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March 17, 2011


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Believing in the old adage that "it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness", I'm surprised by the relatively small number of individuals who are committed to advocating for a particular cause. For me, my best therapy is to be out there, hustling for better air quality. Been pounding away at this for maybe 10 years and may have made a small difference.

"The Great Disruption" seems to have both students and spectators but not too many activists. Am I wrong?

If there was one simple policy item that would make an instantaneous improvement in our lives and prospects, it's a $1/gallon federal tax on gasoline. It could stem the fiscal hemorrhaging that threatens to bankrupt us. It could encourage conservation and sustainability, both requirements for the future. It would decrease dependency on Mideast oil, help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and incentivize alternative energy research and use.

And this will never happen.

As it stands, the basic political prescriptions appear to be that if they help rich people, they're good for America. Therefore, our national solutions involve cutting taxes on them, shredding the safety net, and disinvesting in the future. Also, there are no environmental problems. And regulations of any sort are bad except insofar as they apply to our sex lives. Oh, and fetuses rule.

I sometimes wonder what the non-sociopathic billionaires consider our future to be. There are a few - Bill Gates, Jr, Warren Buffett, George Soros, David Geffen, Ted Turner, Tom Friedman, et al. What must their cocktail chatter be like at Aspen, Davos, and Hilton Head? They must know this nation is going off the rails.

Most of us can't make a difference except in some small area. And the stray billionaire who can is sometimes assailed as an arch-demon. George Soros can laugh it off but he must be aware how America's descent into madness has its own inertia. 30 years of magical thinking has turned our discourse to insanity and this country's elite into clever gangsters. I hang out in this blog because there's a tacit acknowledgment of these facts. Outside, I'm just another crazy guy talking to himself.

"And then what?"

Then comes this:

AWinter's post reminds me about what my very wise brother has been saying for maybe 20 years: "in our ignorance and denial, we will be instruments of our own decline". And he does walk the talk, living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, growing fruits and veggies.

I've always thought shit would have to hit the fan before anything would change; even slightly. But hey there is another solar manufacturing plant announced for Mesa and Surprise. We are only 20 years behind.

Off topic; but maybe that letter from Arizona business leaders had some effect at the State Capitol. Three of Pearce's immigration bills will not pass, including the challenge to the 14th Amendment...interesting.

Correction; all 5 immigration bills were rejected by the Arizona Senate:

"Critics said the Arizona bills rejected Thursday were over-reaching while supporters expressed frustration with Senate President Russell Pearce, saying he saw a lack of "political courage."


And when I say "shit hits the fan" I don't mean that a total collapse or failure, but that things would have to get bad, sometimes horribly so, before any action is taken to change our course. Shit had to hit the fan for business leaders to send the Senate a message; it worked. Peak oil will similarly begin to take its toll.

Not until then will Americans take any interest and notice. Unless something happens now, or very soon, in which oil distribution is severely impacted will alternative sources, less driving, smaller cars/less car buying etc look damn good to the masses.

Here is what is going to happen.

HOLODOMOR. Death by hunger.

The US government is hell-bent to annihilate the middle class and working class. The US government promotes outsourcing, massive layoffs, amnesty for illegal immigrants, and increasing the number of H-1b visas. The purpose of every one of these is to replace American workers with foreign labor. For the workers who are replaced there are no jobs at all. They will starve. THERE ARE NO JOBS.

The US government is deliberately wiping out its own people. There is little difference between this and the holodomor in Russia.

In the state where I live, former middle-class people are eating out of dumpsters.

In my state, the newly-elected Republican (thug) governor is shredding state spending. He wants to cut everything. State parks are being closed, and high-speed rail has been rejected with great scorn. As for the governor, he was the CEO of a huge corporation that bilked the US government out of huge sums of money.

At the national level, the Republicans want to slash Food Stamps, cut Medicaid, Social Security, and Medicare. Many want to abolish minimum wage laws and abolish unemployment compensation. Their solution to a ruined economy and a dearth of jobs is to starve people.

For workers today, a layoff notice is a death sentence.

The US is just going to be a plantation, where 93% of us are no better off than slave labor.


The US government is going to become tyrannical to hold things together while people starve to death.

A tax on gasoline is a horrific idea. For the people who are barely surviving on horrible low-wage jobs, that is death blow. Rich people won't even notice. That is an extremely regressive tax.

Here is a better idea. Withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq. That will save more than a gas tax could produce.

The gas tax will just put a lot of McDonald locations out of business. Their part-time, minimum wage burger-flppers are not going to lose money to drive to work.

Mick, does that have anything to do with St. Patty's day??? I am going to get my green drink on and forget about things for a minute.

