Racial Preferences, Communist Chic, And On Habits Becoming Character-Watch Out For Yourselves

A huge problem I see is that many knowledge claims used to describe and inspire institutional change fail to adequately understand and describe the institutions we have, let alone the deeper problems of Nature, human nature, and authority.

A lot of our insititutional arrangements are up for renewal, undergoing serious stress tests; open to much scrutiny.

There are and will be marginalized people, of course, and they will often organize into groups, full of complex individuals, competing factions, and conflicting aims.  Typically, the reaction to a particular injustice or grievance (removal of direct harm and fear of direct loss) tend to be the strongest motivators.

Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘Making The Right Move On Racial Preferences

It’s hard to hear true things about ourselves, because they hurt, but the hurt is often the only way any one of us gets better.  This is best done by family, friends and loved ones, in supportive environments.

Many people saying true things at/about us don’t have our best interests at heart, but some of those things may still be true.

‘Preferences are not the most effective way to create diverse classrooms; raising the academic competitiveness of minority students is. That will happen only when the education establishment and the media stop concealing the problem.’


Radical chic becomes Communist chic? The logic was always there, but the drift tends to be slow: Today’s low buy-in grievance and attention-getting activism become tomorrow’s deeper beliefs and voting blocs.

Institutional weakness can lead to the rise of bad ideas, not just suggestions for improvement:

As I see the world, if the logic used to guide any group becomes radical and revolutionary, seeking to destroy all institutions of ‘the oppressor,’ or perhaps remaking the world through visions of collectivist utopianism full of perfectible human beings, then we’ve all got problems.

These are generally very inefficient and costly ways to address problems, and generally they lead to horrific outcomes.

There will always be closed-mindedness and narrow-thinking within academic and political institutions, as well as some nepotism and favoritism, because that’s what each one of us is:  Closed-minded at times, potentially conflicted within our hearts and often conflicted in our heads between old and new ideas, profound truths and passing trends.  I suspect each of us should easily be able to recall a time we’ve been wrong, hilariously misinformed, or subtly transformed by the people and ideas around us.

If thoughts become actions, and actions become habits, and habits become character, there’s really no effective way to incentivize individuals from the outside through collective and group identity; through political projects and bureaucratic committee, without incredible costs, downsides and dangers.

Idealists usually invite you to join in their idealism, not the consequences of their idealism.

From The Liberal Bastions-James Baldwin, Often

Slight Update And Repost-From The New Criterion: Theodore Dalrymple Reviews Ta-Nehisi Coates ‘Between The World And Me’

Administrative Hierarchy And Problems Within The Pursuit Of Liberal Ideals-A Few Links

Heather MacDonald pits the goals of diversity and equality (pursued zealously within many an administrative hierarchy) against the quest for knowledge in the sciences. If you thought that begrudging respect for the sciences, or at least some basic understanding and neutrality were givens, you might want to think again.

I’m fairly certain that many people, in pursuit of their religious beliefs and in holding sacred the metaphysical doctrines which frame those beliefs, can and do bear hostility to the natural sciences, free-thinkers, and any challenge to those beliefs.  The truth of such a statement seems self-evident.

But often in many educated circles, the ‘Grand Inquisitor‘ scene from the Brothers Karamazov seems to be playing on an endless loop, and all the darkness within the human heart, all the potential for stupidity, corruption, and incompetence within human organizations (the incredible difficulty of design and stability), is still directed against the Church (not the Mosque, of course) or some barely recognizable conception of authority.

Many current dangers are conveniently ignored, misunderstood, and/or tacitly supported under an umbrella of political idealism.  Movements which support radical and revolutionary freedom tend to shift the beliefs and moral sentiments beneath the umbrella and within our institutions, but with little discussion of the costs involved.

Question the telos at the end of the rainbow, for which the umbrella will one day be shed, and all the old human problems return.

Timothy Fuller On Ken Minogue’s take on this endless quest, and its dangers:

‘For Minogue, freedom led to “oppositionality,” a topic he explores in “The Conditions of Freedom and the Condition of Freedom.” Oppositionality is the idea that citizens may exercise an independent judgement on questions of their obligations that were once off-limits for discussion; everyone simply accepted them. Opposition and is seen both as a “disruptive and dynamic” part of freedom but also a threat to it – “fundamentally parasitic” on society and often praising dissent for its own sake.

