Thursday, December 28, 2023

the human flaw that prevents preparation for the whole project


The early "deprogammers" would persuade someone to leave a cult, then consider their job done and go on to the next person. But in fact, that was only the beginning of the now ex-cult member's road to recovery. Similarly, many rebellions in countries would depose their lousy dictator, and think that's what needed to be done, so now we can rejoice and relax. Again, that was really only the beginning of repairing the country.
Humans seem to have this flaw where they think that once the first step of something is done, they can sit back and relax. In fact, the task has really just begun.
"Revolution, once its makers pluck up the courage, is the easy part. It is what follows that is so hard... Overnight, people who weren't allowed to decide anything their whole lives have to decide everything. It is not a learning curve, it is a sheer cliff." [The New Middle East: The World After the Arab Spring, by Paul Danahar, p. 49]

Does war require killing civilians, or is something else going on in Gaza?

 "A secret US diplomatic cable sent in late 2008 said:
Israeli officials have confirmed to Embassy officials on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis... As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza.  Israeli officials have confirmed... on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge." [The New Middle East: The World After The Arab Spring, by Paul Danahar, p. 161]


Israel's modern army CAN avoid more civilian deaths and injuries.  They just don't care.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

More on universal income experiments


"Their findings cover the first two years of the effort and compare the outcomes for about 5,000 people who got the monthly payments to nearly 12,000 others in a control group who got no money. But, just as significantly, the researchers also compared the recipients to people in two other categories: nearly 9,000 who received the monthly income for just two years, without the promise of another decade of payments afterward; and another roughly 9,000 people who got that same two years’ worth of income but in a lump-sum payment."

Conclusions so far: 

1. Giving cash aid in a lump sum has some major advantages over parceling it out.

2. Lump sums are so useful that even those who didn’t get them have banded together to create their own version.

3. Making the benefit ‘universal’ – by paying every adult in the village – seems to have greatly increased the impact.

4. The grants did not seem to fuel inflation

5. The big remaining question is whether the benefits of lump-sum payments actually last.    



Monday, August 7, 2023

Is the EPA actually protecting our environment, or corporations?


For almost 20 years, US public-health advocates have worried that toxic chemicals are getting into ground water and harming human health because of an exemption to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act that allows operators of oil and gas fracking operations to use chemicals that would be regulated if used for any other purpose.

The so-called Halliburton Loophole, named after the oil and gas services company once headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney, means that the industry can use fracking fluid containing chemicals linked to negative health effects including kidney and liver disease, fertility impairment, and reduced sperm counts without being subject to regulation under the act.

* * * * *

So... what's the use of the EPA if the largest fracking company on earth can skirt rules?


Sunday, August 6, 2023

Finally changes in home zoning laws


More than a century after the first single-family zoning laws were passed, roughly 75% of land that is zoned for housing in American cities is for private, single-family homes, only. In some suburbs, zoning laws make it illegal to build apartments in nearly all residential areas. Municipalities have also made minimum lot sizes bigger and added height requirements. This has had the effect of encouraging ever-larger single-family homes and limiting housing options, like smaller houses.

“Zoning has gotten more complicated and more restrictive,” said Jenny Schuetz, a senior fellow at Brookings Metro who studies urban economics and housing policy. “It’s getting harder to build stuff, particularly in high-income areas that want to have a lot of control over development.” 

Policymakers and advocates are making several changes to increase the housing stock: eliminating single-family zoning laws; legalizing accessory dwelling units, commonly known as granny flats, on single-family zoned areas; legalizing duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes; and enacting reforms to create affordable housing development near major transit lines. 

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 It's time for an upgrade to get us up to date!  Cities are changing in bad ways, so the people who live there can't afford to live there!  Speculators buy up properties and keep them out of reach for families.  It obviously can't go on like it is.


