Category Archives: Public Policy

Did Modernist Architecture Fail? No Way

Modernist architecture and its adherence to functionality have forever changed how we view buildings.  The US’s history rivals that of Europe, especially in the Midwest.  According to this article, “(Michigan is) home to perhaps the most diverse and best-preserved collection of early Modernist experiments in the world,” thanks to the number of architects who experimented there.

Some consider the Modernist movement a failure because it did not bring people geographically and emotionally closer, as hoped. However, this minimizes the benefits we do see. The variety of materials, the safety, and the increased natural light are all parts of the legacy.

In the 2011 documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, about the ambitious and infamous housing project in St. Louis, the demolished buildings are commemorated as symbols of urban crime. In a cruel twist of fate, the architect Minoru Yamasaki’s other most famous building was also demolished: The World Trade Center in NYC.

Pruitt-Igoe’s construction was paid for by the federal government, but maintenance came from rent. The same 1949 law that built public housing also encouraged suburban homeownership, and suburban flight quickly took away the tax base for all city services.

As for the vandalism and violence, those left behind were allegedly angry at society and lashing out.

None of this is the result of the modernist architecture built to foster a community. So, modernism’s failure is the ultimate “urban myth.”

Image result for modernist office architecture

Mayors To Watch

Check out the dossiers on 18 of the most influential city executives.  Included are Louisville mayor Greg Fischer and his fixation on local data to solve local problems, as well as Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio, who legally challenged pharmaceutical companies for contributing to the local opioid crisis.

As Los Angeles mayor Eric Garrett most aptly put it, “I’m playing too much defense in my backyard to not get involved in the national discussion.”




“Look for the Helpers”

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” — Mister Rogers

Volunteer lawyers, and civil rights groups that quickly became legally victorious, turned out Saturday in response to the betrayal of green card residents traveling into the US.

For American residents from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, or Yemen who were traveling yesterday, their airport detainment and threat of deportation brought out demonstrators from both sides of the aisle to America’s major airports.

Those detained included the disabled, elderly, and children, and at least one service member. Most were released by early this morning without an explanation, indicating a lack of clarity between the Dept of Homeland Security and federal court.

While a few GOP legislators have public denounced the executive order (along with business leaders who have key employees being held), most have been silent, yet are airing their grievances behind closed doors, likely because of a reluctance to make themselves an enemy of their own ruling party just one week into the term.

This executive order has the unintended consequence of actually encouraging illegal immigration, since the reward for jumping through all the legal immigration hoops is a terrifying disruption of normal life.

We Can Chill Out Now About the Megabanks

Politico’s new effort, The Agenda (asking, “How do we connect the dots between the robust debates in the war of ideas and the policy proposals actually on the table here in Washington?”) offers insightful, yet reasonably short pieces on future-focused topics.  ModCon looks forward to referencing it in an ongoing manner.  Its best feature just might be the running bar at top-left that shows the reader how far into the article they are.

The new piece about Bernie Sanders’ idea to break up megabanks, aka the “Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act,” is an indictment of the idea that bank size directly correlates to risk-taking, which the author warns we could see from many 2016 Democratic candidates when discussing economic policy.

Splitting our large US banks up would make us lose a competitive edge in the realm of global financial services.  Also, we needed the biggest banks in 2008 (BOA, Wells Fargo, Morgan Chase) to absorb the mid-tier, busted banks like Lehman, Bear, and Merrill Lynch, because the biggest ones were the only stable ones with ability to do so.  Furthermore, over 900 community or regional banks benefitted from TARP, meaning the ideas of moral hazard and behaving under the assumption of a federal bailout cannot have much to do with size.

In conclusion, as the next presidential campaign gets going do not buy into the idea that strict limits to company size and assets will make banking safer for the American public.  Regulations are unfortunately needed, but amputation is not.





Down and Out in Mississippi

Two recent articles have compellingly documented the shortcomings of America’s poorest state.   “Mississippi, Burned: How the poorest, sickest state got left behind by Obamacare,” from Politico Magazine’s November/December 2014 issue, and “How White Flight Ravaged the Mississippi Delta,” in The Atlantic 1/6/15, both hint at a state that is stuck in time with de facto Jim Crow laws, rundown historic buildings, and good ole boy politics.

The writings’ intended effects of horror and concern are tough to avoid.  The end of plantation life left an economic void that has yet to be filled decades later, and no participant in mainstream political life could deny the  poverty and racism that result.

However, the articles predictably stop short of offering policy suggestions.  The state has fallen and stayed down for the very reason that its effects are so perfectly regional; until someone is able to satisfactorily draw the conclusion that Mississippi’s problems affect anyone besides Mississippians, every other state may be inwardly relieved is it not last in the major metrics of success.  This failure to answer why the reader should feel anything, beyond pity, represents a consistent missed opportunity committed by most of journalism.

Fascination with this state and a desire to revisit have become recent phenomena at the ModCon offices.  Antebellum Natchez had the most American millionaires per capita thanks to cotton, and one of Lady In Red’s close friends is planning to get married at one of Natchez’s famous mansions.

