19.1.20

FASCHING.



Prosit!

WHY NOT JUST ASK THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION FOR ANOTHER MAIN TRACK?

Craig "Amtrak in the Heartland" Sanders evaluates the possible return of passenger trains to the Dixie Line.  "A Serious Proposal or Just a Talking Point for Public Consumption?"
The appearance of Ray Lang, Amtrak’s senior director of government affairs, at a meeting of the Tennessee House Transportation Committee was significant for a number of reasons, but two in particular stand out.

First, it was the first time Amtrak has named a specific route that fits the criteria that Anderson and Gardner have been talking up.

That route would link Atlanta and Nashville, but Lang also talked about extending a pair of Midwest corridor trains to Memphis.

Second, it offered concrete proof that Amtrak expects state and local governments to pay for its vision of the future of rail passenger travel.

It is not clear why Amtrak chose Tennessee as the opening act for what promises to be lengthy process.

Perhaps Amtrak has quietly sounded out other states on their interest in ponying up money for new rail passenger service and we just haven’t heard about it.

Or perhaps Amtrak projects the Tennessee routes as among the most likely to succeed.

The news reports out of the Volunteer State generally portrayed a favorable reception to Amtrak’s proposals with some legislators speaking well of the prospect of rail passenger service where none exists now.

Atlanta and Nashville have never been linked by Amtrak and Tennessee’s capitol has been off the Amtrak route network since the Floridian makes its final trips between Chicago and Florida in early October 1979.
In fact, Tennessee lost most of its passenger train service before Amtrak even became a thing, with the New York and Chattanooga Pelican (yes, there was a Chattanooga Choo-Choo although it never left The Pennsylvania Station at a quarter to four, nor did it serve breakfast in either of the Carolinas) and the Chicago and Atlanta Georgian gone by the end of the 1960s.  The less we say about the Floridian (hammered by bad Penn Central and Conrail track across Indiana, for a time combined with a Louisville to Orlando Auto-Train, and generally slow and undependable) the better.

But adding more lanes to Interstate 75 through that southern spur of the Appalachians is a losing proposition.
Other players in the process will also play a role in whether the trains operate.

Chief among them is would-be host railroad CSX.

CSX’s Covington fired a warning shot across the bow in saying, “introducing passenger trains to heavily used freight lines will be a complex, costly process.

“And I understand that you guys are hearing from your constituents about the crowded roads, and you’re obviously looking for solutions to that. But we want to make sure you do it in a way to make sure it doesn’t backfire and divert freight off the rails and onto the highways.”

That’s another way of saying that CSX will demand some very expensive infrastructure improvements as the price of agreeing to host the trains.

More than likely the price tag for those projects will be more than state lawmakers are willing to pay for a service that Amtrak said will lose money.
Whatever that additional cost will be, it is likely to be less than the losses the state highway commissioners incur each day that they persist in not treating their roads like assets.  Perhaps CSX might consider a more favorable attitude as well.  Union Pacific are getting a very fine intermodal corridor out of the upgrade of the Alton Route, and faster trailer and container movements from Mexico toward the Great Lakes that aren't battering the old Route 66 (yes, I know, that's Interstate 55) are the very opposite of a backfire.

The former Illinois Central might also benefit from an attitude adjustment.
Another player will be the Illinois Department of Transportation, which funds the trains now operating between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois, that Amtrak has proposed extending to Memphis.

Amtrak spokesman Magliari said it would be relatively easy to have the southbound Saluki and northbound Illini serve Memphis because Amtrak already has crews based in Carbondale who operate the City of New Orleans on host railroad Canadian National between Carbondale and Memphis.

But what looks easy or even possible on paper may not be so in practice. IDOT will want assurance that its interests won’t be harmed in any rescheduling of the trains.

An unknown about the additional service to Memphis is whether the state of Kentucky would be willing to help fund trains that run through their state.
That's yet another undoing damage that Amtrak previously contributed to: some years ago, the agency raised no objection to Canadian National removing the cab signals and one of the main tracks on the old Main Line of Mid-America, turning a 100 mph railroad into just another 79 mph line with a lot of freight train interference; and Amtrak inherited the vestiges of an Illinois Central corridor service in which several overnight trains between Chicago and New Orleans became day trains between Chicago and Memphis.

Frequency, connectivity, dependability.  Better, though, to be talking about the possibility of such things rather than lamenting their absence.

YOU ARE A LIAR ON NATIONAL TELEVISION.

The prevarications of Elizabeth "Fauxahontas" Warren never cease to entertain.

Today, though, the entertainment is more of the form of two ancient shamans of the Technocratic Conceit throwing down as if in a no-holds-barred cage match.



Unfortunately, the senator from Voronezh Vermont wasn't quick enough to come back to her "You called me a liar ..." with the title line I proposed.  But the senator from Muskogee Massachusetts, in one minute, destroyed all the credibility of her "I think I'll have a beer" advert, and all to the great glee of Tucker Carlson.  "Elizabeth Warren is not someone you'd want to have dinner with - - that much is entirely clear. Tell her you're busy if she ever calls."

I guess he, too, called her a liar on national television.
This time, CNN tells us -- this time -- Elizabeth Warren was being a 100 percent completely real. Not like that time she lied about her race or the time she lied about her job history, or the time she lied about her plan to finance universal health care without a middle-class tax hike.

No, this time for sure -- no question at all -- Elizabeth Warren is telling the whole truth and nothing but, and you'd have to be some kind of misogynist to doubt her. That's what they told us all night on CNN.

Now, why do they tell us that? Why lie to us? Simple. The Democratic National Committee is worried about Bernie Sanders. All those attacks on Wall Street offend donors.
That Wall Street money is also fretful about all of the plans coming out of the Warren Wigwam. Are they feeling sufficiently strong to back the former vice-president, or will we see another billionaire businessman mounting a hostile takeover, this time of the Democrats?

I bet that by year's end, "impeachment" is going to be well down on the list of 2020 political stories.

THERE'S NO MONEY TO COPE WITH A TEACHER SHORTAGE BY RAISING WAGES?

Welcome to raising your kids in Illinois.  At the end of the previous academic year, this was the state of affairs.
It's the same old story, year after year.  "The report said shortages were reported in almost every subject area, with foreign languages, special education fields and computer science leading the list of classroom subjects. There also were significant shortages of school psychologists and library and media specialists."
I'm reminded of that Soviet era joke that ends, "pull down the shades and pretend we're moving."  If insufficiently many people screen for the job, make the job easier to screen for.  "Someone who wants to be a teacher, someone who knows a test is coming up, can't prepare sufficiently for a basic skills test and the problem is the test?"

Read the details, and weep.
Kelly McConohy has spent 11 years working as a paraprofessional, assisting students with special needs at Glenview Middle School. She wanted to become a licensed teacher.

But even after earning a degree in educational studies, she couldn’t pass the state’s Basic Skills Test. The math portion, with 60 story problems, gave her the most trouble. That’s partly because, at age 52, McConohy hasn’t taken a rigorous math class in decades. But it’s partly because the test is tough. Only 31 percent of college students pass the math portion on the first try.

When the legislature eliminated that test, it cleared the way for McConohy to move to the next requirement — student teaching — which she began this week. When I spoke with her on Monday, after her first day, she sounded positively giddy.

“I love this job,” she said. “I’ve never loved a job before, I can honestly say. And this is a truly just so… it’s so my thing. I love it.​”

McConohy is still with the same students, in the same program, working with children who have emotional disabilities. At Glenview, it’s called the Success program, “because it’s more positive,” McConohy said.
Yes, calling troubled kids successful is part of the problem. It's that same college of education mindset that equips college graduates with a lot of self-esteem and darned little ability to, oh, pass the mathematics test.  Story problems?  Bet there isn't a "sand falls into a conical pile" question among them.

Maybe that's what makes the analytics guys in opinion polling or sports or option trading so obnoxious, having to deal with overconfident innumerates all the time.

NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF THERE HAD BEEN A TRULY IMPEACHABLE OFFENSE.

Andrew McCarthy suggests that had evidence of state treason ever come to light, there would have been no protracted Mueller report.
If collusion with Russia had been fact rather than farce, Trump would never have made it to an impeachment trial. He’d have had to resign, Prior to November 8, 2016, Republicans were not the ones in need of convincing that Russia was a dangerous geopolitical threat. If it had been real collusion that brought Democrats around to that conclusion, the votes to impeach and remove would have been overwhelming.

And the timing would have been irrelevant. If Americans had been seized by a truly impeachable offense, it would not matter whether Election Day was two years, two months, or two weeks away. The public and the political class would not tolerate an agent of the Kremlin in the Oval Office.

If there were such egregious misconduct that the public was convinced of the need to remove Trump, such that two-thirds of the Senate would ignore partisan ties and do just that, there would be no partisan stunts. Democratic leaders would have worked cooperatively with their GOP counterparts, as was done in prior impeachments. They would have told the president: “Sure, you can have your lawyers here, and call whatever witnesses you want.” There would be a bipartisan sense that the president had done profound wrong. There would be a sense of history, not contest. Congressional leaders would want to be remembered as statesmen, not apparatchiks.

If there were a real impeachable offense, there would be no fretting about witnesses at the trial. Senate leaders would be contemplating that, after hearing the case extensively presented by both sides, there might well be enough votes to convict without witnesses. But if there were an appetite for witnesses, witnesses would be called . . . as they were in Watergate. And just as in Watergate, if the president withheld vital evidence of appalling lawlessness, the public would not be broadly indifferent to administration stonewalling.
Note though, that in the Watergate scandal, two years elapsed from "third rate burglary" to resignation, with each invocation of executive privilege being litigated in the courts.  What's going on now is more like that corrupt Washington establishment hanging on to as much of its authority as it can.
Why was the Democrats’ impeachment gambit driven by the election calendar rather than the nature of the president’s offense? Why were the timing of hearings and the unreasonable limits imposed on Republicans’ ability to call witnesses dictated by the frantic rush to get done before Christmas recess — to the point that Democrats cynically vacated a subpoena they’d served on a relevant administration witness, fearing a few weeks of court battles that they might lose?

Why did Democrats grope from week to week in a struggle over what to call the misconduct they accused the president of committing – campaign finance, extortion, quid pro quo, bribery? How did they end up with an amorphous “abuse of power” case? How did they conclude that an administration that goes to court rather than instantly surrendering potentially privileged information commits obstruction?

Why such tedious recriminations over adoption of Senate procedures that were approved by a 100–0 vote the last time there was an impeachment trial? Why all the kvetching over whether witnesses will be called when those procedures provide for the calling of witnesses in the likely event that 51 senators — after hearing nearly two weeks of presentation and argument from both sides — want to hear from one or two of them?
There are days when I suspect the worst fears of some populist pundits are correct: the Permanent Bipartisan Establishment still abhors Donald Trump's hostile takeover of the Republican Party, and the continued wrangling over process and ongoing introduction of new evidence protects business as usual, as well as putting that blemish on his Permanent Record.

Does the Permanent Political Class turning dubious conduct with respect to foreign aid for Ukraine into a Constitutional crisis say something about the vapidity of the appeal that sclerotic establishment otherwise has?
On Ukraine, nothing of consequence came of President Trump’s bull-in-a-china-shop excesses. Sure, they ought to be a 2020 campaign issue. Democrats, instead, would have us exaggerate them into historically extraordinary wrongs. For that, you need gamesmanship. If there were real impeachable misconduct, there would be no time or place for games.
There's no consensus, yet, among Democrats on who their side of the binary choice is going to be. Unfortunately, the nominating convention in Milwaukee does not coincide with German Fest. I can think of no better occasion to tap a few kegs.  Muttering a few choice German expressions at Democrats optional.  Just don't make a drinking game out of each time Elizabeth "Fauxahontas" Warren says "plan" or Bernie "Statler" Sanders gives the "cut" signal to the band.

THE LONGEST TRANSITION IS FROM SATURDAY TO SUNDAY.

Craig Newmark notes that Ryen Russillo doesn't quite answer, "Why Is It So Hard to Draft NFL Quarterbacks?" Nor does he shed any light on what the supply elasticity of quarterbacks is.

It's not quite true that "For every [c.q.] Patrick Mahomes, there’s a Mitchell Trubisky."  It's more like 28 busts to 22 successes with five borderline hires in the past few years of first-round draft choices according to Mr Russillo, who watches Saturday pro football, er, the Southeastern Conference, regularly.


His assessment: the position is a difficult one to learn, and the usual quantitative stuff isn't precise enough to pick winners. (The extension to Ira Magaziner style industrial policy ought to be straightforward, but I digress.  There are cameo appearances by Ben Bernanke.)

18.1.20

ASKING FOR WAY TOO MUCH.

This Saturday's not-regular-Saturday bridge column illustrates the pitfalls of attempting to describe a hand on incomplete information.


North deals, and the opening bid with a balanced hand and 16 high-card points is standard.  I'd like to think that raising to Two Spades with seventeen points is standard; that the simulation highlights the bid as some kind of a suggestion.  The North bot shows Clubs, with a notrump opening I figure there are game values in Spades, but the bot has other ideas.  That Four No Trump does not have a highlight on it indicating calling for aces, and the bot interprets my additional responses as a way to bid a grand slam in Clubs.

