1.9.15

TAIL TRACK.

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

LIBERATE US FROM LIBERATING TOLERANCE.

Once upon a time, a syllabus was the brief description of a course's content, published in the college catalog, and the course outline specified the topics and readings in the order in which they would appear, perhaps with some estimate of when.  Now, what students get, often stuffed into a course management system online, looks more like Conditions of Carriage, and liability-conscious deanlets and deanlings keep tacking additional stipulations into the conditions.

The latest idiocy appears to be instructors of record attempting to frame the course direction by pronouncing anathema on bad words.


It's the ultimate post-modern sideshow, in which all of the words on the bannerline are triggering, or micro-aggressive, or will get your grade lowered.

Sometimes, all you have to do is make the follies public, and the impresario backs down.
Over the weekend, we became aware that some faculty members, in the interest of fostering a constructive climate for discussion, included language in class syllabi that has been interpreted as abridging students’ free speech rights. We are working with these faculty members to clarify, and in some cases modify, course policies to ensure that students’ free speech rights are recognized and protected. No student will have points docked merely as a result of using terms that may be deemed offensive to some. Blanket restriction of the use of certain terms is not consistent with the values upon which this university is founded.

Free speech and a constructive climate for learning are not incompatible. We aim to cultivate diversity of expression while protecting individual rights and safety.

To this end, we are asking all faculty members to take a moment to review their course policies to ensure that students’ right to freedom of expression is protected along with a safe and productive learning environment.
That would be easier if all students were previously socialized into bourgeois norms of argumentation and debate, which isn't feasible because hegemony.  Sometimes, though, it suffices to remind students of those norms.
We all have differing opinions, beliefs and practices. The course materials may challenge your personal beliefs or opinions, and this is an open space to discuss these disagreements in a civilized, academic manner.
I could go purist on you and suggest that a course that doesn't challenge each student's world view at least once a day isn't worthy of college credit.  Just go read and understand University Diaries.
UD doesn’t know how long this syllabus will remain online. But for now you can feast your eyes on one of the strangest documents UD has seen in awhile. If you told me it was written by a bitter washed-up person who’d been the relentless object of her students’ contempt for decades, I’d say well okay… I can see how a lifetime of abuse would inspire this sort of long angry welcome to my classroom, assholes out to destroy me
The author is a young person. Probably marinated in grievance politics and subjected to the legal-speak from the deanlets and deanlings who want their teaching faculty to provide for every possible contingency in the conditions of carriage.  What Higher Education could use is a Grumpy Old Rules Examiner.  There are a number of situations where Rule 108 applies.

In case of doubt or uncertainty, the safe course must be taken.

(Yeah, that also describes the behavior of to self-selected conscience cowboys and Greek Row, in a different way, but I digress.)

Here's University Diaries, again.
This is the Kindergarten Teacher/Mao Zedong multiple personality type we do sometimes see in certain courses of study in American universities. The problem is that the professor wants to be nice but wants at the same time to subject her reactionary charges to the harsh re-education process the little fuckers deserve.

The results of this muddle are reliably funny ...
A lot more expensive, though, than an afternoon at the circus.

GIVE US YOUR HUDDLED MASSES YEARNING TO BREATHE FREE.

Oh, and Reason notes, if they're born here, raised there, then allowed re-entry as adults, the United States gains, and the country of their parents loses.
Anchor babies don't exist in any meaningful sense. Birth tourism, however, does. And that's a good thing.

No super-reliable figures are available, but the number commonly bandied about puts birth tourist babies at a mere 35,000 annually. Unlike the poor, unauthorized Latino parents of mythical "anchor babies," birth tourism involves relatively well-off couples, the vast majority from China, who come to America when it comes time to give birth so their kid will score U.S. citizenship.

Another benefit for these Chinese couples: Beijing's autocrats don't count children born with other nationalities against a couple's one-child quota. No doubt, a U.S. passport for their newborn is a huge attraction. But America is not the only destination for couples trying to dodge China's draconian birth control policies. Mainland Chinese couples also flock to Hong Kong (all of which the pro-life, pro-family conservative editors of National Review Online should understand and applaud rather than running confused pieces like this conflating "anchor babies" and birth tourists to promote their anti-birthright citizenship crusade).

Immigration restrictionists love to deride "anchor baby" parents for being in the United States illegally. But that's not true with birth tourists. They come here legally.
Per corollary, Reason's arguments apply with equal force to children carried in the United States by surrogate parents under contract to Chinese nationals.  (In case anybody doubted I was mocking the use of the term anchor baby in that previous post, keep reading.)  And the administrative difficulties in a child being able to secure immigration rights for his or her parents, 31 years hence, strike Reason's Shikha Dalmia as pretty weak incentive.

That is not what I wish to address.  Rather, it's this.  Birth tourists do not turn up at the emergency room, the way the social-services-folklore has it for the children of illegal immigrants.
[N]one of that applies to birth tourists, who, with few exceptions, pay for the entire cost of delivery out of pocket. In fact, the agency that formed the cornerstone of the Bloomberg story went out of its way to ensure that its clients don't use public money, and keep copious documentation to prove that.

More to the point, birth tourist babies go home to be raised during their most expensive phase—only to possibly return to America after their 18th birthday, during their most productive phase. In effect, birth tourism allows America to outsource the raising of its citizens, resulting in enormous savings, given that it costs a whopping $300,000 to raise a child in a middle-income family in America today.

Every adult immigrant, even poor Latinos, constitute a windfall for America, given that America reaps the dividends of another society's investment in them. (Indeed, immigration is arguably a far cheaper way than having children for a society to maintain its population level.) But birth tourist babies are a special boon because they are the product of super-ambitious parents who are obviously sparing no expense or effort to build their child's full potential and give him/her options.
And it says something about those parents' perceptions of the future of their countries. To repeat, crony socialism plus dirty air plus bubble economy not good enough?

The movement of people from places that suck to places that don't suck is one way to reduce global suckitude.  It must have sucked to grow up Protestant in Catholic Willenberg, East Prussia.

Thus migration into the United States, which remains a land of opportunity despite the efforts of the political class to turn it into another Greece and the efforts of the academy's deconstructionists to pronounce anathema on the phrase.

THE CASE FOR EMERGENCE.

Charles Marohn contemplates Brainerd, Minnesota, recognizing that taxing its way to a state of good repair isn't likely to happen.
We're not meant to have big guns, we're not meant to have big budgets, unless they are the outcome of many small, difficult steps. When we skip the hard part -- when we attempt to theoretically engineer the right outcome from the top down without the necessary (yet painful) intermediary feedback in all the steps along the way -- we blow ourselves up.

Regardless of what my city does -- hold taxes steady or increase them by 50% -- next year's budget will be a transaction of decline, an attempt to hold on, just a little while longer, to what we perceive that we have. To patch things together in a seemingly pragmatic way, doing difficult work in what many will say was the best that could be done given what we had to work with.
You mean it's not a matter of Wise Experts mandating that everything be done according to Consensus Best Practice?

Somebody tell the legions of pundits and strategic planners and all the other men, women, and whatever of system to look for new work.

31.8.15

GET A GOOD START AND SAIL ON THE LIFTED TACK.

The Geneva Lake Branch of the American Association of University Women honors two-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year and all-world M Scow sailor Jane Pegel.
Jane Pegel was praised for her ongoing responsibilities at the Yacht Club as chief judge, for her race committee work, for her local and national sailing achievements, and for her years as instructor, director, board member, and president of the Geneva Lake Sailing School.

“She shared her expertise both in the classroom and on the lake with a generation of sailors, stressing teamwork, sportsmanship, and safety, and introducing many of them to what would become their lifetime sport.”

As part of the Leader in Education Award, the Lake Geneva Branch has made a donation in Jane’s name to the AAUW Education Fund.
Years ago, when I raced M scows, on occasion my crew and I would cross Calamity Jane's bow, but never at the finish line!  But racing at Lake Geneva was as good as a master class in sailing, with the added benefit of Wisconsin's Lake District to look at.

I wonder if any of the scholarship recipients (the money is earmarked for a girl's science camp) will take up marine engineering or naval architecture.

DEFEATING THE ADVANTAGES OF A TRAIN.

A train robber low-rent jihadi attempts to shoot up an Amsterdam to Paris Thalys (foiled by unarmed Americans) and right away the national security nannies want more careful screening of passengers boarding trains.  Give the Trenchant Observation of the Day to Jim Loomis of Travel and Trains.


If you want elaboration:
Amtrak has more than 500 stations and more than a few of those are in the middle of nowhere where, on a busy night, five or six passengers may board. And TSA is going to be there? At what cost? And for what purpose? To intercept a terrorist who decides to launch his diabolic plot by boarding the Empire Builder when it arrives in Staples, Minnesota, two hours late at 3:30 a.m.? Seriously?

And then there’s the whole business of commuter rail. Are they proposing that the millions of commuters pouring into major cities from the suburbs all have to take their shoes off, empty their pockets, and pass through metal detectors twice a day, five days a week?
But the inspection disease appears to be infecting the European Union as well. Here's Schnitzel Republic, being too polite to ask "Ist's nicht ein Haufen Mist?"
There's a discussion underway now on more background checks of passengers and baggage on trains.  It's hard for me to imagine how they would do this and how they'd ensure the security required to make this work (TSA-like situations would upset everyone).

There's talk of a registered ticket....meaning you have to show your passport or use some form of ID with the on-line purchase of the ticket.  Presently, you can walk up to a German machine at any bahnhof and buy a ticket with cash or credit card.  It takes roughly sixty seconds to buy such a ticket.....even a long-distance ticket from Frankfurt to Amsterdam via ICE (the high-speed rail service).
That's presumably at the major stations, where the international expresses pick up and set down. But trains make intermediate stops.
How this would work with 500-odd customers showing up at the Frankfurt bahnhof and boarding on a train to Paris or Amsterdam....is beyond me. You'd have to have a protected area (fenced off), with five or six security people at the entrance way to the ramp to board.  The train would have to be sanctioned off and everyone checked prior to boarding.  A simple arrival and fifteen minutes of people boarding?  Impossible.  It'd take at least an hour for 500-odd riders to be checked via the registered ticket process and have their bags checked prior to leaving the station.

The Frankfurt station wasn't built to be a security enhanced facility....neither was the new Berlin station, the old Wiesbaden station....or for that matter....any station in Germany.

Even if you got past the idea of doing this for a dozen-odd routes in Europe, what about the 3,000 short-range routes?  Like Wiesbaden to Eltville (a twenty-minute ride)?  Or Kaiserslautern to Saarbrucken (a twenty-five minute ride)?  These would all be unprotected?  Yeah. If I were the Jihadist guy....it'd take five minutes to figure out that I need to go on a short-distance train to get my message across instead of the international route train.

The thing is....if you ride the German rail enough....it was designed in the past couple of decades for quick entry and exit.  A guy could arrive at some station and find the right ramp in a matter of seconds, and enter a train.  Trains would usually pull into major stations and be there for no more than fifteen minutes while people got off or got on.  Then they'd pull out.
How quickly the security weenies forget that September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta went through security at Portland, Maine, before transferring at Boston.  And he was an illegal alien at the time, his student visa extension still in the bureaucracy.  It's enough to make even the solidly blue Destination: Freedom (out of Massachusetts) run an editorial (without further attribution) out of Europe that reads like Patrick Buchanan or Donald Trump.
After the attack on the Amsterdam – Brussels – Paris Thalys train, once again heavily armed police appeared in train stations and platforms across parts of Europe, especially along the Thalys train route from Amsterdam – Paris route.

In this instance, the perpetrator has all the classic signs of being a radicalized Islamic terrorist, including a long history of calling up and down loading violent Islamist videos and material from the internet and a recent trip to fight alongside with ISIS in Syria. It is not clear if the young Moroccan was legally in Europe. He moved to Spain from Morocco as a teenager, and after perhaps seven years in Spain, he seemed to drift between France and Belgium. Both countries have, like Spain, a significant and growing number of immigrants from North Africa, including Morocco. According to numerous press reports, authorities in several countries including France had this suspect “on their radar” before the incident happened.

Really? On the “Radar Screen?” So if he was on their “radar” before he attacked, were the authorities here in Europe simply waiting for him to kill, as they waited for something to simply happen with the perpetrators, allegedly also on their “radar”, of the Paris terror attacks in January 2015? Europe is currently under siege with a wave of human migration never seen since the years of World War 2. Few, if any, are being checked for connections to active terror groups when they make it to Italy, Spain or Greece, although the current tsunami of immigrants arriving in Europe are predominantly from countries with serious Islamic terrorist problems such as Libya, Syria, Egypt, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Political leaders across the EU simply talk, but do not act, as the current immigration crisis goes from disastrous to horrific proportions. One cannot blame people from these countries for fleeing in attempt to escape terror and violence, but much blame can and should be laid upon spineless, politically correct and isolated political leaders in Germany and other EU countries for allowing this crisis to fester to these proportions. The main stream media has been their willing accomplice by glossing over facts and hiding information about the ugly side of this tidal wave of human trafficking and modern day slavery in Europe.
So turning all German stations (and Belgian and Austrian, can't speak for the rest of the common market) into places where All Tickets Must Be Shewn, the way they do it at Oxford and Reading and Bristol and wherever else The Great Western Way still prevails and bringing back the stern guards requesting Papers, Please is not going to compensate for Government Failure.
Meanwhile Europe’s extensive rail and public transit networks continue to move millions per day, so far rarely with any attacks from terrorists, despite the attempted attack in France over a week ago. Why is that? It is not dumb luck. It is the result of many working level police officers, security personnel, intelligence analysts and law enforcement professionals. On Friday, the 21st of August, one terrorist obviously slipped through their web of security measures, possibly because politically correct politicians did not allow preventive measures such as deportation or detention of the suspect much earlier. Fortunately the brave US soldiers by pure coincidence plugged this security gap literally at the very last minute as the terrorist attempted to begin his planned shooting spree on a crowded high speed train headed to Paris. We express our deepest thanks to these US soldiers for their actions on that day . . . and we thank very deeply the other heroes, the thousands of men and women working, often unnoticed and out of public view, in the trenches of various agencies on the front lines in airports, train stations and sea ports providing security to passengers and crews of trains, planes, ships and even buses and trucks around the world. They are also true heroes.

And to the spineless EU politicians, who continue to ignore the suffering, conflict, slavery and violence, which they are enabling through giving a green light and blank check to human traffickers and slave traders by leaving the borders wide-open without suitable checks and controls and alternatives for refugees other than mass and uncontrolled fleeing to Europe – your day of reckoning is coming, and hopefully before the next criminal human trafficker murders another 70 or more refugees in transit or another disgruntled and radicalized immigrant attempts a bombing or shooting spree on a train or elsewhere. Your refusal to give police, various coast guards and other law enforcement the resources and tools they needs to control and secure the borders of the EU in these dangerous times makes you the real villains in this on-going crisis.
Spineless bureaucrats, excuse the redundancy. But that's the kind of adjective The Donald might use!

AUTOMOBILES GO FASTER BECAUSE THEY HAVE BRAKES.

That observation, which I believe originated with George Stigler, also provoked research into the unintended consequences of crashworthiness standards.  Much of the early work was by Professor Stigler's colleague Sam Peltzman, thus any reference to more injuries and deaths accompanying tightened safety standards becomes a Peltzman Effect.

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Emeritus, invoked a Peltzman Effect accompanying the more widespread distribution of condoms in Africa.  For his observation, the oh-so-trendy made, and the Milwaukee Art Center displayed, a work of transgressive art.

The transgressives get their art.  The Pope, and Professor Peltzman, get the deep word.
Science, represented by the church, won.

The faith, in this case, was ideological, ridiculing Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for saying that distribution of condoms had not stemmed the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa and had actually made it worse. The science, brilliantly summarized by Dr. Christine Zainer, consisted of detailed empirical studies and opinions from public health experts showing that condom distribution had in fact failed to stem the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa; and had, indeed, contributed to spreading HIV/AIDS.

Because of the public health phenomenon known as "risk compensation," condom distribution makes people think sex with condoms is safer than it is. They therefore engage in high-risk sexual activity that they would otherwise refrain from, resulting in transmission of HIV/AIDS to people who would not otherwise contract it. Because no condom is 100% effective, and many fall far short of that (especially if they are re-used), the false sense of security generated by condom distribution leads to HIV/AIDS infections that would not otherwise have occurred.

In short, as explained by Edward C. Green, a senior research fellow at the Harvard University School of Public Health and a self-described liberal and pro-contraceptionist, "The pope was right." Benedict's statement was not the mindless assertion of religious dogma over science-based health care that "Eggs Benedict" falsely portrayed it as being. It was, rather, a courageous witness to human dignity based on religious faith but solidly backed by well-informed scientific opinion and empirical data. It was the artist, Niki Johnson, not the pontiff, who ignored the relevant science.
Bet on the side of the Law of Unintended Consequences, particularly where a safety appliance changes the incentives to live more dangerously.

And how fun is it to call for a privilege check from the avant-garde.
The more important point, however, is not the work's insulting falsification of Benedict's position but its flippant disregard of the risk compensation effect and the danger of HIV/AIDS contagion it entails. By recklessly ridiculing information essential to saving African lives, the artist joined a long line of western elitists in viewing an African tragedy through the prism of affluent, First World privilege, without the real world perspective that the church's thousands of HIV/AIDS treatment centers in Africa give it. Like many past efforts, the result is a position that is subjectively sincere, earnest and well-meaning — and objectively racist. MAM was complicit with the artist in demonstrating, once again, that with the possible exception of handguns and tequila, the most dangerous combination on Earth is passion and ignorance.
A car with good brakes comes in a distant third.

RISING UP ANGRY.

