24.12.18

FIFTY YEARS AGO.

As fraught as conditions here on the good earth might be, a half-century ago we witnessed North Korea capturing a Naval Intelligence ship, the Tet offensive, Lyndon Johnson's abdication, the murders of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the student rebellion in France, the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, the crushing of dissent at the Democrat convention, and the end of the winning years of the Green Bay Packers.

The Second Era of American Greatness was not yet over, though, and the Apollo 8 circumlunar voyage included a greeting to the world from out of this world.


Provide your own optimistic closure for this year.

Thank you for looking in.  Cold Spring Shops will be taking a long winter's nap, until sometime in the new year.

20.12.18

RUNNING WITH THE POWER CONFERENCES.

The "Starting Five" for NCAA Women's Basketball, as identified by Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Truman, Johnson, Reagan and Nixon, for the week commencing December 11:


Illinois State, Connecticut, Brown, Northern Illinois, Tennessee: the Ivies and the mid-majors outnumber representatives of the usual suspects.

At Northern Illinois, Courtney Woods is out injured for the season.  Last season, she credited Mikayla Voigt for giving up her shot when Ms Woods had a better shot.  It's all a matter of finding the open player.


That was spliced together from video of a game in Carbondale. The Directional States of Illinois held a "Compass Challenge" in which Northern, Eastern, Western, and Southern played each of the other three.  Southern Illinois hosted the first two games, then Eastern Illinois came to Northern Illinois for the third.  Southern made a few more shots down the stretch than Northern did: that was not the case for the Western playing Northern game.

It's going to be an interesting season, again, for the women's game in the Mid-American Conference.  "Northern Illinois is 2-2. There is certainly talent on this roster, but I just can’t justify this particular team getting 8 votes, at least not yet. Mikayla Voigt, Janae Poisson, and Courtney Woods and company could compete for a MAC title this year, but I think these votes are a little premature."  Particularly with two of those three players out injured, but count these kids out not.

Elsewhere in the conference, two of the putative favorites, and a few other teams off to a good start have a chance for securing quality wins before the new year, and the conference play, begins.

Northern Illinois?  The individual achievements are good, but the Hustle Belt pundit isn't impressed.  "They are capable scorers, but their run and fun style leads to some defensive problems. The Huskies are relatively deep with some talented players I expect to see more of later in the season. I expect them to be around .500 in league play, which considering the depth of this league is pretty impressive, really."

I wonder if that "run and fun" was a typo, or perhaps an attempt to be witty.  I haven't gotten to that Eastern Illinois game yet.  The current coach in Charleston is Matt Bollant, and he's beginning to implement the Wisconsin-Green Bay system.  It's the same system Carol Hammerle and Kathi Bennett used, which means it either is scary to juniors and seniors who came in with it, or that they know how to master it, or perhaps Eastern are still learning.  That noted, Eastern began the game hitting their perimeter shots and milking the shot clock and being generally annoying on defense, and had as much as a ten-point lead.  Not that the Northern Illinois players got rattled.  "The Huskies outscored the Panthers 30-13 in the third quarter to erase a three-point halftime deficit."

And so it went.


Yup, net change of 29 points from that early deficit.  In the middle of that third quarter, doesn't a 24-2 run sound like fun?
"I was just trying to have fun," [point guard Myia] Starks said. "I thought in the beginning of the game we were a little tense. I was like 'it's basketball. It's supposed to be fun.' I just went out there and played how I usually played. The coaches put us in good spots with the offense, and we got good looks."
Maybe it's just in fun. Note the remarks of a DeKalb Daily Chronicle pundit, on the latest bowl game disaster.  "Flaws or no, it is a successful program."  Perhaps by Mid-American standards (and head football coach Rod Carey just got a contract extension, so there it is.)  The basketball conference might be a tougher test.

That noted, Chicago State will be the guest Friday, and spectators who want to see a game can get in for free with a donation of a new, unwrapped toy.  Then Brown and Ms Steeves will be in come 31 December.

19.12.18

A REPATRIATION.

Railway preservation is a challenging enterprise, with the notion of "playing with trains" in full scale in bad odor: anyone who works on other large mobile machines probably has to deal with that.  The culture-vultures who are happy to contribute to other sorts of museums might not want to hold wine and cheese receptions to raise money for railway museums (although this time of year, those of that set who have kids might find a Santa Claus train to ride) or support the use of the national endowments in those purposes.  In addition, you can't get replacement parts at Home Depot, and, like any other organization of people, from time to time personalities clash.

Thus, a one-time thriving museum in Noblesville, Indiana, liquidates.

One of the cars in the collection, North Shore coach 172, is now at the Illinois Railway Museum, where, after a full restoration, it will make possible a three-car train (150, 172, 714) of the older stock that protected the commuter services in later years.

THE SECULAR HOLY INQUISITION.

You'd think people would be wise to the scam by now.  "That yet another socialist government seems unable to tolerate criticism should surprise absolutely nobody. Collectivist societies emphasize the group, and those who would lead the group deeply resent those who would stand apart."  I mean, when the late Robert Heilbroner, no Tory he, sees the danger.
"Because socialist society aspires to be a good society, all its decisions and opinions are inescapably invested with moral import. Every disagreement with them, every argument for alternative policies, every nay-saying voice therefore raises into question the moral validity of the existing government, not merely its competence in directing activities that have no particular moral significance," wrote widely read socialist economist Robert Heilbroner in a 1978 article in Dissent. "Dissents and disagreements thereby smack of heresy in a manner lacking from societies in which expediency and not morality rules the roost."
Is it too much to ask that students of social organization understand that most human interaction is for some sort of betterment in mind and that morality might be emergent, and evolutionary stability might govern the expedience?

But consider that although Venezuelan socialism might have inherited a lot from the Roman Empire and the Iberian Catholic Church, there's a lesson from there that's germane here.  "And, of course, the country's socialist government jails political opponents, beats demonstrators, and uses its legal power and economic control to stifle dissenting opinions that 'smack of heresy' in a system in which there is no 'relatively inviolable non-state employment sector' to serve as 'a condition for political freedom.'"

That's about muzzling the independent press, which is something politicians of all stripes hope to do, if they're not necessarily as up front about it as Our President.

But institutions of higher education, which mutated from seminaries, have their own notions of heresy.
In January of 2017, when the political controversy over Donald Trump’s perplexing win over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 national election was at its peak, my professor began his political psychology course by asking the lecture hall the following: “How many of you wish Hillary had won the election?” The question was voluntary, yet nearly every hand in the room shot up. “Okay, and how many of you supported Trump winning the election?” The room was quiet as not a single hand was raised, followed by a few chuckles. “Next, how many of you feel that liberals are safe walking across campus expressing their political views?” Every hand once again went into the air. “And how many of you feel that conservatives are safe to walk around campus expressing their political views?” The room filled with laughter as nobody raised their hand.

While most thought little of the exercise, this was one of the most frightening experiences I’ve had throughout my academic career. Here was an entire lecture hall of young adults laughing at the recognition of political suppression at a university founded on the principles of free thought and discourse.
Although the propaganda coming from universities continues to pay lip service to No Final Say and Pathbreaking Scholarship, the urge to extirpate Sin that used to rely on the Index now relies heavily on the Critique of Pure Tolerance.  So much for free thought and discourse.
“Free Speech,” as a term, has been co-opted by right-wing and liberal parties as a discursive cover for racism, xenophobia, sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and classism. The creation of this petition at Williams cannot be separated from those dehumanizing associations. Nor can it be separated from a national pattern where certain amendments are upheld and protected at all costs and others are completely denigrated, ignored, and targeted. Take the privileging of the 2nd amendment over the 14th amendment, for example.
The good news, dear reader, is that the student petition is self-refuting.
The petition prioritizes the protection of ideas over the protection of people and fails to recognize that behind every idea is a person with a particular subjectivity.
You can argue that there are defensible markers of racism and all the other -isms and -phobias, and that public policy favors some passages in the Constitution more than others, or you can argue that each person has his own subjectivity, making his truth claims as valid as anyone else's. You can't simultaneously hold both positions.

