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Linky Friday Number Two Hundred

Commerce:

train photo

Image by matsuyuki

[C1] A businessman seeks to transform Muscatine, Iowa (population 24,000) into a hub of Chinese culture.

[C2] Friends of Earth was forced to back down from some of its anti-fracking claims and literature.

[C3] Is Medium going under?

[C4] Economics marches on, but economists rely on assumptions that are subject to subjectivity (or perhaps more accurately, speculation).

[C5] From China to London, by rail. {via Aaron David}

[C6] Michael Sargent looks at our airports, finds them wanting, and wonders why we can’t be more like Europe. Just not this one, okay. (Okay, it’s more about privatization than Europe, but I wanted an excuse to link to that video.

Education:

University of Tulsa photo

Image by maduko

[E1] Will Udacity and Coursera help you on that next job interview?

[E2] Andrew Cuomo’s plan is not especially debt-free, given that tuition is only a portion of the expenses. And contrary to some of the headlines, it’s not the first to have “free college” but rather the first to do so without regard to academic performance. Also, nice marriage penalty there. And let’s talk about majors, too… sigh. Okay, I’ll admit it, the “College is a mandatory step if you really want to be a success” line put me in a bad mood. The world is not divided between those who went to college and those who were too neglected or defective to go.

[E3] Median lifetime earnings by major.

[E4] Are universities overbuilding for their own benefit, or because the students they want demand it?

[E5] Native American rights and freedom from religion collide in Canada.

[E6] Scientific American looks at how to raise geniuses.

Housing:

haunted house photo

Image by Sean MacEntee

[H1] Introducing the Concave Roof, an architectural solution to water shortages in the desert.

[H2] The native guilt of a home-buying Democratic Socialist.

[H3] More on the bottom of the bottomless luxury housing market.

[H4] If neotraditional houses are popular, why aren’t more of them being built?

[H5] Collin Dickey complains that McMansion builders of today are building the haunted houses of literature.

[H6] Here’s a pretty cool calculator on whether it’s advantageous to rent or buy.

Multiculturalism:

token photo

Image by outletpro

[M1] What do you do if you’ve discovered you’re a token?

[M2] Adopted American Nicole Chung talks of her decision to take her Asian name.

[M3] Forensics looks at the link between racial hate crimes and Internet access in the early last decade.

[M4] It’s disappointing, if not surprising, that multi-ethnic teams can be less productive than their more homogeneous variety.

[M5] Cobb looks at the difference between multiculturalism and pluralism, and how the US can handle one but not really the other.

Politics:

Nixon photo

Image by AK Rockefeller

[P1] Kevin Williamson’s piece on the pickup flap is a lot better than mine was.

[P2] It’s discussed a lot, but rarely defined. So, defining neoliberalism.

[P3] Simon Cullen praises ignorance and agnosticism.

[P4] Josh Barro explains why we can’t have nice infrastructure (in this case, transportation infrastructure).

[P5] From Greginak: This should be big news as it speaks to why a clusterfish of war kept going and directly relates to the Logan Act/ presidential actions. It will be a blip though most likely.

[P6] Is Duverger’s Law applicable outside the United States? I’ve commented before that the US has additional barriers to FPTP, and this might be indicative of that.

[P7] Will donors prevent the Democrats from going left?

Feature Image by tnarik


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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199 thoughts on “Linky Friday Number Two Hundred

  1. C1: I look forward to the local high school’s production of Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy.

    E4: Its a combination of both. Most kids grow up having their own room rather than sharing it with a roommate. Many of them do not want their own room in college and have to share a room. Raising standards of living also call for demands for more amenities. Cultural issues are also at play. American media has treated college as place where you have a rollicking good time since at least the 1890s. Thats over a hundred years of Americans who grew up believing college was about fun. This requires a lot of amenities these days. At the same time, semi-elite universities have been using amenities to attract students when they couldn’t compete with the elite universities on prestige.

    H4: The article explains why building codes prevent the building of traditional houses but not why neo-traditional houses conforming to building codes are not built. The real reason why neo-traditional houses are not built is that architects hate designing in traditional styles even though their is commercial demand for it.

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    • H4: The article assumes many facts not in evidence. It literally opens with the explicit assumption that “most people” share the writer’s aesthetic, with not an iota of evidence in support. This turns out to be the intellectual high point of the piece. The rest consists of the writer being unable to think of any possible explanation for the mystery apart from burdensome regulations.

      As it happens, I do share his aesthetic preference in architecture. I lived for a time in an apartment complex that was built in the early 20th century in Philadelphia. It clearly had been built for fairly affluent tenants–there was a back servant’s stairway. The construction was solid stone masonry, and quite lovely, with touches like a masonry bridge over a small creek on the property. The construction also provided good thermal insulation. It was laid out so that every unit was a corner unit, and so could catch a breeze in the summer. The landscaping being thoroughly established, the trees were taller than the (three story) buildings. This was how affluent people got by before air conditioning. I could have put in a window unit, but never did. Lots of fans did the job except in the height of August.

      So what was it about the place that attracted me? Partly it was the appearance of the architecture. That could be replicated by a modern builder. But what about the underlying structure? Presumably it would be possible to build a modern complex in stone masonry, but I strongly suspect it would be prohibitively expensive, even once you found the stonemasons with the skills. I can see an eccentric rich guy paying for this. Heck, I can see myself paying for this, should my eccentricity ever be accompanied by wealth. But for a rental property? Fake stone siding over wood frame construction, just like McMansions. And even apart from this, new construction won’t have those glorious trees filled with fucking squirrels and providing shade over the roof.

      I didn’t have to pay a premium to live there. I found it when apartment hunting and fell in love with it, but it was within the price range I would expect for the square footage and location. My guess is that for everyone who fell in love with it, far more were put off by the lack of central air conditioning or elevator.

      As for the linked article, I am unfamiliar with the site, but given the name, it probably is the UK equivalent of Reason. Heck the inability to imagine any explanation for a perceived ill other than government regulation.

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        • Ha, when my son was made aware and banned from all curse words except ‘heck’, his solution gleaned a new word:

          Hecker!

          Of which he would call something acting feisty a ‘little hecker’

          Needless to say, mom and teachers were not amused, all I could do was chuckle at the possibilities of abstract thought.

