Friday Linkage 7/3/2015

Damn, it’s July. Where did June go? That’s right, I spent the month trying to put as many miles on my bikes as possible and spending the rest of my time enjoying a few moments of clam between rain storms.

On to the links…

Americans Are Drinking Less Coffee Thanks to K-Cups—So, we are drinking less coffee but paying more for the privilege of brewing it a single cup at a time. How is this a good trade off?

The Surprising Environmental Reason Weed Should Be Legal—Marijuana should be legal nationwide because the war on drugs is a sham perpetuated by the prison industrial complex. It also appears that there is an environmental benefit to legalization.

Solar Power Per Capita & Wind Power Per Capita Leaders—Lichtenstein is the leader in per capita solar? Really?

Largest Solar Plant On Planet Earth — Solar Star — Comes Online—With all the hype about distributed solar—of which I am a big proponent—sometimes the scale of these utility projects gets lost. Solar Star in California has a rated capacity of 579 megawatts of funky yellow sun fueled electrical power.

How Renewables are Thriving in the US Thanks to State Policies—Government policy can advance the cause of renewables despite what right wingers might say:


Total Plans 500-800 MW Solar Power Capacity In Bolivia—Bolivia has not ever come up in the links before that I can remember. The French energy titan Total is putting some serious money into renewables in that country.

3 Out Of 4 New Solar Homes In NSW To Include Battery Storage—The more I read and the more I think about the topic the more that I come to the conclusion that Australia seems like the perfect laboratory for the distribution of massive amounts of residential solar.

The West Is Literally On Fire, And The Impacts Could Be Widespread—As the climate changes as a result of global warming we are going to have to deal with the massive impacts of wildfires in drought stricken regions.

Californians Getting Drought Message: Water Usage Plunges—The state still has not addressed some of the agricultural usage insanity—like growing alfalfa to feed to cows or to export—but the residents of the state seem to be getting the idea that el Nino will not rescue them from drought this time.

Mark Bittman Wants You to Know the Drought Isn’t Your Fault—The drought is not our fault, but our food choices may be making things worse. Given the water situation in California there is no logical reason why cows should be residents of that state. None.

Corn Syrup’s DC Attack on Sugar Could Hit Minnesota Beet Industry—Talk about some lobby-on-lobby crime. These two subsidized industries need to get of the government welfare.

Hawaii Just Became The First State To Ban Plastic Bags At Grocery Checkouts—A big thank you to the aloha state for banning the distribution of single use plastic bags. These things are the scourge of the earth.

A Thought on the Four Firkins

I read over the weekend that the usually excellent beer store the On Tap: A farewell to Minnesota craft beer pioneer The Four Firkins Depending upon who you ask it was the entrance into the market of “bog box” liquor stores like Total Wine that did the specialty shop in or its somewhat inconvenient locations or its prices versus other shops in the area.

As someone who sent several people to the Four Firkins and spent some time near there at the American Legion across the street partaking in the particular Minnesota tradition of a meat raffle I would like to offer a differing opinion on the closure of the store.

The Four Firkins was set up to be like a high end wine shop. The staff was well educated on the product, many of them had or were pursuing a certification as a cicerone, sample of somewhat offbeat beers were available frequently, and there was always someone available to talk about beer with if you were in the mood. None of these positive attributes can overcome the subtle difference between wine and beer. The cost of failure for beer is much lower than it is for wine.

A multi-pack of beer—be it a six pack of bottles or a four pack of cans or even a single 22 ounce bottle—is going to come in at a lower price point than a higher than average end wine. If I “fail,” so to speak, and buy a beer that I do not like I am out maybe $10. Conversely, with a bottle of wine you can easily be north of $30. That’s an order of magnitude greater that is hard to overcome.

It is easy enough to go into a well-stocked liquor store, pick out a new beer to try, and not feel like you are making a deep financial commitment. That is a hard buyer behavior to overcome with service.

The Joni Ernst Watch 6/29/2015

When it comes to Joni “Make ‘em squeal Joni!” Ernst or Steve King it’s clown shoes all day, every day. Recently, the conversation in Iowa has turned away from our homegrown whack-a-doos and focused on the nutcase circus that will be the Republican caucus.

