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


The Milwaukee streetcar at left was built in St. Louis, but maintained at Cold Spring Shops.

The line car at right was first built as an open-bed work motor, then converted at Cold Spring Shops to a line car.  It's over 100 years old and still used by the East Troy railroad to service the catenary.


One of the oddities of the fall festive season is that Oktoberfest is generally in September.

In Wisconsin, it kicks off in July, with Milwaukee's German Fest.

The scrolling board to the right mentioned the beginning of Oktoberfest season.  I don't make this stuff up.

German style Maypole, with participating organizations.


Why not continue the festivities at home?

Preparing Spanferkel is a major project, and I have enough of those already.  But it's easy enough to approximate a Nürnberg 3 im Weggla.

I just use "breakfast brats" as a reasonable facsimile of the Approved Nürnberg Bratwurst, which must be small enough to slip through an old-style key-hole.  Bar-time munchies are not a modern phenomenon, people.

Sometimes, though, the traditional Sheboygan double is in order.

But there's still more Oktoberfest season to enjoy.  Can't get enough Spanferkel.

When it's gone, it's gone.  The rotisserie chickens can be cooked up more quickly, and inventory control is simpler.

Music by The Freistadt Alte Kameraden Band.

Polkas, schottisches, waltzes, the occasional march.  Plus, for Wisconsin events, On! Wisconsin! and the Bud Song.



The New York Times picks up an essay by one Brian Lombardi, located in DeKalb, on approved metrofexual behavior.  James Lileks characterizes it as "humorless humor."  Mitch Berg is proud to be a paleomale.  Stephen Miller fisks it.

Put me in the paleomale category.  I cut the wood myself, and improvise jigs to assemble the components.  Then it's time for a liter of beer.


Commencing this weekend, Amtrak will operate Saturday only late evening Hiawatha trips.
No. 344 will depart Milwaukee at 10:40 p.m. with No. 343 leaving Chicago at 11:10 p.m.

Trains 329 and 330, the early morning departures, will not operate on Saturdays during this schedule. Ridership results will be evaluated after the holidays.

Amtrak said the late night service will serve those who have plans for a late dinner, attending a show, going shopping or engaging in some other activity on a Saturday night.
Improve by increments. Those departure times will serve most concert and opera schedules, and hockey or basketball absent multiple overtimes. No tavern-lounge cars yet.


Our President has successfully fundamentally transformed the United States.  Nearly a quarter of the population is not participating in the labor force, and a Russian general apparently advised the U.S. military attache in Baghdad that "we commence bombing in an hour."  Well done.

Perhaps, though, it is beyond Our President's, or anybody else's, competence.  Complex adaptive systems tend to do what they d##n well please, and all that.

Here's Richard Fernandez, taking stock.
What no politician has yet nerved himself to tell the public yet is that normalcy itself may be ending and the actual facts of physical life soon depend on actions and virtues our elites have long deemed obsolete or worthy of extinction.  If historical discontinuities mean anything it is that “business as usual” is over.

The Western world had a extraordinarily good run in the years since 1945, so good that it was easy to imagine that constant progress was a permanent condition; that tomorrow would always be better than today; that there was some unstoppable march through history our politicians had only to get in spangled tights to lead.

Ironically the basis of that incredible prosperity may not have complacency but on the contrary, a constant vigilance over its fragile existence.  Business as usual looked easy because the Old Ones had the habit of putting another log upon the fire to keep the dark things away.  Now that our new leaders have said ”let the last ember go out.  Those needless fires put out too much CO2. There is nothing to fear out there”, we are beginning to have our doubts and yet aware it’s too late to go back now.

Now we get to find out the truth about whether there are wolves out there.  The answer will alter us.  History tells us that events always transform men.  They never leave them unchanged.  William Halsey recorded the effect of the 40s on his generation when he said “there are no extraordinary men… just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with.”
He's optimistic, despite the challenges.
The years since the fall of the Berlin Wall have been characterized by a futile attempt to buy stability through risk sharing.  There was no crisis, which if sufficiently enlarged, could not be solved. Yet it failed. In an era of rapid change emergent risks can no longer be spread.  Survival will depend not upon building a bigger boat but making the right choices.

This breaks politics, especially redistributive and identity politics and hence the politicians have not accepted that yet.  But they will, and relatively soon.  The next decade will be hard; and our only consolation will be that if we win through we will be better men and freer too.
But Arts Mechanical suggests winning through is not assured.  Marginalize the productive people, don't be surprised when the productive people opt out.
And they don’t see their part in the future.  There is a general malaise throughout the culture.  People are not cattle.  They will change their behavior in response to conditions they cannot change.  They can’t save money and start families. Women have to work to maintain the standard of living that they are used to.  They are forced to live week to week and prospects for improvement don’t seem to exist.  So by and large people don’t have kids.

Which in essence is the entire culture going Galt.  Which is what’s happening to the Blue model all over the planet.  If you really look at how things are going, it’s not hard to understand why.  In the end you can’t give away happiness.  Happiness is something that everybody pursues with their own efforts. Misery, on the other hand is all too easy to create.  A little oppression here, a little tax farming there, and some income redistribution and shortly thereafter, you get just unending tons of it.  Talk to somebody from the former Soviet Union.  The people that came up with the Blue Model don’t understand that they are just creating misery and the rest of us are just stuck with it.
That "women have to work" isn't accurate; rather, increased labor force participation by women plus the Say Aggregation Principle have something to do with it.  But the Blue Model is a burdensome bad idea, and one of the dubious victory dividends since 1945 has been the diffusion of bad ideas, many of which became Trendy Research in Prestigious Universities.  Fortunately, notes Michael Walsh, there is a corrective.
The way back from this brink, I argue, is through the rediscovery of the things that have made Western civilization great: its heroic, individualistic culture. Its art, literature, music and classically liberal political philosophy, which had found a way to accommodate both God and man until relatively recently.
And in deconstructing the technocratic impulse and the celebration of the odd simply because it is odd, perhaps we can see off the cult of expertise. Give S. E. Cupp the last word. "Complex problems are best sorted out by markets or confronted locally, not through one distant official's decree." She's addressing the pernicious cult of the presidency, but that, dear reader, is the Trenchant Observation of the Season.

So mote it be.


The trunk line railroads, still working to install positive train control, have threatened to embargo hazardous cargoes in case Congress does not extend the deadline for installation of the hardware beyond the end of the year.

This is not just something for the usual talking heads to pontificate about on the Sunday shows.  The embargo means troubles at the water works.  "Completely avoidable," notes Representative John Thune.  Thus, increasingly likely.




I'll let others do the analyses and the recriminations.



There's more to that work than simply editing presentations supplied by textbook hustlers or downloaded from somewhere.  On occasion, somebody discovers something new that really ought to be in the presentation.  Sometimes the professor makes the discovery, and bragging on his own research becomes part of the presentation.  Sometimes, the professor has read somebody else's discovery, and he considers it worthy of inclusion in the presentation.  Thus, both making the discovery and making the discovery known to others matter.

That's so staggeringly obvious that people don't understand it.  (Sorry, the late Yogi Berra could probably put that more colorfully.)

Thus, it's noteworthy when the Pope Center, generally standing in opposition to business as usual, defends research and publication, and Phi Beta Cons, set up to call out the academy's follies, picks it up.
Making faculty engage in research and produce a finished, publishable product is good professional discipline. It shows that someone who engages in college teaching is more than a glorified primary or secondary school teacher. He or she is taking another step upward on the road to becoming a bearer of higher education.

Such discipline requires concentration and in this case excludes the possibility of college instructors getting tenure or promotion simply because they receive good “evals” from the kids and because they arrive at faculty meetings on time.

Most importantly, I can see no reasonable alternative to what has been mocked as “publish or perish” as a component in a tenure decision. The fixation I have observed on being an “effective’ teacher is a slippery slope leading nowhere but to a bigger popularity contest among instructors.

Student evaluations tell us nothing more than whether instructors come to class, speak audibly and are generally coherent. Since those evaluations that are notably expansive typically come from angry students, it may be necessary to make allowance for this mood factor as well as for the limited knowledge of the person making the judgment.

We also now have “scientific” approaches to evaluating teaching performance that take into account lists of class assignments and lesson plans. By the time I retired four years ago, young faculty were also obliged to attend seminars on how to make their teaching “delivery system” more student-friendly. Those seminars were almost always arranged by older faculty and administrators who had never done any research, other than what they euphemistically called “teaching research,” which meant preparing their classroom presentations.

Although the onetime emphasis in some universities on research and publication may have been excessive, the refusal to weigh these factors as significant criteria for academic advancement has engendered even worse results.
It's not so much that the emphasis on research and publication is "excessive" is that in the absence of solid metrics for the quality of the research being done, professors think in terms of the "minimum publishable unit," and the cynic advises the tenure-trackers that deans can't read, but they can count.  Thus emerges the vanity press and archival journals and electronic publication, and the best efforts of faculties to rank journals or to calculate "impact factors" can be for naught.  Or they can lead ambitious professors to cut corners.
Researchers stated that there was strong pressure on them to publish in a limited number of top journals, “resulting in important research not being published, disincentives for multidisciplinary research, authorship issues, and a lack of recognition for non-article research outputs”. Even worse was that the need to get into these top journals led to “scientists feeling tempted or under pressure to compromise on research integrity and standards”.
Incentives matter. Reward quantity, get quantity.  Reward trendy approaches, get trendy approaches.  Reward originality, even if it takes longer, get originality.  Reward reasonable attempts at replication and improvement on method ...

The authors of the lament about corner cutting recognize as much.
In the end, science is a human endeavour. And like humans everywhere, those who work in it will do what they are rewarded for, for better or for worse. So we need to make sure those reward structures are encouraging good quality research, not the opposite.
So staggeringly obvious that people won't understand it.


The culture wars distractions continue, with two leading Republican presidential hopefuls taking stick for their views about Our President's religious beliefs, and about possible conflicts between Sharia and civil society.  Start with Andrew McCarthy on Our President's policies, whether or not he is now, or ever was, a practicing Moslem.
President Obama’s policies have been excessively deferential to anti-American Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and hostile regimes like Iran. He has pressured the executive branch, including the intelligence community and law enforcement, to whitewash the connection between Islamic scripture, Islamic supremacist ideology, and violent jihadism.
Whether his stance is that of a San Francisco Democrat, or a boutique multiculturalist, or a mind-set learned in Indonesia doesn't matter.  What matters, as Roger L. Simon points out, is that any one of those explanations is equally logical. "Is Obama a Muslim?  No, but he’s something even worse — a transnational progressive." As, also, are Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton.  Which makes all their talk about being outsiders just that.  Talk.  Henry Wallace or Adlai Stevenson or Walter Mondale or Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton ... that all share a naive view of international affairs and an excessive faith in the ability of Four of Five Experts to Steer the Ship of State is more important than any differences in chromosomes or skin color or the way in which they give hectoring speeches.



Yes, beating up on Donald Trump for misunderstanding comparative advantage falls into the same category of mismatch as most recent Bear - Packer games.  But it's useful to have Mark Perry (via Cafe Hayek, with an assist from Milton Friedman) spelling out the way in which swapping beef for cars works out well for the United States.
In economic terms, our standard of living is highest when we maximize imports and minimize exports, which is exactly the opposite of the misinformed thinking of Donald Trump and many politicians. If anything, it’s the US that has “hosed” China, Japan and Mexico over the years, and it’s the US that has engaged in the international “theft” of billions of dollars of imported goods that have been “stolen” from those countries. After all, when you consider who ends up with the most “stuff” from international trade, it’s the US that is the winner – we have acquired more “stuff” from them, than the volume of “stuff” we sent them. That’s what a supposed “unfavorable” trade balance really is – we get more of their stuff than they get of ours, and then we complain that it’s “unfavorable.”
There are laws of conservation in economics, and the money that goes overseas can either serve as a store of value there (years ago, I was able to make transactions in U.S. dollars all over China and eastern Siberia) or invested in U.S. assets.


Victor Davis Hanson suggests that the presidential circus is as vapid as it is for lack of any intellectual standards.
There are few standards left. Everything is negotiable, from the now fossilized idea of a traitor like Bergdahl to a neo-Confederate sanctuary city. A play, a movie, a building, a novel — anything really — cannot be assessed by absolute criteria, given that such “standards” are always set by oppressors of some sort, usually the children of capitalism and bourgeoisie consumerism who wish to enshrine their “privilege.” Take a sentence, chop it up into lines, and presto — a poem. By what standards is Chopin any more a genius than a Snoop Dogg? I thought of Walsh’s book yesterday when watching the various newscast reactions to the migration crisis in Europe and the deer-in-the-headlines faces of the European Eloi: Who are we to say that our culture is better than theirs? What is a border anyway? What even is a migrant? Whose values construct someone into the “Other”? Why do hosts enjoy privilege and guests do not?

Frankfurt intellectuals have done a lot of damage: from multiculturalism to postmodern art, they have destroyed the individual experience and made us cardboard cut-outs by their constant Marxist-inspired dumbing down, ending in a dreary predictable sameness. The past has become melodrama adjudicated by 30-year-old PhDs rather than muscular tragedy. When Obama decides to rename a mountain or brags that Trayvon looks like the son he never had or urges Latinos to “punish our enemies” and quips “typical white person,” he is more or less offering a paint-by-numbers version of the postmodernists who despise both the rich capitalist West whose bounty created their own leisure and subsidizes their nihilism, and the rest of us who lack their awareness and thus are unthinking cogs in a huge monotonous wheel. For the postmodernist, Middle America lacks the romance of the poor of the inner city that is never visited and the high culture of the Upper West Side or Georgetown that is prized.
Angry? Hyperbolic? You decide? But refutable?  Consider some long-winded meditations from a different perspective on the same presidential campaign.  Here's the short form, from Henry Giroux.
Under the reign of neoliberalism, space, time and even language have been subject to the forces of privatization and commodification. Public space has been replaced by malls and a host of commercial institutions. Commodified and privatized, public space is now regulated through exchange values rather than public values, just as communal values are replaced by atomizing and survival-of-the fittest market values. Time is no longer connected to long-term investments, the development of social capital and goals that benefit young people and the public good.
That sounds like a coherent belief, something Roland Barthes and the deconstructionists pronounced anathema upon. But where there is multiculturalism, are there truly communal values, or do we only see identities?
In the age of casino capitalism, time itself has become a burden more than a condition for contemplation, self-reflection and the cultivation of thoughtful and compassionate social relations. The extended arc of temporal relations in which one could imagine long-term investments in the common good has given way to a notion of time in which the horizon of time is contained within the fluctuating short-term investments of the financial elite and their militant drive for profits at any price. What is lost in this merging of time and the dictates of neoliberal capital are the most basic elements of being human along with the formative culture and institutions necessary to develop a real, substantive democracy.
Perhaps the most charitable thing to say about that paragraph is "extended non sequitur."  But I persist.  "The formative culture?"  No multi there!  "Institutions necessary?"  Not deconstructed or marched through?  Perhaps Donald Trump is what happens when the intelligentsia and the political class deride and demean normal Americans for too long.
This retreat into private silos has resulted in the inability of individuals to connect their personal suffering with larger public issues. Thus detached from any concept of the common good or viable vestige of the public realm, they are left to face alone a world of increasing precarity and uncertainty in which it becomes difficult to imagine anything other than how to survive. Under such circumstances, there is little room for thinking critically and acting collectively in ways that are imaginative and courageous.

Surely, the celebration and widespread prevalence of ignorance in US culture does more than merely testify "to human backwardness or stupidity"; it also "indicates human weakness and the fear that it is unbearably difficult to live beset by continuous doubts."
Whatever. Mr Giroux goes on in a similar vein, raising the possibility of a distinctly American fascism.  There's an even longer version of the complaint in Tikkun. Nowhere, though, does he suggest that perhaps there can't be a coherent response to a trashy and superficial public culture without some shared notion of what a dignified and substantial public culture is.


The San Diego police and NBC Nightly News collaborate on a news story that's also a public service announcement.

Many of the level crossing crashes involve a vehicle smacking into a car somewhere behind the locomotive, which will go completely un-noticed by the engineer, and there are no longer cabooses with the rear end crew to see something amiss.

San Diego police wrote 172 tickets for railroad crossing violations by drivers and pedestrians in five hours of enforcement.  Excessive?  Go step on a pop can.  In proportion to the strength of the motor vehicle, the force exerted by the train exceeds the force of your stomp.

Stop.  Look.  Listen.  Live.  That is all.


The old Welfare Economics Paradigm called for corrective taxes and well-specified subsidies, along with counter-cyclical and complementary monetary and fiscal policies.  Hope and Change bring none of those.
To grow the economy, cheap interest rates are not going to work as well as reforms that make business formation and job creation more attractive. Yet Democrats these days have ever-lengthening lists of job-killing policies they want to enact, from tighter environmental regulations to dramatic minimum wage increases (especially in cities where unemployment is high) to tax increases. Paradoxically, that leaves liberals cheerleading for Fed policies that increase inequality and concentrate wealth because only ultra low rates (or truly massive deficits, which can’t be rammed through a GOP Congress) can mask the effect of left-wing microeconomic policies on the economy as a whole.

There is no shortage of capital today, but there is a dearth of attractive opportunities to invest that capital in ways that will stimulate employment. People who actually care about the living standard of the American people need to be thinking long and hard about the kinds of policy changes and innovations at the local, state, and federal levels that would rejuvenate the American labor market by making it easier and more rewarding to create new jobs.
Perhaps the simplest thing for the government to do is to back off. No public spending without rent-seeking: result, no productive effect.  The commentator is also arguing that the regulatory burden is depressing the internal rate of return on private investment, which might otherwise be substantially higher than the opportunity cost of capital.


The Green Bay Packers rallied to take control of their game with the Microsoft Seahawks with a no-huddle, no-back series.
"I thought it was probably the most important drive of the game," said [Packer coach Mike] McCarthy. "Not only to go down and score, but we were able to keep the ball. Moving in-bounds, there was a lot of time that came off the clock. It was a critical point in the game, and to get that production out of it, it was an excellent change-up. And Aaron orchestrated it very well, was patient with it. So it definitely was a good package for us."
The formation calls for proper timing and execution, as the quarterback often throws to the rearmost of three receivers on one side of the field, with the receivers in advance turning into blockers.  Football is blocking and tackling.  And understanding that a proper mixed strategy means mixing.



It's pointless to build additional road capacity in the Southeast, as that will only produce additional lanes to clog.

The existing Passenger Rail service is inadequate.  But help may be on the way.
The Federal Railroad Administration, the State of North Carolina, and the Commonwealth of Virginia announced today that they have signed off on the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Richmond to Raleigh passenger rail line along the Southeast Corridor. The completion of the environmental review is one of the final steps necessary before construction of the project can move forward once funding is secured.

“Without a strong passenger rail system, the Southeast’s growth will be choked by congestion for a very long time,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. “North Carolina, Virginia and the Department of Transportation have worked together to bring us closer to high-speed rail connecting Richmond and Raleigh, and I urge everyone involved to continue pushing this effort forward. High-speed rail in this region is not a luxury but a necessity.”

The 162-mile route between the two cities would utilize existing and former rail lines for approximately 60 percent of the route and is planned to be free from at-grade crossings of track and roads. This route is part of a larger multi-state planning effort to provide high-speed passenger service between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. In July, Secretary Foxx announced that the Department of Transportation would invest approximately $1 million to develop a regional long-term vision for the corridor and engage states and stakeholders to help the region form a governance organization that can sustain planning efforts and implement the vision.
There are some dormant or abandoned rail corridors that can be put back into use. I hope the track and catenary will be designed in such a way as to handle intermodal trains and autoracks, which will be a relief to automobile traffic on the likes of Interstate 81.  (And use some of the so-called Highway Trust Fund money, if necessary, on the railroad.  Less wear and tear on the interstates is the essence of holding an asset in trust.)

The passenger potential is clearly there.

Columnists Anthony Foxx and Dwight Jones, in Richmond's Times-Dispatch, say, let's get going.
It is true that it took a generation of discussions, planning and designing to get us to where we are today. But it is also true that we do not have another generation to reach the finish line. High-speed rail in this region is not a luxury; it is a necessity, and the clock is ticking. If we cannot figure out how to build this network soon, it is not hyperbole — it is a fact — that the South is going to be stuck in traffic for a very long time.

Back when planning for the Southeast Corridor started, Richmond commuters spent roughly 16 hours a year stuck in traffic. Last year, Richmond commuters lost nearly double that — 34 hours. Granted, this is still below the growing national average. But will it stay this way when there are 18 million more people, as the America 2050 study found, competing for the region’s road and airport spaces as we know them?
They observe, less lost time in traffic than the national average. Why compare yourself with the worst? And yes, lane expansion has not kept up with traffic volume expansion, but adding more lanes does not head off congestion.

Faster trains facilitate commerce, yes, but note that simply providing frequency and connectivity brings riders.
Richmond and the other cities and towns along the corridor are more than just neighbors, so to speak. As the region adds more residents and its economy expands, regional markets will be more tightly linked. Road congestion in the Richmond area is a growing problem, and the average flight delay at airports along the corridor is nearly an hour.

The proposed route from Richmond to Raleigh will in effect pull the cities closer together by cutting 75 minutes off the current train trip, making rail faster than even today’s traffic-free car trip. Further analysis of the Southeast Corridor has found that businesses pay 46 percent less for employees to travel from Richmond to Washington by train than by car.

Citizens are voting for this with their train tickets. Virginia has seen close to a 100 percent increase in ridership on its regional trains in recent years. Businesses and government are primed to make the Southeast Corridor plan a reality.
In Raleigh's News-Observer, Bruce Siceloff is also enthusiastic.
On the freight side, a lot of DOT’s attention is turned to the needs of container shippers in the realm known as “intermodal,” because it breaks down the barriers that separate competing forms of transportation.