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          • Fun fact: There was a star pitcher in the 1880s named Guy Hecker. Your son could have had a field day with that.

            Your mistake was to allow him a recognized, albeit euphemized, swear word. This gives people inclined to be offended an excuse. Better would be to pick a nonsense syllable: hence Battlestar Galactica’s “frack.” Even that it a bit too obviously close to “fuck.” Better yet would be a nonsense syllable that doesn’t suggest an actual swear word: “frub” or “glack” or something.

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          • Heck, I’d take him out for ice cream for working out how to end run the rule that fast.

            My sister and I, when given such a ban, just took a trip to the library and after a short stint in the 400’s, we had a stable of swearing very much not on the list.

            Firefly did the same thing to get past US censors.

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    • I have no actual evidence to demonstrate that you’re wrong about H4, and you may well be right, but I’m skeptical. Is the market for architects really so hot that the median architect—even one at, say, the 25th percentile—can pick and choose what jobs to take based on personal aesthetic preferences? Do you know, or have you heard of, anyone who wanted a neo-traditionalist house but gave up because he couldn’t find an architect willing to take the job?

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      • I suspect that if a person had a tract of land and did an individual commission, most architects would design the house in any style the customer wanted. Most people do not bu houses this way and subdivisions built by developers all seem to be in modern rather than neotraditional styles. If the market was for neotrafitional and developers are having problems building in it than that suggests a professional distaste among architects.

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        • The tract McMansions in Maryland are pretty consistently a faux English country manor house style. This works visually when surrounded by a vast sward. Not so much in the lower end tracts, with the faux manors built cheek by jowl.

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          • In northern CA, they tend towards the Mediterranean, which is the right general idea. But the same limitations for upper and lower end tracts that you see.

            The central problem, as I see it, is that most people want to live in a nice area, with all the mod cons (large kitchen, AC etc.) and either don’t know that much about architecture or simply don’t care. They don’t want to live in an old house, in a sketchy part of town while suffering during the heat wave in rooms built with 19th century perspectives of space (formal living rooms, small kitchens, no showers.) There is a reason why FLW’s prairie houses revolutionized living and helped redefine the modern.

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        • The fashion industry seems to work this way, with clothes designed for the vast majority of potential buyers relegated to niche status. But yes, if developers wanted this, I expect they could get it. I question the premise that there is an untapped demand out there.

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          • The fashion industry is driven by a select handful of elite designers who force their aesthetic upon the world because they control or influence the product.

            Now if a handful of elite architects were regularly drawing up a catalog of designs and telling the world, “This is what I am doing this year, if you don’t like it, too bad.”, and developers just went along with it, then we’d be in the same ball park.

            But let’s be honest, Frank Gehry single family homes are a small step away from living in a Lovecraftian nightmare home.

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            • Oh, I agree that the realities of the architecture industry in particular don’t allow for this sort of aesthetic dictat. My point is that the idea that it could is not inherently ridiculous, as shown by the fashion industry, the fantasy of the free market producing efficient outcomes notwithstanding.

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              • The fashion industry really is a strange bird. I can’t think of any other industry that gets so much media attention and is so successful but still largely ignores 98% of the market for it’s product. I suspect it has something to do with the (relatively) low development costs coupled with the bulk of the design work being driven by a single ego.

                I know some car companies have had periods where a single chief engineer or designer tried to force their aesthetic upon the public. Many of those companies no longer exist, and the ones that do only tolerated that for 1 or 2 years before the financial damage was too much to bear.

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      • We are having just such a problem with architects right now. I just don’t understand it. Planning an expansion for a railroad museum. The board and members want the buildings to look similar to old depot and other railroad buildings the architects are dead set on making drawings with modern structures. Needless to say we are looking for new architects.

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        • Archy: “The design is contemporary with a throw back to olden times, like you wanted.”
          Client: “No, it’s just contemporary. We wanted throwback.”
          Archy: “Sure, I get that. you feel that way because you don’t understand…”
          Client interrupting: “No, I understand perfectly! This isn’t what we wanted.”
          Archy: “I’m not so sure about that. Let me explain to you what you really want ….”

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    • Most kids grow up having their own room rather than sharing it with a roommate. Many of them do not want their own room in college and have to share a room.

      I’m not convinced that the first sentence here is true, even for those students who go to residential colleges. I don’t *know* that it’s false, but I’m not convinced that it’s true.

      For those for whom it is true, however, I think your second sentence is probably correct. It matches with my experience. Most of my childhood (except the first 5 years or so) I had my own room and I liked the idea of having a roommate.

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  2. P1: It was a good article, but the last few paragraphs had me bursting into song —

    Oh, the farmer and the banker should be friends
    Oh, the farmer and the banker should be friends
    One man likes to push a plow,
    The other likes to buy the Dow,
    But that’s no reason why they cain’t be friends

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  3. P5- the Haldeman memo is damning, but I’m not conviced it changed anything in the short or long term.

    Ngyuen Van Thieu was always a hardliner with a poor sense of strategy & probably wouldn’t come to a deal. Ho Chi Minh was a hardliner with a good sense of strategy and probably would continue on the down low to undermine the Republic of Vietnam govenment. The Soviets would have still quietly funded the North, the US Congress increasingly reluctant about funding the South, and the KMT in Taiwan would still be trying to reclaim lost and never deserved glory by encouraging the South to fight to the end.

    Last, it’s still unlikely that a last minute not quite peace deal would have swung the election back to Humphrey – there was no provision nor possibility of any actual ceasefire prior to November 1968, which is the necessary condition for the American public to express non-negative sentiments about the war.

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    • Of course its hard to guess if a peace deal would have been signed or been any sort of major inflection point. Maybe, who knows but interesting. But Nixon….holy fish…him and his staff were scum. None of them got anything near the punishment they deserved and clearly all their crimes weren’t even fully known.

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    • I chose not to apply to in-state public schools specifically because I didn’t want to take advantage of the in-state tuition subsidy. In retrospect, I should have taken it, since I’ve ended up paying for it anyway.

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  4. C3: “Medium CEO Ev Williams says his company’s ad-based business model isn’t working” Not sure it’s been working since “da interweb”. “We are shifting our resources and attention to defining a new model for writers and creators to be rewarded, based on the value they’re creating for people” Hmm..sounds like pay for performance/piece. Shocking! Just use the Huffpo model and pay nothing..but tell your writers they get “exposure”.

