28.9.18

WHAT EVIDENCE WOULD COMPEL YOU TO RECONSIDER YOUR CONCLUSION?

Nick Gillespie, 3 Questions To Ask Yourself While Watching the Kavanaugh/Ford Hearings Today.
  1. Is there any evidence or testimony that would change your mind about Kavanaugh?
  2. Is there any way to depoliticize the selection of Supreme Court justices?
  3. Will things ever get back to "normal"?
He concludes with a call for people to put less reliance on government.
It's the tragicomedy of America that we get the government deserve. If there is any grand takeaway from not just the past few weeks but the past few years, it's that all of us, but especially the growing ranks of non-partisan independents need to insist on and demand better from the representatives of the dying major political parties, who have shown a willingness to lie to the American people about everything from state surveillance and war to policy implications to basic biographical details.
The worst get on top, and the more valuable the rents are, the nastier the fight among the worst to get on top becomes.

Conduct fewer advance auctions of less valuable stolen goods, and stop thinking of the Supreme Court as a sort of permanent legislature of philosopher kings.

PERMISSIBLE PREJUDICES.

I Went to High School With Boys Just Like Him.
My very good education was accompanied everything standard of a wealthy, religious environment: abstinence speakers, anti-choice lectures, morality policing, skirt measuring, a disproportionate volume of white students, a parking lot full of cars no teenager should be driving and a football culture to rival Varsity Blues. It set the stage for a privileged group to evade accountability for consistent incendiary behavior.  And the message from the administration was clear: ladies keep your skirts long and your legs closed because men cannot be held accountable for their behavior. After all men are supposed to behave that way.

A group of future Ivy League fraternity brothers dominated our school culture with plenty of resources and no rules. They could find their way out of almost any trouble that a drunken Friday night post-football game party would offer up.  I remember being at a house party where when any female would walk into the room, a group of male students would circle and chant “show your tits!”. If one of my female friends was outed as having a sexual experience with a male peer she was deemed a slut and verbally smeared by the men who grew up under fathers that didn’t want their boys lives to be ruined by “5 minutes of action”.
That gives the columnist license to generalize from her own experience?  Thought experiment: substitute any other ascriptive category for that "future Ivy League fraternity brothers" and contemplate the consequences of going public with it.

27.9.18

THE CREAKY ROLLING BANK VAULT.

I had occasion to ride the Acela Express a couple of different times early in 2001, i.e. before the terrorist attacks.  At the time, the trains rode rather solidly, as you would expect of something built to North American crashworthiness standards and expected to be Amtrak's entry in the bullet train sweepstakes.  The paired windows put me in mind of the prewar "American Flyer" lightweight cars common on New Haven and Boston and Maine, and for a while the name American Flyer was in the running for the name of the fleet.  "Acela" is a neologist portmanteau of "acceleration" and "excellence" undoubtedly cooked up by an expensive steering committee.

Images and commentary below the jump.

A SPY IS A SPY NO MATTER HOW HIGH IT FLIES.

But Soviet propagandists complaining about United States camera technologies couldn't engage in their usual whataboutism.  Apparently, the United States "threw" the opening legs of the space race.
On September 20, 1956, more than a year before the Soviet Union launched the world’s first satellite, a four-stage Jupiter-C rocket stood on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral. It had three stages — sections that fire in turn and then are jettisoned. The rocket was almost identical to the one that would lift America’s first satellite into orbit 16 months later, and Wernher von Braun, director of development for the U.S. Army’s rocket program, was well aware of its capabilities. All he had to do was give it a functioning fourth stage, and with that much more power, the Jupiter-C could launch a small payload into Earth orbit — barely a decade after the end of World War II, and well ahead of anything the Soviet Union might accomplish.

But von Braun was not the only one who knew what the rocket could do. As he sat in his office overseeing the pre-launch preparations, the telephone rang. It was his boss, Maj. Gen. John B. Medaris. “Wernher,” said the general, “I must put you under direct orders personally to inspect that fourth stage to make sure it is not live.”

It was indeed a dummy, but the rocket’s first three stages soon showed their power. Firing successfully in sequence, they boosted the top stage to an altitude of 682 miles and a range of 3,335 miles. Both achievements set records, and von Braun came away from the launch fully aware that with only slightly more oomph, the top stage would have flown into orbit. Yet there was a reason for Medaris’s order, one with a background that went back 10 years.
In the Soviet Union, where chess was a spectator sport, nobody caught the greater import of that poisoned upper stage.
Medaris gave von Braun his stern command because the U.S. was thinking of the future. Space law was not yet a topic of discussion, and the right to fly a satellite over a foreign country was unclear at best. We knew the Soviets stood ready to shoot down U.S. airplanes flying over the USSR (as they would do with Francis Gary Powers and his U-2 in 1960), and if the U.S. launched a satellite into space, the USSR might claim the same right, to destroy the satellite or at least demand advance notification and permission. But by letting the Soviets launch their satellite and allowing it to fly unmolested, the U.S. could establish the principle of free spaceflight.
Yes, the Soviets enjoyed the prestige of a few early space spectaculars. But they didn't have the technical or intellectual capital to conduct a Moon mission.
Why was the U.S. so eager to establish free spaceflight that it would deliberately hand the Soviets repeated propaganda triumphs? Because we knew we would be launching spy satellites soon (though not soon enough to spare Powers 21 months of captivity), and if the Soviets could shoot them down with the sanction of international law behind them, the program would be worthless. The decision was a good one, because what those spy satellites found was well worth the humiliation of being beaten into space.
Put succinctly: the Evil Empire was pokazhuka. The United States actually won the Moon Race with Project Gemini: once they demonstrated rendezvous and docking (none of which is as easy as it sounds) it was game over.

Today, it's Russian technology shuttling astronauts and supplies to the Space Station.  "In a world where we now pay the Russians to fly our astronauts to the International Space Station, it all seems very long ago."

Perhaps, though, it's time for a little more American entrepreneurship, Our President's hopes of returning to the Moon and making a trip to Mars notwithstanding.

IF IT ISN'T CLOSE THEY CAN'T CHEAT.

Betsy Newmark includes a number of pre-confirmation hearing posts today.  In particular, I commend Ramesh Ponnuru, "Five Reasons the Republicans Should Stick With Kavanaugh."
  1.  Stop encouraging the Democrats to resort to Borking.  Better to get the win fair and square than to resort to Mutual Assured Borking.
  2. Any replacement nominee will be slimed in the same way.
  3. Now is not the time to go wobbly.  Stand strong now, and turf out those allegedly moderate Democrat senators.
  4. If the Republicans fail to hold the Senate, look for the Biden rule to take effect from 2019 until the next presidential inauguration.
  5. It doesn't matter what sort of justice votes to overturn Roe v. Wade or any of the other judicial props of the Administrative State.  Opprobrium is opprobrium.
Finish the special hearing, take the vote, then work to turf out Senators Baldwin (Wisconsin), Donnelly (Indiana), Heitkamp (North Dakota), Manchin (West Virginia), and Tester (Montana).

A reprimand for Senators Booker (New Jersey) and Hirono (Hawaii) is also desirable, although that would be an extra helping of ice cream with the cake.

Turf.  Them.  Out.

POUR THE SPRECHER!

October baseball in Milwaukee.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ rebuilding project, which for all intents and purposes ended last season, officially was laid to rest Wednesday night.

Holding on for a tense 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals that completed a three-game sweep at Busch Stadium, the hard-charging Brewers assured their first playoff berth since winning the NL Central title in 2011.

The nail-biter boosted the Brewers' record to 16-7 in September and 22-9 in their last 31 games.

