Links 2/1/18

No Board? No Problem! Golden Retriever Slides Down Ski Hill Sputnik (margarita)

Deborah Ross: Wikie the whale really wants to say, ‘Go to hell, all of you’ The Times

New tree-planting drones can plant 100,000 trees in a single day TechSpot (David L)

Going to ground: how used coffee beans can help your garden and your health The Conversation (David L). This is all well and good, but what are urban coffee brewers supposed to do? I have no yard, and I already find it hard to dispose of things like mercury batteries and used toner cartridges responsibly (at least one local drugstore now has a cardboard box sitting out for dead batteries..).

With Fungi in the Mix, Concrete Can Fill Its Own Cracks Smithsonian (dcblogger)

Flaws in Gas Station Software Let Hackers Change Prices, Steal Fuel, Erase Evidence Motherboard (resilc)

Why Amazon Go should be a no-go: We will drown in a sea of plastic TreeHugger (resilc)

A small-scale demonstration shows how quantum computing could revolutionize data analysis MIT Technology Review (David L)

Is a Transition to Renewable Energy on the Verge of Being Unstoppable? Knowledge @ Wharton

The doctor responsible for gene therapy’s greatest setback is sounding a new alarm MIT Technology Review (David L)

Researchers Discover ‘Anxiety Cells’ In The Brain NPR (David L)

Touted Energy “Reform” Goes Awry in Mexico Wolf Street (EM)

Brexit. Major tweetstorm, courtesy Richard Smith. Read the whole thing:

‘This is over’: Puigdemont’s Catalan independence doubts caught on camera Guardian

Imperial Collapse Watch

Missile Defense Failure in Hawaii CNN (Bill B)

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

A fast-evolving new botnet could take gadgets in your home to the dark side MIT Technology Review (David L)

Oops! Don’t say ‘Google’ in your Alexa voice app, Amazon said Techcrunch (Kevin W)

Privacy: Judges say the UK’s Snooper’s Charter is illegal Beta News (Chuck L)

Facebook Posts 61% Rise in Profit, But Shares Fall as Users Spend Less Time on Network Wall Street Journal

Trump Transition

Trump Still Has Nothing But Platitudes For American Workers Lori Wallach and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Huffington Post

7 German Words That Perfectly Capture the Feeling of Living in Trump’s America Alternet (Dr. Kevin). Funny how Obama’s America gets a free pass despite 9 million foreclosures, getting rid of habeas corpus, greatly increasing the surveillance state…

Trump’s State of the Union: No solutions for the country’s problems Vox (resilc)

What Trump didn’t say in his State of the Union address The Hill

FBI warns against Republican memo release BBC

Schiff accuses Nunes of making secret changes to classified memo before White House review Los Angeles Times (furzy)

America Is Not a Democracy Atlantic

How #MeToo could knock the Clintons off the 2018 map CNN (UserFriendly). Would be delicious to see Hillary hoist on her own petard.

2018 Prediction #5 — The H-1B visa problem will NOT go away I, Cringley (Glenn F)

Trey Gowdy, Who Led House Benghazi Inquiry, Will Not Seek Re-election New York Times (furzy)

Georgia Democrat could become America’s 1st African-American female governor ABC. UserFriendly: “Long shot but not impossible.”

Respecting Life in a Time of Transgender Robots and ‘Pet Parents’ National Catholic Register. Dr. Kevin: “t was only a matter of time before pro-lifers turned on the robots.”

Our Famously Free Press

In a Major Free Speech Victory, a Federal Court Strikes Down a Law that Punishes Supporters of Israel Boycott Glenn Greenwald, Intercept (Kevin W)

Fooling America Real History Archives. Margarita: “A bit of a long read – a 1993 speech by R. Parry on the shape of things in 1993.”

Freelancing abroad in a world obsessed with Trump Columbia Journalism Review (Chuck L). Important.

Monetary Policy and Liquid Government Debt- Working Papers St. Louis Fed. UserFriendly: URGHHH SO CLOSE TO MMT. He made a stupid assumption about the fed’s balance sheet being irrelevant​ which means you can’t print money. I tweeted at him.”

Xerox Cedes Control to Fujifilm, Ending Its Independence Bloomberg. Resilc: “Making Merikia great again….fast forward to 2050 when Lo Fat China Iron and Steel Ltd takes over Apple.”

Appeals court affirms CFPB’s constitutionality, leadership structure American Banker

EBay to Ditch PayPal for Dutch Processor Adyen Bloomberg

Meet the physicists selling time to traders Financial Times (David L)

Class Warfare

Austerity is an Algorithm: What happened when Australia tried to replace some social services with software. Logic. Dr. Kevin: “Spoiler! It didn’t go well.”

The Truth About Teen Suicide Washington Monthly (resilc). Curious re what readers make of this. One issue is that depressed kids in non-rural areas may be more likely to be medicated, erm, treated (antidepresssants, Adderall).

Women Once Ruled the Computer World. When Did Silicon Valley Become Brotopia? Bloomberg. That’s easy! When the comp went up! Feminized professions are always underpaid.

Default Crisis for Black Student Borrowers Inside Higher Ed (Grumpy Engineer). From last fall, still germane.

Deep Poverty In The U.S. Barry Ritholtx. Resilc: “And since the majority of Merkinzzz don’t have $1000 in savings, are they just shallow poverty?”

How the Media Is Abetting the GOP’s War on “Welfare” New Republic

Amazon patents wristband that tracks warehouse workers’ movements Guardian

How to Not Die in America Splinter News (UserFriendly, Dr. Kevin)

Remaking the World emptywheel (Chuck L)

Antidote du jour. Timotheus: “Bluebird at -14F, Ft Wayne IN.”

And a bonus:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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    1. Kevin

      I’ll give it another try- I could not get past the byline:

      How the United States lost the faith of its citizens—and what it can do to win them back

      I fail to see how the U.S. “lost faith” in it’s citizens, However, I do see how it’s citizens became disposable; replaced by a donor class with humgous wallets. This isn’t a “loss of faith” it’s a loss of power!

  1. integer

    Re: Schiff accuses Nunes of making secret changes to classified memo before White House review

    From the article:

    Jack Langer, a spokesman for Nunes, described Schiff’s letter as part of an “increasingly strange attempt” to prevent the document’s release. He said the changes include “minor edits to the memo, including grammatical fixes and two edits requested by the FBI and by the Minority themselves.

    Remember when Schiff accused Tucker Carlson of “carrying water for the Kremlin”, and suggested Carlson should move his show to RT? Well, Schiff has managed to become even more unhinged since then.

    On another note entirely, I’ve been told that using water to flush used coffee grounds down the kitchen sink is good for the plumbing, as it cleans the pipes via friction.

    1. Bill Smith

      Another story says that there where changes 1) one change that the Democrats had requested themselves, 2) A change the FBI requested 3) grammar change to make something clearer.

      Then the committee voted again to release what they had (the latest version) last night?

      1. integer

        If the House Intelligence Commitee voted a second time to release the Nunes memo then I am unaware of it. My understanding is that these changes are insignificant, perhaps with the exception of the one requested by the FBI in order to protect sources and methods, which seems to have been agreed to as a show of good faith by the HIC majority (i.e. the HIC R party members) to the FBI.

    2. Katniss Everdeen

      schiff is just protecting the selfless patriots at an agency that may not be able to defend itself. As nbc news reports (and is repeating endlessly):

      Justice Department officials told NBC News that the issues raised in the memo are so highly classified that they may not be in a position to point out errors or misleading statements.

      How convenient. If they defended themselves, they’d have to kill you.

      As an aside, I ran across this explanation of the structure of government which places doj / fbi under the purview of the Executive Branch and not independent of it as has been implied. Oversight belongs to the Legislative Branch, which is tasked with referral to the Executive in the event infractions are discovered. I can’t vouch for this website, but the discussion struck me as dispassionate and at least worthy of consideration.

      1. djrichard

        I think it’s queensbury rules that the DOJ and FBI be independent of the Whitehouse, lol. How independent is the FBI?

        “Mr Comey, who was sacked by Donald Trump in May, acknowledged that the head of the FBI can be fired for any reason or for no reason at all. Yet conflicting explanations offered by the White House for his removal caused many to conclude that the decision was politically motivated …”

        Show me a decision in government that is not politically motivated. If there is such a thing we can call it the immaculate decision.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          “immaculate decision” — I like that turn of phrase! — very clever. I added it to my collection.

            1. Alex Morfesis

              Well…consider schiff made his name in california using a kgb agent to take down a mormon fbi agent…and that same kgb agent has worked for the us govt on other cases…should we not be really asking if schiff is not the one with the deep russian kgb contacts, since he is the only person in the conversation who has actually conspired with a kgb agent ?

      2. Higgs Boson

        What is the FBI, exactly?

        ‘The Bureau of Investigation (BOI) was created on July 26, 1908, after the Congress had adjourned for the summer. Attorney General Bonaparte, using Department of Justice expense funds, hired thirty-four people, including some veterans of the Secret Service, to work for a new investigative agency. Its first “Chief” (the title is now known as “Director”) was Stanley Finch. Bonaparte notified the Congress of these actions in December 1908.’

        ‘The FBI’s mandate is established in Title 28 of the United States Code (U.S. Code), Section 533, which authorizes the Attorney General to “appoint officials to detect and prosecute crimes against the United States.” Other federal statutes give the FBI the authority and responsibility to investigate specific crimes..’

        28 U.S. Code § 533 :

        The Attorney General may appoint officials—

        (1) to detect and prosecute crimes against the United States;

        (2) to assist in the protection of the person of the President; and

        (3) to assist in the protection of the person of the Attorney General.

        (4) to conduct such other investigations regarding official matters under the control of the Department of Justice and the Department of State as may be directed by the Attorney General.

        This section does not limit the authority of departments and agencies to investigate crimes against the United States when investigative jurisdiction has been assigned by law to such departments and agencies.

        Kind of astonishing that the FBI was created “on the sly” during a congressional recess, and wasn’t really codified into law until the Department of Justice Appropriation Act, in 1965. You’d think an entity as seemingly powerful as the FBI would have specific legislation to its creation, purpose, and limits?

      3. integer

        How convenient. If they defended themselves, they’d have to kill you.

        The intelligence agencies excel at this sort of disingenuous circular “logic”. A recent favorite of theirs seems to be that anyone who questions their actions is solely doing so for partisan reasons, as if the idea that someone could object to their actions for reasons based on ethics and principles is nonexistent. For example, the CIA and their well-trained mockingbirds in the media claimed the Benghazi investigation was simply based on partisan point scoring, when, as many here will no doubt already know, it was really about the fact that a US embassy staff member had been killed at the US’ Libyan embassy, as a result of the CIA conducting a massive gun-running operation out of it. Needless to say, we are seeing exactly the same dynamic with the Nunes memo.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I know presidents have to have a physical from time to time (maybe once a year), but is Congress in such poverty that it can’t afford the same mandatory requirement for its members?

      If a House physician is indeed available, why are some not getting the proper diagnosis?

      1. sleepy

        I don’t believe there is any legal requirement that a president take a physical.

        As far as I know it’s only custom.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef


          They ‘have to’ take one politically, if not legally.

          Similarly, a congressman or a senator can proudly claim ‘I’m not senile, and not insane.’

          1. polecat

            “I have some major sinuous ‘pressure’ from this coldwar of mine … and it’s giving me an awful ‘leaking’ sensation.”