The opening lead is East's ♦7. We treat the North hand as the closed hand for counting losers.  In Spades, none, but note how useful the South hand would be as a dummy with Spades as trumps; in Hearts, there's one; in Diamonds none; in Clubs there might be two or three losers, even as trump.  Unfortunately the simulation is not an artificial intelligence that might see the value of stopping with game at Four Spades, especially with all those potential Club losers once the Ace is cashed.

And so it goes: win the opening lead with the Ace on the board; the ♣4 winkles out the Queen and now it's possible to run all the Clubs.  Perhaps it would have been wiser for me to draw trumps, establishing the ♣7 and ♣8 before going to work on the other suits, but I opted to use the high Diamonds in hand to discard some of the low Spades on the board, then cash the ♥ Ace, and then on the second round of Spades, east was out and ruffed with the ♣ Nine.  Now East can lead a low Heart to the Queen and West can return a Spade for another club ruff; as the North hand is a closed hand, there's a club ruff available there of the ♥ King, and the three remaining tricks are mine, but down three on a grand slam attempt isn't how any of this is supposed to work.

PRIVILEGE IS CIVILIZATION.

I've made this argument repeatedly and at length for years.

Perhaps Washington Examiner columnist Timothy P. Carney makes the point more succinctly.
Cultural liberalism is class warfare waged by the wealthy against the poor and working class. The privilege of the elite mostly comprises the norms, the models, and the community that support and guide people toward marriage and family. And that's one privilege too many elites would sooner keep to themselves.
Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds notes, "Roger Simon was pointing this out over a decade ago."

The deeper subtlety of Mr Carney's argument is that the socially transgressive stance of the cultural influencers is a pernicious form of "do what I say" (casual sex and drug use) when that is evidently "not what I do."  Specifically, "Americans in the upper class are much more likely to profess liberalized teachings on family and marriage while personally practicing conservative family values."

The trickle-down effect of Weimar mores on the living conditions of people living in modest circumstances has been something cultural conservatives have recognized long before Roger Simon had his road-to-Gomorrah moment: it's been around at least since Emmett Tyrrell wrote The Liberal Crack-Up, and that book was in print before an obscure vice-president named Dan Quayle made a cause out of the "lifestyle choice" of a television character called Murphy Brown.

Whether the Normals will figure out the success sequence on their own remains to be seen.

16.1.20

THERE'S HISTORICAL TRUTH, AND THEN THERE'S HOWARD ZINN'S TRUTH.

There's a large pile of books still to be reviewed, and I'll start the 2020 count with Mary Grabar's Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America.

This Book Review No. 1 will not deal with the content of the book to any length, as I am more interested in its usefulness in helping teachers, whether as home-schooling parents or as employees of a school system, teach the controversies, where the book is deficient, than I am in the specific illustrations of elisions, omissions, and falsifications Ms Grabar points out.

I'm not a fan of People's History, and Ms Grabar located a review by Cornell's Michael Kammen who, years before I wrote that post, described People's History as a "scissors-and-paste-pot job."  Yup.  I'm troubled that some useful histories offering a different point of view, including naval historian S. E. Morison's investigation of Columbus's voyages are out of print and generally de-accessioned from the libraries.  On the other hand, the teacher or home-schooler wants to read up on the Founding or the Civil War or the Gilded Age or World War II, he's got to do his own research to identify where the controversies are introduced or contested,  That the Oregon Association of Scholars are conducting a campaign to get Debunking into public libraries and schools and supporting a talk by Ms Grabar at Portland State might be taking the fight to the enemy; and yet it's still going to be on that teacher or home-schooler to figure out what to do next.

That matters, as there is still much work to be done.  I borrowed my title from page 161 of DebunkingIt comes from Ronald Radosh, historian of inter alia several Communist plots and author of a generally favorable review that raises several of the points I could have raised here.  By all means, go there, read and understand.

Note, though, his conclusion.
Grabar has done a great service in writing the first serious book exposing Zinn’s scholarship and offering a corrective to his fables. It is unfortunate, however, that her book is not likely to receive the broad audience it deserves. It will likely be read by those who already know Zinn was an ideological partisan who used history to enforce his own political agenda. How better would it have been had a mainstream press undertaken this effort, one willing to buck convention and the publishing industry’s liberal clientele and give the book the chance it needs to effectively confront all those committed to what I call “the Zinning of America.”
Put another way, the book is a Regnery product, and, although the Regnery polemical touch is lighter than normal, that marque probably taints what's between the covers as not useful per se.  It's crucial, though, to understand that "Howard Zinn's truth" or "The Party's Truth" (Mr Radosh's original formulation) is something that's been granted legitimacy by the kind of radical skepticism that allows truth to be surrounded by a bodyguard of sneer quotes and falsehood, such as the smearing of Justice Kavanaugh, be rationalized as simply the accuser's truth.

It is useful for people, particularly people charged with the education of the young, to recognize nonsense masquerading as scholarship.  It is more useful for those people to be able to help the students in their care to understand the nature of the controversies and weigh the evidence.  Neither People's History nor Debunking contribute to that effort.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

SISTER NANCY WANTS THAT BLACK MARK ON DONALD TRUMP'S PERMANENT RECORD.

The speaker went on ABC's This Week, where Democrat operative George Stephanopoulos holds court, to the great amusement of Twitchy.  Leave aside the early-onset-dementia stammering and twitching, and she's simply a lay teacher carrying out Mother Superior's warning that there are some things that cannot be expunged.  "The President has been impeached – and no amount of gamesmanship from Leader McConnell will erase that fact."  That's legally and factually correct.  But will anybody give a d**n.  In another hundred years, will that impeachment be viewed by historians and chroniclers as simply a sad echo of Andrew Johnson running afoul of True Believers over the Tenure of Office Act?

Betsy McCaughey misses that Constitutional point, although she is almost certainly correct about what the rest of the year is likely to look like.  "Expect a short trial, an acquittal and no relief from the venomous anti-Trump rancor driving the Democratic Party. House Democrats are looking for new grounds to impeach. As if Congress had nothing better to do."

THE DIXIE FLYER RETURNS TO THE RAILS?

No, that's not a deluxe airplane or even a coaster wagon or a sled.  It's one of a fleet of trains once offered by the Nashville Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway, which covered the western slope of the Appalachians with fleets of trains linking Cincinnati with New Orleans and St. Louis or Chicago with Atlanta, and some of those trains once had through cars for and from Detroit or Florida points.  (The vestigial tail of this service continued to serve Cincinnati right up to Amtrak day.)

Now Amtrak are apparently interested in adding a regional rail service between Atlanta and Nashville.  As this service does not cover 750 miles, and the tracks are owned by CSX, the successor to NC&StL, it might be a long time from first stirrings to implementation.  It's probably not a good time for Better to be the enemy of Good Enough.  Let's get the trains running between Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Nashville (let's hope without any Andrews raids) and then we can talk about onward to Louisville and Cincinnati (and Detroit and Chicago and St. Louis) or toward Florida.

