Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Grimly amusing Science video

The US Chamber of the 1% backs a lot of the non-science so capably demolished in this Youtube, which would rate a smile if it wasn't reporting on effects that will cause the mass extermination of poor people all over the world just to maintain business as usual for folks like -- well, the 1%.

> One of my favorite YouTube channels is "potholer54," an Australian science journalist. This one is a bit long (18:28) but worth a look. The very end is hilarious.
> "You cannot reason people out of positions they didn't reason themselves into."
> -- Ben Goldacre

Think Government Never Makes a Mistake over Life or Death Matters?

  2014 OADP Annual Meeting

Tuesday, May 13th in Eugene

Wrongful Executions Expert to Present

On Tuesday May 13th, American University Professor and author Richard Stack will be the keynote speaker at the 2014 annual meeting of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (OADP).

Professor Stack, author of three books, including his latest, GRAVE INJUSTICE: The Unearthing of Wrongful Executions will expand on major mistakes made in recent years. His compelling descriptions of nineteen wrongful executions illustrate the flaws of the death penalty, which he argues, is ineffective in deterring crime and cost more than sentences of life without parole.

Temple Beth Israel
1175 E. 29th Ave, Eugene 97403

Keynote Speaker:
Richard Stack, American University Professor and author of Grave Injustice
6 pm Dinner, 7pm Meeting & Program

Public is welcome Tickets $25

On Nov. 22, 2011 when Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber was announcing his moratorium on executions he stated "I am calling on the legislature to bring potential reforms before the 2013 legislative session and encourage all Oregonians to engage in the long overdue debate that this important issue deserves." The discussion moves to Eugene at this event.

"In practice Oregon has an expensive and unworkable death penalty system that fails to meet basic standards of justice. It is clear the system is broken"
Governor John Kitzhaber, November 22nd, 2011

Another part of the Governor's 2011 statement was "In practice Oregon has an expensive and unworkable death penalty system that fails to meet basic standards of justice. It is clear the system is broken". Basic standards of justice that resonate with Oregon voters are "fairness" and the "mistakes made in the administration of the death penalty system". The most tragic mistake is the execution of an innocent person.

The OADP annual meeting is an opportunity for all OADP supporters to gather together to approve the slate of officers for the next 12 months and to hear the about our progress on the journey to repeal in Oregon. The general public is invited to attend and take the opportunity to learn more about our efforts to improve the criminal justice system in Oregon.

Ticket are available on-line by going to, purchasing them with a credit card through Pay Pal. Individual tickets are only $25. Reserve tables for eight by calling (503) 990-7060.
Table sponsors will have a table sign, be noted in the program for the evening and recognized from the podium.

For more information contact Ron Steiner at, call (503) 990-7060 or go to

Cars are bankrupting Salem -- not just a downtown thing

Great post that helps explain why cars are bankrupting Salem, and it's got very little to do with the downtown core area where all the friction occurs over car storage.  The expanding periphery -- sprawl -- is an exponentially rising cost; the more we pave, the more things are pushed apart, requiring even more paving over a larger area.  

In other words, we're in the terminal phase of the Red Queen problem from Alice in Wonderland -- we have to run faster and faster just to stay in place.  We've built a city where cars come first, ahead of people, and it's bankrupting us.  We're cutting public goods like libraries to find the money to service our auto sprawl development pattern, which is devouring our budget.  And the more we sprawl, the more the sprawl lobby demands even more paving, which further devours the budget for actually providing services people might want (because the costs of serving low density sprawl development gets factored into everything from water and sewer networks to police, fire, streetlights, etc.)

It's time to stop.  

We need to institute a hard cap on paved surface in Salem, and concentrate our limited funds on maintaining and preserving what we have, and making it more usable to everyone -- the young, the old, the handicapped, and the poor -- starting by rebuilding our embarrassment of a pitiful part-time public transit system.

Not one more foot of paving in Salem until we are done restoring the transit system to a standard appropriate for a capital city in an environmentally aware state in a first-world country and making every existing road and street in Salem safe and welcoming for pedestrians and bicyclists aged 8 to 80+.

It's time to admit that we have a drinking problem -- we've been drinking the sprawl lobby's Kool-Aid (tm) for so long that we're seeing more of the actual and figurative bodies pile up around us, as we keep not seeing the decomposing blue whale plopped right in front of us:  our addiction to making cars the centerpieces of our civic life instead of people.

