30.4.15

MARKING OFF.

Thank you for looking in this past year.



That's the aggregate traffic for the past year according to Site Meter.  Maybe there are a thousand page views a day (according to one counter), maybe twenty or thirty.

I've been out of the classroom for a year and am still spending a lot of time at a keyboard.  Perhaps too much time, my right wrist is telling me.  Summer approaches, and I'm going to dial the posting back.  Stay safe.  Illegitimi non carborundum.

A SILVER JUBILEE.

I recently finished Robert Lacey's Majesty: Elizabeth II and the House of Windsor.  Book Review No. 7 will be short.  There are never authorised biographies of British royals during their lifetime, although Mr Lacey evidently had cooperation from people close to the monarchy -- this being a fraught practice as more than a few house servants have profited from their association by cooperating in telling tales out of school.  The book was written for the queen's silver jubilee, which took place shortly after the British economy was in terrible shape and a prime minister's best policy response was to cut the workweek.  Leave that aside, there's a lot about the interwar years and abdication and the "boxes" and the role of a constitutional monarch who is head of state of independent countries that are part of the British Commonwealth.  And during the war a Greek lieutenant of Danish extraction appears at a naval review ...

The author fights shy of editorial comment wherever possible, although there is much to engage a careful reader, even past the Diamond Jubilee and several prime ministers who were youngsters in 1977.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

THE ACCUMULATION OF SMALL ADVANTAGES.

Dan Hannan of Washington Examiner makes the Trenchant Observation of the Day. "Like most successful people, Bill Gates became rich by persuading lots of poorer people to buy something from him; in consequence, we are all better off."  Microsoft operate on more generous margins than Wal-Mart or McDonalds or J. C. Penney back in the day, and yet the general principle holds.

TOUGHEN UP, CUPCAKE.

Here's Popehat's Ken White on safe spaces and trigger facilitators.
Today's young people are responsible for their own actions. They are bound, like all of us, by this truth: the government saying something is right doesn't make it right. But it's not fair to ignore our culture's role in shaping the values that lead to an appetite for "safe spaces."

I'm not going to stop calling out university students who assert that they have a right not to be offended, or who claim that they are entitled to spaces safe from ideas they don't like.
Yes, if you can't play around with ideas in a university, when and where will you play with them?  Thus, Reason's Nick Gillespie sees the safe-space facilitators as veal farmers.
Today’s students are even less prepared to deal with anything approaching the real world than those of us who graduated into a world that didn’t even pretend to care what our senior thesis was about. Take it from me, kiddos: The whole world is a microaggression when it isn’t openly kicking you up and down the street. And if your vast clone army of administrative busybodies can’t fully protect you from disappointment on campus, they’re even more useless once you’ve graduated and start paying off your student loans.
Or not.

DISCIPLINE TRUMPS TALENT.

Combine talent, experience, and discipline and you get the power rule that appears to be present in collegiate women's basketball.
The “downside” of having every great player stick around for four years is that teams get good. And they play together for long periods of time and get better. The effects of good recruiting — as well as good coaching — are more pronounced and last longer. In the women’s tournament, we have a much better sense of who the best teams are, and they play like it. You don’t get the “madness”-engendering scenario in which talented teams with no experience face off against experienced teams with less talent.

The irony is that the lack of upsets in the women’s tourney is frequently cited as a sign of the sport’s immaturity or inferior talent. But the chalk likely results from the opposite: The women’s game is the more mature of the two.

No doubt, the women’s tournament has a very different character than the men’s — and I don’t just mean the scarcity of dunks. Big upsets are extremely rare, and teams perform relatively closer to their expectations. But you don’t tune in to witness madness; you tune in to witness greatness.
Yes, although the author makes the mistake of conflating undisciplined flamboyance with talent.  To the extent that the recruit, redshirt, and develop model diffuses in the men's game, the pundits will have to rethink what they understand as the madness.

28.4.15

DEUTSCHE FRAUEN, DEUTSCHE TREUE, DEUTSCHE BIER UND DEUTSCHER SANG.

Nailed to Newmark's Door is an incomplete thesis.
Around the nation, big beer producers contribute to the campaigns of politicians who will support policies that discourage competition from local upstarts—for example, taxes on breweries and laws that prevent breweries from selling their kegs directly to consumers (instead of through a distributor). But what's unique about the South is that there's a voting bloc—the Baptists—whose moral stance against alcohol happens to align with large producers' desires to keep new competitors from getting started in the business. The support of Baptists provides Southern politicians with a reason to hinder brewers that politicians in other regions don't have. As a result, the states with the most Baptists tend to have the fewest breweries.
Ja, doch, there's even a term of art, bootleggers and Baptists, for the synergy of interest groups with supposedly conflicting interests.  But as the Atlantic reference to the research paper (which is stuck behind a paywall) notes, the author has found a correlation.  But parse this: there are more breweries in Wisconsin or Minnesota or Iowa than there are in California, all places where Baptists are relatively few.  And only in Wisconsin can you legally buy Spotted Cow.

Compare and contrast the brewery frequency map with this map based on the 1890 census.

Wo Deutscher kommen, Gemütlichkeit folgen!  Noch ein Bier, bitte.

Prosit!

PERHAPS IT WAS THE PERFECT STORM.

Marc Tucker asks, "Why Have American Education Standards Collapsed?"  By all means, go, read the whole thing.  Herewith my impressions.  Let's start with his description of the E-T-T-S moment.
First of all, the period I have just mentioned started when American business, riding high since the end of World War II, was challenged by Asian countries offering much cheaper manufacturing workers with the skills as high as the typical American manufacturing worker.  Not long thereafter, automation began to replace Americans doing low-skill and routine work at an ever-increasing rate. This led first to a stagnation and then a fall in real wages for the average employed American worker, a steep decline in the labor participation of men in the employed workforce and an equally steep increase in the rates of childbirth among unmarried women.  These trends have combined to greatly increase the proportion of children entering the first grade who live in poverty, one-parent homes and in poor health.  The issues here are not simply lack of money and the things money can buy.  They go much deeper to a collapse of middle class values as the middle class is demoralized and its numbers dwindle.  Little wonder that school teachers believe that society has dumped all of its problems at the schoolhouse door.
The common culture could have survived either the developing world and the European economies emerging as industrial powers, or the Consciousness Revolution, but both, simultaneously.  What's the point of hanging onto bourgeois values if there's neither material nor moral reward in it?
For families in which prior generations were proud to be a boilermaker or electrician, now fear and shame would come if Junior were not a professional.  In other countries, grades are the result of a student's performance on an externally graded test.  Everyone gets together to help Junior meet the high standards.  In the U.S., the land of second chances and wobbly standards, it is far easier to put pressure on the principal to put pressure on the teacher to give Junior the grades required to get into college.  So grade inflation made rapid headway in our schools.
That is, if those trade jobs are still available. (They are, but they're localized these days.)  Note, though, the inflated grades and the weak universities are more likely to be the sub-prime sector of higher education, the positional arms races among the well-off and the Tiger Moms are still about meeting high standards.
In the 1980s, experts, seeing the baby boom winding its way through our colleges and universities, predicted that, when the cohort of college-age students retreated to its normal size, the number of places in the colleges and universities would fall dramatically and many would be forced to close.  It did not happen.  I interviewed a number of college admissions officers at the time.  With surprising candor, they told me that they would take the best students they could find, but their primary goal would be to fill their seats, whatever that took.  What it took was an across-the-board fall in admissions standards.  Once those sub-par students were admitted, the word went out to college faculty that professors who continued to use their former standards for grading would be punished.
That overstates the case.  But the austerity in state universities that accompanied the shakeout of the unionized oligopoly industries that paid the taxes was an opportunity to raise admission standards and downsize the student body concomitantly with the faculty.  That is not what happened.  Just pick any month of my posts and read about it.

