In Germany, Karneval (as they have it in Köln) or Fasching (as it is rendered in Bavaria and in most of the States) begins 11 November.

Ordinarily, Cold Spring Shops commences its Fasching observance with the beginning of carnival season North American style (at Epiphany, as introduced to these shores in Mobile, Alabama.)

This has been a trying year, and perhaps we'd best have some Karneval festivities, at least at weekends.

Hoppeditz aus Düsseldorf.

Figures that they'd get mustard into the act in Düsseldorf.



What the rulers of a Mickey Mouse system used to look like.

What the Democrat House leadership looks like.

"We have to pass the bill to find out what's in it."

The people found out, and their caucus is much-shrunken compared to the early days of Hope and Change.

But the Democrat Caucus, in its wisdom, renewed their contracts.  "The top three Democrats in leadership in the House are 76 (Nancy Pelosi), 77 (Steny Hoyer) and 76 (Jim Clyburn). The average age of the Democratic Party leadership is 76."

Why not.  As Young Democrats, these three were likely caught up in the cult of the New Deal.  The people have changed over the years, but the cliches, and the faith in Governance by Wise Experts, is still the same.


Maggie Gallagher, in National Review.  "Trump may seem to us to represent a decline in family values and sexual standards. But for many of our fellow Americans, mired in economic stagnation and sexual chaos, he represents an unattainable ideal, rather than a problem."  Plus a link to peer-reviewed social science.  "If there are dynamic complementarities between early and later investments in children, high-resource men and women may respond to rising returns to human capital by using marriage as a commitment device that supports childrearing as a joint investment project. The uncertain economic prospects of the less-educated may discourage them from doing so."  But the children growing up in those splintery less-educated households get less external support, in the form of bourgeois social norms, than they did back when the conventional wisdom was "the rich get richer and the poor get children."


The second day of December was a dig-out day.

That's the old Cold Spring Shops headquarters.  Plans for the relocation were already under way.

The snow mostly melted in the following two weeks.



Book Review No. 21 is Wesley Lowery's They Can't Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America's Racial Justice Movement.  Mr Lowery is one of the reporters who was detained by Ferguson, Missouri police while using his laptop computer to file a story in a McDonald's that local officials wanted cleared of loiterers.  And thus did his beat become the coverage of stories of the protests that followed police shootings of black people in a variety of cities.

The story, and the reporter, and the national mood, all might induce a writer to polemical fits.  They Can't Kill Us All does anything but that: we begin with straightforward reporting: the analysis, if that's even the right word, doesn't begin until the reader is a hundred pages in.  And that, ultimately, is straightforward.  From page 190:  "For most of the year after Michael Brown's death, my reporting focused on policing policy -- tactics, training, best practices, and reform -- with race serving as an ever-present subplot.  My goal was and is to pull back the veil over a profession that had become among the least accessible and least transparent corners of government."  The protests after the police shootings?  Might it simply be people pushed too far, for too long?  Page 195: "Who is a perfect victim?  Michael Brown?  Kajeme Powell?  Eric Garner?  Sandra Bland?  Freddie Gray?  Young activists reframed the question: Does it matter?"

The social science?  Left to others.  Police behaving as an occupying army?  That's one perception.  It's also an opportunity for further research.  Financially strapped suburbs shaking poor people down with all sorts of niggling fines (a Strong Towns theme)?  Hinted at, not of immediate relevance to the story.  Maryland, particularly Baltimore,  being ruined by Democrats?  See page 141, but don't read too much into it.

Understand this much, dear reader: what began with abolition and continued with voting rights is not yet done.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)


The council of elders at Heterodox Academy raise a principled objection to the new Professor Watchlist.  "Rather than seeking to discourage certain voices on campus, we think the better approach is to encourage a variety of voices—heterodox voices—so that bad arguments can be answered with good ones and scholarly ideas can be tested by the strongest minds on both sides."  Yes, but as I cautioned in noting the social necessity of the list, "The enemies list exists, dear reader, because there are faculty members less conscientious, or perhaps so marinated in the culture-studies hothouses that they can't advance a monarchist or fascist or Marxist argument with any coherence."

That, loosely, is the perspective of Psychology Today's conservative social psychologist, Robert D. Mather.
I agree with the Heterodox Academy that such a watchlist does not facilitate collegial discourse. Indeed, this watchlist is a response to events such as the bias response teams and trigger warnings that have covered many campuses and predominantly silenced conservative but not liberal discourse. For conservative students, speaking in class already registers you on the informal watchlist in the predominantly liberal academy. For conservative professors, offering their perspective does the same. The idea of a watchlist is similar to the informal blacklisting that occurs for conservative faculty. While there may be unpleasant implications of a Professor Watchlist for liberal professors who stifle viewpoint diversity, free speech is a double edged sword and conservative professors have felt the sharp edge of blacklisted ideology for many years.
Or, perhaps, it's simple unfamiliarity with the counter arguments that leads to Tenured Radicals Behaving Badly.  I'll give Rod Dreher the final words.  "The fact that Professor Watchlist exists, and that there is an actual need for it, is evidence of a profound institutional failure, and a failure of trust."  He backs that up, with additional evidence and commentary.  Do go there.


That is, when they could buy additional representation in Congress, and the additional electoral votes, at the exchange rate of three proxies for the price of five slaves.  But today, when the proxies are clustered in places like Chicago, Baltimore, and big cities in California, New York, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, the Democrats occasionally find themselves losing a presidential election despite massive turnout by their proxies in the safest states (California, Illinois, and New York: I'm looking at you.)

Thus, we get a switch from Donald J. Trump complaining about a rigged system (great theater, in my view: he won the presidential and he got Hillary's media to pay for it) in advance of the election, and the Hillary cheering section complaining about the rigging afterward.

We'll start with a nuanced complaint about the rigging from, of all sources, Vox.  Sean Illing interviews Yale's A. R. Amar.  Professor Amar gets directly to the matter of the proxies.
In a direct election system, the South would have lost every time because a huge percentage of its population was slaves, and slaves couldn't vote. But an Electoral College allows states to count slaves, albeit at a discount (the three-fifths clause), and that's what gave the South the inside track in presidential elections. And thus it's no surprise that eight of the first nine presidential races were won by a Virginian. (Virginia was the most populous state at the time, and had a massive slave population that boosted its electoral vote count.)

This pro-slavery compromise was not clear to everyone when the Constitution was adopted, but it was clearly evident to everyone when the Electoral College was amended after the Jefferson-Adams contest of 1796 and 1800. These elections were decided, in large part, by the extra electoral votes created by slavery.
There's probably a separate strain of analysis, on the importance of the diffusion of the cotton gin after 1794, and Britannia ruling the waves in such a way as to impede the importation of slaves, with the concurrence of the United States, after 1807.  I wonder if there's anyone adventurous enough to suggest that apportioning the House of Representatives on the basis of free population, or that going to direct election of presidents would have headed off secession ...

But Professor Amar suggests that reformers be careful about casting off the current method of electing the President of the United States too casually.
There are always transition costs. Brilliant reformers never fully anticipate possible defects in their reforms, and there are always unintended consequences.