FASTER, PLEASE.

Never mind impeachment, Our President has submitted his budget request.

Permit me another aside: wouldn't it be refreshing if his Cabinet Secretaries simply submitted a one page executive summary of their activities and requests, and if he then, in proper business fashion, compiled those, added his own executive summary (fifteen or twenty bullet point on at most two pages) and turned that in to Congress as his report on the state of the union, then scheduled a rally in California or Virginia or Illinois or Iowa at the time the Speaker of the House has invited him to address that Joint Session of Congress?

On the other hand, going in front of those sleazy pontificators and mocking their conceits might have play value.  And there will be opportunities.
Could there be anything more cheering and cockle-warming than hearing that the Federal government might actually cut funding for [public radio]? (Though I seriously doubt that Trump’s budget proposal will literally END funding.) And can we do the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities next, please?
Yes, just as I've been encouraging for years.  That the agencies so named are regressive transfers to old rich people only makes their departure more desirable.

IT'S A CHILD, NOT A CHOICE.

History Channel's Vikings, which first sailed some seven years ago, and I've long had reservations about the messing about with real history and the injection of contemporary sensibilities into the show.

We're supposedly in the closing episodes of this show, perhaps by the time the growing season begins in the Northlands, and that means all the principal characters will have to die off, or perhaps deliver the Holy Grail to a sinkhole in an island off the coast of Vinland.  Perhaps I should hold my tongue about Oleg the Prophet building a great gate in Kiev and other Orthodox trappings worthy of a Mussorgsky opera, while Prince Igor is being groomed to liberate some of the khanates from the Persians, or is it Polovtsians, or am I thinking about a Borodin opera.  That's currently a side story, and there's been nothing going on in England or Ireland as of yet.

On the other hand ... what follows contains spoilers ... Goofy King Olaf has failed in his attempt to install Bjorn Ironside as the first king of all Norway, and now he and the winner of the electoral college, King Harald Fairhair, are at odds, with Olaf musing about how the outcome didn't come out the way he rigged it and there's got to be a reckoning.  With Fairhair looking to send Ironside to join his parents (I warned you there would be spoilers) in Valhalla, there's likely to be another episode of Deep State Among the Deep Waters to come.  Because a new character named Erik, who might anticipate an early crosser of the Atlantic, are we going to see this Deep State eventually sink in the deep waters of Green Bay, which is, after all, the world's biggest fjord.

But then comes the strangest plot twist of all.  Hvitserk, the least relevant of Ragnar's sons with Aslaug the Usurper, has had some kind of mushroom, and a wounded Lagertha returns to Kattegat as a serpent with a long tail.  And thus the Seer has correctly foretold that one of Ragnar's sons will kill her.  That means there must be a memorable Viking funeral, and any funeral of a sufficiently high-ranking Viking must involve a human sacrifice, the attendant to serve at Valhalla.  (Permit me a theological digression, if Valhalla is in the spirit world, are attendants or golden goblets or silk curtains really required?  The extension to those "harps of gold" the Heavenly Host are playing on that midnight clear is straightforward.)

The sacrifice, though, introduces an interesting twist on equity feminism.  As Lagertha was the greatest of shield maidens in life, her attendant in Valhalla must be from among the shieldmaidens and consent to the one-way horse ride.  Torvi volunteers.
Torvi offering to kill herself was the curveball that came out of the blue. Being pregnant and recently losing another child, you would think she would want to make sure she and her family were kept safe.

It's difficult to make sense of what was going through her mind. There's no question about whether she looked up to Lagertha. They had one of the strongest bonds on the show.

This could show how much Torvi thought of Lagertha that she would give up her life as a mother to help her get to Valhalla. It would have been a shock if followed through with the plan.

For that, I'm thankful Gunnhild managed to talk her down from it.
What this reviewer doesn't tell you, dear reader, is that Gunnhild invoked tribal law. Because Torvi is with child (and why is it that any drama involving events of the seventeenth or earlier centuries always uses that locution?) the child has no agency to volunteer to be sacrificed, and thus Torvi gets a pass from being serviced by the priests before the angel of death stabs her.  Make of that what you will.  Ironside gets to Kattegat just in time for the conclusion of the funeral, with the flaming arrows melting the ice for what remains of the pyre ship to sink.  "Bjorn is going to be unpredictable following the death of his mother. He's lost everything, including the election that he was supposed to win."

I wonder if he will call the Kievan Rus a longship of deplorables when they show up to install Ivar as a Ukrainian puppet.

THERE ARE YELLOW WEASELS. THEN THERE ARE MODAL WEASELS.

Either way, you're calling an audible that's likely to fail.
Instead of “It could be impossible,” say “The probability is 3%” or “The probability is 17%” or whatever.  Instead of saying, “It’s certainly possible,” say “The probability is greater than zero,” or “The probability is roughly 10%.”  Instead of “It mustn’t be inherently so,” say “The probability is only 86%.”  Do specific numbers seem overly precise?  Then switch to “highly unlikely,” “even odds,” “almost certain,” and such.
You don't sound more nuanced and erudite if you make like a weasel.  That's probably speciesist against weasels, to compare an academic with a weasel is disrespectful of weasels.
Outside of Grievance Studies, academics will crush you for unwarranted certainty.  Otherwise, though, you can qualify your assertions like an eagle – or like a weasel.  So why be a weasel?
Eschew obfuscation!

15.1.20

FAKE NEWS CNN.

Yes, that's a regular talking point with Our President.  This time, though, it's the complaint of the communists self-styled progressives who think the presidential forum moderators in Des Moines last night were playing favorites.  Here's an excerpt, by all means read the column in full.
Jeet Heer, a national affairs correspondent at The Nation, wrote in a piece titled "CNN Has It in for Bernie" early Wednesday that "the big loser of the night was the network that hosted the event. CNN was so consistently aligned against Bernie Sanders that it compromised its claim to journalistic neutrality."

"CNN's treatment of Sanders raises a major problem that he's going to have to confront going forward: Some major players in the mainstream media are clearly unafraid to cover him in a biased and one-sided manner," Heer concluded. "But this problem also has an upside: Sanders thrives under adversity, and he can use these examples of bias to fundraise and to mobilize his base. The Sanders campaign is a gamble, and one major uncertainty is whether his base is strong enough to overcome consistently negative media coverage."
As if anyone took seriously CNN's claims to journalistic neutrality in the past quarter-century, but I digress. It's refreshing, though, to have the drive-by media taking incoming from their left:  the Common Dreams gripe about "centrist talking points" disguised as questions is simply my point about the sclerotic process worship of the Sunday shows, if from a different point of view.  It's providing great entertainment for Pajamas Media's Tyler O'Neil.  "If any candidate could be seen as the definitive winner, it was probably Bernie Sanders, because CNN's bias against him was palpable."

As to the forum itself, which I took a pass on, there being an instructive university event about the recent legalization of recreational weed in Illinois going on, it gave Reason's Nick Gillespie, no fan of Our President, no cause for optimism.
As a small-l libertarian who is unaffiliated with any party, my vote is up for grabs and I pay attention to these sorts of events out of more than just a sense of professional responsibility. There is plenty wrong with the country, on levels big and small, and politics can—and should—address some of that.

Yet listening to the candidates last night, I mostly didn't recognize the country they were describing. They live in a world where dark, shadowy forces—billionaires, corporations, Russian operatives especially—conspire with near-perfect success to make us all poorer and sadder, dumber and sicker, more alienated and hopeless. According to the candidates, nobody can afford the doctor, college, or child care. The whole planet may be baked in a decade because of fossil fuels, but we shouldn't really talk about expanding nuclear power or even using natural gas and fracking as a bridge fuel. Sexism, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, police violence, and more are worse than ever.

Ironically, their collective inability to see little if anything positive in contemporary America mirrors that of the man they seek to remove from power. President Donald Trump's fixations are of course different but the net effect is the same: These are the end times unless I wield power.
The Democrats are the principal heirs to the Cult of the Presidency and to the conceit of Governance by Wise Experts: why should this year's offering be any different from any other offering?

Not only that, the overwhelming gloom and doom and sense of Crisis (the secession of eleven states is a crisis, a request by a president of another country's law enforcement information) might mean Advantage, Trump.
About a year ago, Trump spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), shortly after progressive Democrats unveiled the Green New Deal, a set of programs whose sponsors promised would radically transform many aspects of American life. Sensing an advantage, Trump uncorked a two-hour stemwinder that was by turns mean, nasty, funny, and, above all, optimistic about the future. I prophesied then that he might win the 2020 election because "Trump is becoming sunnier and sunnier while the Democrats are painting contemporary America as a late-capitalist hellhole riven by growing racial, ethnic, and other tensions." The president has since retreated back to his darkness and will likely stay there, especially as impeachment proceedings get underway.

But as incumbent, Trump merely has to hold onto office while his challengers need to vault into power. If last night's rhetoric is any indication, the Democrats might have one more thing to be depressed about after election day. More importantly for the rest of us, we will still be without a major political party that can paint a positive vision for the country. And voters like me will still be searching for presidential candidates for whom we can vote.
I'm not sure about that "retreated to his darkness."  On his rallies, Our President is treating impeachment as a laugh line, with ample opportunity to invoke early onset dementia and scrawny necks.  He's added to that a riff making fun of environmentally friendly appliances that don't work so well.

It's still over a month to the Illinois primary, which is open.  I'll pay a little more attention once Iowa and New Hampshire narrow the field.

14.1.20

GET WOKE, GO BROKE?

My brother once attended Wisconsin - Milwaukee, or as we call it, University Close by the Lake Already (UCLA).  His son just earned a degree there, conferred in the December ceremonies at the old Milwaukee Arena, now primarily the home rink of the Milwaukee Admirals, although somebody paid to have it named UWM Panther Arena, and yes, the men's basketball team play there, generally before fewer than the 10,746 fans that traditionally watched the Bucks back in the day.

Tonight, though, Our President will be conducting one of his rallies in the Arena, concurrent with the tip-off of a home Bucks game, and counterprogramming the latest Democrat purity test show, which will be the final televised candidate forum before Iowans deal a few hands of cards and caucus.

I noticed several speakers at the December commencement drawing attention to the university's ranking among the 131 universities ranked R-1 for research; and more than a few students and staff would like to have the university ranked among the numerous institutions ranked W-1 for wokeness.
In the latest sign that virtually everything is politically divisive, the location of President Donald Trump's Jan. 14 campaign rally has become something of an issue because it bears the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's name and its Panther mascot.

Opposition spilled across social media in the days following the official announcement, with commenters suggesting that it gave the appearance of UWM endorsing the event. Some went further, saying a Trump rally is the equivalent of a "hate rally" and questioning where the line is between free speech and what is acceptable at an inclusive, diverse public university.

Chancellor Mark Mone this week published a letter to the UWM community, noting first that UWM neither owns nor books the UWM Panther Arena. The university bought naming rights to the building in 2014 but has no control over scheduling decisions beyond its own events.

Mone went on to note the university has historically hosted presidential candidate visits from across the political spectrum and will continue to do so.

"As a public university, we do not restrict the use of our facilities based on the content of any individual or entity’s message," Mone wrote. "Such viewpoint neutrality is consistent with our commitment to free speech and academic freedom and is legally required of us as a public entity."
That's likely to get the chancellor in trouble with the woke crowd, as "viewpoint neutrality" is contrary to what Critique of Pure Tolerance teaches is "acceptable at an inclusive, diverse public university."

I have plans for this evening that don't include either the candidate forum or the rally.  Perhaps Our President will have an opportunity to acknowledge UWM as an unofficial host, or perhaps to suggest that "Keeping America Great" includes studying at the land-grants, mid-majors, and regional comprehensives.

UNDERMINE THEM WITH MOCKERY.

Michael Reagan notes the non-happening of World War III, and the repeated use by Democrats of their same tired playbook.
It’s a cynical thing to say, but a new war in the Middle East with Iran was the last hope Democrats had to achieve their dream of unseating President Trump.

The Russian Collusion Hoax was a dud. The Trump Recession didn’t happen. Trump didn’t lose the trade war with China.

And impeachment — which Democrats claimed had to be hurried through the House because Trump was a mortal danger to the Constitution and America’s national security — has turned into a prolonged partisan dirty joke with no punchline.

As anyone over 40 knows, or should know, the hysterical fear of a Republican president starting World War III is nothing new for Democrats and the liberal media.
It's not the first time an aging party establishment clung to its cherished nostrums, is it?


Oh, sorry, wrong picture, that's not the lineup at tonight's Democrat debate.

The aspirants to the nomination, however, are going to party like it's 1984.
You’d think the Democrats would have learned something when their dire predictions about my father’s foreign policy didn’t pan out, but 40 years later fearmongering about war and other calamities is still one of their favorite go-to political weapons.

For them the sky is always going to fall the day a conservative Republican is elected president.

Grandma is going to die. The KKK will make a comeback. The economy will crash. World War III will start at noon on Inauguration Day.

Another major forever-war didn’t arrive in the Middle East this week because President Trump had the sense not to use Iran’s token, face-saving response to the droning of General Soleimani as a pretext to level Tehran.
Indeed, and, perhaps in an echo of 1989, the people of Tehran and the other cities of Iran will tell their leaders to stop lying and step out of line and disappear.

WHAT IS THE SUPPLY ELASTICITY OF QUARTERBACKS?

The Chicago Bears went from mediocrity to a double-doink and done in the playoffs to out of the playoffs, and the recriminations among the yellow weasels mustard eaters have begun, and current Bear quarterback Mitch Trubisky finds himself in a familiar position, namely the object of a quarterback controversy.  Here's how a Chicago Tribune sports pundit puts it.  From Tom Brady to Aaron Rodgers, the Bears passed over 9 of the 12 quarterbacks in the NFL playoffs.

The list also includes Russell Wilson, and the punditry are particularly bothered by Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes being available when the Bears were on the clock the time they hired Mr Trubisky.

It might be that Bear management made the right decision given the information they had at the time, e.g. "Mahomes was criticized for improvising too frequently and becoming too much of a risk taker whose desire to hit the big play created a habit of frequently throwing the ball into coverage and hoping for the best" and "Watson’s 32 career interceptions at Clemson were seen as a red flag. There were additional questions about his slender frame and ability to hold up physically against NFL defenders."

And yes, multiple teams passed on the opportunity to draft Tom Brady ("Can you imagine if the Bears had a 2000 draft class that featured Urlacher and Brady?") and Aaron Rodgers (the Bears were still relying on Rex Grossman calling signals, and Cedric Benson at running back was not a bad choice) and a number of the current playoff quarterbacks, including Drew Brees and Russell Wilson were written off as "too small."

My quandary, though, is a different one.  Given the importance of the quarterback to a successful football team, and the multiplicity of Quarterback Prep high schools (and quarterback academies for middle-schoolers) and the efforts of colleges at all divisions (the current 49er quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, gave Northern Illinois fits in a cross-divisional game a few years ago, and he learned his craft as understudy to Tom Brady) why is there not a reserve army of underemployed quarterbacks ready to suit up and play at the professional level?  You'd think tightwad owners constrained by free agency and a salary cap would do everything in their powers to take advantage of such a situation.

BRACE YOURSELF FOR A LONG TWILIGHT STRUGGLE.

I am not a fan of the so-called 1619 Project, and will continue to view with scorn the efforts of higher education to substitute its advocacy for serious intellectual inquiry. The good news is that Phillip W. Magness, whose efforts to fact-check the propaganda we noted recently, has provided a bibliography, in order that children of all ages might home-school themselves.
I make no specific endorsements of these materials beyond my own contributions to the debate, other than drawing attention to the arguments they contain as substantive avenues of engaging the topic. In compiling this list, I aimed to gather commentary on the project from across the political spectrum. The discussion following the project’s publication has since produced several detailed criticisms that delve deeply into the historical debates it raises over slavery and early American history.

Defenses of the project are noticeably more scarce. This is in no small part due to an unfortunate tendency of its supporters to attack the critics rather than the criticisms, with most of that taking place on insult-laden Twitter threads. Should a more substantive defense emerge at a future date, I will gladly add the link. However, efforts to fulfill this task to date have been both underwhelming and light on substantive engagement.
The bibliography in its present form includes a few general history sources so as to place the Times polemic in proper historical context.

11.1.20

I'M PUTTING THE ELEEMOSYNARY INSTITUTIONS ON NOTICE.

It's really annoying, so close to the end of the Festive Season, and before all of my Festive Season gift checks have even been cashed, to receive mailings labeled "Renewal Notice" or laid out in the form of a government notification, with a request for another contribution.

I'm considering reviewing my donation habits, in particular to reduce funding or end it completely, for any cause, no matter how meritorious, that engages in this form of official-looking begging.

DEALING WITH A PREEMPTIVE BID.

I had recently read a newspaper bridge column about using Three No Trump as a bust to a preemptive bid, and it worked reasonably well with this deal.


North's open is about standard for twelve points and a long suit; the simulation describes East's overcall as a preemptive bid with a long Spade suit and not a lot else.  Here I am with seventeen points, no long suit, and no hint from the North bot of any support for my Hearts.  Figure 29 or 30 high card points, but Diamonds and Clubs more suitable for defensive purposes, invite a game on the cheapest possible terms.

West opens with the ♠8: lead toward partner's suit: Two, Seven, Jack.  Take stock: another winner in Spades; three possible winners in Hearts thanks to that Ten-Nine; one winner in Diamonds with the chance of establishing a second honor; three Club winners in hand and a few extra winners in Clubs.  Contract should be good, using the Clubs to get rid of weak cards on the board and shorten the defenders' holdings of other cards might produce some overtricks.

So it goes: cash the Club Queen and Jack from hand, lead the Three to the Ace on the board, now the King, Ten, and Nine come home, with East pitching some Spades, West some Hearts and Diamonds, which is also my culling of the closed hand.  Then the Heart Seven from the board to the King; cash the ♥A and ♠A; as the ♥Q and ♥J have both been played, now that ♥10 is good, lead the ♦J toward that Ace on the board, now the defenders are able to score that ♦K on the Eight and we finish plus three.

HOW RIDICULOUS IS THE CULT OF THE PRESIDENCY?

At the start of this week, Meet The Press featured another of its interviews with Democratic presidential hopefuls.  It being Meet The Press, of course there had to be a section with Chuck Todd acting like a truculent chipmunk with a spokesman for the Republican administration, this day's designated punching bag being secretary of state Mike Pompeo.  Later came the Democratic hopeful, the Cherokee emissary to the Wampanoag Nation, otherwise known as Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren.  Predictably, she got leading questions and lots of opportunity to talk.  Here is the state of presidential politics these days.  Just before her segment ended, we heard this.
You know what I'll do on day one as president? I'll defend the Affordable Care Act against the sabotage of the Trump administration, and I'll reduce the cost of prescription drugs that have been jacked up by the pharmaceutical industry. I'll reduce the cost of EpiPens and insulin, and HIV/AIDS drugs. The president has the authority to do that all by herself, doesn't need Congress. And that's what I'm going to do.
That's nice, Senator.  Do you also have the authority to "reduce the cost" of bananas, in order that middle-schoolers enjoy access to affordable smoothies?  Do you also have the authority to "reduce the cost" of batteries, in order that aging baby-boomers enjoy access to affordable hearing aids and ultra-radiant tablet screens?  How much additional authority do you expect to enjoy?

Once, and just once, I'd like to see one of these public affairs shows where the interviewer asks an aspirant to national office, "How much additional authority do you expect to exercise?" and "What passages in the Federal Constitution give you this authority?"  Mr Todd simply wraps up the interview and brings on the panel.

A RABBI AND AN ECONOMIST WALK INTO A BAR.

No, that's not the beginning of a joke.  It introduces a Trenchant Observation by Steven Horwitz, whose "Economics as the Study of Peaceful Human Cooperation and Progress" was the keynote address at the Prometheus Society, in Athens last December.  Here's the observation.  "The vision of the prophet needs the wisdom of the Rabbi. But they both need the understanding of the economist."

The essay is very much in the spirit in which I used to offer the principles of price theory.  The principles course is often a prerequisite for aspiring business majors, and it has the potential to get those future managers thinking about how best to make money by thinking about how best to serve consumers.  "The reason to care about economics, and the reason to study it, is not just to understand material well-being, but instead it’s about a much bigger picture: how we cooperate in a world of strangers and diversity, and how we turn that cooperation into better and longer and more peaceful lives for more people."  Yes, and a proper understanding of how cooperation emerges turns economics into something other than a dismal science.
Exchange enables us to overcome our differences by providing a way for us to interact not just despite those differences but because of them. We know from basic economics that value is subjective and that exchange is mutually beneficial. And we know that we get the most out of exchange when we each produce by specializing according to our comparative advantage, that is, the thing each of us does at the least relative cost. These are all ways that our differences work to our benefit. We don’t all have vines and fig trees, but that’s actually a good thing. What each of us does have and can do becomes the basis for making our knowledge available to others through exchange and the price system.
We can leave for another day the subtleties of "value is subjective" and distinguish the Ricardian comparative-advantage-by-resource-endowments from the more fraught comparative-advantage-by-invention.  In addition, the political economy of idle hands is still contested.
The theory of comparative advantage also tells us that there’s a place in the liberal order for each and every one of us. We all have something we can do at lowest relative cost and thereby produce in ways that benefits others. Even those with limited endowments and skills can find a space to produce value and enjoy the dignity of meaningful work and the comfort of their own vine and fig tree. Contrary to what critics say, free markets do not shut the door on the most vulnerable among us. The door to prosperity is open to everyone. If some are not walking through the entryway it’s because governments have built walls across the threshold in the form of excessive regulation such as minimum wage and occupational licensure laws.
That noted, the novice teacher, whether as tenure-line faculty, contingent hire, or graduate assistant, could do worse than to read and understand the essay and use it as a guide for teaching those principles.

9.1.20

WHEN CAESAR BRIDGED THE RHINE.

Roger Kimball recalls what a clash of civilizations once looked like.
Caesar had his engineers construct a bridge across the Rhine. As Caesar recounts in Book IV of his commentaries on the Gallic War, they did this in an astonishing 10 days. Caesar and his troops crossed over, stayed for a few days in German territory, ‘burned all their villages and other buildings, and cut down the grain in their fields’. They then crossed back over and destroyed the bridge.

The point, which was not lost on the Germans, was that the Romans could go anywhere they wanted, whenever they wanted, and there was nothing the Germans could do about it.
These days, the message can be delivered more forcefully.
To alter the image: for the mullahs, the elimination of Soleimani was a teachable moment. It was like that famous scene in The Godfather when the movie producer Jack Woltz wakes up and find the head of his prize racehorse oozing gore onto the duvet. Woltz had insisted that he would not put Johnny Fontane in a movie, despite the entreaties of the Corleones. The horse’s head changed his mind.

There are three takeaways from the vaporization of Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. One concerns the mullahs and official Iranian spokesmen. They are jumping up and down, wailing like incensed toddlers, but their histrionics are meaningless. Or rather, what they mean is that the mullahs, like Caesar’s Germans, and like Jack Woltz in The Godfather, understand that they have been issued an offer they can’t refuse.
It's the nature of people from honor cultures to posture and issue threats, and the most effective way to deal with such people is to let them martyr themselves futilely.  Admiral Yamaguchi at Midway comes to mind.

Our Intellectual Betters ought to know better, though.
The second take away concerns the mainstream media in the US and elsewhere. The pink dust of Soleimani hadn’t settled before they were shouting about Donald Trump having started World War III. How did you make out in World War III? It was quiet here on the East Coast. I am still not sure how much of the media’s hysterical emoting (it cannot be called ‘reporting’) was due to simple ignorance and how much was due to ineradicable hatred and underestimation of Donald Trump. On the world stage, Iran is a bit player, especially now that the United States does not need Middle Eastern oil. Really, Iran is an exotic curiosity, a country with a magnificent past that has been captive of an insane theocratic ideology for the past 40 years. Iran is not the staging ground of World War III, just a brutal and pathetic backwater.
Make that an "insane theocratic ideology" that exports a lot of its human capital. As far as that "magnificent past," well, maybe Darius and Xerxes squandered that long before the First Olympiad and the establishment of the city of Rome.

Mr Kimball's third take-away is more speculative.
The third take away concerns Donald Trump and his legacy. In acting decisively in response to the sighting of Soleimani and his henchman, in acting with caution and deliberation in response to Iran’s calculatedly feeble response, President Trump has showed both that you attack the United States or its people at your peril and that America is getting out of the nation-building neocon regime-change business.

The elimination of Soleimani was not a prelude to deeper US involvement in the Middle East. It was a farewell letter. Always admitting the fickleness of contingency, it nonetheless looks as though Donald Trump will go down as the man who catalyzed the United States economy, who brought unemployment down to historic lows, who goosed real wages, especially at the lower levels, who made important inroads against the stultifying miasma of the the regulatory state while also resuscitating the US military, curbing illegal immigration, and — just now — extricating the United States from foreign involvements that help no one but our enemies.

President Trump’s opponents cannot forgive him his victories. But it has become increasingly clear that it doesn’t matter. Hollywood, like Chuck Todd and Nancy Pelosi and Bill Kristol, can whine and yelp and snivel all they want. The world increasingly turns a blind eye to their narcissistic antics. As the old Arab proverb puts, the dogs are barking but the caravan moves on.
Our President was once a wrestling promoter for real.  Chuck Todd, not so much.  There's still a lot to be determined before any electoral votes are assigned.

IRAN'S ABSURD SELF-DESTRUCTIVE TYRANNIES.

Margaret "University Diaries" Soltan is no fan of Islam's male-chauvinist dress codes for women, and she notes that Iran purged an international grandmaster recently, although she'll likely find employ in Russia, as Mr Putin would no doubt like to Make Soviet Chess Grozny Again.
Iran Chess Federation on January 2 expelled veteran Iranian female chess grandmaster Mitra Hejazipour for boldly removing her scarf during the World Rapid & Blitz Chess Championship in Moscow which is considered as defiance of the compulsory Islamic dress code (hijab).

"She has no place in the Islamic Republic's national team anymore," the president of Iran's Chess Federation, Mehrdad Pahlavanzadeh, announced on Thursday and claimed that Hejazipour who lives in France had privately registered for competing in Moscow games.

