Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Learning the Real Lessons of 9/11

With today being 9/11 once again, I wanted to take a bit of a different approach than many in the media and political sphere and remember not only the event itself, but the legacy it has left in its wake over the last twelve years.

I’ll start out with a statement some in America might find shocking or even offensive.  Osama Bin Laden did more damage to both the “America” that lives inside each of our minds as an ideal, and that exists in reality as a country, than anyone else in history.  He committed the one singularly most effective, and successful, act of destruction ever wrought on this country, and the effects of it still reverberate today.  Osama Bin Laden’s stated goal, with the attacks on 9/11 along with the attacks that preceded them, was the destruction of not only buildings, lives and infrastructure, but our very way of life as Americans.  He wanted to destroy the system of freedom and liberty and individual rights to self-determination that we endeavor to build and preserve in this country.  In this, his “act of cowardice” as it was called on 9/11/2001, was actually an extremely successful gut punch, a hugely damaging body blow that this country is still staggering around dealing with today.  One cannot look logically at the last twelve years and come to any other rational conclusion, in my opinion.  Try as I might, I cannot manage it.

I still remember my own feelings and emotions on that day.  I remember, for one fleeting second, feeling good that we had George W. Bush in the White House and not the cerebral Al Gore.  Certainly Gore would have some limp-wristed, ineffectual response meant to spread diplomacy instead of fear or recrimination, right?  I, in that moment after I first learned of the attacks, knew for sure Bush would find whoever did this and rain heavy ordnance on their head for daring to commit such an act against us.  And then, I figured, it would be over.  My misguided and youthful preference for violent “justice” aside, my naiveté was such that I never saw the next 12 years coming.  Afghanistan, when it happened, made sense, and I supported the president on that action.  But when days turned to weeks and then to months, I began to question our tactics and openly wonder what the hell was taking so long.  When Iraq came along, I knew then that what I had suspected all along was true: Bush had no idea what he was doing, and was simply carelessly using the American desire for justice, and security, to wage wars of convenience around the world.  Saddam was a previous pawn of the US, and had nothing to do with 9/11 at all.  Going there was a signal: that war for the sake of war was more important to the administration than any notion of justice.  A few years later, Bush would comment that he “hardly spent any time” thinking about capturing or killing Osama anymore.  That, I believe, said it all.

And in the light of day, twelve years later, what have we learned?  We have learned that there is no length, no hurdle and no moral chasm the government will not go to or jump over to spy on its own citizens, both here and abroad, in the name of “preventing terrorism.”  We have learned that closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, a prison holding foreign nationals indefinitely without trial or access to their families, is a hornet’s nest that our politicians are content to simply ignore rather than deal with.  We have learned that the NSA, in the years since 9/11, can and does track every single thing you say or do online or on the phone, and frequently with the full and complete (and silent) cooperation of the companies that professed to have your security and privacy as its sole concern.  We have learned that encryption is dead.  We have learned that American citizens can be indefinitely detailed without trial or warrant, or killed by a drone strike, for any offense the president deems worthy of such a punishment.  We have learned that a D or an R next to a name means nothing when that person links arms with fellow supporters of the military police state of the new America.  And after Benghazi last September 11, we have learned that the world has long ago forgotten to give America some sort of “credit” for 9/11 having happened, and that we are fair game wherever we choose to locate our citizens in the world.

But the recent troubles in Syria, and our government’s desire to start a brand new war over them, have taught us something else.  It has taught us that we the people are finally waking up to the America we have, not the America we would want.  We are not OK with using emotion politics to start wars abroad or to ban things at home.  We are not OK with killing or detaining citizens indefinitely without cause and at the president’s sole behest.  We are not OK with tanks and soldiers with flak jackets marching down our streets in ever-increasing numbers.  We are not OK with making wars around the world for dubious, arbitrary, and frequently false reasons.  We are not OK with being tracked and watched in everything we do by Big Brother, just because of the lingering specter of “terrorism.”  I have seen with my own eyes the gradual realization amongst my fellow Americans that we have gone down a dark road over these last twelve years, and that it is not OK.  And I am starting to also see the outrage that accompanies such a realization.  Military action in Syria was shouted down by the legislative bodies of both the US and UK amongst huge swaths of disapproval amongst the citizens of both countries.  And in upcoming elections, it is likely more of the establishment types that support and commit these violations of our rights as citizens will be sent packing, hopefully with their corporatist lobbyist friends alongside them.  These things give me hope for a better tomorrow.  For if we embrace the freedom, liberty and self-determination our founding fathers envisioned, if we declare in one voice that we the people ought NOT be treated as common criminals to be watched and tracked in everything we do lest we step out of line in some way, if we remember that being Americans means having certain inalienable rights than cannot and should not be infringed on a whim by bureaucratic despots, then and only then will we have remembered and learned the true lessons of 9/11.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Musical Beginnings and Discoveries

