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


Margaret Soltan of University Diaries notes that on occasion, perpetrators of school massacres have (divorced or separated) gun-collecting moms.  A commenter points readers to "Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms" in American Journal of Public Health.  The authors consider a number of the pat (and sometimes not-so-pat) explanations and find them wanting.  Yes, it's an academic article, and yes, the authors pay due homage to the obligatory post-Enlightenment hobby-horses.  But pay close attention to the closing sentence. "Ultimately, the ways our society frames these connections reveal as much about our particular cultural politics, biases, and blind spots as it does about the acts of lone, and obviously troubled, individuals."  Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.  Understand what behaviors confer evolutionary advantage, and what institutions work against evolutionary advantage.


The Daily Beast tells the saga of The Crash of Trump Air.  Not that there's any surprise to the transport cognoscenti.  Mr Trump is another in a long line of hopefuls who made a small fortune in aviation by starting with a large fortune.  Somebody with aviation experience even warned him.  But nowhere in the story, which is about the developer's adventures with the former Eastern Air Shuttle (anybody remember "The Wings of Man?") beginning with his acquisition of the route and some clapped-out 727s (the Constellations and Electras long gone to the desert) is there any mention of what really made life difficult for the shuttles in the Official Region.  The article claims "business travel was slowing in the Northeast."

Not at all.  Here's what the winner looked like in March, 1988.

That's the time-honored ritual of the engine change at New Haven, Connecticut.  Motor 938 at right has brought a Northeast Regional train in from Washington, D.C., and F40 216 (which, if it's still around, is cabbage car 90216) is about to take over for Boston.  The motors are allowed speeds of up to 125 mph south of Newark, and the diesels can cruise at 105 or 110 on some stretches of track in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Electrification onward to Boston and the Acela Expresses hitting 150 to the north and airport security going from annoying to aggravating are more than a decade away.  And yet the incremental improvements to Amtrak service commencing on the Northeast Corridor in the late 1970s were enough to change the economics of air transportation, deregulation or not.


Townhall's Mark Davis notes that "public service" implies an obligation to serve.
The definition of a government job is: it ain’t about you so much when you walk through the door. In our eagerness to show support for a woman whose faith we admire, we have obliterated the obvious line between a private sector job like wedding photographer and cake-baker, where business owners make the rules, and government servants, who are there, to, well, serve.

That service means the tee-totaling government employee has to issue a liquor license for the sports bar. The Muslim health inspector has to walk into the pork barbecue joint. The pacifist Quaker has to issue the gun license.

And the Bible-believing Christian, who properly objects to the Biblical disconnect of gay marriage has a choice: compartmentalize and realize what is God’s and what is Caesar’s and issue the license, or leave a the job that requires it.
Otherwise institutions evolve in a way that increases transaction costs, which is in the direction of greater inefficiency and evolutionary instability.
If I am the sports bar owner, I want my liquor license. If I am the hunter, I want my gun license. If I am the owner of Mark’s BBQ, I want my inspection done on time. I don’t need one moment of delay while someone paid by my tax dollars wrestles with inner conflicts.
And, as is the case with any bright-line rule, religious accommodations do not favor good beliefs and disfavor questionable beliefs, they apply universally.
When the rules are the same for everybody, there is no discrimination. When the rules are leapfrogged for some and not for others, it is a nightmare.

This road of religious accommodations is pockmarked with unacceptable potholes. One day we offer one to someone whose faith we admire or even share, the next day we have to dole one out to an adherent whose beliefs create absurd inconveniences for taxpayers.

Who convenes the panel to rule on which religious hesitations are okay and which are not? And while we can cheer one for the home team when a gay couple is turned away, wait until it’s you looking for a license for that second marriage, in violation of the thoroughly Biblical concept of one marriage for life, period. Is the clerk refusing that paperwork going to be showered with Kim Davis- caliber hero worship?

The religious accommodation fallacy says “no problem, we’ll just find someone who does not have that objection.” Just what we need: something to make interaction with government more inconvenient.
Yes. The work of rolling back intrusive or one-size-fits-all governance is a task better tackled, as Mr Davis argues, at the state level.



So, in a sputtering rant, does Our President speak of the latest mass shooting (not counting any summer weekend in Chicago) and the continued politicization of policy that follows.  And Bill Sternberg at Gannett contributes a routine fill-in-the-blanks chin-pulling response.  But it is the section that doesn't have any blanks to fill in that matters.
Acquaintances described the gunman as a loner who showed signs of depression, had trouble relating to women and spent many hours playing violent video games. Although he was prone to vicious outbursts, the acquaintances said they didn’t think he’d really do anything, so they didn’t bother to alert authorities. Authorities said they were trying to verify the authenticity of threatening rants the gunman posted on social media sites against blacks/whites/Christians/Muslims/Jews/people.
No blanks to fill in in that paragraph.  Unfortunately, as a New York Times analysis concludes, “You can’t go out and round up all the alienated angry young men.”  Nor, as Reason's Jacob Sullum elaborates, can more stringent screening of people be done in a way consistent with Constitutional principles.  And if kicking eleven million illegal aliens out of the country is not feasible, confiscating firearms is likely to aggravate the rebellion.

Perhaps, instead, the difficulty is in the environment within which the angry young men stew in their alienation.  Several years and distressingly many mass shootings ago, I suggested that Ralph Waldo Emerson had a better understanding of the tensions among individuality and community than the more trendy recent speculations. "Put [the recent social theories] together, and we have a flimsy, ad-hoc set of explanations why some disaffected people behave badly, and when it's all said and done, nothing available to make it better."  Nor has anything changed since, although the shooting at a California sorority house brought the destructive consequences of the so-called sexual revolution to light. (I've been repeating this for twelve years.  Now will you listen?)
Today the only victors in the sexual revolution are those men and women who are good-looking and clever enough to enjoy multiple partners with a minimum of emotional and financial commitment. The dowdy and the not-so-clever (or not-so-unscrupulous) are used by the well-endowed and find loneliness and frustration where, in a previous generation, they would probably have been able to start families.
Sometimes the frustration boils over, and people, often young women, die. There's a trenchant observation from a different context that strikes me as relevant. "This is the bed Third Wave feminism has made."

But that's not the only possibility, nor even the strongest possibility.  Rather, what we have is a cascade of error.  The first of the public mass shootings, in most chronicles, is the 1966 Texas Tower event.  That's early in the live television era, and early in the Consciousness Revolution.  And what has that Consciousness Revolution brought us?  There's more than "if it feels good, do it" and "do your own thing, man."  Couple the Consciousness Revolution with post-Enlightenment social theory and what do you see?

A freakazoid is now transgressive, and that's something to affirm.  Thus freakazoids get away with behaving badly.

A street thug is now authentic, and that's something to celebrate.  Thus street thugs get away with behaving badly.

A nebbish is still a nebbish.  But the post-Enlightenment social theorists offer no special affirmation.

And nowhere are there institutions or conventions strong enough to give the nebbish something to constructively push against (as Emerson would have it) or to encourage the nebbish to interact constructively with other people.

But it took a long march through the institutions to create the toxic common culture.  Give the toxins an opportunity to leach out, and the common culture will improve.  And perhaps there will be fewer angry nebbishes lashing out.


For years, I have publicized the objections students and faculty, arguing from a variety of perspectives, have raised to Northern Illinois University's unconstitutional free speech zone policy.  The policy remained in place after my retirement, but the objections continue.
“I’m a big believer of the constitution,” said sophomore finance major Jeremy Watson, president of the NIU Young Americans for Liberty. “It should be respected. My main problem with it is that you have to go through a process of being approved and are limited to one area. You’re in competition with other organizations also. Organizations want that spot because it’s the only free speech area on campus.”

Mark Cordes, interim dean and law professor of the College of Law, said the policy could be argued as infringement on students’ constitutional rights because of the limitations against two forms of speech.

“Leafleting is considered a traditional form of communication in America,” Cordes said. “Courts do protect the ability to hand out information. It’s essential to be able to hand out literature. So, yes, you can put reasonable regulations for people to do that. But is it reasonable? There’s a good chance the court will say no.”

Students have full First Amendment rights, but the government can impose content neutral time, place and matter restrictions within reason, Cordes said. The gray area comes with defining reason, Cordes said.

The policy is “out of respect for individual privacy and peoples’ right to engage or not engage as they see fit,” according to a statement by the Division of Marketing and Communications. “The university has designated an area within MLK Commons as a central location for organized events. We see no conflict between establishing this area for organized discussion and respect for the principle of free speech.”

People should expect to endure some interference in order for others to exercise free speech, as this enables each individual to have a say, Cordes said. Free speech becomes unreasonable when it restricts the movement of others or is harassment, Cordes said.

“I believe freedom of speech should be everywhere,” said Le’Jera Payton, freshman political science major. “They [people who exhibit offensive speech] have their rights too.”

To make the policy less subject to constitutional challenge, Cordes said the policy should be changed to allow leafleting and soliciting throughout a majority of the campus while restricting harassment and interference of movement to protect students’ rights.

The NIU Young Americans for Liberty plans on continuing to petition until the group attains 500 signatures. Watson said the group wants the administration to take the petition seriously.

“My goal is to get rid of the free speech zone and make the entire campus a free speech zone,” Watson said. “There should be no policy.”
Perhaps the university's expensive new chief diversity officer can help encourage intellectual diversity by lending whatever influence she holds to removing unconstitutional limitations on free speech.



The Milwaukee streetcar at left was built in St. Louis, but maintained at Cold Spring Shops.

The line car at right was first built as an open-bed work motor, then converted at Cold Spring Shops to a line car.  It's over 100 years old and still used by the East Troy railroad to service the catenary.


One of the oddities of the fall festive season is that Oktoberfest is generally in September.

In Wisconsin, it kicks off in July, with Milwaukee's German Fest.

The scrolling board to the right mentioned the beginning of Oktoberfest season.  I don't make this stuff up.

German style Maypole, with participating organizations.


Why not continue the festivities at home?

Preparing Spanferkel is a major project, and I have enough of those already.  But it's easy enough to approximate a Nürnberg 3 im Weggla.

I just use "breakfast brats" as a reasonable facsimile of the Approved Nürnberg Bratwurst, which must be small enough to slip through an old-style key-hole.  Bar-time munchies are not a modern phenomenon, people.

Sometimes, though, the traditional Sheboygan double is in order.

But there's still more Oktoberfest season to enjoy.  Can't get enough Spanferkel.

When it's gone, it's gone.  The rotisserie chickens can be cooked up more quickly, and inventory control is simpler.

Music by The Freistadt Alte Kameraden Band.

Polkas, schottisches, waltzes, the occasional march.  Plus, for Wisconsin events, On! Wisconsin! and the Bud Song.



The New York Times picks up an essay by one Brian Lombardi, located in DeKalb, on approved metrofexual behavior.  James Lileks characterizes it as "humorless humor."  Mitch Berg is proud to be a paleomale.  Stephen Miller fisks it.

Put me in the paleomale category.  I cut the wood myself, and improvise jigs to assemble the components.  Then it's time for a liter of beer.


Commencing this weekend, Amtrak will operate Saturday only late evening Hiawatha trips.
No. 344 will depart Milwaukee at 10:40 p.m. with No. 343 leaving Chicago at 11:10 p.m.

Trains 329 and 330, the early morning departures, will not operate on Saturdays during this schedule. Ridership results will be evaluated after the holidays.

Amtrak said the late night service will serve those who have plans for a late dinner, attending a show, going shopping or engaging in some other activity on a Saturday night.
Improve by increments. Those departure times will serve most concert and opera schedules, and hockey or basketball absent multiple overtimes. No tavern-lounge cars yet.


Our President has successfully fundamentally transformed the United States.  Nearly a quarter of the population is not participating in the labor force, and a Russian general apparently advised the U.S. military attache in Baghdad that "we commence bombing in an hour."  Well done.

Perhaps, though, it is beyond Our President's, or anybody else's, competence.  Complex adaptive systems tend to do what they d##n well please, and all that.

Here's Richard Fernandez, taking stock.
What no politician has yet nerved himself to tell the public yet is that normalcy itself may be ending and the actual facts of physical life soon depend on actions and virtues our elites have long deemed obsolete or worthy of extinction.  If historical discontinuities mean anything it is that “business as usual” is over.

The Western world had a extraordinarily good run in the years since 1945, so good that it was easy to imagine that constant progress was a permanent condition; that tomorrow would always be better than today; that there was some unstoppable march through history our politicians had only to get in spangled tights to lead.

Ironically the basis of that incredible prosperity may not have complacency but on the contrary, a constant vigilance over its fragile existence.  Business as usual looked easy because the Old Ones had the habit of putting another log upon the fire to keep the dark things away.  Now that our new leaders have said ”let the last ember go out.  Those needless fires put out too much CO2. There is nothing to fear out there”, we are beginning to have our doubts and yet aware it’s too late to go back now.

Now we get to find out the truth about whether there are wolves out there.  The answer will alter us.  History tells us that events always transform men.  They never leave them unchanged.  William Halsey recorded the effect of the 40s on his generation when he said “there are no extraordinary men… just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with.”
He's optimistic, despite the challenges.
The years since the fall of the Berlin Wall have been characterized by a futile attempt to buy stability through risk sharing.  There was no crisis, which if sufficiently enlarged, could not be solved. Yet it failed. In an era of rapid change emergent risks can no longer be spread.  Survival will depend not upon building a bigger boat but making the right choices.

This breaks politics, especially redistributive and identity politics and hence the politicians have not accepted that yet.  But they will, and relatively soon.  The next decade will be hard; and our only consolation will be that if we win through we will be better men and freer too.
But Arts Mechanical suggests winning through is not assured.  Marginalize the productive people, don't be surprised when the productive people opt out.
And they don’t see their part in the future.  There is a general malaise throughout the culture.  People are not cattle.  They will change their behavior in response to conditions they cannot change.  They can’t save money and start families. Women have to work to maintain the standard of living that they are used to.  They are forced to live week to week and prospects for improvement don’t seem to exist.  So by and large people don’t have kids.

Which in essence is the entire culture going Galt.  Which is what’s happening to the Blue model all over the planet.  If you really look at how things are going, it’s not hard to understand why.  In the end you can’t give away happiness.  Happiness is something that everybody pursues with their own efforts. Misery, on the other hand is all too easy to create.  A little oppression here, a little tax farming there, and some income redistribution and shortly thereafter, you get just unending tons of it.  Talk to somebody from the former Soviet Union.  The people that came up with the Blue Model don’t understand that they are just creating misery and the rest of us are just stuck with it.
That "women have to work" isn't accurate; rather, increased labor force participation by women plus the Say Aggregation Principle have something to do with it.  But the Blue Model is a burdensome bad idea, and one of the dubious victory dividends since 1945 has been the diffusion of bad ideas, many of which became Trendy Research in Prestigious Universities.  Fortunately, notes Michael Walsh, there is a corrective.
The way back from this brink, I argue, is through the rediscovery of the things that have made Western civilization great: its heroic, individualistic culture. Its art, literature, music and classically liberal political philosophy, which had found a way to accommodate both God and man until relatively recently.
And in deconstructing the technocratic impulse and the celebration of the odd simply because it is odd, perhaps we can see off the cult of expertise. Give S. E. Cupp the last word. "Complex problems are best sorted out by markets or confronted locally, not through one distant official's decree." She's addressing the pernicious cult of the presidency, but that, dear reader, is the Trenchant Observation of the Season.

So mote it be.


The trunk line railroads, still working to install positive train control, have threatened to embargo hazardous cargoes in case Congress does not extend the deadline for installation of the hardware beyond the end of the year.

This is not just something for the usual talking heads to pontificate about on the Sunday shows.  The embargo means troubles at the water works.  "Completely avoidable," notes Representative John Thune.  Thus, increasingly likely.




I'll let others do the analyses and the recriminations.



There's more to that work than simply editing presentations supplied by textbook hustlers or downloaded from somewhere.  On occasion, somebody discovers something new that really ought to be in the presentation.  Sometimes the professor makes the discovery, and bragging on his own research becomes part of the presentation.  Sometimes, the professor has read somebody else's discovery, and he considers it worthy of inclusion in the presentation.  Thus, both making the discovery and making the discovery known to others matter.

That's so staggeringly obvious that people don't understand it.  (Sorry, the late Yogi Berra could probably put that more colorfully.)

Thus, it's noteworthy when the Pope Center, generally standing in opposition to business as usual, defends research and publication, and Phi Beta Cons, set up to call out the academy's follies, picks it up.
Making faculty engage in research and produce a finished, publishable product is good professional discipline. It shows that someone who engages in college teaching is more than a glorified primary or secondary school teacher. He or she is taking another step upward on the road to becoming a bearer of higher education.

Such discipline requires concentration and in this case excludes the possibility of college instructors getting tenure or promotion simply because they receive good “evals” from the kids and because they arrive at faculty meetings on time.

Most importantly, I can see no reasonable alternative to what has been mocked as “publish or perish” as a component in a tenure decision. The fixation I have observed on being an “effective’ teacher is a slippery slope leading nowhere but to a bigger popularity contest among instructors.

Student evaluations tell us nothing more than whether instructors come to class, speak audibly and are generally coherent. Since those evaluations that are notably expansive typically come from angry students, it may be necessary to make allowance for this mood factor as well as for the limited knowledge of the person making the judgment.

We also now have “scientific” approaches to evaluating teaching performance that take into account lists of class assignments and lesson plans. By the time I retired four years ago, young faculty were also obliged to attend seminars on how to make their teaching “delivery system” more student-friendly. Those seminars were almost always arranged by older faculty and administrators who had never done any research, other than what they euphemistically called “teaching research,” which meant preparing their classroom presentations.

Although the onetime emphasis in some universities on research and publication may have been excessive, the refusal to weigh these factors as significant criteria for academic advancement has engendered even worse results.
It's not so much that the emphasis on research and publication is "excessive" is that in the absence of solid metrics for the quality of the research being done, professors think in terms of the "minimum publishable unit," and the cynic advises the tenure-trackers that deans can't read, but they can count.  Thus emerges the vanity press and archival journals and electronic publication, and the best efforts of faculties to rank journals or to calculate "impact factors" can be for naught.  Or they can lead ambitious professors to cut corners.
Researchers stated that there was strong pressure on them to publish in a limited number of top journals, “resulting in important research not being published, disincentives for multidisciplinary research, authorship issues, and a lack of recognition for non-article research outputs”. Even worse was that the need to get into these top journals led to “scientists feeling tempted or under pressure to compromise on research integrity and standards”.
Incentives matter. Reward quantity, get quantity.  Reward trendy approaches, get trendy approaches.  Reward originality, even if it takes longer, get originality.  Reward reasonable attempts at replication and improvement on method ...

The authors of the lament about corner cutting recognize as much.
In the end, science is a human endeavour. And like humans everywhere, those who work in it will do what they are rewarded for, for better or for worse. So we need to make sure those reward structures are encouraging good quality research, not the opposite.
So staggeringly obvious that people won't understand it.


The culture wars distractions continue, with two leading Republican presidential hopefuls taking stick for their views about Our President's religious beliefs, and about possible conflicts between Sharia and civil society.  Start with Andrew McCarthy on Our President's policies, whether or not he is now, or ever was, a practicing Moslem.
President Obama’s policies have been excessively deferential to anti-American Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and hostile regimes like Iran. He has pressured the executive branch, including the intelligence community and law enforcement, to whitewash the connection between Islamic scripture, Islamic supremacist ideology, and violent jihadism.
Whether his stance is that of a San Francisco Democrat, or a boutique multiculturalist, or a mind-set learned in Indonesia doesn't matter.  What matters, as Roger L. Simon points out, is that any one of those explanations is equally logical. "Is Obama a Muslim?  No, but he’s something even worse — a transnational progressive." As, also, are Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton.  Which makes all their talk about being outsiders just that.  Talk.  Henry Wallace or Adlai Stevenson or Walter Mondale or Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton ... that all share a naive view of international affairs and an excessive faith in the ability of Four of Five Experts to Steer the Ship of State is more important than any differences in chromosomes or skin color or the way in which they give hectoring speeches.



Yes, beating up on Donald Trump for misunderstanding comparative advantage falls into the same category of mismatch as most recent Bear - Packer games.  But it's useful to have Mark Perry (via Cafe Hayek, with an assist from Milton Friedman) spelling out the way in which swapping beef for cars works out well for the United States.
In economic terms, our standard of living is highest when we maximize imports and minimize exports, which is exactly the opposite of the misinformed thinking of Donald Trump and many politicians. If anything, it’s the US that has “hosed” China, Japan and Mexico over the years, and it’s the US that has engaged in the international “theft” of billions of dollars of imported goods that have been “stolen” from those countries. After all, when you consider who ends up with the most “stuff” from international trade, it’s the US that is the winner – we have acquired more “stuff” from them, than the volume of “stuff” we sent them. That’s what a supposed “unfavorable” trade balance really is – we get more of their stuff than they get of ours, and then we complain that it’s “unfavorable.”
There are laws of conservation in economics, and the money that goes overseas can either serve as a store of value there (years ago, I was able to make transactions in U.S. dollars all over China and eastern Siberia) or invested in U.S. assets.


Victor Davis Hanson suggests that the presidential circus is as vapid as it is for lack of any intellectual standards.
There are few standards left. Everything is negotiable, from the now fossilized idea of a traitor like Bergdahl to a neo-Confederate sanctuary city. A play, a movie, a building, a novel — anything really — cannot be assessed by absolute criteria, given that such “standards” are always set by oppressors of some sort, usually the children of capitalism and bourgeoisie consumerism who wish to enshrine their “privilege.” Take a sentence, chop it up into lines, and presto — a poem. By what standards is Chopin any more a genius than a Snoop Dogg? I thought of Walsh’s book yesterday when watching the various newscast reactions to the migration crisis in Europe and the deer-in-the-headlines faces of the European Eloi: Who are we to say that our culture is better than theirs? What is a border anyway? What even is a migrant? Whose values construct someone into the “Other”? Why do hosts enjoy privilege and guests do not?

Frankfurt intellectuals have done a lot of damage: from multiculturalism to postmodern art, they have destroyed the individual experience and made us cardboard cut-outs by their constant Marxist-inspired dumbing down, ending in a dreary predictable sameness. The past has become melodrama adjudicated by 30-year-old PhDs rather than muscular tragedy. When Obama decides to rename a mountain or brags that Trayvon looks like the son he never had or urges Latinos to “punish our enemies” and quips “typical white person,” he is more or less offering a paint-by-numbers version of the postmodernists who despise both the rich capitalist West whose bounty created their own leisure and subsidizes their nihilism, and the rest of us who lack their awareness and thus are unthinking cogs in a huge monotonous wheel. For the postmodernist, Middle America lacks the romance of the poor of the inner city that is never visited and the high culture of the Upper West Side or Georgetown that is prized.
Angry? Hyperbolic? You decide? But refutable?  Consider some long-winded meditations from a different perspective on the same presidential campaign.  Here's the short form, from Henry Giroux.
Under the reign of neoliberalism, space, time and even language have been subject to the forces of privatization and commodification. Public space has been replaced by malls and a host of commercial institutions. Commodified and privatized, public space is now regulated through exchange values rather than public values, just as communal values are replaced by atomizing and survival-of-the fittest market values. Time is no longer connected to long-term investments, the development of social capital and goals that benefit young people and the public good.
That sounds like a coherent belief, something Roland Barthes and the deconstructionists pronounced anathema upon. But where there is multiculturalism, are there truly communal values, or do we only see identities?
In the age of casino capitalism, time itself has become a burden more than a condition for contemplation, self-reflection and the cultivation of thoughtful and compassionate social relations. The extended arc of temporal relations in which one could imagine long-term investments in the common good has given way to a notion of time in which the horizon of time is contained within the fluctuating short-term investments of the financial elite and their militant drive for profits at any price. What is lost in this merging of time and the dictates of neoliberal capital are the most basic elements of being human along with the formative culture and institutions necessary to develop a real, substantive democracy.
Perhaps the most charitable thing to say about that paragraph is "extended non sequitur."  But I persist.  "The formative culture?"  No multi there!  "Institutions necessary?"  Not deconstructed or marched through?  Perhaps Donald Trump is what happens when the intelligentsia and the political class deride and demean normal Americans for too long.
This retreat into private silos has resulted in the inability of individuals to connect their personal suffering with larger public issues. Thus detached from any concept of the common good or viable vestige of the public realm, they are left to face alone a world of increasing precarity and uncertainty in which it becomes difficult to imagine anything other than how to survive. Under such circumstances, there is little room for thinking critically and acting collectively in ways that are imaginative and courageous.

Surely, the celebration and widespread prevalence of ignorance in US culture does more than merely testify "to human backwardness or stupidity"; it also "indicates human weakness and the fear that it is unbearably difficult to live beset by continuous doubts."
Whatever. Mr Giroux goes on in a similar vein, raising the possibility of a distinctly American fascism.  There's an even longer version of the complaint in Tikkun. Nowhere, though, does he suggest that perhaps there can't be a coherent response to a trashy and superficial public culture without some shared notion of what a dignified and substantial public culture is.


The San Diego police and NBC Nightly News collaborate on a news story that's also a public service announcement.

Many of the level crossing crashes involve a vehicle smacking into a car somewhere behind the locomotive, which will go completely un-noticed by the engineer, and there are no longer cabooses with the rear end crew to see something amiss.

San Diego police wrote 172 tickets for railroad crossing violations by drivers and pedestrians in five hours of enforcement.  Excessive?  Go step on a pop can.  In proportion to the strength of the motor vehicle, the force exerted by the train exceeds the force of your stomp.

Stop.  Look.  Listen.  Live.  That is all.


The old Welfare Economics Paradigm called for corrective taxes and well-specified subsidies, along with counter-cyclical and complementary monetary and fiscal policies.  Hope and Change bring none of those.
To grow the economy, cheap interest rates are not going to work as well as reforms that make business formation and job creation more attractive. Yet Democrats these days have ever-lengthening lists of job-killing policies they want to enact, from tighter environmental regulations to dramatic minimum wage increases (especially in cities where unemployment is high) to tax increases. Paradoxically, that leaves liberals cheerleading for Fed policies that increase inequality and concentrate wealth because only ultra low rates (or truly massive deficits, which can’t be rammed through a GOP Congress) can mask the effect of left-wing microeconomic policies on the economy as a whole.

There is no shortage of capital today, but there is a dearth of attractive opportunities to invest that capital in ways that will stimulate employment. People who actually care about the living standard of the American people need to be thinking long and hard about the kinds of policy changes and innovations at the local, state, and federal levels that would rejuvenate the American labor market by making it easier and more rewarding to create new jobs.
Perhaps the simplest thing for the government to do is to back off. No public spending without rent-seeking: result, no productive effect.  The commentator is also arguing that the regulatory burden is depressing the internal rate of return on private investment, which might otherwise be substantially higher than the opportunity cost of capital.


The Green Bay Packers rallied to take control of their game with the Microsoft Seahawks with a no-huddle, no-back series.
"I thought it was probably the most important drive of the game," said [Packer coach Mike] McCarthy. "Not only to go down and score, but we were able to keep the ball. Moving in-bounds, there was a lot of time that came off the clock. It was a critical point in the game, and to get that production out of it, it was an excellent change-up. And Aaron orchestrated it very well, was patient with it. So it definitely was a good package for us."
The formation calls for proper timing and execution, as the quarterback often throws to the rearmost of three receivers on one side of the field, with the receivers in advance turning into blockers.  Football is blocking and tackling.  And understanding that a proper mixed strategy means mixing.



It's pointless to build additional road capacity in the Southeast, as that will only produce additional lanes to clog.

The existing Passenger Rail service is inadequate.  But help may be on the way.
The Federal Railroad Administration, the State of North Carolina, and the Commonwealth of Virginia announced today that they have signed off on the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Richmond to Raleigh passenger rail line along the Southeast Corridor. The completion of the environmental review is one of the final steps necessary before construction of the project can move forward once funding is secured.

“Without a strong passenger rail system, the Southeast’s growth will be choked by congestion for a very long time,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. “North Carolina, Virginia and the Department of Transportation have worked together to bring us closer to high-speed rail connecting Richmond and Raleigh, and I urge everyone involved to continue pushing this effort forward. High-speed rail in this region is not a luxury but a necessity.”

The 162-mile route between the two cities would utilize existing and former rail lines for approximately 60 percent of the route and is planned to be free from at-grade crossings of track and roads. This route is part of a larger multi-state planning effort to provide high-speed passenger service between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. In July, Secretary Foxx announced that the Department of Transportation would invest approximately $1 million to develop a regional long-term vision for the corridor and engage states and stakeholders to help the region form a governance organization that can sustain planning efforts and implement the vision.
There are some dormant or abandoned rail corridors that can be put back into use. I hope the track and catenary will be designed in such a way as to handle intermodal trains and autoracks, which will be a relief to automobile traffic on the likes of Interstate 81.  (And use some of the so-called Highway Trust Fund money, if necessary, on the railroad.  Less wear and tear on the interstates is the essence of holding an asset in trust.)

The passenger potential is clearly there.

Columnists Anthony Foxx and Dwight Jones, in Richmond's Times-Dispatch, say, let's get going.
It is true that it took a generation of discussions, planning and designing to get us to where we are today. But it is also true that we do not have another generation to reach the finish line. High-speed rail in this region is not a luxury; it is a necessity, and the clock is ticking. If we cannot figure out how to build this network soon, it is not hyperbole — it is a fact — that the South is going to be stuck in traffic for a very long time.

