Saturday, January 31, 2009


Schools should be in integrated campuses that provide education for all ages and also include dining facilities for meal programs, libraries, clinics, transit stops, mini police stations, social welfare offices, public restrooms, parks, and low-income housing.

These campuses should be fairly busy for 18 hours a day and comfortable and safe 24 hours a day. Instead of regarding schools as a sort of prison in which children are segregated from society, schools should be regarded as a core value to which we all return throughout our lives.

Naturally, you might hope to see some synergy here, with older people helping in the classrooms before dinner, transit serving riders of all ages, and younger people sampling vocational training, such as cooking or facility maintenance, while in high school.

Almost all of the activities listed are already funded, but geographically dispersed, increasing transportation costs, and located in older buildings that are not energy efficient. And there’s no time like the present! The largest population cohort we’ve ever known is beginning to retire and looking to trade that family lifestyle for some serious empty-nester living.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Seattle P-I, RIP

I'll miss the Seattle P-I, in much the same sense as I miss the Doghouse and the organist at the Wharf. Which is to say, not so much.

In fifty years the P-I has never strongly supported a progressive position I believe in. In fact, they haven't even provided the full and balanced coverage I could have provided from my readings of other sources. In fact, they supported the re-election of Nixon.

Maybe there's a big bunch of people who will feel a new hole in their lives. I'm not one of them.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Did The New Deal Fail?

When I was a kid in the 50s nobody thought the New Deal had failed. When you drove on a road it was probably a road built by the New Deal. When you went to school it was probably a school built by the New Deal. When you went to the Post Office it was probably a Post Office built by the New Deal. When you turned on a light, the electricity came from dams built by the New Deal. All of the adults you knew had lived through the Depression, and none of them thought the New Deal was a failure.

In fact, they thought capitalism had failed catastrophically, and that probably something like the New Deal would be necessary forever to keep capitalism from failing again. Modern Republicans think the same thing, they just don't like to see any democracy or accountability involved when government props up business. When it came to pump-priming, though, George Bush was so there, spending about $4.5 trillion over eight years to keep things looking rosy.

In spite of today's orchestrated whining, there's no disagreement at all- the New deal was a success, and a model for the future.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Another Great Depression?

Any serious student of American transportation knows that by the year 1900 railroads had achieved a rich corruption beyond the confines of a blog post. They routinely passed through bankruptcy and emerged, 'healthy' with a third again as much debt as when they entered. After 1910 the interurban trackage in the US doubled but none of that new investment ever paid a dime in profits. By 1920 we had a half again as much railroad trackage as we needed, even after the fierce government slashing of the First World War, and in the 20s the steam railroads built massive new terminals and servicing facilities for the traffic they expected to serve.

All of this happened after the automobile, truck, and bus emerged, between 1900 and 1910, as the new transportation paradigm. Is it really so amazing that most railroads saw business drop by 90% at some point in the 30s? Do we really need a clever one-size-fits-all explanation?

Could this happen again? The solipsistic US ("We are the largest market in the world") has largely ignored the changing world situation for- oh, say- about 40 years. Could the end of happy motoring, as Jim Kunstler calls it, mean we'll grow our own vegetables and mend our own clothes?

Only if you're smart. Social Security provides a buffer for the basic economy. Bank deposits are insured. There's plenty to do in fighting Global Warming.

But, as the song says, it's been a long time comin', and it will be a long time gone.