31.8.17

TIME TO DECONSTRUCT THE CULT?

Give Paul Krugman the Trenchant Observation of the Day.  "Given the powers we grant to the president, who in some ways is almost like an elected dictator, giving the office to someone likely to abuse that power invites catastrophe."  Now, he's contemplating incipient fascism, and the unlikeliness of a Republican House or Senate to be too rebellious, and there's the little matter of that way-more-mobilized-and-angry constituency than Richard Nixon ever enjoyed that he didn't think about, but probably should be thinking about.

Jeffrey Tucker uses the column as an opportunity to suggest that devotees of the Cult of the Presidency rethink their idolatry.
The idea of an “elected dictator” is completely inconsistent with any classical understanding of freedom. And this has been going on a very long time, kicked into high gear by the Progressives at the turn of the twentieth century, the very people who built the machinery of power to intervene in every aspect of economic life. On any other day of the week Krugman celebrates exactly these powers for purposes of macroeconomic management and property redistribution in the name of equality.
Yes, and the Social Engineering Vice dies hard.  But perhaps undermining it by restoring the Chief Executive to his Article II Powers is a possibility.
We’ve got three and a half more years of this administration, which also means three and a half more years of center-left critics of Trump decrying his dictatorial use of executive powers. Is it too much to hope that this experience will be enough of a shock finally to disrupt the belief systems of people like Krugman, even to the point of revisiting the ideas of the classical liberals who warned about all of this so long ago? It’s doubtful. Still, we should never give up that hope, if not for Krugman but for all those coming of age during these traumatic times.
Exactly.

THE INFORMATION CONTENT OF PRICES.

With the new academic year upon us, how stands the college bubble?  Tuition spikes send higher education enrollment tumbling.  The article interviews Richard Vedder. “There’s an increasing skepticism on the part of the public that college produces the bang for the buck that it claims to.”  Put simply, where the risk is greater and the expected return is lower, you'll see fewer investors.

And the recent flooding in Houston has led to a re-litigation of price gouging.  Don "Cafe Hayek" Boudreaux urges people critical of the behavior of store-keepers in the afflicted area to consider the consequences of wishful thinking.
Allowing people in search of items to buy to spend money as they individually see fit in that search, rather than diverting their expenditures into non-monetary forms – such as waiting in queues or calling in political or personal favors – creates far more accurate and nuanced information about which particular needs are currently greatest.

Pointing out the many ways in which the price system isn’t perfect is child’s play (and often indeed is childish).  Explaining how that which emerges in the price-system’s place when it is suppressed is quite another matter.  Imagining an allocation of resources superior to that which the price system gives rise is also child’s play (and nearly always childish).  Devising a method that will work in reality to achieve this superior allocation of resources has yet to be done.
That noted, most of the welfare properties of price systems are propositions based on equilibrium conditions.  There remain as opportunities for future research the welfare properties of price systems out of equilibrium.

30.8.17

A FASTER TRACK FOR THE ALTON ROUTE.

It seems like it's taken forever to rebuild the Alton Route, but the new tracks and the new diesels are on the way. "Faaster and more reliable locomotives combined with improved signals and tracks will cut the time it takes an Amtrak passenger train to run from Chicago to St. Louis by one hour by next year, state officials said Monday."

The locomotives are good for 125, thus maintaining 110 on the additional segments of upgraded track should not be a problem.  But getting the trains between Alton and Saint Louis, or Chicago and Joliet, will still be the problem.
[Illinois secretary of transportation Randy] Blankenhorn told the Tribune he did not expect major time reductions on routes other than the Lincoln service, but he believes the locomotives will create greater reliability "across the board."

"Our focus on the other routes is how do we make them more reliable, how do we work with the freight railroads to make that happen," he said.
For the record, the new service will be more frequent, but not much faster than it was fifty years ago.

Lady Baltimore, and the various Hiawathas and Zephyrs, could not be reached for comment.


Image retrieved from Mike's Railway History.

And I see from that post that there's still opportunity to contemplate new coaches for the Chicago regional corridors.

DAFT.

Madeleine Kearns (writing for the UK Spectator) has a bewildering year at New York University.
It seemed to the members of my book club that academia is losing its way. It is riddled with paradox: safe spaces which are dangerously insular; the idea of ‘no absolutes’ (as an absolute); aggressive intolerance for anything perceived as intolerant; and censorship of ideas deemed too offensive for expression. It’s a form of totalitarianism and it’s beginning to infect British universities, too.
Mind-numbing totalitarianism, at that.
[T]he university experience in America is now not one that will adequately prepare students for real life. In real-life democracy, people disagree — and normally they don’t die or suffer emotional injury because of it. In normal life, there’s no reason not to like someone with whom you disagree politically. On campus, opinions are often ontology: you are what you think. But this is dangerous logic: if I hate what you think, I must hate what you are.
Yes, and too many students have never learned how to properly express an opinion, let alone frame an argument.  Columbia's Mark Lilla diagnosed what went wrong.
[C]lassroom conversations that once might have begun, I think A, and here is my argument, now take the form, Speaking as an X, I am offended that you claim B. This makes perfect sense if you believe that identity determines everything. It means there is no impartial space for dialogue.
Neither is there any possibility of evaluating claims, or of contesting propositions.  William Voegeli sees the incoherence that follows.
“Pursuing our own absolute truths” is an excellent summary of identity politics. On no other basis can modern liberals combine moral fervor with moral flexibility. Because my truths are subjective, they become unassailable—but at the same time, I’m under no obligation to base my truth on any proposition about the nature of things, because we accept that the final word on such realities belongs to no one. Speaking as an X, I possess a truth borne of my experience that no non-X critic can fully appreciate or fairly challenge.
That's not going to turn out well for higher education. Clay Routledge contemplates one problem.
The fact that some academic disciplines, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, are increasingly blurring the line between dispassionate scholarship and ideological activism is a deeper and more difficult problem to confront. And it is a problem that too few academics and academic professional organizations appear motivated to address.

Many on the left not only blame conservative media for shifting views among Republicans, they also argue that conservatives are anti-education. First, keep in mind the concerns about campus culture and the ideological biases of certain fields I just discussed. Now, add worries shared by many Americans regarding the economic value of many degrees, the rising cost of a college education, and financially debilitating student loan debt. People shouldn’t assume that faltering faith in American colleges and the academic class reflects a disdain for education. Maybe Republicans see real issues that fall within the liberal blind spot.
Then comes Thomas Barlow, asserting Americans Used to be Proud of their Universities.
American institutions have been squandering capital pursuing hysterical but unverifiable scholarship in a host of faddish and politically contentious disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. At the same time, judging by the bracing culture of outrage on U.S. campuses, they have ramped up production of a new version of an old product: The graduate who is energized not by knowledge but by ideology.

Thus, while their counterparts in Asia have been discovering how to control the world through mathematics and software, a good portion of the present generation of American students have wasted their energies on arguments about gendered restrooms, male privilege, and whether controversial conservatives should be allowed to speak or not. Meanwhile, even the politically indifferent on U.S. campuses collude in an imprudent fantasy. Heroically, in this era of failing newspapers and unemployed journalists, the country’s universities and colleges still graduate more communication and journalism specialists than computer scientists—despite a recent uptick in computer science enrollments.

