(1) Via Instapundit, a popular writeup of a study that found samples acquired by the patients themselves were more accurate than the usual deep nasal and pharyngeal swabs, and not just more comfortable. Besides, they are less likely to expose healthcare personnel, as deep sampling often causes sneezing, coughing, and gagging.
I should perhaps clarify here that the accuracy-limiting factor of RT-PCR testing, at this point, is not the testing apparatus at all (with lab-prepared samples, accuracy approaches 100%) but the sampling technique.
Here is an animation of how, once the sample has been acquired, RT-PCR testing works in the lab.
(2) There were several reports that, counterintuitively, smokers were underrepresented among COVID19 positive cases. Now in https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.06.01.20118877v2.full.pdf is an intriguing large-sample study from doctors associated with Clalit Health Services, the largest HMO in Israel which has about 3 million patients in its central database. [Full disclosure: we are insured through a competitor. All four authorized HMOs operate such databases—unlike with Surgiscape, I have every reason to believe these data are kosher.]
As of the cutoff date (May 16), over 145,000 adults insured with Clalit underwent RT-PCR testing for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), 3.3% of which tested positive. After discarding cases aged under 18 and over 95, as well as those where it was unknown whether they smoked or not, the authors were left with 4,235 positive tests and 124,192 negative. Out of the latter, they randomly selected a control sample of 20,755 patients (5x as many) that matched statistical make-up of the positive sample in terms of gender, age distribution, and ethnosocial group — Jewish Orthodox, Arab, General(mostly Jewish non-Orthodox).
Guess what: Statistically, 9.8% of the COVID19 positive cases smoke currently, one-half the percentage in the control group 18.2%. Because of the large sample size, p<0.001, i.e., the probability that this result could have arisen from “the luck of the draw” is less than 0.1%. There was no significant difference for past smokers (11.6 vs. 12.9%) — it’s definitely got something to do with current smokers (nicotine or some other component of tobacco smoke).
Of the COVID19-positive tests, 1.8% deceased, 2.0% hospitalized in severe condition, 4.0% in moderate condition, 15.0% in mild condition, the remaining 77.2% did not require hospitalization. There was no significant correlation between the degree of severity and the patient’s smoking status.
Changeux et al11, relying on similar observations, propose a crucial role for the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) in COVID-19 pathology. According to their neurotropic hypothesis, SARS-CoV-2 invades the central nervous system through the nAChR receptor, present in neurons of the olfactory system, as reflected by the frequent occurrence of neurologic symptoms, such as loss of smell or taste, or intense fatigue in patients affected by COVID-19. Other mechanisms may also affect SARS-CoV-2 infection potential in smokers. It is widely accepted that the angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) represents the main receptor molecule for SARS-CoV-2, and smoking has been shown to differentially affect ACE2 expression in tissues12–14. Other putative explanations could involve altered cytokine expression such as IL-6, for which increased levels are associated with unfavorable disease outcome14,15.
(4) This is the sort of behavior that makes me cringe in embarrassment for my profession. True scientists follow the facts wherever they lead, and seek the truth wherever it may be found. Political hacks exist in every profession — but they are especially grating in ours. And when the public loses all faith in us because of such politicized hacks, it will be blamed on “anti-science” and anti-intellectualism.
Sarah A. Hoyt asked me to contribute a guest post about “The Brahmandarins”, a term which I coined in the wake of the 2016 elections. In this guest post, I touch briefly on the Brahmin caste in India, but at greater length on the Mandarins of ancient China, the Imperial Examination system by which they were recruited, the reason the once venerable institution decayed, and its parallels with the transnational New Class, “expert class”, or “credentialed gentry” of today’s West.
A friend who is an art historian lamented that even his most attentive students could not share his enthusiasm for modern art and that even those who understand the context in which it arose still dislike it.
One of the issues I have with much of what passes for modern “art” is that it is 99% concept (the more pretentious and preachy, the better) and 1% about execution. I am reminded of how in Dutch, “kunst” (art) comes from the same root as “kunde” (ability, skill, knowledge). It’s hard to see any “kunde” in making cans labeled “Merde d’Artiste” [sh-t of artist/sh-tty artist] (Piero Manzoni); in displaying one’s unmade bed as an art installation; dripping paint on a canvas (Jackson Pollock); making stains of various bodily fluids (Andres Serrano — this work of “art” was used by Metallica for two album covers); and the like. Richard Bledsoe of the Remodern Review has been blogging up a storm about this poseurism, and the neo-figurative “Stuckist” and “Remodern” movement that arose against this “stuck on stupid”.
What much of modern “art” really amounts to is a rejection of “craft” in favor of “concept”. I cannot help being reminded of a similar trend in literature.
Now you could call me an artistic philistine who is stuck on Renoir, and maybe you have a point — but I’m much more conversant with music than with any visual art, and yet we see something similar there: contemporary classical music has, for the most part, become a sterile exercise in intellectual and ideological peacocking by academic musicians for academic musicians and snobbish hangers-on.
Another friend asked in response whether this was a matter of acquired taste. After all, people who are not chocoholics or wine connoisseurs cannot truly appreciate “the good stuff” for how good it is?
Perhaps, but here’s the thing: even the person who would like the cheap chocolate from the dollar store as well as the rare gourmet stuff still has no trouble recognizing the latter as chocolate — they just would miss the added value. To use a musical analogy: consider listening to a Bach fugue. Knowing formal counterpoint will make you realize just how much of a genius Bach was to do what he did, but you don’t need to know any music theory to hear it’s music — and if it’s well played, an attentive listener — even without any formal training — will realize it’s a tapestry of independent voices in a harmonious conversation, even if you don’t know any of the “rules of order” that govern it (which is what classical counterpoint really is, a “Roberts’ Rules” for polyphonic music).
The other day I heard an interview (in French) with electronic music megastar Jean-Michel Jarre (who is, incidentally, the estranged son of film composer Maurice Jarre and the ex-husband of actress Charlotte Rampling).
Paraphrasing one segment of the interview from memory: “Some people tell me that electronic music is abstract. On the contrary! Especially with analog instruments, it’s visceral, hands-on. I twist this knob or push that pedal, and I immediately hear the sound change in response. It’s classical music that is more abstract! They play off a score, which is an abstract representation of the music.”
Bingo. To borrow a term from information technology, the score is one “abstraction layer” above the music. A jazz music “lead sheet” would be one more abstraction layer above: it specifies the lead melody, the chord progression, and the meter — and the details on how to translate the progression into notes are left to the performer!
The next higher abstraction level is sometimes seen when experienced musicians are jamming together, and all the lead player needs to say is “slow 12/8 blues in G minor”: everybody else knows what to do and fills in the details on the fly, according to their best musical judgment. (Fixed chord progressions like “the blues” as improvisational frameworks are not a recent invention: suffice to mention “La Folia” in Renaissance and Baroque contexts.) An Indian raga is, likewise, a meta-structure for improvisation.
A paradigmatic example of abstraction layers in information technology — one that many readers will be familiar with — are network addresses. Individual network cards have a permanent, unique “MAC address” or “hardware address”, six bytes in hexadecimal notation: something like 4c:33:73:9d:40:42 We do not use such addresses directly to send Email or access web servers though, since everytime a server or even network card would go on the fritz, you’d have to update directories.
