31.8.03

I LIFT MY LAMP BESIDE THE FUNHOUSE DOOR. USA Today discovers the secret behind keeping the amusement parks running through Labor Day, despite many schools and colleges resuming classes in August. (Those dog days of late August are God's displeasure with school, or football season, beginning before Labor Day.) Overseas job fairs used to be to recruit steelworkers. Now it's steel pier operators.
GOOD ON THE OHIO TROOPERS. Regular readers of this service will know that it's either Minnesota drivers or Michigan drivers (what is it about those M's) that are the worst drivers in the Upper Midwest. It's not clear whose habits are worse. The Michigans speed, pass on either side, and have no clue what a turn signal is. The Minnesotas are unpredictable. They're either the fastest thing on the road (no easy feat in Illinois) or they're Garrison Keillor enviro types poking along in the passing lane. The good news from the recent road trip is that the Ohio State Police and their local colleagues were on the job. Picture this: here I am topping a small rise east of Sandusky, at my usual cruise-control 67 in a 65 zone. There's a cruiser poking out of the gap in the barrier. Coming east behind me, in the fast lane, is a Michigan. Sees the cruiser. Doesn't back off. Cruiser starts to pull into the shoulder to pick up speed. Michigan must have figured the cruiser was about to chase somebody else, still doesn't back off. About this time, the Michigan is passing me and riding up the bumper of the next car over. Trooper is pulling alongside me and going for his radio. The Michigan guy still doesn't back off. I tap the brakes to disengage the cruise control, which provides a hole for the Michigan and the trooper to pull into when the trooper turns the flashers on. No chance to roll down the window and give a whoop. (On the return trip, on the National Road, the cruise-control 67 also does its job ... heading up out of Columbus, this other Illinois guy takes off in the fast, and he gets picked up about five miles toward Dayton.)
OPENING A CONTINENT. An incidental discovery of the weekend's events is the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, which today featured a commemoration, in Pittsburgh, of the commencement of the expedition. (Pittsburgh served as a jumping-off place for the expedition. The trip into terra incognita began in 1804, in Illinois. No Pittsburgh to DeKalb in eight hours in those days.) Discovering Lewis and Clark and the Lewis and Clark Trail Historical Foundation have more information about the expedition and the trail.

The expedition indirectly contributed to the development of the railroads, something that was an experimental technology in the Shropshire coalfields at the time. Although Lewis and Clark made a southerly crossing of the Montana Rockies, their log included references from the locals to an easier crossing that proved to be up the Marias River in a location that the Great Northern Railway's surveyor found in the late 1800s.

A facsimile of the original map prepared for the expedition's report (preserved at the Boston Athenaeum) is to be offered in the near future.

In light of all that history, a return trip along the National Road seemed to be in order. (That some Pennsylvania Railroad people believed the Panhandle Line via Columbus, Ohio, was a faster way to Chicago than the Fort Wayne line also figured in this choice.) One wonders what challenged the builders of the National Road the most: hacking through the Appalachians, or laying out the road where the ridges became less challenging and further between, or (I wanted to write "beyond the banks of the great, grey-green, greasy Olentangy River, but somewhere around Richmond, Indiana is more accurate) when you crest the ridge beyond which the trees thin out, and the steppe stretches out to the west, and each day you push west, that last ridge gets smaller and smaller, and the steppe is still stretching out to the west. Are we there yet?
TODAY'S WICKED THOUGHT: The Axis of Evil in the Big Ten Conference is U.S. Highway 23.

28.8.03

A FISKING. William Casement, contributing to NAS Online Forum turns his attention to the U.S. News college rankings.
DEFIES PARODY. In order to find some income, and some value-added, to tax, the French Government proposes to abolish a paid holiday. A trade union leader objects, with language ("It's enforced charity, totally unacceptable") that would warm Ayn Rand's heart. As Hit and Run's Julian Sanchez puts it, "The mind reels."
YOU SAW IT HERE FIRST. "Gasoline is still affordable in historical terms," note Stephen Moore and Phil Kerpen, who provide a bit of additional evidence.
HUSTLER, HOOKERS, AND HASH. W. James Antle III looks at the fault lines between the Right and libertarians. Interesting take on Vermont's Governor Dean and the implications for libertarians arguing with, but voting for, Democrats.
STIPENDIUM PECCATI MORS EST. Illini Girl notes a change in focus on Sex and the City: "By the final season of this series, these women have exhausted their pre-occupation with casual sex. They don't revel in it anymore. Instead, they are obsessing about their relationships. With the exception of free-wheeling Samantha, each one approaches her significant other with skepticism and extreme caution. They have begrudgingly accepted that most of their relationships won't last forever, but they are still clinging to some ideal of exclusive, romantic, life-long love. At the same time, they seem filled with an increasing sense of self-doubt that perhaps they have been wasting their time dating all these years.

"While they flit about the city hitting all the popular restaurants and exclusive clubs, most of the characters seem and worn out by the whole scene...like they would rather be sitting at home on the couch, watching movies with some man they really care about and eating Ben and Jerry's. Unfortunately, their girlfriends are the only ones with whom they can attain this kind of relationship. Is this just the way it has always been? Is this a Blue America phenomenon? Is this perhaps a result of society portraying men as the enemy all these years?
"

Or perhaps the chickens are coming home to roost. Badger Herald editorial writers Michael Warner and Dorothy Freiberg looked at the scene on 21 April 1987, with the following:

"So why should men marry and start families? It must be said that we know a fair number of college-educated young men in their late twenties, making good salaries, who seem never to have thought about marriage. They remain in a state of suspended late-adolescence, living and acting as they did as seniors in college, only now they have plenty of money for dates and toys.

"This is an enormous waste, and a shame. So many young men never grow up, never taking the responsibility of supporting a family and never knowing that God made families to draw each of us out of the selfish squalor of our personal lives and devote us to loving and helping others.

"One has to wonder how different things would have been if feminism had demanded economic freedom for women
anddenounced the sexual revolution in the interest of preserving womens' traditional role as the guardians of chastity. This would have gained for women the equal pay and opportunity they deserved while at the same time ensuring that women who wanted to raise families would find willing husbands-to-be.

"Such a situation would also have spread the gains from feminism. Today the only victors in the sexual revolution are those men and women who are good-looking and clever enough to enjoy multiple partners with a minimum of emotional and financial commitment. The dowdy and the not-so-clever (or not-so-unscrupulous) are used by the well-endowed, and find loneliness and frustration where, in a previous generation, they would probably have been able to start families
."

That the reasonably prosperous and good-looking trollops of Sex and the City are learning the same lesson, if only on screen, is a salutary development. But again, nothing new.

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neigbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "
The Wages of Sin is Death."

