Author Archive for JOHN ADAMS

Daily Bread for 3.27.23: The Whitewater School Board Election (6)

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of 43. Sunrise is 6:44 AM and sunset 7:15 PM for 12h 31m 25s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 33.9% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Urban Forestry Commission meets at 4:30 PM

 On this day in 1915, Typhoid Mary, the first healthy carrier of disease ever identified in the United States, is put in quarantine for the second time, where she would remain for the rest of her life.

Parents reasonably hope that their children receive education in language, mathematics, and science. Determining how much they’ve learned often falls to standardized tests, including the ACT. These standardized tests are imperfect yet useful measures of overall performance. 

In today’s Wisconsin, where the ACT is administered to high school students (almost) universally, the test is not simply a measure of college readiness. That test is, instead, now a measure of high school students’ readiness of graduation. Some test like this, the ACT or another, is important to answer this question: what have high school students learned, and how well have they learned it?

If too much is made of college, then too little is made of high school. Whitewater High School should, regardless of a graduate’s next destination, teach language, mathematics, history, and science so that ‘every graduate [remains] an engaged, lifelong learner.’  (A fine motto the Whitewater district should not have abandoned.)

And so, and so, the community has legitimate concern over test scores. At the March 11th school board candidates’ forum, the second question was about measurement of academic performance: 

Question 2, 30:17: How do you plan to address low ACT scores, and below proficient scores in math and reading?

(Some years ago, when the ACT was not administered universally, a few gentlemen in this town thought that boosting scores among a small number of test takers would reflect well on Whitewater.  Certainly not. The success or failure of a high school program is measured among all, not among a few. Now that larger numbers of high school students are required to take the ACT, opportunities for cherry-picking have thankfully vanished. See Whitewater’s ACT Participation Rate Near the Bottom of Area Schools, The Better, Reasoned Approach on ACT Scores, and Whitewater’s ACT Scores.)

It’s not school board candidates, however, who have the key obligation to assure that students’ understanding of fundamentals is sound. It’s the superintendent, administrators, and faculty members. They are the ones who are employed full-time in our district. Each and every regular school board meeting in this district should have a report on academic progress, and what is being done to improve learning, and support those who are teaching. 

Broken boilers, quotes for new doors, etc. — those are brief discussions. (Someone gets three quotes, the board votes after a quick review, and the matter is settled. Time is irrecuperable.) 

There should be a place at meetings for awards and recognitions, but that place should not be larger or longer than a regular discussion of substantive academic progress. 

When progress toward better scores becomes the centerpiece of each and every regular meeting, leaders in the district will have an unavoidable opportunity to offer improvement plans. The more industrious and creative among them will seize that opportunity.  more >>

Monday Music: NASA Data into Music

Via Here’s how it sounds when you turn NASA spacecraft data into music (‘The process of data sonification can help scientists better identify patterns in complex data and create beautiful music for the public’):

Since NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft became the first humanmade object to cross into interstellar space, researchers have poked and prodded at decades of its data beamed back to Earth from billions of miles away, gaining insight into the mysteries of our universe. Now, a particle physicist and professional flutist have transformed the waveform data of interstellar space — that dense soup of particles — into music fit more for a classical concert.

The new space jam, which premiered Thursday at the South by Southwest EDU conference in Austin, charts the moment Voyager 1 left the bubble around our sun and entered bustling interstellar space.

The melody, played by a solo flute, begins with smooth, connected notes (some using a legato) at a lower register to illustrate the data from inside our solar system. A gradual increase in loudness, or a crescendo, follows to indicate the spacecraft crossing the heliopause, or the boundary that leads into interstellar space. Then the melody becomes very high and changes shape, with more jumps to describe the busy interstellar space environment.

Daily Bread for 3.26.23: The Whitewater School Board Election (5)

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will see scattered snow and rain showers with a high of 38. Sunrise is 6:46 AM and sunset 7:14 PM for 12h 28m 30s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 25% of its visible disk illuminated.

 On this day in 1812, a political cartoon in the Boston-Gazette coins the term “gerrymander” to describe oddly shaped electoral districts designed to help incumbents win reelection.

These recent years have seen discussion after discussion of liberty, of freedom. Liberty has been as misused these last few years as any noun in memory. Liberty is an individual right or it’s no right at all. The liberty of a person that depends on the group, the mob, the horde, is not a right of being free from others’ control. That sort of liberty is a mere chance, a favor from the group to the individual that may be pulled away at the group’s discretion. 

The populists talk much about liberty so long as they describe it in their own exaggerated, group terms. See Defining Populism and Extreme Populism Presents as Trolling. They insist they represent all people, all families, overwhelming majorities, etc., and invert a traditional burden of proof to demand that others disprove them. 

The supposed rights of an exaggerated majority aren’t an expression of individual liberty; they’re a justification of mob rule.

There’s a view in Whitewater that our schools should let students (or their parents) settle disputes about behavior on their own. (That’s not merely the view of one candidate, but of backers of some of the other candidates.) 

Quite plainly: the extreme populists hope that if they can do whatever they want they’ll be able to intimidate others into conformity (students in the hallways, parents in meetings). All the while, these extremists will duplicitously describe themselves and their children as the real victims. 

The plain truth is that they’ve had some success with this approach already. Some of them crave more. So close they can almost taste it: what books can they ban, into what closets can they shove a harmless minority? 

Not everyone sees matters this way, even on the right. 

Consider a portion of the response of candidate Stephanie Hicks to Question 4 from March 11th school board candidates’ forum, video at 1:01:07 (“Minority and LGBT students exist in this community and deserve respect and to not feel ostracized. Can you commit to supporting all Whitewater students and making sure they have a voice? And then how would you work to make sure all students are accepted and supported?”):

Well, of course, my answer is yes. I mean, I think we forget, these are children, these are children 18 years and younger, who are sitting in our schools, who are coming to our educational institutions, wanting to learn, the desire to learn, the desire to be included, the desire to make friends. And of course, we have to, we have to be able to support all of those realms of whatever it is in. And so I always get hung up on the idea of like, we are there still children.

And I mean, no matter what your sexual preferences, your race, your religion, whatever the case is, it still remains the same. Like we have to be welcoming to all that enter our schools, we have no idea what happens outside the walls. And in some we do, what happens the other 20 hours that they’re at home, and all the things that they’re bringing in all those places, they’re bringing all that trauma they’re bringing, we have to be able to acknowledge that and support that.

And I think what I would do, again, I don’t disagree, I think we have to have policies in place that make sure every student that walks through that door is safe, and that they feel supported, and that they feel welcomed. And it is a safe haven. I mean, I’ve said this millions of times, and I’m a teacher, myself, sometimes the only safe haven a child has is school, because when they leave that school, we have no idea what they are facing, and it basing things that no child should have to face. Those are adult issues that most children are facing on a daily basis. And so we need to make sure that there is at least one place that they feel safe.

Stephanie Hicks and this libertarian blogger might have a hundred ideological differences, but there would be no disagreement between her remarks here and my own views. (Note well: education is not my field, and in contrast to her background as a teacher, I approach all this from a different professional perspective,) 

Now consider this portion of the closing remarks from candidate Chuck Mills, video at 1:29:03:

Well, I think that we need to get down to the business of building morale. In our school system, we got to pick it up. You got to make people proud of what they’re doing. You got to make people looking forward to coming to work every day in teaching and learning. We need to reward the exceptional people, students, faculty, administration. We need to celebrate this.

We need to get away from all these distractions. We have a lot of resources, a lot of good teachers and faculty administration and we need to get back to the to a model of simply educating and let’s make it fun. And let’s, let’s not worry about micromanaging every little single thing that’s happening around us or following a narrative, whether it be federal or union or whatever, it all comes down the pipeline, it sounds the same in every community. I don’t know where it came from, it wasn’t here 10 years ago, and all of a sudden, in 10 years, we have all this going on. Could we be the first ones to say, No, we don’t want to do it anymore. That’s kind of where I’m at with this thing. If we could all just get along and get back to the teaching these kids, making them feel comfortable.

These aren’t the same sort of answers. The former accepts that students are as they are; the latter erroneously speculates that students are what external forces have made them.

No and no again: the fundamental natures of these students come from within, not from without. One sees more of their natural expression because they have been, rightly, free to express themselves in their natures.  They’re not made; they’re born.

Now here’s a political truth about these two candidates. If Mills should win, he’ll receive less ongoing criticism for his views from the center-left (as they’ll write him off as out-of-touch) than Hicks will for her views from the extreme populists (as they’ll expect her to conform to their views despite her professional background).  

