Amtrak Runs Off The Rails

Amtrak Empire Builder at Marias Pass MT.jpg

When the United States was in the money, the Congress grudgingly voted Amtrak a $1 billion subsidy every year, and then engaged in histrionics about how it might be cheaper to send most passengers to their destinations on private jets.

Then oil went to $140 a barrel, the United States dropped into recession, and one of the answers was to vote $12.9 billion in stimulus money, over the next five years, to Amtrak, the railroads, and state-supported transportation agencies.  read more »

Subjects:

Positively Fifth Street

PositivelyFifthCorrect.png

The title of this essay is taken from a book by Jim McManus about his adventures as a poker player. The lingo for Texas Hold ‘Em mirrors Vegas geography: three cards are placed face up – together called "the flop" – and betting ensues. Then comes the "turn" card, otherwise known as Fourth Street. Finally one gets to "The River", or Fifth Street, after which it is payday for somebody.  read more »

Subjects:

Alaska To Stimulus Funds: Yup, We'll Take 'Em

Alaska state capitol iStock_000007182774XSmall.jpg

Earlier this month the Alaska state legislature, in a special session, voted 44-14 to accept $28.6 million in stimulus funds that Sarah Palin had rejected in May. Sean Parnell, Alaska’s governor since Palin's resignation, says the money will be used primarily for energy efficiency improvements in public buildings.

The tale of the showdown between Palin, the state legislature, and the federal Department of Energy may ultimately reveal as much about state sovereignty under the current administration in Washington as it does about Alaska's internal politics.  read more »

China’s Metropolitan Regions: Moving Toward High Income Status

chongqing.JPG

Changsha, Hunan (China): Over the past 30 years, China has eradicated more poverty than any nation in the world’s history. The reforms instituted by Deng Xiaopeng have not only created a large, new middle class in China, but have also produced some of the largest and architecturally most impressive urban areas in the world. There is still poverty in China, but the most extreme poverty is in the rural areas. The expansive shanty-town poverty found in Manila, Jakarta, Mexico City, Sao Paulo or Mumbai is absent in the large Chinese urban areas.  read more »

World Capitals Of The Future

iStock_000006869081XSmall.jpg

For most of those which were great once are small today; And those that used to be small were great in my own time. Knowing, therefore, that human prosperity never abides long in the same place, I shall pay attention to both alike

–Herodotus, Fifth Century B.C.

If the great Greek chronicler and "father of history" Herodotus were alive today, he would have whiplash. In less than a lifetime, we have seen the rapid rise of a host of dynamic new global cities – and the relative decline of many others. With a majority of the world's population now living in cities, what these places do with their new wealth ultimately will shape this first truly urban century.  read more »

Millenial Generation Myths

iStock_000007697698XSmall.jpg

1. Young people think and behave the same at all times. One generation is just like the one before it and the one that follows. False: Each generation is different from the one before it and the one that follows. Today’s young people, the Millennials (born 1982-2003), are a “civic” generation. They were revered and protected by their parents and are becoming group-oriented, egalitarian institution builders as they emerge into adulthood. Millennials are sharply distinctive from the divided, moralistic Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) and the cynical, individualistic Gen-Xers (born 1965-1981), the two generations that preceded them and who are their parents.  read more »

Beijing is China's Opportunity City

iStock_000003841073XSmall.jpg

“What the Western fantasy of a China undergoing identity erasure reveals is a deep identity crisis within the Western world when confronted by this huge, closed, red alien rising. There is a sense that world order is sliding away from what has been, since the outset of industrialization, an essentially Anglo-Saxon hegemony, and a terrible anxiety gathers as it goes.” – Adrian Hornsby, “The Chinese Dream: A Society Under Construction”.  read more »

High Cost of Living Leaves Some States Uncompetitive

iStock_000002077279XSmall.jpg

Late this spring, when voters in California emphatically rejected tax increases to close the state budget gap, they sent a clear message to state policymakers. They were tired of California’s high taxes, which according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, consumed 10.5 percent of state per capita income last year. This compared with a national average of 9.7 percent, making California the sixth most heavily taxed state in the nation.

But if Californians were tired of paying an additional 0.8 percent of their income in state and local taxes, what would they make of research by economists at the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis that estimated that the cost of living in California, based on 2006 data, was a whopping 29.1 percent above the national average?  read more »

Local Agriculture: How To Feed The Hungry

fruit and vegetable basket offering - iStock_000004898669XSmall.jpg

The search for ways to feed the hungry is as old as recorded history. Can an issue this long-standing and complex be adequately addressed on small, local level? A unique California program is trying, with surprising success.  read more »

Subjects:

Three Roads and a Railroad

Vegas_HIGHWAYS.png

For most visitors, Las Vegas is a one-dimensional town. One either walks up the Strip, or down (though for compass-challenged tourists, even that can be confusing). An adventurous minority will go downtown to Fremont Street, a few short blocks of casinos and souvenir shops that I liked better before they roofed it.

It turns out that naïve tourists have stumbled onto the truth: there are no east-west highways in Las Vegas. And therein lies the tale.  read more »

Subjects: