23.6.17

TAIL TRACK.

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

RAILROADS REJECTING PUBLIC MONEY FOR PASSENGER TRAINS?

The most recent Railroad Heritage included a lengthy article by J. C. Thorpe, who has illustrated a number of interesting concept rail projects over the years.

One such concept is the Shenandoah Rail Corridor, which I have alluded to previously: it's a way to take some of the pressure off Interstate 81, which is a road congested and pounded to pieces by semis.

Seems like a logical candidate for a public-private partnership, providing the freight railroads with additional capacity for van trains, plus a corridor for faster passenger trains.  Something like this.



In his article, Mr Thorpe noted the electric freight locomotive originally wore the colors of Norfolk Southern.  But a representative of Norfolk Southern, in commenting on the project, asked Mr Thorpe to change the lettering on the motor.  The railroad wanted nothing of the project.  Why not?  "If this sort of thing continues, it will mean nothing less than the passengerization of the industry."

Put another way, the existing railroad, mingling container trains with the remaining coal traffic, and general freight out of the south (the railroads still move a lot of plywood, for instance) appeals to Norfolk Southern in a way that this upgrade, which would involve shared operating rights, does not.

I had suspected the major freight carriers didn't like taking public money if it involved improving the passenger network, but to refer to such projects as "passengerization" comes as a surprise.

FIRST, STOP THE SNEERING, THE CONDESCENSION, THE EPISTEMIC CLOSURE.

Confound it, I don't want to keep writing about national politics, but there's so much juicy stuff out there I can't resist.  Start with Donk court intellectual T. B. Edsall, writing before Georgia voters rejected the latest Great Democrat Hope.
Democratic pollsters, strategists and sympathetic academics have reached some unnerving conclusions.

What the autopsy reveals is that Democratic losses among working class voters were not limited to whites; that crucial constituencies within the party see its leaders as alien; and that unity over economic populism may not be able to turn back the conservative tide.

Equally disturbing, winning back former party loyalists who switched to Trump will be tough: these white voters’ views on immigration and race are in direct conflict with fundamental Democratic tenets.
The Donks lack the muscle to abolish the People and appoint a new one; and Jeb! Bush was right about not being able to insult your way to the presidency ... it's a bad move to insult voters.  Politicians are fair game.

Here's Brett Stephens on the tactical error of insulting voters.
Contemporary liberalism now expresses itself chiefly in the language of self-affirmation and moral censure: of being the party of the higher-minded; of affixing the suffix “phobe” to millions of people who don’t appreciate being described as bigots.

It’s intolerable. It’s why so many well-educated Republicans who find nothing to admire in the president’s dyspeptic boorishness find even less to like in his opponents’ snickering censoriousness. It’s why a political strategy by Democrats that seeks to turn every local race into a referendum on Trump is likely to fail.

One temptation Democrats would be smart to avoid is to see Ossoff’s loss as evidence that the party needs to move further left, on the theory that not enough of the base showed up to vote. In fact, turnout for Ossoff was extraordinary for a special election. And nominating more progressive candidates isn’t likely to solve the contempt problem, at least with voters not yet in sync with progressive orthodoxies on coal, guns or gender-neutral bathrooms.
Yes, and any political pundit who invokes Aron Niemzowitsch's Gegen diesen Idioten muss Ich verlieren? deserves your attention.  Go. Read.  Note that the skirt-chasing president [Bill] Clinton probably survived impeachment in part because he didn't come off as hectoring the electorate, Jimmy Carter style, or patronizing it, Barack Obama style.

Reason's David Harsanyi makes a related point.
Everyone loves his or her members of Congress. They just hate yours. Handel will likely be in her position as long as she pleases because incumbents win more than 95 percent of races.

If the average Republican is willing to look past Trump's sins (and, obviously, many GOPers like him outright), they can start weighing many other factors. They may, for instance, understand that voting for Ossoff is not only a vote against Trump but a vote for progressive liberals like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who was given a near 60 percent disapproval rating in the 6th District. This is the choice.

It is also worth noting that, as galvanizing as the anti-Trump movement has been these past months, it is not a movement of persuasion. The default rhetorical disposition of liberals is still to accuse anyone who takes a cultural or economic position to the right of Sen. Elizabeth Warren of being a clingy racist. Maybe affluent suburban Republicans don't appreciate the accusation. And maybe bashing the president and getting hysterical over Russia isn't a winning strategy in places like Georgia because, while the GOP has tons of problems, for what does the Democratic Party stand?
They're beginning to have this conversation, although it still looks like San Francisco or Chicago or Detroit as a message.  None of those visions are particularly edifying to strivers elsewhere.

Keep it up, Democrats.
It should be clear to Democrats that the progressive message is not resonating with Independents or blue-collar workers — some of whom are within their base. And it is evident that Democrats still haven’t learned anything from the 2016 presidential election. They decided to stick with Pelosi as House minority leader and elected Tom Perez, whose rhetoric has marginalized non-progressives within his own party, as chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Progressivism is ruining the Democratic Party. It will be interesting to watch how much damage it will do to the brand before the party recognizes that progressivism doesn’t resonate with the American people, not now, nor will it in 2018 and beyond.
Author Shermichael Singleton is using "progressive" and its declensions in the classical sense of Governance by Wise Experts, National Standards set in Washington D.C.  That founders on the calculation problem.  It's likely that the national party's embrace of identity politics, except for traditional Americans, is also hurting their chances.

ART IMITATING LIFE TOO CLOSELY?

On one of my visits to You Tube (to post a train video, of course) the algorithm that suggests things to watch came up with a movie now streaming there, The Thinning.  The premise: the United Nations gets enough power to keep the world out of a Malthusian trap, and the population must be culled.

There's nothing new in such premises.  Years ago, there was Soylent Green, in which the useless eaters became useful food, and Logan's Run, in which there were resources to support a young population, but upon hitting thirty or so, people departed this life in a spectacular ritual offering the hope of reincarnation.

Perhaps The Thinning hasn't caught on in the same way because the premise is too real.  The useless eaters are identified by high-stakes tests, starting in grade school.  Score too low:  you disappear.

As if that wasn't exactly how the vocational tracking system in the government schools has always worked.  As if that wasn't the rationale behind calling the military draft the Selective Service System.  The Wise Experts never quite got around to drafting people who had an aptitude for mathematics as rocket scientists, or who had good social skills and quick minds as paediatricians.  The student deferments might have been a way to steer people into such occupations, particularly if they were granted on a discretionary basis by local draft boards (something that did not happen in practice.)  But fail to register, and you're screwed, particularly if you had a rough start in life.

And how else explain the resources spent on granite countertops to buy into good school districts, on Harvard Prep daycare, on College Board test prep.  It's enough to drive the nachalstvo and the cherry pickers curators of entering classes crazy.
In modern America, [sociologist Mitchell] Stevens argues, preparing one’s children for college and then enrolling them in the most desirable one possible is the culmination of “social reproduction.” He explains this sociological term as “the transfer of knowledge, cultural perspective, and social position from one generation to the next,” or, more broadly, “all the things parents do to ensure that their children will have good lives.”

Formal education has become central to social reproduction. Few American parents now transfer a family farm or business to their offspring. The “business” for a huge majority is a career selling labor on the open market rather than, as once was common, owning and operating some enterprise. Nor do more than a handful of parents bring children along in their own trade, schooling having displaced formal and informal apprenticeships as the pathway to careers. And smaller families mean that parents’ social-reproduction efforts are concentrated on fewer offspring.

Stevens shows how very selective colleges’ flexible understanding of “diversity” squares the circle between helping those less fortunate and giving one’s children a leg up.
That requires the herd to be thinned.
Similarly, diversity in education, from preschool to postgraduate, and the resulting holy war on privilege, requires denouncing but not renouncing. Despite its stated intent to subvert unjust hierarchies, multiculturalism facilitates rather than impedes careerism. A degree from a selective college, one racially integrated in a carefully curated way, does wonders for those getting on in the world. “Checking your privilege” never involves transferring to Jerkwater A&M, diverse in ways selective colleges never will be, and thereby surrendering one’s spot in the Ivy League so that it can be filled by a cashier’s or opioid addict’s kid.
And thus do we find ourselves in a world of privilege hoarders.  Implicitly, the thinning requires Jerkwater A&M to do anything but recognise they are in the same business as the Ivies, which would help the poor, determined, and striving to avoid the usual gatekeepers.

PROGRESS IS OUT OF VOGUE.

P. J. O'Rourke watches an Ariane 5 liftoff.  There's a bit of "I, Rocket" in it.
An individual could not build a rocket like these, no matter what his wealth or how much time he was allotted.

He’d have to be three Pythagoreans of a mathematician and a hundred kinds of engineer, a physicist-on-wheels faster than those of Stephen Hawking, the sort of computer whiz who’d make Bill Gates call tech support, an electrician, a metallurgist, a welder, a bomb disposal squad (that being what a rocket at blast-off is really doing), and own a very long ladder and be able to count down from ten to one (in French).

As for trade, the launch was a business deal putting two privately owned communications satellites in orbit, one from the American company ViaSat and one from its European competitor Eutelsat. The deal was made by Ariane­space in cooperation with its principal rocket-building contractor Airbus and Airbus’s rival Boeing, which manufactured Viasat’s satellite. The invisible hand of the marketplace doesn’t get much more unseen than what I was looking at.
But the rocket itself? Rather than representing the concretization of Western rationalism, it looks like a throwback to a lost era (and probably a phallic symbol to boot.)  Meanwhile, it's the contemporary, trendy thinkers and their hipster tendencies, turning the clock back.
The food Luddites urge us to eat the locally sourced, organic, pesticide-lacking, GMO-free diet of our ancestors, who had average lifespans of well over 30 years.

Modern transport is rejected in favor of the primitive bicycle. Mature adults wearing Lycra cycling shorts are as barbaric in appearance as naked early Britons painted with woad.

Medical advances are renounced as the public consults the witch doctors of health care insurance instead of the M.D.s of health care treatment.
It's enough to make an aging stoner despair.
If we want to avoid a future full of socialists, progressives, Birkenstock-wearing women in pink pussyhats, black-clad men in Guy Fawkes masks, gender-neutral shouters of Resistance!, vegans, PETA members, Middlebury College alums, and other pests who will be starving and begging in what used to be a marketplace but has become an “Occupied” camp . . .

If we want to avoid all that, we must make progress exciting again. We need a “Big Bang theory” of capitalism.
But perhaps the hero projects, whether in space or in medicine or in food and retail are all gone, and it's an era of normal science, or Kuhnian puzzle solving.

Thus is Ariane 5 hoisting a satellite ... to provide broadband internet to cruise ships at sea.

That might have been anticipated in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  No, we don't have Pan American space shuttles or orbiting Hilton hotels with lobbies as aesthetically challenging as airport departure lounges: but the symbolism of the dramatic becoming the mundane was there all the same.

22.6.17

THINGS AREN'T SO BAD AFTER ALL.

Not when a do-it-yourselfer has nothing better to do than sue the home supply stores for selling finished studs and posts as 2x4 and 4x4 when the kiln-dried, planed sizes are smaller.  "'Defendant has received significant profits from its false marketing and sale of its dimensional lumber products,' the action against Menards contends." Experienced woodworkers understand all these things, and work accordingly.  The plaintiffs are inexperienced woodworkers.
As [attorney Eugene] Turin described it, all three men in the lawsuits wanted the lumber for home-improvement projects, got home and measured the pieces, felt they had been deceived and then turned to the law firm.

Asked whether it was coincidence that three different men found the same sort of issue with lumber first at Menards and then at Home Depot, and then all decided to go to McGuire Law, Turin said he couldn’t comment.
The good news is, none of these do-it-yourselfers injured himself commencing their projects.

Now, if they were working from plans and bills of materials, they're going to be surprised when they discover that putting something other than what the store sells as 4x4s in the place where the plans call for 4x4s everything else is going to be off.

DRAIN. THE. SWAMP.

Administrators at public universities complain that the legislatures have broken the social contract by which there's been sufficient funding to keep tuitions low.  I have long contended that the breach is mutual, with the public universities neglecting their core functions.

In "Napolitano and the Decline of Berkeley" retired professor (and I think California regent for a while) Glynn Custred reviews the recent behavior of California's higher education administrators and faculty, then comes down on the side of Big Education breaking the social contract.
The long march of the authoritarian left has succeeded in capturing the institutions of higher learning, and they have imposed their anti-liberal and anti-intellectual agenda upon institutions that once supported a free marketplace of ideas. Illiberal administrations and boards of directors disregard the missions of the institutions they are charged with governing. These institutions are financed by student tuitions and fees, by donations from alumni, businesses, and philanthropic organizations, and by taxes, government subsidies, and tax-funded grants. Perhaps it is time to rethink our unquestioned support of institutions that are failing to fulfill their missions in so many ways.
Precisely.

THIS DEFIES PARODY.

An adjunct communication professor at Newark, New Jersey's Essex Community College goes on Tucker Carlson's show to participate in a contentious interview.  (How contentious?  I shut it down after about a minute or two of her ranting.)  But now she claims to have been administratively terminated for daring to appear on Fox News and jousting with Tucker Carlson.
The letter does not mention the Tucker Carlson show, but Durden said administration officials made a point of bringing it up that day. In a meeting with Lee and Karen Bridgett, assistant director of Human Resources, Durden said Bridgett told her someone "complained'' that she associated herself to the college during the television show appearance.

Not true, and Durden proved it.

Look at the six-minute clip. It's on the internet. Google Lisa Durden and Tucker Carlson. Next to her name, it says political commentator. During the contentious discussion with Carlson, Durden never identified herself as a professor at the college. Durden said she was representing herself while arguing that Black Lives Matter had a right to have a Memorial Day celebration in a safe space for black people at a time when there's a rise in white nationalism and racism.

Considering her explanation, Durden, and many who support her, want to know what she did wrong. Durden said Bridgett told her the matter is being investigated.
Verdict first, then the trial.

Perhaps, though, her experience will be an instructive moment for protecting the standards of academic discourse.
"For those of us who are involved in advocacy, politics, who may hold opinions which differ from those in different spaces, this kind of thing has a terrible chilling effect,'' Rebecca Williams, an assistant professor, wrote in her letter to the administration.
No, Becky, you just haven't learned how to offer up a contrary point of view in a non-confrontational way. Nor did Ms Durden. If anything, she was done in by the cult of authenticity.
"As this suspension will become public in the world of academia -- and especially in black public intellectual circles --  it will bring more negative publicity to our institution even as we are trying to move forward with our new president.''
Forgive me the impertinence, this is Essex Community College in Newark F***ing New Jersey. Come off it.  It might be more pertinent that all Ms Durden did was shoot her mouth off on a shouting show: she didn't call for muscle or organize an occupation of the Fox studio.  It's another administrative usurpation.  As such, she deserves redress.

Perhaps, though, we're seeing a rediscovery of civic virtue, no matter how artlessly the human resources types protected it.  "Nobody cares what your agenda is when you act like barbarians."  That includes carrying on in something other than a measured way on Fox, no matter how provocative the interviewer is.

KEEP DOUBLING DOWN ON THE CONDESCENSION.

Two more Democrats lost special elections to fill seats rendered open by Republican Members of Congress who received appointments in the Executive Branch.  In Georgia, all the advantages of a great deal of money plus male privilege plus the tacit support of much of the legacy media wasn't enough to prevent Jon Ossoff from losing to Karen Handel.  But it's not that he lost to a girl.  “Feminism doesn’t mean liking every stupid woman you meet.”  That's right, dear reader, you can have the proper chromosomes and anatomy and identify as a woman and all the rest, and if your politics are wrong, the women of the fevered brow will cancel your woman card.
Yes, Handel is a woman (hooray!), but her track record and stated policy priorities do not inspire much confidence that she’ll do anything to advance rights and opportunities for other women. A glass ceiling broken is only worth celebrating if it means something for more than the individual smashing it.
Obviously it must mean something for voters, otherwise she would have lost. But I digress.

That objection is relatively tame: you can take out the identity politics and we have somebody writing for Huffington Post objecting to a Republican candidate on standard policy grounds, arguing from a relatively narrow construction of those "rights and opportunities for other women."

But there are still members of the (coastal) Democrat - Academic - Media - Entertainment complex who would rather blame the voters.  Take Jill Filipovic.  Please.
“Maybe instead of trying to convince hateful white people, Dems should convince our base—ppl of color, women to turn out. Cater to them,” Tweeted noted far-left feminist and author Jill Filipovic. Filipovic went on to rail against bigoted voters in proceeding tweets. “At what point is this not a failure of Democrats but toxic, vindictive voters willing to elected hateful bigots.”

Herein lies the Democrats’ problem, just as it was a problem when Hillary Clinton bellowed about a basket full of deplorables during the 2016 campaign. The Democrats and their base (Hollywood) think the key to winning elections is to insult voters. “They don’t vote for us because they are bigots” is not a strategy I would employ as a campaign manager but they are welcome to keep trying this, and they are welcome to keep losing.
The problem with that strategy is the base as Mx Filipovic perceives it does turn out, although the fractures in that coalition are becoming more evident, even if Congressional districts are rigged by apportionment.
Democrats either want to be a party that offers a more sane and measured alternative to Trump’s chaotic, unpredictable craziness, or they want to keep putting together symbolic marches while attempting to explain why some of their more extreme supporters are staging campus riots, talking about blowing up the White House and stabbing people on trains or shooting up baseball fields. Maybe they’ll figure it out post 2018, or a couple of years into Trump’s second term.
Rick Moran proposes a simpler explanation.
Ordinary Americans simply don't like leftists very much.  And when Hollywood and Silicon Valley unite to tell them they are stupid, are ignorant, are racist, are homophobic, hate Muslims, and shouldn't love America so much, what do they expect the reaction from ordinary people will be?

Republicans are not representatives of the people any more than Democrats are.  But they speak the language of the ordinary voter and usually don't put them down.  The coastal elites who run the Democratic Party and liberal establishment cannot disguise their contempt for ordinary Americans.  In Georgia's 6th District, that smug, self-righteous sense of superiority played about as well as one might expect.
Simpler explanation might even have some purchase. Consider Andrew Bacevich for Common Dreams.
Unlike President Trump, I do not pretend to speak for Everyman or for his female counterpart.  Yet my sense is that many Americans have an inkling that history of late has played them for suckers.  This is notably true with respect to the post-Cold War era, in which the glories of openness, diversity, and neoliberal economics, of advanced technology and unparalleled U.S. military power all promised in combination to produce something like a new utopia in which Americans would indisputably enjoy a privileged status globally.

In almost every respect, those expectations remain painfully unfulfilled.  The history that “served for the time being” and was endlessly reiterated during the presidencies of Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama no longer serves.  It has yielded a mess of pottage: grotesque inequality, worrisome insecurity, moral confusion, an epidemic of self-destructive behavior, endless wars, and basic institutions that work poorly if at all.
There's more blame for the self-destructive behavior and deconstruction of the mediating institutions than Mr Bacevich gets into: but to his credit, he's not denouncing the angry normals for daring to be angry.

You want the angry?  Read Joy Overbeck (whose credentials as a woman are probably not honored by Huffington Post either.)  Then read Kurt Schlichter (this posted before Ossoff's loss.)
The Tea Party was the first manifestation of the anger out there at the establishment. It was polite – it even cleaned up its own messes after its peaceful protests. The media, and the same alleged conservatives who saw the Tea Party as a threat to their own position because it caused donors to start asking for results instead of simply writing checks, attacked the Tea Party. Well, then we got Trump, who was not nearly as polite, and who took the White House fair and square from the designated establishment candidate. And now they want to use non-ballot means to make sure the normals’ choice is again ignored.

What do they think comes after Trump? Someone nice?
Particularly if the condescension continues.

STOP REWARDING FAILURE.

The editorial board of the Northern Star object to departed university president Doug Baker's severance packet.
Baker is not the first Illinois university president to be given a severance package after terminating their employment before the completion of their contract. An outgoing Chicago State University president was given a severance package of $600K after serving only nine months, according to a Sept. 19, 2016, Illinois Policy article.

Similar to Baker, this president did not fulfill his contract and did not serve the best interest of the students, yet he was rewarded for his failure to do the job he was hired to do.
That's got to hurt, comparing Northern Illinois with Chicago State.
The Northern Star Editorial Board recommends the Board reevaluate its decision making over the past few years and hopefully gain a better perspective as to how crucial the quality of financial responsibility in a president is as they begin the process of replacing Baker. NIU and its students cannot survive another presidency similar to the one we have endured these past four years.
We might start by contemplating achieving a state of good repair in the academic enterprise, without any new administrative initiatives, taglines, strategic plans, and all the other distractions that keep the faculty from their scholarship.

20.6.17

LET THE BENEFICIARY BEAR THE BURDEN.

Wisconsin's roads are in parlous shape, which is an interesting reversal of the way things were thirty years ago, when Wisconsin rebuilt its main roads when they deteriorated to the state new Illinois roads were.  But Illinois jacked up its tolls, and the toll roads are in something resembling a state of good repair, although you're delayed as much by the rebuilding work as you are by the toll plazas.

And thus do the pundits continue to call for implementing tolling on Wisconsin's interstate highways. That's not going to be an easy proposition, particularly with high state officials suggesting the tolls be collected on inbound traffic at the border.  A Trump Moslem ban or a Walker Flatlander Toll: compare and contrast.  But the advocates persist, even being willing to go along with a tax, even if the rhetoric is "user fee."
That’s a “tax” that would fall directly on those who are using the Interstate — those who are creating the wear and tear that necessitates repair and replacement work. It would also cause the burden of those costs to be shared with travelers from out of state and not fall solely on Wisconsin drivers.
That's Racine, and they're OK with tolling, as a way of expediting the widening of Interstate 94 north of the state line, in the hopes that it can handle the increased traffic in and out of the warehouses that have fled Illinois.  (Perhaps it's time to think about spending some money upgrading the old Chicago and North Western north of Kenosha and restoring the second track on the Freight Main, and inducing the warehouses to take more deliveries by rail but I digress.)

The problem with implementing tolls only on the expressways is that people will figure out how to bypass them.  In particular, the fleet operators and their 53 foot elephants will bypass them.  And beat up the old Federal and State highways in the bargain.

Perhaps we'll finally see serious proposals to make the heavy trucks pay for the roads they use.  "Wisconsin would join four other states in placing a per mile fee on the kinds of heavy trucks that do more damage to roads, under the idea offered by a member of the Legislature's budget committee."  The rent-seekers, predictably, want their rents protected.
Neal Kedzie, a former state senator and president of the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association, said that his group wouldn't support a per mile fee on their hauling.

"It's a tricky business with small margins," Kedzie said of his industry. "We don't want to have prices passed on to consumers."
No, it's easier to pretend that the goods are being delivered more cheaply when the higher price is buried in a multiplicity of inconveniences: the 53 foot road-breaker occupying both lanes of Wisconsin's overdesigned roundabouts; the delays incurred when those 53 footers are slow away from the traffic light, or use up the entire left turn arrow just getting started, or those slow-motion drag races on the expressways I dealt with yesterday.

Thus, although Owen at Boots and Sabers might be correct that state legislatures, even those controlled by Republicans, might prefer raising taxes to spending less money, in this instance a user fee levied on the vehicles most responsible for wrecking the roads makes economic sense.

Oh, did anybody catch the Madison Democrat griping about all the ways the Legislature is avoiding raising the gasoline taxes?  Priceless.  Prius-driving metrofexuals can avoid most of those taxes.

WHY DO THE GROUNDLINGS RAGE?

Popehat's Ken White offers common sense on the use of Shakespeare to comment on Our Times, and why it's unworthy of serious people to disrupt performances, no matter how many liberties the performers might take with the script.

I recommend reading it in full.  Some highlights.
Never mind, for the moment, that Shakespeare's plays are shot through with blunt commentary on the politics of his time, or that staging Shakespeare to comment on contemporary politics is common and nearly as old as they plays themselves, or that the same thing has been done with an Obama-like Caesar with very little fanfare, or that the entire point of the play is that Caesar's assassination is self-indulgent folly that leads to disaster. People are angry.

One angry justification for disrupting the play goes like this: liberals do this to conservatives, so this is fair play. We're just imposing liberals' rules on liberals. Liberals disrupt conservative speakers on campuses all the time, and if that's okay, why isn't this okay?
Because there are barking moonbats, and then there are the bourgeois conventions the moonbats would just as soon deconstruct. Got that?
This way lies madness and destruction, the excuse to abandon everything we believe. We follow our principles because they're right, not because everyone agrees with them. We follow them in adversity and in the face of opposition and even injustice. We give due process — a jury trial — to a cop who shot a motorist even if a very good argument can be made that the cop executed the motorist without due process. We defend the free speech of Nazis and communists who would deny it to us if they had power. At one point, I would have been able to say that we don't torture people even if they torture.

The "eye for an eye" theory of respecting free speech is particularly pernicious because it represents the worst sort of collectivism, something the principled Right ought reject. Note that people who say "apply the Liberals' own rules to the Liberals" aren't disrupting, say, an Antifa rally or the meeting of some Berkeley student group that advocated shutting down a conservative speaker. They're disrupting other people entirely, on the theory that everyone they deem part of the nebulous collective "Liberal" deserves to be silenced because someone else in that nebulous collective engaged in silencing behavior. The actors and playgoers in New York, under this theory, deserve to be shut down because they stand responsible for the acts of all "liberals" everywhere. (The suggestion that anyone going to see Julius Caesar must be a liberal does not reflect a very healthy self-image amongst the Right.) This closely resembles the logic of hecklers on college campuses, who argue that nearly any conservative speaker stands responsible for Klansmen and neo-Nazis and overt bigots everywhere. It's contemptible and can be used to justify doing nearly anything to nearly anyone.
More contemptible, though, is the abdication of responsibility by adults who should know better.  Zum Beispiel: "A few hysterically censorious kids screaming for a professor's termination for crimethink do not threaten the foundations of free speech, but Yale lauding them does."

Those conventions arose for a reason.  Deconstruct them at your peril.

A MONUMENT WORTHY OF A THIRD WORLD MARXIST.

Public officials in the People's Republic of Madison would like to rename a building in honor of former president Barack Obama.


City-County Building, Madison, Wisconsin

It's a little much, even for the apparatchiki at Madison's Capital Times.
The building that would honor the former president’s quiet dignity is, however, somewhat lacking in presidential stateliness.

Sitting like a Soviet relic on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the 1956 structure that would bear Obama’s name features a stark black marble one-story facade above which hovers a corrugated protrusion of stained concrete. Looming over that is a flat shoebox of more concrete and aluminum-clad windows. The interior is home to numerous indistinct bureaucratic offices, topped off by two floors of jail space so run-down that the sheriff himself calls it an abomination, and which county officials are at pains to do away with.
Pitch-perfect, argues Thomas Lifson. "The architectural style of the President Barack Obama City-County Building is the most fitting monument possible to the president that Obama really was."

Jail cells worthy of the Lubyanka?  Bonus rooms.

PRIVILEGE IS CIVILIZATION.

It's graduation season, and summer is for college visits.

In upscale precincts of New Jersey, high school graduation looks more like a debutante ball.  Maybe all the families living in the district have entries in Who's Who and the Social Register.

That's getting Laura "11-D" McKenna wondering about the propriety of it all.
It’s a nice night for the kids, but that’s a lot of money. And the time that went into constructing these sets could have been spent in a much more productive way. Right here in the same town, there are hundreds of special ed kids who could some reading tutoring. Twenty minutes from here, there are kids in Newark who need a whole lot of help.
Not far away, Matt "Dean Dad" Reed's oldest is a year from graduation.
The advantages we’re giving our kids - lots of books, frequent discussion of politics and current events, a good school district, a stable home - will make it likelier that they’ll do well economically. The advantages accrue over time. That amounts, at some level, to the kind of hoarding that Lowrey/Reeves describe. That’s not anyone’s fault, but it’s real.

The issue is structural, as are the solutions. I don’t apologize for giving my kids lots of books, or for putting them in situations likely to help them thrive. As a parent, I consider that part of my job. They’re great kids -- I’m biased, but still -- and I want them to be able to develop into the best versions of themselves that they can. In my perfect world, every kid would get that chance. The ethical obligation here is to use politics to pay it forward.
How structural? Back to 11-D.
Jonah is going off to college with private school sophistication. He and his classmates look years older than his peers in other towns. They hold themselves straight. They have no body fat or zits. They look adults in the eye and ask the right questions. They feel comfortable in a tux. Jonah knows how to order food in fancy restaurants and joins his friends at their million dollar shore houses. He is utterly comfortable in those settings. Those skills will serve him well in the future, so, as a mom, I’m happy. But when I put on my social justice hat, I feel ill.

This is privilege. It’s not so much the education. Jonah’s education has been hit or miss. . . . So the kids here end up with a better education than kids in other public schools, but it’s not solely because of the quality of the schools. What they really gain from this town and living in this rich people’s bubble are soft skills that later translate into posh jobs in the city.
Yes, it's ultimately about the cultural capital.  To Quartz's Dan Kopf, the investment in the right school districts and the association with like-minded neighbors is a new form of conspicuous consumption.
The fact that the aspirational class works, and that most of their income is based on the skills they have gained from high levels of education has made “social, environmental, and cultural awareness” the most valuable sources of social capital, [sociologist Elizabeth] Currid-Halkett argues.

So instead of spending money on consumer products, Currid-Halkett finds that the rich increasingly focus their spending on “nonvisible, highly expensive goods and services” that allow them to have time to gain that social capital and foster it in their children. Such goods and services include child care, gardeners, and, most importantly, education. She refers to this type of spending as “inconspicuous consumption.”
Yes, if it's possible to make relatively cheap cars look like the more expensive marques, one hoary form of status display goes away.  But passing wealth down in the form of mansions or a string of polo ponies dissipates the fortune.  Passing down the life-management skills, at a time when the intellectual Zeitgeist is all about deconstructing the bourgeois institutions, on the other hand, confers evolutionary advantages.
And while it may be funny to joke about their yoga pants and affinity for kale, the rise of the “aspirational class” may have very real consequences. Perhaps most disturbing is Currid-Halkett’s conclusion that these consumption trends may exacerbate inequality. Increased spending by wealthy parents on education and health for their children, for example, may deepen class divides and limit opportunities for poorer kids.
Indeed.  The $160K that goes into converting a graduation party into a Willie Wonka themed debutante ball (complete with a post-party in the municipal pool) looks like old school conspicuous consumption, but it's in the kids learning the proper handshakes and the golf etiquette and the rest that they're better equipped to perform in job interviews and close the deal and all the rest.  You could put that $160K into a Newark dropout factory or a St. Paul high school, and, up against the cult of authenticity and the fear of disproportionate suspension, it would be as nothing.

