Chicago has Largest Urban Solar Power Plant in the Nation
Chicago Public TV Station WTTW.com reports on the Nation's Largest Urban Solar Plant in the United States.
Project Details for Chicago's Urban Solar Plant:
- 32,000 PV Solar Panels used - 10 Megawatts of power, can power about 1200 homes. - Located on Chicago's Pullman District (neighborhood) on the Southside on an old, abandoned industrial site - 200 Construction Jobs, 7-8 Permanent Jobs - Sun Power Designed Plant (San Jose, CA) - This Solar plant will be Operational later in 2010 - Land is leased by energy company Excelon from the City of Chicago (adding tax revenue to the City)
Link to Large Format video via WTTW.com video site (Jan 6, 2010.)
Umm, what do they do about cleaning off the snow (and dirt) ?? Is the motorized tilt enough to shed the snow fall (off of the panels) ?
(From the Chicago WTTW TV Program, Chicago Tonight, aired Jan. 5th, 2010, posted online Jan. 6th, 2010.)
The Case For Affordable Housing & A National Energy Standard
Certain items are needed for all people to live a decent (modern) life: decent housing, decent (safe) food, clear (safe) water & air; fair wage/job; access to health care. All other things are possible (for a people) from there.
Making a (high end designer) commodity of any of the aforementioned, makes those items inaccessible by lower income people and the poor, and now we see, inaccessible to even the middle class in America.
Behind affordable health care, Affordable Housing is the largest problem facing our nation. When jobs are harder to get, it makes it that much harder to maintain one's health, and to maintain a decent place to live. Basic, decent housing, healthcare and food are a human right.
As a practicing licensed architect, I have seen how the mortgage/banking, real estate and construction industries have artificially jacked up the cost of housing for no reason other than personal profit borne of greed.
Architects have wanted to build green for decades (and some of us have built green, in spite of obstacles, and before it was called "green". 30 years ago, we just called it "Best Practices in Design". Building efficiently with the intent not to adversely impact our clients' budget (on the lifecycle maintenance costs ) was the responsible, adult thing to do. Oh, and by the way, it was good for the environment, good for the economy and the local community.) It's the construction & development industries that lobbied for weaker energy & building standards much in the way the Big 3 Detroit Car manfs lobbied against fuel efficiency standards -- not architects.
Right now, taxes, realtors' compensation, contractor's pay, property assessors pay, etc, mortgage company profits are ALL based on the so-called assessed value of a property. EVERYONE in the aforementioned interest groups HAS A BUILT IN INCENTIVE to artificially push the cost/selling price higher for a home.
Cities get more in tax revenue if homes are valued higher. (So legislators want high-end homes built in their districts.) Realtors, bankers, contractors make more if the house is valued higher (because they make more money the higher the home selling price.) Home owners have an asset they can leverage for more credit if their house is valued for more (providing they have equity in the house, etc.) Home Owners are induced into pretending to be more affluent than they are, so many get trapped into an unmanageable debt load. (Is your mortgage upside down?)
There is a dis-incentive in our current regulations/laws toward making housing affordable, and that has contributed largely to our current housing crisis.
Merely making credit (or loans) available to people who can't afford $400-900K homes doesn't solve the housing problem, when people only make $7-20/hour at WalMart (and then also have to pay for their own health care.) The supply of affordable, sub $175K homes is shrinking FAST and still out of reach for many WORKING Americans. Rents that are over $1000 per month are unaffordable for major portions of working Americans -- let alone the unemployed and underemployed. (Barbara Ehrenreich anyone? <http://www.barbaraehrenreich.com/nickelanddimed.htm> )
As an architect, I can say w/ 1000% certainty, I have had people come to me with stories of greedy Developer/Builders who build a 2400 SF vinyl clad energy-inefficient home for about $160K, then turn around and collude with Realtors and bankers to sell the very home for $600-800K.
There is nothing wrong w/ a $800K energy efficient house sold to someone who can afford it. I know what a house costs to build, and it's not $500K for a vinyl clad, vinyl window house with forced air heating, laminate floors and cheap ceramic tile and budget American made, entry-level appliances. Granite counters & stainless steel appliances do not add $200-400K to the cost of a house. The public has been bamboozled by ill-intending developers, builders/ contractors, mortgage brokers and realtors.
THE PROBLEM WITH SELLING A $160K HOUSE for $500-800K is THAT IT STILL PERFORMS LIKE A $160K HOUSE -- and THAT IS WHY IT LOST ITS VALUE BETWEEN 2008 - 2009. People should make a profit on their work, but a 300% premium on housing IS NOT SUSTAINABLE. We have our current national economic condition as proof.
The homes that are really sold at what they are truly worth, HAVE NOT lost their value by 25-30% (not even in this market.)