Here, though, Mr Tucker attempts too much.
Later, as the competition for students among institutions heated up, the arbiter in the admissions game became U.S. News and World Report.  The rankings emphasized the quality of amenities provided rather than the quality of the academic program, for which there were no agreed-upon metrics.  The institutions, forced to compete on these terms, invested heavily in nicer student accommodations, fancier dining halls, climbing walls and student mental health care facilities.  As the competition for students stiffened, universities spent ever more on very sophisticated college recruitment schemes.  As regulation of universities increased, administration blossomed.  Facing these cost pressures, the universities considerably reduced the number of hours of instruction provided during the academic year.  They charged more for what they offered, but they provided less instruction.  The combination of lower admissions standards, less instruction and the need to retain the students they had admitted irrespective of their academic performance, led to a general across-the-board decline in standards.
The U. S. News rankings may generate poor proxies for academic quality, but I have not seen any evidence to persuade me from my stance that those guides sell precisely to parents, and to a lesser extent, to prospective students, who do not wish to be mired in the cesspools of access-assessment-remediation-retention.  And the reduction in hours of instruction reflect a reduction in the size of faculties: the department I hired out in had 23 tenure-line faculty in 1986 and eleven when I left.

Now comes an intriguing hypothesis.
Regular readers of this blog know that I believe that the ending of the draft after the Vietnam War ended brought with it a catastrophic decline in the skills of the American civilian workforce, because the military—previously the nation's leading source of well-trained high school graduates for a wide range of civilian jobs when draftees reentered civilian life—kept their trainees in the military under the all-volunteer army.  The phenomenon combined with the collapse of selective vocational high schools in our big cities after the Vietnam War and the rise of the standards movement, which crowded vocational courses out of the high school curriculum.  Vocational education has also often been a casualty in our community college programs because vocational courses cost more to deliver then academic courses and carry less prestige for the faculty.
There was more than the all-volunteer military contributing to the collapse of big city school systems generally, with the vocational schools being collateral damage.  But there's going to be an interesting study in another fifty years of why upscale school districts nationwide allocated resources to state-of-the-art athletics facilities rather than to a manufacturing technology lab or a planetarium.

His conclusion, though, is one I endorse.
The very high quality of our best public schools and independent schools, of a handful of colleges with strong liberal arts curricula, of a few leading community colleges, and of graduate education in our leading research universities generally has masked the collapse of standards in the great mass of institutions serving our students at all levels. Fixing all this is not impossible.  It is actually essential.
Indeed. It's the very simulacrum of a proper education that contributes to the high rewards earned by holders of degrees from the prestige institutions: the graduates of the sub-prime sector can't compete.

WHEN NAVAL SHIPS TRADE SHOTS, THAT'S WAR.

Finland Goes After Russian Sub With Depth Charges.  Tsar Vladimir will push Sweden and Finland into the Atlantic Alliance this way.  Doesn't seem like the kind of strategy to persuade the Baltic republics and Poland to rethink their membership.

CRACK DOWN ON THAT ZOO FRATERNITY.

What the mayor and Dean Wormer could not do, the current crop of deanlets and deanlings intend to do, is shut down Delta.  College Insurrection has the story, suggesting there will be no double secret probation and show trial.

A CHANCE TO OWN A FULL-SIZED STEAM LOCOMOTIVE.

Some assembly required.  The Mid-Continent Railway Museum,  which suffered a serious flood seven years ago, commenced its preservation efforts with the goal of preserving the turn-of-the-twentieth century steam branch line.


Steam locomotives require a lot of work simply to keep them cosmetically presentable, and getting and keeping one in operable condition, orders of magnitude more work.

The goal of the auction is to clear out artifacts that are anachronistic to the museum's mission, as well as to fund work on the steam locomotives that are closest to operable condition.  And there is hope of steam to be raised by the start of the summer tourist season.

27.4.15

EGAD.

Baltimore, the latest paradigm of what Democrats do.

ANOTHER FAILURE OF SOCIALISM.

It's from Destination: Freedom, several years ago, when there was still hope that Wisconsin and Ohio would get expanded rail service to supplement that emerging in Illinois.  It's worth pondering, though, as those states decide to spend less public money on transportation, and a greater share of the remaining dollars on the highways.  It's something worth pondering the next time a candidate for public office grouses about "crumbling infrastructure."
The real budget buster for America over the past five decades has been a monolithic reliance on automobiles, trucks and highways for nearly all ground transportation, with many hundreds of billions of dollars spent far beyond the revenues collected from the lowest vehicle fuel taxes and licensing fees in the western world. When one considers that the USA has fought at least one, and perhaps two wars in the past two decades to ensure a continued supply of foreign oil to America’s thirsty fleet of several hundred million cars and trucks, then the costs of subsidizing automobiles and highways runs easily into the trillion dollar range in just 20 years. One would think that a trillion dollar tax payer subsidy for anything would become the immediate target of attack by the TEA Party and its allies in the New Right. But for some reason I am not hearing much out of either group in recent weeks and months about this astonishing tax dollar give-away.

The New Right such as John Kasich and Scott Walker expect rail transit to be government budget neutral, while the nation’s highway road network continue to stay on their half-century long tax-payer subsidized free ride. That is fantasy. As long as the road and highway network get multiple billions of direct tax subsidies every year, then an alternative transportation system such as rail will also require similar tax subsidies to be viable. But these gentlemen offer no alternative, just the same old failed transportation policy the USA has followed for the last several decades.

The alternative would be for these gentlemen to back up their words with actions, and force the highway network to get off of its generous tax handouts. Of course that would mean charging highways tolls nationwide and tripling the current vehicle fuel taxes in order to begin the end of tax-payer subsidized highways.
The only reform anywhere near satisfying those criteria is the recent Illinois Tollway increase in tolls paid by truckers. "On January 1, 2015, truck/trailer toll rates will increase to help rebuild, improve and expand the agency's 286-mile system of toll roads to make travel easier and more efficient." That's just the usual spin we expect from government agencies or from corporations.  What the higher tolls have done is induced even more truck traffic on the state and federal highways, for which there is less money to deal with the wear and tear.

We will recognize a politician serious about fixing "crumbling infrastructure" in a politician who goes on record in favor of special movement permits for any trailer longer than 28 feet.

HIGHER EDUCATION BREAKS THE SOCIAL CONTRACT.

That's long been a theme of mine.  "We find ourselves in a situation where universities are failing at their mission, and the People's representatives are questioning our efforts."  The Pope Center's Jenna Robinson now asserts, "All over the country, university campuses are out of touch with American culture."  She goes on to list ten ways in which higher education breaks the social contract.  The root causes include higher education admitting unprepared people and calling it access, and fostering a self-despising multiculturalism that denigrates the very institutions and traditions that make skeptical inquiry, including self-despising multiculturalism, possible, while celebrating all sorts of transgressions against mainstream America.  And yet ... it's more of the politically correct atrocities at the institutions that have the U.S. News problem.  Until people figure out that it's the interaction of the ambitious students at those institutions that provides the value added, trendy curricula or not, though, there's precious little incentive for the curriculum committees and the administrators to do anything differently.

Meanwhile the shakeout in higher education's subprime sector continues.

26.4.15

PLUSHIES AND BALDIES.

And an O Scale modeler that purchased some basket case Chicago L cars, and prettied them up.


Rear car in Chicago Rapid Transit colors, one of the Plushies will get Chicago Transit Authority colors.

Looks like there might be some Chicago Surface Lines projects to come.

GIVE VOTERS SOMETHING TO VOTE FOR.

Hillary Clinton's foundational follies might make for a lot of fun, but Larry Kudlow suggests focusing on Democrat failures will have greater effect.
I would suggest laying off Hillary and instead showing us what you got in the way of economic-growth policies that will foster 4 to 5 percent growth and maybe another 12 million jobs. The GOP needs a positive growth message, along with a strong national-security message, because the party needs a positive rebranding and a positive vision.
Indeed. Mrs Clinton's defenders have been using the expression "issues the American people care about" as a way of deflecting the investigation, or changing the subject.  That is an opportunity to get in a two-fer.
What the Republican party needs is a clear and strong vision for getting the American economy out of the doldrums. If you want to nail Hillary, slam her issues and policies. Looks like she’s going Obama Third Term: redistribution, not growth.

Go positive, GOP. Go for positive economic- and foreign-policy solutions. That’s a winner.
To wit: an economic stimulus that failed to stimulate.  A foreign policy reset that has made for a less stable world.  A health insurance reform that has been a full-employment statute for tax preparers, and a record-keeping nightmare for the core Democrat constituencies.  And, serendipitously, all creating opportunities for rent-seeking and Clinton Foundation boodling.

CREATING THE NEXT GENERATION OF BLUE COLLAR ARISTOCRATS.

Joanne Jacobs links to a story about a Seattle community college in which remedial mathematics is applied shop math, rather than just another day in thirteenth grade.  Insanity is doing the same thing ...
At most community colleges, students who don’t do well on placement tests must take pre-college classes in their weak subject — math, writing or reading. These classes can feel like a repeat of high school, and they can greatly extend the time and money it takes to finish a vocational or academic degree. Some students get discouraged or spend so much money on the remedial classes that they don’t have enough left to finish a credential.
I've been on record as opposing the college-first mind-set that turns the shop class into a dumping ground for burnouts.  And thus, even where there is good news, there is evidence that Washington State is paying for high school twice.
The program pairs a basic-skills teacher like Lindberg with a subject expert, such as Keith Smith, the machining-program instructor at Shoreline. The I-BEST approach is being used in academic transfer classes, too, for students working on associate or bachelor’s degrees.

Because it uses two instructors instead of one, I-BEST costs the community colleges almost twice as much as a conventional class. The college bears the extra expense, not the student.
That may not be a bug. Businesses, particularly in cyclical industries, might be reluctant to hire apprentices who will be raided away by other businesses, a classic appropriability problem.  But the benefit-cost ratio seems favorable.
But a national study showed that I-BEST programs produce long-term economic benefits that outweigh the added costs. And a state study suggested that I-BEST benefits the entire state because the graduates get better jobs, paying more in taxes over a lifetime.
And students see, immediately, the applicability of the math they're learning.
When algebra for machinists is taught just before the students work on a metal-cutting project, they immediately apply what they’ve just learned, reinforcing it.

The pilot projects also showed that colleges could often accelerate the speed at which remedial math and writing are taught, just filling the gaps in students’ skills rather than requiring them to repeat whole classes.

Kerr also has interviewed hundreds of I-BEST students in his role as I-BEST director and dean at three different state colleges. Many said I-BEST was the first time their teachers had made a direct connection between academic work and job skills.
The apprentices will also discover, quickly enough, that "close enough" has an entirely different meaning on the shop floor, or in the pharmacy.

BLOOD-EAGLE A JIHADI FOR ARMAGEDDON.

Among the articles of Christian faith there is the second coming, when the dead shall be raised incorruptible.  The recent funeral of Chicago's Francis Cardinal George included a statement of that hope.  Yet although the cardinal objected to recent developments in Catholic social teachings, nowhere did he or like-minded clergy and laity argue that church positions would change by one nanosecond the day and the hour of the last judgement.  That is not true of all Christians: here is a lengthy essay suggesting a connection between evangelical support of Israel and hopes of advancing that day.  Another lengthy essay suggests that loyalists of the caliphate have a similar motivation.  "Islam’s final showdown with an anti-Messiah will occur in Jerusalem after a period of renewed Islamic conquest." Yes, God Helps Thofe who Help Themfelves, but that is of this life.

In Old Norse tradition, there is also a battle at the end of the world, Ragnarök.  A different sort of chosen dead will be raised incorruptible, to do battle at the right hand of Odin.  And although the recently-concluded third season of Vikings on History Channel brings in too many concessions to post-modern sensibilities for my liking, among the cast of characters is the devout boat-builder Floki, who comes off as wanting to immanentize the eschaton without the assistance of a Wagner libretto.

And perhaps in the caliphate's snuff videos we have an echo of Norse tradition.  "Islamic State operates as policies of mercy rather than of brutality ... the state has an obligation to terrorize its enemies—a holy order to scare the shit out of them with beheadings and crucifixions and enslavement of women and children, because doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonged conflict."  So must it have been with the blood eagle.

22.4.15

SEEKING A LIBERTARIAN VOICE.

If you're going to run against Washington as a Republican, Timothy Carney suggests, run against Washington.
The New York Times, Associated Press, and CBS aren't going to care or notice that Clinton is totally out of line with the middle of the country on late-term abortion, the health-insurance mandate or her support for inheritance taxes. Attack her cronyism, though, and you can sink into the consciousness of the press.

It's a matter of speaking the Left's language — concerns about special interests, the people versus the powerful and a rigged game. Suddenly, the left-leaning media can understand.

This strategy is simple, but that doesn't make it easy. It requires a Republican who's willing to forswear corporate welfare, upset his or her lobbyist friends with some populist rhetoric, and lose some corporate donors. Is any Republican willing to do that?

If not, they're ignoring Hillary's greatest weakness.
It's not just the Left's language. "Bipartisanship" is the political class working together to fleece taxpayers.

DRUG SMUGGLERS.

A Minnesota barkeep transports controlled substances across state lines.  Understandable, with Fitgers, Grain Belt, and Hamms all off to the Grosste Zapfenstreich, that some Spotted Cow might lift spirits confronting a lousy start by the Twins.
The bar owner admitted his manager bought kegs of Spotted Cow at a liquor store just across the border in Hudson, Wis., and spirited them back to Minnesota because customers were asking for the brew whose label features a happy and cavorting Guernsey, or maybe it's a Jersey, leaping over a map of Wisconsin, WCCO-TV of Minneapolis reported.

New Glarus Brewing Co. is not a licensed alcohol manufacturer in Minnesota. Also, no Minnesota alcohol distributors are authorized to legally distribute Spotted Cow to retailers in that state.
Minor point: the spotted cow is a Holstein.  Major point: we may speak of drug "cartels"; that's a misnomer.  The beer cartel has the police power of the state behind it.
Each state heavily regulates entry into the market, especially on the wholesaler and distributor level with very high annual fees on business. Add in the armies of lobbyists from associations protecting those already in the industry, the unions (Teamsters) who haul their beer and spirits, and other organizations such as the Tavern League and it’s a tougher row to hoe.

In New Glarus’ case, it’s about building a mystique around their brand. As an established producer of beer, they have one of the easier routes to market entry: buy a license in the states where they wish to sell and have enough of it.

New Glarus knows this. After all, it sold its wares in the Chicagoland area once upon a time. They’ve simply chosen to limit themselves to Wisconsin both to save costs and generate demand in the places it is unavailable. If they really wanted to be in Minnesota, they’d do all that the state requires of them to start selling in Minnesota.

If states allowed for easier ways to get into their distribution networks, perhaps that would change. But as long as the three-tier system sticks around, the real loser's [c.q.] are smaller companies and upstarts who can’t get past the barriers to entry as well as those beer drinkers suffering with the limited options the big, industrial breweries force on tap.

Unless that changes, the beer-smuggling will continue unabated.
And the cross-state rivalry.
A manager at Maple Tavern bought six half-barrels of Spotted Cow at a liquor store in Hudson, Wis., and took them back to his customers in the land of Lake Wobegon for a raging Garrison Kegger.

He risked a lot, so I hope he received generous gratuities from his customers. It turns out Spotted Cow tipping is not a myth, unlike regular cow tipping.

With Gov. Scott Walker running around the country all the time, Wisconsin is vulnerable to these Viking raids. Clearly, Minnesota is interpreting its reciprocity with Wisconsin too broadly.

Beer borrowing from beyond their borders could get out of hand in a hurry. Don't be surprised if the Twin Cities start calling themselves Minneapolis-St. Pauli Girl. Or Maple Grove may suddenly reincorporate as Newer Glarus as a loophole. And someday you'll find yourself shopping at the Malt of America.
Flatlanders returning south are able to bring Spotted Cow or Sprecher across the Cheddar Curtain for their own use, although those purchases are subject to the use tax reporting requirements.

THE GOOD NEWS IS THE BAD NEWS IS WRONG.

I recall the first Earth Day, going on some 45 years ago, which is about twenty more years than some of the alarmists of the day thought we had.  Here's a summary of eighteen egregious howlers of the day.

RANDOM DEATH FROM THE SKY.

I noted last week that the April 9 tornadoes missed the most thickly settled areas of north central Illinois.  The Department of Geography at Northern Illinois will offer a two-hour symposium at 7 pm on April 30 focusing on tornado preparations, as well as an analysis of where the storms went and what a small deviation in their courses might have meant.

BRING BACK THE BAR CARS.

The April issue of Metra's On the Bi-Level reports on a survey of passengers, asked inter alia to identify up to five reasons for riding the scoots and dinkies.  Top response, in 27% of the surveys, "Avoid road congestion."  Not surprising, given the perpetually-congested state of Chicago area roads.  Next, "Convenience," at 13%.  "Can work/read/nap" and "less stress" tied at 8%.  "Social time" was an option, cited by less than 1% of the respondents.  (The survey didn't offer "antisocial time," something that would likely appeal to  regular readers of the Sound Off gripe column).

The last publicly available bar cars came off some years ago.  Apart from the few relics still using the last subscription parlor car on the old Chicago and North Western, there's no opportunity to mingle and imbibe.  It's all bring your own.

17.4.15

CONSERVATIVE PROGRESSIVISM.

Byron York is being generous. "As for the Democrats, they're stuck with the candidates they have, working to make the best of their new status as the party of times gone by." That's been my sense of Democrats since about 1976, although there are fewer people who will automatically genuflect and pull the lever at the invocation of "New Deal" or "Great Society" than there were back in the day.

WHEN YOU HAVE ELIMINATED THE IMPOSSIBLE.

Philip Wallach of Brookings reviews a book that misses a principal dimension of America's Lobbying Addiction.
And yet it is hard to say that corporations, writ large, are really winners from this arrangement. Certainly, their interests are respectfully considered in every corner of the policymaking process in a way that regular people’s are not. But [Business of America author Lee] Drutman paints a portrait of an arms race that has primarily benefited the arms manufacturers. There is so much lobbying that it is difficult to understand which efforts are really efficacious or worthwhile, and that creates a vicious principal-agent problem in which the lobbyists’ ability to exploit their clients’ uncertainty is nearly limitless. To the extent firms try to solve this by insisting on pursuing measurable impacts, they end up seeking highly particularistic, outcomes—which in turn exponentially expands the field for lobbying, as sector-wide interest group advocacy takes a back seat to firm-specific, intra-sector competition.

It seems clear that we need the lobbyist version of the old lawyer joke: that town is too small for one lawyer to make a living, but it could probably support two and offer a fine living to three. As Drutman puts it, lobbying begets lobbying. This is because it is harder to cut through the noise created by all the other lobbyists; because the fixed costs of launching a policy shop are already sunk; and because figuring out ways in which the government should reorient its policies is inexhaustible. And Drutman provides convincing data to show that the ratchet only goes one way: there has never been a significant draw-down in aggregate troops, and even at the firm level attrition is unusual.
Of course not. Simplest case: a public policy generates a rent of R that will accrue to exactly one winner.  It is worth R - ε to cut through that noise.  Duh.

But the ever-expanding regulatory state, or nanny state, or Good Government for the General Good, or the Easter Bunny, creates all sorts of overlapping and offsetting rents.
How did we get to this point? Drutman lays out the history, with the 1970s as the watershed. Previously in the habit of taking policymakers’ sympathies for granted, corporations found themselves under attack by Naderites pushing new social regulation and slowly but surely figured out how to mobilize their resources to fight back. Over the last four decades, they have just kept going and going. Drutman thinks this occurs almost entirely on the strength of its own momentum, for the reasons described above, and not because corporations are reacting to the rise of any countervailing forces, especially since lobbying expenditures for unions and public interest groups are so pitiful compared to those for corporations (something like $1 spent for every $34 spent by corporations). Though the momentum story is convincing, it seems to me that Drutman doesn’t really look in the right places to understand the growing power of the anti-corporate forces that corporations must reckon with. The power of the trial bar, the muckraking electronic media, and the ambitions of the regulatory state have all grown enormously alongside the corporate lobbying Borg, and that hardly seems like a coincidence. To give just one example, Drutman notes that tobacco companies had the biggest growth in their lobbying expenditures from 1981 to 2004. Whatever you think of the merits of the arguments made on their behalf, this mobilization seems quite unsurprising; they were truly fighting an existential threat.
Mr Wallach calls out Mr Drutman for neglecting the radical reform that might just work.
Remarkably, Drutman doesn’t show any sympathy in his book for another avenue of reform: massive simplification of our policy structures in a way that diminishes lobbyists’ value. Just as countries locked in an arms race may need to actually enter into a pact to destroy stockpiled weapons, it seems there is a natural role for reformers to play in calling for a sweeping away of the detritus that has accumulated in our policy environment. That wouldn’t end the influence game, by any means, but, like the Tax Reform of 1986, it would at least encourage a return to some first principles, so that incumbency would no longer mean unassailability. I wish Drutman had been more willing to channel the energy of those who react to the picture he paints by saying “to hell with it all”; on the right issues, that battle cry of diffuse interests can be decisive, even if it has a tendency to exhaust itself in ineffectual ranting if it is not focused by some political entrepreneur.
The simplest way to reduce the rent seeking might be to generate fewer rents in the first place.

THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES APPLY.

Naomi Schaefer Riley gets off the Trenchant Observation of the Day.
Laura Vanderkam, whose forthcoming book, “I Know How She Does It” chronicles the way that successful women balance work and family, says, “I think it’s what we find with most things on parenting. Within a range of middle-class, reasonably educated norms, it doesn’t much matter what you do. Your kids are going to turn out fine.”
Deconstruct that.

THIS KIND OF THING USED TO BE RESERVED FOR AFTER THE SEALED MOVE.

Oops.  (I saw some wag referring to Michael Corleone making better use of the loo.)
Georgian champion Gaioz Nigalidze was expelled from the Dubai Open on Saturday after his opponent Tigran Petrosian, became suspicious about the amount of times he nipped to the lavatory.
This is a different Tigran Petrosian from the world champion who crossed the final summit on 13 August 1984.

With miniature devices, it may already be the case that somewhere a player has a transmitter concealed in his reading glasses.

A LONG WAY FROM ONE IN FIVE.

