This is an article that Krugman wrote for NYT Magazine back in 2002. Tragically things have only gotten worse.
October 20, 2002
By PAUL KRUGMAN
I. The Disappearing Middle
When I was a teenager growing up on Long Island, one of my favorite excursions was a trip to see the great Gilded Age mansions of the North Shore. Those mansions weren't just pieces of architectural history. They were monuments to a bygone social era, one in which the rich could afford the armies of servants needed to maintain a house the size of a European palace. By the time I saw them, of course, that era was long past. Almost none of the Long Island mansions were still private residences. Those that hadn't been turned into museums were occupied by nursing homes or private schools.
For the America I grew up in -- the America of the 1950's and 1960's -- was a middle-class society, both in reality and in feel. The vast income and wealth inequalities of the Gilded Age had disappeared. Yes, of course, there was the poverty of the underclass -- but the conventional wisdom of the time viewed that as a social rather than an economic problem. Yes, of course, some wealthy businessmen and heirs to large fortunes lived far better than the average American. But they weren't rich the way the robber barons who built the mansions had been rich, and there weren't that many of them. The days when plutocrats were a force to be reckoned with in American society, economically or politically, seemed long past.
Daily experience confirmed the sense of a fairly equal society. The economic disparities you were conscious of were quite muted. Highly educated professionals -- middle managers, college teachers, even lawyers -- often claimed that they earned less than unionized blue-collar workers. Those considered very well off lived in split-levels, had a housecleaner come in once a week and took summer vacations in Europe. But they sent their kids to public schools and drove themselves to work, just like everyone else.
But that was long ago. The middle-class America of my youth was another country.
We are now living in a new Gilded Age, as extravagant as the original. Mansions have made a comeback. Back in 1999 this magazine profiled Thierry Despont, the ''eminence of excess,'' an architect who specializes in designing houses for the superrich. His creations typically range from 20,000 to 60,000 square feet; houses at the upper end of his range are not much smaller than the White House. Needless to say, the armies of servants are back, too. So are the yachts. Still, even J.P. Morgan didn't have a Gulfstream.
As the story about Despont suggests, it's not fair to say that the fact of widening inequality in America has gone unreported. Yet glimpses of the lifestyles of the rich and tasteless don't necessarily add up in people's minds to a clear picture of the tectonic shifts that have taken place in the distribution of income and wealth in this country. My sense is that few people are aware of just how much the gap between the very rich and the rest has widened over a relatively short period of time. In fact, even bringing up the subject exposes you to charges of ''class warfare,'' the ''politics of envy'' and so on. And very few people indeed are willing to talk about the profound effects -- economic, social and political -- of that widening gap.
Yet you can't understand what's happening in America today without understanding the extent, causes and consequences of the vast increase in inequality that has taken place over the last three decades, and in particular the astonishing concentration of income and wealth in just a few hands. To make sense of the current wave of corporate scandal, you need to understand how the man in the gray flannel suit has been replaced by the imperial C.E.O. The concentration of income at the top is a key reason that the United States, for all its economic achievements, has more poverty and lower life expectancy than any other major advanced nation. Above all, the growing concentration of wealth has reshaped our political system: it is at the root both of a general shift to the right and of an extreme polarization of our politics.
“The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern our climate is showing early signs of insabilit
The year of living dangerously. Masters: “The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability”
Posted By Joe On December 23, 2010 @ 2:15 pm In Extreme Weather | Comments Disabled
A year of deadly record-smashing weather extremes from Nashville to Moscow, from the Amazon to Pakistan, ended with staggering deluges from California — “Rainfall records weren’t just broken, they were obliterated <1>” — to Australia:
More than a year’s rain fell in Carnarvon in just 24 hours this week <2>. A monsoonal low hovering over the Gascoyne dumped a 24-hour record 204.8mm, smashing the previous record of 119.4mm set on March 24, 1923.
NASA reported that it was the hottest ‘meteorological year’ <3>
Uber-meteorologist and former NOAA Hurricane hunter Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground reported <4>, “The year 2010 now has the most national extreme heat records for a single year–nineteen. These nations comprise 20% of the total land area of Earth. This is the largest area of Earth’s surface to experience all-time record high temperatures in any single year in the historical record.”
This was a year that the scientific literature became clearer that global warming is driving more extreme weather, hell and high water (see Study: Global warming is driving increased frequency of extreme wet or dry summer weather in southeast, so droughts and deluges are likely to get worse <5>) — and it is likely to get much, much worse if we stay anywhere near our current emissions path (see “A stunning year in climate science reveals that human civilization is on the precipice <6>” and “Must-read NCAR analysis warns we risk multiple, devastating global droughts even on moderate emissions path <7>“).
But this was also very much a year of living dangerously right now for people around the globe:
•Russian President Medvedev: “What is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past.” <8> NYT: “Russia Bans Grain Exports After Drought Shrivels Crop”
•Another extreme drought hits the Amazon, raising climate change concerns <9>
•Juan Cole: The media’s failure to cover “the great Pakistani deluge” is “itself a security threat” to America <10>
•We had Tennessee’s 1000-year deluge <11> aka Nashville’s ‘Katrina’ <12>.
As Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, put it last week, “The term ‘100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year.” Tamino calculates (at length) <13> that global warming made the Moscow heat wave roughly eight times more likely: “Without global warming, this once-in-a-century-or-two event would have been closer to a once-in-a-millenium event.” On our current emissions path, Russia’s grain-export-ending heat wave and drought could be a once every decade event — or even more frequent.
..............more of an outstanding article....here....
“Raging Waters In Australia and Brazil Product of Global Warming”
Coding Horror: Trouble In the House of Google: If these dime-store scrapers were doing so well and generating so much traffic on the back of our content – how was the rest of the web faring? My enduring faith in the gravitational constant of Google had been shaken.... I can't help noticing that we're not the only site to have serious problems with Google search results in the last few months.... Anecdotally, my personal search results have also been noticeably worse lately. As part of Christmas shopping for my wife, I searched for "iPhone 4 case" in Google. I had to give up completely on the first two pages of search results as utterly useless, and searched Amazon instead.
People whose opinions I respect have all been echoing the same sentiment -- Google, the once essential tool, is somehow losing its edge. The spammers, scrapers, and SEO'ed-to-the-hilt content farms are winning.
Like any sane person, I'm rooting for Google in this battle, and I'd love nothing more than for Google to tweak a few algorithmic knobs and make this entire blog entry moot. Still, this is the first time since 2000 that I can recall Google search quality ever declining, and it has inspired some rather heretical thoughts in me -- are we seeing the first signs that algorithmic search has failed as a strategy? Is the next generation of search destined to be less algorithmic and more social?
It's a scary thing to even entertain, but maybe gravity really is broken...
Why We Desperately Need a New (and Better) Google: This semester, my students at the School of Information at UC-Berkeley researched the VC system from the perspective of company founders. We prepared a detailed survey; randomly selected 500 companies from a venture database; and set out to contact the founders. Thanks to Reid Hoffman, we were able to get premium access to LinkedIn—which was very helpful and provided a wealth of information. But some of the founders didn’t have LinkedIn accounts, and others didn’t respond to our LinkedIn “inmails”. So I instructed my students to use Google searches to research each founder’s work history, by year, and to track him or her down in that way.
But it turns out that you can’t easily do such searches in Google any more. Google has become a jungle: a tropical paradise for spammers and marketers. Almost every search takes you to websites that want you to click on links that make them money, or to sponsored sites that make Google money. There’s no way to do a meaningful chronological search.
We ended up using instead a web-search tool called Blekko. It’s a new technology and is far from perfect; but it is innovative and fills the vacuum of competition with Google (and Bing).
Blekko was founded in 2007 by Rich Skrenta, Tom Annau, Mike Markson, and a bunch of former Google and Yahoo engineers. Previously, Skrenta had built Topix and what has become Netscape’s Open Directory Project. For Blekko, his team has created a new distributed computing platform to crawl the web and create search indices. Blekko is backed by notable angels, including Ron Conway, Marc Andreessen, Jeff Clavier, and Mike Maples....
In addition to providing regular search capabilities like Google’s, Blekko allows you to define what it calls “slashtags” and filter the information you retrieve according to your own criteria. Slashtags are mostly human-curated sets of websites built around a specific topic, such as health, finance, sports, tech, and colleges. So if you are looking for information about swine flu, you can add “/health” to your query and search only the top 70 or so relevant health sites rather than tens of thousands spam sites. Blekko crowdsources the editorial judgment for what should and should not be in a slashtag, as Wikipedia does. One Blekko user created a slashtag for 2100 college websites. So anyone can do a targeted search for all the schools offering courses in molecular biology, for example. Most searches are like this—they can be restricted to a few thousand relevant sites. The results become much more relevant and trustworthy when you can filter out all the garbage.
I've never used or heard of blekko before reading this article, but it does appear to be an interesting site. At least it's nice to have an option to google since I tend to agree that google is becoming more difficult to do some searches.
Last month, NASA reported it was the hottest January-July on record, along with the analysis, “July 2010 — What Global Warming Looks Like <1>,” which noted that 2010 is “likely” to be warmest year on record.
This month continues the trend of 2010 outpacing previous years, according to NASA <2>:
It seems all but certain we will outpace 1998, which currently ties for fourth hottest year in the NASA dataset <3> (though it is technically described by NASA folks as tied for the second hottest year with 2005 and 2007).
Outpacing 2005, the hottest year on record, will be closer. In NASA’s surface-based dataset, we are unlikely to set the record monthly temperatures for the rest of this year; last month wasn’t close to the hottest August for NASA. We have entered a moderate La Niña, which NOAA says <4> is “expected to last at least through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2010-11.”
Interestingly, while the disinformers have been breathlessly touting the La Niña as sure to cool things down rapidly, global temperatures have held up quite well, even in the satellite datasets, which are typically sensitive to the El Niño Southern oscillation (ENSO). The more trustworthy RSS <5> data for August is not yet up, but even the UAH <6> data for the lower troposphere shows August 2010 having almost an identical temperature to 1998, which was the hottest August on record.
"The latest job numbers are out -- and they're not good."
That's a phrase we've heard a lot lately -- and will likely continue to hear for the foreseeable future. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.5 percent, the economy actually lost another 131,000 jobs in July. The only reason the unemployment rate didn't go up was because so many people had quit looking and dropped out of the workforce. Tens of thousands of people throwing in the towel is definitely not good news. More "not good news": the number of Americans unemployed for 26 weeks or more is now over 6.5 million.
Clearly, we're not in the middle of a normal recovery. Wall Street may have its casino up and running again, but Main Street shows no signs of bouncing back anytime soon. From foreclosures to unemployment to household debt to bankruptcies, the American middle class is under assault -- and America is in danger of becoming a Third World nation.
That's why HuffPost is launching a "Third World America" section to bear witness to what is happening to the American middle class in small towns and big cities all across the country. And we will, every day, focus on the solutions that are making a difference in the lives of ordinary Americans.
And we want you to be a big part of this section. If you or someone you know has been struggling with unemployment, foreclosure, bankruptcy, or credit card debt, we want to hear about it. Visit our interactive map, share your story, and leave your mark.
Though it is far from what dominates the debate in Washington, every day brings fresh evidence of the new reality that America is entering. And it's not just about dismal unemployment figures and gloomy foreclosure numbers. As the New York Times reported last week, Hawaii has gone beyond laying off teachers and has begun laying off students -- closing its public schools on 17 Fridays during the last school year. In the Atlanta suburb of Clayton County, the entire bus system was shut down. Colorado Springs turned off over 24,000 of its streetlights. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Camden, New Jersey is soon to permanently shutter its entire library system. And last month the Wall Street Journal reported on the trend of cash-strapped states and counties giving up on the idea of maintaining paved roads, allowing them instead to turn back into gravel. And those localities that can't even afford to put gravel down are just letting the roads, as the Journal put it, "return to nature." A seminar at Purdue University on this trend was entitled "Back to the Stone Age."