So one abstraction layer above that, we have the numerical addresses of the form 188.8.131.52. These can be defined manually on a device, or (this is what happens in most home WiFi networks) assigned using a DHCP (dynamic host configuration protocol) service. You replace a server or swap out a network card? Update the DHCP configuration table, and you’re good to go.
But if you moved to another provider, you’d still have to change addresses. Or you may have so much traffic that you need to deploy multiple servers, and load-balance traffic between them. Which is why we have yet another abstraction layer above that: the more conventional, human-readable addresses like www.pjmedia.com or www.berkeley.edu A domain name server (DNS) keeps track of which name corresponds to which number (or knows which other DNS to ask if it can’t resolve the query from cache), and hence you only need to deal with the “link”: you can leave the concrete details on how to translate this into an actual connection to the “abstraction layers” below.
The above puts me in mind of the laments of a friend of mine (a college lecturer in a humanities subject) about the atrocious writing of his students. Effectively, he says, the students have only learned the English language by imitation: they parrot words and phrases, rely on their spelling checker to fix spellings (sometimes coming up with unintentionally hilarious malapropisms as they do so), and often display a disregard for grammar and syntax that has non-native speakers like myself flabbergasted. The thing is, grammar and syntax are abstraction levels above the words: they can be learned by immersion — but that would have to be by “neural network training” from a very large corpus of high-quality written text. (I frankly didn’t know most of the grammatical rules in English consciously — but could apply them just fine on autopilot, as I’d been a voracious reader from a young age. Only when I found myself needing to explain edits to scientific papers — and of course learned that “it sounds wrong otherwise” is not an acceptable answer to thinking people — did I end up hitting the grammar and usage books.)
Prose style and essay structure are, of course, yet further abstraction levels above. But the problem is much broader than language: at one research institution where I was a guest faculty member, I saw distressing levels of learning by imitation in the lab — newer grad students basically being shown “this is how it goes” by the older ones. Now if this is just a matter of “kickstarting” then this is fine — the real problem was that only a few had any desire to actually understand what they were doing. (This became painfully clear when they attempted to write a paper — which in practice usually boiled down to compiling tables and graphs as required, and the professor or his amanuensis writing the actual paper—or rewriting the sorry excuse for a manuscript so thoroughly as to qualify as writing from scratch.)
Pretty much everybody who lives near a Jewish community has heard of Chabad (a.k.a. the Lubavitch movement): Chabad (חב׳׳ד) is, however, originally the Hebrew acronym for a much broader concept: the three levels of understanding. This is how I see them outside a religious context.
D (ד) stands for the lowest layer: da’at ([factual] “knowledge”)
B (ב) stands for the layer above: bina (“insight”) or, if you like, analytical understanding. That which is required for the higher “abstraction layers” of learning.
Ch (ח) stands for the highest layer: chochma (“wisdom”), or, if you like, synthetic understanding, creativity. The levels of “meta-insight” that allow you to apply the structural principles of that which exists, for creating something new.
Our current educational system effectively sacrifices insight on the altar of creativity (or, worse, the students’ self-esteem) — while at the same time, perversely, ensuring that students only have quite shallow knowlegde by declaring a kind-of war on memorization at exactly the ages children most easily learn by rote. The end products are students that have never progressed beyond some nuts-and-bolts knowledge picked up by imitation—and even that is not to be taken for granted.
The system stunts students while claiming to empower them, and it boosts a brittle, hollow self-esteem that shatters on the first contact with reality. It “creates a desert, and calls it peace.” Or self-esteem, “or something”
Thought must never submit, neither to a dogma, nor to a party, nor to a passion, nor to an interest, nor to a preconceived idea, nor to anything whatsoever but the facts themselves—since for thought, surrendering means ceasing to exist.
[La pensée ne doit jamais se soumettre, ni à un dogme, ni à un parti, ni à une passion, ni à un interêt, ni à une idée préconcue, ni à quoique ce soit, si ce n’est aux faits eux-mêmes, parce que pour elle, se soumettre, ce serait cesser d’être.]
Storytelling is woven into human DNA. Even the discovery of DNA’s shape is enrobed in a thrilling tale of deceit and betrayal – with a sexist twist, of course. We tell our stories every single day. Some of us are very clearly aware of the delineations between fact and fantasy, and make our living spinning narratives others enjoy reading for the fun of it. Other people lose the boundaries between fiction and their own desires, and that’s where it starts to get, for lack of a better word, problematic.
I would argue that in order to exist in this world full of contradictions, some people must create an insulting narrative to keep them from confronting the harsh realities that surround them. Without that precious blanket (and you may also envision a thumb firmly inserted for sucking on) they might have to face truths they…
For those who have been living under a rock: Google fired an employee for having the temerity to write a memo [draft archived here][full text here via Mark Perry at AEI] questioning the “diversity” (what I call “fauxversity”) and “affirmative action” (i.e., reverse discrimination) policies of the company. Said employee had earlier filed a labor grievance and is taking legal action. Now quite interestingly, here is an article in which four actual experts discuss the science underlying the memo, and basically find it unexceptional even though they do not all agree with the author on its implications. One of them, an evolutionary psychology professor at U. of New Mexico, has the money quote:
Here, I just want to take a step back from the memo controversy, to highlight a paradox at the heart of the ‘equality and diversity’ dogma that dominates American corporate life. The memo didn’t address this paradox directly, but I think it’s implicit in the author’s critique of Google’s diversity programs. This dogma relies on two core assumptions:
The human sexes and races have exactly the same minds, with precisely identical distributions of traits, aptitudes, interests, and motivations; therefore, any inequalities of outcome in hiring and promotion must be due to systemic sexism and racism;
The human sexes and races have such radically different minds, backgrounds, perspectives, and insights, that companies must increase their demographic diversity in order to be competitive; any lack of demographic diversity must be due to short-sighted management that favors groupthink.
The obvious problem is that these two core assumptions are diametrically opposed.
Let me explain. If different groups have minds that are precisely equivalent in every respect, then those minds are functionally interchangeable, and diversity would be irrelevant to corporate competitiveness. For example, take sex differences. The usual rationale for gender diversity in corporate teams is that a balanced, 50/50 sex ratio will keep a team from being dominated by either masculine or feminine styles of thinking, feeling, and communicating. Each sex will counter-balance the other’s quirks. (That makes sense to me, by the way, and is one reason why evolutionary psychologists often value gender diversity in research teams.) But if there are no sex differences in these psychological quirks, counter-balancing would be irrelevant. A 100% female team would function exactly the same as a 50/50 team, which would function the same as a 100% male team. If men are no different from women, then the sex ratio in a team doesn’t matter at any rational business level, and there is no reason to promote gender diversity as a competitive advantage.
Likewise, if the races are no different from each other, then the racial mix of a company can’t rationally matter to the company’s bottom line. The only reasons to value diversity would be at the levels of legal compliance with government regulations, public relations virtue-signalling, and deontological morality – not practical effectiveness. Legal, PR, and moral reasons can be good reasons for companies to do things. But corporate diversity was never justified to shareholders as a way to avoid lawsuits, PR blowback, or moral shame; it was justified as a competitive business necessity.
So, if the sexes and races don’t differ at all, and if psychological interchangeability is true, then there’s no practical business case for diversity.
On the other hand, if demographic diversity gives a company any competitive advantages, it must be because there are important sex differences and race differences in how human minds work and interact. For example, psychological variety must promote better decision-making within teams, projects, and divisions. Yet if minds differ across sexes and races enough to justify diversity as an instrumental business goal, then they must differ enough in some specific skills, interests, and motivations that hiring and promotion will sometimes produce unequal outcomes in some company roles. In other words, if demographic diversity yields any competitive advantages due to psychological differences between groups, then demographic equality of outcome cannot be achieved in all jobs and all levels within a company. At least, not without discriminatory practices such as affirmative action or demographic quotas.
So, psychological interchangeability makes diversity meaningless. But psychological differences make equal outcomes impossible. Equality or diversity. You can’t have both.
Weirdly, the same people who advocate for equality of outcome in every aspect of corporate life, also tend to advocate for diversity in every aspect of corporate life. They don’t even see the fundamentally irreconcilable assumptions behind this ‘equality and diversity’ dogma.
[“Jeb Kinnison” draws my attention to another article.] I just saw in an essay by Christina Hoff Sommers [see also video] on the AEI website that the National Science Foundation [!], as recently as 2007, sent around a questionnaire asking researchers to identify any research equipment in their lab building that was not accessible to women. In 2007. Seriously, I don’t know whether whoever came up with this “go find the crocodile milk” policy was gunning for a Nobel prize in Derpitude
or trying to create sinecures for otherwise unemployable paper-pushers, or trying to divert bureaucratic energy into a Mobius loop that would minimize interference with serious decisions.
But on a more serious note: even before I saw the “paradox” remarks, I could not help being reminded of this passage in George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. The protagonist, Winston Smith, retorts to his mentor turned inquisitor:
‘But the whole universe is outside us. Look at the stars! Some of them are a million light-years away. They are out of our reach for ever.’ ‘What are the stars?’ said O’Brien indifferently. ‘They are bits of fire a few kilometres away. We could reach them if we wanted to. Or we could blot them out. The earth is the centre of the universe. The sun and the stars go round it.’ Winston made another convulsive movement. This time he did not say anything. O’Brien continued as though answering a spoken objection: ‘For certain purposes, of course, that is not true. When we navigate the ocean, or when we predict an eclipse, we often find it convenient to assume that the earth goes round the sun and that the stars are millions upon millions of kilometres away. But what of it? Do you suppose it is beyond us to produce a dual system of astronomy? The stars can be near or distant, according as we need them. Do you suppose our mathematicians are unequal to that? Have you forgotten doublethink?’
Precisely: doublethink. Thus it is possible, for example, that certain biological differences between men and women, or between ethnic groups, can be at the same time out of bounds for polite discussion, yet entirely taken for granted in a medical setting. I remember when Jackie Mason in the early 1990s joked about wanting an [Ashkenazi] Jewish affirmative action quota for runners and basketball players: nowadays, that joke would probably get him fired at Google, while a sports doctor treating top athletes would just chuckle.
The root of evil here is twofold:
(1) the concept that even correct factual information might be harmful as it might encourage heresy [hmm, where have we heard that one before?];
(2) considering people as interchangeable members of collectives, rather than individuals. If one considers the abilities of a specific individual, then for the case at hand it does not matter whether the average aptitudes for X differ significantly between groups A and B, or not. (There is, in any case, much greater variability between individuals within a group than between groups.)
I would add:
(2b) overconfidence in numerical benchmarks by people without a real grasp of what they mean.
Outside the strict PC/AA context, it is the fallacy in (2b) which gives rise to such pathologies as politicians pushing for ever-higher HS graduation or college enrollment rates — because they only see “the percentage has gone up from X to Y” without seeing the underlying reality. They are much like the economic planners in the (thank G-d!) former USSR, who accepted inflated production statistics of foodstuffs and consumer goods at face value, while all those not privileged enough to shop inside the Nomenklatura bubble knew well enough that they were a sham. Likewise, those of us educated in a bygone era realize that the “much greater” HS and college graduation rates of today were achieved by the educational equivalent of puppy milling:
the HS curriculum has for most pupils been watered down to meaninglessness;
supposedly “native-born and educated” college students often are deficient in basic arithmetic and reading comprehension;
a general education at the level we used to get at an Atheneum or Gymnasium [i.e., academic-track high schools in Europe] nowadays requires either a college degree or an expensive private prep school.
But simplistic numerical benchmarks are beloved of bureaucrats everywhere, as they are excellent excuses for bureaucratic meddling. As Instapundit is fond of remarking: the trouble with true gender- and ethnicity-blind fairness — and with true diversity, which must include the diversity of opinion — is that “there isn’t enough opportunity for graft in it”.
PS: apropos the calling the original author of the essay names that essentially place him outside civil society, a must-read editorial in the Boston Globe by historian Niall Ferguson. His wife, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, knows a thing or two about what real hardcore misogyny looks like, and how useless the Western liberal left is facing it. Moneygraf of the op-ed:
Mark my words, while I can still publish them with impunity: The real tyrants, when they come, will be for diversity (except of opinion) and against hate speech (except their own).
Thinking back to those women I knew in IT, I can’t imagine any of them would have spent a weekend building a [then bleeding-edge tech, Ed.] fiber-channel network in her basement.
I’m not saying such women don’t exist; I know they do. I’m just saying that if they exist in equal numbers to the men, it’s odd that I met so very many men like that, and not even one woman like that, in a job where all the women around me were obviously pretty comfortable with computers. We can’t blame it on residual sexism that prevented women from ever getting into the field; the number of women working with computers has actually gone down over time. And I find it hard to blame it on current sexism. No one told that guy to go home and build a fiber-channel network in his basement; no one told me I couldn’t. It’s just that I would never in a million years have chosen to waste a weekend that way.
The higher you get up the ladder, the more important those preferences become. Anyone of reasonable intelligence can be coached to sit at a help desk and talk users through basic problems. Most smart people can be taught to build a basic workstation and hook it up to a server. But the more complicated the problems get, the more knowledge and skill they require, and the people who acquire that sort of expertise are the ones who are most passionately interested in those sorts of problems. A company like Google, which turns down many more applicants than it hires, is going to select heavily for that sort of passion. If more men have it than women, the workforce will be mostly men.
She explains how she then moved into a field — policy journalism — that is also heavily male, but that she found she could get as passionate about as her former colleagues about [then] bleeding-edge technology. Passionate enough, in fact, that she did it for free for five years (under the blog name “Jane Galt”) until she was hired by a major national magazine on the strength of her portfolio. Passion combined with talent can move mountains—or, if you pardon the metaphor, shatter glass ceilings.
Judith Curry, the Georgia Tech climatology professor vilified by her peers for trying to have a meaningful dialogue with CAGW skeptics, is taking early retirement from academia to focus on a startup company dealing with long-term climate forecasting. http://www.cfanclimate.net/
“The reward system that is in place for university faculty members is becoming increasingly counterproductive to actually educating students to be able to think and cope in the real world, and in expanding the frontiers of knowledge in a meaningful way[…]”
It is always sad to see the departure of any academic who is truly committed to the spirit of free inquiry. Here’s wishing her the very best in her new venture and I hope to be hearing more of her!