    4. rd

      Your friendly local plumber will thank you for putting your coffee grounds down the sink. Expect a $400 bill for when they have to clean the trap out between your house and the street connection (personal experience – I don’t drink coffee but my spouse does and tried the coffee grounds down the sink thing…..)

      Some things not to put down your garbage disposal, sink, or toilet:

      – coffee grounds
      – egg shells (very small quantities ok, not a family breakfast omelet or scrambled eggs)
      – any vegetable/fruit skins or stems or large quantities of pulp
      – grease and fat
      – disposable wipes (these are causing huge issues in urban sewer systems, including clogging lift station pumps)
      – paper towels
      – pasta (plumber regaled us with stories about that)

      1. cocomaan

        How about sensitive government documents? Emails that will get me indicted? How about staffers that I molested?

        Will any of those go down the drain?

        I’m asking for a friend in Congress.

      2. integer

        Fair enough. I’ve always avoided all the other things on your list, but have been putting coffee grounds down the kitchen sink for over a decade with no apparent issues whatsoever. I have moved quite frequently during that time though, however other people I know who have lived in the same place that whole time have done the same with no (noticable) adverse effects either. In any case, thanks for the heads up.

      3. Oregoncharles

        At the risk of duplication (I don’t see where the “down the sink” idea came from): this calls for a municipal program to collect and compost food wastes. Coffee grounds are seeds, so they should be fairly rich in nitrogen, but I haven’t seen an analysis. My city has such a program; it started with yard wastes – relatively few big apartments here, but recently expanded to include kitchen wastes. The results are gardener’s gold; I use it all the time. Better with woody debris in it; for instance, arborists’ chips, and/or fall leaves. Reasonable amounts of paper will do; I compost the coffee filters.

        New Jersey and Long Island used to be where the gardens that fed New York were located; are they still? You don’t want to haul it any farther than necessary. I’m surprised New York doesn’t already have a program like this; it saves the sewers and the landfills. But the scale would be daunting. Each apartment building would have to have its own program.

        NOT doing htis sort of thing is a good example of what’s wrong with our society. Individuals like Yves could keep a worm bin, I suppose; but what are they going to do with the compost? It needs a collective solution.

        1. rjs

          that article says: “The spent coffee must be detoxified by composting for a minimum of 98 days for plants to benefit from the potassium and nitrogen contained in the roasted beans.”

          that’s nonsense, i use coffeegrounds sacks right from the coffeeshop just before planting…probably 1000 pounds a year, and have excellent crops, especially those that mature quickly, like beans and cukes…my earthworms do quite well, too…

      4. Ignacio

        Almost all that stuff (except colored paper towels and disposable wipes) should go to organic waste if there are biomethanation plants. Even the egg shells which are not so organic in nature but with time dissolve in water.

      5. Craig H.

        The flushable wipe thing completely blows my mind to this day. The material must be: A.) sufficiently resistant to dissolution that it can sit wet inside a container for months before using and then withstand the stress of the wipe operation, and then B.) voila’ by the magic of modern chemical and material engineering it will fall apart fast enough when it hits your sewage pipes that it will not have clog contribution properties.

        If that is not flatly impossible it is so remotely possible that only a fool would ever flush a so-called flushable wipe.

        WHO thinks up this crap?

        1. Elizabeth Burton

          (A) Disposable wipe containers contain no excess liquid; indeed, one has to keep flipping the container so gravity keeps all the wipes wet enough to be useful. So, there’s no real danger of disintegration while they are waiting to be used. Even so, it’s quite easy to have them tear when used, so they need to be handled with care.

          (B) In my experience, they are no less dissolvable than some of the thicker brands of “ultra-soft” toilet paper people are using. Ergo, before making a judgement on what’s causing a clog, it would behoove to inquire what else was in the bowl.

          1. ChiGal in Carolina

            Living in an older building (1908), we were told emphatically that so-called flushable wipes should NOT be put in the toilet. Nor Kleenex, which is different from toilet paper.

  2. armoured

    The coffee grounds article is needlessly alarmist and downright foolish – not to mention that it misses the point that the proverbial issue is not any single discarded food / biological material, but all of it.
    First, on coffee: it massively exaggerates the so-called toxic nature of compounds in used grounds. In smallish amounts (anything less than several inches thick), any negative effects will be minimal. Coffee grounds can be tossed right in the yard or on the lawn. Sure, industrial quantities should be composted – true of any large quantities of food materials. And the focus on coffee as a ‘fertilizer’ is misplaced – the nutrients are pretty low grade; as with most other composts, the benefit is mostly as a soil amendment (healthy soil life). And by the way, that soil life (microorganisms and fungus) will deal with any chemical compounds very quickly, as long as they’re biological compounds to begin with (and the concentrations aren’t industrial). Try it – just throw your coffee on your lawn or yard, step on it/kick it to spread it out, and see if you can find any trace of it after a few weeks.
    Next: this point about coffee is true about almost all food/plant/biological materials; we landfill or burn far too much of it (for example, ‘bioenergy’ fuel plants using things like almond shells – low grade woody waste is excellent for soil). Composted or otherwise used in agriculture, it would go a long, long way to helping regenerate soil; good soil needs organic materials to support life. (And yes, it contains some fertilizing nutrients, but that’s not the primary advantage)

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Yes, its all about quantities, mixes, and of course composting methods (there are many). Coffee grounds are fine – in fact are very beneficial, if you have a compost heap. If not, then many areas will either have a municipal or community collection for organics, and I doubt there are people who are such coffee addicts that they have more of it than other organics.

      I have wondered though about Nespresso capsules. To their credit, they do have a very good recycling collection system, but it seems all about the aluminium in the capsules, their website says nothing about the coffee grounds. I’m quite curious about this, because there are plenty of large scale anaerobic or aerobic composting schemes in most European countries anyway available for agricultural waste, so I’m surprised that its not used for this.

      1. Objective Function

        Our Filipina housekeeper makes lovely floral patterned jewelry out of Nespresso pods to earn extra money and as a hobby. The materials are quite suitable.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Are there as many Filipino housekeepers as Filipina ones, in this country, or in the Middle East?

          It’s interesting to note that the Chinese and Ottoman emperors would only have females and castrated males in the Forbidden Palace or the palace in Istanbul.

          Have we progressed from that particular mentality?

          “Manly men can apply for a live-in job at my mansion with a staying-at-home trophy wife.”

          1. Objective Function

            As in Fabio or Biff, the tennis instructor?

            I happen to live in my housekeeper’s country, but yes, outside the West (where those pesky labor and liability laws make the costs prohibitive), live in help is pretty universal among those with the means, not just .001 percenters. It’s generally an agreeable living and lifestyle for all parties, but as with all employment (‘power relations’), subject to abuse.

      2. polecat

        The compost I create (approx. 3 35-gallon garbage cans full, annually) has a bit of everything in it, including the coffee grounds. The earthworms and microbiota relish in it’s aggregated diversity …. and the end result is a bountiful garden … and even moar aggregated diversity ! ‘:]

        1. curlydan

          I wish I had earthworms relishing my compost. Instead by August, a have a throbbing, smacking, and slightly smelly layer of grubs in the thousands munching on my composted goodies. They’re all dead by October/November, but when I open my composter in summer, it’s looks like a horror movie.

    2. sleepy

      Good to hear. I was concerned after reading the article since I routinely dump my grounds directly in the garden. After a day or two of sun and rain they virtually disappear.

      I have also heard that coffee grounds are great for earthworms, and I have plenty of those.

    3. Quanka

      Great comment by Armoured. Wanted to emphasize this point: Next: this point about coffee is true about almost all food/plant/biological materials; we landfill or burn far too much of it

      +100! Think of this way — there is no reason to landfill organic material, its a waste of valuable product that other parts of our ecosystem depend on.

      To reformulate an old proverb: Human’s trash is soil microorganisms treasure.

      Its a travesty what we do with food that is “unwanted” — we dont give it to people that need it (the homeless) b/c of idiotic health services rules. We then haul it off to the dump and prevent the billions of microorganisms under out feet from benefiting from it as well.

      This is why Yves’ concept for a national composting program/mandate is such a great idea.

      1. polecat

        As an aside, I’ll wager, that as infrastructural systems breakdown locally, due to lack of maintainence caused by a reduction of funding, say … or perhaps a disintegration of the state/federal governing structure brought about by chaos or social upheaval, that ‘night soil’ collection will be in vogue once again … as it was before the introduction of indoor plumbing. Water, to the extent utilized in municipal waste systems currently, cannot continue for too much longer … as that water will be needed for other needs of basic survival. So I see humanure as a future growth industry. ‘:]

        Gotta feed those urdan concurbations somehow, as globalization shrinks !

        1. Wombat

          Ahh yes, Win Win. And fix the perennial problem of drooping and slow photosynthesis plants as they will surely absorb our erectile disunction and anti-depressant medication.

    4. a different chris

      To Yves’ point, why the (family blog) don’t we make the places that sell coffee take the grounds back?

      Yes, I know the answer to that. Sigh.

      1. armoured

        I don’t see why making places that sell coffee take the grounds back would be at all useful. As I noted above, coffee grounds are super, super easy to deal with. In modest amounts (and by ‘modest’ I repeat I mean less than industrial quantities) you can spread it out on almost any soil and it will be indistinguishable from ‘regular’ soil in short order. Coffee grounds are easier to deal with than almost any other compostable material (especially since usually separate from other contaminants except maybe paper filters, which also break down fast).
        The coffee-pods are a different matter. But in general, save the ‘make the polluter take it back’ methods for industrial chemicals and plastics. Organic materials can be dealt with by composting, either backyard or centralised; if you want to make coffee shops do something, just require them to keep it out of landfill (or jack up the cost of landfill compared to composting).
        To a different point: I wish I knew enough about sewerage systems to be able to say, but there’s a rational argument to be had about whether disposing of (some) organic materials through the sewer system would be efficient, and possibly more efficient than composting. Sewage systems take biological waste in volume, ‘digest’ it (a form of composting), and recycle as much as they can – including selling the digested biosolids to sell for fertilizer. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s possible to generalise about whether a given sewer system or household can handle large amounts or not – it depends. (But as a general rule, it’s probably fair to say disposing normal household amounts of coffee grounds in the drain should not harm a well-functioning sewage/plumbing system; if it breaks something, the system was not in good shape to begin with).
        A side note: keep in mind that what seems like a lot of coffee grounds (‘industrial’ quantities) to city folk is pretty small beans (pun intended) on the scale of even a small farm. I spend time on farms and a dumpster of coffee grounds would be a pittance when spread over a decent-sized field.

        1. Synapsid


          About household amounts:

          I once asked a Roto Rooter guy what he mostly cleaned out of blocked home sewers. He said “Tea leaves and coffee grounds.”

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          Ahem, did you miss what I said? I live in Manhattan. Tell me what “soil” I have. It would take time to go to Central Park to dispose of coffee grounds and it would be ILLEGAL. The park doesn’t let you dump stuff on the ground.

    5. integer

      FWIW there is a small but thriving mushroom business in Australia (Melbourne, I think) that uses used coffee grounds as the medium in which the mushrooms are grown. They have deals with various coffee shops to collect the used coffee grounds at the end of each day, perhaps in exchange for some mushrooms, but I’m not sure about that last part. I saw it on the news a while ago; one of those feel good stories they have before the sport or weather or whatever.