Let's rewrite that last excerpt.  "The petition prioritizes the protection of wrong ideas over the protection of our people and fails to recognize that some subjectivities are more subjective than others."

18.12.18

A MID-MAJOR TITLE GAME.

Tonight, Northern Illinois and Alabama-Birmingham will kick off in the Boca Raton Bowl.

There are several pregame evaluations of the bowl game in the scheme of things.  This watchability ranking places it 22d in the lineup of 39 or 40, with a backhanded endorsement.
A couple conference champs going at it. This will be low scoring but I could see this being a competitive game that’s worth some Tuesday night viewing with no other football to compete with. Also what a sponsor for a bowl game.
First time I ever heard of Cheribundi Tart Cherry, which is some sort of energy drink.

Another ranking has it as high as thirteenth, based on the gone-to-restored status of Alabama-Birmingham football.
The full list of bowls pitting conference champions: The Orange (Alabama-Oklahoma), the Rose (Ohio State-Washington) and the Boca Raton. Not bad company. The Huskies (8-5) are a perennial Mid-American Conference power, while the work coach Bill Clark (pictured) at UAB (10-3) remains one of the more remarkable developments in the sport this decade.
Then come the skeptics.  Slag the Mid-American:  Western Michigan 37, Northern Illinois 38, Ohio 39.
Northern Illinois is miserable in bowl games under head coach Rod Carey. UAB was miserable in its 41-6 loss to Ohio in last year’s Bahama’s Bowl. Something has to give between one of only three bowls with conference champs going at it – the Rose and Orange the two others. It’s a Tuesday night, what else are going to do, be miserable?
Speaking of the Orange Bowl: first, that bowl losing streak began for then interim coach Rod Carey at the Orange Bowl, and Florida State is this year not in any bowl, after last year becoming bowl-eligible on the strength of a mid-season bought win; meanwhile, last year's disappointed participants, Donna Shalala North and Donna Shalala South, meet again in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
This wasn’t an easy matchup to get excited about last year, when they played in the Orange Bowl after both losing conference title games. The Hurricanes and Badgers both stumbled into disappointing 7-5 seasons this fall. At least Wisconsin tailback Jonathan Taylor (pictured, FBS-best 1,989 yards) wraps up his sophomore year in an environment (New York) almost as conducive to a raw late December day as Camp Randall Stadium.
That's familiar territory for Wisconsin, which at the beginning of this century came off two straight Rose Bowl wins with national title aspirations, as did their opponent UCLA.  They got a participation trophy, and Wisconsin won that game.

POLICY PRACTICALITY AS OPPOSED TO POLICY FAITH.

It's semester break all over the U.S. and probably Canada, which means this is a good time to start thinking about next semester's political economy courses.  We'll give the Trenchant Observation Of the New Term to Michael Munger.
Pigou, to his credit, recognized that the concepts of “market failure” and “externality” actually require an investigation of the specific institutions of state intervention. He may have been too optimistic about the prospects for improving state action, but he had no illusions about the problem states faced in acting correctly.
Yes, in the best Joseph Stiglitz fashion, you can invent an omniscient central planner and demonstrate that he can achieve efficiency, but if the knowledge to be an omniscient central planner existed, somebody could get rich off it.
[Pigou] also was careful to note that what later came to be known as the market-failure paradigm should be applied with care. Usually, the logic of Pigouvians goes like this: markets fail (by externalities, asymmetric information, etc.), so the state should act. Of course, that would only be a complete prescription if one is reasonably certain that the actual actions of the state are likely to be an improvement over the actual results obtained from the market.

The main thrust of the public choice movement was to correct this naïve optimism about the state. There are two main types of problems identified in the work of James Buchanan, Gordon Tullock, and the other scholars who developed the public choice critique starting in the 1960s.
Put another way, vulgar Pigouvians ought recognize the limitations of state action, whether or not they are prepared to grant some of the harsher criticisms of state action that might follow from public choice theory. Just teach the controversies.

THE CASE FOR PROPER ARCHIVING.

Before Amtrak and Conrail moved out of the Michigan Central Station and office tower in Detroit, some employees stowed the architectural and construction drawings in several trailers.

The joys of liquidating railroad real estate in a city rendered uninhabitable by years of Democrat rule include the paperwork being shuttled around from resting place to resting place.
Residing in knotted grass behind a machinist shop in Trenton, the trailers were leaning at all the wrong angles. Holes were ripped through the sheet metal. Because of mold and the raccoons that had nudged their way inside — leaving fecal matter and destruction in their wake — Tyvek suits and respirators were required to enter.

In short, it was sort of a disaster. Especially when considering the contents: thousands of documents, artifacts and detailed drawings that went into the construction of Detroit's iconic Michigan Central Station. Documents that were removed from the station by employees when the depot shut down in 1988, and then, over the course of nearly three decades, bounced around metro Detroit, swapping hands and locations as various guardians recognized they were holding onto something valuable, but just didn't know what to do with it.
It appears as though the diagrams are now in the hands of state archivists, although, perhaps, with Ford seeking to renovate the office tower for corporate purposes, perhaps the Henry Ford Museum will be a better home for them.
From an archivist's perspective, the finding of these documents — of which [state archivist Mark] Harvey and his colleague Mary Zimmeth were able to keep about 10 percent — has been remarkable. Working drawings, the documents serve as blueprints detailing not just the design of the station, but the specifics of how the building was put together.

In recent months, as Ford begins its multiyear process of rehabbing the celebrated building, however, the now saved documents could have increased value. They can serve as a road map for the recovery.

"What makes these different is that they’re the 'as-built' drawings, they’re the shop drawings, if you will, detailing things like the light fixtures or the architectural details," Harvey said, explaining that while presentation drawings already exist at the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library, the working drawings are one of kind, detailing everything from the installation of the light fixtures to the construction of the marble facade.

"It actually has the numbering system for how to put the marble back up in the pediment. So it’s super detailed. It’s the order in which the pieces were installed," said Harvey, explaining the significance of the drawings with the current rehab project.
At least in this case, there is enough information for all of Our Ford's horses and all of his men to reclaim a symbol of the First Era of American Greatness.
"This is a whole story of what was happening in Detroit at the time," Edwards said of the documents, and how they, in many ways, pay tribute to the hundreds who helped make the magnificent building possible. While the building was designed in the early 1900s by Warren & Wetmore of New York and Reed & Stem of St. Paul, Minnesota, the documents that were preserved point to the true team effort that went into its creation.

"We always talk about the architects. But we forget about the hundreds of other people who helped to build that building. I like that part. I like to illuminate the sort of forgotten people. The craftsmen," Edwards said. "You see these drawings and you think, ‘Oh, my God. These people are amazing. That they made these things.' "
There are a lot of other amazing things that people made that have also been deconstructed over the past fifty years or so.

16.12.18

III. ADVENT.

The halls have been decked in the traditional manner.  Enjoy.


Look in for the troika of traditional seasonal trains, plus some special runs on the scale model railroad.

Play nice, You-Know-Who is making a list and checking it twice.

14.12.18

MIXED VIRTUE SIGNALS.

Wasn't it only a week or two ago that Our Progressive Betters told us the stop-action Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was evil?  "Impossible to parody," notes one wag.  "[P]olitically correct yahoos who never run out of reasons to be miffed," writes another, continuing, "His plight is somewhat different because, even though the song’s lyrics were written in 1939, little kids still jubliantly sing them with no regard for what poor Rudolph endured en route to becoming a Christmas icon." (Apparently, even at Huffington Post, there's a concurring opinion.)

Now comes a new Microsoft Xbox commercial offering an adaptive controller for special needs gamers.


If the title doesn't give you a clue, listen carefully to the background music, dear reader.

IT'S JUST A DIFFERENT SORT OF IDEOLOGICAL CONSISTENCY.

Reason's Matt Welch pens a lament for the return of Arizona senator Jeff Flake to private life.
There is no place more despised in American politics right now than the center. Not the ideological center, necessarily, but the temperamental center. That space inhabited by people who recoil instinctively from bloody-knuckled partisanship and the collectivist demonization it requires, who lament the erosion of democratic norms and the delegitimization of mediating institutions. At a moment of intense polarization, when the time for choosing was yesterday, who has the patience for such scoldy fence-sitters?

You can find a lot of libertarians in this unhappy camp, averse as they usually are to the tribal political hysterics of the day. Flake is among the most libertarian members of the Senate; in the House, arguably the most temperamentally centrist member is the one who prefers describing himself with the (as-yet lower-case) l-word: Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.). Amash's Twitter feed these days is filled with such cheery observations as, "Political discourse today is driven almost entirely by tribalism and bias and very little by principles and truth. We've come to a sad and dangerous place. Liberty cannot survive without virtue."

But you can find a lot of anti-libertarian people in the temperamental center as well. Bill Kristol. Benjamin Wittes. The late John McCain, and the D.C. establishment that mourned him (and its own receding power) for a week last month. There is a whole cadre of anti-Trump conservatives who have not yet come to grips with the way their support for war, surveillance, spending, bailouts, and wink-nudge populism helped discredit their precious establishment in the first place.
The problem Mr Welch is struggling with rests on overuse of the term "center" On one hand, he's talking about a philosophical principle, centered on such things as enumerated, separated, and limited powers, emergence, and simple rules for a complex world.  On the other hand, he's talking about compromise-happy squishes.  When the True Believers have taken leave of their senses, what good does splitting the difference between one form of madness and another do?  He sort of gets it.
Pox-on-both-houses centrism, even with some libertarian flavoring, does not always lead to wisdom. Setting your own coordinates by the position of the other two poles is reactive, unsteady, a recipe for squishiness. (This is one of many reasons why, even though there are many of libertarians who can be found in the temperamental center, there are a lot of other, more anarchistic libertarians who positively hate that place and the people associated with it.)
Exactly. It doesn't take a lot of work to locate professed socialists and communists who will have no truck with the left wing of the Democrats, either.

It also doesn't take a lot of work to figure out that there are limits to compromise.  Mr Welch praised Senator Flake for saving the Brett Kavanaugh nomination.
Commentators in the temperamental center — Timothy P. Carney Megan McArdle, Ross Douthat — proposed variations on the same theme: Just investigate a bit longer, clear up some of the more soluble disparities, and schedule a prompt vote. The non-grandstanding Democrats on the committee (basically Klobuchar and Coons) articulated a similar bargain.

But it took a haunted-looking Flake, reportedly operating on zero sleep, normally handsome face puffed up with five extra pounds of frown, to make that reasonable and de-escalatory framework a reality. The libertarian wing of the temperamental center delivered a result that at least temporarily forestalled the worst of American smash-mouth politics.
That libertarian wing is going to have to come to grips, sooner or later, with the reality that until voters figure out that the false binary of Republican and Democrat loses its validity with enough voters making a different choice.  To their credit, the true believers trading under various socialist and communist banners have been making such claims for years.  Unfortunately, they've got nothing by way of a positive vision to expand their constituencies very much.  Enumerated and limited powers, and emergence, have a lot more going for them.

THE PUNCHLINE IS "SALESMANSHIP."

The joke isn't suitable for telling in mixed company, although, at one time, everyone intuited it.  Stephen "Vodka Pundit" Green elaborates.
Back before hookup culture was a thing, responsible grownups learned and enjoyed the steps to an ancient dance. The dance even had a name: Seduction. Or as I wrote four years ago, when this first became a fake issue: "It's a cleverly told musical version of the age-old dance of seduction, where both dancers know exactly what they're doing every step of the way to an almost predetermined (and happy!) ending."
Yes, well, when both people understood that they were in fact participating in that dance. It sometimes gets more complicated, as readers of Pride and Prejudice or She Stoops to Conquer understand.
The unwritten steps of seduction allow a gentleman to pursue without being a cad or a rapist. And just as importantly, there are all those steps and pauses for the woman to make the man work his charms hard enough, to make sure he’s worthy of her. But like any dance, the steps must be learned — and at some time in the last 20 years or so, society stopped teaching them.
Interestingly, a self-styled feminist weighs in, and her message might be that the steps had to go, for a purpose.
What we are hearing is a woman’s internal struggle, as she determines that she is strong enough to face the public ridicule that will follow when she chooses to defy social norms.

This song describes a woman’s conflict over her desire to do something progressive, while anticipating certain criticism from her family and community if she does so. Fortunately, the song ends on a cheerful note, when she appears to decide to stay over for the night — or at least for a bit longer. It is a decision made for her own personal gratification.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a song ahead of its time — released a full 20 years before the sexual revolution for women — and it celebrates a feminist taking control of her own sexual choices.
Don't let the reality of that revolution not turning out so well for anybody get in the way of a celebration of transgressivity.
At no point does she say, “I don’t want this.” She says, with unraveling conviction, that everyone else will have a problem with this. She goes through the list, starting with mother and father, and decreasing in importance when it comes to her reputation: the neighbors, her sister, her brother and the maiden aunt.
Put another way, what we understand today as "slut-shaming" is a dishonor tax, and feminism as this author understands it is a tax cut.
In the 1940s, women condemned to single life because not enough men were returning from battle was considered a major negative consequence of troops dying in World War II. What does this mean for our heroine? Upon reflecting upon the absurdity of caring about her bitter aunt’s opinion, she asks for another cigarette. Good for her.
Virginia Slims, making the transition from questionable hidden persuader to vanguard.
As a liberal feminist professor in public health, I should never applaud someone for smoking. But it is worth mentioning that for women in the first half of the 20th century, smoking was frowned upon, not for health-related reasons, but because smoking was a luxury reserved for the men folk.

The women who defied gender stereotypes by smoking faced moralistic scorn. Their character was questioned; they were viewed as “loose” or “fast.” When women opted to smoke, especially in public, they were placing a toe in the men’s world, they were boldly challenging social norms, realizing they would face public scorn, and choosing to light up anyway.

Those norms about the acceptability of women smoking started to change around World War II, and smoking as a feminist statement has waned since. Even so, the sexual slurring that occurs when women engage in gender nonconforming behaviors is something that persists today.
On the one hand, social norms are emergent, and there still is a "guy" culture, is there not?

On the other hand, it is hard not to read that "liberal feminist professor" and think, "worldview as one that lacks moral and intellectual maturity."

13.12.18

WHEN YOUR EXPERTISE IS OBSOLETE.

It's difficult to view the populist insurgencies, or whatever they are, whether in France, or the adjacent European countries, or the United States, without contemplating the ossified grip of a clique of Allegedly Wise Experts whose wisdom is obsolete.

