11.1.19

TAIL TRACK.

Barring signal troubles, links to any posts of substance ought to work.

RUNNING IN SOME TRAINS

The operating display track that circles the upper level of the basement sometimes functions to test and run in motive power that has sometimes been mothballed for years.  Here's a look, by way of winter fun.


Enjoy.

FROM THE SUBLIME TO THE RIDICULOUS.

High value-added activities bid up rents for favorable locations, whether anyone understands the underlying logic or not.

An eighteen-inch round pizza is more pizza than two twelve-inch round pizzas (thin crust, sausage, mushroom, and onion, on a mix of Mozzarella and Muenster please), whether anyone understands the underlying logic or not.

Perhaps Power Line's John Hinderaker is right to despair.
I am often baffled as to how so many of our fellow citizens can fail to understand basic facts of politics and economics. It is sobering to be reminded that many of them are stumped by the size of a pizza. I think liberals must understand this better than we do, which is why they generally appeal to emotion rather than reason.
Well, Little Caesars hasn't been going broke on pizza, pizza!

Perhaps not having to think about the square of the radius is part of the advance of civilization.

Now, all of a sudden, I'm hungry.

SOMETIMES, YOU CAN TEST THE HYPOTHESES.

Last summer, I raised the possibility that people participating in high-value-added activities might be bidding up urban rents.
Two principles of land use immediately emerge.  First, activities that command the highest price Pi have a ceteris paribus advantage in bidding for any parcel of land.  Second, activities that encounter higher transportation costs lose advantage at greater distances.  Thus, in the two-century old model, dairy products command a high price and spoil (we're before mechanical refrigeration or railroads, recall) quickly, thus those will be closest to the city, but dairies will be out-bid by timbering or cornfields or ranching.
That's straightforward, as is the extension I suggested.
But will we ever see a central business district that generates so much in the form of locational rents, in the presence of so small a transportation cost, for knowledge or financial industries (and there are reasons to suspect that it will be knowledge or financial industries, not manufacturing) that the service businesses get priced out, and the only land devoted to housing of any kind is at a distance, as appears to be happening in San Francisco, but not yet in Chicago?
What's fun is going through Tyler Cowen's roundup of economics conference papers where he thought this was worth posting.
I estimate a spatial equilibrium model to show that the rising value of high-skilled workers’ time is an important driving force behind the gentrification of American central cities. I show that the increasing value of time raises the cost of commuting and exogenously increases the demand for central locations by high-skilled workers. While change in value of time is an initial force behind gentrification, its effect is substantially magnified by endogenous amenity improvement. The model implies that welfare inequality in the recent decades increases by more than the rise in earnings inequality if the forces behind gentrification are considered.
As those amenities are competing with the high-value-added employees and the networking creatives in their entrepreneurial districts, there are likely opportunities for additional research on the limitations to either the rents or the amenities.

WHY COMPENSATING DIFFERENTIALS ARE A THING.

Years ago, it was television-savvy students who alerted me to "Deadliest Catch" when I brought up the topic of risky occupations.  The crabbing season is short, apparently it makes for compelling reality television, and the sea will do its best to kill you even when the cameras aren't rolling.
Discovery has released a statement following the tragic news that a Dungeness crab fishing boat was involved in a fatal accident Tuesday night. The Mary B II capsized while crossing the Yaquina Bay bar in Newport, Ore., killing three fishermen onboard. Despite earlier reports, the boat was never featured on Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch: Dungeon Cove.

“We feel deeply saddened by the news, as we feel part of the crabbing community,” the network tells Yahoo in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and the entire community during this difficult time.”

The Mary B II asked for a Coast Guard escort while crossing the bar, when the three fisherman went into the water. According to local news station KGW8, the bar was closed to all boats except those with licenses, like the Mary B II, due to the weather conditions. Authorities say crews faced 12- to 14-foot waves as they tried to rescue those on board. James Lacey, 48, Joshua Porter, 50, and the boat’s skipper, Stephen Biernacki, 50, were found dead.
RIP.

POUR ENCOURAGER LES AUTRES?

What is true of admirals is sometimes true of football coaches.  "Beyond concerns about an overly simplistic (and obsessively rigid) offensive philosophy, [former coach Mike] McCarthy will (or at least should) have to answer tough questions about how and why complacency descended onto the Packers under his watch."

It's been coming for some time, according to that article.
During the 2016 season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers complained openly about a lack of energy on the sidelines. Not long after that, he bemoaned the absence of a healthy fear of getting fired if players weren’t doing their jobs.

Both gripes trace to the head coach, and Rodgers’ willingness to openly comment on those dynamics were interpreted by some (us) as a passive-aggressive tug-of-war between Rodgers and McCarthy.
Sports pundits have to follow such things, their salaries depend on it. But it had to have been bad, I mean, Cold Spring Shops picked up the story last summer, in the midst of a pennant race.

10.1.19

SPEAKING OF DEMSETZ AUCTIONS.

They're coming to regional rail in France.
Issued by the Ministry of Environmental Transformation & Sustainability and to be published this week in the Official Journal of the European Union, the [solicitiation] covers the Nantes – Bordeaux and Nantes – Lyon services currently operated by SNCF Mobilités as part of the Trains d’Equilibre du Térritoire network of conventional inter-city trains. These two routes are among eight TET services still specified by central government rather than regional authorities, and SNCF’s operating agreement with the state runs until 2020.

The ministry says that the [solicitation] marks the start of the first competitive tendering process under the national railway reform programme which was passed into law in June 2018. This is intended to ensure that France complies with the provisions of the EU’s Fourth Railway Package.
It appears that the tenders will accompany the purchases of new rolling stock on different lines.
The ministry is clear that for now the tendering process applies only to the two TET routes specified. This is because the rolling stock on both routes has recently been renewed, and this will be made available for use by the winning bidder. Future tendering of other state-managed TET services would only take place once fleet and infrastructure enhancements have been completed ‘over the coming years’. The government plans to select a single operator to run both services under a public service contract, insisting that there will be no on-rail competition.

The government says that ‘it has complete confidence in the quality of the bids that will be presented’. The operating contract is expected to come into effect from 2022.

‘We are not trying to get rid of SNCF’, a spokesman for the ministry told local media on January 9. ‘All the bidders have an equal chance of winning. We want to see the tendering process lead to more quality for passengers, more trains being run and more innovation, but also a reduction in costs — why not? But the latter is not the dominant criterion. There is no logic in “social dumping”.’
"No on-rail competition" means we won't have situations like those on British metals, where the passenger bound up from Newcastle might have the choice of a Virgin Group or Central Trains or whoever the operator is.  What intrigues there is that carrier-issued tickets are good only on that carrier's trains, but a rail pass or multiple-city ticket is valid on any train.

THE CASE FOR TRADE-TESTED BETTERMENTS.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Jim Stingl discovers that insurance companies pay for colonoscopies on the basis of the code by which they are ordered. "How can one colonoscopy be entirely covered by insurance because it's deemed to be a preventive screening and the next cost us thousands of dollars out of pocket because it's labeled slightly more ominously as diagnostic?" It's a Through the Looking Glass version of Ronald Coase's "Theory of the Firm" in which one of the principal costs of avoiding the price mechanism is determining who has the primary right to avoid.
"Minutes before swallowing the gallon of colon blast, I got a call from my insurance company telling me that my copay would be $3,100. Gulp. Turns out I am now flagged and any colonoscopies from this day forward will be considered diagnostic, not screening," [Journal-Sentinel reporter Meg Kissinger] said.

"When I challenged the nurse on this, she told me that they hate this policy and blamed it on the insurance people. The insurance people told me it was the government, which I took to be code for Obamacare," she said.

The doctor scheduled to perform the test actually is employed by Madison Medical Affiliates, which gives patients a one-page guide to screening versus diagnostic colonoscopies. In short, it says screening applies only to tests done every 10 years and with no evidence or previous history of polyps, cancer and such.

The guide offers an excellent piece of advice to us patients who, let's face it, need to be informed advocates for our own health care these days: "Know the difference and what your insurance pays for."

Meg shared the story with her family doctor, who commiserated with her but urged her to shell out the money for the test. It's hard to argue against a procedure that catches cancer early.
Yes, although we haven't gotten into whether "the government" refers to Wisconsin rules, which involve a state that opted out of Obamacare in part, or what the risk premium is for follow-up procedures after five years, which is the recommended practice in the case of some polyps, or for that matter, what the opportunity cost of a colonoscopy is, irrespective of the surgeon, the operating studio, or the condition of the patient.  What matters, though, is that those market tests are absent.  Should they be?
It all seems so arbitrary, like charging more to check the brakes on your car because they happen to be squeaking. Why not just call every medical screen a diagnostic and save the insurance companies zillions of dollars on the backs of their customers?
Once upon a time, the automobile repair shops had this manual of standard service times, which meant there was a line item for "hours required to check squeaking brakes" broken down by make, model, and year. That, at least was semi-public information.

These days, the automotive analogy might be connecting the computer to read the codes your check engine light has stored in memory.  At some shops, there's one of those standard service fees to connect the computer and retrieve the codes.  Other shops might just connect the computer while they're changing your oil (no later than the earlier of 5,000 miles or six months) and let you know what they find, or you can go to some of the auto parts stores and they'll do the readout for you.

Admittedly, that's not quite snaking a camera into a tight spot, and yet must the insurers and bureaucrats circumscribe the discretion of surgeons in the way the car technician would bridle at?

SWARMS OF OFFICERS, HARASSING OUR PEOPLE AND EATING OUT THEIR SUBSTANCE.

Nobody would have mistaken candidate Donald Trump as a libertarian.  Two years into his presidency, though, the partial government shutdown, or insider theater, or p*ss*ng contest among leaders of the political class, or whatever it is, is inspiring at least a few observers to start asking whether maybe all those bureaucrats are useful.

Pajamas Media's Michael Walsh invokes that passage from the Declaration of Independence, then notes that the furloughed Feds aren't doing a lot to secure those unalienable rights.  "[T]he longer Donald Trump wrangles with his two superannuated cartoon antagonists, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the stronger the president's position becomes. This despite the Democrat Media's insistence that the shutdown is a terrible thing, costing the lives of (as usual) untold women, children, and minorities." Indeed, even the attempts by the Palace Guard Media to draw comparisons with restructuring private sector companies fail to convince him.  "One would think that these numbers only serve to prove how unconscionably large the federal government has become, but of course that's not the way the Democrats and their fellow travelers near Times Square see it. The employer of last resort must stay in business to keep hiring more and more people for more and more positions in the metastasizing bureaucracy, where lifetime employment is very nearly a constitutional guarantee."

Moreover, perhaps enough air travellers are wise to the security theater that they're not ready to agree with Chuck, Nancy, and their willing accomplices in the legacy media that the only thing worse than being groped by Transportation Security after waiting in a long line is to not have any Transportation Security gropers on hand.  "Given that the world is a better place when TSA employees and other government minions don't do their jobs, and some are already seeking alternative employment, what a great opportunity to shut down their agencies, shrink the government, and make everybody's lives a little better!"  Yes, that's Reason correspondent J. D. Tuccille, and yet, does his platform invalidate his closing argument, "Without even turning to the larger federal apparatus, isn't a widespread sick-out among government workers sounding like a pretty attractive idea right about now?"

But wait ... don't we have to keep the national government open to protect us against ... rogue beer?  Dear reader, read the entire article.  It's not that somebody is secretly enforcing Reinheitsgebot (not with all those headache-in-a-glass pale ales everywhere) or that the Lavender Spice Light forthcoming for Valentine's Day might poison somebody.

Rather ... it's that the labels might be incomplete or inaccurate.  (Is there anything involving food that the Obamas didn't ruin?)  "While the [Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau]'s main responsibility is collecting alcohol taxes—and don't worry, it's still doing that during the shutdown—the bureau is also charged with ensuring that beers, wines, and spirits accurately communicate details like the amount of alcohol by volume (ABV) and the mandatory Surgeon General's warning. Without government approval, the drinks those labels envelope can't be sold." And yes, the absence of a GS-12 in the labelling section has the potential to ruin Valentine's Day. "At Atlas Brew Works in Washington, D.C., a brand new apricot IPA might have to be dumped because it's already fermenting in the tanks but there's no timetable for getting approval from the TTB." I may not like your apricot headache in the glass, but, hey, in these United States of America, your right to drink it ought not be infringed.  Or, for that matter, if you want that Lavender Spice Light.  "In 2016, for example, a Minnesota-based brewery was told it could not sell a beer made with lavender extract, sunflower oil, and dates as 'LSD Ale.' The exact same product, though, is perfectly legal to be sold under the name 'Lavender Sunflower Date Honey Ale,' which is what Indeed Brewing Company ended up calling it. By any other name, right?"Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and ask ourselves, each time we hear that something can't be done because some bureaucrat is furloughed, whether there might not be a work-around, including working without that bureaucrat completely.
Breweries and wineries know what information they are supposed to include on their labels; if they fail to do that, let the TTB get involved. That's how most other government agencies regulate consumer goods anyway. Better yet, do away with the TTB entirely and let the Federal Trade Commission enforce the beer label requirements if breweries fail to note the ABV of their brews.

The TTB is exactly the type of government agency that a shutdown should make us reconsider. When it's operational, it causes problems. When it's shut down, it causes other problems. Let's get rid of it.
Yes, and identify other nests of paralysis-by-analysis, and root them out.

SUMMON THE SMALL PLATOONS OF CIVIL SOCIETY.

The public library of Sycamore, Illinois, home to the regional history collection of photographs, is an honest-to-Andrew Carnegie structure that doesn't stand up to the prairie zephyrs like it once could.  "Wind gusts of 45 mph. Original windows installed 114 years ago. Turns out, the upstairs windows of the historical wing of the Sycamore Public Library were overmatched."

There might be some money in the Illinois state budget to help with repairs.  There are opportunities for local residents and visitors to pitch in.  "Coins for Carnegie Drive has been set up and that patrons can donate at the library." In addition, the prairie version of the bean supper is coming. "An all-you-can-eat BBQ dinner also is planned for 4 to 8 p.m. March 1 at the VFW, 121 S. California St., and proceeds will go toward the project, [library director Monica] Dombrowski said."

9.1.19

I SPOKE TOO SOON.

At the centennial of the Armistice, I noted, "We rarely hear Serious People rolling out the Moral Equivalent of War in support of other Grand Public Constructions these days, and yet the mind-set in Official Washington and on the Sunday shows is still the same: some federal agency should be doing more, and smarter, and harder." Now comes newly-sworn-in Member of Congress Alexandria "Sandy" Ocasio-Cortez (Naïf-N.Y.) having a good wallow in the past.
“None of these things are new ideas,” she explained on the campaign trail last October. “What we had was an existential threat in the context of a war. We had a direct existential threat with another nation; this time it was Nazi Germany and the Axis, who explicitly made the United States as an enemy.”

“We chose to mobilize our entire economy and industrialized our entire economy, and we put hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people to work in defending our shores and defending this country,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “We have to do the same thing in order to get us to 100 percent renewable energy, and that’s just the truth of it.”
That "Axis" included the Empire of Japan, and "defending this country" included confining citizens of Japanese ancestry in camps, as well as more than a little additional scrutiny of citizens and resident aliens of Latin American ancestry, just in case they were a little close to Francisco Franco or Il Duce or Der Führer.  Balance that, please, against any feel-good stories about integrating combat regiments in Germany toward the end of the war and creating an office of Navajo code-talkers in the air force.

That mobilization included a Manhattan Project, to create nuclear weapons in order to get 100 percent victory.  I have yet to see any discussion of nuclear generating stations, including breeder reactors, which are likely to be part of any 100 percent renewable energy enterprise from the representative.  I know that such things are in the policy shops, somewhere.  Thirty years ago, when I first worked with the Department of Energy on acid precipitation and climate change, I tentatively raised the ideas of nuclear power as part of the tool-kit.  My supervisor assured me that yes, those ideas were part of the discussion, if, perhaps they were being approached in rather a gingerly way.

Even if Congressional Democrats are serious about Green Energy Independence, perhaps Jonah Goldberg is correct, we should have none of it.
[T]he important point is that ever since philosopher William James coined the phrase the “moral equivalent of war,” American liberalism has been recycling the same basic idea: The country needs to be unified and organized as if we are at war, but not to fight a literal battle. The attraction stems from what John Dewey called “the social possibilities of war” — the ability to reorganize and unify society according to the schemes of planners and experts.

This was the through line of 20th-century liberalism, and now 21st-century liberalism, too. Wilson’s war socialism, FDR’s New Deal, Harry Truman’s Fair Deal, John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier, Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, Jimmy Carter’s declaration that the energy crisis was a “moral equivalent of war,” and Barack Obama’s “new foundation for growth,” with his Thomas Friedman-inspired talk about “Sputnik moments”: It’s all the same idea gussied up as something new.
Precisely. It's always an excuse to ratchet up government activity, because Nanny says it's for Your. Own. Good. Isn't that special?

YOU DON'T CONCEAL ACADEMIC FAILURE BY SILENCING THE PEOPLE WHO POINT IT OUT.

Chicago State University, dropout factory, expense-preference playground for diversity hustlers, getting schooled in First Amendment rights for faculty.
CSU, a public university, agreed to pay Philip Beverly and Robert Bionaz $650,000 and revise the unconstitutional policies that prompted the lawsuit.

On July 1, 2018, Bevery and Bionaz filed suit after CSU ordered them to shut down a faculty-run website that had criticized the administration. Administrators had alleged that this criticism violated the university's policy against cyberbullying, and one public relations director even filed a harassment complaint against Bionaz. These were obvious violations of the faculty's rights; the hurt feelings of university PR officials do not trump the First Amendment.
Thirteen down, another Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (they can use your contributions, tax code or no) lawsuit to follow.  "After each victory, FIRE will target another school — sending a message that unless public colleges obey the law, they will be sued."  Good.

Professor Bionaz is declaring victory and returning to his desk.
After twice threatening the blog with legal action, after lying about the blog's violation of non-existent university trademarks, after lying about a variety of other matters, after ham-handed attempts by the Watson cabal to inveigle various administrators to file false sexual harassment charges, the university's feeble defense predictably failed to stop the lawsuit. Thus, the university faced the prospect of a trial which would have featured a defense by two notable liars having to tell their ridiculous lies on the stand. Kudos to President Scott for finally putting an end to this farce.

None of this had to happen. Soon after we filed the suit, the Illinois Attorney General's Office floated a potential settlement which would have resulted in a modification of the two unconstitutional policies (Computer Usage and Cyberbullying) and the payment of $60,000 in damages and attorney's fees for our attorneys. Rather than accept this reasonable offer, Watson decided to fight, replacing the Attorney General with a private law firm, whose efforts resulted in this loss, the modification of the policies, and an estimated $1.5 million price tag. After all, it wasn't his money.

So the university must once again pay the price for Wayne Watson's incompetence, his vindictiveness, his mendacity. Hopefully, the settlement indicates that at least someone responsible for administering this school will actually put the university's interests first.
We'll see. Margaret "University Diaries" Soltan is not yet ready to make nice with the local Little Rocket Man.
[Chicago State] has disappeared as a university (few students attend; almost no one graduates) but continues to thrive as a taxpayer-sponsored kleptomania/litigation machine. Corruption, virtually the only game on campus (uh, plus basketball, must be kept quiet in order to sustain itself, so the school’s constantly suing or threatening to sue students, professors, and administrators who tell the truth about what’s going on. CSU loses the suits, of course, and has to pay (the good people of Illinois have to pay) big settlement and legal costs.
The "basketball" reference is to the near-invisibility of the women's basketball program, which recently hired in a successful coach out of Rock Valley College to improve the team. A coach with previous community college experience might be a good fit for an open-admissions public university, and yet playing at the division I level is a different world.  Consider the end of December, when Chicago State hosted Brown (on their home visit tour for their Illinois recruits) just after Christmas, after paying a visit to Northern Illinois just before.  Let's say that Chicago State learned a lot from an experienced and determined Northern Illinois team.

Now, if university administrators will learn that attempting to silence dissident faculty who maintain weblogs is going to run them afoul of an experienced and determined Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

8.1.19

THANK YOU, HUNTER HARRISON?

On-time performances on the Illinois Central mini-corridor are not impressive.
[T]he City of New Orleans departed Champaign an average of 42 minutes late northbound but just 19 minutes late southbound.

But it was the opposite pattern for the state-funded Illini and Saluki.

The northbound Saluki left average of 24 minutes late northbound but 49 minutes late southbound.

The northbound Illini was, on average, 35 minutes late northbound and 37 minutes late southbound during 2018.

The News-Gazette report said many of the delays could be attributed to host railroad Canadian National. Amtrak contends CN is one of its worst host carrier with freight trains delaying Amtrak on 90 percent of the trips made on the route via Champaign.

Amtrak contends that CN contributes an average of 26 minutes of delay per day.

But some of the delays are also caused by longer than scheduled loading and unloading of passengers.
I wonder if Amtrak's conductors are holding things up by opening fewer doors and by checking tickets on the platform.

As far as Canadian National's contribution, well, there are people who look at the wide rights-of-way that used to carry two tracks and asking whether or not there is a way to add dedicated tracks.
Amtrak does have the authority to purchase right of way and build its own tracks, said Rick Harnish, who is the executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association.

And there is plenty of space to add a set of tracks to replace that set that was removed by the Canadian National Railroad.
Usual story: there's no money for that sort of infrastructure.

