Last weekend, the Illinois Railway Museum showcased its diesel collection.  Here's one of the highlights.

Three E units and approximately 7200 hp are excessive power for a nine-car train (including a dynamometer car, sleeper-lounge, dining car, five coaches and a combine) and the trailing unit (Milwaukee 37A) is in better shape mechanically than cosmetically.  But the sound, and the acceleration!  The lead unit is from Burlington Northern's executive train stable, and the B unit might be returning to Wisconsin and Southern.


Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds advocates a return to paper ballots for elections, rather than using information technologies to vote and count more rapidly.  Here's part of his argument.
Paper ballots may seem old-fashioned, but an emphasis on computers just for technology’s sake reminds me of stories about housewives in the 1950s who preferred canned vegetables to fresh ones because canned food seemed more modern. Just because a technology is newer doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better.
In the matter of ballots, perhaps optical scanning devices, as we use in DeKalb, can help with the counting once the polls close, and it should be possible to design stand-alone scanners that connect only to an electric outlet, not to the internet or anything else, and the party observers can jointly compile the tally in a few minutes of the evening.

We have the scanning devices because our earlier punch-card technology proved to be unreliable.  Those Florida hanging chads of 2000?  Secondhand Illinois voting stations.

As far as misplaced technophilia, let us recall that the TV dinner was not intended to be eaten whilst watching TV; rather because the partitioned tray looked to the inventor like a TV screen.  It also looked like a government issue serving tray for dishing up government issue food to the troops, who had any number of caustic things to say about the food so dished up.  Not such a good marketing strategy.  But the idea of eating dinner on a tray that looked like a screen whilst sitting in front of a screen caught on.  As did the idea of portion-controlled microwaveable food, never mind the gastric disaster that it has brought to the rails.

Let us recall that the idiots in faculty development have been all about the online university, never mind the deleterious effects of laptops and smart 'phones on learning.

Let us recall that it is easier to wire a railroad signalling system to clear one route at a time, rather than to override the signals.

Technological advances, desirable if applied correctly.

Technological advances, making it easier for GRU to get secrets, not so much.


In The Atlantic, Ron Fournier sees all h__l breaking loose, first at the scripted Democrat convention, then more generally in the body politic.  His essay is in the form of thirty theses, perhaps to be nailed to a state-house door someplace.  A sampling:
26. The American public has lost trust in virtually every social institution—schools, churches, businesses, charities, police, courts, and the media—because those entities have been slow to adapt to sweeping economic, demographic, and technological changes.
I'm not persuaded; if anything there has been too much talk about "it's the 21st century" and "disruption" and too much mindless following of fads. And yet, as we had it in the sixties, the times are out of joint.
27. People have witnessed disruption in the retail, entertainment, and financial industries—in virtually every institution except for government and politics. In an era of choice and technological efficiency, the American voter is given a binary choice and gridlocked government.
That's internally inconsistent: you can't have sclerotic business and entertainment and disrupted business and entertainment. But yes, the political class still clings to its process worship and its talking points.
28. Most Americans want something better than what the Democratic-Republican duopoly crams down their throats.
We've been hearing this for years. But Donald Trump has taken over the top of the Republican ticket (conservatives and the establishment stand strong elsewhere) whilst Our President sounded a lot more like Ronald Reagan than Bill Ayers last night (I do want to elaborate, perhaps another rainy day) and yet the Donk base is more resigned than receptive to Hillary.
29. They’re mad as hell and, as evidenced in Cleveland and Philadelphia, they’re just starting to realize how powerful they are. They don’t need to take it anymore.
Yes, but emergence is messy. Here's an additional thesis, nailed to Newmark's Door.
Refutable hypothesis: cut back Big Government--especially federal government--and trust will recover.
The getting there will not be part of the fun.


Once I learned some of the details of my great-grandparents' wanderings from East Prussia by way of Volhynia to northern Wisconsin, I took to quipping (later augmented with wonky stuff) that agricultural failures in the old Soviet Union predated Stalin and collectivization and Khrushchev and virgin lands.  The Volga Germans, in fact, were prior invitees, brought in by Catherine the Great.

Now, notes W. R. Mead, all that matters are the right incentives.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union, which then included the ‘breadbasket’ of Ukraine, could never feed itself, and frequently had to import wheat from the West. Today, even without Ukraine, Russia has become the world’s leading wheat exporter.
Economics: sometimes the policy prescriptions sound simple, but to really foul things up takes a technocrat.


Overzealous Baltimore state's attorney Marilyn Mosby fails to railroad any of the six police officers she charged with various crimes against a detainee.  But it's all the system's fault, she asserts, not her lack of professionalism.  It's too much even for the city's ward-heeler mayor, last seen shouting about hope and change at some Democrat gathering in Philadelphia.  "Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she supported Mosby but questioned whether she had gone too far in her criticisms of the criminal justice system."

Perhaps in her failure, there might be a boost to police morale, and a modicum of additional safety for the residents of that petri dish of Democrat failures.



Margaret "University Diaries" Soltan has a serious E-T-T-S moment.  "Witty abusive coaches?"  As my dad would have it, why compare yourself with the worst?  But:
And all of this is taking place in the typical university context of interim provosts and ever-rotating deans and presidents who have just announced they’re leaving. Yet you need one strong singular voice in crises like these. It’s gonna take a bit of work.
Right, although the athletics directors and coaches also have their separation bonuses.  Higher education might teach Voltaire, although if somebody took pour encourager les autres seriously, that might be the end of the separation bonuses.

College sports bubble, anyone?


Here's one from the archives, about the state of the labor market in May 2012.
"It is well-documented that this recovery is atypically slow, but there is a noticeable positive trend," said Jeff Joerres, ManpowerGroup's chairman and chief executive.

The bad news: Unemployment is coming down, but there's no reason to think that any time in the next three years the unemployment rate will be under 6%.

One of the problems ManpowerGroup has found is that although the unemployment rate remains high, there are jobs that go unfilled because of a skills mismatch. Its most-recent annual talent shortage survey of 65,000 employers in 41 countries showed that one-third of employers can't fill "mission-critical" positions.

Equally alarming, said Joerres, is that the same jobs keep topping the hard-to-fill list - skilled trades workers, engineers and sales representatives.
The latest, not yet seasonally adjusted, official unemployment rate is 4.9%, and workers discouraged but still attached to the labor force are fewer than they were last year.  Whether the recovery is despite or because of hope and change will likely be litigated during campaign season.  But close to a million people have left the labor force between last year and this, and the dynamics might have been at work four years ago.
"If you take a salesperson job, for example, and look at the skills needed now vs. the skills needed in the past, there is a huge difference," Joerres said. "A good salesperson needs excellent communication skills, a consultative, problem-solving approach and perseverance in order to fuel revenue growth at a time when margins remain slim. A firm handshake and a good golf game is no longer enough."

ManpowerGroup said some companies are having a very hard time finding exact matches for jobs they'd like to fill.

"Where employers are unable to find an exact match, they are holding off on hiring because it keeps their expenses down, and meantime they are able to meet the demand they are experiencing by doing more with less and squeezing more productivity out of their existing workers," Joerres said. "The difficulty with that approach is that many workforces have been stretched to the limit, and you end up with disgruntled workers who leave as soon as the economy improves."
Yes, there are limits to downsizing, and with a lot of older workers, taking even an etiolated pension might look better than staying on the 24/7 treadmill.

Meanwhile, the opportunities for blue-collar aristocrats were apparent back then.
Joerres said positions such as plumbers, welders and electricians are other jobs employers are having a difficult time filling, in part because young people don't see themselves in those types of careers.

"There are some harmful myths that need to be debunked - that skilled trades work is for those people who do not excel academically, that the jobs are dirty and dangerous, etc.," Joerres said. "Employers, trade groups and educators must partner to create a societal mind-set shift that brings honor back to the skilled trades. Similarly, a better job needs to be done of promoting the career and compensation potential of skilled trades work."

Joerres said students and their parents need to know that there are "potentially lucrative alternatives" to traditional four-year university degrees.

"They could earn an excellent living as plumbers with the possibility of owning their own business and having three or four employees working for them within a few years," he said.
We did hear a lot from members of the Trump Organization valorizing the building trades in prime-time.  Perhaps, though, some information about the pay packets, compared, especially, with paying off those student loans on a bartender's tips, is important.  Incentives matter and all that.



We've been following, for some time, the efforts of the Coalition for Sustainable Rail to demonstrate the use of torreified biomass (a way of recapturing carbon for use in coal that doesn't require geologic time) in a steam locomotive capable of matching diesel Hiawatha or Metroliner speeds in a carbon-neutral way.  In the course of following their progress, I alluded to the project in a story about the Wisconsin Dells-based manufacturer of steam locomotives for zoo and amusement park railroads.

"[P]erhaps visitors to the Dells will have an opportunity to witness 261's passage again, or perhaps a passage by the Coalition for Sustainable Rail's test engine."

Better yet, one of the steamers at the Milwaukee County Zoo, a relatively large Pacific built by Sandley at the Dells, has served as a test-bed.
From June 10-12, CSR teamed up with the Milwaukee County Zoo, the Natural Resources Research Institute, and Solvay Biomass Energy to undertake the first test of torrefied biomass on a steam locomotive. The tests are a key step in ensuring that the fuel can be used in steam locomotives of all sizes in the face of shuttering coal mines.
The reference to "shuttering of coal mines" is not a dig at the environmental activism of the Obama administration or the Clinton campaign.  Rather, steam locomotives are fussy about their diet, and a coal industry whose principal customers are power plants and a few coke works that purchase black diamonds by the trainload is an industry less interested in providing a truckload or carload of coal for a preservation railroad.  (No, I don't know if that figures into Union Pacific's plans to rebuild Big Boy 4014 as an oil burner.)

Here's how the test bed worked out.
CSR worked hand-in-hand with Zoo staff to instrument 4-6-2 steam locomotive number 1924 and undertake the tests [see diagram below]. Torrefied biomass fuel was graciously donated by Solvay Biomass Energy for use during research. The small fuel pellets were burned on a modified stainless steel grate installed by CSR on-site.
Who would have thought that.

Retrieved from Coalition for Sustainable Rail.

And you have to love the way academicians stake out opportunities for future research.  When they break out a full dynamometer car, we'll know they're serious.
More information, including additional videos of the tests and a detailed White Paper, will be made available later this summer. CSR plans to undertake a second set of tests with the Milwaukee County Zoo with larger torrefied biomass pellets created by NRRI at its Coleraine Minerals Research Laboratory later this year. The organization has also been in discussions with standard-gauge operators about undertaking full scale tests in the future.
There are two standard-gauge steam preservation efforts within easy driving distance of Cold Spring Shops. Perhaps one of them will participate.


Some things might be better left to the imagination, but in light of the frequency within which the following chart has appeared on MSNBC, here goes.

It appeared most recently in a Common Dreams post, in which Dave Johnson of Campaign for America's Future (arguably, "Make America Work Again" is also a campaign for America's future) suggests that, but for Republican obstruction, the continuing economic recovery would have been more robust.  Republican operative Ed Rogers offers the predictable counter-argument.
[The Obama administration] has stifled small businesses with excessive taxation, perpetuated a punitive regulatory regime enhanced by a pointless passion for global warming initiatives and acted with an anti-business bias that has all amalgamated to slow growth and spread discontent across the country.

A bad economy has political consequences. Donald Trump is just one of them, but unfortunately, we won’t know the price we will ultimately pay for Obama’s destructive and reckless economic policies for years to come.
Reality might be more complicated, and the old "secular stagnation" idea is back.  But deleveraging, the predictable consequence of a financial crash, takes a long time.  Fiscal cutbacks post-stimulus might be precisely what Mr Johnson has in mind: think of how much more borrowing the Obama administration might have engaged in with a more sympathetic House or Senate.  And the continuing retirement of Baby Boomers is affecting labor force participation in ways that will occupy several cohorts of reg monkeys, er, future doctoral students.  But the current recovery, if that's what it is, whether the jobs added chart is more like a string bikini than a beach volleyball bottom, has been going on for a long time, and adjustments within the adjustments are likely to follow.


I doubt that the author of this Working Class Perspectives post intended it, but there it is.
[Mrs] Clinton needs the support of working-class Ohioans – the very people who have been hurt the most by trade policy. To do that, she needs to stop insisting that trade is good. Her current stance is similar to wooing West Virginia coal miners by touting the benefits of non-carbon fuels. Similarly, she should stop talking about retraining and promising high-tech jobs, which only reminds voters of how hollow such programs have been in the past.

Instead, Clinton should acknowledge that we have lost the trade war and pledge to use every legal means at her disposal to protect American workers and industries from the continued onslaught of imports. This would include initiating trade cases against countries that target American industries by subsidizing their exports, exploiting workers, manipulating their currencies, and polluting the environment.

She should threaten to impose tariffs on every imported product from countries that refuse to implement the same U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations and federal, state and local tax requirements that are imposed on American businesses.
That concluding paragraph is a standard response to regulatory arbitrage, but the paragraphs preceding it are not that far from "Trump digs coal" and "renegotiate bad trade deals."

I note, by way of being more Jesuit than the Pope, that there is no such thing as losing a trade war, although there might be policy errors that fritter away the traditional U.S. comparative advantage in knowledge-intensive advanced technology goods, or treat a temporary peace dividend as the new normal.

And thus might Donald Trump carry Ohio.



Summer is for swimming, and catching up with one's reading late into the evening on the deck.

On hot days, of which there have been a few, or rainy days, of which there haven't been enough, there's opportunity to work on the railroad.

This pokemon is hanging around the work zone through Zudnokhovsk, western USSR.  It has been detained by NKVD as imperialist spy.


I had made reference previously to Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber's The Slow Professor, which appears to suggest that faculty work more deliberately and mindfully, to use a buzzword in a different context.  At the recommendation of a colleague, I read the work.  The subtitle is Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy, and the authors suggest that this culture of speed is an alien intrusion, introduced from elsewhere by the Babbitts who have hijacked the administration.