The Brewers celebrated with champagne in the clubhouse afterward but weren’t satisfied with merely clinching a spot in the NL wild-card game. They remained a half-game behind first-place Chicago in the division, after the Cubs defeated the Pirates, 7-6 in 10 innings.
It was St. Louis that beat the Brewers, back when the Brewers were in the American League, in the 1982 World Series, and it was the Cardinals that came out of the wild card and got to (and won) the World Series in 2011, after the Brewers achieved a relatively straightforward division win.

Today, all of Brewer Nation talks like a pirate, and over the weekend, they're with St. Louis, who have to sweep the Cubs and hope for a little help from the West teams to make the playoffs.

It's important that #ThisIsMyCrew take care of business with the Tigers coming into Miller Park for the end of Oktoberfest season.  Back in 1982, it was the Orioles chasing the Brewers for the division title, and the Tigers did their part, including a Lance Parrish walk-off, to mess the Brewers up.   It came down to the Brewers beating the Orioles on the last regular season game to avoid a playoff.

Enjoy it while it lasts!

26.9.18

REDISCOVERING THE RAILS.

Condé Nast Traveler's Paul Rubio refers to Florida's Brightline as "super chic" and "the real deal."
For now, take our advice and spend the $15–$20 (depending on route length) to zip around South Florida at 79 mph on Brightline. It’s a fair price for a major respite from traffic, road rage, and crazy Florida drivers. And for visitors, it’s a steal compared to the $40-$65 rideshare it takes to get between Miami to Fort Lauderdale and a mega-bargain compared to the $100+ rideshare between Miami and West Palm Beach.
Yes, and the creature comforts put the other [Amtrak and commuter] Florida passenger train services to shame, plus you really shouldn't drink and drive.  But allowing fifteen minutes before train time to check in?  Somewhere Paul Reistrup is frowning.
The stations are easy to navigate (thanks in part to the prolific screens with train status updates), and if you arrive 15 minutes before scheduled departure, that should be more than enough time to board. Use the Brightline app to self-scan your digital boarding pass, speed through security—there’s no line—and settle into the pre-boarding lounge. Each seat in Brightline’s lounges serves as a charging station, so there’s no need to ever sit on the floor just to plug in. FYI: We already asked and that incredible scent that fills the stations and train cars is Brightline's grapefruit musk. (The signature new train smell is so lovely, Brightline is turning it into candles for purchase.)
Hmm, maybe buy some of those candles for operating sessions?

Then Standard Class gets an upgrade, or perhaps it's an endorsement.
You’ve got two main options with booking, ‘Smart’ and ‘Select,’ which basically amount to premium economy and business class, respectively (there’s no coach). If you book in the Smart class, you’ll still get access to comfy seats, free Wi-Fi, and the greater Brightline train experience. Unfortunately, there isn't a bar car onboard. Instead, friendly attendants pass by to offer beverages (alcoholic and non) and snacks for purchase (from gourmet chips to Larabars).

If you ask us, though, the Select service is worth the upgrade. It’ll cost $15-$20 more (depending on route length), which, yes, is double, but a small price for an extreme treat yo’ self journey. Before the ride, gain access to the station’s Brightline Select Lounge, which offers five fine wines and champagne—selections do change but during a recent trip our cups runneth over with Heidsieck & Co Monopole and Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses rosé. There’s also a selection of craft beers, soft drinks, freshly squeezed OJ, and Illy coffee plus food choices throughout the day like freshly baked goods by local bakery Zak the Baker and imported Italian charcuterie and cheese in the later hours.
The run might be too short to warrant putting a staffed bar car on the train.  I mourn, though, at the loss of institutional memory of what a railway coach used to look like.  If your only frame of reference is a bus or airline seat, or the seating on commuter cars, yes, "Smart" looks like "premium economy."  Seventy years ago, reclining seats in coach looked like this.


That's the Nebraska Zephyr, with seating set up for a day train.  You really want roomy coach seats, consider the 44 or 48 or 52 seat cross-country coaches with leg-rest reclining seats.  But direct your attention to the forward bulkhead: yes, that's 82 mph being registered: we knew how to give Brightline a run for its money years ago.

That noted, the Select service gave Mr Rubio value for money.
When boarding the designated Select car, expect an attendant to welcome you by name, show you to your seat, and offer a cold towel. During the voyage, the complimentary food and drink carries on. Eat your way through some 20 different snack choices (from gummy bears to Kind bars), feast on heartier bento boxes (filled with goodies like hummus, crackers, and olives), and be sure to continue that endless pour (as long as you don't cause your own “disruption”).
Dang, that "bento box" puts Amtrak's balsa boxes to shame, doesn't it?

If you are in Southeast Florida, do give Brightline a try.

JUST TURF THEM OUT.

A Margot Cleveland column that was Instalanched this morning suggests the so-called "moderate" Democrats have a Judge Kavanaugh problem.  "The choice awaiting Democrats is now between confirming Kavanaugh or endorsing a 'grotesque and obvious character assassination' of public servants to achieve political ends."

Perhaps the Democrats were hoping that Our President would withdraw the nomination, or that the judge would get tired of all the foolishness and stay on the Circuit Court. It's likely, though, that the heirs to Dick Tuck have similarly phony allegations to smear anyone on the short list Mr Trump offered as a campaign promise, thus whoever is nominated is going to have to go through Democrat hell.

That is, if there are enough Democrat senators to keep the fires stoked.  Ms Cleveland has a short list of people who ought to be turfed out.  "Kavanaugh’s solid performance during Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings eliminated the possibility of a misstep that Democrats hoped for, leaving Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Jon Tester, D-Montana, Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Joe Manchin, D-W.V., with the same no-good-option dilemma."  That's also true of Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, and Cold Spring Shops readers north of the Cheddar Curtain ought consider Leah Vukmir as her replacement.

Perhaps, no matter how the hearing and the votes turn out, what the Democrats have done is antagonize Normals.  S. E. Cupp thinks that's a possibility.
While many of us steeped in the #MeToo movement carefully weigh the very serious accusations against him, deciding to believe the women until and unless evidence proves them not credible, much if not most of America likely sees it differently. They see a decent man, who was investigated six times by the FBI already for other appointments, being tarred and feathered over uncorroborated accusations from decades ago. Sure, that hits male voters hard, but women, too — mothers of sons who don’t want mistakes made as teenagers to define their future — are watching closely.

Republican voters in particular have reason to be incensed, and motivated.
Yes, and a return to those thrilling days of macroeconomic torpor, "you didn't build that," "there's nothing wrong with Fannie and Freddie," and inedible school lunches is not something I look forward to.

Then comes Rush Limbaugh, who last week feared that if Senate Republicans went wobbly, they'd lose their majority because voters would stay home, has this week reconsidered, also arguing that what the Democrats have done is make a lot of people angry.
We may have reached a tipping point. I have thought this on several occasions over the years, but this may be a tipping point. This may be one of those incidents where the vast majority of the American population — and I still believe that a majority of Americans are what I would classifying as decent people. I don’t believe the majority of our country is plagued by massive psychological disorders that have led to a deranged political activism. I don’t think that’s the majority of our country. I think it’s silent. It shows up and elects Trump now and then. You know, things like that happen.

I think they’re livid. I think they’re outraged over this. I think the outrage originally was gonna be at Republicans for caving to all this. But now we’re past that, because one of the things I believe is truly happening is I think fence-sitters and casual news consumers — people that are not ideologically involved like you and I are, people who are not so-called news junkies. I think they’re watching this, and I think they’re just getting livid. I think they are angry as they can be at this, because this episode as obvious unfairness. It has obvious indecency to it.
He notes in conclusion that the anger might be a generalized anger at "Washington," but "Washington" has come to mean Wise Experts, meaning Democrats and their brains trusts, telling people what to do, including eat those inedible lunches.

