18.2.18

IT'S BETTER TO TEACH THE CONTROVERSIES.

Kentucky State University won, if that is the proper term, February's Speech Code of the Month honors.  There's something in that recognition that intrigues.
Kentucky State’s updated Student Code of Conduct contains an expanded list of “offenses against persons” that — in addition to wholly reasonable bans on physical abuse, harassment, threats, and the like — includes a ban on “embarrassment.”

Yes, you read that correctly — at Kentucky State, you can face disciplinary action for embarrassing another person. This directly affects students’ ability to engage in unfettered, free-wheeling debate and argument on important political and social issues. In the heat of a political argument or contest, people often say things to embarrass or discredit those they disagree with.

Need evidence? Just look at some presidential campaign ads.
Campaign ads??? If ever there was a time to invoke my dad's question, "why compare yourself with the worst?"

That provision has all sorts of potential for students to employ against professors and teaching assistants so sure of their moral authority, or so unsure of their own arguments, that all they have by way of rejoinder is hectoring, condescending, deplorable-shaming.  That might be great fun for fans of the likes of Phil Donahue or Stephen Colbert or the Crying Jimmies posing as late-night comedians.  But it's not terribly edifying.  Steven Pinker explains.  "[S]cholars can’t hope to understand the world (particularly the social world) if some hypotheses are given a free pass and others are unmentionable. As John Stuart Mill noted, 'He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that.'"  Furthermore, think of how differently Marquette University's suspension of John "Marquette Warrior" McAdams might have turned out if the student whose complaint about a graduate teaching assistant's engagement with a question about same-sex marriages could have simply said, "Ma'am, you can't suggest I'm homophobic, that's an attempt to embarrass me.  Engage the question, or suggest it's outside the scope of the course."

Now, let's apply that line of thinking to the recent adventures of Duke historian Nancy McLean.  She's still not able to rebut substantive claims about errors of fact and interpretation in Democracy in Chains.  It's easier to go in front of sympathetic audiences and suggest that advocates of libertarian politics more generally aren't right in the head.
According to MacLean, there is a connection between autism and libertarianism, and that connection is not feeling "solidarity or empathy," and having "kind of difficult human relationships sometimes." The implication is that libertarianism is similarly cold and unfeeling, and attracts people who don't care about others.

This decidedly unempathetic assertion was MacLean's answer to a question from the audience at NYC's Unitarian Church of All Souls: "Where do [Buchanan's] motivations lie? Are they ones of personal greed? It seems like it's a little grander, is it malevolence?"
The Unitarian Church of All Souls. Isn't that special.  Oh, snap!  That's an attempt to embarrass the self-styled progressives gathered in congregation there, isn't it?
MacLean's comments were captured on video (skip to the one hour mark). In case there was any doubt about what she meant, another audience member asked whether Buchanan's ideas were spreading "to other universities and so that we've got this constant flow of libertarians, autistic libertarians." MacLean smiles and chuckles before responding.
The video is embedded in Reason's story.  It's that sort of academic smugness that Mr Pinker has in mind in another of his objections to the identitarian tendency in academic work.
The third problem is that illiberal antics of the hard left are discrediting the rest of academia, including the large swaths of moderates and open-minded scholars who keep their politics out of their research. (Despite the highly publicized follies of academia, it’s still a more disinterested forum than alternatives like the Twittersphere, Congress, or ideologically branded think tanks.) In particular, many right-wingers tell each other that the near-consensus among scientists on human-caused climate change is a conspiracy among politically correct academics who are committed to a government takeover of the economy. This is sheer nonsense, but it can gain traction when the noisiest voices in the academy are the repressive fanatics.
The good news is that Duke students are asking for intellectual integrity, even from their academic superstars.  (Basketball is another matter, but I digress.)
“Professor MacLean is obviously a brilliant woman,” [Hunter] Michielson said, noting that he did not want to pass judgement on her other works, which he has not read. “I struggle to accept that she actually believes libertarianism or conservatism is the result of autism. The question is then why she would say something like this.”

After reflecting on the incident, Michielson said that he does not entirely blame academics like MacLean when they make offensive comments about those with whom they disagree. “I think it could be emblematic of lack of exposure,” the Duke senior opined, pointing out that “maybe these academics don’t actually encounter conservative views.”

“I think sometimes it can be easier to level ad-hominem than to actually confront their arguments,” he explained. “I think that this is emblematic of a larger phenomenon that happens at campus across the country.”
Exactly.  Points 1 and 3 are both in play here.  Playing at Phil Donahue in front of an audience at a Unitarian church is performance art, not scholarship.  That it's an attempt to hector, to deplorable-shame, to embarrass dissenters is an expected part of the act.  Perhaps it's intended to make those dissenting views go away.

What about Mr Pinker's second point?  "The second is that people who suddenly discover forbidden facts outside the crucible of reasoned debate (which is what universities should be) can take them to dangerous conclusions, such as that differences between the sexes imply that we should discriminate against women (this kind of fallacy has fueled the alt-right movement)." Whoop! There it is! "The point is this: if you cannot tell the difference between Ross Douthat and Richard Spencer, you’re not marginalizing Ross Douthat, you’re mainstreaming Richard Spencer."  (Read that essay in full.)

The good news is, maybe the identity politics types are beginning to catch on.
It is the case that when the white supremacists come to town special attention should be paid to protecting, supporting and involving the groups – immigrants, African Americans, gays and lesbians, Jews, Muslims, etc - that the white supremacists are targeting. Can you do that in a way that speaks to the white frat guy too, that makes him feel like this is his fight, that he’s got something at stake and something to contribute? This is in part a challenge of framing. I think Empowered Minorities vs White Supremacists is a perfectly understandable framing. But I think America (or UT) vs White Supremacists is better.
Rediscover assimilation.  Stop treating the guys as toxic.  Stop the privilege-shaming.  Eschew problematic talk.  Or expect the Donahue tactics to be applied right back.

