19.8.19

TAIL TRACK.

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

UNDERMINE THEM WITH MOCKERY.

What happens when the Deplorables refuse to be deplorable-shamed?  Here's Peter Wood again, turning the overuse of a term against itself.
I am taking this latest attack on Amy Wax as the occasion to begin my own campaign to discredit the Left’s all-purpose use of racism. It is the lazy social justice warrior’s opprobrium of choice, and typically it means nothing at all as a label on the recipient. Mostly it means that the person who attempts to pin it on someone else has contempt for the ability of other people to sort things out. It is the vocabulary of the incipient lynch mob.
Well, yes, the Angry Left has long depended on bourgeois respectability to get away with that sort of shaming. Trot out one of the phony isms and phobias, and in the past, the decent person would apologize for giving offense or something, and the more substantive discussion of what the Angry Leftist is peddling is lost.  Better, when somebody swings a rhetorical sucker-punch, to punch right back.

And get a fight is what you get.  Laura Hollis explains.
People may not love being called out for things they have actually done. But they resent like hell being accused of things they haven't done, especially when they're simultaneously told that there's nothing they can do to remove the stain, or that they cannot take credit for their own achievements.
That's the error of privilege-shaming, and in politics, does anyone seriously expect to win votes by suggesting voting the other way is deplorable?

The good news is that the people who think deplorable shaming works as a trump card have to respect it when their allies use it.  That put's Synova's earnest woke girl in a bad spot.


Struggle sessions are like that.  "There was a couple of items in the news lately where someone who was a zealous woke warrior ended up on the wrong side of accusations which required apologies and even a demotion for something which the fellow (I did look, several times) never actually said."

The cartoonist is an acquaintance of Sarah Hoyt, and these sometimes get wider play when she has the keys to Insta Pundit, overnight.

PREPARE FOR A LONG TWILIGHT STRUGGLE.

Peter Wood notes, once again, that the most visible and notorious parts of higher education are visibly and notoriously undermining the very canons of skeptical inquiry that make the academic project respectable.  "Deplorable scholars are the academics most vulnerable to attack by their own institutions and least likely to get support from organizations such as the AAUP, which swagger around proclaiming their deep commitment to academic freedom."  Somewhere in the archives I have a statement from that Association to the effect that it's permissible for some disciplines to commence from a position of prior beliefs.  I must find that message, as it reads more like a defense of some sort of faith tradition, rather than a call for proper scholarly inquiry.

It's malpractice, too.  Mr Wood continues.
Higher education exists to pursue truth, transmit the positive legacy of our civilization, cultivate good character, and prepare students for their vocations. Academic freedom is an instrument that usually bolsters these goals, but not always. To claim academic freedom to propagate falsehoods, slander, and calumny is wrong. To use academic freedom as a cover for anti-civilizational propaganda is wrong as well. To employ it as a means for convincing young people that violence is a legitimate tool of political action is also wrong.
That reference to "anti-civilizational propaganda" might also apply to the magazine staff at New York's Times, with their attempt to pin all current ills in these united States on the introduction of slaves to the Virginia Colonies in 1619.  We can concede that what Abraham Lincoln described as "conceived in Liberty" was anything but an immaculate conception, and yet we might do better to consider ways to secure ever greater Blessings of Liberty.  That might be what the folks at Times Square had in mind, but I doubt it.

Mr Wood concludes with his version of "Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties."
I won’t say a last-ditch defense. We have many ditches to go before then, and we may—given a sufficient awakening—not need them at all. Our civilization has resources that the barbarians truly don’t see or understand. All they really know is how to wreck.
For openers, reality is socially conservative, and the deconstructors will crash into reality a number of times along the way, if they don't, as is often the case with True Believers, turn on each other first.

In addition, Prestigious Academia are part of the same set of grifters as Woke Hollywood and Biased Journalism, and a little bit of Donald Trump at the right time might go a long way.  Pajamas Media pundit Mark Ellis suggests,
Trump’s aging troopers plan to sit tight. They’ve been to a few political rodeos They won’t fall prey to Anderson Cooper’s hysteria. They know that the globalist schematic that has been foisted on the nation has been evolving for decades, and cannot be undone in a heartbeat. Like with Britain’s Brexit, there are short-term exigencies to be accounted for, status quo disruptions to absorb.
The good news is that, where higher education is concerned, an Oberlin bankruptcy here and a Hampshire closing there, while not even the beginning of the end, might be the end of the beginning.

Now is not the time to go wobbly.

18.8.19

FIXED SIGNALS, HAND SIGNALS, WHISTLE SIGNALS, VIRTUE SIGNALS.

The Next Big Thing among the Anointed is Flight Shaming.
Tourists have been spooked by the realization that one passenger’s share of the exhaust from a single flight can cancel out a year’s worth of Earth-friendly efforts. And so they are digging out their parents’ yellowing Europe-by-rail guidebooks and trading tips on the most convenient night train to Vienna.
Apparently it's going to be the next do-it-yourself acquisition from Sweden.
Swedish leaders this month announced they would inject new cash into the national rail company. They plan to build up a new fleet of trains after years of cutbacks when cheap plane tickets were luring people into the skies.

The newly coined concept of flygskam, or “flight shame,” has turned some Swedes bashful about their globe-trotting. A guerrilla campaign used Instagram to tally the planet-busting travels of top Swedish celebrities. Next door in Norway, meanwhile, the prime minister felt the need to assure citizens that they need not apologize for flying to see family in the high north.
In some ways, flygskam looks like yet another First World problem.
Leave it to northern Europeans to come up with a neologism to describe a complicated emotional state. As a concept, flygskam originated in Sweden, and refers both to the guilt that individuals may feel when using a means of transportation estimated to contribute between 2 and 3% of total atmospheric carbon and to the shaming they may face should they persist in flying. It was articulated by opera singer Malena Ernmann, who gave up flying in 2016 (and who just happens to be [kid viro Greta] Thunberg’s mother), drawing the attention of other celebrities and the broader public to the cause. The summer of 2018, which brought record high temperatures to Sweden, and with them, devastating wildfires, drove the point home. “It had not been like this ever before,” says Marco Andersson, head of sales for Snålltåget, the Swedish rail company that runs the Malmo-Berlin line. “I think a lot of people started thinking, ‘Oh, I need to change my behavior, maybe I shouldn’t go on vacation to Thailand anymore.’”
At the margin, that might lead to some changes in behavior, yes.  Now "going green" airline style also involves more abuses of passengers and crew.
Airlines say they are taking steps to be greener. SAS, the largest airline in Scandinavia, is ending in-flight duty-free sales and asking passengers to pre-book meals so planes can be lighter and more fuel-efficient. Pilots have been urged to taxi on the ground with only one engine switched on.
Not that the food choices were that great in the first place, and I've never understood duty-free, it's mostly stuff I can get along without, but still, etiolated service is etiolated service.

