31.1.15

FASCHING.



Prosit!

GETTING CAPITALISM RIGHT.

Here's Mark Skousen on what enterprise can deliver. "Andrew Carnegie was right: 'Capitalism is about turning luxuries into necessities,' and the poor benefit even more than the rich."  Yes, provided business delivers the goods.  Trains correspondent Fred W. Frailey calls out the railroads, and, per corollary, the entire cult of shareholder value.
For Class I railroads, record revenues, record earnings ... and unsurpassed congestion and unhappiness among shippers.  Not a good combination.  The best way I know to go out of business is to prosper while your customers suffer.
(Trains print edition, January 2015, page 16.)  It gets better.  "Railroading turns out to be a growth industry only if measured by executive compensation."

More recent reports suggest the freights are moving more fluidly again.  Why?  Hire more crews, repair and replace the locomotives, build additional tracks.

The generalization to other enterprises is left as an exercise.

TRIFECTA.

In a recent update on Marquette University's non-suspension suspension of John "Marquette Warrior" McAdams, I suggested that the university's complaint about a weblog post provoking online impoliteness toward a graduate student was a stretch at best.  "In a world of social media and Rate My Professors, there's plenty of opportunity for dissenting, disgruntled, or simply disgraceful students or observes to identify faculty and graduate assistants who let their freak flag fly, and have at them."  And that's before I discovered some new way of connecting smart phones called Yik Yak, the use of which has already frightened the Perpetually Aggrieved.
University officers are now locked in a panicky debate over how to deal with this new technological scourge. I’m not entirely certain that these administrators realize the value of this admittedly volatile phenomenon. Yik Yak offers faculty and executives alike a new, scary, but undeniably real glimpse into various elements of the undergraduate psyche. Professors can learn about certain patterns of holdover bigotry that inflect campus life in ways otherwise invisible to the adults in the room. We begin to get a sense for the fault-lines in the moral landscape of our school, the flags under which march the regressive forces of prejudice and doomed privilege.

Yes, it involves a certain degree of “who’s getting marginalized this week,” but that question is one we should be considering already. Last year—2014—brought numberless wrenches and fissures on my own campus, and a twisted element of consolation was the opportunity to hear the most reactionary elements lashing out in fear of self-wrought obsoletion. On a calm day, a platform such as Yik Yak provides a glimpse of the workaday stresses in undergraduate life; on the worst days, the platform is like an X-ray that lets us study the cancers of the campus, the malignant growths we thought had gone into remission.
Yeah, it was scary enough when Accuracy in Academia or No Indoctrination (now closed?) had to aggregate the inanities of the self-despising multiculturalists and the loopy ideas and circulate them.  It now happens in real time, and deanlets and deanlings can see the pushback, and perhaps the more thoughtful among them might see something other than "regressive forces" at work.  And embattled former Marquette graduate assistant Cheryl Abbate might have pulled her weblog, a perfect circus of politically correct shibboleths, in response to an emergent student rebellion, not because of anything Professor McAdams posted.

I have a trifecta, though, because a more recent episode of Yik Yak pushback took place at Eastern Michigan University, and the story even merited mention at the house organ of business as usual lowering higher education (behind their paywall).  But a participant in an unofficial Eastern Michigan discussion list shared some of the juicy bits.
In a confidential report on the Yik Yak incident issued last month, Sharon L. Abraham, the university’s director of diversity and affirmative action, said the professors had “described a classroom environment where students talked during lecture, responded aggressively to requests to stop inappropriate behavior, and were generally disrespectful.” It said the professors had “felt threatened when dealing with students in the class who were physically large and male.”

Some Yik Yak posts about the professors suggested racial and cultural divides.

After one of the professors described a topic as too complicated to get into, one student wrote, “Are you calling me stupid? I’m an honors student bitch!”

Another Yik Yak post said, “She keeps talking about Detroit. Bitch, yo white ass probably ain’t never been in Detroit.”

[Professor Elisabeth] Däumer recalls reading the Yik Yak posts directed at her and asking herself, “Just who the hell did they think they are?”
Priceless.  The class in which the Yik Yak talk back took place was a mandatory honors seminar.
First off, the setting (which I kind of knew before, but I think that’s key here): this was a mandatory interdisciplinary studies lecture hall class of 230 first year students, and it met at 9 am on Fridays.  The article says that students “resented” having to be there and were “unhappy” about what had been going on before the Yik Yak incident. If I were a first year student and I was told I had to show up to a lecture hall class on a Friday morning, I’d feel the same way.
I'm not going to get into whether scheduling a class on a Friday morning is productive or counterproductive, although Eastern, in common with many universities that are going to lose students if community college ever becomes "free", offers most of its classes as Monday and Wednesday, or Tuesday and Thursday, or all in one go on one day.  Rather, I want to focus on the offending course, “Interdisciplinary Exploration of Global Issues: The Environment: Space/Place, Purity/Danger, Hope/Activism.” What perfect postmodernist wordnoise, and what perfect irritation of protected-status minorities with the condescension they perceived.  Not exactly the "regressive forces of prejudice and doomed privilege."  More like what happens when an honors program ought to come with an asterisk.

Eastern Michigan's students, staff, and faculty have been dealing with the social media storm since last semester.  There's more in a mid-January posting, and in the comments, specifics of the student discontent.
Although I was not privy to the details of the discussion threads on yik yak, my impression from what my students said they saw seemed more in the order of what Steve Krause was discussing, i.e. words like “bitch” and also a discussion of how unprepared 2 of the instructors were. In fact, according to my class’s discussion, the yik yak threads centered on how disorganized 2 instructors were, how unwilling those instructors were to allow discussion in the course, and how repetitive the material was. (students were very clear that 1 instructor was quite prepared and appeared very professional).
Thus the trifecta. Perhaps we're dealing with a university attempting to distinguish its first-year offerings from those of the community colleges by promoting an honors(*) program, or other themed learning community or freshman experiences.  Or perhaps we're dealing with a university offering a simulacrum of higher education to a clientele indistinguishable from the intake of the local community colleges.

Thus: students can push back without any provocation from dissident professors, pushback is an emergent phenomenon, and U.S. News continue to sell college ratings.

WON'T THE GAINS BE DISSIPATED IN LAND RENTS?

Good old central place theory.  Here's a Vox essay that may be missing something.
People with similar skills and similar levels of education make a lot more money in New York and San Francisco than they do in St. Louis or Cleveland. You might expect these differences to even out over time, as workers relocate from low-income areas to high-income areas to take advantages of the opportunities there.
To a first approximation, they do. But net of adjustment costs, and subject to the bid-rent curve, the differences might already have evened out.
But that hasn't been happening. Over the last half-century, income differences between metropolitan areas have actually been increasing. One study estimated that this effect is costing the country hundreds of billions of dollars in lost income every year.

It's not hard to figure out why people aren't moving. While the wage difference between St. Louis and San Francisco is large, the difference in housing costs is even bigger. A programmer in St. Louis might get a big raise by moving to San Francisco to take a job at a technology company there, but he might still be left worse off thanks to the much higher rents there. High housing costs make it hard for companies in high-cost areas to attract workers, stunting the growth of some of America's most dynamic industries.
So far, so good. But what, apart from geographic constraints, might be contributing to disequilibrium?  (Left to the reader as an exercise: is the New York area so powerful a Marshallian industrial district for finance, or the agglomeration economies in Silicon Valley so significant, that Chicago or Minneapolis or Sioux City might as well forget about any expansion in finance, or much of flyover country just empty out?)
How much does this cost the economy? In a study released as a discussion draft last year, economists Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti tried to figure that out. They imagine a world where the housing markets in America's most productive cities became more elastic, meaning that increasing demand led to more construction rather than higher rents.
That's not as easy as it looks.  Brad DeLong picked up the abstract to an earlier version of the paper (now replaced?)
Differences in the nominal wage across cities reflect differences in the marginal product of labor across cities which, ceteris paribus, lower aggregate output. We show that the dispersion of the average nominal wage across US cities increased from 1964 to 2009 and may be responsible for a 13% decline in aggregate output. Changes in amenities appear to account for only a small fraction of this output loss, with most of the loss likely caused by increased constraints to housing supply in highly productive cities. We conclude that welfare gains from spatial reallocation of the US labor force are likely to be substantial.
Perhaps, although the losses to vested interests are also likely to be substantial.
For the last couple of years, San Francisco has been erupting with periodic protests aimed, rather imprecisely, at a nexus of grievances related to gentrification, affordable housing, transportation, the tech industry, newcomers to the city, its changing skyline and Silicon Valley to the south. The city is screaming, although at what its protestors seem a little confused.

"In my view, the whole debate here misses the point," says Enrico Moretti, an economist at the nearby University of California at Berkeley. "People aremarching against Google buses when they should be marching for more housing permits."

At the root of San Francisco's tension is a mismatch of supply and demand: Affluent workers have been flocking to the area for its tech jobs, but as the number of jobs in the region has grown, the number of housing units to accommodate people taking them hasn't remotely kept pace. As a result, rents are going up. Low-income residents are pushed out. Landlords who see more lucrative opportunity in condo conversions have ramped up evictions.

"Once I started seeing what was going on in the San Francisco public debate, I got appalled by the lack of understanding of basic economics among the general public, the protesters," Moretti says. "And it’s even more problematic among policymakers."

The culprit here isn't really the tech industry. It's much-harder-to-protest land-use policy. And from Moretti's point of view, the rest of us should care about how San Francisco and big cities like it restrict new housing because the economic repercussions of such local decisions stretch nationwide.
Perhaps so, although that's why land rents adjust.  Professors Moretti and Hsieh argue that existing constraints on land use contribute to the rising land rents in some cities.
If housing wasn't so expensive in coastal cities, a lot more people would move to New York, Washington, Boston, Seattle, and the San Francisco Bay Area. The data suggests that — even after controlling for factors such as education — workers in these cities are more productive than in other metropolitan areas. The study doesn't try to explain these productivity differences, but possible explanations include better infrastructure, opportunities to learn new skills, and a culture that encourages entrepreneurship.

Hsieh and Moretti estimate that moving American workers to higher-productivity cities could increase the income of Americans by a stunning amount: more than $1 trillion. That amounts to a raise of several thousand dollars for every American worker.
I'll have to locate the working paper and look at it carefully, as there might be agglomeration economies at work to further boost the value of living in those already crowded cities.  Perhaps, though, in addition to relaxing the constrains on relocation to those cities, there are unexploited gains from trade in working around those constraints.  For instance, might a company based in Rockford, Illinois, be better off paying a compensating differential to get people to locate there, rather than paying a higher salary that reflects Chicago or San Francisco or New York costs of living?

29.1.15

BISCOTTI AND CIRCUSES

Book Review No. 4 is Joel Kotkin's The New Class Conflict.  Let's say that he's not happy about the alliance of Wise Experts in the academy and in government agencies with rent-seekers in business, and ward-heeler politicians everywhere.  The alliance makes for a mutually self-enriching oligarchy, without necessarily creating an opposed mass of impoverished proletarians in the best Communist Manifesto way.  But Mr Kotkin's Yeomanry class (independent contractors and small business owners) face a fate similar to that of the petty bourgeoisie of Capital.  But with the absence of the factory system, no emergence of a radicalized proletariat incompatible with its capitalist integument is anticipated.  Sadly, neither is much of anything else.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

IRRELEVANT HOTHOUSES.

Swarthmore's Timothy Burke has recently embarked on a series of posts (sailing under the banner of grasping the nettle) attempting to deal with his "perplexity and unease about online discourse, about academia, and about the political moment."  One of the posts deals with privilege-checking.
There’s an odd thing about privilege-checking as it has evolved into a shaming slogan, a sort of taunt. Shame only works if the target has an internal sense that the moral argument of the shamers is valid, or if the shamers reflect an overwhelmingly dominant social consensus such that it takes an iron will to refuse to be shamed.
Would that it were so simple.  Jessica Valenti, responding to a gripe by Jonathan Chait about being hectored for aggrieving the Perpetually Aggrieved, offers a bon mot.  "If the worst thing ‘PCness’ does is make people occasionally feel uncomfortable when they do and say terrible things, we can all live with that."  Or, more simply, that the mannerly thing to do might be to recognize that others experience reality differently, and generalizing from your own experience handicaps your thinking.

Professor Burke, however, in grasping one nettle, grafts on a bramble.
But “privilege” as a concept essentially takes its cues from a deep body of pre-existing social theory and social history that dissects the origins and continuing maintenance of inequality. Much of that body of theory argues that in some fashion or another, inequality is functional to the individuals, groups and institutions that sustain it, that it is the product of self-interest. Part of the point behind that general argument is to aggressively dissent from other bodies of theory that see inequality as the natural outcome of meritocracy, competition, or intrinsic pre-existing differences between human beings, to argue instead that inequality has a history and is an active creation of social processes and institutional power.
Yes, and the framework from which inequality of condition emerges might be distinct from the framework from which privilege of a mode of thinking or of a way of doing things emerges.  The processes of emergence, however, are probably not orthogonal.
It would be possible to argue that inequality is both a product of historical circumstances but not self-interested, e.g., that it is an emergent or unintended (if undesirable) outcome of processes and actions that were undertaken for other reasons. To the extent to which that is true, calling out privilege might be a genuinely educational gesture, and one where it’s plausible that the person named as privileged would have no vested desire to defend that status.
Sorry, forty years of thinking like an economist makes me reluctant to accept any emergent phenomenon in which self-interest isn't involved.  Put simply: privilege might accrue to expertise (otherwise, why not pick the anonymous referees for The Review of Economics and Statistics out of the Boston telephone directory) or it might be reputational capital.  Here, however, is an opportunity to contest the status of privilege (more precisely, of prior performance).
Such strong relationships are echoed in Japan's tightly knit firms, some of which are clannish to their roots. Mitsubishi, for instance, started life in 1870 running the ships of the Tosa clan from an island in southern Japan. Though it is now one of the world's biggest trading companies, it still displays signs spelling out the founding family's core principles everywhere. Its employees are encouraged to drink Kirin beer because its makers are part of the Mitsubishi family. The companies think this tribalism is a source of strength. Innovators generally bring dedication, fame and fortune to their firms rather than striking out on their own.

Like many tribes, however, companies have a strict pecking order based on age. When Howard Stringer, the Welsh-born boss of Sony, last year promoted four promising Japanese middle managers to senior positions over the heads of their bosses, the chosen ones were initially nervous about accepting.

There are also lots of rules. These are useful for encouraging the attention to detail and relentless improvement that are the hallmarks of Japan's high-precision manufacturing, but they can be less helpful in the more free-spirited knowledge economy. Nor is clannishness best suited to a depopulating country. To find new markets, Japan needs to have a vibrant exchange of information with the outside world, which it has not been good at lately. It also needs to attract talented workers with adaptable skills.
And thus, Japan, Inc. became just another failed management fad.  And the diversiphiles in North American higher education might have a point.
Japanese firms' hiring practices remain inward-looking, which means their workforce may lack a global perspective. The big firms take on as many students as they can from top Japanese universities, irrespective of their skills or outside interests. They hire almost exclusively upon graduation, so studying abroad during the recruitment period is bad for applicants' job prospects. Even Japanese graduates with PhDs from foreign universities despair of getting jobs at big Japanese firms because they will be seen as overqualified. By and large Japan remains a “one-shot society”: those who fail to get a good job upon graduation can be frozen out for life.
Higher education, properly viewed, ought admit to the possibility of second chances. Or that the other fellow might know something you don't.  Here's a high-concept view of what happens to the insufficiently open-minded observer.
If inner life and insider status is framed in the context of ‘belief’ as the contention around which the possibility of access presides, then we run the risk of always encountering religions from a Christian/Euro-centric perspective.
Many kinds of insiders and outsiders, many modes of emergence, many sources of privilege.
One objective of this activity is to ensure that all students realize that everyone has experienced being both an "insider" and being an "outsider." Another objective is to encourage students to take the perspective of those who are excluded and to consider how those negative feelings affect others’ behavior in social situations. This activity can be completed in small or large groups and can be used as an icebreaker at the beginning of the semester or as a way to generate discussion about ingroups and outgroups when that topic is addressed in a course.
The harder challenge: identify circumstances in which the emergence of insiders is productive. (Hint: salaries of football coaches would be much higher if general managers or athletic directors fired one whenever the fans demanded it.)

That alternative is missing from Professor Burke's musings.
For the most part, this is not what progressive or left social theory would argue. The assumption is that the privileged benefit from their privilege, and therefore have every reason in the world to defend or maintain it. So what could possibly get them to do otherwise? Only one of two possibilities, broadly speaking. Either the mobilization of sufficient coercion or force by the victims of inequality such that they can compel the privileged to surrender some or all of their status, or the possibility of convincing the privileged that their status is either morally repugnant or is ultimately more of a risk to their long-term social existence than a more equal disposition would be.

If it’s about mobilization, the only benefit to privilege-checking is painting a bullseye on a target, of making a threat. At some point, making threats casually without the power to back them up is at the least futile, at the worst incredibly dangerous.

If it’s not–if there is some possibility of persuading a privileged person to assist in the abrasion or surrender of that privilege because that’s a thing they ought to do–it’s worth considering what that implies about the act of privilege-checking itself, and many other kinds of related communication.
Yes, and perhaps the Perpetually Aggrieved ought be careful about what they wish for, particularly if what they view as "privilege" is an emergent and productive phenomenon.
In society at large, however, privileging occurs regularly and often unintentionally. The voices and structures that are privileged, sociologically speaking, create bias and inequality.

This privileging may not have been a conscious decision, but the bias becomes a fact of life, and there are repercussions for the people who have not been privileged. There is inequality built into social structures because privilege (and hierarchy) exists in social structures.

This definition of the word privilege is what’s so often missing in discussions of privilege — because the big secret about privilege is that if it’s working as it should, no one who has it will be aware of it!

If people were openly aware of their privilege, then it wouldn’t be structural, and it wouldn’t be hidden, and it wouldn’t be privilege in the sociological sense.

Privilege in the sociological sense isn’t something you earn through compliance, and isn’t something you get by being greedy or bigoted. Privilege is structural and invisible, and you should be completely unaware of it until you become enlightened about it.
I used to suggest to beginning economics students that getting them to think about the working of markets was a lot like getting fish to think about water.  I used simpler words than "structural and invisible."  I also taught a lot about tradeoffs.  Bias toward competent engineers or imaginative sociologists: Good Thing.  Some contractors get more contracts to build bridges, and some professors get more pages in American Sociological Review: presumption in favor of a desirable outcome, in the absence of evidence to the contrary.  That's not, however, where the Perpetually Aggrieved go with it.  Back, as I must, to Ms Valenti.
We are finally approaching a critical mass of interest in ending racism, misogyny and transphobia and the ways they are ingrained into our institutions. Instead of rolling our eyes at the intensity of the feelings people have over these issues, we should be grateful that they care so much, because racism, misogyny and transphobia can and do kill people. If the price we all pay for progress for the less privileged is that someone who is more privileged gets their feelings hurt sometimes – or that they might have to think twice before opening their mouths or putting their fingers to keyboards – that’s a small damn price to pay. That’s not stopping free speech; it’s making our speech better.
No, it's creating Freakazoid Privilege.

AZZA ONE-EYED BEARDED RED-HAIRED TRANSGENDERED LESBIAN WITH A LIMP I AM OFFENDED.

Deal with it.

But perhaps that's the ethos at Swarthmore.
One of the dirty secrets of Swarthmore is that we both stigmatize and undervalue the professional world. There is a certain disdain we hold towards those who come to college for not-so-idealistic reasons; coming to Swarthmore to increase your prospects of financial security, maybe even a six-figure income in the future, is not something you tell people here.
Time for introspection, or perhaps a different sort of privilege-checking.
Academia is a wonderful career to pursue and I don’t want it to seem like I am knocking academia. But perhaps it is time we thought about how our orientation towards learning for learning’s sake, as unifying as we may find it, can also secretly be an alienating force. And this does a disservice to all of our students, not only to future career-seekers.
The two are not mutually exclusive. Perhaps a consensus that thirty years of interrogating power and deconstructing institutions and checking privilege becomes an intellectual dead end will emerge.

SECOND SECTION.  My perspective goes beyond the same 200 people who write the entire Cool Kid Progressive Media.  Read and understand.

VERDICT FIRST, THEN THE TRIAL.