Exactly the issue with chasing growth in Salem

This is exactly the issue -- in Salem, the Chamber of the 1% chants "growth" and other nonsense and demands subsidies and tax breaks for its members, and claims justification for such policies because they produce "growth" in the things we do measure.  

But this is all while ignoring the even faster climb in the negative costs, which are passed on to the public as a whole but ignored because not measured.

Thus, the vicious cycle that Salem is experiencing -- we constantly chase "economic growth" but find ourselves falling further and further behind, because the negative consequences are overwhelming any positive ones.

Paul Krugman often writes sensibly and cogently about economic policy. But like many economists, he can become incoherent on the subject of growth. Consider his New York Times piece, published earlier this month:

…let's talk for a minute about the overall relationship between economic growth and the environment.

Other things equal, more G.D.P. tends to mean more pollution. What transformed China into the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases? Explosive economic growth. But other things don't have to be equal. There's no necessary one-to-one relationship between growth and pollution.

People on both the left and the right often fail to understand this point…On the left, you sometimes find environmentalists asserting that to save the planet we must give up on the idea of an ever-growing economy; on the right, you often find assertions that any attempt to limit pollution will have devastating impacts on growth…[Krugman says both are wrong]…But there's no reason we can't become richer while reducing our impact on the environment [emphasis mine].

Krugman distances himself from "leftist" environmentalists who say we must give up the idea of an ever-growing economy, and is himself apparently unwilling to give it up. But he thinks the "right-wingers" are wrong to believe that protecting the environment will devastate growth. Krugman then advocates the more sensible goal of "becoming richer," but fails to ask if growth in GDP is any longer really making us richer. He seems to equate, or at least fails to distinguish, "growing GDP" from "becoming richer." Does he assume that because GDP growth did make us richer in yesterday's empty world it must still do so in today's full world? The usual but unjustified assumption of many economists is that a growing GDP increases measured wealth by more than it increases unmeasured "illth" (a word coined by John Ruskin to designate the opposite of wealth).

To elaborate, illth is a joint product with wealth. At the current margin, it is likely that the GDP flow component of "bads" adds to the stock of "illth" faster than the GDP flow of goods adds to the stock of wealth. We fail to measure bads and illth because there is no demand for them, consequently no market and no price, so there is no easy measure of negative value. However, what is unmeasured does not for that reason become unreal. It continues to exist, and even grow. Since we do not measure illth, I cannot prove that growth is currently making us poorer, any more than Krugman can prove that it is making us richer. I am just pointing out that his GDP growthism assumes a proposition that, while true in the past, is very doubtful today in the US.

To see why it is doubtful, just consider a catalog of negative joint products whose value should be measured under the rubric of illth: climate change from excess carbon in the atmosphere; radioactive wastes and risks of nuclear power plants; biodiversity loss; depleted mines; deforestation; eroded topsoil; dry wells, rivers and aquifers; the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico; gyres of plastic trash in the oceans; the ozone hole; exhausting and dangerous labor; and the un-repayable debt from trying to push growth in the symbolic financial sector beyond what is possible in the real sector (not to mention military expenditures to maintain access to global resources). . . .

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

the more you rely on corporate media, the less you know

David Brooks, the sociopath stenographer to the elites, gives us an interesting column for a change, where it seems that some of the elites are recognizing the same things that peak oil folks have -- that we're inevitably headed to a much rougher, much more localized future, in the absence of the lifeblood of modern mechanized empire, cheap oil.

Also note how Brooks has to bow to the "both sides are the problem" meme and concoct a huge lie to do it -- that the "defense" budget has been slashed (which he wants to blame on the Democrats, to complete his false equation or irresponsibility by "both" "sides.")

The NY Times should run a correction tomorrow, just as it would if anyone, even an editorialist, wrote that Thomas Jefferson wrote and issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  But it won't. 

This is why the more you rely on corporate media, the less you know. 

They rarely lie on the major premises of their articles, the parts everyone reads closely. What they do is wrap clearly labeled opinions in a thick gauzy blanket of seemingly objective/neutral statements that are perfectly phrased to slide through your BS detectors with the least chance of setting off the alarm, and all of which are screaming lies.  Today, Brooks' task is to make sure that none of the proles get the idea that, if we're not going to be throwing our weight around so much, we should stop spending more on war toys than the next 20 countries.

