Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saturday Night Movies


The">http://vimeo.com/109777141">The Wilderness of Manitoba - Leave Someone
from Nathan">http://vimeo.com/nathanboey">Nathan Boey on Vimeo.https://vimeo.com">Vimeo.>

La nuit américaine d'Angélique from doncvoilà productions on Vimeo.

The Groundsman from Jonny Blair on Vimeo.

JORDANNE from ZAK RAZVI on Vimeo.

JORDANNE from ZAK RAZVI on Vimeo.

Paris / New York from MATEL on Vimeo.

Le Tour Utrecht - BON VOYAGE! from Job, Joris & Marieke on Vimeo.

The Shadow Campaign // Sanctuary from DPS SKIS on Vimeo.

FLESH COMPUTER from Ethan Shaftel on Vimeo.

The Gospel According to Jeffrey Sachs

The Gospel According to Jeffrey Sachs

Myweekwiththebbc Joseph Loconte is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a commentator on religion for National Public Radio.  In this post he reviews Jeffrey Sachs' Reith Lectures.
To those of a certain temper of mind, a hope took hold in the years after the Great War that the “world community” was maturing toward a new stage of political and economic cooperation—that of socialism. There seemed to be lots of theorists around who nurtured this notion and no shortage of politicians who swooned under its sway. British Labour MP John Strachey caputured the mood:
“It is clear that man will in the end tire of the inconvenient idiosyncrasies of loyalty and will wish to pool the cultural heritage of the human race into a world synthesis.”
Since then, we’ve seen the “inconvenient idiosyncrasies” of the Third Reich, the Soviet Gulag, the Cultural Revolution, the killing fields of Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and, of course, the rise of Islamic jihad. So much for the world synthesis: Man has not yet grown tired of his irrational loyalties, but the dream that men and nations will do so—and will do so with dispatch—remains too attractive to let die.

Economist Jeffrey Sachs, delivering the BBC’s prestigious 2007 Reith Lectures, is keeping hope alive. His gospel is a familiar message of global cooperation—rich nations delivering money and resources to developing countries—that can defeat poverty in almost no time flat. We need merely to shed our petty rivalries and rearrange our spending priorities.

“We can end poverty, at home and abroad, with the technologies and tools that we have, if we trust each other sufficiently, at home and abroad,” he predicts. “The more people understand the real choices the real consequences and the real power that we have, with phenomenal technologies available, the more likely it is that we make the right choices.”
Mr. Sachs’s special burden, a supremely humane one, is to end deprivation on the African continent. He identifies four obstacles:
  1. low food production
  2. disease
  3. deficient infrastructure and
  4. overpopulation.
All of these problems, he claims, are “solvable with proven and relatively low-cost technologies.” Each of his lectures, in fact, emphasizes the role of science, technology and economic management in overcoming poverty on a global scale. Each is designed to challenge the conscience of the West in its relationship to the developing world.

What actually confounds the conscience, however, is what Mr. Sachs fails to address in any of his talks. Despite his reputation as a globe-trotting economist, he barely appreciates the complexity of problems embedded in the cultures he is so eager to rescue. He brushes aside warnings from African economists that Western aid will continue to be wasted on corrupt regimes that resist reform. He hardly mentions the social devastation caused by civil and regional wars—and, when he does, reinterprets them as a clash of economic interests. The genocidal bloodletting in the Darfur region of Sudan, for example, is reducible to a struggle over natural resources. (Tell that to the women being raped by Arab militias who despise their non-Arab identity.) The failure of U.N. peacekeeping missions on the continent, the persistence of dictatorial rule, the massive numbers of internal refugees, the sexual trafficking of women and girls—none of it seems to count for much in the Sachs calculus.

Likewise, Mr. Sachs views the AIDS pandemic that is ravaging the continent as simply a failure of the West to commit sufficient resources to vaccines and health infrastructure. The lessons of Uganda—that profoundly destructive sexual behaviors can and must be challenged—are dismissed. The alarming and complex problem of AIDS orphans is overlooked. The role of religious communities in changing sexual mores, as well as helping at-risk populations, is completely ignored. Top-down, technical solutions—engineered in Washington, New York, Geneva, and Brussels—dominate the Sachs reform agenda. Without a hint of irony, Mr. Sachs places the fate of Africa entirely in the hands of white, Western elites.

It all brings to mind poor Mrs. Jellyby, the Dickens character in Bleak House with her
beloved “African project.” No matter what the actual results on the ground, she says, “I am more confident of success every day.”

Others are not so confident. “Corruption is the thing that will undermine any aid the most because it undermines any support back from the taxpayers. It undermines, obviously, the governments and the countries themselves,” says William Easterly, professor of economics at New York University and author of The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. The result, he warned recently, could be “a new wave of cynicism that will destroy the case for effective aid, that will destroy the ability of people to do effective things that work for our generation.”
The Sachs view of the world, if widely endorsed by democratic leaders, could end up destroying much more than that.

What emerges from this lecture series is a soaring, unblushing hymn to humanism: a utopian view of societies utterly detached from the moral and spiritual motivations of the human person. An older humanism, in the Christian tradition, recognized that man’s capacity for virtue and achievement was deeply qualified by his perverted ego and insatiable lust for power. Not here: rationalism, scientism, secularism—thus is the trinity of Mr. Sach’s belief system. There is no room for the problem of human evil, no sense whatsoever of the tragedy of human nature. Here is escapism, adorned in the rhetoric of economic planning, progress, and prognostication.

The danger of escapism in a post-9/11 world is that it gives a free hand to the great enemies of decency and democracy—most importantly, the forces of radical Islam. “It’s a fascinating and crucial concept for us,” says Mr. Sachs, “peace as a way of solving problems.” As if there were no sworn enemies to the advocates of peace. As if peace would arrive simply by declaring it as a goal. As if a just peace could be achieved by the refusal to use force to stop murder on a massive scale.

A more sober generation of humanists knew better. Philosopher Lewis Mumford, writing as the Nazi war machine cast its shadow over Europe, excoriated the escapists of his own day. “One of the reasons that liberalism has been so incapable of working energetically for good ends is that it is incapable of resisting evil,” he wrote. “In its priggish fear of committing an unfair moral judgment, it habitually places itself on the side of…fascism’s victories.” For Mr. Sachs, however, the “true lesson” of the 1938 Munich Pact—the betrayal of Czechoslovakia into Nazi hands—is that democratic states should “reject concessions that cripple one’s security.”

The mind boggles. The actual, shameful lesson of Munich—that totalitarian aggression must never be appeased—the lesson learned by every responsible statesman and public intellectual since, is dismissed by the BBC’s anointed spokesman for economic  progressivism.

It thus comes as no surprise when Mr. Sachs belittles the idea that America and the West face any threats other than their own prejudices and parochial ambitions. Instead, he scolds the United States repeatedly for a political culture “hijacked by fear” and addicted to a wasteful military budget. “The way of solving problems requires one fundamental change, a big one,” he intones, “and that is learning that the challenges of our generation are not us versus them, they are not us versus Islam, us versus the terrorists, us versus Iran, they are us, all of us together on this planet against a set of shared and increasingly urgent problems.”

Here is the utopian temperament, the ghost of Munich 1938, the delusional soul that reduces evil to economics and idolizes peace at the expense of human freedom. While Mr. Sachs was waxing eloquent about our shared values, terrorists in Iraq drove a car to a security check point and were waved through because there were two small children in the back seat. They fled the vehicle and blew it up—with the children inside. While Mr. Sachs was dining with fellow appeasers on the BBC expense account, Britain sentenced five men to life in prison for a bomb plot linked to al Qaeda that could have killed thousands of civilians; in addition to chemical weapons, they had hoped to acquire nuclear material to create a dirty bomb.

Not to worry: Such unpleasantness can swiftly be overcome with the right mix of technology, politics and patience. “The issue here is not religious strife that is out of control and boiling over,” says Mr. Sachs. “It’s controllable. It’s a matter of politics, it’s a matter of management, it’s a matter of understanding, it’s a matter of institutions, it’s a matter of how we behave. We have to see how there’s another way. So these are processes, peace is a process.”

Lewis Mumford, who joined Reinhold Niebuhr’s group of “Christian realists” in the 1930s, saw a different and more sinister process at work. “Unless we head off these false hopes, lazy wishful attitudes, and perfectionist illusions, we will continue to defeat all our legitimate expectations and deplete the moral energies we will badly need to achieve the relative goods that will be open to us,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, the spirit of utopianism has not yet been exorcized.”

As Mr. Sachs completes his lecture series this week, now would be a good time to call in an exorcist or two.

Meglamaniac World Domination and Control: Jeffrey Sachs keynote at 2014 International Conference on Sustainable Development Practice


Published on Oct 17, 2014
On September 17-18, 2014, hundreds of development practitioners, researchers, students from all over the world gathered to present and discuss their research on evidence-based solutions for the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda. The event was held by the Global Association of Master’s in Development Practice Programs (MDP) in collaboration with the SDSN and included keynotes from Frannie Leautier, Partner and Chief Executive Officer, Mkoba Private Equity Fund; Jeffrey Sachs, Director of SDSN and Earth Institute; and Erik Solheim, Head of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC). Learn more about the conference at ic-sdp.org!

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Jeffrey D. Sachs is the Director of The Earth Institute, Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He is Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals, having held the same position under former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He is Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
 
 

Millennials’ Home Ownership Dreams Delayed, Not Abandoned

Millennials’ Home Ownership Dreams Delayed, Not Abandoned
bigstock-New-Home-268655.jpg
 
Eighty percent of Americans buy their first house between the ages of 18-34. While the Millennial Generation’s (born 1982-2003) delayed entry into all aspects of young adulthood has sometimes been characterized as a “failure to launch,” the generation’s  preference for single tract, suburban housing should become the fuel to ignite the nation’s next housing boom as Millennials  fully occupy this crucial age bracket over the next few years.

According to a study by Frank N. Magid Associates, 43 percent of Millennials describe suburbs as their “ideal place to live,” compared to just 31 percent of older generations. Even though big cities are often thought of as the place where young people prefer to live and work, only 17 percent of Millennials say they want to settle  in one. This was the same percentage of members of this generation that  expressed a preference for living in either rural or small town America. Nor are Millennials particularly anxious to spend their lives as renters. A full 64 percent of Millennials surveyed, said it was “very important” to have an opportunity to own their own home.

That hasn’t stopped a number of commentators from arguing that Millennials ought to prefer renting a loft apartment to buying a house and that   they would be better off doing so. For example, sociologist Katherine Newman, is “hoping that the Millennial Generation doesn't set its sights on homeownership as a benchmark of economic stability, because it's going to be out of reach for so many of them that it will just be a recipe for frustration."

But survey research suggests it may be her hopes that will be dashed as the Millennial Generation matures. Eighty-four percent of 18-34 year olds who are currently renting say that they intend to buy a home even if they can’t  currently afford to do so. As Neal Coleman, a married Millennial in his mid-twenties, put it, "You're freer when you own your own home, your own land. You're not beholden to a renter's contract, or lease. My feeling is that homeownership is an investment in being able to control your surroundings, to build a life for you and your family."

Glenn E. Crenlin from the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington believes that “what we're looking at in terms of the Millennial Generation is likely only a delay in homeownership of three to five years, not a long-term trend away from homeownership itself." He cites census data from the American Community Survey that shows a significant increase in homeownership among Millennials as compared to Baby Boomers when they were at the same age that Millennials are now.  “While 900,000 households in the Millennial Generation [now] own their own home, only 500,000 Baby Boomer households owned their own homes at the same point in their lives.”
 
This data suggests the key to a resounding revival of America’s housing market may be the availability of affordable homes in neighborhoods with amenities that would appeal to Millennials and their young families. As always, safe streets and good schools are key components of such an environment. But so too are short commutes to work and nearby shops featuring the local products that appeal to younger customers.

Such neighborhoods already exist in many close-in suburbs whose housing stock is in need of some renovation, or “gentrification,” from energetic owners committed to improving their local community. These attributes describe Millennials precisely. Their willingness to invest sweat equity in rehabilitating their first home should be rewarded in the financing process either by counting its value toward a down payment or using it to wipe out some of the outstanding student debt with which many of the members of this generation are burdened. Alternatively, homes could be offered to Millennials as rentals with an option to buy and with the cost of any renovations performed by the renter deducted from the down payment required to make the conversion from rental to ownership.

Recently, National Association of Realtors President Moe Veissi announced that "Realtors are committed to ensuring that the dream of homeownership can become a reality for generations of Americans to come." To start making that dream come true for Millennials, realtors and those who finance home purchases need to create innovative new offerings tailored to the needs and wants of Millennials. Policies and programs that will  enable America’s most populous generation to own a  piece of the American Dream offer the best hope for igniting the home construction boom critical to boosting country’s still sagging economy.

Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais are co-authors of the newly published Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation is Remaking America and Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, and the Future of American Politics and fellows of NDN and the New Policy Institute. Full disclosure: Michael D. Hais retired in 2006 as Vice-President of Entertainment Research from Frank N. Magid Associates after a 22 year career with Magid and continues to do occasional work for the firm.

Millennials eye home ownership

Millennials eye home ownership

 
 

The millennials among us — folks born between 1982 and 2004 — don’t give a hoot about owning a home, goes the prevailing wisdom.
A differing opinion surfaced this week from a not too surprising source: The California Association of Realtors.
“Contrary to popular belief, millennials still highly value home ownership, and a majority expect to buy a home in the next five years,” the association said.
The group draws its conclusion from an online survey of adults 18-34 on their thoughts toward owning a house. condo or even a yurt. The rating scale went from 1 to 10, with 1 being not important at all, and a 10 signifying it’s extremely important.

Fifty-four percent of those surveyed felt buying a home rated an 8 or higher.
“The biggest advantages they see in home ownership are the freedom to do what they want with the property, privacy and the satisfaction of ownership,” the association said of the age group.
That makes them sound like the geezers of my generation, Gen X and Gen Y. It also looks like they have been paying attention to real-estate market trends.
Fifty-nine percent anticipate home prices increasing in a year, while 63 percent see them rising in five years, according to the survey. And the biggest obstacle to home ownership remains the same as it ever has: money.

Of the millennials who rent, 67 percent do so because they can’t afford to buy.
“Despite recent news reports of young adults moving back home to live with mom and dad, millennials haven’t completely written off home buying and still aspire to owning a home,” association president Kevin Brown said in a statement.
Among the current renters, 36 percent said affordable home prices would motivate them to buy now. Sixteen percent said the precipitating factor would be having the necessary down payment, and 15 percent would need an improvement in their finances.

Mixed housing market

State and regional housing markets continued to sputter along in September, the California Association of Realtors also noted this week.
Sales of previously owned single-family homes fell 4 percent from a year ago to an annualized rate of 396,440 units statewide, though sales were flat from August. The state’s median house price rose 8 percent from a year ago, up to $460,940.
In Los Angeles County, sales fell 2 percent from a year ago, while the median price rose 6 percent, to $414,300. And in the Inland Empire, sales rose 0.5 percent and the median price increased 9 percent, to $275,820.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Night Music - Rockabilly mix


Asking If 'Big Gov't Sucks' Got This Girl in Trouble with Cops, Kicked Off Campus

Asking If 'Big Gov't Sucks' Got This Girl in Trouble with Cops, Kicked Off Campus

BrowardTurning Point USA / Youtube

Lauren Cooley, a 22-year-old journalist and conservative activist, canvassed Broward College last week asking students there whether they agreed that "big government sucks." The question soon answered itself: Campus police officers interrupted Cooley, told her that she had to restrict her activities to the designated "free speech zone," and threatened to arrest her unless she left the campus.
Broward is a Miami-area community college and public institution that hosted a debate between Florida gubernatorial candidates Rick Scott and Charlie Crist last week.
According to The College Fix:
She spent nearly 90 minutes there asking students “Hey, do you think big government sucks?” as she worked to find students interested in signing a petition to launch a Turning Point student club on campus, she said in an interview with The College Fix.
As Cooley was leaving the Davie, Florida campus she saw a male student and asked him if he thought big government sucked, and at that point she was told by a campus security guard that she needed to go to the “free-speech area,” she said in an interview Friday with The College Fix.
Cooley recorded the incident. The cops insisted that she was not allowed to speak to students about a political topic outside the free speech zone, even though many students—having just attended a political debate—were actively discussing politics out in the open (how shocking!). Cooley was wise enough to ask whether she was being detained and declined to hand over her ID. Eventually, an officer told her to leave the campus at once or be arrested for trespassing.
“Alright,” Cooley said as she walked away. “Remember, big government sucks.”
“Yeah, I know,” the officer can be heard saying in the background.
After being told in absolute terms by a police officer that she was not permitted to speak to students and would be arrested if she remained any longer, Cooley left the campus.

According to The College Fix, Cooley is a resident of Broward County. "It’s literally the college my taxdollars go to partially fund," she said.

Free speech zones are pernicious and manifestly unconstitutional staples of many campuses. That a public institution of higher learning would want to prevent a young person from discussing politics with students is inexcusable.

That the cops would aggressively enforce this restrictive policy is even worse.

Dropbox, Airbnb, and the Fight Over San Francisco’s Public Spaces

Dropbox, Airbnb, and the Fight Over San Francisco’s Public Spaces

By




On most mornings in San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza, elderly Asian women practice tai chi under the pollarded sycamore trees. Last Thursday morning, this long-running scene was disrupted by protesters, who gathered on the steps of City Hall to speak out against the privatization of public parks. The plaza was surrounded by barricades and guarded by a group of private security guards. The space had been rented out to Salesforce, the city’s largest tech employer, for the company’s annual Dreamforce Gala and Benefit Concert. As the protesters chanted—“Mission Playground is not for sale!”—a trio of women performed slow, graceful tai-chi movements in the alcove of a staircase, across the street, leading to an underground parking lot.
 
The protest—which drew at least two hundred people, including several middle- and high-school students who said that their parents and school principals had approved their absence from school—was a response to a video that went viral on Bay Area social media on October 10th. The video, which was first picked up by the local blog Uptown Almanac, jumped to more than half a million views after a post on the blog Valleywag. It depicts an incident that occurred, in August, at the soccer field at Mission Playground, a public park in San Francisco’s historically Latino but increasingly gentrified Mission District.
In the video, a group of adults—mostly white males—approach a dozen or so Latino teen-agers and ask them to forfeit the field. A college student named Kai, who seems to be the leader of the neighborhood kids, explains the pickup rules (seven on seven, no time limit, whoever scores first keeps the field) and asks the men how long they’ve lived in the neighborhood. “Who gives a shit? Who cares about the neighborhood?,” one of the men mutters off-screen.

The men explain that they paid to reserve the field, and a man named Conor arrives with a printed document. “It’s pretty simple, man. We paid twenty-seven dollars to reserve the field for an hour,” Conor says to Kai, holding the piece of paper up to his face. “Read it. Read it.”
 
“I know how to read,” Kai says. “I’m an educated person. I also know that this field has always been a pickup field where you play seven on seven and wait your turn. You guys think that just because you have money you can buy the field and play.”
 
Journalists and activists soon identified the men as employees of Dropbox and Airbnb, the company that many residents blame for decreasing available housing and increasing the number of evictions. Residential evictions are inherently domestic affairs carried out in hasty court proceedings or hush-hush buyouts, but the standoff at Mission Playground gave the Latino residents in the area an opportunity to see their children publicly harassed.
Kai, who asked not to be identified by his last name, told me that he and his family have been evicted from their homes in San Francisco twice. The twenty-year-old said that the family lived in a rent-controlled apartment in the Mission District until their eviction, in 2005. They then moved to the Richmond neighborhood and were again evicted, four years later, thanks to California’s notorious Ellis Act. They now live in South of Market, a neighborhood that was once dominated by single-room-occupancy units but is currently the focal point of much of the city’s commercial and residential development.
White men sporting T-shirts with tech-company logos are, in some ways, the perfect avatar of the incoming population that’s transformed the city’s demographics. They are the wealthy, predominantly white tech employees who have been pouring into the formerly working-class immigrant neighborhoods, driving up the cost of housing, and giving the landlords increased incentives to evict longtime tenants from rent-controlled apartments. (Between 1990 and 2011, the Mission District lost fourteen hundred Latino households and gained twenty-nine hundred white ones; during the same period, the black population of the city was cut in half.)
 
Kai told me that he had heard over the summer that pickup-soccer players were regularly being kicked off the field in the evening by adults who had paid to reserve the field through the city’s Recreation and Park Department. Having grown up playing soccer on that field, Kai decided to try to help the neighborhood kids make a stand for the existing rules. “I’ve also felt kind of exiled from the community, because of my eviction, and I didn’t want to see the same thing happening,” he said.
 
Nathan, a middle-school student and one of the soccer players who spoke at the rally, compared the tech workers’ actions to a kind of eviction. “When the incident happened at the park, I was mad because they were kicking me out of my second home,” he said. Another one of the soccer players, Hugo Vargas, said, “If I lose the park, I lose my family. I lose my home.”

Jean-Denis Greze, an engineer at Dropbox who was part of the dispute, issued a brief apology on Twitter. Dropbox apologized as a company, stating, “We were disappointed to learn that a couple of our employees weren’t respectful to this community. . . . We’re sorry, and we promise to do better.” Airbnb also released a statement: “We want to apologize for the Airbnb team at the Mission Playground. Enhancing the neighborhoods and the cities we serve is our top priority and these employees didn’t live up to our values. We have reminded everyone on our team that we all have an obligation to uphold our shared values every day, no matter where we are.”
It is a strange phenomenon to see members of an industry that prides itself on the disruptive innovation of flouting regulation line up to apologize for their employees, who, in this instance, followed the rules. (Airbnb recently achieved a major victory in San Francisco with legislation that legalizes its short-term rentals, but it continues to operate outside the law in many cities. Its apology did not come with the estimated twenty-five million dollars that it allegedly owes the city in uncollected hotel taxes.) The city did allow for rentals of the park, for a twenty-seven-dollar fee, just as Conor had stated. The problem was that the two groups were following different sets of rules—one established by tradition and cultural norms, the other by city regulations. The city’s rules favor those with twenty-seven dollars to spare and either a credit card (phone reservations require a Visa or Mastercard) or the ability to go to the department’s office (a lengthy bus ride). The neighborhood’s rules favor those who’ve been around long enough to know how the pickup system works.
 
