Lessig raised $1 million and is running as a referendum presidential candidate to Fix Democracy First. His “Citizen Equality Act” mirrors Sightline’s democracy work! It aims to embody the idea that, in a democracy, every citizen is equal, using a three-pronged strategy: (1) every citizen has equal freedom to vote, (2) every citizen should get equal representation in Congress, achieved through multi-member districts and ranked choice voting (sound familiar?), (3) all citizens, whether poor or rich, get the same voice, achieved through matching funds for small-dollar contributions (kind of like this). By floating his referendum candidacy, Lessig is making these much-needed reforms a part of the national conversation.
Many Americans are afraid. Afraid because things are changing, and they seem to have fewer and fewer opportunities for a dignified life. But some, instead of blaming the economic drift on policies that continuously siphon all of our wealth to the top 0.01%, instead blame it on Mexican immigrants. And they are voting for Trump. “Voters beset by inequality and scarcity have reached past the sober promises of the center-left and the center-right to the specter of a transcendent solution, no matter how cruel.”
Some would have you believe that the answer to unemployment and automation is for everyone to get more educated. If everyone had a college degree, then everyone would be fine. Unfortunately for everyone, the data tells a different story. Only the very lowest, least-skilled, least-paid job sectors are growing. Everything else—working class, middle class, professional class-is going down. Except for a tiny bump at the very top of the income scale. More education (and more college debt) is not the answer. A universal basic income is (at least a part of) the answer.
As jobs disappear, those hanging on to a job keep working longer hours. Do Americans’ workaholic ways make us more productive than those who live in civilized countries where they can enjoy evenings and vacations with their families? Absolutely not.
Why are the feds itching to raise interest rates even though inflation is low? Who knows.
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In my free time this year, I served as the lead writer on the Portland City Club research committee writing this report about the city street fee. The main recommendations: (1) City should dedicate at least 50%, more like 100%, of budget surplus to streets every year, (2) city should find whatever money it can in existing budget to dedicate to streets, (3) city should ask voters to enact a city gas tax, (4) city should pursue other use-related fees, including parking fees, commuter payroll tax, and others.
If you’re in the Portland area, be sure to check out Gaining Ground, a new documentary film by Elaine Velazquez and Barbara Bernstein:
Gaining Ground tells the stories of two rural farms in Oregon and an urban farm in inner city Richmond, California, making extraordinary changes in their farming practices so they can feed their local communities healthy sustainably grown food. This is the food documentary that not only explores the problems of our food system but through personal stories shows what we can do to seek solutions.
It’s screening at Cinema 21 on September 30 and October 1.
You must read Sherman Alexie on his pick for the best American poetry of 2015. Then you should discuss.
No need to worry about this: it’s just an ancient giant virus uncovered by melting Arctic Ice. Scientists say there are many more like it just waiting to be released by warming temperatures. But nothing to worry about. Nosiree.
Your vocab word-of-the-day: Evapostranspiration. An article in Fast Company tells us this is essentially the tree equivalent of sweating. This tree sweat keeps us cool in the “urban heat island” that is the modern day city. NASA even found the tipping point: Once vegetation in the city drops below 65 percent, a city really starts warming up. This is important stuff with big ripple effects, as the article notes that a one degree rise in temperature is enough to raise air conditioning use by 20 percent.
On the topic of cities, there is a lot the US can learn from Europe, where trains are faster, cheaper, offer better scenery, and are more connected to smartly planned cities.
This year is the 20th anniversary of the wolf’s return to Yellowstone National Park. After unregulated slaughter wiped them out, the Endangered Species Act helped reintroduce wolves back in the Rockies, restoring balance in the ecosystem. Now, wolves are under attack again as members of Congress try to remove their protections.
Watch Earthjustice’s new animated short film celebrating the wolf: