30.1.18

ABANDONING SCHOLARSHIP FOR ADVOCACY?

Peter Temin had a choice in offering The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy as a reasoned analysis of technical change or development economics or macroeconomics, or as an audition to become a court intellectual for Nation and Progressive readers.  He chose the latter course.  Perhaps, this Book Review No. 5 will argue, because to do so enabled him to write a shorter book.

GO BACK TO YOUR DISTRICTS, AND THINK ABOUT HOW TO IMPROVE CONDITIONS THEREIN!

A number of Members of Congress are passing on the opportunity for a photo-op with Our President during tonight's Speech from the Throne State of the Union.  Their motivation for doing so is some combination of pique, or anger, or perhaps Virtue Signalling to the Cool Kids.  What's interesting, though, is the degree of overlap between Members Declaring Their Resistance and Members Representing Districts full of Constituents Rendered Helpless by Democrats.  Put bluntly, s***-hole districts.

MAYBE DESEGREGATION WORKED?

The logic of civil rights led to a series of Supreme Court rulings that "separate but equal" was internally inconsistent.  Thus, common schools, eateries, or private and public parks, must be open to all comers without regard to race or colors, and state flagship universities must be open to qualified applicants, a point that required federal muscle to enforce.

What, then, happens to the institutional infrastructure of de jure segregation?  Might the colleges and universities thus set up have been separate, unequal (as those rulings held) and, as desegregation becomes law and emerges as practice, superfluous?

That's got investigative reporters at Atlanta's Journal-Constitution working.
In analyzing federal data for an in-depth examination of the nation’s historically black colleges and universities, the AJC found that the six-year graduation rates at 20 schools were 20 percent or lower in 2015.

This means that four of five beginning freshmen at those schools didn’t earn a degree within six years.
The paper promises an extended series on these institutions, which still have great sentimental value among Americans with African roots, and in civil rights constituencies viewed more generally.  And yet, higher education is devoid of any original thinking about how, best, to make those colleges or universities competitive in the market for degrees.
“Yes, there are some HBCUs that have low graduation rates,” said Marybeth Gasman, an education professor at the University of Pennsylvania who directs the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions, in an email to the AJC.  “And some that are in the single digits. . . . This is problematic and a school must do better by having summer bridge programs, peer-to-peer mentoring, student success centers — all focused on increasing retention and graduation rates.” 
I don't know, that seems to presuppose that such schools are unable to compete in the U. S. News league tables, and must somehow build graduating classes out of Distressed Material.  Or, perhaps, is the professor suggesting that Jim Crow is still with us, if in a less explicit form?
To [close underachieving colleges] would be to further dismantle Jim Crow. Texas Southern and Southern are among the historically black colleges and universities. Presumably the point of integrating Ole Miss and Texas and the like is to compel the state flagship universities to admit the best, irrespective of, as we used to say, race, creed, or color. If there is excess capacity in access-assessment-remediation-retention, might the institutions set up to maintain segregation not be a good place to look?
Or perhaps, yet again, higher education is somehow the inculcator-of-middle-class-skills of last resort.
“Graduation rates directly correlate with the income of the student body. More low income students — typically, lower graduation rates. Why? Because low-income students don’t have access to the same college prep opportunities and because they don’t have the financial safety nets of middle and upper income students. Please note that institutions that have very few Pell Grant-eligible students typically have very, very high graduation rates.”
Yes, and the reality of many, perhaps the majority, of collegians involves some elements of financial insecurity or food insecurity or perhaps parents or siblings or children dependent on their efforts outside the classroom.  All the same, how long can higher education go on offering students from difficult circumstances a simulacrum of a real degree, whilst blaming the difficult circumstances on globalization or assorted other -ations, -isms, and -phobias?

BEING RIGHTLY UNIMPRESSED.

That's the theme of the day at a Cafe Hayek roundup of posts deconstructing a variety of Popular Perspectives.  Enjoy.

NO ELEPHANTS, NO CIRCUS.

Monaco's Princess Stephanie, who sent official greetings to the Worldwide Circus Summit, gets it.

Corbis photo, via Getty Images, retrieved from People.

She also gets the preening virtue-signallers, cold.
Stephanie went on to describe these attacks as coming from “a minority who wish to impose their will upon others”, refused “to negotiate” or “see how the industry has evolved”

She also deplored what she described, the chicness of animal defense among certain “bobo” types.

“It’s become a fashion,” she told AFP. “It’s like being vegetarian, vegan.” Most critics, she claimed, haven’t been to the circus or understand how artists treat their animals while audiences do.

“When you see the numbers who come to the circus, you understand that we don’t get that by abusing animals.”
Yes, although it's easier to preen about animal abuse than to understand how short the life of an abusive animal trainer would be.

29.1.18

CHASING THE BLUE RIBAND.

That's a now-obscure honor for the fastest transatlantic liner.  Before airships, though, Cunard designed liners (their names all ending in -ia) for speed; competitor White Star's ships (names all ending in -ic) went for luxury and for volume, allegations of Titanic making a play for a speed record notwithstanding.  That didn't prevent carriers of other countries from contending for the Riband, and in the interwar years German companies commissioned their own liners.

One such liner, Cap Arcona, designed more for luxury and volume than for speed, entered service, primarily for the South Atlantic trade, in the late 1920s.  Her subsequent career, as prop for a movie, and as prison ship, becomes material for Robert P. Watson's The Nazi Titanic: The Incredible Untold Story of a Doomed Ship in World War II.

Thus Book Review No. 4Cap Arcona entered service just as the Depression began, and with the coming of the Nazi government, making a crossing on a German-registered ship became something that Just.  Wasn't.  Done.  On the other hand, putting the ship into service with the Strength through Joy political education cum recreation enterprise kept the ship afloat and in service.  With the coming of war ... now, that's an expensive hull with deteriorating machinery, and thus its use as a floating prop.  Josef Göbbels had the idea of discrediting the British by class-shaming their institutions, and what better way to do that than make a movie about the sinking of Titanic with a particularly National Socialist spin on Jewish plutocracy and British snobbery?  Conveniently, there's a large, idle ship that's not going anywhere (not that it's going to carry troops to land in Britain anyway) at hand.  Later, as the war starts to go badly for Germany, that large, idle, ship is not going to help evacuate anybody from East Prussia or the Baltic States.  On the other hand, it might be a place to hold concentration camp prisoners until they can be evacuated (the Germans devoting resources to concealing their deeds, even at the expense of protecting civilians or conducting a fighting withdrawal).

A large ship, however, is a military target, and some of the largest, and most unremarked, shipwrecks of the War era involved German liners removing refugees only to be found by Soviet submariners and British aircraft.  Thus came the end of Cap Arcona, just before the end of the War, at anchor off Lubeck.  British ground forces were close enough by then to rescue a few survivors, who their German captors had left to die.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

GETTING STEAMED UP.

None of The Pennsylvania Railroad's T1 passenger locomotives made it into preservation.  Perhaps they were the wrong technological fix at the dawn of the diesel age, or perhaps the cash-strapped, formerly Standard Railroad of the World, couldn't maintain them properly.

There's a serious effort under way to build a new locomotive using the T1 plans, and the current fundraising effort is to finance two boiler courses.  The nose, cab, and one driving axle are to hand, as is a coast-to-coast tender reclaimed from work train service.

Don't buy your tickets for the Admiral or Trail Blazer just yet, dear reader, the plans are to have a finished locomotive in 2030 or so.

LIVING AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS.

Perhaps in the Speech from the Throne State of the Union message, Our President will clarify what he'd like to do about fixing the "crumbling" (read publicly-financed) roads, sewers, and airports.  Yes, I'm going to be specific about that distinction.  Railroads are also part of "infrastructure" and one reason they don't get mentioned is the propensity of investors, where the return on investment justifies, to build faster bridges and add tracks through rough places.

