« It's 2,000 & 20: do u know where ur democracy is? | Main | Paper Trails »

January 08, 2020

Comments

Agreed - single parenthood is a common but inaccurate label for childhood neglect.
While it is true that there is some correlation between the two things, it is more likely that single parenthood is the consequence or symptom of, rather than the cause of a chaotic family situation.

The single most significant damage done to a child’s educational prospects is early years neglect. In cases of severe neglect, the damage is often intractable, however well resourced subsequent intervention might be.
And neglect happens in families with one or two parents.

Conversely, given good parenting in the first two to three years, kids are (within reason) pretty resilient to whatever might come after that.

having decided that we shouldn't make anything but quantitative evaluations

And thus, my point, more or less.

Sorry, inaccurate, and too snotty by half.

Please allow me to try again:

Yes, your statement of it is better. We haven't lost the ability, we've chosen not to.

Estimates of how badly we’re failing on CO2 mitigation goals:
https://phys.org/news/2020-01-global-energy-years.html

Needless to say, the re-election if Trump would not help matters.

One potential game changer is the lithium/sulphur battery, where researchers recently demonstrated what looked like a commercialiseable architecture . At three to four times the energy density of current batteries (for a similar or lower cost), this would make an enormous difference to what are currently quite pessimistic forecasts.

Back on the topic of education....
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/01/the-miseducation-of-the-american-boy/603046/
there is no difference between the sexes’ need for connection in infancy, nor between their capacity for empathy—there’s actually some evidence that male infants are more expressive than females. Yet, from the get-go, boys are relegated to an impoverished emotional landscape. In a classic study, adults shown a video of an infant startled by a jack-in-the-box were more likely to presume the baby was “angry” if they were first told the child was male. Mothers of young children have repeatedly been found to talk more to their girls and to employ a broader, richer emotional vocabulary with them; with their sons, again, they tend to linger on anger. As for fathers, they speak with less emotional nuance than mothers regardless of their child’s sex. Despite that, according to Judy Y. Chu, a human-biology lecturer at Stanford who conducted a study of boys from pre-K through first grade, little boys have a keen understanding of emotions and a desire for close relationships. But by age 5 or 6, they’ve learned to knock that stuff off, at least in public: to disconnect from feelings of weakness, reject friendships with girls (or take them underground, outside of school), and become more hierarchical in their behavior...

Jim Webb expresses far better than I did what most troubles me about the Iran thing...

When did it become acceptable to kill a top leader of a country we aren’t even at war with?
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-iran-crisis-isnt-a-failure-of-the-executive-branch-alone/2020/01/09/cc0f3728-3305-11ea-9313-6cba89b1b9fb_story.html

Also not at all unrelated to what we're talking about, a terrific (and long) article on attachment theory in practice:
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/jan/10/psychotherapy-childhood-mental-health

Nigel, I have long felt that Sesame Street was a rare unalloyed force for good in the world; I am so glad to read the piece you linked that confirms this!

Strangely enough, to those of us it utterly bemused, so is Teletubbies...

Though I think that is because it appeared when my kids were already slightly too old for it.

Mind, moving towards more frequent use of measurement was a needed corrective, back in the day. But, as so often, we over-corrected. Plus, we ended up embracing the idea of measurement, without (all too often) any understanding of how to select which metrics might be appropriate.

It's not even really about whether the metrics are appropriate or not. No matter how correct a metric is in the abstract, once you make it important, by using it to directly drive decisions, especially high stakes decisions like school funding or teacher advancement, it's going to bump hard up against Goodhart's Law.

So catch-22. We could measure things much more reliably -- even with relatively imperfect measures -- if only we relied on the results less.

Since we segued past affordable housing (I think), you all might find this of interest.
https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2020/01/10/opinion-grand-jury-housing-investigation-shows-density-is-our-destiny/

The Santa Clara County** Civil Grand Jury undertook a nine-month investigation of this issue with an objective to provide recommendations. It seems to have come up with some useful ideas, demonstrating that the problem is not insoluable, if we can get past our various ideological blinders. Here's hoping they get tried out, and not just in the one county.

** aka Silicon Valley, for those who don't live around here.

"A disappearing middle class is among the profound ramifications of a critical lack of BMR housing."

They're disappearing to Texas and other states.

Texas should raise taxes and then it wouldn't have to suffer the unintended consequence of all of those out-of-staters bringing rush hour traffic to a standstill in its urban corridors, not to mention rising rents.

Get Reason Magazine on the job.

They're disappearing to Texas and other states.

This is the market-driven version of McK's suggestion upthread.

One of the places they're going - especially Californians - is Phoenix AZ. Drives my sister and her husband nuts.

Phoenix was such a quiet and manageable place when they moved there from Long Island, 40+ years ago.

I guess word got out.

a lot people leave because the big popular cities are full, not because people really want to live in East Asscheek GA. housing is too expensive (too much demand), commutes from affordable housing is murder (too much demand), so they move to where houses are cheaper.

they're not chasing tax rates - they're running away from the high prices that come with popularity.

When traveling to distant locales, the residents of East Asscheek will usually tell people they're from "Atlanta", as in "I live in Atlanta, it takes me an hour to get to Atlanta."

One of the places they're going - especially Californians - is Phoenix AZ. Drives my sister and her husband nuts.

Last time I looked at migration data, substantially more Californians were going to Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington (in aggregate) than were going to Texas. Those five states together have about the same current population as Texas. Historians at the University of Colorado have talked about the "California Diaspora" for at least 30 years.

