Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sports pundit J. R. Radcliffe asks, "[I]s this the most frustrating season for Wisconsin football fans in recent memory?"

That "in recent memory" is salient, as the Badgers were terrible for about thirty years, from the 1963 season to the surprise trip to the Rose Bowl, and the Packers were terrible for almost as long, with no titles after the Lombardi era to what we now know as Super Bowl XXXI.  "1990-92 - End of an era (and good riddance)."

Two crappy years back-to-back (2017, 2018): that's enough anecdotal evidence for someone who argues by example to say "trend."


Railway Age asks D. P. Alan to evaluate Brightline's partnership with Virgin Group.  The train service impresses.
Brightline spokesperson Ali Soule told this writer: “We are at the intersection of transportation and hospitality” and the station and on-board experiences proved her right. There were plenty of employees around to cater to every rider’s needs, and their attitudes were positive and helpful at all times. Of course, they also made sure that passengers stayed in their assigned places and did not wander too far. For riders in the extra-fare “Select” class, the railroad offered wine, coffee, snacks like chips and granola bars, breakfast pastries in the morning, and cheese, crackers and cold cuts in the afternoon. There were also wine, beer (the Jai Alai IPA is local and appropriately hoppy, even though in comes in a can) and snacks available on board. “Non-Select” passengers had to pay for them.

Soule also pointed out some of the features of the car design, including some inspired by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), like unique restrooms and small grabirons attached to the seats, so passengers did not need to grab the backs of the seats to steady themselves. In reality, they were not needed, because the track was the smoothest this writer has ever experienced. It was possible to fill a cup to the brim with beer and watch it for a few minutes, without a drop being spilled. That feat is impossible on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) or anywhere else Amtrak goes.
I believe somebody conducted a similar test with a cup of coffee on the press run of the Hiawatha in 1935, and the coffee stayed in the cup at 112 mph.  The challenge, dear reader, is in providing a train service from somewhere to somewhere, and that's not so promising, in Mr Alan's view.
On Sept. 18, Brightline acquired XpressWest, a high-speed rail venture that would run trains between Southern California and Las Vegas along the I-15 corridor, beginning in 2022. The Southern California end would be in Victorville, a town east of San Bernardino and 119 miles from Los Angeles by rail. Amtrak’s Southwest Chief stops there, but the only way that Angelinos can get there on public transportation would entail a long ride to San Bernardino on a Metrolink train and taking an infrequent local bus from there to Victorville. Motorists could park in Victorville and take the train the rest of the way to Las Vegas.

It does not appear to this writer than either market is fertile ground. It would cost motorists convenience and money to drive to Victorville and take the train, while the trip would be extremely long and difficult for transit riders. If management could figure out a way to run through to Las Vegas from Los Angeles, that would be a different story. It would probably require an agreement with Amtrak and BNSF, which owns the route to Victorville.
Yup, despite quips about "there being no there there" where downtown Los Angeles is concerned.

Virgin, though, is relatively new to U.S. travellers.
Virgin is an established brand, but more in Europe (it is based in London) than in the U.S. It is also a widespread conglomerate, both geographically and in terms of other business lines. With regard to travel, it is building ships for a cruise line to be based in Plantation, Fla. (Virgin Voyages), so it is establishing a related travel-based presence in the region. It is not quite as clear how well-respected the Virgin name is in this country, which does not prize the concept of virginity as much as other places in the world. Virginity is a status that many people lose relatively early in their lives. It seems that a company courting that status is moving in the other direction.

Virgin Group has holdings in the travel, hospitality, publishing, media, entertainment, retail, communications, sports and other industries. It has also given up more branding positions throughout its history than it owns today. It retains a minority share in Virgin Atlantic Air Lines, which did well in 2015, but has lost money more recently. It has discontinued or sold other airline holdings, but it retains tour operation Virgin Holidays.

With respect to rail, it still owns 51% of Virgin Rail Group, having sold the other 49% to Stagecoach, which owns such American companies as Coach USA and Megabus. Virgin’s experience operating rail franchises in the U.K. has been spotty, with a history of operating the Intercity Cross-Country, East Coast and West Coast franchises. It lost all three at different times, but regained the West Coast franchise until next April. It is currently bidding to keep that franchise under its brand with a 20% position, along with French railroad SNCF (30%) and the other 50% held by Stagecoach Group.
That's where market tests come in.
Everybody, including rail managers and rider-advocates, have been watching Brightline’s progress to determine whether or not it would be feasible to introduce passenger trains back into the private sector. It now appears, at least to this writer, that it is not. The railroad had plenty of land in downtown Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach that could be developed. That land is a great asset on the balance sheet, and it would contribute much more to the bottom line after it is developed. Other privately owned railroads do not have that special asset.

There is a difference between a balance sheet and a cash flow statement, and it appears that even Brightline and its owners did not have the cash to build the new railroad they planned. So they needed an investor. They got some cash, and they paid the price. The trains may run to Orlando someday, but the experiment failed.

So, if you wish to experience Brightline, you had better get on an Amtrak train or a plane soon, and go to South Florida to ride the brightly colored train. You do not have much time.
Whether other railroads will seek relief from ancient regulatory constraints on the ownership of real estate and commercial properties, the better to provide developments for development-oriented transit, remains to be seen.


David "Voluntary Xchange" Tufte expands on our report that the Wise Experts at Oakland University (if they called it Michigan State University at Troy you could have the Trojan Spartans I suppose) issued students with hockey pucks, yes, hockey pucks, as a way of deterring active shooters.

Just go, enjoy it.  A sample.  "Wouldn’t a baseball be better than a puck, on a purely aerodynamic basis? Better range? Higher accuracy?"  Go and read.

Back in the day, I used to put my body in the way of pucks.  When they're powered by somebody who knows how to use a hockey stick, they pack a wallop.  But they're lousy projectiles: either a baseball, because it's symmetric, or a manganese steel Frisbee, because it's aerodynamic and hardened, would be more effective at longer ranges.

Years ago I asked, "Is anybody in charge at Oakland?"  Apparently the answer is "Terminally Stupid People."

I wonder if the Oakland students will bring their pucks with them when they venture into Detroit for a night in Greektown or at the casinos or at a hockey game.

One concluding note: another question from Voluntary Xchange.  " Oakland has chosen to poorly arm a broader group, rather than to better arm a smaller group … work out the calculus on whether that’s a good choice or not."

Northern Illinois University has prior experience with active shooter situations, and their response includes a smaller group of people who might be armed.  "There are sufficiently many veterans and twenty- and thirty-something students here that the signature of an undercover officer will be difficult to pick up."

As far as I know, the only university-issued hockey pucks here are for the latest intercollegiate sport.



I'm no fan of Thomas Friedman, spinmeister for the technocrats, peddler of policy nostrums in sound-bites, flattener of worlds.  Neither is Belén Fernández, whose The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work is part of Verso Press's Counterblast series, touted as challenges to "the apologists of Empire and Capital." The Puritan and Leveller counterblasts were short pamphlets, whilst Imperial Messenger is a book that really requires careful reading.

Book Review No. 35 will highlight the observations Ms Fernández makes about Mr Friedman's style of argument, if in fact you can call it argument.  Her book sorts a number of his columns into sections called "America," "The Arab/Muslim World," and "The Special Relationship."  Let us stipulate that the author is the sort of Third World-o-phile who takes a more sympathetic view of the antics of Moslems in general and Palestinians in particular than do I, and that she's more inclined to view the shortcomings of Latin American failed states as Made in Washington than as the fruits of the late Roman Empire and Bolivaran socialism.

Fine.  We can debate that.  We can debate that on stronger grounds than those underpinning a Thomas Friedman column.  To be blunt, there's d**n little in a Friedman column for me to rely on, should we engage in such a debate.

The preface, page xi, is a good place to start.  "Friedman's writing is characterized by a reduction of complex international phenomena to simplistic rhetoric and theorems that rarely withstand the test of reality."  In reality, a Thomas Friedman article never comes close to producing a theorem, but so it always is with argument by anecdote.  Mr Friedman's own words, introducing the concluding remarks, page 135, is a good place to finish.  "When widely followed public figures feel free to say anything, without any fact checking, we have a problem."

Yup.  Fake News.  It's priceless, then, to have Mr Friedman lamenting a crisis of authority.  Ms Fernández and I would likely agree that Mr Friedman continuing to be an Honored Guest on Meet The Press is part of that crisis.  "Thomas Friedman as pope, Chuck Todd as loyal cardinal, Helene Cooper and Robert Costa managing the Index, and Danielle Pletka as Devil's Advocate."  As it was in the beginning, it is now and ever shall be, turf out the wise experts!

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)


Railway Age editor William C. Vantuono publishes some Amtrak braggadocio.
“We made significant advancements to improve safety and the customer experience, posting our best operating performance in company history” said Amtrak Board Chair Tony Coscia. “We remain on track to cover total operating costs from ticket and other revenues in the next few years, which will allow us to focus funding on business improvements and expansion (8).”

“With refreshed train interiors, improved amenities and renewed stations and infrastructure, our customers are noticing a difference,” said Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson. “We are continuing to make passenger rail the preferred mode of travel for business and leisure.”
That comes after the obligatory bullet points, the carrier suspecting that readers can't follow an argument in ordinary prose.

He then performs an essential public service.
Editor’s Notes (translating much of the euphemistic, corporate-speak nonsense language in Amtrak’s press release):

(1) Passenger car upgrades.

(2) Cleaner passenger car interiors.

(3) Private, portable cubicles for breast-feeding mothers not much bigger than an ADA-sized porta-a-potty. A nice touch, though.

(4) The Trump Administration so far has refused to provide any federal funding for the Gateway Program.

(5) Cold boxed meals instead of hot food served in a dining car. Various Amtrak sources have told Railway Age that the brand-new CAF USA-built Viewliner II dining cars—part of a multi-million-dollar-order for baggage cars, sleepers and diners—are having their expensive cooking equipment removed and undergoing conversion into lounge cars.
There's more, equally unsparing.  Equally refreshing, as well.


Who are you going to believe, the apologists for Business as Usual or your eyes?

Take the most recent Meet the Press.  (Please?)

It opens with moderator Chuck Todd unloading on Our President.  The first guest, from a remote studio, is Utah Senator Mike Lee.  The transcript does not indicate where Mr Todd becomes truculent and argumentative, although the interruption and the length of his questions provide a clue.  (Just play the video if you require further convincing.)
CHUCK TODD: Let me start with the president's back and forth with the chief justice. It was really the heads of two branches I think having a debate about the Constitution perhaps and I feel as if that's in your wheelhouse. So let me ask you, what was your reaction to the president's dismissiveness of the rebuke that Chief Justice Roberts gave to him about how the judiciary works and how it should be represented by public officials?

SEN. MIKE LEE: Look, it's not entirely unprecedented for a president of the United States or another public official to criticize court rulings, in some cases, Supreme Court rulings, as President Obama aggressively criticized the Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United case. Now look, this isn't my style. I get very uncomfortable.

CHUCK TODD: He didn't call them "Bush justices" though, did he?

SEN. MIKE LEE: No, he didn't. But, you know, I served with a number of colleagues in the Senate, including some on the Judiciary Committee who routinely accuse the current Supreme Court of being in the pocket of big business in the United States of America. This makes me feel uncomfortable too. I'm a lawyer by training and as a lawyer, I try to express disagreement about the courts without impugning the court's motives whenever I can.

CHUCK TODD: This seems –

SEN. MIKE LEE: But as a president of the United States, he certainly has the right to express his opinion on these things.

CHUCK TODD: The problem is, when he speaks, he carries with him a big following that goes down these rabbit holes with him. He's gone after the judiciary, he's gone after the integrity of our election systems, he's now again contradicting his own CIA, the Justice Department, the free press, we, I could go on and on. You rebuke him rhetorically quite a bit when he does these things. But his behavior never changes. Do you ask yourself what's the point in rebuking him?

SEN. MIKE LEE: Well, he has been elected president of the United States. We all know that he has an unconventional style, he has a different approach than other people have taken to this job. But he is in fact the president of the United States and it's some of these same styles that helped get him elected in the first place. And so what I can do for my part as a United States senator is to help steer him in a direction that I think is consistent with his policies and in the best interest of the American people. I do think for what it’s worth --

CHUCK TODD: Do you have a breaking point? Do you have a breaking point?

SENATOR MIKE LEE: Oh sure. Look, any time somebody violates the Constitution, I'm going to call them out on it and do what I can from my position as a member of the U.S. Senate to stop it. But I do think, to the president's credit, and to what you were saying a few minutes ago about the need for a president to pivot after an election perhaps didn't go his way during a midterm, I think President Trump is doing that. Sometimes with this president, you've got to look not just at what he says, but also at what he does. Look at the fact that in the days following the midterm election, President Trump has come out aggressively for criminal justice reform. This is a big bipartisan opportunity. And I look forward to getting it done.

CHUCK TODD: I want to ask you something about what you said though recently. You said that you were so worried about political rhetoric and the rancor and that it's reached such a fever pitch that you said, quote, "It's going to drive our politics toward violence. Ultimately, this will come down to a binary choice, federalism or violence." That's a pretty extreme diagnosis of the current problem.

SENATOR MIKE LEE: It's not extreme. In fact, it's probably the least controversial speech I've given in a long time. Look, according to a recent poll conducted by NPR, 80% of Americans believe that our political divisiveness in this country, especially at a national level is driving us to a point that could result in violence. This is a real, legitimate concern. It's one of the reasons why the Founding Fathers were right in setting up a government that at the national level would be in charge of only a few things that are distinctively unavoidably, and by designation of the Constitution, mandated to be at the national level while reserving all other powers for states and localities. Recognizing there's a whole lot more agreement on a regional basis, on a state by state, or community-by-community basis, than there will ever be at the national level. And I think that is the best way, it may well be the only way, to avoid some of this divisiveness.
It continues in a similar vein for a few more rounds of questions.