“That’s really where the industry is going, as far as moving containers from ship to train to truck,” said Paul Worley, DOT Rail Division director.

Most of the containers that arrive by ship at the Wilmington port leave it on trucks. DOT wants to improve the port’s rail connection so that more of those containers can move out on trains. A container with anything from bulk grains to UPS packages can be shifted from one train to another before completing its journey on the back end of an 18-wheeler.

The Rail Plan envisions new rail routes at both ports – possibly relocating N.C. Railroad tracks in Morehead City, and adding a new Cape Fear River bridge into Brunswick County from Wilmington – to improve rail shipping for port customers. At the same time, DOT wants to find ways to reduce train-related delays for motorists in the port cities.
Note that regional railroads, not the four national systems, are involved.  The national systems continue to make a hash out of moving trains through Chicago, which probably pushes a lot of container traffic onto the highways.  But, again, using tax moneys to improve water-to-rail logistics is consistent with conserving the highways.  On the passenger side, there's an opportunity to implement the Cold Spring Shops Free Rein to 110 campaign.
This interstate line, formerly known as “high-speed,” is envisioned to provide faster train service from Raleigh to Washington, D.C., and the Northeast – and, later, from Charlotte to Atlanta and points south.

Most of the planning work has been completed on the key section – a 35-mile shortcut between Raleigh and Richmond, Va., using the old CSX “S” line. DOT’s aim is to eliminate every at-grade crossing on the road – bridges for some, closings for the rest – for trains that could move as fast as 110 miles per hour.

But that won’t happen without an estimated $3.8 billion to $4 billion in federal funds. Rather than wait forever for this money to materialize, DOT has begun looking at a more incremental approach.

Worley said he will look at what it would it cost to acquire the entire “S” line and put in new tracks and stations – enough to introduce standard-speed train service to Richmond – without all the bridges and other improvements needed for faster trains. Another option might involve starting out with service along just part of the line – from Raleigh to Franklinton or Henderson.
That's the old Seaboard Air Line -- the straightest section, but if memory serves, a bit of a roller coaster. Getting passenger trains up to 110 is straightforward -- if not necessary for regional trains to Henderson -- and there's no reason not to set it up for 90 mph intermodal trains or 80 mph autoracks, which could move overnight.

And with the Federal Reserve not raising interest rates, the capital costs are favorable.


Our President thinks it's transgressive to salt the guest list for the Pope's visit to the White House with the identity-politics freak show.
This is an astonishing display of bad manners. It would be one thing to invite a LGBTQ guest who held a position or a place in society that made him or her an obvious pick. In that case, it would be wrong from the standpoint of both etiquette and morals to deny an invitation. It would also be another matter if the White House is doing this with the foreknowledge and support of the Vatican. If Jesus could eat with tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners, it’s possible Pope Francis would be fine with a few guest with whom he disagrees on some points of personal morality. A joint decision with a Vatican that is fully happy with the guest list would be perfectly acceptable.

But at least one top Vatican official, unnamed by the Journal, issued a critical response to the list. If that official’s views are representative, it would appear that the White House did not run the list by the Vatican and the Obama Administration has gone out of its way to invite people whose presence is intended to imply criticism of the beliefs of his guest of honor. This is sophomoric and disgraceful. If the Catholic Church is so immoral that you feel that all decent people need to be at war with it, then you should treat the Pope’s visit as a private matter and ignore it. But if you want to show respect to the head of a faith that tens of millions of your fellow countrymen think is important, invite him and treat him with honor.

If the White House truly did this without Vatican support, this is behavior you’d expect to see from middle school students rather than the head of state of a serious country.
Is anyone surprised? Democrat cliches are emotional appeals calculated to move sophomores, and their witticisms are at about the same level.  And Our President has been behaving like a petulant teenager whenever he interacts with anyone who objects to his way.


While the evangelical and libertarian strains of Republicans simultaneously tangled and made common cause in the TEA Party Caucus, and Donald Trump shook up the presidential race, there's been anything but consensus among the Democrats.
The pundit class’s commitment to the conventional wisdom allowed them to miss the conditions on the right that led to the Trump surge over the summer – a dynamism that is evolving into an uprising among a healthy plurality or even a majority of Republican primary voters against professional politicians. The expert political observer is equally committed to subordinating empiricism to their understanding of how things should work when they survey the Democratic race. Clinton should have the nomination locked up. The Democrats should be committed to her campaign. If Clinton were to somehow fail to win both Iowa and New Hampshire’s early contests, her prohibitive organizational strength in the South should prove an insurmountable firewall. Amid all of these shoulds, pundits have ignored or overlooked the 2016 election cycle’s myriad coulds.

A Democratic revolt is well underway. If it snowballs, only those who should know better will have been caught by surprise.
Thirteen more months of this. Let there be more surprises!


Count on Robert D. Kaplan and Victor Davis Hanson to discover the grim, this time in the mass migration of refugees from Asia Minor into Europe.  Here's Mr Kaplan, pointing out structural flaws in the European project.
Reforming the welfare state does not mean dismantling it -- that would only cause another form of social and political upheaval. Nevertheless, structural economic reform is, at root, the solution to Europe's slow-motion dissolution. If the EU cannot generate more dynamism in the realm of economic and fiscal policy, it will continue to fracture internally, as each state looks out for its own, zero-sum interests, even as external threats multiply and Europe melts into Eurasia. Such a transformation in political geography would leave the United States as the lonely bastion of the West.  Indeed, the EU’s creation and evolution represents the ultimate fruit of the U.S.-led victory in World War II. It should not give way to the dementia of nationalist ideologies.

But political vision requires a strong economic foundation. And only a fiscally vibrant Europe can cope with the threats on its periphery. Geography matters, but human agency matters more.
And, Mr Hanson suggests, the postmodern policy myths do not survive an encounter with revealed preference.
Yet neither the Latin American nor the Islamic world analyzes why millions of their own are fleeing to cultures that are usually criticized -- other than an occasional half-hearted whine about the legacy of imperialism, colonialism and a potpourri of other historical grievances.

Nor does the deer-in-the-headlights American or European host dare to remind newcomers that its uniquely Western menu -- free-market capitalism, private property, a free press, meritocracy, consensual government, religious tolerance, equality between the sexes, and individual freedom -- draws in people, while the antitheses repel them.

The mentalities of both the Western hosts and the non-Western migrants have become predictable.
Well, when the Smart People have been deconstructing precisely the institutions that made the West rich and prevented the suckitude from which Latin Americans and Southwest Asians and North Africans are fleeing,  it's kind of hard for them to have a coherent understanding of why the direction of migration is what it is, or for them to emphasize with push-back.
Many ordinary middle-class Westerners oppose massive influxes of immigrants. These citizens do not like seeing laws rendered null and void. They fear that their schools, health facilities, legal systems and social services will be overwhelmed and left unable to effectively serve their own middle classes and poor.

The masses in the West have learned such caution from experience. The sudden appearance of huge numbers of immigrants -- when coupled with poverty, lack of language facility and little education -- for decades afterwards has impeded easy integration, assimilation and intermarriage within Western society.

As a result, a divisive, salad-bowl multicultural separatism often arises.

Given the challenges of facing strange customs, traditions and languages, guests naturally find it difficult to achieve rapid parity with hosts. It is soon forgotten in the first generation that being in the underclass in the West was once thought better than the alternative back home. That paradox is soon forgotten by the often disgruntled -- and less desperate -- children of migrants.

Millions of immigrants to the West soon sense that their own lack of parity and sheer numbers can translate into a powerful political constituency -- all the more so if it stays angry, unassimilated and occasionally replenished by new waves of arrivals.

Western elites in politics, journalism, academia, religion and the arts snipe at their own supposedly illiberal majorities. How dare these cruel hearts question the wisdom of accepting legions of anonymous newcomers!
While, Mr Hanson goes on to argue, the Smart People don't have to live near the new arrivals and their unusual habits.

Valid though that objection is, the challenge is to deconstruct the deconstructionists without fostering a destructive native identity politics.  This is not easily done.  Imagine an internet and a 24 hour news cycle at the time of mass immigration of Middle European Catholics and push-back from an earlier uprising of native identity politics.  There were plenty of cross-burnings early in the twentieth century without social media to propagate more.  Then came the War to End All Wars and getting the new arrivals involved became A Matter of National Urgency.

Perhaps something other than self-despising multiculturalism is in order, as that might be the more effective way to dissuade the second generation from becoming nostalgic for an old country they might never have lived in, and to encourage the third generation to buy into the institutions of the place where they live.  Which will be easier in the United States and perhaps Canada than in Europe, as the North American countries are good at assimilating that which is good from the new arrivals.  Why else the Oktoberfest observations all over the Midwest this time of year, and the Polka Fiesta?



Among the older posts racked to be gotten at someday, this Ronald Bailey column from Reason (probably postponed as it turned up during a Super Bowl run by The Green Bay Packers) argued, "We haven't heard from space aliens and that might be good news."  One of the hypotheses he turned up suggested the use of exponentiating machines.
In 1980, physicist Frank Tipler proposed a scenario in which alien civilizations would launch fleets of self-replicating machines possessing human-level intelligence to explore the galaxy. The machines would arrive in a new star system and immediately start to populate it with duplicates of themselves and launch the next wave of explorers. Tipler calculated that once launched such machines would inhabit every solar system in the galaxy within 300 million years. Since there is no evidence for such an ever-expanding fleet of self-replicating machines, Tipler concluded, “Extraterrestrial intelligent beings do not exist.”
The conclusion of TNT's mercifully ended Falling Skies suggested that they passed through sometime in the sixth century, being driven off by Peruvians with spears.  Note, though, that in the debate that followed, the risk that an exponentiating machine with intelligence becomes a threat to the machinist is one that cosmologists have long understood.
In 1983, planetary scientists Carl Sagan and William Newman countered Tipler’s “solipsistic” conclusion arguing, among other things, that intelligent aliens might refrain from constructing fleets of self-replicators because such machines might turn on their creators. In addition, Sagan and Newman suggested that advanced aliens might have “much more exciting and fulfilling objectives...than strip-mining or colonizing every planet in sight.” Then Sagan and Newman turned Pollyannaish proposing that aggressive mean-spirited aliens would conveniently kill themselves off leaving only benevolent civilizations “pre-adapted to live with other groups in mutual respect." Moreover, they suggested, “We think it is possible that the Milky Way is teeming with civilizations that are far beyond our level of advance as we are beyond the ants; and paying us about as much attention as we pay to the ants.” Never mind how thoughtlessly we walk over anthills as we go about our daily tasks.
In The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Edward Moore Geist digs into the state of the artificial intelligence art (machines are still a long way from forming strategies, let alone evolutionary stable ones?)  That's not to say the danger isn't present.
Dr Stuart Armstrong, of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, has predicted a future where machines run by artificial intelligence become so indispensable in human lives they eventually make us redundant and take over.

And he says his alarming vision could happen as soon as the next few decades.

Dr Armstrong said: "Humans steer the future not because we're the strongest or the fastest, but because we're the smartest.

"When machines become smarter than humans, we'll be handing them the steering wheel."
But he continues with a hypothetical that has already been anticipated by Hollywood.
In attempting to limit the powers of such super AGIs mankind could unwittingly be signing its own death warrant.

Indeed, Dr Armstrong warns that the seemingly benign instruction to an AGI to "prevent human suffering", could logically be interpreted by a super computer as "kill all humans", thereby ending suffering all together.

Furthermore, an instruction such as "keep humans safe and happy", could be translated by the remorseless digital logic of a machine as "entomb everyone in concrete coffins on heroin drips".

While that may sound far fetched, Dr Armstrong says the risk is not so low that it can be ignored.

"There is a risk of this kind of pernicious behaviour by a AI," he said, pointing out that the nuances of human language make it all too easily liable to misinterpretation by a computer. "You can give AI controls, and it will be under the controls it was given. But these may not be the controls that were meant."
Particularly if, as in the Star Trek episode, the machines exchange algorithms.
I've always found Nomad's origin and characteristics somewhat contradictory and confusing. Nomad was supposedly the result of a collision between an Earth probe tasked with searching out new life, and an alien robot tasked with sterilizing soil samples. How did it acquire the power to wipe out four billion lives? And how did it get around? How could Nomad have warp capability? It was the size of a Chatty Cathy doll.
Anything can happen in a cartoon. But complex adaptive systems, even algorithmically based artificial intelligences, tend to do whatever they d**n well please.


With the coming of a new academic year comes the usual fretting about liberating tolerance, or progressive intolerance, or, incivility, or, to use my preferred locution, sheer stupidity.  The editorial board of USA Today suggests it's time for the Guardians of Academic Morals to recommit to free speech.  There's even a useful piece of public health advice.
Just as children raised in overly clean houses devoid of bacteria become more vulnerable to allergies and asthma, many of today's college students — protected by "helicopter parents" — have become fearful of anything that could make them or their friends uncomfortable.
Not only that, letting your kids play with other kids helps develop the immune system and reduce the incidence of allergies. Instead, helicopter parents give way to bubble-wrapping school officials, and the victimization culture is residually inhabited by morons, in the old clinical sense of the term.
But, in the spirit of point-counterpoint and equal time and with complete lack of the irony that the act of providing a platform to differing points of view is repressive per se, the editorial board gives two University of Chicago students the opportunity to argue that free speech frees hate speech.  Well, yes, we have norms, and rules, and sanctions ranging from shunning to execution, because free and self-activated people will sometimes trespass against others.  But the examples they suggest to support their point suggest something more is at work.
Unlike in the past, a First Amendment defense for speech is less likely to be used by student activists or minority groups on campus, and more likely to be invoked, for example, by students defending an event such as Conquistadors and Aztec Hoes,” a fraternity party planned on our campus in 2012, then swiftly canceled after Latino students and their allies protested.

These kinds of views and actions are blatantly racist and are meant to target and stereotype an entire group of people. Such views and actions are also the kind defended by the report and statement the university issued in January that unequivocally favors freedom of speech.

By failing to put limits on — or even mention — this type of behavior, the university’s report fails to protect freedom of expression for all members of its campus. Hate speech restricts freedom of expression by creating an environment so hostile to the targeted group that its members fear speaking out.
I have trouble squaring "Latino students and their allies protested" with "members fear speaking out."  Consider, though, why fraternities and sororities might be scheduling in-your-face themed parties.
We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part.
That's toward the end of Animal House, when the Deltas plot to sabotage the homecoming parade, but the earlier toga party had a similar genesis.  As the Greek-letter organizations understand the contempt the academic establishment and Student Affairs and particularly the grievance lobbies hold them in, why not do something futile and stupid and in their face?

Particularly because they know that the Perpetually Aggrieved will react as if somebody offered incontrovertible evidence that Karl Marx got the dialectic wrong, or if The Bell Curve is right.