Andrew Klavan of Pajamas Media calls out the Usual Narrative.
Whenever the prejudices and illusions of left-wingers are confirmed by an individual incident, the incident is treated as representative; when those prejudices and illusions are contradicted, the incident is considered an aberration — and treating it as representative is deemed hateful.
Strong words, but invert the usual conventions and watch heads explode.
It was by satirizing that rule that Breitbart’s mustache-twirling evil-doer Ben Shapiro once again got himself in hot water this week. The flagrantly brainy provocateur ran a headline describing the heart-shredding murder in Virginia of a local TV reporter and her cameraman: “Black, Gay Reporter Murders Straight, White Journalists — Media Blame the Gun.” The headline violated mainstream media protocol by being completely true while running counter to the leftist narrative. The two straight white people had in fact been killed by a mentally ill black gay Obama supporter who saw micro-aggressions everywhere and played the race card whenever he could.
There are limits, Mr Klavan argues, to how often the Perpetually Aggrieved and their enablers in the drive-by media and the victimology divisions of higher education and their ward-heeler politicians can stick their metaphorical fingers in the eyes of normal Americans.
I’m not a Donald Trump supporter because I don’t think he represents my beliefs, but the success of his loud-mouthery should send a message to the mainstream news media. The message is this: You lie to us every day and we hate you for it. I’d like to add, Your dishonest narrative isn’t fooling anybody, but I’m sure it is. But not all the people, and not all of the time.
Yes, and putting dissenting views in front of others is easier now than before, and distributed networks and emergent ideas can overwhelm the most assiduous of gatekeepers.

Fourteen months to run.  More rebellion is likely.

GOVERNMENT FAILURE.

The short-term patch to the so-called Highway Trust Fund has a poison pill in it.
Congress appropriated no funds for the railroads to build this system even though the major freight railroads — BNSF, UP, CSX, NS — run no passenger trains and serious wrecks of freight trains are relatively rare. PTC requires a complex system of computers and wireless radio control so that engines can be remotely controlled. None of the major freight railroads have finished building this system (for example, Congress did not order the FCC to release spectrum on an emergency basis to the railroads!).
I used to understand such things as unconstitutional takings, but thinking like a policy wonk in the era of hope and change is beyond me. One version of the patch bill extends the deadline to bring positive train control on to 2018, another version envisions it active by the end of this year. Oops.
Unless the delay is passed, in January the freight railroads will have to decide to stop hauling toxic inhalation materials and close their tracks to commuter trains. This drastic step would put them in compliance with PTC but would violate the basic law that the Railroads are common carriers (seeTrains magazine, October 2015, page 6 for a discussion). This would set off a major national crisis. Like it or not hazardous materials such as Chlorine and Sulfuric Acid have to transported by rail. They have to move or major industries will grind to a halt. Ditto the commuter rail. If commuter trains are stopped from using the freight rail lines massive traffic jams will be the result.

This whole sorry spectacle is yet another sign of how dysfunctional Congress has become.
The way to demonstrate the folly of a rule is to comply with it.

Perhaps, after enough government failures, voters will be more receptive to the expression, enumerated and limited powers.

RIGGED.

The Democrat National Committee (motto: none of us is as stupid as all of us) will ensure that voters have as few opportunities as possible to see the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua go into Full Seventies Strident mode.  The commoners (a senator and a former governor) are not amused.
The DNC has drawn criticism for scheduling only four debates before the early-primary states cast their votes, and six total throughout the election cycle.

DNC spokeswoman Holly Shulman defended the schedule, saying it will “give plenty of opportunity for the candidates to be seen side-by-side.”

“I’m sure there will be lots of other forums for the candidates to make their case to voters, and that they will make the most out of every opportunity,” Shulman said in a statement.
I'd suggest it's the mean girls clique yelling "girls rule, boys drool," but the simpler explanation is they're sparing viewers as many chances to see Shrillary, either strident or patronizing.

28.8.15

THE HOLIDAY ENGINEERING POSSESSION.

The British railways will take an entire section of track out of service for repairs.  Sometimes trains detour via other routes (more easily done there than here.)  This Bank Holiday Monday, however, some tracks along the old London and North Western will be out of service, with bustitution.
Trains will not be running through Stafford with Virgin Trains, CrossCountry and London Midland services being diverted. Buses will operate between Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford calling at Stone. London Midland trains between Liverpool and Birmingham will be running between Liverpool and Crewe only. Buses will be replacing trains between Crewe and Birmingham, calling at the intermediate stations normally served by these trains.
Six years ago, when Guildex coincided with the three-day Labor Day weekend, I flew in and out of Manchester, riding some of the affected metals.  (I'm partial to changing trains at Crewe as there's a good pub trackside as well as a properly stocked bookseller.)  Wonder if the Confederate Battle Flag is still flying at a house near the junction at Stone.

LET'S EVALUATE HIM BY HIS OWN WORDS.

Here's Barack Obama, before he launched his presidential bid, seeking to Take Back America.  (Yeah, the self-styled progressives get their knickers in a twist when a tycoon issues such a call, but that may be because spelling out contrasting visions takes more time.)  Anyway, nine years on, let's put the accomplishments up against the rhetoric.
No longer can we assume that a high-school education is enough to compete for a job that could easily go to a college-educated student in Bangalore or Beijing. No more can we count on employers to provide health care and pensions and job training when their bottom-lines know no borders. Never again can we expect the oceans that surround America to keep us safe from attacks on our own soil.

The world has changed. And as a result, we've seen families work harder for less and our jobs go overseas. We've seen the cost of health care and child care and gasoline skyrocket. We've seen our children leave for Iraq and terrorists threaten to finish the job they started on 9/11.
Gasoline, cheaper, no thanks to the development of wind or solar substitutes. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is two lies for the price of one, and spinning the greater out of pocket expenses for insurance as buying superior coverage doesn't convince. Iraq was stabilized, after a fashion, and whatever discontent the Egyptian or Libyan or Syrian had with their regimes was either absent or simmering out of sight.
But while the world has changed around us, too often our government has stood still. Our faith has been shaken, but the people running Washington aren't willing to make us believe again.
Summarize in two sentences why Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are playing so well with voters.
That if you give a speech where you rattle off statistics about the stock market being up and orders for durable goods being on the rise, no one will notice the single mom whose two jobs won't pay the bills or the student who can't afford his college dreams.
Never mind that any politician in office is going to rattle off such statistics, at least until the next correction, and never mind that the palace guard media will do everything it can to circulate them.
I've had enough of the closed-door deals that give billions to the HMOs when we're told that we can't do a thing for the 45 million uninsured or the millions more who can't pay their medical bills.
Better to make a closed-door deal exempting Nebraska from contributing to the plan, and passing the so-called Affordable Care Act in reconciliation.
Let it be said that we are the party of affordable, accessible health care for all Americans. The party that won't make Americans choose between a health care plan that bankrupts the government and one that bankrupts families. The party that won't just throw a few tax breaks at families who can't afford their insurance, but modernizes our health care system and gives every family a chance to buy insurance at a price they can afford.
No, now both the government and households get to go bankrupt. But tax preparers will not lack for work.
Let it be said that we are the party of an energy independent America. The party that's not bought and paid for by the oil companies. The party that will harness homegrown, alternative fuels and spur the production of fuel-efficient, hybrid cars to break our dependence on the world's most dangerous regimes.
Dependence broken. Frack you. And the Solyndra you rode in on.
Let it be said that we will conduct a smart foreign policy that battles the forces of terrorism and fundamentalism wherever they may exist by matching the might of our military with the power of our diplomacy and the strength of our alliances. And when we do go to war, let us always be honest with the American people about why we are there and how we will win.
We came, we bombed, Qaddafi died. What difference, at this point, does it make?
And let it be said that we are the party of open, honest government that doesn't peddle the agenda of whichever lobbyist or special interest can write the biggest check. The party who believes that in this democracy, influence and access should begin and end with the power of the ballot.
Let us draw the curtain of charity.  (Oh, go here if you want more.)

