13.12.17

TAIL TRACK.

Barring signal troubles, links to any posts of substance ought to work.

ARCH DELUXE.

Norfolk Southern have replaced a vintage girder bridge at Portageville, New York, with a photogenic arch bridge.


Norfolk Southern Corporation photograph retrieved from Trains, THE Magazine of Railroading.

Higher, faster, stronger.
The $75 million bridge replaces the former Erie Railroad Portageville Bridge, an often-photographed iron-and-steel landmark built in 1875. It stands more than 230 feet above the Genesee River in New York’s Letchworth State Park.

...

The new span, built 75 feet south of the old truss bridge, allows NS to run industry-standard 286,000-lb. cars over the Southern Tier line, up from the current 273,000-pound limit. Trains can move across the bridge at 30 mph, up from 10 mph on the old span.

The line carries about a dozen trains per day and is a key link in Norfolk Southern’s route to New England from the west. It also handles some freight bound for Canada and northern New Jersey.
No passenger trains will be delayed. The Norfolk Southern main line between Chicago and New York City uses the old New York Central between Chicago and Cleveland, the old Nickel Plate between Cleveland and Buffalo, and the Southern Tier is the former Erie-Lackawanna line, via Binghamton, and then some odd routing that avoids either Scranton and Port Jervis.

Apparently, railroad infrastructure can receive public moneys, even in Trump-unfriendly jurisdictions.
The bridge was funded through a public-private partnership among Norfolk Southern, the New York State Department of Transportation, and the Federal Highway Administration.

At 2:20 p.m. Monday, Norfolk Southern’s 36T, an eastbound merchandise train running from Buffalo to Allentown, Pa., with stops in Corning and Binghamton, N.Y., became the first to run across the new bridge.

“This is a very exciting day for Norfolk Southern and for the future of freight rail service in New York’s Southern Tier region,” said James A. Squires, NS chairman, president and chief executive “The successful completion of this bridge is an excellent demonstration of how the public and private sectors can work together on freight transportation projects that generate significant public benefits and are vital to U.S. commerce. It’s also a testament to Norfolk Southern’s robust bridge program and the ingenuity of engineers and railroaders.”

“The new Portageville Bridge complements the beauty of Letchworth State Park while providing safer, more efficient freight rail service,” said New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. “Through a combined effort with Norfolk Southern, government leaders and the public, we have built a modern arch bridge which will support economic growth in the region and continue our drive to strengthen and modernize transportation infrastructure across the state for generations to come.”
The old bridge will be removed. As the railroad passes through a state park, and ferroequinologists have been taking pictures of trains here for years, local authorities are looking forward to enhanced tourism and recreational activities on the river.  "The bridge’s arch design minimizes the railroad’s environmental footprint in the Genesee River Gorge and complements the scenic vistas found in Letchworth State Park."

THE FACULTY ARE THE STEWARDS OF THE UNIVERSITY.

That has long been my stance, and a recent (Instalanched) essay by two exiles from Evergreen State College explains, in detail, why that must be the case.
In 2015, Evergreen hired a new president. Trained as a sociologist, George Bridges did two things upon arrival. First, he hired an old friend to talk one-on-one to members of our community — faculty, staff, and students. We talked about our values and our visions for the college. But the benefit of hindsight suggests that he was looking for something else. He was mapping us, assessing our differences, our blind spots, and the social tensions that ran beneath the surface. Second, Bridges fired the provost, Michael Zimmerman. The provost, usually synonymous with the vice president for academics, is the chief academic officer at an institution of higher education. Zimmerman would have disapproved of what Bridges had in mind and would have had some power to stop it. But he was replaced by a timid (though well-liked) insider who became a pawn due to his compromised interim status and his desire not to make waves.

Having mapped the faculty and fired the provost, Bridges began reworking the college in earnest. Surprise announcements became the norm as opportunities for discussion dwindled.
That the faculty couldn't raise more objections to the purging of the provost, or take steps in committees and faculty councils to stop the usurpations, suggested the faculty had long ago abdicated powers that were properly theirs.  And faculty, no matter how radical their politics, might be the fiercest protectors of the curriculum, if they'd but have kept those powers.
The president took aim at what made Evergreen unique, such as full-time programs. He fattened the administration, creating expensive vice president positions at an unprecedented rate, while budgets tightened elsewhere due to drops in student enrollment and disappearing state dollars. He went after Evergreen’s unparalleled faculty autonomy, which was essential to the unique teaching done by the best professors.

All of this should have been alarming to a faculty in which professors have traditionally viewed administrative interference in academic matters with great suspicion. But Bridges was strategic and forged an alliance with factions known to be obsessed with race. He draped the “equity” banner around everything he did. Advocating that Evergreen embrace itself as a “College of Social Justice,” he argued that faculty autonomy unjustly puts the focus on teachers rather than students, and that the new VP for Equity and Inclusion would help us serve our underserved populations. But no discussion was allowed of students who did not meet the narrow criteria of being “underserved.” Because of the wrapping, concerns about policy changes were dismissed as “anti-equity.” What was in the nicely wrapped box turned out to be something else entirely.
That's how it has always worked.  Dress the usurpations up in pet projects that the faculty might be disposed to go along with anyway, particularly if those projects carry names such as "diversity" or "equity" or "multiculturalism."  Then, once the precedent for usurping is there, start behaving like a boss.
[T]he “Equity Council” that [the president] had appointed and empowered shifted into high gear. It produced a document laden with proposals that tear at the foundations of a liberal arts college. It recommended, for example, using “diversity and equity in the criteria for prioritizing faculty hires.” As is clear from the minutes of the council’s meetings, this goes well beyond affirmative action, which is itself illegal in the state of Washington. Taken to its logical conclusion, this policy would mean hiring no more artists, or chemists, or writing faculty, or any faculty, really, unless their research or training could be defended on the grounds of “equity.” That would spell the end of the liberal arts college.
Excellence is overrated.  (Oh, wait, that's a post for another day.)  "Equity," however, is whatever the people who have the power think it should be.  But the administrative sycophants among the faculty went along (was it so they could continue to be invited to the right parties?)
These faculty members and their accomplices in the administration are primarily at fault. They are the adults. At an institution of higher education, it is the faculty’s job to teach, not to preach; to educate, not indoctrinate. Some of the students who became protesters will be paying off their loans for years, and for what? They were let down by an institution that imposed and nurtured grievance and propaganda rather than educating and conferring knowledge. Evergreen handed them temporary power, an intoxicating thing, instead of establishing boundaries and legitimately empowering them with insight and wisdom.
Or, to use Matt "Dean Dad" Reed's formulation, the faculty often serve as Burkean conservatives.  The search function at his site is bloggered right now, so I can't cite an illustration of him using the phrase more in sadness than in anger (the faculty often being the saucer that cools off overheated administrative initiatives).  Meanwhile, the students were rendered unemployable because they never had to confront the evidence that might induce them to rethink their priors.  And the authors had only one national news outlet to tell their side of the story.  Tucker Carlson on Fox News, forsooth.
Left and Right historically disagree on the extent of current inequities in the system, and on the wisdom of solution making. Those on the Left tend to focus on the inequities in the system; those on the Right tend to argue for personal responsibility. The Left tends to see structural unfairness, and is inclined to intervene. The Right tends to see a landscape of opportunity, and fears the unintended consequences of new initiatives. Both positions have merit and, despite the frequent tenor of conversations between factions, they are not mutually exclusive. Wisdom is likely to emerge from the tension between these worldviews, uniting good people around the value of a fair system that fosters self-reliance as it distributes opportunity as broadly as possible.
Yes, but that takes work. Work involves standards of performance. And standards of performance well might be oppressive.  But the absence of standards is more oppressive.