But why did CNR remove the second track?  Answer: it wasn't CNR at all, it was Illinois Central, as part of controversial railroad executive E. Hunter Harrison's proof of concept for freight railroading, which involves identifying freight cars that are standing still, locomotives that aren't pulling their weight, and track that is lightly used, and removing it.  Thus, the second track from Chicago to Carbondale, the cab signalling good for 100 mph running, and maybe the sharp old-school dispatching had to go.

But performance on the freight side of Illinois Central looked good enough to investors that Mr Harrison got additional gigs at Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, and CSX.

IT'S ALWAYS A GOOD QUESTION TO ASK.

Mary Schmich of Chicago's Tribune, "What are we teaching children now that we’ll look back on as ignorance?"

Unfortunately, it comes at the end of a column slagging on the American High, or, as I sometimes call it these days, the Second Era of American Greatness.
The America of my childhood was a great land in many ways, but it was full of bigotry and bunk.

When I think back on all the crazy things taught to children of my generation, by adults who were poorly taught themselves, I marvel that a country steeped in so much ignorance has advanced as much as it has.

The ignorance hasn’t vanished. There remain people raised in the America of my childhood who cling to the ridiculous things we were taught.
I've heard variations on this complaint, sometimes in shorter form, and sometimes in longer form, and it tends to reduce to "Let's slag on everything that was present then, because there were a few things wrong," rather than "Let us identify opportunities to make that union more perfect and to secure the blessings of liberty to more of us and all of their posterity."  It's a mind-set in which the staged comity of "Ozzie and Harriet" becomes an excuse to nuke the nuclear family.  "In that world — the world of 'Ozzie and Harriet,' 'Leave it to Beaver' and 'Father Knows Best' — almost all the people on TV were white, except Amos ’n’ Andy, two black sitcom characters who lived in Harlem."

When you deconstruct something, you might want to think carefully about what you put in its place, particularly when what you put in its place doesn't work so well.  "There is already too much nostalgia in our society for a past that had virtues but also had terrible vices."

That's National Review's David French, noting the absence of gentlemen in modern life, which is probably more important than the absence of recent optimistic Christmas songs.

Apparently, though, hailing the opportunities to expand the bounty and the good cheer aren't as important as noting that the "peach" crayon (which, if I recall correctly, was only in the deluxe 64 color package, always viewed around our house as an extravagance) used to be the "flesh" crayon, and therefore the entire era was tainted.

I suppose we should be grateful we're not teaching our children that diet pills and liposuction cure bulimia.

ILLINOIS HAS AN OPEN PRIMARY.

You'd think the writers at the University of Chicago student newspaper would know that.

Apparently attempting to reveal the president of the university as some kind of secret Republican is more fun.

The primary election is an attempt by self-styled good government types of a century ago to shift some of the power to select candidates from party insiders to voters.  Thus, voting in a primary election involves requesting a party-specific ballot.  In Illinois, a voter declares by making such a request at the check-in desk.  There is no such thing as a list of "registered" Republicans or Democrats, the way there is in other states.   Party operatives of all parties (in principle, you could have a libertarian primary in Illinois) prefer the closed primary, as crossover voting is a way for hard-core voters of one party to frustrate candidates of another party.

That might well be what the university's president, Robert Zimmer, did.  He's reported as having voted in the 2008 Democratic primary (recall, dear reader, that both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had roots in Illinois) and then in the 2016 Republican primary, where a crossover Democrat might want to help Donald Trump win on the theory that he would be easy to defeat, or a Never Trump Republican still had a choice.

The  Maroon article is getting slagged in its comment section.

AN OVERLOOKED PRICE THEORIST PASSES.

Peter Boettke of Coordination Problem honors Harold Demsetz as a champion of price theory and the Economic Way of Thinking.  His essay raises the possibility of intellectual common ground between price theorists, as commonly understood, and market-process theorists.
It is all about the analytics of price theory, and in particular the role that relative prices play in guiding exchange and production decisions.  It is wrong to insist the position articulated in economics so perceived is one that continually asserts that whatever is, is efficient (that is the tight prior of Stigler and Becker), as opposed to an insistence that individuals are not persistently stupid, that they will be creative and clever in seeking out the mutual gains from trade, and thus that there is always in operation an evolution towards a solution that must be appreciated and studied.  The mantra, if there is one, is not "efficiency always", but "where are the deals?; what bargains can be struck between actors?"  Economics in the hands of these economists is about exchange and the institutions within which exchange takes place.  Prices are never merely a sufficient statistic that is reflected in a unique vector in a deterministic system of competitive equilibrium.  Prices are not a parameter in this work, prices are instead continually adjusting and communicating to economic actors critical information that guides them in making the appropriate adaptations required to realize productive specialization and peaceful social cooperation.

Harold Demsetz was a practitioner of UCLA price theory par excellence.  He challenged the prevailing orthodoxy in microeconomic analysis and public policy that was emerging in the wake of the Samuelsonian revolution in economics. He developed a dynamic understanding of market competition, putting emphasis on conditions of entry and exit rather than on market structure. In addition, his work constantly drew attention to the creative adaptations and adjustments that economic actors engage in throughout a competitive economy, the multiple margins of adjustment that individuals, as buyers and sellers, engage in through the market, and how alternative institutional arrangements impact competitive behavior.
True enough about those relative prices, there are probably graduate students who during their time at Northern Illinois had nightmares about (1) relative prices matter, (2) payoffs are equal at the margin, and (3) bygones are forever bygones.  And true enough, as well, the lament among economists of the UCLA and Virginia traditions that the Powers that Be in the discipline had insufficient respect for the best practitioners there.  "There's an element of complaint present, as well, in [Arnold Kling's] observation that the late Alchian Allen and the still-living Harold Demsetz had worked on similar contracting problems, using a more literary form of price theory. But the prize goes to the work that more precisely delineates the conditions under which the phenomenon is present."

So, too, it might be with the Harold Demsetz idea that I engaged with somewhat frequently.
Starting with his work in the late 1950s, Demsetz began challenging the then prevailing orthodoxy concerning monopolistic power, natural monopoly, and industrial structure. In his 1968 paper “Why Regulate Utilities?”, for example, he made the critical point that: “we have no theory that allows us to deduce from the observable degree of concentration in a particular market whether or not price and output are competitive” (Demsetz 1968: 59-60). This paper would argue that we do not need to regulate utilities to curb monopoly power provided that there is vibrant competition for the field among potential providers of the service.
When the same argument came out of Princeton in a more mathematical form, under the rubric of contestable markets, adherents of the UCLA and Virginia traditions understandably raised objections about those models simply reinventing Demsetz auctions.  That credit-claiming might have missed the point, which is that "provided there is vibrant competition among potential providers" is a tougher condition in practice than it might be on paper.  "The highway, like an electrical grid or a railroad line, is a specific asset that can be wasted by the operator, absent sufficient safeguards for proper performance (and the British are still struggling with the proper safeguards when several franchise holders are operating trains on the same tracks) and the incumbent operator can learn things in the act of running the property that will confer it an advantage over other bidders when the franchise is rebid." The periodic operating-franchise follies that arise on British metals suggest the failure of that condition to hold is not trivial.

And yet, the idea of putting monopoly rights up for bid is not outrageous per se.  RIP.

THE TUNE-UP COMMENCES.

The Green Bay Packers apparently will introduce Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur as the team's fifteenth head coach.

