30.6.17

CONNECTIVITY IS THE NEW CURRENCY.

Thus does John Parsons, the current director of marketing for the South Shore Line, make the case for the double-tracking project between Gary and Michigan City, and the construction of a more direct line into the interurban terminal at the South Bend airport.
“[Mr Parsons continues]If we can find a combination between the double track and movement moving our service terminal from the east end of the South Bend Airport to the west end of the South Bend airport, that could get us down to 97 minutes from South Bend to Chicago.”

“Currently there's about 250 people that take the South Shore railroad in and out of Chicago from South Bend and St. Joseph County on a daily basis,” says St. Joseph County councilman Mark Catanzarite. “And the predictions we've seen through modeling is there could be up to 500 people that would do that on a regular basis should we get the commute times down to where we want them to come down to.”
For now, the interurban is making minor adjustments to its current schedules (which are a long way from the half-hourly frequencies between Chicago and Gary and the hourly service for and from South Bend.)

Elsewhere in the Chicago area, it's a long weekend, and the early Friday getaways mean modified train schedules for Metra.  There will also be modifications for Taste of Chicago, the weekend after Independence Day, and those will be particularly comprehensive on the Racetrack.

But check out the way the Overland Route is handling service this day, and on Monday.  "Outbound Train Nos. 49 (5:09 PM), 51 (5:13 PM), 55 (5:34 PM), and 61 (6:10 PM) will not operate. Inbound Train No. 62 will operate 10 minutes later departing Elburn at 6:35 PM."  The schedule shows relief trains running fifteen minutes ahead of regular trains 33, 35, and 37, listed as GX01, GX02, and GX03, and relief train GX05 ten minutes ahead of 39.  The relief trains run in the manner of 51, 55, and 61, which run as limiteds to Elmhurst, all stops beyond, while 47 picks up all the stops of 49, and 53 becomes an all-stop train.

We'll know that the shorter work-week is becoming a thing when timetables show Except Friday evening trains, and Friday Only earlier trains, for instance GX01 is such a train with timetable number 949 (or perhaps 931 following 31 or 933 leading 33.)  You saw it here first.

29.6.17

BEFORE THERE WERE LIGHTS AT WRIGLEY FIELD.

There was a Chicago L, and the various flag hoists adjacent to the scoreboard revealed the standings in the National and American Leagues, plus there were distinctive flags to communicate the outcome of the day's game to straphangers going by.


Yes, if you were riding the Electroliner, you'd likely be seated, perhaps in the bar car.

The straphangers had to make do with more utilitarian accommodation.


A Loyola Express might stop at Addison on its way north.  Back in the day, "VIA L LOOP" meant the train didn't originate or terminate at the old Water Street terminal, the wood cars would not use the subway.

There is a genuine Rapid Transit station, complete with floor-level platforms, on the museum grounds, but the switches at the station throat are hand-thrown, thus the train loads at the East Union station through these gangways.  There is a wheelchair lift available.

Here's where the straphangers would hang out.


That's inside the powered car, 1767, which suffered a fire during service on Chicago Rapid Transit and received upgrades to the lighting and straps.


The old style lighting and straps are in the as-yet-unpowered 1268.  The car cards are mostly replicas of originals, and they provide insights into what was acceptable and what was not back in the day.


The Illinois Railway Museum has not finished filling out its string of vintage L cars.  You don't just buy fittings at Farm and Fleet, but you can use stock lumber.


Yes, that's an Electroliner lead car at left.

There's an additional restored L car, 24, with open end platforms.

THE DOWNSIDE OF TRACKING.

Germany's sorting of students onto vocational and academic tracks brings rigidities with it. Emulating Germany’s Apprenticeship System Won’t Make America Great Again, suggests University of Rochester economist Eric Hanushek.
[T]he German system is not a realistic model for the U.S. It relies on a very stratified education system along with regulated and heavily unionized labor markets. More importantly, its focus on entry-level job skills distracts attention from the much deeper problem of ensuring the general cognitive skills that are a prerequisite for long-term growth and productivity improvement.
There's more to producing a cohort of blue-collar aristocrats than culling the herd commencing in fourth grade.  "Vocationally-trained workers with relatively narrow skills face a harsher labor market with time as the nature of production changes."  That has probably always been the case, and in the United States, where the comparative advantage, even in heavy industry, has long been in knowledge-intensive, advanced-technology goods (how else characterize the open hearth steel works of the 1890s or the automobile assembly line of the 1920s?), and the ability to adapt on the fly matters, even in Europe.  "Firms are led to choose from a smaller set of production processes that favor the existing skills of their workers."  There has to be something in the old economics research about putty-clay technologies that's relevant.  And attempts to manage creative destruction run the risk of going wrong.
The larger skill gaps are found in a wide range of service and technology areas, many in the white-collar occupations.  Thinking of moving apprenticeships into such new areas is not simple. First there is the issue of convincing firms in these shortage areas to provide extensive training to new workers, when these workers might not stay with the firms providing the training.  Then, there are also issues of defining the areas in which to focus attention. As more and more jobs become routinized and automated, which occupations will remain static and in high demand, requiring little adaptation? Indeed, the difficulty of forecasting future occupational demands is an ever-present problem, particularly for the government. Even the Germans with their well-honed system are struggling with this.

One additional motivation for expanded vocational education is a perceived overemphasis on college degrees, which could perhaps be corrected by providing a viable alternative. With the current public discussions emphasizing providing college-ready skills to all high school graduates, many people question whether everybody should go to college. Isn’t there going to be increased demand for skilled workers who have not gotten expensive college degrees? The answer of course is yes. But at the same time future workers will still quite uniformly require the basic skills that allow them to adapt to an ever-changing economy. The retraining problem will not go away.
In the United States, which is not an advanced tribal society (social cohesion being easier in an extended family, which works to a first approximation in any country named for its dominant tribe) there's the additional challenge of education in the face of fifty years or so of deconstructing either family or bourgeois norms.  Here's how Joanne Jacobs summarizes.  "Poorly educated youths will have trouble learned skilled occupations, writes Hanushek. Job training can’t substitute for 'high-quality primary and secondary schooling that provides basic cognitive skills to all and prepares them for an uncertain future.'"  Exactly.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

There's a new National Rifle Association advertisement that appears to be taking sides in the cold civil war.


It's concentrating some minds on the left.

THANKS, HIPPIES.

Fifty years after the Summer of Love, the aftershocks reverberate.
There would be many casualties during and after the Sixties, including, finally and spectacularly, American political culture as it had been known since the Enlightenment. God and country began to dissolve, and with this, the moral axioms and civil assumptions that had ruled U.S. society since the founding of the republic. It took decades for the “regime of truth” to fade as completely as it has, but today’s social convulsions and fault lines descend from the Summer of Love.
Read, and understand, and consider the possibility that the most recent presidential election may be nothing more than the continued tussle between the freaks and the jocks, only for higher stakes than the parking lot of the local hang-out.

I CAN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP.

In Connecticut, it will be against the law for unemployed students, or their parents who have co-signed the loans, to sue for failure to deliver an education.  "Another sign that things are not well in American higher ed."  You mean ZooConn isn't a university the basketball teams can be proud of?  The horror!

IT'S TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN.

I'm thinking of Yertle, rather than of early cosmology.  That follows from a question by Bari Weiss (via Betsy Newmark).  "Has there ever been a crisper expression of the consequences of 'intersectionality' than a ban on Jewish lesbians from a Dyke March?"  That's the way Oppression Olympics works, dear reader.  But turning reverse-privilege turtle-stacking into a way to discredit the entire identity politics enterprise might backfire, according to Rod Dreher.  "What’s so interesting, and paradoxical, about the intersectionality insanity is that for all its intention to promote solidarity across various communities, it ensures that the masses won’t have anything to do with the causes these extremists promote."  Reality might be more subtle.

28.6.17

SWANKIER THAN COLD SPRING SHOPS.

The East Troy Electric Railroad recently opened a heated maintenance facility complete with an inspection pit.

Here is line car D23, converted at Cold Spring Shops from a powered utility flat car, receiving maintenance.  The diesel behind is for moving cars into or out of the building without using the overhead wire, which, you'll notice, isn't in place.


That's a modern rolling garage door behind, and check out the modern ladder on the side of the car.

SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS.

Two east coast sociologists take to Inside Higher Ed to sound the alarm against "attacks from the right."
Colleges and universities hire scholars to teach and to produce knowledge. For many years, being a professor was a job where you got paid to read and think, insulated to some extent from the rough and tumble of the rest of society. While there have always been a handful of scholars, usually from elite institutions, who could parlay the life of the mind into a more public career, and universities were happy to bask in the reflected media attention, this was the exception that proved the rule of academic isolation.
Yes, although for many years, professors understood the social contract obligated them to teach the controversies, to be careful about interjecting their own biases into class, to respect the discipline's discourse practices in writing up their thoughts.  Thus, for example, could Hayek and Keynes work together to edit Economica.

Read this passage, dear reader, and ask yourself whether that obligation still holds.
A newly emboldened cadre of people on the far right has weaponized the use of social media. In 2015, Boston University professor Saida Grundy’s comments on Twitter about white men, race and slavery led to a series of coordinated attacks against her. Grundy had called white college men the “problem population” in America and asked, “Can we just call St. Patrick’s Day the white people’s Kwanzaa that it is?” In response, a right-wing group culled several of her more provocative tweets and began a campaign to fire the newly appointed assistant professor -- although she posted the tweets before she was even employed at her university.
Did Professor Grundy cross the line, and had she been enabled in her adversarial stance by, say, the cult of authenticity that lets her get away with calling out white guys while the white guys just have to cringe and take it; or by the proliferation of -studies disciplines that treat hypotheses meriting additional inquiry as priors, and tight priors as that?

"White people's Kwanzaa" is great bull-session language: it's also more correct than she'd want to believe, for instance St. Patrick's was invented in Chicago and Kwanzaa in Berkeley, but I digress.  But is that really the stance an aspiring intellectual ought to be taking?

It's the polemics of the -studies academicians, and the ethos of student affairs, and the acquiescence of the students themselves, that's bringing the fire.  And the managers of College Fix will continue to bring it.  There's an air of injured innocence in their response, yes; and yet, when people use their status as academicians to say silly things unsupported by research, they ought be called on it.

Read and understand Yale senior Finnegan Schick for Heterodox Academy.
Because my English professors at Yale are largely liberal, the political message in my classes is always the same: Trump is a demagogue, American society is doomed, and English literature is our refuge. Liberal professors and students increasingly feel that it is their duty as professors and humanists to promote their vision of the political good. Meanwhile, the remaining campus conservatives have become less outspoken and remain fearful that they may suffer academically as well as socially for their views.

Humanities scholars have always dabbled in politics, but until Trump’s election, their sojourns into partisan debate remained fairly minimal. Now, however, students and faculty are treating Trump like an ideological threat.
I'm not sure what set of English novels and poems to recommend to get a better understanding of the controversies, although there's probably something germane in Shakespeare and perhaps Dickens and Scott.  On the other hand, I'd like somebody to compare and contrast Donald Trump and Daniel Sickles.  (That might be a good question to put to Newt Gingrich.)

Mr Schick concludes, "Let’s keep the punditry to a minimum and focus on the things that truly matter: the well-rounded, comprehensive education of our future leaders."

That's not how things are turning out, however.  Jeffrey Selingo writes, "As the baby boomer generation leaves the workforce, the United States risks having successive generations less educated than the ones that preceded them for the first time unless we improve undergraduate education."  His essay channels Charlie "Prof Scam" Sykes (has that been a quarter century plus?) in that adjunctification and research professors shunning the classroom doesn't build strong minds.  He channels Murray "Beer 'n Circus" Sperber in the nonaggression pact, aggravated by the tyranny of employment contingent on favorable course evaluations.  "So the classroom has become one giant game of favor exchanges between students and professors. When they each play their parts, everyone comes out a winner. Students receive better grades and adjuncts keep their job year after year or spend less time dealing with complaints about bad grades."  He also proposes changing the degree, in response to increased demand for vocational certificates.  I suppose I'll have to keep fighting to make high school high school again.

Provide a rigorous curriculum, turf out the -studies departments and the lackeys in student affairs and housing, and perhaps the rest will take care of itself.  Or if not, well, I've offered lots of suggestions over the years about how next to proceed.

WELL, GOVERNOR WALKER IS A REPUBLICAN.

He's also honorary ringmaster at Wisconsin's Circus World.


Jake Prinsen photograph retrieved from Baraboo News-Republic.

Hereafter, perhaps the Governor of Wisconsin, irrespective of party, ought to be ex officio Ringmaster.
The governor included in the 2017-2019 state budget a provision that will provide the Baraboo museum with more than $1 million in state support over the next two years, while transferring control of operations from the privately-funded Circus World Museum Foundation to the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Circus World Executive Director Scott O’Donnell said the museum is grateful to have the governor’s support. He added that Walker’s and his guests’ excitement and anticipation of the afternoon performance radiated through the grounds.
I recall the state previously being involved with circus preservation; that too, may be subject to change.

For the moment, children of all ages have performing pachyderms, and cotton candy, to enjoy.

A FAILED STATE.

It's so bad in Illinois that the operators of the Powerball lottery might stop selling tickets through the Illinois Lottery.  Perhaps that means quicker service at convenience stores.

But the state's IOUs are getting to resemble Confederate money printed on the back side of used wallpaper in Vicksburg.  It's not quite being besieged by Grant, let alone Venezuela.  But it's not good.

Let's start with a cautionary tale for single-payer health care.
The state owes Illinois dentists $225 million, and some of those bills go back 23 months, according to the Illinois State Dental Society. Some dentists in college towns or other areas with lots of state workers are selling their receivables to keep their heads above water. Others are asking state employees to pay in cash, says Ronald Lynch, a dentist in Jacksonville.
Yes, there are still people on employer insurance plans and some people might have coverage through the Obamacare exchanges, but if you're practicing any kind of medicine near Springfield or any of the state universities, you're a harbinger of what happens when the Medicare "trust fund" runs out of money.
"There are dentists who have to do this just to survive," says Dr. Lynch. "It's very stressful." Dr. Lynch, who hasn't asked for such cash payments, says he is owed about $250,000, forcing him to forgo a salary so he can continue to pay bills and his employees.

