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


That's not a reference to Our President's tee-totaling habits.  Rather, that's one of the ways that protecting domestic primary metals producers will manifest itself.
You could pay more for a six pack of beer or a can of green beans under tariffs that President Donald Trump is considering for aluminum and other metal.

The U.S. Commerce Department has recommended the tariffs on all steel and aluminum imports, or higher tariffs — up to 53% — on imports from specific countries.

The measures are aimed at bolstering the U.S. aluminum and steel industries, which have been hit hard by imports, especially from China.
Apparently, to keep Joe Sixpack employed at the melt shop or mill, Joe Sixpack will have to pay more for that sixpack.
The Steel Manufacturers Association is urging U.S. President Donald Trump to make a speedy decision on the course of action he’ll take relative to the Commerce Department’s Section 232 investigation.

"Even as we speak, the U.S. steel industry is still under assault from dumping, subsidies, state ownership, transshipments, circumvention, counterfeiting and cheating. It is time for us to seriously address these issues," said SMA president Philip Bell.
Last week, I attended a gathering of the Midwest Steelmakers: lots of mill food and a chance to stay current with economic conditions in the industry.  Domestic steel producers have plenty of orders, and yet those subsidized, state-owned mills overseas pose a threat.

You can hope to close the borders and hope for the best, or perhaps you can rediscover your comparative advantage.
About 20% of Europe’s steelmaking capacity is redundant, and companies should look to close mills while re-orienting themselves toward greater production of higher-end steel, voestalpine AG chief executive Wolfgang Eder tells The (London) Financial Times.

"As long as many plants in Europe produce the same stuff as non-European competitors can produce on a much lower cost base, we should not be surprised that the European steel industry is suffering," Eder said.
That's recognition of a point the speaker made at the gathering.  Currently, mills in the United States are pouring about a hundred million tons of steel in a year, while mills in China are pouring about 120 million tons.  But there's a lot of idle capacity -- the equivalent of three United States' worth of integrated and minimills -- in China.

Don "Cafe Hayek" Boudreaux did not attend the dinner, although he found the same points being made in the press.  He's not impressed.
More resources cannot move or be moved to here without resources moving or being moved from there.  And so if there are too many resources here, there are necessarily too few resources there.

Yet when grasping, guile-filled, greedy protectionists use allegations of global “excess capacity” or “overproduction” to plead for government restrictions on their fellow citizens’ freedom to spend money as these citizens choose – pleas proffered under the pretense of using government to correct market distortions – we never, ever hear complaints of the necessarily corresponding global undercapacity and global underproduction.  And governments never propose to act in ways to correct for, or adjust to, the corresponding under-capacities.
This asymmetry of complaints and action screams loudly.  It screams that the real motive of producers who gripe about alleged global “overcapacity” is simply to escape the need to compete for consumer patronage.  The producers’ motives are nothing more grand or noble than to pick the pockets of others.  And governments’ motives are nothing more noble than to assist in this thievery.
It's particularly delicious that last Tuesday's speaker represented Nucor Steel.  That's right, dear reader, the same Nucor Steel that once upon a time stayed out of the trade association, and the trade cases, under the impression that being able to make a better grade of steel out of recycled scrap: now a member of the rent-seeking class.  Something else that never changes?  Where government activity generates rents, there are opportunities for government officials to make career moves.
In a statement, the [Steel Manufacturers Association] said Jean Carroll Kemp will join as senior vice president of government affairs and trade policy.

"Jean’s experience and character make her uniquely qualified for this role at the SMA. She is a trade policy expert adept at creating solutions to sensitive and complex global challenges facing our industry. She is well respected among domestic and international steel industry stakeholders,” said Philip K. Bell, association president.

Kemp previously served in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative as deputy assistant U.S. Trade Representative for industrial competitiveness. During her 14 years there, she also served as director of industrial metals, materials and energy and as director of steel trade policy.

Prior to her time at the Trade Representative's office, Kemp spent 16 years at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
It used to be that Nucor, in the spirit of Andrew Carnegie, would respond to imports by producing a better product and selling it at a lower price.  Perhaps it is still time to short China.  That's still notionally a socialist economy, particularly where the commanding heights are concerned.
China, the world’s top steel producer, will allow one ton of new capacity to be built for a minimum of 1.25 tonnes of old capacity closed in environmentally sensitive regions, effective this year, the ministry said in a statement.

The statement, long-awaited by market players, offered clearer details on closing capacities to build new plants, based on the size of blast furnace, converters and other facilities to be shut down.

The strict standard on capacities swaps has eased market worries that China will not loosen its restrictions on building new projects, a manager with a trading firm in Hangzhou said, declining to be named as he is not authorized to speak to media.
Why would anybody want to build more steel capacity in China, when three United States's worth of capacity are idle?
The new rules are a sign China will continue to deepen its efforts to push supply-side reform and reduce overcapacity in the sector. China is aiming to cut steel capacity by 100 million to 150 million tonnes over the 2016-2020 period, the country’s State Council said in early 2016 as part of a five-year plan.

The new guidelines include clearer details on closing capacities to build new plants, based on the size of blast furnace, converters and other facilities to be shut down.
Where is China's Billy Joel, and what's the name of a steel center that rhymes with Allentown?

With the primary metals people focusing on China, perhaps it's the economic pain in whatever the Chinese analogues to the Mahoning and Monongahela Valleys that will shake out the idle capacity.  Not trade protection.
The Aluminum Association, an Arlington, Va., trade group that represents U.S. aluminum manufacturers, says imports have risen more than 50% over the past five years, largely from China.

“In our view, any final decision (on tariffs) should focus on Chinese overcapacity. We don’t think there should be a broad-based tariff against countries that are operating responsibly, in particular Canada,” said Matt Meenan, spokesman for The Aluminum Association.

“Ultimately, we favor a negotiated, enforceable government-to-government agreement with China on overcapacity,” Meenan said.

The beer makers, and many others, say the aluminum they use should be removed from the proposed tariffs and quotas.

"Aluminum used to make beer cans is not a national security threat," McGreevy said.

Wisconsin is one of the nation’s leading producers of canned vegetables. And, like the brewers, the vegetable canneries import a substantial amount of metal.
For "negotiated, enforceable government-to-government agreement," read cartel.

The Nucor Steel of a quarter century ago would have seen in that Chinese galvanized a business opportunity, recycling post-consumer cans into thin strip for a return to the galvanizing plant.
If steel jobs are not primarily being lost to foreign competitors, what is responsible for their sharp reduction? Progress – or at least progress in the way steel is made. Since the 1980s, super-efficient mini-mills that make steel largely from scrap metal have largely supplanted integrated steel mills that use raw materials. As a result of this exponential change and other technological advancements, the steel industry has driven up labor productivity dramatically. In the 1980s, when the industry directly employed over a half-million people, it took over 10 person-hours to produce a ton of steel, Now, it takes less than 2 person-hours to produce the same amount of steel.

