Saturday, December 03, 2016

About that efficient transit system

Here's an interesting article which indicates that, for all the hype about how compact cities like Chicago and New York City are "built for transit", the economics simply aren't working out even there.  The price of a 30 day transit pass in Gotham may become as high as $121, which is saying something in a city of 470 square miles where you can hardly find a place where you can go more than 25 miles in a direction without leaving the city.  Here's an interesting picture of the transit system: in 2012, the total cost was about $9.5 billion, of which about $4 billion was covered by fares and the like, $5.2 billion was from subsidies, and the system had an operating loss of $300 million.

So that $121 monthly pass really costs a total of close to $300, which means that a daily trip of ten miles each way--say to work and back, shopping, etc...has a cost of about 50 cents per mile, or just about identical to the cost of driving.  This in the best possible city on the continent for transit, no less.  It is also worth noting that if indeed revenues from fares and such are only $4 billion, that in turn means that most New Yorkers (there are 8.5 million of them) are not riding the bus or taking the subway.  Keep in mind as well that the MTA is not paying road taxes to keep the roads in good condition, so this is an underestimate of the total cost, and keep in mind as well that most of the infrastructure for the subway system was built and paid for decades ago. 

Transit may be necessary in many cities, but suffice it to say that it's in general not a good deal for the taxpayer.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

What can we do?

It's come out--no surprise--that the gentleman who attacked Ohio State students, faculty, workers, and visitors with his car and a butcher knife was motivated by Islamic extremism.  But that said, what do we do about this? 

From a political perspective, I think we have to start asking the question of whether we need to continue accepting refugees from nations that have given us a lot of terrorists, or whether there's a better solution.  I know for a fact that a little girl told me--while I was teaching her a bit about how to swim--that she'd visited Somalia.  Apparently it's safe enough for her family, and thousands of others, to visit.  Isn't the point of refugee status that you fear for your life in your own country?

On a legal level, we need to start looking at the question of whether certain mosques are inciting this kind of violence--we have freedom of religious belief and some degree of expression, but suffice it to say that the 1st Amendment no more protects incitement to violence than it would protect the revival of Aztec human sacrifice.  Lawsuits against mosques that incite violence--and perhaps also against those who fund them--might do wonders to cut down on terrorism.

On a personal level, what we do is simply what really any good carry permit instructor will tell you.  Keep in good shape if you can, develop situational awareness so you can spot trouble before it visits you, learn self-defense techniques like martial arts, and consider carrying a pistol where it's allowed.  And finally--going back to an earlier topic--if a cute as a button little girl asks you to teach her how to swim when you're watching your kids at the rec center--do it.  She and her whole family need to know about who we really are. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro, RIH

Hey, ten percent of your population risks machine guns and worse to leave, with political prisons, people freezing to death in mental hospitals in the tropics, and you make a tropical paradise into an economic no go zone where major job opportunities for college graduates are as prostitutes for El Presidente due to his siphoning off foreign aid for his own enjoyment....this is your eulogy, Fidel.  Rot.In.....

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Monday, November 21, 2016

Because it worked out so well for Katie Couric

Breitbart reports that after a PBS "on the air" interview with a Breitbart staffer did not go like PBS wanted to, NPR is thinking of prohibiting such interviews in favor of "contextualizing" the content. 

Good thinking, NPR.  It's not like those you interview have clued in that you tend to misquote them and put their comments out of context, and certainly they won't do what gun rights activists did to Katie Couric--record the interview so when they're misquoted and "contextualized", the real story can get out.

Nah, conservatives have only known that for about half a century.  Give it a whirl, we'll see what happens when you do that serious "contextualizing" you're thinking of.  By the way, did you know that Congress will be setting next year's NPR subsidy soon?  Nothing like a hatchet job to make sure you get that good increase in funding you've been desiring.

Two more car reviews

A few weeks ago, I rented a Dodge Dart (highly praised by Steve Dahl in his "hit" song "I'm a Wimp", of course) while on business.  Verdict; the seat was a relief after spending the previous six hours in airplane and airport seating, as it actually supports the back.  Controls were intuitive, and the vehicle was pretty much trouble free.  Plenty of head and leg room (at least for the driver), and the main down side is something I've noticed with almost all economy compact cars; it's a chore to get it up to highway speeds. 

On the better (and more expensive) side, my pickup gave me a couple of reasons to try a "very expensive car rental" (loaner while the truck's in the shop), and this time it is a turbocharged Buick Regal.  Now don't get me wrong; this vehicle is not going to by lining up for the quarter mile with the Mustangs and Camaros anytime soon, let alone that Tesla, but especially after about 3000 rpm, it's a fun little car--and the turbo lag seems to me to be a nice little "safety feature" that will help keep drivers out of trouble, at least a little bit.  From "the line", acceleration is a little bit slower than my pickup (love that old small block) or Acadia, but after about 10mph, it's quite sprightly.

Fit, finish, and comfort were at least "good enough for me", though my kids have noted that headroom and legroom in the back seat are not the same as in the Acadia, and there is a surprisingly spacious trunk that came in handy bringing supplies for the church potluck last night.  Controls are reasonably intuitive, and like that Dart, it was trouble free. 

One side note here relating to government fuel efficiency standards; both of these cars get about the same mileage, and are pretty much about the same size, weight, and shape, as the 1994 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme my wife and I used to own.  Maybe 10% better mileage or so, but one would figure that engineers 22 years ago were working with the same Carnot cycle and laws of mechanics and aerodynamics as they are today.

Which is, of course, exactly the case, and it's exactly why government fuel efficiency standards are simply an attempt to legislate the laws of physics and chemistry, a fool's bargain.  It's time to end CAFE.

Something to watch

It appears that Clinton Foundation donations were down 37% this year as Mrs. Clinton ran for the Presidency, and it started to come out that there were an awful lot of big donations to the Foundation at about the same time that Mrs. Clinton had agreed to meet with people, or had even made regulatory decisions favorable to the donor.   What will be interesting will be to see whether donations continue to plummet now that the Clintons have no obvious means of granting favors anymore, or whether there is a reservoir of good will that will keep the foundation afloat.

If they continue to plummet, I'll consider that clear evidence that foundation donations were indeed "pay to play."  If not, obviously another set of considerations will be involved.

Side note: in a story that will make your heart cheery, a 70 year old woman beats up a would-be home invader.  It reminds me of the scene from The Princess Bride where the nearly immobile Wesley tells the tyrant prince Humperdinck that the battle will not be to the death, but "to the pain."  The man will live out his days knowing he got beat up by Grandma. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Posted without comment

Why it may be important to prosecute protesters

Ever since the Civil Rights movement, it seems as if most protesters--even those who destroy private property and injure people--will get arrested, but will not be seriously prosecuted.  Well, if there is anything to allegations that Soros-funded groups are involved in bankrolling anti-Trump protests, police departments may want to rethink that. 

Now if you look at Gateway Pundit, you will (as I did) conclude that if that's all a prosecutor has, he's going to have trouble getting a conviction.  However, something interesting happens when you start indicting people for crimes--they start to talk and tell you how they got there with the goal of avoiding worse consequences.

It is worth noting as well that if indeed rich billionaires are funding protests on either side of the aisle, resulting in millions of dollars worth of damage, who better to sue than a billionaire like Soros?   I am guessing that arresting and seriously interrogating even a few dozen people involved in each protest would give us a good idea of whether the protests were "grass roots", or whether they were manufactured. 

Looking at the signs many are carrying--coming off large presses like a Heidelberg--I would dare suggest that someone with deep pockets is indeed coordinating these things.  Now I'm as strong a believer in the First Amendment as anyone, but when one starts to burn vehicles, block highways, and destroy buildings, one has crossed a line to where the Constitution doesn't protect you anymore.

On the virtue of infrastructure spending

Powerline links a study noting that when it comes to infrastructure spending, it matters whether you've got a reasonable ROI estimate.  As everybody who has ever run a business outside of the Beltway responds:  "duh".  But apparently it's too tough for people inside the Beltway--full or part time--to get this one. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

What's at stake with transgender rights...

....may be becoming clearer with this story out of St. Louis County, Minnesota, where it appears that a young man desiring to "transition" into a "woman" is being aided by county social and education workers, and is opposed by his own mother.  I suspect, moreover, that this is the same young man who was caught twerking to a rather vile rap song in the girls' locker room, among other things.  Either that, or Virginia, MN, has a rather significant portion of transgender students for a city of less than 9000.