That airlines have offered a no-frills service to go along with those low fares (he who sells a product at a lower price knows what it's worth) and done nothing about government officials treating passengers poorly (that is, unless the passengers hold both an Admirals' Club membership and a nachalstvo-level privilege card with the security screeners) and that, at the margin, might be pushing people to the trains, where they have trains to use.  Consider, for instance, how Chicago's Metra now runs six to nine car formations at weekends, where they used to run two or three cars.  The expressways don't express, and the parking rates are high, and people substitute, even though the train service is much like it was thirty years ago.

But there's something off-putting about some of these newly minted train riders.
[Johan] Hilm, 31, a [Swedish] health-care consultant who was on his way to hike across Austria for eight days, said he tried to live an environmentally responsible life. “I don’t drive a car. I eat mostly vegetarian. I live in an apartment, not a big house.”
Or consider a report filed by Los Angeles Times columnist Patt [c.q.] Morrison that begins, "The Via Rail train journey across Canada was not about my do-before-dying list but about the Earth’s, about seeing the natural wonders before they’re swallowed up, burned up or chewed up by climate change or humans." Read on for the dining car review.
As a vegetarian, though, I was hoping for a bit more imagination or perhaps just an understanding of the difference between vegetarian and vegan. The recurring vegan hash got a little wearisome, although I understand that it could be expensive preparing separate vegetarian and vegan dishes. As a protein fallback, there were always warm nuts in the bar, part of a daylong panoply of food and drink.
I'm not sure what's harder, keeping up your virtue-signalling appearances, or attempting to be friends with such a person.  That's sad, because she makes a good point or two.  Consider  "Canada is the second-biggest country in the world, after Russia, and some Canadians aboard were using the train as a speedy bus to commute from Manitoba to Alberta, the Canadian version of what coastal Americans call flyover states."  Yes, that's the prairie province version of the Empire Builder, which will take you to what the media elite consider the middle of nowhere, and that is an overpurposed train to a resident of Minot or Shelby or any of the other places well off the interstates.  These days, though, the one West Coast train across the prairie provinces exists for the benefit of the tourists.
One staff member told me this was the train’s first westbound trip on a new schedule that took us through the Rockies in daylight. It sounded nutty that a train trip that featured the Rockies on virtually every piece of promotional material I saw would take passengers through the main attraction in the dark, so if this was new, it was about time.
Well, no, if it's crossing the Rockies by day, it's calling at Winnipeg or Calgary or Thunder Bay at hours more suitable for military operations to begin.  But providing a second train on a complementary schedule, and connecting trains, possibly using Budd Cars, for Edmonton or Winnipeg to Grand Forks or Great Falls to the Great Northern main line is something neither Amtrak nor VIA Rail seem inclined to do, nor do the provincial or state authorities seem to want to do.

But when the European countries are considering placing environmental taxes on aviation fuel (U.S. carriers pay a fuel tax, their European counterparts do not) and using some of that tax money to support substitute services, including their trains, perhaps we'll see improved trains.  It's gratifying, at least, to see government agencies thinking of their transportation assets as, well, assets.

DOING THE IMPOSSIBLE FOR THIRTY YEARS.

From time to time, I've had some fun with a particular Folly of Wise Experts, namely the conclusion of the engineering staff at Bethlehem Steel that a thin slab continuous caster could not work.

Well, to steal a line from Major Pluskat being shelled at OMAHA, "They've got it, and it works."  Here's the news of the day, from thirty years ago.  "In fact those officials of major steel companies, who initially shrugged off the notion that Nucor's innovation was any threat to them, are now watching the project closely and are contemplating buying the new steelmaking equipment."

August 10 was Nucor Steel Day in Crawfordsville, Indiana, where the first such thin slab caster and thin strip mill came on line.
“Nucor Steel in Crawfordsville is proud to be a part of this community for 30 years,” [Nucor CEO John] Ferriola said. “I guarantee you that Nucor Steel Crawfordsville will be here for at least three, four or five more decades. We’re not going anywhere.”
A week later, members of the Steel Mill Modellers special interest group of the National Model Railroad Association held their annual gathering in Indianapolis, complete with a tour of the Crawfordsville plant.  That came about in part because during the annual gathering in Merrillville, Indiana, three years ago, a Nucor executive was in town, was intrigued that anyone would build miniature models of steel plants (any business that has enthusiasts, whether it's in transportation or heavy industry or distilled spirits or what have you ought cultivate such people, no matter what the general public might say about "anoraks" or "buffs") and it occurred to him to commission a model of the Crawfordsville plant as a recruiting tool.  Many of the mining and metallurgical engineering programs are a long way from Pennsylvania or Indiana, and having something like this at your job fair might pique student interest.


That's an HO scale model of the scrap receiving area, electric arc furnace, ladle metallurgy station, and part of the tundish and caster are visible at right, on display at the house of one of the builders, who, yes, has a model railroad of his own with a steel plant down cellar.

The model comprises four four-foot modules, suitable for transportation in a moderate-sized sport-ute.  Two modules include the melt shop and caster, the other two feature the reheating furnace, rolling mill, and hot-strip coiler.


Yes, there are some tricks to get the proper lighting effects for the hot slab (they cast and roll at a higher temperature for reasons that I don't fully understand) and the cutting torches going into the coiler.

Mr Ferriola noted that Nucor expects to be in Crawfordsville for a long time.  I can tell you, but I cannot show you, that there is yet another casting project operating at the mill, which appears to be a near-net-shape caster with a much smaller footprint than this plant, which itself has a much smaller footprint than, say, the Burns Harbor works that rolls eight-inch-thick slabs into sheet steel.  Steel from the new project is going to a special products plant, as well as to an affiliated plant that makes the strapping steel that wraps the coils for shipment.

As far as those major steel companies, well, word has reached Cold Spring Shops that a Nucor-style thin slab caster and strip mill is to be installed at the Edgar Thomson works of U.S. Steel.  "The cutting-edge endless casting and rolling technology combines thin slab casting and hot rolled band production into one continuous process and will make Mon Valley Works the first facility of this type in the United States, and one of only a handful in the world."  That "first facility of this type" might be technically true, as there are different vendors and new environmental protections installed.

And yet, Big X might be thirty years late to the party, particularly if the near-net-shape project is working out.

13.8.19

CREATE MORE PROBLEMS TRYING TO SOLVE PROBLEMS.

The theme for today seems to be the limitations of expertise, and that carries over to Book Review No. 9, Kurt Schlichter's Wildfire, which is the third of his dystopian novels about a future fracture of the United States into coastal states run (badly) as if by the intersectionality seminar gone nuts and interior states run (less badly) while carrying on continental security responsibilities as if in another world war.