Anyone who thinks the "defense" budget has been slashed, please contact me, I have some good investment opportunities for you, including some notable infrastructure in Brooklyn.

All around, the fabric of peace and order is fraying. The leaders of Russia and Ukraine escalate their apocalyptic rhetoric. The Sunni-Shiite split worsens as Syria and Iraq slide into chaos. China pushes its weight around in the Pacific.

I help teach a grand strategy course at Yale, and I asked my colleagues to make sense of what's going on. Charles Hill, who was a legendary State Department officer before going to Yale, wrote back:

"The 'category error' of our experts is to tell us that our system is doing just fine and proceeding on its eternal course toward ever-greater progress and global goodness. This is whistling past the graveyard.

"The lesson-category within grand strategic history is that when an established international system enters its phase of deterioration, many leaders nonetheless respond with insouciance, obliviousness, and self-congratulation. When the wolves of the world sense this, they, of course, will begin to make their moves to probe the ambiguities of the aging system and pick off choice pieces to devour at their leisure.

"This is what Putin is doing; this is what China has been moving toward doing in the maritime waters of Asia; this is what in the largest sense the upheavals of the Middle East are all about: i.e., who and what politico-ideological force will emerge as hegemon over the region in the new order to come. The old order, once known as 'the American Century' has been situated within 'the modern era,' an era which appears to be stalling out after some 300-plus years. The replacement era will not be modern and will not be a nice one."

When Hill talks about the modern order he is referring to a state system that restrained the two great vices of foreign affairs: the desire for regional dominance and the desire to eliminate diversity. Throughout recorded history, large regional powers have generally gobbled up little nations. Powerful people have generally tried to impose their version of the Truth on less powerful people.

But, over these centuries, civilized leaders have banded together to restrain these vices. As far back as the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, dominant powers tried to establish procedures and norms to secure national borders and protect diversity. Hegemons like the Nazis or the Communists tried to challenge this system, but the other powers fought back.

Today that system is under assault not by a single empire but by a hundred big and little foes. As Walter Russell Mead argues in a superb article in Foreign Affairs, geopolitics is back with a vengeance. Whether it's Russia seizing Crimea or China asserting itself, old-fashioned power plays are back in vogue. Meanwhile, pre-modern movements and people try to eliminate ethnic and religious diversity in Egypt, Ukraine and beyond.

China, Russia and Iran have different values, but all oppose this system of liberal pluralism. The U.S. faces a death by a thousand cuts dilemma. No individual problem is worth devoting giant resources to. It's not worth it to spend huge amounts of treasure to establish stability in Syria or defend a Western-oriented Ukraine. But, collectively, all the little problems can undermine the modern system. No individual ailment is worth the expense of treating it, but, collectively, they can kill you.

John Gaddis, another grand strategy professor, directs us to George Kennan's insights from the early Cold War, which he feels are still relevant as a corrective to the death-by-a-thousand-cuts mentality. He argues that we should contain these menaces until they collapse internally. The Moscow regime requires a hostile outside world to maintain its own internal stability. That's a weakness. By not behaving stupidly, by not overextending ourselves for example, we can, Gaddis argues, "make sure Putin's seeds of self-destruction are more deeply rooted than our own."

That's smart, but I think I'm less sure that time is on our side. The weakness with any democratic foreign policy is the problem of motivation. How do you get the electorate to support the constant burden of defending the liberal system?

It was barely possible when we were facing an obviously menacing foe like the Soviet Union. But it's harder when the system is being gouged by a hundred sub-threshold threats. The Republicans seem to have given up global agreements that form the fabric of that system, while Democrats are slashing the defense budget that undergirds it.

Moreover, people will die for Mother Russia or Allah. But it is harder to get people to die for a set of pluralistic procedures to protect faraway places. It's been pulling teeth to get people to accept commercial pain and impose sanctions.

The liberal pluralistic system is not a spontaneous natural thing. Preserving that hard-earned ecosystem requires an ever-advancing fabric of alliances, clear lines about what behavior is unacceptably system-disrupting, and the credible threat of political, financial and hard power enforcement.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

THIS is what Salem should model itself after, not carburbia

Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host Chris Martenson, and today we're going to continue our dialogue on how to take your money away from Wall Street and put it to work on Main Street. It is our mission to surface and promote the sorts of investments that make our world a better place. And, fortunately, there are more and more examples to choose from thanks to dedicated and hardworking people everywhere.

