30.4.14

JUST SAY MARKET TESTS.

David Leonhardt intends to write about the way in which excessively girly elementary schools shortchange boys, but then he excessively complicates a simple proposition.
The old forms of sexism, while greatly diminished, still constrain women. The job market exacts harsh financial and career penalties on anyone who decides to work part time or take time off, and the workers who do so are overwhelmingly female. That’s a big part of the reason that the top ranks of corporate America, Silicon Valley and the government remain dominated by men.
No. Unless you're good enough to be able to pick your clients, you're going to earn greater rewards by outworking other people.  Now, it might be the case that the strivers have been too willing to appease unreasonable demands by clients.  But changing established practices, particularly in a world where work-more-for-greater-reward is emergent and possibly evolutionarily stable, is not going to be achieved by legislation alone.

MUCH OF CAPITALIST AMERICA HAS BECOME ADDICTED TO CORPORATE WELFARE.

Charlie Sykes is writing about the latest attempt by the Milwaukee Bucks to hold up the taxpayers of Southeastern Wisconsin, but his argument has great generality.

Market tests have stiffer grading curves.  Use them.

GET TO THE ROOT CAUSE.

Kay Hymowitz offers comments on Paying for the Party (my comments are so last year).
Ironically, the ethos of diversity designed to nourish students’ capacity for acceptance and tolerance became, at least in the hands of adolescent girls with little adult supervision, just another tool for status jockeying. The upper-class girls cultivated what the authors call a “being mean nicely” approach to their inferiors. They found ways to remind their less affluent peers of their beta status on a daily basis, by talking about designer brands and vacation destinations unfamiliar to a Walmart crowd, or ignoring them when it came time to go to dinner, or posting photos on Facebook from the previous night’s party from which the “losers” had been excluded. Along with a few affluent girls unwilling or unable to compete on this Darwinian savannah, students who might have used college as stepping stone into the middle class became loners, holed away in their dorm rooms and thinking wistfully of their hometowns.

Their isolation might not have been so demoralizing had the university provided opportunities for genuine intellectual growth or even simple guidance about appropriate career paths. It did not. The less privileged girls arrived at college with as much disadvantage in the classroom as they had in their dorm. They usually needed remedial classes, which added to the expenses they already could barely manage. They were rarely exposed to serious students; although several of their floormates had professional aspirations, the more intellectually ambitious students tended to be ghettoized onto separate honors floors.
Insufficient socialization into the ways of the middle class by the common schools? Check.

Insufficient cultivation of the life of the mind at university?  Check.

Replication of the middle school social scene in the dorms and the Greek-letter organizations?  Check.

Why, dear reader, is it so difficult to see the fix?

THE CASE FOR UNSTRUCTURED PLAY.

Some Pennsylvania teenagers, not yet ready for their learners' permits, ran down a kidnapper before he could harm a little girl.
Temar Boggs and Chris Garcia were helping a friend move a couch when cops stopped by to say the little girl was missing, Lancaster Online reported.

"We got all of our friends to go look for her," Boggs, 15, told the news site. "We made our own little search party."

Boggs, Garcia and a handful of others took off on their bikes and searched some woods and a nearby creek before spotting a maroon car with a white-haired man and a little girl inside, the site said.

Boggs said he and Garcia went after the car. After making a few turns in the neighborhood, the man opened the door and pushed the little girl out of the car.

"As soon as the guy noticed we were chasing him, he stopped at the end of the hill and let her out, and she ran to me and said that she needed her mom," Boggs told local WGAL-TV.
Catch the locution: search party.  Once upon a time, every kid understood that concept, from playing cops-and-robbers or Americans and Germans (that latter because just about everybody had a parent who did that for real).

RESTIVE FACULTY AT MICHIGAN.

To the extent that the state flagship campuses lose sight of their comparative advantages, the harder it will be for the branch campuses and regional comprehensives to keep their focus.  At Michigan, a plucky band of faculty have reminded their administrators what matters.
In an open letter to the University's Board of Regents dated April 20, a group of about a dozen University faculty took aim at administrative salaries at the University, publishing an extensive report that claimed spending on select salaries is heavily out of line with peer institutions, and that the University has moved away from its core mission of “teaching, research, and service.”
The letter does not focus on the intellectually contested territories of affirmative action, special education, or Student Affairs usurping curricular prerogatives properly of the faculty.  The imprimatur of faculty at a Public Ivy calling out the business follies, however, is a Good Sign.
“The faculty and staff of the University of Michigan are as alarmed as all members of our community by the rising costs of tuition and the proliferation of ‘image-building’ nonacademic programs and activities,” the letter read. “The University is in desperate and urgent need of fiscal reform.”
We all know the drill. Taglines. Branding initiatives. Slick marketing and packaging.  Strategic planning and ad-hoc task forces that usurp faculty responsibilities.  Let the Michigan faculty fight it out on this line, even if it takes several summers.

29.4.14

RESPECT THE TRADITIONAL FORMS.

I had business on the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe on Saturday, and missed the commemorative runs of Chicago Rapid Transit historic cars on the Skokie Swift.

The Central Electric Railfans' Association covered the event with ample photography.

Let me direct your attention to one picture of the excursion train at the current Dempster tail track, which used to be the North Shore Line's southbound main track.


Central Electric Railfans' Association archive photo.

Look closely at the structure to the right.  It's a bus loading platform.  Rather than put up the usual minimalist glass boxes, the Transit Authority installed a roof and lighting that recalled the original Rapid Transit and North Shore station that once stood here.


Opening day at Niles Center.

The loading platforms in the background gave way to parking spaces, and the station building was moved to the east and re-purposed.  The crowd is standing on the future site of the tail track, er, North Shore Line to Milwaukee.

MERCANTILIST MYTHS PERSIST.

I've long thought it ridiculous that state legislatures in the Midwest fret about developing human capital that relocates.  Michigan politicians apparently don't like developing Illinois's labor force,  although the University of Michigan may be successful enough at recruiting Illinois residents to pay full fare that some Illinois senators are (gasp!) looking at ways of strengthening one of the perpetually-starved state universities so as to keep some ambitious Illinois matriculants in state.  (That hasn't stopped Northern Illinois University from trying its own form of indentured servitude.)  And Wisconsin legislators have grappled with the same problem, although the University of Wisconsin in Madison is so successful at enticing flatlanders into Godzone that the Milwaukee campus now serves more Wisconsin residents.

I welcome a concurring opinion from the dean at Pioneer Valley Community, observing the same mercantilist silliness in New York.
New York City is an amazing place, but it’s not for everyone.  And outside of the NYC area, many of the smaller economies aren’t necessarily thriving.  Forcing someone to remain in a languishing region when they could have landed a productive position in Boston or D.C. or San Francisco doesn’t serve any useful purpose.

It can be difficult for a locality or a state to invest in education only to watch talent leave.  But tying talent down is not the answer.  Pushing other states and localities to invest, too, is.

Higher education should not reinforce provincialism.  I fully agree with reducing the debt burden on college students and new graduates.  But cutting down their futures to what fits within the state lines is not the way to do it.  If a new graduate with a great idea for a startup wants to escape from New York and find fortune in Palo Alto, let her.  And if a nerdy kid from Rochester somehow meets and falls in love with a Jersey Girl, back off.  Surely, somewhere, you can find a real problem to solve.  Maybe you could start with SUNY’s appropriation...
Indeed, because Albany and Binghamton and Buffalo are starting at a disadvantage relative to Ann Arbor or Madison in providing inducements for striving out-of-state students to pay full freight, the financing model that the state flagship campuses are using in the absence of appropriations.

