22.4.15

TAIL TRACK.

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

SEEKING A LIBERTARIAN VOICE.

If you're going to run against Washington as a Republican, Timothy Carney suggests, run against Washington.
The New York Times, Associated Press, and CBS aren't going to care or notice that Clinton is totally out of line with the middle of the country on late-term abortion, the health-insurance mandate or her support for inheritance taxes. Attack her cronyism, though, and you can sink into the consciousness of the press.

It's a matter of speaking the Left's language — concerns about special interests, the people versus the powerful and a rigged game. Suddenly, the left-leaning media can understand.

This strategy is simple, but that doesn't make it easy. It requires a Republican who's willing to forswear corporate welfare, upset his or her lobbyist friends with some populist rhetoric, and lose some corporate donors. Is any Republican willing to do that?

If not, they're ignoring Hillary's greatest weakness.
It's not just the Left's language. "Bipartisanship" is the political class working together to fleece taxpayers.

DRUG SMUGGLERS.

A Minnesota barkeep transports controlled substances across state lines.  Understandable, with Fitgers, Grain Belt, and Hamms all off to the Grosste Zapfenstreich, that some Spotted Cow might lift spirits confronting a lousy start by the Twins.
The bar owner admitted his manager bought kegs of Spotted Cow at a liquor store just across the border in Hudson, Wis., and spirited them back to Minnesota because customers were asking for the brew whose label features a happy and cavorting Guernsey, or maybe it's a Jersey, leaping over a map of Wisconsin, WCCO-TV of Minneapolis reported.

New Glarus Brewing Co. is not a licensed alcohol manufacturer in Minnesota. Also, no Minnesota alcohol distributors are authorized to legally distribute Spotted Cow to retailers in that state.
Minor point: the spotted cow is a Holstein.  Major point: we may speak of drug "cartels"; that's a misnomer.  The beer cartel has the police power of the state behind it.
Each state heavily regulates entry into the market, especially on the wholesaler and distributor level with very high annual fees on business. Add in the armies of lobbyists from associations protecting those already in the industry, the unions (Teamsters) who haul their beer and spirits, and other organizations such as the Tavern League and it’s a tougher row to hoe.

In New Glarus’ case, it’s about building a mystique around their brand. As an established producer of beer, they have one of the easier routes to market entry: buy a license in the states where they wish to sell and have enough of it.

New Glarus knows this. After all, it sold its wares in the Chicagoland area once upon a time. They’ve simply chosen to limit themselves to Wisconsin both to save costs and generate demand in the places it is unavailable. If they really wanted to be in Minnesota, they’d do all that the state requires of them to start selling in Minnesota.

If states allowed for easier ways to get into their distribution networks, perhaps that would change. But as long as the three-tier system sticks around, the real loser's [c.q.] are smaller companies and upstarts who can’t get past the barriers to entry as well as those beer drinkers suffering with the limited options the big, industrial breweries force on tap.

Unless that changes, the beer-smuggling will continue unabated.
And the cross-state rivalry.
A manager at Maple Tavern bought six half-barrels of Spotted Cow at a liquor store in Hudson, Wis., and took them back to his customers in the land of Lake Wobegon for a raging Garrison Kegger.

He risked a lot, so I hope he received generous gratuities from his customers. It turns out Spotted Cow tipping is not a myth, unlike regular cow tipping.

With Gov. Scott Walker running around the country all the time, Wisconsin is vulnerable to these Viking raids. Clearly, Minnesota is interpreting its reciprocity with Wisconsin too broadly.

Beer borrowing from beyond their borders could get out of hand in a hurry. Don't be surprised if the Twin Cities start calling themselves Minneapolis-St. Pauli Girl. Or Maple Grove may suddenly reincorporate as Newer Glarus as a loophole. And someday you'll find yourself shopping at the Malt of America.
Flatlanders returning south are able to bring Spotted Cow or Sprecher across the Cheddar Curtain for their own use, although those purchases are subject to the use tax reporting requirements.

THE GOOD NEWS IS THE BAD NEWS IS WRONG.

I recall the first Earth Day, going on some 45 years ago, which is about twenty more years than some of the alarmists of the day thought we had.  Here's a summary of eighteen egregious howlers of the day.

RANDOM DEATH FROM THE SKY.

I noted last week that the April 9 tornadoes missed the most thickly settled areas of north central Illinois.  The Department of Geography at Northern Illinois will offer a two-hour symposium at 7 pm on April 30 focusing on tornado preparations, as well as an analysis of where the storms went and what a small deviation in their courses might have meant.

BRING BACK THE BAR CARS.

The April issue of Metra's On the Bi-Level reports on a survey of passengers, asked inter alia to identify up to five reasons for riding the scoots and dinkies.  Top response, in 27% of the surveys, "Avoid road congestion."  Not surprising, given the perpetually-congested state of Chicago area roads.  Next, "Convenience," at 13%.  "Can work/read/nap" and "less stress" tied at 8%.  "Social time" was an option, cited by less than 1% of the respondents.  (The survey didn't offer "antisocial time," something that would likely appeal to  regular readers of the Sound Off gripe column).

The last publicly available bar cars came off some years ago.  Apart from the few relics still using the last subscription parlor car on the old Chicago and North Western, there's no opportunity to mingle and imbibe.  It's all bring your own.

17.4.15

CONSERVATIVE PROGRESSIVISM.

Byron York is being generous. "As for the Democrats, they're stuck with the candidates they have, working to make the best of their new status as the party of times gone by." That's been my sense of Democrats since about 1976, although there are fewer people who will automatically genuflect and pull the lever at the invocation of "New Deal" or "Great Society" than there were back in the day.

WHEN YOU HAVE ELIMINATED THE IMPOSSIBLE.

Philip Wallach of Brookings reviews a book that misses a principal dimension of America's Lobbying Addiction.
And yet it is hard to say that corporations, writ large, are really winners from this arrangement. Certainly, their interests are respectfully considered in every corner of the policymaking process in a way that regular people’s are not. But [Business of America author Lee] Drutman paints a portrait of an arms race that has primarily benefited the arms manufacturers. There is so much lobbying that it is difficult to understand which efforts are really efficacious or worthwhile, and that creates a vicious principal-agent problem in which the lobbyists’ ability to exploit their clients’ uncertainty is nearly limitless. To the extent firms try to solve this by insisting on pursuing measurable impacts, they end up seeking highly particularistic, outcomes—which in turn exponentially expands the field for lobbying, as sector-wide interest group advocacy takes a back seat to firm-specific, intra-sector competition.

It seems clear that we need the lobbyist version of the old lawyer joke: that town is too small for one lawyer to make a living, but it could probably support two and offer a fine living to three. As Drutman puts it, lobbying begets lobbying. This is because it is harder to cut through the noise created by all the other lobbyists; because the fixed costs of launching a policy shop are already sunk; and because figuring out ways in which the government should reorient its policies is inexhaustible. And Drutman provides convincing data to show that the ratchet only goes one way: there has never been a significant draw-down in aggregate troops, and even at the firm level attrition is unusual.
Of course not. Simplest case: a public policy generates a rent of R that will accrue to exactly one winner.  It is worth R - ε to cut through that noise.  Duh.

But the ever-expanding regulatory state, or nanny state, or Good Government for the General Good, or the Easter Bunny, creates all sorts of overlapping and offsetting rents.
How did we get to this point? Drutman lays out the history, with the 1970s as the watershed. Previously in the habit of taking policymakers’ sympathies for granted, corporations found themselves under attack by Naderites pushing new social regulation and slowly but surely figured out how to mobilize their resources to fight back. Over the last four decades, they have just kept going and going. Drutman thinks this occurs almost entirely on the strength of its own momentum, for the reasons described above, and not because corporations are reacting to the rise of any countervailing forces, especially since lobbying expenditures for unions and public interest groups are so pitiful compared to those for corporations (something like $1 spent for every $34 spent by corporations). Though the momentum story is convincing, it seems to me that Drutman doesn’t really look in the right places to understand the growing power of the anti-corporate forces that corporations must reckon with. The power of the trial bar, the muckraking electronic media, and the ambitions of the regulatory state have all grown enormously alongside the corporate lobbying Borg, and that hardly seems like a coincidence. To give just one example, Drutman notes that tobacco companies had the biggest growth in their lobbying expenditures from 1981 to 2004. Whatever you think of the merits of the arguments made on their behalf, this mobilization seems quite unsurprising; they were truly fighting an existential threat.
Mr Wallach calls out Mr Drutman for neglecting the radical reform that might just work.
Remarkably, Drutman doesn’t show any sympathy in his book for another avenue of reform: massive simplification of our policy structures in a way that diminishes lobbyists’ value. Just as countries locked in an arms race may need to actually enter into a pact to destroy stockpiled weapons, it seems there is a natural role for reformers to play in calling for a sweeping away of the detritus that has accumulated in our policy environment. That wouldn’t end the influence game, by any means, but, like the Tax Reform of 1986, it would at least encourage a return to some first principles, so that incumbency would no longer mean unassailability. I wish Drutman had been more willing to channel the energy of those who react to the picture he paints by saying “to hell with it all”; on the right issues, that battle cry of diffuse interests can be decisive, even if it has a tendency to exhaust itself in ineffectual ranting if it is not focused by some political entrepreneur.
The simplest way to reduce the rent seeking might be to generate fewer rents in the first place.

THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES APPLY.

Naomi Schaefer Riley gets off the Trenchant Observation of the Day.
Laura Vanderkam, whose forthcoming book, “I Know How She Does It” chronicles the way that successful women balance work and family, says, “I think it’s what we find with most things on parenting. Within a range of middle-class, reasonably educated norms, it doesn’t much matter what you do. Your kids are going to turn out fine.”
Deconstruct that.

THIS KIND OF THING USED TO BE RESERVED FOR AFTER THE SEALED MOVE.

Oops.  (I saw some wag referring to Michael Corleone making better use of the loo.)
Georgian champion Gaioz Nigalidze was expelled from the Dubai Open on Saturday after his opponent Tigran Petrosian, became suspicious about the amount of times he nipped to the lavatory.
This is a different Tigran Petrosian from the world champion who crossed the final summit on 13 August 1984.

With miniature devices, it may already be the case that somewhere a player has a transmitter concealed in his reading glasses.

A LONG WAY FROM ONE IN FIVE.

Northern Illinois University would like to reduce or eliminate sexual assaults.
NIU has already mandated online training for sexual assault awareness for incoming freshmen and transfer students. By May, a committee headed by Kristen Myers, director of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, will present a calendar to NIU President Doug Baker to show how and when more changes can be made.
The article does not estimate how many sections of classes will not be offered in order that additional deanlets and deanlings be hired, nor whether the benefit-cost ratio of doing so is favorable.
Myers’ implementation committee will seek to carry out these recommendations so it will become “unthinkable” for sexual assault to take place at NIU, Myers said.

“That’s our beautiful, utopian goal, is for NIU to be the ideal place for students to go ...,” Myers said. “One way to do that is to have it be unthinkable for these sorts of things to happen. Of course, that’s a 10-year goal.”
It's going to take more than ten years to purge the common culture of all the base influences that skew perceptions of universities as places for a five year party.  The university starts, however, pretty close to its goal.
NIU Police have seen reports of sexual assault rise every year since 2011: There were six in 2011, 11 in 2012, 12 in 2013 and 16 in 2014.

Chief Tom Phillips said he doesn’t think the rising number of reports necessarily means more sexual assaults are happening, but the increase might be a sign more people feel comfortable reporting their assaults since sexual assault is considered underreported.

The NIU Police Department is one of several agencies that responds to reports of sexual assault. Police can investigate reports of sexual assault and gather evidence if a victim seeks to press charges, and those accused of sexually assaulting a person can also face disciplinary action through NIU.

Community members can also report sexual assault to Victim Advocacy Services and Title IX coordinator Karen Baker.
The hyperlink goes to a White House report that might offer estimates of how much under-reporting there might be.  (Nowhere near enough to get to that one in five.)  And Northern Illinois is exceeding the national average, in a good way. "During the years surveyed, 1995-2002, the DOJ found that there were six rapes or sexual assaults per thousand per year."  On average, the reported rates at Northern Illinois are what you'd see at a four-to-five thousand student college.

But there's yet another unfunded federal mandate coming.
Some changes need to be made before July 1 to comply with the Violence Against Women Act, a national law to address and prevent physical and sexual violence against women. To comply with changes to the act made in 2013, the NIU Police Department will have to start providing statistics on the number of reported incidents of dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. Those statistics must be available in the department’s annual Clery Report.

Other changes will have to be made before students return to campus for orientation. The calendar submitted to Baker will show what can be done now and what can be done in a year, Myers said.

To go along with the calendar, the committee will submit to Baker a budget to pay for the resources it feels are necessary to implement its recommendations, Myers said.

Myers said the committee does not yet know what the size of the requested budget will be.
The expanded reporting is unlikely to uncover the four thousand cases the Perpetually Aggrieved would (hysterically) have you expect.
Go look up the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ “Violent Victimization of College Students” report from 2002. It found that about 1 in 40 college students are raped, and that number has steadily decreased over the years. Among the greater population, about 1 in every 1000 women fall victim to this crime. Again, those number are declining. Point being: society has actually made great strides in fighting rape, but there are voices among us very invested in burying this progress, which deprives us of the chance to learn from it.
Maybe there's a different way to call attention to that progress. Suppose for the sake of argument that the Perpetually Aggrieved have the overall proportion right.  Suppose, also, that Northern Illinois's report is accurate within an order of magnitude, and that there are other universities with similar incidences of sexual assault.  Then, somewhere, there must exist a campus at which female students are experiencing more attention than a boatload of Vikings could unleash on an Irish village.

16.4.15

HER WORDS DISQUALIFY HER.

Former senator, secretary of state, and cuckoldress Hillary Clinton made a carefully controlled first public appearance as a declared aspirant to the presidency.
“We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment,” Clinton said, throwing a populist hook to go along with the jabs she took at Wall Street during the same event.
The kiddie corps at Vox attempt to construe such an amendment in such a way that it does not trash the First Amendment.
The problem, as campaign finance reformers see it, is that for decades the Supreme Court has defined speech too broadly and corruption too narrowly. It has ruled that laws capping how much an individual or group can donate to a particular candidate are acceptable, because they help prevent corruption. However, overall caps on the amount any candidate or corporation spends on elections are unconstitutional, because they muzzle speech without specifically preventing corruption. (The court's narrow definition of "corruption" has consistently been disputed by some justices in the minority.)

So the Democrats' proposed constitutional amendment specifically says that both Congress and state governments can limit the "raising and spending of money" meant "to influence elections." It lists several rationales for doing so — advancing "democratic self-government" and "political equality," and protecting the "integrity" of the political process. However, it only says that "reasonable limits" are acceptable — so if the amendment is ever enacted, there would undoubtedly be court battles over which restrictions are reasonable or unreasonable.
Let's focus on the real problem. Corruption is infinitesimal relative to rent-seeking.


And thus, there is no such thing as "unaccountable" money in politics.  Yes, rich people might be able to secretly allocate cash to organizations, but doesn't the mission statement of the organization that either makes the campaign contribution or produces the attack ad make clear precisely what rents are to be sought?

Vermont's Bernie Sanders recognizes this point, even though his policy preferences generate their own rents to be sought or dissipated.  "Clinton's money comes solely from Wall Street and other fat cats, with Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan at the top of the heap; Sanders' money comes solely from unions, except for two teachers' groups and the American Association for Justice."

I wonder how the women of the fevered brow (their mission statement moves them into the feminazi category) at Emily's List like being lumped in with the fat-cats, even if the lumping is being done by a lefty woman.

THE NEW COLD WAR IS UNPROFITABLE.

An Estonian private passenger train operator, Gorail (not to be confused with Toronto's GO Transit) posts Notices of Suspension for Tallinn - Piter and Tallinn - Moscow services.  Despite the exchange rate moving against the rouble, there's dwindling interest in riding the trains.
Chief Executive Alar Pinsel said that ‘being a private company that uses its own assets, Go Rail cannot operate the routes based solely on ticket revenue.’

The ‘difficult economic and political situation in relations between Russia and the European Union has significantly affected the number of Russian tourists visiting Estonia’, said Pinsel. ‘The drop in the exchange rate of the rouble also makes travel expensive for Russian people. Without doubt, functioning of the train connection is useful for Estonia as a whole, however the routes were generating a financial loss for quite a long time’

The Tallinn – St Petersburg DMU service had been reduced from daily to twice a week on February 15. The last train on the route will depart from the Estonian capital on May 10, returning from St Petersburg the following day.

The date of the last overnight train on the Moscow route is still be confirmed, and is dependent on national passenger operator Eesti Raudtee being prepared to continue the carriage of passengers on the route. ‘We hope that Eesti Raudtee will find opportunities to continue carriage of passenger on Tallinn – Moscow route’, said Pinsel. ‘The company has expressed its will to do so.’
International Railway Journal notes that the services were introduced on an experimental basis.

The Go Rail paint scheme is a convex combination of Guilford Transportation's with the McGinnis era Boston and Maine..



It's worth noting that international trains, and more than a few long-distance trains, more commonly in the former Warsaw Pact and Captive Nations, but not unknown in the rest of Europe, are essentially diesel commuter trains, with none of the panache of the New Haven's Comet, or the Nebraska Zephyr.

WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO?

What it deserves.
Hillary Clinton may appear past her political prime: a constructed, fake and self-obsessed persona; a boring, risk-averse, default option for a party out of touch with many of its would-be constituents and lacking in creativity and ambition.

But given the way many Americans lead our lives now, she may also be exactly what we deserve.
That's after Liz Mair has an extended E-T-T-S moment.

15.4.15

NOW HE BELONGS TO THE AGES.




The replica Lincoln Funeral Train car will be present at a sesquicentennial event in Springfield on the first weekend in May.

At one time, the builder had planned to re-enact the funeral train movement from Washington City to Springfield.  Realities intervened.
At first, the group planned to put the car on display in Washington, D.C. next month as that city holds ceremonies marking the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's assassination. Then the train was to run along railroads duplicating the original funeral train's 1,600-mile route, from Washington through Philadelphia, New York, Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Chicago and Joliet to Springfield in time for the burial commemoration.

The car was to be pulled by an authentic 1870s-era steam locomotive that [locomotive and car builder David] Kloke already had built, named the Leviathan. They would be accompanied by an 1860s-stye railroad passenger car similar to an "officers car" on the original funeral train that carried soldiers escorting the body.Early in the process, the planners realized it would not be practical to run the train from town to town along the original railroad tracks.

"We would be moving a train whose steam locomotive can go 25 mph at best along railroads that now are mainlines for CSX and Amtrak, who need the tracks for trains that go twice that fast," said Shannon Brown, the project's media coordinator.
The train crew are still making the locomotive and car available to communities along the original train route, and elsewhere, for suitable remembrances.

