30.6.16

THERE'S MONEY IN POVERTY

Years ago, when I was studying for a Ph.D. at Wisconsin, and Wisconsin was home to the Institute for Research on Poverty, we'd mentor incoming graduate students arriving without financial aid to "talk to the poverty people, they have money."  Yes, those who hired out spent a lot of time keypunching and offloading data from tape decks, which is how one trolled through the Panel Study and the other resources available for empirical research in those days.  It's possible that more than a few careers might have been launched that way.

Today, it's still true that there's money in poverty, but that gets Minding the Campus's Marc Joffe worked up.
Scholars from the University of California at Berkeley have played a pivotal role in making income inequality a major political issue. But while they decry the inequities of the American capitalist system, Berkeley professors are near the top of a very lopsided income distribution prevailing at the nation’s leading public university.
It's true, former Secretary of Commerce Robert Reich is there, and Edward Saez, who has worked with Thomas Piketty is there, and former Institute director Eugene Smolensky moved to Berkeley during one of the previous periods of austerity to hit Wisconsin.

But Mr Joffe decides to focus on the symbolism, not the substance.
Income inequality at Cal extends to the university’s inequality research arm, the Center for Equitable Growth mentioned earlier. According to 2014 data from Transparent California, Center Director Emmanuel Saez received total wages of $349,350. Its three advisory board members are also highly compensated Cal professors: David Card (making $336,367 in 2014), Gerard Roland ($304,608) and Alan Auerbach ($291,782). Aside from their high wages, all four professors are eligible for a defined-benefit pension equal to 2.5% times final average salary times number of years employed. It is also worth noting that all four are in the top 2% of UC Berkeley’s salary distribution, and that Saez is in the top 1%. It could be that an effective researcher has to know his or her subject: thus to the study the top 1%, we suppose one has to be in the top 1%.
Yes, there are market tests for good researchers, whether they be economists, political scientists, or astronomers. There are also market tests for coaches, who don't enjoy the protections of academic tenure.

But there has to be a better way to end the column than with a subtle charge of hypocrisy aimed at the poverty researchers.
So if UC Berkeley economists are really opposed to income inequality and are concerned about low-paid workers, they might consider sharing some of their compensation with the teaching assistants, graders, readers and administrative staff at the bottom of Cal’s income distribution.

We’re not saying income inequality is a bad thing; we’re not saying that Reich, Saez and other Berkeley professors should make less than they do, or that student teachers ought to make much, much more. In fact, there are reasonable arguments that income inequality is not only inevitable and even ethical, but that it’s also a generally positive feature of advanced economies.

We are saying there’s something unusual in the Berkeley phenomenon – the high-profile role of high-income earners in criticizing income inequality.
Let's try something more direct. Such as, Why has the policy advice coming from these court intellectuals for Democrats been so bad that Hillary Clinton has to somehow offer a continuation of Hope and Change whilst making progress helping all the people hurt by Hope and Change?

MORE MATERIAL FOR THE NIMBYS.

Five years ago, I flagged a story warning of railway tunnelling posing a risk to Michelangelo's David.
The statue is riddled with tiny cracks, particularly in the ankles of the boy warrior, and could collapse as a result of vibrations from the 1.4 billion euro project, which is due to start in the summer.

The threat of serious damage being done to one of the world’s most famous statues has prompted calls for it to be moved to a purpose-built museum away from the construction work.

“The tunnel will pass about 600 meters (2,000ft) from the statue of David, the ankles of which, it is well known, are riddled with micro-fissures. If it’s not moved before digging begins, there is a serious risk that it will collapse,” said Fernando De Simone, an expert in underground engineering.

The cracks in the marble are mostly in David’s left ankle and in the carved tree stump which bears part of the statue’s weight.

They are thought to have developed because for more than a century the statue leant at an angle, and because the marble used in the statue was not of a high standard.
Five years on, the Bologna - Florence - Rome passenger rail project continues, and David still stands, as far as I know, in the same place.

The European Union, not so much.

29.6.16

A FOURTH TURNING MANIFESTO.

Commentary's Sohrab Ahmari writes about illiberalism as the worldwide crisis, but there's something deeper at work.
Since World War II, the U.S. has overseen a liberal world order, promoted and protected free trade, including at home, and viewed democratic development abroad as essential to its own prosperity and security. The strength of the Trump and Sanders presidential candidacies has revealed the hollowness of this liberal consensus in the 21st century.
The hollowing out began long ago. Perhaps it's the victory dividend resource curse in another form.  The social destruction that erupted in the 1960s began with the premise that the machinery of prosperity would always be working, no matter how outrageous the mockery of the avant-garde or the hippies or the race hustlers was.  Woodstock could always coexist with moon shots.

Thus the unintended consequences of free trade and globalization are only a part of the story.  Here's M. Ahmari's hypothesis.
Planet Trump is what happens when liberalism’s capacity to absorb and dilute enmity falters, and when liberals neglect to give politics, ideology, and enmity their due—when they take a little too seriously their own claim to stand outside and above ideology. To see Planet Trump as merely a reaction to social, economic, and legal developments is to reproduce this common error, and some of Trumpism’s sharpest critics and most sympathetic observers are equally guilty of it.

Both camps are caught in liberalism’s blind spot, in other words, because they fail to discern the simpler if more discomfiting explanation. What if Planet Trump represents the emergence of a serious ideological alternative to liberalism—one that echoes the illiberal and authoritarian movements of the previous century but, crucially, isn’t an exact replica?
The simpler explanation, dear reader, is that what M. Ahmari calls "liberalism" has already brought in its own illiberalism, in the form of a self-despising multiculturalism under which others are allowed to behave badly.  And in the three organizing points the author offers to make sense of what he calls illiberalism, we see the possibility of a corrective.

1.  Restoration of a prouder, more wholesome, more coherent past.

Put another way, there are people who remember when the institutions worked and people got along.  Perhaps there were difficulties, but the conceit that there is only one direction for change has to encounter a reality check.  Restoration of good health, or a state of good repair on a railroad, is not turning the clock back.

2.  Collective grievance and a desire for national recognition.

The self-despising multiculturalists recognise some grievances, whilst dismissing others, and marginalising some people to celebrate others.  The logic of push-back is relatively simple.  How long can the gentry stick their fingers in some people's eyes and get away with telling them they're racist, or unenlightened, or (pick your epithet) and expect those people to take it?

3.  Politics reflect the dark realities of the present.

Otherwise known as the tragic vision.  And the gentry establishment has to learn that some of its constructions are not evolutionary stable.

There's much more in the essay.  It will reward careful study.

28.6.16

CATHARSIS.

A Texas entrepreneur sells women the opportunity to break stuff with an axe or sledgehammer in a rage room.



The entrepreneur notes that her modal clients are stay-at-home moms and schoolteachers, and the number one reason for clients booking time is a divorce.

The clip also features a Columbia academic griping that the service "lowers the bar for behavior."  That's after the interviewer asking the proprietor about what happens if somebody with "serious mental health issues" books the room.

I conjecture that stay-at-home moms and schoolteachers have better impulse control, as well as more reasons to want to release their rage, than most people; that it's better for people who are experiencing divorce in the days of marriage as notarized dating to take out their frustrations on somebody else's junk rather than their soon-to-be-ex's collection of beer mugs; that people with "serious mental health issues" are going to act out in ways that don't require an appointment and an expenditure; and that there's a lot worse people are now "allowed to do in public" for the fretful academics to fret about and write about.

WHEN THE INSTITUTIONS FRACTURE.

Charles Marohn of Strong Towns posts "The Ignorant and The Elites."  The elaboration, dear reader, will reward careful study.
Here's what's not absurd: Politicians have wanted to make college more affordable yet, after decades of government intervention, tuition (not to mention public  spending on education) rises far higher than the rate of inflation. Politicians have wanted to make housing more affordable yet, after decades of government intervention, home ownership rates among the poor are as low as ever and middle class families must have two working adults to afford a median home. Politicians have wanted to make medical coverage more affordable, yet the more government intervenes in the medical system, the more unaffordable it becomes for the average blue collar person.

It's not unreasonable for someone working two part-time jobs to make ends meet to believe this system isn't working for them. It's not a leap to see them looking at the people in the education system -- salary earners who encouraged that now blue collar wage earner to take out student loans that paid the educators' salaries but does little for the wage earner -- with suspicion and envy.
Thus it's not a "temper tantrum" or "nihilistic" or "false consciousness" to "shake the etch-a-sketch and reset the drawing."  Plus fifty or a hundred years of Four of Five Experts Agree on Policies That Fail.
I'll just add to that, while many young and educated people believe that the deficiencies of our current system can be corrected after-the-fact through proper tax rates and redistribution programs (and maybe some job training programs or free tuition), many blue collar workers are beyond skeptical of such schemes. The skepticism is not based on the theory behind the policy but on the fact that the policy doesn't originate from a place of true respect.
My comparative advantage is in identifying the ways the policies don't work. Others, possibly including Donald J. Trump and Boris Johnson, do a better job of pointing out the ways in which the Acela-riding gentry hold the people they're supposedly "fighting" for in contempt.

How easily does the contempt manifest itself?  Back to Mr Marohn.  Put yourself, dear reader, in the position of somebody who sees things done to him, without the preparation to understand why.
Now throw in globalization and free trade -- more theories of the elite -- and the feeling that it is hard not to connect your own stagnating situation with the fact that people in a distant land are willing to work at slave wages doing the job you or your parent used to do. Now have some of these distant immigrants move to your state, your city or your neighborhood. They all live together, not quite fully integrating into the American culture, because that's the natural state of first-generation immigrants to a new land. They work cheaply and the big corporations want more.
Immigration and assimilation have always been fraught, but with time, it can lead to mutually beneficial sharing of ideas.  In a century, though, the intellectual environment has changed from one bad idea (the new arrivals are inferior) to another bad idea (embrace the differences.)
The fact that this situation is naturally tense -- throughout human history migration has always been tense -- is made exponentially worse by the fact that you can't really talk about it, at least not in public, unless you're willing to be shouted down and called racist. The massive set of complex problems that comprise your life are never discussed openly because part of it deals with race. It's easy for me to see why this taboo then becomes the obsession. The lightening [c.q.] rod.

And why, when a prominent figure stands up who is seemingly unafraid to trample over these taboo topics, there might be a sense that this person could speak for you.
Yes, if your calls for "dialogue" and "conversation" are really devices for suppressing honest discussion, sooner or later even the person who is used to having things done to him will say Enough.
We need to have a proper conversation about racism. Branding half the population racist is not a helpful starting point. Acknowledging that 100% of the population have some racist beliefs but that most of humanity is comprised of decent, compassionate individuals seems not only to be a better way to have a dialog but also a more discerning way to constructively marginalize truly radical beliefs (and the pied pipers who play off them).

Finally, there is the entire issue of a post-factual, anti-intellectual democracy.
Here we're in burden of bad ideas territory.  Racist beliefs might be a survival of kinship ties, whilst trade overcoming tribal boundaries is in the scheme of things a recent development.  More recently, we have the trendy philosophies that deny coherent beliefs of any kind.  It's not too late to stop the incoherence.
If you follow us here at Strong Towns, you know that things are going to get more difficult for America -- much more difficult -- before they get better. You can be left-of-center and be a Strong Towns advocate and you can be right-of-center and be a Strong Towns advocate. Your politics doesn't matter. What really matters is whether or not you listen.

We need a movement of people who can work with others. People who, in desperate times, facing a vast array of complex problems, can lead people to respond rationally.
Emergence is messy.

Emergence, when the old saecular order breaks down, will be particularly messy.

THE WAY IT USED TO BE FOR EVERYBODY.

Global Inequality Robbing Millions of Children of 'What It Is to be a Child'.  That's how a Common Dreams article introduces a United Nations report on the state of the world's children.
"As we look around the world today, we're confronted with an uncomfortable but undeniable truth: Millions of children's lives are blighted, for no other reason than the country, the community, the gender or the circumstances into which they are born," UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake writes in his introduction to the report (pdf).

"Before they draw their first breath," he continues, "the life chances of poor and excluded children are often being shaped by inequities. Disadvantage and discrimination against their communities and families will help determine whether they live or die, whether they have a chance to learn and later earn a decent living. Conflicts, crises and climate-related disasters deepen their deprivation and diminish their potential."
All true. But you have to have children experiencing childhood differently in order to see blighted lives, opportunities to earn a decent living, and the rest.
"Taken together," the report reads, "these deprivations effectively cut childhood short, robbing millions of children of the very things that define what it is to be a child: play, laughter, growth and learning."
That used to be the reality for children everywhere.  At best, a few opportunities to mess about with a hoop and a stick, or to hang out whilst fetching water.  Neither the Common Dreams article nor the home page for the UN report get into policy implications.

That's my job.  We have some children able to be children (that is, if their parents don't overschedule them) because some children grow up in productive economies and some don't.  But it's going to take a great intellectual transformation for the people at Common Dreams and in the United Nations to start encouraging people in the third world to thrive in bourgeois society rather than agitating to wreck it.  Thus Knowledge Problem.
Market processes and the price system enable people pursuing their own life projects to coordinate their actions and plans in ways that allocate the resources that enable people to fulfill those projects. That’s how we flourish. That’s part of how we lead fulfilling lives. That’s a big part of how we live together in peace.
Yes, and market processes reduce global poverty and lift up the middle class.  More on that in a few days.

26.6.16

THE CRAFTSMANSHIP OF THE ORIGINAL COLD SPRING SHOPS.

There's always opportunity to provide illustrations.


Yes, we feature the East Troy Electric Railroad regularly,  and yes, line car D-23 still does the work it has been doing since Cold Spring Shops built it out of a flat-car motor in 1929, and locomotive L-8 is capable of pulling the hayride train, which is less exertion than shifting coal hoppers at Port Washington or pulling the ash to a dump southwest of town.

NOT ENOUGH FREAKAZOIDS?

Now it's Oberlin offering early retirements to faculty and administrators.
Oberlin offered the Voluntary Separation Incentive Plan to employees, including 100 faculty, in April. The college expects about 85 individuals to accept the offer, spokesman Scott Wargo said in an email.

The program goes into effect for staff on Dec. 31 and for  faculty on June 30, 2017. Wargo said he did not know how many faculty accepted the offer.

"For individuals, the program will offer an opportunity for those who are considering retirement, but are uncertain whether they can do so financially," Wargo wrote. "For the college, the primary purpose of the VSIP is to expedite voluntary attrition with the goal of decreasing long-term operational costs."
The retirement incentive originally included hush money.
Oberlin did remove a clause in the retirement agreement that had concerned faculty and staff. The clause had made it illegal for anyone who takes the severance to publicly criticize the college or other signees, according to the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram.