  3. Wukchumni

    Deep Poverty In The U.S. Barry Ritholtx. Resilc: “And since the majority of Merkinzzz don’t have $1000 in savings, are they just shallow poverty?”
    Think of them as Thousandaires instead, as they aren’t ready for anything in a financial vein beyond a root canal or new tranny on their Hummer.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you.

          Apart from Blairite / Red Tory James Purnell, all the BBC’s editorial management are card carrying Tories. “Journalists” like Andrew Neil and Laura (von) Kuenssberg are card carrying Tories, too. The political editor, whose name escapes me, is also a card carrying Tory.

          1. argonut

            Allow me to recommend ukcolumn who have a webpage and/or a youtube livestream (45 mins) 5 days a week at 1pm UK time. Along with some very charismatic and erudite contributors (Alex Thompson, David Scott, Vanessa Beeley), they seem to have their finger on the pulse regarding UK, EU, and beyond (their priorities in that order)

  4. PlutoniumKun

    Is a Transition to Renewable Energy on the Verge of Being Unstoppable? Knowledge @ Wharton

    Fracking for natural gas may have been an environmental horror story in many areas, and in the short term it probably did serious damage to renewables, but in the long term it may well be the death of the fossil fuel industry and the biggest booster of renewables. A power grid where natural gas largely replaces coal and nuclear is far more suitable for deep penetration by solar and wind power. I hope Cheney (the real father of Fracking as he destroyed most of the regulations limiting it) will live long enough to recognise the irony.

    Could the solar production possibly be useful to the base load, even though it hardly provides on its own the required generation to meet the stated base load demand? In conjunction with nuclear or coal generation, the solar is not very useful because nuclear and coal are inflexible and cannot be scaled back economically to follow the solar production and maintain the constant 1 gigawatt. But combined with natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) plants, it is possible to maintain a constant net production, as required, by adjusting the NGCC output in response to the varying solar generation. With NGCC cheaper than coal and nuclear, and solar competitive with or even cheaper than NGCC (at the relevant capacity factors), it may well be both technically possible and cheaper to synthesize a base load (constant) output. And of course, wind, hydroelectric, and other renewable generation sources can be brought into the mixture. Here we have discussed only solar plus natural gas combinations for base load synthesis, but similar exercises can be used for other renewables, such as wind and hydroelectric, with integration of all renewables as the goal.

    1. Watt4Bob

      As for me, I hope Cheney lives forever.

      I say that in the same spirit that King Leonidas said it to Ephilalties.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Sorry — I confess my ignorance. I read a short Wiki bio for Ephilalties but I didn’t run across anything to clue me in about what spirit might be the “same spirit that King Leonidas said it [may he live forever] to Ephilalties”. Please elaborate.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I found in

          Xerxes’s General demands their surrender, saying that Leonidas may keep his title as King of Sparta and become warlord of all Greece, answerable only to Xerxes. Ephialtes begs him to do so as well; Leonidas quips back “may you live forever” (the ultimate Spartan insult, as they wish to die in battle).

          Not sure if Cheney is a Spartan though.

      2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Cheney didn’t “create fracking”, Bernanke did, none of the operators would be there without free money. It’s just another All-American Wall St Pump N” Dump scheme: Nice man in a suit shows up on Mom and Pop’s farm, shows them how much money they’ll get over 20 years for destroying their land. Mom and Pop sign the papers, the well produces for two years then goes into steep decline (these are not like oil wells that can produce for decades). Man in the suit meantime has sold the paper off to muppets investment clients and is long gone. Mom and Pop get flammable tap water, investors get shafted, farmers downstream get 500 different chemicals in their groundwater, man in the suit gets a private island. #Winning!

      3. McKillop

        Considering that he’s now somewhat aged, were Mr. C. to be given the gift received by Tithonous, granted eternal life but denied eternal youth,it would please many much more. He and all others like him could steep in oil and blood up to their chins so that their memories of their deeds would remain supple.

    2. Grumpy Engineer

      NGCC cheaper than coal and nuclear” is only possible because of fracking. If we banned fracking, natural gas supplies would become much more limited and prices would revert to the historical norms that preceded fracking: Easily two or three times what we pay today. It ruins the economics of NGCC, and utilities would seek to burn coal instead whenever they could.

      Before fracking, gas-fired turbines were operated only as a last resort, given how expensive the fuel was. The Wharton article is implicitly assuming that fracking will continue indefinitely.

        1. Anon

          …and efficient use of electricity grows: LED lighting, day-lighting in residences, mass-transport (electric trains/buses), etc.

          1. Adrienne

            Efficiency gains are vastly overstated as a solution to the energy transition. We’ve already caught much of the low-hanging fruit in lighting, and re-constructing buildings for energy efficiency is a very long-term project with high costs. Electrification of transport simply shifts energy use from one format to another.

            Large reductions in energy used in transportation will require a massive change in land-use patterns from car-dependent, low density to high density walkable and transit-oriented development. We’re not going in this direction nearly fast enough–in fact, in most parts of the US we’re doubling down on highways and far flung exurban development.

            To top it all off, the rise of ecommerce is driving huge growth in trucking and warehousing, both energy-intensive industries.

            1. Mark P.

              Adrienne wrote: Efficiency gains are vastly overstated … We’ve already caught much of the low-hanging fruit in lighting, and re-constructing buildings for energy efficiency is a very long-term project with high costs.

              I disagree with your underlying assumptions. The low-hanging fruit in lighting is pretty meager given that HVAC systems in U.S. buildings — the country where HVAC systems historically started — are massively inefficient, using more than 38 percent of all U.S. energy and 76 percent of U.S. electricity.

              In general, U.S. buildings have been terribly designed for energy-efficiency. So, yeah, re-constructing buildings for energy efficiency may be a long-term project with high costs. The good news, however, is that much U.S. architecture — especially in the U.S. West — is low-durability crap that will have to be replaced anyway. And we now know how to design buildings that are 40-60 percent more energy efficient than the vast mass of existing U.S. architecture.

              Additionally, the main benefit of the Internet of Things concept was originally that IoT-enabled HVAC systems can raise the energy-efficiency of existing American buildings by 20-40 percent just on their own.

              So there’s a lot more that we can do in terms of rebuilding U.S. building and that we’re going to have to do anyway because American buildings are mostly not built to last.

              Again: U.S. HVAC systems use more than 38 percent of all U.S. energy and 76 percent of U.S. electricity. That’s absolutely ridiculous.

              1. Jeremy Grimm

                “… re-constructing buildings for energy efficiency is a very long-term project with high costs” — I agree that HVAC systems are “massively inefficient” but what low-hanging fruit do you see for improving HVAC systems? I agree that U.S. buildings are terribly designed for efficiency and not built to last. What does it cost to replace our crumbling buildings with buildings “40-60 percent more energy efficient than the vast mass of existing U.S. architecture”? I am genuinely interested in ways to improve HVAC systems and in designs for buildings with greater energy efficiency and greater permanence. [You favor IoT? — really!?]

                1. Grebo

                  This looks promising.

                  An Intranet of Things could be quite handy for managing your property, provided you have a good firewall between them and the internet.

              2. Adrienne

                Mark P, I agree that there is a tremendous amount of wasted energy in buildings. However I am doubtful that we can make a meaningful dent in replacing those older buildings within a timeframe that matters wrt climate change. I’m sure you are aware of the costs involved with replacing buildings nowadays–anything new has to be up to current code & zoning standards, which makes new buildings breathtakingly expensive. Infrastructure usually requires upgrading too–sewer & water lines esp. Are we really talking about tearing down & dumping millions of buildings into landfills so we can make new, energy-efficient ones? What is the energy cost to do so?

                The sunk costs we have in old buildings is astronomical. Upgrading or replacing is only going to happen where there are robust economic incentives to do so, which means only in the rich urban areas. Decaying suburbs and third-tier cities will continue to decay, as there simply isn’t enough money there to fix anything. I linked earlier to a blogger who writes extensively about this sort of thing: his latest post is instructive.

                I’ve become more skeptical than ever that techno-fixes are going to “save” us from ourselves. New technology seems to introduce more complexity and cost, more vulnerability and social upheaval. In the last five years it’s become obvious that the crapification of technology is getting worse, not better. IMHO what we need is less consumption, not more stuff; more resilience, not more “efficiency.”

                1. Mark P.

                  @ Adrienne —

                  However I am doubtful that we can make a meaningful dent in replacing those older buildings within a timeframe that matters wrt climate change.

                  As far as a time frame that matters wrt to climate change, it was already too late — a done deal — after 2002-2004, as far as I can judge. The heat was already parked in the oceans during the previous 60 years. Now we’re in a phase equivalent to the last few seconds before the boiled water in the saucepan actually starts bubbling. So to speak.

                  That means ….

                  I’ve become more skeptical than ever that techno-fixes are going to “save” us from ourselves.

                  You — and I — can be sceptical about specific techno-fixes. But we’re going to have no choice and are going to try to geoengineer once the brown stuff starts hitting the fan.

                  Or rather, to be more specific, I guarantee that the Chinese are going to try to geoengineer. They are: –

                  [a] already in a more precarious environmental position than ourselves;

                  [b] already engaged in larger weather and environmental modification programs than any other state;

                  [c] ruled by a Chinese Communist Party, which is drawn primarily from professional engineers rather than shyster lawyers;

                  [d] utterly lacking in the socio-religious scruples and beliefs about ‘Mother Nature’ that we have in the West and that they regard as primitive and backward.

                  All the above said, that doesn’t mean geoengineering will work. But I guarantee you that the Chinese — and probably others — will try it as soon as weather patterns in Asia start getting really scary.

        2. Adrienne

          “Cheap storage” is the holy grail of renewables advocates. However, the reality is that storing energy is expensive, both in terms of financial and energy costs. Lead-acid batteries–a technology over a century old–are still being widely used due to their low cost. Lithium-based batteries are better, but still very expensive and it’s doubtful that the technology can be scaled to the level needed to widely replace fossil fuel transportation.

          New breakthroughs in energy storage come with great difficulty, because we have this pesky thing called physics. Once a new technolgy has been proven in the lab, only a handful will be applicable at scale, cost, and real-world constraints. “Ten years” until “cheap” energy storage is simply wishful thinking… even Bill G says It Is Surprisingly Hard to Store Energy.

          1. Grumpy Engineer

            Heh. That’s an interesting little article by Bill Gates about needing over a TON of lithium-ion battery to get through a single week of heavy clouds and low wind. And that’s only enough to cover “average” consumption. To get through a single week of heavy clouds and low wind in the dead of winter (i.e., “high” consumption), you’d probably need TWO or THREE tons.

            And Gates’ cost estimate of $150 per kWh is pretty optimistic. Tesla’s Powerwall sells for $350 per kWh. Instead of costing 30 cents/kWh to store the energy, it might cost 70 cents/kWh.

            Yes, storing energy is hard. I’m deeply skeptical we’ll ever get to the scale required for a 100% renewable-based grid. Estimates on the total storage capacity needed range anywhere from 100 to 500 TWh. The largest battery station in the nation clocks in at 120 MWh:


            It’s short by at least a factor of 830,000. A “mere” six orders of magnitude. I don’t think people fully appreciate the sheer magnitude of the exercise. Do we really think we can afford (or even want) one of these 120 MWh stations for every 400 people in the nation? Bill Gates calls it “surprisingly hard”. I’m not surprised at all. The numbers are stupendous.

    3. Adrienne

      Pretty pathetic article, IMHO. California already gets over 40% of its electricity from natural gas, really the only way that it can absorb the high amounts of solar & wind-generated electricity it produces. California produces most of that gas in-state, but this vulnerability was well exposed with the Aliso Canyon leak (California gas leak was the worst man-made greenhouse-gas disaster in U.S. history, study says).

      The author also neglects to mention any of the other serious issues with proposing natgas+solar+wind as a replacement for baseload power. (Note I’m no engineer, so this is a simplistic view, and corrections are welcome):

      –Assumes that cheap fracked gas will last…. well, forever it seems. Is this a reasonable assumption? And how is dependence of NG in any way “getting us off fossil fuel?”

      –Rapid cycling & idle running of NG plants is very inefficient use of fuel. Newer designs are somewhat better, but inefficient combustion basically means more CO2 emissions. Rapid up & down cycling also produces a lot more wear and tear on the equipment, necessitating more maintenance and perhaps shorter overall lifespan. These costs are ignored.

      –No mention of seasonal, let alone daily fluctuations in output of solar and wind. Wind output fluctuates wildly throughout the day, and solar output declines drastically on cloudy days and in winter in northern latitudes. Modeling can predict these fluctuations somewhat but we’re still asking a lot of the NG plants to follow these oscillating flows–and the increased demands in winter.

      –Fracking. Really? We’re going to go all-in on fracked gas in order to goose our transition to “renewable” energy? There’s a fair amount of evidence that fracked NG is equal to coal burning when you factor in the methane releases.

      –Pricing. Excess solar production midday in high-penetration areas drives spot prices into negative territory. However, you don’t just shut down a NG generator for four hours every midday: it’s sitting there idling, burning gas, ready to ramp up like the dickens when the sun starts going down or the wind dies. So NG plants need capacity payments to subsidize this idle time. Who pays for that? Right now these costs are largely borne by the utilities, who pass them on to customers. You have to factor these capacity payments into the economics of solar + wind. Right now solar + wind renewables are not required to pay for any externalities caused by their intermittency, giving a false impression of their true cost.

      It’s a shame that so few articles about renewable energy are willing to be honest about what’s really in store for us. Transition off fossil fuels is going to be expensive and difficult–but of course, we must maintain the happy motoring fantasy as long as possible!

      1. Adrienne

        No byline on the Wharton article, but there’s a little box next to it with “TSG Consumer Partners Supports K@W’s Innovation Content”, a PE firm:

        Take a look at the other “partners” of “Knowledge@Wharton Partners”

        Knowledge@Wharton has collaborated with the partners below to create custom thought leadership, which highlights global insights from Wharton faculty and top leaders from industry and other sectors.

        Consider the source…

      2. Anon

        It’s true that “happy motoring” is unsustainable. But while JHK rang the alarm many years ago in his early books, electric vehicles do change the narrative somewhat. All those vehicles become solar (PV) storage opportunity. My local college covered a large swath of parking area with a PV-covered canopy that produces electricity to charge the batteries of electric vehicles parked there. Faculty get first “dibs” on availability, but students and the general local population use it as well.

        Fewer individual-car transportation (electric or otherwise) is a more sustainable transportation program, but a better living arrangement (Kunstler’s viewpoint) is still decades away.

      3. Ignacio

        –Assumes that cheap fracked gas will last…. well, forever it seems. Is this a reasonable assumption? And how is dependence of NG in any way “getting us off fossil fuel?

        It is well explained in the text. Solar and wind are rigth now quite incompatible with carbon and nuclear. Formers are de-centralized means of production and relatively volatile. Just the opposite of carbon and nuclear. NG electricity generators are quite flexible and compatible with sun and wind. So, NG facilitates the entry of renewables.

        1. Adrienne

          Ignacio, you know natural gas is a fossil fuel, right? And that the article says nothing about NG being a temporary hole-filler for intermittent renewables–it’s actually touted as an integral part of the “renewable” energy system. So, permanent dependence on fossil fuel in their scenario.

          1. Mark P.

            Adrienne wrote: Assumes that cheap fracked gas will last…. well, forever it seems. Is this a reasonable assumption?

            Assuming that natural gas supplies will last indefinitely is a very reasonable assumption, for better or worse.

            Methane is the major component of natural gas, about 87 percent by volume, and the stuff that gets to our homes is almost pure methane.

            So those vast methane clathrates under Siberia and the Arctic Ocean whose release via global warming everybody agonizes about — that’s natural gas, essentially.

            Hence, agonizing about the long-term feasibility of extracting natural gas via fracking is in one sense absolutely beside the point. The real problem is not whether we can keep extracting natural gas via fracking or other means, it’s whether we can keep all the natural gas that exists on Earth down there where it is now.

              1. Jeremy Grimm

                Gosh! Well at least cheap fracking can be supplemented and replaced by clathrate mining. But unless the U.S. gets in on that action we may have to import natural gas to support our “renewable” electrical grid. Will cheaply mined clathrate methane last forever? Did you learn to stop worrying about “whether we can keep all the natural gas that exists on Earth down there where it is now” and love the Climate Disruption?

                  1. Jeremy Grimm

                    I have been looking for good sites to locate new mines and searching for effective techniques for building those mines with all the most energy practical and efficient means and long term energy efficiency.

            1. Jeremy Grimm

              You seem to agree with what I believe to be Adrienne’s basic concerns : e.g. “… it’s whether we can keep all the natural gas that exists on Earth down there where it is now.” I think she would agree with that. Why poke at her argument by equating “cheap fracked gas” with fracked gas or methane from other sources like Siberian clathrates? Tell me if I’m wrong but I think you’re on the same team with Adrienne. [I admit I have too much fun making quibbles.]

              1. Adrienne

                @Jeremy LOL!

                Mark P is correct that we have lots of flavors of methane with which we can cook to the planet to a cinder. Yay for us!

    1. Kevin

      Me too – Blue Jays are excellent mockers – they can mimic a hawks call and scare away birds from feeder and enjoy a solo meal.

      1. Brian

        I thought so until looking closely at the beak. Blue Jay’s beak (western) is closer to 2 centimeters. The beak on this bird is more like a finch than a corvid? Colors are a very close, but size of body seems smaller.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          The beak looks “smaller” because the bird is facing into the camera. If it gave us a sideways view, the beak would look “longer” again. If one watches enough blue jays long enough, one will see one go from “side view” to “looking straight at you” and one will see the bill “change shape”.

  5. Kevin

    “The Truth About Teen Suicide”

    Look around your towns – anything there for teens to do? places to go? Malls, skateparks, roller rinks – social gathering places that existed when I was growing up are no longer around – and if they are, they are on their last legs.

    You tag onto this the fact that when I was teen there was at least a sense that the “adults in the room” were in control of the country – as opposed to the childish level discourse has dropped to today. A President who openly mocks a handicapped man – and gets laughter and applause. What message does this send?

      1. Kevin

        I would not put it past them.

        Blaming drumpf is easy – I do believe he had a part to play in the degradation in political and public discourse in this country. To say we are where we are because of him is absurd – this train wreck has been in slow motion for many, many years.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Depending on the situation, blaming Trump can be

          1. easy
          2. self-deluding
          3. correct, but not helpful
          4. correct and helpful
          5. deluding others
          6. emotionally satisfying
          7. income-generating
          8. conducive to electing more different-in-name-only democrats

        2. RUKidding

          It’s too easy to blame Trump, although he is definitely a part of the problem, for sure. But all Trump has done is blare out the inside words that’ve been said behind closed doors in allegedly “polite company” forever.

          I can well remember back in the days of Ronnie Raygun, when funding for midnight basketball (or something like that) was cut in the poorer parts of town. My rightwing so-called “religiious” parents clapped and cheered with unbridled joy because they didn’t believe that THEY should have to pay for the __________s to have a place to play to night. Why should THEY pay for that??

          I said: well, they’re mostly poor, and they probably don’t have any other place to go. From where I sit, paying for midnight basketball seems cheap at the price and gives these inner city kids something productive to do… as opposed to other less salubrious activites, such standing around on corners doing and selling drugs.

          Anyway, it certainly has been downhill all the way since then.

          No one wants to pay for anything unless it totally benefits them personally.

          Welcome to our Glibertarian sh*thole country, where my friends and I say: thank the dog we’re old bc I’d hate to be young these days. What kind of life is facing them? No wonder so many teens feel so desparate and depressed. I would in their shoes.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            I remember Representative Pete McCollum from Florida somewhere being very against midnight basketball for ghetto young people with no recreational facilities. I told people his reason for opposing it was this: that as a “tough on crime” prosecutor and then politician, he made his living and then based his politics being “tough on crime”. And the tough-on-crime politicians and lawyerticians need a steady supply of crime to be tough on, or else their tough-on-crime jobs are threatened. Midnight basketball threatened to reduce the supply of crime which tough-on-crime hustlers need so they can make money from being tough-on-crime.

    1. Croatoan

      My nephew died by suicide. I have attempted. My whole family has the genetic predisposition.

      To say this is happening because there is “nothing for teens to do” is simplistic, not correlative, bull. My nephew did a lot, as did I when I was young, and I still do.

      I am going to say something now that one could brush off as the ramblings of a delusional person. But stay with me for a moment.

      Since both Extra Low Frequency and Microwave Electromagnetic Fields are know to increase intracellular calcium by stimulating Voltage Gated Ion Channels, and those same calcium channel genetics are linked to mood disorders, maybe we should be looking at possible more complicated environmental effects?

      Even just stress activates these channels.

      Can we trust industry and capitalism to reveal that modern technology might have an effect on a small part of a population?

      I do not consider myself and “Electrosensitive Person”, most of whom might have hypochondria not caused by calcium genetics, but though experimenting and knowing I have the CACNA1C genetcis that makes me vulnerable, I am more certain they play a role in a part of my illness.

      1. Croatoan

        But am I reading that study wrong? They say:

        Rising suicide is overwhelmingly a feature of rural America, where teenagers have less access to smartphones and use Facebook less than urban teens do.

        When I look at the link they provided the difference was 74% in the Suburbs as a high and 68% in rural areas. Not to mention I know poor families who share smartphones. Plus desktop and tablet access is all high at 89%. I am sure there is Wi-Fi in all those houses.

        I feel he wants to take a pure sociological approach because he is a sociologist.

    2. Arthur Dent

      One of our girls was subjected to cyber bullying while in high school several years ago – girls are far worse at doing this than the boys.

      We ended up pulling her from the school and sending her to a different school after changing her cell phone number. This was when texting was the primary communication method. Smartphones today with Facebook and Instagram probably make it worse and harder to cut the umbilical cord.

      The problem is that there is no escape now. It used to be you would leave school for the day or for vacation and that would be it. Now it can go on 24-hours a day, 365 days a year and from a distance on vacation etc. So we simply had to completely extract her from the situation which made a huge change. I don’t know what would have happened if we had left her in that school for the last two years.

      I think the absolute worst thing (among many) that President Trump is doing is normalizing cyber bullying across our society.

