27.11.19

GIVE THE CRANKY LEFTISTS TURKEY AND SOME MISTLETOE.

It continues to appear that killing the buzz at Thanksgiving is the woke thing to do, and, predictably, there's a new buzz-killer at work.  "[George Washington U. historian David] Silverman explains the reasoning behind treating Thanksgiving as a 'Day of Mourning,' including that it supposedly typically 'celebrates a myth of colonialism and white proprietorship of the United States,' and encourages Americans to 'rethink' how we 'tell the history of Thanksgiving.'"

I bet he's a real fun guest, but being annoying and preachy has become a thing among the self-styled progressives. "Every year, it's important to pause and recognize how much we have to be angry about."

Joel Kotkin dissents.
It’s the task of older generations to remind their successors that although the country and the world clearly faces great challenges, they indeed do have much to be grateful for, starting with the fact that America and the world is now enjoying the largest growth in affluence in its history. Indeed, in the face of decades of apocalyptic predictions of energy and food shortages by the green zealots, both are remarkably abundant by historical standards.
To use the language the youngsters understand, it's up to the elders to say "check your privilege."
If the notion of gratitude is fading among the young, it is in part because the previous generation has done a poor job of communicating the blessings with which we have been endowed. If the Puritans, freezing in the New England fall and simply relieved not to be starving, could feel gratitude about the world, perhaps we, living in unimaginable physical comfort and freedom, should take the hint and emulate them.
Exactly. Thanks for looking in.

DECK THE HALLS.

The Thanksgiving travel rush is underway, and it's time to think about trains under the Christmas tree.


That's the Great Hall at Chicago Union Station.  Look closely, the ornaments on the tree are emblems of the "fallen flag" railroads.  You'll find Amtrak and Metra and the contemporary carriers as well.


It's Polar Express season.  The full-sized Polar Express does not have a steam locomotive.  Amtrak, however, are getting some additional miles out of their SPV2000 diesel multiple unit cars, which never quite lived up to expectations.  They're now set up as entertainment cars.


Polar Express operations bring modifications to Amtrak's operating practices.  The Hiawathas use tracks 1 or 3, on the west side of the north train shed, perhaps to hide the Polar Express boarding area from prying eyes.  Passengers for Polar Express trips use a passageway provided for mail and express to the loading platform at right.  The passengers walking to the concourse have just gotten off an eastbound Hiawatha on track 3.


The Sunday immediately past was not a good day for the California Zephyr.  The final regional trains of the evening have not yet been reported as delayed, and some children will be getting a late night on the final Polar Express of the evening.  The trains will operate until December 29.

MORE EVIDENCE THE SUBURBS WERE NOT BUILT TO A FINISHED STATE?

Strong Towns contributor Jeff Lemieux considers Greenbelt, Maryland, one of the New Deal prototype residential communities.
Greenbelt, Maryland, was born in the 1930s. We are one of three “green belt” towns planned to create employment and provide housing during the Great Depression. The town design was more utopian than traditional, with sweeping sidewalks and pedestrian underpasses leading from houses to the community core.

During World War II, the town expanded to provide housing for defense workers; in the 1950s, the federal government sold the whole town to its residents, who continue to own the homes as a cooperative. The landscaping has now matured into a tremendous canopy of trees, and much of the original green belt surrounding the historic town center has been set aside from development as a forest preserve.
Greendale, Wisconsin, the westernmost of the concept communities, was farther from a smaller city center, and its downtown was not as built up as Greenbelt.  Unlike in Greenbelt, the shopping centers and the stroads developed on the periphery of the original town center, and there was space between that town center and the county's extensive network of parks and parkways for the tract houses to be built.

Both such suburbs, however, have some potential for additional evolution, although the usual Strong Towns mind-set is: not easy.  "Greenbelt as a whole is far from a traditional, walkable design. Many parts of Greenbelt are not suitable for easy incremental redevelopment. As a result, we will need to watch our maintenance expenditures very carefully and keep a close eye on state and county funding streams."  That's likely true almost everywhere, and it's a situation that's likely to continue as long as the prevailing wisdom for urban forms is that rapid transit, whether by bus or some sort of rail, must be sustained out of farebox receipts, whilst general tax revenues maintain the roads.

REVERSING THE SUB-PRIMING OF HIGHER EDUCATION?

My first university job was at Wayne State, which was setting the pace for access-assessment-remediation-retention before that became a thing more commonly (and not to the advantage of the higher education enterprise generally.)

New university president M. Roy Wilson might be heading a turnaround (if so, and if the rest of the higher education establishment thinks the same way, that might be desirable), or perhaps he's lost the confidence of his trustees.
While divisions among board members have recently come to a head, tensions have been boiling up for months now, starting in December 2018 with the vote to extend Wilson’s contract, which some members felt was rushed.

Efforts to strike a deal between the university’s medical school and the Henry Ford Health System fell apart, the University Physician Group has declared bankruptcy, doctors are suing the university, and the university’s accrediting agency found that a board member was trying to operate the university behind the [c.q.] Wilson’s back -- and that's not even all of the issues.

Meanwhile, Wayne State has won a second award from the [Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, the old NASULGC]. The university’s troubled graduation rates are improving faster than anyone else in the country, and its African American graduation rate has tripled.

Wilson, a medical doctor who has served as a deputy director at the National Institutes of Health and in several administrative positions at medical schools, was hired by Wayne State in 2013. He has been praised for turning the university around after a 2010 report from the Education Trust found that Wayne State had one of the largest racial achievement gaps in the country.
Your tax dollars at work in Detroit's public schools, there's a fix for that.  I'm having trouble figuring out what's at stake, what goes on in the undergraduate programs can be unaffected by whatever is going on in the medical programs.
From the outside, the situation seems like “a couple of kids in the playground having a fight,” said James Finkelstein, a professor emeritus of public policy at George Mason University who researches university presidents.

The difference is what’s at stake: the reputation and future of the university, which affects faculty, staff and students.

“I can’t recall many situations where a board and a president have been more at odds with one another than what you’re seeing play out at Wayne State right now,” Finkelstein said.
"Kids in a playground" brings to mind "the stakes are so small," and yet, there might be much more than meets the eye.

26.11.19

HE BURIED THE LEDE.

Donald "Cafe Hayek" Boudreaux recently issued "Twenty Crazy Beliefs on Economics and Politics." The principal message comes at the end. "Why does the goal of restraining the power of government in all areas of life have so little political clout given that confidence in government is at historic lows?"  The nineteen items preceding it are special cases.  Read it and enjoy it all the same.

PICTURES FROM AN INSTITUTION.

I ripped off the title of a so-called campus novel, which genre might be better understood as dystopian fiction, but without the dubious political economy.


Part of preparing future teachers is apparently mastering the techniques of effective bulletin board design, something that might be delegated to the students as group projects.  Fitness Education Methods students take turns.  Their projects rotate each week, and seasonal themes are common.


Here, the theory of Spelling is a Social Construct and Grading Grammar is Oppressive collides with the practice of Show Me Your Competence.  How much confidence would you have, dear reader, in a trainer or teacher who doesn't know one of the principal terms of his or her art?  The acronym, which might be more easily pronounced if you speak Klingonese, refers to the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.  (Spelling and Oxford commas optional.)


The university recently showed "Exploring Aspects of War," including this collage with an anti-war advertisement from 1939 (I don't know if the producing organization was pacifist always, or pacifist as long as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was in effect) and high school yearbook photos.  "The exhibition explores how the visual arts have served to document, promote, memorialize, process healing, critique and protest war and military action."


Possibly the artist's description, or perhaps a curator's commentary.


Protest art is, shall we say, more provocative than propaganda art, even though each cautions against loss in a different way.


Again, might either be the artist's description, or curator commentary.


A bit of a surprise, intersectionality applies to biker veterans.  Curator commentary, apparently.


A poster inside a larger walk-in exhibit based on a Vietnam-era camouflaged shelter.  The message might question the rally-behind-the-flag-in-this-together exertions of war leaders; it strikes me as equally applicable to the dynamics of virtue signalling and cancel culture.


A Hefty bag serves as a virtue signal.  It's performance art, dear reader.  The university art museum is at the west end of the first floor of Altgeld Hall, the principal administration building.  The fundraising and development offices are at the east end of the first floor.  The closest restrooms to those offices were recently repurposed as all-gender-expression rooms, apparently showing solidarity with the alphabet people being as important to fundraising as the panelled walls and carpeted floors.

CHALLENGES POORLY FORESEEN?

I recently pulled out my well-worn copy of Theodore H. White's Breach of Faith to see what, if any, commentary he offered on the angry reaction by Richard Nixon's voters to those [expletive deleted] redacted [inaudible] transcripts.  (Not much: Mr White is more a chronicler of Official Washington than of Public Opinion in his works.)  I must make one correction to my posts:  Richard Nixon thought Lyndon Johnson's vanity taping system wasn't good enough, and he had a better vanity taping system installed, along with some controls to turn them on and off that might have had some role in what followed.

What interested me, though, were some of the observations, Mr White always devoting some of his chronicling to the Other Stuff occupying Official Washington whilst scandal, or, more commonly, a President being made, is under way.  I had forgotten, for instance, that he had offered an explanation of the role of the economist that I really liked.  "Economists are very much like reporters -- and as necessary.  The best of them can tell you exactly where you are, the exceptional ones can tell you how you got there -- but none can predict how you go from where you are to where you want to get."  I made money off that one for years.

But long before we got to that, we read about a crop failure.  "The 1974 drought in the Midwest, some American scientists thought, might conceivably be only a cyclical phenomenon, but they had other reasons to believe that it might be a harbinger of a longer cycle, one of those millennial changes that transform deserts to gardens, forests to deserts, dooming ports to become landlocked cities, or changing coastal plains into underwater fish warrens."  The notion of "anthropogenic" had not yet arisen, whether because that science was still rudimentary or because the dirigiste impulse had more convenient expressions is for a different historian.

Technocracy was still a Good Thing, then, that despite a generation gap between G.I. generation leaders and the most vocal and privileged of the early baby boomers that well have midwived Watergate itself.  The Victory Dividend, though, was still generally a Good Thing, those war protesters wanting to devote more of the resources going to prosecuting the limited war in Vietnam to Nobler Purposes.
All planning, both public and private, was bottomed [c.q.] on this assumption of limitless, ever-growing prosperity. The prosperity invited fancies, dreams, ideas that had seemed unreal only a few years earlier. Economic growth incubated a mood of experiment, and so, in all forms of life -- social, governmental, corporate, private -- experiments began. Few of the experimenters could foresee the consequences of their planning and successes.
Success is harder to absorb than failure. Failure leaves things as they are; success changes the conditions of life and brings new, undreamed-of problems -- above all, in politics.

Looking backward, one could pick up the thread of experiment - success - new - crisis almost anywhere in the early 1950's, and each thread interwove with another.
One of these days, I'd like to see people use "crisis" more prudently. A state leaves the Union? Crisis. A road is congested? Annoying.  Particularly, as each annoyance ratchets up the calls for Government Action.

"All such problems locked on the President's desk."

"Every group had to press its leverage in Washington, by fair means or foul."

Perhaps that was the lesson, a quarter-century after Victory that was after fifteen years of Hard Times.  "The experience of those twenty years between 1932 and 1952 had taught millions of Americans that when they talked of power, power meant Washington."  Never mind that Richard Nixon himself struggled to square two conflicting ideas.  "He held, as a leadership credo, that the President must control the government personally; but he held, as a political credo, that the Federal government must get rid of most of those controls -- social, administrative, economic -- which the Democrats had so long concentrated in Washington."

That hasn't gotten any better in the half century since, and the administrative state might well have entrenched itself further, no matter which party holds the Executive or the Legislative.

I wonder, also, whether Mr White could defend this passage today.
In America, however, "patriotism" is one of the old-culture words, like "motherhood," "honor," "family," "flag," and embarrassing to intellectuals. The patriotism of most Democrats is as deep and genuine as that of most Republicans; but Democrats hesitate to campaign on the theme, for it exposes them to the mockery of the thinking and university classes to whom they normally appeal for guidance and support.
A dozen campaign seasons ago, it's unlikely that those "thinking and university" classes would endorse the scorn national Democrats have recently shown ("bitter clingers" or "mean country" or "deplorables") toward those old-culture voters.

Perhaps, one of these years, we will come to understand the implications of "The Presidency had become a job of paralyzing complexity and bloated power" and ask whether the White House really ought be the "center of action" for "the price of your milk" or the school curriculum or the hangnail you're suffering from.

THE SUBURBAN ENVIRONMENT IS EMERGENT.

Although Strong Towns members argue that one of the contributing causes of municipalities going broke is a suburban infrastructure "built to a finished state" (and therefore not easily adapted or re-purposed), reality is that even the markers of sprawl, such as look-alike outlets in drive-alike environments, whether in Portland or Phillipsburg or Peoria or Paraparaumu, have themselves emerged.  There's even American Conservative infrastructure columnist Addiston Del Mastro claiming,  "Why We Should Preserve Old Diners And Motels."  The early ones anticipated contemporary suburban forms, but even those were not immune from rising land values.
The reality is that most of this “historic” suburban architecture was built at a time when there was plenty of cheap and seemingly infinite greenfield land along what were then relatively recent highways. Many places that were sparsely developed with diners and motels are now densely built commercial corridors, and real estate values and property taxes make it difficult to justify running low-value businesses out of single-story buildings on sizable lots. There is a reason why drive-in theaters, garden centers and nurseries, and small kiddie amusement parks are some of the first legacy businesses to go up for sale as an area densifies.

