29.2.12

NO CONFIDENCE.

Members of the University of Illinois faculty take responsibility for their administration's errors.
More than 125 of the University of Illinois’ highest profile faculty members have said they have “no confidence” in school President Michael Hogan and have called for his removal.

Their letter, sent Monday to the Board of Trustees, is the faculty’s latest clash with the beleaguered president, whose standing began unraveling earlier this year when his chief of staff and top adviser resigned after anonymous, inflammatory emails sent to a key faculty group were traced to her computer.

Hogan has been president for less than two years, brought in to heal a campus bruised by an admissions scandal. Instead, he is now embroiled in an internal crisis that has preoccupied the state’s flagship public university. He has clashed with faculty on student enrollment strategies and what some are calling an arrogant leadership style.

“In our view he lacks the values, commitments, management style, ethics, and even manners, needed to lead this University, and his Presidency should be ended at the earliest opportunity,” the letter states.

The faculty members contend Hogan has lacked financial discipline; usurped duties usually assumed by the campus chancellor; tried to bully faculty and the chancellor on enrollment issues; and generally has had a “failure of ethical leadership,” a criticism levied by the Urbana-Champaign faculty Senate earlier this month.

The 130 faculty members who signed the letter make up about two-thirds of the named and endowed professors and chairs on the Urbana-Champaign campus. Their titles indicate they are some of the most accomplished scholars in their fields and are key to attracting students, other faculty and funding to the university.
Note what is missing from that "key". No directors of diversity, no coaches, no strategic planners.

What's encouraging about the article is news of faculty resistance to enrollment initiatives, branding, and directives that originate from the president rather than from the faculty.

EVERYBODY IS IN THE SAME BUSINESS.

Young people who used to think of a state-flagship university or a converted normal school as their safety school are discovering community colleges.
Relatively affluent young students are typically better-prepared academically and have a good chance of earning a degree. They are also more likely to attend full-time, require less remediation than their peers and can be cheaper for community colleges to educate.

But this group is also demanding, as traditional-age students want a full campus experience with amenities like fitness centers and extracurricular activities, which can mean new buildings and strained student service budgets. They are also more likely to seek out counselors, experts said.
The dean at Anonymous Community, in a reaction to that article, notes that community colleges are in the same business as the more visible residential colleges.
If community colleges start to serve people who could afford to go elsewhere, that bodes well for their institutional survival.
Put another way, if community colleges start to serve people who expect what the pricier institutions offer, that bodes well. By continuity, this argument applies to the land-grants and mid-majors as well.
And that will redound to the benefit of all the students here, particularly including the less wealthy ones.  If the daughters of privilege start demanding the services that “real” colleges offer, then the single moms who come here will have access to those, too.  We won’t have students showing up in tears, asking to be treated like real college students.  They’ll finally be treated as the real college students that they actually are.
Indeed, although whether those single moms he refers to, and the academically marginal students and life-management-difficulties cases and GED holders might find the competition with "real college students" another source of frustration.

I wonder, though, whether additional extracurricular activities, and sports teams, might make community colleges less available as spacious places with ample parking for weekend train shows.  (I'll be at this one Saturday.  Look for a middle-aged white guy.)

FREQUENCY, RELIABILITY, CONNECTIVITY.

The additional frequencies on Illinois corridor trains, combined with ever-more-aggravating driving conditions, lead to increases in ridership.
Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider says ridership is up and high speed rail will be a hit with passengers. At remarks yesterday at the City Club of Chicago, Schneider said state-supported Chicago-St. Louis Amtrak service has seen an increase in ridership of 210 percent over the last five years, WJBC Radio reported. “And that is on old, outdated equipment with spotty reliability and few rider amenities. When the Chicago-to-St. Louis route is complete, the trains will become more reliable, more convenient, and with the new equipment, there will be added amenities leading to enhanced passenger experiences,” she said.

The department is working with Amtrak and Union Pacific to begin 110-mph service on 18 miles of the Chicago-St. Louis route between Pontiac and Dwight, Ill., by the end of this year. Higher speed service will be extended to other portions of the 285-mile route, as track is upgraded and new signals installed. Schneider said she expects the higher speed service to be a hit with passengers.

Schneider said ridership on Amtrak routes supported by the state of Illinois is up 85 percent over the last five years. She expects demand to grow with the start of high speed service and the rising price of gasoline.
Much of that increased ridership probably reflects additional frequencies, with Carbondale and Quincy getting double-daily service, and St. Louis getting an additional train on a business-friendly schedule.  Faster running will attract additional passengers.  Is it too much, though, to ask for tavern-lounge cars or proper first class accommodation in what Amtrak calls Business Class?

IF METRA RAN TO DEKALB?

Northern Illinois University announces a series of Undergraduate Information receptions, in Crystal Lake, Glen Ellyn, Springfield, and ... Milwaukee?  Displaced cheeseheads.  I like it.  I'd like it more if those students had the option of Metra DeKalb to Chicago and a convenient connection to a Hiawatha.

FOOTBALL IS BLOCKING AND TACKLING.

Packer coach Mike McCarthy continues to channel Vince Lombardi.
“We’re going to be a better tackling team,” McCarthy said in a press conference at Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday. “Our turnover stats reflect the investment we made. Our tackling does not reflect that. Our tackling will be better next year.”

How does a team become better tacklers, he was asked?

“You practice it,” McCarthy said. “We have to be a little more creative in our drill work.”

Heading into a draft evaluation season that’s expected to focus on improving the Packers defensively, McCarthy put his finger on a problem that was prominent on several occasions this past season. His comments harken memories of Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount’s long touchdown run, and of the Packers’ loss to the Giants in the playoffs, when Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks bounced off a defender at midfield and turned a short pass into a long touchdown play.
If the National Football League continues its Thursday opening day tradition, the Packers will have an opportunity to return the favor to the Giants.

IT'S CUSTARD, DARN IT.

Tornadoes to the south of me, lake effect snow blowing across the Frozen Tundra to the north, and wind preceded by thunderstorms preceded by a blanket of wet snow.

Never mind any of that.  Ollies is open.
Sitting at a picnic table in front of the business, DeKalb residents Paula Hastings, Heather Freund and Jill and David Downs acknowledged it was a bit funny to sit outside wearing coats or sweatshirts while eating frozen custard.

The temperature was just above 40 degrees, but customers said enjoying the creamy treats again was worth it. Some took frozen custard back to their cars to eat.

“We were very excited about opening day,” Hastings said.
The Federal Reserve is not anticipating any general inflation, but relative price changes still matter.
Ollie’s will be experiencing some changes this season, said co-owner Joe Cranden, including the sampling of some new flavors in May, opening up a side window in the summer to get the line moving faster and increasing some of the prices for certain items.

“We’ve had to raise prices due to the cost of goods,” Joe said. “The cost of goods has sky-rocketed in the last couple of years. We’re doing our best to keep prices as low as we can.”

Even with price increases, however, Joe said Ollie’s customers are extremely loyal. The establishment had a customer waiting for 20 minutes before their window opened Wednesday.
The loyal customers channel Patrick Henry.
The precise combination of creamy custard and assorted toppings, keep customers coming back each year.

“Never close down or we’ll die,” said Bekah Walker, Kishwaukee Community College student.

