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


In Conservative Insurgency, Kurt Schlichter contemplates how eight years of Hillary Clinton excess leads to a restoration of constitutional principles, relatively peacefully.  But that doesn't give him much opportunity to write an action thriller with police chases and insurgency and counterinsurgency tactics or Tom Clancy stuff.  So he wrote People's Republic, in which an unspecified number of years of Hillary Clinton excess leads to a messy secession.

Book Review No. 22 suggests it's an opportunity for the Tom Clancy stuff, plus a chance to have some fun at the expense of "a bunch of useless college professors, untalented artists, moronic movie stars, and San Francisco chardonnay sippers who think they can personally run every aspect of a country when they know absolutely nothing."  That's from chapter 14, read it yourself to find out who said it.  Or perhaps there's a more substantive message: the only thing more hazardous to dispossessed communities of color than a professional police force is a politically reliable police force, that goes Chekist when Comrade Nyetnyev says so.

Most of the action takes place in California, which, in the way of third world hell-holes everywhere, is carefully guarded gated communities surrounded by misery.  With revolution simmering.  The idea of California turning into some sort of Third World experience does turn up in other works, with different focuses, and it's the perfect foil for the overweening identity politics and polymorphous perversity that Mr Schlichter revels in sending up.  And the story is about the Tom Clancy stuff.

Thus, the railroader in me, or perhaps Mr Schlichter's quartermaster, have to imagine what is going on elsewhere in the People's Republic of North America.  The text refers to a border conflict going on north of the Ohio River.  But I have to contemplate the Twin Cities, Madison, and Milwaukee, islands of appletini sippers and food-stamp recipients in the middle of hunt country (recall, yeomen with deer rifles, not toffs with hounds), or Cleveland and Chicago, which could be blockaded easily enough, particularly if the Cubs and the Indians revert to form and the Bears and Browns (would there be either Indians or Browns in Cleveland?) continue to do badly.  Chicago itself is already taking on aspects of that gated community, anyway?  I anticipated this part.
The elite live east of Wrigleyville or along the lake or near the Magnificent Mile or the Loop, including, for whatever it's worth, in Chicago's Trump Tower. Go south from Wrigleyville to Printers Row in the South Loop, and east to the lake, you have what, fifteen square miles of privilege surrounded by the Third World. How long can the Democratic part of that bicoastal, bipartisan elite sustain that coalition?
Perhaps, though, with Mr Trump winning, the talk of a separation, amicable or not, will originate on the coasts.  I hope it's all in fun.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)


Photographer Neil Zeller, in the service of Canadian Pacific, obtaining scenic and human interest photographs of the Canadian edition of the Holiday Train.  Too many good pictures to tease you with only one.  Just go, enjoy, and envy the photographer who can enlist Montreal's help when there's a really good photo opportunity.  "OK, can you please relay to them that I was brought out here specifically by CP Rail to capture this shot, on this bridge, on this night, and there is only one chance for this shot and it must be at a very slow crawl or a dead stop." Just go there. I'll wait.


It might be the case that Mr Trump's recent deal with Carrier (which involves the kind of state tax incentives governors such as incoming vice president Mike Pence more frequently make with renegade sports teams) is of greater importance symbolically (the political class talks of the global economy and offers job training, the people who get the retraining lose ground) than substantively.

But in a public radio interview featuring former commerce secretary Don Evans and George Mason's Tyler "Marginal Revolution" Cowen, Arnold Kling sees a way to get people thinking about the limits of state action.  It might be that some people object to the Carrier accord because they want Mr Trump to fail.  There's not much one can do with that argument.  But there are several principled objections to the accord, including this.
They do not agree that keeping this plant in Indiana served a compelling and long-standing public purpose. They might even understand that we have an economy in which free trade ultimately is what serves the public purpose.
But where the public purpose comes by way of a mandate, you might get this, referring to what must be bundled in company insurance policies these days.
Progressives believe that contraception coverage is important. However, if you took a vote, I bet that more people would prioritize “keeping jobs in America” than having contraception coverage in health insurance. It seems to me that the “compelling and long-standing public purpose” argument would be a stretch.
Thus, freer trade in company health benefits, or in job contracts, such that Hobby Lobby might be able to compete for workers on different margins?
As a libertarian, I do not believe that “keeping plants in America” should be a goal for public policy. I believe instead in patterns of sustainable specialization and trade, which includes making efficient use of labor and other resources from other countries. I also believe that contraception coverage is something that should be negotiated between individual households and health insurance providers.
Politics, however, is not for purists, and John Cochrane sees a possible tempering of practicality with principle ahead.
Yes, presidential politics is not ivory tower economics, and occasionally Presidents have to do something abjectly wrong to garner support for a greater purpose. It's a delicate and dangerous act though -- if this is where we're going, early in an administration is the best time to do some hard things, set in motion policies that actually work, set a high bar against demands for cronyist payouts, and trust that four years of good policy will pay off.

The best hope in this direction is for the President to score some points, and for a loud chorus of serious policy people, from left and right, to denounce any more moves in this direction. This is exactly what has happened. Really, it gives one great hope that just about every commentator left and right says this is not the way to go.
Better, still, that the discussion of crony capitalism and industrial policy begins before the inauguration.


Football team owners who focus on the short-term might underachieve relative to owners and managers who understand a division of responsibility.  Consider the Green Bay Packers, a team that does not have an ego-tripping owner in the first place.  The absence of such an owner has become a sore point for fans, as the team performed badly in November, and perhaps the spectre of a Donald Trump - like "you're fired" approach was on their minds.
[The Packers] don’t have a majority owner who can shake things up and put fear into everyone in the organization by walking into the building and firing someone on the football staff in midseason.

Anyone who believes that’s the Packers’ problem this season has a fundamental misunderstanding of the hierarchy and management structure that has made them the NFL’s second-winningest franchise since 1992. Their .631 winning percentage is behind only New England’s .650 in that time.

For starters, the Packers have a definitive hierarchy even if they don’t have a single owner.
Many Packer fans may be frustrated, because the Patriots seem to get to the Super Bowl more frequently, and there are still the memories of five titles in seven years with Vince Lombardi.

It is to the business organization, however, that I wish to speak.
Most importantly, it puts football decisions in the hands of people trained in football. The GM sinks or swims based on the team’s performance, and the hierarchy is clearly defined: The president hires and fires the GM, and the GM hires and fires the coach.