SURROGATE ANCHOR BABIES.

Higher education runs a balance of trade surplus with Red China.  So does the surrogate mom business.  Never mind what the Perpetually Aggrieved say, the United States is still the land of opportunity.  That's even a selling point for the surrogate business.
Paying Americans to carry their children allows Chinese to circumvent their home country's restrictive policies on reproduction -- surrogacy is illegal, and despite recent reforms, families still face penalties if authorities learn they have more than one child.

Another incentive: The child is automatically a U.S. citizen, and can sponsor their parents for a green card on reaching the age of 21.
Gosh, why would anyone do that?  Crony socialism plus bubble economy plus dirty air not good enough?

If these be micro-aggressions, make the most of them.

WHO YOU GONNA CALL? GOOSEBUSTERS!

Ghostbusters hit the big screen in 1984, and that fall a very successful Detroit Tigers team played the San Diego Padres in the World Series, that after a promising Chicago Cubs team did what promising Chicago Cubs teams often do.  That year, San Diego had a shutdown pitcher nicknamed "Goose" Gossage, so naturally Tiger fans of the era had to modify the movie title music as noted above.

These days, though, the Goosebusters are a team of border collies that can get the flock out.
"All we're doing is replacing on your property what's missing — a natural predator," said [Geese Police founder David] Marcks, adding that geese move elsewhere to find suitable habitat. "I can fix your problem. I can't fix Wisconsin's problem."

Border collies are used because they are the only breed that effectively scares away geese, Marcks said.

"Border collies are the smartest dogs. Their chase behavior is based on stalking," said Marcks. "Unlike a lab or retriever, they don't need the gratification of grabbing the animal and bringing it back to you."
I once watched a border collie herd sheep. No barking, no fuss, just staring the woolies down. Doesn't surprise that giving them the opportunity to go for a swim might be an effective way of scattering the honkers, if a swan isn't at hand.

27.8.15

FINDING THOSE BLUE COLLAR ARISTOCRATS.

For #ThrowbackThursday, some reflections on what practicing a trade involves, and why it's a serious form of human capital development.  Start with Instapundit, reinforcing a regular theme:
I should note, though — as several readers have pointed out — that you can’t just “decide” to go into skilled trades any more than you can just decide to become a lawyer or a doctor. It varies, of course, but most trades take years of practice and a considerable degree of native talent. But it’s certainly true, as [Intel's Andy] Grove notes and as others have said, that we’ve systematically undervalued such work for the past 50 years or more.
"Undervalued" is an understatement. Mr Grove correctly points out that developing human capital takes work, and resources.
Most people don’t even realize the need for more highly trained workers. The assumption remains that technical education is for less intelligent people. The first item cut from educational budgets is vocational education. People are required to be suitably trained for their work requirements, and yet the classes that are required for this are cut to the bone. In some instances, students are halfway through the course when funding is cut and then they are sent home. We create a damned obstacle course for people who want to work!
That's a second obstacle course, after the first obstacle course, which Eric Scheie of Classical Values correctly calls out as a misperception.
While the universities are filled with [aspirants to the clerisy], local community colleges are inundated with white working class kids seeking to obtain for themselves what they failed to get from the public schools: basic literacy and numeracy — and job skills which are of actual use in the real world.

Aside from the irony that anyone with a high school degree should have to go to college in order to learn to read and write, a perfect example of a valuable real-world skill is welding. Public school teachers (who reflect the view of the educrat class) tend to hold such “dirty” and “dangerous” work in disdain, and they steer kids away from it. Guidance counselors attempt to push them into universities where they go into a lifetime of debt for worthless degrees that impart zero job skills. But some of the kids are smarter than that. They realize that if you have a skill that is worth something in the real world, you can actually feed your family.

They also know something that the Occupy movement (often holders of useless degrees) has missed: that the educational system’s institutional bias against promoting real world skills has led to shortages — in some instances not of jobs, but of skilled workers to fill them. Such as welders.
Insert the obligatory reminders that it's a waste to have to pay for high school twice, and that academicians who hold the trades in disdain are probably afraid of power tools.  I persevere.

IT IS CORPORATE WELFARE FOR ROADHOGS.

Writing at Trains and Travel, Jim Loomis notes the conjuring trick by which the motor carriers have presented themselves as the quintessence of small business, while attaching themselves firmly to the public teat.
Why does the trucking industry have such influence in Congress? Well, first of all, regulators can only enforce the rules that politicians pass into law. And then there’s the Supreme Court decision that said there is no limit to the size of campaign contributions that can be made to members of Congress by corporations and industry lobbyists.
True, but not relevant. The motor carriers receive a great deal of public largesse in the form of roads they damage without liability, and in the form of freedom to intrude into almost all neighborhoods without special movement permits.