Let's go around the internet.  (By all means, follow the links, read the posts in full, this is a roundup.)  Here's Neo-Neocon.
I wonder about the permanence and meaning of all these moves to the right, or to populism, or rejections of socialism, or however one might want to characterize them. To me they seem—much like the Trump movement here—to not be deeply rooted but to instead be frustrated reactions to something else. That “something else” is loosely called “elitism,” but I actually think it’s many things: a combination of not wanting Big Government to dictate so much and take so much money from people to do things most people really don’t want it to do, a rejection of illegal immigration and open borders (a rejection that used to be a mainstream position but is now considered to be a “far right” position), and a feeling that much of life has gotten out of control in a way that feels ominous and threatening.

The impulse could go right or left, as the recent midterms in the US seem to indicate. I sense that it may be an impulse away from rather than towards, a deep frustration with the status quo.
Yes, that's likely, although the people whose continuing tenure in the Political Establishment depends on Not Seeing It will likely not see it.  Some of the chroniclers of the Insurgency don't yet see it.  Consider National Review's M. B. Dougherty.
Maybe it is a mood, or the harbinger of some awful collapse. Maybe it is just one generation rejecting the certainties of a previous one. The democratic peoples of the West have tired of the politics of the sensible center and are demanding change. And in France, that change usually begins in the streets.
The so-called sensible center has been in trouble for some time: for at least seven years we have documented the ominous signs.  When Guardian pundit Natalie Nougayrède, in the midst of a lament for Old Europe, concedes that les déplorables might have valid gripes about Their Progressive Betters, there might be something happening here.
Most of the protesters have genuine, if chaotically expressed, grievances. They consider themselves the “invisible” people treated with contempt by Parisian elites, and now they’ve made themselves very visible with their fluorescent vests. Public opinion is behind them.

One of their most eloquent members is Ingrid Levavasseur, a young nurse and single mother of two from Normandy. Last week she spoke movingly on television of her struggle to make ends meet, and of her sense of deep injustice: “Some people complain that we block roads, but they don’t complain when they’re stuck in traffic jams on their way to ski resorts, do they?” she asked softly.
There's only one road crossing into Cape Cod for Hyannis Port and the Vineyard, right?

In the United States, there are still a few opportunities for people who didn't come up through the Establishment Track to prosper, or hold high office, none-the-less.  That's not the case in France.
The ruling class comes from a small group of grandes ecoles, or elite colleges. There are only 3 or 4. The top of the top?

L’Ecole d’Administration Nationale (ENA).

Emmanuel Macron’s journey is typical of the ruling class. He completed a Master's of Public Affairs at Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (called "Sciences Po"), the #2 elite college, before graduating from ENA in 2004, age 27. He then worked as a senior civil servant at the Inspectorate General of Finances (The Treasury), before getting a high paid gig ad an investment banker at Rothschild & Cie Banque.

See how fast Macron worked his way into the senior civil servant position in the Treasury, before flipping into an exclusive investment bank? That is normal in France. It's a never-ending protected cycle of patronage, promotion, favors and cronyism.

Here’s another French word: parachutage. It is normal for young ENA graduates to be "parachuted" into senior civil service positions at a very young age, some as young as 25 years of age, without even interviewing for positions.

Imagine this. You’re an American, working in a French corporation. You're a very talented executive with 20 years experience and stellar performance reviews. Suddenly, your boss’s position becomes available. You apply.

A week later, a 26 year old is sitting in your old boss’s chair. Your new boss has been "parachuted" into the position.
That wouldn't happen here, would it?  I claim no prophetic gifts, but still,  "Just in case anybody wonders why tumbrels and pitchforks might be next."
Set up by de Gaulle just after WW2, the original concept was sound - to pool students of extreme talent and ability in one place, in order to create a new civil service that could re-build France.

It worked. Very talented patriots flocked to enter ENA and within a decade, the new French civil service had successfully rehabilitated France as a leading nation-state. From 1946 through 1973, France experienced what they describe as their trente glorieuses, nearly 30 years of economic success.

But by 1970, ENA’s meritocracy had become a self-replicating elite caste - and a ticket to the French ruling class. Astonishingly, every French President since de Gaulle has been an ENA graduate, excepting Georges Pompidou, who attended Sciences Po. Eight of the last ten French Prime Ministers have been enarques. All key civil service/government departments are run by enarques. How about business? 84% of the 546 top executives in France’s 40 biggest companies are graduates of a handful of elite colleges. 48% come from ENA and Sciences Po.

Get it? If you want to be part of the French ruling class, graduate from ENA or Sciences Po.

Otherwise, screw you.
The corporate suites aren't quite that closed in the United States, at least not yet.

Official Washington is another matter.
In any society, the right to authority is derived from some origin everyone understands: education, bloodlines, swords in lakes. What gives the people who run the place the right to run it? Why are the leaders the leaders?

More importantly, how well does the gatekeeping work? Do the steps for choosing leaders in a society put it on a path to peace, power, and prosperity? If everyone who runs Freedonia gets to hold a position of authority because she found a magic dingleberry on the hidden path, does finding a magic dingleberry on the hidden path demonstrate that a person has consistent and effective forms of practical knowledge?

In China, for many centuries, the path to authority ran through fields of formal knowledge and written exams. Good Confucian scholars ran local matters, really good Confucian scholars ran regional matters, and scholars who crushed their exams on Confucian principle took up their places as national administrators. A great bureaucrat was a great soul, deeply read and greatly inclined to sophistication in art, literature, and cuisine. It was expected that a capable vice-prefect, for example, would also be an exquisite poet.
For all the good that cultivation did the Middle Kingdom, despite their claims to having first invented gunpowder, and despite the possibility they once had globe-spanning sailing ships.
Elite scholar-officials faced the loss of their status and privilege, and the Empress Dowager Cixi led them in an effort to stop the proposed changes.

The backlash worked, the leading reformers were executed, most of the reforms were rolled back — and imperial China was destroyed by its reversion to a calcified politics. The last Chinese emperor abdicated in 1912; a short-lived republic gave way to a period of warlordism, civil war, and Japanese occupation, leading finally to the victory of the Chinese communists and the abattoir of the Great Leap Forward.
Yes, and when Ross Douthat is reduced to a "could be worse" apologia for the Ruling Class, it might be time to think that the Old Establishment ought recognize its obsolescence.
[M]eritocracy segregates talent rather than dispersing it. By plucking the highest achievers from all over the country and encouraging them to cluster together in the same few cities, it robs localities of their potential leaders — so that instead of an Eastern establishment negotiating with overlapping groups of regional elites (or with working-class or ethnic leaders), you have a mass upper class segregated from demoralized peripheries.

Second, the meritocratic elite inevitably tends back toward aristocracy, because any definition of “merit” you choose will be easier for the children of these self-segregated meritocrats to achieve.
It might take more than japing at the "incela corridor" to shame the self-styled meritocrats into letting emergence work its way.  Tyler Cowen, for the moment a solitary voice among the commentariat, might see it.
A quick comparison with 19th-century French culture, with its emphasis on progress, utopia and the rationalization of social systems, shows just how much the forward-looking perspective is lacking.

The one intellectual group that really gets what is going on right now are the much-maligned libertarians. For decades they have been told that they are too analytical, that they lack empathy, that they don’t have much to offer the public in the way of inspiration. For all the (mostly failed) attempts to pretend otherwise, that is mostly true — and libertarians have to hope that analytical perspectives become more ascendant.

The thing is, libertarians are used to dealing with this weakness. Neither the progressive left nor the more mainstream neoliberal crowd knows how to handle it. Because they can’t quite believe their vision is so weak and unappealing, they keep looking for another savior. Macron is the latest fall guy.
The Conventions of Polite Discourse, though, require that Candidates for High Office promise to "fight" for "solutions" and that Members of the Press press for "issues and answers."