An industry under threat? Hardly. While steel workers are fewer and farther between, many steel companies are doing quite well. Last year, Nucor Corporation reported its net earnings increased by 65 percent over 2016. Similarly, Steel Dynamics reported record steel shipments in 2017 with record operating income.

Although fewer people than ever earn a living in steel plants, far more workers than ever earn their living in industries that depend on steel. There are only at most 150,000 Americans earning a living full-time in the steel industry, but more than 6 million work in industries that depend on steel, industries likes autos and construction that would be hurt badly by steel tariffs.
Yes, and canning and brewing. I suppose we have to pay higher prices to support our right to buy only U.S. made aluminum and steel.
Foreign producers most certainly did not cut their prices, but domestic producers raised theirs. The result? A study concluded that higher steel prices cost the United States 200,000 jobs – more than 6 times as many as the steel industry claimed the tariffs saved. Many small machine-tool and metal stamping shops were decimated by steel costs that rose as much as 30 percent.

Similarly, when President Obama imposed special duties on tires imported from China in 2009, the measure increased costs in the auto industry by about $900,000 per job saved.

The problem with tariffs on steel or any other product is that your own people pay them. Imposing them is cutting off your own nose to spite someone else’s face. The bigger problem is that the people who actually pay the tariff, in the form of higher prices, include the very industries an economy depends on to thrive.

There is a reason that most of the legislators who met with Trump last week – Republican as well as Democratic – were worried by the prospect of a new steel tariff. They have seen this movie before, and they don’t like the way it ends.
Yes, and to the extent that we exchange U.S. raised food for Chinese Distressed Material steel, the protection of workers who produce steel in oxygen furnaces comes at the expense of workers who produce steel in bean fields.

The good news is, Republican Members of Congress are not necessarily on board with these tariffs.  "The argument is that parts producers of everything from automobiles to aircraft to wiring in homes and office buildings would pay a higher price for metal if they can’t procure material from foreign sources that could cost less. By putting tariffs on imports, it effectively raises the price of imports so that domestic steel and aluminum producers aren’t being undercut." Make a better product, sell it at a lower price.  Moreover, as Professor Mankiw argues, if it's the political economy of trade policy that matters, not the mundane efficiency of two man-hours per ton, there are better ways to cushion the blows of creative destruction.  "To be sure, expanding trade hurts some people in the short run, especially those in import-competing sectors who have to find new jobs. That fact may call for a robust safety net and effective retraining. But it does not undermine the conclusion that free trade raises average living standards."  The column, in full, is a primer on the principles of specialization and trade: points familiar to regular readers.

Protecting the primary metals producers, however, comes at the expense of a lot of Joe Sixpacks in metal-using industries.
[For each] steel worker that may be helped by the import tax, there are over 38 workers in steel-using sectors that may be harmed by it. Further, the vast majority of steel-consuming manufacturers are small businesses that don't command the ability to pass higher prices on to their consumers.
That article takes too dim a view of the genuine improvements in steel productive efficiency (and environmental consequences) over the past forty to fifty years.

And yet, tariffs on primary metals, whether sold as for national security or not, will mean a lot of beer to be cried into in the downstream manufacturing and construction sectors.



Scott Alexander tackles, at length, and with lots of references, the nature and scope of technological unemployment.  It's an economics post, thus there's the on-the-one-hand.
Technological unemployment is a hard topic because there are such good arguments on both sides.

The argument against: we’ve had increasing technology for centuries now, people have been predicting that technology will put them out of work since the Luddites, and it’s never come true. Instead, one of two things have happened. Either machines have augmented human workers, allowing them to produce more goods at lower prices, and so expanded industries so dramatically that overall they employ more people. Or displaced workers from one industry have gone into another – stable boys becoming car mechanics, or the like.
On the other ...
The argument in favor: look, imagine there’s a perfect android that can do everything humans do (including management) only better. And suppose it costs $10 to buy and $1/hour to operate. Surely every business owner would just buy those androids, and then all humans who wanted to earn more than $1/hour would be totally out of luck. There’s no conceivable way the androids would “augment” human labor and there’s no conceivable way the displaced humans could go into another industry. So at some point we’ve got to start getting technological unemployment.
He continues, perhaps we're at that point.
There may be some point at which we too stop being worth more than it costs to replace us. And the decline of manufacturing, the increase in labor force nonparticipation and despair in rural Rust Belt communities, etc, suggest that point is fast arriving.
Reality is more subtle: for instance, there aren't enough peasants in China to produce China's 2017 steel output with 1877 (that is, after Bessemer) steel-making technologies.

The knowledge problem Mr Alexander is struggling with is, ultimately, this.
The central story in [The Tycoons] is the transition of the U.S. economy from Jefferson's yeoman farmers and Lincoln's skilled artisans to a factory system in which the machinery augments the productivity of the man in such a way that a man of even modest talents could make a valuable contribution to the assembly of a high-value product.
Between Taylorist systems of manufacturing becoming common knowledge, and the introduction of machinery to do the routine tasks (the "appendage of the machine" one Karl Marx griped about), it's precisely the men of modest talents who might have been hardest hit.  Mr Alexander (there are lots of charts and graphs preceding this passage):
Some jobs require extremely basic human talents that machines can’t yet match – like a delivery person’s ability to climb stairs. Others require extremely arcane human talents likewise beyond machine abilities – like a scientist discovering new theories of physics. The stuff in between – proofreading, translating, records-keeping, metalworking, truck driving, welding – is more in danger. As these get automated away, workers – in accord with the theory – migrate to the unautomatable jobs. Since they might not have the skills or training to do the unautomatable upper class jobs, they end up in the unautomatable lower-class ones. There’s nothing in economic orthodoxy that says this can’t happen.
On the other hand, economic orthodoxy suggests there are gains from trade between the entrepreneur who can do the contemporary equivalent of a Ford or Taylor or Carnegie and the person whose opportunity cost is the unautomatable lower class wage.  Complicating things though: what happens when the gains from trade favor the labor market for the unautomatable upper class jobs?  That might produce the Forgotten Men and Women he refers to in his concluding passage.  "We’ll just get people being pushed into worse and worse jobs, in a way that does not inspire widespread sympathy or collective action. The prospect of educational, social, or political intervention remains murky." Relatively few people, perhaps.  Automation displacing nearly everybody?  That way, he suggests, you would have a more difficult situation.


Dionne Warwick noted, "L.A. is a great big freeway" fifty years ago.  Big as it is, the Wise Experts think it is not big enough.
Each year, tens of thousands of truck drivers make the 19-mile trip up the 710 Freeway from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to rail yards near downtown, carrying cargo bound for every corner of the United States.

The 710 handles so much freight traffic from the ports that commuters on the freeway frequently find themselves trapped between big rigs or cut off from their exits by long lines of trucks.
There is an improved freight railroad line with sufficient clearances for double-stacks serving the port. That there are still containers being rubbered from intermodal terminals some distance from the port suggests the incentives are not right.  (As a side-note, the difficulty commuters have getting to their exits might be a symptom of the free-for-all on the expressways, there being no mutual respect between the gear-jammers and the econoboxes.)