Beyond all this, some would dispute that a 1950s diner or motel even counts, or can count, as “historic.” History, for them, is not a slightly different building style used within living memory, but something hallowed and ancient, civilizational in importance. As much as I like neon, I can’t make that strong a claim about it.
I've documented the demise of the kiddielands (and the replacement of the metropolitan amusement park with the regional theme park) and the change of scale by which the exurban shopping center had the footprint of a contemporary strip mall, and the single big box store combines all the services of those independent stores.

The dynamic of decline is what Strong Towns contributor Tim Wright sees as the fatal flaw of the current retail clusters along the stroads and at the major interchanges.
The reputation of outlet malls, strip shopping centers, and big box stores is often not a good one—at least, not as they age. The once-shiny outlet mall with high-end outlets is replaced by a second-tier shopping center, maybe one that resells goods from other stores, and eventually the trend continues as an even lower-intensity store takes a lease in the third generation. To use Strong Towns lingo, they were built to a “finished state” and then slowly decayed, instead of built in a way that could be—or was intended to be—incrementally improved and adapted.
I don't know, there are several re-purposed stores and strip malls in DeKalb, and there are lots of vacant storefronts that might be subject to decay. Unfortunately, there are few examples left of the more idiosyncratic local designs that Mr Del Mastro concentrates on.
In an era before massive hotel, restaurant, and retail chains, every highway and every town had its own unique, and often fantastically overbuilt, signs and buildings. At a certain point, they become part of the fabric of their communities. When they’re all replaced by brand-centric chain architecture, the place loses something real, or rather, the sense that it is a place is damaged. The memories of older residents are severed from today. There is a sense of dislocation. This may ultimately have to yield to more pressing concerns like housing, but it’s still something real, more than mere preference.

This is what people mean when they complain that “everywhere looks the same.” It is true that suburban sprawl is a common form, but so is the American small town. From Maine to Maryland to Michigan to California, the small town is a recognizable entity.

The complaint of sameness indicates that recently-built places all feel the same—that there are no local geographic or cultural markers. Home Depot doesn’t even include the old “Your State’s Home Improvement Warehouse” tagline on its facades anymore.

There is also probably an untapped market for businesses in restored or preserved “retro” buildings. From cassette tapes and records to cartridge-based video games to exterior-corridor motels, everything old is new again.
I can think of at least two kinds of those markets: one for the vanishing first generation of national chains, where Howard Johnson's orange roof or McDonald's slanted roof and arches or Holiday Inn's big neon arrow indicated a level of standardization; another for those idiosyncratic local touches such as the Wadhams pagoda gasoline station or the Stuckey's southern style front porches.

None of these, though, were built to a finished state.  "In the same way that the American High built environment emerged piecemeal, whatever comes next is also likely to take shape piecemeal, although some experiments might be more successful than others."  So, too, to whatever adaptations to changing land prices or improved electronic commerce or delivery drones flying off trains comes next.

GOODS ARE PHYSICAL, RIGHTS ARE METAPHYSICAL.

Just don't bother Congressional sensation Alexandria "Sandy" Ocasio-Cortez (Naïf-N.Y.) with such high-concept stuff, she's on a roll.
Like public roads, schools, and libraries, Ocasio-Cortez said, public housing should be recognized as a public good funded by taxpayers, particularly the wealthiest people and corporations.

"It is possible and it's not that we deserve it because it's a handout," the congresswoman said. "People like to say, 'Oh, this is about free stuff.' This is not about free stuff... These are public goods."

Ocasio-Cortez won applause from members of the audience for her plan, including one who shouted of housing, "It is a human right!"
You'd think that somebody who supposedly studied some economics in college would grasp "nonexclusive and nonrivalrous," which is relevant, to, oh, her being able to live-post a cooking lesson from her quarters without some random welfare recipient exercising his rights.  Or perhaps the one time she wanted to look up the concept in the reserve collection, somebody else had signed it out and she couldn't be bothered to go back for it later.

How many times will we have to reiterate that governments provide all sorts of goods and services for private consumption, that is, usage is exclusive and rivalrous, and asserting that the good or service is a "right" and meriting taxpayer support, which is to say, some constituents live at the expense of others does not somehow turn it into a collective consumption good.

Kevin Williamson suggests that such wishful thinking does not speak well, either of the politicians who encourage such learned helplessness, or of the constituents who believe calling something a right magically produces it.  "The rhetoric of benefits as rights cultivates just the opposite attitude, one of learned helplessness, not in response to extraordinary challenges but in the face of the ordinary business of life. That attitude of helplessness is of great benefit to a certain stripe of politician. It is not good for people or countries."

Exactly, but if the representative suggested to her constituents that they had an obligation, as fellow citizens, to be competent, she'd be back to tending bar in a Brooklyn minute: that is, if the Common Dreams types didn't pillory her as a victim-blaming reactionary and exile her to the Flyover first.

23.11.19

GOING INTO SYNDICATION.

Jonathan Gewirtz and David Foster of Chicago Boyz have invited me to participate in their web journal.  From time to time I will be offering commentary there, with my practice limited to education, political economy, and transportation.  Note, though, that that's still a pretty broad portfolio.

The first such post is The Inclusive Symbolism Crowds Out the Intellectual Substance, which first appeared on Cold Spring Shops.  I've tweaked the latter post to provide for the same sort of section breaks.  By all means, dear reader, keep looking in at the Shops, as the travelogues, train stories, sports, and the other fun stuff, even going down three doubled, will be here and only here.

WHY AN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE CAN'T PLAY BRIDGE?

Chess-playing computers have trouble handling quiet positions, although their capabilities are apparently great where complicated tactical variations are concerned.

The challenge in contract bridge is in acting on incomplete information to reach a playable contract.  Some bids, such as any No Trump opening, communicate specific point counts and generally deny a long suit.  The five-card major convention says something about the length of a suit, albeit with some uncertainty about the point counts involve.

Then there are the preemptive bids, and that way can lie disaster, as in this example.


Perhaps I shouldn't have overcalled with that Four Diamonds, and perhaps it might have been prudent after that to let the defender bots attempt that Four Hearts rather than bid game myself.  But what ever prompted the algorithm to bid a slam in Diamonds?  East bot bets, "You can't make that."

Indeed not.  West leads the King and continues with the Nine, that falling under my Four.  I can create a void in Spades, cashing the Ace, and attempting a finesse of the Queen.  Yup, the King is in the West.  (That's another probability point: expect the highest outstanding honors to be in opposite hands, rather than in the same hand.)  Club Six, I duck in dummy expecting the Ace, the Ten picks that up.  Then East attempts to cash the Ace, well, I'm void in that and have a convenient Five to promote.  Now I can rattle off the rest of the tricks leading trumps, although note the opportunity to cover the Six with the Nine to lead the Jack back to another ruff.

Ten tricks, which is to say, my preempt would have won, but bidding for more was a mistake.

TRUTH IN TIMETABLING.

Craig "Amtrak in the Heartland" Sanders notes that Amtrak once apologized for its unreliable trains.



He notes,
Shown is a schedule for Amtrak’s Broadway Limited from the mid 1970s. Penn Central was still the host railroad and its tracks west of Pittsburgh were not in great condition.

Therefore Amtrak placed a notice that the schedules were slower than PC was required to provide but faster scheduled were not possible at this this time.

Left unsaid was that PC was in bankruptcy proceedings and couldn’t afford to fix its tracks.
I remember, the fall after the Conrail takeover, reeling off mile after mile across Ohio and Indiana at track speed.  The conductors were even OK with some Dutch-door riding.

Note, though, the circuitous routing of the Washington section by way of Philadelphia.  Once upon a time, The Pennsylvania Railroad would send the through trains southeast from Harrisburg, by way of either the Northern Central with a reversal at Baltimore, or along the Atglen and Susquehanna.  That ultimately led to the restoration of the Capitol Limited, first as a rerouted Washington section of the Broadway via Cumberland, later as its own train and the Broadway being replaced by a (not-guaranteed) connection to the coach train at Pittsburgh.

Those fast tracks across Ohio and Indiana?  Conrail decided they could do without them, another reason for the Broadway to go away ... and a Capitol Limited serving Cleveland??  One track is still there, though, sometimes hosting big intermodal trains, and perhaps they're the fastest way to Columbus.

These days, though, Amtrak deals with perpetually late trains by lengthening the schedules.

OUR NEIGHBORS AT WAR.

One of the principal characters in the recent big screen depiction of The Battle of Midway, Aviation Machinist Mate, First Class Bruno Gaido, was portrayed as a wise guy from the boroughs who got his fatalistic attitude from his skyscraper riveter uncle.

In reality, he was from Milwaukee.
Born in 1916, Gaido graduated from Lincoln High School in 1934 and worked for a time at a Milwaukee County-run farm where he occasionally smuggled home a live chicken in his coat for his family's dinner table.

He enlisted in the Navy in October 1940, perhaps to seek adventure, his nephew said. In January 1941 he was assigned to the Enterprise as part of a carrier dive-bombing unit.

"My dad was a good friend of Uncle Bruno. He said he was a real happy guy, the kind of kid you could never get mad at," Bortolotti recalled. "My dad said he was the best craps shooter, dice shooter, he had ever seen. Uncle Bruno never walked away from a dice game without money in his pocket."

During the Battle of Midway in early June 1942, Gaido was in the rear seat of a Dauntless dive bomber piloted by Ensign Frank O'Flaherty of Nevada that was part of a squadron attacking Japanese aircraft carrier Kaga. The American dive bombers crippled the carrier, forcing the Japanese navy to scuttle it.
The machinist mates often doubled as tail gunners when the planes sortied.  That subjected them to the same risks of being shot down or capture as the pilots.

RUSHING CHRISTMAS IS A THING.

Perhaps it's not the happiest season of all, particularly for economists getting ready for the job meetings.

The early warnings now come around Labor Day, when the close-outs of charcoal and gas grills and patio furniture give way to the first stirrings of candy canes and silver lanes.

DeKalb Chronicle general manager Eric Olson would just as soon embrace it.
Christmas has expanded far beyond 12 days, first pushing to the day after Thanksgiving. It now seems poised to engulf the entire month of November.

Some homes in my neighborhood have had Christmas lights on display for at least the past two weeks. They’re playing Christmas music at grocery and shoe stores. My wife and I visited friends last weekend, and their Christmas tree already was up, stockings hanging above the fireplace.

The early adopters are unapologetic. They like Christmastime. They like the songs, they like the decorations and you know, it’s their house, their store, their front yard.

They also have a celebrity spokesperson in Mariah Carey, who this year posted a video on Instagram declaring that Nov. 1 is the start of the Christmas season.
Why not? Ms Carey is likely cashing royalty checks for her Christmas tunes, which Music Choice Seasonal started right after Hallowe'en. (Their offerings are more seasonal in the fall, a few patriotic airs around Labor Day, some filler, then the fun starts with Oktoberfest.)
It’s kind of hard to argue with them. Especially this year, given that it’s been snowing since Halloween and Thanksgiving comes as late as the calendar will allow.

The lights look pretty in the dark. The tree and decorations are pleasant. If, as the song says, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” then why not start earlier?

I admit I’ve caught myself enjoying the songs playing in the stores.

This is how change sneaks up on you. Consensus builds quietly. Then one day what seemed like a crazy idea – like putting your Christmas tree up Nov. 2, legalizing marijuana or letting teachers carry guns – seems less off the wall.

The Yuletide may be gaining strength, but I’m conservative on this matter. If you’re taking a poll, put me down for no Christmas until after Thanksgiving.
That's how emergence works. Sometimes the idea catches on. Sometimes people have to be mugged by reality. The jury is still out on armed teachers or legal pot or a number of other things.

I can do without the early snow, as, apparently, can the farmers.  Some of the corn is still bedraggled and snow-covered on the stalks, and there have been a few fires in drying sheds.  Not good.

At Cold Spring Shops, the seasonal lights, such as they are, don't go on until the first Sunday of Advent, and they're off and away at Three Kings.  I'm hoping to have a new video of the traditional trains sometime in December.

22.11.19

THERE IS STILL NO [EXPLETIVE DELETED] MOMENT.

James "Clusterf**k Nation" Kunstler, no fan of Our President, nonetheless had an impression of California representative Adam "Pencil Neck" Schiff's closing statement that mirrored mine.
Finally, you’re left with that image of Adam Schiff sitting stock straight in the big chair with pursed lips and eyes bugged out, as in a very certain species of lunacy heretofore only seen in Canis latrans of Cartoon-land when, say, he has overrun the cliff’s edge clutching an anvil to his bosom. What was he thinking when he hatched this latest quixotic chapter in the ignominious crusade to reverse the 2016 election?
It appears as though no minds have been changed in the course of the public impeachment hearings, which I have mostly ignored, in preference to finishing the yard work and working on the railroad whilst listening to professional hockey or Northern Illinois basketball on the radio.  "House impeachment proceedings have helped — not hurt — President Trump’s approval in the eyes of voters, and in the latest survey, his rating has turned positive thanks to a massive revolt against impeachment by independents."

