Saturday, April 19, 2014

Note to Salem City Council: How Cities Deal with Dissent Maturely

      
http://www.planetizen.com/node/68386

After Seattle Citizens to Repeal Ordinance 124441 acquired twice the necessary number of signatures necessary to send a March ordinance capping the number of Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar drivers in the city, the mayor will negotiate with the companies.

"A coalition group has collected enough signatures to suspend a newly-passed ordinance regulating companies like UberX and Lyft, and now Mayor Ed Murray wants to work with all stakeholders to reach a new agreement," reports Taylor Soper. The decision effectively puts the operation of transportation network companies back to square one, as if March legislation passed by the City Council in March to cap the number of drivers allowed to operate in the city at any given time never happened.

Seattle Mayor Muray has announced that the city and the companies will enter a 45-day negotiation process. Reports Soper: "If a compromise is reached during the negotiation process, the City Council could repeal the ordinance and then work together on a new set of regulations. If that happens, the referendum [as required by the signatures] would not appear on a ballot later this year."

Princeton study concludes U.S. government is an oligarchy – ‘The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy’

        Whoa, who knew?

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Princeton study concludes U.S. government is an oligarchy – 'The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy'
// Desdemona's Blog

Predicted probability of policy adoption (dark lines, left axes)  by policy disposition; the distribution of preferences (gray columns, right axes) for average U.S. citizens and elite groups. Date are compiled from roughly 1,800 different policy initiatives in the years between 1981 and 2002, these policy changes are compared with the expressed opinion of the United State public. Graphic: Gilens and Page, 2014

By Tom McKay 
16 April 2014

(PolicyMic) – A new scientific study from Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page has finally put some science behind the recently popular argument that the United States isn't a democracy any more. And they've found that in fact, America is basically an oligarchy.

An oligarchy is a system where power is effectively wielded by a small number of individuals defined by their status called oligarchs. Members of the oligarchy are the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.

For their study, Gilens and Page compiled data from roughly 1,800 different policy initiatives in the years between 1981 and 2002. They then compared those policy changes with the expressed opinion of the United State public. Comparing the preferences of the average American at the 50th percentile of income to what those Americans at the 90th percentile preferred, as well as the opinions of major lobbying or business groups, the researchers found out that the government followed the directives set forth by the latter two much more often.

It's beyond alarming. As Gilens and Page write, "the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy." In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.

That might explain why mandatory background checks on gun sales supported by 83% to 91% of Americans aren't in place, or why Congress has taken no action on greenhouse gas emissions even when such legislation is supported by the vast majority of citizens.

This problem has been steadily escalating for four decades. While there are some limitations to their data set, economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez constructed income statistics based on IRS data that go back to 1913. They found that the gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us is much bigger than you would think, as mapped by these graphs from the Center On Budget and Policy Priorities.

Piketty and Saez also calculated that as of September 2013 the top 1% of earners had captured 95% of all income gains since the Great Recession ended. The other 99% saw a net 12% drop to their income. So not only is oligarchy making the rich richer, it's driving policy that's made everyone else poorer. [more]

Princeton Concludes What Kind of Government America Really Has, and It's Not a Democracy


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Friday, April 18, 2014

The most crucial, least understood problem we face today

http://www.psmag.com/navigation/nature-and-technology/gross-society-entering-age-energy-impoverishment-79381/

How Being a Doctor Became the Most Miserable Profession - The Daily Beast

How Being a Doctor Became the Most Miserable Profession - The Daily Beast
I spent hours with a Brit MD on sabbatical (!) while on a train ride in the US last year.  The contrast between he and his colleagues (very positive about their practice and the Brit National Health) and US docs could not be overstated. 

Making healthcare a market commodity is bad for children, adults, and other living things.

How Being a Doctor Became the Most Miserable Profession

Nine of 10 doctors discourage others from joining the profession, and 300 physicians commit suicide every year. When did it get this bad?

By the end of this year, it's estimated that 300 physicians will commit suicide. While depression amongst physicians is not new—a few years back, it was named the second-most suicidal occupation—the level of sheer unhappiness amongst physicians is on the rise.


Simply put, being a doctor has become a miserable and humiliating undertaking. Indeed, many doctors feel that America has declared war on physicians—and both physicians and patients are the losers.. . . (More at the source)


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Neil DeGrasse Tyson Said What He Thinks About Race Now That He's Made It, And Almost Nobody Noticed

Neil DeGrasse Tyson Said What He Thinks About Race Now That He's Made It, And Almost Nobody Noticed

Neil DeGrasse Tyson Said What He Thinks About Race Now That He's Made It, And Almost Nobody Noticed

To set the scene, the (poorly posed) question is referring to comments made by former Treasury Security and Harvard University President Lawrence Summers, who suggested that genetic differences could explain why there are fewer girls in science. Yup, he really was Treasury secretary and president of Harvard.

Neil deGrasse Tyson's answer is, um, out of this world. There, I said it. Let me have this one.

Totally not safe for work, but totally a must see (climate)

> http://www.upworthy.com/the-most-honest-and-awful-corporate-ad-i-have-ever-laid-my-eyes-on-no-they-arent-drunk-i-swear?c=slt1

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vital reading on the supposed "oil boom"

The campaign to convince policy makers and taxpayers that we're going to be seeing an era of oil abundance is no different from the owners of Florida swampland extolling the beautiful beaches they're selling -- it's all about parting the rubes from their money.  

In Salem, the sprawl lobby wants more gargantuan infrastructure paid for with your money, so they dismiss all evidence that we're never going to have cheap energy again, and this never go back to rising auto usage. But, as always, Nature Bats Last, and nature ruthlessly punishes those who would ignore evidence in favor of fantasies about shale and fracking creating a new oil boom.    

http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2014/0416/Has-crude-oil-production-already-peaked

Monday, April 14, 2014

Plan now for May 1, 7 p.m. At Grand Theatre: The Healthcare Movie

Drive for Universal Health Care (DUH)
Health care activists from the east have been conducting a bus tour/caravan through the US and are now in California, headed for Oregon.  They are expected to arrive in Grants Pass, accompanied by Laurie Simons and Terry Sterrenberg, producers of The Healthcare Movie, and singer-songwriter Bob Wickline, on Sunday, April 27. The schedule:
  • April 27, 2:00-5:00 p.m., Unitarian Universalist Church, 525 NE 6th St., Grant's Pass
  • April 28, 6:30 p.m. Bijou Art Cinema, 492 13th Ave., Eugene
  • April 30, 7:00 p.m., First Unitarian Universalist Church, Elliot Chapel, 1011 SW 12th Ave., Portland
  • May 1, 7:00 p.m., Grand Theatre, 191 High St. NE, Salem
These events will include a screening of The Healthcare Movie, with live performances by Bob Wickline, and panel discussions afterwards with filmmakers Simons and Sterrenberg, DUH activists Sue Saltmarsh and Donna Ellington, and local advocates. In addition, supporters are invited to drive with the caravan from city to city. Each car will be responsible for their own expenses and will decide how far they want to go. Identifying ribbons and bumper stickers will be supplied to all drivers!
 
Find updates and details of the tour here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Energy and the Financial System: What Everyone Needs to Know… and Work Darn Hard to Avoid


Peak oil theorists have long been regarded by mainstream economists as the boys and girls who cried wolf. But just because the outlooks of mainstream economists failed to see the wolf does not mean it was not there. Rather, according to Roger Boyd's Energy and the Financial System: What Every Economist, Financial Analyst, and Investor Needs to Knowa rather large pack of wolves have been with us for quite some time now and our failure to deal with them has meant that they have grown in strength such that jointly they could derail the global economy.

To call Boyd a peak oil theorist, however, would be to reduce the complexity of his view for according to Boyd it is not only the availability of cheap oil that is in decline but rather what is in decline is the general availability of energy sources which provide a high amount of energy in return for energy invested. Indeed, Boyd's view revolves around a measure economists refer to as EROI, which measures the ratio between the amount of energy returned relative to energy invested. Thus we might better label Boyd a peak EROI Theorist for he believes that increasingly we will need to invest more energy in order to get energy back, as we have used up the vast majority of easily accessible high energy sources of oil, natural gas and to a lesser extent coal.

The importance of EROI is that to a large extent it determines the prosperity of society. The higher the EROI, the higher the prosperity levels, as we are able to direct more energy back into society rather than into producing more energy.  According to Boyd, "our modern societies have become so hooked on nearly-free energy… with an EROI of at least 8 : 1 being required to maintain the high living standards and complex society to which we have become accustomed". Higher up the sophistication level Boyd cites that a societal EROI of up to 14:1 is required to support such things as good education, health care, and the arts. As the EROI continues to drop, however, it is not only the arts that we have to worry about, rather as Boyd's book illustrates the implications are potentially far reaching and devastating with the potential to reverse global prosperity and to do so rather unequally. . . .

(Lots more, well worth a read.)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Orwell rules: Oregon transportation funding could fall by $500M [feedly]

        When is less waste and pollution a bad thing?  When it interferes with the sprawl lobby's plans for private profit at public expense, that's when!

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Oregon transportation funding could fall by $500M
// StatesmanJournal.com - News

People are driving less, and their vehicles have become more fuel efficient.