But while the tech companies were busy waging P.R. campaigns, the neighborhood youth and their supporters were pointing fingers at a bigger target: the local government and its tech-friendly policies. As Kai put it, “Who is making the policies that are encouraging tech workers to move into communities? And how are those spaces being emptied in the first place?” The Mission Playground was not underutilized (even in the middle of the workday last Thursday, a handful of Latino men were kicking a ball around). Last Thursday, the president of the Recreation and Park Commission, Mark Buell, said, “There is no profit associated with the fees that are charged for permitting. It doesn’t even cover the administrative cost. It’s a way of trying to provide a service to the community.” The question is: Which community is the department interested in serving?
 
San Francisco’s startup culture has thrived on monetizing commodities that were once free, like public parking spaces and restaurant reservations. It’s no wonder that the parks department wants in on the action. Activists are highly suspicious of the general manager, Phil Ginsburg, who they believe wants to turn the parks department into an enterprise agency—a government institution that generates its own budget (like the airport) by charging for access and services instead of relying on tax dollars. This practice, according to the parks department’s deputy director of public affairs, Connie Chan, is not new. In an e-mail, Chan wrote, “For over 100 years the Department has earned a portion of its operating budget—all of which goes to support programs and services. Our earned revenue constitutes about a third of our operating budget and provides visitors with enhanced park amenities such as bike rentals, food trucks and docent tours.”
 
Still, to several of the city’s residents, some of the parks department’s new programs feel like a betrayal. Dozens of residents spoke to the park commission last Thursday morning, almost all pleading with department officials to stop the privatization of public spaces.
According to the young men in the video (none of the adult tech workers have responded to requests for comment), after the camera was turned off, the groups agreed to divide the field and play separately, each on its own half. Now, thanks to the outrage engendered by the video, pickup rules will continue to prevail at Mission Playground—at least for now. Ginsburg met with some of the youth from the video the day before the protest and agreed to halt the evening rentals.
 
It’s a victory for the Mission’s remaining Latino community, but there’s no guarantee that the privatization of San Francisco’s other public parks and facilities won’t continue apace. The city may be willing to forgo the twenty-seven-dollar fee for one soccer field, but it’s hard to imagine the city giving up the money that it could earn from renting out Civic Center Plaza to corporations such as Salesforce. There seems to be no real resolution in sight, and, every time something similar to what happened at the Mission Playground occurs, it’s certain to polarize the city further. “It’s a literal interpretation of what our city is facing right now,” Edwin Lindo, a leader of the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club, said, at last Thursday’s rally. “Someone coming with a piece of paper who says you have to leave.”
 
Editor's Note:
This pretty much sums up the current attitude of our governments. "We own the property and request payment for its use". Wait until they institute VMT (vehicle mileage tax) to have "permission" to go down our public roads that have been paid for the taxpayers several times over through gas taxes. Suddenly we are back in the times of King George where the "king" owns everything. Steve Kinsey, Marin County Supervisor District 4 and MTC commissioner is advocating VMTs as a way to pay for all the development along 101.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

NY Times: China's great forced migration

See NY Times articles:
LEAVING THE LAND

China’s Great Uprooting: Moving 250 Million Into Cities

Articles in this series look at how China’s government-driven effort to push the population to towns and cities is reshaping a nation that for millenniums has been defined by its rural life.



LEAVING THE LAND: China's Consuming Billion from Jonah Kessel on Vimeo.

LEAVING THE LAND

Picking Death Over Eviction



EDITOR'S NOTE: In China, they don't bother with citizen's rights because they don't have any! That's not very "efficient". Government was not set up to be efficient. Our government was set up to find and maintain the right balance between social order and liberty which, by necessity, changes over time but I doubt requires this type of government land grab.  Plan Bay Area likewise is trying to concentrate people into narrow strips of land like the 101 Urban Corridor.  The idea is to keep people out of the "wildlands corridor". In Marinwood-Lucas Valley,  the urban boundary ends at Grady Ranch.

SB-1 is a proposed law to allow government to seize property through eminent domain WITHOUT the finding of blight.  It is the most significant land use legislation of our lifetime.  



How Planners & Politicians Are Killing Property Rights



Topic: "Private Property: How Politicians and Planners Are Killing the American Dream" 
  
People need to be aware of what is happening at the State, regional, and local level that could have significant impact on the traditional American way of life, wealth building , and upward mobility. All of these threats are being implemented right under our nose through administrative law and policies .It is the incremental implementation of collectivization of private property.

Most taxpayers are unaware that they are funding the demise of the way of life that made them successful and prosperous. The forces pushing this are well organized and funded. They use words like "sustainable development and smart growth" which sound very innocent on the surface but disguise an underlying and insideous effort to subvert property rights and control where and how you live, all in the name of saving the planet and instituting social equity.
   
The forces that want the fundamental transformation of America are counting on your ignorance, apathy, or isolation. Time to get educated and stand up for the Constitution.

  
  

Senate Committee Report Details Environmentalists' Inner Workings


Senate Committee Report Details Environmentalists' Inner Workings


Over the past fifty years, America’s environmental movement has grown from college kids adorning flowers to a billion dollar industry. With huge budgets to employ lobbyists, lawyers, and public relations professionals, many of America’s leading environmental non-profits are unrecognizable from their modest beginnings. What may seem like an organic, disparate movement is actually a well oiled machine that receives its funding from a handful of super rich liberal donors operating behind the anonymity of foundations and charities, according to a new report out today by the Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW).
The EPW report titled The Chain of Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA meticulously details how the “Billionaires’ Club” funds nearly all of the major environmental non-government organizations (NGO), many media outlets, and supposed grassroots activists. The Billionaire Report continues by describing the cozy relationship many environmental groups have with the executive branch and the revolving door that makes this possible.
The most striking aspect of the Billionaire Report is the sheer amount of money that is in play. In 2011 alone, ten foundations donated upwards of half a billion dollars to environmental causes. Many of these foundations, whose assets are valued in the billions, meet and coordinate under the framework provided by the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA). Described as the “funding epicenter of the environmental movement,” EGA members doled out $1.13 billion to environmental causes in 2011. EGA’s membership is not public but its clout is self-evident given the amount of money its members direct to recognizable environmental NGOs.
Often times, EGA members will elect to indirectly fund organizations that are the face of the environmental movement. For example, instead of directly cutting a check to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) or the Sierra Club, the Hewlett Foundation or the Packard Foundation will contribute to the Energy Foundation. The Billionaire Report describes the Energy Foundation as “a pass through charity utilized by the most powerful EGA members to create the appearance of a more diversified base of support, to shield them from accountability, and to leverage limited resources by hiring dedicated energy/environment staff to handle strategic giving.”
The Energy Foundation’s funding paths are depicted in the Billionaire Report chart below.
Energy Foundation
Not all of this money is being used to write white papers about how wind is going to power our country or how the EPA should implement this or that regulation. In fact, millions of dollars from the Energy Foundation find their way into political spending. The Billionaire Report illuminates this process by showing how the Green Tech Action Fund is financed:
Between 2010 and 2012, both foundations [Hewlett Foundation and Packard Foundation] donated hundreds of millions of dollars to ClimateWorks Foundation, a 501(c)(3) foundation. ClimateWorks then gave nearly $170 million to the Energy Foundation. Hewlett and Packard gave directly to the Energy Foundation. The Energy Foundation then gave $5,676,000 to Green Tech, and ClimateWorks gave it $1,520,000. The Energy Foundation was incredibly brief, broad and vague in describing the purpose of its 2011 and 2012 grants of $1 million, respectively, to Green Tech. The 2011 description states: “To support clean energy policies,” while in 2012 the purpose is listed as: “To advance clean technology markets, especially energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.”
Green Tech, in turn, donated heavily to at least three 501(c)(4) far-left environmental activist organizations during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.
This process is illustrated here:
Funding Flow bw Foundations, Orgs, Campaigns
In addition to playing in national politics through the Energy Foundation, New York and California based foundations use a handful of other charities to prop-up local activist groups. The Billionaire Report looks at the efforts in New York and Colorado to prohibit and hamstring hydraulic fracturing:
A pseudo-grassroots effort to attack hydraulic fracturing has germinated from massive amounts of funding by three foundations: Schmidt Family Foundation, Tides Foundation and Park Foundation…In typical secretive billionaire donor fashion, the foundations’ funding was funneled through fiscal sponsors. Funding through these intermediary organizations, such as the Sustainable Markets Foundation (SMF) and Food & Water Watch, create distance between the wealthy foundations and alleged community-based outfits….
One scheme, led by the New York-based Park Foundation and California-based Schmidt Family Foundation, provides numerous grants to the New York-based SMF, which serves as the fiscal sponsor for multiple New York groups engaged in this effort, including Water Defense, Frack Action and Artists Against Fracking. During 2011, SMF gave $147,750 to Water Defense. The following year, SMF funneled a $150,000 grant “to support Water Defense” from Schmidt. Notably, Water Defense was founded in 2010 by actor Mark Ruffalo, who has an estimated net worth of $20 million and was listed on Time Magazines’ 2011 “People Who Mattered” for his anti-fracking efforts. In 2011, SMF gave Frack Action $324,198, with $150,000 stemming from Schmidt grants to SMF. Ironically, one of the Schmidt grants specified that $100,000 go “to support Frack Action’s grassroots campaign fighting for a ban on horizontal hydraulic fracturing” (emphasis added).
However, the mere funding from the California-based Schmidt demonstrates Frack Action’s campaign is anything but grassroots. In 2012, SMF received $185,000 for Frack Action through grants from Park and Schmidt. While the amount of money funneled to Yoko Ono’s Artists Against Fracking cannot be identified, as SMF’s 2012 IRS Form-990 is unavailable, Artists Against Fracking’s now-removed website directs donations to SMF.
This process is illustrated here:NY anti fracking to Colorado
While even passive political observers are aware of environmentalists’ political activities – who could forget American Lung Association’s coughing baby? – few people fully appreciate how interconnected the environmental movement is with the current White House and its regulatory agencies. For evidence of the environmental movement’s influence, look no further than the EPA’s recent GHG regulation for existing plants. This regulation, hailed by its supporters as the crowning achievement of the Obama Administration, drew heavily from a Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) model regulation. The New York Times wrote that the EPA used NRDC’s regulation as its “blueprint.” NRDC’s clout within Democrat circles is well known and inspired the 2009 Greenwire article “NRDC Mafia Finding Homes on Hill, in EPA .”
But NRDC is by no means the only activist group with alumni in key executive branch positions. The Billionaire’s Report calls attention to Deputy Administrator for the EPA Bob Perciasepe was the former Chief Operating Officer of the National Audubon Society. The EPA’s Region 9 Administrator used to work for the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund as well as the NRDC. Acting Administrator/Deputy Administrator for the Office of Water Nancy Stoner was Co-Director and Senior Attorney for NRDC’s Water Program. EPA’s Region 2 Administrator was previously the Executive Director of the Environmental Advocates of New York.
While former hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer may be grabbing headlines over his pledge to spend $100 million dollars this election cycle, it is clear that the modern environmental movement is already well funded and organized. Totaling more than 90 pages and containing over 400 citations, the Billionaire Report will begin an important conversation about who really funds the environmental left and what they really represent.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/chrisprandoni/2014/07/30/breaking-senate-committee-report-details-environmentalists-inner-workings/

