Origins and Growth of Al Capone’s Outfit: Chicago’s First Ward Democratic Organization and its Aftermath

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Barack Obama ran for President with his headquarters in downtown Chicago. Obama's election night victory speech was just blocks away in Chicago's Grant Park. To historians of organized crime both locations are located in a significant place: Chicago's old First Ward. This valuable plot of land is where Chicago's Democratic Machine and Al Capone's criminal organization both began. The connection between the two is of great historical significance. Why? Because the Chicago Mob is nothing but an outgrowth of Chicago's old First Ward Democratic Organization.  read more »

One Step for Short-term Economic Stimulus, and One Giant Leap (backward) for U.S. Energy Sustainability

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The “cash for clunkers” (or CARS) program that was widely predicted to be extended by the Congress has been, if nothing else, a clear public relations win for the Obama Administration. It may also be, at least for the short-term, a shot in the arm for the beleaguered American auto industry (including domestic dealerships of foreign car companies, like Honda and Toyota). But the program’s extension may also be bad news for anyone who was hoping that candidate Obama’s campaign promises to fix our domestic energy policy would translate into something resembling a robust make-over.  read more »

Confronting Street Art

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By Richard Reep

Street art has been around since ancient times, with the triple theme of craft, sabotage, and branding. Paris’ “Blec le rat” and New York’s Taki 183 were early pioneers in street art. Today, street art has spread into nearly every city with artists, media, and collectors. Skateboards, tattoos, stickers, and spray paint are but a few examples of the craft of the street. The adrenalin rush an artist feels in executing his work is augmented by the urban thrill of working at night, rushing to leave behind a signature before the police come. The chief aim of most street art is branding, as the artist’s main form of expression is to create a recognizable personal logotype.  read more »

New York City Closes Shop

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg owes 200,000 small business owners an apology.

When Michael Bloomberg was first elected Mayor of New York City in 2001, the city’s small business owners were hopeful and confident that finally a successful businessman would be creating the city’s economic policy. They hoped to see an end to powerful special interests that, through political donations, had gained control over the economic policy of the city.  read more »

Reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled Produces Meager Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Returns

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Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) and Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) have introduced legislation that would require annual per capita reductions in driving each year. Another bill, the National Transportation Objectives Act, introduced by Representative Rush Holt (D-Indiana), Representative Russ Carnahan (D-Missouri) and Representative Jay Inslee (D-Washington.) would require a 16 percent reduction in driving in 20 years.  read more »

People, Planet, Prefurbia

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The term “sustainable” relates to a concept called the "Triple Bottom Line” (TBL): People, Planet, and Profit (the three P’s), endorsed by the United Nations in 2007 for urban and community accounting.

American suburban land planning is about the SBL (Single Bottom Line): Profit. In city after city, mindless cookie cutter subdivisions, with characterless architecture, serve cars more than people. This dysfunction is caused by the boiler-plate regulations; engineers adhere to the minimum dimensions mandated by city ordinances to gain density, which maximizes developer’s profits.  read more »

Green Jobs Can't Save The Economy

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Nothing is perhaps more pathetic than the exertions of economic developers and politicians grasping at straws, particularly during hard times. Over the past decade, we have turned from one panacea to another, from the onset of the information age to the creative class to the boom in biotech, nanotech and now the "green economy."  read more »

Downtown Central-Cities as Hubs of Civic Connection

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There's been a torrent of spirited banter lately about the reemergence of downtown central-cities. Much of this raucous debate is between advocates of urban revitalization, who offer an assortment of anti-sprawl messages as justification for this movement, and those who see suburban growth options as essential to quality of life in America. Adding to the fray are environmentalists who see housing density and alternative forms of transportation as the panacea for confronting our carbon-choked world.  read more »

“Cash For Clunkers” Doesn’t Utilize Junkyard Efficiency

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My father owned and operated a junkyard in Tucson for a number of years, and I learned a lot about the auto recycling industry helping around the office and as a delivery driver. So as a junkyard enthusiast, the “Cash For Clunkers” program naturally caught my interest lately. Though it looks to be the product of good intentions, I don’t think the legislation understands that junkyards already comprise an efficient, well developed recycling system for salvaging vehicles, with a beneficial result for the environment overall.  read more »

Koyaanisqatsi Redux

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I went to Hollywood one night last week to watch my favorite film of all time, Koyaanisqatsi (released in 1983). It was being shown on a big screen at the Hollywood Bowl, accompanied by orchestra playing the original score, conducted by its composer, Philip Glass. Oh, I didn't go to the Bowl; I watched it at my daughter's apartment about half a mile away (hi def DVD and digital sound system turned way up, thank you).  read more »