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


This video, probably from somewhere in Russia, probably in a scale smaller than O, is another effort to build a model of the Andreyev 4-14-4.  It's interesting that the builder painted the wheels and motion before assembling the chassis.

This mechanism has two gearboxes, which is an interesting way to relieve stresses on the connecting rods, although the motor now has to turn two worm gears.  There's still some hesitation at the ends of the strokes, something I've been working with as well.

The radius rod is mounted in neutral, which makes the task of rigging the combination lever to crosshead and valve stem less challenging.

Let's wish the builder continued success.


On Tuesday evening's Hardball, Chris Matthews, usually a reliable Democrat shill, noted that his party has a problem.  It started in his interview with current vice president and railfan Joe Biden.
MATTHEWS: Why do they – why is it the Democratic Party? Is it because of all the contributors with their money have made it more of an elite party, Ivy League?
BIDEN: This is not – you know, there`s no malarkey. The fact of the matter is, those people we`re talking about built this country.
BIDEN: They built it. And they are smarter than we give them credit for. There`s almost, like – what`s happened in both parties is there`s sort of a – a yielding to pedigree.
BIDEN: You know, the guy who goes to Penn State or University of Delaware and the guy goes to Yale or Penn, well, the guy at Yale or Penn must know more. It doesn`t work that way.
MATTHEWS: I haven`t noticed that.
BIDEN: Oh, you haven`t?
Mr Biden uses the "deferring to pedigree" phrase a second time.  The vice president goes on to discuss Charles Murray's snob test.
BIDEN: And because it`s now at the point where there is – it is merit-based, where you – whether you`re part of the elite, we`ve kind of forgotten about ordinary Americans out there.
BIDEN: And so it`s like – it drove my boys crazy. I had them take the test in the book, and it said, Have you ever been on a factory floor? Have you – were you raised in a neighborhood where over 60 percent of the people didn`t go to college, where you – if you get a chance to go to Starbucks or McDonald`s for coffee, where do you go? Do you know anybody who has whole milk in their refrigerator? I mean, there is…
MATTHEWS: Because everybody else has skim milk, the elitists, yes.
BIDEN: No, but so – so part of it is that it`s understandable. The good news is it`s based on merit advancement in many cases now. But the bad news is that these folks who were the people who are – not the salt of the earth, they`re the stuff that makes everything grow.
BIDEN: And they`re capable of so much more. That`s why I think our focus on free college education, our focus on making sure that there`s child care to get women back in the job market, our focus on things that are just basically simple fairness, minimum wage.
I mean, people want to know that we really do – my dad used to have an expression, Chris. He said, I don`t expect the government to solve my problem, but I expect them to understand it.
Let's leave for another day whether Mr Biden really understands the problem. It's the transition of the blue collar voter from reliably Democrat to Hillary Deplorable that I'm focusing on.

Here's Mr Matthews, setting the conversation for the evening's panel of Democrat Operatives.
MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now for their reaction individually is Robert Costa, national political reporter at “The Washington Post” and MSNBC political analyst. Howard Fineman is global editorial director, of course, Huffington Post, also an MSNBC political analyst. And Katie Packer is a Republican strategist formerly with the Romney campaign.

I`m going to leave the pugilistics aside for a second here.

Robert Costa, I have never heard Biden lay this out so clearly, this sense that we have this meritocracy gone bankrupt, whereby only the people at the very top academically are given any consideration by the Democrats in terms of policy.

He speaks with personal experience, it seems, for a guy that went to University of Delaware for example, about this almost British-style system, where, if you didn`t go to Oxford or Cambridge, don`t talk, we`re not listening.
Let's also leave aside, for the moment, whether we're seeing an American Oxbridge at work, or whether Mr Biden is a bit of a jerk and he gets treated accordingly.  The discussion that follows is less than edifying, and I really don't care to worry about what the shape of the 2020 presidential ticket will be before the 2016 votes are counted, or stolen.

Mr Matthews, however, returns to that Democratic crackup during his sign-off.
My sit-down with Joe Biden in Pittsburgh today tells me that at least one top national Democrat understands the Trump phenomenon. While others may look down their noses at the Trump voter, the longtime senator from Delaware gets it. He sees their failure to connect with those white working class voters excited by Trump. He sees the economic but also the cultural factors that have driven the majority of white non-college educated Pennsylvania voters to line up with the New York billionaire, which is what we`re seeing in polling right now. He`s winning among those people, Trump is.

Biden talked today about what he calls the pedigree problem, how the Democratic Party at the top views anyone not an Ivy Leaguer as below intellectual consideration. How the party has kind of forgotten about ordinary Americans out there, how those people are smarter than they`re given credit for.
The Social Register set have been using poor and non-white voters as mascots for years; that is another disconnect in the making.


An American Council on Science and Health editorial advocates that Scientists Should Fight Postmodern Public Values.  Inasmuch as what passes as postmodern philosophy is a radical skepticism that questions coherent beliefs of any kind (reality might be more subtle) one might ask, rudely or not, how can the absence of any value be a value?  Or something.

Let's look at this passage.
[P]ostmodernism isn't the only problem. Americans, in particular, increasingly believe that scientists should not be allowed to do whatever they desire and instead should be held accountable to the public. Because many scientists receive funding from taxpayers, many Americans feel that politicians have a right to dictate what scientists can and cannot study. Even though the vast majority of politicians (and voters) are not in a position to decide which research is worthwhile, the point is still legitimate and, in our current cultural and political climate, nearly impossible to dispute.
I think we saw that conflict between Lernfreiheit and science bought and paid for last week. "Yet, the inefficiency of poetry or pure physics (that is, physics not tied to corporate and government grants and agendas) is an incommensurate gift and of great value."

There are two bad ideas at work.  One is the idea that only the government ought be funding research.  Perhaps university endowments exist for a reason.  But that's defensible only to the extent that researchers conduct their work with a sober sense of purpose and in a way that respects the moral status of other people.  The other, which may have its roots in postmodern thinking, is that science per se disrespects the moral status of other people: pick any pejorative ending in -centric and reflect.


I have been adamant that a real circus includes elephants, and I model that circus.

I've also noted that circuses are not inherently detrimental to the welfare of elephants.

But the big cities have been passing job-killing regulations that lead to unemployed elephants, as the downside of running what you call The Greatest Show on Earth and what students of circus know as Big Bertha is that you have to play the big cities.

