30.4.19

THE CASE FOR THE LAND-GRANTS, MID-MAJORS, AND REGIONAL COMPREHENSIVES.

Columbia sociologist Musa al-Gharbi concludes "'Viewpoint Diversity' is About Much More than Politics" by noting the folly of the usual suspects at the top of the academic pecking order curating their incoming classes and calling themselves diverse.
In fact, those who are upset about the dearth of political or religious diversity in the academy should be at the forefront of championing demographic diversity and inclusion — and expanding education access, as well.

That is, rather than trying to bring in the same ‘types’ of people and hoping a larger share of them will somehow hold different social and political views, it would be far more effective to demand that we incorporate a broader range of U.S. society and culture among our faculty, staff and students.

If we get more people of color, more immigrants and international students, more low-income and first generation students, more students from rural areas, post-industrial regions and small towns – they will bring with them a much wider range of viewpoints than we currently have, including with respect to politics and religion.
That's a competition the land-grants, mid-majors, and regional comprehensives could win by default, if they'd but make the effort.

27.4.19

DO YOU WANT ONION ON YOUR BUTTER BURGER?

If you're seeking the presidency and campaigning in the Upper Midwest, you'd better!
Whether you’re doing a big push for the Iowa caucuses, reaching out to blue-collar workers in Minnesota, or visiting a championship basketball team at an Indiana high school, you’re going to stop into one of our restaurants. Then you’re going to order a seared-to-perfection ButterBurger with a side of crinkle-cut fries and pose for a photo with our local salt-of-the-earth customers. Because if you do not, I will systematically annihilate your bid for the White House, engineering the complete and permanent downfall of your political career.
That's The Onion putting words in founder Craig Culver's mouth.
Remember what happened to Mitt Romney? Who do you think leaked that video of him saying 47% of Americans are nothing but government freeloaders? Yeah. That’s what happens when you stop at Steak ’n Shake instead of Culver’s.
The company's official response seems to be along the Rooseveltian lines of "say anything about me but spell my name right."  To wit:  "The Onion is a long-time satirical digital media outlet well known for poking fun at the news, organizations and individuals. But our guests ARE passionate about ButterBurgers and Frozen Custard. We appreciate the spirit of wanting to share this passion!"

Yes, and when the weather is good (cough!) there's good train watching from the patio at the DeKalb and Rochelle locations.

A RABBIT IS ARRESTED ATTEMPTING TO LEAVE THE SOVIET UNION.

The interrogator inquires as to the rabbit's reasons.

"Because I heard that all camels are to be castrated."

The interrogator protests, "But you are a rabbit!"
Race hatreds — social prejudices — religious bigotry — they are the diseases that eat away the fibers of peace. Unless they are exterminated it’s inevitable that we will have another war. And where are they going to be exterminated? At a conference table in Geneva? Not by a long shot. In your own city — your church — your children’s school — perhaps in your own home.

You and I must do it – every father and mother in the world, every teacher, everyone who can rightfully call himself a human being. Yes, it seems to me that the one thing the peoples of the world have got to learn if we are ever to have a lasting peace, is — tolerance. Of what use will it be if the lights go on again all over the world — if they don’t go on … in our hearts.
Yes, the rabbit responds, but try explaining that to the authorities after they have castrated you for being a camel!
[Kate] Smith’s recording library was extensive. Like many white singers of her time, she sang songs that most modern-day listeners would find offensive. Those included two songs with titles and lyrics that demean black people, “Pickaninny Heaven” and “That’s Why Darkies Were Born,” which was also recorded by the African-American singer and activist Paul Robeson.

After a fan alerted the Yankees to the songs, the team said it would stop playing Smith’s version of “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch. The Flyers followed suit, saying the songs were incompatible with the team’s values. The team also removed Smith’s statue outside its arena, though officials would not say where they took it.
Philadelphia Inquirer columnist John Timpane asks, "So where do we go to find Kate Smith? To the young singer of the early 1930s, or the mature star of the war years?"

One possibility might be Wildwood, New Jersey.

After Stalin died, the camels might have been rehabilitated along with all the other broken eggs.

CLOTHES ALONE DON'T MAKE THE BOURGEOIS.

A high school principal in Houston saw one too many adults showing up in pajamas, and posted some new house rules.  Summarized, it rules out "satin scarves, or caps, hair rollers, pajamas, ripped jeans, low-cut tops and leggings worn with a shirt that doesn’t cover certain parts of the body, among other items."  That combination of prohibitions is being slagged as "Anti-Black" although it includes such things as "Daisy Duke shorts" or pajamas or apparel that might reveal plumber's butt.

I recall a joke, not entirely in fun, about how "dressing up" for a South Side lady (in Milwaukee) meant putting a babushka over her hair rollers before setting out to market.  Fifty years ago "classist" wasn't even in the dictionary, but I suspect that's what a contemporary critic of this policy would have said, had she had the vocabulary to do so.  And a diversity hustler weighed in on how something called "respectability politics" becomes yet another form of Internalized Oppression.  Or something.

Perhaps the sloppy dress of the parents is a predicate for the kind of sloppy thinking at least one student exhibited.  "Nobody’s coming up here in no outrageous things. Nobody coming up in here with no bathing suits, they don’t come in here with their body out."  We don't want nobody nobody sent ...

As far as R. J. Rail is concerned, that "respectability politics" argument is just so much institutionalized transgressiveness.
Principal Carlotta Outley Brown is black, and Madison High School is in the inner city.  She appears to be instituting a regime that prepares students for life after high school.  "Respectability politics" seems to argue that anybody should be able to wear anything in any way he pleases.  This is a variation of sixties hippies, who dressed like bums to disrespect the system generally.

That disrespect is intended in the current context becomes clear when defiant attitudes accompany inappropriate dress.  Kids model their parents and imbibe the defiance along with the rest.  This approach to the world outside home is a recipe not for success, but rather for lifelong conflict.

One can't escape the suspicion that such people really aren't much concerned with their progeny's success.  It's one thing to "be your own man" and to dress to showcase your individuality, but this can be done without vulgarity and disrespect.  The opinions of others do matter.  Over time, the general opinion establishes rules of propriety.

The underlying principle is respect for legitimate authority, without which society (and high schools) breaks down.  That authority can be abused isn't the issue here; the more basic need for rules, and for authority to establish those rules and exact compliance with them, is.
Well, yes.  "Yes, the culture of higher education is one in which young people socialized to bourgeois norms will thrive, and the oppressive nature of that socialization is material for another post on another day."

"Respectability politics," then, is simply the latest wordnoise under which the Virtue Signallers get to hector the Deplorables for Victim Blaming.  "But say anything about lottery outlets and thirty year old grandmothers and tribal conflicts disguised as drug wars and rampant delinquency in the big cities, and at a minimum, you're likely to be denounced for 'blaming the victim' and you might find yourself up on charges for 'dog whistling' that becomes some imagined -ism or -phobia and grounds for sanctions up to banishment."

Meanwhile, it's up to people in positions of whatever authority they hold, such as Principal Brown, who have to deal with the consequences of fifty years of breaking down propriety (and literacy and numeracy.)  Saith Mr Rail, "Of her kind America needs more, not fewer."  Indeed.

25.4.19

THERE'S A REAL STREETCAR SERVING BOSTON GARDEN.

In the conference semi-finals, the Boston Celtics will play the Milwaukee Bucks.  The tourist streetcar doesn't bend the corner around at the Arena, er, Fiserv Forum, but the operator has hopped on the court.  No actual deer or bunnies were harmed during the making of this blog. Parental guidance is advised. The Public Market is still a big draw for tourists.

