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Trump for America

Donald Trump has been in the news a lot these days.  Part of this, of course, is because he is topping the polls for Republican presidential candidates (both nationally and in New Hampshire).  I believe an even bigger part is that he is a perfect reflection of many Americans’ desires.

When is a gaffe not a gaffe?  The media loves a good sound bite and Donald does not disappoint.  Recently he generalized about Mexicans being rapists and murderers.  He has explained how Senator John McCain should not be considered a war hero because he was captured.    This caused his poll numbers to increase and lead Rachel Maddow and Dan Rather to evaluate him as gaffe proof.  [It is worth noting that his disapproval numbers also went up, which far exceed his approval ratings.]

mistake, or playing to the base?

Mistake, or playing to the base?

He can’t win.  There are all manner of stories about how Trump can’t win or how his campaign is about to implode.  Many of these i find comically naive.  The Business Insider seems to think his thin answers to questions will doom his bid.  Did these folks sleep through the 2012 campaign?  Do they not remember when Mitt Romney shot back at the CNN reporter who was trying to get any kind of answer from him on the abortion question (which Romney kept dodging), “You ask the questions you like, I will give you the answers I like”.  The only thing i am surprised at is that Trump is bothering to answer questions at all, rather than simply repeating stump speech platitudes when he’s asked a question, like almost all the other candidates do.

A flip flopper with no solid positions.  Turns out there is no “issues” tab on Trump’s website and his positions on everything from gun control to taxing the rich to health care to immigration have changed and or contradicted themselves over the past few years.  He has no campaign director.  And while the Republicans have historically used flip flopping to beat up opposition candidates, no one seems to care much with Trump.

The clever company he keeps.  If you are running for public office, you need to have brilliant advisers, especially your lawyers.  Michael Cohen is Trump’s lawyer who recently threatened the Daily Beast after an article citing Ivana Trump’s 1990 claim that she was raped by Donald, which she made during their 1990 divorce procedure.  In this regard Cohen said:

“You cannot rape your spouse. And there’s very clear case law.”

Actually, you can.  Every state in the country has overturned this archaic statute.   The marital rape exemption in New York was struck down in 1984, years before this incident.

Trump is a Troll.  Nate Silver (who correctly predicted every state in the country in the 2012 Presidential election) cleverly frames Trump as the world’s largest troll in his blog fivethirtyeight.com.

Some of the compelling points Silver makes include:

  • Trolls feed off the negative attention, claiming it makes them a victim and proves that everyone is out to get them
  • Trump isn’t doing especially well with tea party voters or with any other identifiable group of Republicans
  • It could be that public attention is triggered by media coverage rather than the other way around
  • In the crowded GOP field, low information voters are identifying with Trump as the only name they know

trump electability chartOne reading of the above chart is that, were the news media responding only to public interest, there would be even more stories about Trump.

Silver also talks about the so-called “discovery, scrutiny and decline” cycle which has been found in the past two primary campaigns for candidates like Trump, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain — bursts of attention that coincide with spikes in the polls but then fade or even burst after several weeks.

Trump represents many Americans.    For me, it is the highly cynical analysis of David Badesh of the New Civil Rights Movement, in his article “Trump holding first place is a reflection of GOP Voters’ Ugly Beliefs“, that describes Trump’s success best:

There is a significant number of Republican voters who like immigrant-bashing. They like lies about entire groups of people. They don’t actually care about the treatment of vets, nor about our service members whom they keep wanting to send off to war, and refuse to pay for their needs upon returning home.

This part of the GOP electorate who supports a man with no actual policies or solutions likes having a scapegoat to explain their own failures, their own bad choices, on whom to pin their own hate, their own xenophobia, their own selfishness, bigotry, and hate.

Donald Trump doesn’t have any actual beliefs – other than money, fame, and ego. He has merely held up a mirror to the Republican electorate. It is not he who is the ugly American – for he is merely the reflection of a large part of the GOP electorate’s beliefs.

The media and the GOP establishment will tear Trump down.  We need not fear his presidency.  But we would be wise to fear the popularity of his hate, which represents a significant part of what America believes and will last far past election day.

Energy Futures – Riyadh, London and Austin

Different countries and cities select different energy solutions for myriad reasons and examining these can help us understand why different options are being selected.  There is news from various capitals around the world which i want to examine briefly.