But the conventional wisdom still relies on calling on the well-off to pay more taxes.  The Atlantic's Annie Lowrey picks up on the latest from Brookings's Richard Reeves.  Same nostrums, different guilt trip.
The book traces the way that the upper-middle class has pulled away from the middle class and the poor on five dimensions: income and wealth, educational attainment, family structure, geography, and health and longevity. The top 20 percent of earners might not have seen the kinds of income gains made by the top one percent and America’s billionaires. Still, their wage and investment increases have proven sizable. They dominate the country’s top colleges, sequester themselves in wealthy neighborhoods with excellent public schools and public services, and enjoy healthy bodies and long lives. “It would be an exaggeration to say that the upper-middle class is full of gluten-avoiding, normal-BMI joggers who are only marginally more likely to smoke a cigarette than to hit their children,” Reeves writes. “But it would be just that—an exaggeration, not a fiction.”

They then pass those advantages onto their children, with parents placing a “glass floor” under their kids. They ensure they grow up in nice zip codes, provide social connections that make a difference when entering the labor force, help with internships, aid with tuition and home-buying, and schmooze with college admissions officers. All the while, they support policies and practices that protect their economic position and prevent poorer kids from climbing the income ladder: legacy admissions, the preferential tax treatment of investment income, 529 college savings plans, exclusionary zoning, occupational licensing, and restrictions on the immigration of white-collar professionals.
Put another way, it's the constraints imposed by Wise Experts that hold the Poor and Striving down.

Legacy admissions?  Those thick envelopes from the Ivies matter more to the extent that the land-grants and mid-majors and community colleges put being inclusive or offering access or whatever ahead of upping their academic efforts.

Preferential tax treatment?  Shall we have a serious conversation about tax simplification, or is it better to have a complex tax code that can be exploited by rent-seekers?

College savings plans?  Likewise, with the further effect that it conceals in complexity a regressive transfer that was present in the days of more generous state subsidies for their public universities, but that transfer at least offered the possibility of a striving kid from less-prosperous circumstances being able to matriculate, and make tuition, fees, room, and board on a commissary job during the academic year and a summer factory or warehouse job.

Occupational licensing?  Whenever the government creates a cartel, it generates rents that it dissipates somehow.  You'd think Mr Reeves, who used to be with The Washington Monthly, might have more to say about that.  I did.  "A rollback of occupational licensing in the right places well might help the prospects of young people rendered unemployable by government schools and the minimum wage. There is still work to do."

Restrictions on the immigration of white-collar professionals?  Among people who would be appalled by somebody saying anything nice about Our President?  The horror, the horror!

But for all of Mr Reeves's experience studying and writing about policy things, he's left with nothing more than throwing more money at poverty, and calling on the currently prosperous to sacrifice.
Expanding opportunity and improving fairness would require the upper-middle class to vote for higher taxes, to let others move in, and to share in the wealth. Prying Harvard admission letters and the mortgage interest deductions out of the hands of bureaucrats in Bethesda, sales executives in Minnetonka, and lawyers in Louisville is not going to be easy.
Nor will it work. Think first of policies to inculcate the habits of the middle class among the residents of the poorer quarters: then perhaps money might be more productively thrown at poverty.

NOTICE OF DISCONTINUANCE.

Site Meter will be going away at the end of June.

With Technorati going away, do we conclude that the weblog is being bypassed by the latest information superhighway?

TEN YEARS AGO.

Work had progressed far enough on Cold Spring Shops headquarters to permit a sample of the view of the pond from the sun room.


In ten years, all the houses across the pond now have their second-story decks in place, and the trees have filled in nicely.  My yard is now friendly to turtles that lay their eggs a long crawl for the hatchlings to the pond.


There's a skunk roaming the neighborhood, plus voles and snakes in the grass, any of which might have an appetite for fresh egg.

19.6.17

CONTEMPLATING A FOURTH TURNING?

John Locke on the Mandate of Heaven, at Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal.  It's about the evolutionary advantages of cooperating.
Those who can cooperate with others who are unlike them can form larger coalitions than those who can only cooperate with others similar to them. The strategy of cooperating with others who are similar can be pushed a long way: each of us is built around a collection of genetically near-identical cells, with reproduction monopolized by a few germ-line cells much as beehives are built around collections of genetically closely related individuals with reproduction monopolized by the queen bee and the drones. But assuming that strategy of cooperating with similar individuals is pushed to the limit on both sides of a conflict, the side that can also manage cooperation among unlike individuals or unlike groups of individuals will have a big advantage.
Yes, although cooperation among unlike might be more fragile and event-contingent than cooperation among like. Thus do social orders emerge, then fracture as the initial conditions of coalition no longer hold.

BLUE HIGHWAY WISCONSIN.

It's a different picture than what coverage of the U.S. Open suggested.  The Guardian's Katherine Cramer has held a ten-year appointment playing Dr. Livingstone among the Cheeseheads.
I have been visiting coffee klatches and residents’ groups throughout the state of Wisconsin since 2007. I seek them out, in various types of places, to understand how they are making sense of politics. From the very beginning, the conversations in small communities like this one surprised me. I have heard time and time again about the struggle to make ends meet, and the lack of response from anyone with the power to make life better. I have heard men like Joe say those idiots who tell us to drive less have no clue what our lives are like.
The common theme seems to be "the cities are getting all the public money."    Yes, but when the people who benefit from the urban agglomeration economies bid up the real estate, that's not a good thing either.
When I first met the Brunch Bunch, in June of 2007, one of the women showed me a roster of all of the families who had moved out of town. She said those people could no longer afford to stay, because wealthy urbanites’ holiday homes had driven up property taxes.
But the summer people don't have any reason to support the schools.
“It just doesn’t seem right,” said one of the Brunch Bunch. Another added: “Because of the high cost of living, people – especially families – aren’t moving in because there is not a job to support them to be able to live here. So the school enrolment doesn’t increase, and we still have to pay the burden of the school as part of the taxes.”
Meanwhile, are the businesses that cater to the summer people bringing in seasonal workers from overseas?

It's not as simple as it looks.  In the article, we see a picture purporting to be an "abandoned motel" in Sheboygan.  Closed and awaiting demolition, more likely.  In the background, a newish Sleep Inn, one of the chains catering to the itinerant, complete with free Wi-Fi and probably a pool, neither of which the abandoned motel likely offered.  The motels in question are on Motel Road.  The Sleep Inn is well placed for traffic on Interstate 43, the abandoned predecessor catered to motorists on the old, two-lane Highway 141.  Might also provide capacity when a major golf event hits Whistling Straits.

THE EVOLUTION OF COOPERATION.

Road and Track's Jack Baruth has been thinking systematically about a pet peeve of mine.
I'm in a pack of cars and at our head is a pair of semi-trucks having a little uphill and downhill race. They're both governed to 65 and not even making that kind of speed. As the truck in the left lane finally edges past on a downhill and moves over, my lane immediately jumps to 85 as everybody from the minivan mom to the Accord coupe dad floors the throttle in a release of pent-up helpless fury.
He's writing about going up and down hill in the Alleghenies and Appalachians, the same phenomenon manifests itself on the flatlands. And you can count on the roadhog governed to just above 60 to want to keep those r.p.m. up rather than stay behind the one governed just a little slower.
For a few glorious moments it looks like I'll zip by the 18-wheelers and make it to my destination on time, but then another semi takes advantage of a dubious-looking space in the left lane to swing out and start his passing maneuver on the truck ahead of him. Again we all jam on our brakes, again there's a ten-minute space where we fall to 45 mph or worse up the hills, then the truck race is over and we're free to go on our way. Welcome to American motoring, 2014 style.

I drive anywhere from 40,000 to 60,000 miles a year, much of it on freeways and the bulk of it east of the Mississippi, and I can report with certainty that this dismal state of affairs is now the rule rather than the exception. On the way to an endurance race in New Jersey, I saw two-lane freeways blocked by dual trucks more often than they were not. Heading down I-77 to VIR, I saw trucks struggle to make 40 mph up the steep tollway hills, but by God if one of them thought he could do 41 then he was certain to pull out and make everybody behind him sit for five or ten minutes while he tried to force the pass.
Yes, and in the flatlands, it's easy enough to see such situations developing. You see the elephant creeping up behind another elephant, you know just before he's dangerously close, he's going to invoke the Law of Gross Tonnage, perhaps with a perfunctory blink of the left indicator (or not), and take possession of the passing lane, counting on the car coming up to have better brakes.

