The past several weeks have made one thing crystal-clear: Our country faces unmitigated disaster if the Other Side wins.
No reasonably intelligent person can deny this. All you have to do is look at the way the Other Side has been running its campaign. Instead of focusing on the big issues that are important to the American People, it has fired a relentlessly negative barrage of distortions, misrepresentations, and flat-out lies.
Just look at the Other Side’s latest commercial, which take a perfectly reasonable statement by the candidate for My Side completely out of context to make it seem as if he is saying something nefarious. This just shows you how desperate the Other Side is and how willing it is to mislead the American People.
The Other Side also has been hammering away at My Side to release certain documents that have nothing to do with anything, and making all sorts of outrageous accusations about what might be in them. Meanwhile, the Other Side has stonewalled perfectly reasonable requests to release its own documents that would expose some very embarrassing details if anybody ever found out what was in them. This just shows you what a bunch of hypocrites they are.
Naturally, the media won’t report any of this. ...
Read the whole thing! Just excellent!
Even without a roof over their heads, young adults find ways to access the Internet.
... Guadagno argues that the results should lead us to rethink the concept of the digital divide of Internet haves and have nots. "To the extent that our findings show a 'digital divide' between undergraduates at a four-year university and age-matched participants in a program for homeless young adults, it is mainly in types of Internet use and not access to the Internet, and that divide is relatively minor," we read. "Since it is clear that the proportions of undergraduates and homeless young adults accessing social networking sites are similar, we assert that the term digital divide is not descriptive of the young adult population." ...
BloombergBusinessweek: Poor in India Starve as Politicians Steal $14.5B of Food
Ram Kishen, 52, half-blind and half- starved, holds in his gnarled hands the reason for his hunger: a tattered card entitling him to subsidized rations that now serves as a symbol of India’s biggest food heist.
Kishen has had nothing from the village shop for 15 months. Yet 20 minutes’ drive from Satnapur, past bone-dry fields and tiny hamlets where children with distended bellies play, a government storage facility five football fields long bulges with wheat and rice. By law, those 57,000 tons of food are meant for Kishen and the 105 other households in Satnapur with ration books. They’re meant for some of the 350 million families living below India’s poverty line of 50 cents a day.
Instead, as much as $14.5 billion in food was looted by corrupt politicians and their criminal syndicates over the past decade in Kishen’s home state of Uttar Pradesh alone, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The theft blunted the country’s only weapon against widespread starvation -- a five-decade-old public distribution system that has failed to deliver record harvests to the plates of India’s hungriest.
“This is the most mean-spirited, ruthlessly executed corruption because it hits the poorest and most vulnerable in society,” said Naresh Saxena, who, as a commissioner to the nation’s Supreme Court, monitors hunger-based programs across the country. “What I find even more shocking is the lack of willingness in trying to stop it.”...
The chart below is making the rounds at liberal news outlets today. I wasn't going to comment on this because I don't like engaging deeply partisan topics at this blog, but the stat guy in me just can't keep quite. ;-) Here is the chart:
I'm going to take the percentages at face value. The chart selectively lists five expenditures. It then adds an alleged revenue reduction on top. The impression left is that if tax rates had been left at pre-tax cut levels, the orange part of the debt would not be with us.
This treats revenue as though it were purely a function of the tax rate. It isn't. Revenue is also deeply influenced by the overall size of the economy to which the tax rate is applied. The tax rate and the size of the economy are inextricably related. The higher the tax rate, the more money is taken out of the private sector, and the slower the economy grows. The lower the tax rate, the more money stays in the economy, and the faster the economy grows. (Clearly neither 100% taxes nor 0% taxes is feasible, but there is a range in which the logic I'm describing applies. And, of course, things other than tax rates can influence the growth of the economy.) It is conceivable to end up at the exact same revenue over time using two different tax rates ... one resulting in a larger piece of a smaller whole and the other resulting in smaller piece of a larger whole.
Therefore, the orange part of the chart should be the net difference between revenue forgone through tax rate reduction and the increased revenue received because of applying the lower rate to a larger economy. It is concievable that the net difference is that revenue is higher than it would otherwise have been.
Here is a more helpful chart in my estimation (Source):
Revenue has averaged 18% of GDP over the past fifty years, hovering between 16-20%. As you can see, the Bush tax cuts left revenue at about 18% just prior to the most recent recession. Had the tax cuts behaved the way CBPP chart suggests, we should now see revenue as percent of GDP at historic lows. It is at 17%. Enhanced economic growth appears to have offset the revenue lost from the reduction in the tax rates.
Meanwhile, spending has averaged 20.4% of GDP during the same era, hovering between 18-23.5%. Note the upward slope from 1960 to the early 1980s, and then the downward slope until Bush II took office in 2001. Then there is some growth in spending until the recession hits. Then spending explodes to historically high rates. There is now an 8 point difference between revenue (17%) and spending (25%). Revenue is slightly below historic averages while spending has exploded.
The Obama campaign is fixated on increasing taxes on the top 1%. If were to tax all income over one million dollars, then we would raise about $500 billion to apply to a $16 trillion debt. (And since most investment income would be sucked out of the private market, the economy would collapse, leaving us with a far smaller base to tax.) There may or may not be good reasons for increasing taxes on the top 1% by a couple of percentage points but this is nearly inconsequential to addressing budget deficits that compell us to take on more debt. The answer has to be primarily focused on some combination of economic growth and reduced spending (primarily through entitlement reform.)
There. I feel better now. ;-)
Atlantic Cities: The Surprising Spending Habits of India's Rural Population
... The Times of India reports that rural spending growth is outpacing urban spending for the first time since economic reforms took place two decades ago. Between 2009 and 2012, spending by the 69 percent of the Indian population living in rural areas increased by about $67 billion. For the 31 percent who are urban dwellers, spending increased by only about $54 billion.
Overall, the rural majority has been spending more than its urban counterparts for years. From 2004 to 2005, rural dwellers spent $52.2 trillion, about 57 percent of the $91.5 trillion spent nationally. Rural spending has been the majority every year since. But now, rural spending growth has outpaced urban growth as well. ...
... While we might associate rural areas with poor farmers and dusty fields, the rural economy in India is also shifting. Non-farm work is on the rise, especially in the form of construction jobs. Between 2005 and 2010, there was an 88 percent increase in rural construction jobs, many through government sponsored employment generation schemes. At the same time, farm jobs fell from 249 million to 229 million.