Walker said going to Ollie’s, especially in the summer, is a tradition with her and her friends.

“We’re looking forward to a fun season, serving our customers a superior product,” Joe said.
Earlier this week came the first rollout of Mint Chocolate Chip, a Cold Spring Shops favorite.

21.2.12

FASCHING IST.

MARKET FAILURES DO NOT WARRANT GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION.

A. C. Pigou said as much.
It is not sufficient to contrast the imperfect adjustments of unfettered enterprise with the best adjustment that economists in their studies can imagine. For we cannot expect that any State authority will attain, or even wholeheartedly seek, that ideal. Such authorities are liable alike to ignorance, to sectional pressure, and to personal corruption by private interest. A loud-voiced part of their constituents, if organized for votes, may easily outweigh the whole.
At Knowledge Problem, Michael Giberson wonders where the market-failure-warrants argument came from.
Maybe someone has researched the question carefully. In the absence of someone setting me straight, I'll blame Paul Samuelson.

Samuelson's influential Foundations of Economic Analysis refers to Pigou several times, according to the book's index, but so far as I noticed just once it mentions that the presence of Pigou's external costs means "there is of course need to interfere with the 'invisible hand'." (p. 196)
And at Kids Prefer Cheese, Michael Munger suggests that market "failure" is the warrant of last resort, if it is a warrant at all, for government action.
Why would you think that the government can get prices right for externalities? Why do you think the government WANTS to get prices right, given how much money there is to be made from campaign contributions from rent-seekers?
Particularly where there are countervailing rent seekers?

THE POWER OF MUTATION AND SELECTION.

You can't fool Mother Nature.
Silicon based solar power is never going to amount to much: how arrogant do you have to be to not realize that nature had 4.6 billion years to come up with silicon-based solar cells, and instead came up with trees.
But perhaps you can take advantage of the accumulated power of selection.

Didn't Milton Friedman once observe that tree leaves positioned themselves so as to obtain maximum exposure to the sunlight?  He wasn't making that argument in order to help technocrats be more technocratic.

RIDING THE BLINDS.

A Dutchman stows away on a passenger train.
The man apparently boarded the Warsaw-Amsterdam overnight, train number EN 446, in Berlin Hauptbahnhof by climbing into the area above the train couplers / buffers between the locomotive and the first car in the train while no one was looking. The end doors on the first and last cars of these locomotive hauled trains are always locked-out by a key operated control in order to prevent anyone other than the train crew from opening them. There is a door ledge which is perhaps 40 cm or 15 inches long. At the end of this ledge is open space over the train couplers to the locomotive. On the locomotive itself are a couple of hand-holds and a small foot ledge for use by maintenance personnel when they wash the windshields, replace the headlights / taillights or windshield wipers and connect or disconnect the electric cables from the locomotive to the rest of the train when stationary. In other words – not exactly luxurious accommodations, and barely enough standing space in the end doorway to hang-on for dear life when the train is at speed.

Although the man had tried to prepare himself for his open-air ride to Amsterdam by dressing with heavy winter clothing, gloves, and boots, he quickly found out how the principal [c.q.] of wind chill works. The train at first accelerated to approximately 80 km/h (50 mph) as it wound its way through western Berlin, then after gliding through Berlin-Spandau station at about 45 minutes after midnight it smartly accelerated to its cruising speed of 200 km/h – the next scheduled stop would not come for another 90 minutes and 280 km (174 miles) later in Hannover. With an air temperature that night of about -5°C (+23°F) and the wind whipping wildly around him in the gap between the locomotive and train at hurricane-like speed, the wind chill factor soon went below -20°C. The sound levels from the unrelenting wind and the rapidly spinning traction motors and wheels just a few meters from his feet pushed well past the 130 dB range. The young man began to fill with fear and numbing cold.

The conductors began moving through the train to check the passengers tickets a few minutes after departure from track 14 in the glass-roofed Berlin Hauptbahnhof. As one of the conductors made her way to the very front of the train, she could not believe her own eyes . . . is there a person trapped outside between the end door and the locomotive??? Indeed there was, and he was hanging precariously from the hand-holds mounted on the rear end of the locomotive.
Hobo lore has riding the blinds as a relatively safe place to stow away.
'Riding the blinds' meant to ride the front platform of the baggage car on a passenger train. Because baggage was piled up inside, thus blocking the door between cars, it was a relatively secure place to sit. However, if detected, the rider was an easy target "for water hoses or showers of coal or hot ash from the more sadistic firemen."
On the Eastern Trunk Lines, during the winter, during the Steam Era, the blinds were a very dangerous place to be, sadistic firemen or not.  The eastern trunk lines expedited their trains by providing track pans in order that the tender could be refilled at speed.
Even through the windows closed against the bitter night, a scream was heard in the house alongside the track pans. The occupant, a railroad man, knew exactly what it meant, and he grabbed for the phone to have the eastbound freight flagged down at the next tower. There, the body of a tramp was found frozen against the back end of the tender. Hitching a ride “in the blind” hanging on the back of the tender, the tank filled from the trough, and overflowed down the back of the tender, soaking the man in water that rapidly turned to ice. He screamed but dared not let go, and died.
As Destination: Freedom notes, stowing away on a train is a dangerous adventure.
Riding on the outside of trains in other countries, especially in South Asia (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh), parts of South and Central America and a few other areas in the developing world may be common, but in Europe this practice can be extremely hazardous to your health and your police record, assuming you survive long enough to even see the police. And it puts the train crew into a bad mood.
Even a train crew armed with a cell phone, rather than a scoop of ashes.

20.2.12

THE WORK GOES ON.

The DeKalb Chronicle commends Northern Illinois University for its most recent memorial observation.
It’s a day that must annually be remembered, and NIU has done an outstanding job of making sure to respectfully honor Gayle Dubowski, Catalina Garcia, Julianna Gehant, Ryanne Mace and Daniel Parmenter while making sure the tragedy does not define the university. As NIU President John Peters said, the “cherished five” lost that day must always be remembered.
Short speech, followed by a wreath-laying.


Different this year:  Cole Hall is again open for business, with students coming and going.



JUMP DISCONTINUITIES.

The standard Black-Scholes-Merton option pricing equation doesn't include them, and trouble follows.
Any mathematical model of reality relies on simplifications and assumptions. The Black-Scholes equation was based on arbitrage pricing theory, in which both drift and volatility are constant. This assumption is common in financial theory, but it is often false for real markets. The equation also assumes that there are no transaction costs, no limits on short-selling and that money can always be lent and borrowed at a known, fixed, risk-free interest rate. Again, reality is often very different.

When these assumptions are valid, risk is usually low, because large stock market fluctuations should be extremely rare. But on 19 October 1987, Black Monday, the world's stock markets lost more than 20% of their value within a few hours. An event this extreme is virtually impossible under the model's assumptions.
Oops.
Large fluctuations in the stock market are far more common than Brownian motion predicts. The reason is unrealistic assumptions – ignoring potential black swans. But usually the model performed very well, so as time passed and confidence grew, many bankers and traders forgot the model had limitations. They used the equation as a kind of talisman, a bit of mathematical magic to protect them against criticism if anything went wrong.
It's probably too soon to expect any dissertations on the topic, but an option trader with an understanding of Poisson event arrivals (the jump discontinuities of the title) might be making a lot of money trading against traders who use the ordinary stochastic processes.
The Black-Scholes equation has its roots in mathematical physics, where quantities are infinitely divisible, time flows continuously and variables change smoothly. Such models may not be appropriate to the world of finance. Traditional mathematical economics doesn't always match reality, either, and when it fails, it fails badly. Physicists, mathematicians and economists are therefore looking for better models.