12.12.17

MAKING CHRISTMAS GREAT AGAIN.

Move it downtown.  Start with the department store music.
Many of these songs were written during the immediate postwar period of optimism, cultural unity, and thriving Main Street economics. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas mentions all the classic signs of the holiday—the carols, the bells, the snow—but the first thing it portrays is “the five and ten (variety store) glistening once again with candy canes and silver lanes aglow.” The song then conveys the excitement of Christmas as toys appear “in every store.”

It’s clear that the role of these local shops and their front window displays goes far beyond shopping. They not only provide all the toys needed for presents and gifts (the entire third verse of the song) but are an essential part—if not the most central aspect—of the holiday ambiance.
Yes, with the kids making their list and checking it twice.  "Some of that was still in place in the last days of The America That Worked(TM), it being a family ritual, come early December, for everyone to scrub up, spiff up, and head Downtown to do the Christmas shopping, and enjoy a meal at the Boston Store restaurant."  Mom, Dad, grandparents, siblings, schoolteacher, school gift exchange, check, check, check.
Today, however, we’ve lost this unique part of the season. Whether it’s the constant sale of toys at our big retailers, or the year-round availability of holiday products through the internet, there is nothing actually special about shopping at Christmas. And it’s not just the experience we’ve lost—there is now less joy in the products that we buy. Every gift from a big-box store is tainted with the knowledge that it is one of a million copies, while “artisan” gifts brought from small shops are so profligate with campiness (organic blueberry goat’s milk soap) that buying them becomes a smug competition in who can spend the most money on the oddest item.

The very layout of the typical auto-centric American suburb also quietly kills the spirit of Christmas. Everything leading up to the holiday has become stressful and hectic, while still being glum and uninspired. The mall and the big-box stores feel even more depressing around the holidays, as you walk through an expanse of parked cars in the cold and snow. There’s no reward for your misery: Target and Wal-Mart still feel the same when you get inside, except that they’re probably more crowded. You’ve been here a thousand times before and you’ll be back next Tuesday to return the gifts you didn’t want and pick up toilet paper. This cheerless shopping experience is underpinned by the knowledge that your dollars are not staying in the community but are being vacuumed out to Wall Street.
When an American Conservative writer uses a "buy local" talking point, dear reader, you know there's an E-T-T-S moment at hand.  "Do we want our children to associate Christmas with spending hours at the mall or lazily clicking through Amazon? Or do we want them to realize that our physical structures can be part of their heritage and have a lasting impact for generations?"

Unfortunately, the era of the department-store sponsored Christmas parade (sometimes involving a train) is gone, apart from Macy's in New York City, the national telecast of which has deteriorated into celebrity newscasters interviewing celebrity entertainers while all the sisters and cousins and aunts of the kids marching in the parade strain for a glimpse of their high school's colors or a few bars of the parade songs.

WHEN HIGHER EDUCATION BREAKS THE SOCIAL CONTRACT.

That's a central element of Richard Vedder and Justin Strehle's Case for Taxing College Endowments.
There are two good reasons why the endowment tax makes sense to some politicians. First, public attitudes toward universities have distinctly soured in recent years. What the public perceives as outrageous student behavior, feckless university leadership, and excessive tuition fees has combined with a growing hostility by Republican lawmakers angered over the large political donations and public criticism that academics have made attempting to oust them from office. Lawmakers are growing tired of feeding the mouths that bite them. Revenues raised by taxing colleges can modestly help fund other tax reductions that lawmakers want to make, which are probably economically beneficial to the well over 90 percent of the population living outside the Ivory Towers of Academia.

Second, our econometric examination of college endowments suggests a large portion of endowment income is dissipated in relatively unproductive fashions, financing a growing army of relatively well-paid university administrators and giving influential faculty low teaching loads and high salaries. We estimate that roughly only about 15 cents out of each additional dollar of endowment income goes to lower net tuition fees (published tuition fees—sticker prices– are much higher at highly endowed schools, but those schools also give more scholarship aid). When a newly endowed scholarship is created, schools typically either reduce their student aid support from other funds or raise sticker prices to capture some of the newly funded endowment resources for other purposes.
I've been fighting with Business as Usual along lines suggested in the first paragraph for years: no surprise there.  The second paragraph, referring to empirical work not otherwise cited or acknowledged in their essay, raises the unsurprising point that money is fungible.

Continuing, though, perhaps taxing endowments is another way of reducing the regressive transfers inherent in higher education as currently understood.
A healthy portion of [endowment returns and other subsidies] are used to provide higher salaries or other perks such as hiring lots of new administrative assistants such as more assistant deans, “sustainability coordinators” or “diversity officers” to perform irksome jobs or meet politically correct objectives such as fighting global warming or achieving the optimal skin colorization of the students and faculty. As endowments rise, so do full professor salaries and the numbers of professors serving a given number of students. To a considerable extent, endowments are a successful rent-seeking scam of the power brokers within universities.

At public universities, subsidies are provided by state governments that usually are less than $1,000 a student but are occasionally higher. The five highest state appropriation levels per student among the 13 public Big Ten universities range between $10,000 and $15,000, equal to the amount that would be provided by an endowment of $250,000 per student where the annual spending rate is four to six percent of the endowment principal. Thus, the GOP excise tax on endowments takes effect only at institutions where endowment spending is generally well above the public subsidies provided at state universities.
Now, if we could get the land-grants and mid-majors to recognize that they are in the same business as the Ivies, and turf out all the irksome special education impedimenta that keep U.S. News selling those ratings ...

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT.

Last year, DeKalb Iron and Metal and the city kept a ton of used Christmas lights out of landfills.

This year, the recycling drive will last to the beginning of February.
To prevent used holiday lights from ending up in landfills, the DeKalb County Health Department will be partnering with the DeKalb Iron and Metal Co. for the Holiday Lights Recycling Program.

The program, in its seventh year, will run through Feb. 2. All string lights and extension cords are accepted.
"String lights" refers to those new series-wired miniature lights (sometimes light-emitting diodes) that can be a pain to troubleshoot.


Maybe it's my New England and South Side of Milwaukee upbringing, but tossing extension cords?

Tree is in its 45th season, string of battery-powered light emitting diodes pushing 15, some of the ornaments are as old as I, and the vintage trains will be making their presence shortly.

THE BIGGEST CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE OF OUR TIME.

A thesis nailed to Newmark's DoorLawsuit shows California public schools where fifth graders are taught at kindergarten level and kids can’t read.
The lawsuit accuses the government of failing to assure basic literacy levels in California public schools, thus undermining the state constitution’s education guarantees. It offers yet another window into the way many public schools are run. It details classes where around half the students don’t have basic reading skills, examples of fifth graders taught using kindergarten materials, and teachers who “are forced to rely on audio and video content to provide students access to other subjects.” The state has previously identified an urgent need to deal with literacy issues, but has never implemented the plan, per the suit.
It's likely some defenders of the government schools will blame school funding formulas and Proposition Thirteen from forty years ago, and yet one can't help but suspect a substitution of trendy pedagogies for eternal verities is contributing.

A GIANT LIPOSUCTION SOUND?