Americans should be worried. History shows that changes in the intellectual wealth of nations matter, and that a divergence in the priorities of higher education systems of different countries can have serious consequences.
His essay echoes Professor Lilla's point.
A campus culture that prioritizes political agitation over the disciplined search for truth will tend to produce citizens who rank feelings over reason, and whose lives are increasingly burdened with perceptions of past injustice. By contrast, a university system focused upon technological achievement is more likely to teach its citizens to prize rationality, objectivity, and value creation. After all, even a mediocre programmer must understand both the laws of logic and the constraints of reality, neither of which seems to be a requirement for participation in some modern liberal arts degrees.
It may not have been given to me to complete the task of reclaiming higher education, and yet I see that others have taken it up.

29.8.17

THE RAILROAD PROFESSIONALS ARE SKEPTICAL.

The Great Lakes Basin Railroad's Application to Construct and Operate A Railroad received skepticism, to which the railroad's officials recently responded.
Great Lakes’ filing came in response to a petition from opponents in three states requesting that the transportation board reject the Crete, Ill.-based corporation’s application. The opponents contend there is neither need nor demand for the proposed rail line and that Great Lakes has no solid financing for the project.
Yes, that reads a lot like standard cartel language from the days of the Interstate Commerce Commission (or any other regulatory commission.)

But with two major railroads already stipulating they will not exchange traffic, much of the traffic forecast (scroll to page 73) strikes me as beyond optimistic.  One or two trains a day out of the Canadian National (old Illinois Central) interchange near Rockford initially, rising to four to ten trains within three years?  Four to eight trains out of the interchange with Union Pacific between Creston and Rochelle -- take a look at the landscape in that area if you live nearby -- rising to seventeen to 32 within three years??

Let's say I will not reconsider my skepticism.

WHEN YOU DENY COHERENT BELIEFS.

In Scientific American, Michael Shermer (who has a solid record of informed skepticism) recognizes the poisonous effects of post-rational thought.
Students are being taught by these postmodern professors that there is no truth, that science and empirical facts are tools of oppression by the white patriarchy, and that nearly everyone in America is racist and bigoted, including their own professors, most of whom are liberals or progressives devoted to fighting these social ills.
That might be, to borrow a phrase, grossly generalistic, and yet it is not wrong.
If you teach students to be warriors against all power asymmetries, don't be surprised when they turn on their professors and administrators. This is what happens when you separate facts from values, empiricism from morality, science from the humanities.
James Kunstler has been contemplating the same experiments against reality, unsurprisingly, in a more colorful way.  Start with one of the grievance constituencies.
The latest iteration of feminism comes out of campuses that have been largely taken over by female Boomer pedagogues, especially the non-STEM departments, and is now fait accompli, so that the grievances still pouring out seem manufactured and hysterical. It also has a strong odor of simple misandry, and the whole package of ideology is wrapped in impenetrable grad school jargon designed to give it an intellectual sheen that is unearned and dishonest. The grim fact is that sooner or later even some intelligent men might notice this, and get pissed off about it.
And use the very rubric of identity politics that their tormentors got away with deploying against them ...
The LGBTQQ movement, an offshoot of Feminism 3.0, seeks to erase biology itself as applied to human mammalian sexuality, at the same time that it wants to create new special social and political entitlements — based on various categories of sexual desire that they insist are biologically-driven, such as the urge of a man to equip himself via surgery to behave like a woman. The movement has now gone so far as to try to shame people who place themselves in the original biological categories (“cis-gender,” another grad school metaphysical jargon clot), and especially heterosexual men. Everybody else gets brownie points for being “cutting edge.” One really has to wonder how long this nonsense goes on before it provokes a reaction among the biology-literate.

If we’re entering a new civil war, don’t make the mistake of thinking that it is the product solely of extreme right-wing yahooism. These Nazi and KKK bozos are rising up because the thinking-enabled people of the center have been too cowardly to stand up against the rising tide of idiocy festering at both ends of the spectrum, and particularly on the Left with its direct wiring to the policy-making centers of American life, dictating how people must think and act, and what they should care about.
Thinking-enabled people to the right have recognized the idiocy, and the insurgency is expanding.

I. COULD. HARDLY. BREATHE.

That's perhaps the most famous passage from an earlier Hillary Clinton audio book.  She's back, with a few excerpts from her latest effort, What Happened.  (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida happened, and the few excerpts I've heard suggest that if your drive-time radio is public radio, her delivery will not put you to sleep, but I'm digressing.)

Suffice it to say that "Back. Up. You. Creep" provided Mark Steyn and Tucker Carlson a few moments of levity.

There's an off chance the video embed will work ...

Perhaps, Kyle Smith argues for National Review, it's better she didn't snap.
If Clinton had responded angrily, she would have looked unhinged and everything else about the evening would have been forgotten. On her better days, Mrs. Clinton has a Nurse Ratched streak, and she would hardly have done herself any favors by coming across as touchy and dyspeptic. As for the moderators, Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz, they declined to intervene on Clinton’s behalf not because they are secretly knights of the International Brotherhood of Sexism but because they thought moderators should remain neutral. Or because, less charitably, they didn’t want to make it too obvious that they were on Clinton’s side.
Plus Mr Smith understands how a properly prepared female politician would respond.
I doubt that Clinton’s problem with voters was that she smiled too much, or that she was tormented by a lack of self-esteem. But in any case I’m picturing Margaret Thatcher reading these excuses, and I’m quite sure her response would be, “What utter tosh.”
How deplorable.

28.8.17

THROWING TAX MONEY AT TECHNOLOGY WORKS?

Has it really been one-and-twenty years since Illinois offered all sorts of inducements for Motorola to build a factory of some kind north of Harvard, Illinois?  There's even a newish high-tension power line along Highway Fourteen north toward the Cheddar Curtain, in order for Motorola to play Commonwealth Edison against Wisconsin Electric Power for cheaper electricity.

It didn't last very long.
As many as 5,000 people worked at the plant — far more than at any other employer in Harvard, which is just south of Walworth County.

But those jobs were short-lived. By 2003, not quite seven years after it opened to great fanfare — “a smashing win for Illinois,” the Chicago Tribune had said — Motorola shut the place down.

It has stood vacant ever since. For a couple of years under one subsequent owner, property taxes went unpaid; the heat, lights and water were turned off; weeds rose 4 to 5 feet high; and old tires were being illegally dumped on the grounds.
Market tests have steep grading curves, and perhaps fiscal authorities in Wisconsin were sighing with relief when Illinois's tax incentives turned sour.
Not long after the Harvard plant opened, the cellphone industry began to upgrade to digital technology, which provided clearer calls, greater network capacity and other enhancements. Harvard, though, still made analog phones, and they were on the road to obsolescence.

The factory was, too. Motorola got jolted sharply as the economy slid into recession in 2001, and the firm launched aggressive cost-cutting efforts. Among the moves: ceasing production at Harvard and halting all analog phone sales, which, Motorola said in a securities filing, “had been rapidly declining over the years.”

The decision eliminated 2,500 jobs — half of Harvard’s total. Engineers, marketers, distribution workers and others remained, but not for long. In the spring of 2003, Motorola closed the entire plant.
Harvard's town fathers, moreover, don't recognize the liability they will be facing sometime in future.
Some in Harvard, like [Terrence] Bellon, a former alderman, view the effort to land the big Motorola factory as a mistake. Nelson disagrees. The improvements the city undertook because of Motorola — a new well and water tower, sewer repairs and upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant among them — benefit Harvard today, he said.

He said local businesses took a modest hit when Motorola closed, but that the brevity of the plant’s life tempered the economic impact. Expectations, though, were dashed.
Eventually -- familiarize yourself with the Strong Towns arguments, dear reader -- those new mains and sewers will wear out, and without a tax base to cover repair and replacement ...

Rosy corporate scenarios are not the same thing as rigorous benefit-cost analyses.

"ICONOCLASM" SOUNDS TOO MEASURED.

I keep returning to an editorial that appeared in New York's Times in October, 1963.  "We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed."  That referred to the "redevelopment" of The Pennsylvania Station (although I doubt that anyone a half century ago would have anticipated daily passenger volumes half a century later exceeding those of busy days during World War II.)

I have since invoked that passage to refer to the deconstruction of social norms, to changes made supposedly in the name of social progress, and to the deplorable state of national politics.

Now, I get to invoke the passage in yet another context.  Let's start with a tablet at Harper's Ferry, just more evidence of the eternal fascination of the American Civil War.


On a sunny Thursday afternoon, just another peculiar memorial.

Then came the brawl at Charlottesville, and that brought out a lot of background information about the United Daughters and the Sons in the years immediately after reconstruction ended.  Six score years later, might these organizations have turned into more conventional genealogical organizations that might be useful in moderating the crazies?

Or are we living in times, as Rod Dreher suggests, where there is catharsis or vengeance or something in destroying monuments?
That’s often what iconoclasm tries to do: erase cultural memory. The zealotry with which iconoclasts go after their targets has to do with their conviction that the image, and what it stands for, is so offensive that it cannot be tolerated, nor can its defenders be reasoned with. They can only be conquered by force.
For example, you might want to inform the world that the Nazi Circus Town is now under new management.


Nürnberg, April 1945.
Image retrieved from the Institute of Media and Design.

There's more about Nürnberg, and the Ninth Army's documentation of their conquest, here.

Some years later, Russians had reason to be angry with the Sword and the Shield of the Communist Party.


Moscow, November 1991.
Image retrieved from Russia Today.

Vladimir Putin, however, was so dismayed by the disrespect shown his agency that he has spent most of the past twenty years Making The Lubyanka Grozny Again.

Then the United States Army rolled into Baghdad and assisted some locals who were, shall we say, rejecting the ruling cult of personality.


Baghdad, April 2003.
Image retrieved from Pro Publica.

But where an icon is toppled by outsiders, perhaps a spectator vows jihad on the infidel invaders, and subsequently signs up with Islamic State or the like.

A few days after Charlottesville, some young people, perhaps associated with Duke University, re-enacted Firdos Square on a Confederate monument in Durham.


Durham, North Carolina, August 2017
Retrieved from Daily Wire.

Culturally competent Dukies understand that it's cultural appropriation to throw shoes at a toppled statue.

But Mr Dreher's disquisition on iconoclasm. dipping into Samuel Huntington and Arthur Schlesinger, comes back to the destruction of the common culture.
Starting in the 1960s, writes Huntington, “deconstructionists” of national identity encouraged “individuals were defined by their group membership, not common nationality.” Pushing identity politics was a time-tested strategy for colonialist regimes, for the sake of dividing and conquering subject peoples. But the governments of nation-states instead focused on uniting their disparate peoples. (Indeed, the Civil Rights Movement was about compelling the white majority to extend the promises of the Constitution and the Creed to black Americans — in other words, to fully unite them to the whole.)

Huntington says that this did not start from below, but was imposed from the top, by American political, legal, and cultural elites. He writes, “These efforts by a nation’s leaders to deconstruct the nation they governed were, quite possibly, without precedent in human history.”

By 1992, the liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. warned that all this had become “a cult, and today it treatens to become a counter-revolution against the original theory of American as ‘one people,’ a common culture, a single nation.”
Today, we focus on the way identity politics and guilt-tripping of white people might not turn out so well.
In light of Samuel Huntington’s book, it seems to me that the culture war has shifted into a dangerous phase, accelerated by both Donald Trump and progressive militants, who feed off each other. Our unity is fragile — more fragile than people think. This is not the time to be iconoclastic towards cultural symbols. The fact that we are seeing iconoclasm emerge, and that it is not only unchallenged, but actually encouraged by liberal elites, is a bad sign for the future. Remember how we started this post: with a recognition that iconoclasm usually accompanies or precedes actual violence.

The disassembling of the American Creed has been a 50-year project of American elites, but we are all going to reap the whirlwind. You cannot destroy symbols of people’s identity without calling forth rage.
And you cannot willy-nilly question authority as socially constructed and therefore arbitrary and subject to deconstruction without getting into trouble.  But that will be a future mini-dissertation.

NO. NEXT QUESTION.

"Are You Sure You Want Single Payer?"

Follow all the links.

Reinforces what you read here.

23.8.17

LATE TRAINS GET LATER.

My screenshot of the Solari Board showing the status of Chicago Union Station on Monday had Amtrak's northbound Illini 33 minutes late, with the Solar Eclipse Express on time at 8 pm.

Timekeeping isn't what it used to be.  Illini, due at 9.45, arrived at 11.28; and the Express, due at 10.45, arrived at 11.59.

THE CULTISTS BLAME THE IDOL, NOT THE DOCTRINE.

I'm not sure how much of the talk about Our President's "unfitness for office" is serious objections to policy (wouldn't the usual talk this far into a term, or a session of Congress, be about the evils of gridlock or some other process-worship) or symbolic objections because he doesn't play the usual roles.  Or perhaps the process-worshippers are worried: Richard Nixon could never bring out cheering crowds to mock the main press or to punch hippies ...

But I must confess to being surprised at the way the Trump presidency might be rolling back the Cult of the Presidency.  Here's how I thought it might play out.  "It may take the failure of one or more of the New Deal or Great Society or Hope and Change constructions to trigger the emergence."

Yes, the two lies for the price of one Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a failure, and nation building in the Third World is likely a failure, and yet, the devotees of the cult seem more obsessed with the Moral Leader of the Free World behaving badly, than with the absence of any substantive efforts either at comprehensive reform or at rolling back the administrative state, which might be the same thing.

Perhaps, though, the doctrine of moral leader is false.
The overwhelming majority of Americans aren’t so far gone as to take their cues about right and wrong from any president—let alone this one. A good thing too, given that, in living memory, presidents have conducted themselves abominably in their personal relationships, lied us into war, and used “the available federal machinery to screw [their] political enemies. Anyone looking for a personal role model might do better by randomly selecting a professional athlete or reality-show star (some exceptions may apply).

Sure, “presidents affect culture,” but the biggest effect they have is by influencing how we think about the presidency—often in ways they don’t intend. Watergate obviously had an enormous impact on American attitudes toward the office. Nixon’s lawlessness helped puncture the myth of “the implicit infallibility of presidents,” by revealing that the man in the Oval Office could be a petty, paranoid, foul-mouthed little crook.

