Common Council presidents from Milwaukee and Waukesha pledge their cooperation on a number of public policies.  I'll focus on one.
For example, there's no reason why we cannot have a regional approach to transportation needs. With the huge level of investment we are seeing (Foxconn, Downtown, Bucks arena, etc.) in developments and infrastructure, we must strategically adapt our transportation system appropriately or face new problems.

In that vein, we also hope to begin a serious discussion about a future rail system that can move workers and citizens efficiently throughout the region. Minneapolis, St. Louis and Atlanta are just a few of the large cities and regions with commuter rail systems in place and working well. We are excited about our economic and job growth, but we have to be able to get to point A and to point B in an efficient way. Why not here?
We could call it The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Transport Company II.

Unfortunately, Our Progressive Betters thought one way to prevent future collapses of highly leveraged electric power conglomerates was to limit their ability to diversify into electric interurban lines, and the Wise Experts were all about limited access highways, and most of this Watertown or the Muskego Lakes area to Milwaukee line is either bike trails or under expressway grades.

But hey, if we're going to rethink the 1960s or rediscover the Canon and the Curriculum, why not update the interurban?

Unattributed vintage photograph from Waukesha Freeman.

Sorry, Milwaukee, doesn't matter whether you double-deck the freeway, or move a few graves to widen it, to get it through that narrow spot near Miller Park, the existing delays will not get any better because of the construction delays, nor will they go away once the additional lanes are in place.


Macy's takes over Marshall Field, now proposes to shrink its retail space in the Loop.  "The announcement confirms a Tribune story in October that Macy’s had struck a preliminary deal to sell floors 8 through 14 to Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management."  Those floors will become offices.

The announcement comes with the usual corporate spin.  "The deal will help make the State Street store 'a more vibrant shopping destination,' Macy’s spokeswoman Andrea Schwartz said in an email Tuesday."

No, it won't.  But the rot set in a long time ago.  In fact, the big department stores of The America That Worked(TM) might have sown the seeds of their own destruction by setting up branches as anchor stores in the suburban shopping centers, later enclosed malls.  The branch stores had fewer square feet of retail space, thus the likes of the furniture and appliance departments served more explicitly as order-takers, look at the demonstration model or leaf through the catalog, and arrange delivery, and the food courts took the place of the "elegant tea rooms" at the downtown stores (fashion shows during the week, opportunities for the kids to have breakfast with Santa come Christmas), and maybe mall management would consent to have a suitably wholesome musical act in the central space.

That the malls became a sort of hangout for unsupervised teens simply made shoppers of all ages more willing to transact business on-line.  If you're going to have to arrange delivery anyway ...


In the fifteen years or so that Cold Spring Shops has been covering the academic crack-up, Eve Ensler's talkative cooch has gone from an approved way to take the fun out of Valentine's Day (whilst cocking a snook at the Catholic Church) to a microaggression to excessive cisnormativity (a neologism unknown at the time the Shops opened.)

The spectacle continues.
Not being able to express your thoughts and feelings about your vagina (if you are the type of person who feels like that’s how you want to spend your time) because not everyone has a vagina is one of the most idiotic things that I’ve ever heard. Using that logic, no one should ever be able to talk about his or her experience with anything, unless everyone in the world has also had the exact same one. Do you even hear how ridiculous that sounds? We’re all unique people with unique sets of circumstances, which means that everything each one of us does or says won’t necessarily be “inclusive” or “relatable” to every single other person — and that’s perfectly okay.

The point of education used to be to develop in people the ability to think things through, rather than attempt to generalize from their own experience.

Perhaps, instead of griping about empty intersectionality, I ought refer to solipsistic intersectionality.



Railway Gazette's freight rail news roundup features a container train, Austrian style.

Trial piggyback movements to an Argentine port, a Polish intermodal train operator leases locomotives, Hungary's Rail Cargo Group builds their version of Global I near Budapest.

Here's how it's done.

Rochelle, Illinois, 9 July 2006.

It's unlikely, though, that the Europeans will raise their catenary enough to provide for double-stacks, even on the busiest container routes.


Results of this year's DeKalb pizza popularity poll.

10 - Italian Dreams Pizza and Pasta, Sycamore.
9 - World Famous Pizza, Sycamore (also make Lord Stanley's, it's pretty good.)
8 - Vinny's Pizza, DeKalb.
7 - Corner Grill on Main, Genoa. (Deep dish options.)
6 - Pizza Pro's, DeKalb.
5 - Sam's Pizza, Sycamore.
4 - Dough Brother's Pizzeria, Cortland.
3 - Pizza Villa, DeKalb.
2 - Rosati's Pizza, Sycamore.
1 - Forge Brewhouse, Sycamore.

Some of these I have not yet tried. Might be time to explore.


Rod Dreher gets today's Trenchant Observation of the Day.
I think it is absolutely the case that the form of schooling in our current day ought to be critically examined for its social effects. Homeschoolers are accustomed to people asking us how we can possibly expect our children to be “socialized” if they don’t go to standard schools. There’s a polite answer that most of us use, but the real answer is something like, “Are you out of your mind?! Socialized to that standard?!”
The essay is primarily about school shootings and the generally toxic common school culture, and it will reward careful study.

Think of it as a review session, dear regular reader.


Thirty years later, they look prophetic.

Start with a lament about the state of Canada's universities, appearing in Los Angeles Review of Books.
Administrators have been slowly taking control of the institution for decades. The recent proliferation of books, essays, and manifestoes critiquing this takeover creates the impression that the battle is now on. But that is an illusion, and most writers know it. All the voices of protest, many of them beautiful and insightful, all of them noble, are either cries of the vanquished or merely a dogged determination to take the losing case to court.
Ah, for a market test. It came to this, dear reader, when the faculty first acquiesced to administrative usurpations, because the usurpers appeared to be on the side of the angels.
Faculty members are the ones who are now accountable, but no longer to their peers and students and no longer regarding mastery of their subjects. Instead, they are accountable to administrators, who employ an increasingly wide array of instruments and staff to assess their productivity and measure their performance, all of which are now deemed eminently quantifiable. In place of judgment regarding the quality of their work we now have a variety of “outcomes” used as measures of worth. Student evaluations and enrollments (i.e., popularity), learning as determined by “rubrics,” quantity of publications, amount of research dollars, extent of social “impact” are the things that count now. In other words, only things you can quantify and none of which require judgment.
Management fads all. How's that working out?
Liberal arts and science programs are quietly being transmogrified through pressure from technology and technological modes of education so that their “content” is increasingly merely an occasion for the delivery of what the university truly desires — well-adjusted, administratively minded people to populate the administrative world we’ve created for them. The latent assumption in all this is that what is truly important is not what students know or how intelligent they are, but how well and how often they perform and how finely we measure it.