The Red Queen can get away with something like that, at least until Alice dismisses her as part of a pack of cards.

Marquette University's non-suspension suspension of John "Marquette Warrior" McAdams is being compared to standing on a weak hand by two different observers.

First, the legalities, from Gregory Scholtz of the American Association of University Professors.
Given the facts reported to us, it is difficult to see how members of the academic community would perceive Professor McAdams’s continuing to teach as constituting a “threat of immediate harm” to himself or others. Nor are we aware of the administration’s having consulted a duly constituted faculty body at Marquette University about the propriety of the suspension or its conditions.
The administration's action doesn't come as a surprise. For years, the administrative mind-set has been (1) Perpetually Aggrieved find something offensive (2) Administration denounces the offense (3) and then determines what really happened. Meanwhile, fraternities suffer the consequences of double-secret probation, and professors serve non-suspension suspensions.

Wisconsin's Donald Downs, a regular campaigner at Minding the Campus, connects the administrative high-handedness to the proliferation of speech codes and harassment policies, which serve to protect the Perpetually Aggrieved.
Some critics have disapproved of the manner in which the student surreptitiously recorded his conversation with the teacher. And, of course, genuine and strong disapproval is merited regarding the threatening emails some very misguided individuals have sent to the instructor in the wake of Professor McAdams’ disclosure of the conversation. I share such disapproval. But three facts should be noted in relation to these critiques. First, Professor McAdams had no hand in making this recording. Second, to my knowledge he has made no threats of any kind to the instructor or to anyone else. Third, the topic addressed in Professor McAdams’ blog commentary addresses an important issue in higher education today: the status of intellectual diversity and free thought on campus. Numerous supporters and practitioners of higher education have expressed serious misgivings about the way in which improperly expansive harassment policies can stifle free discussion of sensitive intellectual and moral topics. Professor McAdams’ critique in this case dealt with this important concern.

I sincerely hope that the suspension of Professor McAdams is in no way related to the fact that he has publicly criticized the way the University has dealt with harassment training and free thought on campus. Unfortunately, the severity of the punishment, in conjunction with the due process problems associated with the infliction of this sanction, raise questions in this regard.
The administration's linking of Marquette Warrior posts with the opprobrium visited on the graduate student is sketchy in any event.  In a world of social media and Rate My Professors, there's plenty of opportunity for dissenting, disgruntled, or simply disgraceful students or observes to identify faculty and graduate assistants who let their freak flag fly, and have at them.

Marquette administrators have not yet, to my knowledge, responded to these messages or lifted the non-suspension suspension.

27.1.15

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN.

Boston's Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is once again considering diesel multiple unit cars for commuter rail service.  A Boston Globe article notes, blast from the past.


Preserved RDC-2 in the proper paint scheme, Bedford, Massachusetts.

At one time, Boston and Maine owned the world's largest fleet of Budd Rail Diesel Cars, and both New Haven and Boston and Albany ran Budd Cars on some commuter services out of South Station.

The article does not note that the Budd Cars didn't have the oomph to get through heavy snow, and in the middle 1970s, as the cars wore out and the money ran out, the Authority took first to pulling them with diesel locomotives, and then to pulling one of the two engines out of each car.  A diesel pulled the train, and the remaining engine was used to support the lighting and heating on each coach.

With Boston digging out from twelve inches of global warming climate chaos January, just thought you should know.

BABY HUEY GROWS UP.

I just can't get away from decline and fall and prole drift and the appeal of Wal-Mart.  It's successful, its political economy might be that of a monopsony, it's the Redneck Universalnya Magazin (or perhaps someplace you don't go to the day welfare checks come out), it's Railroad Salvage on a large scale.  For Book Review No. 3, Charles Fishman's The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works -- and How It's Transforming the American Economy revisits familiar ground.  Mr Fishman's research includes interviews of workers, suppliers, potential suppliers who said no to the monopsony's terms, and members of senior management in Bentonville.  Two conclusions merit mention.  First, Mr Fishman suggests that the company's profitability is the consequence of a lot of small gains on very thin margins, albeit on great volume.  Thus, he concludes, the company has little opportunity to pay higher wages, or to be less vigorous about squeezing "continuous improvement" (read: outsource production to third world sweatshops) without becoming another unprofitable discounter.  That might not sit well with some of the company's critics. "Economists note that if Walmart paid its employees at least $25,000 a year, a million and a half workers would be lifted out of poverty. That would mean more money staying in communities to support local businesses, helping to create at least 100,000 new jobs." Doubtful.

Second, he suggests that the company's business model, which might have been helpful for a Railroad Salvage sort of dealer in remaindered goods, becomes destructive when it's being used to dictate terms to the likes of Procter and Gamble.  His metaphor: the adolescent still engaging in the behavior of a toddler.  Intriguing, and quite possibly true.  But to conclude by suggesting that senior management look outward, falls flat.  For all of Wal-Mart's success, it is possible for consumers to get on, year after year, without setting foot in one.  Perhaps not enough to get the company to change its behavior, not yet.  But lamenting Wal-Mart's symbiosis with the welfare state (selling cheap crap to welfare recipients while fobbing part of the payroll off on the social service agencies) or condemning the corporate culture riles people up to no effect.  Market tests have steeper grading curves.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

REGROUPING.

What's the best team for The Green Bay Packers to study in the wake of Helpless in Seattle?  Perhaps, the New England Patriots.
Before the Patriots lost back-to-back AFC title games, they blew a 21-3 lead on the road against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2007 for the right to go to Super Bowl XLI.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was only able to run a minute off the clock with his team ahead, 34-31. The Colts had 2 minutes, 17 seconds left to drive 80 yards in seven plays for the game-winning touchdown.

It was a crushing loss for the Patriots.

They responded the next season by going 16-0 and advancing to Super Bowl XLII.

The Patriots haven't finished the job since beating the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, but they certainly have cornered the market on not letting a bad loss set them back.

Since Tom Brady became the starting quarterback in 2001, they have played in nine AFC Championship Games and five Super Bowls. They continually give themselves a chance to wipe away the bad taste of whatever the previous season brought.

"I tell young guys all the time, it's incredible how much harder you have to work the next year just to get back to the same spot," safety Devin McCourty said. "And, I think that makes you realize how important it is to take advantage, when you do get to this area, getting the opportunity to play for a world championship, that you want to take advantage, whether it's studying extra or preparing."
Pray that "take advantage" does not include tampering with footballs. Packer spokesman Vic Ketchman notes that the team's draft and develop formula leaves them in a favorable position. "The Packers’ commitment to the future always gives us hope. Imagine how you would feel today if that was a built-for-now-team that lost in Seattle."

