lobbyists exploit this weak link

Congressional hearings are supposed to have a high purpose.

That hearings have degraded so egregiously is indeed troubling. Yet to really understand the problem, one must place hearings within the context of the larger issue of how Congress informs itself about the issues of the day and uses that information to create policy. In that context, the Congress of today is doing both better and worse than the Congresses of before.

“An honest politician,” he declared, “is one who when he is bought, stays bought.”

the radiation ratepayer

Moody’s says investing in new nuclear plants involves significant risks and huge capital costs at a time when national energy policy is uncertain. Yet power utilities are trying to find $6 billion for new nuclear projects. Fourteen companies have submitted applications to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build 17 new reactors.

As Moody’s downgrades the investment ratings of these utilities, guess who puts up the capital?


Piezoelectricity, electricity from movementShe answered, “Oh, that fella running by is recharging his phone.”

The Engineer magazine cites Leeds in the U.K. are reducing soldiers’ backpack weight by harvesting energy from movement.

Small piezoelectric transducers around the knee will extract energy as a soldier stretches his leg.

No more heavy batteries.

Piezoelectricity wiki.
More on Flexoelectricity.


Kansas City Star:

Marked by accusations and backstabbing, it’s the story of how a small but intense movement called “birthers” rose from a handful of people prone to seeing conspiracies, aided by the Internet, magnified without evidence by eager radio and cable TV hosts, and eventually ratified by a small group of Republican politicians working to keep the story alive on the floors of Congress and the campaign trails of the Midwest.

It’s a powerful story about what experts call political paranoia.

find a way to fix this

What are we doing, what are we thinking?

We need to wake up.

Food, this gift that nourishes our body and soul, that brings us together in celebration and in grief, we are putting it in the hands of people who don’t give a shit about anything except profit.

I cried for my son and his future.

One: wherever and whenever, try to know or find out the source of your food. And two: every time you buy food, it’s a vote for more of that food; if it’s excellent, you’re asking for more; if it’s shitty food, you’re asking for more.

Off the cuff by popular food author Michael Ruhlman.

either swim or brew



moonshiners and oil fats

When a line at the door reaches a certain length…

C.D. Howe Institute finds that the lowest-cost and highest-value programs are NOT properly supported.

  1. solar air heating
  2. solar water heating
  3. solar electricity
  4. wind
  5. biomass

The Canadian government’s cost to displace one ton of CO2 from any of these technologies ranges from CAN $4 per ton (for solar air heating) to CAN $30 per ton (for biomass).

In stark contrast, the most expensive government programs underwriting liquid biofuels cost taxpayers CAN $295 to $430/ton of CO2 displaced from ethanol and CAN $122 to $175/ton of CO2 displaced from biodiesel.

McKinsey & Company found that better buildings, efficient equipment, and sealing leaks is the fastest and best way to cut USA energy – quick reductions “greater than the total of energy consumption of Canada” while pocketing $1.2 trillion by 2020. [US Energy Efficiency Report, .pdf] Ecogeek points to fixing electronics sucking energy while not in use leading to energy savings equal to the yearly electricity consumption of the Netherlands.

I see the Canadian incentives study as striking. Our human mind is so vulnerable to fashion.

scale is astounding

China recently shut down 7,467 coal fired power generators, moving 400,000 to new jobs.

That’s 124 million tons less carbon dioxide than its average emission of 6.2 billion tons.

Plus the government is paying 70% of the cost of new solar systems.
[figures from cranky AP]


Chris Hedges says the move from “managed capitalism” to “unfettered capitalism” over the last four to six decades – accomplished with the help of government deregulation – has refashioned America as a “corporate state run by and on behalf of corporations rather than citizens.”

Chris Hedges “Empire of Illusion”Hedges is no garden-variety prophet. Pulitzer Prize-winner.

“Our manufacturing base has been destroyed. Tens of millions of Americans live in real or near poverty. Our infrastructure is collapsing. We have massive deficits that we can never repay.

And we have a permanent war economy that eats up “half our discretionary spending.”

How do we react to all this? We shop, watch TV, shop some more, watch a bit more TV.

And, for the most part, we love it.

“What is so mendacious and pernicious about this is that until these institutions collapsed, all they talked about is the market and unfettered capitalism. And when, because of their own folly, greed, and mismanagement, it collapsed, they are raiding the Treasury.

We’ve become a socialist nation – but socialism for corporations.

converging crises

We expect high unemployment during a crash, but

the steep job losses during this recession should not be looked at in isolation.

They are the continuation and intensification of a trend that began in the 1990s, and really took off with the 2001 recession.

The trend is that of subpar job growth during economic expansion, and intensified job losses during recessions.

In short, the employment losses during this recession are not special.

Rather, they are the continuation of a trend caused by the ongoing, chronic trade deficit, most particularly the offshoring of employment.

facts, figures, charts

talkative at age 71

Madoff is shocked at failures of the SEC.

In a 4 1/2-hour interview at Butner Federal prison, “He opened up and told us everything about how the scam went down.” Madoff had little hesitation in answering questions.

New civil lawsuit implicates “a number of new people the SEC has never looked at.”

How did Madoff fool so many people for so long?

“No one bothered to ask simple questions. People foolishly – including accountants and regulators – never looked in the right places.”

development of a technique

Twenty five years ago I was working with Texan rig brokers to export innovative horizontal drilling. Today I notice tremendous headway:

The average conventional gas well produces about 250,000 cubic feet of gas a day.

By inserting virtually unlimited horizontal shafts into a single gas well, multistage hydraulic fracturing technology is delivering initial rates up to 11 million cubic feet per day.

Just what we need. More fossil fumes.

The wheel has already turned from the habit of fossil imports though it will be a long time before we can keep dollars at home. Current activity is now very much NorAm as extractive teams get funded again. This is the short- to mid-term and while we eagerly await sensible juice that won’t kill us, there’s no other choice I’m guessing.

Years ago one of my mentors said “old men do what young men think there’s not enough time for”.

I’m working on horizon energy technology that (likely) will take its part among an utter turnaround in the way we produce energy, extracting various gases and liquids from the bio-layer rather than pulling it up from dangerous carbon storage. But years go by…

In the meantime, this is a hot economy even in a dip, with exponential demands from several corners. There are top folks working very hard to increase production efficiencies.

far gone in arrogance and spite

Gore Vidal digs very much truth:

So let me mention the real issue. The real issue is class.

We have the greatest divide between the very rich and the very poor of any country on Earth, surpassing even France. And this division gets wider and wider as financial disasters overwhelm us. We were already in pretty bad shape before things began to fall apart a year or two ago.

We must acknowledge that our character, never much good in these matters, is now reprehensible, and the police seem to have taken it upon themselves to exact revenge for a full professor and his—plainly, in their view—insulting income, which they figure must be considerable.

The days of greed through which we all lived now have not done us much good, nor have they taught us any lessons, but you cannot live long with such divisions, which in my view as an outsider overlooking the scene seems to be a nation of total liars. Everybody is lying. Television lies, candidates lie. And everyone says, “Oh they always have.” I love that excuse.

Well they haven’t always done that. Sometimes lying to the people is a great mistake. And it is well-known that the rich will tell almost any lie to avoid paying taxes.

our mysterious ocean skin

Where the ocean and the atmosphere interact is a thin thin very very thin new ecosystem.

  1. The top hundredth inch of the ocean is chemically distinct.
  2. The top hundredth-inch of the ocean is like a sheet of jelly.
  3. The top hundredth-inch is an odd habitat thinner than a human hair.

sea-surface microlayerThe research ship Kilo Moana and it’s robotic skimmers are back to port.

Scientists have learned that the top .25mm of the ocean is an ecosystem all its own – a special kind of habitat for microbes that act as a biological pump, a critical gas membrane and primary food web.

It’s the ocean breathing through its skin.” [nytimesWall]

Bacteria within the biofilm play a key role in controlling greenhouse gases and our nitrogen cycle among other things. The lively boundary layer has a rich food supply of sticky carbohydrates in a broth of dissolved carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous and amino acids which enable vast microbial respiration across the globe. [pdf]

There’s much to learn about the sea-surface microlayer; this ‘layer of sudden change‘.

The ocean’s gelatinous gas-managing biofilm is strong enough to withstand typical winds, whitecaps, downwelling and bubble swarms.

But pollution?