MULTIPLE TWISTERS.

The National Weather Service assessment of last Thursday's storms now identifies eleven tornadoes.



The most destructive storm missed most of the thickly settled areas.  Cold Spring Shops headquarters is on the southwest side of DeKalb, just north of Interstate 88, and south of the railroad.  There's been decent weather for picking up.

14.4.15

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN.

Milwaukee's Schuster's department store, which sponsored a Christmas parade on rails,  had its flagship store on North Third, near North Avenue (get there on the Nineteen car line) as well as a largish store on West Mitchell at Eleventh Street and a smaller store on Vliet.

When Gimbels bought Schuster's, the flagship store was later repurposed as its warehouse, and to reduce heating costs, concealed behind metal siding.  But the original brick was left in excellent shape underneath.
A walk through the building, now storing archived business records belonging to C.H. Coakley's customers and other items, finds vestiges of its glory days.

The building has some ceilings as high as 18 feet, and large windows that provide views of Lake Michigan, downtown's skyline, Miller Park and other sites.

On the ground floor, there are two revolving door bays for what were store entrances off N. 4th St. and N. 3rd St., later renamed N. King Drive.

There's also a mezzanine level and an escalator, along with an upper-floor commissary that made items sold at delis within all the Schuster's stores.
But in its redevelopment, possibly with apartments upstairs and retail below, will there ever be streetcars bending the corner around?

WHEN HIGHER EDUCATION BREAKS THE SOCIAL CONTRACT.

The state-supported institutions of higher education in North Carolina have stuck at least one finger too many in the eyes of Republicans, and Republican majorities in the legislature are punching back twice as hard, most recently with a "productivity" measure mandating that all professors meet four classes per semester.

In Slate, we see the canonical response from higher education, A Good Professor Is an Exhausted Professor.
The professors forced into a 4-4 will simply pick up their research—and the labs where that research gets done, and those labs’ workforces, much of them nonacademics, Mr. Schalin—and move them somewhere that will fund them. With the inevitable cratering of UNC–Chapel Hill and NC State, the Research Triangle will become the Research Dot, and the 50,000 individuals North Carolina currently employs in Research Triangle Park—a massive conglomerate of nonacademic research labs located where it is precisely because of its proximity to Duke, UNC, and NC State—will have their livelihoods put in danger. It’s easy to sneer that the university isn’t a “jobs program” until you have to answer for your state’s brain drain.
That is, if there are sufficient job opportunities for those researchers elsewhere.
Indeed, if the UNC schools implement a systemwide 4-4 minimum with “success”—that is, if somehow tuition revenue doesn’t drop—there will be little to stop other meddlesome, ignorant state legislatures from following suit. This will accomplish nothing less than the wholesale obliteration of the public research institution and relocate all of America’s best scientific minds—and their labs and their discoveries—to the elite private universities. Want to grow up to be a molecular biologist, Iowa farm girl? Do you dream of studying in a world-class engineering school, inner-city Michigan boy? Better hope you get into—and can afford—Princeton or MIT.
What happens, though, if the elite privates don't expand their faculties or their entering classes?

Jonathan Marks of Phi Beta Cons doubts that the bill will produce "Improved Professor Quality."  Of course not.  Since when has a high-sounding title or a snappy acronym ever produced even half of what it promised?   On to the substance of his doubts.
Most criticism of the bill has focused on the importance of research, but I think the bill is wrong on teaching. I understand that the idea is to get tenure track professors into the classroom more. But although financial exigency may compel some colleges and universities to insist on a load of eight courses to save money on instruction, no one should be under the illusion that teaching quality will improve as a result. Even if  we imagine that research demands on professors will be reduced, so that they can meet them during the summer, and if we assume, conservatively, that professors will spend two hours of preparation for every hour they spend in class, that adds up to thirty-six hours for class and class preparation time alone. That does not include grading, mentoring, and attending to the committee and other volunteer work involved in governing a university. However professional and caring professors may be, they will have to cut corners with respect to, for example, teaching students how to write, or how to undertake long-term, multi-stage research assignments.
Indeed not. Critics of higher education have long complained of too much professorial reliance on multiple-choice test-banks (and more recently, canned presentations and online activities) and of too little homework and what there is returned in a dilatory fashion if at all.  The bill simply changes the reasons for these things, without changing these things.  And unless other states similarly degrade their job descriptions, there are still market tests.
People who love teaching more than research usually prefer to have the time to work closely with students, to offer them the guidance they need to meet high expectations, and to prepare to teach new things, rather than doing the same thing year after year. Super-teachers are not as mobile as super-researchers, but they are no less likely to want out if the bill’s supporters have their way.
Where I part company with Mr Marks is in his assessment of the prestige quest in higher education.  "As I have written here, I sympathize with the proposition that too many colleges and universities aspire to be research powerhouses, and agree that some now looking to advance in the prestige race by focusing more on research would do better to focus on teaching."  It's my traditional objection:  U.S. News sells those rating guides because ambitious and motivated students -- or perhaps their parents -- want to mingle with other ambitious and motivated students.  The excess capacity is in access-assessment-remediation-retention (and in faux prestige).  He's on stronger ground with this.
Speaking particularly of the humanities, [Georgetown's Jacques] Berlinerbrau concedes that “we erred … in politicizing inquiry to the extent that we did” and in bringing the “same dense and ideologically tinctured brand of” theory to bear on “our vast canon of texts and traditions.” Anyone who has been following the debate over the boycott-Israel movement on campus will understand that more teaching is not necessarily better if what’s being taught in classrooms is, for example, a simpleminded theory, barely, if at all, distinguishable from propaganda, that captures Ferguson and Palestine as two aspects of a single colonial and racist movement.

[George Washington University's Samuel] Goldman, to his credit, has written before of the case campus conservatives could make with other lovers of our “cultural inheritance” in favor of the liberal arts as precisely opposed to propaganda. Writers “like Tolstoy evade contemporary political categories” and pose questions that challenge any moral, political, or aesthetic commitments.” Some such robust defense of what is to be taught, and not only an emphasis on teaching, is needed. Merely giving further lip service to the amorphous category of “critical thinking,” or imagining, as one writer purporting to be an enthusiast for the liberal arts did this week, students as “content creators” and professors as “cognitive coaches” is unlikely to assuage the fears of those, both within and outside of the field of higher education, that we have lost our way.
Indeed. And expecting higher education to get better if those leftist conscience-cowboys teach four sections of self-despising multiculturalism and blame-America-first rather than one or two sections is to venture into Wolkenkuckucksheim.  But higher education is unlikely to abandon its adversarial stance toward the institutions and traditions that made possible their ability to deconstruct them in the face of pressure from legislators.

STAND UP TO THE RADICAL RUFFIANS.

A self-described liberal discovers that there are, indeed, enemies to the left. "However, despite my overwhelmingly liberal political leanings, the progressive movement – particularly as I’ve seen it manifested on college campuses – has made me embarrassed to identify myself as a liberal."  Nothing quite like zealotry reinforced by just enough information to be dangerous to lose friends and alienate people.
The only rational way to approach divisive political issues is to base your opinions off of the facts that are available to you. Liberals and conservatives have always disagreed on how those facts are to be interpreted, and we should be glad for it. Neither conservatives nor liberals are correct 100 percent of the time. However, it seems lately that evidence has become a nonissue for many on the left.

Unless my fellow liberals learn to stop shoehorning every situation to fit the narrative they are trying to construct, the left of tomorrow will be made up of individuals who are unable to distinguish their beliefs from reality. Those of us who can make this distinction will not want to associate with the liberal movement any longer. Where will we go?
The beginning of wisdom ...

STOP ENABLING DYSFUNCTION.

Here's University Diaries, commenting on the latest spring break atrocity out of Panama City. "Allow certain ingredients to be put together in a concentrated way in a specific location, and you can actually destroy civilized life."  Quite.  The extension to the Experimental Prefigurative Communities of Tomorrow masquerading as the multiculturalist university is left to the reader as an exercise.

13.4.15

A FALSE ECONOMY.

I must repeat an observation I made last fall (and before I saw the Norfolk Southern meltdown first-hand.)
Put another way, the railroad spent the last quarter century cutting employees. And we have to learn this lesson every time an economic recovery shows staying power: railroads melt down, stores encounter spot shortages of stuff, customer service sucks.
Norfolk Southern aren't the only railroad to have made this mistake.
On April 7, a $41 million lawsuit was filed by former Cold Train executives against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) for damages that put the refrigerated rail car service out of business in August.

Daniel Appel, a partner at the Wenatchee law firm Foreman, Appel, Hotchkiss & Zimmerman PLLC, which is representing Cold Train, told The Produce News that Cold Train’s business plan was based on a 2009 agreement with BNSF to provide special 72-hour service from the heart of Washington’s fruit-producing area to Chicago.

Appel said Cold Train spent $12 million dollars to design and built refrigerated rail service to fulfill the service to Washington shippers. Apples and pears were the primary fresh commodities carried by Cold Train.
That is, until the Dead Freight coming out of the Powder River Basin, the Bakken oil field, and the ethanol breweries got in the way.
A Cold Train press release on April 7 indicated that “the shutdown of Cold Train was caused by a significant slowdown in BNSF’s service schedules on its northern corridor line beginning in the fall of 2013 because of increased rail congestion as a result of BNSF hauling larger volumes of oil and coal from the Northern Plains region. In fact, from November of 2013 to April of 2014, BNSF’s on-time percentage dramatically dropped from an average of over 90 percent to less than 5 percent. To makes matters worse, in April of 2014, BNSF abruptly sent out an announcement to customers indicating that it would be immediately reducing intermodal train service from Washington state to only one train a day from Washington state (instead of two), and that transit time would be twice as slow (three days slower) from Seattle/Quincy to Chicago.”
Humph.  The Great Northern Railway used to be able to get the silk trains through without the cocoons being spoilt, or to bring Theodore Roosevelt east after a hunting trip, using good old timetable and train order operation and steam locomotives.

The Cold Train operators are suing the railroad for damages.  That option might not be possible for all customers inconvenienced by downsizing, but there have to be other tactics, including written complaints -- the 'phone trees that pass for consumer service these days are inconvenience epitomized -- to keep the managements in such a state that adding more capacity is less painful.

A FRONTIER WITH THE THIRD WORLD.

Years ago, a newspaper article (I recall it as being in The Wall Street Journal, but can't verify) described Alter Road, shared by Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park, as separating West Beirut from Disneyland.  At one time, I lived just northeast of Alter, in an area of Grosse Pointe Park known as the Cabbage Patch.  And if anything, the contrasts have become stronger, although there's a tradition in urban sociology viewing the five Grosse Pointes as sundown suburbs.  More recently, Grosse Pointe Park's government has been closing streets.
When Grosse Pointe Park officials surprised even their own residents this summer by placing three farmers-market sheds in the middle of Kercheval Avenue, blocking access to Detroit, they said the structures were designed to develop a growing dining and entertainment district in that part of their city.

That explanation was greeted with skepticism by Detroiters - and many Park residents - who noted that, over the years, the Park had blocked nearly a quarter of its residential streets that connect with Detroit as the neighborhoods on the city side were becoming majority African American.

At a public meeting of the Grosse Pointe Park city planning commission in September, Mary Anne Barnett, a Park resident who is white, told commission members: "The sheds are a blazing symbol of what Grosse Pointe Park used to represent, that you say isn't true now."

"The history of the Grosse Pointes is one of segregation," Barnett told Bridge after the meeting. "Everybody knows this. Grosse Pointe Park likes to claim that we have the most diverse population of any of the Pointes. But on the other hand, they don't really mean it because they continue to do things that would indicate that they're not really welcoming, especially to African Americans."
A compare-and-contrast of prodigious length follows.  (No mention of notorious preppy hangout Sparky Herbert's, or of the Rustic Cabins tavern ...)  But the farmer's market will come down, and Kercheval will be reopened, with a rotary at Alter Road.

SQUANDERING THE INSTITUTIONAL MEMORY.

But all that matters when budgets are tight is that costs be contained, even if that means hiving off productive staffers.
With five University of Wisconsin System campuses now offering voluntary early retirement buyouts to faculty and staff to address looming budget cuts, it was only a matter of time before the big question demanded center stage.

Will some class sizes get larger when eligible faculty leave if no one is hired to replace them, UW-Milwaukee psychology professor John "Jay" Moore asked Monday during a monthly budget forum at the campus, the latest in the system to announce buyouts.

"That's a fair implication," UWM Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administrative Affairs Robin Van Harpen responded. "Planning to cover vacancies would have to be part of the consideration process."

Moore said he doubted UWM would turn away students just because there were fewer faculty to teach them. Larger class sizes could affect the quality of education. Reducing the number of class sections offered also potentially could extend the time it takes some students to complete their degree, university officials acknowledge.
I'm sure the legislators are being informed, even now, that all such losses can be overcome by some combination of cheap and contingent labor with online courses.  There are probably deanlets and vice-provosts who share that sentiment.

THE COMPUTER DOES WHAT THE OPERATING TIMETABLE USED TO.

Norfolk Southern now have algorithms to assist the train delayers dispatchers in Centralized Traffic Control territory.
Movement Planner, currently used only in CTC territory, is tied in to [the algorithm's] Auto Router function, an execution tool that transmits train movement plans to the field, setting routes by lining turnouts and displaying the corresponding wayside signals. It looks at the railroad from the 50,000-foot level, crunching massive amounts of data on train count, freight volume, [maintenance permit] hours, horsepower per tonnage ratios, topology constraints, and many other factors when generating train movement plans. Those plans are in lock-step with NS’s business rules involving such factors as priority trains and on-time performance.

For example, intermodal trains, which must be precisely timed to the work windows of a rail-to-truck transfer terminal, have priority over general merchandise trains. There are financial penalties to pay if intermodal performance targets are not met. Movement Planner “knows” what needs to happen, and it can plan up to 12 hours out, “something humans really can’t do,” says [chief dispatcher Charlie](*) Turnipseed.

Movement Planner has proved especially useful in helping NS keep track of three key performance indicators: schedule adherence, crew expirations (“going dead on the law,” where a train must be re-crewed on line-of-road, at substantial cost and time), and network velocity. While dispatchers have the option of overriding what Movement Planner is telling them to do, it’s generally to their benefit to comply. “We’ve found that, as Movement Planner compliance increases, so do schedule adherence and velocity,” notes Turnipseed. “Crew expirations decrease.”

Movement Planner measures and keeps track of dispatcher overrides. For some of the more-experienced dispatchers, the moves it generates may seem counter-intuitive. Though for the most part it has been widely embraced, “our younger generation of dispatchers is more in tune with it,” says Turnipseed. “That’s because they have grown up having to rely on computers and software-driven technology.”
Or the younger set have not yet fully grasped that "to really foul things up takes a computer".  But algorithms making unintuitive moves is nothing new ... we've known that of chess-playing computers for years.  Sometimes, though, the algorithms come up with solutions that might not have occurred to humans, no matter how strong the human's heuristics, whether for keeping the railroad fluid or for checkmating the King, might be.

(*)I suppose a Manager -- Dispatch Planning Systems might have responsibilities different from those of the traditional Chief Dispatcher.

VISIBLE FROM SPACE.

Illinois Tornado Track Observed by Landsat-8. With pictures.

As of this evening, the churches, charitable organizations, and emergency responders are reporting sufficient food and most other supplies for now.  Your cash and good wishes are still welcome.

PROPHET WITHOUT HONOR.

But the Moynihan Report of the mid-1960s was spot on.  There's a summary of Smart People finally Catching On, nailed to Newmark's Door.

12.4.15

WHY IT'S MORE EXPENSIVE WHEN IT'S FREE AND UNIVERSAL.

Nobody has an incentive to discover the price. "Buying medical services and buying textbooks have been regularly decried as gouge-fests." Yes, the article is old, and the third-party payment (or principal-agent) phenomenon is canonical, and yet our political masters continue to hoodwink the taxpayers into making stuff "affordable" without providing incentives to discover the prices, or something approximating to the frontier production function.

WITHOUT UNDUE PREFERENCE OR PREJUDICE.

A background in the regulated industries gives one the perspective that not all property is clothed with a public interest in the same way, that despite it being settled law that using property in a way that creates such an interest implies consent to being subject to public control.
Property does become clothed with a public interest when used in a manner to make it of public consequence, and affect the community at large. When, therefore, one devotes his property to a use in which the public has an interest, he, in effect, grants to the public an interest in that use, and must submit to be controlled by the public for the common good, to the extent of the interest he has thus created.
So it was for the elevation of grain, or the streetcar fare, or insurance. But the message on a wedding cake?  Clarice Feldman suggests that the common carrier obligation, or the public accommodation concept, has limits.  There's ample linkage to other commentary, then this conclusion.
Congress and state legislatures should determine that except for a limited number of businesses -- hospitals, hotels, and restaurants, public transport, educational institutions and such -- private businesses are not public accommodations. Anti-discrimination laws should be applied only in those few cases where everyone needs reasonable access. Why should the government be involved at all in the business of florists, bakers, photographers, and catering services, including those by pizza parlors? Is the right to be free from offense not trumped by more significant constitutional rights, which would not be subject to shifting tides of either judicial or legislative fashions?
Perhaps. Here's Professor Munger, stating the strong form of the common carrier obligation.  Professor Henderson is not so sure.
Maybe we take it as given that when a business is open, it's open to all comers, but maybe we shouldn't take it as given. I don't see the implied contract.

On the other hand, there is a way out of the apparent "implied contract." That way is to make the implied contract the default. That is, unless the business states differently, there is an implied contract. I don't think that's as good as my solution of complete freedom of association, but it's not terrible. Then a business can say, "We reserve the right not to deal with heterosexuals" or "we reserve the right not to deal with homosexuals" or "we reserve the right not to deal with black people" or "we reserve the right not to deal with people who hate black people." That business would then take the risk of losing customers who disagree. And so be it.
Yes, as commenters on those posts have noted, there's the "We reserve the right to refuse service" option; expanding, there's the "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" common at places that don't offer much service even to those properly clad, and the more upscale "Business Attire Required."

A DROPOUT FACTORY BROOKS NO INTERNAL CRITICISM.

It's not enough that Chicago State University has been an expense-preference playground for diversity hustlers, and it's hemorrhaging students, and senior administrators would just as soon crush dissent.  No ... senior administrators have to make their internal critics go away by trumping up charges against them.  I'll leave it to the lawyers to evaluate whether there's subornation of perjury.  And rather than run a clean presidential search to replace serial destroyer Wayne Watson, the current administration appears to be packing the search committee with sycophants.  Business and Liberal Arts excused from the search committee.  Lovely.