15.6.19

TAIL TRACK.

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

RUNNING THE TABLE.

For the third Saturday in a row, here is a not-to-be-regular Saturday bridge column.

I'm still not sure what the bots that provide the entertainment are doing.  Sometimes a bid of two of a suit is a cue to bid two of the next higher suit.  Sometimes a bot will jump to four of a suit, or something else, and there's nothing.  (Perhaps I will have another experience of having to play in five of something and going down seven!  That's something you wouldn't see in the newspapers!)

On occasion, though, everything works out for the best.


North deals.  I have three aces, 22 points in high cards, and a singleton.  Perhaps 1♠ is mauering, a more experienced player would start at two.  West goes to 4♣, yes those are eight cards, but there's only seven points plus the two singletons.  It's useful, though, to anticipate those horrendously unbalanced hands: if you're holding four as declarer and dummy has three, it's probably prudent to expect something other than the defense is split three each.

The scoring conventions of contract bridge, however, encourage prudence in bidding.  Contract for too many, suffer a penalty of fifty points a trick (this becomes worse if you've been doubled, or if your side is vulnerable.)  Contract for too few, pick up bonuses for the overtricks, which are invariant to vulnerability.  The solitaire game uses Chicago four-deal conventions, which means none of this above the line, below the line complications, and vulnerability rotates: nobody on the first deal, North-South on the second, East-West on the third, everybody on the fourth.

North doubles.  I could have just let that go, and play for penalties, although that suggested enough support in other suits to run Four Hearts, which is a game value contract.  And so it begins: no losers in Hearts, one possible loser in Spades, one possible loser in Diamonds, with a ruffing opportunity there, the Club Ace takes care of the Ten.

I recently discovered that the game lets me review all the plays, which I did to obtain the record, before playing another game.  No doubt the experienced players can recall all the cards they ran in all their games.

The opening lead is 10♦.  Expect a human player to see the dummy and react poorly: Queen, 2, 3.

North plays 2♥ to South's Queen: King (West shows out), Ace, Six to North's Jack (East shows out.)

The Ten of Hearts is an opportunity to discard the Diamond loser, now the Ace of Clubs pulls out the Two, Ten, and King!  (Would that be a signal to an East with some Clubs to not be afraid to lead them, that is, if East could ever secure the lead?) Now the remaining Diamond winners: North King followed by the Seven to South's Ace.  West is still pitching those high Clubs.

Contract made, and we still haven't played the Spades. South leads; it is my practice to lead the lowest controlling cards first, thus Queen, King, and when the Ace smokes out the Jack, the Ten picks up all the trash!  Note, though, that if the fourth Spade was with West, or if East had the Jack, that garbage time trick would have gone to the defense.  That's something the newspaper columns aren't always explicit enough about: for a finesse (meaning leading from a low card past a high card to win a trick with a lower card) to work relies on the cards falling just right.  In the hand I played, there was plenty of brute force to get the job done.

WE DON'T AWARD DAMAGES BECAUSE OBERLIN ENDORSED DEFAMATION OF A BAKERY.

We award damages in order that other tony colleges don't endorse defamation of their neighbors.  "[I]t is a proceeding intended to signal to the nation, especially to the college administrators of the country, the costs of reckless catering to politically correct radical students making false claims of racism."  As a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial notes, that sort of reckless catering didn't turn out so well a few counties away at Antioch.

David French concurs, the verdict should concentrate minds.  "To the extent that the verdict causes activist administrators to pause and consider the underlying veracity and merit of the public campaigns they’re asked to join, then this is one chilling effect that may well do some good." The problem, dear reader, is that activist administrators are administrators whose mouths are more active than their minds are.  Thus far, Margaret "University Diaries" Soltan suggests, administrators have been able to get away with it.  "[O]nce awake, mainstream liberals might ask themselves why Oberlin has as a vice president and dean of students an angry factionalist, a woman way, way out of the liberal mainstream."  Perhaps so, although the fancy colleges provide the court intellectuals for mainstream liberals (and for the angry factionalists) and they've all mastered the art of condescending and deplorable-shaming.  It's easier to hope that a few bons mots or a well-polished credential will make the rabble go away.  Sorry, no, that's not going to work.

Yes, John K. Wilson notes, in the house organ for the professors' guild (that is, where there still are professors in higher ed) that the verdict is probably easily appealed.  "[B]eing pissed off at the local college is not a valid legal doctrine for taking millions of dollars." Maybe not, and yet, he's hard pressed to put a favorable gloss on this.
Gibson’s Bakery won this case by depicting Oberlin College as an uncaring bully, but these arguments have no legal merit. Their lawyer used a repulsive and stupid email written by the inept Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo that said about a professor critical of Oberlin’s action, “I’d say unleash the students if I wasn’t convinced this needs to be put behind us.”
Perhaps it's a good day when a defender of business as usual in higher education turns on a functionary.  It's unlikely, though, that the townies or all the Internet pundits enjoying Oberlin's discomfiture are going to cut them any slack.

A FIFTEEN MINUTE TRAIN.

A Milwaukee-area inventor would like to make Milwaukee a streetcar suburb of Chicago.  Just build a Shinkansen style track above existing railroad tracks.  That's fine, if private money comes up with it.  (Call me skeptical.)

I stick to my view that providing a track structure suitable for 125 mph running with diesel trains and bringing Chicago within an hour of Milwaukee by rail is the more cost-effective way to go.  Unfortunately, the good people of Glenview aren't yet ready for that.

CHICAGO AGGRESSES AGAINST THE WORLD ECONOMY.

We've noted, previously, that the Sanitary and Ship Canal is also the world's biggest open sewer.  Dilute it enough, though, and St. Louis and Memphis might still draw water safely.  Diluted or not, what remains eventually gets to the Gulf of Mexico.  "While the agricultural runoff from farms — exempted under the Clean Water Act — is the main driver of the Gulf dead zone, Chicago’s sewage is the largest single source of phosphorus pollution."

Over the past few years, there have been summer dead zones elsewhere in the Lakes, including Green Bay and one notorious one that closed Toledo's water works for a few days.  Yes, phosphorous fertilizers contribute to making crops more productive, and the feedstocks are relatively abundant.

Mightn't there, though, be ways of capturing the runoff for reuse?

That, however, is not what the article really wants people to Become Alarmed about.  "Climate scientists say this issue is only expected to get worse in the future as a wetter climate in the Midwest — specifically one characterized by heavy rainfall in the winter and spring — creates more runoff." That "heavy rainfall in the winter and spring" is supposed to get readers worked up about global warming.  You have to read on, though, to note that it wasn't heavy rainfall this year.  "While the concentrations of nutrients in the Mississippi River basin weren’t particularly remarkable, the melting snow and spring rains poured into waterways, leading to record high river flows and delivering an overall larger nutrient load to the Gulf of Mexico."  To add to our troubles, the wet grounds have meant corn and soybean planting is delayed, if not deferred for the crop insurance.

WOKE DONATISM.

Apparently the notion that any institutional arrangement with a less than immaculate conception is a candidate for deconstruction has an ancient pedigree.

In a world where humans rather than seraphim run the churches, perhaps the best we can hope to do is to pit conflicting claims against one another in an orderly way.
The idea was checks and balances applied to men who were not angels might prove superior to British kings and other persons of quality if the standard was external to both. This notion has carried over into modern blockchain systems, where every step is unambiguously identified, consensus enforced by explicit rules and reproducible by any party. A maximum of trust is delegated to a verifiable system and as little as possible is left to the virtue of the participants.
That's a sensible generalization of "it is not from the benevolence of the baker ..."

I like the idea of the Donatist heresy, which might have taken seriously the instruction that only those without sin get to cast stones.  As a practical matter, though, throwing out any institution that was not conceived without sin isn't going to turn out well absent careful thought about what replaces it.  "Not so long ago it was an article of faith that the road to salvation was thronged by sinners and was in fact designed for sinners alone. Perhaps it still is. The difference was that then we knew it." Notice that the Preamble to the Constitution reads "form a more perfect Union."  Better, I submit, to attempt incremental improvements, rather than deconstruct everything and hope to do better from scratch.

13.6.19

A THREE-CAR, POST-WAR INTERURBAN TRAIN.

The Chicago Aurora and Elgin purchased ten interurban coaches that went into service after Victory.

One has returned to regular service at Illinois Railway Museum.  Here it's running as the "Batavia Shuttle" meeting a four-car mainline train.


The fleet of cars only ran in revenue service for eleven years, as Our Political Masters thought the future was limited-access motorways.  That meant a reconstruction of the Metropolitan West Side Elevated to run in the median of the Congress Street (now Eisenhower) Expressway running downtown through the Dearborn Street subway.  That was effectively the end of the Aurora-Elgin as those wooden cars couldn't go into the subway.

A lot of the cars got second life in preservation, with most of the post-War cars going to Gerald Brookins's Columbia Park and Southwestern, until subsequent owners of the complex he built decided a full-sized train set was an expensive luxury.  Thus three of the cars returned to Illinois.

There's a chance to repatriate a fourth.  The Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton has decided to concentrate on restoring regional rolling stock, and their car 453 is available, provided members and friends of the Illinois Railway Museum dig down.  Moving these cars and restoring them to good running order (the 453 is in pretty good shape for not having run in probably sixty years) doesn't happen by magic.

Should this project come through, the museum will be able to run a five car Aurora-Elgin steel train.

LAMENTATIONS.

Jonah Goldberg.  "What America needs is less talk of national unity -- from the left or the right -- and more freedom to let people live the way they want to live, not just as individuals, but as members of local communities."

V. D. Hanson.  "[E]lites never suffered the firsthand consequences of their own ideological fiats."

Ed Driscoll.  "Los Angeles and San Francisco are rapidly becoming Detroit with palm trees."

Detroit is different in that its elites didn't expect what was coming.  The troubles of today's Credentialed Establishment are self-inflicted.

10.6.19

COMPARE AND CONTRAST.

In what way does paying tribute to a warlord differ from paying protection money to a mobster or allocating taxes to the police department?  It's an important question to be able to answer, in light of a recent Jonathan Aldred essay suggesting a greater role for the taxing power in addressing wealth or income inequality.  "Among other things, we will need to accept that how much people earn in the market is often not what they deserve, and that the tax they pay is not taking from what is rightfully theirs."

