Linky Tuesday: The Planet

Asia:

Image by Rincewind42

[As1] One of the weird things about China is how there are cities with the population of Chicago that you’ve never heard of because it’s like the 23rd largest in the country. Meet Harbin, at the intersection between China and Russia.

[As2] If it were employees instead of investors, this would be a legendary job quit story. Maybe it can be recast as an Ayn Randian protest or something.

[As3] A look at one city in China’s one-dog policy. This is bad for more than one reason, but one of them is that I think it’s good to have more than one pet so they can keep each other company.

[As4] There’s gold up in them there hills flammable ice in the South China Sea.

[As5] North Korea’s propaganda machine is falling apart.

[As6] Clarrissa Sebag-Montefiore explains how China gives short people the short shrift.

Ecopolitics:

vaping photo

Image by myeralan

[Ec1] I doubt too much comes of this, in part because they don’t really care, and in part because the more open they get the more to goals are going to move.

[Ec2] We need a carbon tax. Our corporate income tax needs to be reduced dramatically or eliminated. I have an idea! (Too regressive, I’m sure. Still on board with a pass-through.)

[Ec3] Trump may be old school on energy, but renewables are doing pretty well in his political stomping ground.

[Ec4] Not surprising: Climate-skeptics are trying to appeal to vapers.

[Ec5] Denmark is coming down on (the subsidies for) electric cars and other green projects.

[Ec6] Fortunately, we can start deregulating coal and such over here. Woohoo! And, in any event, we may run out?

[Ec7] Here’s the next battle in the world of oil pipelines.

Europe:

[Eu1] Europe is facing a cosmopolitan gap, that could bring trouble for the EU.

[Eu2] It may surprise you to hear me say this, but dominant centrist parties are bad and something to be avoided. Even if Macron is good in the short term, it would be preferable if En Marche either went the way of Kadima and got chewed up from both sides or they replaced the Socialists as the center-left party.

[Eu3] Alex Massie writes of liberalism, the Liberal Democrats, and how Britain’s inherent liberalism hurt the Liberal Democrats.

[Eu4] So apparently Russians are killing people on British soil?

[Eu5] Well, kids and Germans do love to tattle.

[Eu6] Should Belgium even exist? probably not, though it’s a helpful example of the sort of country that needs a creative constitution.

Environment:

onion photo

Image by grace_kat

[En1] Sometimes if seems like climate change is an onion, where you peel one layer of danger only to see another.

[En2] Paging Bill Nye, paging Bill Nye. (Is this an evolutionary advantage for climate denialism?)

[En3] Manufacturing a better microbead. Well, a more environmentally friendly one at any rate.

[En4] The deep sea is sometimes like space in all of its mysteries… except that there is definitely life down there.

[En5] The story behind the most famous photograph of Chernobyl.

United States:

confederate monument photo

Image by Tim Evanson

[US1] Unsurprising that Delaware – given that they have such high abortion rates even for a blue state – becomes the first state to pass the first law to ensure abortion rights in the event that Roe is reversed. Meanwhile, in Missouri

[US2] While jogging on a familiar, overgrown, wooded trail near her home on a recent warm afternoon, Rachel Borch thought to herself, “what a beautiful day.” Little did she know she was about to be attacked by a rabid raccoon she would end up killing with her bare hands.

[US3] There are some news items (like hunting boars from balloons) you really expect to come from Texas or Florida or something and not Canada.

[US4] How Reality Winner got herself caught. Turns out, we perhaps shouldn’t trust millennials with government secrets.

[US5] Arizona’s confederate monuments are… pretty recent. If there’s one thing worse than a Confederate state flashing its history, its a non-confederate state wishing it were.

[US6] Robert Greene has a good piece the politics of southern losing.


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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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182 thoughts on “Linky Tuesday: The Planet

  1. As1: Chinese cities tend to control large swathes of rural areas. The urban parts are still very populous but not all of the population is urban. Beijing covers an area the size of Belgium and most of that area is not built up.

    As2: Investors are probably safer from the legal consequences of their act.

    As4: Flammable ice sounds like a great novelty item for a fancy cocktail.

    As5: This is a good thing and necessary to end the Kim regime.

    As6: The global war against short people continues.

    Eu1: For once the psychosocial explanation, central and eastern European countries like Hungary and Poland see themselves as victims of imperialism make sense. When I was in Hungary, a Hungarian informed me that Hungary doesn’t except refugees because they know the difference between a migrant and occupier. They tend to perceive the current refugees as the latter.

    What is missing from this article is any reference to Jews. The Poles and Hungarians might not have participated in imperialism but they were enthusiastic persecutors of Europe’s resident minority, the Jews. That could form the basis of at least some guilt and responsibility.

    Eu3: A more likely explanation is that the UK has a FPTP election system and those tend to be hard on third parties.

    Eu4: If this is true, its a sign that the British police and government have an unfortunate tendency to look away when powerful people or entities commit crimes on its soil.

    US2: When I first read the headline, my mind parsed at as a woman was bit by a rabid raccoon and then drowned in puddle rather than she drowned the raccoon in the puddle.

    US3: Canadian is getting rid of the law about dueling because they assume that nobody is going to challenge somebody to a duel. Humans being humans, somebody is going to challenge somebody else to a duel. Hopefully a video game duel rather than a lethal one.

    US5: This fits pretty firmly with the idea that a lot of American politics is driven by white resentment.

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    • [US3] – There ought to be some kind of law about what happens to a media outlet that runs an article about a bill before Parliament, without giving the number of the bill or a link to its text. They should have to buy beer for anyone who challenges them on it, until the next issue of the publication comes out, or something.

      The bill, in this case, I think is C-51. It repeals the crimes of challenging to a duel, accepting a challenge to a duel, or encouraging someone else to challenge to a duel.

      Fighting (competently) in a duel is probably still illegal – my understanding is that while you can consent to fight, consent is automatically withdrawn when intentional serious bodily harm is caused, so the winner of a duel would still be guilty of aggravated assault or manslaughter.

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      • (C-51 also takes out a bunch of criminal offences that had already been deemed unconstitutional, making the criminal code as written a hazardous document to trust as far as what is and is not legal in Canada. It’s always seemed weird that there isn’t some kind of indication in the text of the law as one can find it to download, that this or that part shouldn’t be trusted)

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        • I believe the Annotated Criminal Code criminal law practioners buy will have in the notes which are opperative and which are not. More ordinary interested folks would have to spend some time checking on CanLii.

          Its still much preferable in terms of intelligiblity to have the whole of criminal offenses in a single statute that fits in a little red book than what some other jurisdictions do.

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          • Oh absolutely agreed on having a single criminal code. It makes it at least theoretically possible to be a “law abiding citizen”.

            I still don’t think that looking beyond the criminal code as published, is something the average Canadian is likely to do. Reading, e.g. section 159 of the criminal code, on the Ministry of Justice’s website, there is no indication I would understand as indicating that the whole provision has been found unconstitutional.

            If you want to find out whether what you’re considering doing is legal, or whether what someone just did to you constitutes a crime such that you might get some help from the cops – you’re going to read the criminal code that the government has on its website, not the annotated criminal code that every criminal lawyer undoubtedly keeps in their desk drawer, not the criminal code plus a bunch of puttering around on CanLii.

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            • Oh of course. I was more commentating on how this is a pretty easy thing for the experts to look up and much harder for the public at large. Annotating the government’s Criminal Code to solve for that problem is one of those great ideas that would be cheap to impliment that nobody in a position of authority thinks to do.

              I’d imagine a lot of the powers that be would consider the question of what exactly is and is not a crime to be a question for a specialist anyway (you can’t just read the code and have a very clear idea of what is and isn’t assault in practical terms for example).

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      • There ought to be some kind of law about what happens to a media outlet that runs an article about a bill before Parliament, without giving the number of the bill or a link to its text. They should have to buy beer for anyone who challenges them on it, until the next issue of the publication comes out, or something.

        I second this motion!

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      • I feel like news outlets have really failed to embrace the full potential of the internet. They mostly just have traditional looking articles and video segments thrown on a webpage.

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  2. Today, in the Social Justice/Intersectional Left is horrible when dealing with Jews, a New Zealand musical festival changes the lyrics “children of Israel” to “children of kindness” in a production of Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat. The official reason given is that they want to make it more inclusive. They probably meant this in good faith. It doesn’t really matter.

    There are times when the Social Justice/Intersectional/Liberal desire to be inclusive ends up having the opposite effect because the origin culture is excluded from its own work. I believe the Social Justice/Intersectional crowd calls this cultural appropriation. By turning the line “children of Israel” into “children of kindness”, they are De-Judaizing the Bible and the Jewish part of the Bible at that. This seems to happen a lot to Jews. Cosmopolitanism is forced down upon us while other groups get celebrate their peculiar tendencies. The inclination of the Social Justice/Intersectional Left is to treat Jews as another type of white person at best in an attempt to keep the narrative on White people vs. People of Color. At worse, many of them probably see Jews as a sort of faux-minority, a white group attempting a weird version of colonialism by pretending to be persecuted.

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  3. [Eu1]*reads article on immigration policy*

    This is bad for more than one reason, but one of them is that I think it’s good to have more than one pet so they can keep each other company.

    “Whoah, commentary on the link took a dark turn”

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  4. Us5 in fairness (?) to Arizona, while it was not a state, it probably had more Southern sympathies than any other territory at the time. The Gadsden purchase was a federal gift to the Southern states so they could eventually build their own transcontinental railroad and stretch their sphere of economic and social influence to the California border.

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  5. As1 – “Our attitude was firm,” said Song Xinchao, the administration’s deputy director. “The significance of this bridge is: It is Harbin and its people’s common memory.”

    As a translator, this offends me. More and more lately, the administrative people involved in translation insist on literal translations like this that have no cadence whatsoever in the target language. I actually spent the better part of a recent project undoing such changes. No wonder we’re being replaced by machines. They may have more common sense.

    US4 – Wow! Three (3) leakers were born within ten (10) years of each other! Must be a conspiracy!! Better call Harris Malcolm to investigate! It may save the WaPo!!

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  6. En5: brings up memories of the creepiness of the whole event, heightened by the late-Soviet closedmouthness. (Though part of that may be the Atlas Obscura schtick, I don’t know)

    (I was in high school; one day in one of my classes all we did was talk about what had happened and hypothesize instead of doing class material)

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  7. As4: man, China needs to be careful with that stuff, one burp & we might as well stop worrying about carbon emissions & go straight to mitigation strategies.

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  8. EU6 Belgium

    There are several missing things in an otherwise good article -for instance, why French speaking, Catholic Wallonia does not consider itself French (hint: one thousand years of very different history and divergent economic and social institutions all the way from the Middle Ages to the end of the Ancien Regime)

    But the most interesting fact does not get even a passing mention: Belgium (and the Dutch Netherlands, in its own way) was created as a specific confessional state. It was their Catholic identity what kept the current Belgian lands as a dependency of Catholic Spain and Austria, rather than secede in the XVi/XVII centuries, together with the Northern Netherlands. In the resulting settlement (from the Pyrenees Peace to the Utrecht Treaty 1659-1713) Belgium gave up all its commercial networks and bourgeois prosperity (Antwerp, Bruges, etc. ceased to be commercial entrepôts, the Rhine mouth was closed to trade) in exchange for retaining its Catholic identify. Even in 1830, Belgium was far more Catholic than France, which made the proposed annexation of Wallonia to a post revolutionary France a non-starter.

    Fast forward to the XXI Century and the Catholic identification, the glue that held all Belgians together, is nowhere to be seen. Today, only 7% or less of the population attends mass, and only about 1/3 believe in God.

    The demise of the Church in Belgium has -deservedly- been the subject of countless analysis. I would venture the hypothesis that when people put too much faith *pun intended* in an institution, their disappointment and rejection is much stronger if they feel the institution betrayed them, which definitely happened in Belgium (and Ireland)

    Be what it may, 500 years of glue just dissapeared in the blink of an eye, and Belgians, having lost their Catholic identity, are desperate to find another tribe to belong to.

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    • The growth of secularism/Post-Christianity in Europe is one of the most understudied events in modern history. While modern Europe was never as overtly religious as the United States, most Europeans saw themselves as some type of Christian by the early 20th century. By the 21st century, a good plurality or even a majority no longer conceive of themselves as Christian and those that do, rarely go to church.

      Post-Christianity is usually attributed to the existence of state churches in Europe and a lack of competition for souls. This explanation always seemed lacking. Most European countries might have had a state church but they did allow for a wide variety of churches to exist and compete freely. The United Kingdom consisted of Anglicans, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, and many varieties of Calvinists. According to the British historian Dominic Sandbrook, enough Christian religiosity existed in the United Kingdom had enough Christian religiosity in the 1970s that most families owned a copy of a Bible and many said they believed in its literal truth in polls. Christian religiosity also lasted much longer in the heavily Catholic countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, and Poland than it did in the more religiously diverse countries. That also goes against the state church thesis for European secularism.

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  9. Ec2: Even though there’s no chance of it being enacted, I’d like to see all income tax replaced with a carbon tax. Imagine if that happened and, in your household, you paid the exact same amount of tax. Except now instead of coming out of your paycheck, you’re seeing it at the pump, the grocery store, etc. People would make drastic changes in their lifestyles.

    But, yes, it would be regressive and a lot of care would have to be taken to ensure the poorest are able to meet basic needs and have a chance for upward mobility.

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  10. Lyft, Uber’s gentler rival is coming up with a fixed route plan called Lyft Shuttle, which is getting marked as being potentially bad for public transit funding.

    From the positive lifehacker review:

    “I take Lyft or Lyft Line a couple times a week, usually because I’m traveling with other people and it’s the same or cheaper (and much, much cleaner, faster, and more pleasant) than taking public transportation.”

    This is an issue that public transit advocates need to solve but will not or cannot. Being on an over-crowded train is unavoidable every now and then especially at peak times. However the issue here is cleaner, faster, and more pleasant. The lack of pleasantness on MUNI has more to it than over-crowding. Being on MUNI can often involve dealing with the homeless, the mentally disturbed, the aggressive, and/or a combination of all three. It is not pleasant to have your ride home holed up because a homeless guy is so drunk that he can’t get on the bus plus he isn’t wearing a belt or underwear so his underwear keeps falling off. Considering the number of women I know or heard about with stories about having men expose themselves or worse to them on public transit, I can see why they would find this more disgusting to deal with.

    There is also the guy I see every now and then who is a ball of rage and anger and constantly muttering under his breath. Now he is probably not going to do anything, same with most mentally ill people you see on public transit. But it does put everyone on edge because the times it goes wrong, it goes very wrong.

    But no one wants to deal with these issues because advocacy groups in the United States are too strong to tell people to “suck it up and deal” with their middle-class concerns of wanting things to be pleasant but not strong enough to deal with various social problems. Plus varying lobbying groups are strong enough to prevent any realistic way of dealing with some problems. My girlfriend (non-American) is shocked by how low the prices of alcohol in the US are. She thinks it is bad social policy that we allow huge amounts of off-label Vodka to be sold for about 10 bucks. Maybe there is a point here. Not in a prohibition kind of way but in a we need to make it harder for alcohol to indulge kind of way. But this would raise the ire of the alcohol lobby and/or people who don’t want to raise taxes enough to deal with homelessness but are willing to let the homeless be drunk so it dulls their pain.

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    • Saul,
      Where I live, we have state stores, and vodka isn’t nearly that cheap.
      We also have better selection for cheaper prices.

      For what it’s worth, I’ve not run into many issues with weird homeless people taking the bus (I have heard people talking reasonably loudly about assaulting someone in an alley the day before). This may be the difference between Pittsburgh and San Francisco…

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    • Your girlfriend has been to Europe and lived there for extended periods of time. Alcohol can be even cheaper and more unregulated there than it is in the United States. European cities also allow open public drinking in the way that American cities outside of New Orleans does not tolerate. When I was in Prague, there were locals that had their first pint of beer at 9AM. Most people think alcohol is too regulated in the Untied States.

      I think your right about the advocacy issues though. One reason why European cities were able to maintain better transit than American cities was that the middle, upper middle, or even upper middle class did not associate riding busses and trains with poverty while many people in the United States did. A big reason for this was better enforced decorum on transit.