Austin, Texas:  As reported in SafeEnergy.Org, the city of Austin has just locked in 600 MW of solar power for under $0.04/kwh.  Utilities have not been able to buy power at these prices since the 1960s, even without correcting for inflation (which makes it an even better deal).  They asked electricity suppliers for solar power specifically and got over 8000 MW of bids (this is the equivalent, after reducing for capacity factor, of 2 or 3 full size nuclear reactors).

A compelling combination

A compelling combination

Before you start harping on the intermittency (or as the nuclear boosters like to call it “unreliability”) of solar power, please get your facts straight.  It is no longer 2005.  Inexpensive utility scale battery technology, like those offered by Tesla Energy, is bringing the cost of storage in at around 2 US cents/kwh.  What this means for Austin and other cities with reasonable sunshine is that “base load” solar power is going to be cheaper than almost anything else.

In a reasonable world, this would mean the end of new nuclear power construction, because it is much slower to build, far more expensive and fraught with problems from waste handling, to proliferation issues, to liability nightmares, to decommissioning costs to lack of private investors.  Sadly, we live in nothing like a reasonable world.

London, England:  Austria is challenging the EUs approval of 108 billion British pound (US$166 billion) in subsidies for the UK’s plan to build two new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point.   This legal challenge has been joined by a collection of German and other renewable energy providers.  Austria is objecting to both the price of power from these reactors being set at twice the current wholesale price for power for 35 years and insuring profits for the constructing company even in the event that the reactor is closed early.

hinkley-point-c

While it is unlikely the Austrian challenge alone will stop this ill advised project, it might be one of many factors which scuttles the deal.  The other reactors of this design in France and Finland are over a decade late in construction.  The French reactor had almost tripled in price, before this expensive failure was reported. The pressure vessel for Hinkley had already been forged, by the same plant which forged the pressure vessel for the French reactor which just failed its safety tests.  This one will now be used for destructive tests, adding more hundreds of millions in cost presumably to the French reactor company.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia:  In the last few months Saudi Arabia has inked deals for new nuclear power plants with South Korea, France, China, Argentina and Russia.  The Saudis are hoping to build 16 reactors by 2032.  The French deal (which is really an agreement to investigate possibilities) has a price tag of US$12 billion on it.  Saudi Arabia seems to be living in the dream world in which they think they can build reactors for US$ 2 billion each.  The west is looking at prices 3 to 5 times this high.

It should be recognized as a triumph of money over politics.  And that in fact nuclear power is secondary, what Riyadh really wants is nuclear weapons, and they are unapologetic about it.  Especially in the case of Russia, Saudi Arabia is making a deal with a political opponent (on support for Iran and Syria particularly) so that it can have access to weapons fabrication technology.  Saudi Arabia (unlike Iran) is making no effort to hide it’s nuclear weapons ambitions, in fact it is celebrating them in what they call the “nuclear defense doctrine“.  There is already talk of an accelerated Middle Eastern arms race between Saudi Arabia and Iran.  What could go wrong?

Want to be part of our club?

Want to be part of our club?

And since there is no sun in Iran or Saudi Arabia, there is clearly no alternative to nuclear power.

Damanhur Streets – City Art

In an improbable circumstance which i have yet to explain, i find myself in a charming Northern Italian town not far from Turin.  The town hosts the federation of communities called Damanhur.  There is incredible art inside the temples of Damanhur, but the streets of the town are filled with art as well, and these are the pictures i took of it.

IMG_2669

IMG_2667

IMG_2670

IMG_2671 IMG_2668

Utopia Child Rearing – By Keenan

[This is an article originally blogged by Keenan.  I have not simply re-blogged it for two reasons.  First is that i have added links to it, to places where Keenan’s philosophy and mine run parallel.  And the second is that i have added some pictures to it, a tragic omission (which also reduces readership) in Keenan’s original post.  I would still encourage you to check out his blog, especially if parenting and Twin Oaks community politics and culture are of interest to you.  It is an excellent source.]