Republicans are apoplectic this week after being dealt a series of legal defeats at the hands of the Supreme Court. First, a key component of modern civil rights legislation relating to fair housing and housing discrimination based on protected classes was upheld. Second, the Affordable Care Act survived another spurious legal threat with a somewhat stunning 6-3 decision—where most court watchers thought would break along the normal 5-4 lines—that upheld the ability of the federal government to offer subsidies to low income seekers of health insurance. Finally, marriage discrimination based on someone’s sexual orientation is dead in the eyes of the Supreme Court. Think about that for a moment…

Steve King cannot shut up for one minute. After the horrific shooting in Charleston, South Carolina Rep. Steve King: Unrestricted access to guns is a ‘higher calling’ than stopping ‘one event of violence’:

And even if some of this violence could be stopped by confiscating all the guns, we have a charge, our charge is to defend freedom and liberty. We are the bastion of western civilization, and that requires us to be able to defend ourselves against tyranny.

That’s the charge that our founding fathers gave us, that’s in our culture, we know that, we’ve had to do that worldwide. So, it’s a much higher calling than believing that somehow we end one event of violence.

Wow, that is some real Constitutional verbal vomit coming from the absolute master of the dark arts.

Naturally, King got waded into the shallow waters of Rep. Steve King Comments On Friday’s Ruling

Here we are destroying the last real structure of our society. The building blocks of our society, the core of our families are marriage between a man and a woman. Something we’ve had in our country and civilization itself for thousands of years just wiped out by five of nine members of the Supreme Court.

At what point do these people realize they sound like the people defending slavery in the mid-1800s or the people arguing that the world was really flat?

But, King: Let’s Abolish Civil Marriage Altogether:

I’m calling upon the states, just abolish civil marriage, let’s go back to holy matrimony the way it began. Do that alone. And by the way, I want to send a message to the Supreme Court — a good strong message — and in the next days and weeks I will be introducing legislation to do just that.

These people are like small children crying and throwing a fit. If someone gets something they do not have then no one should get anything. My four year old son has a better sense of the world than these clowns.

Well, the Republican circus has added or will add some new passengers in the coming days. Bobby Jindal is in and he wants you to judge him on his record as governor. Louisiana Has A Lot Of Problems. This Is How Bobby Jindal Made Them Worse.

Chris Christie apparently thinks he can bully the nation and is going to announce he is running for president on Tuesday. Oh, the humanity and delicious sound bites that are sure to follow once the press starts following him around.

John Kasich, the somewhat dry white toast governor of Ohio, thinks that his relative anonymity in a field of divas is a selling point is also running for President. That puts the count at thirteen declared candidates and three suspected candidates. Wow.

The most off his rocker Republican of the week award goes to Ken Buck of Colorado. Ken Buck offers worst arguments yet against TPP

Obama could use his overreaching trade authority to advance: A radical climate change agenda; Amnesty for illegal aliens; Unpopular gun control laws; Payoffs for big labor.

Yep, a trade deal is now a Trojan horse for a whole host of right wing conspiracy theories. Get this guy a tin foil hat.

The lunatic of the week has to be Ann Coulter. You remember her, right? Coulter thinks loser Confederate army was greatest in history

The Confederate flag we’re talking about never flew over an official Confederate building. It was a battle flag. It is to honor Robert E. Lee. And anyone who knows the first thing about military history, knows that there is no greater army that ever took the field than the Confederate Army.

Really? Did she forget to see the scoreboard when she was working on this reactionary dreck. The south lost the Civil War and it’s army was defeated on the battlefield. Any attempt to create a narrative where the defeat was not total is revisionist history at its worst. However, we are talking about Ann Coulter who stopped being relevant for anyone but the lunatic fringe before the end of the George W. Bush administration.

Friday Linkage 6/26/2015

So much rain and a lot of miles. Rain and miles occupy much of my thoughts lately. To get to my seasonal mileage goal on my bike I have to time a lot of rides around when it is going to rain. When an area sees storms drop multiple inches of rain in an hour or throw hailstones the size of golf balls and larger this is a harder task than it seems at first blush. First world problems, I guess.

On to the links…

The Economic Limitations of Wind and Solar Power—Most of the time we get focused on the technical limitations of renewable energy without really thinking about the broad economic limits. This piece is a well-reasoned look at those limitations.

Europe’s Emissions Decreased Another 5% in 2014—Some of this is a function of a mild winter, which reduces the demand for natural gas and heating oil, but there is something to this trend. If only the U.S. could actually follow suit and find a way to reduce its emissions.

Texas Enjoys Record-Breaking Quarter As New Solar Capacity Soars—Texas now has ~379 MW of installed solar—adding up utility, residential, and commercial—with 2015 looking like a big year in terms of cumulative additions to this total. Remember, every solar panel is less fossil fuel that needs to be burned. It’s demand destruction lone star state style.

India Expects 52% Jump In Annual Wind Energy Capacity Addition—India is looking to have 60 GW or more of wind energy installed by 2022. Now, if we could just retire some of those old coal fired power plants.