The other reason is that all those people who've moved to cities to make more money are actually sending a lot of that money back to the rural areas from which they've migrated. Rural family members back home suddenly find themselves with much greater discretionary incomes than ever before, and they're very happy to spend it. ...
Economist: Charting the Wind
... The animated infographic displays wind flowing over America, measured between one and 30 miles per hour. It uses data from the National Digital Forecast Database, which is updated hourly. One can appreciate the northerly midwestern gales, and dramatically see Hurricane Isaac threatening New Orleans.
The Viégas and Wattenberg team have distinguished themselves by combining fascinating data with brilliant design to tell stories that cannot be so easily told in any other way. Among Mr Wattenberg's celebrated visualisations is one of his earliest, a "map of the market" (at the side), which colorfully tracked the daily rise and fall of share prices by degree, direction, sector and firm, scaled by market capitalisation—all in a single glance. ...
You have to go to the link above to see the interactive map. I blew me away! ;-)
"Just cleared by the FDA late last month, this new ingestible sensor from California-based Proteus Digital Health is about the size of a grain of sand and can be integrated into an inert pill or medicine. Once in the stomach, it is powered solely by contact with stomach fluid and communicates a unique signal that identifies the timing of ingestion. This information is transferred through the user’s body tissue to a battery-operated patch worn on the skin that detects the signal along with physiological and behavioral metrics such as heart rate, body position and activity. That data, in turn, gets relayed by the patch to a mobile application, where it can be made accessible by caregivers and clinicians."
The Monkey Cage: Choices in graphing parallel time series
Earlier this week I posted the following chart:
Economist Andrew Gelman took at look at this and explored alternative presentations of the data here is what he came up with:
Then I thought of plotting the incomes over time (all these income values are inflation-adjusted, of course):
I like this one a lot. In particular, it shows that the drop from 2000-2010 is really a drop since 2007. (Although I suppose Cowen would argue that the drop was really happening earlier and it was just that the economy was doing a Wiley E. Coyote, standing in midair and not actually going into freefall until people realized they had gone off the edge of the cliff).
Still, even the time-trends graph is not quite a replacement for the original bar plot which shows so much drama. I think my recommended solution is to give the bar plot for the initial impression and then follow up immediately with the time-trends graph, which shows the big picture much more clearly.
The Culture House and Störling Dance Theater have given believers a voice in the local arts scene and beyond, meanwhile bringing a bit of racial peace to the Kansas City area.
... Since that time of uncertainty, however, the Ennas and fellow leaders at The Culture House and Störling Dance Theater have given Christians a voice in the local arts scene and beyond, meanwhile bringing a bit of racial peace to the Kansas City area.
Starting something new
Enna, who received a theater degree at UCLA and performed with a dance theater group in Sweden, began organizing a board of directors that would help lay the foundation for The Culture House, a grassroots arts organization with schools of dance, theater, and music. Störling-Enna, who received her professional dance education in Helsinki, Finland, and Paris, continued honing her skills in order to lead what would become Störling Dance Theater, a neo-classical dance company known for its powerful storytelling.
With both projects, the two wanted to merge excellence in the arts with their faith in a way that benefited the Kansas City area, meanwhile raising the bar for Christians in the arts. With the community's increased support for the Kansas City Ballet, the Kansas City Chorale, the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum, and the Lyric Opera on the Missouri side during the 1990s, they arrived at the right time. The seeds for what would become the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 2011, were also planted during this time.
"We saw that the whole community was starting to focus on the arts," Enna says. "We came here not to 'take over the city for Jesus,' but to at least sit at the table because of the quality of our work."
The vision of The Culture House, which includes the residency of Störling Dance Theater, is to enable quality artists, believers and nonbelievers alike, to have a platform in the marketplace.
The Culture House launched in 1996 in Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City. It initially resided between a Chuck E. Cheese's and a Hooters. In 2005, the organization bought a larger facility in neighboring Olathe. The extra space proved useful.
"That's when we expanded our school of music and started our school of theater," says Enna, executive director. "We went from 100 students to 450 in one cycle. Then another 650 the next year, and it just grew from there. We now have about 800 students [and are growing."
While The Culture House is a Christian organization, Störling Dance Theater is a dance company run by Christians, not a "Christian dance company." As such, some of its dancers are not Christians. Yet "people still do, even if they're not Christian, ask for prayer," notes Störling-Enna, artistic director. "I'd say 90 percent of the dancers who joined the company and were not Christian have become Christian through the company." ...
... While not explicitly Christian, Störling does operate the Artist Development Program, which provides pre-professional dancers with nine months of intensive instruction, and helps them develop tools for their life and career, spiritual maturity, physical and mental discipline, and an appreciation of the arts.
"That is a specifically Christian discipleship program," Enna says. "You don't have to participate in the spiritual development, but besides dancing day and night, they take design classes, as well as an apologetics course and a discussion group about Christianity and culture. It's to help those young artists have the discussions, think about their faith, and be prepared for the marketplace . . . It's not just so their faith survives in the arts, but that it thrives and they have the support and the integrity with them going into it."
Today, graduates of the program are receiving scholarships to top dance and theater programs around the country, including the Ailey School, part of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York, and theater programs at the University of Harford in Connecticut and Oklahoma City University. Students have also received full scholarships to the Joffrey Ballet's summer program in Chicago. ...
... "If Christianity has been so ineffective during the past 150 years in the arts, it's moving to see that we're part of a bigger picture and that the ship is turning," Enna says. "Christians are now being known for their good work."
Over the coming months, A Matter of Life and Tech will feature a range of voices from people building Africa’s tech future. This week, United Nation’s mobile learning specialist Steve Vosloo argues phones could be the future of education on the continent.
... If mobile learning is to have a real impact, we need to also rethink what we mean by education, schooling and what skills it delivers.
Recently, a United Nations task team led by UNESCO produced a think piece on education and skills beyond 2015. The piece predicts there will be a shift away from teaching in a classroom-centred paradigm of education to an increased focus on learning, which happens informally throughout the day. A core feature of mobiles is that they support ‘anywhere, anytime’ learning. Because they are personal and always at hand, they are perfectly suited to support informal and contextual learning.
The report also predicts that there will be an increased blurring of the boundaries between learning, working and living. Mobiles already support skills development in a range of fields including agriculture and healthcare, and provide paying job opportunities for mobile-based ‘microwork’.
In addition to education basics such as literacy and numeracy, the reports says, there will be a need for digital and information literacy, as well as critical thinking and online communication skills. With the guidance of teachers, mobiles provide a medium for developing these skills for millions of Africans who go online ‘mobile first’ or even ‘mobile-only’.
