Saturday, October 18, 2008

It's fall in Wingra Park, and the Canda Geese are carb-loading for their marathon flight

It's Autumn in Wingra Park, and the Canda Geese Are Carb-loading
Wingra park on Madison's near west side is small and quiet, and offers a meditative perspective on autumn as it gradually paints foliage in shades of russet and red before the leaves disappear altogether. The other morning Canada Geese were stocking up on carbs before making their way south, while on Lake Wingra, a solitary fisherman pursued his quest in the morning light, backed by the muted fall colors of the UW Arboretum across the lake. (To view large, click through photo to Flickr and click on "All Sizes above the picture.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Both parties are so similar, it really doesn't matter who you vote for, right? WRONG.

On both the right and the left, there are people who feel it doesn't matter what happens Nov. 4, that the Obama and McCain campaigns are just puppet sideshows, that their corporate masters will continue to pull the strings, so you might as well vote for Barr, or Nader, or write in Mickey Mouse.

Writing in Common Dreams, Ira Chernus summed up some reasons why this is wrong.
There's no mystery about it. Republican economic policy aims, above all, to protect the interests of the very rich. They make nearly all their money from investments. Inflation is their greatest enemy, because it eats up the profits they expect from their investment. So Republicans regularly throw the economy into recession. Lots of people lose their jobs, which means wages go down, which means inflation stays low.

That's why we had major recessions during the first Reagan administration, the George H.W. Bush administration, and the current Bush administration. Republicans are happy to see the middle class and the poor suffer, as long as they damp down inflation to protect the rich.

On top of that, of course, the GOP gives massive tax cuts to the rich, much larger than the Democrats. That runs up budget deficits. With government having to borrow huge sums, there's more competition for investment capital, so interest rates go up. Working people have to pay more on their mortgages and credit cards, but the rich get better returns on their investments.
Avedon Carol is known for her pithy and pointed barbs she appends to links she posts in The Sideshow. But every once in awhile, she's just had it and lets fly a full-fledged rant. A recent classic was about how Republicans are always worse for the economy than Democrats. It began with some useful links to the data.
Every time I post a link to an article about how the Republicans are always worse for the economy than Democrats, people seem surprised to learn this fact. I've been pushing this since I started blogging, which is why I was so pleased back in 2002 when Dwight Meredith started doing his series on his old P.L.A. blog comparing the relative economic performance of Republicans and Democrats - so pleased that I decided it should all be aggregated on a single page
But that was just for openers. The heart of the matter:
The Republicans always have a lot of "responsible"-sounding reasons why they are better for the economy, but honestly, they are lies. The Republicans don't want to help "families", they don't want to help you avoid moral hazard, they don't want you to do your best and try to achieve, they don't care whether their policies hurt you.

Their end game isn't to make you a harder-working and better person, it's to avoid having to show you any respect. They don't respect you and they don't want to have to pretend they do. They want you to show them deference and they know you won't do that if you feel like a free person in a free society who doesn't have to take crap from some petty tyrant who thinks you should feel honored to kiss his ring. Republicans are pissed off because it's so hard to get good help these days - help that knows they are just the help, that knows their place, that uses the servants' entrance and calls them "sir" and doesn't question them. A strong middle-class - that is, a secure workforce - gets bolshy and tells abusive employers to bugger off, and the ruling class doesn't like that.

Which is why Alan Greenspan, secure himself in the knowledge that Ronald Reagan et al. had already severely weakened the middle-class to the point where they could actually say this stuff out loud, publicly stated that he regarded it as his job to increase economic insecurity. Your economic insecurity.
In less troubled times the old cliché that you should "vote as if your life depends on it" may be a bit of an well-meaning exaggeration. But these are not normal times, and clichés become clichés for a reason. This time, your life definitely does depend on it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

John McCain: Elephant in Free Fall

John McCain: Elephant in Free Fall
As Barack Obama continues taking former battleground states off the Electoral College map (he now has such a lead in Wisconsin that the McCain campaign just pulled its TV advertising), and as John McCain falls further behind in the national polls, last night's final presidential debate may have been McCain's last chance to turn it around and reverse the downward momentum. To do that, he needed something big. As predicted, he launched the Bill Ayers bomb as if it were the Hail Mary pass that could still save him, but it fell haplessly back to earth like his own plummeting campaign, far short of the end zone. (Obama had it covered in any case.) The Republicans are in for a hard landing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Credit bust gives the few old buildings that remain in downtown Madison a reprieve

The Residue of Time
Many of the older, low-rise buildings that dominated downtown Madison and the UW campus area have been replaced by new development in recent years. Until recently it seemed as if the relentless sprouting of high-rise condos, apartments and commercial real estate would continue unchecked until all vestiges of the old Madison were obliterated by new, high-rise corridors. You could call it urban infilling if you were favorably disposed. Or you could call it a real estate bubble if you weren't.

DevelopmentOne of the last of the big developments to be financed and completed before the bubble burst was the 359-unit Lucky apartment and retail complex at 777 University, touted as "not just an apartment building, but the new model for urban rentals in Madison. A model that includes a new standard for services, finishes and amenities, and one that includes all age groups. Find out what it means to live life with resort-level conveniences while being right in the middle of it all. Find out what it means to Live Lucky." Not as lucky were the tenants evicted by the new construction, which included the only downtown muliplex, along with the longtime student favorite, Paison's Restaurant, which moved all the way off campus to a lakeside location off the Capitol Square.

Lucky towers over these old buildings across the street on University Avenue -- a little enclave of old Madison surrounded by the mushrooming highrises. These and other older buildings in the downtown area have been given a reprieve by the collapsing real estate bubble and the resulting credit crunch.
Developer Steve Brown, who opened the 359-unit Lucky apartments last month on University Avenue and is building the 116-unit Brownstone Terrace Apartments on Madison's Far West Side, said financing was secured for those projects a couple of years ago, when credit conditions were better. But he said refinancing could become more difficult as notes come due if conditions don't improve.

"(Banks) have to get all this fright out of their system," he said. "They're trying to remove all risk from their lending and that's impossible to do in real estate."
Lucky, because it offers a host of amenities in a high-rise location right next to campus, seems to be doing well. Not so for all of the other real estate in overbuilt downtown Madison. Too bad the bankers didn't catch fright a bit sooner.