USA!, USA!, becoming more diverse


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Farmland outside a Midwestern city turns into a bedroom enclave of commuting urban professionals. A handful of non-white people move to Dubuque, Iowa. Already diverse cities become increasingly mixed with immigrants from Asia, Africa and Latin America.

These are just some of the ways diversity is increasing in U.S. communities.

To quantify how America is changing, we used the diversity index, which measures the chance that two people chosen at random will not be the same race and ethnicity. A high score means a county has people of many races and ethnicities, while a low score means the community is made up of a single dominant group.

Click through to the article and maps. Plural. While there is an all-inclusive graphic that shunts you through a quasi-3D map, individual maps focus on each of the four trends examined.

Get used to it, folks. Trump voters probably won’t. I imagine the intellectually-curious folks who pass through here won’t have any trouble with change.

Freedom from fear

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The last of FDR’s Four Freedoms. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s state of the union address to Congress in January, 1941 became known as the Four Freedoms Speech. You might want to read back through it.

You will understand how far we have backslid towards the foolishness of corporate conservatives who destroyed our world’s economy in the 1930’s. It will look familiar to folks who understand the progressive path Bernie Sanders proposes.

Infrastructure? China trumps Trump!


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❝ President-elect Donald Trump has proposed spending up to $1 trillion over a decade to make America’s infrastructure “second to none.”

Except for China that is.

❝ The world’s second-largest economy has already topped that this year alone, with $1.4 trillion splurged on roads, railways, bridges, telecom networks and other infrastructure in the ten months through October.

❝ Trump’s plan for an “America’s Infrastructure First” policy mirrors China’s build-it-and-they-will-come model, except on a much smaller scale. China has spent about $11 trillion on infrastructure in the last decade — more than 10 times what Trump is proposing…

That building binge has transformed China’s continent-sized economy. Its 20,000 kilometers of high-speed railways account for more than 60 percent of the world’s total, and it’s not done yet, with plans to boost that distance to 30,000 kilometers by 2020. The U.S.? Don’t ask.

To be sure, as a developing nation, China still has much potential for more building compared with an advanced economy such as the U.S…

Not if we’re talking infrastructure. We haven’t been serious about interstate highways since the Eisenhower Administration. That was 60 years ago. The last major new U.S. airport was completed in 1995.

❝ Trump’s plan “does offer the potential of supporting job creation in the short run, more importantly supporting and expanding the economy’s capacity in the medium run,” said Larry Summers, former Treasury secretary…economic adviser to President Barack Obama…

But when it comes to infrastructure, “America First” is actually a distant second.

Trump’s Congressional troops, establishment, tea party or otherwise, probably aren’t likely to temper their contempt for folks who’ve paid up for Social Security and Medicare. They will ignore the salient fact that these so-called entitlements are insurance programs that taxpayers have already paid for. I have no doubt the sleaze patrol from Paul Ryan to Stephen Bannon will ignore any attempt to bring the tax base for corporate barons back to something approaching responsible. They will try to tax the working class to pay for safer transport of profit-making goods and services.

We have an Electoral College to protect slave states

❝ Every four years, we elect a president in this country, and we do it in a strange way: via the Electoral College. The reasons for the Electoral College are unclear to most people. On the surface, it appears anti-democratic, and needlessly complicated.

Why not rely on a popular vote, as almost every other democracy does? If a popular vote makes sense for gubernatorial elections, why doesn’t it make sense for presidential elections? What did the American founders have in mind when they erected this ostensible firewall against majority will?…

Why does the Electoral College exist? Is it exclusively about federalism and slavery?

❝ There are several standard stories that I learned in school, and then there’s an emerging story that I find more explanatory. I learned in school that it was a balance between big and small states. But the real divisions in America have never been big and small states; they’re between North and South, and between coasts and the center…

So what’s the real answer? In my view, it’s slavery. In a direct election system, the South would have lost every time because a huge percentage of its population was slaves, and slaves couldn’t vote. But an Electoral College allows states to count slaves, albeit at a discount – the three-fifths clause – and that’s what gave the South the inside track in presidential elections. “And thus it’s no surprise that eight of the first nine presidential races were won by a Virginian. Virginia was the most populous state at the time, and had a massive slave population that boosted its electoral vote count.”

What’s the greatest argument against it?

