11.2.16

TAIL TRACK.

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

A TRAIN IS SUPERIOR TO ANOTHER TRAIN BY RIGHT, CLASS, OR DIRECTION.

Why was one of the interurbans involved in the Bad Aibling collision not in a designated siding?
It’s believed the trains collided at or close to the track speed of about 62 mph. Neither engineer may have seen the other on the curved track until just before the moment of impact; both were killed, along with at least eight other people, and dozens were injured. “Black boxes” have been recovered and are being analyzed.

The eastbound train was to have been held at Bad Aibling, where there’s a passing track, until the westbound train arrived. Instead, the two trains hit about a mile east of town. Why did the eastbound engineer not know to wait for opposing traffic?

Moreover, both trains were fitted with PZB90 cab signaling, designed to sound an alarm and bring trains to a stop if there’s a danger of collision. How could the eastbound train proceed past a red signal without triggering automatic braking?
There will be a lot of speculation about mechanical failure.  Sixty years after Fail-Safe, can a capacitor failure still lead to a train wreck?

More troubling, though, is that "was to have been held" locution.  Recall, from our primer on positive train control, what the role of a timetable (which designates superiority by class and direction) is.
Note, in railroading, that a timetable does not REQUIRE a train to be at a station at the specified time.  Rather, it means that the train will not be BEYOND that station BEFORE that time.
Thus, if the Bad Aibling meet is stipulated in the timetable, and westbound trains are superior to eastward trains, the eastbound must wait.  No further signalling is required.  If the westbound is seriously delayed, the train dispatcher (I don't know the German equivalent job title) can change the meeting siding in a number of ways.  And if the dispatcher set up a meet on the fly, which is possible with centralized traffic control, the machinery will not permit conflicting routes to be set.  Thus one train must see a stop signal.

Curiouser and curiouser.

AN EPITAPH FOR OUR TIMES.

Pronounced by Derek Hunter.
The [Democrat] party underestimated just how radical its base had become. After decades of fostering discontent with American society as a weapon against Republicans, the monster the party created has turned against it.
The argument extends directly to the emergence of unteachable crybullies in higher education.

A UNIVERSITY IS NOT A JUMPED UP TRADE SCHOOL OR A CONDITIONING STATION FOR DOCILE CITIZENS.

That's "Underground Grammarian" Richard Mitchell, who I have previously cited at greater length.
Former Mount St. Mary philosopher John Schwenkler makes the same point, suggesting that neither is a university a place for drowning bunnies.
The Mount, though, is supposed to be different. It’s supposed to be a community, a place where administrators aren’t bosses, students aren’t customers, and faculty aren’t employees. Simon Newman, with his MBA and previous stint at Bain Capital, seems not to care about this.
Neither do a lot of deanlets and deanlings, hedge fund experience or not. Nor, sometimes, do trendy and transgressive faculty.  But the good of the intellect is something that ought to be cultivated.
In the time I taught at Mount St. Mary’s I encountered many students who would likely have been better off waiting a few years before going to college, or maybe not going at all. I also encountered many more who struggled at various times, and as freshmen especially, before turning around to become wonderful students and exemplary adults. Many such students have spoken out in the wake of Newman’s callous comments, recalling what it was like to be a struggling college student, and the way that faculty and administrators at the Mount reached out to help them work through this. Large secular universities, like the one where I teach now, usually aren’t able to do this sort of thing, at least not in such a focused way. Having access to this level of support and understanding is one of the things that makes going to a small Catholic college arguably worth the bill.
Yes, perhaps the common schools ought to be doing a better job, and the high schools that turn out a lot of Distressed Material ought be identified and shamed and sent the bill.  And the common culture ought be less trashy.  And still, running Mount St. Mary, or Marquette, or Northern Illinois more like a business surely produces the miserable people, the people who have lost the good of the intellect.

SEPARATING EQUILIBRIUM.

Some years ago, Richard Vedder referred to the flagship state universities as gated university communities.  But in a world where the fifty claimants to belong in the top twenty national universities limit enrollment and quote low tuitions so as to appear selective, how else might faculty and admissions directors at the flagships respond to excess demand for intellectually challenging education?
The original motivation behind most state universities was a desire to provide low cost education for the masses. Yet the flagship universities are very often almost contemptuous of this mission. While Marie Antoinette may have said to the French peasants who could not afford bread, "let them eat cake," today's state university president confronted with the fact that few poor go to his or her school say "let them go to a community college."
That, dear reader, is the heart of the tussle over whether publicly funded universities constitute a regressive transfer, either by catering to students born to the upper middle class, or students who would join the upper middle class after graduation.  But where there is excess demand for what looks like prestige degrees, perhaps the land-grants, and the mid-majors, and the Compass Point States ought to lift their game.  That appears to be what Wisconsin at Milwaukee did.
Lesser known research institutions with this distinction include Texas Tech, University of Mississippi and West Virginia, which like UWM, moved from R-2 "high research activity" to R-1 "highest research activity" in the Carnegie classifications.

"Through grit and determination — and despite dwindling state resources — you made UWM the prominent research and access institution that it is today," Chancellor Mark Mone said in an email he sent campuswide Monday. "This is a proud moment in our history and I congratulate you."

What the bump actually means will be determined largely by what the university makes of it, according to the man who directs the program at Indiana University Bloomington that produces the Carnegie classifications.

Literally, moving up from R-2 to R-1 means: "You've crossed over from one side of the line to the other," said Victor M.H. Borden, the program director and an educational leadership and policy studies professor at Indiana University.

It's accurate for a university that moves into the R-1 classification to say it's producing a level of research like other institutions in the group, based on the numbers, Borden said Monday.
The R-1 classification is not a ranking, and yet it matters. In research, there's a them-that-has-gets effect, as some government grants are earmarked only for R-1 universities. And I claim it as a win for striving students.
Milwaukee, despite having neither high-visibility football nor royalties from rat poison, now has more Wisconsin residents enrolled than Madison, and Milwaukee's part of the social contract is to make sure that its brainiacs and strivers get the intellectual challenge they might have hoped to get at Madison, had Madison provided a slot for them.  The incentive to the former teachers' colleges ought to be to lift their academic profiles as well.
And Milwaukee's faculty and administration have had their eyes on this prize for at least ten years.

But perhaps it doesn't matter.  The same article that reports on Milwaukee and Mississippi and West Virginia (Northern Illinois earned this status some years ago) earning the R-1 reports that Dartmouth has been relegated to R-2.  Perhaps that doesn't matter, as Dartmouth is Ivy, and it continues to set the pace for political correctness.  Gosh, next they'll come for my small cache of buffalo nickels.

FRACK THEM.

Cheaper crude oil defunds Iran, the Sillies, the Saudis, and Russia.
Regardless of the belt-tightening, bankruptcies and consolidations rolling through the U.S. shale ecosystem, the physical resources, infrastructure, experience and intellectual property don’t evaporate, though they may end up with new owners.