Backyard Bucks in Marinwood


And now for a moment of beauty in Marinwood.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Critique of Common Core by Dr. Duke Pesta


Don't Eat Your Dog: The Surprising Moral Case for Free Enterprise


Kotkin, Gattis: Economic diversity helps Houstonians live well


Kotkin, Gattis: Economic diversity helps Houstonians live well

Lower costs help middle- and working-class residents enjoy higher standards of living

By Joel Kotkin and Tory Gattis | October 18, 2014
   FIle Photo.  The downtown Houston Skyline from the Rosemont Bridge spanning over Buffalo Bayou, Monday, Jan. 30, 2012, in Houston.  ( Michael Paulsen / Houston Chronicle ) Photo: Michael Paulsen, Staff / © 2011 Houston Chronicle                                   
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Over the past decade, we have witnessed the emergence of a new urban paradigm that both maximizes growth and provides greater upward mobility. We call this opportunity urbanism, an approach that focuses largely on providing the best policy environment for both businesses and individuals to pursue their aspirations.

Although contrary to much of the conventional wisdom about cities and regions, this is not a break with traditional urbanism, but instead a reinforcement of old traditions. Long ago, Aristotle reminded us that the city was a place where people came to live, and they remained there in order to live better. "A city comes into being for the sake of life, but exists for the sake of living well." In the end, opportunity urbanism rests on the notion that cities serve, first and foremost, as engines to create better lives for the vast majority of its residents.

The Houston and luxury models

The Houston metropolitan area reflects the idea of opportunity urbanism more closely than any major metropolitan area. Across a broad spectrum - income growth, new jobs, housing starts, population growth and migration - no other major metropolitan region in the country has performed as well over the past decade. This was among the first major metropolitan regions to replace the jobs lost in the recession and has experienced by far the largest percentage job growth since, with Dallas-Fort Worth second.

In many ways, opportunity urbanism contrasts with the prevailing urban planning paradigm - variously called new urbanism or smart growth - which seeks to replicate the dense, highly concentrated monocentric city of the past. This approach posits the notion that policies of forced density, through regulatory mandates and often subsidies, are critical to attracting both young, educated people and the global business elite. This approach describes the successful city, in the words of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as "a luxury product."

This notion of the "luxury city" worked, at least for some, in well-appointed older cities such as New York, San Francisco and Boston. Unlike most American cities, these boast long-established dense cores and transit-oriented areas where residents are employed. They possess great amenities tied to their pasts, from world-class art museums and universities, to charming historic districts, parks and public structures.
 
But this model of urbanism does not fit the profile of most American metropolitan regions, which tend to be far more recent in their development, more dispersed and overwhelmingly dependent on cars in terms of commuting. Indeed, most of the fastest-growing regions in this country - Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Oklahoma City, Raleigh and Nashville - function in a highly multipolar model that contrasts sharply with that of cities like New York, Boston or Chicago.

Prospects for upward mobility

The luxury paradigm has worked for some in some cities, but has failed, critically, in providing ample opportunities for the middle and working classes, much less the poor. Indeed, many of the cities most closely identified with luxury urbanism tend to suffer the most extreme disparities of both class and race. If Manhattan were a country, it would rank sixth-highest in income inequality in the world out of more than 130 countries for which the World Bank reports data. New York's wealthiest 1 percent earn one-third of the entire municipality's personal income - almost twice the proportion for the rest of the country.

Indeed, increasingly, New York, as well as San Francisco, London, Paris and other cities where the cost of living has skyrocketed, are no longer places of opportunity for those who lack financial resources or the most elite educations. Instead, they thrive largely by attracting people who are already successful or are living on inherited largesse.
They are becoming, as journalist Simon Kuper puts it, "the vast gated communities where the 1 percent reproduces itself."

Not surprisingly, the middle class is shrinking rapidly in most luxury cities. A recent analysis of 2010 Census data by the Brookings Institution found that the percentage of middle incomes in metro regions such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago has been in a precipitous decline for the last 30 years, due in part to high housing and business costs.
A more recent 2014 Brookings study found that these generally high-cost luxury cities - with the exception of Atlanta-tend to suffer the most pronounced inequality: San Francisco, Miami, Boston, Washington DC, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. In recent years, income inequality has risen most rapidly in the very mecca of luxury progressivism, San Francisco, where the wages of the poorest 20 percent of all households have actually declined amid the dot com billions.

Like other large cities, Houston also suffers a high level of inequality, but its lower costs have helped its middle and working class populations to enjoy a higher standard of living than their luxury city counterparts. The promise of the opportunity urbanism model also can be demonstrated by smaller income disparities between racial groups, higher GDP growth, less expansion of poverty and the greater production of high-paying mid-skilled jobs. In these aspects, opportunity cities like Houston greatly out-performed their often more celebrated rivals.

But for this model to continue to succeed, Houston must confront many challenges, some of which are a direct product of its successful growth. Opportunity urbanism is not a libertarian fantasy; government must and should play an important, even expanding role. There remains, as we spell out in our report, enormous need to expand the region's infrastructure, and, most important, to improve the educational institutions of the region, from the troubled grade schools to expanding vocational programs and building up the area's still inadequate higher education.

How to measure 'living well'

The one statistic that best encompasses the success of the Houston opportunity model and exposes the weakness of smart growth is the cost-of-living adjusted average paycheck (see chart on page B13).

Despite the assertions of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, among others, that the Texas urban economy is based on low wages, Harris County's average household income is above the national average; close to that of Boston. But once the cost of living is factored in, Houston does far better for its citizens compared to any of the legacy cities.

Houston, with Dallas-Fort Worth a strong second, is able to provide its citizens the highest standard of living, as measured by average annual adjusted wages, of any major metro area in America. This is different from subjective "quality of life," but includes such basics as jobs, housing and overall cost of living.

In the end, the key advantage and promise of opportunity urbanism lies in finding ways to help residents fulfill the basic aspirations of citizens. Far more than glittery events or celebrity culture, what really matters is whether a city helps improve the often mundane conditions of life. "Everyday life," observed the great French historian Fernand Braudel, "consists of the little things one hardly notices in time and space."

This approach follows Aristotle's notion of the ultimate purpose of cities - about serving as an engine for improving lives.

It is a great thing that America continues to boast some of the most luxurious, edgy and attractive urban districts in the world. But we also need cities that can nurture new and innovative businesses, while accommodating families, middle- and working-class people with a high standard of living. Opportunity urbanism, and cities like Houston, provides that option.
Kotkin is an author, executive editor of NewGeography.com and Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University. Gattis writes the Houston Strategies blog.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Socialism is the Philosophy of Failure.


Dick Spotswood: High court ruling on Fair Housing and zoning could hit home

Dick Spotswood: High court ruling on Fair Housing and zoning could hit home

Marin Independent Journal

Shaun Donovan, Former HUD Secretary



 



After long deferring the issue, the U.S. Supreme Court has now agreed to accept a case which will determine the definition of housing discrimination. The implications for Marin are huge.

The high court took on appeal Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs vs. Inclusive Communities Project.

It emanates from a New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court decision which summarized, "The primary issue on appeal is the correct legal standard to be applied in disparate impact claims under the Fair Housing Act."

Since the Obama administration's advent, the Department of Housing and Urban Development holds that what must be proved to find racial discrimination is that some government action creates a "disparate impact."
Essentially this doctrine says that if any laws, especially zoning ordinances, are instituted and thereafter results in what HUD determines as racial imbalance, the law is deemed inherently discriminatory even if that's not its intention. Actions are then mandated to remedy the alleged discrimination.

This aggressive stance contrasts with the once widely accepted notion that discrimination findings require a "specific intent" to discriminate.
 
It's what the fractious litigation involving HUD and New York's suburban Westchester County is about. The federal agency claims that prosperous Westchester's utilization of single-family-home zoning is, by definition, racially discriminatory. As fewer so-called "protected class" members live in single-family neighborhoods, zoning should be changed to multi-family.

Texas vs. Inclusive Communities involves a state of Texas appeal of a judgment approving a "disparate impact" claim. There it was claimed that housing grants, including Section 8 funds, were directed exclusively to minority-majority areas and not into middle class majority-white neighborhoods.

With much of Marin zoned for single-family homes and open space, the ramifications to Marin, similar suburban communities and elite urban neighborhoods are obvious. If HUD prevails it can mandate multi-unit housing in historically single-family and rural communities nationwide.
Marin's potential consequences substantially increased after its Board of Supervisors in 2010 unanimously approved a "Voluntary Compliance Agreement" with HUD. That pact is similar to the one enabling the federal no-holds-barred enforcement action against Westchester. It requires placement of multi-unit low-income housing within upper-middle-class communities.

The Marin-HUD agreement partially explains the county supervisors' consistent advocacy for more Marin multiunit housing designed to facilitate racial and class diversity.

HUD and housing activists maneuvered to settle two similar suits before reaching the justices. Their concern was the top court would decide actual discriminatory intent was required to justify findings of discrimination.

Appellant Texas is betting on a Supreme Court significantly more conservative than circuit courts.
The nine justices will decide if the "disparate impact" doctrine applies to the federal Fair Housing Act. That law makes it illegal to "refuse to sell or rent ... or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin."
The congressionally written ill-defined phrase "otherwise make unavailable" is at the crux of the argument. Congress itself could redefine the phrase but Congress is incapable of any action.

Housing advocates contend that even absent actual discriminatory intent, current zoning laws create patterns of discrimination that facilitate deplorable living conditions plaguing "protected classes."
Texas will assert, as did the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court when ruling in the "Arlington Heights" case, that "not every action which produces discriminatory effects is illegal."

There's little incentive for hard-nosed Texas to settle. The court will resolve the long-running dispute once and for all, probably on a 4-5 vote.

Which way the wind is blowing is likely known only to Justice Anthony Kennedy, the tribunal's usual swing vote. Expect a ruling by June.

Columnist Dick Spotswood of Mill Valley shares his views on local politics every Sunday and Wednesday in the IJ. Email him at