Monday, March 29, 2010
Little Jimmy Kunstler is going off on the "right" again in this weeks diatribe...this is not the same Kunstler I was reading just a few short weeks ago!
on March 29, 2010 7:49 AM
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
Where Have We Been; Where Are We Going?
by James Howard Kunstler
on March 15, 2010 6:51 AM
Driving down the broad avenues of Cleveland, Ohio, was like flipping through the pages of a picture book about the rise and fall of our industrial empire. Where demolitions had not removed things -- a lot was gone -- stood the residue of a society so different from ours that you felt momentarily transported to another planet where a different race of beings had gone about their business.
Among the qualities most visible in the recent ruins of that lost society is the secure confidence expressed in its buildings. Even the most modest factory or business establishment built before the 20th century included decorations and motifs devised for no other reason but to be beautiful -- towers, swags, medallions, cartouches -- as if to state we are joined proudly in a great enterprise to make good things happen in this world. This was true not just of Cleveland, of course, but the whole nation, for a while anyway.
Equally arresting are the changes visible in the collective demeanor from the mid-20th century, especially after the Second World War, when the adolescent panache of a rising economy had morphed into the grinding force of a place devoted to the production of anything. The memory of the Great Depression lingered like a metabolic disorder, and the spirit of the place was no longer caught up in the muscular exuberance of self-discovery but the sheer determination to stay powerful and alive. This phase didn't last long.
By the 1970s, signs of a new illness were clear. Production was moving someplace else, incomes and household security with it. An existential pall settled over the city as ominous symptoms of waning vitality showed up in the organs of production. Steel-making and car-making staggered. Even the Cuyahoga river caught on fire, as if fate was a practical joke. Major retail was moving elsewhere -- to the suburban outlands -- where so many of the people who worked in the downtown towers had already fled. The population that remained in the city center was made of recently uprooted agricultural quasi-serfs who had only just come up to the city a generation before to make better livings in the factories that were all of a sudden shutting down. It seemed like a kind of swindle and they were understandably angry about it.
These days, reading what remains of the city by the lake -- like so many other cities on the lakes and big rivers of the USA heartland -- you see a place outfitted for different obsolete pasts with almost no sense of a plausible future. Most of the efforts directed at "economic development" in our industrial cities have been aimed at recapturing those pasts, and it is not surprising that they uniformly fail, because we are not going back there. We could conceivably take ourselves toward futures to be proud of, but they are not likely to be the kind of futures we are so busy projecting in our techno-grandiose fantasies about machine "singularities."
Being an actualist, I'm in favor of getting real about things, and the reality we've entered is one of comprehensive contraction, especially for our cities. One of the reasons places like Cleveland (and Detroit, and Milwaukee, and St Louis, and Kansas City....) continue to fail in their redevelopment efforts is because they are already too big. They became overgrown organisms a while ago, unsuited to the realities of the future -- especially the energy resource realities of the future -- and they have tried everything except consciously contracting into smaller, finer, denser, differently-scaled organisms. In fact, the trend up until the so-called housing bubble of recent years was to just keep on expanding ever outward beyond the suburban frontier, which left our cities in a condition like imploded death-stars -- cold and inert at the center, with debris speeding uselessly outward to an unreachable infinity.
This future we're entering, which I call the long emergency, compels us to imagine our society differently. Our cities and towns exist where they do because they occupy important sites. Cleveland is where a significant river empties into the world's greatest inland sea (which has the additional amazing benefit of being fresh water). Some human settlement will continue to be there, very probably a place of consequence, but it will not be run under the same circumstances that produced, for instance, the civic center of Daniel Burnham with its giant Beaux Arts courthouses, banks, and municipal towers.
This disintegrating nation is woefully distracted by Web 2.0, iPads, Avatar movies, Facebook, and the idiot celebrity spectacles of TV, not to mention the disasters of job loss, foreclosure, medical extortion, bankruptcy, corporate loot-ocracy, and the squandered moments of politics. We know we have to go somewhere. We know that something like history is leaving us behind. We have no idea how to get to a new place. And we're spending most of our mental energy gaping into the rear-view mirror, which is the last place to look for your destination.
The confusion is apt to get a lot worse before it gets better. I'm not saying this to be ornery but because I believe it is true, and it will benefit us to know the odds we're up against. The confusion is going to generate a lot of ideas that are inconsistent with reality -- especially involving the seductive nostrums of technocracy. Our redemption will be found closer to the ground in the things we do by hand. But we don't know that yet, and we're going to try everything except looking there before we find out.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
The Durant area was once claimed by both Spain and France before officially becoming part of the United State after the Louisiana Purchase and Adams-Onis Treaty. During the 1820s and 1830s the area was designated as part of the Choctaw Nation in the southern Indian Territory. During the Indian removals the Choctaws followed the Choctaw Trail of Tears from their ancestral homeland in Mississippi and Alabama into this area. The Choctaw Nation originally extended from the Mexican border in the west (now part of the Texas panhandle) to the Arkansas Territory in the east, from the Red River in the south to the South Canadian River in the north.
Pierre Durant and his four sons, all of French-Choctaw origin, made the journey up the Trail of Tears on the way to the southeastern part of the Choctaw Nation in 1832. The brothers, grown, with families of their own, established homesteads from the Arkansas line to Durant. One son, Fisher, married to a full blood Choctaw, found a beautiful location for a home between Durant's present Eight and Ninth Avenues.
Fisher Durant's son Dixon Durant is recognized as the founder of Durant and is honored as its namesake. As an early day minister, businessman and civic leader, Dixon Durant is credited with pastorates in local Presbyterian, Congregationalist and Methodist churches. He established the first store selling general merchandise and possibly influenced the 1872 creation of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (Katy Railroad) siding at Durant, thus producing the initial impetus for establishing the community.
A post office for “Durant Station” was authorized in 1879, evidence that a village of some size had developed during the seven years since the coming of the railroad. A.E. Fulsom was post master. Discontinued in 1881, the post office re-established in 1882 with the address as “Durant, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory.” The word “station” was never again used as part of the official name for the community.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Monday, March 08, 2010
Several members of the DPS gathered this weekend for a "road trip" in search of "urban decay"....
We found some cool things to photograph, met some interesting folks, and enjoyed some pretty decent bar-b-que...all in all a successful day!
Then All At Once
on March 8, 2010 6:58 AM
Saturday, March 06, 2010
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Debra Medina, new star of America's right, is firing up the race for Texas governor
Debra Medina of the Tea Party movement is making a Sarah Palin-like impact with policies stressing property rights and gun ownership
* Paul Harris in Lytle, Texas
* The Observer, Sunday 28 February 2010
Texas Republican candidate Debra Medina at a press conference in Houston this month. Photograph: Pat Sullivan/AP
Lytle is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it kind of town, one of hundreds that dot the vast flat ranchlands of southern Texas. A smear of houses by the main highway between San Antonio and Laredo. Population: 2,383. The first streets only got paved here in the years after the second world war. A sewage system took a little longer, not being built until the 1960s. In short, Lytle, Texas, has never been big enough to have much impact on the politics of the Lone Star state. And few Texas politicians have ever paid much attention to it.
Until Debra Medina, that is. When Medina breezed into Lytle's community hall the locals found themselves confronted with a Texan version of Sarah Palin. She wore a sharp scarlet skirt suit, librarian-style glasses and a puffed-up hairdo. More than 60 Lytle residents had gathered to meet her, a hefty turnout on a weekday at 11am for a Republican primary election in the race to be Texas governor. Medina has become a political phenomenon in Texas. Emerging as a genuine star of the rightwing populist Tea Party movement, she delivers a fiery message of slashing taxes and the abolition of almost all forms of federal government, and issues dire warnings that President Obama is taking America down a slippery slope to Soviet-style communism.
It's working. Previously unheard of by the vast majority of Texans, Medina has set the race for governor on fire, upsetting the primary contest between the incumbent, Rick Perry, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Those gathered to see Medina in Lytle loved her. Young and old, men and women, Latino and white, listened with rapt attention as she outlined her agenda and asked them to back her in this week's first round of voting. If she can beat Hutchison into second place, she can secure a runoff against Perry. That would raise the possibility – distant but real – of a Tea Party activist capturing the government of the second biggest state in America. The Tea Party movement would have gone from being a bunch of ragtag protesters to heading one of the largest single economies in the world. "If we can change politics as usual in Texas, then we can change politics as usual across America. This is not just about Texas, but about changing the whole country," Medina told the Observer before addressing her supporters in Lytle.