A RECIPE FOR DISASTER.

Thus does Reason's Peter Suderman characterize "Medicare for All" as sketched by presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.
On the one hand, Sanders not only wants to expand government-provided coverage to everyone in the country, he wants that coverage to be significantly more generous than Medicare, private insurance, or comparable government-run systems in other countries. On the other hand, he wants to drastically cut payments to hospitals, many of which lose money on Medicare right now, making up for the program's relatively low payments by charging much higher prices to private insurers.

What Sanders is proposing, in other words, is that the government finance a significant increase in government services while also radically reducing the amount it pays for those services. Even making generous assumptions, it's almost impossible to see how his plan could work.

Let's start with the promises Sanders makes about Medicare for All. No networks, premiums, deductibles, or copayments. Under his plan, essentially all non-cosmetic services would be free at the point of care for everyone.
If you think oil changes are expensive now, just imagine how much they would cost if some "Motorist Protection and Affordable Maintenance Act" required that all automobile insurance policies cover oil changes.

As far as the government reducing the amount it pays for services, that doesn't work so well for Medicare patients.

Perhaps such a policy might work, if the government is able to take away competing uses for human capital.
Most people probably think of hospitals as places where you go to get health care services. Politically and economically, however, they also fulfill another role: They are hubs for stable middle-class jobs, paying reasonably good wages to thousands of highly trained workers, most of whom are not doctors or specialists earning stratospheric salaries.

To acquire the revenue to pay for all these jobs, hospitals rely on a mix of private and public payments. Public payments make up a somewhat larger share of total hospital budgets, but private payers are typically charged much higher prices.

Hospitals like to argue that Medicare and Medicaid payments are too low to cover their costs, and that as a result, higher private payments effectively subsidize public health coverage. Critics (with some evidence) often respond that hospitals either overstate or don't really understand their own costs, and that this is just a ploy to extract more money from government health programs and private payers.
Unfortunately, thanks to the mix of public and third-party private payments, there are no market tests, and nobody knows what the cost of a medical procedure is.  But those "highly trained workers" still have alternative uses of their human capital, and an attempt to drive down their salaries in the guise of cost containment isn't likely to end well.  Unless you're Senator Sanders ... and then a miracle occurs.
Sanders not only imagines that hospitals would continue to operate as they do now, but that they would expand their services to even more people, since more people would have coverage. And since he also imagines a system with no deductibles or copays, those people would almost certainly end up dramatically increasing utilization of hospital services.
That sure sounds like what socialists of all stripes used to denounce as a speed-up, doesn't it?
So what Sanders is proposing is a massive reduction in funding for health care services at the exact moment that the system experiences a massive increase in demand. It would be difficult to do either. Sanders wants to do both at the same time.
The gulags await.
Fighting against a tide of Americans who are just fine with their existing coverage might be a bold, heroic quest. But it’s a dangerous journey.

Under the Medicare for All Act of 2019, Democrats would have to convince every American who stands to lose his/her existing coverage that it will be replaced with something better.

They will be saying “trust me.”

Good luck with that.
It was necessary to destroy your coverage in order to save it.

NON CAMPUS MENTIS.

It's the end of the academic year, which means it's time to issue recognitions, including the lineup of Peculiar, Perverse and Preposterous Courses at American Colleges, which is to say, the Young America's Foundation Tragedy and Comedy list.

Some of the course descriptions are more defensible than others.  The compilers of the report note,
This is by no means an exhaustive list of every biased or leftist course offered by the schools sampled, but should serve as an overview of the most egregious offenders. The list of courses could have been far longer, but concerns for space and redundancy required inclusion of merely a sample.
The prudent reader might ask, "am I reading a description in plain English?"  The more jargon-heavy the description, the more likely the course is to make a self-selected audience more comfortable with its priors.

YOU CAN'T AFFORD TO INDULGE YOUR PREJUDICES.

Word reaches Cold Spring Shops that a vegan café in Melbourne, Australia, that wished to cater to a female audience also discovered that offering priority seating to women, and charging an eighteen percent "man tax" (based, no doubt, on a naive understanding of the supposed pay gap between women and men) either failed to attract sufficient trade or antagonized too much trade.

"Yes, we are the evil, discriminatory, man-hating d***s who charge men more when didn't you know the wage gap doesn't even exist!? Meanwhile gentlemen’s social clubs live on and strong around Melbourne and the world over…”

Sorry, not sorry.

HUMILIATING AND BEWILDERING.

New York Times writer Michael Kimmelman laments, "When the Old Penn Station Was Demolished, New York Lost Its Faith."  That might not be accurate, although New York clearly lost something then.

It's interesting how what looked like Progress and Uplift doesn't age well.  "Then, a lot of bad Modern architecture, amid other signs of postwar decline, flipped the optimistic narrative."

In the era of tailfins, jet aircraft without security zones, and what looked like cheap motor fuel, perhaps, though, the passenger railroads hadn't aged well either.
On top of which, as Ada Louise Huxtable, the former Times architecture critic, wrote in 1966: “Functionally, the station was considerably less than noble. The complexity and ambiguity of its train levels and entrances and exits were a constant frustration.” Except for its glass-and-iron waiting room, she added, the station “was a better expression of ancient Rome than of 20th-century America.”

So it wasn’t altogether shocking when railroad executives offered the air rights for the property for $50 million (nearly ten times that amount in today’s dollars). New York could downsize its station, stick it underground, add a new sports arena and office tower on top and reboot itself for the rest of the century. To pragmatists, that sounded like progress.
The Pennsylvania Railroad's thinking, both in New York and in Chicago, was that there wasn't going to be much long-distance passenger train travel, and a scaled-down station would be sufficient for those few commuters who wouldn't appreciate the Long Island Expressway or the Congress Street Expressway.

That's not what transpired.
Conceived to handle fewer than 200,000 passengers, the replacement Penn Station is today the busiest transit hub in the Western Hemisphere, through which more than 600,000 commuters pass each day — an experience as humiliating and bewildering as Grand Central remains inspiring and exalted.
In part, that conception was of The Pennsylvania Station as purely an intercity station. The North Jersey Coast local that once left at a quarter to four would originate at Exchange Place, with commuters riding a ferry or the Tubes either to Wall Street or to Midtown.  It's still possible to commute that way, board the Tubes under Macy's and ride to Newark for either the old Pennsylvania or Erie or Lackawanna services or even to pick up an Acela.  It's more convenient for riders, though, to bring as many of the suburban trains as the North River Tunnel can handle into Penn Station, including the through-routed trains via Seacaucus.  In addition, a century of accumulating Federal functions in Washington produces many more riders on the New York Division, er, the Northeast Corridor.

What might be more to the point is that the redeveloped Penn Station of today is serving more passengers on a regular basis than the original station did on the busiest days of World War II.

DICK WOLF'S ACT OF CONTRITION.

The One Chicago series of television shows (Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D.) might be NBC's penance for carrying the Democrats' water on their news and political commentary divisions.

Last night's Chicago P.D. featured the murder of a political consultant who had done some simple opposition research and the Combine found out about it.  It ended with one of the mayoral candidates in jail.  (Yes, that's about as true to Chicago as a patrol car dispatched to the 4300 block of South 51st.  There is such an address, it would be the Milwaukee and Greenfield boundary in Wisconsin, but in Chicago 51st goes east and west.)

TV Fanatic's Lizzy Buczak notes, "On the other hand, the Mayoral race ended on a sour note despite the possibility of Chicago getting someone in office who was only slightly corrupt (a win!) and who wanted to invoke real change."

