31.1.21

ON MY WORKBENCH

If we're going to do dead rail at scale, why not do dead rail in O Scale?  Here's a swap meet purchase where somebody converted a Rivarossi C-Liner into the B-A1A passenger version.


That's been on hand since at least 2005, and the frame and transmission offer ample space for a battery and the relevant control circuitry.


I stripped the paint from the shell, and added some 3D printed open grilles.  Those might help dissipate heat from the battery and radio control module.  There's a fair amount of work involved fettling the sides and fitting the grilles.


Perhaps the original owner gave up on finishing the model because adding couplers is a challenge.  If there's some spare 1/4" x 1/2" brass bar on hand (from scratchbuilding tenders) there's a way forward.


There's enough space on the upper side of the frame to clear 4-40 nuts holding the works in place, thus these pieces will be drilled No. 50 and tapped 2-56 at the spaces marked T, and drilled No. 31 to clear 4-40 at the spaces marked C.  These still must be shimmed down a bit to get the coupler heights right, but the short coupler casings will clear the gear boxes on the powered axles.

THERE'S A CITY FULL OF PEOPLE, SLEEP WITH ONE OF THEM!

Why isn't the intelligence unit featured on Chicago P.D. one massive, ongoing headache for the human relations department?  Sometimes I think the show should really be called Ruzek and Burgess and Halstead and Upton.  Once upon a time, the first two were engaged to be married, but that came undone, and there's more scoring on the rebound than we've seen of the Blackhawks lately.  "As for Ruzek and Upton, there wasn't any movement on that front, but we can assume they are still sleeping together."  Or not, or the various participants in this four-way corner are attempting not to get on the train.
The triangle does not have to be this forced.

Within seconds, Ruzek flopped from trying to hook up with Upton to asking Burgess if he can walk her home.

Based on his jumpy attitude, Burgess should have picked up on something between him and Upton.

I hope Ruzek doesn't play both women, the only two women in the unit, at the same time.

I'd lose all respect for him.
But he is, even with some additional women in supporting roles.
Why would you want anything personal -- fling or otherwise -- to jeopardize yourself or the team?

The job requires everyone to work together, trust each other, and handle tough and emotional cases.

Even hurt feelings or a break-up can put someone in danger.

And realistically, friends with benefits don't exist. Even when two people are casually hooking up, feelings get involved, and things get messy.
Anything can happen in a cartoon, which is what the Chicago series has become, with the fishing off the company pier confined to the firehouse or the emergency ward or the precinct, even with all these cast members interacting on crossover episodes.  There's a thousand ways things can go wrong.  And plot complications.
I don't see #Burzek's reconciliation happening anytime soon either.

Admittedly, it was a little bit of a low blow to have Burgess find out about Ruzek and Upton's relationships by walking in on their flirty little moment.

For people who are trying to be lowkey about their romance, they really are not lowkey.

I enjoyed Upton and Burgess' heart-to-heart, but I didn't understand Upton's reasoning for keeping it from her.

That Upton didn't want to come clean about the romance because she once dated her Sgt., and people thought that was the only reason she got promoted was a lame excuse.
At the firehouse, there's a dual problem, with Severeide keeping Kidd at a distance in an attempt to make her promotion to lieutenant seem less corrupt, and that's not going to go well either.

It's the precinct that I want to focus on, though, where the turntables turn.
Ruzek cannot be mad that Upton moved on if he's having a baby with his ex.

I was surprised by how quickly Burgess told Ruzek.

I expected her to grapple with the decision or at least push it off till she found the right time to tell him, but coming out and saying it proves she respects him.

And it's not like Burgess could have talked it through with anyone else on the team. Rojas is too new, and Upton is the baby daddy's ex.
It's a new season, finally, after lots of delays recording the show, and it's shaping up as Ruzek and Burgess and Halstead and Upton, at least for now. "Everyone on the team has either lost a child due to the job or has chosen to remain a lone wolf out of the fear that the job would inevitably bring loss and pain. "

So far, though, every attempt by a civilian to get involved with a first responder has gone badly.  The script writers telegraph those, in increasingly cartoonish ways.  Thus far, neither human resources nor Me Too have been heard from.

I WILL GLADLY PAY YOU TUESDAY FOR SOME GAME STOP STOCK TODAY.

Financial markets, including insurance and real estate markets, exist to value, divide, and share risks.  Short selling is part of that function.  Matt "Vampire Squid" Taibbi gets part of it.  "Short-sellers are not inherently antisocial. They can be beneficial to society, instrumental in rooting out corruption and waste in whole sectors like the subprime industry, or in single companies like Enron."  In addition, anyone who has ever taken out a loan to plant a crop is engaging in a short sale, it's straightforward enough to convert the value of the loan into a contract for harvest-time delivery of so many bushels at so much a bushel; and a magazine subscription is a short sale by the publisher, who collects the money now and delivers magazines later.

As a technique for getting control of a weak company on the cheap, it's probably not effective, because a short sale contract has an expiry date, at which time the parties must close their transaction.  The recent short sale transactions involving Game Stop were interesting, in that the day traders discovered more short interest in Game Stop shares than there were shares.  How is that possible?  Because a short sale involves an owner of the stock lending the share to a short seller, shouldn't the number of shares outstanding be an upper bound on the extent of the short interest?

Not necessarily, which is the division of risks at work.  Suppose I own some shares. I might contract with a short seller to lend him the use of my shares.  The short seller pays me some rent, then executes the short sale.  At the end of the short contract, the seller does not take ownership of my shares: he can close his position by paying back some of the proceeds of his short sale (the stock went down and he made money) or paying more than those proceeds if the stock went up.  That's right, dear reader: the short sale contract is a derivative security.  The value of the short contract is contingent on the value of my shares, but I get to keep my long position in the stock and get paid to make possible another investor's short sale.  My long position is speculative. I expect the stock to appreciate.  My participation in the short sale is a hedge.  If the stock does go down, I get partial compensation for its lower price.  It gets better.  Suppose that I'm sufficiently persuaded by my stock being borrowed for use in a short sale that I take part of my rent payment and then take some profits, unloading the stock.  The short seller who borrowed it doesn't have to know this. He's going to close out his position when the contract ends, although if his short is deep enough in the money, he might close it out sooner.   The parallel to early exercise of an option is straightforward. Meanwhile, the subsequent owner of my shares also has the opportunity to hedge his long position by renting it out for a short sale.  You read that correctly, dear reader: the same hundred shares of Game Stop or Acme Anvils or Enron have been shorted to two different short sellers.  Do enough of that, and there is more short interest in the stock than there are shares outstanding.  Because investors pay attention to such things, that is a situation ripe for a short squeeze, even without investors posturing to each other on social media.
Annie owns shares of GameStop, and Annie and her broker have an agreement that allows the broker to lend Annie's shares to short-sellers. It lends them to Bob, who subsequently sells those borrowed shares short in hopes that GameStop's share price will fall.

An investor named Chris ends up buying those borrowed shares from Bob. However, Chris has no way of knowing that those shares have been borrowed from Annie. To Chris, they're just like any other shares.

More importantly, if Chris has the same kind of agreement, then Chris's broker can lend out those shares to yet another investor. Diane, another GameStop bear, can borrow those shares and sell them short.

In this example, the same shares end up getting borrowed and sold twice. The short interest volume these transactions add to the total is twice the number of shares actually involved. You can therefore see that if this happened throughout the market, total short interest would eventually exceed the number of shares outstanding and approach 200%.

This still might seem impossible, and in a sense, it is. But part of the answer lies in the fact that there are investors that don't currently possess actual shares of GameStop but who have the same economic interest as shareholders. They have the right to get back the shares they lent at any time. When you add together the actual shares plus these "synthetic" positions in the stock, the short interest can't exceed 100% of that larger total.
In addition, I haven't exhausted the derivative securities I can create to further hedge my long position in the stock.  I could write a call option.  If Game Stop is selling for less than $5 a share, and its prospects don't look so hot, what's it worth to be able to buy it at $8 a share?  Probably not a lot, but writing such an option against my shares is another way to make some money.  This time, though, I'd best limit my option writing to one such contract, say at $8 or say at $15, because if I sell both options, once somebody exercises the $8 option, I've got nothing to sell out at $15.  Now I have to come up with extra cash to close that position, if the owner of the option is after the money, rather than the shares.  But that option activity adds to the short squeeze, as Bloomberg's Matt Levine explains.
When you short a stock, you borrow shares and sell them, promising to return them later. You have to pay a fee to borrow shares, you have to post collateral based on the value of the borrowed shares, and you (generally) have to return the shares you borrowed if the lender asks for them back. When the stock goes up a lot, short sellers start feeling “squeezed”: Their borrow costs go up, they have to post more collateral, and lenders might ask for their stock back. Some short sellers might have to capitulate, and they will close their positions by buying back stock. There is a feedback loop: The stock goes up, short sellers give up, they buy stock to surrender, and their buying pushes the stock up more.

Second, a lot of people (on Reddit) who like GameStop don’t buy stock; they buy call options. If you are a retail trader looking to gamble on a stock, you can buy call options to get leveraged exposure to the stock.
So much for the dividing of risk. Might the hedge funds have been taking short positions in Game Stop and other older companies as a way of making a future purchase for the purpose of asset-stripping cheaper? Mr Taibbi might be thinking so. "[The Reddit trading] adds a potential extra layer of Schadenfreude to the plight of the happy hedge fund pirate who might have borrowed gazillions of GameStop shares at five or ten hoping to tank the firm, only to go in pucker mode as Internet hordes drive the cost of the trade to ten, twenty, fifty times their original investment." The American Conservative's Colin Martin might be concurring.
Back in the [Wall Street Bets] community, the battle may be over, but the war has just begun. “People’s priority is certainly making money, but hurting funds that were hoping to bankrupt companies—especially companies that people hold fondly—is a huge motivational boost,” said a longtime WSB member with a background in finance. “I think funds will have to be a lot more careful with shorts and negative market manipulation in the future.”
There's still the traditional way of getting control of a weak company: take a long position in it, even if that involves creative finance that might not pay off.  Doesn't matter, the usual sort of scold will object to that sort of a takeover, too.  "The online pranksters behind the great GameStop bubble of 2021 are probably going to lose a lot of money. But they’ve done the world a service by reminding us of the absurdity of the stock market."  Really?  What is more absurd, the takeover artist who is willing to use his own money to get control of the cash reserves of a traditionalist company, or the politician who is willing to use the government's monopoly on violence to get control of that cash?
For years, [Massachusetts senator Elizabeth "Fauxahontas" Warren has] positioned herself as a defender of average Americans and a critic of big finance. And in this case, she frames her argument as an indictment of the "hedge funds, private equity firms, and wealthy investors dismayed by the GameStop trades." Yet if the [Securities and Exchange Commission] were to intervene in the GameStop trades, it's more likely it would end up doing so in a way that benefited the big hedge funds who bet on the game retailer's fall. It would be to tip the scales against a movement that sees itself as a populist uprising.
Never mind that, the usual suspects are piling on.
"Wall Street and stock market are metaphors for a society rotting from self-indulgence, greed, widening inequality, and financial entrepreneurship that builds nothing, improves nothing, creates nothing, and solves nothing, but merely moves money from one set of pockets to another," tweeted economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Mr Reich has been making such arguments for as long as I have been paying attention to industrial policy, where he first came to my attention. I don't recall there being Twitter, or fifth-generation smart 'phones, in 1980, nor can I find the line item in the federal budget that finances that service or those 'phones.  There's a lot more in a similar vein at the link, including, as you might expect, "'The simplest solution,' [Zach Carter] wrote, 'is a financial transactions tax―a small fee attached to every financial bet. This tax will either discourage reckless stock betting and reduce the volume of what is a mostly economically wasteful activity, or generate a great deal of revenue that can be devoted to more useful activities.'"  Like any other tax proposal, the revenue generation depends on the elasticities.  Suppose, though, that there was a small tax on each of those Reddit-inspired trades.  Would the short squeeze be of larger or smaller magnitude?  Some people, like The Week's Ryan Cooper, never learn.
The United States was a much more equal and prosperous place when Wall Street was clapped in regulatory irons, and the economy was a lot more stable. It is momentarily glorious to see arrogant hedge fund guys get beaten at their own game, but the fact is that the Wall Street casino is rigged. The average person will almost always be beaten by the big, deep-pocketed players — particularly if he or she can't even afford to buy stock, which is the case for most Americans.

If we strictly regulated Wall Street with large capital requirements, a financial transactions tax, simply banning most of the complicated derivatives and options used today, and so on — aimed not at the retail investor but mainly at the big financial firms — the American economy would be a lot healthier. If we scooped most stocks into a social wealth fund owned equally by every American, normal people could benefit from the market without having to take crazy risks. There are better ways to beat the rich than pump-and-dump schemes.
When, exactly, was this era of greater equality and more prosperity, and where were the smart 'phones and designer coffees? Which contracts to divide and price risk are unnecessarily complex?  Why isn't online trading, with or without a Reddit chat room, also a way to provide normal people trading opportunities in the securities markets?  Finally, suppose the ownership of the large-capitalization companies was vested in a giant mutual fund.  Who would be the board of directors, and would the managements of those companies have more freedom of action or less, compared with a regime in which the risk arbitrageurs, venture capitalists, and hedge fund operators disagree over who controls the company?

Put another way, is Robert Reich or Elizabeth Warren really smarter than the distributed knowledge of individual and institutional investors?

28.1.21

YES, THERE ARE UNELECTED BUREAUCRATS, AND THEY CAN DO A LOT OF DAMAGE.

When the Wuhan coronavirus first started circulating widely, prudent people bought out all the hand sanitizer in stores, and the supply chains were caught up short as none of their just-in-time models anticipated such a surge.  Local distilleries, which had the capability to convert ethanol into sanitizer, filled the breach.  What thanks did they get?  First, the food and drug types gave them grief for selling sanitizer without denaturing the alcohol, and then they got a bill for back taxes or something. Departing health and human services secretary Alex Azar waived the fee, which was something slipped into one of the coronavirus relief bills as some sort of log-rolling.  There are limits to state power, after all.  "Just devolve, already.  'Credentialed Elites plus Presidential Power plus Tax and Spend ... eventually collapses of its own weight.  Perhaps with the voting coalitions taking new forms along the way.'"

That collapse cannot come too soon.  The power struggle between the health secretary and Congress that led to the rule being rescinded is instructive.
Late [on December 31], however, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reversed the policy. In a statement posted to Twitter, HHS Chief of Staff Brian Harrison said, "Small businesses who stepped up to fight COVID-19 should be applauded by their government, not taxed for doing so. I'm pleased to announce we have directed FDA to cease enforcement of these arbitrary, surprise user fees. Happy New Year, distilleries, and cheers to you for helping keep us safe!"

In a longer statement, HHS leadership distanced itself from the initial policy: "This action was not cleared by HHS leadership, who only learned of it through media reports late yesterday. HHS leadership convened an emergency meeting late last night to discuss the matter and requested an immediate legal review. The HHS Office of the General Counsel (OGC) has reviewed the matter and determined that the manner in which the fees were announced and issued has the force and effect of a legislative rule. Only the HHS Secretary has the authority to issue legislative rules, and he would never have authorized such an action during a time in which the Department is maximizing its regulatory flexibility to empower Americans to confront and defeat COVID-19."

The statement continued: "Because HHS OGC has determined the notice is really a legislative rule and that no one at FDA has been delegated authority to issue such a rule, the notice is void. HHS leadership, based on this legal opinion, has ordered the Federal Register Notice to be withdrawn from the Federal Register, meaning these surprise user fees will not need to be paid."
I wonder if that means some of the "Secretary shall issue" legislation that creates the administrative state also designates a deputy undersecretary who also has the power to issue regulations, and if that deputy is in a position to refuse to implement a sunset order from a departmental secretary.

THEY'RE NOT GOING TO LIKE THE NEW RULES.

Mark J. "Carpe Diem" Perry recommends two essays from an anonymous insurgent economist at Texas.  One suggests that Austin relocate its Obamavilles to friendlier neighborhoods.  Typically, skid row is not in a prosperous area, and the presence of a skid row depresses property values that are currently low.
The political, social, and academic elite of Austin is the primary relevant constituency for permitting homeless camping, and they receive the most unambiguous benefits of the policy through smug self-satisfaction while bearing none of the costs.  True, these total benefits are dwarfed by the costs to those living in lower income areas, but the relative political power of the two groups leads to the policy being enacted despite the costs outweighing the benefits.  The camping ban repeal is thus both inefficient and regressive; the overall benefits are small relative to the costs, and the benefits accrue to the wealthy while the costs are borne by the poor.
Thus, let the woke live among the downtrodden they're supposedly championing.
The Governor should immediately instruct the Department of Public Safety to clear out all campsites from highway right-of-ways while at the same time prohibiting the University from enforcing any prohibitions on camping, loitering, or solicitation.  Transportation of persons and property from the right-of-ways to campus could be provided free of charge.

This policy might lead to some disruptions on campus, but it would be no worse than the disruptions faced by lower income Austinites who find such camps popping up near their homes and places of work.  And, certainly, faculty at UT are at the pinnacle of the social elite in Austin and among the strongest supporters of the repeal of the ban.  They benefit the most, and they should pay the costs.  It would be admittedly jarring to see faculty harassed and threatened on their way to teach classes, but faculty themselves have enthusiastically supported policies that have imposed such harassment and threatening behavior on less privileged Austinites, as is well documented in the viral video circulating regarding the Windsor Park neighborhood.  Surely “marginalized” working class individuals who provide important services to our economy deserve to have at least the same level of safety and security as those who write about the tribulations of the marginalized classes from the comfort of their own offices.
That's intended to be funny, although it's calling attention to a phenomenon that Richard Rorty (that, dear reader, is important, he's not of the Allan Bloom or Edward Banfield school) noted in the contemporary academy.
[The contemporary academic and populist] Left now infests politics and culture and it regards centrist and technocratic politicians with savage contempt. Nor does it have much interest in—or sympathy with—its fellow citizens who have found their lives got harder over the past few decades as the gulf between them and the wealthy and highly educated elites grew. In the universities, this Left has developed whole departments dedicated to gay studies, black studies, women’s history, and migrant studies, some of which offer original and valuable scholarship. But many do not, and instead repurpose the tools and privileges of academia for the ends of polemic and blame. As Rorty drily observed, “Nobody is setting up a programme in unemployed studies, homeless studies, or trailer park studies because the unemployed, the homeless, and the residents of trailer parks are not ‘other’ in the relevant sense.” Those identified as marginalised or suffering from discrimination are objects of concern and study. The white lower classes, meanwhile, are more often objects of suspicion or even contempt.
That's part of a much longer essay laying out the difficulty of comprehensive social change in the face of millennia of acquired wisdom. Here's a snippet.
Life for many in advanced societies may be oppressive or unfair, but it is at least fairly stable. “The public,” Rorty wrote, “sensibly has no interest in getting rid of capitalism until it is offered details about the alternatives.” If the public is told it needs to be liberated from elite technocrats and empowered to establish local institutions of power and decision-making, it will not “be interested in participatory democracy… until it is told how deliberative assemblies will acquire the same know-how which only the technocrats presently possess.” Those who would change society need to contend with the conservatism that resists large visions of a better future. Too often, these turn out to be intellectual illusions that are rarely popular with working people.

Visions are sublime; social reform is messy. Reformist leaders take two steps forward then one step back, or vice versa; they compromise with those they oppose, and sometimes acquiesce in order to enlist their support for a project they feel to be more important. This is democratic politics as we know it, and it is a politics which the newly radicalised Left, gathering strength and conviction as Rorty delivered his lectures, disdains. The aridity of the new far-Left’s convoluted and abstract academic prose and the determination with which its activists turn politics into a zero-sum blame game are both doing enormous harm. If politics is to be worth anything, it has to be about getting things done, not because activists despise their country, but because they love it and believe that it can be better.
Much of that should sound familiar, dear reader. Read the rest on your own time.  I promised you a second essay.
Existing institutions and norms are thus insufficient to address the problems of the current moment.  What is required is administrative reform, where attacks on academic freedom, free speech, and intellectual diversity are treated with at least the same degree of seriousness as other offenses at universities.  Specifically, every university should have an “Office of Free Speech” where faculty can lodge complaints when their academic freedom or free speech rights are violated, or when policies are put in place to limit the possibilities for intellectual diversity.  This office must have adequate funding to complete independent investigations of such allegations, and it should report directly to the highest authority governing the university, either the board of trustees or regents for most private universities or the regents or state legislature for public universities.  These investigations must have teeth; attacking academic freedom (not simply criticizing speech with speech) cannot be allowed to stand as acceptable behavior for administrators, faculty, or students.  The same sorts of consequences available for other offenses should be applied to those who use their position at the university to deprive others of their institutional or constitutional rights.
My first response is, get a spine, but apparently the consensus in the institutions of shared governance is to be spineless.
[F]aculty can certainly not be trusted with a role in the oversight of these issues; having served on certain faculty bodies designed to protect academic freedom, it is abundantly clear that most university faculty, even those who would go as far as to join such bodies, view academic freedom exclusively as a collective right of the faculty as a whole and not an individual right of faculty members.  That is, the consensus view of academic freedom is that the faculty as a whole should be free to decide what ideas should be allowed to be expressed on campus, and protecting academic freedom consists of preventing outside interference with this process, even when that outside interference is intended to protect the individual rights of faculty members.

