At least one essay in First and Fastest suggested that the North Shore Line was a Catholic railroad, not necessarily because the faith was required for employment, but many train crews observed, and Rockefeller, Illinois became Mundelein, home to several Catholic institutions, and habitted nuns were regular passengers on the trains.

The South Shore Line could also make that claim, terminating in South Bend, maybe Touchdown Jesus interceded with the patron saints of traction to bring back the Evening Hot Shots.

Here's the midday passenger load at South Bend, when the cars still ran on city streets to a downtown station.  August 13, 1966.


Northern Illinois University, where an economics faculty of 23 when I started is currently 12 or 13, has the resources for outside experts on generous expense accounts.  Apparently having a business guru on retainer is necessary to deal with falling enrollmentsConsultant Ron Walters paid $460K in 18 months, even without scheduled work.
Walters was paid $16,250 for his first two weeks at NIU. After that he was paid between $8,125 and $11,250 every two weeks until March 15, 2014, when he was paid $15,000, according to the FOIA results. Walters’ pay stayed at $15,000 every two weeks until his employment at NIU ended on Dec. 31.

Altogether, Walters was paid about $463,125 from July 15, 2013, to Dec. 31, 2014. He did not have a contract or consulting agreement with NIU, according to the results of a FOIA request submitted to NIU by the Northern Star.

In comparison, [university president Doug] Baker is paid $450,000 every year.
What expertise, dear reader, did this money buy?
Walters has worked with Baker on addressing NIU issues — falling enrollment, low retention and state funding cuts — since before Baker even officially began as NIU’s president: Walters was on campus by at least late June and Baker officially started work as president on July 1.

The two, who worked together during Baker’s time as provost at the University of Idaho, created and implemented NIU’s Bold Futures Workshops. The workshops, held during the 2013-14 academic year, brought together NIU and DeKalb community members to brainstorm ways to transform the campus.

Walters also helped in the creation of the Master Plan Thesis, a series of ideas about how NIU can be reinvented to increase campus activity. The thesis proposed planting 2,018 trees to honor the class of 2018, closing Normal Road to vehicles and establishing a more defined quad, among other things.

“Well, this was something just done in the spirit of exploring possibilities. This is far from being a plan that we will be implementing; it is simply to recognize that there are a lot of different fronts in which we need to be exploring in ways to provide better student experiences,” Walters said, according to a Feb. 11, 2014, Northern Star article.
Deanlets, deanlings, and rent-seekers, meeting and retreating. Somebody has to "facilitate" these things, after all.  And a state audit suggests the travelling expert was improperly reimbursed for travel expenses.

The good news is, the faculty have been prodded enough to push back against administrative usurpation.
University Council will hear a request from the faculty to increase their presence on the program prioritization task forces.

The Board of Trustees Ad Hoc Committee on Enrollment heard a presentation on program prioritization by Provost Lisa Freeman. In her presentation, Freeman said the Board of Trustees’ role in program prioritization is to manage costs within the university as well as provide an affordable education for students.

At the meeting, Faculty Senate President Bill Pitney said the faculty had agreed they wanted more representation on the task forces, which will evaluate academic and administrative programs.

Associate art professor Barbara Jaffee motioned Wednesday for the Faculty Senate to recommend proportional representation on the task forces as well as have the task force members be selected by the colleges. The motion was seconded and brought to a vote, passing with 25 yeas, 10 nays and four abstentions.
Fourteen administrator wannabees, the way I see it.


Rex Murphy of The National Post describes universities as beacons of folly.
The universities, under the banner of hollow diversity and the even more hollow and self-contradictory banner of tolerance, are mutating into thought-suppressing machines. Any flag raised in the name of identity or marginalization has them prostrate in anxiety and fear. The idea of undergraduate life as a rooting out of intellectual predispositions, of history as anything but a huge case file of oppression, of testing minds as opposed to flattering feelings, is lost.

The universities are running a risky race. The more they quiver before the onslaught of the cause-mongers, refuse to take clear and bold stands against protest intimidation tactics, the more they lose their centuries-old prestige. It is a situation that should concern everybody. The ability to think clearly, and the absorption of the best that has been thought and said, have given the world all the moral and scientific progress — real progress — it has ever known. As universities become more and more the willing hostages of the anti-thought brigades, the more they will diminish in both esteem and worth.
In The Weekly Standard, Jonathan Last suggests this will not last.
If you pay any attention to the ways in which radicalism dominates the culture of the university these days, you're likely to feel as though you've gone through the looking glass. "White privilege." "Trigger warnings." "Rape culture." All of this (and much else) has turned academia into a bizarre, Orwellian simulacrum of itself. And not only that, but the radicalism has migrated outward into the broader culture, too. It's the kind of insanity we haven't seen in America since the bad old days of the early 1970s.

The good news is that these sorts of perversions always burn themselves out-they're too untethered to reality. Eventually people realize that the radicalism is really about just one thing: power.  And once people begin to challenge the dogmas, they collapse in a cascade. Because as they lose their power to exact a price for criticism, they attract more of it.
Not yet the beginning of the end, but certainly well-past the end of the beginning.

What intrigues, though, is that in the middle of a Chris Hedges rant doubling down on the freakazoids asserting themselves, comes this.
I confronted the sickness of a predatory society. A meeting between me and students arranged by the university had been canceled. Protesters gathered outside the hall. Some people stormed out of the lecture room, slamming the doors after them, when I attacked the trafficking of prostituted women and girls. A male tribal leader named Toghestiy stood after the talk and called for the room to be “cleansed” of evil—this after Audrey Siegl, a Musqueam Nation woman, emotionally laid out what she and other women face at the hands of male predators—and one of the conference organizers, English professor Stephen Collis, seized the microphone at the end of the evening to denounce me as “vindictive.” It was a commercial for the moral bankruptcy of academia.

Moral collapse always accompanies civilizations in decline, from Caligula’s Rome to the decadence at the end of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. Dying cultures always become hypersexualized and depraved. The primacy of personal pleasure obtained at the expense of others is the defining characteristic of a civilization in its death throes.
Perhaps, though, if the Perpetually Aggrieved wage perpetual Oppression Olympics on each other (how dare that whitemale Christian Hedges comment on capitalism's treatment of women of color?) normal people will obtain breathing space to reclaim the academy, and other institutions.


Crosscut proposes to restore the cowboy edition of Switzerland.
Electrify a main line rail corridor with renewable energy. Make the line so competitive it can haul freight at a fraction of the energy it takes diesel-powered trucks and ignite a resurgence in passenger ridership — on electric trains at high speeds.

The Northern Transcontinental route, the one the Empire Builder follows from Chicago to Seattle, is the one where rail experts, renewable energy economists, climate activists and railroad workers say they could first demonstrate electric rail’s low carbon potential.
It's been done.

Olympian Hiawathas meet at Francis, Montana, September 1957
John Karlson photograph.

