Wednesday, April 13, 2011

News That Matters - Wednesday, April 13, 2011

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Good Wednesday Morning,

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The High Price of Gasoline - A Solution.

Republicans in Congress want to drill more domestic wells, fight more trillion dollar wars and continue subsidies to oil companies which is nothing but a transfer of wealth from your pocket to Exxon's. Democrats just want the world to stop spinning so they can step off. So what's a good American to do?
As Congress discusses the new Federal budget almost every department is taking cuts, some more dramatic than others. What I propose is that we take 5% of those cuts overall and turn those dollars into a fund that will provide grants to homeowners earning less than $75,000 a year and 0.5% loans to those earning more than $75,000 to achieve better energy efficiency at home and at work.

For example, the proposed Pentagon budget is $36.5 billion less than last year. 5% of that is $1,825,000,000. Expand that across the entire Federal budget and we're talking real money.

If implemented, not only would our use of home heating oil decrease during the very next heating cycle but thousands of jobs would be created, US manufacturing would increase dramatically and Federal tax revenues would increase as a result. HEAP and other similar programs would see a decrease in expenditures as those dollars are turned in to permanent use reductions freeing up those reserves and supplies for other purposes, glutting the market and lowering energy prices overall.

Then we take the $4,000,000,000 that oil companies receive in tax breaks and subsidies and the $50 billion President Obama is proposing as guaranteed loans to the nuclear power industry and direct those dollars instead toward guaranteed loans for the development of renewables and other fossil fuel alternatives.

The US Auto industry lags far behind Europe in efficiency. As an example, the Ford Focus built in the US gets around 37 miles to the gallon on the highway while the same car in Europe gets 59. European cars run on cleaner, cheaper, low-sulfur diesel while American diesel engines run on polluting, high sulfur fuels. Even something as simple as removing heavily subsidized corn ethanol from our gasoline would increase vehicle miles per gallon by around 10%. Additionally, clean diesel can be produced through the titration of millions of tons of waste biomass from farms and agriculture that is currently burned off or buried as waste.

All that, combined with significant mileage efficiency ratings for cars due out for the 2013 model year would save more fossil fuels than we could ever drill from the United States, put the nation back to work, move us toward energy self-sufficiency and provide the nation better security than groping passengers at airports or $700,000,000,000 Pentagon budgets ever could.

The problem is Congress: As much as you hate to hear it the national Republican party is hell bent on increasing profits and the personal fortunes of America's CEO's and they're doing it with your money. Through their policies you are forced to hand over your dollars to those who already have more than they could ever imagine, want or need. And don't even get me going on the inability of the Democratic party to have something as simple as a clear vision of anything at all.

Voters continue to vote against their own best interests, the President vacillates like a palm tree in a hurricane and the goal of the American political system is to amass as much personal and corporate wealth as possible today so that when the world does come tumbling down 5% of the population will be protected while the other 95% languishes in despair. Does that sound extreme? Just take a look around and see where we're heading at this very moment.

If we chose the right path we could become a net energy exporter in a rather short time, save billions in energy costs, free ourselves from the political tyranny of overseas imports, substantially clean the environment and leave our children with a better world than our current energy policies ever could.

The Next Big Thing in the world is clean, renewable energy and it's a shame that Belgium and Portugal and Costa Rica are leaving the United States in the dust. And it's a further shame that each time you fill your gas tank more and more of your dollars go into the bank accounts of the super rich while you have to make choices: Food or fuel. Rent or transportation. If that's the America you want, it's the one you got. If it's not the America you want then get off your damned asses and demand from your elected representatives that you, not Exxon, that your children, not the children of some Arab oil sheik come first.

There is only one reason the United States cannot become, in short order, a nation totally self-sufficient in energy use and production. There is only one reason we cannot clean our air, build new industries and provide a better, brighter future for the next generation to come along. There is only one reason the United States cannot create millions of news jobs and that reason is that you and I no longer control our own government. Big Oil does. And until we take control back from the industrialists we will forever be at their mercy.