Notably, this arrogation of power is outside of any reasonable interpretation of the charter of a university; when faculty were granted academic freedom in running universities, this was done under the assumption that faculty were best able to judge work in their areas and that external influence would potentially corrupt academic inquiry.  Founders of universities undoubtedly did not anticipate that faculty would instead turn against the very idea of free inquiry and use the trust placed in them to shift the mission of institutions away from inquiry and toward pure advocacy.
I know enough about regulatory capture to be wary of adding a new office supposedly to protect the powerless: years ago, the agrarians and communists got their Interstate Commerce Commission and the robber barons kept their railroads. And yet, if a state legislature makes enough noises about mandating an office of free speech or directing the use of athletic fields as refugee camps, there are faculty members of the pusillanimous sort who will clamber over each other to enact such things before the legislature does it for them.

Our universities are run by terminally stupid and increasingly senescent people.  It is time for them to go.

27.1.21

WITHOUT PRICE THEORY, YOUR EMPIRICAL WORK IS AD HOC AT BEST.

I think that's what Wall Street Journal contributor Alexander W. Salter is attempting to argue, although the sub-headline of his article, "Today’s researchers have tossed out price theory and don’t realize they’ve been politically compromised." suggests otherwise.  He starts by noting the recent passing of William "Midnight Economist" Allen, perhaps the last of the great UCLA price theorists.  But then he gets into the polemical.
Professional economists are abandoning price theory in droves. The new status quo has upended the field. Economics is increasingly less scientific and more susceptible to political influence.

The absence of price theory in today’s economic research would have befuddled the great economists of the past. Contrary to the field’s naysayers, the golden age of 20th-century price theory was never about “neoliberalism” or “market fundamentalism.” Instead, it applied to markets a simple yet brilliant framework that revealed the hidden ways market prices—exchange ratios between goods—facilitated an extraordinary amount of economic coordination. It also showed why many (but not all) restrictions on price adjustments, such as rent controls, resulted in costly and unproductive secondary effects. This was all a part of a broad explanatory project. While individual economists had their policy preferences, the economic way of thinking was above politics.

For years, economics has been getting less theoretical and more empirical. Economists are spending less time building and thinking through simple models, and more time collecting and analyzing data. The “identification revolution” in economics raised the payoff, in the form of elite publications, to finding good data from quasiexperimental settings and conducting advanced statistical analyses. Better empirical work should certainly be applauded. But it came at a cost: an entire cohort of economists with serious theoretical blind spots.
Those theoretical blind spots will lead to failure of the empirical techniques.  Because the full essay went behind the Journal pay wall while I was working on the post, I'm not sure if the professor noted as much.  As far as economics "getting less theoretical and more empirical," well, forty years ago, the gripe was that it was the other way around, and these days, I fear that often the empirical is more about statistical purity, whether you call it "structural modelling" or "robust estimation" than it is about ensuring that the data gathered (or, more commonly, downloaded from a government site) don't reveal unexploited arbitrage opportunities or other inconsistencies.  "To write a proper dissertation requires understanding both of price theory and of quantitative methods."

THE DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR IS NOT NECESSARILY THE SCAPEGOAT.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sailed into Green Bay and earned a trip to the 55th Super Bowl.  Because Tampa scored an end-of-first-half touchdown on an obvious Hail Mary situation, current Packer defensive coordinator Mike Pettine might face that clean-out-your-office moment.

The Packers have appeared in the playoffs more times than not in the 21st century, and previous defensive coordinators have paid the price.  In January, 2004, Philadelphia notoriously completed a pass on fourth down with 26 yards to go, to set up a game-tying field goal.  Five days later, then head coach Mike Sherman fired his defensive coordinator, Ed Donatell.  Packer publicist Mike Spofford, in this morning's Insider Inbox, however, makes a relevant observation.
[Quarterback Aaron] Rodgers' legacy is not yet established, so it's not fair to make grand claims. There was so much about the other three championship losses that had nothing to do with him. The opportunities he had with the ball in his hands down the stretch this time might make this one the hardest for him to take, personally. But I'll also say that for only three of 10 playoff appearances (and none of the last five) to be one-and-done is worth a lot. And two of those three quick exits were last-play-of-the-game, walk-off defeats. You're right about [previous quarterback Brett] Favre, whose overall postseason play wasn't as good as Rodgers'.
In particular, that Philadelphia game was an overtime loss. The Packers won the toss, took the ball, and then-quarterback Brett Favre went for it all on first down. Sometimes, that works, and sometimes, he gets intercepted. That's how the fourth-and-26 game ended, with an Eagle field goal after the interception, and the January 2008 conference championship game turned out the same way, with the Giants getting the late field goal for the tie, and the field goal after the interception.

More recently, former head coach Dom Capers took the fall as Packer defensive coordinator, before the current general manager fired Mike McCarthy before the season ended.  The ominous signs were present long before then.

Last Sunday, though, the mistakes were there, waiting to be made, and Acme Packing's Peter Bukowski summarized the outcome as "Green Bay’s best and highest-paid players didn’t play well enough."  More precisely, "So the three biggest stars (apologies to David Bakhtiari who wasn’t on the field with injury) made mistakes that cost Green Bay 17 points. Add in the ineptitude of two three-and-outs with a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter after getting back-to-back interceptions, and the truth is staring us in the face: for whatever Rodgers melodrama we want to conjure after the game, he and his best teammates didn’t play well enough to win."

None of which will stop the hot stove league from grousing about stodginess in drafting free agents.  An editorialist called Michael Silver, for instance, suggests,
If the Packers want to keep Rodgers in 2021, and perhaps beyond, they're going to need to change their organizational mentality. It's time to pursue talent aggressively and relentlessly and try to load up for another title run while this generational quarterback is still willing and able to fuel that effort.

Either that, or they can stay passive, sit on their hands and watch it all burn.
Mr Spofford disagrees.
I'm sorry, but this is the type of attitude that really frosts me, and I see it way too often, both in the Inbox and in the media (so I'm not picking on [the person who submitted a question along the lines of Mr Silver's argument] specifically). It's bull. The Packers are trying to win it every year, people, and the playoffs are a crapshoot. If 2007 in the freezing cold, or 2009 in Arizona, or 2010 in Philly, or 2014 in Seattle, or 2015 in Arizona again, or 2016 in Dallas, or last Sunday didn't convince you of that, what will? Did the Buccaneers win Sunday because their [management's] attitude was "to go for the prize"? That same Buccaneers team that in all likelihood loses the prior week if Jared Cook doesn't fumble the ball in Tampa Bay territory late in the third quarter with the Saints leading by seven, poised to go up two scores? Or if a New Orleans player is there to recover Cook's fumble? It's a crazy game, crazy (stuff) happens, and Sunday was no different. The Falcons were the better team four years ago and played like it. The 49ers were the better team last year and played like it. I believe the Packers were the better team this year and simply didn't play like it. You can disagree with decisions or draft picks (I have, in this space), but there aren't any moves that guarantee a Super Bowl, or guarantee you're going to play like the better team when that Super Bowl is within reach. The Packers are always balancing the short term with the long term, to get into that crapshoot as often as possible and take their roll of the dice. If you want guarantees, don't watch sports. Watch Netflix. Apologies for the rant.
Every so often, a team management does go all in on making a Super Bowl run, and Tampa might have done so making Tom Brady the de facto director of personnel, and perhaps that will work out for them (this year) and perhaps the reckoning with the salary cap and free agency will not haunt them for ten seasons.  On the other hand, how often might a management make a big splash on free agency only to wind up with an angry locker room and no playoff appearances to show for it?  We know what the standard is, and being regularly in the mix is a better sort of frustration than regularly being out of the mix.

DO ACADEMIC CONVENTIONS TRAMMEL INQUIRY?

In principle, encouraging "that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found" sounds desirable.  In practice, though, scholarly inquiry builds on previous inquiry, and there is at any time a box to be respected rather than mindlessly thought outside of.  Implicitly, there ought be limitations on what an academician is as a public intellectual.  Halifax philosopher Mark Mercer explains.
Some say all within the academy should be free from sanction to say what we please—as long, that is, as we seek to back up what we say with evidence or reasons. We must be willing to engage in critical discussions of what we say. That the position we take is a reasoned position or that we welcome criticism of what we say is necessary to our enjoyment of freedom of expression on campus. If we are prone to make outlandish claims without offering evidence, or if we turn our backs on criticism, we might rightly be told by a university official to reform our ways or keep quiet. If we persist and draw the ire of a colleague, student, or other member of our community, we should face corrective discipline, if not punitive discipline.

That freedom of expression on campus is conditional on giving reasons or responding to criticism is not the majority view among expression’s advocates, thankfully, but it does find some support among them. It is a common view, though, among those who dislike or fear freedom of expression on campus, including administrators and others with power. It is a claim frequently marshalled by those who seek to justify restrictions on campus expression or to extend them further. That is why it is important to be clear why this claim is false.

Now it is true that being ready and willing to explain oneself and to respond to criticism (sometimes by changing one’s mind) is a virtue among academics. Many of us are drawn to universities precisely because we enjoy and appreciate debate and the clash of ideas. We want to believe only truths, of course, but we want also to understand why the truths are truths, and that requires that we comprehend the reasons things are as they are. A prophet who does not engage in critical discussion would impede our pursuit of understanding, even should he speak nothing but ennobling truths.
Barnard College president Judith Shapiro seems to be concurring.
The damage a fundamentalist approach to free speech can cause our educational systems should be easier to address, given a commitment to core values regarding facts, logic and evaluating sources of information. Where we cannot arrive at the truth about a particular matter definitively, we can still get closer and at least move into the neighborhood. And when we are not ourselves in a position to judge the truth value of what we encounter, we must have ways of evaluating sources and learning how particular experts obtain their special knowledge.

Faculty members who have been especially focused on defending their freedom of speech need to be paying more attention to the quality of their speech. They need to be mindful of their professional responsibilities as well as their rights. That is why they are the ones getting paid and students are the ones paying.
I think she's drawing the distinction between professor in the classroom, and professor as public intellectual, or as professor using his status in his field to make a claim outside his field.
What faculty members used to say in private -- for example, while enjoying a drink with some colleagues -- is now shared on various nonprivate platforms. What was fine in the former context is not so fine in the latter. We now live with the danger of privacy disappearing altogether.
Her post then gets into the weird: take that part or leave it as you wish.  Professor Mercer, on the other hand, provides the necessary clarity.
Those who would restrict expression on campus like to distinguish between academic freedom and freedom of expression. While freedom of expression is available to all and doesn’t come with responsibilities to speak usefully and to explain or justify what one says, academic freedom does. These responsibilities should be enforced, they add, or universities would be no better than speakers’ corners or talk radio. Rules are needed to keep order and to keep members of the community on track. The rule not to speak except with reasons and with a willingness to consider criticism is a good rule of academic life, they say, for it discourages blowhards and mountebanks and, thereby, works to prevent bad expression from driving out good.
I'm not sure whether Professor Shapiro concurs. The headline to her post (it is, bear in mind, from Inside Higher (Woke) Ed) suggests something similar, with "Faculty members who have been especially focused on defending their freedom of speech need to be paying more attention to the quality of it." The partisan tone and the potted political economy of her concluding remarks suggests something else.

That's where the public get a say.  Use your academic status to make a silly argument, on a non-private platform or wherever, brace yourself for the incoming. "We don't refute people like this. We mock them. And we pity the students in their classes."  Exactly.

25.1.21

WOULD YOU LIKE TO LIVE IN A WATERFRONT FIRE HOUSE?

One is going to be available in Milwaukee.  Here's a look.


I wonder if it comes with docking privileges.  "Also, a Wimmer Communities affiliate is converting a former Milwaukee Fire Department firehouse, on the Milwaukee River bridge at 105 N. Water St., into a three-unit private residence for Wimmer family members, according to city building permits."

The adjacent, but land-locked, former shoe polish factory (and sail loft) is also to be converted.
A Wimmer Communities affiliate in 2019 bought the five-story building for $3.3 million, according to state real estate records.

The vacant Harri Hoffmann building overlooks the confluence of the Milwaukee and Menomonee rivers near East Erie Street. It has long been eyed for redevelopment.

Harri Hoffmann Co., named for its founder, made shoe polish at that site from 1962 until selling off its equipment and inventory two years ago.

The building was constructed in 1892, and was originally used by Joys Brothers Inc., which made sails and other ship equipment, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Harri Hoffmann Co. was the last manufacturer in the Historic Third Ward. Most of the neighborhood's former factories and warehouses have been redeveloped into housing, offices, restaurants and other new uses.
I wonder if the big "Hoffco Shoe Polish" sign will stay on the lofts.  I'm surprised the shoe polish company stayed there as long as it did.  Does anybody polish shoes any more?  Laacke and Joy are no longer selling to the public.

THE CORONAVIRUS IS NOT AN EQUAL-OPPORTUNITY KILLER.

A week ago, Packer fans had something to celebrate, and celebrate they did, to the dismay of the corona scolds.
Stadium View Bar & Grill was heavily criticized as irresponsible on social media after videos and photos from inside the business showed a crowd of maskless Packers fans celebrating the team's playoff victory Saturday over the Los Angeles Rams.

The videos, on TikTok and other social media, show fans who are cheering, dancing, giving high fives, eating and drinking, without any semblance of the social distancing recommended by authorities as a precaution to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The mask Karens might have limited their grousing to negative comments on social media.
Ashwaubenon Public Safety Capt. Brian Amenson said police didn't receive any complaints about the lack of masks and social distancing at the watch party.

"Typically, we don't take enforcement action on those types of cases," Amenson said. "It's kind of a business preference. If they want to enforce it, they enforce it. There's no statute saying you have to wear a mask."

Village Administrator Joel Gregozeski said he would mention the situation to the Brown County Health and Human Services Department.
A Green Bay area emergency room physician did express his dismay.
Maybe I look at things a little differently than most other people since I am a health care worker. To me, the scenes on Facebook and in the media were truly disheartening. I understand people are experiencing COVID-19 fatigue as the pandemic inches closer and closer to the one-year mark. But now, with vaccines being rolled out, is not the time to relax.
But his elaboration suggests that people might evaluate their risks differently.
Maybe you haven’t had anyone close to you contract COVID-19. By now, most of us know at least a person or two who’s had it. Some breeze through it, but there are others who get hit really hard and some don’t make it.

As a doctor at Bellin Hospital in Green Bay, I have seen firsthand the dramatic impact that COVID-19 has on patients who come into our facility. Many of those patients are older with underlying conditions. Others, however, are not so old and some are quite young; we’ve even seen children with COVID-19.
In that first paragraph is the empirical basis for many people rejecting the mitigation efforts.  Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds elaborates.
Anyway, it occurred to me that we may see the reverse of the AIDS education process. Back then, people didn’t take the disease seriously in general until someone they knew — not necessarily very well, but in their circle of acquaintances — got it. I wonder if widespread experience of not-very-serious coronavirus infections might have the opposite effect. It seems less scary than it did in March. Yes, people die of it, but not the 5-6% we feared then, and in most people it’s pretty mild.
He continues, "the experience [of catching it] has underwhelmed," sort of like the Packers' performance on Sunday.

There has to be a better way for Our Political Masters to manage this pandemic.

A PATHETIC, FECKLESS PUPPET.

The following image comes from Right on the Left Coast.


The rhetoric is straight out of Portland.
At one of the lower-key events on Wednesday in Portland, about 200 people gathered under the lights at Irving Park, sharing pizza and visions for the coming four years.

Ray Austin, 25, was the one who described Biden to the crowd as a “feckless puppet,” declaring that he “is only president because of his ties to corporate interests” — a proclamation that brought clapping and cheers. “My friends, the fight has just begun,” he said.
"Lower-key" means "pregaming before the trashing starts."
On Wednesday night, one rowdy group of protesters gathered at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in the city, targeting the harsh deportation and detention tactics that the agency had used against immigrants. Biden began his presidency with executive orders on immigration that made it clear he would chart a much different course than Trump, but the crowd wanted more, calling for abolition of the immigration-enforcement agency. Some protesters spray-painted graffiti on the building: “Reunite families now.”

Minutes later, a line of federal agents in camouflage and tactical gear emerged from the building and began firing tear gas and pepper balls into the crowd — a scene that had unfolded similarly on dozens of nights in Portland over the past year.

The parallels were not lost on the crowd.

As one person held a lighter below a Biden-for-president flag, another chanted a phrase often seen on conservative message boards: “Not my president.”
Yahoo News cross-posted that story from New York's Times, and that "often seen on conservative message boards" defines "often" as "since November 2020."

LIVE BY THE THREE, DIE BY THE THREE.

Wisconsin's men's basketball team gets the memo.  "The defense was too forgiving early and the overwhelming majority of the three-point shots didn't fall."

ON THE CHALKBOARD, CORONAVIRUS MITIGATION LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE A REGRESSIVE TAX.

In the national income accounts, it works exactly like a regressive tax.
The action over the weekend in Davos represents the growing international anger directed at the long-existing and grotesque economic inequality that has only been made more starkly evident by the Covid-19 pandemic—a dynamic captured in excruciating detail in a new report issued Monday by Oxfam International.

Titled "The Inequality Virus," the new report reveals that while over two million people have thus far died from the virus—and hundreds of millions of people are being forced into poverty—the world's very richest people and most powerful corporations are enjoying record profits and increased wealth. While the fortunes of the billionaires of the world have skyrocketed, returning to or even exceeding their pre-pandemic highs in just nine months, the study warns that economic recovery for the world's poorest could take over a decade.

"We stand to witness the greatest rise in inequality since records began," said Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International, in a statement. "The deep divide between the rich and poor is proving as deadly as the virus."

"Rigged economies are funneling wealth to a rich elite who are riding out the pandemic in luxury," she added, "while those on the frontline of the pandemic—shop assistants, healthcare workers, and market vendors—are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table."
We will figure out how to live with coronaviruses. It is harder to deal with bad political economy.

Is it any accident, dear reader, that the people most able to work from home are the most favorably disposed to the lockdown theater?

STOP HONORING LOSERS.

The Independent Institute's Samuel R. Staley would not object to renaming military bases named for Confederate generals.
Of the current bases bearing the names of confederate officers, eight had undistinguished and occasionally exceptionally poor military records. In fact, three—Braxton Bragg, George Pickett, and Leonidas Polk—could even be rated incompetent. Others, such as John Bell Hood, were know for being reckless and ineffective, particularly later in the war. The others, excepting Lee and Georgia’s John Brown Gordon, have mixed records according to historians.
I'm prepared to debate people about Lee's record.

The history of those base renamings is itself fraught: perhaps it was an attempt at national reconciliation; perhaps it was a sop to the eugenics lobby of the end of the nineteenth century.

MAYBE IT WOULD BE BETTER FOR THE PACKERS IF THE BEARS DIDN'T SUCK.

Yes, I have had a lot of fun with the suckitude of the Bears over the years.  In the wake of the Packers again coming up short in the conference championship game against an opponent they had lost to in a previous season, perhaps it is time to consider the competition within the division.  Let us first take stock.  "Run the table" season of 2016-2017: give up a lot of passing touchdowns to Atlanta in the regular season; win on the road to get to Atlanta, give up a lot of passing touchdowns to Atlanta.  (In the Super Bowl, Atlanta established, then gave up a big lead and lost to Tom Brady and the Patriots.)  New coach Matt LaFleur's debut season: give up a lot of rushing touchdowns to the 'Niners in the regular season; secure a bye and one game at home, exorcising some Seattle demons, then go to Santa Clara and give up a lot of rushing touchdowns to the "Niners.  (In the Super Bowl, San Francisco rushed out to a lead, then gave it up and lost to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.)  Most recent season: take advantage of the special coronavirus playoff setup to secure the sole bye and home field throughout the playoffs, despite giving Tom Brady and the Buccaneers fourteen points off two consecutive turnovers; then, at home, give Tom Brady and the Buccaneers fourteen points off two consecutive turnovers.  (In the Super Bowl, the Buccaneers will face the Chiefs.  Somehow, those franchises surround their quarterbacks with solid players on both sides of the line of scrimmage.)

The current Packer coach is owning the loss, which is what leaders do.
The pain came through in several of LaFleur's comments as he rehashed many of his own decisions throughout the game.

He lamented lacking a commitment to the running game on two goal-to-go series that ended in field goals, and on the two fourth-quarter three-and-outs following interceptions by Green Bay's defense.

"I put that on myself, just not calling the right plays," he said. "The stuff we did so well all season long, we kind of got away from it, in the second half, especially that fourth quarter. We just got out of our offense, and that's on me."
There's a lengthy post-mortem by Acme Packing.  "In a game where you force 3 interceptions off Brady, Rodgers goes for 342 and three touchdowns, and [receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling] has the game of his life, we would expect Green Bay to come away easily victorious. Green Bay out-gained, out-possessed-and out-first-downed the Bucs by considerable margins, but still lost."  Statistics, as the pundits say ...

Speaking of pundits, here's Bryan Dee.  "Even if you try and fail on 4th down, you can live with the fact that you went for it on your own accord."

It's always a tough gig coaching the Packers, because everybody in Packer Nation has heard what the standard is, and a few of us were around to see it.  But thus my post title.  The Packers are 11-1 against the division with Mr LaFleur coaching, and that gets a team a long way toward a good seeding for the playoffs.  But if the Lions and Vikings and Bears (oh, my) are always struggling, the challenges facing the Packer defense and offense aren't what they could otherwise be.  Last time the Packers got to the Super Bowl, they had to go through Chicago, and the Lions were better.

GOVERNOR PRITZKER TRAILS BY 9,739.

The geographic area and population of Illinois are both similar to those in Sweden, and there are similarities of the Chicago and Stockholm metropolitan areas.  But  Springfield politicians are hazardous to your health.  Governor J. B. Pritzker (D-Lake Geneva) continues to micromanage and destroy local businesses.

