22.4.17

TAIL TRACK.

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

LAUGHING THE SNOWFLAKES UNTO SCORN.

John "Marquette Warrior" McAdams takes readers to The Wellesley News's Twitter feed, where the editors are getting an education in significant opposing points of view.

ANTICIPATING TRUMP, BEFORE TRUMP?

I'd flagged the following articles early in 2013, at a time when the Orders of the Day were still Hope and Change.  At the time, I saw the conversation as contesting the notion of the state as that attempt for each to live at the expense of everyone else.  But there was something more afoot.  Start with Power Line's Steven Hayward, who picked up on a January 2012 essay by Walter "Via Media" Mead suggesting that Hope and Change was moribund, and everybody recognized that, but nobody knew what would come next.
Their social imagination had hit a wall.

The same thing is happening today: The core institutions, ideas and expectations that shaped American life for the sixty years after the New Deal don’t work anymore. The gaps between the social system we inhabit and the one we now need are becoming so wide that we can no longer paper over them. But even as the failures of the old system become more inescapable and more damaging, our national discourse remains stuck in a bygone age. The end is here, but we can’t quite take it in.
In The New Criterion, James Piereson looks to the past history of values regimes failing, and notes that the existing values regime remains intact, although there is no longer a Consensus Position.
This evolution has now produced a volatile and potentially destabilizing alignment between the two major parties, with one rooted in the public sector and the other in the private sector, and with each communicating mainly with its own supporters. In the past, political parties were coalitions of private interests seeking influence over government in order to facilitate their growth within the private economy. This was true of early party conflicts that pitted commerce against agriculture or the later splits between slavery and free labor or business against organized labor. The regional and sectional conflicts of the past were also of this character. This was in keeping with the small government bias of the Constitution in which the government itself was never supposed to emerge as a political interest in its own right.

The conflict today between Democrats and Republicans increasingly pits public sector unions, government employees and contractors, and beneficiaries of government programs against middle-class taxpayers and business interests large and small. In states where public spending is high and public sector unions are strong, as in New York, California, Illinois, and Connecticut, Democrats have gained control; where public sector interests are weak or poorly organized, as in most of the states across the south and southwest, Republicans have the edge. This configuration, when added up across the nation, has produced a series of electoral stand-offs in recent decades between the red and blue states that have been decided by a handful of swing states moving in one direction or the other.

This impasse between the two parties signals the end game for the system of politics that originated in the 1930s and 1940s. As the “regime party,” the Democrats are in the more vulnerable position because they have built their coalition around public spending, public debt, and publicly guaranteed credit, all sources of funds that appear to be reaching their limits. The end game for the New Deal system, and for the Democrats as our “regime party,” will arrive when those limits are reached or passed.

This point will arrive fairly soon for the following reasons: (1) unsustainable debt; (2) public promises that cannot be fulfilled; (3) stagnation and slow growth; and (4) political paralysis. The last point is important because it means that the parties will fail to agree on any preemptive solutions to the above problems until they reach a point of crisis.
At the time, that looked like standard Fourth Turning stuff, but the 2016 presidential campaign did play out along the lines envisioned in the second and third paragraphs.  But the essay still reads conventionally: we have rent-seekers attempting to live at the expense of others, whether net rent-seekers or simply peasants who must shut up and pay their taxes.
The regime of public spending has at last drawn so many groups into the public arena in search of public dollars that it has paralyzed the political process and driven governments to the edge of bankruptcy. These groups are widely varied: trade associations, educational lobbies, public employee unions, government contractors, ideological and advocacy organizations, health-care providers, hospital associations that earn revenues from Medicare and Medicaid programs, and the like. These are what economists call rent-seeking groups because they are concerned with the distribution of resources rather than with the creation of wealth. They consume rather than create wealth. These groups are highly influential in the political process because they are willing to invest large sums in lobbying and election campaigns in order to protect their sources of income. While rent-seeking groups can be found in both political parties, the largest and most influential of them (at least on the spending side) have congregated within the Democratic Party. To expand on what was said earlier, one might describe the Democratic Party as a coalition of rent-seekers.

Rent-seeking coalitions have little interest in moderating their demands in the interests of the broader economy because, as their leaders reason, the economy will be little affected by the small share of it to which they are laying claim. In addition, they calculate that if they do not take the money, then someone else will—and so they are not inclined to be “fools” for the public interest. But since the leaders of all rent-seeking groups think this way, the interest group system as a whole operates with little concern for the requirements of economic growth and wealth generation. This is one reason why, in times of crisis, rent-seeking coalitions demand tax increases to pay for their programs instead of recommending policies to accelerate growth.
But when the rent-seekers run out of other people's money, the put-upon suckers might not shut up and pay their taxes any more.
Americans may then witness the kinds of events not seen in this country since the 1930s or, even, the 1850s and 1860s: protesters invading the U.S. Capitol, politicians refusing to leave office after they have lost elections, defiance of the Supreme Court, the emergence of new leaders, and, possibly, the formation of new political parties. All of this can be expected from a process in which an entrenched system of politics withers and dies and a new one is gradually organized to take its place.

Does the “fourth revolution” imply the “end of America,” as some have suggested? Not necessarily, though one must acknowledge the possibility that this upheaval might end badly, perhaps in an extended period of political conflict and paralysis that yields no constructive outcome. Yet, based on the evidence of the three previous revolutions, American voters are unlikely to support for very long any party that fails to enhance their standard of living or the nation’s position in the world.
Some of these things had already played out in Wisconsin.  But Deep Thinkers were not yet anticipating anything more general at work, that despite Mr Piereson's concluding comments.
Despite all this, President Obama is unshaken in his presumption that he is a herald of a new era, a revolutionary on the models of Jefferson, Lincoln, and FDR. But is it possible that he will instead turn out to be something much different, a modern day Adams, Buchanan, or Hoover—that is, the last representative of a disintegrating order? Such a denouement is not only possible but, in view of our situation, more and more likely.
Perhaps nothing that portentous, and yet, the man who succeeded him in the White House made himself a national political figure by questioning Mr Obama's story.  (As if anyone in 1961 would have faked a Hawaiian birth certificate for a young man named Barack Hussein Obama with the hopes of making him eligible for the presidency.)

But after the election, Forbes's Joel Kotkin warned the coalition of the ascendant not to get cocky.
Of the now triumphant urban gentry have their townhouses and high-rise lofts, but the service workers who do their dirty work have to log their way by bus or car from the vast American banlieues, either in peripheral parts of the city (think of Brooklyn’s impoverished fringes) or the poorer close-in suburbs. This progressive economy works from the well-placed academics, the trustfunders and hedge funders, but produces little opportunity for a better life for the vast majority of the middle and working class.

The gentry progressives don’t see much hope for the recovery of blue collar manufacturing or construction jobs, and they are adamant in making sure that the potential gusher of energy jobs in the resurgent fossil fuel never materializes, at least in such places as New York and California. The best they can offer the [c.q.] hoi polloi is the prospect of becoming haircutters and dog walkers in cognitively favored places like Silicon Valley. Presumably, given the cost of living there, they will have to get there from the Central Valley or sleep on the streets.

Not surprisingly, this prospect is not exciting many Americans.
That's where my initial draft ended the quote. What follows proves prescient.
So instead of heading for the blue paradises, but to lower-cost, those who move now tend towards low-cost, lower-density regions like Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte and Raleigh. Even while voting blue, they seem to be migrating to red places. Once there, one has to doubt whether they are simply biding their time for Oklahoma City to morph into San Francisco.