Northern Illinois University would like to reduce or eliminate sexual assaults.
NIU has already mandated online training for sexual assault awareness for incoming freshmen and transfer students. By May, a committee headed by Kristen Myers, director of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, will present a calendar to NIU President Doug Baker to show how and when more changes can be made.
The article does not estimate how many sections of classes will not be offered in order that additional deanlets and deanlings be hired, nor whether the benefit-cost ratio of doing so is favorable.
Myers’ implementation committee will seek to carry out these recommendations so it will become “unthinkable” for sexual assault to take place at NIU, Myers said.

“That’s our beautiful, utopian goal, is for NIU to be the ideal place for students to go ...,” Myers said. “One way to do that is to have it be unthinkable for these sorts of things to happen. Of course, that’s a 10-year goal.”
It's going to take more than ten years to purge the common culture of all the base influences that skew perceptions of universities as places for a five year party.  The university starts, however, pretty close to its goal.
NIU Police have seen reports of sexual assault rise every year since 2011: There were six in 2011, 11 in 2012, 12 in 2013 and 16 in 2014.

Chief Tom Phillips said he doesn’t think the rising number of reports necessarily means more sexual assaults are happening, but the increase might be a sign more people feel comfortable reporting their assaults since sexual assault is considered underreported.

The NIU Police Department is one of several agencies that responds to reports of sexual assault. Police can investigate reports of sexual assault and gather evidence if a victim seeks to press charges, and those accused of sexually assaulting a person can also face disciplinary action through NIU.

Community members can also report sexual assault to Victim Advocacy Services and Title IX coordinator Karen Baker.
The hyperlink goes to a White House report that might offer estimates of how much under-reporting there might be.  (Nowhere near enough to get to that one in five.)  And Northern Illinois is exceeding the national average, in a good way. "During the years surveyed, 1995-2002, the DOJ found that there were six rapes or sexual assaults per thousand per year."  On average, the reported rates at Northern Illinois are what you'd see at a four-to-five thousand student college.

But there's yet another unfunded federal mandate coming.
Some changes need to be made before July 1 to comply with the Violence Against Women Act, a national law to address and prevent physical and sexual violence against women. To comply with changes to the act made in 2013, the NIU Police Department will have to start providing statistics on the number of reported incidents of dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. Those statistics must be available in the department’s annual Clery Report.

Other changes will have to be made before students return to campus for orientation. The calendar submitted to Baker will show what can be done now and what can be done in a year, Myers said.

To go along with the calendar, the committee will submit to Baker a budget to pay for the resources it feels are necessary to implement its recommendations, Myers said.

Myers said the committee does not yet know what the size of the requested budget will be.
The expanded reporting is unlikely to uncover the four thousand cases the Perpetually Aggrieved would (hysterically) have you expect.
Go look up the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ “Violent Victimization of College Students” report from 2002. It found that about 1 in 40 college students are raped, and that number has steadily decreased over the years. Among the greater population, about 1 in every 1000 women fall victim to this crime. Again, those number are declining. Point being: society has actually made great strides in fighting rape, but there are voices among us very invested in burying this progress, which deprives us of the chance to learn from it.
Maybe there's a different way to call attention to that progress. Suppose for the sake of argument that the Perpetually Aggrieved have the overall proportion right.  Suppose, also, that Northern Illinois's report is accurate within an order of magnitude, and that there are other universities with similar incidences of sexual assault.  Then, somewhere, there must exist a campus at which female students are experiencing more attention than a boatload of Vikings could unleash on an Irish village.

16.4.15

HER WORDS DISQUALIFY HER.

Former senator, secretary of state, and cuckoldress Hillary Clinton made a carefully controlled first public appearance as a declared aspirant to the presidency.
“We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment,” Clinton said, throwing a populist hook to go along with the jabs she took at Wall Street during the same event.
The kiddie corps at Vox attempt to construe such an amendment in such a way that it does not trash the First Amendment.
The problem, as campaign finance reformers see it, is that for decades the Supreme Court has defined speech too broadly and corruption too narrowly. It has ruled that laws capping how much an individual or group can donate to a particular candidate are acceptable, because they help prevent corruption. However, overall caps on the amount any candidate or corporation spends on elections are unconstitutional, because they muzzle speech without specifically preventing corruption. (The court's narrow definition of "corruption" has consistently been disputed by some justices in the minority.)

So the Democrats' proposed constitutional amendment specifically says that both Congress and state governments can limit the "raising and spending of money" meant "to influence elections." It lists several rationales for doing so — advancing "democratic self-government" and "political equality," and protecting the "integrity" of the political process. However, it only says that "reasonable limits" are acceptable — so if the amendment is ever enacted, there would undoubtedly be court battles over which restrictions are reasonable or unreasonable.
Let's focus on the real problem. Corruption is infinitesimal relative to rent-seeking.


And thus, there is no such thing as "unaccountable" money in politics.  Yes, rich people might be able to secretly allocate cash to organizations, but doesn't the mission statement of the organization that either makes the campaign contribution or produces the attack ad make clear precisely what rents are to be sought?

Vermont's Bernie Sanders recognizes this point, even though his policy preferences generate their own rents to be sought or dissipated.  "Clinton's money comes solely from Wall Street and other fat cats, with Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan at the top of the heap; Sanders' money comes solely from unions, except for two teachers' groups and the American Association for Justice."

I wonder how the women of the fevered brow (their mission statement moves them into the feminazi category) at Emily's List like being lumped in with the fat-cats, even if the lumping is being done by a lefty woman.

THE NEW COLD WAR IS UNPROFITABLE.

An Estonian private passenger train operator, Gorail (not to be confused with Toronto's GO Transit) posts Notices of Suspension for Tallinn - Piter and Tallinn - Moscow services.  Despite the exchange rate moving against the rouble, there's dwindling interest in riding the trains.
Chief Executive Alar Pinsel said that ‘being a private company that uses its own assets, Go Rail cannot operate the routes based solely on ticket revenue.’

The ‘difficult economic and political situation in relations between Russia and the European Union has significantly affected the number of Russian tourists visiting Estonia’, said Pinsel. ‘The drop in the exchange rate of the rouble also makes travel expensive for Russian people. Without doubt, functioning of the train connection is useful for Estonia as a whole, however the routes were generating a financial loss for quite a long time’

The Tallinn – St Petersburg DMU service had been reduced from daily to twice a week on February 15. The last train on the route will depart from the Estonian capital on May 10, returning from St Petersburg the following day.

The date of the last overnight train on the Moscow route is still be confirmed, and is dependent on national passenger operator Eesti Raudtee being prepared to continue the carriage of passengers on the route. ‘We hope that Eesti Raudtee will find opportunities to continue carriage of passenger on Tallinn – Moscow route’, said Pinsel. ‘The company has expressed its will to do so.’
International Railway Journal notes that the services were introduced on an experimental basis.

The Go Rail paint scheme is a convex combination of Guilford Transportation's with the McGinnis era Boston and Maine..



It's worth noting that international trains, and more than a few long-distance trains, more commonly in the former Warsaw Pact and Captive Nations, but not unknown in the rest of Europe, are essentially diesel commuter trains, with none of the panache of the New Haven's Comet, or the Nebraska Zephyr.

WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO?

What it deserves.
Hillary Clinton may appear past her political prime: a constructed, fake and self-obsessed persona; a boring, risk-averse, default option for a party out of touch with many of its would-be constituents and lacking in creativity and ambition.

But given the way many Americans lead our lives now, she may also be exactly what we deserve.
That's after Liz Mair has an extended E-T-T-S moment.

15.4.15

NOW HE BELONGS TO THE AGES.




The replica Lincoln Funeral Train car will be present at a sesquicentennial event in Springfield on the first weekend in May.

At one time, the builder had planned to re-enact the funeral train movement from Washington City to Springfield.  Realities intervened.
At first, the group planned to put the car on display in Washington, D.C. next month as that city holds ceremonies marking the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's assassination. Then the train was to run along railroads duplicating the original funeral train's 1,600-mile route, from Washington through Philadelphia, New York, Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Chicago and Joliet to Springfield in time for the burial commemoration.

The car was to be pulled by an authentic 1870s-era steam locomotive that [locomotive and car builder David] Kloke already had built, named the Leviathan. They would be accompanied by an 1860s-stye railroad passenger car similar to an "officers car" on the original funeral train that carried soldiers escorting the body.Early in the process, the planners realized it would not be practical to run the train from town to town along the original railroad tracks.

"We would be moving a train whose steam locomotive can go 25 mph at best along railroads that now are mainlines for CSX and Amtrak, who need the tracks for trains that go twice that fast," said Shannon Brown, the project's media coordinator.
The train crew are still making the locomotive and car available to communities along the original train route, and elsewhere, for suitable remembrances.

MULTIPLE TWISTERS.

The National Weather Service assessment of last Thursday's storms now identifies eleven tornadoes.



The most destructive storm missed most of the thickly settled areas.  Cold Spring Shops headquarters is on the southwest side of DeKalb, just north of Interstate 88, and south of the railroad.  There's been decent weather for picking up.

14.4.15

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN.

Milwaukee's Schuster's department store, which sponsored a Christmas parade on rails,  had its flagship store on North Third, near North Avenue (get there on the Nineteen car line) as well as a largish store on West Mitchell at Eleventh Street and a smaller store on Vliet.

When Gimbels bought Schuster's, the flagship store was later repurposed as its warehouse, and to reduce heating costs, concealed behind metal siding.  But the original brick was left in excellent shape underneath.
A walk through the building, now storing archived business records belonging to C.H. Coakley's customers and other items, finds vestiges of its glory days.

The building has some ceilings as high as 18 feet, and large windows that provide views of Lake Michigan, downtown's skyline, Miller Park and other sites.

On the ground floor, there are two revolving door bays for what were store entrances off N. 4th St. and N. 3rd St., later renamed N. King Drive.

There's also a mezzanine level and an escalator, along with an upper-floor commissary that made items sold at delis within all the Schuster's stores.
But in its redevelopment, possibly with apartments upstairs and retail below, will there ever be streetcars bending the corner around?

WHEN HIGHER EDUCATION BREAKS THE SOCIAL CONTRACT.

The state-supported institutions of higher education in North Carolina have stuck at least one finger too many in the eyes of Republicans, and Republican majorities in the legislature are punching back twice as hard, most recently with a "productivity" measure mandating that all professors meet four classes per semester.

In Slate, we see the canonical response from higher education, A Good Professor Is an Exhausted Professor.
The professors forced into a 4-4 will simply pick up their research—and the labs where that research gets done, and those labs’ workforces, much of them nonacademics, Mr. Schalin—and move them somewhere that will fund them. With the inevitable cratering of UNC–Chapel Hill and NC State, the Research Triangle will become the Research Dot, and the 50,000 individuals North Carolina currently employs in Research Triangle Park—a massive conglomerate of nonacademic research labs located where it is precisely because of its proximity to Duke, UNC, and NC State—will have their livelihoods put in danger. It’s easy to sneer that the university isn’t a “jobs program” until you have to answer for your state’s brain drain.
That is, if there are sufficient job opportunities for those researchers elsewhere.
Indeed, if the UNC schools implement a systemwide 4-4 minimum with “success”—that is, if somehow tuition revenue doesn’t drop—there will be little to stop other meddlesome, ignorant state legislatures from following suit. This will accomplish nothing less than the wholesale obliteration of the public research institution and relocate all of America’s best scientific minds—and their labs and their discoveries—to the elite private universities. Want to grow up to be a molecular biologist, Iowa farm girl? Do you dream of studying in a world-class engineering school, inner-city Michigan boy? Better hope you get into—and can afford—Princeton or MIT.
What happens, though, if the elite privates don't expand their faculties or their entering classes?

Jonathan Marks of Phi Beta Cons doubts that the bill will produce "Improved Professor Quality."  Of course not.  Since when has a high-sounding title or a snappy acronym ever produced even half of what it promised?   On to the substance of his doubts.
Most criticism of the bill has focused on the importance of research, but I think the bill is wrong on teaching. I understand that the idea is to get tenure track professors into the classroom more. But although financial exigency may compel some colleges and universities to insist on a load of eight courses to save money on instruction, no one should be under the illusion that teaching quality will improve as a result. Even if  we imagine that research demands on professors will be reduced, so that they can meet them during the summer, and if we assume, conservatively, that professors will spend two hours of preparation for every hour they spend in class, that adds up to thirty-six hours for class and class preparation time alone. That does not include grading, mentoring, and attending to the committee and other volunteer work involved in governing a university. However professional and caring professors may be, they will have to cut corners with respect to, for example, teaching students how to write, or how to undertake long-term, multi-stage research assignments.
Indeed not. Critics of higher education have long complained of too much professorial reliance on multiple-choice test-banks (and more recently, canned presentations and online activities) and of too little homework and what there is returned in a dilatory fashion if at all.  The bill simply changes the reasons for these things, without changing these things.  And unless other states similarly degrade their job descriptions, there are still market tests.
People who love teaching more than research usually prefer to have the time to work closely with students, to offer them the guidance they need to meet high expectations, and to prepare to teach new things, rather than doing the same thing year after year. Super-teachers are not as mobile as super-researchers, but they are no less likely to want out if the bill’s supporters have their way.
Where I part company with Mr Marks is in his assessment of the prestige quest in higher education.  "As I have written here, I sympathize with the proposition that too many colleges and universities aspire to be research powerhouses, and agree that some now looking to advance in the prestige race by focusing more on research would do better to focus on teaching."  It's my traditional objection:  U.S. News sells those rating guides because ambitious and motivated students -- or perhaps their parents -- want to mingle with other ambitious and motivated students.  The excess capacity is in access-assessment-remediation-retention (and in faux prestige).  He's on stronger ground with this.
Speaking particularly of the humanities, [Georgetown's Jacques] Berlinerbrau concedes that “we erred … in politicizing inquiry to the extent that we did” and in bringing the “same dense and ideologically tinctured brand of” theory to bear on “our vast canon of texts and traditions.” Anyone who has been following the debate over the boycott-Israel movement on campus will understand that more teaching is not necessarily better if what’s being taught in classrooms is, for example, a simpleminded theory, barely, if at all, distinguishable from propaganda, that captures Ferguson and Palestine as two aspects of a single colonial and racist movement.

[George Washington University's Samuel] Goldman, to his credit, has written before of the case campus conservatives could make with other lovers of our “cultural inheritance” in favor of the liberal arts as precisely opposed to propaganda. Writers “like Tolstoy evade contemporary political categories” and pose questions that challenge any moral, political, or aesthetic commitments.” Some such robust defense of what is to be taught, and not only an emphasis on teaching, is needed. Merely giving further lip service to the amorphous category of “critical thinking,” or imagining, as one writer purporting to be an enthusiast for the liberal arts did this week, students as “content creators” and professors as “cognitive coaches” is unlikely to assuage the fears of those, both within and outside of the field of higher education, that we have lost our way.
Indeed. And expecting higher education to get better if those leftist conscience-cowboys teach four sections of self-despising multiculturalism and blame-America-first rather than one or two sections is to venture into Wolkenkuckucksheim.  But higher education is unlikely to abandon its adversarial stance toward the institutions and traditions that made possible their ability to deconstruct them in the face of pressure from legislators.

STAND UP TO THE RADICAL RUFFIANS.