RECLAIMING THE CULTURE.

It's not about semiautomatic weapons or background checks or any of the rest of the usual process stuff.

It's really about rediscovering the mediating institutions.  Jonah Goldberg notices their absence, but he draws the wrong inference.
But capitalism consistently divides labor into thinner and thinner slices, so that the habits of the heart that made capitalism work — thrift, industrious, decent manners — become less and less essential. In the process, virtue falls by the wayside, and we look to government or other sources of authority or simply the market to provide things we’ve ceased providing for ourselves, from parents who outsource moral education to schools, to college students who demand they be protected from scary ideas, to populists of the left and the right who demand that the government fix tectonic changes brought about by globalization and technology.
If anything, the more complicated the society, the more valuable are those virtues.  How else, ultimately, do you signal your probity to the people you interact with?

What else, dear reader, is "if you see something, say something" if not a call for virtuous people to be virtuous?  That's both in the saying, and in the authorities properly following up.
[Spokane, Washington, County Sheriff Ozzie] Knezovich criticised the politically correct culture of 21st century America for dissuading people from speaking if they see or hear something concerning. “Here’s a message to those who see it coming: You need to prevent that. Here’s the problem though, we have made doing what is right wrong. … So we need to teach those kids that if you see something like this, we need to know. … We’re not mind readers, folks.”
George Neumayr concurs. "The rise of school shootings is due not to the absence of laws but to the absence of a civilized culture that taught students to follow them." That's in a polemical essay: be advised accordingly.  So, too, Christian Christensen: "The moral perversity that allows one to think that universal healthcare is tyranny but dead school children are the price of freedom is what is corroding the soul of the United States."  That's an echo of Mr Goldberg's "look to government" in the absence of private virtues, no?

16.2.18

THE FORGOTTEN CASUALTY OF A RAILWAY SUICIDE.

In Germany, close to eight hundred people end their lives on the tracks.
Stephan Kniest is sitting at a table by the window. A boyish-looking 36, he is wearing a contemporary goatee and rimless glasses; his short hair is spiked with gel.

In front of him on the table is a Canon 5D with a huge lens, and next to it is a plastic bowl with the "Frikandel speciaal," a grilled meat roll with chopped onions, fries and ketchup. On the wall behind him hangs a photo that he took himself - a tanker, photographed diagonally from the front, an immense black hull in the twilight.

He finds peace by the sea, Kniest says. This is where he is able to shed the burden of work, the burden of the past few years. He can "drown the stress in the sea," he says, referring to his memories of what he calls "events."

His first "event" occurred on a straight stretch of track through a wooded area. A young woman had laid down across the tracks. It was early evening and Kniest was driving a local train at 120 kilometers per hour (75 mph). Dusk was already falling. "It looked like a trash bag," he says. He'd only been a train driver for a few weeks. He slammed on the brakes immediately.
It's no easier when it's a distracted pedestrian or a motorist disregarding the warnings.
"A trauma often renders people speechless," says Bruno Kall, a senior physician at the Buchenholm Clinic in Malente, located in northern Germany. Two decades ago, the clinic began specializing in the treatment of traumatized train drivers. The victims are literally speechless with horror.

A person who seeks death on the tracks doesn't just destroy their own life, they also disrupt the life of someone else. They turn train drivers into a perpetrator, someone who is forced to kill. They transform train drivers into murderers who are not guilty of their actions.

The Buchenholm Clinic is situated under tall trees on Dieksee Lake. The dining room offers a panoramic view of the water and it is a good place to find peace. What prompted the clinic to specialize in the trauma of train drivers? The clinic is a subsidiary of the Deutsche Bahn health insurance fund. In 1996, by which time Kall had already begun working as a doctor in Malente, a train driver being treated at the clinic began complaining of diffuse heart pain. Doctors performed an ultrasound but were unable to find anything causing the symptoms. At some point, the patient said that he had driven his locomotive into a group of workers. This led the doctors to conclude that the cause of his heart problems was not physical.
No, and helping the operator understand that he, too, has been trespassed against, is an important part of recovery.
The patient must learn that the train driver is not the perpetrator, but the victim. He may have been driving the locomotive, but he didn't kill anyone; the people who committed suicide did so themselves. Anger is good, says Kall, anger at the person who put you in this position. Anger helps the train driver escape from the role of perpetrator.
(Via Marginal Revolution.)

FIRST, STOP CELEBRATING THE TRANSGRESSIVITY.

As people were gathering at Northern Illinois University to commemorate the Cole Hall murders, the breaking news was of a similar event at a Parkland, Florida high school.

Predictably, all the usual pundits forted up in the usual silos.  Dan McLaughlin writes, "horrifyingly familiar story."  The policy fix, he writes, involves bad trade-offs.
The answers are not easy, and they inevitably involve a trade-off: accepting the unacceptable, or restricting our freedoms. The three big ones are freedom of the press (publicity gives oxygen to these kinds of acts, so restricting coverage will reduce copycats); the right to bear arms (guns don't cause human evil, but of course they make it easier to carry out); and due process (targeting potential mass shooters, or mentally ill people in general, is possible, but requires us to curtail Americans' civil rights before they have actually committed a crime).

