You probably don’t think you want to read a six-page account of the Washington State budget, with charts and tables and citations, and if you’re not a resident of the state, you’re probably right. But if you are resident, you’re mistaken. State Representative Ross Hunter has written a compelling and understandable article about this year’s budgetary imponderables that illuminates and makes real the Abrahamic choices facing the legislature. It’s full of concrete, understated, revealing sentences like this: “The Supreme Court says that we can’t keep mentally ill people in shackles in emergency room hallways.” Read it.
Patton Oswalt and Werner Herzog act out regulatory capture and 19 other short films that amusingly distill key economic issues. It’s We The Economy, a project of Paul Allen’s movie production company.
I like to read about brain science. It makes me feel like I’m in a fun house hall of mirrors: infinite loop. Our brains studying themselves, gazing ever deeper, still mystified but making out ever smaller replicas. Here’s one from the NYT.
How a snapshot of the Mayor of Minneapolis with a community organizer became a gang sign with a convicted felon is one of those all-too-common moments where mainstream media reveals its unspoken racism. (Watch the video of Mr. Gordon half way down the story, too.) Of course, nowadays, stories like this spread. The community organizer and the group he works for are enjoying a wave of positive attention and donations.
Rhys Roth, a friend of Sightline since the very beginning (he contributed a chapter to the second report we ever published), has launched a new center on sustainable infrastructure at the Evergreen State College. And he’s published a new report on the narcoleptic topic of sustainable infrastructure. Rhys’s pitch: “We are going to have to spend many billions of dollars on our infrastructure just to keep our society and economy functioning. This is the reality. The question is: how do we get smart about how we’ll invest that money?” Check it out here.
I have good news and bad news.
First the bad. Terrifying enough to leave me with a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, actually.
An international team of ecologists and economists predicts salt water fish extinctions by 2048. That’s shockingly soon. My kids will be younger than I am now. The causes won’t surprise anybody: overfishing, pollution, habitat loss, and climate change.
Good news is needed. I think there was a little something about the US and China making a climate pact…
Also (from the Department of Thumbing-our-noses), the program that brought us Solyndra (and the multi-year headache that ensued after its failure) is doing gangbusters today and is expected to bring US taxpayers a $5 billion profit.
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And, Europeans are pedaling toward a robust bike economy. A new report shows that the cycling economies built by European countries have created 650K jobs, already more people than mining and quarrying, and with potential for a million jobs by 2020.
Oh, and don’t miss DeSmogBlog’s 90 second lightning round of the worst climate change lies funded by the Koch Bros.
Canadian smart guy Matt Horne of the Pembina Institute published a very helpful backgrounder reviewing the history of British Columbia’s carbon tax concluding that it’s been successful on the merits and durable enough to weather political shifts.
Also in BC, researchers studying Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion find that the project is likely to yield dramatically smaller benefits than advertised.
The Vancouver Columbian continues its first-rate coverage of proposed Tesoro oil-by-rail terminal on the Columbia River. In this installment, we learn that port officials and company executives almost certainly violated state law by holding closed-door meetings.
Salon reports that in a breathtakingly cynical move, coal giant Peabody is teaming up with a notorious PR firm to sell “clean coal” as the remedy for poverty in Asia and elsewhere.
The Fix-It Fair? If I lived in Portland, I’d definitely be checking this out next Saturday (and there’s one in Spanish in February!). Free info and resources for staying warm and healthy this winter, as well as free childcare and lunch so you can take full advantage of the fair.
If you haven’t read Matt Taibbi’s latest, carve out a little of your weekend to do so. It’s an appalling account of a former Chase employee trying to help the US government investigate the clearly wrong actions of her company. Unfortunately, she finds that government regulators are pretty much only interested in helping Chase bury her testimony, in exchange for a relatively paltry “penalty” that was somehow lauded as a real win for US consumers. An eye-twitch-inducing excerpt:
[T]he idea that Holder had cracked down on Chase was a carefully contrived fiction, one that has survived to this day. For starters, $4 billion of the [$13 billion] settlement was largely an accounting falsehood, a chunk of bogus “consumer relief” added to make the payoff look bigger…. [And b]ecause most of the settlement monies were specifically not called fines or penalties, Chase was allowed to treat some $7 billion of the settlement as a tax write-off.
Couple this with the fact that the bank’s share price soared six percent on news of the settlement, adding more than $12 billion in value to shareholders, and one could argue Chase actually made money from the deal. What’s more, to defray the cost of this and other fines, Chase last year laid off 7,500 lower-level employees. Meanwhile, per-employee compensation for everyone else rose four percent, to $122,653. But no one made out better than [Chase CEO Jamie] Dimon. The board awarded a 74 percent raise to the man who oversaw the biggest regulatory penalty ever, upping his compensation package to about $20 million.