The shows are written and recorded long before the real mayoral election.  The truth would likely be too strange for the script-writers, particularly a year or so ahead of the real thing.

The real purpose of the One Chicago series, though, appears to be "How far can the cast get away with fishing off the company pier without triggering a sexual harassment investigation."  I'm likely to gripe more about that once the season wraps up.

WHAT SOCIAL PROMOTION GETS YOU.

Northern Illinois University is one of many universities and towns that host a bicycle-sharing service.

Apparently, the nominal fee students must pay to hire a bicycle isn't sufficient inducement to take proper care of it, with some of the rental bicycles winding up in the decorative waterways.

Northern Star columnist Veronica McCulloh doesn't like it.  "It’s amazing how people who have made it all the way to a university prove to be lacking basic life skills, such as putting your toys away nicely once you are done with them, a lesson that gets taught in preschool."

That doesn't surprise me.  I doubt that it's because the pre-schools are so busy teaching reading or writing, given that remediation is still such a hot topic in higher ed.

23.4.19

IT'S GERMAN BEER DAY.

Simplicity in all things, even in your beer.
Specifically, the Reinheitsgebot required that beer be made from three ingredients and three ingredients only: water, barley and hops. Yeast wasn’t known at the time, but was later added to the list when its important role in brewing was discovered.

The Reinheitsgebot was laid down in 1516, making the world’s oldest food regulation. The man responsible was Munich’s Duke William IX, who became worried that beer was being adulterated with other ingredients like sawdust, soot and poisonous plants.
I wonder if his list of "poisonous plants" included pumpkin spice, or apricots.

Look, it's a good thing that a proper beer has only water, barley, yeast, and (not too many) hops.
As reported by The Local in 2016, while “sawdust, soot and poisonous plants” aren’t as frequently a problem in modern beers, other additives like sugar, preservatives, flavours and enzymes are.

By upholding the standard, German beer makers can guarantee drinkers drink a higher quality drop - something which becomes even more important the morning after.

All of the above additives increase the risk - and the impact - of a hangover. We’re not saying a German beer will be hangover free, but by avoiding all those extra additives your head will thank you come the morning.
None of which stops the peddlers of headache in a glass from wanting to change the law.
Some craft brewers have complained that the Reinheitsgebot restricts their creativity - as they are effectively restricted to four ingredients. Advocates of reforming or removing the law argue that the brewery culture in neighbouring Belgium has flourished despite the lack of such a regulation.

As per the law, beers including fruit or other additives produced in Germany are not allowed to be called ‘beer’. While larger brewers have been able to get around this by using their brand name and omitting the word beer - Beck’s Green Lemon anyone? - smaller breweries trying to experiment while getting a foothold may find it more difficult.
Das ist aber Schade.

Prosit!

RAIL PROFESSIONALS REMEMBER THEIR HISTORY.

Salami slicing didn't do much for Penn Central's day trains, which, perhaps, was the idea.

It's not going to do much for Amtrak day trains in lieu of the cross country trains, which, again, might be the idea.  "Reducing interregional service in favor of short corridors has all been tried before, and has never had a financially successful outcome."  Unless the desired outcome is "Kill the d**n trains!"
The interregional trains are critical to Amtrak’s future because they are the heart of Amtrak’s business. By objective measures (the same metrics that Delta and other airlines use to measure their performance), the interregional trains are Amtrak’s largest, strongest and by far its most commercially successful business segment. They are the only segment where Amtrak historically has earned a positive return on invested capital, and the only segment that is even capable of meaningful growth.
That might be, and starving them of capital, and of operating funds, might be the only way to kill national political support for Amtrak. Then it becomes a matter of faux-populism to sell off the Northeast Corridor.
The interregional trains are the most capital-efficient segment of Amtrak’s business because their load factors are significantly higher than in any of the short corridors, including the NEC. Indeed, most of the interregional routes operate at a level that is statistically close to sold-out. Thousands of the highest revenue would-be passengers are turned away each year for lack of capacity, mainly in the sleeping cars. This alone demonstrates that the interregional services are undercapitalized (demand exceeds capacity) while the NEC, like the regional corridors outside of California, is overcapitalized (capacity exceeds demand). It surprises many to learn that, outside the commuter territories of Philadelphia-New York and New York-New Haven, and setting aside purely commuter passengers, Amtrak’s NEC load factor for intercity traffic does not (and arithmetically cannot) exceed about 25%. How many flights does Delta operate with a 25% load factor?

Commercial success and social relevance are both measured by market share—what proportion of market demand does a given product or service capture? Interregional trains in their respective corridors usually capture shares that are twice the share of any short corridor. The reason is simple: in markets of 100-500 miles, the private automobile is the overwhelming mode of choice for American travelers, capturing market shares of 90% to 95%. Air, bus and rail compete for the leftovers. And to be competitive with cars, trains have to offer frequency and reliability along with low fares. Frequencies must be inversely proportional to distance to compete against cars in their strongest market. Outside of California, Amtrak has never succeeded in that competition. And higher frequencies require costly infrastructure that Amtrak cannot afford.

That returns us to the subject of money. Amtrak needs lots of subsidy money, because the sum of its NEC train and real estate revenues plus state commuter agency track access payments falls as much as a billion dollars a year short of covering all of Amtrak’s ongoing costs of owning and operating its NEC railroad. Amtrak claims a mythical “operating” surplus in the NEC by concealing the massive ongoing fixed facility costs that are necessary to run trains and generate revenues in that corridor.
As Stuart Saunders had it, "Kill the d**n trains!"

BEFORE THE HUSKIE LINE.

Another photograph emerges of the DeKalb and Sycamore Interurban track along Normal Road at the Williston Hall building site.


Unattributed photograph, circa 1915, from the Joyner Historical Room collection.

The dirt track in the foreground is Normal Road.  It was later paved to allow motor vehicles to go faster.  Then it was fitted with speed humps to keep motor vehicles from going too fast.  The long-removed railroad track goes south to Lincoln Highway to turn to the east.

LEARNING TO BE TEAM PLAYERS.

The pilot of the SR-71 Blackbird wants to have some fun with more mortal aviators.
Just moments after the Cessna’s inquiry, a Twin Beech piped up on frequency, in a rather superior tone, asking for his ground speed. “I have you at one hundred and twenty-five knots of ground speed.” Boy, I thought, the Beechcraft really must think he is dazzling his Cessna brethren. Then out of the blue, a navy F-18 pilot out of NAS Lemoore came up on frequency. You knew right away it was a Navy jock because he sounded very cool on the radios. “Center, Dusty 52 ground speed check”. Before Center could reply, I’m thinking to myself, hey, Dusty 52 has a ground speed indicator in that million-dollar cockpit, so why is he asking Center for a readout? Then I got it, ol’ Dusty here is making sure that every bug smasher from Mount Whitney to the Mojave knows what true speed is. He’s the fastest dude in the valley today, and he just wants everyone to know how much fun he is having in his new Hornet. And the reply, always with that same, calm, voice, with more distinct alliteration than emotion: “Dusty 52, Center, we have you at 620 on the ground.”
He's the pilot, though, and he can't get in on the fun. That's the radio operator's job.
Somewhere, 13 miles above Arizona, there was a pilot screaming inside his space helmet. Then, I heard it. The click of the mic button from the back seat. That was the very moment that I knew Walter and I had become a crew. Very professionally, and with no emotion, Walter spoke: “Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check?” There was no hesitation, and the replay came as if was an everyday request. “Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground.”

I think it was the forty-two knots that I liked the best, so accurate and proud was Center to deliver that information without hesitation, and you just knew he was smiling. But the precise point at which I knew that Walt and I were going to be really good friends for a long time was when he keyed the mic once again to say, in his most fighter-pilot-like voice: “Ah, Center, much thanks, we’re showing closer to nineteen hundred on the money.”