In a less dramatic fashion, Bill Clinton also helped demystify the presidency. As Judge Posner correctly predicted in his book on the Clinton impeachment, that episode’s “most abiding effect… may be to make it difficult to take Presidents seriously as superior people.” If we needed a refresher course in that lesson, we’re certainly getting one right now.
(Via Cafe Hayek.)

George Will was thinking along similar lines, before the Charlottesville protests brought the punditry back from the Hamptons.
After 2001, “The Decider” decided to start a preventive war and to countenance torture prohibited by treaty and statute. His successor had “a pen and a phone,” an indifference to the Constitution’s Take-Care Clause (the president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed”) and disdain for the separation of powers, for which he was repeatedly rebuked by the Supreme Court.

Fortunately, today’s president is so innocent of information that Congress cannot continue deferring to executive policymaking. And because this president has neither a history of party identification nor an understanding of reciprocal loyalty, congressional Republicans are reacquiring a constitutional — a Madisonian — ethic. It mandates a prickly defense of institutional interests, placing those interests above devotion to parties that allow themselves to be defined episodically by their presidents.

Furthermore, today’s president is doing invaluable damage to Americans’ infantilizing assumption that the presidency magically envelops its occupant with a nimbus of seriousness. After the president went to West Virginia to harangue some (probably mystified) Boy Scouts about his magnificence and persecutions, he confessed to Ohioans that Lincoln, but only Lincoln, was more “presidential” than he. So much for the austere and reticent first president, who, when the office was soft wax, tried to fashion a style of dignity compatible with republican simplicity.

Fastidious people who worry that the president’s West Virginia and Ohio performances — the alpha male as crybaby — diminished the presidency are missing the point, which is: For now, worse is better. Diminution drains this office of the sacerdotal pomposities that have encrusted it. There will be 42 more months of this president’s increasingly hilarious-beyond-satire apotheosis of himself, leavened by his incessant whining about his tribulations (“What dunce saddled me with this silly attorney general who takes my policy expostulations seriously?”). This protracted learning experience, which the public chose to have and which should not be truncated, might whet the public’s appetite for an adult president confident enough to wince at, and disdain, the adoration of his most comically groveling hirelings.
I would be delighted if the next Democratic front-runner told Chris Matthews to stop drooling, or the next Republican front-runner told Sean Hannity to save the hero-worship for a New York Ranger.  I'm even more delighted with that "sacerdotal pomposities."

Iconoclasm is never pretty, though.  I did warn you. "The gentry liberals, and the academic-entertainment complex, have done much damage, as have the rent seekers. But like any other ruling class, they will not relinquish power graciously." And the ungraciousness is on display at CNN, night after night.

THE WOKE SINGULARITY.

I don't make this stuff up.

21.8.17

BRINGING THE SPECTATORS HOME.

There's a simulation of the canonical Solari Board that makes use of Amtrak train location data to show the status at various stations.  Here's a screen shot for Chicago at just before eight this evening.


The City of New Orleans will have to work its way south on the single track against the scheduled Illini (which arrived in Carbondale after totality, but could offer seats for people who wanted to stay overnight and then leave) and the extra, which was on time at eight, but reported ten minutes late as of this writing.

Coverage from Carbondale suggested that spectators at the Southern Illinois University stadium might have had an obstructed view of totality, while people just outside the fence could have seen around the clouds.

In DeKalb, the Northern Illinois University astronomy department set up some projecting telescopes, and shared some eclipse glasses around.


That's just after the eclipse began.  Shortly thereafter, some thick rain clouds moved in.  Yes, it did get dark, but attributing that to partial eclipse or to overcast is beyond my powers.  The Weather Channel coverage I went home and watched showed enthusiastic watchers in parts of Carbondale, at Clemson, and on a cruise ship out to sea.

20.8.17

WEIMAR, VIRGINIA.

I go on a road trip, in part to visit some Civil War sites (more of which anon), and the cold civil war (and that's what it is) heats up.  Latest stops, Charlottesville, which, like Weimar, is a central place for intellectual and cultural thought, and then Boston, once the Hub of the Universe.

Adam Garfinkle sees the spectre of Weimar.
Trump won the GOP nomination and then the election. The strain of irrationality has not abated but grown, sparking a dialectic of Right-Left valence that is tending ineluctably to push modest, humble, centrist, thoughtful social peacemaking energies to the margins. This is what always happens in a civil war, and America’s latest rendition seems clearly to be moving rapidly from a “cold” civil war, which we have witnessed worsening for years under the label “culture wars,” toward a “hot” civil war. This time, unless real leadership can avert it, civil war will come with no obvious spatial borders.
Michael Barone smells it.  It's the particularism, stupid.
Americans have grown increasingly accustomed to the view that your politics are determined by your racial, ethnic or gender identity. Politics is seen as a zero-sum battle for government favor. College and corporate leaders join in.
But your table's waiting in the cabaret.

Meanwhile, Our President's unwillingness to say the "presidential" things his detractors in the main press keep calling for isn't as damaging to him as those detractors would like.  Rod Dreher: "If Democrats and liberals only pay attention to the media and to each other on the statue debate, they are going to alienate a lot of people. The hostile media environment has made it very difficult for anybody to speak up for keeping the statues, even though that is a majority opinion in America. So people will keep that opinion to themselves."

And it's being stupid about being smart to marinate in the smug. "In turn, they may very well stew on it, angry at the liberal gatekeepers of respectable opinion either not caring about their opinion, or shutting them down as racists."

There's more, much more, at that column, but most of it tangential to my post.

The main point, dear reader, is that discontent with Our President's handling of the Charlottesville protests is not the same thing as a groundswell of support for impeaching him, or implementing single payer health insurance, or raising marginal tax rates, or banning football.

John Kass, in simple language.
Why did nearly half the electorate and 30 states make Donald Trump president of the United States?

Because he wasn't Hillary Clinton and her pack of cultural and media establishment elitists, who reveled in reminding forgotten Americans that they were deplorables for wanting to reclaim lost jobs and keep control of their nation's borders.

Because he wasn't part of the establishment war party endlessly seeking to spend American blood and treasure in constant and disastrous military intervention around the world.

Because he offered economic hope for a country that had been fed Barack Obama's weak platitudes, even as hope and opportunity fled, and to some extent, Trump has delivered on that.
Even so, you can't get away from Weimar.
Trump voters who cast ballots for him for other reasons -- from wanting conservatives on the Supreme Court to better trade deals -- are forced to defend themselves from the paralyzing charge of bigotry.

This is not a prescription for unifying the country, but it's been expected. It is what happens when an empire's establishment decays, infected by the cynicism of leaders over decade after decade.

The left and right become more violent and strident. Their loud declarations and counter declarations give little refuge to those in the middle. And the president's moral failure over Charlottesville helps feed it.

It is what happens with amoral men who think only in terms of themselves.
Perhaps the error is in thinking of the president as some sort of national counselor or father confessor, rather than as the chief executive of a federal government. (When you have tried everything else?)

