Showing posts from December, 2014

Merry Christmas from Saudi Claus?

Gasoline prices across American have plummeted recently, plunging right through what I've come to call the "Gingrich threshold." (Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich promised during his 2012 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination that his policies would drop pump prices to $2.50 a gallon.) Now, even without the bumptious Pennsylvania native in the White House, some places are seeing prices 20 percent below that. I've seen some pro-Democratic sites add this to the list of achievements by President Obama, but that's reaching. The most we can say is that Obama's energy policies, such as they are, haven't prevented prices from dropping.

But we're not about politics or personalities here. We want to know: Why did this happen? Is this a good thing? And should I now buy a house in a subdivision in the cornfields?

Oil prices have been volatile since the turn of the millennium, which mostly have been due to fluctuations in supply. (An exception wa…

The latest bad news and our common life

Those of us who expressed loud relief at the conclusion of the late election season ought to have been careful for what we wished. We are most of us used to election-year bloviating, after all, and eventually it goes away, and we move on with our lives. The news that has replaced all the campaigning this year, however, has dealt a series of body blows to our quest for a common life. It's enough to make you nostalgic for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California) and his rumors of ISIS agents carrying Ebola germs over the Mexican border.

The grand jury decision not to seek indictment in the case of Eric Garner gave new life to restiveness about police treatment of blacks. The latest chapter began in August with the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August. Garner, like Brown, was unarmed; he died of suffocation this past July while being physically restrained by a New York City police officer, and his last words were the now-famous phrase "I can't breathe." …

Obstacles to gentle gentrification

The week-long series of reports on gentrification by the excellent public radio program "Marketplace" makes at least three things abundantly clear: [a] gentrification is occurring all over the country; [b] gentrification rarely if ever occurs without clear winners and losers, not to mention a lot of bad feelings; and [c] the reputation of gentrification is so broadly negative that the word itself carries a negative connotation. (It's what the rhetoric scholar S.I. Hayakawa called a "snarl word.")

Yet I maintain that the future of America, particularly urban America, requires gentrification. We need a little gentrification, right this very minute. Granted, it must be done right. It must be done gently. But it must be done.

Gentrification means the resettlement of the middle class in urban areas. It means the undoing of two generations of moving to suburbs ever farther away from the city center, leaving urban areas filled with working class and poor people, with…