20.11.17

TAIL TRACK.

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

THAT'S AVELIA, NOT ACELA.

It's a new Pendolino train, soon to go into service Frankfurt - Basel - Milan.
The Avelia Pendolino for SBB is a seven-car train that can transport up to 420 passengers at a maximum operating speed of 250km/h. The train offers its passengers easy access and high comfort due to wide gangways and corridors, adjustable seats, individual reading lamps and sockets as well as large panoramic windows. The train is equipped with the latest generation of flexible bogies reducing track and wheel wear. It also benefits from Alstom’s unique tilting technology, which allows trains to run 35 per cent faster and more safely through curves on conventional lines.

The Pendolino’s environmentally-friendly design is recyclable up to 95 per cent, and is equipped with an electric brake system allowing reducing energy consumption by almost 10 per cent.
Regenerative braking is not a new thing on electrically operated railroads, although providing the circuitry to rectify and invert and chop and then unchop and convert back to the catenary power and frequency is.

I note that these trains have adjustable seats, which is an advance over Britain's Virgin Pendolino sets.

Is it too much to ask for a spiffed-up version to run Paris to Venice via the Simplon as a latter-day Venice Simplon-Orient Express?

SCHADENFREUDE IN BOSTON.

I happened across the lamentations in Boston's Globe about taxing college endowments and all the rest because that headline caught my eye at a news-stand in North Station.

Howie Carr has to live in the Kultursmog all the time.  And he's not playing nice.
Here’s how you know that there’s at least one beautiful new provision in the Republicans’ tax bill: Harvard is screaming bloody murder, ditto Yale, Wellesley, Smith and all the rest of the pampered-puke rich-kid private colleges.

The GOP must be doing something right!
He gets to be the provocateur. I'm simply an observer passing through. But we're having similar thoughts.
Hilariously, the same eggheads who are always denouncing the Republicans as the party of “the rich” are now sounding like ... Republicans, defending their vast billion-dollar tax breaks.

Here’s the statement from the shocked, shocked president of Harvard, Drew Faust: “A tax on university endowments is really a tax on the people who make up these institutions and the work they do: donors, alumni, staff, students and faculty.”
Tax incidence is messy, but, yes, ultimately, all income accrues to people.

Then he gets to the local member of Congress.
Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Somerville) is another pablum-puking Ivy League (Dartmouth) SJW defending his alma mater: “These schools use endowments to build buildings, which employ our workers.”

Did you ever hear such supply-side nonsense? Next he’ll be telling us that the money will “trickle down” to the middle class. Capuano is spouting “voodoo economics,” to coin a phrase.

To Harvard and Dartmouth and the rest of the Beautiful People, I would make the same observation their hero Obama once did: “At some point you’ve made enough money.”

As for the Poison Ivy League’s alleged contributions to society, to quote Obama again: “You didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

Of course, the tax would only be imposed on the 60 to 100 richest, most arrogant universities in the land. But Sen. Ed Markey frets that it would establish a “dangerous precedent” and soon every college would be paying the tax on their endowments’ profits.

Funny, that exact same argument can be made about the proposed “millionaire’s tax” on the state ballot next year — that months after the greed-crazed hacks impose a graduated income tax, every taxpayer in Massachusetts will soon be paying 9 percent.

This 1.4 percent tax must be a great idea, judging by the totally unhinged reactions of The Boston Globe’s trust-funded readers this week.
He's the provocateur, I'm still the observer.

Let me offer you, dear reader, a Real Clear Markets meditation on the "trickle down" smear.
The idea of “trickle-down theory” is nonexistent, except as perpetuated by those opposed to across-the-board tax rate cuts that include the wealthy. As Dr. Thomas Sowell observes in his 2012 treatise, ‘Trickle Down Theory’ and ‘Tax Cuts for the Rich’, “No such theory has been found in even the most voluminous and learned histories of economic theories, including J.A. Schumpeter’s monumental 1,260-page History of Economic Analysis.

No serious or prominent conservative, politician or free market thinker has espoused this “theory” either. It is the standard straw man – or, as Dr. Sowell puts it, “a classic example of arguing against a caricature instead of confronting the argument actually made.”

The “trickle-down” concept suggests two inherent fallacies that ought to be illuminated. First, it portrays a reversal of economic events, suggesting that profits will “trickle down” only after the “rich get richer.” Second, it posits that the benefits experienced by others are intended as a mere side effect of lower-tax policy; in truth, this is an instance of a rising tide lifting all boats.

Dr. Sowell essentially addresses both fallacies in his essay. He notes, “Workers must first be hired, and commitments made to pay them, before there is any output produced to sell for a profit, and independently of whether that output subsequently sells for a profit or at a loss. With many investments, whether they lead to a profit or a loss can often be determined only years later, and workers have to be paid in the meantime, rather than waiting for profits to ‘trickle down’ to them.”

“The real effect of tax rate reductions,” Dr. Sowell concludes, “is to make the future prospects of profit look more favorable, leading to more currentinvestments that generate more current economic activity and more jobs.”

The “trickle down” myth further suggests that there is a zero-sum game being played, and that by the wealthy benefiting from tax rate cuts, lower- and middle-income people necessarily lose out. As explained in the quotation above, this is a fallacy – and the real world bears it out.
Perhaps "trickle down" is a popularizers explanation of the multiplier accompanying a cut in tax rates.  Unfortunately, in the simple macroeconomic model, there's generally only one tax rate t and one marginal propensity to consume m, and the trickle down effect manifests itself in the new disposable income, and the resulting new consumption.

Taxation, though, ought not be viewed as zero-sum.  The great challenge of political economy is keeping government activities symbiotic with commerce (rules of exchange and contract) rather than becoming parasitic on commerce, or being captured by commerce.

THE TINGLE IS GONE.

Last year, even before the surprise presidential election results, we noted that Hardball's Chris Matthews had some doubts about the Democratic coalition of academics, celebrities, and assorted peoples who perceived themselves to be marginalized.  "Biden talked today about what he calls the pedigree problem, how the Democratic Party at the top views anyone not an Ivy Leaguer as below intellectual consideration. How the party has kind of forgotten about ordinary Americans out there, how those people are smarter than they`re given credit for."  I'll leave for another day the way the snobs have treated the assorted marginalized populations as mascots.  Today, we note Mr Matthews again suggesting the Donks not forget an important part of the New Deal coalition.  "I am not sure if he realizes that his intra-party battle has been lost, and the home of the working class is now the GOP."  I'm not sure of that, and there are likely more electoral surprises to come.  (From my perspective, there's not much in either of the major parties at the national level to appeal to me.)

But Mr Matthews has what would make an excellent "Let Me Finish" in his chewing out of the quiche-eaters.
“You know, ever since we started this Archie Bunker thing in the early ’70s, making fun of white working people, we kissed them goodbye,” he said. “You make fun of people, you look down on them? They get the message. You call them deplorables? They hear it. You bet they hear it. You say they cling to their guns and their religion? Oh yeah, I cling to my religion. OK. I’m a little person, and you’re a big person. Thank you, I’ll be voting for the other guy this time.”
Even at the age of fifteen or sixteen, or whatever I was when "All in the Family" came out,  I was put off by Meathead's condescending and hectoring of Archie.  Maybe condescending and hectoring is all Our Progressive Betters ever had.

The full talk is available on C-Span.  (I wonder how people ever get anything done, if they're spending all their time watching public affairs programming in real time, or streaming it later.)

ARE YOU SURE THE OLD BOWLS WERE INCONCLUSIVE?

Slate's Ben Mathis-Liley doesn't like the football conference divisions and the algorithm-driven national championship.  "College football divisions dilute traditional rivalries and reward weak schedules."  To him, it's an outrage that Wisconsin's Badgers have an opportunity to win their way into the final four.
Michigan has not itself beaten a team with a winning record and got blown out by approximately 400 points in its only game against an elite competitor this year.

Michigan, the most formidable of the 12 regular-season opponents faced by an ostensible title contender, is an above-average Big Ten team, but seemingly not much more than that; it will probably end up in a second-tier bowl game sponsored by an appetizer-oriented restaurant chain. But if the Badgers beat the Wolverines and defeat mediocre Minnesota the following weekend, they will enter the Big Ten title game, likely against Ohio State, with an undefeated record despite not having played anyone who’s any good. If Ohio State beats Wisconsin, there’s no guarantee it will make the playoff; having faced a tough schedule, OSU has a number of impressive wins but also two losses. But if Wisconsin wins, it will almost certainly be chosen for the four-team playoff despite playing a schedule that’s bereft of decent competition.
The divisional arrangement benefits Wisconsin this year, but that might not be the case if Nebraska or Iowa can restore normal operations, or if Minnesota and Northwestern get their rebuilding done.
The Big Ten West, like the Big Ten East, has seven teams, meaning the Big Ten as a whole is made up of 14 universities. (Please trust that you are not the first person to recognize that this is deeply stupid.) The West is currently weaker than the East because of both random fluctuation (Michigan State is on an upswing while Nebraska is cratering) and geographical circumstance (the traditional powerhouse East teams in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have denser local populations to draw talent from than West squads like Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota). Each Big Ten team plays the other six teams in its division every year, but only three of the seven teams from the opposite division. This year, that arrangement has allowed the Badgers to dodge tough matchups against the Big Ten’s three highest-ranked non-Wisconsin teams: No. 9 Ohio State, No. 10 Penn State, and No. 17 Michigan State. Meanwhile, they’ve played all five Big Ten teams that will go into this weekend with conference records of 2-5 or worse.
I sometimes suspect that all this conference realignment is a way for four power conferences of sixteen teams each to bypass March Madness and be done with Davidson and George Mason and Marquette and the like for once and for all.

For now, let's stick to football
.Before the Bowl Championship Series and now the four-team playoff, we could very easily identify the best teams in the South and the Midwest and the Far West, because they all played each other. It was much more difficult to figure out the best team in the country. Now, it’s somehow easier to identify the best team in the country—it’s hard to fake your way through a four-team playoff—than it is to identify the best team in each region. We have no idea if Wisconsin is the best team in the Big Ten, because Wisconsin hasn’t played any of the other good teams in the Big Ten. This is an odd state of affairs.
No matter how you narrow the field, you're going to have this problem. But it's easier to argue the merits of say, Wisconsin beating UCLA in the Rose Bowl as a better claim to a title than whoever was playing for bragging rights in the Old Confederacy in the Orange Bowl, when there are no meaningful head-to-head records, then when you're griping about algorithms.

That the conferences are different sizes affects the ability of conference contenders to schedule cupcakes, too.
Wisconsin has done this egregiously, and its nonconference schedule this year was characteristically uninspiring: Utah State, Florida Atlantic University, and BYU, none a consistent top 25 program. If you’re going to ask national pundits and fans for RESPECT, your best nonconference opponent can’t be the FAU Owls. (For what it’s worth, nonconference schedules have generally been improving now that the four-team playoff allows more one-loss, and maybe sometimes two-loss, teams to have a shot at a national title.)
These schedules get set many years in advance, although the power teams sometimes chicken out (hence the occasional early bye in a Northern Illinois schedule, that even before this year's win in Lincoln).  But the Wisconsin sports broadcasters complain that in a fourteen-team B1G, teams play more conference games than, for example, the Southeastern Conference teams do, which gives Alabama, Auburn, and Louisiana State more opportunities to eat cupcakes in September.

It all makes a case for returning to the days of traditional bowls, and leaving the matter of a "national champion" as something to argue about over a few beers, or, these days, on social media.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH THE FALSE ECONOMY.

I've posted, repeatedly, on the errors of cost cutting for its own sake, whether or not it's announced with some bafflegab about "better service" or "enhanced productivity."

Today, we'll turn the forum over to Laura "11-D" McKenna, whose eldest son has just started at Rutgers, you know, the public university in New Jersey that liked being a crash-test dummy for Penn State so much that they followed Penn State into the Big Ten, which, with regional divisions, means they regularly play Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State as well as you-know-who.

Here's what the enhanced productivity looks like on the academic side.
The good side is that he has totally drunk the kool-aid. Every item of clothing that he wears has the college logo. He proudly tells me that his school is damn tough. The kids are smart enough to go to Ivy League schools. Many of his friends were admitted to Ivy League schools. They just didn’t want to waste their money.
The land-grants and mid-majors are in the same business as Harvard, and the continued success of Jonah's cohort has a name, Spielberg Effect.

The false economy, though, is that the entering class are as lost when it comes to schedule completion as a Rutgers defensive coordinator preparing to face Wisconsin will be.
I’m pretty appalled at everything else. The advisement office put him in the wrong Intro to Physics class. There are two Intro to Physics classes at his school – one has a calculus pre-requisite. He took him a week to figure out that he was in the wrong class. It was too late to get into the non-calc Physics class, so they put him in the Intermediate German class and didn’t warn him that the class was pretty much only for advanced students majoring in German.

All of his teachers are adjuncts. And they tell the students that are over worked and under paid all the time. One got fired in the middle of the semester and was replaced by a very, very old adjunct who complains all the time about his physical pains. He said that he can’t do office hours, because his wife has to drive to him school.

His bio and calc classes have 400 students.
I'm resisting the temptation to suggest that taxing graduate tuition waivers might be a way of draining the adjunct swamp.  It's sufficient, here, to suggest that some of those kids who were admitted to the Ivies might seek to transfer for junior year, once they recognize that the Rutgers -- heck, it's all of the state flagships -- bargain is no bargain.
A small private college would easily cost another $35,000. So, I still think we did the right thing provided we make some changes. I’m taking over academic advisement for him. I spent two hours going over all the course guides, syllabi, and major requirements for the spring terms. I called Deans. I yelled at some. We’ll pay for a math tutor. After we pick his classes, we going to lean into Rate My Professor and make sure that he gets better teachers next semester.

Perhaps this is why only 58% of students graduate in four years.
That's part of it, but these are the difficulties the motivated students face.  We're not talking about the Distressed Material and the Greek letter organization cohorts here.

The comments at the post are instructive.  Happy Thanksgiving Break.

19.11.17

RENT-SEEKERS GOTTA RENT-SEEK.

