31.7.19

THANKS, UNION PACIFIC.

The July Big Boy chase is over. On Tuesday, Extra 4014 West passed through DeKalb and made a servicing stop at Rochelle.

A traffic jam of Chicagoan proportions ensued.  I planned previously to avoid the crowds, having had ample opportunity to mix and mingle on previous segments of the trip, and steered well around Rochelle to Franklin Grove, on the sunny side of the tracks.


The spectators trackside are representative of what we've observed everywhere Big Boy went.

Does it matter that most of the public thinks of steam locomotives and great passenger trains?  No.  (Big Boy was built to roll a hundred refrigerator cars at a mile a minute across the Wasatch Range and Sherman Hill.  Smaller power, such as Challengers and 4-12-2s, took over east of Cheyenne.)

Does it matter that a big steam locomotive is impressive at speed?  Yes.  (What else in transportation is simultaneously as big and noisy and accessible?  Would you really get this close to a taxiing B-29, for instance?)

We'll have more reflections on the public reaction anon.  Now it's time to tend to some of the chores that I've neglected while the game was afoot.

KUDOS.

Former Northern Illinois basketball team captain Ally Lehman, now commissioned a Lieutenant and posted to the Airborne, has played her way onto the All-Army Women's Basketball Team, which gave the Army bragging rights for intra-service rivalries.

Graduating team captain Mikayla Voigt, who recently successfully sat her nursing boards, is the Mid-American Conference nominee for NCAA Woman of the Year.

Their team-mates recorded a 3.51 team cumulative grade point average for the academic year just ended, good for listing among the Academic Top 25 Team Honor Roll, the only Mid-American basketball program so named.

They continue to rally with growing confidence, which could make for an entertaining winter.

Good work, kids.

29.7.19

MAYBE THERE'S NOT ENOUGH FOR-PROFIT IN MEDICINE.

Presidential aspirant Kamala Harris is taking fire from her left.  "Single-payer advocates on Monday accused Sen. Kamala Harris of hijacking the Medicare for All label to push an alternative that would fail to fundamentally overhaul America's for-profit healthcare system."

Here's what her critics understand "for-profit" to mean.
"Instead of completely replacing private coverage with a government-run, single-payer system based on traditional Medicare," the New York Times reported, "Ms. Harris would allow people to choose plans modeled on Medicare Advantage, which would be run not by the government but by private insurers."

Michael Lighty, a founding fellow at the Sanders Institute think tank and an activist with the Democratic Socialists of America's Medicare for All campaign, told Common Dreams that Harris's proposal would leave intact some of the harmful components of the profit-driven status quo.

"The alternatives put forth to single-payer Medicare for All—whether it's 'Medicare for America' or Medicare buy-ins, and now Senator Harris's alternative—rely on for-profit HMOs known as Medicare Advantage," said Lighty. "These plans restrict access to certain providers, charge seniors more for out of network care, and a receive an extra subsidy from the government."

"Hugely profitable and fast-growing, they keep insurers in charge," Lighty added. "Since under Senator Harris's plan an HMO, or other private commercial insurer, will continue to determine coverage and doctors for millions of people—and profit from denials of care—that's not healthcare as a human right."
"Networks" and third-party payment franchises are denials of opportunities to seek profit by offering trade-tested betterments.

True believers, however, have trouble recognizing that.
Splinter's Libby Watson argued in an analysis of Harris's plan Monday that there "should be no role for profit in the healthcare system, and the level of profit that insurance companies currently enjoy—the top insurers raked in more than $7 billion in profits in just one quarter last year—is obscene."

"You can either take on the insurance industry and protect patients, or you can tiptoe around them and allow them to keep profiting off patients," Watson wrote. "There's no middle ground."
Perhaps you could change the rules in such a way as to encourage insurers to compete for patients, and to encourage health care practitioners to compete in a more transparent way, rather than maintaining multiple sets of tariffs, depending on whether a patient is known to have a lot of cash, has an insurer who has negotiated favorable but not unreasonable rates, or is a Medicare or Medicaid client that might have been accepted on a slow business day.

Let me conclude this tale with a bit of Medicare arcana.  I recently signed up for Medicare, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but a quarterly Part B bill.  That's right, dear reader, there are Part B premiums, which, I suspect, are invisible to many pensioners as it's possible to sign up for "Social" "Security" concurrently with Medicare, and have those Part B premiums withheld from those transfer payments.  The State of Illinois can withhold Medicare tax from employee paychecks, and from pensions of those younger than 65, but they can't (for some odd reason) withhold Part B payments.  There's also something called an Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount, based off your adjusted gross income of two years ago.  That offers all sorts of opportunities for fooling around with the tax code.

A few weeks ago, Crazy Bernie attempted to be funny (in that condescending Democrat way) by offering some witticism about how much people like paying their insurance bills, that as a way of pushing the idea that those millionaires and billionaires and corporations would be paying for that universal Medicare.

I doubt it.  He's got that Income Related Monthly Adjustment to meddle with.

Why not try more commercial freedom, starting with interstate sales of insurance policies?

CIRCUS IMPRESARIOS UNDERSTOOD DIVERSITY.

I really, really, resent any comparisons of the antics of the political classes to a circus or to a clown act.  (Take George Will.  Please?  "The Democratic presidential circus pitches its tent in Detroit this week.")  Perhaps that's my recent career as a model circus impresario, with opportunities to interact with circus professionals, revealing itself.  Or perhaps that comes from my understanding of the educational role of the itinerant circus.  Clowns and elephant trainers work hard at their craft; contemporary area studies types mail it in.

The real foolishness emanates from Student Affairs.
Colorado State University’s Inclusive Language Guide instructs students “to avoid” using the words “America” and “American,” because doing so “erases other cultures.”

“The Americas encompass a lot more than the United States,” the guide states. “There is South America, Central America, Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean just to name a few of 42 countries in total.”

“That’s why the word ‘americano’ in Spanish can refer to anything on the American continent. Yet, when we talk about ‘Americans’ in the United States, we’re usually just referring to people from the United States. This erases other cultures and depicts the United States as the dominant American country.”

The guide advises students to use the words “U.S. citizen” or “person from the U.S.” instead of “American.”
Tell me something I don't know.


That's a detail of Barnum and Bailey's America Tableau wagon, currently the big steam calliope at Circus World.  It's one of at least two continent tableau wagons built by Sebastian Wagon for the Barnum and Bailey's resumption of North American tours.  (Eastern dandies were already a thing in 1902, apparently.)  Like many circus wagons, this underwent several rebuildings (in this case, from a platform with a sculpture above to an enclosure for the calliope) and served in several circuses, ultimately becoming the Cole Brothers' calliope.

Children of all ages ought to understand the meaning of words in context, according to Kat Timpf.
I actually outright reject that simply using the word “America” or “American” actually has the power to erase another culture. Everyone who’s older than five understands that “the Americas” encompass more than just the United States, and using the word “America” to describe the United States doesn’t just erase those cultures. I have never once, for example, asked for “American cheese” on my egg sandwich and had that cause me to totally forget that Mexico and Canada exist. In fact, I will go as far as to say that I don’t think that my use of the word has itself caused even the slightest amount of harm to even a single other country.
Strictly speaking, that's Eastern American cheese, but I digress.

Student Affairs types, though, exist to be able to push people around.  Thus, they can tell you not to say "American" or to go from "Latino" to "Latin@" (do you pronounce that as "Latinate," as in the Mass?) and now to "Latinx" (does that sound like "Latinshch?" with the trailing "x" pronounced as in Teixeira?) or that there are 57 genders (surely too many kinds of condiment, but who said consistency matters?)  At the same time, they can compress all sorts of continental or insular origins into the aggregate called "Asian, Pacific Islander."


The Asia Tableau is also from that Sebastian production line for Barnum and Bailey,  also originally built as a platform for a tableau vivant around a sculpture that appears to have been inspired by statuary at Ankgor Wat, and later converted into a box wagon, but never equipped with a calliope.  Decorated box wagons served double duty, transporting additional props or baggage whilst looking good in a parade or outside the menagerie.  Twelve portraits don't quite capture all the human variety of Asia, although they surely give the idea.

I noticed that those guidelines also suggest avoiding "ladies and gentlemen" for reasons that strike me as obscurantist in the extreme.  It's probably simpler to refer to anybody in Student Affairs with the greeting, "children of all ages."

CONSERVING ON BRAKING AND ACCELERATION.

Tyler "Marginal Revolution" Cowen discovers how skipping stops works.  "Acela Nonstop will get you to your destination only about 15 minutes sooner than the regular Acela service."

Why should the Acela Nonstop be any different from the nonstop Metroliner experiment of forty years ago, which attempted to make Washington, mostly without success, from New York in 150 minutes?  The ordinary service had trouble making the run, inclusive of stops at Newark, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore (and the Metropark and Capital Beltway stations) in three hours.

That non-stopper?  Two hours and 29 minutes, in other words a governor error faster than the old Metroliner.  (That service didn't last, as it passed up a lot of the Baltimore to Philadelphia or Philadelphia to New York or Wilmington to anywhere business.  I wonder if a rising politician called Biden raised objections.)

North of New York, all of Acela's end-to-end time advantage is in skipped stops compared with more ordinary trains.

But nobody wants to put any money into more direct trackage.  News flash: widening the turnpikes isn't going to help either.

THE LIGHT BULB HAS TO WANT TO CHANGE.

Our President recently took on long-term Member of Congress Elijah Cummings for being a vocal critic of various Presidential Ambitions, whilst his Baltimore area constituents suffer.  Columnist R. J. Rail is cheering Our President on.
Decent Americans of all colors have silently watched out-of-control black criminals destroy city after city because raising any questions, doubts or objections bring down storms of career-destroying, job-ending accusations of white racism or Uncle Tomism.

This is the race conversation America has needed for so long, a conversation where black destructiveness and visceral hatred of anything not black gets called out and held to account rather than excused and let go. For decades in the inner-city thugs have murdered, raped, and destroyed with impunity as beleaguered police come under attack for doing their jobs.

We get the distinct impression that black “leaders” like Elijah Cummings deliberately keep things roiling and boiling so they can siphon off a share of the billions of federal dollars that have gone to cities across America without the promised improvement.

What we have here is failure to assimilate. The black inner city doesn’t accept anything about America and it’s time to do something about it.
I've agreed with the general outlines of this argument, for instance noting, "Bobby and Gwen and John and Maxine are much more effective at campaign speeches about 'fighting' for jobs and schools than at insisting on schools that expect a level of responsibility out of young people that might make employers enthusiastic about hiring graduates, rather than fleeing those districts for more business-friendly climes."  Because many of these long-serving representatives of chronically poor districts have a long history of being involved in The Struggle, one dasn't criticize them too loudly without being mau-maued for impermissible attitudes.  Our President might be encouraging others, such as Mr Rail, and Issues and Insight's John Merline, to raise their voices, never mind the heat they get.
[W]henever the desperate conditions of these cities get discussed, they’re treated either as if these problems simply fell out of the sky, that somehow Republicans are to blame, or that more taxpayer money will solve everything. The connection to liberal policies never gets made.

So, rather than focus on Baltimore and Cummings, Trump would do well to point out that it’s decades of Democratic rule that have destroyed some of the country’s finest cities. High taxes and intrusive regulations make them inhospitable to business. Government control and union cronyism encourage waste and corruption. Soft-on-crime attitudes lead to more crime, drug abuse, and rampant homelessness.
Prior to Our President's social media action, Right Wisconsin editorialist George Mitchell raised a related topic.
An unstated but significant implication [of much research into urban poverty and despair] is that prospects for many Milwaukee Blacks are subject largely to factors beyond their control. That is, with little chance for meaningful reduction in segregation, higher levels of violence are a given.

The alternative view — that Blacks have a primary role in shaping their lives — is fraught with potential for controversy. Any suggestion to that effect by a white person is guaranteed to spur charges of racial bias. This effectively silences voices — Black and white. It results in a narrow, constricted public discussion about how to address seemingly intractable problems.

The upshot is a disproportionate emphasis on actions that assume government has the primary role. The main losers in that dialogue are citizens who have accepted the view that their future primarily is tied to actions of elected officials in Madison and Washington.
It's more helpful for those voters to recognize that their continued poverty is the continued basis for those officials being returned to office. But, as I noted some time ago, Mr Mitchell (and arguably any writer for a conservative or libertarian opinion shop, irrespective of ancestry) is likely to be subjected to a privilege check.
[U]ntil Republicans or Libertarians can come up with arguments that will convince people rendered helpless by years of Democrat governance (a veto-proof Senate, a Democrat House, broad popular support for a new president, and still no economic recovery, let's get the message out!) the MSNBC crowd can limit its interest in Congressional elections to cracking wise about alleged dog-whistles.  Refugees from areas ruined by Democrat policies require no dog whistles.  Nor are they likely to have the same faith in the Cult that coastal pundits continue, naively, to exhibit.
It's got to start with the people in the districts represented by the tenured ward-heelers to recognize their agency.
Brooklyn Harris didn't cry much. She didn't get into things she shouldn't.

She played with her dolls and brightened up rooms. Her grandma called her "Smiley."

"She was just a happy little baby," said Lasangna Marie Ferguson-Fields, Brooklyn's grandmother.

The 3-year-old girl was shot and killed in what police believe to be a road rage incident Saturday morning. The shooting occurred near North 42nd Street and West Townsend Avenue after Brooklyn's mother drove away from a curb. A man in a black SUV shattered the back windshield with bullets, striking Brooklyn in the head.
It's not on Donald Trump, or on Wisconsin representative Gwen Moore, to keep children from being collateral damage in the streets, or sometimes, just sleeping in the wrong place at home.
For now, the grandmother is urging community members to contact police to mediate issues rather than using a gun to solve it themselves. She said they need to "think before they do stuff."

"We just have memories to go by and try to keep her smile living inside of us," Ferguson-Fields said.

Shawndell Harris said he feels sorry he couldn't protect his daughter.

"I always told my kids I would be there so nothing happened to them," he said. "It's going to take a long time to get through this one."

"I know my baby is in heaven right now," Harris said. "It's not safe down here for nobody."
Just because members of the political class, up to the president himself, have poor impulse control is not good reason for people, even in difficult circumstances, to lack control themselves.