Thus do Ringling Barnum's powerful performing pachyderms go out to pasture, where Washington Post reporter Kristin Henderson has followed them.
Elephants have been the stars of American circuses since circuses began. Why the elephants? Why not the equally odd-looking camels or just-as-beautiful horses? What was it about elephants that drew humans to them? They’re smart, but so are primates. They’re big and long-lived, but so are whales. They live in close-knit families, but so do wolves. None of those other mammals has become such a part of our culture. We’ve got pink elephants, white elephants, the GOP mascot and the elephant in the room, while the name of the 19th century’s beloved Jumbo came to signify all things large.
Ms Henderson contrasts the behavior of Ringling Barnum's elephant crews with the lurid stories of abused elephants of days and circuses gone by.  (Some of that lore made its way into Water for Elephants.)  I wonder if there isn't a little projection, or perhaps false analogy, in the following.
In the century before the Great Depression, abused circus elephants that killed their tormentors were sometimes viewed as criminals and executed. But more often, an elephant that broke its chains and left a swath of destruction through an American town was cheered on by crowds of average folks living hardscrabble lives. For them, the elephant’s rampage was probably the cathartic fulfillment of their own frustrated fantasies.
Beware the trumpeting of the Trumpening? Or perhaps I want this long national nightmare to be resolved? But that's old legend, combined with modern understanding of animal training.
Starting in 1969, the legendary Ringling animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams pioneered a way of presenting wild animals in shows: as friendly partners rather than as dangerous beasts to be dominated by brave men. “That change seemed at first almost like a nuance,” says Janice Aria, who has worked with elephants and bears during a long career with Ringling. “But I saw that really had an amazing trickle-down effect into the way all of us approached this. You know, wait a minute, maybe it isn’t always the loudest voice, it isn’t the strongest person. It’s the person that can most intuitively connect with these animals that’s going to get the most consistent result from them.” Since the 1970s, Aria has watched elephant handling go from an all-male community with a cowboy attitude to women making up about half of Ringling’s handlers today, including the top two people in charge of animal stewardship: Aria, the director, and her deputy. The way Aria sees it, “Women have an inherent nurturing that many guys don’t have, and I think elephants respond really well to that.”

During those 40-plus years, training and handling methods grew steadily more professional and humane. “We used to manage elephants with stimuli that taught them to move away from things,” says Brandie Smith, the National Zoo’s associate director of animal care. “Now we use operant and positive conditioning to teach them to move toward things. That’s now the accepted standard for shaping behavior during training.”
The art of animal training is giving the animal incentive to do what it wants to do anyway.  The better trainers might have been quicker to figure that out, and you really don't want to do anything abusive around an animal that weights four tons, or, as with the lions and tigers and bears, oh my! that could rip your head off if you mistreated one.  Ms Henderson notes that elephants are capable of identifying their friends.
Psychologist G.A. Bradshaw, author of “Elephants on the Edge,” describes how elephants have demonstrated they’re capable of distinguishing between humans who hurt them and humans who don’t. In Africa, young elephants who witnessed the slaughter of their families by one group of humans were rescued by other humans. Later, out in the bush, those still-wild elephants protected their human rescuers from dangers that included their fellow wild elephants.
Those are savanna elephants, which are rare in circus acts.  Rainforest elephants comprise most of the remaining acts.  Ringling's pachyderms, however, are no longer performing.
When the portal curtains opened and the ringmaster began to belt “The Star-Spangled Banner,” they walked out into the spotlight for the show’s made-in-America opening moment: a man from Wisconsin striding briskly alongside an elephant from Asia ridden by a woman from Mongolia carrying a large, flowing American flag. The routine was simple. Once around the arena, stop, raise trunk and right foot in a kind of salute to the land of the free and the home of the brave. It’s hard to say if Asia was enjoying herself, but the audience was cheering wildly.

Is it inherently wrong to make elephants entertain us? Does it make a difference if, unlike Asia, they were born in captivity, so long as we work to give them a happy, healthy life? When elephants’ basic needs are met, when they grow excited in anticipation of something good and interact peacefully with those around them, that looks like something that could be called happiness. Watching Asia and her traveling sisters week after week, that was what I saw.
Ms. Henderson, after a passage that eloquent, I will cut you some slack for referring to Circus World as a theme park.  Big Bertha's elephants are at a complex in Florida, without the audible and visible cues that the show is about to start.  Are they bored?  Who knows.
As we wait for the science to catch up, does the departure of the Ringling elephants from the public arena reveal that we’re finally learning how to be a wiser, more humane society? Or does it just expose our willingness to settle for easy answers in response to the loudest voices? The answer may well be both.
Read the article, weigh the evidence, draw your own conclusion.

Over the summer, the Karlson Brothers Circus acquired additional model elephants.  You'll be able to see the travelling circus in miniature, even as the real thing changes.


Chicago Fire is fiction.  Clout in the Chicago city council is real.  Favors from rent-seekers are real.
The head of the city ethics agency has warned Chicago aldermen and other elected officials that if they accept the Cubs' offer to buy coveted playoff tickets at face value, they must attend personally and have their presence announced publicly.
As anyone who has ever sat the annual ethics training required of Illinois university employees (no rushing through it, peasant, or you get a do-over!) there is a gift ban, and the offer of a baseball team of tickets at face value to a public official qualifies as a covered gift.
In the ethics chief's memo, obtained by the Chicago Tribune, [director Steven] Berlin noted that city officials are not allowed to accept gifts worth more than $50 unless they come from a friend or family member. The difference between Cubs face-value prices and "understood 'fair market value' … clearly exceeds $50," Berlin wrote.

But the city ethics ordinance does allow officials to attend events "in their official capacity," he added. So, officials can take the offer, provided they go in person and are "publicly acknowledged at each game you attend in some public way." Depending on when that announcement is made, aldermen and others risk some loud boos.
There are members of the city council, however, for which playoff tickets from sports teams are simply prerogatives of office, which makes for interesting listening to the radio.  Moreover, there might be South Side aldermen for whom being publicly announced at Wrigley Field (do they get two ruffles and flourishes and the first verse of "There's a Little Tin Box" on the organ?) creates a clip that will appear in an attack ad next primary season.


Three days a week, Amtrak's Cardinal makes its way between Chicago and New York by way of Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Panem, er, D.C. and Philadelphia.  The other four days, there's a regional train between Chicago and Indianapolis, which also exists to haul bad-ordered cars to the repair shops at Beech Grove.

That regional train is now being operated by a private company, Iowa Pacific Holdings, using Iowa Pacific staff and Iowa Pacific rolling stock.  There's a dining car serving real food on real china, and business class passengers rate a Great Dome lounge.  They pay more for the privilege, but it's apparently worth it.
Almost 2,500 people rode the Hoosier State last month, and that was up 46% compared to September of last year. It was also the fifth consecutive month when this year’s ridership exceeded the numbers from 2015. And there’s more: according to the Indiana DOT, revenue from tickets sold in September totaled more than $82,000 and that was a 64% increase from September of last year.

For examples of one-way Chicago-to-Indianapolis adult fares, I picked two mid-week days next month for a snapshot comparison: One-way Business Class, CHI – IND, on the Cardinal is $64; one-way Business Class on the Hoosier State is $70.

I shall now risk stating the obvious: People will respond to a quality experience and they will pay more for it. Likewise, nickel-and-diming passengers by cutting costs is counter-productive.
Downsizing is a false economy, forsooth!


Tuesday evening's Chicago Fire featured a major plot in which Stella rescues a runaway kid from a fire (we'll overlook for the moment that there's a homeless camp in one of the long-abandoned and sealed freight tunnels) then enlists the help of her chief, the director of Chicago Med, and the State's Attorney to locate him and maybe nudge him away from a bad place.  The minor plot involves Matt and Gabby caught up in some sort of Council Wars where an Establishment Politician uses the threat to expose Matt's use of clout to qualify a foster child as a blank check for all sorts of Political Favors.  But it turns out that the Establishment Politician is client of a political consultant who would like to groom Matt for higher office.  Matt finds out and tells the consultant she's fired.  (From the nasty expression on her face, I suspect we've not seen the last of her.)

It's not as aspirational as Father Knows Best or High Noon, and yet the good guys and the straight shooters hold the high ground as the credits roll.



