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Archive for September, 2011

Half the news that’s fit to print: Bloomberg tries to make renewables the problem

Posted by Charles II on September 30, 2011

Kari Lundgren and Lars Paulson, Bloomberg:

The 15 mile-per-hour winds that buffeted northern Germany on July 24 caused the nation’s 21,600 windmills to generate so much power that utilities such as EON AG and RWE AG (RWE) had to pay consumers to take it off the grid.

Rather than an anomaly, the event marked the 31st hour this year when power companies lost money on their electricity in the intraday market because of a torrent of supply from wind and solar parks. The phenomenon was unheard of five years ago.

With Europe’s wind and solar farms set to triple by 2020, utilities investing in new coal and gas-fired power stations no longer face stable returns. As more renewables come on line, a gas plant owned by RWE or EON that may cost $1 billion to build will be stopped more often from running at full capacity. It may only pay for itself on days like Jan. 31, when clouds and still weather pushed an hour of power on the same-day market above 162 ($220) euros a megawatt-hour after dusk, in peak demand time.

“You’re looking at a future where on a sunny day in Germany, you’ll have negative prices,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance chief solar analyst Jenny Chase said about power rates in wholesale trading. “And a lot of the other markets are heading the same way.”

31 hours of losses vs 8760 hours per year represents less than 0.5% of the time that the plants are losing money, so Bloomberg is misleading its readers. But it does point to the need for developing load balancing technologies such as capacitor storage, long-distance transmission, and constant power sources like tidal. One could even envision offering energy-intensive producers like aluminum smelters financial incentives for running slightly below normal capacity except when there’s a surge in energy production, then ramping up production to take advantage of the superabundance.

Wonder how much oil company advertising Bloomberg gets.

Posted in environment, Media machine, solar, wind power | 3 Comments »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on September 30, 2011

“Did I hear the can opener?”

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Compare And Contrast: Colombia And Venezuela

Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 29, 2011

First, Colombia:

We have known for years about the dangers of being a trade unionist in Colombia, of the murders of organizers and labor officials. The murders have increased in frequency in the years since the US negotiated a trade deal with Colombia. They are well documented.

Now, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has put names to the tragedy. In a letter to President Obama, Trumka says that 22 union activists have been killed in Colombia this year, including 15 since a so-called “Action Plan” designed to crack down on union violence was instituted in the country. All of their names are in a fact sheet at the end of the letter.

Trumka added that six Catholic bishops have been killed in Colombia in 2011.   The Bishops Conference of Colombia believes the killings occurred because of “their courageous commitment… with the prophetic denunciation of injustice and the cause of the poorest in the country.”

Now, Venezuela:

On a hillside overlooking Caracas, Venezuela, Pedro Echavez feeds sweet potato greens to his rabbits. These animals are raised for their meat, but their droppings also fertilize Echavez’s black bean and vegetable plots. This four-acre farm produces enough food to provide 80 percent of the diet for the sixteen people living in his community.

[...]

The Venezuelan equivalent of the US Department of Agriculture is overseeing the project. Yet, unlike the USDA, which gives around $20 billion in subsidies to the largest producers in the United States annually, Venezuela is giving 4.3 billion bolívares fuertes ($1 billion) in low-interest credit solely to small and medium-sized grain producers. Another 13 billion bolívares fuertes ($3 billion) is set aside for fruit and vegetable operations, as well as growers of crops like coffee, cacao and sugar cane. A portion of what farmers grow will be used to pay off the loans, and much of this produce will be locally packaged, processed and sold at state-owned supermarkets.

President Hugo Chávez’s leftist Bolivarian Revolution has embraced the idea of food sovereignty, or the right of a people to define their own food and agriculture policy. The food sovereignty movement is a global one, and the organization at the forefront, La Via Campesina, counts 300 million members. Venezuela is one of many countries, including Ecuador, Bolivia, Mali and Nepal, that have, in response to this grassroots movement, developed a legal framework for food sovereignty.