If you think I exaggerate, consider the deliverables universities are forever touting to students today: “collaboration,” “communication,” “critical analysis,” “impact.” All abstract nouns indicating things you can do or have, but not a word about what you know or who you are. No promise to teach you history or politics or biology or to make you wise or thoughtful or prudent. Just skills training to equip you to perform optimally in a competitive, innovative world.
Even that, dear reader, is deficient.
But as for fundamentals, everyone understands and agrees about the path to be taken: administrators are free to govern the university in whatever way they see fit so long as the mandate is furthered. If this requires some rough play to get the job done, so be it. If it requires, say, serially violating collective agreements to assert dominance and set precedent; or creating new review bodies to undermine existing faculty review bodies and then populating them with administrative plants to get the desired results; or tampering, directly and indirectly, with administrative and faculty hiring committees; or cultivating and compromising Faculty Association leadership; or badgering and abusing recalcitrant professors until they quit or can be fired, or buying off critics of the administration through generous funding of their programs and starvation of others — so be it. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. But as Albert Camus once remarked, the quality of an omelet has nothing to do with how many eggs were broken to make it. And in this instance the “eggs” in question are not negligible. They are the very foundation of our universities — the hard-won principles of collegial and democratic governance, of a dedication to truth, fair play, and reasonable debate, of freedom of thought, and of the long tradition of our collective wisdom that is now being cavalierly dismantled by people who do not have the wit to understand its meaning or significance for our civilization.
Wait, what, there's some value in all those ancient hegemonic discourses?  "In the all-administrative university we cheat students of a real, substantial education, the most deleterious consequence of which is the erosion of their ability to speak, think, and write seriously about themselves and their world." Somewhere, Charlie Sykes must be chuckling.
Rigor is difficult and unpopular; pandering is easy and pleasant. And since the whole world panders to students in order to extract from them a portion of their considerable resources, why resist the flow? It’s the world they live in and have come to expect, after all. Better simply to repackage pandering as rigor — e-learning, digital literacies, competency-based programming, personal learning agendas — and simply deny there is a problem.
The information technologies might be new: the pandering has been with us for some time.
Young people aren’t doing very well these days. Mental health numbers are off the charts for a generation of kids that has effectively been raised and educated by screens. They’re having trouble speaking, thinking, and making sense of the world. And yet the barbarity of the culture and universities is not lost on them. The belief we can continue reaping the economic and technological benefits of that barbarism while pasting some “soft skills” and some “social and emotional learning” on top of the existential mess we’ve made of our kids simply isn’t going to work. We’re at the point now where we need a serious intellectual and emotional intervention. Nothing less than Shakespeare, Woolf, and Tolkien will do if we’re going to save our children.
Indeed. Restoring the faculty to their traditional role as stewards of the curriculum will also help. The article does make that point.  There is work still to be done.
For our part, we juke the stats, we give in to pressures to pass students and make them happy. We stupidify our courses and water down our disciplines to survive. And worst of all for everyone, we ourselves have become intellectually and pedagogically second-rate through our participation in the decline.
Thus Canada.

There's discontent with the administrative bloat, and the academic rot, at Stanford as well.
Stanford’s unassuming army of administrators are surprisingly dangerous: they drain funds, strangle student culture, and harm our education. The threat is not the fault of any one administrator: it would be ludicrous to argue that Provost Drell is intentionally shifting resources away from the classroom and towards [some nest of deanlets]. Instead, the fault belongs with the incentive structures of competing administrative offices who win prestige through more employees and more programs, regardless of skyrocketing costs.
They could have listened, thirty years ago.  Perhaps they hadn't thought it through back then.  Now, restoring a state of good repair will be more difficult.



Canada's Operation Lifesaver interviews an engineer.
For the employee directly involved in the incident there can be, depending on the individual, moments of despair, anxiety, anger or even sadness. Thankfully there are tools at our disposal to help.  There are professionals and peer support people who are there to listen and help railway employees through this tough time.  In the aftermath of incidents, the railways have participated in programs such as Operation Lifesaver or Safety Days’ demonstrations to try to reach large groups of young people and educate them about the dangers of railway operations.
The article provides a number of other railway safety stories.  Read and understand.  Cross Crossings Cautiously.

In Canada, as in Germany, the engineers who become the inadvertent casualties of a suicide, or of someone's carelessness, become peer counselors.


Five artistically interesting college basketball courts.

Northern Illinois's Convocation Center merits mention, for its inversion of colors (usually the area inside the three-point arc, which is now the same for both men and women, is the darker color) and for the ominous dog-eyes at mid-court.

Other winners: a dragon-ship, a shield-wall, and a floor that could serve as a set for a Sunday show if George Washington thought twice about basketball.

The time line is a bit hard to see from the stands, or perhaps that's just me getting old.


Before You Tear That Down ...
In the 60s a group of radicals spent an extreme amount of time and effort destroying the “outdated morals” of society. They were successful. The trouble is, they didn’t stop to think of what needed to be put in place instead. They were barbarians inside the gates.

Well, here we are 50 years later, they were successful. They tore away all the mores and behaviors of the nation, and replaced it with a lack of mores and acceptable behaviors. “if it feels good do it, man”.
He's writing about the emergence of school shootings, but he could just as well be writing about any number of things that have gone wrong in the past half century.

It's a good thing that the squares are vindicated.  Better, though, that people understand the perils of deconstructing long standing institutions, as well as the perils of deconstructing the deconstructors to no purpose.



A self-described "annoying vegan millennial" commits a category error in the course of proposing the wrong cause for school shootings.
If we can equate femininity to passivity with little statistical evidence, why is it that we cannot equate masculinity to gun violence with large statistical evidence?

This is not a critique of men, but a critique of the masculine gender box, a habitat constructed to teach men how they should behave and what men should value. The box instructs its inhabitants to be financially stable, eat partially cooked animals and have a love affair with women and violence.
That's sloppy thinking, and Campus Reform have already followed up.
Petrucci told Campus Reform that she finds masculinity to be “a social construction created through media, culture, and business, which teaches men how to behave and what to value.”

“Toxic masculinity are the facets of this social construction which are dangerous or toxic to men, women, and non-binary people and has implications for society at large,” she added, saying social norms are to blame for violent behavior among men.

“Men are socialized to act in ways which hurt others and themselves. Men have higher rates of perpetrating domestic violence, have higher rates of substance abuse, and simply being male is factored into one's risk of being a mass shooter,” she claimed, reiterating that “this is not a critique of men.”
"Media" and "business" are downstream from culture, and we have seen at least fifty years of efforts by self-styled "thought leaders" to undermine bourgeois norms.  It came to this, dear reader, when "male chauvinist pig" applied alike to the guy who suggested a girl couldn't run a locomotive and to the guy who held a car door or the restaurant door open for a date.

