, rather than raising the importance of the presidency.

But the complaining about the rigging is going to get louder, if this Common Dreams screed is any sort of harbinger.
In fact the Electoral College system was created by slaveholders, and remains undemocratic and racist, and biased to the Republicans. Obama showed that the system can be overcome and even turned to our advantage, but the Clinton and Gore losses show it is an uphill climb.
No. Mr Obama was willing to outwork his opponents. “I won Iowa not because the demographics dictated that I would win Iowa. It was because I spent 87 days going to every small town and fair and fish fry and VFW Hall… There’s some counties maybe I won, that people didn’t expect, because people had a chance to see you and listen to you and get a sense of who you stood for and who you were fighting for.”  That prompts Ed Rogers of Washington's Post, no house organ for Mr Trump, to offer Democrats constructive advice.  "In other words, instead of worrying about the electoral college, the Democrats should start worrying about their ability to connect with middle America."

But ... but ... virtue signalling and pouting are so refreshing.
The pro-Republican bias of the Electoral College derives from two main dynamics: it overweights the impact of mostly conservative voters in small population states and it negates entirely the mostly progressive votes of nearly half of African American voters, more than half of Native American voters and a major swath of Latino voters.

For decades now, with a couple of exceptions, Republicans have dominated rural areas, small towns and small population states, and the Democrats control big cities and most big population states.

Well, the Electoral College rules give as much as three times as much weight to the mainly conservative and white Republicans in the rural states compared to states with large, racially diverse and majority Democratic populations.
There's more to the geographic sorting, and that, too, is for another day.  There's a map that's been circulating that might shed some light on that Democrat control of big cities, or that Democrat failure to connect with middle America.


That's an opportunity for future research:  are we simply counting total crimes, or are we truly looking at a crime rate (e.g reported property crimes per thousand citizens)?  That may also be a dimension of any future Democrat approach to people outside thickly settled areas.  The current approach?  There isn't one.
“The Democratic Party ceded rural America to the Republicans quite some time ago,” said Vickie Rock, a member of the Nevada State Democratic Central Committee from rural Humboldt County. “They invested nothing, they built no bench. They don’t even send out signs anymore, which is a staple of rural politics.

“All Trump had to do was peel off a small percentage of urban votes, and he was going to win,” Rock said. “Because he already had, in his back pocket, rural America.”
And when there is one, well, let's say that sending in Pajama Boy loses friends and alienates people.
“People just love it when you show up,” said Ted Sadler, a Democratic political hand from rural Georgia. “But for us, there was zero Democratic action in the 8th Congressional District.” (The district sits in the heavily rural south central part of the state.)

In Georgia, Sadler said the party was instead obsessed with driving up turnout in Atlanta and its surrounding suburbs at the expense of Democratic-friendly areas in other parts of the state. It was a common refrain among the Democratic strategists interviewed for this story, all of whom said they saw a party that believed it no longer needed rural votes to win elections.

When Democratic officials did show up, Sadler and others said they were ill-equipped for the nuances of a campaign in rural America.

“When they do show up, it’s 22-year-old kids from the Ivy League,” Sadler said. “And they’re telling you what do, as opposed to stopping and listening.”
Funnily, the Common Dreams guys, in the middle of their rant, even see this.  "This year the Electoral outcome was able to reverse Clinton’s large popular vote margin because, for the first time in decades, the Republicans carried large population states Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan in addition to Texas."  Put another way, Detroit (or Cleveland, or Milwaukee, or Philadelphia) is what Democrats do, and, no matter how incoherent his message appeared to be, Mr Trump did something to crack that blue wall.  Or perhaps the hipsters lost those voters, just by being themselves.  Or they took for granted that they had bought enough proxies with National Endowment grants for court intellectuals and food stamps for the people rendered unemployable by government schools and the minimum wage.

As far as the nonlinearity in the electoral vote, perhaps that is in part the consequence of the House of Representatives comprising 435 seats since 1929.  More seats in California, and more seats in a few of those single-Member-of-Congress states, and in several of the swing states?  That could get interesting.  Britain's House of Commons currently seats about six hundred.  And enlarging the House only requires an Act of Congress.  Changing the method for electing the Chief Magistrate of These United States takes a Constitutional Amendment.

TEN YEARS AGO.

Capstone writing requirements, just one of many elements of higher education that wasn't working out.  I have seen nothing in the past ten years to make me think differently.