At the forefront of these efforts is complexity science, a new branch of mathematics that models the market as a collection of individuals interacting according to specified rules. These models reveal the damaging effects of the herd instinct: market traders copy other market traders. Virtually every financial crisis in the last century has been pushed over the edge by the herd instinct. It makes everything go belly-up at the same time. If engineers took that attitude, and one bridge in the world fell down, so would all the others.

By studying ecological systems, it can be shown that instability is common in economic models, mainly because of the poor design of the financial system. The facility to transfer billions at the click of a mouse may allow ever-quicker profits, but it also makes shocks propagate faster.

Was an equation to blame for the financial crash, then? Yes and no. Black-Scholes may have contributed to the crash, but only because it was abused. In any case, the equation was just one ingredient in a rich stew of financial irresponsibility, political ineptitude, perverse incentives and lax regulation.

Despite its supposed expertise, the financial sector performs no better than random guesswork. The stock market has spent 20 years going nowhere. The system is too complex to be run on error-strewn hunches and gut feelings, but current mathematical models don't represent reality adequately.
Perhaps not. But while regulators seek to impose order and write rules, traders and modellers look for more effective ways to make money.

(A gripe about the bridge metaphor.  There's no arbitrage condition among bridges.  When London Bridge falls down, the traffic doesn't all instantaneously divert to Blackfriars Bridge.   Money migrates among assets more rapidly.  This is true, whether an epidemic model accurately describes its migration or not.)

SCRAPING THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL?

George Leef of Phi Beta Cons recommends an essay by long-time Ball State economist Norman Van Cott. What happens when the minimum grade a student earns in honors principles exceeds the mean grade in principles?
As far as outcomes are concerned, the two courses were effectively two different courses. In my opinion, based on my experience in both classes, the writing component had only a slight influence on the students’ performance.

Should political efforts to spike college enrollments “succeed,” the above performance gap will only worsen. In addition, the performance range within the regular student population will also increase.

It isn’t surprising that Honors students perform at a higher level than their regular student counterparts. They’re Honors students precisely because they have higher levels of academic ability and engagement. But what level of polarization is acceptable? Or do administrators even think about that?
The essay comes complete with confidence intervals and a sensitivity analysis.  Expanding college enrollment, however, isn't going to mean more people going to Harvard or Wisconsin or Northern Illinois or enrolling in honors sections at Ball State.  The people who can make the cut there are there already.   Sounds like a recipe for greater social stratification, with the added cost of frustrated graduates or near-graduates.

INSTITUTIONS EVOLVE TO REDUCE TRANSACTION COSTS.

Lynne Kiesling summons the all-stars to point out the Errors of the Technocratic State.
Yes. Hayek’s Pretence of Knowledge meets Smith’s “man of system”Tullock’s rent seeking, and Olson’s concentrated benefits and diffuse costs. Regulatory complexity creates benefits for politically-powerful special interests, but it creates costs for everyone else, and this ongoing process feeds the egos of our elected representatives who believe they can engineer, design, and manipulate society to achieve their desired outcomes.
It's an approving reaction to an Economist editorial suggesting that process-worship stifles initiative and preempts creativity.  The editorial, however, starts with an illustration of regulatory overreach that isn't as absurd as it seems.
The Federal Railroad Administration insists that all trains must be painted with an “F” at the front, so you can tell which end is which. Bureaucratic busybodies in Bethesda, Maryland, have shut down children’s lemonade stands because the enterprising young moppets did not have trading licences.
I'll let University Diaries deal with Bethesda lemonade stands.  The front end of a locomotive is not always as obvious as the wiseacres would have you believe.  Nobody sets up road-switcher diesels to run long-hood-first any more, which induces a lot of people to generalize from their own experience.  But it's not required that a locomotive have only one cab.


Here's Amtrak's 604, a General Electric E60C.  The wheel closest to the camera is therefore wheel R1, and you count back to wheel R6 under the fireman's seat in the second cab.  That's right, dear reader, second cab.  It's common practice on electric locomotives to have a control stand at each end.


In this more recent picture, we are looking at the non-front end of Amtrak 925.  Sure looks like a headlight turned on in anticipation of a move.  There's no evidence of a train behind, so let's keep looking.


Here's Amtrak 655 on the head end of an Acela Regional train at Boston's South Station.  The wheel closest to the camera is wheel L4, in the event of sticking brakes or some other defect.  A locomotive leading a train, but the front end of the locomotive is trailing.

So where did the convention of using F originate?  It was in use on The Pennsylvania Railroad as early as 1964, in which the F end of a GG-1 is the end that houses the steam generator.  The Federal Railroad Administration codified the use of the letter F on double-ended locomotives and multiple-unit cars to refer to the end that held the electrical cabinet.  The notation is also useful on cabless locomotives (a few of which are still in use) so as to provide a reference for locating the electrical cabinet or the alternator.

It's amusing that Union Pacific suggested that the Federal Railroad Administration abolish the F requirement.


That's a one-off 4500 hp gas-turbine-electric locomotive with two cabs.  Perhaps Union Pacific is cold-turkey on double-ended locomotives after its experience with the unit shown above, but should it ever electrify and use double-ended motors, the shop crews will appreciate some help locating the electrical cabinet.

The reader might find other parts of 49 CFR 229 more instructive.  The language on designating a front end of a locomotive is straightforward.  The language covering onboard toilets and train horns is bureaucratic in the extreme.



16.2.12

CONSIDERING THE IMPLICATIONS.

The news reaction is coming in to the debut of 110 mph trains across southwestern Michigan.  Sources suggest that trains are routinely running at these speeds, although a new schedule has not yet been issued.  With the slow running east of Dearborn and the inattentive dispatching of Norfolk Southern, perhaps the additional speed allows for recovery of some lost time, or of a cushion against delays west of Porter or east of Kalamazoo.

The Trains news wire recognizes that additional steps must follow.
“This is just the beginning,” said Joseph Szabo, the Federal Railroad Adminitrator. Szabo said work is under way to boost speeds on the Chicago-St. Louis line to 110 mph as well, using federal high speed rail grant money. “This is the first step in a buildout of a great system in the Midwest,” he said. “In the next three years you’ll see 80 percent of the Chicago-Detroit line and 80 percent of Chicago-St. Louis at speeds of 110 mph.”
Wisconsin, we're waiting to hear from you.