What's encouraging is that this Tucker Carlson interview of psychotherapist Nell Daly, which starts with her suggestion that the concept of "toxic masculinity" is "nuanced" ends with the recognition that there has been a fifty year experiment against reality going on.  Watch:

The school shooter being discussed might have suffered from a lack of male role models who would have fulfilled the old, evolutionarily stable role of "gentlemen" and it is a lack of socialization to that role that leads men we would understand, under the old rubric, as "boors" to send hate mail and death threats to Ms Daly.  (There's probably a social science analysis to be written about the effect of "Kill the NRA" rhetoric on such behavior, if someone has the model, data, and guts to try it.)

Her closing language refers to "a lot of single moms having issues ..."  I suppose that's the diplomatic way of saying "experiments against reality hurt real people."


According to Jibran Khan for National Review, a lot.  Steel Tariffs Do Not Advance National Security.
American manufacturers already face steel prices of nearly twice the world export market price owing to taxes and restrictions. Where steel mills add $36 billion of value to the economy, manufacturers that use steel add “over $1 trillion — or 5.8% of GDP” and employ over 6 million people, notes Cato’s Dan Pearson. Naked protectionism for one industry will have a devastating effect on others that employ 46 times as many people.
The essay notes, as does one of the articles cited yesterday, that other countries, and the European Union, can also play the protectionist game.

Which also does nothing to help entrepreneurs, irrespective of their lines of business, discover their comparative advantages.

(There's probably a way to interpret trade wars as meaning "women and minorities hardest hit," but that's a subset of consumers, and consumers take it in the shorts as trade barriers take hold.)


Michael Mandelbaum takes a contrarian view of 1968.
Between January and December of that year, in East Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, and North America, the crack of the tectonic plates of history shifting sharply seemed almost audible. It was—or at least at the time seemed to be—“the year that rocked the world,” as the subtitle of a recent book put it.1 Now the golden anniversary of 1968 has arrived. Seen from this perspective, the year appears less a global turning point than an example of one of history’s signal features—irony, which is present when the outcome of individual acts and national policies turns out to be quite different from what it initially seemed to be, and from what the people involved in them intended.
Example: Vietnam. "It would be difficult to find a purer case of historical irony than the long-term results of the Vietnam War."

Example:  France.  Quick history lesson first, the French government of the time was not at all interested in participating in the North Atlantic Alliance or the Common Market.  "As for the students who had taken to the streets in the spring of 1968, in the many speeches they made and the manifestoes they issued neither of these two subsequently dominant issues played any significant part."

Example:  Soviet Communism.  "Attempting to preserve communism in 1968, the Soviet leaders doomed it."  Yes, an American President and a Pope gave the tottery edifice a final shove, but perhaps these actions heightened the contradictions.

Example:  the most visible sector of the early Baby Boom generation.  "The institution that incubated the defining events of 1968 in the United States, which the activist wing of the Baby Boom generation did eventually come to dominate, is the university; and the fate of the university presents another, final, ironic coda to that year."

Suffice it to say that the squares of a half century ago could read this essay and observe, "See, I told you so."



Betsy Newmark has a roundup of reactions to Wednesday's CNN townhall on school shootings (the one at which students mau-maued Florida senator Marco Rubio and television pundit Dana Loesch, apparently to rave reviews from Our Former President.)  They'll never learn.  "Haven't we had enough of depicting people who disagree with liberal policies are deplorables clinging to their guns and religion?"

No, when you're taking a position On The Side Of The Angels (or of History) you get a free pass to hector, to condescend, to deplorable-shame.

Here's Rush Limbaugh, being outrageous to make a point.
Any number of early Drive-By Media reports focused on that, as they learned about the shooter, learned about how everybody knew who he was. He had 39 visits by local authorities, the FBI ignoring two warnings. All these signs, a plethora of them.

In the reporting on all that, it was also reported that the guy felt ostracized by fellow students, was eventually kicked out of the school. He never fit in. He was made fun of and laughed at and they mocked him all over the place.  My question to that was, “Well, who did that?  Who did the laughing at the guy?  Who did the mocking?  Who was making fun of him?  Who was making him feel like a kook and an oddball and not wanted?”  We all know how mean and vicious high school can be.
Obligatory social science disclaimer: looking for the root causes of a marginalized person's rage in no way justifies, excuses, or should be used to enable the rage.

From what little I've seen of the little darlings at the town meeting, dear reader, I can't help but think that they behaved so badly toward the senator and the pundit because they learned, all their life, that they could get away with it.  That is, attempting to make the senator or the pundit look like a kook and an oddball and not wanted.

Perhaps, there's yet another reason to rediscover the eternal verities.
Now that they’ve seen evil for what it is, they are being gathered up into the herd mindset once more, this time for mere survival. They demand that such a horror never happen again, that our society go back to the way it was in which life conforms to their feelings, not their experience. The herd is promising to make that happen, and it is gathering the forces of moral power that come with the herd to achieve the impossible end of utopia. Any dissent or seeming opposition to it is deemed an existential threat.

The mob frenzy leads to increased anger, dehumanization of anyone outside the mob, and inability to look for reasonable, albeit imperfect, solutions to an ongoing problem of evil. It leads our children away from their individuality, the reason of their own minds, and a stable strength based on real, intimate relationships. It feeds them to the gluttonous belly of groupthink.

If parents really want to help their children, they need to teach them the truth about life, good and evil, rights and responsibilities. They need to help their children overcome fear, not by engrafting them into the mob, but by surrounding them with truly functional and healthy communities, beginning with the family and religious groups.


By the looks of things, the International Emoji Cartel is almost as comprehensive as the old International Air Transport Association was.  The hoops you have to jump through, just to get the social media companies and the software developers to authorize a lobster emoji.

OK, whatever.  Shrink this picture and use it.

Rockland, Maine, August 2014.

You're welcome.


Is Our President paying his developer competitors out by raising their costs?
[Commerce Secretary Wilbur] Ross said he is recommending that President Donald Trump take one of three actions:

• A blanket tariff of 24% on all steels from all countries.

• A 53% tariff on all mill imports steels from 12 countries – Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, India, Malaysia, South Korea, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam – and a cap on imports from all other countries. Imports from those other countries would be limited to an amount equal to what they exported to U.S., by product, in 2017.

• A blanket cap on all steel imports from all countries. Imports would be capped at 63% of the volumes each shipped here in 2017.

During a conference call with reporters, Ross would not say whether he has a preference for one of the options and would not speculate which, if any, Trump would impose.
Full Commerce report here.

The rent-seekers pretending to be heirs to Andrew Carnegie are celebrating.
(Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross) has laid out options that have the potential to be meaningful and effective to address the threat the industry faces in light of global excess capacity and relentless steel imports," said Steel Manufacturers Association President Philip K. Bell.

"The president now has options before him that can move our industry forward and help steelmakers operate at rates that will allow U.S. producers to reinvest to maintain and strengthen the industry to ensure U.S. steel production can survive to serve U.S. national defense interests."

