21.5.19

TAIL TRACK.

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

THEY INADVERTENTLY MADE MY CASE.

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

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

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  Because our British cousins demonstrated that concept fifty years ago, and the last of those trains are being withdrawn.


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

"I THOUGHT ILLINOIS WAS PROGRESSIVE."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A HARD LESSON LEARNED IN MADISON.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFTER A THIRTY YEARS' WAR, WILL THEY LEARN?

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

THE VALUE IN BEING DISRUPTIVE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THEY'RE AT IT AGAIN.

Driving Ringling Barnum out of business wasn't enough.

Banning elephant acts in Illinois wasn't enough.

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

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

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

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


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

No elephants, no circus.


Find yourself a circus and go to it.

While you still can.

15.5.19

SHARED GOVERNANCE MEANS FACULTY GOVERNANCE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IT'S CALLED A STATE OF GOOD REPAIR.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THERE ARE LIMITS.

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

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

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

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

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

13.5.19

BUILDING AMERICA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A LIBERTARIAN FORM OF SOCIALISM?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MANUFACTURING SCREWBALL IDEAS ON AN INDUSTRIAL SCALE.

Political scientist Robert Weissberg suggests higher education appears to have gone nuts because there's no institutional quality control any more.  He got the idea from Animal Planet.
Insight finally arrived when watching a TV documentary about Yellowstone Park. When the program focused on the wolves of Yellowstone, it all clicked—bad ideas that traditional plagued universities were kept in check by “wolves” who killed them off at conception, and when this wolf culture declined, nothing could stop students from hearing that an aversion to cultural Marxism constituted hate, and, furthermore, that this “hate” was tantamount to violence.
The wolf metaphor might not be the best. I submit that Douglas R. Hofstadter's anteater, while more whimsical, might be on point.  The anteater functioned as a "colony surgeon," gobbling up ill-formed formulations the anthill mind produced.  That's not so good for the ants that got into the wrong formation, or for the deer and the antelope that couldn't play.  But higher education has erred too far on the side of sentimentality.
Who are the campus equivalents of Yellowstone’s wolves? They are those smart, quick-witted professors who relish slicing and dicing mediocrities. They can sniff out ignorance and sloppy logic like the pack tracking lame elk. Their display of aggressive eradication is seldom pleasant since the aim is usually humiliation, not just correcting falsehoods. On the plus side, this mockery helps clear the marketplace of intellectual idiocy, and the threat of public shaming as an ignoramus undoubtedly crushes embryonic stupidities.
Yes, we're now supposed to be kinder and gentler.


A simple "wrong" might be "just fine," and yet even that is missing.
Clearly, as anybody familiar with today’s campus craziness must know, releasing a few dozen wolves on the campus would bring an intellectual blood bath—so many targets, so little time. And, rest assured, tales of these public humiliations would rapidly spread, and many students (and faculty) currently cowered by the PC crowd would take heart and, hopefully, likewise engage in some wolf-like predatory behavior. Once intimidated wolves would renounce their sheepskin camouflage and rip apart the idiots!

Academic wolves come in all ideological flavors, and a Left-leaning wolf is just as likely to surgically dismember a muddle-brained Marxist as a Canis lupus who worships Ann [c.q.] Rand. What counts is a target displaying inanity, sloppy thinking, and ignorance, not ideological disagreement. Indeed, a Marxist-inclined wolf might be particularly outraged when a student offers up some cliché-filled comic book version Marx. “All very enlightening but can you tell me, and others in the classroom, what sections of Das Kapital you have in mind when you insist that Marxism would reverse climate change?”
Indeed so. "Gentlemen, nothing that you learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life -- save only this -- that if you work hard and intelligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole, purpose of education."

Professor Weissberg suggests the therapeutic university is too concerned with being called out for "hegemonic discourses" or all the other manifestations of phony oppression.
If Professor Wolf sarcastically challenged a prospective minority faculty hire over claims regarding the contemporary impact of slavery, it would be Professor Wolf who would be in trouble. His cutting remarks about these claims lacking any scientific validity since they were unfalsifiable would only bring embarrassed silence from colleagues.

Similarly, wolf-like classroom behavior would also be condemned for making students uncomfortable, silencing the marginal and otherwise failing to be 100% inclusive. This is especially likely since in today’s campus environment criticism of any “vulnerable” student is often construed as an attack on every vulnerable student which today means just about everyone. Thus, to ask a gay student to document that gays are currently treated in the US as Jews were under Hitler is tantamount attacking women, blacks, Hispanics, the inter-sex, the disabled and every other student who feels oppressed.