Some analysts believe that once prices move north of $40 a barrel the shale resurgence will start; others think it will take at least $50 to make it happen. No one disputes that $70 would feel like Mardi Gras time again from North Dakota and Colorado, to Oklahoma and Texas. The futures market, which reflects today’s trader and investor sentiments, doesn’t foresee $50 for several years yet. That’s a very big problem for Russia and OPEC because even $50 to $70 is a long way below $100.

The minute that private sector investors and oil companies are convinced that oil prices are on the way towards just $50 or so, they will unleash hundreds of billions of dollars in investment capital now standing idle.
Cheap oil will be good for United States commercial and security interests (although petro-states going broke might lash out at the U.S. or at their neighbors) although inducements to develop green technologies -- and the learning curve works in their favor at ever lower oil prices -- will be less strong.

HOW ASSIMILATION BEGINS.

Germany Today reports on Cologne residents accompanying immigrants to Karneval events.  Others explained to new arrivals how to "Party Like a Rhinelander."
The Catholic charity Caritas also held a class called "Karneval for Beginners" which explained the customs of Cologne’s biggest party to more than 100 refugees and integration class students before the fest kicked off.
Try it, you might like it.

I suspect it's even easier to get arrivals to the United States to buy into the American Dream.

10.2.16

ON TIME.

Passengers at intermediate stations deserve a dependable service too.  The Surface Transportation Board is considering new rules defining on-time performance, as mandated in the Passenger Rail Improvement and Investment Act of 2008.
Said the Southern Rail Commission: “The proposed rule for measuring on-time performance is inadequate and doesn’t come close to providing the full picture of the performance of the system. To access host railroad tracks, Amtrak is forced to pad schedules to provide the host railroads ample flexibility in hitting on-time performance metrics. Much of the padding builds in ample recovery time for the host railroads’ lack of preference for passenger trains, and still arrive at the endpoint destination on-time.”
The article also notes that Canadian Pacific (meaning primarily The Milwaukee Road between Chicago and the Twin Cities) turns in the best on time performance, with 804 minutes of delay per ten thousand train miles.  C. H. Bilty and K. F. Nystrom would approve.

POLITICAL ECONOMY IS DIFFICULT.

At Counter Punch, William Blum uses an essay on the socialism, or not, of Senator Sanders, to trot out the usual New Deal shibboleths, after first identifying "the ugly side of capitalism."
Following an earthquake or other natural disaster, businesses raise their prices for basic necessities such as batteries, generators, water pumps, tree-removal services, etc.
Because those people who live in earthquake zones or along the coast should have properly anticipated these events, and had stockpiles in place? Or because news of the earthquake gets a survivalist thinking about the zombie apocalypse, and that survivalist deserves the same claim on batteries as a householder in the earthquake zone?  Or because sheets of plywood ought to continue to be made available to model railroaders away from the disaster site, rather than reallocated to boarding up blown-out windows.
In the face of widespread medical needs, drug and health-care prices soar, while new surgical and medical procedures are patented.
Wrinkle-reducing injections and laser reshaping of eyeballs become cheaper, while procedures covered by mandated health insurance become more costly. Why?
The cost of rent increases inexorably regardless of tenants’ income.
Compared to sprawling McMansion developments and high-occupancy toll lanes?
Ten thousand types of deception to part the citizens from their hard-earned wages.
You mean we're now talking about political campaigns?  But in Mr Blum's world, the state is indeed that grand fiction by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everybody else.
Mark Brzezinski, son of Zbigniew, was a post-Cold War Fulbright Scholar in Warsaw: “I asked my students to define democracy. Expecting a discussion on individual liberties and authentically elected institutions, I was surprised to hear my students respond that to them, democracy means a government obligation to maintain a certain standard of living and to provide health care, education and housing for all. In other words, socialism.”
A better word is "unicorn."

WHO ARE THE CONSERVATIVES HERE?

Jane Shaw of Phi Beta Cons stands up for Mount St. Mary College president Simon "I'll drown the bunnies, and if you object, I'll drown you too" Newman.
Newman’s motives were attacked – he was just trying to up the school’s freshman retention, it was said. Yes, I’m sure he was, but that wasn’t his only goal, and freshman retention is measured for a reason. But to follow up with firings is simply not done on campuses—and they seem outrageously inappropriate in this case anyway. Mr. Newman forgot that he is on a college campus. He acted the way he probably had earlier in his career, as a business strategist and venture capitalist. Sadly, the hostile forces, now aroused, will overpower Mr. Newman and his ideas, however promising, will go nowhere.
Those hostile forces?  Defenders of the best traditions of academic inquiry.
“Mount St. Mary’s went nuclear,” said Peter Bonilla, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. “It’s shocking that the university fired faculty members, including a tenured professor, for dissenting from the administration and raising awareness of an issue of great concern to the community. Speaking freely is a dangerous proposition at the Mount if it is willing to go this far to silence its critics.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education documents a coup in progress.
The Board of Trustees fired a warning shot last month, when the board’s chair, John E. Coyne III, said in an online statement that the trustees had "found incontrovertible evidence of the existence of an organized, small group of faculty and recent alums working to undermine and ultimately cause the exit of President Newman." He added that the university would "hold those individuals accountable for these actions."

In an earlier letter to the campus newspaper, the board chair accused the student journalists of giving readers "a grossly inaccurate impression" of the university’s retention plans. Mr. Coyne did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

In his letter to faculty members on Friday, Mr. Newman announced the appointment of an interim provost, Jennie C. Hunter-Cevera, a former president of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute. She served, most recently, as the State of Maryland’s acting secretary of higher education. The Baltimore Sun reported that her nomination to that post had been held up in part because of concerns faculty members raised about her leadership at the biotechnology institute.
Perhaps the usurpation has gone on long enough that the Mount St. Mary faculty are no longer stewards of their university.  At the same time, I am encouraged that faculty elsewhere appear to recognize that they are also bunnies.  That faculty might have been complicit in building the warren in which they are now confined does not preclude taking back responsibilities that are properly theirs.

THE STIMULUS WILL PROLONG THE RECESSION.

Here, from the to-do list for March, 2009, is Mario Rizzo of Think Markets with Inappropriate Stimulation.
The fiscal stimulus program is designed to stimulate where economic activity has deteriorated and there are job losses. Many of these areas are those that had over-expanded. As we have been saying for some time on the blog, the effect of this kind of stimulation is to slow down the re-allocation of resources. It will not succeed, however, in preventing it. What it will do is prolong the recession.
Recall, dear reader, that this stimulus was entirely the work of Washington Democrats: a newly inaugurated president, a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and Speaker Pelosi's caucus in charge of the House.  And here we are, with the first primaries out of the way, and the Democrats who hope to succeed Barack Obama sounding like Herbert Hoover has been in the White House since 2001.