Tell your congresscritters to oppose the trade deal with Colombia. The fact that this nation’s bloodsoaked ruling classes are feted by the US’ elite, while the far more democratic and human Chavez is demonized by corporate-owned American media and corporate-owned American politicians, shows just how amoral is our leadership.

Posted in Colombia, farming, food, global food crisis, unions, Venezuela | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Murdoch phone hacking scandal, 9/28. Updated

Posted by Charles II on September 28, 2011

James Robinson, The Guardian:

Investors in News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch’s media company, were urged on Tuesday to vote against the re-election of his son James Murdoch as a company director by an influential shareholder group.

Murdoch’s youngest son is the company’s deputy chief operating officer, the third most powerful executive at the company overseeing News Corp’s European and Asian businesses including News International and BSkyB, and has been earmarked by his father as his successor.

Pirc, which advises shareholders on corporate governance issues, said: “In light of his close association with the phone-hacking scandal we are advising shareholders to oppose James Murdoch’s election.”

This is actually potentially a very big deal. PIRC says of itself:

PIRC is the UK’s leading independent research and advisory consultancy providing services to institutional investors on corporate governance and corporate social responsibility.

Lisa O’Carroll, The Guardian:

A second journalist at the heart of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal is taking Rupert Murdoch’s News International to an employment tribunal, claiming unfair dismissal.

Ian Edmondson filed his suit in April, but the case has only come to light in the wake of revelations that the paper’s former chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, is also taking News International to an employment tribunal, claiming he was unfairly sacked.

However, unlike Thurlbeck, Edmondson is not claiming he was a whistle-blower and therefore should not have been sacked because he disclosed wrong-doing on the paper.

Edmondson was sacked in January this year after he was named by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire as the person who asked him to hack into the mobile phone of football agent Sky Andrew.

As the former assistant editor (news) of the Sunday tabloid, he was one of the most senior journalists on the paper.

I would guess his chances of winning the suit are not as good as Thurlbeck, since Thurlbeck can claim unjust dismissal, whole Edmondson will (I will guess) simply claiming dismissal without cause.

The panel which I would guess is supposed to whitewash the whole thing, the Levenson panel, has been challenged by AP because Levenson hasn’t appointed an adviser from the tabloids. I can see why AP, with its often tabloid-quality reporting, would feel that it has a stake there.
_______________
Roy Greenslade, The Guardian:

It takes a lot to shock Kelvin MacKenzie. But the moment the Metropolitan police laid in front of him the documentary evidence that his phone had been hacked he felt violated.

In this week’s Spectator, the former Sun editor and columnist writes about the incident in terms that show the level of his distress at betrayal by journalistic colleagues.

MacKenzie does not lash out at anyone. He may have quit the Sun to join the Daily Mail but he remains as loyal as ever to the News Corporation chief he always called “boss”.

He writes: “I know Rupert Murdoch and I know he would have gone ballistic at the very thought of such actions.” [His italics]

But it is known that he has little time for the departed News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.

Posted in Media machine, Rupert Murdoch, wiretapping | 2 Comments »

Smart. So smart.

Posted by Charles II on September 28, 2011

This is a brilliant solution to Google’s basic problem: it has tons of cash, can’t earn a decent rate of return either through interest or investing in search, and wants to shield its search income from taxes.

Jessica Guynn, LAT:

Google wants homeowners to use solar panels to generate electricity. And it’s investing $75 million to help up to 3,000 of them install panels on their roofs.

The Internet search giant said Tuesday that it will create a fund for solar installers to offer financing plans.

One of the biggest hurdles to installing solar panels are the upfront costs. Homeowners often don’t have the upfront cash and solar installers don’t have the means to offer financing.

Google said its plan will allow homeowners to install a $30,000 solar electricity system with little or no money upfront. Instead homeowners would pay a monthly fee which would be about the same that they would pay in their monthly bills to their local utility.

So, see how it works? Google’s customers pay it, let’s say, 10% on the investment, the federal government gives Google a one-time tax credit that lowers their marginal taxes paid by (this is just a guess) an equivalent of 1% annually, and they’re getting 11% return on investment. Their return on assets presently is 14.7% while their $4.7B in cash is returning approximately zero, so putting spare cash to work will boost that. Maybe best of all, everyone thinks they’re being Santa Claus.

