Thursday, July 28, 2005

Michigan Ambrosia

Jane Jacobs, in Cities and the Wealth of Nations, posits an alternate conception of economic development. She develops this theory using qualitative discussion of several instances or case studies that illustrate her points. It's fairly impressionistic and conversational, but it basically works for me -- there are many plausible methods for developing a new theory, I think.

This is not a review, however. I am using a part of her argument to discuss one of the many ideas I have about Michigan -- its culture and its economy. Cities, for Jacobs, are the origin of economic development. It is in cities (and city regions, she acknowledges, writing in 1984) that new products and processes are developed, that knowledge is shared and advanced, and that wealth is created. Perhaps the chief idea in this book is "import replacement." Basically, a party within a city or town, which imports its products, figures out how to create a particular product locally, obviating the need to import it. This could be something like nails. Where a city might do all its building with imported nails, if somebody figures out how to get their hands on an iron supply and to start up a small factory, that portion of the cost of building stays in the local economy, and the city or town takes a baby step towards self-sufficiency. (That self-sufficiency is aided in no small part by resources like iron in the surrounding "supply region," but it is not necessarily dependent upon the existence of those local resources.) Then, when that nail factory gets up and running and can even supply other towns and regions with nails, somebody might take that locally produced wealth and expand the factory into a more developed iron/steel product, or some workers who know the nail-making process might start their own factory for screws or ax-heads or shovel blades, or whatever, replacing another good that the city and region had imported. This process of developing new products is what makes cities prosperous. This can be applied to intellectual products, as well. (I won't go into discussion of many other important or interesting ideas in the book, but I could, and may at some point in the future.)

Anyway, to bring this around to the title of this post, I'm resurrecting an idea I had last summer. Basically, we develop a new soft drink that features Michigan fruit flavors (natural, NOT the synthetic equivalents) and is sweetened by sugar (or a derivative) from Michigan sugar beets. Did you know that Pioneer Sugar is based in Saginaw? You should NEVER buy Domino sugar. EVER.

Drawing on Michigan agricultural products, this spurs demand for Michigan fruit, which, aside from cherries, is languishing in competition with California fruit and foreign imports (though most Michigan products are better, I think). Actual sucrose is a better sweetener than high fructose corn syrup because HFCS-sweetened products do not give you a feeling of satiety even though you are consuming calories, so it would actually be less bad for you than Coke. In addition, these soft drinks would replace Mexican imports like Jarritos sodas (and maybe regionally-produced drinks like Coke) and would have an overall economic spur in production/manufacturing. It might also spur some food research and development of new sweeteners or other fruit-based products. Finally, the plant(s) should be located in an industrial brownfield like one might find in, say, Kalamazoo or Benton Harbor, both in or near the Michigan Fruit Belt, where paper, cigars, cars, stockings, and other manufacturing products were formerly king. Agricultural development AND urban revitalization? Where do I sign? The idea is free (and if somebody like Todd Leopold who knows beverage-making wants to drop me a line, please feel free), but if you make a million off this idea, send me 5 Gs at some point in thanks.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Run for It!

Looking at the issue responses from our current crop of candidates for city council, I'm fairly disappointed. Press coverage is pretty weak (though the News should be coming out with something before the primary; they called me), only Kang has a Web site, and the answers they give to the questionnaire aren't even productive, let alone the vision I think this town is going to need in the upcoming years. So I've decided to start a list of issues and initiatives I think a candidate could effectively use to run for council. Maybe I'll get off my ass and register the urbanoasis domain and learn how to use some good features like a wiki, commonmonkeyflower-stizz. Maybe I should get some traffic through here first, though. And learn how to use a computer.

1. A dog park. This is SUCH a no-brainer. Ann Arbor is getting older and having fewer members per household. The frequency of dogs as companions will increase in these situations (empty nesters, young singles, etc.). Would it kill us to either acquire a park in the city or turn an existing park into a dog park? No, and it would make Ann Arbor more attractive to childless couples with pets -- they value dog-friendly amenities about like nuclear families value schools and regular parks. Let's give it to them. Two, in fact.

2. Promoting clean and renewable energy production and consumption. The AATA buses are using low-sulphur diesel. Great. City vehicles are using compressed natural gas (if somebody wants to chime in on this, feel free; I heard this was becoming an increasingly difficult option). OK. I think we need to get MUCH more aggressive on this.

A. First, car-sharing. The city should only maintain job-specific vehicles like dump trucks and the like. For regular cars, they should participate in a car-sharing service whereby they have several vehicles dedicated to them for regular hours and that are available for general use after hours. Flexcar in DC has an option like this -- note how this ties in with the Car Co-op? Yep, I'm clever like that. MAD clever.

B. Production. I was looking around at the DTE site for a green energy option for the Madison House for the upcoming year. I can't find one. They're JUST doing some experimental stuff in Detroit, but they are LIGHT YEARS behind Consumers Energy it seems. They do, however, buy energy from micro-producers (because they are required to, unless the bastards in Congress take that out in the new energy bill). Anyway, thinking about Toronto's Windshare project and this Montana project involving 5 cities purchasing a utility, I realize that Ann Arbor and maybe Washtenaw county need to get in on the act. I had been thinking about a similar 2- or 3-partner deal involving a co-op, the city (or a city-created corporation or authority), and DTE or some other local producer. Perhaps partnering with other Michigan cities could make this happen bigger and/or faster, and even more importantly, can get some wind turbines on or near the Lake Michigan shore, where wind potential is even greater. A 750kW turbine costs about 1.5 million dollars to get going.

3. Development and Affordable Housing. Nobody's got any balls on this score. First, the way the city is allocating its affordable housing resources is stupid, I think. Read my post on it for an introduction. Somebody should grow some berries and say "We need more density and we need more development. It's probably going to come whether we like it or not, so here's my plan to accommodate it in the way that we won't regret it." I might even say it's time for the city to start amassing land (I wonder how many houses they get each month from tax defaults?) in semi-outlying areas and making them available for redevelopment. Certainly they can start rezoning certain areas for higher density. The downtown rezoning is just a start.

A. ADUs. This is as much of a no-brainer as dog parks. Objections to accessory dwelling units (within city-established guidelines) are just BANANAs.

So that's it for now, but this will be updated frequently. I put the dog park first to show that I recognize tangible quality of life issues are important too. Every candidate's program should include small and large issues like that.

BTW, this reminds me of the time I planned the WMU campus. It's great being a know-it-all.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Ramping Up

You may recall my past posts about affordable housing and non-profit development in Ann Arbor. Now that the city's 05/06 budget is online, here's an update. During this fiscal year, the city anticipates revenues relevant to affordable housing of approximately $5.5 million. That is $2.23 million from a HUD/HOME grant, $2.19 million from a Community Development Block Grant, $786,000 from the Affordable Housing Fund (extracted from developers) and $227,000 from the DDA Housing Fund. This does not include rollover from last year, which sources indicate there was (as there is every year).

I have requested a meeting with Jennifer Hall, Housing Services Coordinator for the city, next week, and should have a better discussion of the issues and possibilities then. Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Economy Through Community

Murph and Pat Austin, two MUP students at Michigan, had the idea of starting up a cooperative car-sharing group in Ann Arbor a bit over a year ago, based on a course project they had done in transportation planning. I read about it on Murph's blog last summer and was smitten. The cost and tribulations of auto ownership have never been worth it, in my book, and so I have long been seeking an alternate model. Thus, the start of my involvement in A2C3, the Ann Arbor Community Car Cooperative. I bought into it last fall, but didn't become a driver. Having been only peripherally involved over the last year, the opportunity to become more integrally involved has arisen and I will be taking it. So, at this point, still having little to no influence in the organization but banking that I soon will, I begin what will be at least a year-long promotion of cooperative car sharing.

Why join a ride sharing cooperative?
Cooperative ownership of large assets like cars has a number of benefits for you, for the environment, and for the community. If you're like me, you NEED a car about once every 4-6 weeks. For an important trip home, to pick up a new purchase, or to take some work- or school-related trip. I sometimes have to go to archives in Kalamazoo, East Lansing, or Detroit. It's CONVENIENT to have a car once every 1-2 weeks. To go to a show, to go grocery shopping, or just to get out of town for a bit. Most of the rest of the time, driving (for those who live in town) is frivolous. If you need a car for a long commute, car-sharing is not for you. If you think you need a car to get up to North Campus, car-sharing is not for you. However, if you are dropping 1000 dollars a year on car insurance and on top of that have a car payment, car-sharing is a good way to cut down on those costs. If you have no car, joining a car coop is a way to have car access with a modest investment. With a clean driving record, the initial cost may be as low as $100. The benefits to the community are helping reduce the number of cars on the roads in Ann Arbor (traffic congestion) and the need for parking (an increasingly contentious neighborhood and city-wide issue). Environmentally, car-sharing has an inevitable reduction of pollution from frivolous trips and the reduction in market demand for production of new cars.

