26.9.07

A SECOND GREAT LOCOMOTIVE CHASE. But the Andrews Raiders never had a Neubaustrecke to cut.

So today the municipal, state and business leaders of Atlanta and Chattanooga are taking a serious step toward pursuing the high-speed rail option. The Georgia Department of Transportation and Tennessee Department of Transportation are teaming up to prepare a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement for a proposed High Speed Ground Transportation corridor between Chattanooga and Atlanta.

Several corridors are being studied:

Two would attempt to follow I-75 to Atlanta, one in the median of the interstate, the other would be just outside the boundaries of the highway for increased speeds.

Two others are designed for maximum speed: One would go through Rome, GA., west of I-75, the other would parallel U.S. Highway 411 east of I-75.

Proponents are looking for the possibility of speeds reaching 200 to 300 mph.

The distance between the two cities is approximately 125 miles. A consultant to the project, Karl Schaarschmidt said that the route chosen for the rail will determine the length of time it will take to travel between Chattanooga and Atlanta. “I estimate 60 minutes with a route that has just one intermediate station (like Rome) versus 90 minutes for a route that goes through downtown Atlanta and stops four times before getting to the airport.”

The mayor of Chattanooga, Ron Littlefield, has long been a proponent of high-speed rail between the two cities. It has to become a reality, he said, “or Chattanoogans will choke (to a standstill) on the traffic.” He said that traffic on these highways is expected to triple even before the railway can be built.

The terrain between the two cities is not the most conducive to building such a railroad, although the Japanese Shinkansen and the aforementioned German line aren't exactly through the sand country of Wisconsin either.

The project, however, appears to be a case of chasing two hares. On one hand, everybody expects the existing roads to become even more choked with traffic, and the high speed train will beat drive times. (As a point of comparison, the Louisville and Nashville's Georgian used to make the run in just over three hours possibly with intermediate stops.) On the other, the project may be a way to ameliorate congestion and delays at Atlanta's airport.

The crowding at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport, one of the busiest in the world, is getting steadily worse, causing many delays and unhappy customers. For years, officials have believed that a new airport in Chattanooga would be the solution. But these days, they are hard-put to settle on building a new airport when the head of a major airline, Delta’s new CEO Richard Anderson, says it is a dumb idea.

The impracticality is obvious to aviation experts. As Anderson noted, 70 to 75 percent of Hartsfield-Jackson’s passengers are simply changing planes. An airport in Chattanooga would be so far away, a rail connection between the two airports would be a necessity. Imagine requiring passengers to ride a train to or from Chattanooga just to change planes!! said Anderson.

I put a harder question to the airlines: if so much of the traffic at a hub airport is people changing planes, why not design an airport explicitly as a hub airport with little in the way of passenger parking, car rental facilities, and all the other attendant clutter, and locate it somewhere other than a destination in its own right? On the other hand, the way connection delays sometimes cascade at the major hub airports, two hours gate-to-gate, with one hour on a train (particularly if equipped with a bar car) can be no worse than two hours schlepping through one airport and making do with the airport bar or the chain-store food services. Put that way, the Rio-Atlanta-Chattanooga-San Francisco connection doesn't look so silly. But, again, there's no real reason to have a hub airport in a major city (hence the continued interest in Peotone) if most of the passengers are simply changing planes. So why mix transferring passengers with originating and terminating passengers, as is the case with O'Hare and Hartsfield and the Cities and to a lesser extent Detroit and Denver? Then there's that whole matter of Delta. Why should the taxpayers of Atlanta or Chattanooga or Georgia or Tennessee spend public moneys on an airport project that makes Delta's connectivity a bit less painful? Let Mr Anderson build his own hub airport.
ELBERT GARY CONNECTS THE GRAND TRUNK TO THE SOO LINE. Welcome to the brave new world of railroading, in which the old Canadian National (does the company still go by that name or only as its initials?) will be able to connect its eastern, southern, and granger properties by way of Joliet.
Canadian National said it plans to invest about $100 million for integration, new connections, and infrastructure improvements to add capacity on the EJ&E line and allow network synergies to be realized over time.
"Network synergies." I think that used to be called "making connections." Or perhaps, "sharp dispatching."

24.9.07

IT'S AMATEUR SPORT. Madison Mayor Emeritus Paul Soglin.
Probably the saddest note is this. Of the over 80,000 fans in attendance, less than 15,000 were UW undergraduates. This year's first year students were never given a chance to purchase tickets.
It has nothing to do with the money.

23.9.07

THE IMPORTANCE OF SPECIAL TEAMS. The cable and internet connections are not yet in at the new place, but there was plenty of football to do home improvement by. (Purchase a new house and you get LOTS of bare walls all of which offer opportunities to hang shades, towel racks, shower curtains, and pictures.) Northern Illinois took a 35-7 lead on the Idaho Vandals (there's something charming about a team that plays in a large basketball arena and warms up to Carmina Burana) after a punt block, then failed to cover another on-side kick at 42-35 and less than a minute remaining, but this time didn't give away the late touchdown. Later that evening, Wisconsin (this is repeating history) became the worst 1-0 four times over team in the country, taking advantage of an Iowa softened up by Northern Illinois. This afternoon, the Packers obtained a quality victory. And all the blinds are up in the sunroom, and the towel racks up in the hall bath.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE LOCALS ALSO SEE IT? Milwaukee baseball fans have long viewed Cub supporters as drunken yobs. What, then, to make of an observation by WGN's Nick Digilio, a self-confessed Cub fan, that riding the Northwestern L at the same time the game ends is not a pleasant experience. I actually did hear a Chicagoan grousing, on the radio, about getting drunk simply from inhaling on the train, and suggesting that riders boarding at other stops head as far toward the front of the platform as possible, because the fans tend to cluster near the steps from street level.
TROT OUT THOSE TRANSLOGS. The empirical case for deregulating the railroads received support in Caves, Christensen and Swanson, "Productivity Growth, Scale Economies, and Capacity Utilization in U.S. Railroads, 1955-1974," and in Caves and Christensen, "The Relative Efficiency of Public and Private Firms in a Competitive Environment: The Case of Canadian Railroads." Some of that team will take the field again with an opportunity to extend the research.

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) announced last week that it has awarded a contract to Christensen Associates (Christensen), headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, to conduct an independent study that will assess the current state of competition in the freight railroad industry in the United States.

The study will cost approximately $1 million and will be completed and made public in the Fall of 2008, the STB said

Christensen, an economic and engineering consulting firm “…with extensive experience analyzing the transportation sector and other markets,” will conduct the independent study entitled Report to the U.S. STB on Competition and Related Issues in the U.S. Freight Railroad Industry. The study will focus on providing a comprehensive analysis of a wide range of issues including competition, capacity, and the interplay between the two. The study will also include an examination of various regulatory policy alternatives.

In October 2006, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) expressed concerns over competition and shipper captivity in the rail industry.

The GAO recommended that “the Surface Transportation Board conduct a rigorous analysis of competition in the industry and consider actions to address problems associated with abuses of market power.”

Canada is a much smaller country with two truly transcontinental railroad systems, and yet the early evidence suggested a competitive duopoly. The updated research might contain some surprises.

