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  • Archive for the 'Academia' Category

    Life in the Fully Politicized Society (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 20th September 2016 (All posts by )

    (The politicization of American society has increased markedly since I wrote this post in May of 2014.  Sports, for example, is now politicized–see what happens when a culture loses its last neutral ground?–along with everything from shopping to education. The sway of ‘progressive’ orthodoxy continues to extend its sway over all aspect of American life.)

    Many will remember Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech, in which she said:

    Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed….You have to stay at the seat at the table of democracy with a man like Barack Obama not just on Tuesday but in a year from now, in four years from now, in eight years from now, you will have to be engaged.

    Victor Davis Hanson notes that she also said:

    We are going to have to change our conversation; we’re going to have to change our traditions, our history; we’re going to have to move into a different place as a nation.

    …which is, of course, entirely consistent with the assertion made by Barack Obama himself, shortly before his first inauguration:  “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

    It should be clear by now that all aspects of American life and society are rapidly becoming politicized. Obama has greatly accelerated this movement, but he didn’t initiate it.  The “progressive” political movement, which now controls the Democratic Party, has for a long time been driving the politicization of anything and everything.  The assertion “the personal is political” originated in the late 1960s…and, if the personal is political, then everything is political.

    Some people, of course, like the politicization of everything–for some individuals, indeed, their lives would be meaningless without it. In his important memoir of growing up in Germany between the wars, Sebastian Haffnernoted divergent reactions from people when the political and economic situation stabilized (temporarily, as we now know) during the Stresemann chancellorship:

    The last ten years were forgotten like a bad dream. The Day of Judgment was remote again, and there was no demand for saviors or revolutionaries…There was an ample measure of freedom, peace, and order, everywhere the most well-meaning liberal-mindedness, good wages, good food and a little political boredom. everyone was cordially invited to concentrate on their personal lives, to arrange their affairs according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness.

    But this return to private life was not to everyone’s taste:

    A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddently ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk.

    and

    To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion. There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live. they began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities. It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis.

    I’m afraid we have quite a few people in America today who like having “the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions.”  But for most people, especially for creative and emotionally-healthy people, the politicization of everything leads to a dreary and airless existence.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Germany, Human Behavior, Leftism, Politics, Russia, USA | 21 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Trump, Academia, and Hyperbole

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th August 2016 (All posts by )

    Excerpt:

    As to the Article XII argument …. In a peer reviewed journal article, Professor Somin wrote: “[T]he Privileges and Immunities Clause requires states to treat migrants from other states on par with their own citizens, thereby facilitating interstate mobility.” Somin cites U.S. Const. Art. IV, § 4. See Ilya Somin, Book Review, 28 Const. Comment. 303, 305 & n.5 (2012) (reviewing Michael Greve, The Upside-Down Constitution (2012)). But that’s not right: Article IV, Section 4 is the Guarantee Clause, not the Privileges and Immunities Clause. Now just to be clear: my point isn’t that both Trump and Somin are equally dopes. Rather my point is that anyone can miscite the Constitution, and we should be loathe to call someone “profoundly ignorant” just because they cite to the wrong article or the wrong clause. Anyone can make a mistake.

    Read the whole thing.

    Jonathan adds: It’s not just academia. The media, and in my (and probably your) experience Trump opponents in private conversation, apply different and much harsher standards to Trump than they do to Hillary. One of the current memes is that Trump isn’t stable enough to have his finger on the nuclear button. Yet Hillary, whose gross negligence made her and our secrets available to hostile foreign powers, and who appears literally to have sold out her country in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation, gets a pass.

    Posted in Academia, Law, Politics, Rhetoric, Trump | 20 Comments »

    An Important Point About the Election

    Posted by David Foster on 15th August 2016 (All posts by )

    Daniel Henninger, writing in the Wall Street Journal, points out one consequence of a Hillary Clinton presidency: the continuation and acceleration of the trends that are destroying American higher education.

    One mechanism of destruction is the use of federal enforcement agencies to further entrench political correctness. Expect a lot more Star Chamber proceedings and witch-burnings. Another mechanism is increased federal dollars pipelined into the education industry, eliminating any incentives for reform.

     

    (also posted it the members’ section at Ricochet)

    Posted in Academia, Education, Elections, Politics | 41 Comments »

    The Seven Threat Vectors Against Free Speech

    Posted by David Foster on 11th August 2016 (All posts by )

    Free speech…free expression generally…is under attack in America and throughout the Western world to a degree not seen in a long time.  I think there are seven specific phenomena, incarnated in seven (partially-overlapping) categories of people, which are largely driving this attack, to wit:

    The Thugs.  As I pointed out in my recent post The United States of Weimar?, illegal actions against political opponents–ranging from theft of newspapers to direct assault and battery–have in recent decades become increasingly common on university campuses, and now are well on track to being normalized as aspects of national political campaigns.

    The Assassins.  These individuals go beyond the level of violence practiced by the Thugs, and make credible death threats…which they attempt to carry out…against those whose actions or believe they view as unacceptable.  The majority of threats and attacks falling in this category have certainly been the doing of radical Muslims; however, some of the more extreme ‘environmentalist’ and ‘animal rights’ groups have also demonstrated Assassin tendencies.  At present, however, it is those Assassins who are radical Muslims who have been most successful in inhibiting free expression. Four years in hiding for an American cartoonist.

    The Wimps.  It seems that among the younger generations in America, there are a disproportionate number of people whose ‘self-esteem’ has been raised to such lofty but brittle levels that they cannot stand any challenge to their belief systems. Hence they are eager to sacrifice their own freedom of speech, as well as that of others, on the altar of ‘safety’ from disturbing words and thoughts.

    The Bureaucrats.  Bureaucrats, especially in the universities but also increasingly in the private sector, are eager to provide the altars for the sacrifice of free speech, with Star Chamber proceedings and various forms of witch-burnings.

    The Regulatory State.  The vast expansion of Federal regulatory activities and authority enables a wide range of adverse actions to be taken against individuals without the checks and balances of normal judicial proceedings. Witness, for example, the IRS persecution of conservative-leaning organizations (possibly extended to pro-Israel organizations as well.)  And the Bureaucrats in nominally-independent organizations are really often acting as agents and front men for the Regulatory State. (Consider the 2011 ‘Dear Colleague’ letter sent from the Department of Education to colleges and universities, regarding the handling of sexual assault allegations–which has had, the linked article argues, serious negative impact on free speech and due process.)

    The Theoreticians.  Various academics have developed the concept of ‘oppressive speech’ and have developed models which attempt to break down the distinction between speech and action.  Since everyone agrees that actions must be regulated to some degree, this tends to pave the way for tightened regulation of speech.  (I think the conflation of speech with action is particularly sellable to those who in their professional lives are Word People and/or Image People.  To a farmer or a machinist or even an electrical engineer, the distinction between speech and action is pretty crisp.  To a lawyer or an advertising person or to a professor (outside the hard sciences), maybe not so much.  And the percentage of Word People and Image People in the overall population has grown greatly.)

    The Fragility Feminists.  Actually, the word ‘Feminists’ should probably be in quotes, because the argument these people are making is in many ways the direct opposite of that made by the original feminists. There is a significant movement, again especially on college campuses, asserting that women are such fragile flowers that they must be endlessly protected from words that might upset them.  See the controversy over the name of the athletic center at the Colorado School of Mines…here I think we have the Bureaucrats and the Fragility Feminists making common cause, as they so often do.  For another (and particularly bizarre) case, read about professor Laura Kipnis, whose essay decrying ‘sexual paranoia on campus’ resulted in a Title IX inquisition against her.  In a particularly disturbing note, when Kipnis brought a ‘support person’ to her hearing, a Title IX complaint was filed against that person.

     

    Your thoughts?

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Law, USA | 30 Comments »

    No, They Don’t Really Believe in ‘Equality’

    Posted by David Foster on 11th June 2016 (All posts by )

    There was a bit of media coverage of Hillary Clinton choosing to wear a $12K Armani jacket while delivering a speech lamenting Inequality.  The price of this jacket, of course, represents an utterly trivial proportion of the wealth the Clintons have amassed from their lifetimes of Public Service.

    This little incident serves to emphasize a point I made several years ago in my post Jousting With a Phantom:  leading ‘progressives’ for the most part don’t really believe in anything resembling equality–indeed, quite the contrary.

    Consider, for example: Many people in “progressive” leadership positions are graduates of the Harvard Law School. Do you think these people want to see a society in which the career, status, and income prospects for an HLS grad are no better than those for a graduate of a lesser-known, lower-status (but still very good) law school? C’mon.

    Quite a few “progressive” leaders are members of prominent families. Do you think Teddy Kennedy would have liked to see an environment in which he and certain other members of his family would have had to answer for their actions in the criminal courts in the same way that ordinary individuals would, without benefit from connections, media influence, and expensive lawyers?

    The prevalence of “progressivism” among tenured professors is quite high. How many of these professors would be eager to agree to employment conditions in which their job security and employee benefits were no better than those enjoyed by average Americans? How many of them would take a salary cut in order to provide higher incomes for the poorly-paid adjunct professors at their universities? How many would like to see PhD requirements eliminated so that a wider pool of talented and knowledgeable individuals can participate in university teaching?

    There are a lot of “progressives” among the graduates of Ivy League universities. How many of them would be in favor of legally eliminating alumni preferences and the influence of “contributions” and have their children considered for admission–or not–on the same basis as everyone else’s kids? Yet an alumni preference is an intergenerational asset in the same way that a small businessman’s store or factory is such an asset.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Education, Leftism, Political Philosophy, USA | 11 Comments »

    Book Review: The Myth of the Robber Barons

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 15th May 2016 (All posts by )

    The Myth of the Robber Barons, by Burton Folsom

    —-

    MythOfRobberBaronsCover‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ ~George Orwell, 1984

    Controlling our view of the past – even our view of the present – is an obsession with the Progressive Left. Our understanding of history deeply influences our thinking and philosophy. Among other things, it shapes our view of both the morality and social-economic effects of free market capitalism versus socialism.

    To that end, a group of enormously successful people from the 19th century were demonized by turn of the century Progressives and have continued to be demonized as The Robber Barons by Leftist historians in primary school and college texts ever since. More subtly, through dark Orwellian references in Leftist entertainment programs and media, they have been thoroughly maligned in the popular imagination as well. Yet few people know who these people actually were and what, for better or worse, they actually did in their lives and how their works affected our lives even today. In his book, Robert Folsom sets out to take fresh look at people we would today call entrepreneurs.

     

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Book Notes, Business, Capitalism, Education, Entrepreneurship, History, Video | 1 Comment »

    “Trump Voters and Modern American Legal Academia”

    Posted by Jonathan on 8th April 2016 (All posts by )

    A biting critique of recent public arguments by liberal academics, by Seth Barrett Tillman:

    There is a final possibility. Apparently, some non-originalists believe they are part of a victimized, long-suffering, powerless, discrete, insular intellectual minority. As Professor Jack Balkin, a prominent commentator (but not one of the Alliance-for-Justice-350), wrote:

    Accepting that opposition as the proper frame for debate just locks liberals into a clever rhetorical strategy created by movement conservatives in the 1980s, who wanted to put themselves on the side of the American constitutional tradition, and liberals on the outside looking in. [here] [here] (emphasis added)
     
    and,
     
    The notion that in order for liberals to believe in a living Constitution they have to reject originalism in all of its forms is the biggest canard ever foisted on them. [here] [here] (emphasis added)[3]

    In this intellectual milieu, signing a letter you do not really believe is not hypocrisy: it is virtue. Thus, signing such a letter is the natural and justified response of victims to an unfair world imposed upon them by malevolent intellectual forces which have deformed reasoned, public debate. That’s not hypocrisy: that’s something else entirely. I am going to refrain from characterizing that reason, but I expect the public will take the hint.
     
    Is it any wonder that millions of Americans vote for Trump?

    Worth reading in its entirety.

    Posted in Academia, Elections, Law, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Trump | 2 Comments »

    “Larry Summers: Colleges have become hypersensitive to racial prejudice. Why not anti-Semitism?”

    Posted by Jonathan on 3rd April 2016 (All posts by )

    Summers:

    Instances of anti-Semitism by this standard are ubiquitous in American academic life. Nearly a dozen academic associations have enacted formal boycotts of Israeli institutions and in some cases Israeli scholars. Student governments at dozens of universities have demanded the divestiture of companies that do business in Israel or the West Bank. Guest speakers and even some faculty in their classrooms compare Israel to Nazi Germany and question its right to continued existence as a Jewish state.
     
    Yet, with very few exceptions, university leaders who are so quick to stand up against microagressions against other groups remain silent in the face of anti-Semitism. Indeed, many major American universities, including Harvard, remain institutional members of associations that are engaged in boycotts of Israel. The idea of divesting Israel is opposed only in the same way that divesting apartheid South Africa was opposed — as an inappropriate intrusion into politics, not as immoral or anti-Semitic.

    He’s right.

    Martin Kramer goes further:

    Larry Summers asks why universities sniff out every trace of prejudice, but look the other way when it comes to anti-Semitism. “University leaders who are so quick to stand up against microagressions against other groups remain silent in the face of anti-Semitism,” he writes, especially when it takes the form of Israel-hatred. My answer: Jews themselves hesitate to use the A-word. Why? It’s not supposed to exist anymore. And if you’re not for yourself, no one will be for you.

    He’s right too. Western leftists who don’t hesitate to make reckless, ignorant statements about supposed apartheid in Israel, an open society with gay pride parades and anti-Israel Muslims in the legislature, are circumspect about the commonplace human-rights horrors of Iran and the Arab world.

    The unwillingness of liberal American Jews to call out anti-Semitism on the Left reminds me of the unwillingness of self-described liberals/progressives to acknowledge the effectiveness or moral justification of armed self-defense in response to criminal violence.

    Posted in Academia, Current Events, Jewish Leftism, Leftism | 32 Comments »

    “The Two Discourses: How Non-Originalists Popularize Originalism and What that Means”

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th March 2016 (All posts by )

    Seth Barrett Tillman:

    Non-originalists communicate in two different discourses.
     