My musical history is an interesting one.  I think it is fair to say that I am a musician who grew up in a house of music fans.  There was scarcely a time, either in good times at home or bad, that there was not some form of music being played somewhere, whether it came from my room, my sister’s room, my parents’ room, or the big old console stereo system in the living room.  In the car it was just understood that some type of music, be it radio or tape, would be playing.  It was background noise sometimes.  But mostly, at least to me, it is woven into the tapestry of those times.  The places I went, the people I knew, the things I did back then, it’s all colored by the music of those formative years and even now I remember both equally when certain music plays.  That might make me a “something,” I suppose, like one of those people that see colors when they hear music or how they can visualize words as if they were tangible objects.  Sometimes it’s hard to describe what that’s like.

Through my early childhood, I was all about listening to my parents’ music, mostly because it was always there.  I went through my dad’s tapes a thousand times over and over again, annoying my sister with playing Genesis for the thousandth time on the way to or from school.  The Police.  Genesis.  Phil Collins solo.  The Eagles.  Poco.  Toto.  The Pretenders.  Janet Jackson.  Michael Jackson.  Too many to remember.  It was all there.  So these single digit years, the ones before I lived in Arizona, and later California, were times when the music I knew was the music my parents listened to.  I had not found my own thing just yet.
Our first Christmas in Arizona, as I recall, was a fruitful one.  As our “signature gift” that year, my sister and I got really nice matching boom boxes, which were actually also freestanding shelf stereo systems with both detachable speakers and a handle, so one could either coil the speaker wires behind each speaker on the included hooks, plug batteries into the back (it took eight D’s as I recall) and carry it around like a gigantic ghetto blaster with surround sound, or they could do what my sister and I did and start your own miniature stereo system in your room.  Since the speakers were indeed surround sound, I was always trying out different places to put my speakers to make it sound just right.  This was in the early 90s, you you’ll understand that these units had two tape players, with one being a stereo recorder.  So, one could quite easily tape songs off the radio with the pressing down of two small buttons.  No “hold the radio up to the recorder” mess here.  I could make a tape and then duplicate it to my heart’s desire, even.  Napster had nothing on my tape making potential.  I became a faithful customer of Maxell soon after.  So naturally this was the beginning of my own musical journey and much time was spent enjoying local radio and making mix tapes of favorite songs.
But one other gift my parents bought that year also proved to be a game changer, and this was a gift they had bought themselves.  For years my father’s gigantic, complicated and old console stereo system complete with the gigantic floor-standing speakers had been a part of our household, usually in the room with the nice furniture and the console TV.  Our first house in Arizona was no exception.  He even still had a turntable even though by then all the records had been sold off.  But our first Christmas in Arizona would be the year our family joined the digital music world with my parents’ purchase of a CD player, and a few CDs of old music they hadn’t owned since their record collection went away.  After Christmas day was over, after the dinner was eaten and cleaned up, and after we stopped playing with our new toys long enough to finally go to sleep, my parents fired up the player, unwrapped some CDs, and began playing, which I woke up and heard instantly from my darkened bedroom.  The first song I ever heard on digital media?  “Too Old To Rock ‘N Roll, Too Young To Die” by Jethro Tull, from the Original Masters compilation album.
Compact discs, for all the scorn they get from audiophiles now, were a revelation in 1990 to a kid whose only exposure to music had been FM radio and tapes of scratchy, old and beat up records.  I never knew music could sound so clear, so crisp, and for the first time I was hearing stuff not on the radio, stuff not part of my parents’ tape collection.  I’m not sure what made my parents choose that Jethro Tull CD to buy when they had no Jethro Tull anywhere else in the collection to that point, at least not that I saw, but hearing that song opened a door for me.  It was formative.  It’s a simple song really, just a screed about defying age and staying committed to rocking and enjoying oneself, both in music and in life.  One might say “Too Old To Rock ‘N Roll…” is autobiographical, a declaration on the part of Ian Anderson that his music would always continue on no matter what his chronological age.  But something about the whimsy of it, the song craft, the fact that it was just slightly different than the mainstream stuff I had been listening to for most of my life, it opened my mind just slightly and woke me up a little.  That sounds slightly lame but there it is.  I was nine years old, nearly ten, and I was changed forever.
The next Christmas brought me my own first CD player, which I was able to wire right into the back of my still fantastic stereo with standard red/white wires.  My sister did not get a matching one for some reason.  Now, I’m to this day still not sure why I was the only one who got a CD player, but it might have something to do with the fact that I had spent the entire previous year messing with my parents’ player and asking to play their CDs over and over.  Maybe they figured this would keep me out of their hair.  Whatever the reason, I now had my own platform for my own CDs.  My first CD?  The soundtrack to The Jacksons: An American Dream miniseries.  Do you remember that one?  Where the guy from Welcome Back, Kotter played Joseph Jackson?  Yeah, more music that I didn’t choose, but it was my first CD!  I was enthralled and played it endlessly.  It had a really killer live version of Who’s Loving You on it.
From this point on, the entire point of every dollar I got in allowance, or from odd jobs I would do for neighbors (dog walking, house sitting, mowing lawns) was to buy music.  Or at least that’s where a lot of it went.  After I finished buying some of my parents’ music, the stuff they didn’t already own on CD that is, I became more and more driven to seek out my own likes, to find my own style.  This was 1991.  What really famous and game changing CD was released in 1991?  What style of music did it make popular?  Yeah.  No one should ever wonder why I am, have been, and always will be, a devotee of Seattle style grunge music from the early-to-mid 90s.  That era and my new thirst for musical expression collided like a freight train and a dump truck facing head-on.
What was “finding and buying music” in the early 90s?  First it was listening to radio all the time.  All the time.  Which was really not much different from how my parents, or their parents, found music “back in the old days.”  My favorite station in Phoenix was 103.9 “The Edge,” which always played the latest grunge/alternative stuff and had equal parts of both Seattle and Phoenix.  People seem to forget how relevant Phoenix also was in those years between the Gin Blossoms, Meat Puppets and Refreshments.  We were on the map, too.  It was an exciting time.  Anyway, once you had favorite songs and albums in mind and some money saved, it was off to The Wherehouse, or Wal-Mart, or sometimes Target, or if you had a gift card Sam Goody or Tower.  I never went to the latter two without a gift card because they cost so damn much.  Not that The Wherehouse wasn’t just as high as the rest, but they did seem to always have the biggest and most plentiful used CD section, and those were $10 and under, as opposed to new CDs that were upwards of $18 or $22.  Yeah, most of the time you were buying stuff that was somewhat ragged looking, or that wasn’t very good, or whatever, from the “reject pile” but then sometimes you found a gem too.  I still have the used copy of Superunknown I scored from a Wherehouse in Chandler somewhere in my archives.  Wal-Mart was still decently priced back then, and had not started secretly scrubbing curse words from their CDs yet.  Who censors a CD and then sells it as if it’s the same as CDs found elsewhere with swears included?  Stupid.  But I digress. 
Buying a CD, especially one that was particularly “hot” at a particular moment or one that you’d waited and worked and saved money to buy, was always an exciting time, like a Christmas that happened during the regular part of the year.  Getting home and ripping into the cellophane, pulling the CD out and putting it into your player, thumbing through the CD’s booklet and smelling the unique scent of the ink and paper they used to print it, reading the lyrics and singing along, it was all part of the experience.  It excited me.  Pretty soon a few CDs I could store on one plastic standing rack became a few dozen that I needed a cabinet with little CD-sized drawers to hold.  I was hooked.  Hooked on music.
One more note about the 90s: we still had Walkmen.  So what was “portable music” back then?  Well, when I bought a CD and had listened to it thoroughly as a CD, I would place a blank tape in the stereo, queue up the CD, hit play and play/record at the same time and voila.  Portable music.  The trick was to know where to stop the CD and turn the tape over.  You had to be ready with 60 and 90 minute tapes too.  Some needed more room to copy than others.  Some albums were over 90 minutes and if that happened, “filler” songs were left off.  It was a crude system but it worked for me for years afterward, well after portable CD players and cassette adapters were common.  I’m used to them now but every now and then, I am amazed at the sheer idea of an iPod that has an entire closet full of CDs, indeed a veritable store-full, all in the palm of one’s hand.  Ten year old me would have had a fit seeing such a thing back then.
Most of the reason I play music now is my nostalgia and attachment to those first fledgling days of musical discovery.  They remain a part of me and will always.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Home Under The Lights