Faculty had raised concerns that that the adoption of a non-disparagement clause by an academic institution undermines principles of academic freedom and faculty governance.
Gosh, what's going on at Oberlin that might provoke a retired professor to dish, in an interesting way, on former colleagues and administrators?

YOU CAN'T PROVIDE ENOUGH LANES TO ALLEVIATE HIGHWAY CONGESTION.

They're catching on, deep in the heart of Texas.
Texas Central Partners, a private company armed with technology from Japan’s largest rail provider, has already proposed building a high-speed line from Dallas to Houston. That project, which could cost $10 billion or more but would be privately funded, is on course to be completed in 2022 — although it is opposed by many elected leaders. Last week, state Rep. Bryon Cook, R-Corsicana, asked the attorney general’s office to rule on whether Texas Central Partners would have the power of eminent domain, to take land needed for the bullet trains.
Such a project would be a major improvement over today's Texas Eagle service, which, while a decent train, doesn't offer the seating capacity the corridor could use. Neither, apparently, can the air carriers.  "Texas needs trains that can fill a void left by airlines, who are putting more emphasis on international and other long-distance flights and less emphasis on intrastate travel, [Arlington mayor Jeff] Williams said."

What intrigues in the story is that fast passenger train technologies are to some extent proprietary.  That's true, in particular, of Japan's trains.  "'If Texas goes with the Japanese technology, it will create a monopoly in the process,' [Alain] Leray said. 'Anytime you need to replace train sets, you will have only one supplier, and that will drive up the price for Texans.'" M. Leray represents SNCF America, and he'd no doubt like to sell some TGV clones in North America, open technologies notwithstanding.

Where are the heirs to Charles Kettering, E. G. Budd, K. F. Nystrom, and C. H. Bilty to develop a uniquely North American fast electric train that doesn't ride like a rolling bank vault?

SPORTS BUBBLE UPDATE.

From time to time, Hartland, Wisconsin's Arrowhead High School serves as foil for the country's disinterest in building human capital.  This high school hit the booster club and the taxpayers up for a quarter of a million dollars to upgrade their athletics facilities (still not at the extravagant level of Texas, but as my dad would put it, "why compare yourself to the worst?") despite requiring only mathematics through advanced algebra for graduation, and not having a planetarium, nor offering astronomy nor organic chemistry for advanced placement seniors.

The people who put up the money doubtless think it well-spent, as in the 2015-2016 school year Arrowhead is the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's sports school of the year, for the fifteenth straight year.

I'm still waiting for the first public report from the state universities identifying the school districts that send students to college without proper preparation.

23.6.16

THERE ARE NO COACH SEATS ON THE ACELA EXPRESS.

That might symbolize the disconnect between the gentry liberals and the disaffected people they claim to be "fighting" for.  Perhaps that's not the smoothest way to introduce Book Review No. 16, which is Steve Fraser's The Limousine Liberal: How an Incendiary Image United the Right and Fractured America.  Well, that sounds like a lot of gentry special pleading, and to an extent that's what Mr Fraser offers.  And yet, after you work through the manifestations of Failed Governance by Wise Experts, for which there's plenty of evidence long before New York populist Mario Procaccino hung the tag on John Lindsay in the 1960s, and that evidence has only accumulated into the era of Hope and Change, there might be recognition that in the push-back against the gentry liberals there's more than enough evidence that good intentions neither imply nor are implied by good policy results.  As such, despite the provocative and polemical title, the book might reward careful study, particularly by people who might be less than impressed by conservative or libertarian arguments, or who might go so far as to hear dog whistles and all the "phobias" that the Anointed call out rather than deal with substance.

On one hand, Mr Fraser might be attempting too much, in attempting to find a common thread in the skepticisms of Huey Long or Father Coughlin or Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan and the Contract With America and the Tea Party.  The common thread might be Governance by Wise Experts Doesn't Work Well, but that's only part of, and sometimes a small part of, the skepticisms.  The book predates the Trumpening, although Mr Trump is part of the rogues gallery of illiberal plutocrats including the Koch brothers (which refers to the two who don't sail), the Walton family, the Bradley brothers, and a few of the other usual suspects.

On the other hand, he doesn't dismiss, out of hand, the arguments that the limousine liberals seem to keep winning elections despite not doing so well by the disaffected people they claim to be "fighting" for.   A sample, at pages 188-189, seems to propose an hypothesis.
Even as limousine liberals preached the gospel of social engineering, they seemed to behave like spoiled narcissists.  They appeared preoccupied with style, self-promotion, and in their own way just as obsessed with piling up material stuff as the working class Visigoths they looked down on for doing just that.  Yet at the same time, their opponents pointed out, they rationalized the family dysfunction and criminal proclivities of the "underclass."  Why wouldn't they, since these high-living liberals celebrated sensual release and had no more use for the moral supervision that had once placed constraints on excess than did their clients and political allies in the urban barrios of America.
Rationalized by elegant logic-chopping.  And yet, there's the Acela Express, where the cheapest seat is business class, and the high-living liberals send their spawn to the Ivies, not Massachusetts-Lowell or City University.

Thus comes a challenge to the gentry, from the left. Jake Johnson calls out the technocrats for missing what's going wrong.
The [Democrat] party apparatus has been resilient, however, and elite liberals have fervently resisted the suggestion that the Sanders agenda could be influential in shaping the party's platform in any meaningful way.

But as [Matt] Taibbi writes, "This inability to grasp that the problem is bigger than Bernie Sanders is a huge red flag."

Progressives are, in many ways, winning the war of ideas. Democrats have closed their eyes to this reality, seemingly content to believe that neoliberalism, with a view adjustments, is adequate to address the problems we face. It's not.

As Lily Geismer has written, "A party without a working-class core can’t be expected to improve the prospects of the working class."
There are limits to how much dysfunction you can enable on other people's money, but I digress.

The deeper problem is that the interests of the limousine liberal are not the same as the interests of what the Common Dreams essay calls the working class, and what might better be described as the Democrat constituency not yet socialized into the ways of the middle class. Here's W. R. Mead, who I'll quote at length, on the tension between the interests of the gentry and the interests of the "base."
If we are serious about raising wages at the low end of the job market—and that is a critical task—another approach is needed: Encouraging job creation in this sector. People who find ways for low-skilled workers to make a modest income while adding some value to society are public benefactors, not public enemies. If we stopped illegal immigration, moved to a points system for legal immigration, encouraged the development of industries and companies that hired low-skilled workers, wages for those workers would go up in line with the laws of supply and demand.

Of course, they won’t go up forever; ultimately, productivity matters and employers won’t pay workers more than the value that the workers can add. But unless we miraculously transform every person in America a super-competent symbolic analyst able to excel in the global marketplace, we are going to have tens of millions of Americans whose skill-level limit the kinds of work they can do. Is it really liberal and progressive to develop a set of policies that systematically sideline and warehouse whole classes of people, depriving them of dignity and respect?
No.

And in reading Limousine Liberal, something else occurred to me.  Mr Fraser is skeptical of the populist reactions to the failed technocracy being able to accomplish anything positive, and he characterizes "right-wing populism" (page 240) as "restorationist, not revolutionary," opening "no new roads into the future," and "profoundly nostalgic."

Here, though, is an opportunity for people to rebut the usual technocratic tropes about "arc of history" or "turning back the clock" or all the other ways the gentry would have us believe that opposing their plans is futile or foolish or dangerous.

Put simply: restoration is not a dirty word.  When your immune system fights off a new cold virus, that's restoring a state of good health.  The act of keeping a railroad in a state of good repair is restorative.

Thinking more deeply: some of those roads into the future might lead into swamps.  Now we're into the evolution of complex adaptive systems.  Consider this, dear reader.  Some mutations confer evolutionary advantage.  Some are cancer.  Too often, unbridled technocracy has been more like cancer.

(Cross-posted to Fifty Book Challenge.)

THE SPEECH REPUBLICANS WANTED TO HEAR.

Donald Trump opened up a can on Naggin' Crooked Hillary, and the rants and raves came in.  You'd expect a rave from Rush Limbaugh.
He's not with the Democrat Party.  He's not with the insiders. He's not with the elites. He's winning.  He went back to that, zeroed back to that or circled back to it countless times.  He spoke positive... You know, this is another thing.  I made the point yesterday that I've never seen pessimism so successfully sold as the Democrats and the progressives and the left of today are doing it.  Barack Obama and the Democrat Party convince people that America's best days are over.

They've convinced people that America's best days are in the past and we're a nation in decline, that we deserve to be in decline in some ways, and it's up to the right people now to manage that decline.  And so we have a president and a Democrat Party which seems obsessed with telling people that it's as good as it's gonna get. "And in order protect yours from 'as good as it's gonna get,' you need to vote for us. You need to let us run your affairs, and you need to let us handle the tough things in life while you go out and cruise and do whatever you do."

That's Hillary's message. "Yes, she tried to make it better. Only government can.  You can't.  You're not capable.  This country's greatness does not rest on your shoulders.  This country's greatness relies on government programs administered by experts in Washington, DC."  Trump said the exact opposite today.  "Everywhere I look," he said, "I see the possibilities of what our country could be, but we can't solve any of these problems by relying on the politicians who created them.  We will never be able to fix a rigged system by counting on the same people who rigged it in the first place."
Mr Trump is too much of a rent-seeker to make the strong case against Governance by Wise Experts, whether the experts are rigging things to their own advantage (that's why so many economists avoided poverty by studying poverty) or not, or whether the Wise Experts are Really Stupid People.

Mara Liasson concurs in part and dissents in part.
It's the speech Republicans have been itching to hear, in a crystallized way, since the 1990s. Trump gave them exactly what they wanted and likely quelled some fears about his candidacy. They might not be totally behind him, but Republicans are virulently opposed to her.
Yes, it's refreshing. Perhaps "I won't be politically correct" is a winning formula. But as a creature of the Beltway, Ms Liasson indulges the usual fretting.
Trump showed he is willing to act just enough like a general election candidate for GOP donors, political professionals and nervous members of Congress to heave a little sigh of relief.

Whether it makes a difference with anyone outside the base is a different question.
Mr Trump invited Senator Sanders voters to get on board. All the usual expectations about the Republican base have been overtaken by events. What surprises await in the general?

CALLING THE ROLL.

None (in authority) dare call it Islamist terrorism.
[Orlando] is the 22nd plot or attack since the start of 2015, and the sixth this year. The massacre in Orlando is also the 20th attack or plot aimed at large public gatherings, such as bars and restaurants, shopping malls, parks, and conventions.
That's based on a Heritage Foundation analysis of reported plots and attacks, which might not include all the plots the authorities broke up.

There's a bit of a religious argument going on in the comments.

21.6.16

HERDING CATS REQUIRES TECHNIQUE AND INCENTIVES.

After 35 years in higher education, I developed some proficiency.


Here's an expert at work.


The art of animal training is inducing the animals to do something they'll do anyway, such as rolling over, on your schedule, such as having four tigers rolling during a performance.

The highest form of teaching people, by contrast, is in equipping people with a larger set of activities they can do of their own volition, and withdrawing your inducements.

EMERGENCE IS MESSY.

Let's start with the latest fretting from New York's Times.  For U.S. Parents, a Troubling Happiness Gap.
The happiness gap between parents and nonparents in the United States is significantly larger than the gap found in other industrialized nations, including Great Britain and Australia. And in other Western countries, the happiness gap is nonexistent or even reversed. Parents in Norway, Sweden and Finland — and Russia and Hungary — report even greater levels of happiness than their childless peers.

The researchers, led by the University of Texas sociology professor Jennifer Glass, looked for factors that might explain the international differences in parental happiness, and specifically why parents in the United States suffer a greater happiness penalty than their peers around the world.

They discovered the gap could be explained by differences in family-friendly social policies such as subsidized child care and paid vacation and sick leave. In countries that gave parents what researchers called “the tools to combine work and family,” the negative impact of parenting on happiness disappeared.

“We comprehensively tested every other alternative,” said Dr. Glass, the lead author of the study, which will be published in the American Journal of Sociology in September. “The two things that came out most strongly in explaining the variation were the cost of care for the average 2-year-old as a percent of wages and the total extent of paid sick and vacation days.”
Plus, take your pick of too little freedom.
“There’s an incredible anxiety around parenting here that I just don’t feel in other countries,” said Christine Gross-Loh, the author of “Parenting Without Borders,” a comprehensive look at modern parent culture across the developed world, who is raising her children between the United States and Japan. She points to Americans’ anxiety around children’s college and future prospects, and also to our emphasis on keeping children physically safe, and the harsh judgment of parents who are perceived to be doing a poor job of it.

“In Japan, my 6-year-old and my 9-year-old can go out and take the 4-year-old neighbor, and that’s just normal,” she said, while in the United States that kind of freedom can draw criticism and even lead to interventions by Child Protective Services.
Or is it too much freedom?
In countries where there is a strong agreement about the norms around parenting, parents may worry less about their own choices. Without a single overarching parenting tradition, American parents may feel like they have “too many choices” as compared to parents in more homogeneous cultures, says W. Bradford Wilcox, an associate professor of sociology and the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. “A clear and well-defined script can be psychologically comforting,” he said, and its lack can leave parents feeling “unmoored.”

Dr. Glass agrees that cultural differences add to the greater relative parent and nonparent happiness gap — but she notes that those cultural differences are also reflected in our family policies. Much of our anxiety around our children in the United States, she said, is very clearly a reflection of our policy choices.

“We have to compete for good child care. We compete to live where there’s a good elementary school,” she said. “We compete for activities because a child’s entire fate seems to depend on where he goes to college, because there’s no guarantee — if we don’t, our child might be left behind.”
For centuries, there was a clear and well-defined script.  Plus a well-defined division of labor, reflecting the reality that it was the women who went into labor.  Work-life balance?  What was that down on the farm?


That's my great-grandfather Ira Lincoln Hopkins at far right of the picture.  He raised dairy cattle the same way his father Francis Hopkins, with the beard, did, following a well-defined script that first appeared in Plymouth Colony in the seventeenth century.  But he was able to serve as county assessor and retire to a house in Sheboygan Falls with electric lighting (controlled by funky spring-loaded push-buttons that would cause apoplexy in a modern building instructor) and running city water (albeit with a cistern down cellar, imagine the funky stuff that might have come with saving rain water.)  Plus automobiles and aeroplanes.  And two of his daughters watched Moon landings.  On the farm, there was no such thing as work-life balance.  "Sunday might have been the Sabbath day, and the Lord might have rested, but those cows had to be milked -- by hand -- before and after church."