Health care is the capital's biggest employer apart from the state itself. Springfield's two hospital systems -- Memorial Health and HSHS St. John's -- say they together are owed more than $200 million by the state. Edgar Curtis, Memorial Health's chief executive, says he has put off a $100 million capital-expansion project because of the uncertainty. "We hate to see projects being shelved because of what is going on at the state level," he says.
In the university towns, there's more than the falling birth rates at work. DeKalb looks seedier these days, despite the new residence hall on campus and a number of blighted buildings along Lincoln Highway coming down.  I suppose we should be grateful it's not Charleston.
Over the past two years, Eastern Illinois University has received at least $53 million less than it would have if the average funding levels of the prior five years had held.

Professors in the chemistry department haven't been able to print in color since the department's printer ran out of yellow ink a year ago. Biochemistry professor Mary Konkle says she decided to leave her tenured position when she no longer had funding to order equipment or chemicals for her research.

"It wasn't my plan to just be here a couple of years and move on," she says.

Less than a decade ago, university enrollment was at its peak of 12,000. Then it began slipping by a few hundred a year. The decline picked up speed after the state's budget troubles began in 2015. Since then, enrollment has dropped by about 1,500 to 7,400 last fall.

Rallies and press coverage about the state budget mess raised fears the school might close, keeping students away. Administrators say it is doubtful that they will have even 7,000 students this fall.

In Charleston, where the university is based, empty storefronts litter Lincoln Avenue, the main thoroughfare running by campus. Jerry's Pizza, a staple for professors and students since 1978, closed last October, citing the university's shrinking population. "For Rent" signs are posted outside rows of apartments that cater to students, with one ad offering free iPad minis to students who sign a lease.

"Had we had 12,000 students here, the businesses would probably all still be here," says John Inyart, a former Charleston mayor who owns an auto-repair shop across from the university's main hall. He has had to cast his net wider for customers as faculty and students dwindle, he says.

"Any community that had a university was kind of like Teflon. You had that stability in your community, with stable good paying jobs," says Cindy White, chairwoman of the local chamber of commerce. "Well, now, that's not so much anymore."
But the exodus includes all parts of the state, and the formerly agricultural and industrial areas may be doing even worse than the college towns.
Some social-services agencies have given up on receiving state funding. Others have closed entirely, leaving some rural communities without mental-health clinics, domestic-violence shelters and drug-treatment clinics, despite an opioid crisis gripping some towns downstate.

Illinois has lost more residents than any other American state for the third year in a row, with 90% of the state's counties seeing a drop in population, shrinking the state's tax base. In 2016, a net of 37,508 people left, according to census data, putting the population at its lowest in nearly a decade.

Illinois was one of just eight states in the country, and the only Midwestern one, to lose residents last year.

"It's not just the budget crisis; it's that people don't have any confidence in what the state is going to do next," says Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a nonpartisan Chicago-based government-watchdog group backed by business leaders. "There is fear of an enormous tax increase. The uncertainty is driving people from the state."

In 2014, the state's gross domestic product was growing faster than any other bordering state. In 2016, Illinois grew slower than all bordering states except for Iowa, with which it was tied.
Revenues under the current set of taxes are insufficient to cover the state's commitments, but higher taxes (and there are Chicago area Democrats who would like to tax businesses for the privilege of doing business) are likely to have the effect of driving more people out of the state.  There's no reason, for instance, why the Board of Trade and the Mercantile Exchange couldn't make their markets in Milwaukee or Indianapolis.

We have much to look forward to.

ARE ADMINISTRATORS AS IMPORTANT AS COACHES?

The severance package for academic administrators, particularly those who may not enjoy the protections of tenure in a department, might serve as a useful insurance against uncertain future earnings.  So too, has it been, for the athletic coaches, who also serve at will, and who might at any time find themselves out.  (Never mind that in both cohorts, there's enough of an old-boy, well in administration, old-boy might not be inclusive enough, network that head coaches or provosts usually land an assistant coach or associate dean gig somewhere else, and pretty fast.)

But at Northern Illinois University, the DeKalb County Board sees the severance package for soon-departed president Doug Baker as a misappropriation of state property.
DeKalb County Board member Misty Haji-Sheikh has filed a lawsuit against Northern Illinois University's Board of Trustees, with the intent of voiding the severance agreement that would pay departing President Doug Baker about $600,000.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in DeKalb County Court, says the board violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act by failing to post an agenda that adequately described the item "Presidential Employment (review and approval)" during its June 15 meeting.
That's carrying process worship a bit far, although you'd think that with the resignation already public knowledge, the board might have seen fit to include that to the advance agenda, rather than bury it in "new business" and figure the interested parties would show up.

That, however, is not the reason I asked that question.  Nearly a quarter century ago, a rainmaker in the employ of the University of Wisconsin athletics office came up with the money to encourage underachieving football coach Don Morton to step out of line and disappear.  It didn't hurt that his successor was Barry Alvarez.  "The easiest money I ever raised came for the buyout of Don Morton and [then athletic director] Ade Sponberg."  Rick Telander, From Red Ink to Roses, page 126.  The rainmaker simply called in some favors, you know, of the form "No money until ... goes!"  I wonder if there's anyone in fundraising for Northern Illinois maintaining such a list.

23.6.17

RAILROADS REJECTING PUBLIC MONEY FOR PASSENGER TRAINS?

The most recent Railroad Heritage included a lengthy article by J. C. Thorpe, who has illustrated a number of interesting concept rail projects over the years.

One such concept is the Shenandoah Rail Corridor, which I have alluded to previously: it's a way to take some of the pressure off Interstate 81, which is a road congested and pounded to pieces by semis.

Seems like a logical candidate for a public-private partnership, providing the freight railroads with additional capacity for van trains, plus a corridor for faster passenger trains.  Something like this.



In his article, Mr Thorpe noted the electric freight locomotive originally wore the colors of Norfolk Southern.  But a representative of Norfolk Southern, in commenting on the project, asked Mr Thorpe to change the lettering on the motor.  The railroad wanted nothing of the project.  Why not?  "If this sort of thing continues, it will mean nothing less than the passengerization of the industry."

Put another way, the existing railroad, mingling container trains with the remaining coal traffic, and general freight out of the south (the railroads still move a lot of plywood, for instance) appeals to Norfolk Southern in a way that this upgrade, which would involve shared operating rights, does not.

I had suspected the major freight carriers didn't like taking public money if it involved improving the passenger network, but to refer to such projects as "passengerization" comes as a surprise.

FIRST, STOP THE SNEERING, THE CONDESCENSION, THE EPISTEMIC CLOSURE.

Confound it, I don't want to keep writing about national politics, but there's so much juicy stuff out there I can't resist.  Start with Donk court intellectual T. B. Edsall, writing before Georgia voters rejected the latest Great Democrat Hope.
Democratic pollsters, strategists and sympathetic academics have reached some unnerving conclusions.

What the autopsy reveals is that Democratic losses among working class voters were not limited to whites; that crucial constituencies within the party see its leaders as alien; and that unity over economic populism may not be able to turn back the conservative tide.

