I’m a sucker for a cool infographic, and I’ve just shown a sliver of what looks to be a very interesting analysis by Portland State alum Heike Mayer. The story appears on OregonLive.Com, and you should go take a look at the whole infographic, and go here to see the whole report.
Thomas Friedman at the NYT has a column up that helps us understand why our democratic dialogue is in so much trouble:
In case you missed it, a story circulated around the Web on the eve of President Obama’s trip that it would cost U.S. taxpayers $200 million a day — about $2 billion for the entire trip. Cooper said he felt impelled to check it out because the evening before he had had Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a Republican and Tea Party favorite, on his show and had asked her where exactly Republicans will cut the budget.
Instead of giving specifics, Bachmann used her airtime to inject a phony story into the mainstream. She answered: “I think we know that just within a day or so the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He’s taking 2,000 people with him. He’ll be renting over 870 rooms in India, and these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending.”
When Anderson followed up, he found that the expense associated with the trip is way, way less–likely to be around $5 million a day. Then Cooper established how quickly the bogus statistic of $200 million a day tumbled through the blather-rama media:
Cooper then showed the following snippets: Rush Limbaugh talking about Obama’s trip: “In two days from now, he’ll be in India at $200 million a day.” Then Glenn Beck, on his radio show, saying: “Have you ever seen the president, ever seen the president go over for a vacation where you needed 34 warships, $2 billion — $2 billion, 34 warships. We are sending — he’s traveling with 3,000 people.” In Beck’s rendition, the president’s official state visit to India became “a vacation” accompanied by one-tenth of the U.S. Navy. Ditto the conservative radio talk-show host Michael Savage. He said, “$200 million? $200 million each day on security and other aspects of this incredible royalist visit; 3,000 people, including Secret Service agents.”
The problem here is that nobody other than Cooper is getting off their dead asses to do journalism. There is too much money and attention in color commentary. This isn’t about liberal or conservative bias; this is about checking your numbers and being honest enough to reveal your sources and validate your claims. Isn’t this why God made interns?
There is a policy question here: I don’t know how I feel even about $5 million/day trips. In the case of India, the US does a LOT of trade with India, and it’s the world’s largest democracy. It might even be worth a much greater figure. And do I want my president at the G20? You betcha. I might even be willing to pay $200 million for the trip. Maybe. But we’ll never have that discussion in a world where, apparently, people have decided they have a right to their own “facts.”
Ok, I normally leave stuff alone in Sarah Palin land because I don’t generally subscribe to knocking down other women unless they deserve it, and as far as I can tell, except for whining in public that people are somehow violating her rights by disagreeing with her, she hasn’t done anything too terribly rag-worthy.
As you know, I have an interest in the environmental media and its various offshoots, and how environmental communication is also political communication. I, therefore, had a pretty tall interest in this show. This show, however, will help you get over any interest you might have in it, because it is, in a word, boring. BoRING.
This show is on TLC, the “Learning” Channel. TLC brings us other such educational offerings as “Obese People! Doing Things! Let’s Stare From the Comfort Of Our Living Rooms!”; “More Obese People! Doing More Stuff! Let’s Stare More!”, and “How To Have Too Many Kids and Then Abandon Them Like the Dickwad You Are” (Jon and Kate plus 8).
So my expectations weren’t high. Which is good. Here’s how it goes:
Hard Christian Rock band song and sweeping vistas for the intro.
More sweeping vistas.
Family is cute.
Sarah explains to us the VISTAS and her special relationship to them and how she’d rather be in THE WILD than in some stuffy old office somewhere. Enjoying all this beauty is clearly her first priority, as is evidenced by her willingness to run for national public office, appear on any national television show on a moment’s notice, and the constant clicking she does on her Blackberry throughout the show.
Cute kid says something obviously fed to her by producers.
Todd Palin grunts. Todd comes off as the sort of barely sentient, baseball-cap-donning, dead-eyed knuckle dragger who would join any mob that proffered him the opportunity to witness bloodsport. Now, I doubt Todd is ACTUALLY that, but her people should probably work on this image.
Sarah explains that ALL THESE VISTAS are resources that hard-working Alaskans can
cash-in-on um exploit utilize in a utilizey sort of way, adding to America’s greatness. Clearly, we need to drill for oil in these VISTAS.
THERE ARE MORE VISTAS!!
Boy, howdy, the family’s in the kitchen. Gran is folksy. My heart warms. This is just like at my house, only with muffins and people who seem determined to prove they have not two brain cells to rub together. Yet, THEY’S POWERFUL FEMININE FAMILY VALUE BEING ADDED HERE in ALL THIS FOLKSY TOGETHERNESS….while Sarah pokes her Blackberry and checks her email.
It’s time to go a-fishing by the bears! It’s what any mother do on a normal day, really, take her daughters a-fishing near the bears with her very own reality television crew. Shucks! No mama grizzlies for the crew to capture on the wide-angle! It’s just one GREAT OUTDOORS MOMENT AFTER ANOTHER!!!
A VISTA!!! An airplane! The possibility of a crash!
Aw we learn what true family discipline is: no boys upstairs, and there are the TODDLER GATES to PROVE IT and to THWART any virile males incapable of a) just stepping over it or b) just moving it the way any other adult can. (However, the toddler gate intelligence test may be an explanation for the males in this hardy clan, all of whom seem to be living embodiments of “the odds are good, but the goods are odd.”)
SARAH PALIN IN SHORT SHORTS! OOooooo cheesecake for the modest Pentecostal.
(Did I mention the SWEEPING VISTAS?)
Next on the TLC: OBESE PEOPLE WITHOUT VISTAS!!!
I recently became rather annoyed at Chris Hedges pointing his finger at academics as liberals who have abandoned working people and progressive causes. This NPR story was circulated via the delightful Frank Popper via Facebook, which started up the usual whine that “professors have all this power and they don’t use it, or one proffie was mean to me once, so clearly academics have abandoned The Cause.”
- putting hundreds out of work to give themselves supra-normal profits with one decision?
- stealing people’s pensions and impoverishing elders?
- torturing and killing your family and neighbors?
- writing $163 million dollar checks like it’s nothing to get yourself elected into a highly influential public office?
I AM saying that Yale and Kansas State are worlds apart in the influence they hold, and treating them like they are the same–or that they are in the same power universe as a Goldman Sachs or the Meg Whitmans of this world strikes me as being both inaccurate and a bit self-serving of Hedges. After all, if everybody BUT you has abandoned the poor, then suddenly you are very very important as the Voice of The Poor. There’s a little too much “don’t blame you, don’t blame me, blame the guy the behind the tree–those other people, the media, academics, Rush Limbaugh” about Hedges, who lined his nest quite comfortably I suspect when he was part of the mainstream media, whom he says is Part of the Problem, at the New York Times.
Richard Florida tweeted this story from the NYT, discussing the difficulties young people have finding housing in NY, and how they adapt. It’s just a bunch of stories, none of which really help us get a handle on anything.
My favorites, of course, have to do with the housing-transport tradeoff. This is what I mean when I say there are great transit commutes in NY, but there are also lousy transit commutes in NY, too:
But the commute is punishing. To get to his Frank151 job, which starts
at 11 a.m., Mr. Tolman leaves the house at 9:30 and walks 15 minutes to
catch the No. 7 bus. That takes him to the No. 1 train, from which he
switches to the 2, the L and the R before arriving at his office.
Mother Jones has this sad link to a story about the proliferating owl trade, given parent’s desire to give raptors as toys to children in the aftermath of Harry Potter:
This week, India’s minister of the environment blamed Potter’s popularity for boosting the illegal bird market in his country. “Following Harry Potter, there seems to be a strange fascination even among urban middle classes for presenting their children with owls,” minister Jairam Ramesh told the BBC. Ramesh isn’t the only one noticing the trend: in the UK, there is now a shelter for the owls dumped by owners when the magic of caring for a large raptor wore off. Shelter operator Don Walser told the Telegraph that he is rehabilitating owls from all over England, and is particularly dismayed by “a pair of snowy owls that were left in a garden by their owners for three days without food. They would have died. It was disgusting.”
Here’s a thing that parents can do: it’s the word “no.” Is it really that hard to understand that animals have agency beyond that of being human playthings?
The rest of the story is just depressing. I wouldn’t have a huge problem with indigenous rituals if animals are not endangered and they are destroyed humanely, but requesting them as party favors strikes me as blazing new trails in “urban=stupid about wild animals” history. And with all the bajillions made off the Harry Potter movies, you can’t pony up decent conditions for the animals in the film?
One of USC SPPD’s brilliant students, Alan Huynh, as a blog post up on what he considers to be the 10 worst problems in the transportation world.
Mine are in no particular order.
1. Crash safety–for everything from cars to bikes to scooters—around the world is unacceptably low, particularly for pedestrian victims of motorised crashes. Every year, 1.7 million people die in car crashes, and 35 percent of those are children. Just in case we need help with that statistic, that means the cars wipe out the equivalent of: Santa Barbara, Boulder, and Miami each year in crashes alone. We’re not even talking about deaths related to air pollution, which is also unacceptably high.
2. Transit companies are more accountable to voters than passengers. Even in places where a comparatively high number of people are regular transit users, passengers are usually a voting minority. Therefore, transit companies can place a low priority on service quality and still maintain their public image as long as they keep building and marketing their services–to voters, who, when they themselves face a too-long, too-uncomfortable, and too unreliable transit trip won’t ride, but who think “well, somebody else will take transit, but it’s not for me–my time is valuable” and still vote for transit.
3. Gas and parking are too damn cheap. This allows “transit is for somebody else” thinking. A price floor on gasoline would help us out a lot. Unfortunately, we are not going to get one.
