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


This Saturday, there is material for my not-to-be-regular Saturday bridge column.  In this deal, there might be more than one way to agree on a game.

The simulation explains Partner Bot's 3♦ as "Preemptive," and sometimes a minor suit bid is a signal of something like "I have five each of two different suits, name your longer," and I still haven't figured that out.  Thus I could have gone to game either with 4♠ as I did, or perhaps 5♦, and the extra length in Diamonds might have paid off.  In the Spade contract, I'm at risk of losing two tricks in trumps, the Heart suit is good, the Diamonds should be good, and there's a loser in Clubs.  In the Diamond contract, there might not be a way to salvage a Spade trick with a ruff in dummy.

On with the play:  West opens ♦7, one way to set up a ruff is to be void, that goes under my ♦K.  I, too, create a void, leading the ♥9 to the Ace on the board, and the ♠4 back to my Ace.  The Spade King, Ten, and Seven are still out; let's see what the ♠9 smokes out: King, Six, Ten, that Seven is still out, but one of the Spade losers is now accounted for.  West leads the ♣8 to East's Ace, now there are ruffing opportunities in hand in Clubs as well as Hearts, and controlling cards in Diamonds.  East leads the ♥6; I duck with the ♦2 (was that a mistake, or does that account for what I considered as the second loser in Spades?) to West's Queen; and now the dummy is clear of Hearts.

West continues with the ♣K: five, two, ♠2.  Now to clear all the trumps: the Jack brings out that Seven, the Queen shows West and East both out; the ♦A shows East and West both out of that suit; the ♦3 over to the Queen, Jack, and Ten on the board to fulfill the contract.


Give us that old time religion, John Atcheson.
Government, once the trusted entity that won World Wars and structured the New Deal and decades of the most broadly shared economic recovery in US history, was rebranded as an inept collection of bumbling bureaucrats.  Never mind that government took us to the moon; fed the innovation in energy, medicine, IT, agriculture, aerospace and transportation that gave us the strongest economy in history; or that they funded the creation of infrastructure that was the envy of the world—the conservative propaganda machine was able to brand them as bozos and rebrand the free market from robber-barons and predatory monopolists to the source of all good things by pure serendipity.
I'm taking him slightly out of context, as his column is urging what he calls the "neoliberals" of the Democrat caucus to take seriously the urgings of their True Believers.

His argument rests on flimsy foundations, though.  That "most broadly shared economic recovery" was a victory dividend, and, yes, bumbling bureaucrats (and their enablers in the political class and among the usual pontificating poseurs of the opinion shows) squandered it.

The moon landing we're recalling this weekend?  At the time, the self-styled progressives, and the precursors of today's True Believers called for a fundamental re-ordering of priorities, inter alia away from moon shots (and from military spending, but I digress.)

That infrastructure that was the envy of the world?  Publicly funded looting of the railroads, with the intercity passenger trains as collateral damage.  The victory dividend making it possible for the national government to pay ninety percent of the interstate highways looked attractive at the time: fifty to sixty years on, with the roads life-expired, and fixing them is just another political football.

Those transportation improvements included urban expressways, which destroyed the physical neighborhoods before "re-ordering priorities" included deconstructing bourgeois conventions, which didn't turn out so well, did it?

The Lid's Jeff Dunetz suggests the Apollo Project was a prototype for Grand Public Projects.
Those first men on the moon a half a century ago was an American achievement. The real achievement of the Apollo program was It confirmed again that this is the greatest country in the world, with the best people in the world—America can accomplish anything it puts our collective mind on. We still are the greatest country with the greatest people, we’ve forgotten what we can achieve.  It is my hope that the revitalized space program will bring back the spirit Americans had beginning with our landing on the moon, and remind Americans how lucky we are to live in the greatest country in the world, The United States of America.
It's probably better to think of "collective mind" as an emergent phenomenon, a hive, if you will, rather than a hierarchy ruled over by Wise or Not So Wise Experts.

Mr Atcheson sort of gets it, but even so, he'd rather substitute a different Cadre of Experts.
The disengaged are looking for someone worth voting for, not simply someone to vote against; and the angry don’t care how bad Trump is. They embrace him precisely because the elite mainstream rejects him. Trump is their Molotov cocktail, launched into the mainstream as an expression of their inchoate rage.

What Democrats need is a platform that addresses people’s main concerns.  Progressives are advocating precisely that.  Programs that meaningfully address health care costs; climate change and environmental threats; the high cost of education; the extreme income and wealth disparity that dominates our economy; and the quality of jobs. The neoliberals in charge of the Party are fighting the progressives and opposing real and substantive policies in favor of the usual mix of a few patchwork programs, cosmetic compromises, and empty rhetoric—all designed so they can continue to collect corporate campaign contributions.

To beat Trump, Democrats will need a positive, values-based platform that responds to voter concerns.

But instead of responding to the voters’ very real and obvious needs, they’re relying on identity politics, party loyalty, and declarations of Trump’s inadequacy.  Ironically, identity politics plays into Trump’s divide, frighten, and conquer strategy, and as we’ve seen, appeals based on Trump’s incompetence don’t move the needle in either camp.  As for party loyalty?  As long as the neoliberals continue to ignore the voters’ real concerns, they will lose loyal supporters, and elections.
Politics divides, trade unites, and trade-tested betterments haven't even been tried where prescription drugs or education are concerned.


That probably wasn't even a word in 1969.

That's a pocket camera photograph of a television screen showing a video feed from the Moon as it happened, from my fortieth anniversary post.

Ten years on, and you can't find an active Saturn V rocket, and U.S. astronauts are booking passage on Russian capsules.  But there's a Big Boy back in steam.



Union Pacific's steam fleet includes Northern 844, Challenger 3985, and Big Boy 4014.

The only other Challenger extant is 3977 at Cody Park in North Platte.

The active Big Boy has been drawing crowds everywhere.  (By tradition, a steam locomotive is a "she," but does that work for a "Big Boy?")

Union Pacific have a display track alongside the Omaha baseball stadium that is home to the College World Series.

The midwestern tour is proceeding east of Union Pacific's original territory, on the former Chicago and North Western toward Boone, Iowa, where I caught up with the train last Monday.

The railroad doesn't stop just because there's a steam special running, with this heat wave the power plants are using Powder River coal and the empties have to get back to the mines.

Look closely, the ballast looks a lot line Chicago and North Western's traditional "Pink Lady" quartzite out of Rock Springs, Wisconsin.

The Rock Island railroad collapsed in part because Union Pacific's acquisition got so tangled in regulatory red tape and objections by the other members of the cartel that by the time the old Interstate Commerce Commission approved, Union Pacific decided it didn't want a broken-down property.

After liquidation, Chicago and North Western bought the Rock Island's Twin Cities to Kansas City line as its "Spine Line," which enabled it to get rid of the former Chicago Great Western line by way of Oelwein that was its previous entry to Kansas City.

Never mind all that, there's a pretty good railroad show at Iowa Falls, on Tuesday.

The stops every few hours, at seventy mile intervals or so, are for the entertainment of the locals, as well as to service the locomotive.  You wouldn't want the lubrication to fail on moving parts, would you.

On the way into Mason City, Big Boy and the local Iowa Traction electric railroad, which has active motive power older than Big Boy, had a photo opportunity.  Mason City was the end of the run on Tuesday, and the oiling, watering, and general maintenance commenced.

A vintage Rock Island passenger diesel also turned out, north of Mason City, to meet Big Boy.

We'll resume normal programming over the weekend, with another Big Boy break next week.



Here's a Big Boy, in preservation in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Scranton, Pennsylvania, 18 July 2012.

A live one is on its way to Iowa, which strikes me as a more productive use of steam and steel than all the stumpings of politicians.


I've had occasion to gripe about dubious Norfolk Southern dispatching laying out eastbound Amtrak trains for hours, before the train even gets to its first stop at South Bend.

The corporate suite at Amtrak might be engaging in a slow-motion liquidation of the overnight trains, but a business model of dependable day trains requires that the day trains be dependable.  The cooperation of the freight railroads that sold their passenger losses to Amtrak is desirable.
A lawyer for Norfolk Southern sent a formal letter to Amtrak demanding that Amtrak stop tweeting information about Amtrak trains running late and identifying the cause—specifically that they were stuck behind slow moving NS freights.

I’m guessing the Norfolk Southern attorney knew that the letter was a dumb idea, but was goaded into it by one of the railroad’s top executives.

At any rate, the fallout was 100-percent predictable: an Amtrak executive wrote back to Norfolk Southern and said, in so many words, “We’re sick and tired of you guys not giving a damn and constantly making our trains run late.”

And then the Amtrak guy did what until this incident would have been unthinkable: he released copies of both letters to the media! Of course that triggered news reports of the dust-up, including a front-page story in the Wall Street Journal!
Here's more, from the Rail Passengers' Association.  By all means read the whole thing, but note this.
Your letter is surprising mostly because it focused on just a single tweet about train 20(15) from the @AmtrakAlerts Twitter feed. While train 20(15) was initially delayed by a mechanical issue, the subsequent 198 minutes of delay due to Norfolk Southern compounded this problem, which is sadly all too common. While you complain this was due to the train being “off plan,” the thousands of severe delays to Amtrak passengers caused by Norfolk Southern make clear there is no Norfolk Southern “plan.” In 2018, Norfolk Southern delayed Amtrak trains for 464,342 minutes, the equivalent of 322 days. For many Amtrak customers, enduring severe delays caused by Norfolk Southern are the norm. In 2018, each Crescent train was, on average, delayed nearly 2.5 hours by Norfolk Southern freight trains alone, in addition to many other Norfolk Southern- caused delays.

In just the first two months of 2019, a single Norfolk Southern freight train (Train 21M) was responsible for over 1,346 minutes of delay to Amtrak trains on Norfolk Southern territory.
That's a delay to the eastbound Southern Crescent, there are probably freight trains on The Water Level Route that account for the bulk of the delay to the Capitol and Lake Shore.  And I love that deflection about "off plan."  If freight train interference west of Birmingham lays out the eastbound Crescent, does that justify further interference with the Crescent onward toward Atlanta or Washington City?

Closer to home, yes, it is often the case that an eastbound Capitol or Lake Shore will be held for late-arriving connections off the (knocked off plan by one of the western trunk lines?) Texas or West Coast trains, as protecting those connections is cheaper than buying hotel space and rebooking sleeper passengers in coach.  On at least two of my trips east, the Capitol or Lake Shore I was on left Union Station on the advertised, and it was a decision by a Norfolk Southern dispatcher to knock the train off plan somewhere in the vicinity of Ogden Dunes.

There's more in the letter.  I can't walk into the dispatcher's office and show them how it might be done, but I can submit Facts to a candid World.



I'm using the term in the cosmological sense of so massive a phenomenon that it collapses upon itself.  The motivation for this post is two recent books, Derek Hunter's Outrage, Inc.: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science, Journalism, and Hollywood; and Robby Soave's Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump, which I shall combine as Book Reviews No. 5 and No. 6.

The pairing might strike observers as flawed, in that Mr Hunter is an older polemicist with previous experience at Daily Caller and Heritage, while Mr Soave is a younger Reason columnist whose tone is sometimes more in sadness than in anger at the work of his co-cohorts.

Taken together, though, the two books provide a response to the trendy thinking of many young people and leftist radicals of various stripes, and this review will take the form of a mini-dissertation attempting to provide the intellectual foundations of a more rigorous rebuttal to the trendy thinking.  I'm going to take the ideas out of the order in which they appear in either book, but when we're done, we might see that fifty or sixty or a hundred years of bad ideas have culminated in what traffics in the rubric of intersectionality.


Eric Zorn takes up the cause of restitution for slavery.
The best way to begin to repair the damage wrought by our nation’s troubled racial history is to dump the politically toxic word “reparations.”

Even casual students of history know that black Americans were first legally then systemically disadvantaged by slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination and segregation, and that those disadvantages resulted in a national wound that has yet to heal and seems unlikely to heal on its own.

We must — we should — use our resources to attempt to remediate the undeniable damage done by this uniquely awful legacy. Even those of us whose ancestors arrived here well after abolition and who have ourselves advocated for racial equality owe a debt to those from whose subjugation we benefited.
The case in equity seems straightforward enough: as a radio commentator put it a few weeks ago, the promise of forty acres and a mule after Emancipation never came to pass.  Between the murder of President Lincoln and the financial scandals affecting the Grant administration, Reconstruction came apart.  Among other things freedmen were not allowed to participate in homesteading the territories (imagine what that might have done to intersectionality narratives a century and a half on); then came the so-called progressives with their eugenics, and the Lost Cause myth, and redlining during the New Deal, and urban renewal and the War on Poverty, which should have given Mr Zorn pause.  "Such proposals are still vague and include Marshall Plan-style efforts to rebuild blighted inner-city neighborhoods, robust jobs programs for unemployed African Americans and significant targeted investment in education at all levels for African Americans."

There's a part of me that would treat June 19th as Tax Jubilee Day, as in any eligible claimant's income earned after June 19th of each year would be now and forever free of taxes, recognizing that Government, particularly Progressive and Activist Government, has been complicit in continuing the subjugation.  That despite, as Steve Chapman notes, private attitudes also mattering.  "Illinois was not a slave state. But African Americans endured bigotry and violence here even after emancipation."

Yes, there are plenty of pundits who wonder how we define eligibility.

Providing a vision for what such a policy would accomplish strikes me as more important.  I'm reminded of an observation General Eisenhower made sometime after V-E Day.  Not his brief "The mission of this Expeditionary Force was completed."  It wasn't over after the war crimes trials either.