The article notes the short electrically operated section on the Great Northern through the Cascade Range, but The Milwaukee Road's Lines Electrically Operated might not have been on the author's reading list.
“Our objective,” says [environmentalist Bill] Moyer, “is to create faster, more efficient trains with increased reliability.” What makes the Northern Transcontinental particularly appealing — the route runs from Illinois, through Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana and the Idaho panhandle before heading through Washington — is its potential to be powered entirely by renewables: sun, wind and hydro power. When you electrify, says energy economist [Bruce] McFarland, you increase speed because electric trains have better acceleration and braking than diesel trains. It’s also less expensive to add horsepower to an electric freight train since power is obtained from the overhead wire instead of from a diesel generator built into the locomotive. Electrification will also reduce the operating costs of freight trains substantially, he adds. “Our baseline argument to the railway operator,” he says, is simple: Look at the money.

Advocates say the main selling points for electric rail are to jump-start a low-carbon transportation solution where rail can attract freight from polluting, highway-damaging trucks; help revitalize passenger rail; and guarantee good, sustainable working conditions for railroad workers. But the reality of exploding oil trains — four in the last four weeks alone — is not far from their minds.
Electrification advocates have long pointed out that diesel-electric power implies carrying sufficient generating capacity along with each train to be able to get over the toughest summits: that's just excess weight going down, and the diesel locomotive's dynamic brakes produce heat, rather than returning current to the wires to set back the railroad's electric meters.  Railroad publicists of an earlier era described it as "Electricity keeping its own books, forsooth!"  Those same publicists also described the hydroelectric power as white coal, and advertised open-air sightseeing cars free from "cinders that blind."  But the structure to support the overhead wires doesn't come for free, and at current prices, no railroad has yet made the investment.
So we burn neutrons and Powder River coal instead, and somebody has to pony up for the catenary. Diesel fuel prices are not yet high enough for anyone to seriously look at that prospect, although the idea of some musical thyristor-controlled motors with the authority of a Great Northern W-1 topping the Cascades and keeping electricity's books downhill with 125 stack cars on appeals.
Perhaps yet in my lifetime?



More than you probably wanted to know about "genderqueer" and "nonbinary."  (No non-quiche-eating Real Guys were insulted in writing the article.)
Dividing the world into males and female is such a big part of the culture that it can seem impossible, and perhaps even aggravating, to try to think outside those categories. This is not only a problem for squares stuck in a binary way of thinking—many of the terms associated with genderqueerness end up referring back to masculinity or femininity in some way, which is a bit tricky if the ideal is to move beyond the gender binary entirely.
See the problem?
Whether they shift their clothing and expression to suit their moods, work to achieve an ambiguous appearance that cannot easily be classified as male or female, or dress or act in a way that fails to conform with the expectations for members of their gender, or any gender (or something else altogether—when reporting on this community one learns there’s always room for more exceptions), accommodating genderqueer individuals really isn’t so difficult. It comes down to listening to what they say about themselves, accepting that this is true for them, and not making a fuss about it. Occasionally, it may also mean making an effort to remember a pronoun that feels a little awkward.
Would that it were so simple.
Functionality takes precedence, with elements taken from queer-friendly subcultures: punkishly torn vests, riot grrrl boots, hip-hop’s baggy T-shirts and grungey jumpers. What’s more, most gay women I know dress using elements of the above; it’s not only a uniform, but a Freemason’s handshake. It’s how we could tell the queer from the straight. So it’s no surprise that Ellen Page prefers a Saint Laurent suit to a pretty dress.

It used to act as code for your sexuality but now things have changed. News that the biggest trend of the season is unisex – which, let’s face it, draws on some of the things I’ve mentioned, perhaps with a cleaner cut – has complicated things.
Institutions evolve to conserve on transaction costs. Identity is an institution. Break down the institutions, deal with what follows.


Lengthy DeKalb Daily Chronicle analysis of spending and profitability in the Mid-American Conference.  Ohio State's football ticket revenue exceeds the total spending on all sports in any Mid-American athletic department.  Northern Illinois operates the most profitable (as these authors reckon it, it's neither proper income accounting nor generally accepted accounting principles) athletic program.  Credit the report with a reference to "vague institutional support."  That's distinct from the student fees, which bring in at least $10m at six of the conference programs.  Only three programs sell at least $1m of football tickets.  In several cases, spending on recruiting in football and basketball exceeds the ticket revenues of the respective programs.  (That the Mid-American tournament winner is generally a one-and-done in March Madness might follow logically.)


The bitter joke around Northern Illinois University runs, "we've gone from state-supported to state-aided to state-tolerated to state-located."  Illinois legislator Bill Brady responds with a change in state funding methods.
"What is really the genesis of this bill is that when I was the Republican nominee for governor, I obviously spent time with university presidents, public and private, and really found two things that we're really trying to solve here," he said. "One is that the public universities told me how burdened they were by regulations from the Legislature, as compared to their private counterparts. My personal position is that we really ought to look at this because it may be the only way some of our universities thrive. I'm not saying survive, but thrive. We need to give them tools that would allow them to do a lot of things they just aren't equipped to do now.

"It also would hold students more accountable," he said. "If you get a (Monetary Award Program) grant today and you just quit after your freshman year or flunk out, we've essentially wasted taxpayer dollars without any accountability. So what this does is it takes the same amount of money that we spend on higher education, which has been depleted, and invests it in Illinois students to go to a place and holds them accountable. And it offers them an incentive to stay in Illinois."
The state grants have been a sore point with the state-supported universities, as they are enough like vouchers a student can use at any institution of higher education in Illinois. But the legislators are more than a little worried about getting their money back.
Brady acknowledged that other Republicans have proposed less far-reaching reforms of the higher education system. Sen. Chapin Rose of Mahomet has a bill that would require MAP recipients to pay back the financial aid if they leave the state within five years of graduation. Rep. Reggie Phillips, R-Charleston, proposed that MAP recipients have at least an 18 on the ACT or a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
What is it about legislators obsessing about keeping graduates in state, rather than providing an environment in which universities can compete for the best students irrespective of their locations of origin or of destination?  Furthermore, what incentives might these requests for repayment create: in particular, how much additional grade-grubbing will weak and marginal students engage in if they're facing an obligation to return their grants?  It's bad enough that some third world countries ship weak graduate students out under such terms, facing faculties with the choice of retaining a dismal student or creating a public charge.  Now let's make that universal?


Rick Harnish of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association suggests to legislators that Illinois investments in improved train speed and frequency are beginning to pay off.  For all the good it did.  Reports speak of future funding for the restoration of Rockford service, and the provision of a Quad Cities branch of the Way of the Zephyrs, as "frozen."  Delay is the deadliest form of denial.


An Economist essay identifies the great failure of higher education as we understand it.
A bachelor’s degree in America still yields, on average, a 15% return. But it is less clear whether the growing investment in tertiary education makes sense for society as a whole. If graduates earn more than non-graduates because their studies have made them more productive, then university education will boost economic growth and society should want more of it. Yet poor student scores suggest otherwise. So, too, does the testimony of employers. A recent study of recruitment by professional-services firms found that they took graduates from the most prestigious universities not because of what the candidates might have learned but because of those institutions’ tough selection procedures. In short, students could be paying vast sums merely to go through a very elaborate sorting mechanism.