For a moment Walter was a god. And we finally heard a little crack in the armor of the Houston Center voice, when L.A.came back with, “Roger that Aspen, Your equipment is probably more accurate than ours. You boys have a good one.”
Thus does team bonding emerge.
It all had lasted for just moments, but in that short, memorable sprint across the southwest, the Navy had been flamed, all mortal airplanes on freq were forced to bow before the King of Speed, and more importantly, Walter and I had crossed the threshold of being a crew. A fine day’s work. We never heard another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast.
That is all.

22.4.19

AN EASTER MONDAY MEDITATION.

Exodus 20:3 is germane to Earth Day.  "The Climate Change movement always shouts out revised and updated apocalypse predictions, eerily reminiscent of the stereotypical bum on the sidewalk with that 'The End Is Near' sign."  Yup, right on schedule. "Although our planet faces major tipping points on climate change, the environment is not a top-tier political issue. Anywhere!"

We've only been hearing this end-is-near stuff for fifty Earth Days now, and we're at least twenty years past the first apocalypse.
Keep these predictions in mind when you hear the same predictions made today. They’ve been making the same predictions for 39 years. And they’re going to continue making them until…well…forever.

Here we are, 39 years later and the economy sucks, but the ecology’s fine. In fact this planet is doing a lot better than the planet on which those green lunatics live.
The good news is, 49 years on, that the economy is doing better, it's the elites (and the green lunatics in particular) that suck; and the incentives align for people to keep the real earth (as opposed to whatever planet the green lunatics live on) in a state of better repair.  "Peak population, expanding forests, more abundant resources, falling air pollution, and plenty of farmland."

Get the incentives right, and every day can be Earth Day.

WHAT'S FRENCH FOR "CRYING WITH YOUR MOUTH FULL?"

Last Saturday, the sans-culottes took to the streets of Paris to protest ... rich people donating money to rebuild Notre Dame de Paris.
The protesters aren't necessarily objecting to rebuilding Notre Dame. They are objecting to the elites giving massive amounts of money to the effort while ignoring the plight of the middle and lower working classes. These are the people being taxed into poverty by the French government - with the support of the economic and cultural elites who can afford to pay the high taxes, or know how to avoid them.
There still being an intellectual tradition in France, there are allusions to Victor Hugo in the protests.
One sign at Saturday's demonstration read, "Victor Hugo thanks all the generous donors ready to save Notre Dame and proposes that they do the same thing with Les Miserables," referring to Hugo's classic novels about the cathedral and the struggles of impoverished people in France.
As if it is the French tax code alone that made those millionaires wealthy.
Somewhere, there is a sweet spot at which tax-funded social and physical capital becomes symbiotic with the social and commercial activity that people also engage in. To one side of that sweet spot, to the left, if you will, is the slough of despond in which government becomes parasitic on commerce, and destructive of, social and physical capital. To the other side, to the right, is the cesspool of sin in which the rent-seekers become parasitic on government, which destroys social and physical capital, albeit in a different way.
I can contemplate this tradeoff today. I would not have been able to at the time Notre Dame first took shape.  The Pope would bless it, the King would command it, and all the forests surrounding Paris would be harvested to frame the roof, never mind the alternative uses the timber could be put to, and all the peasants conscripted into work gangs, never mind the alternative uses (few though they were, they were of great value) they could be employed in.  The good news is there was still timber and manpower left to conscript after Paris was fortified against the Vikings.

The wisest of early medieval scholars would not know what to make of this reflection on what I understand today as the irrationality of conscripting the peasants.  "Whatever form it takes, it's a portion of the gains from trade being set aside to provide an environment within which additional trading is possible." The Pope ordains, the King commands, the pikemen seize the property and the labor.  All is as it should be to their best understanding.

I, on the other hand, have the accumulated wisdom of a thousand years on ways to provide an environment within which additional trading is possible, including being able to build cathedrals and TGV trains at the same time.  Double entry book-keeping, maritime insurance, futures contracts, lending at interest.  It took a long time for people to evolve to make money, and thus Les Miserables don't have to put the cathedral or the city walls together with iron tools and hemp hoists.  Nor do they get marched to the stake for heresies.
Received cosmology posited the Great Chain of Being, with God above the choirs of angels above the orders of humanity above animals, plants, and matter.  And in such a status hierarchy, it's easy enough to stratify the orders of humanity in order that the Pope, as Vicar of Christ, and the Cardinals and Bishops determine what is to be rendered unto the Lord.  Likewise, it is easy enough to set up a parallel status hierarchy in which the King rules by Divine Providence and the Lords and Magistrates determine what is to be rendered unto Caesar (Kaiser, Tsar, after all.)  Read more here and here.
The fire at Notre Dame, and the protests in the aftermath, might still be a symptom that the elite, whether in France or anywhere else, is getting things wrong.  The tax code, however, is not the place to begin.

The gilets jaunes, however, have a lot of privilege to check.

19.4.19

WE WILL BE JUDGED BY THE MONUMENTS WE'VE DESTROYED.



Forgive them, for they know not what they do.

UNDER SOCIALISM, THERE WILL BE LONG LINES AND NO ICE CREAM.

By contrast, Ben and Jerry's woke capitalism provide a lesson in why there are traffic jams.
As you’re standing in line waiting for your “free” ice cream cone, give a little thought to the parallels between that line and your typical rush hour traffic jam. In both cases, you’re waiting in line for the same reason—the price is too low, and demand is overwhelming supply. This is the valuable lesson that Ben and Jerry are providing in the fundamentals of transportation economics.

You’ll note that unlike the average day at a Ben and Jerry’s, when you might have to wait in line a for a minute or two to get your favorite flavor, now you’re going to end up waiting twenty minutes, or a half hour, or possibly longer. In terms of customers served and gallons scooped, this is going to be their biggest day of the year. Last time, they gave out a million scoops of ice cream worldwide.
The rest of the year, though, Ben and Jerry function like a toll road.

There's a more general price theory lesson present, before we get to the traffic jams.
You’ll probably also notice that most of the people standing in line are people who aren’t working nine-to-five. Not many investment bankers or plumbers, but lots of students, moms with small kids, and people who have at least part of the day off from work. (Unlike waiting in traffic, where everyone is isolated in their cars, and experiencing aggravation and road rage, there’s a kind of social, party atmosphere at Ben & Jerry’s.)

Make no mistake: although you’re not laying out any cash for your ice cream, you are paying for it with your time. Let’s say that you’d pay $2.50 for that scoop of Phish Food (they’re a bit smaller than regulation on Free Cone Day). If you have to wait half an hour, and you value your time at, say, $15.00 per hour, that $2.50 scoop really cost you something like $7.50. It’s a safe bet that most of the people waiting in line value their time at something less than $5.00 an hour if they’re willing to wait that long for a “free” cone. Also, if you really want ice cream, and are pressed for time, there’s no way that you’re going to jump to the head of the line no matter how much you’d be willing to pay.
Shorter first paragraph: queuing for low prices is something you'd expect to see for people who have a low opportunity cost of their time.  In part, we have road rage because travellers with a low opportunity cost of their time are contributing to the congestion holding up the Master of the Universe and the functionary who is in a bad mood because the alarm clock didn't work.  (That's why "Lexus lanes" doesn't quite work as a description of a high-occupancy toll lane.  The latter two personalities will pay to cut the line while the low opportunity cost drivers will not.)  I suppose there are some high rollers who, in the best Washington rent-seeker form (or upscale yuppie mom form?) might hire line-standers, although that strikes me as a bit much just for some Vermont ice cream.