How would such a thing work?
Basically, you pay the initial fee to join. As I said, it currently starts as low as a hundred dollars for those with perfect driving records and goes up for those who have points. This fee gives you a share in the cooperative, meaning you own part of the assets with the other members. It also gives you a say in governing the coop. So it's sort of like ownership of stock, except the coop is not a heartless corporation devoted to making profits. It's a small local group of people seeking economy and who value alternative models for transportation. Once you join and are cleared to drive, you can reserve the car(s) as you want here. As you use the cars, you will be charged a small fee based upon how long you drove the car for and how many miles. This is currently billed monthly. This fee covers the costs of gasoline (you don't individually need to refill it, or if you do, you get reimbursed), maintenance like oil changes and repairs, insurance, and of the coop's overhead. The car currently has a parking spot a couple blocks west of downtown. The bottom line is, sign up, reserve the car and drive it, return it, and pay your monthly charges. You can come to meetings and help promote the coop, too.

That sounds great. Who thought of this?
Cooperatives have been around for more than a hundred years. Communal ownership of large assets goes back to the early industrial period in Great Britain, where workers owned the machinery they worked with instead of just working for a corporation that owned everything. Cooperatives became a particularly popular ownership model in the US in the late 20s and 30s when the economy went bad and people couldn't afford major investments. Farmers were the biggest beneficiaries of cooperative ownership as they pooled resources to develop utilities. Most recently, car coops and other car sharing groups have sprung up in larger cities where it's tough to find parking and cars aren't an everyday necessity. Zip Car, Flex Car, and I-Go are just three examples. Murph and Pat, who soon will be urban planners, thought that Ann Arbor, sometimes thought of as environmentally progressive, might offer fertile ground for a car coop.

Community ownership? Isn't that for communists?
Let me ask YOU a question. Aren't you a little old for name-calling? Seriously, there are LOTS of coops you patronize but probably didn't realize. Credit unions are coops. Welch's and Sunkist are fruit marketing coops. There are actually lots of coops throughout the U.S. and they fall all along the political spectrum, just as corporations do. Cooperative ownership is an economical, community-oriented way of doing business and providing services. Plain and simple.

How do I sign up?
Send me an email at lwinling[at] If you are really interested, within a couple weeks we should be able to get you driving around Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. Tell your friends.

UPDATE: I'm including several links to articles about car-sharing elsewhere so that you can read about some of the precedents. Flexcar in DC, I-Go in Chicago and Evanston, and Zip Cars everywhere.

UPDATE 2: Via Bob Harris comes this LATimes Magazine article on how some home-hacking and a bigger battery can get the Toyota Prius over 100 mpg. As you know if you follow the links, many of the larger car-sharing services have hybrid vehicles, as a commenter notes. However, I think it is imperative that we do not simply try to replace our gas guzzlers with more efficient cars, without significantly altering the way we approach automotive transportation. The auto has, in some ways, be very liberating and empowering for our society. Its overuse and our national fetish with cars has been bad for the U.S. There is an acceptable level of auto use. It is a small fraction of our current use.

Monday, July 18, 2005

What's the Matter With Kansas?

After holding off on buying this book for several months, I picked it up at Olsson's in DC and couldn't put it down until I finished it. Thomas Frank's book, to be honest, surprised me. I had not wanted to buy it because I thought it would be another volley in the ongoing name-calling fest between our top hackneyed journalists. It turns out I was wrong.

To summarize the main points of the book, Frank illustrates how Kansas, a state that just over a century ago was just about the farthest left state in the U.S., became one of the farthest right today. First, the Democratic party -- there and nationwide -- abandoned liberal economic principles in an attempt to court the American middle. In this way, New Democrats became economically indistinguishable from Republicans. Second, Republicans co-opted the cultural issues of the religious right -- reproductive rights, traditional family values, and the evolution debate -- to convince the working class that the Republican party had their moral interests at heart, convincing them that Democrats and liberals were the party of license and immorality. Third, they rhetorically reframed the idea of class as not an economic issue, but as one of "authenticity," for example how George W. Bush is reputed to be more like an average guy even though his entire life has been guided by privilege. This accomplished, conservatives/Republicans remained steadfast in dismantling the machinery of the New Deal (and even the Progressive Era) and further increased the gap between rich and poor with tax cuts and loosening of environmental and economic regulations on corporations. Frank also details how a handful of committed religious conservatives -- average citizens -- worked their asses off to build this conservative base, which eventually played into the hands of the economic conservatives. He chronicles the tension between the state's moderate Republicans (fiscal conservatives; social moderates) and the conservative Republicans (he depicts them as socially conservative and fiscally apathetic and/or credulous) along the way.

You can read more about it here, but for me the lesson is that the Democratic Party must embrace an economically liberal misson once again and must actively be building its base, just as the religious right is doing at the top and bottom levels. Frank also discusses suburbanization a bit in Kansas City, detailing the rings of working class, middle class, and upper class suburbs radiating out from the now-abandoned downtown. To me, it is the old story of urban proximity promoting solidarity among the working class. Now that we suburbanites are all spread out in our subdivisions, we don't have the time or opportunity to commiserate over working conditions, share common grievances, and formulate a cogent response to the economic and environmental conditions around us. This isn't entirely satisfying -- the suburbs don't make one bourgeois, as Greenbelt, Maryland, illustrates -- but I do think it is an important part of the story.

Thank God we elected Howard Dean chair of the DNC.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Tag. You're it.

(Flickr photo by Storker).

Borf, the DC graffiti artist, was arrested Wednesday, turning out to be an 18 year old anarchist art student. Depicted above is his most daring display, on the Roosevelt Bridge leading into DC from northern Virginia. Stories on the arrest at DCist and WaPo. Background on Borf at (it's currently down) and DCist.

Aside from the above instance, which might have obscured information necessary for those traveling into the city (and set a precedent for other bold graffiti artists), I have no problem with graffiti in cities -- DC or otherwise. It is a way for individuals to personalize the space of their city, and to say "I live here. I am not a businessman or an elected official; I may have no power, but I can leave my mark upon this place." I particularly like the small and simple graffiti tags on public structures like USPS mail boxes, phone booths, parking meters, etc. Again, it humanizes the government's attempt at sanitary, efficient, and seemingly heartless operation. The city of Philadelphia has a major, city-wide initiative to develop murals and celebrate the people. Much graffiti does this without the bureaucracy, being an immediate representation of individual spirit (though I think the mural program is valuable). In addition, some graffiti can be exceedingly clever.

I personally like the bunny on the side of the Main St. Party Shoppe in Ann Arbor because it is so incongruous -- someone tagging a wall painted a bunny? Why?

Again I refer to Sam Bass Warner's idea of the importance of "small patterns," or Jacobs' imploring that the small, personal and local is superior to the large, unified, and impersonal in the weave of urban fabric. The more people that are actively involved in shaping, building, decorating, and participating in the city, the richer urban life will be.

One more for the road...


UPDATE: Wow. It seems like people just don't get it. I think it's particularly interesting how orthodoxy can govern even a marginal form of expression, ie the guy who wants to see "something more mature." Like a wall mural, I suppose.

UPDATE 2: Thanks to Madison House all-around good guy, Chris, for the bunny pic.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Windy Cities

Thinking about wind energy again. A poster at DailyKos has been talking about the possibility of setting up some sort of dKos investment in a wind farm. It's more than just pie-in-the-sky -- his livelihood is financing wind developments (in France, I think). That's pretty interesting, but even moreso is this initiative in Toronto. It's a cooperatively owned wind turbine on the edge of Toronto producing electricity that is integrated into the grid (and will eventually be consumed by the cooperative owners). This is just such gorgeous execution of the kinds of potential I see in cooperative enterprise, I can hardly contain my excitment. A small number of families interested in renewable resources got together with the idea, raised the investment capital and navigated the regulatory and business maze to get a 1.5 MW turbine built. One more is on the way, and these are on the edge of Lake Ontario.

This is another kind of thing I would LOVE to play a part in getting started in Ann Arbor. This one seems pretty doubtful, though -- there's only so many projects I can entertain. Sadly, the dean of the college of architecture and urban planning informed me no one is working on wind -- either on the planning side or on the design side (SNRE is at least thinking about it). I think that's too bad, because resource self-sufficiency and engagement with renewable resources is going to become increasingly important to cities. You may recall I wrote a while back that Sault Ste. Marie could be invigorated by combining design and wind farming. Holland, too, seems like a brilliant place for such innovation -- Old World tradition and technology refined and reconsidered in the New World.