In recent weeks, we have witnessed ever-more cartoonish examples of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Even those of us who have been sharply critical of Trump (such as www.thelibertyzone.us) are staring on with a kind of revulsed fascination as our chattering class descends ever deeper into the pits of insanity. So do those who merely voted against Hillary rather than for Trump, such as the razor-sharp “Dystopic” or the underrated historical novelist Roy M. Griffis.
I move professionally in circles where lib-left “virtue signaling” is taken for granted, especially inside the US. (Academia outside the US, while no less in the grip of a collective moral superiority complex, at least tolerates dissenters to some degree.)
As I was perusing Trump’s cabinet list in the Times of London the other day, I was struck not so much by the names — some ‘feck yeah!’, some ‘well, OK’, some ‘meh’ — as by what wasn’t there. The ‘Brahmandarins™’ had been left behind, as it were. Allow me to expand.
Traditional society in India has myriad little jatis (“births”, freely: castes), but they ultimately derive from four (plus one) major varnas (“colors”, freely: classes). While caste membership and profession are more fluid than generally assumed by Westerners, these five major groupings do exist to the present day, and are mostly endogamous. From top to bottom, the varnas are:
Kshatryas (warriors, rulers, administrators)
Vaishyas (merchants, artisans, and farmers)
Finally, the Dalit (downtrodden, outcasts — the term “pariah” is considered so offensive it has become “the p-word”) are traditionally considered beneath the varna system altogether, as are other “Scheduled Castes” (a legal term in present-day India, referring to eligibility for affirmative action).
The upper three varnas bear some resemblance to the three Estates of the French ancien régime: clergy, nobility, and the bourgeoisie (le tiers état, the Third Estate). American society used to be a byword for social mobility (“the American dream”) — but a stratification has set in, and it takes little imagination to identify strata of Dalit, Shudras, and Vaishyas in modern American society. The numerically small subculture of military families could be identified as America’s Kshatryas. So where are the Brahmins? (No, I’m not referring to the old money Boston elite.) And why am I using the portmanteau “Brahmandarins” for our New Class?
In India one was, of course, born into the Brahmin varna, and they actually delegated the messy business of governance to the varna below them. In China’s Middle Kingdom, on the other hand, not only was the scholarly Mandarin caste actually the backbone of governance, but in principle anyone who passed the civil service exams could become a Mandarin.
Originally, these exams were meant to foster a meritocracy. Predictably, over time, they evolved to select for conformity over ability, being more concerned with literary style and knowledge of the classics than with any relevant technical expertise.
Hmm, sounds familiar? Consider America’s “New Class”: academia, journalism, “helping” professions, nonprofits, community organizers, trustafarian artists,… Talent for something immediately verifiable (be it playing the piano, designing an airplane, or buying-and-selling,… ) or a track record of tangible achievements are much less important than credentials — degrees from the right places, praise from the right press organs,…
The New Class should be more like the Mandarins rather than the Brahmins, as in theory (and to some degree in practice) 1st-generation membership is open to people of all backgrounds. Heck, that includes even this electrician’s son here 😉
In practice, however, this class is highly endogamous, and its children have an inside track on similar career paths. (Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart” made this case to a fare-thee-well.) Thus one finds 2nd and 3rd generation New Class members, whose outlooks on life tend to be much more insular and collectively self-centered than that of their 1st-generation peers. (It is important not to over-generalize about one’s fellow human beings: some of the fiercest fellow ‘renegades’ I know were to the manor born.) In that respect then, the New Class does resemble the Brahmins. Hence my portmanteau “Brahmandarins”.
Engineers (whose academic training at even second-tier colleges is much more rigorous than that of the journalism major at a big-name school) are arguably closer to artisan Vaishya than to Brahmandarins. They need to build things that actually work, you know.
Now how does this tie in with Trump and his cabinet? In the last several Presidential elections, Brahmandarin D candidates (Obama, Hillary) were pitted against Kshatriyas (McCain) or Vaishyas (Romney, Trump). While the D party used to be one with which particularly Shudras (laborers) could identify, over time it has increasingly become a patron-client coalition of Brahmandarins and Dalits. Kshatriyas overwhelmingly lean R, while Shudras and Vaishyas (other than high finance) became increasingly disaffected from D and either moved to the R column or tuned out of politics.
Sometime in 2008, I had an eye-opening encounter at a fundraiser for a scientific cause. A lawyer for a major donor, after various patronizing remarks after our scholarly pursuits, told some of us in intimate conversation that of course we should support Obama. (Interestingly, the usual appeal to ethnicity was not made.) One of us asked the lawyer what would be his ‘performance benchmark’ for a successful presidency. Tellingly, the otherwise so voluble lawyer was left at a loss for words. Eventually, his argument boiled down to ‘Obama is one of us’. Which “us”? Not scientists, obviously. Nor Jews, obviously (the lawyer, my colleague, and myself are all Jewish). No — Brahmandarins, members of the New Class.
Peggy Noonan recently coined the phrase “patronized by our inferiors”. At the time I couldn’t come up with anything as concise and withering, but the whole framing of the argument struck me as a hybrid between the Cosa Nostra and “mean girls” cliques at the middle school my daughter was then attending. Around the same time, I discovered Thomas Sowell’s priceless “Vision of the Anointed” whose subtitle “Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy” could be emblematic of the entire phenomenon. A critique that had built itself up in my head, in inchoate fashion, was laid out here in concise, crystal-clear prose.
Fast-forward to the present. In the last several Presidential elections, Brahmandarin D candidates (Obama, Hillary) were pitted against Kshatriyas (McCain) or Vaishyas (Romney, Trump). Unsurprisingly, Brahmandarin presidents tend to appoint cabinet and senior aides from among the Brahmandarin caste, while Trump’s appointments came almost exclusively from the Vaishyas (Exxon CEO Tillerson for State, various other execs), and Kshatriyas (Mattis, Flynn, Kelly). It doesn’t matter that most of these people have real-world achievements to their names than a Robbie Mook type can only dream of: they are “ignorant” (read: insufficiently subservient to New Class shibboleths), “hate-filled”, etc. — All short-hand for “not one of us”.
For those same people who keep on prating about how open they are to foreign cultures (the more foreign, the better to “virtue-signal”) are completely unable to fathom the mindset of their compatriots of a different caste: they might as well come from a different planet as from a different country.
There’s only water/In a stranger’s tear
Looks are deceptive/But distinctions are clear
A foreign body/And a foreign mind
Never welcome/In the land of the blindYou may look like we do
Talk like we do
But you know how it isYou’re not one of us!
Charles Murray’s book “Coming Apart” talks about the combination of geographic isolation (segregation by income/politics), elite schools (public and private) where their children all socialize, ideological conforming by the “elite” institutions all creating an elite population that has prime access to top corporate jobs, NGOs, government positions under Democrats. They base morality as adherence to the ideology and thus see all who disagree as evil/stupid and look down on those beneath them as at best unenlightened/uneducated and at worst people the world is better off without.
Then they actively discriminate against conservatives and the middle and working class, seeing them as “not a culture fit” or actively deprecating them.
“not only the ideological, virtue signalling style of art, but also the self-absorbed, alienating products of the Ivory Tower approach, status symbol art made to cater to the expectations of elitist curators, trophy hunting collectors, and other art snobs.”