Never mind that the French anger is boiling over into neighboring countries.
The nationalist movements in Europe are not the stirrings of proto-fascists, or due to hatred for refugees. Certainly there is some of that sentiment present and it is worrisome. But the ordinary people who are paying for the grandiose schemes of the social planners in Brussels have had enough. And they are finally rising up to demand an end to it.

This is a continent-wide class protest, something Europe has been experiencing for more than 100 years. In that, there is nothing new.

What is new is that the grand social democratic experiment that began after the end of World War II may finally be coming to an end. Governments can only spend other people's money for so long before there is a backlash. I would say that the backlash is well underway.
Yes, the smart technocrats must fail.
If I look at what is going on in my own community, it’s full of central planners. The smart people. Deciding for us.  Deciding for you.  Charting the course. Stamping out dissent. Creating or enforcing a closed network. Trying to control outcomes.

Free markets and people that are “free to choose” don’t need a captain to tell them what to do. They don’t need a leash so a centralized authority can control them. They don’t need a puppet master. They always work in the end although we cannot control what the end will look like. Free markets are really messy.

To climb out of the mess that is Illinois and the city of Chicago there is one way. It’s to respect the rights of the individual. Put a check on centralized bureaucrats and autocratic power at the state and local level. That’s how you create huge gains. Embracing a philosophy like that will reverse the out migration and continuing anemic economic growth in the state and city.
The state of Illinois being a Democratic satrapy, though, you know it's not going to turn out well.  "Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a group of suburban leaders on Tuesday called for a 20 to 30 cent per gallon increase in the state’s gas tax to fund a major statewide transportation bill."

Why?  Apparently because everybody else is.
“Our state can’t wait any longer,” Emanuel continued. “Over the last four years, we’ve been stuck in neutral and the states in the surrounding area — Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa just to name a few — have passed transportation bills with gas tax increases.” The mayor noted all of the states were controlled by Republican governors and legislatures at the time of the tax increases.

Illinois last raised the gas tax from 16 cents per gallon to 19 cents in 1990. Emanuel said raising the tax by 20 cents would be about the equivalent to inflation over the past 28 years. He said the group of mayors settled on a range of 20 cents to 30 cents to serve as a guideline for state lawmakers when they take up debate on the issue next year.

“For over a century, this region has been America’s crossroads for roads, rails and runways. The truth is it is a fundamental economic strength for the region and a job creator for the region,” Emanuel said. “And over the last 28 years, we have not been investing in that strength and it is beginning to show the wear and tear. Chicago and the greater Chicago metro area is losing some of the jobs and economic opportunity that would come if you had a 21st century transportation system to back up a 21st century economy.”
The mayor says France Illinois, but his intended beneficiary is Paris Chicago.
Emanuel noted that the city likely would then borrow against its share of the new funding to maximize the number of projects it could address. Emanuel, however, departs office on May 20, and those decisions would be left to the city’s next mayor.

Emanuel and the suburban leaders also called for state lawmakers to tie the gas tax to inflation moving forward so the funding source remains sustainable in the future. The group also called for the bulk of the money to be spent in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, with Emanuel noting that “80 percent of the state’s (gross domestic product) comes from the Chicago metro area economy.”

“We seriously need the Illinois General Assembly to look at what we can do to pass a capital bill,” said longtime Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke. “We have huge amounts of deferred maintenance on roads and highways. The suburbs are going to start shouting loud and clear that now is the moment to begin to have a strong transportation bill in the future of our region.”
I'm going to have to keep an eye on the inventory turnover of high-visibility vests at the local Farm and Fleet.

GETTING PSYCHED TO DO ECONOMICS.

Psychologist Julia Rohrer (via Marginal Revolution) recalibrates her intellectual equilibrium with a summer at an economics institute.

First, she notes that economics researchers might be able to successfully trade quantity of publications for quality.  "If one decided to arrange different (sub-)fields of research along a continuum from r-strategists (high quantity of low quality publications) to K-strategists (low quantity of high quality publications), many psych subfields would probably end up closer to the r end of the scale than econ." She also likes what she calls the "preprint culture" and the attendant job market paper.  I wonder if students prepare job market papers in part because editorial turnaround, particularly at the top journals, is sometimes slow.

Second, she isn't troubled with formal modelling per se.  "In contrast, many theories in the more social parts of psychology that I have encountered during my studies are soft as pudding, which means that no data could possibly shatter them. They are basically just collections of verbal statements that all more or less align with common sense." Yup.
[I]if you say systematic evidence is stronger than anecdotal evidence, perhaps you might understand how that status hierarchy emerged.  An aside: political discourse (journalism, if you will) is still more about the compelling stories, the stuff immediately seen, with the stuff that's not unseen not mentioned.
She then notices where that formal modelling leads.
At the poster session during the summer school, one faculty member marched up to one of the posters, interrupted the student before he could even properly start his spiel and asked: “Yes, but what’s the causal identification strategy here?” Now this might tell you something about the brashness of economists (in this case, the identification strategy took up a significant part of the poster), but it certainly tells you that economists mean business when they think about causality. A potentially exciting causal claim is only exciting when it’s convincing.
Yes, and convincing means taking seriously the challenge, "What evidence would convince you to abandon your conclusion," something that in her experience is more frequently replaced by "Sure, this is only a correlation, but how else would you explain this pattern?"

Finally, she's not put off by that "infamous argumentativeness" of economists (read: unruly workshops.)
I was mostly positively impressed by the rigorous discussion culture. Students would ask faculty members hard questions that potentially undermined the conclusions of their talks–not after the talk, but during it. And the faculty members always seemed very willing to take these hard questions seriously. I got the overall impression that both students and faculty were much more willing to consider potentially uncomfortable alternative interpretations of their data if they seemed like a real threat to their conclusions.
That's taking the "What evidence" challenge seriously.

In more theoretical settings, economists generally don't take challenges to their first-order conditions, or their equilibrium refinements, personally.  Policy World might not always work that way.

THEY COULD HAVE SHOWN HIM THROUGH THE PLANETARIUM.

Apparently graduating from tony Davidson College with a degree in basketball doesn't produce a functioning jive detector.
NASA wants Steph Curry to know that yes, the moon landing was real, and they're even inviting him to check out some space rocks to prove it.

During an interview on the podcast "Winging It," the Golden State Warriors star revealed that he doesn't believe the United States has been to the moon.
The people running NASA would like Thirty to visit Mission Control the next time the Warriors play the Rockets. (And why, dear reader, is the Houston basketball team called Rockets?)
"We'd love for Mr. Curry to tour the lunar lab at our Johnson Space Center in Houston, perhaps the next time the Warriors are in town to play the Rockets," NASA spokesperson Allard Beutel told the New York Times. "We have hundreds of pounds of moon rocks stored there, and the Apollo mission control. During his visit, he can see firsthand what we did 50 years ago, as well as what we're doing now to go back to the moon in the coming years, but this time to stay."
Just last week, Thirty was at Milwaukee Hamilton, but apparently his visit went from the library to the gym without going past the planetarium.  There used to be pictures of the lunar landings in the anteroom.

DOES YOUR MOTHER TALK ABOUT SKUNK URINE IN PUBLIC?

That's how unedifying public discourse has become.  John Kass has a lot more to say.
Trump won, publicly willing to accept blame for shutting down the federal government if he doesn’t get a paltry $5 billion for that wall he wants.

And now Chuck and Nancy have once again allowed Democrats to become the party of no-border security. Trump, who ran and won the White House on the promise of building his wall along the Mexican border, fashions himself as America’s Hadrian.

Hadrian actually built his wall. Trump just talks about building one.