Wednesday, July 26, 2023

A Baby Boomer's Lament


A Baby Boomer's Lament

by Jeff Jacobsen

I was born in the US in1955, ten years after World War II, but smack in the middle of the Cold War. I lived near an air force base that had B-52 bombers flying around non-stop, ready to drop nukes on the Soviet Union should we be attacked first. We didn't practice hiding under our desks at grade school, but I'm sure that's just because everybody knew if the time came we were all screwed anyway.

Us Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) lived through technological change never before seen. Looking back, things seem so old. On my grandparents' farm on the other side of the state was a phone on a community line. The other farmers in the neighborhood were on the same line, so if you heard the phone ring (certain rings for certain customers), you could surreptitiously listen in on any phone call. Black and white TV had 3 channels available. Drinking water was hauled in from the artesian well. When it got hot, there was no air conditioned room to relax in. Life in the city where I grew up was easier, but of course many things we take for granted today just didn't exist yet there either. Still, new inventions were always coming along, like color TV and portable phones. It was assumed that life would just keep getting better. Grownups would talk about how their main goal was that the next generation would have things better than it was before.

I remember mostly this optimism of the times, thinking things could only get better. There were good paying jobs. People owned their homes and had a car. Capitalism was creating more and more comfort and ease for daily living. Science was moving ever forward with better designed everything. We were comfortable and reasonably happy, despite the underlying nuclear fears of instant annihilation. This was the time before people started becoming concerned about the long-term effects of our new lifestyle.

There was that underlying nervousness at all times, though. The Cold War was ever present. We'd see how horribly wrong we could be with the Vietnam War, which we at first joined to prevent the spread of communism. We learned how quickly hope can evaporate with the killings of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. So the optimism was saddled with fear and uncertainty.

After reaching adulthood, the first concern I personally remember was that we were overspending on the military. It took a lot of manpower, fuel, and money to keep those B-52s in the air circling around waiting for the order to go destroy another country. A lot of scientists were tied up making faster jets, better bombs, more efficient ways to kill. A lot of our taxes went to maintain ourselves as the most powerful country in the world. And why did we have that burden? Was our great enemy really going to attack us? Was all this just a huge mistake and waste? Outgoing president Eisenhower warned us to beware of the Military Industrial Complex.

It was hard to break from the idea, though, that things were continuously getting better for everybody. Sure, there was pollution, but look what we gained from a bit of bad air – cheap and speedy travel, lighting, air conditioning. The trade-off seemed acceptable. And it wasn't like we knew where things were heading. Who knew how many cars, trucks, planes and trains there would eventually be? Growth was not planned for and sometimes not expected. We weren't planning to burn so much coal and oil. It just happened.

Eventually some scientists started suggesting that by making things better for ourselves we might be making things worse for others and even for our planet. The government formed the Environmental Protection Agency after deadly air and burning rivers made the problem obvious. Rapidly filling city dumps suggested that perhaps we could recycle some of our ever-growing waste instead of trying to just bury it all. Maybe our headlong rush toward “progress” needed a step back to look for long-term effects that would negate the “progress.” In Los Angeles, for example, the freedom to drive wherever you wanted became a desire to drive someplace out of town where the air was breathable.

We gradually started to realize that improvements in one area might have consequences in another that just made things worse in general. Fossil fuels gave us so much toward our race to the future, like cheap electricity and ubiquitous transportation. But they also gave us lung cancer and started warming the globe. Was this a good trade-off? Doubts were forming.

But Baby Boomers are a stubborn lot, so it took a lot of explaining and cajoling to get us to start thinking about our freewheeling ways. It started to look like we weren't really going to hand our children and grandchildren a better world after all. Sure, they could watch movies on their smart phones, but it might have to be in a storm cellar from the increasing and stronger storms. Scientists had started to warn us. Mother Nature started to teach us. But was it too late?

Now we come to the part, in our twilight years, where we check and see how my generation did. Did we leave our children a better life than we had? Or did we doom them to spend their lives cleaning up after us?

