Ozzie Zehner

Author of Green Illusions

Category: Uncategorized

Do We Treat Our Cars Better Than We Treat Ourselves?

US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Streetblog’s  Anne Lutz Fernandez added up some recent numbers to ponder:

Read the full article here.

A Wise Quote from Prof. Wangari Maathai

“You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them.”

Vintage Hoax: Fake Academic Talk Receives Applause

In 1970, organizers of an academic conference in Lake Tahoe launched their event with a lecture on game theory.  But it wasn’t real.

Attendees gathered in a conference room to hear a presentation entitled Mathematical Game Theory as Applied to Physician Education.  They were told to they’d be listening to Myron L. Fox from the Albert Einstein School of Medicine deliver the talk.  But unbeknownst to the audiance, an actor would stand in to deliver the speech, an actor that knew nothing of Game Theory (or its application to anything).

The actor crafted a narrative comprised entirely of platitudes, double-speak,  imprecise waffle, invented words, off-topic humor, and contradictory assertions.  But the delivery was perfect.  The audience of academics laughed at the right moments, clapped at the end, and even earnestly asked questions about game theory.

A Los Angeles Times journalist later wrote : “There are implications in this study, though, that even its instigators have not perceived. If an actor makes a better teacher, why not a better congressman, or even a better President?”

Read more about the study here.

“Nobody in this country got rich on his own. Nobody.”

Below is a transcript and video from Elizabeth Warren’s talk on the generation of wealth, public programs, and taxation.

Another aspect I like to keep in mind is the involvement of energy resources, specifically fossil fuels, in this national debate.  Wealth creation ultimately arises from resource extraction, so property rights and questions of ownership come in to play.

But most of all, I’m curious to see where this goes.

Transcript (video clip follows)

I hear all this, you know, “Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.”—No!

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.

You built a factory out there—good for you! But I want to be clear…You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for…You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate….You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.

You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea—God bless! Keep a big hunk of it.

But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

Will San Francisco Follow Amsterdam on Bikes?

Amsterdam's Museumplein in the 1970s

For anyone who has spent any time in Amsterdam, it may be hard to believe that in 1970, Dutch bicycle ridership was half what it is today.  A wide road bisected Amsterdam’s famed Museum square and tunneled right under the Rijksmuseum.  The Waag square, near my former flat in Amsterdam, was once a parking lot.

Amsterdam's Museumplein Today

As recently as the late 1970s throughout Amsterdam, the streets little-resembled the bike-friendly places we see now. Today, a walk over one of the famously quaint canal bridges offers picturesque views with unparalleled photo opportunities. Forty years ago, those same bridges were choked with car traffic and filled with car parking.

And in countless places where today you can ride on bike paths that are fully separated from car traffic and with bike-specific traffic lights, just 10 years ago there were no bike paths, no bike signals, far fewer bicycles, and significantly more cars.

Read the full article by Leah Shahum here.

NYC Bikeshare Launching with 10,000 Bikes

New York City Department of Transportation announced that it will partner with  Alta Bike Share to build 600 bikeshare facilities throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn.  So far, plans for the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island have not been announced.  An annual membership will cost under $100, which includes unlimited 30 minute jaunts.

Details are listed on Streetsblog:

  • Within the service area, which will stretch from the Upper West Side and Upper East Side to Bed Stuy and Greenpoint, New Yorkers will have access to 10,000 public bikes at about 600 stations.
  • Annual memberships will cost under $100. Members will be able to make trips of up to 30 minutes at no charge.
  • The stations will be sited with input from local communities, and the City Council will hold hearings on the program.
  • The system must operate without public subsidy.

Americans Favor Socialism over Tea Party

More Americans have a favorable rating of socialism (according to a Gallup Poll) than of the Tea Party (according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll), though just barely.

52 percent of Americans now hold unfavorable views of the tea party, a new high. Nearly three-quarters of Democrats – including as many moderate and conservative as liberal members of the party – have negative views of the political movement, as do half of all independents.

About 35% of Americans hold a favorable view of the Tea Party while 36% hold a favorable view of socialism.  Safe to say there’s probably not much overlap.


The U.S. Wealth Divide in 7 Graphs

Robert Reich here at UC Berkeley published an opinion piece in the New York Times with some timely statistics:

  • The 5 percent of Americans with the highest incomes now account for 37 percent of all consumer purchases.
  • Fewer than 8 percent of private-sector workers are unionized.
  • While Americans’ average hourly pay has risen only 6 percent since 1985, adjusted for inflation, German workers’ pay has risen almost 30 percent.
  • At the same time, the top 1 percent of German households now take home about 11 percent of all income — about the same as in 1970.

He tells the story with some related charts, which compare U.S. income and productivity metrics over time.

US Wealth Disparity in Seven Graphs

My struggle here is with the productivity metric, the calculation of which has changed over time.  What, exactly, does a productivity measure indicate?  The efficiency with which natural and human resources are transformed into convertible wealth?  And to what ends? And from the income side, where do measures of personal satisfaction and health  fit in the story? Read

How much energy does the Internet use?

This article offers a quick look at how much energy it takes to power the Internet, computers, phones and other devices. And, it places those numbers in the context of other human activities.

The embodied power—the emergy of devices divided by their replacement lifespan—is roughly equivalent to their wall-socket power consumption.  That is, looking at wall-socket electricity ignores half of actual energy use for computing devices.

Read more

Bicycle commuting up sharply in New York

Park here

NY Times – According to the New York City Department of Transportation, the number of New Yorkers who commute to work by bicycle more than doubled from 2006 to 2010, and grew by 13 percent from 2009 to 2010.

The city has been seeking ways to make the city more hospitable to bicycles. Since 2007, the city has carved out 259 miles of bike lanes and protected routes in the five boroughs. Some brokers say as many as half their clients now ask about bike storage, and though few buyers consider it a deal-breaker, marketing materials now make the most of bike rooms and proximity to bikable parks.  Read