7.5.21

TAIL TRACK.

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

FRIDAY short TAKES.

Here comes this week's roundup of posts that caught my attention, generally because they could be reduced to one pithy remark, which too often was buried in the concluding paragraph. Follow the links for elaboration. Sometimes that includes a refresher on fundamental Cold Spring Shops.

1.  Alex Tabarrok smacks the Wise Experts. "I am indeed angry that the people in power think they can solve real problems on the cheap and at someone else’s expense. This is not serious."

2.  Unlike religion (and "progressive" politics), "It is the pride of science to be falsifiable."

3.  Why the mask theater backfires.  "I trust my immune system more than this current experiment."

4.  Bari Weiss, "The public messaging on [corona mitigation] has been a disaster."  Get vaccinated, go on with your life!




8.  The problem with Democrats.  "We need our hands held by our government betters."

9.  Euphemisms inevitably backfire, including "latinx." "It exemplifies the alluring yet always elusive quest to change the world by changing words."



12.  The quarterback controversy migrates.  "Green Bay is Titletown. Now, somehow, Chicago is Tickled Town."

13.  Mike "Dirty Jobs" Rowe isn't pleased.  "Everybody dreams of being in the corner office, but nobody knows how to build the corner office?"  We'll rewrite the ending, slightly.  "'Forgive student loans' really means workers patternmakers must pay for privileged students people who couldn't carry their water."

14.  If Rick Moran could find some ham, he could make a ham sandwich.  "If Republicans can find the right messaging, Election Day 2022 will be a dark day in the history of the Democratic Party."  It's always on the opposition to not be crazy, and it's not always given that they figure it out.

15Office hours matter.  Use them wisely.  Students and faculty alike take note.

16Jeff Jacoby, "The president and vice president agree that America, for all its racial flaws and grievous history, is not a racist country."

17Rich Lowry, "Biden will have spent a huge amount of cash and political capital before he even learns what real crisis he’ll have to confront."  No worries, the Brains Trust will have anticipated all the contingencies.

18David Frum, "China must devote such a large share of its resources to basic subsistence needs to avert the overthrow of the state." They're going to get old before they get rich, too.

19Milton Friedman will have his revengeThe citizens will get the malaise.  "Central control came back with a vengeance in the pandemic, for understandable reasons, but the consequences of central control won’t be long behind."

20. Tyler Cowen, "Wokeness isn’t going to disappear, so the sooner wokeness becomes like the Unitarian Church — broadly admired but commanding only a modicum of passion and commitment — the better."  So mote it be.

INCLUSIVENESS THAT DEFIES PARODY.

Power Line's Paul Mirengoff argues that achieving inclusion by excluding achievement will not turn out well.  "There can be no excellence without neutral standards with which to distinguish among the excellent, the good, the mediocre, and the poor. Thus, the war on standards entails an assault on excellence."  His essay is about the institutions of higher education at the top of the U.S. News league tables, with an emphasis on the colleges of law, defining excellence down.  That could be an opportunity for the regional comprehensives and mid-majors to gain by default, if they'd take it, which they're unlikely to.

The evidence of the assault on excellence is voluminous, and a mini-dissertation follows after the jump.

BAD WRITING DOES NOT GET READ.

It's a little late in the academic year to be contemplating capstone papers.  Come fall, though, there will be a new crop of seniors, and the usual struggles with getting the words right.

John "Grumpy Economist" Cochrane dipped into Michael Weisbach's The Economist's Craft, from which he came up with this nugget.
Far too many publicly circulated papers contain incredibly long, mind-numbingly dull literature surveys; introductions that go on and on before they tell the reader what the point of the paper is and why the reader should bother to waste her time on it; data descriptions containing insufficient detail for a third party to replicate the results; tables that are unnecessary, badly labeled, or hard to understand; or overly dry prose written in the passive voice and apparently designed to put the reader to sleep. In addition, many scholars manage their time so badly when giving presentations that they do not get to the main results of their paper until the last five minutes of the talk. Their presentations are often poorly designed, with slides that are incomprehensible or even unreadable owing to their use of fonts so small that participants sitting more than a few rows back cannot read them. Young faculty routinely mismanage their career by not having a coherent research agenda, not getting their papers to journals, or not making connections with people in their field who teach at other universities. Sometimes they do not even bother to show up for seminars in their field at their own university.
Precisely, and there are probably capstone students and dissertators who will still grouse about, or maybe grudgingly appreciate, me getting on them for excessive surveys and time management. Those colleagues who couldn't be bothered to show up for workshops heard from me, but my voice does not go across the final summit.

On occasion, even the blind squirrels at the house organ for wokeness as usual find a nut.  "New study says scholarly articles that are hard to read don't actually make the author sound smarter, and they get cited less. Authors hope their findings will encourage graduate programs to teach students how to write clearly."

Like so much else in higher education, change comes one funeral at a time, as there's still a lot invested in "it won't be taken seriously if it isn't impenetrable."

6.5.21

AMTRAK IN MINIATURE.

The Pepsi Cans and Horizon Fleet cars were state of the art around 1990.


That could be a low-traffic version of the Illinois Zephyr, when Western Illinois and Quincy University traffic was light, or no sales were going on at Marshall Fields.

Extra points if you can figure out how far afield this train has ranged.

NOTHING IS EVER OVER IN POLITICS.

Robert Merry takes stock of the ambitious Democrat plans.
Enjoying no mandate of the kind that buoyed Roosevelt and Reagan and making no effort to place his initiatives into a broad context of historical necessity, [Joe Biden] sets about to accomplish what the American people have thwarted for nearly a century—namely, establishing the federal government as a true leviathan, with unchallenged tentacles stretching into nearly all aspects of American life, fueled by a redistributionist ethos that FDR himself foreswore.

The president projects some $6 trillion of new spending atop an annual budget of only around $4 trillion. Among the spending targets are clean-energy subsidies, electronic-vehicle charging stations, free child care, free pre-kindergarten education, free community college education, free family and medical leave, and the underwriting of incomes in a host of ways, most of which don’t require any work. Biden also would employ the regulatory state to thwart banks from investing in old energy projects and toward greater diversity. As the Wall Street Journal puts it, Biden “seeks to insinuate government cash and the rules that go with it into all the major decisions of family life.” He wants to “make Americans rely on government and the political class for everything they don’t already provide.”

