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The local authority has restored [Flint, Michigan's] attractive but formerly deserted centre but has pulled down 1,100 abandoned homes in outlying areas. Mr Kildee estimated another 3,000 needed to be demolished, although the city boundaries will remain the same. Already, some streets peter out into woods or meadows, no trace remaining of the homes that once stood there. Choosing which areas to knock down will be delicate but many of them were already obvious, he said. The city is buying up houses in more affluent areas to offer people in neighbourhoods it wants to demolish. Nobody will be forced to move, said Mr Kildee. “Much of the land will be given back to nature. People will enjoy living near a forest or meadow,” he said. –“US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive,” Tom Leonard, The Telegraph
From “Detroit Arcadia: Exploring the post-American landscape” by Rebecca Solnit in the July 2007 Harper’s Magazine.
This continent has not seen a transformation like Detroit’s since the last days of the Maya. The city, once the fourth largest in the country, is now so depopulated that some stretches resemble the outlying farmland and others are altogether wild. Downtown still looks like a downtown, and all of those high-rise buildings still make an impressive skyline, but when you look closely at some of them, you can see trees growing out of the ledges and crevices, an invasive species from China known variously as the ghetto palm and the tree of heaven. Local wisdom has it that whenever a new building goes up, an older one will simply be abandoned, and the same rule applies to the blocks of new condos that have been dropped here and there among the ruins: why they were built in the first place in a city full of handsome old houses going to ruin has everything to do with the momentary whims of the real estate trade and nothing to do with the long-term survival of cities.
The transformation of the residential neighborhoods is more dramatic. On so many streets in so many neighborhoods, you see a house, a little shabby but well built and beautiful. Then another house. Then a few houses are missing, so thoroughly missing that no trace of foundation remains. Grass grows lushly, as though nothing had ever disturbed the pastoral verdure. Then there’s a house that’s charred and shattered, then a beautiful house, with gables and dormers and a porch, the kind of house a lot of Americans fantasize about owning. Then more green. This irregular pattern occurs mile after mile, through much of Detroit. You could be traveling down Wa bash Street on the west side of town or Pennsylvania or Fairview on the east side of town or around just about any part of the State Fair neighborhood on the city’s northern border. Between the half-erased neighborhoods are ruined factories, boarded-up warehouses, rows of storefronts bearing the traces of failed enterprise, and occasional solid blocks of new town houses that look as though they had been dropped in by helicopter. In the bereft zones, solitary figures wander slowly, as though in no hurry to get from one abandoned zone to the next. Some areas have been stripped entirely, and a weedy version of nature is returning. Just about a third of Detroit, some forty square miles, has evolved past decrepitude into vacancy and prairie—an urban void nearly the size of San Francisco.
Today it makes very little sense to speak of a car’s nationality. The main reason the Europeans stopped criticising US attempts to save the Big Three is not that they were being forced to do the same themselves: they also realised how big a blow the collapse of those American firms would be for their own automobile and car parts industries. The chains of supply and of co-operation go in every direction from Siberia to Mexico to South Korea, and all will suffer if the American car giants go under. –“A Car of One’s Own,” Andrew O’Hagan,London Review of Books
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is the U.S. bright or
what price for the Boston
words (solipsistic, louche, laconic, saturnine) New York Times
favorite European bike
In 2003, Fogarty was sent to Iraq. For two years he served in the military police, escorting officers, including generals, around the hostile country. He says he was granted top-secret clearance and access to battle plans. Fogarty speaks with regret that he “never had any kill counts.” But he says his time in Iraq increased his racist resolve. “I hate Arabs more than anybody, for the simple fact I’ve served over there and seen how they live,” he tells me. “They’re just a backward people. Them and the Jews are just disgusting people as far as I’m concerned. Their customs, everything to do with the Middle East, is just repugnant to me.” Because of his tattoos and his racist comments, most of his buddies and his commanding officers were aware of his Nazism. “They all knew in my unit,” he says. “They would always kid around and say, ‘Hey, you’re that skinhead!’” But no one sounded an alarm to higher-ups. “I would volunteer for all the hardest missions, and they were like, ‘Let Fogarty go.’ They didn’t want to get rid of me.” Fogarty left the Army in 2005 with an honorable discharge. He says he was asked to reenlist. He declined. He was sick of the system. –“Neo-Nazis Are in the Army Now: Why the U.S. military is ignoring its own regulations and permitting white supremacists to join its ranks,” Matt Kennard, Salon
See also Jeff Sharlet’s “Jesus Killed Mohammed: The crusade for a Christian military,” in the May 2009 Harper’s; Nate Silver on polls prior to the Iranian election: “Unfortunately, while the poll itself may be valid, Ballen and Doherty’s characterization of it is misleading”; on the Iranian news-hose
Art essentially has nothing to do with morality, convention or moralizing…. I find the public passion for justice quite boring and artificial, for neither life nor nature care if justice is ever done or not. –Patricia Highsmith, quoted in “This Woman Is Dangerous,” Michael Dirda, The New York Review of Books
Percentage of British elementary-school students who think Isaac Newton discovered fire:
The earth once had three moons; the two lost moons may have crashed into the surviving moon, or been sucked into the sun, or flung out of the solar system to drift through deep space.
In Florida, an 87-year-old World War II veteran flying touch-and-go drills in a Cessna collided with an airborne skydiver. “There was a ‘woof’ sound,” said a witness, “like falling on your face into your pillow.”
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”