I was really intrigued by something by something that came up in a 

recent interview

 with Michael Shuman on local investment opportunities when he said this:

What I attribute Burlington's success to is that for the last twenty-five years, their economic development team, led in part by a fellow named Bruce Seifer, focused not on the attraction of global companies but focused instead on the nurturing of local business and local entrepreneurship. And they did it in a hundred different ways. They have done it through very careful downtown development of Burlington, they have done it through entrepreneurship programs and lending programs targeted to women, immigrants, minority groups. They have done it through interesting types of smart growth. They have done it through helping to organize small local business alliances as something different from the typical Chamber of Commerce, which usually gives bigger companies a louder voice. And I just feel like, you know, that is a testament—that is a design of economic development that more and more communities should be paying attention to.

(Much more at link ...)

And it's still the right thing to do

        The only honest way to evaluate electoral reforms is to forget about your political preferences and simply seek reforms that fix problems for everyone, without worrying about whether it helps you or hurts you in the present tense.

Although the claim linked here is that the National Popular Vote would help Republicans, in fact it would help everyone, because the Electoral College is an absurdity that produces idiots like W.  Every American's vote should count the same in electing to our sole national elected office (the veep position aside).

Here in Salem, we have the usually thoughtful Sen. Peter Courtney refusing to allow NPV to come for a vote, and, worse, refusing to justify his position or even explain it.

Opportunity Pounding On Our Door -- will we open it?

All the emails mentioned are in one lump at the bottom, along with a sample letter you can modify to suit yourself. 

 The words you use matter less than the fact that you care enough to write and make clear that you want us to seize this truly once-in-100-years opportunity, creating a tremendous resource for the future.

Silverton to Stayton Rail to Trail

The railroad between Silverton and Stayton is only weeks away from being abandoned. After the application to abandon the line is filed with the Surface Transportation Board, we have only a few weeks to file an application with the STB to let them know of the intent to convert the railroad right of way to a trail. 

Our application should come from a public agency such as Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The OPRD manages several rails to trails in Oregon.

Rocky Houston, state trails coordinator, said that he needs to see a large, grassroots effort in support of the trail in order to make this a priority for OPRD.  

Action Item #1

Do This:  Call or email Rocky Houston, OPRD trails coordinator, email is best:;or call 503 986-0750, leave a message since he is out frequently.

Just tell him that this is an important project and the Silverton to Stayton rail line should become a state park.

You may also want to contact Steve Kay, Recreation Grants and Community Programs Manager (Rocky's boss). 503 .

Action Item #2

Call your state representative or senator and to say this is an important project and should be a state park. 

The legislature can set the priorities for park acquisition if given enough encouragement

Vic Gilliam and Kevin Cameron are the State Representatives for most of the trail, 
Rep. Cameron is also running for Marion County Commissioner. 
Rep. Cameron's phone is503 986-1419  and his email is: .

Rep. Gilliam's phone number is: 503 986-1418 and his email is:

Jackie Winters and Fred Girod are the State Senators for this area.

Senator Winters phone number is: 503 986-1710; her email is
Senator Girod's phone number is: 503 986-1709; his email is:

If we can get 100 people to send emails or make calls, we could convince the OPRD that this is an important project.

Please contact all these people this weekend (and ask your city council to submit a resolution in support too!)

All the emails mentioned above (though it wouldn't hurt to write your own state rep and senator, and the other Marion County Commissioners too)

Sample letter:

I am writing to you because it is urgent that we act quickly to submit our application for Rails-to-Trails conversion for the Stayton-Silverton Shortline RR that is being abandoned.

This creates a tremendous and unexpected opportunity to leave a wonderful lasting legacy that will be among the proudest things we will do for ourselves and our area.  And you will be able to look back proudly and explain to your kids and grand kids and all your friends and neighbors how you were instrumental in helping make a great trail come to be.

Please do not let this once-per-century gift be squandered and lost! If this Rails-to-Trails application project doesn't get submitted and get strong public backing NOW, the moment will be lost, and will never be available again, as the rail right-of-way will revert into fragmented pieces.

Please do your part for a better future, make this a top priority for Oregon and Marion County.