Rembrandt's "The Mill."

UPDATE: Check out this recent Stanford evaluation of wind potential. In the US, the places with the greatest and most consistent potential are the coasts and the Great Lakes. See this Michigan wind map. As I note in the comments, the bird issue is old news -- competent siting is one solution. The other is the slow rotation of the more recent turbines -- they now rotate slowly enough that birds can see and avoid them.

UPDATE 2: An inquiry to the Michigan Energy Office reveals that grants up to 500,000 dollars (up to 25% of a project) are available for farmers and rural businesses to develop renewable technologies. It looks like this legislation just sunset; let me see if it, too, is renewable.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

On the Rebound?

A Sunday New York Times article addresses the soap opera that is Detroit politics. The unfortunate title is "In Troubled Detroit, Mayor's Race is a Referendum on Style." If that's the case, Detroit can expect four more years of hard times.

I was going to note that the federal Housing and Urban Development agency took over the city's public housing authority because it was so inept, but the article beat me to it. At a late winter event in the MUP equity planning series, two of the speakers, from the Detroit Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) and MOSES (a coalition of religious groups), lamented that the city was sitting on 50 million dollars of housing aid and HUD was threatening to take it back. It's really striking, the kinds of resources that Detroit (both city and metro area) has, but that are not being sensibly deployed.

I remember sitting at my job at 7-11 as an undergrad in Kalamazoo reading the Free Press when the 2000 census info came out and Detroit had dropped below a million (they had lobbied Congress and the Census Bureau to use sampling because it would account for transients and would probably keep the number above 1 million). I thought then, "God, I would love to move to Detroit and help it make a comeback." On Murph's blog last summer (in the comments) there was the idea of a bunch of Michigan people moving to Detroit and setting up a "colony," helping develop one neighborhood at a time. The Times article notes investment in several areas, which is encouraging, to be sure, and was also noted in the Detroit News back in April.

Two other notes, one of urban import, one personal. An entry at DailyKos discusses sort of a Richard Florida-education investment issue related to manufacturing. Auto companies are starting to look for better educated locales for North American plants because savings on labor are negated by increased training costs. Also, I'm seriously considering applying to the MUP program for a dual degree. I THINK I could do it with only one extra semester of courses if I played my cards right and took summer courses. At one point, my interest in planning was only historical study, as I didn't think it would be very creative. It turns out, I was wrong. Developing.

UPDATE: NYTimes columnist Paul Krugman makes the same argument about government, education, healthcare, and jobs. Check it out.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Defensible Space

The attack on London's subway does not bode well for urbanism.

The US terror alert was raised yesterday to orange for mass transit hubs, though the nationwide level stayed at the yellow it has generally been since it was instituted. Because of the threat of rain, thunderstorms, and flashflood warnings, I did not bicycle into work today, instead taking a shuttle bus and the Metro. I arrived half an hour late because traffic on the 3 mile shuttle route (suburban Alexandria to Pentagon City) was bumper to bumper. I am convinced this is because of the London bombings and the fear of an attack in DC subway stations.

During the 1940s and into the 50s, the federal government began moving many of their agencies out of the increasingly congested capital district and into suburban Maryland and Virginia. The Pentagon just across the Potomac from DC was finished in 1943. NASA, out near Greenbelt, MD, was established in 1958. The CIA is in Langley, VA, where Eisenhower laid the cornerstone of their building in 1959, and the list goes on. It was in part because of this decentralization that the Capital Beltway was conceived and built -- to promote and facilitate decentralized development about DC.

During the early years of the Cold War, suburbanization was often promoted as being a preventative measure against nuclear attack -- if you lived far enough out from the city, your home, neighborhood, and life couldn't be destroyed by an attack on the central city. While we didn't see a nuclear attack, the subway bombings may be just as psychologically damaging. Tube ridership in London is necessarily lighter today, but London's is a history of robust urbanism -- you'd have to go back to the 1400s to see it as anything but an important, even global, city. But ridership in DC and New York are probably lighter today too, and probably will be for the next few weeks. This, of course, strains our clotted and sclerotic highways and, of course, INCREASES our dependence on foreign oil, fueling this vicious circle of Middle East intervention and backlash, if you'll pardon the pun.

What are we to do? I remain committed to cities and to my biking for the remainder of my stay in DC.

UPDATE: Scott Simon on Weekend Edition had an interesting piece this morning in which he discussed the cultural meaning of the Tube, where Londoners would seek shelter during the German bombing of the city during WWII. Perhaps it's my own romance with the subway -- I LOVE standing shoulder to shoulder with 150 people on the cars in the morning -- but these terrorists really know how to nail some culturally and spiritually important targets.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Not explicitly about urbanism (or even implicitly), if you blog, you should take this MIT survey.

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Down from the ledge

Despite Monday's pessimism, there is a personal ray of light. I upgraded my bike tires and brake pads yesterday and started commuting by bike. This is roughly a nine mile trek from the sprawling part of Alexandria to northwest DC (near the White House).

It took me 2 hours to get home last night due to the nearly illegible bridge traffic over the Potomac. The Key Bridge connecting Rosslyn and Georgetown allows for pedestrian and bike traffic, but getting out of Rosslyn requires riding either on the GW Parkway, US 29, or I-66, which I think would be dangerous, if not illegal. Thus, I had to take the Mt. Vernon Trail past the airport, then ride from one side of Alexandria to the other. The Roosevelt Bridge and the Memorial Bridge didn't seem to allow bike traffic (or even access).

This morning, however, was a different story. After starting from home, I steeled my nerves and sped down US 29 for about 3 miles, then headed over the Key Bridge into Georgetown. Not much danger and no horn honks on 29. The best part was that it took exactly the same amount of time as my bus/train commute. I can bike 9 miles as fast as I can Metro -- 52 minutes. I can't believe how easy this was, except for one bastard of a hill in Alexandria on Walter Reed. Fortunately, my building has a fitness facility with a locker room and shower; this initiative should yield improvements in fitness and attitude while I bike in the remainder of my stay in DC.

UPDATE: 61 minutes home and 62 minutes in 7-7-05

UPDATE 2: Using this sweet site, I calculated my morning route to be 10.1 miles.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Reality Check

This post was supposed to be a warm one about my experience this evening watching the fireworks in Washington DC and how Virginia suburbanites came together on 395, 66, and US1 to make these highways part of the public realm, pulling onto the shoulders and leaning against guardrails as traffic stopped during the celebration of our nation's declaration of independence. It was supposed to sheepishly admit that I drove all over DC with my girlfriend, burning through a half a tank of gas to see great DC, Maryland, and Virginia attractions -- assets, I should say -- during her brief stay.

But, in fact, I'm not so cheerful anymore. A foreboding feeling has gnawed at the fringes of my consciousness since the news a week-and-a-half ago that a Chinese government-owned corporation has bid for the purchase of Unocal. Since my sophomore year in college when Ken Organski taught us his Power Transition theory I have been warily waiting for the theoretical implication that China would surpass the United States in world power to come true.

We may very well be in the midst of this transition. The late Organski, when I queried him one day, claimed that the transition would not necessarily be bloody or confrontational -- as it often had been throughout world history -- if both China and the US were somewhat rational and amicable partners in the process. To return us to the present, this Washington Post article makes it look like the transition will not be as smooth as we might hope. Given the Bush administration's deaf ear on foreign policy, economic development, domestic politics, and every other topic they've touched, I can't help but be worried that this attempt to buy Unocal's energy assets -- oil, minerals, etc. -- is going to get botched by the White House ideologues and we are going to have a serious situation on our hands, both long-term and short-term.

The U.S., of course, produces nowhere near the energy we consume, so we have to go to other places to get it, particularly oil and natural gas. Thus, our unhealthy fixation on the Middle East. Then, our domestic companies are some of the ones to drill for oil and mine for whatever overseas. CNOOC, a government-owned corporation, wants to buy Unocal and control its assets. CNOOC claims it is investing in energy assets, a safe bet in our increasingly consumptive world; however, if the Chinese government owns the company that owns the energy company and its assets, I have no doubt that there will be no little influence from the Chinese government on directing these assets to increasingly demanding and lucrative Chinese markets. ie, I can see them horning in on "our" oil pretty easily and there being serious domestic political upheaval here as people complain about the price of everything relying on oil for production or transportation AND the fact that the Chinese will become a more important global force than the US.

I certainly am a pessimist and even have a little conspiracy theorist in me. God, I hope I'm overreacting to China's increasingly hostile rhetoric (given their government controlled currency and humungous trade surplus threatening the US economy) and everyone will play nice. But I am worried about where the U.S. is headed. Just what IS the future of the US economy and the world's last remaining super power? How will the US react to the rise of the increasingly powerful and assertive China?