Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Happy Hour Guess The City

Gitesh is right. On his second try:

Free Beer on me at Happy Hour for correct guess on this week's Guess the City
"Flip the Script" edition (that is your only clue - that and the pictures,
of course).

LA: Pershing Square Revisited

I discussed the flaws and travails of Pershing Square in Los Angeles in this discussion of DTD parks. Link.

Here is a new article about a developer willing to set aside $10 mil for rehab to the park. It needs it, but as I mentioned in the article above, the problems are systemic. It's the access to the garage which has an isolationary effect on the park.

Leave it to the old timer for some grounded wisdom:
As Arthur Ballard closed his paperback, he said he's not sure what to make of Pershing Square anymore. Many of the nearby buildings he visited as a youth -- the Philharmonic building, the old Union Pacific, the Biltmore Theater -- are long gone. Others, such as the Title Guarantee and the Subway Terminal, have been redeveloped as pricey loft spaces.

The only constant is change itself.

Long ago, "downtown was a place to come to," Ballard said. Then, for a long time, it wasn't. Now, he said, "there are restaurants around, and shops, and people walking dogs. It's good . . . the people living here want to see changes."

Still Stuck in the Fifties

So many conservative commentators hearken back to the Fifties as some glorious time in our history; you know, as Wade Davis says, "women were in the kitchen, black people were in the woodshed, and gays in the closet." Now, here comes David Brooks calling for a very Eisenhower-y program:

A National Mobility Project.

How Keynesian, appropriate given the depression or potential depression for recovery, but it doesn't have to be EXACTLY like Eisenhower's plan of connecting cities:

Major highway projects take about 13 years from initiation to completion — too long to counteract any recession. But at least they create a legacy that can improve the economic environment for decades to come.

A major infrastructure initiative would create jobs for the less-educated workers who have been hit hardest by the transition to an information economy. It would allow the U.S. to return to the fundamentals. There is a real danger that the U.S. is going to leap from one over-consuming era to another, from one finance-led bubble to another. Focusing on infrastructure would at least get us thinking about the real economy, asking hard questions about what will increase real productivity, helping people who are expanding companies rather than hedge funds.
Ummm. The cities are already connected. Sure, some are in need of repair, but let's focus on the bridges before the highways. Highway construction and maintenance is a boondoggle. The same style of handouts and trickle down policies that got us into this mess. They destroy real estate values and have an "unplugging" effect on the networks of commerce in our cities.
Moreover, an infrastructure resurgence is desperately needed. Americans now spend 3.5 billion hours a year stuck in traffic, a figure expected to double by 2020.
David, David, David. You are way out of your level of expertise. Aside from the tremendously corrosive effect highways have on cities, real estate, and, of course, quality of life, expansion never EVER reduce traffic. Why you say, because it adds capacity? Well, because highways force people onto the road and create demand to fill that increased capacity. And to do so, only forces people further and further away from each other, more disconnected, and stuck in traffic. This is simply an empirically failed supply-side solution when a demand-side one is called for, reduce people on the street by building walkable, bikable, transit-friendly communities.

As John Norquist oh so eloquently put it, "highways are like farts in an elevator. They are noisy, smelly, and nobody wants to be near them."

This, in turn, means further flung land use patterns because development IS ALWAYS reactive to the transportation framework, which require more and more infrastructural investment to reach such low density development that cities end up underwater (financially speaking). I always find it ironic that the most conservative cities that I work with, which were so laissez-faire in terms of the planning and real estate development, ended up with the most sprawl. What did that get them? Conservative cities with some of the highest tax rates compared to their "competitor cities," simply to afford all those linear feet of subterranean and surface infrastructure to support that development.

Here is the other rub, and I'll have to track down the source because I read the study about five years ago. For every 17 cents of square foot it costs to maintain a highway, we fund only 14 cents which ensures a constant state of disrepair. We simply can't afford them.

Brooks is right in that we need a massive New Deal or Eisenhower-style investment in putting people back to work and creating something with lasting value, but thinking stuck in fifties solutions is hardly what we need. We need to focus on cities, transportation, and interconnectivity of the 21st century that is focused on quality of life, clean energy, clean and efficient transportation and that is through investment in appropriately scaled rail service. High speed trains between major metropolitan areas, commuter trains linking major centers within megalopolitan areas, light rail connecting centers within MSAs, and modern streetcars running in the city.

Above is an older image that I've used a few times, but it illustrates the noose-like effect of the highways around downtown Dallas. The red "corrosion" effectively shows properties negatively affected by the highways. Accordingly, these are mostly vacant parcels and surface parking lots.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Genius or Opportunist

Quite an article on Bill McDonough at FastCompany. The author has certainly taken a stance, that of a profile of an ambitious egomaniacal opportunist and self-annointed "fountainhead."

In truth, whenever conversation with McDonough veers from his oft-recited script, his elegant tales begin to fray. His new venture-capital gig with VantagePoint, for example, may eventually be an ideal platform for bringing his world-changing vision to scale, a way to bankroll the design and rollout of cradle-to-cradle products. But for now it seems to be simply a way to make ends meet. "It keeps me from running around making my living by giving miscellaneous speeches to miscellaneous groups," he says. Nor is his 1950s home, the architect tells me after a long awkward pause, a model of sustainability but rather "what I would call a home that's holding my family while I dream about the house that I'd really like to live in." His entire suburban lifestyle bears little resemblance to the eco-perfect world he describes from the stage. "I shop at Whole Foods, that kind of stuff," he says.

McDonough is not above poetic license. When I ask him which building marked the genesis of the sustainable-design movement, he points to the office he designed for the Environmental Defense Fund. "It was the first green office in the U.S.," he says. Harrison S. Fraker Jr., dean of the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley, demurs: "Sustainable design started long before McDonough even opened his office... . McDonough gets credit for everything because he is such a good promoter of all the good things he has done... . I hate to see false myths perpetuated." Even the term cradle to cradle, for which McDonough has applied for a trademark, isn't his at all. According to Hunter Lovins, cofounder of the Rocky Mountain Institute think tank, "Walter Stahel in Switzerland actually coined the phrase 25 years ago, long before Bill started using it."

I would just for once like a so-called visionary to actually maintain some level of humility or consistency. What happened to all the selflessness espoused in Cradle to Cradle. Oh, apparently, it was ghost written.

While it's not exactly going to tumble off of my shelf (if it was even there, I wonder who has borrowed it this time??) or from my recommended reading list, this sudden knowledge is both a bit deflating and somehow empowering at the same time, no?