The next guest is longtime Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings, in studio.
CHUCK TODD: Let me start with the Saudi issue first and foremost. Because I know you've been on this issue as well. You have the president disagreeing with his C.I.A. What responsibility at Oversight? Do you look to see if he has financial motivation for making the decision? And is this something Congress needs to look into?

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS: I think it's definitely something that we need to look into. And we probably will. Keep in mind, Chuck, one of the things that we’re concerned about in Oversight is the emoluments clause and wondering whether the president is acting in his best interest or those of the American people. And I think this will be appropriate and there are other committees that will be looking at this too.

CHUCK TODD: You have so many subpoena requests.


CHUCK TODD: And you have members on the Democratic side of the aisle who have all of these investigations they want to start. Your job is to prioritize this. Explain your priorities. Explain what the prism of how you're going to make these decisions about what's worthy of the committee's time and what will look like sort of crass, partisan politics.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS: Well, there are a number of subpoenas that we have requested, some 64. And these, Chuck, are things that we would have normally done under Republican or Democratic administration. But let's be abundantly clear. The American people said to us through this election, "We want accountability. We want to check on this president of the United States." But they also said something else. They said, "We want you to solve our problems." And so a lot of our emphasis is going to be on, and laser focus, on things like the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs, protecting our healthcare, dealing with things like issues like opioids. And one that is near and dear to me, voting rights. We're going to look at all of that. Now as far as President Trump and his administration, again, the American people have said to us, "They want robust, transparent investigations with integrity." So I haven't figured out exactly what order they're in, because they're all important. But I guarantee you, we will look at it quite a bit.

CHUCK TODD: I want to put up a quote here actually from Jason Chaffetz, who you were the ranking member when he was chair of the Oversight Committee on the Republican side of the aisle. And he says, first of all, he makes the following claim: "I sent letters and subpoenas to the Trump administration and got no response. I was stymied every step of the way. What makes you think Elijah Cummings will get a response?"


CHUCK TODD: Is he right, by the way? Was he stymied? Even a Republican?

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS: I think, oh, no doubt about it. But I also think that the Republicans were aiders and abettors with regard to helping President Trump do some of the unfortunate things that he's done. Because President Trump knew that there was not going to be any pushback. Now he knows there's going to be some pushback. And it's going to be serious pushback because that's what the American people want. Now, I don't know what will happen. We're going to be very careful with issuing subpoenas. I don't want people to think that the first day I walk in there, we're going to have 38 subpoenas going out the door. Not going to do that. We're going to do it very carefully and make sure that it's done with integrity.

CHUCK TODD: You did not have your own subpoena power when you were ranking member.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS: That's right. For a long time.

CHUCK TODD: And it was the first time that had ever happened, compared to previous congresses, correct?


CHUCK TODD: Do you plan on granting your ranking member, whoever it is on the Republican side, subpoena authority?


CHUCK TODD: So why not? Explain why you wouldn't. If you believe this is something that should've been granted to you when you were in the minority.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS: I didn't say that. They who have power in Washington, have all power. And I think the American people have said they want checks and balances. The subpoenas that I wanted to issue would be much different than what I've seen. I want to issue subpoenas that go to the very heart of our democracy and protecting that democracy.

And subpoenas, by the way, that may involve, say, private industry like the pharmaceutical companies with these skyrocketing drug prices. So it's our opportunity, I will consult with them, I will work with them, unlike they did with me. But, but no.

CHUCK TODD: This is one of those "what's good for the goose is good for the" -- I mean, I guess the point is that, when do you stop?

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS: Chuck, let me be clear. I'm hoping that we will return to a level of civility now. And that's what I'm hoping for. I hope that we can have leadership that just doesn't move to common ground, but move to higher ground. And I plan to lead that way. And one other thing. Our Democratic party, although we may not have been elected by all the people, we've got to govern as if we were.

CHUCK TODD: So what does that mean? You've got to work with this president in some ways, don't you?

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS: Oh yeah. Oh, I would love to work with President Trump. I want to hold him accountable not only to the American people, but I want to hold him accountable to himself. Keep in mind, he is the one who said recently that he's for prescription drugs going down. He's the same one who said that he wants-- he complained during the election about the infrastructure and how our airports are so poor and our roads. And now’s the time. Chuck, we only have two years. That's nothing. And so we've got to get it done. We don't have to hit the ground as Democrats running, we have to hit the ground flying.
That was a good win, Coach. What is your game plan for next week, Coach?

Why does "fake news" have such traction among Normals?

And so it goes.  News Busters picked up what they describe as a "freakout" by Helene Cooper during one of the panel sessions.  Danielle Pletka is again the token opposing voice, such as it is.  But note again who Mr Todd lets talk and who he interrupts.

DANIELLE PLETKA: The problem again is that I think there's a perception among those for whom Donald Trump speaks, and let's admit that Donald Trump does actually speak for some people, that--

CHUCK TODD:I think 46% is a number that seems to be the number -


CHUCK TODD: for people wondering. It seems to be at least that.

DANIELLE PLETKA: And, and, and that's a pretty substantial bunch of people.

CHUCK TODD: Yes, it is.

DANIELLE PLETKA: The problem for many is that they perceive this as an agenda that is much more about corporate and much more about law and much more about the kind of governance that America has and much less about climate. So from the standpoint of those who have doubts about this, and I don't think we can have any doubts that there is climate change, whether it's anthropogenic, I don't know, I'm not a scientist. I look at this as a citizen and I see it so I understand it. On the other hand, we need to also recognize that we just had two of the coldest years, the biggest drop in global temperatures that we've had since the 1980s, the biggest in the last 100 years. We don't talk about that because it's not part of the agenda. The United States has been dropping in C02 emissions since we pulled out of Paris. There are actually good things that are happening. We are not using dirty coal anymore. It's the Europeans who are using dirty coal. There actually is some corporate leadership on this. Yes, we need to deal with these problems, yes we need to mitigate the things we see. But we shouldn't be hysterical.

CHUCK TODD: Helene, it does seem as if there's actually more corporate interest in doing something than there is government interest.

HELENE COOPER: Yeah, it's just the problem is it's not the corporations that are polluting the most. And I actually think we should be hysterical. I'm going to disagree with you on this. I think anybody who has children or anybody who can imagine having children and grandchildren, how can you look at them and think this is the kind of world that through our own inaction and our inability to do something, that we're going to leave them? I think I'm really glad that you're actually having us talk about this on this show because I think it was the height of cynicism to release this report on Black Friday by the Trump administration. And I just think that at some point, we are going to need not just the political leadership, but also the corporate leadership to actually sit down and do something about this.

CHUCK TODD: It does seem as we're afraid of buying this insurance policy. Why are we afraid? Elise, why is the Republican party in particular afraid of buying this insurance policy?

ELISE JORDAN: I think it goes back to deeply-entrenched corporate interests within the Republican party and this is a very defined policy platform that you can see how Republicans have been historically very influenced by their donors on this plank. And you're not going to see it shift.

CHUCK TODD: You think it's distrust that somehow the environmental left will use it to go after other interests rather than--

ELISE JORDAN: I think that philosophically, the anti-regulation bend is there. But I do think that if you look at donors, there's a direct correlation there.


DANIELLE PLETKA: This is why education of the citizenry is essential. In the end, the citizenry has the power. And it's like it was a movement. There was an environmental movement, but it has to be upped up now. And every young person has to realize that they're fighting. But old people are fighting for the young people too now. I care about them. We all care about those kids. You're so right.

CHUCK TODD:We need better civics.

DANIELLE PLETKA: We have a responsibility, better civics.
The unstated premise is that Wise Experts are going to somehow Fix Things.

I'll close with an aesthetic note: those Rachel Maddow glasses aren't going to make Chuck treat Dani any better.  Lose them, particularly with that flyaway hair.  Just saying.


Oakland University, a Gun-Free Zone, Is Giving Students Hockey Pucks to Defend Themselves from Mass Shooters.  Seriously.
Oakland University's faculty union purchased 800 pucks for professors and 1,700 for students, according to NPR. Oakland Police Chief Mark Gordon described the hockey pucks as a "spur-of-the-moment idea that seemed to have some merit to it."

I am skeptical that anyone could effectively wield a hockey puck against a heavily armed intruder, but you never know. Ideally, people who are concerned about gun-wielding maniacs would be able to defend themselves with, well, guns — but Oakland is a gun-free zone. In the event that an armed maniac decided to target the university, he probably would not be deterred by the revelation that he's technically prohibited from bringing weapons onto the campus, which is why the logic of gun-free zones doesn't make a lot of sense. Maybe knowing he'd be pelted with hockey pucks is a minor disincentive, though.

In truth, neither students nor their professors should be unreasonably fearful about a mass shooting taking place on their campus. Despite all the media attention paid to the issue, schools are not especially dangerous places, and mass-casualty events are extremely, blessedly rare. In all likelihood, Oakland students will have to find other uses for their new pucks.
Let's hope Oakland doesn't have to test their weapons.

Our universities are being run by terminally stupid people.



How bad is Amtrak's Contemporary Dining Experience?

This bad: "Maybe the sturdy wooden packaging for those boxed lunches on some other Amtrak routes now makes more sense."

Story here.


Thank you, Franklin Roosevelt, for setting Thanksgiving as the third Thursday of November (thus as early as the 17th and no later than the 23d)  the better to allow more shopping days until Christmas.

It's long been not enough for merchants to open the doors as usual on Friday, choosing to open at midnight, or even to open late on Thanksgiving itself.  (That might allow for ample shopping time before watching a Mid-American Conference football game, that conference having abdicated Saturdays to the power conferences.)

It's all too much for Gracy Olmstead at The American Conservative.
Black Friday itself should become an afterthought during the Thanksgiving weekend—not because shopping can’t be fun, but because Black Friday itself offers only bleak pleasures to its celebrants. It presents holiday shopping at its worst: filled as it is with a mad glut of humans worried about discounts, charity and grace all too often fall by the wayside.

Should we really spend a day talking about what we’re grateful for, sacrificing time and money to set a bounteous table for kith and kin, only to spend the following day in a greedy and chaotic race for things? How can virtuous celebrants of family and harvest turn into clutching consumers in less than 24 hours?

The simple answer is they can’t. If we turn into marauding discount monsters as soon as the clock strikes midnight, we haven’t taken Thanksgiving seriously. The holiday is an empty one for us, more about the comforts of sweet potato casserole and football games than about gratitude and contentment. The alarming violence and rancor of Black Friday should prompt us to ask who we really are: grateful celebrants or voracious shoppers.

It could be that less of the blame for Black Friday lies with Thanksgiving than with Christmas. After all, the consumerist Christmas we’ve built up for ourselves here in the United States is focused more on presents, immaculate trees, and glorious light displays than it is on joy or peace. We’re often so worried about getting our son or daughter the perfect gift—that toy they’ve been wanting, or the latest iPad—that we lose perspective. Homemade gifts have become faux pas, small gifts (or no gifts) taboo. Advertisers convince us that we need the big, the flashy, and the expensive in order to make Christmas “special.” Their rhetoric is hard to resist, no matter the price tag.
Some years ago, the extended Karlson clan (such as it is) dialed back on the Christmas spending, and we've dialed back the holiday traveling as well. Thus nobody got caught out in Sunday's storm.

But as overshadowed as Thanksgiving has become with the onrush of the Christmas rush (can we Make Thanksgiving Great Again by restoring it to the fourth Thursday?) the Christmas rush is too much for National Review's David French.
I can’t remember exactly when the phrase “Christmas season” started conjuring in me a vague sense of dread. I think it was likely in my young professional days, when I looked at the calendar and saw it filling up with professional responsibilities — how many client holiday parties did I have to attend? How many client gifts did I need to purchase? When was I going to find time for family shopping? What was our budget for gifts?

And late Christmas morning, when the kids had opened all their presents, we’d attended all the parties, and it was time to carve into (according to my family’s tradition) the Christmas ham, was that joy I felt? Or was it also more than a little relief?

The silly culture war around Christmas — “Merry Christmas” or “Happy holidays”? — is a reminder not just of the frequent pettiness of our polarization (really, can a well-intentioned holiday greeting offend?) but also of the loss of faith that we Christians rightly lament. It’s as if once per year we’re reminded that our nation is changing in ways that should cause believers in Christ deep distress.
Once upon a time, Christmas was a minor holiday that Puritans banned.  It was the Germanic influence that brought lighting candles rather than cursing the extended darkness into the popular culture.  The secularization of Christmas that Mr French laments surely affects the stress level that accompanies the season.  Meredith Willson might joke about Mom and Dad anticipating school starting again.  But Christmas break is anything but a break for people in the education enterprise.


Richard Branson invests in Florida's Brightline, creating Virgin Trains USA.
Subject to certain closing conditions, Virgin Group is to make a minority investment in Brightline, which will be managed and operated by Brightline’s executive team and affiliates of Fortress Investment Group. Brightline is to rename itself Virgin Trains USA this month, and transition to Virgin Trains USA branding in 2019.

Brightline currently operates passenger services between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in Florida, with plans to expand to Orlando and Tampa. It has also announced plans to acquire the XpressWest project to develop a federally-approved rail corridor connecting Las Vegas with southern California.

Brightline said Virgin Group was ‘one of the world’s most recognisable brands in travel and hospitality’ and the partnership would allow it to leverage Virgin’s ‘industry-leading expertise and customer experience’ to establish a ‘powerful’ brand.
Mr Branson has high hopes for expanding his rail service in the States.
We have a long history of creating innovative businesses that shake up markets and establish loyal followings. We transformed domestic air travel with Virgin America and have spent more than a decade looking for a similar opportunity to change the face of American railways. We believe Brightline is at the forefront of this innovation and the ideal partner to work with to alter perceptions and traveling habits across the United States.

On the potential of rail travel, [Brightline board chairman Wes Edens] and I are kindred spirits. Rail is a sector close to my heart after 21 years of running Virgin Trains in the UK, creating breakthroughs from tilting Pendolino trains to the automated delay repay scheme. Virgin Trains continues to go from strength to strength, transporting more than 38 million passengers on the UK’s West Coast Main Line last year. We’re looking forward to working alongside Wes and Brightline to rejuvenate the US trains market too.
Look for this partnership to bring back some of the features of the old Florida East Coast, with echoes of the transcontinental railroads with hotels in the national parks.
The trademark licensing agreement with Virgin Group “will allow Brightline to leverage Virgin’s industry-leading expertise and customer experience to establish a powerful new brand, ‘Virgin Trains USA,’ Brightline said, noting that Virgin Group “has more than 60 companies focused on its core consumer sectors of travel and leisure, telecoms and media, music and entertainment, financial services and health and wellness. The partnership could help to provide access to millions of customers with the potential for increased ridership from other Virgin-branded travel and hospitality businesses, including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Hotels and Virgin Voyages.”
I have slagged on Virgin's British trains as offering spartan accommodation, compared with Brightline's.  But the British trains continue the tradition of universal service inherited from British Railways, whilst Brightline give the impression of a rolling gated community.

But with Virgin operating flying machines and hotels, can additional train services to airports and cruise ports be far away?
Brightline launched service between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in May 2018 and currently has plans to expand to Orlando and Tampa. Pending the closing of the previously announced XpressWest acquisition and receipt of necessary federal approvals, it plans to begin construction next year to connect Las Vegas and Southern California.
The plans for expanding the Passenger Rail service include an initial public offering of shares.
Florida’s Brightline announced Friday that it would jettison years of branding to become Virgin Trains USA [see “Brightline enters branding, marketing partnership with Virgin Group," Trains News Wire, Nov. 16, 2018], but that turned out not to be the company’s only big news: Later Friday, it filed a prospectus for an initial public offering with the Security [c.q.] and Exchange Commission.

The 200-plus page document is available here.
The prospectus includes a discussion of service in Texas, where 125 mph diesel trains might be more easily brought in and gotten running than a from-scratch fast electric railroad.

We'll keep watching.


Betsy Newmark posts her farewell page.
For the past few years, I've been finding blogging to be more of a burden than a fun hobby. It might be partly because of the news out there, but it is also that I just don't think that blogging is worth the time I'm giving up for other things like reading more on my own, doing my work for school, or just having some down time to do nothing at all of importance or value to anyone but myself. My daughters have been questioning me for a few years why I continue blogging if I was resenting the time it demanded and I really don't have any answer for that.
Indeed. Nothing kills the buzz of a leisure time activity like thinking you have to do it, and that "Cruising the Web" was a regular thing, each school day.
I used to worry that I would stop for a bit and then miss having an audience, but that I could never regain a readership once it was lost. I worried that I would eventually retire from teaching and wish that I still had the blog to fill my time. But I've come to realize that, if I want to point people to interesting stories, I could just use Twitter, so please feel free to follow me at @betsynewmark. Also, you might be interested in my husband's blog.
Twitter is there, and I've seen several web log proprietors recommending people follow them there.

In my experience, Twitter's content management is questionable, sometimes putting the same story in my feed repeatedly, and always putting stories in something other than chronological order.  That's without arbitrary and capricious use of its content filters, which Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds suggests are implementing progressive intolerance.  He thus suspended his Twitter account, motivating his Pajamas Media colleague D, C. McAllister to suggest "The social media platform is toxic, divisive, abusive, and even dangerous" and post a "Survival Guide" for conservatives.  Politico's Jack Shafer is less impressed.  "Reviewing the stories behind the various Twitter suspensions and banishments, the service looks a lot more like a homeroom teacher trying to keep order than a Board of Censorship tossing free thinkers into the abyss."  Twitter, he notes, is private property with house rules, not a common carrier.

I wonder if Betsy Newmark noticed the same thing I did about a technical phenomenon that is making reading and posting more difficult.  Those European Union mandated cookie notices provide a work-around to pop-up blockers that the operators of web sites have used to generate more advertisements and special offers, and they give my virus and malware filters a workout.  Thus this post is about an hour in the preparation, mostly waiting for pages to load.  It's not quite as frustrating as being an Amtrak passenger on the Capitol Limited or Lake Shore heading east from Chicago, but if anything is going to lead me to curtail service, that's the most likely cause.

Thanks, Betsy, for the information.  Fair winds.



Rod Dreher, "They make us all insane, and call the sane crazy."

Here's what set him off, if you have the stomach for it.

Today is a snow day.

Elaboration on various subjects (and there are opportunities) will resume later this week.



In August, Sports Illustrated featured the University of Wisconsin offensive line on one of its regional college football preview issues.  Lots of heady talk about national championships and Red Robin hamburgers.  Make that "humbling and nerve-inducing" talk.

Brigham Young provided an early dose of the humbling, with the ordinarily reliable field goal kicking coming up short.

Northwestern redeemed their investment in a football practice complex worthy of Oregon.

But there was one thing you could depend upon, right?

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel photo by Mark Hoffman.

That's a 2009 fantasy.  Usually, when you saw a gopher, he didn't have an axe in his hand.

Minnesota State Fair, 29 August 2018.

That seemed like a sure enough thing that Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sports pundit J. R. Radcliffe could open a bit of sports history like this.
Saturday's battle between Minnesota and Wisconsin for Paul Bunyan's Axe will give the Badgers a chance to win the rivalry game for a 15th consecutive year. At this rate, pretty soon there will be kids enrolled at the University of Wisconsin who weren't even alive the last time Minnesota defeated the Badgers.
The University of Wisconsin football team (7-5, 5-4 Big Ten) fell to the Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-6, 3-6 Big Ten) 37–15 Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall. The loss means the Badgers will forfeit their hold on the historic series record which is now tied 60-60-8, ending their 14 game win streak versus the Gophers.

The defeat caps one of the most disappointing regular seasons in Wisconsin football history. Ranked No. 4 entering the year and heralded as an early season College Football Playoff favorite, the season ended with the Badgers barely clinging to bowl eligibility.
That long winning streak, in other words, just got the series to even, kind of like recent long Green Bay Packer winning streaks against the Bears.
With the win, the Gophers become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2016. Wisconsin, on the other hand, cost themselves a chance at an upper-tier bowl game with the unexpected defeat. This means the Badgers will likely play in a mid-tier bowl like the Redbox Bowl in Santa Clara, the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville or the Pinstripe Bowl in New York.

Though disillusioning, a loss to Minnesota seems like a fitting way for the Badgers to end a regular season characterized by unmet expectations.
It's not too bad a season for Minnesota coach P. J. Fleck, a former Northern Illinois receiver and assistant coach who Minnesota hired away from Western Michigan.
Minnesota, meanwhile, has reached back to the Mid-American and to Northern Illinois, bringing in Western Michigan coach P. J. Fleck, whose Western Michigan team just got back from the New Year's Round of Six and a ...

wait for it ...

Cotton Bowl loss to Wisconsin.
It was about the Axe, all along.

Call the roll: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004.

Chop, chop, chop.  "A season of disappointment continued," indeed.


The Canadian Pacific Holiday Trains are on their annual performance and fundraising tours across the United States and Canada.

Note that the United States train, which is currently on former Delaware and Hudson metals in New York, will finish its Eastern Lakes swing at Windsor, Ontario, on Friday, 30 November, and it will commence its Mississippi Valley swing on Sunday, 2 December, coming closest to Cold Spring Shops headquarters at Pingree Grove and Byron.

William K. Walthers is not going to pack the train into boxes at Windsor and set it up in Chicago, the way a model railroader does.  Rather, Canadian Pacific have running powers on CSX and Canadian National (!) between Windsor and Chicago via the Detroit River tunnel and Lansing, or dipping south into Ohio.

But an illuminated train on a host railroad might give the safety inspectors, or perhaps the marketing departments of the host railroads, pause.
After the Windsor stop on Nov. 30, the twinkling lights could be shuttered throughout Michigan, Ohio and Indiana thanks to "rail security and safety reasons," said CPR spokesperson Andy Cummings.

That would be a huge disappointment for communities where families have made a tradition of bundling up and cheering on the train's progress.
The railroad might advise media of the status of the lights by week's end.


That guy never learned not to be crass about being cultivated.

Don't be that guy.

Dilly dilly.



Eighty years ago, getting there in a hurry looked like this.

Hiawatha leaving Chicago.
A. W. Johnson photograph retrieved from Classic Trains.

I'll repeat my traditional message.

I give thanks for your readership and your comments.

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


Andrew Greeley turns auxiliary bishop John Blackwood Ryan loose to investigate a murder at The University of Chicago in The Bishop Goes To The University.  I'm not sure whether there is greater intrigue in the Roman Catholic Church, which secretly ordains a Russian Orthodox monk as a cardinal, or in the Divinity School, where a youngish dean is future spouse of a similarly young tenure track faculty member.  I know just enough about the machinations of universities to find the second sub-plot implausible.  It's more intriguing, though, that Father Greeley, a man of the left, casts a secular socialist-feminist academic as one of the lesser heavies in his plot.  There's enough Russian meddling, threats from U.S. intelligence, and involvement from the people in Cicero to keep the pot boiling.

I'll close Book Review No. 34, which finishes the Bishop Ryan series for the present, with an observation about the possible principal purpose of the novels, namely to provide insights into the value of Catholicism.  In University, it's Bishop Ryan, auditioning for an adjuncting gig at The University, taking questions from skeptical students, delivering the homily.  Summarized (p. 103) this time it's the case for belief.  The believer has to deal with evil happening, the skeptic with joy happening.  That even rates a footnote.  It's less than satisfying, though, as the wise course might be to live this life as if it is the only one that matters, and treating others as you would like to be treated, whether or not the Heavenly Host are taking score.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)


Sarah Hoyt recommends Another damn analysis of Trump.
[Our President] actually represents us pretty well.  Yes, a lot of people would like America to be refined and dignified, drinking high tea with our pinkies in the air, talking about the arts and going to the opera.  But the truth is, more Americans would rather drink cheap beer, watch wrestling, and go to a monster truck rally.

They called Reagan, and GW Bush, cowboys.  It was meant as a term or derision by the rest of the world: look at those uncouth louts, dirty and dusty, making a mess of everything!  And then there was what most Americans thought when they heard it: John Wayne. Cool.

The truth is, this country has been disappointing the elites and aristocrats of the world from the very beginning.  Our presidents have been military men, true, but also actors, cripples, hat makers, peanut farmers, nuclear engineers (those last two were the same guy, by the way), drunkards, whoremongers… Adlai Stevenson once said, “In America any boy may become President and I suppose it’s just one of the risks he takes.”

We used to take pride in our ability to confound and frustrate world leaders.  We used to want a belligerent president who would spit in the eye of our enemies, stand up straight when visiting kings, and give genuine help to our friends.  And yes, a president who could go into any bar in the country and speak to whoever he found there as an equal.

Now, we want an erudite, sophisticated, cultured person to lead our nation, one who lives up the high standards of our country clubs and university faculty lounges.  Someone who knows big words, and how to choose a wine that goes with the meal.  Someone who understands protocol and never breaks it lest they seem ignorant and offensive.  Or at least, this is what it seems like we want when listening to the criticisms of Trump.

But I think that part of Trumps success is connecting with what lower class Americans want, and how they think.  Yes, he’s a billionaire.  But he’s unpretentious about it.
The pretentious, on the other hand: well, when they're not hectoring or condescending, they're patronizing.  "Democrats talk down to minorities. Shocker!"

Too bad if Our Intellectual Betters don't like it.

(Literary reference in the title.)


Our Political Masters seem to think so, anyway.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture authorized the industry to withhold a large portion of berries from the market so the supply will get back in balance with the demand.

Millions of pounds of the tart fruit could be used as fertilizer. Some of the glut could be donated to charities, or sold overseas in "non-competitive" markets, and some of it could be used as livestock feed.

“Basically, they’re going to destroy 25 percent of the crop,” said Paul Mitchell, a University of Wisconsin-Madison agricultural economist.

It’s something the growers, themselves, requested from the USDA through what’s called “volume regulation,” a rarely used federal order to deal with an oversupply of fruit.
Let's translate.

Our Political Masters believe an excess supply of cranberries is in The Public Interest.  Well, some of Our Political Masters.  It's apparently not in The Public Interest to grow steel in cranberry bogs.
In many areas of agriculture, including berries, farmers have gotten better at producing higher volumes of commodity crops, to the point where the market becomes saturated and prices fall below the costs of production.

“It’s a broad problem in agriculture now. Generally what we’ve done in the past is export our excess. And that’s worked because there are a lot of hungry people out there,” Mitchell said.

But export opportunities have withered for many U.S. crops, especially for soybeans this year, as China implemented steep tariffs on American beans in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s tariffs on foreign steel, aluminum and billions of dollars in other products.
Therefore, dear reader, in order to support your right to pay more for cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, some of the berries might be dumped overseas.

Adam Smith's advice about treating any policy proposal emanating from commercial interests with the most suspicious attention applies here.  When the government engages in "volume regulation," it's managing the cartel.  A mob boss might not use such delicate terminology.

I hope I haven't harshed the Thanksgiving mellow.


The University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory has long been obsolete as a research facility, and the university has closed it and offered it for sale.

Williams Bay residents see the value of the observatory for continuing education and have a campaign going to keep the observatory grounds as observatory grounds.



That might be the worst possible outcome of the New Sensitivity on Campus, as evaluated by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt in The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.  It appears at page 205: if there are too many microaggressions and triggers in a law school discussion of sexual assault, what happens to the practice of sexual assault law, and how badly will the victims fare in court?

