Monday, August 15, 2005

More Wrong Direction

New York is a never ending construction zone with old buildings coming down and new (usually taller and larger) ones going up. It’s less common to see a whole new street emerge, but that's exactly what happened in my neighborhood. Riverside Boulevard, has materialized over the past few years adjacent to my home thanks to Donald Trump, that master of smoked mirrors, unending public relations/promotion and (most of all) survival against all odds. A few years back, The Donald was in great trouble owing much more to our city’s fine banks than he could afford. He was functionally bankrupt. His development on the Hudson River near me was in danger of going belly up, but it didn’t. The truth was the banks had too much in the project and, not wanting to be left holding the bag, they bailed Mr. Trump out after which (as usual) he cashed in at someone else's expense. Some folks in my neighborhood still can’t let go of their anger that the Trump buildings have risen before our eyes (often obstructing our views), but I find such huffing a puffing a silly waste of energy. Riverside Boulevard (he likes to think of it as Trump Place) is a mammoth brick and mortar fact of life.

What made me think of The Donald today was a story in the NY Times suggesting that changes in Federal standards for improving SUV mileage are likely to be abandoned because the people in Washington are concerned about further weakening the already hobbled American automobile industry. The banks were too dependent on Trump as apparently is our economy on the people in Detroit, similarly under water. To be sure they are in deep trouble – I have not owned a GM, Ford or Chrysler in decades, nor do most people I know. But it’s hard to sympathize with these guys who haven’t been killed by competition, but who were suicidal co-conspirators; deaf, dumb and blind to what was going on around them. First there was the issue of quality. After taking delivery of my first foreign made car, I was astonished to look in the side mirror and see the front and rear doors line up – it was a first. Then of course there is that size thing. Even after the terrible gas lines of the Carter years, Detroit has been systematically sizing and bulking up and rather than improving gas consumption, building more and more trucks that are marketed as family cars which have insatiable thirsts for Saudi oil. My newest Japanese car – the exact same model as the last gets ten miles more per gallon.

I realize that our media is not what it used to be and our news is watered down to tepid nothingness dominated by shallow stories like Michael Jackson and brides who decide not to show up at the alter. Even so, most people have heard of a war in the Middle East and of oil prices going through the roof. Surly even members of the Bush gang have noticed that it costs twice as much to fill up the tank than it did a year ago even if they overlook the fact that there are a couple of Americans out there (some who have lost jobs in Detroit) who can ill afford such a swing in prices. But the energy bill recently past doesn’t address such mundane problems and while we hear much talk about rising demand little is done to reduce it. The President speaks out for the morality of saving embryos, thwarting stem cell research and the need to teach creationism (excuse me, Intelligent Design), but can’t use his bully pulpit to get citizens to think fuel economy by buying more efficient vehicles. That probably would get too close to emissions and global warming and all those other unproved theories about which the Bible was silent.

So here we are again bailing out the incompetent and telling ourselves we know they aren’t perfect, but what can we do? Plenty! We can do a great deal if we only had the will and the vision, not to mention our people and our planet's future in mind.

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