A Nasty, Nafta-Related Surprise: Mexico’s Soaring Obesity.  Reality is more subtle: the human physique evolved through millennia of starvation, and only recently has cheap, plentiful food become common. "Across the world, trade deals have made food more affordable and accessible. A major selling point for the World Trade Organization, founded in 1995, was that it would relax trade barriers so “food is cheaper” — though such deals can also influence diet for the worse."  By all means, read the article.  Then read and understand Don "Cafe Hayek" Boudreaux's response.  "Are you prepared to criticize increasing prosperity – and perhaps to implicitly endorse policies that prevent increasing prosperity – because some people use their greater access to a wide variety of goods and services to make choices that offend the sensibilities of intellectuals?"  Not to mention food that might taste better, as the article notes.  "On a recent Sunday, the Ruiz brothers went to Sam’s Club to stock up for the restaurant. They like the expansive meat section with marbled beef that is often cheaper than the sinewy cuts sold by local butchers."

MARKET TESTS ARE SUBTLE.

And Oberlin might be getting an education.
Oberlin College has been showing signs of strain as leaders of the well-off liberal arts college in Ohio seek to close a multimillion-dollar budget deficit driven by lower-than-expected enrollment this year.

The strain became evident most recently when The Oberlin Review, the college’s student newspaper, obtained and published a letter written this summer by two faculty members objecting to a salary freeze. The letter, which the student newspaper published Friday as Oberlin’s Board of Trustees was scheduled to meet, said it is “inadequate and depressing that neither the board nor the administration has the leadership or imagination to address this crisis in any way other than by eliminating raises for faculty and staff.”

But the publication of the faculty letter was just the latest in a string of moves by a college grappling with a structural budget deficit.
It might be simply a shrinking pool of traditional students, along with a market premium for quality faculty, stressing the finances.
In response to the enrollment and budget issues, the board approved a plan to hold nonunion salaries at current levels for the coming year, [board chairman Chris] Canavan said in the June email. Doing so would not eliminate the deficit but would make a significant difference without cutting essential services and positions.

Not all faculty would agree with that assertion. Some have argued a pay freeze will lead to a loss of talent at Oberlin as professors pick other, better-paying jobs. Such a trend would hurt educational quality, an essential service for a college.

The board also asked administrators, faculty and staff members to find ways to shrink the structural deficit by bringing in more revenue or cutting spending. The goal laid out was to cut 5 percent of the cumulative budget over the coming 10 years.

“The enrollment shortfall is a sign that Oberlin’s long-term financial model must change with the times,” Canavan said in the June email. “The cost of running institutions like Oberlin gets more expensive every year, while the pool of high school graduates, which grew steadily beginning in the mid-’90s, will stay flat over the next decade. We must spend the next few years making important decisions that will ensure Oberlin’s financial strength well into the future. These decisions must be made thoughtfully and with broad consultation.”
At the margin, though, Oberlin's product differentiation efforts might be hurting enrollments.
Conservative news outlets have delighted in Oberlin’s struggles. The college is generally considered one of the most liberal institutions in the country, and it is regularly the target of conservative media, some of the more extreme of which have attributed the college’s enrollment declines to politics. But they provided little in the way of firm evidence to support that link.

Nonetheless, Oberlin has found itself at the center of several politically charged events of late. The Associated Press recently reported that Oberlin has been sued by bakery owners who accuse the institution and a dean of slandering their bakery as a racist establishment following a shoplifting case in 2016 -- a charge the institution and dean denied. This fall, the college also put in place a policy under which it will not send out email notifications about hateful fliers unless there is suspicion of immediate danger or a larger pattern.
Sometimes, what is unseen is as salient as what is seen. It is unlikely that anybody is going to tell a pollster or a guidance counselor, "Oberlin comes off as too full of crazies."  On the other hand, it is easy enough to send in applications to institutions other than Oberlin, for whatever reason, and leave it to the admissions office to puzzle out the reasons, or to engage in wishful thinking.

11.12.17

TO REALLY FOUL THINGS UP REQUIRES A COMPUTER.

At the macro level, it's Norfolk Southern's artificial intelligence dispatching that renders Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited Late For Sure.

At the micro level, it's Amtrak's new internet reservation front end, which, in the manner of all hyped business improvements, is a bodge.
I can’t explain exactly why, but I had a terrible time with the new “improved” Amtrak web site. Admittedly, there are six segments in all, but it took me forever to get it all done.

My return includes a Boston-to-Chicago segment and this gave me the chance to see if I could perhaps save a little money and avoid some inconvenience, too. For those who don’t know, the westbound Lake Shore Limited starts out with two sections: Train 49 originating in New York City’s Penn Station and Train 449 originating from Boston’s South Station. The two sections meet in Albany, New York and proceed to Chicago as one train from there.
This combining of trains is a survival from Penn Central days, well, actually New York Central, which, without telling anybody, started combining The New England States and The Twentieth Century Limited at Buffalo, in the summer of 1967.  And, thanks to contemporary rules governing the adding and cutting of passenger cars in trains, the sleepers of the two parts are at opposite ends of the train.
The Boston section consists of one Viewliner sleeping car, several coaches, and a lounge car serving snacks and drinks. Half of this car is configured with Business Class seating. The New York section has five or six coaches and what AmtraK calls a “Combined Diner/Lounge”. The trouble is—and, OK, I’ll admit it’s a minor issue unless you have trouble moving about a moving train—after leaving Albany, passengers in the Boston sleeper have to make their way through six or seven coaches in order to get their dinner in the Diner/Lounge car.
It's not so minor an issue when the Boston sleeper has a number of older and slower-moving passengers in it. On my trip, we got to cross the platform to the diner (a little cooperation between the sleeper attendant and the dining car crew) but we had to organize a team to get everybody back to the sleeper after dinner, which involved a walk from Schenectady to Utica.
So this time, instead of booking a roomette all the way in the Boston sleeper, I made two separate reservations: the first, a seat in Business Class from Boston to Albany; the second, a roomette in the New York section from Albany to Chicago.

True, in Albany I’ll have to gather up my belongings and relocate to the Viewliner sleeper, but I should have only one car between me and the diner. I saved $7.60 on the combined fares, too. Altogether, a small, but satisfying triumph, as long as I overlook the fact that it probably took me more than an hour on the new Amtrak web site to make it all happen.
Am I being churlish to suggest that the $7.60 represents the difference between the cup of tea offered to business class riders and the full lunch (OK, a sandwich) that the sleeper passengers get upon departing Framingham?

On the other hand, without the Century and its accompanying mystique, would we have a Lake Shore, or an Amtrak, at all?

LEARNING TO WIN.

The Green Bay Packers trailed the winless Cleveland Browns by two touchdowns at the turn to the fourth quarter.

The Green Bay Packers walked off the field with an overtime victory.  Second straight overtime win.
Somehow the Packers have managed to go 7-6 and stay in the playoff hunt with a second straight overtime victory, this one a 27-21 comeback against the winless Cleveland Browns on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

[Packer head coach Mike] McCarthy was an unpredictable combination of daring and convention against the Browns and somehow it all worked out. He walked out of the stadium, still alive, needing in all likelihood three more victories to have a shot at reaching the playoffs for a ninth straight season.

“There were a lot of good things today,” McCarthy said after the game, trying to make people forget all the bad things that happened. “We’re finding different ways to win and that’s what you have to do.
Yes, the three wins in the past eight games came against last place teams (Bears, Buccaneers, Browns), and yes, the Steelers and Saints exposed weaknesses in the defense that will continue to occupy pundits both formal and informal.  But you have to play mixed strategies, and the Packers did a more effective job of mixing than did Cleveland.
“Probability, risk assessment,” McCarthy said of the call. “It’s all part of your game plan. (It) has other variables on when you’re going to call it. I didn’t jump up in the team meeting and say we were going to fake the first punt today.

“That was not the plan. Where we were on the field on fourth down, momentum, what he was giving me, it was more of a confidence thing.”

McCarthy stayed aggressive on the drive, dialing up a pass play from quarterback Brett Hundley to receiver Randall Cobb on fourth and 1 at the Cleveland 38.

The most controversial decision came midway through the third quarter with the Browns up, 14-7. Hundley had led the Packers from their own 19 all the way to the Cleveland 10, only to face a fourth and inches.

McCarthy would need two scores to win, so why not take the field goal? Last week against Tampa Bay, on fourth and 1 at the 5-yard line with 2 minutes 34 seconds left, he had Mason Crosby kick a 22-yard field goal to tie the game at 20-20.

This time, McCarthy called a misdirection play that turned into a disaster when Hundley went the wrong way and failed to pitch the ball to running back Aaron Jones.

“There are some plays leading up to that, that set that play up,” McCarthy said. “The execution wasn’t there. That’s football. There was a lot of time left. I was confident in the way we were moving the football.”
It appears that Cleveland concentrated on stopping the emergent Packer running game, and dared quarterback Brett Hundley to complete short passes and not be tempted to go for the long plays.
After Trevor Davis set up the Packers at the Cleveland 25 with a 65-yard punt return, McCarthy stayed aggressive, calling passes on five of the seven plays, including first and goal at the 1, when he called a run-pass option that allowed Hundley to throw a back-shoulder pass to Davante Adams for the tying touchdown.

In overtime, McCarthy kept the foot on the pedal and threw on four of six plays, including consecutive downs at the Cleveland 28 and 25. The last one took the game out of Crosby’s hands. Adams turned a short pass into a 25-yard touchdown to finish off the comeback.

“We were just trying to take advantage of the matchups we felt we had in the perimeter,” McCarthy said. “But hell, we’re trying to score.”
There's something about experiencing victories that affects a team's mind-set.  Here's the take from Cleveland about how the game ended.
7. From the moment the fourth quarter opened, the defense could not make a single, significant stop. You could feel the game slipping away. That's what happens when a team is 1-28 in the last two years.

8. In the overtime period, [quarterback DeShone] Kizer threw a horrible interception. The Packers still had the ball on the Cleveland 42-yard line. How about stopping them? At least make them try a field goal? Instead, the Packers roared into the end zone. Gregg Williams is a good defensive coordinator. His stats over a long career show it. But he seemed helpless to come up with anything to stop Green Bay when it mattered.

9. As for Kizer, he needed to throw his last pass of the day away. As Jackson mentioned, "the play fell apart." Josh Gordon was the original target, but he wasn't open. He actually was held by a defender, but no matter ... he was not a primary target.
Not that any of it matters, when Clay Matthews III remains in the running for the Pro Bowl.

The most-closely watched bone scan in Wisconsin football will be taking place sometime today or tomorrow.  The battle of attrition that is the National Football League 2017 season continues.

WHAT WOULD WE EVER DO WITHOUT OBERLIN?

It's tempting to wish that they be occupied by the Russians, or sacked and pillaged by Ivar the Boneless.  But perhaps they ought to be let alone as the quintessence of clueless snowflakery.  Apparently, to the Obies, campus outreach means its the students' privilege to instruct their elders and harass the businesses that serve them.
Students at Oberlin College have long enjoyed pastries, bagels and chocolates from Gibson's Bakery, a century-old, family-owned business near campus. That sweet relationship has turned bitter amid hotly disputed accusations of racism, roiling a school and town long known for their liberal politics.

The dispute, which began in November 2016 with the arrest of three black Oberlin students who tried stealing wine from Gibson's, is now a lawsuit in which the exasperated bakery owners accuse the college and a top dean of slandering Gibson's as a "racist establishment" and taking steps to destroy the family's livelihood.

Caught in the middle are longtime residents of this town of 8,300 people, many of whom identify themselves as liberals but who have patronized Gibson's for decades. Many believe the timing was right for the conflict to boil over; the arrests came the day after Donald Trump won the presidential election, electrifying students who had long heard suspicions of racial profiling at Gibson's.
Look, it wasn't my intent to turn today's post into the Ohio Follies edition, but we're the day after a Green Bay Packer win in Cleveland, which will rate its own post, and the Chicago Bears, yes, the Fire John Fox and Drain The Swamp Chicago Bears made mincemeat of the Cincinnati Bengals, whose defense was mostly in rehab or the House of Correction after last week's rumble with Pittsburgh.

No, the Obies haven't yet protested the profiling of the Bengals' defensive unit.  But they're protesting the behavior of the baker.
The three students were arrested after punching and kicking the white shopkeeper. The 18- and 19-year-old students said that they were racially profiled and that their only crime was trying to buy alcohol with fake identification; the shopkeeper, Allyn Gibson, said the students attacked him after he caught them trying to steal bottles of wine.

The day after the arrests, hundreds of students protested outside the bakery. Members of Oberlin's student senate published a resolution saying Gibson's had "a history of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment."

Few colleges put the "liberal" into "liberal arts" more than Oberlin, which in the early 1800s became the first in the country to regularly admit women and minorities. But it also more recently has become, for conservatives, a symbol of political correctness gone awry and entitled youth.
I'd like to know the basis for that student protest (are we simply having another Ferguson moment?) but that's for the courts of law to decide.

The bakery is winning in the court of public opinion.
With Oberlin's reputation preceding it and news of the Gibson's protests spreading online, bikers and out-of-town counter-protesters soon converged on the town to jeer students and buy doughnuts from Gibson's. Conservatives derided the students on social media as coddled "snowflakes" with a mob mentality, while students attacked the store as a symbol of systemic racism.

The three students arrested at Gibson's pleaded guilty in August to attempted theft and aggravated trespassing and said in statements required by a plea agreement that their actions were wrong and that the store wasn't racist.

Even so, students continue to boycott Gibson's over perceived racial profiling, causing business to suffer. Pressed by a reporter to provide evidence or examples of profiling, they said only that when black students enter the store, they feel as though they're being watched.
Perhaps Gibson's will be a stopping off place for normals in the Oberlin area, the way Chick-fil-a has become around Boston.  And there are probably more normals around Oberlin than there are around Boston.

Read closely, though, and perhaps Oberlin has more of an entitled-students-behaving-badly problem than their public affairs people would like.  The bakery is also suing Oberlin on unspecified grounds that appear to involve defamation or loss of business.
Today, the lawsuit says, college tour guides continue to inform prospective students that Gibson's is racist.

Dave Gibson, the bakery's owner, says the lawsuit is about standing up for his right to crack down on shoplifting without being branded as a racist. The suit says Oberlin demanded that he stop pushing criminal charges on first-time shoplifters and call school deans instead.
In the interest of intellectual consistency: we bring sexual assault charges through the legal system rather than through internal campus investigations; likewise, we bring shoplifting charges through the legal system rather than through internal campus investigations.

FIRST DATE FROM HELL?

There's a new Everyday Feminism post, "10 Things Every Intersectional Feminist Should Ask On a First Date."  I'm suspecting it's a Sokal Hoax, based on the opening paragraph.  "As a queer femme of color, I keep close relationships with people who go beyond allyship; they’re true accomplices in the fight against white supremacy, queerphobia, and misogyny. If you’re not going to support marginalized folks, then we can’t be friends, let alone date. The personal is political."  As if xe is going to have much of a social circle starting with those constraints.

But it is providing much-needed comic relief.  "How To Become A Crazy Cat Lady" is Rod Dreher's take.  "In 30 years, she will write an article asserting that living solo in a house that smells like cat pee is a sign of progressive purity and radical independence."

Stephen "Vodka Pundit" Green quips, "Anyone who isn’t heading towards the door after the third question — 'How do you work to dismantle sexism and misogyny in your life?' — deserves whatever comes next."

There's a healthy serving of Undermine Them With Mockery at Twitchy.

9.12.17

THE VICTIMS REMOVE THEIR SANCTION.

Michael Barone suggests that "Feds, Meds, and Eds" have too long been mooching.
The tax bills would impose a new 1.4 percent tax on the investment income of endowments of very wealthy colleges and universities. They would eliminate deductions for student loans and tax tuition waivers for graduate students.

These institutions have been coasting on their reputation for excellence and as havens of free thought, even as they impose speech codes, conduct kangaroo courts on sexual assault charges and allow humanities and social science departments to be dominated by postmodern agitprop and gibberish.

Student loans impoverish many students, especially dropouts, while the money they pump into universities produces administrative bloat, to the point that there are more administrators than teachers in higher education today. Government subsidies produce an oversupply of people with doctorates, causing their theses to go unread and their job prospects to be dismal.

Polls show that many voters have become aware of the intolerance and unaccountability of these institutions and that the economic rewards of a degree are diminishing. The tax bills send a signal to the people running higher education that they'd better change their ways.
Don't say I didn't warn you.

It gets better.  Apparently "make high earners pay their fair share of taxes" doesn't mean "stop letting high earners write off their state and local taxes."
Or consider the yelps about the Republicans' planned repeal of the deductibility of state and local taxes (except for some property taxes). This would be progressive in its incidence because most of the increased federal revenue would come from high earners in high-tax states, especially New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and California, whose residents tend to vote Democratic.

Americans in lower-tax states have been effectively subsidizing bloated public payrolls and astonishingly generous pension plans. Removing the deduction would put pressure on politicians in high-tax states and on the public employee unions to hold taxes and spending down.
Maybe. The problem, at least as I see it from Illinois, is that the productive people are moving out, leaving only the beneficiaries of the government generosity to keep voting themselves that generosity.  There's nothing new here: maybe, finally, there is a government in Washington that sees what is going on and considers doing something else.

Heather Wilhelm is more to the point.
Why should Americans who don’t live in New York have to cushion the state’s unwieldy, ossified tax-and-spend regime? True tax pillaging, after all, starts at home.

It’s not news to point out that people are fleeing blue states for red states. Recent reports show that Texas gained 1.3 million new residents over the past ten years. (Texas, of course, has no state income tax.) During the same time period, Illinois and New York lost more than 2 million. The GOP tax bill, which rips the mask off of high state-tax regimes, could very well increase the bleeding. “High-income earners on the East Coast understand the implications of this,” a friend who works in finance told me this week. Some of his contacts on Wall Street, he added, are toying with the idea of voting with their feet.

If blue states can’t get their act together soon, perhaps that’s not such a shabby idea. It would certainly send a message, loud and clear: “It’s not the tax bill that’s the problem, dear high-tax state governments. It’s you.”
So mote it be.

UNDOING BEECHING'S CUTS.

The British are figuring out that when the track is in place, it might be foolish to take it out.
“Rail travel has transformed over the last 20 years and our railways are carrying twice as many passengers as they did before privatisation," says Chris Grayling, the secretary of state for transportation. “But we need a new way of working to help our railway deal with the challenges it faces.”

Grayling cites lines such as the “Varsity” line linking Oxford and Cambridge, an 89-mile stretch between Edinburgh and Carlisle, a line between Southampton to Dorchester, and a route connecting Nottingham to London Marylebone.

Most of the candidates for rehabilitation were victims of the infamous "Beeching Axe" that closed a number a number of rural branch lines on the recommendation of Dr. Richard Beeching, chairman of the British Railways Board between 1961 and 1965. Beeching's modernization plans closed more than 4,000 miles of track and 2,000 stations.
It's true that in parts of Britain, the traffic might better be handled on one line, rather than on two or more lightly-used formerly competing lines.  The example that stands out is the Trans-Pennine between Manchester and Leeds via Huddersfield, which brings to mind the old Lehigh Valley and Central of New Jersey toward Sayre, Pennsylvania, and way too much track once the anthracite mines stopped working.  The Varsity Line has potential as a cross-country route to the west and north of London.  That Edinburgh to Carlisle is the old Waverley Route, which might have been axed as redundant thanks to it being a mountain railroad through a traffic desert.  And the closure of the Nottingham to London line, a former Great Central route, was subject to protest back in the day, as that line had been engineered to the more generous (by European standards, mind you) Continental loading gauge, and as such would make a logical connection to points north once a Channel tunnel opened.  But in the middle 1960s, a Channel tunnel was probably still something that would have to be closed off if a latter-day Napoleon or Hitler had designs on England.

Thus, much of the Great Central was torn up, although the Nottingham end is a preservation railway on the original metals.  Have any other preservation lines been turned back into main lines?

HE'S MORE MACHINE THAN MAN.

That's part of the evolution of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader, and there's something similar at work with Ivar the Boneless.
Speaking of Ivar, he's almost starting to turn into a movie villain.

With that hood over his head and that evil look in his eyes, was anyone else reminded of Anakin Skywalker from Revenge of the Sith?

Ivar is about to go complete Darth Vader, guys.

He looked like he was completely losing his mind just sitting there laughing, his face covered in blood, while a whole battle commenced around him. If he were going for an insanity plea in a trial, I would believe it.
Ivar has a new set of orthotics, his helmet is more substantial than those of the other berserkers, he alone has a war-chariot, and he's been schooled in the mystic arts by Ragnar and Floki.  So why not?

Yes, Vikings returns, complete with cheesy Geico commercials and selective compression of the sagas.

Or perhaps, we're looking at extended remakes of classic swashbucklers.  So far, there's no half-brother to restage Tony Curtis killing Kirk Douglas, but we do have Bjorn and Halfdan on their way to the Mediterranean, if not on a quest for a great golden bell, Floki off on a day sail that has not yet brought him to the coast of Nova Scotia, and way too much twenty-first-century sensibilities among the women running Kattegat.
Ivar and Ubbe are clearly at odds, with Hvitserk as the wild card. Floki and Bjorn are off on their own crazy adventures. Lagertha retains a tenuous grasp on power in Kattegat. And Harald is off to gather his strength.

Both Ivar and Harald have their [sights] set upon Lagertha---the former for revenge, the latter for power. But Ivar, at least, will have his hands full in England. Aethelwulf was a poor strategist, but Heahmund strikes me as a more clear and present danger to the vikings' ambition.
Perhaps. The bishop is almost as crazy as Ivar.  "Ivar has the potential to be a very interesting character, but he also has the potential to become Vikings' own Ramsay Snow---essentially an Evil Mary Sue who is always victorious, always right, always one step ahead of his enemies."  Mr Kain notes that Vikings is doing a lot of selective compression with the chronicles as we have them, which means there is likely a church-yard in Manchester with Ivar's name on it.
I love that we don't know where any of this is headed (beyond the broad-strokes historical stuff like Floki and Iceland or Rollo in Normandy or Ivar in Ireland and so forth---basically all the major historical points in vikings history condensed into one abbreviated timeline where all the great heroes of these sagas come from Kattegat.)

I do have my concerns over Ivar, but I have faith that at the very least this show always complicates its heroes and villains enough to make them more than just one-dimensional. And I'm curious to see where all these shifting alliances and betrayals go as the season progresses.
More to come. We'll be following along.

THEY CHOSE POORLY.