Note the words “the political class.” This is essentially an elitist agenda, bolstering the power and influence of the country’s meritocratic elite, which will administer all this and derive ever greater power and wealth in the process. And, because Biden enjoys no mandate of the kind that fueled the FDR and Reagan programs, he’s fixing to attack fundamental institutions in ways designed—like Roosevelt’s court-packing scheme—to tilt the playing field in favor of the elite agenda. That’s the significance of the budding initiatives to kill the Senate filibuster, pack the court, and give statehood to Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

The history of America since Roosevelt’s first term provides little evidence that the American people have hungered for this kind of grand governmental aggrandizement and intrusiveness. Indeed, that history suggests the American people have always been wary of going that far. And nothing in the country’s recent political expression indicates anything approaching a serious groundswell now for the Biden vision. The president was elected leader of a nation roiled by passionate discord and disruption, reaching almost frightening intensity. He has unleashed upon his constituency a program that can only make it worse.
We warned you.  If I have to indulge in some told-ya-so, I will.

SEND THE PUBLIC HEALTH ADVOCATES TO SENSITIVITY GULAG?

Menthol cigarettes might be hazardous to your health.  But they sell better in some neighborhoods than others.
Scientific studies over the decades have made it perfectly clear that combustible cigarette smoking is highly addictive and has serious negative health consequences. And while some studies have shown that menthol cigarettes might be easier to start and harder to quit than their cousins with other flavoring mixes (nearly all cigarettes are flavored in some way), nobody claims that they create more intrinsic harm than other combustible cigarettes — or that menthol itself is as addictive as nicotine. Moreover, while menthol smokers exist in every demographic, they’re the choice for over 80 percent of African-American smokers and, when cigarettes were widely advertised, much of their marketing also targeted black people and communities.
Nobody paid attention to the disparate impact?
[D]uring a period of racial reckoning and growing distrust between black communities that have high densities of menthol smokers and law enforcement, there’s a risk that a ban could have severe negative consequences. While no currently proposed standard would criminalize mere possession of menthol cigarettes, drug laws — including those already governing the sale of illicit “loosey” cigarettes — have long blurred lines between dealer and user. In New York City, the fine for selling illicit cigarettes stands at $600 per carton and criminal charges are possible. For people in neighborhoods where fraught interactions with the police are already commonplace, these laws have certainly caused serious problems before. Exhibit A: Eric Garner, who was killed by a New York City police officer’s chokehold in 2014, was arrested on suspicion of selling “loosies” without proper tax stamps. Groups ranging from the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives to Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and the ACLU have historically opposed menthol bans for just these reasons.
Not the first time the Public Health tyrants demonstrated their cultural incompetence.  A few years ago, the idea of limiting or banning the sale of malt liquor, a stronger version of beer, in a large can, looked promising as a way of taming drunk driving.  Not so fast.  "One of the most well known and stereotypical images of inner-city life is a Black person drinking a 40oz of malt liquor in public. Not only is the image used offensively, but it also underscores the issues of healthcare and targeted marketing of Blacks as the largest consumers of malt liquor."  Presumably there's a way to call out targeted marketing of menthol cigarettes.

BATTLE LINES ARE BEING DRAWN.

A soviet of writers at the house organ for wokeness as usual in higher education issues a manifesto.
The widespread assumption that universities are progressive, multicultural, antiracist places has insulated many of us who work and live in higher education from reckoning with the lived experiences of marginalized communities all over the world. Indeed colleges and universities are gendered and racialized, and many institutions perpetuate systemic racism, colonialism and sexism through gatekeeping, educational discrimination and not sharing vital resources with local communities.

It is crucial to embrace these multiple realities simultaneously: that higher education is deeply implicated in reproducing systemic discrimination and racism in the United States and around the world and, as we imagine what could be next, higher education is distinctly positioned to help build and develop the infrastructure, resources, values and education systems necessary for diverse, inclusive, antiracist democracies. And there are examples of students, faculty and staff engaged in that work.

In this moment of disruption, postsecondary leaders, students, faculty and staff might humbly consider four steps to advance antiracist, diverse and just democracies locally and globally.
It's hard to see much humility in that passage, and it's probably mean to point out that if institutions of higher education are as horrible as that opening passage suggests, then why is an essay like this one predictable either at Inside Higher Ed or behind the Chronicle of Higher Education paywall?  Let alone that those horrible institutions are irrelevant in their communities?  "For too long, citizens have viewed their universities like privately held companies that have little relationship to their own lives. Yes, people have local pride when sports teams win, but that is not the same thing as postsecondary education being relevant and tied to the destiny of local citizens."

But for all the false humility, their proposal reads like the same sort of stuff that has been coming out of affirmative action bureaucracies for the past thirty years.
The values that universities should hold dear are open inquiry, diversity and inclusion, democracy, equity, and justice. Equity and justice require inclusive representation among students and academics -- including more people who are first-generation, from marginalized and working-class communities, and women. That would entail intentional recruitment within high schools situated in historically minoritized and working-class neighborhoods, as well as actively recruiting recently minted Ph.D.s from BIPOC groups to fill the ranks of the professoriate.

It would also involve universities working in serious, sustained, comprehensive partnerships with public schools in their locality to diversify and enrich the educational pipeline. Universities should also reallocate funding to support the hiring and retention of women and people of color within the faculty and administrative ranks of the institution, as well as provide more scholarships to first-generation students.
It wasn't persuasive then, it's no more persuasive now.  Thirty years ago, some legislatures and governing boards sought to restructure their universities.  They're at it again.  "Starving universities of public money is the only way to rein in a social justice university and force activists to find careers outside of higher education."  In particular, the things the Inside Higher Ed soviet see as desirable are malicious departures from the academic mission.
Universities have abandoned the unique mission of unfettered dedication to the pursuit of truth and replaced it with social justice.

The radical, illiberal, anti-American ideology of social justice combines a toxic brew of intersectionality, critical race theory, neo-Marxism and pseudo-science.

Many Americans are justly becoming concerned about this problem. We at the Idaho Freedom Foundation and the Claremont Institute’s Center for the American Way of Life are doing something about it.
People in higher education who are uneasy about some of the woke rhetoric -- and they exist -- might be put off by that sort of language, and there might even be serious Marxists who would welcome intellectual support if critics didn't bring in Marxian allusions where they don't fit.

On the other hand, sometimes you don't have to win their hearts and minds, if you can cut off the money.
This misuse of public funds for social justice activism is a betrayal of the public’s confidence and deprives students of an education that cultivates their mind by forcing them to adhere to one ideological dogma.

The higher education establishment in Idaho has refused to reverse course from this politically malevolent agenda for years. Armed with evidence and policy solutions in these reports, conservatives in the legislature decided no more public funds would be used to subsidize the political activists hijacking Idaho’s institutions of higher education.
Summer is generally quiet time for higher education and for legislatures alike. The story is likely to pick up again come fall.

CITIZENS ARE NOT CHILDREN.

The palace guard media are giving Anthony Fauci all sorts of opportunities to complain about citizens behaving like citizens.
“I consider the country as my patient, metaphorically, where [I] really want to take care of them,” Fauci said, “It was a real jolt and a shock early on, when you get completely criticized and attacked because you're saying things that is trying to save the lives and preserve the health of people.”
There are people who take that metaphor seriously, just as there are people who think of themselves as the children, metaphorically, of the president, and there is a political party with a lot of court intellectuals trying to sell that case.

Perhaps, though, it is the place of policy advisors, which is what the doctor is, to at least recognize that area specialists might not be in a position to weigh competing objectives, and perhaps policy advisors ought understand that as clever as they are, they're not omniscient.  And policy advisors that get a lot wrong ought be humble, or, as John Hinderaker notes, citizens ought pay them less heed.  "If there is a silver lining to the covid fiasco, it could be increased public skepticism of models and other theories that lack empirical support."

There's ample reason for the public to push back, and for the policy advisors to revise their priors.
Fauci has been everywhere on the public communications, which has served to undermine it from the start. Inconsistency will do that. As someone who has handled public communications in science, you have to be clear and you have to be consistent. When data changes the facts, you have to clearly communicate that repeatedly. I’d grade Fauci an F. He was against masks, for masks, admitted he lied about masks, and then said we should wear multiple masks. He should be telling Biden to knock it off with the masks since he’s vaccinated, and he should try to offer Americans some hope. He seems to want the notoriety that goes with the attention the virus has brought him to go on for as long as possible. And he has never truly acknowledged that lockdowns were highly destructive, piling on economic misery and mental health consequences we could have avoided. It’s likely the lockdowns played a role in fomenting the riots as well.
Maybe he just revises his priors slowly.
On NBC’s Today Show, host Savannah Guthrie asked Fauci about the absurd CDC guidance on summer camps, which says that vaccinated adults and children have to wear mask outdoors unless eating, drinking, or swimming. This even though children are at low risk for severe COVID-19, and the risk of outdoor transmission is extremely low.

“I wouldn’t call them excessive Savannah, but they certainly are conservative,” Fauci responded, having to pause so he could start chuckling. “And I think what you are going to start to see is really in real time continually reevaluating that for its practicality. Because you’re right, people look at that and they say, ‘Well, is that being a little bit too far right now?’”

When you’re losing Fauci, maybe it’s time to rethink whether you’ve gone overboard.
Citizens are not children, and Charles C. W. Cooke lets the word get out from the Free States.
In recent weeks, it has become increasingly obvious to me that the life I am living here in Florida bears no resemblance whatsoever to the lives that are being lived by my colleagues in the Northeast, in the Beltway, on the West Coast, and abroad. My kids have been in school since last August; theirs are stuck at home. We go out to eat whenever we want; they can count their excursions since last year on one hand. Their minds remain addled by the rules and customs of the Coronavirus Age; mine has been re-rewired back to normal without my ever having noticed. Here, we do our own risk assessments; there, they are micromanaged like children. And yet, among the powers-that-be, it is their model that is being praised and perpetuated — even though Florida’s approach has resulted in its sitting below the middle of the pack for deaths while maintaining a strong economy, full classrooms, and a more normal lifestyle than has existed anywhere else in the world. This is utterly ridiculous.
Enough, already.
John Hinderaker calls for Americans to begin disobeying our feckless public health czars. He says “We need people to say, I’m taking this damn mask off. And if a harpy complains, to tell her or him to get stuffed. Seriously. The time has come.” I fully concur. The time for patience and forbearance is over. Let freedom ring.
Indeed.  It's summer, and the Wuhan coronavirus doesn't take kindly to light.

3.5.21

FIND YOURSELF A CIRCUS AND GO TO IT.

Traditionally, the itinerant circus began touring on the First of May, and the rookies went by that moniker until they had a full season on the tour.  It was a hard-knock life, and a lot of newbies moped off.


The Karlson Brothers Circus opened its season with a weekend benefit performance in winter quarters.  (Willimantic, Connecticut, if you're curious.)  Then the New Haven Railroad, evaluating some freight motors, delivered it to the State of Maine Northern to begin the summer tour.

The empty spaces on the flat cars are for wagons that might be ready shortly.

See you down the road.

TOO TOUGH TO BE NORMAL AMONG TODAY'S DEMOCRATS?

A year ago, before the corona tyranny and urban unrest became organizing themes for Democrats, we noted a local Member of Congress being sent to a struggle session.  At the time, I asked, "In so doing, will the central committee forfeit those swing districts, in the hope that demographic transition comes bundled with tax-'n-spend policies, gun confiscation, and pronoun protocols?"

Now, that reactionary is calling it a career.
U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., who once led the Democratic House political operation, announced Friday she will not seek another term and will step down after 10 years in Congress, creating a potential complication for Illinois Democrats in 2022.

Bustos, 59, who lives in Moline, won re-election in 2020 by the slimmest margin of her five House runs for the northwest Illinois 17th Congressional District seat.

“As I turn every corner on each decade of life, I take time to reflect and evaluate what my next chapter might bring,” Bustos said in a statement. “That’s how, 10 years ago, I decided to run for Congress. And it’s why today I am announcing I will not seek reelection after completing this term.”

In addition to that close call, Bustos chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — the House political operation — in 2020, when Republicans picked up so many seats on her watch that Democrats nearly lost control of the House.

Bustos is one of a shrinking number of Democratic centrists in a party with a progressive wing that’s growing stronger and more influential.
There's a shrinking number of congressional districts in Illinois, and a prominent member of the Democrat gerontocracy recognizes that she's got a problem.
She will leave with the distinction of being one of the few Democrats with a track record of winning on heavily Republican political turf. Former President Donald Trump won in Bustos’ district in 2016 and 2020.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has often mentioned that she valued Bustos’ perspective as a Democrat who knows how to talk to Trump voters.

“Bustos has consistently brought her messaging mastery and political astuteness to our work to mobilize and energize Democrats in the Congress and across the nation,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Illinois Republicans, and their Democrat counterparts in the state line counties, particularly west of the lake, tend to be more reasonable than the true believers in the landslide counties.  The Democrats might think they have a coalition of the ascendant, but that so-called progressive wing isn't expanding from its base.  That's also true of the Republicans, which might be why there's more talk about voting restrictions or voter replacement than there is about, oh, policy.  This, too, will change.

THE SEVENTIES CALLED, AND THEY WANT THEIR MALAISE BACK.

Early in the first term of the Obama presidency, some dissidents made a parody of the rainbow-and-unicorn poster that called attention to their fears.