And in a statement to American Metal Market, Nucor Corp. chairman and chief executive John Ferriola said he is encouraged by the recommendations.

"We urge the president to move quickly to review these recommendations, [and] we stand ready to assist the administration in evaluating which recommendations will have the greatest impact in stopping the flow of unfairly traded imports," he said in a statement.

The United Steelworkers union said it, too, believes the recommendations could provide meaningful protections to U.S. producers.
The operating engineers have yet to see the fall-off in construction activity as that steel gets more expensive.  Will the steel men be buying the beer in the bar?

And note:  "Ross also pointed out that since 2000, six basic oxygen furnaces and four electric arc furnaces have closed. He said the import problem is really an excess global capacity problem, one that the world has discussed but has not begun to address."  Tariff protections attenuate the incentives domestic steel producers have to produce a quality steel at home at prices overseas producers can't match.



A Guardian report by Johnny Miller points out the downside of the Social Engineering Vice.
Nowhere is infrastructure so obviously divisive as with the vast interstate highway system. Ubiquitous, generally free and heavily used, it’s undeniably a vital part of the American experience. There are more than one million miles of federal aid highways in the US, which cost $105bn a year to maintain. If American highway spending were a country, it would have the world’s 63rd largest GDP, just behind Morocco. But while these roads unify and connect millions of the country’s citizens, they’ve also excluded and destroyed many black communities.
That was deliberate, both in a Sundown Towns sort of way, and in an Urban Renewal sort of way.
In the 1950s, a vast increase in cars was beginning to clog the roads to and from the new suburbs. The federal government poured money into the brand new interstate system, encouraging radials, arteries and thoroughfares through dense urban neighbourhoods. This also presented city planners with what seemed an unprecedented opportunity – to use federal funds to clear out “slums” and open up vast tracts of land.
Yes, vast tracts of land for parking craters, for in some cases roads to nowhere, or roads that later were removed, or perhaps for which the only possible use is a sports arena. But that will be a rant for another day.


Are we seeing the end of access-assessment-remediation-retention?  Here's Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution, quoting from a Wall Street Journal story that's behind the paywall.
U.S. not-for-profit colleges and universities are segregating into winners and losers—with winners growing and expanding and losers seeing the first signs of a death spiral.

The Journal ranking, which includes most major public and private colleges with more than 1,000 students, focused on how well a college prepares students for life after graduation. The analysis found that the closer to the bottom of the ranking a school was, the more likely its enrollment was shrinking.
Just like I've been warning for years.


Any saecular order emerges as a consequence of collective actions, organized or otherwise, to deal with the most pressing challenges of particularly hard times.  Eventually, though, what worked, more or less, to settle those challenges, proves untenable to a new set of challenges, even challenges not particularly pressing.

Thus, first, it might be with the late Billy Graham.  There will never be another Billy Graham, because the world that made him possible is gone.
The cultural context in which Graham became one of the most important religious figures in American history was radically different than the one that exists today.

“The America that emerged from World War II and the Great Depression was exceptionally unified and cohesive, and possessed of an unusual confidence in large institutions,” Yuval Levin wrote in his 2016 book, “The Fractured Republic.”

“But almost immediately after the war, [America] began a long process of unwinding and fragmenting,” Levin wrote.

And so, the fact that American Christianity hasn’t given rise to a leader like Graham over the last two or three decades isn’t just a result of the fracturing of evangelicalism into different factions — the slick prosperity gospel of Joel Osteen, the strident right-wing triumphalism of Graham’s son Franklin and the theologically precise new Calvinists, to name just a few.

And so, the fact that American Christianity hasn’t given rise to a leader like Graham over the last two or three decades isn’t just a result of the fracturing of evangelicalism into different factions — the slick prosperity gospel of Joel Osteen, the strident right-wing triumphalism of Graham’s son Franklin and the theologically precise new Calvinists, to name just a few.

It’s also a story about the fragmentation of American life — arguably a reversion to the norm in American history rather than a departure from it.

The culture of mid-20th-century America was unusually cohesive and uniform. The mindset of most Americans was oriented toward joining groups and being part of something bigger.
Fragmentation is not a bad thing per se. How else get the mutation, adaptation, and selection by which tentative steps toward a new social order possibly better suited to objective conditions emerge?

That uniformity of the mid-century America that Worked(TM) might have been in part a response to perceived urgency (Defeat the Axis!  House, feed and clothe a third of the Nation!) and in part an extension of the advances in modern living (Mass-produced automobiles! Standard shoe sizes!  Uniformly delicious hamburgers!).  Cohesion and uniformity appeared to confer evolutionary advantage in ordinary life, and how else deal with regimented brown-shirts, and later, red cadres?

The down-side, dear reader, is that such a mass mobilization, permitting regime change in Rome, then in Berlin, then in Tokyo, and in a different form in Moscow, also gave the Powers that Be a tool not necessarily suited to more mundane challenges.  "It is difficult, sometimes, to wrap one’s mind around the extent of the savagery Uncle Sam has unleashed on the world to advance and maintain its global supremacy."  Thus, to one commentator of the left, perhaps there are upsides to America First.
I recently reviewed a manuscript on the rise of Trump written by a left-liberal American sociologist. Near the end of this forthcoming and mostly excellent and instructive volume, the author finds it “worrisome” that other nations see the U.S. “abdicating its role as the world’s leading policeman” under Trump—and that, “given what we have seen so far from the [Trump] administration, U.S. hegemony appears to be on shakier ground than it has been in a long time.”

For the purposes of this report, I’ll leave aside the matter of whether Trump is, in fact, speeding the decline of U.S. global power (he undoubtedly is) and how he’s doing that to focus instead on a very different question: What would be so awful about the end of “the American Era”—the seven-plus decades of U.S. global economic and related military supremacy between 1945 and the present? Why should the world mourn the “premature” end of the “American Century”?
On the lighter side ... this is not topic drift, I promise ... composers are rediscovering the value of structure in music.  Start in the composition schools.
Real requirements for composition faculty at universities and conservatories. If I took over, I’d demand first a simple 32 bar tune in AABA form with eight bar phrases. Just harmony and melody. If they couldn’t pass that test, bye. Then, if they want to head the department, they better be able to compose a four voice fugue, otherwise, hit the road, Jack.
Amusingly, composer George Pepper suggests there's no real reason to issue another recording of Beethoven's Choral Symphony, which happens to be what Music Channel is playing as I type.  But the simple structure of many of Beethoven's symphonies might be just the thing that students trained first in harmony and melody, then in form and counterpoint would write.  Not tenure music that nobody listens to.  "Nobody wants to listen to the meandering, atonal noise offered up as a substitute for the thrilling beauty of great music."

Now, to pull the threads together.  The rediscovery of form in music is one sort of green shoot.  "Remodernism is rising to take the place of crumbling Postmodernism."  We'll see.

