30.5.19

"GREAT UNIVERSITIES SHOULDN'T HAVE SOCIOLOGY DEPARTMENTS."

Richard Vedder talks smack about Harvard stripping law professor Ronald Sullivan of his deanship (I think that's Harvardese for house parent) of Winthrop House.
What heinous act led Sullivan (and, by extension, his wife, another Harvard Law instructor, Stephanie Robinson) to be fired from their Winthrop House position? He agreed (although later changed his mind) to represent accused rapist and sexual harasser, Harvey Weinstein in forthcoming criminal proceedings.

Students started protesting, even proclaiming that this act was “deeply trauma-inducing” and threatening. Admittedly, based on numerous news accounts, Weinstein appears to be one of the world’s most morally flawed individuals. But a basic core value of American liberal democracy is the rule of law, with all accused, even the most heinous, entitled to representation by competent legal counsel.
Are you now, or have you ever been, associated with enemies of the people?

The good news is, Professor Sullivan's colleagues at Harvard Law and elsewhere have objected, forcefully.

Harvard, however, is derelict in perhaps its most important duty.  "Students who feel so traumatized by thoughts differing from their own obviously do not belong at a serious university and should be encouraged to transfer elsewhere."  That's the logic of Lehrfreiheit and Lernfreiheit, but Harvard, apparently, is reverting to its divinity school origins, with True Doctrine being preached, and Heresy being excommunicated (fortunately, not yet sent to the scaffold or the ducking stool.)

Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds quips that as the public and the public's delegates in the various legislatures take money away from higher education, the clerisy will complain about anti-intellectualism.  It's self-inflicted.
Harvard is adding another nail into the coffin of American higher education. America’s universities are already in trouble, and declining public support will hurt them as they struggle to survive public revulsion over their high costs, limited learning, declining vocational outcomes and, increasingly, contempt for the institutions that made America the greatest country since the nation-state evolved centuries ago.
If only they had listened.

29.5.19

IF THEY CAN HACK YOUR BABY MONITOR ...

Hacking positive train control is probably a drinking-game challenge among discontented nerds.

Even under the best of circumstances, the outcome is not good.
“A malicious cyber breach of PTC or underlying existing rail signaling systems could wreak havoc and cause accidents or derailments on the highly interdependent freight railway network,” retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. John Adams, president of Guardian Six, said in prepared testimony to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Since PTC does not allow for operating a train, hacking the system might merely bring trains to a halt.

“With positive train control, if you quote-unquote break into or hack into positive train control, you will probably break a component, which is going to cause a train to stop,” [NCC Group technical director Jim] McKenney said. “It’s a very complex set of paths that you must really contemplate and have a lot of information, a lot of very specific technologies and skillsets to even contemplate trying to quote-unquote hack into positive train control and cause it to not stop a train and cause a derailment or cause a head-on train collision.”
Perhaps so, although the way railroads try to make do with less, a delay of a few minutes to a train, while tech support "addresses the issue" (and what is it about the tech types that they can't say "defective" or "broken" or even "bad ordered") might mess up the locomotive and crew rotations and maintenance schedules even without any broken trains or injured people.

IT PAYS TO INCREASE YOUR WORD POWER.

That used to be a squib in The Reader's Digest, and its presence was a signal to hoi polloi and the slumming upper-middle-class reader alike that adding to your vocabulary was a Good Thing.

There might still be a Reader's Digest, but increasing your word power is a lost art, even among people whose parents didn't pull strings to get them into a tony university.
Going to college no longer expands people’s vocabularies the way it once did: since 1970, there has been a steady decline in the correlationbetween years of education and people’s vocabulary.

Nearly half of the nation’s undergraduates learn almost nothing in their first two years in college, according to a 2011 study by NYU’s Richard Arum and others. Thirty-six percent learned little even by graduation. Although federal higher-education spending has mushroomed in recent years, students “spent 50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago.” The National Assessment of Adult Literacy also shows that degree holders are learning less.
That's an allusion to Declining by Degrees, which I reviewed long ago, and the post makes use of a few other old sources.

Apparently, though, it's time to issue some new red hats, reading "Make School Hard Again."  John V. C. Nye, a Caltech graduate, elaborates.  "I have spoken to admits who chose an elite university because they knew that there, they were unlikely to earn less than a B, while at Caltech they would have to work hard just to graduate."

Yes, and pay attention to the structure behind the athletic front porch and the dreaming spires of the best graduate programs.
The U.S. higher education system is admired for its faculty research and the products of its graduate programs, not for its level of basic teaching—and the former areas, lucky for all of us, remain overwhelmingly meritocratic. Students at the doctoral level are selected with minimal regard for the "holistic" considerations so prevalent at the undergraduate level. They're generally drawn from around the world without attempts to represent different groups equally. If you doubt this, see how far your lacrosse championship or volunteer experience will go in compensating for low GRE math scores when applying to a Ph.D. program in economics or physics at a top-20 university.

The corrupt undergraduate admissions process at most schools today can flourish because the higher branches of the American academic tree are so good. But the lower branches are rotten with grade inflation and social promotion. The move away from an emphasis on genuine academic achievement and meritocratic promotion has done a disservice to the least well-off while offering more opportunities for the rich and connected to buy the trappings of success for their offspring.
Yes, and the children from more modest circumstances, and the returning adults, irrespective of their circumstances, are hard-done-by if the regional comprehensives, mid-majors, and land-grants don't take care of their business.

THE EPITAPH FOR TECHNOCRACY?

Rod Dreher weighs in on the folly of letting Contemporary Experts renovate Notre Dame de Paris.

Their performance in Coventry wasn't that great.  He writes, "The Nazi barbarians destroyed a medieval cathedral. Christians replaced it with Our Lady of The Department Of Motor Vehicles:"



It might be more precise to say that technocrats professing to be Christians built that Brutalist cathedral.  As such, it is a metaphor, like stroads, urban renewal, the Great Society, and the European Union, of the errors of technocracy.  The saecular challenge is in limiting the power of technocrats to do wrong, and of identity politics types to revert to the primitive, without giving up the gains of three millennia.

BUY YOUR DISSERTATOR A TRAIN SET.

I've long been on record as favoring academicians having something to do when they walk away or are pushed away or have just had enough.

Now comes recent assistant professor Stephen Aguilar who discovers the values of having something else to do in the midst of achieving a reputation.
Hobbies are important. They allow us to express ourselves along dimensions that are not tied to work. I build, paint and play with war-game miniatures. I chose the hobby for very specific reasons. First, I am a nerd, and mini painting is a nerdy hobby with rich narrative elements that I can explore. More important, however, it was a hobby I knew I could grow into. When I started the hobby, I didn’t know the first thing about building small models, let alone painting them so they looked good on the table. That is why the hobby was ideal for me: I could grow into it.

As academics, many of us are always aspiring to learn and become better than we are at whatever we happen to be working on. Our training pushes us to find the boundaries of our disciplines and extend them. Rather than curb that tendency in my life outside of work, I’ve tried to channel it into my hobby. What can I build or paint today that is just a little bit better than it was yesterday or last week?
Give him time, he'll discover the value of building stuff that looks good when it runs.