When it comes to road congestion, though, the highway lobby gets paid off not to see what's at work.
When it comes to our road system, every rush hour is like free cone day at Ben and Jerry’s. The customers (drivers) are paying zero for their use of the limited capacity of the road system, and we’re rationing this valuable product based on people’s willingness to tolerate delays (with the result that lots of people who don’t attach a particularly high value to their time are slowing down things for everyone).

If Ben and Jerry’s were run by traffic engineers, instead of smart business people (albeit smart business people with a strong social minded streak), they’d look at these long lines and tell Ben & Jerry that they really need to expand their stores. After all, the long lines of people waiting to get ice cream represent “congestion” and “delay,” that can only be solved by building more and bigger ice cream stores. And thanks to what you might call the “fundamental law of ice cream congestion” building more stores might shorten lines a little, but then it would likely prompt other people to stand in line to get free ice cream, or to go through the line twice. But, of course, with zero revenue, Ben & Jerry would find it hard to build more stores.
No, they'd simply find a Vermont politician to include ice cream as a "vital human right" and incorporate ice cream stands as crumbling infrastructure (and not enough cookie crumbles on the cones?) and suggest that if only millionaires and billionaires and corporations would Have. To. Pay. Their. Fair. Share. Of. Taxes. all would be well.

Why should road socialism be different from any other socialism?

DECONSTRUCT THIS.

Colin Turfus offers today's Trenchant Observation.
The counter-Enlightenment’s most perceptive thinker was probably Friedrich Nietzsche. His portrayal of a madman running around with a lantern proclaiming that God was dead parodied the Enlightenment philosophers who looked to replace traditional values with a new value system which pared away the superstition and retained the essence; but that there was no such essence. Freed from the constraints of the prior expectations of our peers, we are free to steer whichever course we choose.

Postmodernism builds on this insight, asking us to consider that there are no objective standards of right and wrong, only differences of perspective.
Properly understood, post-modern skepticism might simply be a strong form of "how can we be sure we understand what we understand?"

So far, so good.  But the vulgar form of post-modern skepticism becomes a strong form of liberating tolerance.
This point of view is often portrayed as moral relativism, but this misses an important feature of the postmodernist position: although it holds that there is no single correct point of view on questions of right and wrong, all points of view are not necessarily equal in validity. Indeed, echoing Orwell’s critique of communist society in Animal Farm, some points of view are in practice “more equal than others.” For, as stated above, values are thought to arise in practice in “discourses” taking place in different social groups or communities. And some groups have greater power or “hegemony” to impose their view on other relatively disempowered groups. Without taking a position on whose views are more correct between the relatively more or less powerful group, postmodernists argue that it behoves [c.q.] us to take the side of the relatively disempowered group so as to help redress the intrinsic injustice of the situation.

So the conversation moves from one about being right to one about having rights. While a traditional perspective on human rights would be to argue that all human beings possess rights equally, the postmodernist position is that greater rights have to accrue to the relatively disempowered and so greater emphasis should be given to defending their values. From here springs the concept of group rights: women’s rights, gay rights, transgender rights, black rights, Muslim rights, and so on. It is one of the great achievements of the postmodernist agenda that, without any need for moral discourse, it has become possible to dismiss almost any moral position portrayed as disrespectful to any of those group rights, particularly if that moral position can also be portrayed as promoting the interests of some relatively more powerful group.

Not surprisingly, this approach leads quite quickly to inconsistency and even incoherence.
Of course it did. Is anybody surprised that when you put "truth" in scare quotes you lose consistency, and perhaps you get Trump. I know I repeat myself, but I'm not surprised. "Yes, and goodness gracious, if the Good Ideas of Smart People were that persuasive, there'd be no serious debate about their Correctness."

MODEL RAILROADING IS A STEAM DISCIPLINE.

Sorry, that's awkward.  Model railroad club working to turn city kids into next generation of engineers ... 'and we get to eat doughnuts.' That's at the Clarendon Park Community Center, (near Montrose Harbor?) where there's an HO Scale model railroad club in a park district building.
“Triangles are really, really strong. That’s why you have triangles in bridges,” model railroader Dan Gould explained to 11-year-old Javier Lopez, a 5th grader at Goudy Elementary School, as they assembled a miniature arched truss bridge out of Popsicle-style wooden sticks. “Don’t spare the glue!”

Lopez and Gould were building a bridge as part of a weekend educational program run by the Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad Club in Uptown. They were competing against other teams of young boys and club members to see which bridge could carry the most weight with the least amount of material.

For five Saturdays in March, club members taught 10 neighborhood grade school students concepts like basic electricity, coding, power sources and bridge mechanics, while having fun with one of the biggest model railroad layouts in the United States. This was the second year for the program, which is open on a first-come, first-serve basis to kids from nearby elementary schools.
The railroad layout itself is one of long-standing, and capable of running lots of trains.  Club members recently discovered they wouldn't have to relocate, which might have meant the end of the layout, and the school program.
The model railroad club recently got some good news that will enable them to keep running trains and offering educational programs. The Chicago Park District had considered building a new community center, which would have meant disassembling the layout and displacing the club, Baumgartner said.

But late last month, the club learned that the Park District instead wants to renovate the center, which means that both the building and the layout will be saved and the program continued, Baumgartner said. Renovations will focus on upgrading utilities, making the entire facility ADA compatible and better accommodating the programs already there.

Javier Lopez’s mother, Lissette Lopez, said she loves that the model railroad youth program is opening her son’s mind to the possibility of an engineering career. She also likes the one-on-one mentoring.

“It’s cute for me to see the older gentlemen giving knowledge to the younger ones,” she said. “It’s about building respect.”
At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, another model railroad club, this one with the imprimatur of the university, also faced the loss of its clubhouse.
When the Model Railroad Society got its start in 1947, it was initially housed in the Pittsburgh Building on the Rensselaer campus. In 1972, after multiple moves, it settled in the basement of Davison Hall, a first-year residence building. There, the [New England Berkshire & Western] line grew both in size and reputation, filling the space and earning international acclaim within the model railroad community.
It's been written up numerous times in the hobbyist magazines, and some improvements in control and signalling for modellers were developed there.  But the infrastructure is crumbling, and the university intends to renovate Davison.  The good news is, there is space elsewhere in Troy.
Rensselaer developed a plan for its removal and relocation. In addition to being more publicly accessible, the new space on Hoosick Street will provide the club with additional space to expand the exhibit.

“This model railroad both preserves and is an important part of the history of Rensselaer and its connection to the community. Throughout this project planning process, it has been the Institute’s intention to protect the model railroad,” said Claude Rounds, the vice president for administration at Rensselaer. “I am pleased that we are moving forward to provide the railroad model with a new home where it can grow and be appreciated by more people. I am very grateful to the Model Railroad Society and its leadership, the Rensselaer Student Union, and the other organizations involved in this collaborative group effort.”
Good. I approve of the concept of model railroad clubs with university affiliations.  There's still one at the student center at Milwaukee School of Engineering, although the club might be less active than it once was, and their open house that grew into a spring model train show is no longer on the March calendar.

Where else, though, develop your skills in mastering momentum and installing infrastructure?

18.4.19

A RUSSIAN VERSION OF THE ERIE?