Equally disturbing, winning back former party loyalists who switched to Trump will be tough: these white voters’ views on immigration and race are in direct conflict with fundamental Democratic tenets.
The Donks lack the muscle to abolish the People and appoint a new one; and Jeb! Bush was right about not being able to insult your way to the presidency ... it's a bad move to insult voters.  Politicians are fair game.

Here's Brett Stephens on the tactical error of insulting voters.
Contemporary liberalism now expresses itself chiefly in the language of self-affirmation and moral censure: of being the party of the higher-minded; of affixing the suffix “phobe” to millions of people who don’t appreciate being described as bigots.

It’s intolerable. It’s why so many well-educated Republicans who find nothing to admire in the president’s dyspeptic boorishness find even less to like in his opponents’ snickering censoriousness. It’s why a political strategy by Democrats that seeks to turn every local race into a referendum on Trump is likely to fail.

One temptation Democrats would be smart to avoid is to see Ossoff’s loss as evidence that the party needs to move further left, on the theory that not enough of the base showed up to vote. In fact, turnout for Ossoff was extraordinary for a special election. And nominating more progressive candidates isn’t likely to solve the contempt problem, at least with voters not yet in sync with progressive orthodoxies on coal, guns or gender-neutral bathrooms.
Yes, and any political pundit who invokes Aron Niemzowitsch's Gegen diesen Idioten muss Ich verlieren? deserves your attention.  Go. Read.  Note that the skirt-chasing president [Bill] Clinton probably survived impeachment in part because he didn't come off as hectoring the electorate, Jimmy Carter style, or patronizing it, Barack Obama style.

Reason's David Harsanyi makes a related point.
Everyone loves his or her members of Congress. They just hate yours. Handel will likely be in her position as long as she pleases because incumbents win more than 95 percent of races.

If the average Republican is willing to look past Trump's sins (and, obviously, many GOPers like him outright), they can start weighing many other factors. They may, for instance, understand that voting for Ossoff is not only a vote against Trump but a vote for progressive liberals like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who was given a near 60 percent disapproval rating in the 6th District. This is the choice.

It is also worth noting that, as galvanizing as the anti-Trump movement has been these past months, it is not a movement of persuasion. The default rhetorical disposition of liberals is still to accuse anyone who takes a cultural or economic position to the right of Sen. Elizabeth Warren of being a clingy racist. Maybe affluent suburban Republicans don't appreciate the accusation. And maybe bashing the president and getting hysterical over Russia isn't a winning strategy in places like Georgia because, while the GOP has tons of problems, for what does the Democratic Party stand?
They're beginning to have this conversation, although it still looks like San Francisco or Chicago or Detroit as a message.  None of those visions are particularly edifying to strivers elsewhere.

Keep it up, Democrats.
It should be clear to Democrats that the progressive message is not resonating with Independents or blue-collar workers — some of whom are within their base. And it is evident that Democrats still haven’t learned anything from the 2016 presidential election. They decided to stick with Pelosi as House minority leader and elected Tom Perez, whose rhetoric has marginalized non-progressives within his own party, as chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Progressivism is ruining the Democratic Party. It will be interesting to watch how much damage it will do to the brand before the party recognizes that progressivism doesn’t resonate with the American people, not now, nor will it in 2018 and beyond.
Author Shermichael Singleton is using "progressive" and its declensions in the classical sense of Governance by Wise Experts, National Standards set in Washington D.C.  That founders on the calculation problem.  It's likely that the national party's embrace of identity politics, except for traditional Americans, is also hurting their chances.

ART IMITATING LIFE TOO CLOSELY?

On one of my visits to You Tube (to post a train video, of course) the algorithm that suggests things to watch came up with a movie now streaming there, The Thinning.  The premise: the United Nations gets enough power to keep the world out of a Malthusian trap, and the population must be culled.

There's nothing new in such premises.  Years ago, there was Soylent Green, in which the useless eaters became useful food, and Logan's Run, in which there were resources to support a young population, but upon hitting thirty or so, people departed this life in a spectacular ritual offering the hope of reincarnation.

Perhaps The Thinning hasn't caught on in the same way because the premise is too real.  The useless eaters are identified by high-stakes tests, starting in grade school.  Score too low:  you disappear.

As if that wasn't exactly how the vocational tracking system in the government schools has always worked.  As if that wasn't the rationale behind calling the military draft the Selective Service System.  The Wise Experts never quite got around to drafting people who had an aptitude for mathematics as rocket scientists, or who had good social skills and quick minds as paediatricians.  The student deferments might have been a way to steer people into such occupations, particularly if they were granted on a discretionary basis by local draft boards (something that did not happen in practice.)  But fail to register, and you're screwed, particularly if you had a rough start in life.

And how else explain the resources spent on granite countertops to buy into good school districts, on Harvard Prep daycare, on College Board test prep.  It's enough to drive the nachalstvo and the cherry pickers curators of entering classes crazy.
In modern America, [sociologist Mitchell] Stevens argues, preparing one’s children for college and then enrolling them in the most desirable one possible is the culmination of “social reproduction.” He explains this sociological term as “the transfer of knowledge, cultural perspective, and social position from one generation to the next,” or, more broadly, “all the things parents do to ensure that their children will have good lives.”

Formal education has become central to social reproduction. Few American parents now transfer a family farm or business to their offspring. The “business” for a huge majority is a career selling labor on the open market rather than, as once was common, owning and operating some enterprise. Nor do more than a handful of parents bring children along in their own trade, schooling having displaced formal and informal apprenticeships as the pathway to careers. And smaller families mean that parents’ social-reproduction efforts are concentrated on fewer offspring.

Stevens shows how very selective colleges’ flexible understanding of “diversity” squares the circle between helping those less fortunate and giving one’s children a leg up.
That requires the herd to be thinned.
Similarly, diversity in education, from preschool to postgraduate, and the resulting holy war on privilege, requires denouncing but not renouncing. Despite its stated intent to subvert unjust hierarchies, multiculturalism facilitates rather than impedes careerism. A degree from a selective college, one racially integrated in a carefully curated way, does wonders for those getting on in the world. “Checking your privilege” never involves transferring to Jerkwater A&M, diverse in ways selective colleges never will be, and thereby surrendering one’s spot in the Ivy League so that it can be filled by a cashier’s or opioid addict’s kid.
And thus do we find ourselves in a world of privilege hoarders.  Implicitly, the thinning requires Jerkwater A&M to do anything but recognise they are in the same business as the Ivies, which would help the poor, determined, and striving to avoid the usual gatekeepers.

PROGRESS IS OUT OF VOGUE.

P. J. O'Rourke watches an Ariane 5 liftoff.  There's a bit of "I, Rocket" in it.
An individual could not build a rocket like these, no matter what his wealth or how much time he was allotted.

He’d have to be three Pythagoreans of a mathematician and a hundred kinds of engineer, a physicist-on-wheels faster than those of Stephen Hawking, the sort of computer whiz who’d make Bill Gates call tech support, an electrician, a metallurgist, a welder, a bomb disposal squad (that being what a rocket at blast-off is really doing), and own a very long ladder and be able to count down from ten to one (in French).