He's got a productivity strategy that it's wise for people to develop, no matter their discipline, no matter what they're doing off campus (which can include raising kids or otherwise attempting to have a normal life).
I recommend that you identify a few colleagues in and out of your field to have lunch or coffee with on occasion. Find people who do not constantly talk shop, since having lunch to talk about work is essentially having a meeting proximal to food. Avoid that if you can, as lunches and coffees should be about getting to know the side of folks that are not written on their CVs or syllabi. (Of course, talking about work a little bit is fine, but you don’t want the entire interaction to be about work.)

This approach requires a bit of effort and some planning. Most people have schedules that limit how often they can meet socially with others, so you’ll probably need patience when trying to schedule such events. Recognize that some people either do not want to have lunch of coffee with you or, alternatively, are simply too disorganized to schedule such meetings. I find the former rare and the latter more common, but both have the same result of increasing rather than decreasing isolation. So be persistent, as appropriate -- you’ll find it worth the effort.
That's not a bad idea, although if you're meeting with people in other disciplines, talking about what you're working on can be productive, as those companions are intelligent people who might not know the ins and outs of what you're working on, and yet they can force you to better explain it.

I was fortunate in my first gig at Wayne State that we had a large enough industrial organization group to schedule weekly lunches to discuss a current paper, either one of our own, or something good in a recent journal.  Those guys made me look good enough that Northern Illinois made me an offer I couldn't turn down.

These days, though, having a critical mass of subject specialists who can conduct a mini-workshop like that is rare outside the largest departments.

28.5.19

DECONSTRUCT THE CULT OF THE PRESIDENCY.

Robert Higgs prays, "No More 'Great Presidents.'"
American liberty will never be reestablished so long as elites and masses alike look to the president to perform supernatural feats and therefore tolerate his virtually unlimited exercise of power. Until we can restore limited, constitutional government in this country, God save us from great presidents.
Amen.

FRAGMENTATION COMES TO THE BUNDESBAHN.

In the United States (and Canada, if you can find a passenger train) the various Passenger Rail operating authorities do not honor each others tickets, nor do they sell interline tickets.  (That despite the option of riding from Oyster Bay to the foothills of the Poconos or from New Brunswick to the Hamptons, or from South Bend to Fox Lake seeming to have some value.)

But when it happens somewhere in the Germanic lands, that comes as a surprise.
Welcome to the world of deregulated European railways. In some EU countries, there is now more than one operator running trains on the same line. They all sell their own tickets, and only their own tickets do they accept.

You had a standard ÖBB ticket from Salzburg to Vienna and got on the first train towards Vienna. Unfortunately the first train towards Vienna was a Westbahn train.
That's a bit more rigid than what I encountered in the U.K. some years ago, where a trip from Manchester Airport to Telford with a change at Crewe (where there is a delightful trackside coffee shop) involved several different carriers, but one weekend return ticket took care of all the riding.

This Westbahn appears to be an incarnation of a modern interurban, with half-hourly frequencies making a Salzburg - Wien trip in two and a half hours using Austrian style split-level electric multiple unit cars.  With food service, somewhat complicated pricing, and no rubbish bins at the end of the car.

Although there's no reciprocal honoring of tickets between ÖBB and Westbahn, a British rail system fare card works for buying tickets or on-board snacks. In addition, Westbahn offer interline tickets with other private Passenger Rail operators in Mitteleuropa.  With contemporary information technologies, there's no need to note the existence of coupon stations set up to sell the interline tickets.

PRAY FOR A MORE HUMBLE CLASS OF COSMOPOLITANS.

Tyler "Marginal Revolution" Cowen witnesses voters rejecting Governance by Wise Experts.
I am myself rooting for a resurgence of centrist cosmopolitanism. But I try to be honest about how my ideas are doing in the world. And in the last few weeks, I’ve seen a lot of evidence that a new political era truly is upon us.
First, show yourselves worthy of being able to lead.  Ross Douthat suggests the supposed Experts are still too quick to attribute the worst motives to anyone who dares disagree.
[I]nstead of recognizing populism as a motley coalition united primarily by opposition to liberalism’s rule, liberals want to believe they’re facing a unitary enemy — a revanchist patriarchal white supremacy, infecting every branch and tributary of the right.

In this view it’s not enough to see racial resentment as one important form of anti-liberalism (which it surely is); all anti-liberalism must fall under the canopy. Libertarianism is white supremacy, the N.R.A. is white supremacy, immigration skepticism is white supremacy, tax-sensitive suburbia is white supremacy, the pro-life movement is white supremacy, anxiety about terrorism is white supremacy … and you can’t compromise with white supremacists, you can only crush them.
Perhaps that's because yelling "RAAACIST" used to work well, or perhaps it's for lack of imagination, or perhaps, it's because, as Mr Douthat observes, compromising to build coalitions compromises core principles, or perhaps it turns off true believers.
If you want to put climate change at the center of liberal politics, for instance, then you’ll keep losing voters in the Rust Belt, just as liberal parties have lost similar voters in Europe and Australia. In which case you would need to reassure some other group, be it suburban evangelicals or libertarians, that you’re willing to compromise on the issues that keep them from voting Democratic.

Alternatively, if you want to make crushing religious conservatives your mission, then you need to woo secular populists on guns or immigration, or peel off more of the tax-sensitive upper middle class by not going full socialist.
Meanwhile, delegates to the European Union's parliament are winning on secessionist platforms.  "Ordinary people are refusing to cooperate," indeed.

SECOND SECTION: "Favoring 'the transgressive before the normal.'"  True believers come first!  Read and understand both.

DECONSTRUCT THE INSTITUTIONS AT YOUR PERIL.

Germany has a special commissioner on anti-Semitism, who is cautioning observant Jews not to cover themselves in traditional ways.  "[Commissioner Felix] Klein, whose post was created last year, cited 'the lifting of inhibitions and the uncouthness which is on the rise in society' as factors behind a rising incidence of anti-Semitism." "On the rise" is simply the poisoned fruit of fifty years of "do your own thing."

HE FOUND A WAY TO BEAT YOU.

Bart Starr, rememberedRIP.

INVERTING CAUSE AND EFFECT?

Smarter people listen to instrumental music: study.  "Study author Elena Racevska, a PhD student at Oxford Brookes University, became interested in how musical preference is tied to personality traits as she learned about the Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis, which presumes that more intelligent individuals seek more novel experiences compared to less intelligent people."

Yes, but what comes first, and how much of wine snobbery or listening to tenure music or going on an environmentally correct safari is a signal in a matching market that isn't a pickup bar?  "Racevska and her colleagues surveyed 467 Croatian high school students, and found that those with higher scores on the intelligence test were associated with a preference for genres such as jazz, classical, big band and ambient/electronica."

As is almost always the case, there are opportunities for additional research.

24.5.19

ARE YOU READY FOR THE SUMMER?

Why pay a quarter to see the side-show when it's swimsuit weather on the beach?


Find yourself a circus and go to it.

See you down the road.

OVERWHELMING THE CAMERA LENS.

Is there "something romantic" about a hot strip mill?  Let's watch.

The station has not provided an embed link with its story, or put it on its You Tube channel.

The unemployment rate in the Mon Valley is still high, and the story is touting the reopening of some previously dormant mills.

We'll see what the effect of the continuing trade war will be.

MAYBE ONE OF THESE DAYS THE PENNY WILL DROP.

Inside Higher Ed reports on a recent study suggesting that, once again, them that has gets.
Race and class matter when it comes to who gets ahead educationally in American society, according to an analysis released today by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

The report, "Born to Win, Schooled to Lose: Why Equally Talented Students Don’t Get Equal Chances to Be All They Can Be," analyzes various federal education databases to show that children who are black or Latinx [c.q.] or are from low-socioeconomic-status families perform worse over time academically that those who are white, Asian American or are from higher socioeconomic levels. The part of the report that may be particularly alarming is that these trends hold true even for disadvantaged students who are academically talented and for those who are privileged but less academically talented.
Chicago columnist Esther Cepeda has also read the report.  She asks a good question.
What would happen if we yanked all the great teachers out of high-performing schools and swapped them with middling- to low-performing educators whose professional goals were merely to make it to retirement?

Maybe not much.
There's more to it than throwing money at it.
You could pour cash into the excellent education of every Hispanic and black child in America and they’d still get left behind by a system that preferentially values whites’ long-standing wealth and far-reaching social capital.
Social capital, however, is something that people can develop.  Perhaps that is what is missing from the poorer Hispanic and black quarters, and perhaps that understanding can emerge.  Consider another story about ill-advised high-schoolers who decided to use an end-of-semester dress-down day as "thug day."  That might be Texas high schoolers being obnoxious, or coming up with a way to get a rise out of administrators.  But note, though, this reaction.
“Black people with this hair are denied jobs, internships, and get harassed at their schools. Here, Memorial High School students, are using it as costume,” a Twitter user reacted. “It’s rude. It’s racist.”
Rude behavior, yes.

Punching down, most likely.

But what sort of social capital is this Twitterer defending?  Do hip-hop style and prison tattoos and idiosyncratic pronunciations of even more idiosyncratically spelled names confer any evolutionary advantages to practitioners within a culture, let alone to adopters (appropriators?) from outside?  Or does possession of any or all of these elements of social (or is it cultural?) capital serve as a proxy for indicators of poor performance, of drug use, of welfare dependency?  Or perhaps as markers for schools that will disillusion even the most idealistic of teachers?

Dial back the misguided authenticity and perhaps the human capital will gain value.

IF THIS IS GOVERNING INEFFECTIVELY, CAN WE HAVE MORE OF IT?

Foreign Affairs essayist Stephen Kotkin contrasts the establishmentarian Robert Mueller and the upstart Donald Trump.  It's a long essay about all the reasons the Process Worshippers ought be respected.  Smack in the middle, though, is this.
Trump lacks the facility to govern effectively, but he knows how to command the attention of the highly educated and dominate the news cycle. There is a reason he proved able, in a single election cycle, to vanquish both the entrenched Bush and Clinton dynasties. Trump’s flaws and transgressions are now well documented. Yet he has not perpetrated a catastrophe remotely on the scale of the Iraq war or the global financial crisis.
Unfortunately, Mr Kotkin is not quite ready to see that it is the technocrats who laid the foundations for those catastrophes.
The Mueller report models the civic virtues that could enable American leaders to renew the country. The tools they would need are readily at hand, in the form of the country’s formidable democratic institutions and sound underlying mores of moderation, fairness, and common sense. That will not happen, of course, certainly not in the near term. For now, politics trumps technocracy.
Moderation, fairness, and common sense are bourgeois virtues that confer evolutionary advantage.

Technocracy has mutated into scolding.  The likes of Mr Kotkin might attempt to tell us that it is for our own good, but there's accumulating evidence that often it is not.

WHAT THE GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIZES, IT GETS MORE OF.

The government subsidizes traffic jams.  "Congestion persists no matter how awesome a city's transit system is, or how complete its bike network is, or how big the freeways are or how much new technology has advanced."  Yes, although that doesn't stop the highway authorities from scheduling construction and hoping to alleviate the congestion.  For example, what is Wisconsin thinking?  There's always (or so it seems) work going on somewhere along Interstate 39-90 between Beloit and Madison; this year the geniuses decided would be a good time to widen Interstate 94 through Kenosha and Racine counties, and no matter how wide you make it, it won't be wide enough, and if you want to go the great way around with less expectation of getting stuck, well, there's work in progress on Interstate 43 northeast of Beloit.

There is a fix, but the political class doesn't like it.  "In the same way as if you made any other thing available for free, then people will use more of it," said [Brown University economist Matthew] Turner, comparing roads to any other commodity that can be priced according to the demand.

The problem with making it available for free is simply that you're subsidizing traffic jams.

But selling tolling is difficult.

IF THEY CAN'T CONDESCEND, WHAT CAN THEY DO?

Here's European Union commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker's debating style.  "[O]f course he goes for the insult because he knows that’s how to convince people they are wrong."  Of courseIt's for your own good, deplorable.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has lashed out at "stupid nationalists" on the eve of European elections in which euroskeptic politicians are expected to make gains in the European Parliament.

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, the outgoing president said he was only too aware of the threat that nationalist politicians pose to European solidarity, which Juncker called the "main objective of the EU."
Sarah Hoyt is not shocked, nor does she back down.  It's not going to end well for the Governing Class.

SO MUCH WINNING, THEY GOT TIRED OF IT.

Minnesota's University of St. Thomas is apparently the Division III equivalent of Clemson and Connecticut and Louisiana State all rolled into one package.  That's being too big for the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which, as you might expect of a bunch of liberal arts colleges in Loonistan, did the academic thing. Booted for Winning Too Many Games.  In order to be inclusive, you have to exclude.
St. Thomas was a charter member of the MIAC, helping found the conference in 1920. Rumblings about the university leaving began a long time ago, but presidents more formally started discussing the idea about two years ago, McKane said.

The debate largely centered around St. Thomas’s enrollment of roughly 6,200 undergraduate students, double many MIAC institutions, which many felt was unfair.

All 13 members of the MIAC are private colleges in Minnesota. In the last several years, St. Thomas “made some great choices,” said McKane -- investing money in athletics facilities and bringing in high-caliber coaches. The most significant of these hires was in 2008 with the football coach, Glenn Caruso, who has led the team to six conference titles and participation in two national championship games.

The Tommies’ football prowess did not go unnoticed, particularly after a brutal game in 2017, when St. Thomas trounced St. Olaf College, 97-0. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that this match was a catalyst for trying to kick out the university.

Being larger than the other MIAC members (with more money) meant that St. Thomas could attract physically stronger, more talented football players -- to the point that some other presidents felt that the “the safety and well-being” of their teams were jeopardized, McKane said.

The St. Thomas men’s and women’s basketball teams, and the volleyball and softball teams, have also dominated the conference, winning more league championships than any other MIAC institution. St. Thomas won 47 percent of all MIAC championships -- both team and individual sports -- from 2003 to 2018.
A small number of economists do most of the publishing, a smaller number of departments win the Nobel Prizes (this is likely true among disciplines more generally); there are people who argue Connecticut is bad for women's hoops: and when is the last time a Minnesota collegian ascended to the High Bench or the presidency?

