30.6.15

WHAT IS THE COMPELLING STATE INTEREST?

Walter Russell Mead responds to the Supreme Court making marriage rights uniform countrywide with a suggestion that the term marriage is overworked, attempting to serve both sacred and secular purposes.
I’m personally of the view that there is a major distinction between religious marriage and civil marriage. There are lots of civil marriages that various religious groups do not accept, and that is as it should be. Insofar as the question is whether gay couples should have a right under civil law to enter into a legally recognized and legally defined partnership, I would agree with the Court that the law should leave this choice to the people involved.

At the same time, the civil law does not and should not have the power to compel religious groups to recognize as religious marriages civil unions that violate the canons of their faith. Nor should religious institutions be required to open their facilities for the use of wedding ceremonies that violate their ideas about what a marriage is. If a Catholic church only wants to hold Catholic weddings, that is the church’s decision to make, not the Court’s.

As to social policy—whether providing legal recognition and social acceptance to same-sex couples is good for society or bad for it—that’s a question that we just can’t answer yet. The widespread acceptance of adult homosexuality is genuinely new in Western society. (The ancient Romans and Greeks would have opposed gay marriage between adult men as a terrible perversion.) We will have to see how it works out in practice.

In the interim, social policy ought to focus on strengthening the non-gay marriages (without discriminating against or excluding gay marriages from social benefits or legal recognition). It’s clear that those marriages—especially for lower middle class and lower class people of all races—are in bad shape indeed. If it turns out that opening civil marriage to gay couples makes pro-marriage policy less contentious, then even hardcore religious opponents of gay marriage might end up taking some comfort from this ruling.
The simplest way out might be to limit government, according to Reason's Sheldon Richman.  "Let’s get something out of the way at the start: the state—even if it should exist—should not be involved in marriage."  It's not that simple, as Mr Richman goes on to explain, but on libertarian grounds the national government ought be protecting equal treatment under the laws.  That turns the issuance and honoring of marriage licenses into a straightforward use of the full faith and credit clause, Justice Scalia notwithstanding.
The five Justices who compose today’s majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every State violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification and Massachusetts’ permitting of same-sex marriages in 2003. They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment a “fundamental right” overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since.
At ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, there was no fundamental right to a driving license, as there were no driving licenses.  At the same time, a transient's driving license is valid during transit, but a person changing states of residence has to qualify for the new state's driving license.  That has not been the case with marriage licenses, although a couple changing residence is subject to the new state's tax code and community property rules.  Word has reached Cold Spring Shops of an attempt -- perhaps guerrilla litigation? -- to compel all states to issue and honor concealed carry permits.  And as I am assembling this post, Reason weighs in with a subversion of the tax code.

Leaving the constitutional conjectures to others more competent to weigh the legalities, let's consider the possibility of institutions evolving to conserve on transaction costs.  There's a lengthy essay in The Freeman by Steven Horwitz laying out several hypotheses about the evolution of marriage and family.  The money quote comes early in the essay.
The love-based marriage represented the progressive influence of individualism on the culture, having already conquered the economy through capitalism and the polity through constitutional democracies.

As many of the economic and political functions of the family moved out of the household and women and children moved back in, new functions arose to fill the vacuum. Increasingly families became concerned with psychological and emotional fulfillment, and childhood underwent perhaps the largest change.
In Professor Horwitz's analysis, creative destruction also midwives same-sex marriage.
The slow acceptance of the idea of same-sex marriage is the culmination of two of the capitalism-driven trends we have already identified. First, economic growth made it possible for men and women to survive outside the institution of the family. As the historian of sexuality John D’Emilio argues, it was the wage labor created by capitalism that made the notion of “gay identity” possible. Separating the ability to earn income from the heterosexual family meant it was possible to live one’s life as a homosexual in a way that had never been possible before. The gradual increase in social visibility of first gays then lesbians over the twentieth century reflects the shift in marriage and the family from an economic to a psychological institution, again made possible by capitalism.

Second, as emotional fulfillment became a central function of marriage, it should come as no surprise that gays and lesbians would want to participate. When romantic and sexual attraction become the reasons to get married and stay together, what, argue gays and lesbians, differentiates their relationships from heterosexual ones? When the number of childless couples continues to grow and when more heterosexual couples have children through adoption or artificial reproduction, what differentiates them from same-sex couples?
But that turns the civil institution -- as opposed to the religious sacrament -- of marriage into a contractual agreement (with no-fault divorce, it's notarized dating) for the benefit of adults.  Thus, a question I raised years ago, still stands.  "Implicitly, it is the state, and not the culture, that is protecting the interests of children. Doesn't that imply a competence for the state in protecting the interests of children that it has not demonstrated when it comes to providing education, or school lunches, or safe neighborhoods?" (National Review has redesigned their website, and the links in that post no longer work.)

But treating legal marriage as a contractual arrangement for the benefit of adults doesn't sit well with everyone.  Here's Ryan Anderson in a First Things symposium.
No, marriage isn’t just a private affair; marriage is a matter of public policy because marriage is society’s best way to ensure the well-being of children. State recognition of marriage acts as a powerful social norm that encourages men and women to commit to each other so they will take responsibility for any children that follow.

Redefining marriage to make it a genderless institution fundamentally changes marriage: It makes the relationship more about the desires of adults than about the needs—or rights—of children. It teaches the lie that mothers and fathers are interchangeable.
Perhaps so, although that train wreck happened long ago. "Put another way, the culture is doing just fine in protecting children -- in neighborhoods where the adults act responsibly, and not so well -- in neighborhoods where the adults don't."  In the same symposium -- scroll past a lot of E-T-T-S lamentations, Melinda Selmys argues that the way to demonstrate the evolutionary advantage of an institution is to demonstrate the evolutionary advantage.
The challenge, then, is for advocates of the traditional family to stop wringing their hands over the SCOTUS decision and blaming the gays for the demise of the family, and to focus instead on renewing the practice of sacramental marriage by building up communities of support so that the traditional understanding of marriage will become practicable and attractive again.
Think there's a lot of self-segregation now? It's likely to become more pronounced.

Likewise, there's a lot of lamentation in the National Review symposium, although Jennifer Roback Morse, who has a background in utility regulation, appears to be suggesting that a compelling state interest in keeping track of parentage cannot be wished away.
Parenthood will no longer be considered a natural reality to be recorded by the government but the creation of the state for the benefit of adults.

Some children will have a legally recognized right to know both of the parents. Other children will be blocked by the state from knowing both parents.

Some children will have three or more people named as parents on their birth certificates.

Parenthood by contract among interested parties will become legally enforceable by the states.

Third-party reproduction will continue unregulated and unabated. By the time people figure out that this is a human-rights abuse, it will be so widespread and entrenched that it will be extremely difficult to root out.
Or the evolutionary advantages of respecting bourgeois convention will be so clear that polymorphous perversity will collapse of its own internal contradictions?

RECRUIT, RED-SHIRT, AND DEVELOP.

That has been the model for the Wisconsin men's basketball team.  It's a team concept in which discipline trumps talent.  In the Big Ten, there are sports pundits recommending the approach for Penn State and Minnesota.  But now long-time coach Bo Ryan has announced his retirement -- with a little bit of urging from athletic director Barry Alvarez to make another tournament run and perhaps develop a successor.

Yahoo Sports pundit Pat Forde suggests we are witnessing the "end of an old-school era."  But read on, and you see that perhaps not.
Ryan is simply unrivaled when it comes to player development and finding prospects who fit his unique system.

I checked the Rivals.com team recruiting rankings going back to 2003. In that 13-class span, this is how many times Wisconsin has been ranked in the top 25 (and later top 30): zero.

Yet Ryan's teams have played in the NCAA tournament every year since he arrived in Madison in 2001 (14 years running), won at least 23 games 11 times and had double-digit Big Ten wins 13 times. They are recession-proof. And they've made a lot of hotshot recruiters look bad by comparison.

Patience and long-term growth. They've become the Bo Ryan brand – and this is a guy who predates that corporate buzzword by a few decades. He's an unhurried program builder, and also an unhurried tactician.

The Badgers have been a famously deliberate (sometimes outright dawdling) team under Ryan. They chronically rank in the 300s in tempo rankings. Yet Ryan has found players who embrace that style and flourish within it, while endlessly frustrating impatient opponents.

Wisconsin has always run more clock. Made more passes. Made more cuts. And inevitably short-attention-span defenses crack and give up something.

But beyond tempo there is another eternal tent of Bo's system: don't beat yourself. Don't throw the ball away (Wisconsin led the nation in 2014-15 in lowest turnover percentage, and has ranked in the top five nationally in that category seven years in a row). Don't put the other team on the foul line (Wisconsin led the nation in lowest free-throw rate this past season). Simple stuff in theory, harder to do in practice.
Simple stuff to do in theory. The harder the practice, though, the easier it is to do so in the game.  Discipline trumps talent.  Thanks, coach, and On! Wisconsin!

TURNING THE ALBUM'S LEAVES.

The 11-D weblog is closed, but the links are still active, including this reference to research on the prestige of research.  "No academic journal pays its authors for their work, but there is a pecking order among these journals for prestige." So how many months off their lives would the economists surveyed give up for a publication?
Specifically, the average study participant was willing to give up 0.77 years for a paper published in the American Economic Review, but only 0.55 years for the Quarterly Journal of Economics, 0.42 years for the Review of Economic Studies, and 0.38 years for the European Economic Review.
The study itself earned its three authors some pages in Economic Inquiry.  I scrolled through the paper.  The survey invitees -- the authors solicited authors from only a few journals -- were few, and more than a few invitees declined with extreme prejudice.  I suspect, therefore, that we are unlikely to see a generalized followup study on the quality-adjusted prestige years value of Economic Inquiry or Marquette Business Review, let alone what the proper correction for co-authors is.

29.6.15

IF YOU THINK COMMUTING IS EXPENSIVE NOW ....

Continuing to treat the roads as "free" isn't going to help.
Elected officials and transportation professionals generally agree on the nation's intensifying traffic congestion but are divided about how to address it.

The Obama administration leans heavily toward getting people out of their vehicles, a solution preferred by many urban planners. New highway lanes aren't enough, the theory goes, because they will simply attract drivers who had been taking other routes and encourage more sprawl. Soon congestion will be as bad as ever.
Yes, and the Homestead Act and mortgage interest deductions and elbow room are normal goods. And North Americans are still behaving as if they are prosperous, the best efforts of Democrats to the contrary notwithstanding.
Census data on commuting show that between 1980 and 2013, the proportion of workers driving alone to work increased from 64% to 77%. Carpooling dropped from 20% of trips to 10%, and public transit declined slightly from 6% of trips to 5%. Nearly all the growth in commuting traffic can be attributed to the growth in commutes by private vehicle.

According to a new poll by the Associated Press-GfK, a slight majority of Americans still prefer living in a single-family house in the suburbs or a rural area with more land, even if it means driving long distances to get to work or run errands.

The share of Americans who prefer suburban or rural living — 53% — is identical to the share who say the government should increase spending to build and improve roads, bridges and interstate highways.
The problem, as the article goes on to explain, is that such government spending implies government taxation, and voters are reluctant to raise local taxes, let alone authorize changes to the excise taxes that allegedly pay for the highways.  (And let's not get into the tax preferences granted to congestion-generating businesses such as sports teams or retailers.)

Meanwhile, a Texas entrepreneur continues to hope to build, with investor money, a high-speed railroad linking Houston and Dallas.

There is no discussion, in the article or in accompanying comments, of whether this railroad will be built with sufficient clearance for auto-racks and double-stacks.  Unless this railroad generates enough traffic for Shinkansen-like headways at all hours of the day, there will be capacity for time-sensitive freight traffic.  And there's plenty of room for improvement of the passenger rail services in Texas.

INCENTIVES MATTER.

I used to have a professional interest in the way employee benefits, which function as a wedge between the value of the marginal product and the take-home pay of a worker, might change working hours.  In a unionized environment, such as the legacy automobile companies of the 1980s, that wedge might also induce employers to hire fewer workers and schedule more overtime.

Now comes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (two lies in one title, anyone?) with a different set of incentives.  Betsy Newmark identified two commentators who suggest, in a world with less union coverage of working hours, a new set of incentives.

First up, Lawrence Kudlow identifying the wedge.
Because of Obamacare, there’s an additional 0.9% Medicare tax on salaries and self-employment income, a 3.8% tax increase on capital gains and dividends, a cap on health-care flexible spending accounts, a higher threshold for itemized medical-expense deductions, and a stiff penalty on employer reimbursements for individual employee health-policy premiums.
Some of these provisions are a lump-sum charge that apply to a worker, and they'd have the same effect on hiring (reduced) and overtime (increased) as the fringe benefits of a United Auto Workers contract. But there's a further wrinkle, in that the provisions apply differently to part time workers and to employers with small work-forces.
The business mandates and penalties imposed by Obamacare when small firms hire a 50th employee or ask for a 30-hour workweek are so high that firms are opting to hold employment to 49 and hours worked to 29. Lower employment and fewer hours worked are a double death knell for growth.

The [Bureau of Labor Statistics] sheds light on this: Although part-time work has fallen during the recovery, to 7 million from around 9 million, it hovered around 4 million during the prior recovery. Part-time employment, which as a share of total employment peaked at around 20% in 2010 and has slipped to about 19%, hovered around 17% during most of the prior expansion. Obamacare?

Everybody is complaining about the low labor-force participation rate and the equally stubborn reduction in the employment-to-population rate. But why are we surprised? Obamacare is effectively paying people not to work.
Might work better as a testable hypothesis phrased as "does the law favor hiring part-timers?"  If you're daring enough, you might also want to investigate the data for an effect on overtime among the remaining full-time workers, or salaried workers.
University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan argues that Obamacare disincentives will reduce full-time equivalent workers by about 4 million principally because it phases out health-insurance subsidies as worker income increases. In other words, Obamacare is a tax on full-time work. After-tax, people working part time yield more disposable income than working full time.

Mr. Mulligan calculates that both explicit and implicit marginal tax rates within Obamacare may rise to near 50% as the law discourages those who attempt to climb the ladder of success. National prosperity and economic growth are again the victims.
There are other dissertation topics hiding in Mr Kudlow's column, should you, dear reader, be seeking one.  I want to focus on those non-convexities.  Let us turn to Robert E. Moffit.
The complicated insurance subsidy program itself has been a mess. H&R Block reported that about two thirds of subsidy recipients had to repay money back to the government because they got bigger than allowable subsidies. With the individual mandate, the administration has been granting lots of exemptions to insulate most of the uninsured from any penalty. That’s rather predictable; after all, even candidate Barack Obama argued that an individual mandate was unfair and unenforceable.

As for the employer mandate—another fractured cornerstone of Obamacare—the administration has delayed it for one year. Even liberal supporters now want to repeal it, fearing damage to the labor markets.
There's much more for future research in that column.  Does it come as a surprise that if you authorize Medicare and Medicaid with powers Wal-Mart or the most grasping monopsonist of literature could only dream of, that the effect would be reduced provision?

IDENTITY POLITICS IS TOO MUCH FOR LEON TROTSKY'S DISCIPLES.

Here's a World Socialist Web Site commentary on the excesses of "authenticity".
It is asserted that one must be black to understand the “black experience.” This, of course, has a corollary: namely, that one must be white to understand the “white experience.” Among the conclusions that flow from this premise is the contention that white teachers, who cannot understand blacks, should not be allowed to teach African-American students, and black teachers should be prevented from teaching whites.

This racialist standpoint, if taken to its logi[c]al conclusion, suggests that there should be separate white and black television and radio stations, newspapers, schools, universities, etc. It complements the arguments of those who say the races should be separated from one another all down the line.
I'm not sure what "logical conclusion" means in any argument not posed as mathematics, but otherwise, there's little to disagree with in the above, which is a shorter objection to the fetishization of otherness so popular among the Perpetually Aggrieved.  The next observation is a stretch, logical extension or not. "Starting from a similar premise, i.e., the supposedly incompatible life experiences of the two races, outright segregationists argue that is it unfair to the new generation to allow intermarriage." I'm not sure whether that's old-style segregation, now using postmodern logic, or new-style segregation, based on intersectionality and authenticity.


There's food for thought in what comes next.
It is not difficult to see how the racialist world view of supposedly liberal and “left” academics and journalists leads in the direction of the murderous and hate-filled dogmas of the Ku Klux Klan and similar outfits.

The fact that one individual’s racial identity became the all-consuming focus of the American media illustrates the complete disjuncture between the preoccupations of the privileged middle-class intelligentsia, along with journalists, pundits and politicians—which they seek to impose on popular consciousness—and the reality of American society, which is riven by class divisions.
Yes, it's possible that the current generation of white supremacists are made angry by the doctrines of self-despising multiculturalism ... the social science is preliminary.  I doubt, though, that an analysis at a socialist forum is going to note that class divisions are more severe than necessary precisely because the self-styled progressives have enabled dysfunction in poor neighborhoods and the common schools therein, calling it authenticity or cultural competence, and blighted the hopes of matriculants to college by admitting unprepared students and calling it access.

CHRIS HEDGES'S E-T-T-S MOMENT.

Where have all the small platoons of civil society gone?
Public lectures, church services, labor unions, Veterans of Foreign Wars halls, Masonic halls, Rotary clubs, the Knights of Columbus, the Lions Club, Grange Hall meetings, the League of Women Voters, Daughters of the American Revolution, local historical societies, town halls, bowling leagues, bridge clubs, movie theater attendance (at a 20-year low), advocacy groups such as the NAACP and professional and amateur theatrical and musical performances cater to a dwindling and graying population. No one is coming through the door to take the place of the old members. A generation has fallen down the rabbit hole of electronic hallucinations—with images often dominated by violence and pornography.
For Mr Hedges, it's corporate totalitarianism providing the narcotics that once were the province of state totalitarians.
Totalitarian societies, including our own, inundate the public with a steady stream of propaganda accompanied by mindless entertainment. They seek to destroy independent organizations. In Nazi Germany the state provided millions of cheap, state-subsidized radios and then dominated the airwaves with its propaganda. Radio receivers were mounted in public locations in Stalin’s Soviet Union; and citizens, especially illiterate peasants, were required to gather to listen to the state-controlled news and the dictator’s speeches. These totalitarian states also banned civic organizations that were not under the iron control of the party.

The corporate state is no different, although unlike past totalitarian systems it permits dissent in the form of print and does not ban fading civic and community groups. It has won the battle against literacy. The seductiveness of the image lures most Americans away from the print-based world of ideas.
I concur in part and dissent in part.  Yes, it's hard to find younger model railroaders, or ferroequinologists, or bowlers or bridge-players (outside the ranks of hedge fund managers?)  And the movie theaters are not responding well to pay-per-view and online streaming and other ways to see it when you want, with whom you want, with home-made popcorn.  I have given up on the local movie house, in reaction to having to sit through commercials during the dead time between screenings and then enduring another half hour of commercials from the announced start time of the feature until the feature actually starts.

But apart from the NAACP, which has become a voter-mobilization auxiliary for the Democrats, the institutions Mr Hedges names have been demonized by the self-styled progressives as exclusionary (Masons, Moose, Eagles, Rotary and Kiwanis) if not downright retrograde (American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Sons or Daughters of the American Revolution, fundamentalist churches.)  Mr Hedges can't even resist a dig at Traditional America in introducing the stock-car racers as an example of the virtual and alienated crowding out the actual and social.
The steady decline of the white male heaven that is NASCAR—which has stopped publishing the falling attendance at its tracks and at some speedways has begun to tear down bleachers—is ominous. It is the symbol of a captive society.
Perhaps, perhaps, one day, even in the fever swamps of the identity-politics left, someone will recognize that good intentions don't lead to good results.  After thirty or forty years of calling out the stock car racers for their casual sexism (those babes in Daisy Dukes) or environmental insensitivity (souped up automobiles with big engines) or retrograde attitudes (those rebel battle flags in the tailgating area) perhaps there's more at work than a few young adults shackled to their devices, nicht wahr?

Mr Hedges, be careful what you ask for.
We must leave our isolated rooms. We must shut out these images. We must connect with those around us. It is only the communal that will save us. It is only the communal that will allow us to build a movement to resist. And it is only the communal that will sustain us through mutual aid as climate change and economic collapse increasingly dominate our future.
What happens, though, when that connection takes the form of a conservative insurgency?

ALLAH AND STALIN WILL IT.

Ralph Peters weighs in on the scrubbing of the historical record.
[W]hat outrages the American Left? The horrific destruction? The breathtaking slaughter? No. Our Left has gone to the barricades over the prospect of a Southern working stiff putting a Confederate Battle Flag decal on his pickup truck.

I’ve always hoped that at least some of the Left’s stirring rhetoric about human dignity and culture was sincere, but my hope has become considerably less audacious. How can the Left look away from the comprehensive destruction and atrocities perpetrated by the Islamic State? Do brown lives matter only when deaths can be blamed on American drones?
Yes. Pride weekend is all about legal marriage from coast to coast. Never mind what the caliphate does when it finds practicing homosexuals. Talk about privilege.
For all of their profound differences, the Islamic State and the Left have one purpose in common: They want to wipe out history so they can write it anew to support their utopias, the perfected societies of their inhuman fantasies.

The Islamic State destroys wondrous monuments to prevent “pagan worship,” to purify Islam and restore the caliphate to a state of perfection it never possessed. Aiming at a less puritanical, if equally rule-bound utopia, the American Left has all but destroyed the teaching of history in our schools, scorning facts in favor of paternalistic condescension toward minorities.
None of it will end well. There might be another 500 years of Dark Ages, though.

25.6.15

TODAY'S RAILROAD READING.

The Daily Record pays a visit to a serious garden railroad in the Borderlands.  The builder, Gordon Ross, uses the proceeds from open days to support good works.
His model railway is based on the historic Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, a pioneering freight railway that stretched from Kansas into Mexico.

As well as trains decorated in the Santa Fe colours, he also has a dazzling array of engines, ranging from famous British classics to children’s favourite Thomas the Tank Engine.
It appears to be O Scale, based on the proportions of trains and people in the video.

There are parts of the Santa Fe that run left-handed, including much of the line through coyote-and-roadrunner country.  The railroad dialect in the Borderlands, likewise.

A HISTORY LESSON FOR ANN COULTER.

A few nights ago, she took a dig at South Carolina's governor Haley, then defended the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia as "no greater army that took the field."  Perhaps that army bought the rebellion three more years, but in those three years Genls Grant and Sherman were able to carry out Gideon Welles's Anaconda Plan and compel the surrenders of the remaining armies of the field.  As far as that southern legend, the real bull-headed Suvorov of the eastern campaign was Genl Lee, and the greatest army on the field was the Army of the Tennessee, which the Prussians feared and studied while they were studying how to load wagons on flatcars, an idea perfected by the circus.

The governor can take care of herself.  Something along the lines of "I don't need advice from Ann Coulter on how to be American."

ANOTHER REGRESSIVE TRANSFER?

Our roads don't pay for themselves.  The user fees and tolls don't come close to meeting maintenance and resurfacing expenses, let alone provide for the raising of capital for new roads.  Repeat with me: no mode of transportation pays for itself.

HENRY VIII, ISLAMIC STATE, THE CHEKA, THE NINTH U.S. ARMY, AND LATTER-DAY RECONSTRUCTION.

Fay Voshell, a theologian and contributor to American Thinker, attempts to place the sudden withdrawal of official sanction for the Confederate battle flag in historical context.
What is occurring even as this piece is being written is a modern version of the frenzied iconoclasm of the past.  Today’s leftists are much like the zealots who attacked cathedrals during the Reformation, knocking the heads off statues, destroying relics, breaking stained glass windows and even stripping paint from church walls.  The iconoclasts believed they were purifying the church from idolatry and heresy by so doing.

In like manner, the religion of the Left is seeking the destruction of symbols, statues and paintings representing what they believe to be an unmitigated racist world view diametrically opposed to the doctrines of the pure church of liberalism.

Consequently, what may be at stake is the distinct possibility of a panicky purge of the history of the American South.  A purge is to be achieved by eliminating anything that calls forth memory of the Confederacy.
What's that witticism about history being written by the winners.  But rewriting the record does not, of necessity, equate to rushed and sloppy thinking.
We have seen excesses of panicky and irrational historical revisionism and iconoclasm from time immemorial.

Whether it was Thutmose III’s desecration of Hatshepsut’s statues and the attempt to eliminate any memory of the woman pharaoh; or the attempt during France’s Reign of Terror to eliminate the aristocracy and the Church, including a plan to blow up Notre Dame; or Stalin’s attempt to remove all traces of the Romanoff dynasty, including the complete destruction of the Russian Orthodox Church; or Mao Tse Tung’s Red Guards, who attempted to eliminate Western, including Christian, influence from Chinese culture, as well as ancient Chinese culture itself -- the motives have always the same: destroy any offensive symbols of historical events that indicating beliefs differing from the reigning cultural powers.  Only one viewpoint is to be permitted.  Only “pure” symbols reflecting the viewpoint of ideologues is to be taught.  Into the bonfire of vanities with fripperies that reflect heretical views.

In sum, the mentality of the ancient Edomites toward Jerusalem currently appears to be among those of the Left:  “Tear it down.  Tear it down to the foundations.”  No stone must be left untouched until the entire memory of a hated past is completely eliminated.
I'm surprised she didn't invoke the caliphate, laying waste to antiquities all over Asia Minor.  But the Army of Northern Virginia's battle flag is hardly a frippery reflecting heretical views, and its reappearance in the past fifty years is anything but an innocent rediscovery of a lost regional tradition.  Sometimes, as Winston Churchill notes, a bad idea has to disappear.
We know it will be hard; we expect it to be long, we cannot predict or measure its episodes or its tribulations. But one thing is certain, one thing is sure, one thing stands out stark and undeniable, massive and unassailable for all the world to see. We cannot see how deliverance will come or when it will come, but nothing is more certain that every trace of Hitler's footsteps, every stain of his infected, corroding fingers will be sponged and purged and, if need be, blasted from the surface of the earth.
Which the Ninth Army documented, in the case of Hitler's totems.

TAKE THEORY SERIOUSLY.

Noahpinion surveys the state of the empirical economist's art.
Empirical economics is a more and more important part of economics, having taken over the majority of top-journal publishing from theory papers. But there are different flavors of empirical econ. There are good old reduced-form, "reg y x" correlation studies. There are structural vector autoregressions. There are lab experiments. There are structural estimation papers, which estimate the parameters of more complex models that they assume/hope describe the deep structure of the economy.

Then there are natural experiments. These papers try to find some variation in economic variables that is "natural", i.e. exogenous, and look at the effect this variation has on other variables that we're interested in.
We might be seeing some attempts to explicitly test implications of theory (the flexible functional forms that I used at the beginning of my career being such: were those an evolutionary dead end or something to return to later?)  Or we might be seeing attempts to better make sense of observations where the theory is missing or conflicted.
It's possible to view structural econometrics as sort of a halfway house between the old, theory-based economics and the new, evidence-based economics. The new paradigm focuses on establishing whether A causes B, without worrying too much about why. (Of course, you can use quasi-experimental methods to test structural models, at least locally - most econ models involve a set of first-order conditions or other equations that can be linearized or otherwise approximated. But you don't have to do that.) Quasi-experimental methods don't get rid of theory; what they do is to let you identify real phenomena without necessarily knowing why they happen, and then go looking for theories to explain them, if such theories don't already exist.
The way in which economists do what they think of economics might be changing, in a way that a lot of critics of the excess mathematization of the discipline will welcome.
The rise of quasi-experimental methods shows that the ground has fundamentally shifted in economics - so much that the whole notion of what "economics" means is undergoing a dramatic change. In the mid-20th century, economics changed from a literary to a mathematical discipline. Now it might be changing from a deductive, philosophical field to an inductive, scientific field. The intricacies of how we imagine the world must work are taking a backseat to the evidence about what is actually happening in the world.
Read the essay carefully, though, there are still pitfalls confronting the researcher who is hoping for a research infrastructure supporting the downloading of information from a web-site, and a regression package to come up with the expected signs and significance.  It's never been that easy, and it isn't going to get easier.

24.6.15

EXCESSIVE MALICE, INSUFFICIENT CHARITY.

With all the recent attention to the Confederate Battle Flag, let's devote Book Review No. 13 to an attempt to explain why the Lost Cause wasn't reconstructed, for all time, about the same time President Grant left office.  A. J. Langguth, a retired journalist, attempts an explanation in After Lincoln: How the North Won the Civil War and Lost the Peace. His approach is different, organizing most of the chapters as a year in the life of an influential figure of the times, e.g. Charles Sumner in 1865; Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876; then comes Jim Crow in 1877.    Some of the influential figures are Radical Republicans, some are advocates of the Lost Cause.  Some things never change: intellectual Bostonians had the same knack for antagonizing the rest of the country in the aftermath of the Civil War that they have today.  And so it goes on.

There's a social science hypothesis that occurred to me in reading the book: might Jim Crow have been a logical development from the end of the three-fifths compromise?  As a consequence of full citizenship for freedmen, the rebellious states gained seats in the House of Representatives.  Why not, then, do everything possible to disenfranchise the freedmen, so that the existing political establishment can continue to have the benefit of proxy voting without the expense of buying slaves?  That's too narrow an hypothesis for a book of broader scope, and yet, has anyone written a dissertation or a monograph to that question?

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

REDISCOVERING THEIR INTERURBAN ROOTS.

Commuter Rail operators and light-rail rapid transit lines are providing space, sometimes dedicated, sometimes shared with the wheelchair anchoring space, for bicycles.  Thus a passenger -- not necessarily a commuter, as the timetables may forbid bicycle loadings during the rush hours -- isn't limited to park-and-ride, or to where the feeder buses go.

But the Last Interurban does not yet do so.  The timetable clearly notes, Bicycles are Prohibited.  The fine print issues an exception for folding bicycles that can be wrapped in a bag and stowed in the overhead luggage racks.  Those are for foldable strollers and ordinary luggage, of which there is a lot, particularly on the South Bend trains.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that The Last Interurban is notorious among bicycle riders.
A Chicago bike advocacy group is calling out the railroad company that operates the South Shore Line between South Bend and Chicago because it’s the only commuter line in the nation that doesn’t allow passengers to bring their bicycles aboard.

The Active Transportation Alliance recently announced that it was lobbing the ignominious Broken Spoke Award at the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which operates the interstate rail line.
Streetsblog reports that the carrier has heard the request, but doesn't know how to honor it.
The South Shore isn’t currently planning to buy new cars, but they’re exploring options, [marketing and outreach director John] Parsons said. Most of the agency’s capital budget is earmarked for installing Positive Train Control, a federally mandated safety system that automatically brakes trains when operators drive too fast for conditions or lose control.

Last year, bids for a PTC system for the South Shore came in at three times over budget, according to Parsons. NICTD is currently reviewing a second round of bids and determining how much of the capital budget would have to be spent on the system. “In the long term, we certainly want to buy additional [rail cars],” he said. “We need additional capacity. Used equipment may become available.”

At a recent NICTD board meeting, consultants proposed adding a bike-specific train car to only two train runs a day: one per rush hour. However, Parsons said this isn’t the only possible scenario. The number of bike cars per day would depend on how many older cars could have seats removed to make room for bike racks, he said. Another X factor is that not all South Shore trains make the the full run to South Bend. Some are split or combined at Michigan City, Indiana.
Presumably, the used equipment does not include the Samuel Insull era combination cars.


75th Street, Chicago, 28 April 1977
Marty Bernard photograph from Chicago, South Shore and South Bend group.

By the late 1970s, the interurban was running whatever cars were serviceable, including two cars with baggage compartments, or none, and the timetable didn't identify baggage-carrying trains.  At one time, that was the discipline, and almost all South Bend trains had one of these cars on the east end, thus you could check your bicycle through to South Bend, or any intermediate station where the baggageman would meet the train.

There is a work-around available, should the transit district consider it.
The Active Transportation Alliance’s south suburban outreach manager Leslie Phemister, who attended the board meeting, told me that the train line could immediately begin accepting bikes if they allowed cyclists to use unoccupied wheelchair spaces on the cars.

Since it’s difficult to carry a bike onto South Shore train cars at stations that don’t have level boarding, Phemister proposes that the ADA-accessible stops should also be designated on the schedule as bike-friendly stations. At these stops, cyclists could simply roll their bikes from the platform into the center door of the car to the wheelchair space.

“We’re not going to pit a bicycle rider against a passenger in a wheelchair, competing for spaces,” Parsons responded. It’s true that, if a wheelchair user needed the space, the bike rider would need to leave the car. However that’s the way things work on Metra, which has successfully accommodated cyclists for a decade.

Parsons added that the South Shore’s ADA spaces aren’t large enough to hold a standard bicycle, although he declined to provide a photo illustrating that point. If that truly is the case, perhaps a seat or two could be removed on some cars, and those cars could be labeled with bike symbols.

Bottom line: If NICTD management really has the will to accommodate cyclists, they’ll find a way. The other roughly two dozen U.S. commuter lines have all come up with solutions. It’s time for the South Shore to stop making excuses, put on their thinking caps, and come up with a short-term plan for accepting bicycles.
It's probably too much to hope for a return of emergency package service and combination cars in the next order of new interurbans.

THE UNRAVELING.

Victor Davis Hanson contemplates the end-stage of identity politics trumping E Pluribus Unum.
Symbols, flags, organizations, and phrases that emphasize racial difference and ethnic pride are no longer just fossilized notions from the 1960s; they are growing fissures in the American mosaic that now threaten to split the country apart — fueling the suspicion of less liberal and more homogeneous nations that the great American experiment will finally unwind as expected.
We've encountered those suspicions before.  There's a reason old Benjamin Franklin said, "a republic, if you can keep it."

LESS HEADROOM, LESS FUEL USAGE?

The international air transportation cartel, which once had to hold a high-level meeting to define what constituted a "sandwich" for nourishment of transatlantic coach passengers, now seeks to define down the size of a "cabin OK" carry on bag.  It's all in the interest of enhanced service.  But sometimes, even corporate-speak reveals the truth.
No one is asking anybody to replace their carry-on bags with Cabin OK bags. Passengers can continue to use their current luggage without restriction.

But today, passengers run the risk that when cabin space is used up, some luggage will need to go into the hold (typically free of charge).

Cabin OK bags could eliminate that risk on aircraft of 120 seats or more.

Furthermore, airlines will continue to have differing maximum sizes for cabin bags. What is acceptable on one might not be acceptable on another. However, a Cabin OK bag will meet all carriers' maximum size.
The dirty little secret, dear reader, is that with the airlines charging to stow your baggage in the hold, the dominant strategy especially for frequent travellers who have repackaged their toiletries according to the latest security ukases, is to bring along the largest possible carry-on, or even a slightly over-size carry-on, because the good folks at the ramp will stow your stuff, as the cartel's statement notes, free of charge.  Thus you avoid the stowage fee yet get your stuff stowed below.

The editorial board at USA Today hoists the protest flag.
Major bag-makers such as Tumi, Delsey and Samsonite are "all interested in this." Well, no duh. ​Having already sold millions of bigger bags, luggage companies could get the chance to sell millions more.

Would passengers be stuck with tinier carry-on bags forever? No, no, soothes Windmuller: "If and as the major aircraft manufacturers install larger bins, we might be able to accept larger bags." Wow. Nice job of passing the buck to Boeing and Airbus.

Th airlines created this problem, and they — not their customers — should fix it. Carriers could do that by making the first checked bag free and by enforcing their existing size limits. They could also stop checking oversized bags for free at the gate, which makes fliers who obey the rules and pay the fees feel like chumps.

More immediately, though, they shouldn't try to tell passengers that something disruptive, inconvenient and expensive is actually in the fliers' best interest.
Props, especially, for calling out the tendency of businesses -- not just air carriers -- to make their services worse whilst, without any shame, claiming they are making improvements, and for abolishing the checking fees, which would be less annoying than adding an up-charge for checking at the gate.

We might as well define our pension plan as "win the lottery" as hope for air carriers to buy planes with larger bins.  The IATA is the air carriers' cartel, people.  The cartel would like to restrict output, reduce operating costs (as in defining the sandwich down) and raise prices.  Thus a smaller "cabin OK" bag is a way of getting the airframe manufacturers to think of providing less space for baggage in the cabin, meaning in the stowage bins and under the seats.  Gosh, smaller bins, lower seats, reduce the diameter of the fuselage, then spin it as energy conservation.

Here's an anonymous editorial in the DeKalb Chronicle that gets it right.
Most domestic carriers charge passengers $25 or more to check a suitcase for every one-way trip, so it’s no wonder the industry wants to divert more luggage to a plane’s hold. Evidently 2014’s record profits weren’t big enough, while airfares were the highest since 2003.

Yet these baggage fees, which inflate the price of a ticket, lead many passengers to drag ever-bigger bags onto the plane and jam them into overhead bins, thereby adding to the time it takes everyone to board.

Major U.S. airlines say carry-on bags must be no more than 22 inches tall, 14 inches wide, and 9 inches deep. The International Air Transport Association proposes the allowance be reduced to 21.5 by 13.5 by 7.5 inches. The numbers don’t look very different, but do the math: It’s 21 percent fewer cubic inches. Some major international carriers – Lufthansa, Air China, Emirates, Qatar and Pacific – say they would use the proposed limits.

If smaller carry-ons will lead to less boarding time and less wrestling in the aisle with bulky suitcases, travelers may not mind the new restrictions. But that presumes that airlines’ gate employees will weed out bags that exceed the limit. At a time of low customer service, that’s a big if.
Won't happen. The air carriers seem determined to drive passengers to the rails, where a rail alternative exists, by making loading and unloading so painful and protracted that it squanders whatever speed advantages the plane has once it gets in the air. Now, if you build a thinner fuselage, can you change the wings and save even more fuel by cruising more slowly. Spin it as another energy saving.

HIGHER EDUCATION BREAKS THE SOCIAL CONTRACT.

William Voegeli, "Tenure, Kipnis and the PC University."
Northwestern’s bizarre, egregious treatment of [professor Laura] Kipnis strengthens the case against the credentials-industrial complex that [Minding the Campus] and other critics have been making for years: zealots, frauds, and cowards are turning the citadels of academic freedom into indoctrination camps.

The Kipnis story didn’t cause, but strongly reinforces, growing popular contempt for higher education and its denizens, whose vast self-regard rests on academic ideals they do so much more to flout than uphold. That contempt, in turn, makes it possible, even irresistible, for politicians to curtail prerogatives that serve academics’ private interests but no longer advance the public interest in ways voters can discern or believe.
And thus the Republican legislature in Wisconsin striking first the academic inquiry and then the tenure from the statutes establishing the University of Wisconsin.  Hence Mr Voegeli twinning Northwestern and Wisconsin.
Despite its president’s platitudes about valuing self-expression, Northwestern’s risk-averse faculty members will inevitably self-censor rather than increase their exposure to such investigations.

The fact that Kipnis has tenure belies Wisconsin professors’ claims about the impossibility of speaking freely without it. Tenure, as understood by one of the country’s most prestigious universities, is no longer a sufficient condition for exercising freedom of speech with confidence there’ll be no professional drawbacks.