Rather, the general observed something along the lines (the exact passage is at the end of Citizen Soldiers) of "If in fifty years, the Germans have a functioning, peaceful democracy, this Expeditionary Force will have succeeded."  It took a Berlin Airlift and the failure of the Warsaw Pact and the restructuring of Soviet Russia in the interim, and yet, as a long-term outcome, that is not bad.

Peter Van Buren suggests that compensation distracts from more serious challenges.
Talk about reparations that have no chance of happening is an excuse to avoid the much harder work of enforcing our anti-discrimination laws in employment and housing, making sure schools are not separate and unequal, and lifting millions of Americans of all races out of poverty. Those challenges will not go away with reparations. 
Walter Williams argues along similar lines.
The nation's most dangerous big cities are Detroit, Oakland, St. Louis, Memphis, Stockton, Birmingham, Baltimore, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago, and Milwaukee. The common characteristic of most of these cities is that they have predominantly black populations and blacks have considerable political power as mayors, city councilmen and chiefs of police. Energy spent on reparations should be used to solve those problems.
I'm not sure "Instead of" is the right terminology.

The Germans had the intellectual tradition of Kant and Beethoven and Schiller to draw on; there is the intellectual tradition of Douglass and Joplin and King to draw on, whether there are new policies in place or not.



Here I thought Pella Windows of Wisconsin had decided capitalizing on broken windows wasn't a good idea, but apparently they're just running through all the summer sports, most recently with pitcher Gina Della apologizing for an errant shot going through a window at one of those golf-course community houses.

Perhaps, though, if your deck-level windows and patio door aren't made of shatterproof glass, as I believe contemporary building codes require, it might be wise to buy replacements.


The Babylon Bee has some fun with the ladies' World Cup.  "Soccer is a game played by children and Europeans that involves moving a ball around without using one’s hands -- the feature that distinguishes man from lesser animals. It is unclear how such an activity could generate money."  There's some serious political economy to take up, involving pay for play, but not today.  "Footie is popular with eight-year-old girls in the United States, and adolescent males all over the Third World."

The Bee's writers are speaking my language.  "Whatever the explanation, time is ticking down to figure it out -- or ticking up since we’re talking about soccer where they don’t even know how to use a clock."  Well, they at least know how to use a stopwatch, or perhaps an egg timer.  "You run around for ninety minutes, plus some unspecified extra time incurred because there are stoppages of play and out of bounds set plays and somebody who never went to clown college doing a bad parody of a pratfall, and after that, there is no score (nil-nil, for the purists) or it's tied (sometimes in the extra time) and then you go to a bad parody of overtime in college football?"



DeKalb's first responders, with the assistance of Johnsonville Sausage's Big Taste Grill, held a fund-raiser last week for Special Olympics.

The grill set up on the west side of the new indoor practice facility.

Representatives of local police forces, including the university, formed one team, with firefighters from the area forming the other.  They played seven innings of Chicago Rules softball on the men's baseball diamond.  With that large softball, the outfielders could set up just beyond the infield dirt.  Catching that thing without a mitt isn't easy, or is throwing it.

I'm not joking about the size of that grill.  There once was a Johnsonville meat market, in Johnsonville.  I've been shopping there.


Virgin Brightline weren't able to complete the first two legs of their service as fast as they would have liked, which means they carried fewer passengers and lost more money.  It's relentlessly on to Orlando, all the same.
Virgin Trains’ South Florida line was phased in during 2018, with the West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale run opening in mid-January and the Miami line not opening until late May. The service has only operated with its full schedule of 16 roundtrips a day since August.

With those factors in its calculations, a December analysis released by credit ratings agency Fitch Ratings, indicated ridership was actually ahead of analyst projections, which was pivotal in securing financing for the expansion to Orlando by 2022.

In its first quarter 2019 unaudited financial statement released on June 28, Virgin Trains reported first-quarter passenger fare revenue of $5.4 million, seven times what it collected in the first quarter of 2018.

Virgin Trains noted it has seen growth in ridership and revenue in every quarter, including growth in business and commuter riders, and that nearly half of its riders travel the full length from West Palm Beach to Miami, which it cites as a strong indicator that trains are preferred transportation options for trips too short to fly and too long to drive.

In May, Virgin Trains announced it had hired five contractors to begin constriction of its Phase 2 expansion.
That expansion is going to use enough material for Jack Casement to have built all the way across Utah.
“This monumental infrastructure project will include the laying of 490,000 ties and transporting 2.35 million tons of granite and limestone by 20,000 railcars,” the company said in a release. “Additionally, approximately 2 million spikes and bolts will be hammered and put in place over the next 36 months. During this process, Virgin Trains USA Phase 2 will generate more than 10,000 jobs and over $650 million in federal, state and local tax revenue.”
That doesn't include the reduced wear and tear on Florida's roads should the trains, given free rein to 110 between Orlando and the Atlantic coast, attract tourists who might otherwise rent cars and clog the various highways of the coast and the amusement park district.


Our desperate cosmopolitans are surely thin-skinned.  Consider the reaction of ankle-biting pundit Aaron Blake to a possible mis-statement by Our President.  "When asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments saying Western-style liberalism was 'obsolete,' Trump apparently thought this term literally referred to the western United States and American liberals." That might be so, and it might be another Trumpian solecism, or perhaps it's staying on message.

That is, Our President could have noted that it is the Western Liberal Order that relies on the United States to send troops into limited wars and futile nation-building efforts Just Because (and he's been stopping that sort of thing), but it might have been more effective to do, as he did, and point out the way coastal Democrats have ruined the places they rule.

In a larger sense, though, it doesn't matter whether Tsar Vladimir is referring to the so-called liberal international order or to the mess that the Pacific Coast states have become, because either way, it's about a ruling establishment that is past its sell-by date.

If you're working for the Coastal Establishment, though, there's never a bad time to take a cheap shot.
Democratic liberalism, of course, does not refer to the western United States, but rather the Western world — which generally includes the United States and much of Europe. And liberalism is a political theory that values the freedom of the individual. That term has come to be associated with left-leaning American politicians and political activists, but some right-leaning political thinkers still claim the term as their own.

Broadly speaking, democratic liberalism has been the leading political ideology across the western world since World War II. Of late, though, populist movements across Europe have gained power, leading to questions about how long liberal democracies can survive. Putin’s comments were clearly about that, but Trump doesn’t appear to have processed this very significant development on the world stage.
Don't you just love that condescending "of course" and the pivot to libertarians who are still fighting a rearguard action in support of "classical liberalism" as opposed to the Roosevelt - Johnson style?

It might be hype to suggest, as various First Things writers do, that "liberal democracies" (in the sense Mr Blake is using the term) are at risk because the old Washington Consensus is dead.
Yes, the old conservative consensus paid lip service to traditional values. But it failed to retard, much less reverse, the eclipse of permanent truths, family stability, communal solidarity, and much else. It surrendered to the pornographization of daily life, to the culture of death, to the cult of competitiveness. It too often bowed to a poisonous and censorious multiculturalism.

Faced with voters’ resounding “No!” to these centrifugal forces, consensus conservatives have grown only more rigid in their certainties. They have elevated prudential judgments and policies into sacred dogmas. These dogmas—free trade on every front, free movement through every boundary, small government as an end in itself, technological advancement as a cure-all—foreclose debate about the nature and purpose of our common life.

Consensus conservatism long ago ceased to inquire into the first things. But we will not.
That manifesto will not please the likes of Mr Blake either.  But Mr Blake is biting Our President's ankles in support of a most illiberal version of illiberal democracy, namely the version called Consensus Governance by Wise Experts.

Think I'm kidding?  Read some more ankle-biting, this time by Ivo Daalder, who currently heads the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (so renamed because the old Chicago Council on Foreign Relations provoked images of black helicopters).  First he champions popular sovereignty.
Putin wasn’t talking about Los Angeles or San Francisco, however. He was calling into question the very liberalism at the core of the American republic itself – the essential notion of ensuring the rights of the individual above all else. Or, as the Declaration of Independence, put it: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And that the role of government is above all to secure those unalienable rights.

This idea that government exists to protect the rights of individuals – by ensuring their freedom of speech and assembly, safeguarding a free press and equality of all under the law – is what distinguishes Western liberal democracies from more authoritarian governments around the world. And the U.S., as leader of the free world, has for many decades been their chief champion.
It is altogether fitting and proper to write such things the weekend we celebrate American Independence.

In his next paragraph, though, he invokes the Divine Right of the Credentialed.
In many of today’s liberal democracies, a growing number of people are rebelling against governing elites, whom they blame for opening borders to ever larger numbers of migrants and for leaving all too many people behind in a globalizing economy that has shifted jobs abroad and incomes from the many to the few.

Rising discontent has provided openings for strongman leaders, some of whom now openly embrace an “illiberal” form of democracy. These leaders have sought to weaken a free press, undermine judicial independence and divide societies. They’ve appealed to populism and a narrow nationalism.
I'd be more inclined to believe you, Mr Daalder, if I didn't just endure three years of Mueller investigation, all with the purpose of reversing a valid presidential election; three years of process-worship delaying if not destroying a duly-voted choice of Britons to get out of the European Union; if I didn't see a nominee to the Supreme Court subjected to phony accusations with the intent of dividing voters.