Tests show microbe-destroying chlorine and surfactants penetrating via the water column. And of course, dioxins and PCBs, our standby poisons. Plus polybrominated diphenyl ethers already leaching from e-waste. Plus our typical sampling of ibuprofen and mood drugs, the pouring antiseptic over the globe kitchen-and-bath bug killer triclosan…. Not to overlook the average blend of hydrocarbons and toxic dust.

One day I hope we manage our crushing industrial detritus along with the retail silt that has spread so far so deep so high we now call it micropollution.

Fixing Earth is not a burden, but an era of opportunity and good sense.
/end rant/

a polite rebuttal

Amsterdam throws a shoe at the Fox channel line up. Facts are undeniable. For cable news, not so much.


quitspeech at quitfest on quittyday.

Then Sarah came to the podium to give her valedictory.

She warmed up with a remark about sunny Fairbanks and how some of the most patriotic people and some of the strongest supporters of our military live here. That sparked the crowd, ready for Pure Palin.

She spoke about Denali, the mountain, and our famous cold and how it splits up the Cheechakos (newcomers) from the Sourdoughs (old timers), then launched into one of those roaring run-on sentence speeches about “merciless rivers rushing and carving and reminding us here Mother Nature wins and the rest of America sees in the Last Frontier hope and opportunity and country pride and it is our men and women in uniform securing it and we are facing tough challenges in America with some being just hellbent on tearing down our nation, perpetuating some pessimism, and suggesting American apologetics, suggesting that our best days were yesterdays, but as other people have asked, how can that pessimism be when proof of our greatness and our pride today is that we produce the great proud volunteers who sacrifice everything for country”.

“What you get to see everyday and North to the Future and our brave military and by God’s Grace and I promised to be fiscally restrained and hold schools accountable and elevate vo-tech training and manage our fish and wildlife and defend the Constitution and those Outside special interest groups still just don’t get it and you see I know that it is your money and you know best how to spend it.”

not the top of the mountan

Moving to renewables is a lengthy process.
The work of a generation at least, and smart.

Mountain top mining destroys streams and waterwaysJeff Goodell, author of ‘Big Coal’:
“The biggest problem with our bounty of coal is not what it does to our mountains or the atmosphere, but what it does to our minds.

“It preserves the illusion that we don’t have to change our lives. Given the profound challenges we face with the end of cheap oil and the arrival of global warming, this is a dangerous fantasy.

“If we had less coal, we might replace the 19th-century notion that we can drill and burn our way to prosperity with a more modern view of efficiency and sustainability.

“Instead of spending billions of dollars each year to subsidize tapping out yet another finite resource, we’d pour that money into solar energy, biofuels and other renewable resources.

“We’d be creating jobs in new industries, not protecting them in old ones. And we’d understand that the real fuel of the future is not coal but creativity.”

The EPA has refused hundreds of new permits, not to protect a mountain nor to divert carbon, but because 100s of miles of waterways are being destroyed.

Mines have demolished 500 mountains — about a million acres — buried hundreds of valley streams under tons of rubble, poisoned and uprooted countless communities, and caused widespread contamination to the region’s air and water.

the crime of being

Stanley Fish:

I’m Skip Gates’s friend, too. That’s probably the only thing I share with President Obama, so when he ended his press conference last Wednesday by answering a question about Gates’s arrest after he was seen trying to get into his own house, my ears perked up.

As the story unfolded in the press and on the Internet, I flashed back 20 years or so to the time when Gates arrived in Durham, N.C., to take up the position I had offered him in my capacity as chairman of the English department of Duke University. One of the first things Gates did was buy the grandest house in town (owned previously by a movie director) and renovate it. During the renovation workers would often take Gates for a servant and ask to be pointed to the house’s owner. The drivers of delivery trucks made the same mistake.

The message was unmistakable: What was a black man doing living in a place like this?

invulnerable to hustle

The proposal:

National Financial Literacy Centers

1) These centers would provide a basic financial skills curriculum plus additional classes covering specific topics such as investing in stocks, bonds or real estate or home ownership.

2) Teachers for these classes could be retired volunteers or unemployed college students or unemployed financial industry people.

3) Credit unions would be the ideal partner in this public-private partnership because of their membership structure and not-for-profit status.