9.4.18

EVERYTHING ELSE IS ELABORATION.

The "academic culture" label is, by a wide margin, the most frequently used label for Cold Spring Shops posts.  The margin would likely be even wider had such classifications been available in 2002, when we started.

A fair number of those posts are elaborations of points I raised a quarter century ago in an essay I was invited to provide to the Northern Illinois University Faculty Bulletin (long since withdrawn from print) that I titled "The Costs of Correctness."

I recently referred to the opening paragraph.
Universities are failing to carry out their mission. Contributing to this failure is a collection of ideas we call "politically correct." The intellectual foundation of these ideas is an extreme relativism that questions the possibility of objective knowledge and seeks to dispel "coherent beliefs of any kind." A university built on such a foundation cannot stand. "Politically correct" activists are actively correcting "insensitivity," especially on the part of white males, toward women and minorities. That activism may be misguided, and it diverts attention from other, more serious failings of universities.
The good news from that recent post is that people with bigger platforms than mine are paying attention to those more serious failings.  When I wrote the essay, it was with the hope of persuading people to pursue a different course from the one the trendy scholarship was pursuing.
The words university and universal have common roots: a university is a storage of universal knowledge. Its mission is to acquire, expand, and transmit knowledge. Universities are failing at that mission. For example, some students wonder why people refer to a "second" World War; and large numbers believe that "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is a constitutional right. Students in this country do not perform as well on multi-step mathematical problems as their counterparts in other countries. University graduates teach high school students, and, according to the National Association of Manufacturers, high school graduates write poorly (many cannot fill out a job application) and can't do simple mathematics.
Another quarter century of credential inflation, but at last Our President is making the case for the vocational arts (gripe about his speaking style if you must) and some states are naming the names of underachieving high schools.  I fear, though, that writing properly is lost, until voice-recognition writing programs become more accurate.  Essays that a columnist dictated to a smart-'phone leave clues throughout.  Try it.

I offered a defense of the Canon and the Curriculum, but what came in the next 25 years was beyond my anticipation.
Objective knowledge is all around us. It is costly to acquire and makes no allowance for "diversity." The Challenger crew, a diverse group of astronauts, all died when their shuttle exploded. This is objective knowledge in its starkest form: let a rubber gasket freeze, a joint fails and people die. Examples of objective knowledge abound in any course catalog. Divide by zero: most illogical. Promise "free" medical care without regard for the productive capability of your economy: welcome to Soviet life. Deny coherent beliefs of any kind: enjoy incoherence. Although objective, universal knowledge is difficult to grasp, to expand, or to transmit, imagine how much more difficult it would be for each generation to relearn it from scratch.
I could not have anticipated the Soviet Union shutting down for good, six months after the essay appeared, but the same thing manifesting itself in Venezuela and in the two-lies-for-the-price-of-one Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Heck, I wrote that essay before anyone seriously anticipated a Bill Clinton presidency, and Hillarycare.

Relearning from scratch, though, seems to be where we are headed.  Consider privilege.  We could apply the argument to any other emergent phenomenon.  Take seriously the arguments from outrage about "inherited" or "unearned" advantage or privilege or custom or what have you: aren't you reduced to having to construct your rules of interaction ab initio?  Just for fun, dear reader, consider a future privilege training session in which a novice, skeptical of the message yet alert to the irony, asks the trainer what he (or she, or it, or whatever the pronoun conventions are) did to earn the right to conduct the training and introduce that material.  Sometimes you undermine them with mockery, and sometimes, you undermine them by asking difficult questions.

I then shifted to the perceived wrongs the politically correct were endeavoring to right.
There is incivility on campus. It may be a continuation of past prejudices, a lack of good manners, or a reaction to the excesses of institutional reverse discrimination. The "politically correct" accept the first explanation and "solve" the problem by creating "protected categories" of people, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; by punishing "insensitive" statements about people in protected categories, in violation of the First Amendment, and by branding as "oppressive" some researchers who study problems facing "protected" people, in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
That's standard stuff, but a quarter century ago, the spats were in a few of the social sciences.  Is higher education better off now that mathematics is oppressive, and hegemonic masculinity taints the technical disciplines (and everything else?)

I then called for more research, as well as getting a zinger off.
In addition to being unconstitutional, the "politically correct" response to incivility may be the wrong therapy, since we have not yet established the cause of campus incivility. The therapy may nevertheless have value: the lack of basic skills in our youth will provide them with many opportunities to be "sensitive" to each others' ineptitude at work.
Unfortunately, the intersectionality disease has infected the human resources departments in the corporate world.  Left for future research: is the expansion of the gig economy and outsourcing a way for managers to limit the reach of the human resources types and deal more directly with the ineptitude they see?

Thus I called for rigor, as well as getting another zinger off.
Universities best serve their students through rigorous development of reasoning skills and respect for what we have learned. Rigor is likely to diminish incivility on campus, because students kept busy grappling with intellectual problems will have less time to fight with each other. Better that they be unhappy with a few demanding professors.
Alas, it has become easier to get rid of the demanding professors.  Complicating matters, though, is higher education's growing reliance on contingent faculty.

I also noted the trendy stuff crowding out the real learning once the high school graduates hit college.
The attention "correctness" receives is diverted from more serious problems in the university. For example, our Northern Star's editorializing on the "tenured radicals" of our English department who impose "political correctness" in writing conceals more serious problems. As an economist, I view language as useful if it is accurate. If women operate trains or win national sailing championships alongside men, an accurate language reflects those facts. In my experience, students are aware of those facts. They avoid using "him" or "his" as generic pronouns, but many have trouble spelling or arranging sentences coherently.
Yes, once upon a time student journalism asked difficult questions, rather than being complicit in the indoctrination.

I fear, though, that the difficulties I noted with speak-and-transcribe earlier are going to hamper the ability of students, going forward, to write properly.

The next quarter century was not going to turn out well for higher education.
We are only beginning to see the consequences of our failure to carry out our mission. The employers who hire our students and the legislators who underwrite our efforts are questioning our effectiveness. There is some evidence that those earning higher incomes in the U.S. are getting rich more rapidly. One explanation blames cuts in marginal tax rates. A competing hypothesis views incomes as rewards that reflect the relative scarcity of human capital. Rising incomes may be rewards to people who learned careful reasoning, mathematics, and science, and who sold their skills to employers who valued them. That others are losing ground may be evidence of the diminished skills of more recent graduates of high schools and universities. Economists are sorting out these hypotheses, and we will soon have a better understanding of what has happened.
Where are we now?  Regular "college bubble updates" on Pajamas Media.  A political economy of inequality that touches on tax cuts at the same time the U.S. News problem suggests a flight to perceived quality of higher education, a flight that I fear is more about being able to mingle with and form networks of high achievers, rather than to hear from the very best Mr Chips regularly.

I was pessimistic then, and I'm pessimistic still.
I have drawn most of my examples of objective knowledge from economics, engineering, and the physical sciences. The costs of "political correctness" may be highest in the humanities, from which its relativistic theory comes. That theory undermines standards. When protestors at Stanford University inverted civil rights to establish a Western Civilization course because of the color of the authors' skins rather than the content of their writings, nobody asked them to make a case that Aristotle, Bacon, or Marx had nothing universal to say. Given all the competing demands on our time, that people have continued to read and appreciate these dead white males suggests that their work has value. I am not persuaded that their works have been replaced by other works of equal or greater value. The University of Pennsylvania's Houston Baker argues that choosing between Virginia Woolf and Pearl Buck is "no different than choosing between a hoagy and a pizza." I'm sympathetic to his claim: specifically, I prefer any Tom Clancy novel to anything I've ever read in a literature class. But what Baker means is that art and literature are purely private matters. Universities therefore could replace humanities requirements in their catalogs with one sentence: "Satisfy yourself." They could close music, art, and literature programs. Governments could abolish programs such as the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. Imagine how many resources would be freed for further transmission of objective knowledge, or for further tax cuts. In addition to ruining the livelihoods of my colleagues in the humanities, such steps would hurt the rest of us. For example, Supreme Court opinions are full of allusions to classic works. Future students may never hear Dave Brubeck's rhythms or see Rembrandt's portraits, which were fringe benefits of my college years. As with the speculative philosophers, the work of some composers, painters, novelists, and poets continues to appeal to people, which suggest their works have value, and that there will be costs if those works are replaced by other works that do not have equal or greater value.
But others are making similar points, and perhaps the academy can yet be restored to a state of good repairThe music, too.

That is where I stood.  That is pretty much where I still stand, although the School of Tom Clancy sometimes pleases, sometimes disappoints.

Time for a sabbatical.  Perhaps posting will resume early in the summer.  Thanks for looking in.

8.4.18

ONLY ACELA PASSENGERS DESERVE AMENITIES.

Well, maybe not even them, because it's more important for Our President and Chuck U. Schumer to get into a pi**ing contest.  "Lost in the fight between President Trump and U.S. Senate minority leader Schumer over fixing Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor—the blood between them now so bad that whatever one of them wants, the other opposes—is the fact that a credible solution to the steady deterioration of this asset lies in front of us."

The fix involves a quasi-privatization, in which Amtrak leases the Corridor to a private company that does the maintenance.  There are some details to be worked out.  First, The Pennsylvania Railroad has not been available for going on fifty years.  Second, as long as the Acelas and the Regional or Northeast Direct or whatever they run as these days are subject to Metro-North dispatching between Rye and New Haven, the asset is unlikely to achieve its full potential.

All of that is moot, however, as long as scoring political points comes first.
Leadership. . . wow. Remember when we had real political leadership? If Schumer were to get behind this, President Trump would demonize it in a second. And if support came from the White House, the Democratic cry would be about the “great giveaway.” And, of course, the present owner of the failing Northeast Corridor, Amtrak, is opposed, never mind that it has failed utterly to maintain or improve the NEC.

There you have it, our broken-down system of government, unwilling to even entertain and debate a sensible idea meant to address a pressing problem when there is so much more to be gained by mindless partisan attacks on the other side. Leaders of both political parties in Congress are aware of this proposal, as is the White House. But there we sit, waiting (in [former New Jersey Representative James] Florio’s words) “for the next bridge or tunnel to collapse.”
"Failing Northeast Corridor." Don't give Our President any ideas!

Perhaps it doesn't matter.  Three years or so ago, Amtrak pushed back against freight train interference.  That didn't seem to work, so this time Amtrak is pushing back by issuing failing grades.
Norfolk Southern continues to do it wrong, as does CNR (with only the City of New Orleans and two Carbondale trains to lay out?)  Here's the full report card.

Only CSX has responded to a Trains request for comment.
“While the issue of on-time performance is more complex than a single letter grade implies,” a CSX spokeswoman said, “we are committed to working with Amtrak to meet our contractual obligations to them, and to support passenger rail as a safe, efficient transportation alternative in the U.S.” She added that CSX hosts more passenger trains than any other U.S. host railroad and “takes Amtrak’s performance very seriously.”

Neither Norfolk Southern nor Canadian National has responded to Trains News Wire’s request for comment.

Amtrak’s report explains, “An “F” host forces Amtrak trains on a particular route to wait one hour and 40 minutes on average for freight trains, and forces many Amtrak trains on this route to wait as long as 3 hours and 12 minutes. As a comparison, suppose you were on a flight and your plane had to circle the destination airport for one hour and 40 minutes while cargo flights were given priority to use the runway.”
The report notes, "[P]assenger trains are the canary in the coal mine. When they cannot make their achievable schedules, it usually means the host railroad is also in a world of woe."  Then why is CSX, supposedly suffering from low employee morale and too much restructuring, managing to keep the Cardinal (over much of its route), Capitol (Washington and Pittsburgh), the Florida trains plus the Savannah service and the Auto-Train closer to time than Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific can manage?
The winner is BNSF Railway! Hold it. . . the producers in their tuxes just walked onstage. We were given the wrong envelope. I humbly apologize. Stand down, BNSF. The real winner, with an A, is Canadian Pacific Railway — yes, Hunter [Harrison]’s old hangout. This ranking is not new, either. I was told a year ago that CP had the best on time record of the lot for the previous couple of years. Delays attributed to CP were less than 600 minutes per 10,000 train miles. As most of you know, the stats are skewed by the seven trains each way run the 85 miles between Chicago and Milwaukee. Statistically, the Empire Builder, operating the approximately 418 miles between Chicago and the Twin Cities, doesn’t count for as much as the Hiawatha trains do. But let’s give CP and Keith Creel’s people a bow.
Indeed so, as there are plenty of opportunities on the C&M to let a freight train get ahead of a Hiawatha or scoot at A-20 westbound, or go through the Fowler Street Depot first eastbound.

At the same time, and the current management at Amtrak have offered the freight railroads an out, threatening to stop running trains on any section of track not equipped with positive train control by year's end, as prayed for by the latest Congressional mandate.

That's going to be on Passenger Rail advocates, as the freight carriers now have a way to rid themselves of this troublesome Amtrak.
[Amtrak president Richard] Anderson dropped a bombshell: Amtrak, he said, has completed installation of the Positive Train Control system on all track owned by Amtrak. But, he said, at the end of this calendar year, he would stop running Amtrak trains over any stretch of track owned by a freight railroad that had not implemented the PTC system.

Wow! That’s terrific! Amtrak socking it to the freights, demanding that they quit dragging their feet and finally meet the Congressional mandate to get the safety system in place.

But wait a second! It’s no secret that after 50 years, the freight railroads have come to hate the original agreement — specifically, that they would not only allow Amtrak trains on their track, but they would give Amtrak priority. It would now appear that if the freight railroads just do nothing … just don’t finish implementing PTC … Richard Anderson could actually do what John Mica and a gaggle of GOP members of Congress haven’t been able to do: shut down some portion of Amtrak’s long distance network. Maybe even most of it.
Meanwhile, management seem determined to antagonize upscale riders.
Cutbacks have also included the de-staffing of several hundred stations, which has spill-over consequences because, if there’s no station agent, there’s no checked baggage and no human being to provide current information and sell tickets. And, of course, we now have full-service dining cars being taken out of service and replaced with cafĂ© cars with their microwaved meals and cafeteria-style dining.

Over many years and well over 100,000 miles logged on Amtrak long-distance trains, I’ve had many informal conversations with sleeping car attendants. Inevitably, the discussions turn to whatever it was that generated the latest edict from on high. Most of those discussions evoke the same response from the Amtrak employees: “Not a good idea, but nobody ever listens to me!”

A couple of years ago at a luncheon during one of our Spring meetings, I happened to be seated next to one of Amtrak’s top executives. Several times during the meal, others at the table offered suggestions for improving on-board service or for fixing some annoying problem from a passenger’s perspective. This guy’s response was the same for each: he smiled and said, “Well, I’ll have to look into that.” The thing is, he never once took out a little note pad or an old envelope to jot down a reminder. Everyone at the table knew we were being blown off.

And so top management at Amtrak continues to make cuts that diminish the experience for sleeping car passengers without listening to their front-line employees or the passengers themselves or the passenger rail advocates. The Amtrak brass is convinced if they keep cutting, the red ink will disappear. The question is, who’s going to pay top dollar to ride on what’s left when they’re through cutting?
I'm no fan of the etiolated dining service that passes as Cross Country Cafe or as upgraded Amdinette.  Nor, do I have a deluxe sleeper-lounge of my own to attach to a train and have only the delayed trains to worry about.

Oh, wait.
Anderson and the Class I railroads have problems with each other. Anderson also has problems with much of his largest constituency—his passengers. In rapid order Amtrak has eliminated its special discounts. No more student discount. No more senior discount. No more AAA discount. No more railfan (NARP) discount. No more veteran discount. Did I miss anything? Only the discount for the active-duty military survives (as it does on airlines). And with his concurrence Amtrak is ending all or almost all excursions and special trains and curtailing where private car owners can add and subtract their carriages from Amtrak trains.

Let’s see where this leaves us. A great swath of Amtrak passengers has had its nose twisted. A politically active group of customers, the private car owners, is in outrage at a policy instituted without (to my knowledge) any consultation. People are asking questions about this man. For instance, 11 brand new dining cars sit idle in Hialeah, Fla., while long distance passengers on two routes get fed crap. What’s up? The big railroads don’t talk nice to Richard Anderson and are probably perceived by him as dinosaurs. Everyone is confused. And he says nothing. Therefore, I have five words of friendly advice for Richard Anderson: Tell us where you’re going.
Down the tubes?
It’s baffling why Anderson would so casually toss aside such a constituency, a group Trains Editor David P. Morgan could have been describing when he wrote this more than 50 years ago: “No other industry in the land possesses such an audience. It is unpaid, inquisitive, full of good will, enthusiastic. There is simply no counterpart for it in America.”
Editor Morgan's successor, Jim Wrinn, suggests playing well with Amtrak might help.
Basically, friends in PV, non-profit, and steam locomotive land, you need to come to the table with hat in hand, a warm smile, and most importantly, a better offer. Up the ante. Make it worthwhile to Mr. Anderson.

The last figure I heard was that Amtrak earned about $3.7 million in private car moves and special trains on an overall budget of $2.2 billion. That’s about .17 percent of the total budget. There’s a lot of effort that goes on behind the scenes to make that $3.7 million happen. They aren’t cheap or easy dollars to earn. You cannot provide enough money to make this attractive, so figure out something else.

Remember also, that our traditions may seem foreign and strange to someone who isn’t from Train World. When Anderson, a former airline CEO went to work as Amtrak’s new boss, I have a vision of his staff sitting him down to explain private cars. I can see them using an analogy that goes something like this: “From time to time, on our Washington-Chicago route, we carry a 1920s private car with a dozen people on it. It’s like tying a Jenny bi-plane to the back of a 777.” Then everyone ducks as the man spits his coffee across the room.

There’s a new boss at Amtrak. Any time there’s a new boss, all old bets are off. It’s time to renegotiate and sweeten the pot.
Perhaps so, although I'm not sure if I'm looking at a Trumpian Art of the Deal renegotiation here, or just another hold-up, this one coming about because the private car owners have invested in heating, cooling, braking, and safety appliances compliant with Amtrak standards.

Taken together, though, it appears as if the current management of Amtrak would not be troubled managing an orderly retreat from anywhere not the Acela Corridor.

5.4.18

IN PRAISE OF TOASTERS.

Classic Trains's Kevin P. Keefe reflects on the preservation of an AEM-7 "Toaster" in Cold Spring Shops's backyard.
An AEM7 as a museum piece? It seems like only last week these nimble little Swedish-design units began showing up on the Northeast Corridor — but it was nearly 40 years ago.

I remember standing on the platform at Princeton Junction in those days and for the first time watching one of these compact motors go whooshing past with a long train of Amfleet cars. With its boxy body, ribbed sides, and jumble of resistors atop its roof, it looked every bit “the toaster” it came to be called. It also looked like the future.

Of course, all eras become classic if you wait long enough, and that’s obviously the case here.
That just means he, and I, are still on this side of Valhalla, and capable of reminiscing.

The Toasters once had to give way to diesels on trains headed east of New Haven.


They began running through to Boston at the beginning of the current century.

I have some Atlas O models of Toasters, including one that's undecorated.  The purists might not like what I have in mind for a paint job.

MILLIONS FOR BASKETBALL, NOT ONE CENT FOR PHILOSOPHY.

I don't like the metaphor of intercollegiate athletics as a university's front porch, particularly when administrative revealed preferences put a fancy porch on a shotgun shack.

Our latest example:  Loyola of Chicago, lately the basketball feel-good story.  "Instructors in the College of Arts and Sciences and the English Language Learning Program started picket lines Wednesday morning at the Rogers Park campus and held a rally in the afternoon to support efforts to secure better pay, health benefits and job security."

It's the usual story.  Basketball coaches might not have tenure, but they are compensated for the risks.

The arts and sciences, and English as a second language, the current trade wars not yet having any effect on the export sector we call higher education, not so much.
Nontenured faculty primarily teach core curriculum courses at Loyola.

[English instructor A. P. Warren] said adjuncts at Loyola are paid between $4,000 and $4,500 per course and it is common for such instructors to have appointments at other universities or other jobs to make ends meet. Adjunct instructors are employed by contract on a semester-to-semester basis, making it impossible to plan for long-term work and income.

“Last year we didn’t find out until May whether our appointments would be renewed,” said [art history instructor Sarita] Heer. “By May, jobs (at other schools) are already gone.”

[Arts and sciences dean, Rev. Tom] Regan said he agreed that many instructors do not have enough employment security and that in his time as dean dozens of adjunct faculty members have been granted longer, multiyear contracts. He also said he felt the two sides were close to reaching an accord on compensation but there remained disputes on hiring practices. He said if a full-time position were to become available, union leaders are seeking to require that a current Loyola part-time instructor be hired for the job.

“We’ve already agreed at the table that we will give an interview to the people who are already here,” Regan said. “But at the end of the day one of our core values is to hire the best possible people and that may not be someone who is already here.”
Cut through the wordnoise. An external search works better with a tenure-line appointment. Loyola's behavior clearly reflects a preference for cheap and contingent labor.  Never mind that core curriculum courses ought be the province of higher education's equivalent of senior noncoms.