4. Transporting water. (No, it’s not just about passenger travel and finding ways to complain about why drivers won’t switch to transit.) Women and children carry water routinely throughout world to supply their families’ needs. It is tiring, physically debilitating work, and there are simple technologies that could make it much easier, like rolling drums. Access to potable water is a fundamental health and justice issue, and it’s a matter of personal freight transport or housing or both.
5. Transit takes too damn long, even in places where transit is heavily supplied, and in places where it is well-patronized, it’s way too crowded. Yes, yes, yes, there are some easy, wonderful, comfortable transit trips out there. Awesome. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of them. See #2.
6. Americans—and lots of other world residents— are too wealthy. By any measure, this is not really a problem. But since auto travel is a normal good, and with higher incomes, consumption of normal goods increases. No evidence anywhere from any city, no matter what its form, contradicts this relationship. Wealth goes up; VMT goes up; sometimes transit trips go up, too, along with other modes. Because if you’ve got money in your pocket, you can go places and do things as well as afford the modes you want to get there.
7. The parking spaces right by the front door of the gym are always full, while the ones far from the front door are always empty. Because you wouldn’t want to walk too far to get on the treadmill. You can figure out the rest.
8. There is far too much money and political payoff in building rather than operating and maintaining, which derives from problem #2 and reinforces problem #5 and causes us to overbuild all of our transport infrastructure. Nobody screams when you cut driver time (save for the unions), lines, or stops–but all of those cuts degrade service (problem #5). Propose to cut somebody’s pet project? Screams, tearing of hair, beating of breasts. We thus have a really overbuilt and undermaintained system. Now, don’t get me wrong: the earmarking issue is about 1/10000000th as important as the Republicans are making it out to be, but my concern centers on how we use what monies we have, regardless of the total amount.
9. There is lots of hand-writing about how cars take priority in US cities, but very little thinking about how and why cars came to dominate cities or how to change that political nexus now. So apparently there was this conspiracy between GM and Goodyear to buy up the street cars in LA, which alone, all alone, made transit unviable without heroic financial assistance in every major city in the US outside of the northeast. That’s right! The federal government did things to favor auto companies to pacify the unions, yeah, baby, they’re at fault. It’s all the oil companies fault! That’s the ticket! It’s not consumers or voters faults because if it were, it would be a harder problem to fix than all these bad bad conspiracies.
By 1929, there was basically 1 car for every household in the US. Sure, there were households with more than one car, but..still. That’s quite a ratio, very early.
If you open any microfiche of any NYC or Boston paper from 1920 onward, there will be op-ed after op-ed about “those bloodsucking streetcar companies” or “those blood-stained streetcars.” Bad customer relations, even then.
So what happens when most urban voters become car users, I wonder? Might that influence the amount of free parking and auto conveniences supplied in the city?
Nah, a conspiracy.
10. Analysts who think benefit-cost analysis is everything—as well as those advocates who think benefit-cost analysis is nothing. Rail transit investments are long-term, don’t forecast well even when people are trying to be honest, and thus they become vulnerable to criticism because of poor early performance. That’s not fair. Would the Brooklyn Bridge have passed a cost-benefit analysis? I doubt it, but the region is unimaginable without it.
However, the other extreme—all rail transit is good transit no matter how much it costs and no matter where it is and no matter how many perfectly well-functioning bus routes get re-routed, or cancelled to feed into a new rail line to make it look like it’s getting riders—is just as bad.
Bonus: freight companies are global, powerful, and often very difficult to regulate or entice into voluntary agreements that don’t screw over their least empowered employees or small-business partners. Everybody celebrates that freight rail is “cleaner” than trucks. Yippee. Then when people actually have to try to collaborate with freight rail companies, it’s like trying to lift a Cadillac with your eyelashes, and suddenly everything seems much less sweet than Thomas the Tank Engine would have you believe. Not that the ATA is any better. (If bychance any wonderful members of the freight world are reading this, please don’t put me with Jimmy Hoffa. My dogs would miss me.)
The Telegraph sends this story about the Channel tunnel rail link, sold off for $2.1 bn to Canadian pension funds.
Under Friday’s rail agreement, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Borealis, the infrastructure arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, will receive the track access charges paid by the train operators that use the high-speed line – Eurostar and Southeastern Trains. They will also have the right to sell further access to the track and the stations. High Speed One is generating annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of £135m.
Joseph Cordes sent me this link about the possible privatization of Pompeii, after a wall of a gladiatorial clubhouse fell down. The private company calling for the UNESCO site’s privatization is hardly an unbiased source. One hopes that the unfortunate stray dogs will be treated decently if there is a move to privatize.
We’ve had decades of debate regarding privatization as a policy issue, but it looks like necessity is going to move the process forward.
“The region has its own ‘essence’ which can be grasped in full only by tools, hypotheses, models and data processing techniques specifically designed for regional analysis.”
The National American Regional Science Council has a beautifully written obituary by David Boyce: