Sunday, March 15, 2009

Decline, In Two Parts

At Time magazine… “Detroit’s Beautiful, Horrible Decline.” A couple of the photos, as captioned in the magazine:

Remains of a City (reliques_10)
On their website, the photographers write, "Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes...the volatile result of the change of eras and the fall of empires. This fragility leads us to watch them one very last time: to be dismayed, or to admire, it makes us wonder about the permanence of things."


United Artists Theater (reliques_05)
This spectacular Spanish Gothic theater, built in 1928, was closed in the 1970s.

The photos pain me greatly, speaking as a guy who lived in Detroit for ten years and came to love the city, warts and all. Detroit is dangerous, dirty, and decayed. It was that way when I arrived there in 1985, it was that way when I left in 1996… only just that much worse. Still and even, Detroit has wonderful people with wonderful traditions and parts of the city and its near suburbs remain breathtakingly beautiful… elegant, even. Detroit has its legacy, its past glories… which were and remain considerable… and perhaps not much else. One doesn’t much speak of “the future” in conjunction with Detroit, and there’s reason for that. In the headlines everyday. And now I’ve come full-circle, returning to pain. Decline is painful and so very, very sad.

We owe Detroit something but I don’t know what. Encouragement, perhaps, and respect, at the very least.



Also via Doctorow, a rant I agree with:

Doctorow sez:

Here's Penn Jillette -- a teetotaller for all substances -- calling for the legalization of marijuana on the incredibly sensible grounds that a) Many presidents, including recent ones, have smoked pot; b) Lots of other happy, well-adjusted people smoke pot; c) Imprisoning pot smokers by the millions costs a lot of money and ruins the lives of millions of otherwise fine Americans.


But hell, if you want to change your state of mind with a chemical, it's your goddamned state of mind to change. What liberty could be more fundamental than the liberty to choose how you think? Taking mood-altering substances is, in and of itself, victimless (though the drug trade that's sustained by drug prohibition has plenty of victims, and people can certainly destroy their lives with drugs, a tragedy that is vastly exacerbated by prohibition). I've lost several dear friends to drug overdoses and none of them were suicidal: they died because street dope varies wildly in potency and the heroin they took was purer than they'd anticipated.

As far as I'm concerned, everything that we call "drugs" -- including crystal meth, heroin, crack, and other drugs that destroy lives in vast swaths -- should be legalized and brought into the light of day so that the people who have problems with them can get help without the stigma of criminality and so that the people who don't have problems with them can get on with doing their thing.

Pre-freakin’-CISE-ly. The US Gubmint’s anti-drug industry… from the Feds, to the “consultants,” to the “educators,” to state and local law enforcement, the courts system, and the prison industry… is a fantastic and non-productive drain on resources that could be better applied to something else… like buying F-22s or operating another Navy carrier group. Literally, because we’re talking billions and billions of dollars here. And just what the HELL do we have to show for all this wasted time, effort, and money? The largest percentage of incarcerated citizens in the industrialized world. That’s it. Oh, and a lot of gainfully-employed bureaucrats.

Dang, I’m impressed!


  1. Prohibition has become nothing more than the Organized Crime Profits Protection Act. 'Nuff said.

    As for Detroit: in a previous life I worked on an enormous outsourcing deal pursuit (the customer was GM), and I stayed quite a bit at the Renaissance Center Marriott right downtown. This was - uh, 2006?

    From a high floor on that hotel, you can see the core of the actual city that remains... and you can also see where the abandoned buildings start and city services stop, and they seem to stretch out to the horizon.

    You know, I ate at some good restaurants in Detroit and I met some really friendly people, two things that are near the top of my list of quality-of-life issues for cities but are not often enough found together (New York or Paris would have to be graded on a steep curve to get checks in both boxes, for instance, and I say this as someone who loves both places with all my heart.)

    Watching a city you love fall apart like this must be akin to watching a person you love get old and sick.

  2. By the way - with the collapse of the finance industry and the concomitant gutting of New York City's tax base, there is a nontrivial chance that NYC is about to start a direct descent to the conditions of the 1970s...

    So I may get a chance to find out how it feels, firsthand.

  3. I have always had the very same philosophy regarding Pot; same as with booze or owning a gun or abortion. Personal Choice, Personal Responsibility. It is a fundamental principal of being a true conservative. I believe that a true believer of the conservative political cause does not invite the government into issues that are best handled by the people, that power to think, enjoy and to so "stuff" (be it drink, smoke, drive or shoot a gun) should not be mucked with by the government unless doing so infringes on someone else.

    This is what I think separates a true Republican from say a Rush Limbaugh Conservative. One who advocates the restraint of government controls on Guns but heavy enforcement on Abortion, fights for the life of the unborn yet wants (no demands) Capital Punishment. The hypocrisy goes on like this for virtually every issue. No different for the Left either I might add in fact I think they are far worse given they witnessed the horrors of Marxism and Communism yet they have driven real hard toward the failed Socialist agenda that we see getting foisted upon us today. All because they, the left and a whole bunch of “middle of the road” conservatives (can you say Arlen Specter) don’t want to be RESPONSIBLE for their own life.

    I don’t think we are doomed but what made America different, what made America Great, what made America the only country in the world with a immigration problem (and I am talking about infiltration problem) is going to change and we will be just another place on the globe. Under the thumb of a large government.

    BT: Jimmy T sends.

  4. I read an article about the decline of Detroit a couple months ago. While I have never been to Detroit, and have a general disdain for all big cities, I still find it sad to see one of America's once great cities in such decline. Those photographs fill me with a deep sense of nostalgia for a time I will never see.

    Can it be saved, and how to save it? Those are questions that are beyond me to answer.

    As to the marijuana question. I have never, nor ever will, used the stuff. With that said, as I get older, I tend to view it more along the lines of alcohol. Legalize, tax it, and cover it under the DWI laws. More money for the politicians to spend, and less police effort on petty crimes.

    I'm not ready to legalize the other stuff. The effects they have on people go beyond simple intoxication.

  5. I cna't think about Detroit right now. Too sad. I have enough on my plate with a rainy day in New Orleans.

    But -- hear, hear, Mr. Jilette!

    Not to legalize pot is an inxcusable neglect of a dynamite revenue source, with the concomitant side-effect of reduced numbers of prison inmates and, probably, a reduction in drug-trade violence.

    It's a helluva sight better than taxing health benefits, a tax path to which our Young President is now "open."

    Just think how much more mellow the populace could be! And Bill Clinton could finally inhale.

  6. Barry sez: Watching a city you love fall apart like this must be akin to watching a person you love get old and sick.

    Well-put. I haven't been back since 2000 but as noted elsewhere, I still have friends there... two of whom work for GM and one for EDS (but on EDS' GM account). They keep me informed of developments there, and like you say... it hurts.

    Apropos of nothing... Flying into Detroit is quite the experience, night or day. The city used to be known as "The City of Homes" once upon a time for the impressive number of single-family dwellings... mostly empty shells now. More sadness.

    I hear ya about NYC in the '70s... it was an UGLY place. Let us pray...

    Jimmy T: We're on the VERY same page... but I might be a little more hopeful (stupid?) when it comes to retaining our greatness. The traits and habits you mention are still strong in the heartland. The problem is the hypocrisy is strong, too.

    Buckskins sez: Can it be saved, and how to save it? Those are questions that are beyond me to answer.

    Above my pay grade, too. (And we were using this phrase LONG before The One hijacked it!) Rejuvenation has seen many fits and starts in Detroit ever since the riots of '67, all of which failed in the larger sense. The suburbs USED to be vibrant, but I hear they're in serious decline now, too. It all goes back to economics.

    re: Legalizing "hard" drugs. This is a sticky wicket, but I lean towards legalization, for the reasons Doctorow cited. It all goes back to that "personal responsibility" thing. I believe no rational person would CHOOSE a life of addiction, but there's plenty of evidence (and junkies) to refute me on this point.

    Moogie: Detroit's problems pale by comparison to those in your city, Moogie. Not even in the same league, let alone ball park.

    And Bill Clinton could finally inhale.

    He would, too. There's NO doubt in my military mind on THAT, LOL!

  7. Once pot is legal, would schools be permitted to give kids detention for selling marijuana in the schoolyard? If kids get punished for selling it, then I guess responsible adults will have to supply the tykes with their weed. Would it be legal for a parent to freely share his pot with his kids?

    Decriminalization I can accept, but complete legalization opens up all kinds of issues. There will always have to be laws regarding to whom one can provide marijuana.

  8. When I wasn't dwelling on Michelle's post of today, I've been contemplating your post on Detroit all day. The question that comes to mind immediatley, is: what would make such a once great city fall into such decline?

    Let's put it into this perspective: this is not a new phenomenon. Cities have risen and declined for centuries. They start life for one reason, grow for perhaps other reasons, and sustain themselves provided those reasons remain. But what happens when those reasons cease to exist, and are not replaced by others. The decline becomes, seemingly, inevitable. People move on, seeking to prosper elsewhere, doing other things. Others remain behind, either because they are not in a position to move, or because they cannot or will not accept that which appears inevitable.

    Perhaps this decline is shocking to us only because our country is relatively young, and this is new to us.

    As I stated earlier, I don't know.

  9. Bob sez: Decriminalization I can accept, but complete legalization opens up all kinds of issues. There will always have to be laws regarding to whom one can provide marijuana.

    Decriminalization leaves the criminal distribution network intact, thus the continuation of the "drug wars." Unless one goes the way of California with "medical" marijuana which is, essentially, free to all... after buying a doctor's "prescription." That sort of hypocrisy leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    The gub'mint, on all levels, should treat cannabis products just like they do alcohol, with the same sorts of age restrictions, licenses for sale, and DWI laws. I don't think we have an issue with kids selling beer on school grounds today, do we?

    Buckskins sez: The question that comes to mind immediatley, is: what would make such a once great city fall into such decline?

    For better or worse, a lot of people trace the origins of Detroit's decline to those '67 riots I mentioned... in the form of the unfortunately named white flight. Bad government over the course of the last 30 years or so, with HUGE amounts of corruption and cronyism certainly didn't help.

    But you're right: Detroit ain't the first city to go under and it won't be the last. Apropos of something... Some European cities make Detroit look like Disneyland, by comparison.

  10. There is just something about abandoned buildings that I find very sad - no matter where or how big the city. It just seems such a waste. The United Artist Theater photo makes me want to cry.


Just be polite... that's all I ask.