As for trade, the launch was a business deal putting two privately owned communications satellites in orbit, one from the American company ViaSat and one from its European competitor Eutelsat. The deal was made by Ariane­space in cooperation with its principal rocket-building contractor Airbus and Airbus’s rival Boeing, which manufactured Viasat’s satellite. The invisible hand of the marketplace doesn’t get much more unseen than what I was looking at.
But the rocket itself? Rather than representing the concretization of Western rationalism, it looks like a throwback to a lost era (and probably a phallic symbol to boot.)  Meanwhile, it's the contemporary, trendy thinkers and their hipster tendencies, turning the clock back.
The food Luddites urge us to eat the locally sourced, organic, pesticide-lacking, GMO-free diet of our ancestors, who had average lifespans of well over 30 years.

Modern transport is rejected in favor of the primitive bicycle. Mature adults wearing Lycra cycling shorts are as barbaric in appearance as naked early Britons painted with woad.

Medical advances are renounced as the public consults the witch doctors of health care insurance instead of the M.D.s of health care treatment.
It's enough to make an aging stoner despair.
If we want to avoid a future full of socialists, progressives, Birkenstock-wearing women in pink pussyhats, black-clad men in Guy Fawkes masks, gender-neutral shouters of Resistance!, vegans, PETA members, Middlebury College alums, and other pests who will be starving and begging in what used to be a marketplace but has become an “Occupied” camp . . .

If we want to avoid all that, we must make progress exciting again. We need a “Big Bang theory” of capitalism.
But perhaps the hero projects, whether in space or in medicine or in food and retail are all gone, and it's an era of normal science, or Kuhnian puzzle solving.

Thus is Ariane 5 hoisting a satellite ... to provide broadband internet to cruise ships at sea.

That might have been anticipated in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  No, we don't have Pan American space shuttles or orbiting Hilton hotels with lobbies as aesthetically challenging as airport departure lounges: but the symbolism of the dramatic becoming the mundane was there all the same.

22.6.17

THINGS AREN'T SO BAD AFTER ALL.

Not when a do-it-yourselfer has nothing better to do than sue the home supply stores for selling finished studs and posts as 2x4 and 4x4 when the kiln-dried, planed sizes are smaller.  "'Defendant has received significant profits from its false marketing and sale of its dimensional lumber products,' the action against Menards contends." Experienced woodworkers understand all these things, and work accordingly.  The plaintiffs are inexperienced woodworkers.
As [attorney Eugene] Turin described it, all three men in the lawsuits wanted the lumber for home-improvement projects, got home and measured the pieces, felt they had been deceived and then turned to the law firm.

Asked whether it was coincidence that three different men found the same sort of issue with lumber first at Menards and then at Home Depot, and then all decided to go to McGuire Law, Turin said he couldn’t comment.
The good news is, none of these do-it-yourselfers injured himself commencing their projects.

Now, if they were working from plans and bills of materials, they're going to be surprised when they discover that putting something other than what the store sells as 4x4s in the place where the plans call for 4x4s everything else is going to be off.

DRAIN. THE. SWAMP.

Administrators at public universities complain that the legislatures have broken the social contract by which there's been sufficient funding to keep tuitions low.  I have long contended that the breach is mutual, with the public universities neglecting their core functions.

In "Napolitano and the Decline of Berkeley" retired professor (and I think California regent for a while) Glynn Custred reviews the recent behavior of California's higher education administrators and faculty, then comes down on the side of Big Education breaking the social contract.
The long march of the authoritarian left has succeeded in capturing the institutions of higher learning, and they have imposed their anti-liberal and anti-intellectual agenda upon institutions that once supported a free marketplace of ideas. Illiberal administrations and boards of directors disregard the missions of the institutions they are charged with governing. These institutions are financed by student tuitions and fees, by donations from alumni, businesses, and philanthropic organizations, and by taxes, government subsidies, and tax-funded grants. Perhaps it is time to rethink our unquestioned support of institutions that are failing to fulfill their missions in so many ways.
Precisely.

THIS DEFIES PARODY.

An adjunct communication professor at Newark, New Jersey's Essex Community College goes on Tucker Carlson's show to participate in a contentious interview.  (How contentious?  I shut it down after about a minute or two of her ranting.)  But now she claims to have been administratively terminated for daring to appear on Fox News and jousting with Tucker Carlson.
The letter does not mention the Tucker Carlson show, but Durden said administration officials made a point of bringing it up that day. In a meeting with Lee and Karen Bridgett, assistant director of Human Resources, Durden said Bridgett told her someone "complained'' that she associated herself to the college during the television show appearance.

Not true, and Durden proved it.

Look at the six-minute clip. It's on the internet. Google Lisa Durden and Tucker Carlson. Next to her name, it says political commentator. During the contentious discussion with Carlson, Durden never identified herself as a professor at the college. Durden said she was representing herself while arguing that Black Lives Matter had a right to have a Memorial Day celebration in a safe space for black people at a time when there's a rise in white nationalism and racism.

Considering her explanation, Durden, and many who support her, want to know what she did wrong. Durden said Bridgett told her the matter is being investigated.
Verdict first, then the trial.

Perhaps, though, her experience will be an instructive moment for protecting the standards of academic discourse.
"For those of us who are involved in advocacy, politics, who may hold opinions which differ from those in different spaces, this kind of thing has a terrible chilling effect,'' Rebecca Williams, an assistant professor, wrote in her letter to the administration.
No, Becky, you just haven't learned how to offer up a contrary point of view in a non-confrontational way. Nor did Ms Durden. If anything, she was done in by the cult of authenticity.
"As this suspension will become public in the world of academia -- and especially in black public intellectual circles --  it will bring more negative publicity to our institution even as we are trying to move forward with our new president.''
Forgive me the impertinence, this is Essex Community College in Newark F***ing New Jersey. Come off it.  It might be more pertinent that all Ms Durden did was shoot her mouth off on a shouting show: she didn't call for muscle or organize an occupation of the Fox studio.  It's another administrative usurpation.  As such, she deserves redress.

Perhaps, though, we're seeing a rediscovery of civic virtue, no matter how artlessly the human resources types protected it.  "Nobody cares what your agenda is when you act like barbarians."  That includes carrying on in something other than a measured way on Fox, no matter how provocative the interviewer is.

KEEP DOUBLING DOWN ON THE CONDESCENSION.

Two more Democrats lost special elections to fill seats rendered open by Republican Members of Congress who received appointments in the Executive Branch.  In Georgia, all the advantages of a great deal of money plus male privilege plus the tacit support of much of the legacy media wasn't enough to prevent Jon Ossoff from losing to Karen Handel.  But it's not that he lost to a girl.  “Feminism doesn’t mean liking every stupid woman you meet.”  That's right, dear reader, you can have the proper chromosomes and anatomy and identify as a woman and all the rest, and if your politics are wrong, the women of the fevered brow will cancel your woman card.
Yes, Handel is a woman (hooray!), but her track record and stated policy priorities do not inspire much confidence that she’ll do anything to advance rights and opportunities for other women. A glass ceiling broken is only worth celebrating if it means something for more than the individual smashing it.
Obviously it must mean something for voters, otherwise she would have lost. But I digress.