Cast of The Wire Out Stumping

For who else... I'll let Five-Thirty-Eight tell it:
Three cast members from The Wire -- the greatest show in television history -- next took the stage. A fiery Sonja Sohn told the large crowd, "When you look at The Wire, you see how institutions fail." Passionately, she advocated for Barack Obama because, in her view, he was the candidate who would not continue to ignore those who fall through the cracks. "He said to me, 'I am my brother's keeper,' y'all!" Sohn reminded the crowd.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Convention Center Hotel Update

From Gordon Cullen's A Concise Townscape:
Let us approach it by simile. Let us suppose a party in a private house, where are gathered together half a dozen people who are strangers to each other. The early part of the evening is passed in polite conversation on general subjects such as the weather and the current news. Cigarettes are passed and lights offered punctiliously. In fact it is all an exhibition of manners, of how one ought to behave. It is also very boring. This is conformity. However, later on the ice begins to break and out of the straightjacket of orthodox manners and conformity real human beings begin to emerge. It begins to be fun. Conformity gives way to the agreement to differ with a recognized tolerance of behaviour.
I'll let that stew a bit while I post the pictures from the newly released Convention Center Hotel, which I bitterly discussed the previous iteration here: Convention Center - Epic Fail.

After the project was awarded to the Norman Foster design, we derided it as unbuildable as a hotel, particularly for the budget proposed. Annnnnnd whaddaya know: Foster was dumped for a local firm.

Now, I'll be honest, I have no problem whatsoever with the new design. At least in terms of the tower. It's fine. But then what is the problem, you ask? Well, to expand upon Cullen's metaphor, a building is just a building. It's like a postcard. You glance at it and toss it away. Maybe, if it is of unique brilliance, you slap it on the fridge with a corny touristy magnet.

But, actual city building, the arrangement of built form, landscape, public space, streets, and the orchestration of which, when properly done, can become DRAMA; when the whole is greater than the mere sum of the parts.

So what do we have here? The cheapest possible solution, which is fine. Just don't dupe the public with the opposite of such. We went to the effort of figuring out how to afford the project WHILE constraining it further to create a mixed use destination from Day one, by stacking the ballrooms. This project builds a mega-garage and drops the two ballrooms on top, simple as that.

Instead of a sum of parts that could actually catalyze change effectively and rapidly, this is just another part (if that). And, we get a fire lane disconnecting the building from the street ALL the way around. THE STREET IS THE FIRE LANE!!!! okay, phew, I got that out of my system.

What next? Oh, the retail is elevated. That should work. And by work, I mean the complete opposite of a business lasting and thriving. And no residential to be found. So by wanting a mix of uses, we got a hotel. No more, and in fact, less because of the nature of, in some senses, the design, but in this case it isn't the architects' fault so much so as the city's for guaranteeing development fees for the developer without any kind of contingencies for quality streetscape, urban form, mix of uses. I.E. the kit of parts that creates neighborhoods, and in turn, cities.

Listed after the pictures is what I wrote for the RFP submission regarding the urban strategies and issues. Compare that vision to what we are actually getting.

The real problem I see here, the lack of residential, the building being "protected" by a moat of a fire lane, removing retail from the street, in effect, disconnecting the building from its context, the city, every design element is a reaction to the current state. And that current state is exactly what I address below. The streets are nasty. The city blocks are bombed out and decrepit.

As long as we continue creating defensive buildings that are reactive to the current state, this city will NEVER improve. We need the leadership and the vision to address the issues proactively or else we get more parts and less sums.

Dallas Convention Center Hotel
"It's Place within the City"


The primary goal in the urban planning and development of the Dallas Convention Center Hotel is to understand and overcome the challenges of the site chosen by the City as well as the site’s place within the city. The site, we believe, is the best possible to engage and interact with the Convention Center physically and architecturally, while being ideal for setting the stage for the next generation of development in the evolution of Downtown Dallas into a world class city.

In order to accomplish that goal, the development of the Dallas Convention Center Hotel parcel must first create an attractive destination immediately to stir excitement and entice people to an area of downtown long neglected and ignored by locals and visitors alike.

Next, it must lay the groundwork for a grander vision as the first phase of a new district that begins to connect back into existing and on-going successes in the city with the ultimate goal of creating a downtown that is a series of successful, interconnected, yet distinct in character, neighborhood sub-districts rather than merely a handful of disparate and isolated parcels of success.

The truly great cities of the world, Rome, Paris, New York, Copenhagen, and Barcelona feed off the created synergies by seamlessly stitching together various pieces of the puzzle, that are unique and therefore cooperative rather than cannibalistic, to create a sum greater than its parts and ensure continued success and positive incremental steps throughout the city.

What makes these cities great is not the individual buildings, but the experience of the spaces and a number of special neighborhoods. This vision proposes to help Dallas create a series of great neighborhoods with the Dallas Convention Center Hotel being the start of one of them.


Urban Analysis

Q: The primary issue facing not only the hotel site, but the convention center as well is that the area is entirely disconnected from its surroundings. Positive redevelopment has found its way to the Main Street area of downtown and the Cedars because of DART, TIF, and other initiatives, but the Convention Center area remains a barrier between Main Street, the Cedars, and the West End. Overly scaled streets, highways, in some cases buildings, and an abundance of surface parking lots have made the area hostile to pedestrians, the vital ingredient towards urban vitality.

A: We are of the opinion that the Convention Center Hotel development must be part of a larger vision that bridges these gaps between successful areas of the city and believe that with this holistic vision, the hotel as a piece of urban acupuncture stimulating the development of a new neighborhood in downtown Dallas with the Convention Center as its anchor reaching out and blending into its neighbors while lessening the impact of all barriers adjacent.

Q: The second major issue to overcome is the lack of intuitive wayfinding or sense of arrival in the current layout of the Convention Center. The new primary entrance is often overlooked for a below-grade entry that is lacking experientially. One can not confidently point to a single place and declare it as the “front door.”

A: The solution to this issue must orchestrate the seemingly opposite intentions of creating a new “address” or front door for the Convention Center while improving the connection to the redesigned main entrance. As the architectural solution will show, we believe that our team has found this solution.

Q: The third and somewhat related issue is the scale and feel of the roads adjacent to and approaching the Convention Center Hotel. These roads are simply about moving traffic and must become “complete streets” that provide for the equality of mode of transportation whether it is by foot, bike, car, bus, or even in some cases mass transit. They should be aesthetically designed and detailed to be pleasing and a hierarchy created to help define their role and character within the city.

A: The design team believes that while it is important to access the site, once there the street grid within and adjacent to the site should immediately take on a more pedestrian-friendly urban character, that character or experience then becomes the defining point for the start of the city. A transition and hierarchy in scale of roads allows a decompression and that sense of arrival.

In particular, one potential idea within a grander, more holistic vision for the Convention Center neighborhood, is that each of the streets takes on a distinct character within this scheme. For example, the Market Street entrance into downtown will gain in significance as the Trinity River and its frontage in Oak Cliff redevelop. As it transitions from Jefferson into its Market Street incarnation downtown, it should hit a gateway point and immediately take on an urban character. It is suggested that it should become a two-way street with the Houston Street viaduct become pedestrian only, potentially with a trolley connection to Oak Cliff long-term.


Urban Design

The Urban Vision proposed herein is one of contrasts and compliments. The detailed architectural design solution for the Hotel is a microcosm of the theme chosen for the larger vision. The Convention Center should ultimately be the anchor of a district that bridges Downtown, the West End, and the Cedars and to do so, it must have two faces reaching outward. Similarly, the specific architecture and site planning of the Hotel should accomplish two tasks.

First, it should be iconic to take advantage of its location. It should be a highlight of the “postcard view” of the skyline over the Trinity River Corridor. Secondly, it should contrast the grandiosity of the top of the building with subtle urban fabric of a pedestrian-scale and neighborhood character.

The success of the Southwest portion of downtown Dallas is contingent upon a masterplanned vision. The vision proposed here is one of 7 phases, the development of the Convention Center Hotel is the first step.

Stage 1

It is fundamental to this plan that the hotel succeed on day 1. In order to ensure that success, it must generate excitement and be a destination. The plan accomplishes that goal by dissecting the roughly 700 foot long by 550 foot wide parcel into three more pedestrian- and urban-scaled blocks. The hotel would sit on the largest and southernmost block, as a new face for the Convention Center, and the first step in its “reaching out.”

The northern portion of the site would then be subdivided into two mixed-use blocks in a scheme that we are calling “Barcelona Blocks.” This scheme accomplishes three things. By creating two outparcels for development, it creates a source of revenue for the City.

Second, the mix of uses combined with the design of essentially a hard four corner site, on-site, terminating in a public urban plaza immediately creates a “there” there; a destination. The vision for the vitality and mix of uses is similar to the RTKL design for LA Live in Los Angeles, but appropriately designed within the existing Dallas Context.

Third, the blocks created are similar in size and scale to the blocks moving northward towards El Centro Community College. This allows the design to be transferrable, implementable, and repetitive into a coherent district which is Stage 2.

Stage 2

As the previous paragraph states, stage 2 creates a direct connection between the central plaza of Stage 1 and the green space of El Centro’s recent expansion. It extends the destination created by Stage 1 to the north creating a new neighborhood for the city of Dallas. Austin Street should be amenitized, streetscaped and extended to the parcel to take on the character of a linear plaza, directly linking the Hotel site with El Centro and portions of the West End, amplifying and expanding the destination quality of the Hotel.

The “Barcelona Blocks” infill the undeveloped parcels in each of the blocks bound by Main and Young Streets to the North and South, and Market and Lamar Streets to the West and East. This allows Lubben Plaza to feel like a space; and urban square as it is intended, with active uses facing it on each side.

While the blocks are not intended to mimic the detail of Barcelona architecture, they are intended to reference the principles within the subtlety and genius of the scale and spacing found in the repetitive blocks of Barcelona neighborhoods.

Stage 3

Stage 3 creates a coordinated streetscape for Lamar Street. Lamar is the one singular linkage between the future Convention Center District, the Historic West End, and the present day Victory. The intent is that the West End would be the beneficiary of the energy and movement created between the Convention Center and Victory and that lifeblood would ultimately play a part in rejuvenating it.

Stage 4

Stage 4 is the ultimate creation of the second parallel DART line through downtown. We are aware that the final alignment and construction has not yet been determined, it will play a part in the revitalization of the Southern portion of Downtown. Young Street seems ideal because of its dimension, distance from the original downtown line, and proximity to both the public services along Young and the underdeveloped parcels near these buildings.

Stage 5

The revitalization around a stop at City Hall Plaza and a stop in front of the Convention Center hotel would go a long way towards blending the Convention Center neighborhood with the Main Street area via the activation of the Civic District centered on City Hall.

Stage 6

Cities throughout the world are working to minimize the affect of highways on their downtowns and the civic life within. The Woodall Rogers Deck Park has already had an effect on development to its North in uptown. Stage 6 proposes to create a similar deck park over the sunken portion of RL Thornton Expressway to the South of the Convention Center. Immediately the parcels between the Convention Center and the highway become valuable for Convention Center Expansion, new office, and perhaps residential. The feasibility of this idea would require more study.

Stage 7

The RL Thornton deck park begins to create the Southern-face for the Convention Center. No longer would it be parking lots, service, and largely unsuitable land for development. The park and the buildings fronting it become the seam between downtown and the Cedars and at this point in the grand vision for Southern downtown, Dallas is a long way down the road towards being one of the world class cities.



Now that I'm officially voted...

...the paranoia and unhinging of the lunatic fringe of the right wing is both comical (the stupid socialist cartoons/emails I keep receiving - look people, Obama plans on empowering the less well off through training and jobs, not taking your television and giving it to somebody else. This is the same guy who called out absentee fathers and lectured a largely black audience on their homophobia and the hypocrisy of their intolerance)...

...and tragic:
Obama hung in effigy on Kentucky's campus (where else)

From the "damn, every time I think I have an original thought, I have to go and find this" column:

Andrew Sullivan on Obama wiping away the petty partisanship of the Baby Boom generation.

And lastly, Monbiot on stupid Americans get stupider leederz:

One theme is both familiar and clear: religion - in particular fundamentalist religion - makes you stupid. The US is the only rich country in which Christian fundamentalism is vast and growing.

Jacoby shows that there was once a certain logic to its anti-rationalism. During the first few decades after the publication of The Origin of Species, for instance, Americans had good reason to reject the theory of natural selection and to treat public intellectuals with suspicion. From the beginning, Darwin's theory was mixed up in the US with the brutal philosophy - now known as social Darwinism - of the British writer Herbert Spencer. Spencer's doctrine, promoted in the popular press with the help of funding from Andrew Carnegie, John D Rockefeller and Thomas Edison, suggested that millionaires stood at the top of a scala natura established by evolution. By preventing unfit people being weeded out, government intervention weakened the nation. Gross economic inequalities were both justifiable and necessary.

Darwinism, in other words, became indistinguishable from the most bestial form of laissez-faire economics. Many Christians responded with revulsion. It is profoundly ironic that the doctrine rejected a century ago by such prominent fundamentalists as William Jennings Bryan is now central to the economic thinking of the Christian right. Modern fundamentalists reject the science of Darwinian evolution and accept the pseudoscience of social Darwinism.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Good Grief: And We Thought It Was Bad Here

Mish's Global Economic Analysis
Austria’s bank exposure to emerging markets is equal to 85pc of GDP – with a heavy concentration in Hungary, Ukraine, and Serbia – all now queuing up (with Belarus) for rescue packages from the International Monetary Fund.

Exposure is 50pc of GDP for Switzerland, 25pc for Sweden, 24pc for the UK, and 23pc for Spain. The US figure is just 4pc. America is the staid old lady in this drama.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wealth Gap = Social Time Bomb

The Guardian comes with it again.

In a survey of 120 major cities, New York was found to be the ninth most unequal in the world and Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington, and Miami had similar inequality levels to those of Nairobi, Kenya Abidjan and Ivory Coast. Many were above an internationally recognised acceptable "alert" line used to warn governments.

"High levels of inequality can lead to negative social, economic and political consequences that have a destabilising effect on societies," said the report. "[They] create social and political fractures that can develop into social unrest and insecurity."

But, don't worry wealthy folk. You'll have your gated mansions with your very own Blackwater team watching the grounds.

ReTooling the Burbs

Tysons Corner, VA - Lunch Rush Hour?

This is the fundamental problem with merely adding density into the suburbs. The infrastructural system (and the habits of the suburbanites) are ill-equipped to handle such densities and no amount of supply-side solutions will (road)build us out of the problem.

While Regretting This Last Head Shave


This is fun: Map of Corruption and Deceit from Exxon Secrets

50 Strange Buildings. Objects. No more...often less. Shoot me. Now. In the face. Don't miss. Paint the walls with my brains.

Annnnnnndddd, the quote for the day:

From John Norquist:
Norquist's Law: Public infrastructure expenditure per square foot of developed space is inversely proportional to your ability to walk to lunch.
Because at the top of the land consumptive real estate development food chain was Wall Street. And Wall Street demanded growth. See: The Cancer Stage of Capitalism. Whatever kind of growth they could get. Which meant quantitative growth over qualitative, because it was easier. Blind, indiscriminate growth. Like a Tumor. Or the surface parking lots and pavement that spread over the country side like malignant melanoma.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul:

Our cities grew out rather than up. We robbed from the left pocket to fill the right pocket and called it profit; leaving behind decaying infrastructure, cities, and public realm. And what did we get for these public infrastructure expenditures. All of the cul-de-sacs, arterials, highway interchanges, drive-to-bars, and tract housing that a huff and a puff could blow down that define sprawl, which is now worthless.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Whoopsy Daisy

My Bad? Greenspan admits his mistakes. NYT:
...admitted on Thursday that he “made a mistake” in trusting that free markets could regulate themselves without government oversight.
I want to get a review up of the revised Convention Center Hotel up as soon as I get time, but apparently I have to go to a private Pat Green concert tonight. I don't even know who he is.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Brutal Honesty

From MarketWatch:

14 reasons Main Street loses big while Wall Street sabotages democracy

  • Three decades of influence peddling in Washington has built an army of 42,000 special-interest lobbyists representing corporations and the wealthy. Today these lobbyists manipulate America's 537 elected officials with massive campaign contributions that fund candidates who vote their agenda.
  • This historic buildup accelerated under Reaganomics and went into hyperspeed under Bushonomics, both totally committed to a new disaster capitalism run privately by Wall Street and Corporate America. No-bid contracts in wars and hurricanes. A housing-credit bubble -- while secretly planning for a meltdown.
  • Finally, the coup de grace: Along came the housing-credit crisis, as planned. Press and public saw a negative, a crisis. Disaster capitalists saw a huge opportunity. Yes, opportunity for big bucks and control of America. Millions of homeowners and marginal banks suffered huge losses. Taxpayers stuck with trillions in debt. But giant banks emerge intact, stronger, with virtual control over government and the power to use taxpayers' funds. They're laughing at us idiots!
Later in the article, author Paul Farrell resurrects the long-dead term "Corporatism" from the lips of Mussolini, who coined it as a definition for Fascism. The original kind. You know, the kind that was in Webster's Dictionary before it was changed to the Hitlerian kind, during guess what, the Reagan administration.

This has been well covered in Thom Hartmann's book Unequal Protection, but also in the sublime documentary The Corporation, the two of which point out that the individuals, when taken alone are often nice people who want to do the best for the world. The PROBLEM is that they are within a construct THE CORPORATION which is operates fundamentally as a sociopath, with no feelings, no remorse, its only aim to metasticize like a cancer cell, and when given personhood as they indeed have been, they can be exonerated for the atrocities.

Infinite growth is its aim in the most expedient manner possible. As I've pointed out before, this means quantitative growth, not qualitative. Who cares how it is or what it is, just that it is.

In the corporate world, everybody is trying to get more for less, but in reality, you get less with less. I think this is why I'm terrified about my building changing management.

Monbiot: The Politics of the Present

From the Guardian: Politics is the art of shifting trouble from the living to the unborn.
While prime ministers in Italy and eastern Europe are demanding a bonfire of environmental measures in order to save the economy, in the UK politicians from all the major parties have made the connection between environmental destruction and economic meltdown. One of the fastest spreading memes is the proposal for a Green New Deal: a Keynesian package of environmental works designed to boost employment and channel public investment. If this idea is adopted, it won't be the first time that it has helped to rescue a major economy. The biggest and most successful component of Roosevelt's New Deal was the Civilian Conservation Corps, which employed three million people to plant trees and stop soil erosion.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Green Economy

From Progress Report:

ENERGY -- CALIFORNIA'S GREEN ECONOMY HAS CREATED 1.5 MILLION JOBS, $45 BILLION: A major new study by economist David Roland-Holst shows that -- contrary to conservative assertions that progressive energy policies would "ravage the countryside" with "huge economic costs" -- a green economy can restore the middle class, lift people out of poverty, and protect the planet. The study, "Energy Efficiency, Innovation, and Job Creation in California," reveals that "California's energy-efficiency policies created nearly 1.5 million jobs from 1977 to 2007, while eliminating fewer than 25,000." This job growth "has contributed approximately $45 billion to the California economy since 1972." Today, California's per-capita electricity demand is 40 percent below the national average. "Consumers were able to reduce energy spending," the study said, and "when consumers shift one dollar of demand from electricity to groceries," they create jobs among retailers and other businesses. The New York Times noted that the study "comes as state and regional initiatives on climate-change policies have been gathering momentum." The Center for American Progress has found that a $100 billion investment in a green economy can create two million new jobs nationwide.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New Deli in DTD

Hat Tip to Blog Reader and City Guesser extraordinaire Andrea for alerting me to a new deli downtown:

Cindy's NY Deli

I have yet to try it out, but I've been missing some good old fashioned delis since moving from the East Coast. Perhaps I can check it out this weekend and bring two weekend visitors from the East Coast for a review of the place.