The best the Port Authority can come up with?  More of the same.  (Insert your own insanity reference, dear reader.)
In a report to the agency's board of directors, Metro staff urged support for a massive, $6-billion proposal that would add a lane in each direction along the 710 between Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach and the 60 Freeway in East Los Angeles. The price tag is one of the largest for a freeway widening project in county history.

The proposal calls for changes to 24 major streets that cross the 710, as well as new interchanges with the 91, 5 and 405 freeways. A new, separated lane would allow truckers to bypass commuter traffic near the 405.

Transportation officials say the widening is necessary because a soaring number of trucks is cramming each day onto an inefficient route that needs to be modernized.

"The trucks are going to continue to come, and the goods are going to continue to come to the port," said Metro Senior Director Ernesto Chaves. Without building new lanes, he said, "we'll have more trucks on the same old infrastructure."
So we take part of the expressway out of service to do the construction, which might reduce the vehicle flow whilst temporarily increasing the cramming: then comes the ribbon-cutting, and afterwards, the number of trucks will soar further, and the cramming will return to pre-construction levels.  "The idea of simply paving our way to reduced travel times should thus be a non-starter."

Let's, instead, look at that special pleading in the third paragraph of the report. "[Unspecified] Transportation officials [whose salaries and promotion opportunities depend on building and maintaining their fiefdoms] say the widening is necessary [in the absence of any market tests] because a soaring number of trucks is cramming each day onto an inefficient route [in the absence of any market tests] that needs to be modernized [where 'needs' is in the sense of 'we're sticking someone else with the bill']."

For instance, taxpayers alone presumably will be on the hook for that separate truck lane in the vicinity of the 405 interchange.  I see no reference to a toll lane or to special assessments on the motor carriers.  (Again, as an aside, with a California full of politicians who are implacably hostile to Our President, getting this project into an infrastructure bill might not be easy.)

Nor do I see any reference to incentives to make more effective use of the existing rail corridor, something that the railroad companies and the truckers might consider in the presence of tolling.

That's not even in the discussion.
The proposal has been under study for three years and is cheaper than the other option
Metro and Caltrans are considering: four elevated, zero-emission truck lanes that would cost $10 billion and displace about 484 people.
All of this, mind you, to be provided by the Easter Bunny.
Measure R and Measure M, two half-cent sales taxes administered by Metro, would provide $920 million to the so-called 710 South project. Where the remaining $5 billion would come from is unclear.
Where are the freight railroads? Missing an opportunity?


The spirit of Dean Wormer haunts Northern Illinois University.
The Board of Trustees addressed students and alumni Thursday about their concerns over student surveillance and the university’s student conduct process.

Two parents and First Ward Alderperson [c.q.] David Jacobson spoke to the Board during Thursday’s public comment about university officials unfair treatment of students involved in the Greek system.

Approximately 50 students wearing their Greek letters filled the room before the morning’s first public comment period. Trustee John Butler said the student turnout was “the most students we have had in a long time.”

Kristen Foley, a parent of a Greek student, specifically spoke about “unjustified” sanctions placed on Greek students and the university’s “First Amendment violation of freedom of association.” She did not say which fraternity her son is affiliated with.

She said she appeared before the Board to address concerns about Student Conduct’s “coercive and police-like interrogations,” and “unjust investigations and hearings.”

Foley said she volunteered to advise her son’s fraternity after it received a student conduct violation fall 2017 semester that diverted from the Student Conduct progressive sanction standard that states a first offense is punishable by a semester suspension. She said the university’s stated standard was disregarded during her son’s fraternity hearing process when it was handed a three year suspension.
There was not a mass walkout with the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner, although that might have been in order.
Foley also spoke about officials’ decision to monitor students’ social media, placing Greek students on a watchlist that puts them into a system with troubled students.

“NIU does not monitor any personal media accounts at all,” said Dean of Student, Kelly Wesener Michael during a Jan. 28 student meeting, according to Jan. 29 Northern Star article.

Foley said she became aware of the university’s use of Maxient, a software filing system used by the administration to keep student data organized, when submitting Freedom of Information Act requests to the university.

“We thought it was just one organization that was on the system, and then we found it that all Greek organizations were on it,” Foley said.

Acting President Lisa Freeman said she acknowledges there are concerns about Student Conduct’s severe penalizations that discourages students who may be willing to work with the administration.

“There is room for improvement, especially when students are willing to be accountable for their choices and part of the larger dialogue that seeks solutions and common ground,” Freeman said.
Don't hector me and call it dialogue, particularly when you're engaging in surveillance.
The current student conduct process does not delegate the different steps in the sanctioning and hearing process when dealing with conduct violations,Foley said. The Office of Student Conduct is responsible for processing and investigating the sanction, arranging the hearing and deciding the penalty.

“Imagine for a moment that student conduct is like a police department,” Foley said. “How would you feel if the police could investigate, bring charges, prosecute the case, decide whether you get a judge or a jury, pick the judge, train the judge, hold the hearing in the police department and handle the appeal. Do you think that’s a fair process, because I don’t.”

Freeman said a lot was said against the university’s actions and a lot less of students admitting to their mistakes. She said reports of behavior violations stemming from failure to register events and guests list, drug use, binge drinking games and an absence of sober monitors had been been made about Greek organized social events.

“This is a university that has experienced the loss of students and knows first hand the profounds ways how life can change in an instant” Freeman said.
That might be so, and yet, verdict first, then trial is not the American way.


No more Ringling Barnum, no more "circus road trip" for hockey's Blackhawks and Wolves and basketball's Bulls.

Children of all ages might be able to extend the Festive Season instead.
The Modern Language Association and the American Historical Association typically have their annual meetings around the same time each year, in different cities. In 2019, they’ll both take place from Jan. 3-6 in Chicago. To promote what they’re calling “interdisciplinary collaboration,” the associations will honor each other’s attendee badges.
That's the Thursday-Sunday just after New Years, meaning the stress of getting to the job meetings comes after the holiday stress rather than in the midst of the holiday stress.  There are, however, cheaper hotel rooms to be had that weekend.

But heading into Chicago to people-watch and flip through the programs might be fun.



Railway Gazette reports a new railroad line crosses the Azeri-Iranian border.

Look at the first train.

Unattributed Railway Gazette photograph.

Note the influence of the American Locomotive Corporation's Military Railroad Switcher and RS-1.


There is a strain of social criticism that treats the good as a given, or perhaps as accident, and lays off all the ills to the "system."  Perhaps the most notorious such example is Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States, although it is not the only example.  Consider Kurt Andersen's recent Fantasyland:  How America Went Haywire: A 500 Year History.  We'll start Book Review No. 8 by asking whether triple-expansion titles are necessary.

