Some initial impressions on President Obama's immigration plan:
1. We have become so cynical that the talking heads, especially, can't imagine a leader doing something mostly for the decency of it. Yet this is likely Mr. Obama's prime motivation. Whites make up 75 percent of the electorate and anti-"amnesty" Anglos vote while too many potentially Democratic Hispanics don't. So it's a political loser.
2. Despite similar precedents set by Reagan and George H.W. Bush, the Republicans will try to impeach Obama or otherwise act out. They can't stop themselves.
I moderated a panel of eminent China experts last night. One of the consistent themes is how our dysfunctional government sends the message to Beijing to not take us seriously, or to make a dangerous miscalculation.
3. Mr. Obama's limited overhaul doesn't address the core problems: Our appetite for cheap labor; the way trade agreements disrupted traditional economies and drew workers el norte; bad governance in Mexico and much of central America, and the fact that too many American employers and even average Americans are satisfied with the status quo.
As I wrap up the next David Mapstone Mystery, I am going to have to take a week or two away from Rogue. I'll keep the Front Page and the special report pages (including Arizona's Continuing Crisis) updated. So you should have plenty to discuss. Thanks for your support.
When Barack Obama was elected president, the nation was facing its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. For all its flaws — a too-small-stimulus, lack of enough relief for average mortgage holders, etc. — Obama, with the help of Ben Bernanke's Federal Reserve, averted a second Great Depression.
When Obama took office, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent on its way to 10 percent. Last month it was 5.8 percent...
...The federal deficit was $1.4 trillion or almost 10 percent of gross domestic product. Now it’s about $483 billion or 3.3 percent of GDP. The deficit has fallen faster than any time since the end of World War II...
...America's GDP was $14.4 trillion. In the third quarter of this year it had risen $17.5 trillion, despite the headwinds of a slow recovery. It is the best performance among advanced nations...
...Corporate profits after taxes were about $1 trillion in January 2009. In the second quarter of this year, the most recent data available, they hit a record $1.84 trillion...
...The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 7,949 the day he took office. Today it is above 17,652...
...And the Affordable Care Act extended health insurance to millions of Americans, and would have included millions more if not for the cruel obstruction of Republican governors.
In the hands of Ronald Reagan's ad men, this would have been Morning in America. For Democrats this election, it was something from which to run (hat tip to Emil's comment in the previous post). They deserved the destruction that befell them.
The Republican wave last Tuesday is truly stunning, as this New York Times map shows.
I was talking to a friend — smart, college-educated, a former-Republican-turned-progressive — who recalled the great hope she had when Barack Obama was elected. "But we've been losing ever since."
Her answer is to go off the grid. Keep subscribing to newspapers to help support them, but not read them. No more politics on the Internet. No more Rachel Maddow, however smart she is. What's the point?
She already doesn't own a car and uses transit and trains wherever possible. Shops locally and has a tiny carbon footprint with a downtown condo. She will continue to vote in every election, for Democrats (progressive where possible), for every transit, parks and school funding initiative.
But she's done with living so close to the heartache of constant defeat, of the nation's astounding retrograde move. Where one of our two great political parties doesn't even believe in science. Sorry, legalized pot and same-sex marriage aren't enough.
Initial impressions on the Tuesday disaster:
1. Arizona is redder than ever. For decades seers have been predicting that newcomers would make politics here less conservative. Instead, the opposite has happened. Arizona has grown less competitive and more reactionary. Every major statewide office has been captured by Republicans for the second straight time (see official results here).
2. Ideology trumps logic. How does a nullity like Doug Ducey not only beat his Democratic challenger, a man with deep policy experience and good ideas, but do so by a commanding margin (nearly 54 percent to 43 percent)? The only answer I can come up with is that Ducey did the Aflac duck conservative quack and that was enough. It's not that voters are happy with conditions in Arizona. And the problems have been caused by decades of right-wing political and policy dominance. Ergo, vote for more of the same!
3. The great independent factor wasn't. Remember when the media were trumpeting the tidbit that independent voters outnumbered those of either party? But as polling research at Pew and elsewhere has shown, "independents" usually lean one direction or the other, whatever their twee affectation to independence of thought and judgment. In Arizona, most lean to the right.
4. The Hispanic wave (still) hasn't arrived. "Mexicans don't vote." Therefore, combined with gerrymandering and voter suppression, this phenomenon means Democrats will be waiting a very long time for Latino Salvation. An angry, old, white minority can rule in perpetuity. The apathy is especially startling considering how Anglo Arizona has been viciously racist against Hispanics, in a way not seen in much of Texas.
No series of events better epitomized the 1970s and the turning point they marked in Phoenix than the fight over freeways, specifically the "inner loop" of the Papago Freeway.
Most Phoenicians had a vague idea that freeways were a possibility since the Wilber Smith & Associates plan was adopted in 1960. Interstate 10 had been completed to Tucson and was abuilding from the west. By mid-decade it had reached Tonopah, requiring a long drive over largely country roads to reach. Real-estate values plummeted along the path of the inner loop. But by 1970, Phoenix's freeway "system" consisted of only the Black Canyon (Interstate 17) which curved at Durango to become the Maricopa (I-10).
All this changed as the new decade opened and the plan's stark reality became clear. Specifically, the Papago would vault into the air, reaching 100 feet as it crossed Central Avenue. Traffic would enter and exit via massive "helicoils" at Third Avenue and Third Street. The freeway was promoted as being Phoenix's defining piece of architecture.
It didn't take Eugene Pulliam and the anti-freeway advocacy of the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette to make most Phoenicians horrified. In 1973, voters vehemently rejected the inner loop. They only had to look 372 miles west to see the destruction wrought by freeways. They didn't want Phoenix to "become another Los Angeles."
[UPDATE] The answer is yes. Join the open thread on the comments to discuss the election results.
Are you really going to do it, America? Give control of the Senate to The Party That Wrecked America?
If the polls are to be believed, the answer is "yes." It is true that polling undercounts Democratic votes. But the indications are not good. Consider that in Colorado, incumbent Gov. John Hickenlooper is trailing a full bore Krackpot who claims the IUD is an abortion device.