There is one bit of hopeful news ... the partnerships Northern Illinois has been establishing with Chinese universities allow us to explain to the legislators that the state universities, and Caterpillar, run balance of payment surpluses with China.  Wal-Mart and Apple can't say that.  Now, to get some trade and development specialists hired in the economics department.   (I may be taking my pension, but it still matters to me that the right things get done for the right reason.)

HIGHER EDUCATION LOWERS ITSELF.

Two stories that came out a few weeks ago provide things great and small to mock.  Mona Charen provides evidence that applications to Dartmouth are fewer these days. It is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, as long as the Ivies, taken together, are able to send out more thin envelopes than thick. It might though, be the end of the beginning, in which the major retrenchments have so far been in obscure parts of higher education.
Dartmouth has seen a large decline in applications over the past year, down 14 percent. That's probably a good thing. Maybe it means that parents as well as prospective students are rethinking the allure of a school that marries a party atmosphere to political correctness. The cure, however, is not more sensitivity training and gender-neutral bathrooms.

The promiscuous culture rampant on university campuses leads to a coarser atmosphere and diminished happiness.There was a time in American education when educators felt comfortable in passing along moral values to the young. Now the only thing they seem to know how to do is pass on platitudes about inclusivity.
Which independent-minded people are capable of resisting, particularly as the Perpetually Aggrieved persevere in criminalizing normality, generally with the institutional prestige of U.S. News - anointed affiliations.

Meanwhile, John Hinderaker suggests that in intercollegiate debate, goalposts must be moved in order for all to win prizes.
College debating, it seems, has been radically transformed in ways that make it easier for African-Americans to succeed at it.
Apparently by making it difficult to distinguish forensics from a session of the dozens.

What's instructive, though, is that it's no longer de jure segregation or bad anthropology that's keeping some students down.
As for the notion of “privilege,” it is now clear that the debaters of our era were privileged in a limited but important sense. We were required to take the activity seriously and to meet high standards in order to succeed. For example, we did not have the privilege of ignoring the time limits on speeches, much less of blowing them off with obscenities. We took this for granted at the time, but it turns out to have been a privilege.
Have the Perpetually Aggrieved considered the possibility that as bad anthropology or Jim Crow give way to "privilege" and "intersectionality" and "microaggression" and some segments of some populations continue to underachieve relative to others, simpler explanations, ones that cast the Perpetually Aggrieved in a bad light, gain traction?

28.4.14

MAKE THE CONNECTION.

Three essays on three topics that matter note a common phenomenon.

We start with Eastern Michigan's Steven Krause, mocking a silly essay naming "professor" as the least stressful job.  (There's related commentary here.)  The job supposedly involves light public contact.
I’ve got news: students are “the public.” Now, most of my work with students– especially the good ones– is very pleasant and rewarding, no doubt about that. And working with college students is generally a lot easier than working with “the public” one encounters in secondary schools, social work settings, shopping malls, restaurants, etc.

That said, every professor/lecturer/adjunct/graduate assistant I know can tell you several hair-curling stories about dealing with students/the public who were insulting, mean, weepy, drunk, scary, crazy, potential violent, lazy, rude, and/or all of the above. Honestly, working with the public/students is often the best and the worst part of the job, and it is definitely one of the sources of stress in my life.
Yes, and the greatest stress is having to be tactful with individuals whose life-management skills are rudimentary, alien, or missing.  And there's plenty of that to deal with at Eastern Michigan.  The Michigan of the "Pure Michigan" tourist commercials might as well be on a different planet than the Rust Belt Michigan that incubates the students that generate the stress on professors, a stress that is likely rising as semester's end nears.

Next, Laura of 11-D (or is it somewhere near the Palisades now?) recommends Slate's advice for white working-class women: raise the kids without the dad.
Although it defies logic, socioeconomic, cultural, and economic changes have brought white working-class women like Lily to the point where going it alone can be the wiser choice. And the final irony: The same changes that have made marriages more equitable and successful among elite couples have made it less likely that marriage will look attractive to Lily.

When Lily looks around at the available men, they don’t offer what she is looking for. Lily, just like better-off men and women, believes that marriage means an unqualified commitment to the other spouse. When you marry someone, you support him in hard times. You stick with him when he disappoints you. You visit him if he ends up in jail. And you encourage him to become an important part of your children’s lives.  It’s just that Lily doesn’t believe that Carl is worth that commitment. Nor does she believe that she will meet someone who will meet her standards anytime soon, and the statisticsback her up.
And apparently, as the pool of well-behaved men shrinks, women compete for men in the Girls Gone Wild fashion, which cannot be much of an incentive for men to behave well.
The women ready for marriage in this group have grown larger than the group of marriageable men who would be good partners. These men—the ones with better jobs and more stable lives—have become more reluctant, in turn, to settle for only one woman. Their marital prospects have improved, and they could marry a reliable partner. Yet, with a choice of committing to a woman who outearns them or keeping their independence, the men seem to prefer their freedom. Lily did go out for a while with a more promising high school classmate. But then she discovered text messages with another woman on his phone. The experience left her jaded. She has very few friends, married or unmarried, in strong relationships, and she did not see much point in waiting for a Prince Charming she did not expect to find. Indeed, while less than 20 percent of the most highly educated Americans believe that marriage has not worked out for most of the people they know, more than half of those who are least educated believe that marriage has not worked out.

One final factor pushing Lily away from marriage is, ironically, more progressive ideas about family, particularly in divorce courts. The biggest legal change is custody. If a couple marries, a court will insist on a custody order and it will expect that both spouses continue their relationship with the child.
In no particular order: Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free? Why bother making a commitment that under the current dispensation is no commitment at all? In the absence of any constraints on bad behavior, does it come as a surprise that you get more bad behavior?
If Carl and Lily had married, Carl would have automatically been named the father, and, if they divorced, the courts would insist on an order giving Carl a considerable portion of the child’s time. Carl, however, was not at the hospital with Lily and his paternity has never been established.  Lily has let Carl see the child, but he hasn’t pressed for more involvement and Lily is happy to keep it that way. If Carl wants more contact, he would have to take a series of legal steps, including filing a court case, paying the several hundred dollars it would cost for paternity testing, obtaining a court order, and enforcing it if Lily doesn’t cooperate voluntarily.  If Carl were that organized and determined, though, he didn’t show it during their relationship.
"Never been established." Might there be more to this story than the feminist narrative of Deadbeat Men?

For further enlightenment, read and understand the serious social science.  Yes, I'm going to grab one paragraph for tonight's train of thought, but it's not the "to be sure" passage in an argument to the contrary.
The third cultural development that has played a role in eroding the standing of marriage is that moderately educated Americans are markedly less likely than are highly educated Americans to embrace the bourgeois values and virtues—for instance, delayed gratification, a focus on education, and temperance—that are the sine qua nons of personal and marital success in the contemporary United States. By contrast, highly educated Americans (and their children) adhere devoutly to a “success sequence” norm that puts education, work, marriage, and childbearing in sequence, one after another, in ways that maximize their odds of making good on the American Dream and obtaining a successful family life.
All the more reason for the Perpetually Aggrieved in higher education to criminalize normality, dressing it up in "intersectionality" and other word-noise.  The ambitious and responsible, though, can compare and contrast and draw their own conclusions.