The president's and executive committee’s expertise is in the business world, or in Murphy’s case athletics administration and NFL business matters, not in building a football team. They don’t tell the GM how to run the club. If the president doesn’t like the way football is going, he can fire the GM.  But he and the committee are not involved in actual football decisions, and rightly so.
Specialization, division of labor, span of control. So far, so good. Better: no cult of the disruptive CEO.
The separation of authority also has served a second purpose: It has made the Packers’ GM job – and by extension, coaching and scouting in the organization – one of  the most attractive in the league.

If you’re the Packers’ GM, you can run the organization your way, with minimal interference from your boss. You succeed or fail based on your decisions, not decisions forced on you from above. And because the team doesn’t have an owner siphoning off profits for his own enrichment, all the money the franchise makes goes back into football. The Packers are among the best-resourced teams in the league.
More to the point, there's no short-termism. (Because of the way the league allocates resources, and because each team confronts a salary cap, loading up on marquee free agents for a Super Bowl run depletes capital. The marquee players get hurt, or the team doesn't get to the big game?)
So teams with a majority owner can be patient, even if it’s the exception, not the rule. And it’s worth noting that [Pittsburgh's] Rooneys are among the few owners in the league whose primary business is football.

As for the Packers, [Ron] Wolf or [Ted] Thompson has been the GM for 21 of the last 25 seasons. Their scouting system and staff have been stable, and they’ve had only four head coaches over that time.

To be clear, this isn’t an argument for the Packers to do nothing this offseason. The season needs to play out before we weigh in on that.

But the Packers have a structure in place to make changes. [Head coach Mike] McCarthy can fire any assistant coach at any time. Thompson can fire McCarthy at any time. And ditto for [president Mike] Murphy with Thompson.
Patience: something investment managers and corporate leaders, particularly in capital-intensive businesses might consider.


The heirs to Leon Trotsky find Black Lives Matter deficient therein.
Black Lives Matter feels betrayed by “white people.” But the organization and the social layers for which it speaks, for all their denunciations of Trump, also see in his election a potential opportunity. They are prepared to accommodate themselves to the new regime so long as they get a cut of the spoils from Trump’s austerity policies.

In an interview with the online news site Quartz, published the very day Black Lives Matter issued its statement on Trump’s election, November 15, spokeswoman and co-founder Patrisse Cullors declared, “This is an opportunity to imagine a black future that we’ve never imagined before.”
You may not be interested in the class struggle, comrade. But the class struggle is interested in you.
The claim that American society is based on white supremacy, widely promoted by academics and purveyors of “critical race theory,” is radically at odds with reality. Black Lives Matter and similar organizations, as well as the various pseudo-left organizations that promote them, never provide a serious answer to a simple question: How could a white supremacist society elect an African-American as president—twice?

In fact, the American ruling elite has over a period of decades increasingly made use of the politics of race, gender and sexual orientation to divert attention from the fundamental class divide in society and the immense growth of economic inequality. It has, by means of programs such as affirmative action, promoted into political office, corporate administration and the media a privileged upper layer within the African-American and Latino populations and among women to defend the profit system and the capitalist state. The Democratic Party has become the political vehicle for this type of politics, even as it has repudiated social reform policies and linked itself more directly to Wall Street and the military/intelligence apparatus.
The first paragraph echoes a talking point also popular on the right, where the counties that flipped from Obama to Trump get a lot of play. The second, well, it's a gripe that goes back at least as far as the New Deal ("Reform if you would preserve," saith Franklin D.) But catch that dig at affirmative action. They say "privileged upper layer."  I say "asterisk."  We concur: the policy is symbolic, not substantive.
The vast majority of workers and low-income people who voted for Trump were not voting for anti-black racism, war or authoritarianism. They voted for Trump to protest a political establishment in both big business parties that has presided over the devastation of jobs and living standards and a colossal growth of economic inequality. A breakdown of the vote shows that there was no “surge” of white working class votes for Trump, but rather a mass abstention in which the collapse in turnout among traditional Democratic voters—including black, Hispanic and young voters—predominated.
Bring on the Fourth Turning. Or the final fatal crisis of capitalism.
Black Lives Matter is incapable of identifying any objective basis for the unification of working people and youth of all races. In fact, it opposes such a struggle, because it defends the capitalist status quo.
Perhaps, although petit-bourgeois elements operating convenience stores, nail salons, and taverns might view the trashings and burnings of such establishments as something other than status quo.


That's current Northern Illinois basketball captain and Army ROTC Cadet Ally Lehman.
Lehman, the first student-athlete to go through the ROTC program at NIU, was competing for active-duty, but it wasn’t guaranteed she would receive the opportunity. She was panicking, texting her friends to have chocolate ready because she was going to eat away her emotions if things didn’t work out.

Once Lehman was in [lieutenant colonel Jerome] Morrison’s office, Morrison jokingly asked her about her resume for a civilian career—a career outside of the Army for Army Reserves and the National Guard. If Lehman didn’t receive active-duty, she would go to the Army Reserves to try and play basketball overseas, but she didn’t have to worry about that because Morrison informed Lehman she would be going active-duty. Lehman responded by jumping up and high-fiving Morrison, although Morrison was unsure whether he was going to be receiving a high-five or a punch as he said Lehman can be a bit intimidating.
She screened for infantry.
Going active-duty has made all of the training's, practices, and mornings where she questioned waking up worthwhile for Lehman.

As of right now, she would love to be in the Army for the rest of her life. She wants to be a barrier breaker for females in a society that tells females they can’t handle the same things as men.

In the Occupational Physical Assessment Test taken over the summer, Lehman scored as the number one female in her company—there are four different platoons in a company and each platoon had 40-60 cadets.

She also finished above some of her male peers.

“I want to show women that it is possible,” Lehman said. “I want to show men that we can hang with them any day.”
Stay safe.



During the Festive Season, the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train does its part to help food pantries in stressed areas.

We have followed its travels, along the Route of the Hiawatha at Gurnee and Sturtevant, and along former Milwaukee Road metals that have returned to the Canadian Pacific fold at Pingree Grove.  The next stop west of Pingree Grove is Byron, where The Milwaukee Road crossed the Chicago Great Western.  The train is on a day schedule through Illinois to Savanna, where it will get onto the old Dubuque Division for Marquette.