To continue, I have in common with the grievance lobby a short fuse.  All my life I have struggled with the temptation to go off on someone who is baiting me to go off.  What seems different is that the Perpetually Aggrieved on campus will go off in response to a provocation, even a futile and stupid one calculated to set them off.  And while the representatives of the offending organization go through the obligatory "if any of you I've offended" (I'm waiting for someone to add, "stick your head in a bucket of shaving cream") some of the organizers might be congratulating each other over having set the radical ruffians off.  The better response to a themed party with stupid stereotypes accordingly might be, Delta again, consider the source.

But no, the Perpetually aggrieved will go off.  Even if it's performance art that sets them off.
Students at the University at Buffalo were outraged about the sudden appearance of “White Only” and “Black Only” signs above certain bathroom doors in the College of Arts and Sciences building. But outrage was largely the point, since the signs were part of a black student’s visual arts project.

Many did not appreciate the signs, even with the knowledge that they had been deployed as deliberate social commentary. One student tweeted, “Not only is this a hate crime, but it is also an act of terrorism.” Others called the police.
O tempora! O mores! The job of the performance artist is to get the bourgeoisie to set their hair on fire.  (Consider the source.  Don't spend any money at the galleries that sell their works, and work to defund the national endowments.  Buy the stuff that you like, or build a railroad in your basement.)  As a colleague explained to me once, art is context.

But when the Perpetually Aggrieved get set off by avant-garde art, you can be sure that somewhere on Greek Row there are bros looking for a way to push back against the indoctrination that passes as "affirming diversity" and recognizing that it doesn't take a really futile and stupid gesture to set the Perpetually Aggrieved off.


A prominent businessman recently lamented the balance of trade between the United States and Japan.
Trump, the only one of the 15 candidates in Wednesday’s debates to appear publicly Tuesday in Southern California, assailed Obama on trade with Japan, China and Mexico, saying the leaders of all three countries were smarter and more cunning, a favorite comparison of his.

Japan’s “massive ships float right here and they drop off the cars, right?” he said, gesturing to the giant container vessels floating nearby. “They drop off thousands and thousands and thousands of cars. Millions of cars. And we sell them beef.”

The crowd erupted in laughter.
Yes, that's a standard feature of Donald J. Trump's campaign speech.

It's also a misconception shared by more than a few politicians, precisely because it appeals on some primitive level to constituents.

But the real cunning is being demonstrated by other entrepreneurs in the United States, who are able to produce cars by hiring immigrant labor to feed, slaughter, and pack the beef, and marshalling sufficient refrigerated containers to safely deliver the beef dockside.

It's called specialization and gains from trade, and the metaphor of producing cars on the range is in common use in economics classes, perhaps, though, in not yet enough economics classes to change voters' thinking about trade.

Nor does the concept of comparative advantage have enough purchase with the political press, who continue to chase Mr Trump's lesser gaffes.



David Foster of Chicago Boyz picked up my coverage of the possible railroad shutdown account no positive train control by year's end, as Congress wishes.  He expressed the hope that I might explain why this is so difficult, and one of his readers wondered if something couldn't be purchased off the shelf from Germany or some other place that runs really fast trains.

The short answer is that monitoring the speed, separation, and performance of trains on a railroad network is a tougher engineering challenge than either the Manhattan Project or a moon shot.

Outrageous enough for you?  Stay with me.

The Manhattan Project demonstrated that a critical mass of radioactive material could be brought together in such a way as either to produce a controlled chain reaction or an explosion.

Project Apollo demonstrated that a launch vehicle could be built capable of carrying sufficient payload to land a manned spacecraft on the Moon with sufficient life support for the crew and fuel to permit a takeoff from the Moon and a transearth injection.

Positive Train Control is the latest attempt to solve a much older problem, namely preventing two trains from occupying the same piece of track at the same time, as well as a corollary problem, allowing as many trains as practicable to occupy different parts of the track.

When two trains attempt to occupy the same piece of track, bad things happen.

Unattributed 20minuten photograph

It's relatively simple to keep only a few trains separated.  Issue a timetable.  Note, in railroading, that a timetable does not REQUIRE a train to be at a station at the specified time.  Rather, it means that the train will not be BEYOND that station BEFORE that time.

This is the section of Time Table No. 54 of the Boston and Maine Railroad, effective at 12.01 A. M. on April 27, 1952, governing the movement of trains on the Portsmouth Branch.  Under the instructions, inward trains are superior to outward trains.  Thus an outward train is obligated to clear the time of an inward train, unless the fine print (3600 superior to 3601, Portsmouth to Rockingham) stipulates otherwise.  An inward train has right to the railroad for up to twelve hours.

As long as everything runs according to schedule, nothing breaks down, no snowdrifts or leaves on the track or a broken-down one-hoss-shay at the road crossing, that's all that's required to keep trains from running into each other.  But if the superior train breaks down, absent some other means of control the inferior train has a long, avoidable wait.  And the trains on the schedule are passenger trains, doesn't the navy base require a delivery of fuel, and don't the New Hampshire farmers want their milk picked up? Thus, you have to have provision for running the freight trains.  Not much of a problem, simply issue train orders authorizing an extra train.  The passenger trains don't have to know about the freight extra, because the freight's crew have timetables, and conductor and engineer know where the passenger trains will not yet be, and plan their movements accordingly.  And unless advised otherwise, the crew of the passenger train will be protecting against extras in the event of an emergency.

But that's labor intensive and if the dispatcher intends to run a lot of freight extras, cumbersome.  Here's where it helps to have signals, to give train crews additional information about the status of tracks ahead.  Thus, most busy railroads have signals, dividing the track between stations into shorter segments, known as blocks.  Timetable plus dispatcher plus signals can make for a productive railroad, in fact the western end of Britain's old Great Western is still kept safe using tools and methods codified during Queen Victoria's reign.  (Also true of some key junctions in Chicago.)

St. Erth for St. Ives in the summer of 2007.  The signalman, whose 'box is the brick-and-siding structure in centre background, will soon raise the angled signal blade to horizontal, which any of you who have seen Thomas the Tank Engine knows means "Danger" and in the British rules means STOP.  DO NOT PASS.  There are serious consequences for the train driver who commits a "Signal Passed at Danger."

We're still dealing with a labor-intensive way of spacing trains, and it's still subject to human error.  The signalman can fail to observe the passage of a train, or to re-set the signal, or the driver (there, engineer here) can run past the signal.  It's also up to the engineer to control the speed of the train in order to make a safe stop before passing the signal.

Thus railroads replaced the dispatcher and station agents and tower operators with a train director capable of controlling long sections of track from a central office.  Hence, centralized traffic control -- in North America, the train director often takes the traditional title of dispatcher.

On the Burlington Racetrack, those signals are responding to directions issued by a dispatcher in Fort Worth.  That distant train is on the left-most (north) track, and the signals are properly showing red, advising any train heading away from me on the north track to STOP.  IMMEDIATELY.  The dispatcher's control station in Fort Worth, perhaps assisted by computers, will prevent him from clearing that signal in the case he has a lapse of attention.  The signals governing the center and right tracks display a clear signal, meaning at least two blocks in advance of an approaching train are clear.  Note: at least two blocks clear, that's a potential hazard the designer of positive train control has to address.  Note also: blocks are fixed section of track, if there is a train in the third block, is it just past the signal at the entrance to the block, or further along? The designer of positive train control has to keep track of the exact position of all parts of the train at all times.  Note finally: the train approaching the green signal might be a mile-long unit oil train running at 40 mph that you don't want to make a quick stop with, or it might be a suburban train running at 60 mph that can be stopped relatively quickly, or it might be a container train also running at 60 mph, but with very different handling characteristics.  The designer of a positive train control system thus cannot design a one-brake-application-fits-all-conditions for the trains on the network.