It is by no means clear that any of these solutions would be more effective than the others, and each of them involves punishing a very large number of people in order to stop the evil-doings of a very small number of people.
Read on, though, and you'll see a thought that might merit more careful consideration.
Our exhibitionist culture may encourage disturbed people to perform acts of retribution that guarantee them maximum publicity; think of the mass shooter as taking a selfie of rage. But that genie can't be put back in the bottle, either, at least not without a massive campaign against freedom of expression.
Maybe, dear reader, it is in taking steps to restore a modicum of shame, or find ways to marginalize, rather than to celebrate and revel in, the most obvious forms of exhibition.  That might be what James "Long Emergency" Kunstler is thinking about.
Readers may wonder why I did not devote this space to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. It is exactly what you get in a society that wants to erase behavioral boundaries. It is especially dangerous where adolescent boys are concerned. The country has a gigantic boundary problem. We have also created perfect conditions — between the anomie of suburbia and the dreariness of our school systems — to induce explosions of violent despair. That’s why these things happen. Until we change these conditions, expect ever more of it.
Yes, the government schools are dreary.  Andrew Solomon for American Thinker:
No one seems to want to find the real cause, or ask the interesting questions, which are the most obvious ones.  Why do we have state utility farms called public schools?  Buses that resemble the ones used by penitentiaries?  Even the chow hall looks like a prison.  They call it a cafeteria.  Endless rows of lockers.

Nowhere in real society does a school represent anything that we will ever experience "on the outs."  It's not real.  It's a false world.  Nothing organically true about it.  And they want to add metal detectors and armed guards now.  Pretty soon, it will be a real prison.
The metal detectors and armed guards have been reality, particularly in urban schools, precisely in urban schools in the ghettos and barrios, for fifty years or so. That's a separate line of research, about the school-to-work, or school-to-prison, or school-as-factory-socialization, and we can conduct that research whilst impounding school shootings in ceteris paribus, as those have been a phenomenon for twenty (Columbine) or thirty (Winnetka) years depending on how you count it.

Mr Solomon's essay might be onto something, introducing the therapeutic, but not quite.  "Is it any wonder that little Johnny seems to be consistently taking out his aggression at on the very institution that makes him feel as though he's in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest?"

That therapy, though it is sometimes about erasing behavioral boundaries: you will accept the new dispensation, or you will be medicated or re-educated, is not quite the erasure we ought be considering.  Here's my reflection, shortly after Cole Hall.  We have to be judgemental.  "Put another way, the burden on my colleagues upstairs -- nay, on higher education generally, will be lighter once the common culture recognizes that judging 'judgemental' behavior harshly is not evolutionarily stable."  "My colleagues upstairs" were the sociology faculty, who had particularly difficult times.

Put another way, be more careful about what sorts of difference you affirm.  The schools still look like conformity factories, and the shooting sports may be as popular now as ever.  At American Greatness, Joe Long expands on how the boundaries have been changed.
Predators and victims alike have been socialized to the idea that weapons are simply tools of murder—not designed for the defense of others and certainly not for the cultivation of civic virtues. A child of 1940, picking up a toy revolver, became in his imagination a Western hero in the Hopalong Cassidy mode, a figure of plain speech and chivalry; a child of 2018, if he has not been socialized in a manner contrary to general media influences and to the default zeitgeist respecting firearms, might much more easily imagine himself a monster—a gangsta rapper, a mass shooter, a figure of fear and intimidation, bound by no code of honor and able to impose his will.
Yes, Hopalong Cassidy was a big enough deal that Meredith Willson wrote him into a wish list.

Social media now makes it possible for a contemporary youngster, lacking socialization, to share his imagination more broadly.  It used to be more difficult to attract attention.


"Hunter of Fascists"
Marina Oswald photographs retrieved from John McAdams's Lee Oswald page.

Had there been social media in the day, these photographs might have come to light online as part of the police investigation of a shot fired into General Edwin Walker's house, rather than being discovered in November 1963, which was when the bullet recovered from that house proved to match the rifle you see in the pictures.

Mrs Oswald was less than impressed with Lee's request to take the pictures, and a worker at Militant headquarters, who received prints, thought the sender was "really dumb and totally naive."  (Bugliosi, Reclaiming History, at 685.)

It doesn't take an Act of Congress, or anything else, for people to respond to similar pictures today as "dumb" or "naive" or just plain wrong and a cry for help.  Or perhaps to encourage people not to think of themselves as figures of fear and intimidation.

Ultimately, Mr Long writes, it's about rediscovering the responsibility.  "A firearm is both a right and a responsibility; so is a vote. If we’re not raising people mature enough for both, it’s hard to see how they could really be considered mature enough for either one."

Regrettably, that's where the retreat to the silos has led.
We all had guns. We got BB guns when we were in second or third grade and hunting rifles by middle school, when most of us started hunting. Gun safety was no joke. In fact, we weren’t allowed to shoot a gun that we couldn’t take apart, clean, and put back together.

When you grow up hunting you have a very different understanding about the reality of guns. It’s not a video game—you know, and have felt, exactly what they are capable of doing. For my dad and the people we hunted with, the sentiment around automatic weapons and the big guns that people treat like toys today was simple: “You want to shoot those kinds of guns? Great! Enlist and serve.”

Now that I’m a parent, I can look back and see that what was equally powerful was the combination of our family rules concerning hunting and guns, and that we weren’t allowed to watch any violence on TV. I couldn’t see a PG movie until I was fifteen years old. The idea of romanticizing violence was out of the question. We didn’t have violent video games back then, but I can only imagine how my dad would have felt about them.

I loved and was proud of this part of my family story. And, like most kids, I assumed that everyone who was raised in a hunting and gun culture was raised with the same rules. But as I got a little older, I realized that wasn’t true.
Yes, and when people take to their silos, there's no working the problem.  (By all means, read the entire essay.)

Perhaps, though, calling B.S. on the "authenticity" or "transgressivity" of contemporary "Hunter of Fascists" selfies is only the first step toward regaining civil society more generally.