A self-described liberal discovers that there are, indeed, enemies to the left. "However, despite my overwhelmingly liberal political leanings, the progressive movement – particularly as I’ve seen it manifested on college campuses – has made me embarrassed to identify myself as a liberal."  Nothing quite like zealotry reinforced by just enough information to be dangerous to lose friends and alienate people.
The only rational way to approach divisive political issues is to base your opinions off of the facts that are available to you. Liberals and conservatives have always disagreed on how those facts are to be interpreted, and we should be glad for it. Neither conservatives nor liberals are correct 100 percent of the time. However, it seems lately that evidence has become a nonissue for many on the left.

Unless my fellow liberals learn to stop shoehorning every situation to fit the narrative they are trying to construct, the left of tomorrow will be made up of individuals who are unable to distinguish their beliefs from reality. Those of us who can make this distinction will not want to associate with the liberal movement any longer. Where will we go?
The beginning of wisdom ...

STOP ENABLING DYSFUNCTION.

Here's University Diaries, commenting on the latest spring break atrocity out of Panama City. "Allow certain ingredients to be put together in a concentrated way in a specific location, and you can actually destroy civilized life."  Quite.  The extension to the Experimental Prefigurative Communities of Tomorrow masquerading as the multiculturalist university is left to the reader as an exercise.

13.4.15

A FALSE ECONOMY.

I must repeat an observation I made last fall (and before I saw the Norfolk Southern meltdown first-hand.)
Put another way, the railroad spent the last quarter century cutting employees. And we have to learn this lesson every time an economic recovery shows staying power: railroads melt down, stores encounter spot shortages of stuff, customer service sucks.
Norfolk Southern aren't the only railroad to have made this mistake.
On April 7, a $41 million lawsuit was filed by former Cold Train executives against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) for damages that put the refrigerated rail car service out of business in August.

Daniel Appel, a partner at the Wenatchee law firm Foreman, Appel, Hotchkiss & Zimmerman PLLC, which is representing Cold Train, told The Produce News that Cold Train’s business plan was based on a 2009 agreement with BNSF to provide special 72-hour service from the heart of Washington’s fruit-producing area to Chicago.

Appel said Cold Train spent $12 million dollars to design and built refrigerated rail service to fulfill the service to Washington shippers. Apples and pears were the primary fresh commodities carried by Cold Train.
That is, until the Dead Freight coming out of the Powder River Basin, the Bakken oil field, and the ethanol breweries got in the way.
A Cold Train press release on April 7 indicated that “the shutdown of Cold Train was caused by a significant slowdown in BNSF’s service schedules on its northern corridor line beginning in the fall of 2013 because of increased rail congestion as a result of BNSF hauling larger volumes of oil and coal from the Northern Plains region. In fact, from November of 2013 to April of 2014, BNSF’s on-time percentage dramatically dropped from an average of over 90 percent to less than 5 percent. To makes matters worse, in April of 2014, BNSF abruptly sent out an announcement to customers indicating that it would be immediately reducing intermodal train service from Washington state to only one train a day from Washington state (instead of two), and that transit time would be twice as slow (three days slower) from Seattle/Quincy to Chicago.”
Humph.  The Great Northern Railway used to be able to get the silk trains through without the cocoons being spoilt, or to bring Theodore Roosevelt east after a hunting trip, using good old timetable and train order operation and steam locomotives.

The Cold Train operators are suing the railroad for damages.  That option might not be possible for all customers inconvenienced by downsizing, but there have to be other tactics, including written complaints -- the 'phone trees that pass for consumer service these days are inconvenience epitomized -- to keep the managements in such a state that adding more capacity is less painful.

A FRONTIER WITH THE THIRD WORLD.

Years ago, a newspaper article (I recall it as being in The Wall Street Journal, but can't verify) described Alter Road, shared by Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park, as separating West Beirut from Disneyland.  At one time, I lived just northeast of Alter, in an area of Grosse Pointe Park known as the Cabbage Patch.  And if anything, the contrasts have become stronger, although there's a tradition in urban sociology viewing the five Grosse Pointes as sundown suburbs.  More recently, Grosse Pointe Park's government has been closing streets.
When Grosse Pointe Park officials surprised even their own residents this summer by placing three farmers-market sheds in the middle of Kercheval Avenue, blocking access to Detroit, they said the structures were designed to develop a growing dining and entertainment district in that part of their city.

That explanation was greeted with skepticism by Detroiters - and many Park residents - who noted that, over the years, the Park had blocked nearly a quarter of its residential streets that connect with Detroit as the neighborhoods on the city side were becoming majority African American.

At a public meeting of the Grosse Pointe Park city planning commission in September, Mary Anne Barnett, a Park resident who is white, told commission members: "The sheds are a blazing symbol of what Grosse Pointe Park used to represent, that you say isn't true now."

"The history of the Grosse Pointes is one of segregation," Barnett told Bridge after the meeting. "Everybody knows this. Grosse Pointe Park likes to claim that we have the most diverse population of any of the Pointes. But on the other hand, they don't really mean it because they continue to do things that would indicate that they're not really welcoming, especially to African Americans."
A compare-and-contrast of prodigious length follows.  (No mention of notorious preppy hangout Sparky Herbert's, or of the Rustic Cabins tavern ...)  But the farmer's market will come down, and Kercheval will be reopened, with a rotary at Alter Road.

SQUANDERING THE INSTITUTIONAL MEMORY.

But all that matters when budgets are tight is that costs be contained, even if that means hiving off productive staffers.
With five University of Wisconsin System campuses now offering voluntary early retirement buyouts to faculty and staff to address looming budget cuts, it was only a matter of time before the big question demanded center stage.

Will some class sizes get larger when eligible faculty leave if no one is hired to replace them, UW-Milwaukee psychology professor John "Jay" Moore asked Monday during a monthly budget forum at the campus, the latest in the system to announce buyouts.

"That's a fair implication," UWM Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administrative Affairs Robin Van Harpen responded. "Planning to cover vacancies would have to be part of the consideration process."

Moore said he doubted UWM would turn away students just because there were fewer faculty to teach them. Larger class sizes could affect the quality of education. Reducing the number of class sections offered also potentially could extend the time it takes some students to complete their degree, university officials acknowledge.
I'm sure the legislators are being informed, even now, that all such losses can be overcome by some combination of cheap and contingent labor with online courses.  There are probably deanlets and vice-provosts who share that sentiment.

THE COMPUTER DOES WHAT THE OPERATING TIMETABLE USED TO.

Norfolk Southern now have algorithms to assist the train delayers dispatchers in Centralized Traffic Control territory.
Movement Planner, currently used only in CTC territory, is tied in to [the algorithm's] Auto Router function, an execution tool that transmits train movement plans to the field, setting routes by lining turnouts and displaying the corresponding wayside signals. It looks at the railroad from the 50,000-foot level, crunching massive amounts of data on train count, freight volume, [maintenance permit] hours, horsepower per tonnage ratios, topology constraints, and many other factors when generating train movement plans. Those plans are in lock-step with NS’s business rules involving such factors as priority trains and on-time performance.

For example, intermodal trains, which must be precisely timed to the work windows of a rail-to-truck transfer terminal, have priority over general merchandise trains. There are financial penalties to pay if intermodal performance targets are not met. Movement Planner “knows” what needs to happen, and it can plan up to 12 hours out, “something humans really can’t do,” says [chief dispatcher Charlie](*) Turnipseed.

Movement Planner has proved especially useful in helping NS keep track of three key performance indicators: schedule adherence, crew expirations (“going dead on the law,” where a train must be re-crewed on line-of-road, at substantial cost and time), and network velocity. While dispatchers have the option of overriding what Movement Planner is telling them to do, it’s generally to their benefit to comply. “We’ve found that, as Movement Planner compliance increases, so do schedule adherence and velocity,” notes Turnipseed. “Crew expirations decrease.”