Back to Ms. Cleveland.
Red-state Democrats will soon have a choice to make. But it is a much different one than they faced just a month ago: A "no" vote on Kavanaugh now is not merely bucking the desires of their conservative electorate, but it is a "yes" vote on vile character assassination.

Donnelly, Tester, Heitkamp, and Manchin must now decide and publicly proclaim whether they are for decency, or smears.
It really doesn't matter how they vote if they're turfed out on general principles. That goes for Senator Baldwin, too.

Now, is there a Maine version of Leah Vukmir to primary Susan Collins?

Five weeks until the votes are counted.

25.9.18

QUESTIONING GENERATIONAL MORPHOLOGY.

Generational analysis as a first approximation to social science seems to make some sense: a cohort of people come of age under similar circumstances with shared experiences, and perhaps that gives the cohort a collective personality.

Not so fast, cautions John Quiggin.
Much of what passes for discussion about the merits or otherwise of particular generations is little more than a repetition of unchanging formulas about different age groups -- the moral degeneration of the young, the rigidity and hypocrisy of the old, and so on.

Demographers have a word (or rather two words) for this. They distinguish between age effects and cohort effects. The group of people born in a given period, say a year or a decade, is called a cohort. Members of a cohort have things in common because they have shared common experiences through their lives. But, at any given point in time, when members of the cohort are at some particular age, they share things in common with the experience of earlier and later generations when they were at the same age.

Most of the time, age effects are more important than cohort effects. The primary schoolers of the 1960s were very like the primary schoolers of today and, of course, totally different from the middle-aged parents they have become. The grandparents of today are more like their own grandparents than the bodgies and widgies they may have been in the 1950s.

The same applies to the standard rhetoric that one age group applies to another. For example, Mark Davis in Ganglands quotes various baby-boomer pundits denouncing the younger generation as 'slackers' and dole bludgers'. In the 1970s, precisely the same thing was being said about the younger members of the boomer cohort, then in their late teens and early twenties. In turn, much of the prejudice about dole bludgers was derived from the mixture of horror and envy which greeted members of the first wave of baby boomers, the hippies of the 1960s, with their rejection of the work ethic and indulgence in sex and drugs.

Age-group posturing of this kind changes in response to changing social circumstances, but only very slowly. As far as the role of younger age-groups is concerned, nothing much has changed since the discovery, or invention, of the teenager in the 1950s. The discovery resulted primarily from the arrival of near-universal high-school education, which suddenly created a uniform mass experience, with an associated set of common rituals.
That noted, to a first approximation, the approach still might work.
For the crucial decade from 16 to 25, however, common experiences related to growing up at a particular time can be very important. Whether the labour market is in a boom or a slump when you finish school can make a big difference to your subsequent career. For males, an even more important question is whether the years of military age coincide with a major war. Peacetime and wartime generations, or boom and slump generations, can be very different.

Vietnam was the perfect generational war. It was big enough that it required mass conscription of unenfranchised 18-year-olds (the lottery element and the deferment system only enhanced the unfairness of this), but small enough that it required no economic sacrifice from the adult electorate who voted for it. Still less was there any hint of centralised direction of labour or a general system of conscription for the entire male military-age population, as had been applied during World War II.

The generation gap was only heightened by the fact that the war took place during the last decade of an unprecedented (and subsequently unrivalled) 25-year boom. In times of high unemployment, there is a steady supply of young men willing to put on a uniform in return for a steady wage and full board, but few in the 1960s saw fighting the Vietcong as an appealing employment option. Even among those who went willingly, there was a sense of exploitation that has been reflected in the subsequent political rhetoric of Vietnam veterans, which is radically different from that of the older-generation RSL.

At least for males then, there is something in the idea of a 'Vietnam generation'. But the facile identification of this group with the 'baby boomers' is quite misleading. Demographically, the baby boom began in 1946 and petered out in the early 1960s, so that the beginnings of the baby boom and the Vietnam generation coincided. Economically and culturally, however, the Vietnam generation have a lot more in common with the 'baby bust' cohort, born during and just before World War II, than with baby boomers born after 1954.

Economically, the crucial dividing point was the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system of economic management in 1972, quickly followed by the oil shock of 1973. Those who entered the labour market before 1973 were faced with an abundance of jobs and easy access to career paths. They were mostly unaffected by the crises of the 1970s and early 1980s, which bore disproportionately on the young, that is, on the cohorts born between the late 1950s and the early 1970s.

It was not until the recession we had to have, from 1989 to 1992, and the waves of downsizing in the 1990s, that the end of postwar prosperity really hit the Vietnam generation and the baby bust cohort. Although the focus of policy attention remained firmly on youth unemployment, the real story of the 1990s was the disappearance of jobs for workers over 50, and particularly for men over 50. The employment rate for this group has fallen from nearly 100 per cent during the postwar boom to around 50 per cent today.
These days, though? "Outlived their usefulness," he concludeth.

FIFTY YEARS AGO.

The "Milwaukee Fourteen" decided it was time to stop arguing against the draft and gum up the machinery of "Selective Service."
Milwaukee saw several protests against the Vietnam War in 1968, but on Sept. 24 of that year, 14 protesters wanted to make sure their message was easy to see.

That evening, the group soon known as the Milwaukee 14 — which included five Catholic priests and a minister from the Church of Scientology — raided the downtown Selective Service Administration office, seized thousands of draft cards and set them on fire using homemade napalm.

To make sure their message reached a wider audience, the group lured reporters to the site — a patch of green space across from the Brumder Building, 135 W. Wells St. — with the promise of a "headline" story of "national significance," the Milwaukee Sentinel reported Sept. 25.
Makes the #resistance of these days look like pretty thin stuff.

Note, though, the people surveyed by local newspaper reporters tended not to be impressed with the stunt.  A few weeks later, Richard Nixon carried Wisconsin.

LET'S MAKE THE FACULTY FILL EVEN MORE FORMS.

The secret to remedying dysfunctional academic departments?  More computer scripts and more rubrics.
In an earlier piece, our team described a dashboard that serves as an early-warning system of indicators that can show when an academic unit is on the brink of dysfunction -- or, even worse, already mired in it. We developed that resource, the Academic Unit Diagnostic Tool (AUDiT, primarily with administrators in mind, although entire departments have come to use it over time.

Our project has worked with department-level and more senior university leaders to explore how to use this diagnostic tool to shape strategies for intervention before they become debilitating. In talking with those leaders, we have found that while every department has distinct features, the broad outlines of what constitute healthy departments and dysfunctional ones fall into identifiable patterns.
Wherever you see twee acronyms, you probably are watching people with too much time on their hands.  Too many fractious meetings, and a lot of faculty turnover (even if there are junior faculty failing to make tenure, there's something wrong.)  I'd think, though, that if the college office is receiving a lot of meeting minutes -- this is a reporting requirement at many universities -- or if the same complainants are showing up at the dean's suite with the same grievances, you don't really have to run some new computer diagnostics.
The faculty point of view is rarely homogenous. Sometimes, in fact, the faculty is highly factionalized and can’t come together with a shared sense of what is happening in the department, good or bad -- and those divisions become their own problem, as well as an impediment to change. Administrative intervention to try to broker and bridge those differences can be essential.
It might have come to the pass the columnists decry because of administrative usurpations, or by default of the faculty, but here we are.
Institutional administrators face the challenge of balancing valuable norms of free speech or academic freedom with protecting the reputation of their institution as a haven for such views. Such challenges have provided some of the most contentious controversies in higher education over the past several years. But a key question in those stories is: Where are the faculty voices holding their peers accountable?

