Endorsing the City

For anyone interested in seeing a reurbanization of the American landscape, Stanley Kurtz's recent OP/ED in Forbes Magazine "How Obama Is Robbing The Suburbs To Pay For The Cities" is a ringing endorsement of President Obama's reelection campaign:
Once voters realize that there has never been a president more ideologically opposed to the suburbs, or more reliant on redistribution as a policy, they should know what to do.
As with most ink spilled opposite the editorial page, the piece is tragically empty of facts supporting these pie-in-the-sky, would-be campaign promises like:

  • "an initiative to systematically redistribute the wealth of America’s suburbs to the cities"
  • "policies designed to coerce people out of their cars"
  • "take from the suburbanites to give to the urban poor"
  • "quit building sub-divisions and malls"

Too bad for Obama! Having your staunchest ideological enemies talking up your political prowess and mastery of urban planning is the kind of get Democrats rarely luck into under their own steam. When was the last time any Democrat promised a platform so boldly progressive, or any of their constituents believed those promises as passionately as Mr. Kurtz believes in Obama?

But enough about the professionally outraged class, the bizarre sense of entitlement they hold so dear, and their world-class ability to theorize conspiracies. What's so great about the cities? After all, as Derek Thompson and Jordan Weissmann point out in a recent article for The New Republic "The Cheapest Generation", cities seem to be responsible for an entire generation of Americans abandoning the endless business cycles of the disposable auto, hotel, and fashion industries:
The emergence of the “sharing economy”—services that use the Web to let companies and families share otherwise idle goods—is headlined by Zipcar, but it also involves companies such as Airbnb, a shared market­place for bedrooms and other accommodations for travelers; and thred­UP, a site where parents can buy and sell kids’ used clothing.
And don't even get them started about what these selfishly possessionless Millenials are doing to the real estate industry!
If the Millennials are not quite a post-­driving and post-owning generation, they’ll almost certainly be a less-­driving and less-­owning generation. That could mean some tough adjustments for the economy over the next several years. In recent decades, the housing industry has usually led us out of recession. When the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates in the midst of the sharp recession of the early 1980s, for instance, a construction boom helped fuel the “Reagan Recovery.” With the housing market moribund, the Federal Reserve has lost a key means of influencing the economy with lower interest rates. The service-led recovery we’ve gotten instead is not nearly as robust.
Damn you kids, buy my lawn! After all, the construction boom that fueled the GOP's dreams of an "ownership society" and the financial sector's love affair with sub-prime real estate markets didn't cause our current Great Recession, it simply provided the majority of the air released from the bubble that preceded it. So if they aren't going to buy the cars or prop up the next housing bubble, er, market, how does this new generation plan to feed the financial sector's endless need for lightly taxed capital gains?

Economic research shows that doubling a community’s population density tends to increase productivity by anywhere between 6 percent and 28 percent. Economists have found that more than half of the variation in output per worker across U.S. states can be explained by density. Our wealth, after all, is determined not only by our own skills and talents, but by our ability to access the ideas of those around us; there’s a lot to be gained by increasing the odds that smart people might bump against each other. Ultimately, if the Millennial generation pushes our society toward more sharing and closer living, it may do more than simply change America’s consumption culture; it may put America on firmer economic footing for decades to come.
As Mr. Kurtz says, you "should know what to do."


Idiom Watch

  • Inside baseball - I can't tell if I like this one because it is always used in the context of some secret knowledge (the best knowledge!), or if the idiom has inherent worth. After all, I am not the biggest baseball fan in the world (ChiSox!), but any kind of respect paid to those who would study a field to within an inch of ridicule has a tip of the hat and five on it from me.
  • Hit the spot - Again with the food idioms, I know. What is the spot? Is it the bullseye of your consumptive target? What happens when you hit it? Are you supposed to feel some sense of satisfaction, as though you had trained yourself over time through repetitive practice sessions to find exactly the right combination and amount of foodstuffs to satisfy your dietary needs? If so then by all means, because that sounds laudable now that I've written it out, but this phrase is far more often uttered in response to less condonable desires.


