2019/01/21: The physical and psychological toll of brutal commutes can be considerable the average American commuter spends 42 hours per year stuck in rush-hour traffic. In the Los Angeles area, the figure is nearly twice that, equivalent to more than three days. A 2015 Los Angeles Times poll found that among residents of that city, traffic concerns exceed those pertaining to personal safety, finances or housing costs.
A recent analysis of Los Angeles traffic, published in the Journal of Public Economics, documented a link between congestion and domestic violence. From 2011 to 2015, the study found, extreme evening traffic on two major highways — I-5 and I-10 — increased the incidence of nighttime domestic violence by about 9 percent.
2019/01/01: The next revolution will be the ascent of analog systems over which the dominion of digital programming comes to an end. Nature’s answer to those who sought to control nature through programmable machines is to allow us to build machines whose nature is beyond programmable control.
2018/11/26: a wake effect from upwind wind farms that can reduce the energy production of downwind neighbor turbines. We highlight the need for coordinated development and awareness of the big picture to maximize wind energy generation nationwide.
2018/12/05: The whole “fighting climate change” frame rests on the assumption that opposition is the best way to get things done. But that’s not always the case, as the linguist Deborah Tannen wrote in The Argument Culture: Stopping America’s War of Words back in 1998. Military and sports metaphors train us to see everything in terms of conflict — this side versus that side — and that perspective limits our collective imagination about what we can do to fix complex problems.
Coming from a pacifist background, and obsessed with linguistics, I’ve grown uneasy with the way war shapes our words. The thought struck me earlier this year: By pitting one group against another, do war metaphors undermine our ability to address the complex problem of climate change, the biggest global crisis we face? Are there other ways to frame our predicament and convey the sense of urgency that’s needed — without dividing us into Hatfields and McCoys?
My gut feeling was that talking about climate change as a battle between rivals will ensure our ultimate defeat. But the reality might be more complicated than that.
Hundreds of other studies have shown that the best way to get people to stop demonizing each other is to introduce them to the actual human beings they disagree with.
Instead of turning differences into fights, I could frame the climate discussion in positive terms — discussing how a shift to renewable energy creates jobs, for example.
2018/05/30: unlike even the most property-friendly founders Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Buchanan wanted a private governing elite of corporate power that was wholly released from public accountability.
Suppressing voting, changing legislative processes so that a normal majority could no longer prevail, sowing public distrust of government institutions— all these were tactics toward the goal. But the Holy Grail was the Constitution: alter it and you could increase and secure the power of the wealthy in a way that no politician could ever challenge.
MacLean argues that despite the rhetoric of Virginia school acolytes, shrinking big government is not really the point. The oligarchs require a government with tremendous new powers so that they can bypass the will of the people. This, as MacLean points out, requires greatly expanding police powers “to control the resultant popular anger.” The spreading use of pre-emption by GOP-controlled state legislatures to suppress local progressive victories such as living wage ordinances is another example of the right’s aggressive use of state power.
Could these right-wing capitalists allow private companies to fill prisons with helpless citizens—or, more profitable still, right-less undocumented immigrants? They could, and have. Might they engineer a retirement crisis by moving Americans to inadequate 401(k)s? Done. Take away the rights of consumers and workers to bring grievances to court by making them sign forced arbitration agreements? Check. Gut public education to the point where ordinary people have such bleak prospects that they have no energy to fight back? Getting it done.
Would they even refuse children clean water? Actually, yes.
MacLean notes that in Flint, Michigan, Americans got a taste of what the emerging oligarchy will look like — it tastes like poisoned water. There, the Koch-funded Mackinac Center pushed for legislation that would allow the governor to take control of communities facing emergency and put unelected managers in charge. In Flint, one such manager switched the city’s water supply to a polluted river, but the Mackinac Center’s lobbyists ensured that the law was fortified by protections against lawsuits that poisoned inhabitants might bring. Tens of thousands of children were exposed to lead, a substance known to cause serious health problems including brain damage.
Tyler Cowen has provided an economic justification for this kind of brutality, stating that where it is difficult to get clean water, private companies should take over and make people pay for it. “This includes giving them the right to cut off people who don’t—or can’t—pay their bills,” the economist explains.
To many this sounds grotesquely inhumane, but it is a way of thinking that has deep roots in America. In Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative (2005), Buchanan considers the charge of heartlessness made against the kind of classic liberal that he took himself to be. MacLean interprets his discussion to mean that people who “failed to foresee and save money for their future needs” are to be treated, as Buchanan put it, “as subordinate members of the species, akin to…animals who are dependent.’”
Buchanan, a 1940 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University who later attended the University of Chicago for graduate study, started out as a conventional public finance economist. But he grew frustrated by the way in which economic theorists ignored the political process.
Buchanan began working on a description of power that started out as a critique of how institutions functioned in the relatively liberal 1950s and ‘60s, a time when economist John Maynard Keynes’s ideas about the need for government intervention in markets to protect people from flaws so clearly demonstrated in the Great Depression held sway. Buchanan, MacLean notes, was incensed at what he saw as a move toward socialism and deeply suspicious of any form of state action that channels resources to the public. Why should the increasingly powerful federal government be able to force the wealthy to pay for goods and programs that served ordinary citizens and the poor?
In thinking about how people make political decisions and choices, Buchanan concluded that you could only understand them as individuals seeking personal advantage. In an interview cited by MacLean, the economist observed that in the 1950s Americans commonly assumed that elected officials wanted to act in the public interest. Buchanan vehemently disagreed — that was a belief he wanted, as he put it, to “tear down.” His ideas developed into a theory that came to be known as “public choice.”
Buchanan’s view of human nature was distinctly dismal. Adam Smith saw human beings as self-interested and hungry for personal power and material comfort, but he also acknowledged social instincts like compassion and fairness. Buchanan, in contrast, insisted that people were primarily driven by venal self-interest. Crediting people with altruism or a desire to serve others was “romantic” fantasy: politicians and government workers were out for themselves, and so, for that matter, were teachers, doctors, and civil rights activists. They wanted to control others and wrest away their resources: “Each person seeks mastery over a world of slaves,” he wrote in his 1975 book, The Limits of Liberty.
Does that sound like your kindergarten teacher? It did to Buchanan.
The people who needed protection were property owners, and their rights could only be secured though constitutional limits to prevent the majority of voters from encroaching on them, an idea Buchanan lays out in works like Property as a Guarantor of Liberty (1993). MacLean observes that Buchanan saw society as a cutthroat realm of makers (entrepreneurs) constantly under siege by takers (everybody else) His own language was often more stark, warning the alleged “prey” of “parasites” and “predators” out to fleece them.
Automobile exhaust is an important contributor to air pollution, but this fuel tax inordinately hits people of moderate to low income who are already using as little gas as possible, cannot afford to live closer to where they need to go or buy a new, fuel-efficient car. Curbing industrial emissions through technology or degrowth, improvement in mass transit, urban planning and policies aimed at gentrification and investment real estate are alternatives.
2018/03/12: The basic appeal of the internet of things, or IoT, is that it will make all your objects “smart,” in much the same way your cell phone is.
By imbuing other objects with the ability to access the internet, the invention opens the door for a number of other breakthroughs, all of which differ depending on their field. For instance, a smart refrigerator might reduce the amount of food waste a family commits, which could have an impact on the way grocery stores stock their shelves and farms grow their products. A smart washing machine, however, might optimize water usage and communicate that data to an area’s water source, which can improve regions’ environmental efficiency.
2018/10/25: A report released earlier this year by HSBC predicted that Texas is on track to outpace the oil production of both Iran and Iraq by 2019. Texas is home to two rather massive oil fields, and behind Russia and Saudi Arabia, it’s the number three oil producer in the world. The shale oil boom has contributed greatly to that, making the Permian Basin a hotbed of production.
The shale oil development and growth in Texas has been defined as reshaping the world’s energy landscape. The result is the pumping of more oil out of the U.S., making the country less reliant on imports from the Middle East. According to reports, the combined output of the Permian and Eagle Ford (the south Texas oil field) is expected to be 5.6 million barrels per day in 2019. That will see the Lone Star State producing over half of America’s entire oil production. In comparison, Iraq is producing 4.8 million barrels per day while Iran is on track for 3 million a day.