The book jacket opens, "If there is one sector of society that should be cultivating deep thought in itself and others, it is academia.  Yet the corporatization of the contemporary university has sped up the clock, demanding increased speed and efficiency regardless of the consequences of for education and scholarship.  The authors expand in their preface.  "We have been influenced by the literature on the corporatization of higher education, empirical studies which document the harmful effects of stress and loneliness on physiological and psychological health, popular self-help discourse which emphasizes the importance of work-life balance, and, of course, the key texts of the Slow movement."

I'm tempted to let it all go with a suggestion that some literature students buy their advisor a train set.  Yes, even -- especially -- if the advisors are female!  The gender bending!  The subversion of the dominant paradigm!  Or to suggest that stressed or slow professors alike are underemployed compared to their forebears.

But let me devote Book Review No. 17, at least briefly, to explaining my choice of a title.

I'll break it down by chapter.  First comes "Time Management and Timelessness."  At page 17, the authors note, "Academic work is never done; while flexibility of hours is one of the privileges of our work; it can easily translate into working all the time or feeling that one should."  Yes, when that idea is rattling around in your brain, best to sketch some ideas on paper or noodle around with Maple or run a regression, and one of the risks of becoming involved with an academic is precisely that those ideas take over way more disruptively than a hobby or a mistress ever can.

But that has always been the case.  Canadian higher education policy (which plays a major part in Slow Professor's narrative) or corporatization or neo-liberalism are late to the game: there's Archimedes in the sand or Beethoven walking in the country or Einstein riding that light beam or you, dear colleague, awake late at night mulling the idea.

Next comes "Pedagogy and Pleasure."  And yes, there is much to be dissatisfied about the intrusion of business software and information technology into teaching, which fits into the corporate hell model.  Nowhere, though, does the chapter address the stresses faculty face when headquarters, whether out of a misplaced sense of social justice or out of an understandable desire for revenue, fills classes with disengaged and unprepared students, then tacks on a support bureaucracy to keep the Distressed Material around.

"Research and Understanding" opens with the epigraph, "Not everything that counts can be counted."  The gripe, summarized in one sentence on page 54, is "The changes to academic labour have increased the expectations of what it means to be a productive scholar, while simultaneously increasing class sizes and expanding our job descriptions."  Yes, and turning us into our own tech support.  But there's Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game, which might be a parody of the Prestige Quest, and it long predates Total Quality Management and all the other management fads.

I'd note, further, that the quest for public funding, or for sponsored research more generally, is unlikely to end well for universities that follow the market too slavishly.  A few years ago, I didn't make myself popular with a dean for suggesting that I could do better consulting than seeking grants.  The best he could do was note that summer money on grants counted toward retirement.  Well, here I am retired relatively young.  You do the math.  And the opportunities in finance, in engineering, in biochemistry, in parts of physics have to be more remunerative than they are in energy economics.  For that matter, why should talented people in the humanities grub for grants from MacArthur or the Canada Council or the national endowments, when they might be able to become the next Tom Clancy?

That brings us to the breakdown of "Collegiality and Community."  In which, I suggest, there's still nothing new, as a quick reading of any of the academic novels will suggest (why, dear reader, are the psychos always in the English Department?)

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)


It's a commonplace among politicians, wishing to inspire or guilt-trip or simply to fill air time.

It's also Venezuelans coming to grips with late socialism.

"That isn't Venezuela. That isn't us,' said a woman who was looking at sneakers."

Unfortunately, it is.  And prices function to allocate demand.
[Tebie Gonzalez and Ramiro Ramirez] debated over the best baby toothpaste. Gonzalez ran her hand over seven varieties of shampoo. She examined each option in an aisle of pasta.

But while things were cheaper than in shortage-hit Venezuela, they were pricier than they had expected.

They decided to skip the flour and sugar, instead choosing seven packages of the cheapest pasta. They went for cloudy off-brand cooking oil instead of the more expensive canola. Every price was checked and rechecked as the couple spent three hours deciding how to allocate their emergency fund.

"It's more expensive than we had hoped, but what matters is that it's available at all," Ramirez said.
Note: these are people with their own house, who used to travel overseas.  And emergency runs to Colombia to stock up are not the kind of foreign travel the tour operators promise.


It doesn't matter what one does with the government schools as long as there are people who don't appreciate them.  This Reason post, from two years ago, makes the point, indirectly.
Charter school critics argue that when students like Renee are allowed to flee their district assignments, it hurts the kids left behind, whose parents often lack the knowledge or motivation to look outside the zone. They also complain that traditional schools are losing valuable classroom space as charters move into their buildings.
Put another way, charter school critics have the naive hope that the motivated kids, or the kids motivated by their parents, will serve as good examples for the rest.  It is more likely that the rest, in good crab-in-the-bucket fashion, will drag the motivated kids down to their level.  And burn out the teachers in the process.

It seems as though I repeat myself a lot.  And yet, the other approaches people suggest fail.
The reason U.S. News sells those college guides, and parents hire brain coaches, and your good public school comes bundled with a granite counter-top is precisely because more than a few aspirants to the upper middle class understand the toxic effect of disengaged, hostile, unprepared, surly, or simply dysfunctional people. Stratification is emergent, and until advocates for so-called social justice grasp that reality, the life of the poor will not improve.
Competition from charter schools, the Reason essay notes, make the traditional schools better.  As, in its own way, does competition among districts.  But whingeing about school funding is easier than rooting out the disengagement and dysfunction.


Railroading still doesn't have anything rolling that has the emotional appeal of the steam locomotive.

Nickel Plate 765 at Zenda, Wisconsin, with passenger excursion.  12 June 2016.

There were two news items in yesterday's Destination: Freedom that couldn't shake the cinders.

From Politico: Federal funding for Gateway project gains steam.  It takes a lot of political wrangling to fix the Hudson Tubes.
The new rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River and the new Portal Bridge in New Jersey, which will replace the existing, century-old, bottleneck of a swinging bridge over the Hackensack River, are expected to cost upwards of $10 billion. The overall Gateway program  — including an expansion of Penn Station — is expected to cost more than $20 billion.
I think, adjusted for inflation, A. J. Cassatt and The Pennsylvania Railroad got the original Tubes and Pennsylvania Station for less.  In fairness, they were still setting New Jersey commuters down at Exchange Place to ride the Hudson and Manhattan (today's PATH) downtown or to midtown the slow way.  And to get the station built, they had to electrify the Tubes.  Steam locomotives, such as the 3730 at left, handed the passenger trains off to DD1 electric locomotives, the sole preserved example featured, at Manhattan Transfer.  (Yes, there's another popular band with a railroad theme!)

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, 9 August 2014.

And yes, that's another Nickel Plate steamer behind the DD1.

From Fredericksburg, Virginia's Free-Lance Star comes High-speed rail plan picks up steam in Fredericksburg region.  It's a regular dog's breakfast of mixed metaphors.
A bypass east of Fredericksburg to avoid the city’s historic district and the 1910 station on Lafayette Boulevard has residents in the path of the proposed line all steamed up. The Right Rail for the Rappahannock Region group has formed to oppose the bypass. New tracks would be laid south of Spotsylvania’s Virginia Railway Express station in the New Post area, swing into Caroline County, cross the Rappahannock River into southern Stafford County and tie into the Dahlgren spur. It would link back to the CSX main line from there.

Another option is a no-build alternative that wouldn’t add a third track, but rather rely on improvements at crossings, signals and safety systems. This plan wouldn’t add capacity and would slow train speeds here. All the proposals envision some expansion of the Fredericksburg station.

Now’s the time for residents to weigh in on the alternatives. Those interested in seeing what the future may hold for faster train service between Washington, D.C., and Richmond can get details on the project from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday at Fredericksburg Christian High School. Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation representatives will provide an update for what’s ahead for the 123 miles of tracks between the state and national capitals.

The project has gained momentum since the Federal Railroad Administration determined that raising the train speeds from Florida to D.C. would provide a viable and efficient transportation choice that’s competitive with airlines and autos. Improved rail service received a major boost last week when Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia will receive a $165 million federal FASTLANE grant for roads and rails in the I–95 corridor.
The plan, as the editorial notes, isn't German style high-speed rail, but as a migration of the Cold Spring Shops "Free Rein to 110" campaign, it's a desirable outcome.  But all that steam talk is too much for the Destination: Freedom editor.
High-Speed usually is considered to be 125 miles per hour and over at the very least. In foreign nations we are talking about 125-200 mph and over. Rather, this line would be attempting to reach speeds of 90 mph and vicinity which would be an increase over what is possible now. I’d also note the reference to “steam” in the headline which continues to annoy a lot of rail industry people and rail advocates. Trains don’t go “choo-choo” anymore.
Perhaps not.  But the rail advocates, have, in the steam locomotive, a living medium for making people railroad-aware.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 2008.

Come to trackside for the steamers.  Stay and observe the contemporary high-productivity freight and high-performance passenger trains.


More cleaning out of the archives, this time a snippet from Hit and Run in March 2014.  Donald Trump: Immigrants Are 'Taking Your Jobs and You Better Be Careful.'  Just another rent-seeker posturing at a conference of rent-seekers at the time.
One of the beautiful things about Donald Trump as a political speaker is that he's blissfully unburdened by professionalism or tact or any of the other constraints non-billionaire advocates face. This was made abundantly clear during Trump's speech at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) today. Trump jumped from conservative red meat topic to conservative red meat topic, touching on the national debt, Obamacare, Democrats' "weak" leadership, and entitlement reform in a matter of minutes.
At the time, nobody saw what was to come next.
For a more libertarian solution to immigration reform, check out Ed Krayewski's latest. Trump and his ilk may never be convinced, but incremental, libertarian-minded immigration reform could appeal to both liberals and conservatives more interested in human rights and economic realities than pinning our unemployment problems on those meddling immigrants.
Just under four months to the vote.



Not long after the Bad Aibling crash, involving interurban trains in Germany, comes news of another cornfield meet, this time involving interurban trains in Italy.  That the cornfield meet occurred in an olive grove is irrelevant to what follows.

There's regional politics involved, as southern Italy is treated with as much regard by politicians in Rome as the Bible Belt is by politicians in Washington.
[Author Roberto] Saviano is from Naples not Puglia — but some locals are using similar rhetoric in the aftermath of the tragedy. Take Luigi Mansi, the bishop of Andria, a city a few miles from the site of the accident.

“This land has been considered the periphery of Italy for too many years, and for too many people,” Monsignor Mansi said at the funeral service for 13 of the victims. “This has to end.”
That, too, is irrelevant to what follows.

The technology-worshippers complain about the absence of centralized traffic control or some other intervention by computers.
Transport Minister Graziano Delrio confirmed that the particular single stretch of track between the towns of Andria and Corato didn't have an automatic alert system that would engage if two trains were close by. Rather, the system relied on stationmasters phoning one another to advise of a departing train and proceed only if the receiving station confirmed the single track was free.

The phone system "leaves an entirely human management and is among the least evolved and most risky ways of regulating railway circulation," Delrio told lawmakers. He said the single rail track used in the area isn't dangerous if "advanced technology is applied."
The single main line isn't dangerous if train crews and station agents understand the proper protocols for superiority of trains and for out-of-course workings. It appears as though the Italians, like their German counterparts, are practicing some loose railroading.
Vito Piccarreta, manager of the Andria station, was quoted in Italian newspapers on Thursday as saying he had played a role in the disaster but was not the only person responsible.

“I let that train go, it was me that gave the signal,” La Stampa quoted Piccarreta as saying.

The stationmaster said that on the day of the crash: “There was confusion, the trains were delayed.”

One investigator quoted by La Repubblica newspaper said the line’s outdated technology had become more dangerous as more trains were added in recent years and there was pressure to avoid delays.
Out-of-course running and trains being delayed, by mechanical failure, by heavy passenger loadings, by sheep on the tracks, or perhaps by fallen olive leaves in autumn, are as old as railroading.  In the United States, that's codified in the Consolidated Code.  Let me quote the General Notice.

Safety is of the first importance in the discharge of duty.

Now, let us consider that the trains in question are passenger trains, which tend to run to a schedule.  The timetable issued to the public gives people an idea when the next train will run.  There is a timetable issued to working railroaders (called the employee timetable in the States and the working timetable in the U.K.) that codifies the authority of trains to occupy a section of track. "Issue a timetable. Note, in railroading, that a timetable does not REQUIRE a train to be at a station at the specified time. Rather, it means that the train will not be BEYOND that station BEFORE that time."

Now let me paraphrase Rule 70.  A train is superior to another train on single track by right, class or direction.  Right is conferred by train order; class and direction by timetable.  Right is superior to class or direction.

We have, in Italy, what appears to be an informal system for overriding the timetable, which under the Book of Rules, becomes a deliberate and formal procedure under which the crew of a train losing its rights to another train must be informed of that restriction before the other train gains those rights.  Here is the passage from Rule 215.  "Except at initial stations, a train order must not be issued for a train at the point where its movement is restricted for an opposing movement if it can be avoided."

Apparently, in Italy, if such a rule ever was in effect, it has been superseded by informal issuance of authority on the strength of a telephone call.  That works for model railroads using "mother, may I?" dispatching methods,  but the consequences of a cornfield meet aren't severe until you get into the inch-plus scales.  With real trains, the result is broken trains and dead people.
Local prosecutors have opened a culpable manslaughter investigation into the head-on collision, which happened on a single stretch of track between the towns of Andria and Corato.

One of the EMU [interurban] trains was supposed to have waited at a station to let the other train through, before heading down the track between the Corato and Andria. The go-ahead to proceed is given by the station managers by telephone.

Two station masters have been suspended amid the investigations, as reported in the Italia news media.  The system on the single-track line by which station managers communicate directly with train drivers was “one of the least sophisticated and most risky,” Graziano Delrio told parliament on Wednesday. “Unfortunately, a system like this means the controls lie with humans,” leaving a window for human error, he said.  Officials said they had recovered the event recorder, or so called “black box” from one of the trains which investigators hope will throw light on the collision.
The point of having a Crusty Division Superintendent to ensure compliance with the Book of Rules is to keep the station agents and tower operators from engaging in the kind of loose railroading that leads to investigation by prosecutors.  The Book of Rules, each page of which is written in some railroader's blood, narrows or closes the window for human error.  In particular, the practice of restricting the rights of a superior train by telephone alone ought never to have emerged.


George Will gets to the heart of the matter. Social Science Says Our Education System Is Failing: Will Liberals Listen?  It's an old Cold Spring Shops theme.  When the village has all the redeeming features of the hippie commune and the trailer park, or the welfare-dependent slum, there is little Teacher as Social Worker (or Police Officer as Social Worker, but I want to post and pour a drink tonight yet) can do.  And establishment social scientists such as D. P. Moynihan (later a domestic policy advisor and a Senator from New York) and James Coleman were sounding the warning years ago.
The causes of family disintegration remain unclear, but 51 years ago Moynihan and then Coleman foresaw the consequences. Moynihan said the “tangle” of pathologies associated with the absence of fathers produces a continually renewed cohort of inadequately socialized adolescent males. Socializing them is society’s urgent business if it is to avoid chaotic neighborhoods and schools where maintaining discipline displaces teaching. Coleman documented how schools are reflections of, rather than cures for, the failure of families to function as the primary transmitters of social capital.
Years ago, Michael Harrington gave a talk at the University of Wisconsin.  Poverty, he argued, could be fixed by throwing money at it.  (This talk was sometime during the Carter administration, meaning just after Richard Nixon and just before Ronald Reagan suggested there were limits to what government could do with money alone.)

Mr Harrington was wrong.
Coleman’s evidence that cultural rather than financial variables matter most was not welcomed by education bureaucracies and unions. Similarly, we now have more than half a century of awkward, and often ignored, evidence about the mostly small and evanescent effects of early childhood education. Today’s Democratic party fancies itself “the party of science”; Barack Obama pledged, in his first inaugural address, to “restore science to its rightful place.” Social science, however, is respected by Democrats only when it validates policies congenial to the interests of favored factions.
Teachers unions turn out the votes.  Dependent clients are a reliable voting bloc for Democrat ward-heelers.  Vote counting trumps social science.  (Not that there's anything new there, either.  Years ago, the Reagan administration sought to reduce public spending on academic grants.  At least one economist defended the grants on the grounds that many social science findings, well beyond the Moynihan and Coleman reports, were conservative.  Rent seeking trumps ideology.)


The Fatal Conceit of the so-called Progressive Era has always been that the Men of System can order the affairs of the complex adaptive system we call society in a way that serves the General Interest, without all that messy emergence.

It is accordingly encouraging to read an evaluation of the recent British vote to leave the European Union as A Stern Rebuke to Arrogant Elites.  That's particularly encouraging when it comes via Common Dreams out of Boston's Globe.  The more usual characterization we get from that set of latte liberals is that the mob has had a temper tantrum.  Thus the following description of the clerisy is particularly refreshing.
It is run by a corps of unelected bureaucrats, many of them unconnected to traditional society and contemptuous of public opinion. Visionaries who promoted European unity in the years after World War II saw it as a gift to the continent’s people. But their successors have rarely consulted those people, listened to their complaints, or adjusted EU policies to meet their needs. Instead, they embraced the ideology of deregulation, privatization, and reduced social spending. They imagined Europe as a free-trade zone with open borders but little social protection for ordinary people. That is hardly a vision to stir people’s hearts.
Particularly when the disconnect from traditional society takes the form of a self-despising multiculturalism, and the unassimilable migrants who cross the open borders become the quintessence of an absent social protection.  Or, as James Heartfield suggests, perhaps the referendum is a privilege check for the Eurocrats.
I have taken students to the Brussels Parliament, which is a bit like visiting the offices of the IMF. The only people that you see hanging around outside and waiting to see someone, are themselves very haut bourgeois. By contrast, if you go to the Palace of Westminster, you will see large crowds of school children, nurses, veterans, and ethnic minorities. Parliament is often very bad in its decisions and its cliquishness, but the people do look to it in a way that they will never look on Brussels. That law making should have passed so silently and sneakily off to the European Commission is not something that ordinary British people approve of, and they are right.
He also deals with the "temper tantrum" argument, and some of the other tics of the boutique multiculturalists. "What they usually mean is that the common people have spoken, and spoken clumsily, without the tortuous manners of the intersectional left. But by and large the exiters were not angry with migrants so much as they were angry with the established order." He concludes with his own version of Complex Adaptive Systems Do What They D**n Well Please. "One thing is for sure: the vote shows that very few of the experts, the academics, the media, lawyers and politicians have any insight into the will of the people, or even understand the meaning of the words sovereignty and democracy." Voting is one path of emergence.

In that spirit, Peter Hitchens,  always the more conservative brother, suggests that the British political establishment is its own version of the Permanent Fusion Party, in which their version of Hillary Clinton sells influence and their version of Donald Trump buys it.
So the important thing is that we do not miss this great moment when the people have joined together against a discredited and failed elite.

What we need is for the Tory Party and the Labour Party to collapse and split and be replaced by two new parties that properly reflect the real divisions in the country.

Since both the old parties are empty and decrepit, with few active members and reliant on state support and dodgy billionaires, the collapsing and splitting bit should not be too hard. The replacement is up to us, the British people, who have now demonstrated our power if we unite.
With the current incarnation of the Republicans fracturing on cable news as we type, and with elements of the Democrat coalition expressing reservations about party unity as early as 2008, and the Sanders voters still not quite on board with Naggin' Careless Crooked Hillary, perhaps something similar is afoot in the States.

More encouraging is the thinking of  former US Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker for The American Interest. Elites have pushed policies that go against the basic sense of identity, security, common sense, and morality of many citizens.  Indeed.  How long have I fulminated about the usual patter from the usual talking heads sitting before the usual backdrops? And no, Kirsten Powers, those heavy glasses are a losing proposition aesthetically.
What is more significant—and more worrying about the Brexit vote—is that it demonstrates just how deep the gulf has become that separates governing elites and the people they are meant to govern.

Whether in Europe or the United States, our ruling elites have pushed policies—political, economic and social—that go beyond what sits well with the basic sense of identity, security, common sense, and morality of many citizens.

Failure to control immigration? Amnesty? Social benefits for non-citizens when citizens are suffering? Nation-building wars abroad instead of nation-building at home? Massive debt? Failures to confront terrorism effectively? Businesses moving jobs overseas? Recession in the countryside while the capital prospers? Rapid changes in gender politics? Bizarre contortions of politically correct speech, which shout down what many see as common sense? It has left many in the electorate angry and disenfranchised. And when those in the public who feel this way have objected or resisted, elites have doubled-down, rather than listen and adjust.
A civics lesson. Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their Just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.  What is this "meant to govern" stuff?
The rulers of the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States—take your pick—are so convinced that they know better than the masses, and that they are building a better world, that even in defeat, they are bemoaning how wrongly the masses have voted. And that is the looming danger for the future that the Brexit vote foreshadows: that elites will still not address the concerns of a large proportion of their own citizens.

To be fair, the vast majority of policies and arguments put forward by the elites about the global economy, integration, foreign policy, and more are substantively compelling. Most of the social policies are aimed at creating a more tolerant and inclusive society that benefits all, not just the majority. That should be a good thing. Overall, we are all better off with free trade, immigration, and dealing with foreign policy and global security problems before they get worse.
Perhaps. But it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish their Government. Sometimes the fourth turning includes an explicit revolution, or a civil war. Sometimes, the alteration can be accomplished using the approved forms.  The British referendum is an attempt to use the approved forms.  Let the clerisy tremble.
We need better leaders—ones who are true to core values of freedom, democracy, market economics, the rule of law, and human rights. We need leaders who can listen to those with whom they disagree, and find compromises and solutions. We need leaders who worry more about governing than about sound bites and elections. We need leaders who truly mean it when they say they are “serving,” rather than ruling for the pleasure of exercising power in pursuit of their own agendas.

The current money-raising, lack-of-privacy, “gotcha” style of politics today has discouraged some of the most capable and well-grounded people from ever wanting to run for public office. But with the choices our country faces in our upcoming election—and the warning shot fired by the British people at their own leaders—perhaps some better leaders for the United States and for Europe will begin to step forward.
That's a diplomatic way of saying enough with the usual process worship, but it's a start. Reason's J. D. Tuccille explains that process worship, no matter how immaculately conceived, tends to degenerate to rent-seeking.
Specifically, it was perfectly possible for voters in the U.K. to vote to leave the E.U. not because they wanted to slam the door on the world, but because they wanted to engage with it while managing their own affairs, without being pushed around by unelected, meddlesome bureaucrats who actually put hurdles in the way of international commerce.

In 2013, the European Union stirred a hornet's nest with a proposal to require restaurants to serve olive oil only in commercially purchased bottles, not in refillable cruets or bowls. The ban, almost certainly intended to benefit large producers at the expense of local producers unable to package oil in single-use containers, was promptly pulled amidst a righteous outcry.
On the other hand, if you'd like a good wallow in the old-time religion, there's a lengthy D. M. Green essay that delivers, at length.
Western policy makers have made people desperate by serving the interests of the overclass during already massively stressful times.  This greed and treason has been incalculably stupid, even for the perpetrators, in the same way that FDR had to save capitalism from greedy-to-the-point-of-self-destruction capitalists in a prior telling of this same tale.  Their greed is so insatiable they are bringing the house down around their own heads too.

And so there is rage, often of the blind, unthinking sort.  Like I said, for me, the wonder is not that it’s happening, but that it’s taken as long as it has.  In European and other countries, that delay probably can be explained by relatively robust welfare state programs that substantially cushion the blow.  In America, it has a lot to do with the political power of bigotry.  The Republican Party has been dining out on the faux enemies of the white male working class for decades now.  Give ‘em somebody brown or female or foreign to hate and to blame, and they don’t notice while you’re picking their pocket.  The Democrats of the Clinton/Obama era, meanwhile, pretend to give a shit, all the while doing arguably even worse damage to their historical constituent base (i.e., America) than Ronald Reagan ever did.  What a racket.
There's a lot more in this vein, but you'll have to go there to read it.  The schadenfreude would turn sour if I quoted and reacted to much more.



Updated to repair some link-rot, and bumped to the top.

Reason TV juxtaposes Mrs Clinton's prevarications with Mr Comey's findings, some of which specify in great detail the extent to which her carelessness created security breaches.

The opening segment of the July 5 Kelly File is on fire.  (Video embed may still not work.)

Ms Kelly's indictment.
KELLY: The FBI director went on to say that no reasonable person in Secretary Clinton's position could have believed that they were acting appropriately. Next, Mrs. Clinton has repeatedly assured the country that America's secrets were safe despite their presence on her home server.

Here's the money quote from Brit Hume.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks, Megyn. Well, you did a very good job there of setting forth just how Comey's statement just blew up this tissue of lies that has been told by Secretary Clinton throughout this case, ending, of course, with his conclusion that while, as he put it at one point, ‘there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information’ -- then he goes on to say ‘our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.’ So, he didn't really find necessarily that she hadn't committed a crime.

He just said that he didn't think it was a crime that should be prosecuted, which is a different matter entirely and goes well beyond what one might have expected an FBI director to recommend to the department perhaps or to say publicly, which makes this whole procedure today more than a little unusual, Megyn, because if you think about it, if he didn't think it was worth prosecuting, all he had to do when you think about it is simply turn over his findings to the Department of Justice and leave it to the Department of Justice to make what he described as a prosecutive decision.
Here's a follow-up from Thursday, 7 July.  Careless might not be criminal.  But it ought be disqualifying for public office.
MARC THIESSEN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: No, absolutely. So the whole premise of her campaign is that she has the experience, judgment, and competence to defend our national security. And Director Comey just blew those claims out of the water today. I mean, you showed the clip of her saying, that I have the experience to make the tough decisions of statecraft. Tough decisions like what? Whether to put tough secret information on an unsecured, unclassified server, that's a tough call. I mean for the American people, it's not a tough call, but apparently for Hillary Clinton it is.
Is there any reason not to see a political class taking care of its own, to the detriment of the ordinary people?


Long before Horace Mann or John Dewey there was Martin Luther.  Yes, that Martin Luther.
“Knowledge of all kinds is so abundant, what with so many books, and so much reading,” Luther wrote. “One can learn more in three years than used to be possible in twenty.”

Christianity could only be saved if there were more schools, he said. “I would like to know where we are going to get pastors, schoolteachers and sacristans three years from now if we do nothing about this.”

Schools had to be public, he said, supported by the German princes who ruled the fractured Holy Roman Empire. He wanted education available to everyone. The next generation needed lessons in literature, history and science if they were to fulfill their destiny. He wanted to include girls. By the late 16th century, rural German schools were gender balanced, [historian Andrew] Pettegree reported, while Venetian students were nearly all male.

Luther’s passion for better schooling feels like the impatience of today’s educational reformers. Many of his readers might have thought, as many do today, that Luther was pushing reform too hard. Many German parents preferred their children stay home to help make ends meet.
Yes, you have to have the right material and institutional conditions before "if you think education is expensive, try ignorance" makes sense as a slogan.


Jason Willick in The American Interest.  "The point is not to kick internationalism to the curb; it is for elites to rediscover the delicate balance between cosmopolitanism and nationalism that they started to lose in the mid-20th century and abandoned altogether as the Cold War came to a close."  Read and understand.  And follow the link.


During Sherman's March to the Sea, the local population harbored insurgents who were dealt with harshly.  "[R]ebel prisoners are pressed into service as mine sweepers, with one paroled to send a message to the commander of the local insurgents, and where rebel prisoners are made to draw lots, with one man executed, which stopped summary killings of foragers."  Genl Sherman's colleague Phil Sheridan subsequently served as an unofficial advisor to the Prussians (it still being our practice to avoid overseas entanglements) on conducting counterinsurgency.
As the Prussian army drove into France during the 1870 war with France, Germany’s Chancellor Otto von Bismarck sought the advice of the American military observer, none other than Phil Sheridan, whose cavalry had burned out the farmers of the Shenandoah Valley in the last stages of the conflict. What should Bismarck do about French snipers and saboteurs from villages along the Prussian route of march? Sheridan told Bismarck to burn the villages, leaving the people “with nothing left but their eyes to weep with after the war.” That, and hang the snipers, Sheridan threw in.

Like Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, who burned a great swath through Georgia and the Carolinas, Sheridan believed that war is won not just by killing soldiers but by denying them support from a broader civilian population.
This leads Chicago Boy Trent Telenko to suggest taking off the gloves elsewhere.  "Goldman suggests in his article that a General Sherman 'March Through Georgia' style of collective punishment of Muslim civilian populations in the West can work to end this random death in the Western civilization’s life support."  Here's the basis of that suggestion.
When the war came Sherman came close to a nervous breakdown, trying in vain to convince his masters that they would have to kill 300,000 Southern soldiers and devastate the Confederacy to win the war. He then distinguished himself in combat at Shiloh in 1863 and went on to become the scourge of the Deep South.

The Union always had more men and more resources; what it lacked was generals with the stomach for the job. That meant not only the grisly war of attrition waged by Grant, another middling commander with absolute resolve, but also retaliation against civilians: When snipers fired on Union soldiers from Tennessee or Kentucky villages, Sherman expelled residents, burned houses, and laid waste to crops. There are lessons here for what we used to call, quaintly, the Global War on Terror.

Destroying ISIS, al-Qaeda and other Muslim terror groups is not particularly difficult, far less difficult than Sherman or Sheridan’s task during the Civil War. It simply requires doing some disgusting things. Western intelligence doesn’t have to infiltrate terror groups, tap phones, mine social media postings and so forth (although these doubtless are worth doing). Muslim communities in the West will inform on the terrorists. They will tell police when someone has packed up and gone to Syria, and when he has returned. They will tell police who is talking about killing westerners, who has a suspicious amount of cash, who is listening to broadcasts from Salafist preachers.

They will tell western security services everything they need to know, provided that western security services ask in the right way. I mean in Phil Sheridan’s way.
As I type this, there's ongoing coverage of franc-tireur warfare from Baton Rouge.
The way to win the war is to frighten the larger community of Muslims who passively support terror by action or inaction–frighten them so badly that they will inform on family members. Frightening the larger Muslim population in the West does not require a great deal of effort: a few thousand deportations would do. Western intelligence services do not even have to deport the right people; the wrong people know who they are, and so do many of their neighbors. The ensuing conversation is an easy one to have. “I understand that your nephew is due for deportation, Hussein, and I believe you when you tell me that he has done nothing wrong. I might be able to help you. But you have to help me. Give me something I can use–and don’t waste my time by making things up, or I swear that I’ll deport you, too. If you don’t have any information, then find out who does.”

This approach to quashing insurgency has worked numerous times in the past. It is not characteristic of peacetime life in western democracies, to be sure, but neither was Phil Sheridan’s ride through the Shenandoah. We prefer to think about winning hearts and minds. Winning the hearts and minds of a people, though, isn’t difficult once they fear you.
Is that how a new civil war will begin in the USA?


University Diaries' Margaret Soltan is, shall we say, no fan of Donald Trump.  But in a Politico story about the Who's Who of non-attenders at the Republican convention (held in the arena that also hosts -- by default? -- the Mid-American Conference basketball tournament) there's something that might confirm at least some of Mr Trump's fulminations about a rigged system.
“With Trump you have what is a fairly divisive campaign and you have the potential of unnecessarily offending a whole bunch of people if you show up there in a prominent way,” said Matt McDonald, a partner at consulting firm Hamilton Place Strategies, which does business with some of the nation’s biggest banks. “On top of that, a lot of the people that you might want to get in front of for one reason or another are not going to be there.”

McDonald cited the long roster of senior Republican lawmakers skipping the convention as one major reason financial executives don’t feel the need to raise the flag in Cleveland.
There have to be plenty of places other than Cleveland where influence can be discreetly traded.  What's interesting, though, are the multiple responses the rent-seekers have to the Democrat convention, where, no doubt, the Clinton Foundation and the Combine will be hard at work.
The convention boycott is not entirely limited to Trump.

JPMorgan, for instance, is also not assisting with the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The bank this year decided to make philanthropic contributions to each city instead. Goldman will also play no formal role in Philadelphia.

And the Bernie Sanders-influenced, leftward tilt of the Democratic Party and its platform is not exactly a welcome mat for big donors. But Clinton is hoovering up Wall Street cash as bankers hedge against the risks of a Trump presidency. Clinton and groups supporting her campaign raised $32 million from the securities and investment industry through June to virtually nothing for Trump.

And Philadelphia is likely to be friendlier terrain for bank lobbyists and industry executives hoping to play roles in a Clinton White House. “I’m skipping Cleveland but going to Philly,” the senior lobbyist from the large bank said. “But that’s partly just because Philly is on the way to visit my kids at camp.”
Yes, and Monica Lewinsky was on the way to order a pizza.


Oh, wait.  Coup d'├ętat Attempt: Turkey's Reichstag Fire?  "We are witnessing the consolidation of a new form of authoritarianism with a populist streak."  Plus:  "With the siren-like echoes of calls to prayer and military jets, Turkey was becoming a land only for true believers."


The Tesla Autopilot crash raises another question: should cars and transport trucks be sharing the road?
Unfortunately the Interstate Highway was public and paid for by the US government as part of a larger goal of decentralizing production (less chance of it all being taken out by a Russian nuke) and promoting suburban development. The privately owned railways couldn’t compete. Nobody actually planned this; it was just the natural response to the provision of cheap fast roads.

And we all have to live with the consequences sixty years later: Overcrowded roads, disintegrating infrastructure, and thousands of deaths every year, and a transportation system that makes no sense, mixing long-haul trucking with families in cars, all so that truckloads of stuff can get to the suburban big-box store a little more quickly.
Reality is more complicated than that, and railroading is well suited to wholesale movement of containers from dockside or factory to warehouse, less so for the retail movements.

If, however, the introduction of self-driving cars is enough of a disruptive innovation to induce long-run adjustments in the vehicle code and the safety standards for road vehicles, perhaps such abominations as triple trailers and 53 foot containers will be contrary to public convenience and necessity.



Jake Johnson suggests elites "pose the greatest threat to global society."  It's a variation on the theme of treating the overthrow of leaders as something to be avoided for fear of greater disruption.  It's also a collectivist case for emergence.
Until elites come to recognize the fact that the system they have cultivated — the system that has allowed them to thrive at the expense of everyone else — has helped to foster the kind of resentment they are now desperately attempting to suppress, they will continue to be the target of those whose material circumstances have become unbearable, in large part due to the global economic order.
How emergent? Joel Kotkin proposes five strands of emergence, not necessarily coincident but not mutually exclusive either.
The Great Rebellion is on and where it leads nobody knows.

Its expressions range from Brexit to the Trump phenomena and includes neo-nationalist and unconventional insurgent movement around the world. It shares no single leader, party or ideology. Its very incoherence, combined with the blindness of its elite opposition, has made it hard for the established parties across what’s left of the democratic world to contain it.

What holds the rebels together is a single idea: the rejection of the neo-liberal crony capitalist order that has arisen since the fall of the Soviet Union. For two decades, this new ruling class could boast of great successes: rising living standards, limited warfare, rapid technological change and an optimism about the future spread of liberal democracy. Now, that’s all fading or failing.
For all of their cleverness, the Men (and women) of System gave themselves too much credit for the good times. Oops.
In this formulation, those with elite degrees, including the hegemons on Wall Street and Silicon Valley, dismiss local control as rule by the Yahoos. The progressive ideal of government by experts—sometimes seen as “the technocracy”—may sounds good in Palo Alto or London, but often promise a dim future for the middle class. Expert regulation, often with green goals in mind, take hard-earned gains like car and home ownership and cheap air travel all but out of reach for the middle class, while keeping them around for the globe-trotting elites.
But in the eclipse of Expert Consensus, there is not anarchy, rather there is emergence. Which, Mr Kotkin argues, might be desirable.
The Great Rebellion allows localities relief from overweening regulations, cities to be as urban as they want, and the periphery choose how they wish to develop.

The Rebellion also allows us to move beyond enforced standards of racial “balance” and reparations , replacing the chaos of unenforced borders and enforced “diversity” with something more gradual and organic in nature. Our hope on race and ethnicity lies not in rule-making from above , but in allowing the multiculturalism of the streets to occur, as is rapidly does, in suburban schoolyards, soccer pitches and Main Streets across the Western world.

National cultures do not need to be annihilated but allowed to evolve. In Texas, California, and across the southwestern, Spanish phraseology, Mexican food and music are already very mainstream. Without lectures from the White House or preening professors, African-American strains will continue to define our national culture, particularly in the south. In Europe, few object to couscous on bistro menus, falafel on the streets and, in Britain, the obligatory curry at the pub.

The Great Rebellion is much more than the triumph of nativism, stupidity and crudeness widely denounced in the mainstream media. Ethnic integration and even globalization will continue, but shaped by the wishes of democratic peoples, not corporate hegemons or bureaucratic know-it-alls. We can now once again aspire to a better world—better because it will be one that people, not autocrats, have decided to make.
Perhaps it would be better to not think about a vision of a better world, because that way leads Process and Consensus and Expertise, which is to say, the phenomena that have brought to pass the Great Rebellion. And the next round of the War on Stupid People.
Among other things, the less brainy are, according to studies and some business experts, less likely to be oblivious of their own biases and flaws, to mistakenly assume that recent trends will continue into the future, to be anxiety-ridden, and to be arrogant.

When Michael Young, a British sociologist, coined the term meritocracy in 1958, it was in a dystopian satire. At the time, the world he imagined, in which intelligence fully determined who thrived and who languished, was understood to be predatory, pathological, far-fetched. Today, however, we’ve almost finished installing such a system, and we have embraced the idea of a meritocracy with few reservations, even treating it as virtuous. That can’t be right. Smart people should feel entitled to make the most of their gift. But they should not be permitted to reshape society so as to instate giftedness as a universal yardstick of human worth.
Particularly after the various manifestations of the gentry's fatal conceits of the past few years.


George Borjas asserts that the prestige game is rigged in economics.
The editor, by selectively picking which referees will review the paper, has a lot of influence over how the “peer review process” turns out.  A good editor has a feel for how particular economists will react to particular kinds of work, so that by choosing the right reviewers the editor can “nudge” the final assessment in a particular direction.
In this case of possible rigging, it involves the American Economic Review, and an associate editor who has also worked with one of the authors of the recently accepted article.  I don't know that Professor Borjas has uncovered the first, or even the most egregious, case, of editors sending papers to reviewers who are likely to be favorably disposed to the paper, and I can't rule out having myself benefitted from that myself.

The good news is there's enough discontent among the younger economists rooting out the old girl network at work, plus calling out a source that might be dubious, to give Professor Borjas hope.
There’s still hope for mankind when many of the posts written by a bunch of over-educated young social scientists illustrate a throwing off of the shackles of political correctness and reflect mundane concerns that more normal human beings share: prestige, sex, money, landing a job, sex, professional misconduct, gossip, sex, and putting down “reg monkeys,” a subspecies of economists that cares little about conceptual issues and lives simply to run regressions.
Gotta love that "reg monkeys."  Not that running regressions automatically yields publications, whether in American Economic Review, in one of the Association's specialty journals, or in an archival journal.  I'm not sure to what extent looking for heteroskedasticity or autocorrelation or selection biases or unit roots or what have you constitute conceptual issues, or just chances to show off one's facility with canned programs; and there's been enough work in some parts of applied economics that your model ought to recognize that some sort of optimization is at work somewhere in the behavior being measured.

In some ways, though, the Review's favoritism, if that's what it is, might have tainted the careers of the authors.
I feel quite a bit of empathy for the young authors of Family Ruptures. They were ill-served by editorial decisions. Had Hoynes recused herself from shepherding the paper through the process at the AER, the worst that could have happened is that the paper would have been rejected; the two economists would have resubmitted the paper elsewhere; the paper would have eventually found a friendlier reception at a lower-tier journal; and the paper would have been published and henceforth forgotten, a fate shared by practically all academic papers. From the authors’ perspective, I think that outcome is far preferable to the situation today.
Better still if the paper had survived a clean vetting at the Review, although its future obscurity would still be as likely.  (And what does that say about the Research Imperative?  That's for another day.)

But the behavior of gentry economists might have much in common with the behavior of the gentry elsewhere?
As is much too common these days, when important people do something wrong, heads no longer roll. Would anyone be surprised if any day now the people involved issue a generic non-apology apology telling everyone that it’s time to move on? As someone else famously said:  What difference, at this point, does it make?

Let me get back to the pet peeve that motivated this long rant. Next time you hear about “professional consensus in peer-reviewed research,” do as I do: Roll your eyes. Who knows what went into the making of that particular sausage? And this warning applies ten-fold for peer-reviewed research in any politically charged subject.
That provokes Don Boudreaux to meditate on those self-selecting, self-reinforcing elites.
Yet in most cases the members of the current crop of “leaders” are not nearly as essential as they are believed to be.  While the identities of the leaders of organizations such as Apple, Inc. and the American Economic Association are more important to the success of those organizations than are the “leaders” of countries – organizations have purposes, countries do not – few individual leaders are absolutely essential.  Even in organizations, much of the order is formed spontaneously from the bottom up, and not consciously from the top down.  Even organizations have spontaneously formed resiliencies that ensure against collapse if the President or the CEO or the Chairman or the Archbishop is removed suddenly from power.

his truth is even more sure for so-called government “leaders”: the societies and economies that these people pretend to consciously direct – and, as I say, are widely but mistakenly believed to consciously direct  – are in no way really dependent upon these “leaders'” supervision and direction.
In Professor Boudreaux's reckoning, an excessive reliance on expertise, whether it's divinely inspired (the Pope) or rising through the ranks (the CEO who started as office boy) or ratified by the academic prestige system creates an internal contradiction.
The irony is that, if it were true that order in organizations and society is strictly and solely dependent upon the conscious decisions and direction from the top of “leaders, then these “leaders” should indeed be held to a higher standard – ethical, intellectual, and experiential – than that to which we in the hapless masses are held.  Yet the fear that ‘rolling the head’ of this or that “leader” will unleash disorder keeps these “leaders” held to lower, not higher, standards.
Perhaps that's the logic of hanging the occasional admiral, or sacking the odd associate editor, to encourage the others. Otherwise, the prestige hierarchy hangs on to its perquisites until the institutional rot fosters a greater disorder.