There's work ahead.  Analysts at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and the Green Bay Press-Gazette both grade the coaching performance as B-minus.  Milwaukee's Bob McGinn focuses on the team's improvement in the regular season.
[Head coach Mike] McCarthy won his 100th game Dec. 28, eight weeks after signing a multiyear extension. His fixation on turnover differential saw the Packers lead the NFL at plus-14; his nine-year mark in the regular season is a remarkable plus-87. Those 33 takeaways were turned into 123 points, almost double the total from a year ago. His offense, No. 1 in points, was balanced and explosive. One reason for the 1-2 start was McCarthy's "Quad" version of the 4-3 defense, inadequately prepared and poorly executed before being mothballed after Game 4. He waited too long to bench A.J. Hawk for Barrington, but persuading Matthews to shift inside paid off. Lowlights were Peppers' butchered cameo at WR in New Orleans, having 10 men on the field for a Seattle TD Sept. 4 and paying way too much respect to CB Richard Sherman the same night.
Regrouping, though, includes treating each game, and each minute, with urgency.
Knowing full well that playing the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field instead of CenturyLink Field was at stake, they hardly showed up Dec. 14 in Buffalo. Then, in unforgettable fashion, the Packers executed a colossal late collapse against the almost comatose Seahawks and frittered away the franchise's sixth Super Bowl appearance.
Green Bay's Weston Hodkiewicz plays it da capo con fuoco.
The Packers still gave up a lot of production in the fourth quarter of games, which came back to bite them during a colossal collapse in the NFC championship game against the Seahawks. Conservative play-calling late did them no favors, either. The Packers' no-huddle offense stalled early in the season when it tried a run-first approach behind Eddie Lacy. It regained its footing when it put the ball back in the hand of Rodgers, and the offense wound up being the league's top-scoring unit. However, Green Bay never was able to replicate its successes at home (9-0) on the road (4-5) where it averaged nearly half as many points. Special teams were an absolute train wreck. The Packers gave up seven combined blocked field goals, extra points and punts. They also allowed a punt return for a touchdown that was the difference in a Dec. 14 loss to Buffalo. Brandon Bostick's botched onside kick in the NFC championship game brought all of the unit's failures full circle.
Vic Ketchman, however, begs to differ on the matter of play calling. "Chuck Noll is the most stubborn person I have ever known, and the fans complained about his stubbornness, all the way to four Super Bowl wins in six years. I can’t think of a great coach that wasn’t stubbornly committed to his beliefs."


There's space for more numbers on the battle flag, should the players take an education from what happened and brace themselves to their duties.

Let's focus, first, on March Madness.  Last weekend, one of the ESPN broadcasters of the Wisconsin at Michigan men's game had Wisconsin among the candidates to cut down the nets this year.  That's Wisconsin as in a missed buzzer-beater away from the title game in March 2014.

GET TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER.

I recently discovered two posts by Jeffrey Alan Johnson, a deanlet at Utah Valley University, and apparently a believer in free lunches.  But in the middle of his predictable fretting about the difficulties non-traditional students encounter, the message emerges, that Utah Valley, or Chicago State, or Wayne State, or Northern Illinois, or Eligibility Junior, are in the same business as the Ivies.  Let's start with his reaction to Our President's proposed performance rating system for higher education.  (Pretend for the balance of this post that the rating system will be more effective than the non-stimulus-stimulus, or the Tax Preparer Protection and Overpriced Insurance Act.)  A crappy university with a lot of Distressed Material failing to graduate, or to successfully execute an articulation agreement, is going to get a low rating.  That, Mr Johnson notes, will not turn out to the advantage of place-bound applicants.
Non-traditional students already have jobs and families, so they’re tied to a place. Their resources are defined by their own income rather than their parents, and their status as non-college graduates means that they are bearing the brunt of the decline in wages for those without college. And the fact that they didn’t go to college as a traditional student suggests they probably lack the preparation for selective institutions. Unless they are in a large urban area, odds are that non-traditional students are not in a position to choose which school they attend. That is especially true of those looking at two-year institutions.
We'll make some progress when advocates for the non-traditionals start looking at the root causes of failed attempts at second chances.  Those causes probably manifest themselves somewhere around second grade.  Mr Johnson, however, focuses on the death-spiral of returning adults with poor life management skills attending subprime institutions pretending to offer preparation for trades and professions, in an environment where "subprime" is no longer perceived or rumored, rather it now has a government stamp of approval.
So what happens to them when the only college in their area is a low-performing institution? That so many in these positions have knowingly opted for poorly performing but fiercely expensive for-profit institutions tells us that a low rating is unlikely to dissuade someone who sees the only alternative as not getting an education. They will go to low-performing schools. Those schools will likely perform even worse as the rating funnels away better students—and their tuition money—along with increasingly common state performance funding, and makes it even more difficult to recruit quality faculty. But they will still go. And if they graduate, their resume will have the name of a school dubbed, with all the pomp and circumstances that the National Center for Education Statistics can muster, “low-performing,” making it less likely that they will get the good job for which they came to school. And they will still go.
Perhaps. The reason U.S. News sells those college guides, and parents hire brain coaches, and your good public school comes bundled with a granite counter-top is precisely because more than a few aspirants to the upper middle class understand the toxic effect of disengaged, hostile, unprepared, surly, or simply dysfunctional people. Stratification is emergent, and until advocates for so-called social justice grasp that reality, the life of the poor will not improve. Contrary to Mr Johnson, a system of ratings, perceived or with the imprimatur of the Department of Education, can only reflect what others are doing.
And when the choice isn’t real, ratings only increase the stratification of higher education, and with it of American society. Don’t believe me? Look at primary and secondary education.
Yes. The common schools have been disrespecting bourgeois convention for years, and more than half the students in the common schools live in poverty because too many common schools are residually inhabited by people with poor or non-existent life management skills.

To Mr Johnson, however, the problem is that even that taxpayer-supported common school still requires students to have school supplies, and that students have to do homework.
There is also a more ominous challenge to making community college “as free and universal as high school”: high school is, in most of America, neither free nor universal. Students must provide their own supplies nearly everywhere, and the penalty for a student without paper or pen (let alone iPad and home computer) is too often failing grades for not submitting assignments or being kicked out of class for “being unprepared.” Spending four hours a night on homework is 20 hours a week that a student can’t spend working. That isn’t what I’d call free.
Right. A pencil and a pad of paper cost less than a week's supply of lottery tickets. And more than a few people have worked their way through a respectable college and somehow managed to get the homework done and the day job -- or the night shift -- as well.  I mean, seriously: having to bring supplies or do homework is somehow oppressive, and students of suitably accommodating institutions are going to graduate and compete with others who somehow have school supplies and life-management skills?

It's easier, apparently, for Mr Johnson to attempt to blank out the reality of higher education as an endeavour that uses scarce resources and involves opportunity costs.
Policies that make the lives of most Americans just a little easier, that make the difference between success and failure for most Americans their own effort rather than the lottery of birth, are preferable to many alternatives, including the status quo. I support these proposals. ...

Free community college is especially important because it decommodifies at least a segment of higher education. As long as higher education is a good that must be purchased on a market, even one whose price mechanism is as heavily skewed as that for higher education, then education will accrue to those who already have advantaged positions in society. I firmly believe that there are far too many things that have been commodified, and changing that in education is where I would start. That truly is radical, because decommodification makes income inequality far less relevant to people’s lives.
The State is that grand fiction by which everyone attempts to live at the expense of everyone else.  "Decommodification" is a fancy way of saying "Somebody Else will cover the opportunity cost of providing your schooling."  That is, until Somebody Else opts out: perhaps harder to do if a national government is doing the taxing, rather than a state government or a school district.

To deal with stratification, start someplace else.
But make no mistake: these proposals, individually or collectively, are not The Solution to poverty. Higher education is not the solution to poverty, full stop. These proposals are not—and are not intended to be—proposals that will radically remake the American social fabric. Even if an associate’s degree becomes universal, jobs have to be available; otherwise we have simply changed the winners and losers in what is still a zero-sum game. Certainly the President’s vision of middle class economics acknowledges that, but it will have to deliver as well.
It's not a zero-sum game. It's all about identifying and acting upon the gains from trade.  Public education turns out a lot of Distressed Material: fast food joints equip cash registers with pictures of the food items, and circuitry to calculate the change.  And when the Distressed Material makes noise about being paid more, there are rewards to improving the cybernetics.  And the skill premium increases.

Michael Barone recently asked, Are Today's Millennials a New Victorian Generation?  He's more interested in the changing attitudes of young people toward trashy entertainment.  He concludes with this.
There remain stark differences between the experiences and behaviors of high-education and -income and low-education and -income Americans, as Charles Murray showed in his 2012 book, "Coming Apart." But perhaps they are starting to converge.

Liberals and conservatives often assume that moves away from traditional moral rules must inevitably continue. How can you keep them down on the farm once they've seen "Paree?"

But today's America, like Victorian England, shows that virtuous cycles are possible as well. People can learn from experience, and those who have seen the downside of bad behavior may choose to behave better.
One can at least hope. To return to higher education, it is the strivers and the penitent who deserve a fair shot at tackling the same intellectual challenges that their more favored or properly socialized from the beginning face.  No hand-wringing about the expense of a pencil and pad of paper.

25.1.15

WISHFUL THINKING?

Our President has his laundry list of things to do, and so does the opposition.  There's a sometimes spot-on, and sometimes funny, such list laid out in Kurt Schlichter's Conservative Insurgency: The Struggle to Take America Back, material for Book Review No. 2.  Part phillippic, part polemic, part plausible, Insurgency might prefigure the changing domestic politics of the next twenty years, or it might be insider positioning for the Pajamas Media moguls.  The premise is plausible enough: another eight years of Hillary Clinton as president, confronting increasingly resistant states, with independent-minded legislatures and Republican majorities in Congress.  Some of the targets -- the legacy press, the elite colleges, the fine arts -- get the predictable treatment.  But Mr Schlichter's characterization of Wal-Mart as simply another enabler of the welfare state is hilarious.  What's missing, though, is any serious consideration of the United States in the world.  Yes, Iran gets nukes.  What happens next, though, might require careful thought.  Perhaps Insurgency exists to keep the opposition cheerful.  The serious work, though, will be in developing coherent replacements for the big-government policies that are failing in ways Insurgency anticipates.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

WHY CAN'T WE HAVE INTERURBANS LIKE THEY HAVE IN JAPAN?

The Economist highlights one reason for the commercial success of Japan's investor-owned passenger railroads.
JR East, the largest by passenger numbers, does not require any public subsidy from the Japanese government, unlike the heavily-subsidised French network. One reason for its efficiency is that JR East owns all the infrastructure on the route—the stations, the rolling stock and the tracks—meaning there are fewer management teams duplicating each other's work. (By contrast in Britain, for instance, ownership of the tracks and trains is split up.) But the railway also thrives because of a planning system that encourages the building of commercial developments and housing alongside the railway route. JR East owns the land around the railways and lets it out; nearly a third of its revenue comes from shopping malls, blocks of offices, flats and the like. This money is reinvested in the network. In Britain, where planning and transport are rarely aligned, it is hard to create similarly successful commercial developments. Indeed, most of the plans for the areas around the stations of HS2 are vague, and some of the stops along an earlier line, HS1, are still underdeveloped, years after the line was built.
In the Cold Spring Shops collection of obsolete software is the Amiga A-Train simulator, which one wag characterized as "SimTrump".  The player purchases real estate, right of way, and trains, then provides schedules and builds residences and offices, with the hope of making money.  (Looks like there's a way to download a compatible version for newer computers, as well as something similar coming out for Nintendo, if I have any younger readers, please advise.)  The simulation is loosely based on those Japanese rules that allow railroads to be real estate developers as well.

In the United States, it's all illegal.  There's one vestige of the old days left, the Blue and Green Lines of Cleveland's rapid transit began life as the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, purpose-built for the residents of the eponymous new suburb.  (I've alluded to this interurban previously; perhaps a focused Throwback Thursday is in order.)  In Cold Spring Shops territory, the purpose of The Milwaukee Electric's Rapid Transit Line was to help the anticipated suburban householders who were going to buy their electricity from The Wisconsin Electric Power Company to get downtown to shop and to work.



In like manner, Samuel Insull's Chicago-area power, light, and traction enterprise built the Skokie Valley line of the North Shore in hopes of cashing in on suburban development.  These projects came up short account the housing-market crash we now understand as the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the Public Utility Holding Company Act made such energy and transportation conglomerate firms illegal.  But when you're fretting about the costs of infrastructure, or the absence of rapid transit substitutes for the daily traffic jam, remember your history.
Once upon a time, the power companies built railroad tracks and transmission lines in the same corridor. The purpose of building the railroad was in some cases to secure the franchise to deliver the power, some of which was provided via trolley pole to the railroad cars. And to keep those trolleys busy on weekends, sometimes the power company would build an amusement park at lineside. Chicago's Ravinia and Pittsburgh's Kennywood come to mind; the Pewaukee Yacht Club occupies space near another such amusement park.
And that, dear reader, is why we can't have interurbans like they have in Japan.

SEPARATING EQUILIBRIUM.

The National Football League structures competition in such a way that it's difficult for any one team to remain better than the others for any length of time.  There is, first, attrition of players, broken down by age and sex and the length of the season.  Then there's the inverse-order draft, giving the current poor performers more favorable access to the reserve army of aspirants.  The salary cap constrains spending on high performers, and high-performing veterans can hawk their services on the free-agency market.  In addition, schedules going forward are based on current performance.  Under the current configuration of the league, each team plays six games with divisional opponents each year, four games with the teams of another conference division, and four games with the teams of a division from the other conference.  These divisions rotate predictably.  Two remaining games adjust for performance: a team that wins its division plays all three division winners within its conference.  The rationale is similar to that of a Swiss-system chess tournament, in which successful players face successively stronger and comparably successful opponents.

But Peter Ingemi suggests that the schedule strengthens the already strong teams.
If a team finishes fourth, its remaining two games will be against two fourth place teams.  If they finish second, the two remaining games will be against two second place teams, and if you finish first you are guaranteed to play every division winner in your conference.

And it is that little difference which gives these teams the edge they need.

Rather than being a disadvantage, competing with the best of the best raises their game.  It forces them to get better, to play harder and smarter.  It gives these already elite players that final incentive to raise their game to the level of a champion and allow them to do it year after year.
He's getting some push-back in the comments, and strong objections to the analogy he draws to school choice.  His idea, however, might not be completely wrong.  There's one more dimension to consider, specifically the additional practice time the playoff teams get.  (That may be why there are enough bowl games for all the six-win college teams in the country).

Thus, the division winners earn two weeks to a month of extra practice time, plus they learn something about how their opponents for next season will play, and then have to play those higher-performing opponents again.  And that old bugaboo of vulgar statisticians, disproportionate representation, appears.  According to Mr Ingemi, this year's football final four featured teams that accounted for 40% of the Super Bowl appearances in the past ten years.  For the vulgar statistician: ten years, 20 appearances, 4/20 "warrants" 20%.

And who do those Green Bay Packer fans think they are, lamenting a blown trip to the Super Bowl?  To the vulgar statistician, that's just crying with your mouth full.
Green Bay has advanced to the postseason 17 of the last 23 years (73.9%), including six of seven under Rodgers (85.7%). The Packers have 11 division titles in that time, including four straight.

Green Bay has been to six NFC championship games in that time, going 3-3 in those contests. And the Packers have reached three Super Bowls, going 2-1 in those games.
That performance is characteristic of a power rule at work, rather than a Gaussian process at work.  That power rule, however, is not good enough for the fans and the pundits.
Many organizations would trade places with the Packers in a heartbeat, and be downright giddy with two world championships since Favre became the starter in 1992. But for a team that's enjoyed legendary play at the game's most critical spot, are two titles enough?
That's not the relevant question.  It has been a difficult task for Mike Holmgren and Ray Rhodes and Mike Sherman and Mike McCarthy to do their work with the footsteps of giants behind them.

22.1.15

JUST LET THE TRAINS ROLL.

Sometimes, the building of the benchwork and the installation of the tracks is most important.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is see if it works.


More to come.  Stay tuned.

THE DOWNSIDE OF DESEGREGATION.

Instructive essay from Atlanta Black Star.  Via Laura at 11-D, who is uncomfortable with the report, but read and understand.
Brown’s most profound irony may be that answers to closing the achievement gap lie buried in the history of the schools that Brown’s implementation destroyed. What are the answers? Dedicated teachers. Strong principals. Order. Discipline. High expectations. Community and parental support. It is astonishing how many Black children attended schools during segregation that delivered on these objectives, and how few do so now.
Turn the page.
As Black children were put into an environment perceived as controlled by whites, the phenomenon of young Black kids equating academic excellence with “acting white” arose. In the Black schools, Black students largely cheered their classmates for achievements. But after desegregation created a clear division of white and Black, the association shifted and Black students began to tease one another by pushing their smart peers into the ‘white’ category. Ever since then, we have seen that Black kids tended to perform more poorly when mixed with whites.
That "perceived as controlled" is perceptive.  Thus did "order" and "discipline" and "high expectations" and deferring gratification become racialized.  The cult of authenticity and the poisonous illogic of social construction have deprived generations of young people, now, of the opportunity to develop the life-management skills of the middle class.

SEEK IT IN THE HEAVENS.

There's a Socialist Alternative response to Our President's most recent laundry list.
Six years ago, Obama was elected on the hope that he would represent the millions, not the millionaires.

When Obama delivered his first State of the Union address, Democrats occupied majorities in both the House and Senate.

Today, after massive disappointment and disillusionment for the American people, he faces Republican majorities in both branches of Congress. Six years later, will millions of Americans finally get the president they voted for?
Rather than provide a national call for action, the speaker appears to be questioning the utility of building a new playground for the Seahawks.
Yet while cities like Seattle have to deal with astronomical rent increases and gentrification, we are simultaneously facing cuts to federal funding for low-income housing.

Here in Seattle I along with public housing tenants and community activists just led a successful battle to stop a 400% rent hike for low-income housing in Seattle.

I hope this example of resistance and struggle can spread nationally where other cities are confronted with similar attacks.

Socialist Alternative, tenants, and I are campaigning for emergency measures like rent control to address this spiraling crisis.
What the speaker decries as "gentrification" is simply some of the middle class taking its higher incomes upward.  Rent control, or the creation of new public housing complexes, will not change that dynamic.
We need to build our own political voice, a mass political party for working people.

Despite Obama’s speech today, bitter experience has shown we cannot rely on him to deliver.

We must work to build independent movements of working class people, of young people, of women and people of color, and the LGBTQ community.

To fight towards affordable cities, health care and education for all.
Yes, and every time the Democrats attempt to build a majority coalition out of various out-of-the-mainstream people, they only antagonize people in the mainstream.  Socialists, on the other hand, going back at least to George Orwell, have always attempted to appeal to the out-of-the-mainstream freakazoids, with results similar to those we read above.

PREPOSTEROUS.

John "Marquette Warrior" McAdams posts his dean's rationale for being banished from campus, and his counselor's response, summarized above.  A comment on the post raises the possibility of a Privacy Act violation, something the university has not yet formally pursued.

LET PETTY TYRANTS SHAKE THEIR FREE TICKETS.

Reason picks up a particularly stupid referendum offered to students at Kentucky.  One free speech zone, multiple free speech zones, or no preference.
Despite being part of a survey, the question should come with a single correct answer: Free speech is guaranteed on all campus property under the First Amendment and should be encouraged everywhere by an institution of higher learning, you unbelievable tyrants. Needless to say, this wasn't listed as one of the three possible responses.
Susan Kruth of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education correctly characterizes the referendum as First Amendment Violations in Two Flavors.  But participate in the referendum, get a chance at a scholarship that will cover the cost of one book, or some tickets to watch the current crop of one-and-done basketball stars.  Some people sell their freedom cheaply.

So called free speech areas are unconstitutional, administrative fears notwithstanding.

PERSPECTIVE.

Our condolences to the extended family of Pennsylvania Deputy District Attorney Joseph McCarthy, brother of Packer head coach Mike McCarthy.
Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy released the following statement Wednesday night:

"The Packers family was very saddened today to learn of the passing of Joseph McCarthy III, the younger brother of Mike McCarthy. Our sincere condolences are with Joe and Ellen, Mike and Jessica, and the entire McCarthy family.

"The McCarthy family appreciates the overwhelming support they have received, as well as the respect for their privacy, during this difficult time."

21.1.15

AFTER THE ABANDONMENT.

Early in the morning of 21 January 1963, The North Shore Line ceased operation.

To commemorate its abandonment, we saw images of the railroad in its final years.

At the time, I promised to follow up with images of the North Shore Line, post-abandonment.