We've managed to limp along with this system. It's not highly skewed to either party today. The Democrats tend, in general, to win more big states. The Republicans tend, in general, to win more states overall. And these skews offset for the most part.

If we have a direct election, we're going to need far more federal oversight over the process, and that's a massive undertaking. States might also have incentives to push democracy too far, like lowering [voting age] to 16, for example. Hence you'll need more federal regulation over the process.
Yes, and yes.  The conventional wisdom until 12.01 on November 9 was that the so-called blue wall would hold, with Mrs Clinton narrowly winning the popular vote and Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  As recently as 2012 it was the Republicans trashing the electoral college in the 48 states that vote winner-take-all, as Mr Romney picked up pluralities in sufficiently many congressional districts in states such as California, Illinois, and New York to have carried the electoral vote under the Nebraska and Maine rules: and he, too, would have lost the popular vote.  That gets into more complications than I wish to deal with today, but stay tuned.

That second yes?  The universal 55 mph speed limit on interstate highways, and funding for highways tied to a 21 year drinking age turned out so well, didn't they?  Perhaps there's something to be said for devolving federal powers, rather than raising the importance of the presidency.

But the complaining about the rigging is going to get louder, if this Common Dreams screed is any sort of harbinger.
In fact the Electoral College system was created by slaveholders, and remains undemocratic and racist, and biased to the Republicans. Obama showed that the system can be overcome and even turned to our advantage, but the Clinton and Gore losses show it is an uphill climb.
No. Mr Obama was willing to outwork his opponents. “I won Iowa not because the demographics dictated that I would win Iowa. It was because I spent 87 days going to every small town and fair and fish fry and VFW Hall… There’s some counties maybe I won, that people didn’t expect, because people had a chance to see you and listen to you and get a sense of who you stood for and who you were fighting for.”  That prompts Ed Rogers of Washington's Post, no house organ for Mr Trump, to offer Democrats constructive advice.  "In other words, instead of worrying about the electoral college, the Democrats should start worrying about their ability to connect with middle America."

But ... but ... virtue signalling and pouting are so refreshing.
The pro-Republican bias of the Electoral College derives from two main dynamics: it overweights the impact of mostly conservative voters in small population states and it negates entirely the mostly progressive votes of nearly half of African American voters, more than half of Native American voters and a major swath of Latino voters.

For decades now, with a couple of exceptions, Republicans have dominated rural areas, small towns and small population states, and the Democrats control big cities and most big population states.

Well, the Electoral College rules give as much as three times as much weight to the mainly conservative and white Republicans in the rural states compared to states with large, racially diverse and majority Democratic populations.
There's more to the geographic sorting, and that, too, is for another day.  There's a map that's been circulating that might shed some light on that Democrat control of big cities, or that Democrat failure to connect with middle America.

That's an opportunity for future research:  are we simply counting total crimes, or are we truly looking at a crime rate (e.g reported property crimes per thousand citizens)?  That may also be a dimension of any future Democrat approach to people outside thickly settled areas.  The current approach?  There isn't one.
“The Democratic Party ceded rural America to the Republicans quite some time ago,” said Vickie Rock, a member of the Nevada State Democratic Central Committee from rural Humboldt County. “They invested nothing, they built no bench. They don’t even send out signs anymore, which is a staple of rural politics.

“All Trump had to do was peel off a small percentage of urban votes, and he was going to win,” Rock said. “Because he already had, in his back pocket, rural America.”
And when there is one, well, let's say that sending in Pajama Boy loses friends and alienates people.
“People just love it when you show up,” said Ted Sadler, a Democratic political hand from rural Georgia. “But for us, there was zero Democratic action in the 8th Congressional District.” (The district sits in the heavily rural south central part of the state.)

In Georgia, Sadler said the party was instead obsessed with driving up turnout in Atlanta and its surrounding suburbs at the expense of Democratic-friendly areas in other parts of the state. It was a common refrain among the Democratic strategists interviewed for this story, all of whom said they saw a party that believed it no longer needed rural votes to win elections.

When Democratic officials did show up, Sadler and others said they were ill-equipped for the nuances of a campaign in rural America.

“When they do show up, it’s 22-year-old kids from the Ivy League,” Sadler said. “And they’re telling you what do, as opposed to stopping and listening.”
Funnily, the Common Dreams guys, in the middle of their rant, even see this.  "This year the Electoral outcome was able to reverse Clinton’s large popular vote margin because, for the first time in decades, the Republicans carried large population states Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan in addition to Texas."  Put another way, Detroit (or Cleveland, or Milwaukee, or Philadelphia) is what Democrats do, and, no matter how incoherent his message appeared to be, Mr Trump did something to crack that blue wall.  Or perhaps the hipsters lost those voters, just by being themselves.  Or they took for granted that they had bought enough proxies with National Endowment grants for court intellectuals and food stamps for the people rendered unemployable by government schools and the minimum wage.

As far as the nonlinearity in the electoral vote, perhaps that is in part the consequence of the House of Representatives comprising 435 seats since 1929.  More seats in California, and more seats in a few of those single-Member-of-Congress states, and in several of the swing states?  That could get interesting.  Britain's House of Commons currently seats about six hundred.  And enlarging the House only requires an Act of Congress.  Changing the method for electing the Chief Magistrate of These United States takes a Constitutional Amendment.


Capstone writing requirements, just one of many elements of higher education that wasn't working out.  I have seen nothing in the past ten years to make me think differently.



The Milwaukee Journal - Sentinel folks file a report on the Christmas trains at the East Troy Electric Railroad.

At least one youngster might be imprinted with train sounds at an early age.

Festive Season trains have been running for over forty years.

There's a new siding, midway along the railroad, and two trains running.

Christmas-themed trains are on offer at railroad museums all over the United States and Canada.  Find yourself one and ride it.


The explanations are legion, and none is likely to be fully satisfactory.

But the condescension from public radio, which Mitch "Shot in the Dark" Berg notes takes a particularly obnoxious form this time of year, is a contributing factor.
To listen to your broadcasts, we are on the precipice of a national mental health plague, something Americans only survive with the aid of therapy, drinking or an endless slathering on of (wry, fashionable-understated) cynicism.   A time of year where all ceremony is onerous, all family members are insane or intolerable, all travel is wearing, all human interaction is a layer of plastic fakery over a rotten, frothing core of anxiety and desperation.

That’s right – the Holiday season.

Public radio programming will be clogged with with newscasters droning on about seasonal mental health afflictions; with “entertainers” jabbering about the only kind of get-togethers any of them seem to have – ugly, dysfunctional ones; with obscure writers and artists elevated (?) to radio commentators, testifying to the ordeal we’re all about to go through.

Point taken, Public Radio – the upper-middle-class, over-miseducated, secular (wildly-disproportionally secular-jewish) crowd is exquisitely bored with the whole thing.
Yes. Public radio became irrelevant to me a quarter-century ago.  On occasion, if I'm on a road trip and the car radio is on scan, I'll lock on to a public radio station, and it's the nasal droning and the obscure topics.