The Eurasian land bridge railroads by way of Russia or China are apparently attracting enough traffic that Russian managers find the break of gauge at the Russian front inconvenient.  "Both the Russian and Austrian delegations gave strong backing for the long-planned construction of a 1 520 mm gauge line from Košice in Slovakia to Bratislava and Wien, with ÖBB Chief Executive Andreas Matthä noting that rail freight traffic between Russia and Austria had grown by 4% in 2018." That 1.52 meters is five feet, the Russian (and antebellum southern U.S.) standard, as opposed to the 1 435 mm (is metric really that much more intuitive than 56 1/2" as Robert Stephenson, J. Edgar Thompson, and Jack Casement ordained) in use from the Bug to the Pyrenees.

The traffic is picking up though.
Within Russia, ongoing enhancements to the Trans-Siberian and Baikal-Amur Magistrale main lines are intended to enable transit freight trains to cover 1 500 km per day, up from around 1 150 km today. Speaking to Railway Gazette, RZD Vice-President Alexander Misharin said that a major brake on China-Europe freight traffic was the over-reliance on the border crossing between Poland and Belarus at Brest, where containers are transhipped from 1 520 mm to 1 435 mm gauge wagons. This causes inevitable delay, and he argued that as a result it was ‘crucial’ to extend broad gauge tracks into western Europe.

Misharin believed that a dedicated freight route would enable trains to run at higher speeds; transit freight services typically travel three times faster on Russian routes than in Europe. This potential for acceleration would make the 1 520 mm line to Wien ‘very attractive to investors’, he added.

RZD reiterated its support for Mongolia’s Ulaanbaator Railway, where transit freight volumes have grown by 30% in two years and now total 25 million tonnes per year. As the Trans-Mongolian main line is now approaching saturation, RZD has pledged to invest US$250m by 2022 to provide an annual capacity of up to 32 million tonnes.
The Russians have apparently found a use for BAMlag, a Stalin-era hero project using political prisoners, to provide a second route north of Lake Baikal to the Pacific, out of reach of Japanese (in the 1940s) or Chinese (after Khrushchev and Mao had a falling-out) theater rockets.  The project was abandoned late in the Cold War, and apparently resurrected recently.

A new, Russian-gauge line as far as Austria is intriguing, although I still have to wonder whether European operators will consider designing the tracks and the catenary, so much of those railroads being electrically operated, so as to be able to handle stacked containers.

WHAT DIFFERENCE, AT THIS POINT, DOES IT MAKE?

The new mayor of Chicago is Lori Lightfoot, and the identity politics crowd are claiming all sorts of "firsts" for her.
You’ve probably heard the big news out of Chicago: the city just elected Lori Lightfoot as the next mayor. Moreover, she will be the only black lesbian mayor to ever run the city, and Chicago will be the biggest city to have an openly gay person at the helm.

But there’s more here than a victory for the identity politics crowd. Lightfoot’s win represents a victory for populism in Chicago, the nation’s third largest city.

Now don’t get me wrong here. Lori Lightfoot is no conservative, and she’s no populist in the Donald Trump mold. But her victory means that the days of the Chicago Machine may be over.
If true, it's true in part. I live far enough from Chicago that I can tune out the mayoral election.  One evening, WGN's talkers were talking about a mayoral forum in which several of the candidates stated that if they couldn't vote for themselves, they'd vote for Mx Lightfoot.  I later learned that in a previous forum, the modal choice was one of the Machine aldermen who subsequently got caught up in another corruption investigation.  (You profess surprise, dear reader?)

There's probably something for students of ranked voting in that story, in that Mx Lightfoot was a narrow winner in the primary and a dominant winner in the run-off: how many voters strategically picked a second choice in the primary on the expectation that their first choice wouldn't get through?

The reaction among the punditry is instructive.  Rick Moran of Pajamas Media, an Illinoisan, notes,
Winning the mayoral race in Chicago is not exactly like being elected captain of the Titanic, but it's close. Lightfoot will face a pension bomb waiting to detonate, out of control gang violence, massive mistrust of police by the black community, crumbling schools, a disappearing tax base, and neighborhoods that resemble war zones.

But the bigger story in the city might be the defeat of several incumbents by self-identified socialists and progressives, who successfully preached the gospel of change in order to defeat several long-time city hall incumbents.
Chicago is still fifteen square miles of privilege surrounded by the Third World, and with the improving weather will come the wilding.


What's interesting, though, is that the new mayor is going to catch hell from her left flank.
"I'm excited to say we are going to have our first black female mayor in the city of Chicago," Christopher Cook of 100 Black Men, a group that mentors the city's black youth, told In These Times last week. "But when that's all said and done, what changes are they going to make? We can't really predict right now, but we can hold them accountable."

Key priorities for progressives include pushing Lightfoot to address Chicago's infamously discriminatory policing, beleaguered public education system, growing pension debt, tax policies that prioritize corporations over low-income residents, and underserved South and West Sides.
The post from which I'm extracting these quotes includes a number of Twitter images and additional response. For example,
"Will she embrace [outgoing mayor Rahm] Emanuel's public safety policy of criminalizing communities of color, or change course to prioritize neighborhood investment, mental health services, and jobs?" asked Abbie Illenberger, deputy director of the political group Grassroots Illinois Action.

"Will she fulfill her campaign promise to end rip-off development deals like the Lincoln Yards TIF?" Illenberger added. "Mayor-elect Lightfoot's commitment to change will be quickly tested."

Others were more immediately critical. In a series of tweets, Charlene Carruthers, a Chicago-based black, queer feminist community organizer and writer, expressed frustration with the excitement over Lightfoot's win, arguing that "we are going to have to fight the Lori Lightfoot administration tooth and nail."
There's nothing quite like an intersectional Oppression Olympics, is there?
Carruthers also highlighted the #StopLightfoot campaign, launched by "a group of young black, brown, native, white queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming organizers and people who love Chicago, and have worked for years on issues of police violence, immigrant justice, LGBTQ liberation, and more."
The newly-elected "democratic socialists," who don't come off as flatland versions of sewer socialists, are also ready to rumble. Lucie Macias and Leonard Pierce lead the Chicago cadre, with the following calls.
With at least five and as many as six socialist aldermen, Chicago’s politicians and the ultra-wealthy, from the mayor’s office to corporate boardrooms, need to understand that business isn’t going to continue as usual in this city.

The new socialist aldermen are going to fight for an agenda of expanding affordable housing, protecting immigrant rights, fully funding public schools, expanding public services and more. That agenda will be paid for not by raising taxes on working people, but by taxing the rich.
Their constituents live outside the fifteen square miles.
For too long, Chicago has been governed by Democrats who have been happy to give the city away to wealthy real estate developers and other corporations while gentrifying neighborhoods, privatizing public services and carrying out a brutal agenda of austerity.

Tuesday’s election results show that it’s a new day in this city. Chicago’s new democratic socialist and progressive aldermen are ready to fight that austerity agenda tooth and nail, to win a city for the many — not the few.
Inside Higher Ed's Eboo Patel wonders if intersectionality hasn't become an impractical rabbit hole.
I visit about 25 campuses a year, and increasingly I see situations where students know exactly which character to play when they step into the theater of ‘the diversity program’. People of color talk about how oppressed they are, everyone else nods along sympathetically.

But many students are smart and honest enough to know that this is chiefly a performance – everyone is playing a part, including the professional leading the program. And at least some of those students, some of the time, are like the young woman I met a few days back. They worry whether a paradigm that was supposedly designed to advance them is having its intended effects.

Absolutely we live in a world where structures of racism, sexism, etc advantage some and disadvantage others. But after you have called those structures out, what do you do next? Is constantly telling stories about how oppressed you are really preparing you to be a powerful agent in the world? A good doctor or nurse? A successful entrepreneur? An effective attorney? The next mayor of Chicago?