(Rudyard Kipling, "The Gods of the Copybook Headings.")
AT WAR. Insta Pundit has a roundup of progress reports from Iraq, with commentary on the body count journalism obsessing some of the mainstream press. Porphyrogenitus posts comparisons of the task in Iraq with the tasks in Vietnam, or in Japan. A few passages from some late summer reading come to mind. Alex Kershaw's The Bedford Boys (details and price comparisons.) The book is a history of Company A of the 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, a converted National Guard unit of men from Bedford, Virginia, who joined the Guard for some extra money during the Depression, were activated in early 1941, notionally for a year, and ultimately to be the tip of the spear at Omaha Beach. Some passages from that era are germane. Here is an editorial from the Bedford Bulletin: "Those who have lost sons or husbands in this war inevitably resent comments that the casualties are only a fraction of what some extravagantly pessimistic people predicted they would be. In the homes that have been darkened by the death of a soldier, or have welcomed back the shattered remnants of youth, the burden of war's tragedy is little lightened by the reassurance that it might have been worse." That's at pages 97-98. One month into the Normandy campaign, almost all of the men of Company A were dead or wounded. Rough going then, rough going now, and words of thanks seem hollow.
NOTICE OF REQUEST FOR RECIPROCAL SWITCHING. Nathan Newman maintains a lot of interchange tracks, and offers some thinking on the incidence and substitution effects of minimum wage laws.
CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES requests permission to come aboard. Where Worlds Collide offers no train puns this week. Too bad British Railways didn't ask Electro-Motive to do a GP38 compression for them, that would be a good Class 4. Everybody on these shores knows 49 was The Pennsylvania Railroad's westbound General. I'm not sure what prompted Creative Slips to use the number 49 with Intrepid -- must be a Federation thing. Intrepid as preserved in New York City is CV-11, and CVL-49 is Wright
OLIVES ARE BEING SERVED. As Vodka Pundit notes, everybody has a weblog.
MORE ON THE USE AND MISUSE OF POWER POINT. The SCSU Scholars provide an annotated bibliography of posts and a few war stories.
ANOTHER REASON TO BEAT THE TERPS. Commenting favorably on the wearing of bow ties can be construed as sexual harassment at the University of Maryland. I'm exaggerating only slightly. Details at Betsy's Page. Go, Huskies!

26.8.03

L.T. SMASH RETURNS HOME. Story with comments. Thank you for your efforts, and for keeping us informed.
VADUZ IS PRETTY THIS TIME OF YEAR.



You're
Liechtenstein!

Most folks don't take you that seriously, but you really make a big deal out of being independent.  You don't do a whole lot for other people, but you make the best of the resources available to you.  You really like snow.  And mountains.  And being independent.  And you're probably pretty small.
Take the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.


(Via Where Worlds Collide.)
DIG DOWN. Financial Aid Office reports on fundraising efforts by Michigan's state universities. In Massachusetts, Governor Romney proposes something called quasi-privatization for some of the state colleges. Low-tuition, expanded access advocates don't like the idea, nor does a union of university staffers.
ECONOMIC POLICIES CONSERVATIVE, LIBERAL, AND BAD. Visit Deinonychus antirhopus and keep scrolling.
GASOLINE, STILL A BARGAIN? Welcome, visitors from Knowledge Problem. Insta Pundit links to some Oraculations coverage of the supply situation. No evidence of prices headed for $3 a gallon. The post does clarify something for me. On Sunday, I did some riding on the Hennepin Canal towpath. Car requested fuel, so I stopped at a Mobil station in Annawan. No fuel. No conspiracy, must have been that Exxon cracker at Joliet. Phillips 66, across the street, had sufficient. If there's a short squeeze over the Labor Day weekend, that could get interesting.
FOURTH TURNING ALERT is at Porphyrogenitus today.
ECONOMIC RECOVERY. Semi-Daily Journal notes increases in orders for durable goods (if the railroads spent on locomotives the way I did in July and August ...) and in consumer confidence.
OPPORTUNITY COSTS. Critical Mass comments on the revealed preference of university administrators. "There are hiring freezes and cancelled classes, tuition hikes and staff layoffs--but the ideological work of the campus diversity missionaries cannot be curtailed."

What will the upshot be? Apt. 11D sees Doomsday. "State universities have suffered from cutbacks from the states due to the budget crisis. Unable or unwilling to cut in other areas, these schools are cutting classes.

"Students can’t complete their majors because the courses aren’t offered or are closed up too quickly. And because students have to work many hours to pay off high college tuition, they can’t always sign up for the one class offered. They might be working the dish room at the dining hall when the only Intro to Stats class is being given.

"What is going on here? Even with higher tuition, colleges are struggling. Where is all the money going? Certainly not to adjuncts and junior faculty. One student in my fall class will pay my salary two times over
."

Where is it going? According to 11D, "I’m going to make a Jules Verne prediction for the future. In the next 10 to 15 years, many of the mid-level colleges are going close and reopen as cyber schools. The University of Phoenix has been very successful at it." (hat tip: Invisible Adjunct.)

Perhaps, but the University of Phoenix has precious few assessors of the obvious, operators of diversity boondoggles, counselors of the unprepared, and form fiddlers. A shift along such Vernian lines is going to require more than one Nautilus holing the frigates of the Academic Establishment.
AND YOU CAN GET A HERNIA PICKING UP A TELEGRAPH POLE. Shot in the Dark discovers that bagpipes can be a health hazard.
POTTED HISTORY. India West takes issue with Guardian and Times of London commentary on a Fabian Society (hey, Dean's World recently noted the Woman's Christian Temperance Union was still up and about, why not the Fabians as well?) pamphlet to the effect that abundance is a failing of capitalism. India West's comments are about spot on. The perception that people have of traffic congestion today is probably wrong. "Private consumption is no guarantee of greater freedom, they argue, singling out the car as the most obvious example. It brought the freedom to travel that only the wealthiest had previously enjoyed. But when most households exercise that freedom the result is congestion, pollution and streets that are no longer safe for children to walk. A series of perfectly rational individual choices has led to an outcome nobody wants." Compared to what? Pick up any history of the streetcar systems or the L lines (heavy rail rapid transit, for those of you outside Chicago) and look at the pictures of pedestrians, drays, hansoms, trolleys, and flivvers jockeying for position. While you're looking at those pictures, contemplate the north ends of the southbound horses.

25.8.03

SPROUTING WINGS. Thanks for visiting. The Ecosystem rates Cold Spring Shops among the Flapping Birds. The infobabe did not call today. The energy information is here.
WELCOME HOME, AND THANKS. L. T. Smash is no longer posting from the sandbox. (Hat tip: On the Third Hand.)
GOTTA BRUSH UP ON MY INCOME ACCOUNTING. Professor DeLong posted a very challenging macroeconomics problem set. And check out his go faster and do more course.
THAT'S WHY THEY CALL IT WORK. The SCSU Scholars note that the President at St. Cloud State University will provide some extra money (enough to buy another yellow pad for each tenure tracker?) to the college with the best attendance at the non-mandatory diversity training session. Do you suppose anybody does cold-calls for the fun of it? To what extent do people get along with their co-workers because there is money in it?
WICKED THOUGHTS. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are removing staff from Iraq, claiming the place is not safe. If bureaucrats from those organizations are in Iraq, are any of the merchants of Baghdad safe? Word has also reached the Superintendent of a New Yorker, facing temperatures in the low 50s in June, asking, "What have we done to deserve this wretched weather?" The impression is not original to me, but is environmentalism the latest incarnation of sun-worship, only with automobiles rather than virgins to be sacrificed?
CORPORATE WELFARE. John Hood (of the John Locke Foundation: with the students reporting, there will be hints from time to time to check the point of view of sources) is unimpressed with claims made on behalf of the tourism "industry." Perhaps that will be an end to the subsidies, and to the annoying practice of tourist attraction staff asking for zip codes.
TRADING FOR MUTUAL GAIN. Reason's Charles Oliver reviews two recent books about international trade. Hit and Run's Tim Cavanaugh comments.
THE MELTING POT, 21ST CENTURY STYLE. James C. Bennett has some thoughts on immigration and assimilation. Concluding point: "These problems will not be solved neither in America nor elsewhere in the Anglosphere until we all acquire the self-knowledge to understand why we have been so successful in past eras, and how we can impart these elements to newcomers now and in the future. For a historical drama of unprecedented scope is now in the making. Immigrants are coming into the English-speaking nations not just from one or two sources, but from myriad sources -- all the world, really. The minimal toolset for making civil society work must be made available to these people, and they must learn the thematic framework that allows them to play their parts, and introduce their own variations, in a way that will make the whole a workable melody, and not a cacophony. We cannot write the score beforehand, for this will be improvisation on a truly grand scale. But we can expect something wondrous if we can pull it off." Insta Pundit gets in a dig at the identity politics crowd, and Hit and Run's Matt Welch reminds people of the bad old days of restrictive covenants and snob zoning. From my perspective, there's something simpler at work. Watch the college kids date across formerly uncrossable lines. Nothing new there either. My mom's mother, an immigrant from Volhynia, was distressed that after several hundred years of keeping the Baptist tradition in Prussia and Russia, in the face of Catholicism and pravoslavie, some of her U.S. born children were marrying ... Catholics.
NA NA, HEY HEY, GOODBYE. Amir Taheri reports on the pending bankruptcy proceeding in Jordan, involving the Ba'ath party. Is it any surprise that we read, "Founded in 1947 by a group of French-educated Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals, the Baath (meaning Renaissance) offered a synthesis of Fascism and Communism."
NOT QUITE THE FOURTH TURNING? Thomas L. Friedman: "In short, America's opponents know just what's at stake in the postwar struggle for Iraq, which is why they flock there: beat America's ideas in Iraq and you beat them out of the whole region; lose to America there, lose everywhere." However, "So, the terrorists get it. Iraqi liberals get it. The Bush team talks as if it gets it, but it doesn't act like it. The Bush team tells us, rightly, that this nation-building project is the equivalent of Germany in 1945, and yet, so far, it has approached the postwar in Iraq as if it's Grenada in 1982." (Actually that was 1983, and the regime change was pretty decisive, but I digress... Anybody remember "Communism stops here?")

Then there's Mark Steyn: "At the moment, there's only one hyperpower (the United States), one great power (the United Kingdom) and one regional power (Australia) that are serious about the threat of Islamist terrorism. There's also Israel, of course, but Israel's disinclination to have its bus passengers blown to smithereens is seen as evidence of its ''obstinacy'' and unwillingness to get the ''peace process'' back ''on track.'' What a difference it would make if one or two other G-7 nations were to get serious about the battle and be a reliable vote in international councils. But who? France? It's all business to them, unless al-Qaida are careless enough to blow up the Eiffel Tower. Canada? Canadians get blown up in Bali, murdered in Iran, tortured in Saudi Arabia, die in the rubble of the UN building in Baghdad--and their government shrugs. Belgium? They'd rather issue a warrant for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld than Chemical Ali."

Analysis at Winds of Change (with lots of cross references) and Power Line. Shot in the Dark offers observations that are relevant albeit not addressing the Friedman or Steyn columns directly.
READ THIS VISUAL SILENTLY WHILE I READ IT ALOUD. Edward Tufte opens up a can on Power Point (via Newmark's Door.) There's more. I attended an orientation session run by the Faculty Development Office, at which (blessedly) I learned that most of the things I've been doing are what the master teachers have been doing, and that there are no new administrative fads to watch out for. What is funny, though, is that despite all the value the people who research these things place on "active learning," we sure sat through a lot of, you guessed it, people reading their screens -- without further embellishment -- to us.
THE ACADEMIC ENVIRONMENT. James Traub's profile of Harvard's president, Larry Summers, economist's economist (how else describe a kid whose family would use a traffic jam to contemplate the congestion-inducing effects of another lane on the road?) provokes comments from the SCSU Scholars and Professor Drezner on the sub-cultures within the academy. Well worth a look.
LOSING THE RACE. The Madison, Wisconsin school district cancels classes for a day in order to hold a come-to-Jesus meeting for their faculty, in order to combat "institutional racism." Betsy's Page is unimpressed. The press coverage is interesting. Get this: "Travis Knight, 18, who is biracial and a 2003 graduate of Madison La Follette High School, said he too has seen that kind of stereotyping, which he likens to racial profiling. 'If you have cornrows or wear baggy jeans and big chains, the first assumption is that you don't want to be at school or you can't learn.'

"He never felt victimized - he dresses more mainstream - but he saw friends struggle with stereotyping. 'I never once got stopped in the hallways to see if I had a pass. But the - quote-unquote - ghetto-looking people were stopped all the time.
'"

What is missing is voices in the community to make clear that a productive member of society does not look like a common street thug. And the schools have completely dropped the ball on communicating this lesson. (Sometimes the universities pick up the slack: there are non-credit courses on topics such as interview etiquette and business golf, so that graduates know which spoon to use first and when to begin talking about the deal.)
BATTLE OF THE SEXES. Winds of Change was kind enough to link to my post as part of a longer comment on the unsustainable status of family law. This Suzanne Fields column (via Betsy's Page) is also germane to the topic. Perhaps one of these days, we will get past the we-had-a-problem-and-had-to-fix-it mindset that brought us the current muddle of family policy. But we'd better do it soon, before all memory of the good parts of the old ways of doing things dies.
DOMESTIC TERRORISM. Dynamist notes the Californian destruction of passenger trucks.
INSTITUTIONS EVOLVE TO REDUCE TRANSACTION COSTS. Daniel Drezner has been following rather closely the debate on the merits of the do-not-call list. The discussion ought to make clear to observers that libertarianism is not equivalent to anarchy, the rules matter. Professor Drezner has the resolution about right: "Either the telemarketers are assigned the property right of being able to make automated calls, or the individual consumer is assigned the property right of blocking unwanted calls. I have no problem whatsoever with the consumer receiving this particular property right, particularly given the blackmail problems associated with allocating the property right to producers."
SPONTANEOUS ORDER. American Mind notes that the Milwaukee flash mob fails to have materialized. Two observations. One, it's nice to see a little spontaneity in play, even among the younger set that grew up with play dates (but probably discovered the box was more interesting than the toy that came in it anyway.) Two, is "potato, potato" really the idling Harley sound? Isn't it closer to "kartoffel, kartoffel?"

UPDATE: Buzz Machine is unimpressed with "flashmopes."
CHEAP GAS. The University's press liaison just rang, asked if I would speak with a reporterette about gas prices. Here's the fieldwork I did: nominal and real gasoline prices to 1997, and an inflation calculator. When you see unleaded regular at $2.73 a gallon (I'm not sure how the Energy Information Administration treats taxes) give me a holler. For an exercise, plot the size of a passenger truck against the price series you see.
REGULATORY CAPTURE? Today's case study flagged by Peter Kaminski.
FOLLOW THE MONEY. Joanne Jacobs links the latest summary of salaries by college degree.
CONNECTEDNESS. Crooked Timber finds an Eric Kleinenberg commentary on the social breakdown implicit in the death toll of a heatwave. Concluding statement: "But after this summer, the risks they pose should be apparent everywhere. In the United States and Europe, an increasingly hot climate and a cold society that turns its back on the vulnerable threaten the growing population of elderly and isolated urban residents. They cannot be left to fend for themselves." In France, many of the people who died had relatives on holiday who assumed Somebody would look in on them. Some French government officials are likely to lose their jobs as a consequence. Kleinenberg sees something else at work in the United States:

"In fact, few Americans addressed the issue of injustice during the Chicago heat wave. By defining the event as a natural disaster or act of God, we emphasize the inevitability of catastrophe and fail to recognize both the man-made sources of our vulnerability and the social fault lines that determine who is at risk. But there is nothing natural about hundreds of older people dying alone, behind locked doors and closed windows, while their more affluent neighbors enjoy the comfort of air conditioning.