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    • I’ve encountered some really awful people on public transit. Some were (seemingly) homeless. Some were not. Most were men.

      We still need public transit. It’s the most efficient way to move people around urban areas. Basically, it’s how the people who serve you stuff get to work. It is also how I get to work, inasmuch as I both live and work near a subway station.

      One result, it seems, of our fractured, atomized culture, is we build two tiers of life, in every respect. The outcomes is immiseration. It can work for a while, until it stops working. Then there are mass graves.

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      • The association of public transit with people too poor to afford car is one reason why it suffers so much. When nearly all classes of society use public transit, the service tends to be a lot better because it gets treated as a general transportation service like a freeway rather than a social service. I also suspect that in many parts of the United States, much of the people who serve you stuff get to work by car to because public transit sucks that much.

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      • I concur.

        Overcrowding is just an issue in all public transit as far as I can tell. Jam-packed transit in NYC, Boston, or the Bay Area is nothing compared to the trains in Tokyo at rush hour. Tokyo afterall is famous for having people whose jobs is to push people unto jampacked train cars.

        The other issue is that solutions other countries have to issues like sexual harassment would not fly in the U.S. both socially and legally like separate cars for women.

        Lastly, there are deep-simmering cultural debates about whose norms control public spaces. Every now and then you see people blast their music on public transit, or talk really loudly, or do some minor hustling (“It’s showtime!!” Dancers). All these things make public transit less “pleasant” to varying degrees. But bring that up and you get into a quagmire of cultural fights ranging from “Music is awesome! Why are you objecting to music?” to “Why should your norms control?”

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        • The train is not a “public forum,” so I think we’re justified in a “no music other than headphones” and “no panhandling/dance performances,” never mind no fucking “street preachers.” (We have one of the latter who spends his day harassing people on the train. If you tweet the transit cops they come and arrest him.)

          But still, it is unreasonable to expect folks to confront jerks. We def need transit cops.

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          • That’s an interesting question as to whether public transit counts as a “public forum” for First Amendment purposes. They might. They are semi-public forums at least I imagine.

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            • — Well, the Boston Transit Cops certainly don’t treat it as one. I would say, no it is not, not at all. For one, it is a captive audience situation. You are certainly free to “preach” on the sidewalk or in the Common — although in practice there are certain areas of the Common where the loons gather. In fact, I kinda assume there is an unwritten “understanding” that the cops won’t hassle folks in certain areas, but the loons can’t wander out into the grassy areas and start harassing strangers.

              Note, the (for lack of a better name) “free speech zones” are not hidden away. They are high traffic areas near subway entrances. This works well enough in practice. People are free to rant in public. I certainly see them as I pass by. I could (should I want to) stop and listen, but I’m not forced to, nor do they get to interrupt my normal enjoyment of a public park.

              So it goes for the subway. We all have to share the thing. I’m stuck there, for half an hour each way. If you’re a homophobic asshole, you too can ride the subway, but you can’t force me to listen to you.

              If you could, then I get to shout back, as does every single other person on the train car, all seventy of us. Does that sound workable?

              No it does not. It’s mass transit. We’re just trying to go about our business. Shut up and leave others in peace.

              If you wanna preach, go out to the common, or the sidewalk, or anywhere else I can see you, but in turn I can ignore you and get on with my day.

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            • It seems like for something to be a public forum for those purposes, it would be reasonable to require that it be possible for the audience to leave. If your audience is physically trapped, that changes the nature of the engagement a bit.

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          • More transit cops are definitely needed around here. Or, maybe a shift of the existing transit cop workload away from fare enforcement and toward ensuring public safety.

            My nearest train station can get pretty sketchy. Between that station, the one north and the one south of there, I know of three murders and two or three non-fatal stabbings that made the news in the last 6 or 7 years. The one assault I was seconds from witnessing (I saw the cops arrest the attacker, and talking to the victim still lying on the ground bloody) was apparently not grave enough to make the news.

            I would appreciate better security there.

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    • My ex had some very personal reason not to use our state’s “light rail”. After trying it for 6-12 months, she stopped. She grew tired of 1) the crappy reliability–trains would just stop working..and passengers could not exit, but had to wait……2) the stench of the guys who worked outside in the east coast summer riding the trains. She said it was worth it to pay 100 dollars a month to park and deal with the traffic.

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      • There was a stinky dude on the train with me this morning. It was, well, unpleasant. Whatever.

        Better decorum would be welcome, as would more reliability (the latter is a particular problem here in Boston). On the other hand, there is an obvious effect, where if mass transit is just for “the poors,” then it will be deprioritized and degrade.

        And then…

        Anyhow, the US seems particularly anti-communitarian, insofar as I can tell. Likewise, we’ve become an increasingly callous and hateful people. I believe these facts feed back on each other.

        Community actually matters. It really does.

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          • I spent an hour in a closed small office tutoring a co ed who wore WAY too much Poison. I had a headache for hours.

            I’d rather be scent free that stink too much of anything. I couldn’t use the hotel bath products in England cause they smelled so much, and going into a Crabtree and Evelyn also gave me headaches.

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            • Damon,
              properly done cologne enhances someone’s natural body odor (working with it, rather than masking it completely — or behaving as if it doesn’t exist).

              And yes, by god, some people put on Way Too Much.

              Germans/Scandinavians prefer detergents that get clothes clean, rather than leaving them completely scentless (as our Puritanical American wants. Our detergents kinda suck at actually cleaning things).

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              • Our detergents kinda suck at actually cleaning things.

                Indeed. As to the perfume, it actually enhanced my opinion of her initially. She was very well dressed and quite attractive. I found I had a “growing” attraction as we were working and I was becoming increasingly distracted. But as time wore on, and the perfume accumulated (the door was closed and no fresh was incoming) it got very annoying.

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              • Our detergents suck because Washington state made them get rid of tri-sodium phosphate to protect their watersheds. So go down to Lowe’s or Home Depot and buy a box of TSP in the deck-cleaning section. Mix a little of it into your regular detergent.

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            • I have had students who used cologne or body spray as apparently a last-ditch, “I don’t have time to shower but I do have time to spray on some chemicals so hopefully I won’t smell like BO.”

              I’d rather smell the BO. Axe makes me want to hurl. I’ve had a few student papers I had to set aside for a day or to before I could grade them (this is also true of the heavy smokers).

              But being in a confined space with someone with too much scent on is the worst. It’s almost as offensive as being in a confined space with someone who is shouting.

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              • Axe ain’t great, but the fact that it’s about as concentrated as neutron star matter is what gives it the reputation.

                The classic perfume application method comes to mind, to wit:
                – Spray lightly, directly away from self
                – Quickly pass part of body into not through resulting vapor cloud
                – If you can smell the scent on your skin, it’s too much, wash and try again more quickly

                With Axe, the few resulting molecules should be enough to disgust colleagues but not overwhelm them or set off allergy attacks…

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        • “where if mass transit is just for “the poors,” then it will be deprioritized and degrade.”

          V, V, V, that can never happen. That would mean no big local/state gov’t contracts for transit, no massive cost over runs, and less money for kickbacks, bribes and corruption. Never gonna happen. That’s like saying sports stadiums should be funded by the team not the local community! THE HORROR

          “Community actually matters. It really does.” Yeah, so when everyone in my community stops putting their hand into my pocket and slapping mine away when I try to do the same thing, I’ll agree with have a community. Until then, we never had one.

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        • “Community actually matters. It really does.”

          It’s very interesting to combine this idea with Jaybird’s question about whether “social obligation to do (thing)” goes downward as well as upward.

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          • Community also matters when it’s 11:30 pm and one of your neighbors has parked in the alleyway behind both your houses to work on his car, and he has chosen to do so with all the doors of the car open and the music on “Max Bass.”

            No, I don’t know him well enough – he is a fairly new renter next door – to feel comfortable confronting him.

            I don’t mow and edge my lawn before 10 am, even though it’s cooler then, because I know people sleep later than I do. I wish other people realized I go to bed earlier than THEY do. (I don’t expect it to be quiet by 8 pm, but I think “still loud past 11 pm” is a bit much)

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    • I can see why they would find this more disgusting to deal with.

      And that is before we even talk about personal hygiene. Rank body odor is bad enough without the pungent aroma of bodily waste.

      Also, dear FSM why do people feel the need to pee in Park & Ride elevators?

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      • I suspect that most people who urinate in elevators are either very drunk, homeless, or a combination of the two.

        We don’t really have adequate public restrooms in the U.S. I’m clean and presentable and can step into a Starbucks or Bar and use their bathroom or ask for a code. I suspect many homeless cannot and businesses try to avoid being restrooms for the homeless.

        But the homeless still need to shit and piss. And I’ve seen them just do it in public on the street.

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        • I’m pretty sure that Starbucks has publicly said they are happy to serve as the public toilets of the city. Judging by the folks I often see in line with me while waiting to go, this seems to be true in NYC at least.

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          • It seems inconsistent here. Some don’t have keycodes. Others do. The closest Starbucks to my office doesn’t even have a public restroom in the sitting area.

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          • For what it’s worth, my local Starbucks (fairly close to a plasma bank) is very receptive to homeless people. They come, get water (it’s Houston), use the bathroom, sit for a while, and, most of the time, are very well behaved.

            I spent a couple of hours talking to one who wondered about my accent, and who had visited Spain as a kid.

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    • How much does the Lyft Shuttle cost?

      It seems a little silly to compare a private model with a public model, especially if they aren’t playing by the same rules.

      Which isn’t a criticism of Lyft or private competition with public services… just comparing apples and oranges.

      What stands out to me about many of these conversations is that many of the biggest proponents of Lyft and other such services are the same people who’d likely decry the privatization of many of these services.
      And, conversely, that many of the people who are the biggest proponents of privatization or who rail against their dollars go to services for “those people” are the same people who think Lyft is a tool of elites to… do, well, something.

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      • I am not against Lyft or Chariot per say. I Lyft Line’s cost is variable. A Chariot Shuttle costs marginally more than a MUNI ride at 3 dollars compared to 2.25. I don’t know how much a Lyft Shuttle costs.

        The issue is that mass transit in the United States seems to be under a systematic underfunding crisis even in areas that have seen increased ridership like NYC, the SF Bay Area, Boston, etc. A lot of these systems are very old and need lots of upgrading. Slate had an interesting interview with a transit advocate who pointed out that even though Cuomo needs the voters of NYC to win reelection, he just gives lip service to the MTA. The MTA’s entire governing structure is set up so politicians can avoid responsibility for its failures.

        As Lee points out transit advocates and opponents both view public transit as more of a social service for people who can’t afford cars than a transit service and have done so for decades. It is also a truism that programs for poor people are poorly funded. Younger people are moving into cities and want to remain. These should increase the funding for public transit but it doesn’t work out that way in real life. Places like Lyft, Uber, and Chariot are cheap but not accessible to people who lack smart phones, credit cards, and bank accounts. Lots of Americans still like these things.

        But this creates a kind of death spiral. People opt out of public transit are the ones who can theoretically put pressure on politicians to make it better. Or they pay the full fares that help fund subsidized tickets for the old and/or poor (which happens in the Bay Area but not NYC-Metro). This leads to more limited service and budget cuts which decreases the mobility of the poor who still are unbanked.

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        • Part of the difficulty is that public transit is subject to all the costs that are (now, at least) somewhat unique to public sector work/projects: union pay, regulation, etc. I don’t know what percentage of costs that is, but it does exist and creates a tension between two (theoretical) liberal values.

          ETA: A tension best resolved via a third liberal value related to restribution of wealth, in this case by subsidizing transit for low-income people through taxes and/or variable fares. Which, as you point out, faces real practical issues.

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    • I wonder at the extent to which those without the ability to exit are responsible for the various ills afflicting public transportation. If it’s a disproportionate amount, the ability to exit creates a great deal of harm for those stuck behind without an ability to exit.

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      • It’s like public schools.

        Why is it that the obligation falls to the public to refrain from exiting a public service that is failing, rather than on the service to take measures to make itself more attractive to the public?

        And before there are claims that de-funding makes the service bad which causes exit, one should take care that is always the case, because I doubt it is. Actually, I am pretty sure it is not the case at least half the time (if not more so), so that the de-funding happens well after exit, when the public has stopped hoping for the service to become attractive again. Services that neglect their responsibility to keep the service attractive to the public share in the blame, but rarely accept responsibility for it.

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        • Lyft can blackball a bad rider. Someone who makes it worse for everybody else? Hey, they can PREVENT him from riding with the Lyft service ever again! (Or, at least, making it difficult as hell for him to do so.)

          Why *WOULDN’T* you pay a few extra bucks for the added comfort of a ride where the riff-raff is kept out of the shuttle?

          Why is it that the obligation falls to the public to refrain from exiting a public service that is failing, rather than on the service to take measures to make itself more attractive to the public?

          We all have obligations to each other. It is the obligation of the public to refrain from exiting a public service.

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          • there are actually parallels with this and (some?) school districts.

            Troublemaker kids, the kids who really genuinely don’t give a fish about getting into trouble, whose parents don’t give a fish about them getting into trouble, can terrorize an entire classroom, because in some schools either discipline is a rotating door and the kid is sent right back to class after a brief time-out, or else the teacher is blamed for being insufficiently great as to cause the kid to suddenly begin giving a fish.

            I don’t think I could teach in a public school. In my college classroom, if I get someone who is truly disruptive, I can tell them to leave, and back it up with calling the campus police, who are pretty no-nonsense.

            (I have never had to take that option. For some reason students seem to respect me. I don’t know either, I’m really not scary)

            But in some schools, it really does come down to it looking like they’ve decided to give up on throwing out the real troublemakers at the expense of the education of everyone else.

            this is remarkable to me because when I was a kid, I gave a HARD FISH about not getting in trouble in class (because I’d face worse consequences at home (1)) and also I guess I grew up in a town where most of the kids did give that kind of a fish, and it was at a point in time where the few major troublemakers got shipped off to alternative school or (as I heard rumored in one case) military school.

            (1) not beatings, lest anyone wonders. My parents were big on grounding or taking away things like tv privileges, which frankly was usually enough to work for me. Shoot, a stern look and an “I’m very disappointed…” was usually enough to reduce me to tears.

            TL:DR: isn’t there also an obligation in public schools or other places where there are “troublemakers” to be sure the law-abiders don’t wind up figuratively thrown under the bus?

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            • This is true. But…

              Schools have (at least) a legal obligation to the “troublemakers”. Especially if they have any special needs, which are often the root cause of the trouble they make (even if these dots are never officially connected). So what we need is something between “Just ignore them and let the system suffer” and “Kick them out”.

              I think a big part is identifying the kids at greatest risk of becoming “troublemakers” are at a young age and putting in place supports to help prevent then going down this path rather than try to reverse course after several years of travel down it.

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        • “Public schools” and failing depends on where you live. Remember that we fund public schools in a completely bonkers way in the United States and that is through property taxes. So public schools in an tony area are doing well but the public schools in other areas are doing horribly because they can’t get funding.

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          • Remember that we fund public schools in a completely bonkers way in the United States and that is through property taxes.

            This is decreasingly true in many parts of the country. For FY17, California K-12 education funds are 25% local taxes, 60% state funds, 9% federal funds, and 6% other. Mississippi’s breakdown is 33% local, 52% state, 15% federal. Here in Colorado, I know that we have some rural districts where 80% of the district budget is state/federal moneys.

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          • I’m being more specific rather than general. E.g. a given school might begin to fail long before budget concerns are an issue, thanks to structural issues or just horrible management that the district refuses to address. People exiting that school for the tony schools, or private & charter schools is seen as a defection, when the reality is (and this applies to transit as well), people HATE to exit. Exiting takes effort, and is often horribly inconvenient, so if people are exiting a public service because that service is failing, chances are they’ve tried working the system to fix things and are frustrated and fed up that the system either can’t or won’t act to improve.

            This isn’t always the case, but it is almost always the case that supporters of that service decry the defections as if the exiting population are mere fair-weather friends bailing at the first hiccup, when a lot of times, it’s more like ending a long term relationship where you gotta move out and figure out who has custody of the dog/cat.