Thus we have the term Californication....

"New York, California, and Illinois have been hemorrhaging residents. Almost 3.2 million more people left those states for elsewhere in the U.S. than arrived from other states, from 2010 through 2019, according to population estimates released last week by the Census Bureau. Nine other states saw net out-migration of more than 100,000 people over that period, but none really came close to the big three."
Goodbye, New York, California and Illinois. Hello … Where?: The three states have seen an exodus, but it’s not all to Texas and it’s not all about taxes.

"Californication": how California maintains its population in the face of emigration to other states. ;-)

Specifically, how welcoming international immigrants results in population growth, even when natives (who remain in the state) exhibit declining birth rates.

[We return you now to your regularly scheduled serious discussions....]

In today's episode of "What is up with Deaths of Despair"...

A friend of ours works as a marketing strategist in the medical industry. A woman who works part-time for her current employer as a nurse was involved in a horrific automobile accident this week.

She lost her eight-year old child in the accident. Subsequently, she lost her husband to complications of his injuries. She herself has been through six surgeries so far, and was lucky to survive them. She was very, very lucky to keep all of her limbs, she may lose one or two yet. Various parts of her internal anatomy have been re-arranged. Unclear when, or if, she'll be able to work again, or in what capacity.

She was informed that, because her husband died, she was no longer covered by his insurance. She was only part-time, so none was on offer at her own employer. Some of her friends and co-workers are trying to organize a GoFundMe to cover her medical expenses.

My wife and I are gonna kick in a few bucks. What we can afford to contribute will probably be 1/10,000 of what she will need. Ain't gonna be 9,999 other people kicking in to her GoFundMe.

I get a couple of these a month.

There's a meme going around about how, if you have hard times coming up, and think that other people who have hard times should just suck it up, because you got through it and came out all right, then you probably didn't actually come out all right.

The United States is that guy, at national scale. I love America, and will never ever be anything other than an American no matter how many man bags and hacking knots and arugula salads I have going on.

But this is one cruel heartless bitch of a country, and make no mistake about it.

People drink themselves to death, and snuff themselves with Oxy OD's, and blow their brains out in lonely ranch houses and double-wides, because we don't give enough of a shit about each other to make sure unlucky people don't get ground to fncking dust. And I by God can tell you of examples of each of those things, more than one of some, from my own personal experience. People I know.

You can try to tell me it's not so, but I have eyes in my head and I see it every day.

Root hog or die, says fucking cruel bitch America. God-damn.

If you live somewhere else and were ever thinking of moving here, think twice. We're friendly, but we're not particularly good.

If you live somewhere else and were ever thinking of moving here, think twice. We're friendly, but we're not particularly good.

What's rather appalling about the world is the number of places where things are so much worse that people there will brave incredible obstacles to try to get here.

There's a lot of "less bad" space out there for us to occupy, compared to some of the alternatives. We could do better, without even a whole lot of effort -- and there are multiple places which are doing so that we could swipe ideas from. And we should do better.

Yet somehow, a lot of us seem to find the idea offensive. My diagnosis (admittedly just spitting in the wind here) is that there are a lot of people who are sufficiently comfortable that they can afford to cope without help. (At least so far.) And something in their upbringing/ideology has convinced them that anyone else could have done the same if they'd only tried. "Isolationist" in a different sense.

Hard to argue with a word you say, russell, so I won't. Except your last sentence. Some of you (lots of you) are really good, and you're a perfect example. But the system, ah the system is majorly flawed, and it produces too many stories as terrible as the one you detail. It is enough to make one despair, sure enough.

But the system, ah the system is majorly flawed, and it produces too many stories as terrible as the one you detail.

Yes. But it really is a stain on our collective character that we can't seem to fix the system.

Let us prey.

Suffer the little children to get the fuck away from me, but hand over their money to my ministry before you leave.

Here's how the grifting subhuman conservative fucking cruel bitch ratfucking anti-American republican prosperity gospel operates:

You give me money. I pray for you. I buy a BMW. I incorporate my ministry because taxes are theft and slavery. You die.

It's a five-step program. It would be even cheaper and more efficient if we skipped the first four steps and moved forthwith to the final step, but I need a BMW, and there is that gold-plated license proclaiming that Jesus saves, but not in a gummint-insured account.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/02/health/christian-health-care-insurance.html

The Republican Party is merely one big ComeFundMe root hogging grab-all-you-can bag.

The Republican Party and the conservative movement are America's pre-existing conditions.

Don't cover it. Kill it.

Russell, if you wish to tell us the details of the GoFundMe account for your friend, I'll pony up too.

russell -- check your email.

What's rather appalling about the world is the number of places where things are so much worse that people there will brave incredible obstacles to try to get here.

Yes, but the thing is, we're rich. Stupid, stinking rich.

We have no excuse.

It behooves me to say that the woman in question does have access to insurance in the form of extending her husband's policy via COBRA. So, it's not strictly accurate to say she has "no access to medical insurance".

She just has to pay a shitload for it. And then pay for whatever it doesn't cover.

I'm sure all of this seems bizarre to ObWi readers who live in countries where health care is a given. In the US, if you lose your spouse and child in a car accident, and you yourself need extensive medical care to not die, you may be obliged, upon waking from the anasthesia to find yourself suddenly utterly alone in the world, to beg for the funds to pay for it.

I'm sure that, given the circumstances, it's toward the bottom of her list of sorrows. But nonetheless.

Really, I can't tell you how ashamed I have become, of my own country. For this, and so many other reasons.

Land of the free.

thank you Janie, so very much appreciated.

Don't cover it. Kill it.

This is what must be done. The sooner 'libruls' realize this, the sooner we have some kind of chance at doing what needs to be done to save the world, much less just us.

They are a disease.

Not being nice, you say? WELL, WHY THE EFF SHOULD WE BE NICE?.

"New York, California, and Illinois have been hemorrhaging residents...."

One of the most statistically dishonest articles I have ever read.

you want to talk about something different? well, how 'bout this: the only way to tackle global climate change is for rich countries to pay poor countries to find a way to curb carbon emission while still raising their standard of living.

All the hand-waving about miracle technological measures are simply spitting in the wind and massively delusional.

what!???? you say??? lower our "standard of living"???? so here....you want to be poor or do you want to be dead...

PICK.

Get serious. Just once. OK?

...but we can have self driving cars...ANY TIME NOW. JUST WAIT!

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL....

for f*ck's sake.

No, we can and should do the first, and maybe we can have self driving cars sometime in the future.

As for handwaving about miracle technologies - without remarkable and very real developments in renewables and storage, we don’t get to do the first thing at all.

lower our "standard of living"????

The thing is, we do so many things in wasteful ways, we can probably make a huge dent in resource consumption (of all kinds) without giving up all that much in terms of standard of living.

probably worth a thread of it's own, but:

waste in energy
waste in food

similar for water, etc

Also not at all unrelated to what we're talking about, a terrific (and long) article on attachment theory in practice:

Nigel, I just read the article. I am skeptical:

Anxious, avoidant and disorganised attachment styles develop as responses to inadequate caregiving: a case of “making the best of a bad situation”.

I don't doubt that this is true to some extent (for example, the article begins with an example of an adult who had been abused by her mother - a trauma that would contribute to later mental health issues). However, for so long, psychologists have blamed mommy for everything, when really the picture is a lot more complex, including the possibility of hardwired personality disposition in humans. Notice too that the article dwells on an infant's attachment to the mother. Is a cooing father similarly supportive of psychological health?

The article rubbed me the wrong way as a blast from the past regarding attachment disorders (mommy wasn't attentive enough) being the sole cause of subsequent problems in adults. Mental health issues are more complicated, and I wish the article had stressed attachment disorder as a possible contributing factor rather than a solid cause.

Most of the resource consumption in the US has peaked, leveled off or is declining. The same thing is occurring in the UK and likely other post-industrial countries.

"In 2015, Ausubel published an essay titled "The Return of Nature: How Technology Liberates the Environment." He had found substantial evidence not only that Americans were consuming fewer resources per capita but also that they were consuming less in total of some of the most important building blocks of an economy: things such as steel, copper, fertilizer, timber, and paper. Total annual U.S. consumption of all of these had been increasing rapidly prior to 1970. But since then, consumption had reached a peak and then declined."
The Economy Keeps Growing, but Americans Are Using Less Steel, Paper, Fertilizer, and Energy: Good news! We’re getting more while using less.

"As I detail in my book, longstanding federal government policies are themselves responsible for massive amounts of food waste. For example, Perdue's own agency is responsible for causing massive amounts of food waste under its National School Lunch Program, farm subsidy programs, and the USDA's inane system of food grading. Seafood regulations implemented by the Commerce Department cause similar waste on the high seas."
The Feds Want To Tackle Causes of Food Waste, Except Their Own: We don't need more government to reduce food waste. Instead, we should be moving to eliminate the regulations that promote it.

no matter what, it's the government's fault.

and Reason magazine is always there to explain how and why.

I'm sure that federal and other government regulations create some of the inefficiencies that lead to waste. So does the fact that millions of people drive themselves and only themselves to work, and back, every day, in big metal boxes that weigh ten or twenty times what they do.

And that, of course, is *also* the government's fault, because of zoning rules. Which, of course, those nasty governments passed, in spite of what all of the people who live under those governments actually wanted.

It's a shame that the only participant in our public life that has any agency whatsoever is that nefarious government. If we all just went about our individual business, with no external interference at all, all of these problems would just resolve themselves.

all of these problems would just resolve themselves.

they kindof would... because there would be far fewer resources, which would all cost more, and we'd have to spend our time fighting each other for survival.

For those who want to avoid such massive "food waste", take a good look at Sinclair Lewis' book "The Jungle" for step-by-step instructions.

Bon Appetit!

Regarding the low income housing crisis, and how it looks in Charlottesville, the city will shortly be holding hearings on something called form-based coding.

So far, most people speaking at public hearings object to it. It would be interesting to see what people here who are low income housing advocates think of this template for redevelopment. Obviously, a lot of study and some familiarity with the precise situation in Charlottesville would be necessary for a truly informed opinion, but most people don't have the luxury of that kind of study (or assessment of externalities) even if they live in an area. Even trying to assess a particular plan's affect on a specific person is difficult when the plan remains general, and no one is actually proposing a project.

So what do people think, just as a first impression?

Russell,

Please check your email. I sent you a message to what may be an old address.

So what do people think, just as a first impression?

At a quick skim, I see one big plus for "form based zoning." The zoning I am familiar with segregates business and residential areas. Which means, it's hard to shop without a car. The places you want to shop aren't close enough to make walking (possibly multiple trips) feasible. Unless you can somehow carry everything on public transit, you need a vehicle.

Also, it weakens the neighborhood if you no longer are doing business with people who live and work near you.

Finally, it appears to open up the possibility of apartments. Rather than insisting, as current zoning tends to, on single family houses. Which only result in "affordable" housing with serious government intervention. At least around here.

I don't know that it's a great solution. That would depend on how it gets implemented. But it appears to have some opportunities to do better than currently.

Thanks for looking at it, wj. I agree with you. The low income residential community seems skeptical, which is understandable given how many land use experiments have backfired to their detriment.

I skimmed it, too. wj makes some good points.

Based on the wikki entry, the classic look and feel of Parisian residential buildings is a result of a similar approach. Under other circumstances it is called "planning"....which, alas, can be in the eye of the beholder. R1 zoning in urban areas is a particularly bad example of land use "planning".

Under other circumstances it is called "planning"....which, alas, can be in the eye of the beholder.

Indeed.

Euclidean zoning, the system most in use now, became the standard in the early 20th century. The landmark case, Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365 (1926) provides an interesting history lesson, not only on the origins of zoning law, but on what was important to early urban planners.

Just to follow on my earlier comment, the early 20th century Supreme Court was not about protecting the rights of workers (see Lochner) or otherwise encouraging economic fairness, it did strike down a blatantly segregationist zoning ordinance as early as 1917 (Buchanan v. Warley).

The term Euclidean zoning somehow conjures up something completely different. ;-)
Does not apply to the abodes of eldritch abominations, I presume.

Does not apply to the abodes of eldritch abominations, I presume.

That zone is way, way out in the burbs!

Yes, although I first read the City of Euclid case many years ago, the term "Euclidean zoning" still conjured images of geometric shapes on a map (which is somewhat accurate.

This is a smart critique of form-based zoning. I find this subject endlessly fascinating, so forgive my repeated comments on a topic that isn't inspiring much conversation. I do think that as we complain about what's happening to our cities and our environment, it's important to look at how our management of city space has contributed to what we are seeing. Should we rethink zoning practices, or rethink zoning entirely when the "nuisances" we are avoiding are actually social behaviors that make us uncomfortable?

repeated comments on a topic that isn't inspiring much conversation.

actually, and FWIW, I very much appreciate your sharing this stuff. little comment from me because i'm trying to digest and understand it. my first time encountering concepts like "new urbanism" and "form based coding".

thanks sapient

repeated comments on a topic that isn't inspiring much conversation.

Well, I think it's more that it's getting discussion, rather than rants. It's good to have a few non-rants occasionally. Even if we do need to rant now and then to take the pressure off.

Thanks for the positive feedback. It is nice to learn about different ways that people of good will are trying to make things better, even if they haven't settled on a solution.

Interesting. This part was the key for me:

One of the consistent critiques of form-based code from low-income housing advocates has been that it cuts the public out of the development review process. Instead, residents articulate what they want their neighborhood to look like up front and planners write that vision into the zoning rules.

I was having trouble figuring out what the heck form-based codes actually were, why I don't remember ever hearing about this thing that is apparently a thing, how they fit into my own concept of 'New Urbanism', or how public participation (and the criticism thereof) figured in to it.

That quote makes me think one of the big ideas is basically to front load the (local) public participation component, rather than dribble it out in an interminable series of ad-hoc veto points. Cutting the public out of the review process is a feature, not a bug.

I think that makes a lot of sense. It's sort of like writing down a diet plan up front, rather than letting your lizard brain make its own decision every time a donut crosses your path.

I would imagine it also helps align incentives a bit better: the major (new urbanist) criticism of the sort of hyperlocal community planning processes the quote above is pining for is that those overprivilege tightly concentrated inconveniences against far larger, but more diffuse, benefits.

For example, it's very easy* to show up to one meeting every couple of years -- just the project in your neighborhood -- and complain about the noise or imaginary parking problems it will create. Much harder, as an affordable housing advocate, major employer, or other city leader, to show up to hundreds upon hundreds of such meetings and convince people that this or that particular smallish project in their backyard is critical to solving the city's systematic housing supply shortage.

But those diffuse beneficiaries *could* arrange to be better represented in a more up front process that lays out general goals and vision for the area. That part of form-based code, at least, seems like a good idea.

(And in that light, I'm not sure how some of Inniss' critique makes much sense. She criticizes 'charrette' processes for being unrepresentative, serving entrenched power structures, and potentially failing to capture city- or higher level concerns, like infrastructural and environmental impacts. But these are all problems with existing structures, and, aside from the incentive issues, which goes unmentioned, she's just reiterating New Urbanist criticisms of *those*. Even as she seemingly portrays New Urbanists themselves as variously confused species of bright-eyed Utopian, and existing planning structures as being somewhat well-justified. Maybe I'm still not getting something, because it's kinda weird.)

-----
* Especially if you're an older, conservative white dude with time on his hands, who tend to be very much over-represented in such assemblies.

I've got to say that I'm struggling with how "residents articulate what they want their neighborhood to look like" constitutes "cuts the public out of the development review process". Huh???

It's sort of like writing down a diet plan up front, rather than letting your lizard brain make its own decision every time a donut crosses your path.

Damn it! I knew I was doing it wrong.

Houston dispensed with zoning altogether and has apparently not turned into a hellhole.

my lizard brain keeps telling me to lie down on that rock.

Houston dispensed with zoning altogether and has apparently not turned into a hellhole.

Houston does have regulatory ordinances though some of which pertain to land use.

I haven't been to Houston much as an adult, but I do recall finding it strange to see a cow walking around a lot that seemed to be otherwise urban, so there's that.

my lizard brain keeps telling me to lie down on that rock.

Seems worth listening.

Is it a nice warm rock? Those are the best rocks.

I haven't been to Houston much as an adult, but I do recall finding it strange to see a cow walking around a lot that seemed to be otherwise urban, so there's that.

This occurs a lot in Texas because property owners don't have to pay property taxes on property that's kept in agricultural production. Just a tax on production I think. About a mile from where I live there's a herd of Llamas surrounded by a suburban landscape. And about a quarter of a mile away there's a herd of horses.

This occurs a lot in Texas because property owners don't have to pay property taxes on property that's kept in agricultural production.

So. tax law being used to achieve something that, in other places, would be done via zoning.

The tax law is a state law that applies to property in Texas regardless of whether it's in suburban, urban areas or not. And the property can be zoned for, say, single-family housing if it's ever developed.

This occurs a lot in Texas because property owners don't have to pay property taxes on property that's kept in agricultural production.

AFAIK, many states give those kind of tax advantages for land in agricultural use. Oregon for example. If urban agriculture is actually unusually common or extensive in Texas, I'm not sure that explains it.

Many cities do have strict regulations about keeping livestock though. Often under the heading of animal (and/or disease) control, rather than zoning.

When the suburbs bump up against farmland in states without an exemption and the municipality annexes it, the property owners have to develop the land or sell it to someone who will. Otherwise, unless they're wealthy, they wouldn't be able to pay the property taxes. That's how you end up with square miles of unbroken suburbs and other development. In Texas and states like it, you can have open spaces in the middle of large developments.

Some pros and cons.

What impact, good or bad, does Texas's agricultural land property tax exemption have on suburban communities?


My neighborhood. (Google Maps)

It occurs to me to mention that finding something else to talk about besides the (sub) human train wreck engineer who has disabled the brakes, switched all signals to full speed ahead and ordered all bridges ahead dynamited, while all of us are actually ON the train that is careening through the unlit tunnels, running lights dimmed, and entering a curve with the port side wheels off the track as the abyss approaches, seems like a bit of whistling past our own open graves, but I get it.

When the suburbs bump up against farmland in states without an exemption and the municipality annexes it, the property owners have to develop the land or sell it to someone who will.

Like I said, most states have such exemptions.

In fact, this page says every state has them. And that, as a family, their whole raison d'etre is to protect farmland from the encroachment of development and rising property valies in exactly the way you're describing:

All 50 U.S. states provide some form of preferential tax treatment for agricultural land...The majority of States tax farmland...according to the potential earnings from agricultural production, rather than the full market value of the property. The goal of these programs was to limit farmers’ tax liability based on the belief that, in many areas, farmland market values were predominantly driven by the potential conversion to non-agricultural uses, such as housing or commercial development.

I'm not saying Texas ain't special somehow, but whatever that somehow is, the bare existence of a farm tax exemption isn't it.

Maybe there's something unusually lenient about eligibility for farm status in Texas (your quora link insinuates that many so-called 'farms' aren't really). Or maybe it's something else entirely.

Texas (your quora link insinuates that many so-called 'farms' aren't really).

I think that's probably the case with some of the open spaces near me. The property owners lease to or hire someone to plant and harvest grain every year to maintain the land's agricultural status. I doubt they're making much, if any, profit off it. But they're likely saving 10's or 100's of thousands of dollars in taxes.

whistling past our own open graves

Well why not? It's not like whistling is any less likely to stop the train than weeping and gnashing our teeth.

Nice pad, CharlesWT.

There are agricultural breaks where I live too, and I might actually be able to finesse one of them, but I would need to try harder to sell stuff that I produce. Avoiding taxes is a full time job! Mostly, I'd rather just pay them (although a friend of mine made a bad mistake with her IRA - yikes).

Nice pad, CharlesWT.

If you're referring to the marker on the Google Map, it marks the offices, weight room, etc. of the apartment complex I live in.

Most of this area was still farmland just a few decades ago. Many of the remaining open spaces are owned by the original farm families.

Most of this area was still farmland just a few decades ago. Many of the remaining open spaces are owned by the original farm families.

Albemarle County, where I live, was also farmland fairly recently. Farmland goes away as soon as famers (especially when they get old, or they die and their kids don't want to farm) make more money selling their land to developers. Not sure how this is different in Texas.

I'm sure small landowners did sell to developers. But several of the large landowners still have large tracts of land that haven't been developed yet.

The town I grew up in on Long Island was farms about 25 years before I grew up there. Still a couple of farms left, last I was there, 30-odd years ago.

Probably all gone now.

I have friends who have the last working farm in Salem, MA, as far as I know. 2 acres. Their main product is pickles.

They're good pickles.

but I get it.

My secret plan: ignore him and maybe he'll go away.

The property owners lease to or hire someone to plant and harvest grain every year to maintain the land's agricultural status.

I meant more like 'just sign this form that says its a farm. they never bother to check'.

But what you're describing pretty much makes them actual farms. As long as it's planted in soybeans *now*, I doubt the state knows or cares about whether the owner secretly thinks it'd be the perfect place to plant a Costco *someday*, once the demand rises enough.

