30.7.18

THIS FASCINATING RAILROAD BUSINESS.

It's the end of July, which means Major League Baseball will be offering doubleheaders, these days that's an evil dictated by a 162 game season and a playoff schedule that runs almost to the beginning of Karneval, and doubleheader itself is borrowed from railroading, back in the day when the Superintendent could not connect units with an extension cord, but rather, had to call two crews and put two engines at the head of the train.  Thus, we'll offer Book Reviews No. 20 and No. 21, both by railroad writer Christian Wolmar, whose primary area of expertise is British and Continental practice.

The two books are Blood, Iron, and Gold: How the Railroads Transformed the World; and Engines of War: How Wars Were Won & Lost on the Railways.  My post title suggests the universe of comparison: think R. S. Henry, a retired railroad executive who penned a series of popular-interest railroad books, including one with the title I borrowed for the post; he also wrote political and military histories of the Mexican War to Reconstruction.  Think also S. Kip Farrington, who wrote outdoor sports tales to accompany his train rides, although a Farrington book is a collection of shorter stories, without necessarily attempts to offer unifying themes, or analysis.  But books in the Henry and Farrington tradition are closer to the message Mr Wolmar seeks to offer than what you'd find in the academic analyses of regulation or merger, or to the nuts-and-bolts stories of technology and motive power the Trains, Tracks, and Travel series by T. W. Van Metre offered.  (Disclosure: your Superintendent effectively memorized a late 1950s edition of that book at the age of nine.)

Blood, Iron and Engines might be good introductions to the history of railroading, although the first time reader might want to trust but verify.  Cautionary example: the map of principal United States cross-country routes, at page xxii of Blood, Iron, shows the abandoned Pacific Extension of The Milwaukee Road but not the Great Northern near the 49th parallel, or the Overland Route across Wyoming, or the Water Level Route from Chicago to Albany.  More subtle example: it's difficult to write about railroading practice worldwide, when only North America, China, Russia, and to an extent Australia use their railroads primarily as heavy-duty long-distance freight carriers, while the European and developed Asian countries use them for passenger haulage.  That, however, makes discussion of an era of decline in (particularly investor-owned) railroads at the dawn of the Motor Age more challenging.  Yes, the United States put little public money into passenger rail, particularly at higher speeds; although, perhaps, the end of suburban electric railroads began with the Public Utility Holding Company Act, the sprawl and the interstate highways through cities won by default.

Likewise, Engines might attempt to do too much: the use of railroads in support of military logistics began in a simple fashion in Crimea; then Haupt and Grant and Sherman improved the concept on a continental scale to put down the Southern Rebellion.  But again, a quibble: a map of the Southern lines, which didn't connect well, and often involved a change of gauges, is incomplete, without awareness, for instance, of the Illinois Central from Chicago to Cairo, Illinois, making possible resupply of Grant and Sherman from Northeastern factories and Lakes area farms entirely by rail, as far into the southern states as they wished to operate, something the late-1862 moves on Corinth, Mississippi, had in mind.  Had the European powers understood the ability of railroads and quartermasters to work together, their twentieth-century wars might have turned out differently.  But again, Mr Wolmar's focus might be misplaced.  Battleship guns on flatcars, and nuclear-tipped missiles in boxcars, might be sexy, but although the troops generally fly or ride the bus today, their heavy equipment goes to the embarkation ports by rail.

Both books conclude with suggestions for further reading, and those sources might prove instructive to the budding ferroequinologist.  For the next level of analysis, I'd recommend referring back to my second paragraph, above.  Each also includes illustrations, some of obscure and interesting things such as the temporary pier railroad at Utah Beach.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE DEFLATING?

It has long been my position that the powers that be in higher education have broken the social contract with the populace they're supposed to serve, and a year ago I noted even people who might be sympathetic with higher education's ethos walking away.  "What good does it do to stay one micro-aggression ahead of the most easily triggered matriculant, if none of the graduates can rebut an argument or re-stock a coffee house?"

More recently, National Review's George Leef recommends an essay by a recent community college graduate.  "Graduate students as instructors are extremely rare at community colleges and faculty get paid to teach, not to conduct research." There aren't graduate programs in the research university mold to provide the cheap labor, although without further information, we don't know how many Wake Tech (or Milwaukee Area Tech, or Kishwaukee College, or Henry Ford Community) faculty lines are filled by Ph.D. students or recent graduates of the local universities on contingent appointments.  Furthermore, what you get out of community college might depend on what you put in.  "They are hardly educational havens populated entirely by dedicated students and excellent faculty."

But a matriculant might be getting something, and here the institutions riding the top of those U.S. News league tables might be adding no value at all.  Again, it's about getting out what you put in, not in the sense of simply reading and highlighting the book and noodling at a computer screen, but in making connections and asking questions, and sometimes getting into arguments.
Some authorities still insist that colleges, even if they teach no specific knowledge, at least improve “critical thinking.” But this contention is not borne out by a test designed to measure such thinking, the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA). Since the 1980s the improvement in students’ CLA scores during their four years of college has dropped by about 50 percent, and such improvement now averages just 7 percent over the first three semesters.

Even that small gain is very unevenly distributed: the top 10 percent of students average a creditable improvement of 43 percent, but about 45 percent of students show no significant improvement at all. Another test of academic proficiency given by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) found that between 2006 and 2011 the number of students who were “proficient” in “critical thinking” rose during four years of college only from 3 percent to 8 percent; those “proficient” in “written communication” rose only from 5 percent to 9 percent, and those “proficient” in mathematics rose only from 5 percent to 10 percent. (Presumably, the 8–10 percent of proficient graduates are more or less the same as that top 10 percent who showed strong improvement in critical thinking according to the CLA.)
Worse, for many students, their experience is a lot like what happens in failing common schools: the longer they have them, the less competent they get.
Leaving aside a “marginal” category, the number who were clearly “not proficient” decreased during their college years only from 86 percent to 72 percent in “critical thinking,” only from 77 percent to 63 percent in “written communication,” and only from 84 percent to 73 percent in mathematics. Such measures are hard to dismiss, because if anything the ETS has an incentive to tell colleges what they want to hear.
Perhaps the rising numbers of disgruntled faculty, and writers of "quit lit" in the house organs for business as usual in higher education are onto something.

At the heart of the problem?  The usual suspects: an enrollment model of access-assessment-remediation-retention and a product prototype of beer-'n-circuses.  It appears, though, that Charlie "Fail U" Sykes's characterization of investing in higher education as the equivalent of buying a BMW to drive it over the cliff, then to buy three more, has legs.
Even if the average price for a public college education could be cut by a third, $50,000 is still far too much to pay for students not to learn anything. If all students want is to enjoy themselves on a break from studying and working, and the rest of us for some reason consider this desirable, they should be able to enjoy themselves for much less money, perhaps for a year at a pleasant place where they can live in comfortable dormitories and party, sunbathe, or ski with no classes to feel guilty about skipping.

If the quality of a college education cannot be improved, we should concentrate on encouraging at least half of those who now go to college not to go, adjusting requirements for jobs and professional schools accordingly, and make provisions for an orderly shutdown or shrinking of most of our colleges and universities. But, of course, the quality of a college education can be improved. The problem is that hardly anyone is trying to improve it. Few people are even paying attention to the defects of higher education as it is now, and some still deny that anything is wrong.
I'm not sure about the "rest of us" considering the "gap year," another upscale indulgence, as something to be subsidized. Shrinking enrollments are concentrating minds at places you might have heard of: perhaps market tests will produce the efficiency gains.

26.7.18

THE WEAKNESS OF AMTRAK'S NATIONAL NETWORK.

Passenger Rail travel guru Jim Loomis cautions travellers not to rely on even the guaranteed train connections between long distance trains, when such are available, primarily at Chicago, but to an extent at Emeryville or Washington.
Stay overnight and continue your journey the next day, even if Amtrak tells you it’s a “guaranteed connection”. Get off the first train at your scheduled destination, go to a hotel, get a good night’s sleep, then resume your journey on the next day’s train. That’s my best advice and—believe me!—I learned the hard way.
Yes, I put in a pad between trains at Washington and between train and cruise ship at Fort Lauderdale, and enjoyed every minute of the two recreational days thus obtained, and would do it that way again, despite all the inbound western trains making their connections to the remaining eastern trains at Chicago, and the Capitol and Silver Meteor running to time or close to time.

As long as passengers understand that overnight in a major city is peace of mind, plus an opportunity to play tourist, rather than an additional expense, that works.  We have the lack of connections problem, though, in part because much of the national network relies on one, overpurposed, long distance train per route, with plenty of opportunities to run afoul of weather or freight train troubles.  The added time and expense to tourists, in planning and budgeting for those big-city layovers likely contributes to potential train riders opting to drive, or fly, instead.

WE ALREADY PLUNDER OUR STUDENTS.

But those intrepid fans who shiver in vast, empty stadiums on school nights in November might on occasion be able to celebrate wins over power conference teams.


The least they could do is share around a tot of hot rum whenever this flag is flying.
Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said he has sent conference-themed pirate flags to each school to raise at stadiums after upsets of Power 5 opponents or any nonconference win worth celebrating.

“Our ships or our stadiums are not always the largest or shiniest, but we are manned by highly motivated crews, players and coaches who carry a chip on their shoulder, who demonstrate an anytime, anywhere attitude, and if respect is not freely given, we will earn it and we will take it,” Steinbrecher said at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions and the MAC Championship game..

In the past, he’s sent a mock-up “Jolly Roger” flag via email to MAC schools after big wins, sort of as a joke. Now he wants to make flag-raising a new tradition around the league.
On the other hand, when a Mid-American team hosts Navy, hoisting that flag could get interesting.

25.7.18

A QUARTER CENTURY OF THE VAST RIGHT WING CONSPIRACY.

Yes, that became part of the vernacular when Hillary Clinton rolled it out to suggest that her philanderin' other half was being picked on by people with an agenda.  As a concept, though, it is older, the self-styled progressives being convinced that their troubles in the court of public opinion and at the polls have to be the consequence of voters being riled up by disinformation, because the self-styled progressives have their Good Intentions, and they've been Anointed by their Credentials and their Connections.  Never mind that their policies often run afoul of the law of unintended consequences.

So let it be with Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado's No Mercy: How Conservative Think Tanks and Foundations Changed America's Social Agenda.  The book came out in 1996, and I'm only now preparing Book Review No. 19 for 2018.  Perhaps there's a reason I acquired it back then, maybe as a resource for preparing the survey of public policy course I'd teach.

A RAILROAD TRADITION CONTINUES.

During the Second World War, the citizens of North Platte, Nebraska, set up a canteen to provide food and beverages to service personnel on the troop trains of the era. The trains would stop, as Union Pacific serviced locomotives and gave trains their thousand-mile inspections there.

These days, the heavy equipment might still move by rail, but the troops themselves will be airlifted, or, more commonly, ride the bus.  Thus, earlier this year, the charter operator tasked with returning units of the Arkansas National Guard home from maneuvers noticed that North Platte would be a logical place for the buses to make a meal stop, and inquired of the local visitors bureau if there were eateries available.

Summon the echoes!  The unit commander, Lt. Col. Nick Jaskolski, had never heard of North Platte before, but providing food and music for seven hundred troops was something North Platte folks knew how to do.  As was the tradition in the Forties, the community pitched in to finance and re-enact the canteen, if on a smaller scale.  Well done.

EXPERTISE IS NOT IN THE THINK TANKS.

David Brooks is cruising to be dis-invited from the panels of Wise Clueless Experts on the Sunday shows.  Long overdue, suggests Chicago Boy Michael Kennedy.  "People like me are very frustrated by the attempts to run all of American society from Washington DC. Lyndon Johnson ran the Vietnam War that way, picking targets and sending 'signals' from DC. That did not work out well." The extension to other one-size-fits-all policies, whether the nationwide 55 mph speed limit or the Uniform Time Act or almost any front in the Culture Wars is immediate.

HOW WE GOT THERE BEFORE THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY.

The "Looking Back" entry for July 18 featured this view of a Chicago Aurora and DeKalb interurban at Cortland.


Unattributed photograph now in Joiner History Room collection retrieved from DeKalb Midweek.

The view faces east.  The interurban was just south of the Chicago and North Western tracks, and the sub-station with Adams Express office stood, in some other use, until early 1987.

Passenger service was covered by two cars, which would meet at Kaneville.  The passing track was a stub track: the DeKalb-bound car would back in to meet the Elgin-bound car.

The round-up of events of a century ago notes that the DeKalb Municipal Band played to a large audience at Huntley Park.  The band shell is now at Hopkins Park, and on occasion the band plays a medley of popular tunes from the ragtime or Great War Era, and they still play to enthusiastic audiences.

21.7.18

LOWLIVES.

Two punks think it great sport to burrow into a carbarn at the Fox River Trolley Museum and break some windows.
The pair were arrested July 8 after police were able to track a blood trail from the museum at 365 S. LaFox St. to a nearby home, where the residents helped identify them and assisted with the investigation, Sgt. Mike Doty said.

Museum President Ed Konecki said Monday the vandals targeted the eight trolley cars locked inside two secured buildings. The bulk of the damage was to the trolley cars’ plate glass windows, which can be replaced but is expensive because it must be done by professional glaziers, he said.
Lowlives might not be the sharpest knives in the drawer in the first place, which is one of the reasons Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character.  The museum is enough of the civic fabric of South Elgin that the police uniform patches include a stylized interurban car.

The Fox River museum are a small, tight budget preservation railway operating out of South Elgin, Illinois.  Their trains, however, run on original electric interurban tracks (apart from the extension into the forest preserve) and among their collection is one of the few preserved electric railway cars anywhere in the States that is running on its original rails (after a sojourn in Cleveland.)  That car is among the cars that require new windows.
“I have a lot of different emotions (about what happened),” Konecki said in an emailed response about his reaction to the vandalism. “Yes, anger, but even more (I feel) confusion, sorrow and hurt, wondering what drove children to do such a thing. Did the museum offend them (in some way) that we don't know about? I feel bad that alleged vandals wanted to destroy instead of build and create. There is so much to do that young people could participate in along with their parents. The museum is a group of volunteers that wants to both preserve the past and create a family experience where people can relive part of the past of the Chicago area and the Fox River Valley.”
There is a Go Fund Me page for people who would like to help with the repairs.

Here's tonight's Frederic Bastiat reference: each dollar of preservation money, and each minute of repair labor, that goes into replacing windows (the home-road car will be ready in time for the South Elgin River Fest, August 17-19, which is now in the Cold Spring Shops travel plans) is a dollar and a minute not available to touch up the paint or restore the electrical systems or bring some of the cars not yet ready to be operated into operating condition.

Furthermore, even a juvenile record might go on your permanent record.
“The South Elgin Police Department would like to thank the citizens of South Elgin who helped identify one of the juveniles,” Doty said in the release. “Parents are reminded to discuss with their children that committing these types of acts have ramifications that can affect their lives and future endeavors.”
Yes, even if you're not old enough to have a social media account to brag about your efforts.

VITO CORLEONE, VLADIMIR PUTIN?

Perhaps, American Spectator columnist Dov Fischer argues, Donald Trump learned in the course of negotiating contracts for concrete delivery in New York City the art of not speaking ill of one's host.
If you insult Putin in public, like by telling the newsmedia just before or after meeting with him that he is the Butcher of Crimea, and he messed with our elections, and is an overall jerk — then you will get nothing behind closed doors from Putin. Putin will decide “To heck with you, and to heck with the relationship we just forged.” Putin will get even, will take intense personal revenge, even if it is bad for Russia — even if it is bad for Putin. Because there are no institutional reins on him.

But if you go in public and tell everyone that Putin is a nice guy (y’know, just like Kim Jong Un) and that Putin intensely maintains that he did not mess with elections — not sweet little Putey Wutey (even though he obviously did) — then you next can maintain the momentum established beforehand in the private room. You can proceed to remind Putin what you told him privately: that this garbage has to stop — or else. That if he messes in Syria, we will do “X.” If he messes with our Iran boycott, we will do “Y.” We will generate so much oil from hydraulic fracturing and from ANWR and from all our sources that we will glut the market — if not tomorrow, then a year from now. We will send even more lethal offensive military weapons to Ukraine. We can restore the promised shield to Eastern Europe that Obama withdrew. And even if we cannot mess with Russian elections (because they have no elections), they do have computers — and, so help us, we will mess with their technology in a way they cannot imagine. Trump knows from his advisers what we can do.
We shall see. But Mr Fischer notes behaviors that you wouldn't expect of a suck-up to Russia. "Meanwhile, Trump has expelled 60 Russians from America, reversed Obama policy and sent lethal weapons to Ukraine, and is pressing Germany severely on its pipeline project with Russia."

Oh, but those angry, ungrateful Europeans!
Trump did what any effective negotiator would do: he took note of past approaches to NATO and their failures, and correctly determined that the only way to get these penny-pinching-cheap baseborn prigs to pay their freight would be to bulldoze right into their faces, stare them right in their glazed eyes with cameras rolling, and tell them point-blank the equivalent of: “You are the cheapest penny-pinching, miserly, stingy, tightwadded skinflints ever. And it is going to stop on my watch. Whatever it takes from my end, you selfish, curmudgeonly cheap prigs, you are going to pay your fair share. I am not being diplomatic. I am being All-Business: either you start to pay or, wow, are you in for some surprises! And you know what you read in the Fake News: I am crazy! I am out of control! So, lemme see. I know: We will go to trade war! How do you like that? Maybe we even will pull all our troops out of Europe. Hmmm. Yeah, maybe. Why not? Sounds good. Well, let’s see.”

So Trump stuffed it into their quiche-and-schnitzel ingesting faces. And he convinced them — thanks to America’s Seedier Media who are the real secret to the “Legend That is Trump” — that he just might be crazy enough to go to trade war and to pull American boys home. They knew that Clinton and Bush x 2 and Kerry and Hillary and Nobel Laureate Obama never would do it. But they also know that Trump just might.
Again, we'll see.

Perhaps, though, Our President is simply trolling people who are easily trolled.
Maybe he has noticed that being open with Putin and Russia causes his Democratic opponents to fixate on this issue and crank up the hyperbole about treason, rather than focusing on bread-and-butter issues such as health-care policy or the tax increases also known as tariffs. Talk of Russian collusion turns American politics into a kind of brutal, depressing circus. Perhaps Trump feels most comfortable, politically at least, in that kind of polarized and highly emotional atmosphere.
That's Tyler Cowen, taking a pessimistic view. Such explanations "leave Americans with a president willing to sacrifice reputation of the nation, and the stature of his office, for his own reasons." The office has an excessively exalted stature, but I digress.  Note, though, that great countries overcome bad politicians.  "We are conflating loyalty to our elected leaders with patriotism, and it scares me."

THE CASE FOR BETTER MANNERS.

Five Milwaukee Brewers made the All-Star Game.  Whether these five over-achieved during the first half of the season, or whether the team will be able to make a playoff run in August and September is yet to be seen.

But relief pitcher Josh Hader's bad inning at the game was overshadowed by a bad day of his permanent record on the internet coming to light.
Hader’s tweets didn’t come out of left field. I’m a firm believer we are what we learn from our family, our communities, the people with whom we surround ourselves. It makes me grateful I live here in DeKalb, where the school district is focusing on socioeconomic needs and police seem to have little to no tolerance for hate crimes.

It also re-emphasizes the importance of having direct, daily conversations with my children about what they hear, what it means and what should be avoided altogether.
That's DeKalb Chronicle columnist Christopher Heimerman, a rare Brewer fan in a nest of Chicago sports enthusiasts, and his message is to parents and teachers about reinforcing in young people that there are some things you just don't say in public, and that you might be wise not to think them in the first place.

It might be that what the seventeen year old Josh Hader put on social media was just Beavis and Butt-head sort of stuff.  Dude, Dude, look what I just found!  Huh-huh-huh-huh-huh.  "Hate crime" might be a bit too much, perhaps we have the Cool Kids (or perhaps the high school athletes) noodling around on social media and coming up with transgressive hip-hop tunes, nowhere near as difficult as striking out the side.  That appears to be the Deadspin interpretation.  "Hader would’ve been 17 years old when he saw fit to fart most of these vile thoughts out into the world—old enough to know better, of course, but young enough to still be a punk teenager, and a punk teenager who was tweeting at a time when Twitter was not remotely what it is now."  And, perhaps, a punk teenager looking for a way to subvert the dominant paradigm without hearing that still, small, voice asking, "is that prudent?"

That sort of restraint might work more generally.  Consider the latest from Inside Higher Ed on microaggressions.
Microassaults are explicit verbal or nonverbal attacks meant to hurt someone, such as using racial epithets. Microinsults are verbal and nonverbal insults that often carry hidden meaning, including, “You’re pretty for a black woman” -- the implication being that black women are not attractive. And microinvalidations invalidate the experiences and existence of the victim, such as, “I don’t see color. I see people for who they are.” While microassaults are typically conscious, microinsults and microinvalidations are often unconscious.
Rather than clutter the conversation with all this micro-stuff, why not call microassaults what they are, which is to say spouting off in ways you know others won't appreciate hearing, and why not socialize the young along the lines of "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all?"

18.7.18

THE AESTHETES DISCOVER THE KING OF SCALES.

When Milwaukee's Walkers Point neighborhood was in the shadow of the coke works, and down-wind from the tanneries and the stockyards, the few bars catered to the shot-and-a-beer folks coming off shift.

No more coke works, no more tanneries, no more stockyards, now come the hipsters, and they've discovered a national treasure.  "A model railroad club — which for several decades has been hiding in plain sight within a historic former train station."  Apparently, even a utilitarian train station rates architectural taxonomy: "astylistic utilitarian."  That was probably true of the Lunar Module as well, but I digress.

There are older model railroad clubs, although none of those have been operating continuously in the same place as long as the Model Railroad Club of Milwaukee.  And the circumstances of its founding: can you think of a more distinguished triumvirate of modellers than these?
The nonprofit group was founded in 1933 by Frank Zeidler, who later served as Milwaukee's mayor from 1948 to 1960; Al Kalmbach, publisher of Model Railroader magazine, now part of Waukesha-based Kalmbach Media; and William Walthers, founder of Milwaukee-based model train maker Wm. K. Walthers Inc.

The trio in 1935 also helped launch the National Model Railroad Association.
Mr Zeidler's brother Carl also briefly served as mayor of Milwaukee, before being called into naval service and going missing in the Pacific.

The club has long been a hangout for O Scalers and model railroad enthusiasts, and now the bar aficionados who have rediscovered Walkers Point want to get the club in on the gentrification.
Club members built an extensive layout, which spans two connected rooms, to run their trains. The 15 or so current members continue that activity, usually meeting on the last Sunday of each month from around 1 to 3 p.m. Visitors are welcome.

The members also get together to do repairs to the building as well as the train layout. The layout features railroad tracks going through tunnels, over bridges, through rail yards and past backdrops featuring city skylines, mountain ranges and other scenes.

Club members tend to be older. Most got into the hobby through a parent or other family member.

"My dad used to bring me down here in the 1940s," said longtime member Gene Seidler.
That Sunday opening is a recent development. For years, the open day was the third Friday of the month, 7 pm to 10 pm. With Walkers Point bringing in the hipsters, it's harder to find a parking place near the clubhouse. At the same time, getting the preservation advocates and the tourists on board to help out is likely a positive development, as the station building is part of a railroad overpass, and it's a matter of time until Canadian Pacific gets around to strengthening the bridges on the south side.

Long-time readers might recognize the diesels, here off their home rails during a 1998 visit to the club.


The club version of Lake, while it was still primarily a freight yard.  The prototype location is now the south end of the Milwaukee Airport station.


There's a functioning electric railroad in the background, complete with a believable representation of Milwaukee's Public Service Building, and the Port Washington interurban station.

Club members hope to recruit members from the walk-by and walk-in visitors.  Visibility is a good thing, provided it doesn't lead miscreants into temptation, too often the fate of railroad preservation efforts, full scale or otherwise.

SCREWING THE STRIVERS?

The Martin Center's Jody Lipford looks at the parlous state of varsity sports outside of the power conferences.
First, colleges and universities vary significantly in the amount of institutional funds that go to subsidize college athletics, and second, the colleges and universities that provide the highest institutional subsidies to college athletics are far too often schools that serve a student population that faces the greatest academic challenges and financial need.
That describes the Mid-American conference.

Look to the power conferences, though, and you see a positional arms race leading to mutual ruination.
Large flagship state universities are home to athletic departments that in many cases are successful on the field and court— and at the cash register. Teams from these schools often play in bowl games and receive bids to the NCAA basketball tournament. They typically draw heavily at the gate and earn millions more from lucrative television contracts. Athletic departments at six large schools in our sample of 203 earned revenues that exceeded their costs and did not receive any transfer of institutional funds. Even if athletic programs at large schools run a deficit, it tends to be small and is spread over a large population of students, making the subsidy per student trivial.
So much for running the athletics program like a business. We don't even have to get into the eligibility studies majors or any of the more subtle stuff.
The story is quite different for small state schools. With fewer bowl and tournament appearances, a smaller, less enthusiastic fan base, and fewer media dollars, the athletic departments at these schools generate far less revenue and fund a larger share of their budget from institutional resources. Given that these schools have fewer students, the yearly subsidy tends to be much larger per student.

Our second finding, when we examine what kind of students attend which schools, illuminates how the conventional wisdom breaks down. We found that students who are less prepared academically and who have fewer financial resources are more likely to attend smaller institutions, where the subsidy to athletics is much larger.
Yes, but the compass direction Michigan publics have to have that football to distinguish themselves from the river valley Michigan publics because something.

Not good enough, Ms Lipford argues.
We do not contest the common assertion that college sports provide educational opportunities to countless student-athletes who may not have such opportunities without them. We do, however, argue that this assertion—and the endorsement of college sports that accompanies it—loses its luster when confronted with the truth that at small schools, these opportunities are disproportionately paid for by non-athletes. In addition, a greater proportion of students at these schools lack the skills to succeed in the classroom or the dollars to pay the bursar. Resources have alternative uses, and resources devoted to athletics could be channeled to academic support or lower tuition bills, especially today when the high cost of a college education and heavy student debt loads are being questioned.

College athletics surely gives to some, but it assuredly takes from others as well. Parents, students, and the public are typically unaware that the educational opportunities heralded by the NCAA and athletic supporters come at a cost—a cost often paid by non-athletes, many of whom face significant academic challenges and have substantial financial need. The perception about the link between college sports and educational opportunity may be true—but only halfway.
Visibility on weeknight football at the expense of the academic programs is a bad tradeoff, and possibly unsustainable.

IMPUNITY IS THE HALLMARK OF THE RULING CLASS.

Politicians and public officials who return to private life ought return to citizen status, argues Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds.
Charles C.W. Cooke, a Brit who just recently became an American citizen, noted the practice of calling former government officials by their former titles and called it "grotesque.” It’s something he discussed in a recent book.

"By custom, we allow our politicians to retain their titles for life.  Throughout the 2012 election, Mitt Romney was referred to as 'Governor Romney,' though he had not been in public office for six years," Cooke wrote. "One can only ask, 'Why?' America being a nation of laws and not men, political power is not held in perpetuity, and there is supposed to be no permanent political class.
I think those honorifics for life are a relatively recent thing.

Worse than the symbolic privilege of those titles, though, is the substantive incompetence of the title-holders.
Freedom from consequences:  It’s the defining consequence of our modern titles of nobility. And as ordinary citizens get cut less and less slack, it becomes more and more noticeable that the people at the top pay little or no price for failure or worse. Either that will change, or we will see more populist anger in our politics.
It's going to take continued effort by independent pundits to flip the scrip, though. Is the continued spat over Russian disinformation in the presidential election, to choose an obvious example, an attempt by the Ruling Class to bring Donald Trump to heel, rather than have themselves called out?

IST'S NICHT EIN VENTRA APP?

German engineering has not yet come up with the fail-safe ticketing machine.  Was tun, wenn der Fahrkartenautomat kaputt ist?  Sometimes it's simple: look around the station for a functioning machine.  They usually come in bunches, just like bananas and buses.  The Germans have more attended stations than Passenger Rail operators in the States do, and there might be a station agent to help you.  If those options fail, take a picture of the malfunctioning machine with your Handy, and if you have to run and catch the next train, that picture plus an explanation will get you dispensation from the collector to buy your ticket at your place of departure.

It must be that a German public service announcement works like a German sentence: you have to wait for the verb.  Or in the case of the announcement, to learn about the equivalent of the Ventra app.
Mit der App DB Navigator kommen Sie gar nicht erst in die Bredouille, dass Sie sich am Bahnsteig wegen eines defekten Automats kein Ticket kaufen k├Ânnen. Kaufen Sie Ihr Ticket ganz einfach mobil und haben es als Handy-Ticket immer dabei.
Just hold up your Handy for the collector to scan the ticket.  In Germany, your ticket will be good on Regional or Cross-Country trains.  Amtrak or Metra or Ventra have yet to offer that convenience.