On a continent where education change – what should be taught, how it should be delivered and assessed, and where learning happens – is inevitable, and mobiles are more affordably and effectively networking people to each other and information than ever before, the combined promise is bigger than the sum of the parts. Mobile learning is here to stay and will only influence and enable learning more and more.
[Eric Metaxas] On my last two broadcasts, I talked about the abuses and other violations of human dignity that are all too common in American prisons and jails. While many factors contribute to these abuses, one stands head and shoulders above the rest: America incarcerates far too many people.
This won’t come as a surprise to long-time BreakPoint listeners: Chuck repeatedly made this point over the years. But what might surprise you is the role that money plays in our over-reliance on incarceration.
Plainly stated, there’s money to be made in operating prisons and supplying them with everything from food to phone service.
And when there’s money to be made, politics will follow. And politicians make the laws about whom to lock up and for how long. ...
... The biggest beneficiaries of this arrangement are local sheriff departments, which operate their facilities as businesses with the profits paying for local law enforcement.
The state pays them $24.39 a day, well below the national average, for each state prisoner they incarcerate. As a result, many “inmates subsist in bare-bones conditions with few programs to give them a better shot at becoming productive citizens,” since the cost of doing better would cut into the sheriff departments’ profits.
Naturally, those who benefit from the system make sure that Louisiana has some of the harshest sentencing practices in the world: for instance, “a two-time car burglar can get 24 years without parole.”...
Markets don't solve everything. The steep invesment in a "supply" of prison cells means for-profit firms are going to seek a sufficient "demand" for those cells, i.e., putting pressure on the policitcal system to ensure a steady flow convicts. The justice system becomes perverted. If there are to be for-profit firms, then the market incentives need to be structured to reward just outcomes. I'm not sure what that market would look like.
One thing I noticed as I looked at the map was how it compares with red vs. blue state breakdowns. Red states are supposed to be anti-science Republicans while blue states are supposed to fully embrace it. Yet red states like Utah, Kansas, Arkansas, and Louisiana get B grades while Hawaii, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts get Ds. Interesting.
Faith and Leadership: Vibrant Institutions: Jacob's Well
It’s one thing to start a church; it's another to keep it going. As Jacob’s Well has discovered, even the most cutting-edge, creative and vibrant church has to have organization and structure.
August 28, 2012 | At first glance, Jacob’s Well, a nondenominational “emerging” church in Kansas City, Mo., would seem to be the most traditional of churches. On the outside, the handsome old red-brick building has been a comforting neighborhood presence ever since Presbyterians built it in 1930.
Inside, the sanctuary features stained-glass windows, the Lord’s Prayer in gold letters above the altar and velvet cushions on creaking pews, all witness to the saints who’ve gone before.
But every Sunday -- at least since 1998, when Jacob’s Well was launched and took over the building -- the place is filled with lively worship and a body of believers that earlier congregations likely never envisioned. The music is contemporary and the dress casual, even scruffy, with more than a few tattoos and piercings scattered among the crowd.
During his sermon, the Rev. Tim Keel -- the senior pastor and a founder of the emerging/emergent church movement -- strolls the aisle, talking in conversational tones as though engaging listeners in a theological dialogue.
But for the past five months, stirring beneath the surface, something else has also been going on. Throughout Jacob’s Well, bones are being formed; a skeleton is taking shape.
This extraordinary church, known for its theological rigor and its creative and dynamic ministries, has been engaging in the most mundane of endeavors. After months of preparation and study, it has launched a major reorganization that establishes clear lines of authority while empowering members to become more involved in the church’s daily life.
As Jacob’s Well has discovered, even the most cutting-edge, creative and vibrant church has to have organization and structure. It’s one thing to start a church. It’s quite another to keep it going. Reflecting the growing maturation of the emerging church movement, Jacob’s Well is navigating the transition between church plant and long-term sustainability. ...
I was a member of Roanoke Presbyterian Church from 1993-2003. In 1998, a friend (Steve Hall) told me he was part of a group that was wanting to plant a church in my neighborhood. I told him the third floor of our building was unused and that they might be able to use that space. I brought the idea to session and Jacob's Well began holding their first services there. The rest is history. It was a privilege to watch the ministry take root during those first five years before our Presbyterian congregation decided to dissolve and sell the building to Jacob's Well. It is a truly unique community. Read the whole post. There is some good stuff here.
Christian Science Monitor: The Bookscore: the new Rotten Tomatoes for books?
The website The Bookscore rounds up book reviews, assigns a ranking, and lets readers discuss literary news.
Why rely on one book review when you can read five?
The website The Bookscore aims to fill that need with its collection of aggregated reviews for new titles. On The Bookscore, the articles for a certain book are gathered so that, like on movie websites like Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic, a website visitor can look at a title and get an overall score for a book, averaged from multiple reviews. For example, “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed currently holds a score of 8.8; “Bring Up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel” is the proud possessor of a 9.1.
“The Bookscore sets itself apart by including reviews from the only the most trusted sources, by giving users a complete online forum for news and discussion to go along with the reviews, and by allowing the users to contribute to the content directly by requesting books to be scored,” said co-founder Sam Griswold, who founded the site with Chris Laursen. ...
New York Times: China Confronts Mounting Piles of Unsold Goods
GUANGZHOU, China — After three decades of torrid growth, China is encountering an unfamiliar problem with its newly struggling economy: a huge buildup of unsold goods that is cluttering shop floors, clogging car dealerships and filling factory warehouses.
The glut of everything from steel and household appliances to cars and apartments is hampering China’s efforts to emerge from a sharp economic slowdown. It has also produced a series of price wars and has led manufacturers to redouble efforts to export what they cannot sell at home.
The severity of China’s inventory overhang has been carefully masked by the blocking or adjusting of economic data by the Chinese government — all part of an effort to prop up confidence in the economy among business managers and investors. ...
... China is the world’s second-largest economy and has been the largest engine of economic growth since the global financial crisis began in 2008. Economic weakness means that China is likely to buy fewer goods and services from abroad when the sovereign debt crisis in Europe is already hurting demand, raising the prospect of a global glut of goods and falling prices and weak production around the world.
Corporate hiring has slowed, and jobs are becoming less plentiful. Chinese exports, a mainstay of the economy for the last three decades, have almost stopped growing. Imports have also stalled, particularly for raw materials like iron ore for steel making, as industrialists have lost confidence that they will be able to sell if they keep factories running. Real estate prices have slid, although there have been hints that they might have bottomed out in July, and money has been leaving the country through legal and illegal channels. ...