"When Americans do get beyond natural explanations, we usually look at individual responsibility rather than collective culpability. In Chicago, for example, the commissioner of human services declared that 'we're talking about people who die because they neglect themselves.' Such blaming of the victim would have probably ended the career of a French official this summer. But in Chicago few people noted the remark.
"

Professor Kleinenberg has missed a number of collective failures. Many of those people were more afraid of a criminal coming in through an open window than they were of the stifling heat. Combine indifference to crime, bastardy and no-fault divorce, kids alienated from their parents, and lousy schools and include them in your assessment of the effect of a heat wave.
19 EAST, COPY 2. Transport Blog connects to Photon Courier's commentary on the effect of the Internet worms on CSX Transportation's dispatching. Transport Blog correctly notes that railroads using sufficiently advanced technology to be affected by a computer virus is a good thing (I think there's a dig at the socialist railways that have yet to adopt the Armour Yellow and the SD90AC in there.) Yes, But. The old methods sufficed to move trains over dark (unsignalled) territory with few open stations. Will the U.S. railroads have in place procedures to substitute track warrant control as a backstop to the centralized traffic control installations, in order that trains keep moving despite computer failures. Late, but moving, is less frustrating than standing still.
RESUMPTION OF NORMAL OPERATIONS. Classes began at 8 am today, with the usual schedule-completion hassles, job-seeking computer science and industrial engineering graduate students knocking on doors, and a heat wave (Is God telling us starting before Labor Day is an abomination?) The student newspaper unwittingly provided lots of good material for today's first classes.

21.8.03

POTATO, POTATO, POTATO. As long as I'm praising The Economist, this is as good a time as any to note that their World in 2003 report recognized centennials of three important events in transportation: the Wright Flyer, the founding of the Ford Motor Company, and the creation of the Harley-Davidson motorized bicycle, which has evolved somewhat since then.
A REPUBLIC, NOT AN EMPIRE. "Manifest destiny warmed up?," teases The Economist. Concluding lines: "America will have to promote its aims some other way, probably by leading multilateral action. Empire is simply not the American way. If the United States has to intervene in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, and then stay on, it will not enjoy the experience. Running the place, it will discover, is nasty and brutish, so it had better also be short. Good or bad, that is not what most people mean by an imperium." The Economist's editorial board offer some additional advice: "Even an unwanted empire is an empire, and hard to run on the cheap. Iraqistan requires the urgent application of more money, attention and ingenuity than America has invested so far. This need not mean staying for “the long haul”, as people say. It is possible that by doing more now, America may be able to pull out sooner. The key is to make enough of an effort now to ensure that these places will remain stable when the empire goes home.

The needs of the two places are not identical. The priorities for Iraq are to raise an effective local police force and put together a clear plan and timetable for a constitutional assembly and the election of a government that Iraqis will see as their own. Afghanistan needs more peacekeepers. In Bosnia in 1995, as soon as peace was agreed, America, Britain and France inserted 60,000 peacekeepers. By contrast, the whole of Afghanistan, a country 12 times the area with seven times the population, has only 5,000 or so troops providing security, plus another 12,000 or so mopping up the remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. What folly. Failed states that are allowed to fail again will just have to be rescued again, if they are not to become a renewed threat to the security of the West
." (Recommended by the useful Milt's File, run by the host of WGN's Extension 720, endorsed by Rick Majerus as the best talk radio show in the States. The radio show currently has a hawkish edge that was not present in the days Majerus was traveling and working on the book.)
FOURTH TURNING ALERT. Some thoughts from the SCSU Scholars (does the Minnesota State Fair begin so late in the season because the universities are on quarters?) on the aging of the leftish professoriate and the only outlet for youthful rebellion and some observations from Lexington per vitam venturi saeculi: "These footsoldiers also represent the future of the Republican Party. One reason why Britain's Conservative Party is in such a sorry state is that the average age of its members is almost 70. The young conservatives who crowded into Washington this week suggest a sprightlier future for the Republicans. In the 1970s and 1980s the likes of Karl Rove and Grover Norquist turned the College Republicans from a social club into a well-oiled political machine. Their successors continue to fine-tune the machine: Scott Stewart, the group's chairman since 1999, has increased its operating budget from $250,000 a year to $1.4m.

"These young people are changing the party as well as revitalising it. They are middle-class and hard-working—a long way from the comfortable preppies who used to typify young Republicanism (such as the young Mr Bush). And they usually take a tolerant approach to subjects such as race and homosexual marriage. Whatever the short-term prospects of the Republican Party, its long-term future looks good
."

The first paragraph provokes parallels between Britain's Tories and the San Francisco Democrats. The second paragraph suggests a potentially more libertarian-across-the-board Republican Party. And we shall see what happens as the reservists and the GI Bill beneficiaries return, or enroll, in the universities.
TOO URBAN? Fraters Libertas is unimpressed with the State Fair. Well, it is Minnesota. You probably can't get a proper bratwurst or cream puff there.
RETHINKING ACCESS. Financial Aid Office reports the California public colleges have discovered they might not be able to serve everybody they'd like to admit given the resources they don't have. (That provokes a rant: yesterday the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences pulled the old close-the-Washington-Monument trick, responding to a criticism of administrative expenses that has been circulating in the state by showing three job descriptions, for advisors and research personnel serving students, whose salaries are classified as administrative, and further observing that the College did about half the teaching with about 25% of the University's administrative expenses. That still leaves a lot of assessors of the obvious, counselors of the unprepared, diversity boondogglers, form fiddlers -- the paperwork for an external speaker exceeds that for a carload of corn to be milled in transit -- and vice presidents to go after. Are you listening, California?) Perhaps the fiscal follies in the states (it is not a crisis to spend money as if the capital gains taxes on stock bought at 150x earnings and sold at 200x earnings would go on forever, it is folly) will provoke an examination of the government schools, so that money will not be misspent on not teaching students things in kindergarten that the government colleges grapple with teaching later.
BLOG SPAT. Barrel of Fish complains about a hostile climate for conservatives in the academy. Cal Pundit has doubts, the SCSU Scholars comment, John Lemon responds. I know of no cases of economists being denied tenure account their political views. I also wish my colleagues would think a little more creatively than wine and cheese receptions, but those who would grouse about their colleagues' narrow range of outside interests just have to get out a bit more.
PROMISING YOUNGSTER. Tightly Wound's son discovers Thomas the Tank Engine, just in time for Day Out with Thomas.

20.8.03

THE PLANNED ECONOMY OF THE RAILROADS. British signalman and author Adrian Vaughan has corresponded with Transport Blog on transport policy and whether railroads are suitable to market competition. Railroads combine some features of a network (if there are multiple owners of cars, you have to get the interchange to work right, or the track sharing to work right) with some features of competitive business (you claim to run down to Edinburgh non-stop, we'll schedule a train to Edinburgh without stops and change crews at Carlisle) and the pressure of competition is not without its use.
MAKING SCHNEIDER? An earlier post miscounted the score, it's 91 points for schneider. With all four tens in hand, the coalition has made schneider.
MEDIAN VOTERS? Hugo Young complains that the Bush administration "is the hardest right administration since Herbert Hoover's from a very different era. And, which is the point, delights in being so." Does it follow that Administration policy is to the left of Calvin Coolidge's (President Coolidge was not impressed with Herbert Hoover, who he referred to as "Wonder Boy.) Mr Young has an observation that will no doubt be grist for scholars and junkies to consider for years. "For four years it has been idle to challenge the Florida vote and the bizarre workings of the electoral college, but now is the time to recall that in 2000 half a million more Americans voted for Al Gore's progressive version of the future than Bush's more conservative one. Bush was still posing as a bit centrist then, and Gore was scarcely a raving liberal. Gore mostly stuck to the Clinton third way doctrine that had taken the Democrats away from the narrowest version of their past." Would the Vice President had won had he lost the Walter Mondale imitation at the convention and run on the Administration's record, which was centrist ... in fact, no new open-taps entitlements in those years?
DOG DAYS? Paul Farhi and Mark Leibovich lament the effect of the contemporary news cycle on the summer months. (Hat tip: Betsy's Page.) But were the old days really that different? The political conventions used to be in August, which provided material for political junkies. In those days, the campaign began in February of the election year, and the formal campaign didn't get serious until after Labor Day, which worked out well because the pennant races ended Labor Day weekend, and you didn't have all those playoffs, and pro football was able to begin after the World Series, and professional basketball was on UHF, keeping the sports cycle out of the political cycle. But August was also when the new model cars started showing up in the showrooms.
WAIT LONG ENOUGH AND YOUR ENEMIES WILL FLOAT DOWN THE RIVER. Vodka Pundit found a Strategy Page assessment of the Kim family's goose-steppers, and Daniel Drezner looks at developments among the striped-pants set.
MORE ON THE POWER GRID. Paul Krugman: "These experts didn't necessarily oppose deregulation; their point was that deregulation could lead to disaster unless accompanied by policies not just to keep the grid reliable, but to expand it. (To make competition possible, a deregulated system needs considerably more transmission capacity than one based on regulated monopolies.) But their warnings weren't taken seriously; politicians and deregulation enthusiasts simply had faith that somehow 'the market' would take care of the problem." (Or sought more deregulation than was put in place, or presumed that pooling and wheeling and interchange were good proxies for spot market transactions.) Donald Luskin provides the details. Peter Kaminski points to a few things not currently provided that are worth considering.

But they're just being silly policy wonks. All we have to do is do-it-ourselves and swap it around: "The consequences of connecting every owner of a fuel-cell micro-power plant with every other owner in an energy-sharing network will be as profound and far-reaching as was the development of the world wide web in the 1990s. Equally important, with everyone producing their own power and sharing it on the decentralised, interactive electricity grid, the kind of blackout America just experienced would be a thing of the past." The only problem with this vision: it's Jeremy Rifkin's vision.
I DIDN'T LEAVE THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEFT ME. Emphasis on the "left." Yes, that's President Reagan's soundbite, but here's Dennis Prager: "Kennedy advocated four major positions -- lower taxes, expanded military, the use of American power to fight evil, and the centrality of God to American life and to morality. Liberals and their political party, the Democrats, have since rejected each of these positions, all of which are now considered conservative." (Hat tip: Betsy's Page.)
YOU DON'T HAVE TO BUY THEIR CHEESE, EITHER. Betsy's Page links to Jonah Goldberg's discoveries of Vermont hospitality. (Sounds a lot like dealing with the French, only with those VT-in-an-oval stickers rather than the official FR-in-an-oval, and with the same pretensions about their cheese.) The Chicago Tribune (you may have to register) has discovered (do we hear an echo? "artisanal cheeses" (defined as something other than the industrial style American, Brick, Cheddar, Colby, Muenster, and Swiss) produced in Wisconsin. (And if you pay Armando Ferrari's works in Byron, watch the Soo Line, er Canadian National, slug it out with Byron Hill.)

Colby, which is an orange cheese milder than Cheddar with a bit more character than American, also has a Kiwi version. If you ever find yourself at Berkel's Gourmet Burgers in Queenstown, New Zealand, ask about their Colby cheese (the latest menu features Cheddar.)
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I am plunging into a f***ing depression, do we have a future? is this country going to be hijacked by shit extremists who want to prove a point?" Raed, in Baghdad.
OMEN? Symantec has some information on the So Big virus and variations. (There is something to be said for screening email with Pine or something similarly primitive, and running the older version of Windows at home, when these things start running around. I suppose that's the reason some people brag on their Apple products. But I digress.) The intel on this worm is that it goes inactive on September 10. Or is there a follow-on, or an undiscovered surprise in the worm, to activate the next day?
SAVE THOSE CHICAGO CANDY FACTORIES. Asymmetrical Information and Daniel Drezner point to a new weblog (supported by London's Guardian) urging the end of agricultural subsidies in the developed countries. The joining of Third World interests and open market advocacy is not that astonishing. Efforts to raise the income of growers in the developed countries have the effect of hurting manufacturers in the developed countries, in ways that leave the growers worse off as well.
CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES IS UP. Outside the Beltway came up with a season-suitable theme, but did they have to feature a team that hires Johnnie Cochran as defensive coordinator?

UPDATE: The American Mind also notes the dubious choice of teams.
BASTIAT, TURNING OVER. Fifty governors can agree that more assistance to the several states from Washington is desirable. Asymmetrical Information is not impressed.
DEFINING DEVIANCY DOWN. "Bankruptcy as common — and as socially accepted — as divorce. Gotta think about that a bit," muses Cal Pundit.
PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES. Scrapple Face discovers the reason for blowing up U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.
THE EVOLUTION OF CIVIL RIGHTS LAWS. Common Sense and Wonder argues, "it is unbelievable that a guy cannot decide for himself who he wants to serve," with reference to a pizzeria proprietor in Denmark who refuses to serve German and French tourists account their governments' positions on the liberation of Iraq. Punch line: "Businesses that discriminate should be driven out of business by those that don't. That is the way we should fight discrimination.
" I suppose one could take on the whole concept of a common carrier, or property clothed with a public interest, but would one expect to roll that doctrine back in a week?

UPDATE: Power Line commends the pizzeria proprietor. I see all sorts of potential for a problem in the evolution of the public interest doctrine, particularly the "undue preference or prejudice" parts of common-carrier policy.

19.8.03

ON THE HOME FRONT. Latest Winds of Change roundup of organizations and individuals providing material and moral support to our troops.
DESTRUCTIVE GENERATIONS? Winds of Change discovers a "Republican youthquake." Some of the commenters on the post are eager for the Silents and the hippies (the early Baby Boomers) to go into retirement.
MV = PQ. Command Post discovers an old hand still observing the monetary scene.
HE WHO SELLS HIS PRODUCT FOR A LOWER PRICE KNOWS WHAT IT IS WORTH. Harley Sorensen must have had a bad weekend running errands: "The Curse of Bigness is what drives us nuts when we go shopping and can't find a salesperson. If we're lucky, we can find a cashier -- at the other end of a line of impatient customers. The stores are huge, but all the jobs have been dummied down so a few underpaid humanoids can handle them." Where to begin? Good, fast, cheap, pick any two? Stores deliberately keep the jobs simple so as to be able to hire anyone who walks in the door? Same stuff available at full-service stores with higher prices, or online, if you're willing to wait? Schools doing a lousy job with basic skills?

Ol' Harley is on a roll, though: "Last week, the Curse of Bigness struck big time when the power went out in huge chunks of the United States and Canada. Not only were citizens unable to do anything about it but their local power companies were impotent, too. Decisions -- and repairs -- were made God knows where by God knows whom." You mean it was a miracle that the power came back on? Or were the technicians and engineers so clueless that nobody turned in a time slip for a breaker re-set or a power routing established? Wasn't this guy a Presidential speechwriter once?
FAULT LINES. "But it is only to a degree that neocons are comfortable in modern America. The steady decline in our democratic culture, sinking to new levels of vulgarity, does unite neocons with traditional conservatives--though not with those libertarian conservatives who are conservative in economics but unmindful of the culture. The upshot is a quite unexpected alliance between neocons, who include a fair proportion of secular intellectuals, and religious traditionalists. They are united on issues concerning the quality of education, the relations of church and state, the regulation of pornography, and the like, all of which they regard as proper candidates for the government's attention. And since the Republican party now has a substantial base among the religious, this gives neocons a certain influence and even power. Because religious conservatism is so feeble in Europe, the neoconservative potential there is correspondingly weak." That's Irving Kristol, taking stock. Hat tip: Milt's File.
MORE ON RESIDENTIAL SELF-SELECTION: Nerdistans (via Insta Pundit.)
BOY BLUE NOSTALGIA TRIP. This week's Americana for the Bleat.

MEMO TO STUDENTS WHO THINK 90 PERCENT IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR AN A: A power "failure" occurs in a system that is 99.95% reliable.
PROFITING BY OTHERS' MISFORTUNE. Shot in the Dark looks at the merits of the abortive terrorism futures market. Key point: indignation over the prospect that people could profit by making such contracts likely scuppered the deal. As if the oncologist doesn't profit from the deaths of innocent people. As if I don't profit by the economic ignorance of such people.
THERE IS A WORST MINNESOTA DRIVER??? Fraters Libertas has a candidate.
I THINK I HAVE MY TERM ASSIGNMENT TOPIC: In the public policy class I teach, I distribute something I call a "term assignment." In the first week of class, students get a statement that they have to react to, within a week. I tell them there is no correct answer. They then have to react to their reaction at the end of the semester (two weeks' reaction time) after they've studied a few topics. Coming up with a challenging topic is sometimes a challenge. Knowledge Problem has provided the guts of the topic for this term: "Chaos won yesterday. The lesson of this loss is that networks aren’t machines. We cannot control networks the way we control machines. We must decentralize our control, distribute intelligence and allow the network to learn and adapt. We will find someone to blame and throw some bums out of office. We will serve ourselves well if, at the same time, we add to our ability to trust innovation" (from Long Harvest.)

18.8.03

INTERCHANGE IS NOT THE SAME AS BUYING AND SELLING. Vaclav Smil takes a look at the electric power grid. "If you think about the chances of spending soon $100 billion to fix the grid think about this: the replacement value of concrete installed in America's crumbling highways, bridges, runways, pipes, canals and buildings is on the order of $6 trillion (or some two-thirds of annual GDP). As most of it was emplaced between the mid-1950s and the mid-1980s it is increasingly due for repairs, and the above estimate does not include the cost of disposal of the removed concrete as there is no practical way to recycle that mixture of hydrated cement, sands, gravel and metal. Clearly, fixing infrastructures is more daunting, and lot less glamorous, then putting them in place. We are yet to begin this challenging task." Be very, very afraid. To repeat: a detour used to mean you had reached the end of the new construction on the interstates (think late 1950s or early 1960s.) Today there are no construction detours as the road commissioner rebuilds the road under traffic. And just mention "high tension line" and watch the neighbors cringe.
THE WHEEL TURNS. Wendy McElroy notes it is now the men, not the women, who view marriage as a trap. Dianna Thompson and Glenn Sacks go so far as to note a marriage "strike." (Via Jay Solo off Dean's World.)
PINTSCH GAS AND BATTERIES. During the power outage, commuters on the electrified Long Island, New Jersey Transit, and Metro-North suburban train services were unable to go home. At one time, New York Central and New Haven commuters out of Grand Central Terminal (Grand Central Station is in Chicago or a reference to the New York postal station adjacent to Grand Central Terminal) would be able to get home even if the commercial power grid was broken, owing to a massive bank of storage batteries in the station. These batteries rated an armed guard during the Second World War. They are no longer in use. This page may have more information (at this writing, the Columbia server still appears to be out of commission) about the battery vault.
SELF-SELECTION. What are the raw odds that your circle of friends would evolve by chance? David Brooks has some thoughts. (Hat tip: Newmark's Door.)
MILWAUKEE'S ITALIAN NEIGHBORHOOD. Yes, there was one. Go south from Walker's Point to find the DeMarini and Caradero Club pizzerias. The G. Groppi Food Market gets a new lease on life.
OUT OF GAS? Pipeline break inconveniences millions. Baghdad? Try Phoenix. Consumers appear to be making the problem worse by topping up whenever they have a chance.
SERENDIPITY. I intend to offer a course on regulated industry in the spring term, and there's all sorts of material jockeying for position in the reading list. Seehere, here, here (a butterfly effect?), here, and here.
CARTOON GUIDE TO SERFDOM. Really. American Mind (with a little help from some friends) finds The Road to Serfdom in cartoon form. Also, and just in time for the new semester, here is a post on the economics of paying for a position in a line. It's permitted for access to Congressional hearings, but frowned upon in the deli.
JUST IN TIME FOR THE NEW SEMESTER. If you are reading it on the weekend, thank a liberal. Asymmetrical Information is not impressed.
NOTICE OF RESUMPTION OF SERVICE. Econ Log returns, looks at the economics of teacher shortages and living wage laws.
THE IOWA CAR CROP. Tyler Cowen has some just-in-time-for-the-semester thoughts on oursourcing, and The American Mind notes that steel tariffs are to continue, which will not play well in Peoria.
GOING INTO HARM'S WAY. Our troops are taking some risks to tease out Saddam Hussein and his remaining fan club. (Hat tip: InstaPundit.)
WE'LL HAVE BETTER CLASSES WHEN WE HAVE A BETTER CLASS OF PARENTS. Joanne Jacobs links to Dave Barry on back-to-school. Sample: "I teach math to eighth-grade students. This is an unnecessary task because they are all going to be professional basketball players, professional NASCAR race-car drivers, professional bass fisher people, or marine biologists who will never need to actually use math." Somebody has to break the unrealistic expectations.
HANDICAPPING THE ELECTION: Right Wing News has some thoughts a year out. Memo to new election watchers: the colors that identify the parties alternate, such that the Donks will be red and the Pachs will be blue in 2004.
NEW DEVELOPMENT AT POLITICAL THEORY. There is a weblog to go along with the roundup of articles.

17.8.03

DEREGULATION BLAHS. (But this just might spark interest in my regulated industries class in the spring.) If airline service is nonexistent, blame deregulation. If Amtrak runs late, blame deregulation. If the power grid crashes, blame deregulation. Lots of talk about that last this weekend. Start at Newmark's Door. Visit Knowledge Problem who points out some advocacy from the Reason Public Policy Institute. For a differing point of view, visit Common Dreams. Greg Palast misses the independent regulatory commissions, who "told utilities exactly how much they had to spend to insure the system stayed in repair and the lights stayed on. Bureaucrats crawled along the wire and, like me, crawled through the account books, to make sure the power execs spent customers' money on parts and labor. If they didn't, we'd whack'm over the head with our thick rule books." That didn't preclude the 1965 and 1977 grid failures. Harvey Wasserman suggests we've outsourced power production when we could each have our own windmills and solar panels. (The horror! The horror! The sainted Franklin Roosevelt's Rural Electrification Administration only causes the grid to metastasize.) Robert Kuttner is nostalgic for Consolidated Edison. Wasn't that the vertically integrated producer for New York City in 1965 and 1977? Instapundit has found a lot of sources. This Nicole Gelinas editorial raises a number of points for further study.

Crooked Timber reacts to the power companies' plea to turn a few things off so as not to crash the system as it restarts: "When the power companies are unable to meet demand, force them to offer consumers an incentive to conserve – say, a voucher for each kilowatt hour they use below their average that can be redeemed for free power when the crisis is over." Not sure how one would do that in the event of a system crash, where the rules provide for some restitution in the case of spoiled food and a few other losses, but I can tell you that Consolidated Edison pays me $10 a month in June, July, and August for the right to turn my air conditioner off.
MACHIAVELLIANS. Francis A. Boyle has a bad case of buyers remorse. Atlantic Blog explains just how bad the case is.
SUCK IT UP AND WALK HOME. That's from CBS Radio commentator Dave Ross this morning. He offered it as advice to Iraqis who took some delight in our eastern neighbors' difficulties. Instapundit, who continues to cover the grid failure and the aftermath well, found some West Virginian tips for Iraqis, which might help, but so would a big reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the lowlives who are bombing pipelines, power lines, and water mains.

Number 2 Pencil has some useful advice for preparations, the next time the grid fails. You also have to replace the batteries in your emergency kit. The daylight saving time drill you use for your smoke detector is a good one to use.
GOOD NEWS. Common Sense and Wonder reports that the national civil rights authorities are taking the position that selectively preventing "harassment" of "protected classes" is in fact a denial of civil rights.
TRADE DEFICIT SUBTLETIES. "But there is a portion of the persistent U.S. trade deficit that is not due to domestic macroeconomic mismanagement, not due to foreign macroeconomic mismanagement, and not the result of errors and omissions in the data, but instead reflects three exorbitant privileges that the U.S. has as a result of its key role in the world economy." Professor DeLong spells out what those three privileges are, and notes there is an open research question remaining. Key conclusion: "It bothers me that I don't know--because I am supposed to." That's how real research gets done, dear reader. I suspect we will see an answer on his site within a year.
STATE OF NATURE. Scrappleface identifies the nature and causes of the wealth of Iraq. Betsy's Page points to a Thomas Friedman column that cites an Iraqi who may have come up with the Quote of the Week (and it's only Sunday): "That's why there is a dramatic gulf now between Iraqis and a lot of other Arabs. Young people here want to move on. In 10 years, this will be a very different place. If I can be a part of it, it will be like Hong Kong or Korea — but with an Iraqi face." Getting the institutions right will be a big part of that.

15.8.03

SYNCHRONIZE STOPLIGHTS, REDUCE CONGESTION AND ROAD RAGE. Somebody who gets it.
JUNK BUNKERS. Garage full of clutter? Don't have a garage sale, buy garage organizers.
ACTIVISM THEOLOGY. Two views of what Midwest Conservative Journal refers to as the "World Council of Churches Nobody Goes to Any More." In a defense of Senator Clinton, Andrew Greeley praises her "socially concerned Methodism that has accomplished so much good in our country." Let's see, is it the no-fault divorces, the bastardy, the failure of the government schools he's thinking of? Power Line has a somewhat different view of those Establishment Protestants.
NOTICE OF DISRUPTION OF SERVICE Metra's Southwest Line (the old Wabash commuter train line) is running late account signal troubles that may or may not be consequences of the power failure in Detroit. The Norfolk Southern Wabash line dispatchers are in Detroit.
PILOTLESS CROSSING. It's a model airplane (remote control of some kind) and it has flown across the Atlantic. Details (via Common Sense and Wonder.)
COMPETING AWAY THE GAINS FROM TRADE. Financial Aid Office notes that tuition discounts pay off to universities that use them, if few other universities use them, but may mean lowered revenues, if many universities use them. D'oh! The point of competition is to discover and act on all possible gains from trade. That some enterprises may lose money or fail as part of that discovery is a feature, not a bug.
BUNDLING. Truck and Barter discovers that suburban school systems cannot prolong the fiction that they exist so that each can exist at the expense of everybody else. The Superintendent has long argued that the education egalitarians and the voucher advocates ought to make common cause. House prices in desirable locations (tr.: higher test scores) command higher prices, and thus have higher assessed valuations, and thus more tax revenue per house (which the retirees are discovering means the parents of schoolchildren are living at their expense, and thus the zoning changes) meaning that there is a form of school choice, provided you are able to purchase a suitable house in the right neighborhood. The common cause would lie in unbundling school use from residential choice, which would involve vouchers and make the choice of a school less dependent on ability to pay for a house. The downside: capital losses to homeowners in precisely the districts with current good school districts and more expensive houses.
SCHADENFREUDE. Baghdad residents take a certain joy in the East Coast power failure, reports The Command Post, which also linksthis neat site replaying the plants going offline. Shots Across the Bow has some information about the nature of power grids, and Greta exile Knowledge problem extensive links on the grid, news coverage, and electricity economics. To supplement the Shots Across the Bow post, consider the following pieces of information. First, when you speak of electricity, you cannot speak of inventories. Production must be in balance with consumption at all times. There is a bit of homeostatic capability in the system (read between the lines in Shots) but there are limits (I'm drawing on what I learned from my dad years ago). Thus, if a line fails for some reason, all of a sudden you have power that has noplace to go, and you don't have the reservoir device you should install near your washing machine to prevent water hammer, and the effect on nearby generators is as if you were pedaling your exercise bicycle full out against the brake and someone released the brake ... to prevent them from damage, the overspeed trips, now that generator is no longer generating, and the others have to work harder ... imagine other exercise bikes where riders are pedaling full out against the brake and someone tightens the brake ... and there you go.

This report suggests some people retain their ability to laugh at adversity; as it was a clear night, New Yorkers might have had the opportunity to view the passage of Mars (it has been spectacular out here in the Corn Belt), Asymmetrical Information opens up a can on the latest incarnation of Bastiat's broken windows fallacy, as did residents of several other large cities, (via Buzz Machine), InstaPundit and Amy's New York Notebook have been providing extensive coverage of the event, the postmortems, and the recovery (you can't just turn it all on at once ... I've heard that it's impossible to short out the New York Subway because there's enough current in the system to burn through any object creating a short circuit before the circuit breakers discover the overload ... is this correct?), Daniel Drezner looks at some policy elements, and finds a report on why civility prevails.

On the lighter side, in Cleveland, the Browns host the Packers.

UPDATE: How could I comment on the lighter side without looking here and here first? Mea maxima culpa.

14.8.03

THE GUTLESS CHOICE. Fraters Libertas joins the list of people unimpressed with the Berkely psychological profile of conservatives. You'd think an academic would have heard of Occam's Razor, or at least of economy of explanation...
CHICAGO SUMMERS. Going Underground has coverage of the effects of the heat wave on London's L trains, most of which combine the aesthetics of the 2000 series cars with the air conditioning of the 4000 series cars.
WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE LIGHTS WENT OUT? Sounds like a subset of the power grid that went down in October of 1965 has gone down again. Developing ...

UPDATE: Continuing coverage at The Command Post. Illinois and Wisconsin are unaffected, but outbound flights from O'Hare, Midway, and Mitchell are delayed or cancelled.

13.8.03

TWO MAIN TRACKS. The practice is still a novelty on the former British Rail, notes Where Worlds Collide. (Now imagine a 70 mph double-stack train going by your window three or four feet away, or, what's even more fun, catching up with one on the middle track.) The British are also discovering something that we learned here about 50 years ago, when it seemed like GP-7s were everywhere displacing everything, and for the same reason: they were reliable, and you could lash up enough to clean out just about anything the yardmaster could couple up. The English have yet to discover what happens when someone delivers a case of Armour Yellow paint.
MAYBE SPRAWL ISN'T SUCH A BAD THING. Steel tariffs and agricultural subsidies come in for criticism at Common Sense and Wonder, Porphyrogenitus, and Daniel Drezner. My favorite industrial policy horror story involves the relocation of Chicago candy factories to Canada. The candy manufacturers get to buy subsidized sugar (to keep the beet growers of eastern Colorado and the Hawaiian cane plantations open?) at the export price and to ship their candy bars, which are manufactured goods, under NAFTA provisions.
NOT PRACTICING DENTISTRY? The Buggy Professor challenges economics's claims to scientific status.
THE EVER-NORMAL OIL RESERVE? Interesting Winds of Change post -- and read the comments -- on the possible rendering irrelevance of the Saudi oil fields. (Hat tip: Insta Pundit.)
INSTITUTIONS ARE SUPPOSED TO EVOLVE TO REDUCE TRANSACTION COSTS: Daniel Drezner does not see the United Nations Human Rights Commission improving the governance of multinational enterprises.
WORTHY ADVERSARY. College hockey will not be the same without the opportunity to sieve-chant the goalie on a Herb Brooks team. There are numerous tributes, including SCSU Scholars noting the sports-trivia entry for Gopher Herb's resume, a Porphyrogenitus recollection of the importance of the 1980 Miracle in beginning the end of the Evil Empire, some background and a tribute from Power Line, and a reminder that accidents, while accidental, are preventable.
GREEN ELECTRICITY FOR THEE BUT NOT FOR ME. Common Sense and Wonder finds some prominent public figures, usually trading as advocates for the environment, who don't want a windmill farm in their sailing grounds.
SUBCONTINENTAL DRAWL? Joanne Jacobs has the details.
SHARING MY BIRTHDAY? Knowledge Problem notes new arrivals at Company Mail source Truck and Barter and Hello Magazine. Almost a full moon, but not a Friday.
WHAT IS THE SOUND OF ATLAS SHRUGGING? The Knowledge Problem comments on Thomas Sowell's assessment of the exodus from California. Atlantic Blog suggests that Arnold Schwarzenegger's degree in economics involved no exposure to Bastiat.
CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES visits Right We Are. If the archives aren't working correctly and you wish to take the aviation survey scroll to the 5 August entries.

11.8.03

REPATRIATING THE ZEPHYRS FROM SAUDI ARABIA? From the Railway Preservation News site: "It is known that between 18 and two dozen former Zephyr cars, most believed to be from the articulated, original Denver Zephyrs of 1936, were shipped to Saudi Arabia in the early 1970s, where they are believed to remain in storage. Members of the discussion list have suggested that, considering our efforts at helping the Saudis in the Gulf War, coupled with the wealth we’ve provided them with our indulgent consumption of oil, the Zephyr cars might be returned to the U.S. for preservation, preferably at their expense. This, of course, would be a delicate diplomatic matter to be handled through federal legislators and the U.S. State Department." The president of the Illinois Railway Museum noted in conversation, "The Saudis could use some good publicity" on these shores. (I wonder if the cars named after Greek gods, from the Twin Zephyr and later the Nebraska Zephyr, still have their names showing.
WHAT TURNING IS IT? Rich Lowry would like President Bush to become more involved in the clash of cultures, but Beldar Blog sees the President as a modern version of Dr. Win the War, and Dr. Reclaim the Culture can wait. Caerdroia has more thoughts on the generation gap between early Baby Boomers and the troops doing the fighting, and A Small Victory notes September 11, 2003 is approaching. (A calendar I received recently recommends displaying the flag at half staff until sunset that day.)

UPDATE: Porphyrogenitus has more generational reading.
BUDGETING FOR THE OUT YEARS. Asymmetrical Information finds it "hard to get excited about a presidential candidate who bases his fiscal policy on the expectation that the internet bubble is going to reinflate." This post illuminates the effect of transitory favorable surprises on Congressmen.
SPEAK FOR SUCCESS. Accent modification as career enhancement.
CHANCE TO BE INVENTIVE. Northern Illinois hosts Maryland to open the 2003 football season. Maryland has just been put on probation by the NCAA for a football coach handing out walking-around money. I look forward to some creativity from the student section.
SADDAM WORKING WITH AL-QAEDA? Coverage by Sgt. Stryker and Power Line.
IN DEFENSE OF CARTELS: The Angry Economist notes the positive side of occupational licensing.
ANTICIPATING THE BLUE CHAD OF DEATH. Potential bugs in electronic voting, notes Betsy's Page, fearing a "big mess" in the 2004 election.
APPARENTLY STALIN AND MAO WERE IRRELEVANT. "And the next time a politician talks about spreading democracy around the globe, ask them about Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran, Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, and Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala," complain Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman. Now, with no messianic Communist movement to tilt with, the coalition has the opportunity, as well as the responsibility, to be serious about representative government in Iraq.
DIFFERING PERCEPTIONS from a Seabee (via InstaPundit) and some military families (via the UK Observer.)
COLLISION OF EXPERIENCE apparently rates protected status, notes Joanne Jacobs.
IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE. Critical Mass has summarized identity politics in one sentence.
FOURTH TURNING ALERT: "The airy, idealistic slogans about how things can be solved peacefully with goodwill and mutual understanding and the like that so beguiled the generation prior to ours - the Boomers - cut no mustard with most of us, because so many of us have seen how badly these bromides have worked in our personal lives when foisted on us by our elders." Much more, with much more global thinking, at Porphyrogenitus. You'll find the basis for my "process, nuance, failure" heading if you read it carefully.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Arnold has been married to Maria Shriver for 17 human years, which in celebrity years is the equivalent of a Diamond Jubilee." Mark Steyn, courtesy Common Sense and Wonder.

10.8.03

SILENT GENERATION BIBBLE-BABBLE. A Voyage to Arcturus compares and contrasts the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution and something analogous leading off the European Union's.
ONE SMALL STEP. Much more elegant than releasing Enterprise from the top of a 747 (Yes, I watched that one, live.)
THE LUMP OF LABOR FALLACY. With semiconductors (via Newmark's Door.) Repeat after me: rising wage inequality is a signal of excess demand for skilled workers at current prices.
THE NEWMARK CONSPIRACY. Like mother, like father, like daughter.
CONTRIBUTING TO THE GENE POOL BY DOING SOMETHING STUPID. Vote here for the 2003 Darwin Award winner. (Via Betsy's Page off Wicked Thoughts.)
PIVOTAL SECOND WEEK IN OCTOBER, for Californian voters and disaffected Anglicans. Now if we could just get the World Series over with by the first week (does anybody else remember how things were in The Making of the President, 1960? Go read it, and weep.)
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. Cranky Professor points to a Matt Welch column that inter alia savors the irony of a "Progressive" era reform being used against self-styled "progressives" and that makes, probably not for the last time, clear that earnestness in politics is not equivalent to seriousness in politics.
TURF 'EM OUT. There's more than mismanagement in the University of Tennessee system, report the SCSU Scholars. (And a couple of senior managers from Knoxville wound up in my back yard. Might make for an interesting fall fulminating at them.)
MISUSING STATE RESOURCES. Where have you gone, Mike Royko? Many years ago, he made fun of Radio Shack's practice of asking customers for their names and addresses. (A quick Google search turned up nothing to link to, sorry, which is too bad, because the whole story is pretty funny.) A Radio Shack poobah wrote Mr Royko a letter defending the practice, which provided the material for another column. (We would understand this column today as a Fisking.) Somewhat later, Radio Shack dropped the policy.

There's another practice that deserves similar scorn. On a number of recent visits to museums, the ticket seller has asked me for my zip code, which I always decline to give. (I suppose one could be flip and give them 90210 or drive 'em nuts and give 'em SW1 4P5 which is somewhere in the neighborhood of Paddington Station.) One museum I recently visited had a sign up: "Please have your zip code ready for our State Tourism Reports." So I did some digging around. I have not yet found the precise statute or survey that mandates the practice. I did find this entry site for operators of businesses serving tourists, which clearly is making use of zip code data, this site for sightseers (might be fun to visit this site with the cookie sniffer engaged), and this site which won't let me go here. So while the universities are on restricted hours, the schoolteachers are supposed to be getting recertified without resources for the regional offices of education, the road reconstruction projects are delayed, and Metra recently took delivery of some overweight diesels, my tax dollars are going to pay for someone to ask all the museums to collect zip codes, the museums have to annoy their visitors with "what's your zip code?" and submit reports, and someone has to go through the reports. Sounds like a bigger waste of money than most diversity boondoggles. Illinois is not the only state wasting resources tracking the movements of tourists.

The practice of asking for zip codes seems to have found its way to some non-tourist businesses as well. Not too long ago I was buying some fixtures and plumbing supplies and the clerk said "I need your zip code." (subrant: and what is it with tellers and clerks saying "I need ..." as in "to see some ID" or "you to sign this" or something equally peremptory. In the war movies, the Gestapo man always said, "your papers, please." Find something less obnoxious than "I need..." Please. /subrant). For what purpose does a store have to ask customers for zip codes. It's easy enough to determine whether or not to build new capacity: just look at your parking lot; and it's easy enough to determine where to build it: just look where you're not. But lose the delusion that you're the Ministry of Internal Affairs and you have to keep track of where everybody lives.