Book Review No. 33 will remark more favorably on the analysis of logic and justice the authors present than on their discussion of academic matters, which suffers from a serious U. S. News problem.

They open by offering their understanding of three fallacies that lead to coddled minds: what doesn't kill you makes you weaker; always trust your feelings; and life is a battle between good people and evil people.  Their elaborations are instructive, as these fallacies might be the basis of the exaggerated sensitivity that takes political correctness out of the realm of good manners and into fantasyland.  Their understanding relies on a psychological practice called cognitive behavioral therapy that might be more effective and less esoteric than its competitors.

The authors might have anticipated their book being used by motivational speakers, as each chapter concludes with a summary that might easily be adapted to presentation software slides.

Their discussion of social justice is useful, explaining that people understand a set of institutions as just when rewards are proportionate to inputs and when everyone gets a fair go.  The social justice warriors go wrong by advocating for institutions and outcomes under which rewards are not proportionate to inputs, and some people don't get a fair go in order that others get a better start.

But when we get to the social justice wars on campus, what happens?  On one hand, young people are arriving at orientation with a lot of adolescence ahead of them, thus the authors suggest (starting at p. 250) a gap year, perhaps involving community service somewhere away from home.  That's despite many of those young people learning in pre-school what they used to learn in kindergarten, because kindergarten is all about developing the habits of first-graders (pp. 186-88).  Apparently Harvard Prep Day Care is a thing.  Thus, Coddling commits a category error, one that Matt "Dean Dad" Reed frequently writes about.  "As Bloomberg’s piece goes on, though, he moves from 'colleges' to 'top colleges' and 'elite colleges,' without acknowledging the shift."

That "gap year" might be a way for the Political Class to get its pet projects done on the cheap, although it might as easily breed cynicism (the Vietnam era draft, the Soviet era students going on potatoes) as it fosters social solidarity (the Peace Corps and church missions are voluntary, Hollywood's view of World War II is show business) and at the mid-majors, it might be a two or four year hitch or time spent in the warehouse getting the college money together.

I also have to wonder where the authors got the idea that the additional administrators running the Grievance Bureaucracy and all the other things are releasing professors from administrative duties (p. 198): in my experience each new office issues ukases dictating additional provisions to be provided for in the Conditions of Carriage, er, course outline, or they're sending out requests for progress reports as they shepherd the various sorts of unprepared (perhaps because they didn't go to Harvard Prep Day Care) clientele they've conned into matriculating through to graduation.

So much for institutionalized disconfirmation, the sifting and winnowing of competing claims.  It's apparently missing among the institutions topping the U. S. News league tables.  It's long been missing at the land-grants, the mid-majors, the regional comprehensives, the community colleges.  I'll give Matt Reed the final word.  "The real task would be to bring the colleges that serve the masses -- non-elite publics -- to a level worthy of their students."

As part of that task, no more mindless imitation of the Student Affairs fads at the elite institutions.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)


Illini Tire ends a successful run.
A notable DeKalb business is shutting its doors after 42 years of service.

For Jim and Norma Anderson, running Illini Tire Co., 1031 W. Lincoln Highway, has been a family-focused adventure.

The husband-and-wife duo, co-owners and DeKalb natives, have been operating the tire business since 1976, after Jim, 74, returned from a stint in the Marine Corps, during which he served in Vietnam.

“I went to DeKalb High School and before I graduated, I figured I knew everything already, so I joined the Marine Corps,” Jim said. “Lo and behold, I didn’t know everything.” He said Vietnam was “the only bad thing” about his Marine Corps experience.
Food for thought.

Illini Tire kept the previous Cold Spring Shops staff car on the road.  There's a new one, that will call for a new supplier.  Fair winds.


Once upon a time, Schlitz sold Old Milwaukee at a lower price than "The Beer That Made Milwaukee Furious" as a subtle form of price discrimination.  A few locals were in on the secret.

More recently, Miller Coors leased excess capacity at some of their plants to produce all of the other Great Milwaukee beers: draft-brewed Blatz, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Schlitz, and for all I know Meister Brau and Braumeister.  (Well, at least Old Milwaukee, see above, and Lone Star.)

It's now come down to Miller Makes It Wrong.  " Pabst Brewing Company and MillerCoors are going to trial, with hipster favorite Pabst contending that MillerCoors wants to put it out of business by ending a longstanding partnership through which it brews Pabst’s beers."

The dispute involves the profitability of Miller's excess capacity.
During 2015 negotiations about extending the contract, MillerCoors announced it would close its brewing facility in Eden, North Carolina, and that it eventually might have to shutter another facility in Irwindale, California. Pabst contends that MillerCoors refused to provide any information to substantiate its claim that it would no longer have the capacity to continue brewing Pabst’s beers, and that it wouldn’t consider leasing the Eden facility and would only sell it for an “astronomical” price.

Pabst says MillerCoors wouldn’t agree to an extension unless Pabst paid $45 per barrel — “a commercially devastating, near-triple price increase” from what it pays now. At the March hearing, Paris said MillerCoors knew Pabst couldn’t accept that proposal “because it would have bankrupted us three times over.”

In court filings, MillersCoors said Pabst’s proposals to keep the Eden facility open “were commercially unreasonable” and that Pabst sought “a windfall through litigation” instead of offering to pay enough to keep a facility open. It also said the facility’s closing was “to ensure the longer-term sustainability” of MillerCoors because thousands of new brewers have entered the market over the past decade.
That entry is more akin to the scale of seven score years ago.
“The beer market has shifted and beer lovers are increasingly demanding more variety, fuller-flavor, and local products from small and independent producers,” said Bart Watson, the Brewers Association’s chief economist.

Overall U.S. beer sales have declined, with shipments down from 213.1 million barrels in 2008 to 204.2 million in 2017, according to the Brewers Association.

Pabst depends on MillerCoors because the only other U.S. brewer with capacity to make its products is Anheuser-Busch, which doesn’t do contract brewing.
Yes, one reason Blatz claimed "All Blatz is draft-brewed" was that they didn't ship it very far. Neither does Sprecher these days. Milwaukee's Big Three (plus that outfit in St. Louis) had to practice Better Living Through Chemistry in order to exploit the economies of volume shipping cross-country.

Why the favorite local product these days is frequently an India Pale Ale perplexes me, as Headache in a Glass is a recipe suited to being toted on a sailing ship around Good Hope, but I digress.  Reason's Baylen Linnekin suggests there's not much money to be made in selling off that excess capacity, even under allegedly competing labels.  "I drink Miller Lite at baseball games from time to time, and PBR, Olympia, and Rainier at happy hours when they're offered for less than $3."

There's Budweiser in the Cold Spring Shops pantry for cooking.  Sprecher and Spotted Cow are for drinking.


History Channel's Vikings will resume on 28 November, and it appears that the pandering will continue.
New archaeological evidence is starting to emerge that also backs up not only the storylines in Vikings but the Viking sagas the TV series is based on that, sees women holding prominent positions of power, something that wasn’t evident in other cultures of the time.
Up to a point, perhaps. Last season, though, Forbes reviewer Erik Kain had to post his disappointment on deadlines.  Read it and lament.  The Saxons continue to fight badly.  The partnership of Rollo, Bjorn, and Halfdan to explore the Mediterranean found neither great golden bells nor mares of steel, although there were vow-transgressing nuns of dubious loyalty, cross-dressing eunuchs sent to lull the Northmen into a false sense of security, and a convenient sandstorm keeps Bjorn and Halfdan from starring in the world's first jihadi snuff video.  "What was the point?"  Lagertha proves to be more effective at seducing English rulers, including the odd bishop, than in securing alliances or waging war.  Mr Kain notes, "This show needs to do some serious soul-searching, at least in the writing department."  Will another disappointing season be in store?


Chicago Boyz' Sgt. Mom elaborates.
Those who roost in the higher levels in academia, the media, in the entertainment and intellectual world, in the national bureaucracy, those who are part of the upper caste – have made their contempt for the ordinary citizen pretty darned obvious by their words and actions, to the point where it’s no secret to most of us who have been paying attention. That this contempt is returned is not immediately obvious; after all, the media (with a few honorable exceptions) has little interest in the opinions of the ruled class, or in reporting them with any degree of understanding or sympathy. Still, we in the ruled class have made our displeasure known in small ways – eschewing shopping at Target, watching NFL games, dropping ESPN, and skipping over award shows like the Oscars – which likely the ruling class feels as mere irritating pin-pricks.
Well, Tingles noticed, but he's the just-before-prime time lead-in to some chubby dork, so very few People That Matter are noticing.

Well, maybe Donald Trump noticed, and maybe among the Serious People who attempt to make sense of the Trump phenomenon, a few noticed.  "The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully."

The protected haven't been smacked upside the head enough, though.
The Ruling Class, as the commenter posited, was all about the environment, preserving the forests and the wilderness, and those darling wild creatures … but when all that effort put into maintaining a pristine wildlife environment turns around and kills people actually living on the edge of those areas … well, just too bad. A shocking thought, at first – but after a moment, I had to agree. Not only do the ruling class despise us … but they don’t much care if we live or die. Preferably die, as long as we don’t make too much fuss about it.

Oh, they make a big show of concern – if some legislation or virtuous cause saves only one life, if it saves a child, if it … one lovely ambition, one good intention – then whatever it is will be good and true and worthy, and they who promulgate it are of course good and true and worthy, because their intentions are pure. the securely-in-power ruling class are dressing themselves in the shining garments of righteousness, decorated with festoons of smug. It’s a pose, an opportunity to preen to each other. They actually care nothing for the ruled, except perhaps at election times, and the votes can always be manufactured, no need to involve the electorate. I surmise that to the ruling class that those of us in the ruled category are interchangeable characters with blurred features and a couple of easily-mocked tag-lines, as disposable as used Kleenex. Our lives and concerns are less than of no interest, really – next to the theatrical show of properly-progressive and approved causes. Too many of us remain stiff-necked and independent, too unwilling to bow to the dictates of the ruling class, vote for the ruling class candidates or measures, or to indulge their feelings … We have disappointed the Ruling Class, and so we are disposable.

Worse than indifference, though – sour malignant intent is what the commenter suggested. Various instruments of death are being scattered willy-nilly among us, just because. Send hundreds, thousands of illegal immigrants to live among us? Flout the laws regarding identity theft, drunk driving, possession of illegal firearms … come over the border afflicted with exotic diseases that no one in this country has seen in decades? No problem, for the ruling class. Doesn’t affect anyone we know; only those proles in the low-rent neighborhoods, and they don’t matter. Environmentalists blocking efforts by forestry management experts, and property owners to thin out new growth, cut and remove dead wood? When the forests go up in a town-killing inferno and houses with their elderly owners and pets are trapped in them – well, that’s just a meaningless statistic. Relocate manufacturing jobs over the national borders or overseas? Gut formerly self-sufficient communities? Well, those stupid proles should have learned to code, and move their insignificant lives to some other place, and who in the Ruling Class really cares about epidemic opioid abuse? Concern about Islamic militants, or deeply mentally-disturbed young men with access to firearms? Well, that’s Islamophobia in the first case, and a violation of civil rights in the second, until it’s time for the obligatory gun-control pose, never mind the silent pool of blood spreading around the bodies of the unlucky Ruled.
The Wise Experts often don't know best.

But when it's the coastal abodes of the California glitterati that are burning, perhaps the Wise Experts will check their premises, and the Ruling Class will listen.


Over the years, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Powers That Be have contemplated expanding the Regional Rail network to serve the Quad Cities and Rockford, Freeport, and Dubuque.  Sometimes that bogs down in the minutiae (do you run to Rockford via Genoa or Belvidere?) and sometimes the governor won't have it.

Chicago Democrats now hold the governorship and majorities in both houses of the legislature, and the trains might be in favor again.



Here's a gem from new Member of Congress Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (Naïf-N.Y.) "I don't think people who are taking money from pharmaceutical companies should be drafting health care legislation. I don't think people who are taking money from oil and gas companies should be drafting climate legislation."

Stop using the power of Congress to generate rents, and maybe you'll have fewer rent-seekers.


Intersectionality rots your brain, earlier this year.
In the fifteen years or so that Cold Spring Shops has been covering the academic crack-up, Eve Ensler's talkative cooch has gone from an approved way to take the fun out of Valentine's Day (whilst cocking a snook at the Catholic Church) to a microaggression to excessive cisnormativity (a neologism unknown at the time the Shops opened.)
The beat goes on.
“The Vagina Monologues” is simply not “in line” with the values of both [Eastern Michigan's Women's Resource Center] and the Department of Diversity and Community Involvement, which include “celebrating the diverse representations of women on campus” and “supporting and empowering minoritized [c.q.] students and challenging systems and structures that perpetuate inequities.”

The decision was expected following conversations with students and feedback from a “Not all women have vaginas” workshop the prior academic year.
Gosh, wasn't the whole reconstruction of St. Valentine's Day as V-Day a way of challenging systems and structures of courtship that perpetuated inequities in the first place?

Better that the oppressive structures of hearts and flowers not be deconstructed in order that crossers ought not have their distinctive anatomies minoritized?

No, I am NOT making that up, either.
Other colleges have simply created vagina-optional knockoffs to pacify students who considered the original noninclusive, including Fordham, University of California-Berkeley, Middlebury College (Ensler’s alma mater) and trans-accepting women’s college Mount Holyoke.

Plymouth State University in Massachusetts, in contrast, kept the vaginas but hosted the production in a church last year.
As if Eastern Michigan doesn't have more important things to worry about, like keeping the doors open? Competing with Oberlin and Middlebury and Mount Holyoke for the most easily aggravated gender studies students doesn't sound like a winning strategy.

I'll give J. H. Kunstler the acidulous final word.  "[T]o suggest that there was anything to these divisions of sexual space amounts to another punishable offense, but that is probably the least of the dreary consequences in this contest."