Morning Ed: United States {2016.11.23.W}


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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128 Responses

  1. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Re: Map

    From Wiki:
    “The city’s metropolitan area is grouped with the New York metropolitan area by the United States Census Bureau,[23] but directly borders the Philadelphia metropolitan area…”

    That explains NJ.Report

    • Avatar PD Shaw says:

      There’s a study that finds a correlation btw/ states w/ capitols outside the state’s largest metropolitan area and state corruption. How this appears to operate is that in places like Illinois and Louisiana, the media pays less attention and gives less importance to state politics, so state government quality suffers. In the case of New Jersey, it’s a little less obvious, but the point remains that the state has its Phili directed region and its NYC directed region, w/ Trenton straddling the line.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        This is depressingly logical. Hmmm.Report

        • Avatar PD Shaw says:

          What’s depressing is that if the media coverage is the prime determiner, the shrinking state-focused media might mean poorer governance for everyone.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        TRenton is approximately 2 hours drive from NYC. No one local would consider the two cities linked in a meaningful way.Report

        • Avatar Jon Rowe says:

          I think you can get from Trenton to NYC in less than an hour if there is no traffic.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            You’re right that it’s closer if we’re going from Lower Manhattan, which is probably a fairer starting point. I live outside Upper Manhattan so that tends to be my frame of reference. Google tells me the cities are 67 miles apart. If you find a time where there is no traffic between either city, I owe you a beer.Report

      • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

        Pointer to that study, please?

        It’s a plausible story, but given that there aren’t very many states where the capital (the city that contains the capitol, the building that the legislature votes in) is located in the state’s largest metro (Census MSA?), and even fewer states where the capital is simultaneously the dominant MSA of the state and halfway decent in size, I wonder about overfitting.Report

        • Avatar PD Shaw says:

          “We show that isolated capital cities are robustly associated with greater levels of corruption across US states. In particular, this is the case when we use the variation induced by the exogenous location of a state’s centroid to instrument for the concentration of population around the capital city. We then show that different mechanisms for holding state politicians accountable are also affected by the spatial distribution of population: newspapers provide greater coverage of state politics when their audiences are more concentrated around the capital, and voter turnout in state elections is greater in places that are closer to the capital. Consistent with lower accountability, there is also evidence that there is more money in state-level political campaigns in those states with isolated capitals. We find that the role of media accountability helps explain the connection between isolated capitals and
          corruption. In addition, we provide some evidence that this pattern is also associated with lower levels of public good spending and outcomes.”

          Isolated Capital Cities, Accountability and Corruption: Evidence from US States

          That link goes to an NPR article, but if you google “Isolated Captal CIties” you should find a lot of working papers on the topic.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

            That would explain Albany.Report

          • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

            Cool: many, many thanks! That should make some good reading for the weekend. Certainly beats watching live TV of millionaire sociopaths beating each other up in strange rituals (or, for college sports, aspiring millionaire sociopaths). Congress is not in session, or we would have other millionaire sociopaths and aspiring millionaire sociopaths to watch engaging in other strange rituals.

            Trump is of course in Twitter session, but he reassures me that he’s a billionaire sociopath.Report

  2. Why do you say Pueblo should be Colorado’s capital?Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Free up some Denver real estate and give Pueblo a purpose!Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Hosting the struggling state fair isn’t enough of a purpose?Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          I remember when I was young, Colorado was a hub for mail-in stuff. Both mail-order businesses and send-us-a-self-addressed-stamp-for-a-free stuff. I remember Pueblo in particular being in the TV ads, and Aurora. Perhaps relatedly and perhaps not, when I mail-ordered comic books it tended to be from Mile High Comics (guess which state they’re based out of).

          I wonder why. Were there laws like those that make South Dakota and Delaware bank and credit card homes?Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain says:

            I also remember those commercials telling you to send your request to Pueblo. Pueblo was the hub for a lot of stuff because since 1971 it’s one of two distribution centers for the US Government Publishing Office (formerly Government Printing Office). Often the free stuff turned out to be obscure government publications. But once the government established its presence, the Postal Service there was geared to handle bulk mailings and there was trained workforce for private operations as well.

            Blair, Nebraska used to be the “call this 800 number for information” capital of the country because, due to some peculiarities in the way the Bell System charged for long distance, it had lower average costs for calls from all the major metro areas than anywhere else. It was also in the region where the local accent comes closest to General American.Report

          • Avatar Pinky says:

            Yes, you’re right. I’d completely forgotten about Colorado being the mail-in capital of my youth.Report

  3. Avatar J_A says:

    Renn’s urban-rural article is quite disappointing. He doesn’t really say anything new, challenging or original..

    To bring up discussion, on my limited experience, the best urban-rural integration example I’ve seen in the USA so far is the North Carolina Piedmont: A string of medium sized cities (Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Fayetteville) a short distance from each other, with a myriad of small towns in between (including the original Mayberry, Mount Airy)

    The cities provide jobs, economic growth, services, culture, etc., all of which are accesible to nearby rural communities, and, more importantly, provide a market for high value added, more labor intensive, rural production (vegetables, fruits) that are replacing the tobacco staple. The cities are not too big, and the countryside is never more than a 15 minutes drive away.

    Geography is in this case destiny. The hilly region in unsuitable for the industrialized monoculture agriculture of the Great Plains. You need very few people to exploit vast acres of corn or wheat (or sugar cane). You just need big machinery. Likewise for extensive cattle raising. You can herd thousands of animals with a handful of people. But vegetable and fruit farming is not machine friendly and requires more people.

    To have a more vibrant ruralia, a better bet is thus to focus on producing more high value agricultural products: organic, farm to table, seasonal vegetables and fruits, different varieties of meats, etc. (hey, I’m no expert here, can I get some help?).

    Curiously, because such products are associated in the mind of conservatives with the arugula eating, hippy loving, Guardian reading, coastal, elitist, left, there’s a reluctance of many people in rural areas to entertain the change (*). They’d rather cling to the way it was before, while agricultural industrialization decimates their jobs and their towns

    (*) NC farmers are being encouraged to replace tobacco with indigo as a crop, and some are doing it. Indigo thrives in the same conditions as tobacco, and, unlike tobacco, the demand is growing. But for many, producing a dye for rich organic jeans lovers in NYC and CA is still a bridge too far.Report

    • Avatar J_A says:

      More geography is destiny

      The Hill Country (figure of speech) area around San Antonio and Austin is also showing a thriving agricultural economy, focused on the small farm techniques and products of Central Europe (from where the area settlers came). We now even have a surprisingly good Texas wine.

      The “hilly” (yeah, sure, keep believing) nature of the region has been an impediment for the intrualization of the agricultural production, and has preserved the old small farms instead of consolidating them into large units.

      On the other side, the vast flat lands in Fort Bend county, just west of Houston, that used to be large, industrialized, rice paddies and sugar plantations, are now built up as exurbs, a 90 minute commute twice a day, or just lay fallow.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        We now even have a surprisingly good Texas wine.

        Surprising in the sense that it’s drinkable, which is surprising.

        Also, it really isn’t very hilly, is it? I was just at Pedernales Falls for a weekend, and hiking around the river, I was reminded that I used to hike and camp a lot here, where hiking up a hill meant hiking up a real fishin’ hill.Report

        • Avatar J_A says:

          I make fun of the Texas Hill Country because in my first visit there, with friends that have a summer house near Austin, I spent all day waiting for the hills. It was only in the evening, back at their home, that I found out we had spent the full day traversing the Hill Country in all directions.

          Honest to god, I only noticed a couple of rock outcrops, while waiting for the Pennsylvania-like rolling hills. Though I’ll admit that the place is not completely flat, since there’s like a slope (similar to a highway ramp) that it’s noticeable here and there.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine says:

        Good comment, J_A. I agree that the original article veered off into simple federalism (which I’m sympathetic to) rather than really focusing on the Urban/Sub-Urban/Rural situations.

        I do a lot of work in North Carolina, and agree completely that the state benefits from a decent distribution of City and Country… Wilmington on the coast, Raleigh/Durham, Charlotte, and maybe someday again, Winston-Salem (plus other pods here and there).

        That’s something that a lot of folks don’t pick-up when we ruralites talk about cities… we like cities; we’re less excited perhaps about megalopoloi (or is that megalopoleis?). Or, to paraphrase Chesterton, the problem with Urbanism isn’t too many Urbs, but too few.

        For all the reasons you note above, cities are critical for towns and rural life; one important distinction I’d make is that rural life is not all commodity agriculture, or even just agriculture. Its a pretty diversified living for most folks; even if you are primarily engaged in agriculture, the skills, resources, and time lend themselves to lots of income producing endeavors in town or in the city… and now with the internet, flex time and home offices we’re seeing an increasing number of green-collar workers, professionals who also run businesses based on products from the land. Rural people need lawyers, plumbers, carpenters, welders, doctors and shopkeepers too. If 100% of the people around are engaged in commodity crops, you are in a rural desert with regards opportunity.

        The key to 21st century yeomanry is diversification, difficult or perishable products (the original subscription model), adding value to products, and accessible markets… a lot like any other business. Capturing more of the food dollar is key (the average commodity farmer captures between 6% and 15% of the dollar you spend at the supermarket). I capture between 60% and 100% – for a higher priced product. I have to carry my own sales, marketing and distribution costs; but local distributed sales is a very low cost to carry – but it is ranked as one of the least liked things that the modern ruralist needs to do. Or, as I’ve commented elsewhere there are thousands of opportunities for local distribution networks and businesses to fill in the gaps.

        There is much more to say, but the bottom line is that rural folks want more cities… but they want their cities to be theirs; and not to be mere resource exploiters (and exploitees) for distant cities. That’s the current divide Rural/City divide that isn’t being talked about.Report

        • Avatar J_A says:


          A hundred times this

          This is what we all need to understand, if we are going to break the rural/urban, and the left/right divideReport

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          So maybe they don’t want cities so much as they want towns. A subtle distinction, but wouldn’t you picture “a really big town” as being something distinct from “a medium-size city”?Report

          • Avatar Marchmaine says:

            Both, really. There’s no need to parse precisely when a town becomes a city… just that there are towns and that there are cities adequate/appropriate to the regionReport

          • Avatar Murali says:

            What’s the difference between a really big town and a medium or small sized city?Report

            • Avatar Marchmaine says:

              I don’t know, but if folks are having an argument over whether really big town near Flyover, USA is really a small city, then we’re probably having a pointless but hopefully optimistic argument.

              But I suspect that was not the real question you wanted to ask?Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              A “city” is an entity in itself, which engages with similar entities from long distances; a “town” is a higher-density portion of a larger, low-density region that has little traffic outside that region. A large town may have a urban-ish core including some tall buildings, but it’s more likely to be a government and administrative center than an industrial or shipping point (the latter being what a city would have).Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


          What does it mean for the cities to be theirs? Does it mean no liberalism/cultural stuff?Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      I love indigo.

      This is enough to cause a million conservatives to spasm.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      NC farmers are being encouraged to replace tobacco with indigo as a crop, and some are doing it. Indigo thrives in the same conditions as tobacco, and, unlike tobacco, the demand is growing. But for many, producing a dye for rich organic jeans lovers in NYC and CA is still a bridge too far.

      I’ve seen variations on this theme before, and I can understand that a skilled and experienced worker doesn’t want to work in a hotel to get by, but resisting lateral shifts is stupid.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        Also indigo can be used to dye more than jeans but there is a huge market for naturally dyed indigo jeans.

        I wonder if a lot of people have a hard time understanding what a lateral move is. To be fair, you also see a lot of employers who insist that something is not a lateral move when it is because they are holding out for someone with identical experience rather than someone who needs minor retraining.

        People get stuck in their ways and identities. I don’t know how much of this is cultural resentment and how much of this was “My grandfather was a tobacco farmer. My father was a tobacco farmer and I’ve been a tobacco farmer for 15 years! Tradition!!”Report

      • Indigo is also a difficult choice for people who think Galileo was wrong.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Do you really think resistance to new crops is culture war (“Damn hippies!”) or culture (“My grandpappy planted tobaccy, my pappy planted tobaccy, and I’m gonna plant tobaccy!”)Report

      • Avatar J_A says:

        I get a fuzzy feeling that it’s both

        Tobacco replaced by potatoes, that’s fine. Gramps did tobacco, I wish I could do tobacco, I want to do tobacco, but there’s nothing wrong about potatoes.

        Tobacco replaced by arugula? You know that arugula is a dirty word in some places (or so says an urban legend)? Arugula, or indigo, or goat cheese, are not in the radar of the middle America rural population. So there’s a bigger cultural chasm to cross.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          It’s identity economics! When your identity is tightly tied to a very specific economic activity.

          This is the strength, I think, of GenX and Millenials, a high degree of flexibility when it comes to economic activity. This is manifest in the gig economy. I find it interesting that people who are strongly pro-union and opposed to the gig economy are also troubled by people who can’t switch job tracks easily. But that is what happens when a person does one thing in one place for decades at a time.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          Maybe they need rebranding, sort of like Chilean Sea Bass or rape.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        Well there is certainly resistance for the mocking Southern accent!Report

    • Avatar Aaron David says:

      NC farmers are being encouraged to replace tobacco with indigo as a crop, and some are doing it. Indigo thrives in the same conditions as tobacco, and, unlike tobacco, the demand is growing. But for many, producing a dye for rich organic jeans lovers in NYC and CA is still a bridge too far.

      What are the transition costs? Does indigo use the same type of tractors, drying sheds, and other post harvest technology? How does it sell domestically vs. internationally? Is indigo sold as a commodity and does the market for it exist at the same levels as that for tobacco? Is there a learning curve to its growth, and if there is, who is going to help make up the missing earnings?

      These are the relevant questions, not whether or not the culture war will allow the switch. There is a big push to grow more saffron in Afghanistan, but opium is often the prefered crop as there is a steady international demand for it. Until saffron becomes of greater value, it is going to be opium that is chosen as the base crop for the region. Similar situation with tobacco, with the added bonus that tobacco is legal.Report

      • Avatar J_A says:


        The short answer to your questions is I don’t know. I’m not in the tobacco, or the indigo, industries.

        The less short is that apparently there are enough synergies that some farmers are making the transition, and that whatever PTB are involved, are favoring this transition with capital funds.

        But you seem to be reading me as if the switch from tobacco to indigo is premised in liberals disliking cigarrete smoke, and favoring organically dyed jeans, so we want to force tobacco planters to stop doing it.

        It’s not. The tobacco industry is in crisis. Just like the coal industry is in crisis. Because the market changed

        The thing is, tobacco might be legal, but less and less tobacco is being consumed in America, and American tobacco is not good enough AND too expensive to make it worthwhile to export to China of India, where the bulk of smokers now are. So whomever is growing tobacco today will grow less and less of it and make less and less money in the future. So they better find out what else to grow, if indigo doesn’t work.

        (As an aside, there is, unbeknownst to us, a massive tobacco industry in China. I grasp a little of it by noticing the vast amounts of Chinese cigarettes sold to vessels crossing the Panama Canal for the use of the crews)Report

        • Avatar Aaron David says:

          No, it not that I think this whole idea is predicated on disliking one thing over another, it’s that the costs of change are outweighing the costs to be made in the new commodity. If idigo does become a great cash crop (what tobacco is) most farmers will switch over, as it is a business to the larger ones. Yes, there maybe some weekend farmers that will keep trying to grow tobacco as that is the romantic crop to them, in that the family always grew it. But as there is less and less money to be made the major growers to start to switch out.

          But, and this is what I was trying to get at, the timeline is predicated on all of the questions that I was mentioning above. There are many capital costs that need to be accounted for, also how the product is priced and how great the market for it is. Whether it is a domestic market or an international one is big, as that determines much of the competition (less so in this age of shipping containers, but still.) So it is not a simple act to just switch what seeds are being put in the ground, but rather a large set of questions to be answered by each individual grower.

          Most likely, as the market develops for something like this, individual farming concerns will switch some acreage over to indigo in order to see if the market for that will work. This has happened in CA with grape production, in the change from raisin grapes to wine grapes. The root stock for these two similar plants does take longer to mature, but the postharvest tech is quite similar. Again, balancing capital costs against changing markets. But the demand for wine grapes has proven to be greater than that for raisins and the switch, starting on a gradual basis but once it hit the tipping point seemed overnight, has been made as rootstock needed to be replaced.Report

          • Avatar J_A says:

            You are absolutely correct, and I apologize for misreading

            I might try to get a bit more on the indigo/tobacco switcheroo, but I’m no expert. I just know it’s happening because it’s been in the news.Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

              Agriculture is largely agriculture. Farms, orchards, and riches swapping out one crop for another with higher margins is done all the time, with small and big outfits alike.

              I’m not really weighing in on why NC is doing what NC does. There are lots of reasons why they might not be switching to indigo, such as they see it as being a passing fad, or they are aware that other places can grow it for substantially less. But crops don’t get passed on by American agriculture because they’re different than what’s come before.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                I think this is correct for most agriculture, like food and animal feed.