There's something in trucker compensation that influences this behavior.
The widespread introduction of so-called "SGLs", or governors, in commercial trucks has created a situation where truck drivers face a measurable financial impact for dawdling behind even a slightly slower vehicle. If the truck ahead is governed two MPH slower and they stay behind it, they'll take home $10 or $15 a day less as a consequence. Over the course of a month, it's real money to them. So I don't blame them too much for inconveniencing or even endangering the rest of us.
It's got to be more complicated than that: wouldn't the driver of the hobbled elephant compensate the master mechanic to make his rig go faster; wouldn't the company that hobbles its elephants in this way notice an exodus of drivers, there being, apparently, a shortage of truck drivers at the current bundle of compensation and working conditions?

The public roads might be safer, Mr Baruth argues, with a different allocation of property rights.
No, the solution to this has to be legislative. Many European countries require commercial trucks to stay in the right lane, with a maximum speed of 50 mph or so. I can find nothing that suggests that they suffer much economic hardship as a result. When you consider the sleep deprivation and drug use to which truckers often fall victim, the argument for keeping them out of the way and restricting them to a lower speed becomes nearly unassailable.
In Europe, by law, the trucks are restricted in these ways, and it works. But that requires a different set of norms.  The rent-seekers of the North American road object to such proposals, but, in the way of all rent-seeking, it's special pleading.
Many of our readers agreed with this, but I received a staggering amount of negative feedback from professional drivers (in the truck sense, not the Formula One sense) and other people working in America’s trucking industry. I was told that any rule that limited commercial trucks to the right lane would create a “wall of steel.” I was told that the cost of pretty much everything would rise dramatically if trucks were not permitted to pass each other on the way to the store. Last but not least, I was told that there would be no toilet paper any more, because trucks deliver toilet paper.

Well, I’m happy to report that I just spent a week overseas in Europe, traveling through countries that prevent trucks from leaving the slow lane, and that pretty much none of these dire predictions came true. There was plenty of toilet paper, for one thing. And although pretty much everything seems to cost a little more in Europe, that seems more connected to the tax policy than to the truck policy.
We could change the rules of the road to limit the range of 53 foot trailers, such that the toilet paper would move by rail from Kimberly Clark to the warehouse, and by box truck from warehouse to store, but I digress.

In Europe, it's a combination of enforcement of the rules (there are three-lane stretches of the Illinois Tollway and Ohio Turnpike posted "No Trucks in Left Lane" but when the elephant governed to 60 + 2ε comes up behind an elephant governed to 60 + ε going around an elephant governed to 60, you can depend on the supposed fast lane all of a sudden moving at 60 + 2ε, and even in Ohio there aren't enough smokies to issue the relevant citations) and an understanding of the social norms.  A motorist who wants to get into the right lane to exit can request a space by the proper use of a turn signal.  (I don't know what effect that has on the passing lane, there's another norm on the Autobahnen about keeping to the right except to pass and the latter-day Barney Oldfields in their BMWs enforce that with high beams) and the semi backs off a bit, to allow the motorist to get to the right and get out of the way.  Must be more than two lanes on these expressways, so as to keep the leftmost lane clear for overtaking.
I didn’t think it would work, but it works fine. That’s because the “professional drivers” in Europe actually act like professionals, not like jumped-up cowboys who view every attempt to merge in front of them as a grave injury to the narcissistic area. They let you in and then you return the respect by getting out of their way and letting them get back to work.

As you’d expect, this does wonders for making mildly congested traffic less miserable. The trucks stay in the right lane and do 50mph. The cars stay in the left lanes and move faster. When you reach a hill, the trucks slow down and the cars keep moving. The well-known American phenomenon of having a hundred cars stuck behind two tractor-trailers doing 48mph up both lanes of a steeply-graded rural Interstate simply doesn’t happen in Europe. Just as importantly, automotive traffic going back down that hill does not have to fear for their lives because the Kenworth in the left lane behind them is using the grade to run past its speed governor, consequences for safety be dammed.

But you expected all of that to be true. Not even the most ardent defender of the American trucking status quo can argue that it wouldn’t be a massive benefit to drivers if we got trucks out of the left lane. What surprised me was that the European arrangement also appears to be better for truckers. They move at a safe and reasonable speed. I didn’t see any of the unpleasant little interactions you often see between “semi” drivers in the United States. Everybody lined up nose to tail, drove at the same speed, and seemed to get along.

The aforementioned good humor was particularly interesting because all the truckers in Europe have to operate “cabover” tractors in which the driver sits directly above, not behind, the engines. Cabovers are despised by pro drivers here because they don’t ride or handle very well. They’re like minivans compared to the proper big rigs from Kenwood, Peterbilt, and Mack, which are like Corvettes. I can see why. American trucks have longer wheelbases and more power, which makes them ride better and deal with difficult conditions better.

So if American trucks are better and their drivers have free reign of the roads, why does there seem to be so much more “road rage” on the part of our tractor-trailer pros? Maybe it’s not the trucks or the roads. Maybe it’s the rules. From what I’ve read, the European Union has more stringent restrictions on how long the drivers can go without rest–and they are trying to make those rules more consistent across the market, in the name of improving safety and welfare for Euro truckers. Maybe we should try treating our truck drivers better, both in terms of safety and compensation, and see if they wouldn’t be willing to return the favor to motorists by leaving the left lane open. What’s the worst that could happen? Would the toilet paper really disappear?
The cab-over design by itself probably concentrates the mind. If you hit something, there's no engine compartment ahead of you to absorb the collision.  That noted, the Hours of Service laws matter, and compensation and working conditions matter -- indeed, dear reader, whenever you hear of a shortage of workers, that is the first place to look for a cause.  That the rules of the road have evolved on European expressways to deal with the constraints doesn't surprise, either.

DRAIN. THE. SWAMP.

The Illinois Policy Institute weighs in on the recent departure of Northern Illinois University president Doug Baker.  Yes, they made much of his severance package, which looks like a bargain compared to what ineffective football coaches get, but they later got to the heart of the matter.
These golden parachute severance packages and wasteful spending scandals reflect an underlying problem in Illinois: the misplaced priorities within its higher education system. Administrative payrolls and benefits have exploded, while students and taxpayers struggle to pay for it all.

The number of university administrators in Illinois grew by a third between 2004 and 2010, while the number of students grew by less than 3 percent, according to a report from the Illinois State Senate Democratic Caucus.

And those administrators don’t come cheap. Over half of Illinois’ 2,465 university administrators received a base salary of $100,000 or more in 2015. These hefty salaries lead to ballooning retirement costs that crowd out spending on students.

In 2015, more than 50 percent of the state’s $4.1 billion budget for public universities was spent on retirement costs alone.
I'm sure the usual suspects will point out the necessity of a subset of these bureaucrats in order to comply with unfunded governmental mandates (another reason, as if we require additional reasons, to roll back the administrative state) but I was unable to find the statute that raises the utility of an inspiration officer.  I wrote, "Where is the faculty leadership to point out that these administrative usurpations are disrupting the community of scholarship, and not in a good way?"  Perhaps like me, they quit, although it's unlikely I'd find much sentiment among the emeritus faculty that there have been too many management fads (some concurrence), too much special education (secret readers of Rate Your Students might concur in part), and too much affirmative action (when I wanted to be provocative, I'd say "admit unprepared students and call it access" and stand back).  Perhaps, though, the administrative usurpations include shrinking the size of the faculty and rendering it perpetually overtired.

Regime change gives the editorial board at DeKalb's Daily Chronicle opportunity to issue their wish list.
The culture of secrecy, the inclination by the university to bury and hide information from the public, should end with the next administration. So, too, should the search for loopholes and other ways to hire people at extravagant salaries to perform administrative functions.
I'd welcome a presidential hopeful who publicly says it's time to shrink the pool of deanlets and deanlings by ten percent, on the principle that inspiring the faculty to do more with less doesn't work so well when the corps of deanlets and deanlings keeps growing, and they keep issuing new ukases in order to show that they are doing something.

