I pounded my fist on the table in vigorous agreement with Dave Roberts on the problem with climate wonks in politics:
Here are the outlines of a theory of politics I think many wonks share. It envisions a vast “American middle,” obscured by the din of partisans on both sides, filled with undecided, uncommitted, but fundamentally reasonable people who are just waiting to be spoken to in a “grown-up” way…
The problem is that this theory of politics is mistaken. It is not even really a theory of politics so much as a desire to remove politics from politics.
In fact, as Dave ably points out, there is abundant evidence that people simply do not form opinions (or political blocs) in anything like the way that scientists and researchers imagine them to.
I barely had the stomach to finish reading Bloomberg’s damning reporting on the Koch brothers flouting US law to sell to Iran. And that’s not the half of it. As Bloomberg’s reporting details, the Koch enterprises repeatedly violate workplace and environmental protections—showing a disregard for American law that helps explain their founders’ vicious hatred of regulation and government.
After reading even a partial catalog of the Koch brothers misdeeds, the growing Occupy movement starts sounding better and better. In that vein, go waste 9 minutes with Jon Stewart.
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Closer to home, I very much appreciated Roger Valdez taking on Seattle’s off-kilter neighborhood movement over at Crosscut, including his suggestions about how to mend the movement. (In fact, the comments thread predictably showcases the very problem that Roger is illustrating.) While there are hundreds or thousands of well-meaning neighborhood volunteers who play a vital role in making the city work, neighborhood groups and councils are often not particularly representative of their communities, nor are they always interested in advancing good citywide public policy. Much of it, in my view, has the tinge of misguided and parochial economic protectionism. But more on that later, maybe.
For a more positive perspective on community gatherings, I enjoyed Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele’s Paddle To Swinomish photo gallery, which catalogs this year’s annual gathering of more than a hundred tribes and First Nations from around the Salish Sea.
Finally, I recommend The Guardian’s interview with Maurice Sendak. It’s touching and heart-wrenching, and I think it reveals a lot about why his work is so wonderful.
Here’s an inspiring video that’s been making the rounds this week: physicist and Nobel Prize winner, Richard Feynman (1918-1988), sharing his thoughts on the intersection of beauty and science. Very worthy of a five-minute Friday desk-cation. Confession: I actually watched it twice.
The video is part of a larger project, The Sagan Series, meant to promote scientific education and scientific literacy in the general population. The best part? Feynman’s musings are set to some truly breathtaking footage of our natural (and man-made) world.
This week, we lost a great American. No, not that one. This one.
Why am I so fascinated by the domestication of the silver fox? Russian fox breeders were able to turn a wild animal into a lap dog in just nine generations.
After only nine generations, the researchers recorded fox kits born with floppier ears. Piebald patterns appeared on their coats. By this time the foxes were already whining and wagging their tails in response to a human presence, behaviors never seen in wild foxes. [Emphasis added.]
For me, the experiments with foxes put the miraculous-seeming domestication of wolves (as well as cattle, horses, etc.) in a completely different light. Maybe domestication wasn’t a slow process, marked by millenia of nearly accidental human selection for slightly tamer beasts. Perhaps, however many thousands of years ago, there just happened to be a person who was fascinated by animals—and quickly changed the course of human history by breeding a few pets to cuddle.
More from Charles Marohn, head of the nonprofit Strong Towns and my new favorite transportation nerd. Here’s a video of his TEDx talk on road finance (the short version: we spend way too much on big roads inside towns and cities), and the new Curbside Chat ebook (the short version: it’s a dumb idea to over-invest in new infrastructure when you don’t even have the money to maintain your old roads). On top of his critiques of car-centric development—a subject Marohn learned a lot about as a practicing engineer—he’s got some great ideas for how to reinvigorate towns by creating a renewed sense of place.
Am I the only one to breathe a sigh of relief over the news of NASA’s new asteroid study—the one that showed that the risk of the earth getting clobbered by an asteroid was somewhat lower than scientists had previously thought?