This leads naturally to “The Modern Liberal’s Casebook,” which contains Minogue’s well-known comparison of liberalism to the legend of St George and the Dragon. In his telling, St. George didn’t know when to stop fighting battles and grew breathless in pursuit of smaller and smaller dragons, as big dragons were harder to come by. In this Minogue is quite correct. Taking his analogy further, there must come a time when dragons become extinct and younger versions of St. George are misguided into pursuing chickens and other desirable species instead.’

It also seems individuals tend to come in out and of belief, whatever their experiences, choices, genetic and biological proclivities, personal commitments and obligations, languages, cultures and social circles.  This is to say nothing of basic self-interest. There are too many variables to count and I can’t proclaim to count nor understand them all (I doubt the social sciences can either, and I’m wary of the belief they can and/or should, at least in the context of popular culture).

I can say that trying to criticize and contextualize many modern and postmodern movements and thinkers seems a lonelier task at the moment, as is casting a skeptical eye upon many liberal political ideals currently reigning within many Western institutions.

Here’s another take, building upon an anti-Hegelian, pro-Kantian, pro-Popperian metaphysical platform:

‘Although Anglo-American philosophy tended to worship at the feet of science, the drift of academia to the left has led to characteristically totalitarian political attacks on science itself — this despite the leftist program to use “climate science” to impose a Sovietized command economy on energy and the tactic to smear climate skeptics, i.e. “Deniers,” through associaton with Creationism or Neo-Nazi Holocaust denial. None of that has stopped the “post-modern” move, which may even be called the “post-Copernican” move, where the “de-centering” of meaning and objectivity, returns the “marginalized” literary critic or theorist to the Ptolemaic center of the universe, whence modern science, now demystified and unmasked as an instrument of white, male, homophobic, Euro-centric oppression, had proudly thought to have dislodged an arrogant humanity. This has given new meaning to the words “obscurantism” and “sophistry.” Where the arrogance (let alone the intolerance and “extremism”) has settled now is all too plain to those familiar with American academic life, where a majority of American colleges have “speech codes” or equivalent regulations that openly violate the First Amendment.’

Heather MacDonald At Claremont McKenna Had To Have, Unfortunately, A Police Detail

She was able to speak for a while, before BLM protesters rushed the stage:

It strikes this blog that focusing on data and actual victims of crime in communities (robbery, theft, gang/turf/drug wars etc.), and by extension, how the police approach these problems is a very reasonable [topic] despite the genuine racial tensions all about.

It also deeply threatens one of the core planks of the activist worldview:  Namely, that an oppressed victim class must be led by activists against the oppressors who are using morally illegitimate state resources to punish them.  For such folks, the system was always racist and rotten to the core, and thus requires their moral, social and political vision of a just society and their political activism to make it right.

Damn those who disagree.

Unsurprisingly, this is probably how you get campus protesters, university enablers and sympathetic mobs emotionally, financially, and personally justified in stopping Heather MacDonald from speaking and requiring her to get a security detail.

Meanwhile, criminals, victims of crime, police officers and private citizens carry on.

Heather MacDonald: ‘The War On Cops’

C-Span interview with MacDonald on the book here.

Furthermore, as previously and often posted:

“First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.’

‘Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. ‘

‘Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. ‘

And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.”

-John Stuart Mill ‘On Liberty: Chapter II-Of The Liberty Of Thought And Discussion’

The Intellectual Cowardice Of The Crowd-Charles Murray At Middlebury College

Your Face-Data Has Been Processed For Future Reference And A Link To Richard Serra

Via Marginal Revolution: ‘Neural Network Learns To Identify Criminals By Their Faces

Of course, if they find the guy who mugged you, that would be great (or before he mugs you, even better, right?), but if there’s an error, or mismanagement of the system, that would be pretty awful.

San Francisco visualized crime data mapped as elevation from a few years back.

I’m guessing we’ll see more case law dealing with this as time goes on.

Computational Criminology And Predictive Policing.

‘Computational criminology seeks to address criminological problems through the use of applied mathematics, computer science and criminology. Methods include algorithms, data mining, data structures and software development.’

Limited Resources + Potentially Imminent Risk/Harm + Repeat Offenders/Learned Skills + Violence + Lots Of Room For Error = Too Much Practical Upside To Not Adopt Additional Means Of Fighting Crime.

Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘The Sidewalks Of San Francisco’

I suppose predictive analytics, big data, and machine learning are really only as good as the people using them.

What was that guy’s name…Nazi/Commie test-tube baby, megalomaniacal psychopathic genius…

One doesn’t merely send a squad car over to nab Max Zorin:

————
From The Spectator:

As posted:

Serra is a quite accomplished modern artist and sculptor often working in the ‘land-art,’ category, or site-specific pieces interacting with the viewer and the natural surroundings. Check out Hyperallergic’s visit to ‘Shift,’ a series of concrete forms he left in an Ontario field.

Here he is discussing a piece of his at 21 West Gagosian, or a densely-packed, carefully measured series of metal forms in a room.  What does the viewer experience in this space?:

Interview with Serra here.

Is modernism ‘the culture’ now?:

Heather MacDonald & Theodore Dalrymple-Two Sunday Links

Heather MacDonald: ‘The War On Cops’

Let’s not forget the victims of crime, and that in bad neighborhoods, it’s usually just a matter of time before something bad happens to you (even if you know people, I’m guessing):

‘Mac Donald gives voice to the many residents of high-crime neighborhoods who want proactive policing.’

If you’re going to focus on pain and injustice, difficult as it is, it’s probably best to keep a level head, and provide irrefutable evidence of the wrongs, nailing them to a post in public view.  Policing can be a risky business which deals with a violent subset of the population most of the time. Knowledge of facts and the law are probably your best allies.

Passionate intensity and endless protest can obviously muddy the waters, erasing the line between violent criminals and regular folks on the street.  Ultimately, this weakens whatever trust is there between the police, the neighborhood, and more importantly, all of civil society (the moral concern and inclusion into civil society [freedoms and responsibilities] that can lift people up and keep them striving for something better).

Crime is damaging, demoralizing, and dangerous.  Most criminals usually don’t care about the damage they’re doing…

C-Span interview with MacDonald on the book here.


In this blog’s view: It’s not that the social sciences don’t offer knowledge, insight and relief to people, it’s that the knowledge can be mistaken, and their use soon deployed in a system of incentives by policy advocates, politicians and people on the public take…with motivations of their own.

Proper context is key.

There aren’t many good answers to such tough problems, but tough, unsentimental thinking can often help the most; usually much more than proclamations coming from all the ‘right’ media outlets, suburbs and academia…declaring what the latest discoveries are and where people heads and hearts ought to be.

Theodore Dalrymple (pseudonym) worked in Britain as a prison doctor/psychiatrist, and explains his thinking about how to properly treat people as subjects responding to their environments and the incentives presented before them:

From The de Blasio Files: The Unions Are Supposed To Work Together In Supporting The People’s Future

Just a brief re-cap on some of ‘The People’ whom NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s been siding with:

First, a man changes over time, but this quote is from the NY Times:

‘Bill de Blasio, then 26, went to Nicaragua to help distribute food and medicine in the middle of a war between left and right. But he returned with something else entirely: a vision of the possibilities of an unfettered leftist government.

and:

‘His activism did not stop. In the cramped Lower Manhattan headquarters of the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York, where he volunteered, Mr. de Blasio learned to cause a stir. He and a ragtag team of peace activists, Democrats, Marxists and anarchists attempted to bring attention to a Central American cause that, after the Sandinistas lost power in a 1990 election, was fading from public view. “The Nicaraguan struggle is our struggle,” said a poster designed by the group’

Solidarity!

Here’s Liam Neeson on the horse-drawn carriage fiasco, which has been blown into quite the cause.

As of December 8th, de Blasio’s still pushing, and here’s a gem of a quote:

‘In New York, “animal politics always trumps any other issue except racial politics,” says Mitchell Moss, urban policy professor at New York University.’

Witness the spirit of one lone Irishman willing to stand-up for the dignity of honest work, the sacred bond between man and beast, and the nameless, faceless Joes (and the Teamsters) crushed under the bootheel of Big Red Bill DeBlasio, Big Parking and Big Animal Activism.

Earth-shaking stuff (yes, there’s a little sarcasm here):

—————————-

DeBlasio’s managed to get money set aside for universal Pre-K, so he’s siding with the teacher’s unions first, over many other interests.

Walter Russell Mead had an interesting analysis a while back, on some of what’s going on in New York City, and I think the conflict between police unions and their interests on one hand, and De Blasio and his interests on the other (activist, race-based protest movements and quite far Left coalitions of ‘the People’) can help to clarify some of what’s been going on lately.

‘The good government upper middle class, the entrenched groups with a solid stake in the status quo and the marginalized working or non-working poor with no prospects for advancement apart from the patronage of the state: this is the mass base of the blue electoral coalition — and the groups in the coalition don’t seem to like each other very much.