But l’affaire Kipnis shows, strangely, that neither is tenure a necessary condition for free speech.
Never mind that the pursuit of tenure has deteriorated, for a number of reasons, into a pursuit of minimal publishable units, which are more likely to find an outlet if they don't challenge existing discourse practices or commonplaces.  But tenure is political ... any number of scholars with solid publication records and excellent teaching evaluations don't get it ... and, as with anything political, getting along means going along.  And thus does higher education antagonize the public.
What is, then, both necessary and sufficient to speak your mind in the modern academy without risking career turmoil is to affirm, rather than question, the reigning, strengthening political-identity orthodoxies. That reality mocks the pieties about tenure’s societal benefits, created when professors have the confidence to express their ideas boldly and pursue their work freely. And that reality reduces academic tenure to a job-protection racket sustained by tax and tuition payments from people who will never have guaranteed lifetime employment. Until academic life and governance is re-principled, the Wisconsin vote against tenure is likely to be the first of many.
When that job protection racket fails to deliver the promised higher learning, the anger is only stronger.

FACTOR-AUGMENTING TECHNICAL CHANGE.

With the right machinery, it's possible to drink more coffee using fewer beans.
Coffee pods, the single most influential invention in the coffee world over the past few decades, have caught on like wildfire in this country. When people drink coffee pods, they drink less coffee.
Conservation means making the most efficient use of resources. The reporter misses that point.
But the overwhelming popularity of the pods has actually caused a bit of a headache for coffee bean roasters and growers, who help supply the largest market in the world with its fix.

Americans have traditionally brewed their coffee using drip machines, which are terribly inefficient ("How much coffee should I put in this filter? Never mind, I'll just eyeball it"). As a result, people have historically bought more coffee beans than they might need.

But extra coffee doesn't just end up down the drain — some of it finds its way into your stomach. The consequence of brewing coffee by the pot is that there's often more just sitting there, tempting you to have another cup.

Coffee pods, however, are incredibly efficient by comparison. People tend not to make more than they will drink — or, at least, first intended to drink.
From time to time, the growers face unfavorable conditions.  The pods will protect consumers against price fluctuation to an extent.  Yes, the beans will still trade at a higher price.  But the traditional way for a consumer to react to a higher price is to use less coffee in the basket ... or, if you want to get into Depression mode, reuse the grounds.

22.6.15

NOBODY IS ASSURED A SECOND CHANCE.

Retired railroader David Schanoes explains, "If the railroad didn’t need a human being to control the speed of the train, there would be no locomotive engineers."  Control the speed of the train.  Anything else is incidental.

Read and understand.  (Via Destination: Freedom.)

THE SELF-DESPISING MULTICULTURALISTS DECONSTRUCT THE MAINSTREAM.

Law professor and public intellectual Stephen L. Carter dips a toe into the white-supremacist fever swamps.
I came away shaken by the experience.

This is a preliminary analysis, based on visits to seven sites, a couple of them difficult to track down. I’ll write later with more detail. For now, I want to record some general impressions.
He's a regular columnist for Bloomberg View and the deeper analysis will likely appear there, or will be abstracted there if something social-sciency emerges.  Let me highlight one impression.
The first thing to understand is that most of the sites frame their welcome to visitors not in terms of supremacy but in terms of grievance. To those who are suffering, they offer succor. To those who are outcasts, they offer an explanation: The white race is being oppressed, and is in danger of extinction. Those feelings of being left out, they suggest, are being intentionally fomented. Every other race is encouraged to celebrate itself. Whites are encouraged only to feel guilty about themselves. They are blamed, the sites say, for all the world’s ills.
In the fever swamps, the only alternative is to separate and to fight.  But combine the privilege-talk with the phony authenticity that appears to be enabling bad behavior by anybody who isn't white, how big a surprise is it that there is a grievance industry for the benefit of people subject to the multiple oppressions of class and geography?

A GOOD QUESTION.

Don Boudreaux asks why the act of making stuff affordable becomes crass commercialism.
Those activities that regularly get labeled as “crass” are those that appeal to the masses.  Hollywood blockbusters are “crass”; indie movies are cool.  Pop music is “crass”; John Cage’s music is cool.  McDonald’s is “crass”; artisan cheesemakers are cool.  Wal-Mart is “crass”; a boutique merchant selling hand-knitted sweaters is cool.  Supermarkets are “crass”; farmers’ markets are cool.  Shopping malls are “crass”; small stores tucked into basements along Bleecker Street are cool.  Barnes & Noble and Amazon are “crass”; independent bookstores each specializing in only one genre of literature are cool.  Home Depot is “crass”; a mom’n’pop hardware store is cool.  DisneyWorld is “crass”; Iceland’s fjords are cool.  American football is “crass”; soccer (in America) is cool.  The suburbs are “crass”; Georgetown is cool.  Budweiser is “crass”; Sierra Nevada brews are cool.  White zinfandel from California is “crass”; rosés from Bandol are cool.
There's probably an Irony Alert somewhere, identifying and calling out the kind of sophisticates who will approve of Thorstein Veblen or Vance Packard on the matter of conspicuous consumption and status seeking, and yet subtly demostrate their own sophistication by conspicuously shopping where the cool kids go to see, be seen, and spend.
This list can be greatly extended, but you get the picture: whenever and wherever entrepreneurs and businesses adopt business models that appeal to large numbers of people, they are called “crass.”  Far more appealing, apparently, are entrepreneurs and businesses that refuse to seek larger profits by catering to large numbers of people.  Cool are the entrepreneurs and businesses that ignore the desires of the masses and concentrate their attentions on serving only a select handful of customers – as it happens, customers typically with above-average incomes.
Professor Boudreaux notes that commerce which expands the range of products available to hoi polloi is "commerce that equalizes."  Professor Palmer expands on the remarks, granting Professor Boudreaux honorary membership in the Philistine (not in the Biblical sense) Liberation Organization.

21.6.15

THERE'S NO NEED TO IMAGINE.

Two weeks ago, aging woman of the fevered brow Elinor Burkett objected to elements of Bruce Jenner's crossing, inter alia for some of the statements of differences in male and female brains that emanated from the commentariat.  Perhaps she thought she would demonstrate absurdity by being absurd when she tackled the "born into the wrong body" argument.
Imagine the reaction if a young white man suddenly declared that he was trapped in the wrong body and, after using chemicals to change his skin pigmentation and crocheting his hair into twists, expected to be embraced by the black community.
Be careful what you ask for.

But the fever swamps of the Perpetually Aggrieved are perpetually entertaining, and you don't even have to toss the barker a quarter whenever you want a look, there are curiosities only a click away.


Dig into Ms (or shall we use the sex-cloaking Mx -- I have images of Superman's nemesis Mxyzptlk) Burkett's essay and you might suspect that there's more than a little truth to Undeniable Truth of Life No. 24.
This was the prelude to a new photo spread and interview in Vanity Fair that offered us a glimpse into Caitlyn Jenner’s idea of a woman: a cleavage-boosting corset, sultry poses, thick mascara and the prospect of regular “girls’ nights” of banter about hair and makeup. Ms. Jenner was greeted with even more thunderous applause. ESPN announced it would give Ms. Jenner an award for courage. President Obama also praised her.
That's not the first time a socially prominent man crossed and emerged with cosmetic surgery conforming to the aesthetic preferences of mainstream males -- at least as perceived by the women of the fevered brow -- and thus earning the opprobrium of the gatekeepers.  Or the gatekeepers will continue their experiments against reality.
So long as humans produce X and Y chromosomes that lead to the development of penises and vaginas, almost all of us will be “assigned” genders at birth. But what we do with those genders — the roles we assign ourselves, and each other, based on them — is almost entirely mutable.
That's almost certainly wrong, but which strategies confer evolutionary advantages won't be known for a while.  Let the sideshow continue.

CONFIRMING STEREOTYPES?

We've previously seen Pacific Educational [c.q.] Group turning the St. Paul public schools into dangerous places.  They have brain-brothers in Oregon, whose diversity training is instructive, if not in the way the authors envision. Insta Pundit quips, "Funny how the 'progressive' folks are always saying things that sound like they should come from the 1920s KKK."  Specifically,  we see "white culture" as "promoting independence, self expression, personal choice, individual thinking and achievement."  Yes, that's from one of the training documents (EAG News read them all, they're not for the faint of heart) and it goes on to contrast this "white culture" norm with "adherence to norms, respect for authority / elders" ... obviously those hellions in St. Paul didn't get the memo.  It gets more disturbing from there.  When a thinking individual interacts with another thinking individual, what norms will emerge.  To repeat, as repeat I must, "[W]hen practitioners of one strategy interact with practitioners of another, the strategy that confers advantages on adopters might look like oppression to defenders of the losing strategy."  Why, then, continue with this "celebration" of diversity in which a less effective strategy becomes a different way of knowing, or whatever it is this week?