2018/11/29: If two-parent families could support themselves with only one parent working outside the home in the past, then something is wrong with “growth” that imposes a de facto need for two incomes.
There needs to be a return to the notion of the oikos, or household, or marriage, as unit, rather than atomized Jane (or as Obama and Orwell both put it, Julia). Matrimony was always intended to be a shared division of labor that would protect the mothers long term interests while raising family. And that marriage needs a rebuttressing by the church in the face of today's pressures.
2018/12/01: researchers tested samples for abrasion, seam strength, and colorfastness over the course of eight weeks. The results? Fast fashion is pretty damn durable, and pricey tees might be a waste of money.
Some of the garments performed very well across a wide range of tests - more often than not, the best products were ‘fast fashion’ products,.
A number of fast fashion products demonstrate significantly better value for money that other brands - especially when compared to ‘designer’ brands.
Jeans from one fashion brand lasted twice as long as a designer label jeans, but cost one tenth of the price of the designer jeans.
2018/11/28: In 2012 people generated 2.8 trillion GB of data worldwide, or enough to write 10 million Blu-Ray discs. By 2030, that figure is expected to multiply nearly forty times. The rapid expansion of the so-called Internet of Things, or IoT, is the spark behind this explosion of user data.
In 2010 there were 12.5 billion internet-connected devices in the world. By 2020 there will be 50 billion, incorporating any and all devices that can connect to the internet – such as smart home appliances, smart phones and in the not too distant future, smart cars. But of all the data generated by the 12.5 billion internet-connected devices in 2010, only 0.5% of it was processed.
2018/11/28: The short-term outlook doesn’t look so scary. Climate change means a longer growing season, and conditions might actually improve in places like the Dakotas, where cold weather currently limits farming. Warming should also boost wheat and barley harvests. But rising temperatures and CO2 concentrations will also “enable ragweed and other plants to produce allergenic pollen in larger quantities,” for more months out of the year. And in the long term, harvests of all food crops, including wheat, are expected to decline unless farmers take unprecedented steps to adapt.
Radical adaptation could improve harvests and help solve the larger climate problem. Crops can suck carbon dioxide out of the air and store it in the soil. The report notes that “agriculture is one of the few sectors with the potential for significant increases in carbon sequestration.”
What would radical adaptation look like? The corn belt might move north from Kansas to Saskatchewan with the weather. Farmers could synch planting times and fertilizer application with precise weather forecasts. Governments might pay farmers for locking up carbon in their fields instead of maximizing profits. They could also provide the funding necessary for scientists to breed climate-adapted crops and animals.
In short, there are plenty of ways that agriculture can provide hope in place of worry. But without action, there’s going to be misery in farm country, according to the report.
2018/11/27: Dropshippers are online sellers who don’t keep any products in stock. Instead, they advertise a product and, if it is purchased, they buy the item from overseas and ship it directly to the customer.
I was not prepared for the way a simple question about some mysterious packages would spiral into a dizzying network of Amazon storefronts, web domains and badly written “About us” pages. But the more I looked into it, the more it seemed they were being run by a handful of people, each operating in different capacities depending on the needs of the moment. More surreal was how these websites were linked to the physical world.
In this case, it seemed that Valley Fountain LLC and other companies were posing as traditional retailers — usually by setting up Amazon storefronts like Sendai Book Store — and were just reselling items from other Amazon storefronts at inflated prices. It sounds confusing, but ultimately, it’s pretty similar to scalping concert tickets: A middleman makes money by ratcheting up the price.
The items in many of the storefronts associated with 235 Montgomery, Suite 350 had an unusually long shipping time and consistently low stock, so it made sense that items purchased from them might be coming from elsewhere.
Thinking about that one office at 235 Montgomery Street, I pictured 141 Olivet alumni, each at a tiny desk, carefully minding his or her Amazon storefront. After all, a 2011 Olivet University news bulletin stated that students from the Olivet Institute of Technology and Olivet College of Business were collaborating “to explore features in E-Commerce websites.” Or maybe it was Jonathan Park, the registered officer of many of these stores, alone in there with a laptop? Or no one at all — just a humming, automated system trawling retail sites to make listings of random products on Amazon pages?
2018/11/27: For the first time, I see a clear and credible political pathway that could get us to safety, a place in which the worst climate outcomes are avoided and a new social compact is forged that is radically more humane than anything currently on offer.
We are not on that pathway yet — very far from it. But unlike even one month ago, the pathway is clear. It begins with the galloping momentum calling on the Democratic Party to use its majority in the House to create the Select Committee for a Green New Deal, a plan advanced by Ocasio-Cortez and now backed by more than 14 representatives.
The draft text calls for the committee, which would be fully funded and empowered to draft legislation, to spend the next year consulting with a range of experts — from scientists to local lawmakers to labor unions to business leaders — to map out a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” capable of making the U.S. economy “carbon neutral” while promoting “economic and environmental justice and equality.” By January 2020, the plan would be released, and two months later would come draft legislation designed to turn it into a reality.
That early 2020 deadline is important — it means that the contours of the Green New Deal would be complete by the next U.S. election cycle, and any politician wanting to be taken seriously as a progressive champion would need to adopt it as the centerpiece of their platform. If that happened, and the party running on a sweeping Green New Deal retook the White House and the Senate in November 2020, then there would actually be time left on the climate clock to meet the harsh targets laid out in the recent IPCC report, which told us that we have a mere 12 years to cut fossil fuel emissions by a head-spinning 45 percent.
2018/11/26: Social issues and user experience are the most intriguing among them.
At Gartner’s Symposium/ITExpo in Barcelona, Spain, earlier this month, the research firm shared a report on 10 strategic trends affecting the Internet of Things (IoT) from 2019 to 2023. In the report, titled Top Strategic IoT Trends and Technologies Through 2023, according to multiple published reports, the firm identified the following as the 10 most impactful IoT trends:
Artificial intelligence (AI)
Social, legal, and ethical IoT
Infonomics and data broking
The shift from intelligent edge to intelligent mesh
Trusted hardware and operating systems
New IoT user experiences
Innovation on the chip
New wireless networking technologies for IoT
That’s an intriguing and comprehensive list, but not all the points come with of equal certainty or importance, and some — AI, wireless networking, edge computing and mesh computing — are already on the radar of many industry observers. So, let’s take a closer look at a couple of the most interesting and under-appreciated factors affecting the future of the IoT: social concerns and user experience.
2018/11/07: Despite their obvious differences, the men shared one thing in common: They were polymaths who disrupted the status quo during their respective time periods. Their names? Aristotle, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Benjamin Franklin.
The world’s most intriguing individuals have always been “deep generalists.”
Continued success of today’s organizations, companies, and communities depends on polymaths who think outside the box.
The most innovative developments of the future — in business, science and the arts — will come from creative generalists who blend unique disciplines with technological skill sets.
Despite the world’s immense need for polymaths, these individuals seem to be quite rare.
That’s because society promotes specialization over generalization, based on a long-standing assumption: The more deeply you specialize, the more easily you can find employment.
Ironically, the majority of mankind’s biggest breakthroughs haven’t come from specialists; they have come from multifaceted individuals.
2017/10/22: Parent company Alphabet would provide services in response to data harvested. a city “where buildings have no static use”. Like biomass
Alphabet’s long-term goal is to remove barriers to the accumulation and circulation of capital in urban settings – mostly by replacing formal rules and restrictions with softer, feedback-based floating targets. It claims that in the past “prescriptive measures were necessary to protect human health, ensure safe buildings, and manage negative externalities”. Today, however, everything has changed and “cities can achieve those same goals without the inefficiency that comes with inflexible zoning and static building codes”.
This is a remarkable statement. Even neoliberal luminaries such as Friedrich Hayek and Wilhelm Röpke allowed for some non-market forms of social organisation in the urban domain. They saw planning – as opposed to market signals – as a practical necessity imposed by the physical limitations of urban spaces: there was no other cheap way of operating infrastructure, building streets, avoiding congestion.