Our President might be toying with changing the way in which the federal government pays for internal improvements.  The Interstate Highway system, for instance, required the states to put up ten percent of the money for construction, while the other ninety percent went through Washington.  The states remained on the hook for policing and snow removal, as well as maintenance, and, not surprisingly, we ended up with potentially more mileage than the states could maintain, and, from time to time, new federal appropriations to make good on the repairs.  That's not the only way in which states get inefficiently much road capacity.

Propose, though, that the states take more ownership of their roads, and let the cries rise up to Heaven.
Instead of the grand, New Deal-style public works program that Trump's eye-popping price tag implies, Democratic lawmakers and mayors fear the plan would set up a vicious, zero-sum scramble for a relatively meager amount of federal cash — while forcing cities and states to scrounge up more of their own money, bringing a surge of privately financed toll roads, and shredding regulations in the name of building projects faster.
Considering the more recent record, starting with the Interstates and continuing through "urban renewal," perhaps trying something new, including more toll roads, and more local responsibility might not be such a bad thing.
The White House defends its approach as an overdue shift from decades of federal spending and control.

"The Washington establishment still thinks that infrastructure can only be built correctly if they make all the decisions and control the purse strings, but one look at the crumbling bridges and roads across America shows that approach has failed," deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said in a statement. "Instead of sending taxpayer money to DC only to have it eventually trickle back down to communities along with a host of new restrictions and requirements, the President wants to allow communities to keep more of their funds and make their own decisions, and to simplify the federal bureaucratic maze.”
But sending the money to Washington and commingling it with other peoples' money prolongs the fiction that the stuff is cheaper, at least for the projects that get funded.
For most transit agencies, accustomed to a 50 percent federal share for most capital investment grants, reducing that to 20 percent is “a nonstarter,” transit consultant Jeff Boothe said. He said it could disrupt work in communities where voters approved ballot measures to raise money for projects.
Perhaps transit authorities will take steps to extend the life of their rolling stock rather than replace buses or cars more quickly, which is what capital grants do. We might also see fewer proposals for recreational streetcar projects. In Milwaukee, for instance, is it really a civic liability that until recently the city was the largest metropolitan area without one?

John Tierney is thinking along similar lines where misappropriation of public money is concerned.
The goal is to stimulate grass-roots creativity along with $1 trillion in spending, as Trump promised during his campaign, with most of the money coming from user fees and local tax dollars, not Washington.

This philosophical shift appalls many members of Congress, especially Democrats who want to go on showering federal largesse on their union supporters, but it’s the only practical way to pay for the necessary work. It’s also the only way to force localities to focus on cost-effective projects, instead of squandering other people’s money on boondoggles like the infamous “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska or the bullet train to nowhere in California.

Making local taxpayers and users pay for their bridges, roads, and transit systems may sound radical, but it was the standard approach during America’s rise as an industrial power in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. New York built the Brooklyn Bridge and the subway system on its own, mostly by relying on private companies. Why should it need help from Washington just to maintain them? Why should taxpayers in Texas subsidize the outrageously inflated costs of running and upgrading New York’s subway system? If New York politicians want to reward campaign contributors and union supporters with sweetheart contracts, they should give the bill to their own constituents.

Washington didn’t take on a major infrastructure role until the Great Depression, when both Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt justified federal programs as a way to combat unemployment and promote economic growth. Those rationales are still used today despite the abundant evidence, most recently from the Obama administration’s stimulus program, of how ineffective such federal spending is. Politicians of both parties like to believe that it takes wise central planners to coordinate a nation’s infrastructure—a myth typically justified by pointing to the Interstate highway system, begun by Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s and lauded by its boosters ever since as “the greatest public works project in history.”

In reality, though, the Interstate system is the most powerful illustration of how a perfectly sound and seemingly simple project can be ruined by central planners. There was no need to nationalize highways, which had traditionally been a state responsibility. Pennsylvania and other states pioneered the expressway era with their own network of turnpikes, which generated plenty of revenue to maintain the roads while repaying the bondholders who financed them. But then Eisenhower and Congress, arguing that a highway network was necessary for national defense, concentrated money, power, and decision-making in Washington.

The new Interstate system, financed by gas taxes, seemed to work well at first. Drivers marveled at how they could zoom on open highways without stopping at traffic lights or toll booths. But the Interstates were ultimately doomed by the inherent inflexibility and political deal-making of a centralized system. The highways were needlessly expensive, particularly in cities. In order to get urban members of Congress to go along, Washington bribed them with extra money to build highways that obliterated neighborhoods; the projects would never have been built if cities and states had been spending their own money. The damage to cities was compounded by Washington’s one-size-fits-all requirements to build highways with wide lanes and shoulders—an attractive safety feature for an expressway through the prairies of Kansas but one that doesn’t make sense in a dense urban neighborhood.  Worst of all, the central planners outlawed tolls on new federally funded highways, thus preventing states from using a financing mechanism that would have ensured proper long-term maintenance and could be used to reduce congestion at peak times.

The result, half a century later: a highway system that no longer works. It’s horribly congested and in bad shape physically. Much of the system needs to be rebuilt because the highways are at the end of their useful life, yet there’s not even enough money to maintain the existing roads. That’s partly because gas taxes haven’t kept up with inflation and partly because Congress has been raiding the highway “trust fund” for non-highway projects like transit systems, museums, bike paths, and trails for snowmobiles and horses.

But that’s also the good news: the shortage of government revenue means that politicians must look for alternative sources. They’ve turned to private companies to maintain and build highways in Virginia, Indiana, Florida, Colorado, Texas, and other states.
We'll be watching.

REDISCOVERING THE TRAGIC VISION.

University of Toronto psychology professor (!) Jordan Peterson has become something of a pop-culture sensation, simply by refusing to let some British info-babe get away with Phil Donahue style motive-questioning and position-simplifying.  David Brooks, perhaps as partial atonement for his approval of the crease of a politician's trousers, discovers in Mr Peterson's work the message that substance matters.  "Parents, universities and the elders of society have utterly failed to give many young men realistic and demanding practical wisdom on how to live."  It's a Wizard of Oz moment: the lion always had courage, but he never had a Testimonial.
The implied readers of his work are men who feel fatherless, solitary, floating in a chaotic moral vacuum, constantly outperformed and humiliated by women, haunted by pain and self-contempt. At some level Peterson is offering assertiveness training to men whom society is trying to turn into emasculated snowflakes.

Peterson gives them a chance to be strong. He inspires their idealism by telling them that life is hard. His worldview begins with the belief that life is essentially a series of ruthless dominance competitions. The strong get the spoils and the weak become meek, defeated, unknown and unloved.

For much of Western history, he argues, Christianity restrained the human tendency toward barbarism. But God died in the 19th century, and Christian dogma and discipline died with him. That gave us the age of ideology, the age of fascism and communism — and with it, Auschwitz, Dachau and the gulag.Since then we’ve tried another way to pacify the race. Since most conflict is over values, we’ve decided to not have any values. We’ll celebrate relativism and tolerance. We deny the true nature of humanity and naïvely pretend everyone is nice. The upside is we haven’t blown ourselves up; the downside is we live in a world of normlessness, meaninglessness and chaos.

All of life is perched, Peterson continues, on the point between order and chaos. Chaos is the realm without norms and rules.
Perhaps, as Mr Brooks appears to be arguing, there are opportunities to take a more nuanced view of the tragic vision. And yet Mr Brooks and Mr  Peterson appear to be suggesting, at root, that the denial or deconstruction of coherent beliefs does not lead to sunlit uplands of higher consciousness.  They produce incoherence.

THE LOTKE-VOLTERRA CRASH IS COMING.

Opening the Great Lakes to ocean shipping never delivered much by way of commercial benefit, although it delivered a lot of invasive species.  What happens, though, when the invader mussels strain out all the plankton?
In analyzing satellite images between 1998 and 2012, researchers at the Michigan Tech Research Institute were surprised to find that lakes Michigan and Huron are now clearer than Lake Superior. In a study published late last year, the researchers say limiting the amount of agricultural and sewage runoff in the lake has had an immense impact. However, the emergence of invasive mussels, which number in the trillions and have the ability to filter the entire volume of Lake Michigan in four to six days, has had an even greater effect.

“When you look at the scientific terms, we are approaching some oceanic values,” said Michael Sayers, a research engineer at Michigan Tech and co-author of the study. “We have some ways to go, but we are getting a lot closer to Lake Tahoe. A lot of times, you’ll hear from people that the water is so blue it compares to something in tropical areas.”

While appealing, the clarity comes at a significant cost to wildlife. In filtering the lake, the mussels have decimated the phytoplankton, a single-celled, green algae that serves as the base of the food chain. For much of the past decade, prey fish, like alewives, have remained at historic lows, prompting state managers to scale back the annual stocks of prized predators, such as king salmon.

The startling evolution has called into question the future of Great Lakes marine life and the region’s $7 billion fishing industry.

“Clearer is not necessarily better,” said Robert Shuchman, co-director of the Michigan Tech Research Institute. “Clearer water means less phytoplankton in the water column, and they’re the basic building block in the food web. The idea is, the little fish eat algae, and the bigger fish eat the little fish.

“There are some folks out there now that think Lake Michigan and Huron could become ecological deserts from a fishing standpoint. The food web could totally collapse because you don’t have the various organisms you need to sustain it.”

For ages, the phytoplankton fed the zooplankton, which were eaten by small, foraging fish. As the fast-filtering mussels reduce the plankton populations, there isn’t enough food to support the diet of many foraging fish. In addition, there’s not enough plankton or nutrients clouding the water to hide these small prey fish from predator fish.
Read the full article, and you'll see that introducing other sorts of fish, or relying on the appetites of the round goby, won't necessarily work the problem. At the same time, there's a Malthusian trap at work where the mussels are concerned.
Scientists say the invasive mussels may have reached their limits. With less plankton, the concentration of mussels in Lake Michigan dropped 40 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to a yet-to-be published report by Buffalo State College’s Great Lakes Center. But the total weight of mussels in the lake has risen, suggesting the surviving mussels are growing larger, said Alexander Karatayev, the center’s director. It’s unclear what this might mean in the future.

“However, it is extremely important to keep monitoring the (quagga mussel) population to understand if this decline is a long-term trend and if the population eventually will stabilize or will fluctuate substantially,” Karatayev said.

For now, better fisheries management has helped Lake Michigan see a return of lake trout.
I'll repeat a caution I issued a few years ago. "Although the researchers can quantify the various fish and mussel populations in the Lakes, they ought be careful about modulating the cycles."  Perhaps, though, closing the Seaway and further modifying the Sanitary and Ship Canal at Chicago will forestall additional arrivals with few natural enemies.

27.1.18

GANGBANGERS WITH LONGSHIPS?

The ten most recent episodes of History Channel Vikings underwhelmed.  That is a rant for another day, though.  Today, Book Review No. 3 will consider Jonathan Clements's A Brief History of the Vikings: The Last Pagans or the First Modern Europeans?  (Spoiler alert: a little of both, and neither.)  Mr Clements concentrates on material recorded in contemporary sagas and chronicles, so as to ground his story in something resembling sources.  Most of the action in the History Channel series takes place earlier: there being no mention of Ragnar Lothbrok, Rollo the duke of Normandy, or Lagertha, or of any shield-maidens.  We see references to the "Great Heathen Host" led by Ivar the Boneless, Halfdan the Wide-Grabber, and Ubbi in England around 870, with Alfred becoming king in 871, and paying danegeld.  Harald Fairhair was in fact spurned by a woman early in life, but he never became king of all the Norse lands.  Raven-Floki arrives in Iceland about the same time.  Iceland, however, doesn't require an adventurous sail across open ocean: rather, it is visible on warm early spring days from the Faeroe Islands.

I witnessed that phenomenon on a more prosaic cross-Lake Michigan cruise in May, 2014.

THE UPGRADES ARE TACKY AND TEMPORARY.

Even the attempts to improve New York's Pennsylvania Station go awry.

Here's what building for the ages looked like.


Apparently, even a new suburban-level concourse making easier connections between Long Island or Jersey Coast trains and the Eighth Avenue subway and a street exit into the old Post Office is tacky and shoddy.
The floor of Penn Station’s newly opened “state-of-the-art” West End Concourse is already cracking at the seams.

The $300 million underground concourse — which opened in June to connect the transit hub to the James A. Farley Post Office on Eighth Avenue — is plagued with at least a half-dozen large fissures, some a quarter of an inch wide and nearly 20 feet long, and numerous smaller cracks.
There's never enough time to do it right the first time, but evidently there will be plenty of time to do it over.
Kenn Gaither, 57, a city tour guide, said he first noticed the fissures in December. And they’ve only grown since, he said.

“We were all so excited when it opened. It looked so clean and well-lit,” Gaither said of the space. “But we haven’t even gotten through the first year, and it’s already starting to fall apart.”

The new concourse was part of the first phase of a larger $1.6 billion construction project at the transit hub.
Fat lot of good that will do, if the North River tubes fail. That's a non-trivial risk.
There are too many people in Penn Station because there are too many trains—more than 1,300 arrivals and departures every weekday, twice the number from four decades ago. With so much traffic, small problems routinely compound into big ones; a 10-minute delay for one train backs up dozens more, and then tens of thousands of people are kept from their destinations. Every late train bleeds the economy: Executives miss board meetings, tourists don’t spend, hourly workers get a smaller paycheck.
Yes, current daily loadings approach peak volumes in the middle of the War, a time when Erie or Lackawanna commuters were riding trains to their own Hoboken terminals, rather than on NJ Transit trains into Penn Station, and many of the Jersey Coast passengers were using Exchange Place.  The Pennsylvania Railroad never anticipated commuter ridership growing the way it did (and with no place to run new expressways into Manhattan, we're not done yet) and thought they could get away with a shrunken "redeveloped" Pennsylvania Station.
The addition of New Jersey Transit trains in the 1990s was both an economic boon to the region—I bought a house in Maplewood, N.J., in 1996 so I could ride the new Midtown Direct to work—and the beginning of Penn Station’s transformation from mere malodorous eyesore to Hieronymus Bosch-grade hellhole. With Jersey commuters swarming the place, farsighted politicians presented grand visions for upgrading it. They all failed.
The North River tubes, moreover, are life-expired.
Amtrak says that within seven years, one of them is likely to have been so weakened by Sandy’s aftereffects that it will have to be taken out of service for at least 18 months’ worth of repairs. “There will come a time when the reliability of the tunnels starts to decay,” says Charles “Wick” Moorman, the co-CEO of Amtrak until the end of 2017. “The curve, once it starts, may be fairly sharp. We’ll just have to see. Nobody knows. This is a great science experiment. Kids playing with chemicals.”

If Amtrak and New Jersey Transit have to rely on a single Hudson tunnel, they could operate just six trains an hour, rather than the current 24.
Yes, and Exchange Place, the Erie terminal, and the Jersey Central terminal are long gone, or out of service and off the rail network.
These commuters could try to cram onto the Port Authority’s PATH trains, which carry 292,000 commuters a day through different Hudson tunnels, but they’re already near capacity. There are always ferries. But does a region that has prided itself on being ahead of the rest of the world truly want to see the large-scale return of a mode of transportation from the 19th century?

Others could drive to work, but the trans-Hudson bridges and tunnels available to cars already have punishing rush-hour delays. Imagine the backups, road rage, and pollution if tens of thousands of additional commuters had to use them.
Might be good for real-estate values in Hoboken and the Palisades, or perhaps a selling point for Cleveland or Milwaukee. Providing an improved concourse in the Post Office building, though?
Meanwhile, across the street from the station, work has begun on the renovation of the James A. Farley Post Office building—the Beaux Arts masterpiece Senator Moynihan eyed in the 1990s. Separate from the Gateway project, it’s being converted into a new entrance hall for Amtrak and LIRR trains (and a glassy shopping center) and is scheduled to open in 2020. In August, Cuomo, who’s widely seen as considering a bid for the presidency, held a triumphant press conference at the site that had the feel of a political rally. “At a time when there is confusion in this country, and there is anger in this country, and there’s anxiety and despair, New York is headed in the only direction we know, which is going forward!” he said, slicing the air with his right hand.

But the $1.6 billion Moynihan Train Hall, as it will be known, isn’t likely to significantly reduce congestion, according to NYU’s Moss. Amtrak and LIRR passengers will still be able to access the train complex from the existing Penn Station, which is a block closer to the center of Manhattan. (The Cuomo administration says the impact will be greater.) Moss is among those who scoff at the idea of prettying the upper-level train station experience when what lies beneath is a such mess. “We don’t need a transit temple,” he says. “We need to focus on the tunnels and getting more tracks into Manhattan.”
We'll be watching.

SEEING OFF TOXIC EUNUCHISM?

Megan McArdle suggests it's time to listen to the "bad feminists."
I have now had dozens of conversations about #MeToo with women my age or older, all of which are some variant on “What the hey?” It’s not that we’re opposed to #MeToo; we are overjoyed to see slime like Harvey Weinstein flushed out of the woodwork, and the studio system. But we see sharp distinctions between Weinstein and guys who press aggressively -- embarrassingly, adulterously -- for sex. To women in their 20s, it seems that distinction is invisible, and the social punishments demanded for the latter are scarcely less than those meted out for forcible rape.

There’s something else we notice, something that seems deeply connected to these demands for justice: These women express a feeling of overwhelming powerlessness, even though they are not being threatened, either physically or economically. How has the most empowered generation of women in all of human history come to feel less control over their bodies than their grandmothers did?

Let me propose a possible answer to this, suggested by a very smart social scientist of my acquaintance: They feel this way because we no longer have any moral language for talking about sex except consent. So when men do things that they feel are wrong -- such as aggressively pursuing casual sex without caring about the feelings of their female target -- we’re left flailing for some way to describe this as non-consensual, even when she agreed to the sex.

Under the old code, of course, we had ample condemnatory terms for men who slept with women carelessly, without much regard for their feelings: cads and rakes, bounders and boors. Those words have now decayed into archaism. Yet it seems to me that these are just the words that young women are reaching for, when instead they label things like mutually drunken encounters and horrible one-night stands as an abuse of power, a violation of consent--which is to say, as a crime, or something close to it. To which a lot of other people incredulously respond: now being a bad lover is a crime?
Yes, that's a bit of jiu-jitsu by Ms McArdle, using bad to refer to those feminists who aren't all over the latest effusion from the fever swamps of intersectionality, rather than to the Thought Leaders who have over the years made a virtue of being Bad (or Mad, Bad, Imbruited.)  Furthermore, that's something regular readers of Cold Spring Shops have understood, for years.
This isn’t working. And perhaps a little expansion of our moral language will illuminate not just our current dilemma, but the structural reasons behind it. I’m thinking of a fairly recent paper by political scientist Michael Munger, which introduced the concept of euvoluntary exchange. Put simply, though we talk a great deal about voluntary exchange, the fact is that we often think voluntary exchanges are morally wrong. After all, the quid pro quo offered by [Harvey] Weinstein was in some sense voluntary, and yet also, totally unacceptable. Likewise price gouging after natural disasters, blackmail and similar breaches.

We have an intuition, says Professor Munger, that in order for an exchange to be really valid, both parties need to have a minimally acceptable alternative to making the deal. And in the case of sex, I think that often women no longer feel they have those alternatives. So expanding Professor Munger’s analysis to consensual sex -- we might call it euconsensual sex -- may give us some insight into what’s gone wrong.

My generation of women was not exactly unfamiliar with casual sex, or aggressive come-ons. But we didn’t feel so traumatized by them or so outraged. If we went to a man’s apartment, we might be annoyed that he wouldn’t stop asking, but we weren’t offended, nor did we feel it was impossible for us to refuse, or leave.

But then, I came of age in the liminal moment after AIDS complicated the sexual revolution, and before the internet turbocharged it. In part because casual sex was so risky, there was still a robust dating culture, which gave women alternatives to the nightly chase. Most of us chose those alternatives, which in turn limited the ability of heterosexual men to choose the nightly chase over dating.
Yes, and the rabbit culture had not yet implanted itself fully in men's minds. There were observers who saw it coming.
One has to wonder how different things would have been if feminism had demanded economic freedom for women and denounced the sexual revolution in the interest of preserving womens' traditional roles as the guardians of chastity. This would have gained for women the equal pay and opportunity they deserved while at the same time ensuring that women who wanted to raise families would find willing husbands-to-be.

Such a situation would also have spread the gains from feminism. Today the only victors in the sexual revolution are those men and women who are good-looking and clever enough to enjoy multiple partners with a minimum of emotional and financial commitment. The dowdy and the not-so-clever (or not-so-unscrupulous) are used by the well-endowed and find loneliness and frustration where, in a previous generation, they would probably have been able to start families.
We add some new language to the vocabulary, "bad feminists," "euconsensual sex," and yet, aren't we exactly where the older heads suggested we would be?
If there are enough women willing to accommodate men who approach romance like a deranged mink, then other women will feel they have to go along. It is no more realistic to tell an individual woman to opt out of this dynamic than it would be to encourage her to bring down capitalism by quitting her job. Since our society does not consider sitting home alone in your apartment night after night to be a minimally acceptable alternative to casual sex, women may feel that the sex they agree to is consensual, but not euconsensual. And they end up feeling violated when it becomes clear that he is (yes, again) interested in only the one thing.

But if this is indeed the difference between my generation and theirs, then what do we do with our new moral language? How do we get to a place where today’s young women have adequate alternatives to dispiriting sex modeled on ubiquitous porn?
Rediscover the evolutionary stability of the traditional virtues?
If you cast an eye back over history you’ll see that what most societies have actually come up with is the social equivalent of a cartel: if you want the sex, you’re going to first have to invest in some sort of relationship, because it’s not (readily) available any other way. Those regimes, of course, were often quite punishing to women, but then, that’s how cartels often work; when a cartel member cheats by selling below the fixed price, it is the member, not their customer, who suffers retaliation from the rest of the cartel.

Which suggests an uncomfortable possibility. No, not a neo-Victorian morals police to force morally loose women out of town. But a decision by women to force better behavior from the men who offend them, and even to browbeat other women into going along.
Rediscover the tragic vision?
We did not expect men to perfect themselves. We believed that our own power, as individual women, was both necessary and adequate to create the world we wanted. We also understood that using those powers might sometimes be unpleasant. But how much better to be the one who chooses -- by telling a cad to go (expletive) himself -- than to wait, as patiently as some Victorian maiden, for the men to solve our problems for us.
Rediscover gentlemen?  Peggy Noonan suggested as much, in a Wall Street Journal column temporarily in paywall limbo (her stuff eventually makes its way to her site, albeit with a lag) that Rick Moran expanded upon.
When I was growing up in the 1960s, I learned what a gentleman was by observing my father. He was strong without being a bully. He respected people -- especially women -- without being obsequious. He was solicitous of other people's feelings. He was empathetic toward those less fortunate. He was kind, loving, and attentive to his wife. He was somewhat reserved, but that was probably due to his upbringing in an immigrant Irish family.

I don't think he ever gave me instructions on how to treat a female except to say gentlemen don't hit women. When I began to date, I knew what the word "no" meant and always proceeded under the assumption that the woman would tell me if I was doing something that made her uncomfortable. As a good Catholic boy, I didn't try and stretch the boundaries anyway, even though I realize today that many women are incapable -- for one reason or another -- of saying "no" to a man.
You'd think that in two or three thousand years, we might have gotten a few things right. "I don't think there's any doubt that if there were more gentlemen in the world and more empathy, much social friction between the sexes and the races would disappear." So much more thrilling, though, to deconstruct everything, question everything, break many things and call it Progress.

Pajamas Media's D. C. McAllister continues the argument, only in her formulation, the "bad feminists" are Ladies.  "The sexual revolution brought us a second, third, and fourth wave of feminism that quickly devolved from the lofty goals of those who fought for equal rights to the gutter where women act just like men." Yes, regular readers know that, and yet it's more important that the idea catch on (after everything else has failed?) rather than that the early adopters claim credit.

How do we know that everything else has failed?  We see that mad, bad, and imbruited is futile.
We splash our bodies across the internet for the world to see. We act like either men or whores, but hardly ever as ladies. We reject feminine gentleness for bitchiness. We scoff at female discretion and chastity and applaud our nastiness. We objectify ourselves, as well as men; dominate in sex just like men; and have mechanical detached, dehumanized sex while complaining that we can’t find a strong, loving gentleman who treats us with dignity and respect.
Yes, and conducting yourselves in such a way that the pickup artists benefit from the misery by coaching men to offer anything but dignity and respect.

It's not turning the clock back, it's seeking a state of good repair in human interaction.

THE CASE FOR CALCULATING THE GOING CONCERN VALUE.

Rush Limbaugh took a call from a resident of Port Huron that touched on a variety of things.  One part of the conversation stood out to me.
RUSH: I just turned 67. When I was your age, my grandfather and people his age were telling me that if we didn’t get a handle as a nation on the national debt, that by the time I was ready to retire, I wouldn’t be able to because the country would be in such dire financial straits. So I spent my early years thinking the national debt was something really important, and I saw it get bigger and bigger. I never heard anybody talk about reducing it, and I remembered people I trusted and loved telling me it was gonna be the end of the country.

Now, here I am 50 years later, and we’re in the midst of an economic revival. The national debt is over $20 trillion. It was doubled in the eight years of Obama. We are running budget deficits every year, and I have yet to see any evidence that the national debt is causing us any harm at all. The theory is that if the government owes so much money that they have to borrow to pay money, the interest on that debt, and that that leaves less money in the private sector for people like you and me to borrow to buy homes, to buy cars, whatever we would need to borrow money for. That hasn’t happened. I mean, the credit markets are wide open. Look at people’s credit card debt.
We might have to fear yet another credit bubble, complete with liar loans and all the rest, and yet, without a proper understanding of the going concern value of the United States, we're going to continue to have this confusion over whether large public debts are or are not trouble.  I'll repeat.  The Treasury is a long way from not being able to service the borrowing.  Now, if our political masters could get their act together long enough to pass a series of clean appropriations for the current functions of government, in such a way that Perils of Pauline adventures involving the debt ceiling, continuing resolutions, and whatever sideshow posturing politicians see fit to bundle with the ceiling extension or the continuing resolution cease, at least for a few years!

Rent-seekers, however, gotta rent-seek, and posturing politicians gotta pretend they're Doing Something.  (It's For Your Own Good, and We'll All Be Better Persons For It.)
Nobody’s saying no when you want to borrow money, unless you’re an absolute, total risk. So all these things — and I still don’t have an answer for this. I can still find people, Greg, who sound today just like my grandfather did 50 years ago. “The national debt will be the end of the country!” Look, I wish the government was smaller, and I wish more Americans felt they didn’t need it. I wish the government was smaller because I don’t like it involving itself in as many aspects of people’s lives as it can.

Because there’s a certain political class that wants to do that, believing that you and I are incompetent and incapable. They want to manage our affairs, manage our lives for the sheer power of it. But, man, you get there, I guess, and the idea that you have all this money to spend and people love you after you spend it? It’s gotta be one heck of an aphrodisiac. There have been people who try to make the government smaller. The Republicans balanced the budget one time, in 1995.
The caller is aware, dear reader, that perhaps the best thing for government to do is to go away.
CALLER: I live just fine without government. You know, just like we’re required to have health care. I can’t work more than 19 hours a week because I have to have health care. But I’m young and I’m not sick. Same thing. You know, I just don’t need government telling me what to do.

RUSH: What I would urge you to do is not change. We’re gonna need as many people like you who learn this stuff at your age and then hold on to it and learn how to defend it, fight for it and all that, because you’re gonna be up against people your age just like you described. They almost descend into a panic when they hear the government shutting down. They don’t even know what it means. But they still get into some sort of great fear that something’s not gonna be able to be available or happen or whatever. It’s a great illustration of just how successfully the Big Government crowd has been in convincing people they can’t live even a day without it.
Whether that is because the Big Government crowd sees the benefits of expanding the scope of Collective Action By Force for their own benefit, i.e. becoming parasitic on the body politic, or because rent-seekers have sold an expansion of that scope so as to benefit by it, i.e. becoming parasitic in a different way does not matter here.  What does matter is that the government sector has expanded beyond a state of symbiosis with the other forms of cooperative action.

23.1.18

HERBERT HOOVER FEARED NEWTON D. BAKER.

The first I ever heard of him was in reading David Pietrusza's 1932: The Rise of Hitler and FDR -- Two Tales of Politics, Betrayal, and Unlikely Destiny.  The Republicans viewed Franklin Roosevelt as the most beatable of the Democratic hopefuls, a somewhat crowded field that included losing 1928 nominee Alfred E. Smith.  That's just one of the parallels to the more recent presidential campaign.  I'll keep Book Review No. 2 brief and focus on some of the surprises, rather than summon all the echoes.

Two regional powers, one having recently failed to expand that power on its own continent, the other having discovered the ability to expand its power beyond its own hemisphere, grapple with the aftermath of a major war that includes an economic collapse beyond anyone's imagination.  In Germany, the discontents fester to such an extent that Communists and National Socialists, one a messianic movement inspired by German intellectuals and Russian revolutionaries, the other an incoherent movement inspired by rage and resentments, jockey for control of the Weimar Republic's parliament.  In the United States, the discontents are also present, if more diverse: in addition to the Communists and white supremacists who made the Ku Klux Klan a political force in the 1920s, there are disaffected war veterans seeking the bonuses promised them after the armistice, discontented Catholics listening to a politically active priest on their radios, and citizens amenable to several kinds of populism.

And yet, the political system in the United States held, while that of Germany failed, despite the Federal Constitution being one of the first attempts at building a government from scratch, while the Weimar Constitution made use of the best ideas from the best political philosophers.  There is likely a political science monograph, somewhere, on how the separation of powers into a head of government, the Chancellor, coming from the governing majority in the Reichstag in proper parliamentary fashion, with a head of state, the Reich President, being appointed separately, and in the case of the Weimar Republic, the one person all concerned could agree on was the Prussian field marshal Paul von Hindenburg, who really didn't want the job and would very much have preferred a crowned Hohenzollern as head of state.  The Kaiser, however, was not an option.

Thus, after much turmoil, 1932 began with a contested parliament, economic failure, and fighting in the streets in Germany, and it ended with the Nazis somehow managing to wrest control of the legal machinery of government.

In the United States, the rise of Franklin Roosevelt was anything but pre-ordained.  There was a lot of maneuvering going on, including the machinations of the aforementioned Al Smith and Newton Baker.  Throw in ... another surprise:  Clare Boothe Brokaw, divorced, swinging with Bernard Baruch, not yet the cultural icon the modern world knows.  Throw in Al Melgard, perhaps best known for welcoming the referee and linesmen to the ice with "Three Blind Mice" making a hash of "Anchors Aweigh" on the Chicago Stadium organ, but he could manage "Happy Days Are Here Again" and the Democrats kept that one until Walter Mondale and the San Francisco Democrats decided there were more votes for doubling down on the pessimism.  Finally, dear reader, consider Hillary Rodham Clinton's visualizations, early in her term as First Lady, of Eleanor Roosevelt.  There are a lot of reasons revealed in 1932 for her to consider that parallel, and not in a good way.  Instructive.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

FREE REIN TO 110 COMING TO MORE OF MICHIGAN.

The Wolverine and Blue Water services are on Amtrak's rails between Porter, Indiana and Kalamazoo, Michigan, where signalling and crossing protections are in place for 110 mph running.

The trackage between Kalamazoo and Dearborn is now property of the Michigan Department of Transportation, meaning no more depending on the tender mercies of the Norfolk Southern dispatcher, and somewhat faster timings are now in effect, with even faster timings to come.
"Between Porter, Ind., and Dearborn, this rail corridor is now dispatched by Amtrak staff, which ensures the efficient movement of passenger trains," said Tim Hoeffner, Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Office of Rail director. "We hope this encourages people to consider the train for their next trip, especially with upcoming construction and high traffic volumes along the I-94 corridor."

Maximum speeds on the line is 110 mph on the Amtrak-owned section between Porter and Kalamazoo. On the MDOT-owned portion, the maximum speeds are 79 mph, but they are expected to increase to 110 mph this year in certain sections once the testing of the positive train control system is completed and when new locomotives are put into service.
Perhaps it is time for another test ride, whether that will be to Ann Arbor or to Royal Oak is yet to be determined, come summertime.

REGULATION IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST GENERATES JUICY RENTS.

Now that the spring semester is with us, here is a timely observation by Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds in his USA Today column.
Requiring a high school diploma may not produce better barbers, but it will produce fewer barbers, which means less competition for existing barbers. This is how occupational licensing generally works. Legislators know that existing members of an occupation will be grateful for the protection; the people who are left out (and the consumers who pay more) aren’t organized the way existing barbers, or opticians, or flower arrangers are. And if you get a license, and then want to move, you usually have to go through the licensing procedure again in your new state, because they want to limit competition from outsiders.

It’s made worse by the fact that the regulatory boards are almost always made up of members of the profession being regulated. That means that the rules they make are almost always designed to protect their members, not the public, no matter what they say.
Yes, protecting the public interest morphs into protecting the cartel, with the connivance of people who will pose questions such as, "You're making an issue out of a few extra cents on a haircut, while getting some additional health protection?"

That will be on the final exam, regulated industries students.

IF YOU'RE SO SMART, WHY AREN'T YOU RICH?

First, the background.
Thus, the Fatal Conceit of the latter-day Platonists (the self-styled progressives) is in creating that cadre of Wise Experts who are going to protect the masses from their own foolishness. And if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. I like the idea of limiting and enumerating the powers of government, something that neither major party shows much interest in. That way, there aren't as many things the Wise Experts can screw up, and the opportunities for those in the masses who give in to their sheer foolishness to live at the expense of everyone else are fewer.
I wrote that in October, 2016, more in anticipation of a continuation of Hope and Change and hectoring Platonists than not.  Perhaps, though, there is the dawning of awareness among the Platonists.
Donald Trump is only the beginning of a populist retrenchment, one that faces great adversity from a well-entrenched globalist political class.

And that, rather than anything to do with Trump’s presidency, is what has gone horribly wrong in America. The broader ruling class in the country, the wealthy and politically connected, the best educated and most widely heard, have abandoned their countrymen. The very concept of citizenship, to say nothing of placing one’s fellow citizens above those whose loyalties are to other states and cultures, has fallen out of vogue among America’s most privileged.
Strong stuff. And yet, "This, and not Donald Trump’s temperament or tweets, is the real menace to the country: an elite that has lost the trust of the people because the people knows what the elite will not admit—namely, that it despises them" may not be wholly wrong.  You'd think that ten, or twenty, or fifty, or close to a century, of failures by the Platonists might eventually register with the electorates, all the hectoring and deplorable-shaming notwithstanding.

SEE YOU IN COURT.

Wisconsin's Supreme Court will hear Marquette political scientist John "Marquette Warrior" McAdams's suit alleging abuse of tenure policies in order to be rid of an inconvenient colleague.  The ruling, when it comes, might apply to state-supported and private colleges and universities alike.

EVERYTHING WE LIKE GOES AWAY.

The former Santa Fe High Level Lounge cars, which prefigured the Superliner Sightseer Lounges now in their fourth decade on the western cross-country trains as well as the Capitol Limited and City of New Orleans, earned a second life as the Pacific Parlour Cars on the Coast Starlight.


Their existence has been tenuous of recent years, with wintertime withdrawals of the stock "for renovation" being part of a more general trimming of the first class service on the Starlight.  Never mind that the carriage trade votes, even in rapidly Third-Worldifying California.

Now the Parlour Cars are going away, with no replacement first-class lounge provided.


So, too often, it is, because public authorities have no sense of how to offer amenities.

22.1.18

FAST, CHEAP DELIVERY IS NEITHER.

Trucking companies continue to grouse about driver shortages, yet this story about working conditions, from ten years ago, continues to ring true.
Spurred by a global economy that demands that goods be delivered on time and at low prices, business has never been so brisk and so cutthroat. Paid by the delivery, not the hour, the country's 350,000 independent truckers like [Roger] Kobernick are lashed to punishing schedules that practically force them to live in their rigs. Counting all their time on the job, some earn as little as $8 an hour.

Long hours, chaotic schedules and exhausting work conditions make for a potentially lethal formula--for truck drivers and everyone else on the road.
The speed-up is still with us. "Every day, port trucking companies around Los Angeles put hundreds of impaired drivers on the road, pushing them to work with little or no sleep in violation of federal safety regulations, a USA TODAY Network investigation found."  One inducement, the rent-to-own contract, appears to be a snare.
California port truckers have been forced to work long days against their will.

Over the past decade, many companies pushed drivers into debt by requiring them to buy trucks through company-sponsored lease-to-own programs.

Drivers found themselves trapped in jobs that paid them pennies per hour after expenses. If they complained or refused to work past the legal limit, they could be fired and lose their truck along with thousands they paid toward its purchase.

Trucking company executives contacted by USA TODAY Network denied allowing their drivers to violate fatigue rules. Some noted that two drivers sometimes share one truck, a practice that could account for long stints of activity.

“We believe your analysis of driver gate data is perhaps a bit misplaced,” said Kevin Dukesherer, president of Progressive Transportation Services.
On the other hand, perhaps the fleet operators benefitted from an economy with few alternatives for men (primarily) with strong bodies and not necessarily a trade or professional credential.  Perhaps that is changing.
Almost 400,000 people nationwide obtain commercial driver licenses every year. But the nomadic life and low pay fuels constant turnover. Trucking executives warn the country is desperately short of drivers to run the nation's fleet of 4 million heavy freight trucks, known as Class 8 vehicles.

While the American Trucking Association, a trade group near Washington, says truck lines immediately need 50,000 more drivers, an owner-operator group contends plenty of drivers are available. In short supply is freight.Too many trucks and truck lines have caused the big truck companies to actively turn over the staff of drivers in a bid to raise profit by recruiting novice drivers at lower compensation, said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, an organization in Grain Valley, Mo., representing about 160,000 owner-operators.

“People talk about the driver shortage. What they're really talking about is turnover,” Spencer said. "It’s a really tough job. You work hard and you work a lot. There's lots and lots of personal sacrifice. People get tired of the stress and leave."
Watch the inducements. The rent-to-own dodge appears to be an economy measure on the part of fleet operators seeking to reduce compensation, not exactly a winning recruiting strategy in a tight labor market.

BEING MUGGED BY REALITY.

Former Northeastern University president Richard M. Freeland hosts a pity-party.
Higher education leaders across the country are engaging in much hand-wringing over declining public confidence in colleges and universities. A variety of polls and surveys suggest multiple themes. Particularly prominent are findings that the value of college is declining in relation to the benefits. That reflects a belief that the cost of tuition has become excessive, combined with growing skepticism that a college degree confers economic security.