HIGHER EDUCATION DECLINES THE SAME WAY THE RAILROADS (AND BIG STEEL) DID.

It's not as if the decline hasn't been evident for at least fifteen years.
Now compare a news story from today's Northern Star, featuring the effects of an imbalance between spending and utilization (economists understand simultaneous equations, don't you see) in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Professor Alexander Gelman, director of the School of Theater and Dance, notes, "In another year, year and a half, equipment will fall apart and faculty will be exhausted." Something similar happened to the railroads in the late 1960s: there was simply insufficient money to handle the routine maintenance, and the payloads got heavier and the tracks deteriorated and the trains moved more slowly, if at all. Professor Gelman, again: "Our faculty is very committed. Anyone can weather a storm, but if this sets in long-term, I am sure there will be exodus. Quality people want to work with quality equipment." That's what happened on the railroads, too. There are limits to how long people will put up with nights away from home in shabby hotels, and being subject to duty immediately upon completion of one's rest period, and it doesn't matter how many cute kids wave to you at the crossings or how well your students do, and in the universities everyone understands that the way to get a big boost in your pay is to get an outside offer.
Or that we understand how the usual nostrums don't work.
A common misconception among students, particularly business majors, and not a few practitioners, is that mergers allow the merging companies to achieve economies of scale. (Please don't get me started on "leveraging synergies" and "reinforcing core competencies" and all that other horsehockey wordnoise that passes for corporate speak these days.)

I pose a simple challenge to the students. Consider a steel company with a collection of dinky plants ("dinky" is a technical term meaning the plant has not achieved the scale economies available at the plant level) that merges with another steel company that also has a collection of dinky plants. Even the dullest least motivated among them quickly grasp that the resulting company is simply a larger collection of dinky plants. (This example works particularly well at Rust Belt universities near such forlorn hopes as National Steel and LTV Steel.)

Or, consider the mergers of weak railroads that many railroad managements saw as a panacea during the years of decline (1950-1980). A merger of competing railroads requires a rethinking of the system that often involves steep transition costs. (Penn Central is the worst case but by no means the only case. Union Pacific's troubles incorporating Southern Pacific come to mind.) A merger of connecting railroads simply connects weakness to weakness. (Norfolk and Western is not a counterexample. Virginian was a coal conveyor, and Wabash and Nickel Plate good at expediting freight.) Per corollary, that is a larger collection of weaknesses.
Let's include the New Haven in Penn Central, er, Marlboro College as the Vermont Division of the University of Bridgeport.
[Marlboro president Kevin] Quigley cited as two key issues facing Marlboro enrollment numbers and the discounting of student tuition -- which he hopes the merger will help mitigate. Marlboro will continue to offer its programming on its own campus, and Quigley said Bridgeport will create programs in which students in health sciences, engineering and business would have an “immersive experience” in liberal arts for either a semester or a full year. Quigley said Marlboro students will have the chance to take advantage of Bridgeport’s programs as well.

“We want to really prepare students for the future world of work. The idea is, let’s say a student at Bridgeport is studying something like engineering. You would benefit from spending a semester at Marlboro immersed in the humanities and the arts -- taking some courses in physics or chemistry -- but also having some exposure to Socrates and maybe do a course in dance or the visual arts,” Quigley said. “As educators we firmly believe that will help students prepare for the future world of work.”

Quigley said Marlboro’s process of searching for a partner like Bridgeport tried to model the one used by Wheelock, which in 2017 merged into Boston University in what was considered a relatively smooth merger. The number of mergers and acquisitions being undertaken in higher education has grown significantly in this decade compared to previous ones.
There is no management fad that ever gets past it's sell-by date.  Would you believe, an internal headline reading "1 + 1 = 3?"
Laura Skandera Trombley, president of the University of Bridgeport, is no stranger to small liberal arts colleges. She was previously president at Pitzer College, part of the Claremont Colleges of California. In a news release, Trombley said both institutions will benefit greatly from the merger. Bridgeport will reserve the greater of five seats or the number required to achieve 15% of the Board’s composition to include current Marlboro College Trustees, Trombley said.

“At a time of hypercompetition and swift change in higher education, our two unique institutions are demonstrating a new paradigm for colleges and universities of the future,” said Trombley. “In strategically combining the shared values, strengths and resources of the University of Bridgeport and Marlboro College, we are proactively ensuring an extraordinarily enriched academic experience for current and future generations of students.”
Business bafflegab, strategically spoken for ever and ever, world without end.  Marlboro faculty, however, come off more like long-term employees of New Haven or the Rock Island, expressing gratitude that they stay employed a little longer.

A LAMENT FOR OUR TIME.

Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds reminds readers of an absolutely hilarious Uri Friedman essay from 2016, when Donald Trump alone might have understood the extent to which the Political Class would do anything, absolutely anything, to ensure that Hillary Clinton would take the Oath of Office.
Winners do not suppress losers, which means losers can hope to be winners in the future. As a result, the losers’ doubts about the legitimacy of the political system gradually recede as they prepare for the next election.

But if the losing candidate doesn’t uphold his or her side of the bargain by recognizing the winner’s right to rule, that acute loss of faith in democracy among the candidate’s supporters can become chronic, potentially devolving into civil disobedience, political violence, and a crisis of democratic legitimacy. How the loser responds is especially critical because losers naturally have the most grievances about the election.
Shattered suggests that the Russian tampering story started immediately after the electoral vote tally became clear.

Professor Reynolds notes, "The behavior of our political class in this regard since then has been deeply, criminally irresponsible and is in itself proof that it is unfit."  Turf them out!

28.7.19

ON THEIR WORKBENCH.

The National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin, recently received a grant to restore the eight section - four special bedroom - drawing room composite car Joseph Lister.

The car has been in the museum's collection since 1988, although it didn't register with me on the various occasions I had passed through.  Apparently Chicago and North Western, which marshalled the Pullman in the overnight Chicago - Rochester Rochester Special, kept it around as a tool car for work trains until the museum had a chance to get it.  Previous attempts to find a benefactor for the car didn't succeed.

Look closely, the car was equipped, some time after it was built, with air conditioning.


Closest to the camera: women's restroom and lounge, the four special bedrooms (the wide pier panel supports the partition between each of two rooms that can be combined en suite), the drawing room and its annex, four sections and the men's restroom and lounge.

Pullman did not air condition the corridor areas of cars.  On this side are the doors intended to move stretcher patients (or perhaps passengers in iron lungs) into the special bedrooms.  Another such door was adjacent to Section Two.


Look closely, the air duct ends above the four sections on this side, identifiable by the paired windows.

The museum has lots of work for its workbench, as do I.


What's a Pullman assigned to Chicago and North Western service doing on my unapologetically New England railroad?  The sides happened to be in a bundle I bought to get a solarium car suitable for my State of Maine (Express) consist.  I'll assign it to a camp train, which, until the development of the polio vaccine, was part of the efforts of parents to keep their kids away from the summer outbreaks.

Look for progress reports on mine here, and for updates on the museum's efforts as they come to my attention.

SHE DOESN'T HAVE A PLAN FOR THIS.

"Notable and Quotable" in The Wall Street Journal finds a quote from Elizabeth "Fauxahontas" Warren way back in December, 2003, probably on a day when public radio's programming was more soporific than normal.  She was talking about people rendering themselves house-poor as a way of exercising school choice, perhaps commenting on the research that later made its way into The Two Income Trap.  "They're trying to buy schools.  The public school system has failed middle-class families, especially anywhere near metropolitan areas.  And so, unlike a family a generation ago who could buy a house based on what they thought they could afford and then send the kids to the school down the street and count on everything working out, today's family shops school district, school district, school district, school district.  And the problem is they're paying a real premium for it."

Yes, school district test scores are capitalized into house prices, and yes, often, your good school district comes bundled with a granite countertop, that being the way positional arms races work.

The problem is half a century of technocratic interventions in which the middle classes had to bear the brunt of mainstreaming the delinquents and desegregating the neighborhood schools didn't work out so well.  Those who could get out, got out.

27.7.19

DON'T YOU HEAR THAT WHISTLE DOWN THE LINE?

Big Boy passes the coal wharf at Clyman Junction, Wisconsin.


Concrete coaling docks are expensive to tear down, and they last a long time.

It's likely that there will be a lot of photographers attempting a similar sort of view in DeKalb this Tuesday.  Bad luck that she's due in the morning, heading west.

Me, I know a comfortable spot removed from the madding crowd, and I'll watch the impatient people from there.

PRO WRESTLING IS MORE GENUINE.

Last Sunday, I had the car radio tuned to "Face the Nation," which began with a notorious segment involving deputy moderator Margaret Brennan and Wyoming Member of Congress Liz Cheney.


Ryan Saavedra (Daily Wire) and Tim Graham (News Busters) raised the protest flag.  "Cheney can't seem to complete a sentence half the time. How does Brennan think this doesn't make her and CBS look unfair and unbalanced?"  The show transcript, in case you want to do your own research.  The representative pushed back well.  In particular, I like this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But, on Iran--

REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY: Listen, you just continue to sort of put these little points out there and then move on. And every time you do it you are making the point I am making. As Republicans we are focused on substance. We are focused on policy and we will continue to do that no matter what the mainstream media attempts to do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Unfortunately, now we don't have time to talk about Iran, but thank you very much--

REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY: Well you should have asked about Iran sooner because that's a policy issue.
That the moderators of the Sunday shows are frequently Democrat operatives with bylines is no surprise. Perhaps the push-back from that interview is just working the referee.  And, yes, I'm guilty of calling Chuck Todd a truculent chipmunk.  After further review, George Stephanopoulos is the ankle-biting chihuahua.  (If a reader can come up with a suitable floor-mop dog of Aegean extraction, that might be what I use instead.)

It occurs to me, though, that maybe the baiting of Republican guests, and the continued presence of Republican guests who know they are going to be treated badly by Democrat process-worshippers is for show.  Democrats might be Excessively Earnest People who know how to talk in acronyms.  That's no fun.  So, to build ratings, Republicans consent to go on, in order to fire up their base by talking about how badly the Drive-Bys behave.  Democrat moderators behave badly because to do otherwise would make the show as soporific as a Unitarian sermon, or anything on public radio on any morning.

The gentry who watch the Sunday shows might not be aficionados of pro wrestling.  But Milwaukee's own Reggie "Da Crusher" Lisowski might have the right judgement about political TV. "People make a joke out of it," he said of wrestling. "But it wasn't a joke to me. It was a living."  Political TV is just another form of entertainment in a ring, or a cage.  Kenny Jay taking on George Gadaski, as many falls as it takes, for ever and ever ...

24.7.19

MARKING OFF.

It's twenty-two weeks until Christmas.


With an honest-to Otto Jabelmann Big Boy roaming the Midwest, it truly is Christmas in July.

THE CASE FOR FIGHTING BACK.

John "Grumpy Economist" Cochrane posts notes he gleaned from Martin Gurri's report on a Conference of the Wise Experts.
Martin does not really strike home the central contradiction here. Though "threat to democracy" is also a constant mantra, this movement is in fact profoundly anti-democratic. Us the self appointed aristocracy, must run things in the interest of the little people -- and we must change the rules of the game so the benighted little people never vote wrong and replace us.
All they had to do was their job well, and they couldn't even do that.

They can listen to the dissidents in their own class of Credentialed Experts who disagree with phony consensus, or they can wait for the dittoheads and Kurt Schlichter fans to show up with pitchforks and torches.

IF THEY WANT TO FIGHT DIRTY, IT'S TIME TO FIGHT DIRTY.

For years, Democrats and their allies in entertainment have played by one set of rules, while Republicans have attempted to be mannerly.  That hasn't gone well for Republicans and their nominal allies, according to National Review's Andrew McCarthy.
Most Republican villains the Left selects (the Bushes, Mitt Romney . . .) respond by trying to prove they’re not really villains. This is a futile strategy. The demagogues making the accusation already know it’s not true. They do it because it always works. Or at least it used to. It’s different with the president, who is from the Leo Durocher School: “I come to play. I come to beat you. I come to kill you!” Trump vexes the Left because he revels in the mud wrestle. Sure, he craves admiration, but he wants to win more, and he doesn’t in the slightest mind winning ugly. In that the Left must see a lot of itself, but that doesn’t mean it has figured out an effective response.
You'd think that after sixty years, somebody on the libertarian-conservative spectrum would grasp the message of John Galt's "When some bum in some pesthole of Asia screams, 'How dare you be rich?" you apologize and promise to give it all away."  Which pretty well describes how mannerly Republicans have behaved.  No, it is not our intention to be (pick your favorite made up -ism or -phobia) and we regret giving that impression.

Rush Limbaugh has been exhorting his audience, recently, to tell the establishmentarian types and the loud voices on the left to pound sand.
We have a strategic decision to make.

Are we gonna double down against the left and really take them on and not take their guff, or are we gonna defer? Are we going to defer to their constant insults? Are we going to defer to their constant outrage? Because they’re always gonna be mad about something. They’re always gonna be calling us racists, sexists, bigots. They’re always going to be saying that we are mean-spirited extremists.

Now, we’ve got one or two things we can do. We can double down and tell them to take it where the sun doesn’t shine in our own way and beat them back, and literally beat them in election after election, or we can defer to them like the Never Trumpers want to do, and like a bunch of elected Republicans want.

We can defer to the media, we can defer to the outrage and sue for peace. “Please don’t think of us that way. We’re not mean. We’re not bigots. We’re not.” We got one of two ways here, and you can see the stark choice even now. We’ve got the ongoing battle, Never Trumpers in the so-called conservative movement who want to defer to the outrage. They don’t want anybody mad at them.

And they blame Trump for all of the outrage. They have forgotten that before they were mad at Trump, they were mad at George W. Bush. And before that, they were mad at Reagan. And throughout all of that, they’ve been mad at me. They’ve been mad at Fox News and talk radio. They are always gonna be mad. They cannot be deferred to. They cannot be mollified. They cannot be reasoned with. And the worst thing you can tried to do is sue for peace individually. You cannot, if you’re an elected Republican.

McCain tried it. Look what happened to him. McCain deferred to the outrage. McCain started sucking up to the media even before he ran for office. And it worked. He became, in his mind, the media was his base, until he got the nomination. And then they called him a racist because of Sarah Palin. They called him a racist because of some of the things his supporters were saying about Obama’s name.