If America’s universities are indeed poor value for money, why might that be? The main reason is that the market for higher education, like that for health care, does not work well. The government rewards universities for research, so that is what professors concentrate on. Students are looking for a degree from an institution that will impress employers; employers are interested primarily in the selectivity of the institution a candidate has attended. Since the value of a degree from a selective institution depends on its scarcity, good universities have little incentive to produce more graduates. And, in the absence of a clear measure of educational output, price becomes a proxy for quality. By charging more, good universities gain both revenue and prestige.
Because at any time there are fifty or sixty claimants to the rank of top twenty, whether we are looking at universities per se, or at departments individually, there may be more to what goes on than outright sorting.  On the other hand, if the essay is suggesting that what passes for education at a lot of universities is a sham -- never mind the demoralization of the faculty or the enabling of slackers -- there, the columnist has a point, even if the reforms thus proposed miss the point.
More information would make the higher-education market work better. Common tests, which students would sit alongside their final exams, could provide a comparable measure of universities’ educational performance. Students would have a better idea of what was taught well where, and employers of how much job candidates had learned. Resources would flow towards universities that were providing value for money and away from those that were not. Institutions would have an incentive to improve teaching and use technology to cut costs. Online courses, which have so far failed to realise their promise of revolutionising higher education, would begin to make a bigger impact. The government would have a better idea of whether society should be investing more or less in higher education.
Isn't the point of information in markets to allow individuals to decide where to spend their money? Is the focus on education policies put together by governments misplaced?



Ringling Barnum retire their elephant act because the cost of litigation and permitting is prohibitive.
Two years earlier, the ASPCA was ordered to pay [Ringling Barnum operator] Feld [Entertainment] $9.3 million after making false claims against the company in court. These groups aren't just having their claims thrown out; they're so egregious that they are compensating Feld and Ringling Bros. for their misdeeds.

So the claims by these animal rights extremists against Ringling Bros. have been shown in court to be a total fraud, and claims that the "Greatest Show on Earth" is harmful to animals have been debunked repeatedly in court, as well as in the court of public opinion.

But the threats of further litigation didn't stop. Activists publicly admit that it doesn't really matter if you're successful in court — the act of suing is a useful irritant that costs your adversary time, money and focus, and gets them to give in, even if the underlying litigation is without merit. . In fact, here, Feld conceded that the non-stop litigation and costs of opposing regulatory threats in localities around the country were integral to the Feld family's decision to retire the 13 currently performing Asian elephants from the traveling circus.
The Perpetually Aggrieved might have been able to use Ringling Barnum's size against it.  Get ankus ordinances passed in large metropolitan areas, and you deprive Big Bertha of the large arenas that can hold The Greatest Show on Earth.

Getting such ordinances passed state-wide, or in small-town America where there is an athletic field that can hold a small tented show is another matter.

Thus, you might encounter a picketer or two at such a show, but at many such shows there will still be an elephant act, and perhaps an opportunity for the youngsters to ride an elephant at intermission.
The irony here is that Ringling Bros. has done far more to preserve Asian elephants' on planet earth than the flailing animal rights groups. They, instead, are popping corks that children can't see elephants in the circus anymore, and I'm certain will continue their tried and true pattern of focusing their time, energy and resources ginning up lawsuits or other bogus attacks on human interaction with animals — impacting the ability of companies and governments who come under their scrutiny from focusing on their missions. Sadly, I guess that's the point.
It's children of all ages in the big cities who will only be able to see elephants in pictures or in model displays.

But this model elephant will get a model harness to function as pullover team, and the smaller itinerant circuses will have a marketing advantage in getting straw houses, which I will mention to spectators at this year's displays of the Karlson Brothers Circus.


Here's the latest from the Los Angeles Times about California's self-inflicted water emergency.
Just because California is not exhausting its water supply "doesn't mean we're not in a crisis," said Leon Szeptycki, executive director of the Water in the West program at Stanford University, who called the state's snowpack, at 12% of average, "both bad for this year but also a troubling sign for the future."

State officials said stricter conservation measures, including watering restrictions for cities and big cuts in water deliveries to San Joaquin Valley farmers, will help reduce the drain on reservoirs.

Madelyn Glickfeld, director of the UCLA Water Resources Group at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, said the drought is so serious that stricter conservation measures are urgently needed. "But I'm confident California's government will not let this get to the point where water is not coming out of peoples' faucets."
Repeat, as repeat I must: prices function to allocate demand.  Perhaps it is time for something stronger.  Government failure and the California drought.
Thus in a semi-arid region like California there’s a large rice industry, represented in Sacramento by an active trade association. Think of this rule through the lens of permissionless innovation — these farmers have to ask permission before they can make temporary transfers, Board approval is not guaranteed, and they are barred from making permanent transfers of their use rights. One justification for this rule is the economic viability of small farming communities, which the water bureaucrats believe would suffer if farmers sold their water rights and exited the industry. This narrow view of economic viability, assuming away the dynamism that means that residents of those communities could create more valuable lives for themselves and others if they use their resources and talents differently, is a depressing but not surprising piece of bureaucratic hubris.
The advantage of a price system is that it might be possible to use Californian farm-land for something other than rice paddies or dairy farms without returning to those days of life that was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
What California and the nation needs is a long-term transition away from industrial agriculture toward sustainable local agriculture in which farmers grow and manage food only for those living within a small radius around them. The trend has already begun. Demand for locally grown foods is greater than ever as Americans realize the insanity of growing all our food in one small corner of the world and expending energy destructively to move it around. The idea of food as a profit-generating commodity is becoming obsolete, mostly because the planet cannot afford such a disconnected system.

Hand in hand with a renewable energy industry whose pillars are solar and wind power, a localized food system can help California transition away from unsustainably feeding much of the nation while generating green energy jobs to replace the lost farming jobs. The problem of the drought is inextricably linked to food production and climate change, so the solution must tackle these issues head on. There is no other way.
Actually, there is, and the author stumbled across it whilst laying out her case.
The truth is that California’s Central Valley, which is where the vast majority of the state’s farming businesses are located, is a desert. That desert is irrigated with enough precious water to artificially sustain the growing of one-third of the nation’s fruits and vegetables, a $40 billion industry.

Think about it. A third of all produce in the United States is grown in a desert in a state that has almost no water left. That produce is trucked from the West Coast all over the country in fossil-fuel-consuming vehicles, thereby contributing to the very mechanism of climate change that is likely to be driving California’s historic drought.

“It is not a place that agriculture, at the scale and at the scope that exists now, should exist,” Redman explained.
Get the incentives right, what's the problem? "In the meantime, our prized water heritage is being used to water lettuce, alfalfa and cantaloupes. But we have to eat, don’t we?"  Yes, and some of those crops can be raised on fields that get more rainfall.  And the best cheeses in the country still come from Wisconsin.  "New York came in second among the states, with seven gold medals. California had six, Vermont had five, Idaho, four; Oregon, three."  Put another way, those Californian water allocations and dairy subsidies are producing mediocre cheese.  Turf 'em out, I say.

Unfortunately, worldwide, there is too much wishful thinking about water.
The Dublin rally was the latest mass mobilization in a protracted fight to head off a top-down push to directly charge residents for water use, to satisfy European Union and International Monetary Fund demands.

Beyond declaring that they "won't pay," protesters also seek to take proactive steps to prevent the government from privatizing Ireland's water bureau, Irish Water

Addressing the crowd, Communications Workers Union representative Steve Fitzpatrick called for water to be protected as a public good in the constitution. The union is proposing an amendment which would read, "The Government shall be collectively responsible for the protection, management and maintenance of the public water system."

Many emphasized that the fight to defend water rights—and public goods—spans the globe.
Am I being too pedantic, invoking non-rivalrous and non-exclusive?

But note the teaching point: in the absence of incentives to conserve, a place as blessed with natural rainfall as Ireland can run out of water.


The editorial board of the Grand Rapids Press calls for a return of the Pere Marquettes.
There are many compelling reasons to connect Grand Rapids and Detroit by passenger train. Both cities are up-and-coming; Grand Rapids is enjoying a much-storied renaissance, and Detroit is beginning to rebuild after bankruptcy. The future holds much promise for each, and new connections between the two -- physical and otherwise -- are a plus.

Rail travel also has become increasingly popular among the younger generation. Fewer are buying cars, and more are choosing to live in cities that have or are connected to formidable public transit systems.

There's also been increased demand in recent years for Amtrak's Grand Rapids-to-Chicago Pere Marquette Line, which has seen near-record ridership numbers. As Detroit raises its profile and grows, it is increasingly likely that demand for a Grand Rapids-Detroit train will grow even more.
There was twice-daily service (except Sunday) on this route up to the coming of Amtrak.  "Limited baggage service" and no food service.  The one Grand Rapids - Chicago train of the era wasn't as conducive to long-distance commuters or shoppers as Amtrak's morning-west, evening-east is.

The Chesapeake and Ohio never offered connecting service at Grand Rapids, as going Chicago to Detroit by way of Grand Rapids is the long way around, compared with the Michigan Central via Kalamazoo (the current 110 mph line) or the Grand Trunk by way of Lansing and Durand (Amtrak almost gets to Durand with its Michigan service turning at Pontiac.)

I wonder how much longer Michigan's Republican governor will continue to work with his Department of Transportation providing expanded Passenger Rail service, before his colleagues in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin excommunicate him.


And it's always the same hot-house environments.  Here we go again, with Brown University on the east coast and Reed College on the west coast.  And a lot of other places, according to New York Times pundit Judith Shulevitz.  Margaret Soltan's University Diaries identifies the money quote.
People ought to go to college to sharpen their wits and broaden their field of vision. Shield them from unfamiliar ideas, and they’ll never learn the discipline of seeing the world as other people see it. They’ll be unprepared for the social and intellectual headwinds that will hit them as soon as they step off the campuses whose climates they have so carefully controlled.
Reason's Robby Soave goes further, contrasting the elite hot-houses with pre-school, and not to higher ed's favor.
To say that the 18-year-olds at Brown who sought refuge from ideas that offended them are behaving like toddlers is actually to insult the toddlers—who don't attend daycare by choice, and who routinely demonstrate more intellectual courage than these students seem capable of. (Anyone who has ever observed a child tackling blocks for the first time, or taking a chance on the slide, knows what I mean.)
It gets better.
Caving to students' demands for trigger warnings and safe spaces is doing them no favors: it robs them of the intellectually-challenging, worldview-altering kind of experience they should be having at college. It also emboldens them to seek increasingly absurd and infantilizing restrictions on themselves and each other.

As their students mature, my mother and her co-workers encourage the children to forego high chairs and upgrade from diapers to "big kid" toilets. If only American college administrators and professors did the same with their students.
There's an opportunity here for the land-grants and mid-majors, if the faculty and Student Affairs see it: the cookie-cutter snowflakes and hothouse flowers tend to turn up at the Ivies and their ilk.  (Perhaps Ms Shulevitz had enough material for a column just from the usual suspects, but her round-up of "make the owie go away" didn't offer any anecdotes from a land-grant or mid-major or community college.)

Susan Kruth of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education states the general principle these special pleaders seem bent on breaking. "If meaningful debate is to be possible on college campuses, students must be willing to thoughtfully engage with those with whom they disagree, those who use language they dislike, and those who make them emotionally uncomfortable."  And the snowflakes, by making that nasty sunlight go away, are depriving themselves of an intellectual challenge that others, outside the consensus, get as a matter of course.  Here is Jonathan Adler, a member of The Volokh Conspiracy.
One of the benefits of having been right-of-center in college was that my political and philosophical views were constantly challenged. There was no “safe space” — and I was better for it. I often felt that I received a better education than many of my peers precisely because I was not able to hold unchallenged assumptions or adopt unquestioned premises.
That's an argument of long pedigree, particularly among libertarian or conservative observers of the academy: the leftists and liberals never have to engage the strong form of significant opposing views, and sputtering "Tea Party" or "dittohead" and hoping that ends the argument often fails on the outside.  It gets interesting, though, when Power Line's Steven Hayward picks up discomfort with the Perpetually Aggrieved among Nation writers.

There is a challenge for classroom management that emerges, though.  A student, or a workshop participant, ought not use viewpoint diversity as a club.  Daniel Drezner explains that there is a right way, and a wrong way, to air dissenting views, and a right way, and a wrong way, for a faculty member (or whoever is leading the discussion) to ensure opportunities for exchanges of views.
I’ve led a fair number of undergraduate and graduate seminars in my day. If a student shares a politically unpopular viewpoint, then as the seminar leader it’s often my job to defend that position. In the absence of such views, I will very often articulate such views as a means of provoking the conversation.

That said, if any student tries to monopolize or repeatedly hijack the conversation, it’s a serious pedagogical problem. A seminar leader has to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to articulate their views, and critique others in the room. Playing intellectual traffic cop is difficult, but it’s made even more difficult if one person just honks their horn endlessly without stopping.  And to play this metaphor out, when students do nothing but honk their own horn, they tend to drown out others trying to communicate with them.

In the classroom at least, simply averring the free speech should never be restricted is facile but wrong. There’s only so much time in a seminar and when one person is speaking, the others need to listen.
Yes, that's another skill that the pre-school teaches. Take your turn. Let the other person take his turn.

When it appears that the conversation is headed off-topic, that's when the discussion leader has to invoke the cup of coffee, or the pitcher of beer, depending on the audience.


The Badger Herald investigates why it's frequently Standing Room Only on Madison's buses.  There has been one bus garage, that was state-of-the-art for the late 1970s, when it replaced a former streetcar barn on the far east side.  But you can't just park buses on side streets, they require cleaning and servicing.
The city’s bus garage was meant to house 160 buses, Madison Metro Transit spokesperson Mick Rusch said.

Today, the building, located on 1101 East Washington Avenue, is home to 214 buses, Rusch said. That number does not include the 17 paratransit vans and the additional service vehicles and pick-up trucks that are also held at the garage.
Thus there are plans to build a second bus garage (I want to say car station, but that's my Milwaukee Electric background) elsewhere on the far east side.

And what have I been saying about the incompatibility of authorities and amenities?  Apparently Madison Metro held onto some of its older buses, as a kind of rolling archive, but to free up space in the bus garage, all but one of those buses was sold at auction.

Badger Herald photograph by Erik Brown.

That may be one of the motor buses that replaced Madison's single-truck Birney Safety Cars.

At least one of the others is in a collection used to properly back-date Hollywood movies set in the World War II or The America that Worked(TM) eras.



The South Shore Line: a different kind of fast emergency package service.  Before Federal Express, you could bring your shipment to the passenger agent, and it would go out in the baggage compartment of the next available train, or perhaps in the merchandise despatch trailer.

South Shore baggage trailer 503 at Michigan City, 19 April 1963

On today's railroad, there are no baggage compartments on any coaches (with all the airport, Notre Dame, and weekender traffic, that's something to consider changing) and the baggage trailers, recycled from Indiana Service Corporation cars, are in museums.

That doesn't mean the end of courier service and just-in-time delivery.
The LaPorte Metro Operations Unit says the South Shore Railroad is frequently used to transport heroin and cocaine to and from both locations. Metro Operations Commander Harlan Williams tells The (Munster) Times that the sellers appear to be normal commuters who keep the drugs hidden in bags or on their person.
In some cases, hidden in a dangerous way.  Apparently, law enforcement have been watching this interstate commerce on the interurban for some time.  No word on whether the faster trains will become the vehicle of choice for future couriers.


I'd really rather that Starbucks encourage its staff to recognize customers as they walk in, rather than glance over whilst concentrating on the drive-through traffic.  The walk-in trade, after all, might want to hang out for a while, and make repeat purchases, and leave a bigger tip.

Recognizing walk-in customers by attempting to start a conversation about race relations ... bad idea.  Polite thing to do might be to simply say "no thanks," but if you want to encourage critical thinking, here are some suggested conversation starters from Charlie Sykes.  Yeah, they're provocative.  The last one, though, might be a way of keeping the line moving.  "I’m sorry, I didn’t realize there were so many people behind me in line. Of course, I can move on. Thanks and #HaveaNiceDay."


The things you learn.  Germany deregulates intercity bus service in 2013, and lower prices entice riders off the passenger trains.  (There are no speed limits on the Autobahns as we understand them, but somehow a 300 km/h Greyhound Scenicruiser boggles the mind.)  Deutsche Bahn strikes back.
Deutsche Bahn revealed details of an ambitious programme to regain lost business in the long-distance passenger market through expansion of its ICE and IC networks on March 18. The move follows an unprecedented surge in long-distance coach travel since market deregulation in 2013.

Faster and more frequent trains serving more destinations are envisaged in a programme which DB says will see €12bn invested by 2030. Thanks to a 25% increase in service levels, DB hopes to attract up to 50 million more passengers a year.

Highlights of the plans include two ICE services an hour on core routes and the relaunch of IC services using 120 double-deck trains that will serve ‘nearly all’ towns and cities in Germany with a population of more than 100 000. Completion of sections of new line between Nürnberg and Berlin will cut München – Berlin timings to under 4 h from 2018.
Chicago - Naperville - Rockford - Madison, anyone? With half-hourly headways?  Let's keep that 100,000 population in the backs of our minds.  The research department owes me a report.
Ulrich Homburg, DB’s Board Member for Passenger Transport, said that ‘with the largest and most modern long-distance network since the railway reform we want to make our contribution to Germany’s future … with two ICE trains an hour on the main routes we will effectively be creating a super-fast and very comfortable S-Bahn between Germany’s cities.’
That is, the trains will offer the frequency, connectivity, and perhaps the amenities of ... interurbans.  The German railroads give the impression of a very heavily used commuter rail service, thus it's not too much of a stretch to commingle regional trains and intercity limiteds on the same tracks.


Economists will never lack for work.  Thus Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution, solving California's water problems. "California has plenty of water…just not enough to satisfy every possible use of water that people can imagine when the price is close to zero." I wonder, if California water rates reflected opportunity costs, if there would be more milk production there than in Wisconsin.



Might Detroit be more of a mess simply because it's still well situated to make cars?  Here's John Tamny (via Newmark's Door).
Investors have deemed factory work unworthy of most Americans’ abilities.  Growing cities haven’t nor do they pay much mind to the outflow of manufacturing work simply because the compensation for it is so lousy.
To a first approximation, that might be true, but the objective conditions that permit the resources formerly devoted to the departing industries to be repurposed must also be present.  Consider one example.
Back to Seattle, while manufacturing work to some degree dried up by the ‘70s, this didn’t signal the city’s decline.  Soon enough Seattle natives Bill Gates and Paul Allen relocated Microsoft there from Albuquerque, NM, and the city’s fortunes took off.  Microsoft employs countless residents, but even that doesn’t tell the full story.  That high-paying tech jobs at Microsoft replaced manufacturing work led to a huge jobs multiplier as investment bankers, roofers, lawyers, yoga instructors and baristas rushed into the jewel of the Pacific Northwest in order to meet the needs of Microsoft’s (now Amazon too, among others) rather flush base of employees.
It's in your perspective. To some people, Seattle is "the jewel of the Pacific Northwest." To others it is a rain-soaked settlement halfway to Alaska.  Detroit is also rain-soaked, but across the river is Canada.
What about cities like Flint and Detroit? They’re not crumbling monuments to the past because the Big Three automakers aren’t doing well, or because the Big Three are not creating enough factory jobs; rather both cities struggle precisely because the Big Three are doing well enough that they still create jobs in Michigan at all.  Counterintuitive as this may seem, the sad fact that local and national politicians have propped up GM and Chrysler in order to “save jobs” explains why Michigan’s once important cities are doing so poorly, all the while driving away their best and brightest.  As I write in my upcoming book, Popular Economics, to create lots of quality jobs we must constantly be destroying the work of the past.
The objective conditions by which as old industries go away, new industries come in are not necessarily the same as the objective conditions by which the best and brightest get driven out.  Popular Economics might be worth a purchase, but Richard Longworth's Caught in the Middle well might be useful supplemental reading.


University Diaries uses news of a basketball game between Texas Southern and Southern University that ended in fights to look at the academic performance of those institutions of higher education. "Why is Texas Southern University a university? Why hasn’t it been shut down?"

To do so would be to further dismantle Jim Crow.  Texas Southern and Southern are among the historically black colleges and universities.  Presumably the point of integrating Ole Miss and Texas and the like is to compel the state flagship universities to admit the best, irrespective of, as we used to say, race, creed, or color.  If there is excess capacity in access-assessment-remediation-retention, might the institutions set up to maintain segregation not be a good place to look?



The South Shore Line's inaugural Sunrise Express makes a favorable impression.  The limiteds (dare we hope for the return of Morning and Evening Hot Shots?) will operate for at least a year.  (But why, Chicago Tribune, must you write of a train "that chugs off Monday" when it's an interurban, running on rails that once boasted the fastest electric trains in the world?)

The service is timed to appeal to Michigan residents who live along an Amtrak line with 110 mph diesel trains, unfortunately not running on commuter-convenient schedules.  Thus legal secretary Maria Hirschfield is on Mr Insull's last interurban.
The Niles woman was among the passengers on the South Shore railroad's inaugural "Sunrise Express" train. The new weekday service travels between South Bend and Chicago in under two hours, with one train in the morning and another in the afternoon.

Hirschfield goes to Chicago three times a week for her secretarial job at a law firm in the West Loop. The express service means she'll be able to cut more than 40 minutes off her morning commute, and she'll save time again on the way back to South Bend.

"When I told my boss about the express, we were both thrilled," Hirschfield said from her seat on the train Monday morning. "So was my husband, because I'll get home a little earlier at night."
Other South Bend passengers seemed similarly enthusiastic.