I'm going to give us an A for Enthusiasm, but an F for Results. The explosion of knowledge, invention, and attempts at improvements have surpassed any time before us. But on the other hand, we never gave thought to the side-effects of our incredible leaps. SHOULD we start using plastic as a container for everything? SHOULD we go with individual cars and trucks instead of mass transit? SHOULD we allow corporations to decide what new products would come on the market without a check on what any long-term results might be? I think our enthusiasm pushed us forward haphazardly to bad results. And what did we spend our money on? The military took a huge chunk, mainly because we feared so much. We feared the Soviet Union. We feared the loss of access to resources. We feared that democracy might actually be fragile and susceptible to outside influence.


Now we are, one by one, leaving you. You have huge student debt when we got almost free education. You have no home-ownership when even lower-class Baby Boomers could afford a home. We enjoyed the benefits and marvels of oil and coal, while you now get to try to survive global warming. We made health care almost impossible to afford or figure out. You don't have to worry AS MUCH about being obliterated by an atomic bomb, but there's still plenty to cause anxiety.

* * * * *

Humble recommendations

Although I admit I'm part of the problem, I don't think we've completely destroyed the world. Things can be changed. Mistakes can be corrected. A toxic mindset can be tossed. Despite all our errors, I am somewhat optimistic that those who come after us can still set things right.

I have been thinking about these things and have a few recommendations. Most things, though, like global warming, are beyond my little brain. But here goes:

All aspects of human action should begin with the phrase “first, do no harm.” This includes businesses, governments, religions, associations, etc. If you feel you have to harm somebody else or dirty up the planet to accomplish your goal, start over.

We need to think about long-term results. Sure, we CAN burn oil (for example), but what might happen if we start burning a lot of it? It's great for everybody to have their own private transport vehicle, but might that not mean that our cities are overwhelmed with so many, and simpler methods like mass transit can do just about as well? Science lets us do so many more things that at first seem incredible and useful, but let's think ahead a bit and try to prevent blowback in the future.

There should be a baseline below which we don't allow any human to go. Everyone needs food, a roof over their head, social interaction. Society needs to help those who haven't been able to supply these things for themselves, or help them up to where they can support themselves.

Nobody needs to be a billionaire. Heck, nobody needs to be a hundred-millionaire. There's only so much wealth in the world and we don't want to go back to the days when the family in the castle held all the wealth and the rest of us just had to rely on their good graces. And what if the billionaire is a little bonkers? That much power can cause a lot of damage. Abolish plutocracy.

The US spends more on defense than the next 10 countries combined. What are we so afraid of? Now that Russia has proven to have a much weaker military force than we thought, that pretty much leaves China to fear. But we are starting to see it has its own huge problems. Our decision to try to keep at least a modicum of worldwide control over raw materials and countries that don't want to go along with our ideas has left us much poorer than we could have been. Defense should only be that, defense.

So now that us Baby Boomers have left a world worse than how we found it, we're all getting old and dying. Our time is about over. The next generations get to deal with the result of our greed and short-sightedness. Please don't throw up your hands in despair. There are tools and ideas out there that can work to right our wrongs. It's your planet now. Learn from our mistakes.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

do we really need to make all this plastic?


Overall, the team found that microplastic levels have been doubling in Arctic Ocean sediments every 23 years. That mirrors a previous study of ocean sediments off the coast of Southern California, which found concentrations to be doubling every 15 years. Other researchers have found an exponential rise in contamination in urban lake sediments

The problem is likely to keep getting worse, lead author Seung-Kyu Kim, a marine scientist at Incheon National University, told WIRED by email. “The input of microplastics into the Arctic has increased exponentially over the past decades, with an annual increase rate of 3 percent,” Kim writes. “The mass production of plastic at an 8.4 percent annual increase—coupled with inefficient waste management systems—is projected to further increase loads of plastic entering the ocean for the next several decades, and thus plastic entering the Arctic will increase proportionally.”