The same article quotes the director of Michigan's department of transportation, Kirk Steudle, who correctly identifies the value of a train.
Michigan’s Steudle said this incremental approach was the right way to go. “Economic development is huge along this corridor. A 200-mph bullet train would have meant you’re going to bypass all of these communities and there’s no way they could benefit. This makes more sense for us.” The state expects to complete its purchase of the Kalamazoo-Dearborn, Mich., portion of the corridor from Norfolk Southern by the middle of this year, which will pave the way for track and signal upgrades east of Kalamazoo.
Reliability is more important than rapidity, which the state seeks to remedy by purchasing the former Michigan Central to Dearborn, and the value of a train ... any train ... is in its ability to make intermediate stops that don't involve the time costs implied by "holding pattern," "boarding process," and "in line for takeoff." (The air carriers well might be happy to be shy of some of the shorter hops that now exist for lack of train service.)  Now can Amtrak and Metra coordinate their schedules in order that Huskies Fans might be able to take in a game at Western Michigan or Eastern Michigan and celebrate in the lounge car?

A Chicago Sun-Times report also makes points Cold Spring Shops readers already grasp.
When the Pioneer Zephyr — better known as the Silver Streak — made its historic run from Denver to Chicago in 1934, the diesel-powered passenger train now on display at the Museum of Science and Industry topped out at 112.5 miles per hour, which at the time was only slightly off the world land speed record.

What then are we to make of Wednesday’s official Amtrak kickoff for its first “high speed rail” corridor outside the Northeast — on which trains traveling between Chicago and Kalamazoo, Mich., will now reach top speeds of 110 miles per hour?

Bring back the Silver Streak?
That 112.5 is a reference to a claimed New York Central record kept alive by the Museum of Science and Industry, which is current owner of a locomotive that allegedly reached that speed in 1893.  The first steam locomotive to achieve that speed is Milwaukee's Two-Spot, on May 15, 1935.  Regular readers will understand, however, why the "Bring Back the Silver Streak?" appeals.


The report also makes a point about the high incremental cost and low incremental benefit of additional speed.
As the train reached its top speed, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari relayed speedometer readings from the engineer in a manner reminiscent of the scene from “The Right Stuff” when Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier.

“We are now at 90 miles per hour … We’ve now reached 100 miles per hour en route to 110 …We’ve now reached our maximum speed of 110 miles per hour,” Magliari said in the smooth voice of the radio reporter he once was.

Surprising to me, though, the 110-mph speeds take only 10 minutes off the one-way trip, officials said.

That’s because trains on the route were already going as fast as 95 mph before the most recent improvements that involved installing a high-tech train control system.

Also, the top speed is permitted across only 80 of the 138-mile distance. The slowest portions are between here and Porter, Ind., where the 97-mile “high speed” corridor begins — and then almost immediately slows as it passes through Michigan City.

The longest continuous stretch of 110-mph rail goes for 42 miles through Michigan, which you can cover in 23 minutes at that speed — a good way to put an expanse of snowy Michigan farmland behind you in a hurry, I can now attest.
I'm not in the mood to go into rectangular hyperbolas and asymptotes this late on Thursday evening. Note, though, that a German style Neubaustrecke between Porter and Kalamazoo knocks only another ten minutes off of that stretch, less if there's a stop at one end or both.  That's a lot of money for relatively little payoff.  The existing trains, running to schedule, beat the drive time and they have lots of electrical outlets for computers (something that wasn't true in 1984-1985, when I got some looks snagging the seat near the vacuum cleaner power supply and firing up my Model 100.)  Additional frequencies ... here's where the Acela and the Empire Service excel ... have greater value than the next increment of speed.

Several television stations had crews on the test train.  Here's a report from WGN.

PIGOUVIAN TAXES ON THE STRIPPERS' POLE.

I'm not making this up either.
The legislation is in an early form and could change, but it would require strip club owners who serve or allow liquor to be consumed on the premises to pay the $5-a-person tax. The money would go into a special new state sexual assault prevention fund, and the state would make grants to organizations that provide community-based programs designed to reduce sexual assault or help to crime victims.

During the past few decades, Chicago and suburban towns have passed a series of ordinances to close topless bars and push those that remain into industrial areas. The patchwork of rules means some establishments can operate only if they don't serve booze, others permit alcohol to be brought in and the amount of nudity varies as a result.
As with any corrective tax, there's a tension between raising revenues and reducing the externality-producing activity.  Take as a working hypothesis that the presence of gentlemen's clubs objectifies women, and some of the clientele aren't gentlemen.  A tax reduces the provision of gentlemen's clubs -- in the article, those clubs operating on slimmer margins, which tend to be smaller establishments -- are raising the most objections to the proposal, and there might be a provocative paper on raising rivals' costs (here's a variant involving pollution markets) that might be corroborated by the silence of larger clubs on the issue.

On the other hand (in economics, there is always the other hand), the absence of gentlemen's clubs does not imply the absence of cads and yobs, suggesting the crime reduction and victim assistance programs will still require resources.  The harder problem, left to the reader as an exercise, is to produce conditions less conducive to the production of cads and yobs.

THE ROMANTIC-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX.

I just quote what I read.
There is a romantic-industrial complex that nets billions of dollars from Valentine’s Day and weddings, and it needs you to “buy into” outdated ideas of love and marriage. The more you express your love through candies, chocolates, diamonds, rentals and registries, the more the RIC makes! Valentine’s Day is only one manifestation of the RIC: Americans spend $70–80 billion on weddings each year. With the average American wedding costing $27,000, marriage itself has become a luxury item. This is more than a struggle between old and new traditions—this is about money.
It has long been a working hypothesis of mine that the likelihood of a marriage failing varies proportionately with the money spent on the reception.  To the women of the fevered brow, that's excessively simpleminded.
So it was that I drove by the church with the billboard that said “Jesus is God’s Valentine to You” and smirked with the ironic distance of my truly analytical feminist brain. But that smirk was quickly wiped off my face as I listened in on a local radio station’s Valentine’s Day special: a real live wedding. Of course it was incredibly predetermined in its presentation—the young high-school friends who were meant to be together but went their separate ways, reunited on Facebook, now marrying live on the radio. Of course their vows said all the right things about for better or for worse as if they were unaware that a lot of marriages don’t really get through the worse times. Of course they played every single cheesy love song in the background as the radio host narrated the bride’s descent down the stairs, the flower girl’s throwing rose petals in her path, the ring boy, the bride’s son from a previous relationship, looking forward to his new life in the “sanctuary” of his new family.

I could have written this scene in my sleep it was so overdetermined by historical, economic, cultural, and narrative forces. And yet I was crying as I listened to it. Why did I cry?

I asked my students in my course on the Sociology of Heterosexuality this very question. “Because,” one of them ventured, “you find their inability to be analytical about the hegemonic discourse of romance depressing?” Yes, of course I do, but that doesn’t explain my tears.
All presented, straightforwardly and without irony, by the house organ of academic decline as High Theorizing.  Higher education might be in bad odor in the general culture, and some of that odor is self-inflicted.

15.2.12

FIRST STEPS.

Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation offered the press a demonstration of 110 mph running  between Porter, Indiana, and Kalamazoo, Michigan.


Revised timetables have not yet been issued. Michigan officials sound like they intend to offer the first 110 mph running west of Schenectady before Illinois service begins, later this summer.

ALL WORK AND NO WORKOUTS

... makes for a toxic workplace.
Supervisors answered questions about how often they exercised and about their levels of workplace stress; for example, “working my current job leaves me little time for other activities,” or “I have too much work and too little time to do it in.”

The researchers found that, as expected, when supervisors were stressed, their subordinates felt more victimized.

However, analyses also showed that when supervisors experienced stress, but engaged in exercise, their subordinates reported lower levels of abusive supervision.
The research, based on a survey of MBA students and their supervisors, might have small-sample and selection biases, but it reinforces a long-held suspicion at Cold Spring Shops, that stressing an organization for its own sake is more akin to destructive testing than it is to work-hardening.

Put another way, those go-getter venture capitalists and hedge fund managers who go through two wives, three coke dealers, and four therapists by the age of forty might not be the best models of business leadership.

13.2.12

A DISSENTING VIEW ON SCHOOL FAILURE.

Historiann suggests that the failure of the common schools to do their job might reflect a lack of funding, accompanied by a lack of respect, from public officials.
When I read stories like this b!tching about the low 4-year graduation rates at universities in my state, and at the same time the high rate of remediation our high school graduates require, why doesn’t anyone point out that hack politicians and businessmen have made war on K-16+ education for years, attacking public education at all levels in particular as wasteful and ideologically suspect, and in general doing their best to withdraw public sympathy and taxpayer support for any kind of education?  At the same time, they’ve also conspired to pass laws that offer incentives to corporations for taking their money and their jobs offshore to chase the cheapest labor around the planet.   Now, all of a sudden, they’ve seized on the idea that College for Everyone is the way to save the U.S. economy–because the factory and manufacturing jobs are gone and because construction is in the toilet, everyone needs to be a knowledge worker now.  So whose responsibility is it to turn everyone into knowledge workers?  The K-16+ teachers and proffies, of course, who need to be tested, monitored, and surveilled at every turn to prove that what they’re doing works.  They also must take on the burden of saving the U.S. economy without any more resources, because as “we” all know, “you can’t just throw money at the problem!”  No, money solves all manner of business problems, but it can never, ever be used to solve problems with education.
The challenge is in obtaining more potential knowledge workers from more potential sources.  The Ivies and the other claimants to be the twenty or fifty best institutions of higher learning do not produce enough people to staff all the currently-existing high-end knowledge worker jobs, and that would not be changed if all the graduates of those institutions switched their concentrations to FIRE or STEM fields.  The way forward, however, is to devote more resources to teaching and scholarship, and fewer resources to monitoring and assessing.  I predict, however, that administrators will see in legislative pressures for greater accountability (or whatever the next fad word will be) reasons to add more to the ranks of deanlets and deanlings.

THE LOGIC OF MOOCHING.

The New York Times sends a reporter to Chisago County, Minnesota, where he is startled to discover critics of government benefits relying on ... government benefits.
And as more middle-class families like the Gulbransons land in the safety net in Chisago and similar communities, anger at the government has increased alongside. Many people say they are angry because the government is wasting money and giving money to people who do not deserve it. But more than that, they say they want to reduce the role of government in their own lives. They are frustrated that they need help, feel guilty for taking it and resent the government for providing it. They say they want less help for themselves; less help in caring for relatives; less assistance when they reach old age.
Contradictions can't exist. Check your premises.
I would say, once you establish the budget as a giant commons, then it makes sense for each person to try to take as much as possible. It's a Ponzi scheme, of course, since we are depending on other people, people now too young to vote, to put the money back. The problem with this Ponzi scheme is that it is MANDATORY. You have to put money into it, because of taxes. Your only choice is whether to try to get some of that back, in the form of entitlements. The fact that I take some of the money back is NOT a sign that I approve of the Ponzi scheme. I'd bail if I could. Keep your entitlements, and I'll keep my taxes.
It's easier to fret about living at the expense of each other than it is to come up with a resolution of the common-property problem that the Great Society and its extensions (many of which, as the article notes, maintain or exacerbate income differences) has become.

A DISSENTING VIEW ON ASSORTATIVE MATING.

There's more fretting about the difficulties high-achieving women allegedly have in dating and mating, and more reality checks posted at 11-D.
Based on an unscientific review of my friends and family, it seems that in the marriages that work, the couple has to have something in common. It might be education, or maybe it's a similar culture or values. I guess there are guys who are intimidated by a spouse with higher income, but in those few cases, income-envy is part of a larger problem of general assholicness.

There are people who are intimidated by high status professions or prestigious degrees. And there are people are people who look down on lower status professions and the lack of prestigious degrees. These prejudices not only affect dating prospects, but also friendships. To avoid these uncomfortable situations, we sort ourselves out into separate circles, which is a bad, bad thing. Or we end up "playing dumb" to avoid seeming snobby -- also a bad, bad thing.

The issues of "marrying down" or "marrying up" is really part of a bigger problem. We're not "friending down" or "friending up" either. I wish we could get past this whole thing.
Alas, as long as high achievers seek the company of other high achievers, and self-segregate (something that operators of prestige universities and developers of mass-produced upscale housing alike encourage) on that basis, "getting past" isn't going to be easy.

THE RICH ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOU AND ME.

They cultivate their advantages in their children.
One reason for the growing gap in achievement, researchers say, could be that wealthy parents invest more time and money than ever before in their children (in weekend sports, ballet, music lessons, math tutors, and in overall involvement in their children’s schools), while lower-income families, which are now more likely than ever to be headed by a single parent, are increasingly stretched for time and resources. This has been particularly true as more parents try to position their children for college, which has become ever more essential for success in today’s economy.

A study by Sabino Kornrich, a researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid, and Frank F. Furstenberg, scheduled to appear in the journal Demography this year, found that in 1972, Americans at the upper end of the income spectrum were spending five times as much per child as low-income families. By 2007 that gap had grown to nine to one; spending by upper-income families more than doubled, while spending by low-income families grew by 20 percent.

“The pattern of privileged families today is intensive cultivation,” said Dr. Furstenberg, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.
The cultivation works as a force multiplier, particularly when those kids get to college. It's not just about having a trust fund, or tutors, or instructional toys starting at two months, though.
James J. Heckman, an economist at the University of Chicago, argues that parenting matters as much as, if not more than, income in forming a child’s cognitive ability and personality, particularly in the years before children start school.

“Early life conditions and how children are stimulated play a very important role,” he said. “The danger is we will revert back to the mindset of the war on poverty, when poverty was just a matter of income, and giving families more would improve the prospects of their children. If people conclude that, it’s a mistake.”

Meredith Phillips, an associate professor of public policy and sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, used survey data to show that affluent children spend 1,300 more hours than low-income children before age 6 in places other than their homes, their day care centers, or schools (anywhere from museums to shopping malls). By the time high-income children start school, they have spent about 400 hours more than poor children in literacy activities, she found.

Charles Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute whose book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” was published Jan. 31, described income inequality as “more of a symptom than a cause.”

The growing gap between the better educated and the less educated, he argued, has formed a kind of cultural divide that has its roots in natural social forces, like the tendency of educated people to marry other educated people, as well as in the social policies of the 1960s, like welfare and other government programs, which he contended provided incentives for staying single.

“When the economy recovers, you’ll still see all these problems persisting for reasons that have nothing to do with money and everything to do with culture,” he said.
Lots of testable hypotheses there. The Murray book has provoked a lot of commentary, of which more anon, and, perhaps, interest permitting, a book review.  (There's a big stack of what passes for social commentary awaiting review that, alas, is flirting with being dismissed as polemical.)

CLASS REUNION.

Railway confirms that two Gresley Streaks, Dominion of Canada standing on guard for thee in Delson, Quebec; and Dwight D. Eisenhower, standing guard on four Super Bowl trophies in Green Bay, will spend two years in the mother country as part of the Diamond Jubilee of Mallard's cylinder-breaking sprint on Essendine Bank.

The Diamond Jubilee of the rollout of the Third Edition of the Hiawatha (holder of several steam speed records) will at least feature new Talgo trains.

12.2.12

ERRANT NONSENSE.

Among the arts that have been lost, thanks to (take your pick) constructivist education or the reliance on spell-checker software or greater tolerance for incompetence, appears to be the art of proofreading.  There are a number of books in the stack awaiting publication of a review, and probably more in the stack awaiting reading for review, in which the spelling and grammar errors may be more annoying than the end-noting convention or the failure to form a coherent argument.  I took the title of Book Review No. 5 from page 151 of Charlie Sykes's A Nation of Moochers: America's Addiction to Getting Something for Nothing, which would be representative of the conservative grousing about Public Assistance, but for its recognition that mulcting the taxpayers has turned out to be profitable for unsuccessful businesses generally and overconfident bankers particularly.  That's the bulk of the book, summarized at page 97.
If transfer payments and subsidies were limited to low-income individuals, this would be a book merely about the welfare state.  But the reliance on [other peoples' money] extends far beyond the poor into corporate America, upper-income owners of beach homes, affluent farmers, public employees, and entitled yuppies who have developed the habit and expectation of mooching off others.
What follows, however, is a collection of examples, set off by the juiciest quotes Mr Sykes or his research team can find.  There's little by way of systematic analysis, references to Robert Nozick or William Voegeli notwithstanding, and little by way of concrete action to change things.  The absence of such a plan might be understandable.  If, per Bastiat, the state is a grand fiction by which each attempts to live at the expense of the other, the dominant strategy equilibrium is one of going along to get along, because defection in the form of opting out of benefits, whether those be farm subsidies, student loans, deposit insurance, or food stamps, simply means consenting to be looted and mooched from without recompense.   The book has the potential to make readers angry.  Whether policies will change remains to be seen.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

FIXED-FORMATION TRAINS WITH FOOD SERVICE CARS.

The French Turbotrains and the Electroliners that once served the Milwaukee-Chicago corridor were fixed-formation trains that offered food service ... a cafeteria car with some tables in the former, a full-service bar with sandwich service on the latter.

The Talgo trains a-building for the Hiawatha Service will continue the tradition.
The Talgo trains are being acquired under a joint purchasing agreement with the Oregon Department of Transportation. Each train is about 700 feet long and will include a bistro car that was not part of the original order. Some of the money saved by buying jointly with Oregon was used to pay for the bistro cars. Each train will also have wireless Internet service. The two trainsets will enter service in late 2012 with locomotives furnished by Amtrak.
In place of the cabbage car, one end of the Wisconsin trains will have what the British refer to as a Driving Van Trailer.



The bodies have some resemblance to the original diesels for the Spanish trains, which honored various shrines to Holy Mary, Mother of God.


A more secular incantation might be in order:  Swift of foot, our Hiawatha/Grant it free rein to 100/Render us late night departures/And extend to north and west our service.

I continue to have reservations about idiosyncratic-design, fixed-formation trains in a region made for fast running in prairie country and where the other upgraded routes are likely to get versions of the California cars for passenger accommodation.  The planners are beginning to catch on that a maintenance base far from the station is a bad idea.
Of the Milwaukee options, a site near 17th St., 1.2 miles west of the station, would offer almost 6 acres, with space for an 800-foot-long building and room for future expansion, transportation officials say in a comparison of the sites. That would be long enough for an entire train, including the locomotive, to stay inside while the coaches are being serviced, the comparison says.

By contrast, a site just west of the station would provide just 4.36 acres and a building there could be no more than 740 feet long, with little room for future growth, the comparison says. That means the locomotive would need to uncouple from the cars, and a cramped track layout would make it hard to maneuver, the department says.

On the other hand, the 17th St. site could conflict with plans for the City Lights development in the Valley, while the site near the station wouldn't conflict with any development proposals, the department says. Either site would need an access road, which could aid the City Lights development at the 17th St. site or improve access to the Menomonee River at the site near the station, the comparison says.
Two sets of observations.  First, the Seventeenth Street site is east of the Shops, where there was a turntable to get a 4-4-2 or 4-6-4 properly pointed for its next train, and thus a shorter move for maintenance than the steam-era Milwaukee Road routinely made, while the site west of the station sounds like the vestigial coach yards built on approach tracks to the Everett Street Depot.  Second, a fixed-formation train means difficulty separating the power unit from the train, something the North Shore Line dealt with whenever an Electroliner required a traction motor change.  The return of a passenger train servicing base to Milwaukee, however, is an encouraging sign.

CROWDED OUT BY THE WELFARE STATE?

Hull House closes.
The organization, first formed in 1889, has provided foster care, domestic violence counseling, child development programs and job training to 60,000 children, families and community groups each year.

Those clients will be referred to other social service agencies, Saunders said.

Anne Sheahan, spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services, said her organization got word Monday that some Hull House child care sites closed, and the rest will close Friday. The department had funded those Head Start programs.

"We are working to identify new providers to pick up those services," Sheahan said.

Estela Coronel, 31, said she was told Monday her 41/2-year-old daughter Suzette's Hull House child care facility would close.

"More than mad, I'm sad because of (Suzette)," she said. "She loved to go to school. She woke up yesterday and said, 'Mommy, I'm ready to go.'"

On Jan. 19, the agency announced it would close this spring. But by the following day, Saunders said, the board realized Hull House did not have enough funds to pay employees beyond January, and the decision was made to close in a week.

With government funding taking a hit and the need for services climbing, Hull House's revenue dropped from $40 million in 2001 to just $23 million in June.

"We could not possibly raise enough money to sustain the organization," Saunders said.

Hull House's 300 employees learned Friday that they would soon be out of work, said Tamara Faulkner, a social worker with the organization's Family Works program.
The article -- and a Chicago Sun-Times editorial -- strongly suggest that tight state budgets contributed to the closure of the historic agency
The causes of Hull House’s demise are many, including a long history of quality services but poor financial management that didn’t plan for the rainy day that invariably came, several people in the human services world told us.

But a major factor contributing to Hull House’s closure, and to the devastation seen in the human services field across Illinois, was the weak economy and the state’s budget problems.

Since 2009, state support for human services — provided primarily by nonprofits like Hull House — has dropped by nearly $600 million. And under budget projections released by the governor’s office earlier this month, human services could lose an additional $350 million in state support starting in July.