I'd take this request and edit it as follows.  "A leader who will consider the needs of faculty and students in addition to rather than adding to the administrative workforce."

In this observation, recognition of a challenge of long standing.  In some ways Northern Illinois is a more complicated university than many, and the staffing of evening classes and satellite centers isn't easy, particularly with no resources for incentives.  "A president who will consider not only the needs of students who live on campus, but also of the commuter student population, which is an important component of the student body at NIU and long has been."

And there are challenges more general.  A corrupt, secretive presidency at one university does give legislators an additional stick to beat it with.  "Real openness can pay dividends with the community, the faculty, students and even lawmakers in Springfield, who will be happy to use any excuse they can to underfund the university – when they get around to funding it at all."

But higher education more generally has been breaking faith with legislators, with parents, with students, with donors for years, and higher education's case for subsidies and contributions has become weaker with time.  That goes beyond politics: that there is no common curriculum, that there are ways to graduate without studying calculus and a laboratory science: internally self-inflicted wounds.

Likewise, there's more to falling enrollments than corrupt presidents and excessive football ambitions.  "New leadership must be able to make a convincing case to counteract all those who would advise our state’s youth to leave the state to seek an education."

The punitive taxes might have something to do with the brain drain.  Moreover, we can't fault higher education for driving the Power Ball lottery out of Illinois.   That's a different swamp to be drained.

16.6.17

WHY NOTHING GETS DONE.

Toronto's GO Transit run with push-pull diesel trains.  Perhaps, sometime next century, they will run under catenary.  "This is a critical step towards enabling the province to begin the procurement process to select a vendor to electrify the system."  We have much to look forward to.

CONTEMPLATING THE COLD CIVIL WAR.

Right Wisconsin's Kevin Binversie makes the case for an "Off" switch, or perhaps for a rediscovery of bourgeois convention.
American political discord has been on a collision course towards something like this week’s shooting in Alexandria for some time now. The only true mystery was how it would play out and how honestly both sides of the aisle would accept their share of the blame.

On the Left you have an “Anything Goes” attitude towards political combat which goes back decades. Today, it manifests itself as “The Resistance,” a do-whatever-is-necessary opposition to President Donald Trump who have taken the art of the political freakout to new levels by turning the mundane actions which every presidential administration does into an almost non-stop series of 24-hour scandals, weekend themed protests, and tantrum-filled town halls.

While many on the Right, feeling hamstrung by decades of seeing their side play by “Marquess of Queensbury Rules” when the other side clearly wasn’t, have openly embraced a champion – false though he may be – in Trump believing he will “fight” when others before him didn’t. Gone are the days of principled moral stances based on the debate of facts, reason, and logic. What stands now in its place is a political tribalism where the color of the jersey matters more than the argument being offered.
Augmented, as he notes, by the increasingly universal and zero-sum nature of politics. "Perhaps the best thing is for us to remember that politics isn’t everything."

Indeed not, but that would be the end of the Permanent Bipartisan Establishment as we understand it.  National politics has degenerated into Setting National Standards, and the difficulties implementing such that follows ought be a lesson in scaling back what the Permanent Bipartisan Establishment keeps pushing.

FIRST, THINK ABOUT WHAT A STATE OF GOOD REPAIR LOOKS LIKE.

Dean Dad warns his colleagues in the community college world that the good old days are gone.
In much of the country, community colleges are in a secular decline in enrollment. They’re up against greater public and political scrutiny than they once were; arguments from professional deference have largely given way to demands for accountability, even as many of the older deference-based rules have remained in place. Their funding is flat or nearly so, if it hasn’t been slashed or eliminated. Health insurance costs continue to climb much faster than any revenue source. Some tuition-driven four-year schools are lowering their standards to fish in our pond, exacerbating the enrollment problem.

But digging in heels and opposing anything new won’t bring the old days back. In fact, the old days led inexorably to the new ones. Had the old ways been sustainable, they would have been sustained. They weren’t.

In looking at ways to adapt to the new environment, I keep butting up against longing for the return of the golden age. If we just refuse to budge, the argument goes, the universe will relent and it will be 1977 again, only with more diversity and cooler phones.
"Lowering their standards to fish in our pond."  The irony, the irony.

But it's not just the "tuition-driven four-year schools," however you choose to identify them, that have lowered their standards, and the consequences of those lowered standards are everywhere, dear reader, if you but look.

Consider this Adam Garfinkle reflection on the latest outrage by the Resistance.
It seems to me, too—though I can’t prove this and it might sound elitist—that the sharp polarization of American political discourse has something to do with the suddenly huge number of people who have been injected with ample doses of half-assed education. Mark Twain saw the phenomenon at an early stage: “Soap and education are not as sudden as a massacre, but they are more deadly in the long run.”1

What Mr. Clemens meant then, I think—or at any rate what I mean now—is that “higher” education induces the otherwise ignorant to think really for the first time in abstract terms, and abstractions are very shiny to the point of mesmerizing to those who are unaccustomed to working with them. The possession of mass-manufactured degrees from third-rate colleges leads some people to suppose that they understand more than they really do. Not that supposedly first-class universities don’t often produce similar results.

Half-assed abstractions taught and absorbed with smug assuredness can inspire the worst kind of self-confidence which, when married to a penchant for political activism, produces…well, it produces the kind of political class we have fairly recently acquired, and its concomitant inability to compromise regularly to get things done. If you have merely an interest or two, you can horse trade and logroll. But if you have mainly or only convictions—defined by Nietzsche as being “more dangerous enemies of truth than lies”—you can’t. And that is why, in this case, the old saw has it dead to rights: A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.2
"Not that supposedly first-class universities don’t often produce similar results."  Indeed not, what is the Academic- Media - Entertainment - Democrat establishment if not a toxic stew of intermarried smug semi-awareness.  What goes on at the third-rate degree factories, whether tuition-driven or not, is simply imitation of what goes on at the allegedly better institutions.  There's an arbitrage opportunity here, if someone would simply seize it.

Strip away the polemics, as Mark Bauerlein does: it doesn't look any better.
The [Wall Street] Journal reported that at more than half of 200 schools tested, at least a third of seniors were unable to make cohesive arguments, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table. This is a devastating finding. International rankings show U.S. college grads in the middle of the pack on numeracy and literacy and near the bottom when it comes to problem-solving.

The gist paragraph reads, “At some of the most prestigious flagship universities, test results indicate the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years.”
To Professor Bauerlein, though, the problem might be as much the willingness of suckers to be conned as it is the blandishments of the patent-medicine pushers.
Those data points force another interpretation of the high ratings people give to the quality of higher education. Instead of proving the actual rigor and excellence of undergraduate instruction in the United States, the sanguine estimates evince the low educational standards of American millennials. They just don’t know what actual excellence is. How could they when grade inflation in high school and college has reached such an absurd level that nearly half of all college grades are in the A range. If their teachers awarded them the top mark, well, then, they learned a lot in the course.  If the work that was required of them during the semester seemed suspiciously light, well, that may be due to the sparkling intelligence of the student, not to a cushy workload.

Or, perhaps, the faith that they received a high-quality education only proves their high gullibility. Every college has abundant marketing materials that proclaim the wonderful education they provide, and the students trust those pledges of superiority. It soothes their vanity. After all, the more superb the education they received, the more educated they are. The respondents in the Gallup poll are early in their adult lives, searching for jobs and for spouses, they want to believe in their own special condition.  Acknowledging a crummy education hampers their self-confidence. They need the power of positive thinking.

Millennials have been encouraged ever since kindergarten to overestimate their own abilities. They aren’t going to stop once they graduate. It takes several years of the realities of the American workplace to contain their judgment.
In like manner, it might take several years, perhaps a generation, of legislative stinginess before the administrators catch on.

Nearly forty years ago, when tight budgets in the Rust Belt first became a thing, the public universities and the community colleges might have been able to control costs by limiting admission further.  (Who knows, that might have been a way of getting the legislatures to authorize more funding, as constituents unexpectedly got the thin letter?)  But the default response was to attempt to do more with less, to pursue additional revenue, to convert the no-degree stigma into an irrelevant-degree stigma.  First the common schools melted down, particularly in the neighborhoods where proper socialization would have mattered the most; now it's the universities melting down.

1From “The Facts Concerning My Recent Resignation.”

2The original whole, from Alexander Pope, goes like this: “A little learning is a dangerous thing;/ drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:/ there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,/ and drinking largely sobers us again.”

GONE.

Northern Illinois University president Doug Baker will resign effective June 30.
The president of Northern Illinois University announced at a Thursday Board of Trustees meeting that he will resign at the end of June after an investigation found he and other university administrators had sidestepped bidding requirements when hiring highly paid consultants.

President Doug Baker denied investigators’ conclusions. But he called the issue a distraction that the university should not have to face as it deals with other challenges.
Nixonian.
Starting when Baker took office in June 2013, university officials, under orders from Baker, improperly classified multiple high-paying consulting positions as affiliate employees to skirt state rules requiring competitive bidding, according to the investigation.

"This board has been devoted to one overarching objective: to do what is in the best interest of the university," [board chairman John] Butler said. "Baker made it clear he cares too much about the NIU and the people who work and study here not to take action to mitgate the uncertainty."

Baker said that the best way to move forward was to enter into a presidential transition agreement.
He had already lost the confidence of some of the faculty, and the editors of the DeKalb Daily Chronicle lost patience earlier this month.

Current provost Lisa Freeman will serve as acting president.
Lisa Freeman, the university's executive vice president, will become NIU's first female president, albeit in the interim, on July 1. She said she doesn't plan to pursue the permanent position and will stay in her role until a replacement can be found through a national search.

"This is certainly not a transition that I had envisioned and this is a bittersweet occasion for me, but I'm honored to have this opportunity to serve NIU," Freeman said. "I fell in love with this university and community in 2010 when I interviewed. I take great pride in the transformative experiences this university offers students that allow them to succeed in their careers and in life."
My onetime colleagues might be protecting their role as stewards of the university, based on coverage of Thurday's open meeting.
Virginia Naples, professor of biological sciences at Northern Illinois University, called Doug Baker's resignation as president of Northern Illinois University a "necessary change."

​"It is the perception of the public that will determine the future course and success for the community," Naples said. "Financial mismanagement needs to be removed and corrected so the public can regain the perception that NIU is headed where it needs to go.

"A new broom sweeps clean and we need a new broom."
The secrecy in Altgeld hall led to skepticism in the neighborhoods surrounding campus, notes City Barbs.
Of course the OEIG report is indispensible. It shows the world Baker’s so-called “ethically inspired leadership” for the cynical b.s. that it always has been, ensures the dirt doesn’t get shoved under the rug, possibly opens the door to criminal investigations, and gives hope for better leadership at NIU.

But never underestimate the power of citizen-driven drip, drip, drip. I salute you, who played a part in this saga, and hope you enjoy the vindication.
Those citizen objections refer to a plan to widen some streets or otherwise provide some kind of grand entrance to the campus through an old residential neigborhood in which the barbed-wire barons' mansions have been converted either to museums or to student apartments.  As if prior university administrations hadn't spent enough on ornamental gates at the same time existing buildings weren't being maintained, and people who left weren't being replaced.

13.6.17

PASSENGERS, MAIL, AND EXPRESS.

Re-creating the accommodation train of the Twenties through the Forties, in O Scale.


I had hoped to run the postal car, but that failed its electrical inspection.

JUST ENJOY THE SILLINESS.

Oppression Olympics street theater. Black Lives Matter Halts Toronto Gay Pride Parade.  Pajamas Media's Tom Knighton has no patience for so-called intersectionality, either.
This is part of the self-created problem that Leftists don't seem to really grasp an answer for at this point: how to unite when you believe in a hierarchy of oppression. Their belief in intersectionality means some supposedly marginalized groups have it worse than others, meaning a group considered higher on the scale will be treated as just another oppressor.

Black Lives Matter has made it abundantly clear that it only views itself as important. The linked article contains other examples of BLM's petulance regarding gay pride parades -- including one group refusing to take part because there would be police there.
For the time being, it's probably simpler to allude to multiple oppressions, rather than to rank them.  Northern Illinois University even got to sell bunks in a Social Justice Summer Camp at $559 for a weekend.  Three professors from Curriculum and Instruction set it up.  Here's what that money gets you.
Key to those talks is coming up with a definition of oppression, [Joseph] Flynn adds.

“Oppression happens when prejudice against a group is backed by historical, social and institutional power. It’s much more than feeling mistreated,” he says.

“Affirmative action is not a form of oppression against white males, for example, as compared to the ways the LGBT+ community has been marginalized for decades, let alone centuries, in American culture,” he says. “When you have a series of laws that are consistently passed that have a negative impact on your community – even if that’s not intentional – then those are markers of oppression.”
"Marginalization" might be useful, not even these social justice warriors are complaining about marginalization of pedophiles, yet.  But after you've torn down all the other social norms, will "Free Jerry Sandusky" become a cause?

Campus Reform have asked Northern Illinois to comment on the camp, so far without effect.  The deanlets and deanlings in headquarters are too busy circling the wagons to protect the expense-preference hustler in chief.

But fighting marginalization is what the intersectionality enterprise is all about, at least when it's not turning on its own.  Here's how a Gender and Sexuality Equity Center at Chico State, in California, justifies its existence.
Since 1971, originally as the AS Women’s Center and later as GSEC, we have worked tirelessly to provide a safe space for all students while staying true to our values of diversity, equity and inclusion. We welcome anyone who wishes to join the movement to promote gender and racial equity, or dismantle oppression of any kind, to visit and talk with us.

GSEC is made up of passionate students that aim to empower the campus community through awareness-raising events and a supportive environment. We have an open-door policy for any student in need of resources or a safe place to find community and healing. We do not intend to restrict free speech, but rather to foster a sense of learning and respect for many lived truths.
This after a hard-three hedgehog on the center's advisory board wrote a Facebook post that gave the impression either of restricting the campus press or of disrespecting inconvenient lived truths.

But apparently the center exists to deconstruct social norms, and revels in so doing.
Everyone has been taught a variety of ideas growing up, influenced by their hometowns, family, and peers. The GSEC exists to challenge the societal norms that are traditionally used to oppress and marginalize. That can be a difficult unlearning process for everyone, but it can and should be done.

With that in mind, we intend to hold “The Orion” to higher standards than it currently demonstrates. As a fellow student-run organization, we expect more of “The Orion.” We demand that it strives to embody the values of Chico State: those that foster a safe learning environment for students from all intersecting identities and experiences.
Perhaps those social norms would also have stayed me from typing "hard-three hedgehog."  But Lindsay Briggs presents as a hard-three hedgehog.  Deal with it.

But first, dear reader, study Rod Dreher on the importance of norms.
What we have now says there is virtually no sexual norm outside whatever one feels is right for them, right now. If one thinks that one would like to try out being gay, or bi, or the opposite gender, well, why not? One big problem with this, though, is: what about the kids? Social science has abundantly demonstrated that kids need stable homes in which to thrive. If issues of sexuality and gender identity remain fluid, it will be very difficult to create the kind of environment in which these young people can be formed in a healthy way.

Leave LGBT out of it for a moment. For heterosexuals, the Sexual Revolution, and the way it loosened sexual and marital norms, has left subsequent generations less stable. A professor at an Evangelical university told me a few years ago that he feared that most of his students will never be able to form stable, enduring families.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because they’ve never seen it modeled for them,” he responded.
They have, however, seen all manner of polymorphous perversity modelled, then affirmed, then celebrated.  Justice for Jerry Sandusky, forsooth!