Jeff Jarvis of Seeking Alpha (recommended by Econ Log) described the macroeconomy as in a Great Restructuring, one for which a good deal of creative destruction would be present.
The change in our society and how it is structured are both causing and necessitating change in the economy and its industries. The crisis is bigger than it appears in the rear-view mirror. It’s more than jobs lost and companies folding. It’s a new economy built on a new society that we are only just beginning to recognize if not understand.
Some of what he anticipates has come to pass, some has not, and the form of some of the changes might have come as a surprise.

9.2.16

FASCHING IST, KARNEVAL IST.

Nubbelverbrennung in Köln.


The effigy taketh the sins away.

IMPOSSIBLE ACCIDENT?

Earlier today, two German interurban trains collided near Bad Aibling, with loss of at least ten lives.
The trains collided at a bend on the Mangfall Valley Railway, a single-track regional rail line between the towns of Rosenheim and Holzkirchen, German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said.

"There's a curve there, so we must assume that the train drivers must not have been able to see each other beforehand," he told reporters at a news conference.

One of the trains had "drilled" into the other, he said, leaving a carriage "totally dismantled."

He described the scene as a "horrible picture," saying it was estimated the trains had been traveling about 100 kph (62 mph) at the moment of impact.
The circumstances and the aftermath summon memories of the Labor Day, 1950 fatal collision on Milwaukee's Speedrail.

Movements of these German interurbans, however, are under the protection of what the Germans abbreviate as PZB (Punktförmige Zugbeeinflussung) which we render in railroadese as intermittent Automatic Train Stop.
Under normal conditions, the devices are used to stop trains travelling at up to 160mh/h from ending up heading towards each other on the same line.

The system uses magnets set up on the track bed to communicate with a device on board the train.

Magnets are placed at a pre-signal and again 1,000 metres further on at the main signal. If the main signal is showing a red light, this is also shown on the pre-signal, which will then set off an alarm in the driver's cabin.

Train drivers must press a button within four seconds of the PZB alarm sounding to confirm that they have seen the pre-signal – or else the train is automatically braked by the PZB system.
Our sympathies are with the families of the passengers and crew. The investigation might prove interesting.

German railroads currently use a form of continuous automatic train control on faster lines.  I wonder if there will be a mandate to install positive train control or to apply the continuous control on all passenger lines.

MORE NOSTALGIA FOR THE FIFTIES.

Last night, I caught a snippet of a Senator Sanders speech, possibly before this audience, in which he told the youngsters about a vanished time when one middle-class income could support a family.  That does seem to appeal to his voters.

Political economy, however, is about trade-offs.  You can have a family wage.  Or you can have widespread labor force participation by married women (and the tradeoffs that come with.)

But you can't have both.

THE AUTHENTICITY TRAP.

The [North] Carolina Panthers quest for first an undefeated season and then for a Lombardi Trophy gave the culture studies types material for the theory mill.  Start with Huffington Post writer Erick Fernandez describing the team as "unapologetically black."
On the way to a 15-1 regular season record and the team's first Super Bowl appearance since 2004, the team has had fun and has been fun to watch.

They have talked loudly, danced loudly and celebrated loudly. But they've done something significant along the way, too: The Panthers have embraced, demonstrated and exuded aspects of their blackness in a way that few predominately black teams have done in the past.
A big part of this presentation is in the persona of current most valuable player, quarterback Cam Newton. Lawrence Ware elaborates for Counter Punch.
I think part of the reason why Newton draws the ire of so many is that he embraces black culture in a way that is subversively unapologetic. He does everything he is supposed to do: he answers questions at the press conferences; he gives credit to his teammates; he does charity work in the community, but he does it all his way.  That is, he does not try to hide the fact that he was reared in a black, working class milieu.

Newton’s blackness is unavoidable. He wears gators and uniquely patterned suits; he doesn’t engage in the code switching often used by other black professionals. If the press ask him a question, he answers them in a black southern vernacular that doesn’t try to hide Africanisms.  As Bomani Jones said, he is the embodiment of everything black men are told you cannot be and achieve success. He is uninterested in being ‘respectable.’ He is not trying to prove he belongs. Cam’s authenticity is confrontational in how it forces white supremacy to come to terms with his athletic brilliance…and brilliant he is.
Mr Newton, before the game, sounded more like a big kid having some fun.
"We limit ourselves, by just labeling ourselves black, this, that and a third," he said.  But Newton added that he hopes to use his influence as a star athlete to break down stereotypes, to allow people to live without being categorized.

"It’s bigger than race," Newton said. "It’s more so opening up a door for guys that don’t want to be labeled."
Perhaps so, but there's still a halftime show for the chin-pullers to deconstruct.
White athletes are allowed to show joy and confidence without fear of condemnation. By comparison, the black body is always a threat in America. It has to be disciplined, controlled and regimented. Transgressions of those norms are punished and condemned. This is true from before the Founding through to the post civil rights era and the Age of Obama.

Beyoncé performed her new song “Formation” during the Super Bowl 50 halftime show. “Formation” is an unapologetically “black” (female) anthem of resistance with its imagery of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina, allusions to white-on-black police violence, support for Black Lives Matter, and celebration of black style, fashion, love and speech. There is no code switching in “Formation”; it does not cater to or comfort the White Gaze.

Beyoncé’s new song may not be a form of “high” or “formal politics.” Nevertheless, its celebration of black folks’ humanity is a resistant and oppositional act. This is especially true in an American society where a basic claim that “black lives matter” is viewed by many whites as controversial, provocative and offensive.

Capitalism and race intersected at Super Bowl 50 as well. The dream merchants are adept at manipulating the forces of “racial capitalism” and “neoliberal multiculturalism” to advance the bottom line of corporate profit by manipulating the desires of consumers.

Ultimately, “black culture” is a commodity. It is used to sell products even while actual black people are often either not present or are depicted in stereotypical ways by advertising and commercials.
That's the authenticity trap. "Code switching" is a euphemism for behaving diplomatically. "Authentic" sugarcoats underclass habits. Perhaps when there aren't enough White People In Authority to blame, the self-despising multiculturalists will figure it out. And perhaps they'll heed the words of Andrew Klavan, who saw Mr Newton's post-loss press conference in more universal terms.
After the game, when Newton showed himself to be sullen and bitter in defeat, suddenly the Times caught on to the fact that this is a young man who (like most young men of every color) has a lot to learn about gratitude and humility.
Put another way, the majority-minority or more diverse or whatever nation the United States is likely to become will benefit more rather than less from a common set of norms.

IT'S THE RENT-SEEKING, STUPID.

The more involved the national government is in daily life, the more influence affected people will seek in influencing government.
With more at stake, it makes sense for there to be an even bigger fight over who controls the federal government. If federal spending still amounted to 2 percent to 3 percent of GDP — as it did a century ago — people likely wouldn’t care as passionately about the outcome of most elections.

