When we asked readers and friends on Facebook and Twitter to help us find the goofiest city slogans, nicknames, and rebranding campaigns ever, we had no idea what we were getting into. Really. Turns out this country is CHOCK FULL of marketing consultants who don’t have the foggiest clue what they’re doing -- and cities love to hire these people!
It’s no wonder Americans have been high-tailing it for the ’burbs for decades: Cities seem to never fail to find fresh ways to look like doofuses.
The Senate voted down legislation on Thursday that would have paved the way for the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline -- barely. Eleven Democrats joined 45 Republicans to vote in favor of the project, ignoring lobbying from President Obama himself. But the measure needed 60 votes to move forward, so despite support from the majority, it died.
Rest assured, however, that we haven’t seen the last of this undead monster.
In an increasingly desperate attempt to save his signature, $260 billion highway bill from the junkyard, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pleaded with fellow Republicans to get on the bandwagon this week, even threatening to go with the (gasp!) bipartisan Senate bill instead if they didn’t get in line. Now it looks like he has given up on passing his own bill altogether.
To anyone who has been watching this saga, it comes as no surprise that Boehner’s bill is in the ditch. The original proposal, floated in late January, would have cut all designated funding for mass transit, bike paths, and safe routes to school, and tied highway building to increased oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It also included a mandate to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Not a winning combination.
When people say, “Call the National Guard,” they really mean Craig Fugate. As head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), he’s the guy who swoops in after a tornado or flood to clean up the mess with executive muscle and a pool of cash from the federal treasury. So perhaps it’s no great surprise that he supports efforts to create buildings that are essentially apocalypse-proof: For this guy, every day is another disaster.
Of course, there’s also the fact that FEMA has actually been working on credit. “I owe you a lot of money from the National Flood Insurance Program -- about $18 billion,” Fugate told a group at the National Press Club last week. “Those are payouts from 2005 hurricane season.”
You may remember that season for its unruly offspring: Dennis, Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. And climate scientists tell us there are many more to come. “We cannot afford to continue to respond to disasters and suffer impacts -- particularly looking at large-scale catastrophic disasters -- under the current program,” Fugate said. “It will fail.”
The solution? Get smarter about how and where we build.
This is a stick-up. Give me your car keys or your cell phone. I don’t care which. What’s it gonna be, pal?
For a growing number of young people, the answer is the keys. A recent survey from the research company Gartner finds that 46 percent of 18- to 24-year-old Americans would rather have access to the internet than their own car. In auto-obsessed Germany, three-quarters of those in the same age group would rather live without their car than their smartphone.
Sky gardens! Vertical neighborhoods! "Recombinant" houses that can be taken apart and reassembled! They're all here, in a new show at the Museum of Modern Art called Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream, in which teams of architects, ecologists, and landscape designers reimagined suburbia.
When someone grabbed emails and documents from the computers of climate scientists and leaked them to the media in 2009, few organizations were as mirthful as the Heartland Institute, an outfit that has worked for years to spread the gospel of climate-change denial. Although multiple investigations into the scientists' emails debunked accusations that the researchers had subverted science and distorted data, Heartland and its allies used the so-called "Climategate" memos to tar climate science and bully the media into covering their dubious claims.
Last Monday, when an anonymous source (we now know it to be MacArthur-award-winning scientist and climate activist Peter Gleick) released internal Heartland memos to the press, the group had something else to say entirely.
The Heartland documents included details about a plan to introduce climate denial into grade school curricula and a list of major donors that includes a rogues' gallery of corporate interests. One document contained a summary of Heartland's work promoting fracking. Surprising? Hardly. Embarrassing? Apparently.
When Republicans loaded up a transportation bill with what the NRDC’s David Goldston floridly calls “a gallimaufry of bad ideas” that included the Keystone XL pipeline and oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, it seemed like a cheap political stunt: The monstrosity would never stand a chance of becoming law. Sure enough, the White House has promised to veto the bill should it actually make it through Congress.
The House passed the drilling proposals last Thursday anyway, with help from 21 oil-loving Democrats. (Twenty-one Republicans broke ranks with House leadership, voting against the bill. A handful of them are from Florida, where the $60 billion tourism industry apparently trumps a few extra mil from offshore drilling.)
But amid all the debate over the transportation bill, one truth has gone unsaid -- a truth that explains, at least in part, what these proposals are doing in the transportation bill in the first place, and why the lines between opponents and supporters are not more clearly drawn: We have become slaves to our roads.
Last week, big banks agreed to fork over $26 billion to make up for some of the bungling and malfeasance that led to the massive national mortgage meltdown and economic implosion. Their misdeeds included everything from sloppy paperwork to cases where banks actually foreclosed on homes that they did not own. Seriously.
Most of the money will go to people who are “underwater” with their home loans, meaning that they owe the banks more than the house is now worth. Never mind that hundreds of thousands of people have already been booted from their homes, or have thrown up their hands and walked away.
This leaves the obvious question: What do we do with all these empty houses? I did a little poking around, and found quite a few creative reuses for these places. Here are my five favorites:
Electric cars are finally picking up speed on American roads after being stalled out for a decade or two. The new cars are zippy, they corner like they’re on rails, and they’re a hell of a lot cheaper to drive than the gas burning kind.
But that last part might change: Several states, including Washington and Arizona, are now considering taxing electric vehicles. And while many electric car drivers seem game, others are concerned that a tax could bomb a nascent industry on the runway, just as it is finally about to take off.