29.4.16

28.4.16

THANKS A MILLION.

Some years ago, Blogger provided a page view counter, which I see has now rolled over to seven digits.

That may be an artifact of longevity more than anything else.  There are doubtless sites that garner as many page views in a month, or a week.

Thanks, all the same, for looking in, and commenting.

Perhaps you've found intellectual ammunition.

Perhaps I've encouraged you to look at something differently.

Perhaps you've resolved not to take risks crossing railroad tracks.

Perhaps I've rubbed you the wrong way.

Enjoy.

If any of you I've offended ...

GOVERNMENT FAILURE.

In the midst of the troubles Washington D. C. is having keeping Richard Nixon's Moscow envy running, Metro rediscovers the Capital's lost streetcar subway.
In the 1951 sci-fi movie "The Day the Earth Stood Still," pedestrians are seen descending staircases on the edge of Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. These days, the stairs are still there, but now they’re blocked off. They led to a once-busy 75,000-square-foot below-ground streetcar station built in 1949. The station has been closed since 1962.

Dupont Circle’s ghostly streetcar station is another reminder that America once had an extensive and efficient interurban transit system. Now, as cities from Buffalo to San Diego look to light rail — today’s iteration of the streetcar, which itself evolved from the horse-drawn omnibus — it’s worth thinking about the astonishing transit system we built and then threw away.
Private capital built the streetcar systems.  Rent-seekers destroyed them.
A century ago, there were nearly 34,000 miles of streetcar tracks connecting neighborhoods to downtowns, and towns to neighboring towns. (I’ve been told that it was possible to travel from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia on local streetcars and trolleys, although that would have been one long and unpleasant trip.)
In fact, it was once possible to ride local streetcars and interurbans from somewhere near Albany all the way to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The fastest running was between Cleveland and Toledo, and again in the Chicago area. But only an intrepid adventurer would essay such a trip. There may be such an account in the rudimentary rail enthusiast press of the day.
Overwhelmingly, those tracks were built by private investors. In the late 19th and early 20th century, it was streetcars, not automobiles, that created the first suburbs.

If you live in an urban area, the evidence is all around you. I live in D.C., not far off Connecticut Avenue, which is broad and gently graded because of the streetcars that once ran along it. The Chevy Chase Land Co. built Connecticut Avenue across miles of farmland to take people from the suburb that still bears the company’s name to downtown D.C., eventually linking up to that now-deserted Dupont Circle station.

Connecticut Avenue’s streetcar tracks are long gone, but down in Georgetown, you can take a bumpy car ride along blocks of cobblestoned side streets where trolley rails remain in place.
Look at video of the John Kennedy funeral. The march from the White House to the parish church is along Connecticut, and the tracks are visible.  Seeking a streetcar suburb?  One still exists, complete with the cars.  Shaker Heights in Ohio used to be served by Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, now an authority.

PER COROLLARY, IS THE I-PASS UNCONSTITUTIONAL?

Germany is installing tolling on die Autobahnen.  (That's one European social democratic feature I could get on board with here.)  But German residents (citizens? taxpayers?) get part of their toll rebated against their motor vehicle taxes, and that's creating an international incident.
This, the European Commission said on Thursday, unfairly discriminates against foreign drivers, including those from EU member states, therefore violating EU law.

"It is the Commission's duty – as Guardian of the Treaties – to ensure that such charges do not discriminate between domestic and foreign drivers in the EU," the Commission wrote in a statement.

Germany has two months to make reforms to the planned toll, or the Commission says it will bring the country to the European Court of Justice.
Here in Corruptistan, motorists get an inducement to purchase the I-Pass (or the EZ-Pass, which works in several states) each time they pass a tolling station, as there is a sign comparing the cash rate with the lower pass rate.  But to subscribe to the I-Pass or the EZ-Pass requires a motorist to put some cash on deposit with the tollway authority.  It's worth doing for an Illinois resident who uses the Tollway a lot, particularly to reach the turnpikes heading east.  It's not worth doing for a Nebraskan or Arkansan making an occasional visit to the state.  Are those Huskers and Razorbacks facing undue prejudice?

RECLAIMING THE CULTURE.

Here's Laura Hollis, calling out the real Destructive Generation.
It's the absurd notion that the past has nothing to teach us that has gotten us where we are today. It's popular to deride the millennial generation as coddled "special snowflakes." But it's the baby boomers who absolutely cannot admit that they were wrong.

And oh, were they wrong. Theirs was the generation that gave us "Don't trust anyone over 30," and their obsession with youth has produced 50 years of deliberate disregard of the wisdom that comes with age. Etiquette was one of the first casualties.

Nowhere is this clearer than with the "sexual revolution," which has been an unmitigated disaster. Rampant divorce? Check. Fatherless children and impoverished families? Check. Spread of sexually transmitted diseases among young people? Check. Hyper-sexualization of children? Check. "Rape culture" on college campuses? Check. (Seriously -- you cannot have a culture that treats sex like a spectator sport and then feign shock when young people treat it like a spectator sport.)
The baby boomers were victory babies, whose G. I. parents had been through hell and simply wanted to kick back.  Between the boomers and the Greatest Generation were the so-called Silents (anybody who ever sat through a faculty meeting any time between 1970 and 2010 would know otherwise) who, unable to embark on a long march to victory through Europe, made a long march through the institutions.  That set the kids free, and kids will be kids.
Even some of the most contentious issues of our day could have a significant amount of friction lessened with a little bit of etiquette and propriety: a young woman has too much to drink on a date? A young man raised to be a gentleman would not dream of taking advantage of her. A man is walking down the street wearing women's clothing? Propriety would suggest a smile and a "Good morning" and not remarking any further upon it. Your gay nephew and his significant other announce their marriage, civil union or commitment ceremony? Good manners dictate a thoughtful gift and a handwritten card if you cannot -- or prefer not to -- attend.

A number of societal trends have rushed into the vacuum left by etiquette's unceremonious expulsion, and none of them are good. The first of these is the adolescent insistence upon constant affirmation and public expressions of approval. This attitude has created nothing short of an ongoing national temper tantrum. For heaven's sake, grow up. Everyone isn't going to "approve" of you, and it is puerile to insist upon it.
But the institutions that were deconstructed were civilization itself.
As counterintuitive as it may sound, polite behavior based upon widely acknowledged social mores is vitally important to the smooth operation of a liberal society. In its absence, we do not have more freedom, but exhibitionism and offense and conflict and oppression.
Indeed so. Rediscovering a fundamental principle is not the same thing as restoring a lost era.
[N]ot everything contemporary is "better," nor does progress preclude us from appreciating things in the past that actually have something to offer. Chaucer is still wickedly funny; Shakespeare's plays and poetry are still genius; John Milton is still poignant and inspirational, and we still teach -- and play -- the works of Mozart and Beethoven. That's not saying we want to live in the 14th, 16th or 18th centuries.

If we can appreciate Botticelli and Bach without a desire to live in their eras, so, too, can we look back and decide that the decorum associated with an earlier age still has a place today, notwithstanding -- or perhaps because of -- our modernity.
Robert Tracinski (I always want to insert an "syz" in there somewhere) offers a variation on that last theme.
Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, the great works in the canon of serious music, do have a timeless and universal value. They are more complex, deeper, more profound, and the more you listen to them the more you get out of them, over a period of decades.

I played Chopin’s Etude in E Major (well, a simplified version) when I was taking piano lessons as a kid, but it was only much later that I really understand what it’s about, both the technical aspects of it and its emotional meaning. So I’m slowly working on learning it again (the full, hi-test version). I’m still only a so-so musician and Chopin is fiendishly difficult, so give me a year of solid work and I might get somewhere with it. But my point is that it’s worth that kind of effort, even if you’re only playing for your own pleasure—which popular music rarely is.
Reclaim education. Reclaim manners. Reclaim the fine arts.

Put another way, in 400 years, how familiar will people be with Bowie and Prince?  What are the odds on Cervantes or Shakespeare, better-known, or unknown?
I don’t say this to disparage popular music, even though I suspect that in a hundred years, most of it will be remembered about as widely as Mairzy Doats. (Look it up, kids.(*)) A simple and catchy tune is perfectly valuable on its own merits, and not every piece of music or television show or movie has to engage the brain at full capacity.

But the middle-brow cultural establishment is determined to freight the flotsam and jetsam of popular culture with more intellectual weight than it can carry, sinking it under a lot of pretentious commentary about its very great significance.
What the gatekeepers reward, they get more of. Theorizing crap (or gendering Thomas the Tank Engine) gets you tenure.
Back when I lived in Chicago, I went to a public concert put on by the Lyric Opera, and in amongst the crowd-pleasers by Mozart and Puccini they slipped some screeching piece of modern opera. Afterwards, observing the fidgeting impatience of the audience, the emcee informed us—and I’ll never forget his exact words—”It’s really quite beautiful, I assure you.” We had just heard it with our own ears, and if it had been beautiful, we probably would have noticed. But he had to tell us the correct conclusion we were supposed to come to.

That pretty much sums up the impact of twentieth-century modernism, which knocked down all of the conventions of highbrow art while still trying to steal its prestige. Instead, they simply used up its credibility and drove away its audience.
Like anything else, when people figure out that something useful is missing, they'll figure out a way to reclaim it.

(*)If the words sound queer, And funny to your ears, A little bit jumbled and jivey, Sing Mares Eat Oats.  And Does Eat Oats.  And Little Lambs Eat Ivy.

WHAT DIFFERENCE, AT THIS POINT, DOES IT MAKE?

A Common Dreams writer frets about the outcome of the Democrat primary in some down-ticket races out east.
A disappointing election night for progressives ended Tuesday with two establishment Democrats, Katie McGinty and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, winning their respective U.S. Senate primary races in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Van Hollen won against Rep. Donna Edwards, both of whom were running to replace Sen. Barbara Mikulski, in a contest that highlighted racial, gender, and class divides in the Maryland Democratic Party.
I'm not sure what this carping about "establishment Democrats" is. The tussle, if there is one, is over symbolism, not substance.  The party platform will be substantively bad no matter who stands on it.
At a union hall in Prince George's County Tuesday night, Edwards gave a passionate concession speech that criticized the Democratic Party's faux-progressive mantle.

"To my Democratic Party, you cannot show up in churches before election day, you cannot sing the first and last verse of 'Lift Every Voice and Sing,' you cannot join hands and walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and call that post-racial and inclusion," she said to cheers and applause.

"To my Democratic Party, let me say that today Maryland is on the verge of having an all-male delegation in a so-called progressive state. So what I want to know from my Democratic Party, is when will the voices of people of color, when will the voices of women, when will the voices of labor, when will the voices of black women, when will our voices be effective, legitimate, equal leaders in a big-tent party?" she said.
Does it really matter what church or mosque the candidate attends, or what kind of marriage the candidate is in or out of, or what potty the candidate uses, as long as Baltimore is a paradigm of what Democrat ward-heeler politicians do?

Meanwhile, the establishment Republicans are having trouble managing play in Two No-Trump, and Roger Simon sees in a Trump candidacy a chance to pry some of the Democrats' victims away.
The African-American community is in a miserable condition that has been getting worse for decades and has reached its nadir under Obama -- two-parent families disappearing, unemployment rates skyrocketing, incarceration rates catastrophic, drug addiction epidemic. We all look on in despair as gang members shoot children in the streets of Chicago and murders -- almost all black-on-black -- proliferate in Baltimore after years of decline.

What is to be done about all this? Hillary Clinton will certainly have plenty to say, but it will all be the same old disingenuous bilge. She can't be part of the solution because she -- like the Democratic Party she has served loyally for almost her entire life -- is part of the problem. For reasons of moral narcissism and political expediency, beginning with the Great Society that party has set up a system in black communities that has trapped African-Americans into a non-stop cycle of government dependency, turning them into what talk show host Larry Elder dubbed "victocrats," believers in perpetual victimhood, a self-fulfilling prophecy, if there ever was one. The #blacklivesmatter movement is only the most recent avatar.

Many black people -- just not the brilliant minds like Thomas Sowell and Elder -- know this. They are just constrained by the atmosphere in their communities, the evil influence and machinations of those like Reverend Al and Maxine Waters, against speaking up.  Others have simply given up. It's hard to blame them. How do you break this cycle?

Enter Donald Trump.
That's going to call for specifics. But here, some of the groundwork already exists.
As luck would have it, one of Trump's signature campaign goals -- bringing jobs back to America -- refers directly to one of the key problems of black America -- rampant unemployment. But it gets more specific. Trump speaks continually of American corporations -- Carrier, Pfizer, and Ford, among others -- moving their factories out of our country to lower their taxes and other costs, while we lose jobs.

What if Trump were to propose that those corporations could return to America tax free (for a certain amount of time), if they were to build those new factories not in foreign countries but in our own disadvantaged communities? (This is a variant on the old Jack Kemp opportunity-zone idea.) In the case of a Ford, Trump could go further, talking to the UAW and asking them to reduce their minimums in those communities as well (for a similar amount of time) until the local work forces were sufficiently trained and the factories humming. The man who invented, or at least wrote, The Art of the Deal should be able to get this done. It would be a win, win, win for everybody.

Republicans always claim capitalism is the true motor of society and that earning a decent wage for honest work is far better for the psyche than a welfare check. And they're right, of course. But they don't do anything to demonstrate it -- all talk and no action. This is their opportunity.
Perhaps a Republican Congress would go along with such a proposal.  Undoubtedly the usual ankle-biters would carp about the usual tax breaks to the rich.  And the unions would seek a restoration of the Treaty of Detroit.  But the current U. S. workforce is more like a third world workforce than a workforce that can participate in the creation of knowledge-intensive advanced-technology goods for exports, as used to be the basis of the U. S. comparative advantage.

Thus, the mugging by reality might have to go on, and get worse rather than better.  Hence Chicago Boy Jonathan.
The candidacies of Trump and Sanders are in large part responses to public concerns about the problems [Lord] Salisbury describes. They are inadequate responses, likely to fail politically and on their own terms and eventually to be superseded by other responses. The pot will continue to boil at greater or lesser intensity depending on who gets elected and what follows. It seems unlikely that the underlying problems will begin to be solved unless the voters develop a realistic understanding of what needs to be done, and start electing politicians who are both willing and competent to do it. It may be a while.
We have much to look forward to.

DEAL WITH THE DISTRESSED MATERIAL.

There's plenty turning up at the college gates.  "Around one-third of 12th-graders were ready for college-level courses in mathematics and reading, according to last year’s test results."  Thus inequality.
“The students at the top of the distribution are going up and the students at the bottom of the distribution are going down,” Peggy Carr, acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, told The Wall Street Journal. “There is a widening of the gap between higher and lower-ability students.”
The highest ability students are forting up at the U. S. News approved enclaves.  The devil take the hindmost, warns Adam Tyner in Real Clear Education.
But while we often focus on the elites, only a small fraction of students actually attend this type of hyperselective institution, and those enrolling in less selective institutions face an altogether different dilemma: what will happen after enrollment? Roughly half of students who enroll in college fail to complete, and the resulting waste drains public resources and can seriously harm students’ lives.

Under open access policies, students can access financial aid irrespective of prior academic achievement, and colleges and universities enroll many students who are unlikely to complete their degree programs. Sure, everyone who goes to college will face challenges; earning a bachelor’s degree is not supposed to be easy. But for students who haven’t demonstrated college readiness by earning good grades or good scores on college entrance exams, the statistics are bleak.

As you can see in the figure below, as enrollment has increased to nearly 70 percent in recent years, college completion rates and, relatedly, college readiness indicators are stuck below 40 percent of the adult population. Millions of students are enrolling in college despite not being prepared for the academic rigor of higher education. The Fordham Institute’s Michael Petrilli calls this the “readiness gap,” and it is persistent. Under open access, colleges admit these academically underprepared students, but many end up in a kind of worst case scenario: with debt from college, but without a college degree.

(Remediation is supposed to solve the readiness problem, but it is usually insufficient, and it is costing us a fortune.)
How bad is it? Bad enough that people in the trenches are suggesting it's time to do something else.
Consistently poor college completion rates for academically unprepared students have prompted calls to raise admission requirements and limit access to financial aid. In their book “Community Colleges and the Access Effect,” two community college professors argue that open access policies are leading to declining academic rigor and, in an interview with Inside Higher Ed, they advocate “demanding more of students before granting them access to financial aid.” Likewise, Mr. Petrilli calls on higher education institutions to “stop admitting students who are far from ready to succeed in college.”

Although the professors and Mr. Petrilli raise valid concerns about threats to academic standards and the dangers of the readiness gap, tightening access to admission and financial aid in this way would necessarily limit opportunities for many disadvantaged students who are capable of turning their academic careers around. Since students have strong individual incentives not to waste their own time and money, restricting access is probably not the best mechanism to stimulate better completion rates.
That runs contrary to all the ways U. S. practitioners of higher education believe in second chances.  The place to demand more of students, though, is in kindergarten.
The ultimate goal must be increasing completion through greater readiness, meaning that signals must come early enough for students to make the changes that will enable success. Middle schools and high schools can continue encouraging a can-do attitude towards academics while giving students strong quantitative signals of their readiness along the way. Getting students’ families clued in to the challenges they are likely to face in college may also stimulate political pressure to create more alternative pathways for students who need options other than pursuit of the bachelor’s degree.
Yes, and let's get the taxpayers on board with no longer having to pay for high school twice.  Particularly, let's get the taxpayers on board if a future Democrat president and Congress mandate free college for at least some people.  Here's Matthew M. Chingos of Brookings, with the social science.  "Using nationally representative data on in-state students at public institutions, I find that students from higher income families would receive a disproportionate share of the benefits of free college, largely because they tend to attend more expensive institutions."  Go there if you want the supporting details, the qualifying remarks, the general equilbrium considerations, and the suggestions for future research.  No lack of good political economy questions.  We can summarize it in Mrs Clinton's campaign line about Donald Trump's kids being able to afford college.  The problem, whether it's a subsidy for everybody, or a subsidy for kids from straitened circumstances, is that somebody among the two-thirds of high school graduates who isn't college ready isn't going to have a shot at an upper middle-class job, and that's true with or without student loans.

NACHALSTVO.

California-Davis chancellor Linda Katehi has been suspended, not exiled to Gulag.

Has nothing to do with consorting with known subversives at DeVry or covering up suppression of curricular riot with chemical weapons.
Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California System, placed Katehi on leave, citing possible "serious violations" of university policy with regard to conflict of interest and the employment of family members. A letter from Napolitano to Katehi said that the chancellor's daughter-in-law has received "promotions and salary increases over a two-and-a-half-year period that have increased her pay by over $50,000 and have resulted in several title changes. During that same period, you put forward a pay increase of over 20 percent and a title change for your daughter-in-law's supervisor."

Further, Napolitano's letter said, the academic program that employs Katehi's son has been moved into the department where her daughter-in-law works, and "placed under her direct supervision."
Used to be, aspiring academicians were advised, "A job for your wife?  Only when you're famous enough not to need it."

Used to be, the canonical academic novel had a toxic power couple (doesn't matter what sort of toxicity) as the basis for all the plot twists.  Usually in the English department.  Economists tend not to write academic novels.

Used to be, the expression "trailing spouse" meant "inducement for famous academician" in one department and "trouble" for another department.

Those used-to-bes must be for the little people.

Our universities are being run by stupid people.

27.4.16

DEVELOPING THOSE BOURGEOIS HABITS.

The Illinois Policy Institute reports on a home-grown jobs program in Evanston.
Susan Trieschmann was sick of hearing the same story.

Kid grows up in a dangerous household. Kid commits a crime. Kid says he never would have done it if he had a job.

What Trieschmann heard day after day in meetings of formerly incarcerated youth in Evanston spurred her to act. With the skills she learned starting her own catering business, she opened Curt’s Cafe, which teaches life skills through restaurant work and counseling to kids who have been in and out of the criminal-justice system.

The results have been astounding. In her program, Trieschmann says only 2 percent of the more than 150 participants have been back behind bars, compared with a nearly 60 percent rate of return generally for juveniles who have gone through the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.
The article notes that the same government that would like to fund jobs programs impedes labor force participation.
One major barrier to steady employment for those with criminal records? Occupational licenses, which cover jobs from barber, to cosmetologist, to funeral director, to architect. In fact, nearly 25 percent of Illinois’ workforce requires government permission to work. A youthful mistake could lead to months or years of waiting for permission to work, or even a lifetime ban, for a wide swath of jobs that can provide a path to self-sufficiency in adulthood.

It’s encouraging then that the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced April 11 that ex-offenders who have completed training in barbering and cosmetology while incarcerated will be able to apply for a license to work before their release from prison. Instead of waiting months to get their licenses after release, this change will allow more former offenders to find work as soon as they complete their sentences.
Occupational licenses, otherwise known as cartel enforcement devices, have come under fire from policy writers of the right, particularly among the libertarians, and in some precincts of the left.  The Washington Monthly used to be particularly skeptical.

A rollback of occupational licensing in the right places well might help the prospects of young people rendered unemployable by government schools and the minimum wage.  There is still work to do.

THE CASE FOR ENDING THE PRESIDENTIAL CULT.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton took care of business in yesterday's party primaries.  The prospect of a Trump candidacy is shaking up pundits of the right.  But in those fretful columns, there's the beginning of wisdom.  Here's Jim Geraghty, for National Review.
If you’re hoping Trump will be that strong, protective father figure you always wanted, you’re going to be deeply disappointed. You’re also going to be disappointed by Clinton, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, or Bernie Sanders. This isn’t a matter of their character; it’s a categorizing error. The job of the president is not to be your dad. If you want a mentor — an older, wise voice of experience in your life, go ahead and go find one. The world is full of good people who can perform that role. But the folks busy competing to be the next commander-in-chief aren’t among them.
Mr Geraghty notes that Republicans used to be skeptical of president-as-messiah (perhaps that changed with Ronald Reagan.)

The work to be done, however, requires leadership, plus emergence.  Tyler O'Neil for Pajamas Media.
Because he has made a vast array of off-the-cuff promises, Trump represents less a political platform and more a seething tide of resentment. He has become the symbol of anger at the establishment, at the absurdities of political correctness, at the "progressive" acid that is eating our culture from within.

Republican leaders deserve to be rebuked for giving in too quickly, political correctness deserves to be flouted and destroyed, and the ideology of progressivism needs a good kick in the pants to send it back where it belongs -- in the dark ages with other oppressive statist ideologies. But Donald Trump is not the man to do this. The man is a deal maker, not a battering ram. He is a failed businessman, and all the bravado in the world can't save you from a history of bankruptcies and broken relationships. There are few solid reasons to put our trust in this man, no matter how many votes he wins.
Perhaps, though, the public and the pundits will rediscover that there's an Article I in the Constitution, and in it are the powers by which other elected representatives can check what a president does.  A lot of the public already gets this.  The pundits?  Well, they get to sit around under pictures of D.C. landmarks and make all their nowhere plans.

The nowhere plans have gotten, well, nowhere, which Commentary's Noah Rothman suggests might be part of Mr Trump's appeal.  "The Obama years have not been kind, and a sense of hopelessness and frustration can drive anyone to extreme measures."

When you have eliminated the impossible ...

STEP OUT OF LINE AND DISAPPEAR.

Last week, Historiann alerted her readers to a campaign being mounted by California-Davis chancellor Linda Katehi to send to the memory hole all cyber references to a police officer pepper-spraying students who were conducting a relatively tame protest.  Cold Spring Shops reported on the #UCDavisPepperSpray here.  "Throw a few underlings under the bus, expand the Diversity Boondoggle."

Now it's the commissar, er, chancellor's name on a list that was later misplaced.
The University of California and UC Davis spokespeople did not answer questions Tuesday about the whereabouts and fate of Chancellor Linda Katehi; however, faculty members told KCRA 3 that Katehi has been asked by the UC president to resign.
You profess surprise, dear reader, that when you put a chekist in charge of a state university system, the midnight knock on the door comes?
"I have no information at this time, but I will share with you anything I learn," said Dana Topousis, a spokeswoman for UC Davis.

A spokesman for [university system president Janet "Big Sis"] Napolitano also said he did not have information.

Katehi has been under fire for weeks, ever since it was revealed that she accepted board positions with DeVry University and with a textbook publisher. Later, it was learned that Katehi’s administration paid nearly $200,000 to consulting firms to bury online stories about a 2011 incident when campus police pepper-sprayed students during a protest.

Also on Tuesday, the chancellor cancelled an interview scheduled Wednesday with the Capitol Public Radio program, “Insight.”
And now they have come for you.  "Former faculty senator Karlson warned you, and you thanked me for stating opposing views so eloquently. But you did nothing to improve your position."

26.4.16

LESSONS FROM THE RAILS.

Dean Dad found an article on the difficulties Washington's Metro has been having with, well, running trains safely, which he used to tease me about writing train stories, and perhaps to bleg for specifics, a few elaborations of the parallels that you'll find in his comments.

Yes, divided jurisdiction (deregulation contributed mightily to the railroad renaissance,) deferred maintenance, and lack of operating funding make the task of a provost, dean, or department head more difficult.  But the next question Mr Reed asks calls for an extended answer.  "Ample blame for disappointing results while cheaping out on the resources that could have prevented them?"

To what extent do taxpayers view funding community colleges as paying for high school a second time, or for junior high a third time?  After everything else has failed ...  Thus, the taxpayer burden of expensive and ineffective public education is also hidden and complicated, and it's the community colleges and regional comprehensives that have to do the intellectual repair work, and get hit with that "high school with ashtrays" perception.

Moreover, and the comparison is probably unfair, but it's out there, all of higher education gets tarred with the perception, based on Oberlin and Wesleyan and Wisconsin and Yale, that the idiots are in charge and sticking their fingers in the eyes of normal Americans.  (Yeah, the proper academic phrase is epater les bourgeois, but I write train stories.  Deal with it.)  And there's enough out of Missouri and Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the like, not to mention the ongoing corruption accompanied by academic underachievement at Chicago State, to render taxpayers reluctant to appropriate money for fear the crazies will get some of it.  Never mind that returning veterans and working parents and immigrants might have something other than privilege-checking or who is using the potty on their minds.

Then, there's this excursion into political economy.
Some contend that the answer is to give up on the public provision of anything, and to resort to a sort of Randian hellscape. But that ignores the real and substantial public resources poured into supporting supposedly private transportation and education. And it writes off entirely the folks for whom public options are the only practical options. Somalia’s experiment with the absence of government doesn’t seem to have led to a libertarian paradise. Perhaps there’s a flaw in the theory somewhere...
Repeat with me. Libertarians are not anarchists. Institutions matter.  (One of these days, I'm going to have to read and review the books I bought on the ethics of piracy.  Yes, you read that right.  I write train stories. But great sea stories have that "No s***, this really happened!" quality.)

Thus let's consider that the way to expand practical options might be to expand private provision.

Have you wondered, dear reader, why Senator Sanders speaks only of roads and bridges and waterways when he mentions "crumbling infrastructure?"  Oh, Mr Trump has griped about "lousy trains" on occasion, but I think he's referring to the rudimentary pre-Acela service that grounded his Trump Shuttle.



The freight railroads don't offer many opportunities to give the noveaux riches impression one can provide by sticking gewgaws in a casino or a hotel or on an airplane.  Style maven Virginia Postrel would probably struggle to describe the modern freight train using terms other than form follows function.

But it functions so well that Warren Buffett saw fit to buy BNSF.  It was worth his while to run a second track through Abo Canyon in New Mexico.  Eighty freight trains a day.  Competitor Union Pacific thought it worth doing to provide a bridge capable of handling two intermodal trains running 70 mph across a deep river valley in Iowa.


Trains weblog photograph.

Yes, these things take time to build, and they cost money.  Yuuuge, to borrow a term, sums of money.  But where the return on investment is favorable, and investors are free to invest ...

Now consider part of Mr Reed's worst-case scenario.  "Shut down community colleges, and good luck keeping newly-scarce nurses’ salaries from breaking the bank. But that cost is a step removed, and requires thinking a step ahead." Thinking a step, or a second main track, or a new bridge, or a professional development program ahead, is what entrepreneurs do.  Perhaps the way forward for community colleges involves more commercial freedom and more partnerships with, e.g. hospitals, air conditioning and automobile repair establishments, and perhaps the maintenance department of the local subway.

THE WEAKEST PROP GIVES WAY.

The Mid-American Conference somehow attempts to keep up appearances, football-wise, in the shadows of Notre Dame and the B1G Ten (currently fourteen and likely to be sixteen.)  That means such follies as weeknight football in November (somehow the optics of empty seats in prime-time, and a few shivering students don't deter) or perhaps Black Friday day games, again for the television coverage, never mind that the students might be away working a few hours to meet the athletics fees.

And poor Eastern Michigan: so close to Ann Arbor, so often a crash-test dummy for Northern Illinois.

No more, recommends accounting professor Howard Bunsis. "It is a losing proposition. Always has been, and always will be. We hardly raise any money for football, and our attendance is the lowest in the country. Some of you believe that we are close to succeeding, if we just throw more money at the situation. This proposition is insane."  The opportunity cost of spending $52m on football is ...

BARACK HOOVER OBAMA.

Word of the massive disaster that has been the Obama presidency is beginning to get out.

Marc Thiessen.  "Obamacare disaster will be Obama’s enduring domestic legacy."  But that's the elevator pitch.
On the foreign-policy front, [Mr Obama] is the anti-Reagan for certain. Reagan defeated Soviet communism and left us a safer world; Obama presided over the rise and metastasis of the Islamic State and left us a far more dangerous one.

Domestically, Ronald Reagan told the American people: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’ ” Obama wanted to convince Americans that they were not terrifying. And the way he was going to do it was through the only great liberal legislative achievement of his presidency: Obamacare.

He failed. Even before he leaves office, Obamacare has begun unraveling.
Read on. It's not for the faint of heart.
With Obamacare, Obama wanted to restore America’s faith in big government. Instead, the opposite has happened. Today, 69 percent of Americans say big government is “the biggest threat to the country in the future” (ahead of big business or big labor). That figure, which is slightly down from 72 percent in 2013, is higher under Obama than it has been since Gallup began asking the question about 50 years ago. Obamacare has done more to discredit big government than 1,000 Reagan speeches ever did.
Meanwhile, Our President is in London, claiming credit for avoiding Great Depression 2.0.
After setting up the conditions in February 2009 for an extended recession and historically weak recovery in the U.S., the idea Obama went to Europe two months later in April and then began "saving the world" is a sick joke only gullible, economics-ignorant reporters and leftists could possibly believe. Sadly, they're the ones who still primarily control the news and other key institutions, so we'll probably be hearing this crap for years on end — just like we've had to put up with the fiction that Franklin Delano Roosevelt saved the country from the Great Depression in the 1930s.
Ed Driscoll quips, "Welcome to Fantasy Island."

Meanwhile, Mahablog envisions an election cycle from the Slough of Despond.
I’m old enough to remember when Harry Truman and Eleanor Roosevelt were still alive and still influential in party politics. I was in middle school during the Kennedy Administration. For all his flaws regarding Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson initiated genuinely progressive domestic programs. I was in high school when Bobby Kennedy ran for President and was assassinated. I cast my first vote for POTUS for George McGovern. So that’s the Democratic Party I remember — flawed and messy, but still a vehicle for doing the right thing, at least part of the time.

But that party died a quiet death some time back. I’m not sure that other people my age realize this. The Democratic Party now is closer to where the Republicans were during the Nixon Administration than they are to being the party of Truman, Kennedy or even LBJ.

But at least the Nixon Republicans sort of stood for something. You knew where they were coming from. The current party Democratic Party stands for nothing.
What, apart from providing Harry Truman with usable nukes, have the Democrats done in the past 75 years?  Urban renewal?  The Great Society?  Hope and Change?  Should make for some good contrarian writing by a future cohort of revisionist historians.

WHEN YOU DENY COHERENT BELIEFS.

Dennis Prager questions the radical skepticism he sees as the leper's bell of the cultural left.
The left hates standards -- moral standards, artistic standards, cultural standards. The West is built on all three, and it has excelled in all three.

Why does the left hate standards? It hates standards because when there are standards, there is judgment. And leftists don't want to be judged.

Thus, Michelangelo is no better than any contemporary artist, and Rembrandt is no greater than any non-Western artist. So, too, street graffiti -- which is essentially the defacing of public and private property, and thus serves to undermine civilization -- is "art."

Melody-free, harmony-free, atonal sounds are just as good as Beethoven's music. And Western classical music is no better than the music of any non-Western civilization. Guatemalan poets are every bit as worthy of study as Shakespeare.
That's over-reach, conflating scholarly inquiry into what makes up moral, artistic, or cultural phenomena worthy of study with political evaluation of standards that confer evolutionary advantage on their adopters.  It is the cultural left's deconstruction of those standards that is rendering young people unemployable.

There's a Live as Free People essay, "The Sneering Age," that's all about radical skepticism.  "We lose a solid foundation. We lose our essence as humans. We lose the real world out there, existing objectively and in its own right, apart from and independent of our perceptions and understanding."

That only becomes a problem when people read too much into playing with ideas.  There's a Stanley Fish bon mot, "Postmodernism is liberalism taken seriously," where "liberalism" refers to No Final Say.  And Mr Fish precedes that phrase, from his Save the World on Your Own Time, with "You have to go with the evidence you have, even if it is true that the evidence you have may be overtaken in the long run."

Put another way, there's enough evidence that adoption of bourgeois conventions and listening to Beethoven confers evolutionary advantages that people raised in the streets or the rain forests might gain by adopting.

JUST CALL IT THE CONDITIONS OF CARRIAGE.

The process-worshippers in higher education have made the relatively simple task of preparing a course outline only slightly less onerous than preparing conditions of carriage for approval by the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Now comes M. S. Stewart, just in time for the end of the academic year, offering advice to Inside Higher Ed readers.  "Print the syllabus out and return to your own student days in your mind. Is this a course you would have wanted to take yourself?"  That comes, only after blocks of text that includes nuggets such as this.  "If offices such as campus security, disability services, the registrar and so on require boilerplate sections, do explain to students that the voice may be different but the shared values are there."

Those offices are a useful place to begin a search for the stupid people running the universities that richly deserve to be turfed out.

A RESTORATION.

Last year, we noted Amtrak's elimination of Traditional Railroad French Toast in favor of hotcakes.

I am pleased to link to a Travel and Trains report that the French Toast is back.

That same report complains of Häagen-Dazs ice cream giving way to Blue Bunny on the California Zephyr.

Doesn't bother me.  Arch Deluxe off, Iowa Stolid on.  I write train stories, not railroad literature.

25.4.16

IS HER CAT NAMED LINDA ELLERBEE?

The house organ for business as usual in higher education runs a "where are they now?" story on former Missouri communications professor Melissa Click.
The assistant professor of communication at the University of Missouri was just doing what other professors and administrators were doing there, too, she says. So why did she lose her job?

She has one idea. Under pressure from state legislators, she says, Missouri’s Board of Curators fired her to send a message that the university and the state wouldn’t tolerate black people standing up to white people. "This is all about racial politics," she says. "I’m a white lady. I’m an easy target."
Oy.  Ashe Schow rolls her eyes.  Robby Soave isn't impressed, either.

But Ms Click has forgotten nothing and learned nothing.
"I do not understand the widespread impulse to shame those whose best intentions unfortunately result in imperfect actions," she wrote in The Washington Post last month. "What would our world be like if no one ever took a chance?"
I am heartily tired of hearing about good intentions as an excuse for bad behavior or worse policy.  At The Chronicle, nobody even blinks.  Let the self-congratulation continue.
"I believed at some point, somebody would care about the truth of what I was doing," she says. "I am a woman who made some mistakes trying to do what she thought was right." That, she says, could have been anyone.
That could be the easiest way to make Twitchy.

It gets better.  "What was right" is another opportunity for Chronicle writers to make the gentry comfortable with their own prejudices.
The transition from Amherst to the Midwest was difficult. But eventually, Ms. Click found a farmers’ market, she says, became a visiting instructor at the university, and befriended other East Coast transplants.

Still, she didn’t quite fit, even in the communication department, where she got a tenure-track job in 2008. A common textbook used at UMass, Media/Society: Industries, Images and Audiences (SAGE Publications, 1999), featured a Marxist critique of the media. "I came here and used it, too," she says, "and students’ heads nearly popped off."
Yes.  Bringing Enlightenment to the Rubes is the way the Smug see the role of the graduates of the coastal universities.  The horror.  No antique stores.  No artisanal cheeses.  Never out of radio range of Sean Hannity.  Students push back against indoctrination.

The article also notes faculty governance rights are at stake.  Apparently Ms Click had submitted a portfolio her department had seen as meriting continuing tenure, and her case was about to move to the more pro forma parts of the review when she crossed the line from annoyingly self-righteous to intolerant ideologue.
Ben Trachtenberg, chair of Missouri’s faculty council, says the curators uncharacteristically took a faculty personnel decision into their own hands — skirting the campus’s formal procedures designed to weigh charges against professors while preserving their rights to due process. "It’s pretty clear our rules weren’t followed, and that’s bad for faculty morale," says Mr. Trachtenberg, an associate professor of law. The American Association of University Professors is investigating Ms. Click’s firing and may censure the university. Hans-Joerg Tiede, senior program officer for the group’s department of academic freedom, tenure, and governance, calls the episode "fundamentally at odds with basic standards of academic due process."
I agree, administrative usurpations are not good.

Perhaps, though, one sign that universities are no longer playpens for really stupid people will be when faculty hirings are not so obviously skewed toward annoyingly self-righteous ideologues.

VANDERBILT INSTALLED, CSX DESTROYS.

The mandate for positive train control induces railroads to consolidate trains on fewer routes, to reduce the total expenditure on signalling and road crossing upgrades.  As a consequence, we might be seeing the end of the old New York Central directly to Columbus, Ohio.
All CSX locomotives are being equipped with PTC, so for the 60-mile Columbus-Galion line, this installation is likely limited to a trackside investment. But that investment, which averages about $100,000 per track-mile depending on local conditions, could be a $6 million investment for CSX along the Columbus-Galion line.

If it had no other routing alternatives to reach Central Ohio or southern states, CSX probably would make this investment. But they do have alternatives. It can reach Columbus via their Mt. Victory (Greenwich-Bellefontaine) and Scottslawn (Ridgeway-Columbus) subdivisions. And they can reach the southern states by continuing west of Bellefontaine to Sidney, then south on CSX’s Toledo Subdivision to Dayton, Cincinnati and Dixie. Those are high-quality mainline corridors that are being equipped with PTC. There are also high-quality, interlocked (i.e., dispatcher-controlled) track connections in the southeast quadrants of the Ridgeway and Sidney junctions that will permit Galion-Columbus and Galion-Dixie trains to avoid the 3C line south of Galion without much if any infrastructure modifications.
Freight trains can go a slightly longer way around without shippers being much inconvenienced.  Passengers, less so.  Although Cleveland - Columbus - Cincinnati has potential as a regional corridor, Penn Central's success in getting rid of almost all the cross-Ohio trains before Amtrak continues to shape the difficulties confronting Ohio's Passenger Rail advocates.

STOP THE ENABLING.

Here's Christian Schneider in Milwaukee's Journal-Sentinel, responding to the latest spring riot at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Adults need to stop excusing bad behavior.
It's difficult not to enjoy a little bit of schadenfreude when arguably the most progressive campus in America is forced to confront the victimization that such leftism has wrought. These are the progeny of the "ism" culture — young people who believe racism and sexism are everywhere, leaving them incapable of dealing with actual transgressions when they occur.

If anything, appeasing counterproductive behavior among young black students is its own brand of racial paternalism, as is expecting less of students of color. In 2014, Michigan State professor Dorinda Carter Andrews told Wisconsin State Journal reporter Molly Beck that, "When you're not tough on me and you accept less from me, I see it as a lack of respect and a lack of care."
Why are they allowed to do things that we’re not allowed to do?

Surprise me.  Crack down on the administrators who enable.

THE FATAL CONCEIT.

Rod Dreher is discussing the challenges facing the use of military force, elaborating on suggestions Andrew J. Bacevich offered on the folly of U.S. interventions short of total war.  Both essays will reward careful study.  Mr Dreher's observations are focused toward military adventurism, but they generalize to other attempts by Wise Experts to Fix Things.
America keeps making these catastrophic mistakes because we believe that wanting a certain outcome is enough to make it happen. We are rich enough, powerful enough, and, in our own minds, righteous enough that it should happen. It’s interesting to contemplate how this hubris plays out on the foreign policy and military fronts, while we also observe the same dynamic expressing itself socially and culturally.

For example, most of us, it appears, have come to the conclusion that biology does not matter, that it is nothing more than a conceptual barrier that prevents us from exercising our will, and can therefore be destroyed. Because freedom. We have come to believe that there are no moral strictures or structures (like, say, the natural family) that ought to bind us and guide our conduct.
Or it's the Technocratic Vision ("If we can put a man on the moon ...")

Or it's the Postmodern Delusion (Structures are social constructions ...)

There are limits.

THE TRAGIC VISION.

Green Bay radio talker Jerry Bader has a daughter who is crossing.  Here he spells out the tradeoffs that confront anyone who would like to find a lasting armistice in the bathroom wars.  By way of background, his daughter was reluctant to use the assigned bathroom at school for years.  That might generalize to people who are crossing being the least likely predators.
I take someone who is transgender at their word when they say it is very difficult for them to use a bathroom intended for a gender with which they do not identify. But where my son and I, and Trump for that matter, disagree is that the fear that male predators would manipulate all inclusive bathroom policies is an irrational one. Be clear; the fear here is not that transgender persons would cause harm to women and girls in the bathroom. The fear is of men who would pretend to be transgender to exploit the situation. And such men may factor in the real possibility that women may be slow to report such activity out of fear of being accused of bigotry against someone who is actually transgender.
Perhaps we are rich enough to build public buildings that feature a few status-unassigned bathrooms, useful for dads changing their daughter's diapers, as well as for crossers.