Upside down. more >>

Daily Bread for 3.25.23: The Whitewater School Board Election (4)

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be snowy with a high of 39. Sunrise is 6:47 AM and sunset 7:13 PM for 12h 25m 35s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 17.3% of its visible disk illuminated.

 On this day in 1995, WikiWikiWeb, the world’s first wiki, and part of the Portland Pattern Repository, is made public by Ward Cunningham.

There’s a concern in the Whitewater Unified School District of twenty thousand that only dozens of voices are heard. That concern appeared as a question at the March 11th school board candidates’ forum:

Question 1, 19:31: Are you committed to a yearly survey of families, students, graduates, community residents, faculty and staff about what they see as major strengths or shortcomings of the district and its schools. And are you committed to publicly sharing the results?

It’s true that a survey would have to be prepared professionally, with questions crafted plainly and without ambiguity. A serious survey requires serious design and distribution, and neither the school board nor Whitewater’s superintendent & administrators are skilled in the task. If there are to be annual surveys, and that’s a good idea, then they should be designed and disseminated with a professional standard of care. Whitewater can find the money for the work as she’s found (wasted, truly) money for less important work

Let’s assume, then, that they’ll be able to check the cushions at the district’s Central Office and scrape together what a proper survey requires. 

Question 1 of the candidates’ forum will then lead to something like Question 1A: How will the district treat the results of its properly-crafted survey? 

There is a difference between an accurate gauge of residents’ sentiments and receiving those sentiments as a mandate. If families, students, graduates, community residents, faculty, and staff demand action, must the district comply? 

The populists are one’s legitimate concern here. First, they habitually claim a majority position where it does not exist, so a poorly worded survey will allow them to exaggerate support for their positions. Second, they are intemperate by disposition, and see what they want to see. Along these lines, see Defining Populism and Extreme Populism Presents as Trolling. 

When the populists falsely insist that they are a majority, or when they demand action against viewpoints they dislike even if they are a majority, how will officials in this community respond? 

These aren’t simply educational questions. They are questions of law and political philosophy. 

Should the two center-right candidates (Stephanie Hicks and Christy Linse) in this race prevail (and they’ve a solid chance), then they will be under enormous pressure to go much further in action than any statements they, themselves, have made. The populist candidate (Chuck Mills) in this race has already made clear what he wants. 

A bit here about expression from principle: the positions that this libertarian blogger takes publicly are the positions that I hold privately. It might have seemed easier to some over the years to trim my sails to accommodate others. No, and no again. It would not have been easier. If every other of fourteen thousand in the city, or twenty thousand in the district, held contrary views, still I would hold fast if deliberation and reflection led me to opposition. It would be impossible for me to sleep well otherwise. There’s nothing special about my view on holding fast. All people who take political positions should decide for themselves how far they will go, yet no further. 

It weighs on my mind that others in this city, individuals expressing their natures (however different from mine), may see their rights under law swept away at the hands of an insatiable populism. This city is beautiful yet troubled, this district is beautiful yet troubled. The populists will make these troubles seem slight as against the actions they will demand against vulnerable individuals in the name (falsely invoked) of majoritarianism. 

Another question from the candidates’ forum makes this risk plain. That’s a subject all its own, for tomorrow. more >>

Daily Bread for 3.24.23: The Whitewater School Board Election (3)

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with a high of 47. Sunrise is 6:49 AM and sunset 7:12 PM for 12h 22m 40s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 10% of its visible disk illuminated.

 On this day in 1765, Great Britain passes the Quartering Act, which requires the Thirteen Colonies to house British troops.

The Whitewater school board race has attracted attention throughout the district of 20,444 residents, leading to a large number of candidates (12 on the ballot for the primary, 6 remaining on the general-election ballot for three board seats).  In an an election like ours, of high interest and intensity, where the candidates comprise roughly two ideological blocks, the out-of-office block could choose a few big issues or instead advance many issues, to see which ones gain traction.

The candidates running as challengers to the board’s existing alignment, as it turns out, have advanced fewer issues than some of their supporters. Indeed, it’s obvious that two challengers (Stephanie Hicks, Christy Linse) would do as well or better on their own than with the help of some of their professed supporters. Indeed, their own efforts served them well in the primary, and at the candidates’ forum on March 11th it was clear yet again that both are more disciplined than their most ardent backers. (Both Hicks and Linse present as candidates of the center-right, but some of their supporters are much farther right, as is the third conservative candidate, Mills.) 