He then recounts how the neo-figurative “remodernism” and “Stuckism” movements arose as a grassroots reaction.
And anybody who speaks up is shouted down by tarring them with the “R”, “S”, or “H” scarlet letters, eventually people get so angry that they will glom onto the first demagogue who dares say out loud what they themselves are thinking, and who does not try to wish the elephant in the room away (or worse, play a shell game with it).
Furthermore, when you keep trying to muzzle people by speciously accusing them of being “racists”, “sexists”, “homophobes”,… eventually some will say “I may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb” and join truly unsavory elements.
All of this is utterly predictable to anyone with an elemental feel for mass psychology. Hence the rise of a blowhard demagogue like Trump. Note that I am not accusing him of being the R, S, or H words – I think Trump’s entire ideology starts and ends with his own 0bama-sized ego. Nature abhors a vacuum, Trump saw it, filled the void, and is obtaining the narcissistic supply from it he seeks. Think of the “Mirror, Mirror” episode of Star Trek (TOS), and what 0bama would look like in the parallel universe where Spock had a beard.
Trump may not get the nomination. If he does, he stands a very serious chance of being elected. Contrary to the prejudices of some, this prospect is giving many constitutional conservatives sleepless nights. A number of years ago, a dystopian novel named “Caliphate” (Baen Free Library Link) was published which prefigured not only the rise of an ISIS-like movement but also the rise to power of a populist politician who promptly proceeds to use the legal and bureaucratic tools put in place by his lib-left predecessor against the ones who created them in the first place.
And that is just the US. In Europe, I see similar things happening. Sane liberals, moderates, and constitutional conservatives alike watch in horror as a three-cornered psychodrama unfolds: between an ever more delusional looney left out-virtue-signaling each other; an ever more psychotic Islamofascism; and a yearning for/resurgence of authoritarian populist-right strongmen.
Cinema buffs may know the following eerie Chopin Prelude (No. 2 in A minor) from the Ingmar Bergman movie “Autumn Sonata”. All the preludes were given nicknames in Hans von Bülow’s edition (e.g. the “Raindrop” for No. 15 in Db major). This one was given the heading “Todesahnung”, German for “foreboding of death”.
I’m a natural “dark optimist” — worried about things that can go wrong, wanting to stitch in time to save nine, but fundamentally with a deep sense thing will turn out alright in the end.
But like in the hoary Jewish joke, “you think it’s easy being an optimist?”
… and the winner is “duh smartest prezident evah”, Barack Hussein 0bama.
In this interview with that other sophomore [lit.: “wise fool”], Thomas Friedman, 0bama wishes aloud Netanyahu would have much weaker poll numbers (like his, presumably?) so he would be more “accommodating” concerning a “peace deal” with the “Palestinians”.
Here the “deep” (in the hole) “thinker” (of himself) reveals that not only does he have a very shallow understanding of the region, but that he is a pathetically poor political tactician.
Let’s grant, for the sake of argument, 0bama’s premise that a territorial deal between Israel and the Abbas regime were desirable and feasible.
For better or worse, Ariel Sharon z”l could bulldozer through the 2005 “Disengagement” from Gaza not because he had weak poll number, but because they were rock-solid. The people to his Left backed him from opposition, the people to his Right had nowhere realistic to go, and the controversial and (in many ways) heart-rending move was accomplished without bloodshed only because of the respect and confidence the old warrior commanded.
After the old warrior was felled by first a CVA, then a massive brain hemorrhage that left him only technically alive, he was replaced by the hapless Ehud Olmert. We all know how that ended (the recent coda involved Olmert going to the hoosegow).
Also remember, the person who successfully “disengaged” France from Algeria — Charles de Gaulle — likewise did so from a position of tremendous political strength. Even so, it nearly got him assassinated several times (which inspired one of the greatest thriller novels ever written).
If 0bama seriously thinks that lower poll numbers will make Bibi more likely to make a territorial deal, then I have known vegetable sellers in the Carmel open-air market in Tel-Aviv with more practical intelligence than 0bama has. Then again, I was never convinced he was some sort of genius, or even particularly bright.
Updated to make clear to people who don’t click the link that it was the Texas Democrats who excluded black voters (and Mexican-Americans) from their primaries (and then dodged further with the Jaybird Democratic Association when the courts struck down the White Primaries). This is a major set of cases under state action, and I’m surprised that Obama is unfamiliar with this history. I wonder what he covered in his Constitutional Law classes?
Obama’s historical ignorance could be a full time beat for somebody who does this work for a living, and it tells us something truly important about Barack Obama. His ignorance is as broad as it is deep. Not that you couldn’t deduce that on your own from his performance on the job.
Yesterday he was at it again, in his peevish interview with the feisty local broadcast reporter from Texas. Why are you so unpopular in Texas? the reporter asked. Obama being Obama, he was unable to laugh off the question and say he’d do better next time around. Obama responded: “Texas has always been a pretty Republican state, for, you know, historic reasons.”
Has the guy ever heard of LBJ? You know, the fellow who first brought us socialized medicine? Has he ever read a single volume of Robert Caro’s monumental biography of LBJ? It’s hard to miss the extent to which the Democratic Party dominated Texas politics for the duration of LBJ’s (long) political career.
Did Obama skip class the day he might have learned that in the the postbellum South, including Texas, the Republican Party was virtually nonexistent? Apparently so. Or maybe he was just deploying his skills as a bs artist to deflect a question that could not be reconciled with his self-worship.
JOHN adds: I’ve concluded that Obama isn’t a smart person. He just plays one on television.
Insty linked to two great posts by Megan McArdle on liberal bias in academia. The first, which she got lots of vigorous reactions (and hate mail) too, points out the laughably lopsided distribution of liberals vs. conservatives in academia (we’re talking 200/1 ratios in some disciplines). The second gives a rundown of all the lame excuses proffered by apologists, which she facetiously compares to “oh, women are happier in the kitchen and blacks don’t want responsibility” rationalizations for gender and racial discrimination.
Academia is probably the quintessential New Class career path, and in my day job I get to deal with a great many academics, mostly in the hard sciences. I can testify that even in the hard sciences — where politics is rarely an issue in tenure decisions — there is very strong peer pressure. Let me quote an Email I got:
I was at [a major university in the Midwest] at the time of 0bama’s candidacy and quickly learned to keep my political opinions to myself. I was prepared to like 0bama (potentially the first black president and all) but quickly realized he was going to be at best a crooked hack politician in the Chicago mold, and at worst a radical the likes of which the USA hadn’t seen. Typically I was the only person in the room who did not think 0bama was the second coming of JC [well, he does resemble Jimmy Carter, no? — Ed.], and I lost count how many times I heard remarks to the effect that any opposition to his candidacy could only be motivated by racism. I ended up moving to a red state where at least I could open my mouth with impunity — and even here I am one of only two conservatives in my department and generally avoid the subject of politics. Note my field is [a basic science], not English literature or sociology.
I’m the sort of person who doesn’t give a rat’s backside what anybody thinks of him. Even so, it got to me at times and was a factor in deciding where to live next. I can only imagine how this would affect a person more sensitive to peer pressure — probably “adapt or leave”.