The Milwaukee Road's Sioux once offered overnight service between Sioux Falls and Chicago by way of Mason City and Madison.  The railroad passenger business paid its way by handling mail and express (this being before anybody anticipated Federal Express; there were stringent weight limits on air mail at the time.)  Thus local passenger trains, such as the La Crescent to Savanna local by way of Dubuque would exchange passengers, parcels, and on occasion cars, with the Sioux.

Today, the Sioux is running late, perhaps account sheep on the tracks or ghost riders in the sky, and the local has to hold at Marquette, Iowa, to make the connection.  You do not want to miss the connecting baggage car, particularly if just-weaned piglets or nursery stock are among the consignments, believe me!

This is not a good place for a train to wait for long, as there's lots of Dead Freight to be moved along the west bank of the Mississippi River.  The steel works in St. Louis is going to want that iron ore sometime soon.

Eventually, the name train shows up, and the transfers and switching proceed.

The coal mines downriver (on a model railroad, you sometimes have to be creative) have been loading cars, and it will be useful to get these passenger trains on the way in order to move the Dead Freight one way, and the coal, which is waiting in downriver sidings, the other way.  Passenger Services in Chicago will have to placate any irate passengers who arrive a little late for the opening bell at the Board of Trade.

Here, the Dead Freight gets under way from Marquette, as the first of the coal trains, for LaCrescent and points railroad west, arrives.  This coal train will add other cars for those destinations.  It's mostly a water-level railroad.

The second coal train, headed for Ossian, Iowa, where there's a generating station (you get to be creative on a model railroad) closes in on the LaCrescents.

The covered hopper cars are a signature of the Edmore Patrol, working a cement plant and grain elevators there.  The most dramatic model railroading license is in the background, where Sewell, West Virginia has somehow moved to where you'd expect to find McGregor, Iowa.

It's all in a day's work for the dispatcher.  Strong coffee, sharp pencils, a fresh trainsheet, and hope everything stays on the rails.


Enroute east two weeks ago, I was listening to a segment on Charlie Sykes's show about what the Republic had done to deserve the major party candidates we got.  On my way west, I picked up Dan Rivers out of Youngstown asking listeners a similar question.

Getty Images photo via Today,  retrieved from Bing Images.

We can start with the conventional explanations from the here and now, such as National Review's Jim Geraghty, who laments An Election Unworthy of America.  "The primaries gave the general electorate two bad, disliked, dishonest, vindictive options . . . and in far too many cases, the general electorate responded appallingly, making a crummy situation worse."  The people had the opportunity to reject these choices, and they didn't.  Sometimes that's the way popular sovereignty works, and the people get what they deserve, good and hard.  That's Mr Geraghty's parting shot.  "In 2016, the question is no longer whether we can keep [the Republic] but whether we want to keep it."

Or, as Warren Henry for The Federalist suggests, the media-entertainment complex put a thumb or two on the scale: Before Progressives Hated Trump, They Were For Him.  The column is a rogues' gallery of Deep Thinkers who, before the spectre of a Trump win materialized, pushed variations on a theme that Donald Trump Is No Winger, Despite Being Crude.  Thus, did the protective institutions crumble.  "One of these [hazards] is the message that elevating and defending such people sends to the larger society, whether one views it as normalizing such behavior generally or as a double-standard for the wealthy or powerful. There is also the question of whether ignoring a candidate’s temperament results in a nominee who increases the threat of war (nuclear or otherwise) or undermines the dollar as the world’s reserve currency."  Where Mr Henry errs is in thinking that normalcy enjoyed safeguards: those are rotten.

The rottenness was a long time in coming.  It was anticipated by the editorial board of New York's Times.  "We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed"  That was a lament for the destruction of The Pennsylvania Station, but the destruction of monuments has since taken many other forms.

Consider, first, the Trump nuptials illustrated above.  About the same time The Pennsylvania Station disappeared, the Consciousness Revolution was at work, questioning all sorts of traditions.  Smash monogamy!  Nuke the nuclear family!  Coat and tie radicals like Bill and Hillary might not have been out front with that campaign, but consider their marriage.  Staying together for the sake of engaging in a protracted conversation about policy matters, OK; and there's no question about Chelsea's parentage.  But Hillary gets to have girlfriends on the side, and so does Bill.  The real winners of that part of the Consciousness Revolution, though, are Donald and Melania.  Politics be hanged.  "Today the only victors in the sexual revolution are those men and women who are good-looking and clever enough to enjoy multiple partners with a minimum of emotional and financial commitment. The dowdy and the not-so-clever (or not-so-unscrupulous) are used by the well-endowed and find loneliness and frustration where, in a previous generation, they would probably have been able to start families."

Then comes the deconstruction of coherent beliefs of any kind.  The humanities committed suicide.  As did political feminism.  Thus there's no guarantee that the Clinton camp's current efforts to turn Donald Trump into this year's version of Der Gropenf├╝hrer (efforts that didn't stop Arnold Schwarzenegger from winning in California, anyway.)

Stir in the pernicious cults of transgressivity and authenticity.

In a do-your-own-thing world, there's no answer.

Thus, Ben Domenech, also with The Federalist, notes, here's why we get that choice.
There is a reason progressives spent half a century slowly eroding society’s pillars to the point where the people produced by our families, communities and schools no longer desire this, a point at which a reversion to this form of reactionary nationalism is possible. Trumpism is not the same as populism or the New Right, and it speaks to something much worse than an intellectual crisis. It is what happens when no one trusts anyone any more.
We will be judged by the monuments we've destroyed.


The former senator from Wisconsin, now working to get his job back, takes a dig at the Joseph Project, a faith-based initiative providing van transportation for Milwaukee residents to factory jobs in Sheboygan.  "It’s not enough to pick people up in a van and send them away a couple hours and have them come back exhausted at the end of the day. That doesn’t make a community."  Perhaps not.  It's called the work-a-day routine.  There's even a song about it.  And, unlike rush hour passengers on Metra, the Joseph Project commuters are assured of a seat on their conveyance.

Chicago Tribune photograph by Michael Tercha.

At National Review, Alexandra DeSanctis notes that (unlike the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- ed.) the Joseph Product is working, and it's well-received by participants.

Mr Feingold might gripe that his critics are selectively quoting him.  His continuation is instructive, perhaps, though, not in a way he'd like.  "There needs to be more investment in minority-owned businesses, community policing and in public schools, Feingold said."

How shall I start?

In the John Galt fashion:  Invested by whom?  Blank-out.

In the Great Society fashion:  More urban renewal?  Enough of your good intentions, already?  Ditto for your malicious intentions.

He's right, though: entrepreneurship and good schools are present in Naperville.  Are the politicians in the Milwaukees of the country providing the environment in which those phenomena can flourish?


Perhaps it's time to consider interstate competition among insurance companies, and greater commercial freedom for health care enterprises.  The faculty union at Brookdale Community College have a new contract, but there won't be a lot of new discretionary spending during the holidays.
Union: Health insurance is eating our raises!

Mgmt: Health insurance is eating our budget!

Insurance Company (in the corner): Nom nom nom nom (burp) nom nom nom (chair collapses) nom nom nom
So much for bending the cost curve. So much for a public option, or for single payer.
The catastrophic cost -- and rate of increase -- of health insurance is the 800 pound gorilla of higher ed finance.  It’s the primary driver behind adjunctification.  It’s increasing faster than any of our revenue sources, and it seems to be picking up steam.  In negotiation sessions, it’s the sun around which every other issue orbits.

