A Boondoggle in Hoosierland

From James Taylor at American Spectator.

Under a renewable energy proposal from Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), Indiana consumers would face a 12 percent electricity rate hike, which will cost the average household more than $100 per year in additional electricity costs. NIPSCO is justifying its renewable power rate hike by asserting renewable power saves consumers money, but there’s absolutely no truth to these claims.

Indiana ranks seventh in the nation in coal production and generates 68 percent of its power from coal. Together, affordable coal and natural gas generate 95 percent of Indiana’s electricity. As a result, Indiana electricity prices are substantially lower than the national average. National electricity prices are 10 percent higher than in Indiana.

Unfortunately, NIPSCO wants to put an end to these low prices. It is proposing to shut down two perfectly functioning coal power plants that provide much of NIPSCO’s low-cost electricity. In their place, NIPSCO wants to build expensive wind and solar power equipment and battery storage for when the wind isn’t blowing or the Sun isn’t shining. NIPSCO claims transitioning from affordable coal power to wind and solar will save consumers money, but at the same time that it makes these unfounded claims, NIPSCO is proposing to hike electricity rates 12 percent to pay for the renewable energy “savings.”

NIPSCO is a government-protected monopoly utility, with Indiana state government guaranteeing NIPSCO a profit of approximately 10 percent for every dollar it spends. Accordingly, NIPSCO has a financial self-interest to engage in costly business practices. Building expensive new power facilities, even when existing facilities are working perfectly well, is one of the most effective ways for NIPSCO to ramp up its spending and guaranteed profits, and it does so at the expense of consumers, many of whom will have no knowledge that their electricity bills are about to rise substantially.

In return for NIPSCO receiving guaranteed profits on its expenditures, the Indiana Utility Regulation Commission (IURC) must approve any NIPSCO major investment proposals. In its filing with the IURC, NIPSCO claims its proposal to shut down its coal power plants will save consumers more than $4 billion.

More at the above link.

Which it won’t, not least because windpower installations rarely last beyond 20 years, solar I don’t know, but doubt they are any more durable, and with current technology, batteries won’t last a decade.

It’s pie in the sky bullshit, dreamed up to placate the left, which many of the executives of these companies are of anyway.

But a blast from the past for me. NIPSCO was part of my growing up. As I’ve said, my dad ran a Rural Electric Coop, one of those local associations formed when companies like NIPSCO wouldn’t extend their lines out into the country (mostly farms in those days). Those coops had a love/hate relationship with the privately owned companies. Bought power from them, sometimes even shared poles, but fought like brother and sisters about everything, especially the price of power. In the field, we cooperated fine, which is normal.

So as it happened, dad knew the guy that built NIPSCO from a pretty small municipal water company to the electric and gas utility for most of northern Indiana. Knew him and respected him, and it was returned. They often opposed each other, but each knew the other would fight reasonably fairly.

When I was in my early teens I came by dad’s office one day (most days, really), his secretary waved me off, he had a visitor, not uncommon. I went and amused myself in the shop. A half hour or so later here came dad with a guy in the nicest suit I’d ever seen through our pretty neat but not sparkling shop. He was the CEO of NIPSCO, and the three of us spent a couple hours sitting on shop stools, shooting the breeze. He was a pretty interesting guy to talk to, much more of an office guy than dad was. Learned quite a bit that afternoon. Never forgot how nice he was to me, and how complimentary to dad, either.

Doesn’t happen much like that anymore, that respect for the opposition, the world has changed, and not for the better. Hard men, but fair, now we have soft men (boys really, more than I was at 13) but completely willing to employ any means to win, fair or not. And mostly, that’s what is running our government and our companies, even our unions these days. Running it all, right into the ground.

This deal? Par for the course. Good deal perhaps for the shareholders, certainly for the management, crap for the customer.

No better, no worse than any other alternative energy scheme, really. It’s all the same.

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SIOP

Let’s do a bit of not so long ago history. If you were paying attention in the sixties and seventies you may have heard the word SIOP. Well, not really a word, it’s an acronym for Single Integrated Operating Plan. Sounds pretty innocuous really, like how New Tork intended how to coordinate 5 bus companies or something.

It’s not, It was the cookbook for the end of the world, at least as we know it. It was the United States plan for nuclear war (and to win that war) against the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.

The most fearsome plan in man’s long history of military plans, except perhaps the mirror image plan written in the Kremlin Within a day, it would have turned the Soviet Union into a smoking radiating ruin, and perhaps the US and Canada as well.

But it wasn’t all bombers and submarines and ICBMs. It was a real military plan, made by some of the smartest officers that the US Air Force and Navy could find, not to mention brilliant civilians.

One of the perhaps important things was reconnaissance, both before the strikes and battle damage assessment. That was the job of the Blackbird, the SR 71. The plane that flew so high, it’s pilots wore astronaut wings, so fast that it really was faster than a speeding bullet. So amazing that its performance records, now decades after it went to the boneyard, are still classified.

Here, from The Thin Pinstriped Line is what part of its job was.

Striking the Soviets – the role of the SR71 in the SIOP

SIOP – a simple acronym whose four letters referred to the innocuous sounding ‘Single Integrated Operational Plan’ (LINK). Had this plan ever been delivered then it would have heralded the most violent conflict in human history, as the United States delivered a nuclear attack onto an opponent. A masterpiece of analysis and data, crunching numbers, images and assessments to produce a coherent war plan that enabled the USA to overwhelm an opponent.

The plan began in the 1950s as the US sought ways to fight a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, and represented a coherent effort to work out the best manner to employ the nuclear arsenal appropriately. Simply put it identified which targets needed to be hit by what type of weapon, and in what sequencing order to overwhelm the Soviet Union, China and other allies in a single strike. In its initial format it would have seen over 3200 weapons delivered across Eurasia, and had it gone to plan, the attack would likely have killed over 285 million people in a single day.

This initial overwhelming brute force attack was quickly revised in 1962 into a more nuanced strategy of nuclear escalation, allowing the President to approve a variety of strikes against different targets from the Soviets own missile fields to command centres to finally all out general war. In various forms and policy evolution the SIOP continued until 2002 when it was replaced by a different plan.

This grim introduction is necessary to consider the role of the SR71 Blackbird and A12 reconnaissance aircraft in providing timely warning to policy makers during the build up to a general war. As was discussed in Part 1 of this series, these aircraft were to play a vital part in informing military planners about the state of the world.

Documents held on the US national archives (LINK) to the history of the CIA Office of Special Activities have cast light on this critical role, and how for a considerable period the SR71/A12 force played a critical part in informing the US authorities. This second article is about this role, the challenges it faced and the problems policy makers had with it.

Wartime Role

During the mid 1960s as the US introduced the SR71 platform to service, a considerable amount of planning work was done to work out how many aircraft would have been needed to meet the various requirements its users had. This work was carried out to ensure that sufficient aircraft were purchased to meet any conceivable need throughout the service life of the aircraft.

This work was complicated by the fact that there were two entirely separate platforms to consider -the SR71 and the A12. The A12 was a civilian (e.g. CIA) manned airframe funded and operated by the CIA specialising in photography and also employing supporting unmanned drones. The SR71 was a military manned aircraft intended to collect intelligence across a variety of spectrums and firmly under USAF control.

As budget cuts hit in this period, considerable work was done to assess how to rationalise two very similar airframe types and deliver continuing capability. The CIA files show how options papers were staffed, incredibly similar to those familiar to many long suffering staff officers today, looking at different options, costs and capabilities for the force.

Officials concluded that there were four main roles for the force:

  • Strategic Reconnaissance in Peacetime – general targets across the globe
  • Force Mobilisation Reconnaissance  -general targets in China and India
  • Reconnaissance for a general war crisis – against Soviet / Chinese
  • SIOP Reconnaissance – against Soviet Union ahead of delivery of the SIOP.

Keep reading Striking the Soviets – the role of the SR71 in the SIOP. Lot’s more fascinating stuff and very well presented.

Totenfest, All Saints Day, Heroes and Saints

I see a fair number of you have been reading this, from back in 2012, so let’s bring it forward for the rest. It’s one of the few where I talk about my family, and it goes to the purpose of All Saints Day. Enjoy

I’ll bet Totenfest is a new term for many of you, actually, it’s a corrupted spelling of Todtenfest, what it translates as is “Feast (or festival) of the Dead. It has a bit of that German propensity for calling things what they are, like Krankenhaus (house of the sick) for hospital. It comes from the Evangelical church, that strange Prussian hybrid of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches committed by King Frederick Wilhelm III. Totenfest was instituted to remember the soldiers killed in the Prussian war (unless I’m missing something we’re talking about what the rest of us call the Napoleonic Wars). It soon expanded to remember members of the congregation who had passed in the last year.

When I was young my home church (which was Evangelical and Reformed) read the passed members names with a single bell toll after each. It was a moving service which served in lieu of All Saints Day, which is now commonly celebrated on the first Sunday in November, as The last Sunday in October is Reformation Sunday. When I was a kid, and it was still the E&R before the merger which formed the UCC, every Sunday the first hymn was this, which is nearly always appropriate.

Same purpose really, since we in the Protestant tradition tend to refer to those who have gone before us as saints. It is important to remember our forefathers in the faith for the same reason that we all admire the saints in the Catholic tradition. I think our way perhaps makes it even more personal. On  Friday, Jessica over at The Watchtower said this:

All Souls’ day is a time when I pray for the souls of my parents and other relatives now dead. I know many Protestants who ask me why I do so, as they are now with God, and He alone will judge; do I, they ask, think that somehow my prayers will influence Him. I try to explain that this is not what I believe at all. Yes, I believe God makes the decision, and I don’t believe He will be in the slightest bit influenced by me. But it is an act of piety to my dead parents. They are no longer here in the flesh, but that does not mean I forget them, and praying for them seems to me to be a way of saying that I still love them and still care about them.

I completely agree with her, which is not unusual. This is the time of year when I think a lot about and pray for my parents as well, knowing that God will be just, which is enough for me. But I want the folks to know that I still think of them and care about them, and even that I have remembered the lessons they taught me, about many things. And that’s what I’m going to talk about today, even as Jess talked about her daddy in that post you should read.

I was born when my folks were in their forties, so it wasn’t like dad had time or energy to play with me but, he spent a lot of time with me, or maybe the other way around when I was a kid. Many people think I’m a bit of a hard case, they may well be right. The lessons I learned as a child were all about doing things right always and taking responsibility. Sure I learned about electricity and line work and wiring buildings and a bunch of other skills but, the real lessons were about honesty and justice. With dad you never got unearned praise, in truth not saying anything about what you did was usually all the praise you were going to get, screw up and you heard about it though, guess where I learned the catchphrase, always make new mistakes. Doing it wrong because you just didn’t get it was allowable, doing it wrong again was simply unacceptable, and you learned that quickly. One of the other lessons taught was that bad news is not like wine, it doesn’t get better with age. Learning those two lessons will take you quite a way in this life; there are others.

But, in truth, it’s certainly not about me, and it’s not even about dad, it’s about those who have gone before us in the faith. I find it easier to understand if I personalize, and it’s fun for me to talk about dad. Of all the men I have known in a fairly long life, he more than any of them deserved the title of “Lightbringer” for that is what he did for countless rural families in Minnesota, in the Amana Colonies in Iowa, and in Indiana. From 1935 until he retired in 1969 he was a man of rural electrification.

That was his mission, nearly from the time he held his father in his arms as he died and so became the head of the family as a junior in high school, until he retired, with honor. Because we in the family understood, even his pallbearers were linemen, and executives from rural electrification, including the President of the Statewide coop. There was no glory in the mission, it was always a struggle, and to his dying day, he regretted being essential in World War II. But his work enabled dozens, maybe hundreds, of farm boys to join the service, without reducing food output. But he never thought he did his part. In truth, he was the most righteous man I have ever known. No, I don’t mean self-righteous, he was never in it for himself, he was there to serve. The old REA Co-op motto fit him perfectly: “Owned by those we serve”. He didn’t write it, he lived it, it was the mission

The energization of the first house on Kankakee Valley REMC in 1939; courtesy KVREMC

