29.8.19

SOCIAL AND SPATIAL DISTANCE BOTH STILL MATTER.

John Judis followed up his short reader on populism with another short reader, The Nationalist Revival: Trade, Immigration, and the Revolt Against Globalization, which provides Book Review No. 10 to close out this month.  (That's right, dear reader, long weekend, no classes to prepare for, no reason to be working on the internet.  See you in September.)  It's not explicitly about a Trump presidency or about Britain getting out of the European Union, although those events influence his thinking.  As does his membership in the Credentialed Establishment.

DON'T PLAY BY THEIR RULES.

Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds quips, "Whining is a power move today."  That noted, Mark Bauerlein's advice to eschew whining might be worth following.
The progressivist insistence on feeling safe and included, along with accompanying acts of censorship and personnel [c.q.] complaint, has proven so successful in recent years that one can hardly blame conservative students for joining in. But they should hold back. When conservatives proclaim that they are offended and unsafe, though they may win a quick victory in the ongoing campus culture wars, they only ensure future losses as well. What happened at North Carolina State this month shouldn’t be repeated.
On the one hand, there's something to making them play by their own rules. On the other hand, the rules create new hierarchies of privilege and oppression, hierarchies that might be internally inconsistent.
The episode followed a customary plot. An official at a university says something offensive about a particular group; the group files an objection and the official steps down. Usually, the parties of complaint come from a historically-disadvantaged group—women, blacks, Muslims, gays, etc.—who have considerable moral authority at the school because of their victim status. The offending figure, too, has often meant no disrespect in his actions, but has shown himself insufficiently sensitive to the group’s “experience.” A protest follows, the offender apologizes, and he may or may not keep his post.

This time, however, we had a non-disadvantaged group, conservative students (presumably white), and an official who was a lot more than insensitive. He was hostile and insulting.
Turf the deanlet out, though, and he doesn't have the opportunity to grow on the job, and his successor might be worse.
The [College Republicans] should not have called for the resignation of the administrator. That’s the left’s tactic, which the young right should not imitate. Instead, [they] should have let him remain in place, but demanded that he demonstrate somehow that he will not actively discriminate against conservative students. They should have widely broadcasted his opinion of GOP supporters, made a public issue of it, and let the leadership of this public institution in a state whose voters went for Trump in 2016 wriggle its way out of the embarrassment.

For, the vice chancellor had put himself in a tough spot. He knew that he must treat students impartially in the nuts and bolts of his position. Administrators must be fair no matter what they think of the politics of the kids. But the vice chancellor had thrown himself under suspicion. This could have been an interesting situation, with the [College Republicans] enjoying a distinct advantage.

What a spectacle it might have been if, instead of demanding he resign, [they] had asked him to join them for a town hall meeting. They could have had fun facing their accuser and stating to him in front of a crowd, “You have called us allies of Nazis and Klansmen—me, a student from Charlotte whose mother read what you said about me—would you please explain?” No indignation, no excess solemnity, no tears. [They] could have shown themselves to be the adults in the room, the [vice chancellor] the childish name-caller. And throughout it all, [they] would have shown that they’re having a good time, that the insults are so ridiculous that they don’t deserve to be taken seriously.
In a way, that's still following a leftist script, which is to say a Mao-era struggle session. Never mind that, though, introducing a little accountability, and perhaps having a few parents in the audience, makes a lot of sense.  Using the rules of the wokesters is a missed opportunity, namely the opportunity to demonstrate how lame the wokesters' rules are.
The language of the letter after the opening demand maintains a tone of high offense. Here is the next paragraph:

Targeted rhetoric that compares Conservatives and Republicans on NC State’s campus to “neo-nazis,” “alt-right crazies,” and “KKK members” has no place in the university system. Mr. Mullen’s comments have affixed Republican students to society’s most egregious and reprehensible groups, thus widening the gap of political divisiveness and creating an unsafe political environment for all students.

The idiom comes right out of progressivist whining. “Targeted rhetorical . . . has no place . . . political divisiveness . . . unsafe political environment.” That last phrase is the worst. Conservative students should NEVER talk about safe spaces! Progressives have infantilized the campus enough. Conservatives shouldn’t add to the problem.
Perhaps the College Republicans have never learned any other way of framing an argument. Given the sad state of rhetorical teaching, whether on campus, or in high schools, expressions such as "exceeded his authority" or "unsupported allegations" might not be in their bag of tricks.
The next sentence gives us more progressivist lament: “Mr. Mullen has spewed hurtful rhetoric.” Hurtful is one of those fuzzy, whiny, flat, unimaginative words whose weakness is supposed to reflect the injured innocence of the afflicted one. It’s the diction of a victim mentality, and conservatives should save victimhood for people who have suffered more than an overgrown adolescent insulting them on Twitter.

The next paragraph is just as bad. It contains two words high in the social justice nomenclature:

Since 1951, College Republicans at NC State have advocated strongly for respectful dialogue and inclusiveness in the political process.

One would like to think this is parody. Progressives love to call for more “dialogue,” which usually means, “Let’s talk until you agree with me,” and their “inclusiveness” is really a form of coercion. Conservatives, then, should use them with irony. But there are no signs that the [College Republicans] have their tongues in their cheeks. They really mean it.
Experienced people understand the code words. Again, the students might not yet have discovered that those are code words.
This time, they won. The [vice chancellor] resigned. But it’s a lost opportunity. I sympathize with conservative students at NC State. The relentless condemnation of Trump and his supporters is annoying, witless, and predictable, not to mention insulting. But it does no good for the right to force a resignation, not when they are so outnumbered and overwhelmed in higher education that they must play a different game. A more enduring victory would have been to ridicule him and show the campus that conservatives have better things to do than complain about puerile accusations.
That's also something more experienced campus warriors understand.
For too long on this campus the Left held a monopoly on student expression, more by default than by design.  We've proved, we hope, that conservatives don't come old, grey, dull, reactionary, and filthy rich.  They come young, green, sprite, poor, and constantly laughing the rabid Left into impotence.  The heart beat of our editorial page is the simple assertion of the basic goodness and value of the individual in American society, as opposed to the retarding features in the guilt-ridden sheep who follow the collectivist impulse.
That's a column from the 27 May, 1971 issue of The Badger Herald, not even four weeks into the Amtrak era, and your Superintendent is still nailing down a perfect attendance award in high school.
Each generation, collegians have to rediscover the formula: consider the Dartmouth Review at which Laura Ingraham and Dinesh D'Souza broke into media. There was no Vietnam War to galvanize the left; there were plenty of excessively earnest professors and administrators well worth laughing to scorn.
Let Professor Bauerlein's closing words be a charge to the next generation to keep up the fight. "Conservatives must start having fun with liberal calumny. Social justice types will never be very popular. They’re humorless and judgmental. Don’t follow their lead."

28.8.19

FREQUENCY, CONNECTIVITY, DEPENDABILITY.

The Germans get it.  "The Green party has proposed to make rail travel in Germany so attractive over the coming decades that passengers turn their back on domestic flights."  Yes.
The goal must be to reduce the travel time between as many places as possible in Germany and neighbouring countries to "a maximum of four hours", the Greens said. The authors singled out the routes from Cologne and Düsseldorf to Berlin, Hamburg or Munich as well as the connection between Frankfurt and Berlin.

In many places, bottlenecks would have to be eliminated quickly. In addition, more trains are needed in the morning and evening rush hours to make train travel more attractive to commuters as well.
Up to a point.
But if you're putting in high-speed service between Stuttgart and München, one of the audited routes, is part of your strategy to shave 36 minutes off that trip to skip stops at Ulm and Augsburg? Are you more likely to attract nine million passengers onto your trains if passengers riding Stuttgart - Augsburg, Augsburg - München, Stuttgart - Ulm, Ulm - München usw. are occupying some of the seats in addition to the seats held by the full-route passengers.
Yes, and pay attention to those taxes.
The paper also provides for a "step-by-step introduction of the Kerosene tax for domestic flights". This should gradually align with the tax rate on petrol which currently stands at 65 cents per litre, the party argues.