Three of the questions from the candidates’ forum attracted less interest from most candidates (and notably Hicks and Linse) than presumably for those who posed the questions. The question about future referendums was one of those three, and I posted about that question yesterday. 

The other two were about dual-language learning and CRT:

Whitewater Schools’ Candidates’ Forum 3.11.23, video at 42:17 for a question about dual-language learning (“Would you support a dual language program in schools? And does our district and community have the resources to put in dual language learning?”).

Whitewater Schools’ Candidates’ Forum 3.11.23, video at 1:05:45 for a question about CRT (“What is CRT to you? How does it differ from teaching the real and sometimes harsh truth of American history? And what is your opinion of having CRT, woke, and D E I in the Whitewater United Unified School District schools (DEI standing for diversity, equity and inclusion)?”). 

Candidate Lisa Huempfner spoke in support of dual-language learning, video at 46:55, while recognizing that a program like this takes time and should be an elective. (She is the only candidate in the race with professional experience in this field. Her remarks on the subject were informed and balanced.)  

No candidate voiced outright opposition to dual-language learning as an elective, and that’s the tell: they’re not as exercised over the topic as are some members of the community, whether strongly for or strongly against. 

CRT, critical race theory, drew neither passionate embrace nor rejection, as its not been taught in our schools, isn’t a K12 topic, and isn’t about to become one in Whitewater regardless of the composition of the next board. But CRT has become something like beauty (or, to detractors, ugliness) in the eye of the beholder: the eyes see what the heart wants them to see. (The people who believe they can find CRT in ordinary texts in Whitewater are the sort of people who think the Illuminati, the British Royal family, the Trilateral Commission, the Rothschilds, and George Soros run the world. They don’t, and in any event not one of them could find Whitewater, Wisconsin on a map.)

And so, and so… these topics (like the topic on future referendums) saw less critical commentary from the candidates than from some in the community. This begs the question, however, whether what the candidates profess now will be what officeholders do months from now. That’s a topic for later in this series.  more >>

Film: Tuesday, March 28th, 1:00 PM @ Seniors in the Park, Women Talking

Tuesday, March 28th at 1:00 PM, there will be a showing of Women Talking @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin Community Building:

(Drama) Rated PG13; 1 hour 44 minutes (2022)

A group of Mennonite women, who have been victims of sexual assault by a sect of men in their small Bolivian colony, come together after years of silence to form a secret council to discuss their options and ultimately their decision to seek their own justice. Its stars include Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Frances McDormand and Ben Wishhaw.

Based on the novel, this film received Oscar nominations for Best Film and Screenplay.

One can find more information about Women Talking at the Internet Movie Database.

Friday Catblogging: Brian the Cat Roams Plane after Escaping from Carrier

Serena Tara reports A Cat Went Viral for Escaping His Carrier & Roaming Freely on a Plane:

Brian had had enough of sitting around in the plane, so he went for a walk. Except, he wasn’t technically allowed to do so.

In this scenario, in fact, Brian is a gray-and-white cat, and during a JetBlue flight he was taking with his owners, he managed to escape his carry-on carrier and took a walk around the aircraft, to the amusement of fellow passengers and the flight crew.

Unfortunately for the cat, while many airlines allow travelers to bring a cat or small dog in the cabin, it is illegal for the animals to roam freely, and they must remain in carriers approved by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) during the flight.

Brian’s story first went viral on Twitter, when author Yi Shun Lai posted a photo of the soft-pawed rebel while he was being lifted by a flight attendant and brought back to his seat.

Daily Bread for 3.23.23: The Whitewater School Board Election (2)

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will see morning showers with a high of 46. Sunrise is 6:51 AM and sunset 7:11 PM for 12h 19m 45s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 3.9% of its visible disk illuminated.

 On this day in 1909, Theodore Roosevelt leaves New York for a post-presidency safari in Africa. The trip is sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and National Geographic Society.

There are 14,889 residents in Whitewater proper, and 20,444 within the boundaries of the larger Whitewater Unified School District. Two decades ago, a challenge to a school district referendum would have been the most significant political and social event in the district.

No longer.

