Linky Friday #158: The Scientific Darkness

Cities:

pyongyang photo

Image by (stephan) Linky Friday #158: The Scientific Darkness

[Ci1] If the lights went out, here is what some cities would look like.

[Ci2] Joel Kotkin on the failures of urban mass transit. In Houston, between 2003-14 the population grew 23% and transit ridership fell 12% despite (or because of) the introduction of light rail.

[Ci3] How uncharitable is it of me to read this piece as a long, eloquent statement that “I love living in California and hate that other people are ruining it by living here, too.”?

[Ci4] Does a new report on Vancouver housing puncture the Chinese Investor narrative? My parents were recently in Australia, where Chinese land purchasing is apparently a very pressing issue.

[Ci5] Via Hanley, here’s some absurd Brutalism. As we all know, I’m kind of a fan of the style, but these lack the critical utilitarianism.

Crime:

[Cr1] Who peed in your cereal? This guy peed in your cereal.

[Cr2] Walter White made meth out of an RV in the desert. Some dude in Albuquerque sold heroin out of a port-a-potty in an adult video parking lot.

[Cr3] Welcome to Pariahville, a city of refuge in Florida for sex offenders.

[Cr4] Behind every fortune lies an even greater crime: The dark, murderous, violent Dawn of Capitalism.

[Cr5] Vice takes the confessions of workplace masturbators while 538 answers a reader’s pressing question of whether they masturbate unusually much.

Education:

closed school photo

Image by pbump Linky Friday #158: The Scientific Darkness

[E1] A theory that the end is high for the Higher Ed Bubble. The argument makes sense, and I can see some colleges being in danger, but I’ve been reading these predictions for a decade now.

[E2] Amazon (along with Apple and Google) is looking at creating an education platform.

[E3] Erica Reischer objects to sticker rewards in schools. I am inclined to go with the science on this, wherever it takes us.

[E4] Elites are shunning law school. Which seems kind of funny because elites seem best positioned for law school not to be a waste.

[E5] Parents who can afford it can buy their way into the right schools and hire consultants to help. Hooray for school choice!

Government:

kremlin photo

Image by goforchris Linky Friday #158: The Scientific Darkness

[G1] Oh, this is nice: In addition to the other concerns I have about unnecessarily splitting up families, I have for-profit foster care to worry about.

[G2] Todd Seavey says that all of our immigration narratives are false. I used to be a pro-immigration partisan, but while I am still left of center on the issue I have become pretty alienated from all sides of the debate.

[G3] Conor Friedersdorf argues that California’s LGBT rights bill seems to mostly add red tape and hurt state business to little ultimate good.

[G4] Apropos item #3 in this Hit Coffee post, vaping (and smoking) in California may be illegal for nineteen year olds, but pot is okay.

[G5] Ontario is giving socialism basic income a try, and Hannah Fearn argues that Britain should, too.

[G6] Iain Murray objects to the Department of Labor’s announcement on joint employers.

Science:

[S1] Babies think about thinking, and know when they don’t know.

[S2] The slope between epigenetics and eugenics may be slippery.

[S3] This and this ties in to one of my arguably-crackpot but absolute beliefs: If society (or important society, at any rate) wants to believe something badly enough, science will verify it. Paying them does too, of course, but not just that.

[S4] Olivia Goldhill writes of psychology’s reproducibility crisis, but maybe it’s a sign of the field’s strength that we’re talking about it.

[S5] Scientists are becoming jaded.

Worlds:

[W1] The arctic island of Svalbard is trying to figure out how to get people to come visit during its very dark, very cold winters.

[W2] Martin Robbins is worried about sexism and racism on future Martian colonies.

[W3] Ariel Williams lays out what a real alien invasion might look like: disease and internal collapse.

[W4] Why is Mercury so dark and what’s up with its crust?

[W5] Jupiter vs Saturn vs Uranus: Which planet is best?

[W6] Ethan Siegel investigates why Pluto and Charon are so unusual while Philip Metzger argues that Pluto was robbed.

[W7] Boooooooom! Neil DeGrasse Tyson destroys a little girl with a silly idea. {Related}


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227 thoughts on “Linky Friday #158: The Scientific Darkness

  1. Ci2: Mr. Kotkin has an ax to grind against public transit. Houston is a very sprawling city and the light rail system is new. It covers a small area of Houston. Mass transit has been underfunded in the United States for decades and is only now starting to get the attention it needs unless you want to sprawl forever. It will take time for mass transit to get a higher rider share but it is happening. Portland, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Denver are doing well with their relatively new transit systems.

    Cr2: It seems to be an appropriate selling location.

    Cr5: I really never understood the mental gymnastics that allowed people to engage in this sort of conduct at work unless they were in the porn industry.

    E1: Its not going to happen anytime soon. Schools are going to hang on as long as possible before they close just like law schools. People predicted that law schools would shut down but they are not despite reality.

    E4: Its because of the collapse of the legal industry. Law school is getting much more expensive with elite schools costing somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 a year to attend. Thats only covering tuition. Unless your going to get a really well-paying but very high pressure big law gig, your going to be in a lot of debt unless your parents paid the bills. More and more elite law schools grads are being forced into small law because big law still hasn’t recovered from the recession. Corporations are also less willing to pay what they used to.

    W1: Some sort of ultimate survivor challenge should do the trick for tough guy tourism

    W3: Sort of like what happened when the Europeans landed in the Americas.

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    • Cr5,
      Have you never, ever, ever talked with an artist?
      Artists draw nudes and then they draw the clothing on top.
      Moreover, artists use nudes as reference material. Its REALLY not that much of a stretch to have them masturbating if they’re drawing something even remotely sexual.

      (the people masturbating to images of tanks probably need help.)

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    • It’s worse than that in Houston — we spent all of Tom Delay’s rather lengthy stay in Congress having federal funds used a bludgeon to prevent mass transit from being built. (No kidding, people kept voting for it and Tom Delay kept personally killing it. For over a decade).

      The Houston light rail network isn’t even remotely complete — the problem with Houston is there’s several large employment centers downtown, and Houston’s so sprawled that you can’t walk between them. Houston has started with trying to hook up the main employment and entertainment districts via rail (something they’re still not done with) before replacing the Park-and-Ride system with rail lines (to get people INTO the city from the sprawl around it).

      They’ve gotten a lot of flack about it because the light rail system right now really only works for the people who live near those employment centers, and lots of those chose to live close to work anyways. The people trying to get into downtown from outside can either take a bus from a park-and-ride (which isn’t much faster than driving) and maybe or maybe not have to switch to a train (and thus juggle multiple schedules) or just suck it up and drive. (The bus systems still duplicate a ton of the rail routes).