She is not alone in that ambition. Across America other extreme candidates have emerged on the Republican right to challenge familiar party figures with a fiery mix of Tea Party-inspired populism. In Arizona, Senator John McCain is facing a tough re-election fight against a former congressman, JD Hayworth, who has expressed public doubts as to whether Obama was born a legitimate American citizen. In Florida the moderate Republican governor, Charlie Crist, is lagging badly in his own primary election to rightwing challenger Marco Rubio, who has the backing of local Tea Party groups.
On the right of US politics, this is big stuff. Instead of forcing mainstream Republicans to woo them for their votes, the rightwingers are now bidding for power. It is an attempt at revolution that could have huge meaning for America and the world, especially given the disastrous showing of Democrats in recent polls and elections. Medina knows this. After her speech she ended with a plea to her audience. "We can win this race," she said, then held up her hand and squeezed two fingers together. "It is this close."
Later that night, at a firemen's association hall in the much larger city of San Antonio, Medina's face stared down from a huge screen as she delivered a long policy monologue. To her audience she was the very antithesis of establishment power: a heroic revolutionary, out to destroy government and bring power to the people. "She is not a career politician. Everything she is saying will make Texas better than what it is," said Sergeant Shawn Mendoza, 30, a veteran of three tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. A few minutes later the flesh-and-blood version of Medina entered the hall. She got a standing ovation before she had said a word.
She began her stump speech again, still wearing the outfit she had in Lytle. But when it comes to speeches Medina is no Sarah Palin. She has no need to write on her hand to remember her talking points. Instead her speech was a complex walk through her extreme anti-government philosophy, citing sources as varied as the Austrian school of economics, St Augustine and modern French philosophers. She said she wanted to get rid of property taxes and allow Texans to do whatever they wanted with anything they owned, whether that was dig for oil or build an extension. There was, she said, no constitutional basis for a federal Department of Education or an Environmental Protection Agency or the Federal Reserve. Texas should assert its rights almost as a nation-state, controlling over its own National Guard units. The disdain for government was visceral. The American way, she said, was simple. "There are two rights essential to freedom: private property and gun ownership."
Such thoughts find fertile ground in Texas. This state has always had a swaggering, independent streak and a dislike for too many laws. Medina was born on a farm near the small town of Beeville in south Texas. She speaks with a homely Texas accent and worked as a nurse before entering politics at county level in the 1990s. Her bid for governor was largely ignored by the media as she crisscrossed the state for 13 months, visiting small town after small town. Gradually she crept up in the polls and forced her way into the televised debates, where she performed strongly. Campaign money began to pour in. One poll puts her as high as 24%, just behind Hutchison and within reach of catching her and forcing Perry into a runoff.
Medina believes she is not really in third place, citing the fact that the polls only telephone previous Republican primary voters, whereas she is bringing in thousands of new supporters. "I feel fantastic. I think we can win this," she said in Lytle.
Only once has Medina slipped up – in an interview she gave to the conservative radio host Glenn Beck. On his show Medina was asked if she thought the US government might have had a role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She replied: "I don't." She then went on to expand disastrously upon that answer. "I don't have all the evidence there… I think some very good questions have been raised in that regard. There are some very good arguments and I think the American people have not seen all the evidence there, so I have not taken a position on that," she said.
Those comments provided ample ammunition for her political rivals. Her march forward in the polls was halted and some of her advances chipped away. The only time Medina appeared unnerved in Lytle or San Antonio was when a woman in the audience mentioned the Beck interview and asked her if she was a "Truther", in reference to the conspiracy theory that the government planted bombs to blow up the World Trade Centre. Medina looked flustered and started to answer before saying suddenly: "No! No!" and moving on to a new question.
