It usually doesn’t get more cynical than when lawmakers sit down to discuss “mass transit.” It usually goes like this: someone needs to pick up a few votes among those in the lower quintiles, and one of the easiest ways to do so is by pandering to the only form of transportation they can afford.
That or a newly elected official, politically naive but earnest, decides he or she is going to finally be the one to bring the Age of Reason to bear on the public infrastructure debate.
In either case, the net product is a show that no one takes seriously. Assuming they’re paying attention in the first place. Which they aren’t.
Some time ago, by way of pointing out why things had gone wildly out of control at the federal level, it was pointed out to me that in Washington there are not two political parties, but three. The party in minority control of Congress, the party in majority control of Congress and the third party, the administration, aka the White House.
In normal times, members of Congress self-identify with their office first and with their political party second. And they view the administration, the president, as belonging to a distinctly different clique, no matter what political label it wears.
Some time ago, by way of pointing out why things had gone wildly out of control at the federal level, it was pointed out to me that in Washington there are not two political parties, but three. The party in minority control of Congress, the party in majority control of Congress, and the third party, the administration, a.k.a. the White House.
In normal times, members of Congress self-identify with their office first, and with their political party second. And they view the administration, the president, as belonging to a distinctly different clique, no matter what political label it wears.
Republican. Democratic. Administration. Three parties.
I was listening to the local AM talk radio show a few weeks ago when a topic near and dear to my heart came up. The topic was Indiana's "brain drain," the fact that Indiana every year loses a sizable proportion of its college graduates to other states, other places.
According to the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute, a third of all native Hoosiers leave the state upon college graduation. A full two-thirds of engineering and technology students end up leaving.
This has not been lost on our political and educational leaders. Despite having two world-class institutions of higher education, Indiana also has the second-lowest level of college graduates in the nation.
The politicians have responded to this by, essentially, trying to bribe people to stay here after they graduate. The radio hosts talked about the governor's latest initiative, offering low-interest student loans to those who would pledge to remain here after they graduate.
A good friend of mine accused CIVITAS of being "fact free" the other day, which I guess is fair enough. What that means for you, dear reader, is a game of catch-up.
Here are some facts.
According to Goldman Sachs, the United States' decade-and-a-half home construction boom has resulted in a surplus of one-and-a-half-million excess homes.
In other words, the housing industry's frantic suburban game of musical chairs, begun during the last Bush presidency, had gone into classic overshoot.
I spent last Tuesday night sprawled out in a Dallas hotel, watching the president's State of the Union address. I believe one can live a happier life, if one is only willing to lower one's expectations, and it was in that mood that I found myself that evening. A room-service cheeseburger, a couple of brews, and no expectations regarding our hapless decider-in-chief.
I'm fibbing a bit. I'd tuned in because there was something about which I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear what the president was going to say about energy. After all, it was just last year that I, in another hotel room in another city, heard him scold us on our addiction to oil.
This year I'd heard rumors that something just as portentous was afoot.
He didn't fail to deliver.
Civilization is the simple aggregation of institutions. Churches. Governments. Social and philanthropic orders. Institutions of knowledge.
They exist to bring permanence to the human experience — to be the mechanisms capable of transcending a human lifetime and, in doing so, giving purpose to the lives of individuals.
To be a part of something that existed before you were born and that will continue to exist long after you're dead is, excuse me for being dramatic, to be in some measure immortal.
America emerged from the Second World War as a nation reinvigorated. The War had not only woken us from the Depression, but the nation's total victory had usurped Europe in its place as the seat of global economic and policy dominance.
The war also awoke the nation's true scientific and industrial promise. That, together with the heady vapors of victory, stoked an optimism and compelling vision for the future. A future first, and briefly, of Le Courbusier's (not to mention the Jetsons') radiant cities the even more compelling vision of a future free of the city altogether.
Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946) captured that future on film. An antiseptic future of detached lots and cul-de-sacs where even recent immigrants like the Martinis could live in clean suburban splendor. All brought by benevolent land speculators — an army of George Baileys down at the building and loan, financing the American Dream.
Unlike the past, the future would, first and foremost, be clean. Fresh air. A backyard for the kids. Your own car.
Ahhh, the last issue before the new year, the last issue before the Alternative goes underground and, to quote Van Morrison, gets some "heavy rest." I'm looking forward to it.
As befitting the holiday season, I got a gift today. I'm feeling about as lazy as a bear in winter and had been struggling with today's topic, as in coming up with one, when my inbox chimed with the following from one of you dear readers:
I really enjoyed your recent article "Leaking income and money." As before, when I read your article about the problem of roads in Bloomington and how simply increasing the number of lanes is not a solution, I find myself asking, "What IS the solution to the "Leaking income and money"?
Hundreds of millions of years ago, a shallow sea covered the land on which we now live, and providence had it that Monroe County would be the final resting place of trillions upon trillions of that sea's little creatures. Here, in a graveyard that reaches from Lafayette to Salem (but mostly Monroe) is where the ancient came to die.
And so was laid the bedrock for one of the world's most famous extractive industries, Indiana's dimensional limestone industry. Limestone is calcium, every block nothing more than an accumulation of skeletons packed hard together.
And, although limestone occurs the world over, nowhere else in the world were those skeletons so uniformly, so homogeneously, and with such scarcity of contamination, deposited.
Monroe County is to limestone as Saudi Arabia is to oil. If Ooids (the name and form those little skeletons took) were a master race, this would be their homeland. There's nothing multicultural about our limestone, there's no messy diversity in its composition.