Reduced international adventurism by the United States, particularly in the regime-changing form might be another.  "The U.S. is not just the top menace only to peace on Earth."  Or perhaps, that will mean a new set of menaces to peace on Earth, to which a future alliance involving the United States will have to emerge.

Finally, a new preacher with the appeal and gravitas of a Billy Graham?  "America is now the land of endless options. But perhaps the introduction of infinite variety has reduced the possibility for greatness."

The new greatness will have to emerge, in response to a constellation of objective conditions different from those coming after the War.



That's not a reference to Our President's tee-totaling habits.  Rather, that's one of the ways that protecting domestic primary metals producers will manifest itself.
You could pay more for a six pack of beer or a can of green beans under tariffs that President Donald Trump is considering for aluminum and other metal.

The U.S. Commerce Department has recommended the tariffs on all steel and aluminum imports, or higher tariffs — up to 53% — on imports from specific countries.

The measures are aimed at bolstering the U.S. aluminum and steel industries, which have been hit hard by imports, especially from China.
Apparently, to keep Joe Sixpack employed at the melt shop or mill, Joe Sixpack will have to pay more for that sixpack.
The Steel Manufacturers Association is urging U.S. President Donald Trump to make a speedy decision on the course of action he’ll take relative to the Commerce Department’s Section 232 investigation.

"Even as we speak, the U.S. steel industry is still under assault from dumping, subsidies, state ownership, transshipments, circumvention, counterfeiting and cheating. It is time for us to seriously address these issues," said SMA president Philip Bell.
Last week, I attended a gathering of the Midwest Steelmakers: lots of mill food and a chance to stay current with economic conditions in the industry.  Domestic steel producers have plenty of orders, and yet those subsidized, state-owned mills overseas pose a threat.

You can hope to close the borders and hope for the best, or perhaps you can rediscover your comparative advantage.
About 20% of Europe’s steelmaking capacity is redundant, and companies should look to close mills while re-orienting themselves toward greater production of higher-end steel, voestalpine AG chief executive Wolfgang Eder tells The (London) Financial Times.

"As long as many plants in Europe produce the same stuff as non-European competitors can produce on a much lower cost base, we should not be surprised that the European steel industry is suffering," Eder said.
That's recognition of a point the speaker made at the gathering.  Currently, mills in the United States are pouring about a hundred million tons of steel in a year, while mills in China are pouring about 120 million tons.  But there's a lot of idle capacity -- the equivalent of three United States' worth of integrated and minimills -- in China.

Don "Cafe Hayek" Boudreaux did not attend the dinner, although he found the same points being made in the press.  He's not impressed.
More resources cannot move or be moved to here without resources moving or being moved from there.  And so if there are too many resources here, there are necessarily too few resources there.

Yet when grasping, guile-filled, greedy protectionists use allegations of global “excess capacity” or “overproduction” to plead for government restrictions on their fellow citizens’ freedom to spend money as these citizens choose – pleas proffered under the pretense of using government to correct market distortions – we never, ever hear complaints of the necessarily corresponding global undercapacity and global underproduction.  And governments never propose to act in ways to correct for, or adjust to, the corresponding under-capacities.
This asymmetry of complaints and action screams loudly.  It screams that the real motive of producers who gripe about alleged global “overcapacity” is simply to escape the need to compete for consumer patronage.  The producers’ motives are nothing more grand or noble than to pick the pockets of others.  And governments’ motives are nothing more noble than to assist in this thievery.
It's particularly delicious that last Tuesday's speaker represented Nucor Steel.  That's right, dear reader, the same Nucor Steel that once upon a time stayed out of the trade association, and the trade cases, under the impression that being able to make a better grade of steel out of recycled scrap: now a member of the rent-seeking class.  Something else that never changes?  Where government activity generates rents, there are opportunities for government officials to make career moves.
In a statement, the [Steel Manufacturers Association] said Jean Carroll Kemp will join as senior vice president of government affairs and trade policy.

"Jean’s experience and character make her uniquely qualified for this role at the SMA. She is a trade policy expert adept at creating solutions to sensitive and complex global challenges facing our industry. She is well respected among domestic and international steel industry stakeholders,” said Philip K. Bell, association president.

Kemp previously served in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative as deputy assistant U.S. Trade Representative for industrial competitiveness. During her 14 years there, she also served as director of industrial metals, materials and energy and as director of steel trade policy.

Prior to her time at the Trade Representative's office, Kemp spent 16 years at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
It used to be that Nucor, in the spirit of Andrew Carnegie, would respond to imports by producing a better product and selling it at a lower price.  Perhaps it is still time to short China.  That's still notionally a socialist economy, particularly where the commanding heights are concerned.
China, the world’s top steel producer, will allow one ton of new capacity to be built for a minimum of 1.25 tonnes of old capacity closed in environmentally sensitive regions, effective this year, the ministry said in a statement.

The statement, long-awaited by market players, offered clearer details on closing capacities to build new plants, based on the size of blast furnace, converters and other facilities to be shut down.

The strict standard on capacities swaps has eased market worries that China will not loosen its restrictions on building new projects, a manager with a trading firm in Hangzhou said, declining to be named as he is not authorized to speak to media.
Why would anybody want to build more steel capacity in China, when three United States's worth of capacity are idle?
The new rules are a sign China will continue to deepen its efforts to push supply-side reform and reduce overcapacity in the sector. China is aiming to cut steel capacity by 100 million to 150 million tonnes over the 2016-2020 period, the country’s State Council said in early 2016 as part of a five-year plan.

The new guidelines include clearer details on closing capacities to build new plants, based on the size of blast furnace, converters and other facilities to be shut down.
Where is China's Billy Joel, and what's the name of a steel center that rhymes with Allentown?

With the primary metals people focusing on China, perhaps it's the economic pain in whatever the Chinese analogues to the Mahoning and Monongahela Valleys that will shake out the idle capacity.  Not trade protection.
The Aluminum Association, an Arlington, Va., trade group that represents U.S. aluminum manufacturers, says imports have risen more than 50% over the past five years, largely from China.

“In our view, any final decision (on tariffs) should focus on Chinese overcapacity. We don’t think there should be a broad-based tariff against countries that are operating responsibly, in particular Canada,” said Matt Meenan, spokesman for The Aluminum Association.

“Ultimately, we favor a negotiated, enforceable government-to-government agreement with China on overcapacity,” Meenan said.

The beer makers, and many others, say the aluminum they use should be removed from the proposed tariffs and quotas.

"Aluminum used to make beer cans is not a national security threat," McGreevy said.

Wisconsin is one of the nation’s leading producers of canned vegetables. And, like the brewers, the vegetable canneries import a substantial amount of metal.
For "negotiated, enforceable government-to-government agreement," read cartel.

The Nucor Steel of a quarter century ago would have seen in that Chinese galvanized a business opportunity, recycling post-consumer cans into thin strip for a return to the galvanizing plant.
If steel jobs are not primarily being lost to foreign competitors, what is responsible for their sharp reduction? Progress – or at least progress in the way steel is made. Since the 1980s, super-efficient mini-mills that make steel largely from scrap metal have largely supplanted integrated steel mills that use raw materials. As a result of this exponential change and other technological advancements, the steel industry has driven up labor productivity dramatically. In the 1980s, when the industry directly employed over a half-million people, it took over 10 person-hours to produce a ton of steel, Now, it takes less than 2 person-hours to produce the same amount of steel.

An industry under threat? Hardly. While steel workers are fewer and farther between, many steel companies are doing quite well. Last year, Nucor Corporation reported its net earnings increased by 65 percent over 2016. Similarly, Steel Dynamics reported record steel shipments in 2017 with record operating income.

Although fewer people than ever earn a living in steel plants, far more workers than ever earn their living in industries that depend on steel. There are only at most 150,000 Americans earning a living full-time in the steel industry, but more than 6 million work in industries that depend on steel, industries likes autos and construction that would be hurt badly by steel tariffs.
Yes, and canning and brewing. I suppose we have to pay higher prices to support our right to buy only U.S. made aluminum and steel.
Foreign producers most certainly did not cut their prices, but domestic producers raised theirs. The result? A study concluded that higher steel prices cost the United States 200,000 jobs – more than 6 times as many as the steel industry claimed the tariffs saved. Many small machine-tool and metal stamping shops were decimated by steel costs that rose as much as 30 percent.

Similarly, when President Obama imposed special duties on tires imported from China in 2009, the measure increased costs in the auto industry by about $900,000 per job saved.

The problem with tariffs on steel or any other product is that your own people pay them. Imposing them is cutting off your own nose to spite someone else’s face. The bigger problem is that the people who actually pay the tariff, in the form of higher prices, include the very industries an economy depends on to thrive.

There is a reason that most of the legislators who met with Trump last week – Republican as well as Democratic – were worried by the prospect of a new steel tariff. They have seen this movie before, and they don’t like the way it ends.
Yes, and to the extent that we exchange U.S. raised food for Chinese Distressed Material steel, the protection of workers who produce steel in oxygen furnaces comes at the expense of workers who produce steel in bean fields.

The good news is, Republican Members of Congress are not necessarily on board with these tariffs.  "The argument is that parts producers of everything from automobiles to aircraft to wiring in homes and office buildings would pay a higher price for metal if they can’t procure material from foreign sources that could cost less. By putting tariffs on imports, it effectively raises the price of imports so that domestic steel and aluminum producers aren’t being undercut." Make a better product, sell it at a lower price.  Moreover, as Professor Mankiw argues, if it's the political economy of trade policy that matters, not the mundane efficiency of two man-hours per ton, there are better ways to cushion the blows of creative destruction.  "To be sure, expanding trade hurts some people in the short run, especially those in import-competing sectors who have to find new jobs. That fact may call for a robust safety net and effective retraining. But it does not undermine the conclusion that free trade raises average living standards."  The column, in full, is a primer on the principles of specialization and trade: points familiar to regular readers.

Protecting the primary metals producers, however, comes at the expense of a lot of Joe Sixpacks in metal-using industries.
[For each] steel worker that may be helped by the import tax, there are over 38 workers in steel-using sectors that may be harmed by it. Further, the vast majority of steel-consuming manufacturers are small businesses that don't command the ability to pass higher prices on to their consumers.
That article takes too dim a view of the genuine improvements in steel productive efficiency (and environmental consequences) over the past forty to fifty years.

And yet, tariffs on primary metals, whether sold as for national security or not, will mean a lot of beer to be cried into in the downstream manufacturing and construction sectors.



Scott Alexander tackles, at length, and with lots of references, the nature and scope of technological unemployment.  It's an economics post, thus there's the on-the-one-hand.
Technological unemployment is a hard topic because there are such good arguments on both sides.

The argument against: we’ve had increasing technology for centuries now, people have been predicting that technology will put them out of work since the Luddites, and it’s never come true. Instead, one of two things have happened. Either machines have augmented human workers, allowing them to produce more goods at lower prices, and so expanded industries so dramatically that overall they employ more people. Or displaced workers from one industry have gone into another – stable boys becoming car mechanics, or the like.
On the other ...
The argument in favor: look, imagine there’s a perfect android that can do everything humans do (including management) only better. And suppose it costs $10 to buy and $1/hour to operate. Surely every business owner would just buy those androids, and then all humans who wanted to earn more than $1/hour would be totally out of luck. There’s no conceivable way the androids would “augment” human labor and there’s no conceivable way the displaced humans could go into another industry. So at some point we’ve got to start getting technological unemployment.
He continues, perhaps we're at that point.
There may be some point at which we too stop being worth more than it costs to replace us. And the decline of manufacturing, the increase in labor force nonparticipation and despair in rural Rust Belt communities, etc, suggest that point is fast arriving.
Reality is more subtle: for instance, there aren't enough peasants in China to produce China's 2017 steel output with 1877 (that is, after Bessemer) steel-making technologies.

The knowledge problem Mr Alexander is struggling with is, ultimately, this.
The central story in [The Tycoons] is the transition of the U.S. economy from Jefferson's yeoman farmers and Lincoln's skilled artisans to a factory system in which the machinery augments the productivity of the man in such a way that a man of even modest talents could make a valuable contribution to the assembly of a high-value product.
Between Taylorist systems of manufacturing becoming common knowledge, and the introduction of machinery to do the routine tasks (the "appendage of the machine" one Karl Marx griped about), it's precisely the men of modest talents who might have been hardest hit.  Mr Alexander (there are lots of charts and graphs preceding this passage):
Some jobs require extremely basic human talents that machines can’t yet match – like a delivery person’s ability to climb stairs. Others require extremely arcane human talents likewise beyond machine abilities – like a scientist discovering new theories of physics. The stuff in between – proofreading, translating, records-keeping, metalworking, truck driving, welding – is more in danger. As these get automated away, workers – in accord with the theory – migrate to the unautomatable jobs. Since they might not have the skills or training to do the unautomatable upper class jobs, they end up in the unautomatable lower-class ones. There’s nothing in economic orthodoxy that says this can’t happen.
On the other hand, economic orthodoxy suggests there are gains from trade between the entrepreneur who can do the contemporary equivalent of a Ford or Taylor or Carnegie and the person whose opportunity cost is the unautomatable lower class wage.  Complicating things though: what happens when the gains from trade favor the labor market for the unautomatable upper class jobs?  That might produce the Forgotten Men and Women he refers to in his concluding passage.  "We’ll just get people being pushed into worse and worse jobs, in a way that does not inspire widespread sympathy or collective action. The prospect of educational, social, or political intervention remains murky." Relatively few people, perhaps.  Automation displacing nearly everybody?  That way, he suggests, you would have a more difficult situation.