Where's Nan? IV

She's at the PlanPutnam/News That Matters website. I have decided to carry her news feed (which you're paying for through your taxes) at the website but, as is the case with her videos, comments on her posts are closed. Why am I doing this? Because I'm pretty sure none of you believe what I write about her votes and policies so I've made it easier for you to read them for yourself. It's usually safe for work unless you're a surgeon or crane operator and laughing at the wrong time could be a problem.
By the way, she has just announced the annual Congressional High School Arts Competition for 2011 so if you're in High School or know someone who is and are artistically inclined, write to Ms. Hayworth and ask why she voted to slash funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. Or, just send her your artwork - with a bill.
Here is a letter to the editor sent to a local news organization that did not make it onto their Letters pages:
I contacted Representative Nan Hayworth's office in Washington on March 18th to ask how she voted on funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The staffer who answered the phone told me he could not divulge that information to constituents.  When pressed, he went on to say he had been instructed by his legislative director not to make that information available to constituents.

In a recent town hall meeting, Ms. Hayworth spoke about the importance of government accountability and her belief that elected representatives work for the voters.  I wonder how she reconciles this professed belief in a government accountability with a practice of secret voting records?

Perhaps in a future Town Hall meeting Ms. Hayworth can explain this seeming paradox.

--Val Ondes

Sugar and Spice and Everything Deadly

The most common words used in advertising toys for boys are, "battle" and "power". The most common words used in advertising toys for girls are, "love" and "magic". Read more and see the charts explaining it all, here.

Q: Where am I doing this?

Stop. Go. STOP! Crawl. Go. Stop. G...Stop! Go. Stop. Go. Stop. Stop. Crawl. Go. Stop! Go. Stop. Go. Go. Stop!!!! Go. Crawl.... Stop!

A: Route 6/52 in Carmel from Put Plaza to Towners Road in Lake Carmel.
When I moved up here 13, almost 14 years ago, a traffic jam meant stopping to chat with a neighbor. Now it's like, as I promised, Long Island. Are we satisfied now?

Customer Appreciation Day

When Bank of America (see: The Thirty-Eight Billion Dollar Fee) holds a Customer Appreciation Day it means they'll only charge you 3 $35 fees that day instead of 4. That they might actually know the answer to a question on the third round through customer service and there was a 50/50 chance your money was actually credited properly to your account. Trust me on this. That's as good as it ever got at BoA.
But on Monday afternoon I stopped into the Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union where I now keep my meager few shekels and they were having a Customer Appreciation Day.

Fresh fruit and vegetables, scrumptious cookies and other light fare were on a table while in front was a 'betting' wheel with the number resulting from your spin indicating which giveaways you had won. Nothing special; A key chain flashlight, pens and pads, that kind of stuff. But it was fun and everyone in the bank seemed to be having a good time including each customer as they were pulled in to the game. You walked out of there with a spring in your step, not ashamed and with a boulder tied around your neck.

Sunshine on My Shoulder

Back in 1975 the FBI began compiling a file on folksinger John Denver at the request of one Robert J. Lipshutz, Counsel to the President. On the very first page of now-released document the FBI says there was no information of value and continued to say so for thirty-three pages beginning with an allegation that at a concert Mr. Denver was high on cocaine, then that he was going to be a speaker at a "Dump The War" rally schedule for May 23, 1971 in Bloomington, Minnesota. On page 18 the Fed begins outlining 17 threatening phone calls Mr. Denver received and then redacts entire pages following that.

In 1965, the FBI began an investigation of movie star Rock Hudson where they state a "preliminary search of files has developed no subversive information...", then took another 33 pages to say so but not without mentioning, "Los Angeles [bureau office] has advised suspected of having homosexual tendencies," and that, "in view of the information that Hudson has homosexual tendencies, interview will be conducted by two mature experienced Special Agents." I'm guessing this a way of finding Roy Cohn dates with movie stars? The non-investigation was initiated by the Director of the FBI who we all know was sniveling little coward.

Paul Harvey, Lucille Ball, George Burns, Marvin Gaye, Jerry Garcia, Clark Gable, Walter Cronkite, Carl Sandburg, Will Rogers, Carl Sagan, heck, even writer Pearl S. Buck have all been investigated by the FBI in files that have been released and heavily redacted (after stating there was nothing to report) at the FBI's "Vault". If you click through to the link please do so at home since you're going to be poking around in there for hours upon hours. And for your special fun, they've also released their files on UFO's.