In the Journal of Law and Economics in 2000, I looked at the years 1976 to 1994 and studied spending on gubernatorial and state legislative campaigns. Almost 80 percent of the increase in campaign spending could be explained by the growth of state governments.
That's John R. Lott, referring to previous research. And aggregate spending on influencing government is cheap, compared to selling colored water in blue cans to dumb guys on Super Bowl Sunday.
The money spent on the 2014 midterm elections is less than 0.1 percent of the nearly $4 trillion of federal spending. That’s one dollar in campaign spending for every thousand dollars of federal expenditures.

In a single year, a private company may spend more on advertising than is spent on an entire federal election cycle. In 2014, Procter & Gamble’s spending on advertising came to $2.64 billion — almost three-quarters of what has been spent on all federal elections during the entire 2013-14 two-year election cycle.

As government spending (and involvement in our daily lives) increases, it’s only natural that people will want to spend more money on determining who wields that power.

Ironically, with Sanders promising $18 trillion in new government spending over the next decade, he would cause the very massive increase in campaign spending that he says he wants to avoid.

Growing campaign spending is a symptom, not the cause, of what ails our republic. And Sanders will only make it worse.
Hat tip: Craig Newmark.

MEDIOCRITY WILL BE FREE FOR EVERYBODY.

The latest squeeze on higher education appears to be enrollments rising faster than operating budgets.  "Colleges can’t afford to hire enough full-time faculty to educate their growing student populations, and are increasingly turning to low paid, disposable adjuncts to make up for it."  Economists Liang Zhang, Ronald G. Ehrenberg, and Xiangmin Liu do the research.  "Colleges and universities have increasingly employed faculty whose salaries and benefits are relatively inexpensive; the slowly deteriorating financial situations at most colleges and universities have led to an increasing reliance on a contingent academic workforce."

What happens next is not pretty.
Administrator salaries go up, adjuncts face increasingly alarming economic insecurity, and the quality of education at lower-tier schools continues to be undermined even as the top colleges have access to almost unlimited resources. In other words, even the most leftwing institutions in the country can’t afford to put egalitarian, blue-model ideals into practice.  Like all decaying blue institutions, the university still serves insiders (college presidents, professors with tenure, students at Yale) quite well, even as outsiders (adjunct faculty, students who took out loans to go to lower-tiered schools) struggle.
I've been following this dynamic for years.
Surprise. What the government subsidizes, it gets more of. If it subsidizes "not charging list price," Nobody. Pays. List. Price.
Perhaps administrators have been forced to compete, something that ought to produce welfare gains.  Or perhaps, the contingent faculty are a margin along which administrators adjust, in order to pay for climbing walls and Adzillatrons.
To the extent that vouchers make potential students or their parents less price-sensitive, the administrators are free to exercise more market power. We also have to know what preferences the students are acting on. These vouchers might be subsidizing Jacuzzi U and other creature comforts -- not a new problem -- rather than additional computer connections, journals, or smaller classes.
The title of my post comes from Over the Rainbough, now a members-only weblog. I grabbed a large quote back in the day; it's prescient today.
The government has demonstrated that when the price of tuition goes up the they will give out more money, and the average financial burden on individual students will go down. Why not take this to it's logical end. First we will have every student needing and/or using some financial aid to pay for college tuition. Next the average student will only pay for half of their college tuition. Soon after this will become the case for all students. Eventually the average student will pay nothing for college, and will rely entirely on financial aid, and finally this will expand to every student. A college education will be "free" to every student in America. Meanwhile the quality will not have increased a bit and the cost per student of college tuition will be many times what it is today.

By redistributing the cost onto those not attending they create the perception that the cost of tuition hasn't really changed at all. Consequently no one notices when we do not get an increase in quality in return for the rising expense of tuition.
Meanwhile, U. S. News will continue to sell those guides, to Donald Trump and his kids, and to anyone else Hillary Clinton deems unworthy of free college.

STANDING UP FOR THE BUNNIES GETS YOU DROWNED, TOO.

Mount St. Mary college president Simon Newman, an import from Wall Street, took issue with retention mania in an over-the-top way, which provoked, properly, push back from the tenured faculty.  Mr Newman has now confused running a college with Celebrity Apprentice, telling a provost and two of the dissident faculty that they're fired.  Inside Higher Ed calls it Purge at the Mount.  Complete with MVD operatives looking for a third subversive.
Many believe a third faculty member may also be fired, as he also has criticized the president's policies. Administrators were seen trying to find that faculty member today for an urgent meeting, which is how the two who were fired were dismissed. It is unclear whether they were able to locate the third faculty member.
The "purge" reference is priceless, as administrative arbitrariness began with the Diversity Weenies years ago.
Faculty members reached on campus Monday were nervous about talking, given that their colleagues were being fired and that the administration has told them to consult with the public relations department before talking to reporters. But, speaking anonymously, professors said some faculty and support staff members were crying in various offices. With the firing of the provost and two faculty members -- all of whom had disagreed with the president -- people said they were scared.

"It's terrifying, and nobody is safe," said one faculty member. "It is shattering. It feels like the end of what so many of us have sacrificed for."

[Defenestrated philosophy professor Thane M.] Naberhaus said in an interview shortly after he was dismissed that it was "utterly fraudulent" to fire someone for not being loyal. He said he objected to the idea that dissenting views could be considered sufficiently disloyal to merit dismissal.

Further, he said he wasn't disloyal and that since arriving in 2004, he had worked constantly for the university, leading its honors college, advising students and participating in campus life. "I love this institution and what it's been and what it could be," he said. "I think I've been loyal to the Mount. Who determines that I'm not loyal? And how? How can you fire someone this way?"
I'm reminded of one of the closing lines in Judgement at Nuremberg, when Spencer Tracy's judge informed a German, "Herr Janning, it "came to that" the *first time* you sentenced a man to death you *knew* to be innocent."  It came to administrative usurpation a long time ago.

8.2.16

A SEAGOING SPEEDLINER MAY SAIL AGAIN.

David Foster of Chicago Boyz reports that Crystal Cruises are considering purchasing and remodeling S. S. United States as "the fastest cruise vessel in the world."
It is probably inevitable that the ship’s steam turbines and boilers will be replaced with a more efficient propulsion plant, probably diesel.  Some major changes to the superstructure are also planned, driven in part by the desire to offer passenger suites with balconies.  The artist’s  concept of the modified ship which is shown in the press release loses something compared to the aesthetics of the original vessel,  at least to my eye; hopefully it will be improved during the study effort.  In any case,  saving the ship and restoring it to service would be a wonderful outcome.
Scuttlebutt has it that some details of the original propulsion system are classified, or served as proof of concept for fast aircraft carriers in the days before nuclear power became the standard.  Sometimes, though, a superstructure receives a major upgrade on the same hull, as was the case with S. S. Milwaukee Clipper, originally standard Great Lakes passenger and freight steamer Juniata.


Milwaukee Clipper is all new from the coaming up, but the quadruple-expansion steam engine from 1904 is still belowdecks.  The proposed makeover of United States retains more of the original lines of the ship.