* * * * *

So, can we talk to management and see about 1) replacements for plastic, and 2) minimising the current use?  Do the products I get in the mail that are essentially triple-bagged in plastic really need that?  Or is the plastic lobby just too strong to break?


Friday, July 21, 2023

Using invasive seaweed to make bricks


"Millions of tons of sargassum wash up on beaches across North America every year. Exposure can lead to breathing problems, and it costs millions to clean it up. Now, one Mexican entrepreneur is building houses out of bricks made from the invasive species."

Monday, July 17, 2023

Should billionaires exist?


We see now that Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion, not as an investment, but as a toy.

We see now from the time of the pandemic who really are the "essential workers" and it's not billionaires.

We see now that billionaires are hoarders who simply keep money like Smaug because they are addicted to it, not because they do anything incredible with it.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

public transit has not recovered from the pandemic


"Before the initial pandemic lockdowns of early 2020, average ridership for these transit systems was around 100 million daily. That plummeted to less than 25 million after March 2020's lockdowns. After staggered openings since mid-2020, ridership has slowly started to rise, but is still nowhere close to pre-2020 levels."

* * * * *

Mass transit is the best way to fight global warming.  It's cheaper than owning a car.  It helps take cities back from the cars to the people.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Drive-thrus causing too much trouble?


Magnets of traffic and congestion, drive-thrus discourage walking, public transit use and visits to neighboring businesses. They also lead to accidents with pedestrians, cyclists and other cars, and contradict the environmental and livability goals of many communities.

A host of cities and regions want the sprawl to stop: Atlanta lawmakers will vote this summer on whether to ban new drive-thrus in the popular Beltline area. Minneapolis; Fair Haven, New Jersey; Creve Coeur, Missouri; Orchard Park, New York, and other cities have banned new drive-thrus in recent years

 * * * * *

If we want to prevent urban sprawl and turning our cities over to cars instead of people, we need to take steps to make local access more reliable.


Saturday, June 10, 2023

Houston tackles the homeless problem


Then we made three crucial decisions. First, we decided to work together as a collaborative system, aligned around a standardized set of goals, processes and strategies, rather than as individual organizations and government entities each trying to chip away at the problem. Today, more than 100 entities in the Houston area are working together and combining their efforts and resources to move the needle on reducing homelessness. Our collaboration includes using a centralized database to capture information and track the service needs of people experiencing homelessness and using a standardized assessment to determine which housing and/or service interventions best suit each household.

Second, we embraced the data-proven best practices of Housing First, a strategy focused on getting individuals and families out of homelessness and into permanent housing before helping them address any other problems. We do this via voluntary wraparound support services, e.g., mental health or substance abuse counseling, health care, job training and so on. The services help keep the person housed, and the housing is what makes the services effective.

Third, we housed the most vulnerable people first. When the average person sees someone experiencing homelessness and struggling with mental illness, they assume that individual is dangerous or needs hospitalization. Our experience is that most of these folks stabilize in housing with the appropriate level of services. 

* * * * *

Treating people with dignity and respect, just that goes a long way.  Houston is looking like a good test case for holistic solutions.


Tuesday, June 6, 2023

You can have a city that is human-centric instead of car-centric


The tram has exclusive right of way and has priority at crossings so is never stuck in traffic jams. This combined with the fact that it’s free encourages more people to use it. Bausch sees it as a measure of the success of Luxembourg’s transport transformation.

Cars haven’t completely disappeared and the country still has the highest car ownership per household in Europe. Around 230,000 people cross the border into Luxembourg each day for work and 75 per cent of these journeys are made by car.

“You shouldn’t argue against something, but for something,” Bausch says.

“I do not make policies against cars, but for another mobility system in which the car has its place.”

* * * * *

    Luxembourg has spent years working on making their cities more livable by turning away from cars as the major mode of transport.  It's working!




Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Will electric bikes save the world?


 "According to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics, more than half of all trips in the US are under 3 miles.  A University of Oxford study found that swapping a car for a bike just once a day slashed an individual's transportation emissions by a whopping 67%. Another study found choosing an e-bike for 15% of one's miles traveled cut their transportation emissions by 12%.  Fast, fun, and convenient, e-bikes are already helping people make that kind of shift in their daily lives. "

* * * * *

While many cities in the US don't have good bicycle infrasctructure, e-bikes should make that somewhat easier as they gain popularity, since travel distance for the average rider will substantially increase.  This will make a larger part of the city available to any plan to ride a bike rather than a car.  E-bikes don't need special charging stations, plus they can contribute to better health by exercise and less pollution.  It's a win-win so long as we design our cities so there's not a fight between motorized vehicles and bikes.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

silicon batteries next step from lithium ion?


Batteries made with silicon instead of graphite — the commonly used material in battery anodes today — have been shown to enable significantly higher energy density and faster charging. 

“Silicon anode has 10 times higher energy density than graphite,” according to CEO Kang Sun of Amprius Technologies, one of the companies working on the technology.

“We’ve demonstrated that we can charge to 80 percent in under six minutes,” added Jon Bornstein, the company’s chief operating officer. Amprius is already working with Airbus, the U.S. Army, AeroVironment and BAE Systems on early iterations of its silicon-anode batteries. 

* * * * *

 Is it easy to switch battery production plants to a new method easily?  I certainly hope so.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

How many people ride their bike to work?

 "Despite all of the recreational opportunities for bicyclists within the Black Hills region, bicycling is
the least utilized method of commuting to work in the Rapid City Area. According to American
Community Survey (ACS) data for 2017, only 0.4% of residents commute to work via bicycling.
Pedestrians made up 3.7% of work commuters, and transit riders made up 0.6% of work

* * * * *

At least here in South Dakota, not many people bike to work.  While Rapid City has a very nice bike trail that winds along the creek, much of the city has no real bike trail, so you're fighting cars in many places.  Hopefully bikes can be given a higher transportation status so more people will choose that method, weather permitting, of course.

Monday, April 10, 2023

We can live without cars!


"If there was efficient mass transit so that everyone can sort of theoretically get around, I would say [that] is pretty close to what is in place in Europe," Fulton told Salon, where Europeans have managed to maintain a functioning society despite using cars far less often than Americans.

Yet Europe is still an imperfect example because even there, automobiles are so ubiquitous that they still consume a large chunk of transportation time. The key difference is that while Americans overwhelmingly rely on cars to get around, Europeans have an infrastructure that mixes cars more robustly with alternatives like buses, trains, bicycling and even walking. Fulton noted that the environmental situation in Europe is better than that in America because Europeans rely less on cars, which suggests that there are lessons from their experience.

* * * * *

This is a good article that goes into many advantages of reducing our reliance on cars, such as the environment, job advancement, etc.  It can be done as other countries have already shown.


Thursday, March 16, 2023

Will cities give land back to humans from cars?


"But a reliance on cars for work and life is ingrained in the DNA of most American environments, and there has been vigorous pushback. Newly proposed bike lanes have become politically explosive and cities have struggled to formalize once-popular streeteries. Business owners worry that fewer parking spaces means fewer customers. Some warn of gentrification, others of gridlock.

With traffic returning to pre-virus levels — and bringing with it an alarming rise in pedestrian deaths — the future of America’s streets still hangs in the balance."

* * * * *

The United States has long ago given over its cities to cars.  We need to look to Europe to see how to make cities human-centric again.



Monday, March 13, 2023

City buses will save the day


Today, there’s renewed interest in improving bus service in the U.S., inspired by innovations around the globe. The Brazilian city of Curitiba, which is well known for its innovations in urban planning, set a model in the 1970s when it adopted bus rapid transit – buses that run in dedicated lanes, with streamlined boarding systems and priority at traffic signals.

Curitiba helped popularize bi-articulated buses, which are extra-long with flexible connectors that let the buses bend around corners. These buses, which can carry large numbers of passengers, now are in wide use in Europe, Latin America and Asia. 

Cities across the globe, led by London, have also aggressively expanded contactless payment systems, which speed up the boarding process. Advanced bus systems and new technologies like these flourish in regions where politicians strongly support transit as a public service.

* * * * *

Buses do not replace cars, they reduce the number of cars needed in a city.  They are cheaper for the rider than owning a car.  If the city sets up a useable system, cities can reduce the severe impact cars have on the air, and the areas dedicated to vehicles.



Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Drowning the world in plastic


An unprecedented rise in plastic pollution has been uncovered by scientists, who have calculated that more than 170tn plastic particles are afloat in the oceans.

They have called for a reduction in the production of plastics, warning that “cleanup is futile” if they continue to be pumped into the environment at the current rate.

* * * * *

I think what's needed in business today is not first how to make money, but first how to do no harm.  If you CAN make money burying the earth in your product, should you be allowed to?


Thursday, February 23, 2023

Time to switch to a heat pump, Inflation Reduction Act will help!

"Heat pumps’ real climate superpower is their efficiency. Heat pumps today can reach 300% to 400% efficiency or even higher, meaning they’re putting out three to four times as much energy in the form of heat as they’re using in electricity. For a space heater, the theoretical maximum would be 100% efficiency, and the best models today reach around 95% efficiency."




"Beginning in 2023 state programs offer low- and moderate-income households rebates for heat pumps at the point-of-sale, cutting costs of purchase and installation up to $8,000. If home electrical upgrades are needed to integrate new heat pumps, rebates of up to $4,000 are available to households."


* * * * *

Heat pumps have gotten very efficient, and now with tax incentives and rebates available, it's the time to switch!

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

repurposing old electric vehicle batteries


"The idea of repurposing electric vehicle batteries has been around for a while. To work in a car, the batteries need to be able to meet certain standards in terms of capacity and rate of discharge, but that performance declines with use. Even after a battery no longer meets the needs of a car, however, it can still store enough energy to be useful on the electric grid. So it was suggested that grid storage might be an intermediate destination between vehicles and recycling."


* * * *

Cool idea!  I hope this works out until some better recycling process comes along.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Using religion to hide wealth


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a nonprofit entity that it controlled have been fined $5 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission over accusations that the religious institution failed to properly disclose its investment holdings.

In an order released Tuesday, the SEC alleged that the church illicitly hid its investments and their management behind multiple shell companies from 1997 to 2019. In doing so, it failed to disclose the size of the church’s equity portfolio to the SEC and the public.

The church was concerned that disclosure of the assets in the name of the nonprofit entity, called Ensign Peak Advisors, which manages the church's investments, would lead to negative consequences in light of the size of the church’s portfolio, the SEC said.

* * * * *

So, perhaps we need to review our rules on religious tax exemptions.


Monday, February 20, 2023

Will Russia ever learn from starting wars?


From the very beginning it was obvious to all that there was no legal basis for Russia to invade Finland. Nikita Krushchev, Russian leader in the 1950s, wrote that “There's some question whether we had any legal or moral right for our actions against Finland. Of course, we didn't have any legal right. As far as morality is concerned, our desire to protect ourselves was ample justification in our own eyes.” [p. 17] Finland had only become an independent nation in 1918, and even then quickly devolved into a civil war that lasted several months. This meant that the fledgling Finnish army was slow to develop. By 1939 there was not much of an army, navy, nor air force. It would be difficult for Finland to find outside help as well, since World War II had just begun, and other potential allies had military and political quagmires of their own.


Russia is in Groundhog Day mode, repeating many of their same mistakes and assumptions from the Winter War against Finland in 1939.  There are many eerie similarities, but suffice it to say that Russia is still willing to upset the world and kill their own for goofy reasons.