The crossing protection is deactivated in order that the bells not overwhelm the music.  Local law enforcement keeps spectators back from the tracks.  How many different types of diesel prowl the rails as a GP20, which is Canadian Pacific's designation for this rebuild.

The title cars, with the lighting doing what it can to dispel the midday gloom.  Overcast, but no snow.  The track protected by the derail is the old Chicago Great Western, which, in addition to serving the nuclear power plant east of the Rock River, features a respectable number of in-town industrial spurs.

A little work in the darkroom, er, computer, and the lighting shines through on this box car.

What it's about ... the train called at a crossing hard by the high school and one of the elementary schools, at lunchtime, and the kindergarteners walking to trackside behind had a successful food drive, if the hampers their teachers were carrying was any indication.  The local food bank left with a fully-loaded pickup truck.  The preschoolers got their fresh air, and more than a few of them brought canned goods.

A concert by Kelly Prescott and Colin James, and Canadian Pacific officials presenting a check to Byron officials.

Time to go.  Business car Strathcona carries the markers, and Santa.


Barack Obama, however, does.
I think that part of it has to do with our inability, our failure, to reach those voters effectively. Part of it is Fox News in every bar and restaurant in big chunks of the country, but part of it is also Democrats not working at a grassroots level, being in there, showing up, making arguments. That part of the critique of the Democratic Party is accurate. We spend a lot of time focused on international policy and national policy and less time being on the ground. And when we’re on the ground, we do well.
But where were those Democrat operatives?  Those arguments play well with 22 year old Ivy League types, but 22 year old Ivy League types turn off much of the rest of the country.

Rush Limbaugh has some fun with Mr Obama giving this scoop to ... Rolling Stone?
Can you imagine how he feels? His ego will probably not allow him to feel as a normal person would feel, but if his ego and his narcissism were not such he would feel really small and irrelevant right now and he would be questioning what his whole value the last eight years was for because it's all coming undone. It's all in the process already of being unraveled. But more than that, Barack Obama is the reason his party lost. I'm not trying to take Trump out of the equation.

Trump is definitely part of it. But Obama's agenda -- policy agenda, substantive agenda -- was repudiated. It was sent packing. This was an election that was ideological. People are trying to tell you it was a change election or it was anything but an issues election. "Eh, people are just tired. You know, they wanted a new face. They wanted a change of direction." No, no, no, no. This was a direct repudiation, because it's a continuation. In 2008, Obama wins. But in 2010 when the midterms come, the first wave of massive Democrat defeats occurs. The next wave was the 2014 midterms, and then this election, last November.
But the Democrat leadership retreats to its bunker.

Megyn Kelly is still with Fox News, rumors of a career move or not, and she's not having any of Mr Obama's whining.

I'm reminded of Harry S. Truman's "I didn't give them hell. I told the truth and they thought it was hell."  Aloha, Obama.



What the rulers of a Mickey Mouse system used to look like.

What the Democrat House leadership looks like.

"We have to pass the bill to find out what's in it."

The people found out, and their caucus is much-shrunken compared to the early days of Hope and Change.

But the Democrat Caucus, in its wisdom, renewed their contracts.  "The top three Democrats in leadership in the House are 76 (Nancy Pelosi), 77 (Steny Hoyer) and 76 (Jim Clyburn). The average age of the Democratic Party leadership is 76."

Why not.  As Young Democrats, these three were likely caught up in the cult of the New Deal.  The people have changed over the years, but the cliches, and the faith in Governance by Wise Experts, is still the same.


Maggie Gallagher, in National Review.  "Trump may seem to us to represent a decline in family values and sexual standards. But for many of our fellow Americans, mired in economic stagnation and sexual chaos, he represents an unattainable ideal, rather than a problem."  Plus a link to peer-reviewed social science.  "If there are dynamic complementarities between early and later investments in children, high-resource men and women may respond to rising returns to human capital by using marriage as a commitment device that supports childrearing as a joint investment project. The uncertain economic prospects of the less-educated may discourage them from doing so."  But the children growing up in those splintery less-educated households get less external support, in the form of bourgeois social norms, than they did back when the conventional wisdom was "the rich get richer and the poor get children."


The second day of December was a dig-out day.

That's the old Cold Spring Shops headquarters.  Plans for the relocation were already under way.

The snow mostly melted in the following two weeks.



Book Review No. 21 is Wesley Lowery's They Can't Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America's Racial Justice Movement.  Mr Lowery is one of the reporters who was detained by Ferguson, Missouri police while using his laptop computer to file a story in a McDonald's that local officials wanted cleared of loiterers.  And thus did his beat become the coverage of stories of the protests that followed police shootings of black people in a variety of cities.

The story, and the reporter, and the national mood, all might induce a writer to polemical fits.  They Can't Kill Us All does anything but that: we begin with straightforward reporting: the analysis, if that's even the right word, doesn't begin until the reader is a hundred pages in.  And that, ultimately, is straightforward.  From page 190:  "For most of the year after Michael Brown's death, my reporting focused on policing policy -- tactics, training, best practices, and reform -- with race serving as an ever-present subplot.  My goal was and is to pull back the veil over a profession that had become among the least accessible and least transparent corners of government."  The protests after the police shootings?  Might it simply be people pushed too far, for too long?  Page 195: "Who is a perfect victim?  Michael Brown?  Kajeme Powell?  Eric Garner?  Sandra Bland?  Freddie Gray?  Young activists reframed the question: Does it matter?"

The social science?  Left to others.  Police behaving as an occupying army?  That's one perception.  It's also an opportunity for further research.  Financially strapped suburbs shaking poor people down with all sorts of niggling fines (a Strong Towns theme)?  Hinted at, not of immediate relevance to the story.  Maryland, particularly Baltimore,  being ruined by Democrats?  See page 141, but don't read too much into it.

Understand this much, dear reader: what began with abolition and continued with voting rights is not yet done.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)


The council of elders at Heterodox Academy raise a principled objection to the new Professor Watchlist.  "Rather than seeking to discourage certain voices on campus, we think the better approach is to encourage a variety of voices—heterodox voices—so that bad arguments can be answered with good ones and scholarly ideas can be tested by the strongest minds on both sides."  Yes, but as I cautioned in noting the social necessity of the list, "The enemies list exists, dear reader, because there are faculty members less conscientious, or perhaps so marinated in the culture-studies hothouses that they can't advance a monarchist or fascist or Marxist argument with any coherence."