Pakistan Solar Park Plugs In 100 MW To Grid—I probably should not follow a story on India about one on Pakistan, but it looks like these two blood rivals are in the renewables news.

Renewables will Supply Majority of Australia’s Electricity by 2040—Now that there is a study showing a roadmap of getting to majority by 2040 how does Straya accelerate that into 2030 or sooner? These are the questions we need to be asking. Stretch goals.

50% Renewable Electricity Passed By California Senate—50% is great, but why stop there?

For Automakers, Fuel Economy Targets May Be Less of a Stretch—When the new mileage targets came out a few years ago all the commentators howled that it was impossible to meet these targets without every vehicle becoming some sort of punishing econobox. Guess what? Innovation happened.

One Container Ship may Cause as Much Cancer as 50M Cars—Shipping is a dirty business because these massive container ships use bunker oil. Just think of it as the sludge that is left over when everything else of value has been extracted from oil. You are left with the shit. It’s cheap, plentiful, and really dirty. If there is a low hanging fruit, in terms of emissions and pollution reduction, it has to be switching ships off bunker oil.

Recycling is Stalling in U.S., and Big Blue Bins are One Reason—Recycling bins have just become trash bins we do not feel guilty about. It’s recycled, we say, throwing packaging and what not into one big bin. Guess what? It’s likely to become trash.

Once And Future Nut: How Genetic Engineering May Bring Back Chestnuts—Chestnuts are an acquired taste. Roasted chestnuts may be sung about every holiday season, but how many people actually know what those taste like? I remember getting a bag every year after Thanksgiving when I would take a trip into Chicago with my parents. It’s but a memory now that chestnut trees have been obliterated by blight.

General Mills to Remove Artificial Colors, Flavors from Cereals—While I applaud this move, did anyone ever really buy a box of Trix and think, “These are natural, right?”

Why did this businessman buy 53,000 acres in Florida?—Usually when you read about someone buying a bunch of land in Florida it is about subdividing that land and turning it into a retirement community. Apparently someone has a different idea about how Florida should look.

Corona Is Expanding Its Breweries to Keep up with Demand—Dear god why? How much of this stank beer can bros drink? Seriously, is there a worse beer that people think is premium and drink with such vigor? Why?

The Joni Ernst Watch 6/22/2015

When it comes to Joni “Make ‘em squeal Joni” Ernst or Steve King it’s clown shoes all day, every day. Recently, the conversation in Iowa has turned away from our homegrown whack-a-doos and focused on the nutcase circus that will be the Republican caucus.

It was too good to last and now the junior senator from Iowa is reverting to old school Joni. Loony Alert: Joni Ernst Wants Troops Back In Iraq

I am not ready to put ground troops in, but I think we are coming to a juncture where we will have to make that hard decision

Huh? At what point do we cut bait…oh right, there is a lot of oil in the region. My bad. Ernst Votes Against Torture Ban

The president has the authority to decide if those techniques would be used or not. Only in rare circumstances should they be used.

Torture is not okay. Ever. End of story. Finally, it looks like she is bowing to pressure from inside her own caucus becauseErnst votes against changes in handling military sex assault. Clown shoes.

Steve King is never one to outdone when it comes to crazy. Rep. King: Same-Sex Marriage OK Could Split Nation:

Well, that turned into a civil war – 600,000 people killed to put an end to slavery ­– to sort that mess out.

Is he not from Iowa? In this state gay marriage is legal and it has not split us asunder in a civil war.

Sweet baby Jesus!   My prayers have been answered and material will just write itself for the next several months. Why? Donald Trump is officially a candidate for president of the United States. That’s right. The former reality television star, mediocre property developer, failed casino operator, and huckster is further padding his enormous ego by kind of, sort of running for president.

It Snowed Once And Other Things Donald Trump Thinks Prove Global Warming Is A Hoax:

  • The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
  • Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee – I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!

Donald Trump Is Running For President. Here Are 11 Animals Who Share His Hair

Now that ol’ Jeb is officially running here are some of the things we should know about the Bush son that everyone thought would be president. You remember the other guy right?

Jeb Bush Is Officially Running for President. Here’s What You Need to Know About Him.

Remember, Jeb Bush: A Climate Denier By Any Other Name Is Still a Climate Denier.  He’s also a hypocrite when it comes to the climate.  Jeb Bush Thinks His Faith Shouldn’t Inform His Position On Climate Change. Except When He Does.