(For those keeping score at home, that makes it a nuclear fusion powered 800 pound gorilla that knows how to drive a steam-powered car, and anchors a series of satellites.  Scary stuff.)
Substantively, the insurance companies have to quote rates based on the adverse selection that's enabled by the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, wherein people can avoid buying insurance until they get sick, then they buy coverage, and their risk management people have to calculate that tolerably well, or they go broke.  With single payer, risk management becomes wishful thinking.  Oops.  But I appreciate the candor: it's not just the Pajamas Media crazies that see the 29 hour loophole at work diminishing the tenure-track faculty, whether at the community colleges or at the Ivies.

Metaphorically, we're not dealing with that 800 pound gorilla, it's more like a sarlacc in the Pit of Carkoon, but with a faster metabolism.  Greece didn't take 500 years to succumb to blue social model benefits.

The reckoning is coming for the United States.
Postwar prosperity made the system tenable long enough for it to start to seem natural, but it never really made sense.  Now we’re seeing the flaws in the system get so large that they start to deform or consume other sectors of the economy.  Prospective entrepreneurs don’t start companies because they can’t afford to pay for their own health insurance.  Employers everywhere pay careful attention to maximum hours for part-time status, because the marginal cost of going over is prohibitive.  If you don’t believe me, ask your HR office what the monthly premium for COBRA is.

Locally, we managed to piece together a deal that puts off the day of reckoning for a few more years.  I’m glad we did -- really, really glad we did -- but the basic underlying trendlines are still there. That’s not something we can solve locally.  That requires a national solution.  Absent that, I foresee the rides getting bumpier and bumpier until something breaks.
Yes, in many ways, that postwar prosperity worked as a resource curse.  And the Conrail Option will mean a longer bumpy ride, and it will break.  Badly.  More badly than the current bodge.  And on current trends, a President Hillary and a Democrat Congress will own the wreckage.

And they'll deserve it.  Here's National Review's Kevin Williamson, correctly pointing out that "These idiots thought this would work."
The terrifying fact is that the architects of Obamacare thought they could brazen their way through this, that they were so smart that they could tell you rubes whatever it was you needed to hear to get the bill passed and then just fly by the seat of their pants, fixing everything on the fly in a grand display of enlightened technocratic adhocracy.

And if the Democrat-Academic-Media-Entertainment Complex get their way, the adhocracy will own the failure. Recall the political maneuvering by which the two lies for the price of one became the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the first place.  Don't expect much sympathy from me if Mrs Pelosi becomes Speaker of the House and she has to deal with what's in it.  Gutting a tauntaun to keep warm might be a more appealing option.

At The Federalist, David Harsanyi expects Democrats will learn no such lesson.
Republicans can let the law, which Democrats still solely own, die. They can then reform the health-care system by allowing it to function more like every other successful market in the country — with minimal interference from politicians. Or we can all accept a giant unfunded liability, higher taxes, and further socialization of our health-care system. The only question will be: how quickly.

There’s one thing for sure: no matter what happens, liberal cheerleaders of Obamacare will continue to act as if the law was an awe-inspiring success.
Yes, and they'll continue to subscribe to the grand fiction of living at the expense of everyone else, at least until more of their voters wake up to the reality that the sarlacc is slowly digesting them.


Your taco truck just got voted off the Capitol Square.
There are only 40 spots available for food carts. Rather than let the customers decide with their purchases which carts will get to remain, the city of Madison conducts a popularity contest to see who gets voted off the isthmus. It being Madison, bonus points are granted for seniority, just like public employees before Act 10.

Those food testers that participate in the survey must try the food at 80 percent of the city's food carts. Since there are 60 carts, that means trying the food at 48 carts over two weeks, or three carts per day. Since some of them are not operating on Sunday, the wannabe food cart judge has to eat four meals per day from the carts just to meet the minimum. To sample them all, a person would have to eat five meals per day, provided the person took a (much needed) day of rest on Sunday to digest their experiences.
You'd think, if there are forty permits, and more than forty food vendors, that an auction might make more sense than a poll with a serious small-sample problem. Plus the food truck operator who paid too much for a slot would learn from experience not to bid so much next time. (It's not so difficult to write the rules in such a way that the lowest of the top forty bids would set the market for everybody; that's too large a set of bidders for a bidding ring to emerge.)

But this is the Peoples' Republic of Madison, and market tests are Too Tacky For Words.
But the free market isn't being allowed to work. It isn't Donald Trump's wall kicking the tacos out of the downtown, it's the city itself. Those that should have the most to say about the survivability of a food cart on the Capitol Square, the actual paying customers, are actually robbed of their ability to have a say. Their food dollars don't matter in the success of a business, just 15 people who may never eat a taco on the Capitol Square again.

This kind of instability, the success of a business subject to bureaucratic whims rather than market forces, will only hurt the quality of the food carts in the long term. Who would want to invest in the kind of quality ingredients and equipment to build a steady customer base when the location may be taken away from them in a year?
I suppose the logic is that the steady customer base maps accurately into preferences in a survey.  But why rely on a proxy when a market test elicits the information directly, plus the city might be pleasantly surprised with the lease fees it collects.


Just another day at the office for John Podesta, Neera Tanden, and the rest of Hillary Clinton's merry band of deplorables.
“We’ve taken on a lot of water that won’t be easy to pump out of the boat,” Podesta wrote to Tanden in September 2015, at a time when Clinton’s campaign feared that Vice President Biden was about to enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. “Most of that has to do with terrible decisions made pre-campaign, but a lot has to do with her instincts.”

Tanden responded, “Almost no one knows better [than] me that her instincts can be terrible.”
We can at least be reassured that Hillary's Elphaba cackle is her "authentic weirdness." So much to look forward to.



Strong Towns frequently feature communities that were once vibrant manifestations of car culture and suburban affluence.  Many of them, including Colerain, Ohio, a Cincinnati suburb, have turned into swamps of public squalor amid private destitution (to tweak an old J. K. Galbraith phrase.)  It goes beyond the downscale people attempting to cross the butt-ugly stroads, which is the focus of the post.  "What are the options for the folks who find themselves standing on the side of Colerain Avenue? They can work part time at one of the fast food outlets. They can scrape by month to month with payday loans and pawn shop transactions. Or they can join the military which is by far the best career option, although it comes with certain risks."  The author's thesis, consistent with Strong Towns writers' emphasis on the suburban growth ponzi scheme, is that these once-promising bedroom suburbs have become obsolete and the strip malls and tract houses have trickled down to people less capable of taking care of what they have.
Back in the 1950’s, Colerain Township was the recipient of a wave of respectable prosperous families who were crossing the municipal line out of Cincinnati. They drove through Mount Airy Forest and left behind high taxes, high crime, lower quality public services, old unfashionable buildings, and poor black people. If you couldn’t afford a brand new home and a car… you clearly didn’t belong.

The schools were new. The shopping centers and office parks were new. Tax revenue poured in. Police, teachers, and administrators were hired. Parks were created. Libraries opened. Life was very good.

Fast forward sixty five years. Everything that used to be shiny and new is now aging – not all of it well. There are now decades of accumulated salaries, pensions, and health care obligations for municipal workers, past and present. The roads, water pipes, lift stations, sewerage treatment plant, and public buildings are all in need of expensive maintenance. Tax revenue is in decline. This town like nearly every other town of its vintage is functionally insolvent.

There are now newer suburbs farther out where the homes are larger and the neighborhoods more exclusive. Mason and Beavercreek are where the prosperous families are migrating to these days. Young, educated people and wealthy empty-nesters are heading back to rapidly reviving inner city neighborhoods in Cincinnati. Colerain Township now has declining property values and is experiencing an influx of lower income residents. In the big scheme of things this post war suburb was disposable.
What we see are the errors in suburban development, as summarized in one photograph.

The central crossroads, Colerain Township, Ohio.
Retrieved from Strong Towns on 25 October 2016.

The colorful circle at the crossing is a recent war memorial.  The author wishes to emphasize the difficulty of stopping to reflect at the memorial, or to pause while walking to the pub or the coffee house or the toy store.  And the retail spaces elsewhere seem lost amonsgt those vast, empty parking craters.

Perhaps Colerain is doomed, thanks to a combination of the blue social model and misinformed intelligent design.  That's what author Johnny Sanphillippo suggests.
The memorial park is sitting in a sea of low-value surface parking lots, empty buildings, and buildings that are only occupied because they were bribed into existence with subsidies and tax abatements to keep up appearances. Meanwhile millions of dollars worth of public infrastructure sit underutilized.

Ultimately, Colerain has two options. It can reduce its physical infrastructure and default on its promises to municipal employees, which is the de facto path most post-war suburbs are on. Or it can add significant amounts of higher value private development to the existing public infrastructure chassis to generate more revenue. There are no other options.

I doubt the good people of Colerain are interested in transforming their old parking lots and dead strip malls into a thick Main Street downtown full of mixed-use buildings with shops on the ground floor and offices and apartments upstairs. I don’t think they’d even know how to build that sort of thing if they tried. They’re too obsessed with parking ratios and flower beds that look like the prosperous suburbs they no longer are. I’m not even sure there’s even a market for that kind of thing in this location. So I see continued decline and more desperate attempts at resurrection by pure faith. So be it.
And why, Mr Sanphillippo, are you relegating the current residents of Colerain to the Slough of Despond?  With the disappearance of the middle class upward and downward, are you arguing that there is insufficient demand to rebuild the commercial spaces as the kind of thick urban spaces that sell well, and to convert some of the empty spaces and some of the residential sites just off the main roads into larger lots with larger houses?

Or are we getting more Fergusons and fewer Hinsdales because there's too much prole drift, and too much deconstruction of the mores of the upper middle class?


Family members are reporting the bad news from their exchanges.  I'm still on the State of Illinois's dime, but that may not be all good, as the state continues to play cash flow games with reimbursements, and local practitioners have been requesting advance payment from state employees.  It's the nasty late October surprise we anticipated.  Whether Mr Trump will be able to make any political hay out of it remains to be seen.  I suspect that his complaints about employees in his companies getting bad news from the exchanges is going to be spun as more evidence of stinginess, in this case relying on temporary and part-time workers.  Insurers are saying enough and walking away, and the plan you had last year may no longer be available this year.  (The efforts by the national government to bend the cost curve are driving physicians out, but that's a separate matter.)  "Normal disruption," a bureaucrat says, and yet there are hundreds of thousands of people experiencing normal disruption in Florida and North Carolina, both battleground states.  That disruption is concentrating minds ahead of the election.
“Without any significant statutory and regulatory changes on the federal and state levels, we may face the crisis again,” said North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, a Democrat who’s up for election this year. “There needs to be a wholesale re-evaluation by leaders in Washington.”
The insurance reform has accomplished two things that its framers probably didn't anticipate, which offer potential for improvements in working lives, once the dirigiste impulse goes away.  By requiring employers to cover only full time employers, defined as thirty hours or more a week, the law has broken the tie between employment and health insurance, and it might lead to new thinking about whether a forty hour work week ought to be the standard for all time.  Now, if we had proper markets, including interstate sales of insurance, we might have something resembling functioning exchanges, not the current muddle.  More markets in insurance, not less.  More markets in medical services, as well.  You really can't talk about "bending the cost curve" until there's something resembling price discovery at work.  But don't expect Mr Obama (or Mrs Clinton) to get that.
Obama believes that only comprehensive insurance policies are real insurance. Conservatives generally believe, by contrast, that people should be free to buy cheaper policies that protect them only from financial catastrophes arising from their health needs.

It’s a difference that leads to others. Obama says that people who are having trouble buying insurance on Obamacare’s exchanges should receive more generous subsidies. The conservative alternative -- relax the regulations that make the insurance unaffordable for them -- is unacceptable to him because it would be a retreat from comprehensiveness.

All of the president’s shows of open-mindedness include similar caveats. He noted that Obamacare allowed state experimentation. But that experimentation is allowed to proceed only if the experiments promise to end with at least as many people having coverage that is at least as comprehensive as what Obamacare delivers. A policy that resulted in more people having catastrophic coverage wouldn’t qualify.
Catastrophic coverage, plus health savings accounts, plus greater commercial freedom for routine procedures are more likely to bend the cost curve than any comprehensive reform. And yet, Mrs Clinton continues to push for her Conrail option.

Who says the gods of politics don't have a sense of humor.  Let's suppose that the Democrat-Media-Academic Complex is correctly anticipating a Hillary win in two weeks, with a sympathetic House and Senate.  They'll own the revelation of the two lies in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and they'll own the Conrail option, or something more European.

For a preview of what something more European would look like, contemplate Colorado's Amendment 69.  (Yeah, I'm having impure thoughts, involving suckitude, but let's stay on topic.)  It's currently a referendum, thus in proper Jeopardy fashion, the proposal is in the form of a question.
Shall state taxes be increased $25 billion annually in the first full fiscal year, and by such amounts that are raised thereafter, by an amendment to the Colorado Constitution establishing a health care payment system to fund heath care for all individuals who primary residence is in Colorado, and in connection therewith, creating a governmental entity called ColoradoCare to administer the health care payment system; providing for the governance of ColoradoCare by an interim appointed board of trustees until an elected board of trustees takes responsibility; exempting ColoradoCare from the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights; assessing an initial tax on the total payroll from employers, payroll income from employees, and nonpayroll income at varying rates; increasing these tax rates when ColoradoCare begins making health care payment for beneficiaries; capping the total amount of income subject to taxation; authorizing the board to increase the taxes in specified circumstances upon approval of the members of ColoradoCare to contract with health care providers to pay for specifics health care benefits; transferring administration of the Medicaid and children's basic health care funds for Colorado to ColoradoCare; transferring responsibility to ColoradoCare for medical care that would otherwise be paid for by workers' compensation insurance; requiring ColoradoCare to apply for a waiver from the Affordable Care Act to establish a Colorado health care payment system; and suspending the operations of the Colorado health benefit exchange and transferring its resources to ColoradoCare?
That's everything you need to know about single payer.  You start with some kind of tax increase to get it started, then set up a committee to determine when and by how much taxes must be increased, and who gets classified as rich and subject to further fleecing.  At the national level, a Hillary presidency with a Democrat Congress is likely to continue the myth of cutting costs, just watch the bond markets, if you can stand it!

Single payer within one state, however, is going to face the same problem socialism in one Germany or one Korea faces: the productive people are going to opt out, until they get fenced in.  "Can single-payer work in an individual state or does it really require a national program?" That ducks the more important question, which is, How expensive will health care be when the national government picks up most of the tab?

In two weeks, we'll know who gets to manage this policy failure.


I ordinarily don't link to student commentaries, under the general principle of picking fights only with people of comparable experience.  This Northern Star column, however, features silly comments from some deanlet who has to justify her salary.
Dressing up as a member of the transgender community essentially mocks their struggle to go outside of society’s common labels and be themselves, said Molly Holmes, Director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.

“[Costumes that] portray people dressing up in a gender that they don’t identify are for humor,” said Holmes. “Outside of costumes and Halloween, when we look at somebody’s gender identity as humorous, it really actually degrades the person. [It] inevitably is bad for [transgender] people because they’re targeted on their gender identity.”
In the scheme of things, the crosser, or gender dysphoric, or hermaphrodite, or what have you, is probably less dangerous than the sociopath.  There's nothing in the column cautioning against a goalie mask accessorized with a chain saw.  On the other hand, there's now targeting of professional identity.
Sexualized costumes with blinged-out badges and short skirts make it harder to respect actual professionals, especially women, who, even without these degrading costumes, are still fighting to be taken seriously, respected and equally paid.

Students should consider those who have gone through schooling and training to earn those uniforms and professions, rather than just picking them up at a costume shop.
The article comes complete with what the deanlets would rather not see, which means true transgressivity is to put this outfit together.

Fight the Power.
Retrieved from Northern Star on 25 October 2016.

Here's what's still permissible.  "Some fun examples could be a DIY pumpkin costume, Scooby Doo, a favorite candy bar or a clever pun costume such as a basketball jersey and a large doughnut to represent Dunkin’ Donuts."  That is, until somebody suggests that anything involving food is fat-shaming.  I'm not going to put that past the Diversity Weenies.  At Tufts University, for instance, The College Fix suggests that the Thought Police have deputized the campus police in case some comrade steps too far over the line.  There will be consequences.  The post rounds up other administrative atrocities.

Our universities are being run by truly stupid people.

This year, I will be at home for Hallowe'en.  In previous years I have greeted the urchins as Sherlock Holmes and as Ray Nitschke.  That latter gets a rise out of the local Bear fans, but we all know what the Bears still do.  This year, they'll get to meet Herr Doktor Stephan Ludwig, Freiherr von Masuren, from the King of Prussia's delegation to the Bavarian royal wedding.  Perhaps I'll report on the reactions next week.



In the Cold Spring Shops primer on positive train control, I note that two trains cannot occupy the same piece of track at the same time.  And I've been particularly caustic about German and Italian signalling systems that allow a station agent to override safety interlocks.

At major junctions and busy stations or yards, it has long been the practice to provide a signal tower configured in such a way that two trains cannot be cleared onto conflicting routes, i.e. brought onto the same piece of track at the same time.  The railroad term of art for such installations is "interlocking," and I illustrated a simple use of the principles with science-project switches.

We visited a more involved interlocking tower (our British colleagues call them signal boxes) at St. Erth, preventing conflicts between trains for and from St. Ives with the Penzance service for Plymouth, London Paddington, and the all-day cross-country train to John O'Groats (or is it Glasgow these days?)  Much of the hardware appears to be early twentieth century, and it's still up to the task of spacing the Inter City 125 diesel trains that are still protecting schedules on God's Wonderful Railway.

On last week's excursion to Pennsylvania points, I stopped at Harris Tower, the interlocking tower that controlled the west throat of the Harrisburg station of The Pennsylvania Railroad.  It's now a museum, and it was open on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and there were a lot of freight trains running.  That was after placing a reservation at a swap meet for a proper model of a boxcar with a famous number, PENNSYLVANIA 65000.

The museum is soon to be closed for the season.  Bear in mind that the railway preservation demographic is aging, and it might be wise to inquire before making a visit.  The nearby bridges allow for photography of the railroad from public grounds near the Commonwealth Capitol and state office buildings.

What makes the tower distinctive as a railway preservation effort is that the machinery still works the way the designer intended.

The operator is lining up a route.  In the background is the model board, showing the west throat of Harrisburg Station as it was before Penn Central, Amtrak, and Conrail.  The platform tracks are at upper left, the freight avoiding line enters at lower left (although The Pennsylvania Railroad could get passenger trains around Harrisburg without interfering with the passenger traffic) and the short tracks at center right held steam locomotives awaiting their assignment to take over The Broadway Limited or The Duquesne or the Middle Division mail train from the electric locomotives.

The track diagram is also present on the computer screen at lower left.  The computer is running the now-discontinued Train Dispatcher simulation.  Outputs of the program go to relays in the tower's original relay case, which provide inputs to the interlocking machine the operator is using.  It's now possible to control even these complicated tracks at a distance, with a computer, and you accordingly don't see many manned interlocking towers.  Further, as we shall see, the actually existing track layout is trimmed, substantially, since 1942, the era being simulated.  It makes for a more instructive visit, as the computer, running a fast clock, is generating outputs that announce the arrival of trains, either by loudspeaker or by a bell ringing, activate the block occupancy circuits of the approaching trains, and, once the route is lined up, simulate the passage of the train through the controlled territory (old-school rails will know this as the plant.)

The gauge on top of the cabinet monitors the air pressure in the interlocking system.  On The Pennsylvania Railroad, a switch lever activates an air valve, and compressed air moves the switch points.  The same system is still at work in Chicago's Tower A-2, over which all the empty equipment moves for Metra's Milwaukee, North Central, Union Pacific, and Heritage Corridor pass enroute to or from downtown stations, as do service trains on the Milwaukee, North Central, Union Pacific, and Amtrak.  And the cars headed to the chocolate factory!

In an interlocking plant, the operator cannot clear signals to put trains on conflicting routes.  It's still up to the engineer to respect the signal indications, particularly the ones specifying STOP AND STAY.  These days, we do that work with solid-state logic (AND, OR, NOR, NOT) but the logic can also be implemented mechanically.

A section of the interlocking machinery is covered by thick Plexiglas, which allows the visitor to observe what's going on, although on a sunny day there's a lot of reflected light, including some of the model board.  When the operator rotates one of the levers, each of which is covered by one of the thick Plexiglas bars, it activates one or more of the sliding bars that run from left to right in the picture.  That rotation plus sliding either locks or releases other levers in the machinery.  It's more complicated than the double-pole double-throw switch that I used in the earlier interlocking primer, and laying out the frame takes a lot of thought, as you don't want to install, let alone cut notches and add projections, on more of those sliding bars than you have to.  (Time permitting, you'll see how it's done in O Scale, one of these years.)

As an additional cue to the operator, the rotation of a lever illuminates an indicator light on levers that have been released by its movement, or extinguishes the indicator lights on levers that are locked.  With the plant in the current configuration, for instance, levers 11 and 13 can be moved to the right (they are currently set to the left, toward a westbound train), lever 12 can be rotated either to the right or to the left (that's a switch whose position does not adversely affect any train otherwise cleared into the plant), lever 18 can be moved only to the left, lever 22 can be moved only to the left, although on some other configurations, it can be moved to the right, and levers 14, 15, and 16 cannot be moved.  The "Rusty Rail" marker on lever 19, controlling a signal, warns the operator that the machinery might not pick up the presence of a train on the track protected by that signal.

What, then, about the trains?  I got there during a busy period for Norfolk Southern running freight trains.

Here, two freight trains meet on what remains of the avoiding lines.  The support poles for the electrification went long ago, with Conrail ending electric freight operation in 1981 and with higher vertical clearances being desirable for autoracks and double stack containers, two betterments unknown to W. W. Atterbury or James Symes.  What's less evident is that somewhere near here, the old Conrail main line goes from The Pennsylvania Railroad to taking a ride on the Reading.  Amtrak own the Main Line from Harrisburg to Philadelphia, and the Cold Spring Shops Free Rein to 110 is being implemented, with electric operation of the Keystone Service trains.

The Pennsylvania Railroad never invested in extended-vision cabin cars, nor have I somehow found a time machine.  Rather, that's a War Department escort car, there were two depressed-center flat cars with DODX reporting marks on the head pin, and these heavy haul cars ahead of the buggy.

And the one passenger train on the Middle Division and Mountain Division leaves Amtrak for Norfolk Southern, about five minutes late.

There's some sentiment in Pennsylvania for an additional train or two to Pittsburgh, and is it really the case that there's no daily sleeping car service direct from Philadelphia to Cleveland and Chicago?

On the eve of Amtrak, Penn Central were still operating The Duquesne and The Juniata for and from Pittsburgh, The Broadway Limited, The Manhattan Limited, and The Pennsylvania Limited for and from Chicago, plus The Admiral from Chicago only, and The Spirit of St. Louis combined with The Cincinnati Limited for and from ... work it out!  Most of these trains offered food service (perhaps closed overnight between Pittsburgh and Fort Wayne) with setout sleeper for and from Pittsburgh and Indianapolis still available, as well as sleeping cars for and from Chicago on The Broadway Limited and The Pennsylvania Limited.  In those days, the trains swapped diesel locomotives for electric locomotives at Harrisburg.


A few years ago, I read some of the Hunger Games books and posted reviews.  Let's say that I never bought the idea of an advanced tyranny with such a primitive political economy.  Here's an Unusual Things post with advice for the writer of apocalyptic fiction.
I was shocked by not just the lack of research and basic common sense on display, but by even the lack of basic knowledge of things like “science” that these literary works displayed. One story, for example, was trying to present itself as a critique of society. It did so by setting itself “after the end.” The government had collapsed, and people were losing all their technology. The message of the story was “Technology has removed us from nature” alongside “technology has given us violence, and that makes it bad.”

Yeah, fairly psuedo-intellectual. Or wanting to be, anyway.
Hmm, don't recall anyone calling Brave New World pseudo-intellectual, although the primitive political economy is present there, as well as in Nineteen Eighty-Four.  But this writer's gripe?  The technology failed because the copper wires rusted.  (They tarnish.  I'd be more inclined to accept climate change leading to the capacitors decaying, but that's off point.)  But wait ... as the pitchman says, there's more!
The book went into detail about how people were surviving in their new “agricultural” society by returning to farming and hunting practices. Except … holy cow, as someone who grew up on a freaking farm, it couldn’t have been more ill-put if the author had talked about onions growing on trees.

It was awful. Factual errors everywhere. At one point, a main character talks about wanting to go hunting, but waiting until the next day because if they get their prey (moose, I believe), they have to kill it early in the day or they’ll be forced to leave all the meat behind at the end of the day when they come back, as they won’t have enough time to butcher it. They also comment that they’re down a man, so they won’t be able to carry all the meat back anyway, since there’s snow.

Sleds, people! Wooden sledges! We had this figured out five-thousand+ years ago!

And this is where I run into issues with a lot of “literary” fiction. When it’s set in contemporary times and doesn’t step outside of the little box the author lives in, it’s usually not bad (though maybe a little melodramatic). But for a style of literature that’s often touted as the “intelligent” form of such … it’s not.
There are many other things we got right five millennia ago that the deconstructionists destroyed, but I digress.  His main point is one I often make, if I'm griping about press coverage of ferroequinology, or industrial economics.
I can’t trust an author to offer societal ideas, concepts, or messages when they can’t get the basics of how a phone works correct, after all. To me, that just smacks of someone who thinks they’re smart, and wants to be smart, perhaps even wants everyone to look at them and see how smart they are … but is unquestionably demonstrating with their work that they’re not nearly as intelligent as they think they are.
Perhaps the author is engaging in the literary equivalent of rivet-counting.  And yet, your writing is more credible if an informed person can't throw the bunkum flag on a relatively minor detail.


Joel Kotkin cautions that a bad Republican-by-courtesy presidential candidate who loses badly does not mean a mandate for more Governance by Wise Experts.  Follow both links, read and understand, and follow additional links if you wish.  Politics is downstream from culture, and it's fifty years since the Consciousness Revolution led to the destruction of presidential politics as it is currently playing out.  The correction might also take fifty years.  But there are rumblings of a correction, if you know where to look.  Thus Mr Kotkin.  "Relative few Americans have much patience with such things as “micro-aggressions,” “safe spaces,” the generally anti-American tone of history instruction whose adherents are largely concentrated in the media and college campuses. Fewer still would endorse the anti-police agitation now sweeping progressive circles."

Writing for The Guardian, David Runciman sees a deeper divide, this in the two potential fatal flaws of representative governance.
In the long history of intellectuals worrying about democracy and its failings, two basic fears keep nagging away. The first is that democracy will mean rule by the poor, who will use their power to steal from the rich. The second is that democracy will mean rule by the ignorant, who will use their power to do the dumbest things. Both these worries go back at least as far as Plato. The ancient Greeks understood full well that democracy meant letting the have-nots get their claws into the haves. For Aristotle, that’s what the word meant: it was rule by the poor (the demos) over the wealthy. But if class conflict came with the territory, the deeper fear was what the masses might do out of sheer foolishness.

For Plato, democracy suffered from the basic defect of putting decision-making in the hands of people who were not competent to decide. Politics was a skill – and most people were simply clueless. Worse, that made them prey for hucksters and demagogues who would promise the earth and get away with it. Democracy was fertile ground for fantasists with a taste for power.
Thus, the Fatal Conceit of the latter-day Platonists (the self-styled progressives) is in creating that cadre of Wise Experts who are going to protect the masses from their own foolishness.  And if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.  I like the idea of limiting and enumerating the powers of government, something that neither major party shows much interest in.  That way, there aren't as many things the Wise Experts can screw up, and the opportunities for those in the masses who give in to their sheer foolishness to live at the expense of everyone else are fewer.

In focussing on the possible effects of an education divide within partisan divides, Mr Runciman misses this.
These days the rich find it quite hard to get away with the presumption that their wealth is proof of their virtue. When they seek protection from the system, it is pretty clear what they are up to: they are looking after their interests. But when the educated look out for themselves they can dress it up as something ostensibly better than that: expertise.
The good news is, expertise often goes wrong. If you like your insurance policy, you can keep your insurance policy.  Fortunately, there's an easy response to the advocates of Governance by Expertise, one suggested by D. McCloskey as The American Question.  If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?