This stuff never changes. If you want to know why I’m irritated by it is because it never changes and it’s not gonna change and deferring to it is not the solution. Deferring to it and accommodating it and asking them not to be mad at us, you’re wrong, trying to explain to them how they’re wrong and they’re misjudged, it’s a waste of time, because it’s not, this criticism at us, this anger at us is not rooted in any kind of substance.

It’s labeling. It’s strategic. It is part of destroying the conservative, slash, Republican brand. It’s not rooted in truth. We’re not really racists, sexists, or bigots. They just say so then they put everybody on our side that needs to defer to this on the defensive. And when you’re on the defense, you’re not advancing anything. You’re not advancing an agenda. You’re not advancing the ball. You’re not advancing your own beliefs. You’re not advancing yourself.
Until the Democrats and their accomplices in entertainment have to play by their own rules, they're going to continue to think they can get away with the hectoring, condescension, and deplorable-shaming.
The left needs to pay a price for this slander, for this character assassination, for this libel, for the outright lies about us and about our country and about our heritage.

At some point there has to be enough payback that the left becomes afraid to smear people. Right now they have no fear. They’re not afraid to smear us. They’re not afraid to slander us. They’re not afraid to libel us. In fact, they do it with glee. They look forward to doing it. If they have to lie, which, of course, they do, they can’t wait to do it. And then they love it when the attacked victim tries to be defensive about it. And we’ll ask the question for the next week, which got the original politician in trouble.
Donald Trump might be the least likely champion ever for libertarian or conservative political economy or cultural convention, and yet he's teaching people how to fight back.  Here's Michael Galien at Pajamas Media.
It's amazing, but we on the right have waited so incredibly long for someone with the guts to speak truth to power. For decades, whenever radical leftists opened the attack on conservatives, we took a step back, apologized, and politely asked whether we could move on. Please.

Not anymore. Not with Trump in the Oval Office. Conservatives finally have a leader who's willing to stand up to leftist bullies; who's willing to fight fire with fire. They call him a racist? Fine, he immediately returns the favor.
Perhaps it's catching.

IT'S SO ON.  "We’re seeing a whole lot more of THIS from people on the Right than the shaming and poo-poo’ing the media is highlighting."

Case in point:  presidential advisor Stephen Miller having none of Chris Wallace trying to singlehandedly win Establishment approval for Fox News Sunday.
“The core issue is that all the people in that audience and millions of patriotic Americans all across this country are tired of being beat up, condescended to, looked down upon, talked down to by members of Congress on the left,” Miller said.
Indeed, and that's probably more effective than saying "F*** off, you tiresome old hound dog" and walking off the set. You only get one chance for an exit like that.  Power Line's Steven Hayward notes, however, that the establishment types really don't like playing by their rules.  "Liberals can dish it out, but can’t take it when someone like Trump—or Newt Gingrich before him—talks back."  Punch back twice as hard is only permissible when some Chicago ward-heeler does so, right?

Victor Hanson summarizes.  "While one may always wish that the president and his critics tone down their venom and play by silk-stocking Republican Marquis of Queensberry rules, it is hard for half the country to feel much sympathy for the Left that sowed the wind and are reaping an ever growing whirlwind."

TEMPERING PRINCIPLE WITH PRACTICALITY.

One of the selling points of a train is that it can make intermediate stops.

Schedule too many intermediate stops, though, and the published train schedule looks slower than the perceived drive time, although real drive times are often longer still.  All the same, the Naperville Zephyrs and the other semi-fast trains that turn the Burlington Racetrack into the world's greatest commuter service are valuable to commuters precisely because riders wait at two or three stations for additional passengers to board, and then it's onto the middle track and hope for clear signals all the way into Chicago: there's a similar fleet of semi-fasts outward in the evening.

Florida's Brightline might be a test case for how best to offer both types of service.
Nothing could be simpler for the Mayor and City Council of Boca Raton to accomplish than doing what it takes to get a Brightline (soon to be Virgin) train station in downtown Boca Raton.

In fact it may be the most important yet easiest thing they ever do as an elected official — if logic prevails. There simply is no downside; it’s a “no brainer” as many residents have told me. This not the time for politics or the usual hand-wringing when “development” of any kind is involved. Action must be clear and decisive.

Reasons for a station are plain, simple and straightforward. Brightline will take traffic off the roadways — and lots of it. This traffic will be mostly AM/PM “peak” off Palmetto Park Road, a choke point entering the downtown. No matter what type of [transit oriented] development occurs, there simply is no “traffic” argument against a train station. Traffic concurrency is already vested in the Downtown DDRI which comprises the CRA portion of the city. While some have (incorrectly) argued that the trains themselves cause traffic, now Boca residents can ride them rather than wave at them.

The proposed station is strategically located in an area that almost anyone in downtown can walk to. Demographics consistently show that Boca residents are premium multi-directional riders who will go both north and south — and in aggregate may significantly increase Brightline ridership bolstering the sustainability of the entire system.
I can confirm from my visit to Brightline a year ago that the Deerfield Beach - Boca Raton area is thickly settled, with the trains slacking and using a lot of horn through the area.  There might have been a late Spring Break gathering or similar festival in progress that day as well.  As far as the station parking, that might be part of the Brightline real estate project, building new condominium towers with a view of the ocean from the upper floors, and providing park and ride lot decks below.


That's the Fort Lauderdale parking deck in mid-April of last year. Green Bay was facing down a foot plus of snow that weekend!

The problem, though, is that Brightline give the impression of being a premium service in the Acela mode rather than a commuter train, which already serves Boca Raton along the old Seaboard tracks to the west.
Boca has a long history of rail support as the Yamato SFRTA [the South Florida Commuter Rail agency] Tri-Rail station is currently the busiest on the line — no small feat. Brightline station benefits and can be used by ALL the residents of Boca Raton. Since typical Brightline stations sit on top of the rail [right of way] there is an opportunity to bridge Dixie Highway and make it even easier to access the City Hall area of the CRA [redevelopment area?] from the rest of downtown.
Perhaps so, although a premium service with running times no better than Tri-Rail's, which run spartan bilevel lozenge cars in the Boston or Toronto fashion isn't going to draw many riders.

Currently, though, the line is too short to put in the kind of skip-stop services Burlington commuters enjoy, with nonstoppers leaving West Palm, Boca, and Fort Lauderdale, next stop Miami Central.  That's going to be an interesting puzzle going forward, when faster trains for and from Theme Park Central in Orlando mix with the existing regional service, which is at once in competition with and not in competition with Tri-Rail.

RECOGNIZE THE CONSTRAINTS.

It's still important to contrast Stiglerian and Stiglitzian approaches to political economy.

Here is John "Eclect Econ" Palmer explaining.
Stiglitz is the quintessential elitist interventionist who loves to talk about market failures (with little acknowledgement that most of the failures he deals with are dealt with adequately in the market), but he rarely if ever acknowledges that gubmnt policies are made and implemented by fallible people.

Stiglitz never met an argument for gubmnt intervention that he didn't like. He really needs to study more economic history and more about gubmnt failure, along with all the reasons gubmnt interventions are often much worse than the alleged market failures they have been instituted to "fix".

Why do I mention [Stanley] Fischer in my opening sentence? Because Stiglitz incorrectly accused him of impropriety. It looks like pot-kettle-black to me, given Stiglitz's cozying up with so many socialist and other dictators.

As Harold Demsetz once wrote, it is important in economics to compare feasible alternatives. Stiglitz doesn't do that; instead he frequently rails against imperfect markets, arguing they can be improved with "perfect" regulators and policies. It ain't gonna happen that way, Joe.
As smart as Professor Stiglitz is, why isn't he as rich as Donald Trump?

Heck, the mind boggles at the possibilities.  Our President had enough F.U. money to run for president.  Where is the activist scholar of a different cast of mind and the means to do the same thing?

IT'S GOING TO BE A FUNNY TABLE D'HÔTE MENU.

Well, Eugene Robinson told us a presidential platform was not an a la carte menu.  I suspect he'll find more to like than not when the Democrats come up with one, but maybe we can have a reprise of the platform committee meetings of 1968 and 1972.
Democratic Party voters are split. Its most progressive wing, which is supportive of contentious policies on immigration, health care and other issues, is, in the context of the party’s electorate, disproportionately white. So is the party’s middle group of “somewhat liberal” voters. Its more moderate wing, which is pressing bread-and-butter concerns like jobs, taxes and a less totalizing vision of health care reform, is majority nonwhite, with almost half of its support coming from African-American and Hispanic voters.
The public face of the identity politics wing might be that third world kiddie corps, but most of the voters in that wing are the sensible-shoes, World Council of Churches Nobody Attends aging white folks.  The Coalition of the Ascendant has policy preferences that you might expect of a rising middle class.  But the noisy fringe is calling the shots.  "There is an abundance of evidence that the more liberal Democratic presidential candidates may be pushing into dangerous terrain, taking stands that could prove difficult to defend in the general election."

Longtime Democrat court intellectual Paul Starr notes the same thing.
With the presidential nomination race wide open, they are effectively leaderless. Trump is taking advantage of that void to make the Squad the faces of the Democratic Party, calculating that they are the perfect symbols to drive his voters to the polls.

Some of the leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates didn’t help their cause in the June debates by taking a series of unpopular positions, such as banning private health insurance, providing insurance to the undocumented, and decriminalizing border entry. They’re giving Trump and the Republicans plenty to work with.

There’s a real danger of Democrats getting ahead of themselves. Eventually, they should benefit electorally from the rising numbers of people of color and a younger generation with progressive views. But that emerging majority isn’t a majority of voters yet, and the sense that it is on the way is creating a panic among conservative whites.
Perhaps that "panic among conservative whites" is some projection on the part of Mr Starr.  There might be opportunities, for instance, for populist Republicans to make common cause between upscale voters of European extraction, who provided a lot of Our President's votes in the battleground states, and those among the coalition of the ascendant who might see more value in civil society, bourgeois conventions, and freedom of action than in the straitjacket of identity politics.

Look for a follow-on post along those lines, before school starts.

LESSONS LEARNED AT NORMANDY?

Strategy Page posts a photograph of an amphibious landing rehearsal somewhere in the antipodes.


Unattributed photograph retrieved from Strategy Page.

There are a few follow-on forces wading ashore from that latter-day Higgins Boat, but those "amphibious assault vehicles" appear to be sufficiently armored that the troops could ride ashore and then disembark.  I hope that ship of the line on the horizon is capable of providing some sort of supporting fire if required.

IGNORANCE IS BLISS.

Demand cannot be simultaneously inelastic and elastic.  Maybe it's better if Our Political Masters impose corrective taxes without first checking to see what's being corrected.

23.7.19

IT'S REALLY A CASE FOR LIMITING GOVERNMENT.

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson doesn't like the bundle of Republican presidential politics.  "Anyone tempted to support Trump because of his economic or foreign policies should be constantly reminded that this is not an a la carte menu. If you plan to vote for Trump because of his tax cuts, for example, or his uncritical support of Israel, you’re also voting for his racism."

The Democrat platform will not be an a la carte menu either.  Whoever the Donks run for president will also be offering a bundle, which means that rejecting Our President's attitudes toward people who are different is also a vote for tax increases or uncritical support of third world demagogues or the restoration of the coastal technocracy.

Patrick Buchanan gets to the heart of the matter.  "Trump's true believers do not believe [the traditional political class], trust them, like them or respect them. And the feeling is obviously mutual."

Put less emphasis on national politics.

WHY SHOULD TECHNOCRATIC EXPERTISE WORK ANYWHERE?

It doesn't.  Here's an instructive post by Charles "Strong Towns" Marohn on why he left the Church of Urban Planning.
We can argue that all these options represent choices within the established marketplace, but I’m questioning the nature of the marketplace itself. The outcomes we experience and the choices we make are driven by the market we’ve established, with all of its distortions and subsidies. I used to believe that it was the other way around, that the market we see was something that developed to reflect the preferences of the public.

This marketplace is not serving our preferences. We’re serving the preferences of this marketplace. I could not longer claim that the widespread adoption and delivery of my preferences — at the time: a large lot, single-family home, with congestion-free transportation access to big box stores, strip malls, and fast food — represented something I chose freely, or something whose emergence I could trace back to a state of nature. If I wanted to remain an advocate of markets, I had to acknowledge that the outcomes I had come to prefer were not the result of a market-based system. Confronting this cognitive dissonance was painful and disorienting.
It might be more subtle than that: the tract houses, supermarkets, and shopping centers might have had some evolutionary advantage, but when the Powers that Be decided to pick winners, bad stuff happened.  (Follow additional links in Mr Marohn's post as well, they're instructive.)

The good news might be that the suburban culs-de-sac and big boxes and malls and all the rest might not be as built to a finished state as the post might have you believe.
The reputation of outlet malls, strip shopping centers, and big box stores is often not a good one—at least, not as they age. The once-shiny outlet mall with high-end outlets is replaced by a second-tier shopping center, maybe one that resells goods from other stores, and eventually the trend continues as an even lower-intensity store takes a lease in the third generation. To use Strong Towns lingo, they were built to a “finished state” and then slowly decayed, instead of built in a way that could be—or was intended to be—incrementally improved and adapted.

On a recent trip back to visit my family, I noticed that the Allen Outlet Malls that everyone was familiar with had actually increased in intensity. I was not expecting this, and it made me ask some questions about the value of these outlet malls. It also made me evaluate some of the changes that were made to attempt to make this area a little more people-friendly.  I’d like to show you these changes and evaluate what those changes mean.
We're looking at an emergent phenomenon here. You know: mutation, selection, adaptation.

There likely will be some false starts.  The best thing, though, will be for the professional planners, policy wonks, and process worshippers to leave the modifications well enough alone, maybe for fifty years, before deciding on best practices.

That is, if "best practices" haven't become a Silly High Modern Authoritarian conceit by then.

"CORE SYSTEM" MEANT LIQUIDATION.

I remember that term from the shakeout of the Midwestern railroads in the late 1970s.  The Official Region had Conrail, with Amtrak running the Northeast Corridor, and part of the plan for Conrail was to get rid of duplicate trackage, starting with the Erie west of Akron, parts of the two Penn Central lines from Cleveland to St. Louis (the Pennsylvania east of Indianapolis, the New York Central west) and even the Fort Wayne Division of The Pennsylvania Railroad was redundant.

Our Political Masters were beginning to think of the granger roads as serving Flyover Country, and thus the Rock Island was sold off piecemeal to the supposedly stronger carriers; thus Chicago and North Western were able to get rid of the one piece of Chicago Great Western they wanted (the line from the Cities to Kansas City) in favor of Rock Island's parallel line, which they called the Spine Line, and it's in good enough shape today to handle Big Boy.  When The Milwaukee Road filed for bankruptcy, the trustees came up with what they called the core system, which meant no more Pacific Extension, shared trackage on Chicago and North Western through Iowa, and no more operation in four time zones (the trackage through southern Indiana to Louisville went, as did anything in the Pacific time zone).

Now the concept is coming to the public universities of Alaska, where dwindling oil revenues have, well, fracked the state fisc.
Jim Johnsen, president of the Alaska system, also presented three possible structuring models for the university in the wake of the cuts -- which Johnsen wants the board to consider.

According to the presentation Johnsen presented to the regents, the first proposal would have one or more of the system's three campuses eliminated from the system. The benefit of this model outlined in the presentation was that the cuts would be contained and the other two campuses would remain largely unaffected. The downsides listed were that it denied access to many Alaskans, would have a large economic impact on the communities around the affected campus and that it would encourage “inter-university and regional conflict.”

Some of that inter-university conflict has already sparked up, ­with a Faculty Senate committee at the Anchorage campus authoring a report suggesting that the Fairbanks campus should absorb most of the financial pain.

The second option Johnsen submitted would proportionately divvy up the effects of the cuts to each university, asking all three campuses to reduce to its own unique “core.” Johnsen told Inside Higher Ed in an April interview that the system was unique in the sense that each campus within the system offered a distinct quality. The plan outlined the positives: it would be more equitable to each campus, could reduce duplicative programs and maintains some educational access for more Alaskans. However, the risks were that for each campus to endure such a large financial blow, each could risk accreditation and financial viability, as well as student choice.

The third choice was a recommendation for a “New UA,” which would include a single accreditation model with higher integration between programs, creating overarching colleges to extensively cover students in certain degree fields. For example, all three campuses have education colleges or schools, and the new model would create an overarching Alaska College of Education with a common statewide curriculum.
The problem with concentrating, say, the allied health programs at one campus and the engineering programs at another, is that Alaska is a large state with little in the way of a rail or road network, which means there's a lot of potential for inter-regional conflict over which campus gets what areas of concentration.  But the previous retrenchments in Alaska haven't turned out so well.

Peter Wood notes that the public choice dynamic has the potential to spread to other states, many of which have their own problems funding their welfare states.
Many states are burdened with excess branches of state universities and supernumerary state colleges. Under-enrolled, larded with poor-quality programs, thick with make-work offices and administrators, and host to thinly disguised political operations, these institutions burden the taxpayer and provide little by way of worthwhile education. Yet they are seemingly immortal. That’s because they are usually spread across the state in a manner that gives every state legislative district a stake in protecting its own and because a college campus is a ready-made organized interest group.
I've stayed away from the Perils of History drama playing out at Wisconsin-Stevens Point, but the geography of four campuses (Stevens Point, River Falls, Eau Claire, Stout) within a fifty mile radius circle in an area that is losing population is still at work, and something will have to give.

Mr Wood has a little list.
Nearly everyone can think of a better way to balance the budget—and it is surely true that public universities are rife with highly-paid do-nothing administrators. The first step in balancing any university’s budget should be to eliminate every diversity dean, ethnic counselor, and grievance advocate on the payroll. The second step should be to eliminate every “co-curricular” position aimed at promoting “student engagement” and other forms of political activism. Leave the forlorn German professor or geographer alone until you have swept the non-academic stables.

It is an open question whether that means eliminating sports programs and the expensive tutoring that often comes with them. These programs undeniably attract students who would not otherwise enroll, but at what cost?  Because of Title IX, colleges and universities must field a large variety of women’s sports teams, many of which attract little attention. Cutting men’s teams seems to come easily to college administrators who might flinch from the prospect of shutting down a women’s badminton program.
In a higher education world that combines nutrition coaches for scholarship athletes with food pantries for the nontraditional students the Diversity Weenies like to invoke as justification for their continued employment (when they're not hectoring Normals and calling it dialog, that is) there might be some opportunities for coalition building.

Perhaps it only takes financial exigency to concentrate the mind: historically, the True Believers on the tenured faculty have been fine with the usurpations of the Diversity Weenies as in the Service of the Good: now their salaries depend on them noticing that they harass the faculty and eat out their substance.

THEIR INCOMPETENCE DOESN'T MATTER.

So let it be with technocrats everywhere.  They still cling to their power in Brussels.
Those who count and those who are to be ruled are not the same group of people. That seems to be the essence of modern European politics: a political class and ideological cult that masquerades as a competent technocratic elite, despite its long and disastrous history.
Why should Brussels technocrats be any different from any other technocrats?

Look, though, at the time stamps on those links:  September 2004, September 2014, that is to say, long before the Trumpian escalator descent or the financial crash and the bailout of Greece and all the other developments that preceded Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

21.7.19

LAMENT FOR A LATE TRAIN.

Craig Sanders tells a familiar story of a train ride.
On the evening of June 25, 2019, Amtrak Train No. 48 departed Chicago Union Station on time at 9:30.

It would be the only time that No. 48 would arrive or depart from a station on schedule during its 959 mile journey to New York City.
That sounds like a story I've told a time or two.

Perhaps he should consider himself luck that the train was only 71 minutes late at Elkhart.  Sometimes getting east of Ogden Dunes in less than three hours is a challenge.
If a dispatcher for Norfolk Southern decides to hold Amtrak at a control point to wait for two westbound freight trains to clear before switching Amtrak from Track 2 to Track 1 in order to go around a slow freight train ahead on Track 2, the Amtrak crew doesn’t know why the decision was made to hold them rather than holding one or both of the westbound freights further east until Amtrak could go around the slow eastbound freight.

Further, they don’t know whether that decision was made by the dispatcher, by the dispatcher’s supervisor or by a computer program that NS uses to dispatch its railroad. Nor do they know with certainty the logic behind the decision even if they have some idea.
Yes, and whether Amtrak is an unconstitutional regulatory taking is still being litigated.

Just for fun, though, pretend you're a passenger on Santa Fe's westbound Super Chief, train 17, in the fall of 1953, when that was still an all-Pullman train, not combined with the El Capitan.  Seventeen makes only an operating stop in Winslow, Arizona, to change crews, and otherwise runs non-stop to its next operating stop, Seligman, Arizona.  But ahead of it is a heavy freight train, 43, and three passenger trains, two sections of 23, the Northern Grand Canyon, and 123, the Southern Grand Canyon, which sets out a Denver to Phoenix sleeping car at Ash Fork.

The freight train gets out of the way at Daze, to cool its wheels for ten minutes.  Yes, even with the early dynamic brakes on diesels, you'd have to set retainers and use the air brakes.  But 123 is occupying the westbound main at the Ash Fork station.

No worries: the yard master at Ash Fork directs the train directors at East Ash Fork and Ash Fork to cross Seventeen onto the eastbound main past the station.  Seventeen has to reduce speed for the crossovers, and by rule past the station, although 123 and its cars are next to the station building, but it gets back onto the westbound main with a fighting chance of making Seligman on time.

How do I know?  Because today was a productive afternoon of operating a model railroad.

That's a lost art on the real railroads.

ESSENTIALISM IS A DUBIOUS DOCTRINE.

Read for yourself.  In particular, consider this.
Sociological Essentialism is a sociological (as opposed to philosophical) theory which states that positions on gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity or other group characteristics are fixed traits, not allowing for variations among individuals or over time. It has been used, at different times, as a convenient doctrine by both nationalist and liberationist movements, and for simplifying the task of colonization and imperialism.
It's also a useful doctrine for reading traitors out of a movement, of whatever form, such as in this anathema pronounced by Member of Congress Ayanna Pressley (C-Mass.)
We don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice. We don’t need black faces that don’t want to be a black voice. We don’t need Muslims that don’t want to be a Muslim voice. We don’t need queers that don’t want to be a queer voice.
That well might get the representative excommunicated from the Church of Intersectionality.
Arguments against gender essentialism are supported by evidence that gender expectations differ significantly across cultures. They are also supported by very different sexual and gender norms that have existed in different places and different eras. Such differences are apparent with respect to not only sexual behavior but a variety of other aspects of life.
You mean there might be more than one kind of brown voice?


Indeed so.  What good is it to be a Member of Congress if you can't pronounce anathema on Bad Ideas?
Translation: if you are a racial, religious, or sexual minority, and you dissent from progressive orthodoxies, you are a traitor to your race, religion, or sexual tribe, and we don’t want you.

It’s easy for liberals to see why Trump is extremely problematic for saying things like he does (and we conservatives ought to try harder to see and hear Trump from the point of view of others). But liberals ought to imagine what it’s like to be someone who doesn’t fit into the Squad’s woke progressive categories of acceptability, and to imagine what it would be like for those people under that kind of progressive government.
Maybe I'm overthinking things, but if I use the Russian word pravoslavie, meaning truth-praising, in place of orthodoxy, which is how the concept gets rendered in English, it gets very interesting, as the deconstructive instinct starts with the premise that any truth is somebody's power system.

Here's Andrew Sullivan, by way of example, on the follies of attempting to define what that queer voice is.
I have never had a problem with radical queers being part of the constellation of things that make up the complicated and diverse world of gay men. Let every flower bloom. My problem is when they refuse to extend that acceptance to others, and when they attempt to destroy any successful gay public figure who may have a different view of the world than theirs’. Part of this is simple jealousy. Buttigieg has done more for gay visibility and acceptance in his four years of being out than Peck has in a lifetime of puerile rage. Similarly, centrist and conservative gays have done far more to advance gay equality in the last couple of decades than the left — which was largely absent from the marriage fight (heteronormative oppression!) and from the military fight (destroy the Army, don’t join it!).

But part is also a view that what matters is not an individual’s unique gifts, biography, or talents and skills. What matters is the group, its place in the social hierarchy, and the imperative of all members of the group singing the same song in the same way — which is to say, always in obedience to left orthodoxy. The point of the gay-rights movement for the left was to join other oppressed groups in overturning the entire liberal democratic and capitalist system. The point of the gay-rights movement for those of us on the right was to expand the space in which gay people can simply be themselves. That may mean embracing the identity of queer nonbinary whatever, or it may mean simply getting on with life as an individual who happens to be gay. No one is wrong to be the person they want to be. There is no right way or wrong way to be gay.
He pivots back to the representative, and his message, very clearly, is, there is no right way or wrong way to be [insert your category here]. It's probably harder, though, for the likes of the representative to, well, make a coherent counter-argument than to denounce and excommunicate, or, as Mr Sullivan writes, to destroy.

IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME.

Here is an HO Scale model of an early Red Owl supermarket.


The supermarket concept predates the American High.  In DeKalb, there are two early A&P stores, one smaller than the store modelled here, now an auto parts store near the rail station; its successor a few blocks away, where clearing land for additional parking was easier to do, it's been several different things ever since A&P left town.

What we see here was what emerged during the Second Era of American Greatness, when the abundant motor fuel that made victory in the War possible, combined with mass-produced tract housing and improved agricultural productivity releasing land on the outskirts of cities for other uses led to larger supermarkets with bigger parking lots.  Contrast that with the original DeKalb A&P that provided maybe six parking spots adjacent to the store.  The next step was the shopping center, sometimes anchored with a supermarket, sometimes not.  Those shopping centers were sometimes smaller than what we understand as strip malls today.  The enclosed shopping mall first appeared about at the same time, again taking advantage of those land and fuel price incentives.

It's not, though, as David Brooks had it.  "It's as if Zeus came down and started plopping vast towns in the middle of the farmland and the desert overnight. Boom! A master planned community. Boom! A big-box mall! Boom! A rec center, pool, and four thousand soccer fields!"

Rather, the pattern we understand as suburban sprawl emerged, perhaps encouraged by zoning codes and the planning imperative, perhaps not.


I took that picture from the Beaver Tail car of New Zealand Rail's Wellington - Auckland day train, in January 2000.  The same sort of strip development we see in the States is also present half a world away, in a suburban area served by electric commuter trains.

In the same way that the American High built environment emerged piecemeal, whatever comes next is also likely to take shape piecemeal, although some experiments might be more successful than others.

20.7.19

FINDING THE RIGHT CONTRACT.

This Saturday, there is material for my not-to-be-regular Saturday bridge column.  In this deal, there might be more than one way to agree on a game.


The simulation explains Partner Bot's 3♦ as "Preemptive," and sometimes a minor suit bid is a signal of something like "I have five each of two different suits, name your longer," and I still haven't figured that out.  Thus I could have gone to game either with 4♠ as I did, or perhaps 5♦, and the extra length in Diamonds might have paid off.  In the Spade contract, I'm at risk of losing two tricks in trumps, the Heart suit is good, the Diamonds should be good, and there's a loser in Clubs.  In the Diamond contract, there might not be a way to salvage a Spade trick with a ruff in dummy.

On with the play:  West opens ♦7, one way to set up a ruff is to be void, that goes under my ♦K.  I, too, create a void, leading the ♥9 to the Ace on the board, and the ♠4 back to my Ace.  The Spade King, Ten, and Seven are still out; let's see what the ♠9 smokes out: King, Six, Ten, that Seven is still out, but one of the Spade losers is now accounted for.  West leads the ♣8 to East's Ace, now there are ruffing opportunities in hand in Clubs as well as Hearts, and controlling cards in Diamonds.  East leads the ♥6; I duck with the ♦2 (was that a mistake, or does that account for what I considered as the second loser in Spades?) to West's Queen; and now the dummy is clear of Hearts.

West continues with the ♣K: five, two, ♠2.  Now to clear all the trumps: the Jack brings out that Seven, the Queen shows West and East both out; the ♦A shows East and West both out of that suit; the ♦3 over to the Queen, Jack, and Ten on the board to fulfill the contract.