31.10.19

WATCH THIS SPACE.

Yes, there's a lot going on in the wider world, but I've been having too much fun to let that get to me.  Maybe next month.

With our Hallowe'en looking more like the White Christmas we probably won't get (based on past experience) there has been plenty of time for improving the infrastructure, in between the rare dry sunny days where yard work is in order.

I call the layout "Gloucester Branch" and maybe it's far enough along now to start putting that level of track in.


The house might have been custom-built with a model railroad in mind, and yet, keeping the sections I want to be level level requires a bit of attention.  This segment, along the west wall, will be the location of Manchester-By-the-Sea, a real town on the real Gloucester Branch, complete with a small harbor and lobster boats.  Here, the harbor entrance, which, if all goes well, will feature a working bascule bridge, will be set up between the two uprights at center.  I have to install the Tortoise switch machines and ballast the track in staging, where you see the tracks, first.


I'm providing here for two levels of track, on the lower level there will be additional, primarily passenger train, staging occupying the space in the center of the cellar, while the Gloucester Branch will continue to rise through Magnolia and onward to West Gloucester.  The branch has to keep climbing to reach Rockport, which is the middle level of benchwork near the stepladder in the background.  I've learned a thing or two about how to build for more than one level of track at once.  Keep watching.


We're looking at the narrowest part of the layout, which is a walk-around plan.  The lead to lower staging and the Gloucester Branch will curve around the support column at left, then the aisle gets wider out of view beyond.  I'm planning to install a lighthouse and some kind of delayed motion detector to sound a foghorn if anybody stands too long in the narrows.


The next track to be installed will be here, which is the double-track Saugus Branch through Lynn Common to West Lynn.  If you have a railroad atlas, you'll know that this is loosely based on the real thing, with perhaps a longer industrial lead at Lynn Common.  On the real thing, there's a perfect spur track off a curve, which would go well into a corner in a smaller scale.  In O Scale, you have to pay attention to the ability of operators to reach.

For now, people arriving at the base of the stairs can still get around most of the basement.  That is going to change.


Eventually, there will be two sets of tracks separated by a view block in here.  To the left will be the station at Salem (note the witch.)  To the right, on the opposite side of the view block, will be the Hood Milk plant and an oil tank dock that are in Lynn.  In the distance is the Gloucester Branch, climbing up through Beverly Shores (yes, that's modeller's license, I have my reason) and leveling out at Manchester before continuing to rise through Magnolia toward West Gloucester, out of view to the right.

Now to get enough of this presentable between now and the March Meet.

29.10.19

GO FOR THE 4-H PROJECTS, AND ENJOY A CREAM PUFF.

American Thinker essayist Dave Ball sees in the county fairs a barometer of political sentiment, mostly not to the liking of coastal cosmopolitans.
The Washington County [Pennsylvania] Republican Party had a large booth at the fair, as it always does.  The booth was a big attraction from morning to night. During the evenings, there were consistently large groups of people at the booth. Some just wanted to talk about how the president’s policies were helping their businesses. Others talked about pay raises, still others about how the president was keeping his promises. Results matter to these people, and they are seeing results. Family and country matter to these people, and they see their families and their country better off under President Trump. Many who stopped wanted their picture taken with the “Don and Melania” cutout.

Many wanted to register to vote or to change their registration to Republican. Many of the registrations and changes were twenty-somethings, which is telling. Many others wanted to sign up to work for the party.

If we had Trump signs available, we could have given out a thousand or more to people who wanted to put them in their yards that day. Some 400 people joined the party as active workers. There were two booths this year selling Trump merchandise.  In total, this far exceeded what we saw several months before the 2016 election. Imagine what it will be at this time next year.

Across the aisle from us was the Democratic Party booth. It is no exaggeration to say it was mostly empty. There was no enthusiasm or energy on the other side.
County fair season ends before the baseball pennant races are even settled, which is to say, far, far, before anyone need worry about national politics.  Yes, it might be the case that sentiments the cosmopolitans might find, er, triggering, are more common on the fairgrounds than, say, in the common room.

That, though, is not what the county fair is about.
Looking around the crowd, the uniform of the day was work boots, jeans, tee-shirts, and ball caps. Those who were not sporting Trump gear were obviously well familiar with John Deere, Kubota, a number of seed companies, Remington, Winchester, the NRA, and John 3:16.

The parking lot was full of pickup trucks because these are working people. They drive America. They are directly impacted by what people at all levels of government do — not in a theoretical or philosophical way, but in a very real way.
Put aside all the high political theorizing and enjoy the 4-H projects.  County Fair season winds down after the Labor Day weekend, and I made a return visit to the Walworth County Fair, getting there just about cow-milking time.


Perhaps it might be neither mannerly nor prudent to say too many positive things about the Green New Deal.


The 4-H projects (here is a roundup from a few years ago) never disappoint.


That's an old window frame repurposed as a kitchen message board. It's Wisconsin, ya know?


There are separate categories for Lego projects, and other sorts of construction stuff.  These toys have become very sophisticated over the past fifty years.  At least a few youngsters, though, are cultivating the right intense interests.


The Walworth County Fair still draws a large crowd, and I was able to continue my bridge learning with a bargain book from a church fund-raiser.

In Illinois, the dominance of the one-crop farm and the changing nature of animal husbandry has led to smaller county fairs, and sometimes the 4-H hold a separate smaller fair.  The Tri-County Fair in Mendota had a good taco stand running, but no carnival rides (another visitor noted that there had been some in previous years.)


There was a livestock auction about to take place on the other end of the grounds, and apparently the organizers attempted a tractor pull the night before despite the rain, judging from the ruts left the next day.

The concluding county fair in the area is the long-running DeKalb County Fair, which everybody refers to as the Sandwich Fair, for the community that hosts it.


I still don't understand raising domesticated garden pests and showing them, but, whatever.  Go for the 4-H projects.


The weather wasn't that great, but these might have been the happiest bear cubs in Illinois.


And the fair offers a re-enactment of a medicine show from a century ago.


Here, the volunteer from the audience is operating a brain-wave transmitter to help the audience guess the card the magician picked.  Don't call that transmitter an egg-beater, and try not to think of six diamonds and at most six high card points.

I didn't find any cream puffs, but there's a coffee vendor with the kind of exotic offerings that might make the more urban patron feel at home.