NOT PARTICULARLY STUDENT CENTERED.

Last fall, Northern Illinois University offered a shot at a semester of free tuition, provided at least six thousand students showed up for each of six home football games, including two November games on school nights.  There were insufficient participants for a prize to be awarded, which ought not surprise anyone who understands expected value.

Today, the editorial board of The Northern Star suggests the athletic department acted in bad faith.
No student could be awarded the free tuition waiver promised by NIU Athletics’ Mission 6 initiative because at least 6,000 students did not attend each of the six home football games, according to a Thursday Northern Star article. The Editorial Board considers this wrong because the requirement of 6,000 students was never clearly stated or advertised.

Students who attended every game and stayed for the duration were eligible, according to the NIU Alumni Association website; it is stated that the 6,000 student attendance was a “goal” not a requirement.

The announcement that no one won the tuition waiver came long after the football season ended; up until last week students who attended all the games were still under the impression they had a chance at winning a semester of free tuition. In order to prevent the disappointment that followed, Athletics should have had a smaller prize ready for those who attended all the games.

Not awarding the free tuition waiver due to a technicality reflects poorly on NIU Athletics because it damages NIU’s credibility in terms of promises made to its students.
An academic advisor suggests that expecting six thousand students to show up for football, particularly on a school night, is "asking too much."
We have students who work two jobs to make ends meet. We have students who are parents of young children. We have students who can barely afford to buy the gas they need to drive to campus. We have students who are homeless.

While it may not seem like it’s “asking too much” to attend a game, for many, it is. In my office, I experience the entire range between heartbreak and inspiration. Let’s not blame students for missing arbitrary goals. Let’s support them with the resources and respect they deserve.
Yes, and each of those students is on the hook for the athletics activity fee that is de rigueur in the Mid-American Conference.

HIGHER EDUCATION LOWERS ITSELF.

Here's Daphne Patai's The Normalization of Bad Ideas.
Over the past few decades, then, we have seen a massive normalization of bad ideas that were first promoted by identity programs such as Women’s Studies and Black Studies. This could not have been accomplished without academic institutions willingly, and by now enthusiastically, embracing what Lawrence Summers (and he should know) recently called academe’s “creeping totalitarianism.”  Far from embracing free debate of challenging ideas and the free speech necessary to pursue them, university life today is characterized by policies governing every aspect of college life, in the classroom and out, and offices to enforce them.

At the macro level, universities have adopted “social justice” as a supposed core mission, in the name of which policing of speech and behavior has become ever more intense.  Education itself may be more debased and less demanding, yet universities focus not on this extremely serious problem but on the level of comfort of those supersensitive souls who are empowered by identity politics.

With intrusive training and orientation sessions, often obligatory, along with endless expansion of administrative fiefdoms devoted to supposed justice, inclusivity, and equality, schools augment the problem by embracing and imposing rules and regulations, however blatantly unconstitutional and in defiance of their own stated commitments to free speech and academic freedom.
It's gotten so silly in some of the hothouses that "I see" is now ableist!

LET'S GET THE RIGHT RANDOMIZATION.

In last week's Iowa Democratic Party caucuses, a number of local gatherings were, after several hours of peer pressure and guilt-tripping, tied.  Party rules, in place in advance of the caucuses, provide for a tie break by way of a coin flip.  In a number of these tied votes, Team Hillary won the toss and elected to receive.  (There's no kicking to the clock in caucuses.  Stay with me, though, I'm about to make a serious point.)

Apparently, more than a few coin flips went Senator Sanders's way, but that hasn't stopped some observers from alleging corruption by way of bad statistical inference.  Here's Counter Punch's John V. Walsh, with an instructively complete demonstration of the error.
What are the odds of one of two candidates winning all six coin tosses if the outcomes are random, that is, if the tosses are fair, unbiased and with honest coins?

The calculation is so simple that a schoolboy or schoolgirl can do it. The formula is simply 1/2 raised to the power of 6 – that is, 1/2 taken six times and multiplied.

The probability of winning all six tosses by chance alone is 1/64. That is 0.016 or 1.6 in 100 or 1.6%. Not even 2%! In many areas of science including many areas of biology, one must demonstrate that the result of one’s experiments is unlikely to happen by chance alone. If the probability of getting the results by chance alone is less than less than 5%, the result reported is considered to be “significant,’ that is, not likely to be a chance finding. Such a result is publishable in highly respected journals.

Since the probability of the outcome in Iowa was 1.6%, it is quite unlikely, highly improbable that the coin tosses resulted from chance and were honest. And if the results did not occur by chance alone, then the coin tosses were manipulated, fixed! Why has no one in the mainstream media looked into this?
Perhaps there are enough mathematically numerate people in the mainstream media to understand that, in Probability Jeopardy, 1/64 is the answer to "What is the probability of a fair coin coming up heads six times in six tosses, Alex?"  The judges will also accept "What is the probability of a fair coin coming up tails six times in six tosses?"

A better way of framing the problem is "On any given Sunday, what are the odds of six visiting teams winning the coin toss in the early games?"  Different captain, different referee, different choice of heads or tails by each captain, and a much harder problem to frame.  But that's how the local tie breaks go down.  Team Clinton or Team Sanders designates a captain to call the toss, the party organization provides a coin flipper, and the winner receives.  Simplest explanation is that Team Clinton had some lucky toss-callers that evening.

6.2.16

A PRIMER ON RENT SEEKING.

Here's Steven M. Teles, explaining how politics distributes wealth upward.
Much of the tension between equality and economic dynamism dissolves when we focus on inequality generated by public policies that distort market allocations of resources in favor of the wealthy — what we might call "upward-redistributing rents." These rents are large and growing, produced by inherent flaws in democratic governance that facilitate the use of the state to enrich the already advantaged. If high-end inequality is not diminished by removing the ways the wealthy use the state to extract resources from the rest of society, the inequalities that conservatives believe are just — those that flow from innovation and hard work — will be in danger. In short, inequality will become a threat to free exchange itself.

Any feasible attack on inequality must marry some degree of redistribution with an attack on the state's own role in producing inequality. The rich are getting richer because of some fundamental problems of democratic government, and these problems have been exacerbated by peculiar features of American political institutions and then super-charged by the recycling of high-end rents back into the political process.
Those are the essentials. Go, read, understand.

PROCESS, NUANCE, FAILURE.

John Horvat argues the failure is here.
The discontent comes from the fact that the cooperative structures of our union are breaking down. People sense this and it is becoming unsustainable.
They've been deconstructed on purpose.
To deal with these internal tensions, the founders of our national co-op started out with a few general rules that keep it going. They insisted upon a vague moral code that keeps everyone honest. They imposed upon themselves a certain amount of self-discipline and hard work to keep things running.