A bioengineer and geneticist at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have successfully stored 5.5 petabits of data — around 700 terabytes — in a single gram of DNA, smashing the previous DNA data density record by a thousand times.
The work, carried out by George Church and Sri Kosuri, basically treats DNA as just another digital storage device. Instead of binary data being encoded as magnetic regions on a hard drive platter, strands of DNA that store 96 bits are synthesized, with each of the bases (TGAC) representing a binary value (T and G = 1, A and C = 0).
To read the data stored in DNA, you simply sequence it — just as if you were sequencing the human genome — and convert each of the TGAC bases back into binary. To aid with sequencing, each strand of DNA has a 19-bit address block at the start (the red bits in the image below) — so a whole vat of DNA can be sequenced out of order, and then sorted into usable data using the addresses. ...
... Just think about it for a moment: One gram of DNA can store 700 terabytes of data. That’s 14,000 50-gigabyte Blu-ray discs… in a droplet of DNA that would fit on the tip of your pinky. To store the same kind of data on hard drives — the densest storage medium in use today — you’d need 233 3TB drives, weighing a total of 151 kilos. In Church and Kosuri’s case, they have successfully stored around 700 kilobytes of data in DNA — Church’s latest book, in fact — and proceeded to make 70 billion copies (which they claim, jokingly, makes it the best-selling book of all time!) totaling 44 petabytes of data stored.
Looking forward, they foresee a world where biological storage would allow us to record anything and everything without reservation. Today, we wouldn’t dream of blanketing every square meter of Earth with cameras, and recording every moment for all eternity/human posterity — we simply don’t have the storage capacity. There is a reason that backed up data is usually only kept for a few weeks or months — it just isn’t feasible to have warehouses full of hard drives, which could fail at any time. If the entirety of human knowledge — every book, uttered word, and funny cat video — can be stored in a few hundred kilos of DNA, though… well, it might just be possible to record everything (hello, police state!) ...
Washington Post: Report shows 5,000+ multisite churches
The number of congregations that host worship services at more than one physical location has grown to more than 5,000 in the last decade, according to a new report.
Researchers say these “multisite” churches, which may share worshippers across town or many miles apart, are growing at a much larger pace than traditional megachurches.
Without the burden of additional expensive buildings, congregations find they grow faster in new places, said Warren Bird, research director of Leadership Network, who announced his conclusions Tuesday (Aug. 21).
“It’s a combination of both evangelism and saying, ‘People may not come to this particular building. How can we take where we are to where they are?’” he told Religion News Service. ...
... Multisite churches have grown from fewer than 200 in 2001 to 1,500 in 2006 to an estimated 3,000 in 2009 to more than 5,000 today. In comparison, U.S. megachurches have grown from about 50 in 1970 to about 1,650 in 2012 in North America. ...
Atlantic Cities: Isolated and Under-Exposed: Why the Rich Don't Give
... The study looked at tax returns for people with reported earnings of $50,000 or more from the year 2008 – the most recent year for which data was available. The report found that for people earning between $50,000 and $75,000, an average of 7.6 percent of discretionary income was donated to charity. For those earning $200,000 or more, just 4.2 percent of discretionary income was donated.
Turns out lower giving among the rich likely has much more to do with where they live and who they live near.
As this accompanying article from the journal notes, when the rich are highly concentrated in wealthy enclaves, they're less likely to give as compared with the rich living in more economically diverse neighborhoods. The report found that in neighborhoods where more than 40 percent of taxpayers reported earning $200,000 or more, the average giving was just 2.8 percent of discretionary income.
In other words, concentration of wealth is also isolation from the less fortunate. ...
And this, of course, leads to a chicken or the egg question. Is isolation what results in lack of generosity or are less generous people more likely to seek isolation? Probably an element of both is my guess.
This month marks the twentieth anniversary of Mark Heard's death. Christianity Today has a memorial to him at their site. Victims of the Age, from 1982, was one of my favorites albums. For thirty years, his song from that album, Everybody Loves a Holy War, continues to ring in my ears with every political campaign and church conflict I see. We need more Mark Heards today! Here are the lyrics (And to be clear, if you think these lyrics only apply to your opponent's camp, left or right, you're missing the point):
Everybody Loves a Holy War
Some say that God has approved of their mob
Esteeming their purposes alone
Choosing sides with a definite pride
And taking their cause for His own
Everybody loves a holy war
Draw the line and claim divine assistance
Slay the ones who show the most resistance
Everybody loves a holy war
Many's the man with the iron hand
Supposing his own thoughts to be Divine
He will break any bond -
'cause the other man's always wrong
It's a handy excuse for his crimes
Everybody loves a holy war
Draw the line and claim divine protection
Kill the ones who show the most objection
Everybody loves a holy war
Dissident cries are met with cold eyes
And treatment the devil would get
Righteousness and truth
can be weapons in the hands of fools
While innocents go to their deaths
Everybody loves a holy war
Draw the line and claim divine assistance
Slay the ones who show the most resistance
Everybody loves a holy war
Written by Mark Heard
© 1982 Bug 'n Bear Music ASCAP
Yet another story of the unintended consequences.
... Growth rings tell how old the sectioned tree was. But when Swetnam holds up one, he points to something else: fire scars. They're black marks, about the size of a fingernail clipping, left by fires. ...
... Scars from thousands of sections show how often fires burned in the Southwest. It was every five or 10 years, mostly — small fires that consumed grass and shrubs and small seedlings, but left the big Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir just fine. This was the norm.
Then something happened.
"Around 1890 or 1900, it stops," Swetnam says. "We call it the Smokey Bear effect."
Settlers brought livestock that ate the grass, so fires had little fuel. Then when the U.S. Forest Service was formed, its marching orders were "no fires."
And it was the experts who approved the all-out ban on fires in the Southwest. They got it wrong.
That's the view of fire historian Stephen Pyne.
"The irony here is that the argument for setting these areas aside as national forests and parks was, to a large extent, to protect them from fire," Pyne says. "Instead, over time they became the major habitat for free-burning fire."
So instead of a few dozen trees per acre, the Southwestern mountains of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah are now choked with trees of all sizes, and grass and shrubs. Essentially, it's fuel.
And now fires are burning bigger and hotter. They're not just damaging forests — they're wiping them out. Last year, more than 74,000 wildfires burned over 8.7 million acres in the U.S.
That included the huge Wallow fire in Arizona.
"It burned more than 40,000 acres in the first eight hours," says Swetnam, the tree ring expert. "A tornado of fire."