Yes, the weather was gloomy for all three of those fair visits, and it has only been six months since our last snowfall.  You have to savor the county fair season when it's there.

Even though, as this picture from DeKalb's Corn Fest shows, children of all ages must now go through security screening to enjoy the midway.


No wandering into the midway from the parking lot or the library any more, sorry.


The corn on the cob, and the food booths, are still good.  Enjoy.

I hope to be able to report on more fairs and Oktoberfests in another year.  The honor students are about to take the court.

WILL THIS FOURTH TURNING BRING ABOUT A DEVOLUTION?

If so, that might be a re-setting of the normal saecular dynamics.  The United States came into being as part of the Revolutionary Saeculum.  The States became a nation in the aftermath of the possibly foreshortened Civil War Saeculum.  The modern, allegedly omnicompetent State, in the control of The Best and The Brightest, emerged from the Great Power Saeculum.

Of late, though, The Best and The Brightest have been ... anything but.

In the manner of traditionalists everywhere, though, they continue to invoke the old maxims and the old incantations.  "The next time a legislator, mayor, or governor rails about plastic straws or the Paris Climate Accord, be assured that his state’s roads are clogged, his public schools failing—and he is clueless or indifferent about it."  Now, all the leaves are burnt, and the skies are gray.  "California has long been a bellwether for the country. Thus its inability to address problems with the physical environment is cause for concern. Is America really doomed to a future of complete incompetence?"

Never mind that California's problems might have both been foreseeable and subject to melioration.  The right incantations, notes Tyler Cowen, were more important than, oh, working the problem.
Economists themselves have been of no great help. My Twitter feed includes plenty of the world’s greatest (or at least best-known) economists. They love to debate Elizabeth Warren’s plan for a wealth tax, an idea that probably isn’t going to happen (just ask Mitch McConnell or, for that matter, any moderate Democratic senator). When it comes to designing a better incentive model for California power utilities — a concrete problem for which economics is remarkably well-suited — there has been close to complete silence.
It's not for the National Political Class or The Best and The Brightest to fix.  Perhaps, though, the place to beta test fixes is in a different state, or a county.  National Affairs are pro wrestling (I know, I know, the preferred locution is "Kabuki Theater," but deal with it.)

Let the emergence emerge.

28.10.19

PUTTING THE PRESERVATION RAILWAYS AWAY.

With the end of October comes the end of the preservation railway season in Illinois and Wisconsin.

A few members of Illinois Railway Museum paid a visit to the nearby Fox River Trolley Museum, where one of the cars recently received a new coat of paint, and recovery from the vandalism of a summer ago continues.

There will be a few Christmas trains to report on before year's end.  Last year, the local efforts sold out.

YOUR DRESSED BEEF IS A GIFT FROM PATRICK CUDAHY.

I'm borrowing a line from John Galt's speech, and, no doubt, Upton Sinclair would pour scorn upon me (and there are any number of onetime colleagues who would sputter, "How can you say that?")

Commerce, though, is the discovery and the division of gains from trade, and entrepreneurs, whether they are meat packers or retailers or information technology peddlers, build a large fortune out of a lot of little gains from trade from a lot of people.

Vincent Geloso elaborates.
A share of [the increased wealth of Gilded Age industrialists] did come from technological innovations that generated considerable profits that were captured by the inventors/entrepreneurs who adopted them. However, as William Nordhaus pointed out , the monetary profits from such gains are only a small share of the total gains. Indeed, the sum of all gains in welfare includes much more than just these monetary transfers. The welfare to consumers is a much more encompassing concept that speaks to utility and not income.

In fact, the fall in inequality on dimensions other than income confirms this point. The poorest were gaining on these other dimensions because they were willing to purchase the goods that made a few entrepreneurs exceptionally wealthy. Thus, a share of that increase in income inequality between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99 percent is not at all worrisome because it speaks to a leveling on a more broadly defined conception of living standards.

However, there is a share of the increase that can be damned. It is the share that speaks to the role of the “robber barons” who got rich because of political machinations. Few are the historians who have labored to distinguish the wealthy of the late 19th century according to how they got rich. The recently deceased Richard Sutch made such an effort just before he died (unfortunately, his very promising work may have died with him). His work suggests that most of the great fortunes in 1870 were made from business rather than inheritance. In this, he echoed much of the pioneering work of Stanley Lebergott and more recent work that argues that extraordinary fortunes dwindle fast.

A complementary, but equally relevant, nuance is provided by Burton Folsom. In a frequently re-edited volume, The Myth of the Robber Barons, Folsom distinguished between market entrepreneurs and political entrepreneurs. The distinction is made to highlight that fortunes can be built by serving customers or by catering to politicians. The former approach tends to generate fortunes that are less contentious and controversial. The latter generates fortunes that are acquired through rent-seeking. There were many such fortunes in the late 19th century: railway magnates that got rich from state subsidies, manufacturers that profited from trade tariffs, state-level bankers who were protected from out-of-state competitors, and so on. The unease about such “political fortunes” is understandable.

Yet, this latter nuance — which fits well with other findings in the fields of economic and social history — is nowhere to be found in The Triumph of Injustice. This is to be expected, as the answer to such a type of inequality is not a wealth tax, which would harm the deserving and the undeserving rich. Rather, the answer is a rolling back of the practices that create political fortunes. It entails constraining politicians in their ability to grant preferential treatments.

The invocation of the Gilded Age like a cheap political talking point is bad economics and bad economic history. A more careful study of economic history provides a clearer, more nuanced answer. It may be politically harder to sell such an answer. This, however, does not make it any less accurate or true.
As long as it's politically expedient to sell Governance by Wise Experts that doesn't involve the generation and dissipation of rents, it's going to be politically expedient to demagogue so-called Gilded Ages.

THE IRRELEVANCE OF THE WISE EXPERTS.

Here's Victor Hanson, making a point I've previously made numerous times.
These people should not be considered by any stretch of the imagination our “establishment” at least if there any positive sense left in the world. Yet they are typical, not aberrant of a habit of equating appearances, credentials, and demeanor of not necessarily talented people as proof of excellence and deserved authority. Where you live, what school branded you, what title, past and present, you can parlay, whom you know, and whom you married somehow have ended up far more important than what you actually have done. They remind one of played out “senators” from the last generations of the Roman Empire.
By their fruits shall ye know them.
What explains the bankruptcy of the elite?

We have confused credentials with merit—as we learned when Hollywood stars and rich people tried to bribe and buy their mostly lackadaisical children into named schools, eager for the cattle brand BAs and without a care whether their offspring would be well educated.

Graduating from today’s Yale or Harvard law school is not necessarily a sign of achievement, much less legal expertise. Mostly, entrance into heralded schools is a reminder of past good prep school grades and test scores winning admittance—or using some sort of old-boy, networking, athletic, or affirmative action pull.

Being a “senior” official at some alphabet government agency also means little any more outside of the nomenklatura. Academia, the media, and entertainment industries are likewise supposedly meritocratic without being based on demonstrable worth. Otherwise, why would college graduates know so little, the media so often report fantasies as truth, and Hollywood focus on poor remakes? Take all the signature brand names that the Baby Boomers inherited from prior generations—Harvard, Yale, the New York Times, NPR, CNN, the Oscars, the NFL, the NBA, the FBI, the CIA, the Rockefeller and Ford foundations, and a host of others. And then ask whether they enhanced or diminished such inheritances?
He summarizes, "ruined our institutions and branded all that success." Sadly, no.

The pushback spreads.  Here's J. H. "Clusterf**k Nation" Kunstler, calling out the woke scolds.
I’m forced to repeat something that these New Age Jacobins seem unable to process: you don’t have to be a Trump cheerleader to be revolted by the behavior of his antagonists, which is a stunning spectacle of bad faith, dishonesty, incompetence, and malice — and is surely way more toxic to the American project than anything the president has done. Every time I entertain the complaints of these angry auditors, I’m forced to remind myself that these are the same people who think that “inclusion” means shutting down free speech, who believe that the US should not have borders, who promote transsexual reading hours in the grammar schools, and who fiercely desire to start a war with Russia.

That’s not a polity I want to be associated with and until it screws its head back on, I will remain the enemy of it.
Some of those people are of the Credentialed Establishment, and some of them of the Angry Resistance, and none of them impress the Hermit of Saratoga Springs.  Entertainer Nick Cave, himself of the Transgressive Artistic persuasion, is likewise displeased.  "Some of us…are of the generation that believed that free speech was a clear-cut and uncontested virtue, yet within a generation this concept is seen by many as a dog-whistle to the Far Right, and is rapidly being consigned to the Left's ever-expanding ideological junk pile."

Reason's Nick Gillespie extends.
One of the most amazing things about the current moment is the rapidity with which hard-fought battles to clear a space for free speech have been forgotten and replaced by a new censoriousness. It was only 50 years ago that we really won the right to talk and speak freely about all sorts of topics and ideas. Do we really want to return to an older time when speech and culture were constipated?
It's so easy to undermine the Woke Scolds with mockery, is anybody surprised that they hide behind the arguments recited in Critique of Pure Tolerance?

IT'S CALLED DEVELOPING YOUR POWERS OF CONCENTRATION.

That's easier, when you are concentrating on something that interests you.
The other day, I read an article about how children with obsessions, described as “intense interests” (which is a strong interest in a specific topic) are actually smarter.  These children are problem solvers, they seek more knowledge, and they often carry what they learn throughout their lives.
It's not necessarily smarter in the sense of, oh, being able to calculate a thousand digits of π, or conjugating irregular verbs or any of the other things that get the good grades on school days.  But sometimes the skills young people develop in the course of their intense interests (I'll let the achievement-resenting mediocrities call them "obsessions") carry over into those more traditional areas.
A 2008 study found that sustained intense interests, particularly in a conceptual domain like dinosaurs, can help children develop increased knowledge and persistence, a better attention span, and more in-depth information-processing skills.

When looking into the reasons for this, it all made perfect sense.  These kids are always researching the topic; they are continually seeking more knowledge about it; they are always asking questions.  In short, they make the children better learners, which makes them smarter kids.
The article notes that the intense interests don't always carry over into adulthood, although there's an intriguing reference to a "hobby gene." The mind-management skills, though, do.
These children learn new ways to learn.  They dig into their topic so deeply, figuring out new ways to learn about their interest.  They then take these problem-solving strategies with them into their lives.

They learn what questions to ask, how to learn more, how to dive into topics, etc…
It is almost like they are teaching themselves how to study and how to dig deeper into everything that they learn.

Instead of just learning “for a test” or “For the moment” and instead of memorizing, these kids learn how to figure out WHY this works the way it does.  They want to deepen their knowledge about subjects and topics.   They are connecting the dots and finding the relationships between things.
That's even when those intense interests appear to be crowding out the more responsible things.  Is there no parent who has ever chided such a child, "If you spend half as much time on [something required] as you did {mastering the nomenclature of dinosaurs, identifying the spotting features on diesels, recognizing the flight style of birds} you'd be an A student."  Thus the article might invert the direction of causation: it's not so much the interest waning as the external pressures to conform crowding them out.  That can wait, dear reader, it can wait.

IN MEMORIAM.

Before Everybody Understood that Soviet totalitarianism was a sham, there were people like Vladimir Bukovsky pointing out the contradictions, at great personal risk.  I first encountered him in Anatole Shub's An Empire Loses Hope, which came out shortly after the restoration of Stalin by way of the invasion of Czechoslovakia.  RIP.

26.10.19

FINDING THE RESOURCES.

Today's not-regular Saturday bridge column might show a bit of good luck on my part, thanks to the algorithms acting strangely (which they sometimes do.)


Twelve high card points and six spades, maybe that opening is cheeky, but with partner bot's response and my going to game, the opponent bots have no chance to get together in hearts.  West opens the ♥3, which the partner bot wins with the Ace and returns the Jack.  I'm not so sure: play the Jack, forcing the King, and now there are two potential Heart winners for the defense.  Taking stock: no Spade losers, one Heart loser, three likely Diamond losers, and a Club loser, with no way to establish that Club length.

So it goes: win the return with the King, two rounds of trumps extract the defensive Spades, cash the ♦A and lead the ♣2, creating cross-ruffing opportunities.  West wins with the King and returns the ♥Q: dump that ♣6 from the board and trump with the ♠4.  I wonder if that's another weak point in the algorithm: a human player might have taken a crack at extracting trumps by leading Clubs.

From here, it's straightforward: Diamond from hand to Spade on the board; Club from board to Spade in hand; Diamond from hand; Club from board; cash the ♠K for ten tricks, now the ♦J falls in garbage time.

IMAGINE NO REPUBLICANS.

It's easy, Tribune columnist John Kass notes, in Chicago.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren swooped into Chicago from that economic fantasy planet of the democratic socialists — the strange world where math is all about feelings — to tell the striking teachers union she stands with them. Because of the children.

Economic conservatives, including conservative Republicans and that handful of moderate Democrats who are still breathing, just can’t live on that planet. They can’t breathe. The environment is too taxpayer toxic.

But if you’d like to see what America would look like without Republicans, in a place under absolute Democratic control, where the left demands more and more from taxpayers, with no pushback from the conservative side of the aisle, then look to the city by the lake.

Look to Chicago and see the future.
Let us be grateful the lights are still on, but I digress.
“I’m here to stand with Chicago teachers,” Warren, in red, told the crowd of striking Chicago Teachers Union members, also in red. “I’m here to stand with every one of the people who stand for our children every day. Everyone in America should support you in this strike, and the reason is because when you go out and fight, you don’t just fight for yourselves — you fight for the children of this city and the children of this country.”

It’s always for the children, isn’t it? That dominates the news narrative, not the politics. And it’s not about the power over a politicized school bureaucracy system that, for generations, has treated the mostly minority and low-income student population as cash cows, with many students unprepared for college or jobs. Oh, no. It’s not the power. It’s all for the children. And taxpayers who pay for it? Whom do they vote for?

The militant hard-left Chicago Teachers Union leadership has rejected a more than generous 16%-24% pay raise and is now dictating education politics in a dark blue Democratic town, rhetorically bludgeoning progressive Mayor Lori Lightfoot. They devour her and descend on City Hall. And still, they want more from taxpayers.
Children who are spared the horror of an elephant ride, as well.

Eventually, though, you run out of victims who will offer their sanction.
Some think California is grinding to a halt right now, with taxpayers fleeing amid all those rolling power blackouts. But there and in the other tax heavy blue states, where the go-along-get-along Republicans have finally been crushed, there is a growing realization among ruling Democrats.

Political fantasy worlds might demand math have feelings, too, but political dominance has a price. How can you pay the bills without taxpayers to bleed?

They’ll never make a mockumentary called “A Day Without a Republican.” It makes no economic sense. In blue states like New York, California and Illinois, who’d be left to pay for a ticket?
The out-migration is already in progress.  Perhaps the teachers' union will get their affordable urban housing, once those pesky professionals bidding up the rents move to Wisconsin.

NO ELEPHANTS, NO CIRCUS.

The so-called animal rights activists declared victory, starting in Illinois.
“For too long, elephants used in circuses have endured cruel training, constant confinement and deprivation of all that is natural to them,” said Marc Ayers, Illinois state director for the Humane Society of the United States, in a statement. “The public has come to see that these animals are victims, not willing performers. Illinois has taken a monumental step in ending this outdated form of entertainment, and we urge other cities and states to follow suit.”

Ayers said Illinois is the first state to enact a law banning the use of a performing wild animal. Similar bills have been proposed in New York and New Jersey, and 125 cities or other jurisdictions have enacted some form of restrictions on the use of wild animals in circuses, Ayers said. None of them are in Illinois.
We documented the Farewell to Elephants back in 2017.


The end of Ringling Barnum might have been the most visible event, but perhaps not the most troubling.
Carden Circus International, which supplies elephants for many of the circuses run by Illinois Shrine temples, has been cited for unsafe handling and failure to provide veterinary care to injured or disabled elephants, according to USDA records. Elephants used by Shrine circuses have killed and injured people, according to the Humane Society.

Some Illinois Shrine temples have stopped using wild animals for performances. The Tebala Shriners in Rockford canceled its circus in 2016, and the Medinah Shriners in Addison have not organized a circus since 2010, according to the Humane Society.

The Ainad Shriners of Southern Illinois used elephants in its annual series of circuses in June, as it has for decades, said Mark Maxwell, the group's administrator.

The circus has been the group's biggest fundraising event for 50 years, Maxwell said, with a portion of revenue coming from elephant rides.

He said the circus will continue but that the law will likely cut into its revenue, which helps suport the group's charity, Shriners Hospitals for Children.

“We are saddened by it because now famillies and kids that come to the circus and previously had the opportunity to ride on elephants aren’t going to get that exposure and that experience in their lifetime,” Maxwell said, “unless they go to another state.”
Shriner fundraising efforts have been weaker for some time now, but losing the circus revenue can't help keep Shrine hospitals open.


Shepherd Express photo by Kevin Gardner.

It appears that at least one Shrine circus, apparently in Michigan, hopes to continue to showcase the performing pachyderms.

Find yourself a circus and go to it.  For the children with burns.

ARTHUR HAILEY'S OVERLOAD WAS SUPPOSED TO BE FICTION.

Mr Hailey wrote a series of books centering around troubles in a commercially important sector.  The plot of Overload fit the pattern: libidinous protagonist having to deal with all manner of business crises whilst getting more action than a Wagnerian god.  What distinguished Overload from some of his earlier works, such as Airport, Wheels, and The Money Changers, was a dawning conservative sensibility, that is to say, evidence of having been mugged by reality.  Thus, it was environmental terrorists causing blockouts, by the expedient of bombing generating stations, while the more respectable useful idiots kept any plans to invest in new capacity or expanding power lines tied up in process.  It probably would have strained credulity, forty years ago, to have the power outages, and the deaths of people dependent on respirators, a consequence of state-sanctioned actions, and yet here we are.
The company's aged equipment sparked blazes in 2017 and 2018, saddling the company with an estimated $30 billion in liabilities and forcing it into bankruptcy at the start of 2019. However, leaving millions in the dark has led to debate over how far California must go to prevent fires during windstorms. And despite the shutoffs, fires continue to burn.

Despite recent intentional outages, earlier on Friday California governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency as wildfires are now raging at both ends of California. Near Los Angeles, blazes have prompted authorities to order 40,000 evacuations. And north of San Francisco, a blaze is raging amid the vineyards of Sonoma County.
What did socialists use before candles?  "Bottom line: whereas we joked previously that any time California forecasts strong winds it will now turn to the socialist paradise that is Venezuela, it is now the sad reality for the state's tens of millions of liberal residents, who don't even have to leave their home state to observe the fruits of a socialist regime first hand."

21.10.19

DIXIE'S NEUBAUSTRECKE?

I thought about such a thing a few years ago.  Perhaps the people who can appropriate the money will implement it.  "One day, you could board a fast train in Atlanta and get off in Washington, D.C. (and ultimately Boston.) How’s that sound?"

The project is still in the early talking stage, and it's been some years since anybody talked about the Chicago to the Quad Cities train that would diverge from the Way of the Zephyrs near Wyanet, and I have yet to see any connecting track built.

STARTING WITH THE RIGHT QUESTION, ANYWAY.

Washington Post editorial page editor (that is not a redundancy) Fred Hiatt asks, "Why do we put up with a transit system that kills, maims and wastes hours of our time?"  It's probably asking too much of a Post guy to have him call out road socialism, and yet a twisting road will get you to Moscow.
Imagine a transit system that kills more than 260 people every year in one metropolitan area, maims and seriously injures another 2,600 or more, and forces those who survive to waste more than two hours every week in unscheduled delays.

We would demand an immediate shutdown, of course, followed by a radical change in culture and ­oversight.

Except … we have such a system, and we demand no such thing. It’s the system of roads and highways in and around the nation’s capital. And it’s not all that different from the system of roads and highways in any other metropolitan area.
That's long been an environmentalist talking point, the implicit human sacrifice that accompanies the go-anywhere-anytime automobility, at least when not everybody else is also trying to go there.  Then come the brake lights, road rage, and traffic reports.
The state transportation officials who can grill the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority general manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld every two weeks at Metro board meetings rarely have to answer questions themselves for congestion or safety lapses on the roads.

And, besides, who exactly is to blame for that congestion and those safety lapses? Is it the state officials? Congress, for failing to approve an infrastructure bill? The driver whose truck broke down in front you? The truck’s owner, who failed to maintain the vehicle?

The truth is we have come to accept both traffic deaths and congestion as part of the natural order of things. That doesn’t make the United States unique — more than 1 million people die worldwide in road crashes every year — but Americans are more than twice as likely to die as people in other wealthy countries.
I repeat, it's probably too much to ask of a Post guy to make the connections. What Washington mostly subsidizes is rent-seekers, including the infrastructure lobby, and it gets a lot of those rent-seekers. Indirectly, Washington subsidizes traffic congestion, and it gets traffic congestion.  Perhaps in ten or twenty or a hundred years it will occur to somebody at the Post to suggest that the roads be run like a business.

IF YOU'RE NOT WITH US, YOU'RE WITH THE TERRORISTS.

President George Bush, the younger, offered the leaders of other countries that binary choice shortly after the September 2001 terror raid on the east coast.  No doubt there were doubters at the time, perhaps even among the Purveyors of Expert Opinion, who could raise a number of objections, including those along the lines of there being people sympathetic with some of the aims of militant Islam yet willing to help root out the most dangerous militants, who would be put in a bad place with such talk, because they'd not be fully with the "us" being set up.

So it often is with binary choices.  But a few weeks after suggesting that a Warren presidency would be just another Technocratic Failure, David Brooks (formerly of the late Weekly Standard but more recently given to rating presidential hopefuls on a sartorial basis) goes straight into George W. Bush rhetoric.
This is a memo for the politically homeless. It’s a memo to those of us who could never support Donald Trump but think the Bernie-Squad-Warren Democratic Party is sprinting too far left. It’s a memo built around the following question: If the general election campaign turns out to be Trump vs. Warren, what the heck are we supposed to do?
If you live in a state that's likely to go for one of the majors, a third-party vote is a possibility, nicht wahr? If you live in a battleground state, voting for what you want and not getting it might be better than going along with the lesser of two evils.

But if you want to keep on being a face, rather than a heel, on Meet the Press, you've got to peddle the false binary.
And yet, if it comes to Trump vs. Warren in a general election, the only plausible choice is to support Warren. Over the past month Donald Trump has given us fresh reminders of the unique and exceptional ways he corrupts American life. You’re either part of removing that corruption or you are not. When your nation’s political system is in danger, staying home and not voting is not a responsible option.

Politics is downstream from morality and culture. Warren represents a policy wrong turn, in my view, but policies can be argued about and reversed. Trump represents a much more important and fundamental threat — to the norms, values, standards and soul of this country.
Hang on, if politics is downstream, what has already changed in morality or culture that made Donald Trump possible, let alone plausible?  Mr Brooks ducks that, suggesting all the blame is with Our President.
In their book “How Democracies Die,” Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt argue that authoritarians undermine democracy in several ways. They reject the democratic rules of the game, the unwritten norms we rely upon to make the political system work. They deny the legitimacy of their political opponents, using extreme language to deny them standing as co-citizens. They tolerate or even encourage violence, threatening to take legal action against critics in rival parties.
There's enough of that going around, from enough corners, that maybe the presidency isn't where the healing will begin.  Particularly when, as USA Today columnist Michael Smith notes, you don't insult your way to the presidency. "Progressives have long denounced America as hopelessly retrograde and racist. Naturally, they’re talking about everyone except themselves."  He concludes, "No one deliberately votes to be despised."  Mr Brooks has spent too much time on Paradise Drive, apparently, and in that bubble despising deplorables is de rigueur.  Fine, let him be mugged again by reality.

FIRST, RECOGNIZE THAT YOU'RE IN THE SAME BUSINESS.

Matt "Dean Dad" Reed visits his son, who matriculated at the University of Virginia, and used his column to a number of purposes, including asking for resources.
I just wish we could direct some meaningful fraction of those resources to the state and community colleges that together educate the majority of college students. Every student deserves an experience that good. Community and state colleges work wonders on shoestrings, but could do far more with actual resources. And that wouldn’t just benefit the few.
I have been riffing on this phenomenon for years.  "[W]e contend that the way to compete is for the state flagships to spend some money on strengthening their faculties generally, and for the regional comprehensives and the mid-majors to strengthen programs that might already have a decent profile."

I've diagnosed the funding problem, repeatedly.
It took [Atlantic scribe George Packer] long enough to get to the point, which is that the U.S. News problem exists in part because the universities less favorably ranked have created academic gulags that do little to help young people seeking a way out of that dim world, all in the name of Access.
Shrinking enrollments and angry normals are real. Never mind that one of the functions of the community colleges and the regional comprehensives is to provide second chances, when the people running those institutions err too far on the side of admitting unprepared people and calling it access,  while attempting to emulate the Oberlins and Antiochs when it comes to wokeness, they're going to get called on it, and defunded.  Meanwhile, the U.S. News guides continue to sell well.

THE CASE FOR SOCIAL CONSERVATISM.

Two paragraphs in a Scott S. Powell essay suggesting Our President is precisely the Right Guy for our time, a premise that I will not engage, as it reeks of that Presidential Cult, lay out the principles.
Few can deny that the ascendance of the United States from colonial poverty to the world’s top economic and military superpower in just 200 years is a historic miracle. It is attributable to a few key differentiating factors: Judeo-Christian beliefs and work ethic, family values and the rule of law enshrined in the founding documents of Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Essentially, America was unique in its birth creating a system of limited government and the empowerment of its citizens to take risks, innovate and build.
The passage reads more like a Credo than a summary of social scientific or historical research laying down a chain of causation. That chain of causation might exist, but that's not the issue today.

The following paragraph develops a familiar Cold Spring Shops theme, namely, that you deconstruct institutions of long standing at your peril.
And so it should come as no surprise that America’s social and cultural decline that has accelerated in the last 50 years has coincided with growing secularism, a loss of respect for and practice of religion (and that is overwhelmingly Christianity), the decline of traditional family values and work ethic, as well as the fraying of the U.S. Constitution and the corruption of the nation’s law enforcement and judicial order, culminating in a two-tiered justice system.
Or, as I once put it, "Fast-rewind to the thinking of the Scottish Enlightenment. Those older values have their champions, and those champions well might be interpreting reality correctly."  The fun part might be that it was precisely the Contemporary Geniuses denying coherent beliefs that made a Trump presidency possible in the first place.

18.10.19

SWEETEST DAY.

Frankie Yankovic, Just Because.


"High maintenance" was a concept before the expression entered common parlance.

WHY SHOULD CSX OR NORFOLK SOUTHERN PUT ANOTHER PENNY INTO TRACK IMPROVEMENTS IN GEORGIA?

Motorists in the Macon to Atlanta corridor will be spared the aggravation of the overtaking dance of the restrictively governed semis.  Now the semis will have their own two lanes to play with.
The I-75 Commercial Vehicle Lanes project will improve mobility and safety for freight operators and passenger vehicles by constructing two barrier-separated commercial vehicle-only lanes northbound along I-75 from approximately the I-475/I-75 Interchange near Macon to the McDonough area. The new lanes will be non-tolled and spans across five counties: Henry, Spalding, Butts, Lamar, and Monroe.
It's not safe to mix commercial and passenger vehicles on busy roads. Note, though, that the beneficiaries do not bear the burden.

17.10.19

BRING THE STEAMERS TO THE PUBLIC.

Trains editor Jim Wrinn notes that preservation railways have opportunities to share their steam experiences.
The thing about No. 611 at Strasburg (and Nickel Plate Road 765 at Cuyahoga Valley next month, the Gramlings’ tank engines, and others) is that the British have been doing this for years. They move engines from one preservation railway to another often. It’s a way to keep things fresh in a country the size of Michigan. And it helps to create new constituencies. So, if you visit No. 611 while she’s in the Keystone State this fall, keep in mind that you’re participating in a very British activity in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country.
Union Pacific have the resources to send Big Boy 4014 (and the other steam locomotives it operates) all around the country.

There are a lot of people living in the Official Region and not too far from the Strasburg Rail Road.  (Driving there is not necessarily fun, particularly during apple and pumpkin season.)

The Rail Road billed the 611 visit as a reunion.  One of the active steam locomotives there is a century-old Norfolk and Western Mastodon, 475.


The principal power last Saturday is an almost-as-old Decapod, Notable Ninety, from the Great Western of Colorado, a railroad built to haul sugar beets on the eastern plains of the state.


East Coast railroads post location numbers along platforms, the better to be able to stand close to your assigned sleeping car for more convenient boarding, and it's straightforward enough to work in a Harry Potter reference.  Yes, Strasburg are a working rail road, and yet they understand that the tourists might be there for the pop culture, or for the Thomas visits.

The visiting star was doing short turn-around runs between the regular trains.


Years ago, I rode behind 611 at track speed on former Wabash and Nickel Plate tracks between Monroe, Michigan and Fort Wayne and return.  A short ride would be anti-climactic.


Fort Wayne, 20 July 1985.

Last weekend, a more sedate ride on the regular service train was my choice.  The train will stop at a picnic grove that is hard by a tourist farm with the largest bounce-houses I've seen.  Apparently family excursions including a picnic and a stop at the tourist farm are a regular part of the Strasburg experience.


Some years ago, The Pennsylvania Railroad set aside a few of their steam locomotives for conservation, although they had neither the will nor the wallet to follow through the way Union Pacific did.  (They also scrapped the Q and T series duplex drives and the J series Texas steamers before anybody thought about setting any aside.)  The surviving steamers became the nucleus of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania collection, now across the street from the Rail Road.


Imagine having Union Pacific style resources to bring to bear on one of the few remaining M1 Mountains, which The Pennsylvania Railroad built as a mixed traffic upsizing of the K4 Pacifics.



The prototype GG1, which wasn't even the Railroad's first choice of large electric locomotive design, could also use some care.

NOW GIVE THEM FREE REIN TO 110.

There's nothing quite so durable as a day coach, properly taken care of.
If you haven’t traveled by train in a while, Amtrak is summoning you to a new level of comfort on the rails.

For coach trips on Midwestern routes, Amtrak is introducing refurbished Horizon cars that make some riders mistakenly think they’re in business class. From the carpets on up to leatherette seats that promise more lumbar support, it’s an overhaul of cars that have been around since the 1980s. “These cars are workhorses. You’ll find them all over the Midwest,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

On overnight runs to the East Coast, Amtrak is now using remodeled coach cars, also dating from the 1980s, with plusher reclining seats, suitable for sleeping on the cheap. Called Amfleet II, they still have legroom that puts airlines to shame. “This is like first class but it’s coach,” said Roger Harris, executive vice president at Amtrak.

For those who book the sleepers, the railroad is getting a new fleet with more room for luggage, softer linens, a sturdier pullout table and more power outlets.