Thank you,
(Your name and contact info)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Likely the first thing Hovde has ever written that is spot-on

       O "guest columnist" Elizabeth Hovde has a very poor batting average for worthwhile opinion pieces. She seems like a decent enough person individually but her position of privilege and fealty to supposedly "conservative" positions regularly leads her to write absurd things in defense of the indefensible.  She is so busy trying to police the morals of the poor that she pays no mind to the the moral delinquency and destruction in what the 1% are doing to destroy America and most of the people in it, including folks like Hovde.

But, credit where credit is due, she knocks this one out of the park.  Amazing what a little personal experience with a health crisis or injury can do.

Advanced directives -- everyone should do one as part of graduating from high school or GED class, and then sign it on their 18th birthday if they couldn't before.  And then review it annually each birthday thereafter.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Greet the future or gut transit and blow hundreds of millions on auto-enabling relics

To the Salem Area Mass Transit District (Cherriots) Board:

Gee, we could either bow to the wishes of the Chamber of the 1% and funnel hundreds of millions into their pockets by building a neighborhood-destroying transit-impeding Eisenhower-era highway through town to open up more sprawl development opportunities (for that same crowd of 1%ers) or we could, for just pennies on the dollar compared to that, give Salem a functioning transit system that let's everyone in Salem participate in work, play, schooling and worship seven days a week, which would attract the kind of people we need for vitality and real development that adds value to the community, instead of just mines it for the benefit of the few.

 If Cherriots refuses to stand up and name, shame, and reject the demands of the anonymous bullies on the "Salem River Crossing" Oversight Team who hate even the idea of thinking about transit options, then Cherriots board is acting like an abused wife, constantly being beaten and abused and groveling to ask for forgiveness from her abuser, while making excuses and enabling that same abuse.  

There is no way that anyone whose duty it is to promote the interests of mass transit in Salem can support watering down the already weak tea resolution on this misbegotten money-grab, turning what should be a full-throated "Hell No" on the "Salem River Crossing" into an even more servile statement of no principles.

7. Survey: Little car love among urban Millennials
More than half the adults between ages 18 and 34 questioned about transportation said they would consider moving to another city if it had more and better options for getting around, according to a new national survey. Nearly half of the young adult vehicle owners surveyed agreed they would seriously consider giving up their car if they could count on a range of transportation options.  
USA Today, April 24

Monday, April 21, 2014

Group plans motion to defend Oregon same-sex marriage ban

        From the "You're doing it wrong" file ... Attention-slut homophobes plan to "defend" marriage by keeping people they hate and fear from participating in it.  

Still waiting for their campaign to abolish divorce for straights. . . .

Group plans motion to defend Oregon same-sex marriage ban
// - News

The National Organization for Marriage announced plans today to file a motion to defend Oregon's state ban on same-sex marriage in federal court.

Great evidence of no need to commit to road expansions: DOT: Vehicle Miles Driven decreased 0.8% year-over-year in February [feedly]

The goal of the sprawl lobby has never been to build the Bridgasaurus Boondogglus anytime real soon, they know there's no stomach for that. Rather, their goal has always been to get into the transportation plan now, so that years from now, they can turn to people fighting the absurd bridge and say "it's too late" (because it's in the transportation plan).

That is always the sprawl lobby's plan and a key part of their modus operandi. They subject citizens to decades-long planning processes that seem to go nowhere, and they avoid allowing citizens to have a clear choice early in the process when there's a chance of stopping the steamroller before it starts. If the Citizen advisory group doesn't come up with the recommendation programmed by the elites pulling the strings from the sprawl lobby seats, they just ignore the recommendations. 

That's what happened here in Salem. Despite a stacked panel expressly designed to build support for the Bridgeasaurus Boondogglus, the advisory panel never even excepted the idea that we needed a new bridge at all. The "no build" option had the highest support of any of the options considered by the citizens advisory panel.

But the millions of dollars in spending keep going on, lining CH2M Hill's pockets. Make work for consultants and planners is all that it has been so far.

Now the Chamber of Commerce is backing four clone candidates for city Council, all of whom argue that we need a new bridge, although we have no way to pay for it, and there's no evidence that this bridge would do anything to address the problems the so-called "environmental impact statement" process was intended to address.

The hypocrisy of the so-called "business" types is astonishing and would be hilarious if it wasn't so deadly and expensive for Salem. The Chamber and the business lobby around Salem love to present themselves as hard-nosed, clear-eyed thinkers, guardians of the taxpayers wallet, able to read a budget in the spreadsheet and draw the right inferences. But dangle enough taxpayer money in front of them, and they salivate like Pavlov's dog on steroids, and they throw out any notion of looking at the data and the need before deciding on the solution. When it comes the big infrastructure projects, their position is clear and consistent:  the more wasteful the better.

They retreat into gauzy phrases about "moving forward" and "progress" — all the empty phrases they would eviscerate if it came from a hippie in a dress talking about things like community building and proposing the tiniest of taxes to pay for her proposals.

One of the chamber clone candidates is a poohbah in the restaurant Association, the lobby group that has done great harm to Oregon in its fanatic opposition to paying living wages. Workers in fast food joints and restaurants throughout Salem suffer greatly from the lack of a functioning transit system, with absolutely no transit all on weekends. Thus, these workers are dependent on automobiles, which helps keep them poor. Anyone who actually gave a fig about the interests of the Oregon restaurant Association, its members, or the people of Salem, would oppose the Bridgasaurus Boondogglus vociferously. 

Tax the people of Salem 200+ dollars a year for 20 years to build an expressway to connect Polk County and Keizer, and Salem is going to take a severe economic hit. Any candidate who supports that should not be running for election to anything in Salem.

DOT: Vehicle Miles Driven decreased 0.8% year-over-year in February
// Calculated Risk

The Department of Transportation (DOT) reported:
Travel on all roads and streets changed by -0.8% (-1.7 billion vehicle miles) for February 2014 as compared with February 2013.. . .

In the early '80s, miles driven (rolling 12 months) stayed below the previous peak for 39 months.

Currently miles driven has been below the previous peak for 75 months - 6+ years - and still counting.  Currently miles driven (rolling 12 months) are about 2.3% below the previous peak.

The second graph shows the year-over-year change from the same month in the previous year.

Vehicle Miles Driven YoY In February 2014, gasoline averaged of $3.43 per gallon according to the EIA.  that was down from February 2013 when prices averaged $3.73 per gallon.

As we've discussed, gasoline prices are just part of the story.  The lack of growth in miles driven over the last 6 years is probably also due to the lingering effects of the great recession (high unemployment rate and lack of wage growth), the aging of the overall population (over 55 drivers drive fewer miles) and changing driving habits of young drivers.

When the internet dies, meet the meshnet that survives - 19 April 2014 - New Scientist

Salem public safety officials could much more usefully spend time building this than on a plan to build a new police Taj Mahal

Saturday, April 19, 2014

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

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?

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


Friday, April 18, 2014

The most crucial, least understood problem we face today

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)


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.

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!

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

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

Rethinking city lots and the deeper cause of our decay

        The critical piece missing in places like Salem is recognition that we get the development we reward, primarily through taxation.  We have a tax system that punishes development in the most logical places (urban parking lots) by keeping taxes low if the owner keeps the low value use in place, but then raising taxes if a new building is built on the lot.

          We try to address it with a bunch of complicated workarounds that make the Cover Oregon website seem like a model of efficiency -- urban renewal areas, etc.  Each such workaround creates a constituency for tax favoritism and the rewarding of well-connected friends, and incentives for real estate and building interests to dominate planning commissions to steer the outcomes in their preferred direction.  Instead of a uniform tax system, we have a property tax system for the downtowns-- what should be our most tax productive land-- where the exceptions and favors have swallowed the system.

        We don't even bother measuring results -- we just move from one "urban renewal" scheme to the next, never asking why all this "renewal" isn't producing vitality.  And we ignore what this financing-by-favors-to-friends does to the basic core functions of public governance (public safety, education, environmental protection).  We divert money away from core services to reward speculators and developers, who get the reward up front (the tax favors) before we have any chance to know whether their scheme was valuable or a dud.  And then, like the patient in colonial America being bled by the physician, we prescribe another round of urban renewal because the patient still appears sickly!

        Our property tax system is a relic from a vastly different era, and it's serving us about as well as a medical procedures manual from the 1700s would serve a physician.  Until we address this root cause of urban property development distortion, we are going to continue to have downtowns like Salem's -- littered with vacant lots serving only for the care, feeding, and storage of autos, next to far too many vacant storefronts, in a city with overwhelmed human services and declining public services, lots of homeless folks, and sprawl development at the periphery suctioning resources away from the core so that real estate interests can keep pouring new pavement for profit, while sticking the rest of us with the tab.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

David Cay Johnston, Loucks Auditorium 3 pm, Sat. May 3rd

Do not miss this vital and eye-opening speaker.