    One discourse is the mode of truth: it is the mode they reserve for their sophisticated clients and legal briefs, for their colleagues and students. In this discourse, non-originalists critique originalism as …

    1. Wrongheaded or false because the Constitution is not prolix, it is only an outline, and the gaps must be filled in by each generation;
    2. Wrongheaded because the Framers’ and Ratifiers’ intent is not discoverable;
    3. Wrongheaded because different Framers’ and Ratifiers’ intent, although discoverable, was not unified;
    4. Wrongheaded because original public meaning is not (now) discoverable (e.g., the Constitution is too old);
    5. Wrongheaded because during the framing era and during ratification there were a multiplicity of original public meanings;
    6. Wrongheaded because judicial rulings and precedent are the superior means through which to determine the meaning of the Constitution;
    7. Wrongheaded because judges, academic lawyers, and lawyers are not good historians;
    8. Wrongheaded because the Framing-era and ratification lacked democratic bona fidés by modern standards;
    9. Wrongheaded because we should not be ruled by the moral norms or the dead hand of the past; and,
    10. Wrongheaded because originalism gets the wrong (e.g., conservative or libertarian) results.

    The problem is that non-originalists have an entirely different discourse, a second discourse, when they communicate with the public. When non-originalists communicate with the public … non-originalists transform themselves and their discourse into naked, unabashed originalism. It is really quite astounding.

    Lexington Green adds:

    You are restrained in your condemnation of this despicable dishonesty.

    The public has very little understanding of law, the Constitution, the legal system, lawyers, courts or anything else that people like us think about all day long.

    There is nonetheless a vague, inchoate sense that there something called a constitution, and it is in writing, and most people who think they know anything about it mistakenly believe that it says that all men are created equal, and that it protects our rights, whatever those happen to be, and that the government has to do what The Constitution says.

    If you were to tell these people, well, actually, we law professors and judges and lawyers have figured out that you don’t actually have to do what the Constitution says, because … it won’t matter what the “because” is. The typical American will respond with something along the lines of “are you fucking kidding me?”

    My seat of the pants guess is that between between 1% and 5% of the people in this country have any idea what has been going on with the U.S. Constitution in the courts in the last 50 years.

    These guys are being smart not publicizing the reality. If Joe and Jane American voter knew what was going on they would cut the funding for these people.

    Read the whole thing.

    (See also this post by Lex from 2008.)

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Law, Leftism, Political Philosophy | 20 Comments »

    The Transformation of Economics.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 1st March 2016 (All posts by )

    A great piece in the Wall Street Journal today about what has happened to Economics and Economics education.

    I took an Economics class in college in 1957 and it changed me to a Republican. My first vote was for Richard Nixon in 1960. My family was furious as they thought we were related to the Boston Kennedys and they had always been Democrats. I wonder if an Economics class would have that effect today?

    And that political economy and my assessment of it has changed over a career spanning more than half a century. Here are five developments I would emphasize:

    I agree with his appraisal.

    1. Diminishing returns to research. A core economic principle is the Law of Diminishing Returns. If you add more resources, such as labor, to fixed quantities of another resource, such as land, output eventually rises by smaller and smaller amounts. That applies—with a vengeance—to academic research. Teaching loads have fallen dramatically (although the Education Department, which probably can tell you how many Hispanic female anthropologists there are teaching in Arkansas, does not publish regular teaching-load statistics), ostensibly to allow more research. But the 50th paper on a topic seldom adds as much understanding as the first or second.

    This has been characteristic of Medicine, as well as other academic subjects.

    Emory University’s Mark Bauerlein once showed that scholarly papers on Shakespeare averaged about 1,000 a year—three a day. Who reads them? How much does a typical paper add at the margin to the insights that Shakespeare gave us 400 years ago?

    That isn’t all he has shown.

    The attitude touches the President’s favorite pastime. Tevi Troy reported in Commentary how much Obama enjoys television, particularly SportsCenter and the middlebrow series Homeland and Mad Men. The New York Times added Breaking Bad and The Wire in its article “Obama’s TV Picks: Anything Edgy, with Hints of Reality,” and while it warned of the foolishness of “psychoanalyzing” a president based on “the books he reads or the music he listens to or the television shows he watches,” the story mentions not a single book. One would expect Marxists, feminists, queer theorists, post-colonialists, anti-imperialists, and media theorists to chide Obama for his bourgeois, masculinist taste, but as far as I know they have remained silent.

    Obama’s taste runs more to sports and rap music.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Education, Leftism, Politics | 17 Comments »

    A Transition of Moral Cultures?

    Posted by David Foster on 20th February 2016 (All posts by )

    Jonathan Haidt summarizes a paper (by Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning) which may help explain some of the dynamics now manifesting themselves on college campuses and even in the larger society.  In brief:  prior to the 18th and 19th century, most Western societies were cultures of honor, in which people were expected to avenge insults on their own–and would lose social respect and position should they fail to do so.  The West then transitioned to cultures of dignity, in which “people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it.  They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transitions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means.  There’s no more dueling.”  The spirit of this type of culture could be summarized by the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

    Campbell and Manning assert that this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But the difference, Haidt explains is this:

    “But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized.”  Campbell and Manning distinguish the three culture types as follows:

    “Public complaints that advertise or even exaggerate one’s own victimization and need for sympathy would be anathema to a person of honor – tantamount to showing that one had no honor at all. Members of a dignity culture, on the other hand, would see no shame in appealing to third parties, but they would not approve of such appeals for minor and merely verbal offenses. Instead they would likely counsel either confronting the offender directly to discuss the issue, or better yet, ignoring the remarks altogether.”