But there's still democracy in the Minnesota Intercollegiate, as in the other conference members vote that either St. Thomas goes or they go.  Majority rules.
Nine institutions were needed to formally vote to remove St. Thomas, but most of them threatened to break off and form their own league, leaving three or four colleges with less money and resources to fend for themselves. St. Thomas administrators essentially saved the conference by agreeing to the other presidents’ demands.

“It does look wonky, but knowing the whole background, institutions need to find a good fit,” McKane said. “We want to make sure that the institutions that we’re with can find success. Ultimately that was the presidents’ goal. And clearly this does look very off, but that was not the intention.”

St. Thomas will be allowed to play in the MIAC through spring 2021. It did not break any rules and leaves the conference in good standing, the MIAC said in a statement.

The university now must find a new conference or play independently, which would make scheduling difficult. If it remains in Division III, a likely home would be the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which only has Wisconsin institutions but does not forbid out-of-state institutions from joining.
It's expensive to play in Division I (Minnesota, Northern Illinois) or Division II (Southern Illinois, Western Illinois) but apparently even in the universe of intercollegiate athletics for lower stakes, the stakes still matter.
Division III institutions were already diverse in terms of enrollment, with some universities having 400 undergraduates and some having up to 40,000 at the time. And while Division III colleges can’t offer athletic scholarships, they can extend merit-based scholarships, which have been used to lure athletes to certain institutions. Some Division III colleges have been accused of bending the rules by offering athletes large merit-based scholarships, which deepens the divides between the haves and have-nots among Division III institutions.

Many institutions at the time did not want to be associated with a Division IV because Division III is already considered less prestigious than the upper two divisions, and the shift would likely have made recruitment even harder for less wealthy institutions.

“The larger schools, generally among the newest to the division, wanted to offer athletic scholarships and also to do more to emphasize athletic competition, moving closer to the DI approach,” said Josephine R. Potuto, former member of the NCAA Division I infractions committee and Richard H. Larson Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. “The smaller schools wanted to retain what they saw as an integrative model of academics and athletics -- athletics offered because of the benefit to students from participation and not to attract fans and donors and etc.”
The beat goes on.

THE BILL POSTERS MIXED A GREAT BATCH OF PASTE.

We refer to the posters that the itinerant circus used to attach to any available bare wall as "ephemera," as they're supposed to biodegrade, or to be removed by the property owner, or sometimes to be over-posted by the opposition brigade of a rival circus working the territory.

In Durand, Wisconsin, though, tavernkeeper Ron Berger found something unusual while he was working on connecting two buildings with an interior passage.
By the time Berger was done excavating and researching, he had unearthed a 9-foot-high by 55-foot-long, multi-sheet, full-color paper lithograph circus poster advertising the Great Anglo-American Circus and Menagerie performing in Durand on Aug. 17, 1885, according to the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.

"It's one of the oldest and best preserved circus posters in the world," Berger said. "It's considered a one-and-only type of thing."

While Berger immediately recognized the discovery would throw a wrench into his plan to quickly connect the Corral Bar & Riverside Grill with the adjacent building to create a banquet facility, he felt a duty to preserve the historical artifact.
In the best entrepreneurial tradition, the family uses the poster to provide a theme for the newly opened banquet room.
Ultimately, it took two years for the special events room to open, complete with a mirror-backed bar and metal ceiling that Berger believes date back to the 19th century. But, ladies and gentlemen, the main attraction, undoubtedly, is the massive circus poster that covers an entire wall. The artwork is enclosed in special glass to protect it from being damaged by light and prying fingers.

The banquet hall is named the Orton Room in honor of Miles Orton, a world-renowned performer who owned and managed the Great Anglo-American Circus. Orton was famous for stand-up horseback riding with his children on his shoulders — an act breathtakingly depicted in the Durand poster.
Wisconsin is the North American home of the itinerant circus, including the Great Anglo American.
Pete Schrake, an archivist at Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, made the pilgrimage to Durand to see the discovery and was duly impressed, particularly because the find involved a Wisconsin-based circus in a Badger State town.

"This is a standout piece," Schrake said. "What really made this one stand out is its size — it's the longest one I know of — and that it's an amazing poster."

That's high praise from a historian for a museum with an inventory of about 9,000 circus posters [for instance].

Schrake said the Durand poster is a relic from the golden age of circus, when the shows toured via railroad and advance teams would paper the towns on the schedule with posters and handbills promoting their acts.

"Circuses, in their day, were pioneers of mass media and in-your-face, bombastic advertising," he said. "That bill stand is really a perfect example of that kind of approach."
How good was that batch of paste?
The artwork, originally displayed on an exterior wall facing the river to promote the circus to boat traffic, was printed on paper intended to weather away after a month or two.

The story of how it survived is a bit of a mystery, although Berger feels confident he has figured it out.

Shortly after the show, he assumes someone erected a building over the wall — installing wooden studs less than half an inch from the artwork — and never bothered to remove the poster.

The circus performers, ranging from aerialists and elephant riders to lions and giraffes, were entombed behind a wall for more than a century until Berger serendipitously freed them.

"It should never have survived," said Berger, who has become somewhat of a circus historian while researching the poster's background.
And yet it did, and thanks to the Berger clan for making the extra effort to keep the poster safe while renovating the banquet hall.

22.5.19

NO LONGER THE COMMANDING HEIGHTS.

Steel manufacturing as we used to understand it is no longer a basic industry, and yet, in the failure of British Steel, the preservationists still want to spend tax money.
General Secretary of the GMB union Tim Roache  said the insolvency was ‘devastating news’, and ‘ministers must be prepared to make use of all the options – including nationalisation – in order to save British Steel and the wider steel industry.’ He said the union was seeking ‘urgent reassurances on what the future holds for the thousands of British steel workers and their families.’
Oh goody, with the equivalent of five Youngstowns smoking up mainland China in best Stalinist fashion, let's pretend that the best use of labour power in Scunthorpe is in making steel to dump on other countries.

I HAVE NEVER KNOWN MUCH GOOD DONE BY THOSE WHO AFFECTED TO TRADE FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD.

Adam Smith's observation is as relevant to Game of Thrones as it is to actually existing regimes.  With elaboration by no less than C. S. Lewis.  "It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth."

WE'RE ON TO THE SCAM.

Jim Geraghty notes, "Democrats don’t keep all of their condescension, self-righteousness, sneers, disdain, and contempt stored up to use on [conservatives]. No, this is just how they talk to everyone, including each other."

21.5.19

THEY INADVERTENTLY MADE MY CASE.

Thomas Lifson gets one in on California.  "California half-fast ‘hi speed rail’ plan now pondering old fashioned diesel trains to salvage something from failed project."  It's a fiscal folly, he says.  "So, there would be existing Amtrak diesel trains running on brand new tracks at a few miles per hour faster than the existing conventional trains between the Bay Area and Bakersfield. If, as is likely, the costs of full electrification exceed the funds available, that would be the net benefit from all the billions already spent, plus the further billions to be sent on the new trackage."