The Limited's other stops are Dune Park and East Chicago, where there's a sizable park-and-ride lot at the Indianapolis Boulevard station, and improved travel times. "The new train will lop more than 10 minutes off the usual East Chicago to Millenium station run and 20 minutes off the ride from Chesterton's Dune Park."   A Northwest Times editorial says, "Thank you, South Shore, may we have another?"  Once upon a time, there were two such rush-hour limiteds, but the idea of skipping Hammond, Gary, and Michigan City is new.

Get some warmer weather, and those long late spring evenings in Indiana, and a trip report on the Evening Hot Shot will be in order.  A return to Chicago in time to catch the last scoots west is possible.


Wisconsin state representative John Jagler (R-Watertown) introduces a bill requiring the state universities of Wisconsin to identify the high schools from which students requiring remedial courses graduated, with counts of students from those schools.  His motive appears to be to help parents identify weak high school systems.  The editorial board of Racine's Journal-Times endorses.
With all the talk of school accountability, this is one basic measure to show how schools are doing. When these reports come out they should recorded as a percentage of students, not strictly a number because obviously larger schools will have more students that need remedial courses simply because of population.

Approximately 20 to 30 percent of students need remediation, according to minutes from a December 2013 Board of Regents meeting. It’s in line with national standards, according to the minutes, but still concerning.
Yes, regular readers might recall seeing this idea nearly ten years ago.  Sage say "if you sit by the river long enough, the corpses of your adversaries will float past you."

And I continue to suspect that such reports will surprise people.  I was unable in a few minutes running the search engine to find how much greater the proportion of twentieth percentile graduates of high schools in wealthy districts who start college is than the proportion of eightieth percentile graduates of high schools in poor districts who do so: this Forbes essay alludes to that phenomenon.

In a world where a Hartland Arrowhead High follows up on its $600K locker room by building new soccer practice fields, and as an austerity measure, only one of those fields rates artificial turf, it might concentrate a few minds to see how many of those students wind up in MATH 099 (or whatever the University of Wisconsin system refers to its junior-high arithmetic course as these days) and it would be delicious to see the district be presented a bill, in the Tennessee fashion, for those services.


Princeton's women's basketball team goes undefeated, rates a higher seed in the NCAA tournament than the Ivy champion generally gets, yet feels under-rated.
Owners of a perfect 30-0 record, an RPI of 12 and a Sagarin Rating of seven, the Tigers entered Monday night’s NCAA Tournament selection show watch party at the Shea Rowing Center hoping to snag a No. 4 seed.

Instead, the selection committee pegged them as a No. 8 seed, sending them to College Park, Maryland to take on No. 9 Green Bay at 11:00 a.m. Saturday in the Spokane region.

“We were a little bit surprised, but that’s okay,” senior guard Blake Dietrick said after the bracket was revealed. “It’s true that we haven’t beaten any top 25 teams, so that was definitely something that counted against us.”

Dietrick’s assessment was likely accurate. Though the Tigers were undefeated, they only played two other tournament teams — Pittsburgh is the No. 10 seed in the Spokane region and American is the No. 14 seed in the Oklahoma City region. Twenty-one of their 30 wins were against teams with RPIs outside of the top 100.
Green Bay are the representative, as they almost always are, from the Horizon League, which has not been the same since DePaul and Northern Illinois left a precursor conference for other affiliations.
The intriguing matchup of top mid-major teams is slated to be broadcast on ESPN2.

Princeton, the Ivy League champion, is the first mid-major women's team to go into the NCAA tournament undefeated since Liberty in 1998. As a No. 16 seed, Liberty was quickly dispatched by No. 1 seed Tennessee in resounding fashion, 102-58.

The UWGB contingent had to wait about 40 minutes into ESPN's hour-long selection show to hear its name called in the last of the four regions of brackets unveiled. Now, the Phoenix has added incentive as it plays in the NCAA tournament for the first time in two years.

"I think, for us, we want to be that team that is the team that gets to say, 'Hey, we're that (first) win against them. That (first) loss is against us,'" [senior guard Megan] Lukan said about playing the Tigers.
Not that anything earth-shaking will go on in the second round Monday, as there is less competitive balance in the women's tournament, and among the conferences, than there is in the men's tournament.



Express interurbans return to the South Shore Line in the form of the Sunrise Express and an unnamed evening train.  (The full schedule offers as many morning westward and evening eastbound rush hour trains as were offered in the fall and winter services of 1959, but the base service is much skimpier.)

At that time, South Shore's Morning Hot Shot left South Bend at 7.40 (Eastern), arriving Chicago at 8:32 (Central), comparing favorably in overall running time with the 6 am (Eastern) Sunrise Express that reaches Chicago at 6:55.  But the Hot Shot made a few more stops, and it was paired with a Chicago Express calling at all stations Michigan City to Chicago.  The two trains might have exchanged cars at Gary, which at the time was a four-track station with two pocket tracks on the west end.  The Chicago Express arrives, leaves a car or two on the westbound through track to add to the head end of the Hot Shot, additional cars pull ahead and set back into a pocket track.  Then the Hot Shot arrives, couples the add cars on, and proceeds to Chicago.  The Chicago Express follows.

Note, in those days, an interurban referred to a train making only a few stops as a Limited, if it made only recognized station stops, it was an Express, and a Local could be flagged down (light a rolled-up newspaper with a match at night) at any road crossing.

Eastbound, the base service was hourly departures for South Bend, and departures on the half-hour for Gary.  (Click to enlarge, I made a largish scan.)

The evening Limited for South Bend now leaves Chicago at 3:57.  Apparently South Bend service is for early risers and early leavers, as there's only one more South Bend train during the rush hour, leaving at 5:10 (Central) and into South Bend at 8:43.  That's about the same departure time as the old Evening Hot Shot, at 5:19 but into South Bend at 8:10 (shown as 7:10 in the timetable, you have to read the footnotes carefully.)

But the way the railroad served commuters to destinations short of South Bend and Michigan City was different in those days.  Today, there's a Michigan City Express leaving Chicago at 4:02, picking up the stops the Limited doesn't make (and, serendipitously, the Limited is Train 11 and the Express, 111).  But note in 1959 that a Gary Express ran a few minutes ahead of the Hot Shot to Gary, then ran behind the Hot Shot as a Michigan City Local.  And the timetable is explicit that the 6 pm departure for South Bend, train 31, cut cars at Gary to become another Michigan City Local.  The motorman and a conductor for that train might have arrived at Gary on the earlier train 129.

The one constant in the two schedules appears to be a 4:28 departure for Michigan City that these days requires fifteen additional minutes despite making fewer scheduled and no flag stops.

The new Hot Shots are experimental trains, I understand these were requested by passengers.  We'll see what sort of reception they get.


Corey Robin has a new gig with Salon, his debut piece needles gentry liberals.  It opens in a style that will pass muster with the self-despising multiculturalists.
Facebook can be a weird place on Martin Luther King Day. Some of my friends post famous passages from MLK’s speeches. Others post statistics on racial inequality. Still others, mostly white parents, post photographs of their children assembled in auditoriums and schoolyards. These are always hopeful images, the next generation stirring toward interracial harmony. Except for one thing: nearly everyone in the photos is … white.
And thus begins another attempt to guilt-trip gentry liberals. It becomes with a laudable enough objective, to lift up the poor, but then comes the carping about self-selection.
Instead of confronting social inequality with mass political action and state redistribution, we prefer to educate poor children to wealth. Education can involve some redistribution: making sure, for example, that black, Latino and working-class students have comparable resources, facilities and teachers as white or wealthy students. But one need only compare the facilities at the Park Slope school my daughter attends with those of an elementary school in East New York—or take a walk around James Hall at Brooklyn College, where I teach political science, and then take a walk around the halls at Yale, where I studied political science—to see we’re a long way from even that minimal redistribution.
Yes, and long before assortative mating manifests itself in New York Times wedding announcements that can be cut-and-pasted out of the Social Register and Ivy League yearbooks, the well-off socialize their spawn to associate with like (even if there are no longer any camp trains.)
You’d think that if the parents and teachers of these masters of the universe were truly concerned about racial and class privilege they’d simply abolish private schools. Or lobby for better state and federal laws, and more liberal courts, to reintegrate the public schools.
A lot of good that will do. Freedom to associate implies freedom not to associate, and, happy talk about inclusiveness or no, ambitious and responsible people do not want to associate with indolent or irresponsible people.  Too many advocates of expanded educational "access" miss that.
Education is the quintessential American hustle. Schoolmen and con men have one thing in common: They both believe they can talk their way out of anything. But the reason our schools are unequal is that our society is unequal. And no amount of privilege talk is going to change that.
If we see the end of mau-mauing people for unearned privilege, or content-free maundering about intersectionality, or deluded affirmations of difference, or the pernicious appreciation of authenticity, perhaps we will see progress.

Consider these observations by a teacher of an egalitarian bent confronts the seamy side of access. This teacher has had the opportunity to observe the behavior of students in a selective, yet public academy, and contrast that with conditions in a common school.
I know most of the kids in this public school: They're not hurtful or malicious, and most of them aren't even consciously rude. They’re just "cool" by default, the opposite of being intrinsically "stoked" or "pumped" (to borrow a few words from their vocabulary) about learning. It’s not a classroom-management issue in this case. The teacher could outlaw food and cellphones, but there would still be jokes, fidgeting, students with passes to or from another place—something to distract them. No matter how diligently he teaches them about the appropriate time to sharpen a pencil, there will still be this culture of coolness, the norm of disengagement.
Yes, Horatio Alger is a square, and when neither parents nor kindergarten through middle school have inculcated the life-management skills of the upper middle class, by the time such kids hit high school, they're sunk.
I am, however, concerned about the general culture at public schools—at least at the ones I’ve seen—of disengagement and compulsory learning. So when it comes to my daughter, I opt to invest a little more—to ensure she’s immersed in a community where it’s acceptable, and even admirable, to show natural enthusiasm for knowledge. I trust this particular private school, one that was created by like-minded parents, will best set her up for success.
Thus, for her daughter, some of that common-school salary goes to private-school tuitions. Expand that by orders of magnitude, and you have urban parents nationwide. Or, the money goes for higher property taxes, granite counter-tops, and car-centric schedules.

But the kids get to interact with similarly motivated kids (we'll leave aside for now the creation of academically weak suburban sports ghettos.)
Unfortunately, the critical mass of engaged students and parents that’s integral to creating this environment seems to be lacking at many of today’s public schools. And it may be impossible to attain when everything is both free and compulsory.
"Impossible" might be too strong an expression, and yet, we might be observing an evolutionary stable strategy at work.  In this instance, it is people who adhere to bourgeois values choosing to live among and interact with other adherents of bourgeois values.  There's a Walter Hudson column making the case for moral systems that is stronger on evolutionary stability than it is on faith-based morality.  Repeat with me: evolutionary stable strategy.
Having discovered this objective standard of value, we have our reference point for further unveiling an objective morality. From the fact of our own existence as living beings with a particular nature, we can rationally ascertain what we ought to do.

Generally speaking, we ought to work to provide for our needs. We ought to act to obtain or keep that which furthers our survival and makes us happy.

This happiness, the sort referenced by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, is not a hedonistic whim. It’s not chocolate for a diabetic. It’s not an affair for a married man. Rather, true happiness is gauged in the context of how life works and what we can reasonably expect to follow from our actions. The diabetic who eats lots of chocolate may gain short-term pleasure, but at the expense of his long-term well-being. The same can be said of the adulterer.
Bourgeois interacts with bourgeois: agreements are made, agreements are kept, mutually beneficial interactions emerge, living conditions improve.

Underclass interacts with underclass: lives are made worse, or lives are ended.

Underclass interacts with bourgeois: someone gets swindled, or the gentry intellectuals seek the sanction of the victim to get the bourgeois to kick in for the maintenance of the underclass.  And thus the model of evolutionary stability is incomplete: can a bourgeois society sustain an underclass population, or is an underclass population a mutation that can be driven out?

(The religious argument is more difficult to make.  Jesus asked, "Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?" Matt. 9:5 but he also urged, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk." John 5:8 and, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" Matt. 25:40 -- that last being perhaps the only passage Social Justice Warriors know.)

And thus the charge to policymakers becomes to socialize the young to follow the bourgeois path.
Many of the problems that lower-class kids face stem from economics: "In the upper, college-educated third of American society, most kids today live with two parents, and such families nowadays typically have two incomes," [sociologist Robert "Bowling Alone"] Putnam writes. "In the lower, high-school-educated third, however, most kids live with at most one of their biological parents, and in fact, many live in a kaleidoscopic, multi-partner, or blended family, but rarely with more than one wage earner. Scores of studies have shown that bad outcomes for kids are associated with the pattern now characteristic of the lower tier, whereas many good outcomes for kids are associated with the new pattern typical of the upper tier."
Perhaps it is time to stop enabling the destructive life-mismanagement habits of the underclasses. Otherwise, the gentry liberals are likely to continue to fret about poverty and inequality in the abstract whilst living apart from it in the concrete.


A Los Angeles Times editorial offers urgent policy prescriptions to help thirsty Californians, and golf course superintendents statewide.  Sometimes what is not recommended is more important than what is.
Several steps need be taken right now. First, immediate mandatory water rationing should be authorized across all of the state's water sectors, from domestic and municipal through agricultural and industrial. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is already considering water rationing by the summer unless conditions improve. There is no need for the rest of the state to hesitate. The public is ready. A recent Field Poll showed that 94% of Californians surveyed believe that the drought is serious, and that one-third support mandatory rationing.

Second, the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 should be accelerated. The law requires the formation of numerous, regional groundwater sustainability agencies by 2017. Then each agency must adopt a plan by 2022 and “achieve sustainability” 20 years after that. At that pace, it will be nearly 30 years before we even know what is working. By then, there may be no groundwater left to sustain.

Third, the state needs a task force of thought leaders that starts, right now, brainstorming to lay the groundwork for long-term water management strategies. Although several state task forces have been formed in response to the drought, none is focused on solving the long-term needs of a drought-prone, perennially water-stressed California.

Our state's water management is complex, but the technology and expertise exist to handle this harrowing future. It will require major changes in policy and infrastructure that could take decades to identify and act upon. Today, not tomorrow, is the time to begin.
Yes, and when none of that works, perhaps the Californians will try something simpler.
Subsidies to farmers are politically sustainable when everyone has as much water as they want but when faced with continued shortages and an ever-intrusive water Stasi consumers and industry may eventually demand a more rational, less wasteful system based on incentives, markets and prices.
Sometimes, the simplest solution is to smack people with an invisible hand.
Oh, some people will be hurt when the price of water is raised? Yes, that happens. They have been benefiting from a price that has been held too low for far too long. Time to face reality.