Earlier, Insty reproduced an Email he got from a “conservative in the closet” in academia, with some reminiscences of his own added. (Thankfully, Insty works in an unusually supportive environment. He does point, whimsically, to his usefulness to the university administration as a “token” libertarian — and I am not 100% sure he is joking.) An excerpt from the Email:
I have used this comparison [with being in the closet about one’s sexual orientation] myself, it is apt, and it doesn’t just apply to students. You hide yourself in plain sight. You make comments that are carefully crafted to allow you to make small talk, and which will allow your colleagues to think you’re in agreement with them, but which nevertheless satisfy your own sense of integrity. You never lie. You just make comments and allow them to draw their own conclusions. A classic example is the way I’ll make comments about politics, saying things like “I don’t trust politicians, period.” My liberal colleagues will nod and agree. We’re all in agreement, they believe. It gets easy after a while. You make comments about Marxist ideology that are really rather neutral, such as how you see similarities between Marx’s views, and something else. You leave it unstated that in fact you think this is appalling, while they nod and smile at the continuing relevance of Marxism in today’s society. Everyone is happy. I don’t feel quite so happy when someone says something about “stupid fucking conservatives” (I’m quoting exact words here), but I just nod, and say “ugh-huh”.
I’ve just been watching the first series of Mad Men, and I’m struck by the gay guy Salvatore Romano, and how similar his behavior is to me, only I’m hiding my politics, not my sexuality. There are also the classic moments, whereby fellow believers in academia carefully try to work out if you are one of “us”. I remember one guy who heard me comment on how some architecture reminded me of something I read in The Fountainhead, which was enough to alert him. Later we went out for a drink. I remember the nervous moment (for both of us) where he finally came out and asked me, “so what are your political / economic beliefs?” I chickened out, tempered, and said, “well, perhaps more to the center than most academics” and countered, “what are yours?” Reassured, he was willing to admit to conservative leanings. Then I was willing to admit it too. Then at last we could talk about our true feelings, with it clearly and openly stated that (of course) none of this was ever, ever, ever, to go beyond our own private conversations. (I also learned to never ever, in future, mention Rand within hearing of any academics, in case I accidently revealed myself again.) In another case, the vital clue was our shared interest in science fiction, and over the weeks there followed careful probing concerning which authors we liked, until we eventually discretely revealed ourselves. Now he lends me books saying “don’t let any of your colleagues see you with this.”
When (if) I get tenure, I toy with the idea of coming out of the closet. I don’t think I will though. Perhaps my job will be more secure, but I have to live and work with these people for years to come. I prefer to work in a friendly environment. I don’t want to be the token conservative, and I don’t want to be the one who speaks at meetings while everyone else rolls their eyes and exchanges meaningful glances.
Needless to say, don’t under any circumstances use my real name if you choose to refer to my email. Thanks!
Aside from the “closet” metaphor (make sure to check out this blog, BTW), this behavior reminds me of the submarine warfare tactic known as “silent running“. Make no unnecessary sound, and run the electric engines of the sub at an RPM rate calculated to be minimally detectible by passive sonar.
Megan makes the case that a combination of discrimination, peer pressure, and self-selection is at work. I can second the latter: my guess is that most conservatives would consider “studies” fields to be wastes of time for all considered, and Erin O’Connor of Critical Mass is an example of a tenured literature professor who eventually left academia in disgust. But this should be much less of an issue in hard sciences fields (except, obviously, for environmental science and climate studies).
If I’d gotten a dollar for every time I heard somebody refer to academics as “the most self-centered people on the planet” I’d be rich now. And there is indeed a rub, if not necessarily the rub. Like any highly competitive creative field, it self-selects for egomaniacs — and perhaps to the benefit of all concerned. (To give an example outside academia: where would Apple or Microsoft be today if Steve Jobs or Bill Gates were modest, self-effacing people?) Now whenever you put a lot of people of (real or perceived) high talent together, one gets not only the backbiting everybody in academia knows (I’ve seen academic knife-fights to the death over completely apolitical scholarly disputes in physics or chemistry), but also a kind of “esprit de corps”, a feeling of group superiority over other mere mortals. At best, this gets sublimated into an admirable sense of “noblesse oblige”. At worst, one gets what Robert Nozick incisively described as (via Clive):
Intellectuals feel they are the most valuable people, the ones with the highest merit, and that society should reward people in accordance with their value and merit. But a capitalist society does not satisfy the principle of distribution “to each according to his merit or value.” Apart from the gifts, inheritances, and gambling winnings that occur in a free society, the market distributes to those who satisfy the perceived market-expressed demands of others, and how much it so distributes depends on how much is demanded and how great the alternative supply is. Unsuccessful businessmen and workers do not have the same animus against the capitalist system as do the wordsmith intellectuals. Only the sense of unrecognized superiority, of entitlement betrayed, produces that animus.
It is my hypothesis that, more generally, the vast majority of academia subconsciously identifies as members of the New Class (by whatever name they may call “our kind of people”) before everything else, and will naturally tend to favor policies that reflect New Class sensitivities and interests. Big-government philosophies, and especially redistributive “social justice” programs run by bureaucratic elites, have a natural appeal to them.
And academics can rent-seek with the best of them. I have seen liberal academics be apologetic about receiving defense-related funding, but applying for and accepting it nevertheless. Or people who receive research funding for the liberal pet cause du jour while, out of earshot and with a couple in them, admitting to be skeptical about it. I have heard more than one academic tell me flat out that (s)he thinks Al Gore is a huckster, but if his AGW doom talk can scare people into weaning themselves off fossil fuels before they run out then it will have served a useful purpose. And of course, easy availability of funding for research in… is a useful benefit. (With all due respect, but “pia fraus” and “taqqiya” belong in religions, not science.)
Ideally, an academic should seek the truth wherever it can be found, without fear or favor. In the real world, academics are humans and no human foibles are alien to them. One of the most sobering things I learned in my 4.5 decades on this mortal coil is that in some “real world” matters, farmers and small businessmen without any formal education can exercise more sound judgment than most professors.
ADDENDUM: I should have pointed out the degree to which already existing tendencies are exacerbated by the whole “postmodern” fad. To state that personal perspective may create observer bias, or that it may be worthwhile to look at historical or political events through different eyes, is one thing. To deny the very existence of objective truth (even as a platonic ideal) is another: if there is only the “struggle between competing narratives” (how people who believe in this radically subjectivist notion can take pride in being “reality-based” is a miracle of psychology), then the search for truth (by however imperfect means) degenerates into a sophistry contest. Which is how many conservatives increasingly look upon humanities and “soft subjects” academia (actually, various unprintable versions of “mutual gratification society” are more commonly heard) — and which, in turn, increases the mutual aversion. There is a definite “feedback loop” going on here…
[More here. In fairness, the basic idea apparently is narcissism being reclassified as a symptom of a deeper personality disorder rather than a disorder in itself. The change, being pushed by researchers, is vociferously opposed by practicing clinical psychiatrists — apparently not the first example of a rift between researchers and clinicians in the community.]
“Any discipline in which something can be declared a “disorder” or not by vote is the province of charlatans.”
