28.2.21

A GROWING WEARINESS OF ANTHONY FAUCI'S DAILY WORD SALADS.

Jeffrey Tucker sees a number of signs of spring, er, the stone rolled back from the crypt, er, the end of the corona tyranny.  Naomi Wolf and Tucker Carlson in agreement!  Slate withdrawing from The Narrative!
The people who have committed their careers and lives to this pandemic and the policies surrounding it might soon need to find a new raison d’etre. Then the clean up begins – how did this happen, who did it, how to make sure it never happens again – and does not end perhaps for decades.

It’s been fascinating to see the early drafts on the reasons why. There will be some perfunctory efforts to credit lockdowns, masks, human separation, and closures for somehow making the virus go away. The trouble is that there is no evidence of this. There is evidence for many other explanations having to do with herd immunity and “seasonality” (another way of saying the pathogen comes and then goes) and possibly more precision in testing.
Of necessity, the necessary evidence for a proper reckoning is long in the gathering and interpreting.
The reckoning will be taking place for months if not years. In the end people will be left wondering why we took such extreme measures that wrecked so many lives when the endemic equilibrium comes in time regardless of all these measures. We tried a crazy experiment in social and economic control and we are left with scant evidence that it made much difference on the virus but vast evidence that they demoralized and ruined life for billions of people.

What about the opening? There will continue to be those who will cower in fear, still dealing with the deep psychological trauma that comes from watching TV journalists scream panic for the better part of a year. But there will be an emerging majority that will be more than willing to go back to real life.
And yet, the mystery might be "why did so many people go along for so long?"
And so on goes the opening, slowly at first, then quickly, then all at once. The decisive turn is when the public returns to thinking rationally, refuses to be locked up anymore, and decides to trust themselves and the medical profession rather than the powerful elites who only pretend to manage disease. The trauma lasts, of course, but the healing also begins.

Last April, in a more naive time, I truly did imagine that these lockdowns and restrictions could not last. I had underestimated both the public panic and the government’s willingness to double- and triple-down on unworkable policies.

I also overestimated what I had previously imagined to be a widespread commitment to liberty and property that would have inspired some public revolt early on. So here we are a full year later, with the reports of lockdown carnage pouring in by the day and hour. It’s a gigantic mess, to be sure, but the end does seem to be in view, and thank goodness for that. Let the blowback begin.
I'd still like to buy the "under" on "United States mostly open at Easter," executive orders or not.

A POSITIVE POPULISM IN A TIME OF STRUGGLE FOR THE SOUL OF OUR NATION.

The Conservative Political Action Conference is in progress in Florida, rather than somewhere near the Federal Capital, in part because Florida's governor isn't a lockdown-happy tyrant.

As far as standard-issue conservatives are concerned, though, the event might as well not be happening, judging by the sparsity of coverage at National Review, contrasted to that at the various Pajamas Media or Town Hall or whoever the umbrella organization is sites.

In part, that's because there is a struggle for the soul of conservatism.  Ask yourself, dear reader, who longtime speechwriter David Frum is writing about.  "And for the leader of the Republicans? A man who is aggressive and bombastic, cutting and sarcastic, who dismisses the concerned citizens in network news focus groups as 'losers.'"  You could say, "Donald Trump," but Mr Frum wrote the preceding, for Newsweek, in 2009.
With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence—exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party. And we're cooperating! Those images of crowds of CPACers cheering Rush's every rancorous word—we'll be seeing them rebroadcast for a long time.
Mr Trump might be famously germ-phobic, and tee-totaling, and yet, you can bet whoever is pulling the strings for the current president will point out the private plane and the personal bulk, and the tangled marital history, and the self-indulgence.

Without the dittoheads and the Trumpians, though, there's no populist coalition.
Rush knows what he is doing. The worse conservatives do, the more important Rush becomes as leader of the ardent remnant. The better conservatives succeed, the more we become a broad national governing coalition, the more Rush will be sidelined.

But do the rest of us understand what we are doing to ourselves by accepting this leadership? Rush is to the Republicanism of the 2000s what Jesse Jackson was to the Democratic party in the 1980s. He plays an important role in our coalition, and of course he and his supporters have to be treated with respect. But he cannot be allowed to be the public face of the enterprise—and we have to find ways of assuring the public that he is just one Republican voice among many, and very far from the most important.
That gets more difficult when it's a past president who might be running for a second, non-consecutive term; on the other hand, in the reality that the past president did not earn a second consecutive term because he failed to build a coalition there might be a way to make a deal for a broader appeal, and without the reflexive cocking a snook at establishmentarian types for their food snobbery or their cocktail parties.

Here's how Mr Frum saw it from 2009.  First, he proposes to take the sting out of Mr Limbaugh's notorious "I hope [Barack Obama] fails" comment.
Notice that Limbaugh did not say: "I hope the administration's liberal plans fail." Or (better): "I know the administration's liberal plans will fail." Or (best): "I fear that this administration's liberal plans will fail, as liberal plans usually do." If it had been phrased that way, nobody could have used Limbaugh's words to misrepresent conservatives as clueless, indifferent or gleeful in the face of the most painful economic crisis in a generation. But then, if it had been phrased that way, nobody would have quoted his words at all—and as Limbaugh himself said, being "headlined" was the point of the exercise. If it had been phrased that way, Limbaugh's face would not now be adorning the covers of magazines. He phrased his hope in a way that drew maximum attention to himself, offered maximum benefit to the administration and did maximum harm to the party he claims to support.
There's a lot more at the essay, but it's offered more in sorrow than anger, concluding,
On most issues, I doubt Limbaugh and I even disagree very much. But the issues on which we do disagree are maybe the most important to the future of the conservative movement and the Republican Party: Should conservatives be trying to provoke or persuade? To narrow our coalition or enlarge it? To enflame or govern? And finally (and above all): to profit—or to serve?
In like manner, the Trumpian populists and the more conventional Republicans, and more than a few Democrats, might be more in agreement than not today.  The successful formula might be one offered by Astral Codex Ten, which, in his fashion, is long, but it has a pithy abstract.  "Pivot from mindless populist rage to a thoughtful campaign to fight classism."  Both Mr Limbaugh and Mr Trump understood the enemy, although their messaging, whether it's "new castrati" or "stupid people" might not have won waverers over.
Trump managed to excite people, but you don't know how to turn his personal appeal into a new platform. Most of what he said was offensive, blatantly false, or alienated more people than it won; absent his personal magic it seems like a losing combination. You seem to have picked up a few minority voters here and there, but you're not sure why, and you don't know how to build on this success.

