29.2.16

AVOID THE STRAIN, TAKE THE TRAIN.

Your vacation begins when you get on.  Travel and Trains's Jim Loomis knows this; his tablemate in the dining car discovers it while taking some system improvement time at the Greenbrier.  Plus flying to the Greenbrier takes more time or money than even a high roller might like.

THE CRASH HAS BEEN A LONG TIME COMING.

Dean Dad looks at the continued standoff in Springfield over the lack of an appropriation bill for the state universities.
From an administrator’s perspective, it’s a colossal nightmare.  Chicago State has sent out a raft of layoff notices to all employees, including the president, and cancelled Spring Break so it could wrap up the Spring semester (and stop paying employees for Spring) sooner.  Southern Illinois University is in “full-on fiscal triage mode,” according to its president, and looking to cut tens of millions of dollars from a budget that had already been cut badly.

What makes it a nightmare, beyond the obvious, is that they have remarkably little agency, but will be held responsible for whatever happens.  Some have already declared “financial exigency,” which allows for the layoff or termination of tenured faculty and staff.  Even if the money comes through in enough quantity, and early enough, to say “never mind,” you can’t un-ring that bell.  Illinois is still heavily unionized, and I expect that the unions will be watching like hawks for any procedural irregularities.

Worse, the funding shortfall is essentially collateral damage from a political battle, meaning there’s no way of knowing the exact size of the problem.  It may end tomorrow, or it may go into next year.
That's mostly true. The political battle has historic roots, however, and the institutions mentioned above are not blameless in the matter.

Chicago State's administrators failed to obtain legal sanctions against dissident faculty members who continue to publish their weblog.  They've been trimming course offerings and losing enrollment for years.  Two presidents in a row have indulged themselves like third world dictators while the enrollments, and the faculty morale, erode.  A third president recently came in with the task of picking up the pieces.  Follow the links, there's plenty of detail, generally suggesting that the agency exercised by Chicago State senior administrators, when appropriations were stingy rather than nonexistent, didn't win friends or influence people.

Southern Illinois University appointed culturally conservative Democrat Glenn Poshard, a onetime congressman who lost a gubernatorial election to Combine Republican George Ryan, who some of you may know as a recently released resident of the correction system, account his practice of selling commercial driving licenses.  Some of you might also recall that Governor Ryan was replaced in a fair election by Combine Democrat Rod Blagojevich, who is still a resident of the correction system.  In Illinois, however, bipartisanship means the Combine is stingy with the universities, including Southern Illinois, which six years ago had exhausted its reserves, was losing enrollments, and fretting about how to buy cleats for its (successful at a lower division) football team.  It didn't help that the originality of Mr Poshard's doctoral dissertation was, shall we say, in doubt.  A faculty committee cleared him.

Meanwhile, the Combine was making sure that properly vetted spawn of Influential Constituents matriculated with financial aid.  The Urbana campus, however, used furloughs to cope with tight budgets back then, and Northern Illinois University resorted to a stealth furlough.

In the current standoff, the bond rating agencies have lowered Northern Illinois University's credit rating, in part because the reserves are gone.  Thus Dean Dad is spot on about the role of reserves.
The universities have consumed their reserves.  That’s a much bigger deal than many people seem to realize.  For most colleges and universities, payroll fluctuates much less over the course of the year than revenues do.  Full-time employees get paid over the summer, when tuition revenue is much lower than the rest of the year.  Colleges do great in August -- lots of tuition checks coming in, relatively little teaching going on -- and badly in June.  Reserves help to even out the cycles.  Take the reserves away, and even if the overall budget is balanced, there will be times when making payroll will take a miracle.  A certain level of reserves is necessary just to make sure the checks don’t bounce.
Unfortunately, that argument might not impress sufficiently many voters or legislators, particularly voters or legislators who are aware of some, shall we say, unofficial reserves.


It's hard to plead poverty whilst retaining an inspiration officer, assorted executive search and legal professionals and a chief diversity officer,  and missing some clandestine sales of scrap metal a few years ago.  Let's say that the morale among past colleagues is not great.
Even assuming that the governor and the legislature find their way to some sort of agreement, the damage already done will take years to undo.  (And that’s assuming they don’t make it worse next year...)  Employees who didn’t make the cut -- even if recalled -- will remember, and some will bear grudges.  Donors will be tough to court, since as a group, they tend to give to success rather than need.  Students may flee to safer, more stable options.  Star employees may do the same.  It’s likely that the employees who survive the cuts are facing a long term “new normal” of lower compensation.
You don't know the half of it.  Let's say that I built that new headquarters for Cold Spring Shops and set aside my F-U money for a reason.

Dean Dad's area of expertise is the community colleges, and he's correct in noting that the state impasse isn't affecting the community colleges as severely yet (although the failure to fund the Monetary Assistance Program matters.)  Kishwaukee College, which receives funds from DeKalb County property taxes, did get a bond issue through a referendum last year.  On the other hand, the College of DuPage, which has been on a construction spree in recent years, is in the middle of a presidential search after the previous president might have been indulging himself like a tsarevich.

It strikes me that, pace Dean Dad, there might be more than one cause to this battle of egos.

28.2.16

URBAN STRUCTURE IS EMERGENT.

Complex adaptive systems tend to do what they d**n well please, including the complex adaptive systems we know as cities, or as metropolitan areas.  And somewhere (perhaps it goes back to Daedalus sketching pretty lines in the sand) comes the idea that something so built must require intelligent design.
For most of the field’s history, prominent urban planning theorists have taken for granted that cities require extensive central planning. With the question framed as “To plan or not to plan?” students and practitioners answer with an emphatic “Yes,” subsequently setting out to impose their particular ideal order on what they perceived to be, as Lewis Mumford put it, “solidified chaos.” Whether through the controlled centralization of Le Corbusier or the controlled decentralization of Ebenezer Howard and Frank Lloyd Wright, cities were to be just that: controlled. When in 1961 Jane Jacobs set out to attack the orthodox tradition of urban planning, it was this dogma that landed squarely in her crosshairs. With her characteristically deceptive simplicity, she invites us to ask, “Who plans?”
At the Market Urbanism post, the answer is "Not the Wise Experts."
Where grand plans of this kind are necessary, planners should emphasize flexibility in order to support the dynamism of decentralized planning. Where grand plans are not necessary, planners should stick to the trial-and-error of decentralized planning. Jacobs makes this case when she argues for embedding individual subsidized housing units into already functioning neighborhoods rather than tearing down and replacing whole neighborhoods. While an individual building may fail, its failure won’t be nearly be catastrophic as the failure of a grand housing project plan. Meanwhile, a small success can be studied, replicated, and scaled up when appropriate.

As Hayek did in the case of economics, Jacobs stood up to an urban planning orthodoxy that enjoyed the support of policymakers, academics, and all the “Very Serious People.” She celebrated the wisdom of everyday people when the relevant experts found answers only in statistical aggregates and economic calculus. Hayek and Jacobs defended the importance of local knowledge, illustrated the power of decentralized planning, and celebrated the sublime spontaneous orders that organize our lives. Yet their theoretical innovations went largely unnoticed long after their respective publications. Here, the two thinkers diverge: while Hayekian ideas have largely driven centralized economic planning into the dustbin of history, I suspect the Jacobsian urban revolution has only just begun.
Where the concrete hits the forms, there are encouraging signs.  Start in Chicago, where Marisa Novara makes a provocative statement about gentrification driving homeowners of more modest means out.  "If I told you that the key to minimizing displacement of long-time, working-class residents is to build housing that’s not for them, would you believe me?"  That's straightforward for anyone who understands economics (even a relatively un-nuanced version.)  Build houses for the people who want to buy houses.  The nuance, though, is in understanding that gentrification is often a consequence of population migration, without construction, whether of modest or of posh, housing.
In a recent discussion with MPC staff, DePaul professor John Joe Schlichtman pointed out that we often view gentrification as a cause rather than an outcome. This means that when we see or experience displacement by rising property values, we say that gentrification caused this problem.

In fact, what is playing out in this scenario is that in a given area, people with more means than the traditional population have decided that they want to live there too. Because the newer, higher-income set has more resources at their disposal, if the number of units available stays static, they will simply pay more to live there. Gentrification didn’t cause this process, gentrification is the outcome of this process.
That's not going to sit well with the current residents.
Often when people are protesting new development, they say a version of the idea that they want their neighborhood to stay as it is. I get that, especially when you’ve fought to create a vibrant place that feels like home and, most importantly, is one that you can afford.

But if you find yourself saying that, it means the forces are already underway. Not building more units cannot freeze those forces.
In Chicago, resident population has been decreasing, and there are full neighborhoods losing population, which may offer a way out involving building the fancier housing near the gentrifying neighborhoods.  But that's not going to be easily done, either by the wisdom of the men and women of system, or the clout of Donald Trump or Tom Ricketts.
If rising housing costs and displacement are happening, the neighborhood is not going to stay as it was. My top questions then become, How can we shape the outcome of a process that is happening? How can we keep as many longtime residents as possible?
In San Francisco, there's in-migration, in the presence of fewer vacant houses, and the same struggle between doing what looks like the obvious but wrong fix or doing the unintuitive but possibly helpful policy change is going on.

Start with the predictable polemics from a Salon writer, in this example Tony Roshan Samara.
he economic disaster of the Great Recession served as painful lesson on the dangers of deregulated markets. The lesson was particularly painful for many because the market in question was the housing market and the commodities being traded and bet on were people’s homes.

A decade later housing is back in the headlines, as skyrocketing rents in many cities are fueling a crisis of affordability and contributing to a new wave of gentrification and displacement. But despite what we should have learned, there is no shortage of commentators stating with unshakable faith that the crisis is the result of someone, somewhere, getting in the way of the market.
I'm not sure upon reading this whether it's the presence of trading and betting on homes, or the absence, that's the worse thing.  In San Francisco proper, gentrification is the outcome of tech workers with means buying houses within the City for access to nightlife or whatever.  Mr Samara's gripe about snob zoning, or no-further-construction, elsewhere in the Bay Area contributing to upscale tech workers bidding up City house prices, however, is precisely what happens when someone, somewhere -- specifically, elsewhere in the Bay Area -- imposing constraints on the market.

There's something close to a fisking at Planetizen.
Blinded by ideology, Samara merely repackages fundamentally flawed anti-housing positions that are superficially appealing, but which ultimately undermine affordability.

Samara's piece sets out from the puzzling notion that San Francisco's economic and moral imperative to build housing is negated by other municipalities' refusal to do so. This is like telling California to abandon efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions because Wyoming isn't pulling its weight. But more importantly, it is demonstrably false that San Francisco "shoulders a disproportionate share of the housing burden" and "looks pretty good when compared with other jurisdictions."
Put simply, there's no room in the City. Rent theory takes care of everything else.
From 2010 to 2014, San Francisco added around 100,000 jobs. With only 8,290 housing units built during this same period, San Francisco came nowhere near meeting the needs of those new workers, let alone filling pre-existing deficits. In 2014, San Francisco's roughly 639,000 workers were duking it out over a mere 379,597 housing units. San Francisco's absolute and proportional rates of housing growth also remain well below both their historical highs and those of comparable high-tech cities, like Austin and Seattle.

Believing in separate "affordable" and "unaffordable" housing markets is fundamentally incompatible with concerns about displacement and gentrification. Displacement itself results from high-income households moving down market to find housing. Market-rate units therefore provide a crucial escape valve to relieve overall housing pressure. As they age, market-rate units can also very well become tomorrow's "affordable" housing. Samara insists that market-rate construction has no role to play in relieving the housing crisis, but he offers little to refute the "growing cross-ideological consensus" that growth restrictions push up housing prices and exacerbate economic segregation and inequality.

Samara illogically implies that building more housing creates an insurmountable demand for yet more affordable housing, ad infinitum. If this were true, cities with faster growth in market-rate units would have greater affordability problems, but this is not the case.  Data show that markets with the fastest supply growth are among the least expensive, while the most expensive housing markets have some of the slowest supply growth. The issue is not that new market-rate housing in San Francisco generates an unusual number of low-paying jobs. Instead, the extraordinary cost of Bay Area housing overall means that an unusually large proportion of new workers are unable to find market-rate housing they can afford. Moreover, new construction is the primary mechanism by which San Francisco finances and creates new affordable units.
Thus, in the Bay Area, shaping a process isn't easy.
Crafting good public policy requires us to look beyond the interpretations and approaches that flatter our ideologies, and be honest with ourselves about what works. Alleviating the housing crisis depends on it.
Even in the beginning of the end for Walmart, there's recognition that emergence is at work.
Walmart’s store closures are a powerful reminder of the perils of relying on large, absentee companies—for our economic well-being, and for groceries too. The road ahead will get much bumpier with the growth of online shopping, which is all the more reason that cities should prioritize locally owned businesses that have deep roots and insist on building structures and places that are designed to last.
Be careful, though, what you wish for. Prioritization with an overlay of planning mandates is a political environment conducive to rent-seekers.

GIVING BULLSHIT A BAD NAME.

The latest Higher Education Watch posted at The American Interest asserts, Academia Is Losing Its Mind.  The conclusion: it's not just the yahoos of the Angry Right that have a point.
At a time when tuition and student debt are reaching crisis levels, the public is right to demand that the work it is funding (both directly, at public universities, and indirectly, at private universities, by subsidizing student loans) has some bearing on reality and some benefit to the rest of society. It’s time for academics to stop turning up their noses at reasonable critiques, and actually get their house in order.
You want to find the bullshit? Head to the barnyard.  No, head to the "Absence of Absences" conference, which, a few years ago, was scheduled for Tokyo.  This was too much for policy academician (it's complicated) Peter Dreier.  He had some fun with the conference (think Alan Sokal and Social Text) and decided that readers of The American Prospect ought to be in on the story.
Sokal’s ruse was more ambitious than mine. He wrote an entire article. I simply wrote a 368-word abstract. He submitted his for publication. I just submitted mine to a conference. Although his paper was filled with absurd statements, it actually reached a conclusion—however bogus—that gravity was still an idea open to serious debate. In doing so, Sokal actually had a serious point to make about the silliness of much “post-modern” thinking that viewed science as a version of the humanities where all views should be given equal weight.

My paper had no point at all. It was filled entirely with non-sequiturs. I didn’t even bother to mention anything about “the absence of absences,” because I had no idea what it meant and would have thus revealed my ignorance of the panel’s organizing theme.

In writing my abstract for the “Absence of Absences” panel, I violated every rule of good writing to which I usually try to adhere.
Mr Dreier decided that filling thirty pages with violations of every rule of good writing was too much, and he bailed on the conference.  Other participants in the panel took the theme seriously, and their papers are in print.

But the lesson he provided to Prospect readers is important.  By all means go and read the full article.  I'm going to excerpt at length.
Although this episode may seem like a waste of time, I did, like Sokal, have a serious point to make in submitting the abstract. I wanted to pull back the curtain on academic pomposity.

American higher education is under attack by pundits, plutocrats and public officials who believe that many professors don’t work hard and that what they produce is of little value to society. Most of their attacks are off-base, but there is a grain of truth in their claims. Academics who believe in the mission of higher education—teaching, research, and public service—need to defend academic freedom, but some of our colleagues have to clean up their acts, because it is difficult to defend the indefensible.

There are many academics who write books, articles, and technical papers for colleagues in their own areas of expertise, but who also know how to translate their work into prose accessible to the general public. They share a commitment to the idea that colleges and universities—subsidized directly and indirectly by taxpayers—have an obligation to serve society. That means climbing down from the ivory tower and sharing their knowledge with people who aren’t academics. The tradition of liberal arts colleges and land-grant universities alike is the notion of “enlightenment,” which means educating, explaining, and illuminating ideas that might be practically useful or simply interesting for their own sake.
But if you can't explain the essential elements to your mother-in-law, or to a room full of novices who might be resisting your required course in the first place, you're not doing your job.
I believe that most social scientists—sociologists, historians, economists, anthropologists, geographers, and political scientists—should be able to read and understand most of what their fellow social scientists write, if only they would write in relatively clear prose. Although I’m not formally trained in English literature, or art history, or other humanities subjects, I can grasp the basic points, if not the nuances, of most articles published by scholars in these fields, if they are written to be understood rather than to impress and intimidate.
Yes, and if the articles as written, and the talks as given, make the basic points clear, the competent listener will pick up on the nuances.  Yes, that sometimes requires the presenter to defer some questions to take up later (I would caution new students to be careful about sailing outside the breakwater without a life jacket, or suggest that some topics were better tackled over a cup of coffee), but that's the way in which learning is emergent.  Recondite posturing achieves none of that.
The problem of academic jargon is not confined to a single political or ideological wing, but it certainly dominates much of the writing by leftists in the social sciences and humanities. I consider myself a person of the left, and my research and writing—focusing on American politics, urban policy, social movements, and labor studies— generally explores issues of social justice and democracy. But I have little patience for much of what passes for left-wing academic writing in the social sciences and humanities, which emphasizes criticism (often called “deconstructing” or “problematizing” by academics) of conservative and liberal ideas and social institutions, but makes little or no attempt to figure out what to do to make things better.

I also have little patience for the kind of embarrassingly obtuse writing style preferred by many postmodern and allegedly leftist academics that obscures more than it enlightens and is often a clever mask for being intellectually lightweight.
Sample cup of coffee question: is there anything Wise Experts can do to make things better?

But if you can't play with crazy ideas, including the crazy idea that complex adaptive systems might be doing the best they can subject to the laws of conservation, in the academy, when can you play with them?
But as long as academics write primarily for tiny niches of other academics in language that obscures more than it enlightens, the general public will justifiably continue to question the value of higher education and whether their hard-earned tax dollars should be invested in the work of scholars who seem to have little interest in making their ideas accessible to the general public or useful to society.
We could add: outsourcing the transmission of ideas to cheap and contingent faculty labor, to graduate assistants, to online videos, to the division of student affairs, all in stripped down or derivative form.

NEVER CHECK ELECTRONIC MAIL IN THE MORNING.

That advice has been present for over ten years.  But it still appears to be honored more in the breach than the observance.  And, if anything, the ability to send communications cheaply (is it really cheaply?  Why do I keep hearing about $400 a month for data plans?  So clueless I am, doing everything the old fashioned way, with a landline and a desktop computer) lowers the barrier to sending clueless communications, one of the things I was grateful to walk away from once I got out of the university.

But the people still attempting to meet classes and conduct research and deal with the administrivia are still grappling with electronic mail hell.
To be fair, electronic communication has radically transformed the spatial boundaries in which we can work and collaborate with others. But it’s hard not to see the practice of sending an old-fashioned interoffice memo and receiving a response a week or two later as a lost gift. What proportion of today’s emails would never have materialized if the sender had to type out a memo or arrange a meeting?

By lowering the barriers to communication, email has encouraged hyperimpulsive messaging behaviors. Such escalating work transactions are further exacerbated by the asynchronous nature of email, which allows messages to pile up at all hours of the day and night. It’s no wonder our colleague wants email therapy.
And it takes a bit of the Crusty Old Roundhouse Foreman to make "I never check electronic mail before noon" a standard operating practice.
Technologies like email demand the intentional adoption of good practices to ensure that we get the most out of email, rather than letting email get the most out of us. Some professors take a stand by posting their policies and expectations of email communication in their syllabi. But like any tragedy of the commons, a real solution requires institutional change. Standardization of email culture should be directed not just at students, but also at administrators, faculty members and staff members.
A number of useful suggestions follow.  I'm glad to see that the plague of document attachments comes up.
The convenience of email sometimes leads people to think that they needn’t plan ahead. Wrong. One common complaint from faculty members is receiving an attachment with no time to read it. As one professor told us, “They think that because they can send you an attachment instantly, you can read it instantly.” We recommend that meeting-related documents be sent at least two working days prior to the meeting time.
The internet is a sewer of viruses and malware and Microsoft office products are vectors.  I thus had a line in my course outline to the effect that assignments were due in class on paper at the specified time, with language (less strong) about viruses, and I enforced it.  So, dear reader, can you.

Ultimately, though, any new norms involving wired work away from the office or bench will be emergent.
To a certain extent, email is simply a bellwether of the cultural work overload that already exists. But it has also introduced altogether new forms of labor that pile on top of our collective workload.
It's difficult to push back. The high achiever can probably negotiate terms of work that include "leave me alone from six pm to seven am."  But that's not how high achievers get recognized in the first place.  Even high achievers have to establish boundaries.

But for today's fun read, note how Huffington Post's Five Things You Don't Owe Your Boss becomes Six Things You Don't Owe Your Boss at Forbes.  It's the same Travis Bradberry column at both sites, and it relies on the workplace telepressure research that came out of Northern Illinois University just after I ran away with the circus.  I'm not sure what to make of "integrity" coming in at the bottom of the list, or the ways in which being barraged with clueless inquiries at all hours destroys your integrity.  But without integrity, none of the others matter.

THE FRONTIERS OF THE CULTURE WAR.

This morning on Meet the Press, somebody speculated that Donald Trump's tax returns aren't yet public because there might be an inconvenient truth in them.  Perhaps a yuge donation to Planned Parenthood.  It's the Sunday shows, and it's still the silly season, although Mrs Clinton's victory speech in South Carolina last night sounded a lot like a convention acceptance speech.

Meanwhile, the Republicans might either be close to having Mr Trump bringing enough delegates to Cleveland to win, or to having a convention that doesn't ratify a primary outcome, which would be precious, precisely because the Republicans have done a lot of tweaking to their primary schedules precisely to have a definitive primary outcome.  The Democrats, on the other hand, have a lot of party elders who get to vote their conscience, the votes of primary participants or not.

It's to that Planned Parenthood speculation, though, that I wish to speak.  Here's Rebecca Hagelin, illustrating the contested culture war frontier.
It's no wonder that Donald Trump still supports and extols the virtues of Planned Parenthood, the organization that betrays women and girls at the most vulnerable time in their lives; the organization that encourages our teen daughters to be sexually active; the organization that is now notorious for selling baby body parts. It is the very philosophy of Planned Parenthood that Donald Trump uses to justify his decadent lifestyle choices. To both, women are largely sexual objects and men are allowed to treat them that way.
There's a lot of clickbait in that passage. There are also defenders of Planned Parenthood who will protest, perhaps correctly, that explaining options to sexually active teenagers is not the same thing as encouraging teenagers to be sexually active.  Undoubtedly the more rigorous old-style feminists will see in protecting those options, for women of all ages, anything but converting women into objects.

But it's not intentions that matter, it's outcomes.  And a man who brags in his writings about cuckolding other men is a man who is going to benefit from contraception and abortion.  Sex without consequences, forsooth!  Whether that is what the base of Planned Parenthood contributors wants, or not.

27.2.16

ENGINEERING IS HUMAN CAPITAL, SOCIOLOGY IS SIGNALLING.

In the course of arguing against the soft bigotry of low expectations, Naomi Schaefer Riley swerves into a case for insisting that the elementary and secondary schools, no matter where they might be, do their jobs.
Who doesn’t realize computer engineers get paid well? The real problem is that too many black students are getting a hopelessly inadequate K-12 education and by the time they get to college, their best bet is to major in a subject whose exams have no wrong answers and whose professors engage in rampant grade inflation.

Carnevale also argues that’s because blacks are concentrated in open-access schools that have fewer choices of majors. But this, too, is questionable. Plenty of open-access universities offer courses and majors in STEM fields.

The implication is that black students at lower-tier universities are actually less likely to graduate in STEM majors than those at higher-tier ones. Which is patently false. Indeed, the historically black colleges and universities, many of which aren’t selective at all, tend to have among the highest rates of graduating STEM majors.
Study a technical discipline in a class of your intellectual peers, you and your peers master it. Study a technical discipline as the weakest student in the class, you might struggle or wash out. But mightn't there still be a premium to having a technical degree from an institution featured in the U.S. News rankings?  Not necessarily.
And if you want to get a job in a lucrative STEM field, your chances of completing your degree are much better at a lower-tier school. But here’s the real kicker: A recent survey by the Wall Street Journal found that in “fields like science, technology, engineering and math, it largely doesn’t matter whether students go to a prestigious, expensive school or a low-priced one — expected earnings turn out the same.”

For instance, if you go to Manhattan College, where the average SAT score is around 1620, and major in engineering, your mid-career median pay will be $140,000. If you go to Rice, where the average SAT score is 2180, and major in engineering, your pay will be $145,000.
Thus my provocative post title.
If you want to know why there’s still a big salary difference for kids majoring in humanities and social sciences between elite and non-elite schools, it probably has something to do with the substance of the major.

Since most employers have no idea what you learned in your sociology classes, they’ll just assume the kids who went to Harvard are smarter.

But they’ll know exactly what you learned in your math and science classes and so they’ll compensate you well if you did reasonably well no matter where you took them.

If liberal elites really were concerned about increasing the graduation rates and career earnings of minority students, they would realize that the Ivy League is not the answer.
Likewise, policy makers will do better to focus on strengthening the primary and secondary schools, no matter where those might be, in order that the youngster who enrolls at Metropolitan Regional or Directional Comprehensive will be able to handle physics or calculus and finish that engineering degree.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

Slate's Ashley Balcerzak reports on efforts in several of the states to call an Article V convention to amend the Constitution of the United States of America.  There's the obligatory fretting about the John Birch Society, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and for all I know the non-sailing Koch brothers and the Freemasons.  There's also evidence of participants, working from a left-wing perspective, seeking such a convention to clarify the distinction between natural and legal persons.  The article reinforces a warning I recently issued.  "Would make for an interesting constitutional convention if the libertarians and the non-vanguardist leftists showed up in force."
For bills to count toward the necessary 34 applications, though, they must seek the same amendment to discuss at the convention. So far, a balanced budget amendment is the closest to that requirement. But bills have also called for conventions about a cornucopia of issues, ranging from reforming campaign finance to congressional term limits. Critics are concerned that other topics could be introduced once the convention begins.
Perhaps, gridlock, or the difficulty true believers have in compromising, will more effectively preserve the existing Constitution than the political class or the courts can.

RECLAIMING THE WORLD.

It is difficult for me to believe that income inequality or inadequate schooling matter that much, when the marquee capital project in a school district is a 12,000 seat high school football stadium or a locker room that would put many a small college basketball program to shame, and when the bulk of educational coverage on the local television stations comes on Friday or Saturday nights during football and basketball season.

Here's Bardiac, thinking about the same phenomenon.  In her neighborhood, letter of intent signing day gets a lot of coverage.  The fawning coverage isn't present for other kinds of achievers.
In my fantasy, come graduation season, the local news broadcasts would go to each graduating class and do similar short interviews with the valedictorians or top students (in various ways, top math student, maybe, or top art student, or student with an outstanding record of service) about their plans, future schools, whatever. And they'd put these little interviews on the news with the same attention that they put the football players on the news.
More to the point, the interviews might be part of a larger, "where are they now?" feature.
And then, here's the real fantasy: in six years, they'd reinterview the same students, the football players, the art students, the valedictorian, all of them they could find, and they'd ask about the past six years and the students' future plans.

And I bet they'd learn that those valedictorians were graduated or graduating, had jobs, grad school, or other stuff planned going forward, and had become the sorts of adults we hope our K-12 educational programs will help create. My guess is that a lot of the football students will have become those sorts of adults, too, and will be doing good stuff. But I bet it would be exceedingly rare for the football student to still be playing football, while the art student would still be making art, and the student noted for outstanding service would still be doing good service work.

And then they'd actually think out loud about the supposed "career" oriented education that so many of our governmental folks desire and about what sorts of high school activities we should support with our attention and money and such. Maybe, just maybe, instead of having a football coach and two or three assistants, the local high schools would hire another art teacher.
Indeed. We can not speak of returns to human capital that is not being developed.  Nor should we be surprised that dual to the proposition "what we reward we get more of" is the proposition "what we don't reward we get less of."  Probably easier to ask the band to play the fight song one more time.

26.2.16

ORPHANED TRAINS.

The first modernization of Amtrak service came with fixed-formation RTG turbotrains, imported from France.  They were first assigned to regional service out of Chicago, with the most common assignment being the Milwaukee service.  Yes, in those days, the Milwaukee service featured food service.

Here is such a train leaving Milwaukee sometime in 1979.  One power coach was configured with 2-1 business class seating, although that was never sold as such, and the food service car had a cafeteria setup that later appeared in the Superliner lounges.

But a fixed formation train is not easily adapted to peak loading, such as the morning departure for and evening return from Chicago, or for the holiday rushes.  The power plants weren't adapted to cold weather, and a small fleet of trains equipped with French parts and metric fittings isn't going to make the Master Mechanic happy.  All the same, Rohr Industries later built similar trains for use in New York service, and some of the French units received new cabs to look like the Rohr units.  And some of the New York trackage was upgraded to permit the trains free rein to 110 mph, something that did not happen on the Chicago-based services.

Now, all are gone.  A cab car and possibly another car or two are still in a scrapyard somewhere in Indiana.


Mike Woodruff photograph retrieved from Destination: Freedom.

As of late 2012, the New York sets were idle but offered for sale by the state government.


Nathaniel Brooks photograph courtesy New York Times.

By the end of 2012, the trains were sold for scrap.

A SPECIAL CATEGORY FOR MISSOURI'S TRUSTEES.

Not too long ago, we noted another rogue's gallery of illiberal institutions of higher learning.  Missouri at Columbia did not make the cut, although departed president Tim Wolfe made an earlier list of worst college presidents.

The University of Missouri's Board of Curators recently voted to fire assistant communication professor Melissa Click.  You may remember her.



The way in which the board proceeded, however, is another administrative usurpation.
The board voted 4-2 to dismiss Click. [Board Chairwoman Pam] Henrickson said she voted against the decision, but did not say why when asked. She said the board had been hoping that a faculty member would file a complaint against Click to be reviewed by an elected body of faculty members, according to university policy. But when no faculty members filed such a complaint, she said, the board moved forward on its own.
It has long been my position that misbehaving faculty members be disciplined or brought before a for-cause hearing through established channels.  Arbitrary procedures for getting rid of troublesome leftists, whether they are Melissa Click or Ward Churchill or Richard T. Ely are arbitrary procedures, procedures that can be unleashed against individuals with less use to the professional protest communities.
If Dean Curly and Provost Moe and President Larry say nothing about a dishonest faculty member when all that dishonest faculty member is doing is raising Colorado's retention rates in the Department of Cooling Out the Mark, they have forfeited all right to say anything about it when the evidence comes to the attention of individuals less willing to look the other way at the identity politics fraud being committed in prominent universities?
But Department Head Shemp or Dean Curly or Provost Moe all have standing to review faculty conduct, whether, as is the case with Ms Click, in a tenure review, or in the case of Mr Churchill, in a dismissal-for-cause hearing.  Thus Ms Henrickson's statement suggests something else at work.  A Chronicle of Higher Education report suggests it's cowardice.
The news of Ms. Click’s firing may be a step toward repairing the university’s strained relationship with the General Assembly, said State Rep. David Wood, a Republican and chairman of the Joint Committee on Education, in an interview with The Chronicle.

"I support their move," said Representative Wood, who oversaw a recent committee hearing at which several legislators asked university officials about the terms of Ms. Click’s contract and what actions they were taking to respond to her actions as caught on video.

Mr. Wood said he didn’t think legislators were necessarily intent on having Ms. Click fired, but they wanted to know if the university was taking steps to make sure a similar occurrence didn’t take place in the future. "Her actions were not justifiable in any way," said Mr. Wood.
Intrusive legislatures are an occupational hazard for the governing boards of state universities.  Sometimes, the intrusion is over controversial faculty members who are doing something much more subversive than anything Melissa Click ever did.  It's called teaching the controversies.  And when the controversies are about socialism, and the legislature wants the university to get rid of Richard T. Ely, there is only one possible response.
WHATEVER MAY BE THE LIMITATIONS WHICH TRAMMEL INQUIRY ELSEWHERE, WE BELIEVE THAT THE GREAT STATE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SHOULD EVER ENCOURAGE THAT CONTINUAL AND FEARLESS SIFTING AND WINNOWING BY WHICH ALONE THE TRUTH CAN BE FOUND.
Although I still maintain that academic freedom too often serves as cover for trendy grievance scholarship, and that the diversity boondoggle is creating an academic environment devoid of intellectual diversity, none of which is consistent with the public interest, I must also object to Missouri's board of curators conceding powers to a legislature that will almost certainly be used in a situation where curricular integrity, rather than excessively zealous protesting, is at stake.

THAT TRAIN HAS ALREADY LEFT THE STATION.

We go into the weekend with USA Today commentary editor Jill Lawrence lamenting the Donald Trump phenomenon.
To really appreciate the fix we’re in, imagine an entire nation of Donald Trumps.

Anarchic classrooms filled with child bullies flinging insults at kids cowering in corners. Marauding adults in a 24/7 frenzy of baiting and scapegoating. Everyone feeling they have license to attack everyone else — journalists, women, immigrants, Muslims, companies, political leaders, foreign nations. Just make sure to laugh as you’re hurling the sneers and mockery. If you’re tweeting, finish off with an exclamation point.
The classrooms have been like that in too many places for a long time already. You want baiting, scapegoating, sneering, just tune in to opinion radio or television or a culture-studies class.

It's a little too late for the Mature Adults to engage in sober reflection and the issuance of policy papers.  That has been business as usual, and it hasn't worked too well.  Former Reagan speechwriter and Wall Street Journal regular Peggy Noonan recognizes what's really at work.  Think of it as the Mature Adults having to check their privileges.
The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully.
Thus, when Mr Trump refers to the ruling class as stupid people, or when Mr Sanders goes after hedge fund managers, there's more to it than policy failures (and there are many.)  Her thesis is that the mockery is permissible among the ruling class, and one ruling class privilege was to mock with impunity.  No more.
What marks this political moment, in Europe and the U.S., is the rise of the unprotected. It is the rise of people who don’t have all that much against those who’ve been given many blessings and seem to believe they have them not because they’re fortunate but because they’re better.

You see the dynamic in many spheres. In Hollywood, as we still call it, where they make our rough culture, they are careful to protect their own children from its ill effects. In places with failing schools, they choose not to help them through the school liberation movement—charter schools, choice, etc.—because they fear to go up against the most reactionary professional group in America, the teachers unions. They let the public schools flounder. But their children go to the best private schools.

This is a terrible feature of our age—that we are governed by protected people who don’t seem to care that much about their unprotected fellow citizens.

And a country really can’t continue this way.

In wise governments the top is attentive to the realities of the lives of normal people, and careful about their anxieties. That’s more or less how America used to be. There didn’t seem to be so much distance between the top and the bottom.

Now is seems the attitude of the top half is: You’re on your own. Get with the program, little racist.
That last line might generalize too much.  The "racism" smear is still comfort for Democrats wishing their way past Trumpmania, and perhaps among transnational Euroweenies.  There has been, however, discontent among the unprotected for some time.  It might have emerged first among the Republicans, in the form of the Tea Party.  But the conventional wisdom, to use Nick Gillespie's words at Hit and Run, is "cartoonish and self-evidently phony and overblown."  And, pace Ms Lawrence, the political media are part of the protected class.  Thus, suggests Chris Lehmann at The Baffler, they're part of the problem.
The media wants to be treated, much like our lawyers and hedge funders, as a group that merits unquestioned deference in our top-heavy political economy.
The lawyers, who have everything tied up in process or converted into a Federal case.  The hedge funders, who get themselves caught up in rational expectations bubbles.  The media, who sit around under pictures of the Capitol forever talking about the same things.  Check your privilege, pressies.

At present, the discontent of Republican leaning voters, and Reagan Democrats, is more evident.  But the Democrats' turn is coming, suggests Chicago's John Kass, a man with much experience with corrupt Democrats.
Trump's arguments about Iraq resonate with the Republican voters. And that's a dramatic shift among the rank and file, coming only over the past few years.

The anger you see on the Republican side will hit the Democrats in the next election cycle. As much as I'd hoped, I think it's too early for that kind of revolt this year. The liberal media ripped on the GOP for having so many candidates running for president, but it is the Democratic Party that has insulated itself against democracy.

All those millennials feeling the bern for Bernie Sanders will soon realize that Clinton and the Democratic Party have already rigged the game with all her superdelegates and Wall Street cash.

But that's in the next cycle.
Perhaps sooner, if the senator can flip some of the superdelegates.

25.2.16

THE GOVERNMENT AS CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY.

Yes, that might be true of any government, but that was the special task of counsel for the prosecution at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, as documented by Joseph Persico in Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial.  It will make for a brief Book Review No. 4, as most of the history related therein is relatively well known.  The prosecution had to make the case that the defendants were acting on behalf of a lawless government, so as to make the trials about the motives for the war, rather than about the methods of war (which is cruelty, and you cannot refine that, even if it is necessary to destroy Dresden to stop Nazism.)  That's where most of the legal and procedural action is, for example, establishing that the government conditioned otherwise moral Germans to see the Slav or the Jew as less than human.  But along the way, the reader discovers that the American assault on the English language did not begin with MBAs in the sixties.  Here's Sir Norman Birkett, alternate British justice. "Words I never intend to use again while life lasts: concept, applicable, ideology, and contact (as a verb!)"  Plus "privatize, finalize, visualize, argumentation, and orientation." Perhaps because the Yanks never had a proper classical education.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

A NEW KIND OF TRIGGER WARNING.

The latest microaggression folly appears to be preemptive.  Here's a story out of the University of Houston, as reported by the house organ for business as usual.
A PowerPoint slide in the presentation, arranged by the president of the central campus’s Faculty Senate, Jonathan Snow, provides suggestions for faculty members to alter their behavior, among other things, when the law takes effect for all four-year public colleges in the state, on August 1.
Without irony:

You may want to
  • Be careful discussing sensitive topics
  • Drop certain topics from your curriculum
  • Not "go there" if you sense anger
  • Limit student access off hours

That happens to be precisely the rubric of issuing trigger warnings or purging microaggressions from your course outlines and your presentations.  This time, though, it's scary.
"It’s a terrible state of affairs," Mr. Snow, a professor of isotope geochemistry, said in an interview with The Chronicle. "It’s an invasion of gun culture into campus life. We are worried that we have to change the way we teach to accommodate this minority of potentially dangerous students."
"Changing the way we teach" to accommodate head cases or snowflakes prone to getting the vapors, though, is de rigueur.  At least there are a few sensible Chronicle subscribers pointing out in the comments that permit holders are vetted, perhaps more thoroughly than professors of isotope geochemistry.

It's all particularly silly, as the Texas law allows private universities can invoke private property rights, and public universities can impose restrictions on carry (as is the case at Northern Illinois University, where Illinois now issues carry permits.)

As far as the fears some of the people interviewed in these stories raise about engaging in self-censorship because the possible (not actual) presence of a revolver is "intimidating," come off it.  It's more likely that the pistol-phobic weenies might learn a little politeness, such as not snarking at gun owners (or evangelicals or home-schoolers or conservatives) and expecting that everyone will go along with it.

For those snarks, after all, are also micro-aggressions, and as such, covered under the new dispensation on campus.
The list includes "race, color, language, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight, veteran's status and other social identities and identity markers."
Better for the advocates of concealed carry, whether in Texas or elsewhere, to jam the bias reporting system with complaints about the usual smugness all too many academics demonstrate.

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE TRADEOFFS.

Going on eight years ago, Newsweek got involved in the work-life balance debate then raging in the presidential campaign with an attempt to be provocative about upscale working moms.
Sarah Palin has nothing on Christopher Ruhm. On Thursday, the University of North Carolina, Greenboro, economist published a study showing that kids from high-socioeconomic-status families take a long-term hit when their moms work outside the home—at ages 10 and 11, they perform more poorly on cognitive tests and are also more likely to be overweight than those whose high-status mothers leave the workforce. Children from low-status families, on the other hand, don't seem to suffer as much when their moms work. In fact, many of them do better on the same tests, and they're more fit, than similarly disadvantaged kids with stay-at-home moms.

The findings are surprising, and it's easy to read them as a warning to affluent, educated mothers: if you want the best for your child, don't work. (Conversely, if you're not well-off: get your kid to day care.) But those are dangerous conclusions to draw from the study, and even Ruhm—whose own wife worked while raising their children—says so. "This comes down to a fundamental principle of economics: something has to give. We can't have it all," he says. "But I would never tell anybody what to do or not do about that. I certainly wouldn't tell my wife." So what are women facing a choice between work and home—and those many more for whom work is an economic necessity—supposed to make of these findings?
Like everything else in social science, it's in the details.  Mr Ruhm, who has since moved to the University of Virginia, provides the necessary disclaimers early in the paper.
As with all non-experimental analyses, caution must be taken in providing a causal interpretation to these findings. Compared to most previous research, however, particularly comprehensive controls for non-random selection into maternal employment are included and some effort is made to investigate reverse causation – where child outcomes influence future labor supply. Remaining omitted variables biases may lead to underestimates of the adverse effects and reverse causation is probably more important for low than high SES families. The qualitative pattern of results, however, seems unlikely to be strongly affected.
There's a good deal of prior research on the topic, although a quick check of Google Scholar doesn't turn up any obvious ripostes or extensions.  Here's how Mr Ruhm frames his finding.
The results suggest that maternal employment has small average effects but sharply disparate impacts across categories of youths. Moderate labor supplies is estimated to have no impact or to benefit “disadvantaged” children and long hours, which occur rarely, are unlikely to leave them much worse off. By contrast, maternal job-holding is predicted to have deleterious consequences for “advantaged” adolescents. One reason for the negative effects on cognitive development is probably that these children are removed from enriching home environments when their mothers work. The elevation in obesity is less easily explained, although the data suggest a role for determinants common to both the child and mother (like family eating habits).
The translation into more laymanlike language at Newsweek elaborates, but says the same thing.
Why do mothers' choices have such different effects on kids, depending on their socioeconomic situations? Most likely, says Ruhm, the low-status kids get more intellectual stimulation in day care or with other caretakers, such as grandparents, than they do at home. Meanwhile, the high-status kids may find day care less enriching than being with their highly educated mothers. When these moms go back to work, "you're pulling the [high-status] kids out of these really good home environments," says Ruhm, "and a lot of the alternatives just aren't as good."

The same pattern was true of weight: low-status kids weren't any thinner or fatter depending on what their mothers did, but high-status kids with working moms did have a slightly higher risk of being overweight at 10 or 11. The biggest effect on weight came when mothers were working during their high-status children's school years. Maybe, says Ruhm, these moms didn't have time to cook healthy dinners and after-school snacks: "If you're working a lot and you're eating out and buying fatty food, that could have an effect on obesity later in the child's life." Or maybe those kids were left unsupervised more often, and thus had more opportunities to eat cookies in front of the TV—and fewer opportunities to run around outside. "Parents who are working but want to make sure their kids are supervised and safe will often load up the house with sedentary activities, since they can't always be there to take them to sports or to the park," says Karen Eifler, an associate professor of education at the University of Portland. "Their kids are more likely to have a TV or computer and videogames in their room—and also, the higher your economic status, the more likely you are to have those three machines in your house."
Capital assets matter. Some are physical, some are human, and some are social.

SUMMIT CAUSEN, SUMMIT DUX.

An oldie from Voluntary Xchange suggesting that special advisors to the president get a title other than "tsar."
Obama is the Caesar, cabinet secretaries are analogous to Roman governors, and the Roman dux to our czar.

The part of this that is missing (and I'm not expert enough to add it) is that under the Franks, a dux was named as the local (and loyal) representative of the Frankish king to rule over captive peoples who were still tribal, but while no longer nomadic didn’t really have a fixed geographic region either (for example Chrodobert was dux of the Alemans in the 7th century).
The dux, though, isn't necessarily loyal to the Frankish king, if this year's story arc in Vikings continues.  Rollo has the local authorities crossbow his temporarily not nomadic subjects, but there's likely to be more side-shifting as the season progresses.

THE COMING LIBERTARIAN MOMENT?

The recent death of Justice Scalia turns the upcoming national general election into one more consequential.  Perhaps, though, the best consequence might be less consequence, or less reliance on a one size fits all public policy, whether arrived at through bipartisan consensus or codified by nine votes.

Start with a Charles C. W. Cooke observation in National Review, where he notes that Barack Hussein Obama and his brain-brothers have to work harder to fundamentally transform our politics.
Since Ronald Reagan made his first serious presidential run, in 1976, conservatism has produced a cornucopia of significant changes — not only to government policy, but to the baseline presumptions of American life. Among these alterations are the tarring and feathering of the reflexively technocratic mindset that obtained from the outset of the New Deal to the end of the 1970s; the marginalization of wage and price controls, and of other centralizing tools; the lowering of destructive tax rates on income and other forms of wealth; the deregulation of a significant number of major industries; a renewed focus on national sovereignty; the successful reform of the welfare system; a consensus around free trade; a much lower minimum wage; a focus on both the text and the original meaning of the Constitution when discussing limits on government power; the restoration of the right to keep and bear arms; the stronger protection of freedom of expression; a national partial-birth-abortion ban; the death of speech-killing “campaign-finance reform”; and, lest we forget, the peaceful dismantling of the Soviet Union. For some much-needed context, understand that the GOP’s standard-bearer in the early 1970s, Richard Nixon, was the mind behind the Environmental Protection Agency, whereas today’s Republican candidates are opposed to so many departments that they can’t always remember all of their names.

But I will not dwell on the past. Instead, I will argue that we need not look so far back to answer the charge. Rather, we can contemplate the past decade with some considerable pride. Because conservatives aim to repeal so much of the damage done by progressivism of late, we can at times feel hopeless — and even angry. In theory, we understand that the people backed Obama twice and that his veto stands proudly in the way of our getting to reverse his excesses; in practice, however, it can be tempting to assume that the lack of major progress has been the product of quiet acquiescence or tactical incompetence — or, worst of all, of deep-seated corruption.
There are significant recent gaps in one-size-fits-all policy, and the Party of Government owns its failures, in part because of what the chattering classes call "Republican obstruction."
At the state level, there would have been no marches toward right-to-work or liberalized concealed carry; no progress on school choice or eminent domain; no restrictions on late-term abortion or state-constitution amendments defining marriage; and none of the regulatory and fiscal reforms that are coaxing Americans out of the blue states and onto the red horizon. Despite voting unanimously against the bill, Republicans could not stop Obamacare. But they have managed to prevent Medicaid from being expanded universally, and they have mostly forced the federal government to own its messy system of insurance exchanges. That was no walk in the park.
Perhaps, with at least one Supreme Court appointment on the menu, it's time to let the people decide.  Here's John Kass, suggesting that what the people want is for the political establishments to back off.
Yet for all the Democratic and Republican establishment guilty hand-wringing, our founding fathers understood something many years ago that is critical to this discussion.

They understood human nature. They were experts at it. And they didn't merely bring theory and dry words from ancient clay tablets to their debates in Philadelphia as they pondered what kind of nation we'd be. They knew human needs. They knew the need to restrain human passions. And that is why they left us the Constitution, to protect our liberty at times such as these.

These days, anger keeps rising among the people. They feel they've been betrayed by the political establishment of both parties. And why do they feel this way? Because it's true.

Their jobs have been shipped overseas, there have been a series of seemingly endless wars, America seems listless or powerless overseas, the nation ages, becomes less optimistic.

What worries me is that there seems to be a growing acceptance that if we can't adapt and earn our own individual happiness, we'll just use politics and government -- and the U.S. Supreme Court -- as a club to hammer our way to sunny days on the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

That's been growing for some time now. We're ripe for it.
That the Smart People have been so spectacularly incompetent for so long makes the voters willing to try something new, even something new that Mr Kass suggests will bring a different kind of failure.
And the messianic wave that President Obama rode to the White House years ago continues. When Obama secured the Democratic nomination, he offered that famous, somewhat frightening speech in Minnesota in 2008.

That was the speech in which Obama literally promised the seas would calm and the planet would heal as he ascended to national power. You can't get any more messianic than that.

Now Donald Trump on the right -- although I hope he implodes -- and Bernie Sanders -- who is too leathery to melt -- on the left offer a similar messianic approach. High on rhetoric, low on specifics. With Donald and Bernie it's mostly about feeling.

So they appeal to the anger and offer themselves as authentic. "Authenticity" is the new journalistic buzzword these days. You can't turn on a TV political show without hearing it. Although just a few years ago the TV talking heads stroked their chins of wisdom and talked of "gravitas." It was gravitas this and gravitas that. And now it's authenticity this and that.

No wonder voters search for candidates who will go to Washington and slap the chin strokers in the mouth.
It would be better if the chin strokers, and the governing class they carry water for, had fewer responsibilities.

Although Megan McArdle would like to make the appointment and confirmation of justices less fraught, she, too, is ultimately suggesting that the governing class have fewer responsibilities.
The purpose of electing a president is therefore, in large part, the effort to stuff the court with enough judges to force your idea of what’s important on the other 300 million people with whom you share a country. The problem is that many of them disagree, and are eager to do their own stuffing, while simultaneously blocking yours.

Running more and more issues through the appellate courts, rather than struggling through the legislative process, has two terrible effects. First, it federalizes more and more issues, in an era when values and ideologies tend to be sharply partisan and geographically divided. If you were a pro-lifer in Alabama, you probably wouldn't get on a bus to Albany to protest New Yorkers' more liberal abortion laws. But when federal courts decided that abortion law would be substantially the same everywhere in the country, proponents of abortion rights and opponents of abortion became locked in a battle over the court that sets the rules.
And thus, do senatorial elections also become fraught, in ways that make for a more complex bundle of campaign promises, and a lot of pandering to the so-called single issue voters, who care about one or a few Big Things.  Thus the downside of one-policy-for-everyone jurisprudence.
Of course, when matters of such great importance are at stake, it’s very tempting to do an end run around politics, and avoid those unsatisfying compromises, by putting the question in the hands of unelected people who are, by design, removed from the passions of democracy and representative government. They can therefore rule much more sweepingly than legislators would.