The last time we documented a coaching change in Green Bay was thirteen seasons ago.  History rhymes.
A year ago, these pages were following the regime change in Green Bay, and suggesting that more recriminations were in order. Packer management brought in Ted Thompson as general manager, redefining then head coach and general manager Mike Sherman's portfolio as head coach and vice-president. Mr Thompson subsequently hired Miami's defensive coordinator Jim Bates as defensive coordinator. For all the troubles the Packers had this year, in many losses the margin of defeat was an interception return for a touchdown or a missed field goal. Some of the other troubles were recurrences of troubles in the 2004 season.
I can't vouch for all of the links in that excerpt.  Note, though, that history rhymes: in 2017 comes a new general manager and a new defensive coordinator, many of the losses in 2018 were close, and several involved blown leads late in the game.

Thus, Mr LaFleur arrives as the latest successor to Curly Lambeau, Vince Lombardi, Mike Holmgren, and Mike McCarthy.  It's still one of the toughest gigs in football.  "It has been a difficult task for Mike Holmgren and Ray Rhodes and Mike Sherman and Mike McCarthy to do their work with the footsteps of giants behind them."


In just over a month, pitchers and catchers will report.

Come late summer, though, well, the standard in Green Bay is still five championships in six championship games in eight seasons.

7.1.19

SUBVERT THE INTERSECTIONAL PARADIGM.

It's the end of the festive season, which means the winter tunes, such as "Winter Wonderland" and "Jingle Bells" and "Sleigh Ride" and "Baby, It's Cold Outside" are out of the rotation until Hallowe'en.

In light, though, of the controversy over the last named tune (a controversy that Jaya Saxena labels "boring as hell") and with the playlists reverting to form: as a Northern Star columnist also unimpressed by the controversy noting, "Some of the Top 40 Hit Songs talk about sex and use explicit language, yet they are on the radio, and no one is banning them. Like the song F*** You by Cee Lo Green, the explicit version of the song uses the F-word many times and yet no one calls to ban it." There's probably an opportunity for radio stations to push the envelope by, oh, introducing the weather forecast on those days you know are going to come between now and Easter, with ...


Enjoy. It's just over a month until pitchers and catchers report.

WHAT'S MONGOLIAN FOR "19 WEST COPY THREE"?

Emily "I Ride the Harlem Line" Moser went on a summer trip to Mongolia, to encounter throwback railroading.
In our previous post we got to see some trains around the Kholt area, this time we visit the small platform (complete with an old, abandoned signal house on the hill above), and get a chance to meet the local dispatcher. Trains through this area aren’t using any type of Centralized Traffic Control, instead a local dispatcher controls the siding outside, and when a train arrives nearby, heads outside to visually report its passage and log the consist’s rear car number and time of passage. On the station platform is a small, raised raised spot which the dispatcher stands on to observe the passing train.
The local train director (translating into steam-era North American terminology) has a small model board to control the turnouts at each end of the Kholt siding.

There has to be a Mongolian family name that translates as Sand, and our Eddie Sand would surely be at home inspecting the train as it rolls by and wiring the OS to the dispatcher.  It works the same way in Kholt as it used to work in Holt, Calif., on the Santa Fe, and surely the soul of the Mongolian railroad resides on a mountain pass, just as Harry Bedwell would have it.

I wonder if the train directors also serve as general agents selling tickets and arranging the setting out of stock cars in the lambing season.

But enjoy the vintage railroading while you can, as centralized traffic control with a dispatch office in Ulanbataar is on the way.

PITCH PERFECT.

Chicago mayoral hopeful William "Bugsy" Daley (yup, of the Daley dynasty) is campaigning for the South Side vote by proposing the Dan Ryan Expressway be renamed for Barack Obama.

Whether such a step is even possible under Illinois law isn't clear.

Cold Spring Shops, however, endorses the idea.  Why?  First, he didn't build it.  Second, the perpetually sluggish traffic is a metaphor in metal of the macroeconomic torpor of the Obama presidency.  Third, on occasion contemporary community organizers draw attention to South Side grievances by obstructing traffic thereon.

6.1.19

THE VALUE OF THE CHRISTMAS STORY.

It's Twelfth Night, or Three Kings, or time to put the seasonal displays away until the next Festive Season.


Andrew Greeley's alter ego, Bishop Blackie, likes to use the creche as a metaphor for Catholicism.  Who is the baby?  God.  Who is Mary?  God's Mother.  Who are the shepherds?  God's flock.  That, indeed, was the message from this year's midnight services: to Caesar, the inhabitants of Judea were numbers to be enrolled, but what transpired outside that Bethlehem inn was all about succor for the common people, manifesting itself among the common people.

That might be sufficient for understanding why the story continues to have purchase.  Yes, we can insist on the primacy of Easter and the dependence of the faith on resurrection.  Or the more literal-minded among us can grouse about the temporal inconsistencies in the Christmas story.  Or draw attention to the oppressions committed in the Defense of the Faith.

Rather, dear reader, consider the story as it emerged in the light of lived reality in the era it emerged.  The oral tradition of Homer included references to gods taking an interest in the affairs of men, meddling, for instance, in the Trojan War.  The Romans, to the best of my recollection, had abandoned traditions of human sacrifices, but such customs were still being practiced on the periphery of the empire: into the tenth century the Norsemen sacrificing nine men at nine year intervals comes to mind, and into the sixteenth century that was the practice of the dominant tribes of Central America.  For that matter, isn't the jihadi's martyrdom by explosives a form of human sacrifice?

Thus, the tale of a god who takes human form with the assistance of a human mother, with the purpose of being sacrificed for the redemption of all human sins, then to undo the sacrifice after three days and later ascending into heaven, is likely to appeal to people aware of more pessimistic, or bloodthirsty, belief systems.  Thus, one version of the communion service, in which the call-and response is "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.  Therefore let us keep the feast."

At the same time, it's a tale that is going to call for some intellectual exercise subsequently, so as to introduce notions such as Immaculate Conception (in order that the Mother of God is born without sin) and Trinity (in order that God the Father is not begetting God the Son in the usual way) and that will provoke skeptics.

That noted, you toss out an optimistic story, even an optimistic story that calls for great faith, at your peril.  "December’s underlying message is one of mercy and goodwill towards others. The notion that the human condition is not only fragile but also redeemable, underpins the annual lesson of the holiday season."  In its absence, Clay Routledge argues, the human condition might worsen.  "The history of science is full of examples of science replacing old superstitions. But explaining the natural world is only one of religion’s functions. Ultimately, religion is about the human need for meaning. This need is inherent, not learned. It is a fundamental component of the human condition."  Or, perhaps, Toby Young suggests, Deep Thinkers replace one set of mysteries with another.  Stereotype threat.  Unconscious bias.  Micro-aggressions.

But perhaps I, too, am over-thinking things.  Look no further, dear reader, than what happens when the Word according to Karl, Friedrich, Vladimir, and Iosif is made Law.  One hundred million heretics, er, enemies of the people, liquidated.  Or perhaps consider whether Nietzsche declaring God dead might have been misunderstood and perverted by a later generation of Germans.

Deconstruct the good stories at your own risk.

The Festive Season is done.  The review of Secular Follies will resume tomorrow.

WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE TRAVERSING PARKING CRATERS FAR.

Perhaps it's a bit too much to have to trek a good league hence, just to trade in presents.
[F]amilies across the country burst out from their households of holiday cheer in order to once again brave the lines and lots of shopping malls, exchanging gifts and chasing year-end deals. It is, in other words, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, a “peak” shopping day for which big box stores are equipped with acres of asphalt.