SECOND SECTIONAndrew Klavan.  "The left wants to defend gangstas and 'transgressive' art and antifa thugs — but when the shooting starts, they blame the guns."

Relax, he's just getting started.
For fifteen years and more, I have been complaining that the right is silenced in our culture — blacklisted and excluded and ignored in entertainment, mainstream news outlets, and the universities. But the flip side of that is this: the degradation of our culture is almost entirely a leftist achievement. Over the last fifty years, it's the left that has assaulted every moral norm and disdained every religious and cultural restraint.

The left owns the dismal tide. They don't like the results? They're looking for someone or something to blame? Maybe they should start by hunting up a mirror.
Nah, they're too busy posting "hunter of fascists" selfies.

13.2.18

FASCHING IST.

The 2017 festivities took place on a rainy evening. Here's what a retrospective report, German TV style, looks like, from 2011.


Try not to think of the Sack of Pskov, a stack of bodies, or a notorious Minister of Propaganda.

Enjoy, then reflect.  Sober times to come.

FIFTY YEARS BEHIND?

Railway Gazette reports on a new version of the Orient Express, this one moving containers between Rotterdam and Duisburg for and from Istanbul.

Further to the east, and inland, the former Captive Nations have put away some of their differences, moving containers between Riga and Minsk.
An inaugural express freight train linking Riga and Minsk in 28 h ran on February 5, following a trip in the other direction during January. The eastbound train comprised 13 grain wagons, three wagons carrying metal products, and 21 40 ft containers being delivered from India via Latvia in co-operation with RTSB and Belintertrans. ‘The long-term goal is to ensure a regular flow of cargo on this route, whose future potential will increase with the development of the Chinese-Belarusian industrial park The Great Stone’, said LDz President Edvīns Bērziņš.
Trade unites, politics divides, forsooth.

Check out the train.


Unattributed photograph retrieved from Railway Gazette.

Looks like the latest generation of updated Erie Builts and a string of Flexi-Vans, just as New York Central once did it.

FOURTH TURNING ALERT.

David Brooks is now fretting about the end of the "two party system."  That's an interesting choice of topic for Abraham Lincoln's birthday, but there it is.
Back in the 1990s, there was an unconscious abundance mind-set. Democratic capitalism provides the bounty. Prejudice gradually fades away. Growth and dynamism are our friends. The abundance mind-set is confident in the future, welcoming toward others. It sees win-win situations everywhere.

Today, after the financial crisis, the shrinking of the middle class, the partisan warfare, a scarcity mind-set is dominant: Resources are limited. The world is dangerous. Group conflict is inevitable. It’s us versus them. If they win, we’re ruined, therefore, let’s stick with our tribe. The ends justify the means.
It's possible to over-think this. "Win-win" is the division of games from trade. "Win-lose" is what follows from majority rule. (Yes, even a compromise is a loss for somebody, why else did it take a civil war to change the much-misunderstood three-fifths compromise on apportionment, or the Missouri Compromise?)  Mr Brooks's problem is really the problem of Elite Consensus, which is to say, relying too much on politics and too little on trade.
Eventually, those who cherish the democratic way of life will realize they have to make a much more radical break than any they ever imagined. When this realization dawns the realignment begins. Even with all the structural barriers, we could end up with a European-style multiparty system.

The scarcity mentality is eventually incompatible with the philosophies that have come down through the centuries. Decent liberals and conservatives will eventually decide they need to break from it structurally. They will realize it’s time to start something new.
Perhaps, rediscovering limited, separated, and enumerated government powers is a place to start.

Mr Brooks, on the other hand, seems incapable of answering Anthony DeBlasi's simple questions.  "Americans have been waiting for that better tomorrow promised by politicians since any one of us can remember. What is holding up the delivery? Could it be a loss of moral muscle that stymies the will to follow through on the dictates of conscience?" That's also incomplete, in that "moral muscle" and "dictates of conscience" can turn into a win-lose situation (particularly to the extent that dictates so followed are neither emergent nor confer evolutionary advantage.)

Win-lose thinking is also present in this Medium complaint about the establishment media.
The election of Donald Trump, and the press reaction to it, has exposed a harsh truth — the Free Press no longer serves the American people. The Free Press is the only American institution that does not have a system of checks & balances, because it was established to protect the people from power. Now, the Free Press protects the power from the people. I can think of no greater betrayal in all of civilized history than this. The people are now left with no one to help them fight against the elites, since all the elites (society, academia, media, and political) are allied against them.
That's over the top, but it's not totally wrong, and Mr Brooks doesn't seem to recognize it. Moreover, "fake news" might be provocative speech, but provocative speech isn't the same thing as fisticuffs.
The danger, for them, is that they still cannot (or will not) understand just how many Americans absolutely loathe them. Just how many Americans see right through their lies. Just how many Americans are quickly reaching the point where they will no longer tolerate being talked down to, being condescended to, by this class of simpering elites who think they know whats best for every American. This spineless caste of pretentious braggarts who disdain all those who would dare question their ‘betters’. They should have seen the signs with the reaction to the Gianforte Body Slam incident, but they refuse to believe that they could ever be in the wrong.

I fear that this is all reaching a flash point, and we’re sitting on a powder keg.
Perhaps a strategic withdrawal by the Wise Experts might be in order.

That might be the Deeper Meaning of Jeffrey Tucker's message.
[S]ocial justice warriors of the left and the nationalist identitarians of the right... agree on the main point that immutable human characteristics embody the of life and that these traits constitute the only political drama that really matters. They have become warring tribes, uniting in their mutual loathing on liberalism, which is the view that society can manage itself in harmony provided it is left alone by governing authority.

These tribes seem to have near-total dominance of media, movies, and elite culture. It is a daily clash of mutual recrimination. Who is the biggest victim? Who has inordinate power and needs to be taken down? What group identity should emerge from the struggle on top? What freedoms should anyone really have at the end of the struggle? Truly the media has become unbearable because it mostly consists of struggles over this question as if this were the one and only narrative worth thinking about.

Incredibly, these groups don’t mention (with any consistency) the elephant in the room: the state itself. Here is the real source of oppression and exploitation of everyone regardless of sex, gender, race, religion, or ability. The state works to pit people against each other, as a way of distracting the public from the misdeeds of its tax, regulatory, and penal system. So long as we not looking at the real source of the problem head on, and are rather looking at each other in a dog-eat-dog struggle, society cannot improve.

In a free society, harmony can exist between people.
Put simply: trade unites, politics divides, and elites keep getting things wrong.  Here's how Mr Tucker summarizes.  "It might be the case that bad ideas come from the top down and good ideas from the bottom-up, as a general expectation and principle. That seems to cover most use cases, until the point comes when [classical] liberal intellectuals [distinct from Court Intellectuals hoping to become Wise Experts -- ed.] become hugely influential in academia. We’ll wait a long time for that to be the case."

I repeat, because repeat I must: Perhaps, rediscovering limited, separated, and enumerated government powers is a place to start.

SHUT UP ABOUT HARVARD.

Ben Casselman: "A focus on elite schools ignores the issues most college students face."

That's long been my theme.  Mr Casselman's post is full of links, including links by way of endnotes (!) and he recognizes that for most collegians, the community colleges, regional comprehensives, and mid-majors are the relevant universe.  (I hope the footnotes work properly.  If not, read Mr Casselman's article.  I'm a railroad mechanic, not a coder!)
According to data from the Department of Education,1 more than three-quarters of U.S. undergraduates 2 attend colleges that accept at least half their applicants; just 4 percent attend schools that accept 25 percent or less, and hardly any — well under 1 percent — attend schools like Harvard and Yale that accept less than 10 percent.
Alas, the community colleges, the land grants, and the mid-majors don't provide a pipeline to the chattering classes.  Thus, perhaps, the Ivy obsession among the coastal readers.
Of course, the readerships of the Atlantic and Washington Post probably don’t mirror the U.S. as a whole. Many readers probably did attend selective institutions or have children they are hoping will. It’s understandable that media outlets would want to cater to their readers, particularly in stories that aim to give advice to students or their parents.

But it’s hard not to suspect that there is also another reason for reporters’ focus on elite colleges: At least in major national media outlets, that’s where most of them went. There’s no definitive data on where reporters went to school, but the newsrooms of influential media outlets in New York and Washington, D.C., are full of graduates from Ivy League or similarly selective colleges. Those who attended public colleges often went to a handful of top research universities such as the University of Michigan or the University of California, Berkeley. FiveThirtyEight is just as bad: The vast majority of our editorial staff, including me, went to elite, selective colleges. (I went to Columbia.)

“Ninety-five percent of the newsroom probably went to private institutions, they went to four-year institutions, and they went to elite institutions,” said Jeff Selingo, a longtime higher-education journalist who has a new book focused on giving advice to a broader group of students. “It is exactly the opposite of the experience for the bulk of American students.”
Fine, 538 can credibly commit itself to caring about life outside the bubble by recruiting at a Northern Illinois job fair, or signing an intern from Luther College or Creighton.

Unfortunately, Mr Casselman goes from a lament about how the focus on the same hundred aspirants to the top twenty slots in the U.S. News rankings to indirectly calling attention to why there is a U.S. News problem in the first place.
What few journalists seem to understand, [sociologist Sarah] Goldrick-Rab said, is how tenuous a grasp many students have on college. They are working while in school, often juggling multiple jobs that don’t readily align with class schedules. They are attending part time, which makes it take longer to graduate and reduces the chances of finishing at all. They are raising children, supporting parents and racking up debt trying to pay for it all.

“One little thing goes awry and it just falls apart,” Goldrick-Rab said. “And the consequences of it falling apart when they’re taking on all this debt are just so severe.”

Students keep taking that risk for a reason: A college degree remains the most likely path to a decent-paying job. They aren’t studying literary theory or philosophy; the most popular undergraduate majors in recent years have been business and health-related fields such as nursing.
Working backwards: a lot of higher education is vocational (that may be just as true in the Ivies, where the whole point is to do well enough to screen for Yale Law or Harvard Med or hire out on Wall Street later to qualify for Kellogg or Booth) and matriculants at the Ivies might be neither more nor less instrumental than their counterparts elsewhere.

On the other hand, the first two paragraphs lay out the tradeoffs between offering second chances and maintaining standards in such a way that matriculants arrive with better life-management skills.  Yes, at the margin, "one little thing goes awry," and yet, there's an accumulation of small disadvantages leading there.  How, then, dear reader, might a professor or an advisor come up with strategies for keeping students focused without appearing to enable dysfunctional behavior?  "Thus the importance of the mid-majors. Don't we owe our best students the same intellectual challenges the alleged name-brand universities are supposed to present?"  The challenge, dear colleagues, is to be able to make reasonable accommodations to genuine hardships without appearing to excuse irresponsibility.

Until the regional comprehensives and mid-majors tackle that challenge, U.S. News will continue to sell those rankings, and application season will continue to resemble the Hunger Games.

12.2.18

BET ON EMERGENCE.

Quillette's "George Gallatin" (a nom de plume) contemplates the evolutionary forces present in tribal formation, and fracture.
The fundamental human social skill is the formation of groups that act with shared intentionality. The skill to coordinate intentions is what enabled our ancestors to form sophisticated social coalitions that outcompeted lower primates. Shared intentionality is a double-edged sword, though. The ability to form groups around intentions also means the ability to form breakaway sub-groups around different intentions. Thus, one of our primary evolutionary breakthroughs carried within it the potential for endless factionalism.

The reason why we are still tribal today is because tribalism appears to have been evolutionarily adaptive — at least for our ancestors. Researchers at McGill University have described it thusly: “ethnocentrism eventually overcomes its closest competitor, humanitarianism, by exploiting humanitarian cooperation across group boundaries”.

Despite prevailing moral fashions, we are the products of this evolutionary competition. This observation has no moral polarity, it is a mere reality. And while it is undoubtedly noble to argue that we should try to overcome tribalism, it is a very different matter to argue that it is achievable, or that in doing so we won’t be outcompeted by less noble, more unified groups.
That's an intriguing variation on the Cold Spring Shops "Sharing works well among people 'from our own tribe and family.' Market interactions are a way by which self-interest elicits empathy, or at least, cooperation." The social science Mr Gallatin refers to raises the possibility that differentiating by family or tribe came later, perhaps as unthinking humanitarianism got mugged by reality too many times.

Thus, there are potential gains from embracing diversity; there are also risks.
Since human beings are so quick to form factions, it should be the goal of government policy to ameliorate division and ward off for as long as possible the demon of sectarianism. Our current public policies and cultural products seem aimed at doing the exact opposite. I think this is because the designers of these policies hold at least two mistaken assumptions about diversity and migration.
First, upscale boutique diversity is bourgeois interacting with bourgeois.  The facts on the ground are not always so benign.  Second, over time, people can expand their set of interactions, or they can fort up.  Emergence is messy.  As Mr Gallatin puts it, "It is a mistake to believe that unregulated mass migration will bring about redemption for guilty Westerners. For whatever economic benefits it may bring, it will also bring tribalism, disunity, and violence. And for those of you who think this isn’t a major issue or that the worst has passed, please note we are just in the opening act of this drama."

(Via Thomas Lifson at American Thinker.)

ROSENMONTAG.

As Karneval comes to a close, the festivities get more transgressive.


Düsseldorf.  Unattributed image retrieved from The Local Germany.

Roses Monday is not the Rose Parade.  Float designers take afflicting the comfortable seriously.
Carnival is the celebration of the “Narr” (jester or fool), whose purpose it was in the olden days, at the courts of the kings and nobility, to tell the truth, and most importantly without being punished. That’s why politics has a significant role in Carnival. And of course Carnival in the Rhineland, especially, has always been very political as it developed in its current form during the time of the French and Prussian occupations.
Thus, all through the Rhineland, including Düsseldorf, the point is to be over the top.  "It’s that time again - when the usual rules of polite society are thrown out the window."  To the south -- Swabia, parts of Bavaria, and Austria, there are revelries, with a different tone.  "Down in the Swabian region in southern Germany, as well as in parts of Switzerland and western Austria, a more serious tradition called Fastnacht, which distinguishes itself from the Rhenish carnival also bursts out in February."  The festivities evolved differently, but share common origins in Roman and German rites of spring (which, yes, might have been anticipated by groundhogs seeing their shadows) modified as a way to make merry before the penitence of Lent arrives.

Cold Spring Shops headquarters have received all of February and March's rations of snow in the past ten days.  But there are paczki in the larder.  "If you don't eat at least one paczek, you will be unlucky all year long."  I'm taking no chances.

9.2.18

CONSIDER A DIFFERENT FUNDING MODEL.

A Florida transit planner takes a ride on Brightline. "While I loved my travel experience, as a planner, I'm keenly aware that Brightline’s service model cannot be easily copied by public transportation agencies."  Perhaps the place to start, dear reader, is by reworking the public agency model.  Let's start with Ms Whitton's contrasts.  "Brightline cost billions to build, and it was built without direct public funding. That being said, several things give it an advantage that public transportation agencies do not have."

First, "[Florida East Coast] has owned or had exclusive access to right-of-way for the railroad tracks for more than a century."  Unlike the legacy commuter train operators of the big cities, who sought public assistance with the operating deficits, leading to a situation in which the subsidy-paying agency might be at odds with the freight railroad that owns the tracks, Florida East Coast are starting this service, and adding capacity, ab initio.

Second, "All Aboard Florida’s business model includes revenues from nearby real estate developments."  I've called that the "Sim Trump" approach to railroad construction, and it seems to work in Japan.  But such "value capture" isn't so easily done by Commuter Rail operators (the prospect of Chicago's Metra getting too close to well-connected Pritzkers or McCaskeys isn't just a theoretical worry.)

Third, "During my ride, I noticed several 'official partners' of Brightline."  In plain language, naming rights (and well-patronized trains won't be white elephants.)  But again, where you have a government agency, with a monopoly on generating rents, you have the risk of corruption.  "While some larger transit agencies such a RTD in Denver and CTA in Chicago have corporate partnerships, the procurement rules or politics within most local governments would prohibit this revenue source."

Perhaps Brightline is a rarity, maybe even a one-off.  And yet, there might be ways for the Passenger Rail authorities to change their procedures.
It is a false assumption that public transit agencies can use Brightline’s entire playbook, but they can use some of its plays. There aren’t many locations where right-of-way is readily-available and cheap. Brightline also had access to developable land for transit-oriented development in already booming neighborhoods – an expensive and infrequent possibility in most cities. Generating revenue, such as with corporate sponsorships, is more realistic.
Put another way, rather than having the public money provide "demonstration projects," here is an entrepreneurial demonstration project that the Commuter Rail authorities might emulate.

NOT EXACTLY A COALITION OF THE ASCENDANT.

Betsy Newmark's morning roundup is a literature review of pundits contemplating the Democrats' coalition.  I found this visual in a Power Line "Week in Pictures" a few weeks ago that summarizes.


That might not be an easy coalition to hold together.  (Worst case scenario: the California of Kurt Schlichter's People's Republic.)

The Serious Thinkers see what's happening, and it might not be pretty.  First up, Joel Kotkin.
[Democrats] should focus on how to build sustained economic growth that would provide better opportunities for upward mobility for middle and working class voters, and in particular millennials. If they choose however to listen primarily to causists and oligarchs, they may win in the short run, given the ineptitude of their opponents, but may prove unable to sustain their ascendency over the longer term.
Yes, particularly to the extent that the causists depend on the continued suffering of dependable voters to win elections.  "The well-to-do get doughnuts. Those dependable Democrat voters get the hole. And the Lakers and Kings fled the district."  That might not be sustainable.  Michael Barone.
Gentry liberals have produced the highest-income-inequality metropolitan areas in the nation. They decry gentrification, and the accompanying movement of low-income blacks and Hispanics out of their neighborhoods, even as they cause it. They sing hymns to diversity even as they revel in the pleasures of communities where almost everybody believes and consumes exactly the same things—and votes uniformly Democratic.
Michael Walsh extends the argument.
You can’t make the point too strongly that California in the ’50s was probably the greatest place in the world. So I had a very blessed boyhood, having spent the years from ’54 to ’62 there. It was at its apogee, as I say in this piece. You know, again depending on your point of view. If you’re obviously a member of Aztlan or some other radical organization, you’re going to think it was a white, male, colonialist, you know, blah, blah, blah.

But it was the place where . . . First of all it was Republican. Second of all, moderate Republican. Sort of Rockefeller Republican. It was very strong on defense. San Francisco, believe it or not, was one of our major naval bases. San Diego had the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, where my father was at first stationed. And the Naval Air Station in Coronado. Los Angeles was huge in the aerospace and defense industries. So it was as solid and an all-American place as you can get.

And since then, now that’s what, 50 plus, 60 years, it’s changed completely. And it actually shows you the death wish of liberalism, that once you start to give in to the liberalizing forces. You know, why don’t you do it this way? Why do we have to do that? Why, why, why? It’s something I covered in “Devil’s Pleasure Palace.” Once you start to give in to that, you lose it. And California has lost it steadily over the years, and now it’s basically gone. And it’s a shame because it should be the best place in the world.
Put another way, the California of the Beach Boys is gone, and it's unlikely any contemporary singers could offer similarly cheerful tunes. (That might parallel the decline of Christmas songs we documented earlier this winter.)

Further, the Academic-Entertainment-Media types have developed a hectoring, deplorable-shaming way of communicating that antagonizes people. "Gentry liberals have the microphone and the money to dominate the Democratic Party. Whether they can overcome their snobbish disdain and bitter contempt for those beyond their comfortable enclaves, and come up with a winning national strategy, is unclear." Let's suppose that the Donks win back the House in the fall. Pyrrhic victory, as their focus will be more on attempting to impeach the president, rather than passing any sort of useful legislation.  Easier said than done.  Matthew Continetti.
Trump’s State of the Union was well crafted and moving, but what made it especially important was the ease with which the president took the Democratic economic message of a few years ago and pocketed it without protest. If Bill Clinton had M2E2 — Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the environment — then Donald Trump has T2I2: terrorism, trade, immigration, and infrastructure. He has framed these issues in ways that leave the Democrats in the cold, and oh, by the way, he’s taken family leave away from them too. He’s for tight labor markets within the original free-trade zone, the United States, and all the Democrats have left is virtue signaling and grievance mongering. Maybe that’s why Nancy Pelosi looked so unhappy Tuesday.
There's another salient passage in Mr Continetti's essay.
The fate of working-class people in the country’s interior is a defining domestic issue. For the Democrats to win nationally, they must stanch their losses among this key voting bloc, just as Clinton’s husband and Barack Obama did. “If Clinton could simply have reduced the shift toward Donald Trump among these voters by one-quarter, she would have won,” Ruy Teixeira wrote a few days ago on Vox.com. Even more remarkably, Teixeira found that Doug Jones’s victory in the Alabama special election “was not attributable to his strong showing among black voters alone, or even a combination of black voters and white college graduates. My analysis indicates that Jones benefited from a margin swing of more than 30 points among white non-college voters, relative to the 2016 presidential election in the state.”
Democrats, this P. C. Brown essay suggests in Politico, might be thinking about getting beyond the causists and the gentry.
From the Appalachian regions of Ohio to the Iron Range of Minnesota and the northern reaches of Michigan and Wisconsin, across Iowa and Missouri and through the southern swaths of Indiana and Illinois—areas in which Bill Clinton triumphed and Hillary Clinton tanked—the quotes from the 72 rural Democrats [Monmouth College political scientist Robin] Johnson interviewed read like a pent-up primal scream. And [Indiana Congressman] Terry Goodin’s comments pop out in particular. In the report, he says the Democratic Party is “lazy,” “out of touch with mainstream America,” relying on “too much identity politics” where “winners and losers are picked by their labels.” The Democrats in his district, he laments, “feel abandoned.”
Representative Cheri Bustos, from a district just to the northwest of Cold Spring Shops, commissioned this study. So far, though, it's the gentry Democrats and the causists continuing to hold serve in Congress.

The Republicans, also, might benefit by considering expanding their message.  Kevin D. Williamson gets the final word.
If real estate cast votes, the United States would be practically a one-party state. And, to be sure, as things stand, the Republicans are doing well, controlling the presidency and both houses of Congress while enjoying a commanding position in the states. “Who needs California?” they ask, often with a sneer. “Who needs New York and New Jersey?”

The answer: America does.

Conservatives, too.

In its quest to “Make America Great Again,” the Republican party, and to a lesser extent the conservative movement that animates itself, has taken a position of enmity toward much of what made America great in the first place. With all due respect to those amber waves of grain, coastal urban America has in many ways led the way: Hollywood, Wall Street, Ronald Reagan, punk rock, Ellis Island, Edison, Apple, Facebook, Google, J. P. Morgan, General Electric.

The modern conservative movement was not a product of the Old South or the Midwest but an intellectual phenomenon that percolated up in Southern California and New York City.
Perhaps the way forward from political polarization is for both major parties to make some effort to woo marginal voters from the other party.  "[S]omething other than polarization is the equilibrium, but minimum differentiation is still lost."

That's an outcome I could live with.  The current political competition (and we're having a doozy of a primary season in Illinois) is one that offers me very little.

CROSS CROSSINGS CAUTIOUSLY.

Just after the State of the Union, the Congressional Republican Caucus took a train ride (!) to the Greenbrier Resort to talk about policy initiatives, including but not limited to not spending money on Passenger Rail.  (OK, I'm being outrageous to make a point, but what's the point of having my own private space to rant and not being outrageous.)

On the way, a truck blocking a grade crossing delayed the train.  (Not "hit a truck."  Not "was hit by a truck.")
The grade crossing was protected by both flashing lights and crossing gates. After the collision both lights and gates were seen to be working and undamaged. So why? There is but one plausible explanation: The truck tried to diagonally negotiate the lowered gates, its driver perhaps thinking a slow moving train was approaching. Had the truck ignored the gates, perhaps out of control, at least one gate would have sheared, but neither was.
Mr Frailey's post deals with the lousy reporting by the news media about how motorists get in the way of trains.

Look, this isn't rocket science.


Or, as Mr Frailey words it, "Who knows how many of us play Russian Roulette at crossing gates, and how many spin to the loaded cylinder? This was an educatable moment for the Big Three, and as so often happens nowadays, they blew it."

TRADE UNITES, POLITICS DIVIDES.

A Hamburg grocery store removed imported foodstuffs in order to send a virtue signal.  "In an effort to show people how boring Germany would be without diversity, their customers were left to do without food they consume regularly, such as tomatoes from Spain, olives from Greece, or cheese from France."  That may not be the best way to send the message, as Germany's diversity initiatives, like those elsewhere, are to persuade people to be neighborly.  National Brotherhood Week stuff, if you will.  Commerce, however, is a good social lubricant, flattening the world, if you will.

It's probably better, dear reader, that the Germans purchase their olives and cheese with Euro rather than with bullets.

COMPARE AND CONTRAST.

At oh-so-fashionable (well, among that dwindling population of slacktivists) Evergreen State College, graduates have funny ideas about success in business.
The Feminist Business School, founded by Evergreen State College graduate Jennifer Armbrust, teaches that capitalism is an “economy that values masculine traits” such as “meritocracy,” “competition,” and “individualism.” The California-based site recently launched two more online courses to coach aspiring businesswomen on how to “topple the patriarchy” and promote a more “feminist economy.”

Shunning the “profit seeking motive” of traditional commerce, the Feminist Business School advocates that businesswomen adopt more “feminine traits” such as “gratitude,” “intimacy,” and “connecting with nature.”
Cooperation is more likely where there is mutual benefit.  Profit-seeking is a way of identifying where such benefits might be present.  But the temptation to do business whilst engaging in virtue-signalling never goes away, does it?
“There is no template for radical entrepreneurship. An out-of-the-box solution for feminist business doesn't exist,” the course description states. “Only you can engineer a business the embodies your values, fulfills your unique needs, and enlivens your purpose.” Just like the first class, the Structures and Support class will guide students along the process of “birthing a business” through the lens of feminist theory.

It will not teach business skills, such as accounting or marketing.

The school plans to host a virtual Feminist Summer Camp, which appears to function like a discussion group rather than an online course. The students will discuss “feminist entrepreneurship” with the goal of “sloughing off patriarchal belief systems and expanding our entrepreneurial vision.”
That's not likely to turn out well, but then, if you have the cast of mind that thinks getting your priors tightened at Evergreen is the road to success, and organizing summer seminars might land you that gig at The Nation or MSNBC, why, hang on to your illusions.

In reality, on the other hand, the Arkansas Steelmaking Academy appears to have some promise.  It's a partnership of SMS Group, a manufacturer of steel mill machinery, with Arkansas Northeastern College, a community college hard by the Mississippi Delta cluster of high-tech steel recycling firms.

SMS are a German corporation, probably with prior experience in industry partnerships with technical schools there.  Whether this academy will be open to expansions of the entrepreneurial vision to the liking of the Evergreen types is left to the reader as an exercise.

THE MARKET FOR WHITE ELEPHANTS IS THIN.

Wednesday wasn't even a snow day.  "There wasn’t a single investor or business representative in attendance Wednesday morning for Northern Illinois University’s open house as it tries to sell the naming rights to the Convocation Center."  The spin from headquarters? "[Associate athletic director John] Cheney said many national businesses have expressed interest and downloaded an informational packet about the Convocation Center and the bidding process, but he couldn’t provide information regarding which businesses and how many have downloaded the packet."

Business owners have a sense when throwing good money after bad is unproductive.

8.2.18

WEIBERFASTNACHT.

Fasching, or Karneval, has been under way since November.  The serious partying begins now until the close of festivities at the end of Fasching Dienstag.

Prosit!