Substantively, Mr Andersen might be writing to reinforce conventional notions of rationalism, or perhaps he's troubled by a Donald Trump presidency.  The fantasy, however, might have been a long time in coming, with the notion of a New World becoming an opportunity for grifters of all stripes, thus "The Conjuring of America."  Then comes the fabulous Nineteenth Century, in which that vast frontier becomes "The United States of Amazing."  There are plenty of hyped schemes then, with nary a mention of the railroad mania after the Civil War.  Even the "Long Arc Bending Toward Reason," which is to say, from the conquest of territories in the tropics to the zenith of the American High, it was "freaky and fantastical."  (Perhaps unsustainable, as well, but that's a different strain of social criticism.)  Then came the 1960s, and, although Mr Andersen's sympathies for the aesthetic of the gentry liberal come through, e.g. "Walter Mitty" pickup trucks and sport-utes, his "Big Bang" (the expanding universe of Fantasyland, if you will, in the Sixties and Seventies) includes hippies, intellectuals, Christians, paranoid politics, and entertainment.  Plenty of vectors for the contagion, and plenty of ways that "Fantasyland Scales" up to the present.  Close to half the text deals with the recent history, or with "The Problem (they're multiple, actually) with Fantasyland."  Again, there's plenty of blame to go around.  From page 429, "Our tendencies to fear the new and to to reject reason have appeared on the left as well as on the right."  He's also worried about people losing a notion of objective truth (and yet, that's what radical skepticism will get you.)  More recently, he's followed up on the book by suggesting that an Oprah presidency would not work as a corrective to a Trump presidency.  "Any assessment of her possible presidential bid should consider the irrational, pseudoscientific free for all she helped create."  The details of the pseudoscientific free for all?  In Fantasyland.

Yes, dear reader, take the concluding sections of Fantasyland to heart.  And yet, do not be devoid of good cheer.  Perhaps the fantasies are evolutionary dead ends.  There is enough in the way of a continuing experiment in self-government, improvements in manufacturing technologies, medical science, and in having fun and in getting along with others, in those past five centuries, to think that "haywire" might be too strong an indictment of the American Condition.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)


Rod Dreher reflects at length on s***holes.
I have no trouble saying that not all cultures in the world are equally healthy, equally good. “Different” doesn’t equal “bad,” but some places really are bad because the culture there is bad. Take the people out and put them in a different culture, and you should be able to expect different results over time. But not always.
Yes, and being able to propose and investigate hypotheses without having to tread lightly to avoid upsetting dominant paradigms makes evaluation of that claim more difficult.


Inmates of the government schools aren't so well protected.  "Welcome to the wonderful world of recess withholding."  Not, as you might suspect, because of inclement weather, but in order to make more time for test-preparation, or as a punishment for acting out.  Seriously.
That sounds like heaven to Mark Sullivan, an actor/broadcaster in Westerly, Rhode Island, who still seethes when recalling the time his fifth-grader got in trouble for popping a brown paper bag. At lunch the next day, they boy's punishment was to sit at the same table as the special needs kids and not get up till recess was over. "You don't treat special needs people as the penalty box," says Sullivan.

When I asked on Facebook if parents were seeing recess withheld, the answers cascaded in. "My kid misses recess most days because he has to rewrite his assignments due to poor handwriting." "Used regularly at my boys' elementary school as punishment…for using the restroom during 'non-break' times." "For not turning in a parent signature on a form." "For not filling in her reading log." "For being disruptive in class."

That last reason is particularly ironic, since recess is the best way for high-energy kids to blow off some steam in order to make it through the afternoon.

One teacher chimed in to defend the practice—"We work with kids who are coming to [us] from all sorts of situations. I think a lot of times, these kids need to be held accountable for poor decisions"—but most of the people who responded were parents with horror stories.
It's not much better when the principal consents to release the kids.
At the elementary school Shannah Pace's son attended in Plano, Texas, "the list of rules about things they couldn't do at recess was longer than the things they could do," the stay-at-home mom says. "No Red Rover—somebody might get hurt, or their feelings might get hurt. They were not allowed to have balls, jump ropes, any toys. They had this ginormous play structure, but there was no running on the structure, no jumping off it. One person at a time on the slide. They had one lonely little tree on the playground that they chopped down because the kids were trying to climb it."

Then one day her son and his friend were playing "spies." A teacher misinterpreted it as tag — verboten! — and they were made to stand against the wall for the rest of the period.

That's when the Paces decided to homeschool their children. Four years later, when they pass the old elementary during recess, her son says, "Look at those poor kids."
The mind boggles at what would happen if six of the rule-following kids had decided to play at firing squad with the spies up against the wall.


Public affairs programming is the predictable gathering of the predictable usual suspects around a table in a room pretending to have a view of the Capitol, where they talk about predictable things in a predictable way.

Take Meet The Press.  (Please.)  Guns.  Russian disinformation.  Process worship.  Toward the end, this lament by Chuck Todd.  "Now, these laws were not perfect, and they didn't solve gun violence in America. The point is that they were attempts by Washington to try to do something in the wake of tragic events or dangerous trends."

Perhaps it's time to think outside Washington.  New "parameters" at the "end of the day," if you want to put it in public-affairs-speak.



Before long-range radio, baseball fans could get the play-by-play from a local announcer reading off the action as it was telegraphed and transcribed.  That might have been how Ronald Reagan got into show business.  Now, had the radio stations entrusted railway station agents with the call, they could have dispensed with the transcriptions ...

These days, it's possible to follow the action from anywhere with something called Game Tracker.  (I refuse to ram words together with a capital letter somewhere in the middle.)

That information, sports fans, relies on the nimble thumbs of an observer who at least doesn't have a clicking telegraph key to distract nearby fans or the local radio broadcaster (Mr Reagan, for example, doing Cubs broadcasts out of Des Moines: no clear-channel WGN on game days, and they were all game days in the era.)

That's a grab shot of the young man providing the real-time information Saturday of Western Michigan at Northern Illinois.  Northern Illinois with the ball and the lead late in the game, there are whatever we call hot keys these days to indicate turnovers or baskets made and a subroutine for free throws.

The Northern Illinois men won.  The women, a different story.


Victor Hanson's The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won is not the usual military history.  Probably a good thing, notes our Book Review No. 7, as there are plenty of those already.  But how often does someone attempt to look at the conflict along classical lines (the seven ways being Ideas, Air, Water, Earth, Fire, People, and Ends?)  It's well written, I finished it in a few evenings, and learned a few things along the way.

There's not much of a spoiler in noting that the Axis powers were in no shape even to take on the world's biggest navy, the world's biggest army (an army, no less, that was rocking a lot of the world's best tanks), and the world's biggest economy (with plenty of slack capacity to build locomotives and trucks for the Soviet Union and replace the admittedly obsolete destroyers and aircraft that went to Britain and the Soviets.)

On the other hand, the surrender of a German army at Stalingrad was not the single largest surrender of a German army in 1943.  That surrender took place in a theater that might have been peripheral to the war effort (you'll have to read the story yourself!)  And perhaps the war could have been avoided.

And yet, the war was so terrible that, nearly four score years on, we have not seen a repeat (not to get complacent, dear reader, history rhymes ...) despite none of the victorious powers having achieved their war aims in the way the leaders of the day hoped or anticipated.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)


Kentucky State University won, if that is the proper term, February's Speech Code of the Month honors.  There's something in that recognition that intrigues.
Kentucky State’s updated Student Code of Conduct contains an expanded list of “offenses against persons” that — in addition to wholly reasonable bans on physical abuse, harassment, threats, and the like — includes a ban on “embarrassment.”

Yes, you read that correctly — at Kentucky State, you can face disciplinary action for embarrassing another person. This directly affects students’ ability to engage in unfettered, free-wheeling debate and argument on important political and social issues. In the heat of a political argument or contest, people often say things to embarrass or discredit those they disagree with.

Need evidence? Just look at some presidential campaign ads.
Campaign ads??? If ever there was a time to invoke my dad's question, "why compare yourself with the worst?"

That provision has all sorts of potential for students to employ against professors and teaching assistants so sure of their moral authority, or so unsure of their own arguments, that all they have by way of rejoinder is hectoring, condescending, deplorable-shaming.  That might be great fun for fans of the likes of Phil Donahue or Stephen Colbert or the Crying Jimmies posing as late-night comedians.  But it's not terribly edifying.  Steven Pinker explains.  "[S]cholars can’t hope to understand the world (particularly the social world) if some hypotheses are given a free pass and others are unmentionable. As John Stuart Mill noted, 'He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that.'"  Furthermore, think of how differently Marquette University's suspension of John "Marquette Warrior" McAdams might have turned out if the student whose complaint about a graduate teaching assistant's engagement with a question about same-sex marriages could have simply said, "Ma'am, you can't suggest I'm homophobic, that's an attempt to embarrass me.  Engage the question, or suggest it's outside the scope of the course."

Now, let's apply that line of thinking to the recent adventures of Duke historian Nancy McLean.  She's still not able to rebut substantive claims about errors of fact and interpretation in Democracy in Chains.  It's easier to go in front of sympathetic audiences and suggest that advocates of libertarian politics more generally aren't right in the head.
According to MacLean, there is a connection between autism and libertarianism, and that connection is not feeling "solidarity or empathy," and having "kind of difficult human relationships sometimes." The implication is that libertarianism is similarly cold and unfeeling, and attracts people who don't care about others.

This decidedly unempathetic assertion was MacLean's answer to a question from the audience at NYC's Unitarian Church of All Souls: "Where do [Buchanan's] motivations lie? Are they ones of personal greed? It seems like it's a little grander, is it malevolence?"
The Unitarian Church of All Souls. Isn't that special.  Oh, snap!  That's an attempt to embarrass the self-styled progressives gathered in congregation there, isn't it?
MacLean's comments were captured on video (skip to the one hour mark). In case there was any doubt about what she meant, another audience member asked whether Buchanan's ideas were spreading "to other universities and so that we've got this constant flow of libertarians, autistic libertarians." MacLean smiles and chuckles before responding.
The video is embedded in Reason's story.  It's that sort of academic smugness that Mr Pinker has in mind in another of his objections to the identitarian tendency in academic work.
The third problem is that illiberal antics of the hard left are discrediting the rest of academia, including the large swaths of moderates and open-minded scholars who keep their politics out of their research. (Despite the highly publicized follies of academia, it’s still a more disinterested forum than alternatives like the Twittersphere, Congress, or ideologically branded think tanks.) In particular, many right-wingers tell each other that the near-consensus among scientists on human-caused climate change is a conspiracy among politically correct academics who are committed to a government takeover of the economy. This is sheer nonsense, but it can gain traction when the noisiest voices in the academy are the repressive fanatics.
The good news is that Duke students are asking for intellectual integrity, even from their academic superstars.  (Basketball is another matter, but I digress.)
“Professor MacLean is obviously a brilliant woman,” [Hunter] Michielson said, noting that he did not want to pass judgement on her other works, which he has not read. “I struggle to accept that she actually believes libertarianism or conservatism is the result of autism. The question is then why she would say something like this.”

After reflecting on the incident, Michielson said that he does not entirely blame academics like MacLean when they make offensive comments about those with whom they disagree. “I think it could be emblematic of lack of exposure,” the Duke senior opined, pointing out that “maybe these academics don’t actually encounter conservative views.”

“I think sometimes it can be easier to level ad-hominem than to actually confront their arguments,” he explained. “I think that this is emblematic of a larger phenomenon that happens at campus across the country.”
Exactly.  Points 1 and 3 are both in play here.  Playing at Phil Donahue in front of an audience at a Unitarian church is performance art, not scholarship.  That it's an attempt to hector, to deplorable-shame, to embarrass dissenters is an expected part of the act.  Perhaps it's intended to make those dissenting views go away.

What about Mr Pinker's second point?  "The second is that people who suddenly discover forbidden facts outside the crucible of reasoned debate (which is what universities should be) can take them to dangerous conclusions, such as that differences between the sexes imply that we should discriminate against women (this kind of fallacy has fueled the alt-right movement)." Whoop! There it is! "The point is this: if you cannot tell the difference between Ross Douthat and Richard Spencer, you’re not marginalizing Ross Douthat, you’re mainstreaming Richard Spencer."  (Read that essay in full.)

The good news is, maybe the identity politics types are beginning to catch on.
It is the case that when the white supremacists come to town special attention should be paid to protecting, supporting and involving the groups – immigrants, African Americans, gays and lesbians, Jews, Muslims, etc - that the white supremacists are targeting. Can you do that in a way that speaks to the white frat guy too, that makes him feel like this is his fight, that he’s got something at stake and something to contribute? This is in part a challenge of framing. I think Empowered Minorities vs White Supremacists is a perfectly understandable framing. But I think America (or UT) vs White Supremacists is better.
Rediscover assimilation.  Stop treating the guys as toxic.  Stop the privilege-shaming.  Eschew problematic talk.  Or expect the Donahue tactics to be applied right back.


It's not about semiautomatic weapons or background checks or any of the rest of the usual process stuff.

It's really about rediscovering the mediating institutions.  Jonah Goldberg notices their absence, but he draws the wrong inference.
But capitalism consistently divides labor into thinner and thinner slices, so that the habits of the heart that made capitalism work — thrift, industrious, decent manners — become less and less essential. In the process, virtue falls by the wayside, and we look to government or other sources of authority or simply the market to provide things we’ve ceased providing for ourselves, from parents who outsource moral education to schools, to college students who demand they be protected from scary ideas, to populists of the left and the right who demand that the government fix tectonic changes brought about by globalization and technology.
If anything, the more complicated the society, the more valuable are those virtues.  How else, ultimately, do you signal your probity to the people you interact with?

What else, dear reader, is "if you see something, say something" if not a call for virtuous people to be virtuous?  That's both in the saying, and in the authorities properly following up.
[Spokane, Washington, County Sheriff Ozzie] Knezovich criticised the politically correct culture of 21st century America for dissuading people from speaking if they see or hear something concerning. “Here’s a message to those who see it coming: You need to prevent that. Here’s the problem though, we have made doing what is right wrong. … So we need to teach those kids that if you see something like this, we need to know. … We’re not mind readers, folks.”
George Neumayr concurs. "The rise of school shootings is due not to the absence of laws but to the absence of a civilized culture that taught students to follow them." That's in a polemical essay: be advised accordingly.  So, too, Christian Christensen: "The moral perversity that allows one to think that universal healthcare is tyranny but dead school children are the price of freedom is what is corroding the soul of the United States."  That's an echo of Mr Goldberg's "look to government" in the absence of private virtues, no?



In Germany, close to eight hundred people end their lives on the tracks.
Stephan Kniest is sitting at a table by the window. A boyish-looking 36, he is wearing a contemporary goatee and rimless glasses; his short hair is spiked with gel.

In front of him on the table is a Canon 5D with a huge lens, and next to it is a plastic bowl with the "Frikandel speciaal," a grilled meat roll with chopped onions, fries and ketchup. On the wall behind him hangs a photo that he took himself - a tanker, photographed diagonally from the front, an immense black hull in the twilight.

He finds peace by the sea, Kniest says. This is where he is able to shed the burden of work, the burden of the past few years. He can "drown the stress in the sea," he says, referring to his memories of what he calls "events."

His first "event" occurred on a straight stretch of track through a wooded area. A young woman had laid down across the tracks. It was early evening and Kniest was driving a local train at 120 kilometers per hour (75 mph). Dusk was already falling. "It looked like a trash bag," he says. He'd only been a train driver for a few weeks. He slammed on the brakes immediately.
It's no easier when it's a distracted pedestrian or a motorist disregarding the warnings.
"A trauma often renders people speechless," says Bruno Kall, a senior physician at the Buchenholm Clinic in Malente, located in northern Germany. Two decades ago, the clinic began specializing in the treatment of traumatized train drivers. The victims are literally speechless with horror.

A person who seeks death on the tracks doesn't just destroy their own life, they also disrupt the life of someone else. They turn train drivers into a perpetrator, someone who is forced to kill. They transform train drivers into murderers who are not guilty of their actions.

The Buchenholm Clinic is situated under tall trees on Dieksee Lake. The dining room offers a panoramic view of the water and it is a good place to find peace. What prompted the clinic to specialize in the trauma of train drivers? The clinic is a subsidiary of the Deutsche Bahn health insurance fund. In 1996, by which time Kall had already begun working as a doctor in Malente, a train driver being treated at the clinic began complaining of diffuse heart pain. Doctors performed an ultrasound but were unable to find anything causing the symptoms. At some point, the patient said that he had driven his locomotive into a group of workers. This led the doctors to conclude that the cause of his heart problems was not physical.
No, and helping the operator understand that he, too, has been trespassed against, is an important part of recovery.
The patient must learn that the train driver is not the perpetrator, but the victim. He may have been driving the locomotive, but he didn't kill anyone; the people who committed suicide did so themselves. Anger is good, says Kall, anger at the person who put you in this position. Anger helps the train driver escape from the role of perpetrator.
(Via Marginal Revolution.)


As people were gathering at Northern Illinois University to commemorate the Cole Hall murders, the breaking news was of a similar event at a Parkland, Florida high school.

Predictably, all the usual pundits forted up in the usual silos.  Dan McLaughlin writes, "horrifyingly familiar story."  The policy fix, he writes, involves bad trade-offs.
The answers are not easy, and they inevitably involve a trade-off: accepting the unacceptable, or restricting our freedoms. The three big ones are freedom of the press (publicity gives oxygen to these kinds of acts, so restricting coverage will reduce copycats); the right to bear arms (guns don't cause human evil, but of course they make it easier to carry out); and due process (targeting potential mass shooters, or mentally ill people in general, is possible, but requires us to curtail Americans' civil rights before they have actually committed a crime).

It is by no means clear that any of these solutions would be more effective than the others, and each of them involves punishing a very large number of people in order to stop the evil-doings of a very small number of people.
Read on, though, and you'll see a thought that might merit more careful consideration.
Our exhibitionist culture may encourage disturbed people to perform acts of retribution that guarantee them maximum publicity; think of the mass shooter as taking a selfie of rage. But that genie can't be put back in the bottle, either, at least not without a massive campaign against freedom of expression.
Maybe, dear reader, it is in taking steps to restore a modicum of shame, or find ways to marginalize, rather than to celebrate and revel in, the most obvious forms of exhibition.  That might be what James "Long Emergency" Kunstler is thinking about.
Readers may wonder why I did not devote this space to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. It is exactly what you get in a society that wants to erase behavioral boundaries. It is especially dangerous where adolescent boys are concerned. The country has a gigantic boundary problem. We have also created perfect conditions — between the anomie of suburbia and the dreariness of our school systems — to induce explosions of violent despair. That’s why these things happen. Until we change these conditions, expect ever more of it.
Yes, the government schools are dreary.  Andrew Solomon for American Thinker:
No one seems to want to find the real cause, or ask the interesting questions, which are the most obvious ones.  Why do we have state utility farms called public schools?  Buses that resemble the ones used by penitentiaries?  Even the chow hall looks like a prison.  They call it a cafeteria.  Endless rows of lockers.

Nowhere in real society does a school represent anything that we will ever experience "on the outs."  It's not real.  It's a false world.  Nothing organically true about it.  And they want to add metal detectors and armed guards now.  Pretty soon, it will be a real prison.
The metal detectors and armed guards have been reality, particularly in urban schools, precisely in urban schools in the ghettos and barrios, for fifty years or so. That's a separate line of research, about the school-to-work, or school-to-prison, or school-as-factory-socialization, and we can conduct that research whilst impounding school shootings in ceteris paribus, as those have been a phenomenon for twenty (Columbine) or thirty (Winnetka) years depending on how you count it.

Mr Solomon's essay might be onto something, introducing the therapeutic, but not quite.  "Is it any wonder that little Johnny seems to be consistently taking out his aggression at on the very institution that makes him feel as though he's in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest?"

That therapy, though it is sometimes about erasing behavioral boundaries: you will accept the new dispensation, or you will be medicated or re-educated, is not quite the erasure we ought be considering.  Here's my reflection, shortly after Cole Hall.  We have to be judgemental.  "Put another way, the burden on my colleagues upstairs -- nay, on higher education generally, will be lighter once the common culture recognizes that judging 'judgemental' behavior harshly is not evolutionarily stable."  "My colleagues upstairs" were the sociology faculty, who had particularly difficult times.

Put another way, be more careful about what sorts of difference you affirm.  The schools still look like conformity factories, and the shooting sports may be as popular now as ever.  At American Greatness, Joe Long expands on how the boundaries have been changed.
Predators and victims alike have been socialized to the idea that weapons are simply tools of murder—not designed for the defense of others and certainly not for the cultivation of civic virtues. A child of 1940, picking up a toy revolver, became in his imagination a Western hero in the Hopalong Cassidy mode, a figure of plain speech and chivalry; a child of 2018, if he has not been socialized in a manner contrary to general media influences and to the default zeitgeist respecting firearms, might much more easily imagine himself a monster—a gangsta rapper, a mass shooter, a figure of fear and intimidation, bound by no code of honor and able to impose his will.
Yes, Hopalong Cassidy was a big enough deal that Meredith Willson wrote him into a wish list.

Social media now makes it possible for a contemporary youngster, lacking socialization, to share his imagination more broadly.  It used to be more difficult to attract attention.

"Hunter of Fascists"
Marina Oswald photographs retrieved from John McAdams's Lee Oswald page.

Had there been social media in the day, these photographs might have come to light online as part of the police investigation of a shot fired into General Edwin Walker's house, rather than being discovered in November 1963, which was when the bullet recovered from that house proved to match the rifle you see in the pictures.

Mrs Oswald was less than impressed with Lee's request to take the pictures, and a worker at Militant headquarters, who received prints, thought the sender was "really dumb and totally naive."  (Bugliosi, Reclaiming History, at 685.)

It doesn't take an Act of Congress, or anything else, for people to respond to similar pictures today as "dumb" or "naive" or just plain wrong and a cry for help.  Or perhaps to encourage people not to think of themselves as figures of fear and intimidation.

Ultimately, Mr Long writes, it's about rediscovering the responsibility.  "A firearm is both a right and a responsibility; so is a vote. If we’re not raising people mature enough for both, it’s hard to see how they could really be considered mature enough for either one."

Regrettably, that's where the retreat to the silos has led.
We all had guns. We got BB guns when we were in second or third grade and hunting rifles by middle school, when most of us started hunting. Gun safety was no joke. In fact, we weren’t allowed to shoot a gun that we couldn’t take apart, clean, and put back together.

When you grow up hunting you have a very different understanding about the reality of guns. It’s not a video game—you know, and have felt, exactly what they are capable of doing. For my dad and the people we hunted with, the sentiment around automatic weapons and the big guns that people treat like toys today was simple: “You want to shoot those kinds of guns? Great! Enlist and serve.”

Now that I’m a parent, I can look back and see that what was equally powerful was the combination of our family rules concerning hunting and guns, and that we weren’t allowed to watch any violence on TV. I couldn’t see a PG movie until I was fifteen years old. The idea of romanticizing violence was out of the question. We didn’t have violent video games back then, but I can only imagine how my dad would have felt about them.

I loved and was proud of this part of my family story. And, like most kids, I assumed that everyone who was raised in a hunting and gun culture was raised with the same rules. But as I got a little older, I realized that wasn’t true.
Yes, and when people take to their silos, there's no working the problem.  (By all means, read the entire essay.)

Perhaps, though, calling B.S. on the "authenticity" or "transgressivity" of contemporary "Hunter of Fascists" selfies is only the first step toward regaining civil society more generally.

SECOND SECTIONAndrew Klavan.  "The left wants to defend gangstas and 'transgressive' art and antifa thugs — but when the shooting starts, they blame the guns."

Relax, he's just getting started.
For fifteen years and more, I have been complaining that the right is silenced in our culture — blacklisted and excluded and ignored in entertainment, mainstream news outlets, and the universities. But the flip side of that is this: the degradation of our culture is almost entirely a leftist achievement. Over the last fifty years, it's the left that has assaulted every moral norm and disdained every religious and cultural restraint.

The left owns the dismal tide. They don't like the results? They're looking for someone or something to blame? Maybe they should start by hunting up a mirror.
Nah, they're too busy posting "hunter of fascists" selfies.



The 2017 festivities took place on a rainy evening. Here's what a retrospective report, German TV style, looks like, from 2011.

Try not to think of the Sack of Pskov, a stack of bodies, or a notorious Minister of Propaganda.

Enjoy, then reflect.  Sober times to come.


Railway Gazette reports on a new version of the Orient Express, this one moving containers between Rotterdam and Duisburg for and from Istanbul.

Further to the east, and inland, the former Captive Nations have put away some of their differences, moving containers between Riga and Minsk.
An inaugural express freight train linking Riga and Minsk in 28 h ran on February 5, following a trip in the other direction during January. The eastbound train comprised 13 grain wagons, three wagons carrying metal products, and 21 40 ft containers being delivered from India via Latvia in co-operation with RTSB and Belintertrans. ‘The long-term goal is to ensure a regular flow of cargo on this route, whose future potential will increase with the development of the Chinese-Belarusian industrial park The Great Stone’, said LDz President Edvīns Bērziņš.
Trade unites, politics divides, forsooth.

Check out the train.

Unattributed photograph retrieved from Railway Gazette.

Looks like the latest generation of updated Erie Builts and a string of Flexi-Vans, just as New York Central once did it.


David Brooks is now fretting about the end of the "two party system."  That's an interesting choice of topic for Abraham Lincoln's birthday, but there it is.
Back in the 1990s, there was an unconscious abundance mind-set. Democratic capitalism provides the bounty. Prejudice gradually fades away. Growth and dynamism are our friends. The abundance mind-set is confident in the future, welcoming toward others. It sees win-win situations everywhere.

Today, after the financial crisis, the shrinking of the middle class, the partisan warfare, a scarcity mind-set is dominant: Resources are limited. The world is dangerous. Group conflict is inevitable. It’s us versus them. If they win, we’re ruined, therefore, let’s stick with our tribe. The ends justify the means.
It's possible to over-think this. "Win-win" is the division of games from trade. "Win-lose" is what follows from majority rule. (Yes, even a compromise is a loss for somebody, why else did it take a civil war to change the much-misunderstood three-fifths compromise on apportionment, or the Missouri Compromise?)  Mr Brooks's problem is really the problem of Elite Consensus, which is to say, relying too much on politics and too little on trade.
Eventually, those who cherish the democratic way of life will realize they have to make a much more radical break than any they ever imagined. When this realization dawns the realignment begins. Even with all the structural barriers, we could end up with a European-style multiparty system.

The scarcity mentality is eventually incompatible with the philosophies that have come down through the centuries. Decent liberals and conservatives will eventually decide they need to break from it structurally. They will realize it’s time to start something new.
Perhaps, rediscovering limited, separated, and enumerated government powers is a place to start.

Mr Brooks, on the other hand, seems incapable of answering Anthony DeBlasi's simple questions.  "Americans have been waiting for that better tomorrow promised by politicians since any one of us can remember. What is holding up the delivery? Could it be a loss of moral muscle that stymies the will to follow through on the dictates of conscience?" That's also incomplete, in that "moral muscle" and "dictates of conscience" can turn into a win-lose situation (particularly to the extent that dictates so followed are neither emergent nor confer evolutionary advantage.)

Win-lose thinking is also present in this Medium complaint about the establishment media.
The election of Donald Trump, and the press reaction to it, has exposed a harsh truth — the Free Press no longer serves the American people. The Free Press is the only American institution that does not have a system of checks & balances, because it was established to protect the people from power. Now, the Free Press protects the power from the people. I can think of no greater betrayal in all of civilized history than this. The people are now left with no one to help them fight against the elites, since all the elites (society, academia, media, and political) are allied against them.
That's over the top, but it's not totally wrong, and Mr Brooks doesn't seem to recognize it. Moreover, "fake news" might be provocative speech, but provocative speech isn't the same thing as fisticuffs.
The danger, for them, is that they still cannot (or will not) understand just how many Americans absolutely loathe them. Just how many Americans see right through their lies. Just how many Americans are quickly reaching the point where they will no longer tolerate being talked down to, being condescended to, by this class of simpering elites who think they know whats best for every American. This spineless caste of pretentious braggarts who disdain all those who would dare question their ‘betters’. They should have seen the signs with the reaction to the Gianforte Body Slam incident, but they refuse to believe that they could ever be in the wrong.

I fear that this is all reaching a flash point, and we’re sitting on a powder keg.
Perhaps a strategic withdrawal by the Wise Experts might be in order.

That might be the Deeper Meaning of Jeffrey Tucker's message.
[S]ocial justice warriors of the left and the nationalist identitarians of the right... agree on the main point that immutable human characteristics embody the of life and that these traits constitute the only political drama that really matters. They have become warring tribes, uniting in their mutual loathing on liberalism, which is the view that society can manage itself in harmony provided it is left alone by governing authority.

These tribes seem to have near-total dominance of media, movies, and elite culture. It is a daily clash of mutual recrimination. Who is the biggest victim? Who has inordinate power and needs to be taken down? What group identity should emerge from the struggle on top? What freedoms should anyone really have at the end of the struggle? Truly the media has become unbearable because it mostly consists of struggles over this question as if this were the one and only narrative worth thinking about.

Incredibly, these groups don’t mention (with any consistency) the elephant in the room: the state itself. Here is the real source of oppression and exploitation of everyone regardless of sex, gender, race, religion, or ability. The state works to pit people against each other, as a way of distracting the public from the misdeeds of its tax, regulatory, and penal system. So long as we not looking at the real source of the problem head on, and are rather looking at each other in a dog-eat-dog struggle, society cannot improve.

In a free society, harmony can exist between people.
Put simply: trade unites, politics divides, and elites keep getting things wrong.  Here's how Mr Tucker summarizes.  "It might be the case that bad ideas come from the top down and good ideas from the bottom-up, as a general expectation and principle. That seems to cover most use cases, until the point comes when [classical] liberal intellectuals [distinct from Court Intellectuals hoping to become Wise Experts -- ed.] become hugely influential in academia. We’ll wait a long time for that to be the case."

I repeat, because repeat I must: Perhaps, rediscovering limited, separated, and enumerated government powers is a place to start.


Ben Casselman: "A focus on elite schools ignores the issues most college students face."

That's long been my theme.  Mr Casselman's post is full of links, including links by way of endnotes (!) and he recognizes that for most collegians, the community colleges, regional comprehensives, and mid-majors are the relevant universe.  (I hope the footnotes work properly.  If not, read Mr Casselman's article.  I'm a railroad mechanic, not a coder!)
According to data from the Department of Education,1 more than three-quarters of U.S. undergraduates 2 attend colleges that accept at least half their applicants; just 4 percent attend schools that accept 25 percent or less, and hardly any — well under 1 percent — attend schools like Harvard and Yale that accept less than 10 percent.
Alas, the community colleges, the land grants, and the mid-majors don't provide a pipeline to the chattering classes.  Thus, perhaps, the Ivy obsession among the coastal readers.
Of course, the readerships of the Atlantic and Washington Post probably don’t mirror the U.S. as a whole. Many readers probably did attend selective institutions or have children they are hoping will. It’s understandable that media outlets would want to cater to their readers, particularly in stories that aim to give advice to students or their parents.

But it’s hard not to suspect that there is also another reason for reporters’ focus on elite colleges: At least in major national media outlets, that’s where most of them went. There’s no definitive data on where reporters went to school, but the newsrooms of influential media outlets in New York and Washington, D.C., are full of graduates from Ivy League or similarly selective colleges. Those who attended public colleges often went to a handful of top research universities such as the University of Michigan or the University of California, Berkeley. FiveThirtyEight is just as bad: The vast majority of our editorial staff, including me, went to elite, selective colleges. (I went to Columbia.)

“Ninety-five percent of the newsroom probably went to private institutions, they went to four-year institutions, and they went to elite institutions,” said Jeff Selingo, a longtime higher-education journalist who has a new book focused on giving advice to a broader group of students. “It is exactly the opposite of the experience for the bulk of American students.”
Fine, 538 can credibly commit itself to caring about life outside the bubble by recruiting at a Northern Illinois job fair, or signing an intern from Luther College or Creighton.

Unfortunately, Mr Casselman goes from a lament about how the focus on the same hundred aspirants to the top twenty slots in the U.S. News rankings to indirectly calling attention to why there is a U.S. News problem in the first place.
What few journalists seem to understand, [sociologist Sarah] Goldrick-Rab said, is how tenuous a grasp many students have on college. They are working while in school, often juggling multiple jobs that don’t readily align with class schedules. They are attending part time, which makes it take longer to graduate and reduces the chances of finishing at all. They are raising children, supporting parents and racking up debt trying to pay for it all.

“One little thing goes awry and it just falls apart,” Goldrick-Rab said. “And the consequences of it falling apart when they’re taking on all this debt are just so severe.”

Students keep taking that risk for a reason: A college degree remains the most likely path to a decent-paying job. They aren’t studying literary theory or philosophy; the most popular undergraduate majors in recent years have been business and health-related fields such as nursing.
Working backwards: a lot of higher education is vocational (that may be just as true in the Ivies, where the whole point is to do well enough to screen for Yale Law or Harvard Med or hire out on Wall Street later to qualify for Kellogg or Booth) and matriculants at the Ivies might be neither more nor less instrumental than their counterparts elsewhere.

On the other hand, the first two paragraphs lay out the tradeoffs between offering second chances and maintaining standards in such a way that matriculants arrive with better life-management skills.  Yes, at the margin, "one little thing goes awry," and yet, there's an accumulation of small disadvantages leading there.  How, then, dear reader, might a professor or an advisor come up with strategies for keeping students focused without appearing to enable dysfunctional behavior?  "Thus the importance of the mid-majors. Don't we owe our best students the same intellectual challenges the alleged name-brand universities are supposed to present?"  The challenge, dear colleagues, is to be able to make reasonable accommodations to genuine hardships without appearing to excuse irresponsibility.

Until the regional comprehensives and mid-majors tackle that challenge, U.S. News will continue to sell those rankings, and application season will continue to resemble the Hunger Games.