I wish I had come up with this formulation while I was still teaching the survey of public policy class.
Somewhere, there is a sweet spot at which tax-funded social and physical capital becomes symbiotic with the social and commercial activity that people also engage in. To one side of that sweet spot, to the left, if you will, is the slough of despond in which government becomes parasitic on commerce, and destructive of, social and physical capital. To the other side, to the right, is the cesspool of sin in which the rent-seekers become parasitic on government, which destroys social and physical capital, albeit in a different way.
Mr Aldred sort of gets this.
As the top 1% grow richer, they have more incentive and more ability to enrich themselves further. They exert more and more influence on politics, from election-campaign funding to lobbying over particular rules and regulations. The result is a stream of policies that help them but are inefficient and wasteful.
That's the cesspool of sin, inhabited by rent-seeking parasites.  Those rent-seekers might spin taxation as theft, particularly when it's their tax preferences (including the ability to deduct state and local taxes from income subject to federal tax?) but that's not what Mr Aldred wants to address.
To begin with, you could never have ownership rights prior to, or independent from, taxation. Ownership is a legal right. Laws require various institutions, including police and a legal system, to function. These institutions are financed through taxation. The tax and the ownership rights are effectively created simultaneously. We cannot have one without the other.
What distinguishes the imposition of taxes from the extraction of tribute or the shaking down of protection money is that governments exist to secure the rights to ownership, derive their powers from the consent of the governed, and when a government becomes destructive, it is the right of the people to alter it.  Peaceful transfer of power and all that, rather than bigger catapults or more aggressive hit-men.

You'd think rhetorician Jennifer Mercieca would understand this, but no.  "[Mr Aldred's essay] was a good read. For these reasons I am pro-tax and pro-government. Government is not a curse. Government is a society's greatest good. We should all be willing to support it. Tax avoidance is theft against the body politic."  Ignore for a moment that howling non-sequitur of a last sentence.  Concentrate on voters consenting to modifications of the tax code, the way the Framers intended it, rather than on the flagrant unwillingness of the so-called resistance to support the outcomes of the most recent presidential election.  Show me a tax code that sufficiently many voters are willing to support, and I will live with it, but I reserve the right to propose improvements, or support the efforts of others to offer improvements.  Working backwards, consider all the incidences of government, from Hugo Chavez working backward to Tiberius Caesar and however many warlords came before.  Then tell me that either of those two sentences are categorically accurate.  A few years ago, Walter Hudson put it more precisely.  "Taxes may be theft in the purest sense of the term. But if taxpayer dollars are utilized to protect individual rights, the real-world effect will be a maximum amount of liberty and a minimum level of coercion. That's a worthy goal, and wholly attainable." I'll be more precise than that: if the taxing authority has received its powers from the consent of the government, it is probably not engaging in theft. You might even call it salesmanship.

A THEORY SO GENERAL AS TO EXPLAIN EVERYTHING MIGHT BE USELESS.

That might be the fate of climate chaos, or whatever name it traffics under at present.
First the “undoubted” effect of global warming on the Great Lakes was drought, now it is too much snow and rain. Whatever. The nice thing about “climate change” as a dogma is that the weather is guaranteed to change, so whatever happens is consistent with the theory that continues to bring in the big bucks.
The expression for a patch to a model to explain this year's anomaly is ad hoc.  Such as what happens when January takes place in the big coastal cities.  Then it's "polar vortex."  Sufficient ad-hoc-ery, though, might as well be indistinguishable from a millenarian cult.
Climate scientists can blame anything they want on global warming. The climate models are imprecise enough that no matter what is happening they can point to it as proof that man-made climate change is happening. Too much rain, too little rain, bitterly cold winters, mild winters, more snow, less snow, rising water levels, falling water levels — they can attribute “climate change” as a cause of it all.
It's probably easier to get a platform on one of the fake news outlets by claiming catastrophe (and blaming it on Orange Man?) than it is to get to work.
Let the climate scientists continue to work on the complex dynamics by which changes in the sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide, atmospheric mixing dynamics, and the strengthening or weakening of the jet stream allow for the southward migration of the polar vortex, or equalize temperatures in the atmosphere such that there is neither jet stream nor polar vortex.
That work on the complex dynamics has yet to capture some of the essential elements, including circulation of the oceans.

Moreover, even once the climatologists figure out cause and effect in a dynamical system, they might do well to respect a division of labor in policy making.  "[L]et us unbundle the confirmation of climate change hypotheses from the discussion of policies to reduce human influences thereupon.  Doing so is not as easy as it looks."

8.6.19

CATCH 'EM, CATCH 'EM, CATCH 'EM ALL.

For the second Saturday in a row, here is a not-to-be regular Saturday bridge column.

Some years ago, a colleague who played the game at a very high level described bidding along lines such as "the opener says, 'I have something, but show me what you have,' and if the possible defender overcalls, that's 'show me what you really have,' while opener's partner rebids with 'maybe I can help you, but give me a better idea what you have.'"