Instead what we see is a deep reluctance to speak out. Sometimes that is because of faculty members’ reflexive suspicion of administrators and immediate tendency to default toward defending a faculty colleague, no matter what. Sometimes it is because of notions of union solidarity. Sometimes it is because of loyalties based on identity categories and/or shared political ideologies. Sometimes it is all of the above. As a result, we often see variations on the bystander effect: people unwilling to take a public position even in situations that they know are wrong. Administrators often do not have that luxury.
Once upon a time, the faculty were the stewards of the university, and once upon a time the faculty understood that there were rules of debate, but that debate, rather than forced consensus, was the way things worked.  These days?  I fear that identities and ideologies crowd out serious work, including serious work on what sort of a department its professors want to have.

24.9.18

A SECOND TRAIN TO THE CITIES, IN MY LIFETIME?

The policy types have been thinking about it for some time.
In the early days of Amtrak, travelers in the Chicago - Twin Cities corridor had a choice of two trains a day each way.  That was a step backwards from the frequencies offered as late as 1968, but plenitude compared to today's schedule, in which one additional coach east of the Cities riding on the Empire Builder is the only recognition of the corridor.  Despite the political turmoil in Illinois and Wisconsin and the tight budgets everywhere, improvements to the service might be forthcoming.
It's going to be about coming up with the money, though.
A second train would operate four to six hours later than the eastbound Empire Builder, which currently is scheduled to leave St. Paul at 8 a.m., and earlier by a similar amount than the westbound Builder, slated for a 10:03 p.m. arrival. Current estimates for the service range from $137 to $169 million.

A previous Amtrak study found 155,000 passengers would take advantage of the expanded service, and recommended the proposal proceed with an environmental review and public outreach efforts that would make the project eligible for federal funding. Advocates must now find funding for that next step.

“The bottom line is local government has been carrying the water for the last couple of years on this issue,” Rafael Ortega, Regional Railroad Authority chairman, said, according to the newspaper. “We need to push this at the state legislature.”
That works out to about 225 passengers on each train, or three Horizon coaches and a business class car apart from peak season. The skeptics are likely to be out in force.  It doesn't help any that the "corridor" relies on an overpurposed Empire Builder subject to delay.
The Empire Builder, which chugs east across Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and western Minnesota, is supposed to leave St. Paul for the Windy City daily at 8 a.m. But the trains share track with freight rail operators in an arrangement that can cause delays.

“It doesn’t always leave at 8 a.m.,” said Frank Loetterle, project manager for MnDOT’s Passenger Rail Office, while addressing the Ramsey board. “The challenge with the eastbound Empire Builder service is that it has traveled hundreds of miles, so it’s not as reliable as it could be.”

The objective is “to have a train leaving St. Paul on time most of the time,” Loetterle added.
That's not much of an objective.  I suppose I'm asking too much even for journalists not to describe trains as "chugging" let alone a serious corridor service extending from Chicago as far as Fargo or Grand Forks with multiple frequencies between the Cities and Chicago.

REDISCOVER BOURGEOIS MANNERS?

I suspect that the heirs to Dick Tuck have trumped-up allegations ready to go against any judicial appointee on Our President's short list, which is the best reason for Senate Republicans to call a halt to the freak show and call the vote.  Oh, and any wavering Democrats with close elections coming up in six weeks?  Turf 'em out!  Our President is spot on, exhorting voters attending rallies in Indiana or Missouri or Montana or Nevada to send the likes of Claire McCaskill back to private life.

I also suspect that the current set of allegations, against Brett Kavanaugh of the prep school and Ivy League circuit, have purchase precisely because the prep school and Ivy League social scene is just one long party.  Here's Emily Witt in The New Yorker.
Now the rest of us are learning about the hierarchy of Washington private schools—about what it meant, in the eighties, to go to Georgetown Prep as opposed to Landon or Gonzaga, and about the girls’ schools Stone Ridge, Visitation, and Holton-Arms. By all appearances, the kids from these prep schools almost exclusively socialize with one another, and that social network informs their identities for the rest of their lives. As reporters have investigated Kavanaugh’s high-school years, many alumni have expressed fear about going on the record and alienating themselves from a close-knit community. “I guess you could call it a fraternity between a bunch of rich kids,” an anonymous alumnus of Georgetown Prep, who overlapped with Kavanaugh there, told the Huff Post. “All this shit happens, and then nobody really wants to talk about it, because if one person crumbles, the whole system crumbles, and everybody tells on everybody.” I spoke with another Georgetown Prep alumnus, who hated high school but still didn’t want to go on the record about what it was like there. Even for those who take less pride in the institution, what happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep.
The early 1980s might have been particularly conducive to wild partying, with more effective formulations of The Pill, and herpes and heterosexual AIDS not yet a thing.  Here, though, there's one -- yes, with a dubious story, and yes, with a political motivation -- spilling the beans on how our Credentialed Elite aren't really any more educated, they're just better connected and better protected.

Ryan Cooper makes the same point.  "Aristocracy means corruption, deception, and moral rot. It is nowhere worse than in America's most elite universities."  That might be the case, irrespective of the politics of the matriculants, or the faculty, or the guest speakers.

Thus, perhaps it's time to make the case for finding promising graduates of Peoria Manual or Milwaukee Hamilton who continue at Northern Illinois or Marquette to fill government positions, rather than defaulting to the usual comb-out of prep schools and Ivies.

First, though, perhaps the Credentialed Elite rediscovering what acting like ladies and gentlemen is about would help.
The most salient fact about this alleged episode will never register on elite consciousness: the sexual free-for-all environment, which may or may not have given rise to an assault by Kavanaugh. The sexual revolution declared that the traditional restraints on the male libido—norms of male chivalry and gentlemanliness and of female modesty and prudence—were patriarchal and oppressive. Men should stop protecting women and putting them on a pedestal. Males and females were assumed to desire easy sex with equal fervor, and to be able to walk away from a one-night stand with equal complacency. With regard to students, adults should remain nonjudgmental and as far out of the picture as possible. Chaperones were relegated to the relic pile, as fusty as a mothballed corset. Starting in the 1970s, affluent parents often absented themselves from their teenager’s parties, leaving the house liquor cabinet unattended. Popular culture became hyper-sexualized.

The results were not pretty: the male libido, free to act as boorishly as it wanted; females getting drunk to reduce their innate sexual inhibitions, unprotected by any default assumptions against casual premarital sex. Whether a 17-year-old Brett Kavanaugh took advantage of this putative sexual liberation, many other teenagers have, and in so doing, merely followed the new script for sexual relations.
That's Heather MacDonald, although regular readers are likely familiar with the argument.

Meanwhile, the Normals are watching the confirmation follies, and they're likely thinking along the same lines as Steven Hayward.
The left elites bemoan “populism” and the rising hatred of our ruling elites, but who’s doing the most to cause this? If the Destroy Kavanaugh efforts succeeds and causes the public to recoil even more from our political life, just who do liberals think will be the long-term beneficiary? More people like Trump I expect. As Glenn Reynolds likes to remind liberals, they’re not going to like the new rules they’re putting in place.
Yes, and Reason's Nick Gillespie notes, it's precisely the Credentialed Establishment who are turning the United States into a low-trust society.  "Americans aren't born cynical. We're made that way by the actions of elites such as Ed Whelan and officials such as Dianne Feinstein. And the trend toward cynicism won't end until they change their behavior."

But they won't change their behavior voluntarily: being able to push Normals around because there is some mandate or some ruling that gives them the power to do so is too valuable a tool to have.
For 64 years, the infusion of prestige the [Supreme Court] received from its desegregation rulings has been remarkably durable, despite decisions that were made during, and that intensified, turbulence in public sentiment. But prestige is perishable, and senatorial ludicrousness can infect all who come into contact with it.

In recent decades, all civilian institutions important to national governance — Congress, the presidency, the parties, the bureaucracy, the media — have, by their ignorance and arrogance, earned the disdain that now engulfs them. Yet although the court regularly renders controversial decisions on matters about which the country is either deeply ambivalent (e.g., same-sex marriage) or hotly divided (e.g., abortion), its decisions are usually broadly accepted as ratifying norms that must be, and soon are, accepted.
That's George Will. Perhaps, one of these days, he'll advocate for the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment, which might be the Original Cause of Senatorial Silliness.

Perhaps, after we have tried everything else, and found everything else wanting, we'll see the wisdom of devolving to the States, or to the People, everything that must now be Handled Uniformly by (not so) Wise Experts in a remote, distant, dysfunctional Capital.

IT'S NEVER TOO EARLY TO NOTICE BAD HABITS.

Last season, the Green Bay Packer defense was ineffective enough that a shake-up of the coaching staff and the general manager's office took place.

The defense remains ineffective.
When the season started, just about everyone thought the Packers' edge rush would be a weakness. Their safety position wasn’t supposed to be, but through three games it’s clear there are some deficiencies on the back end. Washington’s first touchdown was set up when safety Kentrell Brice got turned around and failed to play Smith’s deep pass to Paul Richardson. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had an interception, but there were multiple times poor angles took him out of plays. Both appeared averse to tackling. On one play, Brice rolled off a Washington ball carrier directly into defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson’s leg. Wilkerson was carted off with an apparently serious ankle injury. Safety is the back line of defense. So long as the Packers struggle at tackling and defending deep passes at their safety position, it’ll be open season on their defense.
The Packers don't get the kind of "close enough" and "rebuilding" rationalizations common from sports pundits covering the Milwaukee Brewers.  This morning's "Monday Morning Quarterback" on WTMJ's Steve Scaffidi call-in show included more than a few observations that the responsibility for a failure to advance in the playoffs rests with the head coach.  (Scroll down the list of podcasts to listen.)  A quarter-century of high-caliber quarterbacks, a quarter century of pretty good offense, two rings.  That's not good enough.

23.9.18

YOU'RE GOING TO NEED A BIGGER MARGIN.

Book Review No. 25 is Amir Aczel's Fermat's Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem.  The book is short, readable, and full of all sorts of mathematics lore, although "unlocking the secret" is still left to the reader as an exercise.  (The exercise is below the jump.)

AMERICANS ALL.

Hyphenated Americans won the Great War.


Morale poster, preserved in Muskegon.

The ethnically mixed platoon became a staple of movies set during the War.  The Allied Expeditionary Force of a century ago was as likely to use English as a second language, notes author Geoffrey Wawro.
A hundred years ago this week, on a bend of the Meuse River in northern France, Gen. John Pershing launched the final major Allied offensive against Germany, an assault that would bring an end to World War I two months later.

Without American intervention, the war would have probably ended in a German victory, or sputtered to a stalemate, leaving the Germans in possession of much of France, Belgium and Russia. The victory, though, came at significant cost: In the Meuse-Argonne offensive, as the operation came to be known, the Americans alone suffered some 122,000 casualties, including 29,000 dead.

That more than a million Americans were fighting in a European war was surprising enough. But even more surprising was the men themselves: Pershing’s soldiers, known as the American Expeditionary Force, were in some units as likely to be foreign- as American-born.

Thanks to a wave of immigration, the United States had changed significantly at the turn of the 20th century, going from a nation whose white population was 60 percent British and 35 percent German at the start of the Civil War into a turbulent “melting pot” in time for the Great War: 11 percent British, 20 percent German, 30 percent Italian and Hispanic and 34 percent Slavic.
The Ruling Class of the day was more than happy to let the foreigners do the fighting and the dying, although the Germans failed to turn their former countrymen against their new leaders.
And so nearly a quarter of draftees in 1918 were foreigners, often recent arrivals. The Army’s 32nd Division, made up of National Guardsmen from Michigan and Wisconsin, was nicknamed the “Gemütlichkeit Division” — the German word means “coziness” — because it included so many German immigrants. Its rosters, one officer remarked, “sounded like Hindenburg’s staff.”
The Red Arrow Division acquitted itself so well that, to this day, Wisconsin Highway 32 rates special signage. (Flatlanders from the Chicago area headed for or from Door County might see it without noticing it.)


The country was willing to buy into its immigrants, at least for the duration, and the immigrants were willing to buy into their new country, even at the risk of their own lives.
Even though the doughboys spoke 49 different languages, making training and command difficult, the immigrants fought as bravely and desperately as native-born Americans. Germans deployed against the United States 77th Division in the Argonne Forest, hearing the mix of voices from the other trench, assumed that they were fighting Italian troops who had been sent north to reinforce the French. They weren’t Italians; they were Americans, from Little Italy in Manhattan.

The Germans were fascinated by the Americans they captured on the battlefield. The Germans had assumed that with all its immigrant soldiers the United States Army would shatter into demoralized ethnic pieces when pressured. “The majority of them are the sons of foreign parents,” a German staff circular reminded interrogators. But German hopes of disintegration were dashed on the battlefield. “These half-Americans express without hesitation purely native sentiments. Their quality is remarkable. They brim with naïve confidence,” the Germans despaired.

“Naïve confidence” is as fine a description of what it means to be American as any — a superiority complex born of transformative, class-blind opportunity: the opportunity sought by the men and women who flooded into America at the turn of the last century, just like those who arrive today and continue to see the military as an avenue for gaining citizenship and respect.

Americans wandering in our nation’s World War I cemeteries in France today will be struck by how many of those “foreign slackers” and “half-Americans” reside there. The unassimilated names on the gravestones — Ottavio Fiscalini, Aleksandr Skazhkows, Olaf Knutson — confirm that, through what Senator Lodge called the “unguarded gates of American citizenship,” passed thousands of men ready to die for America.
Among those interred in France, my great-uncle John Kalbes, born Jan Kalbes in East Prussia.

Apparently, though, there are fewer veterans in far northern Wisconsin, and the Kalbes-Seewald American Legion Post No. 280 has sold its legion hall and donated the proceeds for a war memorial in Coleman, Wisconsin.  Wisconsin Member of Congress Mike Gallagher recognizes.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the dedication of a new veterans memorial in the Village of Coleman, Wisconsin. Found within Lillian’s Park, the ‘‘All Veterans Memorial’’ honors veterans from every branch who have served in wars on behalf of our country. We will never know all the sacrifices our veterans have made, however this memorial will stand in recognition of their service and honor their example.

The ‘‘All Veterans Memorial’’ was made possible by the generous support of American Legion Post 280 and the Coleman community. The Kalbes-Seewald American Legion Post sold their legion hall last fall and dedicated the proceeds to the construction of a memorial for the veterans of our armed forces, as well as POWs/MIA. The Village of Coleman has also enthusiastically supported the project and contributed generously to its development.
The task for the living is to continue to give young people, including immigrants, a country they can buy into, as well as to buy into the success of those young people.  More grandiose constructions, such as a world safe for democracy or a Liberal International Order: not so much.

