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Two Powerful Long Political Commercials

This is a lovely piece of corporate sponsored good citizenship modeling.

It is somewhat culturally inappropriate for US in a number of ways.  You don’t poke a woman you don’t know on the bus (tho you could offer your seat if you felt moved).  It is a guy always giving to somehow disempowered women.

And if we can see past these problems and get to the deeper message: generosity – particularly regular small generosity, is a highly desirable cultural attribute.

Curiously with almost 5 million Youtube views of this video, it points to a Thai language dominated and apparently uninteresting website.

On the most disturbing side there is this piece from Syria.

This Save the Children fundraisers has already exceeded it’s $100K goal.

What are the implications of this improving philanthropic art video form?  Are our hearts going to more regularly be tugged at or stomped on?

And it begs the question, with the accessible media of video, what are the viral short films we should be making to draw folks our way?

 

 

 

The Renewables Revolution tipping point

Mostly real progress is slow.  It took decades to end slavery (which gave way to wage slavery in many places).  It took longer to get even some of the most basic rights for women in this country.  It took a decade of protest to end the Vietnam War.  Decades for gay marriage.  I am doubtful multi-partner marriages will be legalized in my lifetime.

Early in my clean energy campaigning career (the 1990s), a renewables expert explained that they preferred we not call it “alternative energy” because this was not our long term objective.  And for decades we have heard “wind is not ready from prime time” or “solar is too expensive for utility scale application”.  But when someone says that to you these days, you should respond with the same incredulity you would if someone suggested we strip women of the right to vote.  “Hey, have you been living under a rock?”

Germany has made the shift

Germany has made the shift

The triple meltdown at Fukushima hit the accelerator for clean energy solutions in a number of countries.  Perhaps most dramatically in Germany, where parts of this shift have been underway for decades.  If you stay closely on top of the German energy transition (called Energiewende) you will have no doubt heard that in the early stage after closing reactors after the Fukushima disaster the country was actually opening more coal fired power stations.

germany gdp and ghg graph

GHGs are down again, to their lowest level in decades in Germany

But as the bar chart above shows, the “Fukushima means more coal in Germany” story is old news.  These distortions were caused in part by their being a number of incomplete high tech coal plants in the pipeline when Fukushima hit and distortions in the European carbon tariffs which (hopefully temporarily) were favoring coal.  As the longer term graph above shows, unlike many countries, Germany is serious about reducing it’s carbon footprint.  Central to it’s success is that more than half of the renewable investment in Germany in recent years has been from individuals (including farmers) rather than large utilities or governments.

Japan is arriving later to the party, but is still showing up in significant ways.  Most recently there has been an explosion in the number of companies registering to sell electricity.  These include Honda Motors, Panisonic, Softbank and some giant Japanese homebuilding companies.  This is critical, because unlike Germany, Japan has 10 nuclear power utilities which have had a monopoly on electricity sales.  The government for it’s part has (like Germany did) created above market pricing for power which is generated from renewables.  Even before the opening of the market, Japan has seen a surge in home/business electric generation for personal/industrial use.  The Japanese court just handed anti-nuclear activists a rare victory in stopping the restart of 2 reactors.

Japan, unlike the US, does not have a single authority to restart it’s currently closed 48 reactors.  Even the newly restructured safety authority is telling the Abe administration that they need to check with local governments before restarting reactors, even if the safety authority says it is okay.  Recently elected anti-nuclear provincial governor Taizo Mikazuki of Shiga prefecture on July 13th, indicates that the Abe governments plans to restart reactors are far from secure.  The longer Japan continues to function will all of it’s reactors off and without blackouts, the less plausible the utilities arguments are that they are completely necessary to run the country.

Japan's solar growth is impressive

Japan’s solar growth is impressive

Germany has the solar profile of Alaska. Japan has very few conventional energy resources.  Both countries are using tax structures, market mechanisms, feed in tariffs and public education campaigns to change the ways they produce energy.  Germany is ahead of schedule to close all it’s reactors by 2022. Japan currently has all its reactors closed.  These were the number 3 and number 4 nuclear countries in the world (after the US and France).

 

Is there a trend here?

Is there a trend here?

It is far form a done deal, but the above graph shows an important trend.  It is worth pointing out that at a 25% capacity factor, the installed wind power worldwide represents the equivalent of 35 full size reactors – which is still a long way for replacing the almost 400 operating reactors worldwide, but if you compare it to 6 reactor equivalents in place in 2009, you can see that this real progress in energy is moving right along.

 

 

 

The Propaganda is too Simple

poverty and military spending

This showed up on the internet the other day and deserves a solid D for it’s propaganda value.  Let’s deconstruct for a moment.