That objection is relatively tame: you can take out the identity politics and we have somebody writing for Huffington Post objecting to a Republican candidate on standard policy grounds, arguing from a relatively narrow construction of those "rights and opportunities for other women."

But there are still members of the (coastal) Democrat - Academic - Media - Entertainment complex who would rather blame the voters.  Take Jill Filipovic.  Please.
“Maybe instead of trying to convince hateful white people, Dems should convince our base—ppl of color, women to turn out. Cater to them,” Tweeted noted far-left feminist and author Jill Filipovic. Filipovic went on to rail against bigoted voters in proceeding tweets. “At what point is this not a failure of Democrats but toxic, vindictive voters willing to elected hateful bigots.”

Herein lies the Democrats’ problem, just as it was a problem when Hillary Clinton bellowed about a basket full of deplorables during the 2016 campaign. The Democrats and their base (Hollywood) think the key to winning elections is to insult voters. “They don’t vote for us because they are bigots” is not a strategy I would employ as a campaign manager but they are welcome to keep trying this, and they are welcome to keep losing.
The problem with that strategy is the base as Mx Filipovic perceives it does turn out, although the fractures in that coalition are becoming more evident, even if Congressional districts are rigged by apportionment.
Democrats either want to be a party that offers a more sane and measured alternative to Trump’s chaotic, unpredictable craziness, or they want to keep putting together symbolic marches while attempting to explain why some of their more extreme supporters are staging campus riots, talking about blowing up the White House and stabbing people on trains or shooting up baseball fields. Maybe they’ll figure it out post 2018, or a couple of years into Trump’s second term.
Rick Moran proposes a simpler explanation.
Ordinary Americans simply don't like leftists very much.  And when Hollywood and Silicon Valley unite to tell them they are stupid, are ignorant, are racist, are homophobic, hate Muslims, and shouldn't love America so much, what do they expect the reaction from ordinary people will be?

Republicans are not representatives of the people any more than Democrats are.  But they speak the language of the ordinary voter and usually don't put them down.  The coastal elites who run the Democratic Party and liberal establishment cannot disguise their contempt for ordinary Americans.  In Georgia's 6th District, that smug, self-righteous sense of superiority played about as well as one might expect.
Simpler explanation might even have some purchase. Consider Andrew Bacevich for Common Dreams.
Unlike President Trump, I do not pretend to speak for Everyman or for his female counterpart.  Yet my sense is that many Americans have an inkling that history of late has played them for suckers.  This is notably true with respect to the post-Cold War era, in which the glories of openness, diversity, and neoliberal economics, of advanced technology and unparalleled U.S. military power all promised in combination to produce something like a new utopia in which Americans would indisputably enjoy a privileged status globally.

In almost every respect, those expectations remain painfully unfulfilled.  The history that “served for the time being” and was endlessly reiterated during the presidencies of Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama no longer serves.  It has yielded a mess of pottage: grotesque inequality, worrisome insecurity, moral confusion, an epidemic of self-destructive behavior, endless wars, and basic institutions that work poorly if at all.
There's more blame for the self-destructive behavior and deconstruction of the mediating institutions than Mr Bacevich gets into: but to his credit, he's not denouncing the angry normals for daring to be angry.

You want the angry?  Read Joy Overbeck (whose credentials as a woman are probably not honored by Huffington Post either.)  Then read Kurt Schlichter (this posted before Ossoff's loss.)
The Tea Party was the first manifestation of the anger out there at the establishment. It was polite – it even cleaned up its own messes after its peaceful protests. The media, and the same alleged conservatives who saw the Tea Party as a threat to their own position because it caused donors to start asking for results instead of simply writing checks, attacked the Tea Party. Well, then we got Trump, who was not nearly as polite, and who took the White House fair and square from the designated establishment candidate. And now they want to use non-ballot means to make sure the normals’ choice is again ignored.

What do they think comes after Trump? Someone nice?
Particularly if the condescension continues.

STOP REWARDING FAILURE.

The editorial board of the Northern Star object to departed university president Doug Baker's severance packet.
Baker is not the first Illinois university president to be given a severance package after terminating their employment before the completion of their contract. An outgoing Chicago State University president was given a severance package of $600K after serving only nine months, according to a Sept. 19, 2016, Illinois Policy article.

Similar to Baker, this president did not fulfill his contract and did not serve the best interest of the students, yet he was rewarded for his failure to do the job he was hired to do.
That's got to hurt, comparing Northern Illinois with Chicago State.
The Northern Star Editorial Board recommends the Board reevaluate its decision making over the past few years and hopefully gain a better perspective as to how crucial the quality of financial responsibility in a president is as they begin the process of replacing Baker. NIU and its students cannot survive another presidency similar to the one we have endured these past four years.
We might start by contemplating achieving a state of good repair in the academic enterprise, without any new administrative initiatives, taglines, strategic plans, and all the other distractions that keep the faculty from their scholarship.

20.6.17

LET THE BENEFICIARY BEAR THE BURDEN.

Wisconsin's roads are in parlous shape, which is an interesting reversal of the way things were thirty years ago, when Wisconsin rebuilt its main roads when they deteriorated to the state new Illinois roads were.  But Illinois jacked up its tolls, and the toll roads are in something resembling a state of good repair, although you're delayed as much by the rebuilding work as you are by the toll plazas.

And thus do the pundits continue to call for implementing tolling on Wisconsin's interstate highways. That's not going to be an easy proposition, particularly with high state officials suggesting the tolls be collected on inbound traffic at the border.  A Trump Moslem ban or a Walker Flatlander Toll: compare and contrast.  But the advocates persist, even being willing to go along with a tax, even if the rhetoric is "user fee."
That’s a “tax” that would fall directly on those who are using the Interstate — those who are creating the wear and tear that necessitates repair and replacement work. It would also cause the burden of those costs to be shared with travelers from out of state and not fall solely on Wisconsin drivers.
That's Racine, and they're OK with tolling, as a way of expediting the widening of Interstate 94 north of the state line, in the hopes that it can handle the increased traffic in and out of the warehouses that have fled Illinois.  (Perhaps it's time to think about spending some money upgrading the old Chicago and North Western north of Kenosha and restoring the second track on the Freight Main, and inducing the warehouses to take more deliveries by rail but I digress.)

The problem with implementing tolls only on the expressways is that people will figure out how to bypass them.  In particular, the fleet operators and their 53 foot elephants will bypass them.  And beat up the old Federal and State highways in the bargain.

Perhaps we'll finally see serious proposals to make the heavy trucks pay for the roads they use.  "Wisconsin would join four other states in placing a per mile fee on the kinds of heavy trucks that do more damage to roads, under the idea offered by a member of the Legislature's budget committee."  The rent-seekers, predictably, want their rents protected.
Neal Kedzie, a former state senator and president of the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association, said that his group wouldn't support a per mile fee on their hauling.

"It's a tricky business with small margins," Kedzie said of his industry. "We don't want to have prices passed on to consumers."
No, it's easier to pretend that the goods are being delivered more cheaply when the higher price is buried in a multiplicity of inconveniences: the 53 foot road-breaker occupying both lanes of Wisconsin's overdesigned roundabouts; the delays incurred when those 53 footers are slow away from the traffic light, or use up the entire left turn arrow just getting started, or those slow-motion drag races on the expressways I dealt with yesterday.

Thus, although Owen at Boots and Sabers might be correct that state legislatures, even those controlled by Republicans, might prefer raising taxes to spending less money, in this instance a user fee levied on the vehicles most responsible for wrecking the roads makes economic sense.

Oh, did anybody catch the Madison Democrat griping about all the ways the Legislature is avoiding raising the gasoline taxes?  Priceless.  Prius-driving metrofexuals can avoid most of those taxes.

WHY DO THE GROUNDLINGS RAGE?

Popehat's Ken White offers common sense on the use of Shakespeare to comment on Our Times, and why it's unworthy of serious people to disrupt performances, no matter how many liberties the performers might take with the script.

I recommend reading it in full.  Some highlights.
Never mind, for the moment, that Shakespeare's plays are shot through with blunt commentary on the politics of his time, or that staging Shakespeare to comment on contemporary politics is common and nearly as old as they plays themselves, or that the same thing has been done with an Obama-like Caesar with very little fanfare, or that the entire point of the play is that Caesar's assassination is self-indulgent folly that leads to disaster. People are angry.

One angry justification for disrupting the play goes like this: liberals do this to conservatives, so this is fair play. We're just imposing liberals' rules on liberals. Liberals disrupt conservative speakers on campuses all the time, and if that's okay, why isn't this okay?
Because there are barking moonbats, and then there are the bourgeois conventions the moonbats would just as soon deconstruct. Got that?
This way lies madness and destruction, the excuse to abandon everything we believe. We follow our principles because they're right, not because everyone agrees with them. We follow them in adversity and in the face of opposition and even injustice. We give due process — a jury trial — to a cop who shot a motorist even if a very good argument can be made that the cop executed the motorist without due process. We defend the free speech of Nazis and communists who would deny it to us if they had power. At one point, I would have been able to say that we don't torture people even if they torture.

The "eye for an eye" theory of respecting free speech is particularly pernicious because it represents the worst sort of collectivism, something the principled Right ought reject. Note that people who say "apply the Liberals' own rules to the Liberals" aren't disrupting, say, an Antifa rally or the meeting of some Berkeley student group that advocated shutting down a conservative speaker. They're disrupting other people entirely, on the theory that everyone they deem part of the nebulous collective "Liberal" deserves to be silenced because someone else in that nebulous collective engaged in silencing behavior. The actors and playgoers in New York, under this theory, deserve to be shut down because they stand responsible for the acts of all "liberals" everywhere. (The suggestion that anyone going to see Julius Caesar must be a liberal does not reflect a very healthy self-image amongst the Right.) This closely resembles the logic of hecklers on college campuses, who argue that nearly any conservative speaker stands responsible for Klansmen and neo-Nazis and overt bigots everywhere. It's contemptible and can be used to justify doing nearly anything to nearly anyone.
More contemptible, though, is the abdication of responsibility by adults who should know better.  Zum Beispiel: "A few hysterically censorious kids screaming for a professor's termination for crimethink do not threaten the foundations of free speech, but Yale lauding them does."

Those conventions arose for a reason.  Deconstruct them at your peril.

A MONUMENT WORTHY OF A THIRD WORLD MARXIST.

Public officials in the People's Republic of Madison would like to rename a building in honor of former president Barack Obama.


City-County Building, Madison, Wisconsin

It's a little much, even for the apparatchiki at Madison's Capital Times.
The building that would honor the former president’s quiet dignity is, however, somewhat lacking in presidential stateliness.

Sitting like a Soviet relic on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the 1956 structure that would bear Obama’s name features a stark black marble one-story facade above which hovers a corrugated protrusion of stained concrete. Looming over that is a flat shoebox of more concrete and aluminum-clad windows. The interior is home to numerous indistinct bureaucratic offices, topped off by two floors of jail space so run-down that the sheriff himself calls it an abomination, and which county officials are at pains to do away with.
Pitch-perfect, argues Thomas Lifson. "The architectural style of the President Barack Obama City-County Building is the most fitting monument possible to the president that Obama really was."

Jail cells worthy of the Lubyanka?  Bonus rooms.

PRIVILEGE IS CIVILIZATION.

It's graduation season, and summer is for college visits.

In upscale precincts of New Jersey, high school graduation looks more like a debutante ball.  Maybe all the families living in the district have entries in Who's Who and the Social Register.

That's getting Laura "11-D" McKenna wondering about the propriety of it all.
It’s a nice night for the kids, but that’s a lot of money. And the time that went into constructing these sets could have been spent in a much more productive way. Right here in the same town, there are hundreds of special ed kids who could some reading tutoring. Twenty minutes from here, there are kids in Newark who need a whole lot of help.
Not far away, Matt "Dean Dad" Reed's oldest is a year from graduation.
The advantages we’re giving our kids - lots of books, frequent discussion of politics and current events, a good school district, a stable home - will make it likelier that they’ll do well economically. The advantages accrue over time. That amounts, at some level, to the kind of hoarding that Lowrey/Reeves describe. That’s not anyone’s fault, but it’s real.

The issue is structural, as are the solutions. I don’t apologize for giving my kids lots of books, or for putting them in situations likely to help them thrive. As a parent, I consider that part of my job. They’re great kids -- I’m biased, but still -- and I want them to be able to develop into the best versions of themselves that they can. In my perfect world, every kid would get that chance. The ethical obligation here is to use politics to pay it forward.
How structural? Back to 11-D.
Jonah is going off to college with private school sophistication. He and his classmates look years older than his peers in other towns. They hold themselves straight. They have no body fat or zits. They look adults in the eye and ask the right questions. They feel comfortable in a tux. Jonah knows how to order food in fancy restaurants and joins his friends at their million dollar shore houses. He is utterly comfortable in those settings. Those skills will serve him well in the future, so, as a mom, I’m happy. But when I put on my social justice hat, I feel ill.

This is privilege. It’s not so much the education. Jonah’s education has been hit or miss. . . . So the kids here end up with a better education than kids in other public schools, but it’s not solely because of the quality of the schools. What they really gain from this town and living in this rich people’s bubble are soft skills that later translate into posh jobs in the city.
Yes, it's ultimately about the cultural capital.  To Quartz's Dan Kopf, the investment in the right school districts and the association with like-minded neighbors is a new form of conspicuous consumption.
The fact that the aspirational class works, and that most of their income is based on the skills they have gained from high levels of education has made “social, environmental, and cultural awareness” the most valuable sources of social capital, [sociologist Elizabeth] Currid-Halkett argues.