Fires in the Southwest have been getting bigger and bigger over the past two decades.
"Now the fire behaviors are just off the charts," Swetnam says. "I mean, they are extraordinary. Actually, I think in some cases, they're fire behavior that probably these forests haven't seen in millennia or maybe even tens of thousands of years." ...
... "The choice is not whether or not these forests burn," Armstrong says. "The choice is how they burn. What kind of intensity are we going to see those burn at?" ...
Economist: Grand Racist Party? W. W. Houston
CHRIS HAYES, host of MSNBC's "Up with Chris Hayes", said on air this past weekend, "It is undeniably the case that racist Americans are almost entirely in one political coalition and not the other", by which he means most American racists lean right, not left. This has since been proven false by Alex Tabarrok, an economist at George Mason University, and John Sides, a political scientist at George Washington University, both of whom have denied Mr Hayes' contention, persuasively.
Mr Tabarrok dips into the General Social Survey and fishes out some data difficult to square with the idea that most racists, much less almost all, are Republicans, or Republican-ish. Mr Tabarrok concludes, "It is undeniable that some Americans are racist but racists split about evenly across the parties." Mr Sides takes a look at the 2008 American National Election Study and finds that assessments of the intelligence and industry of blacks, when broken down by party, suggest that
identification with the Democratic Party tends to decline, and identification with the Republican party tends to increase, as attitudes toward black become less favorable—at least when attitudes are measured with two different racial stereotypes. However, the relationship is far from deterministic: substantial minorities of those with unfavorable attitudes toward blacks identify as Democrats.
So Mr Hayes is quite wrong. At best, Republicans on the whole are slightly more likely to have opinions commonly believed to be racist, and that is far from undeniable.
Reviewing all this, Reihan Salam observes that looking at the question, as do Messrs Tabarrok and Sides, solely in terms of the attitudes of non-blacks toward blacks makes sense, given America's history. However,
[T]he changing demographic composition of the U.S. population, and the changing cultural landscape, has given rise to other intercultural frictions, e.g., between non-Latino black Americans and Latinos, between non-Asians and Asians, etc. As we take into account these other forms of prejudice, one assumes that a very complex picture would emerge.
I should say so. Mr Salam goes on to say:
[F]or many of the people “in my world”—that is, professionals who attended selective colleges and universities in the English-speaking world—the notion that racist Americans are almost entirely in one coalition (the center-right coalition) is an article of faith that is really central to center-left political identity. Those of us who do not share this view thus find ourselves arguing from a position that is seen as intrinsically morally suspect.
I think he's right about this. Within the elite class Mr Salam mentions, standard liberals are presumed non-racist, while non-liberals are suspected of distasteful views on questions relating to race, unless this suspicion is put to rest by conspicuous signals of right-thinking racial egalitarianism. Still, the demonstrated willingness to fraternise with other, unproven non-liberals leaves even the enlightened non-liberal under a lingering shadow of suspicion. ...
Atlantic: Income Inequality Enrages Monkey
Many humans have highly developed senses of fairness and morality. Some monkeys may not be far behind. Watch as one gets cucumbers and the other gets delicious, delicious grapes.
The author says that income inequality tends to makes us unhappy. That needs qualifiaction. The degree of national inequality is not that relevant to personal happiness. People don't evaluate their personal lives in those terms. Inequality figures in when we are talking about people in our immediate socal networks, especially neighbors and family. As some have quipped, inequality is when my brother-in-law makes 10% more than I do.
But these are fairly predictable answers. So here's something weirder and more colorful: As economics went global, job creation went local. That sounds totally backward. But it's true. ...
Here is his graph showing job creation by year:
Here is his conclusion:
About half of the jobs created between 1990 and 2008 (before our current downturn) were created in education, health care, and government. What do those sectors have in common? They're all local. You can't send them to Korea. As Michael Spence has explained, corporations have gotten so good at "creating and managing global supply chains" that large companies no longer grow much in the United States. They expand abroad. As a result, the vast majority (more than 97 percent, Spence says!) of job creation now happens in so-called non-tradable sectors -- those that exist outside of the global supply chain -- that are often low-profit-margin businesses, like a hospital, or else not even businesses at all, like a school or mayor's office.
It is both ironic and unavoidably true that the era of globalized profits has dovetailed with the era of localized job creation in low value-added industries, and that the upshot of this has been massive gains at the top and slow overall income growth for the rest of us.
A revolution combining fashion and technology, all of the pieces are made directly by 3D printing, and snap together without a single spot of sewing. ...
The Bible and Culture: Paul thru Mediterranean Eyes– a Review Part One (Ben Witherington)
What follows in the next ten days, is my extended review and critique of Ken Bailey’s latest book, which won a Christianity Today book award this past year. I have appreciated many of Ken’s interesting insights and perspectives over the years, and nothing I say in this review should be taken to mean that I have changed my mind about that. It is just that this book is not up to the rather high standards he has previously set and has some real issues that should be pointed out. Along the way, I will also point out some of the valuable insights one can gain from reading this book. BW3 ...
Some of the ones I found interesting and fun:
8. Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge.
12. For most of their lives, maintaining relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world has been a woman’s job in the State Department.
14. There has always been football in Jacksonville but never in Los Angeles.
18. Their folks have never gazed with pride on a new set of bound encyclopedias on the bookshelf.
20. Exposed bra straps have always been a fashion statement, not a wardrobe malfunction to be corrected quietly by well-meaning friends.
34. Billy Graham is as familiar to them as Otto Graham was to their parents.
68. They watch television everywhere but on a television.
73. Lou Gehrig's record for most consecutive baseball games played has never stood in their lifetimes.
Several years ago I attended an event at Cross-Lines Community Outreach, one of our favorite service organizations in the Kansas City metro. People were divided up into groups sitting at tables. Each table was to imagine they were a single young woman with a small child at home, living on the edge of homelessness. You were presented with a choice to make. You rolled the dice to see what choice you had to make next. There were financial implications to all the decisions and a running total of your resources went up and down accordingly. The odds of things happening were based to some degree on actual experience. The game stops after several iterations and you see how many people were able to get out of poverty, hold their own, or for whom things got worse. It was a very useful tool.
Urban Ministires of Durham in Durham, North Carolina, has done something similar using a pretty slick website interface. Give it a shot and see how you do:
New York Times: Skilled Work, Without the Worker
At a sister factory here in the Dutch countryside, 128 robot arms do the same work with yoga-like flexibility. Video cameras guide them through feats well beyond the capability of the most dexterous human.