But if our government was wiping us out, then the Census Bureau must be in cahoots with over-counting and all. They just forgot to extend the favor to Phoenix...

Ok one more thing; low wage burger-flippers at McDonald's probably shouldn't be owning a car and driving in the first place. That is the problem with suburban expanses! Imagine if they instead, burger flipped at a great mom-and-pop establishment (like Tom's Tavern) and took light rail...

Bill Gates IS a sociopathic billionaire. Bill Gates is despicable.

Gates has outsourced tens of thousands of jobs that could have gone to Americans.

Gates goes and whines before the Congress like a crybaby, and complains that there are no American engineers or programmers to hire. He complains that he needs more H-1b visas. Meanwhile, Microsoft only hires about 0.5% of the qualifed folks that apply there. Meanwhile, graduates from MIT, the University of Illinois, and Purdue can't get jobs. There are hundreds of thousands of bright Americans with CS and engineering degrees that can't get jobs at all.

Microsoft almost refuses to hire anyone over age 35. Microsoft is extremely guilty of blatant age discrimination.

If you are not Asian, Microsoft doesn't want you.

If we get enough CEOs like Bill Gates, we are DOOMED.

Quote from Jon's post............

"Millions of Americans are jobless and may never find work."

What happens to those people? Answer that question and you know the future.

The answer: they die.

Especially when Food Stamps are taken away, Medicaid is cut, minimum wage laws are abolished, unions are wiped out, more jobs are outsourced, more immigrants are brought to the US and taxes are cut.

They die. HOLODOMOR.

Elect Jeb Bush in 2012 and there won't be a United States (as we know it) by 2020.

Sounds like the green beer is flowing freely in Florida tonight.

Good points, Jon, especially with regard to Kunstler's assertion that cities will collapse and be replaced by smaller scale, agricultural-based towns. Always been skeptical of that claim. Certainly, people will have to eat more locally--the 10,000 mile salad is going the way of the dodo, but cities will still be the engines of innovation and capital formation. The trick will be to live in denser, energy-efficient cities supported by farmland.

The growing extreme inequality in this country appears to have survived the Great Recession unabated. One wonders what will finally be the trigger that causes it to stop.

Macro concern brought down to microcosm: perhaps the "same trigger" is like the band of moderates that derailed the Russell Pearce juggernaut. I refuse to believe that we are destined to be dominated by whackadoodles!

The problem isn't that we're governed by whackadoodles, the problem is that WE are the whackadoodles. We're getting the lousy government and media that we're demanding. Neither one was imposed on us by a hostile foreign power, though a thinking person could be excused for believing otherwise.

SousDesNuages a dit: "The trick will be to live in denser, energy-efficient cities supported by farmland."

Je crois que votre tête est dans les nuages. The trick will be for the detached overlords in the decaying, fragile, vulnerable, urban centers to protect themselves from their serfs and the barbarians. L'histoire parle!

Louis XVI, please read history more carefully. Living in a vital city is not the same thing as being cloistered in Versailles.

By the way, if living in a city without the need or cost of maintaining a car is the same as living with my head in the clouds, I'll take it.

In the denial department, I had an interesting Twitter debate over the announcement of a solar factory on the old GM proving ground in (thanks to extravagant annexation) Mesa.

I said it was more sprawl, rather than placing the plant in the existing urban footprint, which is full of empty or underutilized space (did the city of Phoenix even compete for it -- what happened to the "Opportunity Corridor," Phil??). No transit. No real freeway connection yet, and when it happens it's more costly infrastructure due to sprawl, far from population centers, car dependent.

My interlocutor said that area is the best shot metro Phoenix has at real urban density, "thanks to the airport and the university."

I am not making this up. First, the underfunded university system will never do much with the "Polytechnic." Second, Williams Gateway won't become an Ontario because Sky Harbor is cheaper (unlike LAX). And it doing so would require the southeast "Valley" population to add some millions, with horrible sustainability and quality of life problems. Third, there's no appetite for density in Mesa anywhere.

But this is the mindset.

That is the mindset of an idiot. Jon, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Mesa has no heart for real urban density. Will Mesa, especially the western half, be more dense...yes. But nothing like Phoenix and Tempe. Why? Because there also is no appetite for rail into southern Mesa and the city is looped and crossed with freeways.