    I had read something about this model a couple of months ago, and was reminded of it by a discussion at Bookworm Room.  She described a scene of insanity at Rutgers “university,” in which students were so traumatized by a speech given by Milo Yiannopoulos that “students and faculty members held a wound-licking gathering at a cultural center on campus, where students described “feeling scared, hurt, and discriminated against.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Education, Human Behavior, Leftism, Miscellaneous, USA | 15 Comments »

    “re: Seth Barrett Tillman responding to President Adam Falk, Williams College: the Allure of Forbidden Fruit”

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th February 2016 (All posts by )

    Seth Barrett Tillman responds to the president of Williams College:

    Dear President Falk,
     
    I read your February 18, 2016 letter to the Williams Community. I do not understand it. You don’t quote, link to, point to, or even summarize anything Derbyshire said or wrote. So the reader has no way to understand precisely what he said or wrote that crossed any “line” or even, when he said or wrote you allege constitutes hate speech. How is the reader supposed to understand your letter?

    Read the whole thing.

    Jonathan adds:

    1) President Falk’s statement that “Free speech is a value I hold in extremely high regard” sounds a lot like “Your call is very important to us”.

    2) Hate speech is speech. The reason why no one who expresses concern about “hate speech” ever mentions such a thing as “love speech” is that it’s obvious that speech that no one objects to requires no protection. The term “hate speech” is verbal camouflage used to obfuscate anti-free-speech arguments.

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Leftism, Political Philosophy | 8 Comments »

    Check Your Privilege

    Posted by TM Lutas on 5th January 2016 (All posts by )

    Forum shopping the prosecution of felonies by choosing the campus courts or the criminal courts is a massive case of privilege that is not available to most Americans and favored most strongly by today’s campus Left.

    Check your privilege indeed.

    Discuss.

    Posted in Academia, Education, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics | 11 Comments »

    It’s All About Control

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 18th December 2015 (All posts by )

    The Manhattan Contrarian writes on Consensus Science And Orthodoxy Enforcement

    This is an old problem with the left, where everything – and I mean everything – is politicized and put into service to the Agenda of The Party. For those on the ground, they are almost unaware that there are serious alternatives to The Party Line. Every question or criticism is dismissed out of hand as propaganda from entrenched interests or misinformation or so obviously and laughably wrong only an idiot could believe it because everybody knows that’s not true! For those in the middle of The Party hierarchy, there are big payoffs to being a loyal Party Apparatchik. Marcia McNutt is advancing nicely along that road. She will be well rewarded for her willingness to crush all dissent while presenting her smiling and attractive to face to the public. For those at the top, the only purpose of anything is to advance the power and control of The Party with themselves at the helm. And everything can be sacrificed to that end. And will be.

    Posted in Academia, Environment, Medicine | 9 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 11th December 2015 (All posts by )

    Thoughts on Church and State–in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam–at Grim’s Hall

    A professor argues that the epidemic of hysterical rage in the face of dissenting opinions, now sweeping America’s campuses, is a consequence of  cutting out the teaching of logic and rhetoric

    Related:  the age of mass delusion  (via Bookworm)

    Reputation culture and the cult of likeability

    Posted in Academia, Christianity, Human Behavior, Islam, Judaism, Leftism | 22 Comments »

    Some Random Thoughts

    Posted by David Foster on 29th November 2015 (All posts by )

    Hillary Clinton, if elected president, would likely do for gender relations what Barack Obama has done for race relations.

    Speaking of Hillary, anyone remember her response when the harmful impact of her proposed healthcare plan on small businesses was questioned?  Her response was: “I can’t be responsible for every undercapitalized small business in America.”

    No one was asking her to “be responsible” for them, of course, only to refrain from wantonly devastating them.  Should Hillary become the Democratic nominee, Republicans need to ensure that this quote, and other similar ones, are brought to the attention of every small business owner in America.

    There are a lot of small business that are run by women, and an effective attack on the Democratic hostility toward small business should help to reduce Hillary’s advantage among the female demographic.  Part of such attack should consist of hammering on the cultural factor–the truth is, Hillary feels contempt for you, Ms small businessperson–and part of it should consist of a very specific and tangible critique of particularly obnoxious regulatory and tax policies.  (I recently ran across a message board on which Etsy sellers, really micro-manufacturers, almost all female, were discussing the pain suffered while trying to comply with IRS inventory accounting rules.)