Yet for trains, the VAT should be reduced from 19 to seven percent. The Greens also want to lower route prices and the electricity tax.

Meanwhile, the party is also thinking about how to improve trains to make people think twice about taking longer or international flights.

They proposed a "European night train network" that they hope would attract more passengers to the railways.

"It is unacceptable that the airplane, as the most climate-damaging mode of transport, is still being subsidized with billions, while the environmentally friendly railway is chronically underfinanced," said Daniela Wagner, one of the authors of the paper.
The extension to the road network, and to the United States, is straightforward.

THE ULTIMATE FIRST WORLD PROBLEM?

It's old, but might repay careful study. The Grocery Industry Confronts a New Problem: Only 10% of Americans Love Cooking.
Early in my career I gathered some data for a client on cooking. This research found that consumers fell into one of three groups: (1) people who love to cook, and cook often, (2) people who hate to cook, and avoid that activity by heating up convenience food or outsourcing their meals (by ordering out or dining in restaurants), and, finally, (3) people who like to cook sometimes, and do a mix of cooking and outsourcing, depending on the situation. At the time, the sizes of the three respective groups were about 15% who love to cook, 50% who hate to cook, and 35% who are so-so on the idea.

Nearly 15 years later I did a similar study for a different client. This time, the numbers had shifted: Only 10% of consumers now love to cook, while 45% hate it and 45% are lukewarm about it. That means that the percentage of Americans who really love to cook has dropped by about one-third in a fairly short period of time.
Author Eddie Yoon sees home cooking going the way of homespun.
I’ve come to think of cooking as being similar to sewing. As recently as the early 20th century, many people sewed their own clothing. Today the vast majority of Americans buy clothing made by someone else; the tiny minority who still buy fabric and raw materials do it mainly as a hobby. If that’s the kind of shift coming to the food industry, change leaders and corporate strategists will have their hands full.

The risk to traditional grocers and Big Food is not just market share declines but category obsolescence. To prevent that, the industry needs to stop putting Band-Aids on a major bleed-out, and instead make a decision to amputate through ruthless portfolio strategy. Food manufacturers need to identify categories that are long-term losers, and exit by selling them while they can. Find and exit the categories whose fun-to-chore ratio is weakening, and where a food service proxy has gotten much better at a greater value. Even categories that can hardly be considered “cooking” — such as cold, ready-to-eat cereal — are losing sales.
The comparison is incomplete, as it's easier to outsource the manufacture of clothing in standard sizes to the developing country with the most nimble textile workers than it is to outsource the production of food.  And yet, we're apparently sufficiently prosperous that a lot of the old staples (I saw something on social media recently cringing about a peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwich on white bread complete with those American High staples: Jif, Miracle Whip, Wonder Bread) are boring and those Depression Baby parents and grandparents who said "That's lunch.  Eat it." have mostly passed from the scene.

The author also suggests there are at least a few consumers who, coming to grips with their lack of competence compared with the stars on the Food Channel and elsewhere, would rather outsource than attempt to lift their game.

Me?  I'm inframarginal.  Almost time to get the charcoal started and soak the corn on the cob before grilling it (corn fresh from the field, still in the husk, just soak it for half an hour and put it on the grill, turning it every five minutes) along with the pork chop.  If it comes out a little overdone, well, that's on me.  But don't come by looking for a peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwich, sorry!

THE LIMITATIONS OF THERAPEUTIC CULTURE.

Stop Using Mental Illness to Explain White Supremacy.  Intriguing.
A few weeks ago, we convened and moderated a “justice and equity” reading group for students, staff, and faculty at a local college. Our inaugural meeting centered on an essay in which the author calls attention to the shortcomings of organizing racial justice interventions in higher education around the sanitized and depoliticized language of “diversity.”

While nearly every participant agreed that programs and initiatives captured under the banner of “diversity” would fail to remediate historical and contemporary racial wrongs, we quickly noticed something else: A number of white discussants began describing racism as a “disease,” as a “mental illness,” and as a form of “deviant behavior.” In a private conversation after the gathering, one staff member approached us with the suggestion that we should consider “lobotomizing the racists that hold our country back.”
We might be learning more about the intellectual foundations of "justice and equity" hustlers, but read on.
The “racism as disease” paradigm only seems to make sense if one were also to believe that racism is: 1) a matter of (mis)recognition and (mis)perception meted out in an apolitical and behaviorist colorblind present; 2) an unfortunate holdover from slavery, a past mistake that has yet to be rectified; and 3) an anomaly, a radical deviation from the telos of dominant political institutions and practices.

Such a psychopathological paradigm, however, is not an appendage of 19th century scientific racism, but rather 20th century liberal social science. In An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (1944), Swedish Nobel laureate economist Gunnar Myrdal argued that “[racism] is a terrible and inexplicable anomaly stuck in the middle of our liberal democratic ethos.” His popular study—funded by the Carnegie Foundation—provides a forceful, if incomplete, framework for explaining the persistence of racial injustice in the United States. Myrdal’s book quickly became an authoritative text for defenders of racial integration in the postwar period, and his work gained popularity in the U.S. imagination after it was cited in Brown v. Board of Education (1954).
There is no present that isn't path-dependent, suggesting explanation (1) fails; explanation (2) still has a lot of purchase (why else the 1619 project?) and explanation (3) is wishful thinking. I'm of the view that "conceived in Liberty" makes a lot of sense as a telos, and that the conception was not immaculate, but it still is a better starting point than anything else I've seen, including those "interventions."

Therapeutic culture, on the other hand, might be too susceptible to public pressure to be of any use.
In fact, the American Psychiatric Association has for decades admitted that racial injustice is too normal to be considered a mental illness or a disease. In 1969, a group of black psychiatrists urged the organization to acknowledge that racism is the “major mental health problem of this country” and to include extreme bigotry as a recognized mental illness in the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual. Though the APA endorsed the “general spirit of reform and redress of racial inequities in American psychiatry,” it rejected the psychiatrists’ desire to classify extreme bigotry as a mental illness. In order for racism to be considered a mental illness, the APA declared, racism must deviate from normative behavior. Because racism is ubiquitous, it could not constitute a mental illness. The APA used this rationale to keep racism out of the DSM in 1980, 1987, 1994, and 2013.
I hope the authors have just enough knowledge to be dangerous: do we classify any behavior that is ubiquitous as "not a mental illness?" Somewhere I'm hearing a hundred million moms asking, "And if all the other kids jump off bridges?"

Better, perhaps, to bet on emergence.
The ideology of race itself leads back to whiteness and white supremacy. U.S. immigration and naturalization legislation, race-based marriage statutes, inheritance law, redlining, and the segregation of public facilities are all examples of how whiteness informs policy and practice. They draw, secure, police, and legitimize the parameters of whiteness and non-whiteness.

So-called anti-miscegenation statutes reinforce this argument. From a strictly etymological perspective, “anti-miscegenation” most closely refers to a proscription against “race-mixing” in marriage or conjugal entanglements. The term, however, does not accurately depict the ideological underpinnings of the law. Most anti-miscegenation laws, in fact, did not prohibit marriage or sexual relations between two non-white people. What architects of anti-miscegenation laws feared most was race-mixing between white and non-white people because such a social practice would compromise the prospect of white racial purity, white national purity, and global white supremacy. Similarly, U.S. naturalization law from 1790 to 1952 carried with it an explicit prerequisite of whiteness. For instance, the first U.S. Immigration and Naturalization law, in 1790, restricted naturalized citizenship to “a free white [male], who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for the term of two years.”
On the other hand, as populations mix and mingle and mate, what we currently understand as a proscription on "race-mixing" might make more sense as a proscription on "norm-mixing." That currently sails under the rubric of "whiteshift" although I have my doubts (and another post in the works, perhaps, on that score.)  That is, it's not as much fear of Others acquiring property and power as it might be of Others acquiring property and power and not taking good care of it.
Ultimately, framing white supremacy as exceptional, individualized, and through the language of disease obscures its origins and movements. As George Lipsitz argues, “whiteness has a cash value” that produces advantages and “profits” for white people in virtually all areas of social organization including housing, education, employment, and intergenerational wealth. Lipsitz continues: “White supremacy is usually less a matter of direct, referential, and snarling contempt than a system for protecting the privileges of whites by denying communities of color opportunities for asset accumulation and upward mobility” and access to full and legitimate citizenship.
As there are large sections of the Old Establishment that are self-discrediting, that form of supremacy might self-destruct, with or without any interventions.
Those who continue to explain racial injustice through appeals to disease or illness implicitly reinforce a discourse that misdiagnoses the machinations of white supremacy. If we are truly to craft an antiracist politics capable of threatening the endurance of white supremacy, we must reject analyses and interventions that individualize social injustice by relying on notions of disease, mental illness, or deviance.
Perhaps it might be simpler to stop rejecting the emergence of bourgeois norms as "code-shifting into white supremacy culture."

DONALD TRUMP IS BEING PRESIDENTIAL.

Very presidential, notes Richard Ebeling.
[Donald Trump] declares that China is acting in ways that he considers “bad” for America. He announces that he is imposing even more and higher tariffs on the importation of Chinese goods. The Chinese government does not cower in fear of (in Trump’s own self-description in a passing glib remark to reporters) “the chosen one” meant to save America from “bad” foreign trading partners.

Trump issues his tweets saying America will be better off without China, he “orders” American businessmen to quit business with the Chinese, and he calls the Federal Reserve chairman an “enemy.” The stock markets tank.
That's just the way the Cult of the Presidency works, and the two major political parties are complicit in its continuation.
Conservatives and Republicans rail against the dangers confronting the country if Trump is not reelected and the “progressives” and democratic socialists of the Democratic Party take over the White House and the rest of Congress. And, indeed, their proposed policies would be a disaster for America.

But what are we offered instead? A president who never speaks of liberty or limited government, but who worships at the altar of aggressive economic nationalism, which means more and more government control over the marketplace. That means decreased standards of living as American businesses are bullied or forced to produce where costs are higher and qualities of workers and materials for manufacturing are lower. Under economic nationalism, they are to face a tightening set of end-dependent “rules of the game” based on the president’s tweeted commands and threats to American business about what they are to do on a changing basis, seemingly minute by minute, as swirling “greatness” dreams dance in Donald Trump’s head.

In 1798, Thomas Jefferson warned of the dangers arising from the political rule of men, and the importance of jealously guarding our liberties through clearly defined constitutional restraints on what government could do, which always means government doing things to people.
Yes, but Getting Things Done is what the Governing Class thinks it can Do For The People, and there's still enough lingering Faith in Expertise from the War that our "binary choice" is still going to be one or another High Modern Authoritarian forms.
The tragedy of our circumstances is that whether they are Republicans or Democrats vying for governmental power, they all want to impose their respective versions of a central plan and a system of command and control over the American citizenry. The choice seemingly facing the people of the United States in the coming presidential and congressional elections is either economic fascism and aggressive nationalism or democratic socialism and the tyranny of identity politics. In other words, political and economic collectivism in any direction we turn.
It's likely to continue until more of the Grand Constructions have a close encounter with reality.

(Via Cafe Hayek.)

THE LAMB THAT TAKETH AWAY THE SINS OF ANTIOCH.

Apparently there's nothing too weird in the intersectional world.
Dr. David Nibert, a sociology professor at Wittenberg University, described in an article in The Daily Beast his attempt to save nine lambs from being used for food on the Antioch College Farm.

The Antioch Farm is a “working farm and learning laboratory.” The college intended for the farm to enhance the liberal arts education by allowing “students to experience, explore, and develop methods of sustainability, through its interwoven functions as an outdoor laboratory for curricular study and a living forum where student labor connects to campus dining and recycling.”
In the Big Ten, we have something called the College of Agriculture, and there was a time when the University of Wisconsin's Babcock Hall ice cream was locally sourced, right there on the west campus.  The gyros stands had more conventional sources.

(Aren't we getting into Onion or Babylon Bee territory again?  All that's missing is somebody at Antioch complaining about cultural appropriation if those lambs indeed go for gyros.)

It gets better.
Nibert also reached out to Antioch College President Tom Manley, demanding the college free the lambs.

“[Antioch’s practices] seek to educate by offering pragmatic, knowledge-based solutions to the daunting global challenges we face with regard to developing and sustaining healthy food systems,” Manley responded in a July letter, according to the Daily Beast. “They support a reasonable range of personal dietary preferences in our kitchens and they respect the right of individuals to make choices for themselves from what is offered, including seasonally, meat from the sheep (and chickens and ducks) that are kept on the farm.”

“On the matter of the sheep, at this point, I have made the college’s position clear and will have nothing further to offer in response.”
Higher education being what it has become, you know the fanciful thinking is going to proliferate.
After receiving the response, Nibert created the aforementioned petition but also started posting fliers, which Antioch called a “nuisance” in a cease-and-desist order, the Daily Beast reported. The professor created a Committee to Save the Antioch Lambs and also obtained support from more than 100 scholars.

“Lambs are not things, they are not tools, and they are not food,” Corey Wren, chair of the American Sociological Association’s Animals & Society section, said, according to the Daily Beast. “They are persons who care about what happens to them, just like us.”

“Is this how you teach students about compassion?” an individual asked on the petition. “No wonder why there are so many school shootings in this country. Lambs are actually not food. They are living, emotional, sentient beings who feel pain.”

Nibert’s efforts “have incited hateful rhetoric and harassment of employees and students from outside of the area,” a spokesperson for the college told the Daily Beast.
It's not even Labor Day, and I can see that limiting my commentary to things that run on rails, with some economics, the odd bridge column, and some Oktoberfest isn't going to be possible.

A pedagogical note: there are circles in higher education in which animal husbandry is a primary cause of all sorts of social ills.  How on earth am I going to enjoy the final county fairs of the year?

27.8.19

IF ONLY SOMEONE HAD WARNED THEM.

Mary Eberstadt connects the dots between the Consciousness Revolution and identity politics.  "If we are truly to recover and move on, we must begin with an honest reckoning of the impact of decades of decisions taken in the name of 'choice' — whose collective deleterious effects on society are such that no single individual would have chosen them."

Slowly they catch on.  "Thirty years ago, still valid, still no convincing arguments that continuing the revolution, if that's what it is, is somehow better than restoring a state of good repair to conventions of long standing."

STOP CRYING WITH YOUR MOUTH FULL.

Yale's Daniel Markovits climbs the prestige hierarchy, only to ask "Is that all there is?"  In a forum that caters to fellow climbers.  "Meritocracy prizes achievement above all else, making everyone—even the rich—miserable. Maybe there’s a way out."  No, this is not Babylon Bee or The Onion!
Outrage at nepotism and other disgraceful forms of elite advantage-taking implicitly valorizes meritocratic ideals. Yet meritocracy itself is the bigger problem, and it is crippling the American dream. Meritocracy has created a competition that, even when everyone plays by the rules, only the rich can win.

But what, exactly, have the rich won? Even meritocracy’s beneficiaries now suffer on account of its demands. It ensnares the rich just as surely as it excludes the rest, as those who manage to claw their way to the top must work with crushing intensity, ruthlessly exploiting their expensive education in order to extract a return.

No one should weep for the wealthy. But the harms that meritocracy imposes on them are both real and important. Diagnosing how meritocracy hurts elites kindles hope for a cure. We are accustomed to thinking that reducing inequality requires burdening the rich. But because meritocratic inequality does not in fact serve anyone well, escaping meritocracy’s trap would benefit virtually everyone.
If he wants to concede that the products of the Ivies and the rest of the Status Hierarchy have performed poorly, fine.  If he wants to suggest that administrators at other colleges, and Colleges of Law, recognize that they are in the same business as the Ivies, and should act accordingly, fine.  If he wants to suggest that personnel directors of blue-chip companies, and wanna-be blue chip companies, cast their recruiting net more widely, fine.

In a world of scarce resources, though, there will always be ways for the people who aspire to do better to outwork everyone else.  The fundamental problem he tackles is that "getting into Yale" isn't the same thing as "outworking everyone else."
ELITES FIRST CONFRONT meritocratic pressures in early childhood. Parents—sometimes reluctantly, but feeling that they have no alternative—sign their children up for an education dominated not by experiments and play but by the accumulation of the training and skills, or human capital, needed to be admitted to an elite college and, eventually, to secure an elite job. Rich parents in cities like New York, Boston, and San Francisco now commonly apply to 10 kindergartens, running a gantlet of essays, appraisals, and interviews—all designed to evaluate 4-year-olds. Applying to elite middle and high schools repeats the ordeal. Where aristocratic children once reveled in their privilege, meritocratic children now calculate their future—they plan and they scheme, through rituals of stage-managed self-presentation, in familiar rhythms of ambition, hope, and worry.
I wish people would re-learn the story of the Sword of Damocles.  Those aristocratic children of days gone by had to develop the martial skills (for the men) and the diplomatic skills (for the women) as in those days the idea of settling differences at the negotiating table and marrying for love were still emergent.  It might have been understood that the prince or princess, or lesser nobility, would receive the best preparation the tax-collector could extract, but there might be the convent or internal exile for the dullard.  Yes, Harvard Prep Day Care is crazy, and yes, let's consider that there might be other ways for future talent to be groomed.  But let's not pretend that turning a hereditary aristocracy into a credentialed meritocracy is a mis-step.
These students nevertheless have good reason to push themselves as they do. Elite universities that just a few decades ago accepted 30 percent of their applicants now accept less than 10 percent. The shift at certain institutions has been even more dramatic: The University of Chicago admitted 71 percent of its applicants as recently as 1995. In 2019 it admitted less than 6 percent.

The contest intensifies when meritocrats enter the workplace, where elite opportunity is exceeded only by the competitive effort required to grasp it. A person whose wealth and status depend on her human capital simply cannot afford to consult her own interests or passions in choosing her job. Instead, she must approach work as an opportunity to extract value from her human capital, especially if she wants an income sufficient to buy her children the type of schooling that secured her own eliteness. She must devote herself to a narrowly restricted class of high-paying jobs, concentrated in finance, management, law, and medicine. Whereas aristocrats once considered themselves a leisure class, meritocrats work with unprecedented intensity.
Is the competition to get into those elite universities so intense in part because the state flagships and the land-grants and the mid-majors have abdicated their responsibility?  Is it really the case that the next generation of Masters of the Universe really requires high-status, stressed-out parents who are outsourcing the child care to nannies?

The way out, though, may be emergent.
The rich now dominate society not idly but effortfully. The familiar arguments that once defeated aristocratic inequality do not apply to an economic system based on rewarding effort and skill. The relentless work of the hundred-hour-a-week banker inoculates her against charges of unearned advantage. Better, then, to convince the rich that all their work isn’t actually paying off.

They may need less convincing than you might think. As the meritocracy trap closes in around elites, the rich themselves are turning against the prevailing system. Plaintive calls for work/life balance ring ever louder. Roughly two-thirds of elite workers say that they would decline a promotion if the new job demanded yet more of their energy.
Inasmuch as we are all underemployed relative to our great-grandparents, whether those great-grandparents were dirt farmers, robber barons, riverboat gamblers, or the Duke of Braunschweig, in the scheme of things those higher stress levels among upscale yuppie spawn is likely to be self-correcting.

THERE'S THE TRADITIONAL END OF SUMMER, AND THEN THERE'S THE SCHOOL BOARD'S END OF SUMMER.

Align 'em both as Labor Day, says Karol Markowicz.  "Why are colleges cutting into valuable work time for their students by calling them back to campus ­before Labor Day?"  Possibly so that they can end the semester earlier and give those same students a shot at starting summer jobs earlier.

Apparently the rhythms of the agricultural calendar still matter to school scheduling, although it is the tourist businesses that do most of the lobbying.  "Bills have been introduced in Ohio, Georgia and other states to delay the start of the school year until after Labor Day so farms have enough workers."

That's already the practice in Wisconsin, although much of the seasonal help at the Dells is still from the Eastern Bloc.

JUST UNPLUG.

A CNET writer, Scott Stein, acknowledges that it's difficult, but sees the wisdom of so doing.
I've never found screen timers to work. Not for me. They feel like fitness trackers without the coaching.

What has worked? Spending a week and a half, roughly, where I go as offline as I ever can. It's become a tradition each summer: I've joined my in-laws to go across the Atlantic. I've done this, now, six times.

I didn't expect to be this person who cannot unplug. And you don't need to be this person, either. But I've come to realize, the more I take this trip, that I love being forced to live without the internet.
Yes, the cruise ship operators will do what they can to keep you connected, but there's a lot of open ocean.
Like most cruise ships, the Queen Mary 2 has internet access… but it's awful, and slow, and expensive. It's just fast enough to maybe scan Twitter from a cafe. From my room, it doesn't work at all. So I just stay offline, mostly. I get on for about 10 minutes a day, and get off.

Even then, I was slow to accept being unplugged. I'd wait for my emails and a chunk of Twitter feed to load up. I'd peek at work emails. Then even that was taken away from me a few days in, when my phone had somehow kicked me off my work email certificate. I have to be dragged to a state of internetlessness.
The best thing to do might be to leave the devices at home and not bother.
The Queen Mary 2 is a massive ocean liner. It's filled with activities. But after a while, what kept hitting me were the silences. Living without playing music that's streaming from somewhere. Not streaming shows. Not getting endless updates on unfolding news. It made me feel irresponsible, or lazy. Or like I was missing out. Then the anxious feelings faded, a little. I started to feel like I felt decades ago, when I spent summers in camp as a kid with no way to connect to anyone at all.

I took bridge classes! Sitting in a card room, on a quiet morning, meeting new people sitting next to me who also weren't on phones. We had conversations.

I sat down, on a balcony, staring off at the sea.

If I chose to go somewhere, I wouldn't know what's happening somewhere else. I couldn't send a quick tweet about it. I couldn't text someone. I couldn't Google something that wasn't popping up in my head, like I always do now as a memory aid. I didn't start going down rabbit holes of related links and searches, either.
Tuning it out can be healthy, too.
At home, the night after getting back from vacation, my son reminded me to stay offline at dinner, like I always did on the ship. I half-joked that I'm going to call it "Queen Mary 2 mode" from now on. I hope I can keep myself disciplined enough to stay away from the pull of the screen. I need to honor that, and sever the cord.

You don't need a fancy boat ride or a vacation to do this… you just need to disconnect. It could happen anytime. For me, though, that usually feels impossible. I've realized how bad my self-control is. My advice: Find some way to force yourself to be offline. I've enjoyed when the decision has been taken out of my hands. I wish I could give better advice. I'd follow it.
Might be time to find a model railroad club or a bridge club or some other way to politely disengage from the internet clutter.

