20.7.17

TAIL TRACK.

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

BOURGEOIS VALUES.

They're something I've been pushing, seemingly forever, and perhaps Our President's defiance of those norms is getting Deep Thinkers who previously honored the norms in the breach to rediscover their value.  But the rot has been coming for a long time, and Charlotte Hays's When Did White Trash Become the New Normal?: A Southern Lady Asks the Impertinent Question is a hilarious exploration of inquiry into the nature and the causes of the rot.  (The perfect summer relief to offer as Book Review No. 17, particularly after a dark and stormy night last night, to be precise.)  It has to be hilarious, as "standards of decency are now culturally insensitive."  And yet, the book illustrates all the ways that goes wrong.  "Why Obesity, Tattoos, and Velveeta(R) Prove That Arnold Toynbee Was Right."  About celebrating the downscale -- the $64 word is antinomianism -- as being a signifier of the rot, that is.  There are also recipes.  And anyone who specifies yellow mustard as the quintessential White Trash condiment is spot on.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

PAGING WILLIAM VICKREY?

In Strong Towns, Dan Allison is dubious about high-occupancy vehicle (carpool) lanes.
If some high capacity vehicles are diverted out of general purpose lanes, that provides a more open lane, and that more open lane will be filled with additional traffic. The HOV lane itself, being more open than adjacent lanes, will create additional traffic. Drivers respond to their perception of crowding and delay. If they see more space, they will drive more. It's induced demand, simple as that.

So a HOV lane increases overall traffic. Cost is an issue, as most of our transportation dollars at the state and regional level go to these projects, instead of projects that would actually reduce private vehicle use and vehicle miles traveled. Environmental and social impacts increase. And the lanes fill up, creating a demand for yet more lanes in a never-ending cycle.
His complaint is with building new capacity that's rationed by congestion, rather than new capacity that's rationed by price.  Where there are new lanes, traffic will increase to fill the available capacity.  The flaw is in rationing the capacity by congestion, and the carpool lane works for people who gain enough by going faster to offset the costs of setting up the carpool (or ride share.)  It's in the incentives, people.  "There has to be an efficient way of pricing a congestible facility in such a way that both the premium-price for no waiting and the low price wait your turn riders have no incentive to change their types."

Note, though, it's about the pricing.
As a modeling exercise, the marginal commuter is indifferent between the marginal utility adjusted by the higher price of the premium service and the marginal utility adjusted by the lower price of the congested service (there are some additional subtleties involved in avoiding division by zero.)
If the carpool lane becomes a high-occupancy toll lane, or simply a toll lane, it's straightforward to price the use in such a way as to cover the incremental cost of the additional capacity.  Yes, there are more vehicle miles being travelled, and yes, the analyst must still consider the network effects. A new toll lane induces more traffic onto the existing expressway until the existing expressway is as slow as it used to be, but those travellers who are now congesting the expressway were congesting some other road instead.

IT'S THE INSURANCE, STUPID.

Ryan McMaken, at The American Conservative.  Probably not surprising.
What can be done?

First of all, it is important to lessen the reliance on the insurance model of healthcare. The use of insurance as the primary means for distributing healthcare services is largely a post-World-War-II government invention, and thanks to government created tax and regulatory incentives, the insurance model has displaced ordinary market transactions in which consumers pay a fee for a service.

Many have been trained to recoil in horror at the thought of reducing the role of insurance, of course. Thanks to the power of the status quo, many now equate the idea of health insurance with healthcare itself. And yet, this is not true in any other industry—even those that are necessary for life’s basic necessities. There is no “food insurance” for example. Auto insurance exists, but is nothing like health insurance since it covers only rare accidental events.

Cash-for-service industries—whether groceries, or mobile phones, or dental case—continue to see increases in quality while prices remain far more stable than healthcare prices. Food budgets, for example, now take up less of our overall household spending than was true in the past. We certainly can’t say the same for healthcare.

To wean us off the insurance model, tax codes and regulations must be changed to stop giving preference to the use of insurance by employers. Tax-free health savings account must be expanded and tax credits for healthcare spending must spread. Flexibility for group coverage must be expanded beyond employer-based healthcare, and markets must be opened to more providers willing to be flexible and meet these needs.

Simultaneously, governments must get out of the way so service providers can compete and expand.
More intriguing is this recognition by RoseAnn DeMoro, at Common Dreams, that the old "public option" is not going to be a good harbinger of the Conrail Option.
The public option, the argument goes, can offer less expensive coverage because it doesn't have to divert massive sums for administrative costs, mainly profits, lush executive pay packages, claims denial paperwork, and marketing.

But in practice, the outcome would be far different. Medicare works in large part by including all the people it covers in one large risk pool so that healthier patients balance out sicker patients in costs that must be reimbursed to providers. But the public option would not have that protection.
That's pretending Medicare is working (the so-called trust fund is in parlous shape, and the reimbursement rate does for practitioners what Wal-Mart does to vendors) but it's a start.

Perhaps, after the political class has tried everything else and found it wanting, they will try expanding commercial freedom.

ASKED, ANSWERED.

I've long been an advocate of do-it-yourself yard maintenance, with as little powered assistance as I can get away with.


That's at previous Cold Spring Shops headquarters.  New grass plus bigger yard plus broken elbow a few years ago leads to electric-assistance these days.  But still the question.  "Here's an economics imponderable: why do people spend hundreds of bucks on powered lawn mowers and then spend money on a gym membership?"

Victor Hanson essays a response.
In theory, skipping the gym for four hours a week would provide more than enough time to mow the lawn, prune the bushes, or vacuum the floor. Yet sweaty and studied exercise is often deemed preferable to rote labor, given that it is more scientifically calibrated to making one look and feel better. Repetitive muscular work is not seen as commensurately valuable, whether for the exercise it provides or for its psychic benefits. Yet for all one’s degrees and income, a person can still retain some sense of autonomy and an ability to master the surrounding material landscape, if only for a few hours each week, and to appreciate how the other half lives that does such physical labor for wages. It is a choice.
Possibly more Deep Significance than I want to get into, but perhaps he's right about people who live in bubbles, contract out the grunt work, and park as close as they can to the fitness center.

I'm still with a Chicago Tribune columnist, probably at a link that has long expired.  "But who is wimpier, the guy who buys the megabucks power riding mower with the cup holders and the tilt steering wheel (no DVD player yet!) and then roars around his lawn like an Abrams tank commander, his flabby midsection ajiggle, or the weekend warrior working up an honest sweat behind the push mower?"  Perhaps wimpier, perhaps sadder: how else might one react to the guy at the upper end of the street rolling his trash container out of the garage behind his lawn tractor?

Sometimes, the warrior has to go to battle on weekdays, for instance when a derecho takes down the top of your sunburst locust.


That's after.  Unexpected half hour of upper-body workout.  Shoulders are making their presence known.

19.7.17

YOU CAN'T BLAME THE VICTIM.

Immediately after the election, Berkeley law professor Joan C. Williams wrote "What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class" for Harvard Business Review, suggesting that her Democrat buddies cool it with the condescension.  She more recently suggested that New York Times readers pipe down.

There's a collection of these short essays in White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America, Book Review No. 16.

Think of it as privilege-checking for the privileged.  Sample questions (all of these are essay titles):  Why Does the Working Class Resent Professionals But Admire the Rich?  (Spoiler alert: it's the condescension.  Don't be stupid about being smart.)  "Why Doesn't the Working Class Get With It and Go to College?"  (We could mention a shelf of books on the ways in which higher education, particularly the subprime party schools, fail to serve youngsters of modest means.)  "Don't They Understand that Manufacturing Jobs Aren't Coming Back?"  (Jobs can neither be created or destroyed, only changed in form.)  "Why Don't the People Who Benefit Most from Government Help Seem to Appreciate It?"  (Because they have to deal with condescending principals and snippy motor vehicles bureaucrats?)

Yes, I'm teasing with the last one, but it might come down to Professor Walsh is still thinking of Government as One Size Fits All, Tailored by Wise Experts in Washington City, while the services the locals benefit from are locally sourced and funded by local taxes.

So pick it up and read it, dear reader, particularly if you're disposed to condescend to people who lack your credentials or your vocabulary.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

THEY'RE WRANGLING OVER INSUFFICENT ALTERNATIVES.

Our President is apparently OK with letting Obamacare fail, and mocking the Democrats for now mourning the suffering that is coming in the wake of the exchanges collapsing.

The problem, as I see it, is that it doesn't matter what the national government does as long as its emphasis is on insurance, and trial lawyering, and everything else that keeps the third-party payments around, and the trade-tested betterments in abeyance.  As Jesse Watters quipped yesterday evening, "Coverage."  Here's National Journal's Josh Kraushaar: "Once Republicans got trapped into playing the opposition’s game—that the quantity of coverage is more important than the quality of coverage—they were already playing a losing hand."  His essay is more about the effects of a Trump presidency on conservatism.  With as many black swans in the air as there currently are, that's too messy to contemplate. Reason's Shikha Dalmia is also on to the deflection.  "The first problem with this analysis—apart from its chutzpah—is that it assumes that all insurance saves lives, even a substandard plan like Medicaid, which accounts for the vast majority of the people covered by ObamaCare. That is emphatically not the case."

Trade-tested betterments in health care, on the other hand, are more straightforward.  Herewith one opening proposal from W. A. Root.  First, though, we have to get Official Washington thinking about something other than coverage and liability, and the rent-seekers, including the physicians and surgeons probably benefit more by the conversation remaining focussed on coverage and liability.  That despite the Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates reducing the return on human capital to studying medicine.

It's a failure of elite imagination to Jason Willick and W. R. Mead to keep on slicing and dicing the same rents.
The debate we are having is therefore about how best to distribute what is assumed to be a constant amount of suffering—about who should be screwed over the most as the system as a whole continues to stagnate and underperform. Obamacare imposed higher costs on the young and raised taxes on the rich while adding millions to the Medicaid rolls—a second-rate government insurance system that may or may not improve health outcomes. The GOP would lower insurance costs for the young, raise them for the rich, and shrink the Medicaid rolls reduce the deficit and deliver a big tax cut, mostly to high-earners.

In other words, the parties are locked into a more-or-less zero-sum fight over resources that leaves the underlying deformity of our system unaddressed: Healthcare costs too much, whether it is paid for by government or private insurance. Our existing healthcare system is on a trajectory to bankrupt the country no matter how we distribute the costs.
It's the coverage, stupid. But read on, and do you find anything at all about trade-tested betterments?  Commercial freedom for practitioners?
What if instead of simply rolling back Obamacare’s taxes and transfers, Congress passed a smorgasbord of experimental measures aimed at bringing prices under control in the long run? There are a number of ways we can reduce cost by increasing the supply of care. For example, we could tweak our immigration system so that more well-qualified doctors come to work in the United States (the U.S. has fewer doctors per capita than many other advanced countries) and certify more medical education programs. We could encourage a more efficient distribution of doctors by offering medical school loan forgiveness for doctors who work in places with a care shortage.
Not quite.  But perhaps we haven't suffered enough.
The crud that has been accumulating in the system can’t be addressed all at once. Reform should be repositioned as a series of incremental steps in the direction of lower-cost care care plus a temporary compromise over Medicaid and subsidies to tide us over until the good times arrive.

This is a more challenging and by necessity more experimental project, and it will never be fully complete. But it has the potential to start breaking us out of the despairing confines of right-left Obamacare debates, which suggest a society that has lost the confidence and imagination to reform its institutions to address its gravest challenges.
But from that perspective, perhaps "Let Obamacare collapse" is precisely the push the political class needs. The usual "do something" partisan approach isn't working. "If Republicans don’t start getting some wins, Americans have every right to ask, 'What good is it with you folks in the majority?'"

For openers, if you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see how much it costs when it's "free."
With monopoly buying power, the government could tighten up on health-care spending by dictating prices for services and drugs. But the government already has a lot of leverage. A big reason it does not clamp down now on health-care spending is that it is hard to do so politically.

Republicans have tarred the Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cuts as attacks on the cherished entitlement program. Doctors and hospitals have effectively resisted efforts to scale back the reimbursements they get from federal health programs. Small-town America does not want to give up expensive medical facilities that serve relatively few people in rural areas. A tax on medical device makers has been under bipartisan attack ever since it passed, as has the “Cadillac tax” on expensive health-insurance plans. When experts find that a treatment is too costly relative to the health benefits it provides, patients accustomed to receiving that treatment and medical organizations with a stake in the status quo rise up to demand it continue to be paid for.
Again, no discussion of trade-tested betterments. Surprised?
To realize the single-payer dream of coverage for all and big savings, medical industry players, including doctors, would likely have to get paid less and patients would have to accept different standards of access and comfort. There is little evidence most Americans are willing to accept such tradeoffs.

The goal still must be universal coverage and cost restraint. But no matter whether the government or some combination of parties is paying, that restraint will come slowly, with cuts to the rate of increase in medical costs that make the system more affordable over time. There are many options short of a disruptive takeover: the government can change how care is delivered, determine which treatments should be covered, control quality at hospitals, drive down drug costs and discourage high-cost health-care plans even while making the Obamacare system better at filling coverage gaps.
Maybe the best thing the national government could do is go away. You won't get that advice from the Gray Lady, but commentator C. F. Chapin starts at the right place. "The problem with American health care is not the care. It’s the insurance."Continuing. Before the Great Society, there was more room for trade-tested betterments.
Individuals and families paid a monthly fee, not to an insurance company but directly to the physician group. This system held down costs. Physicians typically earned a base salary plus a percentage of the group’s quarterly profits, so they lacked incentive to either ration care, which would lose them paying patients, or provide unnecessary care.

This contrasts with current examples of such financing arrangements. Where physicians earn a preset salary — for example, in Kaiser Permanente plans or in the British National Health Service — patients frequently complain about rationed or delayed care. When physicians are paid on a fee-for-service basis, for every service or procedure they provide — as they are under the insurance company model — then care is oversupplied. In these systems, costs escalate quickly.

With Medicare, the demand for health services increased and medical costs became a national crisis. To constrain rising prices, insurers gradually introduced cost containment procedures and incrementally claimed supervisory authority over doctors. Soon they were reviewing their medical work, standardizing treatment blueprints tied to reimbursements and shaping the practice of medicine.

It’s easy to see the challenge of real reform: To actually bring down costs, legislators must roll back regulations to allow market innovation outside the insurance company model.
Faster, please.