      That said, my two close friends both work downtown and use the Park and Ride system. They’re looking forward to whenever the rail system actually gets to them, because it’ll be faster. But right now, they use mass transit to get to work — but not the rail system.

      That’s the problem with grafting mass transit onto an established, very sprawled city. There’s a very long period where it is running in places, but not terribly useful. Either it gets you around once you GET to the city — or it gets you to the city, but not where you need to go.

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    • Cr2: This is why so many places are closing down publicly-accessible restrooms, or the various forms of pay toilet that were placed on city streets.

      Everyone says “oh those poor homeless people, they have nowhere to pee in private”, but it quickly stops being “pee in private” and starts being “sell drugs, take drugs, turn tricks”.

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  2. G2: I make my living as an immigration lawyer so my opinion is biased but immigration is inevitable in the modern world. You can’t have a globalized movement of goods and services without relatively free mobility for people. If you take away people’s ability to move and basically keep them in the country where they are born than your going to create this weird sort of serfdom and hurt markets. If the jobs keep moving but people can’t than how do people make a living.

    I do think the author is right about the Left not really taking the negative effects of mass immigration seriously though. They think that anti-racism could force the more reactionary immigrants into a progressive alliance where they can be controlled. They are wrong.

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  3. Ci3: It is not only “I love living in California and hate that other people are ruining it by living here, too.” It is “I love living in a certain specific highly desirable part of California and recreating in other specific highly desirable parts of California, and hate that other people are ruining it by living and recreating in the same highly desirable spots.”

    Furthermore, it isn’t merely living in any old desirable spot. The Bay area is one of a handful of metropolitan regions that has achieved Center of the Universe status. If you insist on living in the Center of the Universe, you will have to pay for the privilege. If you are willing to live in some other spot that is desirable in many of the same ways, except for not being the Center of the Universe, you can do it a lot more cheaply.

    I know a 30-year old single woman who was applying to various nursing schools. She was telling me about the three where she anticipated being accepted. One is in San Francisco, one in New York City, and one in Towson, Maryland. My avuncular mansplained advice was to go for Towson without hesitation. Her living expenses, and presumably her ensuing debt load, would be a mere fraction than San Francisco or New York.

    The thing is, Towson, is a perfectly reasonable, indeed desirable, spot, with the typical amenities we associate with gentrified urban living. Were I thirty and single, I would jump at the chance to move there. But if you aren’t intimately familiar with Maryland, you likely have never heard of it. It is north of Baltimore City, just inside the Baltimore beltway, with a decent-but-not-great state university, with all that goes with that.

    The thing is, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Towsons across the country: desirable spots that aren’t widely known outside the region and consequently maintain a reasonable cost of living. But they most assuredly are not the Center of the Universe.

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    • The Bay Area has better weather. And how does Townson state rank compared to UCSF?

      I admit that I grew up in New York and have New York snob’s ranking system towards cities. Here is another confession. I needed to go to Pittsfield, Massachusetts and Hendersonville, North Carolina for business last year. Both were charming and decent towns. Asheville, North Carolina is a lovely and charming small city with good restaurants. But they still are not New York. They lack the theatre scene of New York. They lack the film culture of New York (I think only Paris can beat New York in terms of cinemas that show art house flicks.) They also lack the museums of New York. The restaurants are great but NYC and SF are out of this world.

      I once had a conversation with a woman from Columbus, Ohio who was trying to sell me on Columbus, Ohio because of their zoo and kid’s museum while I was talking about the Met, MOMA, the Whitney, and the Frick. Zoos are fine and dandy but I have been three times in the last eleven years. One was for an assignment in acting class, the other was because I thought it would be a good date idea and my girlfriend likes baby animals, the third because we were hanging with my girlfriend’s nephew. When I talk with people about theatre, they end up talking about the umpteenth performance of Rocky Horror and I am talking about daring new productions at New York Theatre Workshop or getting to see the greats of world theatre and performing arts come to the Brooklyn Academy of Music or Yerba Buena or Cal Performances.
      I don’t even like Rocky Horror!!!

      So maybe my tastes are different. Maybe the world is going netflix, sweatpants, and chill but I am not that kind of guy. I think there is a better thrill of a Truffaut revival at Film Forum over watching his movies on my laptop or screen at home.

      I dunno. Does this make me wrong? Does it make me a snob?

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        • That’s exactly why theatre will never die, any more than studio recordings mean concerts are dead.

          It’s one take, and if something goes wonky we’re all here to be part of un-wonkifying it. It’s real, it’s happening. It’s not just the artists surprising us from a place of absolute certainty about every second of the performance, the artists can be surprised too.

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          • That works if it’s improvisational comedy, which really does improve when people shout out comments from the audience. (seeding the artists is fun!).

            But most plays are designed for the actors to do relatively little different from time to time. And that’s a trick better done with multiple takes.

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            • Relatively little change from night to night, yes. But it’s not static. You’re seeing the real reaction to the real action you just saw, not the reaction from take #7 to the action from take #3 (all of which in any case involve a bunch of stuff that was green-screened in later). There’s a genuineness and immediacy that film just can’t do.

              And don’t get me wrong – I like film too. It’s just that film isn’t going to kill theatre. It killed certain niches of theatre, because they were things film really could do better. And it changed theatre to take advantage of those other niches that film can’t touch. Now there is an alternative to liveness, liveness is what distinguishes theatre, so it has to really take advantage of liveness.

              By the same token, concerts are good even when the set list is the same through the whole tour. It’s precisely because of the possibility of imperfection: in the concert it’s all take #1 – not drum take #7 for this part and #2 for the chorus, bass takes #3 and #5 layered over each other, and mostly vocal take #18, all of which were recorded weeks apart in several different cities.

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              • Concerts are even worse, you know. The music is supposed to be played right, not getting the notes wrong. (It’s not a problem if it’s played at a different tempo…naturally). My friend the musician hates live music because he can tell, instantly, whenever they muff a note.

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      • New York is new york, a wonderful, fantastic, awesome city to visit.
        It is an awful city for most people to live in.
        All those things you’re talking about?
        How many of the city residents actually see them????

        New York is arguably overpriced — and that goes doubly for entertainment.
        You can’t attend things that you can’t afford to attend.
        (Of course, there’s the open question about whether you want to go to a musical on opening night — or even the first six months.)

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      • I have more sympathy when the desirable quality is in fact not widely available. If you really spend your evenings attending live theater, then you have a legitimate criterion. Even so, there is a big middle ground between New York City and Asheville, NC (which, based on my one visit ten years ago, was a very nice place: definitely in the “desirable” category). I have only a passing interest in live theater, but I have a much stronger appreciation for live performances of classical music. I have lived in or near Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Both have ample offerings. (I was particularly fond of the free student performances at the Curtis Institute, which were immune to the usual commercial imperatives of inoffensive accessibility.) Philadelphia is a large city with many established cultural institutions, but most decidedly not the Center of the World, and without Center of the World cost of living.

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      • Depending on one’s career aims, I’m not sure how much school quality matters above a certain point. Though it might matter if your desire is to eventually get a job in a highly desirable location. Which is anyone’s prerogative to try to make work, so long as we recognize it as a choice being made and as often as not a consumer good.

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      • “Maybe the world is going netflix, sweatpants, and chill”

        It is so funny to me when people talk about “netflix and chill” and have no idea what they’re actually saying.

        Hint: It actually is about neither netflix nor chill.

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      • So maybe my tastes are different. Maybe the world is going netflix, sweatpants, and chill but I am not that kind of guy. I think there is a better thrill of a Truffaut revival at Film Forum over watching his movies on my laptop or screen at home.

        I dunno. Does this make me wrong? Does it make me a snob?

        No, that doesn’t make you a snob. It’s your tastes and you like what you like. (For what it’s worth, I prefer to go to the movies over watching them on my laptop. I just don’t have the time to do so.)

        If someone is to accuse you of snobbishness, though, one thing they’d cite (in addition to your admission in a recent thread that you’re a snob) is this point from your comment:

        I once had a conversation with a woman from Columbus, Ohio who was trying to sell me on Columbus, Ohio because of their zoo and kid’s museum while I was talking about the Met, MOMA, the Whitney, and the Frick. Zoos are fine and dandy but I have been three times in the last eleven years.

        That isn’t necessarily snobbish. I don’t like zoos or children (let alone a museum dedicated to children). I can hardly blame others who don’t or who don’t see them as particularly good selling points for living in a given locality.

        But I do imagine that Columbus has more to offer than what this woman was suggesting. More to the point, I’m trying to imagine the part of that conversation you might not be relating. Why it is she felt so moved to justify Columbus to you and how you were treating her and the fact that she’s from Columbus. My imagination of what the rest of that conversation looked like suggests a certain sense of snobbery, at least to me.

        All that is imagination and supposition. I know you online, but I don’t know you in person. Just like I believe I’m a much nicer (or at least different) guy in person than online, you’re probably a different guy in person from how you present yourself online, too. As humans, each of us is more complicated than how we present ourselves online.

        I do believe that most snobs don’t know or believe they’re snobs, or don’t fully understand how they come across to others. I also believe that most self-proclaimed anti-snobs (including me) are just as quick to mistake others’ preferences for manifestations of snobbery when they’re just preferences. I don’t think of myself as a snob, but I can be very snobbish about some things and while I don’t think I come across as a snob, I come across as other things (self-righteous, hypocritical, busybody) that aren’t particularly pleasant.

        While you may be missing out on some things, there’s nothing wrong with preferring the type of theatre and art that you can access only in the big metropolitan areas.

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    • I dunno. Living in Boston seems worth it to me. That said, if I got a chance to move to Manhattan, I’d probably take it. I know it’d be hella expensive, but I can afford it, at least for a while — and the life experience of that. Just the energy of it all. Whenever I’m there, there’s just this vibrancy.

      Not sure about the Bay Area. My employer is based there, but these days I never hear anyone say how much they love living there. In fact, I hear the opposite.

      Plus, I’m an East Coast gal at heart. A crass fuck you in the morning really lights me up.

      Anyway, you only get to ride this ride once. I’m sure I’d find some fun times in Podunk Nowhere, but all the same, gimme the bright lights.

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  4. E5: I have a confession. My daughters do not attend the school in which our home is districted. In fact, they attend a better school, and we have made affirmative efforts to ensure this. The county allows an out-of-district exception based on the location of the student’s day care provider, since the kid will normally take the bus there. We started the girls with a day care provider before they were in school, and it just so happened that this placed them in the better school. Some time later when we had to change providers, and had by this time figured out the system, we made sure to find a new provider in the same district.

    The thing is, gaming the system is inevitable, and better educated, higher socio-economic class parents are inevitably going to be better at it. As an inveterate lefty, my answer is that we should be building the system so that as much as possible there are no clearly less desirable schools. And yes, that will take money. Even — *gasp* — tax money. In the meantime, my responsibility as a parent is to do what is best for my kids. Blame the game, not the player.

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  5. Ci2: I agree with Lee that Joel Kotkin has a weird and contrarian axe to grind against public transportation. In many of the other places in the United States, public transit is underfunded, breaking down, using lots of outdated technology, and packed to the gills. One example:

    http://gizmodo.com/i-would-like-to-buy-a-drink-for-the-poor-soul-who-ran-t-1765477706

    Other examples include: NYC’s L train was highly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. NYC is just getting around to doing repairs on the line. The debate is whether to shut down the entire line for a year or whether to shut down weekend and late night service for three years to do the repairs. The L is one of the busiest lines in the NYC subway. DC just shut down their Metro for 29 hours. Boston’s T was hit hard by winter and also uses outdated equipment.

    The issue with public transit is that lots of Americans still view it as transportation for poor people and who wants to fund that or that there are strong debates about who should pay and why. This debate also covers bridges.

    E1: I find the right-left reactions to college and university tuition interesting. Everyone seems to agree that university tuition is to high. The left wants to fix the problems by finding ways to lower university education tuition prices. The right wants to solve the problem by having less people go to university. The right wing solution seems to be an interesting combination of snobbery (“Too many people who disagree with me have degrees. Damn universities for being places of liberalism. We need to make Harvard WASPy and preppy again!!”) and working-class populism (“You should be able to have a decent life without attending college. Plus book-learning femininzes the country. We need more welders and fewer philosophers.”) I don’t know if there is a solution to the split but I find it interesting.

    E4: I don’t know if this is completely true. I imagine that the T14 law schools still have lots of students whose undergrad backgrounds are elite. What elites are doing is shunning lower-tiered law schools because the industry still hasn’t really recovered from the recent shocks. The debate is whether the worst is over or whether more bloodbaths are to come. What elites are doing is shunning law-schools below a certain ranking. In my law school class, most students came from Berkeley and UC-Santa Cruz but there were a handful of people with Ivy League degrees. There were more people with degrees from schools like Kenyon, the Claremont Colleges, Middlebury, Wesleyan, Vassar, etc. These schools are nothing to sneeze at either. I think law is still a very hidebound industry that is not changing to suit the needs of younger people.

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    • [Ci2] Most of the arguments provided by you and Lee do not appear to be the case for Houston, at least. They only recently built their light rail, so it’s not outdated. Overall transit ridership has gone down since it was built. Which he makes the case is closer to the norm than an outlier. It seems to be the legacy cities, with the outdated technology, where transit is doing best.Kotkin may be biased (pretty sure he is) but he makes a good case.

      [E1] Unsurprisingly, that’s not how I would characterize it. I would say that the left is most interested in shifting the costs of tuition to others, while the right is less interested in shifting the costs for any student who wants to go. Merit scholarships have some support on the right, as do ways of genuinely lowering costs by seeking different models of education. The left does seem to like lower real costs with community colleges… for now, but I’m reading more and more commentary suggesting this is a transitional stance.

      [E4] Not sure whether the article is true of my take on the article is true? What you say makes some sense. The elite students who might have been going to second and third-tier law schools are maybe taking a pass while elite law school applications are untouched (or thriving).

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        • FTA:

          Indeed in most cities — Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Diego, and even the new urbanist mecca of Portland, according to 2015 American Community Survey data, where new transit lines have been put in, it has failed to increase the share of commuters who take public transportation, and in some cases the actual ridership has dropped.

          I don’t doubt there are success stories. Are they representative? What can we learn from them? How can we learn from them when there is a reluctance to admit failure anywhere (except in a Green Lantern Doctrine sort of way) and there is an unyielding belief that they can work anywhere?

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          • Transportation is difficult to quantify since it is both cause and effect.

            Freeways and rail lines both respond to and create traffic patterns. If these are built, housing and workplace construction responds to take advantage of them.
            But housing and workplace construction have incentives and variables of their own, ranging from banking interest rates to societal family formation variables, to overall labor changes.

            And for both rail lines and freeways, they require years or decades of advance planning. So whether we are talking about building a new freeway or extension of light rail, planners are stuck trying to figure out how people are going to be traveling in 2026.

            Although its tempting for me to say that we shouldn’t allow partisan politics to infect transportation issues, it almost can’t be helped. Transportation is just inherently a public decision about where we place public resources, about which forms of living and working that we want to subsidize, versus those we want to ignore.

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          • It’s amazing what you can do when you are selective about when to divide by the base rate and when not to.

            Check out this artful paragraph

            In 23 metropolitan areas that have built new rail systems since 1970, transit’s share of commuting — including all forms, such as buses and ferries — has actually slipped a bit, from an average of 5.0 percent before the rail systems opened to 4.6 percent in 2013. The ranks of those driving alone continue to grow, having increased 14.4 million daily one-way trips since 2000, nearly double transit’s overall daily total of 7.6 million, according to Census Bureau data.

            The share of transit commuters has dropped, but the absolute number of auto commuters has increased.

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            • Follow the reference link and you find

              The largest average transit work trip market share losses occurred in the cities with new rail systems that opened following the 1970 census. These metropolitan areas experienced a decline from 12.9 percent in 1970 to 11.1 percent in 2013. The new rail systems in this category were San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Washington’s Metrorail and Atlanta’s MARTA.

              Which is hardly surprising if you take a moment to think about it – those cities with the oldest light rail systems experienced the big increase in transit ridership the longest ago, and the steady increase in population and overall commuter movement has been going on the longest, and so had the longest to overtake it.

              The Bay area had a population of about 4.6 million in 1970 (12.9% of 4.6 million is around 590,000), and 7.1 million in 2010 (11.1% of 7.1 million is around 790,000).

              So, assuming the Bay area was right on the average for the cities cited, that decline in ridership share represents about a 33% increase in absolute ridership. Some “failure” eh?

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              • Is San Francisco average? He cites it specifically as an example of ridership increase:

                Virtually all the actual increase in rail commuting has occurred in the “legacy cities”: New York, Boston, San Francisco, Washington, Chicago and Philadelphia.

                Fair point about the limitations of percentages… but even so, percentages of drive-alones went up during the same period. Which if we call success, it’s a standard of success where ridership is not keeping up with population growth. Which is rarely the goal.

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                • Seems like he’s citing it to support two contradictory points then.

                  1) Legacy cities show the greatest growth in rail commuting

                  2) Cities that have built rail since 1970, percentage transit ridership has declined (follow the link and you find that the greatest percentage decline is in the same legacy cities)

                  And as you point out, all of those cities are probably underfunding transit and under emphasizing transit-orientation in their growth, so transit can’t keep up.

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                  • That’s not what I’m seeing at all. I’m seeing a mild increase in San Francisco (15.9 to 16.1) and slight drop in DC (15.5 to 14.2) and others not listed (Boston, Philly, Chicago) because they’re not in the 23 considered “new rail” cities (no new projects since 2000,I think, is the methodology).

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                    • OK, so again in the San Francisco example – from 1970 to 2013, transit modal share grows from 15.9% to 16.1%, and population grows from 4.6 to 7.2 million (extrapolating from 7.1 in 2010). I don’t know for sure but I’d guess that the amount of overall movement of people fairly closely tracked the number of people.

                      Do you emphasize that 16.1 / 15.9 is a mere 1.3% growth in ridership share?

                      Or do you emphasize that (7.2 * 16.1) / (4.6 * 15.9) is a huge 58% growth in ridership?

                      It depends whether you want transit to look good or bad.

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                      • Who is saying SF looks bad? Kotkin’s attention is specifically directed at cities without significant existing rail infrastructure (as opposed to those with a legacy with it).

                        That’s certainty where I’m coming from, at any rate. I think it’s great that some cities have strong rail systems. I think that doesn’t necessarily tell other cities what to do, though. A lot of it depends on settlement patterns. It’s hard to retrofit Houston’s dispersion into a city well served by rail. It has already been settled for the car, employment centers scattered about instead of downtown, and a lot of sprawl in just about every direction.

                        I do wonder what can be done with commuter rail, but you have to figure out what people are going to do when dropped off far away from their place of employment. Basically if it’s going to work you need to figure out how to make it work on the terms of the city as it is and not as the city it might have been if it had been settled before the automobile.

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                      • Specifically, I’m looking at the link in paragraph 2 of Ci2 – which emphasizes that ridership share has fallen in the 23 cities that introduced rail since 1970.

                        Look at that link, specifically the four bullet points before the first graph – and you see that the cities that first introduced rail since 2000, had an increase not only in transit ridership but also transit modal share. The cities that introduced it longer ago had correspondingly greater drops in transit modal share.

                        Which, again, makes perfect sense. The more recent your city’s introduction of rail, the larger the big jump in modal share produced by rail will figure in the overall statistics, and the less time the city’s growth has had to overtake that big jump.

                        A big change divided by 13 years of steady growth is a big number. A big change divided by 43 years of steady growth, not so much.

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                        • Thanks for the clarification. I think the data point we most need is how cities that didn’t build any light rail did. If they experienced anytging similar, then indications are that rail does not actually increase overall ridership. On the other hand, if drive alone has increased more in these cities than ones that built rail, that’s an argument.

                          I do think that both percentages and raw numbers would be helpful with this comparison, and percentages particularly if I had to pick one.

                          It’s only enough to say “more riders but fewer people is good” if (a) that was the goal or (b) the alternative – not building rail – produced worse results.

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        • I’m a fan of light rail in the Denver metro area*. That said, even though absolute ridership continues to grow, it is quite likely that the same statistic used in the article applies here: percentage of total commutes done by transit is probably declining. That’s because the denominator — total commutes — is growing so rapidly.

          When I moved to the Denver area almost 30 years ago, the major highways were overloaded at rush hour. A great deal of money has been spent since then in order to maintain that status quo — as opposed to the highways becoming unusable at rush hour — in the face of another million-and-a-half people moving in. Light rail is one part of that; somewhat more lane miles is another part; lots of interchange reconstruction to take out bottlenecks is another part. Probably the most effective part has been placing new job centers in the outlying areas. The Denver Tech Center, Inverness, Interlocken, Denver West, the Anschutz Medical Campus,…

          * “Denver’s light rail system” is easier to say, but doesn’t reflect the reality that the system is being majority paid for by the suburbs, and would not have been built without the voters in the suburban counties approving the tax levy.

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        • He’d hate Seattle with a passion, then. It also rains a lot.

          I don’t have a sense for how well the light rail system is doing in a general sense, since I live far enough south to require a connection, and extracurricular activities usually require that I drive. But I don’t think it’s an accident that I’ve interviewed at a number of smaller tech companies that advertise being within walking distance from the rail hub as a perk.

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      • I would say the left is interested in having the costs spread out as much as possible to make it more affordable to all. The right has a very narrow definition of who benefits from what.

        My evidence is largely anecdotal. I know plenty of lawyers from older generations who attended elite undergrad institutions and moderate law schools with great careers.

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        • Saul Degraw: I would say the left is interested in having the costs spread out as much as possible to make it more affordable to all.

          Well, no. The left is pretty explicit about wanting to concentrate costs as much as possible on a small minority of the population.

          The right has a very narrow definition of who benefits from what.

          And you have a very loose one. That doesn’t say anything meaningful about which is correct.

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          • I’ll happily go back to the tax percentage of the 70’s for the various quintiles once the income numbers go back to the 70’s for those various quintiles. Until we get there, as Willie Sutton said, we’ve got to go where the money is.

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      • ey only recently built their light rail, so it’s not outdated. Overall transit ridership has gone down since it was built.

        I just typed a longer explanation upthread, but the short version is: Houston’s light rail system isn’t complete, and is largely useless to the bulk of people who need it until it IS complete. Because of the amount of sprawl, when building the system the designers had to decide whether to connect up the sprawled employment and entertainment districts via light rail first, or to run lines out to the large Park-and-Ride locations for the ring cities.

        They went with the first one, which isn’t fully complete yet. Well, they’re done building but they didn’t get to connect all those centers up.. So people can shuttle between…some of the larger employment and entertainment areas. (None of which are walkable to each other). But to use it, people have to…drive to one first. Or take a bus, then switch to a train. When they can still take the bus straight to wherever they’re going. (BTW, the Great Recession was..poorly time for Houston’s rail. They had to cut two lines they were about to build).

        The peak time for the rail system remains the Rodeo, though. (Same with the bus lines, in fact).

        It’s still actually pretty heavily used. I didn’t see him discussing the bus numbers in that piece (maybe I missed it?), Talking about Houston’s light rail and not talking about their bus system is problematic. Last I checked, the park and ride system is generally full.

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          • As I point out upthread – he doesn’t give total transit numbers, he gives relative numbers. He’s pointing out declines in percentage transit ridership, which can conceal quite substantial increases in absolute ridership.

            A much more useful comparison might be transit ridership divided by dollars spent on transit expansion and maintenance, vs. auto commuting divided by dollars spent on road expansion and maintenance.

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              • Eh…Houston is a REALLY weird case with transit. You really shouldn’t use it as a data point for anything.

                Between Tom Delay’s hard-on against mass transit, the endless lawsuits, and the Great Recession — Houston’s rail lines barely exist (but still actually serve a rather large ridership, especially during rodeo seasons) and their park and rides are full despite some baked-in problems there.

                There’s also the sprawl of Houston, and what you mean when you talk about “Houston”. Like my city isn’t connected to Metro. We’re really close to two park and ride hubs (people do use them — I’ve used them for jury duty myself). We’re generally considered part of Houston’s ring cities (the suburbs and small cities that feed employees into downtown), but as far as Metro is concerned we have zero riders because we’re not part of the transit network.

                It’d be pretty easy to get into a place where we’re counted as part of Houston’s population, but not part of the metro ridership — making it look like tens of thousands of people don’t use mass transit — instead of can’t.

                Not working downtown, I don’t really pay much attention to it. I know rodeo’s generally see ever larger numbers (as long as there’s a big act) over the year before, and that two of the four lines haven’t been built yet — in just downtown — and we still down’t have lines to replace park and ride.

                We might never. Right now, frankly it’s either the bus for work or the bus+rail for some events. The only people who can use rail only live and work downtown, just not within walking distance.

                But in the end — Houston’s mass transit was subject to decades or relentless federal assault (by a man very firm on state’s rights. The contortions were fun to watch), generally denied any sort of matching funds, subject to about a million lawsuits (that’s a fun history to read), and got delayed something like 15 years from it’s first approval to the first groundbreaking.

                And then got canned by the Great Recession, not even complete. I’d be shocked if ridership was up, but I also wouldn’t call that a typical mass transit system.

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        • “the Great Recession was..poorly time for Houston’s rail. They had to cut two lines they were about to build”

          Same deal with BART in the San Jose area. The plan was to add a sales tax increase to fund an extension that went all the way from Fremont (the present end of the line) down to the Caltrain station in the middle of the SJ metro area. Unfortunately, everyone kind of stopped buying things, and there was no more sales tax revenue to be had.

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          • Houston’s worse, because they didn’t even get to start building their rail systems until Delay left office. (God the lawsuits too..).

