Archive for December, 2013


The behaviours that make us human are not professional. Honesty, frankness, humour, emotionality, embracing the moment, speaking up for what you believe, affection, sincerity. Quoting extremely offensive trolls. These are all things that will make some people love you and others hate you. When you get more attention, these aspects of your personality fuel the inevitable backlash. As your audience grows, the chance of any given action triggering criticism asymptotically approaches 100%.

Great thoughts from Allen Pike.

Reducing congestion at busy subway stops

Fascinating look at a relatively simple solution to congestion on busy subway platforms in Santiago, Chilé.

The idea: install a temporary barrier that prevented passengers from exiting “upstream”, reducing pedestrian collision that adds 1 to 2 minutes of congestion per train.

The door problem has not been exempt of controversy nor difficulties because it forces Metro to confront users and force them to take a decision which is the best one for the common good but might appear counterintuitive on an individual level.

This quote captures the major differing philosophies when it comes to public policy decisions. There are those who want some bit of personal sacrifice to make the system as a whole better, while critics believe that no compromise to personal choice is justified, even if it otherwise improves the system.

McDonald’s coffee burns

Great retrospective from NYT exploring how perception shapes reality and why we should be wary of forming judgments without knowing all of the facts.

Budget deal pretty good for transit

“This will allow all THUD programs to continue to operate with about a 2 percent cut from FY2013 levels,” Burwell said, “including TIGER, Amtrak, Transit New/Small Starts, etc.” A 2 percent cut starts to sound pretty good when you realize THUD was looking at a 7 percent cut before this deal materialized.

While neither side is particularly happy about this deal, even the no-compromise Tea Party ranks voted yes on this bill because they know how disastrous another government shutdown would have been for them in 2014. The question remains whether extreme conservative groups will criticize such a deal and mount opposition.

No parking, no problem

It is almost considered a truism in Indianapolis that one of the biggest obstacles to getting people to come downtown to shop, see the sights, etc. is a lack of free, convenient parking. People driving in from the suburbs are forced to either park on the street, where they will most likely have a bit of a walk to their destination, or have to pay to park in an off street lot or garage. Suburban malls, office parks, etc. all have large free surface parking lots right in front of the door. This provides them with an advantage, and keeps people away from downtown. Right?


World War C

Jon Stewart always says it best.

Keeping X in Xmas

“Early manuscripts of the Greek New Testament dating to the third and fourth centuries used “X” as an abbreviation for Christ…The abbreviation helped manuscript writers fit more words on a page, reducing the time and cost of producing the texts…”

The Real War on Christmas

If you’re going to fight a war on Christmas, an all-out ban on the holiday seems like a pretty solid goal. It’s also something the Puritans actually accomplished, in multiple countries, for decades, putting today’s Christmas haters to shame. From 1659 to 1681, Bostonians faced a five-shilling fine for celebrating Christmas, a law that followed a similar ban in England during Oliver Cromwell’s rule, when the Parliament was controlled by a Puritan majority. Puritan Parliament there even decided to make Christmastime a period of “fasting and humiliation,” for all of the sins of celebrations of Christmas past.

The Internal GOP rift grows

Speaking of the extreme wing of the Republican party. Speaker Boehner, for the second day in a row, criticized these extreme conservative groups, signaling a new tone that Republicans are taking to fight against the less reasonable Tea Party Republicans that are primarying many establishment Republicans in the House and Senate.

Frankly I think they’re misleading their followers. I think they’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be. And frankly I just think they’ve lost all credibility. They pushed us into this fight to defund Obamacare and to shut down the government. Most of you know, my members know, that wasn’t exactly the strategy I had in mind. But if you’ll recall, the day before the government opened, one of these groups said, ‘Well, we never thought it would work.’ Are you kidding me!? Listen, you all know me. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I’m as conservative as anybody around this place. And all the things that we’ve done over the three years that I’ve been speaker have not violated any conservative principle. Not once.

Good for Boehner for sticking up to the uncompromising, idealistic, disease in his party that has shutdown our government for no purpose, hurt our economy numerous times for failing to extend the budget ceiling, for no reason, and see middle ground as justification for being voted out of office. But if this continues, I wonder how the GOP continues forward if the party splinters into two. It may be premature to suggest this, but do we have the making of another 1968 election on our hands?

✁ The permanent “white” majority

Jamelli Bouie in response to Galston & Kamarck’sThe Politics of Evasion which proposes that the GOP is in trouble as minority groups continue to grow in this country.

But that said, their essay seems to overstate the demographic case against the GOP. Yes, for the short term, demographics pose a huge hurdle to the Republican Party’s national aspirations. If the 2016 election looks anything like the ones in 2008 and 2012, the Democratic candidate will win overwhelming majorities of Latino, Asian-American, and mixed-race voters, with near-unanimous support from African Americans. And if the nominee is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, there’s a fair chance the party can improve its margin among white women, who—in recent years—have made a small move away from the Republican Party.

But if we look ahead 40 years, there’s a decent chance this Democratic majority never materializes. Ethnic identity is fluid—it shifts and changes with the circumstances of society. Right now, we think of Latinos and Asian Americans as separate from the white mainstream. But there’s no guarantee that will be true in the future. Indeed, if it isn’t, we could have a politics that looks similar to the one we have now.

His response is an absolute must read discussing demographics and partisan support. Jamelle Bouie lays the foundation of an excellent essay positing that the GOP may not see a permanent minority electoral status even if they do not begin tailoring their current policy to attract ethnic minorities because the definition of “white” is fluid and appears to expand over time. He rightfully points out that the Irish and Italians are now included and once outsiders. Before that, non-Anglos were chastised before being accepted.

The surprising thing after reading his piece, however, particularly in light of his skin color, is how the definition of “white” has always come to mean “not black” as new ethnicities came to be included. By failing to acknowledge (or be cognizant of this important point), I think Bouie’s piece oversimplifies his conclusion. Slavery was outlawed by the 13th Amendment in 1865. While blacks gained the ability to vote under the 15th Amendment in 1869, discrimination by states based upon race were not outlawed until 1965, with the signing of the Voting Rights Act. It’s not coincidental that the Southern Republicans became Democrats during this time. It took 100 years for blacks to gain many of the same protections enjoyed since our nations birth by white men. It’s also not coincidental that the change of the Southern states from deep blue states to deep red states occurred around this same time (the story’s a bit more complex than this with Dixiecrats, I know) seeing it’s apogee in the presidential election of 1968, which split the Democratic vote in the north and south and giving Nixon the Republican win.

As Kevin Phillips, Nixon’s strategist, so…ahem…eloquently put it in a 1970 NYT interview(pdf),

From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that…but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.

I don’t know when this Southern Strategy will end. It’s clear with the election and reelection of our black president, it hasn’t completely ended, as the South is just as red now as it has been for over forty years. The playbook is much the same too, using coded language such as 47%, welfare dependents, and entitlement addicts. But the strategy doesn’t really have much place to go. Unlike the 60s where Southern Democrat ideology was welcomed with open arms by the GOP, it is unlikely that the increasingly xenophobic, sometimes racist, sect of the Republican party won’t enjoy a similar reunion with the left.

Ignoring this flip-flop of the South turns Bouie’s premise on it’s head, because racial tension combined with this flip is at the heart of what permitted the definitions of “white” to expand in the 1860s and the 1960s, but a similar catalyst is missing today.1 If the GOP today refuses to welcome in Hispanics by addressing immigration reform and other domestic issues that affect that community, what platform will welcome them in as “white”?

Without filling in this missing piece, Bouie’s provocative, and well-explored theory is seriously weakened.

  1. I shouldn’t have to say this but to be clear, I am not suggesting that the Republican Party is racist, or that Republicans are racist. Only that American majorities are built on building coalitions and in Lincoln’s time, this coalition was formed by criticizing reconstruction as a failure, capturing mostly racist secessionists in the process. In the post-civil rights era, Republicans seized the opportunity by forming a coalition on an individual and states right platform capturing mostly racist segregationists in the process. []