Perhaps "Let Obamacare collapse" will give consumers a new birth of freedom.
What consumers need is the ability to shop for policies they can afford. Why not let young people, for example, buy inexpensive policies with high deductibles so that they are covered in case in case of accidents but pay out of pocket for routine care? And why should the 21st century health insurance system be broken up into 50 separate economies when efficiencies and convenience could be had by offering insurance options on a nationwide scale?
Precisely. But that lets defenders of the (failing?) status quo invoke Charles Dickens, or Hunger Games. Trade-tested betterments? Too risky.
Republicans need to be honest with themselves and the public: If they want medicine to be truly free-market, then they have to be willing to let the next man or woman they find lying unconscious in the street remain there and die. In a truly free market, we cannot treat someone — and charge someone — without their consent and against their will. If we believe, however, that those lying there in their most vulnerable moments deserve a shot, then we need to push forward with the idea that health care, at its core, must be designed around a caring system that serves all people fairly.
There's that design conceit again. I know that if I encounter a person starving in the street, there is likely a vendor nearby from which I can purchase nourishing food. It's probably not going to be a seven-course meal at Maxim's, but it will be enough to get the person on his feet. If I want to provide that person with interview-grade clothing, ditto. A place to wash up, a bit harder, but still feasible.

Yes, storefront health is not the same thing as storefront fruit juice and a sandwich, but still, it's the absence of any such options that's more germane.  John "Grumpy Economist" Cochrane, who has been thinking way more systematically about the institutions of the health industry, elaborates.
[The Times commentator's] point is entirely the cost of treatment, for that extremely narrow group, people with assets who somehow don't have insurance.)  As a doctor, he does not see that economic counterfactual, or how cheap unregulated catastrophic coverage would be.  And emergency room physicians dealing with comatose patients are not exactly an unbiased sample of the health care system. Even if such patients need to have government support, just why does a routine dermatologist visit need to be subject to the tender mercies of the Federal Government?
And we don't have the kind of price discovery of the simple procedures that might help a charitable citizen help someone in distress, the way it's possible to buy a hungry person a meal.
While the science of medicine has undoubtedly advanced by leaps and bounds, the ability to actually see a doctor for a price the average person can afford has, if anything, moved backwards.

The difference is all down to competition. While anybody with a grill can work on building a better burger, opening a school or practicing medicine requires years of navigating red tape, licensing requirements, and thousands of dollars in fees. And even if you succeed, the government’s stranglehold on both these industries leaves little room for true experimentation.

So the next time you chow down on a tasty burger, remember that the only reason it tastes so good is because people were free to innovate, and then imagine how much better the rest of life could be if the same were true for other industries.
I could add: or get a tummy tuck or your nearsightedness refocused by a laser.

With the state exchanges coming unglued even without any pushes from Our President, to borrow a phrase, what does the public have to lose?  Oh, the Democrats will be unhappy, but Rick Moran suggests the Democrats brought it on themselves.
Democrats have not offered a comprehensive plan to fix Obamacare, so it's reasonable to assume they don't care about the dead people that will be piling up at their door as a result of  people dropping off their plans because they're too expensive. They didn't care when 5 million people lost their coverage when Obamacare was implemented. Why should they care now?
It's easier to care in the abstract. Those fifteen million people who opted to pay the tax penalty rather than buy useless health insurance are more useful as a talking point, fifteen million people who will lose the (theoretical) coverage they had (the opportunity to buy, no thanks) under Obamacare.

Perhaps it has to get worse first.
Any bill in congress that affects to reform the gross financial malfeasance in healthcare ought to start with the absolute requirement to publicly post the cost of everything that doctors and hospitals do, and enable the “service providers” to get paid only those publicly posted costs — obviating the lucrative rain-dance for dividing up the ransoms paid by hostage-patients who come to the “providers,” after all, in extremis. Notice that this crucial feature of the crisis is missing not only from the political debate but also from the supposedly public-interest-minded pages of The New York Times and other organs of the news media. Perhaps this facet of the problem never entered the editors’ minds — in which case you really have to ask: how dumb are they?

(The funniest claim about ObamaCare in today’s New York Times is the statement that 20 million citizens got access to health care under the so-called Affordable Care Act. Really? You mean they got health insurance policies with $8000-deductables, when they don’t even have $500 in savings to pay for car repairs? What planet do The New York Times editorial writers live on?)

The corollary questions about deconstructing the insurance armature of the health care racket, and assigning its “duties” to a “single-payer” government agency is, of course, a higher level of debate. I’m not saying it would work, even if it was modeled on one of the systems currently working elsewhere, say in France. But Americans have acquired an allergy to even thinking about that, or at least they’ve been conditioned to imagine they’re allergic by self-interested politicians. So, the current product of debate in the US Senate is just a scheme for pretending to reapportion the colossal flow of grift among the grifters.
It's Kunstler.  It's crash.

He's right, though. Rent-seekers gotta seek rents.

THE INFORMATION RAILWAY.

Warren "Coyote Blog" Meyer takes a page from the Cafe Hayek menu to deconstruct the idea of net neutrality.  It's a bit of a stretch, and he's getting a lot of discussion in the bull session.  But perhaps "information highway" isn't quite the right metaphor.

Here's how he starts.
Let's consider two cities we will call Gotham and Metropolis.   One day a private road builder proposes the first major highway between the two cities.  The citizens cheer, but the government places one caveat on them -- the builders must be neutral to all traffic.  Every entity (individuals, corporations, public agencies) should each pay the same fixed amount each year for use of the road and everyone should get equal access to the road, no matter how much they use it.
That's already simplicity itself, contrasted with the real story of private internal improvements, which started with turnpikes, themselves common carriers, but enjoying freedom to charge different prices, e.g. for horse and rider, or wagon and team, or pedestrians, and perhaps persons walking to church were not charged, and then came the shunpikes, those ways people could bypass the toll gates.  (The word dates to 1804, or long before the current higher rates the Illinois Tollway impose on big rigs induced the wreckage of Illinois 38 and U.S. 30 by latter-day shun-pikers.)  And perhaps the Interstate Highways are net-neutral when it comes to use, as opposed to paying for them.  That might have begun with the National Road, perhaps the first major publicly funded turnpike in the United States.

But neutrality with respect to access is not the same thing as neutrality with respect to use.  That herd of sheep being driven along the National Road uses a lot more, er, bandwith, than the itinerant pedlar or the dispatch rider.
This new road and the faster transportation it allows spawns a number of entrepreneurs who find new uses for the road.  In particular, two companies create new logistics services that cause at first dozens, then hundreds, and then thousands of their trucks to hit the road between the two cities.  Soon, more than half the vehicles on the road are from these two companies, and another 25% of the vehicles on the road are from perhaps a dozen smaller imitators.  But each of these companies, despite using orders of magnitude more of the road's capacity than any other individual, still pay the same flat $10 for access to all their vehicles.   These trucking companies continue to add new services -- such as high demand logistics (HD for short) -- that put more and more trucks on the highway. Traffic explodes.  It turns out that these trucking companies have ways to compress their loads into fewer trucks with little loss to their quality of service, but why bother?  They are not paying for the capacity they are using, so why conserve?

But the resulting congestion from these few companies' trucks is slowing everyone else down.  Congestion reigns.  Instead of blaming the trucking companies, everyone demands the road company add more capacity, which they do.  They spend huge amounts of money to accommodate the traffic from these few companies, but due to neutrality rules the costs get paid by everyone, and the annual fee goes up to $15, $20, then $25.  Finally, a few people begin to observe that their access fees have doubled and tripled all to support vehicles from just a few entities.  Proposals come forward:  Can't these trucks be limited to certain lanes to keep them out of the way of other traffic?  Can't they be limited at certain times of day?  Can't the road company charge them per vehicle, rather than a flat fee, so they pay their fair share of the expansion costs?  Can't the road company give them incentives to compress their loads into fewer trucks?  Can't the trucking companies make a contribution to the capital fund to expand the road?