In this respect, the class issue so cleverly exploited by the President in the election could prove the potential Achilles heel of today’s gentry progressivism. The Obama-Bernanke-Geithner economy has done little to reverse the relative decline of the middle and working class, whose their share of national income have fallen to record lows. If you don’t work for venture-backed tech firms, coddled, money-for-nearly-free Wall Street or for the government, your income and standard of living has probably declined since the middle of the last decade.

If the main focus of progressives was to promote upward mobility, they would deserve their predicted political hegemony. But current day leftism is more about style, culture and green consciousness than jobs and opportunity. It’s more Vogue’s Anne Wintour than Harry Truman. Often times the gentry agenda -- for example favoring higher housing and energy prices -- directly conflicts with the interests of middle and working class families.

The progressive coalition also has little to offer to the private sector small business community, which should be producing jobs as they have in the wake of previous recessions but have failed to do so this time. A recent McKinsey study finds that small business confidence is at a 20 year low, entrepreneurial start-ups have slowed, and with it, the innovation that drives an economy from the ground up.

These economic shortcomings are unlikely to reverse themselves under the Obama progressives. An old Democrat of the Truman and Pat Brown, perhaps even Bill Clinton, genre would be pushing our natural gas revolution, a key to blue-collar rejuvenation, instead of seeking to slow it down. They would be looking to raise revenues from Wall Street plutocrats rather than raise taxes on modestly successful Main Street businesses. A HUD interested in upward mobility and families would be pressing for more detached housing and dispersal of work, not forcing the masses to live in ever smaller, cramped and expensive lodgings.

Over time, the cultural identity and lifestyle politics practiced so brilliantly by the President and his team could begin to wear thin even with their core constituencies.  Hispanics, for example, have suffered grievously in the recession -- some 28% now live in poverty, the highest of any ethnic group.

It’s possible that the unnatural cohesion between gentry progressives and Latinos will tear asunder.
There's more: and perhaps Mr Trump harvesting votes from Americans of Latino extraction despite his wall and drugs talk  was an indication.  But other signs were present: consider Thomas Edsall's Now What, Liberalism?
Obama’s victory and the growing evidence of an emerging majority Democratic coalition pose the danger that the left will take false comfort. The demographic forces currently powering the Democratic Party in no way guarantee a resilient coalition assured of a long-term competitive advantage.

In addition to the glaring class conflicts between the party’s upscale cultural liberals and the larger body of Democratic voters with pressing material needs, there are a host of potential fissures.
Not to mention, as Mr Edsall recognizes, that a coalition based on identity politics is a coalition that can fracture in an Oppression Olympics of monumental proportions.  And all it took was an inexperienced politician refusing to be politically correct for normals to practice their own brand of identity politics.

At the time, W. R. Mead noted, "The reality of blue model decline is so obvious that nobody can ignore it any longer."

The reckoning might have come in the form of Donald Trump.  But coming a reckoning was.

THE RENT-SEEKING OF SCIENCE.

Today, for Earth Day, the "March for Science" served as political theater by which the curtailment of public funding for the environmentalist's pet projects becomes a know-nothing assault on academic science itself. Tyler O'Neil suggests that the rent-seekers get a grip.
Not only do political stunts like the "March for Science" politicize the discipline of studying nature, they also arguably undercut the very process by which science operates — open debate about how to interpret the evidence. When tied to absurd causes like giving legal rights to rivers and asking if peas should be considered persons, they further tarnish science's reputation.
It's a lengthy article, which will reward careful study, and it suggests ways in which the act of doing science undermines any notion of consensus.  It takes better argumentation, and tighter theories, for instance, to undermine the convenient secular commonplaces of Darwin, Freud, and Marx, and that work is under way.  But the marching had its lighter moments.  In Chicago, there were people asserting "Science Is What Makes America Great."  Hang on, is that an endorsement of hegemonic discourses?

TEN YEARS AGO.

I was passing along Margaret "University Diaries" Soltan fulminating about "simulacral education."

But I can report progress in one battle.  "Why not allow Texas Southern to bill the common schools for all the remediation that must be inherent in the university's retention efforts, futile though they turn out to be?"

The state universities are not yet sending the bills, but in some places, including Wisconsin, the legislature has required the state universities to make a little list and name names.  I'm waiting for the returns from the fall 2016 entering class.

THIRTY YEARS AGO.

The Milwaukee Brewers opened the 1987 season with fifteen straight wins.  The twelfth win, on a late Easter Sunday, involved a furious rally in the ninth inning, and that compelled a local burger establishment to make good on an implicit promise.
Thirty years ago Saturday, thousands of people stood in line in the rain to collect on a promise made by George Webb, who by then had been dead for three decades.

Webb, the quirky, iconoclastic restaurant owner who installed two clocks right next to each other in his restaurants for no discernible reason, had predicted Milwaukee's baseball team would someday win a dozen games in a row.

There was no promise attached to the prediction, but all assumed it would mean free burgers if Milwaukee's baseball franchise ever won 12 in a row.

No matter that Milwaukee's team was then the Braves and hamburgers were 15 cents when the prediction was made. But year after year Webb printed the prediction on its napkins. Finally, in April 1987, it happened.

"I didn't think it would take that long, but I knew it would probably happen because of the players we had" in 1987, said Mary Beth Unglaub, a waitress at the George Webb on S. 76th St. in Franklin.
Free stuff in Milwaukee? Let slip the crowds.
A plan was put in place and Dave Stamm announced at the news conference that a free burger for each customer would be handed out three days later. And they came. Lining up outside restaurants for hours, patiently waiting in the rain to taste victory covered with ketchup, pickles, fried onions and mustard.

"It was actually very good for business. It wasn't a dreaded thing, it was an exciting thing," said Tom Aldridge, a second-generation George Webb owner who had nine franchise locations in 1987. "Business went up 20% around the ninth victory and business went up for months after that."

Restaurant owners and managers worried about running out of hamburger patties and buns, but the operation appeared to run without a hitch, assembly lines were set up with workers grilling, adding condiments, bagging and handing out. Styrofoam coolers were filled with burgers as the lines seemed to keep growing throughout the day. A grill fire at the Webb on W. Silver Spring Drive delayed service about 20 minutes and a firefighter jokingly denied that rescue squad members ran into the restaurant to get to the front of the line.
That 1987 season was a season of streaks for the Brewers. Paul Molitor ran a consecutive game hitting streak into the thirties.  Conventional wisdom around baseball was that the fifteen game streak left the Brewers in a good place for the playoffs (which back then involved fewer teams) with .500 baseball the rest of the way.  But after the long winning streak came a couple of long losing streaks (I don't recall people joking about the Brewers having to buy hamburgers, although more recently that did come up) and the team finished out of contention.

The implicit promise of hamburgers is still in the air.  Five burgers for six bucks when the Brewers score five runs in a game is still there.  And those clocks?  To comply with a Milwaukee restaurant closing law.

But don't dump on George Webb when the Brewers get those five runs in the first three innings, chase the Cub starter, and then the relief pitchers lose their stuff.

21.4.17

BASEBALL'S E-T-T-S MOMENT.

Jim Loomis goes to a baseball game in Toronto, has the experience spoiled, but not by the Blue Jays' play.
It’s really awful: bugle calls, rhythmic clapping, the scoreboard admonishing the crowd to “MAKE NOISE!!” and the crowd dutifully responding … even when there is nothing much happening on the field.

This is not football, for God’s sake! There is a lot of thinking required in the watching of a baseball game and all that noise and artificially induced enthusiasm is really just a distraction. In various situations, there’s strategy being applied and then, perhaps, countered. How can a real baseball fan contemplate the various options that might be employed in the next minute or two if people sitting all around him are shrieking as loud as they can hoping to breaking the record set on the Cheer-O-Meter?

This is a trend that has been going on for a couple of decades. I’ve been to several of the Major League Ballparks and have always thought the ballpark in Anaheim where the Angels play is the worst. I may have to\o change my mind after experiencing the home of the Toronto Blue Jays.

All of this just reinforces my opinion that Boston’s Fenway Park is the best venue for baseball in the country . . . by far! The Fenway Park crowd knows the game. They know that “making noise” is spontaneous and occurs involuntarily after an important run is scored or a great defensive play is made.
Indeed.  And a commenter complains that the other traditional urban ballpark, Wrigley Field, is now too full of fair weather fans out for a party.  (Worse, they're partying down on Old Style, and that line in "Go Cubs, Go" about listening on WGN is dated.)

CORPORATIONS ERASE INSTITUTIONAL MEMORY.

Milwaukee railroad photographers, whether at The Milwaukee Road's Everett Street Depot or at the North Shore Line's Milwaukee Terminal, often got the Schroeder Hotel (and you could always identify the out-of towners by the way they pronounced it) in the background.


John Karlson photograph, fall 1952.

But local ownership of a hotel (it's the brick tower peeking over the Public Service Building just left of center) was one more casualty of a more mobile economy, in which the casual traveller required a signal of dependability, even if that dependability meant the blandness of a McDonald's or Holiday Inn.  And Sheraton established a foothold in Milwaukee (yeah, we had trouble with that whole bush league thing, and getting national hotel chains downtown and jets at the airport mattered) by purchasing Schroeder.  That prompted local humor columnist Gerald Kloss to pen a parody of "Old Ironsides" suggesting that Sheraton not mess with the hotel's name.

But if the chain cannot, in grace,
With "Schroeder" quite agree,
Then make it "Scheraton," and place
'Twixt "S" and "h" a "c"!

I don't know if Sheraton read the advice, but they were willing to leave well enough alone.  Subsequently, though, the hotel passed to the same entrepreneur who sold the Big Boy hamburgers (in southeastern Wisconsin, thus, it was Marc's Big Boy) and what followed was not amusing.
Although the Sheraton-Schroeder never did end up dropping its last name, change eventually came. In 1972, Marcus Corp. Chairman Ben Marcus headed up a group of Milwaukee investors to buy the hotel, renaming it the Marc Plaza. In 1995, Marcus Corp. affiliated with the Hilton chain, and changed the hotel's name again, to Hilton Milwaukee City Center.
But I recall there being a Roy Rogers (!) eatery occupying space along Wisconsin Avenue.

THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG.

Longtime academic administrator William M. Chace asks, "Why Pick on Middlebury?"  He raises a valid point.
[Middlebury's] enrollment of some 2,450 students represents 0.012 percent of the national enrollment. Those students, none of whom will study either homeland security or transportation and materials moving, gained admission to the school in a process so competitive (16 percent of applicants admitted) that it renders them highly unrepresentative of American college students in general. Middlebury professors, all 270 of them, are similarly unrepresentative of American college teachers, of whom there are 1.5 million. They teach small classes, most of them enjoy the privileges of tenure, and they are better paid than most of their national colleagues. Middlebury is small, prestigious, and remote.

But when the controversial and itinerant political scientist Charles Murray was invited by some Middlebury students to speak at the college in February, he was angrily denounced by other students and was prevented by denunciations and threats from giving his talk. Protected by public safety officers, he was ushered away from the lectern; the professor whom he was scheduled to debate suffered an injury in the melee.

In the weeks thereafter, Middlebury (founded 1800) became, for the first and only time in its history, the face of American higher education.
I write from the perspective of a utilities and transportation major with more than a passing interest in materials moving, and a former employee of a university offering a concentration in homeland security who concurs with Mr Chace's thesis that most of the action in higher education goes on in the community colleges and land-grants and mid-majors.  And for the most part, students don't carry on like the entitled snowflakes in their epistemically closed resorts.
Murray went on to speak, and to be heard with only minimal commotion, at Duke, Columbia, New York University, Notre Dame, Villanova, and Indiana University. The Middlebury debacle was not repeated. At Duke, Murray’s talk proceeded peacefully before an audience of 50. At Columbia, 150 faculty members expressed their support of Murray’s right to speak; 60 people attended the talk. The lecture at NYU prompted protest, but those in the audience, all 50 of them, heard it. At Villanova three protestors were removed after some four minutes of sustained objection before Murray spoke to about 100 people. Murray spoke peacefully to a small crowd at Indiana while, outside the room, there was some protest. But since these events had nothing spectacular on show, the commentators had no “revelations” to announce.

When mulling over Middlebury and these other institutions, it is helpful to keep in mind the remaining 4,600 American colleges and universities, public and private. What to make of their calmness? When characterizing American higher education, why turn to Middlebury and Charles Murray? Why is it easy to imagine that what happened in Vermont summed up the state of American higher education? What, if anything, did Middlebury “reveal”?
All valid questions, and yet the position of a Middlebury or a Yale or an Oberlin in the status hierarchy matters, as the crazy ideas that originate there find their way into the humanities curriculum everywhere (and Mr Chace ought not be too sanguine about deconstructing Introduction to Chemistry either); and the kind of foolishness that infected Student Affairs at Delaware (imagine, a state university invisible in the football polls and generally irrelevant in the basketball tournament) is likely to break out elsewhere, absent the faculty taking their duties as stewards of the curriculum seriously.

We don't hammer on Middlebury (or Oberlin, or Yale) for enabling their snowflakes.

We hammer on Middlebury in order that Northern Illinois (or Delaware, or Nebraska) not enable snowflakes.

TEN YEARS AGO.

We first watched this space.


The trees behind the latter-day saltboxes have had ten years to fill in.

20.4.17

ALLOCATIVE EFFICIENCY IS NOT IMPLIED BY PRODUCTIVE EFFICIENCY.

Cases in point: those water-saving toilets and showers. Your Shower Is Lame, Your Dishwasher Doesn’t Work, and Your Clothes are Dirty.
The water pressure in our homes and apartments has been gradually getting worse for two decades, thanks to EPA mandates on state and local governments. This has meant that even with a good showerhead, the shower is not as good as it might be. It also means that less water is running through our pipes, causing lines to clog and homes to stink just slightly like the sewer. This problem is much more difficult to fix, especially because plumbers are forbidden by law from hacking your water pressure.

The combination of poor pressure and lukewarm temperatures profoundly affects how well your dishwasher and washing machine work.

As for the heat of the water, the obsession over “safety” has led to regulations that the top temperature is preset on most water heaters, at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which is only slightly hotter than the ideal temperature for growing yeast. Most are shipped at 110 degrees in order to stay safe with regulators. This is not going to get anything really clean; just the opposite. Water temperatures need to be 140 degrees to clean things.
Some of the work-arounds are straightforward: take longer showers, flush the toilet two or three times, use mechanics' cleaning supplies (sparingly) in the laundry.  But maybe the Wise Experts ought pay more attention to the unintended consequences, and the propensity of people to develop work-arounds.
So let’s put it all together: lukewarm water, low water pressure, low-energy appliances, water-conserving technologies, flow stoppers in showers, low-flow toilets, plus no phosphates in detergent. You have here a perfect recipe for a non-working home and a more miserable life, all courtesy of government regulations. Some you can fix if you are creative; others hopelessly ruin many once-great features of American homelife.

Donald Trump spoke the truth but he only knows a fraction of it. One of the great achievements of modern technology was to bring the best appliances and the conveniences they offer into every home. Government regulations have systematically taken all that away from us, seriously diminishing the quality of our lives.

If the public knew the whole truth about this, the anti-government feeling alive in the land would intensify beyond anything we’ve ever known. In the meantime, don’t blame the manufacturers. They are the victims, along with the rest of the public. We are all trying to live better lives but the government won’t allow that to happen.
Perhaps. But the appearance of Doing Something is more important to the People Active in Politics than whether or not what they sell as For Our Own Good actually Does Any Good.

RED-ON-RED FRATRICIDE.

There's a new book out, counting the ways in which Hillary Clinton failed to close the sale last year.  Upon reading it, Robert Parry, for Common Dreams, says the things Respectable People dared not say last year.  "An early insider account of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, entitled Shattered, reveals a paranoid presidential candidate who couldn’t articulate why she wanted to be President and who oversaw an overconfident and dysfunctional operation that failed to project a positive message or appeal to key voting groups."  Yes, if there was any Russian meddling, it happened years ago, at Wellesley, where the Dowager Empress first learned to think of normals as deplorables.

How bad is it?  Bad enough that Mr Parry is reduced to citing sources that Proper Virtue Signallers, last year, were writing off as Beneath Contempt. "Clinton – in some Nixonian fit of paranoia – violated the privacy of her senior advisers in her own mole hunt, a revelation that reflects on her own self-described “mistake” to funnel her emails as Secretary of State through a private server rather than a government one. As the [Wall Street] Journal’s review puts it: 'she didn’t want anyone reading her emails the way she was reading those of her 2008 staffers.'"  So perhaps the Donk establishment will pay closer attention to what the left wing has been saying.
A passive-aggressive campaign that neglected to act on warning flares sent up by Democratic operatives on the ground in crucial swing states, and that ignored the advice of the candidate’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, and other Democratic Party elders, who argued that the campaign needed to work harder to persuade undecided and ambivalent voters (like working-class whites and millennials), instead of focusing so insistently on turning out core supporters.”

So, perhaps this new book about how Hillary Clinton really lost Campaign 2016 will enable national Democrats to finally start charting a course correction before the party slams another Titanic-style campaign into another iceberg.
The challenge, though, is in appealing to the Wellesley-style millennials and older blue collar voters.  The elders, meanwhile, are interested in exiling Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard.
Neera Tanden, the head of the Center for American Progress, dashed off a tweet calling on voters in Hawaii to oust Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard for expressing skepticism about the Syrian government’s responsibility for the chemical attack that provoked the US military strikes. Former presidential candidate and former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean piled on, and tweeted that Gabbard’s comments were a “disgrace” and that she “should not be in the Congress.”
Representative Gabbard is an interesting case, a surfing Major in the Reserves, with reservations about committing forces to ill-defined military campaigns.  But Robert Borosage argues she's gone off the reservation the Donk Establishment runs.
 Gabbard earned Tanden and Dean’s enmity when she resigned as deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2016 in order to endorse Bernie Sanders, warning that a Clinton victory would mean further futile interventions in the Middle East chaos. The attack on Gabbard from two ardent Clinton supporters should not surprise us.

Tanden and Dean walk in the footsteps of those who would have read Republican Senator Wayne Morse and Democratic Senator Ernest Gruening out of the Congress for providing the only votes against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, or censored William Fulbright for leading the indictment of the Johnson Administration’s Vietnam lies and myths. Would they banish the 21 Democratic Senators who got it right when they doubted the distorted intelligence that claimed to prove Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and voted against Bush’s catastrophic war of choice on that country?
That second sentence is speculative, and it may be another dying gasp of the Sixties leftovers attempting to win an argument they lost long ago with an appeal that the current crop of likely Democrat voters are so addled by contemporary miseducation that it falls flat.  Mr Borosage is likely correct, though, that there is a scrap for the future of the Democrats in progress.
Democrats are in the midst of a major struggle to decide what they stand for and who they represent. Part of that is the debate over a bipartisan interventionist foreign policy that has so abjectly failed. In her short time in Congress, Gabbard has established herself as a leading critic of that policy. The harsh attack on her is simply an attempt to enforce the boundaries of conventional wisdom. Gabbard deserves applause and support for questioning those boundaries in the cause of peace.
That's one fault line. Bill "Politically Incorrect" Maher has identified another.  "There's liberals like me and then there's the kale eaters, and the kale eaters, they're the ones who are dragging this party down."

It's giving Kurt Schlichter no end of entertainment.
You Democrats must ensure that every Democrat candidate everywhere embodies the passions and the prejudices of weenie San Francisco tech dorks!

Now, I’m telling you this as a friend, the same kind of a friend you are to working people, to our troops, to American patriots: I sincerely hope that you stick to your principles, that you never doubt yourselves, and that you never waver.

You’re perfect just the way you are.

Don’t you ever change.
I think he's sending a carload of kale to Democrat headquarters.

SUSTAINABLE STEELMAKING.

The smelting, rolling, and finishing of steel generates a lot of scrap.  But reusing the scrap, which requires less heat energy than extracting the iron from the rocks in the first place, required learning.
Bessemer steel plants generated large volumes of scrap, but Bessemer furnaces generally could not or did not use scrap for a number of different reasons. In economic terms, this commodity had a value, but little utility; it lacked usefulness. [Andrew] Carnegie changed that.
It helped to have the open-hearth furnace, which could remelt scrap at the same time that it converted molten iron to steel.
An acid open hearth required the use of very high-quality scrap, which made its operation expensive. When Carnegie developed the capability to produce basic steel in open-hearth furnaces, he was able to use lower-quality scraps that were contaminated with phosphorus, so it was cheaper to make.

Carnegie could use this material in basic furnaces and convert it into steel—he was the first in the United States to do this. Carnegie owned two of the most productive Bessemer plants in the world, so in essence he could get the scrap for free. Not only that, he used it to make armor plate, boiler plate for locomotives and steel beams. He now had a plant, unique in the country, where he could take large volumes of low-utility scrap or even purchase it from others at low cost, and make high-value products that had high utility. That was one of Carnegie’s big breakthroughs, an important one that helped secure Pittsburgh’s place as the steel capital.
Impound entrepreneurial alertness in ceteris paribus, and some other location for primary steelmaking might yield a minimum of inbound transportation costs (which matters, because steelmaking is seriously weight-losing).  With alertness to the reuse of scrap, the capacity emerges initially in Pittsburgh.

SQUARE "HEGEMONIC DISCOURSE" WITH "NO FINAL SAY."

There's been a radical tradition, going back at least as far as Critique of Pure Tolerance, of people suggesting that some lines of inquiry and trains of thought be proscribed in some way, because they're wrongheaded or oppressive.  We saw that tradition on display recently at Wellesley, not in a good way.  John "Marquette Warrior" McAdams notes that mind-set will not end well.
But “productive dialogue” has to exclude anything that we consider “racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or any other type of discriminatory speech” to be pretty much any political opinion we disagree with, we intend to try to shut that up.

That people like this will soon be dominating the mainstream media is a scary prospect indeed.
Yes, and "productive dialogue" is campus-speak for "You sit there and we harangue you."

But it gets better.  That "productive dialogue" doesn't have to respect truth.  Truth is oppressive.  A collective of young virtue-signallers at Claremont's Pomona College said so.
Free speech, a right many freedom movements have fought for, has recently become a tool appropriated by hegemonic institutions. It has not just empowered students from marginalized backgrounds to voice their qualms and criticize aspects of the institution, but it has given those who seek to perpetuate systems of domination a platform to project their bigotry. Thus, if “our mission is founded upon the discovery of truth,” how does free speech uphold that value? The notion of discourse, when it comes to discussions about experiences and identities, deters the ‘Columbusing’ of established realities and truths (coded as ‘intellectual inquiry’) that the institution promotes. Pomona cannot have its cake and eat it, too. Either you support students of marginalized identities, particularly Black students, or leave us to protect and organize for our communities without the impositions of your patronization, without your binary respectability politics, and without your monolithic perceptions of protest and organizing. In addition, non-Black individuals do not have the right to prescribe how Black people respond to anti-Blackness.

Your statement contains unnuanced views surrounding the academy and a belief in searching for some venerated truth. Historically, white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity, and wielded a dichotomy of ‘subjectivity vs. objectivity’ as a means of silencing oppressed peoples. The idea that there is a single truth--’the Truth’--is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment, which was a movement that also described Black and Brown people as both subhuman and impervious to pain. This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny.
Say WHAAAAAAT, Man?

Perhaps, on the basis of the available evidence, the colonialists and the slave-traders saw the colonized and enslaved peoples as deficient and worthy of mistreatment.  But the discovery of humanity and sensitivity to pain involves hypothesis testing and the rest of the apparatus of scholarly inquiry.  And perhaps "treat others the way you would like to be treated" is the moral standard by which people who are not black recognize manifestations of "anti-Blackness" as wrong.

Meanwhile, the editorial board of Wellesley's News doubles down on progressive intolerance.
In recent years, our community has neither threatened nor denied a speaker the right to present at Wellesley based on their ideas and has made efforts to encourage productive dialogue surrounding controversial issues. In instances where there were dissenting reactions to events on campus, such as the recent defacing of posters, students and faculty responded appropriately with the intention of promoting respect on campus. In essence, we have exercised our right to free speech in the form of disagreement. When a visiting lecturer comes to campus to share their beliefs, the audience should have an opportunity to object to those perspectives. Wellesley students are not complacent when a guest speaker offers harmful rhetoric. Unlike the events that transpired at Middlebury College in early March in which a speaker and professor were attacked, we have neither engaged in the violent silencing of opposing opinions, nor do we support such actions. Instead, Wellesley students listen to and understand those that differ from us regarding politics, religion and other sensitive topics and respond with productive discourse.

Wellesley will not be labeled an echochamber of liberal opinions while we have demonstrated concerted efforts to seek out well-evidenced opinions that differ from ours. We have the right to speak freely and to debate opinions. In the coming years, we will continue to do just that — never with violence, but with constructive dialogue. Yet, even as we exercise our right to object, onlookers are offended by our audacity. It would be against our principles as a place of intellectual conversation to deny free debate through respectful avenues.
That Middlebury reference? Why compare yourself with the worst?  Deny free debate through respectable avenues?  Should we be grateful nobody has pulled a fire alarm?  Don't be fooled, dear reader.
We respect free speech at Wellesley. We reiterate that there is a line between free speech and hate speech. We fight not against free speech, but to protect members of our community from language that harms or threatens their well-being. Thus, we respect the right to use speech to challenge other views. We will listen to and dismantle arguments and opinions that threaten a person’s ability to speak freely.
Put another way, Wellesley's hegemonic discourse is good.  Anybody who raises difficult questions is bad.  Yes, rattling a saber simply makes noise, but the noise suggests the presence of a saber.

It's not clear from this story, however, whether gross applications for slots at Wellesley are up or down for this season of thick envelopes.

You'd think people writing for a newspaper at an allegedly highly-regarded college might know how to, you know, write coherently.  Or is coherence yet another hegemonic discourse?

WISCONSIN WILL PAY FOR THE WALL.

Until recently, ultra-filtered milk, a useful ingredient in the manufacture of cheese, crossed the Canadian border without let or hindrance.  Until Canadian dairy farmers asked their government for a bigger piece of the action.  That put a number of Wisconsin dairy farmers, who produce way more milk than all the cheese-making talent of America's Dairyland are able to use, in the place of discovering other ways to dump the milk, or, horrible dictu, shipping Elsie off to McDonald's.  Editorial writers at Milwaukee's Journal-Sentinel want Our President to negotiate a New Deal.  (In the original New Deal, a lot of that milk got dumped in the ditch, rather than on starving third world countries.)  Our President was in Wisconsin recently, and without irony suggested that trade protection might hurt some domestic industries.
U.S. President Donald Trump promised on Tuesday to defend American dairy farmers who have been hurt by Canada’s protectionist trade practices, during a visit to the cheese-making state of Wisconsin.

Canada's dairy sector is protected by high tariffs on imported products and controls on domestic production as a means of supporting prices that farmers receive. It is frequently criticized by other dairy-producing countries.

"We're also going to stand up for our dairy farmers," Trump said in Kenosha, Wisconsin. "Because in Canada some very unfair things have happened to our dairy farmers and others."

Trump did not detail his concerns, but promised his administration would call the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and demand an explanation.

"It's another typical one-sided deal against the United States and it's not going to be happening for long," Trump said.

Trump also reiterated his threat to eliminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico if it cannot be changed.

U.S. dairy industry groups want Trump to urge Trudeau to halt a pricing policy that has disrupted some U.S. dairy exports and prioritize dairy market access in NAFTA renegotiation talks.
The dirty little secret of trade policy is that the advanced industrial economies, whether under the rubric of Common Agricultural Policy or in reverence of the Minutemen and the State Volunteer Regiments who marched with Grant and Sherman, all protect domestic agricultural production and ship the surplus overseas under the rubric of foreign aid.

The more general lesson, though, is that when Canadians choose to produce cheese with milk from their own pastures, they give up an opportunity to produce cheese with maple syrup from their forests.  Mr Trump apparently still doesn't grasp this, although he's getting an education.

On balance, though, not having to report on a Hillary Clinton visit to Snap-On Tools is probably a good thing.

EXPEDIENCE TRUMPS INTERSECTIONALITY.

Thus, in a special Congressional election in Georgia, we are going to see Democrats trashing a woman for daring to have the wrong politics.
Karen Handel, best known outside of Georgia for resigning from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation amid a national uproar caused by her decision to end the organization’s grants to Planned Parenthood. (She is the author of a book titled Planned Bullyhood.) The vote is June 20, and it will be an uphill climb in an area when Republicans outnumber Democrats.
The apostate must be sent into internal exile, and in Michelle Goldberg's eyes, there's a growing resistance in Old Dixie.
Nearly overnight, progressive organizing has become the center of social life for thousands of previously disengaged people in the area. Whether or not the movement is enough to swing this election, Republicans may never again be able to win local offices here without a fight. And the intense activity in the 6th District is a sign of how the anti-Trump resistance is building a new, locally rooted progressive infrastructure nationwide.
The resistance even extends to the Republican primary, in which Mrs Handel merits mention as "least associated with the president."  I think that used to be a mainstream Republican.

The Democrat's great hope?  A carpet-bagging beta male.

We have much to look forward to.

18.4.17

IN PLACE OF A RAILROAD NETWORK.

Cleaning out the archives.  Perhaps fixed-guideway transit is too restrictive, but the rail networks have analogues involving buses of various kinds.
[E]xpress buses would run on networks of managed lanes and [bus rapid transit] would run on networks of managed arterials. Taken together, these offer the quick, reliable performance of commuter, heavy and light rail, along with much lower costs (which allow a more comprehensive, connected transit network to be established) and benefits for motorists (which obviates much of the political controversy surrounding transit investment). The glue that holds this transit system together is local bus service, running on local roads and minor arterials with stops typically placed less than every quarter-mile, and connecting residential areas, transit hubs and employment centers. All major metropolitan areas have existing local bus service. (Some areas would supplement local bus service with limited-stop bus service.)
"Managed lanes" refers to the road equivalent of a fixed guideway, although it can be as simple as lanes that might be segregated for bus usage during peak times and released for general use at other times.  (Or perhaps unused capacity at night could be sold to trucking companies, perhaps this being enforced by heavy fines for trucks in lanes designated for automobiles?)  "Managed arterials" refers to the buses having the ability to override traffic signals and keep moving, if the stops are spaced more than a quarter mile apart.  But the model envisions a lot of transferring between the local busses and the expresses.  Even generous transfers discourage ridership.  That's one reason for the massive parking lots at Metra's suburban stations.

FORGETTING NOTHING AND LEARNING NOTHING.

Give us that old time religion, preaches Ira Chernus.
Like many of my generation, I feel as if, in lieu of that radical revolution, I have indeed been marching and attending rallies for the last half-century, even if there were also long fallow periods of inactivity. (In those quiet times, of course, there was always organizing and activism going on behind the scenes, preparing for the next wave of marches and demonstrations in response to the next set of obvious outrages.)

If the arc of history bends toward justice, as King claimed, it’s been a strange journey, a bizarre twisting and turning as if we were all on some crazed roller-coaster ride.
Have you considered that your hypothesis is wrong? Or that your revolutionary goals were messed up?
The Sixties spawned many analyses of the ills of the American system. The ones that marked that era as revolutionary concluded that the heart of the problem was a distinctive mode of consciousness -- a way of seeing, experiencing, interpreting, and being in the world. Political and cultural radicals converged, as historian Todd Gitlin concluded, in their demand for a transformation of “national if not global (or cosmic) consciousness.”
And thus the Long March Through The Institutions, and the Experimental Prefigurative Communities of Togetherness that have degenerated into epistemically closed hothouses. Hell, Professor Gitlin has since had second thoughts.
But 1968 was also a year of wishful thinking, rife with an error repeated even now in the shrines of the unreconstructed left: worship of the enemy's enemy. Under the pressure of either/or thinking, the assumption grew that the baddest guys of the left must be the best. Darlings of the left, such as Che Guevara and the Black Panthers' Huey Newton, were celebrated in blissful ignorance or willful denial of their harsh, authoritarian ways. All manner of drugs were extolled or condoned indiscriminately. Everything that had the look of arid establishment was condemned. When all intellectual standards were rejected as elitism, all professionalism as rank imposition, all institutions as prisons, all laws as oppression, rational thought was battered, and honorable men and women suffered unjustly.

The right way to remember the year 1968 is to give its complications their due. History is the most crooked of timbers. The egalitarianism of the civil rights movement and a spirit of cultural adventure commingled with a whole mélange of joyful and desperate reactions against white supremacy, senseless war, empty materialism and supine obedience. The result was a mutiny against all establishments, usually for good and sufficient reason, although ends were frequently violated by means.
(See also this.)  And kindly shut up about arcs of history.  Emergence is messy, and history is the chronicling of emergence.  Attempt to manage it, and get smacked by the invisible hand.  Mr Chernus might be cognizant of that possibility.
After all, ever since the Vietnam War ended, progressives have had a tendency to focus on single issues of injustice or laundry lists of problems.  They have rarely imagined the American system as anything more than a collection of wrong-headed policies and wrong-hearted politicians. In addition, after years of resisting the right wing as it won victory after victory, and of watching the Democrats morph into a neoliberal crew and then into a failing party with its own dreary laundry lists of issues and personalities, the capacity to hope for fundamental change may have gone the way of Herbert Marcuse and Martin Luther King.

Still, for those looking hard, a thread of hope exists. Today’s marches, rallies, and town halls are packed with veterans of the Sixties who can remember, if we try, what it felt like to believe we were fighting not only to stop a war but to start a revolution in consciousness. No question about it, we made plenty of mistakes back then. Now, with so much more experience (however grim) in our memory banks, perhaps we might develop more flexible strategies and a certain faith in taking a more patient, long-term approach to organizing for change.

Don’t forget as well that, whatever our failings and the failings of other past movements, we also have a deep foundation of victories (along with defeats) to build on. No, there was no full-scale revolution in our society -- no surprise there. But in so many facets of our world, advances happened nonetheless. Think of how, in those 50 years just past, views on diversity, social equality, the environment, healthcare, and so many other issues, which once existed only on the fringes of our world, have become thoroughly mainstream. Taken as a whole, they represent a partial but still profound and significant set of changes in American consciousness.

Of course, the Sixties not only can’t be resurrected, but shouldn’t be.  (After all, it should never be forgotten that what they led to wasn’t a dreamed of new society but the “Reagan revolution,” as the arc of justice took the first of its many grim twists and turns.)  At best, the Sixties critique of the system would have to be updated to include many new developments.
But in Mr Chernus's mind, it's still 1968, and it's still time for a vanguard.
The largest mobilization for progressive politics since the Vietnam era offers a unique opportunity to go beyond simply treating symptoms and start offering cures for the underlying illness. If this opportunity is missed, versions of the same symptoms are likely to recur, while unpredictable new ones will undoubtedly emerge for the next 50 years, and as Martin Luther King predicted, we will go on marching without end. Surely we deserve a better future and a better fate.
Imagine a world without Sixties vanguardists.  It's easy if you try.  And respect the propensity of complex adaptive systems to do what they d**n well please.  That's the way in which unpredictable new phenomena emerge.

SERIOUSLY?

London's Sun suggests that there's something off about the nose cones on some of Kim III's missiles.

I'm not sure how reliable an article it is, with this picture of his Fallschirmjager.  (One unit of paratroopers was in the big parade, goosing with the rest of them.)


Unattributed Getty Images photo retrieved from The Sun.

Leather helmets, goggles, and silk scarves?

THE DEFLATING COLLEGE SPORTS BUBBLE?

Savannah State University have been a member of the Division I Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (except in football).  Until today.  Here's the university's statement.
Savannah State University (SSU) President Cheryl D. Dozier today announced the intent to reclassify all athletics programs from NCAA Division I to NCAA Division II, pending approval by the NCAA. The announcement also signals the end of SSU’s membership in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) after the transition.

This decision was made after months of discussion and deliberation in an effort to put SSU’s athletics programs in the best position fiscally, academically and athletically. This move allows SSU athletics to remain in competition and carry on their traditions.

The administration has maintained that fiscal responsibility for the betterment of students and the institution is priority. Senior administrators are in ongoing communication with the NCAA and the MEAC to create and coordinate a plan to have the most efficient transition. “While I am extremely proud of the progress our athletes and coaches have made at the Division I Level, it is not financially feasible for us to continue,” said Dozier. Additional details about the transition plan will be released in the coming months.