What’s a good wolf to do? Seek therapy? The answer is simple: they must be retrained and learn to attack new evils. After all, we can’t let the wolves starve. Using biting mockery and knack for demolishing lame arguments can now be re-deployed to discredit Charles Murray’s pseudo-science or ridicule fools who insist that there are biological differences in men and women. In a pinch, mock devout Christians but steer clear of Islam. Lots of safe targets and, rest assured, you will be venerated for your intellectual brilliance.
That might be, although that gives culture warriors outside the academy, plus Pajamas Media, plenty of stuff to undermine with mockery.  I suspect the professor is being hyperbolic to make a point.  I also suspect there's more at work, particularly with the tenured faculty being replaced with contingent workers, and with Student Affairs getting bigger budgets for indoctrination.  "In the all-administrative university we cheat students of a real, substantial education, the most deleterious consequence of which is the erosion of their ability to speak, think, and write seriously about themselves and their world."

ADVANTAGE, BASTIAT?

Wisconsin's Pella Windows continue to allude to Packer broadcaster Wayne Larrivee to be too expensive to keep on retainer, but pitchwoman Gina Della is no longer pitching baseballs through windows.  Now she's sneaking wiffle balls into Little League practice.  The message on the ball is still the same: bargains on replacement windows.

I wonder who else noticed the problem with stimulating business by breaking existing windows.

10.5.19

DONE.

We observe the sesquicentennial of the Pacific Railroad.


Golden Spike ceremony, May 10, 1869

Bret Harte wondered what the engines said.
WHAT was it the Engines said,
Pilots touching,—head to head
Facing on the single track,
Half a world behind each back?
Yes, and what would those Engines make of their Really Useful Successors?


Jim Wrinn photograph retrieved from Trains.

Those are Union Pacific officials and descendants of railroad builders of the era, driving THE golden spike with Big Boy 4014 and never-retired Northern 844 deputising for Jupiter and 119.

The railroad still gets in the blood.  Fourth graders in Horace Mann Elementary, Ogden Utah (yes, where that ceremony took place) had an intriguing class project.
Just as the railroad companies competed, the class split in half while working on the book, with each side representing one of the companies. A line taped in the middle of the classroom divided the groups, and students needed tickets to cross to the other side. Art teacher Brent Rhodes worked with them on how to draw facial expressions, action and emotion in pencil, marker and ink.
That's right, "graphic novel" takes on a different meaning in elementary school!  And it's a good way to learn how to play nice with others.
“It inspired me to support and protect the railroad,” said Keegan Barney, who is 10. “This railroad took six years to build. Men worked hard. They died for it. And some people are going to go spray-painting this [railroad], doing graffiti on this? … I mean seriously.”
Long may the Pacific Railroad build America.  It's the real Audacity of Hope.
“While it is not possible to determine with certainty who first suggested a railroad to the Pacific Coast, there is a definite record of such a proposal being made by a writer in the Emigrant, a weekly newspaper published by Judge S. W. Dexter in Ann Arbor, Mich. The editorial was probably written by Judge Dexter in the issue of Feb. 6, 1832. After remarking on the probability that the public would consider the idea a visionary one, the writer outlines the project for a railroad in the following terms:

“‘The distance between New York and Oregon is about 3,000 miles. From New York, we could pursue the most convenient route to the vicinity of Lake Erie, thence along the south shore of this lake and of Lake Michigan, cross the Mississippi between forty-one and forty-two of north latitude, cross the Missouri about the mouth of the Platte, and thence to the Rocky Mountains, near the source of the last named river, thence to Oregon, by the valley of the south branch of that stream, called the southern branch of the Lewis River.’

“The writer suggested that the United States should build the road, or that a company be permitted to do so. This article in the Emigrant is remarkable for two reasons. First it appeared at a time when just two railroads were getting started in the country, the Charleston and Hamburg in South Carolina, and the Baltimore and Ohio, and when there were probably less than 200 miles of track in operation. However, news of English railroads was available to the American public. The other remarkable feature was the editorial writer’s location of the line, which was followed in later years by the railroads west from Chicago and specifically by the Union Pacific across the plains and over the Rocky Mountains by way of the Snake River and the Columbia River on to Oregon.
The railroad as built has many of the features of Judge Dexter's proposal. Union Pacific began building from Omaha, because in the intervening years the railroad network developed in pieces, including several lines radiating from Chicago that were initially separate from the eastern lines.  At the time Oregon held greater strategic value as a buffer against British or Russian colonization; the discovery of gold in California changed the initial western end.

NO ONE IS REALLY IN CHARGE OF ANYTHING.

That doesn't stop people from going to Washington City with delusions of Doing Good.  Jonah Goldberg notes, "This is a hard lesson for people who put immense faith in government to do big, important things."  That might be a strange Trenchant Observation as we observe the sesquicentennial of the Pacific Railroad, and yet, the work that generations of railroaders have done to get the Overland Route into the state it is today does not refute him.

9.5.19

AN IMPLICIT ENDORSEMENT OF "FREE REIN TO 110."

A recent CNBC feature attempts to explain the absence of high-speed Passenger Rail in the United States.


The presentation is uneven: the oil and motor vehicle lobbies get excessive credit for their influence-peddling; the convenience of the personal motor vehicle compared with the horse or even the motor bus influencing government policy makers to direct their internal improvements accordingly receives less attention.  In addition, mainland China's ability to trample on property rights to run railroads wherever the government wants is treated simply as a fact, not the absence of moral rights for citizens that it involves.  (And those Chinese high speed trains stand on pillars of concrete, the manufacture of which produces a lot of carbon dioxide and smog.)

Toward the end of the clip, Virgin Rail's Brightline appears.  One of the project managers notes that trains running at 110 mph top speeds don't require a grade-separated right of way, and the trains are almost as fast as the 220 mph counterparts.  The math is straightforward.  You might think that if a train given a top speed of 110 mph can cover the 85 miles between Chicago and Milwaukee in 55 minutes, the 220 mph train can do it in under a half hour.  Sorry, no, because you're using more right of way getting up to speed and decelerating; and you might be blowing past the airport or Sturtevant or Chicago so as to exploit those higher cruising speeds.  You're also building a railroad from scratch, rather than exploiting the capability of an existing railroad.  The Milwaukee Road and Florida East Coast had capabilities for running fast a long time ago.

THOSE WHO CANNOT REMEMBER THE PAST?

Jonathan Last notes, "Liberals often get very upset at the suggestion that the excesses of liberalism are to blame—even in part—for the rise of the reactionary nationalist subculture."  Ed Driscoll complains that Mr Last is writing about the intersectional leftists, not Hubert Humphrey types, but that's not the history lesson today.

Rather, it's something the Hubert Humphrey types ought to understand on a gut level.  Whenever an opponent of voting rights or integrated schools labeled those causes as somehow "communistic," that simply made the rest of the communist appeal more attractive, whether to people who were being denied voting rights or to people who thought of the cause as just.

Perhaps it's not so much the "reactionary nationalist subculture" offering the most attractive message, as it is that nobody More Respectable will note the shortcomings of the New Dispensation.

MASTERING ASSIMILATION.

Scott McConnell is not persuaded that demography is destiny.
An altogether possible scenario is that a politically significant slice of new immigrants (in both Europe and the United States) would choose to identify, more or less, with the existing cultures and narratives of the societies to which they immigrate. The whole concept of whiteness could shift, as it has in the past, and generally group identity issues would become less important and less adversarial, as there would be plenty of intermarriage, producing a new kind of melting pot. The necessary precondition for this would be an immigration stream which by numbers and skills admitted people who were a pretty good match to the existing society—that is, an immigration tailored to facilitate assimilation, more middle-class than not.
Sometimes it's simpler than that.  It might be as simple as who sits next to whom in class.  The way young people date across what used to be uncrossable boundaries these days leads me to suspect that in a hundred years people will wonder what the fuss was all about.  That, too, is nothing new: my grandmother was distressed that her children were dating and marrying Catholics after generations living as Baptists under difficult circumstances in Prussia and Russia.  Moreover, public policies that shift the notion of "whiteness" (if there is such a thing) are nothing new; the "Who is an American?" campaign after September 2001 echoes those earlier efforts.

No matter how many times I tell you, there's always somebody who will screw it up.  Give new arrivals an America to buy into, and an America that buys into the new arrivals, and we'll be OK.

THE PARADOX OF POLITICAL ECONOMY.

George Will recognizes that the government that governs most is likely to be sold to the highest bidder.
The ["progressive"] catechism does not include the truism that the way to reduce the amount of money in politics is to reduce the amount of politics in the allocation of money and of opportunities for making it. This would eviscerate the progressive agenda, which involves government, a.k.a politics, redistributing wealth, regulating the creation of it, and rescuing “fairness” from “market failure,” a.k.a markets producing results that progressives dislike.
That doesn't stop the self-styled progressives from relying on politics.
We’re living with the lessons of 2016, and they threaten to destroy the country.  Yet somehow, that’s not enough to convince Pelosi and the rest of the neoliberal crew to run a campaign based on values like fairness, equity, economic justice, protecting our climate, assuring that democracy isn’t co-opted by corporate cash, or constraining the wretched excesses of capitalism so that the people can get a piece of the pie.

Instead, the people within the party advocating these things are getting marginalized; the policies that might actualize them are getting labeled as a dream; proposals to get corporate money out of elections are being rejected; and tax and fiscal policies that attack the injustices of capitalism are being ignored.

The only way Trump can win is to keep turnout low.  The Davos Democrats are doing everything in their power to oblige him.
That might be, although Ayn Rand's summary of egalitarian political economy as replacing the Aristocracy of Money with the Aristocracy of Pull still seems relevant.

These days, the Aristocracy of Pull comprises the winners of the Oppression Olympics, and that is unlikely to turn out well.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR.

Late-Stage Capitalism Stripping Humanity of Simple Joy.
"Several factors are likely to explain the declines [in levels of sexual frequency], but one may be the sheer pace of modern life," said Kaye Wellings, the study's lead author and a professor of sexual health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in a statement.

"It is interesting," Wellings added, "that those most affected are in mid-life, the group often referred to as the 'u-bend' or 'sandwich' generation. These are the cohorts of men and women who, having started their families at older ages than previous generations, are often juggling childcare, work and responsibilities to parents who are getting older."
Gosh, fifty years of smashing monogamy, nuking the nuclear family, deferring marriage and childrearing, increasing the labor force participation of women, and generally democratizing transgressiveness have sure turned out well, haven't they?  It's probably easier for two-high-income families to subcontract out some of the grunt work, just another way bourgeois convention still pays off.

8.5.19

A TURNAROUND ARTIST?

Here it is the middle of May, and here comes Book Review No. 1.  Howard Green's Railroader: The Unfiltered Genius and Controversy of Four-Time CEO Hunter Harrison is an approved biography, mostly finished at the time of Mr Harrison's death.

WHAT THE ALL-ADMINISTRATIVE UNIVERSITY LOOKS LIKE.

It's not pretty, notes Tulsa philosopher Jacob Howland.  "For all their talk of inclusiveness and transparency, [incoming president Gerard] Clancy, [provost Janet] Levit, and the Board of Trustees would rather burn down the university than listen to anyone else."

We've documented the degradation of Tulsa previously.  The good news is, there are some on the faculty who understand their role as stewards of the university.
After the restructuring bombshell exploded in a slick, highly orchestrated rollout on the morning of April 11, students and faculty moved to protest quickly and decisively. That evening, I wrote to about 50 faculty and 500 students and alumni inviting them to attend a meeting in the Department of Languages the following day, and I pasted into the email an unedited version of my City Journal article. When I arrived for the meeting, over 400 people were present. We moved into the old theater next door, and I found myself leading a meeting at which we formulated key strategies for resistance to the restructuring.
The alumni, recognizing that a self-immolation by a current administration might retrospectively devalue degrees already conferred, also are saying no. (Let's hope that a lot of alumni respond to fundraising letters and 'phone calls with "no money until this Charlie Foxtrot is reversed and terminated with extreme prejudice.)

Some of the administrative tactics are ham-handedly stupid.  How many times, dear reader, must I tell you that our universities are being run by terminally stupid people.  Others backfire.
Last week my university email account and that of the director of the musical theater program—also a leader of the opposition to “True Commitment”—were completely and mysteriously shut down for several hours. The director of TU’s renowned cyber-security program found the excuses of our IT department highly suspicious and advised me to contact the ACLU. The administration also prevented me from speaking on KWGS, the campus NPR affiliate. They originally agreed to allow me to be interviewed, on the condition that they, too, would be interviewed. But they withdrew their interview at the last minute, and KWGS employees, fearing for their jobs, decided not to air mine.

(This proved to be a tactical mistake on the administration’s part. Instead of having 12 minutes on KWGS, I was interviewed and took calls for a whole hour on Pat Campbell’s morning talk show on KFAQ, a Tulsa AM radio station. That led to an interview on Chicago’s “Morning Answer,” a program of WIND AM 560.)
I'm sure there will be more developments, and I'll stay on them.

HYPERSPECIALIZATION BEGETS HYPEREXTENSION.

Title Nine of the 1972 Civil Rights Act made women's sports part of the business of intercollegiate athletics, and where there is business, there is an old boy's network.  Where play turns to business, there are also rewards to proper preparation, never mind the hazards.
Like their male counterparts, girls have started to specialize early in their careers, working on just one sport year-round, often as a way to capture the attention of college coaches. With more scholarship money available than ever, girls feel pressured to specialize at a young age in the hopes of winning a spot on an elite team or gaining an edge in the increasingly competitive college admissions game. Despite persistent warnings from orthopedic surgeons and trainers, young athletes bent on specialization continue to suffer from preventable overuse injuries, like stress fractures and stress reactions, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. "More than 50 percent of what we see in sports medicine are overuse injuries, which are entirely preventable," said Dr. Joel Brenner, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness.
Preventable, perhaps, but it is the American way to push the envelope and come up with better repairs when it's unavoidable.
Stability Enhancement Systems, an innovative company dedicated to reducing injury risk in athletes through targeted personalized interventions, was called on by the Northern Illinois women's basketball team last month to come to its rescue, and to help figure out why four players in the last year have suffered serious knee injuries, including leading scorer Courtney Woods last month.
Build a better mousetrap and all that.
SES was established in 2011 and has developed quite a reputation for its good work. Over the last four seasons, SES has put more than 650 athletes through its individualized matrix testing and programming and none of them, that's right, zero, has had season-ending knee injuries.

Central Michigan coach Sue Guevara sympathizes with [Northern Illinois coach Lisa] Carlsen and would much rather be facing an NIU team at full strength today. She knows how disruptive injuries can be. She hired SES a few years ago when knee injuries decimated her team.

"My heart sank when I heard about Courtney's injury," Guevara said of Woods. "I know what that's like. We went out and hired SES when we had a bunch of knee injuries and I can't say enough about them. They do a great job of evaluating each player and creating specific exercises for each player. It's not just a (blanket) approach for the whole team.

"For us, it's been money well spent. We have a kid this year who already had some knee problems (coming into the program) and she has an injury right now, but other than that, we haven't had a knee injury since we started working with SES."

Carlsen said she did her research about SES to make sure it would be a good fit for her program. She noted that Notre Dame hired SES a few years ago when a rash of knee injuries hit its women's basketball program, and that SES also works with USA Basketball.

"I feel like I'll be a doctor when all this is done," Carlsen said with a chuckle. "I've learned so much about joint stability in addition to muscle strength and how that all factors in.

"I am hoping this will help us and help our kids stay healthy. The way I see it, we owe it to our kids to do this, and to the program."
The institutional incentives are against it, though, according to Atlantic authors Linda Flanagan and Susan Greenberg.
For starters, we can strive to identify the particular conditions that make women more susceptible to catastrophic knee injuries and develop training regimens that reduce that risk. According to Dr. Levine, preventative measures to protect against A.C.L.s remain "an elusive 'holy grail'."

Eliminating the eating disorders that are so common among female athletes might be unrealistic. Female athletes have figured out that sports can provide a fast track to getting thin. Girls' and women's social value remains tied to appearance, particularly body size, and Kate Upton on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue speaks a lot louder than the athletic trainer admonishing them to eat enough protein and carbs. Short of a massive cultural realignment (and we're not holding our breath), perhaps the best we can do is take aim at the most serious eating disorders--anorexia and bulimia—and continue to educate coaches and parents to encourage healthful eating and exercising.


A big part of reducing overuse injuries for girls and boys both will involve getting the word out about the perils of early sports specialization. For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics and top professional orthopedic organizations have cautioned against kids' specializing and overtraining, to little effect. Still, imposing enforceable restrictions on playing time won't work because of the vast and complicated array of sports and teams. If a child plays basketball for his school, church, and travel teams, who imposes the rules? "Parents have to be the advocates of their children, even if that means going against what the coach recommends," Dr. Brenner says. "It's about putting the child first."
Good luck with that. Middle school competitors are committing to collegiate programs.
Sydney Supple wasn’t your average middle schooler, though.

