Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Mayans show that climate change does matter

"During the era when the Mayan empire declined, Droxler said, the region underwent significantly fewer major tropical typhoons — only one or two every 20 years instead of the usual five or six. While typhoons can bring devastating winds and flooding, they also bring much-needed water inland in the form of heavy rains.
These heavy rains were an integral part of growing enough food to sustain the sprawling empire. The first great blow to the civilization came in the form of a 100-year drought between 800 A.D. and 900. When the rains stopped, food because scarce and a period of violent unrest ensued."

Climate change can bring an end to civilizations.  If it's changing, for whatever reason, we need to know how so we can plan ahead.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Woe to the endangered pedestrian

"The pretext Darren Wilson used to stop Michael Brown was jaywalking, the same offense for which Raquel Nelson nearly went to jail. Jaywalking, as Peter Norton shows in his landmark history Fighting Traffic, is an invented crime. It was the product of a massive publicity campaign orchestrated by automobile companies and allied motoring interests in the 1920s. Ostensibly aimed to promote safety, the real purpose of this effort was to push pedestrians off the street so that cars would move faster and be easier to sell.
Along with their invention of jaywalking, the automakers exerted a controlling influence over the nascent discipline of traffic engineering. Industry-funded experts denied that speed was to blame for an epidemic of pedestrian crashes. They designed new roadways with the overriding objective of moving cars faster.
As the years went by, engineering practices evolved to place those on foot at ever-greater disadvantage. Sidewalks disappeared, first on residential streets and then on main roads. Suburbs laid out to funnel traffic onto main arteries sent anyone who walked on long detours. Street corners were reconfigured to promote high-speed turns by cars. Highways widened and signage moved overhead, inviting freeway-speed movement on local roads."

 Some roads actually act as walls between communities.  And I hadn't thought about the economic division before, but it is certainly an aspect that should be considered when cities decide whether cares or people are more important.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

More argument for a base income for everybody

"In switching over to a universal basic income, the books will not only stay balanced—they might even move into the black. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 115,227,000 households in the U.S. Split $1.88 trillion among all these households and each one gets $16,315.62. In other words, if you turned the welfare system into a $15,000 basic income payment, you’d end up saving over $150 billion (or $1,315.62 per American household).
The basic proposal can be tweaked, of course, so that the system makes a bit more sense. Households making over $100,000 per year probably get by just fine on their own. Cut them out of the equation, and you would end up with a $20,000 basic income check for the remaining households, while still netting the government some nice savings.
Despite the pleasingly round back-of-the-napkin math, replacing food stamps and other artifacts of America’s welfare system with no-strings-attached cash isn’t that easy. There’s the small matter, for example, of stitching together all of the patchwork social program providers—federal, state and local governments—and getting them to agree to all put in to one kitty. It’s also controversial. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, a columnist for The Week, worries that if we gave everyone basic incomes to cover their necessities, it might encourage a mass exodus from the workforce as people no longer 'need” to work to survive.'"

I think this could work.  So long as all other subsidies are rolled into this idea.