Twin Oaks is a great place to raise children. At Twin Oaks almost every parent likes their kid(s) and likes being a parent.  Almost every parent is raising their children deliberately and consciously.  Although not all of us parents agree with each other, we all concur that there are many bad mainstream child-rearing theories and practices that we want to avoid/overcome.

Some of the Dakota's - Keenan, Kristen and Rowan (at an age that is not yet 18)

Some of the Dakota’s – Keenan, Kristen and Rowan (at an age that is not yet 18)

Kristen and I just celebrated the milestone of our youngest having his 18th birthday.  We have been reflecting recently on our journey as parents, and we are very pleased with how the kids have turned out—pleased and relieved.  Why relieved? Our parenting practices were at odds with almost every mainstream child-rearing theory we read.  We weren’t so confident that we could know for sure that the kids would turn out great. According to those other theories, our bizarre parenting practices should have resulted in kids who are emotionally crippled sociopaths. But they aren’t—in fact, the kids are, by all accounts, altogether fine human beings.  I don’t want to gloat or embarrass the kids by describing how great they are—but take my word for it.

Kristen and I both had lots of experience with kids prior to having our own, so we were already quite skilled, or, at least, opinionated by the time we were holding a newborn. As the kids grew, we talked fairly constantly about how the kids were doing. We wanted to do things right; we would immediately work on any behavior problem that started to crop up, or, even better, recognize an interest early so we could kindle it. Through our experience as parents, our belief in the fundamental wrongness of how children are treated in the mainstream culture solidified.  If you want to try to give your child a utopian childhood the hardest part is letting go of lots of misguided mainstream beliefs about children. Honestly, doing things right is a lot of work, but if you want to know what we did and why, without further ado, here is the “Dakota theory” of how to give children a utopian childhood:

Rowan on his 18th birthday having lit the fire behind him with a bowdrill.

Rowan on his 18th birthday having lit the fire behind him with a bowdrill.

[Kristen and I have the last name “Dakota.”  This has nothing to do with any Native American people]

Current belief: Children are lesser beings who should not expect or receive the same polite and considerate treatment that adults give each other.

Dakota theory: Children have the same intrinsic value that all humans have and should be listened to and treated with respect. Specifically, parents should like their children.

Conclusion: Children behave well when they are treated as though they are deserving of respect.

Current belief: Children should obey authority figures.

Dakota theory: Children should be taught that they are responsible human beings and they should learn to negotiate for what they want.

Conclusion: Children who are taught to obey, learn to distrust their own judgment.  They also demonstrate less personal motivation. Children who are taught to negotiate show more task persistence and have a strong sense of self-esteem.  Unfortunately, raising a child who negotiates requires more time and effort from parents.

Current belief: Children need peers to develop normal social skills.

Dakota theory: Children develop better social skills without same-age peers.

Conclusion: Children learn social skills from the people they are around. Children in groups and in institutional settings are sometimes inconsiderate or cruel to each other.  Children who are around other children for much of the time, often develop dysfunctional behaviors  from being with other, partially socialized, children.   Children who are around adults for most of their formative years develop better social skills than children who are in group child care for most of their formative years.

Current belief: Children need to go to school to 1) develop social skills and 2) to absorb a body of knowledge.

Dakota theory: School exposes children to bad social behaviors. The body of knowledge in school is often outdated, inadequate, and inaccurate. Additionally, it doesn’t take much time to learn that body of knowledge at home.

Conclusion: Many children are exposed to unhealthy social behaviors from the bad behavior that inevitably results from large-scale institutionalization.  The body of knowledge that schools pass along is easily gained at home.  Typically, parents have other interests and values that schools don’t teach.

Current belief:  Children need to be punished, they need to be disciplined and they need consequences for their bad behavior.

Dakota theory:  Never punish or discipline children. Normal life provides enough consequences, no additional consequences are needed.

Conclusion:   Punishment has been proven to be ineffective at teaching children a new behavior.  Children feel punished merely from a parent’s disapproval—nothing more is necessary.  An effective “punishment” is making a child stop playing in order to explain why it’s not OK to hit, or take another kid’s toy.  Frequently, merely calmly pointing out what the problem is to the child can make a child feel bad enough to stop the bad behavior and/or make restitution. Encouraging a distraught child to take a time-out is good advice for anyone having emotional trouble and isn’t really a punishment.