Andrew Sullivan wrote an interesting post on the midterms. Among his comments:
Republican candidates have made this election about (President Obama), while most Democrats (as is their wont) are running fast away; the GOP itself remains, however, also deeply unpopular; wrong-direction numbers are at a high. No great policy debate has defined these races, and when such issues have risen – such as illegal immigration or the ACA – they tend to be virulent reactions to existing law or proposed changes, rather than a constructive, positive agenda. I see no triumph for conservative or liberal ideas here, no positive coalition forming, no set of policies that will be vindicated by this election.
A rendering of Phoenix Central Station, the oval-shaped tower that would be built at Central and Van Buren.
This year, Seattle's core has seen 100 buildings permitted, under construction or recently completed. In central Phoenix, by my count, there's the proposed skyscraper above, the University of Arizona's 10-story research building on the Phoenix Biosciences Campus, the ASU college of law, and a 368-unit Lennar apartment complex in lower Midtown.
It's better than nothing, right?
Phoenix Central Station by Smith Partners would be the most interesting, rising 34 stories with 475 apartments, 30,000 square feet of commercial space and, of course, a parking garage.
The tower would rise above the homely central transit station, which nobody will miss, but retain the use as a transit hub. It has its virtues: more apartments for downtown residents, close proximity to ASU and a shape that would provide a bit of variety from the mostly dreary boxes that make up the skyline of the nation's sixth-largest city.
The young and restless — 25 to 34-year-olds with a bachelor's degree or higher of education, are increasingly moving to the close-in neighborhoods of the nation's large metropolitan areas. This migration is fueling economic growth and urban revitalization.... Businesses are increasingly locating in or near urban centers to better tap into the growing pool of well-educated workers and because these center city locations enable firms to better compete for talent locally and recruit talent from elsewhere.
The top gainers of this coveted demographic from 2000 to 2012 are what you would expect: Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Boston, Silicon Valley, New York, the Research Triangle and Seattle.
But some among the leaders are cities against which Phoenix should benchmark itself and ought to be able to compete with: Denver, Austin, the Twin Cities and Columbus.
Instead, by a critical metric metropolitan Phoenix comes in 45th. Behind Orlando, Birmingham, Rochester and Indianapolis, hardly cities one would associate with urban cool.
The headline in Salon reads, "Baby Boomers Ruined America: Why Blaming Millennials is Misguided and Annoying." The column by Alexander S. Balkin that follows is no less shy:
From the time the baby boomers took over, the United States has experienced an economic environment plagued with unfounded asset and real-estate bubbles and collapses. The bubbles were caused by blind greed on the part of investors, and a blind eye on the part of regulators. The baby boomers forced the financial and banking system out of relative security to high-risk systems.
The perfect example of this was the 2008 collapse of the toxic housing debt market. In government, baby boomers ballooned the defense budget beyond the point of reason. They then raided government programs to pay for their mistakes...
You get the gist. Now, back when this boomer was starting as a journalist, there were these creatures called editors. If one existed today, she might point out to Mr. Balkin that the granddaddy of financial bubbles was Alan Greenspan, born 1926. Blinding and rolling back regulators was among the many anti-middle-class goals of the Powell Memorandum, written in 1971 by future Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, b. 1907, and carried into the public square with such success by Ronald Reagan, b. 1911.
Dick Cheney (b. 1941) and Donald Rumsfeld (b. 1932) led the "balloon(ing) of the defense budget beyond the point of reason" (An editor would also help the writer avoid cliches). Among those in politics and media who robustly supported both unfortunate turns are Rep. Paul Ryan (b. 1970), Sen. Ted Cruz (b. 1970), Michelle Malkin (b. 1970), and Jonah Goldberg (b. 1969). The algorithms that helped bring on the Great Recession and now cheat average investors in the stock market likely were written by X-ers or millennials.
Authentic Phoenix can still be found at Durant's.
The impending closure of Baker Nursery and Mary Coyle's raises an issue beyond losing beloved businesses or even the extreme struggle faced by locally owned firms in Phoenix. It cuts to something essential to a real city even if it is difficult to define: authenticity.
Critics may dismiss this as nostalgia, a cheap emotion for a golden past that never was (this is one way Very Serious People invalidate my arguments now). Or some academic fad of the latte-quaffing creative class elitists. Instead, it is critical to a city's success.
"Authentic" in connection with a city involves historic roots, local ownership, places that are valued, human scale and encouraging human interaction, aesthetics, a distinctive vibe ("cool"), and a strong degree of critical mass and density. The asteroid belts of suburbia with their chain restaurants and malls are not authentic — they annihilate it. No wonder educated young people, many empty nest boomers and world talent want to move to authentic cities.
As these losses continue (and Mary Coyle's had been dead to some since it left its 15th Ave. and Thomas location to flee north of Camelback), it's more than the city cratering or looking like Everyplace America. It is the death of a tangable part of the civilization, a concept beyond the MBAs that run the country or the real-estate grifters that run Phoenix. A point comes where too much driving is required to reach this or that "iconic" survivor.
As I write, a majority of states recognize same-sex marriage and the federal courts keep striking down bans. On a personal level, the meaning is profound. Being able to marry whom you want. To be at his or her side in the hospital and have legal rights of spouses. It is also arguably the biggest civil-rights victory since 1965.
And yet, the same-sex marriage moment is happening as most of the country, geographically at least, is becoming not merely more conservative but rabidly reactionary.
The assault on women's reproductive rights is unlike anything seen since the dark age before the advent of the pill.
Republican governors and legislatures, which control a majority of the states, are engaged in an ongoing effort to suppress the vote.
And the last time I checked, the GOP has a 66 percent chance of taking control of the Senate in November. If so, our halting regress toward national suicide will get a tremendous boost.
National readers of this blog will have to indulge me in writing again on sorrowful "news from home." Baker Nursery will be closing after 46 years in operation. Businesses come and go, we grow to love some of them, the verities of the marketplace don't care.
But this is a punch in the gut.
Baker's is a remnant of old Phoenix, the magical oasis, a garden city where people took special pride in bringing the bounty out of this timeless alluvial soil, where even the simplest apartments were lovingly landscaped. It is a remnant of the distinctive eastern part of the city that includes Arcadia but so much more. A remnant of when Phoenix was a very middle-class city, before the stark division of rich and poor, before the miles of linear slums.
What could have been more important for the garden city that once flourished here than nurseries? Phoenix once supported many, but Baker's was the best.
My mother was a Baker's customer from the start. Later, as a young man, I would take her to the nursery. She would select plants while I, well, admired the attractive Baker daughters.
Friends in my old 'hood, the historic districts north of downtown Phoenix, have asked me to write about a change in the approach paths to Sky Harbor International Airport that is bringing airplanes lower and louder over these neighborhoods.
When I lived in Ocean Beach in San Diego, everybody knew when it was 6 a.m. That's because flight operations were commencing at Lindbergh Field whose one runway took outbound planes directly over our neighborhood. I lived a block-and-a-half from the beach, in a cool district the tourists usually missed — but the airplane noise came with the bargain.
Cities are noisy. As I write from the 10th floor of my downtown Seattle condo, I hear traffic, sirens, people yelling and, yes, airplanes approaching Sea-Tac (albeit from a higher altitude). During the daytime there is construction noise from one of the scores of new skyscrapers going up. The sounds are one of the energizing things about living in the heart of a city.
Central Phoenix, by contrast, is uncommonly quiet. There's the hum of the Papago Freeway. At night, the Santa Fe train whistles that remind me of my boyhood (one hardly hears the Union Pacific now compared to when it was the Southern Pacific years ago and Phoenix was a major point on its main line). Otherwise, especially if you are a block in from a major arterial, it is perhaps the quietest place in the metro area. It is much quieter than when I was a boy and central Phoenix was vibrant.
The other night I was in a Twitter discussion with economist and blogger Noah Smith about the implosion of Las Vegas' hopes to create a vibrant "real" downtown (see the links on the City Desk). It's a sad moment, but I remarked that Vegas didn't have good bones. Smith asked a logical question for anyone not among the urbanophiles: What are good bones?
Since I now have more than 140 characters, let me answer more clearly. "Good bones" are a variety of architectural styles, especially pre-World War II — Art Deco, Beaux-Arts, Spanish Colonial Revival, Gothic Revival, Chicago School, Victorian, etc.
Good bones are dense downtowns and human-scaled neighborhood retail districts right up to the sidewalk. Parks designed by the likes of Frederick Law Olmsted or Adolph Strauch. Inspiring public spaces. Narrow streets and real boulevards. Palatial theaters and concert halls. Grand bridges. Infrastructure such as subways and magnificent railway terminals. Stately public buildings. Packed row houses. Downtown retail (especially a hat store). These are all good bones.
Here, Las Vegas is in an even worse position than Phoenix. In 1940, the end of the Art Deco era, its population was 8,422. The only architectural asset it gained was the lovely streamline moderne Union Pacific Railroad station above — demolished for a garish hotel in the 1960s.
So Doug Ducey and Fred DuVal have laid out their plans for addressing a water shortage in Arizona. DuVal, naturally, comes off as the sanest, including asking the state Department of Water Resources "to develop a detailed analysis of the Groundwater Management Act and provide specific recommendations for improving the law."
That's good. I don't trust ADWR or have confidence that the law is being adequately enforced or monitored.
DuVal is less convincing when he told the Arizona Republic that the state needs to "go big" on new water projects, including desalination. As regular readers know, the feds aren't going to invest in more waterworks. California and the Upper Basin states would also resist them with all their might (see here and here).
Ducey comes off full kook, including his insinuation that trees are to blame for drought. The last thing Phoenix needs to do is further degrade its historic oasis. Central Phoenix, especially, needs more trees to offset the heat island and climate change.
But nobody dared wake the elephant. You know, the one in the room
Much has been made by "left-leaning" commentators, notably Thomas Frank, about the disaster created in Kansas by Gov. Sam Brownback's enactment of conservative policies. And yet check out this chart:
Not to diminish "What's the Matter With Kansas," but Arizona is in worse shape. It arguably offers the better example of what happens when orthodox right-wing policies are enacted in a state without the oil and massive federal investments enjoyed by Texas. That Arizona is a growing, highly urbanized state brings into even starker relief the complete bankruptcy of the Kookocracy's "conservative ideas."
And they own this mess. The interregnum of St. Janet saw a constitutionally weak governor playing defense and never tackling the sacred cows of land use, revenue or water. Arizona's ongoing woes are the work of the regressive right that has taken over the Republican Party.
And yet, polls show at best a dead heat between Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred DuVal — in every way the superior contender — and Republican Doug Ducey. And no chance for Democrats to gain control of the truly powerful branch of government, the state Legislature.
Phoenix-born air ace Frank Luke Jr., Arizona's most famous hero from World War I, with his thirteenth official kill.
Arizona had been a state for little more than two years when the cataclysm broke out in Europe a century ago. When the United States finally entered the conflict in 1917, doughboys and sailors fought under the new flag bearing the perfectly symmetrical 48 stars created with the entry of the "Baby State." While the Great War was not as transformative here as its continuation in World War II, it still brought big changes to Phoenix.
When the guns of August 1914 commenced, Phoenix's population had clocked in at 11,314 in the Census four years before. By 1920, it would be more than 29,000. Although it was the state capital (and home of the "lunatic asylym," which in those days was separate from the Legislature), it was still smaller than Tucson. But downtown had become a thriving commercial center with multistory buildings.
The streetcar "suburb" of craftsman bungalows was taking shape in what are now the Roosevelt and F.Q. Story historic districts and the southeast corner of Willo. The city was tightly bound to the old township, with additions running out to the capitol, north above McDowell, south of Grant and east to around 16th Street. By 1917, bungalows were being built in the Bella Vista addition northeast of Osborn and Central. The Santa Fe and Southern Pacific had completed branch lines to the town, but civic leaders were lobbying hard for a mainline railroad.
In 1914, Phoenix adopted the reformist commissioner-manager form of government. It was meant to tame the corruption of the wide-open Western town. Soon, it was back to business as usual with compromised commissioners. It would be after World War II that meaningful reform would come to City Hall.