There are supposed to be some conventions governing bidding, some of those summarized in Mr Goren's primer, and there are probably a lot of implicit understandings among people who play each other regularly.

We have another column this week, because what can one do with this deal?


The West bot deals.  After the fact, we see an unbalanced hand with eight high-card points and two for distribution.  The North bot, with eight high-card points and one point for distribution, passes.  The East bot, with additional length in Hearts but only two points, passes.  Here I sit with three Aces, eighteen high-card points, and two points for maldistribution in trumps.  At least the North bot understands what a takeout double is for.  Two no-trump, however, is what Mr Goren calls the "bust response."  In my reading, I've also discovered that it can be a signal of five cards each in two suits that have not been bid.

Thus I went for the simplest way to game with three no-trump.

If a reader can recommend the logic of what constitutes a game, I'd appreciate an explanation.  Three no-trump produces forty points for the first trick, and thirty points for each additional trick.  Four Hearts or four Spades pays off at thirty points for each trick. Is the reason a Diamond or Club contract pays off at twenty points for each trick won simply to encourage additional bidding to find a fit in Hearts or Spades, or to discourage mauering in the form of a four-trick bid with any suit?  Think about it: suppose a partnership has sufficient material to take ten tricks in Hearts.  Now change the suit of all the red cards in the game.  That should be sufficient material to take ten tricks in Diamonds, but that's twenty points short of game.  Why?  The suit doesn't matter in a contract for six or for seven.

In a real game, a live partner would be playing North, and I'd be spectator.  East led a low red card, I don't recall which.  There would probably be an "oh, s*** moment" when the dummy for that hand, which is to say the South hand, was revealed.  That was my first look at the North hand, and my immediate thinking was, could I keep the lead and run four Spades, one each of the Hearts and Diamonds, and seven Clubs?  When the ♣J fell to the ♣K (after throwing the relevant red Ace on trick 1, I unleashed North with my ♣3, working up from Queen to King, then taking stock about how best to run the rest of the Clubs and toss the lead back and forth to run the high Spades) I was able to catch 'em all.

The  solitaire site offers four deals per round, and issues a ranking after the final four.  Something like top forty for the four including this example.  Again, past performance is no indicator of future results.  Not too long ago, the North bot made a Four Hearts contract with almost no heart support.  What do you do?

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREEWAY

Reason's Steven Greenhut gets an Instalanche for complaining, "After state lawmakers boosted the gas tax with a promise to improve California streets, some cities are upsetting drivers by spending millions on so-called 'road diet' projects that reduce the number of lanes for motor vehicles."

Yes, complaining about tax increases (or the corporate equivalent, always washed down with some spin about assuring better service) is a valid thing.

Read the article, though, and search in vain for any mention of the root cause of ruined roads.  "Roads are indeed a key to a society's greatness. But I'd add that any civilization that raises gas taxes and then reduces road lanes to purposefully increase traffic congestion is insane and probably living on borrowed time."  That's probably correct, and the purposeful narrowing of roads when it gives the impression of "officials, who want us to sit in traffic longer as a means to avoid accidents or frustrate us into taking the bus or rail," isn't going to win many friends or influence many people.

Spend all the increased tax revenue (if, in fact, there is any, or if it's just more reason for people to flee a tax hell) on road construction, though, and the net result will be additional years of construction delays, with the attendant congestion, and when it's all over, there will be no net reduction in congestion.  Not to mention, the tax revenue will be inadequate.  But until the people who Do Infrastructure recognize that the roads are scarce resources that can be allocated by price, they're going to be frustrated.

The good news: in the People's Republic of Wisconsin, the political unpopularity of raising the gasoline tax and increasing vehicle registration fees, as is transpiring in Illinois, is getting some radio pundits saying good things about tolling.  Yes, a lot of it is in the form of "stick it to the flatlanders" en route to Door County or the North Woods or to attempt to occupy Miller Park, but outcomes are more important than motives.

PUNCHING BACK, AT LEAST TWICE AS HARD.

Not too long ago, I asked that the hounds of hell be unleashed on Oberlin.
It's tempting to wish that they be occupied by the Russians, or sacked and pillaged by Ivar the Boneless.  But perhaps they ought to be let alone as the quintessence of clueless snowflakery.  Apparently, to the Obies, campus outreach means its the students' privilege to instruct their elders and harass the businesses that serve them.
The bakery the crazies harassed lawyered up.
Then in 2016, Black Lives Matter and a number of super-woke Oberlin students launched protests and a boycott against Gibson’s Bakery, a family-owned and run establishment that has been a fixture of downtown Oberlin since 1885. What prompted this? Gibson’s had the temerity to apprehend and charge three students with shoplifting (they later pled guilty), but because of the race of the offenders, the Oberlin College wokerati accused Gibson’s with racism, racial profiling, and probably genocide for all I know.

The Oberlin student Senate passed a resolution charging Gibson’s with “a long history of racial profiling,” and the Oberlin dean of students, Meredith Raimondo, endorsed and distributed the flyer. The college also discontinued purchasing baked goods from Gibsons, because you just can’t take the chance that you’ll cause literal pain or mental anguish to Oberlin students by procuring a bag of racist bear claws for the faculty lounge.

Gibson’s decided not to take this politically-motivated harassment lying down. They filed a libel and slander suit against Oberlin College, and yesterday a jury found for Gibson’s, ordering Oberlin to pay $11 million in compensatory damages. A punitive damages hearing will follow, so the total award could grow to over $30 million.

William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has a complete account of the background of the case and the legal drama that has played out. A news account quotes Jacobson: “The students eventually pleaded guilty, but not before large protests and boycotts intended to destroy the bakery and defame the owners. The jury appears to have accepted that Oberlin College facilitated the wrongful conduct against the bakery.”

Good for the Gibsons. Between lawsuits like this, and the mounting cost of settlements (now dozens if not hundreds) that colleges have had to pay out for violating the due process rights of students in ideologically-driven Title IX star chamber proceedings, maybe college administrators and trustees will start to wake up to the cost of wokeness. As Glenn Reynolds likes to say, “get woke, go broke.” More of this please.
It appears that when justice triumphs, Oberlin will do the expected thing and take an appeal.
We are disappointed with the verdict and regret that the jury did not agree with the clear evidence our team presented.

Neither Oberlin College nor Dean Meredith Raimondo defamed a local business or its owners, and they never endorsed statements made by others. Rather, the College and Dr. Raimondo worked to ensure that students’ freedom of speech was protected and that the student demonstrations were safe and lawful, and they attempted to help the plaintiffs repair any harm caused by the student protests.

As we have stated, colleges cannot be held liable for the independent actions of their students. Institutions of higher education are obligated to protect freedom of speech on their campuses and respect their students’ decision to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights. Oberlin College acted in accordance with these obligations.

While we are disappointed with the outcome, Oberlin College wishes to thank the members of the jury for their attention and dedication during this lengthy trial. They contributed a great deal of time and effort to this case, and we appreciate their commitment.

Our team will review the jury’s verdict and determine how to move forward.
Read this, and ask yourself how committed Oberlin College is to protecting freedom of speech on campus.  Yes, I know it's not relevant to the case at bar.  It is indicative of the state of mind that would lead Obies to protest, and their administrators to enable, the mau-mauing of a business for daring to call a shop-lifter a shop-lifter.

NOW THEY'VE DONE IT.

It's more convenient for Amtrak and the Boston and Albany, er, CSX, to channel their inner Penn Central and run a bus service in substitution for the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited.

Sometimes, the trip goes on, as the O Scale convention is going to take place, whether the train goes to Worcester or not.  On a more recent trip, I scheduled a research trip to Boston for days when I knew the train would be running, and that time, at least, it did.

It's summer, and somehow, Penn Central or whoever it is still has to do enough work on the Worcester and Western that the passenger trains can't go through.  That's more than enough for Passenger Rail advocate Jim Loomis.
On my way home from London in July, I’m flying into Boston and had planned to take Amtrak all the way back to the West Coast from there. Specifically, I had booked the Lake Shore Limited from Boston to Chicago, connecting there with the California Zephyr to Emeryville.

Alas, it was not to be. The Boston-to-Albany section of the Lake Shore has been cancelled because of extensive track work and instead of a lovely relaxing train ride through the Berkshires  to Albany, I was suddenly facing five-plus hours in a bus.

The same thing happened to me two years ago, but this time there’s no dining car on the train. And so I went on line, cancelled the Lake Shore Limited, and booked a mid-day flight from Boston to Chicago.

And it was only after the transaction was completed that I realized the significance of what had just happened: a passionate advocate for train travel had cancelled an overnight train ride and booked a three-hour flight instead. This would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

But through their relentless cost-cutting, Amtrak’s management has chipped away at the many pleasures, large and small, of overnight train travel. And now what is for me the most enjoyable experience of them all is no longer being offered by this train. Instead of having dinner with three fellow passengers, I was reduced to what Amtrak calls “contemporary dining”, a meal prepared at some off-site location, put aboard the train in Albany, and delivered to my roomette in a cardboard box.

I don’t know if the vice-president-in-charge-of-nickels-and-dimes thought we wouldn’t care, but for me that’s what made the difference.

And I’m flying to Chicago.
That superintendentlet in charge of nickels and dimes would probably spin the situation as "be grateful your arch deluxe boxed lunch is delivered to your roomette, sparing you the walk through all the coaches back to the sleeper originating at Boston."  I believe, though, that Mr Loomis had previously booked business class Boston to Rensselaer and a sleeper in the New York section onward to Chicago, avoiding that hike.

AN UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCE?

Cartoonist Steve Kelley comments on D-Day plus 75 years.



Perhaps we will celebrate the recognition that there are precious few common purposes to unite around, and that the Washington of Dr. New Deal and Dr. Win the War ought not be looked to for guidance on everything else.
It has been my hope that someone will run for president with the objective of lowering expectations: no longer Chief Operating Officer of The Economy and Commander in Chief of the Free World and Father Confessor and Keeper of the Down Pillows. Perhaps, though, the leading indicator will be from the press, in the form of one of the Sunday shows returning to a studio in New York City, or even Los Angeles, rather than Washington, or, more encouragingly, setting up in Chicago.
I've been fighting it out on this line for more than one summer, but so far, I have not been persuaded not to keep fighting.  "The beginning of wisdom is the recognition that, perhaps, Washington, as a source of the problem, might be able to help fix the problem by offering to, oh, scale back some of its efforts."  Emergence is messy, and not subject to the enlightened efforts of Supreme Commanders or Mission Control.

That is all.

SOME ADVICE TO THE SELF-STYLED PROGRESSIVES.

Peter Oborne pens some lines that I wouldn't expect to see in Common Dreams.
The supposed threat of Islam to the West is a myth.

Millions of Muslims have settled in the West to enjoy the benefits of Western life, and to contribute as workers, entrepreneurs and citizens.

Millions more are campaigning for the best of Western values: freedom of thought and expression, the rule of law, and equality of opportunity, in the face of obscurantism.
Free minds, free markets, emergence, assimilation, anyone?

He continues,
Yet, the latest spectacle of the meeting between Aung San Suu Kyi and Orban should act as an important reminder of the monstrous threat posed to Muslims around the world.  If anyone is under threat it’s the Rohingya in Myanmar, the Muslim migrants in Hungary, and the hundreds of thousands of Uighurs still being held in detention camps.
That's a case for limiting the role of government, and dialing back the boutique multiculturalism that's OK with veiling women and other not-exactly-Enlightenment cultural practices in the name of authenticity.

A QUESTION FOR OUR TIME.

Tyler Cowen, who we recently saw endorsing centrist cosmopolitanism (whatever that means) now weighs in on the recently released Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back-Row America.  "Is it more or less condescending to hold the poor to high standards?"

I strongly suspect that the genre of Discovering The Lumpenproletariat suffers from a serious Excluded Middle Fallacy, in which whoever is Not of the Cosmopolitans is to be written off as Deplorable, or otherwise Lost and In Need of Guidance.

That noted, dear reader, it is never an error to note that we've learned a few things in four to six thousand years that might benefit Cosmopolitan and Deplorable alike.

6.6.19

ENJOYING FREEDOM AND INHERITING PEACE.

On D-Day, Dwight Eisenhower was General in Command and Walter Cronkite was a war correspondent.  (He had some interesting stories to tell.  Do your own research.)

Twenty years after the Normandy landings, the general was President Emeritus, and the correspondent fancied that he could tell people "that's the way it is."  They took a stroll through  the Normandy American Cemetery.


Yes, the television news footage from remote locations was still in black and white, and sometimes still footage.

In the lands set free, the descendants of the people who were liberated (which did not come easy either for the landing forces or for the residents) still get it.  "If you’re ever fortunate enough to make this trip to see these places, a pride and awe of the United States will wash over you that is overwhelming, awe inspiring, and often tear jerking." Indeed.

That is all.

5.6.19

THE HOUR OF YOUR LIBERATION IS APPROACHING.

Three score and fifteen years ago.



It turned out well.  Imagine an international order, fractured or not, with the Warsaw Pact in Denmark and perhaps as far west as the Pyrenees.

4.6.19

AN EMPIRE WITHOUT HOPE.

Thirty years ago, the Chinese government suppressed what they perceived as a rebellion.


I probably just got Cold Spring Shops blocked on the mainland, although with residents of Hong Kong still free to hold commemorations, the word about what the newest rulers of the Middle Kingdom have done will get out.  "Remember the Tiananmen Square massacre. Remember the thousands who died. And know that, despite all the economic progress and the glitz of their cities, China’s people are still shackled, so long as the Communist Party controls their lives." Do the Party bosses really think that a one-child policy leading to millions of men fighting over the few women of reproductive age and a reservations policy that makes Sheridan and Custer look like good guys and a trade policy that bets on the Western world looking the other way at the theft of intellectual property will turn out well?
The United States, Europe, and our democratic allies in Asia have on balance assets that all but ensure a winning hand, given a modicum of coordination and resolve. We need to rewrite the rules to ensure that market access does not continue to favor Beijing’s predatory policies, that China’s access to our educational and research institutions does not give it an unfair advantage, and that our values and our intellectual property laws are respected. The West has ample resources to stop China’s rise. What has been missing is a clear-headed diagnosis of the problem and the political will to craft and implement a solution.
The most valuable resource might be disaffected Chinese, particularly as they come to the conclusion that it is their government, supposedly ruling in their interest, that is keeping those young men involuntarily chaste and building those ghost towns in the desert and running latter-day gulags rather than securing the rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and all the other things that have to get back to the mainland from all those expatriates paying full fare to attend U.S. universities.

NOW DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE FACULTY MORALE.

Quick, name the country's winningest Division I college football teams.  "During the past decade, few programs have produced the same level of success as Northern Illinois. The Huskies have won more games (93) than blue blood powers Notre Dame (87), Penn State (87) and USC (87) during the same period."  Yes, and now Northern Illinois will play under the gaze of Touchdown Jesus in 2024.  In the upcoming season, there will be all of five home games, only two of which are on Saturdays.  Did I mention the faculty recently voted for union representation?

SEEKING A POSITIVE MESSAGE.

David Brooks suggests that the coming demographic transition (the coalition of the ascendant, if you will) brings a serious generation gap in attitudes with it.
[Younger voters] have constructed an ethos that is mostly about dealing with difference. They are much more sympathetic to those who identify as transgender. They are much more likely than other groups to say that racial discrimination is the main barrier to black progress. They are much less likely to say the U.S. is the best country in the world.

These days the Republican Party looks like a direct reaction against this ethos — against immigration, against diversity, against pluralism. Moreover, conservative thought seems to be getting less relevant to the America that is coming into being.
Republican, and conservative, pundits have solid arguments against those claims of discrimination or misplaced national pride. Mr Brooks appears to be suggesting that they're not making those arguments.
The most burning question for conservatives should be: What do we have to say to young adults and about the diverse world they are living in? Instead, conservative intellectuals seem hellbent on taking their 12 percent share among the young and turning it to 3.

There is a conservative way to embrace pluralism and diversity. It’s to point out that there is a deep strain of pessimism in progressive multiculturalism: blacks and whites will never really understand each other; racism is endemic; the American project is fatally flawed; American structures are so oppressive, the only option is to burn them down.

A better multiculturalism would be optimistic: We can communicate across difference; the American creed is the right recipe for a thick and respectful pluralism; American structures are basically sound and can be realistically reformed.
If that sounds a lot like the past couple of years on Cold Spring Shops, it should.  I don't care if the same ideas have occurred to me as to Mr Brooks or to if one of his stringers is finding some of this stuff, as long as the ideas get out and get purchase.

Paul Gottfried puts the case more bluntly.  "Until Republicans decide to act strategically and stop relying on the same old tropes that get them nowhere, in election after election, they will continue to lose." What, though, are the new ideas?

With the identity-politics projects wrecking schools and doing little to inculcate empathy in people who supposedly have privilege, there's an opportunity for public intellectuals of a more traditionalist bent to put forth a positive alternative.

The time is right.  Improved technologies have brought forth greater freedom and greater opportunity, but those didn't come for free, notes Kay Hymowitz.
As societies became richer and goods cheaper and more plentiful, people no longer had to rely on traditional families to afford basic needs like food and shelter. They could look up the Maslovian ladder toward “post-material” goods: self-fulfillment, exotic and erotic experiences, expressive work, education. Values changed to facilitate these goals. People in wealthy countries became more antiauthoritarian, more critical of traditional rules and roles, and more dedicated to individual expression and choice. With the help of the birth-control pill, “non-conventional household formation” (divorce, remarriage, cohabitation, and single parenthood) went from uncommon—for some, even shameful—to mundane.
No more Malthusian traps, no more being bound to the same career path as uncounted generations before you. But perhaps, no neighborhoods either.
[K]inship has been the most powerful glue of human groups since Homo sapiens first discovered the mother-in-law. Evolutionary psychologists have a compelling theory about why: humans practiced “reciprocal altruism” in relation to kin because they had a stake in the reproductive success of their genetic relations. Even evolutionary-psychology skeptics, though, might notice that though marriage has shape-shifted over the centuries and across cultures, it has always defined those people—spouses, parents, children, grandparents, siblings, in-laws—to whom we owe special attention and mutual protection. That would explain why cohabiting couples, even those with children, don’t have the same support from extended family as married couples with children. Marriage creates kin; cohabitation does not.
There's some evolutionary advantage in forming extended families, perhaps? But -- and again, I repeat myself -- what appears to have trickled down from bourgeois bohemians enjoying their greater freedoms messed over people less well situated.
Throughout the Western world, wealthier, more educated parents tend more often to be married before they have children, and to stay married, than do their less advantaged fellow citizens. Their children benefit not just from their parents’ financial advantages, with all the computer camps and dance lessons that a flush checking account can buy, but from the familiar routines and predictable households that seem to help the young figure out the complex world they’ll be entering. The children of lower-income, less educated parents, by contrast, are more likely to see their married parents divorce or their cohabiting parents separate, and then to have to readjust to the strangers—stepparents, boyfriends or girlfriends, step- or half-siblings—who come into their lives. Some children will be introduced to a succession of newcomers as their parents divorce or separate a second or even third time.

Why, after the transition, did the rich continue to have reasonably stable and predictable domestic lives while the working class and poor stumbled onto what family scholar Andrew Cherlin calls the “marriage-go-round”? Observers typically point to deindustrialization and the loss of stable, decent-paying low-skilled jobs for men. True enough. A jobless man, especially one without a high school diploma, is no one’s idea of a good catch. But there’s more to the marriage gap than that. While the loosening of traditional rules gave women freedom to leave violent or cruel husbands, it also changed the cultural environment for couples trying to weather less dangerous stresses and disappointments, including a pink slip. Lower-income men and women are bound to have more financial anxieties, more work accidents, and more broken-down cars and evictions, and they lack the funds for Disneyland vacations, massages, and psychotherapists that might take some of the edge off a struggling marriage. And they see few, if any, long-term married couples who could offer a successful model. With single parenthood and cohabitation both on the lifestyle menu, what they see instead is an easy out.

When so many marriages melt into thin air, lower-income kin networks, a source of job connections, child care, and family meals, attenuate as well. Your mother’s sister’s husband—your uncle by marriage—might give you a tip about a job opening at a local machine shop; an uncle separated from your aunt and living with a girlfriend with her own kids in the next town over, maybe not.
There's a lot more at her article. It is her concluding remark, "There also must be what Tom Wolfe called a 'Great Re-learning' about how to satisfy the human longing for continuity and connection," that I wish to extend.  I start with a Rod Dreher essay that's weighing in on some argument among secular and religious conservatives that's just more Mueller report while the levees are bursting as far as I'm concerned, but in the midst of that commentary, he offers this.  "We also can’t be under the illusion that changing political leadership is sufficient to address the crisis. It may be necessary, but it is not remotely sufficient."  He suggested that the focus of most of the punditry on politics and the presidency was a symptom of a deeper problem.  "[David] Brooks’s frustration is born of the failures of that class."

Also in The American Conservative comes J. D. (Hillbilly Elegy) Vance, looking for principles that work.
I have been criticized from the Right for writing a book that if taken to its logical conclusions, would lead to a lot of big government programs, and I’ve been criticized from the Left for writing a libertarian small-government manifesto. And I don’t totally know what that means, maybe I’m just not a very good writer.

But what I think it means is that I was and continue to struggle with this idea of where does personal responsibility interact with the responsibility of politics in the broader society?
He is looking for ways for people to find meaning without having to take on Great Responsibilities.
That’s the American dream that is in crisis, and that’s the American dream that is shared by so many people across the broad middle of the country. It is not the American dream of the strivers, it is the American dream of a fulfilled and happy and simple, but I think a very pure and very decent life. And that is, in my view, what is most in crisis in our country today, and that’s something that we conservatives have to fight for and we have to defend.
He hasn't offered any specifics. Perhaps that will be the next step. "The reality of blue model decline is so obvious that nobody can ignore it any longer."

The resurgence, however, might also be emergent.  One extended-family Sunday supper at a time.
Francis Caiazza misses his family dinners terribly. “It’s difficult because my children are scattered all over the country, I have one grandson in Duquesne University here and the rest of my grandchildren and children are in New York, Ohio, and Florida,” said the retired federal magistrate judge.

“It starts with the family. When you don't have a family, you have no community. I see the effects, especially with younger kids, drug issues and what have you. It's sad, it's really sad, when you don’t have a family you don’t have community.”
In the story, it's a Pittsburgh cafe owner who invited the neighbors in, and it worked.

PEDESTRIANS ARE ADVISED NOT TO TRESPASS UPON THE RAILWAY.

School principals claim they are role models.  Playing the role of squished trespasser isn't in the job description.  "The principal of St. John's Catholic Elementary School has been charged after video surfaced of people taking photos of students while standing on train tracks at the GO station in Kitchener as a train pulled in."  "GO" refers to the Toronto area Commuter Rail Operator, Government of Ontario Transit.

The good news is that no school teachers, parent volunteers, or students became roadkill in the production of this teachable moment.

Expect train movements at any time, on any track, in either direction.

PUT THE PUNDIT CLASS ON HALF RATIONS.

Columnist S. E. Cupp contemplates the fine line between corporate virtue signalling and corporate stupidity.  "The message to corporate America, entertainment media and even Hollywood isn’t that social issues shouldn’t matter — it’s that politics shouldn’t overtake the experience of watching sports, buying a cup of coffee or eating a hamburger."

The message to the pundit class is that it's boring people with its endless process worship.  Take the most recent Sunday morning on the opinion shows.  Another disgruntled employee shoots up an office: because he had a suppressor on his pistol, now banning "silencers" (as the weenies who have watched too many spy flicks have it) becomes a thing and "what can the president do?" becomes the question.  That is, before chewing over the next iteration of the investigation of the Mueller investigation.  I'm beginning to think the reason none of the pundits tackle the role of mental health in these shootings is that to take seriously the idea that there are crazy people who ought be locked away might lead to a few pundits being committed, perhaps after the notion of gender-fluidity gets investigated.

There was nothing about the weather.  No rallies snowed out in the big coastal cities, no Nationals or Dodgers games rained out, you see.  It wasn't news that several levees along the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers have failed, and barge traffic is slowed, and rail traffic disrupted, because of the flooding.  You'd think the Weather Gods were conspiring with Amtrak to gut Amtrak's national network.

Between the winter weather, with March roaring like a lion well into April, and the April showers falling well into May, less than two-thirds of the national corn crop and just over half of the national soybean crop is in the ground.  Perhaps the pundit class will volunteer to waive the ethanol mandate, just for one year.  In addition, there are things we can not do for all the pigs in China.  "All over the country people want answers, and they are frustrated with the lack of information that they are getting from the mainstream media."

Indeed.

AN EMPIRE LOST HOPE.

Early in the morning of 4 June, 1942 (Hawaiian time) the Imperial Japanese Navy was preparing to lure what was left of the United States Navy out for a decisive battle.  By mid-morning, the Japanese First Carrier Striking Force was a wreck, and the Pacific War had become a battle of attrition.