I confess to be less than impressed.  The fire this time is a man-made disaster, one that Tom Clancy used twice (once involving a state actor, the next time a bio-tech company run as if by the environmental studies seminar gone nuts) that requires the cooperation of Kelly Turnbull and the other Tom Clancy hero types and the scared officials of the People's Republic, who take their rewriting of history so seriously that one of the protagonists has no clue who real Nazis are or why contemporary Germans might mourn the loss of the Hofbrauhaus.  It seems like more an opportunity to settle scores with terminally silly Democrats and their enablers in the Academic-Entertainment-Media Complex than a warning to True Believers of all stripes to chill and respect, oh, Constitutional Government and Bourgeois Manners.  And so it goes.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

HE'S SIMPLY IMPLEMENTING THE POLICY.

The usual suspects are not happy with the acting director of Citizenship and Immigration, Ken Cuccinelli, for remarking, "Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge."

The director is aware, as virtue signallers are not, that the Emma Lazarus plaque is not a statement of public policy.
He said the welcoming words from the 1903 plaque at the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor," were put there "at almost the same time" as when the first public charge law was passed — in 1882.
Indeed so, and one of the purposes of the immigrant screening stations, such as Castle Garden and Ellis Island in New York, and the less well-known ports of entry elsewhere, was to identify the possible public charges, as well as the possible carriers of disease or Bolshevism.  But for the intervention of a friend who knew the immigration officers, the electrical engineer Charles Steinmetz might well have been sent back thanks to his physical condition (and his revolutionary leanings?)

Perhaps once the current government tightens up the borders, there will be an opportunity to consider regularization (amnesty?) proceedings for the illegal aliens already here.

DEALING WITH THE WORLD AS IT IS.

National Review's Kevin D. Williamson, who was purged by Atlantic Monthly, suggests that there's too much clinging to the institutions of the American High long after the rest of the world figured out how to get richer while the customs were a self-inflicted destruction.
Populists Left and Right implicitly share the belief that what’s really ailing us is a deficit of cleverness in Washington, even as they rail against the clever people in Washington as conspirators against the public interest. But there’s plenty of cleverness in Washington — a surplus of the stuff, in fact.
That's probably inaccurate. Washington might be irrelevant to many of the difficulties Mr Williamson catalogs, although there are surely people of Washington who make a good living parlaying their expertise in a Few Big Things into Advocates of Comprehensive Reform, and so it goes.  They're likely to be frustrated.  James L. Payne summarizes.  "Environmental activists need to realize that we live in a very complicated world, a world where policy interventions have many unexpected consequences. It is a world where crying 'catastrophe' and calling on government to implement simplistic, sweeping measures can result in harm on a vast scale."  He's urging a closer reading of Silent Spring, but the message generalizes.  "Therefore, now is as good a time as any to question the permanent government's conceits, and mock their pretensions."

THE BITTER FRUITS OF POSTMODERN SKEPTICISM.

Just go read Miranda Devine's column.  "So unscrupulous are [Our President's noisiest detractors] in their blinkered hunt for Trump’s scalp that they don’t care if the lies they tell endanger people and deepen the divisions in the country, even while they lament the coarsening of the political debate."

It came to this, dear reader, the first time some participant in a philosophy seminar put air quotes around truth.  "Truth is whatever version of reality best suits your purpose."

In response, a plurality of left-behind people were willing to go along with Our President's hostile takeover of the Republican Party.  There's something similar going on among Democrats right now, only we don't see what the resolution looks like.

SLOWLY, THEY REDISCOVER THE SUMMER RESORT TRAIN.

One possibility, picked up by Craig "Amtrak in the Heartland" Sanders, offers an intriguing reversal of the way the New England railroads went out of the passenger business.
The [Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority’s] passenger rail service plan released in May said potential new services could include diesel multiple-unit equipment would between Lewiston and Auburn, connecting with the Downeaster at Portland or Yarmouth.

The study identified three possible routes for the Lewiston-Auburn service, including an existing Pan Am Railways freight route, an inactive railroad right of way owned by the state that runs parallel to the Pan Am Route, and an abandoned route of way.
I wonder if one of those routes is the Brunswick to Lewiston Lower by way of Lisbon Falls, but that's for another day.

For now, I note that the through trains from Boston stopped running when a supposedly progressive management of Boston and Maine wanted to replace all locomotive-hauled passenger trains with Budd Cars, and the supposedly hidebound Maine Central, still hauling a lot of parcels and seafood ahead of the passenger cars objecting to those Budd Cars, which sometimes failed to activate signal circuits, running north of Portland.

But there are Amtrak trains running beyond Portland to Freeport and Brunswick, and for a brief shining moment, a connection to a Maine Eastern passenger train onward to Bath and Rockland was a summertime option.  That summertime option still appeals.  "Another potential service change would involve extending the Downeaster further up the Atlantic coast to Rockland via a rail line owned by the state whose last seasonal weekend passenger trains ended in 2016."

First, though, the Passenger Rail authority will have to rediscover that Portland's original Union Station was better placed for through service than the current terminus.
Amtrak now uses the 20-year-old Portland Transportation Center at Thompson’s Point, which is 10-15 minutes by car or city bus from downtown Portland.

For trains to continue to either Brunswick or Boston requires a reverse move that adds 15 minutes to the travel time.

The Portland station has one rail platform and is at capacity for car parking and bus docks.

The Rail Authority would like to see a new multimodal transit center along the Pan Am main line with a double platform so trains could meet there going northbound and southbound.

The Maine Department of Transportation is studying possible station sites and its report is expected to be released in September.
I know where there's a good spot for one, and there used to be more than two platforms there!

Perhaps the reason for studying everything in depth is that given a long enough study period, Jetson-style flying cars that recycle cow farts into water will become practicable, and passenger rail of any kind irrelevant.

WE SIMPLY HAVE TO CALL B.S.!

Power Line's John Hinderaker recognizes the scam in the pseudo-academic language the political left poisons our discourse with.  His source: a high priest of the left who wonders if the quasi-religious sesquepedalian verbiage is being viewed by the parishioners as so much hocus-pocus.
The language of the left creates a hierarchy of those who get it and those who don’t. Mastering the vocabulary is a way of signaling entry into a select world of the knowing and the just. The system is closed—there’s an internal logic that can be accepted or rejected but isn’t open to argument or question. In this sense, though much of the language of the left has academic origins, its use in the public square is almost religious.
Yes, you can't just come out and say "You are all deplorable and you're going to hell," which might be what Mr Hinderaker has in mind with his summation. "I think that Democratic Party politicians are lucky that most people pay no attention to the strange things they say."

On the other hand, within the lodge, the correct phrases in the proper forms is desirable.  "Once the virtue-signal is transmitted and received, interaction becomes marination in the usual smug.  Those who don't respond correctly to the signal?  Consign them to the basket of deplorables, posthaste!"

5.8.19

DISCOVERING LOCATIONAL ARBITRAGE.

City Observatory proprietor and Strong Towns columnist Joe Cortright comes to grips with the bid-rent curve, recognizing that "affordable housing" is misleading in the presence of "the tradeoff between cheap rents and costly transportation."  In its simplest form, the tradeoff manifests itself in rents (or mortgages).  In a monocentric city, a renter ought be indifferent between locating near the jobs and paying little for transportation, or locating at a distance, which means the rent on a comparable apartment will be lower in proportion to the transportation costs.  That might provide little comfort to people stuck in traffic.  Here's Mr Cortright.  "If you have to drive everywhere, and drive further for every trip, what you save in rent or mortgage payments, can be more than eaten up in car payments, gasoline purchases, and time wasted traveling."

In equilibrium, no, but to the extent that cars become more costly (thanks, fuel efficiency standards and crashworthiness standards) and the roads become more congested, the value of living closer to work goes up.  Thus do we get the rising rents in city centers.

The arbitrage principle is still at work.
It turns out that the value of accessibility gets priced in to the cost of walkable, well-located housing; and conversely, rental and for-sale housing that’s located at a distance from everything is priced at a discount to the market.

What this means as a practical matter that you can’t judge whether an individual household’s living situation is affordable just by looking at whether they spend less than 30 percent of their income directly on housing.
It gets more complicated if people are also judging locations on the basis of school quality or distance from noxious facilities such as rail yards or factories, or contemplating the incidence of crime.  In isolation, though, the price of house plus transportation tends toward an equilibrium in which the marginal renter or buyer is indifferent as to location.

That broad pattern is evident in the consumer expenditure reports your tax dollars pay to provide.
What’s interesting to note here, is how, within each quartile, households that spend less on housing end up spending a great deal more on transportation.  Conversely, households that spend a larger fraction of their income on housing spend, on average much less on transportation. For example, households in the second quartile who spend less than 30 percent of their income on housing spend 12.6 percent of their income on transportation. That falls to less than 10 percent for those who are somewhat cost burdened, and less than 5 percent for those who are severely cost burdened. This pattern across income groups is consistent with the idea of a tradeoff between cheaper rents and higher transportation costs.
Exactly as the theory of locational arbitrage would suggest. Thus, the normative conclusion Mr Cortright reaches might be too strong.
The practical implication is that we shouldn’t be talking about housing affordability in isolation. We should really be talking about “affordable living” rather than “affordable housing.” If your rent is low, but you have to spend a disproportionately large share of your income on transportation, then your living situation isn’t affordable.
The economist in me bridles at the use of "disproportionate." Relative prices matter, and what looks "proportionate" under one set of relative prices will appear "disproportionate" under a different set.  It gets more complicated if what people are doing is buying relatively inexpensive houses a long way from work in response to some combination of historically cheap gasoline and perceived better schools.  Oh, and you can capitalize the test scores in house prices.

In a subsequent article, Mr Cortright touches, indirectly, on the role of supply restrictions in generating steep rent gradients.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported on suburbs growing faster than cities. The article, “American suburbs swell again as a new generation escapes the city,” looks at Census data showing that some of the nation’s fastest growing cities are sunbelt suburbs."
There are a number of possible explanations for that phenomenon, and, again, locational arbitrage is in play.  Consider "High and rising rents & home prices in urban centers show demand is outstripping supply. Higher relative prices for city homes versus suburban ones is the most powerful pieces of evidence of consumer preference for cities." No, it's just your plain old bid-rent curve, and perhaps what we're seeing is the inconvenience of expressway congestion and the capacity constraints on Commuter Rail changing the incentives.  The townhouse (I don't want to complicate things further comparing large and small houses) a half hour commute away looks like a good deal; it has to get a lot cheaper relative to its central city counterpart when that commute becomes an hour.  It doesn't matter whether the city price goes up or the outskirt price goes down, and preferences can stay the same.

The policy problem might be too many regulatory constraints, such as zoning and parking minima.
The unrequited demand for urban living indicated by high rents and home prices, and the complaints about having to move to suburbs to afford homes signals that policy needs to respond by creating more housing in cities. When we finally make it as easy to build new housing in cities as we do in suburbs—for example, by allowing missing middle housing to be built—we’ll see urban population grow more rapidly.
Perhaps so, although mandating the construction of those missing-middle houses might not work so well. An advocate for building more roads might see in that "unrequited demand" those high urban rents being an artifact of expensive or slow transportation, rather than some desire to cluster with like-minded hipster.  I suspect, though, that simpler policies favoring experimentation with a variety of housing types will do more to fill that missing middle than any comprehensive policy from some Committee of Wise Experts.  I have seen that movie, and it was a flop.

WOODSTOCK'S LEGACY.

No, not Snoopy's buddy, the music festival in a mud field that took place shortly after the first Moon landing and the Golden Spike Centennial.

In a sentence, it might be this question from Selwyn Duke.  " How can you build a moral society when its shades-of-gray people don’t even believe in morality?"

It's been a long time coming, but then, there has been a lot of erosion of bourgeois norms in the past half-century.

Here's Reason contributing editor Glenn Garvin, pouring on the scorn.
The most notable thing about the PBS Woodstock is the contortionist specter of a generation blowing smoke up its own ass. The last 15 minutes or so are mostly devoted to people who attended Woodstock declaring it a utopically transformative event that changed everything. Really? Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin would be dead of drug overdoses within a year. The Vietnam War continued for another three. The next president elected was not George McGovern but Richard Nixon, and when Baby Boomers finally did start electing presidents, the result was Afghanistan and Iraq. And raise your hand if you think race relations are any better today than they were in 1969.

You could as easily make the argument that what defined a generation was not Woodstock but Altamont or the Manson Family. Baby Boomers didn't change the world at Woodstock, or create a New Man. Their only accomplishment was to stand up in public, half a million strong, and chant the word "Fuck!"without getting spanked. It's sad that, 50 years later, they still can't tell the difference.
Perhaps so, although "Gimme an F" might have been the leading edge of "My transgressiveness is OK, yours is not."

We start with a few young people sleeping rough and not bathing and yelling profanities in a field in rural New York.  We now have tent cities of reality-challenged people sleeping rough and not bathing and yelling profanities and pooping in the streets of some of our proudest cities.

We start with a few young people using "Do your own thing" as an excuse for their "open" relationships, their drug use, their long hair.  We now have a one-time Olympic decathlon champion being hailed as a pioneer for deciding a retirement career as a woman is what creating that New Man, er, crosser, is.

There's a passage from Anatoly Kuznetsov's diary on the fiftieth anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution that's germane.
Shout hurrah, clap your hands.  Otherwise they will notice at once that you are not "reacting" and they will ask you why ...

I am getting stupider.  I am gradually turning into Ionesco's Rhinoceros.  I feel the hardening on my forehead.  I feel sick ...
(Shub, An Empire Loses Hope, page 316.)

And celebrating what?  Maureen Dowd laments, Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds elaborates. "All the stuff that the Dowds of the world wanted to extinguish — because, you know, chivalry was a system, one that demanded certain behaviors of women as well as men. And demanding behaviors of women might limit their options, or hurt their self esteem, or make them regret their life choices, all things that are not allowed."

Taken together, fifty years of enabling social rot and calling it social progress culminates in today's E-T-T-S moment, as summarized by J. H. "Clusterf**k Nation" Kunstler.
In a nation afflicted by fads, crazes, manias, and rages, mass murder is the jackpot for nihilists — [provoking] the question: why does this country produce so many of them? Answer: this is exactly what you get in a culture where anything goes and nothing matters. Extract all the meaning and purpose from being here on earth, and erase as many boundaries as you can from custom and behavior, and watch what happens, especially among young men trained on video slaughter games.

For many, there is no armature left to hang a life on, no communities, no fathers, no mentors, no initiations into personal responsibility, no daily organizing principles, no instruction in useful trades, no productive activities, no opportunities for love and affection, and no way out.
Perhaps a few random crazies going off is going to look like the good old days. "It’s not hard these days to imagine the political animus ratcheting up to something like a new civil war. If it works out that way, it will be the most psychologically confused political event of modern history."

It's only going to get more interesting with China buying dollars, the better to be able to undersell Our President's tariffs, refusing to buy U. S. agricultural products, thereby making the lot of the toiling masses more difficult there (and the Chinese one-child policy ensures that there are millions of adolescent males with no hope of getting a date) and China's rulers deciding that now might be a good time to crack down on any uppity hopes of home rule in Hong Kong.  " Clarity is a lagging effect," indeed.

THEY'RE FRUSTRATED AND INHIBITED AND NOBODY UNDERSTANDS THEM.

It's going to take more than a nickel's worth of advice from Lucy Van Pelt to help the vanguard of today's Young Socialists.



Power Line found the puzzle and the piano and the stamp collection all kicked around over the format of questions.


Victory Girl Lisa Carr has a few more excerpts, plus just about the right amount of snark.
I don’t know which aspect of this whole DSA circus is more comical, really. The fact that Jackson went up to the podium and asked “Comrade” for a “quick point of personal privilege”, referred to himself as “He/Him”, told the audience that he was triggered by “sensory overload” or the fact that a person was triggered by Jackson’s “improper” (proper) use of gender pronouns! These are the so-called “cool kids”, folks. These are the people some of our young adults are totally on board with voting for. The triggered by the triggering political landscape and the triggering human population. They can’t stop being offended and triggered at just about everything.
In that spirit, I'll even let a pundit with probably little experience as a circus impresario refer to this virtue-signalling show as a circus.

Reason's Robby Soave pays the convention a back-handed compliment.  "Of all the various factions of progressive activism, the DSA is by far the most organized, and the least likely to be derailed by culturally woke signaling."  Yes, contrasted with a Student Affairs event, but they still deserve to be undermined with mockery.  Stephen "Vodka Pundit" Green does, and he's not as ready as Mr Soave is to credit them with anything.  "The good news is, they'll be too busy arguing about genderless language, make-believe personal pronouns, and the importance of keeping the chatter to a minimum to actually wage a revolution."

RAILROAD PRESERVATION IS CHALLENGING ENOUGH.

Experts who embezzle while pretending to help don't help.  "A 61-year-old man and former Illinois Railway Museum volunteer must pay back the thousands of dollars he's accused of stealing from the volunteer-based organization."

It's worth remembering, dear reader, particularly reader who is a casual train enthusiast with toddlers who are into Thomas and Friends, that preservation railways are generally not state enterprises, nor does railway preservation generate the kind of upscale Patron of the Arts types who might host champagne brunches in support of galleries somewhere.
The Union-based museum operates on about $1 million each year, not including the cost of equipment restoration projects, which largely are funded by donations, tax documents show.

Owned and operated entirely by volunteers, the museum receives no state or federal money. All of the organization's operating costs are paid by individual donations and profits from ticket sales, according to the website.
Exactly. Rolling stock that is under roof has to earn its keep, either by running on the demonstration line (on rare occasions, the Nebraska Zephyr, which passes inspection for use on the common carriers, earns additional money venturing beyond the museum) or by having money donated by members or supporters.

4.8.19

PANEM VISITS THE SEVENTH DISTRICT.

Wisconsin political scientist Katherine J. Cramer started a research project, with the support of the University, to sound out people about their attitudes toward the University (which might be why the University supported her efforts) as well as to do ethnography on the policy attitudes of Wisconsin residents.

The University even provided her with Wisconsin mementos such as football schedules and Bucky Badger keychains as a way of gaining access to conversations among the regulars at village coffee shops, gas stations, cafes, and perhaps the occasional tavern.  (I might be kidding about the tavern; the descriptions and venues are disguised to protect the human subjects.)  The approach worked in the sense of getting people to trust her and to talk.   (Now, if you really want to get information, you bring donuts dockside, but that's how economists roll.)

It started innocently enough, but then the housing bubble and the Obama bubble and the Walker recall happened, and the resulting The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker, our Book Review No. 8, caught on with the punditry in a way that most academic studies do not.

THE STATES ARE IN THE TRANSPORTATION BUSINESS.

In National Review, Robert Poole, a regular Reason Foundation transportation wonk, suggest that they behave accordingly.
It’s not hard to see that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way we fund and manage the highways we all depend on. Highways are one of our basic public utilities — along with water, electricity, natural gas, telephones, etc. Yet we don’t have huge political battles over how to pay for those utilities. Every month you get a bill from your electric company, water company, phone company, and satellite or cable company. You pay for the specific services you used, and the money goes directly to the company that provided those services. None of that is true for highways.
There's more to this discussion than whether using tax revenue from gasoline sales on governmental functions other than road repair or traffic enforcement at work, although in Wisconsin, there are elected officials who would like to reduce gasoline taxes with the implementation of tolls on the interstate highways.  "[Now former governor Scott] Walker was cool to the idea [of making the interstates toll roads]. He said he would go along with implementing tolling or raising the gas tax if other taxes were cut by an equivalent or greater amount." There are times to think about revenue neutrality, but not when you have an asset that isn't paying off.

Mr Poole extends the argument that the highways are assets to the possibility of selling them to operating companies.
That means each highway needs an owner. Highway customers should pay their highway bills directly to that owner, based on how much they use the roads and how damaging their vehicle is to the pavement. The owner should assess the need for new links or more lanes, and finance the construction by issuing long-term revenue bonds. Of course, as with any other major construction projects, they should have to comply with existing planning and environmental regulations.

This might sound like a libertarian fantasy, but it’s a model with a long history that stretches into the present day. Private turnpikes were the main inter-city roadways in 18th and 19th century Britain — and 19th century America.
I kind of like the idea of selling the interstates to joint ventures of motor carriers, but that's getting ahead of my story.
Highway owner/operators have strong incentives to properly maintain their facilities, so that customers willingly pay to use them. (In fact, those who purchase the revenue bonds insist on proper maintenance for this very reason.) With per mile toll charging, they have reliable, bondable revenue streams that make it possible to finance large-scale reconstruction, widening, etc. when it’s needed, not someday in the future when the money is somehow cobbled together.

Chronic expressway congestion has a twofold solution: Market pricing brings demand into balance with supply, which in this case means capacity, but it also generates the funds to expand capacity to what makes sense for current and projected traffic levels. Like a cell-phone company, a highway company wants to have the capacity it needs to provide good service — and unlike the state, it will have the means to pay for that additional capacity.
That approach sounds more promising than the current repeating cycle-of-crisis where from time to time a pork-laden infrastructure bill gets reported out of Congress to give the impression of Doing Something.

Mr Poole partners with Badger Institute president Mike Nichols to attempt to square the double-taxation circle the now former governor drew.  " Modern technology makes it easy to rebate fuel taxes paid by drivers on electronically tolled roads. This should satisfy concerns about double-charging users."  Why?  The toll is a capacity charge, and the fuel tax is a usage charge.  That's common in utility bills.  There's a new governor in Madison, and yet, paying for the roads (and the road repairs: potholes became a campaign sound bite north of the Cheddar Curtain last year) still takes more than general revenues can cover.
More than 20 percent of all Wisconsin transportation fund revenues already go toward debt service instead of improving our roads. The state spends over a half-billion dollars every year just servicing transportation-related debt.
The roads are assets, but the state is not using the assets to generate revenue; and hoping to generate enough tax revenue in other ways to service the debt just because is wishful thinking, not good business.

In his National Review column, Mr Poole also writes, "You may see the merits of this case yet despair over how such a large change could ever come about. But continuing the status quo is untenable."

Heck, if the status quo is untenable, why not contemplate even larger changes?  Let's start with something I wrote a year ago, taking a look at a smaller traffic sink, namely surface carrier corridors into the container ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.  "Nor do I see any reference to incentives to make more effective use of the existing rail corridor, something that the railroad companies and the truckers might consider in the presence of tolling."

Let's continue with an observation I made about mixing freight and passenger trains on the same railroad.
[L]ook closely at the Union Pacific map. Why are there two lines between the Chicago area and Milwaukee? Once upon a time, the two tracks closest to the lake were primarily for passenger service, the two tracks inland, which bypassed downtown Chicago, were for freight.

Many of these tracks are now gone, and the legal relationship between Amtrak and the freight railroads is not good. If the freight trains have to be held in order for the passenger trains to stay on schedule, do the railroads not have a case that a regulatory taking is in effect? Who, then, has the responsibility for providing the additional tracks? [Michigan State's Andreas] Hoffrichter sees a role for public spending, infrastructure, if you will. "Dramatically expanding rail use, particularly passenger service, will require government investment in more frequent service on existing lines, starting service to areas that don’t have access to rail currently, reducing journey times and building out a larger passenger rail network." Whether Our Political Masters will go along remains to be seen.
A lot of those casual rail enthusiasts who sought photo opportunities of Big Boy a week ago might have learned about that freight main.  It also could figure in Wisconsin's infrastructure plans.  "Wisconsin officials announced plans to add three Amtrak Hiawatha round trips to the Chicago-Milwaukee route over the next five years, and should be able to add two of those trains with or without cooperation from Illinois."  The Illinois part is a consequence of well-off residents of a few northern suburbs objecting to the restoration of freight and passenger train frequencies to levels short of those immediately after the end of the War.  In Wisconsin, though, there's this.
Those improvements include a bypass that would allow freight trains to avoid the downtown Milwaukee station and a second platform at the Mitchell Airport station. The airport station project has already received federal funding. The state has committed $35 million in funding toward the Hiawatha effort in its 2019 to 2021 budget.

The Racine Journal-Times reported that the Wisconsin transportation department is completing an analysis of the infrastructure improvements needed on the Canadian Pacific- and Metra-owned route, then will work with those railroads and the Illinois Department of Transportation to complete those improvements.

Even after Illinois officials withdrew support for the sidings, they said they were still committed to expanding service, a commitment Thompson reaffirmed Wednesday.
The second platform at the airport is long overdue: currently all passenger trains must be on the east track between the Milwaukee Depot and Lake or the new crossover near Caledonia; with the trains often meeting at or near Sturtevant where there are two platforms, the dispatcher has a regular headache.

That freight bypass is the restoration of an old idea, one that will be more difficult now that Miller Park occupies much of the space once devoted to The Milwaukee Road's yards and shops.  There still is at least one track deviating from the passenger main at Cut-Off and rejoining the passenger main on the south side of Milwaukee.

There is, however, another option, involving the Union Pacific Freight Main, that an entrepreneurial state department of transportation might consider.  Canadian Pacific won't add more Hiawatha frequencies, they say, without a little help from Illinois.

Canadian Pacific are a tenant on other railroads from Rondout, a junction near Libertyville, Illinois, to the former Milwaukee Road classification yard in Bensenville.  From Rondout to Northbrook, they are on Metra tracks, with commuter trains given priority, and the controversial sidings in Glenview are required to park freight trains that would otherwise interfere with the commuter service.  From Rondout to Bensenville they are on the Union Pacific Freight Main, and those sidings might come in handy when Union Pacific want to get their train by first.

Here's where things stand, anyway, Amtrak and the state departments of transportation not thinking like businesses.
In any case, adding round trips would require an additional trainset with cars and locomotives that won’t be available for at least three years. However, the most-needed rush hour departures are set to operate in conjunction with Metra trains south of Rondout when CP movements are already sidelined at those times of day.

Canadian Pacific’s decision to release the letter a month after it was written indicates the railroad initially chose to keep negotiations private, but was not a part of what it considered to be any meaningful discussions with WisDOT before the agency publicly indicated that it was seeking more frequencies.

WisDOT’s Passenger Rail Manager Arun Rao told Trains News Wire in May, “The big issue is finding a solution to the capacity and infrastructure needs of the railroads.” Rao has not yet responded to inquiries whether CP’s letter might impact future negotiations or the department’s investment plans.
What would happen if Wisconsin sought ownership of the Freight Main, with the intention of putting all Canadian Pacific freights on it at Washington Street south of downtown Milwaukee, to join with Union Pacific freights at St. Francis, and if Wisconsin and Illinois put double track and a few recessing sidings back on the Freight Main?

Suppose, in addition, that Wisconsin took this Badger Institute idea seriously.  "[A tolling study] could assess value-added features for trucking companies, such as lots of safe overnight parking spaces with various other services, including electric vehicle recharging and alternative fuel sources."  I like the idea of such a truck park near a railroad, with incentives for truckers to contract for rail delivery to the truck park, perhaps with favorable toll treatment on such moves.

The mind considers all sorts of possibilities.  Here's Charles "Strong Towns" Marohn on the possible negative going concern value of Interstate 80 across Wyoming.
What do we do with an interstate across, say, Wyoming, if the traffic counts aren't high enough for the state to justify maintaining the roadway? I don't think this is likely, and I think the negative ramifications to the Wyoming economy of letting this system go bad would preclude it happening, traffic counts or not. Nonetheless, we could theoretically face this situation. If that is the kind of thing that keeps you up at night, you have some real paternalistic/materialistic tendencies that my more pragmatic worldview just can't reconcile.
Perhaps Union Pacific don't want to solicit for a 500 mile piggyback haul (Julesburg to Salt Lake) but perhaps Wyoming could contract to run such trains. We're going to have to take a closer look at how public money gets put into trains: the existing preference for Amtrak might well be a regulatory taking; at the same time when public money goes into upgrading freight railroads, perhaps that money ought be conditional on the provision of capacity for (at the moment) local, state, or federally supported passenger trains.  If the Interstates can't pay their own way, that doesn't mean there isn't some transportation option that can (even if it costs more, but if you introduce the possibility of trade-tested betterments ...)

In conclusion, though, I suspect that any serious attempt to introduce market principles into the provision and use of roads just might induce entrepreneurial behavior from the railroads, even if the state departments of transportation have to take the lead.

BURYING THE LEDE.

High-poverty schools often staffed by rotating cast of substitutes.  No continuity, sometimes the substitutes aren't really prepared to teach mathematics or chemistry.

The reader has to scroll way down to get to the heart of the matter.

The story dates to the closing years of the Obama administration, with the predictable perspective.
“This is not an issue that we see in high-income communities,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education. “We know that we are shortchanging our kids and that it’s not a phenomenon that is equally borne across our school districts.”
Neither she nor the Post are going to say "pay and working conditions," but it's pay and working conditions.
In most districts, teachers earn the same salary regardless of their school assignment. Some see high-poverty schools as more difficult because many students come to school already behind academically and facing serious challenges in their lives, many of which are beyond a teacher’s control.

And it is not uncommon for veteran teachers to feel that they are fending for themselves without instructional support or consistent, school-wide expectations for student behavior.
Consistent, school-wide expectations? Isn't that oppressive, requiring students to code-shift into white supremacy culture?

PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS COULD USE A DOSE OF MODESTY.

David Von Drehle suggests a first step.  That is, after a false start, in which Wise Experts somehow retroactively achieve honor as pragmatists.
At the beginning, although, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, pragmatism was a reaction by the likes of C.S. Peirce, William James and John Dewey to the idealistic philosophies of Europe. Truth is not to be found in some palace of the mind apart from the world, they argued. Rather, the truth of an idea is measurable by its effects.

Well, duh, you might say. And that’s sort of the point: All great and true philosophies eventually seem self-evident after enough experience. Pragmatism advanced largely because its alternative – analytical idealism – has been such a grotesque practical failure. Over the past century, grand theories of racial supremacy, nationalist destiny and communist utopia were repudiated by their terrible real-life effects. Even the more recent notion that the whole world hungers for American-style democracy has run aground on the reef of reality.
Those domestic political philosophers happened to stumble across some ideas that seemed to work. For a while. But emergence has its way.
Most Americans aren’t philosophers, thank goodness, but we are a nation of pragmatists. And so, despite the snap to her zinger, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was out of the mainstream when she shrugged off criticism during the second round of Democratic debates by saying: “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.”

An American president ought to care deeply about the effects of her ideas – whether she can actually do the things she promises and whether her idealistic “should-dos” are also pragmatic “could-dos.” Former congressman John Delaney of Maryland was hardly out of place at a forum of would-be presidents when he expressed practical concern that hospitals can’t survive if all their services are reimbursed at Medicare rates, as Warren proposes to do.
Mr Von Drehle had better be careful, that's a good way to become persona non grata at those Georgetown cocktail parties.  What would all those pontificators on the Sunday shows, and the noisier wannabes on the opinion networks ever do if the Conventional Wisdom stopped treating The Presidency as the secular incarnation of The Messiah?

Perhaps it's necessary to smash a few other icons as well.
Asking what works is an essential element of the Progressive tradition. Reformers of the early 20th century steeped themselves in data and tested their theories relentlessly in the laboratory of the streets.

The original Progressives were incrementalists and compromisers. They built coalitions by offering – and then delivering – concrete results.
Do we get to include all the policy failures as well? Direct election of senators? Prohibition of liquor? Income taxation? All the administrative state apparatus that came with two wars and the New Deal?

I think he sort of gets it.
Pragmatism has never been more urgently needed in American politics. The widespread loss of faith in government reflects a half-century of overpromising by politicians with Big Ideas.
Yes, overpromising hyped up by the chattering classes, and their presidential cult.
What I don’t understand is why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the U.S. simply to ignore questions about real-world realities and promise fights without explaining how to win them. Reality is not going to bend to a new shape come 2021 just because a President Sanders shouts at it, or a President Warren fights with it.

On the other hand, if their ideas are sound and their promises are true, there’s no better way to demonstrate that than through diligent testing and vigorous challenges. Contrary to what we heard again and again in the debates, that’s not a “Republican talking point.”

It’s an American conviction.
So is "When a government becomes destructive, it is the Duty of the People to alter it."

3.8.19

IN 120 YEARS HOW GOOD WILL YOU LOOK?

Last Sunday, after my call on Big Boy at West Chicago, I decided to look in on the Fox River Trolley Museum, which could still use your help recovering from a shameful act of vandalism last summer.

One of the cars running was Niles interurban 20, built in 1902 for Chicago Aurora and Elgin.


The interurban attempted to effect a modern look on these cars by covering the arched upper sections of the windows and painting over the stained glass in the roof clerestory.  The windows still open, which is how we air-conditioned interurbans apart from the Electroliners and a few other cars.  The ride is still good, and it's one of the few places where a preservation railway runs on original interurban trackage.

GAME IN ONE HAND.

This Saturday's not-regular-Saturday bridge column might get into the weeds of combinatorial theory.  The deal itself might not be that interesting, and yes, purists might suggest that bidding Three No-Trump on 25 high-card points is cheeky.


The good news is that all the bots passed.  I can't always depend on that: a few days ago I got into one where I bid a heart and partner bot bid a spade and I raised to Three No-Trump and partner bot decided that was good enough to bid Seven No-Trump.  The East bot doubled, and then partner bot redoubled.  Then the opening lead was an ace.  I forget whether this effort went down four, or five.

In this hand, the Spades might be trouble: the Ace, Jack, and three other cards are outstanding; in Hearts, there is one winner, and finessing the Queen with eight outstanding is trouble.  With proper play, all four Diamonds ought be good, although with five outstanding there is still a three-in-eight chance of a defender being able to promote a Diamond trick later.  There are also three good Clubs, with eight still outstanding the defender has a chance of promoting a few tricks in that suit.

There are two principles in conflict here.  One is that finessing a card is safer early in the hand, the better to be able to use the stopper cards in other suits.  The other is that forcing the defenders to dip into their long suits when they are no longer able to follow suit makes it harder for them to promote a trick once they gain the lead.  Losing the lead, I've discovered, can be risky.  For example, with the lead, Ace-low on the board and King-low in hand are two tricks and two entry opportunities.  Lose the lead, though, and those low cards might have to go because the rules require a card to be played on each trick.  Thus instead of two winners and two reversals, there's maybe one stop.