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            • Again I am kind of an in-betweener here.

              The Loomis stance of “You are evil if you move to a place with a good school district makes you are horrible evil and racist” is stupidly strident, impractical, and wrong.

              But I’m not sure that accountability is won via the DeVos or Charter school method or through profiteering from private companies. I’d like to see public school improve but remain firmly public schools. Not quasi-public institutions.

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              • I’m not trying to argue for or against charter/private schools here, just that the act of the public exiting from a public service is not the immoral & selfish thing a lot of people want to act like it is. Be it public schools, public transit, public parks, public pensions, etc. A mass exit is typically a sign that a public service has seriously failed, rather than it has been failed.

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                • — Seeing this through the lens of morality or judgment is missing the point. Sure, it is understandable why those with money will want to take their ball and go home, in the face of bureaucratic nonsense. The problem is, we’re talking about the shared public space, the parts of our society that we have decided are available to all of us.

                  And yes, I know some hardcore libertarian types might fantasize about competing private road networks through downtown Boston, but let us be realistic.

                  There is a reason we want free public education. There is a reason we want affordable mass transit. It is because we live in cities, we are social creatures, economics is complex, etc.

                  Yes, democracy is hard, bureaucracy is tedious, politics is messy, but the “free market” is messy also, because life is messy and living among others is hard. But if the response of those with money (which means those with power) is to leave “the poors” to their own devices, which is at the hands of a shrinking tax base and crumbling infrastructure, while they float above in their Ubers and Lyfts —

                  — well that’s not a community, now is it?

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                  • Community runs all ways. You are acting as if the people with power are just exiting on a whim. Truth is the people with power, power that actually can affect change in a bureaucratic morass, don’t use public transit and never have. Everyone else who cares, who try to fix things, suffer from a massive coordination problem (which is one of the reasons we have government).

                    So when the bureaucracy decides they can ignore the people trying to fix things, because those people can’t coordinate enough to cause pain, then those people will exercise the one market option they have – exit.

                    And that is what markets can be good at, allowing for uncoordinated actors to send a powerful signal. It’s not ideal, but it is legitimate, and it’s still a community acting in their interests.

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                    • — Well yes, that happens. My point is, we only have one government and one common infrastructure, so this is not like if I get upset with one restaurant in my neighborhood and shift my business to another. Instead, when we “take our ball and go home,” we are giving up on civil society itself. In other words, a market can thrive in the face of choosy customers. The common good absolutely cannot thrive according to the same mechanism. That is my point.

                      The feedback loops are obvious. Do you want livable cities?

                      If something cannot go on forever, it will eventually stop.

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                      • I agree with you, for the most part. My point is that the feedback loop for a public service can be captured & disabled in ways that normal market services can’t (at least not easily). This is not a controversial idea, and examples abound.

                        In those instances, where the feedback loop is inoperative, and the service is degrading, exit is the feedback signal of last resort.

                        And a civil society that has key public services which fail to adequately service the public is one that is at risk of becoming uncivil if people can not exit the service. I mean, which is better, having populations exit the service and cause a withering decline, or having people violently clashing with public workers because the system is not working.

                        Honestly, this is one of the primary failings of communism, people weren’t allowed to exit the systems, and the systems didn’t care about the people.

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                        • — I see any “right to exit” as a channel to increased atomization, alienation, and civil unrest. It’s a release valve, perhaps, but sooner or later…

                          BTW, tangential, from the comments section here:

                          Equally speculative: what you’re really making me think of is exit vs. voice. Markets allow for voice (generally), whereas smaller social units tend to use voice. That voice requires a kind of dialect (local custom and tradition, etc.) that disappears, and when market forces take over all that’s left is exit. That still looks like a response mechanism if you view it from above, but it isn’t the same on the ground. To take an extreme example: parents and children. In the hoary days of social custom, that relationship couldn’t be liquidated. If it was inadequate, or there were problems, then voice mechanisms kicked in to both preserve the relationship as well as address the needs of both parties. If the family unit itself was incapable, then the larger social sphere stepped in. There are a few obvious problems with this, so I should point out that it isn’t necessarily better, just different. Either way: the kind of nuance required for that is obviously impossible in modern society. But when the relationship becomes a contract, exit becomes an (and occasionally the) option. Seeing like an economist, there’s not much difference between parents and children disassociating and any other form of contract (that’s blunt – there would be in terms of nth order effects, but you see what I mean). On the ground, that’s a big difference, and it’s not clear to me that humans are in any way equipped for that kind of change. Apply that to everything, and I think you start to see the real, uh, anomie of modernity.

                          Convincing posh folks to ride the train isn’t alone going to save us. That said, we really are all in this together, even that construction worker who might kinda smell at the end of the day.

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                          • v, that link was interesting. The part I don’t get is that in this community-social market stuff, things like public transportation shouldn’t be opted out of because i guess, social norms. In the context of the community-social market stuff though it’s ok to go with atomization and anomie when it comes to opting out of the birthing babies market-social norm. Sometimes it is atomization and anomie to give someone a choice the community market wouldn’t afford/like/allow.

                            Now I picked an obvious example, but I can build an infinite quantum of different hellish societies out of community market norms.

                            If we are all in this together it might be good to recognize that individual choices/preferences matter, and movement into anomie or atomization is not the great evil some make it out to be.

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                            • — To start with, I don’t believe in any grand design of history, nor any over-arching meta ethical system — except perhaps saying “people thriving is good and people miserable is bad, but gosh it’s complicated when you look at the details.”

                              Being oppressed sucks.

                              “Social rules” seldom get written down because they don’t work that way.

                              You cannot plan emergent systems.

                              Power matters, but I’m not talking about power.

                              “Community” is not an all or nothing thing.

                              All I’m saying is choosing to ditch mass transit is a different thing from choosing to ditch a business in a free market. The logic that governs the latter is different from the logic that governs the former.

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                              • Mass transit is just a service, and to make it something more rigid than that, has all the pitfalls of making something a monopoly.

                                If something becomes ‘special’ it can lead to nearly all the stuff we typically try to avoid.

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                                • — Have you ever been to a city?

                                  It’s not “just” a service, exactly because public right-of-way is limited in ways that a storefront is not. For example, there are multiple restaurants in my neighborhood. Some of them I frequent. A couple I don’t. That has everything to do with quality. So my restaurant choices are (I guess) an example of a market working well enough.

                                  There is only one subway. There is only one road network. These are shared resources, and some amount of “urban planning” (be it ever so humble) is actually needed to make a city work.

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                                  This comes down to the “right of exit,” which is a pretty vague idea. Myself, I have no problem with small communities seeking to “withdraw” to some degree. I don’t really care about that. It doesn’t seem to hurt anyone. Certainly I support the gay community, who built a resistance culture out of necessity.

                                  However, when a large share of posh urban white people decide to “exit,” perhaps through gated communities or the “Uberfication” of transit — well they’re not really exiting. Instead, they are simply stratifying.

                                  Those are different things. The results will be different.

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                                  • Most of the cities I have been in are interior:
                                    Houston(when I was young)
                                    Norman (both young and older)
                                    Colorado Springs(older)
                                    Corpus Christi(currently close to)

                                    Right of way and mass transit probably becomes more important as population density increases. Really of all the cities I observed mass transit isn’t needed until buildings are built overly vertical that leaves no room for parking and a quantum of “right of way” to facilitate the amount of people trying to get into that dense vertical structuring.

                                    As I have mentioned before I hold a significant amount to the theory that a city is a perpetual growing problem, that every solution found leads to a bigger problem. At some point it is not clear to me where the bright line is between what is a urban planning problem and what is a human desire problem.

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                                    • Joe,
                                      It’s all a matter of who do you want to be competitive about attracting. Pittsburgh does a damn fine job with its mass transit, and we get tons of blind and deaf people here that appreciate the luxuries.

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                                  • well they’re not really exiting. Instead, they are simply stratifying.

                                    Which, as I keep saying, is a way to send a signal that the transit PTB seem to be ignoring. Civil society has to have a way to make it’s desires known to the people that are in charge of running things. Ideally it is done with elections, etc, but those often fail to permit any level of nuance to the discussion. It is also done with public hearings/petitions, etc., but those are often toothless and while they provide information, no one of really obligated to do anything more than pay lip service to them.