Dionne Warwick noted, "L.A. is a great big freeway" fifty years ago.  Big as it is, the Wise Experts think it is not big enough.
Each year, tens of thousands of truck drivers make the 19-mile trip up the 710 Freeway from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to rail yards near downtown, carrying cargo bound for every corner of the United States.

The 710 handles so much freight traffic from the ports that commuters on the freeway frequently find themselves trapped between big rigs or cut off from their exits by long lines of trucks.
There is an improved freight railroad line with sufficient clearances for double-stacks serving the port. That there are still containers being rubbered from intermodal terminals some distance from the port suggests the incentives are not right.  (As a side-note, the difficulty commuters have getting to their exits might be a symptom of the free-for-all on the expressways, there being no mutual respect between the gear-jammers and the econoboxes.)

The best the Port Authority can come up with?  More of the same.  (Insert your own insanity reference, dear reader.)
In a report to the agency's board of directors, Metro staff urged support for a massive, $6-billion proposal that would add a lane in each direction along the 710 between Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach and the 60 Freeway in East Los Angeles. The price tag is one of the largest for a freeway widening project in county history.

The proposal calls for changes to 24 major streets that cross the 710, as well as new interchanges with the 91, 5 and 405 freeways. A new, separated lane would allow truckers to bypass commuter traffic near the 405.

Transportation officials say the widening is necessary because a soaring number of trucks is cramming each day onto an inefficient route that needs to be modernized.

"The trucks are going to continue to come, and the goods are going to continue to come to the port," said Metro Senior Director Ernesto Chaves. Without building new lanes, he said, "we'll have more trucks on the same old infrastructure."
So we take part of the expressway out of service to do the construction, which might reduce the vehicle flow whilst temporarily increasing the cramming: then comes the ribbon-cutting, and afterwards, the number of trucks will soar further, and the cramming will return to pre-construction levels.  "The idea of simply paving our way to reduced travel times should thus be a non-starter."

Let's, instead, look at that special pleading in the third paragraph of the report. "[Unspecified] Transportation officials [whose salaries and promotion opportunities depend on building and maintaining their fiefdoms] say the widening is necessary [in the absence of any market tests] because a soaring number of trucks is cramming each day onto an inefficient route [in the absence of any market tests] that needs to be modernized [where 'needs' is in the sense of 'we're sticking someone else with the bill']."

For instance, taxpayers alone presumably will be on the hook for that separate truck lane in the vicinity of the 405 interchange.  I see no reference to a toll lane or to special assessments on the motor carriers.  (Again, as an aside, with a California full of politicians who are implacably hostile to Our President, getting this project into an infrastructure bill might not be easy.)

Nor do I see any reference to incentives to make more effective use of the existing rail corridor, something that the railroad companies and the truckers might consider in the presence of tolling.

That's not even in the discussion.
The proposal has been under study for three years and is cheaper than the other option
Metro and Caltrans are considering: four elevated, zero-emission truck lanes that would cost $10 billion and displace about 484 people.
All of this, mind you, to be provided by the Easter Bunny.
Measure R and Measure M, two half-cent sales taxes administered by Metro, would provide $920 million to the so-called 710 South project. Where the remaining $5 billion would come from is unclear.
Where are the freight railroads? Missing an opportunity?


The spirit of Dean Wormer haunts Northern Illinois University.
The Board of Trustees addressed students and alumni Thursday about their concerns over student surveillance and the university’s student conduct process.

Two parents and First Ward Alderperson [c.q.] David Jacobson spoke to the Board during Thursday’s public comment about university officials unfair treatment of students involved in the Greek system.

Approximately 50 students wearing their Greek letters filled the room before the morning’s first public comment period. Trustee John Butler said the student turnout was “the most students we have had in a long time.”

Kristen Foley, a parent of a Greek student, specifically spoke about “unjustified” sanctions placed on Greek students and the university’s “First Amendment violation of freedom of association.” She did not say which fraternity her son is affiliated with.

She said she appeared before the Board to address concerns about Student Conduct’s “coercive and police-like interrogations,” and “unjust investigations and hearings.”

Foley said she volunteered to advise her son’s fraternity after it received a student conduct violation fall 2017 semester that diverted from the Student Conduct progressive sanction standard that states a first offense is punishable by a semester suspension. She said the university’s stated standard was disregarded during her son’s fraternity hearing process when it was handed a three year suspension.
There was not a mass walkout with the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner, although that might have been in order.
Foley also spoke about officials’ decision to monitor students’ social media, placing Greek students on a watchlist that puts them into a system with troubled students.

“NIU does not monitor any personal media accounts at all,” said Dean of Student, Kelly Wesener Michael during a Jan. 28 student meeting, according to Jan. 29 Northern Star article.

Foley said she became aware of the university’s use of Maxient, a software filing system used by the administration to keep student data organized, when submitting Freedom of Information Act requests to the university.

“We thought it was just one organization that was on the system, and then we found it that all Greek organizations were on it,” Foley said.

Acting President Lisa Freeman said she acknowledges there are concerns about Student Conduct’s severe penalizations that discourages students who may be willing to work with the administration.

“There is room for improvement, especially when students are willing to be accountable for their choices and part of the larger dialogue that seeks solutions and common ground,” Freeman said.
Don't hector me and call it dialogue, particularly when you're engaging in surveillance.
The current student conduct process does not delegate the different steps in the sanctioning and hearing process when dealing with conduct violations,Foley said. The Office of Student Conduct is responsible for processing and investigating the sanction, arranging the hearing and deciding the penalty.

“Imagine for a moment that student conduct is like a police department,” Foley said. “How would you feel if the police could investigate, bring charges, prosecute the case, decide whether you get a judge or a jury, pick the judge, train the judge, hold the hearing in the police department and handle the appeal. Do you think that’s a fair process, because I don’t.”

Freeman said a lot was said against the university’s actions and a lot less of students admitting to their mistakes. She said reports of behavior violations stemming from failure to register events and guests list, drug use, binge drinking games and an absence of sober monitors had been been made about Greek organized social events.

“This is a university that has experienced the loss of students and knows first hand the profounds ways how life can change in an instant” Freeman said.
That might be so, and yet, verdict first, then trial is not the American way.


No more Ringling Barnum, no more "circus road trip" for hockey's Blackhawks and Wolves and basketball's Bulls.

Children of all ages might be able to extend the Festive Season instead.
The Modern Language Association and the American Historical Association typically have their annual meetings around the same time each year, in different cities. In 2019, they’ll both take place from Jan. 3-6 in Chicago. To promote what they’re calling “interdisciplinary collaboration,” the associations will honor each other’s attendee badges.
That's the Thursday-Sunday just after New Years, meaning the stress of getting to the job meetings comes after the holiday stress rather than in the midst of the holiday stress.  There are, however, cheaper hotel rooms to be had that weekend.