Railroads have grappled with both the stopping distance and the signal-passed-at-danger problems with a number of mechanical or electronic devices that backstop the inattentive engineer.  We've had inattentive engineers, or napping engineers, long before smart 'phones became another impetus for enhancing safety appliances on the railroads.  To stop a train at a red signal, the Chicago Transit Authority installed a tripper between the rails at the location of the signal.  When the signal was red, the tripper popped up, and a train that didn't stop short of the tripper hit the tripper, which tripped a valve under the lead car, leading to an emergency brake application, a quick stop, spilled coffee, and flat wheels.  For years, automatic train stop has been available as a more subtle way of keeping the rails safe whilst spilling less coffee.  The engineer gets a warning and has a few seconds to make a service brake application, before the machinery takes over and spills the coffee and flattens the wheels.  But, unlike what the designers of positive train control hope for, this device reinforces the obligation to stop short of entering the next block, it doesn't kick in whenever a train in motion is getting too close to another train in motion.

And railroads have also dealt with the problem of trains closing in on other trains, a problem that even good engineers can get lulled into.  Because one block is often too short a stopping distance for either a fast train or a heavy train, the simplest solution is to distinguish a "clear" signal aspect (two blocks clear) from an "approach" aspect (next block clear.)  Conventionally, clear is a green light, approach a yellow light.  Want to talk about the variations?  Come over and help me build my railroad.  The railroad can also make the blocks longer (in the 1930s, The Milwaukee Road removed alternating signals to convert a 50 mph railroad into a 100 mph railroad) or provide additional signal aspects (too wonky for today's post.)

Now put yourself in the seat of a train engineer who sees a yellow signal ahead.  Comply with the rules, reduce speed, signal turns green ... do you thus increase speed?  Pass the green, next signal is yellow, do you reduce speed again?  Comply with the rules, reduce speed, signal turns green ... do you get lulled into expecting the yellow to change to green before you get there.  And can you get away with it for days? weeks? months? until one day the leader is a little slow to get off the main track or breaks down and there you are, running the yellows until the yellow doesn't clear up and you now have less than the normal stopping distance to get your train under control, and it's just your luck that the leader broke down a short distance beyond that red signal you're coming up on pretty fast.

With positive train control, the designer is effectively establishing a moving bubble of protection, always large enough to provide that safe stopping distance.  But that's a significant advance over existing train control systems, which (as is true with the European Train Control System and Germany's Linienzugbeeinflussung)  divide the railway into blocks.  Those methods are more subtle than, for example, Chicago and North Western's Automatic Train Control, which advised the engineer either that there wasn't a train close by, or that a train was close enough to warrant a speed restriction.

Timetable authority to leave Nürnberg just past noon.  Casey Jones would understand that.  Dispatcher will know what section the train is in.  Bedwell and Dellinger wrote about that.  Engineer will know approximately how much clear track is ahead.  But only slightly more precisely than the engineer of the Kate Shelley departing DeKalb for Clinton did.

Signals, centralized traffic control, automatic train stop, automatic train control, all permit more productive use and closer spacing of trains than a railroad could achieve using a timetable and a dispatcher issuing train orders to deal with unusual circumstances.  And each method provides additional safeguards against human exhaustion or inattention.  But no method yet permits simultaneous knowledge of the position, direction, and mass of all trains at all times.  A working positive train control system must eliminate all three uncertainties.


I'm not impressed by the grievance mongers dressing up sloppy social science with fancy terminology like "intersectionality" and "hegemonic biases."  The good news is that the serious social scientists are coming to grips with the emergence of norms and the damage done by deconstructing them.  There's a taxonomy of norms that is useful.  Loosely, an honor culture is one in with well-defined norms, perhaps well-defined status hierarchies, with individuals achieving redress for dishonor.   Dignity culture has well-defined norms, but procedurally all individuals hold equal status, and legal institutions provide redress.   Victimization cultures, Reason's Ronald Bailey argues, overwork the legal institutions to provide redress for minor slights.  Micro-aggression, thus, is the quintessential first-world problem, in which the most egregious slights are infrequent and severely punished, thus oppression manifests itself in the small things.
A victimhood culture combines an honor culture's quickness to take offense with an overdependence on the coercive institutions that serve as a dignity culture's last resort. If Campbell, Manning, and Horwitz are right about the direction American society is taking, that's really terrible news. A victimhood culture will spawn social conflict, which in turn will produce an ever larger and more coercive government tasked with trying to suppress it.
That refers to two separate works, both being offered for peer review and comments, clarifications, or refutations in the scholarly journals.

Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning's "Microaggression and Moral Cultures" appears in Comparative Sociology.   This is what proper social science looks like.
We argue that the social conditions that promote complaints of oppression and victim-ization overlap with those that promote case-building attempts to attract third parties. When such social conditions are all present in high degrees, the result is a culture of victimhood in which individuals and groups display high sensitivity to slight, have a tendency to handle conflicts through complaints to third parties, and seek to cultivate an image of being victims who deserve assistance. We contrast the culture of victimhood with cultures of honor and cultures of dignity.
The rules themselves provide incentives to plead victimization, whether or not such pleading is being enabled by the intersectionality types.   The testable implications are in the paper, with careful reading, but the cross-tabs and regressions are for somebody's future research.  But where honor cultures collide with dignity cultures, the friction can go far beyond micro-aggression.
Outsiders who enter [communities governed by an honor culture] might misunderstand the local standards of provocation to their own detriment, while insiders who seek success in mainstream society might find their reaction to slights viewed as a sign of immaturity and low self-control.
The policy folly, for diversity hustlers and their cultural competency fetishes, is in going too far to excuse the bad behavior of people who have never been properly socialized, thereby enabling their continued lack of self-control.  But that's too strong an argument to draw directly from Campbell and Manning.

Steven Horwitz, an economist, provides another piece of the puzzle, by tackling the emergence of norms.
Unsupervised childhood play is how children learn the sort of informal rule-making and rule-enforcing that is so critical to a liberal society’s attempt to minimize coercion. It is a key way that children learn the skills necessary to engage in social cooperation in all kinds of social spaces within the market and, especially, outside of it. We learn how to problem solve in these ways without the need to invoke violence or some sort of external threat, which enables us as adults to cooperate peacefully in intimate groups as well as within what Hayek called the Great Society. A society that weakens children’s ability to learn these skills denies them what they need to smooth social interaction and undermines their ability to participate in what Tocqueville called “the art of association.” Losing the skills learned in unsupervised play makes coercion more likely by threatening our ability to create and sustain the rule-governed relationships that are at the core of liberal societies. If we parent or legislate in ways that make it harder for children to develop these skills, we are taking away a key piece of what makes it possible for free people to generate peaceful and productive liberal orders.
Not only that, letting your kids play with other kids helps develop the immune system and reduce the incidence of allergies. Instead, helicopter parents give way to bubble-wrapping school officials, and the victimization culture is residually inhabited by morons, in the old clinical sense of the term.