Perhaps among one segment of rail advocates, it suffices to gripe about the Tea Party or Donald Trump or whoever the boogeyman is today. But that's not the real problem.
And as we head for another election year, we’re still hearing angry people complaining that government … especially the federal government … is intruding into our lives. Too much regulation, they yell. Government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem. Don’t tread on me … yadda-yadda-yadda.
In this instance, the trucks are treading on people, too often literally. Big Government is the facilitator, and Big Government is socializing the costs (the congestion, the crashes, the pounding of roads and bridges to pieces) while privatizing the profits (the allegedly cheaper goods the big trucks, half full onr not, make possible at the big box stores.
And while the rest of us do our best to be informed and come to conclusions based on facts, the politicians — not all, but a lot of them — just vote the way they’re told by the lobbyists for the big banks and the defense contractors and the pharmaceutical companies. And, of course, the trucking industry.
Yes, and have you considered the implications of "enumerated and limited powers?"
It’s probably just a question of time before enough of the knee-jerk anti-government jerks stop yelling and actually take a look around. It just better not take too long.
Feel better, now? Like anything else, deconstructing crony capitalism takes thought and work. But we can reduce it to a bumper sticker.

It's the rent-seeking, stupid.

And The Trucks Are Killing Us in the Grey Lady illustrates precisely how rent-seeking works.
The trucking industry, through its chief trade group, the American Trucking Associations, insists that it needs longer work weeks and bigger vehicles so that more trucks will not be needed on the road, which it says could result in more accidents. That logic is laughable, but Congress seems to be buying it.

The industry also bases its opposition to safety-rule changes on money, saying that increasing costs will hurt profits and raise rates for shippers and, ultimately, consumers.
Pricing resources properly, second-best arguments notwithstanding, provides incentives to allocate resources efficiently.  But recognizing that even larger trucks will translate into even more congested traffic and more fatalities, shifting the cost of delivery from consumers (let the beneficiary bear the burden) to whoever happens to be run over or simply delayed a few more minutes enroute to or from work.

I have to wonder, though, why are motor carriers simultaneously griping about a truck driver shortage whilst subjecting drivers to longer hours and less wieldy vehicles?  What good does it do to be more highly paid if you have no time to spend it?

26.8.15

THERE'S NO LIMIT TO WHAT PEOPLE WILL COLLECT.

It's summer, which means it's time for the steam threshing machines to show their stuff.  Nose around the grounds, and you sometimes find other obscure things for people to collect.


Word reaches Cold Spring Shops of retired civil engineer Ed Metka, who has quietly been purchasing old streetcars.  He also bought the former Berwind-White hopper car shop in Windber, Pennsylvania, to keep the fleet under roof.  It transpires he is the source of the original cars now running in Kenosha.  His cars are on offer for other heritage trolley lines -- might that be a way for Milwaukee's Downtown Circulator to get stock? -- and some of the older cars in rough shape can still supply parts for new-old streetcars.

THAT PRESUPPOSES THE PRESENCE OF A TRAIN.

A Washington Post report warns The U.S. is choking on its traffic and it’s going to get worse. Building additional roads to accommodate the expected population growth, particularly in already thickly settled areas is a fool's errand.  Information technologies will help, but only up to a point.
Say you’re commuting in from Manassas: Your computer looks at your calendar, sees that it’s a regular commute day and that the weather’s going to be terrible so traffic is going to be bad, and there’s already been a big crash on I-66,” he said. “So, your computer goes out and finds the VRE train schedule and the bus schedule, and here’s the Metrorail schedule and where it drops you off. So, at 5:45, you’re shaved and showered and your computer presents you with your travel options for today.
Yes, that helps, provided there's a feeder bus that runs to the station, and dependable service on the commuter railroad.  Well, maybe the suburban trains, unlike the city cars, are a subsidy to the middle class or upper-middle class.  But we'll not see an end to dangerous, jammed roads, until the authorities require special movement permits for any 53 foot trailer.  The 55 mph speed limit and citizens' band radio gave the motor carriers this image of yeomen of the road that is wholly undeserved.

SQUALOR IS WHAT DEMOCRATS DO.

Neurosurgeon and presidential aspirant Ben Carson suggests the Black Lives Matter movement consider the real source of pain in the 'hood.
We don't want a plan to give us public housing in nice neighborhoods. We want an end to excuses for schools that leave us without the means to buy our own houses where we choose to live. We want the skills needed to compete, not a consolation prize of Section 8, Food Stamps and a lifetime of government paperwork.
Go, read, and understand.  He also calls out the school boards, the entertainment industry, and the Republicans.

REMEMBERING NATE ROSENBERG.

Peter Boettke of Coordination Problem honors the recently departed author of How the West Grew Rich: The Economic Transformation of the Industrial World.
Nathan Rosenberg was a masterful economist -- he thought clearly, and he wrote clearly.  I expect we will continue to learn from his clear thinking for generations to come.
If you haven't read and understood How the West Grew Rich be very careful venturing opinions about political economy.

THE CASE FOR PATIENCE.

Insta Pundit picked up a story of battery scientists who were looking for a way to extend the life of lithium-ion batteries.
Today’s lithium-ion batteries typically rely on graphite anodes to offer a long lifespan. Rechargeable battery performance declines and eventually falls off a cliff (becomes unusable) due to those anodes repeatedly expanding and contracting as lithium ions migrate during the cycle of charging and discharge. Lithium compounds build up on the electrodes during this process then break off during the expansion and contraction. This exposes the surface of the electrode and over time decomposes it to the point of failure.

A better alternative to using graphite for the anodes would be aluminum, but aluminum expands and contracts too much during each cycle. If scientists could stop that happening, we’d have much better performing batteries.
Sometimes, it pays to leave your project on the workbench for a while.
Dr Wang Changan of Tsinghua University and Dr Li Ju of MIT have been working together to stop the oxide coating that forms on the surface of aluminum nanoparticles when it is exposed to air. Their idea was to soak the nanoparticles in a sulfuric acid and titanium oxysuplphate mix, which would dissolve the aluminum oxide and replace it with titanium oxide.
Not the kind of thing you'd want to leave unattended.
Achieving the new outer coating required a set time of soaking. The accident occurred when Wang and Li forgot to remove one batch of the nanoparticles from the soaking process. That batch ended up soaking for several hours longer than intended with the result being the sulfuric acid and titanium oxysulfate mix leaked into the 50nm nanoparticles and dissolved some of the aluminum inside. What this left was a nanoparticle with a 4nm outer shell of titanium hydroxide and an inner 30nm “yolk” of aluminum.