I will be very curious to see how he handles the fact that his spiritual leader, the awesome Pope Francis, has said emphatically that climate change is serious threat. Then again, he is a hypocrite of the highest order. Jeb Bush Slams Washington’s Pampered Elites…But Enlists Them for His Campaign

Finally, let’s not forget Michele Bachmann. Michele Bachmann is still in a race – for money Usually we call this kind of behavior fraud but when it comes from a modern day Republican it is called par for the course. Keep it classy Michele.


Friday Linkage 6/19/2015

Summer is here and it is glorious. The vegetable garden is coming into its own—I even have little heads of cauliflower peeking out—and the miles are really starting to get racked up on the bike.

On to the links…

These New Quotes From Pope Francis Could Change The Debate On Climate Change—Climate change deniers will find a reason to quibble with the pope because their pocket books demand that they keep denying reality for their masters.

33% Of Electricity Produced In EU Now Comes From Renewables—Do I even need to comment on a headline like that?

Solar Power Passes 1% Global Threshold—One percent may not seem like a lot, but its significant because it means that solar is relevant in the grand scheme.

Survey Of Big Investment Companies Shows Why We Might Be On The Verge Of A Solar Power Boom—When big money begins investing in solar things will really take off.

Why Solar Panels are an Affordable and Smart Investment—I could just say, “Because they rock!” However, the logic is a little more sound than that:


100% Renewable Electricity For Minnesota Town’s Government Facilities—Talk about a solar garden!

India Just Upped Its Solar Target Five-Fold, Will Install More Solar This Year Than Germany—As the developing world deploys solar they will begin to leapfrog countries with a deeper investment commitment to the old fuel regime.

How In-Town Development Produces Less Traffic Than You Might Think—Car-centric development with bog boxes and acres of parking is really a dead end. No one, save for companies like WalMart, like the format because it is soul sucking in its conformity. Maybe the old way is better.

These Affordable Bamboo Houses were Built for Just $2,500 Each—When I see articles like this it makes me mad to read reports about how international organizations failed to build housing in Haiti despite millions in donations.

Farm Implement Clears Path for More Cover Crops—This is just cool. It’s cool to see old methods be made new by inventive engineering and a can do attitude.

Elementary Kids Dig Weeklong Camp about Urban Farming, Food—Kids need to dig around in the dirt and understand how our food is grown in order to grow up to become good consumers and stewards of the land.

Here’s the Latest Evidence of How Private Prisons Are Exploiting Inmates for Profit—Guess what? When you give companies a profit motive for keeping people in jail those companies are going to find ways to keep people in jail. Private prisons are one of the shames of our time.

How Walmart’s Hiding $76 billion in Secret Subsidiaries around the World—WalMart is a shitty company that take tax money to provide low wage jobs for people to sell stuff that is mostly made in China. Here’s a look at the subsidy picture:


An Open Letter to RAGBRAI Guy

As the weather warms up here in eastern Iowa the trails and byways are flooded with a certain breed of cyclist not seen in other parts of the world…RAGBRAI guy. From about mid-June until the actual event begins in July travelling packs of cyclists will clog whatever path you are trying to ply and look at you with disdain when you attempt to pass their travelling circus.

Here’s the thing, no matter how much you claim to be advancing the notion of cycling as a mainstream recreational pursuit—something that does not require your assistance by the way—you’re actually a bad actor. Let me count the ways:

  1. A jersey from RAGBRAI does not entitle you to any special benefits from any other rider on the trail. It’s not a magic totem. There are thousands of us who put in just as many miles per year, if not more, and have no desire to spend our summer pretending to be part of a human powered gypsy caravan. Stop acting like you are the be all and end all of two wheeled fun in the Midwest.
  2. Riding three wide a few rows deep on a recreational trail is an asshole move. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. I do not care that this is Team Ball Sack or whatever your clever clothing is supposed to indicate. You do not own the trail any more than the Hells Angels own the road.
  3. No one wants to be submitted to the sonic stylings from your modern day ghetto blaster strapped to the handlebars of your bike. You cannot hear me clearly when I am trying to pass you and the Grateful Dead suck. Save the jam band session for when you stop to crush a few Natty Lights.
  4. Don’t throw stones because your behavior leaves you residing in a glass shack. Lecturing other people on the trail about their behavior when you are a horde of locusts is just bad form.

Come the third week of July the trails and byways will be clear of these creatures as they spend the better part of a summer vacation rolling from town to town in search of a shower just above the temperature of a well digger’s ass on the shady side and a cold can of light American swill. Just imagine the collective stink of thousands of people sweating out a twelve pack of Busch Light mixed with the eau de nut cheese.

I cannot wait until July 18th.