    C6: You want to fix airport?. Eliminate the TSA and /or Body scanners.

    H1: This would be illegal in some areas. You don’t own the water that falls on your property. But is it that much more efficient that a standard roof and gutter system leading to a cistern/barrel?

    H2: Oh the trama of ownership! It’s so hard to live your ideals. “It has to do with the feeling that, in the struggle between safety and faithfulness to our political ideals, we chose safety,” Yeah, that’s unique.”that in the struggle between self-care and caring for others we chose ourselves. ” Welcome to the nature of humanity. Perhaps your ideals are just wrong when they have to face the reality of existence. Maybe you’d have been a better socialist if you had given all that money away you got from inheritance?

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    • H2: I think my favorite bit is the one where he doesn’t want to get a burglar alarm because it “meant entering into an agreement with law enforcement, yet another institution we abhorred”.

      although you’re certainly right that if the money’s mere existence kept making him feel so inauthentic, he could have just given it away and sloughed off that existential burden.

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      • I’ve read some similarly insane attempts by lefties to mold their lifestyle to fit some kind of crazy…something over the years. I think my favorite was a couple who decided to save water and preserve the environment by defecating in bags instead of using the toilet, then using said excrement as fertilizer. They were concerned about how to keep this particular lifestyle choice going as their young child grew up.

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  5. H4:
    Um, no.

    Like Richard Hershberger, my aesthetic sympathies lie with traditional forms of architecture, and would dearly love to see it be more popular but the reasons why it is not have almost nothing whatsoever to do with regulation and certainly not stairway widths and lifts.

    First off, we can’t speak of “housing” with any coherence.
    Apartment buildings are built by developers and the tenants are never consulted; and in general, the aesthetic of an apartment building plays almost no part in rental rates so the aesthetic of the building is a frivolous irrelevancy, left to the whims of the architect.

    The aesthetics of tract houses are more critical; and most often they are in fact designed in traditional forms, at least here in the US. If anyone is designing tract houses in starkly modernistic styles, I would like to see it.

    Lastly, private custom homes are the most design-sensitive market segment, and they reflect the varied whims of the people wealthy enough to commission them. Some prefer the sharp modern aesthetic, but many also prefer very neo-traditional styles.

    The aesthetic preferences of the users of buildings can be very complex and contradictory; generally speaking, the users of public buildings prefer modern, even if they themselves prefer to live in traditional; one aesthetic speaks to the self image of dynamism and progress while the other speaks to solidity and reassurance of tradition. But these are generalizations and broad trends, with notable exceptions.

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    • Allegheny County Courthouse is the most copied governmental building in the country.

      Modern buildings get built because they’re cheap (you know that FBI building in The Wire? It really does hum.) You want something aesthetically pleasing? try neoclassical.

      Though i do enjoy the Mexican Embassy in DC. It’s delightfully free of pretense.

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    • Off on a tangent… Is it just me, or do most drawings of “modern” detached homes focus almost exclusively on the rear (glass-walled dining area blending seamlessly with the terrace overlooking the reflecting pool, etc)? Also, don’t most of them seem to be ill-suited for any place that doesn’t have climate like Southern California? They all look poorly equipped for, say, Buffalo and four feet of lake-effect snow followed by several days of -10 °F.

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      • 1. Yes.
        2. Yes.
        3. Yes.

        The central theme underlying custom designed architecture is the dramatic expression of the self-image of the people doing the commissioning.

        So while traditional forms express social stability and hierarchy like in Downton Abbey, modern forms express the imagined life that is detached from the community (so no front porch), cerebral (a restrained and cool palette, abstracted forms) and dynamic and cosmopolitan (so no acknowledgement of region, climate, or culture).

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  6. C3 – I just visited Medium yesterday. It’s on my once-a-month-or-so list. I read a couple of things, all of which ended up being personal looks at depression and/or liberal agenda items.

    It makes me wonder, are non-niche sites even possible? I can only think of a few, mostly biggies like Wikipedia and Ebay. Fanfiction.net is the closest thing I can think of, where you can self-publish and read a variety of things. But most everything on the net finds its identity by getting narrower. So, do you give in, and become the go-to place for a particular subculture? Or if you try to go big, how do you do it? Are sites like Amazon and Youtube going to be the Founding Fathers of the internet, having attained volume that no one else can duplicate because there’s no path to do so? I can see personal media sites coming and going based on technology – Facebook, Snapchat, et cetera – but is that the same thing?

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  7. C6 – That’s nothing compared with Escher International Airport, located in the same place as Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. I swear, I’ve gotten on flights upside down and come out on the baggage conveyor belt. To be honest, I’m not sure I’m not there right now.

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  8. C3: Medium is interesting but long-form essays strike me as a horrible business model. Possibly more so than Twitter.

    C4: A lot of economists seem to go around screaming “What are you people doing? Why aren’t you behaving like we think you should behave?” Exception being behavorial economists who spent time to study psychology.

    C6: I find American airports vary widely. SFO is very nice but security clearance takes time. Terminal 2 and the International Terminal are the best at SFO. Terminal One is kind of dull. JFK is huge and has more stores and shops and restaurants but is aesthetically unpleasing. This essay seemed more about ideological priors than any real point.

    E2: The Cuomo plan strikes me as being a lot like the ACA. Not perfect but perhaps the best we can do right now with American partisan divides.

    H4: I don’t think this is exactly true. Most modern suburban developments and McMansions seem to be in a neo-traditional style. I suspect one issue is cost. It seems like it would be much more expensive to build something in a neoclassical style than a modern style. My sympathies are largely modern though. I have very little patience for people’s whose aesthetic remains trapped in the Victorian Era.

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    • C4-
      I don’t know any economists like that. The ones we have here are pretty much on terms of ‘these are models’, ‘we collect data’. This lends to the idea that economists work more like gauges akin to what you might observe as temperature or pressure parameters. They do offer insight when asked. None I have observed run around trying to parse the randomness of coulds and shoulds that society ends up tripping over.

      I am partly of the opinion that if society drove the economy off a cliff there would be excellent data on terminal velocity leading up to the abrupt stop.

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      • Joe,
        Yeah, well, you don’t know the economists who get hired to do disaster preparation. If you want to look at what their days look like, you can look at the predictions of John Titor (um, yeah, seriously. yes, I know it’s a weird internet meme).

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  9. P1: Williamson writes

    The responses were predictable: The sort of smug progressives who are proud of their smugness scoffed that pick-ups, pollution-belching penis-supplements for toothless red-state Bubbas, are found mainly in the sort of communities where they’d never deign to set foot; the sort of smug progressives who are ashamed of their smugness protested that it is a silly question (which it is — that’s part of the point) and made strained connections with pick-up-owning childhood friends back home in East Slapbutt;

    The genius of internet discourse is the hyperlink. It allows you to direct those of your readers who are moved so to do to the exact item or items to which you are responding. This has the salutary effect of (slightly) discouraging straw man arguments, or at least making them easier to detect.

    In this light, I find fascinating the absence of any hint of the precise identities of these oh, so predictable responders.

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    • Anecdata: Seattle sports radio in the lead-up to and particularly in the aftermath of the beat-down the 30th best football team in the country – Alabama – gave the home boys from the University of Dub.
      There was a fair bit of tin-eared smug stereotyping so egregious it was painful even to liberal coastal elites like myself.

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      • I see one smug scoff from Jonathan Gitlin, a bunch of people mocking the question and then smug dismissiveness for a person that says, “Yes in a place where pickup trucks make sense, no in the place where it doesn’t make sense.” Like about half the things Sean Davis writes, it only validates his point to rabid mindless partisans rather than anyone who actually read what he wrote and divined something resembling a point.

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        • I wasn’t looking to provide a dissertation on the subject. Richard wanted a link to people being smug and scoffing, and smug and dismissive, and this article had both. Personally I don’t find the subject very interesting (I mean, it’s a Twitter debate), but Richard’s implying that such comments didn’t exist merited a response.

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        • In addition, the fact that Richard praises the value of the internet as a tool for research and verification, but didn’t bother to look up the original Twitter thread, seems particularly disingenuous.

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          • Bullshit. Williamson didn’t bother to link to that, either. If someone chooses to make it difficult to determine whether or not he is lying, when it would have been trivially easy for him to make it easy, it is entirely reasonable to simply assume the worst. Yes, it may be that he is not a liar, but rather merely incompetent. But when that becomes the question, the answer doesn’t really matter.

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            • His piece contained zero links. Which is true of most of his pieces. I suspect the ones that include links were added by an editor (they tend to be to other NR articles, or books (I suspect they are Amazon affiliates)). I think he has the magazine mindset when it comes to article-writing.

              As it pertains to this particular thing, he probably didn’t even need to link to the Federalist piece because most of his audience was already familiar with it, or ones like it. I linked to three of them yesterday, including the Federalist. I don’t think they quite demonstrate what a lot of conservatives do, but they’re already packed into the story.

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      • “Even after a presidential election in which scores of media personalities were shown to be entirely disconnected from the country and people they report on…”

        How is THIS not smug? Maybe these readers misunderstood Trump voters. Since when did Trump voters equate to the entire country? The smugness flows both ways if we’re watching closely enough.

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  10. C5. The rail link from China to Germany, dubbed the Iron Silk Road, has been going on for several years. It’s much faster than sea transit, and works perfectly for small parts, like electronic components. Smaller, more frequent shipments also reduces inventory costs for all parties. As an added bonus, it fosters the industrial development en Western China, cheaper and far more energy rich, but poorer and less developed, than the coastal cities.

    The big risk, most of the route goes through Russia, a politically hard to predict polity. I’m sure alternative routes through Turkestan, Iran, and the Caucasus are being studied

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    • China has completed or is progress of at least two or three alternative rail routes to Europe in addition to the one in the article (as I’m sure your aware). Between the stans, Iran, Turkey, and Russia, they all involve poltical risk – but it’s unlikely that they would present a united political risk, and so can be played against each other (a structural advantage PRC’s state capitalism has over a fully private corporation, which would almost certainly have to go all in on one route in a specific set of countries)

      If anything it’s the poltical uncertainty of Western China itself that presents the most systemic risk – and if you start to add more wealth to the area, lifting people on the Maslow hierarchy, they may start having poltical ideas, some of which may be at odds with Beijing. (otoh, flooding the area with Han settlers should keep things culturally copacetic – as the USA learned in California in the 19th century)

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      • Yes to all!

        The recently completed Marmaray project (rail connection under the Bosphorus), one of the most overrunny (is that a word?) infrastructure projects in the world, in both budget and schedule, was partially justified by being a part of the Iron Silk Road, allowing a connection to Europe that bypassed Western Russia and Ukraine.

        The Russia-Ukraine disputes predate the current crisis by many years, as any user of natural gas in Europe knows

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    • Correct, and the alternative routes you mention are pretty typical of the original silk road caravans. But, and it is a big but, every one of those routes is dangerous at some level to trade. We have seen lately how stable the Caucasus can be, the ‘stans aren’t much better at this point and as mentions internal politics for the areas in China itself are pretty interesting.

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  11. Michael Sargent’s screed about airports is completely useless. It’s just a “government is bad” rehash. He can use the same empty text about anything that bugs his weak libertarian heart.

    But it’s worth it just because it allowed me to watch the video.

    P.S. I’ve been to Prague Airport. It’s just like that.

    P.S.S. No it’s not. It’s a great airport.

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  12. P4: Josh Barro’s article points to, without saying it aloud, what is probably the biggest problem of the USA: the division of EVERYTHING into multiple jurisdictions.

    What (mostof) Europe has is that there are central authorities that have overall jurisdiction over most infrastructure issues. When there is conflict, there are processes in place to define who is the overall authority in a specific issue, and that authority calls the shots.

    It ties with the issue of rights. Most of the USA agencies and authorities involved are more concerned that other agencies don’t trample THEIR rights, than any concern they might have about fulfilling their duties.

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    • Seems the real issue Barro was getting at had less to do with agency pissing matches and more to do with satisfying egos.

      Not that we couldn’t use a set of over-arching authorities in places where political conflicts can be problematic. It sounds like a North East Metropolitan Transit Authority would be a good idea, if it had the power to tell various state politicians & bureaucrats to sit down & shut up after a certain point. But if that authority was still more interested in satisfying egos and using public transit construction as urban status signaling, we’ll still have overly inflated costs.

