23.5.17

TAIL TRACK.

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

BUILD IT BY INCREMENTS.

Cold Spring Shops friendly connection David Levinson contemplates Australia's envy of the fast trains of Germany or China.
The most recent proposals of CLARA [a private initiative to develop railroads and land] use a form of land value capture to help fund the system, by developing stations along the route, and developing suburbs/towns/cities around those intermediate stations.  I love new planned communities, and this is an exciting idea. I also love value capture. So this is a promising endeavour. But land development on greenfields often takes longer than anticipated, and thus may take a long time to justify the investment, and thus leave investors hanging if projections are not realised, or like so many infrastructure projects before, result in a government bailout. Nevertheless, if the tracks are on the ground, and the first (or second) round of investors are wiped out, the people of Australia will have gotten capital investment in infrastructure at a huge discount, though still be on the hook for operations and maintenance.
That's a throwback to the railway mania, or perhaps to the dot.com mania earlier in the century.  But playing SimTrump doesn't always work out well, on a computer simulation, or for railroad promoters, such as the interurbans of the early twentieth century.

In Australia, though, the venture capital might come from the government.
Peter Thornton has a fact-filled slide deck: Let’s get real about high speed rail in Australia, which comes down against building a full system at first, instead recommends the government, not a private entity, assume the risk and reward and improve shorter distance routes (namely Newcastle to Sydney), and expanding the system over time, rather than conceiving it as one giant project. The government could then sell the operating business and use the revenue to fund the next big thing.
The Australians are already operating a variant of Britain's 125 mph diesel trains. Maybe, as the slideshow illustrates (oh, and check out the antipodean high speed train engaging in street running while you're there) it's not worth spending tens of millions of dollars to shave a few minutes off the running time.

I suppose we could convert the "Free Rein to 110" campaign to "Free Rein to 190" for Australia's metric speed limits.  But getting to 200 or to 240 is feasible with existing diesel trains.

THE IDIOCY OF CULTURAL STUDIES.

Little Free Libraries are oppressive, because rich people are more likely to read, or something.
Little Free Libraries predominantly appear in medium- to high-income neighborhoods in Toronto (an effect that is less pronounced in Calgary, a wealthier city). For both cities, Little Free Libraries are distributed almost exclusively in neighborhoods where 25 percent or more residents have university degrees. In Toronto, Little Free Libraries sprout where public library branches are plentiful and where neighborhoods are white.
That's based on an article in something called the Journal of Radical Librarianship.  "Little Free Libraries®: Interrogating the impact of the branded book exchange."  Again with the "interrogating," as if these people are indulging in fantasies of working enemies of the people over in Lefortovo rather than signalling their prejudices.  "We are not trying to empirically demonstrate that LFL® has caused damage to traditional public libraries, rather we seek to provide an alternative and critical point of view as a departure from the LFL® narrative that has taken hold in the mainstream media."  Whatever.

Translating from the academic-speak:  We don't have any evidence, but we want to demonstrate our Politically Correct bona fides and fatten our tenure dossiers.

SEE YOU DOWN THE ROAD.

The BBC documents the final shows of Ringling Barnum.

LIVING AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS.

Right Wisconsin's George Mitchell isn't into toll roads.
It will be tempting to assume that tolling might “solve” Wisconsin’s transportation finance problem and render unnecessary any need to raise the gas tax. That expectation will need to be tested against the reality of multi-billion freeway reconstruction costs and the price-tag for halting the steady decline in the condition of out-state roads. Once the numbers get crunched there almost certainly will be a shortfall.
The highway commissioners can decide to write off some excess capacity now, or they can confront a more difficult triage later.
The widespread recognition among legislators that new revenue is needed explains the emergence of such ideas. The impetus for such talk is the line in the sand drawn by Governor Scott Walker when it comes to raising the gas tax. It remains to be seen whether the governor can reconcile imposition of tolling with his repeated assurances that current revenue is adequate.
Square "adequate revenue" with "crumbling infrastructure" if you can.

22.5.17

USE YOUR IMAGINATION.

Suppose the North Shore Line decided to have an Electroliner control car serviced at Cold Spring Shops.  The move would look something like this.


Illinois Railway Museum, 20 May 2017.

WE ARE ALL UNDEREMPLOYED COMPARED TO OUR GRANDPARENTS.

Yes, you can make a chicken sandwich from scratch.  The money quote.
I never even thought about where these common ingredients come from and how much work goes into it. This really just shows the complexity of our society that just to make a sandwich from scratch there’s an entire army of people specialized in producing each of these ingredients, allowing them to be readily available to us just down the street at the local grocery store, reducing the time from six months to six minutes.
Your sandwich is a privilege. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them.

REDISCOVERING VALUE CAPTURE.

Here's an old Strong Towns post that has come to Cold Spring Shops' attention.
Today we spend money on infrastructure in the hopes of creating growth. That's backwards. Infrastructure should not be a catalyst for growth but something that emerges in support of productive patterns of development. There has to be a relationship between the infrastructure built and the value created.

Let's examine the way the railroads were constructed. Nobody is arguing that there wasn't government subsidy of the railroads. There was. The land for the tracks and the towns along it were largely given to the railroad companies. Examine that investment, however. Land the government owned was given away. (I realize we can debate whether they owned it -- they didn't -- but that is another conversation.) There was no long term taxpayer commitment. There was no ongoing expense the government incurred.

The railroad then built the tracks. Did they build them and then charge a fee (the equivalent of today's gas tax) to pay for the construction? Absolutely not. That would have been far too speculative. In order to pay for the tracks they did something simple and obvious: they developed the towns along the way. The railroads owned the land, created the railroad stop, subdivided the land around it, sold it to speculators and others looking to develop and then used that money (minus some profit margin, for sure) to build the line. In other words, they used a value capture mechanism to pay for the infrastructure.

The railroads were land developers first, railroad operators second. Once the line was built and the land at the towns sold off, they were free of the need to pay off capital expenses. That meant that the fares that the railroad collected could go directly to covering operations and maintenance (and some profit, for sure). That's a viable model.

It is also a model with direct feedback. What happened when things didn't work out, when a town failed to develop properly or when the development of new towns got out ahead of the demand. If the railroads operated like today's highway departments, if the growth slowed down, we would simply build more railroads and towns. After all, the new infrastructure creates growth, right?

Of course, that is not what happened. Many railroads went out of business, and nearly all lost money, in the Long Depression of 1870, which was at least partially caused by over speculation along the railroad lines. That is what happens in a real market system when there is malinvestment and supply runs too far ahead of demand.
But trade-tested malinvestment cannot go on for as long as government-mandated malinvestment.

The history makes me optimistic about the future of Florida's Brightline train service.

HILLARY CLINTON'S FAT TAILS.

Calm down, I'm not referring to her entourage.