Me, I’d put my money on the advice given by Ann Lightfoot: meet challenges, take advantage of opportunities, be strong and fearless, prepare yourself to be in charge.
It's the conservative commentators, who live outside Chicago or recognize they have no say in the governance of Chicago, that wish the new mayor well.

Victory Girl Kim Hirsch, "Congratulations to Lori Lightfoot. She beat the Chicago Machine, and I hope her victory is the start of better days for Chicago. The city needs all the help it can get."

John Kass, a Chicagoan.  "Good luck, Mayor Lightfoot. Chicago needs you now."

The editorial board at Chicago's Tribune are optimistic.
How Lightfoot embraced running for mayor, and how Chicagoans citywide embraced her, brought refreshing change to Chicago politics. She broke the typical campaign template and won. We think she’ll govern just as capably.
She takes office shortly.

UNPLEASANTNESS IN MOUNT (UN)PLEASANT.

What is it about gymnastics in Michigan?  "Central Michigan University announced on Thursday morning that it has fired long-time gymnastics coach Jerry Reighard after a school investigation concluded the coach had 'repeated disregard for the independent role of medical staff in addressing student-athlete injuries.'"  Translated: running performers out when the team doctor says it wouldn't be prudent.  Concussion protocols and orthopedic surgeons and all the rest are there to protect the coaches, and the players (I'm looking at you, Aaron Rodgers) when the players understandably want to go back in and the coaches understandably want to put them back in.
[Central] placed Reighard on administrative leave in February when it was alleged that the coach "directed a student-athlete to provide false information about an injury to medical staff determining the student’s ability to compete," the school said.

The 121-page report, in which current gymnastics team members and Reighard were interviewed for, was presented to Reighard earlier this month and the coach was given two weeks to respond. His response did not change the school's decision to fire him, according to the statement.

CMU athletic director Michael Alford said in the released statement that the school would self-report the events found in the report could lead to an NCAA rules violation and the school would self-report them.

“Our student-athletes and their families trust us to protect our students,” Alford said in the statement. “We will not tolerate a callous disregard of safety. We will not tolerate actions that put students in the way of significant and even life-threatening injuries. Student safety at Central Michigan University is an absolute priority, always.”
Central won the regular-season Mid-American gymnastics championship, then finished second in the conference meet, which was held in DeKalb.  Northern Illinois made an excellent effort on the beam to secure the first place.

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN BECOMES UNSCIENTIFIC.

The man who wrote one of environmentalism’s most-cited essays was a racist, eugenicist, nativist and Islamaphobe—plus his argument was wrong.

Seriously?  Aren't the final four words sufficient?

These days, apparently an author's incorrect attitudes, or an author's citation by people One Disagrees With, are additional disqualifications.
People who revisit Hardin’s original essay are in for a surprise. Its six pages are filled with fear-mongering. Subheadings proclaim that “freedom to breed is intolerable.” It opines at length about the benefits if “children of improvident parents starve to death.” A few paragraphs later Hardin writes: “If we love the truth we must openly deny the validity of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” And on and on. Hardin practically calls for a fascist state to snuff out unwanted gene pools.

Or build a wall to keep immigrants out. Hardin was a virulent nativist whose ideas inspired some of today’s ugliest anti-immigrant sentiment. He believed that only racially homogenous societies could survive. He was also involved with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a hate group that now cheers President Trump’s racist policies. Today, American neo-Nazis cite Hardin’s theories to justify racial violence.
A paragraph later, the polemicist makes a concession. "Of course, plenty of flawed people have left behind noble ideas. That Hardin’s tragedy was advanced as part of a white nationalist project should not automatically condemn its merits."

Yes, Richard T. Ely gets hammered, and there are those in the American Economic Association who would remove his name from the prestigious lecture at the association's annual meeting.  And it's hard to read some passages in John R. Commons, one of the early stars of institutional economics, without cringing.

Scientific American, however, ought not be using the imprimatur of science, which is a process of weighing evidence, to provide a platform for professors of environmental politics making no pretense of objectivity.  Let Salon provide the clickbait.

OOPS.

Apparently, even in oh-so-fashionably-left Ann Arbor, coffee shops have to pass market tests.
Baristas at Mighty Good Coffee say they expected to negotiate a contract with the company after they formed the Washtenaw Area Coffee Workers Association in October after a former employee accused the chain of racial discrimination. Instead, they received a notice a week ago about the layoffs and closures, according to WXYZ.
I don't have the background information on that accusation. Apparently, though, when running a business becomes too much like work, it's time for some family time. "A letter, obtained by WXYZ, that was sent to the union stated that the owners felt the experience of running the business was 'overly stressful' and became an 'unworkable burden on their relationship and their family.'"

THE SELF-IMMOLATION OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TULSA.

City Journal publishes a reminiscence by Tulsa philosopher Jacob Howland.  It opens in a similar vein to many a Cold Spring Shops post.
[U]niversities have for years been offering an increasingly inferior product at unsustainably high prices to an ever-more skeptical group of prospective students. Many institutions below the top tier are scrambling to respond to the collapse of the higher-education bubble by jettisoning the liberal arts and pumping up the practical ones: health care, computer science, business, and other technical fields that promise to yield jobs immediately after graduation. This approach has been employed in a particularly crude and short-sighted manner at the University of Tulsa, where a new administration has turned a once-vibrant academic institution with a $1.1 billion endowment and a national reputation in core liberal arts subjects into a glorified trade school with a social-justice agenda. Our story is worth telling, because we have been hit by a perfect storm of trends currently tearing through the American academy: the confident ignorance of administrators, the infantilization of students, the policing of faculty, the replacement of thinking with ideological jargon, and the corporatization of education.
There's a part of me that bridles at treating the practical arts as something that can be unbundled from the liberal arts.  It's useful to understand the trivium and quadrivium, as they are the foundations of medical science; they provide an intellectual basis for understanding the separation of commerce from politics; not to mention that the privacy rights of individuals ought be something the information technology practitioners ought be aware of.

At Tulsa, though, the decline has been under way for some time.
[I]t became clear some years ago that TU was in financial trouble. Faculty have had no raises since 2015. That same year, President Steadman Upham (whose compensation in 2014 exceeded $1.2 million) informed the campus community that the university was providing athletics with a $9 million annual subsidy. The total deficit in 2016 was $26 million. For nine months in 2016–2017, the university ceased to contribute to faculty retirement accounts—effectively, a 9 percent cut in pay. In September 2017, 5 percent of the nonfaculty workforce was laid off. In December 2017, Moody’s downgraded $89 million of TU’s parity revenue bonds and $57 million of student-housing revenue bonds. Around the same time, it was revealed that TU had for years been running a structural deficit of about $16 million. Athletics accounted for most of the total loss; TU’s law school and Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum, which the university has managed since 2008, made up much of the rest.

TU’s board of trustees is composed of business executives and lawyers, none of whom has a higher-education background. Three trustees graduated from TU’s law school; two others serve on the board of the Gilcrease; more than a few are major supporters of TU’s Division I football program. Disinclined to address the deficit’s primary causes, the board prefers to plug the deficit through a combination of academic program cuts and consolidations, faculty attrition, and a massive capital campaign. Then again, it was never clear to faculty why a university with a billion-dollar endowment needed to cut academic programs. Some suspected that the financial crisis was just an excuse for fundamentally transforming the institution.
I'm not sure that drawing trustees from the broader community disqualifies the board; that this is the institution that made Don Morton more attractive to Wisconsin might be the greater sin.