A recent operational referendum generated less controversy than other issues the district now faces. This libertarian blogger supported that referendum, writing that 

For many years, in confident conviction as FREE WHITEWATER’s libertarian blogger, I have opposed school referendums, notably capital ones, for the Whitewater Unified School District. It is with equal confidence that I now urge my fellow residents to support the Whitewater Schools’ 2022 operational referendum.  The well-being of our students will best be served through operational stability, and, once assured, that stability will offer time for methodical adjustments in the district’s operation.

The rejection of this operational referendum — one that simply allows the district to continue needed services day-to-day — would plunge this district’s residents into destructive, internecine strife over budgets from one year to the next. Our community, managing through multiple challenges, would make no better choices, and find no better solutions, in the chaotic, uncertain political environment after a failed operational referendum. 

There is a profound difference between wanting change and fomenting disorder. We cannot burn this village to save it. Many years ago, using a different metaphor, the noted libertarian Sheldon Richman proposed that the only way to manage the ‘onion’ of government was to smash it completely. He was wrong: a reasonable man peels away parts of government deliberately and methodically only after careful reflection. Opposition to this referendum is an unreasonable smashing in the place of careful peeling.

See In Support of the Whitewater Schools’ Operational Referendum

It’s telling — and practical of the candidates at the March candidates’ forum for the Whitewater Schools’ board  — that not one of them made referendum questions the centerpiece of his or her remarks.

See Whitewater Schools’ Candidates’ Forum 3.11.23, video at 1:16:22 for a question about referendum spending (“As a member of the school board, will you support a future referendum to exceed revenue limits? If so, where would you direct this additional funding? And what will you do to address the rural community’s discontent with board spending habits and stop the 30 plus years of continuous referendums?’)   

Of course these candidates did not focus on yesterday’s bugbear. Although proponents of future referendums might see the success of the last referendum as a sign of progress, it’s nothing of the kind. Instead, a majority in this community understands, sensibly, that there are worse challenges before this district, and this community, than school spending

That’s not progress, however. It’s triage. more >>

Daily Bread for 3.22.23: The Whitewater School Board Election (1)

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will see scattered showers with a high of 50. Sunrise is 6:53 AM and sunset 7:09 PM for 12h 16m 49s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 0.8% of its visible disk illuminated.

 On this day in 1765, Parliament passes the Stamp Act that introduces a tax to be levied directly on its American colonies.

On March 11th, at the Whitewater City Hall, six candidates running for three seats on the Whitewater Unified School Board participated in a candidates’ forum. The Whitewater Area League of Women Voters sponsored the 90-minute event. Embedded immediately below is a video recording of the forum.

I’ve added the six questions that each candidate was asked, along with the timestamp at which that portion of the discussion begins. 

Consideration of this election, in this school district, with these candidates, begins with a record of their remarks as they presented them. 

Opening Statements, 7:50.

Question 1, 19:31: Are you committed to a yearly survey of families, students, graduates, community residents, faculty and staff about what they see as major strengths or shortcomings of the district and its schools. And are you committed to publicly sharing the results?

Question 2, 30:17: How do you plan to address low ACT scores, and below proficient scores in math and reading?

Question 3, 42:17: Would you support a dual language program in schools? And does our district and community have the resources to put in dual language learning?

Question 4, 54:46: Minority and LGBT students exist in this community and deserve respect and to not feel ostracized. Can you commit to supporting all Whitewater students and making sure they have a voice? And then how would you work to make sure all students are accepted and supported?

Question 5, 1:05:45: What is CRT to you? How does it differ from teaching the real and sometimes harsh truth of American history? And what is your opinion of having CRT, woke, and D E I in the Whitewater United Unified School District schools (DEI standing for diversity, equity and inclusion)?

Question 6, 1:16:22: As a member of the school board, will you support a future referendum to exceed revenue limits? If so, where would you direct this additional funding? And what will you do to address the rural community’s discontent with board spending habits and stop the 30 plus years of continuous referendums?

Closing Statements, 1:26:26. more >>

Daily Bread for 3.21.23: Libertarians, Bleeding-Heart Libertarians, and All that Lies Beyond

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with a high of 52. Sunrise is 6:54 AM and sunset 7:08 PM for 12h 13m 53s of daytime. The moon is new with 0.1% of its visible disk illuminated.

 The Whitewater Common Council meets at 6:30 PM

 On this day in 1952, Alan Freed presents the Moondog Coronation Ball, the first rock and roll concert, in Cleveland, Ohio.