Making matters worse, the state drags out payment for services already provided. As of Friday, the state backlog of unpaid bills was $4.7 billion, with many dating back to September. That represents 163,000 unpaid bills to human service, housing and day care providers, schools, hospitals and other state vendors.
Louise W. Knight of The Nation sees the limitations, as well as the advantages, of social service agencies working in parallel with government to achieve some goals.
Sadly, because government funding will always ebb and flow, this model has serious limitations. But Hull House in its first decades offered a different kind of model: that of a settlement house as an engine for social justice activism. Notably, at a time before the charitable tax deduction, the house was funded entirely by private gifts, some small, and some from wealthy donors who were committed to, or at least tolerant of, the left-leaning, and even radical aspects of its work. And that model remains a potentially invaluable legacy in this economically polarized age.
In particular, she suggests that better-off people might gain by, well, getting to know How The Other Half Lives, rather than Paying Taxes and letting Somebody Else do the work.
The great insight of the settlement movement was the power of social ties to realign the energies of prosperous people away from their class self-interests and towards efforts to support the reforms working people sought, which in Addams’s times included a livable wage and the eight-hour workday.Underlying that insight was the recognition that materially comfortable people often held dangerous misconceptions about working class people as undisciplined and without ambition and that working people held prejudices of their own about the selfishness and greed of the wealthier classes.

[Hull House founder Jane] Addams urged her audiences and her readers to “mix on the thronged and common road, where all [can]…at least see the size of one another’s burdens.” She often pointed out that “most of the misunderstandings of life are due to partial intelligence, because our experiences have been so unlike that we cannot comprehend each other.” To those possessing some economic security, she had an important message: “We are under a moral obligation in choosing our experiences since the result of those experiences must ultimately determine our understanding of life.”

Today, we have all kinds of nonprofits, including non-residential settlement houses, foundations, religious organizations, and research, government and university programs focused on solving (or sometimes studying) particular social injustices. To inform us of these efforts we can turn to a rich array of magazines, newspapers, websites, books, TV and radio shows, and documentaries. Thus we have a situation in which specialists are doing the work while the rest of us read and listen to words upon words about what they are doing. But learning about these entirely worthwhile efforts does not transform us because we encounter them only through our minds. Our bodies stay in our chairs. We make no human connections, except at an imaginary remove.
The problem with relying on voluntarism, argues Ross Douthat, is that the Welfare State crowds out the human connection.
Every tax dollar the government takes is a dollar that can’t go to charities and churches. Every program the government runs, from education to health care to the welfare office, can easily become a kind of taxpayer-backed monopoly.

But sometimes the state goes further. Not content with crowding out alternative forms of common effort, it presents its rivals an impossible choice: Play by our rules, even if it means violating the moral ideals that inspired your efforts in the first place, or get out of the community-building business entirely.
That assertion does not apply to Hull House -- Mr Douthat had the recent flap over mandatory provision of contraception in mind -- but the more general argument, to the point that where the government provides the social services, there is less incentive to make private contributions, might apply to Hull House.

HIGH SCHOOLS USED TO TEACH CIVICS.

It's not required at university any more, and its absence matters.
People who ignore the government tend to get the government they deserve, said Gerald Gabris, professor of public administration.

Little education in government makes young people more apathetic, Gabris said: They tend to see government as dysfunctional and as a consequence turn their attention away from it.
There's a testable hypothesis hiding somewhere ... did governmental dysfunction (or overweening government) come first, or did the abandonment of civics come first. The Cold Spring Shops position is that civics is the duty of junior high and high school, such that the day laborer and the day trader alike have a working understanding of the rights and obligations of citizens.  Once, universities provided reinforcement of a sort.
Classes teaching civil engagement are not mandatory for NIU students and have not been since the 1980s, Gabris said. Sometime during the 1980s, universities moved away from making mandatory civic responsibility classes, Gabris said.

"I came here in 1986 and in that year was about the time when a lot of these requirements were being changed," Gabris said.

A student can now go through college without taking a course on American government, he said.

"I think that is a mistake," Gabris said. "When you look at our country, it is founded on democratic principles."

The promotion of civic responsibility is not held to any single political science course, said Andrea Radasanu, director of undergraduate studies for the political science department. A course on international relations has the potential to teach students to become more civically engaged, Radasanu said.

"Part of our mission is to promote responsible citizenship," she said.

The political science department has two types of introductory courses teaching American government. Almost 500 students are enrolled in them currently, Radasanu said.
The constitution test was gone by 1988 or 1989. Students can fulfill a social science distribution requirement with the American Government course, although we can wonder how much get-through-the-generals goes on to the exclusion of civic engagement ... that's a problem big enough for the entire faculty.  It's also something that bothers students elsewhere.
But the Editorial Board believes that Stanford has a responsibility to provide more than just career training to students who come through the university. At least as long as it purports to provide a liberal education to Stanford students, the university must work to fill in the cracks and ensure that every student leaves Stanford with the basics of humanities and citizenship.
That editorial suggests some higher-concept material that ought to be in each student's core knowledge, but, again, it suggests that the high schools have neglected some fundamentals.

THE RONALD COASE EXPERIENCE, WITH DINNER.

What happens when a shoe dealer is downwind from a barbecue restaurant?
Management at Urban Sole says the odor of barbecue smoke has permeated their clothes, shoes and shop so severely that they have decided to shut the store down.
The address and name of the eatery suggest an excursion to the Land of the Burlingtons might be in order.

THE MONUMENTS WE'VE DESTROYED.

Years ago, the editors at the New York Times described the "redevelopment" of New York's Pennsylvania Station as "a shameful act of vandalism."  Its replacement, the current editors assert, is a "calamity".
A vast steel, travertine and granite railway palace of the people, the old Pennsylvania Station had declined by the end into a symbol of bygone Gilded Age opulence. It was replaced by Penn Plaza and Madison Square Garden, Modernist mediocrities, erected to serve real estate interests, with a new subterranean Penn Station entombed below.

Some 600,000 commuters, riding Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit, now suffer Penn Station every day. That makes it probably the busiest transit hub in the Western world, busier than Heathrow Airport in London, busier than Newark, La Guardia and Kennedy airports combined.

To pass through Grand Central Terminal, one of New York’s exalted public spaces, is an ennobling experience, a gift. To commute via the bowels of Penn Station, just a few blocks away, is a humiliation.
The Pennsylvania Station presented architects and engineers with a challenge, as trains arriving directly from the west (the New York Central made a virtue of its 140 mile detour to Albany to cross the Hudson as "The Water Level Route") would be some 40 feet below street level so as to get under the river and under the subways and sewer mains.  Thus, a lot of the station would be underground, even without the supposed benefit of building a sports arena upstairs.
But the only way to fix Penn properly is to move Madison Square Garden.

Why? Because the open secret about the Moynihan plan is that Amtrak alone would move across Eighth Avenue. Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit and the subways wouldn’t budge. And only 30,000 of those 600,000 people who use Penn Station each day take Amtrak, never mind all the subway riders passing through.

That’s right: 95 percent of commuters will still have to contend with Penn even when the Moynihan plan is realized.

It’s true that the Moynihan plan will eventually improve a few access routes to subways and commuter trains. But it will add no new tracks and have limited effect on the congestion and misery of Penn Station. New tracks aside, the challenge is at the bare minimum to bring light and air into this underground purgatory and, beyond that, to create for millions of people a new space worthy of New York, a civic hub in the spirit of the great demolished one, more attuned to the city’s aspirations and democratic ideals.
We concur in part and dissent in part. It is true that at the time it opened, the station offered departing through passengers a vista reminiscent of a classical train shed, or a conservatory.


What this illustration does not show is the shorter stairs for arriving passengers, who could make their way to street level or to the taxi stand without encountering the light and air.  Nor does it show the Long Island Rail Road platforms that extend to the north of 33d Street, accessible only by stairs from the same level as the arrival concourse.  A subsequent renovation of Penn Station separated New Jersey Transit passengers from Amtrak passengers by building new stairs and boarding gates in space that was left open in the original 1910 station footprint, and simply covered over as part of the creation of the sports arena and office tower.

The Times editors suggest it is time to undo the vandalism, by removing Madison Square Garden from the station site.  What intrigues is their impatience with the time "process" takes to get anything done in New York City.  (Next, somebody will be nostalgic for Robert Moses.  Don't get me started.)  This outlander notes only that Pennsylvania Station was about five years in the construction, and five years to redevelop.  The Empire State Building was less than five years in the construction.  And there's been a hole at Battery Park for the past ten years.

WE'D BELIEVE YOU, IF YOU DIDN'T SHOUT SO MUCH.

Urbana emeritus political scientist Robert Weissberg contemplates the consequences of marginalizing men.
Compared to women, white men disproportionally gravitate to wealth-generating fields--business, engineering and the sciences. This predilection will be no small matter in a few decades, and universities are justifiably nervous as the pool of future rich donors shrinks vis-a-vis those who majored in French literature.
There's just enough truth to that claim to suggest higher education is alienating potential donors. Likewise, there are limits to the usefulness of "social construction" as a working hypothesis, and its misuse is a limitation that trammels inquiry.  Persuading the not yet persuaded, however, calls for careful work.
For males (and again keep in mind the non-overlap with biology), truth is discovered as follows. First, it is axiomatic that a single objective truth exists and this drives inquiry. Second, social niceties are subordinated to truth-seeking and uncivil, upsetting behaviors like sarcasm are therefore tolerable. Emotional feelings about what is right or wrong are irrelevant. Thomas Sowell once told me that he would never return to the classroom since he did not want to hear, "I feel...." Indeed, many males relish the verbal jousting and put-downs and these do not undermine personal friendship. Third, not all views are worth hearing and those wasting time will be forcefully and brusquely cut-off. Those able to marshal hard evidence prevail. In a nutshell, male truth-seeking is authoritarian.
The column gets more hyperbolic as it continues.
This depiction is, of course, an exaggeration but not by much. And this anti-male atmosphere will probably escalate as fewer and fewer males even apply. Meanwhile, those males who do attend and graduate will probably be ghettoized in such traditionally male fields as business, engineering and the sciences (and one wonders how long these majors will survive outside of major universities).
Perhaps so, although business is currently bleeding majors thanks to Corporate America's latest fads crashing the real economy, and engineering and the experimental sciences have trouble attracting U.S. natives, a development probably more attributable to the failure of elementary and secondary schools to do their work than to the depredations of the Diversity Boondoggle on campus.

9.2.12

NUDGE YOU, REGULATE YOU, OR JAIL YOU.

And we'll all be better persons for it.
For the most part, obesity has become an issue in modern society because our bodies have not caught up to the sedentary lifestyle and rich diets that life in a 21st Century society makes possible. Considering that it wasn’t too long ago in history that people were worrying about having too little to eat (and that some people in the world still do worry about this), the fact that there are people seriously talking about increasing the power of the state because people eat too much is really kind of silly. The only thing that will change the conditions that these study authors, and the sponsor of the Florida bill, complain of are changes in behavior that come about voluntarily. The heavy hand of the state isn’t going to accomplish anything other than making life more difficult and less enjoyable.
But it's For Your Own Good.
First, we think that the public needs to be better informed about the science of how sugar impacts our health.

Second, we need to take what we know about protecting societies from the health harms of alcohol and apply it to sugar.

What doesn't work is all-out prohibition -- that's very old-school and often creates more problems than it solves.

What does work are gentle "supply side" controls, such as taxing products, setting age limits and promoting healthier versions of the product -- like making it cheaper for a person to drink light beer rather than schnapps.

The reality is that unfettered corporate marketing actually limits our choices about the products we consume. If what's mostly available is junk food and soda, then we actually have to go out of our way to find an apple or a drinking fountain. What we want is to actually increase people's choices by making a wider range of healthy foods easier and cheaper to get.
And if you make the wrong choices, do you land in jail?

That, too, is For Your Own Good.

IN CHICAGO, L REFERS TO A LANDMARK.

In popular culture, L heads the right column in the standings, and riders on the L might see an L hoisted at Wrigley Field.  It's also the Roman symbol for half a centum (go figure, there's no L in quinquaginta, although centum begins with C).  In IV years, there will be another Presidential Election, and another Super Bowl.  London, and Los Angeles, begin with L, and some people have already noticed.

I HAVE A FRIEND FROM MINSK, WHO HAS A FRIEND FROM PINSK.

And in West Lafayette his name is cursed(*)
George J. Borjas, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and Kirk B. Doran, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame, said in their paper that the influx of Soviet mathematicians into the U.S. beginning in 1992 affected the productivity of domestic math scholars when their research overlapped, and may have contributed to many American-born math scholars moving away from research areas where the Soviets were stronger. Their research, which looked at a data set that includes every paper published in math over the last 70 years, also found that the migrants from U.S.S.R. helped filled gaps in knowledge in their areas of expertise. The study provides insights into the increasingly global market for scholarly talent.

The appearance of these Soviet professors – there were 336 of them, according to the paper -- was not evenly distributed across mathematics subfields, because the development of the discipline followed its own insular pattern in the U.S.S.R. There was almost no interaction between mathematicians in the two countries before the fall of Communism, and anyone in the Soviet Union who tried to communicate with a scholar in the U.S. risked attention from the KGB and arrest. This insularity lead to some peculiar concentrations and strengths: there were many Soviet-produced papers in the subfield of integral equations, but only a small number in statistics.
The paper, which is long enough to merit a careful reading, might be suggesting that mathematics departments, or their home universities, are not making proper use of their mathematicians.
The Soviet scholars were quite exceptional and were “highly positively selected,” Borjas said. “With this influx, something had to give, and American mathematicians were heavily impacted by this."

The ripple effect, according to Borjas: a generation of U.S.-born math scholars who are not well-placed academically. “They stopped publishing earlier, they might have even left the field altogether,” he said. The problem he said, was that the academic labor market in mathematics could not keep up with the sudden influx. “They were competing with more people, and the number of jobs did not increase that much,” he said.

But the migration helped scholars tackle complicated problems and fill areas where knowledge was lacking. The paper quotes from a 1990 New York Times article where Persi Diaconis, a mathematician at Harvard, was able to solve a problem that had stumped him for 20 years, because of help from a Soviet expert.

But the arrival of such talent led to increased competition in the hiring process.  According to an American Mathematical Society survey, citizens from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union made up 15 percent of tenured and tenure-eligible new hires in 1991-92.

Although most of the impact from that wave of immigration may have already been seen, Doran said the migration helped produce better ideas, and the students of the Soviet faculty members have tended to do well.
The infusion of additional well-prepared professors is an opportunity for a department to raise its academic profile, if it wants to and if the administration lets it.  (I know those are both big ifs.)  I'll have to look carefully at the paper and the footnotes, to see if any of the attrition of domestically produced mathematicians might have been in the form of analysts relegated to teaching remedial arithmetic.

(*)Apologies to Tom Lehrer.