The Nancy, Chuck and Trump show will continue, although the 36-month sentence handed down to Trump’s fixer lawyer Michael Cohen may at some point in the future derail this fine drama through impeachment.
Go around the internets, and you'll find images of the once and future Speaker strutting out of the White House, and acolytes of a certain age and (political) orientation claiming that's a victory walk.

There's a big overlap between such people and people who saw a cuckolded First Lady strutting out of a debate studio, and claiming she had there and then won the debate, and the presidency.

Sorry, no.  There's a reason Donald Trump won that election.
Democrats want unfettered illegal immigration, so the undocumented can be put on costly welfare and other social programs and thereby become a new crop of Democratic voters. It is a time-tested formula that has worked before. And the Republican establishment, which has long turned a blind eye to illegal immigration because their donors still want cheap labor, still hate Trump.
That's a familiar talking point on the populist Right: it may or may not be empirically valid.

Our President, however, ran on a platform that includes stiffer restrictions on immigration, secure borders, and a reduced reliance on Chinese toys at Christmas, and he's probably not bothered being seen advocating for those positions on national television.
American taxpayers?

A lot of them want a wall, they want an immediate stop to illegal immigration, and they don’t like being played.

Which is probably why, in their White House meeting, Nancy complained about the media being into the room.

“So, I don’t think we should have a debate in front of the press on this,” she said, repeating her media discomfort many times.

Happily, for that one day at least, the media weren’t the enemy of the people. They were enemy of the Pelosi and Schumer.

Clearly, Pelosi believes that certain topics, i.e., American border security, should never be discussed in front of the children.

And who are the children? The American people, seated at the kids table, so they won’t be troubled by troublesome grown-up talk. But Nancy? Not all American taxpayers yearn to be infantilized.
Democrats are past masters of using a lapdog press to do their spinning without any coaching, and it's Democrats in love with that "national family" metaphor as long as it is they being the nurturant parents.
The upshot of the Nancy, Chuck and Trump show the other day at the White House is that the president is willing to take credit for shutting down the government if he doesn’t get that money.

While many who “believe” in government as others “believe” in Christ might freak at the prospect of a government shutdown, it means only that unnecessary government workers will go on furlough, and get their checks, later.
Gotta love a guy who treats "belief" in government as if a matter of faith, and perhaps a false deity at that. (Read the rest of the column.)

At least for now, going full John Galt as in "fire your (nonessential) government workers" is still a theoretical possibility only.  Laura Hollis suggests that the credentialed establishment treat the insurgency as something real. "Europe should be a warning: Ordinary citizens have their limits, and when those limits are reached, revolutions happen."

She submits facts to a candid World.
Our elites have made their displeasure clear. The media spends 90 percent of its time criticizing President Trump for conduct they were happy to ignore or dismiss when it was done by a Democrat. Academics and entertainers routinely call Trump and those who voted for him “racist,” “sexist,” ”fascist” and worse. Robert Mueller’s “special investigation” machine chugs along, shifting gears (“Russia collusion!”; “Oops, no, obstruction of justice!”; “Nope, campaign finance!”; “OK, then, how about sexual infidelity?!”) whenever a paucity of facts for one claimed misdeed requires coming up with a different one. Career Republicans refuse to help the president, even if it means breaking their own campaign promises. Congressional Democrats seem to think that they can indict or impeach a duly elected president, and that the millions of people who elected Donald Trump will take it and walk away. And this is without mentioning the elites’ new consternation with things like the Bill of Rights, the and the U.S. Senate, or their determination to game the system and steal elections when they can’t win them fair and square.
For what it's worth, David Brooks, reliable voice of the alleged center on the Sunday shows, recognizes that there are citizens who have been hard done by.
Working-class men have been dropping out of the labor force at alarming rates. A generation ago, working-class families were about as likely to be part of religious communities as affluent Americans, but now their participation rates have plummeted. A generation ago, working-class families were nearly as likely to be married as affluent people, but now only half the children in working-class families will be raised in adolescence by stably married parents. From the 1970s to the 2000s, the share of working-class people aged 25 to 60 who were involved in a neighborhood organization fell from 71 percent to 52 percent.
This may not be the best time to complain that many of those neighborhood organizations were singled out as "exclusionary" in the wrong way, e.g. the Polish National Alliance becomes  "racist" and the Eagles Club "sexist;" and the churches bought too heavily into the Social Gospel and boutique ecumenism.  Let us consider that social science might have opportunities to work outside the usual disciplinary silos.
First, there used to be relatively little research attention paid to the working class at all. Now it’s the epicenter. Second, there used to be a silly debate over whether economics or culture explained social breakdown. Now these two elements are woven seamlessly together. Third, geography plays a much bigger role. Social problems are concentrated in specific places.

The authors of this report dismiss the policy slogans coming from the extremes. Building a wall is not a policy. Universal basic income degrades the work ethic that is at the core of working-class life. Free college is a massive subsidy for the upper middle class.
Good.

Perhaps the next intellectual frontier will be in people reflecting that the old Establishment and the old Way of Doing Things were both emergent: yes, the victory in the War was overwhelming, and yes, convincing the Soviet Union to see the follies in scientific socialism took intellectual effort, and yet both of those outcomes were not intended by any one Man of System or committee of Wise Experts.

12.12.18

NOBODY'S FREEZING ON THE TROLLEY.

It's the time of year for Santa Claus riding the trains.  We started Advent with a video of the Christmas Parade Train re-enactment on the East Troy Electric Railroad.

Here are a few still pictures of the event there.


The Elegant Farmer station at Phantom Woods is decked for the season.


The parade train waits at East Troy for authority to make a propelling movement to Phantom Woods.

Last weekend, the Fox River Trolley Museum got into the act.

The museum make use of original interurban trackage, in their case the Aurora Elgin and Fox River.  A biking and hiking trail has replaced the tracks south of the museum line.


Adaptive reuse: the old Five Islands bridge is a new structure, using the piers of the old railroad bridge.


In the same way that the dot-com bubble left the country with a lot of capital for cheap re-use, the interurban bubble left the country with a lot of opportunities to provide bike trails.

The Kane County Forest Preserve District and the museum collaborate on running the Polar Express trains.  Reservations are almost mandatory, as the trains sell out, and museum and preserve staff make every effort to seat families and large parties together.  The seats in the Spam Cans don't flip, but there are some facing sets of seats that help.


Yes, they encourage people to wear their jammies, including the adults, and there is hot chocolate and story telling once aboard.

Time for children of all ages to take a ride.


In the Cold Spring Shops area, three of the seasonal trains run on former interurban rights-of-way.  At South Elgin and East Troy, it's original interurban trackage.  At the Illinois Railway Museum, the seasonal train is a Chicago and North Western Commuter Streamliner, with decked halls decked, running on tracks where the Elgin and Belvidere interurban once ran.  The museum got that right of way by paying back property taxes on it.


THE GOOD NEWS IS THE BAD NEWS IS WRONG.

Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson takes on a myth.
The problem is to replace the simplistic conventional wisdom with this messy reality. It will be tough, because the status quo is more politically appealing. The story line is pointed: “The ultra-rich are destroying the middle class.”
Yes you could, as Mr Samuelson does, marshal points and figures.
By contrast with many advanced societies, income and wealth are indisputably more concentrated in the United States.

But to be useful, debate must reflect solid realities, not politically convenient sound bites. This is a challenge, because many Americans embrace the stagnation myth.

There are many reasons for this: (a) Wage gains in any year are so small, they don’t register — stagnation seems vindicated; (b) people don’t count employer- or government-provided health insurance — a big part of their compensation — because they rarely see the money; (c) political partisans on both sides have a vested interest in emphasizing stagnation — it’s a good campaign issue; and (d) income advances for most Americans are much slower today than in the past.

