"Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;
but right or wrong, our country!"

    --Commodore Stephen Decatur

Friday, May 20, 2011

An International Game of Dreidel

President Obama announced with great fanfare yesterday his solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict: just rewind the clock to 1967 and everybody will be happy!

There's one big problem with this solution though.  Prior to the 1967 six-day war, the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip that now constitute the Palestinian Authority were controlled by Jordan and Egypt respectively.  Thus, prior to 1967, the sum total of Palestinian lands was exactly zilch, zero, nothing, nada, etc.

In essence, Obama is telling one of our closest allies to give up more land to an entity that was created from Israeli territory under the 1993 Oslo Accords.  In return, Israel will get...nothing.  Even after previous Israeli concessions in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, terrorist attacks have continued unabated.  Obama's rhetoric may win points with his UN admirers, but it is not a serious path to peace.

This is reminscent of the old Jewish folktale about Herschel of Ostropol who was fond of playing practical jokes.  In one popular re-telling for children, Herschel uses a dreidel and the false logic of "heads I win, tails you lose" to outsmart one of the Hannukah goblins that has been terrorizing a small town.  It's a safe bet that the Israelis will not fall for the same trick.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Metro Keeps Opening Doors

Earlier in these pages, we compared DC's proposed streetcar network and existing Metro system to the original DC Transit, circa 1958 when the system was at its zenith.

Today, prompted by a conversation with the author of the Blog of the Courtier, we endeavor to show how mass transit is a critical ingredient for population density.  Using the same streetcar map and comparing it to the 2010 census population data for each of the 180-odd census tracts within the District, we can see an almost uncanny conincidence betweena areas of high density and the original streetcar network.

Prior to the 1960's, there were few bridges across the Anacostia river, so large parts of far Southeast were never served by streetcars.  However, at the same time, large areas of Northeast D.C. which are not served by Metro had extensive streetcar service.

Intuitively, it makes sense that density conincides with streetcars.  Proponents of bus service argue that routes can be changed easily to accomodate changing trends and population shifts--indeed, Metro has a page dedicated to bus route changes, but this is exactly why bus lines do not promote density.  Metro can decide on a whim to reroute the bus line that used to take you straight to your office.

On the other hand, a streetcar or subway line cannot be moved very easily, so developers and residents have confidence that they will continue to have regular transit service.  Even after more than 50 years, the only areas of higher density that have emerged in the district are the pockets in far Southeast that are now served by Metro.