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          • I guess my point is that a lot of times ego salving is just preempting pissing matches. I know a lot situations where X was done because you knew Y would get in the way, so you throw Z in before even presenting it to Y because you know they’ll be less likely to get in your way as a result. Well, that’s how it works in the private sector at least.

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  13. McMansion Hell is absolutely right.

    I live in a fastly gentrifying neighbourhood, with several McMansions per block and I have walked inside many. The inside distribution is as crazy as the outside. There’s no proper space distribution, oddly shaped rooms, vast useless spaces, corridors to nowhere, and disturbing proportions, all mixed up with huge amounts of useless decorative features clashing with each other.

    My conclusion is that most of the developers do not use architects at all. They just more or less recycle older designs but moving the volumes around, for variety, and just connect them any odd way they can.

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      • There used to be a wonderful diner here called the Motoraunt. The owners had home-built a double-decker bus adapted to serve as a mobile diner to take to music festivals and such. It was plagued by mechanical problems and so never left the city, finally settling on a piece of leased land. There it gradually, organically accrued additional construction around the bus, coral reef-style, until you could only see the front of the bus poking out from the side of the building.

        Some photos here https://foodnuts.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/rip-motoraunt/
        and a good one to get an impression of the outside of the place here http://ugonnaeatthat.com/2008/03/10/edmonton-a-burger-the-size-of-my-head/

        The signature dish was the monster burger – a one-kilogram beef patty served in an entire sourdough loaf, with a big salad bowl full of fries available to accompany it. It made a hearty meal for four.

        It was sad to see it close down, it was a wonderfully weird institution.

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    • From the Haunting of Hill House, via McMansion article
      “every angle is slightly wrong. Hugh Crain must have detested other people and their sensible squared-away houses, because he made his house to suit his mind. Angles which you assume are the right angles you are accustomed to, and have every right to expect are true, are actually a fraction of a degree off in one direction or another.”

      A fraction of a degree off? That’s not an asymmetrical house of evil, that’s a weirdly square house. Go around an older house with a tape measure and a square and you’ll probably find more like two or three degrees off square is typical.

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  14. [P4] “Why do we build things so expensively?” (his recommendations are put into effect.) Ten years later: “Why does everything in America look so cheap and ugly?”

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        • Again, lots of room between attractive & grandiose. You can find lots of examples of attractive, functional, and affordable spaces in the various architecture magazines.

          Places without the vast budgets of the North East Metro Area find ways to do attractive architecture on a reasonable budget, so the reality is that the cost is driven more by ego than anything to do with function or some degree of pleasant aesthetic.

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      • I’m a pretty bland engineering type, so maybe my opinion isn’t worth anything, but I’d go with “ugly” as long as it comes with “functional” and “we can afford to build lots of routes and stations.” A much improved but ugly public transit system can cause the type of economic growth that allows private industry to build pretty things like buildings with big open mezzanines.

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        • There is a place for attractive public spaces. A subway or bus station need not be ugly just because it’s cheap. That just winds up discouraging the public from using it.

          While function should not necessarily tightly constrain form, it should deeply inform it. If your form is such that it will interfere with another space (like a subway tunnel), then you better be willing to compromise the aesthetic somewhat for the sake of engineering (like accepting that the rail line is getting supported from below, not above).

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          • But it also lets you build an extra one for the benefit of people who wouldn’t have gotten anything otherwise. So we can tell a few special people that they’re worth some extra aesthetics, but it means we have to tell some other people they they’re worth jack squat. Tradeoffs is tradeoffs.

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            • “But it also lets you build an extra one for the benefit of people who wouldn’t have gotten anything otherwise.”

              Given the way these projects go, I doubt very strongly that the cost of building two ugly ones is the same as the cost of building one pretty one.

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              • When it comes to ‘pretty’, you also have to factor in upkeep. Ugly may be ugly, but it’s often much easier to maintain.

                Sure, you probably won’t get two ugly stations for the price of one pretty one, but over 10 years, the savings might allow you to build out more stations, or keep the trains working properly and updated, etc.

                As with everything, it’s all about the tradeoffs. My impression of that article is that, because of ego and politics, smart engineering tradeoffs were not made in order to satisfy ego & politics.

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              • Take whatever ratio you want. At some point, you get a free one from what you saved by making sensible choices. Maybe at 1% waste it’s not a big deal, but I’m pretty sure the difference between a compact underground station and one with a cavernous mezzanine is noticeable.

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        • Republicans as a whole have been underpants gnoming stuff continously since they authorized Iraq war.

          Since Reagan:

          1. Massive tax cuts and increased spending.
          2. ….
          3. Fiscal conservatism!

          I think the GOP underpants gnomes are who we thought they were.

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          • And in a way, you can partly blame Clinton for that.

            Bush Sr did raise taxes to close a budget deficit. But got no credit for it – just the blame for a still high budget deficit in the midst of a recession, plus the blame for raising taxes.

            Clinton rode this wave into the White House, Republicans learned there’s no upside to raising taxes, and now we have Trump.

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            • C’mon, Kolohe. You don’t really believe that, do you?

              {{“Even the purest, best efforts of Republicans aren’t immune from the subterfuge of Democrats…”}}

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            • But the “No Upside” thing was created… by Republicans and right wingers? They ran a bloody third party right wing insurgency over it. How the fish does one blame the Dems for that?

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            • Clinton then passed his own tax increases, well before the budget came into balance.

              OTOH, have you seen the size of the hole the GOP is adding already?

              I mean yeah, it’s been a joke for years that the GOP only cares about the deficit when Dems are in charge but they at least pretended some, but they’ve been in place two days and are just flat out happily doubling it. And that’s just what they’ve admitted, complete with saying “Deficits don’t matter”.

              And probably preventing CBO scoring so people can’t see how MUCH deficits don’t matter.

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      • Congress has lots of plans. The problem with all of them is that once you do away with the magic asterisks the truth of the matter is that under all of them a lot of people are going to get seriously hurt.

        Just look at the comments here in the last few days. Millions of words were written back when Obamacare was being debated about comparative systems in other countries and about the inability of the ‘market’ to solve the many problems in the American system. There are any number of expert bloggers out there, from Richard Mayhew at Balloon Juice to the team at The Incidental Economist. And yet people with no expertise in the issue (myself included) are engaging here as if we know what we are talking about, without a cite in sight to actual authority.

