The Most Important Graph in the World

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Well observed

"bicycle friendly"...sometimesA ghost bike, a monument to yet another rider killed by a car. Image by drburtoni via Flickr

The very good "Breakfast on Bikes" blog has a good piece on the unfortunately situated Kroc Center.
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The "conservatives" threaten to push America into the abyss of corporate control

Abolish Corporate PersonhoodImage by vj_pdx via Flickr

The Rights of Corporations

That does not mean that corporations should have no rights. It is in society's interest that they are allowed to speak about their products and policies and that they are able to go to court when another company steals their patents. It makes sense that they can be sued, as a person would be, when they pollute or violate labor laws.

The law also gives corporations special legal status: limited liability, special rules for the accumulation of assets and the ability to live forever. These rules put corporations in a privileged position in producing profits and aggregating wealth. Their influence would be overwhelming with the full array of rights that people have.

One of the main areas where corporations' rights have long been limited is politics. Polls suggest that Americans are worried about the influence that corporations already have with elected officials. The drive to give corporations more rights is coming from the court's conservative bloc — a curious position given their often-proclaimed devotion to the text of the Constitution.

The founders of this nation knew just what they were doing when they drew a line between legally created economic entities and living, breathing human beings. The court should stick to that line.

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Standing up for those who can't stand up for themselves

Will Farrell and friends stand up for the real victims of the health insurance debate: insurance company executives.

Why the era of economic growth is over

Study that graph. (Y-o-Y . . . "Why, Oh Why" you might pronounce it --means "year over year.")

What the graph should show but doesn't is oil price. According to the conventional economic wisdom, plummeting demand for oil means plummeting prices ... not prices fully at 50% of their all-time peak.

What's going on? Why, oh why, is the world and particularly the US in such a state? Well, it's actually simple to understand, once you know that economic "growth" is simply a shorthand way of saying "measuring, in monetary units, of using more energy and materials." Given that, and given that our economic chefs assumed that there was a limitless energy supply when devising the recipe for everything grown, mined, made, or moved in this country, the consequences of reality seem abrupt and painful: energy is actually quite finite, and the kind of energy we're most dependent on --- cheap oil --- is now starting to decline in availability.

In other words, "demand" is recorded as declining because the powers-that-be cannot bring themselves to admit that the world would be quite happy to use lots more oil, except that it's not there (since only a infinitesimally small amount of oil is stored, demand always equals supply ... the graph above should be labeled "supply rate" rather than demand).

Bottom line, the minimum price needed to keep the oil flows from plunging happens to be above the price that causes economies built on cheap oil to collapse. The only way to square that circle and maintain the conventional wisdom blinders is to pretend that "demand" is down and to ignore that the high prices for oil in a reduced demand market seems to suggest that the law of supply and demand has been repealed. Either way, the catastrophic effects are the same: fewer jobs, more poverty, more hunger, more social unease as the post-peak-oil hangover kicks in.

The result for Salem: we're in the new era where "growth" and big new infrastructure projects -- the third bridge, new elementary schools, to name just a few -- are finished. All public investments from here out need to be aimed at reducing our reliance on fossil energy not increasing it or servicing those parts of our system that were built when we thought the party would last forever. (Hat tip to the Goal One Coalition blog for the graph.)