But heading into Chicago to people-watch and flip through the programs might be fun.



Railway Gazette reports a new railroad line crosses the Azeri-Iranian border.

Look at the first train.

Unattributed Railway Gazette photograph.

Note the influence of the American Locomotive Corporation's Military Railroad Switcher and RS-1.


There is a strain of social criticism that treats the good as a given, or perhaps as accident, and lays off all the ills to the "system."  Perhaps the most notorious such example is Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States, although it is not the only example.  Consider Kurt Andersen's recent Fantasyland:  How America Went Haywire: A 500 Year History.  We'll start Book Review No. 8 by asking whether triple-expansion titles are necessary.

Substantively, Mr Andersen might be writing to reinforce conventional notions of rationalism, or perhaps he's troubled by a Donald Trump presidency.  The fantasy, however, might have been a long time in coming, with the notion of a New World becoming an opportunity for grifters of all stripes, thus "The Conjuring of America."  Then comes the fabulous Nineteenth Century, in which that vast frontier becomes "The United States of Amazing."  There are plenty of hyped schemes then, with nary a mention of the railroad mania after the Civil War.  Even the "Long Arc Bending Toward Reason," which is to say, from the conquest of territories in the tropics to the zenith of the American High, it was "freaky and fantastical."  (Perhaps unsustainable, as well, but that's a different strain of social criticism.)  Then came the 1960s, and, although Mr Andersen's sympathies for the aesthetic of the gentry liberal come through, e.g. "Walter Mitty" pickup trucks and sport-utes, his "Big Bang" (the expanding universe of Fantasyland, if you will, in the Sixties and Seventies) includes hippies, intellectuals, Christians, paranoid politics, and entertainment.  Plenty of vectors for the contagion, and plenty of ways that "Fantasyland Scales" up to the present.  Close to half the text deals with the recent history, or with "The Problem (they're multiple, actually) with Fantasyland."  Again, there's plenty of blame to go around.  From page 429, "Our tendencies to fear the new and to to reject reason have appeared on the left as well as on the right."  He's also worried about people losing a notion of objective truth (and yet, that's what radical skepticism will get you.)  More recently, he's followed up on the book by suggesting that an Oprah presidency would not work as a corrective to a Trump presidency.  "Any assessment of her possible presidential bid should consider the irrational, pseudoscientific free for all she helped create."  The details of the pseudoscientific free for all?  In Fantasyland.

Yes, dear reader, take the concluding sections of Fantasyland to heart.  And yet, do not be devoid of good cheer.  Perhaps the fantasies are evolutionary dead ends.  There is enough in the way of a continuing experiment in self-government, improvements in manufacturing technologies, medical science, and in having fun and in getting along with others, in those past five centuries, to think that "haywire" might be too strong an indictment of the American Condition.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)


Rod Dreher reflects at length on s***holes.
I have no trouble saying that not all cultures in the world are equally healthy, equally good. “Different” doesn’t equal “bad,” but some places really are bad because the culture there is bad. Take the people out and put them in a different culture, and you should be able to expect different results over time. But not always.
Yes, and being able to propose and investigate hypotheses without having to tread lightly to avoid upsetting dominant paradigms makes evaluation of that claim more difficult.


Inmates of the government schools aren't so well protected.  "Welcome to the wonderful world of recess withholding."  Not, as you might suspect, because of inclement weather, but in order to make more time for test-preparation, or as a punishment for acting out.  Seriously.
That sounds like heaven to Mark Sullivan, an actor/broadcaster in Westerly, Rhode Island, who still seethes when recalling the time his fifth-grader got in trouble for popping a brown paper bag. At lunch the next day, they boy's punishment was to sit at the same table as the special needs kids and not get up till recess was over. "You don't treat special needs people as the penalty box," says Sullivan.

When I asked on Facebook if parents were seeing recess withheld, the answers cascaded in. "My kid misses recess most days because he has to rewrite his assignments due to poor handwriting." "Used regularly at my boys' elementary school as punishment…for using the restroom during 'non-break' times." "For not turning in a parent signature on a form." "For not filling in her reading log." "For being disruptive in class."

That last reason is particularly ironic, since recess is the best way for high-energy kids to blow off some steam in order to make it through the afternoon.

One teacher chimed in to defend the practice—"We work with kids who are coming to [us] from all sorts of situations. I think a lot of times, these kids need to be held accountable for poor decisions"—but most of the people who responded were parents with horror stories.
It's not much better when the principal consents to release the kids.
At the elementary school Shannah Pace's son attended in Plano, Texas, "the list of rules about things they couldn't do at recess was longer than the things they could do," the stay-at-home mom says. "No Red Rover—somebody might get hurt, or their feelings might get hurt. They were not allowed to have balls, jump ropes, any toys. They had this ginormous play structure, but there was no running on the structure, no jumping off it. One person at a time on the slide. They had one lonely little tree on the playground that they chopped down because the kids were trying to climb it."

Then one day her son and his friend were playing "spies." A teacher misinterpreted it as tag — verboten! — and they were made to stand against the wall for the rest of the period.

That's when the Paces decided to homeschool their children. Four years later, when they pass the old elementary during recess, her son says, "Look at those poor kids."
The mind boggles at what would happen if six of the rule-following kids had decided to play at firing squad with the spies up against the wall.


Public affairs programming is the predictable gathering of the predictable usual suspects around a table in a room pretending to have a view of the Capitol, where they talk about predictable things in a predictable way.

Take Meet The Press.  (Please.)  Guns.  Russian disinformation.  Process worship.  Toward the end, this lament by Chuck Todd.  "Now, these laws were not perfect, and they didn't solve gun violence in America. The point is that they were attempts by Washington to try to do something in the wake of tragic events or dangerous trends."

Perhaps it's time to think outside Washington.  New "parameters" at the "end of the day," if you want to put it in public-affairs-speak.



Before long-range radio, baseball fans could get the play-by-play from a local announcer reading off the action as it was telegraphed and transcribed.  That might have been how Ronald Reagan got into show business.  Now, had the radio stations entrusted railway station agents with the call, they could have dispensed with the transcriptions ...

These days, it's possible to follow the action from anywhere with something called Game Tracker.  (I refuse to ram words together with a capital letter somewhere in the middle.)

That information, sports fans, relies on the nimble thumbs of an observer who at least doesn't have a clicking telegraph key to distract nearby fans or the local radio broadcaster (Mr Reagan, for example, doing Cubs broadcasts out of Des Moines: no clear-channel WGN on game days, and they were all game days in the era.)

That's a grab shot of the young man providing the real-time information Saturday of Western Michigan at Northern Illinois.  Northern Illinois with the ball and the lead late in the game, there are whatever we call hot keys these days to indicate turnovers or baskets made and a subroutine for free throws.

The Northern Illinois men won.  The women, a different story.