Bottom line: until national political pressure cleans out the current political leadership, which represents the worst and most unintelligent of Republicanism in its reluctance to accept contemporary reality, MS will remain a quaint and mysterious place to visit — with little appeal to livlihood.

The famous Longwood house.
The famous Longwood octagonal house.


The Tyranny of the Minorities

Introducing new contributor ExecuCon, representing American baby boomers and bringing the executive voice.  -The Modern Conservative

I may not be modern but I am conservative. Recent events have reminded me how minority factions wield undue influence over the majority. For example, a few hundred petitioners object to Condoleeza Rice as a commencement speaker, forcing her to bow out rather than cause an ugly scene. This is just the latest example but it should not come as a surprise to anyone.

The Democratic party is a coalition of minorities; African-Americans, gays, feminists, environmentalists, unionists, etc. and they mostly always vote en bloc. While they represent small segments of the general population, and as individual groups have limited clout, when they band together their influence is, pick your adjective; formidable, impressive, scary.

They stick together even when they disagree, knowing that if they want the support of every faction of the Democratic Party for their own cause, they had better go along.

Take the issue of gay marriage. Most African-Americans are vehemently opposed to it, and it was interesting to note that the negative reactions on social media following the NFL drafting an openly gay player came from African -American players already in the league. Another example is the Keystone Pipeline. Unions want the jobs, environmentalists don’t want it, period. Nevertheless, when it comes time to vote in an election, they will all be on the same page.

What can Conservatives learn from this? Does the end justify the means, getting your party into power at all costs? Or should Conservatives stick to their principles, knowing that they have done the right thing, but also knowing that they will likely never gain the political majorities needed to lead the country?

The Tea Party and Solar Power


This week, Oklahoma’s Republican governor Mary Fallin ruled that homeowners who use solar power do not have to pay more in utilities than other homeowners, since they are providing some energy back to the grid.  True to form, Slate shows its complete misunderstanding of conservatism by acting surprised that anyone conservative could be against big government monopoly.

Here is some background on home solar power from the article:

The industry argues that anyone who is selling their surplus electricity back to the grid is doing so without having to pay for the wear and tear on the grid itself. That infrastructure upkeep, the utilities say, will be passed on to consumers via their monthly electricity bills, meaning that nonsolar users will have to unfairly foot the bill for their early-adopting neighbors. Such arguments, solar proponents counter, don’t fully take into consideration the amount that the utilities themselves benefit from wider solar use, which provides the grid with a clean, reliable source of electricity when it needs it most, during hot, sunny days when residents crank up their air conditioners.

Solar power is currently 0.1% of electricity, but utility companies are keeping a watchful eye on growth.  ModCon supports anything that enables Americans to live a full life without the monopoly businesses that the government forces upon us.


Science and Conservatism

Science is the name of my Harlequin Great Dane.

I got her when she was just a little pup. I was well onto my second doctorate at that point, and I just needed something in my life to greet me at the door when I would come home.

Initially, when I began to understand Science, I saw her as a commentary about her namesake. Raw, untapped potential in the beginning. With each day that passed she grew in strength and size and smarts. When she began to tower over my girlfriends, her awesome power even as a young dog began to be noticed by all. She could get into trouble with all that potential. She could easily overcome a horse if she really wanted to.

But she didn’t. Life needs order. Structure. These teeth that could tear through bone if needed chose to enjoy her time with us with each passing day. She became deliberately kind, in search of a scheduled dose of love, food, and consistency. We were thick as thieves, me and her. Whether I was off on a lecture tour or in the throws of a Greek Island Meditation Retreat, that dog was being taken care of.  As with any other domesticated animal, you take care of her right, and really treat her with love and structure, you get this amazing creature basking in your presence.

But Order and Wildness are both needed. She needs to have a permanent bed, but to feel free to go wherever she wants. She needs to be assured in her beauty, but motivated to be an asset to your household. Anything less, and your dog can turn out to be a decoration. Or worse, a burden.

Neither order, nor wildness can exist in extremes. I get that. It’s why I’m trying to get other conservatives here, and to teach them this important rule:

Extremism sucks. For everybody involved. Quit yelling and start working together.Our future is getting wild, brothers and sisters. We need to circle the wagons and look at the map again. The possibilities of science right now are changing every civil and social institution. It’s happening. If there is any Republican Establishment out there, realize that we as conservatives are inherently linked to you, so get your crap together and provide an avenue for us to vote for getting crap done and not this sad, sorry estate of government bureaucracy. Let’s get efficient, people. Let’s provide some Direction.

Liberals don’t get that. They think Wildness is the name of the game. Provide a platform for everyone to win; provide all platforms. But some victories have to be better than others, we all know that. We all have within us an inherent morality, the choice to go towards good, or go towards bad. We can preserve or upend values, we can do this or we can do that, we can end up here or there, but to really reach untapped potential, you have to have Direction.

And to be inherent in direction, you have to have some sort of constraint. we can go here, we can go there. We can go there, or we can go here. But we can’t go Everywhere. Or can we?

I’m still working on that one. And I’d really like for some other conservative to setup an action plan to provide a little structure so we can get there.

I’m looking at you, Huntsman.