    Marco Rubio’s comment statement that “we need more welders and less philosophers” was unfortunate.  His overall point is entirely correct–we need to stop stigmatizing vocational education and assuming that College is and should be the only path to a really good job–but he could have said it better.  (See discussion at Ricochet, led by an actual philosopher.)  Republicans need to be careful not to project contempt toward anyone who thinks of himself as an intellectual, in the way that Obama projected contempt for a wide swath of working people with his snide comment about “clinging to guns or religion”…which comment certainly cost him votes and would have cost him a lot more had Republicans been able to use it more effectively.

    In that same debate, when the subject of whether large banks should be bailed out in crisis situations came up, neither Cruz nor Kasich mentioned the existence of the FDIC.  I don’t care about Kasich, but Cruz should have responded that ‘we have the FDIC to protect the vast majority of depositors–although we need to ensure that it is adequately funded by fees to the banks–so the real question about a bailout has to do with protecting the bank shareholders and bondholders–and no, we shouldn’t do that.’

     

    Posted in Academia, Business, Economics & Finance, Education, Politics, USA | 14 Comments »

    “‘Teaching Children About World Religions and Ethics Could Help Counter Islamophobia’: A Response”

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th November 2015 (All posts by )

    Seth Barrett Tillman:

    In fact, we all know that it is this very real possibility—the omnipresent depressing likelihood of future Paris-like attacks—which is the urgent crisis that demands our immediate attention and our best efforts. All our lives and our children’s lives depend on it. All know this, except Dr. O’Donnell. For her, the “urgent [matter is] to ensure that students and professionals do not resort to prejudicial judgments about others”. This is the sort of grand category error that the public has come to expect from a disconnected transnational, elitist, academic class: an academic class which sees tradition, loyalty, and patriotism as primitive, and whose promoters teach that nations, citizenship, borders, and law defined by elected parliaments are irksome problems to be overcome.

    Worth reading in full.

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Education, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Terrorism, Tradeoffs | 13 Comments »

    The Attrition Mill Speeds Up

    Posted by David Foster on 17th November 2015 (All posts by )

    In one of my posts on the aftermath of 9/11, I introduced the metaphor of the Attrition Mill.  An attrition mill consists of two steel disks, rotating at high speed in opposite directions and crushing the substance to be milled between them.  Metaphorically, I see America, and western civilization in general, as being caught in a gigantic attrition mill, with one rotating disk being the Islamofascist enemy and the other disk representing certain tendencies within our own societies…most notably, the focus on group identities, the growing hostility toward free speech, and the sharp decline of civilizational-self confidence.

    The combination of the upper and lower disks of the metaphorical Attrition Mill is far more dangerous than either by itself would be.  For example, the student government at the University of Minnesota has rejected a resolution calling for annual commemorations of the 9/11 atrocity.  Why?  It was argued that such a resolution would make Muslim students feel “unsafe.” The “Students for Justice for Palestine” said that being reminded of 9/11 on its anniversary would lead to increased “Islamaphobia.”

    It seems pretty clear that this sort of ridiculously deferential “sensitivity” does not make immigrants, or children and grandchildren of immigrants, more likely to assimilate.  Contrarily, it reinforces group identifies and intergroup hostilities.  And in doing so, it creates a social environment in which it is much more likely that actual terrorists–representing the upper disk of the Attrition Mill–will go unreported or even be actively supported in their ethnic/religious communities. And that, in turn, greatly increases the risks inherent in large-scale migration.

    Hillary Clinton reacted to the Benghazi murders by blaming a video, going so far as to tell a grieving father that  he would have his revenge–not on the killers, oh, no, but rather we are going to have that filmmaker arrested Here, we see the threat and actuality of Islamist violence being used as an excuse for interfering with the free-speech rights of Americans…and you can bet that if that precedent is successfully established, it will be applied with plenty of other justifications, too.

    (On a related note,  John Kerry came very close to saying that the attacks on Charlie Hebdo were in some manner justified.)

    And both disks of the Attrition Mill are revolving with increasing speed. The attacks on Charlie Hebdo, the Paris kosher grocery store, and the Russian airliner were followed by the large-scale attack that just happened in Paris.  The lower disk of the Mill is turning faster as well:  Amherst students are demanding restrictions on free speech, with compulsory “reeducation” for offenders.  We have seen insane behavior at Yale, with students raging at a couple of professors who dared to suggest that people not go overboard about the issue of  Halloween costumes.  Here is Alan Dershowitz on what is happening to our colleges:  “the fog of Fascism is descending

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    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, History, Islam, Leftism, Terrorism, USA | 29 Comments »

    “Racial Hysteria Triumphs on Campus”

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th November 2015 (All posts by )

    Read Heather Mac Donald’s column at City Journal.

    Imagine an Ivy administration that encouraged frat boys and athletes to abuse women and get into trouble with the law. That’s analogous to the current situation, the only differences being the identities and characteristic weaknesses of the members of the respective groups being egged on and suppressed. The young hysterics desperately need guidance from mature adults who have their best interests at heart. Instead the system their parents trust and pay an arm and leg for indulges, out of cowardice or ideological zeal, the kids’ worst impulses.

    Institutional racist or anti-female conspiracies, the figments of fevered leftist/feminist imagination, have never been less frequent, but anti-intellectual and anti-male conspiracies are everywhere.

    The college administrators will do fine. The victimized students, mostly men, will learn hard lessons. Many, though not all, will emerge stronger for it. But many of the young leftist women, and some of the men, who have been overprotected and fed lies their entire lives, will have significant difficulty functioning in the real world.

    If DCFS employees encourage or look the other way at the corruption of children it’s a scandal. How is it different when university administrators do the same thing with vulnerable young adults?

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Feminism, Human Behavior, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics | 18 Comments »

    The Ivy League and American Society

    Posted by David Foster on 5th November 2015 (All posts by )

    Glenn Reynolds has some thoughts

    I believe that excessive credentialism is definitely reducing social mobility and inhibiting the full use of America’s human talents…and that the excessive reverence paid to “elite” colleges is part of this problem.

    I’m reminded of something Peter Drucker wrote, way back in 1969:

    One thing it (modern society) cannot afford in education is the “elite institution” which has a monopoly on social standing, on prestige, and on the command positions in society and economy. Oxford and Cambridge are important reasons for the English brain drain. A main reason for the technology gap is the Grande Ecole such as the Ecole Polytechnique or the Ecole Normale. These elite institutions may do a magnificent job of education, but only their graduates normally get into the command positions. Only their faculties “matter.” This restricts and impoverishes the whole society…The Harvard Law School might like to be a Grande Ecole and to claim for its graduates a preferential position. But American society has never been willing to accept this claim…

    We as a country are a lot closer to accepting Grande Ecole status for Harvard Law School and similar institutions than we were when Drucker wrote the above.

    He continues:

    It is almost impossible to explain to a European that the strength of American higher education lies in this absence of schools for leaders and schools for followers. It is almost impossible to explain to a European that the engineer with a degree from North Idaho A. and M. is an engineer and not a draftsman.

    See also my 2011 post Drucker on Education, which includes additional excerpts from Professor Drucker on this topic.  Very well worth reading and contemplating.

    University Diaries also has a post and discussion thread on Glenn’s column.

     

    Posted in Academia, Education, Society, USA | 5 Comments »

    What is Climate Change doing to Science ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 18th October 2015 (All posts by )

    The discussion on Global Warming, has shifted to “Climate Change” as the warming has slowed or stopped, depending on your politics. Now there are a few rather timid questions being asked about this highly charged topic.

    “Doubt has been eliminated,” said Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and UN Special Representative on Climate Change, in a speech in 2007: “It is irresponsible, reckless and deeply immoral to question the seriousness of the situation. The time for diagnosis is over. Now it is time to act.” John Kerry says we have no time for a meeting of the flat-earth society. Barack Obama says that 97 per cent of scientists agree that climate change is “real, man-made and dangerous”.

    This is the consensus of politicians. Scientists ? Read the resumes of the people pontificating on Climate Change. How many are real scientists ?

    A Member of Parliament with a Physics degree, was ridiculed by the BBC for questioning Climate Change.

    Peter Lilley, a long standing member of the energy and climate select committee, has made a formal complaint to director general Lord Hall after discovering that mandarins had issued an apology following claims he made that the effects of climate change were being exaggerated.

    Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s ‘What’s the Point of The Met Office’, Mr Lilley stated that, while he “accepted the thesis that more CO2 in the atmosphere will marginally warm up the earth”, he questioned the assertion that global warming would be as dramatic as is being portrayed in some scientific circles.

    Mr Lilley, who graduated with a degree in natural sciences at Cambridge University, said: “I’m a ‘lukewarmist’, one who thinks that there won’t be much warming as a result of it, and that’s the scientifically proven bit of the theory. Anything going on the alarmist scale is pure speculation.”

    Sounds mild to me.

    Mr Lilley was horrified to discover that the BBC later placed “health warnings” on the programme’s website, and issued an apology for “giving voice to climate sceptics” and failing to “make clear that they are a minority, out of step with the scientific consensus.”

    The apology was written to listeners who had complained, including academic Dr Andrew Smedley, of Manchester University, and then re-stated on the BBC Rado 4’s programme Feedback.

    That sounds like “Trigger Warnings” in American university life. This sort of thing has gotten more common the past 20 years. Why ?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Environment, Science | 11 Comments »

    The Closing of the American Mind; and worse.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 26th September 2015 (All posts by )

    Some years ago, when it came out, I read Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind. It struck me as a profound commentary on the weakening of college education and about changes in college students that I did not like and which had occurred since I was one myself.

    It seems to be getting worse now, according to this essay in Psychology Today.

    Dan Jones, past president of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, seems to agree with this assessment. In an interview for the Chronicle of Higher Education article, he said: “[Students] haven’t developed skills in how to soothe themselves, because their parents have solved all their problems and removed the obstacles. They don’t seem to have as much grit as previous generations.”

    In my next essay in this series I’ll examine the research evidence suggesting that so-called “helicopter parenting” really is at the core of the problem. But I don’t blame parents, or certainly not just parents. Parents are in some ways victims of larger forces in the society—victims of the continuous exhortations from “experts” about the dangers of letting kids be, victims of the increased power of the school system and the schooling mentality that says kids develop best when carefully guided and supervised by adults, and victims of increased legal and social sanctions for allowing kids into public spaces without adult accompaniment. We have become, unfortunately, a “helicopter society.”

    I think this is exceedingly dangerous and is behind the war on college age men. Some this can be seen in the hysteria of “Rape Culture” and various hoaxes perpetrated by magazines and by the Obama Administration’s Department of Education and its “Dear Colleague” letters.

    In order to assist recipients, which include school districts, colleges, and universities (hereinafter “schools” or “recipients”) in meeting these obligations, this letter1 explains that the requirements of Title IX pertaining to sexual harassment also cover sexual violence, and lays out the specific Title IX requirements applicable to sexual violence.2 Sexual violence, as that term is used in this letter, refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to the victim’s use of drugs or alcohol. An individual also may be unable to give consent due to an intellectual or other disability. A number of different acts fall into the category of sexual violence, including rape,

    Those acts include many that an earlier generation would consider harmless and part of the normal male-female relationship.

    From one reader review of Bloom’s book written years after its publication:

    Bloom begins with the problem of liberal education at the end of the 20th century – in a world where students are taught from childhood that “values” are relative and that tolerance is the first virtue, too many students arrive at college without knowing what it means to really believe in anything. They think they are open-minded but their minds are closed to the one thing that really matters: the possibility of absolute truth, of absolute right and wrong. In explaining where we are and how we got here, Bloom presents a devastating critique of modern American education and its students, an intellectual history of the United States and its unique foundation in Enlightenment philosophy, and an assesment of the project of liberal education.

    We are well past that stage of the deterioration of American culture.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Civil Society, Culture, Education, Feminism, Morality and Philosphy, Society | 23 Comments »

    Secretaries of State march on for two hundred years – but we still count it in feet

    Posted by Ginny on 23rd August 2015 (All posts by )

    I’ve been reading Daniel Walker Howe’s The Political Culture of the American Whigs(1979). It slowly gave me a better understanding, since I started in a complete fog. Like his Making the American Self, here Howe chooses representative figures to give narrative, character & understanding. Just because the book is forty doesn’t mean insights don’t remain. Howe enlivens the Whigs and reminds us our parties still have more than a bit of the Whig & the Jacksonian. But, surprisingly, an anecdote used to illuminate John Quincy Adams reminds us of a spring candidacy.

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    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Religion, Science | 3 Comments »

    Number Gut, Continued

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 11th August 2015 (All posts by )

    Years ago, Shannon Love did a series of posts on these pages about “number gut”. From this post:

    A number gut is an intuitive feel for the possible magnitude of a particular number that describes a particular phenomenon. A good number gut tells you if the results of some calculation are at least in the ball park.

    My number gut (or b.s. detector, in this case) went off today when I saw this story. Here is the money:

    Chicago Public Schools officials on Monday proposed a $5.7 billion operating budget for the upcoming school year…

    Holy crap that is a lot of money. There are 396,000 students in the CPS. $5.7bb / 396k = $15,447 per student. Really.

    From this article from 2014 about the most expensive private schools in Illinois, it looks like all of the students could go to Loyola Academy, and can almost all go to St. Ignatius College Prep for that kind of money.

    Just sayin’.

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Chicagoania, Education | 15 Comments »

    Passing It On – II – The Personal – Or How the ’60s Changed Everything

    Posted by Ginny on 6th July 2015 (All posts by )

    Or, the accurate but revealing title, How Moments Lead to Life Time Prejudice, Unmoved by Research

    I loved literature classes. My general fecklessness led to reading 17th century prose on night duty at the mental hospital when I was 20, absorbing little. My choices were seldom sensible – at first I had the excuse of being 17, of hitting college when the world changed fast – but still, I matured slowly. Few I knew experimented with drugs, but we successfully screwed up our lives without them. Simply put, my judgement was lousy in men, jobs, and energy/time management. But I loved going to class (not, mind you, always doing the work – I often hadn’t read the assignment). But in the hot world of adolescence, especially in the sixties, the cool calm of walking into a classroom ordered my days, gave me a separate peace – quiet, cool and cerebral. It challenged my mind as the world outside my emotions.

    That’s why I keep distance. My friend describes my teaching as cool – well, yes. I address students by their last names. I’m not their friend nor entertainer; I don’t want to offer me but the work – deep and textured and lovely. That’s where our eyes focus – on the text. So, that old model persists. Harvey Mansfield’s address notes that formality has its place, signals respect.
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    Posted in Academia, Education, Lit Crit, Personal Narrative, Society | 10 Comments »