Starting at the top.  A bit of internet investigation finds that this $178 billion number comes from the US Census Bureau calculates domestic poverty, calculated based on the total number of people who are below the poverty line and by how much.  [This is from 9.5 million families and 12.6 million individuals being below the government defined poverty level.]

What is interesting is the federal and state programs designed to elevate poverty actually far exceed this “poverty gap”, coming in at $830 billion (in 2012).

The problem of poverty and the money spent on solving it.

The problem of poverty and the money spent on solving it.

So as an anarchist I am not going to spend a lot of time on the reasons why the government is not a good solution for programs which alleviate poverty and not good value for money.

poverty and the rich cartoon

Under the current system we will never buy our way out of poverty.  Not because it is beyond our capacity, but rather it is not really our leaders (both business and political) desire.  Poverty has a function.

The Marxist make three arguments for the utility of poverty to capitalism:

  1. Temporary, dead-end, dirty, dangerous and menial jobs are undertaken by the poor
  2. It creates jobs for the middle class including policy makers, probation officers, social workers, psychiatrists, doctors and civil servants.
  3. Poverty helps to guarantee the status of those who are not poor – “The defenders of the desirability of hard work, thrift, honesty and monogamy need people who can be accused of being lazy, spendthrift, dishonest and promiscuous to justify these norms.”

My analysis is a bit different.

Poverty is hole in the safety net.  It is capitalisms long lever in negotiations with unions.  It is the economic gravity which pulls down the minimum wage.  If there were not poverty in this country, boards should be firing their CEOs because they are not doing their job of maximizing shareholders profits.

This might be a problem

This is a fairness problem

Similarly, on the military side – this spending is not designed to solve any domestic problem, so elected (and often bought off) politicians will not move money which is designed to maintain US control of foreign places away from military spending to do anything domestic. A significant reason for the large US military budget is to insure that cheap foreign labor is available for US based multinational corporations.

To summarize:  Government anti-poverty programs don’t work.  Poverty is a necessary and structural component of the current flavor of industrial capitalism we have.  The US maintains a tremendous military to insure it’s imperial foreign policy objectives and thus will not cut it for domestic income redistribution.

The math is not simple and this propaganda is too simplistic.

 

No bosses, No sunroofs

Outside of Eugene, Oregon and the intentional communities movement, pretty much everyone has a boss.  There are some acceptable bosses, but overwhelmingly people are, i observe, dissatisfied with their bosses.  The miracle of the income sharing communities, is that we are largely able to run our cottage industries without the oppressive or disagreeable part of the boss role.  At Twin Oaks we have managers, who have labor and money budgeting responsibilities, but they very rarely tell someone that they need to do something.  They often request people do things, but this is not what bosses do, they tell people.  At Acorn we have even ditched the title of manager all together, and things run just fine thank you.

bosses be like

When Occupy sparked, there was much conversation at Twin Oaks as to what Occupy Twin Oaks would look like.  What would be our demand for a more fair and just society in the already fairly idyllic world of the commune?  As we got further into this investigation, we realized again who wonderfully fortunate we were.  “Seconds at 6:15″ was one rallying cry that dinner seconds should be available earlier rather than the current 6:30 PM time.   If this is what we are demanding, then things must be pretty peachie.

There are of course trade offs.  To not have crime, we have to give up living in the city,   To share cars together we have to give up access to the sunroofs in our cars.

sunroof

Don’t even think about it

This might sound odd at first, or perhaps even unfair.  But when we get a new vehicle which has a sunroof in it, one of the first things we do is disable the sunroof.  We do this because if we don’t some member will leave the sunroof open and the interior of the vehicle will get soaked.  So the least responsible of us dictate the self protective behaviors we embrace that strip us of personal freedoms.

This irks me until i remember that i am one of the people most likely to leave a sunroof open.

 

 

 

 

Ann Coulter and Conversations which Don’t Matter

Ann Coulter is an attention-seeking sociopath who is determined to drag society back to the days when (white) men were men and women were property, also known as a conservative political commentator. She tends to say things that get people upset and get her media attention.

coulter rape

Recently, she has been targeting soccer, in time for the US participation in the World Cup with gems like:

“Any growing interest is soccer is a sign of the nation’s moral decline”

“No American who’s great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer.”

“In soccer, all the blame is dispersed and almost no one scores anyway. There are no heroes, no losers, no accountability, and no child’s fragile self esteem is bruised. There is a reason perpetually alarmed women are called “soccer moms” and not “football moms.”