"My research has clearly indicated that circuses are not inherently detrimental to the welfare of elephants." That's a typically hedged scholarly conclusion, yet there are plentiful references for the interested researcher. Other highlights:
Training, performances, and the presence of the public are important stimuli and sources of variation for the elephants and big cats that we studied. In addition elephants often went for walks, baths, raised or took down tents, pulled vehicles out of the mud, and gave rides. I also found that repeated head-bobbing, swaying or pacing was highly variable and did not occur in many animals. Repetitive behavior greatly increased in frequency in anticipation of performances, receiving water and being fed. This implies that elephants and tigers perceived performances as something positive; if they were fearful of performances they would show an avoidance response.
The research also reports a phenomenon experienced circus hands know well.
I also had the opportunity to conduct some informal trials in which groups of elephants remained where they were usually kept rather than being taken into the tent for performances. Based on the results of those trials, there is no doubt that many circus elephants find performances to be rewarding. The elephants that were kept “home” became very agitated and even performed elements of their acts on their own.
Young elephants have been observed rehearsing their acts in winter quarters or during the evening if they aren't back at the train.

It's worth remembering that the menagerie part of the circus is the original, traveling, zoological garden.
When we look at the traditional measures of overall welfare, especially longevity and reproduction, circuses are more successful than zoos. The claim by activists that elephants in captivity in North America and Europe do not live as long as elephants in logging camps or in the wild is unfounded. A major problem with that claim is that the management and care of elephants has greatly evolved over the last 40 years. Most elephants who experienced modern management practices in zoos and circuses are still alive, so we do not have reliable estimates of longevity for animals in captivity. Using the age of death of elephants that have died prematurely in captivity, or died years ago before management significantly changed, is inherently biased. I am more concerned about the chronic boredom experienced by many zoo and sanctuary animals whose activity and environmental options are greatly limited because of restricted contact than I am about the welfare of animals traveling with a well-managed circus or elephants giving tourists rides into the bush. The key is having responsible and caring people taking care of the elephants.
A hardscrabble circus, or a circus run by grifters, is another matter. It's likely, though, that the human performers on a hardscrabble circus also enjoy a more difficult life.  Circus fiction often depicts that.


Green Bay Packer receiver Randall Cobb signs a new four year deal.  "Cobb could have signed elsewhere for more money, a league source told Press-Gazette Media on Saturday night. Even still, he will become the richest slot receiver in the NFL." Yes, but those outside offers were not coming from playoff teams.



Trains linking Baton Rouge with New Orleans: not just for emergencies.
Consider, as just one example of many, the 80-miles between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the state capital of Louisiana. If you drive it, you’ll be on Interstate 10 most of the way, but there’s heavy traffic at either end and it’ll take you at least an hour-and-a-half … and that’s on a good day.

As an example of the hard-to-explain transportation trends in this country, a recent study showed that 26,000 people from the Baton Rouge area commute to work in New Orleans and almost as many people make the trip every day in the opposite direction … folks who live in or around New Orleans, but have jobs that take them to Baton Rouge. Furthermore, more than two million people live in towns and the rural areas along that 80-mile corridor.

It’s hard to imagine a more classic case for passenger rail. Conventional trains would made that run in just over an hour and high-speed trains would do it in half that time. Do you think a lot of those commuters, maybe even most of them, would give up slogging through that 90-minute commute every day and ride a train to and from their work for a proposed $10 fare?
I'm not sure about the farebox recovery at that $10 (each way?) fare, but "crumbling" highways or not, there are limits to what improving the interstates can do, and there's plenty of room to improve the Passenger Rail infrastructure of Louisiana.  I should write up my impressions from last fall's trip.


University of Wisconsin political scientist Donald Downs explains why higher education might be its own worst enemy.
I have spoken with numerous conservative leaders and critics in Madison and around the country over the years (including trustees, regents, and politicians), and many feel deeply alienated from higher education because of the left-wing orientation and political correctness that reign in many domains—an alienation especially acute in polarized Wisconsin.

Regarding political correctness, higher education has met the enemy, and it is itself. At the same time, many conservative critics focus exclusively on bad apple examples, ignoring meaningful counter-examples that exist, sometimes even in abundance, including at Madison. In my experience, the vast majority of my colleagues excel at their jobs without letting politics influence their work one way or another. The fact that I, known as a conservative libertarian type, have thrived here supports this claim.
That noted, Professor Downs in no way endorses what Governor Walker has in mind for the University of Wisconsin system, asking readers to contemplate the high-end private universities raiding the star faculty.

Read and understand.


The privileged young man who rejected a life of relative ease to become the masked man of propaganda for the Sillies gets a romanticized profile in the Washington Post.  There's reference to an "extremely gentle, kind … beautiful young man" pushed by the excesses of the authorities into the thug life.
In the case of Jihadi John — and in the case of thousands of other young men flocking to join the Islamic State — the West should not ask what is wrong with these misguided youth. The West should ask what is wrong with the West.

“This case should trigger thinking about British domestic and foreign policy,” [research director of a self-described advocacy organization Asim] Qureshi said. “… Why are the long-standing grievances over Western interventions in the Muslim world been ignored?”
The "victimized sweet boy" schtick is too much even for Chris Matthews. (I've been having trouble getting the video to play. As an economy measure, MSNBC might have taken the Snickers bars away from tech support.)

Yes, I agree, as a general principle, sugar-coating the personality or the upbringing of known lowlives is a bad idea. Perhaps the producers at MSNBC will keep it in mind the next time a neighborhood delinquent commits suicide by cop.  Oh, wait, stirring up trouble and covering it might build ratings.


Ringling Barnum will be phasing out the elephant act.  Popular opinion holds that the domestication of elephants is cruelty to animals.  Will the performing big cats be next?  And what will happen when the Greatest Show on Earth has fewer animal acts than a five-truck dog-and-pony show?


Laura at 11-D has a life beyond the internet.
I don’t have enough time to blog properly. My days are getting eaten up with professional writing and local organizing. I’m so overbooked that I’m making mistakes. I’m missing meetings, not returning e-mail messages, and not even doing a great job with blogging. I have to reduce my responsibilities.
Seems reasonable. There are limits to what public intellectuals can do gratis.


Elementary school field trips aren't what they used to be.  The Northern Illinois women's basketball team scheduled a lunchtime Wednesday game as Education Day.  A few weeks ago they participated in a similar event in Toledo, which supplied the competition here as well.

As a consequence of the win, the team will host a play-in game for the Mid-American tournament, next week.

Three local elementary schools sent busloads of kids to the game, and each school had the opportunity to feature in a group portrait with the team.

That light panel at lower-right is to illuminate the ESPN-3 broadcast team that was present at the game.  I really have to look into the cable and internet television viewership ratings sometime: you'll know MSNBC are in trouble when the ratings for ESPN-3 or ESPN-U exceed theirs.

Toledo's Sophie Reecher is from Byron, and a goodly number of her neighbors and onetime schoolmates were present to watch the game.

That's going above and beyond, to stick around and say hi to the neighbors after a tough loss.