        Here’s a simple truth about government (and, for that matter, corporate) expenditures: there is no line item labeled “waste, fraud and abuse” that can be cut simply by the exercise of will. Virtually every expenditure is someone else’s legitimate income, and they are going to fight like hell to keep it.

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        • The easiest plan would be to actually pass Obamacare as designed. You know — with funding.

          Don’t assume that all of us have no expertise, I’m hardly the only person here who does a bit of logistics work, or healthcare work for that matter.

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          • They passed Obamacare as designed with funding. It turned out the funding mechanism was unconstitutional, and by then, Obamacare proponents had lost their political power in Congress to create a new funding mechanism.

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              • The loss was on the Medicaid expansion, they couldn’t force the states to enroll in the program, which would have expanded the risk pool, and (possibly) bend the cost curve which was the original intention and one of the primary selling points of the initiative (only second to ‘insure everyone’).

                eta – *Medicare* expansion was essentially the same facet as the public option, which was considered, (esp in the 2008 Dem primaries), but nixed comparatively early in the PPACA passage process.

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                • Fast forward to now and anecdotally, I find that the people who complain most about “losing their plans” are people who should be on Medicaid but are in states whose Republican leadership decided to screw them in order to (very successfully) get them vote Republican in the next election.

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                  • Fast forward to now and anecdotally, I find that the people who complain most about “losing their plans” are people who should be on Medicaid but are in states whose Republican leadership decided to screw them in order to (very successfully) get them vote Republican in the next election.

                    You mean the people Obama lied to when he said that they could keep their plan? So now they are supposed to be angry that their state didn’t roll over for Medicaid? It would have been simpler if Obama hadn’t lied.

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                    • Do you want to discuss the details of the problems with the health insurance market, why the ACA is structured the way it is, who the winners and losers are, etc? Because I’ll do it, but you’re going to have to put in more effort than you normally do. It’s going to have to be about how health insurance actually works and what people actually get out of it, not snarky one liners and gotcha quotes from politicians you don’t like.

                      If you want to make it about Obama lying, I’ll just say this: What he seemed to mean was that there’s nothing in the plan that mandate a particular doctor. The phrasing was awful because there’s never been a system under which people could “keep their doctor.” My wife has changed doctors an average of every 2 years for the past 12 years, and it has nothing to do with the ACA. Insurance policies and networks have ridiculous churn with or without the ACA. So yes, saying “you can keep your doctor” was stupid. Any change to insurance is going to require some people to make changes, so all he did was get everybody to blame their next change on him when in reality, only a subset were actually bumped by changes in the ACA.

                      So now they are supposed to be angry that their state didn’t roll over for Medicaid?

                      If they were supposed to get Medicaid an they knew anything about insurance, yes most of them should have been absolutely furious. The super cheap “plans” people lost in the shuffle generally tended to be a lot worse than Medicaid by most reasonable metrics of what it means to have insurance. But people don’t understand insurance, so if they see their deductible go up, they think they’re getting screwed even though the flip side is that they get much better coverage for actual serious events. Most people think they have “good” insurance if they can see the doctor for free and only find out otherwise when something goes really wrong.

                      Basically, the sob stories usually don’t hold up to serious scrutiny unless you live in a state that deliberately screwed you.

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                      • But people don’t understand insurance, so if they see their deductible go up, they think they’re getting screwed even though the flip side is that they get much better coverage for actual serious events. Most people think they have “good” insurance if they can see the doctor for free and only find out otherwise when something goes really wrong.

                        I remember seeing a poll years ago showing people’s satisfaction with their insurance. They also ran a cross-tab of people who used their insurance for more than a routine check-up and those that did not. The satisfaction gap was massive. IIIRC, it was on the order of 30%.

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                        • That’s exactly the type of study I was thinking of. Insurance companies know this. They make their money by keeping healthy people happy and on their rolls and not giving a crap what the small minority of expensive sick people think of them, so making sure that day-to-day health care is easy and cheap while completely dropping the ball on major catastrophes is a sensible business model.

                          The ACA has moved a lot of people onto something that looks more like real insurance. Higher deductibles but actual coverage when it hits the fan. And people hate it because they don’t understand insurance. Except for the people with expensive health problems, who understand it better than anybody.

                          For a while, the sob stories that hit the news about major increases were either people comparing apples to oranges (a fake cheap plan against a new plan that covered serious illness), or people whose claims about their new cost didn’t match up with what the exchange sites appeared to offer, or people who should have been on Medicaid (replacing their fake cheap insurance) but got screwed by their state government. Maybe that has changed and a bunch of great examples have come up. It wouldn’t be surprising. What was surprising to me was how few good examples there were when the noise was the loudest.

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      • Except the Dems tried, and succeeded, in helping people then the GOP managed to convince a significant subset of them that the Dems actually hurt them. In our scenario the GOP will be fishing the constituency that elected them all to hell then trying to blame the out of power Dems. If they can pull of that hat trick…

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  15. E1 — I don’t know anything about Udacity or Coursera, but I will confirm that education doesn’t correlate much with interview performance, which actually surprised me as I worked my way into the industry. In fact, there was a certain point where I realized I knew more than my degreed colleagues — way more. As the years went by and I climbed the ladder, moving from shitty little companies to bigger, shittier companies, and then to a startup, and then to “big tech”, and from their to “mammoth tech,” I’ve realized along the way that I’m really good at writing software and no one had to teach me this.

    I dunno. Neurodiversity seems related. For example, I’m ADHD girl, and thus I can’t spend more than a few weeks on any one topic. Certainly I doubt I could concentrate on X long enough to complete a semester course on the topic, never mind get a degree. But over the long term I will study the heck out of X, and Y and Z and Q and R and everything else. Plus I can code. And I can keep more than seven ideas alive in my short term memory, and I can “intuit” what the heck some complicated bit of code is doing. So yeah. I have a weird brain.

    The world is changing. Humanity is changing. Cognitive styles that in the past might have been a deficit are becoming critical for making our world work.

    This might turn out cool. It might not. In the meanwhile I get to be smart and pretty.

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  16. Vox interviews a journalist who thinks that we should eliminate sugar but admits this could be problematic:

    http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/1/6/14167092/gary-taubes-case-against-sugar-book

    There is a part of me that agrees with what the journalist and Vox are saying and there is a part of me that thinks they are dull people who want to live in a dull world with no ice cream, cake, pie, candy, chocolate, etc. I would like to see someone question the author on the pleasure of food and whether cutting out sugar is worth it if it means eating dull food for 90 years of life.

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    • Ughhh….Taubs. He is a zealot who has half a point then bangs the drum endlessly and far more than the evidence supports. But if you read enough he is a bit more moderate then his top line statements, but its the big brash quotes that get attention. People love simplistic answers regarding diet, and most other things, so they glom onto guys like Taubs. And i could without ever again reading people who use phrases like “real food” or “food like substances.” Even when i agree with everything else they say those phrases just turn my off.

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      • Right. He has a point but abuses it. My big issue is not so much with him but with the Vox staff for not pushing back on how dull life would be without things like ice cream.

        There is a good point in the overly sweet nature of American breakfast (plenty of other countries/cultures like sweets for breakfast too) but they just go in whole hog with the kind of smug paternalism that gives liberals a bad name.

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        • Sweets for breakfast….oh man that reminds of the pastries in Italy….Wowzers. It’s not just the dullness of no sugar but also the cluelessness of why people eat what they eat and the inability to really speak to people wants and desires. He will never convert more than a few people to his views and those he will likely already started off sympathetic to him.

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        • One reason why Prohibition began losing its grip on Americans was that the Drys started to go after soft drinks like Coca-Cola. As one newspaper editorial put it, the idea of children hiding from angry fathers after they returned home from the soda fountain with their pals was ludicrous.

          There has always been a subset of humans that felt that humans really didn’t need any pleasure and that simple living with plane food is the best. The Rabbis saw this type of puritanical thoughts as stupid. There is a tale of a rich man visiting an important Rabbi. The Rabbi asks the rich man what does he eat. The rich man says not much, just bread with salt and water. The Rabbi says that such a diet will not do for a man of his station that he should start eating meat, vegetables, fruits, and drinking wine. After the rich man leaves, the Rabbi’s students ask him why did he tell the rich man to change his diet. The Rabbi says so that the rich man doesn’t think that the poor could suffice on a diet of bread and salt like he does.

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    • I would like to see someone question the author on the pleasure of food and whether cutting out sugar is worth it if it means eating dull food for 90 years of life.

      “You’re saying that no one should eat any tasty pastries?”

      “No, I’m saying those pastries aren’t good for your long term health.”

      “Right, but given that, you’ve eliminated them from your diet, is that correct?”

      “Well, no, I eat them all the time. I’m just saying that people should pay attention to what they eat.”

      “Because they’re eating too much of those types of harmful foods?”

      “Right.”

      “But you’ve struck the right balance in your own case?”

      “Yes, I think so.”

      {{Reaches over and chokes the interviewee.}}

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    • I would like to see someone question the author on the pleasure of food and whether cutting out sugar is worth it if it means eating dull food for 90 years of life.

      There’s much more to life than eating sugar-sweetened foods. Including eating many delicious foods that aren’t sugar-sweetened. A heroin addict might ask what the point of living a long life is if you can’t have heroin. But when you’re not addicted to heroin, you don’t even think of it as a sacrifice.

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      • Its true that one person’s pleasure is another person’s vice but “no pleasure ever” never really worked as a stable foundation for society despite people’s best efforts at times.

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      • This. I eat a pretty low-sugar diet. I mean, I eat a ton of fruit which technically has sugar but I doubt that is what we’re talking about here. In fact, I was surprised to find that I lived in my apartment for about 7 months without even owning sugar, only realizing it when I went to make cookies with Mayo one day. I don’t eat a ton of processed foods and when I do, I always check the sugar content and if the product has added sugar, I aim for real sugar.

        I don’t eat out often but when I do, I don’t heavily scrutinize ingredient lists. Even then, I rarely order “sweets”.

        All that together, I think I eat pretty well with the many inhibitor being, “Single dad with two young kids on a tight budget.”

        tl;dr: You can eat really well even without consuming much sugar.

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  17. BSDI bait if I’ve ever seen it!

    McConnell: Democrats need to ‘grow up’ and let Trump nominees get confirmed

    The amazing thing isn’t that he’d be inclined to say something as laughably ridiculous as this, but that the BSDI above-the-fray types will completely agree with him.

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    • It’s a completely different situation.

      And when McConnell suggests that the Court size be increased to 11 to accommodate an increased workload, none of the BSDI types will blink an eye or even remember that “court-packing:” used to be a dirty word.

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      • Oh, totally different. BSDI folks understand that McConnell is just trying to make America great again. Like Reagan did, obvs. And that clearly requires opposing liberals at every level. They’re not ideologically motivated, tho, just dispassionate observers of the fray.

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      • I’ve always seen “court-packing” as a “create a judge position when there was arguably no need for one and then fill it with your guy” situation rather than a “take a judge position that has existed for years that is currently empty and put your guy in it”.

        Which is going on?
        Something in between those two?

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          • I’m sure this is because I hang on every word McConnell says and love Trump for wanting to Make America Great Again, but I don’t actually see any references to McConnell wanting 11 justices. I had assumed that it was a hyperbolic example.

            If not… well that does change things considerably. That is court-packing, and about as comparable to what FDR tried as you can get. I would think for Jaybird as well, but I’ll let him speak to that.

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            • That is court-packing, and about as comparable to what FDR tried as you can get.

              Yeah, that’s always been my understanding of the term. As I said earlier: “create a judge position when there was arguably no need for one and then fill it with your guy” situation rather than a “take a judge position that has existed for years that is currently empty and put your guy in it”

              I can see how refusing to seat one executive’s judges and waiting for the next executive might be categorized as a shenanigan in its own right, but “court-packing” is a shenanigan with an established definition.

              Or so I thought, anyway.

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          • I don’t understand. He turned “filling already existing, but empty, seats” up to 11?

            Presumably by not appointing Obama’s nominees for the position.

            If I’m right with that presumption, do we now switch to the whole “advise and consent” clause and parsing those words?

            I’m also not seeing how that law is relevant. I clicked on the link thinking that there would be something in there for dealing with a seat that had been empty for long enough and provided a way to break a stalemate in a shorter amount of time than merely “waiting for a new election with a less stubborn executive and/or congress” but it didn’t do that, I don’t think.