The Democrats?  Hopeless, offers Salena Zito.
The Democratic Party brand has suffered broadly in the middle of the country in the past few years, largely on the backs of its pull left under the presidency of Barack Obama. While progressivism fit well for Democrats in urban areas, it fell flat and was widely rejected in places like Madison County.

It is not that voters liked or loved Republicans or found them more virtuous; it is that they found Democrats less aligned with their values, more likely to look down their nose at them and not at all interested in listening to their plights.

Republicans at least made it OK to be in a church pew every Sunday, own a gun for protection and hunting, and not share all of their money with everyone else.
And now things may not be looking so good for the urban areas.

RETHINKING AGGLOMERATION?

I'll never lack for stuff to reflect on.  Now comes Richard "Creative Class" Florida, perhaps coming to terms with bid-rent curves fostering de-agglomeration.  "When the rich, the young, and the (mostly) white rediscovered the city, they created rampant property speculation, soaring home prices, and mass displacement."  When "Captain Ed" Driscoll picks up Jacobin, there's something going on.

I'm not surprised.  It's likely there will be more reaction, particularly as Professor Florida's latest book comes to the stores.
He argues that the creative classes have grabbed hold of many of the world’s great cities and choked them to death. As a result, the fifty largest metropolitan areas house just 7 percent of the world’s population but generate 40 percent of its growth. These “superstar” cities are becoming gated communities, their vibrancy replaced with deracinated streets full of Airbnbs and empty summer homes.

Meanwhile, drug addiction and gang violence have spread to the suburbs. “Much more than a crisis of cities,” he writes, “the New Urban Crisis is the central crisis of our time” — “a crisis of the suburbs, of urbanization itself and of contemporary capitalism writ large.”
Or, as I have been characterizing Chicago, as fifteen square miles of privilege surrounded by the Third World.  But in Chicago, at least there's a pop tax.

LET'S EAT LIKE IT'S 1825.

A "local food planner" in Columbus, Ohio, writes as if that's a good thing.
There are many reasons to promote local food in your community: freshness; knowing where your food came from and how it was grown; supporting local farmers; having an alternative to fruits and vegetables that were trucked across the country from California or Florida.

But one of the best reasons is economic development: keeping your food dollars in your own town, county, and state.

In Ohio, where I live, much of what we produce – notably livestock – is shipped to other states for processing. Then we buy back the finished product at a higher price. We’re exporting our food dollars to other states, even as our once-vibrant rural farm towns have been hollowed out.

This dilemma is not unique to Ohio; it’s the case in states across the land.

Until half a century ago, we didn’t have “local food.” Instead, we had “food,” much of which was raised locally, or within the state. Many places had a local slaughterhouse which bought hogs and steers from local farmers, and processed them into steaks and chops sold in local stores. At the edge of town was a truck farm that hired generations of teens in the summers to pick fruit and vegetables for local consumption. Somewhere in the county, there was probably a greenhouse that supplied off-season “hothouse” tomatoes to the region.
Where shall I begin?

Do you really want to make a chicken sandwich from scratch, dear reader?  Hmm, with the new academic year starting, maybe I'll have opportunities to beat up Student Affairs idiots with pencil privilege, or steel privilege, or chicken sandwich privilege.

Are we really worse off today than we were fifty years ago?  (No.  The purpose of all production is consumption.)

And why have the better parts of the old glass town of Lancaster become sort of a bedroom suburb of Columbus?

The "local food planner" sort of gets it, or would, if he thought it through.
Today, if every farmer in Ohio pledged to grow for local markets, and every Ohio consumer vowed to buy local, we would have hungry people and wasted food. That’s because we lack the supply chain – the processing, distribution, and marketing “infrastructure” – to move food from farm to fork. I believe institutional markets are the key to developing that infrastructure. Most institutions cannot accept, say, a truckload of lettuce fresh from the field. They want it washed and trimmed and packaged – meaning the farm itself, or a third-party business, would need to provide those services. In either case, the service would add value and create jobs.
Put another way, "eliminate the middleman" is another form of "do it yourself."  Yeah, everyone who has thought about economics beyond multipliers and simple supply and demand gets this, but even the most assiduous among you could benefit by a modicum of repetition.


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.

Perhaps Our Betters on Horseback had sufficient authority back in the day to insist that the harvest they confiscated be washed and trimmed before it's handed over as tribute.  These days, the deplorables, er, peasants, have the right to keep and bear arms, and it's not going down that way.  You'd better hope, dear reader, that I'm being facetious.

Perhaps there's money to be made in fragmenting food markets along the lines the "food planner" proposes.  But if so, is there really any reason for food planners existing?

Perhaps, though, the regional food planner is being an optimist.  There's always James H. Kunstler.
If you want a chance at keeping on keeping on, you’ll have to get with reality’s program. Start by choosing a place to live that has some prospect of remaining civilized. This probably doesn’t include our big cities. But there are plenty of small cities and small towns out in America that are scaled for the resource realities of the future, waiting to be reinhabited and reactivated. A lot of these lie along the country’s inland waterways — the Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri river system, the Great Lakes, the Hudson and St. Lawrence corridors — and they also exist in regions of the country were food can be grown.

You’ll have to shift your energies into a trade or vocation that makes you useful to other people. This probably precludes jobs like developing phone apps, day-trading, and teaching gender studies. Think: carpentry, blacksmithing, basic medicine, mule-breeding, simplified small retail, and especially farming, along with the value-added activities entailed in farm production. The entire digital economy is going to fade away like a drug-induced hallucination, so beware the current narcissistic blandishments of computer technology. Keep in mind that being in this world actually entitles you to nothing. One way or another, you’ll have to earn everything worth having, including self-respect and your next meal.
The good news is, we've learned enough about steam railroading and electric steelmaking and shooting accurately at 450 yards and a few other things that, even in such a scenario, we won't be reverting to the Thirty Years War or 1825 or even 1870.

LEARNING TO PASS AS UPPER MIDDLE CLASS.

It transpires that I mis-stated the absence of business guru John T. Molloy, who made a living selling advice to young people, not to the manor born, on how to present themselves as though they were.  (It helps to stay away from off-the-books tattooists.)

He's still at work, to wit:
I suggest you approach the executives you accompany to these meetings and ask them if they think you would be more effective if you wore a conservative shirt and a blue blazer when talking to the executives of client companies.  Even if they say that they would rather you look like a techie, it will show you think in terms of image and make it more likely that they will move you into a position that requires that you’re dressed better.

However, your image is not your main problem. I edit most letters that are sent to me because I want them to fit into this blog and I want them to ask questions succinctly and ask questions that are of interest to the readers of this blog.  I also clean them up just a bit when needed. I do not wish to hurt your feelings but you letter indicated that you are not familiar with standard American English.  If it was  read by someone who had no background teaching English they might think that you were ignorant and semi-literate and obviously that would dramatically affect your chances of moving into the executive ranks.
Yes, passing is hard work, but not knowing how to pass and scraping by on the margins is harder.

7.8.17

MARKING OFF.


See you down the road.

YOU DON'T HAVE TO FLY YOUR LEAR JET TO NOVA SCOTIA TO SEE A TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE SUN.

Amtrak laid on a train to Carbondale, which is as close as you can get, railroad-wise, to the locus point of greatest totality.  It sold out in less than a day, despite an oh-dark-hundred (Three a.m., to be precise) departure from Chicago, and a return from Carbondale at 5.15 pm, calling only at Champaign.)