Current belief:  Misbehavior is due to a poorly disciplined child.

Dakota theory: Misbehavior is due to a poorly designed environment.

Conclusion: A toddler, set down in front of a coffee table with a lot of breakable glassware on the table will, inevitably, drop and break something.  This is not bad behavior.   Don’t punish the child; move the glassware. It is more likely that children will hang up their clothes on pegs than on hangers.  A yard with two swings and three kids creates ongoing strife. Often a child’s “bad” behavior is due to normal child-like behavior in an environment that is designed for normal adult behavior.  The easiest way to have a well-behaved child, is to change the environment to suit the child’s behavior. For instance, if there is only healthy food in the house, then “food wars” become much less likely.

Current belief: Children demand an adult’s attention—and that’s bad

Dakota theory: Children demand an adult’s attention—and that’s OK.

or perhaps not

or perhaps not

Conclusion: “He’s just doing that to get attention!” is a statement some adults make to indict a child’s motives and to grant the adult permission to punish the child for bothering the adult. But, attention from an adult is essential sustenance for a child’s emotional well-being. Once a child receives an adequate amount of attention, they are full, and will go off and play, only to return later for another helping of attention. If we say with scorn of a child who’s crying, “he’s just crying because he’s hungry, I’m going to spank him” it sounds cruel .  “He’s just doing it to get attention,” should sound equally heartless.

Current belief:  A child’s chronic behavior problems can best be dealt with through psychoactive medication.

Dakota theory:  A child’s chronic behavior problems can best be dealt with through counseling and behaviorist reinforcement/extinguishing techniques.

Conclusion:  Psychoactive drugs have immediate side-effects and long-term physiological consequences. Changing a child’s chronic behavior problem without drugs is vastly more time consuming, but results in a more emotionally healthy child.

Current belief: A child might become emotionally crippled from spending too much time with a parent (or parents).

Dakota theory:  strong family connections help create an emotionally healthy child.

Conclusion: Studies of poverty, mental illness and crime consistently show that parents who physically or emotionally abandon their children create the pathology that leads to dysfunctional adults.  On the other hand, outstanding and high-performing athletes typically have at least one engaged and supportive parent. There is not a bell curve here; it’s linear; the stronger the family connections, the more emotionally stable the children are as adults.

Current belief:  Children should be kept protected and secluded from real-world experiences. They should live in a separate world called “childhood” until they are completed with their schooling and are able to enter the adult world.

Dakota theory: Children are part of the world. It is healthier for children and the world for children to be included in almost all aspects of the adult world.

Conclusion:  Children in their early teens want to distinguish themselves from younger children; they want to act like grown-ups.  Mainstream culture allows few opportunities to show their maturity, so these young teens turn to bed behavior, smoking, drinking, doing drugs, swearing and having sex as ways to show their “maturity.” However, teens who have the ability to take on real responsibility, like, for instance having a part-time paying job demonstrate their adult-ness through taking on these healthier parts of being a grown up. Throughout their teen years, teenagers should have the opportunity to do part-time, intern, and volunteer work to explore their interests. This serves several useful functions; it keeps teens busy, it allows teens to develop maturity and responsibility, and it gives teens a wide range of real-life experiences which should help prevent the all-too-frequent situation where a young adult goes into debt to pursue a degree only to discover after graduation that they hate the work that they have spent years training for.

 Give your child a utopian childhood in just 10 easy steps:

1)     Enjoy the company of your children. (That’s really the main one, since so many parents don’t really enjoy the company of their children, and the children know that, so they misbehave. No child-rearing theory can overcome parents who don’t like their kids.)

2)     Accept every request as legitimate. (default to yes, rather than default to no).

me negotiating with Willow - Circa 2011

me negotiating with Willow – Circa 2011

3)     Don’t punish.  Don’t discipline. But, rather, explain.

4)     No sarcasm. Don’t laugh at kids.

5)     Learn what your kids like.

6)     Laugh at kids’ jokes, listen to their stories.

7)     Try to understand their emotions.  Have empathy.

8)     No school; homeschool.

9)     Talk to the kids about the adult world.  Encourage discussion.  Explain values through story telling using real examples. Let them know fairly often what you think is right and wrong.

10) Share whatever you are passionate about with your children. Expect them to be interested in your life.