In Boston, the economic interests of local industry have to be protected.  And Boston likes to think of itself as the country's largest college town.  I think Chicago could give them a run for that, with DePaul, Loyola, and Illinois-Chicago each admitting more students than Harvard or those hockey schools across the Charles turn down in a year, but you don't get the kind of special pleading out of higher education in Chicago, where there are plenty of other special-pleaders ahead in the queue.  Here's how the house organ for deep-blue smug by the deep-blue sea characterizes the planned tax treatment of higher education.  "The proposed new tax on endowments at Harvard and Yale won’t generate much money, but it does play the signature trick of Trump-style Republicanism: It sets up a symbolic confrontation with the elite, even as it systematically enriches the wealthiest."  There are other parts of that tax bill that come off as strange, including the treatment of tuition waivers as an imputed income.  That's wonky.  A quarter-century ago, Clinton era rewrites of the tax code sought to tax the imputed rent on owner-occupied houses as a form of income.  Both the tuition waivers and the imputed rent qualify as income under the Haig-Simon definitions, and both are very hard to identify in practice.

But what's funnier is the way the people of the high tax states change their tune when it's their tax breaks at risk.  From that same editorial, read and enjoy this.
The Senate bill, which at least preserves existing tax breaks for student loans, would eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes. Instead of college kids, Senate Republicans are thumbing their nose at blue states that pay for education and infrastructure out of their own funds. (Not coincidentally, states like Massachusetts, California, and Connecticut already contribute far more to federal coffers than they get back, because they’re more productive than states that refuse to invest in themselves.)
But asking the "more productive" states to pay more in federal taxes, which is what eliminating those property and income or sales tax deductions will do is a bit much.  Thus do people with lower incomes, living in less-heavily-taxed states, contribute to those investments Massachusetts, California, and Connecticut are making, or not, with Connecticut trying to become the next Illinois even now.

Then there's some reporting on the deleterious effect ending the tax-exempt status of those collegiate endowments on the local economy.
“These schools use endowments to build buildings, which employ our workers, and use it to subsidize student financial aid,” said Representative Michael Capuano, whose Cambridge district includes Harvard.

“If Harvard has a smaller endowment, they are less likely to build a building. And that hurts my construction industry, that hurts my financial services industry,” Capuano said.
What, taxing wealth less aggressively trickles down?  Apparently that's not a discredited idea when it's tax benefits for Democratic hedge funds.  But if you're a railroad or a printing company, you don't count.

CATTLE ARE NOT ENDANGERED. ELEPHANTS ARE.

We've already noted that circuses are not inherently detrimental to the welfare of elephants.

And we maintain that elephants contribute to the welfare of children of all ages.


Last call at Kingston, Illinois.

But the idea of managing hunting preserves as a strategy for conserving wild elephant bothers people.  When you have a philosopher's freedom to play with ideas without having to respect the box of existing institutions (whether those be of property rights or of bribes and favors) you can propose some interesting things.
According to conservationism, scarce and precious resources should be conserved and used wisely. According to preservation ethics, we should not think of wilderness as merely a resource. Wilderness commands reverence in a way mere resources do not. Each philosophy, I argue, can fail by its own lights, because trying to put the principles of conservationism or preservationism into institutional practice can have results that are the opposite of what the respective philosophies tell us we ought to be trying to achieve. For example, if the wisest use of South American rainforests is no use at all, then in that case conservationism by its own lights defers to preservationism. Analogously, if, when deprived of the option of preserving elephants as a resource, Africans respond by not preserving elephants at all, then in that case preservationism by its own lights defers to conservationism.
The article gets into the meaning of "waste", asking, for instance if the harvest of a large, rare tree produces benefits in the form of housing or furniture does in fact confer net benefits.  That argument becomes more interesting if it's possible to fence off the trees, and sell harvesting rights, and replant the grounds.  And in the absence of incentives to manage the hunt, the end outcome might be no elephants preserved in Africa at all.

It's likely, though, that there might be some interesting Thanksgiving conversations about the ethics of hunting at Our President's house.

NO QUIT IN THIS TEAM.

Yesterday's team reunion and banner reveal didn't get off to a good start for Northern Illinois.  The opponent was Western Illinois, now campaigning under the same "Leathernecks" moniker as the guys, rather than the previous Westerwinds.  Swirling winds, Marines storming beaches, what have you: they got off to a good start, hitting three-point baskets or recognizing driving opportunities, then being disruptive on defense.  It got so bad that the Northern Illinois coach had to call a time out just before the end of the first quarter to recombobulate.  And after the intermission, the visitors built as much as a fourteen point lead.


That's not edited in the camera.  Northern's kids took a 92-91 lead with under two minutes to play.  Score is tied at 94 with under two seconds to play.  Three times-out used in those final two minutes: under the new rules, the team runs its out-of-bounds play in the forecourt.  "The play was exactly what was drawn up and these players have run that a million times," said NIU Head Coach Lisa Carlsen. "From a coaching standpoint Coach [John] McGinty did a great job of drawing up the play, these players did a great job of executing and Kelly [Smith] did a great job of sticking it in the basket."

Note, at upper left, a gap between displayed banners.  The unveiling, a half hour after game's end, proved to be more festive that it appeared much of the game.


That's not a bad way to get down to serious basketball, and start thinking about March.

18.11.17

TIMED TO THE SECOND.

It's not enough, in Japan, to post departure times to the nearest minute (e.g. the 5.04 Elburn 400.)  "Operator ‘deeply’ sorry for inconvenience to passengers after the 9.44.40am Tsukuba Express pulled away at 9.44.20am."  But when the trains run on Chicago streetcar headways of years ago, the only inconvenience might be to a few passengers having to stand further along the line.  "Passengers who might have made the train had it left on time in fact suffered little inconvenience: the next one arrived just four minutes later."

There's no word in the story of whether the conductor and motormen were called on the carpet for violating Rule Five.  A train has no authority to leave a station before its scheduled leaving time.

WOULD YOU LIKE SMUG WITH THAT?

A trip to Boston is an opportunity to get a sense of just how Our Progressive Betters think.

Actually, it starts on the train, where there are free copies of the Amtrak magazine for the reading.  I have to wonder how well the content, whether of the articles or the advertisements (buy artisanal wine, some of the proceeds go to some environmental effort, for instance) plays with coach passengers, particularly once one is off the Acela routes.

Then there's the Globe, and I'm going to have even more fun with them before I'm done.

But it's suppertime, and we'll start with the Globe's alleged food reporter, Devra First.
I was a Chick-fil-A virgin.

If you want a mark of my Yankeetude, there it is. I made it well into adulthood without ever having a chicken biscuit or a Spicy Deluxe sandwich or the distinctively lump-shaped nuggets or the waffle fries. One summer my family took a road trip through the South, but we just kept driving past the battalion of buildings adorned with the company’s crimson-combed logo. (There are a lot of them: more than 200 in the chicken chain’s home state of Georgia alone.) On to the truck stops we loved, where we ordered 18-wheeler breakfasts and my sister and I hoped for gift shops where we could buy T-shirts emblazoned with cheesy wolves and country-western cassette tapes. And then home again, to delis with bowls of half-sours on every table and takeout Chinese on Friday nights.

Then, a few weeks ago, Chick-fil-A opened in Dedham.
Are we finally ready to talk about the food?  Not when there's virtue to be signalled.
Two years before he died, Mayor Thomas Menino sent a fiery letter to Chick-fil-A chairman and CEO Dan Cathy, who had spoken out against same-sex marriage. “I urge you to back out of your plans to locate in Boston,” Menino wrote. Now there’s a Chick-fil-A about 2 miles from his Hyde Park house.