Or perhaps a return to minding your own business, and not calling attention to yourself, is in order.  That goes for the aggressively normal (in the scheme of things, is gender dysphoria more threatening to the public order than low-functioning sociopathy?)  It also goes for the aggressively transgressive.  Just because it works for Madonna or a Kardashian won't make the rest of you any more interesting.
So what is the answer? Honestly I don’t know. I’ve seen several “third way” possibilities, including private facilities for those who are transgender. Even that option is considered discriminatory by many in the LGBT community. The desire by transgender individuals to be comfortable in public restrooms is real. The fear of inclusive bathrooms being exploited by predators is real. We’re going to have to find an answer that accommodates everyone.
The category error is in that "answer." At best there will be a Pareto improvement on the status quo.  Mind your own business might be that Pareto improvement.  "Accommodate" is a more restrictive condition than "satisfy."  It's also a condition that might be more easily achieved by something other than legislation and court tests.

24.4.16

DONALD TRUMP'S GREATEST APOSTASY.

Sometimes I'll tune into one of the Sunday shows and the truth will come out.  So it was this morning, when the Meet the Press panel fretted, as they often do, about the Damage that one Donald J. Trump is doing to business as usual.


Here's the key clip from the transcript.
CHUCK TODD:

Listen to what he said about being presidential. Watch this.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

Presidential's easy. You know what presidential is? I walk on. So you walk on. Ladies and gentlemen, of Waterbury. It is a great honor to be with you this morning.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Katie, he mocks the process. And he actually mocked his own guy, Manafort.

KATIE PACKER:

Well, it would be funny if it weren't so frightening. I mean, this is a guy that's running to be the leader of the free world. He's not running to play a part on a reality TV show. And I do think he's mocking the process. And the notion that you're going to take a guy that's 70 years old, and he's going to adopt a whole new personality, he doesn't even know that what he's doing is offensive.
I've seen more of the clip in question. Mr Trump goes on to pretend to be Crooked Hillary Clinton reading something soporific from a prompter.  If what he's mocking is the ritual that begins on January 22 of the year after each leap year and goes on way too long, that's good.

The ritual begins too soon.

It lasts too long.

People who should know better vest it with more consequence than it deserves.

The outcome never delivers on expectations.

If ever a process deserved to be mocked.

But what would Chuck Todd or Katie Packer or any of the rest do if somebody told them the presidential possibilities ought not be treated like the Big Crunch at the end of the universe.

DISPEL THE SMUG.

We took a long look at the weakness of liberal smug last week.  Here, from Kyle Smith in New York's Post, is the to-the-point assessment.  "Ridiculing opponents is easier than arguing with them. Liberals don’t want debate, they want affirmation."

TO THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT: NUTS!

That's the message of Janet Daley in London's Telegraph , although she expands the basic argument.  "Why should we take advice from a president who has surrendered the world to chaos?"  Our President, apparently, offered unsolicited advice to Britons on how to vote in an upcoming referendum affecting continued membership in the European Union.
The iron fist of a message inside that velvet glove of carefully recited claptrap about the special relationship is that Obama’s America wants us to stay in the conveniently monolithic, homogeneous trading bloc with which it can most easily do business. In other words, the tentative US economic recovery needs us to sacrifice our country’s judicial independence and the primacy of our parliamentary system, just as the US once sacrificed so many of its young military officers for our survival. That’s the deal.
The analogy is strained, but at the moment Our President's behavior is not filling Britons with confidence that the Arsenal of Democracy would return if called.
But there is no indication, either in Mr Obama’s words or his actual foreign policy, that America would now be prepared to make another such sacrifice for its allies.
Feckless is as feckless does.

THE DONKS DILEMMA.

Vanity Fair's T. A.Frank suggests that Democrats provide policy nostrums and virtue signalling for the gentry, while pretending to care about oppressed and marginalized people yet doing nothing.
The combination of super-rich Democrats and poor Democrats would exacerbate internal party tensions, but the party would probably resort to forms of appeasement that are already in use. To their rich constituents, Democrats offer more trade, more immigration, and general globalism. To their non-rich constituents, they offer the promise of social justice, which critics might call identity politics. That’s one reason why Democrats have devoted so much attention to issues such as transgender rights, sexual assault on campus, racial disparities in criminal justice, and immigration reform. The causes may be worthy—and they attract sincere advocates—but politically they’re also useful. They don’t bother rich people.
Catch that "offer the promise" with "social justice" mutating into "identity politics."  Or, stated simply, symbolism over substance.  Rhetoric, but never results.  That sounds like the past fifty years, from Great Society to Hope and Change.

The challenge, however, is for Republicans, or some other coalition of Not Democrats, to encourage the gentry's mascots to stop letting themselves be treated as mascots.  The gentry have a long history of sticking their metaphorical fingers in the eyes of what used to be mainstream Americans, and I've been documenting the push-back over the past year or so.

But in the following paragraph is an outline of the strategy by which Not Democrats might be able to liberate the mascots.
The more that Democrats write off the white working class, which has been experiencing a drastic decline in living standards, the harder it is for them to call themselves a party of the little guy. The more that the rich can frame various business practices as blows to privilege or oppression—predatory lending as a way to expand minority home ownership, outsourcing as a way to uplift the world’s poor, etc.—the more they get a pass from Democrats on practices that hurt poorer Americans. Worst of all, the more that interest groups within the Democratic Party quarrel among themselves, the more they rely upon loathing of a common enemy, Republicans, in order to stay united.
Inasmuch as those predatory lending practices wiped out the net worth of the poorest and least liquid homeowners first, with ethnic minority communities hardest hit, while the Congressional Diversity Caucus mau-maued the people who pointed out that a disaster was coming, the opportunity for Not Democrats to win hearts and minds exist.

It does not have to become a tribal tussle, Mr Frank notwithstanding.
Things get darker still, for, if the G.O.P. becomes ever whiter, failing to peel away working-class voters of other races, then partisan conflict could look more and more like racial conflict. That is the nightmare. Our politics are bad enough when voters are mobilized mainly by culture-war issues, such as abortion, because compromise is often impossible. But when voters are mobilized by issues of identity, something most people can’t change, then nothing works. It’s just war.
Here's your mission. "Put another way, there has to be a traditional conservative message that expands the base of support for law enforcement and against the pernicious cult of authenticity that enables the crazies as somehow deserving of celebration."

REDNECK EMERGENCE.

Nolan Gray of Market Urbanism suggests that relatively nonintrusive private governance, as manifested in mobile home parks, might be something for Wise Experts to consider.
Where policymakers deem top-down regulation necessary, it should be designed to support rather than replace emergent orders that low-income communities have developed over time. When we stop treating low-income communities as objects of scorn, to be subjected to top-down, paternalistic planning, we might find that we have a lot to learn from them.
Everything else is commentary.  Particularly in light of the failures that have followed wherever the Wise Experts have gone.

23.4.16

CLARIFYING THE LANGUAGE.

Jonah Goldberg illustrates precisely the nature of recondite and obscurantist academic prose.
There is a slice of the Left that really needs very bad writing. Horrid, opaque, impenetrable prose and jargon plays a dual role. First, it makes very dumb or simple ideas sound vastly more sophisticated than they are. Second, it lends an air of authority to very dumb and bad ideas that could not be earned via plain speaking.
He goes on to note that impenetrability is something different from technical jargon, such as subgame-perfect Nash equilibrium, the Say Aggregation Principle, or the modularity of elliptic curves precluding nontrivial solutions in integers to Diophantine equations of order greater than two.  You can't fake your way into proving Fermat's theorem or working zeta functions.  You can fake your way into culture studies.  And look Cultivated and Thoughtful while doing so.
The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.
That's from an electronic mail gripe somebody once sent to Mr Goldberg.  Or perhaps it's something he ran through a postmodern phrase generator.

We can render the first and second clauses loosely as "The power of capital over social relations used to be a given.  We now understand it as emergent."  We might propose a counter-hypothesis to the concluding passage, perhaps along the lines of "Institutions evolve to conserve on transaction costs."  Try it.

A few paragraphs later -- this is, after all, Mr Goldberg's weekly stream of consciousness, we see, "To the extent they ever were real, live, socialist societies, it was back when they were ethnically homogeneous (and poor). Socialism can “work” for a while in small, ethnic mono-cultures, because the economic inefficiencies can be papered over by nationalistic or tribal sentiments."  But the way in which that socialism works might give anthropologists pause.  "One of these days, a social scientist of great courage will look at the emergence of self-segregation, or of the more contested 'othering' as a logical outgrowth of allocating resources and status on the basis of kinship ties." I ended that post with a suggestion for future research.
[O]ppression might be a collision of emergent social systems following different evolutionary stable strategies. But when 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. Thus, structural, but not a consequence of animus on the part of its practitioners.
Thus, although structures are historically contingent and path dependent, there are constraints on the ways power gets rearticulated, which is a clunky way of referring to political processes at work, or something similar.

Your research, dear reader, might be challenging.  But if you can't explain the basic ideas ...

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SETTLED SCIENCE.

And that's a darned good thing. "These garden-variety authoritarians are eager to regulate us into conformity with the “settled” consensus du jour, whatever it is. But they are progressives, so it is for our own good." And Eclect Econ calls the roll of consensuses no longer so settled.

No.  Final.  Say.

No matter how many out of how many experts currently agree.

THIS IS WHY THEY FAIL.

Charles Siegel lays out the progressive roots of new urbanism.  New urbanism describes a Technocratic Mentality that responded to the failings of the previous Technocratic Mentality.
Modernist urbanism was centered on new technology: cities were designed around high-speed roads for automobiles and around large-scale superblocks planned by experts. Modernists designed what Clarence Perry aptly called “housing for the machine age.”

New Urbanism centers on creating good places for people. The New Urbanism rejects the modernist idea that cities should be made up of single-use superblocks with interior streets for local access and surrounding arterial streets for through traffic. Instead, it creates continuous street systems with small blocks, with development oriented toward the street and sidewalk, and with a variety of different land uses within walking distance of each other. This sort of design works for both pedestrians and automobiles, while modernist design does not work for pedestrians.

New Urbanists developed form-based codes as an alternative to conventional zoning. Zoning laws are typically proscriptive, telling developers what they cannot do, while form-based codes are more prescriptive, telling developers what they should do. These codes have guidelines to define the building types allowed on shopping streets, streets of single-family houses, streets of row houses, and so on. In addition to these urban codes, which control the massing and location of buildings, many New Urbanist developments also have architectural codes, which specify materials that may be used, the roof overhangs that are required, and other design elements that give the entire development a consistent architectural style.1  These architectural codes generate the consistency with variation that is typical of traditional design, but the styles can seem artificial when they are imposed from the outside in this way—different from old cities and towns that have a consistent style because they had a coherent culture.
The error is in believing that a coherent culture is something that can be codified. Encouraged in its good features, perhaps.  But subject to taming or reconstruction by a vanguard, or by Wise Experts?  Good luck with that.
Modernist urbanism began as part of the progressive movement of a century ago. In the early twentieth century, when most people were near the poverty level, its faith in technology seemed justified as a way of lifting people out of poverty by promoting economic growth.

By the 1960s, most Americans no longer were near the poverty level. Rather than seeming progressive, the freeways and sprawl became symbols of failure. The official goal of national economic planning was to promote rapid growth of the gross national product, but many progressives began to suspect that promoting the most rapid possible growth was not as important as promoting a higher quality of life.
Rromotion by example, or by reinforcement of good habits, yes.  Promotion as the national version of scolding the youngsters to eat their peas, no.  "But twisting a complex system somewhere, even with the best intentions, may have unintended consequences elsewhere. An evolution might be a better approach than just allowing technology to disrupt." Everything else is elaboration.

22.4.16

A CAMEO APPEARANCE.

Rockford's WIFR covered several of the public scoping meetings in re Great Lakes Basin Railroad.


Your Superintendent makes a brief appearance about a minute in.

OUR UNIVERSITIES ARE BEING RUN BY STUPID PEOPLE.

Colorado State University has installed Digital Measures as a way of automating and standardizing faculty service reports, the better to keep track of how much merit faculty have demonstrated, if there is any money for merit raises.  Which there isn't, but there's a lot of scut work for Historiann and her colleagues.
I’m sure like me you can see the advantage of this system for administrators.  “Let’s see which colleges and departments are publishing more articles?  I’ll just push this button and generate this cross-tab, and voilá!”  (In fact, we were told by a colleague in the know that the reason Baa Ram U. bought this garbageware is because the president of our institution didn’t know how many articles each department had published in a given year.)

But what exactly is the value of this system for faculty?  I can see none.  It all seems like a massive timewasting exercise, one moreover designed to disadvantage anyone working in the humanities or other book-intensive disciplines.

Of course History, Philosophy, and English departments (among others in the visual and performing arts as well as humanities) will look less productive than economists and scientists!  We write single-author articles of 25-40 pages that are often based on archives outside of the country and which use information written in languages other than English.  We don’t have graduate students or postdocs to do our research for us.  We don’t write articles with 10-15 supposed “co-authors.”  Also, we write books for the most part, not articles.

Silver lining?  There’s nothing like stupid from the central administration to bring a faculty together.  I told my colleagues that I have a rule when it comes to any technology or software:  it works for me, I don’t work for it.  End of story.
By all means, dear reader, read and enjoy the comments.  When you see unfavorable comparisons of university administrators with the Leonid Brezhnev era in the Soviet Union among academicians that might have, back in the day, cringed at President Reagan referring to an evil empire or the Mickey Mouse system of communism, and reports of information recorded on lists that are later misplaced, perhaps there might be faculty willing to make common cause with critics outside the academy when it comes to turfing out the stupid people and making higher education great again.