Monday, April 10, 2006
Immigration and Urban Renewal
Here's a story from the Houston Chronicle that nicely ties together two themes I have blogged about recently: immigration and urban renewal. The article details how a failed mall in a poor part of Houston has been razed and the site redeveloped into a retail center that is geared for the needs of its market and appears to be making good money.
A decade ago, Gulfgate Mall offered few choices for shoppers and was abandoned by retailers. But developer Ed Wulfe, convinced the site was ripe for redevelopment, didn't buy the idea that it wasn't a viable location for a shopping center.It doesn't really surprise me that the Census Bureau would incorrectly measure the economic potential of an area like the one near Gulfgate. Basically, Social Compact's market analysis showed that, due to immigration, there was a larger population in the area than the 2000 Census held, and there was a large, undetected cash economy as a result. Many businesses, especially banks, seems to be benefitting from this knowledge.
He took a gamble and bought the property in 1998, razed the mall and showed off plans for the new center to national retailers. From the marketing and census data available at the time, they rejected the spot because of the area's income statistics.
The 2000 census data and marketing information on credit card sales, he said, fed the incorrect assumption that the residents around Gulfgate could not support the stores.
Undaunted, Wulfe commissioned Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization Social Compact to prove his hunch.
Social Compact researchers drilled down into the economy of the Gulfgate-area households, including those headed by immigrants like [Mexican immigrant Jose] Escobedo.
Researchers examined utility payments, automobile registrations and immigration data, finding 16 percent more people than the census did.
They also found that the area generated $758 million in annual household income, $121 million of that in cash that typically doesn't turn up in traditional surveys. [links added]
I haven't the time at the moment to delve into Social Compact very much, and it couches its mission statement in altruistic-sounding terms. But based on how well Gulfgate Center seems to be doing so far, it appears that the group is doing solid work in sniffing out new opportunities for businesses to make money in areas they may have overlooked. This sort of effort -- and not more government spending -- is what will eventually revitalize our cities. Social Compact's website features the following blurb from The Wall Street Journal.
... The group known as Social Compact, pulled together Washington's official data on the economic health of Chicago neighborhoods. Then it coaxed growth and revenue numbers out of private-sector companies that actually operated businesses in the same area. Two very different pictures emerged. The federal government's "social case" proved to be the private sector's "opportunity."In a free economy, poor neighborhoods will always be riskier places to do business. But they can also offer opportunities to those willing to determine what the market will bear.
Scientists have recently found evidence of an animal that appears to be transitional between a fish and a land-based animal.
Dr [Jennifer] Clack[, a paleontologist at Cambridge University,] said that, judging from the fossil, the first evolutionary transition from sea to land probably involved learning how to breathe air. "Tiktaalik has lost a series of bones that, in fishes, covers the gill region and helps to operate the gill-breathing mechanism," she said. "The air-breathing mechanism it had would have been elaborated and having lost the series of bones that lies between the head and the shoulder girdle means it's got a neck, it can raise its head more easily in order to gulp the air.The article, like others I recall, says that the finding will somehow be a "blow" to creationists. This is poppycock because it assumes that creationists are actually open to evidence. If the finding means anything to them, it will merely inspire some new excuse for evading the already-present (and growing) mountain of evidence in favor of evolution.
"The flexible robust limbs appear to be connected with pushing the head out of the water to breathe the air."
H Richard Lane, director of sedimentary geology and palaeobiology at the US National Science Foundation, said: "These exciting discoveries are providing fossil Rosetta stones for a deeper understanding of this evolutionary milestone - fish to land-roaming tetrapods."
Global Warming as a Moral Issue
This is how environmentalism will become a major issue among social conservatives.
Al Gore brought corporate executives and environmentally minded investors roaring to their feet Thursday with multimedia images of an overheating planet and a call for Americans to reclaim their "moral authority" by tackling global warming.Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe
"This is really not a political issue, it is disguised as a political issue," Gore said. "It is a moral issue, it is an ethical issue. If we allow this to happen, we will destroy the habitability of the planet. We can't do that, and I am confident we won't do that."
Via Isaac Schroedinger, it appears that the government in Zimbabwe has found something it can produce without all the evil white farmers it recently evicted from their own land: fiat currency.
If you want to take friends out for a meal - say to a popular barbecue spot like Kwa Mereki in Harare's Warren Park suburb - it's best to take a car-boot full of brown bearer-cheques, wadded together into thick two-million dollar piles known here as "bricks", "metres" or - if you want to rub it in - "stationery".The article later says that a central banking official expects the inflation rate to slow down soon. On the one hand, being in cahoots with the guys running the printing presses non-stop, he should know. On the other, since inflation is just another way for the government to steal savings out from under ordinary citizens, can you really trust the word of a thief's accomplice?
Prices go up nearly every day here as record inflation takes its toll. At more than 782 per cent, Zimbabwe's inflation rate is the highest in the world. And that is just the official tally. Like most things in Zimbabwe, inflation figures are controlled by the authorities, who carefully choose which goods are to be surveyed. Business people say, privately, that the real rate is well over 1,000 per cent.
A telephone bill last month - more than 15 million Zimbabwe dollars - would have bought five houses five years ago. Nice houses, in Harare's rich suburbs.
Help Isaac Schroedinger!
Via Thrutch, I have learned that Isaac Schroedinger needs help in making a case to the Canadian authorities for remaining there as a political refugee.
Follow the link or spread the word, if you think you can help.
Right now, I'm in the process of sending the Canadian government several papers. I've been asked to present documentation (newspaper articles, human rights reports) which details the reasons for my claiming refugee protection in Canada. I've allotted myself two weeks to marshal the core evidence for my case.
As I was thinking about the various sources, it hit me: Why not ask you for support? If you've come across any news, op-eds, or similar writings that specifically mentions Pakistan, its people, and the treatment of ex-Muslims there, then let me know. You can leave a comment in this post, send a trackback ping, or email me.
If the Refugee Board rejects my case, then I'll be deported to the country where the adorable top cleric thinks that:
"if a state is truly Islamic" it would have to kill the apostate.
If the Refugee Board grants me protection, then my case could be used as support for future Pakistani ex-Muslims. So, in a way, your help could mean a great deal for a lot of dispirited people.