That, loosely, is the perspective of Psychology Today's conservative social psychologist, Robert D. Mather.
I agree with the Heterodox Academy that such a watchlist does not facilitate collegial discourse. Indeed, this watchlist is a response to events such as the bias response teams and trigger warnings that have covered many campuses and predominantly silenced conservative but not liberal discourse. For conservative students, speaking in class already registers you on the informal watchlist in the predominantly liberal academy. For conservative professors, offering their perspective does the same. The idea of a watchlist is similar to the informal blacklisting that occurs for conservative faculty. While there may be unpleasant implications of a Professor Watchlist for liberal professors who stifle viewpoint diversity, free speech is a double edged sword and conservative professors have felt the sharp edge of blacklisted ideology for many years.
Or, perhaps, it's simple unfamiliarity with the counter arguments that leads to Tenured Radicals Behaving Badly.  I'll give Rod Dreher the final words.  "The fact that Professor Watchlist exists, and that there is an actual need for it, is evidence of a profound institutional failure, and a failure of trust."  He backs that up, with additional evidence and commentary.  Do go there.


That is, when they could buy additional representation in Congress, and the additional electoral votes, at the exchange rate of three proxies for the price of five slaves.  But today, when the proxies are clustered in places like Chicago, Baltimore, and big cities in California, New York, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, the Democrats occasionally find themselves losing a presidential election despite massive turnout by their proxies in the safest states (California, Illinois, and New York: I'm looking at you.)

Thus, we get a switch from Donald J. Trump complaining about a rigged system (great theater, in my view: he won the presidential and he got Hillary's media to pay for it) in advance of the election, and the Hillary cheering section complaining about the rigging afterward.

We'll start with a nuanced complaint about the rigging from, of all sources, Vox.  Sean Illing interviews Yale's A. R. Amar.  Professor Amar gets directly to the matter of the proxies.
In a direct election system, the South would have lost every time because a huge percentage of its population was slaves, and slaves couldn't vote. But an Electoral College allows states to count slaves, albeit at a discount (the three-fifths clause), and that's what gave the South the inside track in presidential elections. And thus it's no surprise that eight of the first nine presidential races were won by a Virginian. (Virginia was the most populous state at the time, and had a massive slave population that boosted its electoral vote count.)

This pro-slavery compromise was not clear to everyone when the Constitution was adopted, but it was clearly evident to everyone when the Electoral College was amended after the Jefferson-Adams contest of 1796 and 1800. These elections were decided, in large part, by the extra electoral votes created by slavery.
There's probably a separate strain of analysis, on the importance of the diffusion of the cotton gin after 1794, and Britannia ruling the waves in such a way as to impede the importation of slaves, with the concurrence of the United States, after 1807.  I wonder if there's anyone adventurous enough to suggest that apportioning the House of Representatives on the basis of free population, or that going to direct election of presidents would have headed off secession ...

But Professor Amar suggests that reformers be careful about casting off the current method of electing the President of the United States too casually.
There are always transition costs. Brilliant reformers never fully anticipate possible defects in their reforms, and there are always unintended consequences.

We've managed to limp along with this system. It's not highly skewed to either party today. The Democrats tend, in general, to win more big states. The Republicans tend, in general, to win more states overall. And these skews offset for the most part.

If we have a direct election, we're going to need far more federal oversight over the process, and that's a massive undertaking. States might also have incentives to push democracy too far, like lowering [voting age] to 16, for example. Hence you'll need more federal regulation over the process.
Yes, and yes.  The conventional wisdom until 12.01 on November 9 was that the so-called blue wall would hold, with Mrs Clinton narrowly winning the popular vote and Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  As recently as 2012 it was the Republicans trashing the electoral college in the 48 states that vote winner-take-all, as Mr Romney picked up pluralities in sufficiently many congressional districts in states such as California, Illinois, and New York to have carried the electoral vote under the Nebraska and Maine rules: and he, too, would have lost the popular vote.  That gets into more complications than I wish to deal with today, but stay tuned.

That second yes?  The universal 55 mph speed limit on interstate highways, and funding for highways tied to a 21 year drinking age turned out so well, didn't they?  Perhaps there's something to be said for devolving federal powers, rather than raising the importance of the presidency.

But the complaining about the rigging is going to get louder, if this Common Dreams screed is any sort of harbinger.
In fact the Electoral College system was created by slaveholders, and remains undemocratic and racist, and biased to the Republicans. Obama showed that the system can be overcome and even turned to our advantage, but the Clinton and Gore losses show it is an uphill climb.
No. Mr Obama was willing to outwork his opponents. “I won Iowa not because the demographics dictated that I would win Iowa. It was because I spent 87 days going to every small town and fair and fish fry and VFW Hall… There’s some counties maybe I won, that people didn’t expect, because people had a chance to see you and listen to you and get a sense of who you stood for and who you were fighting for.”  That prompts Ed Rogers of Washington's Post, no house organ for Mr Trump, to offer Democrats constructive advice.  "In other words, instead of worrying about the electoral college, the Democrats should start worrying about their ability to connect with middle America."

But ... but ... virtue signalling and pouting are so refreshing.
The pro-Republican bias of the Electoral College derives from two main dynamics: it overweights the impact of mostly conservative voters in small population states and it negates entirely the mostly progressive votes of nearly half of African American voters, more than half of Native American voters and a major swath of Latino voters.

For decades now, with a couple of exceptions, Republicans have dominated rural areas, small towns and small population states, and the Democrats control big cities and most big population states.

Well, the Electoral College rules give as much as three times as much weight to the mainly conservative and white Republicans in the rural states compared to states with large, racially diverse and majority Democratic populations.
There's more to the geographic sorting, and that, too, is for another day.  There's a map that's been circulating that might shed some light on that Democrat control of big cities, or that Democrat failure to connect with middle America.

That's an opportunity for future research:  are we simply counting total crimes, or are we truly looking at a crime rate (e.g reported property crimes per thousand citizens)?  That may also be a dimension of any future Democrat approach to people outside thickly settled areas.  The current approach?  There isn't one.
“The Democratic Party ceded rural America to the Republicans quite some time ago,” said Vickie Rock, a member of the Nevada State Democratic Central Committee from rural Humboldt County. “They invested nothing, they built no bench. They don’t even send out signs anymore, which is a staple of rural politics.

“All Trump had to do was peel off a small percentage of urban votes, and he was going to win,” Rock said. “Because he already had, in his back pocket, rural America.”
And when there is one, well, let's say that sending in Pajama Boy loses friends and alienates people.
“People just love it when you show up,” said Ted Sadler, a Democratic political hand from rural Georgia. “But for us, there was zero Democratic action in the 8th Congressional District.” (The district sits in the heavily rural south central part of the state.)

In Georgia, Sadler said the party was instead obsessed with driving up turnout in Atlanta and its surrounding suburbs at the expense of Democratic-friendly areas in other parts of the state. It was a common refrain among the Democratic strategists interviewed for this story, all of whom said they saw a party that believed it no longer needed rural votes to win elections.

When Democratic officials did show up, Sadler and others said they were ill-equipped for the nuances of a campaign in rural America.

“When they do show up, it’s 22-year-old kids from the Ivy League,” Sadler said. “And they’re telling you what do, as opposed to stopping and listening.”
Funnily, the Common Dreams guys, in the middle of their rant, even see this.  "This year the Electoral outcome was able to reverse Clinton’s large popular vote margin because, for the first time in decades, the Republicans carried large population states Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan in addition to Texas."  Put another way, Detroit (or Cleveland, or Milwaukee, or Philadelphia) is what Democrats do, and, no matter how incoherent his message appeared to be, Mr Trump did something to crack that blue wall.  Or perhaps the hipsters lost those voters, just by being themselves.  Or they took for granted that they had bought enough proxies with National Endowment grants for court intellectuals and food stamps for the people rendered unemployable by government schools and the minimum wage.

As far as the nonlinearity in the electoral vote, perhaps that is in part the consequence of the House of Representatives comprising 435 seats since 1929.  More seats in California, and more seats in a few of those single-Member-of-Congress states, and in several of the swing states?  That could get interesting.  Britain's House of Commons currently seats about six hundred.  And enlarging the House only requires an Act of Congress.  Changing the method for electing the Chief Magistrate of These United States takes a Constitutional Amendment.


Capstone writing requirements, just one of many elements of higher education that wasn't working out.  I have seen nothing in the past ten years to make me think differently.



The Milwaukee Journal - Sentinel folks file a report on the Christmas trains at the East Troy Electric Railroad.

At least one youngster might be imprinted with train sounds at an early age.

Festive Season trains have been running for over forty years.

There's a new siding, midway along the railroad, and two trains running.

Christmas-themed trains are on offer at railroad museums all over the United States and Canada.  Find yourself one and ride it.


The explanations are legion, and none is likely to be fully satisfactory.

But the condescension from public radio, which Mitch "Shot in the Dark" Berg notes takes a particularly obnoxious form this time of year, is a contributing factor.
To listen to your broadcasts, we are on the precipice of a national mental health plague, something Americans only survive with the aid of therapy, drinking or an endless slathering on of (wry, fashionable-understated) cynicism.   A time of year where all ceremony is onerous, all family members are insane or intolerable, all travel is wearing, all human interaction is a layer of plastic fakery over a rotten, frothing core of anxiety and desperation.

That’s right – the Holiday season.

Public radio programming will be clogged with with newscasters droning on about seasonal mental health afflictions; with “entertainers” jabbering about the only kind of get-togethers any of them seem to have – ugly, dysfunctional ones; with obscure writers and artists elevated (?) to radio commentators, testifying to the ordeal we’re all about to go through.

Point taken, Public Radio – the upper-middle-class, over-miseducated, secular (wildly-disproportionally secular-jewish) crowd is exquisitely bored with the whole thing.
Yes. Public radio became irrelevant to me a quarter-century ago.  On occasion, if I'm on a road trip and the car radio is on scan, I'll lock on to a public radio station, and it's the nasal droning and the obscure topics.


D. N. McCloskey's Economic Liberty as Anti-Flourishing: Marx and Especially His Followers really ought to be read in full, dear reader.

Let me direct your attention to this passage.
Some years ago I mildly remarked to a gathering of my beloved Department of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago that the speaker who had just concluded his presentation, a fashionable Marxian imported from New York, just might not have got the economic history exactly right. The speaker responded in a sentence, "Oh, I see that you are a neoliberal"and sat down. That was it, and none of my colleagues, mostly themselves Marxians or Marxoids or cautious fellow travelers, would speak up to insist that he respond more fully to someone who after all had some claim to knowing a little about economics and history. I was startled by his exhibition of proud ignorance and saddened by the implicit agreement in the room that one is not to "listen, really listen, to one's friends' questions and objections"and certainly not to those of one's party enemies. The result of a century of name-calling-as-argument, from "Bernsteinian revisionism"and "economism"to "bourgeois"and "neoliberal,"and not listening, really listening, has had the scientific result one might expect.
Oh, plus she gets price theory, as a careful reading will reveal.  A sample:
In truth, after all, "surplus value"is "extracted"every time you exchange anything for something else—or else you wouldn't do it, would you, now? You are a "capitalist"when you buy a cup of coffee served by an "exploited"owner of a coffee shop. She gets the profit of a price higher than the lowest she would accept, and you get a cup of coffee for lower than the highest price you would accept—which is why exchange happens, earning a profit for both sides.
Strictly speaking, "profit" refers here to "consumer and producer surplus," but that's rivet-counting.

Plus a term of art, trade-tested betterment, that ought to enjoy wider circulation.  Hat tip to Cafe Hayek.


National Review's Rich Lowry asks, "Can Democrats Quit Identity Politics?"
Rep. Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat, is mounting a challenge against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and argues that Democrats are hurt by a paint-by-numbers view of politics. “We try to slice the electorate up,” Ryan said on Meet the Press over the weekend. “And we try to say, ‘You’re black, you’re brown, you’re gay, you’re straight, you’re a woman, you’re a man.’”

Ryan might have pointed to a critique of his own leadership bid by a writer at the website ThinkProgress, who opined that his run against Pelosi “is how sexism works.” How so? Ryan is a male; Pelosi is a woman. Q.E.D.