17.7.18

MAKING THE RIGHT ENEMIES.

The conventional wisdom in presidential politics, right up until about ten p.m. of Election 2016 Tuesday, was that enough lunch-pail voters in states with a recent history of sending the Democrat electors to cast votes would do so to make Mrs Clinton the first female president.  Didn't happen, and deplorable-shaming and virtue-signalling by Team Clinton and her accomplices with press credentials likely contributed to the outcome.

That might be the message of The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics, by Salena Zito and Brad Todd.  Ms Zito has made a reputation going along the blue highways, and off the blue highways, to take the pulse of voters usually ignored or stereotyped by the Smart People surfing the internet from their coastal bubbles.

DEVELOPMENT-ORIENTED TRANSIT.

The east end of the Chicago South Shore and South Bend is currently an intermodal platform at the South Bend Airport.  (And passengers don't have to walk anywhere near as far between the planes and the trains as they do at, for instance, Frankfurt.)

The commuter rail operator, and the railroad, would like to build faster tracks into the west side of the airport, so as to permit faster trains for Duneland, the steel mills, and Chicago.

South Bend, however, is recovering as a third-order central place, and a restoration of train service to the central business district is in the minds of local boosters.
Signs of progress in downtown South Bend are becoming more and more evident through recent investments in the area’s infrastructure. Berlin Flats is well into its construction, the Renaissance District is beginning to spread its wings and our streets are getting smarter.

There isn’t a better time to add high capacity transit into the mix, directly connecting downtown South Bend with Chicago — one of the largest economic and cultural centers in the country. Imagine people traveling to the South Bend Cubs games on the South Shore for a game day experience. They will be met by the largest mixed use technology campus in the Midwest, a growing downtown and a Cubs team that is shattering attendance records.

Someone coming to South Bend for the first time will be met by the beautiful Union Station. Think about this as a grand entrance to our city — what a great first impression. It also allows people direct commuting access to the Renaissance District — connecting the employment hub to northwest Indiana.
Note, this proposal is to run into the steam railroad station shared by New York Central and Grand Trunk Western. We're not doing a retro interurban here.


South Bend, 13 August 1966.

The airport station, the columnist notes, is not convenient to any commercial or recreational destinations in South Bend, although it apparently has ample parking and taxi ranks.
Think about coming into South Bend from Chicago on the South Shore today. If you don’t have a car, or don’t have yours with you, you have to take a taxi, call a Lyft or take a bus ride to get to where you need to go.

Now imagine you arrive in South Bend via the South Shore to Union Station, you are walking distance from the heart of downtown, in one of the most economically dynamic areas of the city, and you are right next to South Street Station to take you all over the city.
I think "South Street Station" refers to the central bus terminal. The South Shore Line has never been a rolling gated community, in fact the old interurban once ran buses into Michigan.

The joint station is closer to Notre Dame and to a minor league Wrigleyville that is shaping up around a stadium used by a Chicago Cubs farm team.  But building the interurban along the old New York Central into downtown will not come cheap.

Elsewhere, the Hammond to Dyer extension, summoning the echoes of the old Gary Railways, continues to keep planners and designers busy.
The agreement must receive approve from the boards of directors of the [Indiana Finance Authority] and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, meetings for which are scheduled for next week. It will then move to the State Budget Committee in mid-August.

The project is now estimated to cost more than $760 million, up from the original estimate of $600 million.  The Times reports the higher number is part of the South Shore's request for a Federal Transit Administration grant and allows for the administration's contingency requirements to cover unexpected expenses and cost increases.

If approved, the [federal] grant would cover half the cost of construction. The remaining funding would come from state and local contributions, including $180 million approved by the Indiana General Assembly in 2015.
Keep praying to the Patron Saint of Traction.

THEY ONLY IDENTIFIED TWELVE SPIES?

Our President didn't handle his meeting with Tsar Vladimir IV or the press conference after terribly well.

When Our President does something well, I'll concur.

When he messes up, I'll call him out.

He seems incapable of keeping two ideas in his mind simultaneously.  His campaign might never have, as he keeps asserting, worked with Russian intelligence; and yet, Russian intelligence might have planted stories and stolen campaign and electoral information.  "Trump is too damn proud to react to Russia in anything like what we might think of as a normal way. To concede that Russia interfered in any way in the election, even all on its own, challenges the meritocratic or populist spin on Trump's win. Trump thinks, or wants to think, or wants us to think that he did this all on his own."

Yes, he did outwork all the Republican establishment hopefuls during the primary, and he did outwork Hillary Clinton, and it didn't take a Russian operative to put "basket of deplorables" and the other hectoring, condescending material into Mrs Clinton's fundraising and campaigning.

But is anyone really surprised, let alone scandalized, that foreign intelligence services do what foreign intelligence services do, which is to say, steal secrets and plant stories?  If the Soviets, er, Russians, didn't do that, that would be reason to send generals to gulag and bust colonels back to sergeants.  And there are likely more than twelve spies, er, intelligence officers, working that project.  And if Democrats were careless with their internet security, relative to Republicans, well, that's business.

Further, does anybody believe that Bernie Sanders supporters wouldn't have figured out that the Democratic National Committee was rigging things for the Dowager Empress, even without John Podesta's leaked e-mails, no matter who got them, or how they got them?  Cripes, I had the story in August 2015, before a single caucus took a vote.

Taken together, I evaluate the situation as intelligence services doing what intelligence services do, voters doing what voters do, and Mr Trump outworked Mrs Clinton.  Never attribute to malice what can be more easily ascribed to overconfidence.

Overconfidence applies to everyone.  Consider, as Ben Shapiro does, the winner's attitude ever since.  "Trump’s ego is one giant gaping wound, constantly draining rage over the suggestion that his 2016 election victory was somehow ill-won. To the refusal of former FBI director James Comey to publicly clear him in the collusion investigation, Trump responded by firing Comey; now he’s responded to the Mueller investigation’s indictment of twelve Russian government hackers by proclaiming that Putin might be innocent after all. This isn’t about some nefarious plot. It’s about Trump’s ridiculous ego problem."  The good news is, we have separation of powers and for the most part presidents can spout off, and the business of statecraft goes on.  (Tariffs, Mr Shapiro cautions, are another matter.)

As far as the meeting with the Tsar, well, for all the media fireworks and political posturing by the insiders, there's no reset.
The president talks vaguely about “getting along with” Moscow, but this never translates into changing any of the policies that have caused friction and disagreement. Trump mentions the poor state of relations with Russia, but he doesn’t address any of the causes of their deterioration. This leaves us with a weird worst-of-both-worlds situation where Trump is perceived too be too accommodating to Moscow at the same time that he and his administration do as little as possible to cooperate with Russia on anything.
Neither, though, has the world ended.

NOBODY PAYS LIST PRICE.

Part of the cost of medical insurance is the cost of obscuring the prices.  John "Grumpy Economist" Cochrane suggests that more trade-tested betterments, stat, will help a lot.  "The clearest sign of pathology in US health care is that the cash market is dead. Even if you have the money, you must have an insurer to negotiate the 'insurance discount.'" That insurance discount, of course, is a fiction based on a fictional list price so as to make the patient feel better about having the insurance, or something. But it's a fiction. "It allows hospitals to declare lots of charity care when they treat uninsured people with no money at all. But more importantly, it gives them a great starting point for a one-on-one ex-post negotiation for the unwary."