D. N. McCloskey's Economic Liberty as Anti-Flourishing: Marx and Especially His Followers really ought to be read in full, dear reader.

Let me direct your attention to this passage.
Some years ago I mildly remarked to a gathering of my beloved Department of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago that the speaker who had just concluded his presentation, a fashionable Marxian imported from New York, just might not have got the economic history exactly right. The speaker responded in a sentence, "Oh, I see that you are a neoliberal"and sat down. That was it, and none of my colleagues, mostly themselves Marxians or Marxoids or cautious fellow travelers, would speak up to insist that he respond more fully to someone who after all had some claim to knowing a little about economics and history. I was startled by his exhibition of proud ignorance and saddened by the implicit agreement in the room that one is not to "listen, really listen, to one's friends' questions and objections"and certainly not to those of one's party enemies. The result of a century of name-calling-as-argument, from "Bernsteinian revisionism"and "economism"to "bourgeois"and "neoliberal,"and not listening, really listening, has had the scientific result one might expect.
Oh, plus she gets price theory, as a careful reading will reveal.  A sample:
In truth, after all, "surplus value"is "extracted"every time you exchange anything for something else—or else you wouldn't do it, would you, now? You are a "capitalist"when you buy a cup of coffee served by an "exploited"owner of a coffee shop. She gets the profit of a price higher than the lowest she would accept, and you get a cup of coffee for lower than the highest price you would accept—which is why exchange happens, earning a profit for both sides.
Strictly speaking, "profit" refers here to "consumer and producer surplus," but that's rivet-counting.

Plus a term of art, trade-tested betterment, that ought to enjoy wider circulation.  Hat tip to Cafe Hayek.


National Review's Rich Lowry asks, "Can Democrats Quit Identity Politics?"
Rep. Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat, is mounting a challenge against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and argues that Democrats are hurt by a paint-by-numbers view of politics. “We try to slice the electorate up,” Ryan said on Meet the Press over the weekend. “And we try to say, ‘You’re black, you’re brown, you’re gay, you’re straight, you’re a woman, you’re a man.’”

Ryan might have pointed to a critique of his own leadership bid by a writer at the website ThinkProgress, who opined that his run against Pelosi “is how sexism works.” How so? Ryan is a male; Pelosi is a woman. Q.E.D.

Outside of its political effects, this style of argument is childish and intellectually deadening, yet is too ingrained and widespread on the left to be extricated easily.
Mr Lowry suggests that paying attention to what we used to understand as mainstream Americans might help.
What Democrats won’t want to grapple with is that their problem with Middle America goes deeper than an insufficiently socialistic economic agenda, and deeper than their hard-to-control instinct to call people who disagree with them names. To have broader appeal, Democrats will actually have to meet working-class voters partway on a few cultural issues, whether it is abortion or guns or immigration, even if their concessions are symbolical or rhetorical.

This is what Bill Clinton did in the 1990s when he made inroads into what would come to be known as Red America. This will be a truly painful step, and surely anyone advocating it will be accused of every -ism and -phobia in the book.
Yes, and Thirty-something Wendy Caldwell elaborates.  "Attention Liberals: We Are Part of the Problem."  First: stop the condescension.
Nobody wants to be told that their beliefs and opinions are invalid because they don't know any better. If we want to make changes in this country, we need to win elections. We cannot do that if we treat everyone as though we are more enlightened than they are. Think back to your high school days. Was the class president the smartest person in your grade? Probably not. It was probably someone who was popular - someone who knew how to make and keep friends. It was probably someone who was good at getting people to like him/her.
This is going to be difficult, as there is a long tradition of activism as pedantry.  "Have you read The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon?"  But in the just-ended presidential, the frat boy beat teacher's pet.  Just saying.  " What we do not do - what we cannot do - is belittle others by putting on airs of intellectual superiority. This has not worked, and it will not work. Nobody likes a know-it-all, even if they are right."  Yes, and too often the self-styled progressives get it wrong.  But that's Mr Lowry's forum.

Ms Caldwell also suggests that the identity politics crowd stop treating the protected status people as mascots.  Empathy matters.  Empathy matters to people The Anointed would rather refer to as deplorables, too.
We've gotten so caught up in our enlightened crusades that we've forgotten that not everyone fits into one of these demographics that we are so apt to try and rescue. In an ideal society, every citizen votes. Everyone. And that means that if we expect to win elections, we certainly cannot neglect half of the voters just because they have a certain kind of privilege, skin color, or social class. Ironically, we are often striving for equality among people of all levels of privilege, of all skin colors, and of all social classes.

I realize this stance may be a bit unpopular, but we have to live in reality. I've spent a lot of time reflecting over the last few days, and I've heard this subject come up more than once, and it was done so by the latest liberal villain: the privileged white man. Donald Trump overwhelming won the white vote (men and women). Of course, the natural response is to say he won the racist vote. That is probably true, as several known racist groups endorsed him. However, not everyone who voted for him is racist (I'll get to that later). If this is the case, why did white Americans come out in such large numbers in support of him?

There are many reasons, I am sure, but one of the main ones is probably that he validated their concerns instead of dismissing them. Yes, having white skin in this country affords one certain privileges. I, for instance, have been pulled over by police officers many times. Never once have I felt that my life was in danger. Never once have I been afraid of anything other than the cost of the ticket, which I usually do not even get. I recognize this is largely due to the way I look, and there is nothing I can do about that. However, that does not mean I do not have problems that should be taken seriously.
Plus call a halt to the Oppression Olympics.
We have gotten into the unseemly habit of making a contest out of people's struggles. Sure, that middle-aged white man who has been unemployed for 8 months has it rough, but think of how much worse it would be for him if he were an Hispanic woman. Of course it would be more difficult. We usually learn growing up that someone always has it better than we do, and someone always has it worse. But how is saying that going to help that man get a job? It won't.
Congratulations, you've just pointed out how empty intersectionality theory is.  It's useful to have empathy or sympathy for someone in a worse state than you.  It's also useful to be upset when people don't take advantage of the favorable circumstances they find themselves in.  (That may be part of the appeal of Mr Trump's "We are being governed by stupid people.")

By all means, go, read, understand both essays; weigh the arguments, draw your own conclusions.

I have a railroad to build.



Next section of roadbed, ready to receive tracks.

Curved tracks through the western Russian town of Zudnokhovsk.  Ten foot radius curves for 4-14-4 steam locomotive.  Main track in foreground, siding behind.  Spur at left serves corrective labor camp.

Portsmouth, N.H. staging tracks covered with newspaper below.

Unfinished roadbed in place.

Left to right: Raddin industry track (switched from Saugus Branch), connecting track from staging to Northey Point Yard; inward and outward Saugus Branch tracks, spur to blast furnace high line.  Smokestacks mark approximate position of open hearth furnace at Midvale Steel's Revere Works.


The Professor Watchlist, which is an understandable act of rebellion against the one-party state that is much of higher education, occasions much fretting on the part of the house organ of business as usual in higher education.  (I'll quote extensively as the article is likely to go behind the paywall.)
But to many professors, the idea of a watch list seemed newly chilling in a political climate in which some scholars have been the targets of racist and anti-Semitic abuse. Whether the list ends up having a chilling effect on speech depends on how seriously people take it, said Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group that views itself as a defender of campus free speech.

Professors on the list reacted with a mix of disbelief, confusion, and pride; one scholar even took to social media to wonder why he wasn’t named. Some scholars used the Twitter hashtag #trollprofwatchlist to mock the whole enterprise, submitting false tips about Indiana Jones and Professor Xavier, from the X-Men comic-book series, among others.
Catch that "views itself as a defender?" The Foundation (disclaimer: they get Christmas money from me. Universities don't) maintain a speech code watch list, which runs contrary to business as usual at many such institutions, including the one I retired from.

But then we go down the rabbit hole.
So how does it feel to be in the cross hairs of Professor Watchlist? "It would’ve been humorous a few months ago," said Greg Hampikian, a professor of biology at Boise State University, in Idaho. "It’s not funny now."

To Mr. Hampikian, the list represents a strain of illiberal thinking that’s currently accumulating power. He was named to the list, which he called "absurd," for writing a satirical op-ed about his state’s campus-carry law for The New York Times in which he asked state lawmakers when he could shoot his students.

"They are putting normal people on the list," he said. "That’s what’s frightening. That should wake people up."
Do normal people get a platform in the Times? Do normal people get to claim satirical opinion pieces therein as public service, and count it toward a merit raise?  Check your privilege, Mr Hampikian.

It gets better.
Joan Neuberger, a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin, advocated against the campus-carry law that went into effect in Texas this year. The watch list’s write-up on her says she pushed to ban guns from classrooms, in violation of state law. Ms. Neuberger started her advocacy before the law took effect.

"A website that seeks so openly to discredit me by suggesting (incorrectly) that I broke the law and (nonsensically) that I have no credibility as an experienced classroom professor can only exist to chill my right to free speech," she wrote in an email.

Ms. Neuberger specializes in Russian history. She found her appearance on the list ironic. In her courses, she delves into the conservative values and interests that promoted patriotism, nationalism, Christianity, and authoritarianism in Russia.
And there is your dog whistle. Conservative values lead to problematic outcomes.  (Here is the counterargument, if you're interested.)

The list, for all the pearl-clutching, is welcome to appeals.  "Professors who refute the website’s claims by submitting contrary information can be taken off the list, but [list manager Matt] Lamb said he wasn’t sure why the professor had been removed."  That's better than being a nameless number on a list that was later misplaced, or a member of the Duke lacrosse squad or a University of Virginia fraternity.

Matt Reed also takes on the list, but he gets to the heart of the matter.
First, any “list” that singles out professors for apostasy has a staggeringly high burden of proof. This list doesn’t come close. It names several for no greater crime than taking liberal positions on political issues. That’s not a crime. It doesn’t include a call to action, instead occupying that ambiguous space that bullies prefer: intimidating without actually threatening. It never even attempts to show actual harm to students, apparently on the belief that simply being left of center is a form of doing harm. It isn’t.
The generalization to ukases from Student Affairs warning against microaggression or triggering speech is left to the reader as an exercise. I think Matt gets it (community colleges being places where people are more concerned with keeping body and soul together) but let's contemplate the wider implications of "The only reason to criminalize dissent is that you can’t refute it."

First, let's stipulate that higher education ought to be higher.
Higher education is about vigorous debate. It requires hearing points of view that you may find wrongheaded or even offensive. There is no right to never be offended. While I’m not personally a fan of every single person on the list, I’m far more concerned about the effects of a hit list than I am of some tenured lefty somewhere going overboard. The latter is a cost of freedom. The former is a direct threat to it.

In my teaching days, I routinely played “Devil’s Advocate” for different points of view. In teaching a class on political ideologies, it’s helpful to introduce each one by explaining its appeal at the time. At various moments, I could have been quoted in support of monarchism, anarchism, fascism, socialism, liberalism, conservatism, and a host of other things. It was role play. But when quotes are ripped out of context and thrown to an ideologically motivated sub-public looking for an enemy, they could do real harm. It would be the equivalent of calling for the arrest of an actor because his character killed somebody.
The enemies list exists, dear reader, because there are faculty members less conscientious, or perhaps so marinated in the culture-studies hothouses that they can't advance a monarchist or fascist or Marxist argument with any coherence.
And students tried on different ideas to see how they fit. They need the room to do that. If they’re never exposed to anything other than what some conservative action group deems appropriate, they’ll never develop that skill. Some of them will move from where they started; others will maintain their position, but with greater depth of understanding. That can’t happen when the range of debate runs only from vanilla to french vanilla.
Yes, or when the range of debate runs only from Clinton to Castro, or what the Guardians of Multicultural Pravoslavie, whether in the common room or in Student Affairs deem appropriate.

Matt continues, "If the list were intended to open up space for useful debate, it would have bothered to spell out its own views. It didn’t. It’s obviously intended to intimidate, rather than to enlighten."  I dissent in part.  The list appears to be for the purpose of identifying professors who themselves are closing space to useful debate, although, as I noted, it started with the usual rogues gallery.

I concur in part with his closing remarks.  "If you’re on the list, and you’re applying here, put it on your c.v. I’ll consider it a badge of honor. No professor could ever do the harm that an enemies list could. First things first."  Yes, "bear their scorn as a badge of honor" is a good way of flipping the script.  But the search committee might want to check Rate My Professors all the same.


It's the unsexy infrastructure, notes Alex Tabarrok.  Locks and dams on the Ohio River.  Hand-thrown switches on the Chicago railroads.  And a reminder that downsizing is a false economy.
On routes where they still have adequate infrastructure, railroads have won back fantastic amounts of business from trucks, especially on long hauls such as Los Angeles to New York, where railroads now have a 72 percent market share in container traffic and could have more. Railroads have gone from having too much track to having not enough. Today, the nation’s rail network is just 94,942 miles, less than half of what it was in 1970, yet it is hauling 137 percent more freight, making for extreme congestion and longer shipping times.

The half-conscious decision by Washington, Wall Street, and the last generation of rail management to abandon much of the rail system thus prevents railroads from getting more trucks off the road. For example, UPS desperately wants to use fast trains like the ones Erie Lackawanna once had to reduce the cost of moving parcels coast to coast in less than four days, a feat currently requiring a tag team of truck drivers at enormous cost in fuel and labor. For a brief time in 2004, UPS did persuade two railroads to run a train fast enough to handle this business. But due to insufficient track to allow slower trains to get out of its way, the UPS bullet train caused massive congestion, freezing up the Union Pacific system for months until the railroad at last canceled the service.
The overbuilt railroad network of the 1920 - 1970 period was phenomenally productive, and improvements in train and signalling technologies have made possible the greater volumes, even at the risk of a lot of Delayed Freight.

But, because the freight railroads are private businesses, and public money goes for such things as highways and streetcars, getting some of the freight railroads to work with government agencies, even on projects such as improving the rail lines between the Official Region and the Southeast (widening Interstates 84-81 for more trucks being a fools errand) takes new thinking.
Known as the Crescent Corridor, these lines have seen a resurgence of trains carrying containers, just like most of the trucks on I-81 do. The problem is that the track needs upgrading and there are various choke points, so the Norfolk Southern cannot run trains fast enough to be time competitive with most of the trucks hurtling down I-81. Even before the recent financial meltdown, the railroad couldn’t generate enough interest from Wall Street investors to improve the line.

The railroad has long been reluctant to accept government investment in its infrastructure out of fear of public meddling, such as being compelled to run money-losing passenger trains. But now, like most of the industry, it has changed its mind, and it happily accepted Virginia’s offer last year to fund a small portion -- $40 million -- of the investment needed to get more freight traffic off I-81 and onto the Crescent Corridor. The railroad estimates that with an additional $2 billion in infrastructure investment, it could divert a million trucks off the road, which is currently carrying just under five million. State officials are thinking even bigger: a study sponsored by the Virginia DOT finds that a cumulative investment over ten to twelve years of less than $8 billion would divert 30 percent of the growing truck traffic on I-81 to rail.
In the Chicago area, Union Pacific have been working with Amtrak and Metra on capacity improvements.  They get an additional track, West Chicago to Elburn, to handle freight for and from Chicago, and the Free Rein to 110 campaign on the Alton Route to St. Louis provides passage for expedited intermodal and automotive trains.  Norfolk Southern and CSX aren't thinking that way, yet.

The difficulties raising money?  Perhaps that's an unintended consequence of the "shareholder value" fad.
America’s major railroad companies are publicly traded companies answerable to often mindless, or predatory, financial Goliaths. While Wall Street was pouring the world’s savings into underwriting credit cards and sub-prime mortgages on overvalued tract houses, America’s railroads were pleading for the financing they needed to increase their capacity. And for the most part, the answer that came back from Wall Street was no, or worse. CSX, one of the nation’s largest railroads, spent much of last year trying to fight off two hedge funds intent on gaining enough control of the company to cut its spending on new track and equipment in order to maximize short-term profits.

So the industry, though gaining in market share and profitability after decades of decline, is starved for capital. While its return on investment improved to a respectable 8 percent by the beginning of this decade, its cost of capital outpaced it at around 10 percent -- and that was before the credit crunch arrived.
There has to be an arbitrage opportunity here. But the forward-looking investors have not yet appeared.  "Nor does the long-term potential for increased earnings that improved rail infrastructure would bring, except in the eyes of Warren Buffett -- who is bullish on railroads -- and a few other smart, patient investors."  What's interesting is that the trucking companies may not be viewing the railroads as deadly competitors when some capacity improvements are concerned.  "The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (hardly a shill for the rail industry) estimates that without public investment in rail capacity 450 million tons of freight will shift to highways, costing shippers $162 billion and highway users $238 billion (in travel time, operating, and accident costs), and adding $10 billion to highway costs over the next twenty years. 'Inclusion of costs for bridges, interchanges, etc., could double this estimate,' their report adds."  Yes, and those ever-heavier trailers, tandems, and triples, are engineered to beat the bridges and interchanges to pieces.

We'll see what sort of internal improvements come from Mr Trump and the new Congress.


The conventional wisdom, at least among athletic supporters, is that the sports program is the front porch of the university.  At Northern Illinois, that means a sagging football program, a rising women's basketball team, and a volleyball squad going to the national tournament.  (Last night's volleyball selection show gave, as is often the case, extended time to the top four seeds: Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Texas.  Most of the national titles in the past few years have been won by Nebraska, Texas, Penn State, and Stanford.  Power rule?  Privilege?  Paging Harrison Bergeron ...)

But without a proper honors program, there's no institution of higher education.  Extending: algebra is a civil right.

The honors program?  Just another cost center?

Northern Star infographic by Xavier Ortega.

There have been four honors program directors in the past five years.  Perhaps a messy management structure contributes to the turnover.  The director has to consult with a vice-provost to set up a meeting with the provost.  And Lowells speak only to Cabots, while Cabots speak but to God.

But when Mother Lowell goes to the cupboard, perhaps the cupboard is bare.
The Program Prioritization Administrative Task Force placed the program in the enhanced resources category, suggesting the program “has the potential to increase enrollment as well as improve the academic profile of the institution,” according to the task force report. The task force also acknowledged the inadequate funding allotted for the program.

Daniel Kempton, who works as the vice president for Academic Affairs at Franciscan University of Steubenville, served as NIU’s honors director from 2009 to 2011 and said he felt he did not receive the resources he needed.

During Kempton’s time at NIU as honors director, he established new programs and administration saw a rise in the number of students participating in the program. Kempton said despite achieving this, he still felt it was a challenge being heard.

“I think [NIU] was in a period already at that time where the competition for resources was very intense, and I valued the honors program [so much] that I thought that it would receive resources more readily than it did,” Kempton said. “I did think we had a supportive administration at the time, [but] it was challenging.”
What was I saying, before I quit, about the deleterious effects of discouraging people of ability?



But collegiate basketball goes on, Thanksgiving break for the band or not.  Saturday evening, Northern Illinois hosted Illinois State in a women's game that followed a holiday tournament organized by the men's team.

At halftime, seventh-graders (at left) and eighth-graders (at right) from DeKalb and Sycamore (at left) carried out a scrimmage, under the watchful eye of some of the men's team.

Yeah, that's a halftime score.  The objective used to be to hold the opponent under sixty points, even if that meant scoring just over sixty in the entire game.  New coach, and for once in a long time, fifteen players dressed.

There's still some sort of audience participation for entertainment.  Thin crowd, so no "make noise for pizza" challenge.  This year, put collegians on tricycles to race to one end of the court.

Then pick up a basketball and race the other way to sink a lay-up.  Long legs aren't helpful on tricycles, but getting up-court with the ball is another matter.

Game's end, and the traditional "good game" rituals.

Northern Illinois are among the national leaders in scoring, joining the likes of Baylor, Maryland, and Ohio State.  It has been a long time since that particular combination of words has been possible.


The German Christmas Market in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

The market, running the weekend after Thanksgiving only, is on the shore of Lac LaBelle.

Yes, that's the lake that lent its name to LaBelle Woodworking, manufacturer of craftsman coach kits, now doing business out of Wyoming.  There's also a yacht club on the lake: sometimes the road to the America's Cup and the Olympics passes through Oconomowoc.

On the weekend, though, it's Season's End for the Freistadt Alte Kameraden band.

The larger Christkindlmarkt in Chicago is also now open, if without the live music.


Minnesota goes into the locker room at halftime with a lead.  "UW senior safety Leo Musso grabbed Paul Bunyan's Axe in the locker room at halftime and reminded his teammates what was at stake."  Four second-half interceptions, three second-half touchdowns, thirteen straight seasons the Axe remains.

Up next: a trip to Indianapolis.  Win the week.



That's a tradition almost as old as Thanksgiving, certainly as old as this weblog.

I'll repeat my message.

I give thanks for your readership and your comments.