City Living 2

Alec Baldwin reads Colson Whitehead's "Lost and Found":

I read this piece for the first time back during the 10th anniversary recap in September when folks were linking to articles written in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. It's got two of my favorite quotes about urban living that apply equally well to New York as they do to any city:
You are [from a place] the first time you say, ''That used to be _____''
And this quote about change, maturation, acceptance, and / or forgiveness:
Maybe we become New Yorkers the day we realize that New York will go on without us. To put off the inevitable, we try to fix the city in place, remember it as it was, doing to the city what we would never allow to be done to ourselves. The kid on the uptown No. 1 train, the new arrival stepping out of Grand Central, the jerk at the intersection who doesn't know east from west: those people don't exist anymore, ceased to be a couple of apartments ago, and we wouldn't have it any other way. New York City does not hold our former selves against us. Perhaps we can extend the same courtesy.


Idiom Watch

  • That's my speed - You instantly picture Steve McQueen in place of whoever utters this phrase, and he's a cool dude who drives fast (which is itself a cool thing to do), so you want to match his speed. That's what separates this phrase from generic "I like ____" statements: it implicitly invites the listener to agreement, if only they would step on the gas to catch up, or equally, one supposes, the brakes to chill out.
  • Walking around money - Nothing says class like old timey political grift, and this phrase connotes the fattest of ward bosses doling out dollars in exchange for votes on the correct side of the ballot. Try it out on your partner the next time you need a couple bills from your (ultimately, if not explicitly) shared bank account but forgot to swing by the ATM before meeting them at the bar, and see if it doesn't put a smile in the corner of their mouth.


SOPA / PIPA and the 2012-01-18 Blackout

Here's a form letter I created that you can feel free to adopt for you own usage:
Dear Senator / Congress Person _____ ['s legislative aid],  
I'm writing today about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), but now I'm annoyed that your office doesn't even have a "Topic" on your contact page for Technology. I imagine this is an outcropping of the same lack of technological awareness that has lead our Most Deliberative Body to unanimous past support for the horrendous Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). I can only assume it is this chronic misunderstanding of America's high tech economy that now prepares support for SOPA / PIPA, without regard for the underlying structure of the internet that everyone claims to value so highly as the source of our nation's future revenues. As a _____ professional at _____ that greatly benefits from unrestricted, uncensored internet access, I can only say that I am figuratively shocked and literally appalled that this kind of legislation has gotten so far, especially given the lip service paid by politicians to the "job creators" in the technology sector. If Congress truly values the creation of 21st century jobs, if the Democrats really want to "Win the Future" (seriously, whoever came up with that slogan watched way too much "X-Files"), then lobbyist fodder like SOPA / PIPA should never live to see the light of day outside of its authors' offices on K-Street. 
To quote the most useful source of general knowledge every created in the history of mankind, Wikipedia, on this the day of their historic (and heroic) blackout:
SOPA and PIPA cripple the free and open internet. They put the onus on website owners to police user-contributed material and call for the blocking of entire sites, even if the links are not to infringing material. Small sites will not have the sufficient resources to mount a legal challenge. Without opposition, large media companies may seek to cut off funding sources for small competing foreign sites, even if big media are wrong. Foreign sites will be blacklisted, which means they won't show up in major search engines.
I wholeheartedly agree, and I hope your office does as well. These bills don't need to be 'adjusted', they need to be torn up. The content cartels in Hollywood and elsewhere don't need any further anti-competitive protections, or any more custom written laws from their lobbyists straight into the law books; they need new business models. New technology, not new laws, will save the wages of our artists and content producers. Bills like the DMCA, CTEA, SOPA, PIPA, et al, can do nothing but stifle our greatest innovators in a blind effort to save a stagnant oligopoly chronically uninterested in changing it's ways to meet producer or consumer demands. 
Thank you for your service to the great State of _____, and to the United States of America,