SEPARATING EQUILIBRIUM.

There's nothing the chattering classes can't ruin, including looking for politicized road trips.  Seriously: here's a Meet the Press transcript from 7 July (just before Big Boy went on its midwestern tour.)
Data Download time. Summer travel season is in full swing. And like almost everything else in our lives nowadays, how you spend your vacation days can say a lot about your political leanings. According to data from MRI Simmons, self-described liberals more likely than conservatives to leave the United States, or at least have the ability to. 57% of liberals have passports, compared to 48% of self-described conservatives. Then there's the difference in how each group spends their downtime. Liberals are more likely to go to the beach by eight percentage points and more likely to indulge in fine dining by nine percentage points, while conservatives are more likely to go fishing or play golf. And when you travel within the United States, you might feel like you run into people with your same political leanings. Just look at the states people choose to visit. Park County, Wyoming, the so-called eastern gateway to Yellowstone sees visitors from mostly liberal strongholds and big cities, Denver, New York, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Seattle. Compare that to Branson, Missouri, a vacation destination in the Ozarks, where visitors hail from Springfield, Missouri, Kansas City, St. Louis, Little Rock and Oklahoma City. That's all to say when you take your vacations this summer, maybe it's time to mix things up. Try to be a cultural tourist too. Reach out to talk to someone across the political ideological spectrum. Figure out why you disagree. Maybe that could help bridge this bitterly divided country.
News flash: it's just you boring chattering class types who would want to start a political conversation in a national park or in line at the roller coaster.  Isn't ruining Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter enough for you dweebs?

There might be a simpler explanation: a larger subset of the self-described liberals are people of means.  Thus "fine dining" (indulging that wine snobbery) and "go to the beach" (these are the people who made "summer" a verb) proxy for having disposable income, and lots of it.  Fishing, on the other hand, can involve hiring a charter boat or it can be taking your tackle to the nearest lake or creek.

Branson, on the other hand, might be a cheap getaway from those Plains cities, which has nothing to do with politics.

We're dealing with the coastal establishment, though, and their projection.  Stock car racing and country music are on offer.  The horror!  The horror!

Moreover, the point of going to a tourist destination is to be a tourist, not some sort of annoying interlocutor.  Consider that during Big Boy's stop in West Chicago, I saw Trump hats and Obama tees, and, much more significantly, Bear jerseys and Packer jerseys.  None of that mattered.

What mattered?  Is Big Boy the largest steam locomotive?  (Depends.)

Is Big Boy Union Pacific's most powerful locomotive?  (No, the railroad has a diesel with more oomph, and there's something even more powerful out there.)

Perhaps, on the weekend of October 12-13, when Big Boy visits Los Angeles, Meet The Press can send an observer to, well, observe, and mostly listen.  That's their best chance to have a live Big Boy close to a studio, the odds are against an appearance on the east coast.

26.8.19

MORE TRANSIT PRESERVATION OPPORTUNITIES.

There is still one Columbus streetcar extant, and it could use a little care.  "Old #703 has a rusted frame, rotting wood, and broken windows. The car was built in 1925 by the G.C. Kuhlman Car Company and weighs 36,230 pounds. Streetcars first arrived in Columbus in 1863."

The car has a Go Fund Me page.  The museum it resides at has been thinning its collection to concentrate on more regionally significant rolling stock, something we have noted elsewhere.

HEALTH INSURANCE INSURES FINANCIAL RUIN.

I'm deliberately messing with the headline of a recent Reason article, "Health insurance doesn't just protect people from financial ruin. It insulates them from individual decisions about price and service quality," because the article reinforces a fundamental teaching point in economics, namely, when it is costly to discover prices, prices don't get discovered.  "It was as if the system was designed with only one goal in mind—maximizing not health or patient satisfaction but the amount of money Americans spend on health care. The fiscally ruinous results speak for themselves."

Author Peter Suderman fears things are not likely to get better anytime soon.  "Direct payment by quality-conscious consumers is an effective way of bringing down costs and total spending. Which is exactly why it will never happen at scale."

Perhaps not, although Market Watch's S. M. Flynn wants to give it the old Whole Foods (!?) try.
The first policy—price tags—is a necessary prerequisite for competition and efficiency. Under our current system, it’s nearly impossible for people with health insurance to find out in advance what anything covered by their insurance will end up costing. Patients have no way to comparison shop for procedures covered by insurance, and providers are under little pressure to lower costs.
Yup.
Price tags also insure that everybody pays the same amount. We currently have a health-care system in which providers charge patients wildly different prices depending on their insurance. That injustice will end if we insist on legally mandated price tags and require that every patient be charged the same price.
I believe he means "charged the same (list) price at a clinic, presumably we could have high-end and low-end clinics, the same way we have sleeping cars and coaches on trains.
The second policy—deductible security—pairs an insurance policy that has an annual deductible with a health savings account (HSA) that the policy’s sponsor funds each year with an amount equal to the annual deductible.
There are additional trade-tested betterments to consider.  Perhaps it might be prudent to experiment with a few now, before the so-called Medicare Part A trust fund runs out of money.

As long as we are doing the first day of class thing, let me acknowledge that the citation to one of these articles came from a past participant in the Northern Illinois Investment Association, which still appears to be active.

POLITICS IS PRO WRESTLING.

That's the easiest way to understand the Sunday shows.

It may also be Our President's schtick.  (Come to think of it, he reminds me a little bit of Bobby "The Brain" Heenan.)  Miranda Devine elaborates.
When you attend one of his rallies, as I did last week in New Hampshire, it is obvious that Donald Trump has modeled his presidential persona on WWE pro wrestling.

The banter, the jokes, the trash-talking, the catchphrases, the crowd manipulation, the belligerent patriotism, the villain-slamming: It’s all straight out of a preordained WWE storyline.

Trump applies the patriot choke to “heels” like China, the Squad, Pocahontas, Sleepy Joe, Crooked Hillary and radical-left Dems.

He has dragged in the media, too, as villains. Penned in the center of the rally arena behind metal barriers, he assigns us a character as the crowd boos: “Fake News,” the heel, or sometimes “The Enemy of the People!”
The difference is the outcomes aren't necessarily pre-arranged.
It is simultaneously alarming and amusing that the Leader of the Free World is performing like a fictional bad guy, but it needs to be understood, because much of what he says and tweets is only half-serious.

That’s not because he’s channeling “Hitler, Stalin and Mao,” as a CNN guest claimed on Sunday, but because this is how he communicates the great drama of his presidency — in wrestling allegory, as a spectacle of excess.

Last week was a case in point, when Trump called himself “the Chosen One” in a sardonic aside during one of the comic “Chopper Talk” press conferences on the South Lawn of the White House.

The “Fake News Media” played its role to perfection, ginning up stories about the president’s “Messiah complex,” which allowed him to extend the storyline with weekend tweets from the G-7.
The Excessively Earnest People who consider themselves the Political Class and say "at the end of the day" a lot probably don't like it. The younger among those, though, probably never learned about Shakespeare's groundlings.
From a political point of view, Trump’s WWE appropriation makes perfect sense, since the wrestling audience is huge — 800 million households worldwide every week, says WWE — and its demographic aligns with those of his voters: 60 percent are male, 60 percent are white, and more than 60 percent are not college graduates.
Yes, and the Democrats still seem bent on assembling a coalition by holding the groundlings in contempt.

Good luck with that.

WOULD THAT OUR DISCIPLINE WERE THAT POWERFUL.

Author Binyamin Appelbaum seeks to "Blame Economists for the Mess We’re In."  It runs in the same New York Times that recently sought to blame all of today's social problems on slavery, which might be a digression, and it's an excerpt from the author's forthcoming The Economist's Hour, which might be worth a read.

I mean, if you're going to peddle monocausal explanations, why not?
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dismissed John Maynard Keynes, the most important economist of his generation, as an impractical “mathematician.” President Eisenhower, in his farewell address, urged Americans to keep technocrats from power. Congress rarely consulted economists; regulatory agencies were led and staffed by lawyers; courts wrote off economic evidence as irrelevant.
I hope the author provides context: the Solow-Samuelson approach to macroeconomic policy treats the New Deal, and to an extent, the War, as Keynesian ideas not fully realized.  Those regulatory agencies that preserved cartels and those antitrust rulings that protected competitors at the expense of competition might well have provided policy economists of assorted stripes with some of their greatest victories.
But a revolution was coming. As the quarter century of growth that followed World War II sputtered to a close, economists moved into the halls of power, instructing policymakers that growth could be revived by minimizing government’s role in managing the economy. They also warned that a society that sought to limit inequality would pay a price in the form of less growth. In the words of a British acolyte of this new economics, the world needed “more millionaires and more bankrupts.”
This passage, too, elides a lot of evolution in the history of economic thought. The trade-off between equity and efficiency wasn't just something the Chicago market fundamentalists pushed; the Okun-Phillips tradeoff of unemployment and inequality was part of the tool-kit of the heirs to Keynes who as late as 1972 were of the view that the U.S. economy might be fine-tuned.

That "sputtering to a close" of the quarter century of growth might well have been the end of the Victory Dividend following the destruction of European and East Asian productive capacity that was abetted by Stalin and Mao strangling initiative throughout the Communist bloc.  The Best and The Brightest might have been more modest about their hopes of fine-tuning the economy, of winning limited wars in Asia, in renewing the urbs and fighting poverty, and the rest of the world might have caught up anyway.  That The Best and The Brightest continued to believe in their magic even as the magic wore off only prepared the way for what followed.
In the four decades between 1969 and 2008, economists played a leading role in slashing taxation of the wealthy and in curbing public investment. They supervised the deregulation of major sectors, including transportation and communications. They lionized big business, defending the concentration of corporate power, even as they demonized trade unions and opposed worker protections like minimum wage laws. Economists even persuaded policymakers to assign a dollar value to human life — around $10 million in 2019 — to assess whether regulations were worthwhile.
That's one way of looking at forty years of policy evolution, but it credits economists with far too much, and there's too much polemic to be useful.  Oh, and to carp about assigning values to lives: we don't grade-separate all roads that school buses use from railroad tracks, and there is something called quality-adjusted life years involved in allocating medical procedures.

Something else to contemplate: what sort of portable computer might you carry around if telephony were still a regulated environment?

To return to my theme: would that economists were this powerful.
The revolution, like so many revolutions, went too far. Growth slowed and inequality soared, with devastating consequences. Perhaps the starkest measure of the failure of our economic policies is that the average American’s life expectancy is in decline, as inequalities of wealth have become inequalities of health. Life expectancy rose for the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans between 1980 and 2010. Over the same three decades, life expectancy declined for the poorest 20 percent of Americans. Shockingly, the difference in average life expectancy between poor and wealthy women widened from 3.9 years to 13.6 years.
Whether importing migrants from the third world and deinstitutionalizing crazy people and legalizing some drugs had some effect remains for additional research.
Rising inequality also is straining the health of liberal democracy. The idea of “we the people” is fading because, in this era of yawning inequality, there is less we share in common. As a result, it is harder to build support for the kinds of policies necessary to deliver broad-based prosperity in the long term, like public investment in education and infrastructure.
"Public" education is in the hands of the boutique multiculturalists, where it hasn't deteriorated into participation-trophy grading, and "infrastructure" often means "road socialism," leading inevitably to state-subsidized traffic jams. Perhaps the best thing for the government to do is to go away.

For Mr Appelbaum, though, sending the virtue signal is more important than understanding the issues.
The most important figure, however, was Milton Friedman, an elfin libertarian who refused to take a job in Washington, but whose writings and exhortations seized the imagination of policymakers. Friedman offered an appealingly simple answer for the nation’s problems: Government should get out of the way. He joked that if bureaucrats gained control of the Sahara, there would soon be a shortage of sand.

He won his first big victory in an unlikely battle, helping to persuade President Nixon to end military conscription in 1973. Friedman and other economists showed that a military comprised solely of volunteers, recruited by offering market-rate wages, was financially viable as well as politically preferable.
A commander who has unlimited use of conscripted soldiers doesn't have to be as careful of soldiers' lives as the commander of a volunteer army, and a nation-state that relies on volunteers has to recognize that people will be less likely to sign up, and they will resist re-enlisting, if that state is committing troops to futile nation-building efforts. That might be one reason Mr Trump is president.

With the new crop of graduate students arriving in the academic departments, the good news is there is no shortage of interesting research questions.
But much of the fault lies in ourselves, in our collective decision to embrace policies that prioritized efficiency and encouraged the concentration of wealth, and to neglect policies that equalized opportunity and distributed rewards. The rise of economics is a primary reason for the rise of inequality.
I suspect there's plenty of blame to go around in finding that missing equal opportunity, including the Times's best-seller list, and the U. S. News college rankings.

TIMELY ADVICE.

It's the first day of classes at Northern Illinois University, it long being the practice there to have classes commence on the fourth Monday in August, even if that means coming in a week (sometimes two weeks) before the long Labor Day weekend, only to stand down for that weekend.  And yes, the traffic around campus is heavier, as we would expect.

This year, though, Northern Star columnist Alicia LaRouech opens the editorial page with "Students should prepare for classes."  You might say "no duh," but I commend the timing.  Often the Star offers this advice as part of the Finals Week issue, and I used to gripe about it, as it was about fourteen weeks too late.
Be productive by establishing a balanced routine — stay up to date on deadlines, finish necessary daily tasks and schedule personal time to relax and destress. Furthermore, implementing a proper sleep schedule, meaning roughly eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, can ease the transition from summer break to the start of another school year.

Make lists to keep organized, and track what tasks still need to be completed. A visual inventory of any assignments or errands that need to be done gives a more structured layout to the day. Additionally, seeing a list of completed projects can serve as motivation and encouragement, providing extra inspiration to finish that final assignment.
The job of a faculty member, like that of anyone else in the people-motivating business, involves a lot of dealing with people who fail to take such advice to heart.  (What's that military line about sergeants spending ninety percent of their time on ten percent of their recruits?)  Better, though, to have the students' newspaper reinforce the advice at the beginning of the semester, when some of the matriculants might have opportunity to read, understand, and implement it.

That is all.

25.8.19

COMING HOME.

Hicks Car Works reports that Chicago Aurora & Elgin 453, one of the few post-War interurban cars built (until South Shore Line and Philadelphia Suburban did so commencing in 1983), will be joining the collection at Illinois Railway Museum.
We still need to restore the 453. At a minimum, we will want to hire a professional to sand-blast and repaint the exterior to match the other steel cars. We are in the process of applying for a matching grant to make this possible, and so we would ask you to hold off on any more donations to the 453 at this time. Once we have made a more detailed determination of what needs to be done, and applied for the matching grant, further contributions may be worth much more.
Stay tuned. The car is operable, and will be coming from Electric City in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

THAT POSITIVE-NORMATIVE DISTINCTION.

It's likely, dear reader, that while you are reading this, somewhere there is an economics class going on where the professor is explaining the distinction between "positive" and "normative" modes of analysis.  Shorter form: an intellectually coherent explanation of a phenomenon ought not be honored as a justification for that phenomenon.

It's useful for practitioners in other social sciences to understand how that works.  Consider a recent Journal of Social and Personal Relationships survey of dating in the sexual underground.
The current study sought to describe the demographic characteristics of individuals who are willing to consider a transgender individual as a potential dating partner. Participants (N = 958) from a larger study on relationship decision-making processes were asked to select all potential genders that they would consider dating if ever seeking a future romantic partner. The options provided included cisgender men, cisgender women, trans men, trans women, and genderqueer individuals. Across a sample of heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and trans individuals, 87.5% indicated that they would not consider dating a trans person, with cisgender heterosexual men and women being most likely to exclude trans persons from their potential dating pool.
I'm not going to spend the money, sorry, to read the article and find out whether the larger survey is in any way nationally representative, or if it's voluntary participation in something run by Student Affairs or from a dating service.  (Those are the kind of things I learned to worry about in doing empirical research: if you view economists as incorrigibly opposed to survey research, so be it!)

The summary of findings, however, crosses the line into the normative.
Individuals identifying as bisexual, queer, trans, or non-binary were most likely to indicate a willingness to date a trans person. However, even among those willing to date trans persons, a pattern of masculine privileging and transfeminine exclusion appeared, such that participants were disproportionately willing to date trans men, but not trans women, even if doing so was counter to their self-identified sexual and gender identity (e.g., a lesbian dating a trans man but not a trans woman). The results are discussed within the context of the implications for trans persons seeking romantic relationships and the pervasiveness of cisgenderism and transmisogyny.
It's all too much for National Review's Madeleine Kearns.  (She evidently read more of it than I wanted to.)
Of course, there is, to anyone not yet blinded by ideology, a very obvious explanation for this. One of endlessly fascinating sociological interest. However, the study’s authors aren’t interested in exploring this. They are interested, instead, in speculating about social ills such as “transprejudice,” “transmisogyny,” “masculine privileging,” “transgender exclusion,” and, one presumes, transphobia.
Perhaps so, as there aren't enough problematic people, or perhaps it is necessary to say the right passwords in the right order to get that acceptance letter from a Sage journal.

Good luck, though, applying the relevant language of identity politics to the problem the so-called incel in a basement playing video games has in getting a date.  Nerd-phobia or awkward-phobia haven't made it onto the list of oppressions, despite being possible corollary propositions to "masculine privileging," that is, of the form where the girls go for the hot guys.  But I digress.

Ms Kearns stays on topic.  "Once one stumbles past the clunky writing and ideological jargon, what’s actually being noted here is the not-so-groundbreaking revelation that lesbians aren’t attracted to male bodies. In other words, that sexuality is tied up with the biology of sex."

That, though, might have been too straightforward an approach for the study authors to offer.
If the authors had bothered asking participants, however, they might have been surprised to learn that this is not generally the case. The authors might have discovered that, in fact, asking a lesbian “and why won’t you date a person with a penis?” is like asking a vegetarian “and why won’t you eat a formerly sentient creature?”
Thus we find ourselves in a position where, thanks to the use of those made up "-isms" and "-phobias" it's hard not to look at what higher education is doing and think that some of the researchers have gone crazy.
So the solution to the problem is that we, “as a society,” spontaneously start fancying the sex that we don’t actually fancy. So, if you’re lesbian, that means men who identify as women. And if you’re a heterosexual woman, that means women who identify as men. In other words, the solution to one minority group’s personal problems is to politicize the bedroom at the macro level, to emotionally blackmail the culture, and to tell men and women, far and wide, whom they should and shouldn’t sleep with.

Okay, then. And what about during those intimate, private moments with our new romantic partners (whom we’re not actually attracted to)? Are we permitted, then, to broach the subject of biological sex? Absolutely not. On its website, Planned Parenthood explains that a crucial way to stamp out transphobia is to never “ask personal questions about a transgender’s person’s genital, surgery, or sex life.” Right. What could possibly go wrong?
I suppose it might be good manners not to ask a crosser too many questions, particularly if the conversation is not going in the direction of a dating relationship, which, apparently, is the way most Normals roll.

What happens, though, if the angry young men without a personal life also go the emotional blackmail route?

Research tip: choose language that describes a phenomenon in as value-neutral a way as practicable.  Never mind the conscience-cowboys who suggest there is no such thing.  Better to strive for perfection and achieve excellence, than to strive for ideological purity and achieve scorn.

BACK TO COLLEGE.

Asked: "What is a farmers' market in a college town if not the place to get some smug with your artisanal cheese, or to buy a virtue signal with your free-range eggs, and all to the accompaniment of Bolivian folk music."

Answered.
A farmers market is a weekend staple across America during the warm weather months. It’s a community spot where you can buy local produce, foods, and crafts — maybe even listen to local music.

But in Bloomington, IN, fears of white supremacists infiltrating the organic produce caused a shutdown of their market.
Indiana's football team isn't much to write home about, and its basketball glory days are long gone.

The virtue-signalling, however, goes on, and on, and on.  Apparently, a farmer who publicly holds beliefs contrary to the Wokescolds must be shunned.
I certainly don’t know what Sarah Dye’s mindset is, and I might find much of her beliefs to be abhorrent. But she wasn’t promoting her cause, nor was she the one who began the ruckus. You can blame progressives for that. They were out to punish someone with whom they didn’t agree.
Never mind that the other farmers, whether of the woke persuasion, or a-political, or Purdue fans, also suffered a loss of business.
The Bloomington farmers market reopened last Saturday, with extra police, cameras, and a “larger comfort zone” for customers. Meanwhile, I hope those farmers affected by the shutdown — who had nothing to do with this — are still able to make some money after all their honest labor.
That gives me an idea: any place that has been rendered no fun to use because of protests or boycotts or redevelopment shall hereafter be called a "comfort zone."

19.8.19

UNDERMINE THEM WITH MOCKERY.

What happens when the Deplorables refuse to be deplorable-shamed?  Here's Peter Wood again, turning the overuse of a term against itself.
I am taking this latest attack on Amy Wax as the occasion to begin my own campaign to discredit the Left’s all-purpose use of racism. It is the lazy social justice warrior’s opprobrium of choice, and typically it means nothing at all as a label on the recipient. Mostly it means that the person who attempts to pin it on someone else has contempt for the ability of other people to sort things out. It is the vocabulary of the incipient lynch mob.
Well, yes, the Angry Left has long depended on bourgeois respectability to get away with that sort of shaming. Trot out one of the phony isms and phobias, and in the past, the decent person would apologize for giving offense or something, and the more substantive discussion of what the Angry Leftist is peddling is lost.  Better, when somebody swings a rhetorical sucker-punch, to punch right back.

And get a fight is what you get.  Laura Hollis explains.
People may not love being called out for things they have actually done. But they resent like hell being accused of things they haven't done, especially when they're simultaneously told that there's nothing they can do to remove the stain, or that they cannot take credit for their own achievements.
That's the error of privilege-shaming, and in politics, does anyone seriously expect to win votes by suggesting voting the other way is deplorable?

The good news is that the people who think deplorable shaming works as a trump card have to respect it when their allies use it.  That puts Synova's earnest woke girl in a bad spot.


Struggle sessions are like that.  "There was a couple of items in the news lately where someone who was a zealous woke warrior ended up on the wrong side of accusations which required apologies and even a demotion for something which the fellow (I did look, several times) never actually said."

The cartoonist is an acquaintance of Sarah Hoyt, and these sometimes get wider play when she has the keys to Insta Pundit, overnight.

PREPARE FOR A LONG TWILIGHT STRUGGLE.

Peter Wood notes, once again, that the most visible and notorious parts of higher education are visibly and notoriously undermining the very canons of skeptical inquiry that make the academic project respectable.  "Deplorable scholars are the academics most vulnerable to attack by their own institutions and least likely to get support from organizations such as the AAUP, which swagger around proclaiming their deep commitment to academic freedom."  Somewhere in the archives I have a statement from that Association to the effect that it's permissible for some disciplines to commence from a position of prior beliefs.  I must find that message, as it reads more like a defense of some sort of faith tradition, rather than a call for proper scholarly inquiry.