There's apparently more to do than the usual near-campus activities in Carbondale the day of the eclipse.
[Amtrak spokesman Marc Magiliari explained] "This schedule enables a full day in Williamson County without affecting our other services.”

The return special to Chicago, train No. 398, will depart Carbondale at 5:15 p.m. one hour after the regularly-scheduled Illini, also only stopping at Champaign.

Unlike other Illinois corridor trains, the Eclipse Express will not carry pets or bicycles and won’t have business class seating, but it will have a café car. Magliari has promised that overhead lighting in the coaches will be turned off for early morning snoozers.
But will it carry a special headboard or drumhead?

And astronomers, amateur or otherwise, have been rail-aware for months.
Amtrak’s northbound Illini, train 392, has been sold out on Aug. 21 for weeks, even after heavy demand prompted the company to add an extra coach to bring capacity up to 340. Since the special is bypassing other intermediate stations, travelers from Homewood to Gilman, Ill., and Mattoon to DuQuoin, Ill., can’t make a same-day round-trip.

If Amtrak, the state, and CN had agreed to reschedule the southbound Saluki earlier months ago, there would not be the existing imbalance of traffic on Aug 21 which made running a special train a necessity. If that happened and demand was heavy enough, extra sections could have been added to satisfy it. Between Aug. 1 and Aug 18, the northbound morning Saluki is scheduled two hours earlier to accommodate track reconstruction north of Champaign.

Although some Carbondale hotels have been sold out for nearly a year and just a handful of rooms within 100 miles of the city have been available for months, Amtrak only announced its co-sponsorship of Carbondale events on June 27. Part of the involvement includes distribution on the Express of special glasses, which are necessary to prevent permanent eye damage from viewing the sun in its partial eclipse phase. They will be given out on the southbound Express.
Let us be grateful there are enough spare coaches on hand, or enough cleverness in diagramming coaches for servicing, that Amtrak can lay on this extra train, plus a similar service on the Cascades route, which is also briefly under the band of totality.

My plan will be to hang out at the university observatory or someplace similar and watch the coverage from there.  Or perhaps rely on the nifty shadow patterns you get on the sidewalk when an eclipsing Sun shines through the trees.

INDENTURE USED TO INVOLVE PAID TRANSPORTATION.

That is, when the British Empire was populating the Haklyut Archipelago.  These days, it works differently, with state colleges conditioning free tuition on staying in state to complete a term of service.  Dumb idea, says Matt "Dean Dad" Reed.
The point of public education is to benefit everybody.  Sometimes that means sending folks off to places where their unique talents will make a better fit. That’s fine; that’s what makes the economy work.  But even if the economics turn out to be a wash, there’s a deeper ethical point here. Education is about, among other things, freedom.  If some of the peasants want to flee the land, let them. If states want to keep more of their own, and attract others from outside, let them make themselves more appealing destinations. Attract the ones who want to be there, rather than trapping the ones who don’t.
Yes, and there's no reason a state university can't run a balance of trade surplus with China, or with New Jersey or with Illinois.
Remember the Great Recession?  Imagine graduating the University of Michigan in 2009, only to be told that leaving the state would require ponying up all that past tuition, but the in-state economy simply isn’t hiring.

Conservative economist Tyler Cowen has argued, I think correctly, that people going where the opportunity is often leads to better outcomes all around. Shackling them to a depressed region isn’t likely to lead to positive outcomes.

Residency requirements, if they spread, would also greatly shift the balance of power when companies play states off against each other in bidding wars for relocations. As hard as it is to move for a job -- something I know personally -- it’s that much harder to see the job move away and know that you don’t have the option to follow it. That already happens between countries, but moves between states are much more common.  Allow capital to move but tie workers to places, and I’d expect to see ever more public funding get diverted -- whether directly, as through subsidies, or indirectly, as through tax credits or abatements -- to owners, even as wages go down.
I'm not sure that "conservative" adjective, which isn't precise with respect to Professor Cowen anyway, helps much.  Efficiency gains are more likely wherever economic agents operate under fewer constraints: that is, with more agency, and Tyler Cowen and Joseph Stiglitz and Stephen Karlson for that matter are likely to cite the same theorems in defense of that proposition.  Now, with Foxconn extracting some tax preferences from Wisconsin, even without a Wisconsin Indenture Free Tuition program in place, the states are locked in this subsidy arms race.  Now immobilize the labor force with these indentures and the states might compete to pick up the exit taxes of workers moving to the new jobs.

But Matt might want to be careful about subverting the state.
People aren’t supposed to be tools to realize goals of the state. The state is supposed to be a tool to realize the goals of people. Social contract theory isn’t new, but it’s based on an insight that still holds: the state is here to serve us, not the other way around. This kind of economic coercion, essentially kneecapping the educated young for the short-term gain of the state, is a category mistake.
The beginning of classical liberalism, anyone?

PROJECT ANALYSIS IS HARD WORK.

Put another way, rosy corporate scenarios are not the same thing as cost-benefit analyses.
The economic impact study that provided this figure came with a high status logo on its cover, too, that of the global accounting and consulting firm EY.

Given that big number, though, it’s still far from a no-brainer for Wisconsin public officials to jump up and claim credit for this one. That’s because the economic impact would be the same if Foxconn paid for everything with its own money. And it’s not going to.

There could be more than $3 billion of Wisconsin taxpayer subsidies thrown into the project. Could all that subsidy, spread around a thousand Wisconsin businesses, generate twice as many good jobs as the Foxconn project?

What the people of Wisconsin needed was a cost-benefit analysis to answer that question. What they got was Foxconn’s economic impact study — and few things are as useless as one of those when trying to make a good decision.

But these impact studies are enduringly popular. A huge number is exactly what promoters are eager to pitch when they go looking for taxpayer money.

“Our lawmakers, if they ever hear of an economic impact study, they should just recoil in fear,” said John Spry, economist and finance professor at the University of St. Thomas. “They are being hoodwinked.”

No one bothers to teach students in economics how to do one of these, Spry said, because it’s hard to justify an analysis that omits the very fundamental idea of how much a rational person would be willing to pay for whatever benefit they got. He described, with genuine exasperation, some memorable economic impact studies he has seen crop up in recent years.
To the contrary, being able to assess opportunity costs is exactly what economics students learn to do; and more than a few young men rushed into their capstone papers eager to tout stadium subsidies, only, once it dawned on them that they ought not generalize from their own enthusiasm, to figure out just how little economic benefit a facility open only in summer, or for eight to ten games in fall, produced.

The same sorts of arguments apply, where a new flat screen factory is concerned.
For economists like Timothy Bartik of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Michigan, one big unanswered question is what other beneficial use the state could put $200 million a year to, rather than mailing it to the home office of a global electronics manufacturer.

The state might miss out on the economic benefits of having that $200 million go into K-12 education. Or maybe the Foxconn subsidies get funded by higher individual income taxes, costing the state the economic impact of money that won’t be spent on home improvements, new cars or other household items.

The way you get to a bottom line on this kind of choice is to do a cost-benefit analysis. They sound costly and complex to do, but the concept is really no more complicated than just the “Is spending this money worth it?” exercise that business owners do all the time.

No business owner would be happy with just an economic impact study. Imagine the boss receiving a recommendation from the CFO to build a new facility for all the great benefits it would provide, but the memo didn’t quite get around to saying it would also cost $10 million to build.
That last is true in part: what is the return on investment from that $10m?  Likewise, it appears as though the company's "economic impact study" claims "We're going to hire 10,000 people" and a proper cost-benefit analysis asks "From where?" and "In this factory's absence, what might those people otherwise be doing?"  But we have to push the discussion further.  Sure, some of those Foxconn employees might be living in Illinois, and they're going to pay Illinois income taxes.  But in the absence of a Foxconn plant employing Illinoisans, will there be welfare migration into Wisconsin as Illinois continues to come apart.  And thus do capstone papers not write themselves.

DON'T GIVE THEM ANY IDEAS.

Brian Joondeph proposes, I think with tongue in cheek, that college admissions criteria mimic those used for immigration.
Colleges have admissions requirements. In other words, their admission is skill-based with a point system reflecting grades, SAT scores, extracurricular activities, accomplishments, recommendations and a language proficiency test in the form of one or more essays. Suppose colleges waived all such requirements and opened their classrooms to any and all who wanted to attend?
That's kind of how it works once you get away from the hundred or so institutions claiming to be in the U. S. News top ten, but I digress.  But where immigration is all about reuniting families, there might be analogues in higher education admission.
Why not for Harvard too? Buffy is admitted to the incoming freshman class. She is a straight A student with exceptional board scores. She was captain of the lacrosse and softball teams. She started a small business while in high school, sold it to Google, used the proceeds to fund an AIDS treatment clinic in Africa, and in her spare time tutors the homeless. Her college essay was published in The Atlantic. On the point system, she was a slam dunk admission.

Her brother Biff, on the other hand, flunked 10th grade, never took the SATs, spent 6 months in jail for larceny, has a cocaine problem, and is Hepatitis C positive. Shouldn’t he automatically be admitted to Harvard by virtue of being Buffy’s brother? Suppose Biff is married to Candy, who he met in a Vegas strip club. Candy started working in the adult industry after 9th grade. She is quite accomplished and skillful, but not in the way Harvard admissions committees prefer. She would automatically be admitted along with Biff.

As would her mother Tiffany, only 14 years older than Candy, working as a waitress, believing that a Harvard degree would improve her lot in life. Once Tiffany is at Harvard, she can bring her brother Billy Bob, currently working in a Mississippi junkyard. And so on and so on.
I suspect the intersectionality types could fill up hundreds of screens with lines and lines of pomo-babble on just how wrong the above is, or how awful it is that there is, like, no way Biff is going to find himself in that pass, because privilege, and thus unlikely to encounter Candy in Vegas, although he might take liberties with her at a lacrosse team party.

BETWEEN THE PROPHET AND THE HERO IS THE NOMAD.

As in between Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy there is Dwight Eisenhower; or, in fiction, between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker there is Han Solo.  So, too, is it with the Thirteenth Generation (although, in the current state of things, the Baby Boomers visions aren't all that great, and the Millennials' commitments are far from heroic.)
Born between about 1965 and 1980, Generation X came of age in the 1980s and early 1990s. The oldest members of this cohort remember Watergate as children; the youngest are still forming their families today. Most became politically aware during the Reagan-Bush or Clinton years. They are more conservative than millennials and less partisan than boomers. Their outlook was shaped by a childhood defined by broad-based domestic prosperity, slow but steady technological progress, relative racial harmony and social stability, and the Cold War triumph over the Soviet Union.

They were raised with the expectation of inheriting a world at peace, enforced by the global supremacy of the US military, but also a world in which sexual relations were haunted by the specter of AIDS. They were taught in school that doing drugs was dangerous, premarital sex was to be avoided and there were, in fact, just two genders.The US divorce rate peaked in the early 1980s, just as the oldest Xers entered their teen years. Their mothers entered the workforce en masse. Many became so-called latchkey kids — independent, resilient, slightly cynical. Perhaps jaded by these experiences, Xers got married later than their parents did but have stayed married longer. Like millennials today, Xers were once slandered as sullen, withdrawn and difficult to please.

The charges didn’t stick. As adults, according to the University of Michigan’s Longitudinal Study of American Youth, Xers have become “active, balanced and happy.”
And yet, the Thirteeners fought Desert Storm, supposedly to settle things in the Gulf once and for all, the way their saecular antecedents, the Lost Generation, fought the War to End All Wars.  Oh, wait.
Some say that, in America, everything works out in the end. These optimists put their full faith in the American system — representative democracy, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, free markets, free minds, liberty and justice for all; or, alternatively, in the arrival of a political Superman to put us back on course. Sometimes, though, no Superman can be found, and an entire generation of Americans must step into the breach. It’s happened before.
Yes, and there have to be pragmatic managers to moderate the conceits of the prophets and the heroes alike.  "Don't get cocky, kid" and all that.

NEVER COMPLAIN, NEVER EXPLAIN.

Thirty ways to conserve your sanity.  An example: "Other people do not have to approve of your motives for your life choices to be valid." Another: "Conforming to [others expectations of you] keeps you small." Much more at the link.

STOP MISAPPROPRIATING STATE PROPERTY.

Judge stops NIU from paying rest of ousted president's severance package.
A DeKalb County judge Friday barred Northern Illinois University from paying the remainder of ousted President Doug Baker's severance package while the court considers whether school trustees violated the law when they approved the deal.

But Baker — who left in June after the release of a state report alleging improper spending during his tenure — already has received most of his money, including a $450,000 payment to end his contract a year early and another $137,500 to resign from his tenured position at the business school.

NIU will not have to claw the money back under the ruling by Circuit Judge Bradley Waller, university officials said. Instead, while the case is still pending, the school will withhold any remaining reimbursements for legal expenses Baker incurred during his 4-year tenure.
The deal by which Mr Baker stepped out of line and disappeared might not have been properly announced in the trustees' order of business.
According to the suit, the board typically holds an open session at the meetings and follows that with a closed session. But on June 15, it said, the board departed from that practice and reserved one item on the agenda for a second open session, after the closed session, which lasted more than seven hours.
The announcement of Mr Baker's resignation thus was made public, but only for the curious who also had time to hang around for the seven hours of closed sessions. And as far as I know, no white smoke or black smoke was vented from Altgeld Hall before the second open session.

4.8.17

A SLOW RAILROAD DIES FASTER THAN A FAST ONE DOES.

And freight operations guru Hunter Harrison appears to be destroying CSX Railroad in order to save it.
From Indianapolis comes word today that CSX decided against closing Avon Yard and moving its work to Hawthorne Yard. Hawthorne had been the finest yard on the Pennsylvania Railroad—in 1910. It was in sad shape before CSX spent millions recently to make it partially viable. Now the decision is to keep Avon open, just to shut down its hump yard later this week and flat switch cars. Earlier, a bevy of locomotives had appeared at Avon, assigned to empty yard tracks and haul everything to other yards, such as Louisville, Cincinnati and Willard, Ohio. Customers may get those cars in a week or two.

Three investment analysts have polled CSX customers since the start of last week. With each survey, the percentage of CSX customers who say they are diverting business grows. The most recent to report was Jason Seidl of Cowen & Company. He says half of the customers not captive to CSX are handing off carloads to rival Norfolk Southern. What really struck me was the anger that customers expressed to Seidl about CSX. A sample: “Service has declined to the point that it appears CSX is trying to drive my plant out of business. I have missed customer orders and been forced to idle my plant numerous times due to failure to get service. The only answers we get are basically, ‘That’s tough. Get used to it.’ The situation is untenable, and I am actively looking to switch my business elsewhere wherever possible, as soon as possible.”

Heard enough? As of last week, the only portion of CSX that seemed to operate normally and close to scheduled times was across the Water Level Route in upstate New York, between Buffalo and Selkirk. Today?
Perhaps it's possible to cut your way to prosperity, although the stockholders are going to have to be patient.  Or perhaps CSX is too much a jumble of railroads for anyone to make sense of.

GOING UNARMED TO THE COLD CIVIL WAR.

Keep doubling down on the identity politics, Democrats.
Progressives see Democratic efforts to move on from the divisive culture wars that typified Barack Obama’s second term and Balkanized the electorate as a subtle rebuke of their myopic Identitarian obsession. They’re observant. Apparently, they’re not going to take their abandonment lying down.
Fine, how many seats in Congress does Hollywood, and Martha's Vineyard, and Chicago, have?

ILLINOIS IS WHAT DEMOCRATS DO.

Or, in the case of Cook County maharajah Toni Preckwinkle, what Lord North would do.  We find it in the public interest that Our subjects pay a pop tax.  Don't even think about that due process, peasants!
According to Crain's Chicago Business, Preckwinkle's lawyers will try to extract a crushing $17 million from the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, a private interest group that represents retail stores. The group had challenged her tax in court, arguing that it was unconstitutionally arbitrary.
Watch, though, when the retail merchants stop doing business in Cook County, for former president Valerie Jarrett and school lunch expert Michelle Obama to complain about a growing "food desert."

They're being spared the view of pitchforks and torches that they deserve, though, because tax sanity is as close as Wisconsin, or Indiana.
Cook County residents understand that Preckwinkle tried to play them for chumps by claiming the sweetened beverage tax was for the public's health. No, it's for the politicians' revenues.

From Wilmette to Calumet City, residents have been waking up. If only Preckwinkle understood the unrest. People resent public officials, unable to control their spending, exploiting the simplest of pleasures. A soda from the convenience store. A coffee with fancy whipped cream.

Preckwinkle didn't get the anger a few months ago when taxpayers absorbed what was about to happen. By siccing county lawyers on merchants stuck with collecting her tax, she shows she still doesn't get the anger now.
Keep it up, Chicago.  What is the revenue yield of a privilege tax when there are no businesses subject to the tax?

END STATE-SANCTIONED DISCRIMINATION.

The Trump administration might be investigating academic affirmative action, or, as the deanlets and deanlings would have it, curating an entering class that sings the proper liberal music.  Get the government out of the collegiate discrimination racket, suggests Reason's David Harsanyi.

But the real disadvantage faced by protected-status applicants is a government-provided disadvantage.
None of this is to dismiss the obstacles that many African-American and Hispanic kids have to overcome like being forced to attend failing schools and dealing with poverty. This puts them at an immediate and sometimes crippling disadvantage. This destructive problem can only be fixed in the public school system, not in the admissions process.
Yes, and the public school system ought be, well, schooling students for success, rather than, say, fretting about disproportionate suspensions for disengaged students.

TO UNDERSTAND GOLF IS TO UNDERSTAND TRUMP.

Condescend much, Robert Lipsyte?
For successful greedheads and their wannabes, golf is the most sacred of sports, the symbol of all that is retrograde and exclusionary in American life. There’s far more to golf, however, than mere inequality or a history of institutional racism and sexism. Golf is also a waste of space and water, and a sinkhole for chemicals poisoning the local aquifer. Think of all the organic vegetables that could be grown on those swards or the walking trails and wildlife sanctuaries that could be established. Think of the affordable housing that could be built on that land. There has to be a better use for the millions of dollars that will be squandered this year on overpriced golf duds and equipment, lessons, playing fees, and memberships in the latest trendy clubs (that these days often have you-know-who’s name on them in large golden letters).

Golf is marketed as a test of character -- especially of those business school values of focus, perseverance, and self-improvement. A golf course is laid out as a hero’s journey.  You strike out from the tees (usually at different distances from the hole for men and women) onto a long carpet called a “fairway” that winds among natural “hazards” to be avoided: small ponds, sand traps, patches of undergrowth representing the oceans, deserts, and jungles that must be colonized or conquered on your 18-hole journey to capitalistic triumph.  (Golf nomenclature, including “par” and “lie,” which is where the ball comes to rest after a shot, is too vulnerable to mockery to be addressed here.)
Eight years of culture studies wasted on this guy, who rattles on interminably for another sixteen paragraphs, and for all his experience interrogating jock culture appears still to be clueless about differences in upper body strength between women and men.

3.8.17

BUYING INTO AMERICA?

Victor Hanson suggests that, rather than Donald Trump's election heralding a white identity politics as countervailing force to all the other identities politic, we might be witnessing a rediscovery of assimilation.
The startling 2016 presidential election weakened the notion of tribal identity rather than a shared American identity. And it may have begun a return to the old idea of unhyphenated Americans.

Many working-class voters left the Democratic Party and voted for a billionaire reality-TV star in 2016 because he promised jobs and economic growth first, a new sense of united Americanism second, and an end to politically correct ethnic tribalism third.
In a world of Oppression Olympics and empty intersectionality and trans-exclusionary radical feminists, that might even be good for the identity politics crowd.  Or perhaps the identity politics crowd can offer something fun to the folks outside the tribe.
In the 19th century, huge influxes of Irish and German immigrants warred for influence and power against the existing American coastal establishment that traced its ancestry to England. Despite their ethnic chauvinism, these immigrant activist groups eventually became indistinguishable from their hosts.

Then and now, the forces of assimilation, integration and intermarriage make it hard to retain an ethnic cachet beyond two generations -- at least without constant inflows of new and often poor fellow immigrants.
I disagree, in part. Everybody can be Irish in mid-March, particularly in Chicago and a few other big cities.  Then everybody can #GetYourDeutschOn from August into October.


As I noted at the time, "give these kids an America to buy into, and an America that buys into these kids, and we'll be OK."

It's really up to Mr Hanson to come up with something more fun than Ikea, or lutefisk.
The strained effort to champion the victimized tribe can turn comical. In the 1960s, my family still tried to buy Swedish-made Volvo automobiles and Electrolux vacuum cleaners. But it proved hopeless to cling to a fading Swedish heritage.

For all the trendy talk of the salad bowl and the careerist rewards of hyping a multicultural ancestry, America still remains a melting pot of diverse races, ethnicities and agendas.
A hint:  Skol translates as Prosit!

I'll give Mr Hanson an optimistic last word, though. "'Them' is out, and 'us' is back in."  Yes, and Polonia and Bavaria refrain from re-litigating the Polish Corridor.