One robot arm endlessly forms three perfect bends in two connector wires and slips them into holes almost too small for the eye to see. The arms work so fast that they must be enclosed in glass cages to prevent the people supervising them from being injured. And they do it all without a coffee break — three shifts a day, 365 days a year.
All told, the factory here has several dozen workers per shift, about a tenth as many as the plant in the Chinese city of Zhuhai.
This is the future. A new wave of robots, far more adept than those now commonly used by automakers and other heavy manufacturers, are replacing workers around the world in both manufacturing and distribution. Factories like the one here in the Netherlands are a striking counterpoint to those used by Apple and other consumer electronics giants, which employ hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers.
“With these machines, we can make any consumer device in the world,” said Binne Visser, an electrical engineer who manages the Philips assembly line in Drachten. ...
... “The pace and scale of this encroachment into human skills is relatively recent and has profound economic implications,” they wrote in their book, “Race Against the Machine.” In their minds, the advent of low-cost automation foretells changes on the scale of the revolution in agricultural technology over the last century, when farming employment in the United States fell from 40 percent of the work force to about 2 percent today. The analogy is not only to the industrialization of agriculture but also to the electrification of manufacturing in the past century, Mr. McAfee argues. ...
... Government officials and industry executives argue that even if factories are automated, they still are a valuable source of jobs. If the United States does not compete for advanced manufacturing in industries like consumer electronics, it could lose product engineering and design as well. Moreover, robotics executives argue that even though blue-collar jobs will be lost, more efficient manufacturing will create skilled jobs in designing, operating and servicing the assembly lines, as well as significant numbers of other kinds of jobs in the communities where factories are.
And robot makers point out that their industry itself creates jobs. A report commissioned by the International Federation of Robotics last year found that 150,000 people are already employed by robotics manufacturers worldwide in engineering and assembly jobs. ...
... Chris [Marlow] is the founder of a non-profit called Help One Now. ...
When a team goes on a mission trip, each person is responsible for raising an extra $500 over and above their actual cost for the trip. The extra money is used to fund housing and other building projects, but not so that the team can go down there to do the work, too. More importantly, the money is used to hire locals to do the work.
The goal is to create jobs. And quite honestly, if we’re doing the work, then we’re taking jobs away. That only creates a reliance on our help and doesn’t actually break the cycle of poverty. We think we’re doing a good thing, and we get even more excited when the locals come out and volunteer their time to help us on this “charitable” project.
Breaking the cycle of poverty means that people need jobs, not volunteerism. They need opportunities, not handouts. Creating a job means that you’re giving someone the means to spend money, which also means that someone else has the opportunity to make money. ...
... The solution is more about creating opportunities for the local communities to own these projects. The jobs, the education, and the responsibility are all essential elements to helping developing nations break the cycle of poverty. This doesn’t mean that we need to stop showing up, but it does mean that we need to rethink what we do when we get there. ...
PITTSBURGH (AP) — In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.
Many of the world's leading climate scientists didn't see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.
Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, said the shift away from coal is reason for "cautious optimism" about potential ways to deal with climate change. He said it demonstrates that "ultimately people follow their wallets" on global warming.
"There's a very clear lesson here. What it shows is that if you make a cleaner energy source cheaper, you will displace dirtier sources," said Roger Pielke Jr., a climate expert at the University of Colorado.
In a little-noticed technical report, the U.S. Energy Information Agency, a part of the Energy Department, said this month that energy related U.S. CO2 emissions for the first four months of this year fell to about 1992 levels. Energy emissions make up about 98 percent of the total. The Associated Press contacted environmental experts, scientists and utility companies and learned that virtually everyone believes the shift could have major long-term implications for U.S. energy policy.
While conservation efforts, the lagging economy and greater use of renewable energy are factors in the CO2 decline, the drop-off is due mainly to low-priced natural gas, the agency said. ...
Here is a graph from Carpe Diem:
My take on CO2 has been that we incentivize conversion to natural gas in the short to medium term. That will provide intermeidate relief. Continue to let the market do its thing on finding alternative energy options and less carbon producing production processes in manufacturing. Longer term, but starting now, move to nuclear power. There goes your CO2 problem. I'm glad to see that the first phases of the Kronicler's plan to save the world are being implemented. ;-)
Urban Perspective: On Changing an Institution Bob Lupton
Changing an institution that is heavily vested in “the way we have always done it” is a major challenge, especially for a pastor whose job it is to keep that institution growing and keep the members reasonably happy. The last thing a leader wants is to stir up divisive controversy that could alienate good and faithful members. But a spiritual leader must also have integrity. So if it becomes apparent that change is necessary to ensure responsible care for the poor, there is no alternative but to act. But how?
In my experience, too much of church life, from the congregational to the denominational level, is about people trying to stop other people's programs and projects. Ironically, it is the direct assault on a cherished program that usually rallies the program's faithful to defend it, making it even more impervious to change or dissolution. Instead, energy needs to be focused on nurturing an alternative that will create energy and participation that leads in a new direction, drawing people to the new thing, letting the problem program wither and die a peaceful death. I think Lupton is giving a great example of this approach here. I wish more church leaders would think as creatively as this pastor and the congregation in Lupton's story below:
... In the 1950s, one out of every 20 U.S. jobs required a state license. Since then, our economy has evolved from one based on manufacturing to one dominated by service professions. Today, almost 1 in 3 American occupations requires a license.
Concern about workplace over-regulation began as a fringe issue. Thanks to the recession, it's now firmly in the mainstream as more and more Americans, facing often involuntary career changes, bump into unexpected regulatory obstacles.
Progressives are joining what had been a strictly libertarian cause out of concern that excessive licensing requirements disproportionately hurt poorer Americans and newly arrived immigrants -- people who might hold down high-tech office jobs but have practical skills to contribute.
"A lot of these restrictions were put in place with good intentions, but now they actually hinder the push for sustainability," said Clark Williams-Derry, research director with the Sightline Institute, a progressive think tank in Seattle whose director recently noted in a report that getting a license to style hair in Washington takes more instructional time than becoming an emergency medical technician or a firefighter.
"Some of these laws have evolved to the point that they now protect the industry rather than the public," he said.
Traditional African braiding -- the art of weaving hair into tight snakelike rows, often with extensions or beads -- has become a common battle ground in the war over occupational licensing. Braiding is a skill many women of color learn as children and offers easy entry into the business world because so few tools are required. Braiders don't use chemicals, heat or scissors.
Yet many states require braiders to earn a cosmetology license. In Oregon, that means spending up to 1,700 hours in beauty school, where tuition can run anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000. ...