            So by canceling 2 of the 4 or 5, what you got was rail that didn’t fully service the downtown areas. You should consider downtown Houston, if you’ve never been, to be equivalent to at least three or four separate downtowns with multiple miles between them, and each “downtown area” is at best theoretically walkable from end to end, but not even remotely so between them. So the rail system ended up leaving the equivilant of a few heavy residential areas connected up to some work areas, but at least half the jobs and half the residences aren’t within reasonable distance of a station.

            And of course the bus lines were getting short-changed for the rail (because they ultimately want to use buses minimally downtown, if at all) and nobody can ride rail INTO the city from the burbs.

            Just as an idea of the size of Houston. I live on the SE side, in a city wherein a large number of people work inside Houston (I don’t, I work down near NASA). My friend lives on the north side of town, and works downtown. His house is 60+ miles from mine, and while he is fairly close to the northernmost point where Houston transit goes, I am NOT that close to the southernmost.

            Fun image at this link shows the problem of sprawl.

            Virtually entire area inside the outer loop on those images (that’s beltway 8) is serviced by Metro. The area inside the inner loop (610) is the bulk of downtown, but there is at least one core business area outside it. The inner loop is 12 miles across, and of course most of the built up stuff isn’t that close to each other.

            Oh, and that map doesn’t show the LATEST loop — which is being built outside those two.

            And to service that we have….a 50+ old bus plan, a light rail that got halfway through phase 1 of like 5, and didn’t even get to the point where you could get from the main areas inside that first loop to each other.

            And good god, the traffic….*shudder*.

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      • I toyed with the idea of law school around 2005 or so. I passed partly because even then, before the crash, I figured out that the economics didn’t work. (This is not to say that they wouldn’t have worked for someone ten years younger.) The other part was that I was doing a long-term temp paralegal gig at a large downtown firm. I observed that all the partners and associates I had any interaction with were miserable people. I didn’t get the impression that they had necessarily started out that way, but the system ground them down pretty fast. And this is what “winning” looked like. I have since temped at another large firm. It too was not a happy place. There are small and medium sized firms that are just fine, but I think the economic logic of the large firm lends itself to soul-sucking misery.

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      • When dad started his legal career, the New York Courts would shut down during the summer months. There was still paper work and criminal trials but lawyers worked together to ensure a leisurely summer. I think the same was true for other industries. Americans might not have had the mandatory time off that Europeans did but there was an understanding that summer was to be less hectic than other times of year at work.

        This isn’t possible anymore. Computers and the Intetnet make people more productive and we have more things but less leisure. In the past, the inability to communicate instsnteously forced people into reasonableness. Now you can make people work whenever and it needs to be done.

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  6. E!: As a digression, the link is an interesting demonstration of why The American Conservative is one of the few conservative sites I can stomach reading. It isn’t because it is immune to The Stupid. The linked piece is a follow-up to a distinctly The Stupid piece. But the follow-up is non-stupid. This puts TAC well above average. (And yes, there are plenty of lefty sites that embrace The Stupid. Any lefty explaining how he will never, under any circumstances, vote for Hillary is deeply in love with The Stupid, and examples are not hard to find nowadays.)

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    • The American Conservative is one of the few conservative sites I can stomach reading.

      It’s one of the few sights you can stomach reading because it’s produced by poseurs who have little in common (and often little going on in their heads but a complex of emotional reactions) bar an impulse to bash the conventional starboard for effect. You might give up on opinion journalism or at least read something whose object is not to verify your extant fancies.

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            • No, I’m thinking of Japanese slang (or is it visual humor?).
              You’re more likely to see roses than pears, at any rate.
              If roses stand for yaoi…
              Peaches stand for yuri… (or at any rate, the significantly different anatomical part).

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              • Fair enough – when someone asks about a slang term I don’t know offhand, I figure that most of the time it’s either an Urban Dictionary entry or Cockney Rhyming Slang (“peaches and pears” is a variant of “apples and pears”, meaning “stairs”).

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              • An interesting afternoon’s diversion you teed up for me there, , so thank you.

                The allusion to peaches seems pretty obvious, one that transcends all cultures, for that part of the female anatomy. So from there it was not hard to figure out what yuri manga would be all about. And so by contrast, yaoi must be some sort of cognate, but I looked it up anyway. It wasn’t as obvious to me that a rose would by a symbol for that particular kind of a love story — after all, here in the West, roses are used as symbols of romantic love in nearly any permutation.

                It seems like the overwhelming majority of the stories in both the yaoi and yuri genres end very badly! Lots of suicides or other very premature deaths for the lovers, usually the older and more sophisticated woman in yuri or the seme in yaoi.

                The shunning and scandal elements upon discovery of the same sex romances are pretty clearly to be expected, particularly in the context of a highly traditional Japanese culture. But there just isn’t much “…And they found a way to live happily ever after in spite of all that,” for either the yaoi or yuri couples. This is depressing: must every story of same-sex love from around the world be the equivalent of Brokeback Mountain?

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                • It is important to understand that girls (12-14 yr olds) are the primary consumer of yaoi fiction, and that they’re considered a bit … “twisted” for doing so.

                  The traditional Japanese culture had a lot of pederasty to it, actually.

                  (apparently a rose looks a bit like an anus, to an artist’s eye — you’ll see tons of comic portrayals in anime about a guy surrounded by roses, and it’s all an artistic allusion to gay love).

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        • My peachy self suggests that he read the Claremont Review or The New Criterion or even Modern Age if he takes an interest in starboard periodical literature. If he wants something which bothers little with topical questions, there’s The Chesterton Review. TAC is humbug.

          And, of course, plenty of books in the library and plenty of academic literature, though the latter is not in browsable format anymore.

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  7. Conor Friedersdorf argues that California’s LGBT rights bill seems to mostly add red tape and hurt state business to little ultimate good.

    The whole point of anti-discrimination law is to create rent-extracting opportunities for lawyers while allowing the harassment of social sectors unpopular among lawyers. Of course it hurts business and does little good.

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  8. You’re right, no one could ever propose or support such ordinances based on a good faith desire to stop discrimination.

    It must be hard to live in a world were everyone who disagrees with you has such contemptible motives.

    edit: that was supposed to be in reply to Art Deco above.

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    • no one could ever propose or support such ordinances based on a good faith desire to stop discrimination.

      The ‘good faith’ effort-meisters fail to acknowledge that people discriminate in all manner of ways for all manner of reasons. They create a cause of action for people who haven’t suffered any tort provided such people are in a client category which a certain sort of bourgeois regards as salient. The categories are spelled out in law (subject to exceptions – now you see it, now you don’t – dreamed up by judges). They’ve grown ever more elaborate as the fashions within the legal profession deposit new barnacles and as successive generations of social engineering schemes prove ineffectual. Well, what Boris Pasternak said: “not the first time a lofty ideal decayed into pure materialism”. And it’s grown vicious as well.