Spare a few moments thanks for the young people in harm's way around the world, for the people in emergency services who deserve to sit down to the turkey without the alarm ringing, for the people in transportation, tourism, and entertainment passing on their family gatherings to enhance yours.


The people of Appalachian Pennsylvania realize there's not much by way of train service any more.
Today there's only one round-trip passenger train a day on the Pennsylvanian, the line that runs from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh. It passes through Lewistown going east at 11:20 a.m. and heading west at 3:45 p.m., stopping in Huntingdon, Tyrone, Altoona, Johnstown, Latrobe and Greensburg on the way to Pittsburgh.

A lot of people would like to see more daily trains to make day trips and commuting possible.
On the eve of Amtrak, the remnants of The Pennsylvania Railroad's Fleet of Modernism for and from Chicago, Cincinnati, and St. Louis crossed the Mountain overnight, plus there were two Pittsburgh day trains.  But getting the trains back involves negotiations.
After a series of bankruptcies and buy-outs, the once-great Pennsylvania Railroad was divided up among different rail companies. The line east of Harrisburg into Philadelphia went to Amtrak, the passenger rail company. West of Harrisburg became freight lines owned by Norfolk Southern Corporation.

Amtrak and Norfolk Southern serve as each other's landlords, one renting track time for passenger trains, the other for freight trains. Norfolk Southern spokesman David Pidgeon says they are happy to help when they can, but the company's priority is moving stuff, not people.

"Roughly about 40 to 60 Norfolk Southern trains a day travel that corridor, so this is a critically important part of not just the Norfolk Southern network, but also, the nation's supply chain," said Pidgeon.
Yeah, we've seen what Norfolk Southern does about moving people on the revised Chicago to Harrisburg main line Conrail created out of Penn Central.

But in the news story, perhaps there's a way forward.  An infrastructure project Mr Trump and the Pennsylvania delegation can strike a deal on?

Passengers waiting at Lewistown, Pennsylvania.  The priority stacks are moving.
Lindsay Lazarski photograph retrieved from Keystone Crossroads.

That dirt road between the platform and the tracks is the former site of a track.  The Pennsylvania Railroad's four tracks on the Middle and Mountain Division are two or three after years of restructuring, downsizing, and service curtailments.  Norfolk Southern now says the tracks are packed.
Norfolk Southern is planning for an increase in freight traffic over the next three decades, so the company is wary about renting more track time to Amtrak. Before they consider the proposal, they will require a feasibility study that addresses scheduling, safety and liability concerns.

And, of course, "Norfolk Southern is a private business, so we would certainly be looking for fair compensation for the use of our private network."

The railroad subcommittee in the Pennsylvania House has brought a resolution that requests funding for that feasibility study. After that, there will be a better sense of what the costs might be, whether it's worth it, and whether PennDOT, Amtrak and Norfolk Southern would be able to strike a deal.
I have copies of Pennsylvania Railroad and Penn Central timetables showing the passenger train frequencies from the middle 1950s until 1971 to show what the passenger train frequencies used to be.  In those days there was a lot more dead freight, particularly on the Mountain Division, with coal and ore into the mills and steel out.  The improvements to the former Alton Route speed up passengers between Chicago and St. Louis, as well as intermodal traffic for and from the Sun Belt.  Perhaps Norfolk Southern, Amtrak, and the government can strike a deal.  It would certainly hearten Chris Matthews, who of late has been going on about building faster passenger trains into "flyover country."  The Midwest would likely still be flyover country for Californians headed for or from the east coast, but a regional rail passenger service linking Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh to Cleveland and Cincinnati, Erie and Cleveland to Toledo, Detroit, and Chicago, Chicago to the Twin Cities and Fargo, and the Twin Cities to St. Louis would be nice.

Let it begin with the Middle and Mountain Divisions.


An organization called Turning Point USA has been soliciting nominations for its Professor Watchlist, which appears to be a way of identifying faculty whose methods of teaching come off as biased toward leftist ideas.  The front page features the usual rogues' gallery of promulgators of PC atrocities.  Susan Kruth of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education invites professors who are nominated for the list to seek assistance, should the nominations trample on protected speech.  "TPUSA’s Watchlist appears to have multiple goals, including promoting free expression and pushing back against 'leftist' views. The former is, of course, consistent with FIRE’s mission; the latter is outside the scope of FIRE’s work."

The problem, dear reader, is that such lists are the predictable response to the environment of progressive intolerance that has accompanied the long march through the institutions.
Free speech advocates are right to be on the lookout. Historically, creating a list of disfavored viewpoints or of people who hold them has often been a first step towards official sanction. The American Association of University Professors also expressed concern about the Watchlist; in a 1985 statement regarding a similar effort, it said that such “[e]xternal monitoring of in-class statements” is “likely to have a chilling effect and result in self-censorship.” FIRE hopes neither of these results come to pass, but if any college or university takes action or attempts to restrict expression based on the Watchlist—or any similar list—we will employ all of the resources at our disposal in response.
Once upon a time, there was something called good manners, and something called scholarly integrity, under which, inter alia, a professor would teach the New Deal in such a way that a student would not be sure whether Franklin Roosevelt is Savior or Destroyer.  But that was so Fifties, and now we have people self-censoring because Student Affairs suggests they do so, or because they fear they will trigger people in a bad way.


Last week, a number of high-paid officials at Northern Illinois University organized a chalk-in, to protest the outcome of the presidential election, or perhaps it was the end of a streak of bowl appearances.

A current member of the faculty provides background.
Last week, at Northern Illinois University where I teach, there was a discussion aimed at addressing the issue of safety for our most vulnerable students: people of color, especially Black students and undocumented students (who, at NIU, mostly come from Mexico), as well as women and LGBTQI individuals.
Apparently, there has been a Yobs With Confederate Battle Flag sighting. (On occasion, I have seen such a pickup truck around town. Some people come with warning labels.)

But get past the usual virtue-signalling, and there's an interesting story, involving the Clinton Foundation, the Haitian dictatorships, and some imaginative use of social media by Team Trump.  Counter Punch.  Breitbart.  Verify it first.

Fascism is always hovering over the United States.  But it lands on Europe, or perhaps on Haiti.



I'll return to my efforts to post fifty book reports by year's end by returning to a familiar topic.  Book Review No. 20 is a recent academic history of the American Civil War, A Savage War: A Military History of the Civil War, by Williamson Murray and Wayne Wei-Siang Hsieh.