Back when planning for the Southeast Corridor started, Richmond commuters spent roughly 16 hours a year stuck in traffic. Last year, Richmond commuters lost nearly double that — 34 hours. Granted, this is still below the growing national average. But will it stay this way when there are 18 million more people, as the America 2050 study found, competing for the region’s road and airport spaces as we know them?
They observe, less lost time in traffic than the national average. Why compare yourself with the worst? And yes, lane expansion has not kept up with traffic volume expansion, but adding more lanes does not head off congestion.

Faster trains facilitate commerce, yes, but note that simply providing frequency and connectivity brings riders.
Richmond and the other cities and towns along the corridor are more than just neighbors, so to speak. As the region adds more residents and its economy expands, regional markets will be more tightly linked. Road congestion in the Richmond area is a growing problem, and the average flight delay at airports along the corridor is nearly an hour.

The proposed route from Richmond to Raleigh will in effect pull the cities closer together by cutting 75 minutes off the current train trip, making rail faster than even today’s traffic-free car trip. Further analysis of the Southeast Corridor has found that businesses pay 46 percent less for employees to travel from Richmond to Washington by train than by car.

Citizens are voting for this with their train tickets. Virginia has seen close to a 100 percent increase in ridership on its regional trains in recent years. Businesses and government are primed to make the Southeast Corridor plan a reality.
In Raleigh's News-Observer, Bruce Siceloff is also enthusiastic.
On the freight side, a lot of DOT’s attention is turned to the needs of container shippers in the realm known as “intermodal,” because it breaks down the barriers that separate competing forms of transportation.

“That’s really where the industry is going, as far as moving containers from ship to train to truck,” said Paul Worley, DOT Rail Division director.

Most of the containers that arrive by ship at the Wilmington port leave it on trucks. DOT wants to improve the port’s rail connection so that more of those containers can move out on trains. A container with anything from bulk grains to UPS packages can be shifted from one train to another before completing its journey on the back end of an 18-wheeler.

The Rail Plan envisions new rail routes at both ports – possibly relocating N.C. Railroad tracks in Morehead City, and adding a new Cape Fear River bridge into Brunswick County from Wilmington – to improve rail shipping for port customers. At the same time, DOT wants to find ways to reduce train-related delays for motorists in the port cities.
Note that regional railroads, not the four national systems, are involved.  The national systems continue to make a hash out of moving trains through Chicago, which probably pushes a lot of container traffic onto the highways.  But, again, using tax moneys to improve water-to-rail logistics is consistent with conserving the highways.  On the passenger side, there's an opportunity to implement the Cold Spring Shops Free Rein to 110 campaign.
This interstate line, formerly known as “high-speed,” is envisioned to provide faster train service from Raleigh to Washington, D.C., and the Northeast – and, later, from Charlotte to Atlanta and points south.

Most of the planning work has been completed on the key section – a 35-mile shortcut between Raleigh and Richmond, Va., using the old CSX “S” line. DOT’s aim is to eliminate every at-grade crossing on the road – bridges for some, closings for the rest – for trains that could move as fast as 110 miles per hour.

But that won’t happen without an estimated $3.8 billion to $4 billion in federal funds. Rather than wait forever for this money to materialize, DOT has begun looking at a more incremental approach.

Worley said he will look at what it would it cost to acquire the entire “S” line and put in new tracks and stations – enough to introduce standard-speed train service to Richmond – without all the bridges and other improvements needed for faster trains. Another option might involve starting out with service along just part of the line – from Raleigh to Franklinton or Henderson.
That's the old Seaboard Air Line -- the straightest section, but if memory serves, a bit of a roller coaster. Getting passenger trains up to 110 is straightforward -- if not necessary for regional trains to Henderson -- and there's no reason not to set it up for 90 mph intermodal trains or 80 mph autoracks, which could move overnight.

And with the Federal Reserve not raising interest rates, the capital costs are favorable.


Our President thinks it's transgressive to salt the guest list for the Pope's visit to the White House with the identity-politics freak show.
This is an astonishing display of bad manners. It would be one thing to invite a LGBTQ guest who held a position or a place in society that made him or her an obvious pick. In that case, it would be wrong from the standpoint of both etiquette and morals to deny an invitation. It would also be another matter if the White House is doing this with the foreknowledge and support of the Vatican. If Jesus could eat with tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners, it’s possible Pope Francis would be fine with a few guest with whom he disagrees on some points of personal morality. A joint decision with a Vatican that is fully happy with the guest list would be perfectly acceptable.

But at least one top Vatican official, unnamed by the Journal, issued a critical response to the list. If that official’s views are representative, it would appear that the White House did not run the list by the Vatican and the Obama Administration has gone out of its way to invite people whose presence is intended to imply criticism of the beliefs of his guest of honor. This is sophomoric and disgraceful. If the Catholic Church is so immoral that you feel that all decent people need to be at war with it, then you should treat the Pope’s visit as a private matter and ignore it. But if you want to show respect to the head of a faith that tens of millions of your fellow countrymen think is important, invite him and treat him with honor.

If the White House truly did this without Vatican support, this is behavior you’d expect to see from middle school students rather than the head of state of a serious country.
Is anyone surprised? Democrat cliches are emotional appeals calculated to move sophomores, and their witticisms are at about the same level.  And Our President has been behaving like a petulant teenager whenever he interacts with anyone who objects to his way.


While the evangelical and libertarian strains of Republicans simultaneously tangled and made common cause in the TEA Party Caucus, and Donald Trump shook up the presidential race, there's been anything but consensus among the Democrats.
The pundit class’s commitment to the conventional wisdom allowed them to miss the conditions on the right that led to the Trump surge over the summer – a dynamism that is evolving into an uprising among a healthy plurality or even a majority of Republican primary voters against professional politicians. The expert political observer is equally committed to subordinating empiricism to their understanding of how things should work when they survey the Democratic race. Clinton should have the nomination locked up. The Democrats should be committed to her campaign. If Clinton were to somehow fail to win both Iowa and New Hampshire’s early contests, her prohibitive organizational strength in the South should prove an insurmountable firewall. Amid all of these shoulds, pundits have ignored or overlooked the 2016 election cycle’s myriad coulds.

A Democratic revolt is well underway. If it snowballs, only those who should know better will have been caught by surprise.
Thirteen more months of this. Let there be more surprises!


Count on Robert D. Kaplan and Victor Davis Hanson to discover the grim, this time in the mass migration of refugees from Asia Minor into Europe.  Here's Mr Kaplan, pointing out structural flaws in the European project.
Reforming the welfare state does not mean dismantling it -- that would only cause another form of social and political upheaval. Nevertheless, structural economic reform is, at root, the solution to Europe's slow-motion dissolution. If the EU cannot generate more dynamism in the realm of economic and fiscal policy, it will continue to fracture internally, as each state looks out for its own, zero-sum interests, even as external threats multiply and Europe melts into Eurasia. Such a transformation in political geography would leave the United States as the lonely bastion of the West.  Indeed, the EU’s creation and evolution represents the ultimate fruit of the U.S.-led victory in World War II. It should not give way to the dementia of nationalist ideologies.

But political vision requires a strong economic foundation. And only a fiscally vibrant Europe can cope with the threats on its periphery. Geography matters, but human agency matters more.
And, Mr Hanson suggests, the postmodern policy myths do not survive an encounter with revealed preference.
Yet neither the Latin American nor the Islamic world analyzes why millions of their own are fleeing to cultures that are usually criticized -- other than an occasional half-hearted whine about the legacy of imperialism, colonialism and a potpourri of other historical grievances.

Nor does the deer-in-the-headlights American or European host dare to remind newcomers that its uniquely Western menu -- free-market capitalism, private property, a free press, meritocracy, consensual government, religious tolerance, equality between the sexes, and individual freedom -- draws in people, while the antitheses repel them.

The mentalities of both the Western hosts and the non-Western migrants have become predictable.
Well, when the Smart People have been deconstructing precisely the institutions that made the West rich and prevented the suckitude from which Latin Americans and Southwest Asians and North Africans are fleeing,  it's kind of hard for them to have a coherent understanding of why the direction of migration is what it is, or for them to emphasize with push-back.
Many ordinary middle-class Westerners oppose massive influxes of immigrants. These citizens do not like seeing laws rendered null and void. They fear that their schools, health facilities, legal systems and social services will be overwhelmed and left unable to effectively serve their own middle classes and poor.

The masses in the West have learned such caution from experience. The sudden appearance of huge numbers of immigrants -- when coupled with poverty, lack of language facility and little education -- for decades afterwards has impeded easy integration, assimilation and intermarriage within Western society.

As a result, a divisive, salad-bowl multicultural separatism often arises.

Given the challenges of facing strange customs, traditions and languages, guests naturally find it difficult to achieve rapid parity with hosts. It is soon forgotten in the first generation that being in the underclass in the West was once thought better than the alternative back home. That paradox is soon forgotten by the often disgruntled -- and less desperate -- children of migrants.

Millions of immigrants to the West soon sense that their own lack of parity and sheer numbers can translate into a powerful political constituency -- all the more so if it stays angry, unassimilated and occasionally replenished by new waves of arrivals.

Western elites in politics, journalism, academia, religion and the arts snipe at their own supposedly illiberal majorities. How dare these cruel hearts question the wisdom of accepting legions of anonymous newcomers!
While, Mr Hanson goes on to argue, the Smart People don't have to live near the new arrivals and their unusual habits.

Valid though that objection is, the challenge is to deconstruct the deconstructionists without fostering a destructive native identity politics.  This is not easily done.  Imagine an internet and a 24 hour news cycle at the time of mass immigration of Middle European Catholics and push-back from an earlier uprising of native identity politics.  There were plenty of cross-burnings early in the twentieth century without social media to propagate more.  Then came the War to End All Wars and getting the new arrivals involved became A Matter of National Urgency.

Perhaps something other than self-despising multiculturalism is in order, as that might be the more effective way to dissuade the second generation from becoming nostalgic for an old country they might never have lived in, and to encourage the third generation to buy into the institutions of the place where they live.  Which will be easier in the United States and perhaps Canada than in Europe, as the North American countries are good at assimilating that which is good from the new arrivals.  Why else the Oktoberfest observations all over the Midwest this time of year, and the Polka Fiesta?