To make it perfect, all they have to do is figure out how to sell the business should the demand for cash ever re-surface. And I’ll bet they’ve already done that.

Posted in Good Things, solar | 4 Comments »

Phone hacking, 9/27 update

Posted by Charles II on September 27, 2011

Lisa O’Carroll, The Guardian:

A News of the World reporter at the heart of the phone-hacking scandal is taking the defunct tabloid’s publishers to an employment tribunal, claiming he was a whistleblower.

Neville Thurlbeck, the paper’s former chief reporter, is claiming that he was unfairly dismissed by Rupert Murdoch’s News Interrnational. There is scheduled to be a preliminary employment tribunal hearing in east London this Friday. It has only just come to light that Thurlbeck – who had been behind a string of high-profile exclusives at the News of the World – had been fired by the company.

Hélène Mulholland, The Guardian:

A Labour MP has alleged that phone hacking at News International has gone “far beyond the News of the World” as he claimed that the Sun newspaper is also implicated in illegal practices.

“Do you really think that hacking only happened on the News of the World?” he said. “Ask Dominic Mohan, the current editor of the Sun. He used to joke about lax security at Vodafone when he attended celebrity parties. Ask the editor of the Sun if he thinks Rupert Murdoch’s contagion has spread to other newspapers. If he gives you an honest answer, he’ll tell you it’s only a matter of time before we find the Sun in the evidence file of the convicted private investigator that hacked Milly Dowler’s phone.

“This month we learn that journalists at the Times are affected by this scandal. The paper is shutting down its BlackBerry phone network – I hope they aren’t deleting the records.”

Posted in Rupert Murdoch, wiretapping | Comments Off

Just say no (to destroying America), postal edition

Posted by Charles II on September 27, 2011

Neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night… but Congress? Oy.

Long story short: USG forced postal service to overfund its pension system and undercharge for junk mail. That, the lousy economy, and the unregulated rise of spam makes it seem as if the postal service isn’t economically viable, thereby killing a major union and unemploying over 100,000 people.

Join the protest:

On Tuesday, September 27, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. (local time), members of the four employee unions of the United States Postal Service—

• American Postal Workers Union
• National Association of Letter Carriers
• National Postal Mail Handlers Union
• National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association

—will join forces with members of our communities to send a message to the nation and its Congress.

We are proud to announce the participation of the National Association of Postal Supervisors (NAPS) in the effort to Save America’s Postal Service. Click here to read their entire statement.

During these informational rallies, we will visit the home office of each member of the House of Representatives.

We will thank those members who have signed on as co-sponsors of H.R. 1351, a bill that addresses the financial crisis facing the Postal Service.

And we will encourage those who have not signed as co-sponsors of H.R. 1351 to do so.

I do have to say, whoever at the union comes up organizational names without considering the acronym should be spanked.

Posted in 'starving the beast', unions | Comments Off

No surprise, stock market edition

Posted by Charles II on September 27, 2011

HuffPo:

According to Der Spiegel, Scherrer and Noll had a group of 28 stockbrokers participate in various simulations and intelligence tests, and then compared their results to a group of psychopaths.

They found that the traders showed a higher degree of competitiveness than the psychopaths — and that the traders were surprisingly willing to cause harm to their competitors if they thought it would bring them an advantage.

It seems unlikely that recent market woes have been caused by an over-eagerness to take risks. Rather, the single-day market plunges of August and September appear to have been linked to widespread risk aversion among traders. In other words, fear, not boldness, has been the cause of the summer’s major sell-offs.

Still, irrational risk-taking played a major role in the financial crisis of 2008, as thousands of questionable assets assumed greater and greater leverage in the market until they ultimately proved unsound.

Scherrer and Noll are not the first to suggest a correlation between success on Wall Street and mental pathology. In 2005, a study found that traders who are unable to fully feel their emotions due to brain damage end up performing better on the market — possibly because they experience less anxiety about risky trades.

At the time, one professor of neurology described such emotionally impaired traders as “functional psychopaths.”