Outside of its political effects, this style of argument is childish and intellectually deadening, yet is too ingrained and widespread on the left to be extricated easily.
Mr Lowry suggests that paying attention to what we used to understand as mainstream Americans might help.
What Democrats won’t want to grapple with is that their problem with Middle America goes deeper than an insufficiently socialistic economic agenda, and deeper than their hard-to-control instinct to call people who disagree with them names. To have broader appeal, Democrats will actually have to meet working-class voters partway on a few cultural issues, whether it is abortion or guns or immigration, even if their concessions are symbolical or rhetorical.

This is what Bill Clinton did in the 1990s when he made inroads into what would come to be known as Red America. This will be a truly painful step, and surely anyone advocating it will be accused of every -ism and -phobia in the book.
Yes, and Thirty-something Wendy Caldwell elaborates.  "Attention Liberals: We Are Part of the Problem."  First: stop the condescension.
Nobody wants to be told that their beliefs and opinions are invalid because they don't know any better. If we want to make changes in this country, we need to win elections. We cannot do that if we treat everyone as though we are more enlightened than they are. Think back to your high school days. Was the class president the smartest person in your grade? Probably not. It was probably someone who was popular - someone who knew how to make and keep friends. It was probably someone who was good at getting people to like him/her.
This is going to be difficult, as there is a long tradition of activism as pedantry.  "Have you read The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon?"  But in the just-ended presidential, the frat boy beat teacher's pet.  Just saying.  " What we do not do - what we cannot do - is belittle others by putting on airs of intellectual superiority. This has not worked, and it will not work. Nobody likes a know-it-all, even if they are right."  Yes, and too often the self-styled progressives get it wrong.  But that's Mr Lowry's forum.

Ms Caldwell also suggests that the identity politics crowd stop treating the protected status people as mascots.  Empathy matters.  Empathy matters to people The Anointed would rather refer to as deplorables, too.
We've gotten so caught up in our enlightened crusades that we've forgotten that not everyone fits into one of these demographics that we are so apt to try and rescue. In an ideal society, every citizen votes. Everyone. And that means that if we expect to win elections, we certainly cannot neglect half of the voters just because they have a certain kind of privilege, skin color, or social class. Ironically, we are often striving for equality among people of all levels of privilege, of all skin colors, and of all social classes.

I realize this stance may be a bit unpopular, but we have to live in reality. I've spent a lot of time reflecting over the last few days, and I've heard this subject come up more than once, and it was done so by the latest liberal villain: the privileged white man. Donald Trump overwhelming won the white vote (men and women). Of course, the natural response is to say he won the racist vote. That is probably true, as several known racist groups endorsed him. However, not everyone who voted for him is racist (I'll get to that later). If this is the case, why did white Americans come out in such large numbers in support of him?

There are many reasons, I am sure, but one of the main ones is probably that he validated their concerns instead of dismissing them. Yes, having white skin in this country affords one certain privileges. I, for instance, have been pulled over by police officers many times. Never once have I felt that my life was in danger. Never once have I been afraid of anything other than the cost of the ticket, which I usually do not even get. I recognize this is largely due to the way I look, and there is nothing I can do about that. However, that does not mean I do not have problems that should be taken seriously.
Plus call a halt to the Oppression Olympics.
We have gotten into the unseemly habit of making a contest out of people's struggles. Sure, that middle-aged white man who has been unemployed for 8 months has it rough, but think of how much worse it would be for him if he were an Hispanic woman. Of course it would be more difficult. We usually learn growing up that someone always has it better than we do, and someone always has it worse. But how is saying that going to help that man get a job? It won't.
Congratulations, you've just pointed out how empty intersectionality theory is.  It's useful to have empathy or sympathy for someone in a worse state than you.  It's also useful to be upset when people don't take advantage of the favorable circumstances they find themselves in.  (That may be part of the appeal of Mr Trump's "We are being governed by stupid people.")

By all means, go, read, understand both essays; weigh the arguments, draw your own conclusions.

I have a railroad to build.



Next section of roadbed, ready to receive tracks.

Curved tracks through the western Russian town of Zudnokhovsk.  Ten foot radius curves for 4-14-4 steam locomotive.  Main track in foreground, siding behind.  Spur at left serves corrective labor camp.

Portsmouth, N.H. staging tracks covered with newspaper below.

Unfinished roadbed in place.

Left to right: Raddin industry track (switched from Saugus Branch), connecting track from staging to Northey Point Yard; inward and outward Saugus Branch tracks, spur to blast furnace high line.  Smokestacks mark approximate position of open hearth furnace at Midvale Steel's Revere Works.


The Professor Watchlist, which is an understandable act of rebellion against the one-party state that is much of higher education, occasions much fretting on the part of the house organ of business as usual in higher education.  (I'll quote extensively as the article is likely to go behind the paywall.)
But to many professors, the idea of a watch list seemed newly chilling in a political climate in which some scholars have been the targets of racist and anti-Semitic abuse. Whether the list ends up having a chilling effect on speech depends on how seriously people take it, said Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group that views itself as a defender of campus free speech.

Professors on the list reacted with a mix of disbelief, confusion, and pride; one scholar even took to social media to wonder why he wasn’t named. Some scholars used the Twitter hashtag #trollprofwatchlist to mock the whole enterprise, submitting false tips about Indiana Jones and Professor Xavier, from the X-Men comic-book series, among others.
Catch that "views itself as a defender?" The Foundation (disclaimer: they get Christmas money from me. Universities don't) maintain a speech code watch list, which runs contrary to business as usual at many such institutions, including the one I retired from.

But then we go down the rabbit hole.
So how does it feel to be in the cross hairs of Professor Watchlist? "It would’ve been humorous a few months ago," said Greg Hampikian, a professor of biology at Boise State University, in Idaho. "It’s not funny now."

To Mr. Hampikian, the list represents a strain of illiberal thinking that’s currently accumulating power. He was named to the list, which he called "absurd," for writing a satirical op-ed about his state’s campus-carry law for The New York Times in which he asked state lawmakers when he could shoot his students.

"They are putting normal people on the list," he said. "That’s what’s frightening. That should wake people up."
Do normal people get a platform in the Times? Do normal people get to claim satirical opinion pieces therein as public service, and count it toward a merit raise?  Check your privilege, Mr Hampikian.

It gets better.
Joan Neuberger, a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin, advocated against the campus-carry law that went into effect in Texas this year. The watch list’s write-up on her says she pushed to ban guns from classrooms, in violation of state law. Ms. Neuberger started her advocacy before the law took effect.

"A website that seeks so openly to discredit me by suggesting (incorrectly) that I broke the law and (nonsensically) that I have no credibility as an experienced classroom professor can only exist to chill my right to free speech," she wrote in an email.

Ms. Neuberger specializes in Russian history. She found her appearance on the list ironic. In her courses, she delves into the conservative values and interests that promoted patriotism, nationalism, Christianity, and authoritarianism in Russia.
And there is your dog whistle. Conservative values lead to problematic outcomes.  (Here is the counterargument, if you're interested.)

The list, for all the pearl-clutching, is welcome to appeals.  "Professors who refute the website’s claims by submitting contrary information can be taken off the list, but [list manager Matt] Lamb said he wasn’t sure why the professor had been removed."  That's better than being a nameless number on a list that was later misplaced, or a member of the Duke lacrosse squad or a University of Virginia fraternity.

Matt Reed also takes on the list, but he gets to the heart of the matter.
First, any “list” that singles out professors for apostasy has a staggeringly high burden of proof. This list doesn’t come close. It names several for no greater crime than taking liberal positions on political issues. That’s not a crime. It doesn’t include a call to action, instead occupying that ambiguous space that bullies prefer: intimidating without actually threatening. It never even attempts to show actual harm to students, apparently on the belief that simply being left of center is a form of doing harm. It isn’t.
The generalization to ukases from Student Affairs warning against microaggression or triggering speech is left to the reader as an exercise. I think Matt gets it (community colleges being places where people are more concerned with keeping body and soul together) but let's contemplate the wider implications of "The only reason to criminalize dissent is that you can’t refute it."

First, let's stipulate that higher education ought to be higher.
Higher education is about vigorous debate. It requires hearing points of view that you may find wrongheaded or even offensive. There is no right to never be offended. While I’m not personally a fan of every single person on the list, I’m far more concerned about the effects of a hit list than I am of some tenured lefty somewhere going overboard. The latter is a cost of freedom. The former is a direct threat to it.

In my teaching days, I routinely played “Devil’s Advocate” for different points of view. In teaching a class on political ideologies, it’s helpful to introduce each one by explaining its appeal at the time. At various moments, I could have been quoted in support of monarchism, anarchism, fascism, socialism, liberalism, conservatism, and a host of other things. It was role play. But when quotes are ripped out of context and thrown to an ideologically motivated sub-public looking for an enemy, they could do real harm. It would be the equivalent of calling for the arrest of an actor because his character killed somebody.
The enemies list exists, dear reader, because there are faculty members less conscientious, or perhaps so marinated in the culture-studies hothouses that they can't advance a monarchist or fascist or Marxist argument with any coherence.
And students tried on different ideas to see how they fit. They need the room to do that. If they’re never exposed to anything other than what some conservative action group deems appropriate, they’ll never develop that skill. Some of them will move from where they started; others will maintain their position, but with greater depth of understanding. That can’t happen when the range of debate runs only from vanilla to french vanilla.
Yes, or when the range of debate runs only from Clinton to Castro, or what the Guardians of Multicultural Pravoslavie, whether in the common room or in Student Affairs deem appropriate.

Matt continues, "If the list were intended to open up space for useful debate, it would have bothered to spell out its own views. It didn’t. It’s obviously intended to intimidate, rather than to enlighten."  I dissent in part.  The list appears to be for the purpose of identifying professors who themselves are closing space to useful debate, although, as I noted, it started with the usual rogues gallery.

I concur in part with his closing remarks.  "If you’re on the list, and you’re applying here, put it on your c.v. I’ll consider it a badge of honor. No professor could ever do the harm that an enemies list could. First things first."  Yes, "bear their scorn as a badge of honor" is a good way of flipping the script.  But the search committee might want to check Rate My Professors all the same.


It's the unsexy infrastructure, notes Alex Tabarrok.  Locks and dams on the Ohio River.  Hand-thrown switches on the Chicago railroads.  And a reminder that downsizing is a false economy.
On routes where they still have adequate infrastructure, railroads have won back fantastic amounts of business from trucks, especially on long hauls such as Los Angeles to New York, where railroads now have a 72 percent market share in container traffic and could have more. Railroads have gone from having too much track to having not enough. Today, the nation’s rail network is just 94,942 miles, less than half of what it was in 1970, yet it is hauling 137 percent more freight, making for extreme congestion and longer shipping times.

The half-conscious decision by Washington, Wall Street, and the last generation of rail management to abandon much of the rail system thus prevents railroads from getting more trucks off the road. For example, UPS desperately wants to use fast trains like the ones Erie Lackawanna once had to reduce the cost of moving parcels coast to coast in less than four days, a feat currently requiring a tag team of truck drivers at enormous cost in fuel and labor. For a brief time in 2004, UPS did persuade two railroads to run a train fast enough to handle this business. But due to insufficient track to allow slower trains to get out of its way, the UPS bullet train caused massive congestion, freezing up the Union Pacific system for months until the railroad at last canceled the service.
The overbuilt railroad network of the 1920 - 1970 period was phenomenally productive, and improvements in train and signalling technologies have made possible the greater volumes, even at the risk of a lot of Delayed Freight.

But, because the freight railroads are private businesses, and public money goes for such things as highways and streetcars, getting some of the freight railroads to work with government agencies, even on projects such as improving the rail lines between the Official Region and the Southeast (widening Interstates 84-81 for more trucks being a fools errand) takes new thinking.
Known as the Crescent Corridor, these lines have seen a resurgence of trains carrying containers, just like most of the trucks on I-81 do. The problem is that the track needs upgrading and there are various choke points, so the Norfolk Southern cannot run trains fast enough to be time competitive with most of the trucks hurtling down I-81. Even before the recent financial meltdown, the railroad couldn’t generate enough interest from Wall Street investors to improve the line.

