Friday, April 30, 2021

Reputational Damage

In the midst of the Black Lives Matter riots, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms stated the most important point when she said: “People, we are better than this.”

True it was, but her point has largely been ignored. She was noting a fact often ignored, namely, that running an ongoing months long riotous insurrection causes reputational damage. That means, the rioting has divided the nation according to race and has made black Americans look bad indeed.

Clearly, most blacks were not rioting. Most blacks opposed the activity. And yet, reputation is shared, and it is shared among people who have no specific relationship to specific criminal activity. By that I mean, try getting a job in the financial services industry with a name like Madoff. It does not matter that you had nothing to do with Bernard’s crimes. The taint is shared with family, friends and community.

Rioting notwithstanding the current narrative, one that is certainly not limited to rioters, holds that the problem with black crime is white policing. When blacks commit crimes the fault must lie with white police officers. No one is going to earn a reputation as a solid citizen, a contributing member of the community, by purveying such arrant nonsense.

Guilty verdicts are one thing. Exercising political power is another thing. Reputation cannot be regained by forcing people to pretend to believe something that they know to be untrue. If the goal of BLM is to turn whites and blacks against each other, to diminish the reputation of black Americans, they are doing a fine job. If their goal is to produce antagonism between whites and blacks, even to foment a political movement whereby blacks will overthrow the supposed white supremacist power structure they are leading their followers to destitution.

One notes that before Black Lives Matter offered up an incoherent political slogan, we also suffered the influence of something that was called Black Liberation Theology, the pet ideology of Barack Obama’s mentor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. It is, to summarize, an offshoot of Liberation Theology, an unholy amalgam of Marxism and Catholicism. The difference lies in the fact that BLT proposes that black people become a vanguard to overthrow the white capitalist patriarchal order. 

The point is to impose political will on the general populace, by whatever means necessary. The voice of the people, the reputation garnered by those who propagate such theoretical swill, might be silenced, but it is no less influential. Perhaps it is more influential for having gone underground.

In short, anyone who thinks that declaring war against white supremacy and advancing the BLM and BLT agendas is going to produce anything other than mutual antagonism has missed the point completely.

But, the reputational damage is not just limited to American blacks. Major American institutions have bought into the radical leftist agenda and are in the process of destroying their national and international reputations.

Victor Davis Hanson bemoans the reputational damage done to America’s institutions of higher learning. (via Maggie's Farm) Of course, many of them still contain world class STEM programs, but their love affair with radical leftist ideology and their insistence on imposing their will on their students has caused them to lose their prestige.

Hanson explains:

Instead, imagine a place where the certification of educational excellence, the bachelor of arts degree, is no guarantee that a graduate can speak, write, or communicate coherently or think inductively.

In fairness, these places have been ground zero for the effort to engineer diversity, regardless of merit. The result has been a bloated administrative staff with fewer and fewer teachers teaching.

And often, the teachers, having been hired for reasons that have had little to do with merit, are incompetent. Educational excellence begins at the top, and if the teaching staff does not have any and if they insist on not teaching the greatest works of our civilization but limit themselves to what they understand, students will necessarily suffer. The results should have been predictable.

Hanson continues:

Imagine a place that cherishes student interaction and criticism of the “establishment,” yet the ratio of instructors to administrators is about one to one. The money devoted to non-teaching administrative costs is now about equal to the money devoted to classroom instruction.

It is less about education and more about policing thought and inculcating the correct ideology:

Imagine a place with non-taxable endowments that restrict free speech and expression. Nonprofit universities make it impossible for some speakers to lecture, and they often suspend constitutionally protected due process for students facing particular allegations.

Hanson suggests that American universities are suffering great reputational damage, roughly as Hollywood and even professional sports are. The failing Oscars, a grand and glorious event that has been politicized beyond reason, just garnered its lowest ratings in ages.

It’s about reputational damage. Hollywood celebrities, flush with excitement over their own self-importance, have forgotten that their opinions reflect the quality of their high school level educations. In this as in other matters, the marketplace is casting its vote on these empty headed fools. Fortunately, film product made outside of America still retains some semblance of artistic merit.

