Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Some things are beyond understanding (well, not really)

<i>Understanding Trump</i> books for sale at the Ultimate Thrift Shop, Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC
Understanding Trump books for sale at the Ultimate Thrift Shop, Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC.

In "Civic engagement and governance when facts don't matter in a post-truth environment," I made the point that democracy works based on a set of conditions:

-- that citizens are committed to being informed and willing to educate themselves on the issues
-- that people running for and holding office are committed to being knowledge-driven and open to different viewpoints, and committed to quality governance
-- that political parties are motivated by the greater good, albeit committed to pushing their positions and approach to the best of their ability, but not mendaciously
-- that there is a system of media (newspapers, magazines, television, radio, cable, other) that reports on the issues and campaigns and is objective

It all falls apart if many participants in the process and "system" aren't committed to "the truth" -- facts and honesty.

I didn't feel the need to buy the book.

Speaking of Newt Gingrich, whose tenure as Speaker of the House changed Congress significantly in terms of putting party before country, I wrote this last June:

Making the Congressional Budget Office out to be a political animal against Republicans is about denying factual and objective research and analysis.

The New York Times reports ("Little known agency, striving for neutrality, finds itself under withering attack") on how Republicans are attacking the CBO for telling the truth about the impact of Republican proposals for changing health care legislation, etc.

The CBO traditionally has been seen as a nonpartisan, objective, fact-driven organization. So why should Republicans not want such an organization to be seen as credible? Because they are pushing forward legislation that is mendacious and they want to be able to deny it ("CBO Has Clear Message About Losers in House Health Bill "NYT).

Remember the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment?

I finally understand, 20 years after the fact, why the Newt Gingrich led Congress abolished the OTA ("Bring Back the Office of Technology Assessment, NYT; and "The Much-Needed and Sane Congressional Office That Gingrich Killed Off and We Need Back," The Atlantic).

It's because Gingrich, despite having a PhD and being a college professor, wasn't favoring facts and knowledge, but ideology. An independent assessor of technology and science was seen as a threat, not a capacity builder.

The same is now true of the CBO. Hopefully, the same won't happen to the Congressional Research Office.

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At 11:12 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Well it is an interesting balance.

You're right that Gingrich wanted an ideological party, not one based on "facts and figures".

And he largely got that. No question the the R party is highly ideological.

The question is whether that is a bad thing.

Ideological parties can be a good thing. I know you don't agree with their ideology, but post-Reagan (when this started) the R party has been far better at

1) candiate recruitments
2) grassroots developments + small dollar fundraising
3) intellectual discussion

I know you'd disagree with #3, but look a the efforts of say "Commentary" or National Review to reason and grasp with say "intelligent design" or Israel o other issue where Republicans don't agree.

As a coalition party, the D are structurally weaker, have given up on state races (still doing local in some areas), never really get small dollar (Sanders did but not a Democrat). Their idea of new ideas is "let's get a black guy to run" or "lets get a woman" or "lets get any member of a collation ".

The wonk revolution post 2004 was an attempt to add some meat to the intellectual front. Did a good job getting a "shadow government" going but not much in terms of meat.

And we are seeing the D want to become an ideological party as well right now. Again maybe not the best choice of ideology (white men are evil) but this is the unifying force.

And I've made the point before that the Budget Act of 1974 needs to be repealed; the AG opinion from 1981 that said anti-deficiency act applies needs to thrown out, and we need a general alignment of power from Congress back to th executive.

(Big picture theme -- power changes between the President and the Congress, post Watergate has been a slow decline and Obama/Trump are bot examples of extremely weak presidents. Much like the list of Presidents from 1870 to 1900 -- those are the hardest to remember because they were Weak and congress was strong.

Gingrich is a historian and knows that very very well. And like Cheney, that is his goal -- weaken Congress and allow the executive to rise up again.

If you want a Marhsall plan for the poor, or government to mean something, you need a strong executive and a strong ideological bent. think LBJ. You want trump when you get zero ideology.

Big picture aside, come on. the CBO is a joke. Economists are all jokes -- they have no idea what they are doing, and "CBO SCORING" has absolutely no basis in reality. It has long served it purpose (again going back to the 74 budget act).

Power is powerful, don't get confused by personalities.

I met Gringrich after law school while he as with his paramour, bought us all a round of drinks. That isn't affecting my views here.

At 4:41 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Well, I am ok with ideology but that it has to be grounded in an acceptance of govt., not necessarily big govt., but plain old govt. as well as a respect for facts and truth.

But I've never been very good at being a zealot. I can see multiple positions on issues, and am not going to reject "Republicanism" out of hand. Although that is likely because I am from Michigan, which had an honorable moderate Republican tradition into the 1980s (my formative years) but I recognize that party grouping no longer exists.

So I try to differentiate between zealotry and basic ideology, which is probably trying to parse things too finely.

(Went to the DC Grassroots Coalition on Planning meeting on Saturday about the "Comprehensive Scam" revision process for the Comp. Plan and they sure make me feel conservative. There was a young guy there who is running against Anita Bonds, and he said to me "well, this is more the Democratic Socialist" side of the Democratic Party [in DC].

The funny thing about their interpretation of "the right to the city" which they didn't call it, is that there is no right to the city for people who don't already live in it.)

With the Democrats we have stuff too, The Nation, In These Times, Center for American Progress, etc.

But "think tanks" like Heritage have been about zealotry for a long time, they moved far from their roots.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

At 7:19 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

RE: your link

Well that is the really interesting thing; just as the D party is becoming an ideological party again, the R are turning into a coalition party.

Various people have charged that Trump is the second coming of Berlusconi (maybe that is the 3rd or 4th coming). I'm not seeing that level of corporate corruption. Maybe it is coming, maybe I don't see it, but ATT for instance is not able to pay some bribe to get rid of the antitrust case.

I'd read this as Presidential weakness -- I think Trump is so weak that he couldn't be that corrupt if he wanted to.

RE: Respect for government. Well,there is respect and there is thinking government is the solution. Politics is the end about dividing power up and not policy or solutions. It can be solutions as a way to gain more power but that is a side effect.

You might enjoy this:

At 7:47 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

very off topic, great read:

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt "corruption" it's not so direct. Trump wants to improve his businesses (e.g., Mar a Lago, the hotel in DC, golf course in NJ, etc.) and does by only visiting his properties.

And to support business generally by de-regulating, not enforcing regulations, tax cuts, etc.

Some of that really helps individuals (e.g., the coal guy), but it's not so much like you say, "ATT calling up and saying let the Time-Warner merger go through."

The thing is, it might be if it didn't involve CNN and Trump's personal animus.

But otherwise, he's likely to favor mergers and consolidations generally.

2. wrt smart cities and future cities, I think I was overly influenced by reading 2000 A.D. comic books (my brother's friends introduced them to him) and Judge Dredd...

Sadly, I've not read much Bruce Sterling, except that book I mentioned years ago, _Distraction_ [wow, you've been reading this blog a long time].

hmm... I agree with the piece. Sort of like my "is that the best you can do" piece about the revised forms from the touted innovation initiative of the city.

The other day I was thinking about it, and rued that I neglected to mention a couple of interesting Helsinki initiatives that are very much focused on innovation or information-driven thinking, the Forum Virium Helsinki -- a kind of IT consultancy run by the city, and the city's Dept. of Urban Facts, a research operation.

Unfortunately, the city reorganized and the urban facts division is no more:

But it was very cool.

The flip side is my piece about "open data" vs. the design process and whether or not there is a willingness to be participatory. Usually there isn't.

3. Bannon. Hmm. What's so interesting is that as a rich guy, he cares about the dispossessed. Maybe I am wrong, but I think his proscriptions are wrong.

I mean, if he really cares about people f*ed by consolidation and globalization, then the first thing you'd want to do would be to protect there health, and have national health care provision disconnected from specific work settings (note that this is different from ACA, which is about "insurance," not health care).

Immigrants aren't the cause of post-industrialization or low wages. Consolidation, technology, and globalization of the "labor chain" is.

I get that Bannon doesn't favor globalization. But using natural gas or solar or wind instead of coal isn't the fault of immigrants or even globalization.


Great article. Thanks.

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

old website:

At 8:16 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

The Post has an editorial on how Congress needs to bring back the OTA.

"Tech tutors in Congress"



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