Here's why that matters.  Back during the interminable (well, it was only two years, but it crowded out the winding down of the Vietnam War and the first oil shock and the end of Moon landings, for what looks like well over half a century) Watergate investigations, the denouement came after Alexander Butterfield disclosed the existence of Lyndon Johnson's vanity taping system.
It wasn’t known then just how damning the tapes would be. But they would prove that Nixon had tried to cover up the burglary of Democratic headquarters at the Watergate hotel on June 17, 1972.

As White House deputy chief of staff, Butterfield managed the president’s West Wing schedule. He knew that in February 1971 a voice-activated taping system was installed in the Oval Office and other areas because he ordered the Secret Service to do it. Only a handful of people knew of its existence. And if not for Butterfield’s revelation, the system might have stayed secret.
That's the process part of the story, with these tape machines an improvement over what President Johnson had installed. As is, apparently, the outcome.
Nixon fought as hard as he legally could to hold on to the tapes. He even ignored suggestions that he burn them. Nixon’s lawyers argued before the Supreme Court that the tapes were protected by executive privilege. On July 24, 1974, the justices decided differently. By a vote of 8 to 0 — Justice William Rehnquist recused himself — Nixon was ordered to turn over the tapes.

Fifteen days later, the president of the United States resigned.

“If you didn’t have the tapes, then there would have been an ambiguity about all of this,” [reporter Bob] Woodward said at a Washington conference in April. “It’s the clarity of the tapes. The people who listened to them, particularly Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, would not only deal with the substance, but it was the rage that Nixon would get in about small things and the indifference to the law.”
A Vox writer, Dylan Matthews, would like to believe that the Trump administration's archive of transcripts is the contemporary equivalent of Mr Nixon's secret tapes.
White House officials moved what the whistleblower describes as the “official word-for-word transcript” of Trump and the Ukrainian president’s call to a “separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature” — even though a White House official said the call contained no sensitive national security information.

It gets worse: “This was ‘not the first time’ under this Administration that a Presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information.”

The allegation, to be clear, is that the Trump administration has been stashing transcripts of normal phone calls Trump made in a highly classified storage system so that they don’t get out and embarrass the president.
Mr Matthews expands on the "rage" the Post story alludes to.
The White House tapes proved not only that Nixon was involved in covering up the Watergate break-in, but that he was a vicious anti-Semite who traded conspiracy theories with his aide Henry Kissinger and that then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan went on a racist rant to Nixon assailing “those monkeys from those African countries” at the UN.
What neither the Post retrospective nor the Vox analogy tell you, dear reader, is that the Nixon adminstration engaged in what they referred to as a modified limited hangout (still a search string, fire up your search engine and see) in which they released edited transcripts of their tapes (these later collected into a best-selling book) in which many salient passages were redacted with [inaudible] or [characterization omitted] or [expletive deleted].

Those redactions angered more than a few people who had voted for Richard Nixon, whether enthusiastically, or as a better option than George McGovern, and they destroyed whatever support there might have been for Mr Nixon as an exemplar of Quaker rectitude.  Therefore, Republican Members of Congress and Republican Senators had less reason to fear voter anger than their contemporaries today do.  There's more than a little agreement among Trump voters that they elected him to fire the kind of careerists that are calling out irregularities.

DID YOU TAKE A TRAIN TO WORK TODAY?

That was an attempt by Amtrak and some of the railroad magazines and a few of the Commuter Rail authorities to get something viral going in social media.

It's a moot point in DeKalb, unless you want to drive or catch one of the Huskie Line shuttles to Elburn, and it's not something a pensioner is going to bother with.

It is, however, an opportunity to report on continued progress on the model railroad.


That's a test train on a newly installed section of track that will offer rush-hourly only (including a noon outward trip on Saturday) commuter service, plus connecting to the blast furnace high line and some industry tracks.

19.11.19

YOU CAN'T WALK OUT UNHAPPY.

The fall semester steel pan concert was a tribute to Alan O'Connor, who brought the pan program to Northern Illinois, and it concluded with a calypso by the recently departed Ken "Professor" Philmore, and the ensemble still remembers Cliff Alexis.

Northern Star columnist Chris Plumery notes all these things, and yet he concludes, "The audience got out of its seats and danced along with the band. The night ended with the audience members having big smiles on their faces as they walked out of the hall."

The next performances will be on two Sundays in April.

THE INCLUSIVE SYMBOLISM CROWDS OUT THE INTELLECTUAL SUBSTANCE.

Inside Higher Ed's Elin Johnson shares the bad news.  "Percentage of students who have met English and math benchmarks lowest in 15 years."  The proximate cause appears to be a lack of preparation.
Almost 1.8 million students, or 52 percent of the 2019 graduating class, took the ACT.

Of the Class of 2019 who took the test, 37 percent met three of the four College Readiness Benchmarks, and 36 percent did not meet any. The latter number has grown over the past few years, reports ACT. Students who took the recommended high school core curriculum stayed steady in their readiness in English and math.

“As we’ve been pointing out for many years, taking the right courses in high school dramatically increases a student’s likelihood to be ready for success when they graduate,” said Marten Roorda, ACT CEO, in a press release. “Students who don’t take challenging courses -- particularly those from underserved populations -- may lack the self-confidence and ambition to do so, and social and emotional learning instruction can help them improve in those areas.”
I'd like to think that, oh, inculcating bourgeois habits and teaching the substance would work, but that's not how the people whose salaries depend on them not seeing it respond.

IT'S WINTER. EXPECT TO BE STRANDED ON THE ROADS, OR AT AIRPORTS.

To be honest, why should winter be any different from any other season?  A thunderstorm over Chicago, or a coastal hurricane, or perhaps a power outage, and the news organizations will report on how many hundreds of flights are cancelled, and the human interest stories about people inconvenienced and yet bearing up will follow.

The weekend before Armistice Day, it was the Northern Illinois women's basketball team that became the human interest story.  I'm not able to embed the clip, which lasts about two minutes, or the full dance routine the story alludes to.

Let me direct your attention to the end of the story.  "The group is now on a bus to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where a Northern Illinois University bus will take them the rest of the way home."

Their game went to overtime, where the Northern team prevailed, with radio announcer Andy Garcia worried about being able to make their 6 pm flight from Fargo.  It appears that North Dakota State made a bus available to the team, and arranged a logical place for the buses to meet.

But think about that old Great Northern corridor.  As late as the winter, 1966, schedule, there was a 5 pm departure of the Red River, connecting to the overnight Black Hawk and a 5.52 am stop at Rochelle, much closer to DeKalb, or a midnight ride on the Winnipeg Limited or Empire Builder, changing to the Morning Zephyr, with a mid-morning stop at Aurora.

Yes, people chose to risk Interstate 94 or the airways, which is why the trains came off, and yet, part of risking Interstate 94 or the airways is the risk of a weather-related delay.