The system worked fine until many people started breaking the co-op rules, denying the moral code and resenting the call for discipline. To deal with mounting chaos and disorder, those in our co-op system enacted more rules to keep order -- many more rules -- so many, in fact, that it made it almost impossible for anyone to get things done. At the same time, they watered down the moral code and discipline with a stifling system of political correctness that accommodates the prevailing moral laxity and suffocates any dissent. Unsurprisingly, people aren’t getting along anymore.

As a result, people are frustrated and angry. The co-op that used to be a kind of materialistic paradise has now become a straightjacket. The co-op is, so to speak, not paying out dividends but causing anxiety, depression, and stress.
First, stop enabling dysfunction. Or wait, the dissolute and undisciplined don't have much evolutionary advantage come the collapse.

5.2.16

YES, THAT ENDED SO WELL.

Chris Matthews signed off Hardball last night with a wallow in the 1968 New Hampshire primary.


That's what the blurb promises, but perhaps it's mutual admiration between Mr Matthews and Mx Maddow and Mr Todd.  Perhaps the Obamacare webmaster is now handling content for MSDNC.

The pre-debate signoff featured Mr Matthews reminiscing about Eugene McCarthy's 1968 run in New Hampshire, which in his segment led to the abdication of Lyndon Johnson.  Let me finish the finish.

Left on the cutting-room floor:  Robert Kennedy, sensing weakness, gets into the race, only to be murdered by a Palestinian sympathizer in Los Angeles.  Hubert Humphrey gets in, then gets the nomination without a single vote cast in a primary.  The convention, in Chicago in August, was worthy of a banana republic, with the elder Mayor Daley playing the heavy.  Tell the whole story, Chris.

DELAY IS THE DEADLIEST FORM OF DENIAL.

Trains reports that Chicago Passenger Rail authority Metra is unlikely to meet the extended deadline for implementation of positive train control.
The Metra commuter railroad will miss a 2018 deadline for installing safety technology on all of its Chicago-area routes, but said Wednesday it still expects to meet its obligations under a federal law requiring the expensive and complex updates.

Metra is among four commuter railroads and three major freight railroads around the country that informed the federal government last week that they won’t hit the target. Instead, Metra outlined an implementation plan under which it expects to satisfy certain criteria for the government to grant it an extension through Dec. 31, 2020.

The technology known as positive train control, or PTC, uses GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor train positions and automatically slow or stop trains that are in danger of colliding, derailing because of excessive speed or approaching track where crews are working.

Metra has said the cost of its upgrade – between $350 million and $400 million – is one factor in its delay, especially in the face of Illinois’ state budget stalemate and absence of a state bond program this year.
Perhaps, we're looking at a political ploy to pry some funding out of Springfield, or out of Washington before the ranking Chicago politician leaves office.

SOMETIMES LABOR HIRES CAPITAL.

The efforts of Wisconsin's state legislature to change the governance structure of the University of Wisconsin involve worsened working conditions for senior professors.  There is a market for academic labor, and apparently there are deans and department heads willing to hire.
UW-Madison has spent at least $8 million since last summer to retain top professors after state legislators cut higher education funding and changed faculty tenure policies, Chancellor Rebecca Blank told the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents on Thursday.

Campus officials have said national attention from the budget fallout has emboldened other universities to go after UW-Madison’s top faculty, and made professors more open to their offers.

Blank said faculty are asking, “Is UW going to remain a top university, or do I need to go elsewhere?”
The mind-set of many administrators has been, "If you find a better offer, take it."  But U.S. News continues to sell those guides, and a lot of faculty turnover can affect the profile of a highly regarded university, which Wisconsin remains.

In that way, do limits to restructuring and re-engineering and downsizing emerge.

AS LONG AS YOU HAVE PERMANENT WAY.

Replace the guide wires with steel rails.
The municipality of Caen has confirmed its intention to develop a three-line light rail network for opening by the end of 2019.

The majority of the tramway would be converted from the existing TVR guided bus network under plans first announced in December 2011, but a feasibility study has suggested that several sections of new rail infrastructure should also be added to better serve local traffic generating hubs and optimise network operation.
This is Caen, as in the Normandy invasion. A fleet of 23 streetcars will protect three-minute headways at rush hours.

THE EMERGENCE OF NEW IDEAS.

Dependable Democrat court intellectual Eugene Robinson concern trolls the Republican party.
It is no longer possible to think of “the Republican Party” as a coherent political force. It is nothing of the sort — and the Donald Trump insurgency should be seen as a symptom, not the cause, of the party’s disintegration.
That's what an emergent vision looks like. The Democrats, and I watched part of last night's debate, are reduced to quibbling over what "progressive" means, because there's broad agreement between Mrs Clinton and Mr Sanders on raising taxes on richer people and centralizing more control in the national government.  That's what "comprehensive reform" inevitably turns into for Democrats.

The Republicans, on the other hand, might be pursuing a new governing coalition.
Once upon a time, the Republican Party’s position on a given issue usually dovetailed nicely with the views of business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But the chamber supports giving the undocumented a path to legal status. It also waxes rhapsodic about the benefits of free trade for U.S. firms and shareholders. Now, since Trump opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact (as does Mike Huckabee), other candidates have had to mumble about waiting to see the details before deciding pro or con.

The GOP electorate has changed; it’s whiter, older, less educated and more blue-collar than it used to be. Many of today’s Republicans don’t see globalization as an investment opportunity; they see it as a malevolent force that has dimmed their prospects. They don’t see the shrinking of the white majority as natural demographic evolution; they see it as a threat.
On the other hand,  Democrats control the majority-minority cities, and both of their presidential hopefuls have also objected to the Trans-Pacific pact; party unity isn't what it used to be.  Perhaps that's what's bothering Mr Robinson: he'll have to have an original thought, rather than recycling the usual talking points on the usual shows.  "One of our two major political parties is factionalized and out of control. That should worry us all."

Here are the editors of National Review explaining why the factionalization is necessary.
Republican voters are anxious about large-scale immigration and frustrated that the federal government repeatedly demonstrates no interest in doing anything about it. We strongly object to ham-fisted proposals, such as those of Donald Trump, to address these concerns, but it is clear that our thoughtless immigration policies have weakened, and continue to weaken, our economy, our social stability, and our security. Yet instead of responding to those concerns, Republicans sent the president a bill that will exacerbate them.
That's a missed opportunity. The congressional majorities took office in January, but somehow never managed to pass clean appropriations bills, department by department, for Our President to sign or to veto, and, come December, comes another cram-for-finals "bipartisan" continuing resolution.  And yet the wizards of smart act surprised that "we're being governed by stupid people" resonates?

Mike Needham of the Federalist extends the argument.  "While political parties can exist as factions rather than ideological entities, conservatism cannot succeed as a factional constituency to a political party."  But selling an idea (perhaps a package of ideas, there are several different strains to what the chin-pullers refer to as conservatism) requires understanding of facts on the ground, which is to say the lived experience of normal Americans.
Some concerned about the aggressively anti-Washington energy behind the outsider impulses in this year’s presidential field call it an ugly strain of thinking that pollutes the center-right movement. That’s not what is going on.

