It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.
A few years spent dinning the virtues of free trade agreements and supra-national organizations into the undergraduate minds of America's future elite left me with a small but abiding obsession with "the curve."
What bothered me at the time was how the curve meant that, one way or another, a set number of my students would have to get "bad" grades (C+ or B-). These were perhaps not a fate worse than death, but could nonetheless be traumatizing Destroyers-of-GPA for the kind of high-achieving non-legacy students that made it to that school. My nightmare was that I'd have to slap such a grade on some perfectly average (i.e., B-B+) student, simply for having the bad luck of winding up in an especially good section. Now, this never happened, but the chance that it might haunted me. So much, in fact, that --I eventually realized-- during the first weeks of every quarter I would subconsciously cast a basilisk-eye on my sections, trying to pick out which students I'd likely be able to consign to the "loser" grades with a good conscience. Put another way, in grading under the curve I was in the business of manufacturing losers, and I was relieved whenever the course material was difficult enough --or the human material dim enough-- that I could fulfill this role without actual injustice.
So far, so much mnemonic irrelevance. I only bring this up because I think there might be a broader dynamic at work in societies where the consensus becomes that "average is over". That stigmatizing the average and adulating the elite produce unwelcome phenomena such as rampant cheating is well known. Less so, I think, is how a great deal of potentially useful endeavor goes into subjects or activities that are desirable primarily for their purely numerical quality of producing a few winners and a bunch of non-winners. Below the break, two examples, one from the military and one from professional economics (relevant sentences bolded). Read more about Elites Markers and Elite Makers
I posted this over at Naked Capitalism and [lambert blushes modestly] I think it's a tour de force. But readers over there didn't really want to talk about the central theme, which I hope you are able to discern. I'd like to know what you all think.
Not only can I not even pretend to be a lawyer, venturing into a theoretical discussion of identity politics would, for me, rather like trying to operate high-speed machine tools when I don't have any training. So I'm not going to do either of those things. Rather, I want to take a layperson's look at Justice Kennedy's opinion in Obergefell, which seems to find a right to dignity in the penumbras of the Constitution (rather like the much-abused right to privacy), and tease out some implications of that line of thought. Kennedy's opinion is thirty-three pages long, and I did fight my way through it, but I found three paragraphs of Kennedy's "soaring language" (two at the beginning, one at the end) especially striking.
From the introduction to Kennedy's Obergefell opinion, the first paragraph (page 6, here in PDF):
The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their . The petitioners in these cases seek to find that liberty by marrying someone of the same sex and having their marriages deemed lawful on the same terms and conditions as marriages between persons of the opposite sex.
The second paragraph (page 8):
From their beginning to their most recent page, the annals of human history reveal the transcendent importance of marriage. The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and to all persons, without regard to their station in life. Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most Read more about Obergefell v. Hodges, Identity, and Dignity
I don't care if Rosa Rugosa aren't heirloom and are invasive! They bloom prolifically, smell nice, and the town can't kill them with road salt! (Here we see that roses have the same "body plan" as poppies.) Read more about In the garden: Beach roses
P.G. Sittenfeld spent an hour of his Saturday night making a stump speech to about 7,000 of his followers -- on Twitter.
Sittenfeld, the 30-year-old Cincinnati Councilman running for Senate, sent out several dozen tweets around 6 p.m. Saturday that detailed the policies he said he planned to champion if elected.
Black lives matter, but not as much as gay marriage.
A Mother Jones Contributor titles this "The Gays Won the Civil War", and who can argue? Obviously black people haven't. Unsurprisingly, the artist is an upper middle class white man from New York City. Read more about This Month in Co-Opted Symbolism
Below the break is something I copied out the other day, from Hugh Trevor-Roper's letters, for a mentor of mine who recently lost an election in a State where one'd think a very soft social science shouldn't risk putting safe nonentities in leadership positions.
Since the cost of reproducing my labor in this regard is zero, I copy-paste it case any academic types find it funny. Read more about An Academic Election
The poll, sponsored by Trib Total Media, shows Sestak with 34.2 percent to 28.5 percent for Toomey. The poll has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.
Some 50,000 blacks in the state are barred by law from working in 20 occupations that require a professional license because of prior criminal convictions, unable to even apply for government approval to cut hair, mow lawns or unclog drains.
My Email to the Trump Campaign (Requests to fund 2 pro-democracy tools, which will also help Trump win)
Here is the email I sent to the Trump campaign, with some minor editing. Fox News has Trump polling #2. (As a side note, can you imagine the debate fireworks if Trump wins the Republican nomination, and Sanders the Democratic nomination?) If anybody has any other ideas for potential funders, go ahead and leave a comment. Read more about My Email to the Trump Campaign (Requests to fund 2 pro-democracy tools, which will also help Trump win)