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Old 12-10-2009, 04:50 PM
 
Location: Mokena, Illinois
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Great post, emathias.
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Old 12-12-2009, 07:49 AM
 
Location: Chicago
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I HAVE A QUESTION FOR THOSE OF YOU ON THIS THREAD. But I can't ask it until I get some ideas across first. These ideas won't interest a lot of you and that's fine; I fully respect anyone who ignores my dribble and opts out.

If we were having this discussion on Chicago vs. New York five years ago, or maybe even two, my sense is that it would have been different than today. At that time, we would have been talking about both cities as miracle artist's canvasses, a buzz with construction and the ability to continue it to fulfill the design of the ideal they strived for.

No more.

The economic reality that struck last year ended that dream, most likely forever. Both cities, like their nation, were living well above their means and were constructing with steel and glass while really using smoke and mirrors; it wasn't going to last. It was really an exercise in the last stages of gluttony before reality set in. You could have seen that gluttony in its purest form around that time if you had driven around Miami and Miami Beach, both sides of Biscayne Bay, and seen a forest of new high rise residential towers, soaring to the sky...and virtually all of them were empty. They spoke for themselves.

Yes, I take a different tact here than most. And perhaps one that appears most off topic. But neither Chicago or New York exist in a vacuum; they are affected by what happens across our nation and around the world...within and outside of our cities.

I've said it far too many times so I'm way guilty of repeating myself: a mere century past, New York was well down the list of the world's greatest cities. And a century is a mere second in relative time. Far shorter a time has been the half century plus of America's greatest nation status that emerged from WWII.

Nothing stays the same. And the time intevals get shorter and shorter when it comes to change. Imagine a century from now and how much more a change that will be than a century past.

That American era that began somewhere around 1950 has been a time with a global population and the per capita use of resources that has been unmatched in human history. We grow in numbers and yet miraculously use more, not fewer resources.

For many of us, it seem obvious that the party is over and that gone with the wind is the gluttony of the past 30 or more years, never to come back, although its vestiges continue to live on and many living on them areclueless to the effects of their life-for-today lifestyles.

Scientists tell us, if we choose to listen, that both the climate deniers and the Al Gore's of this world are incorrect. Don't get me wrong; they are fully with Al Gore in the notion that we need to change our ways and live responsibly. But they also are telling us that the damages created are not undoable and that we will be living with the consequences of our already considerable destruction (cumulatively dating back to the start of the industrial revolution at the turn of the 19th century).

So what about New York and Chicago? Do you believe that these and other cities will still be in charge of their destinies in a rational world that is still capable of fulfilling our needs? Do you think believe that we will stay sufficently advanced so that art and philosophy and life style can be pursued or are we heading into a time when meeting basic needs is what the world and New York and Chicago will be about?

Do you think that (assuming you believe in man made climate change) we will shift gears dramatically, a virtual 180 move, and make things fine or do you think our excesses are bound to go on another 5 or 10 or 15 or 20 years before the s hits the fan and there are no more options?

And do you believe scientists when they tell you that sea levels are rising at dramatic rates and that it is well in the realm of possiblity (and perhaps proability) that Boston, Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and yes, NEW YORK itself may be under water before the turn of the next century? And if Chicago is still surviving at that point, it will be on life support, carrying a population of climate refugees that may make today's New York seem small?

I'm not trying to portray doom and gloom here. I'm trying neither to be optimist or pessimist, but realist based on what science tells me and based on our clear lack of desire to radically change our lives and accept the critical need to reverse our habits.

These are difficult times. My own sense of what is real and what it all means has been seriously altered by the uncertainties of our times. Both Chicago and New York lived through the post WWII years in a fantasy we made for ourselves and the way we saw those cities and the projections we had for them were based on myths and the belief that we had reached a time and spent that time in a place where all was possible and, yes, it was possible to have it all.

Do you think I'm full of crap (I'm human...I very well may be) and a whiner (feel free to call me that, too) or do you think that there are at least elements of what I have said and asked here that give a less giddy view of Chicago's and New York's present and far worse for their future?
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Old 12-12-2009, 08:43 AM
 
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Economically speaking I would expect a strong resurgence in the Chicago metro area, if one is expected to be had anywhere.

Would expect to see Chicago as a leader in the 'green movement' that will provide jobs and industry.

Sit tight, still lots more good to come for Chicago.
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Old 12-13-2009, 12:44 AM
 
Location: River North, Chicago, Illinois
3,172 posts, read 3,127,504 times
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Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
...
I'm not trying to portray doom and gloom here. I'm trying neither to be optimist or pessimist, but realist based on what science tells me and based on our clear lack of desire to radically change our lives and accept the critical need to reverse our habits.
...
I don't know what you're reading and what small subset of scientists you're listening to, but your post was undeniably doom and gloom, undeniably pessimistic and quite plainly not born from a realistic estimate of the future.

