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Friday Linkage 7/13/2018

Well that was an interesting week.  Scott Pruitt “resigned” amid corruption that had not been seen since the Warren G. Harding administration.  Donny Two Scoops got to nominate another justice to the Supreme Court and he promptly picked the most white toast candidate possible.  Another judge that comes from an Ivy League background, clerked for a Supreme Court justice, worked in Washington D.C. and so on.  For a guy who was going to “drain the swamp” he is operating pretty much like a dyed in the wool establishment Republican when it comes to the Supreme Court.

I guess we have to wonder if Steven Mnuchin or Ryan Zinke will be the next stooge on the corruption stage.  I am voting for Mnuchin only because his wife is just like a villain from a Disney movie.

This is the last very special Scott Pruitt section of links…

Read Scott Pruitt’s Bizarre Resignation Letter—Can we call for a moratorium on right wing a-holes praising God no matter how reprehensible their actions may have been?  Scott Pruitt is a horrible human being who was only looking out for himself.  God had nothing to do with anything that he did.

Scott Pruitt is Gone, but the Trump Administration’s Culture of Corruption Remains—The corruption is on display for everyone to see.  Republicans must be made to answer for why they have allowed a public looting of the American enterprise by Trump, his family, and his cohort of cartoon stooges.

Scott Pruitt Investigations Aren’t Ending just Because he Resigned—He can always hope that he gets a pardon from the head cheese puff.

Scott Pruitt is Leaving Behind a Toxic Mess at the EPA—The EPA is a mess.  Environmental regulation and enforcement under Trump is a disaster.  Andrew Wheeler, Scott Pruitt’s replacement, is like replacing Cruella De Ville with Mother Gothel.  One villain is a lot more showy than the other, but they are both horrible people.

Scott Pruitt Gave “Super Polluting” Trucks a Gift on his Last Day at the EPA—It’s one last middle finger to the majority of Americans as Scott Pruitt finds a way to reward a campaign donor yet again.

Scott Pruitt’s Resignation Is Just The Start—We can hope.  However, given how pervasive the corruption is at every level of this administration and given the complicit nature of Congressional Republicans the best chance to really turn up the heat will not come until a new Congress is sworn in this coming January.

Well, bye:

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On to the links…

Thanks to Natural Gas, US CO2 Emissions Lowest Since 1985—This is one of those good news, bad news kind of things.  Emitting less CO2 is good.  However, natural gas production may be emitting a lot of unaccounted for methane which is like a supercharged greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide.  It also begs the question about us making an actual transition to renewables.

China Is Swallowing A Bitter Pill And Trying To Cut Its Coal Use—China realizes that burning coal to power its economy is causing too much trouble.  When China decides to go coal free what hope does the old black rock have of being relevant as an energy source in the future?

One of the World’s Biggest Insurers Is Ditching Coal—Insurance is one of those boring but important facts of business.  If your project cannot get insured, you will be forced to offer investors a higher rate of return which will reduce your economic competitiveness.  In the case of coal, this will put the old dirty fuel another step behind cleaner alternatives.

New Utility Settlement Highlights how Ohio Utilities are Leaving FirstEnergy Behind on Clean Energy—FirstEnergy might have a better chance of bringing back Blockbuster than trying to revive the hopes for its fleet of coal burning power plants.

The First Fully Solar-Powered Ski Area: Wolf Creek, CO—If you ski you should care about renewable energy because it might be the only hope that we have of actually getting to ski on snow in the future.  Way to go Wolf Creek on going 100% solar.  Totally!

EPA Blocks Warnings on Cancer-Causing Chemical—This is the kind of government you get when you elect people who tell you that they hate government.

Why is the Trump Administration Putting a Tariff on Chinese LEDs?—My first inkling is to say that Donald Trump does not understand how international trade works, but the answer is probably that a lobbyist got to write down what products they wanted a tariff on in a book and our dear leader just copied the list down for action.  He is the muppet of presidents.  It looks like he is in charge, but somewhere hidden is someone with a hand up his ass telling him what to do on a minute by minute basis.

I Gave Up AC This Summer To Live Within My Means. America Should Try That—Maybe we should all try and give up a little something to live within our economic and environmental means.

One in Three Fish Caught Never Makes it to the Plate—We do not need to farm, raise, or fish for more food.  We need to waste less of what we already farm, raise, and fish.  If you could instantly take the wasted bycatch from the international fishing economy and bring that to market it would mean a more than 30% increase in available protein.

Stop Buying Tilapia! Here Are 5 Other Fish You Need to Try.—Seriously, stop buying tilapia.  It is like Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominees.  It is the dry white toast of fish.  It is what Becky would order for dinner after finishing her Frappuccino.

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It’s Ok to Wear Cotton

Cotton kills.

If you spend any time performing an activity outdoors someone has said that to you in the past year.  It might have even been you, which in that case you are “that guy.”

Here’s the thing.  Cotton is actually pretty damn comfortable, it doesn’t end up with those funky synthetic fabric odors, and I do not look like Dwayne Johnson when I am riding the three miles to work on my bicycle.

It’s ok to wear cotton.  Heck, I even prefer cotton t-shirts to performance wicking t-shirts on any bike ride save my long days in the saddle when the mileage creeps up around the fifty mark.

It’s ok to wear cotton.  We all do not need to be kitted up like pseudo-Tour de France racers for a quick pedal around town with the kids.  Sure, your jersey, shorts, socks, and handlebar tape are all color coordinated but you still look like a tool when you are following behind tottering children struggling to finish the ride.

It’s ok to wear cotton.  When we step off the bike and stop in for a beer no one wants to look like a pack of MAMILs (Middle Aged Man In Lycra).  It’s a thing and it is not pretty.

It’s ok to wear cotton.  We all probably have several cotton t-shirts sitting in a dresser drawer waiting to be worn.  There is no need to head out to the shop and buy a special shirt just to ride a bike.  Dig into the dark recesses of your forgotten cloths, pull out that t-shirt from vacation a few years ago, and wear it with non-ironic pride on your next ride into work.

It’s ok to wear cotton.  If we want cycling to be anything other than a niche activity pursued by enthusiasts we need to stop telling people that it is wrong to wear a simple t-shirt. We want people out of their cars and on bikes.  People are healthier, the air is cleaner, and our communities are more resilient when people drop the keys and start pedaling.  Too often the people who should be helping get others onto saddles are the same ones who are scaring people away with their mantras about cotton.

Join me this summer in putting away the wicking fabric for just a moment and taking a ride in a simple cotton t-shirt.  You might actually feel like a human being again.

Is Rod Blum America’s Most Useless Congressman?

Some people would write the headline “Is Rod Blum America’s Worst Congressman?”  However, that is not possible because he cannot even be the worst Congressman from Iowa.  Steve King takes that title every day running away.

Rod Blum is fairly useless.  Take this mailer that I get for some inexplicable reason:

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As a registered Democrat who participates in most primary elections I would have thought my name was crossed off of any mailing list promoting Rod Blum’s “accomplishments.”  Alas, that is not the case.

Rod Blum is “draining the swamp?”  Did Rob Blum call for the resignation of a single member of Trump’s cabinet who has been shown to have misspent the public’s money and abused our public trust?  Nope.  Did Rod Blum ever once call for Scott Pruitt, the single most corrupt member of a cabinet in a hundred years, to resign?  Nope.  Everything on the list above is a load of crap.

My favorite is “End the use of taxpayer funded ‘slush-fund’ that was being used to settle accusations of misconduct by Members of Congress.”  You mean like former Representative Blake Farenthold?  The same Blake Farenthold who eventually resigned from Congress and promised to return the $84,000 payment made to settle a sexual harassment complaint?  The same Blake Farenthold who, after leaving Congress, finally admitted he has no intention actually repaying that money?  If Rod Blum cannot keep a member of his own political party in line how is he ever going to “drain the swamp?”

Here’s the thing: Rod Blum is a swamp creature himself.  He “failed to disclose” his position or financial interest with an internet company, Tin Moon Corp, that promised, among other things, to ensure negative search results for things like FDA warning letters were buried below more positive search results.  Disregarding the weak excuse of “failing to disclose” his interest, Tin Moon Corp is literally offering to manipulate search results to bury health and safety information.  I know that companies are engaged in this practice all the time, but not with a sitting member of Congress as a board member.  Drain the swamp, huh?

Remember, Rod Blum is the same man who could not handle being asked questions about holding an actual town hall meeting, threw a hissy fit, and stormed out of an interview.  Thankfully, the internet remembers everything for posterity’s sake.

Apparently the House of Representatives has passed 973 bills this session.  Now, the caveat is that a lot of those will not become law because it requires passage by the Senate, a conference committee if there are differences in the bills, and eventual signature by the head cheese puff.  So, Rod Blum is taking credit for passing bills that will probably not become law.  Does he also take credit for repealing the Affordable Care Act multiple times?  The House of Representatives loved to pass repeal bills all the time to burnish their right wing bona fides.

Hey, what about that “historic tax cut” that Congress passed:

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Yeah, how is that playing out back home in the district?  Never mind that certified rich person and corrupt member of Congress Rod Blum probably made out like a bandit.  You might get an extra $1.50 in your paycheck. 

Rod Blum is the perfect illustration of what is wrong with the government as run by Republicans.  There are little if any accomplishments, save for tax cuts, because there is no ideology beyond making sure that rich donors pay less in taxes.  Everything else is a battle royale between special interests and the Republicans love them some special interests.

This mailer is a piece of propaganda meant to gin up a declining base in a competitive district this fall.  He needs every Trump supporter to pull the lever for Rod Blum because that is his only hope of winning.

Rod Blum is useless as a representative for the 1st district of Iowa.  He knows it and I am guessing that a majority of the electorate in the district knows it.  In November Rod Blum needs to go.

Friday Linkage 7/6/2018

I absolutely love the discussion about civility in national politics right now.  I love how people like Donald Trump, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, or anyone else associated with the right wing can claim to hold any shred of credibility with regard to being civil when these are the same people who have given us the likes of Steve King, Louie Gohmert, and others.  Heck, they gave us Donald Trump who is literally the most vulgar person to hold the office of President of the United States in the history of the country.  Come at me with a different person, please.

We have truly entered the straight up Orwellian dystopia phase of the current political cycle.  Up is down, black is white, and Trump is right.  If you are not with the dear leader, regardless of where his policy position is that day, you are against the dear leader even if you have done nothing but maintain long held beliefs.  Just wait until they start burning books that do not have more space dedicated to pictures than words.

On to the links…

Scott Pruitt Asked Aides To Find His Wife A $200,000 Job—Scott Pruitt may be the most corrupt person in Washington D.C. since the administration of Warren G. Harding.

It’s Time for the Republican Congress to Impeach the EPA’s Scott Pruitt—This is not the opinion of a liberal mouthpiece.  It is coming from a business publication.  Here is the thing I wonder about.  When the administration changes how will Republicans react to the smallest of infractions by a Democratic administration?  What sort of faux outrage will people like Chuck Grassley manufacture after spending the prior four years closing their eyes, plugging their ears, and screaming “La, la, la!” while Trump and his cronies looted America?

This is how People Tried to Teach Scott Pruitt about Climate Science—Remember, this is the man in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency.  You can’t teach Scott Pruitt because Scott Pruitt is bought and paid for by the oil and gas lobby.

Path to Zero Emissions Starts Out Easy, but Gets Steep—Does anyone really doubt that this is true?  However, we will not get to the innovation part unless we start on the easy stuff first.  If history is any guide to the future, however, advances in energy production will come along that moderate the steepness of the deployment curve.

Coal Power Plants Retiring Quickly During Trump Administration—It looks like we are already trying to get coal out of the picture.  Despite Trump’s best efforts—which have probably slowed down retirements but not stopped the trend—coal is not the way we will generate electricity in the future.  Maybe he really should try and bring back Blockbuster?  Or ToyRUs?

Solar Power Employs Twice As Many As Coal In US—For every coal mining job Trump claims he is trying to save, which is really code for him just trying to save coal barons’ paychecks at the expense of everyone else on the planet, he is endangering more solar jobs on the other side of the ledger.  This is a losing hand that he is playing to the bitter end.  Good luck with that Donny two scoops.

Electric Vehicles Alone Could Cause Peak Oil Demand within Decade—Peak oil used to be about Hubbert’s Peak and the decline of production based on economically producible reserves, but maybe the worm has turned and we will just demand to use less oil.  I like to think that I am contributing ever so slightly by biking into work several days a week.  Demand destruction is real.

Climate Change is Making it Harder to Revive Damaged Land—Just add this to the list of things that climate change is going to make harder for future generations.