I hate you and you hate me. But maybe I would hate you less if you didn't suck. Also, the more confused you are, the more you flail around sabotaging everything. All else being equal, I'd rather you have a coherent interesting message, and make Democrats shape up to compete with you.
That's correct, dear reader, there are other ways of coming to the conclusion that Democrats suck than populist talk radio ways.  It's possible that he, too, falls into the food-snobbery-cocktail-party-metrofexual-aesthetics trap, but stay with the argument.
Trump stood against the upper class. He might define them as: people who live in nice apartments in Manhattan or SF or DC and laugh under their breath if anybody comes from Akron or Tampa. Who eat Thai food and Ethiopian food and anything fusion, think they would gain 200 lbs if they ever stepped in a McDonalds, and won't even speak the name Chick-Fil-A. Who usually go to Ivy League colleges, though Amherst or Berkeley is acceptable if absolutely necessary. Who conspicuously love Broadway (especially Hamilton), LGBT, education, "expertise", mass transit, and foreign anything. They conspicuously hate NASCAR, wrestling, football, "fast food", SUVs, FOX, guns, the South, evangelicals, and reality TV. Who would never get married before age 25 and have cutesy pins about how cats are better than children. Who get jobs in journalism, academia, government, consulting, or anything else with no time-card where you never have to use your hands. Who all have exactly the same political and aesthetic opinions on everything, and think the noblest and most important task imaginable is to gatekeep information in ways that force everyone else to share those opinions too.
In there, though, is a positive populist formula that well might garner votes, rather than (as we saw in the Georgia run-off elections) turn them off. "Consciously embracing the project of fighting classism would let future Republican politicians replicate Trump’s appeal without having to stoop to his tactics. It could tie together all the fractured constituencies of the Republican party."

I don't know if the proposal is offered in good faith, or if it's erudite trolling, but it's interesting.

First target: higher education.  "As it currently exists, college is a scheme for laundering and perpetuating class advantage. You need to make the case that bogus degree requirements (eg someone without a college degree can't be a sales manager at X big company, but somebody with any degree, even Art History or Literature, can) are blatantly classist."  That might require work to overturn or modify Griggs v. Duke Power, a ruling that sanctified higher education as offering nondiscriminatory methods of certifying people as qualified.  It's interesting, though, that in the midst of a defense of continued woke indoctrination in higher education, an Inside Higher Ed contributor says the quiet part out loud.  "[B]eneficiaries of privilege are wholly blind to their advantages and condescending toward those with less power."

Second target: credentialed expertise, where the holders of those prestige degrees feel entitled to condescend once they have the power.  "Democrats have invented and propped up a fake concept of expertise as a way of making sure upper-class people who can game admissions to top colleges control the discourse."  He proposes lifting restrictions on prediction markets.  There's something disturbing about being able to buy an over-under on "two million Americans dead of coronavirus by May 2020" or "half a million Americans dead with coronavirus by February 14, 2021," but then, I have more confidence in emergence, and the public health experts have been regularly wrong.

Third target: the credentialed legacy media.

Fourth target: woke indoctrination.  "If anybody asks you for your theory of racism, it should be that a lot of modern racism is a subform of classism, where people naturally assume minorities are lower class."  That scales.

WIRE THE HIGH-DENSITY FREIGHT CORRIDORS?

The Association of American Railroads went on record as opposing electrification of the freight railroads.  Perhaps that was a pre-emptive strike to keep the incoming administration's green initiatives away from at least one successful business.  That might be one way rent-seeking gets in the way of good ideas.  Railway Age contributing editor Jim Blaze suggests that electrification of some freight lines makes economic sense.
[S]tudies examined into the 1980s the potential to electrify parts of the Powder River Basin Wyoming/Montana low-sulfur coal routes. There were some favorable structured project terms evaluated, then negotiated, and very close to execution. Why? Because there were favorable joint railroad right-of-use aspects for the utility companies and available funding. The internal rates of return for a partnership of utility/railroad/financing had back then a projected rate of return greater than 25%. This was the same period when overall railroad [return on investment] on assets was less than 10-12%.

The financing venture terms in part looked like this: A partnership would spread the risks over multiple parties, not just the railroad company. A financial organization or a bank would initially have been a limited partner. The railroad company would have invested only a token amount of capital and then gradually acquired the partnership from the lenders.

The joint venture structure back then was offering to absorb the initial building cost of the catenary, the power (electricity) distribution and the power generation as a package, with the railroad to pay like a trucker does for road use. It was to be a railroad trains pay-as-you-go deal. Electric locomotive energy regeneration—putting power back into the grid through regenerative dynamic braking—was part of the cost-benefit analysis calculations.

Therefore, four decades ago, innovative railroads and outside parties were structuring interesting feasible deals for electrification.
Because most of the Powder River coal transits the windswept Great Plains to move the coal from where it is to where low-sulfur fuel has a high subjective value, the most effective way to get wind power from where it is to where the households are might have been to use the wind-source electricity in traction motors.  Electricity keeping its own books was a thing on Western railroads more than a century ago.

It's crucial, though, to install the catenary where it's most useful.  It might be that the Association is, to repeat, engaging in preemptive lobbying by arguing against electrifying the entire railroad freight network.
Back to [the association’s] 2020 paper: Its broad assertion is this: “Mandating electrification of the freight rail network is not a viable means for reducing [greenhouse gas] emissions. Proposals that would require all or part of our nation’s freight rail network to be electrified should be set aside to focus on other alternatives.”

AAR relies in part on a study from 2016, when there was no “off the shelf” near-zero-emission locomotive technology sufficient for North American linehaul freight service. But the study encouraged additional research.

As to a government mandate of electrification? Let’s agree that would indeed be premature.
How hard would it be to start engineering with the General Electric series of rectifier freight motors for Virginian, The Pennsylvania Railroad, Black Mesa and Lake Powell and the like, or to scale Austrian or Swedish freight motors for North American use?  Mr Blaze concurs, "Full electrification requires less testing since there is railway electrification already in place worldwide. That body of evidence should not be ignored, should it?"  In addition, we're getting better at running beyond the wires than we were in the 1930s, and the onboard battery locomotive has gone from concept to prototype.

26.2.21

TODAY'S GLOOMY FORECAST.

James "Long Emergency" Kunstler wonders how long the scam can go on.
How long will it be before the public realizes that Mr. Biden is being strictly concealed from view by his managers? And how long can they keep it up? A few more weeks, maybe, I’d guess. What did they think they were doing when they engineered the election of this empty suit, this blank cartridge, this political mannequin, this man-who-isn’t-there? Of all the hundred-million-odd adults over 35-years-of-age in this country, they picked this empty vessel to lead in a year of obvious crisis?

Apparently so — an act so collectively insane it makes you shudder to think about it. Like, the Democratic Party really thought this was a good idea? And who’s calling the shots behind this false front? Some committee chaired by Susan Rice? With directives coming into the Oval Office by messenger from Barack Obama’s Kalorama fortress, with, say, Eric Holder, Rahm Emmanuel, David Axelrod, John Brennan, and a few others charting the daily play-by-play?

So, you suspect that something weird like that is going on? I sure do. And I also suspect that when the truth comes out, the Democratic Party will have to face some pretty harsh music. Just the other day the public learned that 30 House Democrats are seeking to limit Mr. Biden’s sole authority over the launch codes for our nuclear missile arsenal. That doesn’t sound like a vote of confidence. Does White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki look like a cornered animal going about her daily briefings? The ongoing spectacle of the missing head-of-state is inching beyond embarrassing.

And then, what do the people of this country think when it becomes necessary to throw the switch on the 25th Amendment and remove poor Ol’ Joe from office on account of being simply unfit to continue serving? I’ll tell you what they’ll think: that the Democrats knowingly put an unfit man in high office. They’ll understand that they got played, scammed, hustled. They’ll be mighty pissed off. They may seek to learn a bit more about exactly how this happened, especially the sketchy mechanics of the November 3rd vote that put Ol’ Joe in the White House. Even some Democrats may demand answers. Of course, the cruelest scene in this scenario will be the big manufactured hoo-hah celebrating Kamala Harris as the first female president — which in itself may be difficult to pull off, since so many Democrats have declared there’s no such thing as two sexes.

Meanwhile, you better pray for the bond market and, in turn, the equities markets, and, in turn, the whole shootin’ match of the economy (whatever remains of it, that is). Yesterday the benchmark ten-year US Treasury peeked above the dangerous 1.5 percent mark. What this tells you is that world is expecting the dollar to go down substantially and with that, the value of US Bonds, which foreign holders will seek to dump on a market not eager to buy them up, meaning the Federal Reserve will have to step in and buy them, meaning they will have to create a shitload of new dollars out of thin air to do that, which will drive down the purchasing power of each dollar, which will further inflame the world’s urge to dump devaluing US bonds — a vicious feedback that could crash the banking system just as Covid 19 begins fading away to nothing.

Oh, and note: rising interest rates on US Treasuries will force the government to pay much more to service our massive debts. That will negate any of the fiscal ambitions of Kamala Harris’s shadow government — unless the committee running America decides to utterly destroy the US Dollar. The bait-and-switch game playing out in the White House is just an overture to all that.
Let's suppose for the sake of argument that it wasn't voter fraud that put the coot over the top; that Donald Trump was his own worst enemy. There's still plenty of evidence that the palace guard media covered for him, whether by not asking enough questions about that basement campaign, or by not bothering with reporting on his family ties to China.

There's also a research question lurking in that prediction about the coming hyperinflation. Devotees of modern monetary theory rely on two things being true: it's a reserve currency being created at the banks, and the government's taxes absorb much of the money that might otherwise be spent in Weimar lunch break fashion.  Might the Wuhan coronavirus shutdowns be performing as if they are taxes, and which of the following might follow?  On one hand, their lifting is as if a tax cut, and the hyperinflation follows?  On the other, might some of the national government's boffins know this, and they'll keep the shutdowns in place, or lift them very slowly accordingly?  If so, will stagflation in the Jimmy Carter mode be what follows?

WHAT WAS I SAYING ABOUT THE GROWTH PONZI SCHEME?

Strong Towns contributor Nathan Hawryluk makes my point that city governments ought be symbiotic rather than parasitic on commerce.
[Strong Towns founder] Charles Marohn has suggested cities should focus less on density as an objective and more on the ratio between private investment and public investment. Traditionally, private investment led to public investment. Private investment is essential to maintaining public infrastructure. Marohn thinks financially stable cities should strive for “a target ratio of private investment to public investment of somewhere between 20:1 on the risky end and 40:1 on the secure end.”
That way, perhaps the assessments for street repair are sustainable, rather than likely to drive residents and businesses out.


It's on the city fathers to be prudent, though, and budget for maintenance, in order that the infrastructure doesn't crumble for lack of repair.
Cities, like homeowners saving for their inevitable roof repair, could collect or save enough money each year to prepare to replace their infrastructure when its lifespan ends. As these figures from pages 15 and 17 of our infrastructure status report shows, the City manages $84.7 billion of infrastructure. How much should we be saving annually to make sure we can replace that infrastructure when the time comes?
That suggests homeowners, also, ought be prudent.


Unfortunately, too often city governments hope for some future "stimulus" or "infrastructure" package to make all the contingent liabilities go away.  That way lies nasty reality checks.  "Philip K. Dick wrote, 'Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.'”

NEERA TANDEN IS A NASTY PIECE OF WORK.

That's my truth, and it has nothing to do with Republicans pouncing.  Perhaps her supporters in the Senate can guilt-trip a Republican or two with the usual whataboutism ("Donald Trump sends nasty tweets") or deplorable-shaming (objecting to the installation of a "woman of color" or "former welfare recipient") without engaging the substance..

It's a little harder to convince the left fringe of the Democrat coalition.  Norman Solomon argues,
Most corporate media outlets have depicted President Biden’s effort to win Senate confirmation of Neera Tanden as a battle to overcome Republican hypocrisy about her “mean tweets,” name-calling and nasty partisanship. But there are very important reasons to prevent Tanden from becoming the Office of Management and Budget director. They have nothing to do with her nasty tweets and everything to do with her political orientation.
It's time for the Bock beers to hit the stores, and the corporatist on communist fratricide in the coot's Congressional majority promises to be epic.
Tanden has a record as one of the most anti-progressive operators among Democratic Party movers and shakers. Long enmeshed with corporate elites, she has been vehemently hostile to the Bernie Sanders wing of the party. Progressive activists have ample cause to be alarmed at the prospect of her becoming OMB director—one of the most powerful and consequential positions in the entire Executive Branch.
That's pretty heady stuff, one self-styled progressive going after an alpha dog at the "Center for American Progress" for not being progressive enough. I repeat, epic. It's interesting, though, to see how Mr Solomon perceives the Swamp.
Much of the left has a strong aversion to Tanden. Days ago, Common Dreams reported on “her history of pushing cuts to Social Security, disparaging Medicare for All and other popular ideas, and raising money from massive corporations.” As president of the Center for American Progress, she sought and received between $1.5 million and $3 million in donations from the United Arab Emirates monarchy; later, CAP remained silent about a bipartisan congressional resolution to end the U.S. government’s assistance to the continual Saudi-UAE warfare killing huge numbers of Yemeni civilians.

But some progressive organizations have voiced support for Tanden’s nomination, turning a blind eye to such matters as her close fundraising ties with corporate elites, Big Tech, Wall Street, Walmart, health insurers and military contractor Northrop Grumman. Yet ties like that would create foreseeable conflicts of interest in the top OMB job, which oversees regulatory processes across the federal government.
How shocking, that an earlier generation of self-styled progressives set up an administrative state sufficiently wonky and sufficiently complicated that rent-seeking insiders would ultimately get control of it.

How amusing, dear reader, that the current generation of self-styled progressives would rather vote for a president somebody with a half-century of experience managing the swamp, than for one who sought to drain that swamp.  They're going to have to argue with somebody either way, and there are probably more areas of common cause between populists of the left and populists of the right than there are with corporatists and communists.
It was not a good sign when a usually-laudable progressive organizer told CNN viewers that Tanden should be confirmed. And—given Tanden’s record of opposing Medicare for All, opposing a $15 federal minimum wage and advocating for collaboration with Republican leaders in potential cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—something is seriously amiss when a leading advocate for women’s health rights urges confirmation.

In a tweet last week, [abortion advocate organization] NARAL’s president Ilyse Hogue called Tanden “a committed progressive” and added: “How about assessing her work, competence and vision instead the tone her tweets? Stop sinking good women because they are outspoken.”

Oddly, the director of the excellent Revolving Door Project, Jeff Hauser, publicly defended Tanden days ago, telling the New York Times: “The last decade has seen mediocre or worse cabinet appointments rubber-stamped by the Senate with regularity. It is unconscionable that the rare exception to that norm might be based on feelings hurt by imprudent tweets and suggests that senators vote more on egos than substance.”

I contacted Hauser for clarification, since it seemed that he was using the hypocrisy of Senate Republicans to justify support for Tanden’s nomination. In effect, he appeared to be adding some drops of WD-40 to hinges on the particular revolving door that Tanden is trying to move through.
The Seventeenth Amendment had the effect of turning senators into glory-seeking egomaniacs rather than representatives of the interests of their States.  If the self-styled progressives get it good and hard, let it be said that the judgements of the people are true and righteous.
At RootsAction, which has been working to defeat Tanden’s nomination, my colleague Jeff Cohen has a very different perspective than what can be heard from Tanden’s enablers: “We’ve opposed Tanden not because of her ‘mean tweets’ but because of her close funding relationships with corporate titans and foreign governments. What's stunning is the silence from Senate Democrats about the potential conflicts of interest raised by her decade of aggressive fundraising from powerful interests.”

That kind of silence, whether from the U.S. Senate or from big-budget progressive groups, could dangerously help the Biden administration to do its worst instead of its potential best.
To repeat, I'm going to have to buy more beer.

TODAY'S MOST PUNGENT PUTDOWN.

Ben Shapiro dismantles the notion of "telling your truth."
The narrative is important, say the media. Thus, we must characterize overt lies that ruin lives as a "sense of personal truth." But in reality, there is no "personal truth." There is only the truth, and your opinion -- or in this case, your overt lies
I had this formulation years ago. "Put another way, Wellesley's hegemonic discourse is good. Anybody who raises difficult questions is bad."  What is it about the Seven Sisters colleges, anyway?  That post was about Wellesleyans (not to be confused with Wesleyan Methodists) simultaneously cancelling ideas they disagreed with while denying they were cancelling anything.  Mr Shapiro's wisdom arises in the wake of Smith College types validating the oppression of their matriculants by disrespecting the hired hands.

24.2.21

THERE MUST NOT HAVE BEEN SEVERE WINTERS IN FRANCE.

In the early days of Amtrak, the carrier sought to spiff up its Chicago area corridor service with a few off-the shelf French-made turbotrains, which were French to the buffers and screw couplings between cars, and the SNCF labels on the ash trays.

Puetz Road, 17 August 1981.

I'll admit to liking the trains, although my schedule at the time didn't allow for much joy-riding during the winter, when, as Kevin Keefe related, when things went wrong, they went wrong.
Each five-unit RTG trainset consisted of a pair of power cars, each with a 1,140 h.p. Turbomecca turbine; two coaches; and what was called a bar/grill. These were fixed-consist trains, so they had very little operational flexibility, something that would come back to bite them later. But they offered a smooth, fast ride, with huge picture windows that contrasted sharply with the rifle slots of an Amcoach. I liked the Turboliners, especially the way they sounded like a Learjet when they went whining past my apartment, leaving a trail of kerosene scent lingering in the air.

My story begins in the late morning of December 31, 1977. My wife Alison and I were living in Niles, Mich., where I was working for the South Bend Tribune and moonlighting as managing editor of Passenger Train Journal. We had arranged to meet friends that evening in Detroit for a New Year’s Eve celebration. The schedule was perfect: take Amtrak train 350 out of Niles at 10:35 a.m. and arrive in Detroit at 2:25 p.m., with plenty of time to make our dinner reservation at the Fox & Hounds restaurant in Bloomfield Hills.

What we didn’t plan on was a heavy snowstorm. The French trains had already demonstrated they had problems in the Midwestern winter when snow clogged their air intakes, as evidenced by Doug Leffler’s photo here of a dead Turboliner at Albion, Mich., the year before. We had read news accounts of Turboliners breaking down in heavy snow, and that afternoon the forecast called for more. In a brilliant burst of foresight, Alison packed a couple of blankets for our trip.
One of the drawbacks of self-contained trains is frequently that the prime mover also provides the heat, and when the turbine fails, chills follow.
We were rolling along at 60 mph somewhere west of Marshall, enjoying the snow flying past our window, when the turbines suddenly began to wind down and the train came to a stop in the middle of frozen cornfields. Before long the crew announced that train 350 was unable to be revived. We were told we’d have to wait for train 352, following some three hours behind us out of Chicago. There was no way, apparently, for Amtrak to get buses to us.

So, there we sat. It became an ordeal. With the engines down, the batteries gradually faded, along with the lights. It didn’t take long for the interior to get uncomfortably cold, although thanks to our blankets we were in better shape than our fellow passengers. As I recall, the train was crowded; I’m sure Amtrak’s crew was getting an earful from a lot of people. I tried to roll with it, but as a PTJ staffer I found the whole thing embarrassing.

Finally, with the late afternoon light fading across the barren countryside, we heard an approaching train come up alongside. Thank goodness this stretch of Conrail’s former New York Central remained double-track territory. It was train 352, equipped with conventional coaches and a trusty E unit. Steam-heated equipment never looked so welcome.
Amtrak later converted the better conventional coaches to electric heat, relying on the prime mover to run a suitable generator. (That also made possible the onboard power strips today's travelers make use of.)

In the days before mobile 'phones, modifying travel plans required creativity.
We tried to rescue our evening as best we could. Our friends had the presence of mind to head west to Ann Arbor, where they alerted the crew and tracked us down via the p.a. system. Safely off the train, we headed out into the night to find a less memorable alternative to the Fox & Hounds; we’d blown past our reservation long before.
I never made it to the Fox and Hounds in the Detroit area; if memory serves, one Jimmy Hoffa had a memorable lunch there.

LET'S RESTORE PRIMITIVE COMMUNISM.

Speaking of tyranny and poverty stemming from dumb economics, here's today's winner.
The path to an ecological civilization is paved by reclaiming the commons—our common home, the Earth, and the commons of the Earth family, of which we are a part. Through reclaiming the commons, we can imagine possibility for our common future, and we can sow the seeds of abundance through "commoning."

In the commons, we care and share—for the Earth and each other. We are conscious of nature’s ecological limits, which ensure her share of the gifts she creates goes back to her to sustain biodiversity and ecosystems. We are aware that all humans have a right to air, water, and food, and we feel responsible for the rights of future generations.

Enclosures of the commons, in contrast, are the root cause of the ecological crisis and the crises of poverty and hunger, dispossession and displacement. Extractivism commodifies for profit what is held in common for the sustenance of all life.
Explain why, if we took that literally, we would all be poorer.
Air is a commons.

We share the air we breathe with all species, including plants and trees. Through photosynthesis, plants convert the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and give us oxygen. “I can’t breathe” is the cry of the enclosure of the commons of air through the mining and burning of 600 million years’ worth of fossilized carbon.

Water is a commons.

The planet is 70% water. Our bodies are 70% water. Water is the ecological basis of all life, and in the commons, conservation creates abundance. The plastic water bottle is a symbol of the enclosures of the commons—first by privatizing water for extractivism, and then by destroying the land and oceans through the resulting plastic pollution.

Food is a commons.