Generally speaking, put in front of me a food I haven’t tried that has a hold on the hearts of a large swath of America, and I am there. But also, I have no interest in supporting a business that has opposed gay marriage.
The business isn't opposed to gay marriage: the CEO has reservations, and those reservations might be a function of the term "marriage" referring to a legal status for the bequest of property and the establishment of lineage as well as to a religious ritual.  Now can we EAT MOR CHIKIN?
The official corporate purpose is thus: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.” It’s as loving on the surface as it is open to interpretation, but as a culturally Jewish agnostic who attends the Temple of Live and Let Live, I’m willing to give it a chance.

So on a recent afternoon — when, if logistics had only cooperated, I would have been in Mexico, bawling into my champagne flute at one of the very same-sex marriages Cathy decried (on my planet simply referred to as “a wedding”) — I found myself pulling into the parking lot of Chick-fil-A for the first time.
Let us give thanks that she is crying before her mouth is full.  And the Chick-fil-A is doing a good business, catering to normals.
I was not alone. There was a backup at the drive-through. There was a guy directing traffic. There was nowhere to park. There was a line out the door. People were taking selfies with the sign in the background.

The interior was bright, spotless, more stylish than I’d imagined — more midscale chain brewpub than fast-food restaurant. And everyone was here: parents with tattoo sleeves, church ladies, people comparing notes on military life, a doppelganger for Poussey on “Orange Is the New Black,” obnoxious teenage boys flirting with plaid-kilted Catholic-school girls. We all waited in line together. Then our food was delivered right to our tables by sweet kids who will grow up to be good citizens.
Annoy a liberal: post a selfie from Chick-fil-A on your social media platforms.  This prologue has gone on longer than the invocation at a Puritan Thanksgiving.  Can we eat already?
I wasn’t going to do anything crazy. It was my first time, after all. I ordered the original Chick-fil-A sandwich: a squishy bun, toasted and buttered; a crisp fried cutlet; a necessary layer of tart dill pickle chips. I had the waffle fries, which had a unique cardboard texture. It was all pretty satisfying, in its way. I asked for the Chick-fil-A sauce, which was like barbecue sauce blended with French dressing and mayonnaise — which is to say vile, to my taste.

Because I didn’t grow up eating it.

This wasn’t my food. I couldn’t lay claim to it. It had no deeper meaning for me. Half the people in this Dedham Chick-fil-A were curious, like me, or simply hungry. But the other half were here for a taste of home. (Several queer friends have recently confessed to sneaking guilty orders of waffle fries or spicy biscuits or nuggets.) We are willing to overlook a lot for love, as some of us will soon be reminded while avoiding political talk at Thanksgiving. Something as simple as chicken sandwiches can bring us to the same table, too.

I left Chick-fil-A full, and I stayed that way well into the next day.
I don't know, lady, you sound pretty full of yourself, well into writing your column.  Not to mention full of it.  I had hoped that advice on how to conduct yourself at Thanksgiving went away with the Obamas.

But in Boston, it's just another day.

HOW COLD WAS IT?

Cold enough that ESPN's #MACtion crew were issuing special commendations to their camera crews, and acknowledging that when people in DeKalb say it's cold, it's cold.

And thus did Northern Illinois defeat Western Michigan in football last week Wednesday, to the entertainment of more than a few patrons of Boston sports bars who were inside and quaffing their Sam Adams or what have you.

But the cold conditions are cold comfort for retired Northern Illinois sports information director Mike Korcek, who is already on record as wanting to see off the football on a school night.
In our community, the past two NIU midweek home game attendance numbers (an announced 8,872 vs. Eastern Michigan and 6,603 vs. Ball State) speak volumes.  This nonsupport for a proud, high-profile Northern Illinois program that has been bowl-eligible nine times in the past 10 years doesn’t jive. Strange. Is this what the MAC really wants?

If anything, this fall on TV the MAC leads the country in exposed aluminum seats, which belies the ESPN recruiting aspect I’ve heard.  “Son, come play in the MAC before 15,000 empty seats” doesn’t make much sense. Yes, the weather in the Midwest is cold in November – even worse at night. I’m sure there’s a league memo to ESPN (or vice versa) to minimize the crowd shots on TV. Sad aspect of #MACtion, sorry.
It's kind of hard to carry out that directive, when, by late in the third quarter, the only students remaining in the student section -- the east stands -- were members of the Huskie Marching Band.

Weeknight football was a dumb idea when it started, it was a dumb idea even with that Orange Bowl bid, conference powers-that-be recognize it's a dumb idea, and yet the dumb goes on.  I suppose we should be grateful that the weeknight football is done for the season, because now it's time for football on Black Friday morning.

17.11.17

TO REALLY FOUL THINGS UP REQUIRES A COMPUTER.

Cold Spring Shops have been on holiday, checking out real trains that run on rails, for much of the past week.

The occasion was a trip to Boston to gather information relevant to the model railroad, and to ride the Boston and Maine to Glosta for chowda and a lobsta.  Missions all accomplished.

They are decking the Great Hall in Chicago Union Station for the season, and the Polar Express excursions that will run (using gallery cars and diesels, sorry, no steam) between Thanksgiving and Christmas.


At the food court, I chatted briefly with the engineer of the Lake Shore as far as Toledo, who mentioned that Norfolk Southern are now implementing some sort of artificial-intelligence dispatching algorithm.  It reduces the train dispatcher to an appendage of a machine; his responsibility apparently being to put in the estimated starting time of the train, its destination, power and tonnage, and the algorithms work out an optimal path for the train given the power, conflicting trains, the ability of the receiving yard to receive the train, the probability of a penny on the rails, and unusual occurrences not otherwise indexed by number.  The algorithms are also supposed to be adaptive, although he quipped something to the effect that they haven't seen much learning yet.  On the other hand, he noted, it was Sunday.

But it is Norfolk Southern and you know what is going to happen.

First, though, let's chill in the new Metropolitan Lounge until train-time.

It's on two levels now, with an upstairs entrance, if Amtrak are able to spend the money on staffing it.  And that upstairs room, also decked for the season, is called The Pennsylvania Room, honoring one of the three original railroads that owned Union Station.


So what will we see first, restoration of a through Chicago - Pittsburgh - Philadelphia train, or the construction of a from-scratch new T1, or should I just stick to improvising in my basement.

First, though, let's go for a train ride.

Amtrak 448-48 Lake Shore Limited, Chicago to Albany and on to Boston, 12-13 November 2017.

Genesis diesels 177-60
Boston cars: new baggage car 61067, Viewliner sleeper 62004, Business Class lounge car 48171, Amfleet II long-distance coaches 25060, 25108.
New York cars: Amfleet II coaches 25118, 25124, 25063, 25025, Amfleet I dinette conversion 28005, which the carrier calls Diner Lite (Less filling?  Tastes good?), Viewliner sleepers 62005, 62039, new baggage car 61002.

Away OK at 9.30.  It's Sunday, thus there's no adult beverage sale once the lounge car opens, as that opening is close to the Indiana state line.  Car attendant has made down my upper.  That's a recommended option on Viewliners as the uppers have windows.  Rolling well until just past Gary, then it's time for the algorithm to learn a lot.  Watch a South Shore train pass eastbound.  Still waiting.  Watch a South Shore train pass westbound.  Want to doze off, but dozing off while aggravated over delays isn't easy.

My best guess:  Elkhart wants to send the per diem trains west, but the algorithm incorrectly hopes that a per diem train off one of the western carriers can get into Elkhart without laying out the Lake Shore too badly.  No such luck: we spent more time stopped than rolling between Chicago and Elkhart, and you know you're in trouble when the first call for breakfast comes just east of Sandusky, Ohio (due out at 4.12.)  Worse, that late running puts the train into a signal maintenance window on CSX between Ashtabula and west of Buffalo, meaning we're doing the stop-and-proceed, or, at interlocking signals, the "after stopping authorized to proceed at restricted speed ..." and all the passengers intending to connect with regional trains or buses at Boston are screwed as those have all been long gone by 1.13 Tuesday morning, when we reach South Station.

I also have to wonder if Amtrak's use of the business class and lounge car as the food service on the Boston and Albany isn't engendering some ill will.  The attendant announces a closure, eastbound out of Albany, westbound out of Framingham, of the cafe section in order to serve the sleeper passengers supper or lunch.  It's a train, and people mostly don't get too worked up about stuff ... the over-wrought sorts are up in the air, or perhaps they're on the Acelas.

Missions accomplished, time to head home on Thursday.  Rainy day, thus no car details, plus the dining car crew offered to seat the Boston sleeper passengers during the Albany stop, where that was an across the platform walk.


Even so, why does it take the better part of an hour to combine the two parts of the train at Albany?  The Boston cars are at left, and motors 103 and its follower will run through to Chicago, whilst the dual-mode 709 will come off.  The odd layout of the train, with sleepers at both ends, means there's only one cut (the New York motor) and one shove (the Boston cars onto the front of the New York cars) and off we ought to be able to go.  It would take three cuts and four shoves to assemble a train in the proper order (baggage, coaches, lounge, diner, sleepers) and current regulations on the inspection of passenger cars after coupling and uncoupling make for a more complicated evolution than docking the Command and Lunar Modules.

That operational convenience, though, means that the Boston sleeper passengers have a lengthy walk from the diner back to their accommodation, and we had some older and infirm passengers along.  They managed, but there has to be a better way.

Overnight, my impression is that the train was waiting for time at Rochester, at Erie, and possibly at Toledo.  Elkhart coming up, and yes, the fun begins.  An hour late into Chicago, but the passengers intending to go further west today did make their connections.

And Amtrak sent me a link to a survey, my impressions of the eastbound trip.  I hope there's a section to comment on those delays west of Elkhart.

We hope to resume regular commentary over the weekend.

5.11.17

THE ILLOGIC OF COLLECTIVE ACTION.

In my continuing quest to understand the ways the punditocracy come to terms with the surprise election of Donald Trump, I devote Book Review No. 26 to Mark Lilla's The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics.  (I got it on the cheap as the local book store, which opened not so long ago, is going out of business.) Mr Lilla, a professor of humanities at Columbia, has advanced parts of his thesis previously, with some push-back from the people supposedly on his side.  And the identitarian faction that argues with, then mostly votes for, Democrats, continues to advocate for more of the same.

MODEL RAILROADING IS FUN.

Of course it is, and a determined proprietor at Esther's Hobby Shop in Millvale, Pennsylvania is determined to keep it that way.
Like Esther’s, Millvale is a town in the middle of transition. The transition that appears to be going well, considering everything that has gone wrong for this town over the past few decades: job losses, a flood that wiped out half of the Main Street businesses, an aging population that was dying off.

For years, people have been writing off the town as mired in the past and unable to grow – sort of like model railroading, for which story after story suggests the hobby is dying and unable to sustain itself.

Both stories are only partly true. For 30 years, Millvale had been on the decline but — given its proximity to the river, a trail that connects to Washington, D.C., and its charming Main Street grid filled with historic buildings graced by unique architecture — young people noticed and started investing in the town.
And model railroading is no longer -- if ever it was -- a niche business for obsessive craftsmen only.
Bob Leonard of Ft. Lauderdale visited the store on his way to Altoona, Pa., for a structure show. “What they have done with technology today to help the hobbyist to construct buildings is transforming the industry,” he explains. He and four friends marvel at [proprietor Bob] Mehler’s stock as they walk up and down the aisles of the store.

Technology now allows savvy enthusiasts to run their trains from their iPhones, and 3-D printing will soon empower hobbyists to create scenery, custom trains, and track systems.

Mehler raised six children on the third floor of his business that kept them all fed, educated, and safe. He chokes up, recounting the highs and lows of his life here behind the counter of this hobby shop, from the struggles his mother faced to the loss of the love of his life nearly two decades ago.
That reference to running trains from smart 'phones is correct. I saw a control system called Blue Rail at a recent convention. The application allows for control of the train from the swipe pad on the 'phone, and the sound of the locomotive comes from the 'phone, obviating the speaker and sound module that would otherwise have to be hidden somewhere in the model.

With Christmas coming, may there be trains under and around your trees.

THE DIVISION OF LABOUR IS LIMITED BY THE EXTENT OF THE MARKET.

The more extensive the market, the finer a division of labour is possible.  That's generally for the good, but what happens when the s**t hits the fan?
Small, local producers, who make up for their lack of quantities of scale and their higher labor and environmental standards with shortened supply-chain, now see their competitive advantage systematically wiped out with each transportation network investment. With both political parties supporting massive infrastructure spending, the market has adjusted to this new reality by focusing on educating the next generation to be specialists with a worldwide market that can support even the narrowest niche skill-set, rather than generalists who can flexibly serve local needs.

Like a cavity that starts at the enamel and eventually hollows out a whole tooth, so too has the larger economy been hollowing out the local capability to be self-reliant.  On the surface, everything looks the same: we still have grocery stores, hardware stores, and all manner of services. What we don’t see is the fact that ownership and production of those things is no longer local. Global economies are finding more and better ways to replace local capabilities with alternatives that require us to rely on distant, disconnected companies using efficient supply-chain deliveries. Even our own two feet have been replaced with cars as we have redesigned our cities to replace the 20 minute walk with the 20 minute drive. The result is that cities and basic needs are physically spread out to the point that most of us are reliant on the products and deliveries of the global economy to gain access to basic needs.

So when do we notice this hollowing out? As long as goods still stock the shelves and we can easily access them, why does this phenomenon even matter? The answer is simple: we might not always be able to rely on these global supply chains, particularly in a real crisis when it matters most.  As gas stations and grocery stores rely on multiple deliveries daily themselves, should the supply chain be interrupted for an extended or unknown period of time, such as in a wartime situation, it would not be long before the products we rely on disappear.
That might be a case for maintaining a bug-out bag and stockpiles, and establishing neighborhood watches.  As I noted previously, there is enough embedded knowledge of the technologies of the 1870s or the 1920s that such a disruption isn't going to bring back the aftermath of the Thirty Years War.

Cities are, however, particularly vulnerable to deliberate and focused sabotage, and a modicum of preparation might be wise.  "Just as the huge militaries of the early 20th century were vulnerable to supply and communications disruption, cities are now so heavily dependent on a constant flow of services from various centralized systems that even the simplest attacks on those systems can cause massive disruption."  That the majority of the world's population now lives in urban areas (and correspondingly relies for its food and fuel on the efforts of a relative few) makes rendering the supply networks antifragile a desirable thing.  To the extent that the cities and supply networks are themselves emergent, rather than the fruits of Intelligent Design by Wise Experts, their chances are better.