Arizona, with 204,354 in the 1910 Census, was still a wild place. It had been only 28 years since the surrender of Geronimo. The state's economy was based on mining, ranching and, in the Salt River Valley, a farming cornucopia.
As a true son of Scotland*, let me offer some opinions about the vote for independence sure to offend everyone.
In another Great Britain, independence vote leader Alex Salmond would have met a very different fate from the Blair-Cameron meek acquiescence. King James, the Scot who gained the throne of more powerful and richer Britain (and added the name "Great"), would have beheaded him. Churchill would have had him shot. During the high Empire, he would have been shipped off to the Raj or some other posting to work off his energies. Even during the height of the Cold War, when the U.S. Navy operated nuclear subs from Holy Loch, Salmond's vote would have never made it out of Parliament.
He strikes me as a bit of a scoundrel, a hustler politician making impossible promises. The economic risks are serious — pointing this out seems to have increased the "Yes" vote — but there will be unintended consequences, many unfortunate. And peaceful "Scottish Independence" seems like the kind of boutique hobby that is only possible in a place that is placidly, but unsustainably, divorced from the real world.
President Obama has chosen to continue endless war. Imagine if we had spent the $3 trillion to $6 trillion already down the drain in Iraq and Afghanistan on America.
We could have built high-speed rail, bolstered our fading research dollars, seeded 21st century industries to address climate change and energy sustainability. But, no. Military Keynesianism is part of our industrial policy.
Do you feel safer than on Sept. 11, 2001? I don't.
The media played their role in scaring the hell out of the American people. They didn't mention the issues of overpopulation and climate change helping drive the destabilization, much less how we ran through Pottery Barn with a sledgehammer.
These adventures are profitable for the Military Industrial Complex and the neo-con echo chamber. For the common good, not so much. Our economy, marked by financial hustles and new electronic distractions, is a mess. This will affect our ability to win the next real war, where real national interests are at stake.
Today's downpour in Phoenix has flooded social media. The combination of so many new residents because of the metropolitan area's extreme population churn, sprawl built out in flood plains and the on-the-cheap engineering of freeways makes many believe this is a shocking and rare event. In fact, flooding is commonplace in Phoenix.
As a child in 1965, my mother took me to see the Salt River running wild over its banks. The snowpack was especially heavy that year and as it melted it filled the lakes northwest of the city, causing the Salt River Project to release water from its dams. My grandmother told stories about the floods in the early 1900s, including two that destroyed the Southern Pacific bridge just north of downtown Tempe. In one case, a passenger car was hanging over the edge. "You might not see this again in your lifetime," my mother said.
In high school in south Scottsdale, Indian Bend Wash flooded regularly, dividing the town in half and disrupting classes. The city built bridges but neglected to raise the approaches, so the wash merely went around them. It took years to engineer decent bridges and create the green belt along the Indian Bend.
The 1980 flood (one of ten that hit between 1967 and that year) cut off Tempe, Mesa and Chandler. Amtrak ran a special train (the Hattie B., named after first lady Hattie Babbitt) from those cities to Union Station. Ominously, officials worried Stewart Mountain Dam might fail. And when I returned in the 2000s, the Salt ran rampant again.
Present at the Creation: Chiang Kai-shek, FDR and Churchill at the Cairo Conference during World War II.
President Romney wants a "mighty" military. President Putin might be willing to fight a nuclear war to take down American "hegemony." President Xi is asserting a Chinese regional hegemony that writes its own international law. The brutality of ISIS is making Presidents Assad and Saddam Hussein look like pillars of stability by comparison. Americans, or at least the D.C. elites, claiming to value straight talk recoiled — quelle horreur! quelle gaffe! — when President Obama said "We don't have a strategy yet" regarding ISIS.
Better, I suppose they are saying, to further wreck the country with more of the Bush/Cheney fire, aim, ready. As the tour d'horizon above shows, these are unquiet times, made more so for those who know what happened 100 years ago.
As social critic Jim Kunstler says, we're not the world's hall monitor. On the other hand, Pax America, for all its fumbles and stains, has ensured the longest period without a general war since the 19th century. This was no accident.
Most American leaders of the 1940s, Franklin Roosevelt foremost among them, believed Hitler rose to unleash the most destructive war in history because of American isolationism. Both in idealism and realpolitik, FDR hoped that a United Nations anchored by the five victorious allied powers would prevent a recurrence. (He had the foresight to insist that China be included in the Security Council). But it would be anchored by American power.
Stalin wrecked the hopes for the former, but the latter prevented a hot World War III. Our might was always based foremost on having the world's top economy, its gains widely shared, the greatest middle class in history, the commons...and relatively high tax rates.
John Sperling passed on. I am mindful of Horace's de mortuis nil nisi bonum, but Sperling was a public figure of consequence, deserving an assessment. In keeping with the life he led, Sperling died in the Bay Area, not the city whose name he took for his empire of for-profit education.
The New York Times wrote, "A survivor of childhood illness, learning disability, poverty and physical abuse, he earned a doctorate from the University of Cambridge; a liberal former union organizer, he spent years battling government regulation; a longtime professor who did not enter business until his 50s, he became a spectacularly successful capitalist."
The University of Phoenix made him fabulously wealthy. His net worth in 2002 was $1.1 billion and he spent 20 years on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. With the troubles of parent company Apollo and its stock drop, he was below a billion in 2013.
He reveled in being quirky, combative and rebellious, especially against the education establishment and the government. And yet the GI Bill — authored by Arizona Sen. Ernest McFarland — allowed Sperling to get his bachelor's degree from Reed College in Portland, Ore. Federal student loans turned what would have once been considered a "business college" into a mighty profit engine.
Among the individuals who wrecked the commons, Sperling is right up there. Privatizing profits, socializing losses, the cost and quality of an education at the University of Phoenix and other for-profit schools deeply questionable.
The thing about most guns is that they kick, something especially true of shotguns and automatic weapons. When the firearm discharges, the explosion in the chamber and subsequent chain of events and physics to send the bullet or shot at, say, 1,200 feet per second or faster, causes the barrel to rise. In the case of a shotgun, it also sends the stock back against the shooter — in some cases hard enough to knock him down.
I learned this as a child in the West. I learned it the right way, with competent, demanding adults and on properly prepared and supervised ranges.
For example, the first time I ever fired an automatic rifle was when I was nine years old. Yes, the same age as the girl who accidentally killed her "instructor" at an Arizona "shooting range" when an Uzi kicked up and out of control.
In my case, some essentials were different. For example, I had been taught basic gun-handling at an early age. Never take a firearm without making sure it is unloaded; with an automatic or semi-auto, that means not just dropping the magazine (not a "clip" unless it's an M-1 rifle) but also clearing the chamber. Never point a gun at someone "unless you intend to shoot them," said my mother the crack shot. Never traverse a barrel in someone's direction as you are handling the weapon. Even if you know the gun is unloaded. You always "police your brass" after shooting.
Rogue's note: This originally appeared Friday as my online column in the Seattle Times.
While the world is watching Ferguson, Mo., it is useful to examine how this inner-ring suburb is emblematic of many unfortunate economic trends in America. In 2010, the town was more than 67 percent African-American, a demographic particularly hit hard not only by the Great Recession but by disruptions with a longer arc.
The homeownership rate in Ferguson was almost 10 percentage points lower than the state's as of 2012. Median household income of $37,517 compared with Missouri's $47,333 (Seattle: $63,470). Twenty-two percent of the population was below the federal poverty level vs. 15 percent statewide. This despite the world headquarters for Emerson Electric being nearby.
As of July, the national unemployment rate for African-Americans was 12.2 percent. For those aged 16 to 19, it was a staggering 36.8 percent (a year earlier, it had been 42.9 percent). For whites, the comparable numbers in July 2014 were 5.6 percent and 18.9 percent.
AUGUST SABBATICAL: Barring major war or an outbreak of good sense in Arizona, I must leave you to focus on the new David Mapstone Mystery. I'm pretty good at multi-tasking, but some things finally had to take a pause. There's still plenty to read:
• The Front Page (to your right) will continue to be updated.
• Browse the archives, including the ever-popular Phoenix history columns.
This post can be an open thread for your comments. See you again with all new columns in early September.
Even the local media are admitting that Phoenix is back in a housing slump. I mean no disrespect to hard-working Arizona journalists. But let's face it, the Real Estate Industrial Complex controls the conversation, withholds or doles out ad dollars and can, ahem, ensure that offending columnists are run off. So when the local media admit to a problem involving this sacred cow, head for the bomb shelter.
More about housing (yawn) later. The most arresting data come from a new report by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. Arizona's per-capita personal expenditures, adjusted for inflation, were virtually flat in 2012 compared to 2000.
And this is "consumer spending" kept afloat with massive debt considering that most wages have been stagnant or falling, and the typical American household saw a 36-percent decline in its wealth between 2003 and 2013.
Other mid-year observations:
Fewer people are working than before the Great Recession, and the available labor force has fallen...
Whether through absent-mindedness or a Kookish desire to obliterate the memory of FDR, the state came very close to tearing down the 1938 administration building at the Arizona State Fairgrounds built by the WPA. The loose-knit community of preservationists — the preservation police, as one called it — went into action and the building was saved.
It's exhausting work done by average people. Phoenix lacks a wealthy steward such as Paul Allen, who saved and restored Seattle's magnificent Union Station and Cinerama. Phoenix lacks a widespread preservation ethic, too. There have been successes, such as saving the Frank Lloyd Wright house. And crushing failures, such as Robert Sarver's demolition of two territorial-era hotels to make...a surface parking lot.
Precisely because of these things, because Phoenix does have a fascinating history worth protecting even if it lacked the abundant good bones of older big cities — this makes the battle so important. Cities with enchanting old buildings and streetscapes also attract the creative class and urban-oriented tech workers and startups.
Our losses are profound. Here are a few of the ones most worth mourning:
1. The Japanese flower gardens along Baseline Road.
Here's the way the media see things. "House Republican Flailing Over Border Bill Drags On," from Daily Kos. "House GOP Abandons Border Crisis Bill Amid Conservative Opposition," from Talking Points Memo. The New York Times writes:
Many Republicans worried that leaving for the break without passing any border legislation would be damaging to them politically in the midterm elections, and vowed to stay as long as was necessary to reach a compromise within their own ranks.
The House may pass some kind of bill, but the meme, among some smart journalists, rests on some questionable assumptions.
One, that Republicans want to make a constructive response to the "border crisis" of the moment. Two, that the GOP is terrified that it must address this and other immigration issues or lose the future to changing demographics. Thus, failure to "do something" is a Republican defeat. Three, that there is a split within the Republican Party that has any real meaning.
I addressed the third point in a previous post. Today, I want to explore the first two assumptions.
Having been unsuccessful in persuading Arizona to exit from the freeway to ruin, let me turn my attention to a more promising arena: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This tweet neatly encapsulates the tenor of the debate:
"I don't agree with your view of the Israel/Gaza conflict, but I believe you made your argument in good faith."--.No One.— Jeff Greenfield (@greenfield64) July 29, 2014
My intention is not to wade too deeply into the history of this epic tragedy. Others can do it with more authority and/or brio. For example, Juan Cole:
The United States as a great Power is facing a large number of challenges in the Muslim world, and Israel’s Gaza campaign is endangering both American diplomacy there and the very security of the U.S. Given the series of setbacks for the US in the Middle East, in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Egypt, Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu could scarcely have chosen a worst time to kill hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the full light of world media.
Israel has all the proof it needs that world opinion will never consider its right to exist important. The Obama White House, and a lot of the U.S. News Media, portray the Hamas-Israel conflict as something like an amateur soccer match, with the uneven score (40-odd Israeli soldiers killed versus 1000-plus Palestinians, mostly civilians) showing that the contest is unfair, that Israel has “gone too far,” that they have entered the same moral zone as Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, carrying out a “genocide.”
Of course, this is a real hot war, not a diversity training exercise, or a self-esteem course, or any sort of the kindergarten psychotherapy that has come to form the basis of American thought and policy. And a vicious world opinion uses America’s own moral fecklessness the way Hamas uses women and babies to shield its rocket installations.
Instead, my intention is to set the table for discussion, debate and reflection by Rogue's smart commenters with some admittedly broad-brush observations.
This event has brought more of the kind of national news coverage to Arizona that can only enhance its reputation as a cruel and hapless place to the talented, compassionate and those who make decisions about where to deploy capital. A sampling is here. Even John McCain, who would know, called it "torture."
On the other hand, probably a majority of Arizonans would share the comment of someone from Phoenix on Facebook: "I saw nothing wrong with it...he did NOT suffer...just slept longer." When challenged, he added, "I hope the bastard rots in hell!!!" According to the Pew Research Center, 55 percent of Americans favored the death penalty in 2013, down from a high of 78 percent in the 1980s.
Wood was convicted in 1991 for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Debra Dietz and her father, Eugene. He also pointed the gun at police, who shot him.
This is the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11, the first manned moon landing. It marked the greatest achievement yet of a burst of federal funding of science begun under President Dwight Eisenhower. The 50th year since college students from the north went to Mississippi for Freedom Summer. Fifty years ago the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. President Lyndon Johnson fought a war in Vietnam, misbegotten though it was, while declaring war in poverty. Soon, we will mark the half century since passage of the Voting Rights Act. In 1963, the Clean Air Act was approved, followed in 1972 by the Clean Water Act. In 1970, President Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce these laws.
What was the nation that did these things?
A few things stand out. It was a nation with the greatest middle class in history, the greatest industrial base the world had ever known, which made things — often with union hands, and even when not benefiting from the advances for working people ensured by organized labor. That nation believed in science and progress. It was run by two mass political parties encompassing conservatives, liberals and centrists. Taxes were high on the rich and progressive. Productivity was widely shared.
That nation is gone.
This is downtown (pre CityScape):
This isn't downtown, either (it's 24th Street and Camelback):
I wouldn't dare move to Chicago and claim that Hyde Park is the Loop. Nor could I say Hawthorne is downtown Minneapolis. Cincinnatians would quickly set me straight if I said Over the Rhine is downtown — downtown begins at Central Parkway. The natives in all these cities wouldn't let me get away with it. Nor would the transplants who felt a convert's zeal to protect the geographical integrity of their cities.
Yet people in "the Valley" (Silicon? Red River — of the north or of the south? San Joaquin? San Fernando? Of the Jolly Ho Ho Ho Green Giant?), many of them from these very cities, get away with this transgression every day in Phoenix.
Downtown Phoenix runs from Seventh Avenue to Seventh Street, and from the railroad tracks to Fillmore, or perhaps Roosevelt. It includes the original townsite and some additions. City Hall's definition taking the northern boundary to McDowell is ahistorical.
I have been hesitant to pass along recent stories about water. Some examples, "Arizona Cities Could Face Cutbacks in Water From Colorado River," from the New York Times; "Phoenix May Not Survive Climate Change" on Salon; "America is Running Out of Water," from Vice; "Arizona May Be California's Future" on Slate, and this Tucson Weekly examination of the situation in the Old Pueblo.
Oh, and from Smithsonian (!): "Arizona Could Be Out of Water in Six Years."
Water in Arizona is a highly complex issue. It risks being spun as "everything's fine!" by the boosters, lied about by real-estate hustlers and their stooges, or oversimplified as "Phoenix is about to run out of water!" by outside observers. So let me tiptoe in with a reminder of this Phoenix 101 primer, and then...
Some things we know:
1. As with so much else, Arizona is not Phoenix. Even the farthest-flung reaches of the metropolitan area are not the old city. In other words, each part of the state has distinct water issues.
2. Phoenix is not Death Valley with subdivisions. In fact, the Salt River Valley, sitting in and near the confluence of multiple rivers, is the most abundantly watered place in the Southwest. The Sonoran Desert is the planet's wettest desert. This is why the Phoenix area has attracted irrigation civilizations going back perhaps 3,000 years. Phoenix is a natural oasis.
3. Thanks to this and the billions of federal dollars spent on reclamation projects in the first half of the 20th century, the core of Phoenix is blessed with nearby renewable water supplies. The dams and lakes of the Salt River Project delivered 767,445 acre feet to the project's footprint in 2012 and held nearly 1.5 million acre feet in the reservoirs in fiscal 2013. This water comes from snowmelt in the east-central Arizona mountains.
The mainstream media are all over it: the "crisis of kids at the border" — children, not baby goats. Some outlets are joining in with the right-wing echo chamber to make this, finally something, into "Obama's Katrina."
In fact, the phenomenon of unaccompanied minors being sent norte has its origins in an obscure and well-intended law signed by President George W. Bush. You know, the one with the real Katrina. The situation has been made worse by corrupt Central American governments, our appetite for drugs and cheap labor, and federal austerity.
I will leave it to others to report more clearly on the children at the border — other than to note that the $3.7 billion requested by President Obama to respond to the situation represents 0.1 percent of the federal budget. But more than twice the annual federal support for beleaguered Amtrak.
My mission is different. It is to pose the question of what happens when climate change and all the disruptions it brings really kicks in? It is already at least partly to blame for conflicts and dislocation, such as the Syrian civil war. But we ain't seen nothing yet.
Human-caused climate change, especially if left unaddressed, has the potential to cause such damage on an overpopulated planet that any sober discussion risks sounding alarmist. So what happens when millions upon millions of the displaced huddled masses show up on the southern border?
Our world was made by the Great War. In big ways, with the creation of the Soviet Union, the bitter peace at Versailles that laid the foundation of World War II and the partition of the Ottoman Empire that recklessly established the multi-sectarian Iraq. In small ways: "No man's land," the trench coat, "shell shock," the tank. In France and Flanders (where "the poppies blow"), farmers still regularly call out demolition crews to dispose of unexploded ordinance. The Great War destroyed four empires and killed the Western idea of progress that had endured since at least the Enlightenment.
When my grandmother spoke of "the war," she meant the one that began in August 1914, when she was 25. She never forgave "Kaiser Bill" for, by her lights, starting it. Or, for that matter, Woodrow Wilson. At least 20 million soldiers and civilians were killed. The 1918 flu pandemic, which followed the war like a judgment from the almighty, claimed as many as 100 million.