On to the play.  Opening lead, ♥5, fourth highest, six higher cards out against it.  East played the ten.  If the Three to the Queen brings out the King, there are a lot of Heart tricks for the defense to win.  I chose to work on the Clubs while the lead was in hand:  Three to the Queen, Nine to the King, Ace, and discard the ♠2 from the board.  Four tricks.

In retrospect, it might have been better to have worked on the Diamonds first:  Deuce to the Jack, Six back to the Queen, King pulls out East's ♠7.  The Ace brings out the ♥7 and ♥6.  Eight tricks.

Now the nail-biting begins.  I've used up the dummy entries, thus the ♠Q comes from hand, forcing out the Ace.  (That ♥3 to the Queen is retrospectively even worse, as that could give West the lead.) The King is good, provided the defense leads another Spade.  The lead is in East: first the two promoted Club tricks, the Eight and the Six with everybody else showing out, then the ♥K (had the outstanding honors been reversed, the lead would be with West and the contract broken) and all East had to lead was the ♠J, covered by the King, and nine tricks made.

THE CONCEPT IS CORRECT, THE EXECUTION, NOT SO MUCH.

Trains Passenger Rail pundit Malcolm Kenton suggests these might be the good new days for Ontario residents who would like more rail options.  Among other things, there is now a Kitchener to Waterloo latter-day interurban.  It's not quite the second coming of the old Grand River Railway and Lake Erie and Northern that offered connecting service as far south as Brantford and Port Dover.  It's a start.

More encouraging is what the Passenger Rail authorities would like to accomplish with the Toronto - Ottawa - Montreal service.
[The authority] won a significant victory to advance its plan to build a new high-performance passenger-only rail line between Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. The Canada Infrastructure Bank’s decision last week to spend $71 million CAD to begin engineering and economic analysis on the project, while remaining open to helping fund its construction provided that the analysis returns favorable results, gives VIA [the authority -- ed.] confidence that it can attract private investment to help the government-owned corporation complete the project.

Keep in mind that the proposed line is not world-class high-speed rail — it would be a conventional line allowing conventional equipment to operate at up to 110 mph with numerous grade crossings. Nevertheless, it would cut travel times by up to one third less than current schedules and offer much greater reliability by not being shared with freight. This milestone, along with Virgin Trains USA’s expansion to Orlando proceeding apace, proves that modern passenger rail projects in North America don’t have to be grade-separated bullet trains or use some flashy new technology like maglev or hyperloop in order to attract private-sector participation and deliver tremendous utility to the traveling public and to local and regional economies.

If VIA can overcome the hurdles of political will and resistance on the part of its host railroad Canadian National, and if its urban regions continue to develop and modernize rail transit, Ontario’ populous southeast and southwest regions would be well-positioned to continue providing a high quality of life to their growing populations as energy and other resources inevitably become scarcer with climate change and growing global demand. Many locales stateside could learn from this success.
In fact, given the state to which Passenger Rail has fallen, as well as the nature of the high-density corridors in North America, including the Richmond to Portland stomping grounds of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor services, Free Rein to 110 with contemporary diesel trains is the more sensible way to start.

The plan to separate passenger and freight trains between Montreal and Toronto makes sense on paper.  It's also a way to provide for even faster running later, if the tracks are surveyed and laid out with a subsequent installation of electrified running in mind.

In practice, though, Bill Stephens, who is also a Trains columnist, has doubts.
There’s much to like in VIA’s so-called high frequency rail plan. Transit times on the new corridor, VIA says, would be 25% faster than the current schedules, which cover Toronto-Montreal in about 5 hours. The new corridor would permit 110 mph operation, up from the current maximum of 100 on some sections of CN. VIA could provide more frequent service without begging CN for permission to run additional trains. And VIA projects 95% on-time performance on its own tracks.

But the whole plan falls down in the busy terminal areas in and around Toronto and Montreal. That’s where VIA’s trains would still have to negotiate trackage thick with freight and commuter traffic.

Transport Canada’s solution to this problem is laughable. “VIA Rail Canada would work with track owners to conclude necessary agreements and ensure that both freight and passenger operations can go smoothly,” a spokeswoman says.
Perhaps a few overpasses in the right places (would you believe one will be built in the area of Tower A-2 in Chicago?) might help. That, and people who know how to move trains.
VIA has said that passenger trains and freight trains are simply incompatible. What’s required, the thinking goes, is separate routes for passenger and freight. That’s never been true. If it were, Amtrak’s Hiawatha trains would not have clocked 96% reliability last year on Canadian Pacific trackage between Chicago and Milwaukee.

Keeping passenger and freight trains on time takes a combination of operational discipline, the right track capacity, and a willingness to make it work. CN takes pride in its operational discipline, and executives say the Eastern portion of the railroad, between Chicago and Halifax, is underutilized. What’s missing, it seems, is a willingness to expedite VIA trains.

VIA needs a cooperative host railroad more than it needs a new route that would bypass intermediate population centers, face opposition from the not-in-my-backyard crowd, take years to build, and in the end would still have to rely on shared trackage in key areas.
Yes, the current seven Hiawatha trips a day are generally reliable (although on occasion a rake misses an entire trip: if it doesn't run at all, it can't be late?), but getting back to ten trips is proving to be difficult, and separate passenger and freight routes well might be the way to go.  (Stay tuned.  I'm working on that one.)  Yes, it's on public officials to sell internal improvements: we have not-in-my-back-yard sentiments in part as a reaction to the excesses of eminent domain over the years.  The point of internal improvements, though, is to introduce trade-tested betterments, that is to say, Pareto improvements.

Perhaps we begin by suggesting that provincial transportation authorities run the assets they have as businesses.  Here's a question for discussion: what are the current tolls on the Queen's Expressways?

BIG BOY WAS COOL.

Kevin Solari, managing editor of the local newspaper, generally limits his train riding to rapid transit into Wrigleyville, parking being nothing short of unpleasant there.  But Big Steam makes him take notice.
It wasn't only me who got sucked in either. Tuesday morning I was standing near the railroad tracks in DeKalb near the crossing at Second Street. Dozens of people of all ages were out there. I spoke to a woman who said she wasn't a train person either, but after a few minutes she was trying to navigate the area around the crossing, looking for the best vantage point to see the train, while also staying safely behind the crossing gates.

Along the fence line, older people who could remember being passengers on trains powered by steam engines stood next to children who had only seen a steam engine as an emoji.

A whole community came out to watch a piece of history pass through. Many had never seen anything like it before, maybe only as the icon of America that railroads have been fore [c.q.] close to two centuries. Others came to once again see a memory from years long past.

I'm glad I was there. I can't say if my newfound fascination with trains will last now that Big Boy has moved on, but I know more than I did a week ago and I've experienced something few others have as a result. What more can you ask for?
Steam locomotives still symbolize railroading, perpetuating the journalistic atrocity of high speed trains "chugging," although in many ways these are the good old days for (freight) railroads. Passenger not so much, but that might yet change.