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      • “The ‘good faith’ effort-meisters fail to acknowledge that people discriminate in all manner of ways for all manner of reasons.”

        Not so. They do acknowledge that people discriminate for a variety of reasons, they just view some forms of discrimination as worthy of legal recourse.

        “They create a cause of action for people who haven’t suffered any tort provided such people are in a client category which a certain sort of bourgeois regards as salient.”

        It’s like you get half way there but can’t quite allow yourself to be charitable. You acknowledge that certain people view discrimination against various classes as different. But, instead of dealing with why they view discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or citizenship as different, you throw in a quick jab implying that it’s all transactional (“client category”). It sure seems like you are aware of the arguments in favor of anti-discrimination legislation–eg, discriminated against minority populations, immutable characteristics or fundamental right, etc–but that to acknowledge and grapple with the actual arguments would undermine your original post–“The whole point of anti-discrimination law is to create rent-extracting opportunities for lawyers while allowing the harassment of social sectors unpopular among lawyers.”

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  9. Ci3: That’s a pretty mild and unusually self-aware example of the “newcomers are ruining the West” genre. Looking forward to reading my generation’s versions when we reach middle age.

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  10. e3: Sticker rewards have other issues too. I know a kid who stole the stickers from the teacher, just to give each kid a sticker, for once. He thought that all the kids deserved one, at least once.

    Sticker Reward Systems are for the lazy. What you want to do is design games. Let the kids learn a bit of math, trade chores, have some fun — and change it up every once in a while. Make a new game. So long as it’s more about playing, you’re doing well.

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  11. [Cr4] I stopped reading when the author stated “Its popularity was sparked in part by the 2008 financial crisis, which renewed doubt about capitalism’s promises, ” Please. America doesn’t have capitalism, it has corporatism.

    [E3]: This is surprising? Incentives have consequences.

    [G2]: This is the first year in my memory we’ve actually had something of a debate about immigration in presidential politics so it’s about time. Sadly, it’s coming off as “fascists vs open borders for all”.

    [W2]: “You can sum it up like this: “When we go into space, we will all magically become nice.”” Anyone who actually believes this is being foolish. When significant numbers of humans get into space it’ll be more like the old west than less. Crime, prostitution, etc. How could anyone be surprised at that?

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    • Women in space-colony fiction have generally been presented as sexy walking vaginas, whose main purpose is to provide the male astronauts with a place to dock their penis at night. This being necessary in order to “ensure the survival of the species”.

      Did John Norman start writing space colony books?

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        • Exactly. His generalization might have been fair 40-50+ years ago. These days, I can’t recall the last time I read a (not-self) published sci-fi tale where women were second class brood-mares.

          Seems he’s picking a handy subset to represent the whole.

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        • on the Moon and surrounded by a vacuum, no less. With all the repair equipment down on an utterly destroyed earth.

          How did they make spacesuits? How did they avoid running out of air with the thousands of times they had to open the airlock?

          The idea of 7 women of very different backgrounds and skill sets, who utterly loathed each other, managing to stay alive, create a new generation and keep them alive, on and on for thousands of years, on the Moon, was a couple steps too far for me. At least on Mars they would have had much more gravity and atmosphere.

          didn’t work for me.

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          • The fun part was, basically, they weren’t the actual survival plan. They were the distraction.

            Although they had nuclear reactor and LOTS of water, as well as a bunch of nifty robots that were learning capable. And life support (and supplies) for many times their number.

            I wouldn’t call it easy (highly unlikely, in fact), but it wasn’t like you have to magic resources into place to do it. OTOH, there’s probably a reason he skipped that bit.

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      • The ridiculous part of the article is that while settler colonization was unarguably terrible for the then current residents of wherever colonization was taking place, the status of women settlers was normally greatly enhanced from their cultural origin location. (e.g. Wyoming women could vote earlier than just about any other place on earth; Australia and New Zealand were similarly way ahead of the curve)

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    • I’m glad he had the math to show that, but it’s pretty common sense. People don’t vote in uncontested elections, and they vote less in elections where they don’t have strong feelings about who should win.

      The folks I know (myself included) that didn’t bother voting in these primaries either did so because they thought it was clear Clinton was going to win, or they didn’t care whether Clinton or Sanders won because either would be preferable to the GOP field.

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      • Sure do and I was wrong about that and continue to be wrong since I still am of the opinion (60% certainty) that Trump won’t be the GOP nominee. If he is I’ll definitely be wrong about that but as I look at him storming to victory over his fragmented incoherent opposition with ranging from 30-50% of the party’s support I still don’t see some great wave that’s gonna sweep over the general electorate. Nor have we any proof that turnout in primaries in the past were predictive of anything. Could this election be different? Anything is possible; but we have no reason to expect it.

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    • You should listen to the Serial podcast on Bergdahl’s case. It’s incredibly interesting, and paints a picture, through the interviews of family, friends, and his unit, of a very serious, idealistic, and strange young man.

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        • I don’t think anyone associated with the case thinks he purposely got captured to demonstrate how bad security was. Rather, some people, especially in his unit, think he was deserting and got captured. Other’s, based off his testimony and writing, believe he was trying to go AWOL to raise his (probably misguided) concerns regrading his superior officer. He has said that at the time he thought he could get a meeting with a higher if he disappeared for a few days. I’m not arguing that his actions were justified or well thought out, just that he likely had some underlying personality and psych issues (discussed by unit mates, and family and friends on Serial) which helped me understand his actions better.

          And notme, were you aware that he had been discharged from the Coast Guard before his enlistment in the Army because of psychological issues? If not, does that influence your opinion that the medical assessment discussed above was politically driven?

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          • Not according to this NYT article. Sounds like Bowe got a what in the Army would be a Chapter 11, failure to adapt discharge after just 4 weeks. No one seems to know if there was any psych reason, he just couldn’t hack basic or decided to quit. Besides, he made it through the his Army basic, so I’m not really seeing a problem.

            http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/12/us/bowe-bergdahl-discharged-from-coast-guard-before-joining-army.html?_r=0

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            • Bergdahl said he suffered a panic attack, and “Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, later testified at a hearing that Bergdahl was found on the floor, blood on his hands.” (after the panic attack).

              “He was a stellar soldier, one of Bergdahl’s sergeants testified, but with such obvious emotional difficulties that the sergeant had asked the company first sergeant to intercede.”

              His lawyer has also stated he was discharged from the Coast Guard for psychological reasons. And, as a defense attorney, if the defense is mischaracterizing the record the prosecution rarely, if ever, lets that slide.