So instead of spending money on consumer products, Currid-Halkett finds that the rich increasingly focus their spending on “nonvisible, highly expensive goods and services” that allow them to have time to gain that social capital and foster it in their children. Such goods and services include child care, gardeners, and, most importantly, education. She refers to this type of spending as “inconspicuous consumption.”
Yes, if it's possible to make relatively cheap cars look like the more expensive marques, one hoary form of status display goes away.  But passing wealth down in the form of mansions or a string of polo ponies dissipates the fortune.  Passing down the life-management skills, at a time when the intellectual Zeitgeist is all about deconstructing the bourgeois institutions, on the other hand, confers evolutionary advantages.
And while it may be funny to joke about their yoga pants and affinity for kale, the rise of the “aspirational class” may have very real consequences. Perhaps most disturbing is Currid-Halkett’s conclusion that these consumption trends may exacerbate inequality. Increased spending by wealthy parents on education and health for their children, for example, may deepen class divides and limit opportunities for poorer kids.
Indeed.  The $160K that goes into converting a graduation party into a Willie Wonka themed debutante ball (complete with a post-party in the municipal pool) looks like old school conspicuous consumption, but it's in the kids learning the proper handshakes and the golf etiquette and the rest that they're better equipped to perform in job interviews and close the deal and all the rest.  You could put that $160K into a Newark dropout factory or a St. Paul high school, and, up against the cult of authenticity and the fear of disproportionate suspension, it would be as nothing.

But the conventional wisdom still relies on calling on the well-off to pay more taxes.  The Atlantic's Annie Lowrey picks up on the latest from Brookings's Richard Reeves.  Same nostrums, different guilt trip.
The book traces the way that the upper-middle class has pulled away from the middle class and the poor on five dimensions: income and wealth, educational attainment, family structure, geography, and health and longevity. The top 20 percent of earners might not have seen the kinds of income gains made by the top one percent and America’s billionaires. Still, their wage and investment increases have proven sizable. They dominate the country’s top colleges, sequester themselves in wealthy neighborhoods with excellent public schools and public services, and enjoy healthy bodies and long lives. “It would be an exaggeration to say that the upper-middle class is full of gluten-avoiding, normal-BMI joggers who are only marginally more likely to smoke a cigarette than to hit their children,” Reeves writes. “But it would be just that—an exaggeration, not a fiction.”

They then pass those advantages onto their children, with parents placing a “glass floor” under their kids. They ensure they grow up in nice zip codes, provide social connections that make a difference when entering the labor force, help with internships, aid with tuition and home-buying, and schmooze with college admissions officers. All the while, they support policies and practices that protect their economic position and prevent poorer kids from climbing the income ladder: legacy admissions, the preferential tax treatment of investment income, 529 college savings plans, exclusionary zoning, occupational licensing, and restrictions on the immigration of white-collar professionals.
Put another way, it's the constraints imposed by Wise Experts that hold the Poor and Striving down.

Legacy admissions?  Those thick envelopes from the Ivies matter more to the extent that the land-grants and mid-majors and community colleges put being inclusive or offering access or whatever ahead of upping their academic efforts.

Preferential tax treatment?  Shall we have a serious conversation about tax simplification, or is it better to have a complex tax code that can be exploited by rent-seekers?

College savings plans?  Likewise, with the further effect that it conceals in complexity a regressive transfer that was present in the days of more generous state subsidies for their public universities, but that transfer at least offered the possibility of a striving kid from less-prosperous circumstances being able to matriculate, and make tuition, fees, room, and board on a commissary job during the academic year and a summer factory or warehouse job.

Occupational licensing?  Whenever the government creates a cartel, it generates rents that it dissipates somehow.  You'd think Mr Reeves, who used to be with The Washington Monthly, might have more to say about that.  I did.  "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."

Restrictions on the immigration of white-collar professionals?  Among people who would be appalled by somebody saying anything nice about Our President?  The horror, the horror!

But for all of Mr Reeves's experience studying and writing about policy things, he's left with nothing more than throwing more money at poverty, and calling on the currently prosperous to sacrifice.
Expanding opportunity and improving fairness would require the upper-middle class to vote for higher taxes, to let others move in, and to share in the wealth. Prying Harvard admission letters and the mortgage interest deductions out of the hands of bureaucrats in Bethesda, sales executives in Minnetonka, and lawyers in Louisville is not going to be easy.
Nor will it work. Think first of policies to inculcate the habits of the middle class among the residents of the poorer quarters: then perhaps money might be more productively thrown at poverty.

NOTICE OF DISCONTINUANCE.

Site Meter will be going away at the end of June.

With Technorati going away, do we conclude that the weblog is being bypassed by the latest information superhighway?

TEN YEARS AGO.

Work had progressed far enough on Cold Spring Shops headquarters to permit a sample of the view of the pond from the sun room.


In ten years, all the houses across the pond now have their second-story decks in place, and the trees have filled in nicely.  My yard is now friendly to turtles that lay their eggs a long crawl for the hatchlings to the pond.


There's a skunk roaming the neighborhood, plus voles and snakes in the grass, any of which might have an appetite for fresh egg.

19.6.17

CONTEMPLATING A FOURTH TURNING?

John Locke on the Mandate of Heaven, at Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal.  It's about the evolutionary advantages of cooperating.
Those who can cooperate with others who are unlike them can form larger coalitions than those who can only cooperate with others similar to them. The strategy of cooperating with others who are similar can be pushed a long way: each of us is built around a collection of genetically near-identical cells, with reproduction monopolized by a few germ-line cells much as beehives are built around collections of genetically closely related individuals with reproduction monopolized by the queen bee and the drones. But assuming that strategy of cooperating with similar individuals is pushed to the limit on both sides of a conflict, the side that can also manage cooperation among unlike individuals or unlike groups of individuals will have a big advantage.
Yes, although cooperation among unlike might be more fragile and event-contingent than cooperation among like. Thus do social orders emerge, then fracture as the initial conditions of coalition no longer hold.

BLUE HIGHWAY WISCONSIN.

It's a different picture than what coverage of the U.S. Open suggested.  The Guardian's Katherine Cramer has held a ten-year appointment playing Dr. Livingstone among the Cheeseheads.
I have been visiting coffee klatches and residents’ groups throughout the state of Wisconsin since 2007. I seek them out, in various types of places, to understand how they are making sense of politics. From the very beginning, the conversations in small communities like this one surprised me. I have heard time and time again about the struggle to make ends meet, and the lack of response from anyone with the power to make life better. I have heard men like Joe say those idiots who tell us to drive less have no clue what our lives are like.
The common theme seems to be "the cities are getting all the public money."    Yes, but when the people who benefit from the urban agglomeration economies bid up the real estate, that's not a good thing either.
When I first met the Brunch Bunch, in June of 2007, one of the women showed me a roster of all of the families who had moved out of town. She said those people could no longer afford to stay, because wealthy urbanites’ holiday homes had driven up property taxes.
But the summer people don't have any reason to support the schools.
“It just doesn’t seem right,” said one of the Brunch Bunch. Another added: “Because of the high cost of living, people – especially families – aren’t moving in because there is not a job to support them to be able to live here. So the school enrolment doesn’t increase, and we still have to pay the burden of the school as part of the taxes.”
Meanwhile, are the businesses that cater to the summer people bringing in seasonal workers from overseas?

It's not as simple as it looks.  In the article, we see a picture purporting to be an "abandoned motel" in Sheboygan.  Closed and awaiting demolition, more likely.  In the background, a newish Sleep Inn, one of the chains catering to the itinerant, complete with free Wi-Fi and probably a pool, neither of which the abandoned motel likely offered.  The motels in question are on Motel Road.  The Sleep Inn is well placed for traffic on Interstate 43, the abandoned predecessor catered to motorists on the old, two-lane Highway 141.  Might also provide capacity when a major golf event hits Whistling Straits.