It's all too much for Aaron Verbrigghe, a Socialist Worker.
Adjuncts haven't seen a raise in a decade, even as tuition has climbed 53 percent. During that time, the salary of Provost Margarette Callahan has increased to over $500,000, and LUC has found over $500 million to spend on new buildings--while continuing to house three to four students in dorm rooms built for two.

Most recently, through a combination of private donations and misused tuition funds, the administration approved an unneeded $18.5 million to build new a practice facility for the sole use of the basketball teams--and the school is talking about "ripping up" the contract of the men's coach to give him a raise from his current "paltry" yearly salary of $420,000.

As 10-year adjunct Instructor in English Alyson Paige Warren stated, "They're trying to make the 'economic scarcity' logical fallacy, in which they say, 'This is your piece of pie, and you all have to fight for it.' But the whole pie is in play, so we should all be able to get a fair piece once you think of it equitably."

Like many other universities, there has been a troubling shift in priorities at Loyola from being a center of learning, first and foremost, to being a more openly profit-driven capitalist institution.

Before this shift, the ratio of tenured to non-tenured instructors was three to one, which meant that most faculty could focus on their students and research, while retaining the institutional memory that comes with long-term job security.

In recent decades, this ratio has inverted, leaving three-fourths of instructors living week to week, with no job security and poverty wages, even as tuition continues to climb.
That's an interesting characterization of the rise of the all-administrative university. It's not wrong, although it is misleading, in that truly capitalist enterprises might have to respond to stockholders when the expense-preference behavior gets out of handUniversity administrators can hide the sticker price with financial aid and hope taxpayers don't catch on.

It's encouraging to see that a socialist writer isn't taken in by all the radical chic of culture-studies and the leftist indoctrination preaching consciousness raising of the curriculum-usurpers of Student Affairs.
Andrew Welch, who moonlights as a rock-climbing instructor, described how when he received a PhD from Loyola, his pay actually halved and benefits were cut when he transitioned from student to employee.

In addition to the financial burden, Welch emphasized the alienation that comes with insecurity and lack of recognition. Ironically, he says, these bad working conditions can actually lead some professors to avoid confronting the depths of their exploitation.

"It's difficult getting faculty to think of themselves as laborers," he explained, "in part because the working conditions have gotten so bad that it's hard to justify to yourself. You got this PhD and you're thinking, 'I should really try to find a different job, but what am I going to do with this degree?' So the way you convince yourself to do it is thinking of it as a vocation and not a job, and thinking of yourself as a well-paid volunteer."
Permit me an impertinence.  The first university that credibly commits itself to hiring for, and staffing, tenure-line positions, might be the first university to notice a diversity of scholarship emerging from its evergreen discipline departments.  Why? Because the gold standard of an academic job is a tenure-line job.  The competition for tenure-line jobs is intense, particularly in the evergreen disciplines.  Perhaps the dominant strategy, either in order to grab the gold immediately, or to keep hope alive whilst putting that portfolio of gigs together, is to write on the currently fashionable topics.  Thus, as in any other positional arms race, there's likely inefficiently much Theory being produced and circulated.

That is the way in economics, where not everybody has to stay one asymptotic convergence ahead of the latest star econometrician to get hired or published, and there are sufficiently many scholars contesting the intercollegiate sports bubble that Margaret "University Diaries" Soltan  regularly thanks economists for so doing.

That change might be a long time in coming.  The contingent faculty of Northern Illinois University aren't happy either.
Dozens of Northern Illinois University faculty took to the picket line early Monday afternoon in protest over what they say are poverty-level wages and low benefits.

Employees say they have been without a working contract for more than two years and have made several concessions. Meanwhile, they say the university has failed to present a valid full-scale wage proposal.

Employees say they have made several personal sacrifices when it comes to their own well-being to make ends meet.

"I and many other people in the bargaining unit are still paying on student loans for degrees that we got right here at NIU and they are not even paying us enough to make the payments on those loans," said library specialist Christian Lash.

"We have a responsibility to create vibrant communities and this only happens when we are bold enough to imagine better futures for ourselves and for our kids and when we are bold enough to come together and fight for their rights," said candidate for 67th district state representative Angela Fellars.
For years, the university's position on salary was, in effect, that pay packets would improve when the commuter train came to DeKalb and people had easier access to Chicago jobs. With Illinois pursuing fiscal and social policies that chase productive people to other states, it might be that the "come together and fight for their rights" will be realized in Indiana and Wisconsin.

Permit me another impertinence.  Recent feel-good story Loyola team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt mentored student protestors at Mundelein College.
How Schmidt and the sisters managed to encourage the women to make decisions for themselves while also setting rules is one of the most remarkable things about the [May 1970 student] strike, [former Mundelein professor and current Cook county clerk David] Orr said. He described it as one of the most successful protests of that time.

“The ability of Sister Jean and others to so rapidly deal with change, many people can’t do that,” Orr said. “To have that ability to change with the times but keep your values, that’s pretty extraordinary.”

Schmidt served as director of several departments before moving up to associate vice president for academic affairs, and she then worked as assistant dean at Loyola when Mundelein closed. In the oral history about the college, Schmidt said she liked to stay busy and recalled her mother would say, “It’s better to wear out than to rust out.”

“So I keep saying that to myself: Don’t let yourself sit around here and do nothing,” she said.
Basketball practices resume in October. We'll be watching.

A MYSTERY IN THE ROCK VALLEY.

The headline, from Rockford's Register-StarSheriff’s department investigates double murder-suicide at home of RVC professor P.S. Ruckman Jr.  Peter once had an office just down the hall from mine, before his department's recommendation for continuing tenure being rejected somewhere up the chain of command.  He subsequently hired out with Rock Valley College and continued his work on presidential pardons.
Two boys and their father were found dead in their bedrooms from gunshot wounds Saturday morning in what authorities are investigating as a murder-suicide about three miles south of Cherry Valley.

The home in the 4600 block of Chandan Woods Drive is owned by local professor and nationally renowned political expert P.S. Ruckman Jr. and his ex-wife Heidi Ruckman, according to property tax records filed with the Winnebago County Treasurer’s Office.
His work on presidential pardons had value to the pundit class. Applied and empirical research is like that.
P.S. Ruckman, 58, is a political science professor at Rock Valley College and an instructor at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. He is the editor of PardonPower.com, a website dedicated to his study of presidential pardons. He has written two books: “Pardon Me, Mr. President: Adventures in Crime, Politics and Mercy” and “The Pardon Power in the 21st Century.”

Ruckman has been quoted in political reports across the country since at least the early 2000s. He was the expert voice in stories for The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today and The Associated Press. He’s been interviewed on National Public Radio and has appeared on the BBC, PBS, MSNBC television networks.
Mr Ruckman's colleague and coauthor Mark Osler received the pardon data, then learned the news.  "At the end of my book on criminal law, I wrote about how this field is all tragedy, and about the struggle to comprehend and control that tragedy. But this... this is beyond what I have imagined. Help me, if you can, to make sense of this world."

Gannett Newspapers' Gregory Korte had asked Mr Ruckman for the pardons data once the research projects were done, and he also received them, then learned the news.
I was crashing on deadline when the emails started flowing into my inbox. Hope Hicks, the White House communications director — who had been with President Trump since long before he announced his candidacy — had just unexpectedly resigned.