Rather than discarding this forgotten batch, they decided to test it by building batteries using these particles. It turns out they have potentially solved the problem of using aluminum for the anodes in the battery. The extra long soak meant the anodes did not expand and contract, in fact they created a battery that over 500 charge/discharge cycles retained up to four-times the capacity of the equivalent graphite anode batteries. These batteries last considerably longer in terms of usable lifespan and, according to MIT, can hold up to three-times the energy.
And aging these aluminum eggs scales up.

IT TOOK YEARS

TO PERFECT

FOR YOU

A RECHARGEABLE CELL

THAT'S DURABLE TOO


And ripping off a Burma-Shave jingle is fitting.  The Verse by the Side of the Road relates that the research team at the Burma-Vita Company struggled to bring a dependable brushless shaving cream to market, with a number of failed product launches, and over three hundred formulas that didn't work out.  Fortunately, they kept good notes, as there was a jar of formula One Forty-Three that had languished on a shelf for a couple of months, and in its aged form gave a good shave.

25.8.15

RAMSEY-SUBOPTIMAL?

Is nobody teaching the inverse-elasticity rule any more?  Earlier this year, I noted a U.S. News article detailing the difficulties of sin taxes.  Stated simply.
Perhaps the demand for pop is relatively inelastic, and the tax pays for the additional health programs the city expects to provide for the widebodies.  Perhaps that's a private-public bundle.  But if the tax induces all sorts of substitutions, there are neither revenues for the health programs, nor the widebodies making use of the health programs.
Here's a Daily Caller report, still slow on the uptake.
Berkeley’s pioneering soda tax is failing to hit consumers as much as public health advocates had hoped, with stores only passing on 22 percent of the tax to customers.

Berkeley, Calif. was the first city in the nation to vote for a soda tax, with supporters arguing the higher price would cut consumption of sugary drinks and help tackle obesity. The law took effect in March and forced distributors to pay a 1 cent tax per ounce of soda. However, Berkeley’s store owners have refused to play ball and have only passed on a fraction of the price increase to consumers.
There's more work, coming out of Cornell University's College of Human Ecology, which suggests economists who understand tax incidence will never lack for work.
“In light of the predictions of the proponents of the tax, as well as in light of the previous research, we expected to see the tax fully passed through to consumers,” said [John] Cawley, professor of policy analysis and management and of economics in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology. “In contrast, we find that less than half, and in some cases, only a quarter of it is. This is important because the point of the tax was to make sugar-sweetened beverages more expensive so consumers would buy, and drink, less of them.”
Oy. Please copy the following into your notebook.
Raising significant tax revenue suggests a relatively inelastic demand. Ramsey-optimality means raising that revenue with the least excess burden (deadweight loss, for the traditionalist.)
It gets better.
So-called “sin taxes” are designed to improve public health by discouraging people from purchasing unhealthy products. Smoking rates, for instance, have plummeted in the United States in recent decades partly due to federal, state and local taxes that have driven up cigarette costs. Berkeley officials hoped that the soda tax would raise prices and lead residents to avoid energy-dense sugar-sweetened beverages, considered a culprit for high rates of obesity and chronic disease.
But if consumption rates fall, prices will rise by less than the full amount of the tax. This isn't the Maximum Principle, people.  And, if I don't have enough to be aggravated about, there's this.
“There is an economic rationale for taxes when consumption of the good imposes negative externalities, and obesity costs taxpayers billions each year in medical care costs in the U.S.,” Cawley said. “A sugar-sweetened beverage tax is a very narrow approach to internalizing the external costs of obesity, because there are many other food and drink items that are also energy dense and lack nutritional value. But to the extent such a tax helps internalize the external costs, there is an economic rationale for it.”
Strictly speaking, it's bundle pricing, not externality. The stuff that makes you fat is stuff that lands you in hospital, and metering the use of the stuff that makes you fat might be more efficient than allocating general revenues to the hospitals and clinics.

IT REGISTERS. THIS IS WHAT INSURRECTION LOOKS LIKE.

Apparently some fraternity members at Virginia's Old Dominion University, a powerhouse sailing college, decided to hang three over-the-top banners from their house.  It baited university president John Broderick into the usual sputtering dudgeon.
I am outraged about the offensive message directed toward women that was visible for a time on 43rd Street. Our students, campus community and alumni have been offended.

While we constantly educate students, faculty and staff about sexual assault and sexual harassment, this incident confirms our collective efforts are still failing to register with some.
On one level, we can respond to this as just another atrocity by the Thought Police, which appears to be how Robby Soave takes it at Reason.
Some frat brothers are eager to have sex with girls—is this surprising? Have universities become so squeamish that students confessing their desire for sex are guilty of some kind of crime? The banners are suggestive and classless, but they’re not obscene.

Associating the banners with sexual assault, as Broderick did in his statement, is a considerable exaggeration. Sigma Nu members certainly didn’t threaten anyone with sexual assault; putting up some mildly suggestive signs does not constitute an act of violence. The banners don’t even clear the sexual harassment bar. They aren’t severe, pervasive, objectively offensive, or directed at anyone in particular.
Or perhaps it's an opportunity, as Insta Pundit suggests, either to make a federal case out of it, or to heighten the contradictions.
My advice to these fraternity guys: (1) Immediately complain to the Department of Education and the Department of Justice that you’re being targeted because of your race and sex, and denied your First Amendment rights. No, nothing will come of this, but that’s not the point. The process is the punishment. (2) Sue on the same grounds. (3) The real killer: Go to the Virginia Legislature and tell them they should cut Old Dominion’s budget. Come prepared with figures on the number of administrators on campus now, versus 10 and 20 years ago. File freedom of information requests and get the travel expense figures for the folks in the administration. Look over them for suspicious and large expenditures. (You’ll find them!) Make a big stink about those.

Administrative bloat leads to large numbers of “student life” educrats without enough to do, so they’ve created a quasi-police-state to fill the time. State legislators are looking for things to cut anyway, and higher ed doesn’t have the clout it used to have. This will hurt them more than anything else you can do.
That second paragraph reinforces the idea that higher education has broken the social contract with the states that fund it, or perhaps aligned itself too closely with a failing political ideology, both of which have merit.