Doesn't sound like they're necessarily even losing money, in an accounting sense (maybe in an economic one, with opportunity costs, but that depends on how saturated the area already is with Costcos).

But what you're describing pretty much makes them actual farms.

My impression is that they may be just going through the motions. They often wait too long before cutting and baling the grain. They don't bother to combine it anymore. Then they may leave the bales in the field exposed to the weather for months before hauling them away.

But several of the large landowners still have large tracts of land that haven't been developed yet.

Holding out for a buyer willing to pay a premium for a big contiguous plot?

If there's anything different about Texas, I imagine it could be the sheer size and number of such parcels. If they all hold out for top dollar, it could be awhile before enough buyers come along to make them disappear.

Otherwise, the dynamic doesn't sound so different from any other rapidly expanding suburban area in the last 60 years or so.

Some of the parcels that I'm aware of have been surrounded by development for decades. Even over fifty years. From time to time a section may be sliced off for housing or other development.

Trump Winery is in Albemarle County, along a road which is still mostly farmland. Trump bought it from the Kluges.

There are a lot of wealthy estate owners here.

I've been doing some reading. Everywhere you throw a stone around here is a former Lewis property (as in the Meriwether Lewis family - mostly the grandfather, who owned much of what exists hereabouts). The Lewis descendants still live around here. Some are moderately wealthy, and live on some of their ancestral land. The ones I've met are incredibly nice and interesting people, with politics that are similar to mine. They grow grapes and apples.

About the ancestors: https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2020/01/12/york-slave-lewis-clark-expedition/

Charlottesville City (not big) is struggling with zoning issues, as I mentioned. The University of Virginia owns a huge amount of acreage, not all obviously used for educational purposes. In future hobby reading, I need to figure out how UVA allocates its land usage.

Most of the places in my county (Essex County MA) that have survived development, have done so because they're either publicly owned or are owned by land trusts or land banks of some kind. Some of the larger agricultural holdings fall into the land bank category, where a non-profit owns the land and they license it to somebody to farm.

I live very near - like, within a mile - to a number of smaller chunks of open land - 5 or 10 or acres, up to 25 - but most of those have been left open because they're unbuildable, either because they're ledge or they're swamp or they're estuaries. The "25 acre" parcel around the block from me is probably 50% water. It's a great place for bird watching or just to take a walk, I'm glad to live near it.

There are towns in my general area where lots of a quarter or even half acre are normal, but where I live specifically a quarter acre is a really big lot. Unusually big. My house and every house in my neighborhood is on 1/8 acre. There are a couple of areas near me where there are houses on larger lots, but those are really really expensive, like multiple millions of dollars.

The real estate in my area has basically been accounted for - carved up, parcelled out, and developed for one purpose or another - for a really long time. Hundreds of years in some cases. The zoning laws are in many cases also quite old, and in MA require a supermajority to change if I'm not mistaken. There are some areas that are building up - many of the larger homes and a lot of the commercial real estate in downtown Salem has been converted to condos, and quite a lot of it was built as multi-family in the first place. Beverly (next town up the coast) has a lot of multi-story construction going on in the downtown.

In Salem, they just tried to change the zoning by-laws to allow for accessory housing, which basically means something like in-law apartments - a separate, secondary living area, carved out of the primary residence or perhaps an out-building like a garage. It has a lot of support in the town, because a lot of old-school townies are getting priced out and they'd like to try to figure out a way to stay in Salem. It got a majority, but not a super-majority, of the town council, so it did not pass.

Zoning laws in this area are generally the province of local government, which is often run by the fairly small number of people who actually show up for things like town meetings or who actually bother to run for city council or similar. My town still runs on town meeting, has done since 1639. We have about 20K population, if 1,000 people show up for town meeting I'd be surprised.

It's really expensive to live here. It seems normal to us, but then when we talk to people who live elsewhere, it can kind of freak you out. When my wife and I were looking for houses, we once went to an open house where there was a couple who were relocating from North Carolina. The woman was crying, right in the middle of the living room, because she was so upset at what the options were for their price range.

I do, personally, know a small, but not insignificant, number of people who are literally homeless. Working people, responsible people, with kids. Just not enough money.

It's a thing.

Not worrying at all...
https://phys.org/news/2020-01-climate-paris-goals.html
New climate models show carbon dioxide is a more potent greenhouse gas than previously understood, a finding that could push the Paris treaty goals for capping global warming out of reach...

I was curious about russell's description of the Salem situation, so I googled and got this.

I am not sympathetic to zoning boards lately.

A lot of farms in New Jersey (and I'd guess many other similarly situated places) are more like farm-themed amusement parks, particularly in the fall.

"Hey, let's go out barely, kind of not really, into the country with the kids, along with a thousand other people who decided to do the same thing. It's fall!"

Every family spends between $50 and $200 on hayride tickets, pumpkin picking, apple picking, buying gallons of cider and dozens of apple cider doughnuts, cute little farmy knick-knacks, jarred preserves, etc. Those places are gold mines, I tell ya. They're raking it in hand over fist.

Millionaires in beat-up pickup trucks.

Here in Plano, TX the city recently changed the zoning for single-family properties to allow the building of detached dwellings if the lots are large enough. This would make it easier for empty nesters to remain in the neighborhoods they raised their families in. And generally, make housing more flexible and efficient.

I am not sympathetic to zoning boards lately.

I'm assuming the Salem zoning board is elected locally. I am not sure I agree with Sapient. For the reasons below, the decision is not irrational at all. But even if it runs counter to local sentiment, at least the matter is LOCAL (assuming my assumption is correct), it only affects local citizens and, most importantly, there is a reasonably viable and democratic remedy.

Now, imagine if the decision was made nationally, and not by congress, but by an administrative agency within HUD. What would be the local homeowner remedy? None as a practical matter. Moreover, local homeowners lack the means to lobby a federal agency. That privilege is reserved to the largest, deepest pockets.

What I find somewhat problematic about the ruling is that, as people age and retire, they still have to pay property taxes. Having a tenant could go a long way toward defraying property taxes. OTOH, there is a solid argument to make for retaining the character of a single family neighborhood and no one wants a registered sex offender living in the next door neighbor's garage apartment. Once the state gets into trying to spell who can and cannot be excluded from a rental market, all kinds of other issues are implicated and if property taxes are hard on the elderly, try paying for a lawsuit from beginning to end.

IOW, it's not an easy call, but at least it can be addressed within the community with some realistic prospect of being heard as opposed to federal rule making.

Above, Russell laments the cynicism Charles WT and I bring to faith in government. In fact, there are reasons for our antipathy to government and particularly a centralized, administrative state, making decisions for those of us in the hinterlands. That specific reason is that government repeatedly shows itself to be incompetent, e.g. the VA, the US Post Office, DOL (I showed my work with our 600 page 401K form that addresses 20 employees--just stupid, no other word for it), FAA are either notorious or I have had personal and recent experience with them and the experiences were crappy.

Not only are incompetence, lethargy and lack of accountability hallmarks of the state generally, the larger and more diffuse the entity, the more compounded the problem is. Has anyone been fired by the FAA over the 737 Max disaster? When was the last time a VA employee got axed for incompetence/nonfeasance? It just doesn't happen.

Add to this that no one even makes a pretense of wanting to overhaul an agency or a department to try to make it better. When I hear "Medicare for All", I think "VA" plus "Ok, and what's left for everything else, including Climate Change?" plus "It will be screwed up and it will be the only game in town, immune from meaningful change".

So, more cowbell, so to speak, is not a self-evident argument for adding new and different federal tentacles.


Japan seems to have made nationwide zoning work. Probably wouldn't work here even if it were constitutional. I'm always wary of one size fits all approaches to anything.

"According to the Journal, the Japanese capital of nearly some 13 million people saw the construction of 145,000 new housing units started in 2018—more than New York City, Los Angeles, Houston, and Boston combined. The country as a whole has managed to add close to the same amount of new housing as the U.S., despite having about half the population.

All this new housing construction has kept rents relatively flat, with the average cost of renting a two-bedroom apartment in Tokyo hovering at $1,000 a month for the past decade. That's well below median monthly rents for the two-bedroom apartments in, say, Los Angeles ($1,750), New York City ($2,500), or San Francisco ($3,110)."
NIMBYs Argue New Housing Supply Doesn't Make Cities Affordable. They're Wrong.: Tokyo is a shining example of how free-market housing regulations can keep even big, growing cities affordable.

Of course, a two-bedroom apartment in Tokyo might be smaller than an efficiency here.

I'm assuming the Salem zoning board is elected locally.

It was actually city council that 86'd the proposal, but city council is locally elected, so your point holds.

The basic issue of housing in Salem, and in Essex County in general, is pretty much a function of median cost of housing vs median income.

The Census says median household income in Salem is about $65K, median owner-occupied home value is $347,200. Zillow's take on median home value in 01970 is $410K.

So, order of magnitude, it costs 5 or 6 times your annual salary to buy a house in Salem.

Median rent is about $1200, which sounds not so bad, but it won't get you much.

It costs more to live there than most people make. And, a lot of the people that live here come from families that have lived here for, like, ever. Many, many generations.

Salem's attractive because it's only about a half hour from Boston on the train, it's a compact and walkable small city, and there's a lot going on here in terms of arts and food and culture, at all economic levels. You can easily live there without a car. Younger folks like the social environment.

So, townies and young families get priced out.

I could maybe see the NIMBY argument if Salem was some kind of bucolic suburban town, but most of the downtown is multi-family already. Either commercial / industrial space that's been converted to condos, or big old houses that have been converted to condos, or block after block of good old New England triple deckers.

So, probably not a good move by the council. And, as McK points out, one that will probably factor into the next election cycle.

And that's the news from Salem.

As far as whether and how badly government sucks, I'm happy to go toe to toe with most folks as far as dumb-ass annoying or even sheerly incompetent interactions with government actors. Any time you try to fit a set of rules around reality, you will fail in ways large and small. Any time you evolve an organization with more the 20 people and / or a budget bigger than maybe $100K, you are going to be pulling a dead-weight ton of inefficiency and inertia, uphill both ways.

It costs my wife and I something like $700 a year to have our taxes prepared. It takes my wife a solid week to assemble all of the various bits and pieces that go into it. And we don't actually have all the complicated a financial picture. I work for a salary, on a W-2. It used to be worse, when my wife was working, because she was self-employed and claimed her home office.

It's true, government sucks. It's an intrusive, annoying, inefficient beast.

The absence of government is worse.

My position as regards government is : it's not going anywhere, it's a thing that humans do, have always done, always will do. Best to quit bitching and try to make it as good as you can.

Best to quit bitching and try to make it as good as you can.

Well, we don't have to grow it. We can actually insist that it fix its current problems before giving it more access to our personal and professional lives.

We can do that. No one, from left to right, is actually proposing that we do so, but it is theoretically something that can and should be done. The current situation is why I am not warm to more stuff.

there is a solid argument to make for retaining the character of a single family neighborhood and no one wants a registered sex offender living in the next door neighbor's garage apartment.

Perhaps things are different in Texas. But in California (if I've understood the law correctly) state law already bars registered sex offenders from living in proximity to a school. Which, in practical terms, means suburbia is closed -- there are just too many schools scattered around.

Also, I'd be interested in hearing just what those solid arguments are for retaining "single family neighborhoods". Assuming I'm correct that you don't include a) apartments (even if rented to families) and b) neighborhood stores.

The current situation is why I am not warm to more stuff.

Without necessarily agreeing about how all of the implications of that play out, I can certainly understand your point of view here.

Well, we don't have to grow it [government]. We can actually insist that it fix its current problems before giving it more access to our personal and professional lives.

It might be noted that part (only a part, but definitely part) of the problem with government comes from people who dislike it on principle trying to "starve the beast". Something like the VA suffers, among other things, from being required to provide services beyond what they have budget for. If you don't have enough people, or money to afford competent people, well to some extent you get what you are willing to pay for.

All that's over and above the problems you see in any large organization. Problems which, obviously, are not due to it being government per se.

All this new housing construction has kept rents relatively flat, with the average cost of renting a two-bedroom apartment in Tokyo

aren't houses in Japan commonly torn down when the lot changes hands? the house itself has very little value after a couple of decades, as opposed to the land which is always valuable.

The VA:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5215146/

An earlier survey:

https://www.military.com/daily-news/2014/04/17/va-hospitals-earn-high-patient-satisfaction-scores.html

Conservative trump clowns are not interested in improving the VA, they want to destroy it, as it conflicts with their ideology, which is to reward the conservatives who bankroll the republican party.

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2019/10/17/former-va-secretary-details-dysfunction-chaos-within-the-trump-administration/

https://www.businessinsider.com/david-shulkin-shadow-government-undermined-him-planned-his-ouster-2019-10

The FAA and the 737MAX:

https://www.dcreport.org/2019/11/08/boeing-737-max-how-deregulation-kills-people/

https://www.wsj.com/articles/faa-saw-737-max-flight-control-system-as-non-critical-safety-risk-11557831723

More articles from multiple sources:

https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=FAA+handed+over+regulation+of+the+737MAX++to+Boeing

Including:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/09/business/boeing-737-messages.html

Boeing executives and engineers, like VW and Wells Fargo executives whose corruption was minimized (it was the fault of those lower down and the regulators who were deceived and lied to to protect the almighty bottom line, not the management who directed the corruption, we were told by conservatives on these pages at the time) given wide latitude to regulate themselves and the safety of their products lied and covered up the problems with the 737 MAX in their communications with regulators at the FAA.

and:

https://www.npr.org/2019/10/26/773675393/boeings-cultural-shift

After Boeing's merger with McDonnell Douglas years ago, the engineering contingent at the company, proud of their product and its safety, were hamstrung and gagged regarding their doubts regarding the plane by the McDonnell Douglas leadership who assumed control of management at the company solely for bottom-line reasons and the contempt they share with regulation-adverse conservatives, who should be fired en masse, or worse, for the murder of hundreds of passengers and crew for government regulation.

If you are against regulation and cheer deregulation, you are the problem in this instance.

The U.S. Post Office: What precisely is the problem?

DOL: No one likes paperwork and 600 pages is excessive. The regulators in this case dot every "i" and cross every "t". When they do, they get flack; when they don't, and opportunistic Americans take advantage of the oversight, we want them fired.

Firing Federal Workers:

https://work.chron.com/can-fired-civil-service-jobs-19492.html

To permit the Federal Government to fire at will would result in a corrupt spoils system in which politicians would plant their families, their friends, their donors, and whatever corrupt know-nothing hangers-onners curry favor throughout the government, which is how it worked before laws were passed to stop the practice.

The Trump Administration and the Republican Party have nevertheless instituted their own spoils system throughput the bureaucracy by hook and by crook.

They have created a truly, malignant and corrupt Deep State.

It will be overthrown violently.

I would think regulators who don't regulate (shouldn't they be given the Medal of Freedom for their private sector friendliness, rather than fired?) would be almost as good as no regulators at all for those against regulation across the board, but I'd be naive to think such a thing.

Why has Lockheed Martin not been fired for its F-35 disaster?

When will Mark Zuckerberg take some personal responsibility for the depredations of his company?


We can actually insist that it fix its current problems

Maybe that's just an unfortunate turn of phrase, but as written it suggests a pretty deep disconnect with how stuff actually happens. It's the equivalent of crashing a car, and then declaring "I'm not going to tow that stupid thing to the mechanic until it fixes its current problems." That's just not how this works. It's not how any of this works.

It might be noted that part (only a part, but definitely part) of the problem with government comes from people who dislike it on principle trying to "starve the beast".

Some of the other parts of the problem come from associated attitudes those same people often hold, the kind of people they then elect to make decisions, and the way those electeds set up and run our institutions of government.

Conservatives love incompetent government and encourage it.

The better to kill it.

I'm convinced.

I'm going to kill it.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)