Posted in stock market | 1 Comment »

An open letter to a congressional candidate

Posted by Charles II on September 26, 2011

Dear Mr. _______

I am writing in response to your solicitation for campaign funds. I receive dozens of such solicitations every year, and am more than generous. Because I believe that having contested elections in all districts is vital to democracy, I devote approximately 4% of my income per year to political donations. I support even very unlikely candidacies when those candidates are serious and capable.

So, why should I support you?

Your campaign so far is largely based on airy, feel-good generalities. It shows little grasp of complex issues. Where it is specific, it often gets lost in details. Even to get an understanding of where you stand on issues takes way too much effort, requiring one to scroll through many Facebook pages. So, while I’m delighted that you promise to defend Social Security and Medicare—would that more Democrats would make the promise—the job you’re applying for is a lot more than “being progressive” or “standing for real Democratic values.” When he was a Democrat, Joe Lieberman ran on similar slogans.

I don’t expect you to agree with me on all my pet issues. If a candidate came out with an idea for controlling health care costs through faith healing—and had credible data to back it up—I’d drop my attachment to the public option. If a candidate were serious about paying for all of America’s wars, it would make me less critical of his belligerent propensities. I’m persuadable, but I’m not a fool. I know that once a candidate gets to Washington, he’ll face 434 people with other opinions. He’ll have to deal. I need to know who and what he’ll sacrifice. I need to know what he won’t sacrifice. And I need to know how far he’ll go to defend those beliefs.

Let’s get down to basics. So far, you’re not just a lousy candidate. You’re a lousy campaigner. I sent you early money so you could reach out beyond the small circle of progressive donors. Instead, you’ve spent 20% of that money just on direct mail to me! We don’t have millions of dollars to waste on electronic campaigns. For that matter, we hate sending money to you just so that you can give it to FOX and CNN. You need to be using that money a lot more wisely than you are. Think like an entrepreneur. You might get a chance to talk to an investor on an elevator going from the first to the third floor. You have 25 words or less in which to tell him about your business and give him a card. What words do you choose?

Here are some specific ideas.

First, you have to know who you are. I love the warm and fuzzy family pictures, but they don’t open my wallet. I have to know exactly what in your life gives you insight into the problems of the district. For example, “I was a school teacher. A family came to me because they were running out of food at the end of the month. I worked with a local food pantry and a church near their home to help them. I will support Food Stamps and school lunches no matter what.” Sincerity is really, really important. An honest-seeming idiot beats a clever hypocrite any day.

In that regard, let me add that most voters believe that Washington is corrupt, that votes are outright bought. This perception will only change when there is no connection whatsoever between legislation and campaign funding. Just sayin’: you want to be thought of as honest, tell people what you’ll do to end the corruption.

Second, I’d like to believe that once you go to Washington, you will listen to me rather than the big donors. You could start that process by calling people, not asking for funds, but for ideas and concerns. Don’t just call progressives or the people who show up at your $100-a-plate fundraisers. Call conservative Democrats, corporate Republicans, Tea Party people, John Birchers, anti-abortion zealots. You want to represent the district. They live in the district. Talk to them. If nothing else, you’ll learn not to panic when faced by ignorant, rude, selfish, hateful people, so maybe you won’t sell out your base when the phone starts ringing off the hook over President Obama’s birth certificate. And just by politely listening to the opposition, you’ll make it harder for the troglodyte you will inevitably face to demonize you.

Third, you don’t need clever slogans. You need thematic unity. Clever slogans come from understanding issues in depth, and seeing how they intertwine. My personal clever slogan is “America needs a raise.” This plays off of a series of issues: stagnant family incomes, the Depression (with the accompanying depression) that permeates our country, and the Christian theme that serving justice requires sacrifice. But you don’t have to like my slogan. If you understand the issues you care about, and think deeply about why they’re important, slogans will occur to you. They form the 25 words of your elevator speech.

Finally, let’s talk about reaching voters. Here are some ideas.

Your website sucking—that can be fixed, and fast. Add pages on issues, bio, etc. to bring it up to standard. Supporters need a central place to go to know where you stand. Facebook is great, but is not organized enough to be that place.