The Islamic Republic requires Iranian female athletes to respect the so-called Islamic dress code and hijab in all international tournaments.

The 27-year old Iranian grandmaster was expelled after gloriously playing for her homeland for eighteen years. She is the first Iranian female athlete to represent Iran without wearing the hijab In the four-decade history of the Islamic Republic.
A country that wants to indulge its prejudices should be prepared to pay the price for so doing.

MONASTERIES OF SELF-DECEPTION.

Glenn Elmers reflects on the cosseted, clueless residents of upscale establishmentarian neighborhoods.
I drop in periodically at Politics and Prose, a prominent bookstore in Northwest D.C., to browse and shop. Lately I find it more and more difficult to avoid eavesdropping on the conversations of the elderly white women (lifelong Democrats, of course) who make up 80% of the regular clientele.

Not that I try especially hard to tune out, because it is fascinating to hear what they say in their unguarded chit-chat.

No Japanese soldier on a remote Philippine island in 1947, oblivious to the emperor’s surrender, was more disconnected from the real world than these educated, well-spoken women. They read the Washington Post and listen to NPR every day, and therefore have no idea that they are imprisoned on a kind of island of the mind.

The bookstore’s regular customers, mostly retired professionals, are the kind of well-to-do urbanites that used to be called limousine liberals. But my bibliophile neighbors, with their casual shoes and canvas tote bags, generally prefer a Prius to a limo. Even so, they enjoy lives of comfortable physical ease, security, and culturally enriched leisure. One might think this would make them nice. And on many topics (grandchildren, for instance) they are.

But their conversations turn easily and often to politics—in particular, the illegitimacy of our odious president and the racist underclass that elected him—and then their tone becomes suddenly and shockingly nasty. That nastiness arises in part, no doubt, from an aversion to an uncomfortable truth: that the cozy world of these coastal urban elites is far from natural or normal. It is the product of an artificial, often dishonest patchwork of legal, political, and cultural practices that have been distinctly unfair to millions of disenfranchised Americans.
They're hoping that the usual conventions and the usual process worship will somehow restore their status quo, but that train has already left the station.
The true believers (who, not coincidentally, were also the true beneficiaries) of the blue church administrative state have also become alienated from the idea of republican government and shared citizenship. This can be seen most clearly in their unwillingness to accept the results of the 2016 presidential election, and the demonization of Trump voters. Like most privileged elites, their faith is immune to facts or persuasion. It is simply too hard to give up the notion of natural or divine sanction for the socio-economic superiority they have enjoyed.

With each passing day, this crumbling oligarchy seems to become more fanatical, more fixated on its own righteousness, and more impatient with the supposed iniquity of its political opponents. But the rejection of dialogue and compromise undermines the very possibility of a common citizenship. Without a shared dedication to republican principles, self-government cannot continue.

The peaceful transfer of power that accompanies a free election is only possible on the basis of civic friendship and trust; each side must believe that, win or lose, the rights of the minority will be protected by those who take power. On both sides today, that trust seems to be slipping.

While most Americans acknowledge the fact that America is deeply divided, many of our leaders remain in denial about the potential result of this growing, fundamental distrust. We are confronting again the dire situation New Birth describes prior to the Civil War: “both parties [see] the contest as a zero-sum enterprise in which the advantages of one side [are] losses to the other. From this viewpoint, ballots can never really substitute for bullets.”

Not for the first time in our nation’s history, if this state of affairs continues force may be embraced as the only alternative when reason fails.
I really, really, don't want Kurt Schlichter to be the political prophet.  But the permanent establishment don't seem willing to work with people who disagree with them.

RECOGNIZING THE WEASEL WORDS.

Regular readers of Cold Spring Shops recall "'Problematic' is a favorite term of the Perpetually Aggrieved, who generally use it to mean 'I don't exactly agree with what you just said, but I don't want to do the work of rebutting it.'" Now comes Lionel Shriver, in Harper's, no less, saying effectively the same thing.
Rare instances of left-wing understatement, “problematic” and “troubling” are coyly nonspecific red flags for political transgression that obviate spelling out exactly what sin has been committed (thereby eliding the argument). Similarly, the all-purpose adjectival workhorse “inappropriate” presumes a shared set of social norms that in the throes of the culture wars we conspicuously lack. This euphemistic tsk-tsk projects the prim censure of a mother alarmed that her daughter’s low-cut blouse is too revealing for church. “Inappropriate” is laced with disgust, while once again skipping the argument. By conceit, the appalling nature of the misbehavior at issue is glaringly obvious to everyone, so what’s wrong with it goes without saying.
That's not even the strongest reprimand in the essay.
The premier example of this linguistic skulduggery—that is, winning an argument without the bother of actually having one—is the left’s increasingly successful imposition of the disagreeable-sounding term “cisgender.” The logic of the 1990s contrivance—“cis” being Latin for “on this side of,” as opposed to “trans,” meaning “on the other side of”—feels forced and inorganic. More crucially, to employ the adjective is to endorse the view that sex is “assigned” at birth rather than recognized as a biological fact. The word no sooner raises thorny debates regarding sex and gender than shuts them down.
Put another way, it's question-begging.  Maybe another of my questions from years ago will be answered.  "So answer me this: why is higher education letting people like this set the tone for the enterprise, particularly at the higher tiers of the U.S. News pecking order?"

Mr Shriver suggests it's more about a profession of faith than a devotion to honest inquiry.
Assumption of the left’s prescriptive patois may indicate solidarity with fellow travelers, but it also betokens the insularity and closed-mindedness of any indiscriminate embrace of fundamentalist dogma. It instantly alienates people who don’t sign up for the same set menu of views—which may sometimes be the intention. Referencing the “cis-heteronormative patriarchy” in discussions with strangers suggests either that you presume these people already agree with you on virtually everything, or that you’re only interested in talking to them if they do. Even if speaking to moderates, much less conservatives (who have their own coded lingo, such as “snowflakes,” “virtue signaling,” and “grievance culture”), you have shut down conversation.
(Hat tip: College Fix.)

A POSSIBLE POSITIVE DEVELOPMENT IN THIS NEW YEAR.

A few years ago, Amtrak removed the dining cars on the Silver Star, supposedly to offer sleeping car passengers options (lower room charges on the Star than on the Silver Meteor, full dining car with meals provided on the Meteor) but I suspect as a stalking horse for taking the dining cars off the Eastern overnight trains.

Amtrak in the Heartland report that meals included in the fare will return to the Star on May 1, significantly that is the beginning of Amtrak's 50th year.  That means the Star will get a table car, with all the charms of a high school cafeteria, exactly what Meteor riders get.