But California might have done better to have provided a railroad good for 125 mph running with diesel trains, and capacity for expedited intermodal trains at night, if you're not running any sleeping car trains.  It's the same case that this CNBC documentary implicitly made.  It's what Florida's Virgin Brightline is aiming toward doing.

Notice that I've changed from my "Free Rein to 110" to 125 mph running.  Why?  Because our British cousins demonstrated that concept fifty years ago, and the last of those trains are being withdrawn.


Heck, didn't Elton John make a reference ("Gonna get oiled like a diesel train") with the Inter City 125 in mind?

"I THOUGHT ILLINOIS WAS PROGRESSIVE."

Nope, just a tax hell.
Aimed at raising money to make overdue road improvements across Illinois, the proposed legislation would also more than double the state’s gas tax to 44 cents a gallon and raise the registration fee for standard vehicles to $148, from $98, among other elements.

But the kicker is a nearly 60-fold increase in the electric vehicle registration fee — one that is sure to cause sticker shock across a nascent segment of the auto industry, which has depended on government incentives to entice early adopters.

Hybrids and plug-in electric hybrids, which both use gas to supplement electric power, are not included in the $1,000 fee proposal.

The justification for the dramatic hike? Electric vehicles don’t provide the state with any gas tax revenue.

“There’s definitely a push, because electric vehicles don’t pay any gas taxes,” said Pete Sander, president of the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association.
That provokes a Twitchy quip. “Democrats who bought $75,000 cars with help of big taxpayer subsidies are complaining about a proposed tax increase that would affect them.”

Yes, although, funnily, the subsidy for buying an all-electric vehicle goes away as the fleet gets bigger.  A state tax that discourages the purchase of electric vehicles allows the subsidy to continue (to the benefit of buyers in other states?)

That registration fee, though, is way larger than what I pay in annual gasoline taxes, and for registration.  That's even with the bigger Cold Spring Shops staff car that went into the garage last year.

There's not enough money to improve the existing roads, even with these proposed taxes.  But the motor vehicle lobby is still going to object, in principle, to spending any money on improving rail transportation, whether using light rail, rapid transit, or Commuter Rail.

A HARD LESSON LEARNED IN MADISON.

It's Madison, and you'd expect the local school superintendent to be au courant with the verbiage and techniques of inclusion.
A lot [of] people in Madison are wondering what the hell is happening in our schools. Even Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has called it a “trying year."

Cheatham, however, remains upbeat about the trajectory of the district and her goal to close the stark achievement gap between kids of color and their white peers. She says the district is on a path towards “transformational change.” But she won’t be around to see that change through. On May 8, Cheatham announced she would be leaving Madison in August to teach at Harvard Graduate School of Education. The Madison school board is expected to select an interim superintendent in June.

Cheatham has championed reform in her six years leading the district. She spearheaded the creation of a Strategic Framework in 2013, a detailed mission statement that sets goals to guide district policy. The framework was updated after listening sessions with the public in 2018 to include a focus on “black excellence.” It now has three core goals: “Every child is on track to graduate ready for college, career and community. The district and every school in it is a place where children, staff and families thrive; African American children and youth excel in school.”

Cheatham also ushered in a major policy change regarding discipline. The Student Code of Conduct was replaced by the Behavior Education Plan in 2014. The plan states it is “a progressive and restorative approach to behavior and discipline” as opposed to “zero tolerance policies relying on punishment and exclusionary practices to correct misbehavior.”
It's well known that easing up on discipline for fear of having a "disproportionate effect" on students doesn't work.

It's a surprise when The Isthmus runs such a story.  This is a paper in the style of Milwaukee's Shepherd Express, with Tom Tomorrow cartoons, guest columns by Progressive staffers, and a classified section full of watering holes offering exotic entertainments.
Cheatham says the plan has an “explicit equity imperative” and is evolving.

“What are we doing as educators to see students for all of who they are, to not make assumptions about them, to deeply inquire into who they are so we know how best to meet their needs,” Cheatham tells Isthmus. “How do we use additional supplemental supports, as appropriate and needed, when a student needs more than a classroom teacher can provide?”

But the transformation has been a rocky one and disparities persist. Isthmus collected over 30 hours of interviews with dozens of Madison educators over the past two months. Teachers from three elementary schools, five middle schools and three high schools shared their experiences in the classroom. Most requested anonymity because of fears of retribution and were given pseudonyms.

Some teachers are frustrated by the changes they see: few consequences for disruptive and disrespectful behavior; a lack of trust from administrators; and concern that recent reforms aren’t actually helping kids of color. Others believe their colleagues need to embrace the cultural shift brought by Cheatham’s time as superintendent. They say that white teachers might need to feel uncomfortable in order to purge the schools of systemic racism.

Adding to the tension are several highly publicized incidents centering around race that have sparked renewed outrage over the achievement gap. The cumulative result is that many teachers feel stressed, unsupported and disrespected.
Let the constructive self-criticism continue!
Leah is a special education teacher at a Madison middle school. She blames Cheatham for what she calls “an extremely rough school year.”

“She is more interested in seeming woke than supporting teachers. Downtown [administrators] just want to look a certain way and when they don’t, teachers get blamed,” Leah says. “There’s no recognition that the daily grind is just unmanageable. I suspect we will see another exodus of teachers at the end of this year. That’s at least what I’m hearing.”

Leah supports the Behavior Education Plan’s principles, but calls its implementation “a complete failure.”

“What’s changed is kids have the mindset that they are in charge now. You walk into the school and there are just kids everywhere. Walking the halls. Leaving the classrooms whenever they want,” says Leah. “I do believe in restorative practices. I also believe in holding kids accountable. If we don’t, we aren’t preparing them for the real world. Cheatham really thinks she can close these achievement gaps by just loving and hugging them all.”
Well, yeah, if you enable dysfunction, are you really surprised when you get more of it?
Is anybody surprised that where the parents demonstrate dysfunction and the schools enable dysfunction, dysfunction is what you get?  And teachers quit?

Surprise me.  Crack down on the administrators who enable.
I'm afraid kicking an administrator upstairs to Harvard, even if it is to a college of deaducation, isn't cracking down.

Ultimately, though, bourgeois convention is the absent referent.
Lauren, an administrator at a Madison middle school, says teachers need to get out of the mindset that they can ignore the racial disparities that plague the district.

“It’s a cop-out. The kids that can conform and can code switch into the predominant white supremacy culture, they are successful. Kids shouldn’t have to do that,” says Lauren. “The blame game gets you nowhere. Just forget it. Teachers need to get it into their heads that they have to be co-conspirators in the work of justice in our schools.”

Some teachers see themselves as allies in that fight, but say the district’s rhetoric isn’t holding up to reality. Karyn Chacon worked at East High School for more than a decade with some of the most high-needs youth in the district. She says she has forged lifelong bonds with students despite cultural differences.

“When you do get through to a kid, when you really get them talking and they trust you, they apologize for how they treated you sometimes,” says Chacon. “One of my students dropped my class because he said ‘I know I’m just going to keep being disrespectful to you and I don’t want to do that.’”