Hanson concludes:

As long as universities produced highly educated and open-minded graduates at a reasonable cost and they kept politics out of the lecture hall, Americans didn’t care much about peculiarities such as tenure, legacy admissions, untaxed endowments, rebellious students, and quirky faculty.

But once they began to charge exorbitantly, educate poorly, politick continuously, indebt millions of people, and act hypocritically, universities turned off Americans.

Just as a sermonizing Hollywood grates when it no longer can make good movies, a once-hallowed but now self-righteous university seems hollow when it charges so much for so little.

But, the academy and Hollywood are not the only institutions that are suffering reputational damage. Add the American media to the list. As Caitlin Johnstone points out on Medium, fewer people trust the American media now.

Led by such august enterprises as the New York Times and CNN, the media has become the propaganda organ of the Democratic Party. The result, lost reputation, which means that more and more people no longer trust the media version of the facts.

She sums up the reputational damage:

This year has marked the first time ever that trust in news media dropped below fifty percent in the United States, continuing a trend of decline that’s been ongoing for years.

Mass media punditry is divided on where to assign the blame for the plummet in public opinion of their work, with some blaming it on Russia and others blaming it on Donald Trump. Others, like a recent Forbes article titled “Restoring Public Trust In Technology And Media Is Infrastructure Investment” blame it on the internet. Still others, like a Washington Post article earlier this month titled “Bad news for journalists: The public doesn’t share our values” blame it on the people themselves.

The one thing they all seem to agree on is that it’s definitely not because the billionaire-controlled media are propaganda outlets which manipulate us constantly in conjunction with sociopathic government agencies to protect the oligarchic, imperialist status quo upon which the members of the billionaire class have built their respective kingdoms. It cannot possibly be because people sense that they are being lied to and are fed up with it.

Yes, indeed, CJ. The truth is staring them in the face. And they cannot see it. They blame everyone but themselves and they are so arrogant that they cannot accept that the American people know they are being lied to and therefore no longer trust the media.

Naturally, we all want to know what they have to do to regain the nation’s trust. Johnson offers a stark, and not entirely correct, assessment. The trust they have lost, the reputation they have damaged, will never be regained. 

And actually it doesn’t ultimately matter what mainstream pundits and reporters believe is the cause of the public’s growing disgust with them, because there’s nothing they can do to fix it anyway. The mass media will never regain the public’s trust.

They’ll never regain the public’s trust for a couple of reasons, the first of which is because they’ll never be able to become trustworthy. At no point will the mass media ever begin wowing the public with its journalistic integrity and causing people to re-evaluate their opinion of mainstream news reporters. At no point will people’s disdain for these outlets ever cease to be reinforced and confirmed by the manipulative and deceitful behaviors which caused that disdain in the first place.

She continues that for having turned themselves into propaganda outlets, they will forever remain propaganda outlets.

A propaganda outlet will never be anything other than a propaganda outlet. A lot of half-awake people with one eye open and one eye closed will notice how the news media don’t practice journalism and don’t report the facts, and they’ll assume that something went wrong at some point. “Just do your jobs and report the news!” they’ll shout in frustration.

At this point CJ goes off the rails. Sad to say. She says that the media has never been in the business of reporting facts, but has been spinning narratives. I will not expatiate on this point, because it undercuts completely her argument. 

Once upon a time the media was trustworthy. Once upon a time our academic institutions took seriously the task of teaching, even of imparting information. Once upon a time we accepted that objective facts exist. We did not think that it was all propaganda all the time. Because it wasn't.

In truth, CJ should have quit while she was ahead. The media has lost its reputation for being a trustworthy source of information. Twas not always thus. It might, with some time and some effort, recover its reputation. The point I would make is not that reputation has been damaged forever, but that once you damage your reputation it takes an exceptionally long time to recover it. Once you have shown yourself to be untrustworthy it takes years of concerted effort to persuade people that you can be trusted.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

The Biden Agenda-- Spend Like There's No Tomorrow

A quick take-away from Joe Biden’s speech to Congress last night. The theme was: spend like there’s no tomorrow. And there’s some truth to that-- if you spend like there’s no tomorrow there will be no tomorrow.

Roger Kimball watched the speech and declared that we should entitle it: Make America Poor Again.