Let’s deconstruct this a bit. “Moral decline” – this is simply inflammatory and has no substantive logical underpinning. Politicians, clergy, and pearl-clutchers everywhere have been lamenting the moral decline of society for hundreds (even thousands) of years. It’s a vague phrase designed to get people upset and apparently it works.

No great grand sons watching soccer? Well besides it being obvious untrue (I watch a bit, and all 4 of my great grand father were born in the US) it is also racist, or at the very least ugly nationalist.

But it is the last paragraph which is especially interesting to me. The idea that without individual heroes and losers a game is of no value. (For the sake of debate I’ll ignore the fact that football is a team sport in which players with vastly different skill sets, such as linebackers and quarterbacks, work cooperatively to reach a common goal.) I don’t need to waste time on the fact that soccer is filled with heroes and losers, this is just more Coulter nonsense. Coulter simply makes up the sexist definition of soccer mom to suit her purposes. What is important about what she is saying is that cooperative ventures don’t matter. The individual is the source of all greatness.

Presumably some people who read Ann Coulter agree with her. I don’t think it is possible to be a syndicated columnist and a highly paid public speaker if everyone disagrees with you and dislikes you. We know that some significant number of US American’s are racist  and sexist and Coulter plays to these interests.

coulter NYT bombing

But what is more true about Coulter than perhaps anyone with as high a profile in the popular media today, is that she is safe to ignore. As a couple of web magazines have identified, this is simply a trolling piece. She should be treated like the Colbert Show, where far right views are just refreshingly preposterous.

This article was significantly improved by Angie Tupelo

Becoming a Digital Nomad

When i was growing up, one of the most transformative adventures one could take was walking off the land you knew with a small bag and a daring attitude and sticking out you thumb and hitchhiking away.  This is still true, except the clever traveler will add to their small bag an internet connected device.

There is a growing knowledge base of digital nomads and the first and perhaps most important piece is hitchwiki.org.  If you have ever hitched much you know there are places that are hard to get through, good spots where drivers are likely to pick you up and routes to avoid.  The problem is that regular maps and guidebook almost never tell you where these places are.

Did you know there are dramatically different laws on hitching, state by state - source hitchwiki

Did you know there are dramatically different laws on hitching, state by state – source hitchwiki

Hitchwiki tells you not only what the laws are in different regions but also what the local customs are and how to best catch a ride.  It also has user edited maps of the roadway system, including stories and advice for how to have a successful journey.  Knowing the hitching culture and hot spots dramatically increases your chances of getting where you are going.

But what if you don’t know where you are going?  What if your adventure is not highly scripted and you are looking for like minded people who might put you up, without asking you for money?  Many people have heard about couchsurfing, but there is a better radical hospitality system called BeWelcome.org.  It is better because the people who are involved in it are more interested in connecting with travelers in a meaningful way and less about being party tourists.  While BeWelcome is far sparser than couchsurfing, it is designed to accommodate hitchhikers and it makes sense to populate this democratic and transparent site with new people, rather than continue with the for profit beast.

bewelcome-rev-bw03

It is also worth pointing out that the software developers who created BeWelcome built much of the Couchsurfing site, before leaving the WalMart of peer to peer hospitality for ideological reasons.

But lets say you have no money and want to eat.  Enter TrashWiki.  Another site which has content contributed by many users, it is dedicated to finding food and other valuable things which have been thrown out.  In some cases this is where the good dumpster are.  In other cases it is where pre-dumpster things can be found or where you can find dumpster diving partners.  Better than OK Cupid if you this is your area of interest and you are looking for a match.

Digital nomadism is about using the power of the internet to take a step away from conventional lifestyles and instead trust strangers, rescue waste and see new parts of the world.

 

 

 

The Best Present for a Kid

If you have a Dutch parent, you qualify for the rights of a Dutch citizen.  Every 5 years Willow and Hawina and i go to the Dutch Embassy in Death City and get Willow’s passport renewed.  Willow is a US citizen, with a US passport, but the Dutch are completely happy to issue an EU one, if the parents apply.  This is a no brainer.

The Dutch passport is actually a Schengen Treaty enabled EU passport.  You can travel between all the blue areas on the map below by just flashing an EU passport.

The largest federation in the world

The largest national federation in the world

There are multiple reasons for having a couple of passports, beyond the above listed convenience. The one most people are familiar with is traveling between hostile or warring countries.  Donning a Cuba passport stamp in a US passport can result in a visit from the FBI.  Should you wish to travel regularly between the Arab world and Israel, a second passport (even from the same country, which you can get by claiming you lost one) is advised.

Who says where you can go?

Who says where you can go?

But the real reason i want Willow to have a second passport is that if his life is at all like mine, there will be a moment when it is extremely useful.  This moment will be when he is traveling and some agent of the state thinks that they control him, because they have taken his passport.  Annoyingly confidently they will be leading him off to some undesired destination.  Having a second passport gives you the chance to look for an opportunity to depart from the foreign state agent and make a break for it.

Part of our home schooling is learning for when you can successfully make a break for it.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

Paul’s Plausible Proposterous Proposal Party

What do you give to the person who wants nothing (for themself)?  Perhaps  you would give them an idea.  Ideally it would be an idea so novel, funny, daring, newsworthy and crazy enough that it just might work.  This is where i need your help.

So perhaps he needs more precise make up

So perhaps he needs more precise make up

This Friday is GPaul’s 30th birthday and we will be in NYC continuing with our community building Point A work.  I am responsible for his under organized birthday event.  Pleasantly, he personally wants little, demonstrated by (among many things) his willingness to stay in a tiny shoe box room in the barn at Acorn for years after he could have moved into a nicer one.

What we want collectively is at the other end of the accessibility spectrum:  High visibility, inspiring,  urban based, income sharing, intentional communities.  And what I am asking from you, even if you can’t join us for this post Pride Friday night party in NYC is exotic memes.

 

Taxi harness at Burning Man

Taxi harness at Burning Man

What  preposterous yet plausible proposals do you have for how to spark new urban communities?  Some examples might help.

Party til Occupation. Both  the mainstream media and progressive activists were surprised by Occupy.  A call was made for a broad protest, as thousands have in the past, and people showed up in Zuccotti Park and ultimately across the country and started building political community.  What had not been expected was that people from different classes and races could work intimately together using consensus to improve the treatment of the poor and the homeless and highlight corruption in banking and politics.

What if (after finding a suitable site) we decided to hold an open ended party.  Different collective groups from the city take responsibility for making sure there are people and party goodies for some specific set of days for perhaps the first month or so.  Then if it turns out that people are enjoying the party, renew the invitations and simply start pretending that permanent occupation of the site is a desirable and possible outcome.

startup community

CommunityCupid.org.  Instead of a one on one dating site, this new social network helps people find others to live in community with.  This does not need to be a single place based residence, it could be buying clubs and other aggregate discount services.  And the structure of the site and the data is such that it is designed to bring people who are looking to spark community into the conversation.  A relatively simple solution for starting up such a project might be as a Facebook plug in.

These are two examples of unlikely, but desirable projects.  I am hoping you can add your own to be part of the birthday fun.

On Friday we will gather all the cards and all the participants we have and each person attending the party will draw 3 or more cards and choose the one which they think they can defend to the group the best. Then they will present the bold proposal of their selection and the rest of the group will evaluate the proposal to see if it is worthy of pursuing.

If you are in NYC this Friday, then email me and I will tell you where this event is in Brooklyn.  If you can’t participate, but would like to submit a preposterous plausible idea you can either email me or leave it in the comment field.

 

 

 

Shuttle Driver to the Perfect Party

When i was in Death City getting Willow a second passport, i got 4 text messages asking if i could drive the shuttle home from Trout’s bachelor party (which was 100 miles away in Louisa VA).  Showing not surprisingly that people have trouble keeping track of where i am. It also shows that i am a first responder shuttle driver.    A reasonable assumption actually.

i need to get one of these cool hats

i need to get one of these cool hats

Earlier in the week i had been a shuttle driver for Fox’s bachelorette party.    Mostly, this is the short but menacing drive from Twin Oaks to Acorn.  Menacing in that getting home after the party can be tricky somethings, trying to guess how long the party will be fun, if this person flirting with you is going to stick around, if you will like the next band of DJ as much as you do the current one, if you can stay later and still get up early for that shift you probably never should have scheduled yourself for.

Which shuttle is best?

Which shuttle is best?

And i am the first responder principally because i am generally willing and often available on short notice.  It does not take long, it is highly appreciated and i hardly drink at all, making me a great designated driver.  I am also on the insurance of both communities as a dual member and have access to both fleets of vehicles.  I am a like a universal donor.

Building Better Parties: Fox and Trout got married.  They did up the celebrations quite right, if you ask me.  They had two ceremonies and 2 pre-parties.  One of the ceremonies was a mainstream legal wedding, with family and close friends and a minister.  The second was held at Acorn with all the significant number of commune friends this popular couple have (pictures in a pending blog post), but it was hardly legal.

Luna at the party after the wedding

Luna at the party after the wedding

Before the commune wedding there was a bachelor party and a bachelorette party.  The communes often struggle with exclusion and especially around gender binaries.  The question of came up “Can i go to the bachelors party as a gal?”  The stock answer is “You should be at the party if you think you should be at the party.”  Gender is a personal choice.  You can be girl enough to go to the bachelorette party, even if your chromosomes think differently.

Sometimes there is no right answer

Sometimes there is no right answer

Many attendees were impressed by these events.  I was happy to get people there and home.

 

 

 

 

Nuclear’s False Friends: France and China

Everyday i check my Google news filters to see what is happening in the field of nuclear reactors worldwide.  What strikes me doing this is the nuclear PR machine has figured out how to wire the mainstream media (MSM) echo chamber for the result it prefers.  Some silly press release about Westinghouse winning a uranium fuel contract will be reported far and wide.  Yet somehow most of the US MSM missed that Switzerland is phasing out of nuclear and that 95% of Italians voted against nuclear power in a binding referendum.

If you go a step further in and read the comments on these nuclear news stories, you will often hear nuclear power should be expanding worldwide (especially Thorium reactors) and that two exemplary national models they US should follow are France and China.

Spending time with trolls and true believers

Spending time with trolls and true believers

France:  Nuclear boosters love to point at France.  With 75% of it’s electricity from 58 reactors and very low retail electricity prices, it totally makes sense.  Starting with the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973, the French made it national policy to dramatically increase their energy independence by building out a major nuclear fleet.  And build they did.

While nuclear proponents continue to celebrate this choice, they are living in the past. Recently Reuters is reporting that nuclear power in that country has been capped at 63.2 GW by the government.  Practically, this means new built reactors can only come online after old ones are replaced.  Specifically, the sole domestic French reactor under construction is at Flamanville.  Like all other EPR reactors in the west, it is years behind in completion and more than 100% over budget.   This reactor can only come online when another reactor (in this case Fessenheim) is shut down.

France has no serious plans for the construction of new reactors.  EdF is refocusing on maintaining the existing fleet.  Areva is busy trying to sell reactors overseas (though it has abandoned the US).  In fact, the current French plan is to drop nuclear as a fraction of the total energy supply to 50% by 2025.  Instead of new reactors, France is investing in, wait for it … expanded renewables.

China:  Nuclear boosters love China.  China has 20 reactors running and is currently building 28 more.  It has by far the most ambitions nuclear construction program in the world, with over 1/3 of all actively being build reactors globally.  But before you cry out “let China lead the way,” let’s look briefly at two things: Reactor Safety and Chinese Renewables.

Reactor Safety:  The most important conclusion from the special parliamentary panel of the Japanese government on the Fukushima meltdowns was that it was a human-made disaster.  Specifically, the regulator of the reactors was far more concerned with the nuclear construction industry and its profits, than they were with public safety.   Insufficiently high sea walls, inadequate evacuation plans, and insufficient liability insurance are just some of the results from this failed regulatory situation. These paved the way for the disaster.

simpsons-radioactive

China is worse, far worse.  There is basically no independent safety inspection or regulation in China.  At one of the only press conferences ever given by China’s nuclear regulator, which happened some months after Fukushima, they admitted that they had found 14 problems at the reactors in the county.  No word about where they are, how severe the problems were, if there will be any disciplinarian action against staff or management for these failures.  Since this March 2012 report, i have only seen one other report on the Chinese regulator.  In this the French nuclear construction companies are complaining that the Chinese regulators are overwhelmed and don’t show up at all like they do in the West.

In the old Soviet reactor construction projects they used to tell the safety people they cant slow the project. When regulators instructed reactor operators to close plants, often communist party bureaucrats would overrule these instructions.  This safety culture failure helped lead to Chernobyl and a myriad of other less reported nuclear disasters which have contaminated huge swaths of land.  China has far less regulatory oversight than the old Soviet Union.  The industry must basically regulate itself.  Libertarians will be thrilled, the rest of us are legitimately concerned.

Chinese Renewables:  While having slowed in recent months, the Chinese economy is still by most measures booming.   And while they have the worlds most ambitious nuclear program, it is dwarfed by both each of two renewables program.  The Chinese wind program (which is already the largest in the world) and their solar PV program (which is on target to be the largest in the world this year) are both already larger than their nuclear program and are growing faster.  Bloomberg is reporting that 72% of new energy investment between now and 2030 in China will be real renewables.  US safe energy and climate disruption activists would be thrilled with this level of commitment.

So when someone tells you we should follow the French and Chinese examples, you can respond by saying “by that, you mean prioritizing renewables over nuclear” and see if they agree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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