Read the full Destination:Freedom report and enjoy the crying by the highway lobby.
The [Houston] Port Authority said in a statement that studies sponsored by the Texas legislature recently authorized the creation of the Gulf Coast Freight Rail District to address mobility issues caused by the proliferation of rails in the region, Railway Age reported.
I was under the impression that Houston is the point of origin for Union Pacific service meltdowns thanks to insufficient capacity and some latent power struggles between the Octopus (the old Southern Pacific way) and Omaha. Proliferation of rails? Try proliferation of grade crossings, and 53 foot trailers on the roads.
PETE GOGOLAK, REDUX. Once upon a time, soccer players had to retool for the high school football team. That led to no end of snarking about "I keeck touchdown!" Not any more.

Milwaukee Hamilton's Jason Baker is one of those soccer studs with a mega-leg who is helping out the football team while being a key cog for the soccer team during the same time of the school year.

A junior captain on the soccer team, Baker is a sweeper. His name was suggested by coach Dave Shadlen when football coach Jeff Wallack came to him in need of a leg. The sharing worked last year as soccer player Serboljub Vujanic was an all-conference punter / kicker for the Hamilton football team.

Although the article goes on to note that some such crossover players have expanded options for athletic scholarships, even at onetime football power Milwaukee Hamilton, these days stronger on the pitch, what goes on in the chemistry lab and in advanced algebra also ought to matter.

18.9.07

THEY MAY NEED A STRONGER CASE. Chris Lawrence links to additional Daily Egyptian coverage of Southern Illinois president Glenn Poshard's plagiarism.

The situation was complicated further by a Chronicle of Higher Education article Monday reporting Poshard's 1975 master's thesis about drug abuse by rural high school students also includes questionable passages.

The Chronicle stated in the article it obtained a copy of Poshard's thesis from outside SIU and found "cut-and-paste methodology" similar to that in his dissertation. The problems with the thesis seemed less egregious than those in the dissertation, the publication reported.

In one instance, in which the Chronicle referenced, the first two sentences of the thesis corresponds with the first two sentences of a 1969 U.S. government report entitled "Why are drugs being abused these days?"

From Poshard's thesis:

"Drug abuse is not a new phenomenon in America. Various forms of drug abuse have existed for years in the United States and other countries."

From the U.S. government report:

"Drug abuse is not a new phenomenon. Varying forms of drug abuse have been present for years in the United States and other countries."

The Chronicle reported Poshard did not use any quotation marks or citations in those two sentences.

If that government report had appeared in the bibliography, there's a case for use-without-attribution, otherwise known as plagiarism. But how many different ways can one note, as the government and the student did, that there's nothing new about drug use, including widespread and debilitating drug use?

Actually, there is one exception to the rule: "Common Knowledge." If the fact or idea you are using is common knowledge, you don't have to have a source for it. But what is considered common knowledge?

I'm sure there are some other guidelines for discerning whether or not something can be considered common knowledge, but one of the easiest ones I was taught is the following:

If the idea or fact (a) appears in a general source, like an encyclopedia or dictionary, (b) is repeated by over three different sources, or (c) is claimed to be "common knowledge" by more than one author who is in the field and knowledgeable, it can be considered common knowledge. Still, if you have any doubt, go ahead and cite where it was mentioned. It's best to err on the side of citing too much than not enough.

Bias your loss function in favor of excessively citing, in other words. The Northern Illinois University Statement on Plagiarism offers the same advice.
Nor does this mean that every single fact that you learn from some outside source must be documented. Material which is general knowledge or generally available from many sources (such as dictionary definitions, familiar historical facts, and the like) need not be identified; a reader assumes that you got the information somewhere. In most courses, facts drawn from the textbook in that course (but not the author's judgments or conclusions) are fair game. But it is always better to err in the direction of over-acknowledgment: when in doubt, identify your source. Better yet, unless the assignment requires research, rely on your own knowledge, ideas and words.
Otherwise, it's possible to go too far. Consider "The Common-Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule," in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. The first footnote is to the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of "the."

Test yourself: there are several different forms of attribution as well as the non-attribution we call plagiarism.

16.9.07

CAMP RANDALL IS FOR IMPRISONING REBELS. Cadets at The Citadel might have fired the opening shots of the Southern Rebellion, but their successors discovered that in football, bombs can be intercepted. The rebels, making good use of the foot cavalry, held their own in 1861 and 1862 before being overwhelmed in 1863. Despite some spite scores in 1864, the 1865 surrender was followed with Varsity and the Bud Song. On Sunday the Iron Brigade showed the Yankee Volunteers how to win. That's two straight weeks going 1-0 for the Packers. There's also a pennant race in progress.
BACK TO COLLEGE: 4. I'm often skeptical of the observations at Rate Your Students, as the anonymous whinging about others unnamed offers much potential for abuse, including the possibility that a comment represented as originating with a student might be a faculty member lamenting his colleagues' linguini spines.
As an undergrad, I want to know that I'm not the only one fed up with my peers. They can be stupid, slothful, selfish bastards. What is tenure for, if not to call these kids out on their b.s.? These "future leaders" couldn't put together a cogent thought if you held a gun to their head, and everyone is supposed to pat them on the back as long as Mom and Dad's tuition check clears the bank? You have a Ph.D., for chrissakes, so throw it around like it means something.
There is the possibility that tenure induces self-selection by milquetoasts (hence my constant advocacy for more Non-Quiche-Eating Real Guys Who Can Manage Power Tools and Soldering Torches in the academy) who are in it for the job security and seek to avoid any conflicts, including those called Being the Adult.
I lose a lot of respect for professors who don't stand up for themselves. Make these morons get their feet off the desk, put away the iPod, bring paper and pencil to class, eat their three-course meal before coming to class, crack the book every other day, and pay ******* attention -- or get out of the room. I'm tired of taking dumbed-down tests or having to listen to the same lecture about how to write a thesis statement or use citation styles.
Might be the words of a student, might be the words of a faculty member fed up with access-assessment-remediation-retention.

Or with the individuals who abuse those noble intentions.

Tell them that it's not your problem they've made life choices (children, mortgage payments, etc.) that hamper their ability to complete assignments. Remind them of other students who've made different choices (like jumping into the deep end of student loans and Ramen noodles) to be here and aren't asking for favors, so maybe we should all be adults and suck it up.

This site makes me feel like I'm not the only one -- but if I am, I need to reserve my padded room now.

No, anonymous poster, you're not the only one, but it's your responsibility to note the facts and name names.
BACK TO COLLEGE: 3. Ms. Snark offers some hints on the proper use of a course outline. (Yes, she insists on using the wrong word to describe the working timetable, but the advice is sound.)
Actually, it is in your best interest to read all your [course outlines] with a discerning eye; make sure you understand every due and test date and every assignment direction, and if something is not clear, ask questions. If you feel intimidated, e-mail your prof (in a respectful, formal manner, of course).
That means proper spelling and capitalization, u gt my drft? (Railroad telegraphers anticipated all the text-message shortcuts about 100 years ago.)
BACK TO COLLEGE: 2. The Phantom Professor offers her 17 Secrets for College Success, which apparently was offered to Southwest Airlines passengers at one time.

Secret 2 is of particular value to new students. At many of the larger universities, most of the people you'll meet will probably not have heard of your high school. That's a feature, not a bug.
The intensely cliquish culture of high school hallways is largely irrelevant on a university campus populated by students and faculty from diverse backgrounds and with wildly eclectic interests. Don’t self-segregate into the same small pod of likeminded types you hung with back home. Branch out. Be friendly. Be interested in your courses, fellow students, instructors, your campus, your new neighborhood. Being interested leads to being interesting.
I'd add to that: evaluate the Greek system carefully, as the risk of being drawn back into such a pod is great.

Secret 5 implies an economy of scope: prepare to face classes with almost the care you'd devote to facing the chance of a hook-up. Really.
Clean clothes, clean hair, clean nails, clean feet. Sure, it's still flip-flop season now, but nobody likes looking at dirty hooves. Never wear anything in public that could be confused with sleepwear. Remove caps, hats, visors and sunglasses in the classroom. Cover your tramp-stamp tattoos and keep cleavage to a minimum. Hike up your low-riders.
If memory serves, the Phantom is a theater critic with occasional adjuncting gigs, but all but the most hard-core lefties on campus are at least moderately bourgeois in their style.

Secret 7 is the logic behind Rule 33 of Charlie Sykes's 50 Rules.
To avoid getting lost in the crowd, sit up front and ask good questions so the professors will know you by name and face. (Don't laugh at the nerds in the first row. In four years, you'll hear their names followed by the phrase "...got an offer for how much?") Try to get acquainted with at least two classmates in every course. You never know when you’ll need their help. Trade contact info with a couple of students who look reliable. You can find yourself a study-partner or note-sharer that way. And when the day comes that you really do have the flu and can't get out of bed, you'll have a buddy who'll feed you the info you missed—a much better move than moseying up to the prof and asking, “Did I miss anything important?”
That last being a good way to risk self-identifying as Not With The Program. Assume that there's something important each day, possibly each minute. Assume that it's all examinable. (It is.)

The short form of Secret 9 is READ AND UNDERSTAND.
[Course outlines] can be many pages long, spelling out every requirement of the course. Typically they include an assignment and test schedule, reading list, absence and grading policies, and specifics about how professors prefer papers to be handed in (some will let you submit by email, others forbid it). If the [course outline] says “No eating, drinking or knuckle-cracking in class,” take it seriously. Profs can be very finicky about classroom behavior. And they do remember who breaks their rules.
And individuals who demonstrate that they have not taken the time to read the rules are self-identifying as Not With The Program.

Go read the rest.

An aside: some year, I will persuade the rest of higher education to recall that the syllabus is the paragraph or two in the college catalog that identifies the principal focus of the course. It's probably a bit much to ask that the academy refer to the course outline as the working timetable, which is the way I view it.

13.9.07

WE WANT A PITCHER, NOT A BELLY-ITCHER. You just got a time out.
In their ongoing war on “fun,” the nannies who run Little League in Cincinnati have decided to ban chatter on the diamond.
Hmm, maybe that explains the Reds' troubles.

It gets better.

Childhood – or at least the fun part – is falling victim to a potent stew of psychobabble, litigation and over-wrought over protectiveness.

In North Carolina (and I’m not making this up), principals in at least eight schools worried about how schoolchildren will cope with scorching summer heat, want to raise thousands of dollars to erect large canopies and shelters over playgrounds.”

Obviously, we can’t allow kids to actually play outside in the sun, because that would be too much like what we’ve been doing for several thousand years now. And hasn’t anybody there ever heard of trees?

Or perhaps starting the school year after Labor Day?
LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE MID-AMERICAN. I've always enjoyed the football Bottom Ten. The collegiate version for week 2 is a Mid-American trifecta with the local powerhouse becoming a member.
"Welcome to the Party": I-AA Southern Illinois delivered the invitation for the Huskies -- and the Bottom 10 gladly accepted.
BACK TO COLLEGE: 1. If you can find it, I can find it. Aspiring Glenn Poshards: Go. Ahead. Make. My. Day.
CALL 'EM OUT. For some time I have posted the Northern Illinois University Speech Code Rating in my sidebar. I've been informed by the good folks at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education that my doing so inspired them to set up a script for calling attention to violations of free speech rights at other universities. It's now at work in my sidebar.

11.9.07

GEORGE STEINBRENNER, BILLY MARTIN? Does higher education get the symbolism?

Amidst new plagiarism accusations leveled against President Glenn Poshard on Monday, Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees Chairman Roger Tedrick said the board has given Poshard its full support.

"Dr. Poshard was selected by this board two years ago to head the second largest public university in this state. He has met and exceeded our every expectation and has this board's full confidence," Tedrick said in a written statement issued Monday shortly after an hour-long closed executive committee meeting at the Stone Center.

QUOTE OF THE DAY. King Banaian.
What may be overwhelmed, dear editorialist, is your moral compass.
Read and understand.
WHY IT MATTERS. University Diaries.
There are reasons the world envies America's public and private universities. The crucial reason is one of legitimacy: To an amazing degree, by global standards, we maintain a reality-based higher education establishment, in which the quality and substance of scholarship and teaching undergoes authentic and frequent scrutiny.

This scrutiny is both external, in the form of things like the US News and World Report rankings and Rate My Professors, and internal, as in tenure review. Some of it's sort of internal/external, as in our remarkably free market of professors, a market whose operations make administrators aware of their best faculty, since they're the ones who can move somewhere else.

Even in advanced European countries, and certainly in many other countries, as UD has chronicled at length on this blog, nepotism, abuse of power, meager admissions standards, illegitimate procedures in faculty hiring and retention, laziness or corruption in research activity, extensive government control, and restrictions on free speech are common. The core problem in many of these countries is the politicization of higher education, its primary use as a patronage machine, or as a place to stash unemployed young people for awhile.

Many weak American universities look a bit like European universities. They're run by people like [Southern Illinois's Glenn] Poshard, political hacks without intellectuality -- without, really, a grasp of what a university is.
Amen.

(Quote of the Day material, should the day be other than September 11.)
IT'S CORPORATE WELFARE. State highway commissioners are beginning to figure out the overweight truck permit scam.

More than a half-million overweight trucks are allowed onto the nation's roads and bridges - an increasingly routine practice that some officials say is putting dangerous wear and tear on an already groaning infrastructure.

In interviews with The Associated Press, some experts warned that the practice of issuing state permits that allow trucks to exceed the usual weight limits can weaken steel and concrete, something that investigators say may have contributed to the Minneapolis bridge collapse Aug. 1 that killed 13 people.

Ye canna change th' laws of physics. The effect of heavier trucks on roads and bridges is not linear in greater weight. The permits might raise some revenues to offset the damages (if the highway commission gets to spend the money: perhaps it goes for Medicare reimbursements) provided the truckers apply for the permits.

Many states charge fees ranging from $12 to $1,000 for overweight-load permits, depending on the weight of the load. In theory, those fees are supposed to offset the damage done to the highways.

Texas, for example, granted nearly 39,000 such permits in the past year, generating $7.5 million, most of which was divided among the state's 254 counties for road maintenance.

"That in no way even comes close to covering the wear and tear on our roads and bridges in this state," said Chris Lippincott, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation.

Darrin Roth, director of highway operations at the American Trucking Association, said it is not fair to put all the blame on trucks because permit loads are a tiny proportion of total traffic.

States allowed more than 500,000 overweight trucks to traverse the nation's bridges and highways at will in the past year, according to an AP review of figures in all 50 states.

Those permits were good for an entire year. While 10 states do not issue yearlong permits, all states hand out shorter-term permits good for a few days, weeks or months. Those add up to more than 1.8 million permits not included in the AP's count.

It's also amusing to contemplate the exceptions to the weight limits, which imply the roads will be pounded to pieces more rapidly than the engineers intended.

Generally, trucks are not allowed to exceed the 40-ton weight limit on interstate highways. However, some stretches of interstate have higher weight limits because they were grandfathered in when the federal interstate system was created during the Eisenhower administration.

The numbers compiled by the AP do not include certain vehicles that states allow to operate without obtaining overweight-load permits. In Texas, for example, vehicles transporting ready-mix concrete, milk, solid waste, recyclable materials, seed cotton or chile pepper seedlings are not required to have an overweight permit on state roads, even if they are over the limit.

Gotta level that playin' field with Louisiana, right?
WHEN THE SINGLE PAYER DOESN'T PAY. A cautionary tale for advocates of state-funded health care.
A loophole in the Illinois State Finance Act allows an unfair delay in state payments to health service providers and threatens the availability of health care for low-income families.
The consequence of the policy, which the State habitually engages in to appear more fiscally responsible, is to deprive the providers of cash flow and make them more reluctant to take on Medicaid cases.
Many DeKalb County Medicaid providers are forced to wait between three and six months to be reimbursed for health services provided to Medicaid patients. At the Ben Gordon Center in DeKalb, it takes about three months for their mental-health services to be reimbursed - at about one-third of their actual costs. For some primary-care providers, the wait is as long as six months.

A number of clinics in the state no longer take new Medicaid patients because they can't afford to wait for the money. The result is less access to health care for more than 2 million low-income children, parents, elderly and disabled.
It's not just the Medicaid reimbursements. The State is also slow to reimburse the clinics that serve Northern Illinois University employees.

It's all perfectly legal.
Section 25 of the State Finance Act dictates the state's fiscal year to be from July 1 to June 30. Expenditures for liabilities incurred within the fiscal year must be made from that year's budget, with - and here's the loophole - certain exceptions.
One such Section 25 exception is Medicaid liabilities. As a result, the state is allowed to make payments for Medicaid reimbursement in the fiscal year following the year of the cost, thereby using next year's dollars for this year's expenses. When Medicaid money runs out, it has become common practice to defer liabilities under Section 25.
In other words, if you don't have the money, just put off paying your bills - and make the health care providers the state's credit card.
Perhaps it's more accurate to say that Illinois is lapping its accounts receivable. (I do remember a few fiddles from accounting all those years ago.)
Lapping is a concealment technique where the subtraction of money from one customer is covered by applying the payment of a different customer. For example, a cashier may steal a payment from customer A and cover it by applying a payment from customer B to customer A’s account. Then, when customer C pays, that money is applied to customer B and so on. Smart crooks would never lap accounts receivable, but amateurs do not realize that this technique requires constant monitoring to avoid detection. Most lapping schemes don’t last long because of the continuous manual intervention required.
Unless, apparently, you're the State, and the law lets you steal the 2008 tax revenues to pay the 2007 Medicaid claims. The State is apparently not the only agency that's slow to pay.
The pharmaceutical industry is primarily a third party payment system. Pharmacies must therefore rely on the payment practices and creditworthiness of the payors and obligors to collect for services provided to customers by a third party payment plan. Although recent improvements in the claims processing system for the pharmaceutical industry, including the introduction of electronic, on-line adjudication (discussed in detail below), have added significant reliability to the payment system, the time lap between submission of a claim and receipt of payment has an adverse effect on pharmacies' cash flows. Moreover, pharmacies are relatively powerless in the claims/payment process in that, after having submitted the claim for adjudication, they can do little more than wait for their money.
Maybe there's a reason for that concentration in both drug manufacture and retail pharmacies.
TOO MANY CATS? Apparently, even in a university town there are more feral cats and strays than there are the stereotypical humanities types to take them in.
“There are a couple different classes of wild cats in the area,” said Beth Drake, executive director of TAILS Humane Society in DeKalb. “There are the fully feral cats – wild animals who are terrified of humans; there are the in-betweens, which were probably owned cats at one point; and there are owned cats who are allowed outside.”
The stray kitty population tracks kitty copulation.
DeKalb is currently in the grip of “Kitty Season,” a term used by Drake and [cat shelter operator Jane] Kosek to describe the April-through-November period when cats are the most active sexually. A female cat can reach sexual maturity in just four to six months. After that, she will produce two litters a year, each containing four to six kittens.“Most of the time, the litters we see contain six kittens. The problem here is that any ‘unfixed’ cat can interact with these females,” Drake said. “Even the inside-outside house cats are contributing to the problem.”
And sometimes those inside-outside house cats get turfed out because their owner moves to quarters that don't permit pets.
DOES THIS MAKE ME LOOK FAT? Yes, it does. (That's a Guy Rule. If you have to ask, assume that the answer is yes. See also this.)

9.9.07

INSUFFICIENT ALTERNATIVES?

Congress won't use the Highway Trust Fund to build roads, and the resulting congestion, along with rising gas prices piques interest in high-speed trains.
Congress is considering a six-year Amtrak funding bill co-sponsored by 40 senators that would provide the first matching federal grants for rail projects.The measure proposes $100 million in first-year grants, paltry considering that California alone needs $40 billion for a mammoth bullet train project that would link San Francisco and Sacramento with Los Angeles and San Diego.

Some argue federal money would be better spent to research electric-powered cars and other cutting-edge travel alternatives, rather than the ribbons of steel that triggered America's westward expansion in the 1800s.

"Solutions to our current problems have to be found, not imposed from previous centuries. High-speed rail is just a polished version of 19th century technology," said William Garrison, co-author of "Tomorrow's Transportation" and a retired civil engineering professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

But supporters contend high-speed trains could be an important alternative, rivaling even air travel once home-to-airport travel times and delays cause by airport security measures are taken into account.
The preceding paragraphs suggest the only choices are an update of the Overland Limited, complete with Buffalo Bill pluggin' bison from the rear platform, or a souped-up Europeanized Electroliner. There is a simpler solution: amend or repeal the speed restrictions the Federal Railroad Administration inherited from the Interstate Commerce Commission holding train speeds to 79 mph (125 km/h) on signalled tracks. The regulation requiring the use of automatic train stop and cab signalling to run at higher speeds reeks of cartel-management in which railroads that made such investments sought a return on their investment that was being undercut by railroads that had not made such investments. But safe operation at speeds in the 110-125 range was possible on jointed rail protected by automatic block signals and regularly done with steam locomotives.

To accomplish something similar today involves cost overruns and implementation delays.
Illinois has sunk about $80 million into track and crossing improvements over a decade, but has finished less than half of a planned high-speed route from Chicago to St. Louis that would shave 90 minutes off the current 5 1/2-hour train ride.

Completing the estimated $400 million project will take years, but is projected to boost ridership from 300,000 last year to 1.2 million, said George Weber, chief of the Illinois Department of Transportation's passenger rail division.

Weber said trains could begin running at 110 mph by 2009 on 120 miles of the 280-mile route after the state recently settled on safety technology that will ensure faster trains can coexist with cars and slow-moving freight traffic that shares the line.

"To think this state (Illinois) has known for 10 years how to get Chicago-to-St. Louis to three hours and 45 minutes, and we kind of languish at five and a half to six hours," Harnish said. "Imagine what difference that would make to the St. Louis economy if you could get to Chicago by train (that much quicker)."
Humph. It used to be called sharp dispatching and disciplined railroading, including ascertaining whether all superior trains due on the schedule had arrived and left, and perhaps a provision that inferior trains would clear the scheduled time of superior trains by fifteen (rather than five or ten) minutes to preclude signal checks. Meanwhile, politicians have a chronic case of Shinkansen envy.
The massive project, which would lay all new track, could complete its first phase from San Francisco to Los Angeles within 15 years if voters approve a $10 billion bond issue scheduled for next year. But the vote has been pushed back twice and could be postponed again because of worries that it could hinder the state's bonding authority for roads, schools and other projects.

"How can we say we can't afford this in California, the biggest state in the country, when these systems are being built all over the world? ... It's a matter of priority," said Dan Leavitt, deputy director of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

John Spychalski, a transportation expert and professor at Penn State University, says high-speed rail will continue to languish unless lawmakers provide the same financial backing as highways and air travel. He said some could be swayed if high-profile projects such as California's succeed.

"I don't think there's any question that it would help build momentum for making this kind of service a reality where it makes sense to have it," Spychalski said. "There just needs to be a political will, and right now not enough elected officials see it as a viable alternative."
I repeat: there are simpler reforms that will make improved running times possible almost immediately, and at much lower first cost. With greater domestic interest in the rail network, it's the right time to consider them.
The Illinois cornfields whizzing past Mark Hardacre's view from the Amtrak cafe car had nothing on the memorable splendor the Australian had already taken in on his trans-America adventure - the Pacific Ocean so vast and blue off California's coast. The emerald green of the Northwest forests. The majesty of the snowcapped Rockies.

But the cheery man from New South Wales was impressed with a couple of things he'd not seen in three previous Amtrak treks across this nation's rails over the past two decades - Americans seeming to outnumber tourists, and far fewer empty seats.

"It's good to see the Americans starting to use their trains, because if they don't use them they'll lose them," Hardacre, 53, said recently as Amtrak click-clacked its way from St. Louis to Chicago, one leg of his monthlong sightseeing trip with his wife, Janice.
Yes, the continued political (not necessarily partisan, read the full article carefully) wrangling over Amtrak funding makes the carrier's job more difficult, but the loss of institutional memory over such things as ascertaining that superior trains have arrived or left or of the discipline of keeping to time contribute.
Amtrak says the lack of stable funding holds it back, leaving it unable to commit to infrastructure improvements. It still uses some equipment dating back half a century and cannot add new rail cars it says it can easily fill on some routes.

The service also continues to be nagged by travel delays, mostly because it must share the tracks with freight haulers that own the rails and charge Amtrak a modest fee - $90 million in the last fiscal year - for using them. With freight traffic soaring in recent years, Amtrak's on-time performance slid to an average of 68 percent last year, its worst showing since the 1970s.
Poor on-time performance is probably a bigger killer of repeat business than slow running times. A mile-a-minute train that isn't laid out by"freight train interference" is probably a better option than a 90 mph version that is (and do the math: over a 200-300 mile corridor, there's not that much time advantage anyway.)
Between last October and March, Amtrak's riders numbered 14.3 million, up 5 percent over the previous year and sailing toward another record.

At least some of that growth might be tied to the investment by Illinois and 13 other states in short-distance corridors Amtrak otherwise wouldn't offer, essentially paying for service where they see a need.

Last fall, Amtrak added two state-financed roundtrips between St. Louis and Chicago and one apiece between from Quincy and Carbondale to the Windy City. Ridership spiked by 189,823 for the first two-thirds of this fiscal year, bringing the total passenger count in the state to 670,605.

Amtrak chalks it up to convenience.

Before adding the trains between St. Louis and Chicago, for example, the day's first Amtrak reached St. Louis about 2:30 p.m., just 45 minutes before the last train out, commonly forcing riders to spend the night.

But since last year's expansion, Amtrak's first arrival in St. Louis from Chicago is about noon, and the last train leaves for Chicago five hours later, enabling Chicagoans to attend a St. Louis Rams or Cardinals game or visit the cultural sites for an afternoon and head back the same day.

Before the expansion, the only departure times out of Carbondale for Chicago were 3 a.m. and 4 p.m. The state added a breakfast-time departure, and ridership blossomed.

To William Rechtenwald, it's a real bargain. The journalism teacher at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale takes Amtrak several times a year to Chicago, finding the service comfortable enough, roughly $100 per round trip cheaper than driving and less hassle than maneuvering through congested freeways.

"I'm a fan of Amtrak," he said. "It's a much wiser choice than driving."
Route connectivity also matters. That Lincoln Service allows St. Louisans to attend a Bear or Cub game or visit a museum and go home, and there are options for going on to Milwaukee as well, although those work less well as a day excursion.
NO SUNDAY MELTDOWNS. Life is good. The Packers win, going to the punt-and-fumble play twice, while the Bears lose. The Brewers went yard back-to-back-to-back to open the game (it has happened before -- somewhere there is a sabermetrician who probably knows if there are any noteworthy firsts left in baseball) and managed to lead by no less than three thereafter: meanwhile the flagman at a tenement on Addison St. has to prepare a new flag hoist for tomorrow.
SOMETIMES YOUR GUARDIAN ANGEL IS A LIFEGUARD. A motorist escapes injury although her new Lexus was turned into so much postconsumer scrap by two Hiawathas. This radio clip (does the script transfer?) from WBBM reveals that a local teenager with lifeguard training pulled the driver from her car. After the crash, the clip also reveals that the driver asked if she could then drive her car home ...

RUNNING EXTRA. Story also available from the Chicago Tribune.
WHAT'S UP WITH THIS? Suspended DePaul administrator resigns.

Scott Scarborough, DePaul University's executive vice president who was suspended earlier in the week, resigned Friday after a special meeting of the school's trustees.Scarborough was the university's third-ranking official.

A DePaul spokesman declined to comment on the reasons behind the resignation, but Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, the university's president, told faculty and staff in an e-mail that it was not related to financial impropriety.

PLAYING GIVEAWAY. Poshard's Plagiarizers made a visit to Northern Illinois University for an evening football game. I took a break from setting up the new quarters to watch the game. This Huskie kept an eye on the breakfast bar.


This sunroom and deck ought to work well for pregame festivities.


In case anybody from Huskie athletics is reading this service, here is what Yankee frugality looks like. Unlike some people we know, I brought a dehumidifier from the old house to the new house. The computers are coming over too.


Pregame festivities now sprawl over the entire west campus. These bouncy sets occupy the soccer practice fields. The corn boil was just to the south.


The new locker room is already in use, with those new computers and exercise machines. (If I find out where the old computers cascade to, I'll advise here.) The athletic department is attempting to pay for this facility with ticket revenues and donations, and many donors were recognized at a pre-game ceremony. (There might be naming opportunities for computers and ellipticals. My mind contemplates some wicked possibilities...)


Then comes the game. Although Southern Illinois scored first, on a long pass interception, at the fireworks display the Huskies were up 21-7 on the Plagiarizers.


The third quarter was odd, with Northern Illinois playing a number of reserves on both sides of the ball, and Southern Illinois using a running game that used a lot of time to little effect. The fourth quarter was odder still. With about 11 minutes to go, the Plagiarizers managed another long interception return for a touchdown, closing the gap to ten points. Still no big deal. Then, with just over a minute remaining, the Plages managed a touchdown after a few third- and fourth-down conversions. Still shouldn't be a big deal. Everybody in the stadium knows an onside kick is coming, and there's a longer field now even if the kicking team recovers. Oops.
SIU safety Clayton Johnson recovered the onside kick to give his offense the ball at the Salukis' 43 with 58 seconds remaining. Hill needed only five plays to produce the winning score, throwing 30 yards to wide receiver Justin Allen with 22 seconds left.
Double oops.
NIU was repeatedly unable to come up with a needed stop late as the Salukis benefited from two tipped passes that ended in completions, converted four of six fourth downs and stayed in rhythm with a no-huddle offense and Hill's accuracy.
The local paper sums it up.
When the Huskies dissect the film of Saturday's game, the loss won't be any easier to stomach. The Huskies had a victory in hand, before a talented and determined SIU team rose up and stole the win.
We're about to start our first full week of classes (yes, there's usually a Monday-Friday before Labor Day, but Thursday night ahead of that long weekend is often temptation to get away) and perhaps the team is also about to get down to business.
“I'm disappointed, but we have no one to blame but ourselves,” [Northern coach Joe] Novak said. “We'll get better, we'll learn from it.”
The saving grace, after a busy day of arranging and moving stuff and watering, watering, and a disappointing end to the game, was that Wisconsin's football team didn't go along with Nevada-Las Vegas attempting to pick up the 10-2 upset once again.

5.9.07

MARKING OFF. Has it been five years? Service will be suspended for a few days.


Posting will resume from new quarters.
HARVEY'S WALLBANGERS, REPRISED. The Packers will play Sunday. That was the Milwaukee Brewers putting up two touchdowns earlier tonight.

Fielder, Braun and Hart were rewarded for their efforts in breaking open the game with early exits, getting a head start on the Brewers' scheduled day off today. Fielder socked his 41st homer in the first inning, boosting his RBI total to 102; Braun matched Fielder's rookie record of a year ago with No. 28 in the second; and the white-hot Hart became the fifth 20/20 player (homers and steals) in franchise history with his 20th in the fourth.

Geoff Jenkins and Bill Hall also hit homers as the Brewers increased their major-league leading total to 192, within shouting distance of the club mark of 216 in 1982.

Brewer closer Francisco Cordero has now saved more wins in a season than Cy Young winner Rollie Fingers.
THE JOY OF THE EXPERIENCE. It's supposed to be amateur sport, and if Northern Illinois Huskie Day in Chicago turns into a University of Iowa road trip to the big city, it has nothing to do with money.

The exact revenue will not be known until the rental fees and other costs can be subtracted from the final total that was brought in, but [Northern Illinois athletics director Jim] Phillips was confident it would be in the seven figure range.

No plans have been made for the expenditure of the money. There are several options which Phillips will have to examine once the time is right.

“It’s like anything else, you’ve got $20 in your pocket and you can spend it in eight different ways,” the athletic director said. “I think we are going to have to assess that and see what’s the best way and where do we need some support.”

Some potential destinations for the money include paying off the final expenses from the brand new Jeffery and Kimberly Yordon Center.

The athletic department is still trying to raise a little less than $1 million dollars to finish the project. This extra expenditure was due to the purchase of all new weight equipment, computers and other resources.

“We’re still trying to raise a little under a million dollars because we did it the right way,” Phillips said. “We didn’t take any of old weight room equipment. We didn’t take any of our academic computers from our former place. We just tried to bring everything over brand new, state of the art. Once we get that raised we’re going to turn our attention to the our next capital project.”

The curious economics of betterment accounting? Presumably the new locker room is an asset that will permit the football program to offer future sellouts in Chicago, therefore it isn't necessary to pay for it out of current revenues. Then there's the curious economics of raising funds to cover cost overruns. Computing equipment apparently cascades from academic department to academic department. Something there is about retiring all the existing computers and weights that isn't exactly Yankee frugality. Will any donors balk?

Private fundraising appears not to be a problem. Fifteen years ago, the Illinois Board of Higher Education proposed to end any state allocations of money to intercollegiate sports. That didn't quite happen, but with students balking at increases in the athletics fee (note, not a tuition increase, right?) the program has become more active at soliciting cash and in-kind gifts from alumni and fans.

4.9.07

OFFSETTING TYRANNIES. John Lukacs's June 1941: Hitler and Stalin provides material for Book Review No. 31. It's a shortish book, in which Mr Lukacs manages to hit all the high spots as well as make use of recently-released materials from former-Soviet and German archives. Although the principal focus is the protagonists, there are references to reactions in London (perhaps the real objective: with the USSR knocked out and the U.S. neutral, would Britain have a chance?) as well as Tokyo (where the focus remained on the possibility of conflict with an eastern Pacific power) and Washington, D.C. The work will probably disappoint a well-read student of World War II. It is, however, a useful overview for a beginning reader.
ONCE THE WORLD'S LARGEST TERMINUS. But after the eastern railroad bankruptcies as well as massive public spending on not quite enough road capacity, the owners of Boston's South Station sold off half of the trainshed area as well as most of the headhouse for office towers, a postal station, and a bus terminal. (The gentrified food court and waiting area cum concourse remain only because some preservationist actions coincided with a downturn in the real estate market.)

But there's no room for more roads in Boston, and additional trains will likely clog what's left of the station.

The 1997 North-South Rail Link Major Investment Study indicates that with the Greenbush Line expansion, South Station is at risk of a domino-effect scenario in which one train’s delays “cascade rapidly into following trains,” jeopardizing the entire schedule.

Steps have been taken to prevent that scenario, said [transit authority] spokesman Joe Pesaturo.

“South Station has the capacity to handle Greenbush Line trains,” he said. “We simply have to adjust schedules to accommodate the additional trains.”

However, service at South Station is likely to expand beyond the Greenbush Line. Amtrak’s Acela ridership is growing; Worcester riders are holding onto a Romney administration promise for more trains; and momentum is gathering to extend the Commuter Rail to New Bedford and Fall River.

Executive Office of Transportation officials said they are contemplating taking over the adjacent post office to add new South Station tracks.

“The Postal Service has indicated a willingness to vacate the property, thereby providing sufficient room to increase capacity at South Station for future rail expansion,” transportation spokesman Erik Abell said.

However, the ability to move the post office depends on whether the Postal Service can strike a deal with MassPort for a parcel along the Reserve Channel in South Boston. The Postal Service “has been in discussion with MassPort for several years now” about that property, said USPS spokesman Bob Cannon.

That transaction adds only four platform tracks. (Many of the Boston-area commuter trains are short by Chicago standards. The British solution of double-platforming is not an option, however, as an office tower above the existing tracks is improperly ventilated, and exhausts from idling diesels under the building get into the building. Passengers therefore have to walk halfway to Boston Common to board trains that are marshalled with the diesels south of the office tower.)

Former Massachusetts governor and onetime presidential nominee Michael Dukakis goes on record in favor of a railroad connecting North and South Stations, permitting consists to turn at coachyards or outlying terminals rather than occupy a stub track.
THE RESTORATION OF BOURGEOIS VALUES CONTINUES. Paul Quinn College joins Illinois State in requiring business casual for class, this time for all students rather than business majors only.

We are charged with the responsibility of preparing our students to assume a leadership role in business, and we can no longer pretend that their attire isn't one aspect of that preparation. In order for our students to seamlessly transition into the corporate landscape, they require lessons in business etiquette and practices. At Paul Quinn, those lessons are now occurring daily.

However, it was not too long ago that this type of requirement would not have been so newsworthy. Historically, our nation's black colleges and universities required their students to dress appropriately when attending classes or other campus functions. I grew up listening to my mother and other family members talk about Dillard University's "expectations for dress."

A review of yearbooks from the not-too-distant past at Howard University, Spelman College and Hampton University, along with our own at Paul Quinn, shows students attending classes in ties and dresses. They looked like the younger version of the leaders they grew up to become.

Yet, somewhere along the path of evolution, we as college administrators began to acquiesce to shifting societal norms and stopped expecting our students to attend class prepared to conduct the business of learning. Instead, we allowed class to be treated as a brief respite between parties and athletic events. In this respect, we have decided to turn back the hands of time.

(Via Minding the Campus). Paul Quinn is a private college affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and its friends conducted a clothing drive such that no student would lack for the proper garb. The interim president, who wrote the essay, correctly invokes the dignity of segregation-era leaders, whose work accelerated integration of the public universities. Perhaps such steps would not have been required in a world in which the common schools were doing their job, socializing the young into the ways of the middle class.

No doubt, the use of business standards of appearance as well as the differential tuitions for business degrees will provoke objections from some quarters of the academy.

2.9.07

LABOR, LEISURE. A Northern Illinois University policy places the first day of classes for the fall semester on the fourth Monday of August. The latest we can start is August 28, in which case we're in for a week (as is the case this year) then to stand down for Labor Day, and the earliest is August 22, which means Corn Fest coincides with the end of the first week, and then we stand down for Labor Day. The policy has never made sense to me, as it means we get everybody in here, sometimes just for a week, then we stand down for a long weekend and begin tooling everybody up again after that. (That Blackboard doesn't give faculty the option of scratching non-attenders on day 1 generates additional perverse incentives.) The start of the fall semester before workplace fall begins, which is not limited to Illinois, has led to some public sentiment that summer oughtn't to be out for school.


After a swing toward starting the school year earlier, sometimes as early as the first week of August, momentum has grown in several states to begin school later in August or after Labor Day.


Pressure from parents and the tourism industry has pushed 11 states to limit how early school may begin, rankling school boards that want local control and more time to prepare students for state-mandated tests.


I believe that Wisconsin, which does a serious tourist business, now requires that common schools begin the fall session after Labor Day. Once upon a time, students more generally were prepared for tests, although in those less-prosperous times, those who didn't test very well might have been tracked differently. Tradeoffs.


The article notes that the earlier school starts present entertainment businesses that rely on summer help with staffing troubles.


Kennywood Park in suburban Pittsburgh is closed this week because about 85% of its seasonal staff has returned to school, says Mary Lou Rosemeyer, a spokeswoman for the 109-year-old amusement park.


"As schools start earlier, we don't have enough families coming to the park, and we don't have enough operators," Rosemeyer says.


Lower attendance is something new. Kennywood has long offered its seasonal workers bonuses to stay on through Labor Day, and it appears there will be a fall schedule including the Hallowe'en festivities many amusement parks offer.


The article is insufficiently detailed to note whether it is the school year in the former Warsaw Pact countries that contributes to the amusement parks' labor shortages.
OVERTAKEN BY EVENTS. At the time of John Kenneth Galbraith's death, I checked out The Affluent Society, in paperback, from the library. That it is only now the subject of Book Review No. 30 might alert readers that the content has not aged well. The book, which years ago was quite popular with social scientists other than economists, is an at times disjointed look at the coexistence of private plenty with public paucity. Consider a summation, which is at p. 257 of the Mentor paperback edition soon to be back in the library's collection.
Here is a paradox. When we begin to consider the needs of those who are now excluded from the economic system by accident, inadequacy, or misfortune -- we find that the normal remedy is to make them or their children productive citizens. This means that they add to the total output of goods. We see once again that even by its own terms the present preoccupation with material as opposed to human investment is inefficient. The parallel with investment in the supply of trained and educated manpower discussed above will be apparent.
Professor Galbraith was not alone in suggesting, not that long after the end of World War II and the Depression, that the lesson business learned from the Depression was the stimulation of demand, consequences be hanged, so as to preserve labor peace and shareholder value. Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders, of approximately the same vintage, is able, as it makes no pretension of academic detachedness, to be even more polemical, if just as wrong in hindsight.

To Professor Galbraith and Mr Packard, and the ranks of their disciples, the error of business is in stimulating demand for their stuff, never mind that it's bidding resources away from the public sector, or inducing consumers to engage in positional arms races over stuff they really don't need, and never mind (to invoke an inchoate argument in Affluent Society that emerged a decade later) the environmental consequences. In hindsight, that argument isn't quite right. All the cleverness of Batten, Barton and all the resources of General Motors don't stop consumers from rejecting badly built or fuel-guzzling cars, even if the mauve-and-cerise gives way to earth tones, or the air conditioning is improved, particularly if the power brakes don't work well, and it doesn't preclude consumers from shopping for other conveniences (mobile phones! portable computers! command control for model railroads!) not pushed on us by the existing Fortune 500.

Where Professor Galbraith misses the point is clear in the paragraph that follows.
But increased output of goods is not the main point. Even to the most intellectually reluctant reader it will now be evident that enhanced productive efficiency is not the motif of this volume. The very fact that increased output offers itself as a by-product of the effort to eliminate poverty is one of the reasons. No one would be called upon to write at such length on a problem so easily solved as that of increasing production. The main point lies elsewhere. Poverty -- grim, degrading, and ineluctable -- is not remarkable in India. For few, the fate is otherwise. [In 1957, perhaps. Today the Principle of Increasing Opportunity Cost bites on the prosperity-by-production efforts of India and Red China.] But in the United States the survival of poverty is remarkable. We ignore it because we share with all societies at all times the capacity for not seeing what we do not wish to see.
Cue the Simon and Garfunkel! In 1957, that hidden-persuader-planned-obsolescence truce between the Big Four automakers and Detroit workers was still making southeastern Michigan one of the more prosperous places to be. When the persuasive powers ran afoul of improved choices elsewhere, the reaction of persuaders and producers alike was to attempt to shut off the competition, rather than to augment the human capital. Perhaps those private persuasive powers are not the sole cause of private affluence amid public squalor.

But what of that human capital investment? I turn to page 214.
Nearly all of the investment in individuals is in the public domain. And virtually all of it is outside the market system. It is the state which, through primary and secondary schools, and through the colleges and universities, makes the largest investment in individuals. And where, as in the case of private colleges and universities, the state is not directly involved, the amount of the investment is not directly related to the eventual pay-out in production. Investment in refineries being higher than in textile mills, the refineries will draw investment funds. But engineers to design the refineries may be even more important -- in effect yield a higher return. And the highest return of all may come from the scientist who makes a marked improvement in the refining process. These are not imaginative possibilities but common probabilities. Yet the high return to scientific and technical training does not cause the funds to move from material capital to such investment.
It doesn't? And does such investment have to be "in the public domain" as Professor Galbraith suggests, and therefore a legitimate function of government? Or might there be sufficient private benefits for technically-inclined individuals to respond efficiently to the incentives?

So why, then, the continued popularity of Affluent Society type arguments? They do appeal to the sort of individual who might be indisposed toward the business community or the messiness of emergent order, as well as to the individual who finds Welfare Economics Paradigm models of state action compelling. But fans of such arguments might do well to understand the Baumol cost disease argument, particularly as it applies to government services, as well as the public choice argument that government services might be inadequate because the incentives to make them adequate don't have the same force that market incentives, including those that impinge on concentrated industries do.
HINTS OF ADVANCING AGE. What message is there in this Chicago and North Western Commuter Streamliner, a few of which were still in revenue service in 1986-1987 when I started at Northern Illinois, now the air-conditioned diesel train at the Illinois Railway Museum?


The train includes one of the original North Western gallery commuter coaches, as well as one of the early cab control cars, allowing the museum to run trains in both directions without a conductor on the cow's tail.

For that matter, here's a Milwaukee "New Look" bus from the class that used to get me home from Allen-Bradley. It's been in preservation long enough to rate a vintage vehicle license tag, in this instance one recognizing that buses in this style were known among bus enthusiasts as "fishbowls."


Elsewhere on the grounds, the car shop is doing what Cold Spring Shops used to do, preparing streetcars for use on the Wells St. line (does the roll sign include "County Stadium"?)


Here's an unusual item in a Midwestern museum. These motors provided the prototype for early Lionel, Ives, and American Flyer electric locomotives of the Christmas-tree-circling type. That supposedly too-small pantograph on the Lionel units was in fact a believable representation of the fitting used to draw power from overhead contact rails in the throat of Grand Central Terminal.


Is there a better looking power source for a passenger train than an E unit?


And enough rolling stock was out of the barn to permit a relatively unobstructed view of an Electroliner.


Museum visitors continue to marvel that such a modern-looking train is in the collection. It has been in the museum collection longer than it served either the North Shore Line or Philadelphia Suburban.
CELERY!!! I admit to enjoying a minimalist commercial from the orange juice cartel (which played well with test audiences) in which some kids are at a birthday party whaling on a pinata, and thanks to Jewbiquitous, I have a link to the commercial itself (select "Birthday"), should you not yet have seen it.

The children yell "celery" and rush towards it. Craziness ensues, and the children run away, clutching their celery, looking sort of like teeny savages, brandashing [c.q.] teeny green spears.

The voiceover says "if only it were this easy to get children to eat healthy. Since it isn't why not start the day with Florida Orange Juice."

It is pretty good, although if I were rating commercials, there are some messages for a Rockford clinic that pretty effectively suggest patients won't have long and variable waits to see the doctor. But what is with the one apparently jaded girl shaking boxes and tossing them, and another one washing her hands in the punch bowl?
A WEEK OF SUNDAYS. That's an archaic expression for "nearly two months" and it fits what has been going on with the Milwaukee Brewers, who, for most of July and all of August, have been building an early lead in Sunday games and then finding a way to lose. Today, however, and just in time for the stretch drive, they found a way to get Jeff Suppan a win. Their position is still not as good as their forebears in 1982 and 1957, but in a hand of leaster ...

1.9.07

DOING EVERYTHING BUT WHAT WORKS. Dartmouth College currently allows alumni to elect trustees. Cypress Semiconductor chief executive T. J. Rodgers won one such election, and he's discovered how uncollegial academicians can be to those who deviate from the prevailing wisdom.
He has now served for three years; and though he notes some positives, overall, Mr. Rodgers says, "It's been a horrible experience. I'm a respected person here in Silicon Valley. Nobody calls me names. Nobody demeans me in board meetings. That's not the way I'm treated at Dartmouth. The behavior has been pretty shabby."
What has he done to get the insiders angry with him?

In Mr. Rodgers's judgment, the increasingly political denigration--the "rancor," he calls it--has seriously impinged on his effectiveness as a trustee, and on the effectiveness of the board in general. "Before I ever went to my first board meeting," he says, "I did what any decent manager in Silicon Valley does--management by walking around. You actually go and talk to people and ask how they're doing and what they need to get their jobs done."

He noted trends: over-enrollment, wait lists and an increased percentage of classes taught by visiting or non-tenure-track faculty. He concluded that many departments--economics, government, psychology and brain sciences, in particular--were "suffering from a shortage of teaching."

"It's a simple problem," Mr. Rodgers says. "You hire more professors." His effort to get an objective grip on the problem would be comic were it not so unfathomable. "I've had to scrounge to get data," he says, the administration not being forthcoming. "My best sources of data come from faculty members and students."

While he can't discuss internal figures, he says there's been "a modest improvement since 2004. It's about 10 professors net gain." That's "going in the right direction, but not nearly as fast as I would like." While the college has added 1.1% faculty per year over the last decade, at the same time its overall expenses have increased by 8.8%, "so the inevitable mathematical conclusion of those numbers is that the percentage of money we spend on faculty is going down, and it has gone down consistently for a long time."

The people choosing not to hire more professors and add more sections staffed by tenure-line faculty at Dartmouth do not have the excuse of tight state budgets (in which the students often become instruments of a power struggle, where popular or productive majors -- these can be different -- are starved of resources in order to induce more petitions to the state house.) But rather than consider something simple, like providing the resources, insiders want to revise the trustee election rules to keep the alumni mavericks away.

As an Opinion Journal editorial notes,
Former Harvard Dean Harry Lewis recently recounted the disposition of the Corporation during the Larry Summers debacle: "[It] was a leadership vacuum. . . . If Harvard were a public corporation . . . the shareholders would have been up in arms about the failure of the directors to care responsibly for the institution." It is not surprising that the "best practice" Dartmouth seeks to emulate is precisely the practice that enabled Harvard's expulsion of Mr. Summers.
Meanwhile the wait-lists will expand.
THERE'S A PROTOTYPE FOR EVERYTHING. Here, two pair of Soviet TE-3 freight diesels have been cascaded to the space program for a rollout of the Buran launch vehicle.



Wikimapia image. (In Russian.)

The TE-3 is a Soviet rip-off of the Fairbanks-Morse Erie Built, right down to the submarine-inspired cooling system with the huge radiators aft. Before Mao and Khrushchev had their falling-out, the Chinese made socialist use of the TE-3 design in their own DF and DF3 diesels. Each of these classes had domestic versions of the Fairbanks-Morse opposed piston diesels, and shop forces no doubt cursed having to maintain them in Chinese, Russian, and all the languages of the prison house of nations.

Although the latest Russian passenger diesels have two cabs and V-type engine blocks, some of the styling elements of the TE-3 remain. Witness the TEP70 class, built at the same factory that built the 4-14-4.


Tallinn, Estonia, on the eastern end of the Wisconsin Central, August 18 2005.
Daniel Putz photograph from Rail Pictures.