The bill didn't come due in either the first or second term, perhaps in part because Congress was in dissenting hands.  Now, though, Congress is, by the slimmest of margins, in friendly hands.  Stacey Lennox suggests that the over-reach, whether as a reprise of Congress rolling a weak president, or as a consequence of Team Obama pulling the strings, is soon to come.  "Wokeness is about to be killed by inflation and stagflation. Economic issues will magnify the foreign policy failures of Biden and his team, just like a similar set of circumstances plagued the Democrats during the Carter administration. The 1970s killed the progressive movement for nearly 40 years."  The majority of her post deals with the cultural over-reach, and as it was when Steal This Book gave way to The Official Preppy Handbook, it is now again.  "Democrats will not simultaneously appeal to college-educated suburban voters and working and middle-class Americans."  But there was a lot of pain to go with the restoration.

In the same way that today's youngsters never saw either the Consciousness Revolution or the restoration, they never saw gas lines or 20% mortgage rates, prompting a warning from Victor Hanson.
[A]n entire generation has come of age without knowledge of anything but de facto zero interest, and little or no inflation, and plentiful jobs. I can attest from 1978-84, that inflation, recession, and unemployment can all exist at the same time. I can remember feeling lucky to have a farm production credit loan at 9% and knowing “delighted” friends who bought homes in 1981 at 10% and a family member who bought a car at 18% and felt he got a good rate. So buckle up…
John Cochrane and Kevin Hassett, which is to say, macroeconomists of some experience, are there too.
The Fed intends to deliberately let inflation run above target, in the belief that this will drive up employment, especially among disadvantaged groups. But in the 1970s we learned that there is no lasting trade-off between inflation and employment. Sustainable employment and wages result only from microeconomic efficiency, better incentives, and well-functioning markets. The record employment and fast-rising wages just before COVID-19 struck, especially among disadvantaged groups, were not the result of inflation or of monetary policy.
Put "microeconomic efficiency" and "better incentives" into the basket of deplorable things, because those produce disproportionate effects that the fashionably noisy will probably denounce as systematically racist, and "well-functioning markets" are in too many parts of the country still being slammed by the ongoing corona tyranny.  Buckle in, indeed.

GOVERNOR PRITZKER TRAILS BY 10,310.

The geographic area and population of Illinois are both similar to those in Sweden, and there are similarities of the Chicago and Stockholm metropolitan areas.  But  Springfield politicians are hazardous to your health.  Governor J. B. Pritzker (D-Lake Geneva) continues to micromanage and destroy local businesses.

A service called Worldometers has been keeping track of coronavirus infections and deaths, disaggregated in a number of ways.

The latest report from Sweden counts 973,604 infections and 14,048 deaths.
The latest report from Illinois counts 1,339,728 infections and 24,358 deaths.

Conditions in Illinois are such that a transition to a full reopening is in order.  "Illinois will move to the bridge phase when 70% of the population 65 years and older has received at least one dose of vaccine, and to Phase 5 when 50% of the population 16 years and older has received at least one dose of vaccine."

If I have to keep extending this post until Anthony Fauci comes to his senses, or resigns, or until the governor is primaried, or until the ukases are vacated, or until the cows come home, I will.  The ukases continue for another month.  I wonder at what point the continuing moratorium on evictions goes from a humane action to a way to get control over real estate in delinquent tax sales.  (But who is going to pay much money for real estate in a state that is shedding population?)

The state continues to administer vaccines.  The latest count is in excess of nine million injections (the page doesn't disaggregate among finished and pending) and the latest count of those scary variants notes all of 3,900.

Last week, the governor trailed by 10,216.  Note the time series: a margin of terror that used to be growing by hundreds in a week is growing by around a hundred, or less. The details for the past six months are on page 2.

1.5.21

THE RAIL ENTHUSIAST IN THE WHITE HOUSE?

Railfan reports a campaign promise.  "Amtrak’s Best Days Are Still Ahead."  There was a bit of a pep rally and family reunion in Philadelphia, and Sleepy Joe is fortunate that multiple trains run on the Northeast Corridor.  "Biden recalled that he saw 30th Street Station a few times when he was coming back from Washington and missed his stop at Wilmington because he had fallen asleep."  He also touted additional sections of "high speed" rail where diesel trains with free rein to 125 might be the better bet.  "Outside the Northeast, Biden mentioned higher-speed rail between such city pairs as Atlanta-Charlotte and Los Angeles-Las Vegas, as well as new destinations like Allentown and Scranton, Pa. (his home town)."

There are ambitious plans.  There is also a lot of process and politics in the way.
Amtrak’s expansion plans generally focus on the short-distance, state-supported corridors that Amtrak began promoting as its future under previous CEO Richard Anderson. Because such routes require state partnerships and funding, the new routes shown on the map released in March [see “Amtrak unveils ‘Connect US’ map …,” Trains News Wire, March 31, 2021] are largely aspirational. Along with legislative support at the state level, such new service will also require operating agreements with host railroads, which can be extremely difficult to obtain, as is being illustrated in the current fight with CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern over efforts to restore service in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama along the Gulf Coast [see “Analysis: Amtrak defends its Gulf Coast access request …,” News Wire, April 29, 2021].

For these reasons and others, Amtrak has yet to outline a time frame or other details for initiating service. In its funding and legislative request to Congress earlier this week, Amtrak did ask for money for a key element of its route expansion plan: the ability to fully pay for the first two years of new multi-frequency routes, after which it would gradually shift costs to states or local operating agencies [see “Amtrak establishes priorities …,” News Wire, April 29, 2021]. But the actual expansion of service figures to be a slow-moving process.
It almost always has been, although the Passenger Rail network is in better shape in a lot of places than it was on 30 April 1971.

OUR POLITICAL MASTERS WANTED AMTRAK TO GO AWAY.

Trains contributor and longtime railroad journalist Rush Loving tells the tale. "The plan was to create a cash-strapped passenger railroad destined to fail from starvation."  (Just in case you didn't believe my assertion of the same thing.)
The Federal Railroad Administration then assigned one of its young staffers, James W. McClellan, to slim down the national passenger network. McClellan killed such notable trains as the City of New Orleans and the Wabash Cannonball, so when Amtrak opened for business on May 1 it was operating one-third of what had been the nation’s passenger fleet.

Railroad CEOs, such as the Burlington Northern’s Louis Menk, hated passenger trains. Not only did the trains lose money, they complicated operations, delaying freight service and beating down tracks. Amtrak was supposed to be an experiment, and Menk and others conspired with the Nixon White House to starve Amtrak for the subsidies it needed to be a successful enterprise, thereby giving the administration an excuse to declare the experiment a failure and kill Amtrak. Unknowingly Congress had aided that compact by failing to provide enough subsidies at Amtrak’s start.

Roger Lewis, an affable man who had been head of General Dynamics, a defense contractor, was named president. Unfortunately, Lewis had been fired from General Dynamics and always seemed reluctant to stand up to Nixon and possibly get fired a second time. Lewis, who had no experience in railroading, also seemed reluctant to make decisions and did not get out on the property other than to ride the Broadway Limited to Chicago or even take the Metroliner to New York.

Lewis and his board hired Harold Graham of Pan American World Airways as marketing vice president. Graham and others on the staff came from airlines and thought only they knew how to deal with passengers and viewed railroaders with disdain. “We’re having to correct all these old practices that developed over the years,” Graham said. He attempted to make trains like airliners, with all cabins, seats, and meals looking the same, and he took diners off the New York-Boston trains and club cars off Metroliners. He even was determined to fulfil the dream of many airline people and kill off first class.
The City of New Orleans was the Illinois Central day train in 1971; the overnight train was the Panama Limited. But the Arlo Guthrie song caught on, and Amtrak renamed the Panama as the City, but it's on a slower overnight schedule now.  First class on the Metroliners and Acelas took away a lot of the air shuttle business, I wonder if one Donald Trump put the airline mob back in charge out of spite.

It took a lot more than the oil embargo to get Our Political Masters to take Amtrak seriously, and make efforts to fund it at levels more generous than "make it comfortable until it expires."  Read and understand.

FIFTY YEARS OF OTHER PEOPLES' AMTRAK.

Longtime Passenger Rail advocate Kevin Keefe recalls the Rainbow Era.
What Amtrak got was a fantastically varied collection of remnants from the great postwar streamliner era, most of them the products of the Budd Company and Pullman-Standard. The emphasis was on the stock stuff — coaches, sleepers, and baggage cars — but there were enough diners and domes and lounges to make things interesting. Even the occasional observation car made the cut.
What he calls a "brief but blessed bit of chaos" might have been more fun for the ferroequinologist, than for that carman dealing with an unfamiliar fuse box or air conditioner.

Railfan and Railroad dipped into founding editor Jim Boyd's collection.  They'll sell you a few picture books, if you're so inclined.

Trains highlighted slides from contributor Bob LaMay, who didn't have to venture far from his Connecticut home to see all sorts of variety.

FIFTY YEARS OF AMTRAK.

Trains editor David P. Morgan once suggested that the failure of Penn Central was such a calamity that the national government had to create Conrail and Amtrak to pick up the pieces.  That did not include much by way of restoration of day trains in Penn Central territory west of the Official Region.

In order to obtain Congressional support for a quasi-public corporation, ostensibly to operate at a profit, the entire country had to have service.  Thus the Amtrak national network.

My purpose today is simply to look at the evolution of the carrier.  These photos are mainly from before Cold Spring Shops started running trip reports.  The policy follies we can save for another day, although there have been plenty of those over the years, offering me more opportunities to sound off.

Let's start where I started, in Milwaukee, the morning after the Bucks won the basketball title.


That was encouraging, two freshly-painted and scrubbed diesels, ready to return the first train from Chicago.  In those days, the ritual of turning a train was more involved than it now is, no fixed formations with a diesel on either end.

What we didn't see were the FP45 cowl units The Milwaukee Road had purchased sometime in 1968 for passenger service.  Those had gone into West Milwaukee for maintenance, including removal of the train-heating gear, installation of multiple-unit connections for use with the electric locomotives in Montana (themselves on short time) and fresh freight paint of orange and black.

The timetable included gains and losses.  The Empire Builder, running loosely on the old Morning Hiawatha schedule, went from its Mississippi River haunt on the Burlington to The Milwaukee Road.  You won't, however, see the service to Green Bay as Chicago and North Western were relieved of all their intercity passenger trains (including the one that served DeKalb.)  For years after, though, station staff at the Milwaukee Depot would alert the baggage handlers of the passage of a westbound train by Washington Street, or an eastbound train by Grand Avenue, which were the junctions for Chicago and North Western trains.


You'll note, for the first time, a quick-reference schedule of connections at Chicago, as well as skimpy services on the Milwaukee and Detroit corridors.

A post of some length with lots of additional pictures will follow below the jump.

30.4.21

THE ATTRITION TRAP.

On the eve of Amtrak's fiftieth birthday, it seems fitting to note again how the retrenchment of the railroads in the years leading up to the creation of Amtrak (and later Conrail, to salvage something in the Official Region) parallels the ongoing shakeout of the universities.  In that post, I wondered, "Are any academic administrators sufficiently forward-looking today? Or will the current crop of administrators have to retire, as was the case with the old-line railroad administrators, before there is any change?" I don't know if Matt "Dean Dad" Reed is still reading Cold Spring Shops; credit him, no matter the source, for understanding the attrition trap.
Layoffs are one way to cut a position, of course, but in my experience they are, by far, the least common one. The much more common one is to leave a position unfilled when someone leaves. The position more or less collapses behind them.

Nonreplacements don’t trigger the same kind of scrutiny, or pushback, as layoffs. For one thing, nobody loses their job. It’s possible to argue that someone is harmed -- presumably, the person who otherwise would have been hired -- but most of the time, nobody knows who that is. No one person has the standing to sue. There’s a cumulative, generational cost, but that doesn’t trigger the same kind of conflagration as firing an incumbent.

With nonreplacements, there’s no suggestion that someone’s performance was poor. In collective bargaining environments, incumbents are represented by unions but prospective hires are not; there’s nobody to bring a grievance.

Nonreplacements -- also called cuts by attrition -- aren’t entirely friction-free, but they’re certainly less traumatic than layoffs.
The remaining rail barons managed to get union support for their mergers, which were intended to achieve operating economies, by pledging to respect seniority and by relying on attrition to achieve the smaller payrolls over time.  To a naïve view, that sounds humane: the fun begins when all the senior armature-winders in the Motor Shop decide to cash out and junior armature-winders in the Diesel Shop at the other end of the system have to be brought in; or if the most promising assistant trainmasters find promising offers elsewhere.  The extension to "can't complete schedules" because the senior faculty have fled is straightforward.  If a number of faculty who all came through tenure review at about the same time call it a career at the same time, the head of the economics department might be in the same position as the foreman of the Motor Shop.
You have to sacrifice some, but not all, of those positions to fill a budget gap. That entails picking winners and losers from among the departments that want to hire replacements. You look at the obvious factors -- enrollment trends at the department level, anticipated demand from employers, strategic directions for the institution, the availability of adjuncts -- and perform a kind of triage.
For the moment, some classes might be covered by temporary help, something that couldn't be said of armature-winders, and yet that is not sustainable.  Blue-collar aristocrats take a more realistic view of job prospects, and they won't go railroading.  That a lot of young people still have the academic vocation, despite going on fifty years of that being a losing proposition, will be somebody else's research opportunity.
Nonreplacement isn’t a panacea. It usually relies, at least in part, on the availability of adjuncts who are paid much less than their full-time counterparts. That creates issues of its own, not the least of which is fairness. Over time, nonreplacement can lead to top-heavy departments. In the case of small departments or programs or work areas, the folks who remain wind up with greater workloads to compensate for the loss; that has limits. And at a really basic level, nonreplacement at scale is more of a holding action than a real solution.
The real solution, however, might be to hive off some of the unproductive divisions.  Where is the system trustee of great vision who will do for the excess capacity in converted normal schools what the Final System Plan did for the Erie-Lackawanna?