Irrespective of who is on the board, or who carries the ceremonial mace, it's developing the good of the intellect that matters.
The crisis we now confront is essentially moral and metaphysical. At stake is whether we will continue to be a liberal university: a place where young people, briefly sheltered from the noisy imperatives of the day, may take root in the rich soil of the common human past and grow into mature, independent individuals.
That is to say, a place to play with ideas.  But that very "rich soil of the common human past" is hegemonic.  Probably triggering.  Almost surely there is a colleague, even in the English department that must soon be absorbed into the Borg, er, Humanities and Social Justice who will primly pronounce that statement problematic.

That's not to say the faculty has been absorbed without complaint.
Faculty resistance to the moral and therapeutic imperatives of the new institutional super ego is presumed to be so extensive as to require something only a few steps short of A Clockwork Orange-style reeducation. On top of an anonymous, online-bias reporting system, [new university president Gerard] Clancy has mandated training in “unconscious bias” for all employees. (We’ve already done harassment and “microaggressions.”) And just to be sure, TU’s new Institute of Trauma, Adversity, and Injustice also regularly surveys “exclusionary, intimidating, offensive, and/or hostile conduct” at the university.

With students, however, Clancy prefers a posture of smothering paternalism. “Some of you have noticed dogs, horses, and other mammals in class,” begins a recent email from an associate dean; new university policy requires that we accommodate these “emotional support” animals in our classrooms. After Donald Trump’s election, Clancy emailed the TU community warning that “Many Americans are concerned, if not outright afraid, that the color of their skin, the religion they practice, the people they love or the politics they espouse . . . could make them targets of violence.”
The sort of administrative usurpations, in short, that a Pajamas Media type would likely file as "get woke, go broke." (That's where Tulsa are, but doubling down??)
[Former Tulsa president Steadman] Upham had made it his goal to pull TU into the top 50 national universities in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. This was commonly recognized as a bridge too far—our highest-ever ranking was somewhere in the seventies—but it was a serious institutional aspiration that recognized the intellectual quality of our faculty. At his first meeting with TU faculty in late 2016, by contrast, Clancy announced that he was turning the ship around: we would now focus on recruiting first-generation college students and offering them job-ready programs. This is the sort of modest goal a public college of local stature might set for itself, not the best private university in the region. And such students cannot possibly afford TU’s tuition, just raised 3 percent to $41,698 for 2019–2020. (Little wonder that Oklahoma’s public universities are now considering competing with TU in Tulsa, news that caused a former trustee to tell me “we’re fucked.”) Clancy hopes to plug the structural deficit and raise scholarship funds through a $500 million capital campaign—but how many first-generation college students know to look beyond the sticker price for financial aid? Still more implausibly, Clancy plans to continue to market TU as a private university of national significance.
That approach is condescension on top of stupidity.  Why are first-generation or non-traditional or returning adult students somehow not deserving of the same intellectual challenges as the trust fund babies in the Ivies?  Honestly.  That's what the "public colleges of local stature" used to do.  Call the roll: City College of New York, Temple, Wayne State.  It's when those institutions got away from that model and started describing "admitting unprepared students" as "access" that those U.S. News guides took on value.

At Tulsa, the administrative usurpations took place without much stewardship by the faculty.
All this ferment is bureaucratic, and what little bears on scholarship and teaching falls like bombs onto a shell-shocked faculty. Clancy’s thoroughly corporate mentality could not be more evident: TU is nothing other than its administrative leadership, and its professors, swamped with pointless paperwork and mandatory doctrinal training, are middle managers.
All power to the supreme soviet of deanlets and deanlings! (Are you paying attention, Northern Illinois faculty?)

For all the talk of inclusion and social justice, Professor Howland writes, the end result might look like the old tracking system.
Most first-generation students will be routed into jobs like nursing, exercise science, and computing. But the best and brightest will be lured by the prospect of executive positions in charitable foundations, social services, policy institutes, and the like. Clancy himself teaches a Presidential Leadership Program that seeks to “prepare a cadre of TU graduates who are skilled in creating a just, humane and creative world” and to “facilitate students in their transformation from leadership to philanthropy.”

[Tulsa's] governors do not understand what a university is: a precious cultural institution whose essential task is the preservation, cultivation, and transmission of knowledge. Absent a board willing and able to defend our integrity as an academic institution, we have experienced what one could call a hostile takeover that appears to have made TU a subsidiary of Tulsa’s biggest charitable foundation and an agent of the city’s corporate interests. Our infantilized and indoctrinated students will receive but a light wash of liberal arts before they are popped from the higher-education oven. They will perhaps be credentialed, but they will not be educated.
Put another way, credentialed for entry-level jobs, but not necessarily prepared to move to positions with greater responsibility.  As Our President would have it, SAD!

17.4.19

OF PUPPIES AND HOME RUNS.

Milwaukee area parents are probably thinking of a different Brewer as basis for a contingent purpose of a puppy.


Perhaps when the national media come to Milwaukee for the Democrat convention, they'll learn to refer to Miller Park, not Miller Field, but next year will be the last year it will officially be Miller Park.  It's still Comiskey Park in Chicago, naming rights be hanged!

The family would like to train Yeli as a support dog, to help Lola manage her diabetes.  The way the girl and her dog are getting on, it's likely Man's Best Friend will twig to something being wrong even before such training begins.

ONE SHINING MOMENT.

Amtrak in the Heartland recalls the Milwaukee to St. Louis trains that ran through Chicago, commencing with Amtrak's first attempt to run trains as a system, commencing late in 1971.

I've provided an extended look at those trains, the day after Thanksgiving of 1971.

Timekeeping was still what one would expect of The Milwaukee Road and Gulf Mobile and Ohio.

In subsequent years, timekeeping fell off for a number of reasons, and the through trains, which turned at Milwaukee either for St. Louis or for Detroit, stopped running.  Today, being able to connect from one of the Regional Rail routes at the Chicago hub is more by accident by design, although that might change.

TODAY IN THE COLLEGE APOCALYPSE.

Power Line's Steven Hayward.  Read and understand.  Rod Dreher elaborates.  "The left really is trying to destroy our civilizational heritage. You think I’m a Chicken Little about this stuff, but this below is what it means to have barbarians march through our institutions."

Perhaps we should be grateful it is the University of Tulsa, perhaps best known in the sports world as the place where Don Morton got enough of a reputation with the veer offense that the pre-Donna Shalala, pre-Pat Richter Wisconsin athletics department let him rise to the level of incompetence, and perhaps not that well-known to readers of U.S. News league tables, that is engaging in restructuring for its own sake.

Here's the short form of the Tulsa re-structuring, per Yascha Mounk.
Tulsa just abolished its traditional departments, including Economics and PoliSci.

Instead, it now has four broad divisions called "Ecology, Environment & Sustainability," "Human Biology and Behavior," "Fine Arts and Media" and... "Humanities & Social Justice."
If they'd teach the controversies, it doesn't matter what the divisional structure is.  If what they're doing is just another management fad, in the form of Total Quality Management and twee acronyms studded with Qs, as was all the rage a quarter century ago, perhaps it's irrelevant symbolism.  It might be yet another administrative usurpation, treating departments as cost centers, and faculty as inputs to be used sparingly.  Until the invisible hand surprises you, that is.
For years, railroads, and other businesses, have used "downsizing" or "restructuring" or "re-engineering" as an excuse to shed physical and human capital.  Such decisions, though, are not so easily reversed.  The approach might make sense in a shrinking industry, but it can leave that industry in poor shape to deal with expansion.
Be grateful, dear reader, that it is Tulsa attempting to find its core system.  If such a consolidation had first appeared at Harvard or Duke, you'd have all five hundred aspirants to the top hundred slots in the U.S. News league tables falling over themselves to copy it.