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


Railroad artists Gil Reid and Howard Fogg go joyriding in a Pontiac.
Howard is about to introduce me to his dad’s green Pontiac and a three-mile stretch of highway right next to the Milwaukee Road’s Chicago–Milwaukee main line. Howard and I are seated in the car, which his dad called the Green Hornet after the then-popular radio serial, parked beside Waukegan Road near the West Lake Forest (Ill.) station. We’re facing south, with the railroad on our right, listening for the sounds of a Chicago-bound Hiawatha.

The tension in the car is intense, for we will have to gun that old Pontiac in order to get a good start ahead of the oncoming speedster to pace her.
You couldn't attempt that stunt today, as Waukegan Road is much more congested, and there's a school zone entering Bannockburn.
A braying air horn from the north is the signal. Now! Howard floors the Pontiac. We are on our way, and none too soon, for in an instant a plume of smoke and steam is tornadoing above the treetops. It’s a streamlined 4-6-4 in full forward motion, with the Hiawatha tied to her tail. We get up to 75, with the Hi closing fast.

We approach an intersection. “Hey, Fogg, how about that traffic light ahead?!” I yell. Through clenched teeth Howard says not to worry, the light will go to green for us when the crossing signals start.

For a moment, the Hudson is beside us, its 84-inch drivers a blur. We are determined to keep abreast of the charging monster, but already the fireman is amused, signaling us to get going. Get going?! Holy mackerel—we’re already at maximum speed! The traffic light does go green and we sail through the intersection. The road is ours, but the Hiawatha disdainfully leaves us in its wake.

The Deerfield curve is ahead. Toeing the brake, Howard yells, “See the railroad speed-limit sign? Ninety for passenger!” He quotes the freight limit too, but I don’t catch it—we’ve got to slow down! By now we’re on the outskirts of Deerfield, and the Hi is gone. The race is over.

Of all the times we raced a Hiawatha and other Milwaukee fast trains on that stretch of road, nothing will ever beat that first ride with Howard Fogg in the Green Hornet.
In those days, Deerfield was not yet a crowded suburb, although a few scoots turned back there.

June 2006.

In the distance, that's the curve that the steam-powered Hiawatha had to slack to ninety for.  Is it too much to ask for Free Rein to 110 for today's diesel trains?


I'm familiar with the concept of a Reading Day, which at Northern Illinois is the final Friday of the spring semester (it can't happen in the fall semester because of the days lost at Thanksgiving) and it's usually a day when the stress level is rising, although if the cosmos flips suddenly from winter to summer it's a good day to kick back.

On occasion, you'll get the renegade faculty member holding some sort of class activity on reading day.  Headquarters used to issue stern memoranda advising against holding an examination that day.

Sometimes, as at Birmingham University (the one served by the Great Western) the students register their discontent with the renegades.
"I was frankly shocked at this total lack of interest, from roughly 400 students in second year, in a lecture explaining marking criteria and our marking processes. I can only assume that these are not areas of concern after all".

The lecture on “Demystifying Marking Criteria and Assessment" had been scheduled to take place during reading week, when many students choose to go home.

Following the incident, the English department will now be "using registers in all classes" and two or more absences will lead to a meeting with the welfare team.

"Many studies of student learning suggest that those students who regularly attend sessions achieve better grades those that do not," the lecturer's email said.

"Attendance, an ability to manage deadlines alongside your normal lecture/seminar schedule, contributions in seminars and other examples of professional behaviour, moreover are all key things that we are asked to comment on in reference statements.
"Welfare team" is Britaversity for Retention Counselor.

Three observations.  First, it's Reading Week.  Students ought to be reading, and if hopping the Great Western home for a more comfortable study place works, they're responsible adults with agency.  Second, a full class session to clarify the standards?  Per corollary to "syllabus week" being a signal of unwieldy course outlines, a full session is a signal of excessively complex criteria.  Third, departmentwide attendance requirements?  Probably intractable, and bogus to boot.  If people are skipping class, perhaps there are tweaks to the presentation to fix that.


Northern Illinois University, which for years has sent a club hockey team to ice rinks around the area, there being no suitable arena in DeKalb, is now a charter member of the American Collegiate Hockey Association, in Division I.  The other teams are at Illinois State University, Lindenwood University-Belleville, Maryville University, McKendree University, Midland University and Waldorf University.  Maryville and McKendree are new to Division I in any sport.  Sixty teams participate in Division I hockey in all associations.

League play will begin in the 2019-2020 season.

Mid-American Conference members Bowling Green and Miami have hockey programs of long standing.  Will there be a full Mid-American hockey competition and tournament in our future?



Hamburg's Miniatur Wunderland have just released a new video showing Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Scandinavia and North America.

Coming up: Monaco and the French Riviera.



Remember when residents of the poorer quarters of Chicago didn't want Wal-Mart setting up shop without living wage ordinances?  (That didn't work out so well.)

Now, just before the beginning of the Hectic Shopping Season, Target intends to close two stores in the poorer quarters of Chicago.  The stores will remain open until February.

It's all too much for Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell.
It’s bad enough that Target is closing stores in Chatham and Morgan Park, communities struggling to combat the ill effects of disinvestment.

But to add insult to injury, Target is opening two new stores on the North Side — one in Rogers Park next year and another in Logan Square in 2020.

This bone-headed decision reinforces the narrative that Chicago is two cities — one worth investing in and the other— well, let’s not even go there.
It appears, by the locations Ms Mitchell mentions, that the enclave of fifteen square miles of privilege I have alluded to previously is expanding to the north and west of Wrigleyville.  Perhaps the Chicago Transit Authority will make improvements to the Metropolitan West Side L, er, Blue Line, that serves Logan Square, as they have recently done on the Ravenswood.

In her lament about Target bailing out of the south and west side, though, she's identifying a business opportunity.
South Siders were excited when Target opened stores in the heart of the South Side.

Finally, they could choose to shop somewhere other than a Wal-Mart and a dollar store. More important, young people living in those neighborhoods could find employment.

But don’t think Target didn’t get anything out of the deal.

According to a recent Nielsen study of African-American spending, blacks have “outsized influence “ over spending on essential items such as personal soap and bath needs ($573 million), feminine hygiene products ($54 million) and men’s toiletries ($61 million).

“Black consumers account for a disproportionate amount of product sales in a number of fast-moving consumer goods categories,” Nielsen added, pointing out black consumers had $1.2 trillion in spending power.

In other words, black folks spend a lot of money on the kind of goods Target is selling.

So it is hard for me to swallow the explanation that these South Side stores were losing so much money they had to be shuttered to protect Target’s profitability.
Yes, it's common knowledge that a dollar store is a symptom of a neighborhood in decline.

It's less common knowledge that chain stores regularly rank and yank underachieving stores, which means that even a profitable South Side store might be at risk if, for whatever reasons, it's less profitable than the standard being set at other stores in the chain.

There's also a business opportunity here: the empty Target stores might be available for entrepreneurial-minded potential merchants of those "fast moving consumer goods."

In addition, there's a chance here for Chicago's politicians to stop throwing subsidies, including Tax Increment Financing fiddles, at businesses.  "Aldermen should move quickly to block Target from receiving any city subsidies that would help them develop the two new North Side stores."  Indeed.


That's what Governance by Wise Experts leads to.
Amazon wound up going with the home of Wall Street and the home of America’s government, two advantages no amount of money could buy.

Meanwhile, struggling cities across the country were led to believe that an economic renaissance could be headed their way, and spent time and money trying to win something they possibly never had a chance at to begin with, instead of expending those resources on the people they are supposed to serve. The whole thing should be a national embarrassment.
That's the nature of chasing Hero Projects with tax dollars.

Amazon, in particular, are emblematic of contemporary Democrat-Green-Information crony capitalism.  Rush Limbaugh did a segment on just that yesterday.  "Corporate cronyism on steroids," indeed.

The project is notorious enough that newly elected Member of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Naïf-N.Y.) says something George Mason's Veronique de Rugy can agree with.
Ocasio-Cortez is mostly correct on this matter, and her conservative critics are wrong. Handouts like this to Amazon and other prominent companies are appalling in their cronyism, pure and simple. I agree that she doesn’t understand economics and that her socialist ideal is a recipe for fiscal and economic disaster. But her conservative critics reveal their own economic misunderstanding when they support targeted tax breaks as a means of creating jobs.
It's a long post, particularly for National Review's Corner, which launched as a sort of in-house weblog lo these many years ago, covering a number of points, but not what might be the most telling objection to targeted tax breaks of any kind, namely that governments ought not view voters or corporations as so many laboratory rats to be stimulated in a maze.

The new representative from Brooklyn, however, is not internally consistent on opposing subsidies, as a roundup by Betsy Newmark argues.  She summarizes, "We must make our choice among limited plunder, universal plunder, and no plunder."  Universal plunder is likely as long as elected representatives conduct advance auctions of stolen goods, which is to say, participate in positional arms races.  Disarming, despite the best efforts of Mercatus writers, isn't an option.
Matt Mitchell came up with the idea of an interstate compact — an agreement in which state governments pledge to mutually disarm in the subsidy war.  I wrote about it a few months ago.
But as long as there are bright shiny things like corporate headquarters or bowl bids at stake, the positional arms races are likely to go on.
I know the usual excuses for corporate welfare; I’ve heard them enough times. They’re exhausted. In the spirit of one of my political heroes, FDR, I’ll just call out to the economic royalists of our time: bend, so you don’t break.

I can stomach austerity when it’s real, and shared. But this isn’t austerity. It’s theft. It’s theft from students who literally can’t afford lunch.

I hope this moment is remembered, historically, as the high-water mark for the new Gilded Age.  There’s only so much austerity fatigue a body politic can tolerate. We can’t keep doing this. And it’s starting to become clear that, one way or another, we won’t.
That's with reference to Harvard's endowments and Amazon's subsidy package.  Closer to home, I hope another trip to the Mid-American title game and two home games in the preseason basketball tournament are worth the nutrition coaches and deferred maintenance.


Yes, there really were train robbers, but it's easier to put the Iraqi equivalent of Pinkerton guards on one train than to patrol the entire road.  "The driver and conductor assure that the tracks running through Anbar province are now clear of mines planted by Islamic State and of collapsed bridges the group blew up when it marauded through western and northern Iraq in 2014."

Local descriptions of snarled traffic and crumbling infrastructure ought give pause to commuters stewing on North American expressways.
Regular passengers include unemployed youth looking for work, a perennial problem in Iraq where demonstrations over lack of jobs, water and power turned violent in the southern city of Basra in September.

“I had a job interview with an NGO today in Baghdad, but I’m not holding out much hope,” said Yassin Jasim, a recent graduate with a degree in medicine. “I try to get casual work in Falluja, but there’s little and it’s low pay.”
It's a small beginning. The hopeful speak of restoring rail service to the Syrian border. At one time, even after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, there was through service to the Asian side of Istanbul.

Tracks buried in sand?  Railroaders have learned about that in dune country, the same way their counterparts in colder climes deal with snow.


Chris Matthews had a lucid sign-off Monday evening.

He delivered it in a measured way, and it's not the usual overwrought stuff where you might need a transcript to follow it.
Remember “Gulliver`s Travels”? Remember the land that Gulliver discovered where the people were ruled by a group of well-educated elite who lived on this flying island? The rest of the people looked up to and saw hovering up in the sky above them looking down on them.

Well, Jonathan Swift called that flying island of intellectuals Laputa. Its population consisted mainly of the sophisticated, the [finely] academic sort who were fond of mathematics, astronomy, music and technology, but absolutely useless at putting their knowledge to any practical use. They were so lost in thought they couldn`t actually function in the everyday world.

Well, yet, the people on this flying island of intellectuals were able to dominate the people down on the land below them which, of course, caused enormous resentment by those people down on the land below them. I read today that the Democratic party from which a majority of college grads now vote now controls almost all the country`s most highly educated congressional districts, the party that once represented the working people of this country, the skilled workers, the electricians, plumbers, masons and carpenters, now it`s the home room of the college crowd. The party of the town is now the party of the gown.

In other words, it`s beginning to resemble Jonathan Swift`s flying island of Laputa populated with the educated elite looking down literally on those below them. I hear people, I agree with politically, blaming the Democratic Party`s loss of the working party on race. Working people they say are simply angry at the progress of minorities and the arrival of darker-skinned immigrants into the country.I think that`s way too convenient and far, in way, from a complete explanation. One at least the Democratic leadership off the hook. And two, of saying the majority of Americans working class are hopeless bigots.

Well, let me offer a more measured explanation for the Democrats` loss of support among working people. It`s that the Democratic Party is focused in recent years on addressing the topics and concerns of members of the party who are its better educated and also its better off.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
Nice of you to catch on, Chris, after working for several years to drag Hillary's pantsuited cankles across the finish line, that despite her talking like a Laputan whenever she perceived Herself as among fellow Laputans.

The idea that Wise Experts really don't know best has been with us for some time.  National Review's Jonathan Tobin uses it to examine the idea of voter inefficiency, as in too few Democratic votes in the Electoral College and related sins, and finds it wanting.
The disease isn’t so much the rise of ideological politics, a phenomenon that dates back to Newt Gingrich’s ending of a 50-year Democratic reign in the House — which was in no small measure a justified reaction to the go-along-to-get-along spirit of Congress at the time. Rather the disease is Congress’s abdication of power over the course of the 20th century as the administrative state — the unelected bureaucrats running various agencies — replaced the legislative branch as the true maker of American laws. That left the Supreme Court as the only check on an out-of-control executive branch.

Creating an even larger occupying army of politicians in Washington won’t fix that problem. The populist revolution that has transformed the Republican party under Trump, and that may yet spread to a Democratic party whose restive left wing is just as sick of D.C. power brokers, is rooted in resentment of the governing class. The idea that the country needs more such people, no matter how they are elected, demonstrates just how out of touch the liberal elites at the Times have become.
It wasn't so much Congress's abdication of powers as it was Congress's acceptance of the Fatal Conceit of Governance by Wise Experts leading to Congress passing, and mostly Democratic presidents signing, legislation full of "The Secretary shall issue ..." language.

It didn't work.  And the Normals have more power than the Balnibarbians had.

They've also understood this for some time.  Consider a 2005 Jesse Walker review of Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas?  (There's nothing wrong with Kansas, the Laputans, er, Wise Experts, have messed things up.)  It came to this, and Chris Matthews probably had a front-row seat for it either at Holy Cross or in Tip O'Neill's office.  "The hardhats of Charlestown [Massachusetts] didn't face a laissez-faire Democratic Party that ignored their economic interests and a Republican Party that appealed to their values. They faced a big-government Democratic Party that was actively working against them and in favor of a wealthier group."

Mr Walker is writing about a gentrifying Boston, and the expansion of the colleges and what later became information technology office parks displacing the factories and railroad yards.  He could with equal force have noted that the integration of Boston's public schools required the shanty Irish of Southie to accommodate desegregation, not the lace-curtain Irish of Chappaquiddick.

His conclusion notes that the coastal gentry didn't quite have to land their island on rebellious provinces to destroy agriculture or literally crush rebel armies: the police power of the state was good enough.
As for the Republican-red Great Plains, it's curious that in a book on why Kansans have turned against liberalism, Frank never mentions rural resentment of environmental regulations, which have effectively expropriated the property of many small landowners and provoked an intense grassroots revolt.

In short, perhaps the Great Backlash regards liberals as an elite because sometimes, just like conservatives, liberals really do act like an elite. You can do that when you have a powerful government at your command. Back in the Progressive Era, Eastern reformers offered a platform of "scientific" management, of giant enterprises and giant government working for the collective good. This set the template for the most destructive species of 20th-century liberalism: the liberalism that bulldozed neighborhoods to build freeways, that flooded farmers' land to erect the Tennessee Valley Authority, that drafted kids to fight in what Bob Dole so accurately called "Democrat wars." [Hyperlinks added -- Ed.]
Mr Frank has since recognized that the gentry, including in Massachusetts, are sometimes their own worst enemies, and that Laputan, er, Learned Elite discourse practices are off-putting.

It cannot be a bad thing for Mr Matthews to be bringing those tidings to nerdland.


It's good news for local Santa-on-the-trolley events.

The Fox River Trolley Museum's trains, loading at the Forest Preserve, are close to sold out.

Likewise, the East Troy Electric Railroad have sold out the chase train for their Christmas Parade Train reenactment, as well as many of the trips with Santa.

Ho-Ho-Ho, who wouldn't go?



The Chronicle of Higher Education interviews Harvard historian Jill Lepore.  "The Academy Is Largely Itself Responsible for Its Own Peril."

By all means, go, read, understand the article in full.  I will quote liberally from it as who knows how soon the House Organ for Business as Usual in Higher Education puts it behind the paywall.

Her new book, These Truths, sounds like something to put on the Christmas list.
The American Revolution, Lepore shows, was also an epistemological revolution. The country was built on truths that are self-evident and empirical, not sacred and God-given. "Let facts be submitted to a candid world," Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence. Now, it seems, our faith in facts has been shaken. These Truths traces how we got here.
That alone might be worth the price of admission, but read on.
This kind of book written by a single author for a general readership is an unusual effort. It hasn’t been done often, though it used to be a routine capstone endeavor of a certain sort of notable historian. It became untenable when the historical profession became bigger and broader. In the 1960s, women and people of color got Ph.D.s and revolutionized the study of the past. They incorporated those whose experiences and especially whose politics had been left out. You can think of that, and I certainly do, as an incredible explosion of historical research that was profoundly important and urgently necessary. But you can also think of it as shattering an older story of America.
She goes on to note that the summaries of events adapted to a younger audience, junior high and high school history books, if you will, might thus become unwieldy, or subject to political maneuvering at the school boards and state departments of public instruction, and the distinguished senior professors of history gave way to "journalists" as authors (and often potted authors at that).

Why the academic historians couldn't work through the "incredible explosion" in the peer reviewed journals and let the leading scholars curate the discussion and yet write the textbooks might be for another day.  It's certainly for a different post, that is, if I want to, as the conversation takes a most instructive turn.
I call the book These Truths to invoke those truths in the Declaration of Independence that Jefferson describes, with the revision provided by Franklin, as "self-evident" — political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. But I’m also talking about an unstated fourth truth, which is inquiry itself. Anyone who has spent time with the founding documents and the political and intellectual history in which they were written understands that the United States was founded quite explicitly as a political experiment, an experiment in the science of politics. It was always going to be subject to scrutiny. That scrutiny is done not from above by some commission, but by the citizenry itself.
That scrutiny is always done by humans themselves. Governments that perform poorly? Pitchforks and torches.  Universities that perform poorly?  People can find work-arounds for them too.

Professor Lepore doesn't quite say "bet on emergence" and yet it's in there.
There’s an incredibly rich scholarship on the history of evidence, which traces its rise in the Middle Ages in the world of law, its migration into historical writing, and then finally into the realm that we’re most familiar with, journalism. That’s a centuries-long migration of an idea that begins in a very particular time and place, basically the rise of trial by jury starting in 1215. We have a much better vantage on the tenuousness of our own grasp of facts when we understand where facts come from.

The larger epistemological shift is how the elemental unit of knowledge has changed. Facts have been devalued for a long time. The rise of the fact was centuries ago. Facts were replaced by numbers in the 18th and 19th centuries as the higher-status unit of knowledge. That’s the moment at which the United States is founded as a demographic democracy. Now what’s considered to be most prestigious is data. The bigger the data, the better.
That doesn't sound completely correct, perhaps I should hold judgement until I've read the book. On the other hand, if you say systematic evidence is stronger than anecdotal evidence, perhaps you might understand how that status hierarchy emerged.  An aside: political discourse (journalism, if you will) is still more about the compelling stories, the stuff immediately seen, with the stuff that's not unseen not mentioned.

Might one of the greatest accomplishments of human inquiry be the recognition that the consequences beyond the immediate matter?

That's not the direction the interview takes.
That transformation, from facts to numbers to data, traces something else: the shifting prestige placed on different ways of knowing. Facts come from the realm of the humanities, numbers represent the social sciences, and data the natural sciences. When people talk about the decline of the humanities, they are actually talking about the rise and fall of the fact, as well as other factors. When people try to re-establish the prestige of the humanities with the digital humanities and large data sets, that is no longer the humanities. What humanists do comes from a different epistemological scale of a unit of knowledge.
That "different ways of knowing" is a tell.  It comes from a discourse practice that at best might be healthy skepticism and at worst has implicit scare quotes around any mention of truth in speech or writing.  Stop denying coherent beliefs, humanities types, and your life might get better.  Not to mention that third-year graduate students in statistics and economics have probably forgotten more about inference than most literary types ever learned.

The good news is the direction the conversation next takes.
The academy is largely itself responsible for its own peril. The retreat of humanists from public life has had enormous consequences for the prestige of humanistic ways of knowing and understanding the world.

Universities have also been complicit in letting sources of federal government funding set the intellectual agenda. The size and growth of majors follows the size of budgets, and unsurprisingly so. After World War II, the demands of the national security state greatly influenced the exciting fields of study. Federal-government funding is still crucial, but now there’s a lot of corporate money. Whole realms of knowing are being brought to the university through commerce.
That train probably left the station when President Lincoln proposed the land-grant colleges.  There's long been a tension between the practical and the foundational learning, and foundational knowledge, as Professor Lepore implicitly notes, is too important for the congregation to entrust solely to the clerisy.  I'm less sympathetic to the "humanists."  Once they started dressing up simple ideas with word-noise, or denying self-evident truths, they marginalized themselves.

That goes for economists, too, although they dress up their simple ideas with topology.

That noted, is the professor calling out the Fatal Conceit?  "I don’t expect the university to be a pure place, but there are questions that need to be asked. If we have a public culture that suffers for lack of ability to comprehend other human beings, we shouldn’t be surprised. The resources of institutions of higher learning have gone to teaching students how to engineer problems rather than speak to people."  Yup, that applies doubly to the deanlets and deanlings of student affairs.

The interview concludes with intriguing perspectives on innovation and disruption.  In politics, we have the Constitution, and metaphors about the Senate as a cooling saucer for a reason.
Innovation as an idea in America is historically a negative thing. Innovation in politics is what is to be condemned: To experiment recklessly with a political arrangement is fatal to our domestic tranquillity. So there’s a lot of anti-innovation language around the founding, especially because Republicanism — Jeffersonianism — is considered excessively innovative. Innovation doesn’t assume its modern sense until the 1930s, and then only in a specialized literature.
That's probably heresy to the surviving fans of Franklin Roosevelt and the brains trust, whether in History or at the Kennedy School or if there are any applied economists studying public finance.

In commerce, well, if you understand competition as discovery, you'll grasp instantly why disruption for its own sake is dumb.
Disruption has a totally different history. It’s a way to avoid the word "progress," which, even when it’s secularized, still implies some kind of moral progress. Disruption emerges in the 1990s as progress without any obligation to notions of goodness. And so "disruptive innovation," which became the buzzword of change in every realm in the first years of the 21st century, including higher education, is basically destroying things because we can and because there can be money made doing so. Before the 1990s, something that was disruptive was like the kid in the class throwing chalk. And that’s what disruptive innovation turned out to really mean. A little less disruptive innovation is called for.
In economics, "disruptive innovation" takes on a more subtle meaning, think about something like a diesel locomotive on a coal-fueled railroad, or a smaller hard drive that doesn't have the capacity to serve a mainframe.  There's not always money to be made in being disruptive for its own sake, and I really should elaborate further on why that works, and I'll probably rely on Professor Lepore in New Yorker on that score.  I also shouldn't rest until people become more careful about labeling changes, particularly changes that they like, as "progress."

That's enough for today.  Go read the interview.


Galesburg, Illinois is a freight-handling hub on the Burlington Route, sorry, BNSF, where freight from any of the system's major west coast routes can be sent onward toward Chicago and the eastern carriers, and consignments from the Pacific Northwest can be sent onward toward Memphis or Birmingham, the eastern outposts the carrier inherited from the old Frisco.

It's also where two of the western Amtrak routes (for now) combine with the Quincy service to form a mini-corridor onward to Chicago.

The trains also connect with a number of buses, some of which deputise for a cross-country rail service that the common carriers never offered, even during the First Era of American Greatness.

That connectivity appeals to, shall we say, express messengers of the contraband kind.
A man steps off the train; a dog sniffs his baggage and raises the alarm; cops check the guy’s luggage; cops bust the guy.

But why Galesburg … a town of 31,000 people?

Because, say the locals, the “mules” can come from several directions on any one of several different trains, get off in Galesburg, which they figure to be a sleepy little town, and proceed into Chicago by bus where presumably most of their customers reside.
Perhaps, or perhaps the contraband carriers pay a few fall guys to be the decoys?



Chicago's NBC affiliate likes to run clips from Saturday Night Live as a lighter moment on the Sunday news, particularly if there's a Blackhawks or Bulls disaster coming up in sports.  Sometimes Meet The Press runs the same clip, and it's almost always some cheesy Democrat talking point.

Neither show ran any excerpts from the show of Saturday last.  That's unfortunate, as newly elected Texas congressman Dan Crenshaw and comic Pete Davidson performed the act of grace heard round the nation.  (Follow the link for the show excerpt on You Tube.)
Davidson came on the “Weekend Update” set and offered his apology, and then Crenshaw joined. He took some good-natured shots at Davidson — Crenshaw’s phone had an Ariana Grande ringtone (Grande recently broke her engagement with Davidson), and he mocked Davidson’s appearance — but then things took a more serious turn.

Crenshaw briefly spoke of the meaning of the words “never forget” to a veteran, saying that “when you say ‘never forget’ to a veteran, you are implying that, as an American, you are in it with them.” Then he addressed his next words to Davidson: “And never forget those we lost on 9/11 — heroes like Pete’s father. So I’ll just say, Pete, never forget.”
Mr Davidson's father served with the Fire Department of New York.

This Washington Post profile of Representative Crenshaw is also germane.
Crenshaw says he supports the president’s policies, save for the trade warfare, but prefers to comport himself in a manner that is the total opposite of the commander in chief’s.

“His style is not my style,” Crenshaw says. “I’ll just say that. It’s never how I would conduct myself. But what readers of The Washington Post need to understand is that conservatives can hold multiple ideas in their head at the same time. We can be like, ‘Wow he shouldn’t have tweeted that’ and still support him . . . You can disapprove of what the president says every day, or that day, and still support his broader agenda.”
Yes, or parts of it.


Laura Flanders asks, "WTF White Women?"  She continues, "In terms of white women's voting habits, 2016 was bad—and 2018 was worse."

Worse, of course, means Not Giving the Enlightened Leftist What She Wants.
White women rained all over that new day dawning. Did they vote on the issues? Statistically, there aren’t enough anti-choice, anti-healthcare, anti-minimum wage, gun-mad voters out there to blame just conservative women.

So white women are either stupid or spoiled. I say spoiled.

We reap plenty of spoils from white supremacy. To name a few: we get to be race-less, sexy, vulnerable and at least relatively safe.

Structurally, the system’s set up such that white women earn more, own more, and live significantly longer than anyone else (except for our brothers and fathers and husbands and sons).

Single white women have, on average, 5 times more wealth than single black women, and white households have a staggering 13 times more wealth than black households.

Our life expectancy is above the national average, while the life expectancy of black women falls below.

We’re more likely to be cared for than killed when we’re having a mental health crisis and cops come to our door.

We’re more likely to be counseled than kicked out when we act up in school.

We’re way more likely to be hired and way, way less likely to be incarcerated. That’s in no small part because we’re more likely to be seen as beautiful and loved (in advertising, magazines and Hollywood), and far less likely to be seen as scary or a threat.

White supremacy spoils us, white women. It’s undeniable. Patriarchy, not so much. The particular patriarchs whom white women have put in office this November are on the record as anti-female. They’re even anti-white-female if you happen to be pregnant or foreign-born or poor or in imperfect health.

In 2016, I sought refuge in my superior, smart, anti-capitalist, queer difference.
Sounds like it's Laura Flanders who is spoiled, and perhaps hanging around among the stupid.

Her brain-sister Lily Herman was a little more courageous, venturing onto Twitter.

That did not turn out well, at least among the Militant Normals.
Let’s be honest, if Lily and others like her really think they can make Conservative women vote a certain way they’ve clearly never taken the time to talk to a real Conservative woman.

But good luck with that.
National Review's Alexandra DeSanctis has a more intellectual rebuttal.
In its sudden embrace of identity politics, the hardcore Left needs Americans to believe that feminism and progressivism are intertwined, and thus that every woman is intrinsically wired to embrace left-wing orthodoxy. The success of their political movement increasingly depends on it. As a result, when the existence of conservative women is revealed — as it was on election night — they dismiss our views and our votes as being the result of ignorance, malice, or insufficient independence from the sway of the misogynistic patriarchy.

In doing so, the Left undercuts the definitional core of feminism itself: Women can be trusted to think for themselves.
According to Goofy Laura Flanders, independent thinking is heretical. "We don’t want 2020 to roll around and wish that one hundred years ago we’d never given white women the vote."

On occasion, though, I dip into the world of Anonymous Neurotic Humanities Types with Cats, and I found The correct way to Woman.
I am in solidarity in fighting against problems and I do what I can do. But like most adult human beings, I resist being bossed around--resist it vigorously, in fact.

And men aren't the only ones who want to tell women how to Woman.
Her observation generalizes.
I think, though, that especially when a majority party and its leader is telling delighted followers what the One Best Way is, we ought to think twice before taking the advice of anyone on the other side who's telling us what their idea of the One Best Way to Woman might be. Your ideology does not oblige me to behave in the ways you dictate to me, even if it's correct and not crazypants.
That applies to self-styled thought-leaders on your own side, too, moreso if the suggestion is crazypants.

That is all.


Transportation companies that cut costs by cutting service find themselves on the track to liquidation.

That goes for Chicago area Commuter Rail operator Metra.  "The commuter railroad has raised fares six times in the last seven years and has seen declines in ridership."

They're pinning their hopes on a new transportation appropriation from Springfield, the first in going on ten years.
“Clearly, there’s a lot of need out there,” said Metra CEO Jim Derwinski. He said the agency could use $5 billion in the next five to seven years to buy new locomotives and coaches, upgrade stations, add express trains, repair bridges, electrify the Rock Island Line and improve service to O’Hare International Airport.

Addressing the inaction by state legislators, board member Ken Koehler of Crystal Lake said he would vote to shut down the railroad for a couple of days and send all workers to Springfield.

“We have to show them the benefits we bring to the riding public,” Koehler said.

Metra officials projected a need for more passenger revenue in future budget years — from $371 million expected in 2019 to $402 million in 2020 and $421 million in 2021. Since ridership has been decreasing, such an increase would have to come from fare increases, if the board were to approve them.
Yes, although increasing fares means further decreases in ridership.

We have much to look forward to.



Armistice comes in the Great War.

That's the evangelical church in Willenberg, Prussia, that figures in my family history, a small part of the conversion of immigrants into Americans that made up the Expeditionary Force.

The Great War was not the War to End All Wars, not even close.  After Armistice comes the Treaty of Versailles: the next twenty years are an intermission until the same tussles broke out again, this time with aircraft, improved electronics, and nuclear weapons.

Nor did the Great War make the world safe for democracy.  Not that Our Political Masters have learned anything.  "American foreign policy professionals and pundits somehow manage to look at our costly failings and the world's suffering—all that money, all that death—and think the answer is that the U.S. military should have done more, and smarter, and harder."

Perhaps the forced consensus of the Great Crusade makes contemporary political correctness look tame.
During World War I, the [American Association of University Professors] embraced the most repressive measures ever supported by the organization. Never before, and never again, would the AAUP call for the suppression of peaceful dissent. In part, the AAUP’s position reflected the stance of an organization eager for public approval and unwilling to sacrifice its limited credibility for the abstract principle of academic freedom during wartime. But the AAUP’s support for repression also reflected the strong support for the war itself among its leaders. John Dewey believed in academic freedom, but he also believed in this war to end all wars. Dewey convinced the New Republic’s editors to ban his former student Randolph Bourne from their magazine because Bourne disagreed with Dewey about the war (Mulcahy, 1996, 147). Even the victims of past repression supported severe wartime limits on academic freedom; Richard Ely wrote to a friend, “We cannot take the same position in time of war as we take in time of peace….A man who gives utterance to opinions which hinder us in this awful struggle deserves to be fired” (Gruber, 1975, 256).
We rarely hear Serious People rolling out the Moral Equivalent of War in support of other Grand Public Constructions these days, and yet the mind-set in Official Washington and on the Sunday shows is still the same: some federal agency should be doing more, and smarter, and harder.

I have no alternative but to repeat myself.  The task for the living is to continue to give young people, including immigrants, a country they can buy into, as well as to buy into the success of those young people.  More grandiose constructions, such as a world safe for democracy or a Liberal International Order: not so much.

That is all.



Is a head shop a "pot-leaf shaped bat signal" for gentrifiers?  Strong Towns takes a look.  Their thesis: a decision to live someplace is a long-term commitment, and the value of a neighborhood emerges from the decisions of others.
Consider buying a new condo, with an asking price of $500,000. Whether it is a good deal today at $500,000 is partly a question of whether it will one day sell for more or less than $500,000. Your purchase is a wager, based on the information available to you, that the value of your condo and similar properties in the area will continue to appreciate.

Your decision to buy also depends on what amenities are nearby now. Will your friends want to move in nearby? Will restaurants and a grocery store start filling up empty storefronts nearby, and will they be able to stay in business? Will you have access to reliable transit lines when you move in? In a decade? All these questions also factor into whether you choose to buy here or across town.

There is no way to poll all the people somehow involved in such questions, so we have to play a beauty contest game, guessing what our friends, local restaurateurs, and transit planning agencies are thinking, and what they will be thinking in a decade. Meanwhile, they’re all doing the same thing: just as I don't want to move to a neighborhood with no restaurants, no restaurant wants to open in a neighborhood where they aren’t likely to have customers.
I'm not sure Keynes's beauty contest argument applies well here, although the fundamentals determining whether a neighborhood prospers or not are not always immediately obvious. Thus, the early adopters matter, specifically the head shop in a neighborhood in Seattle.
The pot shop is a single storefront on a block with more than a dozen buildings, in a neighborhood spanning dozens of blocks. It’s highly unlikely that a market-moving number of pot smokers decide where to live based primarily on proximity to their favorite supplier. The neighborhood’s proximity to downtown is obviously an asset, and it’s just down the road from a historically gay neighborhood, Capitol Hill, where rent is higher and homes sell for an average of $677 a square foot. [Head shop proprietor Ian] Eisenberg, for his part, thinks the Central District would have gentrified with or without him, given how close the neighborhood is to downtown Seattle; but the fact is, other neighborhoods that are equally close to downtown have not yet gentrified, suggesting that there is something else going on.

More than just a place to buy pre-rolled joints with names like "Bubba's Gift" and Body Buzz bath salts, Uncle Ike’s is a signal that radiates out to the bars, the coffee shops, the developers, and the yuppies. The new bars and restaurants and gluten-free doughnut shops are a response to that signal, forming a reverberating feedback loop of signals that leads to more and more businesses (and sleek new apartment buildings with downtown views) that tell white and wealthy people: You're welcome here. This is a place for you. Gradually, the neighborhood starts to feel more like many other neighborhoods in Seattle: new, well-maintained, predominately white and middle-class.

o why does this sort of thing happen—not just at 23rd and Union in Seattle, but in similar neighborhoods around the country? Racism, classism, or conscious beliefs about future land values could be part of the reason. But even in the absence of those kind of conscious beliefs, the opening of a business like Uncle Ike’s could have still moved the market.
Perhaps, although it's Seattle, already chockablock with amenities for Creative Class types and home to several important high technology companies, as well as the U.S. port closest to Japanese and Chinese ports.  The story might not generalize to Spokane or Youngstown.

On the other hand, the presence of the right kind of business, or the wrong kind of business, or of a suspect population, might affect location patterns.  The second part of the Strong Towns beauty contest series will simulate location patterns, based on the strength of simulated agents' preferences of like for like.
In the first simulation, some people have a strong preference for living near a useful amenity. They may also have an aversion away from other locations, whether they’re liquor stores with bulletproof glass or people of a different nationality. In the second, the people bidding on houses have no serious desire to live next to the amenity and no concern about race at all, but everybody knows that there are other people, somewhere, who do. It is the second simulation—the one where overt preferences don’t exist—where we really see home values shift in both directions.
What intrigues about the simulations is the role of ignorance.  In the first simulation, some agents have strong preferences, either to live near an amenity, or to live far from a suspect population.  The presence of the amenity (a bakery: it could be a head shop or a trolley stop) leads to higher property values near it, while the presence of a person of a suspect ancestry has little effect on property values, provided there are sufficiently many sims who don't worry about such things.  At the margin, those sims always outbid the more squeamish or more prejudiced (interpret as you wish) sims.

In the second simulation, people think they might be bidding against more amenity-preferrers (the interpretation is hipsters who value proximity to the head shop) or against fewer suspect-avoiders (zemblophobes, in the article) and thus raise their bids to live closer to the head shop, expecting more competition, while lowering their bids to live near the suspect population.  I suspect the simulation is using Cournot bidding.
Everyone in Squareville knows hipsters think it's cool to live next to a pot shop, so bidders on nearby houses expect that there is some chance that competing bidders are hipsters who will bid higher for the choice location. Expecting competition from enthusiastic hipsters, bidders on a property by the pot shop raise their bid by 15 percent. As outsiders, we know there are no hipsters in Squareville. But that doesn’t matter—in our simulation, everyone thinks that there may be high-bidding hipsters competing for houses near the pot shop, so the price around the pot shop goes up anyway.

The plot in Figure 2 shows the result of a simulation over 250 periods using these rules. The effect of perceived zemblophobia is greater than the effect of actual zemblophobia in our first simulation. In other words: the fact that people believe others think Zemblans are bad for property values causes that assertion to be factually true. Meanwhile, the effect on prices around the pot shop is similar to the effect of the bakery—even in the absence of any high-bidding hipsters. The beauty contest makes the problems of perceived markers of lower and higher neighborhood value especially ingrained. We can't just flip a switch and say, “Okay, redlining is over; no more discrimination”—or “hipsters are over; no more gentrification.” Even if nobody actually believes that Zemblans are bad for property values, or that hipsters are good for housing prices, as long as there are people who erroneously think people with those beliefs exist, we're off to the races and the beauty contest argument applies.
The model, I fear, neglects some arbitrage opportunities: in equilibrium, shouldn't a hipster be indifferent among houses at varying distances from the head shop (and whatever other businesses agglomerate there) and therefore land values will reflect transportation costs, and that arbitrage opportunity can bid up housing prices near the zems?

Further, in order for the cascade to work, everybody's expectations must be consistent.
In the first example with actual zemblophobes, some people bid lower on houses in one neighborhood, but others placed an "objective" bid based on market conditions—and it's the high bidder who wins, so a real change in prices was difficult to observe. This is the story of the free market smoothing over imperfections: if people bid below the accepted norms because of personal biases, they lose. But even in the absence of overt racism, a population of indifferent people who modify their bids according to the belief that others expect a norm of racism, could be sufficient to explain some of the patterns we observe.
Game-theoretic models aren't always useful thinking about out-of-equilibrium behavior, and there are a couple of sensitivity analyses in the post that suggest hot neighborhoods or segregated neighborhoods need not be ubiquitous.

Something also occurs to me that perhaps the "binary choice" we hear so much about at election time reflects people modifying their voting behavior according to the belief that others expect a norm of making a binary choice, but that's too much to think about just before nap time.


I have long maintained that the U.S. News rankings and the other status competitions among institutions of higher learning are a manifestation of excess demand for perceived quality or perceived prestige.  There are more valedictorians than Harvard can enroll, thus Harvard has to curate its classes.  Likewise Princeton or Yale or Duke or Northwestern.

Perhaps there's a business opportunity for universities not satisfied with the way they're polling at U.S. News.  (It's an open secret in higher education: any university official might say in conversation that those rankings or any other rankings are flawed in some way, but just let the rankings improve and watch for the press release.)

But competing for those students is not a race to the bottom, and that troubles Inside Higher Ed's John Warner.  The villains in his piece are stingy state legislators.  "State disinvestment is the inciting incident for this phenomenon. We can and should be critical of some of the institutional responses to that disinvestment, but this is the central problem. That disinvestment has led schools astray from their putative mission."  That mission being to provide a proper higher education to state residents with intellectual potential.

Doing so, however, raises questions of vertical and horizontal equity.  Keep the state universities inexpensive, is the state using tax money to assist promising youngsters from well-off backgrounds in achieving what they'd likely achieve at a more expensive Ivy?  Keep the state universities accessible, is the state simply reinforcing social stratification while running dropout factories?


We note a shout-out from Voluntary Xchange on the elementary arbitrage principle: adjusted for risk, football coaches cannot expect to do better on average than college professors.

Newmark's Door has a short but useful reading list.

I repeat, because repeat I must: Exchange, arbitrage, indifference, opportunity cost.  Everything else is elaboration.


The Chicago Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups since the 2009-2010 season.  Last year, they did not make the playoffs, and after a 6-6-3 start to this season, head coach Joel Quenneville has been released.  Chicago Tribune sports pundit Steve Rosenbloom asserts, "Joel Quenneville deserved a better roster and a better shot than Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman gave him."  Northern Star columnist Roland Hacker concurs.
There’s a pretty clear pattern here, [former general manager Joel] Tallon’s fingerprints were all over the Chicago Blackhawks’ championship designs.

Bowman, on the other hand, inherited a championship team with a great second year coach and took all the credit when the Blackhawks started winning titles next season.
First change the general manager, he suggests, then consider changing the coach.
During the historically successful run the ‘Hawks experienced from 2010-15, there can be no argument who coached the teams to victory; it was Quenneville. There can be an argument made of who the architect of the team roster was.

The person in doubt, Bowman, should’ve been the first person out the door. Of all the success the Blackhawks experienced during their championship window, Bowman was responsible for very little while Quenneville was directly linked to all of it.

To protect his job, Bowman fired Quenneville, trying to push blame off of his mediocre roster and onto the most successful coach in franchise history.
Defeat may be an orphan, but in the topsy-turvy world of professional sports, where losing improves your draft position, there's another Chicago sports writer, Joe Knowles, suggesting "The Hawks need to get bad — really bad — and the sooner the better."  Seriously.

To the north, the Green Bay Packers have one Super Bowl appearance, a win in the 2010-2011 game, and a new general manager who is already sending underachieving players elsewhere (many seem to be landing in Cleveland.)

The standard there is still five titles in six appearances over eight years.


Jim "Trains and Travel" Loomis lives in laid-back Hawaii and does a lot of train riding, but New Orleans can only take "Big Easy" so far.  "It’s a long walk from the TSA line to many of the gates and there were long lines of people waiting to get a cup of coffee from people behind the counter demonstrating with body language that while you might be in a hurry, they aren’t."

I wonder whose coffee shop that might be?

It might be an indicator that something is slipping in the land of exotically named coffees.  I have a gift card registered with the company, which means I've lately been getting promotional offers (buy two in the next few days, get additional reward points) that suggest drumming up business with regulars is now something to emphasize.  In addition, the company in question just launched the seasonal advertising with a very Christmasy promotion on peppermint mocha.  I thought it was only a perception that some companies took the wrong side in the culture wars surrounding Christmas.


Florida's Brightline have submitted a formal proposal to build a faster passenger railroad between Orlando and Tampa.  The Downeaster service, operated by Amtrak on behalf of the Maine and Massachusetts Passenger Rail authorities, will be operating all but one week-day round trip between Brunswick and Boston.   Now if they could work Portland as a through station ...

We'll see if extensions of Downeaster service, seasonal or otherwise, beyond Brunswick to Rockland or to Augusta and on to Bangor, materialize.



I watch him, dear reader, so you don't have to.  Sometimes he's all spittle-flecked fury, sometimes it's just ... goofy.  Here's how he signed off last week Monday, his first day on air after the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings.
I have been struck in recent days, long before the horror of this weekend in Pittsburgh, by how Jewish people have been affected by the negative attitudes towards immigration. One man confronted me in an airport last week and demanded that I think about the St. Louis, that ship carrying over 900 Jewish refugees that was refused admission here in the United States in 1939 on the even of World War II.

That man who stopped me didn`t say there was a connection between the Holocaust and the migrants coming north from Honduras. But President Trump warns of so vociferously and so obsessively. He didn`t have to make a connection. It was clear. It`s about turning away people in need, treating strangers as if they`re enemies, not welcoming them, but repelling them.

So much of life is about a simple choice between two words: yes or no. That man who shot the 11 people on Saturday in Pittsburgh was say no to their very existence. No to the very people being instructed by their faith to say yes.

No one can safely assert a connection between the preaching of an American president against migrants of Central America and Saturday`s killings by a man who spoke maniacally of how Jewish people were aiding invaders. That was his word. But then who can say there was no connection?
Anything, even an excursion into illogic, to slime a president he doesn't like and actively agitated against during the primary and convention seasons.

I suspect the web managers at MSNBC did not set out a separate "Let Me Finish" clip for October 29 out of charity.  The full episode is available, should you have 41 minutes to spare.


Apparently playing guarantee games at power conference stadiums isn't enough to keep the Mid-American Conference in the good graces of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, even when the school buying the win takes the loss.

It's amateur sport.  It has nothing to do with money.  Except when it does.
A 2018 NCAA audit revealed NIU Athletics bought back 56,345 football tickets totalling $273,619 for the 2017 season to comply with NCAA attendance requirements. While the Northern Star Editorial Board realizes NIU Athletics is at the mercy of the NCAA attendance requirements to maintain Division I status, we disagree with where the funds to complete the internal purchase were drawn from.

Senior Associate Athletics Director Debra Boughton confirmed a portion of the funds that went to buying back tickets came from the NIU Foundation, an organization that invests donations back into the university community. We believe taking funds away from potential scholarships provided to the entire NIU community to service one sport in the athletic department is irresponsible.
The Foundation does fund raising for a variety of projects, and donors are free to specify restrictions on their gifts, such as "for athletics" or "for STEM Outreach" or "for a string quartet."  Or donors can write checks without restriction.

Perhaps Foundation managers calculated that staying in Division I is a more productive use of moneys specified "for athletics" augmented as necessary by unrestricted funds.

That said, the editorial writers at The Northern Star understand opportunity cost.
When someone donates to the NIU Foundation, they are donating under the impression their money will be spent to “develop, support and encourage a culture of giving throughout the NIU community that will allow it to flourish and accomplish NIU’s goal of becoming the most student-centered public research university in the Midwest,” according to the NIU Foundation’s website. Donors believe they are funding scholarships, better equipment, updated facilities and student development opportunities; their endowments should not be used to buy back empty stadium seats.
Star reporters, Foundation managers, and donors all have their work to do.  Arguably the point of spending money to remain in Division I is to maintain the university's visibility.  Sadly, the increased visibility is mostly in the wrong places as far as student development is concerned.


Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke does not approve of deploying troops to the southern border.  It's not because there's a lot of pitching talent going to waste among those refugees.
No, the greatest risk for our soldiers are the accidents that can happen anytime troops are deployed. Vehicles crash. Soldiers get injured operating heavy machinery. There’s psychological distress, illness and heat exhaustion.

A Congressional Research Service report released in June found that from 2006 to 2018, nearly 4,600 active-duty military personnel were killed in accidents during noncombat operations, referred to in the report as “circumstances unrelated to war.”

A 2014 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found: “Accidents are a leading cause of active duty deaths in the U.S. Military, exceeding suicides and, in most years, combat fatalities.”

Accidents happen. Lives get lost.
That's a reason to be careful about sending troops into action under any circumstances other than achieving a clear military objective with well-defined criteria for victory.  Limited wars or nation building wars or feel-good humanitarian missions do not qualify.

That is all.