Rather, I'm referring to a post-mortem on the failure of the Smartest Kids in the Room to see the wave election that hit them.
The core of Clinton campaign strategy was their analytics system, developed by dozens of researchers who were led by Clinton’s director of analytics, Elan Kriegel, in close consultation with campaign manager Robby Mook. In the Washington Post, John Wagner wrote, “the algorithm was said to play a role in virtually every strategic decision Clinton aides made, including where and when to deploy the candidate and her battalion of surrogates and where to air television ads—as well as when it was safe to stay dark.” The oracle of the system was “Ada,” a big-data simulator that issued up-to-the-minute probabilities on Clinton’s chances by state and county. Throughout the general election, Ada backed her arguments for a decisive Clinton win in the Electoral College with a ton of stats. But Ada, and all her numbers, turned out to be wrong.
We're not talking about garbage in, garbage out here. Rather, we're talking about a black swan event that ought to have at least been in the analysts' minds.
Ada ran “400,000 simulations a day of what the race against Trump might look like.” This is a very “big data” sort of claim. 400,000 is rather large—no human could look through the results of that many simulations. Ada’s “intelligence” lay in how she boiled down the results of those 400,000 simulations into a campaign strategy. Each of Ada’s electoral simulations was premised on variations in turnout based around expected margins of error—for example, one simulation might posit that Hispanics would break for Clinton 2 or 3 points higher (or lower) than the data predicted. By sampling a representative subset of all possible variations—the so-called Monte Carlo method of quantitative analysis—Ada would produce a set of outcomes. After such simulations, Ada showed that Michigan and Wisconsin went for Trump only a small percentage of the time, compared to Florida and Pennsylvania, which went for Trump a larger percentage of the time.

Yet what must have seemed like a foolproof, detailed prescription for victory based on data and computation was mostly a confirmation of preexisting biases—particularly the campaign’s faith in the firewall. In another election year, those biases might have turned out to be right, and Ada would have been mistakenly vindicated. Here, though, the oracle was revealed to be little more than a parrot. Once the initial analysis showed that Clinton was favored to win in certain states, Ada helped prevent the campaign from questioning her conclusions.
That's the same error the people writing credit default swaps made. Then came one day in which a twenty-five-sigma event (under their priors) occurred, followed by another day with another twenty-five-sigma event.  Your Monte Carlo method is only as good as your priors about the variations.  Is your world Gaussian, with two-thirds of the expected events within one standard deviation of the mean?  Or might you be in messy reality, with more than two-thirds of the expected events within one standard deviation, and more than one-twentieth of the expected events beyond two standard deviations?

Dizziness due to success did in the hedgies.  Dizziness due to success did in the hillaries.

AULD LANG SYNE.

The final days of Ringling Barnum's train.
An elephant stretches its trunk through a window to soothe a sick child. A woman gives birth and three months later is back performing on the high wire. A handler of big cats weeps as the beasts lope out of the ring for the last time.
There's a lot more at the article. Read it. Savor it. A sampling:
Ringling is the last circus anywhere to travel by train, and while living on a train can be tough, the accommodations are considered a benefit that other circuses don't offer. Perks include the "Pie Car," the mile-long train's dining operation, as well as a circus nursery and school for the many children whose parents make the circus what it is.

Some observations from the home the performers leave behind, from the unit's last circus baptism, their final times goofing around on "Clown Alley," and other moments the world will never see again.
The baptism? Where else does the priest wear vestments made of repurposed elephant trappings?

Mourn.  Then find yourself an itinerant circus and go to it.

See you down the road.

TROLL LEVEL: ANONYMOUS REFEREE.

Two working academics spike the football over having seriously trolled the gender-studies enterprise.  Skeptic's Michael Shermer describes the trolling as a vital public service.
Every once in awhile it is necessary and desirable to expose extreme ideologies for what they are by carrying out their arguments and rhetoric to their logical and absurd conclusion, which is why we are proud to publish this expose of a hoaxed article published in a peer-reviewed journal today. Its ramifications are unknown but one hopes it will help rein in extremism in this and related areas.
Yes, it's easy enough to dress up a nonsense argument in pomo-babble and make it sound academic, or something, which is what the authors did.
Assuming the pen names “Jamie Lindsay” and “Peter Boyle,” and writing for the fictitious “Southeast Independent Social Research Group,” we wrote an absurd paper loosely composed in the style of post-structuralist discursive gender theory. The paper was ridiculous by intention, essentially arguing that penises shouldn’t be thought of as male genital organs but as damaging social constructions. We made no attempt to find out what “post-structuralist discursive gender theory” actually means. We assumed that if we were merely clear in our moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, we could get the paper published in a respectable journal.
Yes, the gender studies folks might have some tight, er, priors, and yet the paper winds up in a journal, but respectable?  Read on and contemplate Tom Lehrer's "Now there's a charge for what she used to give for free."
We didn’t try to make the paper coherent; instead, we stuffed it full of jargon (like “discursive” and “isomorphism”), nonsense (like arguing that hypermasculine men are both inside and outside of certain discourses at the same time), red-flag phrases (like “pre-post-patriarchal society”), lewd references to slang terms for the penis, insulting phrasing regarding men (including referring to some men who choose not to have children as being “unable to coerce a mate”), and allusions to rape (we stated that “manspreading,” a complaint levied against men for sitting with their legs spread wide, is “akin to raping the empty space around him”). After completing the paper, we read it carefully to ensure it didn’t say anything meaningful, and as neither one of us could determine what it is actually about, we deemed it a success.
Yes, "unwilling to be hen-pecked" might prevent the paper from being published, but even with the careful use of the right buzz-words, the first journal they tried wouldn't have it.
We didn’t originally go looking to hoax Cogent Social Sciences, however. Had we, this story would be only half as interesting and a tenth as apparently damning. Cogent Social Sciences was recommended to us by another journal, NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies, a Taylor and Francis journal. NORMA rejected “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” but thought it a great fit for the Cogent Series, which operates independently under the Taylor and Francis imprimatur.
It is no accident, dear reader, that Taylor and Francis figure in this story. If there's a Herfindahl index for online citations by Real Peer Review, #tandfonline would probably head the list.  I don't believe in coincidences, though, and perhaps there are working academicians, even in the fever swamps of culture studies, who are as disgusted by the proliferation of online outlets for people more interested in racking up refereed publications for their own sake, rather than, oh, taking on challenging projects and participating in an intelligent conversation.
Suspecting we may be dealing with a predatory pay-to-publish outlet, we were surprised that an otherwise apparently legitimate Taylor and Francis journal directed us to contribute to the Cogent Series. (Authors’ note: we leave it to the reader to decide whether or not NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies constitutes a legitimate journal, but to all appearances it is run by genuine academic experts in the field and is not a predatory money-mill.) The problem, then, may rest not only with pay-to-publish journals, but also with the infrastructure that supports them.

In sum, it’s difficult to place Cogent Social Sciences on a spectrum ranging from a rigorous academic journal in gender studies to predatory pay-to-publish money mill. First, Cogent Social Sciences operates with the legitimizing imprimatur of Taylor and Francis, with which it is clearly closely partnered. Second, it’s held out as a high-quality open-access journal by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), which is intended to be a reliable list of such journals.
Thus, the self-confession in Skeptic.
The publish-or-perish academic environment is its own poison that needs a remedy. It gives rise to predatory profit-driven journals with few or no academic standards that take advantage of legitimate scholars pressured into publishing their work at all costs, even if it is marginal or dubious. Many of these scholars are victims both of a system that is forcing them to publish more papers and to publish them more often, to the detriment of research quality, and of the predatory journals that offer to sell them the illusion of academic prestige. Certainly, we have every reason to suspect that a majority of the other academics who have published in Cogent Social Sciences and other journals in the Cogent Series are genuine scholars who have been cheated by what may be a weak peer-review process with a highly polished edifice. Our question about the fundamental integrity of fields like gender studies seems much more pressing nonetheless.
Inside Higher Ed's Scott Jaschik picks up the story.  It is the vanity-press aspect of the hoax that interests me (as, before I quit, my electronic mail occasionally included solicitations for submissions, and in the fine print it looked like I could get stuff approved quickly, but for a small fee.)  Here's Academe's Hank Reichman, with the key point.  "The problem, however, is that the real joke was on the hoaxsters, who either failed to discern or willfully covered up the fact that the journal in question was a vanity publication with little to no credibility in academia. And the alleged “skeptics” failed even to question the legitimacy of the hoaxsters’ sweeping claims."

The discipline that got trolled? One anecdote doth not invalidate the corpus of scholarship. "So, on the basis of publishing a hoax paper in an obscure vanity journal with zero credibility in the field they wished to “expose,” the authors — and those who praise them — somehow jump to the conclusion that the entire discipline of gender studies is corrupt."  To Bleeding Heart Libertarians' James Taylor, it's a cock-up.
The first journal that Bognossian and Lindsay submitted their hoax paper to, and that rejected it, was NORMA: The International Journal for Masculinity Studies. This journal doesn’t even hit the top 115 journals in Gender Studies. So, what happened here was that they submitted a hoax paper to an unranked journal, which summarily rejected it. They then received an auto-generated response directing them to a pay-to-publish vanity journal. They submitted the paper there, and it was published. From this chain of events they conclude that the entire field of Gender Studies is “crippled academically”. This tells us very little about Gender Studies, but an awful lot about the perpetrators of this “hoax”…. and those who tout it as a take down of an entire field.
It might also tell us about the vanity press enterprise, and about the value of citation indices, impact factors, and the rest. (And 115 journals in gender studies, to keep current requires scholars in that field to pick and choose what to read.)  Thus Reason's Robby Soave.  "Hoax social science paper is more an indictment of pay-to-publish journals than anything else."  Precisely.  Orgtheory's E. P. Berman gets the summation.
If your article gets rejected from one of our regular journals, we’ll automatically forward it to one of our crappy interdisciplinary pay-to-play journals, where we’ll gladly take your (or your funder’s or institution’s) money to publish it after a cursory “peer review”. That is a new one to me.

There’s a hoax going on here all right. But I don’t think it’s gender studies that’s being fooled.
Nor, likely, are promotion boards and external reviewers. Part of being asked to serve as an external reviewer, for instance, is having enough visibility in the discipline (which one acquires, dear reader, by writing articles in journals people might skim more carefully) to understand when a portfolio has some stuff of substance in it.

THE IDEA CATCHES ON.

Trains reports on the combo-car for the 21st century.  Go here for the pictures.

18.5.17

TEN YEARS AGO.

We were running cleanup trains on the model railroad at the old house.


Yes, there's more than a little creative anachronism on display there.  The locomotives and cars have a lot more track to run on these days.

WHERE THE STREETCAR WILL BEND THE CORNER AROUND.

There are tracks going down for the first phase of Milwaukee's new streetcar, which will call at the railway station, the Public Market, and stop not far from the Grohmann Museum.  Good news for me, as a tourist, although I wonder about its utility to locals.  A subsequent extension will get to the lakefront, not far from the German Fest, er, Summerfest grounds.  But alas, no Nineteen Line to Lindwurm Park or the Bavarian Inn.

The construction of the streetcar tracks motivated another television station to air a newly-discovered movie of the final days of Milwaukee's real streetcars.  First, though, they had to find some old technology, the eight millimeter movie projector.

I can't guarantee those video links for long, go check them out now.

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

The New York Times stands up for the ancien regime.  Special prosecutors?  Impeachment? Endless scandal-mongering?  The people who voted for Mr Trump may be having none of it.  "Mr. Trump’s fans are not eager to see a return to the establishment-dominated political order he promised to demolish."  The Times, predictably, roll out longtime Trump skeptic Charlie Sykes, to well, if not gaze into the basket of deplorables, at least allude to the misinformed voters, now suffering from cognitive dissonance.
Mr. Trump has created his own political culture, and its devotees are strongly and emotionally committed to it.

“They took a huge risk, and they are deeply invested,” said Charlie Sykes, a conservative author who has been critical of Mr. Trump. And the news cycle they inhabit, he added, is only hardening their beliefs.

“These days when people say, ‘Oh, my gosh, this really looks terrible, was I possibly wrong about Trump?’ they quickly go on social media or see the shows and instantaneously find something that reinforces their opinion,” Mr. Sykes added. “And they cling to that.”
It's true that Mr Trump is doing some foolish things, and I'd not object to an intervention where his early-morning use of social media is concerned.  But there was more to his candidacy than Not Hillary. "[Trump supporters] have been struck by the discrepancies between informed opinion, as represented in the pages of the elite newspapers in the country, as well as the scholarly journals of academic societies, and their own perceptions on a wide variety of topics. Such discrepancies are not necessarily signs of unwisdom, of course; they may reflect differences in experiences and world views that lead people to base their opinions on different sets of facts or to interpret the same facts in different ways."  That's from Texas philospher Daniel Bonevac, making the case for his vote for Mr Trump.  There's a lot in the essay, and this passage, in particular, is one that perhaps I can riff on in some future post.
The Democratic Party and its allies in the media and academia have pushed a narrative for decades that portrays free enterprise as cruel, corrupt, and unfair, and government as caring, altruistic, and just. Freedom creates problems; government solves them. Sometimes, that narrative is accurate. Often, however, it is not. The gap between the narrative and reality has been growing as government grows beyond the problems it knows how to solve. And those upholding the narrative seem increasingly incapable of recognizing the divergence. They seem incapable of conceiving of a simple question: Even if there is a better solution than the equilibrium achieved by the free market—by free people freely making their own decisions—why should we have confidence that government can find it? Still less do they seem capable of answering it. I am not saying that thinkers on the left do not propose solutions—of course they do—but that they do not even try to establish the optimality of their preferred policies.
On the other hand, that's standard Failure of Wise Experts stuff. Do your own research.

It's the Empire Striking Back stuff that interests me today.  Start with Reason's Nick Gillespie. All This Impeachment Talk Is Pure Trump Derangement Syndrome.
The best thing you can say about [fired FBI director James] Comey is that he's no Louis Freeh or J. Edgar Hoover, which is the textbook case of damning with faint approbation.

Needless to say, none of this absolves Donald Trump of any wrongdoing. But impeachment talk this soon and this thick is coming not from a place of seriousness but pure partisanship and ideology masquerading as disinterested belief in the public good. When the Republicans moved to impeach Bill Clinton back in the 1990s, it was the same thing and it didn't exactly work out that well for many of the main conspirators, or for the country at large. Among other things, the impeachment push indirectly led to the ouster of Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House, which eventuated in an actual child molester being way high up in the presidential line of succession.

The impeachment of Bill Clinton was one of the major mileposts in the long, ongoing shift of America from a high-trust to a low-trust country, one in which faith, trust, and confidence in most of our major public, private, and civic institutions have taken a massive beating for decades now. Maybe it was the Warren Commission Report that got the ball rolling, or Lyndon Johnson's infamous "credibility gap." All the secret wars in Cambodia and Watergate sure didn't help and the mind-boggling revelations of the Church Commission might have the final nail in the coffin of trust. The Pinto disaster sure didn't help, nor did other revelations of private-sector fakery. You throw in freakazoid oddness such as the People's Temple, United Way scandals, and rampant Catholic Church buggery, and, well, what do you expect? Across the board, fewer and fewer of us trust the government, the media, labor, corporations, etc. to do the right thing given the option of doing the wrong thing.

And get this: However unpopular Donald Trump is, Congress is even less trustworthy. Libertarians especially ignore this slide in trust and the rush to partisan-driven calls to undermine elected officials absent actual evidence at our peril. Low-trust countries don't actually shrink the size, scope, and spending of government.
That child molester? My Congressman, who wrote a lot of earmarks for Northern Illinois University into the 2005 porkulus transportation bill, a manifestation of overweening government that might have inspired the Tea Party.

(You know where I stand, dear reader, on the consequences of treating "wrong" as a construction.)

The Trump base, though?  Screwed over by the establishments of both major parties.
The Republican Party and conservative movement had created a hierarchy that mirror-imaged its liberal antithesis, and suggested to middle class voters between the coasts that the commonalities in income, professional trajectories, and cultural values of elites trumped their own political differences. How a billionaire real estate developer appeared, saw that paradox, and became more empathetic to the plight of middle-class Americans than the array of Republican political pundits is one of the most alarming stories of our age.

Trump was not so much a reflection of red-state Americans’ political ignorance, as their weariness with those of both parties who ridicule, ignore, or patronize them—and now seek to overturn the verdict of the election.
And make no mistake, Mr Trump's base sees the Washington process as an effort to overturn the election.  Scott "Dilbert" Adams refers to the drama of special investigators and the rest as a "slow motion assassination."
I also think we are seeing with the recent leaks the first phase of Mutually Assured Destruction of our government. The leaks will destroy Trump if they continue. But if that happens, no Democrat and no anti-Trump Republican will ever be able to govern in the future. Payback is guaranteed. The next President to sit in the White House will be leaked to the point of ineffectiveness. And that’s how the Republic dies.

That isn’t necessarily bad news. The Republic form of government doesn’t make sense in the modern world anyway. We already evolved into a form of direct democracy via social media and polling. Our politicians can’t risk going against a big majority – even for noble reasons – because social media will organize to drive that person out of office over the issue. In effect, we are already a direct democracy. The Republic is already history, except in a technical sense.

If you can sit passively while watching the Opposition Media turn “hope” into “asked Comey to end the investigation,” you are part of the slow assassination of President Trump. And you are also part of the slow assassination of the next president, and the next. If Trump goes down from leaks, Mutually Assured Destruction kicks in automatically.
That might be excessive, or perhaps direct response by informed (or motivated) voters on social media might induce Washington types to be, oh, less intrusive and more receptive to local responses to local issues.  But the assassination, or perhaps "coup" imagery does not go away.
Normal people just shake their heads and wonder why Washington is so consumed with political nonsense instead of solving problems. But then, Washington does not produce solutions. It produces only political nonsense.

This is a concentrated, coordinated effort by elite insiders to take down not this president – Trump’s not the point here – but to take down us, the normal American they seek to rule. Someone came to Washington who wasn’t part of the club, and that’s intolerable. So they are desperate to expel him, and by extension, us.
That's Kurt Schlichter, and pitchforks, torches, and baiting moonbats are part of his makeup.  But he's not the angriest insurrectionist on Town Hall this day.  That's Laura Hollis.
Progressives have been playing a reckless and dangerous game, undermining the very traditions and institutions they depend upon for their freedom. Few are asking, "What happens if our political opponents decide to behave as we do?"

They'd better. Their coordinated campaign to destroy Donald Trump may be successful -- and Trump may be handing them much of their ammunition. But it's clear that America's cultural and societal underpinnings can only be undermined so long by the elite before the hoi polloi will decide that they, too, have more to gain and nothing to lose by abandoning them.

When that happens, God help us.
The militias await.

But the self-styled progressives don't have anything new to tempt the voters they failed to inspire, in the presidential election or away from the ghettoes of the coastal states.
Some of the leftward march seems to be motivated by the sense that Hillary Clinton’s tepid center-leftism was a dud and the conviction that Bernie Sanders or someone like him might have had a better shot against Trump.  This analysis may or may not be correct, but it is too one-dimensional. In fact, Bernie Sanders was to Clinton’s right on many cultural issues, including gun control, feminism, immigration, and identity politics.  If you want to drive a Berniebro crazy, you could even argue that Sanders is the reason Clinton lost—that she couldn’t compete with his left-wing economic populism, so she moved even deeper into boutique academic/PC liberal territory to compensate, and that this was ultimately what did her in. And yet, the new generation of Democrats seems to be retreating to hard-line liberal positions in all areas, economic and social alike.

If Trump’s approval rating remains stuck in the low 40s—and especially if it ticks downward even further, as seems increasingly plausible—the Democrats are well-positioned for a major comeback in Congress and the statehouses in 2020. But they could easily blow this opportunity, just as they blew the last one, by learning the wrong lessons from the Age of Trump. Of course, the real loser here is not one party or the other, but the country at large, which seems to be locked into a self-reinforcing cycle of minority-party radicalization under presidents of both parties that is annihilating the vital center.
That's The American Interest's Jason Willick. Perhaps he's accurate, or perhaps there no longer is a vital center. Or, perhaps, to repeat, it is time for Washington types to give up on attempting to do too much.

Heck, Common Dreams regular Robert Borosage is discouraged.  "Bold, new ideas were scarce, but there was a vigorous competition on who had the best Trump putdown." Even the peroration, from New Jersey senator Corey Booker, didn't inspire.
Booker closed the conference with a passionate address, invoking the progressive movements that have transformed America, concluding that Democrats can’t merely be the “party of resistance,” but must “reaffirm” America’s “impossible dream.” Fittingly, it was a speech brutal on Trump, replete with good values, sound goals and uplifting oratory, and utterly devoid of ideas.
We've seen through tax and tax, spend and spend, pander and pander, and Team Left can't count on elect and elect any more.  Neither can they get on the other side of the cold civil war right now.

WIND DOWN THE CARTELS.

Regulation in the public interest inevitably generates rents, that might be dissipated by inefficiently bestowing favors.  It also generates special pleading. The existing service is adequate. If additional service is required, the existing carriers can provide it. The applicant carrier is not competent to provide the service.  In Wisconsin, there will be an extensive review of all state certification of providers.
There is a virtual consensus among economists that state-enforced training requirements for a variety of low to mid-skill jobs, from catering to hair-braiding to interior decorating, have grown excessive, exerting a major drag on economic growth and employment—especially for people who don’t have the time or money to take thousands of hours of costly courses to practice a basic trade that isn’t particularly dangerous and whose skills can easily be judged by consumers.

Licensing requirements for low-skilled work have exploded over the past decades for no other reason than that professional guilds have been able to capture state legislatures and used them to help entrench their market positions. Legislators in other states should follow Wisconsin in scrutinizing existing occupational licensing programs and assessing which ones actually serve the common good and which ones exist to protect narrow and well-connected interests.
I wonder where the egg-graders and butter-graders will wind up.

17.5.17

SO ENGAGE THE REAL CHALLENGES.

I picked up P. M. Bovy's The Perils of "Privilege": Why Injustice Can't Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage with the hope that perhaps a privileged, properly credentialed newly minted academic might be able to engage my assertion that the privilege knapsack really contains the received practices of the insiders, which is to say, the strategies that the insiders used to interact with each other to mutual benefit, and which, at worst, serve as ways to exclude outsiders, and perhaps the constructive thing to do is for the insiders to honor the outsiders for making the effort, and for the outsiders to make the effort to master the strategies.

That's the understanding of Mitch "Shot in the Dark" Berg, who is currently having some fun with the Minnesota Public Radio types with a tote-bag full of smug.
[Privilege] translates to “freedom”, “justice” and “being accorded the dignity of being treated as an autonomous individual rather than a member of a group” – all of which are supposed to be values near and dear to our Republic and Western Civilization itself, and all of them things we should be working tirelessly to spread to everyone.
The culture-studies types, however, have their own visions of freedom and justice, and a bias toward the collective, which, with a cold civil war brewing, might be hazardous to their health.
And when some mindless Social Justice Warrior jabbers about “smashing white/male privilege”, the proper response is “so – you want to smash freedom, justice and individual dignity?  See you at the barricades”.

Discussion of all other privileges – academic, social, class – were drowned out.  As they were intended to be.
Ms Bovy did tackle the other privileges Mr Berg mentions, but her effort falls flat.  Book Review No. 10 counts the ways.

It's possible that her work is in the vein of Julia Serrano's "How to Write a 'Political Correctness Run Amok' Article," only with a lot more words.  How does that go?
Make it clear from the very beginning that you are an open-minded, social justice supporter, preferably on the left side of the political spectrum. This will contrast your take on “political correctness run amok” from those of right wing commentators — you know, those hypocrites who are pro-free speech when it comes to white, straight, Christian people making fun of minorities, but against free speech when it comes to #BlackLivesMatter, or discussions about sex education and women’s reproductive rights, or secular holiday celebrations, or homosexuals and their so-called “agenda.” You are nothing like those hypocrites! Plus, you are pitching your soon-to-be-trending article to someplace like The Nation or The Atlantic, so you will most certainly need to win over liberal readers.
Yeah, pretty much. East Coast public intellectual, degrees (in French, but not French philosophy) and working in Toronto.  And yes, much of Perils is about red-on-red (or is it pink-on-pink?) fratricide, something that Ms Serrano's essay anticipated.

How does it go wrong?  Chapter-by-chapter.

1.  "The Online YPIS Wars."  "Check your privilege" or "your privilege is showing" are ad hominem arguments.  Does it really require 40-plus pages, mostly of examples, to dance around that point without making it firmly?

2.  "Lonely at Amherst."  Which is mostly about the idiocy of the application essay as currently implemented by admissions offices to holistically curate (that might be the best turn of phrase, later in the book she juxtaposes "holistic" and "cherry-pick" to good effect) a properly diverse incoming class, who are all snowflakes and they all think alike.  Complete with digs both at application essays that "reek of privilege" and at failed applicants who file affirmative action lawsuits.  (On that last point, I agree, but that's because I suspect the Spielberg effect is present in students beyond the ones who got into one of the high-status places yet matriculated elsewhere, and the best strategy might be to shine at your safety school.  As if the concept of a safety school doesn't itself reek of privilege.)

3.  "The Problematic Fave."  That's mainly about privilege-checking and virtue-signalling on social media.  Props for quoting Lindsay Beyerstein.  "Calling a show 'problematic' is a way of insinuating that it's racist, sexist, or exploitative without actually having to argue the point."  Precisely.  "Do you like the Packers' chances?"

4.  "Privileged Impostors."  Nobody wins the Oppression Olympics.  Precisely.  Does it take nearly forty pages to recognize that?

5.  "Bizarro Privilege."  Read the chapter as a reflection on the vapidity of the autobiographical reflection essay, particularly as a confession of privilege, real or imagined, and contemplate a scholarship in which culture-studies types and the like do some real research.  Something analogous to observing rodent behavior in Chile or soot deposits in ice samples in Antarctica or uncovering the ways in which speculative bubbles manifest themselves and collapse, or, oh, combining several data sources in order to understand technology diffusion in heavy industry.

Conclusion.  A recent Yale graduate who has already punched several Team Pink tickets (e.g. Occupy, public radio) dies in a car crash, and somehow it's thought crime to mourn her loss, as many people live lives of quiet desperation and die unnoticed.  Ms Bovy suggests, come off it.  Plus quinoa and kale.

So answer me this: why is higher education letting people like this set the tone for the enterprise, particularly at the higher tiers of the U.S. News pecking order?

Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.

ECHOES OF THE ICE AGE.

Over the winter, the East Troy Electric Railroad have been resurfacing and raising track that crosses a marsh.
The work underway by Volkmann Railroad Builders of Menomonee Falls, Wis., involves replacing 800 ties and leveling track on a three-quarter-mile section of the 7.2-mile line connecting East Troy and Mukwonago, Wis. The segment has been prone to spring flooding.

"Our board of directors recognized the need to make a commitment to regular improvements to the line to offer a better experience for our riders," East Troy President Ryan Jonas says in a statement. "We have replaced more than 400 ties along the line in each of the past two years, but now we have committed to improving the entire line in a more systematic way."
That marsh dates back to the last glaciation, when the ice melt left kettle lakes amidst the moraines (and all the other glacial formations that Wisconsin kids learn about in earth science classes.) Slowly, the plant matter in the lakes decays, and the lake fills with humus. But you can't build a railroad on humus without a lot of fill, and sometimes you build a pile trestle and fill that in.

The railroad still operates work equipment built in Milwaukee's Cold Spring Shops, where the Milwaukee streetcars received their heavy maintenance.


It's a preservation railroad, these days, and the resumption of summer service prompted Milwaukee's Channel 58 to despatch Michael Schlesinger to report two features, but those video clips have already gone into the memory hole.

BEYOND PROCESS.

It's possible that Our President, in suggesting that the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation back off on investigating discharged National Security Advisor, has obstructed justice.  Or perhaps he's operating in the spirit of Otter wheedling just one more chance out of Dean Wormer.  (But you'd think that someone in a position of authority would understand that subordinates might interpret wheedling as something more akin to a direct order.)

It's also possible that the ongoing, predictable, political posturing among the usual Washington players isn't going to play so well with citizens, particularly citizens, whether voting or not, who concentrate on making it another day or their kids' sports accomplishments or, well, simply living, for whom the current predictable political posturing is simply the same show that we've been watching since 2005 or 1998 or 1987 or 1973 or 1965 (depending, dear reader, upon when you first became aware of the possibility of scandal, real or imagined, to shuffle the alignments in Washington.)

Here's the latest from Angelo "Ruling Class" Codevilla, with references to civil war and revolution.
America is in the throes of revolution. The 2016 election and its aftermath reflect the distinction, difference, even enmity that has grown exponentially over the past quarter century between America’s ruling class and the rest of the country. During the Civil War, President Lincoln observed that all sides “pray[ed] to the same God.” They revered, though in clashing ways, the same founders and principles. None doubted that those on the other side were responsible human beings. Today, none of that holds. Our ruling class and their clients broadly view Biblical religion as the foundation of all that is wrong with the world. According to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy, or any form of intolerance.”

The government apparatus identifies with the ruling class’s interests, proclivities, and tastes, and almost unanimously with the Democratic Party. As it uses government power to press those interests, proclivities, and tastes upon the ruled, it acts as a partisan state. This party state’s political objective is to delegitimize not so much the politicians who champion the ruled from time to time, but the ruled themselves. Ever since Woodrow Wilson nearly a century and a half ago at Princeton, colleges have taught that ordinary Americans are rightly ruled by experts because they are incapable of governing themselves. Millions of graduates have identified themselves as the personifiers of expertise and believe themselves entitled to rule. Their practical definition of discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, etc., is neither more nor less than anyone’s reluctance to bow to them. It’s personal.
Yes, and Hillary Clinton probably expected the deplorables to cringe and vote for her out of shame, and in that alternative universe of a Hillary Clinton presidency, we'd be well into the fourth month of deplorable-shaming and condescension, and the cheering section of the punditry would likely be writing about how disrespectful any opposition, let alone any mockery of her screechy public speaking style, would be.  Never mind that the lived experience of people who aren't connected to the rent-seeking racket hasn't gotten any better.

The lived experience of people who aren't connected to the rent-seeking racket hasn't improved much in reality as we understand it.  But the Washington process show is simply one more reason for the disaffected voters to raise the middle finger.
To the rootless global elites, though, tradition is subordinated to transgression. What society considers edgy, elites deem worthy of their praise. It isn’t acceptable merely to accept gay life, for example — it must be celebrated. Recalling moving to San Francisco and observing a fully naked man walking down the street, [law professor Joan] Williams recalls feeling proud of herself for being tolerant of such norm-shattering. Among the elites, she says, “It’s a point of pride not to be one of those petty bourgeois who’s shocked by sexual transgression.”

This attitude not only stuns the [inland white working-class] but strikes them as a kind of attack on everything they hold dear. To them, bicoastal urban America is a joke to which they don’t get the punchline. They feel excluded, marginalized, left out. Worse than any of this, they feel condescended to, and it infuriates them, Williams writes.

Hillary Clinton did a marvelous job of confirming their suspicions when she said — in New York City, at an LGBT event — that “You could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”
And now the bicoastal rent-seekers are engaging in what look like the usual process games to perpetuate their hold on power.  Here, suggests Professor Williams, as channeled by National Review's Kyle Smith, is how that is likely to impress the Trump voters on whose behalf this process is supposedly being deployed.
Hillary Clinton reminds them of the prissy know-it-alls who have been bossing them around their whole lives — she’s the lady who tells you there’s no eating in the library, as columnist Jonah Goldberg once put it. They don’t resent Trump, though: They imagine being him and firing her.
And now the prissy know-it-alls seek to win on a technicality where they couldn't win using their vaunted quantitative methods.
[Former president Clinton] famously advised his wife’s campaign to do more to reach out to the [white working class], but in what will surely be recalled as one of the defining moments of hubris on Team Hillary, campaign manager Robby Mook replied, “the data run counter to your anecdotes.”

It’s just too perfect that Clinton lost the election in part because she relied on a gay, 36-year-old Ivy League data nerd rather than a two-time winner of a presidential election to show her the path to the White House. If she wants to learn some anecdotes about how to repel people you’re supposed to be wooing, this book is an excellent place to start.
The anger with the Ruling Class is still there. The bicoastal rent-seekers may yet hamstring President Trump (although he's doing a pretty good job hamstringing himself). But their return to power will not bring in a new era of good feelings, not now.

16.5.17

REPURPOSING THE COMBINATION CAR.

That refers to a passenger-carrying car with a partition setting off a portion of the car for the carriage of checked baggage, express parcels, and dogs.  There's an old-school combination car at the markers end of this model milk train.


The quintessence of a Boston and Maine milk train:  Brookside Creamery, Hood Milk, a BL2, and a surplus combine off the Long Island.

Railway Gazette reports on a British waggon works that proposes to equip coaching stock with sliding seats, so as to convert a full coach into a combination car at off hours, so as to be able to offer Fast Emergency Package Service (oh, wait, that's my South Shore upbringing) on lightly-travelled passenger trains.
According to the developer, 20 rows of seats in a typical coach could be compressed to provide a cargo space equivalent to the capacity of an articulated lorry.

The seats, tables and draught screens within each section of an ‘Adaptable Carriage’ are connected and can be moved along rails fitted to the existing seat rails, with the sliding mechanisms, sensors and locking pins packaged within the void between the rails. The forward-folding seat allows any rubbish left on the seats to be tipped onto the floor for easier cleaning after the seats have been stowed. The reconfiguration process is fully automated and takes less than 3 min.
I suppose that's more practical than running a formation with a combination car and, at peak times, asking passengers to sit in the baggage compartment.


When passenger loads are heavy at the Illinois Railway Museum, these trunks provide overflow seating capacity in North Shore Line combination car 251.


North Shore Line had a similar problem with off-peak cargo loading, so much so that they removed all seats from combination car 255 (long scrapped) in order to handle sea bags for recruits and, on occasion, the instruments of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  I wonder, did that special train use the city tracks to get just across the Milwaukee River from the Pabst Theatre?

MORE POWER TO THE DEFLECTOR SHIELD, MR CHEKHOV.

The British are deploying one.  No, this is not some Nikola Tesla fantasy, being worked on by the boffins of Bletchley Park with the encouragement of Winston Churchill.  It's a way of keeping contraband out of prison yards.
The device creates a 2,000ft (600m) shield around and above a prison that will detect and deflect the remote-controlled devices.

It uses a series of "disruptors", which are sensors to jam the drone's computer, and block its frequency and control protocols. The operator's screen will go black and the drone will be bounced back to where it came from.
The first trial of the deflectors will be on Guernsey, but there is no evidence that it's based on secret German research notes from the Occupation. (The Channel Islands garrisons had a front row seat for OVERLORD but they were incapable of doing much more than radioing reports that it wasn't going so well for their Kameraden.)
Nottingham-based company Drone Defence has worked on the idea in the past year.

Founder and CEO Richard Gill said: "It disrupts the control network between the flyer and the drone. The drone then activates return to home mode and it will then fly back to the position where it had signal with its flyer.

"Someone described it as the final piece in a prison's security puzzle. I think it could have a significant worldwide impact."

Mr Gill said the technology is perfectly safe and does not "hack" or damage the drones. It is relatively cheap to install and, depending on the size of the prison, costs range from £100,000 to £250,000.
The things you learn ... there's a return-home circuit, apparently to prevent the loss of an expensive toy in the event of more mundane signal failures.  I wonder if there's a way to apply this circuitry to digital command control, in order to forestall collisions of model trains.  Think of it as simulating positive train control by setting up bubbles of protection around each train.

WE ARE ALL UNDEREMPLOYED COMPARED TO OUR GREAT-GRANDPARENTS.

I keep stressing this point, perhaps letting John Tamny reinforce it will help.
If it were just about maintenance of existing jobs, the U.S. and other countries could mimic the former Soviet Union and abolish technology so that the jobs of tomorrow will be the same as the ones today.  If so, the world, much like the former Soviet Union, would be very poor.  Never forget that before technological advances that saved on labor, the only work available was on the farm.  All toil was focused on feeding oneself.  No sane person would desire a return to what was a very bleak past in which wealth was wholly a function of one’s ability in the fields.
Yes, and in which Our Betters lived in a much higher style than hoi polloi than is the case today.



Werner Schuch, Two Riders of the Thirty Years' War and Farmers, 1881, oil on canvas.
Painting from the collection of the Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering.

Mr Tamny notes that trade (all specialization is for the purpose of importing something, "Working is all about the getting," as he puts it) leaves the Renaissance-era riders as if paupers contrasted with farmers of today.
Life without trade would be defined by unrelenting poverty, and for a high percentage, death by starvation, from a lack of protective clothing, absence of shelter, or all three combined.  The free trade that is essential for an individual on the way to surging productivity and wealth, is by extension essential for country economies.
But what about those disaffected deplorables, consigned to penury and opioids after the mills and assembly lines closed?  Freeze everything as it currently is, notes D. N. McCloskey, and contemplate what you won't get.
Protectionism, for example, recently popular, relies on an error in accounting. Yes, workers making tires in Ohio are made better off by protection. But Americans buying tires are made worse off, regularly by a large multiple of the annual income of the saved job. The erroneous social accounting does not acknowledge the whole country. Trump voters in Iowa, for instance, soon realized that protection is not good for soybean sales.
It's not so good for milk sales in Wisconsin, either.

How, then, lift the living standards of people? "We do not need at the outset a perfect government. Perfect government is unattainable, and anyway unnecessary for a free economy. We do not need more laws, more education, or more guardians. What we need, comprehensively, is liberty."  The details are at the essay.  Read and understand.

DON'T CHANGE A THING.

John Atcheson has a great wallow in a mythical past.
Government – once the champion of the working man, the author of the New Deal, and the architect of the longest sustained and broadly share period of prosperity in US history has become the enemy. Meanwhile, the free market, which exploited workers, defiled the environment, and operated outside of any moral framework, is now believed to be the font of all things good, delivered by pure serendipity. As a result, broad sections of society – including much of the press, the establishment wing the Democratic Party, much of academia and the public policy infrastructure, and of course Republicans -- believe taxes are bad, regulations are bad, small government is good; public programs are bad, and the markets (i.e. the Oligarchy) will automatically provide great things if we just get government out of the way. This is the camouflage under which such nonsense as laissez-faire, trickle-down and supply-side economics keep getting resurrected, no matter how often it fails.
Yes, keep misinterpreting the victory dividend resource curse as evidence, somehow, that the Best and the Brightest once made these things possible, and a cabal of rent-seekers somehow deconstructed the Bright Future made possible through Governance by Wise Experts.  Really.
The reason Republicans win as a minority Party is because Democrats have embraced neoliberalism and rejected true progressivism and the New Deal. As a result, turnouts at election time are typically low, and it’s the Democrats and disaffected Independents who don’t turn out. The difference between the “trickle-down, supply-side” con of the Republican Party and the Democrats’ embrace of the free market, deregulation, lower taxes, markets-know-best agenda that Bill Clinton brought to the Party with the Democratic Leadership Council is simply too small to excite the people.

If Democrats want to win again, they will need to embrace real progressive values, restore a measure of diversity to the press and media by restoring regulations that allowed the FCC to bust monopolies, and invest in the needed infrastructure – foundations, think tanks, academic chairs, etc, to carry a populist message and to reveal the treachery of the Republican’s economic con game.
Oh, please. That infrastructure exists:  Ford, Sloan, MacArthur; Brookings; pick any editor of any highly-regarded academic journal and you're likely to find a prelate of those progressive values.  It's the values that turn voters off, and the absence of trade-tested betterments in parts of the world where markets are treated as criminal per se, that hurt your message.  That's why there was a Democratic Leadership Council in the first place.

YES. NEXT QUESTION?

Is the College Business Model Unraveling?
Marginal institutions are afraid to cut sticker prices, because many parents and students see high tuition as a mark of prestige. So colleges are forced to simply offer an increasing array of credits and scholarships to induce students to enroll, even as they keep jacking up tuition to keep pace with competitors.
Nobody pays list price any more.  Then higher sticker prices render more applicants eligible for government student loans, and that has the same effect on price discovery and trade-tested betterments in higher education it has had in Big Medicine.

Now, if we could get the institutions suffering from Harvard envy to, oh, offer higher education, perhaps good things can happen.
Smaller, less-prestigious institutions could close. Others will be forced to roll back the administrative bloat that has accompanied rising tuitions. Vocational training programs might start to get more enrollees. Cost inflation and debt accumulation could slow down. All of this could be good for a higher education industry that costs too much and delivers too little and that seems to have contented itself with stagnation for quite some time. Expect the academic lobby to start pushing even harder for “free tuition” and other government crutches to postpone the reckoning for as long as possible.
Perhaps, although there is no such thing as free tuition, any more than there was free passage to the Americas, for Britons in the eighteenth century or Slavs in the nineteenth.

The folks running higher education still hope to defer the reckoning, by creating new special committees.  Market tests, as the deanlets and deanlings of Missouri are discovering, have tighter standards.
At the forum, leaders pointed to the enrollment drop partly as fallout from the declining number of high school graduates across the region, as well as ongoing “public perception concerns” since the fall of 2015 when protests that centered on issues of race led to two top leaders’ resigning.

The deficit created by enrollment is coupled with a $14.7 million, or 6.4 percent, cut from the state. It’s a cut that’s not unlike one that many other public four-year universities face after higher education took a hit in the governor’s proposed budget on top of withholdings for the year.

In her presentation Monday, [interim chancellor Garnett] Stokes also highlighted a few longer-term efforts that leaders hope to address, including reviews of the administrative structure, campus facilities, academic programs and research incentives and reviews.

She also called for the establishment of a committee to analyze how Mizzou can work toward an image overhaul to become, among other things, “more forward looking.”
Yes, doubling down on creating an experimental prefigurative community of transformation, which continues to be the fad in higher education, all of its failures notwithstanding, is going to bring in the applications.

10.5.17

THE BARABOO TRADITION CONTINUES.

A Ringling family member still presents a tented circus.
John Ringling North II is the last circus man of his kind.

Clad in a blue plaid shirt, a brown vest and cowboy boots, the 71-year-old strides out into the front of the circus ring and cracks his old bullwhip while the aerial act sets up behind him.

He first learned to crack the whip as a boy growing up with his family's circus, the legendary Ringling Bros. Mr. Ringling North spends about half of each year traveling in recreational vehicles with his own smaller circus -- the Kelly Miller Circus -- and attends every show twice a day.

"They put the show on; the least I can do is watch it," he said, as if he could not imagine a better way to spend four hours every day than watching the same performances time and again.

The Ringlings are true circus lovers, and the Ringling name has become synonymous with great American circuses.
Baraboo's five Ringling Brothers had a sister, who is Mr. North's ancestor.  There are still circus families, and there are still itinerant circuses.
The Feld family threatened to sue Mr. Ringling North for advertising his circus with the words "John Ringling North presents the Kelly Miller Circus," but the issue was resolved out of court. Mr. Ringling North was allowed to use his own name as long as it came below the circus' name. The sign now reads "Kelly Miller Circus, John Ringling North Proprietor."

Kelly Miller is not the only circus founded by the Miller family. In 1999, Mr. Ringling North's friend Jim Royal invited him to the Miller-owned Carson and Barnes circus. The two had met in Ireland in 1985 while Mr. Royal was working for the Chipperfield's Circus in England, and they often dreamed of putting on a Christmas circus show together.
Carson and Barnes and Kelly Miller both have winter quarters in Hugo, Oklahoma, and the names of Al G. Barnes and Miller Brothers live on in these names.  I've documented Carson and Barnes in these parts.  Kelly Miller also pass this way.  Perhaps this will be a good year to document their show.

See you down the road.

THE INFORMATION CONTENT OF PRONOUNS.

Once upon a time, the marital-status-cloaking honorific "Ms." was a neologism, and very much contested as belonging in polite society and the manual of style.  That prompted computer scientist and philosopher Douglas Hofstadter to contemplate a convention in which gendered pronouns and honorifics didn't exist, but the employment status of black people mattered.  That is not completely crazy:  Malcolm Little became Malcolm X to remind people that his birth certificate carried his grandfather's owner's family name, and his true family name was an unknown unknown.