Megan McArdle expands the argument. Where there's a procedural right not to be micro-aggressed against, life becomes microaggression all the way down.
If you establish a positive right to be free from alienating comments, it's hard to restrict that right only to people who have been victimized in certain ways, or to certain degrees. It's easy to say everyone has a right not to be alienated. It's also easy to say "you should only seek social or administrative sanction for remarks that are widely known and understood to be offensive slurs." It is very, very hard to establish a rule that only some groups are entitled to be free from offense -- because the necessary corollary is that it's fine to worry the other groups with a low-level barrage of sneers, and those groups will not take this lying down. The result will be proliferation of groups claiming victim status, attempting to trump the victim status of others.
Not to mention that when sensitivity to micro-aggression accompanies euphemistic language, saying "out-of-status tourist" with a sneer becomes as much a micro-aggression as "illegal alien."

There's additional social science emerging. Start with Jonathan Haidt, in the linked piece offering a rapid response to Campbell and Manning, with the promise of a longer work expanding his thoughts to come.  He suggests we might be seeing a shift from dignity culture to victimization culture.  Since that shift is being pushed by a vanguard, I fear that the outcome will not be pretty,


A #ThrowbackThursday on the challenges of doing macroeconomics, and the federal budget, with inadequate information.  Let's start at Voluntary Xchange, explaining that without a balance sheet there's no way to pontificate about, for example, the effects of an economic stimulus, or the hazards of borrowing several trillion dollars.
The reason people get to this point is that they are only thinking about flow variables (current work) not stock variables (past work embodied in current capital). Accountants are very careful about this: that’s why they use balance sheets and income statements. Public policymakers … not so much.

Think about it: we run our macroeconomies based on GDP. This is a flow variable. Where’s the stock variable? We simply don’t think about it much in macroeconomics. Mostly we do this because national wealth is difficult to measure. That’s a reason for being careful, not a reason for ignoring stock variables.
Indeed not.

What's victory in World War II worth? There's no analogue to "going concern value" for a state.

What are new coaches, dining cars, and sleepers on Amtrak worth?  The money gets borrowed in one year, the rolling stock produces passenger value for multiple years.

What is a pork-barrel highway widening worth?  Photo op for the politician that gets the earmark into the continuing resolution, but what comes next?

There's an intriguing elaboration of why having a balance sheet matters in this architect's takedown of the gold standard and tight money. Yes, there is plenty for the serious economist to quibble about, starting with whether an aircraft carrier or a super-railroad is the better public investment, or whether some of those things might better be provided privately (but credit expansion, one of his points, is still important.)

Missing: the miracles of exchange and innovation, but that gets complicated in a hurry.  Go, read it, enjoy it in the spirit in which it's offered.

Missing: the microfoundations.

Frank and Ernest, via Greg Mankiw.

Make sure you read and understand EconLib's Robert P. Murphy on the essential law of conservation inherent in MV = PQ.  Thus, be careful about dealing with underconsumption by printing money.  Facilitating investment by lending money is something else.


It's Oktoberfest season, with pre-gaming for the candidates' debate last night.

Bratwurst, Kartoffelsalat, Stiefel charged with a particularly strong stout.

That's all perfectly mainstream, particularly in Greater Wisconsin, but there was once a time when the German in North America was the Other.  Consider when the official language of the Texas Republic was Spanish, with a substantial population of German speakers, dealing, back in the day of Santa Ana and Davy Crockett, with the challenges of interacting with Germans from other parts of Germany in Texas.
Everyday Germans spoke in distinct dialects: if a folk troupe in Munich had traveled to northern Germany, the audience would have been clueless.

However inconvenient it may have been for Texas Germans to work out dialect differences, the adjustment was still more practical than learning a whole new language, and for some time a Texas German speaker could get by without knowing English. When Ernst arrived, just before the Texas Revolution, the official language was Spanish, but there were no non-German speakers living close enough to care what he and his compatriots spoke. Within a few years, the Germans proved themselves to be such a resourceful and productive group that, in 1843, the Republic of Texas required that all laws be published in German along with English. Later, following the annexation of Texas into the United States, the official language became English, but even after that, schools in these communities continued to hire German-speaking teachers.
Unlike Canadian French, which is preserved-as-if-in-amber compared to French French, all the works of the grammar gendarmes notwithstanding, the Texas German dialect evolved, presumably without the intrusion of a vanguard looking to get beyond Er, Sie, Es. (Think gendered pronouns are a puzzle in English? At least tables and books and motors and shoes are all "it." But I digress.)
In Texas German, technological advances that postdated the immigrants’ arrival, for example, were referred to by their English names. They had no idea what the proper German term would be for, say, a helicopter. Lacking Hubschrauber, they called it der Helicopter. [Thus a chopper is a "he" -- ed.] This was a common tendency. A car was called die Car [a "she" -- contrast Das Auto] instead of der Wagen. Die Exhaustpipe, der Flyball, das Popcorn, and das Sodapop entered the lexicon. (Similarly, English words have made their way into border Spanish, speakers of which frequently refer to eating lonche or parking their troca.)

Beyond terminology, probably the greatest differences between standard German and Texas German—the ones a German will parody, if he’s so inclined—are the vernacular’s sound and structure. Some of the words are pronounced differently from standard German, with atypical vowel sounds and r’s that erupt from the bottom of the throat. Some of the grammatical rules are different too, such as use of the familiar “you” pronouns instead of the polite forms, an inclination that might offend a standard German speaker who felt he deserved a more formal address. And Texas Germans often use intensifying adverbs, so that a phrase such as “That is stupid” becomes “That is indeed stupid” and “I know that” becomes “I know that all right.” Texas German tends to double down.
"Indeed stupid" rather than "wicked stupid."  Gotta love it.

But this isn't just a feel-good story.  The Mexicans weren't crazy about  Fremdsprache in their midst, neither were the Anglos who came later.  Suppression at work, plus assimilation.
In 1909 the Legislature passed harsh English-only laws; students who didn’t speak English could face corporal punishment, shaming, suspension, or expulsion. Several years later, America entered World War I, accelerating the decline of Texas German. Some parents stopped speaking it altogether, and even if they didn’t, the message to children was clear: any American child with a German accent risked teasing, maybe even a pummeling, from the non-German kids. Some counties went so far as to forbid German in public. (In one case, a Lutheran pastor was whipped when he didn’t adhere to the ban.) Naturally, there were some communities that were slower to convert and continued to use German for newspapers and record-keeping, but in time even this tradition faded. In 1957 the 105-year-old Neu-Braunfelser Zeitung became one of the last Texas papers to switch from German to English.

Because [Schulenburg rancher Mildred] Schulze married another Texas German, she never lost her fluency. When she had children, she wanted them to learn both English and German. She got her wish in part. Her son took standard German classes in high school, and he retains fluency to this day. But her daughter grew increasingly self-conscious about speaking the language, and if a class might have boosted her confidence, she was out of luck: by the time she entered high school, the German classes had been replaced by Spanish.
Lyndon Johnson had a working knowledge of Texas German, because that's what his boyhood neighbors spoke.  But there's now a Texas German Dialect Project to conserve that which is being assimilated away, or dying off.

With immigration becoming a flash point in politics both North American and European, might I recommend that the best response is to be neighborly.  Do not deliberately give offense, but be firm in adhering to your customs, whether that involves observing the Sabbath in the Puritan fashion, or going to the beer garden after church in the Bavarian fashion.  The grandchildren of the migrants will buy into the common culture, given the proper inducements.