First of all, not even the worst-case estimates currently project a rise in sea levels of over three feet by the turn of the century. Three feet would pose a challenge for any of the coastal cities, but with the exception of New Orleans would hardly be enough to flood them. Even accounting for increased melt rates, the majority of what I've read predicts rises of between 10 and 18 inches.

You should also realize that human-induced climate influence has probably been going on since the dawn of agriculture. After all, few things changed the ecosystem more than farming did. Prior to oil and bioengineering, yields from farms were much lower per acre, so even with lower populations, farms had to use proportionally more land to feed a given number of people.

We use more resources that we did in 1909 because we have better access to resources than we did 100 years ago. Can the rate of growth in consumption continue forever? Of course not - but there are few problems that are unsolvable. Not every problem needs to be solved in our lifetime.

There are new challenges coming in the next century, but we have also made great strides in the past fifty years in solving some problems. The fact that much of the energy we use today is wasted is, in a backward sort of way, good news. Alexandria, Chang'an, Baghdad, Beijing, Rome, London, Paris, New York, Chicago all achieved over a million people and great built environments with far less energy sources than we have today. Cities have always and will always exist and find ways to grow.

Will we probably have a period of slower growth over the next decade or so - probably. But I would point out that there are a number of breakthroughs waiting in the wings, any number of which could come into play more suddenly than we may expect. And slower doesn't mean stopped. There will still be growth - I personally don't think it's at all likely that we'll enter a modern dark age. Change may have slowed, but I think the world will be a better place in 50 years and 100 years from now.
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Old 12-14-2009, 05:47 AM
 
Location: Chicago
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Originally Posted by emathias View Post
I don't know what you're reading and what small subset of scientists you're listening to, but your post was undeniably doom and gloom, undeniably pessimistic and quite plainly not born from a realistic estimate of the future.

First of all, not even the worst-case estimates currently project a rise in sea levels of over three feet by the turn of the century. Three feet would pose a challenge for any of the coastal cities, but with the exception of New Orleans would hardly be enough to flood them. Even accounting for increased melt rates, the majority of what I've read predicts rises of between 10 and 18 inches.

You should also realize that human-induced climate influence has probably been going on since the dawn of agriculture. After all, few things changed the ecosystem more than farming did. Prior to oil and bioengineering, yields from farms were much lower per acre, so even with lower populations, farms had to use proportionally more land to feed a given number of people.

We use more resources that we did in 1909 because we have better access to resources than we did 100 years ago. Can the rate of growth in consumption continue forever? Of course not - but there are few problems that are unsolvable. Not every problem needs to be solved in our lifetime.

There are new challenges coming in the next century, but we have also made great strides in the past fifty years in solving some problems. The fact that much of the energy we use today is wasted is, in a backward sort of way, good news. Alexandria, Chang'an, Baghdad, Beijing, Rome, London, Paris, New York, Chicago all achieved over a million people and great built environments with far less energy sources than we have today. Cities have always and will always exist and find ways to grow.

Will we probably have a period of slower growth over the next decade or so - probably. But I would point out that there are a number of breakthroughs waiting in the wings, any number of which could come into play more suddenly than we may expect. And slower doesn't mean stopped. There will still be growth - I personally don't think it's at all likely that we'll enter a modern dark age. Change may have slowed, but I think the world will be a better place in 50 years and 100 years from now.
emathias, i respect what you say here and would fully agree that yours is a far more main stream take on things than is mine.

you call me a pessimist and certainly my view of the future is dimmer than yours. But it does not reflect my outlook on life, nor what I strive to me: a realist.

so much of the optimism I see in America today (if I see it at all) comes from a sense that it doesn't matter how much we have screwed up everything in sight, we can still turn it around. actually much of the scientific community is finding their projections on global climate change to have been alarmingly conservative and that they themselves worry about how the variables out there, many unknown, are creating a disaster far sooner than they expected.

my biggest fear is not their fear, but that we are doing so little to change. Optimism that comes packaged in "what, me worry?" scares the crap out me.

All the above seems somewhat irrelevant on a discussion about New York and Chicago but I think it is quite germane. New York and Chicago are American cities and America's global position is tanking. New York "won" its prized "World's Greatest City" status for the relatively short time this term could apply because America had earned the "World's Greatest Nation" status for the same short interval.

Neither, IMHO, are going to last. So far more than just the nation and city are at stake: cities like Chicago and Los Angeles face similiar fates; they're American.

Our cities parallel our nation; they are part and parcel of it. To me, no city empowers the true rise and flourish than does New York. Its story was exuberant. To me, there I can't think of any time in history that such a cauldron of creativity and production could match the New York of the middle portions of the 20th century.

I don't see that New York today. I don't see the art and the culture that once thrived. I don't see the societal issues grappled with and solved from what was once the world's greatest social laboratory. And I don't see the quirkiness and the individuality of a city that truly was an entity of its own, totally unique. New York has sunk into the same homogenization of the American culture as Chicago has.

I've taught American history my whole life. It has enthralled and fascinated me. I love my country. And I looked at it for so many years in an upbeat way. But the last 30 I have seen a nation in decline, dragging with or led by the great cities it contains.

New York may be the poster child of this change. Once a city of a great middle class, that group that so makes any society function at its best is now a city of the very rich and the very poor, with admittedly some ambitious immigrant groups making a nice niche for themselves...that type of spirit comes more for those who emigrate and even their numbers will drop when the notion is clear you can't make it here better than elsewhere.

What has New York really produced in the last 30 years (and that is hardly a statement that elevates Chicago in comparison; they are in the same boat). A city that produced art, encouraged culture, was avant guard, pumped with industry, had a lively port, and had the "can do" to get major projects completed has become a shell of its former greater.

In the later stages of empire, when gluttony and greed set in, a great nation, too stuffed and too addicted to the good life, stops advancing, disregards its infrastructure and all its other problems, and works to squeeze out the last elements of the "good life" that frankly drained out before the powers that be even realized.

And it turns to finance as the basis of its living. Rome did this. So did Britain. Finance used to be some 5% of our economy; today it is about 35%. And it produces nothing....not a good, it doesn't even function as a service. Nothing of use is created. Wealth comes from shifting money from one hand to another and the economy becomes a ponzi scheme. The economic health of the nation is pushed on the success of Wall Street while Main Street, while totally ignored, tells the real story.

New York and Chicago today, like all our cities, are corporate in nature, impersonal and cold, and homogenized beyond recognition. Think of the bulky identical towers that dominate lower Manhattan and compare them to the spires in the shaddows, those great towers of old that lifted the spirit. Think of Chicago where one of the greatest department stores in world in the form of Marshall Field's stood on State. A place loaded with tradition and being part of the fabric of the city, it became Macy's not due to its own failure (for clearly it could make more money under the Field's banner) but because of a corporate decision to bring stores from coast to coast in all markets under the Macy's name to consolidate buying and advertising. A city's heart was ripped out in the process.

The Mets play at CitiField and the Sox at US Cellular Park. There are few ballparks named Wrigley or Fenway today. Fifth Avenue and Michigan Avenue are dominated by the same stores you can find in any upscale mall. It's all corportized and its is all the same. And the poor and what is left of the middle class has become virtually invisible in these cities.

As noted, you can call all the above pessimism and you probably could make a good case. I call it realism and it has come from my watching bit by bit and piece by piece what our great country has decended into.

What have we done to inspire optimism, emathias, to show that we have any realization of the mess we're in and wish to do something about it? Where in this happening in Chicago or New York or a place that matters so much to both of them and all Americans: Washington, DC?

If optimism can come from pure faith and the believe that man always finds a way, than it is warranted. If it comes from the actions we take and the ability to correct our course, I find no reason to warrant any rosy thoughts. Although, damn it, I would absolutely love to.
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Old 12-14-2009, 02:35 PM
 
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I recently visited New York City for a week of business and a little fun when I could. I guess I did not experience the doom and gloom there you speak of. It still seemed to be a city of unmatched creativity and production. I live in the Chicago area and Chicago seems to be more in trouble IMO.
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Old 12-14-2009, 03:16 PM
 
Location: River North, Chicago, Illinois
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Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
...
All the above seems somewhat irrelevant on a discussion about New York and Chicago but I think it is quite germane. New York and Chicago are American cities and America's global position is tanking. New York "won" its prized "World's Greatest City" status for the relatively short time this term could apply because America had earned the "World's Greatest Nation" status for the same short interval.
People weren't in the habit of tossing around "World's Greatest Nation" until relatively recently. But if you look at the long, steady inflows of immigrants, I think a case could be made for many in the World looking at the United States as something like the "World's Greatest Nation" since not long after it was founded. If I'm not mistake, New York is more or less self-appointed as "World's Greatest City," too - I think there are plenty of people in plenty of other fine cities that never really bought into that idea. Don't put too much weight on local promoters.

Quote:
Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
...
Our cities parallel our nation; they are part and parcel of it. To me, no city empowers the true rise and flourish than does New York. Its story was exuberant. To me, there I can't think of any time in history that such a cauldron of creativity and production could match the New York of the middle portions of the 20th century.
...
I don't see that New York today. I don't see the art and the culture that once thrived. I don't see the societal issues grappled with and solved from what was once the world's greatest social laboratory. And I don't see the quirkiness and the individuality of a city that truly was an entity of its own, totally unique. New York has sunk into the same homogenization of the American culture as Chicago has.
...
I think you make two common mistakes in the above. First, of not taking into consideration the role urbanization played in much of what you look to as vibrancy in the history of New York (and Chicago, for that matter). Most of the first half of the 20th century was defined by rapid urbanization of the kind happening in China and India and other developing nations today. Urbanization is lead by the young, because they are attracted to cities, because urbanization held jobs for them in the cities while the countryside was rapidly losing jobs because of amazing improvements in farming efficiency. Young people produce more of almost everything, including art. The New York of the 20s, flooding with young people from the rural provinces flush with ideas from new technologies isn't likely to ever happen again for purely demographic reasons. That's not something to mourn, it's just something to keep in mind.

The second common mistake you seem to be making is time compression. We look back at history and see all the great art and music and technology, and we see it all at once because it's already happened. When we live in the present, truely great new things don't happen every second or every day or even every week. They didnt' happen that way in pre-War New York, either, but because we can see all those accomplishments at once, it's easy to forget that like everything else, they took time to accumulate.

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Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
New York may be the poster child of this change. Once a city of a great middle class, that group that so makes any society function at its best is now a city of the very rich and the very poor, with admittedly some ambitious immigrant groups making a nice niche for themselves...that type of spirit comes more for those who emigrate and even their numbers will drop when the notion is clear you can't make it here better than elsewhere.
The very rich and the very poor is hardly a new phenomenon, not in New York, not anywhere. If anything, it's historically far more realistic to expect that than anything else. And New York still has a middle class. There are fewer in Manhattan, to be sure, but that's not really a problem. What is defined as a middle class is a little relative, too. Middle-class in New York would probably at least be upper-middle class if not outright rich in most other places. Just because what is defined as middle class is higher-income in New York than most places doesn't make them any less of a middle class.

Quote:
Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
What has New York really produced in the last 30 years (and that is hardly a statement that elevates Chicago in comparison; they are in the same boat). A city that produced art, encouraged culture, was avant guard, pumped with industry, had a lively port, and had the "can do" to get major projects completed has become a shell of its former greater.
New York still produces art. With the exception of Film, it's still the number one city in the nation for almost every form of art, and even with film, it's a respectable second to L.A.

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Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
...
And it turns to finance as the basis of its living. Rome did this. So did Britain. Finance used to be some 5% of our economy; today it is about 35%. And it produces nothing....not a good, it doesn't even function as a service. Nothing of use is created. Wealth comes from shifting money from one hand to another and the economy becomes a ponzi scheme. The economic health of the nation is pushed on the success of Wall Street while Main Street, while totally ignored, tells the real story.
Do you know why older economies turn to Finance? It's part of a natural cycle. You even see this cycle at the individual level. Parents accumulate wealth and wisdom and help advise and finance their younger family members. Grandparents rarely work, but in most families have some money to do things with, including financing their younger members. It's only dysfunctional or very poor families that don't work this way, and "families of nations" can be expected to work the same way. Even within the U.S., why are Boston and New York the centers of Finance? It's not a coincidence that two of the oldest major cities in the country are two of the biggest centers of finance.

I do believe that finance needs to be focused better on benefiting the nation as a whole, but that's a tweak, not a redesign.

Quote:
Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
New York and Chicago today, like all our cities, are corporate in nature, impersonal and cold, and homogenized beyond recognition. Think of the bulky identical towers that dominate lower Manhattan and compare them to the spires in the shaddows, those great towers of old that lifted the spirit. Think of Chicago where one of the greatest department stores in world in the form of Marshall Field's stood on State. ...
On the one hand you think current American cities are cold, commercial and impersonal, on the other hand you long for the day when they took identity from a commercial business. I'm a little confused by that. And while I don't speak for everyone, as someone who grew up in rural wine country in Oregon, in a town of 600 people, I find my spirit lifted more by the contemporary Chicago skyline than I would have with only the older, smaller towers. Sure, there are architectural faux pas, like parking podiums, and unused, windswept plazas that aren't that great, but don't pretend that all architecture of 100 years ago was great - the worst buildigns of 100 years ago have been replaced, and the worst buildings of the next 100 years will be replaced, too.