A second theme is that colleges and universities are havens for liberal ideologues whose values are at odds with those of most Americans. One recent survey found that a majority of Republicans and conservatives now think that higher education is having a negative impact on the direction of the country. A third element in the “public confidence” discussion is the perception that colleges and universities are essentially businesses, more concerned with their own well-being than with educating students or serving communities.
You can wring your hands. Or you can work the problems.

Declining value?  That's a self-inflicted problem. anybody else remember "to get a good job, get a good education" in Advertising Council television commercials and on car-cards?  Break the social contract, though, by inter alia admitting unprepared students and calling it access, then conferring diplomas on people who have trouble locating the nearest bathroom, and the only surprise is that it has taken the populace, let alone the hand-wringing leaders, so long to catch on.

Liberal ideologues whose values are at odds with those of normals?  That's not the main problem.  The main problem is that instead of being places to play with ideas and explore ramifications, higher education gives the impression of a place automatically sympathetic to the latest fever dreams of the intersectionality crowd and bent on deconstructing, nay interrogating,  anything that has emerged and demonstrated some redeeming values, whilst treating normality as a pathology.

Expense-preference behavior by administrators?  No kidding.

But Mr Freeland is not yet prepared to recognize that the old order changeth.
First, we must embrace the legitimacy of preparing young people for the workplace as part of undergraduate education. Embedded in doubts about the economic value of a college degree are perceptions that many colleges and universities, especially those that emphasize liberal education for undergraduates, do not take seriously their students’ focus on preparing for a job after graduation. There is, of course, more than a grain of truth in this perception. Champions of the liberal arts have often demonstrated disdain for the practical interests of students, and career counseling and placement offices at many colleges and universities have been neglected and marginal enterprises.
That strikes me as too narrow a perspective. Perhaps in the rarified world of the Ivies, you rack up the grades as best you can, then do an internship on Wall Street, K Street, or Capitol Hill, and then get the professional degree.  In the world where most of the higher education takes place, the selling point for a liberal arts degree is precisely to better be able to make connections, and get on the promotion track.  The practical degrees, this school of thought suggests, are also entry-level degrees.

He then invoked "disdain" a paragraph or two too early.
Second, we should reinvigorate academe’s historic commitment to preparing students for citizenship and modeling democratic values. The concern that higher education has become a liberal enclave is largely true, a reality that often reflects deeply held moral ideas that are inevitably associated with advanced learning. We can’t change that, and we shouldn’t. But we can -- and should -- change other things.

For starters, we should take seriously our mission to help students acquire the knowledge and skills to become active, informed participants in our civic life. This priority is fully consistent with our best traditions and can also counter the charge that academic values are at odds with patriotism. I have been encouraged by the civic learning movement within higher education in its various manifestations, but most colleges and universities need to be much more aggressive and explicit in advancing this long-neglected dimension of their mission. In addition, campus leaders must make it clear in every possible way, including when hiring faculty members -- as part of demonstrating their commitment to preparing students for life in a democracy -- that their institutions are open to a wide range of opinion on socially and politically controversial matters and will not let campus communities be dominated by intolerant ideologues.
I'll believe that when the various free-standing Identity Studies departments are re-integrated with the social and natural sciences and the humanities, and when the Office of Student Affairs confines its activities to provisioning and maintaining the residence halls, and when the diversity loyalty oaths disappear from the hiring and promotion packets and play a subordinate role in curriculum.

Perhaps, somewhere, Charlie (Prof Scam) Sykes is smiling.
Third, campus leaders should foreground a commitment to undergraduate education, just as hospitals, including teaching hospitals, foreground a commitment to patient care. The perception that colleges and universities have become self-interested businesses rather than institutions that serve students and communities is particularly troubling to me. I suspect many elements contribute to this perception. But among the causes may well be the de-emphasis of undergraduate education and the prioritization of research that occurred within higher education during the latter part of the 20th century, especially among the leading universities that dominate public views of our industry.

Many of the financial pressures that drive up undergraduate costs -- reduced teaching loads, expensive research facilities, financial aid for graduate students -- derive from the cost of supporting ambitious research programs that advance institutional status but are only indirectly linked with undergraduate education. The shift of emphasis toward research has encouraged faculty members to emphasize publication and grant-getting rather than teaching students, a change that subtly shifts the moral basis of academic work from serving others to advancing individual careers.

This is not intended as an argument against the importance of research and graduate education. But colleges need to make clear to the public that they are serious about teaching undergraduates -- which most people think is our primary purpose -- and do not base the price of tuition on the need to subsidize activities not clearly related to that work. I am encouraged by what I perceive to be a reassertion of concern for undergraduate teaching and learning. But colleges and universities, especially the country’s leading institutions, have a long way to go to re-establish this mission on a par with research as a widespread institutional priority.
That part of the project is more challenging, as those are also the activities that move an institution up the U.S. News league tables.  The league tables, then, take on value to the extent that universities not so recognized might place less of a value on scholarship, and take less interest in intellectually challenging their students.

The good news, dear reader, is that the people in charge of higher education might be coming around to the perspective that yes, they have a problem.  Perhaps that will give me opportunities to reflect favorably on developments in the sector.

21.1.18

THE INSTITUTIONS WE'VE LOST.

The North Shore Line ceased operations early in the morning, 55 years ago.  Here is the fiftieth anniversary abandonment tribute.


That's the way it was, in September 1958.  The railroad had already filed for permission to abandon.


Work continues at the Illinois Railway Museum restoring an Electroliner to operable condition.


Illinois Railway Museum are able to roll out a long North Shore train on occasion.  Single cars are in operation elsewhere in the country.  Perhaps one of these years the Seashore Trolley Museum will be able to re-enact the Substitute Electroliner.  They have the conventional diner-lounge car and a Silverliner coach.

A BOAT RIDE DOWN MEMORY LANE.

There's apparently an honest-to-Thomas Edison Old Mill ride at the Minnesota State Fair.
Fourth-generation operator Jim Keenan said the decision to sell a big part of family history was in the making for a couple of years, as it was time-consuming to run and maintain the one-of-a-kind ride. The fair, he said, was the perfect buyer because “we wanted to see what we could do to be sure it would be around another 100 years.”

He believes the fair will maintain the integrity of the ride, which is still powered by its original motor dating to 1898, and do the necessary maintenance.
The 2018 State Fair will run August 23 to September 3.

TAKING STOCK.

We're into Year Two of the Trump presidency, and the Angry #Resistance continues to proclaim its anger and resistance.  I suppose that's a good thing, because the worst case scenario, according to more than a few proponents of that anger and resistance, is that we would all be dead by now.  Which isn't the case, dear reader, as I am posting this, and you are reading it.

The most trenchant observation about the past year came from CNN's Michael Smerconish, who described the Trump presidency as perhaps the "most consequential" of the Outsider Presidents era (as in Carter to Reagan to Clinton to Obama to Trump; the Bushes pere et fils comprising an echo of the Establishment Presidencies of perceived past days.)  Note: consequential simply means changing things, disrupting things, whether for good or for ill will be for others, perhaps historians not yet born, to evaluate.

Today, a roundup of skeptical, yet thoughtful, takes.  (You want the #Resistance takes, dear reader?  Find them yourself, they're easy enough to track down.)

Starting from the Deep Skeptical, consider James Kunstler.
Well, he made it through the year. I thought the f[***]er would be sandbagged by a claque of Pentagon patriots inside of three months, but I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

What seems to be forgotten is that Donald Trump brought his own swamp to Washington, as in a history of hinky real-estate wheelings-and-dealings, stiffed vendors, bankruptcies, lowbrow TV hijinks, and dark adventures in the Manhattan nightlife of the late 20th century. So, it’s swamp versus swamp.