[Urban Institute economist Stephen] Rose hopes the facts will change opinions, but he is skeptical. “People are very closed-minded,” he said, “even though it’s so obvious that people have more and better things — especially with the whole computer-IT revolution.”
Perhaps, the choice of price indices and starting points for time series and all the econometric hazards that come in train is wonky, and perhaps the productivity gains of faster microprocessors are still as if revelations to the apostles.

The emergence of better things might be in the mundane.  Consider, for instance, how the maligned and hard-pressed millennial generation is ... rejecting American cheese.
The product, made famous by the greatest generation, devoured by boomers on the go and touted as the basis for macaroni and cheese, the well-documented love object of Gen X, has met its match with millennials demanding nourishment from ingredients that are both recognizable and pronounceable.

Don’t rely on anecdotal evidence. The data show it, too. U.S. sales of processed cheese, including brands like Kraft Singles and Velveeta, a mainstay of delicacies such as ballpark nachos, are projected to drop 1.6 percent this year, the fourth-straight year of declines, according to Euromonitor International.
The shifting demand is affecting the price of the feedstock. Who knew?
The end of the affair is also evident at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where 500-pound barrels of cheddar -- which are used to make American cheese -- are selling at a record discount to 40-pound cheddar blocks, the cheddar that shows up on party platters. That’s because demand for the cheese in the barrels has been dwindling for years, according to Alyssa Badger, director of operations at Chicago-based HighGround Dairy.
Yes, and Little Miss Muffet is hardest hit.
American cheese isn’t the point of a lot of the barrel production, Badger said. It’s for the byproduct whey, a staple of pricey protein shakes.
Yup, probably the same principle by which raising chicken with the purpose of selling nutritious chicken breast sandwiches made wings and drumettes available for hot wings.

Look at what has happened to the grilled cheese sandwich.
Gayle Voss, owner of Gayle V’s Best Ever Grilled Cheese in Chicago, takes two slices of fresh-baked sourdough and fills them not with American cheese but with Wisconsin-made butterkäse cheese. It’s made in small batches by farmers who know the names of their cows. It’s melty and slightly stretchy, and yes, buttery. It’s what people want these days, she said.

“I could buy preservative-filled cheese and butter,” Voss said. “But I’m all-out on supporting small businesses and offering a good, quality product, and the minute people bite into it, they know -- because it’s so good.” Pause here to imagine taking a bite of crunchy bread and melted cheese that forms a string as mouth and sandwich separate. “People want to know where their food is coming from,” she said, “and my sales reflect that.”

Voss said her husband will use Kraft Singles to whip up a quick sandwich for himself at home, something that cheeses her off. But it’s what he grew up with, she said.
Indeed. "What we want" was not the way children of Depression babies and War veterans in our G.I. Bill-mortgaged tract houses rolled.
Most Americans did. American cheese was born at a time when utility reigned. James and Norman Kraft invented processed cheese in 1916 and sold it in tins to the U.S. military during World War I. Soldiers kept eating it when they returned home and its popularity soared. It wasn’t until 1950 that Kraft perfected the slicing. Soon after came a machine that could individually wrap the slices, and in 1965, Kraft Singles were born.

Like Wonder Bread, society marveled at the uniformity of the product, the neatness of the slices, the long shelf life and its ability to stay moist even in the desert, in the middle of the summer, at noon.
Wonder Bread? Wonder what that wasHint: part of the fallout of the Hostess bankruptcy.

Check your privilege.

IT'S THE SEPARATION OF POWERS, STUPID.

There's nothing like an unconventional Trump presidency to get even self-styled progressives, usually high priests of the cult of the presidency, to rediscover enumerated and separated powers.  "The raging crescendo in the U.S. to impeach Trump or convict him of crimes is offensive."

Columnist Rick Salutin's elaboration is instructive.  "Marion Barry was a U.S. civil rights leader who got elected mayor of Washington D.C. in the ’80s. The FBI entrapped him in a crack sting and he went to jail. Then he got reelected. His slogan was, 'He isn’t perfect but he’s perfect for D.C.' Voters got the distinction."

Yes, sometimes playing to the base is a winning strategy, and Our President has already been doing so.  Perhaps that's his insurance policy. "In fact, Trump could be impeached, removed, run again in 2020 and win. It might even improve his chances."

11.12.18

MISALLOCATING PUBLIC MONEY?

Your tax dollars will be at work, attempting to fix the Chicago Circle expressway interchange.

First, there will be four more years of construction delays, with the attendant congestion.
That’s the word from the Illinois Department of Transportation, which has been rebuilding what used to be known as the Circle Interchange or, informally, the “spaghetti bowl,” since 2014. The finish date for the project had originally been projected at 2019. IDOT now expects it to be complete in 2022.

IDOT engineers warn that the biggest impact to traffic is coming in the summer of 2020, when a major ramp will need to be closed. This is the ramp from the inbound Eisenhower Expressway to the northbound Kennedy Expressway, which sees 26,000 cars a day.

Why is the project taking so long? It involves three different interstates, a constricted urban area, working around the CTA Blue Line, multiple bridges, a city water pumping station and the need to keep traffic flowing in a spot that sees 400,000 vehicles every day, said Steve Travia, engineer for project implementation at IDOT.
Not too long ago, there was a rebuild in the spaghetti bowl to move that ramp from the left side to the right side of the expressways, in order to reduce the incidence of drivers diving to the left at the last minute, something that the Wise Experts of Highway Engineering discovered was a Design Flaw a previous cohort of Wise Experts didn't see. There are still drivers diving to the right at the last minute, whether because they're clueless or because that's their strategy ...

In part the rebuilding, if that's what it is, has been delayed because other parts of the road network are past their sell-by date.
IDOT also needed to move up the rebuilding of the Interstate 55 and Lake Shore Drive interchange, because of structural problems that needed immediate attention. That meant that some of the Eisenhower work on the Jane Byrne was delayed so that the state would not have two critical access points into the city under construction at the same time, IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said. The I-55 work ended late last year.
Apparently, even the previous replacements of the left-side lanes wasn't enough, as they were so narrow that a disabled semi could block them.  Just another hidden subsidy to the motor carriers, and there are a lot of them on that interchange.  "The junction has been rated as the biggest freight bottleneck in the nation by the Federal Highway Administration."  How much of that is container traffic being rubbered from one railroad intermodal facility (Union Pacific and Burlington just west of there; New York Central, er, Norfolk Southern, a few miles south) to another?  And how much of that is on rubber because the railroads haven't yet gotten their act together moving containers around or through Chicago, or can't protect the cargo from the local sticky-fingers?

Apparently, though, part of being spokesman for the highway department is attempting to put a happy face on things, once the work is done, supposedly by 2021.  "Improvements to the junction are expected to reduce traffic delays by more than 50 percent, according to IDOT."

Sorry, no.

SOME VICTIMS DESERVE TO BE BLAMED.

First, some background. It's prudent to consider that people who confront difficult circumstances might respond to them differently.  In Trendy Circles, though, calling out people for Blaming The Victim can cross the line into rationalizing, excusing, or condoning dysfunction, or mau-mauing people who Don't Toe The Party Line.  "[S]ay anything about lottery outlets and thirty year old grandmothers and tribal conflicts disguised as drug wars and rampant delinquency in the big cities, and at a minimum, you're likely to be denounced for 'blaming the victim' and you might find yourself up on charges for 'dog whistling' that becomes some imagined -ism or -phobia and grounds for sanctions up to banishment."

Normals, however, are fair game no matter how difficult their circumstances become.  "Hillary Clinton Says Europe Must ‘Get a Handle’ on Migration to Thwart Populism."

Perhaps that's just gaffe-prone Hillary being gaffe-prone Hillary.  She is, after all, the failed presidential candidate who consigned a large portion of the electorate to the basket of deplorables, but that didn't really come as much of a surprise, she, also, famously touted her work as a lawyer by turning the baking of cookies into a pejorative.
With a single response in 1992 to a question about her legal career, Hillary Clinton became a radical feminist in her critics’ imagination, the Lady Macbeth who was an affront to the choices so many other women had made.

“I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession,” she said during Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign.

The blowback was intense and she spent weeks apologizing, saying that she respected women who chose to stay at home and raise children.
All that crack did was contribute to the discrediting of the 1970s cohort of feminists, who never did figure out how to make the case that expanding the opportunity set of women to include the law (and engineering, and aeronautics, and the rest) did not have to denigrate the stay-at-home moms as "just a housewife."  But I digress.  This is a contemporary post about gaffe-prone Hillary.
The more you pull back the layers on Hillary, you’ll see that she holds disdain for anyone who isn’t part of her inner political circle. She views conservatives as ignorant rabble who are beneath her contempt. Moreover, she sees migrants — either legal or illegal — as just a means to political ends.
Look closely, though: she's blaming the victims of Europe's open borders, which is to say the normal Europeans who have to bear the brunt of the New Dispensation.
Europe’s leaders need to send a much stronger message that they will no longer offer “refuge and support” to migrants if they want to curb the right-wing populism spreading across the Continent, Hillary Clinton warned in an interview published Thursday.

Mrs. Clinton said that while the decision of some nations to welcome migrants was admirable, it had opened the door to political turmoil, the rise of the right and Britain’s decision to withdraw from the European Union.
That set off critics to her left, for whom the old Democrat party isn't third-world-friendly enough.
The rise of xenophobic, right-wing extremists intent on stoking bigotry and prejudice against foreigners in Europe and elsewhere has startled observers around the world—but former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton angered critics Thursday when she revealed her belief that the onus lies with European leaders to curb migration in order to appease those same extremists, rather than to protect the rights of asylum seekers.

In an interview with the Guardian, the 2016 presidential candidate perfectly illustrated the rift between so-called centrist Democrats and progressives as she suggested Europe should end its attempts to resettle the world's 25.4 million refugees whose home countries have become unlivable due to war, unrest, and poverty—frequently thanks to actions by the U.S. and its European allies.

"I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame" of right-wing power in Europe, Clinton told the Guardian. "I admire the very generous and compassionate approaches that were taken particularly by leaders like Angela Merkel, but I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message—'we are not going to be able to continue provide refuge and support'—because if we don't deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic."

Clinton's comments drew immediate criticism from European leaders and progressive Americans, who in addition to calling for Democrats to stand with refugees as they exercise their internationally-recognized right to seek asylum, denounced her remarks as a capitulation to extremists like President Donald Trump and his European counterparts.
Note how easy it is to blame the developed countries, to call out misbehavior on the part of European voters, and to suggest that public officials ought not be accountable to their voters, rather than to suggest that the migrants make an effort to adopt the customs of their new home, or perhaps to work to improve conditions in their countries of origin.  "What they are actually enabling is the plundering of the first world by the third and the destruction of civilization and the engine of creation and production that has lifted most of the world population to a level our ancestors would consider unimaginable wealth."

The "populism" Mrs Clinton fears is simply popular sovereignty.  Europe isn't dealing with huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
If there was a moment when public sentiment about mass migration began to swing, as if on a hinge, it came in the days after New Years’ Eve 2015-16. Hundreds of women reported having been sexually assaulted by gangs of immigrants in the center of Cologne that night, but police took such pains to play down the attacks that news of the disorder did not reach newspapers for days. Notoriously, the city’s mayor advised women to avoid such unpleasantness in the future by keeping suspicious-looking men “at arm’s length.”
Wait, what, it's not a microaggression to lock your car doors on skeevy streets or be alert to who is on the elevator?  You can't deplorable-shame voters into going along with transnational cosmopolitanism.  "Liberalism [meaning transnational cosmopolitanism] and democracy have come into conflict. 'Populist' is what those loyal to the former call those loyal to the latter."

It might be better for Europeans, including the self-styled progressives, to use electoral means rather than to make the populists angry.
Don’t let Europe’s current round of playing pacifist dress-up fool you: This is the continent that perfected genocide and ethnic cleansing, the happy-go-lucky slice of humanity that brought us such recent hits as the Holocaust and Srebrenica.

THE historical patterns are clear: When Europeans feel sufficiently threatened – even when the threat’s concocted nonsense – they don’t just react, they over-react with stunning ferocity. One of their more-humane (and frequently employed) techniques has been ethnic cleansing.
That's Ralph Peters, who hopes that North American traditions of assimilation will still have some purchase.
The United States attracts the quality. American Muslims have a higher income level than our national average. We hear about the handful of rabble-rousers, but more of our fellow Americans who happen to be Muslims are doctors, professors and entrepreneurs.

And the American dream is still alive and well, thanks: Even the newest taxi driver stumbling over his English grammar knows he can truly become an American.

But European Muslims can’t become French or Dutch or Italian or German. Even if they qualify for a passport, they remain second-class citizens. On a good day. And they’re supposed to take over the continent that’s exported more death than any other?

All the copy-cat predictions of a Muslim takeover of Europe not only ignore history and Europe’s ineradicable viciousness, but do a serious disservice by exacerbating fear and hatred. And when it comes to hatred, trust me: The Europeans don’t need our help.
The insurgency in France shows no signs of stopping.  There are echoes of the Democratic court intellectuals in M. Macron's urban base, smugly ensconced in their coffee houses and art galleries.
They are men and women in their 30s and 40s — affluent, well-educated, in competitive jobs, able to afford the crazy rents in places like Paris, Bordeaux or Lyon.

Safe in gentrified neighborhoods, they welcome “diversity” and see themselves as morally superior. They welcomed a president in their own image, especially as he faced the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, the perfect foil, in last year’s election.
Somebody else has to live in the "changing" neighborhoods and deal with the diversity on the ground.
For years, [les déplorables] have seen their livelihoods threatened — by plant closures, inflation, the disappearance of public services like small train lines, hospitals, schools and local post offices. They need their cars, however old and beat-up, to drive their kids to school, to shop, to find and hold a job.

Their lives are fenced in by an ever-growing skein of nanny-state regulations. Before the fuel tax, there was the unpopular rollback of the speed limit on France’s roads to 80 kilometers (49 miles) per hour from 90 (56). The same week, bureaucrats added dozens of new requirements for vehicles, forcing many cars off the road. Macron’s government offered drivers a $4,500 bonus to buy electric cars: a Marie-Antoinette moment seen as an insult by [them].
The insurgency is apparently spreading to Belgium and the Netherlands as well.

While the thought of Brussels eurocrats cowering in their offices or pushing to get onto the last helicopter out, ominous signs proliferate in the United States as well.
Voters are searching for answers that the politicians aren't giving them. The frustration level is building and there is no consensus - no middle ground to find. It is either total victory or nothing.

Americans are generally slow to anger but one can sense a palpable unease in most of the country, from urban centers to the heartland. Meanwhile, government continues to grow and with the Democrats now in charge of the House, it is only going to get bigger.

Will the next economic downturn see Americans from both parties taking to the streets? I wouldn't rule it out at all.
Particularly if, as I fear, the Democrats and their enablers in entertainment, the news services, and higher education continue to be down for blaming victims if they happen to be privileged for the wrong reasons.