This year, Chacon made the hard choice to leave East mid-year because her job had become too stressful and was affecting her health.
Look at the language. "Code switch into the predominant white supremacy culture" is a fancy way of saying "acting white," which is something the Authentic might see as selling out, and which might be a way to be bullied or beaten up.  That might be what was on the mind of the student who dropped the class, he just didn't have the basis for understanding that being able to interact well with others might serve him better than keeping up his street cred.  But the road to promotion in the school district (or to a gig at a college of deaducation) appears to depend on not grasping that point.
When asked if this year has been tougher than other school years, Lauren says teaching now requires some level of discomfort.

“For those of us like me, who have been uncomfortable in the system, it’s always been like this. What a privilege it must be to be comfortable. It’s never been comfortable for people of color, for immigrants, for people who speak other languages,” says Lauren. “We have to move through this. Teachers have to lean into the discomfort and be curious about what’s on the other side. That’s what I want from my staff. I want a culture of collaboration in my school.”
That might be so, and yet the immigrants and people who speak languages other than English are here for a reason, possibly they perceive opportunities for a better life in an English-speaking country with bourgeois conventions.  Lean into that.  "[Y]oung people who get away with transgressivity or authenticity or all the other enablings of yobbishness in the education system often reveal themselves as unemployable. What sort of evolutionary advantage does that confer?"

In Madison, though, the soft bigotry of low expectations is likely to continue to be the policy, never mind that it's not going to do much to help the kids most at risk.  It's the trendy thing to do.

AFTER A THIRTY YEARS' WAR, WILL THEY LEARN?

Noelle Mering asks, "Is Sexual Autonomy Worth The Cost To Human Lives?"  No.
The lived reality of many women in today’s dating swamp is that they are reduced to a tool for men’s masturbation. The “remedy” of just using the man as well feels less like empowerment and more like an infernal competition to see who can be worse.
Yes, and that's for the people who are supposedly scoring.
Today the only victors in the sexual revolution are those men and women who are good-looking and clever enough to enjoy multiple partners with a minimum of emotional and financial commitment. The dowdy and the not-so-clever (or not-so-unscrupulous) are used by the well-endowed and find loneliness and frustration where, in a previous generation, they would probably have been able to start families.
The loneliness and frustration, Mrs Mering observes, applies to the victors as well. "We didn’t anticipate that the hedonism that replaced it is just a new type of hatred and distortion of our flesh."

THE VALUE IN BEING DISRUPTIVE.

Consider an American Conservative article in which Bill Rice suggests it's OK to break with conventional wisdom.

In the course of doing so, he's OK with current Jeopardy! phenomenon James Holzhauer's iconoclasm.  "Holzhauer, 'a professional sports gambler from Nevada,' may have shown the world what’s possible when a player template—never challenged or questioned over a half century—is blown up and replaced by another strategy that produces vastly superior results."

His approach was always available.  Wouldn't the Conservative Thing be to say "Well, I never?"
How could a strategy that really is “pretty simple”—one that on a per hour basis generates more income than any job in America—have been eschewed by approximately 25,000 previous contestants?

One is that most people are afraid to challenge the conventional wisdom. If something has been done the same way for decades by everyone, no one thinks that it can be done differently. That’s especially true if those who do challenge the status quo aren’t celebrated but excoriated.
"The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you is, that it scatters your force."

Mr Holzhauer has been resting in a secure location the past two weeks, while the teachers' tournament has been airing.  Everything you ever suspected about unimaginative pedants might be true.
Another depressing possibility is that the overwhelming percentage of Jeopardy contestants (and, symbolically, the population writ large) is incapable of contrarian analysis or of approaching a problem or puzzle in a unique way. Americans have either known for decades that the game was being played the wrong way but were too chicken to play it correctly, or James Holzhauer is the only American who’s figured the game out.

It’s too soon to tell whether future contestants will emulate Holzhauer’s strategy. For what it’s worth, over the past two weeks, 16 contestants have competed in Jeopardy’s “Teacher Tournament” and every contestant has reverted to the game’s normal style of play. Such is the enduring power of conformity, of conventional wisdom.

But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong? And how often is it wrong?
It's often prudent to note that better is the enemy of good enough, or to chant, "If it's not broke, don't fix it."

Sometimes, though, stuff is broken.
According to Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson, the answer is “almost always.”

Samuelson wrote an important if largely overlooked book on this very subject in 2001. The book’s title: Untruth: How The Conventional Wisdom is (Almost Always) Wrong.

Samuelson’s thesis is that people and organizations with an “agenda” often create problems that are either exaggerated or not problems at all. And the solutions policymakers give us to resolve these “crises” typically make things worse.

One can take his premise and run with it. Examples of when conventional wisdom has been wrong are abundant in the fields of science, health, economics, and education. We see it in our aggressive war policies overseas. We see it in our approach to presidential politics, at least before Donald Trump “broke” it. At this level, disproving the postulate that there’s only one way to play Jeopardy! might not seem like a big deal. It could be, however, if it opens the floodgates of independent thought among Americans.
That's unlikely, though. "For your nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure."  Even though, as Mr Rice notes, practitioners of the conventional wisdom have failed, repeatedly, in ways large and small.  They still can appeal to authority or popular opinion, or if that fails, hector, condescend, or deplorable-shame.  Too often, it works. The nail that sticks up gets hammered down. Until the breakthrough to some intractable problem comes.
It will be someone who looks at all the work that’s come before him and says, “This doesn’t make sense. There’s a better way to approach this.”

Over the last two months, Holzhauer has been trying to teach Americans that eye-opening accomplishments are possible if one ignores or rejects conventional wisdom. The more Americans who absorb that lesson, the better.
Perhaps so, although you have to have the chops to deliver, plus be slow to bruise and quick to heal, and willing to understand that when your ship comes in, it's going to be an icebreaker.  The ice is going to take the form of "we've always done it that way," and your response has to be "This is what it has gotten you, and here is why it is going to keep getting you this."

THEY'RE AT IT AGAIN.

Driving Ringling Barnum out of business wasn't enough.

Banning elephant acts in Illinois wasn't enough.

It is in the nature of killjoys always to seek new joys to kill.
Animal welfare advocates are praising soon-to-be introduced legislation in the United States that would ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.

The measure, the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA), is set to be introduced Tuesday in the House of Representatives.

Sponsored by Arizona Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D) and David Schweikert (R), TEAPSA would amend the Animal Welfare Act by restricting the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses and other traveling performances. The animals are kept prisoner and subject to tortuous treatment in the name of entertainment.
Ed Asner, once upon a time a teevee star, endorses the measure, so it must be good.

Never mind that many of the wild species are at risk of extinction outside the zoo or the circus grounds.  Consider the white tiger, which might only exist because of zoos and circuses.


Any measure that gives children of all ages fewer reasons to put down the electronic shackle must promote a public interest, right?

No elephants, no circus.


Find yourself a circus and go to it.

While you still can.

15.5.19

SHARED GOVERNANCE MEANS FACULTY GOVERNANCE.

Matt "Dean Dad" Reed reflects on the administrative turnover at Portland State University. “In 18 months on the job, he went through four provosts.”

Perhaps it's time for Portland State to think about its mission and purpose.  It sometimes gives the impression of being a state-supported version of Brown (or Reed) without the starlets paying bribes to get their underprepared spawn in, or perhaps of Oberlin with a less upscale food court, or perhaps Evergreen State with a broader offering of courses.

Thus, it might appeal to trustees to bring in somebody from the private sector, perhaps somebody who is not afraid to kick a few and take a few.

The onus, though, is on the faculty to take back the responsibilities that are rightly theirs.
Is the college worth extra effort, or have you been burned enough times that you only feel like working just hard enough not to get fired? (And any self-proclaimed “change agent” is in for a rude shock the first time he tries to fire somebody with tenure.)

For a Board to let a president go as far as that one did suggests either inattention or a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the institution.  Undoing that damage will take time, but not only that; it will take some folks rethinking what it is they’re trying to do. After a rogue president, the temptation will be to clamp down and micromanage, but that’s exactly the wrong thing.  To the folks who’ve stuck around, it adds insult to injury. They need to bring in someone who understands the big picture, and then back off and let them work. That’s a tall order for people who think of themselves as hard-charging leaders, but it’s the likeliest way to get a good, sustainable outcome.

Or they can churn through another half-dozen provosts, looking for magic, and wondering why everybody seems angry all the time.  Their call.
As there is accumulating evidence that the intersectional crazies on the faculty will turn on their own after they have driven all the classical liberals and Tories out or into deep cover, perhaps an incoming president who will encourage the remaining academic wolves among the classical liberals and Tories to show their fangs will discover that, in choosing to restore the faculty stewardship, he will not have to micro-manage.

GIVE US YOUR HUDDLED MASSES YEARNING TO BE M.V.P.

Tonight, the Milwaukee Bucks will begin playing the Toronto Raptors for the right to represent the Eastern Conference in the league title series.  This year, the representative of the eastern conference will come from a fresh-water coast.

The first star among the Bucks is formerly stateless person Giannis Antetokounmpo, and his story provokes The Ringer's Danny Chau to contemplate currently stateless people attempting to make a go of things in Milwaukee.
I find myself thinking about how Giannis has become a much-needed symbol for people in the city who have no idea he exists. Giannis is on a fast track to becoming one of the most popular athletes in the world, but he was once an undocumented child living on the periphery of Greek society. He was a stateless person who made a home in Milwaukee. I want to meet the refugees in the city trying to do the same.
These refugees don't necessarily have a jump shot, nor do they in some cases understand what "Fear the Deer" is about.
The Rohingya, an ethnic and religious minority of Myanmar with roots in the country since the eighth century, have for decades faced one of the starkest refugee crises in the world. They are a stateless people who, by law, receive no recognition from Myanmar as citizens, and face constant persecution that has veered toward genocide. Wisconsin’s number of incoming refugees has plummeted, consistent with nationwide trends under the Donald Trump administration, but refugees from Myanmar have accounted for a significant percentage of total arrivals over the past five years. At somewhere more than 2,000, Milwaukee probably has the largest Rohingya refugee population in the U.S.
The tensions between Buddhists and Moslems, or Hindu and Moslems, in southeastern Asia, only come to my attention when something like the recent church bombings in former Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) make the news. They are very real. Read the article for more.

Rohingya refugees might be able to find co-religionists elsewhere in Milwaukee.
I spend my night at Damascus Gate, the city’s first and only Syrian restaurant, for an iftar buffet dinner. Upon entrance, patrons walk past a makeshift bridge leading to a large wooden post. It’s as close to the actual gate of Damascus as you’ll get in Milwaukee. “I didn’t name” the restaurant, says owner Ahmad Nasef. “The refugees named it. They say, ‘When you open that door, to be the gate to Syria. The peaceful gate to Syria.’”

Down the center of the restaurant, just past the gate, is a long table lined with chafing dishes of kabab hindi and stuffed grape leaves, enormous pans of maqlooba with chicken, and aluminum trays of fried kibbeh and spinach pies—all prepared by two Syrian refugees in the kitchen, both of whom had fasted in observance of Ramadan.

“They did not expect the reaction from the American people, because they’re still scared,” Nasef says. “They’ve been scared for like five years in refugee camps. When they came here and found the support from everybody—the customers that came, the love that they’ve shown them—this is priceless.”
I've called attention previously to Milwaukee's Polonia, and prior to that people in Europe and America alike referred to Milwaukee as a German Athens.  Mr Chau's story also calls attention to the importance of people in the United States buying into the aspirations of the refugees, and helping the refugees buy into the country.
[Rohingya center co-director Andrew] Trumbull, himself, is carrying on a family legacy. He is the first cousin (many times removed) of Jonathan Trumbull, a governor of Connecticut before the Revolutionary War, and the first governor to oppose British rule. His third-great-grandfather was Lyman Trumbull, an Illinois senator who coauthored the 13th Amendment, the country’s first civil rights act.

“I think that’s one of the biggest driving factors in my life: What it means to be a citizen,” Trumbull says. “And it might seem strange for other Americans to see this white guy cofounding an organization that supports a Muslim group. You know, typically you’d see birds of a feather in some context. I don’t know if it’s weird or not, but I guess for me personally, the message is: It’s about the equality. It’s about supporting everybody here. When I think about the United States, and what the United States stands for, I’m proud to represent that in the best way that I know how. And it’s in a very similar way that my family has done since before this country became the country it is today.”
Conceived in Liberty, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, and compatible with all creeds, whether the Catholicism of Poland, or the Islam of the Levant or of Southeast Asia.  And willing to cheer for Mr Antetokounmpo and his colleagues, even though he seeks nothing more than a green card for the duration of his basketball career.

IT'S CALLED A STATE OF GOOD REPAIR.

Reason's Ira Stoll appears to be calling the Party of Progress out for reactionary tendencies.
"I want to restore the soul of this country," [former vice president Joe] Biden says, "rebuild the backbone of this country."

Restore, rebuild. The prefix "re" literally means "again," as in [president Donald] Trump's "Make America Great Again," as if Biden, like Trump, somehow wants to turn the clock back.

Even Biden's economic policy of tax increases gets a "re" frame; speaking of a plan for free community college, Biden says "we can pay for this with the tax cut that we are gonna reverse."

There "used to be a basic bargain," Biden says, in which employees shared in the prosperity.

Biden understands the potential political appeal of "used to be," the warm nostalgia in the hearts and minds of older voters about what they imagine America was before its supposed decline.
Yes, if there was something that worked, perhaps the prudent thing to do is to do it again, rather than try something else that might do additional harm.  It is not "turning the clock back" to repair the track or the roof or the delivery of your curve-ball, or to ensure that Notre Dame de Paris looks like a cathedral when it's fixed.

On the other hand, Mr Biden is running as the heir to Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.
Perhaps the secret to progress is to cloak it, Trojan Horse-style, in conservative rhetoric. Or perhaps, for better or worse, there is something genuinely backward-looking about elements of Biden's program that want to undo the Reagan revolution and restore Johnson-era liberalism—"consensus," Biden called it, invoking a word historians use, somewhat controversially, to describe Cold War-era America.

Biden's path to victory requires being different enough from Trump to win the Democratic nomination while simultaneously being similar enough to Trump to win a general election.
There aren't enough Silent Generation voters around to build a plurality by invoking the New Deal, and I suspect Mr Trump is president in part because of the failures of the New Deal and the Great Society.

THERE ARE LIMITS.

I've long been of the view that visible tattoos (other than the Navy Anchor or Marine Globe on the forearm) are a status marker in a bad way.  A tightening labor market might lead employers to be less discriminating, and yet, there is money to be made removing ink from people's faces.
For some people, erasing their ink, and the bad memories associated with it, can be the final, “liberating” step of turning their lives around, says Jeff Garnett. He is the co-owner of the tattoo removal company Clean Slate Laser, which has locations in New York and New Jersey.

“We’ve all made mistakes, but our mistakes aren’t always the first thing people see and judge us by,” says Garnett, who is donating six sessions of tattoo removal to Arias. (They usually cost around $400 per session.)

Although clients with face tattoos account for only about 5 percent of his business, “We are seeing more and more of it,” Garnett says. “Face tattoos have become a bigger part of pop culture — they’re a little more mainstream now.”

Clients run the gamut: teens who regret their ink decisions, women with botched microbladed eyebrows and recently released prisoners hoping to find work.

“A lot of times, [clients] have prison-gang tattoos, and those are going to get in the way of getting legitimate work,” Garnett says. “And if they can’t get a legit job, they might end up back on the wrong track again.”
I sometimes wonder whether the Greatest Generation didn't acquiesce too easily to Beatle haircuts and other expressions of male individuality.  It's always useful for the young to push the limits, and yet the way to push the limits these days might be to get the tattoo artist to push back, or to claim to identify as gender-nonconforming in some way.  Long hair tends to self-correct with age; and tattoos fade and sag.

13.5.19

BUILDING AMERICA.

Union Pacific paint that on the sides of their locomotives.  Perhaps the casual observer dismisses it as so much hype, observing a train idling along the Geneva Sub or dawdling across all the road crossings on town.

But imagine the Moon landing (fifty years on in July) or the Normandy landings (seventy-five years on in June without the Pacific Railroad).  You can't.
Ever wonder why North America’s development wasn’t like that of South America? Ever wonder why the Union prevailed in the Civil War? Ever wonder why the United States became an industrial and commercial powerhouse in the second half of the 19th century, or was able to attain E Pluribus Unum—“Out of Many, One”?

 It was because of the railroad—or more generally, the kind of reliable, all-weather, effective, almost universal transportation railroading offered. That is why the modern United States developed as it did. Our Nation was possible because it quickly and effectively embraced the concept of “Railroad Mobility.” I have been making that argument for 40 years.
Arguably, the two continental powers that won the War were both products of Railroad Mobility and a seasoning of Manifest Destiny (we'll let the culture studies types and the historians engage those controversies.)
Rarely do we have the opportunity to associate a single day with a long, difficult, momentous accomplishment. In a few weeks, we will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, marking the beginning of the end of World War II. That Anniversary will grab much attention. It is another example of a significant day standing in for a world-changing project.

Am I suggesting that connecting the East and West coasts of the United States with a rail line is in the same league as defeating the Nazis in Europe 75 years later?

Absolutely. Railroad history has never been good at asserting how central it was to the successful creation of the United States as we know it today.

Without the United States that existed in the mid-20th century, Fascism in Europe would likely have prevailed. It is one of those “what if” arguments that historians try to avoid. But the development of the United States as a powerful, continental nation was never a given. It was, in fact, utterly unnatural—except that railroad transportation made it possible as an idea, and then as a reality.

On May 10, 2019, we acknowledged the Sesquicentennial of the railroad connection across the vast North American continent. It was, in my opinion, the closing chapter of the War for Independence and the last act of the Civil War. At that point, for better or worse, the path of American History was pretty much determined. That is how important I think this day was.
Unfortunately, the railroad industry was more interested in rent-seeking in Washington City than in letting the public in on the accomplishment.  "Train World is so narrow-minded and so stuck in its own silos that it couldn’t grasp an opportunity to collectively share a major Anniversary and reinforce the idea that railroading is an important aspect of American history, culture, and life." That's an unforced error.

A LIBERTARIAN FORM OF SOCIALISM?

Paul Buchheit views a second term for Our President as almost-the-apocalypse, and yet, amidst his hysteria there's an intriguing observation.
Forty years of a winner-take-all mentality has nurtured the greedy belief that 'social' is a dirty word.

But 'social' serves everyone, 'individual' serves only one. And true socialism is far removed from any government control. As activist Gar Alperovitz describes socialism: "It’s about decentralizing power, changing the flow of power to localities rather than to the center." It means firefighters and police and roads and public transportation and parks and libraries. And it means respect for the "social composition" of schools, especially in the early years of our children's lives, when successful patterns for adulthood are found in their kindergarten social skills.
I suspect forty years of winning the Cold War and seeing the emergence of several United States' worth of middle classes in Brazil and India and China and the Warsaw Pact and the continued failures of Cuban and Venezuelan self-styled socialism (thus Mr Alperovitz has to pronounce anathema on Stalinist bureaucracies: like true Christianity, true Socialism has never been tried) that make "social-" a scary prefix, and reliance on "the center" the thing to be avoided.

Dig deeper, though, and Mr Alperovitz's vision is one in which states and localities are not operating units of the national government (if that's really the case, a president or the composition of Congress are less important than the Sunday shows, and implicitly Mr Buchheit make it) and that neighborhoods that foster bourgeois convention might be valuable indeed.  Indeed, there might be echoes of Adam Smith and people led as if by an invisible hand to cooperate.

Yes, we could quibble about whether those firefighters and roads and electric railways and parks are by subscription or by taxing the rich heavily, but we cannot rule out that local cooperation might provide local club goods as a consequence of the localities competing in the bundles they offer at different prices.

That's too logical for Mr Buchheit, who would rather dish the invective.
Why is the word 'social' feared in America? One well-studied explanation is that rampant inequality has reduced the level of TRUST in our society. Coinciding with the expanding wealth gap has been a remarkable downturn in public opinion about the belief that "most people can be trusted." As a result, the two unequal extremes lose contact with each other. People at the wealthy end tend to become antisocial, less willing to support the needs of society, opposed to sharing their wealth, and determined to convince the rest of us that socialism in any form will threaten the cherished American qualities of individual initiative and entrepreneurship.
Perhaps because "socialism," as preached by the usual suspects, is a toxic blend of resentment against achievement and enablement of dysfunction, with the worst sort of ward-heelers owing their continued power to the continued misery of their constituents.

On the other hand, the exemplars of social democracy, at least as Mr Buchheit understands it, are better understood as advanced tribal societies.  "It's revealing, then, that the socialist nations Denmark and Finland and Norway and Sweden have been ranked higher than the U.S. in business freedom by the conservative Heritage Foundation."  Yes, and the political leaders in those countries deny that they are socialist governments.  Social-democratic, perhaps.  Internationalist?  Unlikely, when a candidate for Danish office running on a leftish platform wants a moratorium on immigration.

If you define the needs of "society," dear reader, as equivalent to the needs of Danes or Swedes, you might get a different notion of desirable policies than if you think of yourself as some sort of citizen of the world, or as a seeker of cosmic justice.