Archive for the ‘United States’ Tag

Death Valley National Park

For a long time I’d wanted to go to Death Valley. to see Badwater, the lowest point in North America. To see the colors of Artist Palette, the view from Dante’s Peak, the scale of Zabriske’s Point and the oddity of Scotty’s Castle.

We drove in through the town of Lone Pines and hit the long straight road. There was little to see in Panamint. The general store and motel comprised the village of Stovepipe Wells. We got out and walked around and felt the sun bask down upon our heads.

Happy to get back in the air conditioned car, we spotted the Mesquite Sand Dunesand got out to walk among them. Created from the blown sand off the neighboring rocks and the walls of rock that block the wind from taking the sand away, the dunes are huge.

These were the first of the amazing geological history and formations that exist in the park.

Next day, we got out early to do some hiking because the temperature would rise to 109 degrees.

We saw Badwater and walked amid the crunchy salt lake that is all but gone. The first picture hints at the scope of this land and the second shows you up close. You look up to the mountains from the salt bed and see a sign that tells you where sea level is–Badwater is 282 feet below sea level.

Ira and I jumped into the car and walked into a canyon.

After being outside for awhile we decided to stay in the car and drive the Artist’s Drive, which has the famous Artist’s palette. Built by the great work of the 1930’s federal government-sponsored Civilian Conservation Corps, the road bends through very colorful rock formations. Thank you to the foresight of the people behind that work so we can see this beautiful environment.

The artist’ palette contains rocks including exposed copper, iron, which accounts for the coloring.

The Park is huge and there are ruins from early twentieth-century mining operations in the Park and in some of the towns on the outskirts. We visited the town of Rhyoline, where the old bank and school represented the ghost town.

This far east section of the park housed the local spectacle of Scotty’s Castle. A former player in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, Walter Scott conned various people with claims of mining holdings in the area. When Albert Johnson came to see his mining operations, he found nothing but somehow formed a relationship with Scotty. He and his wife built a castle in the desert and for awhile Scotty lived on the premises.

We watched our second desert sunset from the Harmony Borax ruins near the Furnace Creek Ranch where we stayed.

Next day, we started early again and were amazed at the beauty from Dante’s View, over 5,700 feet above Badwater.

We left the park and ate at the sole location in Death Valley Junction. Now, we faced a new choice, stop at a date farm or a national wildlife refuge on our way to Las Vegas.

I’ve brought in electronic records from the Fish and Wildlife Service that show the geography of the wildlife refuges and also records that show threatened and endangered species, so I wanted to go to the refuge. Ash Meadow was, like much of the area, a water rich area. After a fair amount of time in the 20th century as a cotton farm, the federal government bought the land to preserve the 21 endemic creatures that only live in this area. They include the Pupfish and several different kinds of birds.

While walking along the trails we saw a jack rabbit and a road runner!


US Economy: consequence of U.S. corporate behavior

Watch Fox or MSNBC. Doesn’t matter, you hear the grim numbers. High unemployment, eight million jobs lost. Country’s in debt to China.

What’s different is the focus and the answers. On Fox it’s tea partiers and on MSNBC it’s the poor workers, money for unemployment and the need to support the middle class in the US.

We always hear about economic cycles. Supposedly they are cyclical and structural. What I like about the editorial that follows is a discussion of an institutional cycle: enjoy


Corporate America, paving a downward economic slide

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The city on a hill and the last, best hope of mankind has entered a new period in its history. We are now America, the downwardly mobile.

The problem isn’t due to the recession. Would that it were. The decade just concluded is the first in which Americans, on average, have seen their incomes decline. Median household income increased by about $4,000 per decade in the 1980s and ’90s: from $42,429 in 1980 to $46,049 in 1990 to $50,557 in 2000 (in 2007 dollars). In 2009, the most recent year for which we have figures, it had declined to $49,777 – but 2009, of course, was a year of deep recession. If we go back to the peak year of the last decade, 2007, we find that median household income was just $50,233- roughly $300 less than it had been in 2000.

Until the housing and financial bubbles burst, of course, we enjoyed the illusion of prosperity through the days of wine and credit. Now we stand on unfamiliar terrain in which almost all the signs of long-term economic health point downward. Our private sector isn’t creating jobs at a rate commensurate with our increasing population, much less at a level to significantly reduce unemployment. The share of our civilian population employed has dropped to 58.2 percent – the lowest level since the early ’80s, when far fewer women had entered the workforce.

The social pathologies long associated with the inner-city poor – single-parent households, births out of wedlock, drug and alcohol abuse – now stalk the white working class in rural and post-industrial regions far removed from big cities. The middle is falling. Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review, has noted that as wages and employment levels have fallen for the Americans who have graduated high school but not college, their level of out-of-wedlock births (44 percent) has approached that of Americans who haven’t completed high school (54 percent). Americans with college diplomas or more, by contrast, have a rate of just 6 percent.

The great sociologist William Julius Wilson has long argued that the key to the unraveling of the lives of the African American poor was the decline in the number of “marriageable males” as work disappeared from the inner city. Much the same could now be said of working-class whites in neighborhoods that may not look like the ghettos of Cleveland or Detroit but in which productive economic activity is increasingly hard to find.

This grim new reality has yet to inform our debate over how to come back from this mega-recession. Those who believe our downturn is cyclical argue that job-creating public spending can restore us to prosperity, while those who believe it’s structural – that we have too many carpenters, say, and not enough nurses – believe that we should leave things be while American workers acquire new skills and enter different lines of work. But there’s a third way to look at the recession: that it’s institutional, that it’s the consequence of the decisions by leading banks and corporations to stop investing in the job-creating enterprises that were the key to broadly shared prosperity.

Our multinational companies still invest, of course – just not at home. A study by the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Council Foundation found that the share of the profits of U.S.-based multinationals that came from their foreign affiliates had increased from 17 percent in 1977 and 27 percent in 1994 to 48.6 percent in 2006. As the companies’ revenue from abroad has increased, their dependence on American consumers has diminished. The equilibrium among production, wages and purchasing power – the equilibrium that Henry Ford famously recognized when he upped his workers’ pay to an unheard-of $5 a day in 1913 so they could afford to buy the cars they made, the equilibrium that became the model for 20th-century American capitalism – has been shattered. Making and selling their goods abroad, U.S. multinationals can slash their workforces and reduce their wages at home while retaining their revenue and increasing their profits. And that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Our economic woes, then, are not simply cyclical or structural. They are also – chiefly – institutional, the consequence of U.S. corporate behavior that has plunged us into a downward cycle of underinvestment, underemployment and under-consumption. Our solutions must be similarly institutional, requiring, for starters, the seating of public and worker representatives on corporate boards. Short of that, there will be no real prospects for reversing America’s downward mobility.

Sports Talk

No, no more about LeBron James. The only thing missing from his hour program is having it mandatory for the networks to carry it!

The Maryland Sabermetrics Group has invited me to talk about Capital Sporting  Grounds with them.

Wow, “the search for objective knowledge about baseball.” Time for me to think about how my book on the ever increasing role of sports in US culture and on the development of Washington DC is going to play to this audience.

These guys crunch statistics because statistics are the best objective record of the game available, so now I have to go back to the Baseball Encyclopedia and check out how well some of the old Washington Nationals played or how good was some of the players that the Senators traded?

You have to love that Tufts and Bowling Green offer courses on Sabermetrics.  The Bowling Green math course is stunning. The Sabermetrics Research and Baseball Think Factory are major web sites for analysis. I don’t see that anybody ran calculations on the old Washington players.

Think I’ll show some stadium photos like this, part of Washington-Baltimore’s Olympic Games plans:

and find anomalies to feature in the talk.

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Local Sports

Earlier in June, I saw a celebration of good sportsmanship, athletics and academic achievements.

The Alexandria Sportsman Club met and awarded several baseball, track and soccer boys and girls for their ability to successfully balance these attributes.  Seeing their smiles as they posed with plaques for photographs made me feel happy.

Sportsman’s Club has been around since 1947 and believes in practicing civic virtues.

The group also invites guests to talk local sports. Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals’ third baseman and slugger and others have come to the monthly meetings and answered a wide range of questions.

I spoke about Capital Sporting Grounds and the issues of local governments playing for the construction of sports stadiums. Many people are fond of Nationals Park but the $650 million dollar cost is outstanding in bonds that are being very slowly paid off. Intriguingly, had the city been able to build the park only a few years later they would have gotten a better deal.

Target Field cost Minneapolis : $392 million from a 0.15 percent sales tax in Hennepin County, The Twins put up $152.4 million.

Cowboy Stadium cost  $325 million Bonds, approved by Arlington voters, being repaid by a half-cent sales tax$25 million Tarrant County $113 million  Private bonds, not city-funded, that will be repaid with a 10 percent ticket tax and $3 parking fee. Ownership of the team is likely to contribute $261 million.

As always, real estate is contingent on the market and how desperate the landowner is to have a tenet.

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Sports, The Beatles and History

Housing Complex

Inside the Washington Coliseum with Brett Abrams: If You Can Keep the Whole Building, Keep the Whole Building

Posted by Dave McKenna on Jun. 25, 2009 at 01:51 pm

Brett Abrams is happy. Abrams is a local historian and author of “Capital Sporting Grounds: A History of Stadium and Ballpark Construction in Washington, DC.” Today he’s leading me on a tour of the city’s sports facilities, built and unbuilt, still standing and long gone.

But for a bit of our time together, I get to play tour guide. I take Abrams, who loves old sports buildings as much as I do, over to 3rd and M Streets N.E., to my favorite structure in town, the Washington Coliseum. He knows about its history. But he didn’t know about its present.

So until today he’s never been inside.

“The greatest thing about this building is: It’s still here!” says Abrams, walking among the rows of parked SUVs with a huge smile (pictured above). “That’s really something.”

Here’s the link to the Beatles.

Yes it is. The Coliseum, built in the 1940s by local icemaker Migiel “Mike” Uline to host shows from touring entertainment troupes like Ringling Brothers circus and the Ice Capades, had been on death row for decades. Its useful life as a sports arena and major concert hall ended when Abe Pollin opened the Capital Centre in Largo in 1973, and in the years since it has been abandoned, hosted occasional Chuck Brown go-gos, used as a trash dump from 1994 to 2003, and, for the last several years, served as a pay parking lot.

There’s water damage all over the place from the years of inattention, and it’s dark as hell inside. But that’s nothing compared to the fact that you can drive or walk over the very floor where so many big, big things happened.

Rocky Marciano, the only heavyweight boxing champ ever to retire undefeated and stay retired, fought at the Coliseum. Red Aeurbach got his legendary pro basketball career started here, coaching the Washington Capitols of the Basketball Association of America, an NBA precursor, from 1946 to 1949. And, most famously, in February 1964, John, Paul, George and Ringo played their first US. show here on their way to taking over the world. A lot of seats from the arena’s heyday remain in the upper levels and corners.

For a building with such a great resume, there’s not much fanfare about the Coliseum. The most obvious sign that this ground is hallowed comes with a stenciled pair of brown beetles somebody painted outside the parking lot’s entrance a few years ago. Most folks in DC don’t even know the building still stands.

The coliseum is now owned by Doug Jemal, who is not only quite aware of his building’s past, but has also said many times that he keeps that past in mind whenever any plans to develop the property are proposed.

You can’t help but feel the history when you walk in the place.

“There’s the walkways!” Abrams says pointing upstairs. “Still here!”

For some folks, including me and Abrams, that’s, as he said, really something.

There is so much more to the old Uline Arena and several efforts are being made to save the place.

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Canadian Art

Courtyard and fountain
Image via Wikipedia

The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC shows provocative video and film in its Black Box space.

Currently they have the artists and filmmaker Phoebe Greenberg and her movie Next Floor .

A visually compelling take on the opulence in western countries the piece offers a critique of consumption and the usual sins of gluttony and avarice.

The video is fun to look at and its images of the food are amazing and sickening.

The critique is easy and one wonders if the artist expects viewers to experience disgust, joy, excitement? It is at least a short that challenges the viewer to react.

In these times where it is impossible to tax the wealthy and the corporations to even a remotely fair rate, is this video our substitute by vicariously watching wealthy people plummet to their deaths?

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Washington DC Roads

Been out riding around on my hybrid bicycle the last few days and have a great sense of how much the 20 inches of snow has slowed the nation’s capital.

The northwest section is mostly thinly plowed. If the section with the most businesses and richest citizens are not getting Department of transportation attention you can only imagine what the rest of the city looks like.

There are several state streets, such as New York Avenue, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts Avenue, that at least have one lane plowed going in each direction. In some of the busier intersections, there are two or three lanes open.

The numbered streets are a mixed bag. The major streets, such as 7th and 9th Streets, are both well plowed. Most of the rest of them barely have a single lane cleared. The alphabet streets are somewhat worse. Even in major traffic areas, most of the road isn’t visible under caked down snow and ice.

Where have the plows been since Saturday? The City Council member’s office promises that the city has not ignored any areas. Seems like each area has been left unfinished since the weekend’s one time pass on the street with a single plow.

Now DC is getting more snow forecast for tonight and Wednesday.

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Yankees’ Loyalty

Yankee fans, baseball fans, sports fans don’t you get tired of seeing players jump from team to team.

Don’t you root for teams because of who is on them?

Don’t you want to have the same guys and women on the team for a period of time.

Isn’t it sad when a beloved player leaves your team.

Fox sports writes about the stupidity of replacing Johnny Damon with Randy Winn.

Others argue about agents like Scott Boras or teams’ crying about being in the financial poorhouse.

I agree with all these sentiments. What hurts the most is the revolving door. Winn might be a great guy and a decent player, but we now have to start a new relationship with this guy who we don’t really know. Worse, we lose our relationship with a guy we really liked.

What we like about celebrity, and sports stars are celebrities, is the kinship we develop with the person.

For Yankee fans it was bad enough we watched Phil Coke and Melky Cabrera be traded away.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta] We also witnessed the World Series MVP leave town too.

Mommie Queerest

A play about Joan Crawford, not it’s the Judy Show envisioned by comedienne Judy Gold. Washington DC’s Jewish Community Center continues to use theater to push all kinds of boundaries.

Last year’s reading of Carol Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children drew protesters to the front doors. Others threatened to end their subscriptions to the theater. Here’s one opinion on the controversial issue.

This season features a Jewish Lesbian Mother. The riotous show includes some loud and inspired in not on key singing accompanied by Gold on piano. She launches into stories about her family, schooling, career, the media, television shows, and television executives.

Gold’s bio-performance art piece will not spark the same reaction. It’s challenges on the issue of gay marriage are everywhere as the battle wages in state referendums. The show’s conclusion about representation are also well versed. Go for the laughs. You don’t have to be Jewish or lesbian or both but it helps.

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Best of Year, Best of Decade Lists

Why do we love lists? Is it some gene for categorization? Is it the thrill of controlling circumstances? Is it our belief ion the innate ability of reviewers and critics and experts?

What do you enjoy about best of lists?

While it is probably all of these factors, I know why I enjoyed looking at the lists for best of the decade in today’s Washington Post. I wanted to see how many of the movies or television shows I saw, how many of the music listed I owned and whether I have been to see the best theater, dance, concerts and art shows over the past decade. The feeling is confirmation in our choices.

I read the lists for theater, concerts and dance. I’d seen some of them. All took place within Washington, DC so I had the chance to see them. Then I looked at the art best of list. Damn, there were shows in New York City, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney. It’s only five hours away, so I thought maybe I could have  seen it.

Then I read further. Chicago, mmm, that’s stretching it. Wow, Kessel,  Germany, Parma, Italy, this is ridiculous.  Why are these on this list? It’s not like a person can go out and by a tape of the show and experience it.

Should best of lists include activities that are way out of the range of the ordinary person to experience?

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