IF YOU HAVE TO EMPHASIZE A RULE, YOU HAVE TOO MANY RULES.

Each year, during the preseason games, the National Football League has its non-anonymous referees put special emphasis on the rules the will be enforcing particularly carefully during that season.  It's all done with the best of intentions, but, as is always the case where good intentions are the prime directive, there will be unintended consequences.  It doesn't help, either, that the regular players don't see much action during the preseason games, because it's easy enough to lose players to injuries that mean something.

This summer, the new quarterback-protecting rules received the special emphasis, but apparently Green Bay Packer linebacker Clay Matthews didn't get the memo.  Three straight games, three important quarterback sacks or hurries, three times, flagged for roughing the quarterback.

You know it's gotten bad for football when Twitchy is mocking the rules.

I suppose we should be grateful that at least the league poobahs have clarified what "completing the process of the catch" means.  Simplicity beats inordinate complexity.

Meanwhile, on the field, the Chicago Bears, horrible dictu, are leading the Black and Blue Division, both the Vikings and the Packers played terrible games today, and the restructured Detroit Lions are giving the New England Deflators all sorts of trouble in the evening game.

20.9.18

THE RAIL WAY TO SIN CITY.

Brightline are hoping to bring their trains to Las Vegas.
Florida’s Brightline announced Tuesday that it intends to compete in the heavily traveled Las Vegas-Los Angeles Basin market by acquiring XpressWest.

That company won the right from the Nevada High Speed Rail Authority in 2015 to build a 220-mile route adjacent to Interstate 15 from Las Vegas to Victorville, Calif. A total of 185 miles will be built as a sealed corridor with no at-grade road or pedestrian crossings.

Reflecting the real estate business model Brightline has employed in its Miami-West Palm Beach, Fla., corridor, the company is acquiring 38 acres of land on the Las Vegas Strip for construction of a station and mixed-use development.
Once upon a time, Union Pacific had properties, including a casino hotel, trackside, but the management thought better about running passenger trains across the desert.

Their challenge is going to be in getting from Victorville, where the relatively easy construction across desert ends, over the mountains surrounding Los Angeles.
The XpressWest deal will potentially enable Brightline to link one of the most traveled routes in the country, connecting more than 22 million people living in Southern California with Las Vegas, one of the most visited cities in the U.S. Brightline quoted ridership studies as finding travelers make more than 50 million annual trips between Las Vegas and Southern California. Today those travelers are limited to traveling by air or highway; Brightline expects to make the trip in less than two hours.

High speed rail is also expected to benefit from the move of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders to las Vegas in 2020.

As a result of the acquisition, Brightline will take over the development, construction and operation of the project and work with federal and local transportation officials to connect Las Vegas with Victorville, Calif., 200 miles away, with future plans to expand into the Los Angeles area.

The first phase of the corridor is expected to be built on a right of way within and adjacent to Interstate 15, traversing 185 miles with no at-grade or pedestrian crossings. Construction is expected to begin in 2019 and Brightline is planning to begin initial service in 2022.
Perhaps their ultimate plan is to connect, or to operate over, the extensive Regional Rail network California's rulers have on their wish list.  Their hope, though, is to provide comfortable trains over distances that are time-competitive with the airlines and a pain to drive.  "‘Brightline is changing transportation in our country by connecting heavily trafficked corridors that are too long to drive and too short to fly’, said Wes Edens, co-founder and co-chief executive officer of Fortress Investment Group. ‘Our experience in Florida is proving that private-sector investment has a meaningful role to play in developing transportation infrastructure.’"

We'll be keeping track.

ENOUGH.

"No more delays," says Andrew McCarthy.
Give Professor Ford until noon today to accept the committee’s unnecessarily indulgent invitation to testify on Monday. If she has not accepted by the deadline, Senator Grassley should proceed with the committee vote tomorrow (Thursday) as previously scheduled. If Democrats scream bloody murder, who cares? They’re a one-trick pony. They are going to scream bloody murder no matter when the votes are taken.
Yes, and it's a tactic of Stalinist interrogators to advise prisoners that new evidence has turned up, and the beatings will resume.
If Democrats had believed Ford’s story was convincing, and had followed the committee-hearing process in good faith, we’d have heard about it in July, and we’d have been hearing about nothing else since — especially during the hours upon hours that Kavanaugh answered aggressively provocative, politically loaded questions under oath. Senator Feinstein knew about Ford’s allegation all that time and never uttered a peep about it — not in face-to-face interviews with Kavanaugh or in her rounds of questioning at the hearing. And don’t tell me Feinstein had to stay mum to honor Ford’s desire for anonymity. There is good reason to believe Ford had no intention of remaining anonymous (hiring Democrat-activist lawyers, taking a polygraph, etc.). But even if Ford truly wanted to remain unidentified, Senator Feinstein could easily have questioned Kavanaugh about the purported incident without mentioning Ford’s name. That would have preserved anonymity while adhering to the hearing process. Instead, the Democrats’ ranking committee member contemptuously undermined the committee’s process, and now other Senate Democrats are following her lead.
We saw the Democrats' respect for the hearings with all the cosplaying moonbats in the hearing room, guests of Spartacus and the right honorable ladies.

Take. The. Vote.

CELIBACY DOESN'T MEAN CHASTITY.

James C. Graham of South Carolina has to forgive two fathers.  "James C. Graham was tormented by a simple, but profound question: Why did his father seem to dislike him so much?"  That was his adoptive father, and recent developments in privacy law and DNA testing reveals the truth.  "'You’ve driven all the way from South Carolina to find out whether Father Thomas Sullivan was your father, and I’m here to tell you that he was,' said Ann Marie Mires, director of forensic criminology at Anna Maria College."

Do I have to be the Old Curmudgeon and point out that there are two distinct words in the dictionary for a reason?
With those words, Graham entered a little-known coterie of people fathered by Catholic priests who break their promise of celibacy. Though their exact number can’t be known, with more than 400,000 priests worldwide, there may be thousands of people like Graham, often growing up without the love and support of their biological fathers or shamed into keeping their father’s identity secret.
The road from Mr Graham's birth to the recent release of records is full of intrigue, duplicity, and official stonewalling.

18.9.18

SUMMER DIVERSIONS.

I had originally planned to go to Boston to do additional field work for my model railroad, which is based on the Gloucester Branch to Rockport on Cape Ann.

Then Amtrak announced the one remaining dome car, a former Great Northern dome lounge, would be making a few trips on the Downeaster during August.  I promptly booked a round trip to Old Orchard Beach, in order to be sure to ride two of the consists that cover the route, and ensuring myself of a dome car at least in one direction.  It's not possible to do that on a Boston to Brunswick and return trip.

There will be no performance logs, this is supposed to be a recreational trip, taken on 22 August 2018.

Pictures below the jump.

IS THE FOURTH TURNING EMERGENT?

Richard "Belmont Club" Fernandez makes an intriguing observation.
While formerly direct experience could easily be overcome by the voice of authority, with Narrative discredited there is the distinct danger people might fall prey to taking the counsel of their own senses. Leon Trotsky warned of this. "Our class enemies are empiricists, that is, they operate from one occasion to the next, guided not by the analysis of historical development, but by practical experience, routinism, rule of thumb, and instinct."  Without an arc of history to justify the vanguard of progress, their failures might be regarded as exactly that.

Trotsky understood that the erosion of ideology by "practical experience" would make it difficult for any -ists to embark on multi-decade social engineering if no results were forthcoming.  The Narrative was as vital to long-term progressivism as drilling mud was to deep well oilmen. After years of steady availability they couldn't imagine it was all gone.  Jim Acosta's touching belief  that Donald Trump can reverse the tide of doubt by declaring the media no longer "enemies of the people" is in part a hankering after the good old days, but it assumes an authority that neither Trump nor anyone else has any more.  But Trump can't supply trust to the media any more than he can supply it to himself.  It's everywhere out of stock.
History is emergent: there is no "arc" to ride or to bend, and the ancient incantations of "New Deal" or "Vital Progressive Center" or what have you no longer evoke reverence.  Mr Fernandez concludes, "Despite the conventional wisdom that the West erred in choosing Brexit and failing to elect Hillary, the West may by blind luck have changed course at the very moment when it needed to."

Perhaps, though, it's about time.  What was that Liberal International Order if not an over-reaction to an unexpectedly overwhelming victory in World War II, reinforced by an unexpectedly easy end to Marxism-Leninism in the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union?  But the people who saw themselves as Well Suited to Manage Affairs have to continue the ancient rituals in the hopes that again the sheep will come to church and drop their tithes in the collection basket.

But the people who ran the Liberal International Order labored under the misapprehension that a major and decisive war could be avoided by waging "limited wars" for "containment" or "counterterrorism" or "nation building" until the evidence accumulated that a lot of people died to little effect.  Daniel Larison elaborates.
The cult of American global “leadership” is every bit as ideological and divorced from reality as the “credibility” obsession that so many of its members have. Adherents of this cult don’t feel the need to justify the extraordinary, hyperactive U.S. role in the world, and as [Emma] Ashford points out the authors don’t bother to do this in [The Empty Throne]. Their account of the origins of the present international order seems to be mythology rather than history, and the purpose in telling the story is not to understand what happened but to inspire veneration for the status quo. They simply take for granted that American “leadership” has been and always will be essential for international order, and they are quick to condemn presidents when those leaders show insufficient devotion to the oversized “leadership” role that they unquestioningly champion.
But holding the Conclave of Wise Experts together is more important than facing reality.  The good news is, there are people who used to make occasional common cause with the Wise Experts who are moved to call a time-out, such as James Carden for The Nation.  There are people who will yell at each other on the evening opinion shows, and they might even believe in the reasons they offer, but it's more important that THEIR prestige and THEIR authority be continued, ad infinitum.  Mr Carden has none of it.  "In a more sensible, less agitated time, given neoconservatives’ record and their utter lack of remorse for the multiple wars of choice that they helped to bring about, their worldview would be seen for what it is: morally obtuse and objectively wrong."

But those wars of choice used to be part of that exercise of leadership.  Back to Mr Larison.
U.S. primacy is a highly unusual state of affairs. It is almost certainly unsustainable over the long term, and it will become more expensive to maintain as time goes by. Worst of all, the maintenance of primacy comes increasingly at the expense of securing the vital interests of the United States. Adjusting to this reality is not abdication from our required role, but a normal correction to decades of overreach and meddling that have benefited very few while imposing terrible costs on many other nations.
And thus, foreign policy novice Donald Trump found a winning message in not getting involved in any more such wars.
Fact is, just because the United States hasn’t officially lost in Afghanistan or that Washington has managed to prevent South Korea from being invaded by the North does not mean that America is winning. In 2005, the geopolitical analyst George Friedman wrote that the United States was so powerful that it didn’t need to win wars; it merely needed to ensure that it did not lose them. Such a paradigm is insane — especially for those footing the bill, both in terms of blood and treasure.

For a country with the world’s largest defense budget, having “strategists” say that the best thing the United States can do in war is to neither lose nor win them is exactly why a political outsider with extensive business — but little political — experience won in 2016. Trump’s election was the apotheosis of the decades-long failure of America’s bipartisan fusion party (the so-called “Deep State”).
Alas, the high priests of the Liberal International Order refuse to learn anything.
Many of them are genuine experts, and most of them are (in [Stephen Walt's] experience, at least) genuine patriots. But they’ve been marinating in a bipartisan worldview that sees the United States as the last best hope for mankind and in a political system that rewards conformity and penalizes even relatively mild acts of dissent. And the sad fact is that if these elites had done a better job over the past 25 years or so, Trump would probably not have become president.
Foreign policy failures, inspired by the supposed lessons of Total Victory, though, are only one manifestation of the errors of Expertise.  Immigration reforms sound nice in the abstract, but a half century of introducing cheap domestic help and calling it diversity rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.
In other words, as a member of the American ruling class, to whom uncounted numbers of illegal immigrants to the country mean restaurants with exotic new international cuisines, very cheap labor, and well-cultivated vote-plantations – an in-the-pocket electorate so much more obedient than stiff-necked members of the middle and working class. Such citizens have, of late, been much less biddable than their betters would wish; witness such indicators of deep dissatisfaction as the Tea Party, the election of Donald Trump, and the Just Walk Away movement.

To the ruling class, an affection for, the sheltering of, and the unstinting support for undocumented immigrants is an unmitigated good. All the benefits listed in the previous paragraph, along with being able to conspicuously virtue-signal, accrue to the ruling class, secure in their wealth, their gated communities, social clubs and private schools. All the disadvantages, hazards, and expenses both social and actual land like a ton of bricks on everyone else – and have been doing so for at least two decades, possibly more. It’s not just the criminal element; incidents of rape, robbery, murder, drunk driving, uninsured driving, and identity theft which victimize ordinary Americans, native and legalized at the hands of the illegal. All over Texas, the Southwest and California – stories of auto accidents caused by uninsured and probably illegal drivers abound, also spectacular drunk driving incidents committed by the same demographic.
But it took the funeral of naval aviator and Arizona senator John McCain to reveal that the vanguard of the so-called #resistance was ... the Permanent Bipartisan Establishment.
‘The resistance’ is the fightback of the establishment against the people. As it is in Britain, too, where the rich and influential people fuelling the war on Brexit – the largest act of democracy in British history – like to refer to themselves as ‘insurgents’. It is the height of Orwellianism for these acts of elitist reaction against democratic dissent to dress themselves up as forms of resistance. But it is not surprising. From the get-go, the so-called resistance has been more a pining for the old establishment, for Hillary’s rule and for the continued domination of Britain by the EU, than it has been any kind of daring strike for a new politics. Look closely at the funereal elitism of McCain’s burial and you will see one of the saddest and most striking political developments of our time: how self-styled radicals preferred to throw their lot in with the old establishment under the umbrella of ‘the resistance’ rather than heed ordinary people who were saying: ‘Let’s tear up the old order.’
There might, however, be other signs of an insurgency. "The Democratic Party leadership is like a heavy, sodden blanket, dragging down its own coalition of voters and young candidates as they struggle to rise up against the Trump presidency."  As the Trump presidency is itself an insurgency (former president Barack Obama correctly characterizes it as a "symptom") against a leadership that has made numerous mistakes, there might be coalitions among Trump voters and insurgent Democrats in our future.

THE CASE FOR INTELLECTUAL DIVERSITY.

Cass "libertarian paternalism" Sunstein argues, "Colleges Have Way Too Many Liberal Professors."  That's not a good thing.
The first involves potential discrimination on the part of educational institutions. Some departments might be disinclined to hire potential faculty members based on their political convictions.

Such discrimination might take the form of unconscious devaluation of people whose views do not fit with the dominant perspective. For example, young historians who cast Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in a terrible light might not get a lot of job offers. And talented people might not pursue academic careers at all, because they expect that their potential professors will not appreciate their work.

The second reason is that students are less likely to get a good education, and faculty members are likely to learn less from one another, if there is a prevailing political orthodoxy. Students and faculty might end up in a kind of information cocoon. If a political-science department consists of 24 Democrats and 2 Republicans, we have reason to doubt that students will exposed to an adequate range of views.
In particular, the students who are predisposed to the world-view they encounter from a faculty perhaps not so well versed in differing points of view will not themselves understand the world-view they hold, and therefore they might be at a loss to defend it against solid counter-arguments.

Now comes Slate's William Saletan, who is down for ideological web-sites performing logic-checks on other ideological web-sites on Facebook.
We’re all fallible, but we can fact-check one another. In any industry where one group predominates—whites in the corporate elite, men in the entertainment business, liberals in the media—we need scrutiny from people who don’t share the prevailing biases. That’s why the Weekly Standard is on Facebook’s fact-checking panel. And it is doing its job.
Let the sifting and winnowing be continual and fearless.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE GENERAL WILL.

Donald "Cafe Hayek" Boudreaux has an advance copy of D. N. McCloskey's essay in The Ethical Formation of Economists with this instructive passage.
The problem is that ethics in economics has been thoughtlessly attached to Rousseau’s notion of a general will.  Deep in left-wing thought and in a good deal of right-wing thought about the economy is the premise, as Isaiah Berlin once put it, that government can accomplish whatever it rationally proposes to do.  As has been often observed about leftists even as sweet as was John Rawls, the left has no theory of the behavior of the government.  It assumes that the government is a perfect expression of the will of The People.  So goes the welfare economics of Abraham Bergson and Paul Samuelson and the public finance of Richard Musgrave, and behind them the (mathematically incoherent) goal of the greatest happiness of the greatest number, to be achieved by wise utilitarians in government.  The liberals such as James Buchanan do have a theory of government, and a good deal of empirical work to back it up.  Liberalism has always been a theory against and therefore about coercion.  When my left-wing friends, of whom I have many, claim with a knowing smile that in admiring markets I am “ignoring power” I have a way of replying: no, dear, it is you who are ignoring power, the power of the monopoly of violence called a government.
Indeed.  (Do you really want to entrust that power to the current ... I hesitate to say clown show, because the circus clown is an honorable calling, and the sleazy pontificators in Washington, D.C. are anything but honorable ... crop of Our Intellectual Betters?)

17.9.18

WELL, GOOD.

The latest clarification from Amtrak about its efforts to gut the National Network keep passengers safe is that trains will continue to run next year even on tracks not currently fitted for positive train control.

The carrier's stance was untenable, anyway, as the trains operated by Amtrak on behalf of the state departments of transportation (what we used to call 403(b) services) such as the Downeaster on the old Boston and Maine and Maine Central for Portland and Brunswick were going to keep running anyway.  That's happy news, even for occasional visitors from the Great Lakes, even if the relatively few freight trains still using those (lightly used: twelve trips on a business day) tracks have a nasty habit of getting in the way of the passenger trains.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SMART URBAN PLANNING.

Cities and metropolitan areas, like any other complex adaptive systems, tend to do whatever they darn well please.  Autonomous cars, even autonomous cars-for-hire, might provide new dimensions for emergence, but that's likely to come with new sorts of surprises.
If self-driving cars are as useful as their boosters say, everybody will want one—every family, every car company and city trying to build a municipal fleet, and every retailer trying to put their business on the cheapest, most-valuable real estate available: public roads. Without smart urban planning, the result will be infernal congestion, choking every city and requiring local governments to lay ever-more pavement down to service American automania.
There already is infernal congestion and likely an excess of parking relative to productive land use in thickly settled areas: until the Wise Experts show more competence with the existing conditions, perhaps they ought Butt Out of imposing constraints on new technologies.
In sum, self-driving cars have the potential to improve existing transportation technology in unambiguous ways, to expand the suburbs, and to create new economic opportunity for a variety of industries, from hotels to restaurants. But they might also change the character of our cities for the worse and strangle roads with cars in a way that ruins the urban experience for millions of people. What does this sound like? It sounds like the legacy of highways in America.
Yup. Furthermore, on-demand autonomous cars are likely to have surge pricing at levels that make Uber's rush-hour or bar-time tariffs look like Bargain Thursday at a White Sox game.
Autonomous cars aren’t just cars. They’re infrastructure. If the U.S. wants to avoid its past mistakes, American cities have to start thinking about how to use autonomous cars to make their downtown areas more efficient for humans, not just for machines. That could mean aggressive congestion pricing, limiting the number of AVs in an area, prohibiting certain companies from operating such cars, or even capping ownership. Today these may seem like radical steps. But compared to a future where every family and company tries to operate an autonomous car in the same metro area, it may feel like pure old-fashioned conservatism.
The owner of a motor vehicle, even an autonomous one, can treat the insurance and depreciation on the car as a sunk cost, and consider only the out of pocket costs of the next trip, and plan his departure to take into account the expected congestion in front of him.  An Uber driver, like the Model T owner offering jitney service in the Woodrow Wilson years, might make a similar calculation: better to get a little bit of eating money out of a car he already has.  That would be a good way for the operator of a fleet of autonomous cars for hire to go broke: thus the fleet size, and the surge prices, are likely to reflect the expected travel times and the expected delay costs imposed on later departures by fleet cars making earlier trips.  It's unlikely, though, that any entrepreneur has figured all of that pricing out yet, it's something likely to emerge with practice, price discovery, and a few business failures.  "There is a future where a handful of efficient, self-driving cars operated by a responsible fleet manager could return American cities to a superior age, where people mixed promiscuously around the streets, rather than be confined to narrow sidewalks to maximize space for cars."

Wishful thinking, dear reader.  That handful of self-driving cars will be offering their services at very high rental rates, and the owners of self-driving or drive-yourself cars will be looking for parking spaces and otherwise posing hazards to pedestrians, just as we currently live.

A QUESTION FOR OUR TIMES.

Roger Simon.  "Is there a single person of any political persuasion who would vouch for everything he or she did in high school?"

Probably not.  But in the unedifying spectacle that has become confirmation politics, or presidential politics, or for that matter, campus politics, anything that might be out there in cyberspace, whether in a cache or in a cloud or in a recovered memory, is now fair game.  It was once the tactic of choice for ruining the lives of day-care workers, and now it might be the way of settling old scores.
This story has everything: Money galore, underage alcohol, drunk teens, a bathing suit, and parents who couldn’t pay their monthly mortgage bill. And a tightly knit community (with secrets!) where everyone seemed to live near everyone else, know everyone else, and sit as judge in everyone else’s foreclosure case.
Plus multiple generations of privilege, close enough to the gritty parts of the big city for residents to claim street cred, even though you probably have to look two generations back to find an ancestor of a Bethesdan who could carry water for a patternmaker.
Bethesda, Maryland, arguably the most privileged stretch of unincorporated overabundance in the world. One supposes Kavanaugh meant in a sloppy way to say that if you grow up in ‘thesda you also kinda grow up in nearby (eight miles away) DC, so that by sheer proximity you experience gangs and guns and all. But really he grew up quite safely and uber-wealthily outside a city plagued by etc. etc.
Perhaps, though, not quite as uber-wealthily as external appearances suggest.

Now, though, your high school outrages go on your Permanent Record.

RUNNING EXTRA.  The foreclosure story is incorrect in part.
Martha Kavanaugh was one of several judges involved in the case. The records show she made no ruling pertaining to a seizure of the Blasleys’ home. The records also show that her involvement in the case was minimal. Basically, she dismissed it, and that's it.
Indeed, the elder Judge Kavanaugh dismissed the foreclosure "with prejudice," which, in academic-speak reads like "Transmission of these comments is not intended to encourage resubmission."