❝ Again, it’s in tension with a basic idea of one person, one vote. The problem with most of the arguments for the Electoral College are that they prove too much, because if they were good arguments, every state is stupid, as no state has a mini-Electoral College. And if that’s good enough for the governorship of Texas or California, why not for the presidency of the United States?

History’s a bear, ain’t it? There is a current legal tweak circulating in an attempt to work around the Electoral College. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is what it’s called and only blue states have signed on. Republicans are confident the current Electoral College system favors them. No red states have supported the idea.

So, Congress ignores civil rights one more time. The mindset of slave-owners ain’t about to leave town.

Chinese bridge goes from Point A to Point B — and Point C!


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This pedestrian bridge is 185 m (607 ft) long, spanning roads, footpaths and a river. Its intertwined and interconnected threads, which rise up to 24 m (79 ft) high, touch down at different points – including on the river banks, next to a road and in a park – joining, or “knotting,” these places together.

NEXT Architects, which designed the bridge, aimed in part for it to be a new public space and attraction for what is a developing area. It was inspired by the continuously flowing Mobius ring and by Chinese knotting art. Further to informing the style and structure of the bridge, the knot also symbolizes luck and prosperity…

Walking across the bridge, people can take in views of the Dragon King Harbour River, the Meixi Lake, Changsha and the nearby mountains. It will also boast an LED lightshow that will help to position the bridge as an attraction.

The Lucky Knot bridge was designed collaboratively by the Chinese and Dutch arms of NEXT Architects…with NEXT awarded the contract…after taking part in an international design competition.

There’s a gallery of more photos inside the article. Attractive, interesting, truly outside accepted norms for bridges. Even pedestrian bridges.

Yes, Hillary, there really is a Hispanic voter surge

❝ Hispanic voters were largely credited with President Obama’s victory in 2012, but they weren’t as crucial as many believed. Mr. Obama didn’t even need to win the Hispanic vote to put him over the top, thanks to high black turnout and support among white voters in the North. The turnout among Hispanic voters didn’t surge, even though exit polls implied that it had.

This year, Hispanic voters, perhaps motivated by Donald J. Trump’s policy proposals (including deportation) and harsh language aimed at undocumented Hispanic immigrants, really might decide this election.

❝ Early voting data unequivocally indicates that Hillary Clinton will benefit from a long awaited surge in Hispanic turnout, vastly exceeding the Hispanic turnout from four years ago.

It’s too soon to say whether it will be decisive for her. The geographic distribution of Hispanic voters means that many of her gains will help her in noncompetitive states like Texas and California, not Michigan and Pennsylvania.

But the surge is real, and it’s big. It could be enough to overcome Mr. Trump’s strength among white-working class voters in the swing states of Florida and Nevada. If it does, it will almost certainly win her the election…

Lots of details for electoral politics wonks. When you live in a state where Hispanic ethnicity wavers forth-and-back over the 50% boundary you accept that issue-specific voting takes place. That’s fine. Here in northern New Mexico at least the memory of days when Democrats had the backbone for class warfare still counts at election time.

So does voter turnout. Not so unusual to see 50% turnout in primaries. At least Democrat primaries, here. Presidential elections often turn out 60-70% of registered voters. Better than average US numbers.

Milestone: UK’s red telephone boxes to be replaced with wi-fi kiosks

❝ Many of the UK’s iconic red telephone booths may not be around for much longer. Starting next year, BT will start replacing London telephone booths with WiFi terminals. These sidewalk kiosks will allow people to charge their phones and access high-speed wireless internet for free. Intersection, the company behind the LinkNYC WiFi kiosks, is collaborating with BT and Primesight, a UK outdoor advertising company.

❝ Learning from the experience with New York’s terminals, BT has opted not to make it possible for users to browse the internet on the kiosk itself. After complaints that people were monopolizing the New York kiosks for long periods of time, whether listening to music or viewing pornography, the browsing feature was disabled…

❝ In addition to WiFi and charging capability, the kiosks will provide users with local maps and services, directions, and free phone calls. The devices will be funded by advertising revenue from the digital displays. 100 of the kiosks are expected to be installed next year, with 750 planned for the next few years.

Nostalgia freaks will snap up the old red boxes in a London minute. Cripes, I’d get one if I thought they might ever be affordable.

I spent a fair piece of time in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland in or near villages where one of those boxes was the only landline to the world outside.

Not always a bad thing.