I'll be rooting for this place to succeed whether I become a regular or not as I prefer the authenticity of locally owned businesses to incorporated chains, although the previous is no indicator of downtown's success while the latter generally is a lagging or trailing indicator.

I Have No Sympathy for Real Estate Agents

NYT: Home Prices Far From Bottom
"I am working harder than I have ever had to work to get a deal together and keep it together."
Colleen Pestana, Real estate agent, Orange County, Calif.
Sad day for you. You have to work?! OMG! WTF?

I hold them in similar contempt as leaches. As a matter of fact, they are like leaches, sucking on the blood (and savings) of millions created by the stripping away of rules and regulations, particularly in 2000 with Phil (bunch of whiners) Gramm's deregulation of credit default swaps.

Oh my, look at what happened beginning in 2000. It looks to me as if a lot of fake money was created:

What does it mean? Well, it means banks were allowed to trade and rebundle, repackage and retrade mortgage debt over and over again. This is the contemporary "conservative" view on growth, where each and every transaction means economic development. Whether or not anything of substance or value is actually created is irrelevant.

In fact, that just slows down "growth," when in actuality it is all nothing but ashes and dust, smoke and mirrors; a ponzi scheme of the highest order designed to enrich Gramm's buddies and impoverish everyone else. The banks won, real estate agents were their little minions happy to participate in the shenanigans that brought this country to its knees.

Ownership class indeed. It just turns out that YOU were to be owned.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Quote of the Day 2

From David Brain. Yes, that is in fact his name, and appropriately so:
"...the underlying point is that it is not about rail or infrastructure or regional pattern, but the we organize the process of building the human habitat in relation to the way people organize their daily lives."

Quote for the Day

Inspired by a re-read of Gorden Cullen's Concise Townscape:

"A building, as a piece of architecture, is like a photograph, worth a glance and thence discarded. A group of buildings can be a place, a series of ever changing images, when orchestrated properly is drama."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Education is as Good as you Want it to Be.

Unfortunately, the idealogues in power don't want a good public education system. Herbert at the NYT.
A country that refuses to properly educate its young people or to maintain its physical plant is one that has clearly lost its way. Add in the myriad problems associated with unnecessary warfare and a clueless central government that wastes taxpayer dollars by the trillions, and you’ve got a society in danger of becoming completely unhinged.
This is the way they wanted to run government all it into the ground. As I wrote here in Depression? All apart of the Plan and here on the bailout.

"They Kept Asking Whether They Can...

...They never bothered to ask whether they should."

I think I am quoting Jurassic Park there, but it's essentially paraphrasing what I've said about many architects and engineers over the past five plus years.

Thom Mayne says Dubai is headed towards ecological catastrophe.
Former RIBA president George Ferguson hailed Mayne’s intervention.

“Thank God a star architect has spoken out on this issue because too many are willing to pander to money and power Dubai,” he said.

The article juxtaposes his speech with:
...this week’s unveiling of proposals by Dubai’s leading developer Nakheel for a 1km-tall skyscraper by international architecture firm Woods Bagot.
1 km?! Mayne, while I've disapproved of some of his work, admired other, and occasionally derided him for nonsensical presentations, he is absolutely on point with this statement:
“It is not going to work on many levels, from social to infrastructure and ecological.”
Ecologically, the footprint of these towers (in terms of energy and material, not physical siting) is absolutely immense. But, I'm more concerned about the social dislocation of sending so many people so far from the street, the place where all great cities and livable places have as the lifeblood of successful placemaking.

I'm not quite sure how to rectify the issue. I've often ridiculed many an architect, planner, engineer, you name it, for being too type B and essentially drafting whores for the real powers that be; eschewing any opportunity or perhaps unable to suggest proper design solutions in favor of satisfying client ego.

The book, The Edifice Complex, goes into detail on "how the rich and powerful shape the world" architecturally, both for better and often...worse. My only guess to curtail the maniacal building of egocentric megamonuments to themself is...bear with me now...a system that prevents an unhealthy agglomeration of wealth in only the few.

See a few case studies: Dubai, where there exists extreme, uber-, mind boggling wealth in a miniscule percentage of the population and the buildings are equally as mind boggling.

Say, Dallas in the S&L boom in the 80s, Vegas, Miami, and the Inland Empire, each in their own way in the past decade's housing boom and bust. Each developed at numbing rates without thought or care for the consequences or the trail of destruction left behind.

Last case, go to Copenhagen where there really isn't much of a "wealthy class" so to speak. Rather, more or less an upper middle class, a middle class, and a lower middle class, yet is considered the fairest and free-est market economy in the world. The design is also contemporary, cutting edge, yet HUMBLE, acknowledging its place within the city and standing out at appropriate moments for important buildings.

Mayne expounds:
“Our clients are all embracing good urban design, solid planning principles, and the view that sustainability must be absolutely part and parcel as we approach the design challenges we face.

“Sustainability isn’t just about whether you’ve got a good air-conditioning system that doesn’t use a lot of energy, it’s also about building communities that can be sustainable."

Apropos. The social fabric that binds us all. Any kind of singular sustainable building is irrelevant with focusing on the physical and social connections of our world.

Now the question remains. Has Mayne had a Road to Damascus moment here or is this merely a case like Rem where he says or writes all the right things but when put in practice is way off.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Simon Jenkins

One of my favorite OpEd columnists on the good news.
The bursting of the Ken Livingstone speculative boom in London property is untrammelled good news. New commercial lettings in London and other cities have all but ceased. We must reuse what we have. The Livingstone skyscrapers, whether for bankers or luxury flats, will one day seem a carbon-guzzling turn-of-the-century blind alley, just so much froth.

Not as Smart as These Guys

But, I said this all of last week: that our best and brightest were merely pushing paper around and searching for loopholes in the system, where they could bend and where they could break without getting caught, when they could be creating the next google or the most efficient solar cell.

