Hot Out There

I’m trying to get back on track. I have really tried to stay away from U. S. politics lately. I tend to “lose it” when I consider the tragic silliness emanating from Washington these days. I mean, what can you say? Nothing. What can you do? A lot, and vote. So, less saying and more doing, and on to the topic of the day.

USA Today reported that Ahvaz, Iran experienced 129 degree temperatures today (1). That may be a record.

I have come to regard internal combustion powered cars I see on the road as principly CO2 generation plants. About 75% of what they do while running is create waste heat, and, of course, the CO2 associated with that process. Something like 25% of the energy used goes into moving the car, and the CO2 related to even that would be bad enough.

This week I went out to buy a pickup truck to use while we are building our new house. I test drove one, a fairly new Chevy Colorado. It was a nice work truck, but in the end, I couldn’t do it. In my mind, I could see over 108 basic 19th century (yep, 19th) parts flailing around inside the engine pumping out CO2 as I would drive it for non-essential purposes.

But, we need two cars. We just passed our Chevy Volt on to a son, and our new Tesla Model 3 won’t be here until late this year, if then. So, I hopped on the CarMax web site and looked for a used Chevrolet Spark EV. Guess what, there are a few (2), all in California, of course. So, I ordered one shipped to Ohio. It’s not a pickup, but it will do all the milk runs. We’ll rent a pickup if we need it. And I think I already have a home for the Spark when the Tesla arrives. Cool on a hot day, I think.

More doing, less saying.

-George-

  1. https://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2017/06/29/129-degrees-iran-earths-hottest-temperature-ever-recorded/440644001/#
  2. https://www.carmax.com/cars/chevrolet/spark-ev/

The Three Stooges

When I started this blog I really wanted to be as respectful as I could in any criticisms I made of political action, to stay away from the people involved and to focus upon the acts themselves. But, since November 2016 that has become very, very difficult. I have frequently failed. One can reduce ignorance by supplying information, but stupidity is something else again. One cannot debate complex issues with a stupid person. Reason will not penetrate the cognitive walls built up around a stupid mind, and now we have a government with two stupid minds leading the congress and one leading the executive. We have actually got a real set of Three Stooges (1) running our country, and we can do nothing about that fact in the short-term. So, that’s about all I can say about Trump, Ryan, and McConnell. If I say any more about these people, it might be considered disrespectful.

This blog is about what we can do, not what we cannot. And, of course, Trump’s Paris Climate Agreement withdrawal is what set me off today. Having, like Elon Musk and Bob Iger (2,3), given up on the idea that Trump, Ryan, and McConnell might only be ignorant, needing only some coaching, there is nothing to do but implement the deal ourselves, by states, localities, companies, and individuals.

California is pressing ahead. As Governor Jerry Brown said (4):

. . . the world is not waiting for Donald Trump. He has given a body blow to the cause of environmental sustainability, but we will take it and we will respond. We’re on the field of battle, and we’re going to overcome. That, I can promise you.

And others (5,6,7,8).

Our family is on the field of battle with Jerry Brown. We have already laid the plans for that in the construction of a new Zero Energy Ready home (9). We are now bumping that up to be off-grid capable upon occupation. After a shakedown period, we want to unplug the house. There is no reason not to. We are buying absolutely no more internal combustion engine vehicles. We’ll keep our 2015 CR-V until the wheels fall off or until we are sure we don’t need it, and replace our 2013 Chevy Volt with a Tesla Model 3 in 2018 (reserved). Tesla’s charging network is an important part of the Volt replacement choice. The Volt, by the way, has delivered well over 1000 miles per gallon since we bought it new due to our driving pattern and the 240 volt rapid charger (wind offset) in the garage.

There is a lot we can do without the Stooges (oops, sorry).

-George-

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Stooges
  2. http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/01/news/elon-musk-resigns-trump-adviser/index.html
  3. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/paul-ryan-mitch-mcconnell-praise-trumps-move-against-paris-climate-deal/article/2624722
  4. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/gov-jerry-brown-trumps-move-reject-paris-agreement-hurts-america-will-cost-jobs/
  5. http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/02/news/companies/trump-ceo-revolt/index.html
  6. http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/obama-musk-other-world-industry-leaders-call-paris-climate-deal-n767296
  7. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/climate/american-cities-climate-standards.html?hp
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXH2ojr7wi4
  9. A Renewable Energy Project

Bringing Down The Idiocracy

There are many good reasons why idiocracy has replaced democracy here in the USA. I’ve written about some of them before; our divisive two-party system and the undemocratic electoral college are two. Another is legalized bribery of elected officials by corporate entities through so-called campaign donations. Maybe I’ll write about that someday.

But here’s a problem that we can fix with no legislation and about which partisan zealots really can do nothing, although they will try at the state and local levels with gerrymandering and restrictive voting laws. That one thing we can do is to vote. If we just do that one thing, we’ll begin to get our present political tragi-comedy under control. But we don’t do that.

In Franklin County, Ohio we held an election yesterday. The turn-out, according to the Columbus Dispatch Editorial today, was, guess . . .

6.84%

Yep, 6.84%. If you don’t vote (we did), you are a stone in the foundation supporting our metastasizing idiocracy. Let’s start pulling the stones out from underneath the walls of our national embarrassment and let it collapse. It’s really easy, the exercise will do you good, and it will help make the hard stuff that comes later easier by creating truly representative legislative and executive bodies at local, state, and national levels.

Just get off your duff and vote when you have the opportunity, or, rather, while you still have the opportunity.

-George-

Internet Privacy In America Made Great Again

I’m guessing that this week Mr. Trump will sign (1) the resolution repealing a proposed FCC rule barring ISPs from collecting and selling information related to their customers’ browsing habits. This means that just about every service provider on the other side of the terminal block upon which your internet connection appears can proceed with projects to spy on your activities (just like the NSA) and sell the information they gather to the highest bidder.

The fact is that not much will change from the state of affairs that exists today except expression of the government’s intent to move away from the people’s interests and toward corporate interests when it comes to internet privacy policy. After the last election we should not be surprised by this. And, the privacy rule being repealed has not actually taken effect yet.

So, what’s a body to do in this new government of, by, and for the corporations? Lots of safe browsing advice is to be found on the web, but one piece of that advice now becomes a requirement for those who want to maintain even a modicum of control over what their ISP can see and sell. The prudent internet user simply must be using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt not only the content of traffic, but the identity of the service or destination to which one is connected.

I have been using a VPN whenever I take my laptop or tablet out of my home. I’ll be using it all the time now. When I selected my VPN, I looked for one operated by a European provider (government of the people, good privacy law) and which provided its own Domain Name Services (DNS). It does no good to employ a VPN that uses DNS servers that are owned by the ISP or some other privacy invading web service entity. That might take some research. There are many good options. (2)

Sadly, good VPN options all cost money, about $60 per year, a new tax on privacy in America made great again.

-George-

  1. Updated April 4, he did, on April 3.
  2. https://thatoneprivacysite.net/simple-vpn-comparison-chart/

Lemmings Thwarted

A few days ago I wrote a piece (1) about Speaker Ryan’s doomed “Obamacare” repeal and replace bill. The incompetent bill was something that an only a backwoods college freshman Randian might dream up in a closet shut off from any sensory perception. It accomplished nothing except to alarm thoughtful people.

I thought the bill might pass because the Republican majority, already detached from reality, really seemed to be running like a herd of lemmings toward Ryan’s legislative cliff. But, no, it did not happen. Quite unexpectedly, for me, it did not happen because of something else in that post that I wrote must happen to protect us from extremism:

We need diversity in government to force compromise, to force rationality that cannot exist within an intellectual climate dominated by dogma and absolute power. Let’s put away political “holy” books and flags and use our heads — for a change.

We got it. We got the diversity we needed. We got it from the Freedom Caucus, from a caucus that wants to return this country to the state of affairs that existed in 1861, just before the Civil War. And, that’s OK, not the return part, the help part. Those strong-willed folks prevented Ryan’s lemmings from destroying one of the best pieces of constitutional “general welfare” (2) legislation ever written, certainly in this century.

I’ll have to check my congressman’s (Pat Tiberi) website after the dust settles. Pat runs right in the middle of the lemming pack. Not too much evidence of independent thought in his voting record. Earlier today the health care pitch looked like it had been whipped up by Donald Trump, himself. (3)

As Speaker Ryan deals with the press, I know that this victory for reason may not be long-lived, but today I saw hope.

All-in-all, a very good day, today.

-George-

  1. https://muchado.blog/2017/03/14/healthcare-for-lemmings/
  2. We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
  3. http://tiberi.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=395127

Going To Mars

I read this morning that NASA has a plan to get to Mars in 20 years. (1) If it takes 20 years, they will probably land at Elon’s third DragonPort and freshen up a bit at the local SpaceX hotel. (2) But that’s not the point. Once on Mars and cleaned up after the long trip, when those intrepid NASA explorers take a Model Y out for a run in the circumplanetary desert they will have no water, no trees, no animals, no oxygen, and a thin CO2 atmosphere in which to suffocate should their breathable air bottles spring leaks.

Which is to say, why bother? Our new EPA chief may be able to recreate this environment on Earth in less than 20 years and save a lot of money.

-George-

  1. https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/journey-to-mars-next-steps-20151008_508.pdf
  2. http://www.space.com/34234-spacex-mars-colony-plan-by-the-numbers.html

Healthcare For Lemmings

The present discussion about health care legislation is embarrassing. It really is. The Republican proposal is so ill-conceived, so ill-constructed, and so pointless that it really merits no discussion. But that does not matter to its sponsors. The only thing that matters to them is getting rid of that “disastrous” Obamacare that just might be the beginning of a just and effective national healthcare system that just might improve the general welfare of the people in the United States. Perhaps they have they not read the Preamble to the Constitution they purport to protect. (1)

The right has become consumed by a narrow and brittle ideology. Logic and reason hold no sway there, certainly not the CBO. It’s now the domain of alternate facts and of a juvenile Randian philosophy which is just as screwed up in its own way as was Lenin’s communism. And, for the time being, the traditional left seems unable to define and articulate its guiding principles. For the terms of two Democratic presidents the party has been unable to deflect the wave of ideological lemmings on the right, so those critters are about to carry us all over a cliff to an economic, cultural, and environmental crash from which recovery will require decades. That is, unless we do something different to scatter the mob.

That something different is to form a government of the people —  to declare our independence. What a novel idea. I cannot believe that all the people in this country can be neatly sorted into Republican and Democratic camps. What each of us must do is to recognize that this underlying two-party system reality is the root cause of our oscillating extremes of governmental disfunction and growing national division. Each of us needs to start voting for whatever party or person winds one’s own clock, to close our ears to the ideologs, to chart our own course, and to consciously try to block absolute majorities in Congress, in state assemblies, and in city councils. We need diversity in government to force compromise, to force rationality that cannot exist within an intellectual climate dominated by dogma and absolute power. Let’s put away political “holy” books and flags and use our heads — for a change.

-George-

  1. We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

It’s Not The Source, It’s The Truth That Counts

On Meet The Press today, Senator Cotton, R-AR, said “far down the road” to the possible appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Russian contacts by Trump staffers before Trump became President. He warned that all we have are anonymous sources, and anonymous sources cannot always be trusted. (1)

True, Senator Cotton, not always, but often anonymous sources are the only way to uncover corruption in government. Do you think we can rely upon Mr. Trump and his friends to tell us the truth? How’s that been going for you? Perhaps like the truth from Richard Nixon or J. Edgar Hoover? We must also remember that these are dangerous times for truth-seekers. Trump’s reflexive action is to divert attention from the subject of stories that illuminate his illegal or ill-considered activities by discrediting or demeaning the sources. It is harder to discredit an unknown source. You can’t call “Pocahontas” or “so-called” on a shadow.  Sometimes anonymity is the only crack one can squeeze truth through, often because the source’s livelihood or even life is at risk.

Sometimes the methods used to expose the truth must be as illegal as the subject of a story itself. Sometimes, it’s that important.

-George-

  1. http://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/video/sen-cotton-don-t-give-credit-to-anonymous-sources-885218371908

A Flawed Democracy

I read in The Economist Intelligence Unit’s “Democracy Index 2016” (1) this morning that the United States is now a “flawed democracy”. Of course, we knew that. It’s been that way for a while. But this is a new (January) formal ranking from a respected source. On page 4, the Index says that the country has dropped to its new ranking because :

“Trust in political institutions is an essential component of well-functioning democracies. Yet surveys by Pew, Gallup and other polling agencies have confirmed that public confidence in government has slumped to historic lows in the US.” (page 4)

Then, in trying to understand this discontent the Index notes:

That, “The parallels between the June 2016 Brexit vote and the outcome of the November 8th US election are manifold. In both cases, the electorate defied the political establishment.” (page 12)

And that, “Donald Trump’s victory was stunning because it was achieved in the face of the unremitting hostility of the entire political establishment.” (page 12)

I’ll grant that confidence in the US government is low, maybe historically in some modern sense, although I would say that it was certainly lower during the Civil War Period. The reasons why this might be so are another matter, but certainly relate to a constant stream of propaganda from nearly evangelical radio and TV personalities and from what we might now call alternative news outlets or entertainment channels masquerading as news outlets.

I’ll grant that there are some similarities between the Brexit vote and the US presidential election, chiefly that both outcomes were incomprehensible disasters, but there was certainly a massive output of propaganda and “alternate facts” during the campaigns.

The Economist missed the boat on the third point. I’ll not grant that Trump won the US Presidential election. He absolutely did not. He lost it by 62,985,106 to 65,853,625. (2) That is, 2,868,159 US citizen’s votes were simply, publicly, and legally not counted, tossed out. At least in the Brexit vote, the people’s votes added up to the numbers required to create the head-spinningly silly result. In the US, our medieval Electoral College, even further hamstrung by individual state rules prohibiting electors use of the power of reason granted them in the Constitution, over-ruled the people and handed the Presidency to the clear loser of the popular vote. In what kind of a democracy is this permitted to happen? A flawed one.

So, while The Economist called the end result right, it missed what I think is the key point of justification completely. If your vote does not count, you do not have a democracy – regardless of what a country’s constitution says. To my mind, one’s confidence in the government comes way down the list in ranking democracies.

-George-

  1. http://www.eiu.com/public/topical_report.aspx?campaignid=DemocracyIndex2016
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2016

Killing The Peaceseekers

On February 3, according to the Christian Science Monitor (1), Marquette County Republican Party Secretary Dan Adamini expressed his unhappiness with raucous liberal demonstrations at the University of California at Berkeley in a series of social media rants containing the following texts:

“One bullet stops a lot of thuggery”

“They do it because they know there are no consequences yet.”

“I’m thinking another Kent State might be the only solution.”

There is no place in a democratic government for Mr. Adamini.  He had to go, and in the wake of the outcry over his posts he resigned on February 8th (2). There is no place for language like his in civil human discourse at any place in our country, not among ourselves, not from our radio and TV personalities, not from politicians. Beyond that, it is important to understand that demonstrations just may occur because people are concerned about issues, and they become raucous and even violent when the consequences no longer frighten them, not because there are no consequences. Not because they are thugs, but because the situation is so intolerable that not to act is a worse alternative.

I wrote an article about Kent State in 2009 for a collection of short essays. I have included it at the end of this post. Kent State should wrench all our hearts.

-George-

  1. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2017/0206/Republican-official-Dan-Adamini-apologizes-after-calling-for-another-Kent-State
  2. http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/michigan/2017/02/08/gop-official-resigns-kent-state-tweet/97668394/

Edited to note Adamini resignation, February 12, 2017, 15:46

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