17.6.15

MARKING OFF.

Too much time in the fever swamps this afternoon.  Time to run away with the circus.


See you on down the road.


BEARING THEIR SCORN AS A BADGE OF HONOR?

One argument advocates for minority rights, particularly among the sexual underground, make is that for example, homosexuality cannot be volitional, as nobody would voluntarily expose himself to the opprobrium that accompanies that choice.  That same argument appears in the recent case of a woman in Spokane presenting herself as black, despite ample evidence of Czech and German ancestry.  Here's Ben Shapiro, summarizing the argument.
By the left's standards, Rachel Dolezal is black. She can choose her race, just as Bruce Jenner can choose his sex. And she didn't choose. She always felt that way. After all, no one would choose to be black, just as no one would choose to be gay -- blacks are so put upon in American society that no one would fake being black for, say, the benefits of employment or mainstream leftist celebration.
That position is not uncontested.  I borrowed my title from a Dan Quayle campaign line, in which he stood his ground in the Culture Wars in part by defining precisely who he stood in opposition to.  And bearing opprobrium might be a strategy, perhaps as a way of encouraging progress, perhaps as a way of expressing your opposition.  Remember how political long hair on men used to be? Perhaps there's still that element of encouraging the opprobrium in getting a tattoo.  What, then, about a white girl choosing to pass as black?
On one hand, “black” is a statement of identity. It describes a certain culture and a certain history, tied to the lives and experiences of enslaved Africans and their descendants. It’s a fluid culture, with room for a huge variety of people, from whites, to blacks, to people of Latin American and Caribbean descent.
Fluid indeed, as the descendants of the slave-traders have also emigrated.  And contested: witness the continued tussle over what being authentic is about, and whether authentic is something other than urban contemporary.  But columnist Jamelle Bouie spells out her premises carefully.
I am a descendent of slaves with strong African features. This makes me culturally black—I identify with the American national group—and racially black; I’m more likely to face overt discrimination than my white friends. And in all likelihood, this would also be true if my mother (or father) were white. I would still have African features, I would still have a connection to black American history, and I would still occupy the bottom rung of the racial hierarchy. But if I were born with lighter skin and more European features, I might be able to escape the stigma of blackness. I would still have the cultural connection, but I wouldn’t occupy the same place in the hierarchy.
Under those circumstances, she might have an easier time passing, something that used to be more fraught than it currently is. But passing as a member of a culture is a different thing than passing as a member of a race. For all the talk about race being a construct, it's still a construct with consequences.
The political designation of race is a function of power—or, put differently, you are whatever the dominant group says you are. A Nigerian immigrant might not identify with black Americans, but she’s still “black,” regardless of what she says, and if she gets pulled over by the police, that identity will matter most. And on the other end, a black American with dark skin and African features could identify as white with her friends, but in society, she’s black, regardless of how she feels.
Dangerous territory alert ... if this hypothetical immigrant speaks the Queen's English and shows up for work dependably and hangs out with expats from elsewhere in the Commonwealth, would black Americans reject her for "acting white." But I digress.

Ms Bouie has no problems with Ms Dolezal qua ally.
In her favor are key parts of her life. Dolezal has identified as black for almost 10 years. She’s been heavily involved in the local black community, and a leader on issues important to black people. She has no apparent black ancestry—a real difference from blacks who pass—but she’s adopted a kind of black culture almost wholesale.
But it's possible to be an ally without inventing a background.
Then again, her story involves lies and misrepresentations. She passed off a darker-skinned stranger as her father, and an adopted sibling as her son. There’s a chance she faked a hate crime against her, and she falsely claimed she was born in a tepee with a family that hunted for its food. She says she’s black, but we don’t know if she’s alwaysblack. Is she black when she’s purchasing a home? Talking to the police? Or is she black only when vying for a role where lived experience would help her odds?
Privilege-checking at work.
To belong to the black community is to inherit a rich and important culture; to be racially black is to face discrimination and violence. And that has often gone for whites who identify with blacks, or for blacks who appear to be white.
Thus, more privilege-checking.
We don’t know the entirety of Dolezal’s story, and we will likely learn more. If it’s troubling, it’s at least partly because it feels like Dolezal is adopting the culture without carrying the burdens. And with the fake father and the fake children, it seems like she’s deceiving people for the sake of an à la carte blackness, in which you take the best parts, and leave the pain aside.
We can go beyond Salon's musings. Inside Higher Ed called for deeper thinking. (The comment section is less than edifying.) Daily Nous carries the deeper thinking. Start here.
If ‘passing as privileged’ involves a member of an oppressed group passing as a member of a privileged group for the sake of some personal advantage, then a fit for this sort of alleged case might be ‘passing as disadvantaged’, where a member of a privileged group passes as a member of an oppressed group for the sake of some personal advantage. There are many such examples. A politician with a wealthy background might present himself as “a man of the people” in order to sway voters in a low-income district. Cultural appropriation in the music industry or within artistic communities is another example, such as when a person passes in order to sell “authentic” indigenous pieces or narratives. Someone might pass as a member of a marginalized group in order to obtain a scholarship or other diversity opportunity, or in order to feel somehow special in virtue of having suffered, overcome adversity, or challenged the status quo. Some simply fetishize otherness.
Fetishize otherness? I guess that's how the Highly Intellectual describe scorn-as-badge-of-honor. There's a lot of serious thinking in the post, take your time, read, understand.  But there's quite the scrap for position developing (revealing itself, perhaps) among the Perpetually Aggrieved.  Can a man declare himself a woman?  How is that different from a woman with Czech grandparents declaring herself black?  (Oh, and the culture-warriors of the right are having fun with cats coming out as dogs.)
We agree to accept transgender people’s expression of belief in their authenticity. It’s fine for [Meredith] Talusan or others to say that they are convinced that the identities they embrace are their real ones in some way that is not limited by their biology at birth. However, the logic of the pluralism and open-endedness of identity they assert would require that they also accept the self-reports of claims to authenticity regarding identities that may diverge in other ways from convention. Certainly, not doing so necessitates some justification more persuasive—and less Archie Bunkerish—than simply asserting "Mine is genuine, theirs is not." The voluntary/involuntary criterion isn’t even sophistry; it’s just bullshit.
I don't want to go into the rabbit hole of mainstream society issuing a retrospective apology to all the people clapped in the Cuckoo's Nest over the years for claiming to be Napoleon, and yet I sometimes get the sense that the aggrieved intellectuals are certifiable.
[Zeba] Blay expresses this position most clearly. She objects that Dolezal "occupied positions of power specifically designated for members of a marginalized group."
There's that fetishized otherness again. But if the Perpetually Aggrieved get over their authenticity hang-ups (which, I submit, contribute more to the continued lack of progress of supposedly oppressed people than they help) that might be a desirable outcome.
It may be that one of Rachel Dolezal’s most important contributions to the struggle for social justice may turn out to be having catalyzed, not intentionally to be sure, a discussion that may help us move beyond the identitarian dead end.
I'll give the last word to Daniel Payne, who appears to be of the view that the aggrieved intellectuals are certifiable.
As my colleague Robert Tracinski recently pointed out, the growing normalization of insanity has resulted in the concurrent stigmatization of normalcy itself.
But the sectarianism among the Perpetually Aggrieved and their authenticity fetishes will be worth a little insanity.

EFFICIENT, ORDERLY, DUMB.

Cities are organic, emergent, evolutionary.  Suburbs are intelligently designed.  So much for intelligent design.
Traditional development patterns, based around people who walked, emerged through trial and error over thousands of years. Societies learned to build this way by innovating incrementally—expanding on what worked while abandoning what didn’t. The result is a resilient building form finely adapted to people, a pattern that repeats with eerie similarity across continents and cultures.

In contrast, our auto-based development pattern—cul-de-sacs feeding arterial roads emptying into highways—has nowhere near such a history of application and testing. While auto-based development is indeed efficient and orderly, it lacks the intuitive feedback inherent in all emergent systems. It is this unavoidable feedback loop—the pain that comes with failure, tested over centuries that included war and peace, feast and famine, drought and abundance—that makes the traditional development approach so strong and resilient.
Yes, but technocracy, and the hubris born of winning the war, or putting a man on the moon.
After the Great Depression and World War II, Americans took the following lesson to heart: “As the world’s greatest nation, if we focus our energies and resources on an important endeavor, we can accomplish incredible things.” We had proven it. We proved it again and again in the decades that followed.

As we demobilized the military, we began ramping up a growth machine that would transform the continent. Among a population long deprived of excess, a national consensus took shape in support of auto-based suburban expansion. It seemed like a very American way to experience growth and opportunity while arresting the persistent problems of the city—or so we hoped. We expanded housing programs from the New Deal, added incentives for G.I.’s and others to buy new homes, and began building interstate highways that dramatically reshaped cities. Trade groups and professional organizations standardized the regulatory codes, insurance tables, and financing mechanisms to make it all work.

The early results seemed to confirm our theories. Not only did the economy grow rapidly but prosperity was widely shared. Every time we built a highway, bridge, or interchange and every time we ran a pipe out to a cornfield on the edge of town, we saw positive results. What my fellow Minnesotan Thomas Friedman would later call “the American recipe for success” was established: government financing of infrastructure plus incentives for homeownership equals sustained growth and prosperity. The American Dream.
That is, as long as continued invention and growth are possible. Otherwise, development is just another Ponzi scheme.
Or the American myth. Local governments are starting to realize that this system doesn’t work. While it has historically provided federal and state governments with the economic growth they seek, it leaves cities responsible for maintaining vast expanses of roadways and huge service areas on a comparatively limited tax base. That works fine when everything is new and the cost of maintenance is low, but it quickly becomes impossible as systems age.

What makes matters more desperate is that for auto-based development patterns aging is not graceful. While buildings in the traditional development style have a natural interdependency—they line up in a pattern, often share walls, their value is a function of the quality of the public space they front, and so forth—each auto-oriented building is, by design, totally independent. It will have its own parking. Many are fenced off from their neighbors or have ditches or berms in between. This is done, of course, to facilitate efficiency in construction. The result is that each failure becomes a random blight.

Auto-based development patterns follow a now familiar cycle of growth, stagnation, and then rapid decline. During the growth phase, when everything is shiny and new, the affluent move in and enjoy the prosperity of a place on the rise. But as those random failures emerge and things start to decline, those with the means to move on tend to do so, leaving behind cities of dwindling wealth.
That's creative destruction, or a life cycle. But the problem with reliance on Intelligent Design is that the creativity becomes codified, bureaucratized, sclerotic, or non-existent, and all that's left is the destruction.
We’re now two full generations into this experiment. Ferguson, Missouri, was one of those shiny new suburbs that expanded rapidly after World War II. As it has experienced the growth and decline typical of auto-oriented development, not only has it become much poorer but during the transition the municipality borrowed heavily and spent much of its fleeting wealth trying to maintain its position. Ferguson today is trapped: in 2013 it spent $800,000 paying interest on debt while being able to devote only $25,000 to sidewalk maintenance. There is a reason people in Ferguson might walk in the streets instead of on the sidewalks.
That's apart from the cult of urban transgressivity. The challenge, which this advocate for New Urbanism engages incompletely, is to think about urban and suburban development as something other than another opportunity to identify and implement Best Practices.

MORE CONFIRMATION I'M OLD.

In the summer of 1981, my dad and I went on a quest for the last operable GG-1s.  We found a few, including one in its proper coloration.  That one took us by surprise.


Rahway, New Jersey, late June, 1981.

We were also there for a ride on a Metroliner, but by the time we got there, the Metroliner cars had mostly been cascaded to the Harrisburg service, with just more Amcoaches and box-cabs on the faster schedules.  But we had purchased tickets for Baltimore and got on the rake that pulled into 30th Street Station.  Then the fun began.  I noticed some mileposts outside the window, decided to check the timing.  32 seconds ... 31 seconds ... 30 seconds ... dad was skeptical ... look, there's another one!

And thus did I discover that the "Toaster" or "Swedish Meatball" locomotives might have been able to do something even the GG-1s couldn't do, which is sustained fast running.

And now motor 915 from that series is going to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.


"'If the GG1 represented the initial electrification of the rail lines between New York and Washington and Philadelphia and Harrisburg, the AEM7 was a worthy successor for a new era,' the museum noted." Indeed.

MORE FOR THE INLAND LAKES.


Another Lake Beulah dinghy sailor becomes Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year.
When their daughter Stephanie was born, Nancy and Dale Roble brought her home from the hospital, and her father sailed his MC Scow around Lake Beulah with "It's a Girl!" written on the sail.

"Little did he know this gesture was indicative of what was to come," Stephanie Roble said.

From her first lessons as a child to a top-ranked sailor in the world, Roble told that story to a New York Yacht Club audience back in February when she won the prestigious U.S. Sailing Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Award.
Note to my salt-water readers: "scow" does not refer to a barge, rather to a class of bilgeboard racing boats, the largest of which are capable of towing water skiers.

Note there is much to recommend life in the Lake District.
Competitive youth sailing is as common as the lily pads that frame the clear, spring-fed Lake Beulah, but taking the sport as far as Roble has is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement around this area, which is known for the East Troy Electric Railroad and apple picking at Elegant Farmer.
I'm not sure about that once-upon-a-lifetime, what with Sally Barkow also getting her start at Lake Beulah. What would be once-upon a lifetime is the trolley stopping at Beulah Siding for spectators to walk to the lake for a major regatta. That last happened when now-gone hotels sent carriages to the siding to meet the interurban.

The Inland Lakes have been developing high-achieving sailors since before the interurban.
"Still, there's a history of good sailors to come out of Wisconsin and the Midwest," said Roble's college coach, Mitch Brindley. "Even with the short season, they're highly motivated. Someone like Steph has always made the most of every opportunity she's had whenever she was on the water."

Roble's first lessons were at the age of 5 at the Lake Beulah Yacht Club's sailing school in the Opti Sailboats. Growing up on the lake, she was always in a boat or a kayak because the water was essentially her front yard. All her friends and neighbors also sailed.
Yes, when I moved to Illinois, I started sailing at Lake Geneva. Talk about a learning curve, and a lot of the accomplished sailors began developing their local knowledge young.

Because the lakes are close together, there are chances for the youngsters to pit their skills against similar-age competitors on Geneva or Delavan or Pewaukee or Little Cedar. Then there is the rest of the world.
Sailing is a way of life on Beulah. All summer long, white sails fill the lake with children, teenagers and adults practicing, or sailing in regattas. While they look picturesque against the blue sky and puffs of clouds, they can get very competitive.

"I remember winning my first race with my friend Katie Porter," Roble said. "And I was just like wow, that is a really cool feeling.

"And then a couple of friends had discovered the national sailing. For us, it was like, wait, there are Optis outside of the Midwest? We had no idea what was going on. We were in our own little special bubble."
It's a pretty good special bubble, as the rest of the world discovers from time to time.
Wisconsin is known for good sailors, from [Olympian and America's Cup defender Buddy] Melges to Sally Barkow, to Brian Porter and Annie Haeger, who is attempting to secure a spot on the Olympic team.

"A lot of people don't realize the strong sailing community that we have in the Midwest," Roble said.

Brindley said Roble's diligence and focus have pushed her to this level of sailing.

"She's driven like any successful person is," Brindley said. "She puts the time in and the hard work. She's just like all the other top athletes — it is just that her chosen field is sailing.

"She's very calculating and deliberate in her actions on the water and with her tactics and strategy. And she doesn't make a lot of mistakes because of it."
It's necessary to be deliberate. Scow or dinghy racing is like playing chess on an elastic board, thanks to the shifty winds and shore effects.  The one wrinkle inland lake racers have to adopt to elsewhere is current or tide.