Economist: A continent goes shopping
Africa’s fast-growing middle class has money to spend
... Africa already has a $1.8 trillion economy and is forecast to have a population of 1.3 billion by 2020. “Lion” economies such as Ghana and Rwanda have grown faster than South Korea, Taiwan and other East Asian “tiger” economies in five of the past seven years, albeit from a low base.
Unilever is not the only consumer-goods giant moving in. Africa accounts for only 3% of group sales of Nestlé, the world’s biggest food firm, but the Swiss behemoth is betting big there too: its African investments will total SFr1 billion ($1 billion) in 2011 and 2012 against a total capital expenditure of SFr4.8 billion last year. It has 29 factories on the continent and wants to build more. SABMiller, the world’s second-largest beermaker, is planning to invest up to $2.5 billion in Africa over the next five years to build and revamp breweries. In the year to March 2012, the continent (excluding South Africa) was SABMiller’s fastest-growing region, with volumes up by 13%.
Africa’s attractions stem from its new middle class, loosely defined by the African Development Bank as anyone who spends between $2 and $20 a day in purchasing-power parity terms. The bank estimates that more than 34% of Africans (326m people) fit this description, up from 27% in 2000 (see chart). ...
Atlantic Cities: Forget Electric Cars, This One Runs on Compressed Air
Using compressed air to power cars is something people have experimented with since at least 1840. That's when two French men named Andraud and Tessie tested such a gaseous vehicle on a track. The eco-friendly automobile "worked well," reports the air-car lobby, which exists, "but the idea was not pursued further. "
Why not? Perhaps because making a practical, well-working model is damnably hard. But India's Tata Motors is pushing the technology forward, inch by inch, with its project to build "Airpods" – zero-pollution, cute-as-a-bug smartcars that zip along at 40 m.p.h. via the magic of squeezed air. ...
... So what does this auto of the future look like? Following the smartcar trend, sort of like it stumbled off the set of Disney's Cars. The mid-sized model fits three passengers, although one must face backward like he's being punished for something, and is streamlined almost to the point of becoming a sphere. Its tank can hold 175 liters of air, which a driver gets either at a specialized fueling station or by activating an onboard electric motor to suck it in. Its makers say that filling er' up will cost a paltry €1, and that a full tank of air can last for roughly 125 miles. ...
Looks a little like a lady bug to me.
Atlantic Cities: The Thriving States of America
The survey, part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, asks:
Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time? On which step do you think you will stand about five years from now?
Read them all. Are there others to add?
Black White and Gray: More than Individuals: How Personalism Influences Social Theory and Research
... [Christian] Smith writes that persons are not individuals, if the term individual is used to mean “discrete, self-contained, autonomous, self-existent selves,” (Smith, p. 67). Furthermore, persons are not “self-contained selves who subsequently engage and exchange with other selves in order to secure some outcome or consume some benefit” (Smith, p. 67). Further, he adds that “Persons, instead, are originally, constitutively and inescapably social, interactive, and communicative in origin and being” (Smith, p. 67). ...
... According to philosopher Karol Wojytla, it is precisely when acting with others that individuals become persons. In other words, the social and communal nature of action is rooted in the nature of the person: the person is social. Actions that lead to fulfillment or flourishing are social actions, in which one’s subjectivity becomes tied to another person or a group of persons. The actions of human persons are not individualistic but inter-subjective.
Although persons can and do act as rational actors, such as by exchanging things with others to maximize their utility, this reductionistic view of the person and of agency should not be our model of the person. Such a reductionistic view overlooks moral commitments, constitutive-ends practices, and strong relationality. In my ongoing work on virtue ethics and sociology, I hope to move away from the enlightenment view of person that focuses on cognition and rationality and study persons as interacting bodies and inter-subjective actors.
New York Times: Card Swipes in Church Make Giving Easier
... Whatever people pay, however, it hasn’t always been easy for administrators and lay leaders to get them to donate regularly and increase their contributions each year, no matter their faith. Over the last decade or so, entrepreneurs have seized on the opening and tried to automate the process.
One big player is a service called ParishPay, which works with many Catholic churches and a few synagogues to help sign up worshipers to pay via credit or debit card or automatic payment from their bank accounts. Nearly 1,000 institutions have joined the service, and it claims a 20 to 30 percent increase in giving by individuals who enroll.
That’s a nice lift, though the process is a bit antiseptic given that no money changes hands at the house of worship (though Jews are not supposed to handle money on Shabbat). Marty Baker, the lead pastor at Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, Ga., came up with the idea for an in-church giving kiosk in 2003, when he wondered whether attendees with pockets full of plastic might give more than they were depositing in the collection plate if he found a way to accept their cards.
Today, his for-profit company SecureGive has kiosks in churches, Hindu temples and some zoos and hospitals, too. “You could do this at home or online,” he said. “But there is something about swiping that card at church. It’s a reminder that your gifts are making a difference in a broader context.”
Few things are more visceral than the collection plate, however, and it persists for many reasons. “The liturgical act of placing an offering of money into the offertory plate is understood to be a form of worship,” said the Rev. Laurel Johnston, the officer for stewardship in the Episcopal Church. Episcopalians generally make annual pledges in the fall and fulfill them throughout the year through electronic payments or by making periodic payments via an envelope that they put in the collection plate.
Regular worshipers with a regular paycheck may also appreciate the formality of handing over hard currency each week if they believe in the idea of paying God first. Then, there are the parents who like the fact that their children see everyone else giving and can toss in a few coins of their own.
Finally, there’s the peer pressure of having others’ eyes on you as the plate goes around. “Some would call it Catholic guilt,” said Matt Golis, a lifelong Catholic and chief executive of ParishPay’s parent company, YapStone. Many churches that allow electronic giving encourage those who have used it to drop a symbolic receipt of sorts into the collection plate if they wish. ...
During my quite time this morning, I received this distrubing vision from the Lord:
And the citizens of the United States cried out, “How long, Oh Lord! How long shall we endure this presidential campaign!”
And behold an angel of the Lord appeared and said, “The tribulation shall be two weeks of weeks, fourteen weeks in all. Eight-four days is the allotted time. The world will be filled with prophecies. There will be visions of donkeys enslaving the world to socialism, creating death panels, plotting economic apocalypse, and ending national defense. There will be visions of elephants decimating the poor and middle class to lift up the wealthy, throwing the elderly and the ill into the streets, killing everything in the environment, and replacing the Bible with ‘Atlas Shrugged.’
There will be no respite, no escape, from the reach of the campaign. The mark of the campaign shall be upon everything … cars, billboards, coffee mugs, pens, and stickers on office walls. Yard signs will spring from the ground as a great plague. Many will bear the mark of the campaign upon themselves with lapel pins and buttons. Like locusts in Egypt, campaign ads will consume advertising space. Everywhere you turn … television or internet … grainy black and white images of vile antichrists will appear. Radio and phone message will be saturated with foreboding voices accompanied by ominous music. Angels of light will appear proclaiming that they alone can bring salvation. Two weeks of weeks is the appointed time of tribulation. No more, no less. Only then, will this tribulation cease.”
And the people cried out, “And then what? What shall we see then?”
And the angel replied, “The beginning of the next presidential race.”
The citizens tore their clothes in anguish and there was wailing across the land. The people cried out, “Surely this cannot be so! Are you truly an angel of the Lord? How can we trust the message you have brought us?”
And then the clouds parted and great booming voice was heard, “This is the Lord! … and I approve this message.”
Black, White, and Gray: What is Personalism? A Rectification of Individualism and Collectivism - Margarita Mooney
... I was intrigued by the philosophy that could critique both the idea that economic prosperity is the final ends of individuals and societies and, at the same time, coherently argue against a collectivist system that denies private property, stifles free speech, and suppresses freedom of religion.
When I sat down to study Catholic social doctrine for the first time, what intrigued me was that the works I read started with basic questions such as: what is the good of human persons? What types of development uphold human dignity? Much of neoliberal economics seemed to be based on very utilitarian questions: what economic system will produce the greatest amount of goods and wealth? In achieving that goal of creating greater wealth, it seemed like almost any means could be accepted as long as the goal of generating utility was achieved by individuals unencumbered by others in their actions.
In contrast, collectivism, such as that practiced in communist countries, upholds the good of the group–also normally defined in material terms–over the good of individuals. Although some the goals of social solidarity may be laudable, I found the means of denying individual dissent, disallowing free expression, and the general coercion and manipulation rampant in communist systems to be an affront to human dignity. ...
... According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, personalism is a term that refers to at least 20 different philosophers and other scholars who, in general, defend the inviolability of the person, stress the fundamental relationally of persons, see the person as a subject and object of free action, and emphasize the person is a center of meaning and value. Schmeising emphasizes the theological influences and religious backgrounds of many personalists (including many converts from atheism to Catholicism such as Maritain and Edith Stein). Perhaps because of the metaphysical training of many personalists, personalists argue for the importance of both body and spirit to understanding the person, thus opens them up to the reality of transcendence.
Personalism contrasts with Marxist materialism and other forms of collectivism in which the individual is subsumed to the communal and the individual has no inherent worth. Personalism, by contrast, argues that a person can never be simply the means to another end, but each person must be treated as an end in and of himself. Liberal individualism too often conflates utility and value, but personalism also rejects the utilitarian idea that a person’s utility is the same as his value. Another way of stating that a person’s worth is not reducible to the profit she or he makes is expressed when Schmeising quotes Maurin as saying “the foundation of the economy should be the ‘person, not profit.’” (p. 23)
To the extent that our economic system is flawed, Schmeising states that Maurin and other personalists would argue that we can’t fix our economic problems on by re-organizing economic structure, but we must also re-organize the economy around spiritual or human values as well. In this sense, Schmeising identifies Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s work on human development as being influenced by personalists insights. ...
I continue to struggle with how to articulate my own views on economics but I have come to the conclusion that my perspective is some variety of Christian economic personalism. The person is the central point of reflection. Individuals have the ability to subjectively reflect on their circumstances and, with some degree of autonomy, make choices. While humanity may collectively reflect the image of God it is also true that each individual is also a reflection of that image and therefore to be treated with dignity and respect. We are more than mere animals with material needs. While we are individuals we are made for community, and indeed we cannot become human individuals without community. Furthermore, we have an imperative to live in harmony with others and to seek the welfare of others as we seek our own welfare. I look forward to Money's promised posts.
"Behrokh Khoshnevis is a professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering and is the Director of Manufacturing Engineering Graduate Program at the University of Southern California (USC). He is active in CAD/CAM, robotics and mechatronics related related research projects that include the development of novel Solid Free Form, or Rapid Prototyping, processes (Contour Crafting and SIS), automated construction of civil structures, development of CAD/CAM systems for biomedical applications (e.g., restorative dentistry, rehabilitation engineering, haptics devices for medical applications), autonomous mobile and modular robots for assembly applications in space, and invention of technologies in the field of oil and gas. His research in simulation has aimed at creating intelligent simulation tools that can automatically perform many simulation functions that are conventionally performed by human analysts. His textbook, "Discrete Systems Simulation", and his simulation software EZSIM benefit from some aspects of his research in simulation. He routinely conducts lectures and seminars on invention and technology development."
... Two new books, however, say local food isn't necessarily more eco-friendly, even though it travels fewer miles. They cite research showing long-distance transportation accounts for only about 4% of the greenhouse gas emissions in food production; most occur at the farm itself through the use of tractors and other equipment and materials.
So if you want to buy local food for its freshness or to support area farmers, fine, but don't do it to save the planet, conclude researchers from the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental group. Their two-year study, "Cooler Smarter," was published this spring. ...
... Another book goes even further in debunking local-food "myths." Its title, The Locavore's Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-mile Diet, plays off Michael Pollan's best seller, The Omnivore's Dilemma.
Co-author Pierre Desrochers, a geography professor at the University of Toronto-Mississauga, says large farms growing crops suited to their region are better for the environment because they use less energy per item and grow more food on less land. He says they offer economic benefits, too: lower prices.
Desrochers, who says he has received no funding from agri-business, has no problem with hobby farmers but doesn't want government supporting local food (or, for that matter, ethanol and sugar). Though kids may learn from community gardens, he says, they're better off learning computer and job skills. ...
There are good reasons for wanting to eat local food but reducing carbon footprints isn't one of them. It may actually increase carbon outputs. Large agricultural firms have streamlined the costs of getting food from field to market. A big part of that is reducing energy costs in transportation. Shipping a semi load or rail car load of produce over hundreds of miles is much less expensive and less energy intensive per item than having forty pickup trucks driving produce around to local small markets ... where, I might add, buyers then have to make a trip in addition to their visit to the grocery store, thus adding even more carbon output. Not thinking through the secondary and tertiary impacts of economic choices often has unintended consequences but romantic notions of bucollic bliss frequently overwhelm cool heads.