We conclude with Garret Jones's observations about Thomas Piketty's latest book.
In the long run, the patient inherit the earth. As long as nations differ (on average) in patience, the patient capitalists start by investing in the less patient countries and the less patient countries gladly and willingly borrow the cheap cash. The patient countries help increase the capital stock of their less patient neighbors, and—as long as there aren't legal barriers to foreign ownership—in the long run the patient nations end up owning essentially all of the world's capital and the less patient nations ultimately end up sending not only their profits but even most of their mortgaged wages to the patient nations.

One lesson of this story is that it's good to be patient. So let's start training ourselves and our children to delay gratification, to forego that great sound system on the new car, to eat at home a little more often. Another lesson is one that Piketty hits head on: If the world moves toward this outcome, where some rich nations own vast amounts of other rich nations' wealth, we can all expect a political backlash.
Defer gratification. Live within your means. Develop the life-management skills of the upper-middle class.  What's so difficult about that?

There's much more about Piketty's political economy.  Craig Newmark has a link-list.  I've found a couple of comments about high-concept macroeconomics to work with in a subsequent post.  Expect that as I require some venting opportunities once the senior papers and the bluebooks come in.

For tonight, though, it's simple.  Respect the bourgeois virtues.  Stop criminalizing normality.

UNABANDONED.

Railroad employees know to expect trains at any time, on any track, in either direction. Sometimes motorists have to relearn the rule the hard way.
[Chippewa Falls resident Laurel] Norlander's crash was the first of 60 crashes between trains and highway users in 2013, the highest number Wisconsin has seen in five years. Injuries are at a six-year high, at 21. In addition, there were three deaths.

One possible factor in the rise is increased train traffic in the state, a result of recent booms in sand mining in Wisconsin and crude oil from shale in North Dakota.

Products of the state's sand mining operations, which have grown from a handful in 2010 to well over 100, are used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process for extracting oil and natural gas. Crude oil, some of which passes by rail through Wisconsin, has similarly exploded. According to the American Association of Railroads, railroads nationwide transported 9,500 carloads of crude in 2008. In 2012, that number jumped to 234,000, and the most recent estimates for 2013 are around 400,000.

Trains on the tracks where Norlander was struck used to be few and far between, Norlander said, but a new sand plant in town has changed that.

"There's been quite an increase in train traffic," she said.

Jeff Plale, the state's commissioner of railroads, said it seemed as if trains and cars were crashing every time he turns around.

"We have more trains going through the state, they're heavier, they're longer. Stop playing with the trains," he said. "I'm just tired of it, because these (accidents) are so preventable."

Plale said that besides increased train traffic, some railroad tracks that weren't in use have been revived, so people aren't accustomed to seeing the trains.

"All of a sudden you've gone from having no trains or very few, and now you have a whole bunch of them. It's a matter of being cognizant and safe," he said.
Yes. Treat railroad crossings as if your life depended on it.

YES. NEXT QUESTION.

Insta Pundit: "Is it just me, or has America seemed steadily more third-world since Obama came in?"

25.4.14

LOOK TO YOUR RIGHT, LOOK TO YOUR LEFT.

In the Bad Old Days when College was Not. For. Everybody., incoming students would allegedly encounter the curmudgeonly professor who would continue, "By semester's end, one of those people will be gone."  I don't recall ever encountering such a professor.  I was tempted to use the line at the beginning of the semester in introductory classes, but never did.  These days its use would probably be cause for an investigation by Student Affairs.

The attrition rate implied by the professor's warning, which once might have been a realistic appraisal of attrition, now becomes cause for brow-furrowing.
One of the main areas [Northern Illinois] officials want to address is the university’s retention rate. Officials have said that only about two-thirds of students who were freshmen in 2012-13 returned as sophomores during the 2013-14 academic year.
Left unsaid in the conversation: are students not returning because college coursework is hard, because expenses are high, because there are too few professors and student-credit-hours-per-faculty is a poor measure of productivity?

WHAT'S MISSING FROM THIS STORY?

Don Boudreaux (of Cafe Hayek) enlightens readers that "infrastructure" doesn't imply "government".
Fact is, a great deal of infrastructure is built privately. FedEx, for example, is infrastructure: It's a combination of vehicles, warehouses, organizational knowledge and other specific capital that businesses and households rely upon to transport freight and packages. Without FedEx, many businesses would be less profitable or even nonexistent. Some online retailers, for example, might be unable to compete successfully against brick-and-mortar stores.

Of course, FedEx isn't a road or a bridge. But so what? FedEx, no less than a road or bridge, enhances our abilities to pursue our private goals. When you start to reflect on what is infrastructure, you see that infrastructure isn't only those things supplied by government.

And you then also see that our world is filled with lots of privately built infrastructure: FedEx, privately built oil and gas pipelines, private schools, private insurance companies, privately built skyscrapers. This list goes on and on.

All of these privately built and operated pieces of infrastructure are financed by the voluntary payments of the businesses and households that use them.
Yes, and those FedEx deliveries, and the coal to fire the power plants that keep the pixels flowing, and not enough of the Bakken oil, make use of investor-provided infrastructure that most readers only notice when one of those coal trains delays their drive by a few minutes.

24.4.14

RESTORATION.

To commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the Skokie Swift, the Chicago Transit Authority will roll out its historic Cincinnati cars for special excursions on Saturday, the 26th.


Central Electric Railfans' Association archive photo.
It will be held at the Skokie-Dempster station starting at around 11:00 am and running until about 2:00 pm or so. The CTA’s two historic cars 4271-4272 will be operating every 25 minutes.

The cars will follow normal service cars as a second section. They will run to Howard, turn around in the track #5 pocket without unloading or loading at Howard, and run back out to Skokie. It’s not yet known whether the cars will stop at Oakton-Skokie, but it’s very possible. You won’t be able to get off or on at Howard Street.

Regular CTA rail fares apply, but your monthly pass will work, too.

The top speed on these cars is about 45 mph, but they will probably reach 55 going downhill. It has been several years since the general public has been able to ride these cars, which are now over 90 years old.
I was present for the September 2004 excursion commemorating the end of trolley wire on the Swift.

That may have been the last time the ritual of pole-on-wire-on-the-fly was performed on the old North Shore Line.


The historic cars correctly still have trolley poles, as-delivered, and as required on the Evanston Express, their final assignment in Chicago.  And a two or three car train sometimes entertains visitors at Illinois Railway Museum or the East Troy Electric Railroad.

OVERDESIGNED ROTARIES.

I've long noted that the point of rotaries is to simplify traffic flow, and it defeats their purpose to provide multiple lanes.

Until recently, the plague of overdesigned rotaries has been quarantined to north of the Cheddar Curtain.  They're now turning up in Rockford.  Overdesign plus flatlanders equals trouble.
Now, the city is trying to help with the traffic flow.

Orange flags have been attached to every sign at main and Auburn. The city hopes this will help drivers get through the circle. This is the state’s first two-lane roundabout.
If the highway department has to remind drivers to stay in lane, the concept is flawed.

Not only that, the plague of long semi-trailers is going to mean the rules will be selectively enforced, if at all.  There has to be a way to discourage those things, perhaps by collecting an extra-special large road use tax on any trailer placarded "CAUTION.  Wide Turn."  And it's just a matter of time before a small car using the outer lane around gets crushed by a road-elephant leaving the rotary by way of the inner lane.

23.4.14

NO WALKING AWAY UNHAPPY.

The spring steel pan concert took place on Sunday, April 13.

We reported on the thirtieth anniversary concert, with extended commentary on performances other than traditional calypsos, and our recovery spring of 2008 included an arrangement of Shostakovich among the performances.

Students do the arrangements (as part of their coursework?) and the most recent concert featured Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.  The arranger mentioned that people in the audience might recognize the music from Saturday cartoons.  That's encouraging, "Daffy, they drive me daffy" is still part of the common culture.  "Breakfast, McDonald's breakfast" blessedly not so.  The video (embedding disabled at their request) is available for your viewing pleasure.

22.4.14

RESURRECTION.

The Central Electric Railfans' Association offer a photo essay on the fiftieth anniversary of the Skokie Swift.  In its first incarnation, ancient Rapid Transit cars ran into empty country, even after the Second World War.


Central Electric Railfans' Association archive photo.

I wonder if that white two-story store building is still there, or if that went for something newer.  Readers? Bueller?

The intermediate Rapid Transit stations remained until the North Shore's abandonment, to be removed before the opening of the Swift.  The above-track headhouse at Asbury remained as a business until sometime in the 1970s.


Central Electric Railfans' Association archive photo.

Both Electroliners are in preservation (one in its Philadelphia incarnation, in Pennsylvania).  Other curved-side articulated cars also ran on the Swift.


Central Electric Railfans' Association archive photo.

I have to do an essay on the Jitterbugs.  All four of them went into preservation, but one was scrapped when a museum encountered financial troubles (this happens) and another is to become a parts source for the Illinois Railway Museum to restore its unit to operation.

These units had nearly the coach seating capacity of an Electroliner.  The fourth section of the Electroliner had the tavern-lounge.  You can't get a Smokie Link on the Skokie Swift.  That's an airfoil on the power collector.  No conductor putting the trolley pole on the wire on the fly the way the North Shore did: the operator hit a button in the cab to lower the collector inbound, or to raise it outbound, and the airfoil helped maintain contact between collector shoe and wire.

A recent Chicago History Today essay on the Swift illustrates that sometimes the remote control didn't work.


J. R. Schmidt photo courtesy Chicago History Today.

That damaged stucco above the southbound track wasn't from the Polar Vortex.  Apparently North Shore collectors would sometimes have troubles getting the pole down, and it would smack into the Asbury station.  The motorman on a Swift car didn't have the positive signal from the conductor (and on longer North Shore trains, the collector [trainman, in North Shore-speak]) and his first clue that the (electrical) collector was still up would be a loud BANG on the roof.  But Transit Authority shop forces could sometimes find repair parts for Swift pantographs and collectors on the ground at Asbury.

MORE TINFOIL FOR YOUR HAT?

I really shouldn't use Chris Hedges as a punching bag again, but he's really beclowned himself.
America’s vigilante violence, rather than a protection from tyranny, is an expression of the fear by white people, especially white men, of the black underclass. This underclass has been enslaved, lynched, imprisoned and impoverished for centuries. The white vigilantes do not acknowledge the reality of this oppression, but at the same time they are deeply worried about retribution directed against whites. Guns, for this reason, are easily available to white people while gun ownership is largely criminalized for blacks. The hatred expressed by vigilante groups for people of color, along with Jews and Muslims, is matched by their hatred for the college-educated elite, who did not decry the steady impoverishment of the working class. People of color, along with those who espouse the liberal social values of the college-educated elites, including gun control, are seen by the vigilantes as contaminants to society that must be removed to restore the nation to health.
So much of a stretch to associate yet another weekend of gang warfare in Chicago with a sagebrush rebellion in Nevada.

There is a simpler explanation, along the lines of the college-educated elite, who, beginning with the Kerner Commission report, treated the white working-class as collateral damage in the War on Poverty.  Yes, I'm simplifying aggressively, there's material here and elsewhere in my project list to elaborate on.  That the people of color might be the most tragic casualties of the pretensions of the college-educated elite is also material for another day.  It's not enough for Mr Hedges to voice his own hysteria, he has to call on Richard Rorty.
All the sadism which the academic Left tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.
Some of the badly educated Americans are themselves college graduates, tired of being harangued by the freakazoids. In normal, every-day life, it is not necessary to apologize for being normal. And yet, the Perpetually Aggrieved may not rest until the concept of normality is a thought-crime.
Muslims, undocumented workers, homosexuals, liberals, feminists, intellectuals and African-Americans will increasingly suffer the wrath of vigilante violence as the nation becomes more restive. Liberal institutions, their credibility shredded because of their myopic support for neoliberalism, will become irrelevant. Chauvinism, violent retribution, a perverted Christianity and the celebration of a mythic Anglo-Saxon history will sever sections of the population from reality, enticing them into an American fascism. This is what is coming. It cannot be fought with counterviolence. It can be fought only with ideas.
We have much to look forward to.

LET THE ADMINISTRATORS TREMBLE AS FACULTY AND THE STUDENTS UNITE.

The professors have nothing to lose but their chains.  I'm being hyperbolic, but only slightly so.  A professor with a more eclectic career than mine explains the ways in which higher education goes wrong.
I’ve worked at a state university’s top 25 academic medical center and pharmacy school, an elite private research university, a teaching-intensive, historically-Black college/university in a large state university system, and am now a half-time writing professor (in a department of English) at a state land-grant university. I also work half-time as a science communications director for a state natural sciences museum. The emphasis on teaching vs. research at each institution has varied. I’ve earned tenure twice, once in the traditional fashion at the 7th year of an assistant professorship and again at appointment as a professor and department chair.
With David Letterman also pulling the pin, we must look elsewhere for Top Ten lists.

Let's start with the second gripe.
Research universities, medical schools in particular, are highly-dependent on federal research funding to pay faculty salaries. So, you have to raise anywhere from a quarter to 100% of your salary. Some research universities typically hire more faculty than they can afford with the assumption that research project grants will generally cover a relatively stable percentage of faculty salaries. The National Institutes of Health has recently announced that it’s expected universities to step up over the next 20 years.
Thus, faculty in the laboratory sciences and medicine have the stresses of being entrepreneurs, in the presence of government funding that is presumably infected with the same bending-the-cost-curve mentality that is wrecking physician morale.  Alternatively, there are sources of corporate funding for such research, but that may be Big Business attempting to put an objective face forward by having Mr Chips rather than Dr Frankenstein designing the drugs.  That business model, however, brings in conflicts of commercial interest on top of the tournament to be doing frontier research because everybody else is, and University Diaries has never lacked for work documenting those conflicts.

Turn the sponsored projects into a private business and then the professor is now an entrepreneur meeting payroll and covering capital costs, not generating indirect cost recovery for the rent-seekers to dissipate.  But I antagonized one former dean by pointing out that doing consulting on my own time during the summer was not subject to any of the constraints that would apply to ordinary grants.  Not that he had a particularly convincing rejoinder.

That research entrepreneurship, which allows the professor to keep his Mr Chips image and builds the university's research prestige, collides with access-assessment-remediation-retention. "Many US universities operate under a customer service model while accepting students unprepared for college-level coursework."

Indeed.

"Too many professors are being expected to make up for the deficiencies of public high school education." And it's the talented and striving students without the means or the connections to get into the U.S. News - endorsed signalling mills that get screwed.

And the presence of the reserve army of unemployed Ph.D.s only tightens the screws.
I have seen some tenure-track faculty actually be threatened by their supervisors with being replaced by such adjunct faculty if they can’t score grant funding. The abuse of adjunct faculty by US universities is a travesty.
Somewhere,  Charlie (ProfScam) Sykes is chuckling.  A quarter-century ago he called out the famous universities for advertising their Nobel-worthy faculty yet exposing the freshmen to freeway flyers or inexperienced graduate assistants.  Nothing has changed.

This afternoon, I had a conversation with some students about Ph.D. programs and I stressed, this is a risky course of action and the job market is unlikely to get better.  But without an industrial reserve army to exploit, the deanlets and deanlings will have to improve the working conditions of the faculty.

At the same time, though, Virginia Postrel offers four specific questions that prospective students and their parents ask of the universities they're considering.

"Do you have a 'free-speech zone'?"  The best answer is "No."  Any "yes" is likely to introduce an elaborate rationalization full of pomo-babble and diversoid-speak.

"What is the administrator-to-professor ratio?  How much has that grown in the last 10 years?"  Is that before or after one-fifth of the long-term faculty and staff was pushed into retirement?

THE PHYSICIAN'S HAMSTER WHEEL.

Brought to you by the Medicare monopsony.
Patients — and physicians — say they feel the time crunch as never before as doctors rush through appointments as if on roller skates to see more patients and perform more procedures to make up for flat or declining reimbursements.

It's not unusual for primary care doctors' appointments to be scheduled at 15-minute intervals. Some physicians who work for hospitals say they've been asked to see patients every 11 minutes.

And the problem may worsen as millions of consumers who gained health coverage through the Affordable Care Act begin to seek care — some of whom may have seen doctors rarely, if at all, and have a slew of untreated problems.

"Doctors have one eye on the patient, and one eye on the clock," said David Rothman, who studies the history of medicine at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons.

By all accounts, short visits take a toll on the doctor-patient relationship, which is considered a key ingredient of good care, and may represent a missed opportunity for getting patients more actively involved in their own health. There is less of a dialogue between patient and doctor, studies show, increasing the odds patients will leave the office frustrated.
So help me out, dear reader.  Wal-Mart bends the cost curve by squeezing its vendors and having the help do work off the clock, and it's a bad thing.  Congress authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue regulations to squeeze vendors and have the help do work off the clock, and it's in the public interest.
No one knows exactly why 15 minutes became the norm, but many experts trace the time crunch back to Medicare's 1992 adoption of a byzantine formula that relies on "relative value units," or RVUs, to calculate doctors' fees.

That was a switch for Medicare, which had previously paid physicians based on prevailing or so-called usual and customary fees. But runaway inflation and widespread inequities dictated a change. RVUs were supposed to take into account the physician's effort and cost of running a practice, not necessarily how much time he or she spent with patients.

The typical office visit for a primary care patient was pegged at 1.3 RVUs, and the American Medical Association coding guidelines for that type of visit suggested a 15-minute consult.

Private insurers, in turn, piggybacked on Medicare's fee schedule, said Princeton health economist Uwe Reinhardt. Then, in the 1990s, he said, "managed care came in and hit doctors with brutal force."

Doctors who participated in managed care networks had to give insurers discounts on their rates; in exchange, the insurers promised to steer ever more patients their way. To avoid income cuts, Reinhardt said, "doctors had to see more patients — instead of doing three an hour, they did four."
Typical quantitative nonsense. It's easier to measure patients seen or patients per physician hour than it is to measure additional years of healthy life.  It's the error, though, of measuring inputs, not outputs.

Give an assist to  Craig Newmark, who anticipates that full implementation of Obama "Care" will require ever more aggressive efforts to end mutually beneficial trades between physicians fed up with the Obamanopsony and patients who will self-insure and pay the tax.  As it must, because in the eyes of the Anointed, universally lousy health care is preferable to any regime in which some citizens receive better care than others.

21.4.14

MARKERS.

Thanks to my colleagues in Economics, Econ Illinois, and the Center for Economic Education for a good 28 year run.


Hired out 15 August 1986, pulling the pin 29 June 2014.

18.4.14

SECOND COMING.

Fifty years ago this weekend, trains began running on the Skokie Swift.

The first time Rapid Transit trains came to Dempster Street was in 1925.


I've shown the history of this Rapid Transit service elsewhere.  At the time of construction, the Rapid Transit and the North Shore Line were affiliated private companies, and the line to Skokie provided connecting tracks to a Rapid Transit repair shop conveniently located alongside a Chicago and North Western line that has since been abandoned, as well as the jumping off place for the North Shore Line's bypass of street running through the wealthy communities along the lakefront.  That bypass might have been the first step toward today's 300 km/h bullet trains.

In 1964 there were not yet Federal capital grants for mass transportation projects, and the Chicago Transit Authority and the Housing and Home Finance Agency together could only swing acquisition and rebuilding of the North Shore Line as far as Dempster Street.  The Authority had done a traffic study in the late 1950s, in contemplation of operating rapid transit trains as far north as Lake-Cook Road, or possibly Great Lakes Naval Training Station.  That study showed relatively light passenger loadings at the stations north of Dempster Street, in part because suburbanization had not filled in the spaces between the towns to the north, in part because the North Shore stations were within convenient driving distances of Milwaukee Road and North Western commuter trains.  Even then, though, the suburban trains became standing room only from Glenview toward Chicago, and traffic volumes on the Edens Expressway south of Dempster anticipated what they are all over Chicagoland these days.

Concurrently with the opening of the Swift, the old Rapid Transit stations between Dempster and Howard were demolished in order to present a cleaner railroad.  The station at Oakton has recently been replaced.  Extension of the Swift north toward Lake-Cook Road or Great Lakes seems unlikely, though, owing first to the North Western buying some of the North Shore's tracks for their own use, and more recently to opposition from the neighbors.

HIGHER EDUCATION LOWERS ITSELF.

Bardiac complies with a new university mandate that students receive a midterm grade report, which does address the common student complaint that feedback is often slow in coming, but which requires the little darlings to figure out percentages.
I'm filled with despair at how many students can't figure out basic percentages.

And I'm filled astonied at how many students are totally and completely flabbergasted at where their grade stands at this point, even though I've given back every single graded piece of work and my syllabus lays out how much each assignment is worth.
But one day Bardiac's complaint about percentages will be out of line.
I know that some instructors are woefully bad at returning graded work in anything like a timely manner.  I do indeed think that students need to get back work reasonably quickly, and that instructors need to explain how they grade.  I just think it's not unreasonable to expect college students to do percentages.
Expecting people to be able to do percentages is ABLEISM!  The Perpetually Aggrieved will not rest until it's eradicated.

17.4.14

WORKING ON THE RAILROAD.