I got confirmation of Hicks' departure at 4:36 p.m. A minute later, I started getting a flood of emails from P.S. Ruckman Jr., a political science professor who taught at Northern Illinois University and Rock Valley College. In 10 emails containing 65 spreadsheets, he was sending his entire data set of more than 30,000 presidential pardons and commutations.

The first email said simply, "Would want you to have this and use freely."

I had already gotten nine of the emails before I noticed them, but I immediately recognized that this was the data set — the one that made him such an essential expert on any story about presidential pardons. It was data I had often asked him to share, unsuccessfully, and now here it was, unsolicited, and out of the blue.

"I was just thinking about you today — and your data. I’ll call you when I’m off deadline," I responded.

I didn't make that call until almost 48 hours later. I left a message asking if everything was OK. But if I had called right away, would he have picked up? And if so, would I have recognized that he was about to do something so terrible? Could I have stopped it?

It's a terrible burden, and one I would soon learn that I shared. "The amount of second-guessing we're doing now is unbearable," one of Ruckman's former colleagues told me.
Yes, and making sense is difficult.
I've also heard from dozens of people who knew Ruckman better: colleagues, friends and former students — as well as friends of his ex-wife or people who knew the Ruckman boys through their school or their music.

What emerged is a complicated and sometimes contradictory portrait: A dedicated professor who took pride in the success of his students. An arrogant and insecure academic. A Christian still coming to terms with the severe theology of his father, a well-known evangelist preacher. A devoted father. An emotionally unraveling colleague. A narcissistic monster.

A close friend of Ruckman’s ex-wife — the boys' mother — reached out to me with a plea. Like many who spoke to me, she did not want her name used.

"Please, do not glorify him," she said. "I beg you, do something positive with that data and publish it in the memory not of him, but of Christopher and Jack, who deserve to leave a legacy. They had no choice. You do."
Pajamas Media's Lauren Spagnoletti adds material from Twitter.

RIP.

"DAS RHEINGOLD" FEATURES AN ALLEGORICAL STEEL MILL.

Apparently, playing viola in front of the brass section is like standing on the pilot of a locomotive.  "In the first case of its kind, viola player Christopher Goldscheider claimed he suffered hearing loss while playing at the Royal Opera House in 2012."  A judge agreed.

Do not perform without proper protective gear.
"[The ruling] effectively says an orchestral workspace is no different from a factory," said Mark Pemberton, director of the Association of British Orchestras.

"What it says is that musicians will need to be wearing their hearing protection at all times."

It has hammered the square peg of these regulations into the round hole of the beautiful music that orchestras and opera companies produce on a daily basis."
That prompts Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen to ask, "What or how much are we willing to sacrifice to continue to promote some of mankind’s greatest creative achievements, namely classical music?"
[The violist's] hearing was irreversibly damaged, despite wearing ear plugs.

At the High Court on Wednesday, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies ruled in Goldscheider's favour saying there was "a clear factual and causal link" between the noise levels and the musician's hearing loss.

She noted that the Control of Noise at Work Regulations "recognise no distinction as between a factory and an opera house".

If the Royal Opera House had "complied with its statutory duty the claimant would not have been exposed to the level of noise which he was," she concluded.
That ruling presumably generalises to other performances.

The Ring tetralogy is already difficult to play, and perhaps the traditional orchestra pit is too much of an echo chamber.
The Noise at Work Regulations came into force in 2006, with a two-year delay for the music and entertainment industries, allowing them time to draw up specific guidelines for live music.

Introducing those guidelines, the Health and Safety Executive said "the loudest pieces may be played less often" - making specific reference to Wagner's thunderous operatic works.

"The Royal Opera House for example will still do the Ring Cycle, but schedule the performances to allow the musicians recovery time in what is anyway a physically demanding work," it said in a "myth-buster" document published in 2007.

The guide offered suggestions regarding "orchestra layouts and elevating the brass so that they can be heard without having to play through five rows of fellow musicians".

Goldscheider's solicitor Chris Fry told the court that, despite that, his client had been positioned directly in front of the 18-strong brass section in the Royal Opera House's "cramped" orchestra pit.

The viola player, who says he has been forced to give up playing or even listening to music, is claiming £750,000 in lost earnings.
Yes, there's no reason the brass players should be heard but not seen. That noted, the strings up front (the traditional orchestra layout reflecting the relative strengths of the sounds produced) are still in the position of a railroadman on the front pilot. The railroader is relatively lower than the locomotive's horns, and still wearing ear protection.

4.4.18

FIFTY YEARS AGO.

April 1968 began with Lyndon Johnson having announced on March 31 that he would not stand for re-election.  There was a sanitation workers strike in Memphis.



The strike offered Martin Luther King an opportunity to emphasize his more general Poor People's Campaign.  The campaign continued after Reverend King's assassination.  Two influential figures, however, had passed from the scene.  "Johnson became the nation's greatest presidential champion of racial justice since Abraham Lincoln. He forged a close working relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."  These events turned out to be only the opening acts of what proved to be a wild year.

IS PERFECT THE ENEMY OF GOOD, WHEN THE STATUS QUO IS "NOTHING"?

For a long time, we've been following the attempts, by private interests, to develop faster Passenger Rail in Texas.  Those attempts have come in train with special pleading by rent-seekers, and the NIMBY roam.  Thus, ten years on, no new trains.  Don't say I didn't warn you.
A debate between the dedicated high-speed passenger line advocates and the advocates of less costly combined freight-passenger-toll truckway projects brings with it the risk that no rail improvements will be forthcoming. That leaves Texas with the impossibly slow Heartland Flyer and Eagle and the try-weakly Sunset Limited, all of which made better times with handfired Harriman Standard 4-6-2s and their counterparts.
Impossibly slow? Yup.
Train originates at San Antonio this day, at 6.45 the conductor says, "Let's go for a train ride."  Leave San Antonio 7 am, on time.  First stop San Marcos, 52 miles away, 8.32, double stop, away 8.39.  Texas Central wishes to get from Houston to Dallas in 90 minutes.  I'm enjoying a good breakfast and conversation in the diner, yet have flashbacks to those German trains of two months previous.
There are, however, two proposals seeking assent from Texas authorities.  One proposal has the imprimatur of the French Societe National de Chemin de Fer, or perhaps they simply go as SNCF for continuity, the way the private Canadian National are still CNR.  Whatever the affiliation, the logic is impeccable. "'Look at the state as a whole. Instead of creating a link, create a network,' said SNCF America president Alain Leray."

Yes, and build it by increments.
Maryland-based SNCF America, a branch of the French National Railway, pitched its "Texas T-bone" idea to the Federal Railroad Administration in 2008 and 2016. The plan calls for "higher speed rail" service of 125 mph.

The railroad administration has instead proceeded to work with Texas Central Partners on a Dallas-to-Houston bullet line featuring speeds up to 210 mph and using Japanese technology.

"Of course, SNCF, the state-owned and highly-subsidized French National Railway would declare they are against competition and block the world's best high-speed train technology from coming to the U.S.," Texas Central said in a prepared statement.
Perhaps you make the case for faster trains by improving timings, frequency, and connectivity on existing lines. Compare and contrast the two proposals.