We also need a more National (uniform) Building Code and set of standards, so that pre-fab housing and valuation across the US becomes more uniform (in quality and price), level and fair (i.e. affordable. Although some allowances in the codes must be made for climatic and geological differences, i.e. earthquake safety, climate differences, etc.) This means, houses need to be built better, more energy efficient and costs can be controlled better because regional variables are reduced. If structures were built to a more National Standard, then a $200K house in St. Louis would be worth about the same as a $200K house in Oregon-- and would not have a wild $200-400K cost difference for the same size, materials and features as is currently the case i real estate pricing in the U.S.A.
I recently attended a conference of one of the regional carpenters' unions in my area, and one of the presenters ADMITTED that Contractors try to discourage stick building (i.e. wood frame) over pre-fab because Contractors make more money on stick-built structures. Consumers, what more proof (of price fixing) do you need?
Standardizing building and zoning laws would go a LONG WAY to standardizing and leveling out fabrication/construction costs. If health care was affordable for all Americans, the operating COSTs to businesses would also decrease costs to manufacture and build good products-- including affordable houses.
We have to make changes to how we value, build and design structures across the entire country. Putting the product decision process (and minimum legal standards) in the hands of the industries that artificially jacked up the prices in the first place, will never make us a sustainable nation.
"No problem can be solved from the same Consciousness that Created It" -- Albert Einstein
Institutions and laws have to change. We have to de-incintivize the greed factor that lead us to building inefficient, low quality structures, sold to people who couldn't afford an over-priced home. It's the right thing to do, the American thing to do.
Pass this info on.
- You Paid Too Much For Your House: Building Costs vs Retail Price Paid
- Builders, Contractors Fight Against Adoption of U.S. Energy Codes (Sounds familiar? Contractors are fighting energy efficiency the way Detroit fought against more fuel efficient cars. What did that get us?)
Let's look at few key things this graph tells us about the last 100 years:
1. Housing prices, more or less, had some correlation to building costs until about 1943-ish. After the Great Depression and after the War, the US economy stabilizes, employment & the population increases, there's a minor spike in housing prices. Notice, however, there is no proportional correlation between building costs and actual home sale prices from 1945ish through 1980.With the exception of a few short-term blips, Housing Prices are somewhat flat between 1943 until 1977 (as a function of building costs) AND increasing population (i.e. demand). Starting in 1982, Building Costs appear to actually trend DOWN until 2002, yet the selling price of Homes rises dramatically through 2008. There is an irrational spike up in prices in 1998, while the cost of Building remains flat. (So granite counters and stainless steel appliances et al, are NOT justification for an additional 25-50% in price.)
2. Dropping Interest rates seem to serve as a catalyst for justifying housing price hikes. Perhaps, this controlled "supply vs demand" is working to almost fix prices to favor the seller (and all who benefit from housing sales) -- and not the buyer. Interest rate fluctuations mostly seem to affect the cost of building materials (probably to suppliers) -- but seems to have a deleterious affect on the sales price. One can not even argue that demand increased as population increased because for most of the last 100 years, and until about 1955, prices remain proportional to population growth as a function of demand. Between 1958 and 1978 prices remain flat, even while the population (and arguably demand) increases and interest rates rise (for the same period.) But again, even increases in Buildings Costs have no proportional correlation to Housing sales prices (after 1945.). In fact, starting about 1979-80, Building costs start to trend down, while the cost to buy a house spikes up dramatically until the 2008 financial meltdown. Interest rates are at their highest levels between 1980 - 1990, while Building Costs are dropping, and the selling price of a house is rising (over the same period.)
The Housing purchase price doubles between 1982 & 2008, while the cost to build has steadily trended down for most of the same period.
What's missing from this chart is real wage earning power for the middle class. We know that during the last 30 years, wealth for the top 2% of Americans grew at astonishing rates, while real net worth and income for the middle class actually dropped. (See Document: ).
From The New Economist, "..the richest 1% hold one third of the total wealth in the economy.. Inequity rose sharply after 1979." [end of quote] (i.e. the Reagan / GOP wealth transfer era.)
Again, ShantyWorld.com covers some of these topics in earlier posts, but I'll repeat a few key points because too few seem to grasp the inherent conflict of interest driving this false valuation of housing over the last 30 years:
a. Developers, Contractors/Builders have a built in incentive to sell housing (or any construction) for more than it's worth. When property owners (buyers) don't have impartial 3rd party advocates (i.e. an architect, lawyer, engineers) working for them, they are more likely to over pay, and get inferior systems, inferior buildings. How do you know that the Builder you hired is installing X, Y, Z properly? Clearly the chart shows buildings costs have little correlation to the actual selling price after 1978. Building costs actually went down after 1978, yet the sales price for homes climbed dramatically. Also note, the 1980s Reagan era also ushered in the modern era of de-regulation and the dilution of consumer protection against predatory financial products. Business should earn a profit for good work. But when does that profit become excessive? at 25% over costs? 50%, 100%, 200%? 300%? as we've seen the last 15 years?