Hand-spiked switches take a while to install.  But I progress.


Here's the state of things last week Friday.  There's not a lot more to show this week.  But once the ladder track is finished, the next stages of construction will go very quickly.

HIGHER EDUCATION LOWERS ITSELF.

Western Washington University president Bruce Shepard has become a figure of fun for equating whiteness of the student body with mediocrity.  The story even got some play on Fox News Channel's Red Eye.

The president's logic is more troubling than his choice of words.
It is our internal capacity to change at the rate required that I find myself most thinking about during those 3:00 a.m. staring-at-the-ceiling times.

It begins with our culture.  Lately, I have been hearing the occasional comment that gives me pause; for example, expressing a concern about the Admissions Office letting standards slip.  (Facts are, mean entering high school GPA's have remained relatively constant over the last six years, but dispersion—standard deviation—has increased as we take more students at both the higher and lower end.)

But I want to shout, "get those heads out of the sand."  Unless you want us to choose the path of the much smaller, elite-serving university I earlier rejected, our incoming students are more and more going to be coming from families where parents have not gone to college and where academic preparation will likely not have been as high a priority.

These future students have all the smarts, all the potential, the invaluable active minds driven to change lives.  But they will be testing our ability to perform in new ways.  Part of the cultural change will be to go from bragging about (or worrying about) what we start with to bragging about the levels to which we take our students.
Glass half full: higher education ought to be higher, and students at Western Washington deserve the same intellectual challenges that students in the Ivies get.  Glass half empty: the common schools are still getting away with producing Distressed Material or enabling dysfunctional behavior and excusing it as cultural differences.

Might it not be more effective for Western Washington, or anyplace else, it's attracting students from diverse backgrounds by stopping the patronizing talk and simply challenging the students who enroll?

But Mr Shephard, if a previous statement is still operative, may have drunk too much identity politics Kool-Aid to even consider that option.
We have learned that the campus climate experiences reported by women, by racial and ethnic minorities, and by gays, lesbians, transsexuals, and bisexuals are different from the campus climate reported by majority counterparts.  Different in unacceptable ways.
Rather than suggest that the Perpetually Aggrieved get busy and study some economics or lab science or higher mathematics, he Blames. America. First.
There is nothing to be embarrassed about in the data per se, in finding that we are a part of a society with resilient sexist, racist, homophobic, and heterocentric forces. The only thing to be embarrassed about when a challenge is documented is to do nothing about it. Just as the hiring data reflect what has to be a campus wide commitment and campus wide action, so too must be efforts to address the campus climate issues. We need the help of everyone on campus in figuring out how to improve and in improving this situation.
Keep placating the Perpetually Aggrieved and the freakazoids, Mr Shepard.  The United States will lose the competition for the "developed talent essential to replace the retiring baby boomers" by default. But the United States will have the most culturally competent underemployed graduates in the world.

13.4.14

OUTRAGED. BLINDSIDED.

Genoa officialdom is not pleased that Amtrak to Rockford will go by way of Belvidere.
“The whole way this was handled was disgraceful,” Genoa Mayor Mark Vicary said. “We just found out about this [Thursday] night. It's a travesty, and it was taken away from us in the darkness of the night.”
Did anybody in Genoa work with people at CNR to encourage the railroad to work more cooperatively with the Illinois Department of Transportation?  With CNR attempting to assimilate Illinois Central and Elgin Joliet and Eastern, in part to move more agricultural products, ethanol, and possibly Alberta oil around Chicago, not through it, a little willingness to help provide additional trackage and some passenger platforms might have gone a long way.
The Genoa Area Chamber of Commerce was sending letters to members last week encouraging them to reach out to Quinn to voice their support for the city stop.

“We had no idea this was something that was going to happen,” said Cortney Strohacker, the chamber's executive director. “We were looking forward to the economic development opportunities it would bring, and were looking forward to not only having Amtrak available for us, but for others who wanted to come to Genoa.”

The service was originally planned to run on Canadian National Railway tracks, but after years of failed negotiations with the Montreal-based company, officials were able to finalize an agreement to switch to a new route that used tracks owned by Metra and the Union Pacific Railroad.

Guy Tridgell, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said because negotiations with Canadian National were unsuccessful, officials went with their second option.

"Our preferred choice all along was to go to Genoa using Canadian National Railway [tracks], but we were unable to reach an agreement on that,” Tridgell said. “Negotiations were not as fruitful as we had hoped, and in order to get this important service to Rockford, we decided on another option.”
That passage doesn't say "no local communication with CNR." Neither does it give unambiguous evidence of local communication with CNR.

A FALSE ECONOMY.

Tenured Radical identifies three critical losses of productivity that follow from institutions of higher education relying more heavily on cheap and contingent labor with less stake in a specific institution's reputation.  First, finishing seniors and graduates contemplating a career move have fewer mentors to provide proper letters of recommendation.  Second, students receive a more standardized, more rushed, advising that "isn't about getting real advice."  Third, the faculty are working with far too many students, often at more than one employer, sometimes without proper office space, to provide proper guidance on assignments or after-action reviews of examinations.  Each "threatens the educational outcomes for a student."  And yet, somewhere in the institutional boiler-plate, no doubt, there is an assertion of student-centered-ness.

UNINTENTIONALLY CHIC.

Friday's dead tree version of the Chicago Tribune included an article, still behind the paywall, about new developments in producing that perfect cup of coffee. An accompanying photo gallery has an unrestricted link.



Elsewhere in the gallery is a pour over rack in use "to maximize extraction of oils."

I must have been twenty years ahead of my time, again.


Fire up the kettle, put a scoop or two of grounds in a cone filter, wait patiently.  Comes in handy on days when I don't anticipate consuming the contents of a full pot.

A FITZGERALD FAMILY BEQUEST.

Northwestern Mutual Insurance employees gave chairman Edmund Fitzgerald a four-foot long model of the Great Lakes ore carrier that bore his name.  The model became property of his son, Edmund B Fitzgerald, whose estate has donated the model to the Zeidler Humanities Room at the Milwaukee Central Library.  That room is the latest incarnation of the Local History and Marine Room, home to several other ship models, and at one time, the repository of all things local railroading that were too precious to circulate.
It is fitting that the intricately detailed model would end up in the collection, because Edmund Fitzgerald was the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society's first president. The society's archives include thousands of photos of Great Lakes ships, nautical charts, an online database, paintings, memorabilia and ship models.

"A lot of people don't think of the man, they think of the ship," said Peter Hirthe, president of the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society. "This unveiling is to spotlight the man."

Fitzgerald's family tree is loaded with Great Lakes ship captains, including many of his uncles and great-uncles. In 1912, when he was a senior at East High School, now Riverside, he published a paper about Great Lakes shipping in the yearbook.

"Within five decades, he had a Great Lakes ship named after him," Hirthe said. "The layers of this family's involvement in the Great Lakes is incredible. He was just carrying on the tradition."
The Humanities Room have a brief guide to the maritime collection.

11.4.14

TO ROCKFORD, ON THE GALENA AND CHICAGO UNION.

Union Pacific use Metra money to get a third track from the west side of Geneva to Elburn, and federal infrastructure money to turn the Alton Route into an expressway for trailers faster than Route 66.

Now the state calls in the favors in order to expedite restoration of Passenger Rail to Rockford.
The still unnamed, Amtrak-operated service will use a combination of Metra’s Milwaukee District West commuter line and UP’s Belvedere Subdivision. A connection will be built between the two near Metra’s Big Timber station west of Elgin. The move comes after several years of protracted negotiations with Canadian National, whose tracks had been designated as the preferred route for proposed Chicago-Rockford-Dubuque, Iowa, service.

Switching to the new route will ensure that service begins in 2015 and isn’t held up by continued delays, the state says. Preliminary improvement to the UP route will accommodate trains at 59 mph by the end of next year. Final improvements are planned to be completed in 2016, at which point speeds will increase to 79 mph and a second Chicago-Rockford round-trip will be added. The state will continue to work with CN to extend the corridor to Dubuque, with intermediate stops at Freeport and Galena.

The $223 million, funded primarily through Gov. Pat Quinn’s “Illinois Jobs Now!” capital program, will include expenditures of almost $14 million to build a temporary station on 7th Street in Rockford, as well as money to help Belvedere and Huntley build stations. The CN route would have by-passed populous Belvedere, home of a Chrysler assembly plant.

The fact that Illinois was able to strike a deal with Union Pacific for signal and track upgrades west of Elgin can be credited to the presence of the factory as well as the partnership the state and the railroad already have in increasing speeds on UP’s Chicago-St. Louis corridor. The decision to use Metra’s West line allows Rockford-bound trains to use the same tracks that Amtrak’s Milwaukee-bound trains travel out of Union Station through the Western Avenue interlocking as far as Pacific Junction, then utilize Metra’s existing station at Elgin.
Thus far, I have seen no reaction from residents of Genoa, or from Northern Illinois University or DeKalb-Sycamore interests, all of whom have expressed their preference for the former Illinois Central Land O'Corn routing through South Elgin and Genoa.  That one train a day, most likely timetabled for the benefit of business or recreational travellers to the Loop, is unlikely to be of much use to Northern Illinois students or faculty seeking an alternative to the Reagan Tollway east at weekends.  Better to work with Union Pacific to extend that third track to DeKalb.

OBERLIN LOSES THE NEW REPUBLIC.

A recent Oberlin College statement enshrining the prejudices of the freakazoids elicits a scornful reaction from Rod Dreher. "'Cissexism'? Honestly, I wish Putin would invade and occupy Oberlin."  Yes, except that Oberlin would either confer a Doctorate of Humane Letters on Tsar Vladimir, or appoint him a visiting professor of international relationships.

The statement, however, did not go through proper channels of faculty governance, and in the ensuing mockery, the faculty may be rediscovering its spine.
Marc Blecher, a political science professor at Oberlin, told me he had never heard of his college’s trigger warning guidelines until he read about them in The New Republic. The language came from a task force appointed in fall 2012 to review Oberlin’s sexual offense policy, but Blecher said the new policy had been mentioned only vaguely at faculty meetings. At the time, no one “realized that what was going to come out the other end was so central to our academic mission.”
Typical administrative power-grab. At least the REMFs appointed the task force during the academic year. The real chicken-s***s get their sycophants lined up during the summer, when real faculty are catching up on the research they can't do because of all the administrative scut-work that accumulates at the same time they're dealing with the course management software and all the record-keeping.
When he did realize, Blecher began talking to other colleagues, who also hadn’t heard of the trigger warning policy, and they quickly set up informal meetings with various deans and administration officials. These discussions culminated at a previously planned listening session where Blecher says around 30 to 35 faculty members showed up to voice their displeasure at the new rules.
I love it. "Listening sessions." It's the same word-noise as when the mealy-mouths call for dialogue, otherwise understood as "We'll hector you, and when you attempt to rebut us, we'll call you mean-spirited." Implicit in the above is the complete surrender by the faculty of its management prerogatives, more properly carried out through standing committees and college and university councils, where deans or provosts might preside, but the majority rules, and voting isn't on Leninist principles.
In the faculty’s eyes, trigger warnings threaten not just academic freedom but the intrinsic nature of the liberal arts educational model. “We need to … challenge students, to conduct open inquiry in classrooms, to make students feel uncomfortable,” explained Blecher. “Making students feel uncomfortable is at the core of liberal arts education.”
Too often, that "feel uncomfortable" is with "ideas on your right." There is no hope, dear reader, of obtaining meaningful viewpoint diversity on the faculty without faculty control of curriculum. Thus, even in the hothouse environment of Oberlin, a reassertion by faculty of its rights and responsibilities is encouraging.

The stupid policy in question was just another Abuse of Power by deanlets, deanlings, and the weenies in student affairs.
Aside from one professor who is also the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Sexual Offense Policy Task Force is made up completely of students and administrators. “Anybody who was seriously engaged with it on the faculty would have seen what was going on and would have started to make the arguments we made in reaction to it.”
Let us hope so. Otherwise, the only recourse available to the civilized world is to contine to laugh the freakazoids to scorn.

THE GODS OF THE COPYBOOK HEADINGS RETURN.

The women would have no more children.
More and more US women are forgoing motherhood and getting their maternal kicks by owning handbag-size canines.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that a big drop in the number of babies born to women ages 15 to 29 corresponds with a huge increase in the number of tiny pooches owned by young US women, reports the business-news site Quartz.

Dog-crazy New York ladies told The Post that they aren’t surprised by the findings — and that they happily gave up diaper changes, temper tantrums and college funds for the easy affection of their doggy “child.”
And the men lost reason and faith.

9.4.14

STILL A DEGREE WORTH PURSUING.

This past winter has given the impression of the University of Wisconsin as sports factory, with women's volleyball making the national title game, football playing again on January 1 (going to the moon appeared easier from the perspective circa 1974 than playing in a Rose Bowl), both hockey teams appearing in the national tournament (from that 1974 perspective, any outcome other than a national title is a disaster) and men's basketball being an empty possession away from the title game (the coach in 1974, John Powless, having gone on to a spectacular third act as a tennis player).

Now comes the Project on Fair Representation, seeking to bring a class-action lawsuit against Wisconsin, Harvard, and North Carolina for unconstitutional discrimination in the name of affirmative action.  Yes, there are any number of universities that could be named in such a suit.  In order for such a suit to have any effect on admission practices, though, the university so named must be depriving applicants of a service not easily obtained elsewhere.

IT'S NOT NECESSARILY HOW FAST THE TRAINS GO.

Progressive Railroading reports on Louisiana Department of Transportation efforts to develop Passenger Rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The last such service expired before Amtrak: just over two hours to go 80 miles inclusive of four intermediate stops, on the Kansas City Southern.

The Louisiana approach draws lessons from the Hiawatha service.
In 2010, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) turned away federal high-speed dollars for a Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago high-speed link at the insistence of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Today, WisDOT instead is focusing on upgrading the Milwaukee-Chicago portion of the corridor, over which Amtrak Hiawatha trains operate. A study is being conducted to determine options for adding three additional round trips, for a total of 10, between the two cities, says [transportation consultant Alan] Tobias.

“Because the corridor is only 90 miles long, there aren’t a whole lot of opportunities to save a lot of time, so the focus is on increasing frequencies so people have more options,” he says.
Just as I have been suggesting for years.