The railroad has long been reluctant to accept government investment in its infrastructure out of fear of public meddling, such as being compelled to run money-losing passenger trains. But now, like most of the industry, it has changed its mind, and it happily accepted Virginia’s offer last year to fund a small portion -- $40 million -- of the investment needed to get more freight traffic off I-81 and onto the Crescent Corridor. The railroad estimates that with an additional $2 billion in infrastructure investment, it could divert a million trucks off the road, which is currently carrying just under five million. State officials are thinking even bigger: a study sponsored by the Virginia DOT finds that a cumulative investment over ten to twelve years of less than $8 billion would divert 30 percent of the growing truck traffic on I-81 to rail.
In the Chicago area, Union Pacific have been working with Amtrak and Metra on capacity improvements.  They get an additional track, West Chicago to Elburn, to handle freight for and from Chicago, and the Free Rein to 110 campaign on the Alton Route to St. Louis provides passage for expedited intermodal and automotive trains.  Norfolk Southern and CSX aren't thinking that way, yet.

The difficulties raising money?  Perhaps that's an unintended consequence of the "shareholder value" fad.
America’s major railroad companies are publicly traded companies answerable to often mindless, or predatory, financial Goliaths. While Wall Street was pouring the world’s savings into underwriting credit cards and sub-prime mortgages on overvalued tract houses, America’s railroads were pleading for the financing they needed to increase their capacity. And for the most part, the answer that came back from Wall Street was no, or worse. CSX, one of the nation’s largest railroads, spent much of last year trying to fight off two hedge funds intent on gaining enough control of the company to cut its spending on new track and equipment in order to maximize short-term profits.

So the industry, though gaining in market share and profitability after decades of decline, is starved for capital. While its return on investment improved to a respectable 8 percent by the beginning of this decade, its cost of capital outpaced it at around 10 percent -- and that was before the credit crunch arrived.
There has to be an arbitrage opportunity here. But the forward-looking investors have not yet appeared.  "Nor does the long-term potential for increased earnings that improved rail infrastructure would bring, except in the eyes of Warren Buffett -- who is bullish on railroads -- and a few other smart, patient investors."  What's interesting is that the trucking companies may not be viewing the railroads as deadly competitors when some capacity improvements are concerned.  "The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (hardly a shill for the rail industry) estimates that without public investment in rail capacity 450 million tons of freight will shift to highways, costing shippers $162 billion and highway users $238 billion (in travel time, operating, and accident costs), and adding $10 billion to highway costs over the next twenty years. 'Inclusion of costs for bridges, interchanges, etc., could double this estimate,' their report adds."  Yes, and those ever-heavier trailers, tandems, and triples, are engineered to beat the bridges and interchanges to pieces.

We'll see what sort of internal improvements come from Mr Trump and the new Congress.


The conventional wisdom, at least among athletic supporters, is that the sports program is the front porch of the university.  At Northern Illinois, that means a sagging football program, a rising women's basketball team, and a volleyball squad going to the national tournament.  (Last night's volleyball selection show gave, as is often the case, extended time to the top four seeds: Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Texas.  Most of the national titles in the past few years have been won by Nebraska, Texas, Penn State, and Stanford.  Power rule?  Privilege?  Paging Harrison Bergeron ...)

But without a proper honors program, there's no institution of higher education.  Extending: algebra is a civil right.

The honors program?  Just another cost center?

Northern Star infographic by Xavier Ortega.

There have been four honors program directors in the past five years.  Perhaps a messy management structure contributes to the turnover.  The director has to consult with a vice-provost to set up a meeting with the provost.  And Lowells speak only to Cabots, while Cabots speak but to God.

But when Mother Lowell goes to the cupboard, perhaps the cupboard is bare.
The Program Prioritization Administrative Task Force placed the program in the enhanced resources category, suggesting the program “has the potential to increase enrollment as well as improve the academic profile of the institution,” according to the task force report. The task force also acknowledged the inadequate funding allotted for the program.

Daniel Kempton, who works as the vice president for Academic Affairs at Franciscan University of Steubenville, served as NIU’s honors director from 2009 to 2011 and said he felt he did not receive the resources he needed.

During Kempton’s time at NIU as honors director, he established new programs and administration saw a rise in the number of students participating in the program. Kempton said despite achieving this, he still felt it was a challenge being heard.

“I think [NIU] was in a period already at that time where the competition for resources was very intense, and I valued the honors program [so much] that I thought that it would receive resources more readily than it did,” Kempton said. “I did think we had a supportive administration at the time, [but] it was challenging.”
What was I saying, before I quit, about the deleterious effects of discouraging people of ability?



But collegiate basketball goes on, Thanksgiving break for the band or not.  Saturday evening, Northern Illinois hosted Illinois State in a women's game that followed a holiday tournament organized by the men's team.

At halftime, seventh-graders (at left) and eighth-graders (at right) from DeKalb and Sycamore (at left) carried out a scrimmage, under the watchful eye of some of the men's team.

Yeah, that's a halftime score.  The objective used to be to hold the opponent under sixty points, even if that meant scoring just over sixty in the entire game.  New coach, and for once in a long time, fifteen players dressed.

There's still some sort of audience participation for entertainment.  Thin crowd, so no "make noise for pizza" challenge.  This year, put collegians on tricycles to race to one end of the court.

Then pick up a basketball and race the other way to sink a lay-up.  Long legs aren't helpful on tricycles, but getting up-court with the ball is another matter.

Game's end, and the traditional "good game" rituals.

Northern Illinois are among the national leaders in scoring, joining the likes of Baylor, Maryland, and Ohio State.  It has been a long time since that particular combination of words has been possible.


The German Christmas Market in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

The market, running the weekend after Thanksgiving only, is on the shore of Lac LaBelle.

Yes, that's the lake that lent its name to LaBelle Woodworking, manufacturer of craftsman coach kits, now doing business out of Wyoming.  There's also a yacht club on the lake: sometimes the road to the America's Cup and the Olympics passes through Oconomowoc.

On the weekend, though, it's Season's End for the Freistadt Alte Kameraden band.

The larger Christkindlmarkt in Chicago is also now open, if without the live music.


Minnesota goes into the locker room at halftime with a lead.  "UW senior safety Leo Musso grabbed Paul Bunyan's Axe in the locker room at halftime and reminded his teammates what was at stake."  Four second-half interceptions, three second-half touchdowns, thirteen straight seasons the Axe remains.

Up next: a trip to Indianapolis.  Win the week.