If your blood isn't boiling after hearing him, you're either dead or among the 1%.

Loucks is next to the main branch of the Salem Public Library, which is at 555 Liberty St SE in Salem.

I'd tell you which bus routes it is on, but Salem's public transit system is down there with third-world places like Rwanda, so we have no weekend transit, and so knowing the bus routes will do you good to hear David Cay Johnston, who will likely talk about how disinvestment in public goods like transit has been startlingly effective in helping us have third world levels of inequality as well.

Charles Blow's awesome and dead-on rant

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

So true (said the guy with 8)!

Rules of thumb

You'll be sorry if you get into an argument with someone who drives a car with more than two bumper stickers.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The hidden Achilles' heel in the Supreme Court's McCutcheon ruling

The one thing we can say for sure about the Roberts court is that they love them some money. For the Radical Right majority on the current court, the purpose of the Constitution was to create a commercial republic operated by a Board of Directors with as little input as possible from the rabble whose sole function was to do the work needed to keep the wealth flowing to the investor class.

Thus, when Arizona tried to provide matching public funds so that political candidates were not bought and sold like tires and six packs of beer, the court struck down the public funding — because, to the Roberts court, anything that reduces the influence of money is necessarily evil. However, the twisted logic used to justify striking down laws giving increased public funding to candidates who face a wealthy opponent who is self financing the campaign without public funds is that the public funding would somehow "chill" the speech of the self financing millionaire or billionaire. That "logic" was that the poor billionaire or millionaire trying to buy a seat would not be able to keep up with public funding.

Now, however, that the court has all but done away with any form of campaign bribery limitations — throwing open the door for unlimited contributions from corporations, and throwing down aggregate limits on how much individuals can contribute, and signaling that all contribution limits are soon to follow — there is no justification whatsoever for the idea that public funding does anything to deter or chill speech by wealthy individuals.

The court's bizarre Arizona decision was always tantamount to saying that anything the public wanted to do to prevent their politicians being bought and sold in a marketplace of contributions — thinly disguised bribes — was somehow a limit on the power of money to contest for those races, and that anything that limits the power of money over democracy is a violation of the First Amendment. But, having removed all limits the power of money, hasn't the court given us an opportunity to seek public funding for all elections, so that individuals can refuse to buy the tainted candidates and can insist on voting only for those who accept only public financing.

The bottom line is that the corporate board analogy for elected officials isn't entirely wrong; it is true that elected officials serve as kind of a policy boards for the governments that they oversee. But in that case, we need to look at what that policy board metaphor suggests: would Exxon Mobil allow shell or BP to determine who sits on the Exxon Mobil board by funding the candidates for the board? Would Coke allow Pepsi to select all the candidates for consideration by the Coke nominating committee by funding the search for the candidates for the Coke board? That is exactly what is happening in politics in America today: institutions who are often in conflict with and who often wish to weaken and surmount political controls are being given tools with which to determine who sits on the Board of Directors for those political bodies they oppose and would subvert.

The Dred Scott decision – that a person was a piece of property who could never have the rights of an individual under the American system — led to a Civil War and the slaughter of hundreds of thousands to undo. The Roberts court, with its fraudulent devotion to textualism masking a profoundly radical agenda to defang democracy once and for all and make America safe for corporate rule, has, in its reckless and totally non-textual Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions, produced the Dred Scott decision for the 21st century that will be even more consequential.

Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy will be remembered with Justice Taney, men of shocking and dangerous blindness, learned but devoid of any understanding or commitment to democracy.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Warning to Salem! Chamber-backed Candidates Want to Tax You To Benefit Only Themselves

It's pitiful that we're watching Polk Co budget meltdown and simultaneously proposing to squander hundreds of millions from the pockets of Salem residents to allow a few wealthy area developers to profit from overtaxing Polk County services even further.  We know that residential development in sprawl patterns costs more than it produces in tax revenue base, so the Bridgeasaurus is actually a job and services killer in Salem and in Polk County too..


Ward 2: Tom Andersen and Bradd Swank are against the 3rd Bridge and for common sense alternatives to address crossing issues.  

Ward 4: Scott Bassett is against the 3rd Bridge and for common sense alternatives to address crossing issues.  
Xue Lor did not complete the Chamber questionnaire but is known to be against the 3rd Bridge and for common sense alternatives to address crossing issues.  