The smallest accommodation, the roomette, no longer has a toilet in the compartment in the new Viewliner II railcars. Amtrak executives said passengers never liked the in-room toilet anyway because it took up precious space and your traveling companion had to scram if you wanted privacy.
Reclining-seat leg-rest coaches were regular on Western long distance trains long before Amtrak; the Amfleet II cars still cram more seats with less legroom between them than those cars offered, and the the seat pitches on the Horizon cars are still tight by railroad standards. In addition, those cars are generally set up with half the seats facing in each direction, so as to conserve on the work required to turn them at the end of the line.

The roomettes might be reconfigured (and there's a lot less plumbing to freeze up this way) but who is going to want to pay the extra fare when there's no food service on offer?

Without additional frequencies and more 110 mph running, what value will the upgraded coaches add on the regional routes?

DICK WOLF'S CONTINUED ACTS OF CONTRITION.

I've suggested previously that the Dick Wolf Chicago-based procedurals are NBC's way of acknowledging that the Tragic Vision has some purchase.  Last night, they offered a crossover episode, meaning the shows might appear out of order, with some sort of linking event for each part of the cast.

It started with the first responders mostly enjoying a common day off, which happened to include the Bears hosting the Packers for a daylight opening game, and lots of opportunities to wear Bears gear and burn some bratwurst.  We were spared the sight of yellow mustard being slathered on those sausages, or Aaron Rodgers delivering yet another dagger on that crappy Soldier Field turf, as a very sick man collapses not far from where the Fire crew are tossing a football around.  "I’m not sure when the last time viewers saw all of our favorite One Chicago characters just kicking back and having fun, but the beginning few minutes were the type I want to see more often."

That wasn't going to happen, as the man was ill with a virulent bacteria infection, and the fire house had to make plans to participate in Chicago's Oktoberfest parade which was going to coincide with the Cowboys coming into town to play the Bears.  (Yes, the real Oktoberfest takes place to the north, but taking liberties with Midwestern things is common in the series.)  Then a fire breaks out at a research laboratory on the mythical Central Chicago University, which has enough elements of UIC, The University, and Chicago State to provide for any plot complication.

There is a connection between the fire and the sick man, but that has to wait until a large number of cases of virulent bacteria turn up at Chicago Med.  That gives the hospital administrator a chance to say what nobody dare say to Chuck "Truculent Chipmunk" Todd.  "[S]he had to deal with so-called journalists that wanted to spread fear, a mayor who cared about how the situation would affect his approval rating above all else, and [Detective Sergeant] Voight's insistence on questioning terrified people while they were being held in quarantine."  Meanwhile, the firehouse crew have to protect a local taqueria that was being mobbed account their food truck was on the stadium grounds not far from where the first patient collapsed.  Fake news can still be used to virtue-signal, at least there didn't appear to be any mob members in red hats.

Now it's up to the Intelligence crew to figure out what's going on and why a number of patients come from the same building.  It transpires that somebody had masqueraded as an exterminator.  That somebody was a university biomedical researcher who was even helping out at Med.  "The company first mentioned in Chicago Fire by the initial carrier of the virus, BRT, refused to give [researcher] Seldon funding for his research because it wasn't profitable."  Notice ... the sponsored research scam getting an indirect mention.  Rather than randomly infecting people at the Oktoberfest parade (the one thing the show got right is that Chicago doesn't give an Oktoberfest parade and nobody comes) the disgruntled researcher decides to kill off the board of the company if they don't restore his funding.

Real academic science is probably not that blatantly corrupt, and yet, calling attention to sponsored research corruption to accompany run-of-Chicago political corruption (where the stories are a bit more lurid on television than they are in real life) and the seamy side of life away from Wrigleyville and the museum campus is probably a good thing.  I wonder how many of the additional watchers caught any of that.

THEY'RE JUST ASKING TO BE DEFUNDED.

Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds recently characterized the people in charge of higher education as "rebellious adolescents."  But they apparently take their role seriously.  Here's a Rhode Island neuroscience student making the case for "business genderqueer" in the open-source house organ for polymorphous perversity business as usual.
At conferences, there's a stronger expectation of formal dress. I see a lot more suits, ties, skirts, dresses and button-down shirts at conferences than I do in everyday gatherings of professors and graduate students. This is where I start running into real problems. Once we get more formal than T-shirts, which exist in "unisex" cuts, and athletic attire, where even cisgender women regularly buy from the men's section, clothing gets much more strongly gendered. I'm nonbinary. Now what?

I see a few main options.

One option is to ignore the expectation of formal dress entirely. And yes, I've done this. There is an existing picture of me in a T-shirt, shorts and no shoes at a conference, from the day I presented on one panel and moderated another one.
We have much to look forward to. But it gets better.
Another option is to do drag. In situations where openly playing with gender is accepted, I can enjoy dressing up as another gender, but that's not ideal for conferences where I'd be doing drag while pretending that I'm doing no such thing. So, while I recognize the option, I don't like to use it for conferences. (You could argue that I used the drag option for the beginnings of my math classes, though -- everything visible came from the men’s section on those days, including the dress shoes.)

I don't think there's just one answer to that question. There may be as many answers as there are people who need to answer it, plus some extra for people who find multiple solutions. But for me, mixing and matching is one answer. Get a suit out of the men's section, but replace the dress shirt with one of the rare dresses I can wear. Dress shirt and suit jacket from the men's section, basic black skirt. Because people tend to assume strangers are one binary gender or the other and femininity is more marked than masculinity, I still get misread as a woman when I use these combinations … but that's likely no matter what I wear. Even when all my visible clothing came from the men's section, I was misread as a woman, and it still felt like doing drag because I'm not a man, either!
Fine. Good luck getting a date, or a job.

Meanwhile, with Hallowe'en approaching, it's likely that the deanlets of Student Affairs will caution against, and prepare to issue sanctions on, any Normal guy who dares dress up as Transitioning Bruce Jenner or as Corporal Klinger.  Insensitive, insensitive! Mocking the Binary!  Whatever.

One commenter gets it.  "I feel badly for people that have to agonize over this. Really badly."

Perhaps it is time to stop subsidizing the foolishness. "There's nothing better than the sounds of pocketbooks snapping shut to bring a bit of sanity to college administrators."  Furthermore, it's time to undermine these allegedly sophisticated people with mockery.  "This is the deflated, self-loathing bourgeoisie coming together to project their own psycho-social hang-ups on to society at large. They must be criticised and ridiculed out of existence."  Indeed.