Yes, I've reviewed a lot of works about the American Civil War over the years, just keep scrolling, and yes, the authors have to make a case for writing yet another military history of that war.  But it's well written, and free of the logorrhea one might expect of an academic work.  I wish, though, the authors had retained a better cartographer.  The battle maps are sketchy, and roads, railroads, and geographic features often get left out.  True, the experienced Civil War student will know where Seminary Ridge or the Orange Plank Road or the Western and Atlantic Railroad are, but this work is likely to be the first introduction to the war for a new generation of students, who might want to see the connections between what Federal armies figured out winning the war and the way United States forces have conducted wars since.  Let me highlight four things.  First, Savage War asserts, then defends, the claim that the war was won in the west.  Yes, that's long been my view.  I like the book for additional reasons.  Second, the authors illustrate how well-handled Union logistics were: the distances between St. Louis and Savannah, for instance, are much greater than the distances between Aachen and Paris, and the Prussians had better roads and a more comprehensive railroad network, and yet they acquitted themselves poorly, both in 1871 and again in late 1914.  Third, the authors reflect on the way of winning war.  Genl Sherman's dehousing campaign focussed on people who resisted, and slaveholders, particularly those who kept bloodhounds.  That, they speculate, might have encouraged the "Lost Cause" story and Jim Crow, as youngsters didn't have to ask, "and what if Sherman's boys come back?"  Per corollary, they advance the thesis that because the first World War ended with an armistice and Germany relatively unscathed, a second World War, with the dehousing carried out by air forces and invasion, was required.  We have seen Genl Sheridan, accompanying the Prussians in 1871, suggesting that their efforts would be inadequate to tame the French for long: that might be a consideration for properly winning war against terrorists operating under stateless conditions.  On the other hand, the fourth point is their skepticism of guerrilla warfare, something the bitter-enders of the Confederacy considered, absent some sort of outside support, as the militias of the War of Independence received from France and the Viet Cong received from the Communist states.  But in an analysis of the Civil War, the outlines of a winning strategy against stateless jihadis might be secondary to telling the story.  Perhaps the tacticians and strategists in the service academies and war colleges are working that problem.

Something else the reader might consider is that in the run-up to secession, politics fractured in ways we have not yet seen in this century.  Oh, and if you place a value on credentials, James Buchanan had served as a Member of Congress as well as as a senator; as ambassador to the United Kingdom as well as as Secretary of State: plus, as president he contracted out the duties of First Lady to a relative.  What's on your work history is not necessarily guarantee of good performance going forward.  Just saying.

I close with some observations about the conventions of chronicling wars.  For some reason, Genl Pierre Gustave Toutaint Beauregard often gets referred to as "the Creole."  I'm not sure why.  (One could refer to him as "the Underachiever," but that could equally well refer to Braxton Bragg or George McClellan.)  Now Messrs Murray and Hsieh add another appellation, Genl Sheridan becomes "the Irishman."  That strikes me as a more common ethnicity among the officer corps.

Finally, I'd like to see chronicles of war come up with a better locution for describing small encounters.  Consider this description of James Wilson's spring 1865 offensive into Mississippi and Alabama, which tore up much of the ironmaking capacity around Birmingham and would have been the news story of the week but for Lee's surrender and Lincoln's murder.  "At a cost of only ninety-nine men killed, 598 wounded, and twenty-eight missing, they had destroyed 'seven iron works, seven foundries, two rolling mills, seven collieries, 13 large factories ...'."  It's true, 99 dead doesn't rise to the level of a "demonstration" at Gettysburg, let alone to a Cold Harbor or Fredericksburg.

And yet war is cruelty, as Genl Sherman would have it, and you do not refine it by putting "only" in front of a body count.

By all means, though, if you want to get a good exposure to the military side of the Civil War, with efforts to place the events leading to it and the evolution of U.S. military practice since, buy the book.

(Cross-posted to Fifty Book Challenge.)


Citing the New Haven Railroad's Book of Rules.

When a passenger, mail, or express train is receiving or discharging traffic on the side toward a station, a train or engine must not pass between it and the station at which traffic is being received or discharged unless proper safeguards are provided, or the movement is otherwise protected.

* * *

When practicable, conductors of trains which may be involved in an application of Operating Rule No. 107 must ascertain from proper authority whether regular trains running in the opposite direction, due to arrive before their leaving time, have arrived.

This rule exists primarily to protect passengers and mail and express handlers from injury account a train passing between the active platform and the station.  It can also be used to protect passengers from injury incurred taking risks getting to the active platform.

The rule appears to be unfamiliar to operators of freight trains sharing tracks with the new commuter trains in Salt Lake City.  The focus of the article is on the absence of pedestrian and bicycle routes leading to trackside, but pedestrians, bicycle commuters, and motorists caught in the park-'n-ride lot on the wrong side of the tracks are all at risk.
In an act of poor-decision making, I once made it to a meeting on time by climbing over a freight train that was temporarily stopped on the tracks and blocking my access to the station.

I wasn’t the only pedestrian to make this dangerous decision either. Freight trains regularly sit on the tracks, blocking every North / South intersection that could be used to get to the station.

Commuters often arrive early, watch their train pull into the station, wait for 15 minutes, and watch their train pull away without them. All while blocked by the freight trains. Some have become frighteningly comfortable with climbing over the freight trains [video available at the link] in business attire, hoisting their bicycles over the non-moving trains, and even passing young children in between train cars.
Climbing over a stopped freight train, or crawling under one, is a hazardous practice considering that trains might move at any time, or be jolted by the coupling of cars.

And what does it say about a Passenger Rail operator, or about public attitudes toward railroad transportation, that an authority does not provide heated station buildings, such that passengers awaiting delayed trains might wisely bring an automobile with them?


Democrat-voting cities with blue social model pension plans in Republican-legislated states.  Trouble ahead.  Take Dallas.  Please.  Yes, I can't get through 22 November without a Dallas reference.
If Dallas goes under, the state authorities aren’t going to be keen to bail out the city government. Some of the bloodiest fights over the next few years will be between blue cities and red state legislatures as pension liabilities force municipalities to ask for assistance. With Republicans dominant at the state level (and now at the federal level), cities aren’t going to have an easy time getting help.
Republican-friendly suburbs are in little better shape,  but in the absence of a growing economy, agglomeration economies aren't enough for the big cities either.
There’s a lot of talk these days about urban renewal, with greener waterfronts and hipster gentrification driving up real estate values and making previously-decrepit neighborhoods hot spots of culture. But today’s urban havens are built on a very unsteady foundation of blue city governance. At what point will the costs of maintaining today’s blue cities outweigh the appeal of what we might call “Brooklynization”? It’s not just rising housing prices that could drive people out; imagine the tax rates which could be necessary to pay off pension liabilities. Particularly for families looking to make an investment in real estate, cities may start to look much riskier.
That's already happening in Chicago, and at what point will the city no longer be able to maintain what is effectively a gated community surrounded by increasing despair and increasing frustration with Democrats?


Now that a subset of what used to be mainstream Americans is practicing identity politics, the usual practitioners are getting scared.  (Don't say I didn't warn you.)

Start with Lacy MacAuley, who looked in on a gathering of the National Policy Institute.  (A "National" in an organization's title is sometimes a survival of Jim Crow times.  Not this institute.)

Without irony, though, she suggests this.
Standing up to fascism means standing for a world in which we celebrate diversity. We embrace the awesome symphony of differences that make the world a beautiful, colorful, engaging place to be. We do not wish to live in a world in which all of us are the same, because that is not only oppressive, it is boring. We wish to live in a world of creative expression, openness, and support for each other.
Fortunately, it's not the usual unironic recitation of the usual protected classes, diverse in skin tone or sexual proclivities or what have you but strongly unified in worldview and policy preferences.  In fact, there's something that comes close to an endorsement of neoliberalism.
The food, technology, entertainment, and other cultural practices that the white boys of the Alt Right grew up in have been a product of a cultural milieu of globalization for a long time now.

Their meat and potatoes? Those potatoes were originally indigenous to the Andes mountains. Their salt and pepper? That pepper came from south India via the Mediterranean spice trade. Their numbers? Invented by Persians. Their bluegrass music? Developed by African slaves and indentured Celtic servants. Their aspirin? A medicine adopted from American Indians. Their Fourth of July fireworks? China. Their corn? Mexico. And the list goes on.

It is a fallacy that “white culture” was developed in a vacuum in the first place.
Perhaps among the ways America becomes great again? First, trade unites, politics divides.  Nice to see an aphorism of Milton Friedman.  Second, evolution is mutation plus selection plus adaptation.  Emergence is messy.  Third, vanguards can be dangerous.  That's self-evident to people of the left when the vanguards appear to be of the right.  The generalization from the alt-R to the ctrl-L is left to the reader as an exercise.

Chris Hedges reinforces the message that the old identity politics might have midwived the new.
Preaching multiculturalism and gender and identity politics will not save us from the rising sadism in American society. It will only fuel the anti-politics that has replaced politics.

Liberals have sprinkled academic, corporate, media and political institutions with men and women of different races and religions. This has done nothing to protect the majority of marginalized people who live in conditions that are worse than those that existed when King marched on Selma. It is boutique activism. It is about branding, not justice.
Yes, but will a Fifth International (or are we up to six now?) provide the justice?

At least there's some soul-searching about identity politics as usual.  Consider April Kelly-Woessner for Minding the Campus.  " If we want to prevent or reduce group conflict, we have to identify the social conditions that create it. I argue that an honest assessment of group behavior reveals that academics often contribute to the problem by amplifying social identities." Yeah, that's the old root cause argument, often distorted into a justification (rather than a positive theory) for transgressive behavior when it's the right kind of transgressivity.  It's not working out so well in practice.
Free speech often protects minority voices. Yet, colleges and universities have established speech codes on campus, aimed at protecting vulnerable minority groups from words or phrases that might offend. This sends students the message that one group’s rights are gained at the expense of another group. Free speech is now frequently framed as something that protects racists, sexists, and other “deplorables.”

Arguing in favor of free speech threatens to paint one into this group or, at the very least, suggests that one is insensitive to the needs of minorities. The assumption that silencing offensive ideas reduces hostility against vulnerable groups is deeply flawed. Research shows that the classical liberal approach is more useful – we confront harmful ideas by exposing them to truth.  At the very least, grappling with uncomfortable ideas is more fitting to an institution whose purpose is education.  Silencing ideas is more suited to an institution whose primary purpose is scoring points in the culture wars.

Finally, we add fuel to this fire because we tend to favor some voices and perspectives over others. We do this when we are too quick to label ideas as “racist,” “sexist,” or “homophobic,” merely because they do not conform to the most progressive ideals; people who favor greater enforcement of immigration laws are “racists,” as is anyone who admits to voting for Trump. The search for microaggressions contributes to this sense that anything that offends protected groups is off limits, even if no harm is intended. Students are actively encouraged to recognize and report microaggressions.
Yeah, I was being provocative when I characterized Critique of Pure Tolerance as "the diversity boondoggle's Mein Kampf."  But if others are now rethinking that manifesto, or discovering that it can be used against any entrenched belief system, perhaps that's a good thing.

There is still, dear reader, work to be done. Larry O'Connor characterizes Broadway as "Divergent opinions not welcome here."  A "monolithic echo chamber" might require a black swan event to check its privileges.

So let it be with Entertainment and higher education.


Politics is downstream from culture.  Laura "Apt. 11-D" McKenna is now contemplating whether privileged snowflakes in pricey colleges might have contributed to the electoral surprises.  "I think that reaction to college rules about Halloween costumes and protests about race were very significant."

Check your privilege, Ivy League.

Check your privilege, palace guard media.


Tim Jones of American Thinker suggests that, in attempting to play to communitarian and national security constituencies, Capital Republicans broke faith with libertarian (and perhaps anarchist) elements in the Republican coalition, and that left the way clear for Donald Trump.
It was not just the failure of the Democrats' urban-centric political focus on minorities, women, and income inequality that deep-sixed Hillary Clinton's campaign.  Walking it back, what has outraged so many grassroots conservatives was the phony conservatism under George W. Bush, culminating in the financial crisis of 2008.  It pushed them overboard to no longer get fooled by the Republican establishment that had been basically a milder form of the big-government progressivism that had taken over the Democratic Party following the loss of Hubert Humphrey in 1968 to Richard Nixon.  It was that crushing loss that sent Democrats on a far-left trajectory for decades to come.

Bush did nothing to cut back the size and growth of government.  Instead, he actually expanded it through his unfunded Medicare Part D prescription drug program and the "No Child Left Behind" federally mandated education program.  There were no efforts at all to rein in spending and the size of the federal government.  And the war with Iraq added untold billions to the ever expanding annual federal deficits.

Bush's "compassionate conservatism" was liberalism in disguise.
That squares with an hypothesis, popular among Pajamas Media writers, to the effect that the relatively polite Tea Party movement, upon being handled roughly by the Democrat-Academic-Entertainment-Media Complex, might emerge in a less refined form.

We shall see whether this movement is fulfilled or frustrated in the next two years.


Margaret "University Diaries" stands up for Richard Rorty as opposed to Slavoj Zizek.  "Rorty looked with dread upon the emergence of a “cosmopolitan upper class which has no …sense of community with any workers anywhere,” but lives instead in an exceedingly pleasant, totally insulated, white-noisy bubble." Plus an instructive passage from Mr Rorty's Achieving Our Country on the emptiness of theories (or Theory, as the Critical Studies types would have it) devoid of testable implications.
Recent attempt to subvert social institutions by problematizing concepts have produced a few very good books. They have also produced many thousands of books which represent scholastic philosophizing at its worst. The authors of these purportedly ‘subversive’ books honestly believe that they are serving human liberty. But it is almost impossible to clamber back down from their books to a level of abstraction on which one might discuss the merits of a law, a treaty, a candidate, or a political strategy. Even though what these authors ‘theorize’ is often something very concrete and near at hand – a current TV show, a media celebrity, a recent scandal – they offer the most abstract and barren explanations imaginable.
Well, that subversiveness corroded the mediating institutions, and converted bourgeois concepts such as integrity and morality into constructs reeking of privilege.  Perhaps Mr Rorty is correct, the failings of the intellectual elite, and the epistemically closed bubbles into which their political brain-brothers retreated, and the people who had to live next door to the splintery, trashy culture that everybody else got stuck with sought a strongman.  But politics is downstream from culture, and the deconstruction of the established ways of doing things made much of the opposition to Mr Trump's outrageous behavior as a campaigner simply a matter of preference, rather than insistence on a principle.

The Republic is likely to survive a Trump presidency, which cannot last more than eight years.  Reclaiming the conventions and the mediating institutions?  That will take more time.