Stuck in the Station: The High-Speed Rail "Low Ball Express"

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You know that something is up when a Washington Post editorial advises that the Obama Administration do a "reality check" on its plans for high speed rail. From the beginning, there was more slow-speed than high speed rail, however both components of the plan could be in trouble.  read more »

Love and the City

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It has been said that the modern city is soulless, that it is heartless, and that it is brutal. The modern city represents in its scale and complexity one of the most extraordinary of human inventions, but there is also no doubt that everywhere in the world it is also one of our biggest failures.

The dysfunction of a city in the past was an inconvenience. The dysfunction of a city in the future will be a profound disaster for that city and, ironically, a profound opportunity for another city, of a smarter city. It will be an opportunity for a city that has found out how to position itself better in the world of cities, but more importantly in the eyes and hearts of its citizens.  read more »

The Rise of the Efficient City

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Smaller, more nimble urban regions promise a better life than the congested megalopolis.

Most of the world's population now lives in cities. To many academics, planners and developers, that means that the future will be dominated by what urban theorist Saskia Sassen calls "new geographies of centrality." According to this view, dense, urban centers with populations in excess of 20 million—such as metropolitan Tokyo, New Delhi, Sao Paolo and New York—are best suited to control the commanding heights of global economics and culture in the coming epoch.  read more »

Toronto Election Highlights Failure of Amalgamation

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In my pre-election piece on the Toronto election, I discussed the city’s lingering malaise. It developed slowly but its roots can be traced to the 1998 amalgamation that swallowed up five suburban municipalities. This led to a six folds expansion of city boundaries and a tripling the population base. This amalgamation was initiated by the province of Ontario as a cost saving measure and faced major local opposition.  read more »

Amtrak Fails To Weather The Storms

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Why do I persist in riding Amtrak, the short name for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, a company originally owned by the freight railways, but now subsidized by Congress and run like a Russian bureaucracy, complete with late trains, sullen employees, myriad petty regulations, budget deficits, cold coffee, feather bedding, broken seats, clogged toilets, rail cars that feel like buses, and a schedule that serves the interests of congressmen, lobbyists, unions, budget stimulators, and small-town mayors, but rarely passengers?  read more »

The Toto Strategy: How Kansas Can Save Barack Obama’s Presidency

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Here’s an idea that could save Barack Obama’s presidency: Give up those troubling Chicago roots and get back to Kansas. If, as Dorothy observed in the Wizard of Oz, “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” get the Wizard to send you back there soon.

Barack Obama owes much to Kansas–and the Great Plains in general–something he used to acknowledge often enough. Not only was he largely raised by products of that region (his mother and grandmother hail  from  the Sunflower State), but also his remarkable victory over Hillary Clinton during the presidential primaries was built largely by winning first in the Iowa caucuses, followed by surprising victories in Kansas, North Dakota, Minnesota and Illinois.  read more »

The Overdue Debate: Smart Growth Versus Housing Affordability

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American households face daunting financial challenges. Even those lucky enough not to have suffered huge savings and retirement fund losses in the Great Recession seem likely to pay more of their incomes in taxes in the years to come, as governments attempt pay bills beyond their reasonable financial ability. Beyond that, America's declining international competitiveness and the easy money policies of the Federal Reserve Board could well set off inflation that could discount further the wealth of households.  read more »

Will Ideology or Pragmatism Rule American Politics?

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Now that the dust from the midterm elections has settled, America remains just as divided as before on what type of governing approach it favors. As the LA Times’ Gregory Rodriguez, points out, if the United States “was a cartoon character, it would be a cheerful fellow with his head in the clouds and his feet planted squarely on the ground.”  read more »

Divining The Stock Market's Future

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Like the rest of us, I pick over the stock market’s runic inscriptions to find meaning in earnings reports, ratios, analyst reports, and trend lines, hoping to divine the traces of an orderly world—something it clearly is not.  read more »

Subjects:

How Liberalism Self-destructed

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Democrats are still looking for explanations for their stunning rejection in the midterms — citing everything from voting rights violations and Middle America’s racist orientation to Americans’ inability to perceive the underlying genius of President Barack Obama’s economic policy.

What they have failed to consider is the albatross of contemporary liberalism.  read more »