Mesa will be denser with single family homes and suburban apartment complexes but not with mid and high-rise apartments and dwellings. I question why First Solar did not pick a spot along the light rail's industrial section; past 12th St. and before Priest Drive. This is prime location and great transportation abounds; from bus, to rail, to the airport, etc. My only thought is that because the area is prime, it is more expensive. In the future, as the solar industry continues to expand let's hope Phoenix gets itself into the game. So far Tempe and Phoenix aren't really marketing the "Discovery Triangle" plan:


This is a little off topic but I thought it was especially interesting given the current situation in Arizona: According to National Geographic (April 2011) racial and ethnic intermarriages are growing in the U.S.

The two groups marrying most often are Whites and Hispanics. White/Hispanic marriage is almost 4 times more common than any other "intermarriage" category like Whites/Blacks, Whites/Asians, Hispanic/Blacks, etc etc.

Also the White bride/Hispanic groom and Hispanic bride/Whites groom categories are split almost in half with 53% of the couples being White bride/Hispanic Groom. I found this interesting because in almost every other category the "disparity" is almost one-side. With Whites and Asians, 74% are White groom/Asian bride and for Whites and Blacks, it is 75% White bride/Black groom. For some reason I find this fascinating.

Looking into the data deeper, Arizona is one state leading the way with White/Hispanic marriages in the U.S. Maybe the Kooks' days are numbered and not just because the "purely" Hispanic population is growing but because the cultures are intertwining more than ever before?

It is true I had many crushes on the barrio girls when I was a medic, especially Marti and Diana. Oh, I wander. The Kooks grow more extreme because of these demographic trends. And Mexican-Americans and those in Anglo-Hispanic unions must VOTE. Then we hope they vote their interest and not follow the Thomas Frank syndrome, aka "What's the Matter with Kansas."



The wonky liberal Matt Yglesias isn't seeing the demographic shift I've been ineffectually praying for the past decade or so. Or, maybe it's going to take longer than we thought. At any rate, Thomas Frank might retitle his book What's the Matter with America.

Malthus guys Malthus covered this problem over a hundred years ago. I contributed to the 6.8 billion problems but only with one child not 13. At 70 years of age I am standing in front of religious institutions passing out condoms for Southwest Biodiversity whom I give $$ to for their programs. Last year they were the only environmental group to actively address population. I think this is another great piece Jon and I am glad you finally got around to what I see as “the problem.” Humans! Too many Humans! I quoted someone recently in a prior blog, “it’s not a matter of humans going to other planets it’s a matter of when.” But who will those humans be and will it be before earthlings implode. It appeared to me in the 50’s that the world was working it’s self towards economic city-states ran by financial barons. I think we are on course. Guys like Gates are giving millions to cure aids? How about his millions going to reduce population. Gas and wars. As previously I can’t remember a war I would have volunteered for and I am seventy, and a life-long fiscal Republican. Iraq and Afghanistan are absolute financial failures for the American taxpayers. Unless you’re Dick Cheney. Regarding the “dense” in Mesa and density, look to Utah for the pattern. A not so densely populated place where most have deep wells and huge basements full of food ready for the apocalypse. I don’t know how this digressed off into Anglos and Hispanics but I can help out. Working the field as very young “Gringo Pata Salada” in the 50’s I couldn’t help but fall in love with all those sweet young girls as they picked the grapes and plucked the lettuce and pulled the carrots. And of course just to up Jon one, there was Dorthea, Maria, Tilly, Glorina and then my favorite whose nick name was Changa. She was one wiry, lithe bitiful Moreno chica. It’s was a daily struggle fighting with the Pachucos for mi novia’s amor. OK got to go but must add, I hear you Soleri and you say it very well.Where's AZ REBEL did the pasties get him?

I am back from my morning nap. On the Great Disruption, for you optimists out thar, like phxsunfan I am currently reading "What Technology Wants" by the Wired guy Kevin Kelly. For U pessimists like me, I am also reading at the same time "Earth" by Bill Mckibben author of "The End Of Nature."

Another small step in the right direction for Phoenix/Tucson intercity rail:

"In The Public Interest: Arizona on Track for Passenger Rail

On Friday, for the first time, Arizona's State Transportation Board approved a state rail plan which includes connecting the major metropolitan areas of Phoenix and Tucson by passenger rail. In a state known for its reliance on single-occupant vehicles and its lack of good public transportation, this is a crucial step forward for providing Arizonans with better transportation options."


There will be a meeting at Phoenix Union Station this Monday (March 21). Here is a link with contact info and the what, when, who, and gist of it all if anyone else is interested.


Why not Nogales to Flag as I proposed back in 58?

Cal, I see overpopulation and the over-extraction of natural resources as interwoven. Our unsustainable human population is based on unsustainable energy inputs. It's a one-time "event" that no amount of wishful thinking or even rational resource management can fix. We will continue to deny limits even to the point where the lessons are harsh and unforgiving.

Climate change is another claimant to the costs of planetary overutilization. Likewise, there is wishful thinking, denial, and a refusal to consider ultimate costs. Between resource depletion and global warming, there isn't going to be much room to manage a soft landing.

The biological imperatives that govern animal life are premised in danger, hunger, and sexual necessity. Certainly mammals evolved in ways that make greed and lust advantageous to survival. And when we humans found ways to cheat the limits of our ordinary lifespan, we didn't simply modulate these instincts in order to serve a longer-term interest. Denial is baked into the cake we call life.

As Charles Bowden once put it when explaining his infidelities, "who am I to argue with 60 million years of evolution?". Indeed, who are any of us in the face of implacable biological facts?

"Who am I to argue with 60 million years of evolution?" - Charles Bowden via Soleri

No wonder women roll their eyes at most men...

I have seen that comment by Bowden.
I think it was in his first book, Mezcal?
As a result of your depressing comments above, I am going to quit trying to save the planet. I just canceled my Sierra Club membership. That's $35 bucks more I can spend on coffee and legal Mary Jane. What's a two finger lid go for today?

What's a two finger lid???

It's one more finger than a three finger lid.

LOL..."Drugs are baad, mmmmmmk." - Mr. Mackey


A 13 year old girl wrote a piece in the Scottsdale Republic this week . . in response to a question about what the place will be like in 20 years. She sketched two scenarios . . enlightened and quasi-doomsday. I liked the one about the happy assimilation of the Hispanic culture. By then, the "got mine white-right geezers" may have gone on to their great reward!

Wow! If a 13 year old Scottsdale girl wrote: "got mine white-right geezers" in the Scottsdale Republic, then I see a much more "enlightened" future ahead! Enjoy your weekends, all...

P.S. I know this may be just semantics, but I hope she learns more about integration rather than assimilation.

"White right geezers" was my term . . and I believe the little girl meant "integration". I mis-spoke about the latter but not the former. Intellectual arthritis may be an undiagnosed epidemic.

The opportunities and friction that being around real density bring:


(Slaps Forehead) Another Seattle miscue. Real density it is not, but a quasi-dense Seattle attempt:

"...5,000 parking stalls and new seven-story buildings for low-income renters."

5,000, FIVE THOUSAND, parking "stalls." This is another suburban complex on steroids.

(Slaps forehead) pSf, you know very well that this project is right next to the huge employment center of Pill Hill, right across the freeway from the really huge employment & retail center of downtown. And served well by transit. Too bad Phoenix redid the Henson Homes so badly; it's still cut off from downtown (imagine a park-like boulevard/sidewalks on 7th Avenue instead of the overpass); downtown employment languishes -- especially the promising biosciences campus, and retail for the working poor was run out of downtown in the '80s.

Now, to make you feel better, some negative things to learn from the city of Seattle:
1. Endless debate and paralysis on so many issues when the competitive reality of the future calls for nimble.
2. Moving too slowly on light rail, and years ago being sold the bill of goods on buses being adequate for transit.
3. No NBA team (but I don't want one back if it goes to the suburbs).

Jon, true but it is so frustrating that Seattle is always on the brink of real urban development but shoots itself in the foot instead. Great that it is next to an employment center, but one reason for all the parking is that the poorer residents of Yesler don't work there; thus they must drive. Again, Seattle has a world class employment density CBD downtown, but it isn't very far ahead in residential density.

If an NBA team moves back to Seattle, let it remain where the Sonics played at the Seattle Center! And PLEASE let the name SuperSonics fly again! However, I fear a Tukwila, SeaTac, Auburn, etc location will be deemed more "appropriate". UGH

AND I take issue with the Seattle Times making a direct comparison to this development and projects in New York City and Hong Kong! LOL...sure, lets find a spot in Hong Kong and NYC to place a few 7 story buildings with 5,000 parking "stalls" and see what reaction is gotten; hell, try to build that in Portland and you will likely be laughed off the block on sent on your way north via the 5...

phxSUNSfan, you do realize that most of the parking spaces will be underground, for the market rate units and the business blocks, right? A high proportion of the people currently living in Yesler Terrace do not work--they're on disability or permanently unemployable (GAU). And the bus service in the area is good, especially for connections to major employment centers like First Hill and downtown (and, a new street car is going in in 2013, connecting Chinatown with First Hill, through Yesler Terrace).

New office blocks in North America always include large amounts of underground parking, irrespective of the transit options available. Similarly, market rate apartments or condos always come with at least one parking space underground. It adds about $20,000-$40,000 per parking space to the cost of a unit, so usually efforts to build new housing without parking (or with lowered parking requirements) are tried for low-income units or market-rate units aimed at typically younger, cost-conscious renters/buyers.

In my case, I don't own a car, but the condo I bought has a space included underground. It's great to be able to offer it to guests who visit or for when I rent a Zipcar, but the most important thing is that it increases the resale value of my condo, when I decide to sell.

Sous, we on this blog conspire against the ever increasing consumption in America; vehicular costs a top concern. Yet, many opt for a hypocritical explanation for the status quo when it occurs anywhere other than Phoenix. Yes some underground parking is a part of SOME new development in North America but not all. Furthermore, there is at least one parking spot for each unit. Over kill for any truly dense city. That doesn't even happen in downtown Phoenix.


Here's a promotional video for Detroit from 1965. It's 18 excruciating minutes long but it serves as a reminder how every American city was once vibrant and successful. You can see the familiar patterns - the "urban renewal", the Robert Moses style of planning, and the explosion of modernist boxes that did so much to destroy the city's urban scale at street level. The comments on You Tube show how intractable American racism remains 45 years later.

Interesting video Soleri. I'm just glad Battery Bridge (A Moses inspiration) was never built.

It is just amazing that in '65 nearly 2 million people called Detroit home. This video made just 2 years shy of the riots that would send more than a million people running for the suburbs.

phxSUNSfan: Oohh, a conspiracy! Where do I sign the blog pledge?

There's nothing hypocritical about the explanation I gave. I ran some back of the envelope numbers from the article: up to 8,000 people living in 32 acres. 32 acres = .05 square miles. The 8k number is probably optimistic, but even if you knocked the number down by 10 or 20%, it would still be very dense by North American standards.

Well Brutus just stabbed Gaddafi.
Et Tu
Just love those cruise missles
your tax dollars at work,
my investment profit.
Phxsunfan, U should see my new solar powered recumbent. It's in the parking garage behind Lola's

The conspiracy is living within your means, not owning a car or driving almost zilch (basically, I was being cute). Your explanation is the very antithesis for a truly dense city. North American standards or not, Seattle would do itself a greater service by cutting parking, if not altogether then drastically.

And the 8k number is just a zoning figure. There will likely be only 5k units in development:

"Affluent people would outnumber the low-income (3,200 market-rate units to 1,800 low-income ones — and that's if you count 950 apartments for people earning between $35,000 and $45,000 as low-income)."

And those numbers probably will be reduced later.

Awesome Cal! Are you being serious?

That was a spoof on the fact that a condo builder in downtown Phoenix "forgot" about parking. I am too old and saw too much to be serious. But I do ride a recumbent using my legs as power. To assist your journey young man I suggest "What Technology Want's" by Kevin Kelley. Dont let the first chapter throw you. I think this guy really gets where I see your thinking going. Kelley is the "Wired" guy and besides chapters on Technium it has chapters like "Amish Hackers" and "The Unabomber was right"

Oh boo Cal...I thought you were one of those dudes I've seen between New Mexico and Arizona riding a solar powered bike. Never mind! I expect there will be some condos in Phoenix with no parking downtown; 44 Monroe doesn't have a space for every unit, nor does Alta, nor The Post...and ASU has developed zero parking for their campus despite their downtown enrollment growing past 6,000. Not even parking for their students dorms included in the expansion.

I guess this counts; but the Orpheum Lofts don't have parking included in their development.

The Orpheum Lofts are difficult to sell because of the parking issue. Phoenix's urban pioneers were stabbed in the back by the developer, who was pretty much abetted by city government. http://activerain.com/blogsview/681810/more-parking-trouble-at-orpheum-lofts

Phoenix is decades away from the kind of density that could make a car-free life relatively painless. This is not to say that a few intrepid individuals (and I do know several) manage to live here without a car. But if you're selling an urban lifestyle in Phoenix, you need a safety net. Even San Francisco has waged a difficult war with parking. http://blogs.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2009/07/new_report_attacks_citys_disas.php

I will say this for downtown Phoenix: 20 years ago, you never had to think about finding a free parking space during the evening. Now you do. If I'm going to the symphony or Hanny's or, heaven forbid, Lady Gaga, I'll take light rail.

Lady Gaga! See you there Sol! LOL...Actually sold my only vehicle about three months ago to a relative. It has been easier than I thought it would and almost a thousand dollars cheaper per month now that I exclude a monthly parking rental charge, insurance, gas, the payment, etc etc...It seems the developer may have done the city and its residents an inadvertent favor by excluding parking. Maybe, however unthoughtful, starting a trend.

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