Yglesias and Zakaria on the market mess driving the brains from Wall Street into more productive fields.

Peer Pressure and the Right Thing to Do.

Krugman in NYT:

At a special European summit meeting on Sunday, the major economies of continental Europe in effect declared themselves ready to follow Britain’s lead, injecting hundreds of billions of dollars into banks while guaranteeing their debts. And whaddya know, Mr. Paulson — after arguably wasting several precious weeks — has also reversed course, and now plans to buy equity stakes rather than bad mortgage securities (although he still seems to be moving with painful slowness).

...It’s hard to avoid the sense that Mr. Paulson’s initial response was distorted by ideology.


Michael Pollan: Dear Mr. President-Elect:
Which brings me to the deeper reason you will need not simply to address food prices but to make the reform of the entire food system one of the highest priorities of your administration: unless you do, you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change. Unlike food, these are issues you did campaign on — but as you try to address them you will quickly discover that the way we currently grow, process and eat food in America goes to the heart of all three problems and will have to change if we hope to solve them.

The money shot:

"...modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The FALL (not autumn) of 2008

We don't need no water, let the em-effer burn.

Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair: America the Banana Republic. I the only one who finds it distinctly weird to reflect that the last head of the Federal Reserve and the current head of the Treasury, Alan Greenspan and Hank “The Hammer” Paulson, should be respectively the votaries of the cults of Ayn Rand and Mary Baker Eddy, two of the battiest females ever to have infested the American scene? That Paulson should have gone down on one knee to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as if prayer and beseechment might get the job done, strikes me as further evidence that sheer superstition and incantation have played their part in all this. Remember the scene at the end of Peter Pan, where the children are told that, if they don’t shout out aloud that they all believe in fairies, then Tinker Bell’s gonna fucking die? That’s what the fall of 2008 was like, and quite a fall it was, at that.

Amen, said ironically from one agnostic to an unapologetically atheist writer. I talk a bit about nutty Ayn Rand and her cultish followers including Greenspan, here and the architects who ignorantly cite The Fountainhead as their favorite book without getting it. In fact, she didn't get the point of her own book.

Links o' the Day

Planetizen Book Review: Big Box Swindle

On True Economic Development:
Mitchell also contends that while America hangs on every tick of the Wall Street tape, local multipliers generate truer wealth than does the gamesmanship and speculation of the stock market. They subvert what Mitchell describes as the intimate, direct connections that ought to fuel local economies and, by extension, ought to concern local planners.

The ante-Walton economy worked something like this: The local hardware store gets a loan from the local bank and rents a downtown storefront. It then retains the local advertising firm. The advertising firm gives the artistic high school student her first job. The student deposits her wages into the bank, and she buys supplies from the hardware store. And the cycle continues. Nowhere does Adam Smith say that a single cent has to go to Bentonville or that the marketplace of ideas must be limited to that which will enrich Borders.

Guardian: Cities Made Bland Through Globalized Architectural Values
Not simply through eye-catching new buildings. Nef has drawn up guidelines for preserving distinctiveness: redevelopments must be owned (in the cultural rather than legal sense) by local people; developments must be authentic and rooted in history and communal memory. The texture of a place, says Nef, is as important as its economic assets. "Above all," it says, "distinctiveness is not neat; it is not marketing."
The Shiny Object Syndrome, the simplicity of thought, the blind belief that a single magic bullet will save the City, currently plaguing Dallas and many other American Cities (Detroit anyone?) only works in boom times. Now? It's time for real economic development.

The architecture profession is equally at fault for it's roller coaster of employment cycles tied directly to boom/bust periods. They genuflect utterly and completely into the superficiality that "the building will save you." Architects: Stay penitant
too many English towns regenerated in this way have "lost their sense of place and the distinctive facades of their high streets under the march of glass, steel and concrete blandness of chain stores built for the demands of ... a string of big, clone town retailers."
WSJ: We're Trapped in our single family homes...exhausting.

Note 1: While the call to arms is fine, I'm skeptical of the overall tone of the article. Sounds like a "don't blame business, it's your fault" play by the WSJ.

Note 2: Yet, the current proposals are too keep an unsustainable arrangement of human civilization (and a doomed one) afloat...

Sydney, OZ: Commuters brave hefty fines to shorten commute in carpool lanes.

Sounds like a broken system.

Great article about Car dominance ruining the quality of life in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

With a number of great little lines sprinkled throughout the article:
In fast developing Rawalpindi, the automobiles have become the main cause of decline in the quality of life. Fewer but high-velocity roads that are dangerous to cross have become like fences, segregating neighbourhoods and making the city less humane.
I've been laughed at using the word "inhumane" to describe roads in downtown Dallas.
If car use is not restricted it demands unlimited investments in road infrastructure, which would consume limited public funds that should instead go to water and sewage supply, schools, parks...

The safe mobility for those not having a motor vehicle should be accepted as an established right.

A good city must have at least one great public place that should be so fabulous that even the affluent visit it. By contrast, a city is ailing when shopping malls substitute open spaces meant for public.

We face the same issues all over the world.

Manhattan's Luxury Bubble

“One of the reasons we are so deceived by bubbles is the same reason that we are deceived by professional magicians,” the Yale economist Robert Shiller wrote in his tome Irrational Exuberance. “When clever persons become professionals at deceiving people, and devote years to perfecting an act, they can put seemingly impossible feats before our eyes and fool us, at least for a while. … When we have the equivalent of professional magicians running some of our companies or acting as some of our real estate brokers, we have to expect that what we see is not reality.”

Kind of like the way we distrust advertising and advertisers.

"Irrational Exuberance." The title itself is deceiving. Perhaps it should be renamed "Selfish Malevolence" or "Sinister Consumption: How Capitalism Ate Itself."

Quotes for the Day

Me: So this City client of mine plans on building a new museum...

Bossman: Museum to the boom and bust cycles of unrestrained capitalism??

Me: I think it involves a roller coaster.

Bossman: Does it fly off the rails???

Told You

Here. These douchebags know only one way to operate...and that usually involves coke parties in the Hamptons. Either way, you're funding both.
"'ll be supporting the swindlers and the fraudulent; the continued lifestyles of the jet set, new yacht purchases, corporate sponsorship at PGA tour events and NASCAR (please, if there is a God, which I doubt, will you striketh with a meteor the next nascar race?), and stadium naming rights."
And, wouldn't you know it, as mentioned by Obama in the debate, that AIG execs went on a $400,000 dollar junket. Now, they have another one planned at a Ritz-Carlton. Fortunately, not the one in Dallas, with lines of limos tying up traffic on McKinney Ave. like every other event there.
The event, at the Ritz-Carlton in California's Half Moon Bay, aims to ``motivate and educate'' about 150 independent agents who sell AIG coverage to high-end clients, said spokesman Nicholas Ashooh.

AIG considered buying advertisements to explain its position, only to be told by public relations consultant
George Sard that it would be ``a really bad idea.''

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Test

From IHT:

"In talking to investors, policymakers and academics around the world, they have this confidence, not just in our economic system, but in our political system," Rogoff said. "They seem to have more confidence in our ability to solve our problems than we do."

But, do they know about this?
19 States ignoring Federal legislation banning systematic voter purges.

or this?
One in Five Coloradans (sp?) just lost the right to vote.

or this?
Heavily "Blue" county in battleground New Mexico was not registering president or senatorial votes in "straight ballot" tickets.

Would they be as confident?

One (of the) Points Where McCain Went Wrong

Repeatedly stating that we need to prop up the housing market. Why? So, he can sell some of his at a profit?

Edward Glaeser at NYT Economix Blog:
First, the government has no business trying to make housing less affordable to ordinary Americans. Over the past 10 years, areas like New York and San Francisco, which had always been expensive, became completely out of reach. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median housing price in San Francisco was over $800,000 in 2007, and has declined to a mere $685,000 in the second quarter of 2008. The real problem is not the current price decline, but the previous price explosion.

There is no reason to hope that middle-class Americans should pay more for any basic commodity, whether that commodity is coffee or oil or housing. Government should be fighting to reduce supply-side barriers and make housing cheaper, not trying to inflate prices artificially.

I was actually surprised whilst watching the debates regarding the quality of some of the questions. One, I liked, was what the candidates would ask America to sacrifice if elected when heading into such tough times, seemingly asking for a JFK like "ask not" response. Both pandered.

Here is how I would answer that question, briefly:
I won't ask Americans to sacrifice. We're going to once again create opportunity in the land that was the land of opportunity (before the "Reagan Corporate Takeover Revolution") through job training, education and New Deal style policies for the 21st century that rebuilds the nations torn apart communities, lagging infrastructure, entrepreneurship and puts Americans back to work and positions them to compete again in the global economy.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Feels Good to be a Banksta

Drill Baby Drill?

Ike spills the yummy black milk.
At least a half million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico and the marshes, bayous and bays of Louisiana and Texas, according to an analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.
But hey, as long as we get to ignore "externalize" costs, we get to pretend they don't exist. Woohoo, free money!!!

I'm beginning to get the feeling that the collective mindset of this country most closely resembles that of Homer Simpson.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Quote for the Day

Boss: My kharma is so bad, I'll come back in a next life as a cockroach, which I guess isn't so bad since then I'll inherit the Earth.

Me: Are you trying to achieve immortality by working your way to the bottom of the food chain?

Monday Book Club

Recommendation, The Fundamentalist Mind: How Polarized Thinking Imperils Us All by Stephen Larsen.

I have not yet read this, but I just listened to a great interview of the doctor/author. He sounds like he's coming at this from a developmental psychologist's perspective (which may or may not be his research backgroung, I don't yet know) regarding how in the light of very difficult world/personal problems, we react almost at the level of a child based on Piaget's work, abdicating the difficult rationality for simplicity.

Personally, I blame Traffic Engineers, currently numero uno on the shit list.

It's THAT Week Again.

Links of the Day

While wondering if I was roofied Saturday night...

Planetizen: Broken Windows Rebuffed.
The relentless focus on Skid Row’s negatives – and the attendant police scrutiny – is counterproductive. It stifles "the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served." I suggest a policy of broken windows-in-reverse. The city of LA should decriminalize low-level drug offenses, crosswalk violations, curb sitting, and other slight or nuisance crimes in Skid Row. Enforcing them to the point of harassment has done nothing to benefit the neighborhood. If we ignore "broken windows" in favor of a policy of nurturing the positive that exists in Skid Row, I see the potential for a grassroots approach where the Skid Row community regulates itself. Positivity breeds positivity. Given the failure of establishment led interventions in Skid Row, it is time to reinvent the wheel from the ground up.

A new Sustainability Bank in TreeHugger.
In our economy, energy equals carbon equals climate change. So, it just makes good sense to find new ways to upgrade the performance of older buildings and reuse them when we can. Older buildings like this one are also an intrinsic part of the fabric of a community, adding to the character and sense of place that we all value so much and which adds to the quality of our lives.

While $840 billion in pork is handed out, nobody will notice the $25 billion to the Auto industry, from US News and World Report.

These people believe in a free market? These payouts only serve to stunt progress, technological advancement, and competition. Lobbyists in Washington only serve to maintain industry at the status quo, because research and development is too costly. If they have no competition, doing the business of yesterday is more profitable. And the rest of us lose. Detroit needs to be retrofitted to building trains and cars of the future, not receiving the lost costs of the cars that we are no longer buying. This pisses me off to no end.

The eminent Witold Rybczynski on the return of the affordable smaller house at the Wilson Center.

Keating Economics. McCain and financial crises.

Anybody else feel like honesty and transparency is winning the battle of ideas and minds for the first time in half a century??? I'll cling to that thought anyway.

Gimme da Loot

What Bloggers Make from Slate.
Blogs with 100,000 or more unique visitors a month earn an average of $75,000 annually—though that figure is skewed by the small percentage of blogs that make more than $200,000 a year.
I get 1,000 hits/month. How much is that worth? About tree-fiddy?

Those "Externalized" Costs

One tree provides $62,000 worth of air pollution control and recycles $37,500 worth of water over the course of a 50-year lifetime.

~ The Trust for Public Land

How many times do I have to say it...until somebody, anybody hears me? Okay, good. It's about RETURN ON INVESTMENT and sometimes those returns don't fit into simple formulas. Planting a $5,000 tree creates a $100,000 return over fifty years. That is wealth creation, qualitative growth.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Idea for Bill Maher

New Rule: Those that rail against regulations on hyper-capitalism, are the exact same people regulations were intended for. That’s like saying, “I hate cops,” cuz they won’t lemme commit no crime.

Leaving Suburbs Behind

Toronto Globe and Mail on families downsizing from McMansions to the communities (literal definition) of inner ring Toronto:

My favorite lines:
The O'Haras, who gave up their big house, big commute, pool and yard in suburban Caledon, Ont., for a more compact house and lifestyle in Bloor West Village, admit to being astonished by the congeniality of city neighbours compared with those they left behind. "I thought people in the city would be more into their own thing," says Mr. O'Hara. "It's the very opposite to what I thought it would be."

Free Beer, Happy Hour Guess the City - 10/03/08

From a guest contributor this week who was there not more than a handful of weeks ago snapping away some of these photos. So if you happen to be married to this person (or be that person), and you know who you are, you are banned from this week's competition...or else...and by else, I mean Shin kick:

And because I always feel compelled, here is today's clue:

This city was once two, but is now one. 1 was on one side of the river and 1 was on the other side of the river. 1 + 1 = 2. And no, it is not Minneapolis-St.Paul. That is still two cities and there isn't as pleasant a space as shown within 1,000 miles of Minnesooooota.

Furthermore, since this blog's inception at the end of May, it has received 2,708 unique hits from 69 countries, 19 from this particular city.

And because I happen to have a number of images stored of this same city in the ol' hard drive cache, HERE's MORE!!!!1!!

One (1) Side:

Other (1) side (note topography, hint hint):

Nothing to say here, but I included them anyway, so there.

Here, There, Everywhere; Or How I Feel Like Spending My Lunch Hour

NYT Economics Blog on recent unemployment spike nationwide:

Employers cut 159,000 jobs in September, more than twice as many as in August or July, the Labor Department reported. It was the biggest monthly decline since 2003, when the economy was still losing jobs in the wake of the 2001 recession.

There is no spinning these statistics as "temporary workers" or fast-food employees as "manufacturing sector" semantic bullshit.

And cities (anecdotally aka some clientele) and states are broke. From the LA Times, CA needs a $7 billion dollar loan. I hear some guy named Paulson has about $850 billion, maybe he can dig in his couch for an extra 7.
Truth is, it is a sad day here at the office as well. As we'll be adding to these figures when the October statistics come around and I feel the need to point my fingertip machine gun somewhere so here goes...

We will never see any of that $850 billionty whatever, no quarter. When counting for inflation we'll be working for less than ever and sane public officials will be forced to raise taxes to cover all the debt that the "fiscal conservatives" have run up in the past 8 years via giving away the farm to their buddies on Wall Street, defense (offense?), and various other pork barrel projects. Can you say Road Lobby?

THIS, my friends, is the cost of corruption. Here is the bill suckas.

You will get your paycheck and it will read X number of deductions and you won't even think about it, because you'll be looking at what portion actually makes it into your pocket so you can break even after bills, housing, GAS, family needs, etc.

And you'll never even know it, but you'll be supporting the swindlers and the fraudulent; the continued lifestyles of the jet set, new yacht purchases, corporate sponsorship at PGA tour events and NASCAR (please, if there is a God, which I doubt, will you striketh with a meteor the next nascar race?), and stadium naming rights. (Have I ever bitched about cities giving away stadiums to sports owners before? Reason Online is generally ridiculous and partially to blame for the scorn in this post, but here is their report on stadiums with which I concur. Link.)

But, besides the obvious mentioned above, do you ever get the feeling that somebody somewhere is popping bottles right about now? Ya know, somebody like Grover Norquist, "field marshall of the Bush plan," who infamously stated, "we want to shrink government down to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub." Apparently, a guy so ruthless and vile himself that he is incapable of comprehending government as a good thing, a positive influence for its citizens; the same idea that inspired those nobodies Jefferson, Washington, and Madison.

Well, it seems their eight year mission is finally complete. With a bang. Oh, but it also had that nasty little side effect of completely toppling American authority and power, as was documented here, which kind of was the goal of his buddies at Project for a New American Century (by the way, Francis Fukuyama, one of the conservative opinions in this country I respect, has withdrawn his support from these sociopaths, another Obama supporter). Wars are won by ideas fellas and I hate to be the bearer of bad news but all those million dollar carriers are worthless in the Middle East right now and presumably in any future conflicts.

War has been redefined. No longer are there castles and flags and physical objectives, unless you mean oil fields. The only winners were the defense contractors when they got the project. Who wins now? Those stuck on the ship away from their families? The billions it is costing us to float them in oceans? Trickle On economics. Ain't it great. Or as I call it, "21st century piracy."

Howard Bloom writes in the Lucifer Principle (a both brilliant and extremely intense/difficult read), how the forces that shape the world are a mind virus that infect. You thought you had original thought? Think again. We're merely conveyors in the battle of ideas and we are currently losing.

What I am most worried about is that we follow the path of a similar mind virus, that of the rise of the Nazis. The 1920s and 30s saw a similar time of global economic fragility, which were particularly hard on the German people because of the crippling (and perhaps necessary) reparations the League of Nations imposed upon them (my 8th grade history coming out). This is the same people that Neitzsche challenged to become his uber-men, full of national pride and propensity for dominance (violence?), in a fit of one of his crazy spells (you will never hear a complimentary word from me on that dude).

Nazi economic policies pulled them out of their economic doldrums and put people back to work, instilling pride within themselves, their country, and the Party of National Socialism, through a retarded version of Keynesian economic policies (which appropriated positively was the basis for the New Deal). The Germans built highways and buildt military. Sound familiar? Two words: Oh. and Shit.

Well, let's see. We know that we hired Nazi spies into the CIA post-WW2 for their expertise on the Russians. Could they be to blame? Nah, what else do we know? We know that American companies were happy to build fortunes off doing business with them. What could that mean? Oh, perhaps we could coopt similar bizarro Keynesian economics to transfer wealth upwards? Is that the mind virus that has infected us?

What do we have to show for all of this wealth "creation" over the last fifty years? The answer is wrecked cities, red numbered budgets, a full blown third world banana republic and a titanic-sized anchor around the neck of the global economy.

Times are about to get much, MUCH worse. As a people, like the Germans in 1920 we will be a fragile, but hopefully not helpless people. I see two directions out with two leaders. One, is where we choose the easiest answer for us personally, gladly and willfully accepting more paternalism ("don't worry, the economy is fine," "take your mind of 911, just shop," sound familiar?) dragging us back up in a potentially catastrophic direction, focused on similar wreckless policies OR one that inspires us from the bottom-up, to work, to learn, to create again, to rebuild the economy the way it should be. Clean, green, advanced, efficient, and profitable.

Thank you Grover, George W. and friends, from the fullest extent of my double middle finger salute. You can hire your private security forces to keep at bay the plebs who fight for crumbs of cake outside of your gates.