Or perhaps, as Adam Steinbaugh of Popehat suggests, in reacting, the university overdoes it.
Moreover, at the end of the day, requiring the removal of offensive banners won't change the underlying behavior.  It just makes it less likely that people will know who these guys are.

Rather, if Old Dominion is to regulate isolated incidents of speech, it would be better to force these guys to leave the banners up, so everyone recognizes these idiots for who they are. Remove all doubt.
Perhaps, although the simpler explanation might be that the only way for frat boys to subvert the dominant paradigm is to deliberately do something that's seriously over the top.  (That's two plot events in Animal House.)


Once upon a time, that was just a brand of motor oil.  The sign is so over-the-top in-your-face these days that even a weblogger with Unionist sympathies might find a place for one in the garage.  Perhaps that's what Sigma Nu had to do, come up with the most aggressive way of saying no to the prevailing ethos.  Dr. Helen seems to be capturing that spirit.
If women and white knight university presidents are too fragile for this type of prank, they should have their own free standing universities (asylums) where they can live in a bubble filled with other people just like them filled with unicorns and butterflies. These people are idiots and the frat guys are freedom fighters. Fight the good fight and stand up for free speech, even if it is offensive.
Might be even simpler than that: the Perpetually Aggrieved are so easily goaded that baiting them into such overreaction is sport.  It's not, Mr Broderick, that your indoctrination failed to register.  It's that your indoctrination is so over-the-top silly that the only sane response is over-the-top mockery.

OUR CLUELESS RULING CLASS.

Christopher Chantrill lays down the smack.
We conservatives have known it forever, but now ordinary Americans are coming to realize it. Our modern ruling class sucks.

Our ruling class worries endlessly about far-right extremism and nationalism but is too vapid and pompous to realize that ordinary people don't go for extremism and nationalism unless the ruling class has messed up -- like after World War I with the Great Depression and right now with a fragile economy and unassimilated immigrants flooding many western cities.
Some specifics.
Our clueless ruling class spends thirty years forcing banks to flood the country with “affordable housing” mortgages, and then blames the bankers when the bubble bursts.

Our clueless ruling class spends half a century flooding the west with immigrants and playing identity politics with them. Then it is shocked, shocked when the voters start flocking to candidates that promise to put a stop to it.
And he's less than impressed with Jeff Greenfield's chin-pulling.
Yet now, all of a sudden, veteran Jeff Greenfield is called out to worry about the Obama policy legacy? Now, despite all assurances, voters all across the west are rebelling against the failed establishment political parties?

Now, all of a sudden, our ruling class sits uneasily on its administrative throne?
Yes, but social engineering looks so easy on a chalkboard.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE STREETCARS GONE?

Apparently the Roger Rabbit legend, otherwise known as the National City Lines canard, lives on.  Well, give Vox credit for Joseph Stromberg, discrediting it.  If it reads a lot like "The Economics of the Pernambuco Tramway," it should.
Because of these factors, some streetcar companies began going into bankruptcy as early as the 1920s, when they were still their cities' dominant mode of transportation. Huge costs and the falling value of fares forced them to cut back on service, steadily pushing people to the convenient, increasingly affordable automobile.

As they fought to stay alive during the Great Depression, many companies invested in buses, which were cheaper and more flexible. Initially they operated mainly as feeder systems to bring commuters to the end of lines, but as time went on, they began to replace some lines entirely.

That wasn't enough to save most of these companies, especially as city, state, and federal governments pumped more and more money into roads.
Easier to demonize the traction magnates and subject them to regulation. But perhaps the development of personal transit will undo any transportation company.  Note that the jitney operators who sold seats in their automobiles had to be regulated as taxi companies, and with smart 'phones, jitney operators don't have to cruise the streetcar routes to find riders.


To the usual list of reasons, add government complicity in creating the suburbs, and a related Vox essay suggests that transit systems are part of the Welfare State, not necessarily for all citizens in the same way schools or libraries might be.

AVOID THE STRAIN, TAKE THE TRAIN.

The second coming of the Cleveland Browns had a preseason game in Rochester, which, in the airline network, is a "You can't get there from here" destination.  Management thus chartered an Amtrak train.
“To me, it’s the best way to go,” coach Mike Pettine said. “It’s an airplane minus being way above the ground and having people search your bags.”

A bus trip to Rochester would have taken five hours. Pettine said he thought the team charter plane might have had a hard time landing in Rochester, so rather than fly to Buffalo and then board a bus, the Browns went with the train.
Props to Amtrak for locating sufficient coaching stock to protect a passenger extra.


Brian Hartline Instagram photo retrieved from Destination: Freedom.

#ThisIsAFirst for the current iteration of the Browns, wouldn't the original team have had several opportunities to go by rail?

23.8.15

SUMMER'S END.

Rain overnight, and the morning's blue norther hints at what is to come as sunsets creep earlier.

At the Illinois Railway Museum, the second weekend of Day Out With Thomas wraps up.


Look closely at that capture from the Spaulding Tower web camera.  Thomas has a recently redecorated coach on the head pin.  Percy is on another rake of vintage coaches.  At the far end, the power is the Frisco Russian Decapod, 1630.

WE HAVE BEEN SCAMMED, AND WE KNOW IT.

Everything else is commentary, argues Alex Castellanos at CNN.  Sample.
The reality is that Americans have paid both political parties for the utopia of European-lite government. We have the largest government we've ever had, and yet it governs nearly nothing. Not our economy, which is stagnant. Not our place in the world, where we have lost respect. Not our fiscal affairs, where we have been rendered destitute. Not our borders, made of smoke. Not our health care, rendered increasingly unaffordable by a cynically named "Affordable Care Act." The list of big, old, factory-like government's broken promises is unending. Everything Washington's elite said they would deliver, from better race relations and peace in our inner cities, to stability abroad, ends up both a larger challenge and more expensive.
Read and understand.

DON'T MESS WITH THE UNITED STATES.

It transpires that the three young men who took down a train robber, er, jihadi, on the Amsterdam - Paris Thalys had military experience in branches other than the United States Marines.  "Still American badasses" notes Insta Pundit.  In his USA Today column, he extends.  If you see something, do something.