Two years later, we commemorate that abandonment with a retrospective of the preservation efforts.  We begin on the Municipality of East Troy's railroad (a story in itself just there) which, beginning in 1972, was home to the collection of The Wisconsin Electric Railway Historical Society.  As the East Troy Trolley Museum, their interurban service began with a pair of North Shore Silverliners.  These cars had been stored at The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light's Cold Spring Shops, where a few tracks were electrified with rail deliveries from The Milwaukee Road switched by interurban work cars.  I'm told that the cars had to be moved after a Transport Company official caught their owner taking an unauthorized joyride on Cold Spring Shops tracks.


The first car in museum service was 757, which did run without a roof mat in North Shore service.  This illustration, from June of 1972, shows the shadow-striping just applied.  The warning sign is a North Shore Line original.


Coach 763 also came over from Cold Spring Shops.  Look closely, the decorative Silverliner trim is still along the side sills.  The museum attempted to offer a North Shore car in each of the railroad's paint schemes, and back-painted 763 as a Greenliner of the late 1930s and early 1940s.  The motors work, but trolley poles are not yet in place.


The car could be used to strengthen a formation at peak times, usually Sunday midafternoon, here at East Troy.


Same place, same formation, Fourth of July 1972.  Numbers now in place, I'm not sure if anyone ever lettered the sides (CHICAGO NORTH SHORE & MILWAUKEE RAILROAD.)  Carmaster Joe Hazinski wasn't looking forward to tackling it.


Also in the museum's collection, coach 715, which the leadership hoped to paint in the traction orange and maroon of the 1920s.


The car never ran in revenue service with East Troy.  It's being moved by Milwaukee Electric work motor L-6, which still serves the East Troy Electric Railroad.

During spring break, 1974, I made an excursion to Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, where the former Electroliners were still offering afternoon bar service as Liberty Liners.


I think everyone who went to 69th Street Terminal in those days took this picture.


Here's the train at 69th Street.  It's the 801-802 set, now in Illinois.  Docked across the platform is one of Red Arrow's 160-series Strafford cars, themselves interurban classics, many of them preserved around the east.

The East Troy group added a few more North Shore cars to its collection in the early 1970s.  A museum in New York City (!) had combination car 250, which was in rough shape, and observation car converted to coach 411, which was in operable condition.


The museum left this car in the simplified Greenliner colors of the 1950s.  It got a lot of use because, with only two motors, it used less electricity.


Here are 411, signed for Phantom Woods, and 763, at East Troy.

That museum group had some legal difficulties that culminated with the collection being liquidated and a different preservation group ultimately running electric cars in East Troy.  The 757 and 763 are now at Illinois Railway Museum, and the last I heard, 411 was in Escanaba, Michigan, in very rough shape.

Illinois Railway Museum offered a thirtieth anniversary commemoration of the abandonment, complete with the official notice.


The Electroliner awaits passengers at the museum's L station.  The museum's practice, whenever the 'Liner is running, is to begin and end all its trips at the high-level platform, exactly as the North Shore Line had it.


On board, the tavern-lounge is serving Electroburgers.


The Electroliner heads toward the main line.


On the main line, here is a Shore Line Route local.


The sole surviving North Shore Line streetcar and a merchandise despatch motor meet near the carbarns.


Illinois Railway Museum have a substantial stable of North Shore cars, which rolled out again for the fiftieth anniversary of the abandonment.

In South Elgin, Illinois, the Fox River Trolley Museum have some North Shore cars.  Another Silverliner, 756, requires some work.  Here it keeps company with a Chicago Aurora & Elgin interurban that also requires work.


Coach 715 came over from East Troy, and is in service, painted the way it was on the last day of service.


The museum at East Troy generally operate former Chicago or South Shore cars, and a restored wooden interurban from Wisconsin.  Recently, though, they became home to another Silverliner, coach 761 which was previously preserved in southeastern Michigan.  It requires work.


And, dear reader, if you want to ride the North Shore Line in its original habitat, the Chicago Transit Authority's Skokie Swift uses trackage purchased from the North Shore after abandonment.

BLIND SQUIRREL FINDS NUT.

Ezra Klein, somewhere down his laundry list.
If there is a deeper crisis that the Obama administration is responding to, it's the crisis of labor-force participation. One reason unemployment is down to 5.6 percent is that millions of people have dropped out of the labor force — they've stopped looking for work, at least so far as the government can tell. That may be because they can't find it, or it may be because the work they can find simply doesn't pay enough.
There's probably a dissertation being started, somewhere, on the effects of the Tax Preparer Protection and Confusing Insurance Act on the incidence of part-time jobs.  The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics survey has the raw U-Six unemployment rate falling from 13% to 11.1% of the labor force; if my subtraction is correct, the percentage of the labor force "employed part time for economic reasons" fell from 5.1% to 4.4% of the labor force.  The proportion of discouraged workers has fallen as well; whether that is because of anything Washington has done to for us is also subject to further review.

And Reason's Nick Gillespie suggests that the message, and the method, are life-expired.
Obama's proposals are not merely incremental but dumb. Make two years of community college as free, ubiquitous, and doubtlessly rotten as K-12 education! Push students into robotics and nursing (decades ago it was computers and Russian)! Give parents more tax dollars to spend on day care! Tax American corporations into coming back to the U.S. while using federal money and pressure to expand their markets overseas!

There's nothing new or exciting in any of this sort of slop. What there is is what my colleague Matt Welch calls "magical pain-free prosperity" for everyone. Got a problem? Get a program! Deficits are down, so let's not talk about rising mountains of federal debt that's tripled on Obama's watch. Instead, let's talk about increasing federal spending. Let's talk about regulating gas and oil more tightly even as we celebrate becoming energy independent. Let's talk about getting "dark money" out of politics even as Obama set records for raising money himself. Let's talk about a new spirit of bipartisanship in the same speech in which you castigate your opponents as putting politics before principle and human decency.

My point here isn't that Obama is particularly awful on any of these scores. It's that he—and his speech on Tuesday—is perfectly representative of the played-out politics of what we might call the long 20th century, an era of mega-government, mega-business, and mega-planning.
And yes, the limitations of Four of Five Experts Agree are visible, all around us.  The transition to that new era is likely to come as a surprise, and to be messy.

PERSPECTIVE.

Two youngsters understand that the outcome of a football game might be small in the scheme of things.
After Seattle scored in overtime I noticed the young girl was crying and still sitting in her seat. Her father talked to her and gave her a hug. When we were leaving I asked the father if the girl was crying for joy by the win and to my shock he told me no, she was crying because she wanted the Packers to win because she knew my son had lost his dog and she thought he needed this more then she did. I kept this to myself on the flight home.

While my son was having our dinner meal he looked at me and said he was glad that Seattle had won. I was surprised and ask him why. He looked at me and told me the girl sitting next to him had lost her cat to a dog attack only the day before and he wanted her to have something to help her feel better.