Ward 8: Both Jim Lewis and Christopher Proudfoot are for the 3rd Bridge AND TAXING AND TOLLING YOU TO PAY FOR THE BRIDGE TO BENEFIT THEIR FRIENDS.

Vote Andersen, Bassett, Lor, and the mayoral and Ward 8 write-ins to be named later!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sign up for 2014 Food-Share Community Garden Plots -- they'll go fast!


Would you like to rent a garden plot this season? Please see below for the up-to-date list of community garden locations and availability.


Happy Spring! 


Ingrid Evjen-Elias

Community Garden Coordinator


T: 503-798-0457

F: 503-581-3862


1660 Salem Industrial Drive NE

Salem OR 97301-0374   







Community Garden Locations and Contact Information

2014 Season




Calvary Chapel Community Garden

1550 Hoffman Road NE

Lyna Ramsey


FULL for 2014


Brown Road Community Garden

2350 Brown Rd. NE

Kaleb Herring



Fuente de Vida

3295 Ladd Ave. NE

Linda Mungia & Pamela Lyons-Nelson



Hammond Community Garden

4900 Bayne St. NE

Michelle Bertholf



Highland Neighborhood Garden

Corner of Hazel and Columbia NE

Karen Hill

FULL for 2014


Isaac's Garden

355 14th St. NE

Nichole Rose



Jardín de la Paz

4625 Cordon Rd. NE

Jose Gonzalez



Northgate Forgiveness & Peace Garden

Northgate City Park, north end of Fairhaven

Amador & Veronica Aguilar



Northgate New Direction Garden

3193 Silverton Rd. NE Salem, OR

Pastor Dell & Wil Parker

503-983-5583 or 503-584-1637


Redeemer Community Garden

4663 Lancaster Drive NE

Jan Shearer




Baxter Hill Community Garden

1770 Baxter Road SE

Tom Martin


FULL for 2014


EDEN: Eat. Discover. Educate. Nurture.

4890 32nd Ave. SE

Christie Edwards

503-588-5647 x100


Julie's Garden

590 Elma St. SE

Sarah Owens & Michael Livingston

(503) 302-5819


South Salem Friends Community Garden

1140 Baxter Rd. SE

Patricia Callaway

(503) 363-4372

FULL for 2014


Southeast Salem Neighborhood Garden

410 19th St. NE

Marcia Hoak & Rob Gould



St. Francis Community Garden

1820 Berry St. SE

Claudia Howells


FULL for 2014


Sunnyside Community Garden

Sunnyside and Valleywood SE

Dina Devoe



Sunnyslope Community Garden

4201 Liberty Rd. S.

Norm Reiss & Sally Cook 





Ellen Lane Community Garden

3100 Garrett Dr. NW

Jim O'Toole


FULL for 2014


Orchard Heights Community Garden

Orchard Heights City Park, NW

Heather Burns & Jane Lamb





West Salem Boys & Girls Club Community Garden

925 Gerth St. NW

Robert Haley

(503) 375-3551




Clearlake UMC Community Garden
7920 Wheatland Rd.
Darren Schmidt  



John Knox Community Garden

452 Cummings Lane N

Mary Jo Emmett



Southeast Keizer Community Garden

1045 Candlewood Drive NE

Joseph Penner



Rickman Community Garden

930 Chemawa Rd. NE

Tanya Hamilton



Whittam Community Garden

5205 Ridge Drive NE

Kathy Whittam





Planting Communities!

Multiple locations

Ian Niktab & Erubiel Valladares





Silverton Grange Garden

Cate Tennyson





Aumsville Community Garden

965 Olney St.

Patty Massingale



Mill City Community Garden

Kimmel Park, Mill City

Susan Chamberlin



Stayton Community Garden

N. 4th Ave. & E. Florence St.

Rachel Wolf



St. Joseph's Community Garden

925 S. Main St. (Mt. Angel)

Sister Marcella





Grace Baptist Community Garden

1855 Ellendale Ave.

Russ Hillsinger



Gathering Place Community Garden

1247 SE Uglow St.

Michelle Johnson

(503) 930-2866


Grande Ronde Community Garden

825 Grande Ronde Rd.

Patti LuClaire

(503) 851-2999






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Marion-Polk Food Share | 1660 Salem Industrial Dr. NE | Salem | OR | 97301