b. Realtors are generally paid as a percentage of the final sale price for a property. There is a built-in incentive for Realtors to want the price for any property to go higher, as their profit/earnings is tied directly to the sale price. The Realtors' goal is to CLOSE at the highest possible price. So, why would Realtors want to see housing prices and appraisals drop in 2009 (as compared to prices 3-5 years ago?)
c. Banks & Mortgage companies have a built-in incentive to see higher housing prices. The larger the loan amount, the more Banks can make (as long as the borrower is deemed not to be a high risk. The ability of home owners to pay more didn't really increase over the last 50 years (because real wages for the middle class have been flat), Banks just decided to take more risks. See comments (below) regarding Economist Hyman Minsky's foretelling of how risk-taking would result in a collapsed economy.
d. Cities / Municipalities and Politicians have an incentive to see property valuations increase. After all, property tax revenue is a function of retail housing prices. Increases in property values is a false measurement through which politicians measure their own effectiveness at governing and public policy. Politicians, developers and contractors exploited the American sickness of trying to keep up with the Joneses and conspicuous consumption. (Appraisals are a function of so-called "comparable" sales prices.) The industries & sectors complaining about the current appraisal levels are contractors, developers and those who overpaid for their house (and the banks who pushed these phony inflated valuations on people unable to assume high debt risk levels.)
It's my opinion that the cost to build a new house is (roughly) represented by 35-40% spent on Materials (& systems), versus 65-60% spent on labor. It's about the same (labor) cost (as averaged over the entire development costs) to install an energy efficient window versus an inefficient or lesser efficient window. It's generally NOT 20%, 30% or 40% more to use a better system. So using a better product generally doesn't add 30-100% to the budget over the cost of the entire project. Over time, the decision to use quality systems (not high-end systems) generally adds value and often pays for itself versus opting for the lower quality.
e. "Location, Location, Location" is a social construct: 30% truth, 70% faux social meme (used to create wealth via societal & cultural bias.) "Location" is a wealth apportioning method exploited by Developers, Realtors (salesmen), corporate banking, politicians, the affluent etc., to justify artificial valuation for the purpose of private profiteering at the expense of others. The topic is too expansive to cover in this post but deserves a mention.
SO, IT IS NO SURPRISE THAT THE COST OF BUILDING many U.S. HOMES HAD LITTLE TO DO WITH THE RETAIL SELLING PRICE -- at least over the last 60 years. (See chart.) The people who can least afford to lose money on a construction project (or buying a home, property) are the ones who are likely to benefit the most by hiring a team of advocates (i.e. architect, engineers, attorney, accountant etc.) to help them through the project process.
According to Bryan Bell, only about 2% of new home buyers work with an architect.
Yet, we know that houses designed by architects, are more likely to increase in value (over more sustained periods), cost less to operate, be more attractive, even cost less to build (for the same products & systems), are less likely to rapidly decrease in value, and will be more comfortable than homes purchased from a developer or home builder-led properties.
Many would now agree the greed of corporate banking and the major players (above) driving retail property pricing and financing largely created a structural weakness that led to the 2008 financial collapse. Of course, individual property owners have a role in the global financial collapse too: borrowing more than they can afford; running up high debt-to-savings ratios; leveraging too many of their assets; spending (borrowing) for the purpose of appearing more affluent (to others) than they actually were, etc. Perhaps the most grievous act of all: those who remained quiet (in the public & private sectors) as this house of cards was built around all of us. Many people did see the 2008 economic collapse coming -- not just economists and bankers.
No society can tolerate irrational double-digit price % increases (over a short period) in housing, health care, food, water, and other BASIC HUMAN NEEDS, out pacing real earnings for average workers, and think said price increases are sustainable over time (where the profits go primarily to a small minority.)
EconomistHyman Minsky warned of these boom/bust economic cycles and unearned profit ratios.
“Success breeds a disregard of the possibility of failure.” - H. Minsky (d. 1996)
Minsky's writings put forward the idea that patterns in economies repeat themselves, and that all Democracies MUST have some level of regulation, if they are to last-- or be doomed to catastrophic failure (and ultimately, extinction.) Apparently, Nobel Prize winning Paul Krugman often speaks of Minsky's work and insights.
The Boston Globe article also discusses some of Minsky's ideas (many penned more than 20-35 years ago) about how to correct a faltering capitalist economy. From the Boston Globe article:
...In his writings, Minsky looked to his intellectual hero, Keynes, arguably the greatest economist of the 20th century. But where most economists drew a single, simplistic lesson from Keynes - that government could step in and micromanage the economy, smooth out the business cycle, and keep things on an even keel - Minsky had no interest in what he and a handful of other dissident economists came to call “bastard Keynesianism.” Instead, Minsky drew his own, far darker, lessons from Keynes’s landmark writings, which dealt not only with the problem of unemployment, but with money and banking. Although Keynes had never stated this explicitly, Minsky argued that Keynes’s collective work amounted to a powerful argument that capitalism was by its very nature unstable and prone to collapse. Far from trending toward some magical state of equilibrium, capitalism would inevitably do the opposite. It would lurch over a cliff. This insight bore the stamp of his advisor Joseph Schumpeter, the noted Austrian economist now famous for documenting capitalism’s ceaseless process of “creative destruction.” But Minsky spent more time thinking about destruction than creation. In doing so, he formulated an intriguing theory: not only was capitalism prone to collapse, he argued, it was precisely its periods of economic stability that would set the stage for monumental crises. Minsky called his idea the “Financial Instability Hypothesis.” In the wake of a depression, he noted, financial institutions are extraordinarily conservative, as are businesses. With the borrowers and the lenders who fuel the economy all steering clear of high-risk deals, things go smoothly: loans are almost always paid on time, businesses generally succeed, and everyone does well. That success, however, inevitably encourages borrowers and lenders to take on more risk in the reasonable hope of making more money. As Minsky observed,“Success breeds a disregard of the possibility of failure.” As people forget that failure is a possibility, a “euphoric economy” eventually develops, fueled by the rise of far riskier borrowers - what he called speculative borrowers, those whose income would cover interest payments but not the principal; and those he called “Ponzi borrowers,” those whose income could cover neither, and could only pay their bills by borrowing still further. As these latter categories grew, the overall economy would shift from a conservative but profitable environment to a much more freewheeling system dominated by players whose survival depended not on sound business plans, but on borrowed money and freely available credit. Once that kind of economy had developed, any panic could wreck the market. The failure of a single firm, for example, or the revelation of a staggering fraud could trigger fear and a sudden, economy-wide attempt to shed debt. This watershed moment - what was later dubbed the “Minsky moment” - would create an environment deeply inhospitable to all borrowers. The speculators and Ponzi borrowers would collapse first, as they lost access to the credit they needed to survive. Even the more stable players might find themselves unable to pay their debt without selling off assets; their forced sales would send asset prices spiraling downward, and inevitably, the entire rickety financial edifice would start to collapse. Businesses would falter, and the crisis would spill over to the “real” economy that depended on the now-collapsing financial system. From the 1960s onward, Minsky elaborated on this hypothesis. At the time he believed that this shift was already underway: postwar stability, financial innovation, and the receding memory of the Great Depression were gradually setting the stage for a crisis of epic proportions. Most of what he had to say fell on deaf ears. The 1960s were an era of solid growth, and although the economic stagnation of the 1970s was a blow to mainstream neo-Keynesian economics, it did not send policymakers scurrying to Minsky. Instead, a new free market fundamentalism took root: government was the problem, not the solution. Moreover, the new dogma coincided with a remarkable era of stability. The period from the late 1980s onward has been dubbed the “Great Moderation,” a time of shallow recessions and great resilience among most major industrial economies. Things had never been more stable. The likelihood that “it” could happen again now seemed laughable. Yet throughout this period, the financial system - not the economy, but finance as an industry - was growing by leaps and bounds. Minsky spent the last years of his life, in the early 1990s, warning of the dangers of securitization and other forms of financial innovation, but few economists listened. Nor did they pay attention to consumers’ and companies’ growing dependence on debt, and the growing use of leverage within the financial system. By the end of the 20th century, the financial system that Minsky had warned about had materialized, complete with speculative borrowers, Ponzi borrowers, and precious few of the conservative borrowers who were the bedrock of a truly stable economy. Over decades, we really had forgotten the meaning of risk. When storied financial firms started to fall, sending shockwaves through the “real” economy, his predictions started to look a lot like a road map. [END OF QUOTE.. the article is much longer.]
Again, the people who can LEAST afford to waste money building, renovating a home (or any structure, space) are the ones who would BENEFIT THE MOST by hiring a team of advocates (i.e. architect, engineers, attorney, accountant etc.) to help them through the process.
3 Residents, 4 bathrooms: "We've Only Asked for the Barest Necessities."
Many people come to architects seeking assistance in renovating a house -- either one they've found or one they're already living in.
On more occasions than I can recall, I've had nearly the exact same conversation with a client as the one here in these scenes from the Cary Grant movie, "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" (1948), co-starring Myrna Loy (as Grant's wife.) The movie is as timeless and as accurate now as ever.
One of my all-time favorite scenes from the movie:
Notice, the architect's first recommended design was in line with the client's budget. Failing to take the recommendations of your architect (or attorney) is a path to financial cost overruns. Is it any wonder our nation is now in the middle of this financial housing disaster? You can lead a horse to water..
The people who can LEAST afford to waste money building a house are the ones who would benefit the MOST from working with an experienced Architect. It's a lie that working with an architect will cost you more money than if one depends (solely) on a builder. The Architect's Fees are often not more than 4-8% of the entire development cost for new home construction. More often than not, experienced architects provide a path to a better designed, more efficient, safer structure than what average developers & builders offer the public. Better designs mean higher resale value. Architect designed homes hold & appreciate in value more than Builder /Developer led properties.
Because an architect's clients have an advocate working for them, they are less likely to pay $600 for a $150 window. If there are 30+ windows in an average size house, that could represent $4k-$15K in savings on one line item alone. Considering that is but one way my clients save money building a house, it is easy to see how hiring an architect not only pays for itself, but can save you tens of thousands of dollars when building a new house.
And if you think it's better to go it alone without an architect's help when building, ask yourself how CNN Hero Liz McCartney's St Bernard Project is able to rebuild homes in New Orleans damaged by Katrina for $15K (w/ donated labor), but a contractor charges you $100-300K to do the same project on the open market.
With all the talk about green and eco-friendly retrofitting, haven't you ever wondered why the structures weren't better built in the first place? Developers and some builders build for obsolescence. Like the Detroit auto-building industry the last 35 years, the goal was manufacturing obsolesence so it would create a large repair/ maintenance sub-industry. American auto dealers make more on maintaining oil-based cars than electric cars. The same is true of the home building industry over the last 35 years. Build it cheaply, so home owners have to call the Builder or contractor back for repairs, replacements. Instead of buying a quality $300 faucet that lasts 20-35+ years, people buy the cheap $60 faucet, get charged $200-250 by a plumber to install it every 5-7 years. Which method is really cheaper?
Building "green" or sustainably is not expensive-- it's a choice and priority. We already know some the benefits that building green provides: saves operational & maintenance costs, reduces your utility bills (in some cases to zero), reduces heat-island effect (lowers temperature) in urban areas, reduces toxic run-off into our waterways, sewers, cuts down on green house emissions, carbon etc.
The homes we designed, generally don't need to be retrofitted for better insualtion in order to save money, or to be more eco-friendly. They were designed properly the first time. Therein lies the difference between buying a builder's cookie-cutter house versus a home designed by an Architect.
What are you doing to prepare for building or remodeling your next project? If you don't know where to start, consider contacting a licensed Architect for help on how to get started. Architects do much more than just provide permit plans. We design safer structures, save you money, can help you build green, can help you stay on budget --to name just a few things. Feel free to contact us if you need help with your project. We are here to help you realize the home you deserve.
The Graphics are "postcardware", so we would prefer if you download images, you send us a note and/or photo of you using your sign. (45 Mil Image from FreeStylee on Flickr.)
Image files can be printed out up to 11x17 inches with very good clarity. (Anything larger than that might get more blurred results.)
You can take or email the image to a local copy print shop. Places like Office Max, Kinkos, Office Depot etc., print 11x17 color prints for about $1.49. Laminating adds another $2 in most copy shops. So, for about $3.49 you can get a YARD SIGN in support of Health Care for America. If you have any architect, engineer or graphics friends, their plotters can probably spit out some copies. Images are 300dpi, so 17x22 might print out OK at your local BluePrint/ Large Format copy shop.
Get informed about the facts, before you listen to any of the talking heads on TV or radio.
For more info on the National Health Care Debate, check out these sites:
Sick for Profit - 6 of the CEOS of the largest Health Care Insurance Companies earned more than $1.5 BILLION dollars in personal compensation in the last 5 years. That's money used to deny claims for life saving treatment. Money used to make record profits the last 5 years. 33 cents of every dollar you spend on premiums, goes toward Insurance company profits, so Insurance execs can ride private jets with gold trim china. You don't really know if you have insurance until you are forced to try to use it for a major illness or accident.
HOW FIVE CAPITALIST DEMOCRATIC NATIONS PAY For NATIONAL HEALTH CARE and WHY IT WORKS. "Sick Around the World", From PBS' Frontline series. [video] In-depth view of how other Democratic Nations have solved providing National Health Care for its Citizens. It makes the other nations (and their businesses) more competitive internationally. Health Care Reform is a National Security Issue as well. The Health of our nation's Economy depends on it. We can not be competitive with other nations if we have a sick population nor can we be competitive if our businesses are handcuffed by rising health care costs. (Click on the link above to watch the FULL PBS PROGRAM.)
Read the Actual Text of the U.S. National Health Care Act (H.R. 676). Don't take the word of some talking head. Read the Bill for Yourself. (Note these are preliminary, as the Senate and House bills will be refined before any final legislation will be voted on by the entire Congress.)
Former CIGNA Insurance Executive Wendell Potter discusses with PBS Journalist Bill Moyers how the Insurance Companies deny your claims so they can turn a profit- a profit used to pay high executive salaries, pay for private jets and gold china. Insurance gets rich while your friends and family get sicker and die due to denied claims. [video]
Watch the Moyer Video with Wendell Potter - potter2.m4v
SICKO Facts on How Americans are being abused by Insurance Companies - from Documentary Filmmaker Michael Moore. His BIG LIST OF FACTS and resources on National Health Care and how the USA compares (poorly) to other Democratic Nations.
AFL-CIO , SEIU and other Labor organizations Support National Health Care Plan so that American Business can compete internationally with companies who don't have the financial burden of paying for Health Care costs for their workers.
Contact Congress (House & Senate) - It only takes about 3 minutes. Really. Tell them how you feel about How you are Treated by the Health Insurance Companies. Can you afford health care? Can your friends / family ? One person files bankruptcy per minute in America due to Health Costs.
NATIONAL HEALTH CARE IS A MORAL ISSUE. America has a PAY or DIE Class system of Health Care. You shouldn't have to be wealthy in order to be able to receive quality health care. Americans should not die from preventable illnesses because they couldn't afford the co-pay, their deductible or were afraid if they tried to file a claim, for fear they would be cancelled by their insurance company. Emergency Room care is a strategy to kill poor people. PAY or DIE Health Care is an immoral policy.
Images are not for commercial use nor resale. All Rights Reserved.
Deather Hate Mobs Mirror White Mobs of Segregated 1950s
The Hate Speech and batant racism is growing with each passing week since President Obama has taken office. I remember telling people before the 2008 election, that should Obama get into office, the fringe but vocal part of racist America would become agitated, and would resort to threats, violence, harassment, and old-fashioned American hate not unlike the mobs we saw during the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 60s in America.
What's old is new again.
Of course, hate and racism wasn't new to the 1950's. America was founded on a system of slavery-- a system many white families and corporations still benefit from today. As I work for advocacy of reforming an unjust and immoral Die or Pay [anti] American Health System in America, the threats on my various social media accounts grows. For those of us who knew Obama's election was in no way a signal of the end of racism, it just confirmed to those are grounded in reality that in spite of the advances America has made in electing Obama, the nation still has a very long way to go in the culture divide. One only has to look at the hate mail received by all progressive bloggers (myself included) to see how widespread racism is in America. We have the recent events of the Holocaust Museum murders, the murder of Dr. Tiller (who performed legal medical procedures), the false & racist arrest of Harvard Professor H.L. "Skip" Gates, the racist attacks by GOP Senators on Justice Sonia Sotomayor (during her hearing) and any number of thousands of attacks per day on progressive bloggers as proof. While a well-known Black Harvard Professor is arrested for daring to rightfully, legally demand (in his own home) I.D. from an officer, a (formerly) unknown white working class man wears a loaded gun to a Presidential event in New Hampshire (8/11/09) but isn't even arrested. (Of course now, the Secret Service & FBI will be sure to tail that guy until he dies.) Arrest disparities between whites and people of color aren't new either. Racial profiling that adversely, unjustly & disproportionately affects people of color, is an unacknowledged (unearned) benefit that white Americans routinely ignore, shrug-off.
This kind of culture war has not gone unnoticed among conscientious, supporters of democracy. The hate mobs of New Hampshire and Missouri, Pennsylvania etc., are reminiscent of the Bull Connor style hate mobs of the 1950s and 60s. See the full Spike Lee Documentary "4 Little Girls" -- a true story of 4 Black girls killed by racist whites in Birmingham, Alabama. The hate mobs remind me of the Birther, Deather mobs today. See the hate in their faces.
Last week, when I wrote about the birther phenomenon and its parallels to the anti-choice movement, the phenomenon was still largely relegated to email lists and mainstream media interviews with wide-eyed conspiracy theorists. It was alarming because it's so widespread and so obviously rooted in a need to express racist contempt towards Barack Obama and his parents' interracial relationship, but it didn't seem like it would grow much bigger. Well, obviously I didn't draw a strong enough parallel between the birthers and the anti-choice movement. If I'd been paying attention to my own ideas, I would have realized that as anti-choicers' frustration with their daily lack of control over women's bodies erupts into violence, so too would birther frustration over the perceived loss of control over the reins of power enjoyed by white people for the entirety of our nation's history.
There's not a formal link between the birther conspiracy theory and the mobs that are trying to shut down discussion about health care reform--and not-so-subtly sending the signal that they are flirting with resorting to violence in order to stop it--but it's not a coincidence that the birther energy rolled up into this mob scene, or that the leaders pushing the birther line are also encouraging mobs of right wingers to shut down town halls by being disruptive. Unsurprisingly, these mobs have turned violent, something anyone who's dealt with the anti-choice protestors could have told you was inevitable. Right wing mobs have broken out in violence in Tampa, FL and St. Louis, MO. Journalists, union activists, and Democrats, who are the perennial favorite villains of right wing talk radio, seem to be favorite targets for violence and threats.
Looking back over the timeline of the growing volume in birther conspiracy theories that rolled up into mobs threatening and delivering violence, it's easy enough to see what instigating issue activated the right wing, furious about its loss of power. Oh, they've been angry and right wing violence has been on the rise, with domestic terrorism incidents that include the murder of Dr. George Tiller. But there's organization and momentum where there wasn't much before, and as Sara Robinson points out, the leadership has been more overtly enabling and cheerleading conspiracy theorists and right wing disruption mobs than they have before - all in the service of hamstringing health care reform.
4 Little Girls(1997, 102 minutes, Full movie), by Director Spike Lee -
Notice the footage of the hate mobs at 21-50 mins into the film. "Keep Your Eye on the Prize. Hold On, Hold On".
However, the hate mobs -- and they are irrational mobs, are now feeling emboldened by hate speech from an enabling institutional hate culture. It's a culture defined by people who enjoy a first amendment right to lie about facts in front of TV cameras. US GOP Senators (Sessions, Kyl, Hatch, Coburn, Cornyn), lunatic TV Entertainers like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity (masquerading as journalists on the right-wing propaganda mill Fox network) and quitter Sara Palin routinely encourage and stir-up an under-educated demographic pre-disposed to vote against their own economic interests in favor of a corporate led class system that exploits poor & middle class whites too.
The same hate culture is fearful that in a truly diverse democracy (signaled by Obama's election and a growing Latino population), perhaps people of color (in power positions) will treat white people in America they way many whites have (directly or indirectly) treated people of color the last 400 plus years. That is their fear. Perhpas their fear is warranted, unless there is some kind of national reconciliation.
The Reagan, Bush (41 & 43), and even the Clinton administrations already took away the hate mobs (& the middle class') livable wage, busted unions that allowed the present day Deathers to live a middle-class lifestyle, and permitted said past GOP admins to open the doors to Free-Trade that lost millions of American middle-class jobs to overseas --- perhaps lost forever. Profits in the 1980s & 90s were privatized and now the corporate losses (born of corporate excess and greed) have been socialized (to the American taxpayers.). These same Deathers like to ignore it was Bush's Treasuray Secretary who socialized the wall Street losses, so his investment banker friends wouldn't lose their wealth. The financial debacle the USA now finds itself in was not Obama's doing -- no matter how much you yell and scream racist epithets. Much of the financial groundwork for destruction was laid before Obama even entered into politics. The hate mobs' anger is misplaced, but they're too stupid to know it, or too racist to acknowledge it. Maybe both.
If the haters get laid-off from their jobs, their factories because American companies can't compete with the lower overhead enjoyed by foreign companies, they seem unable --not just unwilling, to recognize how they too are being disposed of by the wealth & corporate classes.
The cost of health insurance, medical costs in other industrialized Democracies are spread more fairly between private citizens and public investment. These other Democratic nations band together (as a nation) sharing the costs among nearly all citizens, which results in lower costs to everyone. All these Birther fools are too stupid to realize their precious health insurance currently won't pay when they file a claim for a serious ailment. You won't know how bad your insurance is until you need it for a life and death treatment. These same Deather fools opposed to national health insurance ALREADY pay for all the expensive emergency care for the un-insured via their premiums which have more than tripled the last 10 years. (Example for the mentally impaired: you fools also pay the higher cost of retail goods because there are people who shop-lift. The cost is already passed onto you, and to everyone via the retail price.)
The USA can lower everyone's cost for Health Insurance, by spreading the cost also to those who aren't paying health insurance presently. Nearly everyone needs to pay in for the system to work. (Umm, that is the basic principle of ALL types of insurance: spread the risk among as many as possible, so as to minimize the individual, private cost to everyone.) That fact isn't left or right, it's a basic truth. No amount of yelling, or racist name calling, or shotgun buying will change those facts. BTW, your violence won't stand either, because history also shows us you are (already) out numbered.
You can either band together with your fellow Americans to keep the country strong. Or you can continue your hateful ways, dividing & weakening the country-- placing it at risk to be dominated by a larger, expanding, richer China. Change is coming. Being racist won't help you -- not now, not later.
Mainstream media kept running image of a Black Woman being hauled out of Sen. Claire McCaskills' Town Hoall meeting 8/11/09.
But what the media NEVER reported is that the Black woman was sitting quietly in her seat, when a white man walked over and snatched her poster, ripped it to shreds and that is what provoked the commotion. The white man was charged with assault but the woman was portrayed in the Media as the hooligan.
HATE. Is this the legacy you want to promote (by not getting involved in civic issues?)
The largely white audience assumes the Black woman is a protester who started the commotion.
Houses for Katrina victims by Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation - http://tinyurl.com/mco7jl These designs seem ill-conceived(?)