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      I don’t remember my teen years to be filled with social gathering places but what few I remember are long gone. I would add the boredom by design built into the textbooks and curriculum of our public schools. I looked at the high school textbooks my children had to lug around and could only be amazed at how well they could suck all the interest and excitement out of whatever topic they deconstructed. To that I might add the response I received when I took my children to visit my workplace on those days set aside for such events. Both my children told me they thought my workplace was ugly, the drive too long, and the work too boring to even consider. So we present our children with heaping plates of ennui at school with plenty of boring homework for dessert and offer them little or no opportunity for expressing the exuberance of their youth. In return for hard-work in school and demonstrating their ability to endure boredom they can look forward to a precarious and excruciatingly boring job paying them barely enough to keep a roof over their heads.

      1. Arizona Slim

        I don’t remember my teen years to be filled with social gathering places that were welcoming to outcast kids like me. So, I learned how to enjoy the pleasure of my own company, and I still do.

        As for textbooks, well, let’s just say that Slim wasn’t too impressed with them. I thought that I could do a better job of writing them, and guess what. As an adult, I have written texts for courses, and the clients loved my work.

        Workplaces? Well, my mom taught at the same high school that I attended. Talk about being under a magnifying glass. And Dad? He was an engineering researcher and had the coolest lab on the planet. I decided not to go into that field because I didn’t think that my math skills were strong enough. Then I went off to college and fell in love with …

        … calculus.

        Still sorry that I didn’t continue my study in that discipline. Oh, well. These days, I’m challenging myself by learning Russian. And, that reminds me, I need to do more work on my pronunciation and Cyrillic reading skills.

      2. Elizabeth Burton

        plenty of boring homework for dessert

        The true irony being that it’s been established via decades of studies that homework is useless as a tool of education for middle schoolers and only marginally better for high school students. In other words, we could abandon homework tomorrow with little impact. Yet teachers and parents continue to demand it because they refuse to accept that it has no real benefit, because of their personal experience and/or hardcore belief.

    4. JohnM

      Not that i want to defend Trump, but here are some ‘alternate facts’ that don’t support the MSM coverage of the mocking a disabled person story.

  6. Kevin R LaPointe

    The Amazon article is almost surreal. They’re literal manipulating the limbs of their employees; the they’re literally turning people into marionettes. How much further are we going to sink? Really, how much more before we understand that this as profound an indignation and assault on the Humanity of these workers before we actually demonstrate our values rather than playing at being decent people.

    1. perpetualWAR

      Yes, your town too can become an Amazombie, just like Seattle. So glad that I no longer can watch the downfall of a once great city.

      And they will bring rain forest spheres to your city too, but just for those upper elite workers. The low-life workers in the Amazombie warehouses, err sweat boxes, get tracked. What’s next for humanity?

      I boycott Amazombie! Everyone should. They are worse for our planet than worrying about plastic straws and composting coffee.

      1. Kevin R LaPointe

        I canceled Prime this morning, which is about a few years too late. I only buy books, so I will just go to my local book store. I will pay the extra cost if this going to be price of convenience.

  7. allan

    Taxes: there’s been a lot of speculation that the new IRS withholding schedules might be gamed to give workers
    bigger paychecks during the run-up to the 2018 midterms and then (possibly expensive) headaches
    when their 2018 taxes are due in April, 2019.

    Well, here’s an exhaustive study with N=1: Got my first paycheck of the year and the withholding has gone down by almost 15% from January last year. There’s no way that my taxes are going to go down by 15%. YMMV.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      As long as the total is correct, letting people pay less in taxes early is a good customer service practice, and in fact, considering the time value of money, you end up a tiny bit (ultra low return periods these days) ahead.

      1. allan

        The last thing an overstretched individual or family needs to deal with is another tax form to deal with
        and possible penalties to pay. Especially if they’re living paycheck to paycheck and can’t come up with the funds in April.

        The ones who will benefit from this scam when its the fan in Spring 2019 are the tax preparation services, the payday loan shops, and the GOP.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          What you’re saying is not what I would considered as ‘gamed.’

          When you say ‘gamed to November election,’ I assume you’re talking about correcting that mistake in say December. If not enough is deducted for the whole year because the IRS fails to provide the correct withholding schedules, then, the spotlight should be on the IRS, for a big mistake.

          1. allan

            “the spotlight should be on the IRS”

            You mean the IRS whose acting commissioner, not having received Senate approval,
            is subject to being fired at will by the president?

            … During his three decades of work at Ernst & Young, Kautter served as the director of national tax practices at a time when his firm was engaged in a massive effort to assist wealthy clients with tax avoidance schemes.

            Kautter’s position meant that he managed the “strategic direction, day-to-day operations, and quality of technical advice” for E&Y’s firmwide tax practices.

            Between 1999 and 2004, E&Y developed a team called Viper to devise strategies for clients making more than $10 million from having to pay U.S. taxes. The effort allowed some 200 wealthy clients to avoid taxes worth about $2 billion. Kautter took on the director-level role in 2000, a period that coincided with the Viper deals. …

            These people know exactly what they’re doing.

      2. a different chris

        Did you miss the fact that we have an election between the time we get the “moar money” and the time we have to cough most of it back up again?

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          That’s no more different than moving up government spending.

          Democrats do that (and would do the tax shuffling too) as well the Republicans.

          That’s what politicians do. They give away money (to a few people) or citizenship to buy votes.

          Here, workers, not just a few people, get more early and less later.

    2. allan

      And the AP chimes in:

      Tax bill beginning to deliver bigger paychecks to workers

      The contentious tax overhaul is beginning to deliver a change that many will welcome — bigger paychecks.

      Workers are starting to see more take-home pay as employers implement the new withholding guidelines from the IRS, which dictate how much employers withhold from pay for federal taxes. Those whose checks have remained the same shouldn’t fret — employers have until Feb. 15 to make the changes. …

      Wayne Love, who works in managed care in Spring Hill, Florida, got an extra $200 in his paycheck last week, which he said will help offset a $300 increase in the cost of his health insurance.

      “I have heard time and again that the middle class is getting crumbs, but I’ll take it!” Love said by email. …

      And Todd Anderson of Texas and his fiance, who are both educators, got an extra $200 in their paychecks combined that they plan to use to cover the costs of a second baby on its way. …

      I wish Mr. Love and Mr. Anderson well, but there is no [family blog] guarantee that they won’t be stuck with a
      tax bill next year (or a smaller refund than they were expecting). There is some of similarity to how people
      pay ACA premiums based on estimated subsidies. For people who use the standard deduction,
      the trade-off between the higher standard deduction
      and the loss of the personal exemptions is not a calculation many people will know to do.
      For people who itemize, it’s even more complicated and depends on SALT, etc.
      Some people will get unpleasant surprises in 2019.

      April is the cruelest month, but it’s after the midterms.

      1. Kurtismayfield

        I didn’t change my withholding, and my take home came down.. anecdotal data I know. Plus I am going to lose all kinds of deductions so with the beating I am going to take on higher health care costs I am going to lose out. I am sure I am not the only one.

  8. Wukchumni

    New tree-planting drones can plant 100,000 trees in a single day TechSpot (David L)

    We only managed to get 3 in the ground yesterday, 99,997 short of expectations.

    Oro Blanco grapefruit
    Bearss lime
    Brooks cherry

      1. ambrit

        Well, the idea of a “Green” border wall has some appeal. Something like a “Lord of the Rings” barrier forest of Pinyon pines and spanish dagger cacti would do nicely. Then a ‘Fairy Tale’ border waiting for the Handsome Prince(ss) to come along and release the sleeping beauty with a kiss would actually exist in the phenomenal world.
        Really though, all a ‘border wall’ is is a sorting device for immigrants entering the country. Legal or illegal, “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free” will be filtered out, in favour of the striving, cunning, law averse achievers. What’s a neo-liberal Oligarch not to like?
        For the efficacy of physical border walls, just ask the shades of the Chinese Emperors of years gone by.

        1. Arizona Slim

          A stand of ironwood trees would work very well. Ever tangled with an ironwood? Ouchie-ouch-ouch-OUCH!

          Better yet, they grow well in southern Arizona.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      And for reference, from Chicago Tribune:

      The U.S. had 319 million people in 2014, but 228 billion trees. That’s 716 trees per person.Sep 2, 2015

      Unfortunately, trees are concentrated in many places, so that many people don’t see enough…certainly not everyone can claim he or she is one-with-716 trees everyday.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      I’m a little skeptical about the claims in that article.

      The drone-based system on the other hand is able to plant trees ten times faster than humans, for 85% less money, and in places humans can’t reach.

      What exactly are these drones doing and how is it more effective than simply scattering lots of seeds all over a targeted area? Yes, it probably takes humans longer to plant seedlings but scattering seeds would be much quicker. I’m assuming the drones are somehow planting plugs containing seedlings – if the germination rate by doing that is greater than simply scattering seeds, then great, but otherwise this would seem to be a task that humans could do just fine and pretty cheaply but someone has decided they are no longer allowed to because technology. My guess is that humans plant seedlings because it does increase the chances of a tree developing to adulthood over simply scattering seeds, but are the drones taking as much care with the seedlings as a human would or just shooting them towards the ground and hoping for the best?

      And if humans can’t reach, then how did the area get cleared of trees in the first place?

      1. Anon

        You’re questions about the “drone planting” are sustained, Sir.

        Not only is the video mostly “eyewash”, it has no demonstrated success. (Kinda like that recent Silicon Valley “blood test” start-up.) The video just shows a 3D animation of a process with no duration timeline (or notice of how mature forests arrive at that stage). But we should be assured by their “proprietary” software?

        Without a doubt satellite and GPS technology has improved reforestation efforts. I’m not convinced this drone technology is a big leap forward.

    3. Ed Miller

      Looking at the picture (admittedly quick scan) I got the impression that what is planted is actually seeds. That makes sense because I can’t visualize a drone carrying hundreds of actual trees at a time. In order to do 100K in a day I don’t believe the drones could do that carrying one tree at a time. However, carrying a chamber loaded with hundreds of seeds (if not thousands) seems quite realistic.

      Twisting the planting of seeds into planting of trees is a classic techno-babble promise. Speaking from a working lifetime in the technology over-promise world.

  9. Carolinian


    Even more important is the court’s categorical decree that participating in boycotts is absolutely protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and petition rights. Citing the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case that invoked free speech rights to protect members of the NAACP from punishment by the state of Mississippi for boycotting white-owned stores, the court in the Kansas case pointedly ruled that “the First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott.” In doing so, it explained that the core purpose of the Kansas law is to punish those who are critical of Israeli occupation and are working to end it: “The Kansas Law’s legislative history reveals that its goal is to undermine the message of those participating in a boycott of Israel. This is either viewpoint discrimination against the opinion that Israel mistreats Palestinians or subject matter discrimination on the topic of Israel.”

    Good to see the BDS controversy being placed squarely where it belongs–in the context of the US civil rights struggle. Indeed it’s somewhat ironic that a country founded in part due to those “good Germans” who stood idly by during the Holocaust should seek to censor and suppress acts of conscience via US legislation. Those who oppose BDS should do so the American way–by making their case–rather than by forcing others to shut up.

    1. shinola

      Consider that the anti-BDS legislation was passed under the governorship of one Sam Brownback who is now “ambassador at large for religious freedom” (or some such ridiculous title).

      I’m glad to have him out of Ks, but I’m not sure this bodes well for Palestinian interests.

