Exactly two things wrong with Cleveland

I’ve lived here going on 32 years and I’m finally figuring out some things that should have been obvious much sooner.

Real Estate is a Cost, not a Solution

Cleveland insists on doing “economic development” backwards. We put boatloads of money and effort (and displacement) into large and small construction projects that are supposed to “drive development.” That is not how economics works. If you’re classically trained, you read Ricardo, Malthus, and George; they say “the rent of land is not at all proportioned to what the landlord may have laid out, but to what the tenant can afford.”

The point is that real estate is an extractive endeavor, not a productive one. When you put buildings first, the developers get all the money. Period. This is why we are still poor.

Misapplied technocracy

Cleveland is always looking for a controversy-free technocratic way of avoiding the most glaring political and social problems. We can have a thousand slideshows on why (let’s just say) an express bus to Solon is a good thing, but nobody wants to address the fact that Solon is designed to be inaccessible because people there wanted it that way. Tweak it all you want and they’ll tweak back, faster and more cheaply.

Same goes for nonsense like the Corruption Corridor, which got sold on technocratic grounds but is a social and economic nightmare. Ditto things like the timing of traffic signals on the Health Line (because we don’t dare inconvenience car drivers) and our pathetic implementation of bike lanes (same). These all went badly because the decision makers blew off all equity concerns and did what was easiest.

It’s really simple.

When you use planning jargon to avoid making political decisions like “is segregation okay?” and “are poor people mere obstacles?” and “who benefits from this new highway?” you are enabling the worst possible decisions.

Summary, two main points.

  1. If your “economic development” program has a lot of land transactions and construction in it, you’re working for the real estate people, not the public.
  2. If your “regional planning” doesn’t start by addressing equity and political concerns, you will create a dysfunctional mess that (among other things) puts all the jobs where nobody can get to them.

Most of our political leaders simply don’t understand these two things. They get ahead by being friends with everyone and not offending people with power, but nothing about this system cultivates problem solving. So we get politicians who are cuddly but not big thinkers.

Additionally: The Community Development Corporations (CDCs) don’t have much influence over Point 2, but they’re a big part of the Point 1 problem. They have an incentive to do land deals because a) they get paid to do land deals; and b) it’s kind of hard to justify the “development” part of the job if you start saying no to real estate people.

“Seven Projects” that will make money for developers

Rising: seven projects that will change the face of Cleveland

The fact that of seven “projects” every single one is a real estate deal is precisely what is wrong with Cleveland. Exactly zero cities have become prosperous from real estate development, unless the way you’re keeping score is by how well the developers are doing.

Also, nice swipe at the so-called “naysayers” there, who in this case are 100% on point.

Will they pave paradise and put up a parking lot?

2017 is Cleveland’s Year of Vibrant Green Space! Hooray!

Last year, 2016, was the Year of Sustainable Transportation. Highlights included:

  • New bike lanes on West 25th that make no sense whatsoever (okay, that was actually in 2015);
  • Starting construction on a $300,000,000.00 highway that goes from the East 55th station on the Red Line to the Cedar Hill (University Circle) station on the Red Line… instead of, you know, potentially upgrading the Red Line at far less cost; and
  • Opening the renovated Public Square, bisected by a stretch of Superior Avenue built only for buses… but blockading the bus lanes.

I don’t mean to be critical or anything, but I can’t help imagining how well this year will go. Will they cut down all the trees along MLK? Spray the zoo with Agent Orange? Pave over the Downtown Mall?

The possibilities are limitless!

 

 

Electoral College reform? nvm

Now that it’s clear that Hillary Clinton won a fairly solid majority of popular votes cast for President, but didn’t come very close to winning the all-important Electors, of course a lot of very good people are getting very interested in reforming, bypassing, or eliminating the Electoral College. They’re wrong. Here’s why.

Continue reading Electoral College reform? nvm

Media Literacy Quick Shot

There’s a lot of chatter over what is and isn’t “fake news.” I think people are missing the point when they start to pick and choose which publications they consider reliable though.

I guess it’s okay to say (for example) that the New York Times is usually pretty reliable because yadda yadda reasons. But that’s a) only a first approximation; and b) subject to the Judy Miller phenomenon, in which they trade on their credibility to feed you some kind of made-up bullshit.

A better idea than keeping a mental list of good and bad news operations is to LEARN HOW TO READ. How to distinguish fact from opinion from speculation. How to identify supporting facts. How to pick out innuendo and discard it. How to question the sources: “Who is this person? What do they claim to know? How do they claim to know it? What is their motivation for telling the truth? If they’re lying, how would we know? Who’s in a position to contradict them? Are they even telling us something they know about firsthand?”

Don’t tell me “This thing was on CNN so it must be right.” Tell me “There are two main facts here and the sources are named and they have reason to know what they’re talking about and they have no incentive to lie.”

End of today’s media lesson.

File under “do you even read what you wrote?”

So TIME‘s Person of the Year 2016 is Donald J. Trump. That makes sense. He “defines” the year in our culture.

Their description of runner-up Hillary R. Clinton, however, made me go “Do you even read what you wrote? At all?”

Charlotte Alter, a “journalist” for TIME, wrote this about Secretary Clinton:

Expectations certainly missed their target: the race between the first plausible female presidential candidate and a man who bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy” did not boil down to gender. In interviews across the country in the year leading up to the election, many voters suggested that shattering the glass ceiling wasn’t an urgent priority for them. Some took it as a given that a woman will be President one day, and it wasn’t worth electing someone they believed was the wrong woman just to show it could be done.

Did not. Boil down. To gender.

Look at Alter’s justification: If “glass ceiling” doesn’t win, if “a woman will be President” anyway someday, then it’s not about gender. This is exactly why it’s about gender. People in media read being a woman as some ticket that will get you cool things like the White House; they don’t view overt sexism as a real thing that matters. Which is why they write puff pieces about being “the first” this and that but hardly any analysis of what’s going on with the “alt right” racist white nationalist movement that is also heavy with those GamerGate dudes and the “pickup artist” culture.

It wouldn’t be exactly right to say this election was about gender. It was more about race, and there were a lot of other factors that my readers are already familiar with, but much of it boils down to toxic “bro culture.”

In fact, the article even quotes a Clinton supporter saying as much:

“Hillary did everything right, she checked all the boxes, and clearly that doesn’t really win,” says Ramsini, an attorney in Columbus, Ohio. “If a woman can’t beat this guy, then who can she beat?”

So yeah, kind of a weird statement that the election “didn’t boil down to gender.” It kind of did.

One of many memes that must die.

The United States is a republic, not a democracy.

People say that like it’s the most insightful thing ever, but it’s meaningless. It’s like saying your dog is an animal, not a pet.

These things are not opposites, nor are they mutually exclusive.

If you want to say “a republic, not a direct democracy,” you might be onto something at least factual. But you know exactly why the people who love to say this don’t use the qualifier: it’s a sophomoric debating trick to deflect any legitimate criticism of our system as being undemocratic.

Us: “Voter purges are undemocratic!” Them: “It’s a republic, not a democracy!” Er, that’s not on point but it sounds cool if you’re gullible.

I’m pretty sure Rumsfeld would endorse this.

Can we be clear on this one bit of meta-bullshit?

Suppose hypothetically that I am telling you that your hair is on fire. By that I’m really saying two things:

0. Your hair is in fact on fire.
1. I know for a fact that #0 is true. I’m not just guessing.

Now if I randomly tell a stranger their hair is on fire without even bothering to look at their hair? That’s a lie EVEN IF their hair happens to be on fire.

When Trump says that X number of people voted illegally, the fact that he has no idea whether that’s true or not doesn’t make it not a lie. It’s a lie because he’s asserting knowledge that he absolutely doesn’t have.

Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns

Remember this fantastic statement by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld?

[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

Trump here is going into a new quadrant: The unknown knowns! These are the things we supposedly know, but we have no way of knowing we know them.

(Oddly, Wikipedia has a really interesting analysis of this thing called “the Johari Window” that applies.)