The lights at the top of this blog’s masthead are radio and television towers mounted on top of Mount Suppoa, known more commonly to the residents of nearby Phoenix as the tallest point of South Mountain, the name given to a small range of mountains southwest of the city proper.  The mountains themselves are part of one of the largest municipal parks in the country and are filled to the brim with Native American and other artifacts, ruins, petroglyphs and old buildings.  At night, as you see above, the towers themselves are lit up with slowly blinking red lights at night, mostly to illuminate them from the surrounding matching darkness of both sky and mountain as a courtesy to passing aircraft.  For me though, the lights hold a different significance altogether.

When my family and I moved to Arizona in 1990, we moved into a small 3 bedroom rental house in Ahwatukee, a small enclave of Phoenix proper referred to by some as “the world’s largest cul-de-sac.”  This is due to its unique geography, most notably the fact that it was backed up to South Mountain on the West and to Interstate 10 on the East.  This made it somewhat insular and thus attractive to both young middle class families and senior citizens alike.  Indeed plenty of both groups called the small village-within-a-city home, as did several golf-themed resorts and country clubs.  Basically it is a place where not much happens and the residents like that just fine, thank you very much.
One of the best qualities of our new (rented) home was its proximity to a large park, which actually happened to be right across the street.  It was not a huge park by any means, but for a nine year old it was plenty big enough, with tennis courts, basketball courts, a large field, a sizeable playground and even a little wooden bridge built over an artificial creek bed.  The bridge in particular was my most favorite feature of the park and indeed I crossed it on my small BMX too many times to count or approximate.  Something about the “thump thump thump thump” noise the wooden planks made under my bike tires was oddly satisfying.  I still cannot totally explain why.  The bridge still stands today.
One advantage of the park being across the street was convenience, as it became commonplace for me to simply leave home on my bike unannounced and spend a lot of time there, particularly as I was still new to the area and getting to know other kids my age.  But these first tastes of independence, of being able to be “out and about” without supervision laid the groundwork for years to come.  It’s something that is likely unheard of today, as parents tend to keep at least one real and one digital eye on their kids at all times lately, but I look back on those times as both formative and fun.
My school in Ahwatukee, as it happens, was only a short ten to fifteen minute bike ride away from our new home, down a main road.  Basically, I’d leave our neighborhood by setting off in a southerly direction down a street that abutted the park on one side, and then simply hung a right turn to the west where the road slowly curved me southward to my destination.  See, this town really was a giant cul-de-sac, and indeed my school resided where two parallel roads separated elsewhere in Phoenix by a good mile or so curved into each other and met in a giant loop.  Basically, my school sat at the very apex of this loop.  So, since this was such a safe town and since I had spent the summer showing my parents how good I was being out on my own, it became the regular routine for me to bike to school every day alongside my sister, and bike back home also.  Now of course sometimes circumstance and weather got in the way but a lot of the time, at least at first, this was the run of things.
It was at school when I met my friend Nathan.  But of course we did not start off as friends.  Actually we started off as mortal enemies, or at least whatever mortal enemies actually are in the fourth grade.  He would antagonize me in the playground and I would simply try my best to avoid him.  Things never came to blows but he would occasionally use verbal barbs and shoves or quick arm “taps” to make his point.  Nathan, like me, was filled with the rage that only someone with a bastard for a father can have inside of them, and he wasn’t as good at bottling it up inside as I was.  So it goes.
Eventually though, and mind you I cannot recall exactly why this is, I won him over somehow and we started to become friends.  By the fifth grade we were stuck together like glue.  It was then that my independence finally started to expand.  By the time I hit age 10 I was out at Nathan’s house, or the park, or the mountain trails that Nathan’s house had easy access to down an old drainage wash near his house, nearly every night if not every night.  It became a topic of much debate in our house, as my mother began voicing concerns about my long hours “out and about.”  My reaction to these concerns probably would resemble Cartman from South Park telling his mom “Nuh uh, I do what I want!” but at the time it seemed logical.  I was old enough.  I knew what I was doing.  I was an immature fool testing his boundaries is what I was.  I don’t think anything would or could have “happened” to me per se, but maybe I’m lucky nothing did.  I’m not sure.  But I was never very far from home so it seemed safe enough to me at the time.
But the mountains, and the towers, were always there, hovering over everything.  They hovered over my home, my school, and most everything around our house.  At night, the towers came alive, marking the approximate location of my home for miles and miles around.  During long road trips up north or west into California those first few times, we knew we were near home when we first saw the mountains looming in the distance, or the far away red flickering of the lights.  There was our destination.  There was home.  I think we saw those lights from 30-50 miles out once, back when Phoenix ended at Glendale, leaving hundreds of square miles of flat, empty expanse from the city all the way to California.
The mountains were where we lived.  They were where Nathan and I got into youthful adventures, challenged each other to bike races, and planned forts in unsafe drainage gullies and ditches.  They were where I fell while riding out by myself one time, necessitating a downhill limp home on a bike with three wounds slowly leaking a trail of blood along the way.  They were why we always had scorpions invading our house, a pest we were not used to seeing at all.  They were on fire once, the first of many times I would sit in fear of a fire that could turn and start burning toward my house and everything I knew and cared about.  The sun set over them every night.  But for all the good things and all the bad things, they were home for those first two years in Arizona.  To this day, when I visit Phoenix, one of the first landmarks I try to locate is South Mountain and the towers on top of the highest peak.  For some reason they have remained an indelible part of me, and I’ve always remembered the time we spent at home under the lights.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Detroit: A Quick Lesson in the End Result of the American Dream

As of March 1, 2013, the City of Detroit is no longer in control of its own affairs.  On Friday, the state government of Michigan, led by Republican governor Rick Snyder, stepped in and decided to appoint an Emergency Manager to take over and manage Detroit's day-to-day business and finances.  Decades of corruption, decline, decay, greed and graft finally culminated in one of America's most historic and significant cities being reduced to a bankrupt debtor unable to pay its bills.  Detroit is to date one of the largest cities or towns to have ever gone into receivership. 

But how did it get to such a dire point?  How did the former "Paris of the West," the former "Arsenal of Democracy" or so it was called during World War II, the Famed "Motor City," become a city teetering on the brink of ruin?  I am 31.  For me, I cannot remember a time when Detroit wasn't having some sort of financial, social, economic or racial problem.  Detroit has been a city facing difficult problems for so long that it's become a bit of a fad to document the huge amount of urban decay found throughout the city.  Beverly Hills Cop, a movie depicting Detroit of the early 1980s as a place rife with crime and poverty, was made nearly thirty years ago.  RoboCop, which depicted a fictional, dystopic future Detroit on the brink of being "bought" by a large corporation interested only in razing it to develop an idyllic supercity for wealthy elites was released twenty-six years ago.  Point being?  Most Americans struggle to think of Detroit as something other than a hard scrabble place on the wrong end of history, a place gradually decaying bit by bit.

But there was a time when Detroit was one of America's most prosperous and most important cities.  Situated on the Detroit River and between two Great Lakes, its strategic importance led the British to capture it during the War of 1812.  By the end of the 1800s it was a transportation hub, and during the Gilded Age, many of its most beautiful buildings and mansions were constructed.  Some of its main boulevards were electrified by Thomas Edison.  Its status as a hub of industry allowed a young Henry Ford to open a small shop there and begin building one of the first automobiles in America.  In the decades to come, many more would follow.  Little did the residents of Detroit know that this seemingly good development foretold the city's death in years to come.

The new prosperity brought on by businessmen like Henry Ford, and later other automotive pioneers like William C. Durant, the Dodge brothers, James Packard and Walter Chrysler, caused Detroit to expand tremendously and gobble up several of the towns and villages that had sprung up around it.  Greater prosperity and an increasing influx of workers eager to cash in on the automotive craze pushed Detroit to be the nation's fifth largest city by 1950, with nearly 2,000,000 residents calling the city proper home, along with many more in the surrounding towns and suburbs.  In the early 20th century, Detroit was also home to one of the nation's finest urban streetcar systems, but by mid-century, the more prosperous residents demanded highways to be built which would allow expansion into suburbs that offered more open space and less noise and traffic.  Coupled with easy highway dollars from the federal government, several interstates were constructed and the streetcars fell into disuse before being shut down altogether in 1956.  For all intents and purposes, the streetcar was dead in Detroit, and would remain so ever since, despite many attempts to establish a new one.