The French plan uses the large Fort Worth intermodal terminal, already served by the two intercity Amtrak trains and the Dallas area suburban trains, and existing rail lines linking existing cities.  Yes, a direct line between San Antonio and Houston would be nice, but adding frequencies on both of those routes, properly timed, means lots of rail opportunities for passengers north of Temple.  That's going to be important in the beginning, weaning Texans from their pickup trucks will require frequency and dependability, and more frequent trains running at 79 mph, with acceleration to 110 and 125 as improved signalling and more robust diesels arrive strikes me as a more sure way of building ridership.

The Texas Central plan appears to envision a new Dallas to Houston Electric Air Line, perhaps in the median of a toll road dedicated to trucks (what, there won't be any paths for stack trains overnight?) as well as another Air Line to San Antonio, and perhaps new construction paralleling the existing route of the Eagle, all of which seeks a home where the nimbrods roam.  "Much of the opposition to the Texas Central plan comes from landowners opposed to eminent domain."  Thus, Texas Central might find themselves in the position of California, building relatively useless track where there is little resistance, thus ending up with no opportunities to build ridership.  Worse, they're neglecting a development the French project might be embracing. "While North Central Texas Council of Governments officials are working with planners for a commuter line from Fort Worth to Waco, Temple-Killeen, Austin, San Antonio and Laredo, Texas Central is not committed to providing that service."  That "commuter line" ought not be confused with Chicago's Metra or New York's Metro-North, although intermingling regional trains, e.g. Waco-Fort Worth, Georgetown-Austin, San Antonio-Laredo with cross-country trains running the full distance or partial distance (would it be too much to ask for a Dallas-Laredo sleeper overnight?) is the kind of thing European railroads do as a matter of course.

Cold Spring Shops prays that if the T-Bone plan becomes a Passenger Rail network, that there be one operator honoring all tickets, this business of no interline ticketing between Amtrak and any of the urban Commuter Rail operators being bad business.

Recall, dear reader, that the French TGV trains rolled out as incremental improvements, and they still use the same tracks into the urban stations as their steam-powered predecessors.

3.4.18

REPLENISHING THE COFFEE FUND WITH BITCOIN?

How many of these stories must I report?  NIU loses over $1.6 million in equipment.  "Items missing since the 2016 inventory cycle include approximately 520 computers, servers, CPUs and other electronic storage devices."  I'm being facetious, but with the algorithms for mining Bitcoin becoming more challenging, that computing power might have value.


THE SOUND OF A SAECULAR ORDER FRACTURING.

Tom Nichols contemplates the Trump presidency, and enunciates his own vision for Restoring America's Greatness.
By electing Trump and tolerating [foreign policy gadfly John] Bolton, we have shown that we are not a nation that can be consistently trusted with the stewardship of the free world. It’s not that Trump, in the end, will collapse NATO, plunge us into a great depression, or start World War III — although with Bolton by his side he is capable of doing all of those things — but rather that the American voters have shown the world that we are capable of astonishing selfishness and petulance. We have abandoned our civic virtue not just at home but also overseas, and once lost, that position cannot be recovered.

Perhaps this is all too pessimistic. Americans have elected men of weak moral character and shallow political commitment to office before. But not when it mattered so much, and certainly not since the advent of the era in which the president of United States — the sole steward of an arsenal of weapons that can extinguish civilization itself — became the leader and protector not only of millions of his own citizens, but of the billions of others who rely on America as a friend and ally.

The most optimistic outcome is that decades from now, the memory of the Trump years fades away, and both we and the world look upon this period as an aberration, a kind of fever or temporary insanity from which we awoke just before we lost any possibility of an American restoration. But the damage is getting deeper by the day.

Healing it will take more than just electing a new president: It will require years of painful self-examination, and calling ourselves to account honestly and transparently. Only then will we begin to earn back the presumption of trust and leadership that was once one of our proudest achievements as a free nation.
That position of leadership came after a major war with regime changes in three other world powers, only after the use of the most destructive weapons the winners were capable of creating, and that leadership also required a clear-headed understanding of right and wrong, in order that the Soviet partner in that victory renounce its delusions of being on the right side of history.

Clear-headed understanding is something in short supply these days.

Consider John Hinderaker.  "Our common culture, the foundation of Western civilization, is under attack. Those who should be defending it in most cases are not. But more fatal in the long run is that our inheritance of millennia, Western culture, is being forgotten, lost in a rising tide of ignorance."  On one level, it's a further gripe about people who should know better mischaracterizing Easter, or the Trojan War.

Dig deeper, though, and he's seeing that the people who ought to be responsible stewards of that "trust and leadership" are using their power for their own benefit.  He's not alone.

Consider Brexit.
The free trade cause, whose defense a century ago drew tens of thousands to the streets, has been taken from the people’s hands and given to technocrats. Because free trade depended on popular representation in Parliament is why technocrats in undemocratic systems, from Brussels to Beijing, have tended to choose protectionism instead. In these systems, leaders keep subsidies and favors flowing to client groups who are protected by tariffs and regulation designed to favor incumbents—and from incumbents, these elites expect support. So it is free trade that reminds us that the building block of true internationalism is the democratic nation-state itself.

Because the mercantilist alternative keeps incumbents at the top and tends to prevent the emergence of innovative challenger firms, growth is reduced, which in a developed country is largely the fruit of innovation. In Britain, regional inequality also follows, as big corporates, disproportionately in the southeast of England, outflank smaller firms elsewhere. This limited freedom and stalled prosperity has become the status quo.

So Brexit has arrived at a critical time. Global economic output has slowed and trade as a share of GDP has fallen. It is not inevitable that the world’s wealth will keep growing: we forget at our peril that poverty typifies the human experience. Through the span of human history, very few states have achieved any economic growth. Prosperity is only achieved following specific choices, which need urgently to be re-made. This means choosing a self-governing, free, and free-trading state, setting rules and regulations ourselves. If Britain, and other Western countries, do not find the confidence to do this, they will lapse back into the normal state of mankind: prosperity only for elites, who maintain their grip by curtailing freedoms.
That's Radomir Tylecote, for the Foundation for Economic Education, which skews libertarian, and he's predictably no friend of the Wise Experts and their Fatal Conceits, and what he writes about the southeast of England might apply to the Acela Corridor and parts of California in the United States, and perhaps the Lake Ontario coast in Canada.  But for Illinois's stupid tax policies and corrupt politics, it might be true here.

One example, however, is not a proof.  Let us operate inductively.  Consider National Review's Fred Bauer.
However we want to classify the overall geopolitical constellation (as “liberal world order” or something else), it seems as though many existing international institutions, understandings, and affinities are being strained. Likewise, outsider political movements are sweeping though the body politic of nations on both sides of the Atlantic. This has, in turn, produced a counterreaction among many of those who view themselves as the natural heirs to power and influence. It’s easy to view the rise of these deplorable outsiders as the prime threat to the “liberal world order,” but we might also ask how much the decisions of the political establishments (especially after 1992) have contributed to the very strains this order faces.
Over the years, I've called out Utopian Wonkery and the Social Engineering Vice.  You could have engaged me on the logic, back in the day, or you can deal with the evidence now.
One of the great ironies of the time is that it has been supposed defenders of the “liberal world order” who have undermined this very order. For instance, Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy has done far more than “alt-right” social-media memes to disrupt the integrity of the European Union and inflame populist sentiments in Europe. The increasing extremism of the neoliberal consensus on trade, immigration, and finance has further undermined the stability of domestic politics.