But nothing happens, because of road neutrality.  The trucking companies repeatedly shout "road neutrality" and conduct a successful campaign to convince everyone else that road neutrality is really in their interest.
It's in there that the analogy between road and broadband capacity breaks down, if I understand the comments correctly.  On the other hand, it's a pitch-perfect description of the rent-seeking behavior engaged in by the motor lobby, which has been living at the expense of everyone else for a long time.

Fortunately, in transportation, there are high-volume rights-of-way dedicated to moving large shipments.  We call them railroads.  And our political masters appear to lack the imagination to consider broadband versions of railroads, the way they are being compelled to consider actual railroads as net-neutrality on the government's roads comes apart.

EMERGENCE IS MESSY.

Before the Black Swan took wing, Joshua Mitchell of Politico considered the foundations of Donald Trump's appeal. Put simply, "The post-1989 world order is unraveling. "If you listen closely to Trump, you’ll hear a direct repudiation of the system of globalization and identity politics that has defined the world order since the Cold War."

To an extent, that's what happens to a coalition when it has achieved some of its goals, and cannot agree on what remains to be done.  And, for all the anguish in the conservative coalition about popular culture and renegade universities, the Soviet Bloc is not, and National Affairs neither implies nor is implied by Washington Consensus.
For a time, the three GOP factions were able to form an alliance against Communism abroad and against Progressivism at home. But after the Cold War ended, Communism withered and the culture wars were lost, there has been very little to keep the partnership together. And if it hadn’t been Trump, sooner or later someone else was going to come along and reveal the Republican Party’s inner fault lines. Trump alone might have been the catalyst, but the different factions of the GOP who quickly split over him were more than happy to oblige.
But some of what came after the Wall came down was that which was in place, whether what was in place had any evolutionary advantage or not.  Every agency that was standing at the time the Iron Curtain rusted out claimed some credit: the financial sector, the international institutions, the technocracy.  But each of those agencies emerged out of the victory in World War II with purposes idiosyncratic to those circumstances, and each of them might have been of less use once the tensions remaining from that victory, namely the Cold War, relaxed.
[A]gainst the backdrop of post-1989 ideas, the Trump campaign does indeed have a nascent coherence. “Globalization” and “identity politics” are a remarkable configuration of ideas, which have sustained America, and much of the rest of the world, since 1989. With a historical eye—dating back to the formal acceptance of the state-system with the treaty of Westphalia in 1648—we see what is so remarkable about this configuration: It presumes that sovereignty rests not with the state, but with supra-national organizations—NAFTA, WTO, the U.N., the EU, the IMF, etc.—and with subnational sovereign sites that we name with the term “identity.” So inscribed in our post-1989 vernacular is the idea of “identity” that we can scarcely imagine ourselves without reference to our racial, gender, ethnic, national, religious and/or tribal “identity.” Once, we aspired to be citizens who abided by the rule of law prescribed within a territory; now we have sovereign “identities,” and wander aimlessly in a world without borders, with our gadgets in hand to distract us, and our polemics in mind to repudiate the disbelievers.

What, exactly, is the flaw with this remarkable post-1989 configuration of ideas? When you start thinking in terms of management by global elites at the trans-state level and homeless selves at the substate level that seek, but never really find, comfort in their “identities,” the consequences are significant: Slow growth rates (propped up by debt-financing) and isolated citizens who lose interest in building a world together. Then of course, there’s the rampant crony-capitalism that arises when, in the name of eliminating “global risk” and providing various forms of “security,” the collusion between ever-growing state bureaucracies and behemoth global corporations creates a permanent class of winners and losers. Hence, the huge disparities of wealth we see in the world today.

The post-1989 order of things fails to recognize that the state matters, and engaged citizens matter. The state is the largest possible unit of organization that allows for the political liberty and economic improvement of its citizens, in the long term. This arrangement entails competition, risk, success and failure. But it does lead to growth, citizen-involvement, and if not a full measure of happiness, then at least the satisfactions that competence and merit matter.
I'd quibble that there's more to the past nearly thirty years of change than the wealth disparities. Fewer people have to make do on the equivalent of a dollar a day these days.  "The world attained the first Millennium Development Goal target—to cut the 1990 poverty rate in half by 2015—five years ahead of schedule, in 2010." That improvement in living standards in the developing world, however,  was a Marshallian improvement, and gadgets in hand or polemics are scant comfort to, for example, U. S. citizens who might genuinely be enjoying higher living standards at the same time that they have lost ground to neighbors who are relatively even better off.

That's no way to maintain confidence in the existing institutions, even if the institutions are still doing what they had emerged to do.  In The Federalist, Ben Domenech sees that loss of confidence.
Trust for unions, the justice system, big business, Congress and the media are in single digits.

This decline didn’t happen overnight – it began with Watergate and Vietnam and continued through the financial crisis and Iraq. Real failures undermined confidence in the capacity of elite institutions to do good and in their capability to represent the interests of the people. Now working and middle class Americans are reasserting themselves against a bipartisan political and cultural establishment utterly discredited due to their record of failure.

The list is familiar to you by now: 9/11. Iraq. Katrina. Congressional corruption. Financial meltdown. Bank bailouts. Failed stimulus. A health care mess. Stagnant wages. Rising distrust. Diminished hopes. 16 years of promises from Republicans and Democrats alike that failed to live up to what people wanted. This distrust was earned.

Through it all, the elites were looking out for the interests of people other than those they were elected to serve. It is no accident that Donald Trump broke with elite bipartisan consensus on the issues of immigration, trade, and foreign policy. In each of these arenas elite consensus views were favored by the donor class, by big business, and by party leadership to the exclusion of others.
But perhaps even this Deep Analysis is misguidedly focussed on the elites, and their disconnect with the Rest of the People.  James Fallows has been exploring the blue highways and his most recent dispatch suggests the outcome of the election, elsewhere than the presidency, is business as usual.
Fewer than one in three felt that good ideas were coming from national institutions. These results also underscore the sense my wife and I took unmistakably from our visits: that city by city, and at the level of politics where people’s judgments are based on direct observation rather than media-fueled fear, Americans still trust democratic processes and observe long-respected norms. As I argued in a cover story last year, most American communities still manage to compromise, invest and innovate, make long-term plans.
Perhaps, though, that's the point!  There's a "Just Leave Us Alone" strand to each element of the rainbow coalition, after all, and the fears and conceits and six-point programs of the Administrative State aren't that relevant.

Here's an intriguing Andrew Bacevich essay that recognizes the hubris of the existing institutions, all claiming victory.
Once the Cold War ended, however, the tension between individual freedom and national security momentarily dissipated.  Reigning conceptions of what freedom could or should entail underwent a radical transformation.  Emphasizing the removal of restraints and inhibitions, the shift made itself felt everywhere, from patterns of consumption and modes of cultural expression to sexuality and the definition of the family.  Norms that had prevailed for decades if not generations -- marriage as a union between a man and a woman, gender identity as fixed at birth -- became passé. The concept of a transcendent common good, which during the Cold War had taken a backseat to national security, now took a backseat to maximizing individual choice and autonomy.

Finally, as a complement to these themes, in the realm of governance, the end of the Cold War cemented the status of the president as quasi-deity.  In the Age of Great Expectations, the myth of the president as a deliverer from (or, in the eyes of critics, the ultimate perpetrator of) evil flourished.  In the solar system of American politics, the man in the White House increasingly became the sun around which everything seemed to orbit.  By comparison, nothing else much mattered.

From one administration to the next, of course, presidential efforts to deliver Americans to the Promised Land regularly came up short.  Even so, the political establishment and the establishment media collaborated in sustaining the pretense that out of the next endlessly hyped “race for the White House,” another Roosevelt or Kennedy or Reagan would magically emerge to save the nation.  From one election cycle to the next, these campaigns became longer and more expensive, drearier and yet ever more circus-like.  No matter.  During the Age of Great Expectations, the reflexive tendency to see the president as the ultimate guarantor of American abundance, security, and freedom remained sacrosanct.
I suppose it's too much to ask of a Common Dreams writer to raise the possibility that it required a Ronald Reagan to terminate the Evil Empire.  Let alone that, once the Evil Empire crumbled, the urgency of National Consensus and Collective Action and all the rest was not present.  And somehow the Republic survived President Clinton's "bridge to the 21st century" and President Bush's "axis of evil" and President Obama's "Hope and Change" and the case for the President-Deliverer weakened.

Thus did an anticipated Age of Great Expectations become an Age of Unwelcome Surprises.  Perhaps, though, for the political class, the most unwelcome of surprises was that the small platoons of civil society Mr Fallows encountered on his travels were getting their work done without succour from Panem, er, Washington City. I submit, dear reader, that he's not contemplating sufficient alternatives.
Given the atrophy of old-line media with their quaint regard for truth, the addictive strength of social media and their unprecedented capacity to spread lies, and the cynicism of modern politics, will we ever be able to accurately match image with reality? The answer to that question will determine the answer to another: whether this election will be a dire but survivable challenge to American institutions or an irreversible step toward something else.
Where the institutions are no longer productive, that irreversible step toward something else is mutation. Whether selection or adaptation follows is left as an exercise.

Mr Domenech wrote his essay before the election returns, and he's on point.  "Our elite leadership class sowed the wind, and Donald Trump is the whirlwind they reaped."  That might be too simple a cause, but it's a pardonable lapse for the people who happened to be guiding the civil society Truman and Churchill had bequeathed them to attribute the failure of the Evil Empire to their own Good Works.

Mr Mitchell also posted before the presidential results.  Six months after inauguration, time to take stock?
The Very White Progressives who run the Democratic Party have an abiding interest in the latter narrative, because holding on to support of entire identity groups helps them win elections. But I do not think it can be successful much longer, in part because it is predicated on the continual growth of government, which only the debt-financing can support. Our debt-financed binge is over, or it will be soon. The canary in the coal mine—now starting to sing—is the African-American community, which has, as a whole, been betrayed by a Democratic Party that promises through government largesse that its burden shall be eased. Over the past half-century nothing has been further from the truth, especially in high-density inner-city regions. While it receives little media attention, there are African-Americans who are dubious about the arrangement by which the Democratic Party expects them to abide. A simultaneously serious and humorous example of this is the long train of videos posted on YouTube by “Diamond and Silk.” To be sure, the current polls show that Trump has abysmal ratings among minorities. If he wins the election, he will have to succeed in convincing them that he offers an alternative to permanent government assistance and identity politics consciousness-raising that, in the end, does them little good; and that through the alternative he offers there is a hope of assimilation into the middle class. A tall order, to be sure.
I have to wonder how an off-the cuff remark, "Let Obamacare fail" will play as a credible commitment to ending permanent government assistance or as swearing off the debt-financed binge.  But there it is.

Emergence is messy.

DECONSTRUCT THIS.

"When there is no truth, there can be no argument."  Wish I had known this epigram a quarter century ago, when the Canon Wars were in full fury.

18.7.17

PROGRESS IS NOT INEVITABLE.

Nor are all changes for the better, argues Robert D. Kaplan in Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes America's Role in the World, tonight's Book Review No. 15.

It's become a thing of late for pundits and public intellectuals to go on anthropological excursions into the Flyover.  We've documented a number of these things, particularly since the surprise outcome of the national elections.

Mr. Kaplan, however, is an old hinterland hand, both in the States and abroad, and his vision tends to the tragic.  That's not necessarily the case as he earns the Rockies. That is a reference to his truckdriver father's experience with road trips, and it's not wholly wrong, there being a thousand miles of prairie and plain and plateau and seven-layer salad before the Front Range looms in the windshield.  Now imagine crossing all that open space in a prairie schooner.  But you have to appreciate an explorer who treats his in-car navigation as the enemy, "because it steers me only onto the interstates."  He ignores it.  Along the way he discovers the true source of American intellectual strength.  "The Big Ten is the capstone of a vast social, economic, and political process that, again, stares right at us, even as we don't notice it."  (Rockies: 74)  In Illinois, it's a different sort of player with railroads, in this case the flood-loading of land barges of grain hoppers.  "I know that it is the immensity of the continent that required the development of more powerful locomotives than in other parts of the world, something which, in turn, enabled the development of long-distance engines for our warships, so that the strength of our navy is directly related to the size of the dry-land continent and the rail lines spanning it."  (Rockies 77.)  And coastal types can eat their bread and pump their gasohol into their hybrid cars without ever contemplating how it gets there.  As far as those engines, well, the Electro-Motive 567 series diesel powered World War II passenger and freight trains, destroyer escorts, PT boats, and submarines alike.  And thus, cross-country, where a pattern emerges of the thinner people living in the more upscale areas, and where a lot of the citizenry are, in presidential terms, Jacksonians (a stance less common among the political class.)  Then in San Diego come the current warships, a "stabilizing presence" in his view.  But not enough of a power to function as tools of empire, conventionally understood.  All the same, those tools must be used wisely.  For in Mr Kaplan's view, the United States comprise a continental empire, one that -- as the settlers earning the Rockies and beyond learned -- must be frugal with their assets.

Earning the Rockies also draws heavily on the works of an earlier generation of social scientists: Bernard DeVoto, Wallace Stegner, Halford Mackinder.  Names now obscure, names perhaps in a bad odor because their perspectives don't align with contemporary aesthetics.  And yet it might not be possible to make sense of the actually existing United States without contemplating anew what they saw.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

THE BLACK SWAN IS ON THE POND.

Matthew Continetti, "The political class never expected Donald Trump to become president."

There's more at work, according to W. R. Mead.
The critical mass of support for Trump came from those who saw many of the defects which energize his opponents—but who nevertheless believed that this man, with all his flaws, was a better choice than any of the slick nonentities and earnest wonks who would labor to maintain the status quo.

Too many Democrats think that the Trump scandals, pushed to their logical conclusion, will bring an end to troubles that have seen the party sink to its lowest national ebb since the 1920s. By personalizing the problem, by thinking of Trump as a uniquely unscrupulous, uniquely insightful, but also uniquely incompetent demagogue, Democrats construct a reality for themselves in which his impeachment, or at least his humiliation, will leave upper middle class technocrats back securely in control of the regulatory state, the haute educational establishment and the media that really count. The rebels, abashed at the demonstrated unfitness of their leader, will disperse, the districts will demobilize, the Hunger Games will relaunch, and life in the Capital will go on as before.