Posted 28th April 2014 by keenan

France cuts nuclear to 50% by 2025

If you talk with nuclear boosters, they are most likely to tell you about two countries: France and China.  When praising France, they will talk about the ambitious coordinated effort to switch their electricity generating profile after the 1973 Arab oil embargo, when the country moved from basically no nuclear power to having over 75% of its generating capacity coming from nuclear in less than 20 years. It was something of an engineering marvel.

What you won’t hear them talking about is the new national energy policy adopted on July 22 after 150 hours of parliamentary debate.  This new policy mimics French PM Hollande’s campaign promise to cut nuclear power to 50% of its generating total by the year 2025.  France will replace nuclear mostly with renewables.

France will need to triple its wind and solar generation by 2025 (Hydro is currently 13%)

France will need to triple its wind and solar generation by 2025 (Hydro is currently 13%)

What does it mean for clean energy campaigners worldwide that the world’s leading builder of nuclear power plants, the country with the largest fraction of nuclear generation and the biggest nuclear construction and operating companies in the world, gets a pink slip?  This new national policy also quadruples the price of carbon emissions.  It means the real world of new nuclear power construction is dying and Europe, unlike the US, seeing the writing on the wall.

This is huge.  Champagne corks are popping in energy campaigning offices around the world.

The US mainstream media has no interest in this story.    The only coverage in the US of this story (24 hours after the vote) is Bloomberg News and the Montana Standard.  Instead, just as we are foolishly debating whether human induced climate change is real in this country, we are still focusing on the bright future of nuclear power.

Just like the US, France has not long term nuclear waste storage solutions despite spending decades and finding a solution and failing completely.

Just like the US, France doesn’t have long term nuclear waste storage solutions despite spending decades and finding a solution and failing completely.

We wouldn’t need any law enforcement if

In 2004, Twin Oaks was briefly harassed by an unmarked black helicopter.

They say it was never below 500', we had it at tree tops.

They say it was never below 500′, we had it at tree tops.

A much nimbler Coyote rushed to his room to get a camera.  Remembering that without photographic proof there would be no story or media coverage of this event.  His picture is above.

One of Charlottesvilles local free newspapers at the time (the Hook) picked up the story and ran with it, ultimately discovering who was in the unmarked chopper.

Over the course of finding the culprit, the author of the article talked with lots of different military and law enforcement personal.  They asked them all about Twin Oaks and if they had any trouble with us.

From the article:

So are Twin Oakers big troublemakers? “I haven’t had any trouble with them,” says [Louisa County Sheriff] Fortune. “We wouldn’t need any law enforcement if everybody lived like they do at Twin Oaks.”

Just about the best advertising a community could ask for.

We ar ehappy to get ignored - Police in Ferguson 2014

We are happy to get ignored – Police in Ferguson 2014

Double Duty: Supporting Muslims Rebuilding Burn Black Churches

I had decided that i would give something to the first crowd funding campaign designed to support the rebuilding of the 8 recently burned black churches that appeared in any way interesting.  I was not disappointed.

Some of the most impressive scenes to come out of the Arab Spring uprisings were alternating displays of support from one religion to another. Christian defended Mosques.  Muslims protecting churches during services.

egypt-muslims-protect-church

Three Muslim groups have had a smashingly successful crowd funding effort.  With a short time horizon (designed to end with at the end of Ramadan) the initial $20K goal was quickly exceeded and now they are well on their way to $75K, with 8 days left in the campaign.  You can donate here.

i am not a Muslim, nor a Christian, nor black.  So why should i even care?

Hate crime is especially insidious and vexing.  Pushing back against it is critically important.  Muslims are targets in this country of endless discrimination large and small.  I see it when every visually identifiable Muslim in an airport goes to secondary search.  The ACLU has documented systematic discrimination by the NYPD.  Simple minded americans (which there are a fair few in this country) are fond of making sweeping generalizations about Muslims that are both untrue and racist.

hatecrime_002

Muslims taking the lead in helping to reconstruct black churches builds bonds between oppressed groups.  It shows that the country is not simply going to drift into a race war because some lone gunman wanted it to happen.  It is a constructive response to this spate of arson and shows solidarity in the face of trouble.

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