But this doesn’t fix the political problem. It only moves it to the question of how the justices are picked, a question that is about to catapult our political system into a new, and more dangerous, level of crisis. For if you leave people no way to work through the system, they are apt to start working against it instead.
And thus the appeal of an outsider who blames the banksters or the stupid people.  But even in a Wisconsin Club for Growth appeal for the Republican nominating carnival to sober up, there's recognition that the fundamental problem is with the Governmental Habit.
The populist insurgency that has thus far dominated the Republican primary campaigns must understand it’s time to close the bar, set the furniture back upright, and accept the necessity of a grown-up candidate with identifiable beliefs warranting confidence that the eventual court nominee will be someone who, like Scalia, believes the Constitution means what it says.
But it's more than the national government's monopoly on setting standards from the bench that's contested. The monopoly on issuing currency is also in doubt.  Although Crooked Timber's Chris Bertram is contemplating the privacy that's lost if governments abolish cash, ultimately limiting government's power to abolish cash limits government itself, full stop.
In practice this means that people whose right to remain is cancelled could almost immediately lose access to the resources they need to fight the administrative decision against them. History shows that technologies that are first piloted against one group of people can be extended to others. We face a future where people deemed by the executive to be problematic in some way could lose access to all means of payment. At least with cash you can subsist on the margins of society; without it, government control is potentially total. Perhaps this is coming sooner than we think?
That total control, incidentally, is unlikely to be the same thing as collective ownership of the means of production. At the same time, it's yet another reason for smart 'phone owners to stand with Apple and against the national government seeking a back door into otherwise secure devices.

24.2.16

A CASE FOR IMPROVING THE TRAINS.

The most frequently delayed air route in the country is the fifty minute hop between South Bend and Chicago's O'Hare.  That South Bend gets slammed by lake effect snow each winter has a lot to do with it.

A fifty-minute, approximately 100 mile plane trip, however, doesn't make much sense.  And there's the beginning of a better way to get South Bend passengers to O'Hare.


In my experience, it's common for some South Bend air passengers (there are cross-country flights out of the airport) to begin or end their journey on the South Shore Line.

South Bend to O'Hare or Midway, though, is a pokey proposition, with a change from the interurban to the L in downtown Chicago, with several blocks walk or a costly taxi ride, and the L service to the airport is on normal-service, all-stop trains.  That's where Chicago's Cross Rail project ought to come in.

THE CULTURE OF AUTHENTICITY BITES THE PERPETUALLY AGGRIEVED.

Ben Shapiro writes about the unmanning of American politics.  (It's not quite as graphic as a scene from the first episode of Vikings a few nights ago, but it's still not for the faint of heart.)
Normally, the masculinity gap in American politics could be filled by an upstanding man -- a man, yes, but one tied to values, a man who uses the aggressive instinct in pursuit of defending the innocent and punishing the guilty. But the feminist movement has made such men obsolete. Men were simply too dangerous; it was safer to emasculate them. Now men are expected to be betas; the only alphas left are toxic alphas willing to break every taboo and violate every standard.

There's still a space for masculinity in American politics. But thanks to the vacuum of decent men, indecent men rise. Men like Donald Trump.
That's one possibility.  I submit, though, that the cowed betas drew the wrong inference.

That is, the very people who are most shocked! outraged! appalled! at the way Mr Trump carries on are precisely the least capable of objecting.  Forty years of celebrating epater-les-bourgeois behavior and the artistic avant-garde and gender-bending and the pernicious affirmation of thug culture as authentic will do that.  Mr Trump is simply being authentic.  Authentically not politically correct, to be precise.

THOSE ECONOMIC LAWS OF CONSERVATION.

No matter how many times I stress this, there's still reason to reinforce the lesson.  Here's Best of the Web's James Taranto, back before that service went behind a paywall, four years ago, suggesting that population growth has a different effect on wages than changes in labor force participation, specifically by increased female labor force participation.
For the purpose of our point, however, there is a very substantial difference between population growth and participation growth. The latter disrupts the labor market in a way that the former does not.

That's because growth in the population adds consumers as well as workers to the economy. In fact, since every worker is a consumer but not every consumer is a worker, population growth adds more consumers than workers to the economy. More consumers mean more demand for goods and services, and in turn for labor to provide them. That increase in demand countervails the increase in labor supply.

By contrast, women were consumers even before they entered the workforce en masse. And while a two-income household (or two one-income households) may consume more than an old-fashioned household with one breadwinner would, it is counterintuitive to suggest that a woman's entering the workforce, on average, increases the demand for labor as much as or more than it increases the supply.
No, but the nature of production and the nature of consumption change.  And Income = Wages + Interest + Rent + Profit.  Thus, it's irrelevant whether the demand for labor changes differently than the supply of labor in the presence of increased participation, compared with increased population.  What matters is that prices adjust.
To be sure, there are industries that have boomed as the result of the commercialization of what were formerly women's domestic duties. If you told someone in 1960 that you were planning to go into business running a "day-care center," you'd probably get a puzzled look.
Contemporary day care centers might have appropriated many of the gains to participation.  "At the margin, oughtn't the equilibrium working mom be indifferent between staying attached to the labor force (which makes the so-called pay gap go away) or leaving the labor force (which depresses lifetime earnings)."  Likewise, there's a margin to optimize between home cooking or outsourced cooking.  Here's Mr Taranto.  "Another example is prepared food, especially from fast-food restaurants. With Mom and Dad both busy at the office (assuming Dad is around at all), home-cooked meals are far less common than they used to be."

THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS.

Taxpayers in Katy, Texas, recently approved a $748m school bond package.  News reports describe the "centerpiece" of the planned capital expenditures as a twelve thousand seat football stadium with an expected first cost of $59m up to about $70m.
The school district's current stadium is 34 years old and was built when there were only three high schools in the area. Now seven schools must share it, and school officials say the time to build a new one is now.

When its game day in Katy, the Tigers can roar with the best of them, but the defending state champs share their aging facility with six other football teams.

School officials say the district has outgrown it. They want voters to approve the sale of bonds to kick off construction of the 14,000-seat stadium.

Asked about critics concerns that is a luxurious, kind-of-out-of-control stadium, John Eberlan, a project committee member, said: "That's not what we've designed -- not at all."

So what is what they've designed?

"We told the architects that what we needed was a stadium that would pass, and so we needed to present to the community a reasonable, conservative construction," Eberlan said.

Surprisingly, one of the plan's loudest critics is in the stands. Cyndi Lawrence is a local tea party leader. Her son -- a junior high school quarterback -- could eventually play in the proposed stadium.

"It comes out to be $5,000, almost $5,000 per seat," Lawrence said. "At 14,000 seats, I have real issue with that price tag. It's outlandish and I think the taxpayers are starting to realize its way too much."
Judge for yourself whether the project is out of control.  The current stadium seats around ten thousand fans.  The new one will include a two-story press box, a Jumbotron, and a field house with space set aside for a future hall of fame.  But it will be shared among several high schools, unlike the 18,000 seat stadium serving Allen, Texas, that has "has a state-of-the-art scoreboard, 42 concession stands, and 192 public toilets."

I may have to look into the curricular offerings at Allen and Katy (the latter is part of the Houston sprawl) to see if students have the option of calculus, astronomy, or advanced physics.