Food is the currency of life, from the soil food web, to the biodiversity of plants and animals, insects and microbes, to the trillions of organisms in our gut microbiomes. Hunger is a result of the enclosure of the food commons through fossil fuel-based, chemically intensive industrial agriculture.
Run along, punk. Go undo the efforts of generations of your forebears who saw how life on the commons was nasty, brutish, and short.

Here's today's runner-up.
We have been able to ignore and damage the commons without acknowledging the consequences for far too long. But now, the press of human population and the rise of industrialism make the question urgent: how will we own our shared resources? How will we protect them for the benefit of all? There are no more frontiers to run away to, and no more pretending that what we do on one piece of property has no effect not only on neighbours next door but on ecosystems hundreds of miles away. In my great-great-grandparents’ time, a driving question for European immigrants or descendants was how to gain the freedom granted by private property. For our future, it’s not just a question of who owns the earth, but how.

The commons are just what they sound like: land, waterways, forests, air. The natural resources of our planet that make life possible. Societies throughout history have continually relied on varying systems of commons usage that strove to distribute essential resources equitably, like grazing and agricultural land, clean water for drinking and washing, foraged food, and wood for fuel and building. As far back as 555 CE the commons were written into Roman law, which stated outright that certain resources belonged to all, never owned by a few: ‘By the law of nature these things are common to mankind – the air, running water, the sea and consequently the shores of the sea.’
In the absence of property rights as we understand them, do we have any idea how equitably Roman resources were shared, Augustus's tax enrollments notwithstanding?  But those are among the more coherent messages of that essay.  Dear reader, make whatever sense you can of this: "If we’re to take environmental problems seriously, legal and societal understanding must reinstate the principle that a landowner’s freedom is restricted by the right of that owner’s neighbours to enjoy their own property undisturbed, and by a duty to leave the commons unharmed."  If it's mine, it's not held in common.  If it's yours, it's not held in common.  If it's held in common, it is both yours and mine, or neither of ours.

COMING TO TERMS WITH GOVERNMENT FAILURE.

I really should clean out my bookmarks, as some of the articles I linked almost a year ago probably have counterparts making the same arguments right now, which ought tell you something.  Let's start with Reason's Shikha Dalmia, "Public Health Authorities Have Failed America at Every Level."  Some of those early failures might have been pardonable (if we speak of a "novel" coronavirus, doesn't that mean the boffins aren't going to have it well scouted?) but some of the news hasn't aged well.In early March, when private testing had yet to come up to speed and public labs were the only game in town, the [Food and Drug Administration]issued a directive requiring the [Centers for Disease Control] to retest every positive coronavirus result by these labs before certifying it. This meant that for several crucial weeks, America's coronavirus tally was lagging and everyone was underestimating how bad things were. Worse, it meant that lab resources and chemical agents, which have been in acutely short supply, couldn't be used for new tests. The FDA was apparently afraid that false positives would make the spread look worse than it was.

It wasn't just global and national authorities who screwed up. Many state and local authorities performed poorly too. Just look at New York, the worst hit state in the country.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to turn himself into the hero of the republic with his straight talk at press briefings about just how dire things are in New York. But in early March, like Trump, Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio publicly and repeatedly underestimated the seriousness of the outbreak and overestimated their ability to cope with it. De Blasio even urged city residents to go about their daily business without changing their behavior. Meanwhile, in a rare joint press conference the two held, Cuomo bragged: "Excuse our arrogance as New Yorkers—I speak for the mayor also on this one—we think we have the best health care system on the planet right here in New York."

The two were blasé not just in their words but in their actions. They both promised that health investigators would track every person who had come in contact with the first two confirmed victims—a woman who had returned from Doha and a New Rochelle lawyer—but they failed to fully follow through, The New York Times reports. Both lagged as well in seeing the need for social distancing. San Francisco and Ohio closed their schools on March 12 when the former had only 18 confirmed cases and latter a mere five. De Blasio waited another few days, until his city's case count touched 329.

Just as [World Health Organization head] Tedros and Trump will admit no misgivings about their initial handling of the situation, neither will the New York duo. Cuomo insists that he took action that everyone at the time regarded as "premature." And de Blasio pooh-poohs critics with the usual bromides about "hindsight" being perfect.

There's plenty of blame to go around, but will anyone take any responsibility?
Notice how false positives went from something to be downplayed to something to be played up, particularly the way the dictatorial governors relied on positivity rates to tweak their ukases. Notice also that nobody in authority is going to take responsibility. It is on the voters to turf the dictatorial officials out, and, as many of those officials are Democrats, it would be desirable for Republicans to offer a pragmatic, libertarian-populist choice, which is to say, a vision of a new birth of freedom. "Not Cuomo" or "Not Pritzker" or "Not Evers" isn't going to be enough.

The same day, Reason's Jacob Sullum weighed in on the failure of the public health boffins to make tradeoffs.  When Mr Sullum and Princeton's bioethicist Peter Singer are in agreement, we are in unusual times.
Singer forthrightly questions "the assumption…that we have to do everything to reduce the number of deaths." That assumption is manifestly wrong, as reflected in the decisions that government agencies make when they assess the cost-effectiveness of health and safety regulations—decisions that routinely take into account not just the deaths that might be prevented but the resources expended to do so. Those assessments assign a large value to preventable deaths, but the value is not and cannot be infinite.

"At some point," Singer says, "we are willing to trade off loss of life against loss of quality of life. No government puts every dollar it spends into saving lives. And we can't really keep everything locked down until there won't be any more deaths. So I think that's something that needs to come into this discussion. How do we assess the overall cost to everybody in terms of loss of quality of life [and] loss of well-being as well as the fact that lives are being lost?"
But if you're an expert on infectious diseases, you might get a pass.  "I suspect, as well, that as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and addiction are not infectious diseases in the sense of Fauci, the good doctor is less than competent to trade off those costs against the benefits of mask up, shut up, have no fun, and no holiday gatherings."

Brit Hume is having none of it.  "Remember: his job is to fight the Covid outbreak. He has no responsibility for children’s mental health or education. The economy is someone else’s problem. So are missed cancer screenings, suicides and other collateral damage from lockdowns etc."

Exactly.  It's on the people, though, to say "enough" to the boffins and the dictatorial governors.

The weather is improving: look for widespread outbreaks of people having fun.

LIBERALS SEEK TO UNDO AMERICAN GREATNESS.

Rush Limbaugh read and reacted to a stupid USA Today column.
The fact that this country established and acknowledged by virtue of our holy creation that we have certain inalienable rights, which means they can’t be taken away by anybody. That’s what “inalienable” means. Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, those three things were acknowledged to be the natural state of the human being in the United States and everywhere. Never before in history had that been done.

Most people in this world from the beginning of time have lived under tyranny, have lived under bondage, have lived under dictatorship, have lived in poverty, have never known the standard of living this country made possible. The greatness of this country’s not a myth. The greatness of this country is very specific. There are specific reasons, specific explanations for it. It’s just heartbreaking that they haven’t been taught in almost 50 years.

We’ve lost two generations to the public education system, which then enables some dummkopf like this guy to write a piece saying America’s national greatness myths are shattering. Should they survive, can they survive? Here’s the subhead. “Rather than restore some idealized, jingoistic version of who we are, let’s use this painful moment of self-doubt to remake the reality of America.”

Speak for yourself, buddy. We who love this country have zero self-doubt about it. None. “Let’s use this painful moment of self-doubt to remake the reality -” how about we use this painful moment of self-doubt to vanquish the American left, to vanquish communism and socialism, which has never worked anywhere? How about we use this painful moment to teach more and more Americans the truth about their great and wonderful and God-blessed country?
That's Rush being Rush, last July, when Our Intellectual Betters told us that we shouldn't be gathering for Independence Day, let alone enjoying fireworks, but that it was permissible to balance getting the Wuhan coronavirus against standing up against overzealous law enforcement by destroying neighborhoods.

Note particularly that second paragraph.  It's the message of the Midnight Economist, adapted to the Framers' political philosophy.

23.2.21

IF YOU'RE GOING OUT FOR A LENTEN FISH FRY.

Here are two Milwaukee area standards that are still serving.

Clifford's Supper Club (that's a Wisconsin thing, the name suggests a formula for the menu and the trimmings) has been in business, apparently with the same animated lights on the sign, for years.
“Clifford’s has been here since the 50s. I bought it in 1988,” says owner Steve Cannistra. “I’ve been running it ever since with my family. We try to do the same thing. Keep the consistency and the same fish and all the same recipes that were developed over the years here.”

But despite being a mainstay in the community, COVID-19 has greatly impacted their business.

“Tipped it upside down. It’s much more difficult to operate day-to-day with the spatial distancing, nothing on the table when people come in. It’s much more labor-intensive on the servers. We hope that people will be patient with us, the timing of how you serve a table and all the protocols that we’re trying to keep in place.”

That’s why even though their all-you-can-eat fish fry is available all day, every day, they are hoping these next seven Fridays of Lent can help turn things around.

“We are expecting an influx in business. I don’t expect it to be the volume that we were accustomed to. The unknown is the big factor of trying to figure out what to do and what to prepare for and try to be staffed and ready to handle it.”

If you don’t yet feel comfortable dining in, carry-out is an option.
The Serb Hall fish fry is still on offer, although it faces an uncertain future.  "Serb Hall was listed for sale recently, but in the meantime, the board of directors president Steve Petrovich said they will continue to offer Friday fish fry through Lent."  No indoor service, drive-through only; and the change in ownership is in part a consequence of changing political loyalties on the south side.

LOOK FOR THE SIMPLER EXPLANATION.

The American Conservative's Addison Del Mastro offers as a conversation starter a hypothesis about populist talk radio.
Many of us spend hours alone in a car each day, with nothing but the radio. Lots of folks who drive for a living—truckers, for example—tend to lean right, in the Reagan Democrat sense. I’ve always suspected that the geographic polarization of the country had something to do with this, that there was a sort of feedback loop between living in a more remote or less-regarded part of the country, spending lots of time alone, and listening to radio programs which often reinforced both a sense of grievance and a sense of self-reliance. Surely the polarization around urban issues—for example, the SUV as a culture war symbol, and the idea that car dependency and free highways were the results of free enterprise rather than policy and government spending—has something to do with the interplay of politics and the car.
The highways, as I repeatedly argue, are anything but free, although the Prius-driving demographic's smugness about sport-utes and pickup trucks, especially pickup trucks, might have something to do with it, yes.

The simpler explanation:  the self-styled progressive talkers, with the possible exception of Stephanie Miller (is she even on air any more?) are as soporific as their tax-supported brain-brothers on public radio.  That's particularly annoying at drive time.  For some reason, there's a stretch of the New York Thruway where it joins the Massachusetts Turnpike that the strongest signals all appear to be from public broadcasting stations out of Albany or Pittsfield, and late in the afternoon when it has been a long slog through western New York from Erie (made only a little less bad with the end of 55 mph speed limits) the last thing I want is some droning fifteen minute bit of obscure stuff on All Things Distorted Considered.

MEET THE GROWTH PONZI SCHEME, MATT.

Matt "Dean Dad" Reed and I have been sparring, or educating each other, for years, going back to the North West Frontier of weblogs, long before the aggregators like Pajamas Media or Inside Higher Ed emerged to provide structure.  On occasion, he uses expressions he might have picked up from me, but in the following passage from a commentary on how the troubles in the Texas power grid might have lessons for the troubles in state-tolerated higher education, it might be that I'm a lousy teacher.
Infrastructure is like editing; when it’s done right, you almost don’t notice it. Everything just sort of works. Infrastructure isn’t meant to pay for itself; it’s meant to enable the generation of much greater wealth, both public and private, by reducing transaction costs. We pay for it collectively, though taxes, because the benefits are so diffuse that trying to break them out per user would result in catastrophic underinvestment. I benefit from the existence of roads on which I’ve never driven, because those roads made goods and services cheaper and more available. Good infrastructure generates positive externalities at scale.
I could go all Alfred North Whitehead on him and note that infrastructure or editing might be elements of civilization, and their function is to expand the set of important observations we can perform without thinking about them, which is why their absence can be so annoying.  It's institutions, though, that exist to conserve on transaction costs.  Infrastructure, as conventionally understood, exists to move goods (passenger or freight) or energy (electricity, gas, oil, or water) from locations where their subjective value is low to destinations where their subjective value is higher.  The owner of a railroad, a turnpike, a pipeline, or a power line, is harvesting an arbitrage profit, and if he does it right, he makes money.  If that's generating "positive externalities at scale," those are positive pecuniary externalities, and markets are all about identifying those and harvesting the gains from trade that follow.  That, dear reader, is why ferroequinologists get so stroppy about railroads being lumped in with "infrastructure."  Investor-owned freight railroads do just fine.

It's where people lose sight of those fundamentals that the troubles begin.  The problem with the tax-funded infrastructure, the roads and bridges and airports that good-government types and rent-seekers alike invoke, is precisely that nobody has thought carefully about capturing the value all that construction is supposedly making possible.  (A hint: a lot of it might have better not been built.)

If anything, there is "crumbling infrastructure" today because of an excess of investment in the past.
For several generations, towns and cities in the United States and Canada have aggressively pursued a form of growth—expansive, expensive, unproductive—that doesn’t come anywhere near to paying for itself. We must use new growth today to pay for the most urgent obligations of yesterday’s growth. The maintenance backlogs for all those bridges, pipes, and new roads swell. The unfunded infrastructure liabilities of U.S. cities is measured in the trillions, and the conventional plan for dealing with it—or, rather, not dealing with it—is to grow even more.
That's tempting, as long as there are favorable matching funds appropriated by the national government (or written in by the Speaker of the House) but that sort of thing doesn't concentrate the minds of local officials, who ought be thinking about how best make government symbiotic with commerce (libertarians are not anarchists) rather than becoming parasitic.


Perhaps Mr Reed is thinking along such lines, or he will take an education.  "It’s time to strengthen those aspects of the public -- whether it’s electricity grid management, higher education or whatever else -- that make private prosperity possible in the first place."  I submit strengthening the core functions of government, meaning limited, enumerated, and separated powers, might be the way to go.

Note:  the lights went out in Texas for a variety of reasons, most of which are tangential to today's political economy clinic.  Once upon a time, your local power company was a diversified firm with a name like The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company, and the transmission lines (elements of the grid, if you will) often had electric railway tracks (duh!) alongside.  These days, there are advantages and disadvantages to vertical disintegration, meaning multiple power producers sell electricity into a common grid, but there's no serious evidence that a larger grid or a government funded grid or a government managed grid can do a better job.  That's a different sort of clinic for another day.

AM I SUPPOSED TO BE TRIGGERED?

Apparently "The Muppet Show" is now problematic.
Disney released five seasons of the iconic show for streaming on Friday, allowing viewers to enjoy watching Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and their celebrity guests as part of its $6.99-a-month service.

The disclaimer shown prior to each episode warns viewers that the show features “stereotypes” and “mistreatment of people or cultures.”

“This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now,” the disclaimer states.
Does the fact that I have spent a few hours over the last week or so figuring out how to navigate församling lysningsboke give me sufficient Swedish identity to hold forth on whether the following clip is "negative" or "mistreatment"?


Hot peppers in Swedish cuisine? Absolutely. Och Gud såg, att det var godt. Børk, børk, børk!

22.2.21

THE INDISPENSABLE MAN.

Power Line's Scott Johnson regularly honors George Washington on what we understand to be his birthday.  "Today, as we contend with the contemporary equivalent of 'the Babylonish empire,' let us send up our thanks to the Ancient of Days for this indispensable man."  Indeed.

CUT TAXES. DEREGULATE. RELY ON MARKET TESTS.

Regular readers know that North American freight railroads rule.  Because even the brightest among you can benefit from a modicum of repetition, here is today's review.
America’s inter-city freight rail system is a different story. In the last four decades, the nation’s seven Class I railroads—those with the highest annual revenue—have lowered their rates, increased rail mode share, and caused usage to skyrocket, making the U.S. freight system indisputably the world’s best. This rise is a deregulation story that could inform policy for other transport sectors.
There is still work to be done.
Another challenge is that the freight transport market isn’t on a level playing field with trucks. That latter mode uses roads, which for over a century have enjoyed subsidies and eminent domain carveouts in America. Even today, interstate highways generally cannot be tolled, and gas taxes are not high enough to cover road maintenance costs, meaning they’re subsidized through general taxation.

But the deregulation that occurred 40 years ago via the Staggers Act has still been a massive boon—possibly the lifesaver—for America’s freight rail industry. Policymakers should heed its lessons when setting policy for other transport modes. Fifty years after Amtrak was formed, it continues to require taxpayer subsidy. The same happens with intra-city bus and rail transit, with its politically-mandated “coverage” goals, price caps, resistance to automation, and rules that keep private competitors out. If market forces could flip a dying freight rail industry into the world’s best system, think what it could do to these other industries.
The beginning of wisdom is recognizing that "crumbling infrastructure" is a government failure.

ANOTHER SUPER-SPREADER EVENT THAT WASN'T.

Tampa Bay's Super Bowl celebration got all the sour scolds all sour and scoldy.  There's nothing more fun than seeing sour scolds all sour and scoldy over nothing.  "Here’s a good thread on how we keep reading that these are superspreader events but then when they’re not, it’s not reported." Go there. Finish your coffee or your pop first.

How much evidence do the corona tyrants require before they lift their ukases?

THE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE FOUNDERED ON GILLIGAN'S ISLAND.

Minnow set sail for a three-hour tour for a reason.

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip.

The tale has become almost as long as The Odyssey, and it continues after the jump. 
(I was tempted to say "after a word from our sponsor.")

INSTITUTIONS ARE CIVILIZATION.

Today's reminder comes in the form of an admonition from Mitch "Shot in the Dark" Berg.  "The conventions that made Western Civilization – which is dependent not on skin color, but on a set of ideals commonly observed – is the [woke mob's] enemy these days, and they don’t care what they have to do or who they have to step over to destroy them."

I reckon it sucks to live in Minnesota these days.

GOVERNOR PRITZKER TRAILS BY 9,857.

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 631,166 infections and 12,649 deaths.
The latest report from Illinois counts 1,175,655 infections and 22,506 deaths.

Conditions in Illinois are such that a transition to a full reopening is in order.  If I have to keep extending this post until Anthony Fauci comes to his senses, or resigns, or until the governor is primaried, or until the cows come home, I will.  Watch for massive, spontaneous flouting of the mitigations come the first warm day, or Easter.

Sunday evening's local news coronavirus countdown noted over two million Trump shots (in many cases, these are both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines) administered, despite the weather and governmental incompetence with the logistics.  The statewide recovery rate is still around 98 percent.

21.2.21

OUR SUNDAY GOSPEL SINGING.

The Civil Rights Division of the Rush Limbaugh Show.


It might be that God recalled the loan? But did He?



Hasn't anyone who listened to his program, whether approvingly or disapprovingly, been able to capture, for good or ill, the content he provided?  Nonexclusive and nonrivalrous, anyone?

ARE YOU READY FOR THE SUMMER?

Northern Star columnist Jack Baudoin is.
What is so wonderful about amusement parks is that you get to experience this saga of excitement again and again over the course of the day with every new ride. You either love roller coasters or you hate them, and if you are in the latter there might seem little reason to go to an amusement park. Besides that wonderful stomach dropping feeling, there are so many other ways to have fun at these locations.

One can play a game to try and win a giant stuffed animal, or take in a show that is guaranteed to make you chuckle or stomp your feet, or simply appreciate the world that you were transported into the second you walked through those front gates.

Amusement parks are a great way for thrill seekers and non-thrill seekers alike to spend a day. Whether getting the adrenaline rush of going on a roller coaster or taking it slower and partaking in one of the other activities, there is something that everyone can find fun at these locations. Once more vaccines are distributed and these places begin to open back up, I will be first in line to feel my stomach drop.
Indeed.

I'm getting too old for the high-performance coasters.  Fortunately, there are some vintage junior coasters not far from here.

ARE WE AT THE STAGE OF PILING ON EPICYCLES?

I've managed to operate Cold Spring Shops for over eighteen years without having to invoke "anomalies" and "paradigms."  But I do recall enough of Structure of Scientific Revolutions to have heard a story something like this.
According to one school of thought in the history of astronomy, minor imperfections in the original Ptolemaic system were discovered through observations accumulated over time. It was mistakenly believed that more levels of epicycles (circles within circles) were added to the models to match more accurately the observed planetary motions. The multiplication of epicycles is believed to have led to a nearly unworkable system by the 16th century, and that Copernicus created his heliocentric system in order to simplify the Ptolemaic astronomy of his day, thus succeeding in drastically reducing the number of circles.
The story is apparently incorrect, as the geocentric models did not lend themselves to ad hoc tinkering, and yet, people were using memes without understanding that they were using memes.
In part, due to misunderstandings about how deferent/epicycle models worked, "adding epicycles" has come to be used as a derogatory comment in modern scientific discussion. The term might be used, for example, to describe continuing to try to adjust a theory to make its predictions match the facts. There is a generally accepted idea that extra epicycles were invented to alleviate the growing errors that the Ptolemaic system noted as measurements became more accurate, particularly for Mars. According to this notion, epicycles are regarded by some as the paradigmatic example of Bad Science.
Thanks to Euler and Fourier, it's apparently possible to map epicyclic equations of motion into conventional mathematical magic.

