Graphs: It’s taking longer and longer to replace jobs after a recession.
The world’s sexiest programmable thermostat.
AHH! Maybe neutrinos CAN move faster than light.
Here’s polling that shows—yet again—that American values differ from those of Western Europeans. Most notably, and no big surprise, at the same time we’re more religious, and more likely to think our country is superior (49% of us), we’re more individualistic and are less supportive of a strong safety net than are folks in Britain, France, Germany and Spain.
I like his novels; now I like Jonathan Franzen even better, knowing he’s a greenie. Check this Grist interview.
Here’s a valiant attempt to recast the 99 percent as middle Americans, not “animals,” “freaks,” “anarchists,” and “stinky hippies”—the side of this phenomenon that most of the mainstream media isn’t telling. (Compare this especially to this Salon writer’s account of bravely watching 2 days of Fox News coverage to see how they are portraying OWS. Spoiler: they mostly only say that the occupation is “gross.”)
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The most gratifying reading of the week was a Baltimore Sun editorial describing the runaway success that is the northeast’s modest cap-and-trade program. A first-rate new study shows that the program has yielded outsize economic gains for the region. The Sun’s editors nailed it:
A burden on the working class. A jobs killer. A hidden tax on every purchase. That’s just some of the strong invective hurled at the concept of cap-and-trade programs by its politically conservative critics in recent years. But a funny thing has happened to those 10 states…A recently-released study of the program’s first three years shows it’s been a major boon to both the residents of those participating states and the economy.
How major? There’s the surprise. According to researchers, the regional economy has gained more than $1.6 billion in economic value. That’s not the gross effect but the net once researchers considered both cost and benefits to the economy.
But wait, wasn’t the complaint from conservatives that a cap-and-trade program would raise electricity prices and therefore raise costs to households not only in energy costs but to every good and service? Researchers found that while it’s true that RGGI payments can increase electricity prices in the near-term, there’s also a lowering of electricity prices over time as states invest more money in programs that promote energy efficiency.
Too bad that conservatives seem trapped in a catechism that insists all government regulations are harmful to the economy and that man-made global warming is a fallacy. That both views are so clearly refuted by the hard evidence at hand seems of little consequence to the deniers.
Yes, yes, and yes. Exactly right.
If you’ve already received your latest issue of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists “Explorer” then you know how fascinating David Brown’s article is that unpacks whether we’ve entered a new geological era, the Anthropocene.
As a guy with a Classics background, I loved reading David Brin demolish the ridiculous historical inaccuracies of Frank Miller’s “300” comic book and movie. (It purports to tell the story of a Spartan-led stand against an invading Persian force in 480 BC, but Miller basically massacred the historical record in service of his cringe-worthy politics.)
Lastly, the Guardian had a pretty good animated video about the rise of US income inequality.
Google Maps’ already-mind-bendingly-omniscient Street View is getting better. It’s adding bike trails. The Seattle Bike Blog has a fun synopsis.
Robert Kuttner’s review of five books on economics is among the best articulations I’ve seen recently of the power dynamics that shape intellectual debates about economic theory. In short, market fundamentalism – clearly a failed economic theory in terms of explaining or improving actual reality – remains ascendant in North American public discourse. It does so not because of its veracity but because it provides a convenient cover story for the gradual takeover of democracy by big money. No amount of economic theorizing, therefore, can solve economic problems. Only a rebalancing, a democratizing, of political power can do that. Kuttner writes:
Though free-market ideas are hotly debated in classrooms, op-ed pages, and journals, their influence on events has come not in a Platonic fashion, through the power of argument, but through power itself. Free-market theory has conveniently provided ideological coherence.
Elites find laissez-faire an immensely useful fable, because it serves as an expert brief against government interference.
Kuttner’s points resonated with me intensely, because they are directly relevant to the fundamental question I wrestle with as Sightline’s leader. How do we best advance sustainability in Cascadia with the particular tools at our disposal, those of a policy research center. The answer, it seems to me, is no longer simply to identify and make the intellectual case for catalytic policies such as tax shifting and measuring what matters. It is also to understand and confront the underlying challenges of governance systems that are broken or corrupted by money. (I said more on this theme in The Atlantic this week.)
Finally, for its humanity, I loved this Crosscut profile of unsung hero Lee Lauckhart and the colorful characters he employs and congregates with at his Pike Place Market newsstand — “ministers to” might be a better choice of words. Lauckhart is a man whose business is slowly dying with the submersion of print media, yet he insists on providing his employees with health insurance, even if it means scraping by on Social Security checks himself. Is his company a business or a charity? Maybe it’s the original social venture or B Corp, but without the self-congratulation (and sometimes even conceit). The piece reminded me of the classic Seattle “informal” history Skid Road by Murray Morgan, which cast a spotlight on the flawed but original men and women – gamblers and madams, crooks and drunks – who built the Northwest’s leading city.