TRUMP DERANGEMENT RIDES THE RAILS.

At Raw Story, a degradation of Amtrak service becomes the restoration of the Gilded Age.  "Separate and unequal train service returns on Trump’s Amtrak."
Team Trump forced Amtrak to limit dining car access on four long haul routes to passengers who paid for roomettes. More routes will be affected in the future.

Those in the cheap seats are now barred from the dining cars.
Those in the sleeping cars have a mostly empty space in which to partake of their boxed meals.  But because another Republican effort to do away with long-distance trains appears to be offering benefits to the carriage trade, it's evil.
Historically Amtrak dining cars had tables with linens, prepared meals cooked to order and took reservations for seating time. Passengers who paid a premium for private roomettes had the cost of meals built into their fares.  All other classes were also welcome in the dining car, they just paid for their meals.

Team Trump is ending integration of economic classes and denying the ability to purchase dining car meals for coach passengers.
Yes, and if the common carrier railroads had been more effective at knocking off the dining cars, there might not have been an Amtrak in the first place. But if you're D. C. Johnson, it's easier to see the separate dining experiences as somehow Favoring Privilege, when what it's really doing is making the sleeping car passengers, who might or might not be Privileged, less likely to favor continuing Amtrak as it exists.
Those meals for passengers paying premium prices include red wine braised beef as well as creole shrimp and andouille sausage. The first beer or glass of wine is included.

But even these premium passengers will no longer enjoy table linens. And instead of freshly cooked eggs for breakfast they will get a “deluxe” continental breakfast. That means sugary and starchy breads along with hard boiled eggs.
That might be, but even a hardcore ideologue has to recognize reality.
Economic segregation and degrading meal service will almost certainly suppress ticket sales at all fares. That will likely result in fewer people riding Amtrak, especially long haul trains.

Making Amtrak trains less pleasant encourages more people to travel by car and airplane, transportation modes which contribute more to global warming than relatively fuel-efficient trains.
Not to mention, the airways and the roadways are government properties, meaning they're illustrations of how the government subsidizes traffic jams and flight cancellations.

YOU CAN ONLY TAKE THIRTEEN TRICKS.

It's not Saturday, and I don't consider what follows any sort of a bridge column, as there are no teaching points.  Do your research: the newspaper columns are generally about making do with what looks inadequate, or how best recover when "eight ever, nine never" runs afoul of Pascal's Triangle.

But when the simulation deals you  A K 10 2 ♥ K Q J 8 5 ♦ A K J 8 with the north bot, my partner, opening 1 Club, maybe some fun things can happen.  I respond with Two Hearts, bot tries Four Clubs, I offer Four Hearts (the simulation offering instructive explanations of what these bids mean) and the partner bot offers Four No Trump, which doesn't mean calling for Aces, as there's no agreement on a suit yet.  I just dial up Six No Trump, as several of the bid explanations are offering the Ace of Clubs, and everybody passes.

The closed hand for this game is ♠ 3 ♥ A 3 ♦ Q 5 2 ♣ A K Q J 6 5 3.  I suspect in expert play the declarer simply reveals the hand and says, "Plus one, let's play a more interesting hand."  Fourteen top honors plus enough little ones to switch between holdings.  The opening lead is the ♠5, win on the board, cash the  King, little one to the Ace, cash the three top Clubs, back to the board for the remaining Hearts, and then file a claim.

It's like almost any other activity, every so often something goes just right, just enough to go back and keep trying, even though most days there will be winners you can't get to, just as in sailing there were days when the wind just wouldn't cooperate.

14.10.19

SOMEWHERE CHARLIE SYKES IS CHUCKLING.

His Prof Scam is thirty years old, and still relevant.  The remnant deanlets and deanlings of the ancien regime still aren't catching on, notes Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds.
Whom the gods would destroy, they first make crazy. And higher education has become objectively crazy. It’s not a shock that taxpayers think their money might be better spent elsewhere than on subsidizing enclaves of insanity. It’s especially true when universities spend so much of their time attacking so many of the Americans who pay taxes to support them, from Trump voters, to Christians, to gun owners and businesspeople. It takes a lot of chutzpah to slap someone in the face and then put your hand out for money, but that’s what universities have been doing for decades and with special force over the past few years.
Yup.

Perhaps the reckoning is coming.
So am I blaming the victims for these budget cuts? Basically, yes, with the proviso that the victims are also perpetrators. For decades, higher education has, often quite consciously and openly, set itself against the larger society in which it is embedded while still expecting support, much like a rebellious adolescent who still expects parents to cover the cellphone bill. Now much of the larger society is having second thoughts, and universities will have to decide whether they want to change or shrink. Sadly, I’m beginning to doubt that they’re smart enough to change.
It's more likely they'll use all manner of rodomontade rhetoric to make it look like a bunch of mean Know-Nothings are picking on them.

IT"S JUST A DIFFERENT SORT OF EVIL.

Columnist Tom Nichols, who some time ago publicly broke with the Republican Party over Donald Trump's hostile takeover thereof, now pleads with the Democrats to not unleash their kind of crazy.
I'm not telling you to go win the votes of old racists wearing MAGA hats; I’m telling you to make sure that the people who helped you in 2018 don’t simply stay home in 2020. And the first thing you can do to avert this, which will result in another supermajority win on the coasts while losing the Electoral College, is to stop handing issues to the Republican culture warriors.

Take it from a former member of the GOP tribe, they’re waiting for you. They are praying, you should pardon the expression, that you will do something stupid and pointless so that they can take the spotlight off of Trump. They will do anything to change the subject, so that you cannot run on the simple platform that Trump is an emotionally unstable ignoramus who is endangering our national security and  trampling on the Constitution. Why help them?

You’ve told me many times, as we’ve sat together in front of the television, that the Democrats can advocate for very liberal social justice positions and still strategize to beat Trump. I have squeezed my eyes tight, and I have wanted to believe you. And in fairness, you did a great job in 2018. If there’s any chance of impeaching the Mad King, it’s because you and your compatriots held back on the fringey stuff and elected a lot of solid, moderate candidates who flipped a lot of seats. My fears back then were unfounded.
Those solid, moderate candidates do not represent the Democrat base. But a guy who wrote about the death of expertise understands he can only get away with disrespecting the stereotypical Trump voters.