But you know, it wasn’t only him, ever. here’s one of the very few pictures I have from those days, one of the interesting things about it that in the ’60s, many of those pictured here were still on the board of the co-op. I knew most of them, and I wish they were still with us. They too understood the mission. When the couldn’t get the power companies to serve them, they did the thing that d’ Tocqueville had commented on all those years before- they formed an association to do it for them. And they built a very successful business on what the power companies had said could never be done. That’s part of Dad‘s story, but you have to multiply that by thousands of these associations all over the country to understand the accomplishment. For what they did was nothing less than bring the American farmer into the 20th century. These were men that you could make a thousand dollar deal with on a handshake, and never worry. Their word really was their bond. As I commented on Jess’s post, there truly were giants in the earth.

But we are talking about saints, well that’s not for us to say, is it? Of all the men in that picture, I know nothing of what church, if any, they attended. Given the make up of the area, I would guess most were Lutheran, Catholic, or Evangelical & Reformed, and a few Methodists. But I would also bet that many, like dad, were afraid the church would fall down if they entered, and besides they had work to do. I suspect I could count on my hands the number of times that dad attended church, in my lifetime. The other half of that we children and Mom were strongly encouraged to be active members. In fact of the 3 siblings, we have all been officers of our churches. But James 2 tells us:

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

To me, by that standard, they are saints indeed. I was going to end with a different hymn but can’t find an appropriate version so I will repeat Jess’s choice of one of the great old All Saints Day hymns.

It strikes me that maybe some of you may read this as me bragging about my dad, and I have been known to do that. But what I am doing here is giving you an example of a man, who lived his life as he felt God commanded, and did his duty.

My purpose is to remind you of the saints, in your family, who have gone before us to prepare the way and to remind you how much we all have to live up to if we wish to be worthy of our forebears.

THAT’S ZINNCREDIBLE

Steven Hayward over at PowerLine published an article Monday about Sam Weinberg’s review of Howard Zinn’s History of the American People in all its shabbiness. Steven says this.

I’ve never bothered to declaim on the fundamentally shoddiness of Howard Zinn’s scandalously popular People’s History of the United States, in part because I simply can’t get through it. Every few pages offer egregious errors of fact and even more tendentious interpretations of facts, such that it is impossible to take seriously. I’d rather read Heidegger or grind my teeth.

Certainly an honest history of America (or any country) should include its crimes, mistakes, oppressions, and manifold other defects, and many bland history textbooks can be faulted for doing this poorly (or not at all). But Zinn’s approach includes only that aspect of the American story, and supposes that the evils and shortcomings of America represent the whole of America. And that explains the book’s enormous popularity: it becomes a balm for people who wish to think poorly of America, and as an intellectual boat anchor to sink the republic we have.

A book so biased and so agenda-driven actually cuts off sensible evaluation of past events, and what they might tell us about today. […]

My evidence for this is an article appearing recently in Slate, usually thought of as a mainstream liberal site, by Sam Weinberg, a professor of education and history at Stanford, entitled “Howard Zinn’s Anti-Textbook.” Weinberg is not a fan, starting off by noting the books’s formal weaknesses:

Like traditional textbooks, A People’s History relies almost entirely on secondary sources, with no archival research to thicken its narrative. Like traditional textbooks, the book is naked of footnotes, thwarting inquisitive readers who seek to retrace the author’s interpretative steps. And, like students’ textbooks, when A People’s History draws on primary sources, these documents serve to prop up the main text but never provide an alternative view or open a new field of vision. . .

Largely invisible to the casual reader are the moves and strategies that Zinn uses to bind evidence to conclusion, to convince readers that his interpretations are right. More is at stake in naming and making explicit these moves than an exercise in rhetoric. For when they encounter Zinn’s A People’s History, students undoubtedly take away more than new facts about the Homestead strike or Eugene V. Debs. They are exposed to and absorb an entire way of asking questions about the past as well as a means of using evidence to advance historical argument. For many students, A People’s History will be the first full-length history book they read—and, for some, it will be the only one. Beyond what they learn about Shays’ Rebellion or the loopholes in the Sherman Antitrust Act, what does A People’s History teach young people about what it means to think historically? . . .

A search through A People’s History for qualifiers mostly comes up short. Instead, the seams of history are concealed by the presence of an author who speaks with thunderous certainty.

He’s just warming up, good for him, it’s well overdue. Steven may not have spoken about this farce of a book before, but his colleague Paul Mirengoff noted a connection between Zinn and Obama here.

I too have written about this intentionally dishonest book. Like Steve, I could not make it through it. Just something about barefaced lies, that make me lose interest.

“The Revolution did not just eliminate monarchy and create republics; it actually reconstituted what Americans meant by public or state power and brought about an entirely new kind of popular politics and a new kind of democratic officeholder. . . . Most important, it made the interests and prosperity of ordinary people — their pursuit of happiness — the goal of society and government. The Revolution did not merely create a political and legal environment conducive to economic expansion; it also released powerful popular entrepreneurial and commercial energies that few realized existed and transformed the economic landscape of the country. In short, the Revolution was the most radical and most far-reaching event in American history.”

Gordon Wood in the introduction to The Radicalism of the American Revolution

That’s a clear statement, and it states what to anybody has read American History is plainly visible. It doesn’t take any Doctorate to figure it out

All you have to do is look at American history, especially economic history. In less than 150 years, the United States went from a strip of subsistence farms along the eastern seaboard (and yes a few slave worked plantations) to a colossus whose output was many multiples of the world’s output when it was formed. In the course of that trajectory, it, in cooperation with Great Britain, outlawed first the slave trade and then chattel slavery itself in the western world, even though that same slavery had been the mainstay of the economy at the Revolution.

Zinn’s crap is the kind of rot that they are filling our children’s heads with, in school, is it any wonder at all that they come out indoctrinated with such crap, and unable to see the truly amazing story of the United States (and yes, this also applies to the United Kingdom). The two nations who, above all others, have made the world free and prosperous.

It is well past time that we take back control of our schools from the progressives and start teaching real history, not to mention math, science, and reading again.

Ripples in the Bricks

The title refers to a column in the Purdue Exponent when I was there, and indeed we are going to talk about Purdue today. It’s also mostly a good news post, because we are overdue for one, in my opinion.

Kate Hardiman wrote last December in The Washington Examiner about why enrollment is soaring at Purdue.

New numbers from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center show that university enrollment has continued to decline for the sixth straight year. Community colleges and for-profit institutions have taken the biggest hit, losing 97,000 students and 69,000 students (on average) respectively. […]

Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has pledged that his tenure at Purdue University will bring new efficiency to the stultifying higher education sector — he has frozen tuition through 2019 (one of the only schools in the nation to do so), and has created a new plan to help students earn a bachelor’s degree in three years. Daniels is also tapping into the burgeoning online education sector through a partnership with Kaplan.

Since his tenure began in 2013, Purdue’s undergraduate applications, enrollment, alumni donations, graduation rates, and the number of startups launched by researchers have hit record levels. Daniels recognizes the need to innovate and it’s paying off.

Purdue was the first public University to subscribe to that fantastic letter published by the University of Chicago, but it has gone farther. Alex Morey writing for The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) tells us about that.

Purdue University has been making good on its promises to promote free speech on campus. In May of last year, it became the first public institution to formally commit to upholding free expression by adopting the FIRE-endorsed Chicago Statement, and it eliminated all of its speech-restrictive policies to become one of FIRE’s distinguished “green light” schools. Many universities might have declared a job well done and moved on.

Not Purdue.

Steven Schultz, Purdue’s chief legal counsel, said those sweeping changes instead marked the beginning of a larger, ongoing conversation about the role of free speech at the public university, which serves nearly 40,000 students. More specifically, the developments prompted Schultz, along with small groups of interested faculty and students, to begin discussing how Purdue could create a culture where free expression is truly understood and appreciated in light of these new commitments.

“A consensus started to emerge about the need for a training session and the value it would have,” Schultz said.

And they reached a decision: Free speech would play a starring role in student life from the moment a freshman stepped on campus.

At the direction of university President and former Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels, Schultz’ office began working with Purdue’s Director of Orientation Programs, Kasi Jones, and a newly formed task force within the University Senate’s Equity and Diversity Committee to create a first-of-its-kind free speech orientation presentation for incoming students. The session debuted to great reviews this fall during the first night of Boiler Gold Rush, the university’s weeklong orientation program. (Watch the session in full below, or on Purdue’s YouTube page.)

You know, part of the reason I selected Purdue back in the early seventies was its reputation for concentrating on education, and not all the nonsense which, then as now, liberal politics brings to disrupt one’s education or even completely destroy it.

A while back, Purdue entered a partnership with Kaplan University to widen it’s exposure to adult education – something that has always been in its mission statement as a land grant university. That partnership led to Purdue buying Kaplan. Adam Rusch writing in The Federalist tells us about it.

Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University, shocked the world of higher education on April 27 by announcing the public institution has agreed to purchase Kaplan University. Kaplan is a for-profit school that primarily caters to working adults seeking professional degrees online.

It is really more of an invited corporate takeover than a purchase, with only $1 paid to acquire the assets. In return, Graham Holdings, the current owner of Kaplan, will get a long-term contract to provide marketing, student and faculty support, and technology services for a share of the revenue.

On the surface, the schools could not seem more different. Purdue is an elite public Reseach-1 institution whose faculty received more than $400 million last year in external grant funds. Most undergraduates enroll straight out of high school, and the graduate students are among the top in the world. Best known for its engineering and technology programs, notable alumni include Gus Grissom, Neil Armstrong, and Brian Lamb. […]

Creating a vehicle that provides practical education to the masses is not a new problem. In fact, it is the very problem that Purdue and other land-grant universities were created to solve in the mid-1800s. The Morrill Act of 1862 turned over federal land to the states so proceeds from their sales could be used to establish colleges that focus on agricultural, mechanical, and “practical education” without excluding the liberal arts. Since 1914, land-grant schools have also run the cooperative extension offices in their states to provide agricultural and consumer continuing education, including the 4-H program for youth.

Read it all, this is the backstory to the Purdue University Global whose ads we have all been seeing. I’d call Mitch Daniels a worthy successor to the many great Presidents Purdue has had.

Success brings problems though. Katherine Tmpf writing in National Review tells us about one at Purdue.

[P]hotos of temporary dorm rooms at Purdue University have prompted people to compare the living spaces to “boot camp” and “prison” — and that’s absolutely ridiculous.

The dorms in question are temporary living spaces that house eight to ten students, according to an article in BuzzFeed. They made news when a student-run paper, Purdue Exponent, posted a photo of them on Instagram.

“Faced with an excess of admitted students, Purdue University Residences continues to place some students in makeshift rooms in the basements and study lounges of residence halls around campus, like these in Shreve and Meredith residence halls,” the Instagram caption stated. [..]

Yeah, well, I lived in Shreve Hall for two years, that furniture is the standard stuff we had, and it is amazingly versatile, probably because it was designed by Purdue undergraduate engineers.

I’ve personally never been to prison (not to brag) but I have seen a lot of Lockup, and I know that prisons are far worse than what’s on offer at Purdue. In prison, there are little tiny toilets in the corners of the rooms, and you’re forced to use them in front of other people — some of whom may be vicious murderers, which I’m guessing these other Purdue students are not. In prison, one of your walls is a cage. You’re not allowed to bring the blanket that your grandma knitted for you to snuggle under to sleep at night. Also, it is my understanding that when you’re in prison you’re not allowed to just leave your room whenever you feel like it. Honestly, the fact that I even have to point out these differences is so absurd that I feel like my head is going to explode. Daring to compare these dorms to prisons is a slap in the face to anyone who is actually incarcerated.

What’s more, these communal rooms actually cost far less than the typical student housing at Purdue. Beth McCuskey, the vice provost for student life at Purdue, told BuzzFeed that the students in these rooms pay “the absolute lowest rate” that the school offers, which is about $1,200 per semester. (According to Purdue’s official website, the typical cost of housing is $6,714 per year — or more than double that cost.)

And that $1200 per semester is less than I paid in Shreve Hall in 1972. Think about that. A world class University where you can live for the same money as 46 years ago. Whoever is paying that bill must love it. And in truth, unless students have changed, except when we were studying, we were rarely in our rooms anyway, we were down in the lounges interacting with other people.

And Purdue attrits a lot of people, so unless you like it, you’re unlikely to be in these rooms long. Hey, it’s always been a tough (otherwise known as excellent) school.

And football season starts next week!

Making American Steel Great Again

If one was to drive up Broadway (the main street) in Gary, Indiana, probably not a recommended thing these days, although my mother and sisters used to do their Christmas shopping there saying it was just as good as the ‘Miracle Mile’ in Chicago, one would get to the 0 block, and then one would get to 1 North Broadway. When you got there you would find the main gate of United States Steel, Gary Works, the largest integrated steel mill in the world.

It was built to be such, at a time when US Steel already produced more steel than Great Britain, in 1906. US Steel also built Gary, itself, for its workers, and the city’s fortunes gained with the mill, and then declined with it.

Why Gary? Because it was close to the railroad superhub of Chicago, with a usable lakeshore on Lake Michigan for the ore freighters from the Missabe Range in Minnesota (like the Edmund Fitzgerald), and railroads like the Nickle Plate and the Pennsylvania could economically bring the coal from Pennsylvania and West Virginia. A good share of the steel would go on to Detroit to build American cars and trucks, mostly by rail.

This was the world that J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie designed: utilitarian, efficient, huge, and yes, a bit depersonalizing. In my first post here, I commented on driving through here back in the early sixties, when the flares from the mills illuminated the skies like hell itself.

But even then, things were changing. European and Japanese mills were starting to export steel to the US, not least because their mills were more modern and efficient. They should have been, they were built in the fifties, not least because of American aid, and their protective tariffs, which we allowed to subsidize their recovery from World War II.

And that is what President Trump is trying to fix, the unfair tariffs which have hobbled American business ever since World War Two. How’s he doing? I’d say, not too badly.

From Breitbart:

U.S. Steel has announced that they will invest $750 million at their 110-year-old steel manufacturing plant known as Gary Works in Gary, Indiana, crediting President Trump’s protective tariffs on steel imports.

What was once the largest steel mill in the world will now get a $750 million facelift thanks to Trump’s 25 percent tariff on all imported steel into the United States, designed to protect American industries and jobs from being outsourced.

In a statement this week, U.S. Steel executives said they would be revitalizing the Indiana plant which employs about 3,800 American workers, the Chicago Tribune noted.

While U.S. Steel executives say they are not yet planning to increase the number of jobs at the Indiana plant, U.S. Steel Corp. President and CEO David Burritt said the company is “experiencing a renaissance” because of Trump’s tariffs.

Now mind, it will never be as it was back in the day when reports of guys earning $20 an hour for leaning on a broom were believed, in a country where the minimum wage was $2 an hour. That world where America had 50+% of gross world product, and most of the world’s steel capacity, is gone forever.

But American workers are amongst the best in the world, and we can compete with anybody in the world, given an at least fairly level field.

And that is what this trade policy is about. It’s not about increasing corporate treasuries, or boosting Wall Street, although it probably will do that.

It about putting America back to work, doing productive things, not shuffling through the wreckage. I can remember in the Eighties when I was working on air conditioning systems for contractors who were tearing down USS South Works, which had the only rolling mill in the world that could roll the armor for the Iowa class battleships. That entire mill is gone. Killed by the Unions, poor management, and foreign competition, not to mention newer processes, such as used by Nucorp, now the largest American producer.

And that too is necessary and proper. Capitalism is, above all, a force that working through free markets forces us to do our best or fall behind. Sometimes we call it “creative destruction”. That’s an accurate term, the old has to give way to the newer, better way of doing necessary things. Just as the Conestoga gave way to the railroad which in turn gave way to the airplane and the automobile.

We can long for a simpler, slower time, and many of us do, but I doubt we’d want to live there, knee deep in horse dung, and working at least dawn to dusk. or at least, I wouldn’t.

MAGA indeed, a new and improved (still again) America.

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