In many ways, this was the beginning of what now can be seen as a precipitous fall from grace for Detroit.  White flight began in earnest, and outlying suburban cities around Detroit saw population surges while the city proper lost over a quarter of a million people by 1970, with the overall metro area population swelling to 4.5 million that same year.  The remaining urban areas were now slowly being abandoned, and the urban poverty that had existed for decades in the city proper began to be the most dominant way of life.  Riots, fueled by decades of racial tension, famously occurred in 1943 and 1967.  Fleeing residents left huge swaths of empty neighborhoods in what used to be nice areas, which soon became slums as the city's population continued to dwindle, alongside city coffers that found it more and more difficult to fund and service a city that was rapidly losing residents.

History will likely see the fall of Detroit as being part of the failure of the domestic auto industry itself, which culminated in bailouts for GM and a buyout of Chrysler in 2008.  During Detroit's peak as a city in the 1950s, over half of the cars sold in the United States were made by General Motors, whose headquarters was always right in downtown Detroit.  Today that number stands at 18.4%.  It was the automakers, primarily GM, that wanted Detroit to be built to allow for people to drive their cars around and be able to live in one place and work in another.  It could be said that Detroit's greatest contributing industry also was its greatest downfall.

But it wasn't all the automakers' fault.  Detroit has long been a home for corruption, going back all the way to Prohibition times when the Purple Gang dominated local crime as liquor was moved across the river from Canada.  Several bloody gang wars and massacres occurred from the 1920s until well after Prohibition ended in the 1940s and 1950s.  The decimation of the Purple Gang left a void that was soon filled by Mafiosi from nearby Chicago and New York.  In short, Detroit politics has long rivaled the more well-known corruption found in bigger cities like Chicago, and the public coffers were always open to both reputable and non-reputable businessmen who had enough "pull" with local lawmakers.  In the 1950s and 1960s such excesses were hardly noticed, but as populations dwindled and tax revenues followed suit, there was gradually less and less money to steal and more modern corrupt mayors and the like tended to stand out more.  The most recent former Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, was convicted of, and accused of, so many breaches of mayoral power and corruption I won't even bother repeating them here (go click that link if you're curious!).  The current mayor, former NBA hall of fame player Dave Bing, seems to be on the up-and-up but in Detroit you never really know.

To me, all of this is a culmination of the American way of life in many ways.  When one surveys the nation as it is today, they see many of the same problems plaguing other cities from coast to coast.  Many other large cities are also being robbed blind by thugs and charlatans.  Many other large cities are far too big, with nicer suburbs surrounding a rotting central urban core.  Many other cities are plagued by chronic poverty, corrupt law enforcement, broken education systems and a collapse in property values.  One could say that the American system breeds an unholy union of wealthy business interests and government bureaucrats, causing a culture of corruption that has frequently existed for so long, it's an ingrained and inextricable way of life for the governments of many cities.  One can only rob the piggy bank so many times, after all, before there is simply nothing left to steal.  An urban population of neglected poor, many of whom do not or cannot work, many of whom do not have access to proper healthcare or education, many of whom are sucked into an inescapable cycle of crime and incarceration, which further prevents them from ever bettering their situation, they cannot be expected to carry the financial load of a city that was once big and prosperous and that now teeters on the brink of insolvency and crushing debt.  Detroit kept borrowing against the future and did not ever see a time when perhaps the future would have no money to lend.  One can easily see the parallels to the "this gravy train is never going to stop" excesses of the early and mid-2000s, and that's when the lesson of Detroit hits home: anyplace in America, even America itself, could be the next Detroit.  Growth cannot, and should not, be constant and infinite.  Eventually such excesses correct themselves, often painfully.

Detroit is the canary in the coal mine.  What has happened there could happen in lots of places.  Wealthy business interests do not have the population of a city in mind when it makes its decisions.  Nor do politicians that collude with them.  I'm not sure I could ever envision a system in which this unholy alliance would not be the natural order of things, but I feel like I have enough intelligence to look at a series of events and understand cause vs effect.  Detroit's bones were picked clean and now it staggers along as a once-great city that has long ago fallen into neglect and decay. Its future?  Well, if recently approved plans to construct urban farms in large swaths of the city that were razed due to blight and disrepair come to fruition, Detroit could end up being a beacon, a new way forward for many other cities that grew just a bit too big for their britches.  Let's just all hope that their future turns brighter in the coming years, giving hope to other cities experiencing similar problems.  Perhaps Detroit's problems could prevent similar problems elsewhere.  Here's hoping.