And, work norms or well-defined scripts, there's still the possibility of a person, whether on the farm, or in the manufactory or office or classroom, outworking others.  In the scheme of institutional evolution, we're still working off that centuries-long structure of responsibilities and obligations.  And confronting the choices.

Let me quote you a passage from R. M. Neal's High Green and the Bark Peelers.  "Sometimes I've felt that way about my world -- wondered why today's young instructors aren't as fiery eager to work themselves to death as were the men of my generation when we were just starting.  I'll guess that today's youngsters are quite as eager, but they don't admit it."  Mr Neal, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism wrote that in the late 1940s, long before the place went nuts.  It's possible that the younger cohort of professors, who recognized the leisure-facilitating potential of electric lighting, typewriters, and household appliances, didn't have to be on duty all the time, the way their older colleagues did.

That's also before we get into female labor force participation.  For years, the division of labor into domestic and paid work was also a dispensation in which the male breadwinners could neglect their children.  And the cohort of working women that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s might have emulated that pattern, or figured they'd have to pass on the children or hire out the child care.  (Remember the padded-shoulder suits and the floppy ties?)  And professional work is time-consuming.  Here's a passage from the Wisconsin alumni magazine, noting a day-care crunch in Madison, in the summer of 2001.  "Without good childcare, it's difficult for faculty members to consider having children.  There's a feeling that if you're serious about your work, you can't have kids -- which is a completely miserable attitude."  By 2001, though, the old division of labor is overtaken by events, and the faculty wife who manages the domestic sphere while the male faculty member gets the grants and puts in the long hours likely has a therapist or a divorce lawyer on retainer.

But work is a prison, too, laments Judith Shulevitz.
What if the world was set up in such a way that we could really believe — not just pretend to — that having spent a period of time concentrating on raising children at the expense of future earnings would bring us respect? And what if that could be as true for men as it is for women?
Emergence is messy, and to say "world was set up" proposes more structure than any vanguard can properly organize. Particularly if that vanguard was occupied correcting what appeared to be the default settings that emerged over centuries.
Mrs. Clinton belongs to an earlier generation, one whose objective was to free women from the prison of domesticity — at least the middle-class women who didn’t already have jobs — and send them marching into the work force to demand equality there. But true equality will take more than equal pay and better working conditions. It will require something more radical, a “transvaluation of all values,” in Nietzsche’s phrase.
But "transvaluation" is not something that can be accomplished quickly, or by electing the right kind of politicians.
In an important new book, “Finding Time,” the economist Heather Boushey argues that the failure of government and businesses to replace the services provided by “America’s silent partner” — the stay-at-home wife — is dampening productivity and checking long-term economic growth. A company that withholds family leave may drive away a hard-to-replace executive. Overstressed parents lack the time and patience to help children develop the skills they need to succeed. “Today’s children are tomorrow’s work force,” Ms. Boushey writes. “What happens inside families is just as important to making the economy hum along as what happens inside firms.”

Knowing that motherhood can derail a career, women are waiting longer and longer to have children.
Yes, although the ambitious you will always have with you, and Carrie Lukas notes that the ambitious will still choose (or have chosen for them) to avoid the parent track, or outsource the childcare, no matter what public policy solutions might be available.
[S]uch a system may make it economically feasible to take more time off, but opting out of work would still be a sacrifice. Other people—particularly those without children—would continue to work more hours and therefore get further ahead. And this seems to be the root of what really frustrates Shulevitz.

The modern world gives us lots of opportunities to compare ourselves with others. This isn’t limited to the work world, where we can read about women and men earning eye-popping sums of money and attending swanky conferences around the globe. Parenting is increasingly its own competitive sport. Parents (but particularly moms) jockey to give their kids the most enriching, fulfilling, nurturing, healthy childhoods, which we assume will give those favored offspring a leg up in adulthood.

People who dedicate themselves fully to one arena, whether that’s work or parenting, are almost always going to achieve more in their chosen specialty than those of us who dabble in both.
The good news: compared to Francis Hopkins or Ira Lincoln Hopkins, we are seriously underemployed, and our choice sets are much larger.
The good news is that society has become more innovative and created many more options for how we allocate our time. However, that doesn’t change the basic fact of life that our time is finite, and that not everyone can win a gold medal in everything they do. Contra feminists, the answer to this isn’t more expensive government policies; it’s a reality check.
Add to that the nasty habit of complex adaptive systems doing what they d**n well please, and you can bet on any one-size-fits-all policy reform advocated by a vanguard leading to nasty unintended consequences and disappointments.

TRUTH WILL OUT.

Steven Hayward notes that there's more than one way to get the word out about trendy and stupid scholarship.
Over the last few weeks we’ve offered various academic absurdities, drawn from the fine work of the Twitter account of RealPeerReview. The anonymous person behind this Twitter account posted abstracts from publicly available academic journals. And that was precisely the problem: the mere exposure of the mediocre and politicized “scholarship” that emerges from the campus dens of identity politics is all that is necessary for the wider world to see how preposterous it is.

Apparently even the academic crusaders against the neo-liberal cis-patriarchy don’t actually want people reading their junk either, because, as the Daily Caller reports, the RealPeerReview Twitter feed has been shut down amidst threats to expose the identity of the person behind it (who is apparently an academic social scientist).
Back in the day, the Evil Empire could suppress samizdat by regulating the use of copy machines. Regulating the use of the internet is harder, and the current crop of social justice warriors isn't as competent as the old NKVD.  Thus there's a NewRealPeerReview providing the trendy and stupid scholars with eyeballs they'd probably just as soon not have.

FARES, PLEASE!

A useful guide to using the suburban trains, subways, trolleys, and buses of Germany.  But don't treat those open platforms as a chance to steal a ride.
You thus may be tempted to skip buying a ticket, but Germany’s “honor system” for public transport operates on the “trust but verify” principle. You never know when plain-clothes controllers will suddenly flash their badges and say the dreaded words: “Fahrkarten bitte!” (“Tickets please!”) If you get caught without a valid (stamped) ticket or pass, you’ll have to pay a fine on the spot – tourists included!
There are two devices to become familiar with, the ticket vending machine (these are not at all stations, and many require correct change) and the validating machine, which might be on the platform or on the car.
It is important to know that just having a ticket in your possession isn’t enough. Your ticket must be validated, either before you board the train (using machines at the station entrance or on the platform), or immediately after you board a bus or tram (using machines in the aisle). The “Entwerter” stamps your ticket with a code for the date and time. A ticket without a stamp from the Entwerter is not a valid ticket.

Practices in Europe vary, but in Germany you can usually buy a ticket from the bus driver when you board (cash only, exact change), or using the ticket machine on trams. (In some Swiss cities you must have a ticket before you board a bus or tram.) If you already have a valid ticket, show it to the bus driver when you get on. Buses have front and rear doors. You always board in the front (“Einstieg”) and exit in the back (“Ausstieg”). Trams often have two or more cars, and you can board any one of them.
The time stamp establishes the "good until" condition of carriage, which rules out the presentation of a blank ticket you purchased yesterday as valid transportation today. Works the same way as the time limit on a paper transfer (for those transit operators that still issue transfers.)

THE ANOINTED HECTORING THE UNWASHED.

I've long had fun with the process-worshippers and their sugar-coating of indoctrination as "conversation" and "dialogue."

Here's Jonah Goldberg.
Even when liberals call for an "honest conversation" about this, that or the other thing, what they really mean is they want everyone who disagrees with the prevailing progressive view to fall in line.

Almost invariably, when I hear calls for "frank talk," "honest dialogue" or a new "national conversation," I immediately translate it as, "Let the next chapter of indoctrination begin." It's a way of luring dissenters from political correctness out into the open so they can be smashed over the head with a rock.
It is the role of the Unwashed to be hectored, and the role of the Anointed to hector.

ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO REFLATE THE BUBBLE?

How best deal with the dominance of the Southeastern Conference and the embarrassing presence of weak teams in some of the other power conferences?  Create a hierarchy of teams, with footie-style promotion and relegation.
College football's heavyweights, distributed through five conferences, are in the process of separating themselves from the rest of the sport. They want as big a slice as possible, and they are enacting benefits for players (full-cost-of-attendance scholarships) and for themselves (waterfalls in facilities) other schools can't afford.

These conferences are littered with dead weight. All five -- the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC -- have programs that are there because they chose the right friends 80 years ago, are located near large population bases, or were good right when a major conference was looking for one more team.

Meanwhile, well-run small programs languish because their timing was bad or they don't bring big TV markets.

In the last 10 seasons, since Dan Hawkins left Boise State for Colorado, BSU has gone 15-6 against current power-conference teams and finished in the AP's top 11 five times. CU has gone 19-77 against power teams and attended one minor bowl. Which belongs to a power conference?
There's a lot of intellectual energy going into these relegation schemes. It's summer session -- if I were still active in the classroom it's likely there'd be an if-you'd-spend-half-the-time-you-spend-parsing-relegation pep talk or two going on.  The SB Nation version attempts to assign all the college football programs either to one of the five power conferences or to feeder leagues for such a conference.  In principle, Presbyterian (one of last year's crash test dummies for Northern Illinois) could work its way up and get a shot at a January prime-time game, trading places with Rutgers along the way.

Garret Heinrich of CBS Sports tries something different.  "Blow it up."  And reapportion.
Four regions. North, South, East And West. We are all familiar with those I assume.  Each region has 32 teams in it. This isn’t the perfect set up because the South (everything South of Kentucky, East from Georgia to Texas) would be 44 FBS football teams in it. The West would have 25 teams, the East has 27 and the north has 31.  So the South had to share a bit.  Georgia to the east. Some of Tennessee to the East and North. Half of Texas to the West.
For example, in the Great Lakes, you get the B1G plus the Mid-American.
The North looks a lot like the Big Ten now. Add Missouri, Kansas State and Kentucky. Remove the teams that didn’t make sense like Rutgers. Kansas is horrible at football and they start in the second tier.
Northwestern also got relegated, which isn't going to sit so well... And there won't be any purposeless bowls.  I fear, though, that the promotion round bowl games (in order that a Northern Illinois or Kansas can take the spot of a relegatee among the upper sixteen) may draw the same kind of ratings the six-win power team playing a mid-major gets.
Nineteen total games, if you include the 2nd Tier championships, seems like a lot more fun than the current 734 (approx.) bowls games we have to suffer through at the end of the season.  You would keep the big bowls, just like you do with the current playoff system. Make the Semi-Finals and Championship game stick with the three classic bowls, Rose, Sugar & Orange. They rotate between those 3 every year. Biggest bowls, good weather areas, they work the best.
There's yet another version being mooted by Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports.  But in his proposal are the seeds of college football's destruction.
Don't teams that play for national titles already have that advantage? Recruiting has never been an even playing field, and this system won't change much. If you move up in conference, your recruiting will likely improve, and as you drop, it'll likely become more difficult. All of which is basically the same way it works now.
Yes, and the way it works now, there's Idaho self-relegating, and Eastern Michigan, which is a consensus relegation candidate in all three proposals, might take a long hard look at continuing to spend money for not much success.

Perhaps, though, such a conference structure might offer university administrators a face saving way to get out of the positional arms race.  Take a hard look at the expenses required to earn a promotion, and decide whether or not to field any kind of a team.

14.6.16

HIGHER EDUCATION CIRCLES THE DRAIN IN ILLINOIS.

The faculty union organizing at Northern Illinois University has been certified by the Illinois Labor Relations Board.  Overweening managements are the unions' best friends.

Western Illinois University's philosophy major will not go quietly.
Some faculty members worry the eliminations reflect a university more focused on meeting a metric favored by state officials and less about creating well-rounded students. Prominent among critics is Christopher Pynes, a professor of philosophy and chair of the Faculty Senate. The programs were reviewed because they were flagged under a state reporting requirement for programs with low enrollments, he said. But Western Illinois did not have to eliminate them.

“What’s happened is the administration sees this legal reporting requirement as a mandate for how we have to run the university,” he said. “It’s not a mandate. It’s a legal reporting standard. We just have to report.”

Departments spent months putting together proposals on how to reorganize and what to do to boost enrollment, Pynes said. Philosophy went from about 16 majors to 26 in two semesters this year, he said.
Years ago, a colleague quipped that after state government scaled back the compass direction universities, and augmented the vocational focus therein, truth in packaging would require new names, Northern Illinois Technical School and Western Illinois Technical School, or NITS-WITS, brought under one central administration.

DePaul's president Dennis Holtschneider, last seen going along with the campus snowflakes,  will be resigning the presidency.  College Insurrection's Aleister suggests "after protests from the campus left."  Reality is even worse.
Holtschneider, who has been at the helm for 12 years, said he initially planned to step down in 2019, at the end of his contract, but decided earlier this year that that wouldn’t fit well with DePaul’s “planning cycle.”

“I believe, therefore, it’s best for DePaul if I step aside in the summer of 2017 so that a new leader can assist the institution to name and ambitiously pursue its next set of strategic objectives,” Holtschneider wrote.
The article notes continued push-back from the snowflakes, but at universities run by stupid people, the deanlets, deanlings, and strategic planning consultants from outside must never lack for work, and the appearance of creativity to justify all the (unjustifiable) meeting and retreating must go on.  Never mind if the enrollments go away, and the football teams (basketball, in DePaul's case) are money sucks.

BOUTIQUE MULTICULTURALISM KILLS.

I've suggested that for years, but the recent shooting at the Orlando bar, where intersectionality appears to have taken a deadly turn, is provoking a number of commentators to question the oppression league tables, particularly where the possible oppression of Moslems collides with the possible oppression of homosexuals.  We'll start with the nuance, from John R. Schindler of the Observer.
For years, too many Americans – including the lion’s share of our elite media and most of our politicians — have been content to deny the obvious, namely that quite a few Muslims espouse beliefs that are deeply at odds with what the vast majority of Americans believe. Some of those Muslims openly advocate violence and, if they are otherwise maladjusted, the odds they may murder in the name of Islam increase commensurately. We need to have a robust national debate on this important issue. Donald Trump has opened the door to that discussion, in his customary brusque, ham-handed way. More tact is required, but we cannot put off talking about radical Islam and jihadism any longer.
Yes. And part of winning this war (and, unconventional though it is, it is war) is enlisting the help of people who practice Islam without wishing death to America, or praying for a restoration of the seventh century.

But the third-world-o-philes are in the way, and  an angry anonymous post at Pajamas Media calls them out as complicit in the terrorism.
Yes, there is a war between religious fundamentalism and the spirit of love and tolerance. But we progressives here in America still labor under the delusion that the religion we need to combat is Christianity. But that's a strawman opponent, and has been so for decades. Since the 1990s, Christian extremists have essentially lost all their power, and are now toothless nonplayers in the "culture wars." Meanwhile, Muslim extremists, with guns, murder us, and on the left our only response is to bleat about "Islamophobia" and jump through hoops trying to explain away the self-evident religious motivation for the killings.
Hoop jumping?  Yep, depend on the American Criminal, Civil Liberties Union to party like it's 1984.  Complete with useful idiots. "The Christian Right has introduced 200 anti-LGBT bills in the last six months and people blaming Islam for this. No."

Back to the Pajamas Media post, elaborating on the hoop jumping.
Every pundit and politician -- and that includes President Obama and Hillary Clinton and half the talking heads on TV -- who today have said "We don't know what the shooter's motivation could possibly be!" have revealed to me their true priorities: appeasing Muslims is more important than defending the lives of gay people. Every progressive who runs interference for Islamic murderers is complicit in those murders, and I can no longer be a part of that team.
He just boarded the Trump Train.  Mr Trump was campaigning in Florida, a swing state, earlier this weekend.  He might be picking up some of the Rainbow Coalition, lack of a nuanced foreign policy or not.

Milo Yiannapoulos,  who is already on the Trump Train, stands firm.
The Christian Right may not be totally down with homos, and Trump may say things that hurt our delicate feelings, but they aren’t going to kill us or put us in camps. Only Islam would do that — the same Islam that, bizarrely, now stands at the top of the left’s hierarchy of victimhood.
He's not ready to look for observant Moslems who are not crazies.
So, most Muslims think I’m unacceptable. Fine. I also think their religion is unacceptable. And not just “radicals” and “extremists” — their entire, barbaric, backwards ideology. 100 million people live in Muslim countries where homosexuality is punishable by death.

We can’t go on like this. We can’t live in an America where gays fear going to night clubs, where satirists fear execution for their speech, where cartoonists consider whether their next drawing might get them killed.

Today’s killings prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we need to give particular scrutiny to certain faiths. Gays, apostates, and women are tired of being abused, harassed, and murdered by followers of the “religion of peace.”

And politicians have to stop lying about the link between Islam and these horrific acts.
The peroration.  "The political Left is part of the problem."

And the so-called progressives, and the boutique multiculturalists, and their enablers in the media, are brain-dead, argues Roger Simon.
[Our President] thinks he knows better than all of us—and the fruits of his moral narcissism are on the bloody floor of Pulse. (Gays should remember how Obama and Clinton "evolved" to favoring gay marriage, ten years or more after such Republicans as Arnold Schwarzenegger and, yes, Donald Trump. Knowing who your friends are is not always simple.)

No, Obama's refusal to name radical Islam stems from two closely entwined factors—an enduring distaste for American power and deep personal shame (not that buried, but buried enough) of his own profound childhood connection to Islam. Not to get too psychoanalytic, to Obama, if there is something wrong with Islam, there is something wrong with him. Better to think there is something wrong with us.
The details of the shooter's life, as they continue to come out, suggest there is something wrong, somewhere, but it's not with us.

Here's M. G. Oprea in The Federalist, calling for clarity.  Political correctness is killing us.  Everything else is commentary.
Our leaders don’t have the luxury of being politically correct. Their job is to be clear-eyed about national security and the things that threaten it. They don’t get to live in a fantasy world where no one gets their feelings hurt. That doesn’t mean they should make brash and simplistic statements about banning Muslims, like Donald Trump has done, and we certainly don’t want our leaders encouraging racist and xenophobic views. But they need to stop going out of their way to deny and ignore the problems lying at their feet—no matter how uncomfortable it makes them.
It's not phobic if there's evidence of a danger.  But I nitpick.  The problems are there, and a foolish identity politics isn't helping.

WHEN HISTORY HAS IRREGULAR CADENCES.

There's a passage in a Jonathan Cole article from The Atlantic Monthly, dealing with the social forces shaping the snowflake rebellion among the gentry's spawn. starting with the way the youngsters have been helicopter-parented and otherwise overscheduled into a positional arms race they might not have chosen.
Many of the young adults at highly selective colleges and universities have been forced to follow a straight and narrow path, never deviating from it because of a passion unrelated to school work, and have not been allowed, therefore, to live what many would consider a normal childhood—to play, to learn by doing, to challenge their teachers, to make mistakes. Their families and their network of friends and social peers have placed extreme pressure on them to achieve, or win in a zero-sum game with their own friends.
That passage echoes a canonical Strauss and Howe argument, whether in Fourth Turning or in Generations, in which children passing through adolescence in an era of saecular crisis become an "Adaptive" (Generations terminology) or "Artist" (Fourth Turning) generation.  Or perhaps cohort is more accurate, as the longer the current set of secular challenges goes on, the more ad-hoc the generational analysis appears to be.

Strauss and Howe summarize the life cycle of the Adaptive cohort in Generations, at page 74.  "A recessive ADAPTIVE GENERATION grows up as overprotected and suffocated youths during a secular crisis; matures into risk-averse, conformist rising adults; produces indecisive midlife arbitrator-leaders during a spiritual awakening; and maintains influence (but less respect) as sensitive elders."

That sentence summarizes the reasons I scorn the Silent Generation, the people who inherited the Pax Americana and squandered it in ways the resource curse manifests itself.  That cohort is old, and mostly out of positions of influence, which in the generational analysis, suggests it's time for a replacement cohort to be born.  That may be at work, or maybe not.  Back to Mr Cole.
Born in the mid-1990s, seniors in my Columbia University undergraduate seminars today likely have not experienced major national threats, except for their vague memories of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Yet these “millennials” might better be labeled “children of war and fear.” During their politically conscious lifetime, they have known only a United States immersed in protracted wars against real and so-called terrorists, a place where fear itself influences their attitudes toward other civil liberties. Students are asked to pit freedom of expression or privacy against personal security. During times when elected officials have exploited the public’s fear of terrorism for political gain, students seem more willing to trade civil liberties for a sense of security.

Since the 9/11 tragedy, the use of fear is still pervasive in the United States.
We see in Mr Cole's use of "millennials" the difficulty of identifying the cycles of history. Strauss and Howe anticipated a new Hero (or Civic) generation in the Millennials.  That cohort was born during the secular unraveling, which they thought would run from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s, and they would be replacement cohort for the G.I. era "Greatest" generation.  Thus, if we're into the saecular crisis, it's now time for the new Artist (or Adaptive) cohort to be born.

But do we really have the objective conditions for a saecular crisis?  Strauss and Howe first raised the possibility that the hung presidential election of 2000 or the September 11 terror raids signalled the Fourth Turning.  A later exploration of the possibility sees the signal as the financial crash of 2007.  I was not impressed at the time.
The Silent Generation's Watergate Caucus, continuing that cohort's string of unearned triumphs in securing a Democratic majority for not being Richard Nixon, now calls the shots for a new Democratic majority secured for not being George W. Bush. Baby Boomers? Look at the latest crop of pension advertisements: redefining retirement, pensions for people who serve the greater good, pensions that the ex can't mess up. Thirteeners? Family? Millenials? Hookups, binge drinking, I-pods?
And now Snowflakes with their privilege-checking.  Yes, there are now rumbles of more "nativism" in the culture and less "globalism" in the commerce, but these come bundled with enhanced doses of celebrity culture.