Savannah State University made the decision to move from Division II to Division I in 1998, while opting to leave the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) and become independent of conference affiliation. SSU played its first season as a Division I institution in 2002 when the NCAA granted full membership. The Tigers became members of the MEAC in the fall of 2010.
That second paragraph puts the best possible spin on a difficult situation.  When you run out of money, keeping up appearances and carrying on traditions isn't so easy.

WHEN HIGHER ED LOSES NBC??

I admit to enjoying NBC's entire Chicago series (Fire, P.D., Med, Law) even though the liberties they sometimes take with geography bother me.  (For instance, a recent P.D. case involved a Lake Street L train sparking, somewhere west of Western Avenue and east of Oak Park, but that was after one of the police team ran into what looked like the State Street Subway north of the river to emerge in the Logan Square station on the Kennedy extension and find the first victim of the night.  But I digress.)

Sunday's Law involved a mysterious murder in the midst of some Central Chicago University students playing Castle Wolfenstein in a building converted to an escape room.  (Yes, that's a thing.  Why not?)  But the story took an interesting twist when the murdered student turned out to be an advocate for Second Amendment rights, she had tangled publicly with the canonical radical English professor, and the solution of the case involved another student who, shall we say, picked up on some of the professor's pet phrases.  And at the end, the Vietnam-veteran State's Attorney asks his deputy prosecutor, whose television back story is pitching for the Cubs before the Cubs became a thing, "Since when did people start going to college to get stupid?"  I confess to being struck at the time by the remark, but American Thinker's Patricia McCarthy reflected more fully upon it.
Perhaps, if Carl Weathers can ask the question "since when did people start going to college to get stupid?" on a prime-time television program, the leftist grip on higher education and all things cultural will soon begin to loosen.
It is noteworthy when NBC, of all networks, starts questioning the virtue-signalling Zeitgeist, but such themes have surfaced previously on Fire and P.D., and traditional values make a comeback on Med as well.

But I've wondered about this fictional Central Chicago University that figures in all the series.  It can't be Northwestern, that's conveniently in Evanston, and it rates separate mention from time to time.  The facilities have a public university look to them, but the students come from further afield, and on occasion there are professors working on cutting edge stuff, University of Chicago style.

Perhaps the prototype is DePaul.  Jonathan Cohen recently left the faculty, and there's enough stuff in his essay to provide all sorts of agitators for the One Chicago folks to deal with.
DePaul has a long history of using its resources to promote one-sided positions on gun control, the Iraq War, American foreign policy, the Arab/Israeli conflict, gay rights, immigration, crime and police accountability. At times it has shown hostility towards students and faculty who run afoul of the prevailing campus orthodoxies. What has made DePaul stand out is there is no pretense of objectivity. There is an influential body of faculty and administrators who believe the core mission of the university is to promote what could be summed up as “The Progressive Agenda.” While they claim to be promoting dialogue on issues such as race and gender, the easy use of terms such as racist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, sexist, and ableist guarantee that there will never be an honest discussion of such issues.
Procedurals require a little more action than the usual virtue-signalling of an epistemically-closed hothouse, and yet there are enough incidents in which push comes to shove that crossing the line from shove into shoot follows logically.
In the spring of 1995, the school newspaper the DePaulia reported on an arrest at a dance sponsored by Housecall, a DePaul student organization sponsored by Multicultural Student Affairs that published a quarterly magazine centered on African American issues.  According to the police, the dance had been advertised on at least 16 area campuses as a “booty call.” The trouble started when two groups got into a conflict. Police were called, and two people were arrested. The DePaulia story quoted the police report that said when police arrived they “learned there were several fights and the crowd refused to leave.” Once again relying on the police report, the DePaulia article stated “after the reporting officers began to disperse the crowd, another fight ensued, and officers ‘observed several M/Bs [male blacks] throwing chairs and trash into the crowd.’”

In reaction to the story in the DePaulia, the Association of Black Students (ABS) demanded an apology from the student newspaper. The next edition of the paper covered the black students’ version of the event and published an editorial in which the newspaper stated, “We empathize with the people who were offended or felt that the article damaged the reputation of Housecall, as this was not our intent.” This response by the DePaulia did not satisfy some students who took it upon themselves to destroy the entire press run of the newspaper.
One Chicago recently did a crossover episode involving an Oakland-style fire in a loft building converted to a dance club, so perhaps not yet.

But the message One Chicago might be sending, politely, is out there in a more direct form as well.
If you have even a semblance of a spine, sooner or later you’ll hear this nonstop sneering condescension about how you were born with a stain on your soul and say, “Hey,  f**k you. I’ve done nothing wrong, but you’re really starting to bother me.”
And then it's not just characters on television asking, "Since when did people start going to college to get stupid?"

SMOKE IS FUEL WASTED.

The reduction of iron from ore (which is naturally-occurring iron oxide) gives the impression of the blast furnace as an iron-spouting dinosaur.  Contemporary blast furnace practices have led to a twenty-fold improvement in energy intensity since 1750 (the year J. S. Bach died, and when charcoal was the reducing agent.)  The latest improvement in technique: mixing natural gas in the air blast.  We might yet see a convergence of conventional blast furnace and direct reduction approaches.

TAXES DUE ON PATRIOTS DAY.

The tulips and daffodils are coming in about as normal at Cold Spring Shops headquarters.


I forget what the groundhog forecast, but there's indisputable visual evidence of an early spring out back.


Usually the daffodils are pretty much done by the time the bleeding hearts pop.  This area of the back yard is in full sun, with reflectivity off the yellow siding.  First stuff to bloom always appears here.


Moonset.  Those flowering trees must have been the default setting in the landscaping packages that generally accompanied such houses ten years or so ago.  They look pretty good by the dawn's early light in the spring, and I think the leaves go to orange in the fall.

My own forest is more varied.  I hope the people to the west like the view.  Leaves are just coming in now.

17.4.17

SERVICE DISRUPTIONS ON THE GLOUCESTER BRANCH.

Boston's Commuter Rail Authority intends to repair the Danvers River Bridge and install positive train control on the Gloucester Branch and the Eastern Route Main Line as far as Newburyport.  That will require more than the weekend engineering possession.
During the construction to repair and replace parts of the bridge, commuter rail service on the Newburyport/Rockport line will terminate at the Salem rail station with shuttle bus service offered from there.  The project will see this service disruption for several weeks in the coming summer months.  Specific start dates are pending.

During the same time frame, and coinciding with the bridge work, the MBTA also plans full Saturday and Sunday weekend closures of the Newburyport/Rockport line for the installation of Positive Train Control (PTC).  The project is currently scheduled for weekends-only between the beginning of July through mid-September 2017.  Controversial to this project, is that the MBTA has no plans for substitute service on the affected weekends.  While there is alternative bus service connecting the MBTA subway system (and Boston) at the Wonderland Station on the MBTA’s Blue Line, those buses which run infrequently on weekends only go as far as Salem station.
Perhaps I should take advantage of the situation, and get my own Gloucester Branch up and running into Salem.  Come fall, there's a lot of traffic into Salem for Hallowe'en related things.

A READING FOR EASTER MONDAY.

Chapman University asks Vernon Smith and Peter McLaren to have a thoughtful exchange on political economy.  They delivered.  It's a long piece, and it's hard for me to pick an excerpt or two that will do it justice.  Here's the conclusion.  "I think our interchange shows that when you get below all the verbiage we probably agree far more than disagree, and especially on basic human rights, if differences emerge on how to get there. It’s been very pleasant."  Go.  Read.  Study.  Understand.  Enjoy.

WHEN THEY RUN OUT OF OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY.

Reason's Robert Poole restates his case for toll roads in Wisconsin.  Yes, that is not going to sit well with loyal Cheeseheads who back in the day resented rolling their window down and chucking forty cents in a hopper at fifteen mile intervals or so, and they resent even more the buck and a half cash, or for frequent travellers, the interest-free loan inherent in the I-Pass to reduce the fleecing to six bits.  But the current expressways are almost as old as I am, and the money to fix them isn't there.  How bad is it?
Tolls are not everyone’s cup of tea, but thanks to its robust tolling program for major highways, Illinois is moving ahead with widening and reconstruction projects comparable to those that are stalled in Wisconsin. High-quality infrastructure is a key factor in business location decisions and economic competitiveness. Wisconsin needs to solve its highway funding shortfall, and toll-financed Interstate modernization is a powerful tool for doing so.
That's the world turned upside down, for sure.  It used to be a point of pride in Wisconsin that the major roads were in better shape when they came due for a resurfacing than Illinois roads were, new.  That's no longer the case.  And a libertarian writer not making the obligatory gripe about Illinois not phasing out the tolls when the original bonds were paid off?  (Yes, that was the intention.)  How things change.

THE NEW URBANIST CARGO CULT.

Charles "Strong Towns" Marohn asks, "How is the thinking of a cargo cult any different than the thinking that brought us this?"



You have to imagine the streetcar, and the well-turned out men in their straw skimmers and women in their feather hats queuing for the latest Edison marvel playing at the Gem.  The reality: "The 'Historic Downtown' is entirely given over to decline. Empty except for the past attempts to revive and market it — the faux traditional lamposts, the brick streets."  The rest of Cairo?  There are still people attempting to hold something together.  Even the suspicion of outsiders Mr Arnade encounters has an optimistic cast to it.

Memo to the Creative Class types: unlike Pacific Islanders who might have been able to reassure themselves that the planes full of cargo might still be calling at other islands, and perhaps the bounty will return, the inhabitants of the towns that have been bypassed are able to observe and understand the ways in which the symbolic rejuvenation model isn't working.

THE MANY FLAVORS OF RENT-SEEKING.

Former labor secretary Robert Reich goes on record.  Shorter version:  Trump voters got hosed.
He said he’d clean the Washington swamp. You bought it. Then he brought into his administration more billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration in history, to make laws that will enrich their businesses.
Yes, he did change his mind on the Export-Import Bank.  "Apparently, America's most explicitly mercantilist president in years isn't about to eliminate a mercantilist institution."  Some of Mr Reich's earlier work on industrial policy flirts with mercantilism.  But mercantilism combined with high corporate taxes.  Or something.

But wait, there's more!  "Lawmakers could emulate this model to fight against the unfairness of corporate welfare and stand for its unseen victims. Their efforts might not always be successful, but they would be remembered for trying to bring some justice and balance against those giant beneficiaries of favoritism."  And yes, Mr Reich, if you wanted to make common cause with me on defunding the Export-Import Bank, I'd appreciate that.  You don't have to make common cause on defunding public broadcasting and the national endowments.

But Mr Reich has his own rents to seek.
He said he’d surround himself with all the best and smartest people. You bought it. Then he put Betsy DeVos, opponent of public education, in charge of education; Jeff Sessions, opponent of the Voting Rights Act, in charge of voting rights; Ben Carson, opponent of the Fair Housing Act, in charge of fair housing; Scott Pruitt, climate change denier, in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency; and Russian quisling Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.
Yes, all those public agencies have been such spectacular successes, haven't they?

What has happened to the academic achievement of public school students since the Department of Education set up shop?  Why are state legislators requiring universities to keep track of the high schools sending them students not yet ready for college?  Why is home-schooling a thing?

Drain the swamp.

In what way is requiring that people show proper proof of citizenship in order to vote, or proper identification before voting, an infringement of voting rights?

Drain the swamp.

What sort of fairness is implicit in urban renewal?  Mightn't the best thing for the national government to do about housing be to go away?

Drain the swamp.

What effect will all of the efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce greenhouse gas production have on worldwide temperatures?  And how many amelioration efforts will go badly along the way?

Drain the swamp.

Russian quisling?  Since when have Democrats and their court intellectuals started getting tough on Russians?

Drain the swamp.

Mr Reich's manifesto is well within the normal range of advocacy for Big Government.

But that advocacy brings in its own form of rent-seeking, and in some ways, the advocates for the continuance of tax and tax, spend and spend, regulate and regulate, elect and elect strike me as being more interested in there continuing to exist pockets of desperation to "fight" for and claim to be Governing in Their Interest.  And yes, it has worked so well for getting Bobby and Gwen and John and Maxine elected and elected, and Mr Reich has his policy forum to continue his advocacy.

But it hasn't worked out so well for constituents of those ward-heeler politicians, and it hasn't worked out so well for a lot of people elsewhere.

Drain the swamp.

SEEKING A LATTER-DAY HENRY FORD?

I've long been contemplating the arbitrage opportunities inherent in automation.  Put simply, a productive technology in the presence of destitute people isn't profitable, without the gains from trade being shared among the inventors and the destitute.
[T]he industrial technology as the United States became more productive in agriculture was one that lent itself to Fordist division of labor, and nearly anyone could do the work. The techniques involved in designing and building the advanced technology goods of today seem less favorable to such an outcome, although perhaps the presence of reserve armies of people willing to work for less will induce that innovation. The culture wars are likely of second-order importance, if that.
Now comes Paul Buchheit, and in the midst of a lament over the end of work as we know it, he hits on the same idea.
Just program a few Java applets and make $100,000. How many of us can do that? The demand is there, though, for statistical analysts, data mining specialists, internet security specialists, and a variety of other specialized positions that explain the availability of ten computing jobs for every computer science graduate.
Well, a hundred grand doesn't go as far today as it did in the era of the Model T, and yet, where there are jobs going begging, there are unexploited gains from trade, in the development of electronic analogues to the assembly line that enhance the skills of people who may not have a full computer science portfolio.  I'm thinking of some analogue to a numerically controlled machine tool: perhaps there is a lot of money in developing an algorithm-generating tool that produces the subroutines that symbolic analysts with more modest skills can use to produce the answers.  Heck, if there's a way to program cash registers for sub-literates, in order that barely verbal people can be worthy of their hire at the local bun-'n-run, the idea of an algorithm generating tool has to have occurred to somebody.

But when I suggest that there are people rendered unemployable by a combination of the minimum wage and government schools, I might be on to something.
Corporations could be training workers in new technologies, but instead they blame our underfunded educational system for worker deficiencies. Said an Apple executive, "The U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need." Another CEO, oblivious to the lack of jobs at anything other than a high-tech level, blustered "The jobs are there, but the skills are not." The Wall Street Journal, of course, chimed in: "Many workers who were laid off in recent decades...don’t have the skills to do today’s jobs."

Meanwhile, the robots proliferate, expanding into once-unimagined areas: robot surgeons, robot chefs, robot security guards, robot news writers, robot teachers that interact with children, robotic nurses that will lift patients and bring them medicine.
That's a Complex Proposition. But it's easier to bury a Complex Proposition in a virtue signal about Clueless Blustering Bosses, rather than to consider the ways in which the inability of companies to sell stuff because nobody's buying might become an expansion of labor-augmenting automation into once-unimagined areas, or to distinguish the adjustment costs borne by older workers from the lack of human capital because the common schools are, shall we say, neglecting their core responsibilities.