Call to Turn Oil Rigs into Nature Reserves—Why don’t we just take every offshore rig at the end of its life and turn it into a combination artificial reef and offshore wind turbine?

UK Renewable Electricity Generation Tops 30%, Scotland Increases By 11%—The U.K. generated over 30% of its electricity in the third quarter via renewables.  Not for a day or a month, but an entire quarter.  In the same report it was noted that for the entirety of 2017 Scotland generated almost 70% of its electricity from renewable sources.  The future is now folks.

Battery-Backed Solar Power to Undercut Coal in China by 2028—So, once China figures out how to cut the price of solar with storage what is the market for energy going to look like?

Solar Power Fuels Savings, Consumer Loyalty and Competition Among Craft Brewers—You mean to tell me that people like it when their favorite beer makers also believe that the world is a better place with more solar power?  I would have never thought such a thing were possible.

The Dirty Little Secret Behind “Clean Energy” Wood Pellets—Do any biomass energy schemes ever work out as intended?  It always seems like the promise is predicated on a bunch of ifs.  If the forest is replanted or if the forest is not clear cut and so on.

The US has a 1.39 billion-pound surplus of cheese. Let’s try to visualize that.—I am stuck here thinking about what a 1.39 billion pound round of cheese would be like sitting on the mall in Washington D.C.:

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Over 600 kWh of Solar Power in June, yet Left Wanting More

June 2018 ended with my home’s solar photovoltaic system have produced approximately 619 kWh for the month:

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This is about on par with May’s production, but several things are off.

See that really low production day on June 26th?  The weather was partly sunny or partly cloudy depending upon your weather vernacular.  That was also about the time that the monitoring data from the app that I use went all haywire.  One day it would show no production, but then update with crazy fluctuating production for that same day later.  I am liable to think that the numbers for the month are off as a result.  Since that period of hiccups everything looks fine, but I am suspicious.

Also, watch your meter readings like a hawk.  I received my electric bill from my local electric coop and it was way off.  How off?  Like someone switched the meter readings for production and consumption.  Instead of showing me positive approximately 500 kWh it was showing almost the same number as a deficit.  Granted, it was easy to figure out because I know how to read my meter but it was discouraging to have to go through the process with customer service.

Without telling me the electric coop replaced my bi-directional meter with a newer model.  It is no skin off my back, but I have lost my tracking of how well my system has done since being installed.  That being said I know that I am net positive more than 600 kWh since the system was installed and I am looking forward to a big month of production in July.

Friday Linkage 6/29/2018

If anyone does not believe that elections matter, consider that Donald Trump—a man wholly unfit to be president who lost an election by over three million votes—will get to choose the second Supreme Court justice of his presidency.  By the end of four years of this man the United States may no longer be a country that I recognize.

On to the links…

The Dangers of Distracted Parenting—The world would be better is everyone were just a little more present in the “real.”  I cannot count how many times I have been in a bar or restaurant and seen entire tables of people staring into their phones’ screens.  It is insanity.

She Spoke out About Climate Change—and They Tried to Make Her Pay for It—Sarah Myhre is right.  Science has always been political.  There is a reason why religious authorities persecuted scientists.  Empirical observations served to undermine the authority of the religious entity because their authority was based on a flawed text interpreted over the course of generations. Nothing has really changed.

News of Scott Pruitt’s ‘quid pro quo’ Condo Deal Raises Questions about Criminal Law Violations—Does anyone actually think that Scott Pruitt or any other member of the Trump administration would actually be prosecuted for doing something criminal?  This is the most ethically and criminally compromised presidency in American history and the Republican party is allowing it to run amok with no oversight.  Do you remember when the process in which Hillary Clinton handled her emails was considered the height of impropriety?

Scott Pruitt Was So Sloppy Telling Oil Execs and Cronies He Could Get Them Hired, It’s Embarrassing—This fucking guy:

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Scott Pruitt’s “Tactical Pants” Scandal, Very Briefly Explained—It’s not nearly as much fun as his lotion runs or his attempts to buy a used mattress or his attempts to weasel a chicken franchise for his wife or…well, it is Scott Pruitt and every week brings a new scandal.

How Trump is Letting Polluters Off the Hook, in One Chart—When the EPA is run by an industry toadie more interested in finding his special lotion to keep his skin soft while he lounges in his used bed this is the result:

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Ethically compromised is one thing, but being just downright pathetic at your job is turning out to be a Trumpian trait du jour.