The team played, and won, another overtime game on the road Sunday, but the weather was more cooperative for flying out of Denver.

"COMMON GOOD" IS NOT A SINGULAR NOUN.

National Review's Kevin Williamson summarizes it thus.  "[S]ecurity in one’s own property and in the right to work and to trade, is the common good that governments exist to secure."  Exactly.  Thinking humans are not obedient sheep.  "In order that the Wise Experts have the authority to identify the common good, it must be the case that anyone not a Wise Expert is unqualified to so identify."

But the Wise Experts often get it wrong, and perhaps the best thing for them to do is to leave well enough alone.  Mr Williamson, again.
The U.S. government exists to see to the liberty of the American people. That is it. That is its only reason for being. It is an instrument and a convenience, the purpose of which is to ensure that Americans are able to enjoy their liberty and property — liberty and property being overlapping concepts.
Political economy is difficult, and yet, Adam Smith's observation about not much good being done by those who affected to trade for the public good is as valid with information technologies he is unlikely to have dreamed of as it was when he wrote it.  Perhaps more so, as information technologies, backed up by instruments of state action, are much more destructive.

15.11.19

TRANSPORTATION PROPHET WITHOUT HONOR.

Back in April of 2012, before I had installed even a single strip of spline subroadbed in the basement, I had this suggestion for backers of California's bullet train.  "Electrify the Peninsula commute zone and the high-speed lines with the same voltage and frequency, then equip the diesel with sufficient fuel capacity to cover the non-electrified parts, and offer a single seat service, with a mode change during a station stop."  They didn't pay attention, and they went ahead with building an elevated high-speed line through the steppes of the Central Valley, rather than building either a permanent fast line from San Jose to the steppes, or a Japanese style tunnelled line from Bakersfield to the northern end of the Los Angeles Commuter Rail network, and institute hourly Intercity 140 trains to build ridership, then start building the fast tracks between Silicon Valley and the Los Angeles basin.

Seven-plus years later, there are trains running around the basement, and switching a number of industries.

They're still wrangling in California.
Even after a decade of abrupt U-turns for California’s high-speed rail project, state leaders are now split like never before.

Gov. Gavin Newsom insists the state stick with his plan to use all of the remaining funds to build an operating segment in the San Joaquin Valley between Merced and Bakersfield.
That's a little bit more useful than seventeen miles of perfectly straight track between somewhere near Chesterton and the south side of La Porte, but only a little bit.

Meanwhile, the sensible fix is, well, too sensible.
Opponents say the state should instead run modern 125-mph diesel trains through the San Joaquin Valley until the system is ready to connect with Los Angeles and San Francisco. Their plan to divert funding would also defer building a link from Wasco at the south end to Bakersfield and possibly from Madera to Merced at the north end.

The changes would save about $5 billion that could help build a tunnel under downtown San Francisco and track improvements on the future bullet train alignment from Burbank to Anaheim.
Sigh. Bring riders into San Francisco on a single seat ride. Los Angeles also. But that's too logical.
Under Newsom’s plan, the bullet train would terminate in Merced, where passengers could transfer to San Francisco on the Alamont Corridor Express, a diesel-powered commuter train.

[Rail authority board member Danny] Curtain argued that running 125-mph diesel trains in the Central Valley on the high-speed track would not require a change of train in Merced to continue onto the Bay Area, resulting in a bigger passenger draw and a faster trip than having a somewhat faster electric train at 170 mph that would require a transfer. And until the line in the Central Valley is ready to hook up with electric trains traveling through mountain tunnels from San Francisco to Los Angles the investment does not make sense, he said.

But [rail authority chief executive Brian] Kelly rejects that as a worst outcome: “What I think would be a tragedy is if you diverted the money to different places and you were left with incremental speed improvement on diesel service.”
At least you'd have a service, and an opportunity to build ridership.

It might be moot, as California's government has no money for the project.

PRICES FUNCTION TO ALLOCATE RESOURCES.

That becomes easier when shoppers know what the relevant prices are, and a proposed rule change will help patients.
The Trump administration on Friday unveiled new rules to require increased disclosure of health care prices, in a move officials said would drive down costs by increasing competition.

One regulation would require hospitals to provide a consumer-friendly online page where prices are listed for 300 common procedures like X-rays and lab tests. A second regulation would require insurers to provide an online tool where people could compare their out-of-pocket costs at different medical providers before receiving treatment.
That gets messier once third parties are involved, as all the administrative impedimenta means nobody knows what the price of a colonoscopy is.  To a first approximation, though, the squawking from the rent-seekers suggests the Executive is on the right track.
Indeed, hours after the announcement, the American Hospital Association, along with other provider groups, announced it would sue to stop the rule.

"Instead of helping patients know their out-of-pocket costs, this rule will introduce widespread confusion, accelerate anticompetitive behavior among health insurers, and stymie innovations in value-based care delivery," the groups said.

Insurers have argued that price transparency could actually drive prices higher if low-cost hospitals can see that competitors are getting higher prices, and seek to raise them. Azar called that argument a “canard” and said in every other industry, price competition drives prices lower, not higher.

Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said there could be a problem with enforcement of the new rule.

"While the Trump administration's new hospital price transparency requirement is quite sweeping, the enforcement of it is quite weak — a maximum fine of $300 per day," he wrote on Twitter. "The technical term for that is 'chump change.' I wonder how many hospitals will just pay the fine."
That's why we have public comment periods for proposed regulations. Perhaps a higher fine or some analyses of price leadership before the rule takes effect will be in order.  Somehow motorists make do with prices posted at gasoline stations, even if on occasion everybody on the corner raises at the same time.

As part of the public comment, perhaps patients, providers, and intervenors will have opportunities to deconstruct the insurance cartel that traffics under the rubric of "in network."

DENY COHERENT BELIEFS, GET (FOR BETTER OR WORSE) PRESIDENT TRUMP.

That's riffing off a post from two years ago, where I noted, "Truly, truly, I say unto you, institutions are civilization. They've been deconstructed, and to what end?"  At the time, writers of a more traditionalist bent noted that the use of the trendy new rules by les deplorables was probably not what the self-styled intelligentsia anticipated, and it was going to bite them.
[T]he Charlie Sykes of Prof Scam and Fail U properly could characterize much of what came out of the pro-Trump commentariat as the fallout of postmodern deconstructionism of coherent beliefs. Thus, we might add to the sins of the political class "weaponizing the Executive only to turn it over to Donald Trump" and to the sins cultural class "weaponizing identity politics only to see it picked up by White America" the sins of the academic class "treating truth as a malleable social construction only to see the sledge-hammer wielded by Breitbart and Alex Jones."

But the election did come down to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and principled conservatives could make a case for Mr Trump, crudity and all. For instance, Victor Hanson saw it this way, to Mr Sykes's dismay. "One does not need lectures about conservatism from Edmund Burke when, at the neighborhood school, English becomes a second language, or when one is rammed by a hit-and-run driver illegally in the United States who flees the scene of the accident."
Now comes the impeachment inquiry, and Conor Friedersdorf is going on record as recognizing that deconstruction strays into the incoherent.
The coequal branch of Congress would check the presidency. The House would be lawfully empowered to impeach, and the Senate to conduct a trial. If two-thirds of senators voted to convict, the president would be removed.

That lawful and inherently political process is one of the reasons the United States has an unbroken record of peaceful transitions of power between presidents.

But that civic inheritance is being undermined by allies of President Donald Trump who are making constitutionally illiterate and otherwise wrongheaded arguments in an effort to cast plainly lawful impeachment proceedings as illegitimate.
So far, so standard. But read on.
The Constitution matters. So does the English language. To conserve the integrity of both––a project avowedly conservative writers ought to care about––requires choosing words with more intellectual honesty and care than [classical historian Victor] Hanson shows. Alas, he is not an outlier among Trumpists. Even the House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy has called the impeachment inquiry “a calculated coup.”
Mr Friedersdorf concludes, though, by recognizing that you can't deconstruct institutions when it's convenient to do so.
If efforts to oust Trump ever trigger political violence by people who don’t understand the constitutional legitimacy of impeachment and removal, blame for the bloodshed will reside in part with Hanson, [representative Kevin] McCarthy, and all the other pro-Trump commentators who cast a tool the Framers gave us as illegitimate.
Deconstruct institutions at your peril.  Where there are no coherent ideas, there may as well be strongmen, and revolutionary mobs.

STILL IN THE SAME BUSINESS AS THE IVIES.

That's not always easy.


Harvard's squad brought in some new three-point shooters, and established an early lead and got stops whenever Northern Illinois got close.
First-year guard Lola Mullaney, who scored 14 points in the first quarter, led Harvard through the game. Mullaney hit four of her six shots from deep range while grabbing four rebounds. Her performance helped Harvard obtain a 20-16 lead after the first.
Ms Mullaney is Twenty up on the scoreboard; Courtney Woods, back in uniform, is Four for Northern Illinois.

It was the annual mid-day field trip for elementary and middle schoolers, which meant the place was loud, and the commercial break entertainment a little different.


It's probably more difficult for the players to stick around for the class pictures and sign posters after a loss, and yet they did so.  The little kids probably enjoyed the extra time away from the classroom.

Thus, in the past year or so, three Ivy squads have played in DeKalb, with Northern Illinois winning two of the three games.  Again, I want to generalize the argument to other aspects of the academic enterprise.  Furthermore, "Don't we owe our best students the same intellectual challenges the alleged name-brand universities are supposed to present?" generalizes.  Consider the power conferences and the so-called revenue sports.  Why shouldn't an academically inclined, which is to say, unlikely to receive a men's basketball or football scholarship, choose to attend Alabama for aerospace engineering, or Louisiana State for economics, or Kentucky for literature, or Gonzaga for mathematics?

THERE'S A TREE IN THE GRAND HOTEL, ONE IN THE PARK AS WELL.

But the one in the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda is NOT a Christmas tree.  The governor says as much.  Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Jim Stingl can't stand the snow job.
The Capitol Christmas tree is another story. See what I did there? I came right out and called it a Christmas tree. That's because I'm not the government, which is supposed to represent everyone without picking a favorite religion, even though we all know what that religion is.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers understands that, so he jettisoned the Christmas tree label used by his predecessor, Scott Walker, and renamed the rotunda beauty the Holiday Tree, capitalized like that so you know he's serious.

For a moment, our salty-talking governor considered calling it the bastards tree but decided to save that word for Senate Republicans who fired his agriculture secretary.

Then Evers dropped a tannenbomb [c.q.] on his opponents by asking schoolchildren across Wisconsin to send in, gasp, science-related ornaments to hang on the tree. These Republican foes stopped believing in science and Santa years ago.
Gosh, do bubble lights qualify as science related? Snowflakes? Or are those a microaggression against Democrat legislators?
This week, proving the pettiness of politics once again, Republican Assembly reps and a few Democrats stepped away for a moment from getting nothing done and quickly passed a resolution calling the holiday tree a Christmas tree instead. At least we all agree for now that it's actually a tree.

Feel free to ignore the resolution and call it whatever you like. At least I think you can. There are probably lawmakers who favor ticketing people in the rotunda using the H-word to describe the tree. It disrespects their church, the one that's supposed to be separated from their state.

Passing a resolution saying something is a Christmas tree does not make it true or binding. Any more than most students at Menomonee Falls High School are actually Indians.

This is so much fuss over nothing, as both sides play to their bases. We're fighting about a tree that's not even standing yet. If you feel like you want to be even more cynical about politics, yule want to stay tuned.

The $75 murdered evergreen that lights up our living rooms is absolutely a Christmas tree. Just like a menorah is a menorah and a Festivus pole is a Festivus pole. In the privacy of your own home and your own brain, no one objects to those names.

Evers is not asking us to ban the term from general use. Christmas tree. Christmas tree. Christmas tree. See? That's what I call a fir tree decorated with lights, ornaments and tinsel. You can, too. But it won't kill us to say holiday tree for this particular one that is there to give comfort and joy to everyone.

No, it's not a war on Christmas. If there is such a war, the opposition is losing badly. Christmas takes up the last two months of the year. One-sixth of the calendar is Christmas.
The problem is that, a decorated fir tree having pagan origins, and the Christmas season getting under way in the stores around Labor Day, even that sort of symbolism won't Please Everybody.
Houses are already decorated. TV ads are already trying to turn us into zombies soon to be roaming the stores in search of passable presents. Christmas, at least the dominant secular version, remains the king of holidays.

We're so politically divided these days over real issues. Fir heaven's sake, let's not fight over the prettiest thing at the Capitol.
It's probably too late already, the professional atheists will object to the idea of a decorated tree, even if By Order of H.E. The Governor, it is a Holiday Tree.  It gets particularly funny in Chicago, where hard by the Nativity in the Christkindlmarkt is a display put up by the local chapter of professional atheists, honoring the solstice as the original reason for the season.  That is to say, a survival of the worship of the sun gods.  (Maybe the most effective way to trigger an atheist is to wish him "have a nice day.")

But Government is the name for those things We Chufe to Do Together.

14.11.19

MODEL RAILROADING IS FUN.

Frank Sinatra had some serious trains.  Rocker Rod Stewart does too, and he built many of the structures whilst on the road.  (If you're famous enough, you can book a suite of rooms and have the hotel move the furniture out of one of them and set up a work table.)



The urban scenery puts me in mind of George Selios's Franklin and South Manchester.  The rolling stock is North American, although that station throat has a British look about it, and the mixing of upper- and lower-quadrant semaphores and target signals on the signal gantry is idiosyncratic.

Perhaps in another ten years, which is the difference in Sir Rod's age and mine, I will have some similarly detailed scenes for your entertainment.  Plus I will have wired all of mine myself.

WHY THE BRITISH INVENTED THE ANGLED FLIGHT DECK.

Given the attention I've paid to books about the 1942 Battle of Midway over the years, it's likely I'll have something to say about the recent movie based on that event.

First, though, a primer on the events of the battle.  It runs about 42 minutes, but it will clarify all the events of the 1976 movie, or the one that just hit theaters.


Yes, the U.S. Navy got better at combined carrier operations during the war: perhaps the first successful coordinated strike from a carrier wing was Yorktown's arriving over Soryu almost exactly as fragments of Enterprise's strike arrived over Kaga and Akagi.  What the animation will reveal is that the uncoordinated attacks coming from Midway and Hornet's and Enterprise's torpedo planes precluded the Japanese from flying anything other than combat air patrols.  That's why the British came up with the angled flight deck.  An aircraft carrier carries planes to keep other planes from attacking it, their Combat Air Patrol, and the angled deck provides space to service those planes (which, in the Japanese navy, sometimes lacked range and lots of ammunition) whilst a strike to service some other target can be set up forward.  Even if the Japanese had been able to get a strike together, by that time the planes that were going to sink the carriers were well in the air.

What about the movie itself?  Variety's Owen Gleiberman says, OK.
The film’s drama is B-movie basic, but the destructive colliding metal-on-metal inferno of what war is makes “Midway” a picture worth seeing.

As storytelling, however, it’s just okay (though it’s more streamlined than the cluttered, cliché-strewn 1976 version of “Midway”). It begins with the run-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor (and the attack itself), cutting back and forth between the Japanese military commanders and the Americans, including the one U.S. official who senses, from the late ’30s on, that the Japanese are plotting something — Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson), a Naval attaché who becomes a U.S. intelligence officer, leading a team that assembles bits and pieces of intercepted Japanese radio messages. The film’s ardently objective portrayal of the Japanese may remind you, at times, of “Tora! Tora! Tora!,” the 1970 Hollywood version of the Pearl Harbor story that was made, in co-operation with the Japanese, almost as an act of diplomacy. “Midway” captures the essential hubris of Pearl Harbor: how Japan, in the dream of empire, sowed the seeds of its own destruction.
I'm not a fan of computer graphics taken to excess, the ships are bunched too closely, and in the final dive on Hiryu, it's either x-wing fighters from Tattooine or the combined combat air patrols of Hiryu, Soryu, Kaga, Akagi, Shokaku, Zuikaku, and Hosho filling the screen with blaster fire.  IGN's Kristy Puchko elaborates. "Green screen is used too much throughout Midway, from creating backdrops of Washington, D.C., and Pearl Harbor, to filling out the seas and skies with ships and planes. The flagrant flatness of this imagery scratches at our suspension of disbelief, even though we know these are real places and real events."

Moreover, the movie perpetuates the myth that Yamamoto Isoroku made that "sleeping giant" remark, a bit of diplomacy first introduced by Tora! Tora! Tora!; it leaves out Admiral Halsey's very real remark about the Japanese language only being spoken in hell, in a film financed by the Chinese no less, is likely going to create errors in future history books.  Indie Wire's David Ehrlich concurs.
It’s a shame, because this movie sometimes evinces a genuine respect for men on both sides of the fight, and for the courage required to die for a country whose faraway leaders will never make that sacrifice; “Midway” is nothing if not an aggressively basic reminder that America is only as strong as the people who are willing to protect it with their lives. Alas, those people deserve a far better tribute than what Emmerich has scraped together for them here.
Den of Geek's Don Kaye calls the picture "[director] Roland Emmerich's Latest Kamikaze Run;" and I stumbled across (but did not bookmark) another review that griped about premature introduction of kamikaze attacks in the War.  That's a complaint more properly directed at the 1976 movie, where much of the Coral Sea action that's in the full-length picture and generally edited out of television these days is actually Navy footage from later in the war, including kamikazes.  The two near-crashes on ships (a Japanese land bomber onto Enterprise off the Marshall Islands in February 1942, a torpedo-equipped Midway-based Army B-26 onto Akagi) shown in the current movie actually happened.

The reviews tend to concur on the actors who play the principals not capturing their roles well.  Henry Fonda or Woody Harrelson as Chester Nimitz?  Ill-fitting hairpiece or not, Mr Fonda was of the G.I. generation, complete to overindulged Baby Boomer daughter.  Robert Mitchum or Dennis Quaid as William Halsey?  Another G.I. actor, with plenty of other war picture credits, is going to carry the part off better, no matter how talented the current cast is.  Perhaps, though, that's part of the legacy of Total Victory, there are no contemporary thespians with any understanding of truly hard times.

One footnote to the story that's probably of interest only to econ geeks: Richard Best was chief of security at California's RAND Corporation after the War, where he might have been the first person in authority to twig to John Nash's schizophrenia.

MAYBE AFTER THEY'VE TRIED EVERYTHING ELSE.

Trendy tech-heavy Washington State can't find enough tax money.
At the Cascadia Rail Summit, enthusiasm to build a bullet train capable of going from Seattle to Portland — or to Vancouver — in one hour rubbed against an anti-tax message from the passage of Washington Initiative 976.

After bemoaning that the state’s highways, bridges, ferries and rail cars “are on a glide path to failure,” Washington Department of Transportation Secretary Roger Millar laid out the case for building an ultra-high-speed railway on dedicated track.

“As we regroup here in Washington state and think about investing $50 billion in ultra-high-speed rail,” Millar said, “do you think we’ll ever get to a place where highway expansion keeps up with economic expansion and population? It will not happen. It cannot happen.”

Millar estimated a cost of about $108 billion to add one additional lane to Interstate 5 in each direction from the Oregon border to the Canadian border.

“One hundred and eight billion dollars and we’ve got another lane of pavement in each direction and it still takes you all day to get from Portland to Vancouver,” he told the audience. “Half of that invested in ultra-high speed rail and it’s two hours. That’s game-changing stuff.”
I suppose it's subversive of me to suggest that the state obtain the money to widen the highways from the highway users, although that strikes me as a two-fer, providing motorists at the margin to consider riding the rails.

THIS PACKER QUARTERBACK WORE NUMBER TWELVE AND WON THREE RINGS.

One of those rings was as the emergency replacement for Bart Starr in the 1965 overtime game.


Edmund "Zeke" Bratkowski, onetime Air Force pilot and quarterback with the Rams, Bears, and Packers, has answered the final whistle.  RIP.