Third World America MAP: Share Your Stories
"Third World America" section
The Future of Food has been a key tool in the American and international anti-GMO grassroots activist movements and played widely in the environmental and activist circuits since its release in 2004. The film is widely acknowledged for its role in educating voters and the subsequent success of passing Measure H in Mendocino County, California, one of the first local initiatives in the country to ban the planting of GMO crops. Indicative of its popularity, the Future of Food showed to a sold out audience of 1,500 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco in 2004, a benefit for Slow Food, where it was introduced by Alice Waters.
In September 2005, The Future of Food made a highly acclaimed national theatrical premiere at Film Forum in New York, followed by a tour of more than a dozen major American cities in the fall. Applauded by technology writers, food policy experts and environmental activists, the film has been shown around the world—from a plaza in Oaxaca, Mexico to the Jerusalem Cinematheque, and in citizen screenings all over the world—from India, Kenya, and Bulgaria to Brazil and Indonesia. It screened at a wide variety of professional gatherings, including the Midwestern Organic Farmers Convention, the Organic Trade Association 2005 trade show and conference in Chicago, and the American Dietetic Association convention. Columbia and New York Universities showed it to their students.
This documentary was aired on French television (ARTE – French-German cultural tv channel) by French journalist and film maker Marie-Monique Robin, The World According to Monsanto – A documentary that you won’t see on American television. The gigantic biotech corporation Monsanto is threatening to destroy the agricultural biodiversity which has served mankind for thousands of years.
Grow $700 of Food in 100 Square Feet!
By Rosalind Creasy with Cathy Wilkinson Barash
In 2007, I began to get lots of questions about growing food to help save money. Then, while working on my new book, Edible Landscaping, I had an aha! moment. As I was assembling statistics to show the wastefulness of the American obsession with turf, I wondered what the productivity of just a small part of American lawns would be if they were planted with edibles instead of grass.
I wanted to pull together some figures to share with everyone, but calls to seed companies and online searches didn’t turn up any data for home harvest amounts — only figures for commercial agriculture. From experience, I knew those commercial numbers were much too low compared with what home gardeners can get. For example, home gardeners don’t toss out misshapen cucumbers and sunburned tomatoes. They pick greens by the leaf rather than the head, and harvests aren’t limited to two or three times a season.
For years, I’ve known that my California garden produces a lot. By late summer, my kitchen table overflows with tomatoes, peppers and squash; in spring and fall, it’s broccoli, lettuces and beets. But I’d never thought to quantify it. So I decided to grow a trial garden and tally up the harvests to get a rough idea of what some popular vegetables can produce.
I took a 5-by-20-foot section of garden bed by my tiny lawn to see how much I could grow in just that 100 square feet. I wanted to produce a lot of food, and because it was part of my edible landscape, it had to look good, too.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Bill McKibben on Creating Climate Controversy
Bill McKibben, author, educator, and founder of the environmental activist group 350.org, discusses how and why a controversy over climate change even exists
Health Insurers Break Profit Records As 2.7 Million Americans Lose Coverage
Health Care for America Now!
The five largest U.S. health insurance companies sailed through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression to set new industry profit records in 2009, a feat accomplished by leaving behind 2.7 million Americans who had been in private health plans. For customers who kept their benefits, the insurers raised rates and cost-sharing, and cut the share of premiums spent on medical care.
Executives and shareholders of the five biggest for-profit health insurers, UnitedHealth Group Inc., WellPoint Inc., Aetna Inc., Humana Inc., and Cigna Corp., enjoyed combined profit of $12.2 billion in 2009, up 56 percent from the previous year. It was the best year ever for Big Insurance.
One hour presentation to the American Geophysical Union by Dr.Richard Alley, Professor of Geosciences at Penn State. Very informative and worth the watch.