You may detect that I’m not exactly a fan of the president, but I rather admire his standing up to the permanent bureaucracy that we call the Deep State, and especially its elite poobahs, who have driven this polity into a deeper ditch than the voters realize.
That's not to say things couldn't get worse, but, a year on, we're still here and able to carp about it. And perhaps the foreign policy toughness is a good thing.

For The American Spectator, John Wohlstetter suggests, "In normal times he’d be a shoo-in for a second term."  Perhaps, the current normal times are times of continuing resolutions and government shutdowns and angry people yelling at each other on talk television, and yet those times have brought us three two-term presidencies in a row.  Perhaps, Mr Wohlstetter argues, Our President is his own worst enemy.
So why is our 45th chief executive so beleaguered, facing, in the view of many, electoral reversal in 2018 and a one-term presidency?

Consider these three: (a) presidential deportment; (b) huge policy shifts; (c) cultural rifts centered on multicultural and gender identity politics.
Mollie Hemingway leaves her usual haunts at The Federalist to say a few good things about Our President for the benefit of Swamp Insiders.
This may seem like an odd moment for saying so, but a year into the presidency of Donald Trump, I’m elated.

Trump was not my first or even second choice for president, but a full two years ago I predicted he would win. I also predicted he’d be a progressive president, which explained why I was not among his supporters and why I am so pleased now.
She's using "progressive" in the sense of Expanding the Nanny State and Making Wise Experts More Intrusive, rather than in the weaselly "progressive means making progress and getting things done" locution the losing Democrat candidate in 2016 fell back on.

He is, she notes, getting things done, and in a good way, in international affairs.
Trump’s foreign policy could be more restrained, but it’s far less interventionist than that of any of his recent predecessors, focused on national interest over nation-building or other less pressing and more expensive concerns. By trusting his military leaders to make quick decisions on the battlefield, in contrast to Obama’s desire to placate Iran and micromanage trivial moves such as helicopter deployments, Trump is crushing the Islamic State. Sanctions and other nonmilitary efforts are being used to keep North Korea at bay after the failure of denuclearization as practiced by presidents since Bill Clinton.
Not starting any new "limited wars" or "nation building" or what have you is probably a good thing.  As, perhaps, is being a brash outer-borough hustler in style.
Like most people, I don’t particularly like Trump’s rhetorical style, juvenile insults and intemperate disposition — on full display in recent days. At the same time, having followed his career for decades, I am not surprised that he wakes up each morning as Donald Trump.

And that boorish attitude has come in handy after decades of media bullying of conservatives. Ironically, the very lack of conservative bona fides that worried me two years ago means he’s less beholden to a conservative establishment that had grown alienated from the people it is supposed to serve and from the principles it ostensibly exists to promote. His surprising conservatism might also be the result of the absolutism and extremism of his critics, whether among the media, traditional Democratic activists or the anti-Trump right. If Trump were ever inclined to indulge his liberal tendencies after winning the election, the stridency and spite of his opponents have provided him with no incentives to do so.
That might be something for more conventional conservatives to emulate. It's not necessary to be nasty, but it's not required to appease abusive critics who won't stop abusing you just because you phrase your policy proposals more gently.

Michael Mandelbaum, for The American Interest, offers five theses by which the Trump presidency is consequential.
  1. Donald Trump is conducting an unusual presidency.
  2. Donald Trump has governed as a Republican President.
  3. Donald Trump is a populist -- of a certain kind.
  4. Donald Trump may -- or may not -- be threatened by the Mueller investigation.
  5. Donald Trump helped make sexual harassment a major national issue.
Read the article for the supporting details.  As you do so, understand these caveats.
The President is the head, but far from the totality, of the federal government. And the work the federal government performs does not determine everything important that happens in the United States. Trump the President emerges from a number of accounts, not all of them of undisputed accuracy, as an unattractive personality poorly suited to the job he holds: ignorant, impulsive, indolent, and intellectually out of his depth in the Oval Office. The Trump presidency after twelve months, however, has a record of governing that stands apart—or at least semi-detached—from the office-holder’s personality. The appraisal that follows, therefore, has as its focus the presidency rather than the President.
To Victor Hanson, there has been a sea change in presidencies, distinct from the personalities of Barack Obama or Donald Trump. "Whatever Donald J. Trump’s political past and vociferous present, his first year of governance is most certainly as hard conservative as Barack Obama’s eight years were hard progressive. We are watching a rare experiment in political governance play out, as we go, in back-to-back fashion, from one pole to its opposite."  There, dear reader, is the material for future election campaigns and future doctoral dissertations alike.
In other words, free-market economics, deterrent foreign policies, and conservative cultural reform that are championed in the abstract in think tanks, on radio and television by conservative pundits, and in magazines and journals by conservative intellectuals are currently being put to work concretely in the real world, a rare occurrence. Or they’re being implemented as least as much as possible with a president and a Congress of the same party behind them and within a set tenure.

If the economy grows, if the world is calmer and the U.S. stronger, if average Americans acquire more income and more jobs, and if the culture encourages greater stability and virtue, then the conservative experiment will have worked. If all that does not happen, we cannot blame it on the bad Trump messenger, the incompetent Republican Senate, the biased or the squabbling conservative House.

Those on the conservative side believe that the Obama regnum showed that progressive economics, foreign policy, and cultural protocols led to a weaker, more unfair, poorer, and less cohesive America. But such beliefs are easy to hold when you’re out of power and more prone to find faults than solutions. To paraphrase Aristotle, it is easy to be virtuous when asleep.

The true test of conservative solutions is to see how things are after four years of a strongly conservative president, with at least two years of a Republican Congress.

To those who think that Trump’s personality makes him an unrepresentative avatar of conservatism, his supporters would say, “Persuade us that better conservative messengers could have been elected in 2016 America — and that they would have governed to the right of Trump in his first year.” Like it or not, Trump turned out to be a hard-core conservative, and yet one whose rhetoric, comportment, and feistiness appealed to people who had never before voted for hard-core conservative agendas.

The nation did not suddenly become liberal in 2008 or conservative in 2016. Rather, in both years it rejected blasé centrism — first trying out a left-wing deviation from establishmentarianism, then in frustration turning to a right-wing antidote to both the failed medicine and the original diseased status quo.
Further confounding the story, the experiment with outsider presidencies might not yet be over, with Oprah boomlets still rattling around social media.

I'll give the final word to an unnamed Australian observer.  Trump’s First Year: Truth Gets Lost In Hysteria.
The visceral and often irrational disdain for Donald Trump displayed by otherwise seemingly high-functioning adults is beyond easy explanation.

Here we are a year after his inauguration and large elements of the media, academia, left-of-centre politicians, their followers and even many centrists still recoil at the very mention of his name, treating him as a dumb, dangerous and illegitimate President.

It is silly and deluded. It also plays to Trump’s strengths, affirming his claim to be a Washington outsider opposed by the broad political establishment and misrepresented by most of the media. It only underlines his narrative about insiders resisting his efforts to “drain the swamp” and rejecting the mandate he carries from mainstream voters.
Perhaps, this observer notes, the self-appointed elites ought check their privilege. "Beyond whatever he achieves as President, Trump might prove useful for the clarity he brings to the jaundice in the political debate and the growing chasm between mainstream political concerns in western liberal democracies and the predilections of the people charged with policy development, implementation and analysis."  That note comes with a dash of constructive self-criticism.
It seemed safer to stick with orthodox political awfulness rather than to risk awful unpredictability. Yet voters were attracted by that very unpredictability. They wanted to shake up the system. The attraction of Trump as a disrupter was obvious, especially for working (or under-employed) Americans away from the wealthy, liberal cities of the northeast and west coast. It was strange so many commentators gave him little chance given his poll deficit was often margin-of-error territory.
A year on, the world has not ended, and the Angry #Resistance have not yet changed their tone.  We shall see, dear reader, who will be mugged by reality this year.