“Reply to Lucius Septimius in #220:
I was working for the ACLU in the ’70s, on gay-rights issues (if you can believe it), when the American Psychiatric Association decided by vote that homosexual behavior was “no longer a disorder.” While this was certainly useful to me in my professional capacity, even then I realized that any outfit that could decree what was or was not a “disorder” by vote of its membership was of necessity a fraud from top to bottom.”
In the past year, I’ve written roughly 5,000 pages of scholarly literature, most on very tight deadlines. But you won’t find my name on a single paper.
I’ve written toward a master’s degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I’ve worked on bachelor’s degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting. I’ve written for courses in history, cinema, labor relations, pharmacology, theology, sports management, maritime security, airline services, sustainability, municipal budgeting, marketing, philosophy, ethics, Eastern religion, postmodern architecture, anthropology, literature, and public administration. I’ve attended three dozen online universities. I’ve completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for someone else. […]
I work at an online company that generates tens of thousands of dollars a month by creating original essays based on specific instructions provided by cheating students. I’ve worked there full time since 2004. On any day of the academic year, I am working on upward of 20 assignments.
In the midst of this great recession, business is booming. At busy times, during midterms and finals, my company’s staff of roughly 50 writers is not large enough to satisfy the demands of students who will pay for our work and claim it as their own.
You would be amazed by the incompetence of your students’ writing. I have seen the word “desperate” misspelled every way you can imagine. And these students truly are desperate. They couldn’t write a convincing grocery list, yet they are in graduate school. They really need help. They need help learning and, separately, they need help passing their courses. But they aren’t getting it.
For those of you who have ever mentored a student through the writing of a dissertation, served on a thesis-review committee, or guided a graduate student through a formal research process, I have a question: Do you ever wonder how a student who struggles to formulate complete sentences in conversation manages to produce marginally competent research? How does that student get by you?
I live well on the desperation, misery, and incompetence that your educational system has created. […] Of course, I know you are aware that cheating occurs. But you have no idea how deeply this kind of cheating penetrates the academic system, much less how to stop it. Last summer The New York Times reported that 61 percent of undergraduates have admitted to some form of cheating on assignments and exams. Yet there is little discussion about custom papers and how they differ from more-detectable forms of plagiarism, or about why students cheat in the first place.
It is my hope that this essay will initiate such a conversation. As for me, I’m planning to retire. I’m tired of helping you make your students look competent.
From my experience, three demographic groups seek out my services: the English-as-second-language student; the hopelessly deficient student; and the lazy rich kid.For the last, colleges are a perfect launching ground—they are built to reward the rich and to forgive them their laziness. Let’s be honest: The successful among us are not always the best and the brightest, and certainly not the most ethical. My favorite customers are those with an unlimited supply of money and no shortage of instructions on how they would like to see their work executed. While the deficient student will generally not know how to ask for what he wants until he doesn’t get it, the lazy rich student will know exactly what he wants. He is poised for a life of paying others and telling them what to do. Indeed, he is acquiring all the skills he needs to stay on top.
As for the first two types of students—the ESL and the hopelessly deficient—colleges are utterly failing them. Students who come to American universities from other countries find that their efforts to learn a new language are confounded not only by cultural difficulties but also by the pressures of grading. The focus on evaluation rather than education means that those who haven’t mastered English must do so quickly or suffer the consequences. My service provides a particularly quick way to “master” English. And those who are hopelessly deficient—a euphemism, I admit—struggle with communication in general.
Speaking of which:
It is late in the semester when the business student contacts me, a time when I typically juggle deadlines and push out 20 to 40 pages a day. I had written a short research proposal for her a few weeks before, suggesting a project that connected a surge of unethical business practices to the patterns of trade liberalization. The proposal was approved, and now I had six days to complete the assignment. This was not quite a rush order, which we get top dollar to write. This assignment would be priced at a standard $2,000, half of which goes in my pocket.
A few hours after I had agreed to write the paper, I received the following e-mail: “sending sorces for ur to use thanx.”
I did not reply immediately. One hour later, I received another message:
“did u get the sorce I send
please where you are now?
Desprit to pass spring projict”
Not only was this student going to be a constant thorn in my side, but she also communicated in haiku, each less decipherable than the one before it. I let her know that I was giving her work the utmost attention, that I had received her sources, and that I would be in touch if I had any questions. Then I put it aside.
Two days had passed since I last heard from the business student. Overnight I had received 14 e-mails from her. She had additional instructions for the assignment, such as “but more again please make sure they are a good link betwee the leticture review and all the chapter and the benfet of my paper. finally do you think the level of this work? how match i can get it?”
I’ll admit, I didn’t fully understand that one.
It was followed by some clarification: “where u are can you get my messages? Please I pay a lot and dont have ao to faile I strated to get very worry.”
Her messages had arrived between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
[…] It’s not implausible to write a 75-page paper in two days. It’s just miserable. I don’t need much sleep, and when I get cranking, I can churn out four or five pages an hour. First I lay out the sections of an assignment—introduction, problem statement, methodology, literature review, findings, conclusion—whatever the instructions call for. Then I start Googling.
I haven’t been to a library once since I started doing this job. Amazon is quite generous about free samples. If I can find a single page from a particular text, I can cobble that into a report, deducing what I don’t know from customer reviews and publisher blurbs. Google Scholar is a great source for material, providing the abstract of nearly any journal article. And of course, there’s Wikipedia, which is often my first stop when dealing with unfamiliar subjects. Naturally one must verify such material elsewhere, but I’ve taken hundreds of crash courses this way.
After I’ve gathered my sources, I pull out usable quotes, cite them, and distribute them among the sections of the assignment. Over the years, I’ve refined ways of stretching papers. I can write a four-word sentence in 40 words. Just give me one phrase of quotable text, and I’ll produce two pages of ponderous explanation. I can say in 10 pages what most normal people could say in a paragraph.
[…] My client was thrilled with my work. She told me that she would present the chapter to her mentor and get back to me with our next steps. Two weeks passed, by which time the assignment was but a distant memory, obscured by the several hundred pages I had written since. On a Wednesday evening, I received the following e-mail:”Thanx u so much for the chapter is going very good the porfesser likes it but wants the folloing suggestions please what do you thing?:
“‘The hypothesis is interesting but I’d like to see it a bit more focused. Choose a specific connection and try to prove it.’
“What shoudwe say?”
This happens a lot. I get paid per assignment. But with longer papers, the student starts to think of me as a personal educational counselor. She paid me to write a one-page response to her professor, and then she paid me to revise her paper. I completed each of these assignments, sustaining the voice that the student had established and maintaining the front of competence from some invisible location far beneath the ivory tower.
The 75-page paper on business ethics ultimately expanded into a 160-page graduate thesis, every word of which was written by me. I can’t remember the name of my client, but it’s her name on my work. We collaborated for months. As with so many other topics I tackle, the connection between unethical business practices and trade liberalization became a subtext to my everyday life.
So, of course, you can imagine my excitement when I received the good news:
“thanx so much for uhelp ican going to graduate to now”.
C2 contributor “buzzsawmonkey”, at comment #35 in this thread, sounds the alarm:
As you know, the other day UNESCO asked Israel to remove the “Cave of the Patriarchs” in Hebron from its list of national heritage sites. This week is the week in which the Torah portion is read that details Abraham’s acquisition of the Cave of Machpelah--now referred to as “the Cave of the Patriarchs”–for an inordinate sum, for the purpose of burying his wife Sarah. It is the first Jewish acquisition of land, the first physical connection of permanence with the Land of Israel.
I do not believe that the timing was accidental. In effect, the UN was making very plain its complete rejection of the the Jewish claim to the Land of Israel as its homeland. It is not unlike the “invitations to accept Islam” which our media continually misread as conciliatory overtures, but which in fact are last-opportunity conversion demands which precede a war, and as such are in fact declarations of war.
It is my belief that the UNESCO statement, which was largely dismissed as “Oh, the UN’s at it again,” was in fact a declaration of war on the existence of Israel as the Jewish homeland, and on the Jews as a “legitimate” people.
There is probably some really ugly tug-of-war going on beneath the surface. I hope buzz is wrong, but I fear he may be right.
BTW, if you want to read some truly mind-exploding cognitive dissonance among the academic elite gentry, have a look at this.
Angelo Codevilla’s article and book entitled “The Ruling Class” make a similar point. Let me illustrate this by comparing the USA with France.
At least as much as the USA, in fact even moreso, France is being ruled by the New Class. Not just are very few of its elected officials outsiders to the elite, but arguably the greater part of executive power is vested in a permanent, unelected, civil service bureaucracy. Not only are most of the “elite” politicians, and essentially all of the senior bureaucrats, just graduates of a few top tertiary institutions, but the lion’s share of those not in a technical or medical specialty are graduate of just a single institution: the ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Administration/National School for [Public] Administration).The French refer to this system as “l’ENArchie” and to the members as “les enarques” — and indeed, “enarchy” would seem to be an appropriate name for such a closed “insider” government.
However, arrogant as this elite may be, and unbecoming as intellectual arrogance is in general, at least these people have something to be arrogant about. Admission to the ENA, and admission to the upper ranks of the civil service, are strictly by competitive exams graded anonymously. The end result is not only much more meritocratic than the US system, but (despite a certain homogeneity imposed by the common education) France’s New Class is ideologically more diverse than its US counterpart. All parts of the political spectrum can be found in its ranks.
In comparison, the US “ruling class” is increasingly becoming, as both Codevilla and Reynolds argue, a clique that admits newcomers based not on raw talent, but on how well they fit in with the existing members in terms of social backgrounds and sensitivities. Once upon a time, an Ivy League honors degree may have guaranteed an education as broad and deep as anything one can (still, albeit with more difficulty than yesteryear) gain in Europe. Exchanges with recent graduates of “elite” journalism schools or “studies” programs at Ivy League schools will very quickly disabuse you of that notion. Nowadays, once admitted to such a program, students are notoriously underworked and undereducated.
This “credentialed gentry” (Reynolds’ term), aside from being every bit as shallow as the current resident of 1600 Penn Ave, through self-selection and peer pressure has become an intellectual echo chamber and “mutual admiration society” (less family-friendly bloggers would use a word starting with “circle”) that is not only becoming ever more alienated from the “country class” but increasingly detached from objective reality.
In the real world, if you have an impressive marketing campaign for dogfood yet sales lag because the dogs don’t like the food, this is a business failure. In the rarified world of postmodern academia, the marketing campaign is all that counts, and the dogs that refuse to eat the food must surely be suffering from a ‘false consciousness’. A country being ruled by such people would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic.
Let us tell them loudly, a week from now, that the joke has become stale and we are tired of being its props.
Watts Up With That reports that UCSB physicist Hal Lewis (more about him here) resigned from the American Physical Society with a blistering resignation letter in which he dares to call the organization’s position on AGW:
I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.
In the interim the ClimateGate scandal broke into the news, and the machinations of the principal alarmists were revealed to the world. It was a fraud on a scale I have never seen, and I lack the words to describe its enormity. Effect on the APS position: none. None at all. This is not science; other forces are at work.- Hal Lewis
I, for one, have never understood the wisdom behind spending $50K/year on vapid “studies” programs, nor the bizarre concept that everybody (including those in the two bottom quartiles of the IQ distribution, presumably) should get a college degree. This sort of thinking has already led to a disastrous dumbing down of high-school, and this trend now extends to universities. Nor is it limited to the USA — I have seen similar tendencies in Europe and Israel.
For example, Belgian friends have told me that when they were young, all it took to become a bank teller was a high-school disploma. Subsequent ‘degree inflation’ went as follows. Banks started to first request ‘maturity certificates’ (a college admission requirement), at which point high schools started basically giving them to all graduates. Then the banks started requiring the Belgian equivalent of associate degrees from junior colleges. Currently they require college degrees. And bank tellers are not necessarily more konledgeable or intellectually acute. All the banks really wanted was people with above-average intelligence — and the credentials guaranteeing that kept going up as programs were dumbed-down in fallacious pursuit of higher credentialing rates.
This type of ‘degree inflation’ took place in the natural sciences as well, to the extent that employers in, say, the chemical industry there there that used to require a ‘licentiate’ (a.k.a. ‘Diplom’, the primary Euro college degree, kind-of in between a BSc and MSc) started requiring a doctorate, and now might even expect some postdoctoral experience.
Educational institutions (and Education ministries wrongly looking at credentialing percentages as a measurement of success) appear to be engaged in the intellectual equivalent of ‘printing more money’. At some point, something will have to give, or the academic ‘currency’ will lose all market value and alternative ‘currencies’ will emerge, akin to the use of scarce commodities as barter currencies in countries stricken by hyperinflation.
Obama’s “post-racial America” has not materialized. Instead, the nation has gone in the opposite direction and become race-obsessed America.
No, that’s not quite right either. We’re not obsessed with race — we’ve become obsessed with accusations of racism. Some of the accusations are true; some, not so much. But what used to be a last-ditch smear tactic used only by the most desperate political operatives, or something which as a society we’d try to ignore in the hopes that it would go away, has instead become a daily occurrence, a standard category in the 24-hour news cycle: Politics • Sports • Business • Accusations of Racism • Weather
Just a few years ago, shortly before Obama appeared on the political landscape, I wrote this satirical dictionary definition of the word “racist”:
racist – A statement of surrender during an argument. When two people or disputants are engaged in an acrimonious debate, the side that first says “Racist!” has conceded defeat. Synonymous with saying “Resign” during a chess game, or “Uncle” during a schoolyard fight. Originally, the term was meant to indicate that one side was accusing the other of being racist, but once it was noticed that people only resorted to this tactic when all other arguments had been exhausted, it acquired its new meaning of “indicating one’s own concession of defeat.”
Oh, how times have changed, and how quickly. Not only do people now reach for the race card first in almost any political, social, or personal dispute, but sometimes the accusations are even true (or partly true), as public exhibition of racism has become more commonplace. No matter how you slice it — an increase of racism and of false accusations of racism — I see this as a huge step backward for our nation.
The Week in Racism
So many accusations of racism battle for space in your morning headlines, it’s easy to get them all confused. So I’ve created the following scorecard to help you sort it all out.
Here are the Top Ten Accusations of Racism for the last week, along with a handy “Level of Actual Racism” accuracy rating (on a 1-to-10 scale, with 10 being the most racist) to help determine to what extent each accusation is true, or if the accuser is just crying “Uncle” in a losing argument.