For Alphabet, these constraints are no more: ubiquitous and continuous data flows can finally replace government rules with market signals. Now, everything is permitted – unless somebody complains.
Google Urbanism means the end of politics, as it assumes the impossibility of wider systemic transformations, such as limits on capital mobility and foreign ownership of land and housing. Instead it wants to mobilise the power of technology to help residents “adjust” to seemingly immutable global trends such as rising inequality and constantly rising housing costs (Alphabet wants us to believe that they are driven by costs of production, not by the seemingly endless supply of cheap credit).
2018/10/24: Uber and Lyft are not just increasing congestion and hurting transit, they are literally killing us.
A new study [PDF] from the Booth School at the University of Chicago estimates Uber and Lyft have increased traffic deaths by 2-3 percent nationally. That’s as many as 1,100 additional deaths a year — a small, but significant contribution to the increase in traffic deaths in the U.S. since 2011, the authors say.
Uber and Lyft have tried to market themselves as green companies that can help solve urban transportation problems, but the evidence keeps piling up that they are making many problems worse.
This new study backs up previous findings that Uber and Lyft have cannibalized transit trips and increased driving. The study found that cities with high adoption of Uber and Lyft had 3 percent more total miles driven daily on average than cities with low adoption. The effect was even bigger in larger cities and cities that had high rates of transit ridership. And more miles mean more deaths.
Even drunk driving deaths were essentially unchanged by the presence of Uber and Lyft, Barrios and his team found.
On total car ownership, more bad news. Cities with high Uber and Lyft activity actually had 3 percent higher new vehicle registrations (see this for New York City’s experience). Uber and Lyft might discourage car ownership among some higher-income riders, but app-based taxis seem to induce more car buying among lower-income people that work as drivers, Barrios found.
As Streetsblog reported, Uber and Lyft increase congestion partly because drivers spend 40 to 60 percent of their time circling without passengers, also known as “deadheading.” Barrios and his team said, Uber and Lyft’s policies make the problem worse.
2018/10/17: New research shows microplastics in 90 percent of the table salt brands sampled worldwide. Of 39 salt brands tested, 36 had microplastics in them, according to a new analysis by researchers in South Korea and Greenpeace East Asia. Salt samples from 21 countries in Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Asia were analyzed. The three brands that did not contain microplastics are from Taiwan (refined sea salt), China (refined rock salt), and France (unrefined sea salt produced by solar evaporation). The study was published this month in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
The density of microplastics found in salt varied dramatically among different brands, but those from Asian brands were especially high, the study found. The highest quantities of microplastics were found in salt sold in Indonesia. Asia is a hot spot for plastic pollution, and Indonesia -- with 34,000 miles (54,720 km) of coastline -- ranked in an unrelated 2015 study as suffering the second-worst level of plastic pollution in the world. In another indicator of the geographic density of plastic pollution, microplastics levels were highest in sea salt, followed by lake salt and then rock salt.
Even though the study found that the average adult consumes approximately 2,000 microplastics per year through salt, it's not clear what the health consequences are.
the focus on microplastics may divert attention from worse environmental (and more easily identifiable) pollution problems, such as small particles released from car tires.
2018/10/17: After industrialism, we have the opportunity to create a habitation society. Habitation encompasses all that is involved in creating and sustaining human communities. In a habitation society, the main economic priority would be building the physical and social infrastructure of communities in which the citizenry could thrive. In the industrial era, millions of people were uprooted from their earlier communities to move to find factory jobs. They tried their best to construct new communities, but habitation work was always subordinated to earning a wage and it was crippled by the class inequality of that time.
Today, however, the largest share of the labour force works at producing, sustaining, and improving human habitation as farm work and factory work have fallen to little more than 10% of all employment. People who work in health care, education, social services, construction, communication, and local government can be coded as habitation workers. So, also, can public and private sector scientists, engineers, and technicians working on developing new products and services since most innovations are designed to help communities and households accomplish their ends.
But all of this labour is being done within institutional structures inherited from the industrial era that treated habitation — except for the wealthy — as a wasteful luxury. So, in fact, decisions about what our towns and cities will look like and what infrastructure would be created were taken out of politics and handed over to unelected technocrats.