Probably not writing for the house organ for Woke Business As Usual.
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education on Monday published a pair of consolidation plans for two groups of public universities.

The plans were published eight months after the university system announced its intention to consolidate six universities. The state higher education system has struggled with declining enrollments and anemic state funding for years, and the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the system to hasten its plan for financial sustainability.
Or perhaps, they're hoping for some of Mr Biden's funny money.
Dozens of alumni of state public universities, as well as state residents, have expressed concern that PASSHE chancellor Daniel Greenstein is rushing into consolidation without first pushing the state Legislature to better fund the system.

The first plan, dubbed the west integration plan, will consolidate California University of Pennsylvania, Clarion University and Edinboro University, which are all located in the western part of the state. The second plan, called the northeast integration plan, will consolidate Bloomsburg University, Lock Haven University and Mansfield University. The second group of universities is clustered in the northeastern part of the state.

Each consolidated university will have one president, who will report to the Board of Governors through the chancellor, according to the plans. The consolidated universities would also have a shared enrollment management strategy and student support services, such as academic advising, financial aid, health and wellness counseling, library services, and career counseling.
We could call the first grouping the Great Western and the second grouping the Great Northeastern.  And yes, the corporate boilerplate sounds a lot like the spin the merger promoters of the late 1950s put out.  And yes, the attrition trap is loaded.
The system will reorganize nonacademic staff members into a single structure for each consolidated university by July of next year. The number of staff members employed by each consolidated university is likely to change.

“Given the efficiencies to be achieved and analysis of retirement eligibility, continued planning is occurring to achieve these results, where possible through removal of vacancies and attrition while maintaining optimal functional capacity,” the plans said. “Periodic adjustments to personnel may be required to meet institutional needs.”
At least in the beginning, though, there will be no changes?  "As the system has developed the consolidation plans, system officials have emphasized that each institution will maintain its own name and branding even after the consolidation. That said, the two consolidated universities will also be given a name this summer."

Sooner or later, reality will dawn.  There is excess capacity to shake out, consolidation will mean liquidation, and the terminally stupid people in charge will be brought to book for their failures.
As long as universities produced highly educated and open-minded graduates, at a reasonable cost, and kept politics out of the lecture hall, Americans did not bother much about their peculiarities—like tenure, non-transparency, legacy admissions, untaxed endowments, rebellious students, and quirky faculty.

But once they began to charge exorbitantly, educate poorly, politick continuously, indebt 45 million people, and act hypocritically, they turned off Americans.

Just as a sermonizing Hollywood grates when it no longer can make good movies, so does a once hallowed but now self-righteous university seem hollow when it charges so much for increasingly so little.
Undermine them with mockery.

FRIDAY short TAKES

Here comes this week's roundup of posts that caught my attention, generally because they could be reduced to one pithy remark, which too often was buried in the concluding paragraph. Follow the links for elaboration. Sometimes that includes a refresher on fundamental Cold Spring Shops.

1.  The only thing worse than trusting the police is not trusting the police? “You have to resort to extra-legal justice, because there is no justice.”

2.  Roger Kimball on the rush to out-Lyndon Johnson Lyndon Johnson.  "And yet here they are behaving as if Karl Marx, if not Mao Zedong himself, had been elected instead of a senile factotum who was supposed to bring back 'normalcy,' national unity, and political 'bipartisanship.'"  The first time around, the Congress and the Supreme Court were cooperative, and the people inclined to go along.  Those policies did not turn out well.


4School became something to game.  "Our cultural expectations grow increasingly insane as the distance grows between reality and our social indicators."

5.  The Technocratic Impulse, when applied to the cities, sowed the seeds of contemporary populism."[T]he seeds of our resentment we hold toward those cultural curators, such as the planning commissions that demolished the heartbeats of these neighborhoods, began when our parents and grandparents fought and lost the hard battles to save their communities."

6Pragmatic populism, as requested by Stacy Lennox: "Define energy independence, symmetrical global trade, national and domestic security, and school choice and education innovation."  Add a reversal of the corona tyranny, and a vision of urban policing untainted by tribal politics, and you might have something.

7Matt Ridley, "We risk allowing officials to cling on to their beloved levers of control for too long."


9.  A correspondent at Shot in the Dark wants a record expunged.  "By making the million-dollar [reparations] payment, the United States would settle all accounts with the former slaves and the books would be balanced. Accepting the payment would include a waiver of entitlement to preferential treatment on account of race."  That's something I've sometimes wondered about: what would a successful policy outcome look like?

10The fruits of corona tyranny? "Who needs to read books about historical tyrants?"  Neither major political party is working as assiduously on the required value proposition.

11.  Craig "Streetwise Professor" Pirrong nails the Fatal Conceit.  "A soi disant elite (ha!) always pushes the alternative that gives them the most power, and deprives you of the most choice."

12.  This S. E. Cupp assertion generalizes.  "I can’t think of anything more abusive and insidious than using your platform to make political pawns of children, and to do so just to incite anger and outrage."

13If it only prevents one suicide!  "If I hear the phrase 'abundance of caution' one more time, I'm going to jump out of my window."


15.  Mary Mitchell laments for her village.  "Only the village can reduce the risks for young Black teens growing up in gun-infested neighborhoods."  Let's see if she thinks about how best to achieve that.

16.  Paul Mirengoff has had enough of dysfunction being enabled.  " I can’t help but wonder if any standard that Blacks disproportionately fail to meet, no matter how self-evidently justified the standard, is safe from attack from the increasingly influential Black/left coalition."  Makes sense, what you enable you get more of.  Mary Mitchell, are you paying attention?

17Compensating differentials exist.  "Four officers moved out of Seattle to make less money in Spokane."

18Liberalism is a mental disorder.  We note elsewhere that all the observers of Wednesday's policy message got their Trump shots long ago.

19.  Process worship summarized in one sentence.  "Only in America will we stop a football game, drag out measuring chains and look at a play 15 times from 6 different angles to make sure we make the right call, but won't verify the integrity of an election of the highest office in our nation."