A service called Worldometers has been keeping track of coronavirus infections and deaths, disaggregated in a number of ways.

The latest report from Sweden counts 547,166 infections and 11,005 deaths.
The latest report from Illinois counts 1,104,763 infections and 20,744 deaths.

Conditions in Illinois are such that a transition to a full reopening is in order.  The governor's current less oppressive ukases are at best halting.

Relative to Sweden, it's clear the lockdowns in Illinois are ineffective evaluated against a standard of less stringent lockdowns.  That still appears to be true, even with Sweden's public health authorities recently changing their approach.  Relative to much of the rest of the world, where strict mitigation is still the rule, presidential politics or not, Illinois is not doing so well. Note that the change went through their parliament first, it was not some executive order.  Where is the Illinois legislature?


22.1.21

IS THIS NOT UNDERACHIEVEMENT?

Somewhere, the veterans of Baltimore and Ohio or The Milwaukee Road are chuckling.
A total of 81.8 percent of all long distance and regional trains through Germany's Deutsche Bahn arrived at their destination on time in 2020, the highest number in 15 years.

The year before the rate stood at 75.9 percent. Deutsche Bahn considers a train to be on time if it arrives less than six minutes after the scheduled time.

The company reported particularly high punctuality in regional transport, with 95.6 percent of all DB Regio trains reaching their stations on schedule.

According to DB, about half of the increase in punctuality was due to the restrictions caused by the pandemic.
Put another way, are the timetables compiled unrealistically, with passengers expected to hop aboard quickly?

PUT NOT YOUR FAITH IN SOLUTIONISTS.

The argument antedated the pandemic and the overdone lockdowns.  But the lockdowns, and the Technocratic Impulse that seems to be present in their continuance, only reveals the flaws of expertise.
[Anthony] Fauci is a senior civil servant. He has been at or near the top of America’s public health bureaucracy since the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.  If he and others at that level think not simply that they are more expert than non-scientists, but if they also think that less educated Americans cannot be trusted to govern themselves in their day to day affairs, it suggests that our bureaucracy is turning into a post-modern form of robe nobility, with its own prerogatives and aristocratic elan.  That Johns Hopkins University pulled a study showing that, thus far, Covid has not produced a net increase in mortality in the US, not because the data or conclusions were faulty, but rather because they worried that their fellow citizens might draw the wrong inferences from the data, suggests that as well.
That attitude, dear reader, is un-American.
Formerly, in the Old World, the governing class assumed that the mass of men were too stupid to be trusted with serious power, or real decision-making authority.  Similarly, they assumed that only the fear of the lash and of starvation could get most men to work.  The American democracy, per [Henry] Adams, was built upon a belief that the common man (we would say the common citizen, male and female), is capable of thinking. He needn’t be talked down to by governing officials.

American Progressivism, although it claims to be democratic, has always had a strong Tory streak.  To be sure, in the place of the old aristocracy it places the modern expert with an academic credential, but the result is the same.  At the end of the day, it presumes that we the people can never know enough to manage our affairs.  Our freedom, in this Progressive dispensation is the freedom not of men who make their way in the world, taking on the responsibilities of providing food, shelter, health care, and the like for themselves and their families as much as they possibly can, but, instead, it is freedom of lifestyle liberalism—the post-modern version of bread and circuses. Don’t worry your pretty head with political judgments and public policy. Run along and enjoy your pleasures as they come.

It might be that today’s politics are so tense, and intense, because, thanks to Covid and the lockdowns, there’s no circus to be had, and the citizens are getting restless, as they begin to realize what is being taken away from us by our would-be betters.
The citizens are getting restless as well, as they begin to see that their neighbors in the free states are behaving responsibly.
“The communities that have this best under control are not trying to figure out whose fault it is, they’re trying to figure out how to work together to keep everyone safe,” [Suresh Gunasekaran, CEO of University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, told NATIONAL REVIEW.] In Iowa, “government came together, businesses came together, we all came together to flatten the curve and bring down the infection rate. Whatever can facilitate cooperation is the story that we need the media to talk about.”

“When we see these infection rates, we want to immediately ascribe blame to one criteria or the other, and honestly it’s pretty irresponsible,” he continued. “The real issue is, this is a reflection on how well the community, as a whole, is doing.”
Nine months into two weeks to slow the spread, isn't it time to bet on emergence?

IT'S UNLIKELY TO TURN OUT WELL.

The incoming government appears to be receptive to asylum-seekers arriving in the United States, ostensibly  to foster some notion of "racial equity."
The Biden administration's immigration plan is not designed to improve the United States of America. It's not intended to make Americans happier or richer or more secure or more united. You might think those would be the aims of every government policy ever but no, not in this case. The point of Joe Biden's immigration plan is "racial equity."

Now, we've got to be completely honest with you, we're not exactly sure what that means. But as of tonight, it sounds a lot like punishment. Mass immigration, explains Joe Biden, isn't something that will make your life better. It's something you deserve.
It's also likely to crash straight into the Law of Unintended Consequences.  California governor Gavin Newsom took a break from flouting his own quarantines to name California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to replace Kamala Harris in the Senate.  That involves box-ticking.  "Padilla, a son of Mexican immigrants, will be the first Latino senator for California, where Latinos represent nearly 40% of the state’s population."  Live by diversity, die by diversity.  "When Harris officially resigns from the Senate, there will be no Black women serving in the chamber. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., will then be the only Black U.S. senators."  From my perspective, the ancestry of the junior senator from California is less relevant than the politics (predictably delusional) of the junior senator from California.  But what do I know?  "Newsom’s move could also be seen as him thumbing his nose at the Black Lives Matter movement, which called for a Black woman to fill Harris’ seat in a “non-negotiable” demand that emphasized why Senate representation by an African American woman is so important." Gotta love those non-negotiable demands, and it gets better.
It all added up to seemingly reinforce the common political and patriarchal narrative that men get to decide that women must wait patiently for their turns at the back of the line. The fact that the decision was made by a white man, in particular, only hammered home that point even more. While Harris decidedly shattered the glass ceiling back in 2017 when she became just the second Black woman senator in the United States’ history, Newsom at least partially rebuilt it Tuesday, critics suggested.
Interesting. The governor's chromosomes are more important than his dubious policies, now? And people of Central American extraction are over-represented in the Senate? "There was also the case being made that there are already a relatively substantial number of Latinos in the Senate, so why not try to balance out representation by keeping at least one Black woman? Besides, that single representation would still be fewer than the six Latinos, including a woman Democrat with Nevada Sen. Catherine Marie Cortez Masto."

Pass the popcorn, the posturing is going to be amusing.

YOU CAN'T SNEAK A SUNRISE PAST A ROOSTER.

Henry Aaron belongs to the ages.  He spent many years with the Braves in Milwaukee and Atlanta, and finished the 1973 season with 713 home runs.  The Commissioner of Baseball still wanted integrity in his game.
Over the winter, Aaron received death threats and hate mail from racist fans who didn’t want a Black man to break Ruth’s record. The Braves began the ’74 season in Cincinnati and Atlanta’s team management planned to sit Aaron for all three games to assure he would make history at home.

"I (later) got to see some of the mail and all the other garbage that took place back then," [Milwaukee Brewer announcer and former team-mate on the Braves Bob] Uecker said. "It was awful. He didn't let it stop him."

Commissioner Bowie Kuhn decreed that Aaron had to play in at least two games against the Reds, and Aaron tied [Yankee outfielder Babe] Ruth’s mark in his first at-bat but did not homer again in the series. The Braves returned home to play the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 8, and Aaron came through before a packed house.

In the fourth inning, Aaron socked No. 715 off Dodgers lefty Al Downing, sending a drive over the left-field fence and into the Atlanta bullpen, where the ball was caught by reliever Tom House.
Mr Downing was for a while on the Brewers' roster.  The record-breaking home run might have been a blow for civil rights.
Dodgers announcer Vin Scully described the significance of the home run in a historical perspective.

“What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world,” Scully said. “A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking the record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron ...”

Scully went on to describe Aaron’s visible sense of relief after the tremendous strain he endured chasing Ruth’s hallowed record.

The racial overtones were impossible to miss. A legendary white player had held the record for more than 50 years, and then just a decade after landmark Civil Rights legislation became law, Aaron was about to pass him.
One of organized baseball's records still is Mr Aaron's.
Aaron finished with 755 career home runs, holding the record for 40 years until he was passed by Barry Bonds in 2014. However, he has said the home run record wasn’t his most important statistical accomplishment.

Aaron still holds baseball’s all-time record for most runs batted in, with 2,297. He’s said the ability to bring his teammates around the bases to score was more important to him than hitting home runs. He also remains the all-time leader in total bases with 6,856.

On Jan. 5, Aaron got vaccinated against COVID-19 in Georgia, hoping to send a message to Black Americans that the shots are safe.
RIP.

NO HONEYMOON FOR THE COOT.

Incoming president* Joe Biden gave a banal inaugural address, exhibiting all the voice modulation of a man with a bad hearing aid.  For some reason, he kept stressing "unity," which might not be the best message to give from behind a razor-wire fence, with both houses of Congress closely divided.  Rich Lowry elaborates.
The problem is that calls for unity can carry an expectation of unity, i.e., the belief that truly reasonable people can’t or shouldn’t disagree in good faith on matters of profound significance. This is how self-styled unifiers end up becoming high-handed and divisive (Biden’s ex-boss, former President Barack Obama, often fell into this trap).
In politics, get-along-to-go-along might be the way to go if it's your playground and your colleague's overpass going into the transportation appropriation. We're currently at a more difficult pass. "Unfortunately, a Consensus, by definition, requires some combination of the silencing of serious objections, or the reluctance of serious objectors to wage the kind of lonely battle against go-along-to-get-along, until the shortcomings of the Consensus become clear."  Mr Lowry writes from the perspective that Washington is far from Consensus.
Biden isn’t going to pursue a consensus, bipartisan agenda, but a progressive one. That is his right. He is a Democrat who has always been in the center of gravity of his party, which has steadily moved left over the decades. He isn’t going to act on the more extravagant demands issuing from his left flank — ending the filibuster, adding new states — both as a matter of temperament and because he lacks the votes in the Senate. But almost everything he does unilaterally or pushes legislatively will inherently be anathema to the GOP.

Plus, with Trump exiting at such a low point, the temptation will be to ignore the lessons of his rise. That one of Biden’s first big legislative proposals is yet another “comprehensive immigration” reform of the sort that has failed repeatedly after triggering massive, grassroots opposition on the right shows an impulse to learn nothing.
Put another way, we're close to where we were in December 2015, when the Wise Experts still figured the Republican establishment could hold serve in the primaries.

21.1.21

ACCURACY RIDES HOLLYWOOD'S RAILS.

Perhaps it's OK for the stars of White Christmas to ride from Florida to Vermont on the Southern Pacific.

Documenting the civil rights era might call for something more truthful.
Production crews from Kapital Entertainment of Los Angeles are working this week in north Mississippi to recreate an Illinois Central passenger train that will play a key role in “Women of the Movement,” an ABC-TV series expected to air later this year. The circa-1950 passenger train consists of three pieces of former Iowa Pacific Holdings equipment — an E9A passenger locomotive and two cars — and two cars from northern Ohio rail preservation groups.

The locomotive and cars were brought together Friday morning at an industrial park spur near Winona, Miss. According to local officials, the equipment will represent Illinois Central Railroad passenger trains which carried 14-year-old Emmitt Till from his suburban Chicago home to visit relatives in Money, Miss., where he was murdered, and another which Till’s casket from Mississippi back to Chicago.
The train scenes will be recorded on Grenada Railroad metals, which is to say, on the stretch of former Illinois Central trackage where Casey Jones's fatal collision occurred.

The use of the real railroads to set the scene in a movie with a civil rights theme is nothing new.  The 1967 In the Heat of the Night begins with a passenger getting off a Gulf Mobile and Ohio train.  In 1967, that railroad no longer offered passenger service south of St. Louis, and the train scenes were filmed in and around Sparta, Illinois, on freight-only lines of the carrier.

GIVE JEH JOHNSON NO POWERS YOU WOULDN'T GIVE RUDY GIULIANI.

Glenn Greenwald fears that the futile and stupid gesture at the Federal Capitol will lead to active measures against domestic dissidents.
We have witnessed an orgy of censorship from Silicon Valley monopolies with calls for far more aggressive speech policing, a visibly militarized Washington, D.C. featuring a non-ironically named “Green Zone,” vows from the incoming president and his key allies for a new anti-domestic terrorism bill, and frequent accusations of “sedition,” “treason,” and “terrorism” against members of Congress and citizens. This is all driven by a radical expansion of the meaning of “incitement to violence.” It is accompanied by viral-on-social-media pleas that one work with the FBI to turn in one’s fellow citizens (See Something, Say Something!) and demands for a new system of domestic surveillance.
Yes, and with the public health officials scaring citizens into ratting out bartenders for daring to serve beer inside, these could be dangerous times to seem contrarian.
With Americans still reeling from the January 6 Capitol riot, the Biden administration will begin its term amid a rapidly escalating "tough on domestic terror" mood.

That's never a good influence no matter which ruling party is in office, and perhaps especially bad in times of intense partisan conflict. There are a few things both Democrats and Republicans can almost always come together on, and limiting civil liberties in the name of national security is chief among them. But worse, Biden has never backed away from hysterical policy reactions to perceived crime and terror threats.
On the other hand, part of the Democrats' coalition isn't on board. "Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan on Tuesday sent a letter to House and Senate leaders in which she and nine colleagues argued against expanding the national security state and further curtailing civil liberties in the aftermath of the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob."  The co-signers?  Her fellow "squad" members.
Several initiatives throughout the nation's history were "sold as being necessary to fight extremism but quickly devolved into tools used for the mass violation of the human and civil rights of the American people," the ten legislators asserted, including the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), the USA Patriot Act, and the FBI's anti-Black Lives Matter Operation Iron Fist.

"While many may find comfort in increased national security powers in the wake of this attack, we must emphasize that we have been here before and we have seen where that road leads," they wrote.

The lawmakers stressed how quickly "expanded national security and surveillance powers [are] turned on law-abiding Americans," especially individuals who are non-white and/or anti-capitalist. They noted that "to expand the government's national security powers once again at the expense of the human and civil rights of the American people would only serve to further undermine our democracy, not protect it."
Their stance is the same as one taken by 135 "civil rights organizations," including many ordinarily in the position of arguing with Democrats, then voting for them.  Where there's sufficient existing legislation, is new legislation, or a new agency, really necessary?