(145) Bastards at Barclays

That snapping, crunching sound you’ve been hearing of late is not just from the femurs of unfortunate horses participating in the chuckwagon races in Calgary.  No, it’s a much bigger vehicular wreck called Barclays. The latter is a massive British bank recently revealed to have rigged what is called LIBOR.  This is the rate of interest at which banks lend each other money.

It’s a big one kids, …again!  Yet another looting-from-the-top-down failure of morality in the global banking system with bad implications for society at large.  It really will never end with these institutions until there is nothing left to loot.  It isn’t like younger managers are drawn to careers in finance so that twenty years from now when they have risen to the top they will lower their wages and bonuses is it?

The only good news we can see is that this one is not open to interpretation.  The dishonesty is plain and in clear sight now.  Baltimore is one of the American cities that, along with state governments and public agencies, has done business with Barclays.  Baltimore has now taken the lead in a massive lawsuit to recover what amounts to money stolen from their taxpayers.  Incredible, since much of the Great Recession has been expressed in the US in the form of cutbacks to state and municipal services.  Money that should have gone to public agencies, their services and employees, is in the coffers at Barclays.

Baltimore takes lead in suit against banks over alleged Libor
Washington Post

(144) Retrofitting near Paris

Retrofitting seems to be the suburban-poverty theme of late.  Here is a link to an article describing the benefit of changes to Plessis-Robinson.  An outer suburb in southwest Paris, France.  What is referred to as “smart growth” or “new urbanism” in North America was put in place there beginning in the 1990s.  The article, like much discussion of suburban futures, is mainly about built form and resource usage.  Again, who would argue with attractive buildings that conserve energy, greenspaces, walkability, public safety, advanced recycling, water saving efforts and so forth?  Well, only an idiot.  What is it then that retards such development in one place but not in another?  See the results for yourself in the six minute video available at the link below.
It would seem to us that improvements to sustainability and general aesthetics might make a suburb more expensive and harder on those with less income.  On the other hand, denser, more economically diverse places with better public transit and a variety of types of housing would make life easier for working people and those in social difficulty.  How late is it to be putting in place a process of working out such issues in North America?

Can US communities learn from this European suburban retrofit? NRDC website

(142) 52 Suburbs Around the World

Louise Hawson and her young daughter are travelling the great cities of the world and photographing their back yards.  They are finding all kinds of colourful, surprising things in the realities of the world’s suburbs and are sharing them via a partially crowd-funding supported blog.  The global blog is a bigger follow-up project to a photo documentation and book  Ms. Hawson created for her home town of Sydney, Australia.  So far they’ve captured images in Hong Kong, Istanbul, Delhi, Paris and Rome.  Berlin and New York are on the books.

At the next editorial board meeting we’ll be demanding to know why we didn’t come up with this idea first!  You see, the more we all know about the suburbs the better.

52 Suburbs Around the World 

(141) Retrofitting the suburbs

Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs
Ellen Dunham-Jones & June Williamson
John Wiley & Sons
ISBN 978-0-470-04123-9

We’ve been wanting to mention
this book for a while and now that there is an updated edition available, here it is.  Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs is a big, detailed, serious take on just what can be done with aging, unattractive suburban sprawl. With the text you get maps and colour ilustrations of real world improvement projects aimed at making suburbs more walkable and connected, more transit friendly, more aesthetically pleasing, more economically varied and more attached to the realities of the environment.  Who wouldn’t want these things?  And surely retrofitting suburbia would ameliorate poverty there, enhance employment, prevent the suburbs from sliding into deeper obsolesence if not full on ghettohood.  The approach here is rational and advocates a technical, investment-orientated  approach to improving suburbia.  Absolutely these ideas should be on the table, many are already in existence and working well.  On getting acquainted with this book you will look at suburban communities as opportunities, not just as a set of mistakes or doomed to a Mad Max kind of future.

Ellen Dunham-Jones TED Talk 19:24

(140) Marx at 50c

Murmurs of Marxism, of maximum socialist gains, are faintly heard from the fringes as our brains fry in the heat of summer and both Europe and America go nowhere.  It would be far beyond irony and deep into the realm of something crazy if it turned out that thirty years of neo-con horseshit triggered a serious revival of Marxism and that revival were expressed politically.  It’d be hard to decide who the joke would truly be on but few of us at any level of society below the 1% are laughing these days.

Why Marxism is on the rise again Guardian

(139) Toronto builds & builds

A lot of the change in the suburbs is driven by change in the city.  Toronto is among the five largest cities in North America and has a tower building boom going on that appears to outdo the others on the list combined.  The idea of finding a family home in the central city or the inner, older suburbs of Toronto seems to be rapidly becoming obsolete for all but the wealthiest people.  This brings Toronto into line with many other global cities where international financial muscle, physical geography, and high population growth rates shape life.  This type of change pushes working people outward.  The distance pushed goes up even more for those in social difficulty.

The ‘Manhattanization’ of Toronto will change family-housing dreams CBC

(138) Left coast food deserts

Food desert is one of the jarring terms for describing the lowered expectations marking life in suburbia during a time of contraction and economic weirdness.  It refers to the difficulty in acquiring good, fresh, reasonably priced and varied food in a way not overly moderated by automobiles.  For lower income people and the elderly this can get kind of awkward.  Smaller towns outside the city and densely populated urban areas often host farmer’s markets and other food sources not found in suburbs where the groceries come home via the big-box-store-and-a-highway interface.  Another feature of life not much considered as the Great Recession rolls along and things continue to change.  At the link below there is an item relating to Vancouver, British Columbia.  The author’s concerns about food deserts can translate to many, many more places of course.

Poor and elderly stranded in westside food deserts Vancouver Sun

(137) Murder, suicide & financial ruin

Some sort of hideous thing.
Suburban poverty can be a monster
with many limbs.  American children experiencing foreclosure are more vulnerable to social problems, for example.  The suicides, depression, domestic violence and lost human potential accompanying the cratering of the economy in the United States since 2008 is truly mind boggling.  Calling it class warfare hardly seems unreasonable when you look at everything from the so-called liar loans to the bailouts and the general behaviour of the super elites.  Here, Mark Ames describes a situation of class warfare getting hotter and costing lives.  He even relates the hypocrisy, fraud and chicanery in the American economy to the war in Afghanistan.  Ames is no friend to the establishment or the status quo.  At this link he is talking on RT’s BigPicture.  Things do get righteous at a couple of points but the topics at hand are hardly a joke.  Ames connects the massacre of 17 Afghanis by an American army sergeant directly to difficult, immoral times in America and compares that sad event to the workplace and school shootings that became commonplace beginning in the Reagan era and about which he has written a book.

Mark Ames on RT YouTube 10:51

(136) Tulsa, Oklahoma! Come on down …to suburban poverty

Tulsa was also nicknamed the Oil Capital of the World …that would be on top of the architectural progress mentioned above.  After the towers and the oil comes, you guessed it, the suburban poverty.  As we’ve seen repeatedly, the “new” poor are from the middle class and often lack experience with their circumstances.  Clearly, this new poverty is not situational or temporary for many of those experiencing it.  This item has good statistics, identifies local resources and is moving to read.

Suburban families suffer through poverty Tulsa World