I learned something about those posted prices in hotel rooms.  Apparently, that's consumer protection legislation, a guest can never pay more than the rate posted on the door, which is generally several times the Best Available Rate, even if you're an occasional traveler not taking advantage of a convention rate or a rewards program or the baseball team being out of town.  But clinics and hospitals don't even have to post those rates.  "It's easy to post phony prices and wink that nobody actually pays that price. Hospitals already do that when forced to disclose by stating huge prices and then offering insurers bundle discounts separated from the individual bill."

YOUR RESPONSIBILITY IS TO SAY NO AND UPHOLD STANDARDS.

Tactfully, yes.  The reputation of your college depends on it.  You don't have to break your students' morale in doing so, notes Deborah J. Cohan.
My students have told me I’m a bullshit detector and a straight shooter -- that I don’t sugarcoat the truth and can be a hard-ass. I take these as compliments. They are good things to be and perhaps all the more so now, given the current climate of higher education and against the backdrop of the larger sociopolitical landscape. At a time when social forces both inside and outside the academy are making a mockery of higher education and especially the liberal arts, listening to and honoring the hard-asses among us is an important thing.
That's particularly important, she notes, at the institutions that labor in the obscurity of the league tables, whilst catering to the more typical collegian.
The trouble is that a sentiment has long circulated in higher education -- especially at teaching-intensive institutions with a greater number of underserved and underprepared students -- that educators need to meet students where they are. It’s known to be the right thing to say on statements of teaching philosophy, in interviews and at meetings. But what does that even mean anymore? Have we possibly taken this too far -- especially when we have students who are not meeting us even part of the way?

So, when a colleague told me that I hold the bar too high and should ease up on students, and that I need to teach in a way that is accessible for all of them, what is being conveyed here? Let me be clear; we are not talking about access issues for students with disabilities. My colleague is referring to how I handle the worst-performing students, the ones flunking out of many of their classes, not just mine -- those who are plagiarizing, missing three to five weeks of a semester, being extremely needy with excessive emails, or being disruptive in class and needing to be removed. I don’t pass a student who is failing just so she can graduate, and I’m not afraid to assign a zero to a paper that earned it.

I wound up telling that colleague about the student who earned 46 on her first exam. When she came to my office in mid-February, I asked to see her notebook, and only a third of a page was filled with notes from the first week of school in mid-January. She told me she didn’t have any other notes and shamelessly admitted she’d never read the syllabus or obtained the books. Smiling, I pointed out, “Wow, you got a 46 doing that? Imagine what would happen if you did everything!” I told her I could not and would not be able to help her until she started to help herself.

After the second exam, on which she earned a grade in the 70s, I emailed her to say I was happy to see the improvement and invited her to meet again. I asked her then what she had done differently and what her advice would be to future students and to me in similar situations. She admitted that I’d done all I could and she just needed to do the work -- and that once she did that, the material was actually really interesting and made her want to learn more. Is this the type of student we are encouraged to meet where they are and for whom to modify our classes? Or should we trust and value hard-ass colleagues who refuse to make a mockery of higher education and produce outcomes like those that occurred with this student?
The best students deserve the same intellectual challenges whether at South Carolina - Beaufort or Northern Illinois or Wisconsin or Princeton, although sometimes it looks like you're working twice as hard for half the recognition if you're not in the rarified parts of the league tables.  It's not about unleashing your inner hard-ass.  It's simply doing your job.

14.7.18

SPOCKIAN ADOLESCENTS.

Venture capitalist B. C. Gibney, whose money is in a number of information technology based services, whether of the social network, transportation and tourism, or financial sort, is also no fan of the Baby Boomers.  His A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America uses passages from psychiatry's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual to introduce the various elements of his argument.  It's difficult for me to write Book Review No. 17 without making some references to my formative years, which were precisely when Benjamin Spock's Baby and Child Care was the go-to advice for seemingly everybody, and seemingly everybody's parents had memories of a difficult era of depression and war and wanted to spare their kids from all those travails.  Thus the cheerful Christmas songs of the era, and the optimism of much of broadcast television, and the dawning consciousness among some of the young people that perhaps the modest comforts they enjoyed were being purchased by the suffering of invisible Others.

TODAY IN FASTER, MORE FREQUENT TRAINS.

Florida's Brightline have been changing fares to reflect rising ridership, they're also adding more trips, and purchasing more cars.
With the increase, there will be a train leaving in each direction nearly every hour, from early morning to late night. The first train departs West Palm Beach at 5:30am, and the last train leaves Miami at 11:10pm.

Prices have already increased, and a roundtrip between Miami and West Palm Beach in first class can now cost as much as $70. A one way ticket from Miami to West Palm Beach in the premium Select class ranges from $30 to $35 depending on the time. A basic one-way ticket in Smart class starts at $20 on weekdays.
The company is taking reservations for the forthcoming August trains, and early bookings are strong.

STOP ENABLING THE INDISCIPLINE.

In any school, a few troublemakers give the vice principal most of the work.  Treat the incidence of suspensions as something subject to "disparate impact" analysis, expect troublemakers to take advantage of the rules. "Reduce suspensions for minority students in order to make your numbers look good."  That won't turn out so well for students deprived, accordingly, of functional classrooms.  Thanks, Obama.

STOP ENABLING THE DYSFUNCTION.

A Strong Towns essay by Joe Cortright looks at the incentives people have to drive their cars.
We price roads wrong, so people overuse them. Cars are a major source of air pollution, including carbon emissions. Car crashes kill tens of thousands of Americans every year, injure many more, and cost us billions in medical costs and property damage. And building our cities to accommodate cars leads to a suburban development pattern that pushes us further apart from one another, creating infrastructure costs that drown our cities in massive maintenance expenses.

In the end though, the problem is not that cars (or the people who drive them) are evil, but that we use them too much, and in dangerous ways. That’s because we’ve put in place incentives and infrastructure that encourage — or even require — us to do so. When we subsidize roads, socialize the costs of pollution, crashes and parking, and even legally require that our communities be built in ways that make it impossible to live without a car, we send people strong signals to buy and own cars, and to drive... a lot. As a result, we drive too much, and frequently at unsafe speeds given the urban environment.
Change the incentives, change the behavior.
Drivers should pay for the roads that they drive on, and those roads should be regulated in a way that protects the safety of other users. Trucks ought to pay for the damage they do to roads. Every car driver ought to pay for the parking space they use—whether it’s in the public or the private realm. All cars and trucks should be responsible for the carbon pollution they emit. We shouldn’t require third parties such as homebuilders or renters or local business owners to subsidize car travel and parking. This isn’t about creating a “disincentive for car use,” but, as a matter of fairness and practicality, dropping what have essentially been subsidies for financially and socially expensive and dangerous behavior.

Driving is a choice, and provided that drivers pay all the costs associated with making that choice, there’s little reason to object to it. After all, very few people think that a zero car world is one that makes a lot of sense. Low-car makes much more sense that non-car as a policy talking point.
Yes. I suspect, for instance, that much of the increase in Metra ridership is a consequence of Chicago parking charges, and the impossibility of providing enough lane capacity for even more drivers.  Persuading suburban residents that circumferential commuter trains won't be crime vectors will take more persuasion.

Likewise, we're a long way from holding trucking companies accountable for the vehicular damage and delayed commuting their road-breaking tandems and triples produce, but talking about these things is likely to be more productive than shilling for bicycles and streetcars and otherwise attempting to hector motorists.

IS BIG BROTHER EMERGENT?

Business Insider columnist Daniella Greenbaum commits wrongthink in a recent column, to be thrashed doubleplusgood on social media and to experience the memory-holing of her column.  The Washington Post offers her a forum for "The social media mob is a danger to society."  Her thesis appears to be a rage over the lost gate-keepers of days of yore.
Columnists on the right and the left have known for years about the ferocious blowback that awaits the expression of unpopular ideas. But now the definition of “unpopular” has expanded so widely that reasonable views that might have seemed mainstream just a few years ago can be deemed unacceptable by self-appointed censors. Even publications that pride themselves on holding open-minded values are watching their backs.

We are slowly normalizing the policing of speech and opinion. Sometimes overtly, and sometimes through the intimidation that stops people from saying or writing or publishing what they believe because they know that the social media mob is lying in wait.

These hordes might come from the left or the right. Or from Russian bot farms. The thing to remember is that they are not the majority, not even close. They’re just louder. And they’re here to stay. The only responsible reaction must come from their would-be targets, refusing to allow the definition of what is acceptable thought to be wielded like a cudgel. Some opinion is beyond that pale and deserves to be shunned (not obliterated), but allowing the lines to be redrawn at will by those who have no interest in free speech will ultimately be poisonous for democracy.
It ends, she suggests, with ignorance exerting strength.  "Ultimately, even the wokest of the warriors will realize that when it comes to outrunning the predatory mob they’ve created, no space is safe."

Some years ago, I read Peter Huber's Orwell's Revenge: The 1984 Palimpsest, which in 1994 suggested that the power of distributed networks was stronger than the power of the police state.  With the then-recent collapse of the Soviet Union, along with the perceived failure of Big Network (American Telephone & Telegraph consenting to divest itself) and Big Information (the divestiture of International Business Machines being overtaken by events even before the internet became a thing) that seemed like a logical development.  And what fun to scan Orwell's writings into a desk-top computer, search for phrases and patterns, and use Orwell's own words to forecast the end of Big Brother.  At page 126, Mr Huber observes, "Telescreens are everywhere; communication has become instantaneous, automatic, and ubiquitous, too cheap to meter."  All it takes is a few hackers to allow the masses to engage in screen-to-screen communication, beyond the monitoring of the Thought Police and the Junior Anti-Sex League, and it doesn't even require a Two Minute Hate to dispose of Big Brother.  He simply disappears.  "Young minds will be able to wander; there will be a sort of native gaiety, a buoyant, carefree feeling; there will be room for everybody."

But calendar year 1984 began with Apple Computer's famous totalitarian-shattering commercial lauding the desktop computers.  Thirty some years later, Apple is the dominant (but not sole) provider of pocket telescreens, and yes, they can be used to take and post pictures of cats or food or detouring trains, and yet, did the dissident parrying with his Inner Party interrogator, at page 200, really get it right?
Power will lie in constantly shifting communities of shopkeepers, housewives, old Etonians, fruit-juice thinkers, nudists, sandal-wearers, sex maniacs, Quakers, Nature Cure quacks, pacifists, and phesbian leminists of England.  All of society will be shaped by the accumulation of individual decisions to meet or stay apart, to buy or sell, to speak or remain silent.  The political and social hermit will have no more political power tomorrow than he did yesterday.  People who choose lives of parasitic dependence will be disenfranchised, not by any government decree but by their own passivity.  In politics, as elsewhere, the telescreened society will discriminate fiercely -- on the basis of conviction, talent, and effort.
That passage is based on one of my favorite quotations from The Road to Wigan Pier, as amended by Mr Huber to become Orwell standing up for the common folk, as opposed to the zany vanguard supposedly acting For A Better World.  The Inner Party interrogator's response, however, is to attempt to refute the claim, rather than to write into the protocol all the subversive and socially dangerous content inherent in "individual decisions" and "parasitic dependence" and "conviction, talent, and effort."  Rather, he seeks to discredit the interrogatee with an appeal to reason.
Do you really believe that telescreens can function without a Ministry?  Whatever you call it, the authority that controls the network will be a collectivist oligarchy of bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists, and professional politicians.  It will be the Party.  It will be Big Brother.
No, it will be Facebook and Twitter, and the efforts of libertarian-leaning politicians and public intellectuals to regulate those platforms using bottleneck doctrines from railway rate-making cases of years past are probably not yet over.

13.7.18

UP IN THE SKIES.

It's been a good summer for planet-watching, and the latest addition to the Cold Spring Shops camera bag is able to pick Mercury out using default settings.


July 8, about 9.30, Venus at upper left, Mercury at lower right just above the smoke-jack.

Jupiter and Saturn are also visible, to the southeast, and Mars will show up around 11 pm.

SLOWLY, THEY CATCH ON.

What's it been, a decade since we first noted the non-connection timings of Amtrak's regional trains at Chicago?

With Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation rebuilding the Wolverine line, they're thinking about providing passengers someplace to go other than Chicago.
Train 352 will operate 45 minutes later to allow new connections from Trains 300 (Lincoln Service) and 334 (Hiawatha Service).

Train 353 will operate 45 minutes earlier to allow new connections to Train 393 (Illini).

Train 355 will also begin operating 15 minutes later.
That 355 is the last train from Pontiac, getting to Chicago, if all is well, before the last Metra departures for the suburbs leave. The first Milwaukee train of the morning still reaches Chicago after the first departures for Pontiac, St. Louis, and Quincy.

Let's hope the airline crowd currently running Amtrak understand the logic of hub-and-spoke connections works the same on rails as it does in airports.

In other not-discouraging news, the airline crowd are providing a hot food option on the Lake Shore and Capitol Limited.
Beginning this week, slow-braised beef short rib in a red wine and beer sauce will be added to the lunch and dinner menu of pre-prepared items, which also include a vegan wrap, chicken Caesar salad, and antipasto plate.  Dropped is the chilled grilled beef tenderloin salad.

Breakfast service remains a single meal, featuring fruit, a muffin, a Greek yogurt parfait, and breakfast bars.
I'll have a report on some of these trains later this summer.

THE QUANTIFICATION FETISH.

Manhattan College philosopher Mitchell Aboulafia stands astride the conventional wisdom, yelling "Stop!"
Nevertheless, people could work to curtail the reign of the productivity principle. They could try to undermine the use of quantity as the most compelling marker of achievement by, for example, modifying their department’s criteria for tenure and promotion, and following up with good arguments to administrators for why the new approach is warranted. Scholars can work in places that are less obsessed with productivity and let others know that this was a choice, not a fallback after a failure to win a position in a doctoral department. Colleges can decide to provide release time for improving pedagogy and designing new courses instead of making release time contingent on research, which is then judged in terms of quantifiable output.
It's likely a false hope to complain about commodification, as universities are subject to market tests, non-profit status or ambiguous products notwithstanding.  But attempts to apply simple metrics of "productivity" are likely to produce unintended consequences.

12.7.18

AVOID THE STRAIN, TAKE THE TRAIN.

Amtrak have not yet gotten around to wrecking the food service on the Empire Builder.  Jacob Wallace, who appears to be riding the rails to the locally-subsidized baseball stadia of the major leagues, enjoys the experience.  "Baseball allows people from a town or entire region to unite behind a common cause for a few hours each game, and enjoy food and maybe some beer. Trains, similarly, force people to sit next to each other at meals or on travelling tours, and have conversations with semi-retired square dance callers or chemtrail conspiracy theorists. I can’t think of any way to get to know your fellow citizens – all of them."  Indeed.  You can hear a lot just by listening.

DIVERTING A LOT OF LAND FROM ITS MOST PRODUCTIVE USE?

As a follow-on to our mini-dissertation on urban land use, I commend Streetsblog's American Cities Are Drowning in Car Storage.  "Much of the parking in the central districts of these cities consists — the places with the best access to jobs — consists of garages, the most expensive type of parking to build. In Seattle, one-third of the city’s parking supply is located in downtown garages."  Those parking spaces are the consequence of zoning codes and worst-case parking minimum capacity standards, which is to say, constraints on the reallocation of land to its most productive use.  Remove the constraints, watch the reallocation to housing and office towers commence.

EVERYTHING ELSE IS DETAILS.

The way out of governmental gridlock, Laura Hollis argues, is for Washington to do less.
In place of a permanent class of royalty and nobility, we have created a permanent political class in Washington, D.C. The remedy is not merely packing each branch of government with "our guys," but in realizing that the best chance for freedom and progress can be achieved when government is confined to the roles set out for it in the Constitution.
That's consistent with the Cold Spring Shops position.  Ms Hollis notes,
This would be the perfect time for Democrats to admit the shortsightedness of their earlier love affair with increased federal government power, and to rediscover the logic behind the separation of powers and limits on government found in the U.S. Constitution. Instead, their strategy seems to be to try to regain Democratic control of all three branches of the federal government so that they can wield power once again, without fear -- unlike Republicans -- of any press pushback.
No ruling class ever voluntarily gives up its powers. Apparently, taking the right lesson from losing elections isn't the preferred option, when the consequences of the elections include the Front Row Kids losing some of their powers.  In fact, as two gangster-gramophones in the heart of the incela corridor argue, Constitutional powers can be the way for the Front Row Kids to keep their powers intact.
There is only one way to get out of the vicious cycle ahead of us: We need to stop thinking of the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of every controversial issue in American politics. Short of that, we must make it harder for the court to act decisively in controversial cases. This could be done by requiring an even number of justices picked by a majority and a minority in the Senate. Let the court deadlock more, and let democracy do the hard work of politics, instead of lawyers and judges.
Read the column, dear reader, and note the back-handed way the authors introduce the Tenth Amendment, or states going their own way.
An even balance on the court would make it less likely that any one justice will again possess the disproportionate dominion on American politics Kennedy had at the end of his career. And it will leave more issues to Congress, lower courts and the states to decide. The Supreme Court will instead be left to decide two sets of cases: (1) genuine constitutional questions, where the legal issues transcend current policy fights; and (2) questions where conservatives are able to convince liberals, and vice versa.
The interaction between electoral politics and the composition of the High Bench has been contested for as long as there has been the Republic (unsurprisingly: it's a 230 year experiment in separated and enumerated powers), and the threat of losing all their powers for the first time since the late New Deal is concentrating minds in the Permanent Bipartisan Establishment.

CHINA'S APPALACHIA?

Hebei province, north of Beijing, is going to clean up its heavy industry in advance of the Winter Olympics.
According to an article published by the Hebei provincial environmental bureau, the province will aim to cut a total of around 40 million tonnes of steel smelting capacity from 2018 to 2020.

It aims to have just 60 steel enterprises by the end of the decade, with 90 percent of capacity controlled by its top 15 firms, it said, citing senior government officials at a meeting on Wednesday.

The cities of Baoding, Langfang and Zhangjiakou - a host city for the 2022 Winter Olympics - will shut all their steel mills by 2020. Chengde and Qinhuangdao will close half. Chengde, Zhangjiakou and Baoding will also eliminate all their coal mines by the end of 2020.
To put that shakeout into perspective, that's the equivalent of five Gary Works or Sparrows Point fully-integrated steel mills, or more capacity than once operated in the Cleveland - Youngstown - Pittsburgh corridor.  It's true that there has been excess steelmaking capacity in China long before the latest iteration of import tariffs on steel with the purpose of stopping dumping or something took place, and we'll see whether China's gangster gramophones lay some of the blame for the closures on the tariffs, or spin the closures as making an effort to comply with the various new environmental accords.

But we're still looking for that Chinese Billy Joel, as what went down in Allentown going on forty years ago is about to go down in Hebei.
Hebei will also shut another 5 million tonnes of annual cement capacity, 10 million tonnes of coking capacity and 1.5 gigawatts of thermal power capacity by 2020, the provincial Communist Party secretary Wang Dongfeng was quoted as saying.

Hebei closed more than 60 million tonnes of steel capacity and slashed coal use by 40 million tonnes over the 2013-2017 period, though critics complained that some of the shuttered mills were already bankrupt “zombie” firms.

The province had 286 million tonnes of annual steel capacity in 2013, and it is aiming to bring that figure down to 200 million tonnes by the end of the decade.
That's still knocking off the equivalent of the United States's primary steel capacity, and retaining ... just in that one province ... close onto twice the United States's primary steel capacity.  With that kind of excess capacity, it might tempt a Chinese steelman to send ships full of steel to the U.S., declare a ridiculously low value for the steel, have Customs pay that low declared value to confiscate the steel, and then let Customs sell it.

THERE'S PEER REVIEW. THERE'S ALSO PEER PRESSURE.

That's how "consensus" becomes cover for bullying.  It might be that Power Line's Steven Hayward is conflating evidence of dysfunctional academic departments (of which there are more than a few) with evidence of scholars behaving as gangster-gramophones for the Inner Party.

The dysfunctional department, notes Nature, is no less than the Max Planck Institute.
We will never know how many promising scientific careers around the world have been brought to a premature end because young researchers felt they could not continue to work under a bullying senior figure. But it should stop. Now. Those affected must be shown that the system will protect them if they choose to speak out. Institutions should ensure they have explicit policies in place for dealing with bullying, and, as part of that, define what constitutes bullying. And senior scientists who see colleagues behave in an inappropriate way should speak out.
Yes, that's a constant quality of academic departments, and sometimes Lernfreiheit is constrained by the preferences of the senior scholars and the purses of the granting agencies.

It's different, though, from the limitations that trammel inquiry Mr Hayward next addresses.  "It shouldn’t need pointing out that the most egregious bullying in the science world is toward anyone who dissents in the slightest regard from the very narrow orthodoxy of climate change."

Perhaps you can't point out the anomalies in the climate data because it's a threat to the gravy train, or to the socialist agenda.  More fundamentally, though, consensus might be the ad popularum fallacy dressed up in academic regalia.

In the case of climate science and environmental policy, though, anomalies aren't enough to make influential people reconsider their priors.  You'd think the fact that we are reading and writing about the controversies might have changed a few minds: since that first Earth Day in 1970, the end of civilization as we know it was supposed to have come by 1980, or perhaps 2000, or perhaps there would be no snow after 2015: but apparently, as one Roger Pielke is learning, there are some emperors whose clothes must be admired.  "Pielke does not dissent from the basic climate “consensus” much at all, but he has earned the bullying of the climatistas essentially for the sin of embarrassing Al Gore (among others) for calling b.s. on some of the favorite harum-scarum claims that the data don’t back up."