Food deliveries: the greener option

Years ago my parents bought their groceries on the Internet, which were then delivered that same afternoon. This was in the San Francisco Bay Area, where traffic is horrible most hours of the day. The firm didn’t last long, perhaps a function of trying to navigate a sprawling highway system within such a narrow window of time.

I mentioned a few posts ago that I observed an Amazon truck delivering groceries to Capitol Hill residents in Seattle. I understand that Safeway offers the same service, though I’m not sure about availability.

A couple of researchers at the University of Washington have studied the energy requirements of individuals trekking off to their local grocery stores versus having the food delivered to their door. It seems that the latter saves fuel and emits far fewer carbons vis-à-vis the former.

Via the Wonkblog.

About writing

A couple of pieces in this morning’s New York Times about writing. One is by columnist David Brooks, who distinguishes between engaged and detached writers. He favors the latter.

The other is by Tim Kreider. I like this excerpt:

Since I am not and never will be anyone who knows enough about anything to be worth listening to on the basis of my expertise, my only possible claim to anyone’s attention is honesty. Unalloyed honesty is the iridium of the information economy — vanishingly rare, and therefore precious.

I may aspire to such honesty, since I certainly don’t know much about anything in particular, save for what I ate for breakfast. But “precious” does not immediately come to mind.

Ideology prevents saving money

I’ll focus only on the narrowest of implications, this one involving political biases and energy choices. One might think, for example, that conservatives would be interested in saving money. However, conservatives are more likely to dismiss or oppose the science of climate change. As it happens, that bias informs buying choices when it comes to light bulbs, for instance. Conservatives eschew CFLs and LEDs because they are “green” technology, even though the bulbs save both energy and dollars.

More on this here.


Long live the Kings? [u]

Former Sonics fans took it on the chin yesterday when a group of NBA owners issued its recommendation: keep the well-traveled Kings in Sacramento. Now the full board will formally vote on the issue, though the outcome is all-but-guaranteed. No Sonics in Seattle—yet.

One may think they smell a rat rustling behind the scenes. That would be Commissioner David Stern, who wields more power than his counterparts in other professional leagues. He took umbrage with our politicians several years ago when they chose to heed the will of the people and deny public funding for a brand new arena to house the then-Sonics. So he greased the political skids that sent Seattle’s team slithering off to oil-rich Oklahoma City. Now that a bona fide offer to purchase the Kings lay before the NBA committee, Stern dallied and dithered, allowing Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson to concoct an alternative combination of deep pockets. Oh, and greater-Sacramento residents and businesses will be on the hook for much of the proposed new stadium to be built downtown. Stern loves ordinary people financing essentially private enterprises.

There are a few next steps, beyond the certain vote of the board. One, the owners could agree to an expansion team in Seattle, although Stern has done his best to rule out that possibility. His disdain for Seattle being ever so palpable. Two, another team could be acquired and relocated to Seattle. But this is far less likely than the Kings option. The one whispered team, Milwaukee, has an owner with deep pockets and deep roots in beer town.

Last, but perhaps not least, is that the Sacramento combination-cum-stadium proposal will collapse or fail to come together in the first place. Will the millions of dollars at stake make it into escrow as Chris Hansen’s group has done with its proffered dollars? Could the new potential owners balk at raising their bid price to match Hansen’s? The current Kings owners, the Maloof family, have a binding agreement with Hansen to sell the team. They could refuse to accept an alternative offer. Indeed, the purchase agreement contains an exclusivity clause: it’s Hansen or no one. For that privilege, Hansen paid $30 million, non-refunadable.

All of us can only guess at this point. However, I wouldn’t bet against the proposal to keep the Kings in Sacramento. But the Puget Sound is a much richer market, and the NBA owners, for all their professed love of sports, desire ducats most of all. So, it may be only a matter of time before the Sonics’ banner rises again in Seattle. We just have no idea who will be on the court.

UPDATE (April 30, 2013):

Well, Matthew Yglesias weighs in, touching on a theme that I missed. In his blog this morning he writes:

Well, it seems to all go back to the arena. You see, in addition to offering $365 million for the team, the Seattle bidders were offering to build a brand new arena for the Kings. By contrast, the Sacramento bidders managed to persuade the city of Sacramento to build a brand new arena for the Kings. The Seattle bid, in other words, would have set a good precedent for the future of American public policy. And the owners didn’t want that. The owners want to be able to make this move over and over again [my red emphasis]. “Give us a new publicly financed stadium or we’ll move to Seattle” is a threat that works as well in Portland or Milwaukee or Minneapolis or Salt Lake City or Memphis or New Orleans or Phoenix as it does in Sacramento. And the major American sports leagues are organized as a cartel for a reason. An individual owner just wants to sell to the highest bidder. But the league approval process means the owners as a whole can think of the interests of the overall cartel, and those interests very much include a strong interest in maintaining the ability to get cities to pony up subsidies.

Bastards, all of them.

The race is to the rich

Americans appear to be preternaturally ignorant. We just don’t do very well with facts and figures. Much of this syndrome can be blamed on our equally strong tendency to adhere fast to bullshit theories about human nature and religion, which render us impervious to reason and reality.

Unfortunately, the ignorance is widespread, though it’s most evident among our politicians, who will do or say anything to obtain your stupid vote. And, yes, I’m suggesting that we look in the mirror.

This episode of my periodic rant concerns a spate of research confirming two obvious features of American society, in particular. First, the rich continue to get richer. Second, the children of the wealthy do much better academically than the offspring of the Rest of Us.

I’ve posted extensively on the wealth gap, so no need to restate my position here. Just perform a search of my site with the words “wealth gap.” I’ve also commented on the second point, about the growing educational achievement divide between children of the rich versus everyone else.

Recently I wrote about “educational apartheid.” Before that I commented on the  rigidity of achievement gaps—once rich or once poor, always so. Research suggests that money spent on schools to close those gaps may be wasted.

Today I came across this article written by a Stanford professor for the New York Times. Sean Reardon tells us:

Here’s a fact that may not surprise you: the children of the rich perform better in school, on average, than children from middle-class or poor families. Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores, on average, than poorer students; they also have higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities and school leadership positions, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college enrollment and completion.

Professor Reardon chides all of us for blaming the schools and the teachers therein for academic failures. The achievement gap increases by only ten percent from kindergarten to high school between the children of the rich and the children of the Rest of Us . The disparity, which is huge, already exists before five-year-olds start school.

Moreover, test scores of poor and middle class students have actually risen over time. What is so remarkable is the rapid improvement of rich kids, and it has everything to do with enrichment, which begins at birth and continues throughout a wealthy child’s educational development.

Liberals like Barack Obama deceive themselves by insisting that the focus of reform should be on creating better schools. Wrong. Here’s Reardon:

The more we do to ensure that all children have similar cognitively stimulating early childhood experiences, the less we will have to worry about failing schools. This in turn will enable us to let our schools focus on teaching the skills — how to solve complex problems, how to think critically and how to collaborate — essential to a growing economy and a lively democracy.

What gets me angry is how far away we are as a society from recognizing this important truth. We don’t build a more egalitarian society through education. Rather, we increase educational achievement by fashioning a more egalitarian society. Indeed, children of impoverished homes actually have difficulty learning in the first place.

Yet, as the New York Times editors exclaimed, we’re “heading the wrong way” by slashing funding for public services. To our point, and as Professor Reardon urges, government dollars should be aimed at reducing inequality and providing enrichment for all children, not just those of the wealthy.

Writing for the New York Times, Floyd Norris opines that we are “starving the beast” as conservatives have long desired. But in so doing, we’re depriving our children of both educational and economic opportunities over their lifetimes. Norris:

In the 1950s, government spending fell quickly after the Korean War ended. In the second quarter of 1956, the total government gross domestic product was $91.4 billion, at an annual rate. That was 0.4 percent lower than the $91.8 billion rate three years earlier, in the third quarter of 1953.

Notions on high and low finance.

It would be almost 60 years before another such decline was recorded.

The G.D.P. report released Friday states the total government part of G.D.P. – federal, state and local – came to $3.0306 trillion in the first quarter of this year. That is 0.01 percent below the $3.0309 trillion recorded four years earlier.

Those are nominal figures, not adjusted for inflation (as are the figures in the chart below). On a real basis, the decline was 6.5 percent.

His chart:



When are we going to wise up, folks? We can—and must—do better.

We interrupt this walk…

Near the turnaround point of my walk this morning a police car pulled up alongside me. The vehicle had its lights flashing with the passenger window down. The officer yelled in my direction, “Where are you walking! “I told him that I intended to go up another block before returning back to downtown. The officer then said:

There’s a man in a tan coat with a gun, and he’s shooting right now!

I replied, “Thanks,” then hightailed it back down the sidewalk. Several police cars with sirens blaring swarmed the neighborhood.

Well, this is what it was all about.


What’s the opposite of tea?

As in party, that is.

It’s clear that the Tea Party has heavily influenced the GOP. Just look at the crop of House members following the 2010 election. Indeed, long-time conservative members of the Republican Party have suffered primary defeats because they just weren’t crazy enough for the self-described super patriots, whose message is clear: lower taxes, squeeze government, and stay away from my guns.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a Tea Party of the left? Well, if you were a progressive, you might think so.

Why not form a third party independent of the other two? Been there, done that. Third parties fail under our silly system of winner-take-all. The only realistic hope of gaining representation for the Rest of Us (very presumptuous of me, of course) is to establish a movement or sub-party within the existing Democratic Party.

Congress has a Progressive Caucus, with only one senator, however—Bernie Sanders. The House cohort produced its own budget, which garnered the respect of Paul Krugman, among others. But if progressivism is to once again become a viable force in the political economy,  there would need to be a grass-roots presence à la the Tea Party, though its ideological opposite.

I’m a product of ancient battles. I worked against the status quo across numerous issues. Yet, I have no idea if those protests effected change. Some, like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky and Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, have argued that one cannot predict efficacy. Their appeal to the Rest of Us is almost Burkean. The Irish member of the British Parliament wrote: “when bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle” [source]. Doing nothing in the face of injustice ensures that bad men will do bad things.

We need some younger people with ideological pitch forks ready and willing to storm the gates of hell on earth. Short of imagination, I suggest a Progressive Party or maybe a Coffee Party that yanks the Democrats leftward to build an economy and society as if people mattered.

By the way, Obama is not the standard-bearer, as we know all too well. He’s too busy being indifferent to the Rest of Us.