This peak parking planning might seem a welcome relief to the mom in the minivan circling ever further out in search of a single open spot. But for many, if not most, commercial retail development, that parking will not be used to capacity even at peak.
American Conservative pundit Jonathan Coppage misses an opportunity to note that government overreach is government overreach, no matter where it originates.
If the federal government was requiring bureaucratic agencies to build acres of offices that would never or almost never be used, conservatives would rightly point to that policy as being emblematic of out-of-touch government, disconnected from the discipline of the market and the needs of the people. Ted Cruz would quip about it on talk radio, and John Boehner would drone in perfunctory tones about a needless example of government waste. Because this particular government mandate is carried out by private actors acting in compliance with received zoning ordinances, however, conservatives often mistake commercial conformity for a product of free markets. And we have lived under the minimum-parking regime for so many years that we have come to be comfortable with oceans of empty lots as the seemingly natural pattern of retail life.

This comfort comes at a steep cost, however, as asphalt does not pay taxes, does not host events, does not bring communities together, save for the occasional pop-up car wash church fundraiser. Instead of more shops, spaced close enough to walk from one to the other, there are patterns of gradually degrading lines drawn on the pavement. All that empty asphalt can be seen as an imposed desert, whereby the government is intentionally yet needlessly forgoing revenues that will have to be extracted from its citizens by other means.
Administrative bloat in colleges: a response to government mandates. Parking bloat in neighborhoods: a response to government mandates.

The good news is, the private actors, and sometimes the local governments, are beginning to understand that parking bloat is crowding out productive activity.  Sometimes, it takes a good mugging by reality.  Consider San Francisco, where the city fathers finally figured out that much of the land use was legal only because old land-use patterns were grandfathered in.
Developers will still be able to build parking spaces, of course. But they will no longer be bound by the city’s ancient formulas to provide them. Which means they can again build the mix of early 20th-century buildings for which San Francisco is famous, most of which were illegal to reproduce under the mid-century code. (Though there were workarounds, like building bicycle parking.) In short, as the transit planner Jarrett Walker put it, San Francisco legalized itself.
San Francisco, of course, is the city where real estate is so expensive that even fancy restaurants ask their diners to clear their own tables. Parking requirements, which constrain land use to include parking spaces to go with the eateries, dwellings, offices, and server farms, raise the effective rent on the land devoted to the uses the parking is incidental to.  (The requirements work as a leakage from the flow of goods and services, just as taxes do.  The same math that one uses in income-expenditure macroeconomics, with a 1/(1-t) term standing in for the parking requirements, works.)
First, cities realized that residents and business owners had higher priorities than “Can I park here?”—and in fact, some of the country’s least-car-friendly cities have become its most desirable. (See: Francisco, San.) Second, all that required parking functioned, as UCLA parking studies doyen Donald Shoup put it, “like a fertility drug for cars,” as lifestyles, budgets, streetscapes, and architecture were warped around the parking space subsidy. With an eye on stemming greenhouse-gas emissions, cities like San Francisco now want to reduce vehicle dependency. Third, providing parking proved to be a very onerous stipulation for developers, adding tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of every new unit. In a city with a never-ending housing crisis, scrapping the required parking space is an easy way to lower construction costs.
Dear reader, you might be tempted to note that San Francisco might be home to all sorts of crunchy types: and yet, Dallas, yes, as in the Cowboys and parvenus and obnoxious pickup trucks, is also experiencing this epiphany.
If you want to see what [Minneapolis rediscovering older] zoning policy looks like in practice, all you need to do is drive around some of Dallas’ older neighborhoods, like East Dallas and Oak Cliff, where duplexes and triplexes nestle in between among single-family homes. Back in the 1920s, when many of these neighborhoods were built, there was a viable streetcar system that linked all these neighborhoods together. The presence of multi-family buildings often trace out the former routes of the streetcar.
Let's rediscover the First Era of American Greatness one step at a time, even though Dallas already have light rail and commuter rail.  Note that a suggestion they modify their parking minimums came from an allegedly conservative think tank, not from the greenies.  "A new report by the Manhattan Institute that came out last week warns that Texas cities could face an economic slowdown if they don’t do something to address the land-use regulations that are driving the housing affordability crisis." Put more simply, those land-use regulations function as leakages, and land rents rise, pari passu.

Ye who now will bless emergence, shall yourselves bless the poor.

WHEN IT BECOMES TOO MUCH LIKE WORK, BUT WITHOUT THE REWARDS?

Chad Orzel meditates on what happened to web logs on the road from Next Big Thing to ... obscurity.
I can still remember the early days of blogging as a Thing, when there was a lot of talk about how it was going to Change Everything. While I would agree that Everything has unquestionably Changed, it’s not clear that blogs had all that much lasting influence; they certainly never got adopted as widely as many people hoped, and it’s interesting to poke a bit at why that is.
Part of the change might have been the purveyors of Traditional Media identifying Rising Stars and co-opting them.
One of the bigger factors is a sort of professionalization of blogging as a form of communication. Way back in 2002 when I started, blogging was very much a thing that people who primarily did something else would pick up as a hobby. That was the glorious thing about it, in my view– what you got from blogs wasn’t stories from writers who dabbled in other things, it was professionals from other areas dabbling in writing.

At some point in the latter part of that decade, things turned a bit. The best writers from the hobby blogger era got book deals and jobs in media, and “run a successful blog” became an accepted stepping-stone on the path to a writing career. You started to see more blogs that were clearly from future journalists specializing in some area, and they kind of crowded out hobby blogs. The quality of the writing almost certainly improved, but there was a certain homogenization of the style, and a kind of loss of authenticity.
That's part of it. There's a passage in Tom Sawyer that might be germane.  "There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would resign."

The social media platforms might have changed the incentives for developing readership as well.
Another major factor limiting blogging is that, as the social-media universe got bigger (both with blogs growing and becoming more mainstream, and the beginnings of Twitter and expansion of Facebook), the stakes started to get higher. When I started in 2002, I relied on security through obscurity to protect my academic career: I always wrote under my own name, but trusted that the people I worked with were highly unlikely to stumble across my blog. Near the peak of the blog era, a few years after the launch of ScienceBlogs, academics were advised to blog pseudonymously because if a tenure committee noticed your blog, they might think you were wasting time and hold that against you. These days, the danger of being active on social media (blogs included) is that somebody’s going to find something you wrote offensive and whip up a mob that will ruin your reputation, try to get you fired, and even send you death threats.
Social media mobs might be one hazard; perhaps the greater hazard is that the social media platforms practice their own form of censorship, and the algorithms they use to fill your news feed make the likelihood of somebody stumbling across your posts even smaller, and sometimes it's in the sources you stumble across, or that stumble across yours, that leads to the insights.