Mr Hofstadter wrote his column, parodying the style of Tory grammarian William Safire (who became William Satire for the day) with the purpose of making people check their premises.
Perhaps this piece shocks you. It is meant to. The entire point of it is to use something that we find shocking as leverage to illustrate the fact that something that we usually close our eyes to is also very shocking. The most effective way I know to do so is to develop an extended analogy with something known as shocking and reprehensible.
Dip into the column, though, and complications emerge.  Start with his rendition of a standard defense of convention, as his alternative convention would have it.
Used inclusively, the word "white" has no connotations whatsoever of race. Yet many people are hung up on this point. A prime example is Abraham Moses, one of the more vocal spokeswhites for making such a shift. For years, Niss Moses, authoroon of the well-known negrist tracts A Handbook of Nonracist Writing and Words and Blacks, has had nothing better to do than go around the country making speeches advocating the downfall of "racist language" that ble objects to. But when you analyze bler objections, you find they all fall apart at the seams. Niss Moses says that words like "chairwhite" suggest to people-most especially impressionable young whiteys and blackeys-that all chairwhites belong to the white race. How absurd! It's quite obvious, for instance, that the chairwhite of the League of Black Voters is going to be a black, not a white. Nobody need think twice about it. As a matter of fact, the suffix "white" is usually not pronounced with a long "i" as in the noun "white," but like "wit," as in the terms saleswhite, freshwhite, penwhiteship, first basewhite, and so on. It's just a simple and useful component in building race-neutral words.
I quoted more material than I require for my argument, to give readers the opportunity to come up with some other "white" pronounced "wit" words for their own edification and amusement.

Let's reword a sentence or two more conventionally.  "For years, Mr Moses, author of the well-known [books] ..., has had nothing better to do than go around the country making speeches advocating the downfall of "racist language" that he objects to. But when you analyze his objections, you find they all fall apart at the seams. Mr Moses says that words like ... ."  You object, dear reader, that I inferred the honorifics and the pronouns from the forename, "Abraham."  Perhaps, but since this is a thought experiment, perhaps I asked.  Do you, dear reader, make any inferences about the age, or world-view of Abraham, from the fact that his pronouns are he, him, his?

That's probably asking more of the column than would be fair.  In 1983, here is the controversy Mr Hofstadter is tackling.
Ble promotes an absurd notion: that what we really need in English is a single pronoun covering both races. Numerous suggestions have been made, such as "pe," "tey," and others, These are all repugnant to the nature of the English language, as the average white in the street will testify, even if whe has no linguistic training whatsoever. Then there are advocates of usages such as "whe or ble," "whis or bler," and so forth. This makes for monstrosities such as the sentence "When the next President takes office, whe or ble will have to choose whis or bler cabinet with great care, for whe or ble would not want to offend any minorities." Contrast this with the spare elegance of the normal way of putting it, and there is no question which way we ought to speak. There are, of course, some yapping black libbers who advocate writing "bl/whe" everywhere, which, aside from looking terrible, has no reasonable pronunciation. Shall we say "blooey" all the time when we simply mean "whe"? Who wants to sound like a white with a chronic sneeze?
We're still struggling with those stylistic conventions, and new words, and the efforts of vanguards to add new words to the vocabulary are likely to be frustrated, in the absence of any evolutionary advantage coming from adopting the new conventions. Or perhaps over time people will change their minds.  It's not going to be so easy, satire and humor or good will or logic notwithstanding.
Another suggestion is that the plural pronoun "they" be used in place of the inclusive "whe." This would turn the charming proverb "Whe who laughs last, laughs best" into the bizarre concoction "They who laughs last, laughs best." As if anyone in whis right mind could have thought that the original proverb applied only to the white race! No, we don't need a new pronoun to "liberate" our minds. That's the lazy white's way of solving the pseudoproblem of racism. In any case, it's ungrammatical. The pronoun "they" is a plural pronoun, and it grates on the civilized ear to hear it used to denote only one person. Such a usage, if adopted, would merely promote illiteracy and accelerate the already scandalously rapid nosedive of the average intelligence level in our society.
I'd complain that the inclusive language fad is crowding out other topics, but we also have the compounding factors of Common Core and spell-checkers.  Returning to the topic at hand ...
Nrs. Delilah Buford has urged that we drop the useful distinction between "Niss" and "Nrs." (which, as everybody knows, is pronounced "Nissiz," the reason for which nobody knows!). Bler argument is that there is no need for the public to know whether a black is employed or not.  Need is, of course, not the point. Ble conveniently sidesteps the fact that there is a tradition in our society of calling unemployed blacks "Niss" and employed blacks "Nrs."
Let me offer two transformations.  First, here's what I suspect Mr Hofstadter was about.  "Mrs. Delilah Buford has urged that we drop the useful distinction between 'Miss' and 'Mrs.' ... . Her argument ..."

Now try  "Ms. Delilah Buford has urged that we drop the useful distinction between 'Ms.' and 'Mr.' ... . Her argument ..."  Do you change any of your priors about Delilah going from the first to the second transformation.  Now try this: "Mx. Delilah Buford has urged ... . Xyr argument is ... ."  Are you changing your priors?  Am I being mannerly, asking for pronouns and honorifics, or am I sending a coded signal about Delilah?

Mr Hofstadter concluded his essay with this observation.  " I know of no human being who speaks Nonsexist as their native tongue. It will be very interesting to see if such people come to exist. If so, it will have taken a lot of work by a lot of people to reach that point."  It will take a lot of work, and perhaps there is an impossibility theorem that applies to fully inclusive rules of discourse.

RABBIT REDUX

There is a rabbit culturePope Francis recognizes its existence.  "Pope Francis is firmly upholding Church teaching banning contraception, but he said on [19 January 2015] that Catholics to be true to their faith didn’t have to breed 'like rabbits' and should instead practice 'responsible parenting.'"
And perhaps responsible parenting applies to what happens for after the kids are ready to hop out of the hutch, but the suggestion that the young be encouraged not to rut like rabbits is still contested, because privilege, or something.

Consider what happens when Slate's Emily Yoffe suggested (yes, I'm catching up on old posts again, on a theme that I've long emphasized, but being in accord with the Pope can't hurt) the does be more careful about drinking to excess.
Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue. The real feminist message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.
Angela Morabito, of College Conservative, wants the bucks to take some responsibility too.
If you’re going to tell the girls “don’t drink so much that you are in a position to get attacked,” you better also tell the boys “don’t drink so much that you ​do the attacking.” Anything less is to put the burden of prevention on victims, instead of on the perpetrators where it belongs.
This seems commonsensical enough, but Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, back before her gig included going on Hardball to help Tingles slime Donald Trump, published a roundup of all the ways the Correct Thinkers pushed back.  "The second point is the regime of feminist political correctness that chills discussion."  Her first point was the obvious, that collegians like to drink a lot.  But the push-back on her second point was too much.  "Oh please. This isn’t a gender studies class; it’s the real world. In which Yoffe’s piece ought to be required reading for every college student, male and female."  Reading?  Who reads anything any more?

Trust a Salon writer, in this case Soraya Chemaly, to issue a privilege check.  It's the entitlement, stupid.  And yes, high-status revenue sports are a part of the entitlement.

Dig into her essay, though, and maybe you see the Pope is onto something.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the study however was that these children felt no sense of responsibility for their actions. What does this have to do with entitlement? The likelihood of perpetrating sexual violence was not equal across all groups.  The teenagers with the highest propensity to sexually assault a peer were white kids from higher-income families.
Her conclusion?
Boys and girls are being sent off to college without parents ever discussing critical dilemmas, double standards, power imbalances, cultural entitlements, or even what it genuinely means to be empathetic.  It’s not just parents who themselves are struggling with alcohol, abuse and dysfunction that are a problem. It’s parents whose reluctance to speak openly about serious issues with children who also enable these problems to thrive. People arrive at school with complicated histories shrouded in silence, shame, anger and incoherence. Our reluctance to extend our concepts of justice to include the family spills over into other institutions every day and college is one of the places where this is most evident.
To repeat, as repeat I must: what happens when the village combines the redeeming features of a hippie commune and a trailer park?

As Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds, quips, "[the do-your-own-thing crowd] live in a fantasy world."

Perhaps the fantasy lives on in "Take Back the Night" events, too.  Fine, tell your stories, but clean up the common culture.