20Punished for being cooperative?  A business guru concurs.  "It’s tempting for managers to work the best people harder, so they frequently fall into this trap. Now, instead of being rewarded the best workers think they are being punished."

21Outdoor mask guidance is a joke.  Unfortunately, "if you live in a Faucistan sector of the United States, your daily life is likely still going to be affected."

22.  And now, the problems of the succession at quarterback are upon Packer Nation.  "It's hard to envision a happy ending here."

23Reality bites.  "[M]any prominent people and institutions, desperate for a competent foil to then–President Donald Trump, spent the last year celebrating [New York governor Andrew] Cuomo as the leader America needed."

THOSE WHO DENY FREEDOM TO OTHERS DESERVE IT NOT FOR THEMSELVES.

Despite all the attendees at Wednesday night's presidential* address having received their Trump shots during the closing days of the Trump presidency, they were still wearing their Biden muzzles and sitting apart from their unclean colleagues.  And I'm not referring to the Republicans staying away from the Democrats by that.  Bizarre even by Twilight Zone standards, indeed.


Henry Payne used to be a libertarian-leaning cartoonist.  Of late his observations about Democrats have become blunter and more critical.

As for the speech itself, Power Line's Scott Johnson is on point, and I will elaborate.  "The speech should have worked its greatest effect on those who know nothing of LBJ and the Great Society, the Carter administration, and of American history generally."

Yes, I watched the whole thing, and my impression was that the Sixties called, and they want their bromides back.  Roger "Tenured Radicals" Kimball is of like mind.  "I thought it was a horrible speech — cliché-ridden, yes, but also deeply mendacious."
Throughout our history, if you think about it, public investment and infrastructure has literally transformed America — our attitudes, as well as our opportunities.

The transcontinental railroad, the interstate highways united two oceans and brought a totally new age of progress to the United States of America.
I suppose it's churlish to point out that rent seekers captured both projects, and that those interstate highways of the 1950s are either crumbling infrastructure or enabling environmental abuse today.  (It took a lot of Harriman money to uncrumble Union Pacific and Southern Pacific, back in the Cleveland administration, but that's too much history, isn't it?)
And all the investments in the American Jobs Plan will be guided by one principle: Buy American.
Biden mercantilism good, Trump mercantilism bad.
And we’re falling behind the competition with the rest of the world.
I gave away my copy of Paul Krugman's Pop Internationalism at retirement, but that comes pretty close to making a false comparison of a company, which engages in competition, with a country, that does not.  (It's called comparative advantage for a reason.)
China and other countries are closing in fast. We have to develop and dominate the products and technologies of the future: advanced batteries, biotechnology, computer chips, clean energy.
Are those future winners, or maturing technologies that others might have imitated?
Look, we can’t be so busy competing with one another that we forget the competition that we have with the rest of the world to win the 21st century.
Countries, to repeat, are not companies. Fortunately, he didn't say "win the future" there. WTF?
Twelve years [of education] is no longer enough today to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st Century.
That's stuff for several posts, right there! What happens if that very early childhood education gets youngsters competent enough to learn in high school what they should have learned in high school, so social promotion in the common schools, and remediation in college, become relics of barbarism?
And we’ll increase Pell Grants and invest in Historical Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges, Minority-Serving Institutions.  The reason is: They don’t have the endowments, but their students are just as capable of learning about cybersecurity, just as capable of learning about metallurgy — all the things that are going on that provide those jobs of the future.
He left out the law, and medicine, and bond trading. Poor kids don't get to compete with white kids?
In fact, we pay the highest prescription drug prices of anywhere in the world right here in America — nearly three times — for the same drug, nearly three times what other countries pay. We have to change that, and we can.

Let’s do what we’ve always talked about for all the years I was down here in this — in this body — in Congress. Let’s give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower drug prescription prices.
Can you say monopsony?

In the manner of politicians for time immemorial, it's always pie in the sky with somebody else's dough.
Sometimes I have arguments with my friends in the Democratic Party.  I think you should be able to become a billionaire and a millionaire, but pay your fair share.

A recent study shows that 55 of the nation’s biggest corporations paid zero federal tax last year.  Those 55 corporations made in excess of $40 billion in profit.  A lot of companies also evade taxes through tax havens in Switzerland and Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.  And they benefit from tax loopholes and deductions for offshoring jobs and shifting profits overseas.  It’s not right.

We’re going to reform corporate taxes so they pay their fair share and help pay for the public investments their businesses will benefit from as well.
First, will somebody, anybody, spell out what the tax incidence calculations are, and on that basis, what is that fair share of taxes that the high income earners aren't currently paying?

Second, are we really back in the late 1960s, where Sophisticated Opinion was getting all worked up about those millionaires who didn't pay any income taxes?  All we got for that was an alternative minimum tax that became a snare for normal people (Paul Krugman pointed that out) until Our Political Masters adjusted it for inflation.

Third, even if you take a fair share out of that $40 billion, that's a rounding error in the trillions of dollars that the Donks are throwing around.

I suppose we should give the coot credit for saying "public investments their businesses will benefit from" without the "you didn't build that."
The pandemic has only made things worse.  Twenty million Americans lost their job in the pandemic — working- and middle-class Americans.  At the same time, roughly 650 billionaires in America saw their net worth increase by more than $1 trillion — in the same exact period.  Let me say it again: 650 people increased their wealth by more than $1 trillion during this pandemic.  And they’re now worth more than $4 trillion. 

My fellow Americans, trickle-down — trickle-down economics has never worked and it’s time to grow the economy from the bottom and the middle out.
That accumulation of wealth (it's probably owners' equity) during the lockdowns has been a pet socialist hobbyhorse for some time.  That the money was flowing in because the smaller competitors were closed, as a matter of quote public health unquote, has not.  The quickest way to restore that entrepreneurship and employment among the middle- and low- income people is to lift the lockdowns.  That, though, would run counter to the theater of all those masked gerontocrats keeping their distance from each others' cooties, or is it body odor?
If we act to save the planet, we can create millions of jobs and economic growth and opportunity to raise the standard of living to almost everyone around the world.
Maybe, although the way our ancestors lived, without those annoying trains or airplanes, was sustainable.  We are all underemployed relative to them.
Talk to most responsible gun owners and hunters. They’ll tell you there’s no possible justification for having 100 rounds in a weapon.  What do you think — deer are wearing Kevlar vests?  (Laughter.)  They’ll tell you that there are too many people today who are able to buy a gun but shouldn’t be able to buy a gun.
It is not the place of a president, real or placeholding, to tell me what we are justified in buying.  In addition, responsible gun owners would probably tell you there are no hundred round magazines.  Maybe for a Russian Banjo, but you'd have to scratchbuild that.
We have to prove democracy still works — that our government still works and we can deliver for our people.
That's where the fun is going to begin.
Our Constitution opens with the words — as trite as it sounds — “We the People”.  Well, it’s time to remember that “We the People” are the government — you and I.  Not some force in a distant capital.  Not some powerful force that we have no control over.  It’s us.  It’s “We the People.”

In another era when our democracy was tested, Franklin Roosevelt reminded us, “In America, we do our part.”  We all do our part.  That’s all I’m asking: that we do our part, all of us.
That's an interesting allusion to Ronald Reagan's famous "small remote capital" at the end of a string of proposals to increase the power of a national government on the strength of the slimmest of majorities.

And the fun begins.  The Associated Press engages in its fact-checking ritual.  "Biden also made his spending plans sound more broadly supported in Washington than they are."

He's taking stick from his left, apparently for not throwing enough money and rhetoric at the perceived problems.  "[Self-styled] progressives are unlikely to be satisfied with Biden's agenda no matter how aggressively profligate it gets. That's in their nature. What's more worrying is how far they've already managed to push Biden—with the notable exception of criminal justice reform—and how much more they intend to squeeze out of him."

He's getting hammered from his right, with mockery. "It’s not easy to put people to sleep while at the same time promising to destroy the country, but Biden managed it."

If we take that longer view I opened the post with, bear in mind what Rich Lowry wrote, in advance of the speech.
No one listening to that or a thousand other things Biden said during the campaign would have had him pegged as the guy who would immediately set about making wrenching changes in the American way of life.

For a would-be FDR, Biden doesn't seem to understand that a fundamental source of the New Dealer's power was enormous congressional majorities. FDR came into office in 1933 with almost a 200-seat majority in the House, 313-117, after Republicans lost more than 100 seats.

Biden came into office in 2021 with a bare nine-seat majority in the House after Democrats surprisingly lost ground all over the country. It's the narrowest Democratic House majority since the last two years of the administration of Rutherford B. Hayes.

In the Senate, FDR had 58 Senate Democrats, as Republicans lost 12 seats in 1932 in one of the worst senatorial drubbings in history.

Biden has a 50-50 tie after Democrats eked out two special-election victories in Georgia this year, with Vice President Kamala Harris on standby to break ties.
Mr Roosevelt signed more executive orders and more legislation than Mr Biden has.

More recently, we could consider the Congress that took office in 1965, with perhaps the best Senatorial arm-twister ever sitting in the White House.  Those seemed like heady times for the same sort of expansion of government that Mr Biden seems to be pushing for, and yet, that came undone.

Perhaps the more relevant example might be the Carter presidency, which was likely the last gasp of got-a-problem-pass-a-program thinking, at least among voters.  I'm still not sure whether it's Senate manipulator or somebody's puppet sitting behind that desk signing orders and legislation.

It's just business as usual for tax and tax, spend and spend, big government Democrats, notes Reason's Peter Suderman.
Biden's presidency is barely three months old, but it's already fallen into a predictable pattern: Point to the pandemic. Declare that it's an emergency, and that something must be done. Then insist on an expensive, expansive policy overhaul that Democrats have pushed for years—first, in some cases, as a temporary measure, and then, inevitably, for much longer. It's deceptive and dangerous. And if he keeps this up, he may leave a new crisis in his wake.
Of course he will. But will there be a coherent opposition, with a way forward that involves rolling back the administrative state, and favoring more modest federal actions in future?  The editors of National Review hope so.  "Biden is providing Republicans plenty of material to work with, and nothing to intimidate them."

THE SECOND CITY COP CALLS IN.

The eponymous weblog is still in suspension.  The chaos continues in the city.
Two more suicides while we’re in limbo – nothing from the Groot and worse, a canned e-mail from Brownie. Did you know that after the suicide in 019, not a single member of the Command Staff showed up at Roll Calls for at least three days? Including the District Commander. But they care. Really. They tell us so in e-mails and e-learning videos.

Four cops shot in a matter of days – no condemnation from the political structure. Almost like they’re scared to show even the tiniest bit of support for the men and women in blue, lest the suspiciously dormant “rioters” notice them.

And now a dead 13-year-old gangbanger. How do we know he’s a gangbanger?
Read the rest for the answer to that question, as well as to the future of the weblog.

26.4.21

STUCK ON THE WAY UP.

Every so often, something goes wrong at an amusement park, even at Blackpool's Pleasure Beach.  "Adrenaline junkies were left stranded at the highest point of the 213ft Big One this afternoon. They had been on the notorious - and agonising - stretch of track travelling up to the top of the rollercoaster when it suddenly stopped."

Sometimes, all you can do is keep calm and mind the gap, and don't look down.

The British are somewhat less obsessive about safeguarding their roller coasters than we are in the States.  Years ago, I was at Alton Towers near Manchester, when the afternoon rains came.  (It's the west side of the British Isles, and it rains every afternoon.)  The coaster kept running.  A lightning storm came in.  The power went out.  A train was on the lift hill when the power went out.  Where it stayed.  Until the rain stopped and the power came back on.  The riders stuck up there appeared to take it all in stride.  I viewed the rains as an opportunity to grab a snack and visit the arcade.

The Big One is a good roller coaster to enjoy, although make sure you take in the continuous-track racing coaster while you're there.

MORE FRACTURES IN THAT EMERGING MAJORITY?

Every so often, a Chicago police stop goes bad.  A few years ago, one might have ended the political career of then-mayor Rahm Emanuel.  Somebody else didn't let a good crisis go to waste.  That's how the current state's attorney for Cook county got her job.  Sometimes, though, Team Brown finds itself at odds with Team Black.
[Former congressman Luis] Gutierrez likened [current state's attorney Kim] Foxx’s actions to those of her predecessor, Anita Alvarez, who came under heavy fire for her handling of the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014.

Alvarez waited a year — until the day that shooting video was released by a judge’s order — to file murder charges against former Chicago cop Jason Van Dyke, who shot McDonald 16 times. Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and aggravated battery.

“You rightfully accused your predecessor of hiding the Laquan McDonald video,” Gutierrez said to Foxx. “But you chose to not even bother to see the Adam Toledo videos.”

Gutierrez noted that he even dropped his support for Alvarez and endorsed Foxx “believing that you would show greater sensitivity to all disenfranchised communities.”

He now plans to reach out to Foxx’s office Monday to request a meeting to voice concerns about her handling of Adam’s case and what he sees as a glaring lack of Latino leadership in her office.
If you can't get what you want on principle, get what you want by appealing to the tribe.  So it always seems to be, in Chicago.