And yet, a century ago right now, hardly anyone expected the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand to lead to apocalypse. Royals were murdered with some regularity. At worst, Austria-Hungary would punish Serbia. It had been a century since the last general European war and nations were tightly connected in the first great era of globalization. Monarchies were bound by blood. In 1910, Norman Angell wrote The Great Illusion, arguing that economic integration was so total that war was impossible (n.b. Washington and Beijing today). Most people agreed with him. And yet, as the month progressed, a war beyond anything the world had ever seen was inevitable.
The long summer of 1914 was said to have been especially beautiful. That's the way my grandmother remembered it. "The old world in its sunset was fair to see," wrote Winston Churchill.
I'm not sure if the cottage industry of explaining away Arizona's reality is on vacation in cooler climes or will scramble to attack this telling map that went with a story headlined: "The South is Essentially a Solid, Grim Bloc of Poverty."
Arizona Territory sent a delegate to the Confederate Congress throughout the War Between the States, so the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree.
Seriously, the data come from a new report by the Census Bureau of people living in "concentrated poverty areas." It digs down to the Census tract level, finding that more than 2 million Arizonans, or 33 percent, lived in tracts with highly concentrated poverty. That compares with 1.2 million, or 24 percent, in 2000. The comparable national averages were 25.7 percent and 18.1 percent respectively.
These areas have "higher crime rates, poor housing conditions, and fewer job opportunities." They breed a feedback loop of poverty.
It's easy to blame much or all of this on the Great Recession. Arizona's dependence on the housing sector left it in a virtual depression after the collapse. There's some truth to this, but the problems go much deeper.
Some fine reporting has been done, especially by the great investigative journalist John Dougherty, as well as from the Arizona Republic. Unfortunately, reportage of event has lacked the nationwide heft it deserves. There has been no Norman Maclean to immortalize it. Newspapers don't crusade any more.
The accountability I demanded when I wrote about Yarnell a year ago in one of Rogue's most popular columns has been conspicuously lacking. Clearly tactical mistakes — even inexcusable rookie blunders — were made. But what was learned? Only one weak bill emerged from the Legislature: clear vegetation, if you wish.
If you've been away on Mars thanks to the miracles of the private-sector space program that has replaced NASA, you missed John Huppenthal's star turn on the national stage. The Arizona pol was caught making anonymous posts on Internet sites under the names "Thucydides" and "Falcon9."
Among other things, he compared Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger to the Nazis, called those who receive public assistance "lazy pigs," and called for stomping out Spanish-language television and newspapers. Oh, and FDR was responsible for the rise of Hitler (even though both were elected at the same time).
As you can see on Arizona's Continuing Crisis this played far beyond "the Valley," providing more of the kind of publicity that is so helpful to Arizona's reputation.
First, Huppenthal gave the standard non-apology, "I sincerely regret if my comments have offended anyone." On Thursday, the Internet pressure had grown so great that he was forced to call a tearful press conference at which he "renounced and repudiated" the posts. But he declined to resign, as some demanded, including Lisa Graham Keegan, who is now to the left of today's GOP.
Huppenthal should resign, but not over being an Internet troll.
In this circa 1942 photo of the force, "Star" Johnson is in the middle of three black officers in the fourth row. To his right is his partner, Joe Davis. On the left is Joe Island. In uniform in the second row, behind and to the right of the man in suit and fedora, is Detective "Frenchy" Navarre.
Earlier this year when a Phoenix Police detective was killed in a shootout, the Arizona Republic ran a sidebar listing all the officers killed in the line of duty. The information came from a list kept by the police department. The trouble is that the list is incomplete. It omits the in-the-line-of-duty murder of David Lee "Star" Johnson in 1944.
He was killed by another cop.
I've told an abbreviated version of this event in another column, how it was a searing experience for a small but ambitious city. I've even used elements of it in my fiction. In this column, I want to tell the entire story based on the best research available. This true tale involves corruption, racism, betrayal and revenge in young Phoenix. It also is a powerful reminder that PPD should officially honor Johnson as an officer lost in the line of duty.
If a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds then it's a wonder Americans can even walk, so commodious are their heads. Of course, this isn't what Emerson had in mind — note the word "foolish." We are awash in foolish inconsistency. Americans want a pony.
Here's a good example: We've flushed $4 trillion down the toilet of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, aside from the enrichment of military contractors, got nothing.
Think of all the nation-building we could have done at home for that money — and investments that would have more than repaid themselves. We're the only urbanized advanced nation without high-speed rail. We no longer have a manned space program. And yet, if the media are to be believed, this is Obama's fault and, as always, has "Democrats on the defensive."
Why the hell are Republicans never on the defensive for pushing endless wars; deregulation, union busting, financialization and bad trade deals that have eviscerated the middle class; driving the nation to the brink of default; preventing action on climate change, and a host of nihilist destruction?
I hate to run with the herd but the election loss of Rep. Eric Cantor was historic, the first time a majority leader has ever been defeated in a primary. The most moronic headline in the mainstream press goes to the New York Times: "Bad Omen for Moderates." And Cantor was moderate, how?
Time Wounds All Heels. The revolution devours its children. The GOP is no longer a mass American political party but an extremist reactionary/theocratic party. And, as I recently wrote, the narrative of a civil war between the "establishment" and "tea party" is nonsense. A race to ever-more-crazy, sure.
One observation I found interesting in Big Sort America: Did Cantor lose because he was Jewish in a redistricted even-more red seat? He had hoped to become the first Jewish Speaker of the House.
After the jump, I give you some of the best stories Front Page Editor Dick Silc has assembled (and will add more as they develop):
Here's the short course: If you don't vote for Fred DuVal, you're an idiot. See you in November.
Here's the longer course: Most of what we will read and hear about the Arizona gubernatorial race will be worthless. There will be much sound and fury, signifying nothing.
A big example will be the Republican primary. The entertainment factor is not to be discounted if one is blessed or cursed with an acerbic wit. Who can be the craziest? Behind this, however, will be the reality that all Republicans are Kooks or under the thumb of the Kooks. I like former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, and in a different Arizona he might make a great governor. These attributes will no doubt doom him. If he succeeds, he will be a prisoner of the Kookocracy.
Little or nothing will be said about how the party has become exclusively the province of extremists. The era of the "Sue Nation" (Gerard, Grace, etc.) and Carolyn Allen and even Gov. Jane Dee Hull is gone. The few non-crazy Republicans in office must carefully toe the line or be branded RINOs and destroyed.
The state that empowered a centrist, pragmatic wing of the GOP, the one that existed up through 2000 when experts kept predicting that population growth would turn the state purple or blue, is arguably gone. The state that Bill Clinton carried in 1996, gone. In its place is a Big Sort place where people of the same political leanings have gathered. In our Cold Civil War, Arizona is solidly in the New Confederacy.
This beautiful scene in central Phoenix is from 1917. It makes you want to step into the picture and stroll. Not bad for a small, isolated city in a brand new state. More about that later. Alas, today the same location is a blighted vacant lot south of two once-graceful houses that have been turned into the Old Spaghetti Factory, the lawns replaced by asphalt.
I write because of an article in one of the online nooks of Fast Company headlined, "Phoenix is Pulling Off an Urban Miracle: Transforming into a Walkable City." Read and decide for yourself. On Facebook, someone said it came off like a press release. The kindest interpretation is that it represents an aspiration. To make it real, a little history might help.
Although Phoenix's growth is closely connected to the automobile age, the city was actually once highly walkable.
Let's define our terms. By "walkable," I don't mean you can drive your car to a canal bank or a desert "preserve" and hike. Not even the enchantingly shady, last time I checked, Murphy's Bridle Path. I mean the arrangements I enjoy in Seattle, where almost everything — shopping, restaurants, grocery stores, culture, health care, transportation hubs — is a quick walk or bus/bike ride away. One doesn't need a car.
Prior to the mid-1950s, when sprawl took off and never looked back, Phoenix offered such a "lifestyle." For anyone who grew up in the actual town prior to World War II, it was taken for granted.
They got Eric Shinseki's scalp. He's the same one who, as Army chief of staff, warned Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld that they were contemplating much too small a force to ensure success in invading Iraq. For this, he was forced into retirement. Had his warning been heeded, there would not be so many veterans needing care today in VA hospitals.
Although the relentless media meme will be that the VA mess is the fault of That (Black) Man in the White House and could well propel the duhs and ignos to vote so as to give control of the Senate to The Party That Wrecked America, the episode is full of irony and hypocrisy.
Here's another: The epicenter of the trouble seems to be the VA hospital in Phoenix (poor Carl Hayden, whose name is now affixed to the building, deserved better). Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake famously do nothing to help the state they claim to represent. It's part of their ideology. Only when there was political blood in the water, did these gentlemen remember their home Zip Codes. McCain, especially, was OUTRAGED. His default emotion on everything.
It seems that I cannot escape the toxic blob that Phoenix has become even when working on the new David Mapstone Mystery. I learn that the FBI's Phoenix Field Office decamped its Midtown fortress in 2010 for leased offices at Seventh Street and Deer Valley Road.
The FBI has a long history in Midtown, once being located on the second floor of a modest office still standing on the northeast corner of Third Avenue and Osborn. Back in the hardly innocent 1960s, it was labeled with "FBI" right on the outside wall. By the time I returned in the 2000s, the bureau was in a hulking, anonymous and heavily guarded midrise around Second Street and Indianola, with a motor pool a block away. If you tried to stop your car on the street to drink the Diet Coke you had purchased from the (now closed) nearby McDonald's, a uniformed federal officer appeared and told you to move on, no questions answered.
Now it is in a 210,202 square foot building built and owned by the Ryan Cos., meant to be home to the field office "for the next 20 years." News reports tell me the building won a LEED Silver design award, which shows the moronic/mendacious nature of these greenwash labels. The office is about 17 miles away from the most common destination for the feds, the Sandra Day "I Gave You The Presidency of George W. Bush" O'Connor Federal Courthouse downtown. It is located far from the urban footprint. How can this possibly be considered a green building?
A mass political party: Conservative Ronald Reagan, centrist Gerald Ford and liberal Nelson Rockefeller after a real intra-party battle in 1976.
Sorry, I don't buy it. Pretending that there is a titanic battle for "the soul of the party" between the "tea party" and the "establishment" provides much material for 24/7 media, which must always be fed. But there is little real disagreement. Where there is, it shows how the lunatic fringe that was once kept in the closet is now part of the GOP mainstream.
The Republicans, like the Democrats, was once a mass political party. That's the way politics have long been structured in these United States. We didn't have the plethora of parties that made up the polity of many European countries during much of the 20th century.
This conferred advantages. With conservative, liberal and "moderate" wings, each party could scoop up the maximum amount of voters and co-opt the emergence of third parties. Thus, for example, the liberal Democratic Party of FDR was also the home of Southern segregationists until Lyndon Johnson championed civil rights.
I've noticed that one of the most common calls on the metro Phoenix fire incident log, at least in the spring, is "snake removal." All these calls that I saw, requiring the response of an engine company or other fire apparatus, originated in north Scottsdale.
Facebook friends will have to be patient because some of this repeats posts I made there. But the response was enough that I thought it would be worth putting on Rogue. Also, this site maintained by Phoenix Fire, is not nearly as complete or entertaining as Seattle Fire's Real Time 911. In addition, Phoenix has a shockingly high number of 962s (auto accident with injuries) and 962s involving pedestrians and bicycles.
Back to the snakes.
This is territory where my buddies and I in high school would hike to seek out good (and safe) places for target shooting. It was completely empty of people and houses, breathtakingly beautiful Sonoran Desert with all manner of plant and animal life. We never imagined it would be otherwise.
From training as far back as Cub Scouts, we knew to tramp heavy — so the snake would be forewarned and slide out of the way — not to reach under bushes or into holes (hello, newcomers), avoid the terrain snakes like, pause to listen and how to react to the distinctive sound of a rattler. Being heavily armed, including with a varmint gun, helped, too. But the desert was always approached with respect. It could kill you.