Probably the best thing I read this week was Elisabeth Rosenthal’s Sunday NYT piece about what ever happened to global warming as a live political issue.
I like these images of turning dollar bills into infographics as a way to illustrate economic inequality.
Writing for the Atlantic, I thought Matthew Yglesias did a good job of capturing what’s wrong with municipally-owned parking garages:
But municipal provision of subsidized parking is another thing entirely. For one thing, it’s regressive. In almost every city, regular drivers are richer than transit users. Guaranteeing cheap parking in the city center also has the perverse impact of reducing incentives to live in the city, ensuring suburbanites that they can have convenient access to the center without living in the city limits and contributing to the tax base. And in environmental and congestion terms, it’s the exact reverse of building a train. You’re encouraging bad behavior.
I’d add that the next logical step is divesting our cities of municipally-owned paid street parking. It’s hard for me to see why the government should be in the parking business when there’s a real live parking industry that would be happy to provide for local parking needs at market rates.
In the same vein, I also liked Ezra Klein’s piece at the WaPo on how congress shapes your commute and why “parking cash-outs” are such a good idea.
Finally, I haven’t actually read this one yet, but I’m looking forward to sitting down with the Seattle Weekly’s in-depth story on whistleblowing at Hanford by Joshua Frank.
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Remember that study showing a neutrino moved faster than light? Phew. It’s not nice to mess with Einstein…
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island gave a 25-minute speech in the US Senate recently that I watched all the way through with interest. It is as impressive an articulation of climate science as the senate has seen since Al Gore served there. He closes powerfully:
We bear a duty to make the right decisions for our children and grandchildren and for our God-given Earth. . . . We are failing in that duty. The men and women of this chamber are indeed failing catastrophically in that duty. We are earning the scorn and condemnation of history. Not this week, perhaps, and not next week, the spin doctors can see to that. But ultimately and assuredly, the harsh judgment that it is history’s power to inflict on wrong will fall upon us.
And, speaking of climate science, here is the funniest thing I’ve seen all month. An Australian comedy show did a segment built on the false but surprisingly plausible premise that the noted and vile British climate science denier Lord Moncton is actually a character invented by Sacha Baron Cohen, the creator of Borat.
Neuroscience shows us that empathy is core to human nature—more than drives to self-interest, aggression, utilitarianism, materialism, narcissism. Can neuroscience help us rethink society’s institutions to protect rather than destroy what’s important? Watch this beautifully illustrated (by RSA) lecture by political adviser and social and ethical “prophet” Jeremy Rifkin for at least some partial answers—and lots of new ways of thinking about the “human narrative” and where we might go from here.
I didn’t know who Rebecca Solnit was until I read a powerful essay she wrote recently reminding us that hope is alive even when progress seems stalled. But unlike optimism, she insisted, hope requires work…in fact, hope requires our constant care and feeding. She’s moved me to tears yet again. This time, she writes a “letter to a dead man,” namely, Mohammed Bouazizi, a young Tunisian vegetable seller who set himself on fire early this year to protest his desperately voiceless, powerless, “impoverished and humiliated state.” Again, the message is that hope requires commitment to fuel real change. The essay serves as a primer on the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street and their historical context and takes stock of all the work for hope that has transpired in 2011:
I want to write you about an astonishing year — with three months yet to run. I want to tell you about the power of despair and the margins of hope and the bonds of civil society.
I wish you could see the way that your small life and large death became a catalyst for the fall of so many dictators in what is known as the Arab Spring.
You lit yourself on fire on December 17, 2010…Your death two weeks later would be the beginning of so much. You lit yourself on fire because you were voiceless, powerless, and evidently without hope. And yet you must have had one small hope left: that your death would have an impact; that you, who had so few powers, even the power to make a decent living or protect your modest possessions or be treated fairly and decently by the police, had the power to protest. As it turned out, you had that power beyond your wildest dreams, and you had it because your hope, however diminished, was the dream of the many, the dream of what we now have started calling the 99%.
Incentives don’t always work to change energy behavior. But maybe peer pressure, via Facebook, can.
New research shows that when a family member gets gastric bypass surgery, others in the family lose weight too.
And finally, some gripping photos of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, entitled “The Price of Oil.”