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Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
The Mets play at CitiField and the Sox at US Cellular Park. There are few ballparks named Wrigley or Fenway today.
While Fenway wasn't a corporatized name, Wrigley, as a name, isn't much better than CitiField or US Cellular. Sure, there was a man named Wrigley, but beyond that it's no less commercial.

Quote:
Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
Fifth Avenue and Michigan Avenue are dominated by the same stores you can find in any upscale mall. It's all corportized and its is all the same. And the poor and what is left of the middle class has become virtually invisible in these cities.
This is where your pessimism vs. optimism vs. realism comes into starkest contrast. Is it a bad thing that what you find on Fifth Avenue can now be had in any upscale mall? Fifth Avenue still tends to get things a little sooner, a little faster, a little more variety, even when they have the same brands. But today, unlike 100 years ago, anyone can take advantage of those brands and products much closer to their home. They don't have to be rich enough to take time off and travel to New York City, they just have to have enough income to buy something nice at their local mall. Sure, it makes New York a little less unique, but it also provides a desirable service to masses of people who would never have been able to visit New York.

Are you really selling as a better ideal that New York become more exclusive in the same missive that you bemoan the loss of a middle class in Manhattan?

Quote:
Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
What have we done to inspire optimism, emathias, to show that we have any realization of the mess we're in and wish to do something about it? ...
As I've explained above, while there are certainly big global and national challenges facing us, I think a great number of the "problems" you've identified are not really so problematic as you interpret them to be.

In fact, I think you've left out some of the scariest global problems. What if the glaciers melt in Tibet before China and India come up with better national water systems? What if Iran's drive to get The Bomb destabilizes the Middle East so badly that oil skyrockets not because of a natural shortage, but because of war and political turmoil? How do we balance the freedom of individuals to make their own choices on how to improve their lives against the very real impacts of entire cultures and subcultures being lost due to millions of people making personal choices to choose the path of modernization vs. preserving their millennia-old historic cultures? How do we manage the loss of languages as people want to gain a global marketplace? What local cultures has the U.S. already lost in the creation of the New York you now fear lost? All those rural folk who relocated to big cities meant the lose of hundreds of small towns and microcultures around the U.S. - what of them?

I guess my point is ultimately that we can box ourselves in bemoaning Change, or we can work to mold that change to benefit ourselves and our communities - but spending more time worrying about what we've lost than how to benefit from what we've gained woudl be to do exactly the opposite of what made pre-War New York so vibrant. Do you think the New Yorkers of the first half of the 1900s really sat around worrying about the dying small towns they left behind? HELL NO! What made them and their era so memorable was each and every one of them reaching out to grab the opportunities of the future, instead of trying to preserve the ways of the past.

When I say this next piece, I'm honestly not trying to insult you, but if you're not trying to grab the possibilities of the future, you're part of the problems you're trying to describe. You want a more vibrant city? You have to take action and not just hang back and wring your hands!

Get out there, make a difference!
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Old 12-15-2009, 02:55 AM
 
Location: Chicago
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Originally Posted by emathias View Post
Get out there, make a difference!
well, actually, i do. and i honestly believe that action should be taken no matter how someone assesses the reality. being down on the situation is no excuse for inaction.

and i appreciate the thoughtful way you responded to the points i raised.

please understand that i do not sugar coat the past. there were so many things far worse than than there is today. look at race relations. or child labor. so i'm hardly suggesting that all systems "flatlined" at the same time and same rate.

but i do see a decline that you don't see. this has been a period of incredible indulgence and we have paid a price for it. It differs from the era when the depression forced us back to responsibility and we kept much of that responsibility for some 4 decades before erosion took place.

Thus like I said before, we have ignored infrastructure and allowed our streets, bridges, highways, public transit systems to decay. we have a gap between rich and poor similiar to the 1920s, the great middle class of the mid-20th century no longer exists. And with it in cities like Chicago or New York and certainly Detroit, the well paying blue collar jobs that were a rising tide that raised all ships.

Sure, New York is still a center of art, but this is not the great age of American creativity in this field; money rules the marketplace and, as such, with the profit motive superseding all others, crassness rules. When I make these observations, I'm not (again) looking at the past in nostalgic way. I differentiate different eras in the past. Much of the creativity I'm talking about was the 20th century coming of age burst of energy that New York and America experienced together.

You speak of natural cycles involving finance in the economy, but nothing could warrant the percentage of the economy that finance occupies today. We are producing nothing. Wall Street (and LaSalle Street) are constantly stronger than Main Street. And that's the real economy. People are out of work and not many prospects exist.

Again, this is all perspective. Mine has changed with changing circumstances. I've tracked what I consider to be a disaster these past 30 or so years, bit by bit, and what I've seen gradually and reluctantly have brought me to where I am today.

I'm not there lightly. This is not a generational thing with me. It comes from seeing the fabric of society slowing at first and more rapidly today unravel.

the story of mankind and our great cities has always been ups and downs. of rise and fall. and, i suppose, each age thought itself to be "different" when it was lived, not part of the constants of history.

But it is different now. The globe has never seen the type of population we have today. Technology has never abused it so in cost to envriornment and resources. I say this with no hyperbole that this is the most critical phase in human history: we have destroyed so much and threatened our very existence in ways that never could have happened in a less technologically advanced past.

And both New York and Chicago have been thus affected.

A few years ago, I noted here previously, both of these cities had so many people looking at an uninterupted future of pure advancement, more towers and more goodies in them rising from the ground, and more $3,000,000 condos filling those towers. Those thoughts had little basis in reality as was proven by events in 2008. You may see the current economic situation in terms of a speed bump from which we will recover. I don't.

You see things more cheerfully than I do and I would love to see you be correct. IMHO you are not. Optimism may be admirable, but it's not warranted in the light of a society that still gives every indication that it will do nothing to change a bad situation. We remain in paralysis and do little to make things better. And again it not New York or Chicago that leads the way to nothingness in its most debilitating form; that city would be Washington DC.
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Old 12-15-2009, 05:56 AM
 
Location: Chicago
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So let me end here by asking you a question, emathias: our nation spends more on its military budget not only than any nation in the world, but all nations combined. The top 5% of us has more wealth than the bottom 50% (which is rather a conservative view of those actual numbers) The New York Times is a shell of its former self and the Chicago Tribune has shrunk to virtual non-existence, and such disappearance has far more to do than just the growth of the internet.

Corporations call all the shots today and so there are no more ma and pa shops because they can't afford to go into business and compete. Hell, mom and pop can't even find another job. Between unemployed, underemployed, and those who gave us looking, some 17% of us are out of work. The corporations own everything, including our government. Look at the US Senate: lobbyists and corporations call the shots and equal representation per state means that they can buy a senator on the cheap in ND, MT, MS, or WY, and ignore the very urban agendas of NY, Chgo, & LA. Do you really think the plan to expand high speed passenger rail that will aid those very cities will really develop the way it was intended when our money goes to Afghanistan and the health care providers and drug manufactuers have shown us during health care debacle in Congress who is in charge...and how little those in charge want to see our money spent on us and have the power to prevent it from happening.

Public schools in New York and Chicago once taught generations of immigrants to become American citizens. Now they can't teach ABC or 1 + 2= 3. The suburban and rural schools aren't so great either. The system is broken. And higher education, where our colleges are still excellent and can do the job are out of price for the very students they are supposed to educate. And the brightest and best at these schools come from abroad and, unlike years past, plan to return home after getting their degrees. Health care? We rank somewhere around 27th in the world from waht is suposed to be the "greatest nation on earth".


Where are the jobs that are supposed to keep the middle class employed and successful and living on Chicago's northwest side or Queens in New York? We outsourced manufacturing, put ourselves in the untenniable position of not producing a damned thing. What have we replaced these jobs with?

We no longer live in a nation that we can even give lip service to being a democracy. I say that not in terms if that is good or bad, just in terms of what is. We are corporately owned and our senators and congressmen, if they had any integrity, would wear patches on their suits to show the corporations that sponsers them as if they were NASCAR drivers. If you believe great cities can thrive and advance in a non-democratic world where corporations call the shots, that's fine. i don't. New York and Chicago lived in vastly different worlds than they did in a more democratic past or at least a time when "we the people" counted to a degree.


Is this a nation which has the financial resources to keep New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles the great cities they are?

And would I be better off putting a cheery face on it? Should I not look at our problems as dire and our desire to solve them neglibile? Should I join the corporations and those who still spend their time in the sun in Palm Beach and Palm Springs with an upbeat, happy, Wall Street inspired view of the future? Should I be a Gaitner or Bernancke and feel we have things under control because the masters of the universe are still in charge?

Last edited by edsg25; 12-15-2009 at 07:03 AM..
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Old 12-15-2009, 10:42 AM
 
Location: River North, Chicago, Illinois
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Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
So let me end here by asking you a question, emathias: our nation spends more on its military budget not only than any nation in the world, but all nations combined. The top 5% of us has more wealth than the bottom 50% (which is rather a conservative view of those actual numbers)
This is a remnant of the deal that was Bretton Woods (if you're not familiar with it, I recommend you read up on it, as it sheds a lot of light on America's post-war growth), that implicitly allowed America to suck up much of the post-WWII growth in exchange for playing the world's policeman. You are correct to identify it as something that needs to change, as the benefits created by Bretton Woods don't, for the most part, exist anymore. For better or for worse, it will be up to the U.S. to lead the creation of an alternate method of keeping the peace in the world. It's not in our interest to keep spending so much on defense, but it's also not in our interest to allow the world to re-enter a period with the kinds of wars it saw before 1950. A true cynic might observe that wars do do a good job of killing off the most stupid in our ranks, though ...

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Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
The New York Times is a shell of its former self and the Chicago Tribune has shrunk to virtual non-existence, and such disappearance has far more to do than just the growth of the internet.
Cable television shares some of the blame, to be sure, since the real issue is the fragmentation of news sources, which the internet just accellerated and exacerbated. I can't decide how much of a problem this really is.

On the one hand, big papers like the NY Times and Tribune provide funded structure to do investigative journalism. On the other hand, big press in the past has also caused problems, even wars. On the one hand, big news companies help provide a unifying culture for a region, even a nation. On the other hand, most sources mean more variety in what is covered and the political viewpoints from which stories are covered.

When I was in high school, I started a newspaper for my high school because we didn't have one. I sold advertising, got funding from the school board, solicited writers and photographers and even got a sponsorship to go to a newspaper editor training seminar at a local university. But the more I got to know newsmen, even back in 1990, before the internet or the explosion of cable news channels, the less I wanted to do it as a career. They were just distastfully arrogant. Now that I'm older, I think newsmen have always been that way - watch "The Killing Fields," which came out in the 1980s and was set in the 1970s, and those newsmen have a lot of the same attitudes, as do newsmen in the old black and white movies, even in Citizen Kane, so I think it was mainly a temperment thing.

But back to the subject of news, the U.S. was founded without any major newspapers. I don't believe that huge, centralized news organizations are a requirement for freedom, as long as freedom of expression by the masses is preserved.

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Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
Corporations call all the shots today and so there are no more ma and pa shops because they can't afford to go into business and compete. Hell, mom and pop can't even find another job. Between unemployed, underemployed, and those who gave u[p] looking, some 17% of us are out of work.
The numbers in the late 70s/early 80s were similar, and then we had films of Mad Max and The Terminator and The Day After and Scanners and The Thief in the Night, (and problems in the Middle East with Iran), which tells me people had a lot of the same fears being expressed today. How did we get out of that slump? The Republicans will tell you it was through the pro-free-market actions of Ronald Reagan, although if you look at what he did to stimulate the economy, a lot of it actually added up to massive deficit spending. How did we get our of the Great Depression? WWII aka massive deficit spending. Both periods spurred subsequent long periods of growth and lessening of the debt vs. GDP ratio.

We're in two wars right now, and just had a mild oil shock, so the fact that debt has grown and the economy is slow right now shouldn't be a surprise. But historically, we've recovered from down periods. I think we'll recover again this time, too.

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Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
The corporations own everything, ...
I agree that corporate influence is higher than it should be. But as an American HIstory teacher, you must be aware that there has always been some level of special interest influence in Washington. The worst scandals of the early 20th century are as bad or worse than anything today. And when you say corporations own everything, how many people these days actually live in housing their employer owns? How many people did, just in the Chicago area, 100 years ago? Gates and Cuban and Buffet don't hold a candle to Rockefeller and Vanderbilt and Carnegie as far as ownership and influence go ... There was a time when JP Morgan single-handedly stopped a panic - there is no corporation on earth presently that could do that, let alone any single man.

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Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
Public schools in New York and Chicago once taught generations of immigrants to become American citizens. Now they can't teach ABC or 1 + 2= 3. ...
In 1910, almost 8% of the country was illiterate. Even in 1940 it was 3%. Even as recently as 1952, black illiteracy was over 10%. For all the downsides of contemporary education, I've never seen an estimate of current overall illiteracy above 1%, or black illiteracy over 2%.

As far as the status of immigrants goes, have you read contemporary accounts of immigrant ghettos from 100 years ago? Or even just read some Nelson Algren? My god, it's little wonder the Polish Union was so dead set against him, the way he writes about living in Chicago's near northwest side. In Never Come Morning, he writes of a world of lliterates, gang-rapes, murder, abuse. And this in a story written during WWII and set in pre-War Chicago.

There are also hardly any ethnic ghettos anymore that can compare with ones from decades past - I think current immigrants are integration far faster and far better than in previous eras.

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Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
Health care? We rank somewhere around 27th in the world from waht is suposed to be the "greatest nation on earth".
When you travel in Europe, have you even noticed how many more dramatically deformed people there are on the streets, often begging? It's not like in Dickens' day, but it always strikes me as odd. When I travel in American cities, I just don't see that nearly as often, and I have to believe that our health care system, as broken and imperfect as it is (and I do support health care reform), can claim at least some of the credit for that. Many charities exist to help the most handicapped with treatements here and, more importantly, technologies exist here to fix more things. I whole-heartedly support health care reform in the U.S., but part of me still harbors reservations that we may end up helping more people with basics but lose some of the expensive sort of things that are life-changing for the most handicapped. That's one thing I hope can be saved: that we can have our more efficient health care, but keep our better developed specialized care, too.

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Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
Where are the jobs that are supposed to keep the middle class employed and successful and living on Chicago's northwest side or Queens in New York? We outsourced manufacturing, put ourselves in the untenniable position of not producing a damned thing. What have we replaced these jobs with?
Some manufacturing has been outsourced, to be sure, but far more manufacturing jobs have been lost to increased productivity than to outsourcing. The U.S. is still the leading manufacturer in the world. So, if jobs are really being lost to productivity improvements what are you really asking? That we become less productive?

What do we do with unskilled or semi-skilled workers? Europe puts them on the dole and provides retraining at low or no cost, I don't see much wrong with that approach, personally. If efficiency gains remove the need for the kinds of low-skilled jobs that are the only kind millions of people are and ever will be qualified to hold, then we have the choice of either giving them busywork, making them wards of the state by putting them on the dole, or letting them starve. What do you recommend - or are you utopian and believe that anyone can do anything if they only set their mind to do it?

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Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
We no longer live in a nation that we can even give lip service to being a democracy.
...
Is this a nation which has the financial resources to keep New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles the great cities they are?
Our republic is probably not at its peak of democratization, but I would actually argue that what is holding back places like New York and Chicago today is too much democracy, not too little. NIMBY factors make bringing growth industries into actual urban areas all but impossible. When the U.S. was founded, you had to be white, male and a landowner to vote. It was only 1920 when women gained the right to vote universally in the U.S., and not until 1964 and 1966 that the racist and classist application of the poll tax was eliminated for the entire U.S. Regardless of the influence of corporations, I think, overall, we're far more democratic than we were as founded, as we were 100 years ago, even as we were 50 years ago.

When a few loud voices can stop the investment of tens of millions, even billions, of dollars, that's not corporatism. When Canadian National railroad bought the EJ&E rail lines around Chicago, which would go a long way toward alleviating choking rail congestion for minimal taxpayer expense, they ran into significant local NIMBY opposition. Ultimately CN succeeded in their bid, and maybe one could see that as corporate interests winning out, but in reality that deal helped millions of people even though it will (potentially) inconvenience thousands, so democratically it was the right thing to do, yet almost didn't happen.

The role of corporations is a complicated one. Before modern corporations, big companies were usually licensed by the Crown - by the King of a country, and thus were, to a certain extent, beholden to the government in order to keep their license, but also often viewed as an extension of the government by the same token. The Hudson Bay company didnt' start out as a modern corporation, but as a license of the Crown of England, and itself became the defacto government in many parts of the English empire and the money they generated for the Crown made it untennable for them to be significantly punished by the King or Queen. I'm not espousing that as a good thing, I'm just pointing out that at times in the past things have been even more intertwined than they are now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by edsg25 View Post
And would I be better off putting a cheery face on it? Should I not look at our problems as dire and our desire to solve them neglibile? Should I join the corporations and those who still spend their time in the sun in Palm Beach and Palm Springs with an upbeat, happy, Wall Street inspired view of the future? Should I be a Gaitner or Bernancke and feel we have things under control because the masters of the universe are still in charge?
What you should do, and what you personally would be better off doing isn't somethign I'm qualified to answer. Every person has a different preferred point of reference and default mode. Some people work best coming from a doom and gloom viewpoint - they find it motivates them better. But I suspect most people do better when they have more hope than gloom. It's possible to be realistic about existing and future challenges without being gloomy and I suspect that aside from their deficit spending, both Roosevelt and Reagan were successful in pulling the country out of recessions because of their messages of hope and pride and common goals.

I, for one, firmly believe that contributing to a sea of gloom does nothing positive for the direction of our country, regardless of the challenges we face.
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