Nobody Loves Janet

Napolitano, that is. The Department of Homeland Security has only 12,759 Facebook friends. Justin Beiber has more than 315,000. My advice? Put Justin in charge of DHS and send Janet out on a concert tour.

And now, The News:

  1. 'Alternative vote' electoral system could lock out extremist candidates
  2. Tea Party Hypocrisy?
  3. Nassau County Crime Lab Mismanagement Crisis
  4. Wind Power Without the Blades
  5. Wind energy facts, wind energy myths
  6. Our Wounded Democracy
  7. Peace Walk extends from Indian Point to Vermont Yankee
  8. “Thank God for Mississippi”

'Alternative vote' electoral system could lock out extremist candidates

ScienceDaily (Apr. 12, 2011) — Moving to an alternative vote (AV) electoral system could lock extremist candidates out of office and ensue that the least popular politician has the least chance of winning according to an analysis by University of Warwick researcher Professor Dennis Leech.

He says: "AV would undoubtedly be an improvement on First Past The Post (FPTP) -- which is just about the worst election method ever devised, because it does not require that the winner gain a majority. The winner can be elected on the votes of a determined minority of committed supporters even though he or she might be intensely disliked by the vast majority of voters. AV avoids this problem by requiring the winner to have a majority, if not on first preferences alone, then once the second, third and so on of the weaker candidates have been counted after they are eliminated."

"FPTP has allowed extremist candidates to win local government seats in some areas. For example the BNP candidate was elected to represent a Burnley ward with only just over 30 percent of the votes because of a three-way split among the three main parties. A majority of those voters would probably have preferred any one of the main parties to the actual winner."

Read More

Tea Party Hypocrisy?

Some Lawmakers With Tea Party Ties Are on the Government Dole
by JONATHAN KARL and AVERY MILLER  •  March 30, 2011
ABC News

The Tea Party swept into the 112th Congress with promises of cutting government spending. But according to a report out today, at least five lawmakers with Tea Party connections have been longtime recipients of federal agricultural subsidies.

"There's nothing too surprising about hypocrisy in Washington," Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, told ABC News. "This particular group, you not only have to look at the hypocrisy but you need to watch your wallet."

While the majority of American farmers receive no government money at all, at least 23 current members of congress or their families have received government money for their farms -- combining for more than $12 million since 1995 according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group.

The biggest recipient was Rep. Stephen Fincher, a Republican from Frog Jump, Tenn.

Read More

Nassau County Crime Lab Mismanagement Crisis

Few things can be as gratifying to elected officials than the public's general inability to connect the dots, even when they are displayed before them for all to see and are as ugly as possible.  Imagine the deep sigh of relief when they hear silence instead of the chant of the villagers approaching with torches and pitchforks. 

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice must know that sigh well. From Newsday:

One consequence of the myriad problems at the Nassau County Police Department crime laboratory will be the retesting of at least 3,000 forensic samples, at a minimum cost of $400,000. In view of Nassau's budget problems, this expense, stemming as it does from mismanagement and a lack of oversight at the lab, should cause an uproar.

It hasn't, largely because when District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced the costs, she said the money would come from the police department's forfeiture funds, "rather than sticking taxpayers with the bill."

Despite having some of the highest taxes in the nation, Nassau County has such a massive structural deficit that it's under the thumb of a finance authority to compel the executive and legislature to avoid renaming the courthouse after Wal-Mart.  This had nothing to do with the fact that its crime lab has been shuttered for lying and cheating, while under the watchful eye of Rice and cops perpetually by her side.  Now they have to do it all over again, paying a competent lab for the effort, and this only goes back as far as 2005, while no one knows how far back the lying and cheating goes.