I know Brad didn't design them, but he doesn't seem able to marshall focus on issues affecting real working class people-- not just housing in the abstract (like it's some student project.) So Brad, keep your day job. --SM
[quote] Actor Brad Pitt has partnered with real-estate developer and philanthropist Steve Bing to create low-price, sustainable homes as part of the “Make it Right” project. A set of duplex designs were proposed by 13 of the world’s top architects to visualize and design green, sustainable houses for hurricane Katrina victims.The designs had to be flexible, with “interchangeable floor plans that allow the families to change the size and configuration of the two homes as their family size, needs or economic situation changes.”
The big name architects include Bild design, Billes Architecture, Buidlingstudio , BNIM and so on.The selected designs are under construction. More images follow…
[end of quote]
These sure aren't affordable.. They're kinda large, no? The homes seem larger than the homes they were to replace (?) Some look like townhomes, but I can't be sure. (Let's hope some designs are multi-unit dwellings, otherwise they don't appear to have employed much in the way of sustainable principles.)
I like how the deep, dark, cavernous under-bellies of these structures (presumably car ports etc.), are ripe for urban criminal activity and breaks-ins --free from the view of neighbors and passers-by. This kind of well-intended privacy & shelter approach in *urban areas* generally serves to facilitate & shield crime. FAIL. Such design considerations should have been topics covered (by most architecture students) in Residential Defensive Design for Urban Areas 101.
It appears the structures are raised to minimize destruction from (future) flooding. From the School of Unintended Consequences, we should have learned that if certain features facilitate crime, then maybe siting, site selection & civil engineering issues need to be given greater priority as part of an overall design & planning strategy.
Some of the "Build It Better" architects seem to be designing for a suburban context-- not an urban one. FAIL.
Also, part of New Orleans (and urban) working/middle class culture embraces the Front Porch and the importance of the House's connection with one's neighbors as they pass by. Some of the designs struggle to integrate that connection to neighborhood and the street. (Again, the street connection also serves a preemptive purpose in deterring petty crime.) At least one design (with a porch/deck) fails outright, in my opinion. (Just because the deck feature exists, doesn't mean it serves or facilitates the intended purpose.)
I am a big fan of modern, edgy design. However, most of these homes seem to disregard the New Orleans context. Some of the designs are just hideous for urban dwelling (which doesn't mean they won't work in the suburbs.) How does the idiosyncratic nature of these designs facilitate affordable standard maintenance & repair for families of modest means (if they come to live in one of these units via a Grant? Among the multi-family units, are these rentals? or Co-ops? Assesments for the co-ops need to be established so maintenance in common areas can be provided AND protected.)
One last nit-picky item:
The colors used on the models: Normally, one might put the ideal/preferred color (& material) on the prototype. Some of the color choices are just bizarre (& speak more to the color selection as design exercise, and not the final intended or recommended color. In an academic setting this kind of artistic license is fine. However, the public generally doesn't "get" these kind of nuances, and can be unnecessarily turned off & distracted by this type of detail on otherwise very good designs.)
OK, two nit-picky items:
Stop putting Corvettes in the driveway, unless the icon is consistent with the demographic of the people being served. (When did Corvettes get "green creds" ? Don't answer.)
This is why the public does not understand and perhaps, even hates architects.
Observations & Commentary on all issues affecting Architecture, Urban Planning & Design. Welcome to my Shanty World. ShantyWorld.com: the Antidote to a world of McMansions, Starter Castles and other crimes against the Built Environment.
Midwest based Licensed Architect. All-around Philosopher. Post your questions and contact requests to the comment section of the Blog.
We have Launched ShantyWorld RADIO. Check back here & on iTunes for Podcasts for all things Design & Architecture related.
If you are looking for a licensed Architect, need interior architecture work, commercial permit plans, kitchen/bath or custom furniture design, feel free to contact us. (BTW, an unlicensed "architect" is illegal in most US states, punishable as a felony.)
FREE Photo Image Editor and Cataloger: Google PICASSA -- a FUN, Easy Way to Organize & Print Your Photo Library, without having to Learn a Difficult Program.
Download PICASSA NOW ! It's FREE !
This and Other Blogs are BEST VIEWED on Browsers like FireFox. Surf the Web with greater security that outclasses MS Explorer.
SHANTYWORLD BOOK CORNER ShantyWorld.com Recommends
Design Like You Give A Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises. Edited by Architecture for Humanity. Proceeds from the book benefit the organization Architecture for Humanity. A Teriffic Book !
What If George Bush Were A Black Man A humorous look at society, class, race & politics in America by Boyce D. Watkins. A FUNNY AND SMART READ.
NICKEL & DIMED -- On NOT Getting By In America A Great Study On what It's Like to be part of the Working Poor in America. A real-life look into what it takes (and what it's like) to try to survive on $5-9 per hour (or less), by Dr. Barbara Ehrenreich.
You can hear Ehrenreich talk about the subject in a PBS Podcast , "NOW" with David Brancaccio.