On a relatively short corridor, there are still opportunities to run the trains fast.
Many states still are interested in high-speed rail — HNTB [a transportation planning firm] is involved in “quite a few studies across the country” that prove it, says Tobias — but in many regions, an incremental approach might make more sense.

“We tend to get hung up on that high-speed number, and it is appealing,” says Tobias. “But the best way to go faster is to not go slow. You can make incremental improvements to conventional services that help to improve travel time, increase frequencies and improve reliability, and sometimes that’s just as important, if not more.”
Exactly. On the Hiawatha service, four three-car rakes on 92 minute timings with two intermediate stops have bloomed to seven six-car rakes on 89 minute timings (often 84 minutes in practice) with a third intermediate stop, and that with a few stretches of track now good for 79 mph rather than 70.  In steam days, The Milwaukee Road was contemplating a 60 minute nonstop timing for Hiawathas.

Give the Hiawathas free rein to 110, or 125, and post those 60 minute schedules (Airport at 0:10, Sturtevant at 0:18, Glenview at 0:42, Chicago at 1:00).  Is it too much to ask for a bar car?

In Louisiana, start with two or three trips on times more suited for business than for the beginning or the end of the business day (and for Louisiana State games, where the bar car will do a brisk business) on timings faster than those posted by the old Flying Crow, and develop from there.

LEVEL ONE PLAYING FIELD, TILT ANOTHER.

Title Nine of the 1971 Civil Rights Act requires universities to spend money on athletics in proportion to their enrollment of male and female students*. Administrators have to optimize along several margins, one of which is fielding a competitive enough football program for men to preserve the illusion of financial fitness for the sports enterprise. Thus, the number of basketball scholarships is twelve for men's teams, and fifteen for women's teams. Cue the Law of Unintended Consequences.
[Big Sky conference commissioner Don] Fullerton said one factor that has the potential to "ruin" the NCAA tournament as we know it is squad size. Men's basketball teams in Division I can have 13 scholarship players; women's teams have 15. Because the top women's teams can stockpile more of the game's top talent, there is less parity. That's evident year after year in the first round of the women's NCAA tournament; this year the average margin of victory was 19.2 points.

"All you have to do is look at the women's tournament," Fullerton said. "I could pick who's going to be eliminated and who's going to make the round of 32 and round of 16. You can already see, quite frankly, a declining interest in the women's basketball tournament because of that. We have a petri dish to look at – what just two or three scholarships will do to you."
The validity of Mr Fullerton's statement depends on the supply elasticity of basketball players. Yes, the teams that get to the elite eight have enough reserves on scholarship to complete yet another team, but those players also have to calculate their chances of getting any playing time on the elite teams, and the coaches of the other teams use the promise of starting minutes as a recruiting incentive. But additional scholarships call forth more effort, and also-ran teams can benefit from a larger pool of high-performing players.
Fullerton said squad size warranted "a very pointed discussion. That's one of the bright lines." Gavitt, the man tasked with running the NCAA tournament, agreed that if it were ever increased, it would [further] affect the tournament's parity.

"Where the line gets much more difficult is if we ever get to a point where squad sizes and scholarship limits change," he said. "If that were to ever come to pass. Now, (for example), that the major schools can have a 20-player team, those extra eight kids who would otherwise be at mid-major, low-major programs, are now kind of pining away on the bench at a major program. That would have the potential to upset the competitive balance."
Again, though, that presupposes the inducement of additional scholarships to be a reserve at Connecticut dominates the opportunity to get playing minutes at Duke or Stanford.

Perhaps, though, it is the propensity of women's teams to develop senior leadership that perpetuates Them that Has, Gets.
This was the fourth straight Final Four appearance for Notre Dame, the seventh straight for Connecticut.

It would not be a surprise to find both teams back in the Final Four next year, even if both lose two key players:  [Kayla] McBride and Natalie Achonwa of the Irish, [Stefanie] Dolson and Bria Hartley of the Huskies.  In the past five years, both have had a stockpile of talent.

“You know which teams are going to win pretty much all the time,” Auriemma said.  “There’s a reason for that.  All our players stay pretty much four years.”
That, dear reader, is a gibe by Mr Auriemma at the d-league model that has taken over the men's tournament.

*Yeah, we can call out the Defenders of Civil Rights for their cis-sexism, but one windmill at a time.

8.4.14

BUILDINGS ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS THE FACULTY.

The editorial board at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes, correctly, that, basketball tournament appearance or not, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee cannot raise its research profile, enroll more Wisconsin residents than Madison does, and serve as port of entry to the middle class for first-generation and nontraditional students on the cheap.
[Geographer Mark] Schwartz and [former Milwaukee chancellor, now Marquette president Michael] Lovell point to an outdated funding formula at the UW System level that doesn't recognize UWM's expanded mission. They contend that UWM is structurally underfunded — with revenue more appropriate for a school of 16,000 students instead of the 28,000 now crammed onto the school's campuses. A committee of the UW chancellors and university officials is reviewing the formula and is expected to report back this spring.

Any talk of the funding formula inevitably scares up concerns around the UW System that whatever additional money UWM receives would have to come from the budgets of other UW institutions.

But is this necessarily the case? Couldn't out-of-state enrollment be boosted? What about increasing the amount charged to out-of-state students?
It has been the Cold Spring Shops position that budgetary stringencies are the perfect cover for limiting enrollments and raising admission standards.  That's one way to raise an institution's selectivity rankings in U.S. News and the like, and greater selectivity might bring in out-of-state students.  Madison, however, has already been going after the out-of-state, full-fare students, and it has more of the social scene and the big time sports to attract applicants more interested in the signal than in the human capital development.

Should the legislature attempt to raise Milwaukee's profile in a revenue-neutral way, that's going to involve greater stringencies at other campuses.  The Illinois proposal to create a second Big Ten-caliber public university in Illinois would bite in the same way.  The point of the legislative initiative is, not surprisingly, to keep more Illinoisans south of the Cheddar Curtain, as well as to go after more out-of-state, full-fare students.

The small solace I can draw is that, as my academic career winds down, university administrators and legislators are seriously considering spending money to compete for students.  Sometimes one has to make investments to generate traffic.

MONEY SMART WEEK.

The Center for Economic Education helps teachers prepare their students to not be fleeced.
“I want children to be prepared to make really good financial decisions as they get older,” said Mary Beth Henning, co-director of Center for Economic Education.
There are a lot of economics concepts in children's books, if you know where to look, or whom to ask.

THE STATE OF HIGHER EDUCATION.

Beer-'n-circus at ZooConn, and Dave Zirin counts the cost.
So let us recap: we have a team of majority African-American basketball players not getting an education and not getting paid, but generating millions of dollars for their coach and billions of dollars for the NCAA, CBS and the assorted sponsors. We have a state college suffering budget cuts and tuition hikes, that has been trashed by students thrilled that their team of unpaid mercenaries has brought them a measure of reflected glory.
In the men's tournament, Connecticut comes off a one-year excommunication for low graduation rates, while graduation rates are moot at Kentucky, serving as a developmental league for the pros.  Provokes a wicked thought: suppose that in lieu of athletic scholarships, players in the so-called revenue sports qualify for loans along the income-contingent lines proposed long ago by Milton Friedman.  In the women's tournament, it's Connecticut and Notre Dame and Tennessee and Stanford all the time.  Yawn.