Bad writing, though, does not get read.
You have to enjoy communicating through the written word in a way that isn’t all that common. Even in academia, where people’s careers are built on the production of text, you don’t see many people who are actually good at the sort of communication needed for blogging. That’s part of why there are so many tedious meetings that could’ve been emails, and so many stupid faculty-email-list fights: a large fraction of the population, including most professional academics, find it a distasteful chore to type words into a computer and share them with other people.
Could that be because the task of typing words into a computer to be shared with other people is ... work?
There’s a reason why the vast majority of blogs have a dozen or two posts with the time between them increasing until they just sort of… stop. It’s the same reason why most Twitter and Facebook feeds are dominated by reshared memes and thoughts from others. The weird thing isn’t that more academics don’t blog, it’s that people like me and Matt Reed keep blogging over the span of so many years.
That's Matt "Dean Dad" Reed, who observes,
Still, the point of the enterprise wasn’t really careerism.  (If it were, I wouldn’t have used a pseudonym for all those years!)  It was to help people understand a reality that they frequently get wrong, in the cockeyed hopes of helping to make it better.  It’s a lot of work, and I don’t know if it has helped or not. But the educator in me has to believe that putting truth out there in digestible form, for extended periods, has to do some good, somewhere.  That’s what classroom teachers do. This is my version of teaching, even if I’m figuring it out as I go along.
Bet on emergence. Traditional teaching has in common with contemporary social media platforms an excess of curation, to the detriment of offering challenging perspectives on reality.

SEEKING AN EPIPHANY AT AMTRAK?

Trains and Travel notes the false economy of Amtrak's regional trains, some of which are on the rails for the better part of a day, attempting to offer food service from one cafe car.  "Imagine how nice it would be to have an actual dining car on that train, fully staffed, so you could go into the dinner sit at a table, and order a slice of apple pie and a cup of coffee. Then come back three hours later and order a sandwich and a Molson’s Canadian." As crowded as that cafe car is (that's often the case, particularly just after the cafe opens or leaving a station with heavy boardings), the full dining car might be booked with reservations, and not available to serve that afternoon pie and coffee.  But the troll level in the post is something to savor, with or without the coffee.
Would food service on that train break even or come close to it? Can’t say. Would it make those 11 hours more pleasant? Absolutely. Would the resulting word-of-mouth result in increased ridership? I would bet on it.

Would the current Amtrak management undertake such a move . . . if only to prove us wrong?

Ah … that could be a temptation those fellas would be unable to resist!
Yes, but are we prepared to wait until that coffee ices over?

4.1.19

NO FISHING OFF THE COMPANY PIER.

But this case happened at Marquette University, so unleash the hounds of hell!  "A Marquette University Law School professor who might otherwise weigh in as an expert on such issues has been suspended over allegations he had an inappropriate relationship with a student."

Marquette have a track record of administrative arbitrariness, and recently reinstated political scientist John "Marquette Warrior" McAdams is on the story.  Law professor Paul Secunda was apparently in some sort of negotiations with a provost who recently resigned, he was then exiled before final examinations were over.  Professor Mc Adams notes, "This is rather remarkable, since this completely messes up the final exam and the assignment of grades. When Marquette suspended us in December 2014, they waited until the afternoon after we had posted all the final grades before noon that day."

The problem, though, is that there's something Kafkaesque (or perhaps somebody found a passage in the Index that had previously thought to have disappeared with Griffon that applied) about the administration suddenly discovering moral turpitude.
We think Marquette, as a (supposedly) Catholic university has a right to say that all sex outside of marriage is immoral and dishonorable.

But Marquette can’t, all of a sudden, decide it is going to take this position, when it has never said so explicitly. In fact, Marquette has acted very differently. It has explicitly condoned homosexual sex, and provided benefits for gay “domestic partners.”

We know of at least one case in Political Science of a professor (now long gone from Marquette) cohabiting with a graduate student. Nobody made an issue of it. There have to be many similar cases in other departments.

Given that the language of the Faculty Statutes must be interpreted narrowly, Secunda can only be fired if his value has been “substantially impaired.” In today’s lax moral climate, we doubt that any mere consensual sexual relationship meets that standard.

But maybe there was more to it than that.
Or not.  "Marquette declined to discuss details of the case. Secunda issued a statement that said in part, 'I cannot stand by idly in the face of what I believe to be an injustice. I have confidence in the process Marquette and the faculty have established to protect tenured professors in these circumstances, and believe I will clear my name at the end.'"

We'll be watching, to see if Pajamas Media or The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education or the American Association of University Professors intervene.

ILLINOIS IS WHAT DEMOCRATS DO.

Chicago Tribune columnist Kristen McQueary warns voters, you asked to have it done good and hard.  "For the most part, voters swept out the suburban Republicans who have often served as the General Assembly’s only fiscal disciplinarians. So please, suburbanites. Stifle your complaints about high taxes. This is the government you chose."

We have much to look forward to.

CHECKING MY PRIVILEGE.

My parents understood this argument years ago.
Suniya Luthar, a psychologist at Arizona State University who studies families, is skeptical of the idea of paying kids on a per-chore basis. “How sustainable is it if you’re going to pay a child a dime for each time he picks up his clothes off the floor?” she says. “What are you saying—that you’re owed something for taking care of your stuff?”

Luthar is not opposed to giving allowances, but she thinks it’s important to establish that certain core chores are done not because they’ll lead to payment, but because they keep the household running. “It’s part of what you do as a family,” Luthar says. “In a family, no one’s going to pay you to tie your own shoes or to put your clothes away.”
Or, put more simply, there's stuff that has to be done, and part of growing up is pitching in, even after the novelty wears off.
Luthar’s suggested approach to allowance is compatible with the regimen that the New York Times personal-finance columnist Ron Lieber outlines in his book The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money. He advises that allowance be used as a means of showing children how to save, give, and spend on things they care about. Kids should do chores, he writes, “for the same reason we do—because the chores need to be done, and not with the expectation of compensation … Allowance ought to stand on its own, not as a wage but as a teaching tool.”
The article notes that allowances might be a middle American thing, and perhaps more common among families with means. My impression is that a lot of allowances, even adjusting for inflation, even contemplating compensation for chores, are generous these days.

HOW ASSIMILATION WORKS.

Sometimes, it's about moving without the ball and finding the open player.
It’s not unusual for first-time opponents to underestimate the lady Salam Stars.

The girls can see it — in an opponent’s glance, maybe the way she drops her shoulders — when the Stars take the court looking demure in their traditional Muslim headscarves.

Then, without fail, Captain Safiya Schaub or one of her teammates will hustle for the basket, quickly post up and nail the layup.
For now the team is respecting the old-country ways.
Salam, meaning "Peace" in Arabic, is an Islamic school that draws students and families from around the globe to its campus at South 13th Street and West Layton Avenue. The school has been expanding its athletic opportunities for girls over the last decade and now fields teams in soccer, volleyball, track and cross country, in addition to basketball.

Not all of the lady Stars wear the hijab outside school — it is a choice — but it's part of the uniform at Salam, in classes as well as athletics. And the school has had a waiver from the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association for years for girls to compete in the headscarf, sweats and long-sleeved tees.
School uniforms. Imagine that.  Their contemporaries at the Catholic schools would understand.

At the same time, the players present a challenge to old-country ways.
The girls' families are for the most part supportive. But it can still be a hard sell for some in more traditional segments of the community where women are expected to be modest, not competitive or aggressive.

"My dad was kind of against it at first — it was more of a cultural thing than religious," said senior center Nadira Ali, whose parents emigrated from Somalia before she was born. "I eventually convinced him that when you go to college, it's more than just about grades. They're interested in the leadership you bring to the table."

Still, they have a strong fan base, particularly among classmates and siblings — boys and girls — teachers and a few parents.
Read the article and discover that sometimes fans at away games aren't properly mannerly. That's unfortunate.

But ask yourself, dear reader, when is the last time you saw somebody's babushka wearing a babushka to church, or to the department store?

I repeat, because repeat I must: "The task for the living is to continue to give young people, including immigrants, a country they can buy into, as well as to buy into the success of those young people."

OH, THE RAILROAD IS THE MIDDLE OF THE HOUSE.

In the United States, the investor-owned railroads have sold stations for other uses, such as taverns, restaurants, all manner of retail stores, or museums, or breweries, and sometimes, the stations are moved away from the right-of-way for other uses.  The Minnesota and Northwestern depot in Sycamore, Illinois, for instance, is now a private house about a mile from where the Chicago Great Western once ran.

Sometimes, the old station buildings have rail cars incorporated, or the rail cars are parked near the tracks with purpose-built structures.

Earlier, we noted that some German railway stations now serve other purposes.  That's also true of obsolete rolling stock.


Marco Stepniak photograph retrieved from Deutsche Bahn "Inside Bahn."

The article, which is in German, is in part an offer of rolling stock for sale, either to repurpose as a house, or for preservation.  It does not appear to note that rolling stock is heavy, and that the person who aspires to live in a repurposed rail car has to pay as much attention to the subroadbed and the drainage thereof as a conscientious roadmaster does.

HEY, ROCKY, WATCH ME PULL A NARRATIVE OUT OF MY ...

Again?

My priors up my sleeve, and presto!


The intrepid moose and plucky squirrel lived in the fictional Frostbite Falls, Minnesota.

Serial fabulist Claas Relotius wrote fiction about the very real Fergus Falls, Minnesota, among other places.  Apparently telling stories that make European cosmopolitans and coastal metrofexuals comfortable with their prejudices can be a way to avoid fact-checking, at least where Der Spiegel or The New Republic are concerned.  Tell your "truth" long enough and people will believe it.


Now here's something we hope you'll really like.  Margaret "University Diaries" Soltan offered a poem in the style of W. B. Yeats.  (I heard echoes of Masefield's "Sea Fever" as well.)

Some residents of Fergus Falls, probably with prior experience dealing with nogoodniks, offered a rebuttal.  "Not only did he simply indulge in fabricating dramatic scenes and stories about Fergus Falls, but Relotius somehow spent three weeks here and managed to miss out on experiencing the real community and its many complex perspectives, which might have actually offered a helpful analyses about economic transition, politics and identity in rural America."  The Deputy Minister of Propaganda Information at Der Spiegel has issued an acknowledgement, one that concurs in part with the rebuttal.
[T]he initial review we have now conducted also shows that even if the whole story had been fact-checked according to the magazine's existing guidelines and all obvious mistakes and inaccuracies removed, large parts of the text could still have been fiction. DER SPIEGEL can only apologize to the residents of Fergus Falls. We are sorry.
Lake Wobegon might be fictional, but Fergus Falls is in that neighborhood, and you don't want to mess with a region where the women are strong, the men good-looking, and the children above average.  Apparently capable of being Minnesota Nice, as well.

WHERE IS MICHIGAN'S JOHN JAGLER?

Mr Jagler is the Wisconsin legislator who sponsored a bill requiring state universities to identify the high schools that were sending unprepared students their way.  (The resulting law, unfortunately, does not allow universities to send the high schools the bill for having to staff and offer high school courses in college.)

Now comes Michigan Public Radio.  Wayne State has fastest improving graduation rate in the nation.
Wayne State University has the lowest graduation rate for public universities in Michigan, but federal data shows it's improving in that area faster than any public university in the country.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System shows that Wayne State’s graduation numbers went from 26 percent in 2011 to 47 percent in 2017.

The graduation rate for black students has tripled during this time, while the rate for first-generation students also improved rapidly.

Monica Brockmeyer, the Senior Assistant Provost of Student Success at Wayne State, says it took a lot to improve the six year graduation rate from 26 percent to 47 percent.

“The biggest single part of it was the hiring of 45 academic advisors, and so we doubled our advising capacity on campus,” Brockmeyer said.
A third of a century after I left, and they're still pushing their urban mission and first-generation, non-traditional, all the rest, with the same dismal results.  And a new slate of deanlets and deanlings.  I mean, what is a Senior Assistant Provost of Student Success without a Junior Assistant Provost and a Division of Student Success without assorted Special Assistants and Assistants To?

We used to do better.  Once upon a time, Wayne State, and its counterparts, e.g. the City Colleges of New York in New York, and Temple in Philadelphia were unapologetically all about providing strivers with the same sort of intellectual challenges their more privileged counterparts were getting at the more famous destinations, whether in Ann Arbor or Ithaca or on the other side of the tracks in Philadelphia.  These days, at Temple maybe the athletes get that kind of nudging.  Everybody else?  Not so much.

Perhaps, Wayne State and its urban counterparts elsewhere had little choice.  During my seven years there, I heard from some of the old heads how the Ivies were able to diversify their faculty by hiring the right sort of faculty away from Wayne.  That might have happened at Temple and the City Colleges.  Meanwhile, they could diversify their student bodies (a little bit) by waving scholarships at selected graduates of Cass Tech or Bronx Science.

Graduation rates at Wayne are unlikely to get better anytime soon.
In recent trial testimony, Harvard and other selective schools claim that the only way they can maintain adequate racial diversity is to use large racial preferences to admit a great many more black (and brown) students than would otherwise get in based on their academic performance.

A person of ordinary curiosity might wonder: Why is that? Just what is the state of black academic performance, after more than 40 years of racial preferences? Is it improving? How soon might significantly more black students gain enough ground on whites and Asian-Americans to win admission to selective universities based on merit? And what about the Supreme Court’s unanimous assertion in 2003 that “[e]nshrining a permanent justification for racial preferences” would be unconstitutional?
The article's author, Stewart Taylor, jr., makes a number of points, some of them in part at odds with each other, and yet he hits on the John Jagler problem: there are high schools that aren't serving their students properly.
Strikingly, the Times did not explicitly acknowledge or quantify the vast racial gaps in academic performance, such as the fact that the average black 12th-grader is academically at the same level as the average white eighth-grader. And not a word about the massive evidence that the home environments of so many African-American kids are not conducive to education.

Nor did the Times attempt to explain, other than blaming unequal K-12 schools, how decades of increased public school spending and of racial preferences in college admissions could have failed so utterly to bring even relatively prosperous black students -- or their children – much closer to academic parity with whites and Asian-Americans by age 18.

By all available measures, despite the emergence of a black middle class, the most recent data suggest that the racial academic performance gaps among 18-year-olds applying to college are as large on average as they were about three decades ago. The black-white test score gap among high school seniors in contemporary America is comparable to the gap between 13- and 17-year-olds.
I suspect that the good folks at New York's Times are reluctant to blame the victim; the report does note that "blacks and Hispanics have gained more ground at less selective colleges and universities."  That's in part the old blue-collar university model at work, even if it's been gutted at Wayne and Temple, and it ought to be a reminder to faculty and administration everywhere that they're in the same business as Harvard, and ought to be mindful of that, without patronizing their students or dumbing the curriculum down.  It might help, too, for the Office of Student Success to encourage students to shed their authenticity shackles and develop the habits the brain coaches are trying to develop for the scholarship athletes.