BIG AMBITIONS ON THE SOUTH SHORE.

Chicago's Tribune enthuses over the addition of a second track to parts of the South Shore Line, and to the future incorporation of what we used to understand as the Gary Railways into the fold.
Back in 1927, representatives of the South Shore railroad discussed adding a second track to speed travel times, add trains and attract more passengers.

It took 90 years, but Indiana officials think that a double track for the South Shore from Gary to Michigan City, along with a line extension from Hammond south to Dyer, could finally happen. The state along with northwest Indiana counties and municipalities have pledged half the money for the nearly $1 billion project — now it needs the rest in federal grants.
In 1927, the Public Utility Holding Company Act had not yet broken the ties between the Electric Railway and the Light. That's something I've long lamented.

Those ties made it possible for Northern Indiana Public Service and the South Shore to put together a transportation corridor with provision for a second track, even if that track never went in east of Gary.


Ogden Dunes, December 1972.
Note the pole lines, and span brackets in place for a second track.

There's a cardinal rule of railroading, which is that two trains cannot safely occupy the same track at the same time.
The electric trains, which run on regular freight tracks, start in Chicago on Metra Electric District tracks, then switch to the South Shore's own tracks in about 14 miles. The line has two tracks until just after the Gary downtown stop, when it goes to single track for most of the next 25 miles to Michigan City.

The single track creates problems, [transit district president Michael] Noland explained. It limits the number of trains the South Shore can run. If a train has a problem, it will hold up the trains behind it.

"We're running two-way traffic on a one-way street," Noland said.
Yes, and as ridership has increased, so has station dwell time and "This train is running approximately  (pause) four minutes late due to (pause) heavy passenger loadings." (Yes, that's a Metra announcement, and there's something of the preacher scolding his Easter congregation for being in the sanctuary about it.)  Thus, the rigorously timed meets that go with keeping a single track interurban (or the 110 mph section of Amtrak in southwestern Michigan) humming are undone.


Sheridan siding, Michigan City, Indiana, 13 August 1966

For years, the siding at the west end of the Michigan City street running was the traditional meeting point of the electric cars.  But as loadings increased on the east end, that began to disrupt the weekend schedules in particular, which attempted to offer a two-hour headway between Chicago and South Bend.


Sheridan siding, late July, 2006

When all is going well, the westbound train coming off the street is in view as the eastbound train about to head onto the street have close-up views of each other.

Additional rail service appeals.  But Michigan City as a less expensive Naperville, with a lake?  Michigan City currently has more character than Naperville ever had.


As you see from this 1927 poster, which hangs in Cold Spring Shops headquarters, there are still service improvements missing, namely improvements that might be fitting of an upscale, waterfront suburb.


South Bend, 13 August 1966

Keep praying to the Patron Saint of Traction.

LET THE EXPLORERS NAME THE LANDMARKS.

Almost a half-century after the moon landings, Mount Marilyn gets its due.
When Neil Armstrong steered the lunar lander to the Sea of Tranquility in 1969, one of the landmarks he eyeballed before settling on the moon's surface was a triangular-shaped mountain.

It was called Mount Marilyn on his NASA map.

A year earlier, when astronaut Jim Lovell was preparing for the first flight to the moon on Apollo 8, he noticed the geographical formation and named it after his wife, whom he met in the Juneau High School cafeteria in Milwaukee.

Mount Marilyn became a key landmark for the Apollo 10 and Apollo 11 moon missions. It was printed on maps, mentioned in the Tom Hanks blockbuster "Apollo 13"  and recognized by Google. So when efforts began in 2014 to get the spot officially named Mount Marilyn, it seemed to Lovell it would be a slam dunk.
Process-worshippers gotta process-worship.
But the International Astronomical Union's nomenclature committee said no.

Seems the same group that ignominiously dumped Pluto from its roster of planets ruled that Mount Marilyn didn't fit its naming criteria, which includes using names of only dead people. Also, there were worries it would set a precedent for Mars when astronauts finally arrive on the Red Planet and start naming things.

But this summer, Lovell, 89, got word that the IAU had relented. Lovell broke the news to his 87-year-old wife in a way befitting a Navy pilot and veteran of several Gemini and Apollo space voyages.

"I told her we accomplished the mission," Lovell said in a phone interview from his Lake Forest, Ill., home.
Never mind that craters on the away side of the moon bear the names of astronauts, and that there's no longer a Burma-Shave competition to send in 900 empty jars for a trip to Mars.
In 2014, lunar scientist Mark Robinson was trying to correct annotations on features while helping make new maps of the moon and he realized that some of the names made during the Apollo expeditions had never been made official, including Mount Marilyn. He submitted the names for approval, something that's done periodically.

"It got turned down and there was a long torturous explanation why, which I never fully understood," said Robinson, a professor at Arizona State.

He let the matter rest for a while but realizing the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 was coming up he decided to resubmit an application for Mount Marilyn, which included the radio transcript of when Buzz Aldrin mentioned the landmark. Mount Marilyn is roughly 500 kilometers from the Apollo 11 landing spot.

"One of them called it out because it was an important landmark. It's an unusually shaped mountain that sticks up out of the (Sea of Tranquility) so it's easy to spot," Robinson said. "As far as I'm concerned, if Jim Lovell wants that mountain to be named Marilyn, based on his contributions to science, it should be named Mount Marilyn."
And so it was. But there are certain eternal truths, including the agonies of high school.
Marilyn Gerlach grew up in Milwaukee, attended 27th Street Elementary School and Juneau High School, where the boy who would someday become an astronaut noticed her as he worked in the school cafeteria. She was a freshman, he was a junior.

"The prom was coming and I had to invite some girl to the prom, you had to invite junior girls. I invited a girl, but when she found out I wasn't going to be prom king she dropped me like a hot potato. I didn't have anyone else, so I invited Marilyn," Lovell recalled.
From the bottom of the ocean to the mountains of the moon, the junior who dropped the future astronaut is unknown.

2.11.17

SCALING BACK THE RETAIL RAILROADING.

The CSX Transportation Company continues to spin its downsizing as productivity improvements.
The railroad aims to end container sorting at its busy intermodal terminal in North Baltimore, Ohio, by Nov. 11. And CSX will not build the Carolina Connector, a similar $270-million terminal planned for Rocky Mount, N.C., Trains News Wire has learned.

The railroad also pulled out of the long-sought project to raise clearances in the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore. The tunnel is a barrier to double-stack service to and from the Port of Baltimore, as well as on CSX’s Interstate 95 Corridor linking New Jersey and Florida.
There's going to be some political fallout from the change of plans in Baltimore: perhaps this is a ploy to get taxpayers to share more of the costs.

Elsewhere on the railroad, we're seeing a variation on the old theme of freight trains cutting cars at isolated side tracks for pickup by other trains.  (There's likely a management case study in that practice somewhere, as these days the freight conductor must verify that the train is intact and the end of train device working, which sometimes entails a taxi ride from head end to hind end.)
A spokeswoman for the Maryland governor’s office did not return an email seeking comment.

It is not clear what direction CSX will take with its intermodal network as Harrison rolls out Precision Scheduled Railroading across the system.

This much is clear: The railroad has not closed any intermodal terminals that originate traffic, despite scaling back hundreds of lanes. And CSX is relying much more on intermodal block-swapping, both to increase efficiency and to replace the sorting performed at North Baltimore.