During the summer, the Amtrak Hiawatha service offered a late night departure from Chicago and Milwaukee, Saturdays only.  The experiment continues.  More encouragingly, the state departments of transportation are seeking public comment on additional frequencies.  Ten round trips are not quite the service levels as recently as 1968, when there were four round trips as far as the Twin Cities and three or four round trips as far as Green Bay, as well as about a dozen Milwaukee and Chicago trips operated by two railroads, but it's still an improvement on the three round trips plus the Empire Builder on Amtrak Day.  And they're contemplating some accelerated timings with 90 mph maximum speeds outside the Chicago area (apparently there are constraints threading Amtrak in amidst the scoots.)  But the current service offers some 89 minute trains (sometimes 85 minutes in practice) while the best the proposed faster trains attain is an 87 minute timing.  I think there's room for improvement.

But some local officials aren't on the train.
Glenview Deputy Village Manager Don Owen has a different idea.

Come up with something better that will not send property values plunging along a two-mile stretch in Glenview and Northbrook where freight trains will park while faster passenger streamliners pass. There are currently seven daily round trips.
The holding track he's objecting to is along the Chicago and North Western's Techny Cutoff, which freight trains off The Milwaukee Road use to get into Bensenville Yard. These days the cutoff belongs to Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific run the Hiawathas for Amtrak.

But his alternative is ludicrous.  "Owen said a solution could be as simple as adding a car to the more popular trains on the Amtrak schedule."  Yes, that will be helpful to a harried commuter on the 5.08 for Milwaukee, which strains the capacity of the six-car rakes in use on the Hiawathas.  That extra car will be of no use to the symphony-goer or Milwaukee Bucks fan who has no late evening train north.

There's a neglected actor for your consideration.  "There was also an alternative of creating a freight bypass from the Wisconsin state line to the area."  The backbone for such a bypass is already present.  The Techny Cutoff connects to a Chicago and North Western freight bypass that at one time was two tracks most of the way to St. Francis interlocking southeast of Milwaukee, where the Milwaukee freight bypass began.  The old Chicago and North Western passenger main continues into downtown Milwaukee.  At one time there was a connection between that passenger main and The Milwaukee Road at Washington Street, when all Milwaukee passenger trains called at the station now called the Intermodal Station.  Canadian Pacific freight trains generally pass through the Intermodal Station.

Thus one possibility is to use some infrastructure money to restore the Washington Street connecting track, rebuild the Passenger Main to St. Francis, and add additional sidings on the Freight Bypass.

Alternatively, use the infrastructure money to restore the outside sidings that were once on The Milwaukee Road near the current airport station, and further south at about Caledonia (Tower A-68, to be railroad specific) and lengthen the existing outside sidings at Sturtevant.

But to propose that an additional coach or two on the rush hour trains is a sufficient fix?  Please.


A Russian carrier battle group is transiting the English Channel, and the Royal Navy are observing.  Remain calm, all is well, counsels The Guardian.
Military experts disagree on whether the 30-year-old aircraft carrier and its support vessels are truly needed to augment the already impressive Russian air capability in  Syria. After all, most of the Russian aircraft capable of using the carrier – such as the Su-33s and newer MiG-29Ks – have been using Hmeimim airbase in the Syrian coastal province of Latakia since September 2015, and the base is capable of launching even more sorties than at present.
Although Admiral Kuznetsov rates as one of the largest aircraft carriers at sea, it is smaller than, and carries fewer aircraft than, any of the Nimitz class carriers, mostly named for former Presidents.

What's interesting is the Expert Commentary, about Tsar Vladimir strengthening his position in Syria in advance of a "more hawkish" President Hillary.


When you admit unprepared students and call it access, what do you have to do to boost retention?  Regular readers know the answer.  At Illinois State University, the faculty are being mugged by reality.  And the administrators are behaving like administrators, bringing in consultants to push the new party line.
David Attis, the managing director of strategic research at [Educational Advisory Board], who presented at Illinois State earlier this year, didn’t deny that he advised professors to limit high-failure courses. But he said the comment was part of a larger conversation about rethinking courses with relatively rates of failure, withdrawal and students earning D grades so that more undergraduates finish them and earn credit to advance toward their degrees (many high-fail courses are gateway classes to certain majors).

That doesn’t mean handing out A’s, B’s and C’s, Attis said. Instead, universities are encouraged to run controlled experiments in which a pilot course redesign runs in tandem with a longer-running version of the course. Students in both sections are given the same final assessment, and their grades are compared. If students in the new course do better those in the old one, he said, it’s clear rigor wasn’t sacrificed -- instruction was simply improved.
Or, perhaps, the longer-running version of the course is doing what the high schools should have done (perhaps did do, but the Distressed Material blew it off).  Here's the consultant position.  But sometimes the truth comes out.
Attis acknowledged that some professors bristle at the notion of catering their courses to students, rather than students adjusting to meet their teaching styles. But more underprepared students are now attending college as result of access efforts, and universities both want and need to help them succeed.
Mike drop.

Some members of the Illinois State faculty, principally in the performing arts and humanities, have raised additional objections.
Should difficulty also be avoided in ISU courses?  If, for example, students do not like to read, should faculty dispense with having them read?   We may attract students’ attention with fun and games, but we will never secure their education (or respect) by replacing robust pedagogy with worthless proxies.

Another troubling recommendation advises that ISU courses/programs be utilitarian.  They should have practical application and lead to employment in the American workforce.  (This view bears a striking resemblance to the policies Wisconsin governor Scott Walker tried to implement at Wisconsin’s state universities.)  The PowerPoint from the provost’s office suggests that we “prioritize electives by focusing on student needs.”  Such a guiding principle essentially declares that the humanities particularly and liberal arts more generally have little or no support and role to play at our university, since the humanities are typically considered impractical and of scant utility, in other words, not what students need.
The Inside Higher Ed report notes that there's a problem of allocating scarce resources.
Faculty members in their op-ed also disagree with an EAB slide recommending a paradigm shift from “every discipline deserves equal investment” to “investing equally in all disciplines will lead to mediocrity.”

“The university must invest in a broad range of disciplines in order to prepare the next generation with the kinds of creative and dynamic thinking required to devise solutions for the economic, political, environmental and social crises of our times,” they say.
That's long been the tussle in a university: the heads of the strong departments want to be maintained or further strengthened; the heads of the weaker departments want a chance to compete for students.  But nobody talks about adjusting the sizes of the departments to the potential population of capable students.  Lowered expectations at admission lead to opportunities to expand budgets.

Because the authors of the faculty editorial tend to come from the performing arts and the humanities, they understandably question the utilitarian focus of much of the student success stuff.  At the same time, they demonstrate precisely the way in which those disciplines have broken faith with normal Americans.
That is, the study of literature, history, philosophy, art, or music affords us a way of knowing and knowledge fundamentally different--and therefore of inestimable value--from that offered by our culture of technological consumer capitalism with its monetization of everything, its winner-take-all competition, its impersonalization, its quantification, and its devaluation of anything which is not demonstrably efficient and mundanely useful.  Yet, the inefficiency of poetry or pure physics (that is, physics not tied to corporate and government grants and agendas) is an incommensurate gift and of great value.  It allows for creativity, for unexpected discovery, and for seeing the world from otherwise unavailable perspectives.
I suppose we should be grateful they didn't toss in a "hegemonic" or "Eurocentric" just for good measure.