All the same, I can't help but wonder whether these cold snaps that keep showing up around Groundhog Day aren't Kuhnian anomalies, and whether climatologist are so wedded to their paradigm of anthropogenic global warming that any ad hoc patch will do.
The polar vortex is a gigantic circular upper-air weather pattern in the Arctic that envelops the North Pole. It's a normal pattern that is stronger in the winter and tends to keep the coldest weather bottled up near the North Pole. The jet stream usually pens the polar vortex in and keeps it there, but at times, some of the vortex can break off or move south, bringing unusually cold weather down into the U.S., Europe, and Asia.
It gets colder because the oceans are getting warmer. Or not.
Typically, a large difference in temperature between the air of the polar vortex and the air in the mid-latitudes drives the polar jet stream. However, the Arctic is warming faster than other areas of the planet, which makes the difference in temperature less distinct. This causes the polar jet stream to meander north and south instead of making a beeline around the planet. The meandering causes the cold air of the polar vortex to wobble, and, like a toupee that goes askew, it can slip south off of the Arctic over the United States, Europe, or Asia. As meteorologist Marshall Shepherd noted in Forbes, "Ironically and counterintuitive to many, the strong polar vortex can be linked, in part, to warmer temperatures."

Researchers have found that there is a connection between the polar vortex and Arctic sea ice. Each year Arctic sea ice waxes and wanes with the seasons, but over the past few decades there has been an overall loss of sea ice because of warming in the Arctic. Sea ice reached record low levels this year. (For example, take a look at the graph of November sea ice amounts [at the link].) Scientists are still investigating the connection between the polar vortex and sea ice and the mechanism that causes ice to affect the vortex.

It’s possible that more frequent visits from the polar vortex may have dampened the effect of climate change in the mid-latitudes. Worldwide the climate is warming, but different regions of the world are seeing different effects. As the polar vortex occasionally brings colder than usual air to locations like Europe, Asia, and the United States, this can keep average temperatures from warming as much as other places on Earth.
As the bumper sticker puts it, "if we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be research." Fair enough, but let's not destroy contemporary prosperity on the basis of extrapolations into the next century in the same way that the public health weenies have destroyed contemporary sanity on the basis of extrapolations that were off by orders of magnitude.

Or perhaps, it's cold outside because the upper atmosphere is hotter.
Typically, a weakening of the vortex is initiated by a process known as stratospheric warming. Remember the polar vortex meteorologists usually refer to is located in the stratosphere which is a layer of the earth’s atmosphere approximately 10-30 miles above the surface. Waves in the lower atmosphere can be so intense that they propagate upward into the stratosphere which can raise stratospheric temperatures by several degrees Celsius. If the warming is intense and fast enough, it can cause a complete disruption of the polar vortex as typical westerly winds aloft are weakened and reversed. The vortex can either be displaced from the pole or split into two, which can cause strong ‘blocking’ of high pressure over the pole and typically leads to more impactful winter weather over the mid-latitudes.
There's enough information about sudden stratospheric warming events to document their existence for over sixty years.  Six such events per decade, and the chart does not include that very cold January 1963 weekend when the North Shore Line shut down.  Ferroequinologists are of the opinion that Hell froze over that weekend.

SOMETIMES THE GOOD GUYS WIN ONE.

Jessica Lerner devotes much of her attention to the continuing Peyton Place that is the One Chicago series.

When the firehouse puts together enough information to put away a scheming real estate hustler who wants an Obamaville out of his sight, and the rookie has enough street smarts to help a kid who shouldn't be on the streets get into a more structured environment, it's a good shift.
Lastly, frequent readers know how much I love Ritter and how underutilized I believe the character is, so it should come as no surprise how enjoyable his subplot was.

It tied in nicely with the primary "cause of the week" storyline that occupied a good portion of our screen time while still allowing us more insight into Ritter.

We know very little about who Ritter is outside of being a firefighter, so getting to learn a little more about his backstory was much appreciated.

It wasn't immediately obvious where the writers were going with Ritter's interest in helping out Vanessa, but connecting it back to him having a homeless friend as a teenager was a nice touch
There's enough of the tragic vision in the causes of the week, if there are, indeed, causes, to make the ongoing flouting of all that human resources holds sacred worth putting up with.

DO TODAY'S ADVOCATES OF INCLUSIVE MATHEMATICS AND WRITING OWE AL CAMPANIS AN APOLOGY?

I purchased a copy of Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve shortly after it came out, but for the past quarter century it's mostly languished unread, as working through a thick volume with a lot of charts, tables, and dense prose that didn't address questions of technology diffusion or self-selection wasn't going to help me with my research, and my preference in lighter reading goes to train stories or Tom Clancy.

Note, though, that they worked at a level of disaggregation that would embarrass today's Diversity Weenies, who put what, half the world's population in the Asian - Pacific Islander box.  Here's an excerpt from their summary of chapter 13, "Ethnic Differences in Cognitive Ability," at page 269.
East Asians (e.g. Chinese, Japanese), whether in America or in Asia, typically earn higher scores on intelligence and achievement tests than white Americans.  The precise size of their advantage is unclear; estimates range from just a few to ten points.  A more certain difference between the races is that East Asians have higher nonverbal intelligence than whites while being equal, or perhaps slightly lower, in verbal intelligence.

The difference in test scores between African-Americans and European-Americans as measured in dozens of reputable studies has converged on approximately a one standard deviation difference for several decades.  Translated into centiles, this means that the average white person tests higher than about 84 percent of the population of blacks, and that the average black person tests higher than about 16 percent of the population of whites.

The average black and white differ in IQ at every level of socioeconomic status (SES), but they differ more at high levels of SES than at lower levels.  Attempts to explain the difference in terms of test bias have failed.  The tests have approximately equal predictive force for whites and blacks.
Those are the passages that likely set off the rage mob a quarter-century ago, and yet, contemporary efforts to make writing and figuring more "inclusive" sure look like efforts to compensate for something other than biases in standardized tests.  "The disparity year after year, decade after decade, in math competency, reading proficiency, test scores, honor roll status, and graduation rates, in virtually every U.S. school system, between African American students and other students is disturbing."  That's Townhall columnist Jeff Davidson, with a reiteration of something I've only told you what feels like every week.  "This disparity encompasses such issues as the number of hours the television is on in given households, family or parental encouragement for completing homework assignments, a regular workspace, and established hours for studying in a quiet environment, among other factors."

Instead, what the critical studies types do is propose approaches to education suitable mostly for mockery.  In mathematics, being called upon to "show your work" is culturally biased, or something, probably intersectional.  "Thus, requiring students to show their work reinforces worship of the written word as well as paternalism."

Perhaps it's not so much the written word, though, as it is those pesky rules of construction. “[S]ubmissions will not be judged on traditional literary or grammatical standards.”  The projects must still conform to length limits, and be compelling.

It's almost enough to make one think that the people pushing "inclusive education" have among their priors that their protected-class charges don't have the necessities to write a coherent essay or derive a proper proof.