But such areas are the home ground of the Tea Party movement. At almost any Tea Party event it is easy to meet Truthers or Birthers or those who believe Obama is a closet Stalinist or a Nazi or a Muslim fundamentalist or indeed all three together, no matter how blindingly contradictory such beliefs are. In San Antonio one member of the audience wore an Oath Keepers T-shirt. Oath Keepers are a group of veterans, soldiers or police officers who fear their own government is about to attack the American people or round up conservatives into concentration camps. The oath they have sworn to keep is to refuse to obey such orders. That sort of thing remains a fundamental problem for the politicians from the Tea Party seeking high office.
Calvin Jillson, a political scientist at Dallas's Southern Methodist University, believes the Tea Party can be understood as the latest in a long line of explosions of political rage in America. They include the Populist party that won elections in several states during the 1890s recession and the millions who voted for Ross Perot's presidential candidacy in the 1980s. "These things happen but they burn out like a prairie fire. We are in the middle of it right now but when the economy picks up it will fade away," Jillson said.
Yet the crowd in Lytle could not see any sign of economic recovery. Their rage did not feel like it would fade away. "I'm so mad, it's like chewing nails," said Lytle businesswoman Priscilla Squires, 60. She saw this week's primary as the start of fundamental change in America, while the experts say Medina's Tea Party will crash against the barricades of the ballot box. They are probably right. Yet Texas has always been a little different. "I don't think a Medina win is likely," said Jillson "But nothing is impossible. This is Texas after all."
Monday, March 01, 2010
Starting on Monday, the unemployed in the U.S. will no longer be able to apply for federal unemployment benefits or the COBRA health insurance subsidy. This means that millions of Americans that have been unemployed for a long period of time may suddenly find themselves without an unemployment check and without any health coverage. You see, normally state-funded unemployment benefits last for about 26 weeks. After that, federal unemployment benefits kick in. During this recent economic crisis, the U.S. Congress has approved up to an additional 73 weeks of unemployment benefits for unemployed Americans. But now the U.S. Senate has not approved an extension, and so now millions of unemployed Americans that are relying on federal unemployment benefits will stop getting checks once their current federal benefits run out. Millions more will not be able to apply for federal unemployment benefits.
So what could this mean?
It could mean that large numbers of Americans may soon be forced into bankruptcy.
It could mean that large numbers of Americans may soon lose their homes.
It could mean that large numbers of Americans may soon be devastated by medical bills they simply cannot pay.
It could mean that large numbers of Americans may soon be forced to live in the streets.
But should we expect the federal government to pay long-term unemployment benefits for all unemployed Americans indefinitely?
That gets really expensive very quickly. Considering the fact that the U.S. national debt is growing exponentially, the U.S. government cannot really afford to be throwing around cash as if it was water.
But with millions upon millions of Americans completely broke and unable to find jobs, what else can you do?
The reality is that it is extremely likely that the U.S. Congress will find a way to come to an agreement to extend these benefits at some point in the coming days.
So total catastrophe is likely to be avoided.
At least for now.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve's $1.25 trillion program to push down mortgage rates is scheduled to expire on March 31st.
So what is that going to mean?
It is going to mean that mortgage rates are going to start to rise.
That will mean that less people will be able to afford to buy homes and it will mean that there are going to be even more foreclosures.
That is not good news for the housing market.
Even now, sales of previously owned homes plunged in January to their lowest level since last summer.
So what is going to happen when mortgage rates start to rise?
The reality is that the U.S. housing market is simply not going to recover to previous levels. In fact, all signs point to another major housing market disaster in the years ahead.
Home loan standards are tightening.
Mortgage rates are rising.
The big banks are hoarding cash and have reduced lending.
Another massive wave of adjustable rate mortgages is scheduled to reset between 2010 and 2012 which will force another gigantic pile of foreclosures on to the market.
So where in the world is the "housing recovery" going to come from?
There are going to be many more houses for sale and many fewer qualified buyers.
It does not take an economic genius to figure out what that is going to do to housing prices.
Hopefully the U.S. government and the financial powers that be can figure out a way to stabilize things for a while.
But there is no getting around the fact that the U.S. is headed for an economic collapse.
By borrowing gigantic piles of cash the U.S. government can put the pain off for a little while, but by doing so they make the eventual collapse much worse.
Winter Mind Games
on March 1, 2010 6:35 AM