Is Architecture “Racist”?

For a pure distillation of liberal stupidity, it is hard to beat this article in the Denver Post by the paper’s Fine Arts Critic. Denver’s main train depot, Union Station, has been renovated and restored to its former glory (more or less), which is what troubles the arts critic. The restored building is, he thinks, racist…

Our fearless critic began by spending hours at Union Station, classifying visitors by skin color:

Thursday, 1 p.m.: 186 whites, 1 black, 4 Latinos, 4 Asians.

Friday, 6 p.m.: 647 whites, 6 blacks, 6 Latinos, 7 Asians

Saturday, 11 p.m.: 693 whites, 4 blacks, 2 Latinos, 7 Asians.

It’s dangerous to assign race to people simply by glancing at their faces. Some people don’t look at all like their race. Many people are a mix.

But if my recent counts of people in the restaurants, bars and shops in and around Denver’s rehabbed, reopened Union Station are even close, it’s an overwhelmingly white place.

View of Denver's Union Station  from the new apartment project Platform at Union Station on Monday, September 22, 2014 where they will be providing only .92 parking space per unit.

Union Station is, of course, open to all members of the public. Maybe Latinos, Asians and African-Americans are too smart to patronize mediocre, overpriced restaurants. But there is more to the Post’s “racism” theory:

It’s easy to speculate why things are different at Union Station, though it requires some less elegant thinking about the way people of different ethnicities behave, some stereotyping. That’s more dangerous than going room-to-room at the station, divvying up faces by the way they look, and keeping tallies on my iPhone.

But, hey! We’re liberals. Let’s go ahead and stereotype. It’s all in a good cause:

Let’s start with the building itself, the actual architecture. Union Station is a neo-classical mix of styles — European styles. The symmetry, arched windows, ornate cornice and stacked, stone walls have their roots in the glory days of France, England, Greece and Rome, in empires that were nearly absent of ethnic minorities and who felt fully at ease invading, exploiting and actually enslaving the people of Africa, subcontinent Asia and South America.

This is mind-bendingly dumb. It is evident that the Post’s Fine Arts Critic didn’t major in history. France, England, Greece and Rome–four peas in a pod! But let’s not pause to consider the ancient Greeks’ conquest of Brazil, or what on God’s green Earth any of this has to do with Denver’s train station. The stupidity continues:

Yes, that’s all in the past; things have changed. But the $54 million renovation of Union Station doesn’t take that into account. It restores the symbols of an old world with no updates. The gilded chandeliers have been rewired, the marble polished, but there’s no nod to the present, no interior walls in the bright colors of Mexico, no Asian simplicity is in the remix. There are no giant sculptures by African-American artists bonused into the lobby, no murals on the basement walls.

Have you noticed that Asian-Americans don’t like to go anywhere that doesn’t exhibit “Asian simplicity,” and African-Americans won’t set foot in a public place unless it features “giant sculptures”? Sure. Just as I, a loyal Norwegian-American, refuse to patronize any restaurant that doesn’t feature a replica Viking ship in the lobby and whose walls are not lined with horned helmets. Stereotypes rule!

The craziness goes on and on, but let’s close with this:

There is no one at the door looking folks over. The workforce is mixed. There’s no open policy of exclusion.

But there may be an institutional one. RTD had a thousand choices when it was rehabbing the station. It could have put in a farmer’s market or a suite of micro-offices. It could have let its imagination run wild and installed a basketball court or a rec center, day-care facility, museum, a theater that any group could rent, an indoor playground, or yes, a Subway.

But it chose a different path. RTD, whose buses and trains are the most diverse places in Denver, created a monster of separation.

A “monster of separation”? Seriously? This guy needs to take a brisk walk, or, better yet, get a new job, preferably one requiring physical exertion. I have critiqued his effort gently; for less polite evaluations, see the comments on the article at the link. They are unanimously brutal–which, I guess, means that there is still hope for Denver.

Terrorist Attack In Ottawa

Today a Muslim convert attacked the Canadian Parliament building, after first murdering a soldier at a nearby memorial. The terrorist, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau–real name, Michael Hall–apparently fired dozens of rounds inside the Parliament building, without injuring anyone, and was shot and killed by a Sergeant at Arms who effectively discharged his ancient duty.

As usual, the Daily Mail has the best pictures. This is Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was murdered as he stood guard at the National War Memorial:

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This photo was taken inside the Parliament building, reportedly as shots were being fired:

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It was originally believed that there were one or two terrorists in addition to the one who was killed; current news reports leave this question open. Canadian officials tweeted their concerns about being in danger. This photo shows the inside of the Conservative Party Caucus, where the door was blocked with chairs:

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The Wall Street Journal has a good narrative of today’s events. It includes these observations on America’s counter-terrorism strategy:

U.S. officials have long regarded U.S. security as dependent on Canada’s, given that terrorists could fly anywhere in North America and make their way across the border into the U.S.

For that reason, U.S. and Canadian security officials have worked closely on monitoring travel by extremists.

However, if the Canadian attack turns out to be a so-called homegrown threat, it could challenge the assumption that the best way to prevent terrorist attacks is to prevent terrorists from coming to North America.

The bulk of U.S. counterterrorism efforts have focused on marshaling intelligence and military means to find and sometimes capture or kill terrorists overseas—or tracking any U.S. links they might have and arresting them or their co-conspirators in America.

“Those tools cannot be applied to threats that originate domestically,” said John Cohen, the former top counterterrorism official at the Homeland Security Department who now works at Rutgers University.

Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau is not the only recent homegrown Canadian threat. Just two days ago near Montreal, a Muslim convert named Martin “Ahmad” Rouleau rammed two Canadian soldiers with his car, killing one.

The driver of a car who rammed two Canadian Forces members near Montreal before being shot dead by police was known to counter-terrorism authorities who believed he had become radicalized, the RCMP said on Monday as they continued to investigate the possible terrorist attack.

So that’s two home-grown terrorist attacks in the space of two days. It is reasonable to believe that some of these converted Muslims, at least, are motivated by exhortations from ISIS. But the common denominator is Islam. We should, certainly, limit Muslim immigration and track terrorists overseas, but that is evidently not a complete solution. Crushing ISIS would help, as no one flocks to the banner of a loser. But that is not currently on the agenda in Washington. In the meantime, today’s attack is a reminder of how much disruption can be caused by a small number of terrorist (likely just one) armed with universally available weapons.

Fraudie Foodies Exposed

McDonald’s just turned in a lousy earnings quarter, but don’t say I didn’t warn you this was coming.  The company is promising “fresh thinking,” which will prompt all the Big Mac deniers to make the obvious jokes about offering fresh food.

Except that it turns out there is no one easier to fool, apparently, than snobby foodies.  Check out this three-minute video out of Europe (it’s in Esperanto or something, so you need to click on the “closed caption” or “cc” button at the bottom for English subtitles), in which some merry pranksters dress up some McDonald’s food in haute cuisine disguise, and totally fool the foolish foodies. My favorite is the young lady who says: “It definitely tastes a lot better, and that fact that it’s organic is definitely a good thing.”

Next up: Maybe we’ll recycle one of those “ban di-hydrogen monoxide” petition drives.

Anne Kuster’s ghoulish pro-choice rally

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Annie Kuster, a Dartmouth grad, represents New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District. She’s a “pro-choice” Democrat.

Kuster is locked in a tight race with rising star Republican Marilinda Garcia. Larry Sabato rates the race “leans Democratic.”

This morning, Kuster held a rally to announce that she has received the endorsement of NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire, the state’s leading pro-abortion outfit. The rally was held in a room decorated with a skeleton and other spooky Halloween decorations. These items were intermingled with various “pro-choice” signs.

Naturally, the ghoulishness of the juxtaposition was lost on Kuster, her staff, and her pro-abortion supporters. Perhaps it will not be lost on swing voters in the Second District.

“Bruce Bailey” for “governor of Iowa”

With control of the Senate at stake, Barack Obama can’t quite stand the thought of remaining on the sidelines. This, perhaps, is why he keeps injecting himself into the race by telling people that his policies are on the ballot and that endangered Democratic incumbents are “folks who vote with me.”

Obama’s desire to participate may also explain why Michelle Obama went to Iowa not long ago to campaign for Rep. Bruce Braley, an inept candidate who, by some accounts, is trailing Republican Joni Ernst in each of the state’s congressional districts including the one he represents.

The First Lady’s visit didn’t go well, though. She called the Democratic Senate nominee “Bruce Bailey” and referred to him as a Marine veteran, even though Braley never served in the Corps.

Michelle is an amateur politician. Before President Obama’s presidency sank, she was a natural at stirring up friendly crowds with rants on behalf of her husband. This skill doesn’t easily translate into boosting the candidacy of strangers. In short, her mistakes, though embarrassing, were excusable.

By contrast, Obama’s press operation is staffed by professionals. Yet it too can’t do right by Braley. Yesterday, it released via email a transcript of Michelle Obama’s appearance in Iowa on behalf Braley. Unfortunately for the beleaguered candidate, the subject line of the e-mail referred to him as the “Democratic candidate for governor.”

The White House’s subliminal message seems to be: Bruce Bailey, won’t you please come home.

Senate Democrats aren’t amused. One senior aide told the National Journal that “the ineptitude of the White House political operation has sunk from annoying to embarrassing.” Another Senate official told the Washington Post that Obama’s comments thrusting himself into the election were “not devised with any input from Senate leadership.” No kidding.

To drive home the point, Senate Democrats are complaining that the White House political team is behaving like a junior varsity operation. My take is that, like their narcissistic boss, the White House operatives are geniuses when Obama’s electoral skin is at stake and bunglers when the fate of other Democrats is on the line.

Poll shows “war on women” theme isn’t working, among other good news

A new AP/Gfk poll provides lots of good news for Republicans. Perhaps most significantly, it shows that female likely voters no longer favor the Democrats in this election.

AP/Gfk surveyed 1,608 adults. The sample included 968 likely voters. The margin of error is plus-or-minus 2.8 for all respondents and 3.6 for likely voters.

Last month, the survey found that female likely voters favored having a Congress controlled by Democrats by a margin of 47-40. Now, they favor Republican control by (a statistically insignificant) margin of 44-42.

Likely voters as a whole would like to see Republicans control Congress. The margin here is 47-39. However, among all adults the Democrats come out ahead by 38-36, a statistically insignificant margin.

Thus, the Democrats can pin their hopes on strong voter turnout. However, the survey finds little voter enthusiasm. The share who report that they are certain to vote in this year’s contests has risen just slightly since September, and interest in news about the campaign has held steady.

Likely voters prefer the Republican candidate in their particular district. Forty percent said they would vote for the GOP candidate in their House district; 32 percent said they would vote for the Democrat. This leaves a large number of “undecideds,” given how close we are to the election.

Republicans come out ahead on the issue that matters most to voters — the economy. Likely voters trust the GOP to deal more effectively than Democrats on this front by a margin of 39-31.

National security is always an important issue, and its importance has been magnified recently with the rise of ISIS. Republicans have a big advantage — 22 points — on the issue of protecting the country. They have a 10 point advantage when it comes to being trusted to deal with an international crisis.

Ebola is an electoral “wash” according to the survey. Same-sex marriage doesn’t seem to be much of a factor either.

The bad news for the GOP is that it remains unpopular. Most likely voters have a negative impression of the Republican Party, and 7 in 10 are dissatisfied by its leaders in Congress.

This, presumably, helps explain why there are still so many undecided voters — the GOP isn’t trusted enough to have yet sealed the deal. I suspect that last year’s partial government shutdown continues to contribute to the negative image.

Polarization? Consensus? Compromise? Nonsense

Both the estimable Bill Galston today and Wall Street Journal veteran political reporter Gerald Seib yesterday are making much of last week’s ABC News/Washington Post poll that finds a large jump in the number of people who say they prefer candidates who seek “consensus” and “compromise” over “sticking to principles.” The number who say “compromise” over “principle” has risen from 34 percent in 2010 to 50 percent today. Naturally this is taken as a sign that voters are turning away from “polarization,” and are disgusted with a “gridlocked” Congress. It is an implicit rebuke to the Tea Party, because as we know liberals are never intransigent about anything.

But before “No Labels” and other transgendered transpartisan enthusiasts get their hopes up, it ought to be pointed out that the polls showing Congress with approval ratings in the single digits probably represent the salient feature of our polarized time that each party (and their independent “leaners”) blame the other party for gridlock and lack of compromise, and when you add those together, you get a 90 percent disapproval rating for Congress.  That’s one reason why people tend to approve of their own House member or Senator while disapproving of Congress as a whole.

It wasn’t always so, you say? Yes, but that was back in the day before every aspect of life was turned into a national political issue. Or put another way, the increase in polarization and bitter political fights is directly proportional to the growth of the federal government. This is highly uncongenial to liberals, for whom ever-expanding federal government is religion. And most quantitative political scientists avoid studying this because it is uncongenial to their biases. But it was predicted in a 1960 book that is still regarded as a classic in politics science, E.E. Schattschneider’s The Semi-Sovereign People: A Realist’s View of Democracy in America.

Then finally let me stick in the usual caveats about attitude polling and public ignorance. And maybe the best way of making this point is to share this short bit from Elaine Kamarck’s splendid little book How Change Happens—Or Doesn’t (Kamarck was one of those smart moderate liberal DLC types in the 1990s, now a Harvard professor, natch):

In 1978 the political scientist George Bishop and his colleagues at the University of Cincinnati conducted a very important poll of adults in Cincinnati. They asked the following question: “Some people say that the 1975 Public Affairs Act should be repealed. Do you agree or disagree?” When the question was asked without what the authors referred to as a “filter” (a sentence giving the respondent an excuse to say that they didn’t know or care) one-third of the sample had an opinion on the question, and of those opinion was split 15.6 percent in agreed and 17.6 percent disagreed. Several years later, in 1995, the Washington Post conducted a second poll on the 1975 Public Affairs Act and whether or not it should be repealed. This time the pollsters asked respondents to agree or disagree with a very specific statement: “President Clinton has said the 1975 Public Affairs Act should be repealed.” This time 43 percent of the public expressed an opinion with Democrats supporting repeal and Republicans opposing it.

Punch line: There is no 1975 Public Affairs Act.