As Scott Greer noted last year,
It’s hard to say how an international body, led by unelected bureaucrats, punishing a member state for voting the wrong way will reinforce democratic principles. But the whole argument isn’t really about democracy — it’s about Hungary rejecting Eurocrat liberalism.

Many of the people presently criticizing Hungary want to spread democracy all over the globe, even if that requires western military action. But their preferred form of democracy doesn’t mean accepting the will of the people. It’s a type of government where power is invested in left-leaning elites and that promotes progressive orthodoxy.

You can still be a “real democracy” if you jail people for wrongthink Facebook posts and silence prominent dissidents with “hate speech” charges. All of Western Europe stifles free speech, yet you don’t see calls in The Washington Post for those countries to be punished.

That’s because the enemies of the elites are the ones who are punished, not the elites themselves. Orban is hated because he attacks the elites, which is why his victory must be delegitimized.

Advocates of the liberal consensus still have to maintain the illusion that their agenda is what the people really want — even when 70 percent of the people vote against it. Accusations of tainted elections, Russian meddling and voting irregularities always follow when an election doesn’t go their way.

We saw this with Brexit, Trump’s presidential victory and last month’s election in Italy. In all those cases, center-left politicians were humiliated, making them either question the merits of democracy or hunting for a scapegoat to rationalize their defeat. In the UK and US, liberals are still desperate to find ways to overturn the results of those events, showing their inability to cope with the people voting incorrectly.
It is the right of the People to overturn governing arrangements that have not served them well.

Mr Daalder, who also pronounced anathema on Hungarian voters for voting with what they perceived to be their interests, rather than the interests of Eurocrats and cosmopolitans, is going to have to endure more mugging by reality.  "Instead of bolstering security alliances, we are calling them into question. Instead of shoring up free trade regimes, we are undermining them with tariffs. Instead of embracing human rights and liberal values, we are embracing the very dictators who are violating them."


What is it with Illinois public officials?  A few years ago, employees of Northern Illinois University topped up a coffee fund with the proceeds from selling scrap.

Apparently, employees of the Chicago Park District saw that as an opportunity.  "Some Chicago Park District employees sold scrap metal for more than $60,000 in cash that never made its way back to the district, while others set up Sam’s Club accounts using the district’s tax-exempt status to buy personal items totaling thousands of dollars, the district’s top watchdog found in its latest report."

Much like the coffee fund, the park district had numerous contributors.
One investigation involved several Park District employees in trades and landscape departments who sold scrap metal for $64,000 in cash across hundreds of transactions between 2012 and 2017. Although 11 employees were implicated in the investigation, two employees made the majority of transactions, according to the report, collecting $44,000 that never made its way to the Park District.

The two employees denied pocketing the cash, according to Fletcher’s report, and said they gave the money to a now-retired foreman. The employees said they had no idea where it went from there.

The Park District initiated termination proceedings for the two employees, as well as disciplinary or termination proceedings for the other involved employees, following the inspector general’s recommendations.
It's apparently against city rules to sell scrap for cash, but if the scrap merchant doesn't know that's supposed to be an official sale, paying cash doesn't produce a paper trail of checks made out to the coffee fund.

Chicago being Chicago, though, there are apparently no limits to the ability of public officials to game the system.
In another investigation, [state inspector general Will] Fletcher’s office found 24 Sam’s Club members set up accounts using the Park District’s tax-exempt status and bought thousands of dollars worth of personal items without paying sales tax. Seventeen of the 24 members were current or former Park District employees — and seven had never even been employees.

Using the Park District’s exemption for personal purchases is sales tax evasion under Illinois law, Fletcher’s report said, and tax-exempt purchases are only permitted for Park District-related purchases.

The employees claimed to not know personal items weren’t taxed, according to the report, even though they were required to confirm at the point-of-sale that purchases were “used in (the) operation of an exempt organization."

From 2015 to 2019, one supervisory employee purchased items totaling $2,810 without paying tax, according to the report. The employee said they bought a tax-free television “on behalf of the park’s advisory council.”

Another supervisory employee purchased $9,326 worth of items — including beer, food, groceries and laundry detergent — without paying tax on the majority of items, according to the report.

A third purchased $14,204 worth of items — like groceries, diapers and clothing — and most were tax-exempt.
Now, if Chicago public officials had studied with the Brazilians, perhaps none of these underlings would have been caught.



Today's not-to-be-regular Saturday bridge column features the luck of the draw in my favor.

I'm holding sixteen points and a balanced hand, which, had I bid before the North robot, might have been a one No Trump, absence of stoppers in Diamonds.  When the algorithm raised with three Diamonds, I chose the path of least resistance and bid Three No Trump, game on the cheapest possible terms.

Let's take stock: one winner in Spades, three in Hearts, two in Diamonds with the Queen outstanding, and three in Clubs, which suffices for the contract.  West opened with the ♠10. Let's take that trick with the Ace (1) and work on the other winners: ♣9 to dummy's Ace (2), now an error: ♥10 back to my Ace (3), take care of the last two Clubs(5), then the ♥9 to dummy's King, which is asking for trouble with no way to get back to my hand to lead the ♥Q.  Fortunately as the outstanding Diamonds divided two in the West and one in the East, the leads of the two commanding cards forced out the Queen, and the Jack and all the other Diamonds picked up the remaining tricks.  I ended up pitching the ♥Q on the ♦5. and the ♠J on the ♦3.

The teaching point in this example is in finding sufficient entry cards so as to be able to make the nine tricks even if all three outstanding Diamonds are in one hand.  Perhaps ♣9 to dummy's Ace, ♥K to one of the little Hearts in hand, now the ♥10 to get the lead back in hand with the Queen, cash the Ace and the last two Clubs, then a low one to activate the Diamonds, perhaps finessing around the Queen: if all three Diamonds are in the West, the Jack holds the first trick and I run the rest.  (Note, though, that's being greedy.  After I've taken care of the Spade, three Hearts, and three Clubs, the ♦K and ♦A fulfill the contract and it's garbage time.)

Otherwise, the contract might have been in trouble,  as the ♠J would have fallen either to the King or Queen, depending on who had the lead first, and there were a lot of low Clubs outstanding.


The Federalist's Kyle Sammin brings politics through the North River tunnels.  "Reconstructing New York’s Penn Station in its original grandeur could be just the thing to reinvigorate conservatism in America’s cities and suburbs."

He starts with the tunnels.
One big expense is the North River tunnels. Opened in 1908, these tunnels built by the Pennsylvania Railroad connect New York with New Jersey and are the way into the city for Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains. Their capacity of 24 trains per hour is maxed out, and has been for years.

They are also nearing the end of their useful life. Without new tunnels being built, the existing tubes would need to be closed one at a time to be overhauled, cutting traffic in half at a time it should really be doubled. The situation would never be tolerated if the river-crossing in question were an interstate highway bridge.

The plan to double the tunnels’ capacity is very costly, and became a political football at the state and federal levels. The latest incarnation, called the Gateway Program, is predicted to cost nearly $15 billion.
Have we really been wrangling about these tunnels for almost a decade?

When those dashing commuters and incela rent-seekers get off the train, though, what greets them is not pretty.
New York spent $4 billion on the new World Trade Center subway station that opened in 2016, double the original planned cost. Penn Station’s projected costs are comparable.

So even if we treat that estimate skeptically and assume it doubles like other station’s costs did, it is still $6 or $7 billion for a station used by 600,000 passengers a day, compared to $4 billion for one used by just 46,000 a day. With the federal government scheduled to spend more than $4 trillion this year, even picking up the entire cost of the station in one year would result in it costing less than 0.2 percent of the federal budget. Sharing costs with the states and city and spreading it out over the years of construction reduces that figure even more.

Those who backed Trump for president tend to be fairly comfortable with federal spending and do not fixate on ideological distinctions between infrastructure for trains and infrastructure for cars. They look back fondly, as do many non-Trump voters, on a time when America built great things. The transcontinental railroads, the Hoover Dam, and Apollo space program all inspired Americans and showcased our national triumph.

The idea that we should make America great again inspired a lot of voters in 2016. That promise is not fulfilled by tax cuts—as welcome as they were—nor by tweaks to entitlement programs, however much those may be needed. Greatness is in what we do, not in what we cut.
Because I'm thinking about running transportation capital as if by a multidivisional firm, I'm more sympathetic to arguments that an improved Pennsylvania Station (complete with four tracks for passenger trains from Philadelphia all the way to New Haven) if bundled with more sensible pricing of the turnpikes, tunnels and bridges that also serve Manhattan; and it occurs to me that a station and associated tunnels are a capital investment, that is to say, an asset generating a stream of income for which a portfolio of government bonds makes sense.  We don't have to use railroad-style betterment accounting, which what that "picking up the cost of the station in one year" is.

It doesn't make sense for a station that was jammed during the Christmas holidays of World War II to be attempting to handle more passengers on a daily basis in a smaller space.


The Philadelphia Flyers can put Kate Smith down the memory hole; and hack architects might propose to ugly up Notre Dame de Paris.  The good news is, there are people who might be of the left who do not want to put a socialist-realist fresco in San Francisco (!) there.
After the San Francisco Board of Education unanimously voted to paint over a Depression-era mural cycle depicting George Washington as a slaveholder and perpetrator of genocide against Native Americans, 139 academics, artists, and activists signed an open letter this week decrying the board's decision as a "display of contempt for history" and urging it to reverse course.

"In a recent vote, the board of the San Francisco Unified School District voted unanimously to destroy the murals," reads the letter, which is expected to be delivered Friday to the San Francisco school board. "To repeat: they voted to destroy a significant monument of anti-racism. This is a gross violation of logic and sense."Located in San Francisco's George Washington High School, the 1,600-square foot mural was painted by Russian-born immigrant and communist Victor Arnautoff in 1937 as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration.

As the Associated Press described the mural, "The first president's rise to power is shown across 13 frescoes, including one that depicts slaves working on Washington's property and white men stepping past the body of a slain Native American."

The work has been a source of heated controversy for decades, with some students and activists characterizing it as an offensive and racist portrayal of Native and African Americans. Others have said the mural has historical value and should be preserved, but is not appropriate for a public high school.
I love that "not appropriate for a public high school."  Yes, if college is the new middle school, by continuity, what is high school?  Elsewhere, the article mentions opportunities to "contextualize" (trust intellectualoids to overthink things) the frescoes.  Indeed.  If high schools still functioned like high schools (which, apart from a few advanced placement classes, apparently they don't) wouldn't one of the functions of high school be to "contextualize?"

See Peter Dreier for more.
San Francisco has a well-deserved reputation as one of America’s most progressive cities. But the school board members are embarrassing the city, and themselves, with their vote to dismantle or cover up Arnautoff paintings. They are, in fact, denying students the opportunity to learn about the nation’s controversial and contested past.


Expanding so-called freeways fails.

Until the Illinois Tollway Authority start treating the Tri-State Tollway like a productive asset, the planned expansion (because "Four for the Future" was good for only a generation) to six lanes each way will fail.
In the Chicago area, new and expanded highways have failed again and again to relieve congestion. As the region builds its transportation system of the future, there is no reason to think that applying the same flawed logic to the same transportation problems will work this time.
But until the highway authorities start thinking of their roads as productive assets, which are part of a larger transportation system, which also involves public money for locks, airports, piers, and commuter trains, and pricing all of their services the way a multidivisional business would, the infrastructure will likely continue to be uneconomic and subject to decay.

I'm going to have some time to think about such things while I chase a Big Boy around the Upper Midwest, and there's likely to be a mini-dissertation on what a state department of transportation might do to capture value from all its divisions.


The project continues.  Kyle Smith concludes,
America didn’t complete the project of freedom on that broiling day in Philly, but that’s like saying your kid’s first day of school is no big deal because your kids can’t do algebra yet. On July 4, 1776, we began setting up the greatest opportunity for human flourishing the world has ever known, and our example continues to be the world’s beacon. The United States of America isn’t perfect. We’re merely the best.
Peter Dreier and Dick Flacks concur, if for reasons that are subtle.
Progressives understand that people can disagree with their government and still love their country and its ideals. The flag, as a symbol of the nation, is not owned by the administration in power, but by the people. We battle over what it means, but all Americans—across the political spectrum—have an equal right to claim the flag as their own.
Indeed, the significance of Independence is that the people stood up and said it was for them to consent to being governed, not to have to submit to the rule of hereditary overlords.

No less than Abraham Lincoln (via Scott Johnson) laid down his marker on the side of emergence.  Mr Lincoln was taking issue with the paternalism implicit in Dred Scott, of the slave incapable of agency, and yet his words generalize.
Now I ask you in all soberness, if all these things, if indulged in, if ratified, if confirmed and endorsed, if taught to our children, and repeated to them, do not tend to rub out the sentiment of liberty in the country, and to transform this Government into a government of some other form.

Those arguments that are made, that the inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying; that as much is to be done for them as their condition will allow. What are these arguments? They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of king-craft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people, not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden.

That is their argument, and this argument of the Judge is the same old serpent that says you work and I eat, you toil and I will enjoy the fruits of it. Turn in whatever way you will—whether it come from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving the people of his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old serpent, and I hold if that course of argumentation that is made for the purpose of convincing the public mind that we should not care about this, should be granted, it does not stop with the negro. I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle and making exceptions to it where will it stop. If one man says it does not mean a negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man?
Yes, and six score years of Governance by Wise Experts because It's For Your Own Good (Deplorable) has squandered the Victory Dividend and enriched the Credentialed Elite at the expense of the Normals, and it's better that we claim ownership rather than submit, even if today's enslavement of the Normals is for the redress of past grievances.