              To me it seems pretty clear he had some underlying personality or psych issues that made him ill suited for military service, and he was in a stressful situation when deployed. Given that, is it so hard to believe that he suffered from the disorder mentioned in the article that you immediately jump to the conclusion that the only reason for this diagnosis is political meddling by Obama?

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              • Here is another article that details Bowe’s issues with the Coast Guard and his request for a waiver.

                Let me quote, “I joined the Coast Guard in January of 2006. While in recruit training I had a hard time adapting to change. I had a lot going on with things at home and I do not feel that I was prepared on my own. I couldn’t take care of issues at home and was able to obtain a discharge to do so. They did discharge with a reentry code of 3L. I have no ties to home anymore that would hinder my performance while in the military. I have matured and know that I am prepared to go into the Army. Please do not allow my past record to prevent me from coming into the Army.”

                That hardly sounds like deep psychology issues.

                https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/03/17/it-was-too-late-to-return-new-glimpse-into-bowe-bergdahl-desertion-case-emerges/

                The Obama admin has, from day one, framed Bowe as some hero that deserved rescue. Now that they are faced with reality, that he is a deserter, they are doing everything they can to sweep it under the rug.

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                • That would be the pro forma waiver typed up by the Army recruiter, and signed by Bowe so he could enlist.

                  Look at the testimony of his staff sergeant above, or just listen to the episodes where Bowe’s unit mates discuss him, his personality, and how they perceived him. The way his unit (who universally hate him) describe him in the show lines up very well with the schizotypical personality disorder he was later diagnosed with.

                  Or it’s another Obama conspiracy.

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    • Really? Nutty as John Hinckley? Does the Army explain how someone who does not know whether he’s coming or going or does know right from wrong got past the recruiters, examiners, and basic training? Or has the Army adopted a Hotel California-style dispensation for diminished capacity? Is Bowe Berghdahl addicted to Twinkies?

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  12. Ci3: Funny how the writer brings up the Japanese internment, and then in the very next sentence talks about Oakland as “a bastion of African-American cultural life”.

    Oakland became a bastion of African-American cultural life because after the Japanese were all rounded up, African-Americans bought their houses!

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  13. Ci3:
    The part that gets me is that he complains Yosemite is crowded. Look, I get that everyone wants to live in the big city, but the fact that it’s a big city makes it harder.

    But, c’mon. We must have a hundred National Parks, State Parks, and National forests in California. Yosemite has been the place that out-of-state tourist flock to and crowd since that dude was a child (and for that matter, my parents were putting out California Wildfires when that dude was a child too, so I’m not sure how he can blame the smoke on modernity).

    G3: If California boycotts Mississippi, Mississippi might boycott California right back. Way to sell your argument, Conor.

    G6: Is this sort of notice actually unusual? I was under the impression that issuing a regulatory interpretation in this manner is pretty par for the course. Does Murray actually have a case to be made against the process? Or is he just attacking the process because he doesn’t like the result? At the very least he’s being disingenuous to suggest that this was a surprise to employers–It’s an extension of NLRB case law from last year.

    w6: Yeah, Pluto was robbed. I think Metzger’s reasons 7 & 8 reflect my feelings about the affair. The IAU’s decision was an attack on the idea of scientific knowledge that grows and expands–They picked a definition specifically to exclude that which hadn’t been discovered yet, so that they could pretend their knowledge of the sun’s planets was complete.

    W7: Heh.

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    • re: W6 – it’s hilarious to look at all of what QI has done over the years with regards to how many planets there are, and how many moons the Earth has, and how many points guests have lost over the years as science marches on and the definitions change slightly.

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      • Yeah, but that Cruithne thing is utter bullshit. I’m happy to disagree with the astronomical community when it comes to the definition of a planet, but I’m quite willing to accept that to be a moon, you have to orbit around the planet you’re a moon of. Cruithne is just an object in our solar system that take the same amount of time to orbit the sun as we do.

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  14. Re: W7:

    As much as I dislike Mr. Tyson, I can see how someone in his role might misspeak in that situation. He probably wanted to convey what the conditions on Jupiter really are, but sounded like a jerk because the young girl–who was probably a fan of his–was only 8 years old.

    I’m not defending him. But just thinking I can see that kind of thing would happen without malice. I suppose if I were an American history popularizer and some young person said how much they’d like to live in [pick whichever pre-1776 American colony], I might have a bad hair day and explain all the reasons why no one today would really want to live in that colony.

    Of course, Tyson shouldn’t’ve tweeted what he did, and unless there’s something I don’t know, that tweeting is inexcusable or at least egregiously clueless.

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    • So part of my job as a science writer at a massive climate/space/antarctic research facility was giving public tours of the place, often to school children. We didn’t take anyone under about 10 years old because there was just no easy way to explain what was going on. (No displays or demonstrations created specifically for public viewing). But one day, a scheduling mess up brought a kindergarten class. 5 and 6 year olds. I think I did a pretty good job explaining some stuff and up on the roof of the building where all the massive satellite dishes are, I mentioned that the glass window looking up at the sky was for our LIDAR array. “It’s really cool you guys. We shoot a laser up through that window so we can study the clouds!” A lovely tiny little 5 year old girl put her hands on her hips, cocked her head and with absolutely infinite scorn said: “That’s ridiculous!” Almost fell off the roof laughing (not in her face — I saved it for later). I’d love to meet her again in 20 years.

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  15. W6

    I will repeat what I said last time about Pluto, which for some reason people thought I wasn’t serious about. (I have no idea why.)

    All the IAU had to do was invent a classification of planets called ‘dwarf planets’, and put Pluto and Eris and etc in them. And say ‘As there are probably hundreds of dwarf planets, people and textbooks should generally just list the major planets, with maybe a small sample of dwarf planets’.

    No one would have been upset at Pluto slowly being phased out of the list of planets everyone memorized, not at least once they realize that that list would need to now include Ceres and Eris and Makemake and Haumea and dozens of others that the IAU hasn’t even gotten around to looking at yet. Everyone would have been fine with that list changing, even if old farts would say ‘Back in my day, we listed dwarf planets along with major planets! Then again, we only knew of the one.’ when listing to kids list off planets without Pluto.

    Instead, the IAU invented the term ‘dwarf planet’ that included the word ‘planet’, and then nonsensically turned around and decided ‘dwarf planet’ were not really planets. I can’t conceive of how they thought this made sense, or why they did this. It’s not like ‘planet’ had some existing definition that they realized dwarf planets didn’t fit into…they had to *change* the definition of planet to exclude dwarfs by adding ‘has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals’!

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