It's malpractice, too.  Mr Wood continues.
Higher education exists to pursue truth, transmit the positive legacy of our civilization, cultivate good character, and prepare students for their vocations. Academic freedom is an instrument that usually bolsters these goals, but not always. To claim academic freedom to propagate falsehoods, slander, and calumny is wrong. To use academic freedom as a cover for anti-civilizational propaganda is wrong as well. To employ it as a means for convincing young people that violence is a legitimate tool of political action is also wrong.
That reference to "anti-civilizational propaganda" might also apply to the magazine staff at New York's Times, with their attempt to pin all current ills in these united States on the introduction of slaves to the Virginia Colonies in 1619.  We can concede that what Abraham Lincoln described as "conceived in Liberty" was anything but an immaculate conception, and yet we might do better to consider ways to secure ever greater Blessings of Liberty.  That might be what the folks at Times Square had in mind, but I doubt it.

Mr Wood concludes with his version of "Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties."
I won’t say a last-ditch defense. We have many ditches to go before then, and we may—given a sufficient awakening—not need them at all. Our civilization has resources that the barbarians truly don’t see or understand. All they really know is how to wreck.
For openers, reality is socially conservative, and the deconstructors will crash into reality a number of times along the way, if they don't, as is often the case with True Believers, turn on each other first.

In addition, Prestigious Academia are part of the same set of grifters as Woke Hollywood and Biased Journalism, and a little bit of Donald Trump at the right time might go a long way.  Pajamas Media pundit Mark Ellis suggests,
Trump’s aging troopers plan to sit tight. They’ve been to a few political rodeos They won’t fall prey to Anderson Cooper’s hysteria. They know that the globalist schematic that has been foisted on the nation has been evolving for decades, and cannot be undone in a heartbeat. Like with Britain’s Brexit, there are short-term exigencies to be accounted for, status quo disruptions to absorb.
The good news is that, where higher education is concerned, an Oberlin bankruptcy here and a Hampshire closing there, while not even the beginning of the end, might be the end of the beginning.

Now is not the time to go wobbly.

18.8.19

FIXED SIGNALS, HAND SIGNALS, WHISTLE SIGNALS, VIRTUE SIGNALS.

The Next Big Thing among the Anointed is Flight Shaming.
Tourists have been spooked by the realization that one passenger’s share of the exhaust from a single flight can cancel out a year’s worth of Earth-friendly efforts. And so they are digging out their parents’ yellowing Europe-by-rail guidebooks and trading tips on the most convenient night train to Vienna.
Apparently it's going to be the next do-it-yourself acquisition from Sweden.
Swedish leaders this month announced they would inject new cash into the national rail company. They plan to build up a new fleet of trains after years of cutbacks when cheap plane tickets were luring people into the skies.

The newly coined concept of flygskam, or “flight shame,” has turned some Swedes bashful about their globe-trotting. A guerrilla campaign used Instagram to tally the planet-busting travels of top Swedish celebrities. Next door in Norway, meanwhile, the prime minister felt the need to assure citizens that they need not apologize for flying to see family in the high north.
In some ways, flygskam looks like yet another First World problem.
Leave it to northern Europeans to come up with a neologism to describe a complicated emotional state. As a concept, flygskam originated in Sweden, and refers both to the guilt that individuals may feel when using a means of transportation estimated to contribute between 2 and 3% of total atmospheric carbon and to the shaming they may face should they persist in flying. It was articulated by opera singer Malena Ernmann, who gave up flying in 2016 (and who just happens to be [kid viro Greta] Thunberg’s mother), drawing the attention of other celebrities and the broader public to the cause. The summer of 2018, which brought record high temperatures to Sweden, and with them, devastating wildfires, drove the point home. “It had not been like this ever before,” says Marco Andersson, head of sales for Snålltåget, the Swedish rail company that runs the Malmo-Berlin line. “I think a lot of people started thinking, ‘Oh, I need to change my behavior, maybe I shouldn’t go on vacation to Thailand anymore.’”
At the margin, that might lead to some changes in behavior, yes.  Now "going green" airline style also involves more abuses of passengers and crew.
Airlines say they are taking steps to be greener. SAS, the largest airline in Scandinavia, is ending in-flight duty-free sales and asking passengers to pre-book meals so planes can be lighter and more fuel-efficient. Pilots have been urged to taxi on the ground with only one engine switched on.
Not that the food choices were that great in the first place, and I've never understood duty-free, it's mostly stuff I can get along without, but still, etiolated service is etiolated service.

That airlines have offered a no-frills service to go along with those low fares (he who sells a product at a lower price knows what it's worth) and done nothing about government officials treating passengers poorly (that is, unless the passengers hold both an Admirals' Club membership and a nachalstvo-level privilege card with the security screeners) and that, at the margin, might be pushing people to the trains, where they have trains to use.  Consider, for instance, how Chicago's Metra now runs six to nine car formations at weekends, where they used to run two or three cars.  The expressways don't express, and the parking rates are high, and people substitute, even though the train service is much like it was thirty years ago.

But there's something off-putting about some of these newly minted train riders.
[Johan] Hilm, 31, a [Swedish] health-care consultant who was on his way to hike across Austria for eight days, said he tried to live an environmentally responsible life. “I don’t drive a car. I eat mostly vegetarian. I live in an apartment, not a big house.”
Or consider a report filed by Los Angeles Times columnist Patt [c.q.] Morrison that begins, "The Via Rail train journey across Canada was not about my do-before-dying list but about the Earth’s, about seeing the natural wonders before they’re swallowed up, burned up or chewed up by climate change or humans." Read on for the dining car review.
As a vegetarian, though, I was hoping for a bit more imagination or perhaps just an understanding of the difference between vegetarian and vegan. The recurring vegan hash got a little wearisome, although I understand that it could be expensive preparing separate vegetarian and vegan dishes. As a protein fallback, there were always warm nuts in the bar, part of a daylong panoply of food and drink.
I'm not sure what's harder, keeping up your virtue-signalling appearances, or attempting to be friends with such a person.  That's sad, because she makes a good point or two.  Consider  "Canada is the second-biggest country in the world, after Russia, and some Canadians aboard were using the train as a speedy bus to commute from Manitoba to Alberta, the Canadian version of what coastal Americans call flyover states."  Yes, that's the prairie province version of the Empire Builder, which will take you to what the media elite consider the middle of nowhere, and that is an overpurposed train to a resident of Minot or Shelby or any of the other places well off the interstates.  These days, though, the one West Coast train across the prairie provinces exists for the benefit of the tourists.
One staff member told me this was the train’s first westbound trip on a new schedule that took us through the Rockies in daylight. It sounded nutty that a train trip that featured the Rockies on virtually every piece of promotional material I saw would take passengers through the main attraction in the dark, so if this was new, it was about time.
Well, no, if it's crossing the Rockies by day, it's calling at Winnipeg or Calgary or Thunder Bay at hours more suitable for military operations to begin.  But providing a second train on a complementary schedule, and connecting trains, possibly using Budd Cars, for Edmonton or Winnipeg to Grand Forks or Great Falls to the Great Northern main line is something neither Amtrak nor VIA Rail seem inclined to do, nor do the provincial or state authorities seem to want to do.

But when the European countries are considering placing environmental taxes on aviation fuel (U.S. carriers pay a fuel tax, their European counterparts do not) and using some of that tax money to support substitute services, including their trains, perhaps we'll see improved trains.  It's gratifying, at least, to see government agencies thinking of their transportation assets as, well, assets.