St. Norbert women's basketball team suspended 10 games for alcohol-related incident.  That's a Division III squad out of De Pere, Wisconsin, toiling in the shadow of longtime Northern Illinois nemesis Wisconsin - Green Bay at a Catholic college better known as home, back to when Vince Lombardi was doing the bed-checks, to the Green Bay Packer training camp.
The incidents happened at a number of locations on campus over the course of one evening last month.

Along with the 10 games, the Green Knights will be ineligible for the Midwest Conference tournament and the regular-season championship because they are not playing a full league schedule.

SNC women’s coach Connie Tilley, who is in her 41st season with the Green Knights, was not available for comment.

The decision to suspend the team was made by the school and its judicial board and not by the league office. It was not possible to hand out individual suspensions because there were too many involved on the 13-player roster to be able to field a team.
Administrators are not sanctioning some middle-of-the conference squad, either.
SNC is 5-3 to start the season, including 3-0 in league play. It made the NCAA Division III tournament in March despite having 10 freshmen on the roster. It was the fourth straight season the Green Knights advanced to the national tournament, but they already know the streak is over.
That's what "This is not who we are" looks like.

7.12.17

TRAINGATING.

The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train calls at Wauwatosa.
It wasn't Lambeau Field Sunday afternoon but a busy parking lot next to the train tracks in Wauwatosa that drew Elaine Sprenger and around 20 people in the Friendship Club. They snacked and sipped while waiting patiently for a train to arrive.

Not just any locomotive. Sprenger and thousands of others turned out to see the brightly colored, pulsing, rocking Canadian Pacific Holiday Train slowly chug to a stop behind Cafe Hollander and Saz's.
I'll give them that "chug" with those rebuilt "GP20" diesels assigned to Holiday Train service.

Now that Harwood Avenue has an overpass, this stop, near the historic Wauwatosa "Village" and Hoyt Park is possible without blocking any level crossings.
Automobiles began pulling in a couple of hours before the train's arrival in Wauwatosa, filling up parking spots on the street and lots near the tracks. Some people sat in the hatchbacks of vehicles, brought folding chairs or stood holding cups of warm drinks. Parents pushed strollers, carried children on shoulders or kept an eye on toddlers, some yelling "choo choo!"
I hope they remembered their cash or in-kind contributions to the food banks. Wauwatosa isn't the upscale suburb it once was.

YOU DON'T JUST WIN A BASKETBALL GAME BY SCORING.

Last year, the Northern Illinois women's basketball team were among the Division I leaders in scoring  (the good way) and in points allowed (the bad way).  The team took an education from that points allowed ranking.
Holding a late fourth-quarter lead over Toledo, NIU seemed well on its way to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1995. Instead, the Rockets exposed [forward Courtney] Woods and the Huskies on defense, cutting NIU’s postseason short with a 82-71 defeat.

Woods said she’ll remember those 10 minutes for the rest of her life.

“It was always a thing that I wasn’t good at defense, but in that fourth quarter [versus Toledo in the MAC championship], they exploited me defensively,” Woods said. “I wouldn’t say it cost us the game, but it definitely didn’t put us in position to win the game.”

For most of Woods’ life, the Brisbane, Australia, native always has played hard on offense, but relaxed on defense.

Not this season.

“Coming into this year, it wasn’t even going to be a thing where I would be like, ‘I’m not that good at defense, but that’s OK,’ ” she said. “It was something I knew I had to fix because I knew it hurt us in the championship.”
I had a colleague, tasked with the mathematical economics courses, who would ask students who pleaded a long-time difficulty with mathematics what they had done to get better at it. Often ... crickets.

The scoresheet, with a tournament bid on the line, has a steeper grading curve.
Despite being younger than most of her teammates, sophomore guard Myia Starks has been someone the Huskies have relied on for defensive help this season.

Whenever Woods decides to turn her head on defense, Starks usually is the one who points out her mistakes. Starks’ knack to be a top defender has become contagious.

“The first thing I’m thinking is I’ve got to get there and I’ve got to help [on defense],” Starks said. “Everyone knows I play defense and I play hard to get stops. So my teammates look at me to get everyone else going.”

Woods isn’t sure if she’s actually become a better defender, but she is certain about one thing: “I think I’ve definitely become more willing to be a better defender. I wasn’t super-blessed with quick feet, so I try hard and work hard. That’s gone better this year.”

As Woods continues to improve her defense, she hasn’t let up on her original strength either. Woods leads NIU in scoring with 19.3 points a game. She also ranks second among Huskies in rebounds with 7.3 a game.

“We have been at a standstill on defense lately,” Woods said. “In order to win games, we’ve got to stop teams from scoring. Going into this game, everyone was focused on that.”
The winning continues, heading into examinations. As does the scoring.  "Two players reaching the 1,000-point mark and a nine-game winning streak against in-state schools – the Northern Illinois women’s basketball team picked up its second win in a row in a big way Wednesday, 80-71, against Loyola."  Courtney Woods and Kelly Smith at the thousand mark, and Loyola the latest neighbor in the streak.  But the players have their eyes set higher.  "Woods said she can’t say the team is the best in the state without having played Illinois or Northwestern, something Smith said she wishes she had the chance to do."

It was a lunch-time game, the education day promotion, and children of all ages were on hand and enthusiastically making noise, even when the scoreboard wasn't asking for it.

Shaw Media photograph by Sean King retrieved from DeKalb Daily Chronicle.

An editorial writer noticed the youthful enthusiasm.
Sure the cheers during the Huskies' game Wednesday morning against Loyola were more high-pitched than usual, and the fans might not have always known exactly when to cheer, but the end result was undeniable – bussing in a bunch of school children to watch an NIU women's basketball game created an atmosphere the program usually doesn't see.
Field trips have that effect.
It was obvious the kids had a blast. They cheered frequently and at times the arena was ear-piercingly loud. If I'm not mistaken, that's exactly what a basketball crowd should be like. They knew to make noise when Loyola was shooting a free throw. They knew to cheer when NIU scored. Good enough.
And some of the youngsters got a very enthusiastic N-I-U going.  After the game, there's an opportunity for a #PCStrong autograph on the schedule card.

Shaw Media photograph by Sean King retrieved from DeKalb Daily Chronicle.

Ten players dressed, ten players in the game.  Final examinations await.

DIED FOR A THEORY.

With the centenary of the Great October Socialist Revolution behind us, it is useful to consider the toll of actually existing socialism, or perhaps of the Stalinist perversion thereof.   Blood-Red Century, writes Ryan Fazio for City Journal.
Western culture and education today do an admirable job of teaching about the atrocities of fascism. Nazi Germany is reflexively understood as pure evil, and fascist regimes in Italy and Spain have also been damned. People understand the Holocaust to be history’s worst genocide. Broad awareness of fascism’s crimes serves as a bulwark against future threats to freedom.

The twentieth century yielded another evil ideology, however, one that marked an anniversary this fall, with the centennial of the Bolshevik coup in Russia: Communism reigned in Russia for eight decades and spread to dozens of other nations in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. These regimes subjugated more than 1 billion people and murdered tens of millions in the name of social revolution and abolition of private property.

Radical leftism has largely avoided the stigma that we attach to fascism in the West.
In part, that might be because the liberal democracies attempted to provide their own versions of the allegedly free stuff the Iron Curtain countries were giving away.  Nils Gilman's The Cold War and the Welfare State in The American Interest elaborates.
During the Cold War, the choice facing ruling elites in Western countries was between perpetuating the interwar laissez faire system that had created working class misery, and which in turn threatened to create an opening for Communists, and building welfare states. Even for conservatives, that was an easy choice. Building North Atlantic welfare states in the postwar period was an explicitly counter-Communist political project shared by Christian and Social Democrats alike. Its explicit political goal was to marginalize the influences of the far Left.
That might be based on a misinterpretation of the causes of the 1929 depression and its persistence.  And policymakers in Europe and the United States had a victory dividend that they thought would make all things possible until it didn't.  And there are enough people drawing parallels to the Thirties, through last year's U.S. elections and on into the wrangling over health care and taxes and infrastructure that Ron Grossman's analysis, in Chicago's Tribune, has purchase.
Socialists downplayed talk of barricades in favor of "Evolutionary Socialism"— making a better world through legislative victories. Presumably that is what [Vermont's Bernie] Sanders means by calling himself a democratic socialist.

Meanwhile, conservatives started taking a page from their opponents' playbook, as successful politicians will. In the 1880s, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck established a comprehensive social-welfare program in Germany: unemployment and old-age insurance, industrial safety regulations, limits on the working day and employment of minors.

It was the world's first such, and its champion was anything but a bleeding-heart liberal. Known as the "Iron Chancellor," Bismarck was an archconservative. But with the socialists vote rising, he realized that he needed to play their hand before they did.

As a result of similar give-and-take, Europe's economy became neither quite capitalist nor purely socialist but something in-between. Capitalism with a human face, you might say.

That didn't happen here. Instead, the dominant idea was that unfettered capitalism grows the middle class that is democracy's bedrock. It was hard to argue with that proposition. The American middle class was a joy to behold — larger and enjoying a larger slice of the economic pie than any before it.

More recently that has changed. The middle class is declining in numbers; its incomes have been stagnant or receding. Foreclosures have taken the homes that were its share of the American dream. Students graduate so deep in debt it will take years for them to have the enhanced earnings they were promised when they went to college — if they can even find a decent job. Yet the rich are getting richer — the now famous 1 percent.

And socialism has gone from a dirty word to the virtual lapel button of a grandfatherly senator who packs them in like a rock star. His white hair flailing, he thunders against bankers and Wall Street like an Old Testament prophet. He warns his followers that electing him won't be enough. America needs a revolution.
But think not of that revolution in terms of guillotines, or cadre storming the Winter Palace.  Northeastern Illinois philosopher Tyler Zimmer suggests that revolution is emergent.
Marxists value free speech because they are committed to building a society where all can decide matters of public concern democratically, as genuine equals. Thus, the Marxist has a consistent way of explaining why speech that aims to dominate or marginalize others should be challenged rather than protected: it is contrary to the very values animating our commitment to free speech in the first place.

What’s more, since our own society falls radically short of the democratic ideals of freedom and equality, it would be absurd to say that acts of disruption or civil disobedience aimed at realizing those ideals are wrong.
He wrote those paragraphs shortly after Bernie Bros, or perhaps just disaffected Illinois state employees, disrupted a Donald Trump rally scheduled for the sports arena at University of Illinois - Chicago.  But in that "challenged rather than protected" and that endorsement of "acts of disruption" is precisely the totalitarianism of Critique of Pure ToleranceDon't say I didn't warn you.  "Actually, liberating tolerance, or progressive intolerance, makes suppression of reactionary speech the sole, and most important, criterion for shouting down a speaker. In time, though, the zealots begin to turn on each other."

Don't say that Jonathan Chait, no Tory, didn't warn you either.
[P]olitical advocacy on behalf of the oppressed enhances freedom, and political advocacy on behalf of the oppressor diminishes it.

It does not take much imagination to draw a link between this idea and the Gulag. The gap between Marxist political theory and the observed behavior of Marxist regimes is tissue-thin. Their theory of free speech gives license to any party identifying itself as the authentic representative of the oppressed to shut down all opposition.
The gulags await.  But ... back to Mr Fazio, it's the vanguardism and the conviction that the cadre are on the side of History or something that leads to the tyranny.
It was the height of hubris to believe that politics could engineer a social revolution, appropriate all of society’s wealth, centrally plan its economy, remake all other institutions, and even change human nature. But this hubris—pathological in practice—was endemic to Communism, in word and deed. By all means, let’s remember the Red Century, lest we condemn ourselves to repeat it.
The problem with the victory dividend cursed welfare states was in hoping that by allowing the commercial sector a modicum of freedom whilst not appropriating all of the wealth there would indeed be a way to make possible the free stuff, not to mention better free stuff than the junk the Warsaw Pact was putting on offer, when they had junk to put on offer.

Easier said than done, notes Mr Gilman.
As the Communist alternative retreated, however, the choice in favor of building domestic welfare states in the West became less clear for many on the Right. This retreat did not take place all at once, but rather unfolded progressively in the face of the grim realities of the Communist system. Although the global Left’s political disenchantment with the Soviet Union had begun earlier, widespread disillusionment with the economic appeals of socialism began in earnest only in the 1970s, as the Soviet system’s economic stagnation and the immiseration of Mao’s China became increasingly stark. Even if conservatives and liberals never bought into the false economic promises of Communism, the brute fact of the existence of a socialist alternative meant than some effort had to be made to match the siren song of egalitarianism. As the bloom came off the rose of the centralized planning models, it became safer for conservatives to push further to the Right.

In addition to the decay of the ideological appeal of socialism, further slowing the redistributional drive in the United States was the decline in real economic growth during the 1970s. By the end of that decade, the country was mired in what had come to be called “stagflation”—the combination of low growth and high inflation that appeared impossible under orthodox Keynesian theory. Rather than redistribution, figuring out a way to reignite economic growth was the political order of the day.
That's mostly by way of preamble, to motivate an argument that the tax reforms being rushed through Congress are incoherent, unless understood as a means to defund the U. S. welfare state and the cultural left that relies on government grants.  Perhaps, though, it is time to remind readers, because even the most diligent among you, dear readers, could benefit from a modicum of repetition, that there is no such thing as free stuff.  The Iron Curtain countries simply put more impedimenta in the way of providing stuff than the liberal democracies have.

DON'T THROW GOOD MONEY AFTER BAD.

After Douglas Baker left the presidency of Northern Illinois University, a court stayed the payment of part of his severance package, in part because the board of trustees took the decision without proper disclosure of the agenda or open discussion.

The matter of the severance came before the board again today.  The Illinois Policy Institute didn't want the money to be spent.  "[T]he NIU Board of Trustees can take a positive step Dec. 7 and vote to deny Baker’s severance, in what would be a clear win for taxpayers and a welcome deviation from the state’s track record of misguided higher education priorities."  The editors at DeKalb's Daily Chronicle also pray for the trustees to hold back the money.  "We hope some people show up at the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees meeting Thursday to share their opinions on the $600,000 severance deal the board gave former President Doug Baker."  To do otherwise is to send the wrong signal.
We hope that this will be the last time the university, whose leaders frequently complain about the lack of state funding for higher education, will throw away so much money with so little benefit. We would rather see new programs, facilities, professors – even repairs to the chipped and broken paving stones all over campus – than another nickel thrown away on severance, legal fees and bogus consultants.

The payout to Baker is about what the average American earns in a decade. The public has had enough of big payouts to make public-sector managers go away.
Perhaps the university could outsource the severance money to donors.  That has been done, with some success, in college athletics for years.

The taxpayers lost.  The board's stance simplifies to "we took the right decision in conclave, we'll take the same decision in public, and we'll stand by our decision."

THERE IS SUCH A THING AS MANNERS.

Idea Pod's Tina Fey, who I suspect is not the political hack masquerading as comedienne who shares her name, argues "Introverts don't hate people, they hate shallow socializing."  For instance, "The dilemma introverts face is we need people, but we need meaningful interaction more.  If you want to talk about the weather, your mother in-law, the price of rice or the best way to keep linen white, you have lost your introvert friend."  That used to be called making conversation.  Heck, every member of the British Royal Family gets coaching on making conversation, the better to be able to interact with any of Her Majesty's subjects.  Don't be stupid about being smart.  "Introverts will surprise you with animated expressions of very definite opinions on just about any topic.  That is because we spend a lot of our time reading and thinking.  Hence the boredom with small talk -- there is so much that could be discussed other than the latest family spat or Mary's latest boyfriend."  On the other hand, being animated and definite about something that the rest of the party hasn't given much thought to, or might have strongly held and different opinions, can ruin a party as quickly as the latest gossip.  Don't be stupid about being smart.

THAT PRESUPPOSES A PROFESSIONAL DISPOSITION.

Margaret "University Diaries" Soltan suggests that professors distinguish "extra credit" from "extortion."  "Through the long life of this blog, UD has read one account after another of some professor somewhere offering extra credit if the kids will help her husband distribute campaign literature (he’s running for school board!), or if they will show proof that they gave blood (blood donation is a virtue, and I want to encourage it!), or will show proof that they voted (it’s your civic duty!), etc., etc."

Yes, that would be desirable, provided the faculty understood their role as being able to teach the controversies and strengthen their students' jive detectors.

A half century of deconstructing those institutions and changing the mind-set leaves more than a few professors in the position of a Maoist re-educator, using every opportunity to set their charges on the One True Path.  By those lights, Earning an A for Political Effort On My Behalf is Serving The People.

Per corollary, calling attention to such efforts must be the work of Enemies of the People.  And outlets such as Campus Reform and College Fix?  Engaging in violence!

To their credit, senior scholars in the various trendy -studies departments have been asking the critics to concentrate their fire on the thought leaders.
However, those of us who are senior scholars doing critical work and authoring articles in this special issue are strongly committed to providing our support to critical scholars under attack by Trump-inspired rightwing individuals and groups, like Campus Reform and The College Fix. We know these attacks are only going to grow, and we know we cannot just be in a defensive mode. This issue represents our first efforts to start publishing on these issues, speaking up in public forums (e.g., conferences, speaking engagements) and organizing within our universities and national organizations. In other words, as senior scholars, we are pledging to actively support and protect critical scholars in colleges and universities across the US. Further, we challenge those rightwing organizations—instead of focusing on mostly untenured junior scholars, the most vulnerable among us—to focus your fervor on us.
Many of these authors are affiliated with the colleges of deaducation education.  That is already a target-rich environment, particularly as it is the graduates of the colleges of deaducation education who staff and run the common schools, and rare is the week I don't get to note the Distressed Material originating therein.

For the record, I've been linking to people who are skeptical of this "critical scholars" enterprise for the fifteen years of Cold Spring Shops, and raising such objections in curriculum committees and university governance for at least fifteen years before that.  Mr Trump is late to this enterprise, but if his activities bring my objections, and the objections of others, to national prominence, so be it.

5.12.17

THE SWAMP CREATURES ARE HIGH AND DRY.

Matt "Dean Dad" Reed doesn't find much to like in the current Federal tax rewrite.

I'll start with the part where the bill is on the shakiest ground, which is the treatment of tuition waivers and the like as implicit income.
One of the few perks we’ve been able to afford to offer employees is tuition waivers for themselves and their dependent children. One proposal calls for taxing those as income. I don’t see proposals for taxing “employee discounts” in other industries, though. Just education. Given that a dollar is a dollar, one has to wonder at the real motivation. Granted, the impact would be greatest on graduate students; in many cases, their tuition waivers are nominally higher than their stipends, so their tax increases would be by several multiples. (Eventually, that could reduce the pool of adjunct faculty, driving up costs even more.) It could also do a number on our non-credit corporate training side, where employers often pay for employee training. Given that we keep hearing about the need for colleges to be responsive to employers, that’s counterintuitive at best.
Just for fun, let's go through the whole tax code, and identify all the forms of compensation that aren't subject to taxation.  Take health benefits.  (Please.)  That was a subterfuge by which employers could avoid wage controls and recruit more-desirable workers by offering to cover their health insurance.  And once the Victory Dividend wore off, but not until we got Medicare and Medicaid, look how well that turned out.  Mightn't it be simpler to treat that compensation as income, and treat health care as another environment in which trade-tested betterments ought be tried?

It gets more byzantine when you get to those tuition waivers.  Perhaps at one time providing inducements for The Best and The Brightest to get those graduate degrees was a Good Thing: there was a Moon to Go To and Return From; there was a Balance of Power to be Maintained; there was a Great Society to be Engineered.  (And if you think I'm being cynical. the last of the Vietnam era draft deferments to go was the one for graduate students: selective service had that name for a reason.)  But how do you impute the income?  Back in the day, I received a stipend from the Graduate School.  These were taxed for teaching assistants, but not taxed for project assistants.  (Don't ask.  I can't explain, although I suspect the rationale was something about how "project" had the aura of Manhattan or Apollo.)  But I had to pay tuition out of that stipend.  In-state rate, by virtue of being a Wisconsin resident.  If I recall correctly, the non-residents got a waiver.  Does that mean my income was less, as a state resident, than my classmate from another state?  Or do our taxmasters impute to me the same income as they do to my classmates?  How, then, do we treat undergraduate in-state or out-of-state tuitions?

At the same time, reducing the pool of adjunct faculty (you'd think, with all the vulgar Marxists in higher education, somebody would twig to that industrial reserve army) might be a good thing, and the way higher education has taken an adversarial stance toward what we understand as mainstream Americans, is anybody surprised that when the mainstream gets the levers of national power, they're not going to bite back?

But then there's the deduction for local taxes.
Disallowing the deduction for state and local taxes would drive a stake through the heart of our appropriations. State and local government budgets don’t have a lot of discretionary spending in them, once you take care of law enforcement, K-12, and Medicare. Taking away the federal tax deduction for money that people have already paid in taxes to states, counties, or towns would amount to a drastic tax increase on them. (One version of the bill even disallows the deduction for property taxes. New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the country. It would be devastating here.) We’ve been dealing with austerity for years, but this would take cutting to a new level, and abruptly.
Hang on, there's something called "separation of powers."  Your federal taxes pay for such things as secure borders and open sea lanes.  Your state taxes, for state provided services, and your local taxes, for law enforcement and trash collection, and snowplowing in the north in the winter.  Thus, this federal tax deduction means people in Illinois or Connecticut or New Jersey are, depending on how you look at it, sticking Texans and Arizonans with some of the snow removal bills, or free-riding on the border enforcement Texans and Arizonans are paying for.  Stephen Moore elaborates.
Now those who choose to live in blue states are going to have to join with their neighbors, collect their pitchforks and demand tax and spending cuts from city hall and the state capital.

Here's some advice to blue state pols: Pare the hyper-extravagant pensions, and stop paying your government employees 30 percent more than comparable private-sector workers get.

Liberals from blue states argue that red states tend to get more money from the feds and pay less in taxes. But here again, blue state voters are the ones responsible for these inequities. Blue staters tend to send liberal politicians to office, who then vote for bigger federal spending -- even though a greater share of the money goes to the red states. Maybe somebody needs to write a book called: "What's the Matter With Massachusetts."
That's really a problem in tax incidence, or perhaps in limiting the role of the federal government to properly federal services, such as those borders and ships at sea.