The passing scene: Links & comments 10/6/14

Populist Former Senator Jim Webb Could Give Hillary Clinton Major Headaches in 2016 by Lynn Stuart Parramore for Alternet.

I’ve long admired Senator James Webb, the former Senator from Virginia.  A Vietnam veteran and Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, he switched from the Republican to the Democratic party out of disgust for the Bush administration’s subservience to Wall Street.  He has criticized the Obama administration on the same grounds.

Webb is an opponent of reckless military intervention abroad, a critic of the “war on drugs” and mass incarceration and a friend of working people.

I admire Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts for the way she stands up to Wall Street, but I agree with Webb on a broader range of issues than I do with her (for example, she goes along with the administration’s war policies).

Tech gives the rich new toys while perpetuating the criminalization of poverty by Nathaniel Mott for Pando Daily (via Naked Capitalism)

A new device allows subprime auto lenders to track the location of a debtor’s car and to disable the car if the debtor falls behind on payments.  The New York Times reported this has happened when the car is in motion.

The direction of technological progress depends on what is being researched, and nowadays researchers are largely concentrating on things to make life more convenient for the well-to-do and things such as this that enable people in power to exercise control.

Largest City in Vermont Now Gets All Its Power from Wind, Water and Biomass by Ari Phillips for ClimateProgress (via Avedon’s Sideshow).

Burlington, Vermont, a city of about 42,000, gets a third of its electric power from wind energy contracts; a third from hydroelectric contracts, including imports from Hydro Quebec; and a third from burning wood chips, a waste product of Vermont’s timber industry.   The Washington Electric Cooperative, with 11,000 customers, also gets all its energy from renewable sources.

This isn’t proof that renewable energy could be scaled up to supply a city the size of New York, but it’s a good start.  The Vermont state government has a goal of obtaining 100 percent of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2025.

A Danish company is building a $235 million seawall around New York by Mona Lalwani for The Verge (via Naked Capitalism)

Good thinking.  The next Hurricane Sandy—and there will be a next one—should not be so devastating.

The bias fighters: Psychologists are testing ways to reduce unconscious racial prejudice—not just in the police, but in all of us by Leon Neyfakh for the Boston Globe (via Mike the Mad Biologist)

Everybody has prejudices.  If you are in the police, you will see the worst people, and see people at their worst, your prejudices will be confirmed by experience.

How to overcome this? Unconscious bias can’t be overcome by argument.  Psychologists are experimenting with other ways, such as exposing people to stories and images that go against their stereotype (such as side-by-side pictures of Bill Cosby and Charles Manson).

These methods have some effect.  Nobody knows if they are long-lasting.

The Sound So Loud That It Circled the Earth Four Times by Aatish Bhatia for Nautilus Quarterly.

When a volcano erupted on Krakatoa island, between Java and Sumatra in present-day Indonesia, the sound of the explosion was heard in Australia and new Guinea 2,000 miles away, and in islands of the Indian Ocean 3,000 miles away.  Sailors on a ship 40 miles away had their eardrums shattered.

The explosive force created tsunami waves 100 feet high, which swept away coastal villages.  Scientists estimated that matter erupted out of the volcano at twice the speed of sound, and smoke shot up 17 miles into the atmosphere.  Awesome!

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