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            • I don’t understand. He turned “filling already existing, but empty, seats” up to 11?

              Will, down here! This is exactly what I’m talking about about BSDIers aligning with McConnell.

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              • I’m pretty sure that Jaybird is laboring under the same confusion that I am.

                Is McConnell talking about actually increasing the bench to 11 justices? If not, then it doesn’t require taking McConnell’s side to say what he is doing is not court packing. If that is how you see it, than see my comment above.

                Now, if McConnell is actually trying to add a couple seats to the court, then that’s totally court packing and totally wrong.

                What I actually see is an article about cabinet appointments, which is a different bird from judicial appointments and where I actually do think that the Democrats should try to confirm or deny in a reasonably timely manner just as I believed the Republicans should have done before. Which is not the same thing as giving them all a sail-through.

                Whether I “side with McConnell” will depend on how events unfold. By my accounting, anyway.

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                • Is McConnell talking about actually increasing the bench to 11 justices?

                  Well, if that’s the issue, then you gotta take that up with Mike Schilling, since he – not McConnell – brought that topic up. And he did so as a (hyperbolic) example of what passes for legitimacy these days.

                  Let’s focus on the original linky. Where McConnell, apparently without irony, criticizes Dems for being immature by blocking Presidential nominees.

                  BTW, the fact that Mike’s offhand joke passes for “liberal views of the new adminsitration” confirms what I’ve been suggesting about the “abovethefray” crowd.

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                  • I feel like I’m taking crazy pills! I’m like 99% confident that Mike’s comment was a hyperbolic example of the extremes that McConnell supporters/BSDI-ers would go to justify Republican bad behavior.

                    IF McConnell calls for increasing the size of the Court to 11, GOPers will reject the term “court packing” because reasons.

                    Now, you can argue with Mike’s hyperbolic hypothetical but, well, it was a hyperbolic hypothetical. HOW IS NO ONE SEEING THAT?!

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                      • Then Jaybird pretty successfully muddied the waters here.

                        But his hands are clear, obviously. Really, this is Schilling’s fault. Because we’ll all just pretend we have no idea who anyone is.

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                        • What confused me was this.

                          1) Mike: When McConnell does the 11 judge thing, Republicans will justify it and BSDI-types will agree.
                          2) Still: Yep.
                          3) Me: Ugh.
                          4) Still: I guess we’ll see
                          5) Jay: Wait, I don’t see how they’re court-packing.
                          6) Still: See, Will!!!

                          My thought process:
                          1) Assume hyperbole.
                          2) Assume hyperbole
                          3) I should probably stay out of this, but…
                          4) Wait, what? We’ll see? Is this actually a thing? If it’s not a thing then how can we “see”?
                          5) I’ve googled it and I don’t think it’s a thing.
                          6) No? But now I need to google McConnell and 11 justices again…

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                          • Give that Mike led off with “It’s different” and Still responded with “Totally different” I have to assume that is the part he is referring to.

                            But Jay responded to *MIKE’S* comment. Do you think that Jay genuinely thought Mike was genuinely making accusations of court packing against McConnell and the GOP?

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                              • But Jaybird responded as if Mike said, “McConnell is using court packing to get a Trump nominee on after refusing to hold hearings on Obama’s.”

                                There is nothing anywhere that supports that reading.

                                Unless, of course, one’s goal was to muddy the waters here.

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                  • I also thought it was a hyperbolic example. But the “court-packing” thing was what was being responded to by Jaybird.

                    McConnell is a hypocrite. As it pertains to cabinet appointments, I’m not sure if he’s wrong. It depends on how things unfold (what his expectations are).

                    As it pertains to judicial appointments, that’s complicated. I don’t approve if what McConnell did and wouldn’t object to some payback, but it’s not a blank check. (Though for the next two years can’t really overdraft anyway.)

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              • If we’re going to run with “BSDI”, you should really focus on the whole “If I’m right with that presumption, do we now switch to the whole ‘advise and consent’ clause and parsing those words? portion of the comment.

                Because that’s the one that will have the follow-up question “what are the established norms and precedents for this?”

                And then you get to yell “ESTABLISHED PRECEDENTS??? BOTH SIDES DO IT!!!!!”

                I mean, presuming that there are established precedents.

                I mean, if there aren’t established precedents, it seems like “holy crap, this is establishing a new precedent!” would be a much more effective argument than “I can’t believe that you’re noticing a behavior that fits alongside established precedent”.

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                  • Eh. Just see it as reflexive opposition.

                    The only conservatives we have are Marchmaine and Pinky, I believe has been pointed out, and Marchmaine is old and wise and his conservatism manifests in the “Go to Mass, this will all end in tears” variant and, golly, I’ve just got a soft spot for that particular variant of it (and, honestly, he doesn’t have much of an attack surface) and Pinky might be good to argue against were he here… but he’s not.

                    So I’m stuck reflexively opposing those who show up.

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                    • I get that. I’ve got a soft spot for their views too, especially as each of them, in their own voice, articulate ’em. But!, and I guess this is the relevant point, neither of them are reflexively anti-liberal.

                      All that said, I hear ya. Sometimes we gotta push against the other side just to see what gives.

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                  • No, I was pointing out where he would best be able to accuse me of “BSDI”ing.

                    It’s in the “advise and consent” part of my comment. That’s where the “BSDI” hides.

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            • Schilling “turned it up to 11”. He made a joke about the sort of behavior that GOPers would seek to justify.

              And that law is relevant because IF McConnell actually tried to do that, he’d have to change the statute.

              This really isn’t difficult unless you want it to be.

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        • What’s going on is “creating a vacancy that should not exist by using the advice and consent power in a totally unpredecented way, then nominate your guy to that position.” It’s not the same as court-packing and I wouldn’t describe it as such, but it’s objectionable for the same reason that court-packing was. It’s a departure from long-standing norms and traditions in order to secure partisan advantage on the court. And of course McConnell makes it worse by talking about it as if we were all born yesterday and don’t remember anything at all about his public life prior to November 2016.

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          • Oh, I agree with that.

            We’re seeing huge departures from long-standing norms and traditions and this departure will have huge things follow. Those norms and traditions are the mortar for the edifice.

            But it’s not “court-packing”.

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