Friday Linkage 2/24/2017

November 9th was a day of some serious despair, but I see a lot of potential in the awakening of a progressive spirit and an exposure of the right wing’s anti-people agenda.  Yes, it will be a lot of work to make any kind of meaningful change given the dynamics of elections in the U.S.  Yes, Donald Trump is a dumpster fire in human form that happens to inhabit the Oval Office.  However, there has been a spark that has ignited a liberal fire like no other time in recent memory.

On to the links…

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Lowest Since 1994—A lot of this decline has to do with the replacement of coal with natural gas in the electrical generation sector and a recession that dampened demand across a whole host of industries.  Nonetheless, the data is compelling:

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The Future of Solar Power Technology is Bright—No matter what the political environment looks like in the future, the potential of solar is very real.

Record Wind & Solar Keep The Lights On In NSW As Coal & Gas Went Missing—Renewable energy can make the grid more reliable.  This should put the argument about intermittency to bed.

Wind Technician Jobs Growing, in Iowa and Nationally—The sooner that everyone realizes that there are more people working in renewable energy jobs, like wind turbine technicians, the sooner that we can get past the narrative of coal jobs being the only energy jobs that matter.

Drilling Experts Explain why Trump Can’t Bring Back Oilfield Jobs—The jobs will not be coming back because like coal before it automation and market changes are driving the need for actual human labor down.

University of Iowa Announces it will be Coal-Free by 2025—Each power generating facility or consumer that goes coal-free is another brick in the wall in eliminating coal from our energy infrastructure.  Yes, it will take a long time.  Yes, it is inevitable if we keep up the pressure.

Petcoke Piles Gone, but Another Dangerous Pollutant Discovered in the Air—If you think that there is no place for the EPA it is likely that you do not live in a community affected by this kind of pollution.  Low income communities are at the mercy of polluters because they do not have the political clout of the Koch brothers.

Which Ski Run Is Better for the Planet?—Ski hills go out of business.  What comes after is hard to imagine as you spend your days sliding.  However, the way we develop ski runs can make a major difference for the next stage of the land’s lifecycle.

Almost Every Packaged Food Comes from These Two Companies—The merger between Kraft Heinz and Unilever may have died, but this should give you some sense as to how consolidated the center aisles of the grocery store have become.

Olive Oil Shortage Looms as Prices and Demand Rise—Climate change has come for our coffee, chocolate, and hops.  Now olive oil is the crosshairs.  When will the larger populace realize that the impacts of climate change is here.

Fifth of World’s Food Lost to Over-Eating and Waste—Food insecurity is not a question of production it is a question of distribution, availability, and affordability.  It is a god damned shame that we live in a world where a significant portion of the world’s population is overweight while a similarly large portion of the world’s population is food insecure.

Is it Time for “No Show” Town Halls?

Given that members of Congress, usually Republicans who do not want to answer questions about a far right agenda that does not mesh well with actual human beings back home, are reticent to schedule town halls for fear that they will look like schmucks maybe it is time for constituents to schedule their own town halls.

A group of progressives in Fort Collins has scheduled a town hall to talk about Senator Cory Gardner.  The organizers invited Gardner and members of his staff to attend, but they do not expect any official attendance.

We should do the same thing in Iowa.  Here in Iowa’s first district Representative Rod Blum has only scheduled some office hours in small towns and avoiding the larger, albeit more liberal, large cities of Cedar Rapids or Waterloo.

Senator Chuck Grassley is little better.  After spending a career making a big deal of visiting all 99 Iowa counties in the so-called “full Grassley” he seems to be going out of his way to avoid constituents in his most recent town halls.  Look at the list of towns: Hampton, Iowa Falls, Garner, Charles City, and Parkersburg.  Really going out of your way to meet the people, eh Chuck?

Are members of Congress so embarrassed by their own legislative agenda and the behavior of the Trump administration that they are unwilling to meet with constituents?  Looks like that is the case.

How Close are We to Idiocracy?

Idiocracy gets a lot of press lately and for good reason.  I am starting to believe that there is a straight line between President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho:

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And Donald Trump:

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What do you think?

Friday Linkage 2/17/2017

Is this what it looks like from the inside of a failed state?  The current president cannot go a day without an unforced error blowing up in his face, leaks are rampant, confidantes are completely off message, and the orange master of ceremonies cannot let the smallest slight go unnoticed.  Is it the sign of a completely unhinged personality to respond via Twitter to every perceived challenge to his authority?

On to the links…

Coal-Fired Electricity is at its Lowest since Officials Started Keeping Track—Natural gas and cheap renewables are killing coal.  No one wants to live downwind from a coal plant and the death spiral is on.

The West’s Coal Giant is Going Down—You would be hard pressed to find a more controversial symbol of the coal industrial complex than the Navajo Generating Station, a giant coal fired power plant in Arizona.  With decades of life left in its boilers, its operator is scheduling the beast for shutdown in 2019.  This is a coal plant that burns upwards of 24,000 tons of coal per day.

Wind Energy is Setting Records in the U.S. and Around the World—Wind is cheap, a lot of people work in the industry, and even Republicans are behind the sector as they realize the political suicide of condemning something so popular.  The future may not be as bright, but there is potential for hope.

New North American Wind Power Record Set In Central United States—Over 50% of the electricity served came from wind. Yes it was overnight, but it’s a start.
China Doubled Its Solar Capacity In 2016—No matter what the base, doubling the capacity of anything is a big deal.  There are a lot of problems with China—one party state, authoritarian rule, etc.—but when they decide to go for something, solar in this case, they go big.

U.S. Solar Installations Jumped 95 Percent Last Year—China is not the only one to go big on solar.  We were yuge!

Low Carbon Technologies Now Cost-Competitive With Fossil Fuels—Low carbon technologies are basically mainstream.  Right wing reactionaries can try and stop the flood, but it is over.

5 Possible Futures for the EPA under Trump—This assumes that the Trump administration is not a flaming crater of incompetence by the end of March.

The United States of Oil and Gas—There are some amazing images that show the pervasiveness of oil and gas in our lives.

To Save The Planet, Give Cows Better Pasture—Managing productive rangeland for grazing may be on the lowest hanging fruit we have for helping to mitigate the near term impacts of climate change.

Outdoor Rec Industry Defends Public Lands—Outdoor recreation is a huge—sorry yuge—economic activity that needs to be taken into account when changes to our public lands policy are proposed.  Your elected representatives need to understand the value that you place on these lands.  The companies you patronize need to be reminded of the value that you place on these lands.  The time is now.

This Heatless Habanero Packs All Of The Flavor With None Of The Burn—I am really intrigued by this idea.  Bringing the flavor of a pepper without the heat might convert some of my family members.

The Best Trick for Cutting Down on Sugar—After getting some exercise there is no better or bigger change you can make in terms of your health than cutting down or eliminating added sugar from your diet.

Is Senator Charles Grassley Deaf to Our Concerns

With all that is going on in Washington D.C.—cabinet confirmations, a Supreme Court nomination, leaks, Russia, whatever is up with Kellyanne Conway—Charles Grassley, the senior Senator from Iowa, recently sent out this “in case you missed it” email:

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Do you see the headline?  It reads “Grassley wise to push for farmers’ access to overseas markets.”  Yep, the senior Senator from Iowa decides that the most important communication he can make with his constituents is about pushing for access to foreign markets for agricultural commodities.

Try and get him to comment on Trump’s potential conflicts of interest?  No dice.  Try to get him to comment on Trump’s potential ties to Russia?  No dice.

Thanks for all the hard work Senator Grassley.  When is your next open meeting with constituents happening?  I think there are some people who want to ask you a few questions about issues other than access to foreign markets.

The Most Subversive Thing You Can Do Is…

Nothing.

Wait, what?  Nothing?

Yes, that is right, do nothing.  I do not mean do nothing in a political or activist sense.  Good lord no, please make sure that your elected representatives know very clearly what you think of their behavior in office and how that is going to make you vote in 2018.  Make their lives unpleasant by actually showing up to their town hall meetings—assuming they actually schedule town halls in their districts unlike Rod Blum—and let them know how displeased you are with their proposed legislation and Donald Trump.

When I say do nothing I mean stop participating in the consumer driven shell game.  Our consumption of stuff just feeds the beast.  We can rail against the political machine in Washington D.C. as much as we want but as long as we are filling our shopping carts the wheel will keep on spinning.

Do you think Exxon Mobil really cares about protests?  Not really.  They would care however if a measurable percentage of their customers stopped buying gasoline because they were commuting by bike.  How many?  Enough to flatten their growth curve and cause investors to panic.  Looking at the current state of oil markets a drop in demand of 5-10% is enough to cause major perturbations in price.  Could you reduce your personal consumption of gasoline by 5-10%?  Heck, all of us could probably do that without thinking.  No one is saying that you need to stop driving entirely, just reduce it by 5-10%.  The upside is that it costs nothing to do less driving.

Do you think WalMart really cares about anything other than its quarter versus quarter results?  Not really.  However, given that the counties that supported Hillary Clinton account for ~64% of the nation’s GDP if those voters were to stop patronizing WalMart the results would be staggering.  Remember, the game is now about growth and if companies cannot show a path toward growth the market will punish them.  Look at coal companies.  Once these companies could no longer show a clear path to growth, never mind declines in demand, the market punished the companies by withholding capital and the coal companies began declaring bankruptcy.  It costs nothing to not shop at WalMart.

Political activists constantly harp on us to “vote with our wallets,” but it is much more effective to vote by not opening our wallets.  Just shifting our spending from one faceless corporation to another is not going to create any kind of meaningful change.  If over a short period of time there was a measurable decline in consumer demand for stuff you would see some real change.  Granted, Republicans would probably start trying to pass legislation that guaranteed WalMart a certain amount of income because they love welfare when it is for corporations.

Doing nothing when it comes to consumerism is subversive because it goes against the dominant paradigm in modern America.  Heck, when we were facing the greatest existential threat to the United States in a generation George W. Bush implored us to go out and shop.  A stirring call to action this was not, but it does represent what passes for action in the minds of modern politicians.

Step back from the cash register and do nothing.  Put that book down and check out something from your public library.  Avoid that trip to the mall and see what unused items lurk in your closet that would be better served as a donation to the Salvation Army.  Resist the urge to go out for dinner and be truly revolutionary by cooking dinner for a group of people.  Heck, that may be the most revolutionary thing you could do because nothing smacks of “commie socialism” like sharing a meal with a group of people and expecting nothing return save for good conversation.  I can read the tweets from Donald Trump already “Sad.  Dinner without tableside service so un-American.  Mar-a-Lago will always be tremendous.”

How Does Jason Chaffetz Sleep at Night?

The answer is that he probably curls up with a nice bedtime story like Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, kisses the picture of Grover Norquist on his nightstand, and counts email servers until e fades into blissful slumber.

Unfortunately, for the rest of the United States this no-talent a$$ clown of an elected representative is one of the primary oversight authorities as the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee.  This committee is normally tasked with conducting hearings and investigations into the behavior of government officials.  You know, like someone using an unauthorized email server.  Where have I heard about that before?

You would be led to believe that given the current presidential administration’s inability to conduct itself within any reasonable standard that the cries of “foul!” from this committee would be heard loud and clear.  You would be guessing wrong.

Does Jason Chaffetz feel there is a need to investigate the disturbing ties between former Trump administration member Michael Flynn and Russia?  Nope.  Michael Flynn had contact with agents of the Russian government as a private citizen to discuss diplomatic matters, which is against the law, but Jason Chaffetz has decided “no blood, no foul” because there is no political hay to make.  Actually doing the job you were elected to do conflicts with marching orders from the Koch Brothers or whatever organization is paying your way these days.

This is the same member of Congress who thinks that the constituents showing up to his town hall are paid protesters because they disagree with his right wing whack-a-doo agenda.

I would hope that the larger voting public would see that their elected representatives have no interest in serving their interests as long as they will vote on single issues or party lines out of a dogged loyalty that does not align with current reality.

On the bright side this is the same member of Congress who got owned by a ten year old when she asked if he believed in science.