In the United States and other countries, resistance to and dissatisfaction with some of the tendencies of neoliberalism have been obvious, yet policymakers have been slow to adapt. In the 2000–2016 period, the U.S. witnessed economic stagnation, foreign-policy debacles, a financial meltdown, and a host of administrative catastrophes. Wave election followed wave election as the public swung in dissatisfaction from one political party to the next. All these trends were clarion cries for substantive reform to reignite a common prosperity and reinforce civic fellowship. All too often, though, Republicans fell victim to a taker-versus-maker austerity politics; for their part, Democrats often succumbed to the siren song of “woke” identity politics, which inflames tensions among identity groups.
That's not of itself reason to rethink the international institutions or the authority of Expertise, Mr Bauer writing in National Review and presumably understanding that long-standing institutions "should not be changed for light and transient causes."
The international system developed by the United States and others has done considerable good over the past 70 years. World poverty has dropped, and “hot” war between great powers has been avoided. While exerting considerable energies to defend this system, the United States has also benefited from it. However, preserving the gains of this system might require moderating some of the utopian impulses of neoliberalism, recognizing the limits of the technocratic class, and acknowledging the importance of place and culture.

Part of this process of moderation and reform would probably involve recognizing the legitimacy of sovereignty, which Haass notes is one of the founding principles of the “liberal world order.” A true understanding of sovereignty would admit that a nation’s people have a right to sustain a certain vision for their society and to organize their politics and culture in a certain way. Thus, the project of reform might entail not so much abandoning the principles of a “liberal world order” as recovering those principles and applying them in a more imaginative way.

If the best parts of the international order are to be preserved, responsiveness might need to take the place of rigidity, and hauteur might need to give way to humility.
Yes, although what value is there in that Ivy League degree and those Davos credentials if you don't have a license to hector or condescend?

Continuing the induction, what does it say when the People's Action Blog responds to what reads like a lament for the troubles of the current saecular order with many of the same points Mr Bauer raises?
Those outcomes have not only been economic. [Council on Foreign Relations president Richard] Haass correctly points out that the postwar order has prevented another global conflagration on the scale of World Wars I and II. But the liberal world order, we are told, was to be based on the rule of law and respect for countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity. Human rights were to be protected.”

Adds Haass: “All this was to be applied to the entire planet.”

And yet, under the “liberal world order,” labor leaders are slaughtered with impunity in Ecuador. The U.S. was complicit, and other developed nations were indifferent, when the Indonesian dictator Suharto terrorized and murdered as many as a million in his country. The brutal exploitation of slave labor in Malaysia was downplayed in an unsuccessful attempt to pass another trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The United States is, as Haass reminds us, “the principal architect of the liberal world order and its principal backer.” It was also, as Haass notes, “a principal beneficiary” of that order. But the real “beneficiaries” were frequently those wealthy and powerful interests who profited from its trade deals and military expenditures.

The U.S.’s role as “principal architect” of the world order didn’t prevent it from engaging in some very disordered wars, especially in Vietnam and Iraq, where its military intervention triggered the ongoing Middle Eastern conflicts that Haass chalks up to “regional disorder.”
Taken together, it's a nice arrangement for the Acela Corridor set, the southeast of England, and the regulars at Davos.
The “liberal world order” hasn’t helped competing nations get along. It has helped a small number of people, representing powerful interests in competing nations, work for their shared self-interest. It has permitted an international system of tax havens that undercuts national sovereignty and accelerates wealth inequality. And it has left most other people behind.

Complaints like these often sound tendentious and preachy to the people who lead our global system of finance and diplomacy. But the lived reality of the world’s majority contradicts the perceptions of the influential few. If they are concerned with the future of the order they have built, they will need to confront that broader reality.
When voices left, libertarian, and right raise similar objections to an established order, might that order be in trouble.

That voices left, libertarian, and right see different ways to replace that order, suggest troubling times might be ahead.

ALBERT HUNT CHECKS HIS PRIVILEGE.

Getting mugged by reality can have that effect.  "When you insult voters you may need someday, they probably aren't going to vote for you; and when you mud-wrestle with pigs, the pigs enjoy it."  Better to rely on logic and content.  "There are legitimate criticisms of Trump's policies, personnel choices, temperament and integrity. These should be pointed and sharp without getting in the pit."  Exactly, and consider the possibility that a Trump presidency might be the consequence of decades of failures of the Received Wisdom.  "But there were many non-bigots who voted for him, venting their anxieties and frustrations, feeling that elites -- politicians, personified by Clinton, academics, the media, Wall Street -- looked down on them. They relished that Trump was giving those elites hell."

Feeling that elites looked down on them.  Why would that be?

Fine.  There's a strong case that the Wise Experts have gotten it wrong, and politer Democrats are still apologists for Wise Experts.

A FOUNDER PASSES.

Years ago, I wrote for The Badger Herald, conceived as an independent student newspaper in the belly of the Radical Monster, the University of Wisconsin Itself.  From time to time, I've drawn on writings of the era, many of which are still current.  (We refer to Weimar America for a reason.)

Word reaches Cold Spring Shops of the passing of one of the Herald's founders, longtime Washington conservative figure and onetime Supreme Scribe of the Knights of Columbus, Patrick Korten.
And nearly 50 years since founder and first Editor-in-Chief Patrick Korten published his editorial “A Monopoly Ends,” The Badger Herald has remained true to the vision of being a truly independent newspaper that serves as an experiment — constantly adapting to the tidal waves of change in the always evolving world of journalism.

The Badger Herald began as an experiment — a conservative counterpoint to a campus then captured by the wave of liberalism of the 1960s. While it has since shied away from its conservative roots, it has remained firm in Korten’s original vision: To run a newspaper that would focus on Madison and issues facing University of Wisconsin students.
That shift of political focus might have been anticipated by the founders. Consider an editorial by Nicholas Loniello, in the registration week issue of August, 1970.
The Daily Cardinal afforded the first reasons for beginning. It wasn't a paper for us and our friends -- its coverage is relevant only to the radical movement, not to the bulk of varied interests on the campus. The Cardinal prints the latest on the riot, demonstration and strike scene, but little about the Ag students and the Engineers. The GE recruiter and the Army Math Research Center hardly qualify as the biggest things that ever happened to this campus, yet they and a few other selective subjects are consistently danced around and beaten on the monotonous pages of the Daily Cardinal.

So we started the Badger Herald, determined there was a need for a student newspaper with wider-ranging news coverage. We have avoided in our news reporting the Cardinal's political myopia by refusing to become ideological nymphomaniacs, and will continue to do so next year.
That editorial went to press before the local heavies bombed Sterling Hall, and the ideological nymphomaniacs, along with their intellectual children and grandchildren, continue to run Student Affairs and the likes of MSNBC.  The struggle continues.

NOW THAT THE NETS ARE CUT DOWN.

The feel-good story of the men's basketball tournament had to be Loyola of Chicago, snagging a bid the only way they could snag it, and continuing to win until Michigan stopped the party.
The Ramblers played five unforgettable, unexpected NCAA tournament games in 17 days, reaching the Final Four and capturing America’s imagination simply by being themselves. Their authenticity and innocence created a cynicism-free zone around Loyola basketball, as hard as some out-of-touch folks tried to pollute it with silly controversy. The players were like the good kids who grew up in your neighborhood and Moser like that guy next to you on a flight who keeps talking long enough that you want his business card. Loyola’s support staff, from sports information director Bill Behrns to Tom Hitcho, Mr. Loyola who pushed Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt’s wheelchair, treated everyone with respect and sincerity even as the bandwagon got more crowded.

The national fascination with Loyola, by the way, went beyond Sister Jean, the adorable 98-year-old team chaplain who can pray more privately now. The Ramblers tapped into something else within everyone. They proved not everything about college sports is corrupt and suggested the hyphen in student-athlete actually applies. They played smart and selfless basketball on the court and acted humble and kind off it, appreciating everything they accomplished without taking anything for granted along the way.
Unfortunately, the collegiate sports cartel understands it has to rig the system to prevent the emergence of a separate tournament run exclusively by and for the so-called power conferences. "The NCAA Selection Committee clearly sent the message that playing Power Five schools factors into a team’s criteria, but nobody will want to play Loyola now."

Never mind that there's great play value in the Chicago area.
Wanted: Power Five foes for Loyola. Loyola-Northwestern at the United Center sounds fun. A Loyola-Notre Dame matchup makes sense. And who in Chicago wouldn’t love to see Loyola play Illinois or DePaul?
Let's enjoy the sailing season, oh, and baseball, first.

2.4.18

ARE YOU TIRED OF ALL THE WINNING?

The regional winners in the women's basketball tournament were all the top seeds.  Them that has gets, and all that, but them that gets has parity, at least for one weekend.  The Women's Hoops Blog has more links than you can shake a rosary at, starting with Friday evening's semifinalsFirst game,  last year's runner-up, Mississippi State, playing Louisville.  Less than a minute to go, Louisville leads by five, Mississippi State ties it, then dominates the overtime.  Second game, last year's Evil Empire, Connecticut, playing former conference nemesis Notre Dame.  Notre Dame rallies in the second half, less than a minute to go, leads by five, Connecticut ties it.  Overtime remains tight to the very end.  "In overtime, with both teams hitting big shot after big shot, it was Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale who stole the show, knocking down a game-winner with one second remaining on the clock, giving Notre Dame it’s [c.q.] final lead at 91-89."  That's correct, dear reader, two games, both decided in overtime.  As Whitney Medworth notes, "UConn’s dominance has raised the level of the game in ways most don’t recognize."  That, dear reader, is how to get tired of all the winning.  If that sounds like "make a better product, sell it at a better price" with sneakers and balls, so be it.

Then comes the final game, late on a Sunday afternoon, and there are more links than you can grill at an Oktoberfest.  Mississippi State holds Notre Dame to a field goal (well, OK, let's not stretch the football analogies, it was a bunny and a free throw) in the second quarter and leads by as many as fifteen, and yet, it's tied after three.  Deja vu: less than a minute to go, Mississippi State leads by five, Notre Dame ties it, are you ready for more overtime?  Call the copy-editor.  Ogunbowale for the win, this time with a tenth of the second left on the clock after video review.  Is this video review necessary?  You can't legally get off a three-point shot for a tie with a tenth of a second left.

Matt Ellentuck notes, "Sometimes it’s just best to see the top talents battle it out."

What, then, about being tired of all the winning?  That started, for this year, with a David Berri column suggesting that all that regular-season Connecticut success was, contrary to conventional wisdom, not a knock on the sport.
Once upon a time, economists really believed that competitive balance was crucial to the survival of a sports league. Many academic articles were written making this argument. I personally have co-authored at least a half-dozen academic articles on the subject.

The empirical evidence, though, suggests this interest might have been misplaced. Competitive balance simply isn't as important as we thought.
His gripe: it's the lack of interest in the sports media, stupid.
Florida Gulf Coast defeated Missouri, Central Michigan downed LSU, and Buffalo defeated South Florida by 23 points. ESPN.com does list these scores (something that can't be said for all major sports sites). But you will find many more stories about the men's tournament — and other men's sports — than you will find about these games.
His essay, though, brought out commentary reinforcing his point.  Natalie Weiner chastises the unthinking.
If this annual dialogue has taught us anything, it’s that the people who insist, despite all evidence to the contrary, that UConn is “bad for women’s basketball” are the ones actually hurting the sport—not the Huskies’ exceptional athletes and coaching staff. What is presented as concern for the welfare of women’s basketball is, in practice, an excuse for ignoring the sport altogether. The trope only endures because of deep-rooted double standards for female athletes and mainstream sports media’s unwillingness to challenge them in any substantive way.
Reality might be the emergence of a power rule, as is the case in most other sports.
Assuming the sport continues to grow, it will eventually reach the same kind of parity (for the most part, a few dominant programs that take turns winning the title) that exists on the men’s side—which the people who assert that UConn is hurting the women’s game believe is so integral to attracting fans.
Let us call the roll.  Tennessee.   Connecticut.   Stanford.   Notre Dame making a case.  Anybody heard from Baylor or Louisiana Tech lately?

Barbara Barker suggests people aren't paying much attention.  "When was the last time you filled out a bracket for the women’s NCAA Tournament?"  Yeah, you could start with Connecticut winning, and by backward induction, fill in that regional, but would that be good enough to beat an aficionado who understood the other three regionals, or, worse yet, someone who understood the rest of the field and picked Notre Dame or Mississippi State?  It's not as if brackets get busted in the men's tournament.  "But how many people picking brackets outside of Chicago ever had watched Loyola men’s basketball or had a clue who Sister Jean was three weeks ago?"

Les Carpenter, writing from New England, notes that Connecticut wasn't always Connecticut.
What struck me [years ago] was how much Auriemma wanted his team to be great and how much his players wanted to be great themselves. UConn was not yet the place where every top high school star wanted to go. His best players mostly came from New England, not California or Florida or Texas or wherever else the great recruits grow up. He built a giant in the Connecticut woods and then hunted down Tennessee ... until his program became the next Tennessee.

Someday Auriemma will leave UConn. The Huskies won’t be the greatest women’s basketball team forever. Somewhere, more UConns are bursting to rise. If nothing else, Connecticut’s basketball dominance has raised the level for women’s basketball, inspiring better players, pushing rivals to be better. There’s nothing wrong with a super champion. There’s no shame in a team that steamrolls through their opponents on the way to presumably another confetti ceremony Sunday night in Columbus, Ohio.

There’s just a team that came from nothing and climbed to the top showing others that they can do the same as well.
Never unleash the confetti until the votes are counted in Wisconsin, oops, baskets are counted in Indiana.  And ponder the strange geographic pairings in Connecticut's American Athletic Conference.  Wichita State or Cincinnati or South Florida might have aspirations ...