What do we learn here?  First of all, it is the mother of the child suing, not the parents, indicating Mom & Dad are divorced or never got married--the initials given for the child may indicate "never married", but that's not certain due to anonymity requirements in court documents for minors.

Next, we learn that apparently school and county officials felt comfortable claiming to terminate parental rights without so much as a hearing or court order, and they are giving the child what is described as "narcotics", not just apparently hormonal treatments--unless the lawyers are in serious error here.  The use of the word "narcotics" may also indicate some very serious emotional/mental disturbances on the part of the young man.

In other words, it does appear that the issue of transgender rights is becoming a platform for county social services and education workers to impart their view of the world on others--and who cares what it does to the mother, fellow students, or for that matter the kid himself.  And if indeed the young man is receiving narcotics in addition to hormone treatments, it would see that yes, the county may be slowly killing him for the sake of their worldview.

...and for the evangelicals

About 15 years back, I had the privilege of reading The Coming Evangelical Crisis, in which a number of evangelical scholars--among them many of the men described by the FBFI as "convergent"--noted then-current challenges in evangelical theology.  My pastor at the time noted that it was drift that was predictable given the origins of evangelicals.

Those origins, for the uninitiated, are more or less that after World War Two, many fundamentalists like Billy Graham started to move away from things like secondary separation (separating from those who refuse to separate from theological error) and the kind of cultural rules I mentioned in this post.  If you've been a part of a local nondemoninational church, you've been part of this movement, and if you have, one thing you'll note is that in practice, most evangelicals don't take that much advantage of the emancipation from cultural rules. 

What they did do, however, was to get their colleges accredited and start producing earned doctorates, more or less trying to keep the theological fundamentals while walking away from....let's face it, some public behavior and odd separation that had just gotten embarrassing. 

So what's the rub, one might ask?  Well, in my view, evangelicals got "accredited", but without learning the tools of self-defense from those in the academy who would take advantage of them, and the result is predictable.  Too many evangelicals are giving up not only the culture, but also the theology, and in their interactions with their fundamental brothers, they're still stuck in many of the same bad habits.  You'll see this quite a bit in the "worship wars" about music in the church.

The way out, and really for both warring parties, is really to follow the evangelicals, but to take the move back to the academy seriously enough to know that the people of the Word (logos) might do well to learn how to handle words in logic and rhetoric. 

In other words, we ought to return not to the academy of the modern era, but rather that of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.  You'll get the knack of "angels dancing on the head of a pin" soon enough.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


I've read that President Obama aims to be the first ex-President to become a billionaire based on speaking fees and the like after his Presidency is (mercifully) over.  That noted, it's also said that the appeal of the Clinton Foundation is that donors/speech underwriters knew that a Clinton was in a position of power (Senate, Secretary of State, possible White House) to deliver favors. 

So I'd have to argue that Obama's path to mega-bucks is dubious, as a third of the electorate would choose root canal surgery over listening to him speak, Michelle shows no particular desire to hold elected office, and otherwise his influence depends on the media that put him in the White House.  Suffice it to say that unless he's got another secret email system to send thoughts and commands to bureaucrats, his influence going forward isn't likely to make him big bucks.

Unless, of course, all that money flowing to the Clintons actually IS because people want to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to listen to Hilliary, in which case I'd have to suggest that the heroin epidemic is worse than we ever thought.

How we got here

In reading two posts on SharperIron regarding "convergence" and fundamentalism, one thing that struck me is that "conservative evangelicals" (who hold to the theological fundamentals) and "historic fundamentalists" (who separate based on cultural issues like dancing and movies) seem to be at an impasse simply because people can't see the other case.  And so it bears asking; how is it that fundamentalism and evangelicalism alike have ended up at this place?

Well, for starters, let's take a look at the history of fundamentalism--Kevin Bauder gives it a try here by noting that the taboos of fundamentalism--drinking, dancing, theater, cards, smoking, and others--were part of revivalism.  Fair enough, but I would dare say that there is an even more basic reason.