Biden is here to bring us MAPA: ‘Make America Poor Again.’

Here’s how we do it. First, spend more money than anyone thought possible. Promise free stuff for everyone (except Republicans). Second, destroy the engines of prosperity. Start with the energy industry. Tax it, regulate, mount a huge ‘green- new-deal PR campaign against cheap, abundant energy. It’s working! Hundreds of thousands are out of work and gas prices are up some nine percent in just 100 days! Good going, Joe!

And, of course, the great uniter declared that his true enemy was white Americans, aka, white supremacists. After all, Biden’s is the rump Obama administration, and the Obama administration funded Iranian terrorists, funded Hamas and Hezbollah, and allowed ISIS to metastasize across Iraq and Syria.

Senile old Joe has probably forgotten that President Obama never used the term, ISIS, which referred to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Obama preferred ISIL, which refers to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The difference is quite simple-- the Levant includes the state of Israel. You have to hand it to American Jews, for glorifying a president who wished for the annihilation of the state of Israel, for its inclusion in a greater Islamic state. 

For all his talk about fighting ISIS, Biden is going all in for appeasing Iran, and, incidentally, allowing Iranian forces to harass American Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf.

Now that the Biden administration is prostrating itself in order to return to the JCPOA, the Iranian government has understood perfectly well that a pathetically weak American president can easily be rolled. It has understood that a weak America can be harassed and humiliated in international waters. And, with the exception of the Wall Street Journal, the American media will not report it.

The Journal has the story:

A group of boats from Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps harassed two U.S. Coast Guard ships earlier this month in the Persian Gulf, Navy officials said, the first such incident in a year.

The incident occurred April 2, just as the U.S. and Iran announced they would conduct negotiations toward renewing the 2015 multilateral nuclear accord. Those talks began earlier this month in Vienna. The episode hasn’t been previously disclosed.

U.S. Navy officials confirmed that three fast-attack crafts and one ship known as Harth 55, a 180-foot, twin-hulled support vessel, swarmed the two Coast Guard ships while they were patrolling international waters in the southern portion of the Persian Gulf.

As for our future economic prospects, modern monetary theory tells us that we can spend as much as we like and never pay for it. To that Canadian market strategist David Rosenberg differs. Writing in the Canadian Business Quarterly he tells us to prepare for a post-pandemic boom and bust:

The major point I need to emphasize right out of the gates is that it can’t possibly be lost on anyone that what we had was a health crisis that morphed into an economic crisis and then somehow managed to morph into a financial crisis that was ten times worse than anything we saw in the Great Financial Crisis and forced the Fed and the Bank of Canada to probe the outer limits of monetary intervention. We simply refuse to stop these cycles of redressing debt crises by adding more debt, which merely compounds the adverse effects from the recession that is inevitable, and yet at the peak of the cycle nobody ever seems to be prepared for one.

The vaccination process is no reason to believe we are not in some form of economic depression that has only been disguised by unprecedented policy stimulus. Just because your kid has training wheels doesn’t mean he (she) knows how to ride the bike. And we have an economy on our hands that could not survive without large-scale deficit finance and central banks suddenly acting like hedge fund managers. This is why it’s going to be a depression because what comes next is a secular change in attitudes towards credit and towards savings. I mean, seriously, over half of American households didn’t have enough cash on hand to even get through three months of a job loss — quite remarkable when you consider we went into this mess with a 50-year low unemployment rate of 3.5%. Not to mention the corporate sector where, for some reason, the word “liquidity” became a dirty nine-letter word this past cycle. Now every business has working capital they have to cover with a fraction of last year’s cash flow. And this got me thinking about how the future will be one of treating “savings” as sacrosanct.  Beyond the quarter or two of pent-up demand release in 2021, frugality is going to emerge as the primary theme. It’s not the end of the world, either, unless you’re an advocate for a sustainable and vigorous economic expansion.  

Of course, the stock market is booming. To which Rosenberg says, something that cannot last forever will not last forever.

The average American, having been stupidified to the point of mindlessness, does not understand the concept of the national debt. He does understand free stuff, so, as they say, enjoy it while it lasts:

Then we have to consider, when we get to the other side, the massive government debts we will have built up and how that, along with even more bloated central bank balance sheets, will get dealt with. Will the debts get monetized, or not? Or God forbid, will taxes have to go up on the middle-class? Just some things to contemplate in 2021 as we get our booster shots and then race to the local brasserie. The stock market is not the economy so don’t believe for a second that record equity prices means the road ahead isn’t going to be a bumpy one.

For the record, monetizing the debt means stoking inflation. Or, should I say, hyperinflation. Right now, the debt is in trillions, if we go all Weimar Germany and let inflation run wild, we will pay it all off with cheap money. But, as Weimar taught us, a country where people need wheelbarrows full of cash to buy groceries is not long for this world.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Henry Kissinger Speaks

You might be surprised to hear that Henry Kissinger is still alive and thinking. But, indeed he is. And he recently gave an extensive interview to Business Insider (via Maggie’s Farm). It is well worth your attention, even though, I am well aware, some readers will become positively dyspeptic over his views on certain matters. 

On the matter of the woke revolution currently sweeping the intelligentsia, Kissinger says this, quite accurately:

In the present period, there is a systemic questioning of the historic values of America. There is a point of view to the effect that American society has been immoral from its very beginning. Advocates of this view maintain that the American internal challenge derives from the historic structure of American society and history. They believe America's institutions — the Senate, the Supreme Court, perhaps even the Constitution itself — have to be remade from the ground up. This is a revolutionary frame of mind which is being pursued very systematically and very effectively. It is not a view that is held by close to 50% of the population. But it is a view that is intensely held and is perhaps dominant in the academic and media community. It is therefore becoming extremely influential.

Interesting point-- a minority of citizens, as long as they wield power in the right places, can exercise an undue influence on the nation. 

But, the more important point concerns China. As Dr. K sees clearly, we have made China less a competitor or even an opponent, and more an enemy. The difference is not a matter of nuance. As China expands its influence in the Middle East, we ought, as noted before, reconsider whether we want China to be our enemy. I do understand that some people believe that China would have allied itself with Iran, for example, even if we had not declared at trade war and decided that we needed to destroy some of its major companies, but the light of reason tells us that countries do not function in a vacuum. They function in relation to the actions of others and to the qualities sustained in their relationships. 

Kissinger challenges a view of China that is increasingly becoming commonplace in America:

But it faces the situation now where public opinion has become convinced that China is not only a rapidly growing country, which is true, but also that China is an inherent enemy, and that therefore our main task is to confront it and to reduce its capacity to be a major country. But China has been a major country for thousands of years. And in different historical epochs. And so, the recovery of China should be not surprising, and its consequences are that America, for the first time in its history, is facing a country of potentially comparable capacities in economics, and with great historic skill in conducting international affairs. This was not the case with the Soviets. They were actually weaker than the United States in military capacities, and they had no economic position in the international field at all. So, with respect to the current crisis, there is almost a certain nostalgia for the issues of the Cold War.

In other words, China is becoming a world-class competitor; it is probably not that smart to treat it as another Cold War enemy.

What is the difference between Russia and China? Kissinger explains:

There is a big difference between the Chinese perception of history and the Russian perception. Russian leaders have historically been insecure, because they have spent their history defending themselves against potential enemies on all sides. They have therefore, since becoming strong, identified influence with physical domination. China has a more complex view. The Confucian view, which shapes Chinese thinking side by side with Chinese Marxism, implies that if China performs at the maximum level of its capacities, it will generate a majestic conduct which will produce respect in the rest of the world — making it agreeable, at some levels, to Chinese preferences. In the Empire period, foreign countries were graded by the degree of their proximity to Chinese cultural precepts. There existed a department for grading these countries, and it conducted foreign policy. China has historically and recently supported this attitude with military actions to remind adversaries that this is not just a philosophical debate. But if you actually study the Chinese military actions, since the period that the communists took over, they've all been for psychological effect. They were often very tough. And we must be prepared to oppose Chinese hegemony. But we, at the same time, should remain open to a policy of coexistence.

Coexistence does not preclude competition. It prevents competition from becoming open warfare. 

In dealing with China, different schools of thought have to be sorted out. There's a group who thinks the Chinese capacity for foreign policy must be confronted at all levels from economics to Chinese internal politics. It ascribes current Chinese policies to the current Chinese leadership and strives for bringing about a more accommodating group. I, on the other hand, believe that such an attitude generates a maximum of resistance. Of course, free societies must continue to conduct world affairs compatible with their principles and free of the threat of hegemony. But coexistence in the current world of technology is a necessity, because it is impossible to visualize a war between major countries who have significant AI technology that will not destroy cultural life as we know it. So that will be the debate in America and maybe in the world.

He is concerned about the belligerent attitude that the previous administration has taken. He is not alone:

I am not in favor of a crusade against China. But I am in favor of developing a common strategic understanding so that the situation will not be inflamed further by constant maneuvering for advantage.

Policy-wise, the salient difference lies between coexistence and a will to destroy the opponent. Many Americans are surely ready to go to war against China. If they are not, they should at least understand that their antagonistic rhetoric will inevitably lead precisely to that:

And, therefore, there is this propensity to crush the opponent. Now coexistence depends on neither side seeking to destroy the opponent while maintaining its values and objectives, and each side needs to place coexistence ahead of a quest for domination. This requires an understanding between the leaders of high-tech societies. We must learn from history. Europeans in particular know the consequences of wars that can neither be won nor ended.

So, there is something to be said of the wisdom that comes from age. Dr. K’s words should at least be taken seriously.

Kamala Takes Charge

Fear not, Kamala is on the job. She is taking full charge of the situation on our Southern border-- some would call it an invasion. She has not briefed the press since she was named border czar. She has not visited the border or any of the countries that are feeding the invasion.

But, as I said, fear not. Our very own vice president has discussed Mexican and Central American immigration with the president of Finland. No kidding. And, no, this is not a deranged parody offered up by the Babylon Bee or the Onion.

It comes to us from the New York Post:

The problem is more than 6,000 miles and a great ocean away from him, but Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday asked Finland’s president to help stem the flow of migrants from Central America to the US-Mexico border.

As you know, Harris has been taking phone calls with foreign leaders. Apparently, President Biden, given his senile dementia, is not up to the job. 

Apparently, Kamala Harris thinks that Finland is proximate with the nations south of America. And she sees a parallel between America’s problem with Mexico and Guatemala and Finland’s problem with Russia. You didn’t know that Russian migrants are flooding into Finland, but that would only mean that you lack imagination. Kamala is smarter than you and me, so she deals with higher truths.

Harris and Finnish President Sauli Niinist√∂ “discussed the need for more coordinated international action to address the root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle, and for sustained unity and vigilance to counter the destabilizing actions Russia continues to carry out across the Euro-Atlantic area,” Harris’ office said.

It’s unclear how Niinist√∂ would help address “push” factors for migration in Central America, such as poverty and crime.

Rest easy, America. Kamala is in charge.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Sometime Mind of Joe Biden

In the comments to the previous post, David Foster provided us with a link to his piece on the mind of Joe Biden. Short answer-- it’s worse than we think. Long answer-- here is a sample of Foster’s excellent analysis:

Here’s President Biden, in his ‘infrastructure’ speech, talking about the future of transportation:

I tell the kids…they’re going to see more change in the next 10 years than we’ve seen in the last 50 years. We’re going to talk about commercial aircraft flying at subsonic speeds — supersonic speeds. Be able to, figuratively, if you may — if we decided to do it, traverse the world in about an hour, travel 21,000 miles an hour. So much is changing. We have got to lead it.

21,000 mph is about Mach 28, or 28 times the speed of sound. No aircraft goes this fast today, and that includes high-performance military and experimental aircraft.  Air resistance–which increases with the square of airspeed–limits the highest practical speeds for atmosphere-inhabiting, air-breathing vehicles.  If you want to go Mach 28, you need not an airplane but a spaceship.  It would certainly be possible to provide intercontinental rocket-based passenger service–Elon Musk has been talking about something of the kind–but there are serious problems, including the acceptability of the G-forces to passengers, and such a service would surely be very expensive, not something for the mass market.  And, very significantly, such vehicles would be completely incompatible with Biden’s hostility toward fossil fuels.

And that’s just the beginning. Follow the link and read on.

The most amazing part of this is that the mainstream media, not to mention the Republican Party, has not called out Biden on his constant errors and disinformation. At the least we know that he is not trusting the science. He does not know the difference between science and science fiction.

Climate Change Hysteria

From across the pond come some sobering thoughts by one Peter Hitchens. Brother of the late Christopher, Hitchens blogs for the Daily Mail. He opens with a salient point, one that is slightly more fitting for Great Britain, but that, we will see, echoes a point made by Joel Kotkin, who writes from the West Coast.

Hitchens opens with the notion that Green Dogma, the conviction that we must immediately do something to change the climate, lest our beloved planet become an arid wasteland, has become so pervasive that dissent is no longer allowed. Groupthink has invaded and taken over the minds of Britain’s best and brightest. 

It might not be very popular with the populace-- witness the cratering ratings of the woke Oscars-- but this is all the more reason to impose these policies by executive fiat. Besides, the woke intelligentsia has a monopoly on the dissemination of information, so, you can just shut up.

Hitchens explains:

There are so many things that it is now impossible to discuss without being driven into the wilderness. Dissent on these subjects – you know what they are, though there will soon be more – is a suicide mission, which can even bring the police to your door.

And I suppose for most people this is just a nuisance on the edge of life. But the Green Dogma – which has taken over every major government on the planet, and is now pretty much accepted by all media, publishing houses and educational bodies – is different. Anyone who challenges or doubts it might as well build his own guillotine, stick his head in the hole and drop the blade on his own neck.

Joel Kotkin, writing from our very own verdant shores, echoes the point in a Spiked article:

Remarkably, despite this record of distortion, climate hysteria has become the abiding faith of the dominant media, universities and a large swath of the corporate establishment, particularly on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley. Some have even embraced the hardly capitalist notion of degrowth, an ideology which suggests, in essence, the Western working and middle classes must sacrifice comfort and aspiration to save the planet. (Often at the urging of the world’s wealthiest people, with their grand estates and private jets!)

We have discovered that coal power generation is the root of all evil. So, Britain and countries like Germany are shutting down their coal power plants. In the meantime, China and India are happy to promise that they will do so themselves at some point in the distant future. Since they are dealing with a traitorous buffoon named John Kerry, why not play him for the fool that he is.

Hitchens explains the truth about coal in Great Britain:

So far, the main thing we have done is to close perfectly good coal-fired power stations. Well, you might say, so much the better for the atmosphere. But China, with vast, newly discovered coalfields in Inner Mongolia, keeps opening such stations. In fact, China’s coal-fired power generation is more than ten times bigger than Britain’s entire electricity output from all sources. It is not just China. India is also a greedy consumer of coal to make electricity. Both countries make airy promises that one day they will stop doing this, but as long as they carry on, our efforts make as much difference as trying to empty the Atlantic with a teaspoon.

Self-sabotage in order to save the planet. Hitchens explains that nations who follow the Green Dogma are destined to join the Third World. In Great Britain this is being implemented by a conservative government, no less.

My guess is that it is the means by which we in the West will join the Third World, finally and irrevocably. How amusing that this should be brought about by a government that calls itself Conservative, and claims to be patriotic.

As for the situation in America, Kotkin, surely not a member of the vast right wing conspiracy, speaks truth to Biden administration greening policies. Considering that the apocalypse is imminent, we must do something. I would note in passing that these people are claiming to base their thinking on science, all the while trafficking in apocalyptic thinking, a product of Scripture:

The deep-seated sense of pending apocalypse that grips Western elites is driving the shift to draconian and radical policies. Some politicians, like Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer, have called on Biden to declare ‘a climate emergency’, which would essentially give the White House a blank cheque and unlimited power to impose its vision.

For environmental puritans like Blumenauer, climate sin is equivalent to sex and gluttony in the original Massachusetts version. For a generation, environmentalist advocates have prophesied an imminent climate disaster that would, if not met with extreme action, threaten the very future of humanity.

So, Kotkin asks how realistic the Biden climate policy is. He discovers that it has nothing to do with realistic possibilities:

Biden’s proposals for transportation spending, which counts for a surprisingly small part of his $2 trillion infrastructure plan, embrace the Green New Deal notion of substituting trains for roads and planes. By some estimates, the infrastructure bill allocates $165 billion for public transit and rail against only $115 billion to fix and modernise the roads and bridges Americans drive on – which doesn’t exactly meet the needs of most Americans.

Most Americans do not and will never use public transport. I would offer up some thoughts about the horrors of the New York Subway system, but I am sure that you know all about it already.

Kotkin explains cogently:

This is in a country in which 95 per cent of people do not use public transport to get to work. It accounted for less than two per cent of all urban travel before Covid, with the vast majority of Americans either driving or working from home.

The fundamental problem is not that Americans dislike public transport, but rather that you ‘cannot get from here to there’. In the US, more than 90 per cent of metropolitan-area jobs are dispersed into the suburban and exurban areas. On average, in the nation’s major metropolitan areas, cars provide access to about 50 times as many jobs as public transport....

Besides, activists like the idiot bartendress from Queens who is leading the charge for the Green New Deal tell us that if we don’t go to war against the weather, we are racists.

The truth, Kotkin explains, is that the green agenda mostly hurts people of color. Tell me you are not surprised:

Climate activists today often mouth slogans about how climate change is also ‘racist’, but historically disadvantaged minorities are most likely to be negatively affected by a Green New Deal. In California, a test case for Green New Deal-style policies, extreme climate measures have driven the loss of traditional blue-collar jobs in manufacturing, construction and energy, while other environmental regulations have boosted housing prices. The biggest losers have been African Americans and Latinos. Overall, minorities in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco do far worse economically than in historically less regulated and taxed places like Kansas City, Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Dallas or Nashville.

In another instance the cerebrally challenged Biden offers an absurd proposal:

 President Biden suggests that we ‘imagine a world where you and your family can travel coast to coast… in a high-speed train, close to as fast as you can go across the country in a plane’. This is all but physically impossible. The fastest high-speed rail trains in the world average about 200 miles per hour – compared to the routine 500-miles-per-hour average speed of long-distance jets.

And, as noted here and elsewhere, producing high speed railroads is going to come a cropper against environmental regulation and our legal community:

It is also highly unlikely that Washington could build transit systems as efficiently as the Chinese state, with its top-down autocratic system. In the US, new routes would have to withstand a far more demanding legal system, environmental checks and high costs by international standards. World Bank research has estimated that US high-speed-rail construction costs would be a third higher per mile than in Europe, and nearly 150 per cent higher than in China.

Those places that have adopted Green policies have discovered “energy poverty.” 

Daily life under the Green New Deal would not only be more crowded, it would likely also leave more people poorer. Virtually all places like California, Germany, as well as the EU, that have made dramatic moves towards a ‘renewable’ energy policy also suffer higher prices and rising levels of ‘energy poverty’. The Jacques Delors Institute estimates that already some 30million Europeans cannot adequately heat their homes this winter. Deutsche Bank’s senior economist Eric Heyman predicts the green policies will create ‘a European mega-crisis’ and a ‘noticeable loss of welfare and jobs’.

Kotkin closes on a sobering note. In their mindless zeal to save the planet the Green New Dealers have ignored the imperative to preserve society.

Eventually a conflict between red-leaning greens and the plutocratic ‘green’ oligarchy seems likely. If this divide opens widely, there may be an opportunity for a more reasoned, gradual and less socially regressive environmental approach – one focused on preserving the health not only of the Earth, but society as well.

Stuttering Joe Biden?

 Joe Biden at the Climate Summit:

Monday, April 26, 2021

The Problem of Grade Inflation

As for the ongoing effort to destroy the minds of America’s children-- and yes, I do know that that sounds harsh, but sometimes the truth hurts-- one of the most effective methods is grade inflation. So says high school teacher Shane Trotter in a Quillette article, and he is surely correct. Via Maggie's Farm.

You see, it’s all about self-esteem. Educators no longer care to educate; they believe that they are ersatz therapists. They bloat children’s self-esteem with empty praise and cannot figure out why these students become dysfunctional adults and gullible cult followers. 

Better yet, children who have never been graded fairly do not know whether they know anything or whether their teachers are giving them good grades because it’s easier. 

Trotter continues, pointing out that college students have gotten into the habit of not making the effort, of not putting in the work to learn anything. If they can get stellar grades for doing nothing, why would they do something?

In a decade working in high schools, I’ve seen a consistent push to reduce writing, reading, and note-taking, expand late work windows, lighten workloads, dilute the weight of assessments, and, most fundamentally, to eliminate failures. The same can be seen at the university level. According to an article in the 2020 Journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology, the amount of time college students have spent on academic work has gone from 40 hours per week in 1960, to 27 in 2003, to just 15 hours in 2008. During that time, the average grade has risen in both public and private universities, while national SAT scores continue to decline. Today’s graduates are not smarter or more prepared for their future, but at least they think they are.

Yes, indeed. They think they are. But when reality dawns on their pea brains, they become angry. They tend to blame the system or the country or the world for the fact that they have been fed a bunch of lies about their own abilities. As for competing against their peers around the world, not a chance.

The roots of these trends can be found in generations of self-esteem culture and a gradual educational shift from a standards-driven approach to one of customer service. As consumerism enveloped society, our schools became more concerned with perception and appeasement than learning. School, in the eyes of parents and educators alike, became something to game—the lessons taught an arbitrary ritual that stood between students and the diploma they needed.

So, there are no fair standards any more. Obviously, if students were graded fairly some would do better than others. And we don’t want that, do we? And if those who did better belonged to one ethnic or racial group, we would immediately hear that standards are racist. 

Didn’t Larry Summers, a veteran of several Democratic administrations, get some serious blowback when he, newly installed as president of Harvard University, called out certain professors for inflating student grades?

Still, schools are moving further away from standards. Walk into any high school professional development and you won’t hear discussion about what skills students will need for an uncertain future or about specific competencies that students are struggling to master. Instead, there is a parade of new strategies to make learning effortless. 

So, we need academic standards, fair standards, ones that cast judgment on student performance. And yet, our therapy culture holds that it is bad to judge, and therefore, many educators inflate grades in order not to be overly judgmental.

Still, if you want to improve public education the place to start is by enforcing standards. We can debate what should be learned, how it should be taught, when, with how many breaks, or what the environment should look like, but when the grades stop reflecting mastery, the entire operation becomes performative. Grading becomes less meaningful. Teachers play the role of thermostat, cooling off grades as soon as they detect too many are in “hot water.” As a teacher of 20 years recently vented, “Just tell me what you want the grades to look like. I can make the breakdown whatever you like.”

Evidently, children who cannot do arithmetic are not going to be prepared for the jobs of the high tech future. In truth, they will only be prepared to break into shops and to steal luxury goods-- and then, of course, to burn the stores down:

Thus, education devolves into a lot of activity for the sake of activity, with little recognition for what skills truly matter or for the ability of education to improve lives. The same has happened with standardized testing. When improving education becomes a priority, states roll out some new testing regime. The test is supposed to better assess how well students are learning, but the grading criteria are manipulated so that it is very difficult to see how well students have actually learned.

When grades are distorted, they stop delivering feedback that would help teachers to accurately assess what was learned, students to accurately determine how well they are learning and prompt greater effort, and the entire system to adapt to the needs of students. This is especially the case among low-achieving students who are often passed through high school without developing the ability to write intelligible emails or to do basic addition. I’m constantly amazed by how many high-school athletes I train who simply cannot add weight totals in their head.

Trotter offers his solution to this problem:

Assign grades based exclusively on academic performance—the quality of the writing, the accuracy of the math equation, the understanding of the historical themes. Grade everything for mastery, alone, and consider it a breach of ethics to do otherwise. Most students would work far harder, learn far more, and come to enjoy it. They’d invest enough to cultivate more rewarding interests and become better citizens. Some would not rise to the occasion and would be left behind. But that is already happening.

So many students sit in algebra classes, lacking a grasp of basic arithmetic. We put students in positions where we know they won’t learn anything and, in the process, make a mockery of the entire system. What’s worse, this refusal to engage with reality precludes better adaptations—technical skill routes, reality-based community support initiatives, and focused remediation for those motivated to bridge gaps.

It makes a lot of sense. It is perfectly obvious if you think about it. Unfortunately, the culture is moving in precisely the opposite direction. Good luck, America.