Second, there are a lot of unemployed people. You can offer them work, even if it only pays carfare, lunch, and a chance to network. Since you’ll have lots of volunteers, consider making a video that each of them can watch (since it will inevitably leak, make sure that even short snippets won’t embarrass you). That way you minimize training time by permanent staff.

Third, there are public places where volunteers can talk to the public. Some supermarkets or malls will still let you put up a table. It’s not illegal to walk the streets with a sandwich sign. They can’t run you out of a park, and during some seasons those are packed.

Fourth, refuse to run ads or appear on hostile media—and demand that fellow Democrats do the same. Media are incredibly dependent on revenues from campaigns. And you rob them of credibility by refusing to play their game. Our goal is not just to win a congressional seat. We want to fundamentally change the game so that all voices are heard, not just those with money—and not just even our own. We want democracy.

Fifth, the Republicans are making a concerted effort to deny people the right to vote. You need to call them out for wanting to re-establish an aristocracy where only some people have a say. You also need practical methods to counter voter suppression. You might even have to sue the state to knock down a requirement that people buy their birth certificate just to vote, a poll tax if there ever was one. Think ahead.

Well, this is a start. It took me an hour of stream-of-consciousness to come up with these recommendations. If you and your staff can’t do better, you should quit now before you waste money that could be going to serious candidates. And if you can, well, my wallet is open.

Will be crossposted at DK.

Posted in Congress, Democrats, election theft | Comments Off

Keith Olbermann: Cowardly Blowhard

Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 26, 2011

Joe McGinniss, a reporter an author with a distinguished track record spanning nearly half a century, has a new book out, this one on Sarah Palin.

You might not know this because the establishment press is bound and determined to suppress all knowledge of this book, save for their own highly misleading spin on it. As McGinniss stated in the FDL Book Salon for The Rogue yesterday:

So far, MSM interviewers have only wanted to say I’m reprehensible for putting things in a book about a major political figure that the National Enquirer would find salacious. Then they repeat the “salacious” bits, thereby highlighting them further, and leaving the rest of the book in the shadows.

David Folkenflik of NPR recorded a 45-minute interview with me last week. Fifteen seconds made it on to the air.

I expect no better in the weeks to come, because MSM is a herd animal. Once there’s a meme, they stampede with it and all other points of view are obliterated.

And if you expected alleged progressive heroes Terry Gross, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow to be any better, well, guess again:

Terry Gross has declined to have me on her show. As have all other NPR shows. My fifteen seconds as part of a Folkenflik report on All Things Considered is all I get from NPR. I’m told they are scared of losing more federal funding if right wing Congresspeople complain that they are “promoting” my book.

FYI, both Morning Joe and Keith Olbermann had me booked for last week, but canceled when they saw which way the wind was blowing.

I’d like people to know that about Olbermann. First, he attacked my book on Bill Maher without having read it–then, when the publicity director of Crown Publishing said to his producer that she hoped he would read it before interviewing me on his own show, he canceled me.

Rachel Maddow also refused to have me on.

You’d think that KO, Dr. Maddow and Terry Gross would leap at the chance to talk about a book that among other things discusses in detail the religious fervor and racism of Sarah Palin and her circle. But no — instead, they follow the establishment press’ lead in pretending that the book is somehow too salacious to be read. (Yes, we’re talking about the same establishment media for whom no smear against a non-right-winger is off limits. If McGinniss was writing a badly-sourced book about Al Gore’s massage cravings, he’d be warmly welcomed onto every talk show in the nation. But when he writes a very-well-sourced book about Sarah Palin and her associates, and dares to deal with the subjects of sex and race in a manner that is far more honest and sensible than the hyperventilating treatment given his revelations, he is consigned to the outer darkness, his book unread by those who most loudly attack him, despite his long and honorable track record.

By the way, here’s what KO has to say for himself when asked about this:

This from a man who has yet to read the book.

Oh, well. At least I know now not to bother with, or trust, a single thing Olbermann, Gross and Maddow do or say from now on.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 10 Comments »

 
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