Fundamentalism started as a response to theological liberalism, which was in turn rooted in the form criticism of German theology professors.  Both came across the ocean, and they quickly took root in prestigious universities and then the seminaries of mainline churches.  So let's think about what early fundamentalists saw; more or less, it was that anti-Biblical ideas from the academy were resulting in changes that could send people to Hell in the churches.   The response was led by dominant leaders who either purged churches of liberal elements, or (more often) led an exodus of believing members to new churches. 

We would therefore expect fundamentalism to have a fairly strong anti-academic bias, oppose change , and  would value prominent personalities quite strongly.  We would also expect the anti-academic bias to work with the esteem of prominent personalities to result in a limited ability to process and analyze ideas outside of genetic fallacies.

And what do we see through our history and today?  We see Bible colleges that are only now beginning to seek accreditation, pastors who joke that they learned their Greek at a gyros shop, outsized personalities like Bob Jones and Billy Sunday the objects of near-veneration, and a litany of genetic fallacies used to make positions on social issues.  We see fundamental leaders apologizing into the nineties for endorsing segregation and prohibiting "interracial" dating.

Those social issues are, more or less, similar to the list that we would have seen a century ago: Prohibition of alcohol and tobacco (see chapter 1 of Alger's Ragged Dick), suspicion of the theater and music with a "jungle" or "voodoo" beat, and the like.  Now thankfully fundamentalists mostly abandoned the overt racism of that era, but really our surprise should not be that we otherwise retain these views of our forebears.  Rather, the surprise is that we don't have our wives and daughters in corsets, our daughters waiting eagerly for a gentleman caller as in The Glass Menagerie. 

(though I did see, rather recently in fact, the claim that corsets were the key to or hate the corset, say what?)

Now of course, just because the Victorians believed something doesn't automatically make it wrong, but it does illustrate the reality that unless we understand our history and biases, we are almost automatically going to get the "second premiss" and our syllogism wrong.

Coming up; how evangelicalism got here, and what we can do about it.

Two car reviews

Had the opportunity to experience two vehicles new to me yesterday.  First, a crew cab F150 with the Ecoboost turbo engine.  Overall, very comfortable, good handling and ride, immense capability, great mileage, and the big downside is that the nose is in New Mexico while the trailer is still in Wyoming.  It is big and hard to park.  Great choice for a moderate sized family that likes to camp and is tired of minivans, though.

Next, I got a quick ride in a Tesla model S--yes, me, the guy who gets rather tired of helping people pay for them and points out that it's really a very polluting coal fired vehicle.  But I'll be fair. 

First impression is that it's very low to the ground--to the point where I'd be uneasy taking it across speed bumps, really.  It's well styled and unobtrusive, so if one really likes speed, but not speeding tickets, it's probably a better choice than a Camaro or Corvette, and does have room for two adults and two children--not really four adults, unless they're "vertically challenged."  Front seat headroom was adequate but not great--not bad for a sports car, really. 

Car is controlled by a touch screen "entertainment center", which is frankly huge, somewhat distracting, and disconcerting--my eyes are going to be drawn there when this "hot rotor" goes to 60 in less than three seconds, which doesn't seem like a really smart safety move.  When the gas juice pedal is pressed with near-maximum power, the sensation is physically uncomfortable, and the vehicle can get close to 100mph on a highway on ramp.  It is, more or less, the vehicular equivalent of taking off from an aircraft carrier with full afterburners, I'd imagine, and stats say it matches the Corvette Z06 even at a quarter mile at about eleven seconds.  Thankfully the owner did not demonstrate this!

Handling is wonderful, as you'd expect with most of the weight within a foot of the ground, and range is a full 315 miles....but with serious degradation in battery life when you're below about 80F, which is...quite frankly...most of the time here in Minnesota.  The battery pack, which forms the base of the car, even has a heater to enhance performance in cool temperatures.  One guy's experience suggests about a 30% loss in efficiency due to heating the battery and the driver, which takes the carbon dioxide per mile (assuming night time power generation using coal, which is the norm) to about the same as a one ton pickup getting 13mpg.  If you assume natural gas, you're at....about what you'd get with that Corvette or Camaro.

Overall verdict is that it's well made, fun to the point of getting a driver in trouble in a hurry in many ways, but given the limitations in passenger space, range and refueling, and tax and environmental impact, I just really don't see the point.  Go with the environmentally sound choice instead--the F150 crew cab.