Dr. Alley's fields of expertise include glaciology, climate change and ice core analysis, and he has done extensive field work on ice sheets and the climate in Antarctica and Greenland. Dr. Alley also has been involved with the National Academy of Sciences and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, and was one of the prime movers in the latest IPCC report in 2007 that described the state of climate change on Earth and the role of human activities.
"The history of climate is recorded in ice," said Dr. Alley, whom Penn State honored in 2000 as an Evan Pugh professor. "Most of the potential for changing sea levels is in ice sheets."
Sea levels are on the rise, and there is "strong scientific evidence that humans are at least partially responsible" for the changes in climate, he said. "Almost all pieces of land ice are shrinking."
by Daniel J. Weiss a Senior Fellow and Director Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress.
During President-Elect Barack Obama’s transition, the Center for American Progress proposed a 10-point clean-energy agenda for the president and Congress <5> that would speed the economic transformation to a clean energy economy. A review of these items today finds that all were adopted or are working their way through the process. This is a startling achievement amidst the worst economy in 70 years <6>, two wars, and an opposition party disinterested in cooperation <7>. President Obama did much of what he promised, and he can do more in 2010 by cajoling Congress to do its part.
These achievements will have real world impact. By 2011, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, P.L. 111-5, will double the generation of renewable electricity from the wind, sun, and earth <8>. ARRA will also lead to energy efficiency retrofits in 1 million homes by 2012. And President Obama’s new fuel economy standards <9> would save 1.8 billion barrels of oil. Additional benefits will accrue as the president and Congress finish some 2009 clean-energy initiatives and additional efforts are launched in 2010.
Here’s a review of progress made by the president and Congress over the past year.
Overall, President Obama’s first year included unprecedented successes and efforts to speed the transformation to a 21st century clean energy economy. In addition to launching the aforementioned investments, he overturned a number of energy decisions made by the Bush administration that ignored sound science while favoring big oil and other special interests.
His success was led by a clean energy all-star team, including Assistant to the President Carol Browner, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, and Science Advisor John Holdren.
.....via Climate Progress....
Posted By Joe On January 11, 2010 @ 2:40 pm In Greenwashing | 4
You won’t believe this until you see it with your own eyes — and maybe not even then. From the GOP witness to the December 10 hearing on “Drinking Water and Public Health Impacts of Coal Combustion Waste Disposal <1>” — a medical doctor (!):
What does this guy tell his patients with diabetes — hey, people eat sugar every day, so go right ahead? Oh, and I’m sure he was against requiring safety belts and air bags on cars — don’t want to go down that slippery slope of regulating things to improve public health and safety.
After all, coal ash is “completely benign.” So go ahead, kids, sprinkle some on your Cheerios!
.........video here(one minute)..
Series of articles dealing with the use of civilian contractors.....very interesting.
Foreign Interpreters Hurt in Battle Find U.S. Insurance Benefits Wantingby T. Christian Miller, ProPublica - December 18, 2009 4:42 am EST
An insurance program funded by American taxpayers was supposed to provide a safety net for Iraqi interpreters and their families in the event of injury or death. Yet for many, the benefits have fallen painfully short of what was promised.
Injured Abroad, Neglected at Home: Labor Dept. Slow to Help War Zone Contractors
by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica - December 17, 2009 2:30 pm EST
WASHINGTON–In her first public address after taking office, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis promised to increase enforcement of laws designed to protect workers.
"You can rest assured that there is a new sheriff in town," she told union members at a gathering in Miami Beach shortly after her confirmation in February.
Ten months later, Solis’ Labor Department has failed to crack down on one of the agency’s fastest growing and most expensive programs–a system designed to ensure medical care for civilian workers injured in war zones.
The department is responsible for overseeing a workers compensation system in which insurance carriers provide coverage to civilians working on overseas federal contracts. Such policies are funded by taxpayers.
But the department has failed to pursue sanctions against corporations accused of ignoring federal requirements to purchase such insurance, according to a ProPublica review of court cases, federal records and interviews with worker advocates.
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