Analysts expected the railroad to provide details on its intermodal strategy at an investor day, but the Oct. 30 event was postponed after management changes were announced on Oct. 25, including the pending departures of CSX’s chief operations and marketing executives.

The Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal opened to much fanfare in 2011 as the $175-million centerpiece of a new intermodal strategy that included sorting containers for Chicago interchange, as well as smaller markets such as Louisville, Ky.; Columbus, Ohio; and Detroit.

As recently as July, CSX executives said North Baltimore was a proven concept that would be extended to the Carolina Connector. Executives also had discussed the potential for adding a third intermodal sorting hub near Atlanta.
We'll see how that plays out.

CAMPUS MADHOUSES.

Nicely called out by Daniel Payne for The Federalist.
Here is a gentle tip for the nominal adults nominally in charge of American campuses: if your students disrupt a scheduled event, or storm the stage of a school function, or take a classroom hostage (particularly on an exam day!), do not give in to them. Instead, have security escort them out immediately. If they resist, arrest them. If they persist, expel them.

Putting one’s foot down will not be easy or pleasant. But it is necessary—unless you wish to surrender your campuses and careers to mindless, fanatical zealots.
When the house organ of the Democrat-Academic-Entertainment Complex runs a lament by a university president mugged by reality, in this case Oregon's Michael Schill, "The Misguided Student Crusade Against ‘Fascism’."
Fundamentally, fascism is about the smothering of dissent. Every university in the country has history classes that dig into fascist political movements and examine them along very clear-eyed lines. Fascist regimes rose to power by attacking free speech, threatening violence against those who opposed them, and using fear and the threat of retaliation to intimidate dissenters.

By contrast, American academia is dedicated to rational discourse, shared governance and the protection of dissent. Historically, fascists sought to silence, imprison and even kill university professors and other intellectuals who resisted authoritarian rule. So the accusation that American universities somehow shelter or promote fascism is odd and severely misguided.
Perhaps Mr Schill is not familiar with Critique of Pure Tolerance, the diversity boondoggle's Mein Kampf, or with the origins of no-platforming in the Sixties practice of "verbal terrorism" (otherwise known as shouting down speakers taking unpopular positions).  What the student crusaders were doing is the practice of liberating tolerance, being directed against university administrators whose defense of the protection of dissent becomes the continued protection of reactionaries with truly fascist ideas.
Undoubtedly, the term “fascism” has an effective anti-authoritarian ring to it, so perhaps that is why it is thrown around so much these days. But from what I can tell, much of what students are protesting, both at the University of Oregon and elsewhere, is the expression of viewpoints or ideologies that offend them and make them feel marginalized. They are fed up with what they see as a blanket protection of free speech that, at its extreme, permits the expression of views by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. I am opposed to all these groups stand for, but offensive speech can never be the sole criterion for shutting down a speaker.
Actually, liberating tolerance, or progressive intolerance, makes suppression of reactionary speech the sole, and most important, criterion for shouting down a speaker.  In time, though, the zealots begin to turn on each other ("sectarianism" being perhaps the worst thought-crime in much of the intellectual left) and thus do we get some sort of hierarchy of oppression.

Until then, though, the zealots get free rein to mau-mau the bourgeois and stick it to the man.

THE GREATER EVIL IS STILL A GREATER EVIL.

Milwaukee's Charlie Sykes, who has gotten himself a new act as "dissident conservative," recently offered A Guide for Frustrated Conservatives in the Age of Trump, unsurprisingly, NBC published it.  There's been a lot of soul-searching about what conservatism really means, and the ways in which Mr Trump's populist approach (if that's what it is) differs.  And Mr Sykes notes that there's more to a conservative stance than winning elections.  "Most important of all, we will take the long view, recognizing that electoral victories do not change eternal verities or the essential correctness of traditionally conservative insights into man and society."

But the forces in opposition to Mr Trump appear not to have figured out that hectoring, condescending, deplorable-shaming and posturing hasn't changed many minds.
People also feel destabilized, uncertain and disillusioned by everything that was supposed to lift us up, like entertainment and sports. Hollywood has been mocking Middle America for 20 years; every awards show is a debutante ball of shame and scold directed at half of the country.

That they have done this behind smiling masks while hiding the open secret of debauched treatment of women is repulsive.

Sports — football, in particular — was the last remaining force that crosses the cultural divide but has now been forever damaged.
Thus, Salena Zito continues, the conservative insights might manifest themselves in an emergent, decentralized way.
Rebuilding trust should most likely begin at the most local level: in neighborhood banks, at local businesses and with reporters who live in our communities — interactions whose authority Americans can trust to be fair, removed from coastal or cosmopolitan biases.

Trust at the peer-to-peer level can help repair our divide; it does not mean that, if you feel strongly that police reform is needed, you avoid the issues. But instead of making a big social media statement, why not make a difference through civic involvement, volunteering and serving the community on the issue?
Unfortunately, twenty years of information-technology-enabled concentration, whether of the national banks or the national press, leaves much of civil society in the hands of precisely the hectoring, condescending, deplorable-shaming nachalstvo.

For example, consider David Brooks, here ably called out by Robert Merry.
It is the Trump constituency that is responsible for all the divisions between rich and poor, white and black, educated and less educated, right and left. He doesn’t quite call these people deplorable, but he comes close. If they would just stand down and give up their tribal ways, we could get back to being the America of our past and our heritage—a “universal nation” drawing unlimited immigrants to our shores in the service of a national mission to spread “democracy and dignity” around the world. Sounds like a return to George W. Bush.

This is policy folly based upon a myth of America. The divisions Brooks laments with such invidious intent won’t vanish until the fears and concerns of Trump voters are addressed in ways that can alleviate, at least to some extent, those grievances. That’s a reality that David Brooks, for all his clever locutions, can’t wish away.
But the Democrats, and those of their fellow-travellers and court intellectuals who haven't yet been caught up in a Hillary scandal or a Hollywood starlet's p***y continue to carry on with the hectoring and the deplorable shaming.  That's not impressing Rod Dreher, who, like Mr Sykes, is no fan of Our President.
I’ll end up voting Republican out of pure self-protection, and to protect the job prospects of my children, especially my sons. Good job, Democrats.  You are telling straight white people that they are second-class citizens who don’t deserve fairness. You’ll continue to find self-hating liberal whites who are willing to accept this garbage, but many more aren’t falling for it — and know what kind of world Democrats are preparing for them when and if they take power again.

As a registered Independent whose economic and foreign policy views are to the left of the average Republican’s, I would love to have the chance to consider voting Democratic in a national election, especially with the GOP in such a mess. But out of self-protection, I can’t take that chance.
And Roger Kimball warns the Permanent Bipartisan Establishment that their process-worshipping investigations are sending the Trump voters the wrong message.  "I suspect that evidence of the real collusion—to deprive the United States of its lawfully elected president—will point in only one direction."

Taken together, there is a lot going on that might not end well.

COMPETING ACROSS STATE LINES.

The public universities of the midwest have been engaging in a price war, the better to be able to boost enrollments.  Used to be, the universities were going after out of state students by comparing their tuitions with the Ivies, or they were attempting to keep graduates in state afterward.

The price war has become more interesting, with the end of out of state premiums for matriculants at Northern Illinois University.
Sol Jensen – NIU vice president for enrollment management, marketing and communications – said this is not a new practice, and many other state universities have taken similar measures. Universities in neighboring states also have implemented these changes to entice Illinois students.

"We feel like now is the right time to be making our changes, as well, mainly because of all of the benefits we project NIU to take, including enrollment," Jensen said. "There is literature that shows students are more likely when they graduate to stay in the same state, at least for the early part of their career, so we can bring in more students that could potentially work here."
"Potentially" matters: Illinois governor Bruce Rauner's re-election campaign includes an advert in which governors of neighboring states are thanking general assembly speaker Mike Madigan for preserving Illinois's status as an anti-business tax hell.  For now, though, Chicago is still a destination for degreed professionals from the rest of the Big Ten, and beyond.

The university's announcement is redolent of corporate-speak.
The high quality of our faculty and academic programs—in such areas as business, engineering, education, nursing, the humanities, the sciences and the visual and performing arts—is well-known beyond the borders of Illinois. And we want students nationwide to experience our unique brand of hands-on, engaged learning.
I have yet to sound out my colleagues still in the classroom on their impression of this initiative. I fear, though, that "engaged learning" with continued cutbacks for classroom supplies, telephone and internet connections, and deferred maintenance and deferred pay raises is so much pokazhuka.

UNSUSTAINABLE LABOR FORCE PARTICIPATION.

Pajamas Media's Susan L. M. Goldberg, "We’ve Forgotten How to Understand Stay-at-Home Moms."  Her essay is a call for sisterly solidarity.  "Women, especially those who delay motherhood in favor of a career they return to almost immediately after giving birth, simply can’t comprehend what it means to stay at home with a young child all day, every day."

Read on, though, and you see the laws of conservation in political economy at work.  "Many women do spend at least part of the day at home with their children while they’re young. However, economic changes forced onto our culture by second-wave feminism and the “greed is good” era have made two working parents the rule, not the exception."

You could substitute "You go, grrl" for "greed is good" and you get the same thing, when you expand labor force participation.  "Thus, to hope that a family can 'get by' on one income with current levels of labor force participation by women is to hope that the laws of conservation in economics don't work."

And getting by, Ms Goldberg notes, involves outsourcing much of the dirty work, sometimes to cheap labor.
What’s worse, career culture has forced us to outsource the care and feeding of babies as young as six weeks old to women barely out of high school. These women earn minimum wage. In other words, we think changing diapers, making bottles, pumping breastmilk, feeding, clothing, playing with, educating and maintaining the general physical, mental and emotional health of a human being is worth approximately $7.25 per hour.
That's reality for a lot of people. Power couples with large incomes -- to the extent that they're not reconsidering whether it's worth it -- still have the means to farm out their spawn to Harvard Prep Day Care.

31.10.17

A KINDERGARTNER'S VIEW OF FREE SPEECH.

Columnist Kimberley Strassel gave a talk at Hillsdale College, "The Left’s War on Free Speech."  Her children got into a spat, in the way of children, and she attempted to make a teachable moment.  First the oldest, then the middle, explained what they understood free speech to be.

THE CAPTURE OF KARS.

When the Tsar's troops march in, Modest Mussorgsky writes a commemorative overture.

It's less dramatic when it's trains arriving in Uzbekistan to provide a southerly alternative to China's Silk Road Railroad.
The 849 km [527 mi] BTK [Baku, Azerbaijan - Tblisi, Georgia, Kars, Turkey] programme is central to plans to create a rail corridor from the Caspian Sea to Europe via Turkey. It involved upgrading infrastructure in Azerbaijan and Georgia, rehabilitating 153 km [95 mi] of unused 1 520mm [Soviet 5 foot] gauge line from Marabda to a break-of-gauge facility at Akhalkalaki, and building 110 km [68 mi] of 1 435 mm [standard] gauge line to Kars via a 4·4 km [2.7 mi] tunnel under the Georgia-Turkey border at Kartsakhi.

This completes the missing link between Georgia and Turkey, replacing a route through Armenia which has been out of use since the crossing between Turkey and Armenia was closed in 1993.
Yes, there is a break of gauge and a transloading on this line, which runs through former Tsarist lands, as is the case on the Silk Road Railroad.


The closed line is to the south.

Although the railroad appears to be a way for Turkey and a number of the former Soviet republics to exchange cargo without dealing with Armenia, the connection is also a play for the China to Europe traffic.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan said the BTK railway had become a reality because of the friendship of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia. He said shipments from China would be able to reach Europe in 15 days using the BTK route, and the initial capacity of 6·5 million tonnes of freight and 1 million passengers per year was expected to increase to 17 million tonnes and 3 million passengers per year in 2034.
That's time-competitive with the Silk Road Railroad. I wonder if that new tunnel is tall enough for double-stacks, as much of this railroad is currently diesel hauled.

THE PACIFIC OCEAN IS NO PLACE TO PLAY.

Last week's feel-good story was the rescue of two women, supposedly missing at sea since sometime in May, turning up alive and well with their dogs along, somewhere off Japan.

One of the sailors, Jennifer Appel, joked years ago about things going wrong at sea.
Appel said she was reminded of a conversation about sailing she had with an acquaintance some 10 years ago.

“I was joking with someone,” she said. “And they said what happens when you go out to sea and you get broken? I said, ‘Oh, the Navy will come save me.’ ”
And these intrepid mariners have in fact been at sea since May.
The rescued women had departed May 3, intending to sail from Hawaii to Tahiti, [Joyce] Appel said, but her daughter’s phone was lost overboard the first day she was at sea, and she hadn’t been able to call since.

Then the women lost their engine in bad weather in late May, but believed they could still reach Tahiti using their sails.
But there's something, er, fishy, about that 'phone going in the drink.
Parts of their story have been called into question, including the tropical storm the two say they encountered on their first night at sea in May. National Weather Service records show no organized storms in the region in early May.

When asked if the two had the radio beacon aboard, the women told the AP on Friday they had a number of other communications devices, but they didn't mention the [I'm Sunk Near Here device].
Apparently Mrs Appel never told her daughter to be careful about picking up sailors in bars.
Key elements of the women's account are contradicted by authorities, weather reports and the basic geography of the Pacific Ocean. The discrepancies raised questions about whether Appel and her sailing companion, Tasha Fuiava, remember the ordeal accurately or could have avoided disaster.

The Hawaii residents reported that their sailing equipment and engine failed and said they were close to giving up when the U.S. Navy rescued them last week, thousands of miles off course. They were taken to Japan, where they didn't immediately respond to an email and call seeking comment Monday.

The Navy said they do not investigate incidents like this and they were only there to render assistance. The Coast Guard said its review of the case is ongoing, but that there is no criminal investigation at this time.

The two women met in late 2016, and within a week of knowing each other decided to take the trip together. Fuiava had never sailed a day in her life. They planned to take 18 days to get to Tahiti, then travel the South Pacific and return to Hawaii in October.

On their first day at sea, May 3, the two U.S. women described running into a fearsome storm that tossed their vessel with 60 mph (97 kph) winds and 30-foot (9-meter) seas for three days, but meteorologists say there was no severe weather anywhere along their route during that time.
Let's be grateful they didn't go to Davy Jones, and wait for the television dramatization that is likely to follow.

Sometimes, south seas adventures don't end so well.