                                    So in the specific case of mass transit, if a population* decides to stratify (to use your term), that’s a pretty powerful signal that transit it not appealing to their needs. In the case of transit, this generally means that transit authorities have decided to treat the transit system as a welfare benefit for the ‘poors’, rather than a system that NEEDS to appeal STRONGLY to the middle class. It has to meet their needs because they need to be the bulk of the ridership in order for the system to be able to serve the whole city.

                                    If the middle class feels like the transit system is really a benefit for poor people (either because routes are changed in inconvenient ways, or the vehicles are in bad shape, or the transit cops are few & far between, or any other way that irks people, etc.), rather than a pleasant and efficient way enable the economic engine of a city, they will stratify.

                                    Let me reiterate this – a pleasant and efficient way. You and Kazzy may be just fine dealing with the occasional unpleasantness on a train, but a lot of people decidedly are not, and that does not make them bad people, or uncivil or whatever level of deplorable you want to apply, it makes them people who don’t want to feel trapped in a tube with one or more people who make them feel uncomfortable.

                                    Now, there are many ways to address such things, but in many ways those approaches will appear stratifying, and that isn’t necessarily wrong, although it may be politically unpleasant. But so is having a transit system the middle class despises.

                                    *the ‘posh people’ are not in this set, posh people rarely, if ever, take public transit beyond maybe a taxi. The population in question are the middle class.

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                                    • It’s not just the signaling though. This dependence on government is a problem. Here is what I mean:

                                      government services include:
                                      1.) provide all our people with quality water
                                      2.) provide clean, new mass transit

                                      Now budget time comes and you have to decide what business your in. The providing people water business or the clean, new transportation business.

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                                      • If you are honest, you provide quality water and back-burner the transit.

                                        If you are American, you spend all your money on transit, making sure all the right people get paid first, then you go begging to the voters, hat in hand, for a tax increase to pay for the infrastructure to keep the clean water flowing.

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                                            • Virtually everyone uses water and sewer, so you can send a bill to the ratepayers and economically it’s a lot like a property tax.

                                              Public transit financing — both acquisition and maintenance — is a complex issue about which I know much less. But from what I understand the cost per ride virtually everywhere would be much higher if the costs were borne solely by the ridership. There is a substantial taxpayer subsidy.

                                              The two most common justifications that I know of for justifying the subsidy are: (a) everybody benefits by the reduction in congestion; and (b) everybody benefits by having the system available when they need it.

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                                      • I don’t think anyone will deny that water comes first. A crisis is a crisis.

                                        Dependence on government — well gosh, given that I don’t live in the woods and eat berries, I am dependent on the collective efforts of probably millions of other human beings, just as my efforts benefit them. Much of this happens through the market, but certainly not all of it.

                                        I see no practical near-term replacement for the market based mixed-economy with safety-net-style redistribution. After all, some mechanism has to organize the collective efforts of large numbers of people, if we want modernity to continue. I certainly don’t want to undo the industrial revolution. I don’t expect religion or family or any similar “traditional” method to step up and manage the polis.

                                        We have available democracy, bureaucracy, technocracy, and of course the market. None of those can stand on its own.

                                        is correct, in that stratification marks a failure mode. That said, we are governed to some degree by a collective ethos, and the “greed is good” ethos is — well, Martin Shkreli exists.

                                        I rest my case on that.

                                        You can do a basic economic cost/benefit analysis of mass transit, including its role in economic redistribution. Viewed globally, I expect, it will prove a good investment for most cities (although I guess the US is particularly bad on cost overruns; so it goes). My point, you literally cannot measure (with economic tools) the benefits to community, except in nth-order effects decades down the line as your communities unravel. But those effects are real. They are understandable. They matter.

                                        Donald Trump is president. Again I rest my case.

                                        Shared public spaces matter. Shared community matters. It matters a lot.

                                        And yes, that includes some people who smell bad.

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                                        As an anecdote, I lived in South Florida for over thirty years. I grew up there. I’ve lived in Boston for about seven years.

                                        I feel at home here in Boston, in a way I never felt in Florida. It is not merely transit. It is many thing, but transit is a part of that. It has something to do with rubbing shoulders, being close, sharing. Perhaps it is hard to explain, but it really shouldn’t be. We’re all humans. This is human stuff.

                                        Go Red Sox! (Or whatever. I don’t actually follow sports, but I like it when my city wins.)

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                                        • We may be talking past each other a little bit here. I understand you depend on the collective efforts of others. What I am saying is your depending on the efforts of one monopoly entity to provide things that become competing interests.

                                          As an anecdote I have water, sewer, and drainage projects on my desk right now.

                                          A few months ago I turned in 6 water projects to finance that will likely take four years to be constructed. (try to predict market prices 4 years in the future…fun!) Water was/is a priority, next is sewer, but guess what, the next time it rains… bam! drainage becomes an issue, all this is competing over taxes. That doesn’t even mention streets or ballparks or any number of ‘other’ stuff.

                                          In the private sector if I ask a CEO what business he is in, he gets serious and coherent. If I ask a city manager, it’s kind of a chuckle.

                                          If I was depending on a service I would want that service to only be in competition with another vendor willing to provide that same service. I would want to be able to withhold funding or transfered to a vendor that could best balance the triangle.

                                          The problem I am hearing with mass transit is problems with ‘cleanliness’ and ‘on time’ maybe ‘security’. Those sound like quality issues. I would be seeking a vendor that could outperform the current vendor in quality while keeping a comparable cost.

                                          Here on this very site I have had “men are no angels” and “specialized/division of labor” pointed at me. When do I get to put a mirror to that?

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                                        • in that stratification marks a failure mode.

                                          Exactly, it is a failure mode. The important thing to remember is it is a failure mode of the system, not the populace. A public transit system is something the middle class wants, so that middle class is not, on a lark, going to stratify if that system is working for them, i.e. the public will not fail the system. If the public is stratifying, that means the system has failed the public, and you are wrong for attaching a moral judgement upon the public because they choose to exit a system that has failed them.

                                          PS to prove my point that the middle class wants public transit that works for them, see Microsoft & Google buses.

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              • Does Erik have kids? My attitude towards lots of things changed when my wife and I had kids.

                I don’t mind the Colorado model for charter schools. They’re public schools, under the local school board. They can’t charge tuition in addition to their public funding. They can’t make a profit. They can’t be run by a religious organization. They can’t apply funky criteria for acceptance, although they can make you take placement exams after you’re accepted. Mostly those are used by the ones who are pushing math and science curriculum beyond the normal. They can try different methods and are not subject to the teachers’ union rules. Students take the standardized tests (for good or ill, but same as the regular public schools).

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                • Loomis doesn’t strike me as the type to have kids. He does strike me as being the kind of guy who would consciously choose not to have children because it would result in moral compromise.

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                • “They can try different methods and are not subject to the teachers’ union rules. ”

                  Of course, this is the important bit since those who run charter school don’t want unions, ignoring the part where there are plenty of good magnet public schools that focus on math and science, but teachers in those schools have terribly burdernsome things like pensions, health care, and job protections.

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                  • What the charter schools do that the regular public schools don’t is take advantage of — true at least locally here — a large number of tech folks who are very interested in teaching math and science at the junior/senior levels in high school for a fraction of what the teachers’ union wants for “specialist” union members.

                    An interesting comparison is to the state community college system where those junior/senior classes taught as “remedial” for students who didn’t take (or didn’t pass) the math and science in high school are taught almost exclusively by the same people the union says aren’t qualified.

                    The big difference, IMO, is all the non-subject-matter stuff that the public schools require of teachers that the CC system doesn’t. Although is convincing me that the non-subject-matter stuff is moving up.

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                    • My father was interested in teaching high school math, and the requirements were sufficiently onerous to scare him off. Teaching at the college level wouldn’t have been a problem, though. That’s one of those things that has left an imprint in my view of certification-related issues.

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      • I think it depends on the “ills”…

        It is hard to blame any class of riders for inefficiences in the system related to infrastructure and the like unless you want to argue they’re responsible because they can only pay so much.

        For the ills that may be attributable, I bet you’re looking at a small subset being largely responsible. It only takes on guy shitting on a train to ruin the car for hundreds or thousands of riders that day.

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          • So poop on the train? Smells? Danger or perception thereof? I’d venture to guess that a very small group of people are guilty of the overwhelming majority of such ills. Like, .1% of riders. So I’m not sure that their distribution tells us much. Even if 80% of them are from the bottom economic quintile, you’re looking at… uhhhh… 4% of that group. That hardly makes the group responsible.

            At the risk of bringing anecdotes to a data fight (note: no actual data present), I ride the 1 train from 225th to Christopher St, traveling through the Bronx, Inwood, Wash Heights, Harlem, Morningside Heights, the UWS, Hell’s Kitchen, Times Square, Chelsea, to my destination in the West Village… and back again. With a 4-year-old. And to the extent I can guess folks’ SES based on where they get on/off and how they dress and speak and act and all that jazz… the likely lower SES people are considerably more pleasant to ride with than the likely higher ones.

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            • Even if 80% of them are from the bottom economic quintile, you’re looking at… uhhhh… 4% of that group. That hardly makes the group responsible.

              I didn’t say that the group was responsible. Here, I’ll say what I said again:

              I wonder at the extent to which those without the ability to exit are responsible for the various ills afflicting public transportation. If it’s a disproportionate amount, the ability to exit creates a great deal of harm for those stuck behind without an ability to exit.

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              • Then I’m not sure I follow you.

                You refer to “those without the ability to exit” and “wonder at what extent” they “are responsible for the various ills afflicting public transportation”.

                How is that not saying the group (by which I meant those unable to exit due to financial constraints) is responsible if “the extent” is “disproportionate”?

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                • The vast and overwhelming majority of people on public transport get on, sit down, find a happy place, get off at their stop. No pooping involved.

                  If there’s one guy who poops in the subway car, that ruins it for everybody. Let’s say he’s (because you know it’s a male!) one in a thousand.

                  But only some of the people who use public transit can afford to say “hell with it… I’m taking the lyft shuttle.”

                  Now the subway car pooper is… what? One in 800? One in 700? There’s a lot more subway car poopers per capita than there used to be due to Lyft Shuttle.

                  Of course, perhaps the subway car pooper also says “ah, heck with this, I’m going to take Lyft Shuttles” and nobody on the subway poops in the subway cars that day. We’ve gone from one in 1000 to none in 1000 and the subway is now infinitely better. That’s a possibility.

                  But if the subway car pooper happens to be someone who doesn’t have the option of taking a Lyft Shuttle?

                  The proportion of subway car poopers increases dramatically among those who don’t, for whatever reason, have the option of taking Lyft.

                  The ability of those 200-300 people who can afford to go somewhere else increases the amount of harm for those who can’t go somewhere else.

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                  • That’s… not how it works.

                    Unless there are potential riders who aren’t riding because they are blocked by those with the potential to opt out, the amount of poop on the subway will only go down or stay neutral if folks opt out.

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                    • When it happened in education when people moved to the suburbs, we called it “White Flight”.

                      The dynamic of exit exists.

                      Unless there are potential riders who aren’t riding because they are blocked by those with the potential to opt out, the amount of poop on the subway will only go down or stay neutral if folks opt out.

                      This isn’t how the math works. If 200 non-poopers leave for every pooper who stays, the ratio of poopers to non-poopers increases.

                      If we’re lucky, the people who poop on subway cars is evenly distributed between the people who couldn’t exit and the people who are likely to sign up for Lyft Shuttle and the amount of people pooping on the subway gets a little bit smaller and the people who poop in lyft shuttles goes up dramatically.

                      If we’re lucky.

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                      • But the quantity of poop is consistent or drops. The ratio in this case doesn’t matter.

                        You want to make a point about education by comparing it to public transit but you haven’t shown your work on why it’s the same. Because they’re not in the area you are discussing.

                        If 100 non-poopers leave, my transit experience is not made worse.

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                        • There’s more than just pooping going on, though.

                          There’s also, to use your examples, “smells” and “danger or perception thereof”.

                          What percentage of the people leaving for Lyft are going to be equally smelly? Equally menacing?

                          The ratio of people who are smelly changes, if the proportion is not equal among those who stay or leave.

                          The ratio of people who are menacing, if the proportion is not equal among those who stay or leave.

                          Of *COURSE* most of the people on the train are not smelly or not menacing. But take away… 200 out of 1000 of them? You’ve got a higher percentage of smelly or menacing people. More likely to sit down next to one who is because of the number of people who aren’t have decided to take the Lyft Shuttle.

                          Assuming, of course, that smelly/menacing isn’t equally distributed.

                          Hey, those cranky ladies who wanted you to put your kid on your lap? They’re probably going to be taking the shuttle in the future. That will improve your ride to the city!

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                              • Interesting then that you seem to hold yourself such an expert on how those of us who do think.

                                Most people would welcome defectors because it’d make for less crowding and they’d be unlikely to think about the long-term effects of decreased ridership. While many regular riders are bothered by the ills of public transit, I don’t know any who would be more likely to opt out as a result of defections that shift the ratios as you describe them.

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                                • I admit, one of my assumptions is that if there are 10% fewer people riding public transit, the public transit people will say something like “oh, good!” Now we can run 10% fewer lines!” rather than “we have no reason to change anything in response to losing 10% of our riders”.

                                  Which pretty much would mean that the subway cars and buses would be exactly as crowded as they are right now.

                                  Maybe this is a bad assumption on my part.

                                  Is it?

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                                  • Jay,
                                    Yes, it is a really bad assumption on your part.
                                    Where I am, we can’t ADD new buses during rush hour (because we’re out of room in the garages).

                                    They may raise fares, they may have less service (and less service, in a real sense, may make more people flee — a 30 minute wait for an unreliable bus is radically different from a 10 minute wait, let alone an hour wait.)

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                                  • The empirical evidence with DC metrorail is that at least a 5% drop in ridership* leads to fare increases, service cuts, and higher subsidies from governments, but that in turn leads to further ridership decline and budget woes. Everyone though finally recognizes there’s a problem (and no longer blames things on the economy, the government shutdown, the brief change in tax treatment, or gas prices), but everyone still blames other people (and esp their predecessors) and no systemic changes occur.

                                    *and that’s with 5 new stations and entirely new color coded line coming online over the same period

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                                      • NYC has seen a huge spike in delays, much of it (believed to be) attributable to infrastructure issues. Fares are going up and everyone is upset that they’re going to be asked to pay more for declining service, though I guess it remains to be seen if the increased revenues (assuming that the increased fares don’t lead to lower ridership and prove revenue neutral) actually go towards addressing the issues or elsewhere. DeBlasio and Cuomo are often blamed, though I don’t know the specifics of those criticisms or what power either has to improve the MTA (I’m sure they do… I just don’t know what it is).

                                        I also commute mostly through Manhattan and almost exclusively via rail and subway, so I don’t know what’s going on in the outerboroughs or with the busses and it wouldn’t shock me if those felt more of the stress of a declining system.

                                        Of course, too many defectors create problems for the defectors themselves, namely in the form of increased traffic. DeBlasio has been labeled as hostile towards cars and intentionally so. I imagine there is an equilibrium of sorts that can emerge for road traffic versus public transit but I have no idea where we are with that. And I imagine that can be tweaked with certain policies.

                                        But, yea, service cuts can take a number of forms, many invisible to the consumer. We’d never know if rail crews had their overtime hours cut. We’d just know that goddamn track fires keep fucking up our commutes.

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                                      • The service cuts for WMATA ate mostly ‘we’re going to 8 minute subway headways, we’re going to run fewer bus routes, so where you saw 4 buses an hour, you’ll see 2, and where you saw two, you’ll see one, plus more of you will need to transfer from one bus to another to get to where you are going. Some of our cuts may be picked up by county bus systems’

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                                        • DC is a bit of an exception, though, because the total number of daily commuters has got to be dropping due to telework. The metro system has had shutdowns over the past year, and I suspect that a lot of people have gone from being hesitant teleworkers to pretty comfortable with the option.

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                                  • I can only speak to the DC experience, where the drop in ridership is driving up prices. This is the city where public transportation closely parallels the education crisis: it’s easy for the system to raise its prices, because all the government agencies will just automatically raise their transit benefits, but people who don’t get subsidies are stuck paying the prices themselves.

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                        • I think I’ve encountered poop like once in all my years on mass transit. I encounter “stinky guy” maybe every few weeks, but it’s not so bad. You can always move to the other end of the car.

                          Rush hour can suck, sometimes. One makes do. It beats parking.

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                          • I’ve never encountered poop on public transit.

                            Stories like this seem almost “legendary” in status.

                            Like, I can point to the guy who tried, completely unprovoked, to stab someone in a business setting. I don’t, however, make the mistake of thinking that simply because that Happened Once it is At All Likely to happen again.

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            • — Same experience. For my normal commute, the train runs down to a “mixed race” area, and before that through working class South Boston. Honesty, folks in that train mind their own business. On occasion I get a funny look. But whatever.

              When I ride the other train, the one that branches out to the suburbs, well there are the “middle aged white office drone with a chip on his shoulder” types, plus the “gaggle of young suburban dudes looking for trouble,” etc.

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              • Let me add, the truly stinky people seem spread out pretty evenly. Actually, you encounter them a lot on the trains running to the posh parts of Cambridge, where they can panhandle. In any case, usually they aren’t that bad. On occasion they are. One time I switched train cars.

                I’ve encountered violent threats quite randomly, no rhyme nor reason. Likewise for “crazy people acting out.” They’re just part of the scenery, but there is no obvious economic pattern.

                My problem is, being visibly trans I get singled out. Most of you won’t.

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                • Maybe this is my various privileges poking through, but my experience is even a bit more… extreme?

                  What stood out most recently was the differing reactions to Mayo (age 4)’s presence. Twice in three days, middle-aged white women who presented as middle class or above got testy with me after demanding his seat and my refusing. In both situations, I briefly explained that we have an over 50 minute subway right and it isn’t feasible for me to hold him on my lap the whole ride. What I didn’t take the time to go into was that I still have a lingering pain in my foot from a recent injury and that having him on my lap for more than a few minutes causes increased pain and/or numbness. Now, I can see how they see what appears to be an able-bodied 30-ish white guy and his tiny son (Mayo is in the 3rd percentile for size for his age and is barely larger than his 2-year-old brother) taking up two whole seats on a rush hour train and think I’m some sort of monster. I try to give them as much of my rationale as I can, but when it’s 7:40 in the morning and we left the apartment at 6:50 and are on our second train of the day and have 30 more minutes to travel and they’ve come at me with attitude from the start, I’m not all that interested in being excessively decent.

                  Juxtapose that with at least 4 individuals who insisted on us taking their seats during PM rush hour trains… all men of color, all traveling north of 168th St.

                  There are obviously tons and tons of layers here and all this remains anecdotal… but if you asked me which neighborhood’s residents I’d rather ride with, I’d almost certainly pick the folks living where Uber and Lyft ain’t exactly crushing it.

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                  • Kazzy,
                    I avoid germ carriers (like your son) on public transit. Nothing personal…

                    I do almost feel bad about getting up and moving when a kid sits near me, but it’s just not worth it.

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  11. US2 – All we know for sure is that the girl and the raccoon fought. As for who acted first, and which one gave the other one rabies, history is written by the victor.

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        • Definitely. He’d killed one of my rabbits a few hours earlier. He charged at me in broad daylight, hissing, so I grabbed a long-handled garden rake with a clawed end and went after him. He dove into my pond and I hit him several times, nearly hard enough to break the rake’s handle.

          Crazy raccoon. They are no match for men who hunted woolly mammoths to extinction with nothing but clubs and flint spears.

          Then the crazy drug-using narcissistic housemate I had at the time threatened to call the police because I’d buried it in the yard. She was sure that the city had someone whose job it was to collect dead animals from people’s property. The closest we’d have to that is the county constable, who is required to bury a dead horse for $10.

          However, I should have cut the raccoons head off and sent it to our state lab for testing. They like to monitor rabies cases.

          Raccoons also get canine distemper, which oddly makes them docile and friendly, at least until they die. A new treatment for it is large doses of vitamin A, more than a human could stand, which seems to wipe out the virus while doing no harm to the raccoon because carnivores can handle a lot of vitamin A, which is concentrated in the liver, one of their favorite snacks.

          Apparently outbreaks of canine distemper keep the raccoon population in check. Whenever they get overpopulated there’s an outbreak that kills them back.

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      • Missed my close encounter with a raccoon (or raccoons) last night. Got up this morning and one of the trash cans at the curb had been tipped over, the latched lid removed, the double bag ripped open and stuff strewn down the sidewalk. Had to be raccoons — the foxes and coyotes can’t get the lids off and we’re too far from the foothills for bears. Haven’t had raccoon problems for some years. Guess I’ll have to start putting the bungee cord across the lid.

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  12. US3: I think that the big cities in Canada give a skewed perspective on Canadians in the same way that not all Americans are from NYC or LA. (Though, if you’re watching television or a movie, you’re watching people who spent a good deal of time in one of those two cities.)

    Canada has even more flyover than the US has.

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  13. En2:

    Oh please please let global warming alarmists stop having children. Then they’ll be less worried about the future and can go find something useful to occupy their time.

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  14. In The Atlantic: How the Democrats Lost Their Way on Immigration

    A very interesting look at how far they shifted in just eight years, almost certainly handing the government to Republicans.

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        • I read that earlier. I think Smith makes some good points, too. He’s talking past Beinart in some respects (He’s talking about some of the things that Obama did, Beinart is talking more about where the party’s values has shifted). He’s also taking on some weak part’s of Beinart’s arguments (specifically the effect on the 2016 election).

          But the part of Beinart’s piece that I related to is the Democrats’ shift. It takes a lot of mental heavy lifting to deny it. The only thing that’s stopped it from becoming an issue where I lean to the right is what Trump has done on the issue on that side.

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            • No, he’s not. From He also commits some logical fallacies.

              In 2/ he’s talking about endearment, for some reason.

              Did it endear him to the anti-immigration people?

              No.

              3/ was fun.

              3/Illegal immigration has been zero or negative for years: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-02-21/the-myth-of-the-u-s-immigration-crisis

              Why should we suddenly step up deportation??

              I’d phrase that as “The prison population has been stable for years, so why should we crack down on crime?”

              We’re not supposed to let people stay here illegally. The correct number is zero.

              In 4/ he uses data from a small number of legal immigrants to argue that a large number of illegal immigrants don’t drive down wages. If they don’t work for less, why do people keep hiring them?

              5/ through 10/ are just ad hominem attacks, hand waving, and emotional appeals.

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        • Noah Smith completely misses a couple of points in Beinart’s article.

          Regarding 2), Obama was deporting illegals from 2008 to 2012, but then reversed himself and threw open the floodgates to Central American immigration. Unaccompanied minors were riding trains to our border. ICE agents were then driving them all over the country.

          Mexicans stopped coming in droves after the housing bubble burst, but they were being replaced by Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans. Along with those we kept seeing Middle Easterners and Asians arriving via the southern border, having figured out that it’s easier to just slip in like all the Mexicans do. But 93% of all illegals who get caught are from Mexico and those three Central American countries.

          3) Noah says illegal immigration has been zero or negative for years. That’s probably because we were deporting the heck out of them, because we see people flooding across the border but we don’t see those same people flooding back.

          4) He cites the Mariel Boatlift’s affect on Florida’s economy, but the boat lift was a one time event that only moved 125,000 people (not 11 million), and they only make up 3.7% of the Hispanic population in the US.

          In 1970 we had 9.6 million foreign born people here. In 2015 we had 43.3 million, and 49% of those had limited English proficiency. Over the same period, the percentage of foreign born in the work force rose from 5% to 17%. There are over 11 million illegals in the US, and 7% of the children in the US are living with illegal parents.

          (That’s from a migration policy FAQ)

          Democrats shifted their stance (they used to defend the working class) and the result cost them the election, because most people, even about half of Latinos, don’t like the sight of people flooding here illegally to take their jobs, drive them out of their neighborhoods, or waving Mexican flags as they bash up police cars.

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