In the language of our time, a person’s stated past positions are his priors. All people have priors; a few fundamental are ones worth stating now and again.

Of Libertarianism. From A Sketch on Libertarianism:

Libertarians are those who believe that liberty is the critical political value: that from personal freedom for all will come a productive, diverse, and fair society. Liberty is not the only political value, but we think it’s decisive of a good society. Rather than the compulsion of the state (through mandates, taxes and tariffs, restrictions on association, and brute force) we seek a world of free and voluntary interactions (in the marketplace and in private life) of moral equals.

Here you are: individual liberty, free markets, limited & open government, and peace (though free trade with friendly nations). 

We are the inheritors and defenders of an old tradition, stretching back so many centuries, long before the term libertarian was coined (it’s a relatively recent invention). 

Voluntary transactions and associations are the natural, and often spontaneous, result of human sociability. Most people are sociable and friendly, and if it were otherwise society would have remained small and primitive. We believe people can organize well and best when they left to their own choices. The foundation of a productive (and so prosperous) society is private activity, not state action. Better still, free, voluntary interactions are fair in a way that state compulsion is not. 

Consent. As we believe in voluntary, mutual  interactions, we believe necessarily in consent in romance and relationships. Forced sexual encounters (including encounters with those who are by law too young to consent) are wrong and should be punished at law. Nonconsensual romance isn’t romance — it’s criminal assault.

Defense of Self and Others. While there are a few pacifist libertarians (there’s a Quaker Libertarian group), almost all libertarians believe in a right to defend themselves, others, and the country.  

Libertarianism is a political position, about the importance of liberty. It is a movement that began to take modern form during the Enlightenment, while looking further back into the political writings of the Ancients. In this way, libertarians are part of a teaching of centuries, from millennia (long before the term ‘libertarian’ was coined.) 

Liberty for the libertarian is an individual liberty, and it is free individuals who thereafter assemble and associate as they choose. 

This political philosophy does not encompass all fields and pursuits (by its very nature, it is limited). Religion, philosophy, art, science, literature — all are, or should be, beyond a particular political teaching. 

Bleeding-Heart LibertariansThere’s more than one kind of libertarianism. Those called bleeding-heart libertarians are committed to a specific intellectual and moral project: to unite free-market teachings with social justice principles. John Tomasi’s Free Market Fairness explains this undertaking nicely (by referring to it as ‘market democracy’):

Market democracy combines the four ideas I just mentioned: (1) capitalistic economic freedoms as vital aspects of liberty, (2) society as a spontaneous order, (3) just and legitimate political institutions as acceptable to all who make their lives among them, (4) social justice as the ultimate standard of political evaluation.

Here is a simple way to begin thinking about this view: market democracy affirms capitalistic economic liberties as first-order requirements of social justice. Market democracy takes a fundamentally deliberative approach to the problem of political justification. It sees society as a fair system of social cooperation. Within such a society, citizens are committed to supporting political and economic institutions that their fellow citizens can join them in supporting, regardless of their particular social or economic status. Being “democratic” in this sense, market democracy affirms a robustly substantive conception of equality as a requirement of liberal justice.

Market democracy approaches social justice in an unusual way: signally, by affirming a powerful set of private economic liberties as among the basic rights of liberal citizens. Market democracy does not assert the importance of private economic liberty merely on instrumental grounds (for example, because such liberties are expected to lead to economic efficiency) or even from the idea that a society based on such liberties might satisfy some hoped-for distributional ideal (for example, as in the empirical claim that capitalism benefits the poor). Instead, market democracy affirms the moral importance of private economic liberty primarily on deliberative grounds: market democracy sees the affirmation of private economic liberty as a requirement of democratic legitimacy itself.

John Tomasi, Free Market Fairness  (2012).

(When Tomasi writes of a liberal tradition, he’s describing classical liberalism, not contemporary American categories of left and right.) 

It’s no simple task, as this amounts to reconciling positions traditionally viewed as in opposition to each other. The project amounts to an understanding that these seemingly contrary perspectives can (and should be) reconciled.

There’s much ignorant trolling in America these days, in which those with a little reading but a great deal of hubris hurl insult after insult, often misusing terms and concepts along the way. That approach is meant to impress, intimidate, or somehow deter. A low approach doesn’t work on those who both by nature and nurture approach these topics with sangfroid. Part of this is simply one’s nature. A mongoose does not prevail against a cobra because it’s a ‘better’ animal; it prevails because of a natural agility, thick coat, and immunity to snake venom. (Practice on a few snakes may, however, improve the mongoose’s technique, as does practice among humans in their own pursuits.) 