Perhaps unfortunately, life is not that simple. The problem the Democrats face has never been the Republican Establishment, the Tea Party, or the Trump insurgency. The Republican disarray of 2017 is nothing new; Republicans do not know how to fix health care or to solve the fiscal problems of local and state governments without raising taxes or cutting services anymore than Democrats do. What drives Republican success isn’t public confidence in Republican policy ideas, but a public belief that given a choice between a party committed to the status quo and a party open at least to reforming it, dumb reformers are a better choice than clever custodians of the status quo.
Unfortunately, the dumb reformers too often confine their reform to the conventional process stuff, neglecting more imaginative approaches that might have more potential.
Our society is becoming more dysfunctional; neither Democrats nor Republicans have real answers, so our politics is becoming more embittered, and quackery flourishes in the absence of serious reform.

Meanwhile, we note with alarm that more and more of America’s energy goes into the endless process of two year presidential campaigns immediately followed by nonstop relitigation by scandal. We now cluster around our screens to catch the latest scandal mini-scoop the way we used to look at Iowa polling numbers before the caucus. Our intellectual and political energy is being consumed by the ephemeral at ever greater rates even as we run low on time to address genuinely vital issues. We are thinking about horse races, not the historic challenges that the United States faces at home and abroad.
Perhaps there are encouraging signs somewhere, being put into place by people who aren't forever tied to those screens. Unfortunately, the default setting for the political class and the correspondents appears to be that if it isn't happening in D.C., it isn't happening.  There might be a deeper meaning to Mr Continetti's closing sentence.  "Turns out, there's another hermetic bubble, one that stretches from West Forty-Third Street in Manhattan to the corner of Seventeenth and I streets in D.C. It didn't expect Donald Trump to win, it dismissed any discouraging information to the contrary, and it did not, in the words of Pat Toomey, 'expect to be in this situation.' And if we didn't expect to be where we are today, how on Earth can we know where we'll be tomorrow?"

Emergence is like that.

TODAY'S TRENCHANT OBSERVATION.

Betsy Newmark, nominally on the follies of contemporary lit-crits and their so-called Theory.
The idea that a literary critic would brag about discussing "an imaginary Jane Austen" indicates how baseless her theory is. But why should that matter. She likes Austen's novels; she's a radical; ergo Austen must have been one also. Evidence can be imaginary since the theory itself is what matters. It resembles a lot of liberal policy proposals - the intent is good, therefore the policy is admirable - forget the unintended consequences of a hiked minimum wage, universal healthcare, or peace with Iran.
Just the thing as the unintended consequences of universal health care (and a lack of imagination on the part of Our Political Masters) hit, and hit hard.

17.7.17

RAILWAY PRESERVATION IS WORK.

A few years ago, here's what Milwaukee Electric container car M-37 looked like.


All that chipping and priming has been to good purpose.  Here's the same car, late last month.


There is a functional Milwaukee Electric box motor, thus the museum is capable of operating a merchandise dispatch train, as well as re-enacting a Lakeside Power Plant coal train.

CONSIDER THE TRADE TESTED BETTERMENTS.

I continue to be frustrated by Official Washington's focus on things like insurance coverage and tax penalties rather than, oh, making possible more trade-tested betterments in medical care.

There's something longer to come, but, really, Pajamas Media's Michael Walsh has it.  "Getting the government out of the private businesses of medical care and deregulating medical insurance would go a long way to improving the American health-care system, and it wouldn't cost a dime."

You could go to John "Grumpy Economist" Cochrane and just keep scrolling.  Or start here.  "The combination of free market and exchange has to be designed to keep people out of the exchanges."

Unlikely, though, that our political masters will be so sensible.

MAKING THE SUMMER JOB GREAT AGAIN.

A number of the local landscaping services have "Help Wanted" signs at their farms and greenhouses.  I'm enough of a home gardener to have no idea who the usual labor force is, or whether some presidential tough talk about tightening the border is having an effect.

But for years I have remarked on the tourism business, most notably at Wisconsin Dells, staffing the eateries and water parks with young people from the Former Soviet Bloc.  That's delicious, given that by state law, school (and the public universities) cannot resume for the fall before Labor Day.

In the summer entertainment sector, there may be a connection between labor shortages and visa shortages.  It's affecting itinerant carnivals.
In a typical summer, Alpine Amusement has a traveling staff of about 50 people.

The carnival operator crisscrosses Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana, where workers set up, run and take down more than 20 rides every week from May to October.

This summer, Alpine has a spartan crew working long hours. What was once a six-hour setup now takes two days. The carnival doesn't even put up half its rides because it doesn't have the manpower.
Used to be, experienced workers who had previously come into the country on the H-2B visa could return, without counting against the limit on visas.  This year, they do.  (Perhaps that's what's affecting local landscaping companies.)  In Wisconsin, the eateries catering to the tourist trade face the same challenge.
The state's restaurants are already struggling to fill openings, a problem that's only exacerbated by the summer season, said Susan Quam of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

Employers say the high school and college students who used to take on these summer jobs now have other commitments, such as organized sports or summer internships.

The labor shortage is so severe, the Wisconsin Hotel & Lodging Association has created a task force to deal with the issue, said Trisha Pugal, the group's CEO and president.

Some resort areas, such as the Wisconsin Dells and Door County, have a workaround already in place: They have long hired international college students through the J-1 visa program, which is touted as a cultural exchange program.
Thus, at the Dells, the youngsters are working their way through college. Plus polishing their English skills.

Down East, well, this story got Instalanched, and it's not a parody. Maine Town Resorts To Hiring Americans As Visas Run Out.
The article describes some of the “creative ways to attract local labor” and they include things such as offering flexible hours and even… (gasp) higher wages. If your business is booming all summer to the degree that you can’t hire enough workers to meet the demand, then in a normal capitalist system the demand for labor would drive up the cost. Higher wages attract more and better workers… it’s really that simple. And if that enhanced compensation package is attracting more employees locally, why are you relying on the H-2B program to begin with?
Put another way, is the argument about immigrant workers "doing jobs Americans won't do" incomplete: it's taking the work at lower wages?

STILL A REGRESSIVE TRANSFER?

Dimitrios Halikias and Richard Reeves of Brookings evaluate the effectiveness of the state colleges and universities.  Some of the news is not good.  "Just 20 percent of America’s selective public universities manage to accomplish both objectives—to be both ladders [providing upward income mobility] and labs [establishing a reputation for scholarship]. Twenty-five percent are laggards, failing on both counts."  They don't quite say "subprime party school," but consider this.  "The majority of low-mobility universities also produce little to no research."  And the egalitarians who are offended by the reality of mediocre students from wealthy neighborhoods matriculating at a rate higher than that of strong students from poor neighborhoods will not be surprised.  "Almost thirty percent of students at low-mobility, low-research institutions come from the top quintile of earners, while under 7 percent come from families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution." Safety school!

And the regressive transfer is there.
[W]e estimate that students from top-quintile families at these laggard public universities receive almost two billion dollars in annual subsidies. Such expenditures seem almost indefensible. Why should taxpayers pay to send relatively affluent students to public universities that both fail to produce research and fail to facilitate social mobility? There is a strong case that this money could be spent more wisely.
Don't apologize for being selective, and look for that excess capacity in what I call access-assessment-remediation-retention.  I like "laggards" in place of my lengthy formulation.

But there is trouble, even among the ladders, notes longtime higher education skeptic Richard Vedder.
Only 70 schools, 20 percent of the sample, were cited as the “leaders” in higher education (having high-income mobility among the students, along with high levels of research among the faculty). I took six schools from the top 20 on that list: the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of New Orleans, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Wayne State University, the University of South Alabama and Cleveland State University. Using data from the U.S. Department of Education website College Scorecard, I observed that at all of these schools, a large majority (over 60 percent) of full-time students failed to graduate in six years –well above the national average. These “leaders” did not do what many of us consider Job One: graduate entering students.

A decidedly alternative interpretation: many schools prey upon the poor and academically unprepared: they admit them, telling them college is a ticket to a better, solidly middle-class life, knowing full well that most of them will fail to graduate –but will incur large student loan debts (at “leader” Wayne State, over 60 percent of students who borrowed had failed to pay at least one dollar of their student loans back –three years after attending). Yet these schools sucker academics of the Thomas Piketty perspective into believing they are “leaders” in the quest for intergenerational income mobility. A better than decent case can be made that some of the Halikias-Reeves “leader” universities should actually die: their social costs exceed the social benefits.
That might be equally true of any institution of higher education that will not recognize its work is the same as the Ivies and the state flagships, but achieving a political consensus to defund whole campuses and limit enrollments to the college-ready, -willing, and -able doesn't seem likely.

But something that cannot go on, won't.

LIMIT OTHER FORMS OF GOVERNMENT.

There isn't enough traffic in Hawaii for tandem and triple trailer rigs, but Jim "Travel and Trains" Loomis encounters them when he's on the mainland.  (On some of his cross-country trip reports, it would be interesting to know how many triples are being kept off the interstates because they're on container and van trains.)
I have no idea what sort of safety record these double and triple units have, but it’s got to be scary for other drivers who have to negotiate around them.
It is, particularly given the free-for all the rig operators engage in to get in ahead of the competition.
On top of that, there’s the latest device the big trucking companies are using to skirt the law and increase their profits: they turn their drivers into independent contractors. Since, technically, they are no longer employees, the trucking company is no longer responsible if the drivers choose to be on the road 12 or 14 hours a day. Or even more.
It's worse than that, but the fleet operators who hire in these contractors have yet to grasp why there's a driver shortage.
And now comes one more thing to worry about. There is a proposal pending in Congress to increase the maximum allowable weight for trucks from 80,000 pounds to 91,000 pounds.

Holy Gross Tonnage, Batman! Did you realize that some of these big trucks highballing along our highways could weigh as much as forty tons? And now they want to raise the limit by another five-and-a-half tons?

It’s estimated that some 60,000 bridges in this country are potentially unsafe. Swell! Then let us, by all means, allow the truckers to carry an additional five-and-half tons over those bridges and out onto whatever Interstate highway is nearby. There’s too damn much government regulation in our lives anyway.
Perhaps it's more accurate to say there's too much rent-seeking. That Congressional mandate becomes another unfunded mandate for the states, which are running short of money to fix the roads they've already built.

Something that cannot go on, won't.

POLITICS DIVIDES, TRADE UNITES.

"Additional steel tariffs would actually damage the U.S. economy."  Martin Feldstein, Alan Greenspan, Greg Mankiw, Christina Romer, Joseph Stiglitz, Laura Tyson inter alia concur.  Additional background.

NOTICE OF DISCONTINUANCE.

Destination: Freedom will cease weekly distribution effective 31 July, 2017.  The National Corridors Initiative organization and web presence will continue.

16.7.17

LIDICE, INDIANA.

Kurt Schlichter's Indian Country is a warning, inspired by the attempts of the self-styled resistance and the Democrat-Media-Entertainment-Academic Complex's efforts to impose their vision on the country.  "Maybe someday we will realize that the path we are currently on ends in a place that looks a lot like Kosovo...  The people there chose expedience and violence over the hard work of sustaining the rule of law."

Is that the course the United States are on?  Book Review No. 14 will not offer spoilers.  I purchased the paperback edition.  Is its publication in large type with a lot of white space a statement that in future, print editions of books will have in mind the deteriorating eyes of aging Baby Boomers, as everyone younger can still pick up the words on portable screens?

The events of Indian Country take place shortly after the partition of what was the United States, thus serving as a prequel to People's Republic, a prequel that none-the-less allows plenty of opportunity to describe the effects of all sorts of arms and ammunition, as well as to make fun of the pronoun pretensions of the preening progressives running the People's Republic.

But those preening freakazoids of unknown body type, while probably older versions of these future Morale Conditioners from Evergreen College, none-the-less have historical precedent for coming up with the muscle they will deploy in Indiana.



The formula is simple enough:  arm some former felons, tell them they are facing a race and class enemy, condition them to think of that enemy is "deplorable" (an Americanized version of Untermenschen), then turn them loose.

Mr Schlichter suggests that, sales and other interest permitting, there might be additional stories about this partition of the country.  People's Republic has a hint that the principal character might be back at work in the failing part of the country; that the protagonists were able to block two Interstate Highways and get the leaders of Hillaryland to contemplate starvation of the cities suggests another set of possibilities.  That somehow, the nachalstvo in Chicago or on Manhattan or in Washington City or in San Francisco still have their cafes and craft beers also raises possibilities, more along the lines of Roumanians turning on the Ceaucescu clan.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

IT TAKES SOMETHING TO BEAT NOTHING.

The American Conservative reposted a lament by longtime Republican court intellectual Bruce Bartlett.
The final line for me to cross in complete alienation from the right was my recognition that Obama is not a leftist. In fact, he’s barely a liberal—and only because the political spectrum has moved so far to the right that moderate Republicans from the past are now considered hardcore leftists by right-wing standards today. Viewed in historical context, I see Obama as actually being on the center-right.

At this point, I lost every last friend I had on the right. Some have been known to pass me in silence at the supermarket or even to cross the street when they see me coming. People who were as close to me as brothers and sisters have disowned me.

I think they believe they are just disciplining me, hoping I will admit error and ask for forgiveness. They clearly don’t know me very well. My attitude is that anyone who puts politics above friendship is not someone I care to have in my life.
His fear at the time was that his allegedly conservative brethren failed to have a message that might appeal to, well, an electoral majority in a presidential election, and to the relevant majorities in elections to the Senate and House of Representatives. Then the Affordable Care Act came unglued, and the Obama stimulus packages failed to stimulate, and, well, you know ...

Today, Mr Bartlett finds himself a man without a party.  "I am part of the reason why Democrats have not been successful in the Trump era. I am someone who should be a Democrat, but I’m not. Let me explain."  It comes down to the major parties behaving as if the median voter theorem no longer works.
I’ve grown to hate my former party. You’d think this would make me a prime candidate for recruitment by the Democrats. But I’m not. First, no Democrat has ever reached out to me. I am not insulted by this, only surprised. And my efforts to suggest ideas to Democrats have been uniformly rebuffed. Like the Republicans, Democrats are wary of apostates and are only receptive to those born into their church, it seems.
I'd add: and that church appears to be prophesying a future for the United States that is a third world, San Francisco style, if it's not a third world, Baltimore style.  Mr Bartlett isn't quite blunt enough to suggest that, preferring to suggest that resistance for its own sake isn't good enough.

And that resistance is failing, according to Victor Hanson.
Rather, the lesson is that progressives should have offered alternative political visions that might have won back the American people rather than attempting to terminate the Trump presidency on charges to which the progressive side was far more vulnerable.

Now that Trump is emerging from successful House special elections and has fended off six months of media attacks, celebrity invective and progressive efforts to abort his tenure, he seems to be going back on the offensive.
Well, maybe not, and Our President is often his own worst enemy, particularly among political establishment types, some of whom might be sympathetic to business-friendly regulatory agencies or to a more muscular national security stance at the borders and overseas.  But it's not as if failures of Our President, or inaction by a Republican majority that might be as surprised to hold both legislative chambers and, at least on paper, the Oval Office, will make those disaffected voters all of a sudden enthusiastic for single-payer health insurance or more affirmative action in education or more taxes on pop or any of the rest.

It was not so much Richard Nixon offering a different vision as it was Johnson, McCormick, and Albert over-reaching.

Ronald Reagan's city on a hill looked better contrasted with whatever it was Carter, O'Neill, and Mansfield succeeded by Byrd were offering.

And "Make America Great Again" requires the floundering efforts of Obama, Pelosi, and Reid to hold their fractious coalition together: at the margin having the ticket headed by Hillary "Basket of Deplorables" Clinton could not have helped matters.

I mean, when Maureen Dowd sees it.
Democrats are going to have to come up with something for people to be for, rather than just counting on Trump to implode. (Which he will.) The party still seems flummoxed that there are big swaths of the country where Democrats once roamed that now regard the Democratic brand as garbage and its long-in-the-tooth leadership as overstaying its welcome. The vibe is suffocating. Where’s the fresh talent?

In a new piece in The Atlantic, [Chicago mayor Rahm] Emanuel and Bruce Reed — who engineered their party’s last takeover of Congress in 2006, the first since 1994 — argue that Democrats need to channel their anger and make 2018 a referendum on Trump’s record, not his impeachment.

In dwindling swing districts, Emanuel told me, Democrats need to choose candidates who are pro-middle class, not merely pro-poor.
Perhaps, although City Journal's Kay Hymowitz suggests it's too late.
No Democrat on the scene today possesses the Lincolnesque political skills to persuade liberal voters to give up their assumptions of white deplorability, endorse assimilation, or back traditional civics education. In the current environment, a Democratic civics curriculum would teach that American institutions are vehicles for the transmission of white supremacy and sexism, hardly a route to social cohesion. As for assimilation, Hispanic and bilingual-education advocacy organizations would threaten a revolt—and they’d only be the first to sound the alarm.

Appeasing deplorables may yet prove unnecessary, though. Democrats’ strategy of awaiting “inevitable” demographic change in the electorate, combined with the hope that Trump and the Republican Congress will commit major unforced errors, may allow the party to regain control of the country without making any concessions to the large portion of the U.S. population whom they appear to despise.
Perhaps not, although there's still that messy friction between the technocratic policy intellectuals and their upscale neighbors, and the rainbow coalition being enabled in their reluctance to buy into America.

And I'm adopting a moderate tone.  You want something colorful, read Kunstler interpreting The Exorcist.
The pea soup represents the sort of ideology that the Democratic Party has spewed out in recent years — a toxic mush of racial identity politics, contempt for men, infantile entitlement tantrums, corporate whoring, and a demonic quest for war with the Russian Federation. Father Merrin, the priest, stands for incorruptible American men, who have been, at last, killed off by this barrage of diabolical idiocy.
No Men's Rights Activist, no Red Piller, no Alt-Right brawler he. And yet:
Lately, people refer to this bygone era of the 1960s as “the American High” — and by that they are not talking about smoking dope (though it did go mainstream then), but rather the post World War Two economic high, when American business might truly ruled the planet. Perhaps the seeming strength of American political leaders back then was merely a reflection of the country’s economic power, which since has been squandered and purloined into a matrix of rackets loosely called financialization — a criminal magic act whereby wealth is generated without producing anything of value.

Leaders in such a system are bound to be not just lesser men and women but something less than human. Hillary Clinton, for instance, lost the 2016 election because she came off as demonic, and I mean that pretty literally. To many Americans, especially the ones swindled by the magic of financialization, she was the reincarnation of the little girl in The Exorcist. Donald Trump, unlikely as it seems — given his oafish and vulgar guise — was assigned the role of exorcist. Unlike poor father Merrin, he sort of succeeded, even to his very own astonishment. I say sort of succeeded because the Democratic Party is still there, infested with all its gibbering demons, but it has been reduced politically to impotence and appears likely to soon roll over and die.
The American High might have led to the victory dividend resource curse, and financial innovations are not dangerous per se, but traders who forget that bulls might get rich and bulls might get rich, and pigs will get slaughtered.

And perhaps -- here's a different Victor Hanson post -- it's the old saecular order that is due to roll over and die, and perhaps it shall be pushed: "Trump in Samson fashion is quite willing to pull the temple down on top of himself, if it means his enemies perish first."

SOMETIMES IT IS SIMPLE.

Power Line's Paul Mirengoff gets the last word, and the deep word, on David Brooks's disquisition on food snobbery.
Brooks has it right at the beginning of his article. It’s all about behavior codes. If you get them right, it doesn’t make that much difference what neighborhood you start out in, and you don’t even need to know what a latte is.
I'm discovering other public intellectuals with platforms bigger than mine who are discovering the same thing, and hope to report on those discoveries shortly.

YOU'D THINK THEY'D UNDERSTAND THIS.

By Attacking Western Civ, the Left Empowers the Alt-Right.  Didn't the Communist Party pick up a lot of sympathizers, fellow-travellers, and useful idiots when hardcore segregationists suggested that any effort to protect the right to vote as guaranteed in the Fourteenth Amendment, and the freedom to use public facilities, as guaranteed in a number of ways, and the opportunity to participate in any housing market, which is the quintessence of free enterprise, were all communist plots?  (Yes, there were people who thought that way.  Do your own research.)

Apparently, the current crop of intelligentsia, if that's an accurate description, don't get it.
Thus, the intelligentsia is now flirting with an intellectually indefensible linguistic coup: Characterizing any appeal to the coherence or distinctiveness of Western civilization as evidence of white nationalist sympathies. Such a shift, if accepted, would so expand the scope of the term “alt-right” that it would lose its meaning. Its genuinely ugly ideas would continue to fester, but we would lose the rhetorical tools to identify and repudiate them as distinct from legitimate admiration for the Western tradition. To use a favorite term of the resistance, the alt-right would become normalized.
Put another way: if a defense of the traditions of free minds, free markets, and skeptical inquiry become signifiers of the political right, I am directing my course to starboard.

But to grasp that point requires thought.
How did progressive intellectuals get themselves into this mess? The confusion comes in part from loose language: in particular, a conflation of “liberalism” and “the West.” Liberalism is an ideology — defined by, among other things, freedom of religion, the rule of law, private property, popular sovereignty and equal dignity of all people. The West is the geographically delimited area where those values were first realized on a large scale during and after the European Enlightenment.
There's still a lot of work to be done: simply change the inventory to read "freedom from religion, the rules are a system of power, property is theft, popular sovereignty is a scam, and equal dignity implies privilege."  But cleaning up after the deconstruction is work.

PLAYER WITH RAILROADS, AND STACKER OF BURRITOS.

Truth to tell, you can find just about any kind of Mexican (or Central American, or Caribbean) food in Chicago, at any level of extravagance, in any kind of atmosphere.  But the division of labor is different in metropolitan areas.
As we can see, the largest cities in the country dominate this list. Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles hold the top three positions. Cities on the list are from all over the country, though there is an abundance of cities from the Southwest (especially Texas).

This list is a bit disingenuous though, and I’ll explain why. As we said at the beginning, we are looking for the cities with the most Mexican food - when I hear that, I think of independently owned restaurants or smaller chains. This list above includes many fast food and fast casual chains that many taco/burrito enthusiasts would not consider authentic, for example, Taco Bell.
But the enthusiasts know where to look, or they develop their own local knowledge.

And the article (via Marginal Revolution) hasn't considered the taco trucks.