Now a senior at Oshkosh North, Supple committed to play softball at Northwestern University when she was in eighth grade following what she called a whirlwind of emotions during her recruiting process.
It sounds like she's still a future Wildcat, although she has reservations.
Following her recruitment to Northwestern, Supple helped push for a new NCAA rule when she was 16, three years after committing, in softball where coaches are barred from contacting recruits until Sept. 1 of their junior year.

The rule took affect [c.q.] in 2018.

It wasn’t easy, either, she says.

“Don’t want to sound like a hypocrite because there’s nothing I regret about my decision,” Supple said. “I’m lucky, not everyone has a positive experience.”
Fifty years ago, John Hersey's The Child Buyer was supposed to be dystopian fiction, and it was a brainy but socially inept overweight kid getting recruited for some secret government project.  These days it's the precocious athletic kids.
Supple said athletes are also taking leaps of faith.

“Easy to say you love the game in sixth or seventh grade, but that can change as a junior when you’re juggling school and everything else,” Supple said. “You need to find out what’s important to you and sometimes that’s not until you’re older.”
That's what Boston College lacrosse recruit Sophia Gouraige found out.
Gouraige, once at college, quickly found herself dreading practices. "You always had to be on your game, study what was in your binder, know the plays, get out there and be your best, be the fastest, score the goals," she says. "It felt like a tryout at every practice."

Though she loved lacrosse, she didn't want to spend all her time playing it. She was eager to explore other things, and with a push from the coach, she left the team during her sophomore year. "When you go to college, it's all about how to win the national championship," says Gouraige, now 21. "Why can't sports just be fun?"
It can be, but as soon as you're playing for stakes, it's work. A train dispatcher is only as good as his last move. A researcher is only as good as his last paper.  A candidate is only as good as her last campaign.  And there is always somebody willing to outwork you.

IT'S A STROAD IN A DOWNSCALE NEIGHBORHOOD.

The new Obama Boulevard in Los Angeles, that is.
The ceremony capped a day-long street festival that took place where the newly-named street intersects with Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. An estimated crowd of more than 23,000 people assembled to pay tribute to Barack H. Obama, who was elected president in 2008 and served for two terms.
That choice of intersecting streets might be significant. Find a Martin Luther King avenue or boulevard or road in a major city that isn't in a poor, probably majority-minority neighborhood.  Will that be the future site of streets in Barack Obama's name as well?

Local politicians hope not.
“With this change, we are publicly documenting what Obama’s legacy as our nation’s first black President means to our city and our South Los Angeles community,” said Los Angeles City Council President Herb J. Wesson, who introduced the motion to honor Obama.

“For every child who will drive down this street and see the name of the first Black President of our country, this boulevard will serve as a physical reminder that no goal is out of reach and that no dream is too big.”
That's the hope. That was the hope when all those Martin Luther King street signs went up, too.  And get this.  "Obama Boulevard replaces a 3.5-mile stretch formerly known as Rodeo Road, not to be confused with Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills."

I wonder if all the fashionably leftist Hollywood types will put an Obama Road in their neighborhood.

RUSH LIMBAUGH CHANNELS KURT SCHLICHTER.

Complete with a wisecrack about cruises.
I was raised to believe the last thing in the world you defend is your own? That’s a manners thing that you don’t focus on yourself. You defend and protect everything but your own so that you can show you’re not selfish and into it for yourself. But he’s had a total reversal. Like you don’t defend your own, who else will? And if your own and what you believe in is under attack, you have no reason to shy away from defending it. So that’s what he means by that.

But [Norman Podhoretz's] observation, the conservative elite has allowed its sense of superiority to overcome its intellectual powers. That’s right on the money. Superiorist arrogance, condescension really aimed at Trump supporters as much, if not more, at Trump. But I think there’s jealousy. I think Trump coming along has proven the lack of need.I mean, these people for the longest time thought of themselves as the intellectual bulwark for conservatism. They were defining it. They were the locomotive. They were propelling it. They were enforcing it. They were influencing others. And in that regard, they were always asking for donations. Their hands were always out. “Here. Donate to my think tank. Donate to my magazine. Donate to my cruise. Whatever, give me money.”

Wait a minute, you’re conservative. What is this “give me money” business? “Well, we’re so important, the conservative movement, that we need our funding in nontraditional ways.” Well, if your magazine can’t make a profit, then how valuable is it, really? “Well, uh, the value is not the magazine, but the intellectual prowess that puts it together,” blah, blah, blah, blah.

Here comes Trump, somebody they have no respect for, somebody they think is an absolute birthing idiot, [c.q.] and is not asking anybody for a dime and is implementing everything they believed in to cheers and applause that they will never hear for themselves, and they’re just jealous.

Trump is demonstrating that they’ve been running maybe a little bit of a scam. What good have they been in implementing conservatism and advancing it if a guy who’s never been in politics before can come in and get elected president in less than two years, implement 90% of what they devoted their lives to. So I think that’s a factor.

But as Mr. Podhoretz says, it’s really a class thing. The superiorist, nose in the air looking down at lessers and having those lessers outperform you and demonstrate your own irrelevance got to be infuriating. And now their magazines are going belly up, so they’re starting new websites, and they can’t get subscribers for that. So it’s doubly frustrating.
Well, yes, and it amuses me that The Bulwark (that's a land fortification) uses a picture of a ship of the line as its emblem.  The Trump presidency has revealed some of the Conservative Establishment as simply bipartisanship by other means, properly understood as the Political Class protecting its perquisites against the rabble.

THE ANNUAL GATHERING OF THE RENT-SEEKERS.

It's Railroad Day on Capitol Hill.  It's not quite those thrilling days of yesteryear when the lobbyist for The Pennsylvania Railroad was an unofficial member of the Pennsylvania Senate.  It's still a big deal.  "More than 430 representatives from industry, labor, Class I’s, short lines, shippers and manufacturers who support the rail industry will visit with 350 Congressional Offices."

It's the freight side of the operation that's doing the talking.
Railroad Day provides the opportunity for our members and the industry to tell their very powerful story. Our nation’s freight rail system is the envy of the world, providing safe and efficient rail service, moving goods from small town and rural America across the country, and into the global economy. Railroad Day sets the table for substantive conversations with Congress on a variety of issues that will confront them in the back half of 2019 including infrastructure, surface transportation reauthorization, appropriations, trade and more.
Not surprisingly, the lobbying will include objections to any increases in the length and weight allowable for motor trucks.  Here is where some general equilibrium thinking might be in order.  The freight railroads tend to think in terms of losing markets to the truckers (that is, when they're not giving markets away.)  That puts the railroad lobbyists in a bad position.
Trucking companies are increasingly becoming a bigger part of railroad revenues. Individual trucking companies that oppose a weight-distance fee will lean on their railroad partners to not support such an effort, much as they did during consideration of the LCV freeze. There will be railroads that are more than uncomfortable seeking to impose greater costs on their trucking competitors/partners. Moreover, industries that propose to impose fees upon their competitors have a high hurdle to cross, as the AAR experience in the ’80s proved.
Perhaps the freight railroads have trouble making common cause with motorists, as the clutter of heavy trucks on urban roads puts Commuter Rail and Regional Rail, which is to say, government authorities, in a good light.
The American Automobile Association has been a supporter in years past, and economists support the user-pays principle. Railroad suppliers who do not supply the trucking industry would likely support the initiative, and rail labor would join the AAR in support, albeit after the pursuit of its own agenda. Beyond these groups, there are few fervent supporters. One need look no further than the few states that have weight-distance fees or taxes, and the absence of a federal weight-distance fee or tax, to conclude that—the best efforts of the AAR years ago notwithstanding—there is substantial lack of support for the concept.
Apparently, selling themselves as relatively free of taxpayer moneys is a talking point for the freight railroads.  Read this.  "And, even as the exhaust of idling cars fills our air, the efficiencies of rail provide environmental benefits everywhere trains go."  There's a lot of self-congratulation about billions of dollars in private investment in railroad infrastructure, but not a single word about getting some of those people stuck in traffic onto the scoots and dinkies.  On the other hand, "[I]f just 10% of freight moved by the largest trucks were instead moved by rail, greenhouse gas emissions would fall by more than 17 million tons." I know I'm repeating myself, but the freight railroad operators leave some of that freight on the roads. Deliberately. "[Union Pacific] executives have said the railroad was serving too many low-volume lanes, whose traffic moved in small blocks that could not efficiently be handled via steel wheel interchange in Chicago and other gateways."  That puts motorists and pedestrians at greater risk.

But getting the right mix of cooperation among the freight railroads and the Passenger Rail authorities, whether Amtrak or the state and metropolitan agencies, continues to be a challenge.