Read More

Wind Power Without the Blades

By Alyssa Danigelis

Noise from wind turbine blades, inadvertent bat and bird kills and even the way wind turbines look have made installing them anything but a breeze. New York design firm Atelier DNA has an alternative concept that ditches blades in favor of stalks. Resembling thin cattails, the Windstalks generate electricity when the wind sets them waving. The designers came up with the idea for the planned city Masdar, a 2.3-square-mile, automobile-free area being built outside of Abu Dhabi. Atelier DNA’s “Windstalk” project came in second in the Land Art Generator 1competition a contest sponsored by Madsar to identify the best work of art that generates renewable energy from a pool of international submissions.

The proposed design calls for 1,203 “stalks,” each 180-feet high with concrete bases that are between about 33- and 66-feet wide. The carbon-fiber stalks, reinforced with resin, are about a foot wide at the base tapering to about 2 inches at the top. Each stalk will contain alternating layers of electrodes and ceramic discs made from piezoelectric material, which generates a current when put under pressure. In the case of the stalks, the discs will compress as they sway in the wind, creating a charge.

“The idea came from trying to find kinetic models in nature that could be tapped to produce energy,” explained Atelier DNA2 founding partner Darío Núñez-Ameni.

Read More

Wind energy facts, wind energy myths

A one-stop clearinghouse for wind power facts is sorely needed to combat widespread myths about the impact of wind energy, among other things.

The good folks at CleanTechnica have embarked on a worthy project that deserves all the praise and support we the digital people can muster — what they’re calling “a comprehensive resource page for all things wind.” (They plan to do the same for other renewable energy sources in the future.)

Much of this stuff is available somewhere else on the Web, but there’s a quiet sort of power to assembling it together in a single go-to list. For some reason, I’m always particularly impressed by the cross-referencing of new and cumulative capacity stats for renewables. In 2010, for example, 38,265 megawatts (MW) of new wind power was added to grids worldwide, which if you scroll down just a bit you’ll discover is roughly equal to all the wind power there was in the world in 2003 (39,431 MW). And as CleanTechnica’s Zachary Shahan notes, “much more is expected from the coming years.” This is still just prelude to the full-scale global cleantech boom. Exciting times.

Read More

Our Wounded Democracy

The Tyee - April 11, 2011

Ed Note: The following article, though referencing Canada is as applicable to the United States as any. JmG

Citizens would rather shop, making them vulnerable to manipulation by politicians without scruples.

What does it say about our democracy when the prime minister can with impunity demonstrate contempt for it and repeatedly violate its rules, conventions and the independence of its institutions and agencies?

Combined with a trend towards disturbingly low turnouts in federal elections, there is reason to start using the term crisis in describing Canadian democracy.

It has been a long time in the making and is the explicit accomplishment of corporate globalization -- although not one that is talked about very much. In the mid-1970s, the formation of the Trilateral Commission heralded the end of the old social contract whereby the activist state was tolerated by capital so long as it got what it believed was its fair share of output in the form of profit. When labour seized too much for its share, the contract was torn up.

But it wasn't just the private economy that was the problem. Workers and the previously marginalized in society had come to expect too much of government. Flush with tax revenue from a booming economy, governments, including Canadian governments, responded to increasing expectations. According to the Trilateral Commission's first publication, The Crisis of Democracy1, there was in the 1970s Western world " excess of democracy."

Read More

Peace Walk extends from Indian Point to Vermont Yankee

BUCHANAN – Some two dozen people started their Peace Walk in Croton Sunday, stopped to pray outside the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, before they set out for the 206-mile walk to the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

Japanese Buddhist nun Jun Yasuda of the Grafton Peace Pagoda in Petersburgh, NY, led the walk.

“People have been suffering from the earthquake; so many people died by the earthquake and also so many people are suffering under the nuclear situations,” she said.

Among those joining the walk was Gerry Katzpen of Putnam Valley.

Read More

“Thank God for Mississippi”

By Jon Ponder

A new survey from Public Policy Polling finds that 46 percent of Mississippi Republicans not only oppose interracial marriage, they believe that individuals who marry someone of another race should go to jail.

On a positive note, it is at least progress that these Mississippi racists see prison time — not lynching — as an adequate penalty for race mixing.

Just 40 percent of GOP voters in the state say they think interracial marriage should remain legal, while 14 percent are not sure.

Read More

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