                But from what I recall of talking to tobacco farmers many years ago, it’s not as simple as switching crops. There is a lot of tradition, and more importantly, very long term relationships, involved. Growing industrial crops like cotton, indigo, hemp, and tobacco involves finding buyers, and if you grow tobacco and have a deep relationship with a handful of buyers, switching to a different crop means ending those relationships and working to find new ones.

                It’s not an insurmountable task, but I think there is a significant cultural hit that those farmers take when doing it, so it’s not as simple as just planting soybeans instead of corn.Report

            • Avatar J_A says:


              I have t been very successful about finding much on indigo cultivation, but two things that seems to make it similar to Tobacco are:

              1. A citation in the 1881 Records of the House of Commons that said that Indian tobacco growers grew indigo in off years to replace the soil productivity (indigo is a bean, and replenishes nitrogen nutrients in the soil)

              2. Like tobacco, you harvest the leaves of indigo by hand, and then have to wash them, so at least some of the initial handing is similar.Report

              • Avatar Lyle says:

                A bit about Indigo it was huge in South Carolina around the time of the Revolution, as well as in North Florida although the South Carolina trade vanished once it was no longer part of the British Empire in 1783. (As there were other areas to grow it). The problem with Indigo today is that there is a synthetic version that is as good originaly from BASF.Report

      • Avatar notme says:

        Exactly, the already paid for infrastructure actually matter. Personally, I’d let folks grow hemp.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Yes to this. One of the upsides of Colorado legalizing it was (supposed to be) the advent of new hemp farms. I knew of two people trying to git it done but they were leasers and the land owners were squeamish about the feds.Report

          • Avatar notme says:

            The other thing I’ve heard people growing as a cash crop was lilac for its essential oil. Hemp is a real shame as it could be a great crop.Report

    • Avatar veronica d says:

      Honestly tho, how do they manage the “smugness” factor?

      Like, even setting aside HB2, I cannot imagine living there and really feeling like I fit in — which is hard enough in Boston.

      My sister lives near Boon, NC, which granted is a bit more rural. A few months back she was having lunch with our parents, who were visiting. Anyhow, Dad leads his normal before-meal prayer (he’s a minister), which some local fella in coveralls notices. He approaches. He is large and obviously works with his hands. He compliments them for praying. Then he goes on to explain how Clinton is going to outlaw Christianity — which of course my sister and parents are long-time liberals, Clinton supporters, devout Christians, and appalled.

      I’m visibly transgender. What the heck would that guy say to me?

      Which goes to the “helping struggling places” article. There really is a culture war. This is not just economics. You cannot just import a few PhDs and expect big changes, because while a few brilliant people is worth much, there is the war-on-smug, plus the resentments and the fact that the PhD probably is smarter and better informed than the local folks and maybe doesn’t want to spend their cycles engaging with ill-informed people drunk on fake news.


      • Avatar J_A says:


        There were many more Clinton/Kaine yard signs in Raleigh/Durham than anywhere else I’ve seen. Even in very blue Houston, that Clinton carried easily. Very few Trump ones, though those were the majority in rural areas (with some Clinton ones present too)

        Of course, neither TX nor MA were competitive states while NC was. So there’s more value to yard signage in NC.

        In general I like the parts of NC I’ve been to. I doubt you wouldn’t fit in in Asheville, for instance. The coast, perhaps not (though I haven’t been to the NC Coast, I’m extrapolating from SC and VA here)Report

        • Avatar Don Zeko says:

          Yeah, I’ll second this. Asheville and Chapel Hill are very liberal, Durham is gentrifying, things are changing. Don’t move to Fayetteville or Wake Forest or Shelby, but if you’re in one of the principal cities you’d find plenty of people like you or accepting of you. It’s just that you’d be a very short drive from extremely different peopleReport

          • Avatar notme says:

            The whole research triangle is liberal, no suprise.Report

            • Avatar J_A says:

              Is it liberal because the Liberal People Conspiracy Front Central Committee decided that liberals should move to the area and take over the -otherwise economically quite successful- Reasearch Triangle and deprive conservatives of a trophy, or is it succesful because liberal policies and culture foster an environment that is more conducent to economic success than, let’s say, the cultural environment of Kansas?

              I mean, the way you say it sounds like: “of course, that whole cesspool of poverty, graft, corruption and decadence otherwise known as the so-called “Research” Triangle, is liberal, no surprise”Report

              • Avatar scott the mediocre says:


                My concern is that the Research Triangle People’s Front may lose control as a result of fighting with those notorious splitters, the People’s Front of the Research Triangle. Not to mention the People’s Popular Front of the Research Triangle.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                I thought we were the People’s Popular Front of the Research Triangle?Report

              • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

                He’s over there.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                It’s a real issue tho. Why is there a correlation between socially liberal areas and economic growth? Richard Florida wanted to sell us the idea that it was causal, that inviting the gays led to riches. Which, it’s a nice story. I wish it were true. But I don’t think the numbers work. On the other hand, the correlation is there. Certainly the big economic drivers, technology, finance, etc., have arisen in areas that also welcome diversity.

                When you have a correlation, there is some causal action somewhere. So what is it?

                In any case, as a transgender person who works in tech, I quite enjoy this. It has done much to let me thrive. I hope this continues, even in the face of powerful, organized hate.

                I don’t know what to say about the people who hate me. I don’t believe it is accidental that my “tribe” thrives while their “tribe” falters. I’m not sure if I can say more than that.Report

              • Avatar El Muneco says:

                Is it possible that there is a causal relationship, but it runs the other way?
                Growth leads to trade which leads to exposure to the alien which leads to tolerance.
                Growth leads to expansion which leads to opportunity which brings in people from afar which leads to diversity.
                Growth happens on the verge, where stresses are unusually high, leading to coping mechanisms that some wag termed “civilized” after the root word for “city”.
                And so on. I’m thinking more historically than modern, but history was modern when it was happening…Report

              • Avatar J_A says:


                I think I’m still more on the R. Florida explanation than on the El Muñeco explanation, but your version is internally coherent, so I promise I’ll think about it. There’s something that rings true there.

                On the R. Florida side, you have the Law Zero of Real Estate: “Follow the Gays”. It actually works. My oh so very gentrified neighborhood was, briefly, a gay enclave, after being a white and Hispanic working class nothing for decades. Ten years later there are no more gays, but there are several one million dollar McMansions in every block.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                “Follow the Gays”. It actually works.

                To El Menuco’s point, tho, you can’t have a theory of “follow the gays” if gays didn’t feel accepted within a community and its edges to do their thing value-enhancing thing.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I think it’s multifactoral, but also that Richard Florida is little better than a con man who made himself famous by telling city leaders and the upper classes that cities are made great by doing precisely what they already wanted to be doing, and convincing cities that didn’t have the money to spend money on project to turn them in to what they were never going to be.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                What @will-truman says. When you identify a cause, you can perform an “intervention” on a system, apply the cause, and get the predicted results — at least with decent statistical regularity. Which is to say, the “cause” is the switch you flip to make the change.

                Which, of course reality is never that simple, which is why these are built on probabilistic models. In any case, adding some cafes and theaters and so forth to a tiny metro area is not going to cause a vibrant urban culture to emerge. Likewise, the observation that gays boost real estate is pretty much the simple fact that gays are early-stage gentrifiers. Because of the way gay economics works, and the way the gay community seeks out property, we tend to identify areas ripe for new growth. Likewise we spearhead new posh restaurants, where young-poor gay people work to serve posh gay people in an area with decent cheap-ish apartments along with gorgeous-expensive lofts (or whatever). In any case, in a few years the young gays can no longer afford the now expensive rooms, and the posh gays are getting bored with the basics and normos, and the cycle continues.

                It ain’t a bad life, all in all. Anyway, our ability to identify these structures is not the same as simple causality. Nor does it explain why so many posh gays exist in places near vibrant economic growth.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                I suspect its liberalness stems in part from the three universities.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                That and the “research” part, which is obviously related to the universities. Big universities and lots of jobs for people w/phd’s tends to mean liberalism.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                Yes, its obvious. So much so I didn’t think it was required to state it. I went to the best of the three.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        Like Austin in Texas, cities in North Carolina are little heavens of blue. Asheville, NC is small, hip and also hippy, artsy, college town which is also probably really affordable compared to NYC, SF, or Boston. So I can see how people who are tired of astronomical rent would move down there and just keep oneself in the blue forts. On the other hand, it is much easier if you are heterosexual.

        It is interesting to see who decides to stay close to home and who decides to say “fuck it, I’m out.”Report

        • Avatar veronica d says:

          @saul-degraw — I have family in Winston-Salem. Likewise I’ve been to the Research Triangle for industry stuff. So I’m not unfamiliar with “blue islands.”

          Then HB2 happened.

          The fact is, Bubba votes, and Bubba hates me, and evidently he feels justified cuz I’m “smug,” whereas he is a bigoted shithead, but somehow that’s okay.

          Fuck it. That article argues that we can “help” those regions — but no one is addressing the fact that they don’t want “help.” They want — well we can argue about that. But they’re economically desolate and blame everything except the actual cause. In particular, they blame minorities, LGBTQ people, and “smug” liberals.

          Things are what they are.Report

      • Avatar notme says:

        Boone is more than just a little rural.Report

    • Avatar PD Shaw says:

      Indiana is not a particularly rural state and certainly not on the Great Plains, it is sprawly and full of small towns. About half of its counties are in a metropolitan statistical area, and a further quarter are in micro-statistical areas. When he is talking about “rural,” he is almost certainly talking about cities under 50,000 where the manufacturing jobs tend to be, and areas that were farmland within living memory, but are now box stores and Applebee’s within an hour’s drive of a metro city-center.

      The problem he is describing is that a lot of older large cities are hollowing out, either they have population declines or the middle class is leaving, either to surrounding suburbs or exurbs or to places like North Carolina and Texas. Richard Florida-style investment in cafes and art districts and downtown spaces have not helped. If anything, the jobs that are created by cafes, restaurants, hotels, sports arenas and museums don’t tend to pay well. Indianapolis has a nice downtown to visit, just outside the city center its impoverished.Report

      • Avatar J_A says:

        The large town/small city model was developed when transportation was expensive enough that it made sense to have distributed manufacturing all over, with factories for everything every hundred miles or so.

        As transportation costs went down, it made sense to centralize, economies of scale and so. And small cities started to hollow up.

        Now we are on the third wave, automation productivity gains are so big that it makes sense to distribute manufacturing again, and cut transportation costs. But it’s a manufacturing that does not require traditional blue collar workers. It’s not 1950s again.

        Large towns and small cities can capture this growth back, but not by doing what they did before. They need a different mentality, and people trained differently.

        It’s a big opportunity for the rural areas to grow, but I have the sad hunch that most rural inhabitants would rather not embrace these changes. Rather than adapt themselves to the “other” needs of the modern manufacturing, they’d much prefer for the Saviour to bring back the old factory.

        I hope I’m wrong. And I would say the NC Piedmont is doing the transition, so they do seem to prove me wrong indeed.Report

        • Avatar PD Shaw says:

          Most of this doesn’t really have much to do with Indiana or what the piece is concerned about. Again, most of the manufacturing jobs in Indiana are outside of Indianapolis. Per capita, Indiana has the most manufacturing jobs and highest manufacturing income in the country, and it is a growth area.

          But manufacturing growth does not need to be in a major city, it just needs to be close enough to a population to supply the labor pool. The average manufacturing company has about 40 employees. Transportation improvements mean employees can be drawn from farther away. I remember reading that the Nissan plant just outside of Jackson, MS had employees from every (or nearly every) county in Mississippi at one time. The average manufacturer would not need to draw from as far; they just need to plop down on the edge of a metro where regulation is lower, taxes are lower and access to major highways is convenient. Poor people in the central city cannot apply for that $15 per hour starting salary that only requires a high school degree because they don’t have reliable transportation.

          That’s what the piece is about, the metro is wealthy, but the central city is hurting.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Indiana is not a particularly rural state…

        I love looking at where states rank in terms of more rural or less using the (ever changing) Census Bureau definition of rural. Indiana ranks as 30th least rural of 50 states, slightly more rural than Nebraska and a bit less rural than Idaho.Report

        • Avatar PD Shaw says:

          Yeah, there are different measures. Indiana is less rural than Illinois in the sense that Illinois has more stark population contrasts between Chicago and the downstate large-scale farming and national forests. Figure 3 provides a good image.Report

          • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

            Interesting, for an extremely bogus value of “interesting”. Looking at figure 3, and looking at the state I know best, California (mostly because I’ve lived here almost all of my life), I am trying to come up with some useful definition of metropolitanosity according to which Orange County, CA, is less metropolitan than Imperial County, CA, and I am failing.

            (n.b. there’s very little agriculture left in Orange County, and the remainder is pretty much boutique, whereas the main economic driver of Imperial County is industrial scale farming)Report

            • Avatar PD Shaw says:

              Unfortunately, the map is old (2000) and I couldn’t locate a newer one, but it does reflect how Indiana looks, which is sprawly.

              I think Orange County is getting described as pure suburb, whereas El Centro is an independent metro. That’s a US Census distinction.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                The county sizes and shapes in the West result in that portion of the map misrepresenting things very badly. Eg, the level A metro stripe extending from the Pacific west of LA to all the way to somewhere well east of Las Vegas. The middle of that is actually some of the most desolate, empty space in the country. Ditto Front Range Colorado, which is much thinner from east to west than is suggested. Some of the counties that are coded for level C metro there are a few miles of dense suburb on the west end, a few miles of transition east of that, then 60 miles of pure rural.

                There’s a dividing line at the east edge of the Great Plains. East of that line, there’s one settlement pattern, with small towns every few miles in each direction, occasional small cities by themselves, and the big metro areas. West of the line, the small towns are much farther apart and small isolated cities largely nonexistent. See, for example, this thumbnail of the 2010 Census Bureau’s population dot map for an illustration.Report

              • Avatar Lyle says:

                This shows up most in Riverside and San Bernadino counties which stretch from the eastern edge of the La region to the Arizona/Nevada line. (most of these counties is the Mohave desert, whose biggest city is Barstow, although Riverside Co also includes the north end of the Imperial valley with Palm Springs and Indio)

                To see a sign of this distance effect go from Minnesota to South Dakota and notice how much further the towns are.Report

              • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

                Hmm, then methinks the Census Bureau/OMB needs to work on some on their definitions and categories.

                Maybe it’s a failure because Orange County is rolled along with LA County into the Los Angeles Long Beach Santa Ana MSA. But then why not categorize the entire MSA (both counties) as fully urban?

                Certainly agreed that Orange County seems suburban from ground level (with a very few areas that feel more exurban because of being on the wrong side of some mountains which really funnel connectivity), but on the other hand:

                1) Orange County’s four largest cities each contain more people (>200k) than all of Imperial County (which is coterminous with the El Centro MSA).

                2) Orange County has the third highest population density of all the counties west of the Mississippi (San Francisco being number one, of course; Denver County is ever so slightly denser according to the 2010 Census; next one below us is Dallas County and it’s about 30% less dense as of 2010).

                3) I could make some IMHO defensible arguments that Orange County is more urban than LA County, granting that LA County has two cities larger than any of our largest. Statistics that would support that would include things like:

                3a) fraction of residents living outside incorporated area

                3b) if you plot a cumulative histogram of fraction of population versus census tract population density, I strongly suspect that the median density would be higher for OC versus LA (county). Probably not the one sigma point, though.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Denver County’s population density is under-reported. One-third of the city’s area since the mid-1990s is Denver International Airport, population zero. Adjusted for that, Denver’s density is now up past 6,000 people per square mile. Orange County has some similar features — eg, national forest and national wilderness areas — but not on the same relative scale.

                This is a general problem at the county level throughout the West — large areas of essentially zero population that will never be developed.

                The classification scheme used is not the Census Bureau’s, it’s something done by some folks at IU’s business school.Report

              • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

                Thanks. It’s PD Shaw’s fault for blaming it on the Census 🙂

                That makes sense – when I have been in Denver it feels denser than even the densest parts of OC, and as we all well understand, feelings Trump facts.

                Eyeballing the map, it looks like maybe 12-15% of the county is off limits to development, so rather less than Denver.

                Development patterns in Orange County don’t make sense to me, and I have lived here for 25 years (twelve in LA before that). But hey, I’m just an engineer who has never studied the regulatory and capital structure environment that probably drives the patterns.

                For one thing, you have much less/fewer of the few million dollar mini-mansions on a couple of prime hillside acres than I would think the local capital distribution would support – certainly far fewer than extrapolating from Los Angeles County would lead me to expect.

                For another, it’s only been in the last decade that we’re starting to see medium high density (condo blocks of more than four stories, for example) development aiming at the younger semi-urban crowd. Parts of Orange County are actually now walkable, strange as that sounds.Report

              • Avatar PD Shaw says:

                Yeah, I mistyped Census.

                The problem with the Census definition is that it classifies quite a bit of suburban area as rural. This is particularly a problem w/ Indiana as it is sprawly.

                OTOH, OMB defines metropolitan areas based upon economic integration and commuter ties, but includes rural areas within metropolitan counties. In places like Indianapolis, where there are really no natural constraints to sprawl (no deserts, mountains, or water restraints, both too little or too much), the central city can sprawl almost indefinitely along interstates and arterial roads.

                The Index of Relative Rurality (figure one) is based on four factors: population, population density, extent of urbanized area and distance to the nearest metro area. I pointed to figure three earlier, which is a smoothing of this analysis based upon proximity to urban centers.

                But back to the article, Indiana’s population is between 27.6% rural (Census), 20 percent rural (OMB MSAs), or 5 percent (OMB statistical areas), and when the article asks rural Indiana Republicans to understand and act upon their interconnection with Indianapolis, he’s mostly talking about suburbanites, that is where the numbers are.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                I think Orange County is getting described as pure suburb…

                Despite having three cities with population >250,000. Orange County (3200 people per square mile) is significantly denser than Indianapolis (2400 people per square mile).Report

              • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

                Thanks for representin’, vato. 🙂

                Also, although the Census Bureau/OMB definitions don’t capture this and probably should, Orange County is a net importer of commuters, mostly from Riverside and San Bernadino counties; the most recent commuter survey from the Census (covering 2009-2013) shows ever so slightly more commuters from Orange Co to LA Co (178k vs 182k), but given the way job growth has gone in the two places, I suspect by 2016 they have slightly switched places.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                There’s lots of ways of measuring. OMB’s metro statistical areas are defined using county boundaries and make the West look sparser because of all the empty space that gets included. The Census Bureau now does density measurements for urbanized areas that suppress the empty space — and the top of the density list is suddenly dominated by western cities, and California in particular. Or there’s the “distance from city hall” weighting scheme, which puts the largest of the traditional big metro areas at the top, followed by a surprising number of western cities.

                The cities that show up badly — cities that sprawl by every measure — are scattered across much of the Midwest and South.Report

    • Avatar Don Zeko says:

      Huh. I’ve lived in that part of NC almost my entirely life and didn’t know how good I had it.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “But for many, producing a dye for rich organic jeans lovers in NYC and CA is still a bridge too far.”

      (citation needed)Report

      • Avatar J_A says:


        Here you have it

        Famous Politics and economy commentator said it. You can find his exact words at the bottom of the link.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          The link you just posted is a link back to the comment I was replying to, so either you’re doing something clever or you’re doing something wrong.Report

          • Avatar J_A says:

            Im doing something smugReport

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              So, no, your response to “find an actual quote” is “screw you”, but keep telling yourself that Republicans are the jerks who make unsupported assumptions and aren’t interested in actual conversation!Report

              • Avatar J_A says:

                No, my response was that you asked for a citation on what was described as my opinion. I don’t have a citation. It’s my hunch.

                And asking for “citation please” is a conversation stopper and not a friendly way to engage. Next time, you can try: “Interesting concept. I hadn’t heard it before. Do you have a source you can share?”

                I’m happy to exchange ideas, and even look out for hard data, but “citation, please” didn’t seem like you wanted to engage with me, but to shut me off.

                So I am now apologizing to you, for having been smug, and you can apologize for coming out to me in an impolite way, and we can both move on and be all friends.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “And asking for “citation please” is a conversation stopper and not a friendly way to engage.”

                Well, yes it is, isn’t it.

                “you asked for a citation on what was described as my opinion.”

                bro if that’s your opinion that’s great but it’s also just, like, your opinion, man.Report

    • Avatar KenB says:

      NC farmers are being encouraged to replace tobacco with indigo as a crop, and some are doing it

      So they’re thinking they’ll have a better shot at winning with a shipping strategy rather than trade/building? Hope they’re planning on at least building a Wharf, can be tough to ship indigo after the early game.

      Oh wait, this isn’t a Mindless Diversions post — nevermind.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      The hilly region in unsuitable for the industrialized monoculture agriculture of the Great Plains.

      Don’t confuse the Great Plains with the prairie country farther east. Portions of the eastern Great Plains are wet enough for dryland wheat. In the western Great Plains, it’s grazing or irrigated farming. The irrigated portions tend to much more diversity. In Colorado, corn and silage to support the beef industry; vegetables and melons for the urban areas; sugar beets. There would be more variety, but the limited growing season rules out a lot of things. In round numbers, a third of the Great Plains is suitable for some sort of farming (often with irrigation); another third for grazing; and the last third is unsuitable for anything agricultural. Much as I love the diverse ecologies of the Great Plains, as I get older I’m inclined to agree with the Poppers: biggest failed agricultural experiment in US history.Report

  4. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Colorado is an awesome state. Just saying, I love Boulder.

    You get acentless English by judicious application of bleach to get out the accent stains. Mid-20th century American cooking helps.Report

  5. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    States where the capital city is also the largest city have most of their population in the capital metro area it seems. There are some exceptions. America seems unique though in having state/regional capitals that are also not the largest city. Albany is tiny compared to NYC. Sacramento is smaller than Fresno and much smaller in population than San Francisco, LA, and San Diego. A mere 7800 people live in Montpelier, Vermont.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Canada has some, too.

      What was really weird is back when we were job hunting we found a county that had 50k people in it, 30k living a particular town, and the county seat in a separate and distinct town of 3k.Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      US and Canadian cities didn’t rise to regional prominence by conquering their neighbors. There’s no automatic reason why a state capital should occupy the most defensible land.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        Albany seems more defensible than NYC in that it is farther in land while on a river, is not near the sea and can’t be a major port.

        Though this makes it worse for trade. Though as with many things, choosing Albany as a capital was a compromise because it is relatively central in NY and not NYC.

        There is an interesting alt-history to be written if NYC remained the nation’s capital and also was the capital of NY and financial center of the United States.Report

        • Avatar Trumwill says:

          There is an interesting alt-history to be written if NYC remained the nation’s capital and also was the capital of NY and financial center of the United States.

          I’m always up for a good horror novel…Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Why particular cities get selected as state or county capitals is often an issue lost to posterity.

      Sacramento is a good example of that: it must have made a lot of sense to pick Sacramento as the state capital in the 1850’s: what with the gold rush and all, it would have seemed to possess huge potential for growth, it was where the most immediate need for the most government and banking activity was, and being located at the confluence of two major rivers seemed like it would facilitate commerce.

      All of those things were true, but history happened the way it did and Sacramento got eclipsed by the faster-growing coastal cities.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Almost always interesting to dig into the history of how a capital was selected.

        When Nebraska became a state in 1867, there were no bridges across any of the Platte River, the Missouri River, or the lower Mississippi River. As a result, most of the population lived south of the Platte. Omaha, the territorial capital, was 20 miles north of the Platte, and for various parts of the year, was effectively out-of-reach of most of the population. The territorial legislature chose a site well south of the Platte so much more accessible, as an alternate location. At the time, a significant portion of the population had been sympathetic to the South during the Civil War; the name “Lincoln” for the new city was forced by Omaha interests as a last-ditch effort in hopes voters would leave the capital in Omaha rather than put it in a city named after Abe.Report

      • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

        I remember we talked about this on a tangent from your truly superb water post a couple of years ago. I still think given the knowledge available at the time (early 1850s) keeping the capital around Vallejo/Benicia made more sense. Nawlins had already proven the value of an intermodal port, the Carquinez strait was bridgeable with 1850 technology, and in terms of connectivity from the capital to the gold fields, AFAIK by 1853/4 the placer mining yield was clearly on the severe downswing (hydraulic gold mining was just starting up in 1853, and it was not clear what areas would yield well to that technique).

        I’m not sure that Sacramento has all that much better access to the plausibly forseeable gold as of 1853 – it’s somewhat closer (than Vallejo/Benicia) to the northern fields around Shasta/Yreka, but not that much closer; ditto the activity in the Sierra Nevada fields had mostly moved south by 1853 to the area around Angels Camp, which does not seem that much closer to Sacramento than Benicia for upstream traffic.Report

  6. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    When I feel despondent over the resurgence of racism, I recall that every push forward gets a backlash.
    After slavery was banned by the Civil War, we got Jim Crow, a pale version of it;
    After the Civil Rights victories, there was Nixon and Reagan;

    Partly also, in previous eras the rights of nonwhite people were largely at the whim and discretion of the white people who held numerical supremacy.

    Today, at least in the world I can see, thats no longer the case.
    I live in a world where white Christian men are rarely in the majority, and nonwhite non Christian people hold real, actual power.

    And if there is one thing we know from history, is that power rarely gives itself up.Report

  7. I used to have a 1629 Plymouth, It burned oil like crazy and the clutch slipped.Report

  8. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Marchmaine: There is much more to say, but the bottom line is that rural folks want more cities… but they want their cities to be theirs; and not to be mere resource exploiters (and exploitees) for distant cities. That’s the current divide Rural/City divide that isn’t being talked about.

    Nicely said!Report

  9. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    A political note. I notice that Donald Trump has apparently tapped South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to serve as ambassador to the United Nations. For those among you who take particular issue with her stances on climate change, here’s a longer-term worry for you to fret about after you’re done pre-mourning the Paris Agreement: foreign policy was the only major subject matter gap in Haley’s C.V., so this appointment grooms her to be a top contender on the GOP farm team for the next time they want a Presidential candidate.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine says:

      Yep… that’s the groomiest of grooming positions.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David says:

        Truly groom at the top.Report

      • 1992–1993 Edward J. Perkins
        1993–1996 Madeleine K. Albright
        1997–1998 Bill Richardson
        1998–1999 A. Peter Burleigh (acting)
        1999–2001 Richard Holbrooke
        2001 James B. Cunningham (acting)
        2001–2004 John D. Negroponte
        2004–2005 John Danforth
        2005–2006 John Bolton
        2007–2009 Zalmay Khalilzad
        2009–2013 Susan Rice
        2013– Samantha Power

        Yup, a definite pathway to power.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


      What is interesting to me is that Trump’s potential foreign policy picks are in the “as sane as we are going to get” category from a liberal prospective. I don’t agree with Halley and potentially Romney on many issues but I can’t doubt their competence.

      Unlike Sessions, Flynn, and Bannon who are disasters for their roles and objectionable.

      Kevin Drum seems to think this is Trump just not caring about foreign policyReport

  10. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    Hey, where’s our resident defenders of unarmed black teens getting killed? I’m sure this dead black kid probably smoked the reefer once or twice and thus, is a menace to society. Plus, this man’s unlimited right to bear arms was unfairly limited. Hopefully, Justices Alito, Thomas, Roberts, and Trump’s two Federalist Society justices will get rid of such silly restrictions on god fearing Americans.

    “The 62-year-old man accused of shooting and killing an unarmed teenager on Charleston’s East End Monday night was not allowed to have a gun, because of a previous domestic violence conviction.

    William Ronald Pulliam allegedly shot 15-year-old James Harvey Means twice in the abdomen with a .380 caliber revolver.

    Police said Pulliam showed no remorse after his arrest. He admitted shooting Means and said, “The way I look at it, that’s another piece of trash off the street,” according to a criminal complaint filed in Kanawha County Magistrate Court.”Report