Perhaps that's the one encouraging thing.  I have trouble envisioning either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton as the Gray Champion, who, in the legend, is an aged member of an Idealist (or Prophet) generation.  Perhaps Barack Obama will be the warning from the Thirteenth Generation, and that will be the last of that cohort until the saecular crisis is behind us.

THE BURDEN OF BAD IDEAS.

In "Trump and Critical Theory," UCLA's (motto: On! Wisconsin!) Mark Bauerlein extends the identity-politics arguments structuring the presidential aspirant's attempts to disqualify a judge.
Anyone who has worked in academe for a measure of time has to wonder at the shock and ire of these critics. What's the big deal? We have heard the premise of Trump's gripe repeated so many times that it has become a standard part of the stagecraft of public and private debate. No concept has undergone more dismantling in the last half century than objectivity. And no criticism against objectivity has had greater popular impact than the one that says judgment is inevitably swayed by racial/ethnic/gender/sexual factors.

That line of thinking is the sole legal basis for affirmative action in college admissions, for instance.
Yes, although the course of affirmative action reflects a prior history in which the composition of a jury matters more in providing a black man than a white man with a fair trial.  And the identity politics enterprise might be a way of achieving objectivity, or it might be an argument that there is no objectivity.
College and universities may practice discrimination because of the reality of racially conditioned minds.

The grounds for that assumption reach back to the Marx and Freud, among others, especially to their critique of the liberal dream of cognitive freedom. The dream allowed that, with enough education and a cosmopolitan disposition, you could transcend your circumstances and reach an unbiased viewpoint. Familial, tribal and national interests would fade, identitarian limits (racial, etc.) would fall away, and a universal human eye would be achieved.

Readers of Inside Higher Ed don't need a rehearsal of how that objectivity collapsed. Hegel historicized it, Marx materialized it, Freud psychoanalyzed it. Forever after, the liberal mind was considered a pretense -- an effort to transcend history, class or psychic repression. Race/class/gender/sexuality critics of the 1980s and ’90s gave these grand undoings an identity twist, an easy step to take in the wake of civil rights, women's lib and the Gay Liberation Front.
Let's save for another day the challenges of uprooting emerged and entrenched norms of behavior, some codified legally, others less so, in the presence of objective conditions under which we might be able to live differently than our ancestors, who first adopted those norms.
For identity arguments are not equal opportunity. You can raise the objectivity problem when a white man is in power, but you may not do so when a woman or person of color is in power. In other words, Trump has crossed one of the prohibitions that sustain the identity regime. He dares to challenge a man of color on the grounds of his color; also, he reveals the double standards of those who routinely challenge white men on the grounds of their color (and sex).
No. Identity arguments arise as a way of dealing with previous absence of equal opportunity.  Whether granting privilege to some identity arguments as a way of expanding opportunities works, or whether they deteriorate into Oppression Olympics are also for other days.  But one feature of the Trump movement has been its willingness to take on the Kultursmog's default setting, under which the transgressiveness of a protected status individual is OK, but it's not for someone more sure of his status.
Group thinking and the bad-straight-white-male image have never enjoyed so much popularity. I believed in 1992 that nobody but a transient subset of humanities professors would pay attention to identity theory after the fashion went away, but I was wrong. The feminism and neopragmatism and critical race theory and queer theory that assailed objectivity and dominated the seminar room have settled into dogma in the press, the courtroom, the art world, the White House. The counterculture is now the hegemony.

Trump is an intervention in that spread. He breaks the rules, breaches decorum, says the unsayable. He is precisely the transgressive figure that critical theory in the ’90s exalted. If they were principled in their assumptions, academic theorists wouldn’t join the universal denunciation of Donald Trump by the elite and the establishment. They would situate him in a framework of taboo and totem, interdiction, madness and civilization, or the scapegoat. I’m pretty sure that if Foucault were alive today, he would have been fascinated and amused by the phenomenon of the Republican primary winner -- and utterly bored by the other side.
The ensuing bull session features the usual mix of "Seriously" and "Shut Up."

Five months to run.

13.6.16

COMPARE AND CONTRAST.

Here are the America's Cup practice boats (AC45 catamarans) waiting for the wind to build on Saturday.  For the first time ever, an America's Cup qualifying regatta took place on fresh water.  There's a State Line connection to the Heart of America challenge with Twelve Meters in 1986-1987,  and the AMERICA3 defenses in 1992 and 1995.


Keep this image in mind while you watch the Olympians sailing in the poop off Rio later this summer.  Story via Betsy Newmark, who notes,
The Olympic Committee put a lot of faith in Brazil's promises to clean up its polluted waterways. They regularly allow the waste from hospitals and households to flow into storm drains and rivers which have then spread the super bacteria throughout the beaches in the city. Sadly, the situation has just gotten worse since Brazil won the bid.
Chicago got the poop out of Lake Michigan (well, unless there are really heavy rains) over a century ago. Yes, the Sanitary and Ship Canal brings other problems. But Chicago's Democrat politicians are less incompetent than Rio's equivalents.

And the wind did come in, and there was spectacular sailing, particularly for the people who attended the Friday practice races, or the Sunday races.  The race committee did get one race in on the Saturday.

HEALING OF HIGHER EDUCATION BEGINS IN THE LAND-GRANTS AND THE MID-MAJORS.

Apparently Western Illinois have been doing their own form of program prioritization, and the cost-benefit ratio is unfavorable for a number of the boutique degrees.
Western Illinois University trustees on Friday voted to eliminate African-American studies, women's studies and two other degree programs due to poor enrollment and low graduation rates.

The university will allow students to minor in the eliminated program areas, which also include philosophy and religious studies.

The trustees' vote follows a recommendation by Provost and Academic Vice President Kathy Neumann and a study by a program elimination committee. Trustee board Chairwoman Cathy Early said the decision to eliminate the majors was not one the board took lightly.
Strictly speaking, much of the work being done in the "studies" disciplines might better be part of the mission of philosophy, perhaps sociology, and as part of political science courses.  But students, for whatever reason, are not flocking to these courses.
Western's registrar's office says no degrees in African-American studies, two degrees in philosophy, two degrees in women's studies and one degree in religious studies were conferred in May.
Aleister of College Insurrection notes, "Expect to see more of this as the higher ed bubble grows."

Perhaps, although, as is the case with any bubble, people have the opportunity to opt out, rather than keep hoping for some greater fool to pay even more for that beachfront house or victim studies degree.  Perhaps in the scaling back of the faddish disciplines we see the emergence of a proper "default major" even if nobody wants to admit that a restoration of a core curriculum is what's really going on.

A RAILROAD WORTHY OF THE VANDERBILTS.

Amtrak and New York restore the second main, Albany and Schenectady.  More details here.  It's still going to take the better part of a year to get it done.

It's encouraging, though.  The report also notes that the track layout at Albany, which I have complained about previously, will be rearranged to allow more passenger trains to occupy platforms at the same time.


Albany - Rensselaer, 22 July 2008.

I wonder, though, if the new Plasticville-inspired station at Schenectady will have two platform tracks.

Next on my Christmas list: extend the Free Rein to 110 beyond Schenectady.  Legend has a steam locomotive achieving 112.5 east of Buffalo; we should expect no less of today's diesel trains.