People are nervous about the economic, physical and moral security of our nation. They view Washington as complacent. They feel unheard by the process. The job of those involved in public policy—on both the inside and the outside—is to understand where this anxiety comes from and harness it towards a unifying, conservative reform agenda.
The Democrats call that "issues the American people care about" or "kitchen-table issues."  It's the failure of Democrats to deliver, in ways as telling as the sloppy roll-out of the health insurance website and as tragic as Detroit, or California, or the foreign policy reset, that's feeding the populist impulse.  But "bipartisanship" and business as usual don't work.  Thus Rush Limbaugh, also denouncing the continuing resolution as more fleecing of the electorate.
There is no Republican Party!  You know, we don't even need a Republican Party if they're gonna do this.  You know, just elect Democrats, disband the Republican Party, and let the Democrats run it, because that's what's happening anyway.  And these same Republican leaders doing this can't, for the life of them, figure out why Donald Trump has all the support that he has?  They really can't figure this out?

Repeated stabs in the back like this -- which have been going on for years -- combined with Obama's policy destruction of this country, is what has given rise to Donald Trump.  If Donald Trump didn't exist and if the Republican Party actually does want to win someday, they'd have to invent him.  It's just mind-boggling when you figure out everything that has been granted Obama. All the money, the tax increases, the Cadillac plans in Obamacare. All kinds of punitive things in Obamacare, delayed yet again so that people will not be made aware of the pain and suffering Obamacare's gonna cause.
That's what happens when Congress fails to take care of business, one departmental appropriation at the time. The crash compromise will not turn out well. "The Democrat leftist wet dream has just been paid for."

Dear reader, here is the state of things three presidential elections ago.
The problem the Democrats face as an opposition is that they -- in an interesting inversion of thirty years ago -- give the impression of being nostalgic for a past of programs and institutions they created and managed that worked. The evidence is that those institutions did not work very well.
The Republicans, meanwhile, appear to be grappling with those changing demographics, and with the economic interests of the wage class.

4.2.16

DENY COHERENT BELIEFS, ENJOY THE INCOHERENCE.

At Minding the Campus, Patrick Deneen sees that collegians have lost their bearings.
My students are know-nothings. They are exceedingly nice, pleasant, trustworthy, mostly honest, well-intentioned, and utterly decent. But their brains are largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift of a previous generation. They are the culmination of western civilization, a civilization that has forgotten nearly everything about itself, and as a result, has achieved near-perfect indifference to its own culture.
Yes, they're clueless at intellectual trivia.
But ask them some basic questions about the civilization they will be inheriting, and be prepared for averted eyes and somewhat panicked looks. Who fought in the Peloponnesian War? Who taught Plato, and whom did Plato teach? How did Socrates die? Raise your hand if you have read both the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Canterbury Tales? Paradise Lost? The Inferno?

Who was Saul of Tarsus? What were the 95 theses, who wrote them, and what was their effect? Why does the Magna Carta matter? How and where did Thomas Becket die? Who was Guy Fawkes, and why is there a day named after him? What did Lincoln say in his Second Inaugural? His first Inaugural? How about his third Inaugural?  What are the Federalist Papers?

Some students, due most often to serendipitous class choices or a quirky old-fashioned teacher, might know a few of these answers. But most students have not been educated to know them. At best, they possess accidental knowledge, but otherwise are masters of systematic ignorance. It is not their “fault” for pervasive ignorance of western and American history, civilization, politics, art and literature. They have learned exactly what we have asked of them – to be like mayflies, alive by happenstance in a fleeting present.
Put another way, the destructive forces have been working.
Our students are the achievement of a systemic commitment to producing individuals without a past for whom the future is a foreign country, cultureless ciphers who can live anywhere and perform any kind of work without inquiring about its purposes or ends, perfected tools for an economic system that prizes “flexibility” (geographic, interpersonal, ethical).

In such a world, possessing a culture, a history, an inheritance, a commitment to a place and particular people, specific forms of gratitude and indebtedness (rather than a generalized and deracinated commitment to “social justice”), a strong set of ethical and moral norms that assert definite limits to what one ought and ought not to do (aside from being “judgmental”) are hindrances and handicaps.

Regardless of major or course of study, the main object of modern education is to sand off remnants of any cultural or historical specificity and identity that might still stick to our students, to make them perfect company men and women for a modern polity and economy that penalizes deep commitments. Efforts first to foster appreciation for “multi-culturalism” signaled a dedication to eviscerate any particular cultural inheritance, while the current fad of “diversity” signals thoroughgoing commitment to de-cultured and relentless homogenization.
Maybe, although that de-cultured homogenization is too coherent a belief system for the trendy nihilists.  By their fruits shall ye know them.
I love my students – like any human being, each has enormous potential and great gifts to bestow upon the world. But I weep for them, for what is rightfully theirs but hasn’t been given. On our best days, I discern their longing and anguish and I know that their innate human desire to know who they are, where they have come from, where they ought to go, and how they ought to live will always reassert itself. But even on those better days, I can’t help but hold the hopeful thought that the world they have inherited – a world without inheritance, without past, future, or deepest cares – is about to come tumbling down, and that this collapse would be the true beginning of a real education.
The collapse might begin with the elite institutions, suggests Victor Davis Hanson.
In the past, there was a clear bargain. The university said, "Leave us alone to do our business that we know best, and we promise to turn out the best-educated and most inductive generation of American youth."

Universities are now breaking their word. Students, if they even graduate (about four in 10 do not, even after six years), are not "universally" educated. Instead, they are the least prepared yet most politicized graduates in memory. Arrogance and ignorance are a bad combination.

If the university cannot fulfill its original compact of broadly educating youth while keeping within bounds of American laws and protocols, then it will either have to change or slowly become irrelevant.

The market is already sensing a void -- and thus opportunity. Online degree programs proliferate. Private vocational and trade schools sprout up around college campuses. Even Ivy League degrees have become mostly empty brand names, like Gucci or Versace, that convey status and open doors but hardly guarantee that graduates are knowledgeable or inductive thinkers.

All of these growing alternatives to borrowing a collective $1 trillion for university education reflect that it may not only be a bad deal, but a rigged one as well.
"Least prepared yet most politicized" might be the U.S. News problem.  The breach of the social contract looks different from the land-grants and mid-majors.

WHY IT MATTERS.

I'm repeating myself.  But repeat myself I must.
It's long been a theme of mine that institutions of higher education ought think of themselves as in the same business as the Ivies and the hundred other institutions all claiming to be in the top twenty according to whatever rankings are popular at the time.  I'm not alone in this: there's a term of art, Spielberg Effect, referring to accomplished graduates of less-highly-regarded institutions who qualified for admission to the high-status institutions yet didn't attend.
There's even better news when it comes to students graduating with the STEM degrees that seem to be of particular interest these days.
STEM majors who go to inexpensive low-or-mid-tier schools do just as well, income-wise, as their counterparts who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an Ivy League education, suggests that there is plenty of room for cost-saving in these programs.
Perhaps cost saving relative to the Ivies. Or perhaps we're seeing evidence that the Ivies' high price is underwriting the world-class research, while the teaching fellows and contingent faculty are actually doing the teaching.

Or perhaps the land-grants and mid-majors aren't exploiting their advantages fully. "At a time when college costs keep going up, and middle and working class families keep getting squeezed, these data highlight the need to find more efficient ways to deliver knowledge at lower cost."

Dean Dad speaks to the same responsibility, for a different reason.
Talented students often stay close to home, and restrict their college choices to places nearby.  And that’s not because they don’t know any better.  It’s because they want to.  Believe it or not, people consider factors beyond what shows up in scorecards.  Family obligations, regional tastes, and a sense of being at home matter.
Yes, and developing local human capital has potential.
Community colleges are increasingly countercultural in a geographic sense.  As Richard Florida likes to point out, the geographic distribution of wealth and opportunity is becoming increasingly spiky.  But community colleges’ distribution is flat.  They’re built on the assumption that the Batavias of the world matter.

They do.  Students know that; they’re telling us with their feet.  I hope policymakers figure that out before they do even more damage.
Yes. I have to repeat myself. But repeat I must.
"What matters, though, to the citizens of Wisconsin is that Milwaukee, despite having neither high-visibility football nor royalties from rat poison, now has more Wisconsin residents enrolled than Madison, and Milwaukee's part of the social contract is to make sure that its brainiacs and strivers get the intellectual challenge they might have hoped to get at Madison, had Madison provided a slot for them. The incentive to the former teachers' colleges ought to be to lift their academic profiles as well."  Yeah, I've used that quote several times before, but in the words of the Distinguished Professor, even the brightest among you could benefit from a modicum of repetition.
If I have to run it again tomorrow, or next week, or for as long as there are conscious thoughts in my brain, I will.

HABIT GETS YOU KILLED.

Trains reports on the continuing National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the Amtrak 188 derailment at Frankford Junction.  Earlier, I raised the possibility of a disrupted routine affecting the performance of train crews.
It appears as though some of the duties are of the turn-on-a-wheel variety, and others are what I learned as a split, or two-piece run, and the two-piece runs can affect concentration more than the turn-on-a-wheel.  Somewhere, though, the business fad of the day, doing more with less, is going to run afoul of the reason economists speak of the factor-minimal production frontier.
Disruptions can also involve unfamiliar rolling stock.
[Engineer Brandon] Bostian told the investigators that he primarily was assigned round-trips out of his New York crew base to Washington, D.C., on Acela Express trainsets in both directions. It was only after he “bumped” into different assignments during the previous month that he would “very very sporadically” draw an ACS-64.

His most-recent Thursday through Tuesday work weeks in the month prior to the accident had involved running an Acela from New York to Washington and returning at the head of either train 90, the Palmetto, on the weekends, or Northeast Regional no. 198 on weekdays (the latter train has since been discontinued and combined with no. 90). Bostian told investigators that these New York-bound trains were generally assigned the older AEM-7 locomotives. That assignment was switched to a return on no. 188 as part of the shortening of layover times in Washington.

In response to a question, Bostian said, “I think it takes a long time to feel really familiar [with the new locomotive] but I felt comfortable with it.
The ACS-64 is the latest electric locomotive assigned to the Northeast Corridor. The Acela power cars are pushing fifteen years old. The AEM-7 motors have been around for 35 years. The ACS-64 is more responsive to throttle changes than are the AEM-7s.
Bostian explained the visual cues of the (clear) home signal at Shore interlocking and an overpass, as well as the sequence of speed limits leaving North Philadelphia: a 65 mph curve, then an 80 mph straightaway, then the 50 mph curve at Frankford Jct. On the second interview, he remembers incorrectly “targeting” 70 mph as the track speed for the straight stretch on that evening.

“For any type speed increase, I gradually increase the throttle. I don’t slam it all the way open if I’m going slow. But if you’re going kind of fast, it’s OK to slam it open. But I typically accelerate in full throttle and then back off as I approach maximum speed.”

The last thing Bostian remembered before the derailment itself, however, is increasing the speed above 70 mph after he realized that the target on the straightaway should have been 80 mph.

Then at the curve, he recalled making a 10-pound brake pipe reduction. “I realized from the force of my body that this this is something very serious and I need to bring the train speed down quickly.” He then made a full service application, and finally an emergency application in quick succession.

Though not specifically referenced in questioning, Bostian’s testimony does establish a possible link between the ACS-64’s quick acceleration compared to AEM-7s, a fact revealed by another Amtrak engineer during a Trains cab ride aboard one of the new locomotives on June 2, 2014, and the relative inexperience of train no. 188’s engineer with the engine.
Perhaps what would be a gentle tweak of the AEM-7 throttle to get to 80 is more like skinning back the ACS-64.  The curve comes up on you a lot faster, and now you're in trouble.  Watch for some additional speed testing of the locomotives.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS FREE FOOTBALL.

Like many of the Mid-American Conference members, there's not much student interest in football games at Northern Illinois University, which leads to nationally televised images of empty bleachers once weeknight football begins.  A recent initiative to get more students to attend backfired.
In August, the university made a push to get at least 6,000 of its more than 20,000 students to each of the team's home games. If 6,000 students attended each game, the university even offered to raffle off a semester of free tuition to one student who attended all six games and checked in with NIU's Red Black Rewards smartphone app. The promotion created buzz around campus and was covered extensively in the news. Before the end of the season, it was clear no one would be getting a free semester.

On average, 1,986 students went to each of the NCAA Division l team's six home games at Brigham Field at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, according to figures released by the NIU this week. Students get into games for free by swiping their OneCard ID. The team's first game of the season drew the most students: 2,965. When the Ohio Bobcats came to NIU for the final home game of season on a cold Tuesday night in November, 627 students turned out to cheer for the Huskies.
Didn't anybody buy a game theorist a cup of coffee to think about the incentives before rolling out the promotion?

To qualify for the prize, a student must consent to sit through all six games, to the end, no matter how lopsided the score is or how miserable those bleachers are on a November evening.  If six thousand students participate, it's straightforward enough to estimate the expected value of the lottery.  Even at today's prices, that's less than ten bucks.  And it's a prize that's contingent on sufficiently many other people participating. With such a low expected value, the dominant strategy is likely to be to not participate, as the reward is nothing if fewer than six thousand students attend one game.
A total of 86 students attended all six games. Of those, only 33 checked in using the rewards app and stayed the entire time. While no one will get a free semester, Huskies Head Coach Rod Carey offered a consolation prize.

"They're awesome," Carey said Wednesday. "I'd like to shake all their hands."
If not for the state drinking age, he could stand them all to a beer.