Movement Planner measures and keeps track of dispatcher overrides. For some of the more-experienced dispatchers, the moves it generates may seem counter-intuitive. Though for the most part it has been widely embraced, “our younger generation of dispatchers is more in tune with it,” says Turnipseed. “That’s because they have grown up having to rely on computers and software-driven technology.”
Or the younger set have not yet fully grasped that "to really foul things up takes a computer".  But algorithms making unintuitive moves is nothing new ... we've known that of chess-playing computers for years.  Sometimes, though, the algorithms come up with solutions that might not have occurred to humans, no matter how strong the human's heuristics, whether for keeping the railroad fluid or for checkmating the King, might be.

(*)I suppose a Manager -- Dispatch Planning Systems might have responsibilities different from those of the traditional Chief Dispatcher.

VISIBLE FROM SPACE.

Illinois Tornado Track Observed by Landsat-8. With pictures.

As of this evening, the churches, charitable organizations, and emergency responders are reporting sufficient food and most other supplies for now.  Your cash and good wishes are still welcome.

PROPHET WITHOUT HONOR.

But the Moynihan Report of the mid-1960s was spot on.  There's a summary of Smart People finally Catching On, nailed to Newmark's Door.

12.4.15

WHY IT'S MORE EXPENSIVE WHEN IT'S FREE AND UNIVERSAL.

Nobody has an incentive to discover the price. "Buying medical services and buying textbooks have been regularly decried as gouge-fests." Yes, the article is old, and the third-party payment (or principal-agent) phenomenon is canonical, and yet our political masters continue to hoodwink the taxpayers into making stuff "affordable" without providing incentives to discover the prices, or something approximating to the frontier production function.

WITHOUT UNDUE PREFERENCE OR PREJUDICE.

A background in the regulated industries gives one the perspective that not all property is clothed with a public interest in the same way, that despite it being settled law that using property in a way that creates such an interest implies consent to being subject to public control.
Property does become clothed with a public interest when used in a manner to make it of public consequence, and affect the community at large. When, therefore, one devotes his property to a use in which the public has an interest, he, in effect, grants to the public an interest in that use, and must submit to be controlled by the public for the common good, to the extent of the interest he has thus created.
So it was for the elevation of grain, or the streetcar fare, or insurance. But the message on a wedding cake?  Clarice Feldman suggests that the common carrier obligation, or the public accommodation concept, has limits.  There's ample linkage to other commentary, then this conclusion.
Congress and state legislatures should determine that except for a limited number of businesses -- hospitals, hotels, and restaurants, public transport, educational institutions and such -- private businesses are not public accommodations. Anti-discrimination laws should be applied only in those few cases where everyone needs reasonable access. Why should the government be involved at all in the business of florists, bakers, photographers, and catering services, including those by pizza parlors? Is the right to be free from offense not trumped by more significant constitutional rights, which would not be subject to shifting tides of either judicial or legislative fashions?
Perhaps. Here's Professor Munger, stating the strong form of the common carrier obligation.  Professor Henderson is not so sure.
Maybe we take it as given that when a business is open, it's open to all comers, but maybe we shouldn't take it as given. I don't see the implied contract.

On the other hand, there is a way out of the apparent "implied contract." That way is to make the implied contract the default. That is, unless the business states differently, there is an implied contract. I don't think that's as good as my solution of complete freedom of association, but it's not terrible. Then a business can say, "We reserve the right not to deal with heterosexuals" or "we reserve the right not to deal with homosexuals" or "we reserve the right not to deal with black people" or "we reserve the right not to deal with people who hate black people." That business would then take the risk of losing customers who disagree. And so be it.
Yes, as commenters on those posts have noted, there's the "We reserve the right to refuse service" option; expanding, there's the "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" common at places that don't offer much service even to those properly clad, and the more upscale "Business Attire Required."

A DROPOUT FACTORY BROOKS NO INTERNAL CRITICISM.

It's not enough that Chicago State University has been an expense-preference playground for diversity hustlers, and it's hemorrhaging students, and senior administrators would just as soon crush dissent.  No ... senior administrators have to make their internal critics go away by trumping up charges against them.  I'll leave it to the lawyers to evaluate whether there's subornation of perjury.  And rather than run a clean presidential search to replace serial destroyer Wayne Watson, the current administration appears to be packing the search committee with sycophants.  Business and Liberal Arts excused from the search committee.  Lovely.

11.4.15

WORKING ON THE RAILROAD.

A new string of Budd Highliners rolls out.


I like the idea of powered model railroad equipment coming with factory installed smart command control decoders.  This string will run on railroads equipped either with analogue or digital control.

TRADE UNITES, POLITICS DIVIDES.

The school of Tom Clancy continues to turn out thick page-turners featuring the work of the standard cast of intelligence officers operating as a quasi-public, for-profit corporation.  (See also Locked On, Threat Vector, and Support and Defend.)  We'll look at Full Force and Effect, also by Mark Greaney, for Book Review No. 6.  Let's keep the story-line vague for those who are contemplating buying the book.  Doing clandestine work for profit is not just for Loyal Patriotic Americans, and pariah nations (yes, meet the old Axis of Evil) have commercial interests, and there's expertise to be hired from among drug-runners.  The rest follows from there.  How boring would a world where everyone buys into The Brotherhood of Man be?

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

THE LIMITS TO PATERNALISM.

Legislators in Missouri, Kansas, and Maine would like further limits on what welfare recipients can buy with their food aid.  Here's Coyote Blog's take.
I used to have this argument all the time with my New England liberal mother-in-law.  Interestingly, in this argument, we would both call the other arrogant.  I would say she was arrogant for assuming she knew better than other adults how they should spend their own money.  She would call me arrogant for assuming that people without my background and education could make quality decisions for themselves.

Since this is my blog, I will grab the last word here.  If we were talking about having the poor choose between a number of exchange-traded derivatives, I could concede her point.  But we are essentially talking about what to buy in a supermarket.  We force everyone through 12 years of public education.  The Left pretty much gets to determine what that education encompasses.  If adults are leaving that system and still can't be trusted with their own money, then why are we even bothering?
Because people go into "public service" to traffic for The Good of Others?

TAKING STOCK.

It's difficult to get to the national title game, let alone to win it.  Thus it takes a pretty good -- 23 kinds of good -- Wisconsin team to be in the final four, two years running.  Looking to the future ... can those tournament runs help with future recruits to develop?  Or was that the evanescent almost-shining moment?  More:
The challenges facing Wisconsin haven’t changed much despite back-to-back runs to the Final Four. The program still isn’t a recruiting juggernaut, and in the modern college game, that tends to separate the good programs from the great ones. The Badgers don’t appear to have made that leap, if their most recent recruiting efforts offer any indication.

Part of that stems from the school’s strong academic standards, part of it is geography and part of it is Ryan’s strategy. If Wisconsin was routinely churning out elite players like Dekker, it would probably be easier to keep them in-state. Convincing great players from out of state to head to Wisconsin over programs that might offer more NBA-focused development plans is a tough sell.

That means Wisconsin is back where it always was, a great second tier program that needs good luck to reach the top of the mountain. That happened over the past few years, between landing an elite prospect like Dekker and watching another bloom before our eyes like Kaminsky, but there’s a reason it took Ryan so long to put together this kind of team. It required the good fortune of Wisconsin’s best player in ages wanting to stay in state, as well as a decent player from a small Illinois town joining him in stardom.

Ryan built a special team over the past few years, and everyone involved deserves credit for taking Wisconsin basketball to such great heights. Getting the Badgers back to this spot won’t be easy, however.
Perhaps the rest of this pundit's knowledge is as good as his knowledge of Chicago's western suburbs.

Made for an enjoyable March.  Thanks, guys.