The Argument for Fracking as a Climate Solution Just Went Down in Flames—Methane is a bad climate actor and mismanaged wells are releasing a lot of methane.  Sorry folks, but fracked natural gas is not the bridge fuel to the future.  It’s just another fossil fuel bait and switch.

Investigators say China is Behind Illegal CFC Emissions—Maybe Donny two scoops will add this to his list of grievances with China or he will just use it as a another lever to extract payoffs from the Chinese for a project somewhere in the world.

UPS Places Order For 950 Workhorse N-GEN Electric Delivery Vans—Before we spend a lot of time and energy electrifying personal automobiles, the government should focus its efforts on converting the fleets of commercial vehicles to electric.  These are large buyers of vehicles, so one sales pitch can lead to a lot of sales, that are very sensitive to fuel cost fluctuation.

Will the Boomers Leave Us Bust?—Let me skip to the punch line: if baby boomers have to give an inch to save future generations they will fight tooth and nail to preserve that inch because they are the most self-centered generation in American history.  As the, hopefully, last baby boomer president wreaks havoc on the national and international order it is starting to look like a multi-decade fixer upper job for those of use left.

Goats Used For Colorado Wildfire Mitigation—The world just might be a better place if we spent more time thinking about goats.  Everyone else can worry about Trump today.  I am going to spend my day thinking about goats.

Another Plant Based Burger Hits the Shelves

It is amazing to see just how “hot” plant based burgers are right now.  It is difficult to spend any time reading food related websites without coming across a reference to either the Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat products. It is a long way from non-meat burgers being sad patties of soy protein, black beans, and some spices on the bottom shelf of the freezer section at your local natural foods store.

Take the Don Lee Farms organic plant based burger:

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I picked up this particular package from my nearest Costco.  The Costco connection is interesting because apparently the company sold more than a million patties in just 60 days earlier this year. [http://www.cookinglight.com/news/costco-sold-more-than-one-million-plant-based-don-lee-burgers]  Now, I do not know if that is a truly gangbusters number for Costco where mayonnaise is sold in literal buckets.

Naturally I felt the urge to try out this new entrant.  A package of ten frozen patties cost about $11, which is a far sight cheaper than the Beyond Burger.  The cheapest Beyond Burger was on special at my local coop for $4.99 for two patties.  In terms of value the Don Lee Farms product was running away with things.

It is suggested that the patties be cooked from frozen, so I fired up the grill and got to cooking:

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The babies cook up fast.  Like a couple of minutes per side and the internal temperature was already in the 150 degree Fahrenheit range.  The patties also got a little crispy around the edges really fast.  Faster than the Beyond Burger and definitely faster than a regular old grass fed beef patty.  As the Don Lee Farms burgers were cooking I noticed a distinct lack of oils or fats which is a departure from the Beyond Burger.  It seemed more in line with more traditional veggie burgers from the 1990s.  Ooooh the 1990s when ordering a plant based burger seemed subversive.

The result is mixed:

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The Don Lee Farms plant based burger was better than any regular non meat alternative patty, but I think it falls short of the Beyond Burger.  It’s a texture thing more than anything else and I kept getting hints of crunchy vegetables from the patty that I could not shake.  Granted, a hamburger is generally a vehicle for a lot of other flavors so when you load your burger down with an onion slide, grilled pineapple, American cheese, and Miracle Whip there is a lot going on for your taste buds to process.

Here’s the thing, we have entered into the “uncanny valley” with plant based burgers.  Each iteration is getting closer to the real thing, but a few components or our own perception is off just enough to throw the whole thing for a loop.  It was easier when you were eating a hockey puck of quinoa, water chestnuts, patchouli oil, and tempeh because you did not expect the ersatz burger to be a facsimile of actual meat.  However, when manufacturers are putting pictures on the package that make the plant based burgers look like raw meat, selling patties alongside actual meat in the butcher’s case, or advertising that the patties “bleed” the experience needs to be spot on.

Until I have had to opportunity to try the Impossible Foods burger, which is only available in restaurants that do not happen to be near me, I am going to reserve judgement on the entire category.  For now these next generation plant based burgers are pretty good at replacing the experience of an actual meat burger but there is just a little something off that is throwing the experience.

Have you tried the Don Lee Farms plant based burger?