Ties That Bind

What all three groups share is a burning desire for more: a hunger and demand for ever larger amounts of government revenue and power.  Money and power for the government enable the upper middle class good government types to dream up new schemes to help us all live better lives and give government the resources for the various social, ecological and cultural transformations on the ever-expandable goo-goo to-do list that range from a global carbon tax to fair trade coffee cooperatives and the war on saturated fat.  All these programs (some useful in the Via Meadia view, others much less so) require a transfer of funds and authority from society at large to well-socialized, well-credentialed and well-intentioned upper middle class types who get six figure salaries to make sure the rest of us behave in accordance with their rapidly evolving notions of correct behavior.

The Times reporters represented the goo-goos at the Bronx courthouse.  Sixty years ago the reporters would have had more in common with the cops, but the professionalization of journalism has made these jobs the preserve of the college educated and the upwardly mobile in status if not so much in money.

The angry and determined unionized cops represent what used to be the heart of the blue coalition:  the stable urban middle middle class.  In the old days, this group included a much bigger private sector component than it does now.  The disappearance of manufacturing and the decline of skilled labor in most of New York means that the middle middle class, so far as it survives, depends largely on revenue from the state.  The cops, the teachers, the firefighters, the sanitation and transit workers: these are most of what remains of the backbone of what used to be the organized working class.

An interesting Heather MacDonald piece here:’

Police tactics have perhaps peaked as hot-button issue across the country, touching on issues of overreach and abuse of State power against individuals for many libertarians, and often abuse of power against individuals as members of minorities and victim-classes for many progressives. Regardless of the sad facts of the Eric Garner case, which has been ruled a homicide, some of the pressure is going to come against current NYPD Commisioner William Bratton’s Broken Windows policing strategy which MacDonald has already written about.

From her current piece:

‘The anti-cop forces have shifted the focus of attention from the tactics used to subdue Garner after he resisted arrest—which is where attention should stay—to the very enforcement of misdemeanor laws themselves, such as the one against illegal cigarette sales. The New York Times’s lead editorial on Saturday, “Broken Windows, Broken Lives,” exemplifies this opportunistic turn against quality-of-life enforcement: “How terrible it would be if Eric Garner died for a theory, for the idea that aggressive police enforcement against minor offenders . . . is the way to a safer, more orderly city.”

Progressive sentiment and the need to keep the crime-rate low may pull de Blasio in competing directions, MacDonald reasons. I’m guessing that De Blasio can’t be seen as too far ahead of his activist coalitions, nor the kinds of sentiment expressed at the Times.

Some were speculating that the Big Apple is headed back to 70′s-style crime rates, fear and seediness. Myron Magnet, at the City Journal, recalls what it was like for him during those days, and hopes De Blasio stays strong on crime so that NYC can keep heading in the right direction.

From this NY Times previous piece on James Q Wilson’s theory:

‘But he was best known for his research on the behavior of police officers and lawbreakers. Probably his most influential theory holds that when the police emphasize the maintenance of order rather than the piecemeal pursuit of rapists, murderers and carjackers, concentrating on less threatening though often illegal disturbances in the fabric of urban life like street-corner drug-dealing, graffiti and subway turnstile-jumping, the rate of more serious crime goes down.’

MacDonald is still focusing on the victims of crime.

***Bonus-If you like hearing two local Daily News reporters discuss NYC politics with bemused and fairly cynical eyes, regardless of your political leanings, this one’s for you.

.Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘The Sidewalks Of San Francisco’ Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘Radical Graffiti Chic’

Some Links On 5Pointz, Graffiti, & The Arts–Property Rights & The Rule-Of-LawSo, You’re Telling Me What’s Cool?-Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal: ‘Banksy In Neverland’

Two Monday Links: ‘Victimology And Forming Alliances In Asia’

Michael Totten on Vietnam: ‘Will The U.S. Foster A Natural Ally‘:

This recent conflict may well blow over, but the tension that sparked it in the first place is not going anywhere. Vietnam and China both claim the Paracel Islands, and the Spratly Islands farther south are claimed by yet four more countries in Southeast Asia, but China claims almost the entire sea, more than a thousand miles from its own mainland, well south of Vietnam, and nearly all the way down to the coast of Malaysia.’

This will be tougher to navigate.

Heather MacDonald: ‘The Microagression Farce:

‘Any student who believes that the university is an “unsafe,” racially hostile environment is unlikely to take full advantage of its resources and will likely bear a permanent racial chip on his shoulder. Becoming an adult means learning the difference between a real problem and a trivial one.’

Ideologues are attracted to existing bureaucratic and institutional structures, like college campuses, where they aim to have permanent impact.

Victimhood is a state of mind, incentivizing people to deal with genuine and perceived injustices through the lens of ideology, where they are expected to form a permanent class of the oppressed.

More broadly speaking, life still ain’t fair.