Wednesday, November 03, 2010

big trees protect your neighborhood

Big Trees May Make Communities Safer, Says Study

by Stephen Messenger, Porto Alegre, Brazil  on 11. 1.10
tree with eyes photoOriginal photo: this lyre lark / CC
They might not be too effective when it comes chasing down vandals or spooking away would-be burglars -- but it turns out that our humble city trees may be apt crime-fighters, nonetheless. According to the findings of a new report, data suggests that there's a relationship between the size and presence of trees in a neighborhood and a lower rate of criminal activity. Not bad for such a stationary life-form that's literally all bark and no bite.
According to a report from Science Daily, the study conducted by researchers from theU.S. Forest Service revealed that some urban trees may actually reduce incidences of property crimes and acts of violence. The findings are the result of an unprecedented look into the relationship between trees and crime -- using neighborhoods in the city of Portland, Oregon as a case sample.
Geoffrey Donovan, one of the researchers who worked on the study, is encouraged by the results which show that trees indeed offer communities much more than a place to hang a hammock.
We wanted to find out whether trees, which provide a range of other benefits, could improve quality of life in Portland by reducing crime, and it was exciting to see that they did. Although a burglar alarm may deter criminals, it won't provide shade on a hot summer day, and it certainly isn't as nice to look at as a tree.
To arrive at their theory that trees reduce crime, Donovan and his team poured over two years worth of police reports for property and violent crimes while noting various neighborhood characteristics, including the quality of tree-coverage where each incident occurred using aerial mapping and on-the-ground observations. When analyzed, the data suggests that areas with large trees, both in front and backyards, had lower levels of crime.
"We believe that large street trees can reduce crime by signaling to a potential criminal that a neighborhood is better cared for and, therefore, a criminal is more likely to be caught," says Donovan.
While large trees tend to be associated with reduced crime rates, some trees in a neighborhood actually had the opposite effect. Smaller trees run the risk of being "view-obstructing," says the researcher, which can make criminal acts like vandalism or burglary less easy to detect.
As if we needed another reason to love big, towering trees in our communities, it turns out that they may be making us safer, too. It seems only fair then, that in return, we continue to cherish and protect them -- and sure, a little hug now and then never hurt either.

the richer get richer

if this is considered class warfare, it's pretty obvious who has already lost...
November 1, 2010

Fast Track to Inequality

The clearest explanation yet of the forces that converged over the past three decades or so to undermine the economic well-being of ordinary Americans is contained in the new book, “Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class.”
The authors, political scientists Jacob Hacker of Yale and Paul Pierson of the University of California, Berkeley, argue persuasively that the economic struggles of the middle and working classes in the U.S. since the late-1970s were not primarily the result of globalization and technological changes but rather a long series of policy changes in government that overwhelmingly favored the very rich.
Those changes were the result of increasingly sophisticated, well-financed and well-organized efforts by the corporate and financial sectors to tilt government policies in their favor, and thus in favor of the very wealthy. From tax laws to deregulation to corporate governance to safety net issues, government action was deliberately shaped to allow those who were already very wealthy to amass an ever increasing share of the nation’s economic benefits.
“Over the last generation,” the authors write, “more and more of the rewards of growth have gone to the rich and superrich. The rest of America, from the poor through the upper middle class, has fallen further and further behind.”
As if to underscore this theme, it was revealed last week (by David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter for The New York Times), that the incomes of the very highest earners in the United States, a small group of individuals hauling in more than $50 million annually (sometimes much more), increased fivefold from 2008 to 2009, even as the nation was being rocked by the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Last year was a terrific year for those at the very top. Professors Hacker and Pierson note in their book that investors and executives at the nation’s 38 largest companies earned a stunning total of $140 billion — a record. The investment firm Goldman Sachs paid bonuses to its employees that averaged nearly $600,000 per person, its best year since it was founded in 1869.
Something has gone seriously haywire in the distribution of the fruits of the American economy.
This unfortunate shift away from a long period of more widely shared prosperity unfolded steadily, year after year since the late-’70s, whether Democrats or Republicans controlled the levers of power in Washington. “Winner-Take-All Politics” explores the vexing question of how this could have happened in a democracy in which — in theory, at least — the enormous number of voters who are not rich would serve as a check on policies that curtailed their own economic opportunities while at the same time supercharging the benefits of the runaway rich.
The answer becomes clearer when one recognizes, as the book stresses, that politics is largely about organized combat. It’s a form of warfare. “It’s a contest,” said Professor Pierson, “between those who are organized, who can really monitor what government is doing in a very complicated world and bring pressure effectively to bear on politicians. Voters in that kind of system are at a disadvantage when there aren’t reliable, organized groups representing them that have clout and can effectively communicate to them what is going on.”
The book describes an “organizational revolution” that took place over the past three decades in which big business mobilized on an enormous scale to become much more active in Washington, cultivating politicians in both parties and fighting fiercely to achieve shared political goals. This occurred at the same time that organized labor, the most effective force fighting on behalf of the middle class and other working Americans, was caught in a devastating spiral of decline.
Thus, the counterweight of labor to the ever-increasing political clout of big business was effectively lost.
“We’re not arguing that globalization and technological change don’t matter,” said Professor Hacker. “But they aren’t by any means a sufficient explanation for this massive change in the distribution of wealth and income in the U.S. Much more important are the ways in which government has shaped the economy over this period through deregulation, through changes in industrial relations policies affecting labor unions, through corporate governance policies that have allowed C.E.O.’s to basically set their own pay, and so on.”
This hyperconcentration of wealth and income, and the overwhelming political clout it has put into the hands of the monied interests, has drastically eroded the capacity of government to respond to the needs of the middle class and others of modest income.
Nothing better illustrates the enormous power that has accrued to this tiny sliver of the population than its continued ability to thrive and prosper despite the Great Recession that was largely the result of their winner-take-all policies, and that has had such a disastrous effect on so many other Americans.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

belle ile en mer

take your time browsing this -

can you play chopsticks ?

a new take on some of the oldest utensils...

halloween spider

47 feet - but which direction?  does it matter ?