Monday, July 27, 2009

The New Discrimination

Political Correctness has brought us some of the more absurd moments in human history. Contrary to common sense and organic checks and balances, it sacrifices the war for small victories, time and again. You see it in the hope of helping minorities and single mothers through the Great Society, only to create more poverty and destroying minority families through perverse incentives. Feminism seeks to create equality among the sexes, yet its adherents are so off-putting, they often become caricatures who demand special treatment. The Gates' case in Cambridge last week is another example of the politically correct class seeking special treatment, and expecting discrimination when none exists. Even if Dr. Gates wins this battle, the impression he and the president have left has garnered no sympathy. And then there is environmentalism, a movement built around the adoration of life that is fundamentally at odds with human flourishing.

We've reached another milestone in contradictions this month. The American citizen is currently faced with a healthcare "reform" bill that would leave no option but to discriminate against those who need healthcare the most: the elderly. Simple reason should help us to see how this is the case. There are more folks poised to go on Medicare in the coming decade and cuts to that very program are necessary to pay for this legislation. Logically, how can we have more, better care, with less money in the system? The math just doesn't add up. Similar systems to what has been proposed (notably Canada's and Britain's) cut back on the care they offer to seniors as they are the most expensive and in the most need.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bound to Nothing

Postmodern philosophy is finally starting to get personal. No doubt it has been personal for many for a long time, but I have largely managed to escape its grasp until now, always safely hiding in bureaucratic layers and protected locales. But now, it seems that every institution has accepted the poor idea that the person and the civil society need not be bound to anything, except for himself or itself. Power is in the hands of those who espouse relativist philosophy, and they are doing their best to legislate it or sell it across the board. One sees it most clearly in the courts, but it is also evident in the church and in the arts. It is no longer an ivory tower thought experiment; it is becoming policy and it's starting to hamper our way of life.

The hearings for potential Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor are perhaps the easiest example, and one I won't need to dwell on. One either sees the Constitution as the founding governmental document of this nation, and one then that must be interpreted as the framer's intended...or not. The "originalist" position is the only valid interpretation of the Constitution in the same way that the only valid way to interpret your home mortgage is by the original terms of the deal. Yet, Sotomayor is a typical product of the "social justice" school of thought that pervades and animates academia, which essentially argues that the "social good" must be brought about whether it complies with the law or not. Social equality and "fairness" then allow for an alteration of the deal, the concept of the "living and breathing" contract, or Constitution.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

An Empty Victory: When urban planning fails to live up to expectations

As the current severe recession shuts down countless buildings and spaces everywhere, it is a good time to take stock on why some real-estate ventures succeed and others fail. The generous financing available the past five years not only led to lots of construction but also enabled the consideration and speculation for new models of development. Many large-scale buildings and instant communities were planned and built to a degree never seen before. Urban concepts that were confined to academia not long ago were suddenly put to the test as built projects. For example, entire abandoned airports were transformed into attractive neighborhoods with commercial town centers. Many cities seized industrial brownfield sites as a way to regenerate urban life by masterplanning dense mixed-use districts. After decades of rapid suburban development, the central city was due for a comeback, as demographic developments, pollution reductions and changing tastes conspired to make downtown living look enticing. It was just a matter of finding an ambitious project to kickstart it all.

Dallas was no different. Having for a long time failed to populate its dowtown with any residents, the city made a concerted effort (i.e. gave lots of tax incentives) to refurbish and even repurpose vacant office buildings into top-of-the-line apartments and condominiums. It even subsidized a neighborhood grocery store to get residents to stay. Yet these efforts were modest compared to one of the largest new mixed-use developments just outside the central business district, Victory Park. The brainchild of Ross Perot Jr. (the son of the former presidential candidate), Victory was advertised as the the premier masterplanned urban community, designed for the on-the-go single professional who desired place to live, work, shop and play. Anchored by a state-of-the-art basketball arena and a luxury condo-hotel, Victory was going to be a district defined by high-rise apartments, fashionable street retail, trendy restaurants, and a public plaza surrounded by gigantic and moving digital projections. Apparently, what Dallas needed was an instant Times Square, complete with a glassed-in television studio at the corner to highlight the crowded pedestrian-filled sidewalks that are common in the city (...uh huh). After an early flirtation with a low-rise, historicist architectural theme, it was decided for this district to appear distincitively contemporary, with multiple glass skyscrapers of at least 25 stories, bamboo landscaping and reflecting pools with clean edges.