  10. Joe Wuest

    Love the Indiana bluebird! I grew up in Fort Wayne so it’s cool to think about others from home being such fans of nakedcapitalism.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      QE 4, 5, 6 etc.
      Just don’t see them letting rates rise significantly, in 2008 we owed $9 trillion, now we owe $20 trillion. Debt service matters, and there are no more “bond market vigilantes”, look how they completely dismantled the Wall St bond desks. Japan leads the way, it’s QE 4 EVR, Fed will see a 10% down day in the stock market and will buy hand over fist, they’ll have a new acronym, ASF “American Stability Fund” or something. The Swiss central bank is the new model: it’s a hedge fund and asset roach motel that prints as much money as it likes.

  11. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Deborah Ross: Wikie the whale really wants to say, ‘Go to hell, all of you’ The Times

    We humans are definitely destroying everything.

    But are we projecting here a bit, even if not anthropo-projecting, anthropomorphizing?

    What if the whale, after being slapped, wants to offer the other cheek? The Golden Rule, that sort of ethical response.

    If anything, it’s us humans who need to say to ourselves, go to H****. It would be more typical of our beastly, revenge-seeking (we hurt ourselves, for revenge, ourselves will now hurt us) selves.

  12. allan

    From How the U.S. Is Making the War in Yemen Worse in the New Yorker:

    In May, Trump travelled to Saudi Arabia on his first foreign trip. Amid great pageantry, he posed for a strange photograph with the King, their hands atop a glowing orb, and performed a traditional sword dance. According to documents obtained by the Daily Beast, the Saudis presented Trump with lavish gifts, including robes lined with tiger and cheetah fur. While there, Trump announced a hundred-and-ten-billion-dollar arms deal. Reversing Obama’s decision, precision-guided missiles were included in the package. Trump said that the deal would see “hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.” …

    As Riedel and others pointed out, however, the deal isn’t all that it appears to be. Riedel said that the agreement doesn’t actually commit the Saudis to purchasing arms. With falling oil prices, he said, “where is Saudi Arabia going to get a hundred and ten billion dollars these days to buy more weapons?” …

    To which MBS says, Hold my beer:

    Saudi government says it’s seizing over $100 billion in corruption purge

    Saudi Arabia’s government has arranged to seize over $100 billion in financial settlements with businessmen and officials detained in its crackdown on corruption, the attorney general said on Tuesday. …

    The huge sum, if it is successfully recovered, would be a major financial boost for the government, which has seen its finances strained by low oil prices. The state budget deficit this year is projected at 195 billion riyals.

    The announcement also appeared to represent a political victory for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who launched the purge last November and predicted at the time that it would net about $100 billion in settlements. …

    Insert standard disclaimer that correlation is not causation.

    1. a different chris

      Be nice if we could hit Bezos, Gates etc up for that kindof change. You know, it wouldn’t actually change their lifestyles.

    2. Jim Haygood

      Moreover Brent crude has risen from around $53/bbl during Trump’s visit in late May to $69 today (though this surprising news has not reached the benighted precincts of the New Yorker).

      Multiple streams of income, as ol’ Robert G Allen used to say.

      See y’all at the tiki bar in NEOM city. ;-)

      1. Jim Haygood

        Maybe we’ll get to hang out with ol’ Larry Page under the swaying palms:

        Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil giant and Google parent Alphabet are in talks about jointly building a large technology hub inside the kingdom. As part of the potential joint venture, Alphabet would help Aramco build data centers around Saudi Arabia.

        Senior executives at Aramco and Alphabet have been in talks for months on the potential joint venture. The talks have included Alphabet Chief Executive Larry Page and have been encouraged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is enamored with Silicon Valley and wants to bring more tech expertise to the kingdom.

        Data centers? A likely story!

  13. perpetualPOOR

    Deep Poverty:
    Recently, I visited an old high school friend who still lives in my home town. I hadn’t been back for quite some time. I was literally shocked at the disrepair of many of the homes in the “poors” designated areas. It looked like what I remember of Houston’s slums. Peeling paint, disintingrating porches, rusted cars, roofs with tarps, etc. And this, in Washington, where first-time home buyers can expect to pay $800,000 for a 2 bd/1 bath starter home in Seattle.

    1. Ford Prefect

      I work in environmental remediation and go to sites around the country where old industrial plants have shut down. You would be really stunned at the level of poverty you see in Appalachia and the Deep South in particular. It is Third World-like sometimes. The inner cities are usually a little bit better, but the poverty there is still pretty staggering.

      1. Mark P.

        I’m from the U.K. but have lived predominantly in the U.S. for decades. I sometimes have to explain to Brits — heck, I sometimes explain to delusional ‘exceptionalist’ Americans — that the reality is that much of the U.S. always was and is now a Third World country.

        The Roosevelt and Eisenhower administrations merely laid a thin veil over the Third World nature of much of the U.S. via their electrical, dam and freeway building programs.

        This isn’t to say that the U.S. is entirely Third World. To the contrary. William Gibson’s line about the future being here, just unevenly distributed very much applies.

    2. Earwig

      We recently moved back to our home town in eastern WA. The small town is full of run-down homes that sell dirt cheap. The industrial agriculture that rules the area doesn’t provide enough living-wage jobs to keep those homes in repair, and profits go into the global financial system instead of into local projects. Young people born here have to leave the area after high school in order to survive. Now some of those refugees, like ourselves, are coming back as retirees and helping to support local businesses, etc. The culture shock involved in moving back is the only thing holding back what could become a major wave of reinvestment.

    3. neo-realist

      I was literally shocked at the disrepair of many of the homes in the “poors” designated areas. It looked like what I remember of Houston’s slums. Peeling paint, disintingrating porches, rusted cars, roofs with tarps, etc. And this, in Washington, where first-time home buyers can expect to pay $800,000 for a 2 bd/1 bath starter home in Seattle.

      The disintegrating porches, rusted roofs, roofs with tarps; Auburn? Fife?

      You can probably find something in the low to mid 500K range in South Seattle and SW unincorporated King County, e.g., White Center, Burien.

      Maybe with Amazon HQ2 going somewhere other than Seattle, hopefully those prices will come down a bit more.

  14. Webstir

    “The Truth About Teen Suicide”

    It doesn’t get any more rural than where I live in N. Idaho. And it also doesn’t get any more “insular.”
    That said, I think the discrepancy between suicide rates among urban and rural demographics is best explained though cognitive dissonance.
    Here is an interesting article on the impacts cognitive dissonance can have on the brain:
    Note the Pre-frontal Cortex connection — an area still developing well into our 20’s.

    Now, think about the world rural teens are growing up in today. Rural kids, at least the ones I observe around here, are absolutely bombarded by mixed messages. They see all this shit out there can drastically impact their lives in the future such as climate change and ever widening wealth discrepancies. They are being taught how to respond to these things in school. They see it on social media. They see it on the news.
    BUT! At home, they are being told it’s all lies. You don’t need education. Everyone out there in the world is lying to you. “Stay here” … “stay insular” … “the world is trying to kill our way of life.”

    Our shared cultural literacy has been shattered. Rural teens see this fabulously attractive and sparkly world just beyond their doorstep and their natural reaction is to interact with it. But at the same time they’re being told that to interact with it is to be a traitor to ones own roots.

    It’s a hell of a situation. I’d have hated to try and resolve competing dialogues like this growing up. Splitting a developing childs mind is terrible thing when they have yet to develop the emotional protections necessary to deal with raging cognitive dissonance.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      There is massive cognitive dissonance in the messages all poor and working/middle class kids get about how if they work hard they can have all those sparkly things, when as a matter of fact, few ever will.

    2. ArcadiaMommy

      Shared cultural literacy – this phrasing makes sense to me. My relatives in the south and midwest love visiting us here in AZ and CA. They take advantage of visiting our club, using my credit card at the fabulous grocery store, marveling at the trail system out our back gate, that the airport is reasonably pleasant, etc. But they tell us how much they “hate liberal ideas” (actual quote from my aunt, who is otherwise a lovely person who would move a mountain to help you).

      I would love to figure out why they can’t connect “liberal” ideas with a better standard of living.

      1. Duke of Prunes

        “I would love to figure out why they can’t connect “liberal” ideas with a better standard of living.”

        Maybe it’s because they’ve visited Detroit, Chicago or many other decaying cities that have long been ruled by the “liberals” (i.e. unless you’re paying attention, liberal = democrat ).

  15. The Rev Kev

    How #MeToo could knock the Clintons off the 2018 map

    I hadn’t really thought about it but upon reflection, the non-appearances of the Clintons is quite remarkable. You can understand Bill Clinton’s reluctance as his misdeeds with women are finally catching up to him as mentioned in the article. I guess here that you just can’t teach an old blue dog new tricks. Hillary’s non-appearances have even been more remarkable dating back to her non-appearance to her supporters on the night that she lost the election. She went out into the woods and met some people who, it turned out, had relationships with her already. I don’t recall her at the Women’s March nor at any Resistance rallies much. She did appear at the Grammys to mock Trump but that was just playing to her crowd. You would think that she would either take a leading position against the Republicans or just become an honoured semi-retired statesmen on the political scene but neither has happened. Maybe both of them are clearing the field a bit with the eventual entry of Chelsea to make her way onto the scene in mind.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I think that the reason is much more simple: The health problems she displayed on the campaign trail, most notably the 9/11 collapse, are catching up with her.

    2. integer

      Hillary’s non-appearances have even been more remarkable dating back to her non-appearance to her supporters on the night that she lost the election.

      She delivered her concession speech the day after her defeat wearing a royal purple suit with peaked lapels, which, wrt politics, supposedly symbolize that the wearer is an insider for life. She then toured her What Happened book IIRC.

    3. ambrit

      I’m wondering if Chelsea herself has been consulted about this.
      Do Chelseas’ parents expect her to adopt a philosophy of “Nouveau Riche Oblige?”

    4. John D.

      The Clintons have always been a team. Always. (I remember a funny political cartoon back in the day that showed a cowering Bill hiding behind a very smug looking Hillary when they started feeling heat over his, er, ‘indiscretions.’) And she hates admitting to being wrong, or even to making simple mistakes. There is no way she’s going to cop to covering for his horndog nature, even the less damaging incidents that involved consensual playmates, never mind the nastier episodes. The recent unpleasantness with her “spiritual advisor” is part and parcel of the same arrogance. What, you think Hillary should actually be held accountable to her supposed principles as a feminist? What are you, some kinda sexist/misogynist/mansplain/rapist?

      1. Harold

        Her supporters are telling her (on Facebook) that she is the real president. Just as she referred to her husband as the president when Obama was in office, as I recall.

      2. Bill

        Patti Solis Doyle in the video looked absolutely trapped and terrified. I get that. I have worked for people like Hillary and experienced their ruthless protection of their image, no matter what actually happens behind closed doors, and they surround themselves with halo polishers. One of them tried to utterly destroy my life when she realized I was not with her program and she could not get a hold on me. She was a local petty tyrant, but still had some power to make a few years difficult for me. Hillary’s position and wealth mean everything to her. So what if she and Bill stepped on some people along the way…

    5. beth

      I wish what you say is true (about the Clintons) but yet they have come to my metro to speak twice. Each time they had a photo of the two of them in the newspaper I read as an advertisement. I suspect they are only coming to places where HRC did particularly well in 2016.

      Say it’s not true.

      1. foghorn longhorn

        Drag a hundred dollar bill thru a trailer park and what do you find?


        The clintoons

  16. Eureka Springs

    America Is Not a Democracy

    The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”


    The last sentence renders the entire exercise of both writing the article and reading it to be worthless as a hamster spinning a wheel thinking it might actually be going somewhere.

    Only by embarking on bold and imaginative reform can we recover a democracy worthy of the name.

    We can’t recover something we never had.

    1. Summer

      And that’s been a problem for organizing.
      It’s fundamental. Strategizing to develop something new is different than strategizing to reform something that exists.

    2. Katy

      A few months back when I was still on Facebook, I read a different article that also reported the statistically non-significant impact of people’s opinions on public policy. I was so excited! One of my last Facebook posts said basically, “you all can stop posting angry political messages on Facebook, because your opinions literally don’t matter!” It was a great relief to me.

      And then I quit Facebook.

  17. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: Respecting Life in a Time of Transgender Robots and ‘Pet Parents’ National Catholic Register. Dr. Kevin: “t was only a matter of time before pro-lifers turned on the robots.”

    “But now, the goalposts have moved, with artificial intelligence, animals, and even bodies of water considered human……”

    Quite a list. But conspicuously absent from the lament is that relatively new humanoid deserving of “rights”–the corporation. Considering this is a publication of the catholic “church,” I’m not surprised.

    Also too, shoehorning in a little universal healthcare may have lent some credibility to this lame update of a badly broken record.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I’m with them on the questioning of the “pet parent” concept.

      I mean, come on. Unless you whelped that dog or, ummm, made it possible for that tomcat’s sperm to do what’s needed for conception to take place, you’re not the animal’s parent. That’s just basic biology.

  18. hemeantwell


    Researchers Discover ‘Anxiety Cells’ In The Brain NPR

    I fear that eventually the fate suffered by the psychoanalytic account of the complexity of at least some forms of anxiety will be shared by even the most rudimentary, Pavlovian models. The article doesn’t waste a word on the possibility that anxiety might stem from ideas about the way the world works. The useful distinction between fear, as in an uncomplicated reaction to an external threat, and anxiety, which can open up the question of worries about how changes in one’s conduct might set off a calamity disappears. Science writing like this could be useful in getting the writer a spot on a Black Mirror script team, but otherwise it’s just another excited post from the Ministry of Physiological Subjectivity.

  19. Jason Boxman

    Regarding H1-Bs, the column explicitly pointing out that one tactic to avoid finding qualified Americans is to use non native speaking recruiters resonates loudly for me. I get endless streams of emails and occasional phone calls from recruiters with heavy Indian accents from no-name recruiters trying to fill positions. I always thought this was merely because these recruiters under priced more reputable firms. But perhaps not always.

    My only experience with employment through on of these firms, was a hopelessly inept experience. Everyone was friendly, but incredibly incompetent. I was never sure week to week if I’d actually get paid, they screwed up my health insurance and I lived in terror that I’d not have any (which is life and death in America), they screwed up at least one pay check, not to mention other things. Some of these errors were in my favor, so I rode those for what they were worth.

    This recruiter was working for Accenture, which handles outsourcing projects for large tech companies, such as Google. (At Google they call these workers “vendors”, and there are a _lot_ of them.)

    So the overall experience was poor, in any case.

    But now I wonder how many of these calls I get are make-work so the company employing the recruiters can claim no one qualified can be found. (Some large companies farm out their positions, and I’ll get a dozen calls for the same one. Disney is particularly guilty of this, and I was contacted over 20 times by different people for a job there that paid awful.)

    The calls I get are for “contracting” jobs, where you’re a W2 employee of the contracting firm. (So a contractor in name only, as your direct report is actually at the company paying the contracting firm and your role is typically perpetual, with a 6 month or annual renewal.)

    1. ChrisPacific

      I disagree with a few points in the article, but I agree with the central thesis: H1-Bs are used by American employers to get the benefit of having skilled workers without needing to afford them the rights and protections enjoyed by US residents and citizens, and also to weaken the position of said residents and citizens. (You may not be able to legally pay H1-Bs a lower wage than an American worker, but if you can use H1-Bs to force Americans to work for lower wages then you’ve achieved more or less the same thing without breaking the law).

      He is correct that people can apply under the O-1 category or one of the EB categories, but those are vastly more difficult to get than H1-B, which is kind of the point. US employers don’t really want workers who are new US citizens or residents. Having a workforce that is largely transient and disempowered suits them just fine.

  20. camelotkidd

    Robert Parry’s speech is very instructive, and helps explain why he’s still under attack by PropOrNot after his untimely death.

    “But what we began to see was something that was unusual I think even for Washington – certainly it was unusual in my experience – a very nasty, often ad hominem attack on the journalists who were not playing along.”

    Parry also makes an important point about the self-censorship that occurs in the corporate media.

    “So the message was quite clearly made apparent to those of us working on this topic that when you tried to tell the American people what was happening, you put your career at risk, which may not seem like a lot to some people, but you know, reporters are like everybody else I guess – they have mortgages and families and so forth and they don’t really want to lose their jobs – I mean it’s not something they aspire to. And the idea of success is to keep one of these jobs and there are a lot of interesting perks that go with it, a certain amount of esteem, you know, as well as you get paid pretty well. Those jobs in Washington – you can often be making six figures at some of the major publications, so it’s not something you readily or easily throw away, from that working level.”

  21. marym

    Labor Dept. Ditches Data on Worker Tips Retained by Businesses

    Labor Department leadership scrubbed an unfavorable internal analysis from a new tip pooling proposal, shielding the public from estimates that showed employees could lose out on billions of dollars in gratuities, four current and former DOL sources tell Bloomberg Law.

    The agency shelved the economic analysis, compiled by DOL staff, from a December proposal to scrap an Obama administration rule. The proposal would permit tip pooling arrangements that involve restaurant servers and other workers who make tips and back-of-the-house workers who don’t. It sparked outrage from worker advocates who said the move would permit management to essentially skim gratuities by participating in the pools themselves.

    The move to drop the analysis means workers, businesses, advocacy groups, and others who want to weigh in on the tip pool proposal will have to do so without seeing the government’s estimate first. The public notice-and-comment period for the proposal is set to end Feb. 5.

  22. Grumpy Engineer

    Is a Transition to Renewable Energy on the Verge of Being Unstoppable?

    This headline given to this article is incorrect. It should instead be written as “Is a Partial Transition to Renewable Energy on the Verge of Being Unstoppable?“.

    The article describes an electrical grid where renewable power gets first generating priority, but whenever it falls short, conventional gas-fired turbines are used in a “back-fill” role to meed electrical demand. The article shows how this would work for a favorable day in August, and it looks like renewable power would meet ~40% of the demand. On an calm and cloudy day in the middle of winter, renewable power will meet 0%. On average, we’d realistically expect renewable power to supply about 20%, and gas-fired turbines to supply the remaining 80%. This is hardly a complete transition to renewable power.

    And the economic viability of this scheme is dependent on the “probably long-lasting low natural gas prices“. Long-lasting low natural gas prices are completely dependent on fracking. Why am I underwhelmed by the awesomeness of this solution?

    The tip-off that this was a “less than half-baked” solution was lack of discussion around energy storage solutions. To transition completely to renewable energy will require energy storage on a truly massive scale. Any article on renewable power that doesn’t spend extensive time on energy storage (and the associated costs) is hawking incomplete solutions.

    1. polecat

      A question I have regarding ANY ‘break-throughs’ in battery storage capacity that no one seems to be broaching is this: Is anyone even considering the probable negative effects of production/manufacture on a global scale, with, no doubt, what would be a NEW waste stream being added to what is already an over-burdened ecosystem … as just one example of what the ‘War of Progress’ is doing to us??

      You know …. unintended consequences and all that !

  23. hemeantwell

    Re teen suicide, that the article helps to put the kabosh on a self-marketing horntooter like Twenge by spotting the correlation with adult suicide levels is useful. But as far as the rural/urban question goes, the fact that some measure of class is missing gives me pause. The author seems to start to get to the Deaton-Case frame but that doesn’t make it to the graphs. Too bad.

  24. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: Why Amazon Go should be a no-go: We will drown in a sea of plastic TreeHugger (resilc)

    It’s strange. You’d think that the people most likely to shop at a place like amazon go (I’m thinking young, “hip,” tech-savvy) would be the very same people who’d be most likely to recognize the scope of the problem.

    Or so they’d have you believe.

  25. argonut

    Re: ‘This is over’: Puigdemont’s Catalan independence doubts caught on camera. Guardian

    This looks to me like an orchestrated ploy so the Spanish authorities drop their guard. These past 2 weeks the Guardia Civil have reinforced their control of the border with France, and the Policia Nacional have been controlling all of the exits from the AP7 (the only thoroughfare/motorway from France to Barcelona and beyond [the black stump] –Spain) all, in order to prevent Puigdemont’s return. So. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Carlos P appear at his investiture, which has been postponed until next week. And then what? Are they going to try and storm the Catalan Parliament and Palau to arrest him? If so, expect the situation to explode. I’m resident here, in the heartland of the ‘indepes’, Puigdemont’s old stomping ground, and word is, on the ground, the grass-roots are preparing or ‘unearthing’.

    1. Oregoncharles

      We thought that before, and nothing happened. Granted, this time they have the legitimacy of a proper election, courtesy of Rajoy.

      The logical outcome of this situation is civil war. It’s due, since the people who actually remember the last one have died off now.

    2. Jesus Martinez

      A few comments here after months of avoiding the subject, even with like-minded friends (such was the feeling of defeat between October and the 21 December elections):

      1-There is a division in the independence movement: Puigmontists and long-termists: I am a long-termist, because I think that both demographics and general political dynamics will benefit the pro-independence side in the long run, but at the same time something inside me wants Puigdemont reinstated. It would be a slap on the face of the Spanish government that could trigger a change of government and dynamics in Spanish politics, they might soften a bit, a debate might open in Madrid that could make the situation easier for us (all marginal issues, but still, an easing of the political environment).

      2-On the other hand, having Puigdemont back and politically active means a short-term bid to flesh out the Republican institutions. You just can’t do that with a 48% of the vote. If we had a proper referendum tomorrow, no matter the conditions, we would win. I am fully convinced of this and there are good reasons to think so. But we are not going to have one, so we need to keep pushing through regular elections.

      3-There is a lot of talk of getting our institutions back: basically, to have the application of article 155 of the Constitution withdrawn: it may be withdrawn on a day-to-day basis, but the threat of its use is going always to be there, and that changes the whole institutional design of the Estado de las Autonomías – the sort of federal arrangement currently in place. The new normal is a situation of exceptional disruption of the meager self-government that we had until October.

      4-There is a hardening of positions on both sides of the line, but I don’t see political violence so far from the pro-independence side, and I think that we should stay put in that respect. There are, though, more and more reports of violence from right-wing activists emboldened (and I would say encouraged) by the Spanish government. In that respect, there was a comical case, sometime in October, where far-right FC Valencia and At.Madrid supporters clashed in the centre of Barcelona on a day when those teams were not playing in Barcelona: so it seems that both groups decided to go on a holiday to Barcelona on the same days (I think it wasn’t even on a weekend!) and… oooopsy! they got into a fight. If it wasn’t for the fight, who would have known that they were visiting us?
      There are worse cases and messages sent by people that could not possibly be a bunch of thugs like those.

      3-Local hard-line unionists have become more outspoken, too. I still think that they are an emboldened minority. And just as before October the doubts were on the solidity of the pro-independence movement, now I think that the Ciudadanos vote has been inflated and that it amalgamates very diverse positions. It could go down easily if they don’t gain a government position in Madrid. And long-term trends in Catalan society favour pro-independence positions.

      4-We failed in October because we had a 48 % of the vote. The Catalan government pushed for a referendum, but repression made the results unacceptable by the international community and (critically) by most unionists in Catalonia. Once there is no referendum, you can’t ethically push for street action when you don’t have 50%+ of the vote; you can’t politically push for street action when you don’t have 55%+ of the vote; and, given the Spanish government hard-line position) you can’t realistically push for street action when you don’t have 60%+ of the vote. I think that we are not too far from those figures, but we need some years to achieve them.

      5-As a note on the side, regarding the hard-line position of the Spanish government in October: it is an anecdote that has no names on it, and I only have heard it from one source (here, in Catalan), but, still… it goes like this: when the 1 October repression was questioned by a senior EU officer, a senior Spanish officer (presumably Minister-level) replied that that was Spain’s position, and that if necessary, Spain would quit the EU. Unity was more important for Spain than EU membership. I am not saying that that they would actually opt for quitting (no one has even discussed that in Spain), I am saying that their hard-line posturing was quite bold and apparently convincing behind closed doors.

      So, I am just sitting and waiting for events in the next years to develop and see where they lead. I will keep voting for independence, and so will a growing number of Catalans. We’ll see what that gives in the long run.

  26. a different chris

    You can tell where power lays in our society. Now, it can shift! Anyway, compare and contrast the gummints obsequious responses to the Automated Car Revolution – “Need your own streets? Need some pesky regulations ignored?” “Done!” with the need for nat gas because “renewables can’t do baseline”.

    They could – and maybe will, once the renewable people get enough political clout – review and redo an 19th century electrical grid, for a world of cell phones and laptops. What do we actually need to baseline would be question #1. But for now: Nope. Can’t do it.

    1. nycTerrierist

      Biden needs to be called out on this atrocity at any opportunity.

      Whenever I see his family-blog eating grin, I think he’s screwed over a generation.
      Shame on him.

      1. Phil in KC

        I recall ole Joe used to be called the Senator from Mastercard (D). Not only did he help make student debt irrevocable, he also made it more difficult to declare bankruptcy. All in service of the Delaware-based credit/loan/banking institutions, his corporate masters.

        He can be quite a charmer, but I won’t be fooled again. I want Democrats to act like Democrats of yore. That is, be on the side of the average Joe.

  27. DJG

    CJR: Coverage of foreign events, free lances, Trump, and lack of opportunity: I tend to doubt that the problem is Trump filling the editorial hole. The problem is the decline of newspapers, the bean-counter mindset, the flimsiness of any project overly dependent on free lances, and some notable lapses of editorial standards (likely from bad habits with regard to the care of free lances).

    From the article, some highly unprofessional behavior among the periodicals Sulome Anderson works for. >>

    Convinced she had struck gold, she was elated when the piece was commissioned by a dream publication she’d never written for before. But days later, that publication rescinded its decision, saying that Sulome had done too much of the reporting before she was commissioned. Sulome was in shock. She went on to pitch the story to eight other publications, and no one was interested.

    Now, some publications are refusing to commission stories in which the reporter already took the risk of doing the reporting on spec. Believing that this will discourage freelancers from putting their lives in danger, this policy adds to the problem more than it solves it.

    According to Nathalie Applewhite, managing director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the lack of international coverage has become a real problem for Pulitzer grant recipients….. Grant applicants, Applewhite adds, are finding it harder to get commitments from editors to publish their work upon completion of their reporting.

    Or, as Naked Capitalism has dubbed it: Crapification. And this last one stood out as total crapification–not even enough curiosity to get her a sponsorship letter, which is a bureacratic exercise?

    Sulome arranged travel to Turkey, where she would cross the border into Kurdistan. Yet to do that, she needed an official letter from the news agency that was sending her there. Despite several emails communicating this to the editor, he never responded. Not willing to take the risk of crossing the border without it, Sulome cancelled her trip.

  28. RWood

    Forward, Rocinante! where ‘ere that may be…

    Regarding Robert and Sulome
    This speaks again to collapse:
    “What I think is the bottom line of both books is that we are in great danger of losing our grasp of reality as a nation.”

    (grips broomhandle)

    As energy cos that will destroy environment, creating physical destruction “because the economy,” the moral decrepitude of news cos is such that their owners and management have and will continue to destroy, pollute, public consensus, the ethical nation, for the sake of their positions as autocrats, as plutocrats, for their allegiance to their mastery of the class war — and in fealty to that persistent layer above them — “Sometimes we have to do what’s good for the country.” means for the existing structure and their place in it.

  29. ChiGal in Carolina

    Wow, just wow on the How Not to Die piece. And as the author says:

    I am lucky not for surviving the infection, but for being a member of a shrinking class of Americans whose lives can absorb a trauma of this magnitude, and for whom being thrown, insensible, into the system is actually a good thing.

    p.s. sweet antidote!

  30. Jim Haygood

    This morning Bloomberg Consumer Comfort blew out to its highest level since March 2001. Stirring in a fresh high in industrial materials prices, and another plunge in 4-week average unemployment claims (signifying economic strength), Ed Yardeni’s fundamental indicator rocketed to a new high for this expansion. Chart:

    Atlanta Fed’s GDP Now is ecstatic, forecasting 4.2% growth in 2018’s first quarter as recession worries take a back seat.

    1. John k

      Spending high as holiday credit card debt spiked y/y and savings plunged y/y.
      Other bank loans down 2/3.
      What can’t continue won’t.
      But that was yesterday… tomorrow is higher rates. Long bond bumping against 3 resistance, fear of 2x issuance… who will buy? I’ll take some… high rates bring the end of this cycle sooner… whenever that happens exporters catch cold, long bond discovers new low.

  31. nycTerrierist

    Bonus dog Bobbi is precious! ran away from home, owner ‘didn’t want him’

    He’s safe and available for adoption from Romania — Int’l adoptions welcome!

    1. argonut

      Yeah, sweet doggy, but I hated the manipulative, maudlin presentation. Equates to emotional psyops. Bobbi deserves better.

      1. JerseyJeffersonian

        Bobbi deserves a loving home, first & foremost. If a little “emotional psyops” are involved in swaying someone to give that home to another sentient being, well then, bring ’em on. It is not some useless widget that is being huckstered, after all.

  32. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Researchers Discover ‘Anxiety Cells’ In The Brain NPR (David L)

    That can’t be all good news…as Big Business and Big Government Departments (The Propaganda Ministry, etc) use that new knowledge to (further) sedate the serfs.

  33. Adrienne

    Another great photo essay from Granola Shotgun, about salvaging what we’ve got of our urban/suburban landscapes:

    So here’s my Reno epiphany. Almost every place in America has the same basic qualities. If you’re in Rockford, Illinois or Columbus, Georgia or Denton, Texas or Missoula, Montana the same buffet of potential options are on offer – give or take a few regional variations. There’s a medical center, a half assed downtown, some kind of college, an interstate to a bigger city not too far away, and maybe a second or third tier airport. The future of America is all about salvaging what we already have piecemeal over the next century.

    1. cocomaan

      Love this essay.

      This is why in my old age I’m attracted to rural spaces. Nature is threatening there. As Aldo Leopold said, wilderness is never made to order.

        1. Adrienne

          @cocomaan and Arizona, Granola Shotgun is a great blog. He writes a lot about resilience, community, and practical efforts towards self-sufficiency. Johnny doesn’t post too often and it’s always a treat to see one in my inbox.

    2. ArcadiaMommy

      I lived in that hellhole for 6 years. Many of these sights are familiar. What a place. At least we lived up towards Incline Village/Tahoe so we could have some greenery and were out of the wind. I couldn’t have survived it without monthly trips to SF. I would have anxiety in the winter because it would be uncertain if we could get over the mountain for my city time.

      The photographer has captured the sad, decrepit atmosphere well. At least we got to ski a lot.

  34. Polar Donkey

    Yesterday, something interesting happened on a sports talk radio show I was listening too. The hosts were playing with a website called twitter audit. It tells you how many twitter followers a person has are bots. The hosts put in some other radio hosts and journalists. But then they did the president of the local university. The president says he has 90,000 followers. Turns out 88,000 were bots. Why would a university president fake his twitter account?

  35. Synoia

    How #MeToo could knock the Clintons off the 2018 map

    Limited role for Hillary?

    How about fitting her with a scold? With an accompanying rack for Bill?

  36. Oregoncharles

    “How Not to Die in America” is a great piece, really impressive; harrowing reading. She manages to lard the personal account with a lot of useful information, like: ” I am not one of the 28 million Americans who are completely uninsured, or one of the 45,000 people who die every year for lack of coverage. I am not one of the 3/4 of U.S. citizens who don’t have access to paid sick leave, and I don’t live in one of the 45 states without short-term disability plans. I’m not one of the 30 percent of insured consumers who are slapped with hefty surprise bills after a hospital visit.

    IOW, Obamacare kills 45,000 people a year, precisely because it left 28 million in the lurch. Great achievement!

  37. ChrisPacific

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the Sam Coates Brexit tweetstorm (this is a fairly common reaction from me to anything Brexit related). Whitehall thinks that it might weaken their negotiating position if they prepare a ‘no deal’ bill that demonstrates to Brussels how awful the no deal scenario would be. (Earth to Whitehall: I suspect Brussels probably already has a pretty good idea). So rather than prepare for a no deal scenario by introducing a bill that highlights the alarming consequences for all to see, they have decided to… (drumroll) …make no preparation for a no deal scenario at all!

    But don’t worry, maintaining the current free access of UK trucking to the EU is clearly in the interest of both parties [even though the EU has repeatedly stated that the UK can’t expect to retain free access to markets if their red lines are respected, and it’s not clear why trucking should be an exception] so of course there will be a deal. Making contingency plans for the failure of a deal that can’t possibly happen is certain to happen is a big waste of everyone’s time!

  38. The Rev Kev

    Women Once Ruled the Computer World. When Did Silicon Valley Become Brotopia?

    Reading how those psychologists, William Cannon and Dallis Perry actually recommended hiring people that had an antisocial trend was nothing short of weird. That actually became a hiring criteria? Well, that explains a lot such as why Silicon Valley is full of dysfunctional people producing dysfunctional software and being led by dysfunctional billionaires. I read that Bill Gates used to get into full-on shouting matches with his coders and that the company wanted it that way. They are not getting better with their hiring criteria either. They are actually hiring autistic people to become coders as well as a criteria.
    You wonder what would have happened if those two shrinks had come up with different criteria. What if they said that paranoid people made great programmers? Could you imagine what working would have been like in Silicon valley by now? Or what their software might have been like? Remember that German orchestra that wanted to hire women but could not work out why more men were being hired? Until they held blind try-outs for new people in the orchestra so that the hirers couldn’t see the people playing the music. And then found that new hires were fifty-fifty men and women then?
    What if they had simply tested new hires to see if they could do the job or not. No names, faces or whatever. Just have new hires put in front of a ‘puter and give them a series of coding puzzles and the like. If you can do the job, it was yours. If not, thank you for attending. You better believe that the working force of Silicon Valley would be completely different by now.

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