Whitewater. As I hold to libertarianism, and to a bleeding-heart libertarian project, it’s unsurprising that I should see limits on what public institutions in Whitewater (city, school district, or university) can accomplish on their own. The federal government, or the state government, could by spending enough undeniably transform a small town. (A government-directed transformation would not be wise, but for a small town it would be possible.)

In Whitewater, however, it should be obvious to reasonable observers that no local government effort, no work of any public institution, would now be enough to heal this beautiful city. Perhaps once, but no longer. A focus only on the proper limits of government in the city is necessary but insufficient. 

Necessary: the basic public offices and public goods of the city must be distributed equally. There is more work to be done on this front — this city belongs to all and yet none, so to speak. The persistent efforts of a few to help themselves to more, and place themselves at the front of the line for offices and public opportunities, demands consideration.

Yet more is needed: Work beyond government, however, is now critical for Whitewater’s future. 

I’ve written this way for years. Whitewater’s boosters in the Aughts squandered the city’s opportunities, and we’ve now fallen into socio-economic conditions that local government action alone cannot heal. The populists who’ve come along through the elephant graveyard, insatiable for a culture war no one will win, will prove even worse for Whitewater. 

The way to community health requires more than politics, commentary, or reporting. See from FREE WHITEWATER, What Ails, What Heals, Waiting for Whitewater’s Dorothy Day, Something Transcendent, and in the MeantimeAn Oasis Strategyand The Community Space

One argues over politics, in contemporary Whitewater especially, to clear the path for something more curative. 

more >>

Daily Bread for 3.20.23: On ‘Woke’

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be windy with a high of 47. Sunrise is 6:56 AM and sunset 7:07 PM for 12h 10m 58s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 2.2% of its visible disk illuminated.

 Whitewater’s Alcohol & Licensing Committee meets at 4:45 PM and the Library Board meets at 6:30 PM. Whitewater’s School Board goes into closed session shortly after 6 PM, to resume in open session at 7 PM.

 On this day in 1815, after escaping from Elba, Napoleon enters Paris with a regular army of 140,000 and a volunteer force of around 200,000, beginning his “Hundred Days” rule.

David French writes of three possible usages of ‘woke’:

It’s the third usage that one hears from vapid populists and trolls: they decry a term that they won’t or can’t define properly. They use woke and wokeism the way they use Marxist/Communist/Socialist/RadicalLeft/Whatever/Whatever: as one nebulous catchall term because through ignorance, indolence, or incompetency they cannot or will not define the term precisely. French, in a single tweet, did better than a thousand bad-faith, low-effort populists.

A proper high-school education should prepare students to define terms concretely.  

Cat and Owl Have Intense Stare Down Through Window:

Daily Bread for 3.19.23: Extreme Populism Presents as Trolling

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of 39. Sunrise is 6:58 AM and sunset 7:06 PM for 12h 08m 02s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 6.7% of its visible disk illuminated.

There will be a candidate forum for Whitewater’s municipal judgeship at 1 PM at City Hall.

 On this day in 1918, the US Congress establishes time zones and approves daylight saving time.

There are times, and this is one, when one would rather be wrong than right. A careful and repeated discussion at FREE WHITEWATER of the excesses of populism must have seemed, to some, overwrought. When describing extremes from other places, residents in Whitewater could sincerely, if mistakenly, reply that those extremes would not — could not — appear in Whitewater.

For those who doubted: seeing is believing. A mere description of a hyena might seem exaggerated; to see that scavenger with one’s own eyes, however, is doubtless an unsettling sight to those who formerly doubted.  

At its most immoderate, populism presents as trolling, as writing and speech deliberately offensive or provocative. A few characteristics of these populist trolls appear below. 

Emotional. Tense, edgy, and thin-skinned, they’re vulnerable to slights real and imagined. How odd: all these supposedly big, bad, butch guys quickly screaming that they’ve been insulted. Our forefathers argued and debated acerbically as they built a civilization across a continent. These sorry populist types have conniptions after even mild criticism. 

The Most Talkative Are the Least Articulate. The ones who speak or write (as they have a right to do) are less skilled in their native language than those who sit behind the scenes. It’s the opposite of professional sports. Rather than the best among their number rising to the top, the worst of their ilk do so. 

Hypocritical and Projecting. They accuse others of what they habitually (and gleefully) do. 

Political Even When Avowedly Apolitical. Populism is a political movement, often with those of limited educational or moral formation. (If they knew more, they wouldn’t be populists, let alone trolls.) History, religion, law, economics are expressed, if at all, only though the populist’s feelings and desires. 

Unwilling to Accept Traditional Refutation (Even from Ideological Allies). If on the left, they’ll accept no criticism, even from others on the left. If on the right, they’ll accept no criticism even from others on the right. Populism is an emotional form of politics, and the extreme populist will not see to reason even from professionals (doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc.) who are are otherwise ideologically similar. (Has someone done a study on how populists fare in long-term relationships? Supposition: they wind up in family court more frequently than non-populists,) 

(Added afternoon 3.19) An Inverted Burden of Proof.  While reasonable people respect the requirement that those who assert must prove, the populist turns this principle on its head by insisting that others must disprove his or her claims. The populist will insist that he or she represents a majority (usually a huge majority) while offering no proof of a majority position, or other numerical claims (biggest this, most that, everyone knows, etc.). This failure to adhere to a recognized burden of proof comes from ignorance (doesn’t know basic principles of evidence), indolence (too lazy to learn basic principles of evidence), or incompetency (rare cases evincing a lack of reasoning ability).   

Insatiable. Can’t stop, won’t stop. 

Feet or Throat. I’ve previously quoted Churchill’s use of an old expression to describe the disposition of the populists (especially the ones who descend into trolling):

Churchill, quoting a saying of others, once remarked to the U.S. Congress that

The proud German army has by its sudden collapse, sudden crumbling and breaking up, unexpected to all of us, the proud German army once again proves the truth of the saying “The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet.” 

So it is with populism: split in both outlook and in demeanor. 

Note well: When a hyena starts chewing on your throat, it does no good to offer that foul creature some ALPO® as a substitute. 

 Long overdue — International criminal court issues arrest warrant for Russian president Vladimir Putin:

more >>

Daily Bread for 3.18.23: Declaration, Persuasion, Narration

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will see scattered flurries with a high of 27. Sunrise is 7:00 AM and sunset 7:05 PM for 12h 05m 06s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 14.1% of its visible disk illuminated.

The Polar Plunge returns to Whitewater today at the Cravath Lakefront

 On this day in 1990, in the largest art theft in US history, 12 paintings, collectively worth around $500 million, are stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

People speak and write for many reasons. A few broad reasons come to mind. Speech can be declarative, persuasive, or narrative. There is nothing special about a typology like this — there are many tried-and-true typologies. (Aristotle, for example, famously divided  persuasion alone into one of three kinds: logos, ethos, pathos.) 

In the first case, someone speaks to make a statement. The declaration may be well or poorly received, but at bottom the goal is to speak or write what one believes. Much speech is like this.

In the second type, one speaks to persuade. Persuasion may involve converting others to one’s position, or to prevent others from abandoning one’s current position. In either case, the speaker’s goal is to move someone to action (or prevent action the speaker considers undesirable).

The third type, narration, is the rarest of all. Here one simply recounts events. Biases are unavoidable, but someone sincerely narrating tries to be as unbiased as possible (that is, to succumb to as few biases as possible).

In an intense cultural conflict, of the kind that brings people out to protest, persuasion and narration wither, and only declaration remains.

Futile statements in a culture war are statements from one side telling the other side to stop, be quiet, go away, etc.. By the time it’s a culture war, one side is not about to listen to the other. A faction may relent from exhaustion, but neither side will relent solely from the arguments of opponents.

Facebookers digging into the other side on these topics may declare poorly, and they persuade never. Fair enough to speak one’s mind; delusional to think others will yield for having done so. When someone think he needs to win an argument now, he should be reminded that now will have passed away by the time that very word is spoken.

Honest to goodness, disputants should resonate some sense. There may be a possibility of persuading a few uncommitted people, but the other side on these questions will not be persuaded once the conflict has begun.

Those who are apoplectic over every single moment will decline into chronic apoplexy after dozens, scores, or hundreds of those moments.

The mystery of the disappearing lymphocytes:

more >>