Monday, September 26, 2011

Wacky-Named "Pirate" Party Gains Power in Germany, Calls for Free Public Transportation

by on 09.25.11

Pirate party member Susanne Graf House of Representatives photo
Image: Pirate Party/Susanne Graf

As the rest of the world was celebrating talk like a pirate day, the Pirate Party won its first seats in the Berlin state elections.

In Germany, any party winning more than 5% of the votes is entitled to a share in government. With 8.9%, the Pirate party lands 15 seats in the state government, among them 19-year-old Susanne Graf (pictured above), who will be the youngest representative when session opens in October. Is this the beginning of a new kind of politics? Is the Pirate party walking a green plank?

First and foremost, the Pirate Party campaign program (pdf, German) promises transparency and to give citizens more voice in government.

As a young, technologically oriented party, this could auger a change (which some believe is inevitable) in the way we govern ourselves, a move away from representative government to net-based referendums. While not itself green, many believe this strategy could help take big money out of government, bringing balance back to the human aspect of decision making.

Although the word "pirate" has come to be associated with, well let us just say, the uncompensated use of certain digital properties, the official program of the Pirate Party focuses on equal access to information that is in the public domain, and equal opportunity use of internet technology as well as improved educational opportunity for the youth.

The greenest angle on this approach to equal access in public domains is the call to keep natural areas available for everyone, such as maintaining open access to river banks. Ironically, the debate stirs already over the lack of female presence in the party. Susanne is the only female sitting with 14 males.

The Greenest Planks of the Pirate Party Platform:
Probably the greenest plank proposed in the Pirate program calls for free public transport, and activates against expanding highways through the city. Free public transport speaks for itself as a green platform. Thoughts on how to suppress highway construction projects rest on the main Pirate plank: make the contracts transparent, so the big money cannot win behind closed doors, and give people a direct vote on whether such projects should proceed.

Of course, the Pirates advocate nuclear-free power as well. And the campaign program explicitly calls for "sustainable, ecological economic policy."

Pirates Walking Other Planks
The Pirate program offers much more than "open access." It turns the clock back on post-9/11 state controls, fighting against surveillance of citizens and demanding improvements in accountability for police forces.

The platform contains planks designed to open borders, fighting on several fronts against anti-immigrant feelings. Perhaps most controversially, the Pirate platform also demands a change from drug abuse penalization to educational and social supports designed to reduce dependence on harmful drugs. Walking this plank includes the legalization of marijuana, on the grounds that illegal cannabis handlers pose a health risk by selling contaminated products.

Nations around the globe are finding politics as usual unsatisfying in the face of global economic crisis. Sustainability fans know that things cannot go on as they are. The question that now arises in Berlin is: will this youth movement earn respect for a new path forward, a post-capitalist, post-industrial, social-network based politics? Can politics survive transparency? And can it work for a party named "Pirates"?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

National Transport Commission suggests fare-free transport fund

Roads tax has drivers' support | "A TRANSPORT levy similar to Medicare could fund an $85 billion infrastructure program across Australia, a government-backed advisory group has proposed.

The National Transport Commission - an independent statutory body funded by federal and state governments - has suggested public transport could be made free for people who paid the levy through a means-tested scheme.

It could potentially scrap the need for ticket administration and also help combat fare evasion. The money raised would be used for priority transport and infrastructure projects."

'via Blog this'

Friday, September 16, 2011

Free public transport could solve Adelaide congestion

Glut of inner-city spaces hampers traffic reform | Adelaide Now: "Mr Yarwood said the real issue was peak-hour congestion. Greens MP Mark Parnell said he first floated the idea of a levy on car parking in the '90s. "The money would fund free public transport around the city and I think that idea still has merit," he said."

'via Blog this'

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Public transport's a safe investment - Opinion - Editorial - General - The Canberra Times

Public transport's a safe investment - Opinion - Editorial - General - The Canberra Times: "The widespread use of cars comes with growing direct and indirect costs to taxpayers. Governments must continually build new roads and maintain existing ones as they deteriorate. Valuable real estate must be set aside for car parks, rather than be put to more productive uses. Traffic gridlock costs businesses through lost productivity and, in some industries, significantly higher prices; the federal Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics estimates congestion losses in Australia will amount to more than $20 billion a year by 2020. And every year that the bureau has examined the social costs of road crashes - health-care expenses, infrastructure damage, legal bills and policing and emergency services - it has found the amount dwarfs the revenue raised through rego fees, fuel excises and all other motoring-related taxes. Cars are a far costlier habit than most of us realise, because we never see a bill that lists their true price."

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Free bus rides may aid weight loss - Local News - News - General - The Canberra Times

Free bus rides may aid weight loss - Local News - News - General - The Canberra Times: "British researchers studied the health implications of the 2006 introduction in England of free off-peak local bus transport for people aged 60 years and over.

The study found that use of buses by older people increased after the policy was introduced and that those who took advantage of free bus passes were less likely to become overweight or obese."

'via Blog this'

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Australia's climate scientists expose shock-jock distortion tactics | Stephan Lewandowsky | Environment |

Australia's climate scientists expose shock-jock distortion tactics | Stephan Lewandowsky | Environment | "Australia has unwittingly become a social experiment. A ruthless experiment on the fate of a society when a single media conglomerate, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, owns 167 newspapers and controls around 70% of the printed media market."

'via Blog this'

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Man's Greatest Mistake

Man's Greatest Mistake: "It is an issue that cuts across many aspects of modern society, it costs billions, it kills millions and maims millions more, it is a key factor behind the obesity epidemic, it criminalises hundreds of thousands of citizens, it eats up vast tracts of land, it is an anti-social menace that blights communities, particularly poorer communities, and it is deeply socially divisive. It is so resource hungry that it pushes up the price of food and other world commodities, it even causes developed nations to go to war."

'via Blog this'

Event horizon: the black hole in The Australian's climate change coverage

Event horizon: the black hole in The Australian's climate change coverage: "Excuse my bluntness, but it is past time to acknowledge that the science underpinning anthropogenic climate change is rock solid. The sceptics have had the time and opportunity to come with up a convincing case, but their best efforts read like arguments that NASA faked the moon landing."

'via Blog this'