Links 11/14/19

Shelter cat put in solitary confinement for ‘repeatedly’ letting other cats out The Mirror. Good kitty!

His 22-pound cat was too fat to fly. So he called in an understudy. Seattle Times

Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal The Hill

Next in Google’s Quest for Consumer Dominance: Banking WSJ. Clive comments:

As usual, you have to read half way through to find out what’s really being proposed by Google, in terms of a product or service offer. The answer to which is “nothing”.

“Our approach is going to be to partner deeply with banks and the financial system,” Caesar Sengupta, Google’s general manager of payments [said]”

Apart from a splitting an infinitive, what does “partner deeply” mean from a product or service proposition? So Google offers, potentially, a native-level (kernel level software stack) integration into Android. Assuming the competition authorities — especially in the EU — don’t show it a red card and insist on it being un-bundled. But even if it is deemed permissible, every bank offers an app to access its own interface to their back-end systems. The marginal increase in convenience that a customer of an existing bank gets through not having to, oh, the arduousness of it, download an app from Google Play is offset by handing over whatever data Google sees fit to pilfer from you. Maybe people were trusting enough not to smell something bad about this 10 years ago. Not now.

Why the US economy isn’t as competitive or free as you think Martin Wolf, FT and Why is American internet access so much more expensive than the rest of the world? The Verge

Gougers ‘R’ Us: How Private Equity Is Gobbling Up Medical Care The American Conservative. “This article was supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.”

Breaking: Private Equity company acquires .Org registry Domain Name Wire

Do You Know Who Owns Your Debt? GQ (UserFriendly).

Unrest at French universities after student sets himself alight over debts Guardian (Re Silc).

David Hughes’ Shale Reality Check 2019 Post Carbon Institute (TH).

Switching Power Grid to DC Could Boost its Capacity Machine Design (TW). Readers?

Mist Showers: Sustainable Decadence? Low Tech Magazine. Neat!

Brexit

UK Brexit Party rejects electoral pact with Conservatives Associated Press

‘I would burn in hell before returning’ – why British teachers are fleeing overseas Guardian

Syraqistan

How Israeli spy tech reaches deep into our lives Middle East Eye

From Iraq to Chile, the people are rising up against neoliberalism Middle East Eye

China?

Hong Kong Protest Photos: Tear Gas and Fires on a Day of Campus Clashes NYT. Including The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). The Times misses the story, badly:

 

The Hong Kong Protesters Aren’t Driven by Hope The Atlantic. “China may have wanted to make an example out of [Xinjiang], but the lesson Hong Kongers took was in the other direction—resist with all your might, because if you lose once, there will be a catastrophe for your people, and the world will ignore it.”

Evolution of a protestor: resistance as an ‘occupation’ – “We must turn our grief into action.” We Are HKers. Interesting on the protesters’ support structure.

China’s messaging against the Hong Kong protests has found a new outlet: PornHub Quartz

* * *
Beijing’s plan to tighten its grip on Hong Kong could spell the end of China’s economic dream South China Morning Post

China’s digital currency not seeking ‘full control’ of individuals’ details: central bank official Reuters [nods vigorously].

India

Narrowing options in Jammu and Kashmir The Hindu

India and Japan to cement relations with new security deal Nikkei Asian Review

New Cold War

In Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy must tread carefully or may end up facing another Maidan uprising The Conversation. Fiona, we’re gonna need you to get right on this, first thing Friday morning.

Almost 70% of Russians are concerned about growth of social injustice — poll TASS

General strike and huge marches bring Chile to new standstill Sidney Morning Herald

Chile Plans $4 Billion of Currency Swaps to Boost Plunging Peso Bloomberg

Bolivia: Jeanine Añez claims presidency after ousting of Evo Morales Guardian

What happened in Bolivia? Was there a coup? Systemic Alternatives v. Bolivia: The Extreme Right Takes Advantage of a Popular Uprising Toward Freedom

NACLA Statement on the Coup in Bolivia: In Solidarity with Bolivians Resisting Military Intervention and Right-Wing Violence NACLA

Race is Central to Both Revolution and Reaction in Latin America Black Agenda Report

Impeachment

On Capitol Hill, Old-School Washington Keeps Circus at Bay NYT. Wait. The dude in the floppy bow tie who thinks Ukraine is Valley Forge isn’t one of the clowns?

Plenty of substance but little drama on first day of impeachment hearings NBC

Fiona Hill Fails The Truth Test — Reveals Her Value As A Kremlin Asset Dances With Bears (mauisurfer) v. Summary of Fiona Hill’s Deposition Testimony LawFare

Trump vs. the ‘Policy Community’ Andrew McCarthy, The National Review

Not ‘intelligence’: Mystery professor Joseph Mifsud appears to turn up in new audio claiming to be a ‘networker’ Washington Examiner. It’s very odd that Mifsud has never been interviewed (and doesn’t seem to be seeking a book deal). “Mystery professor” is a fair description.

More than 100 National Security and Foreign Policy Experts Call on Congress to Tackle Anonymous Shell Companies (letter) (PDF) The Fact Coalition

Trump Transition

U.S. to Revisit Greenland Approach in D.C. Meeting With Danes Bloomberg

Boeing abandons its failed fuselage robots on the 777X, handing the job back to machinists Seattle Times. Maybe Boeing won’t be able to crapify the 777 after all.

Migration

The migrant debt cycle WaPo. Microloans….

Imperial Collapse Watch

Stealthy Lockheed F-35 Breaks Down Too Often, Pentagon Says Bloomberg

Sports Desk

Dolphins, Lions planning to attend Kaepernick’s NFL audition Reuters. Disgusting that the NFL owner goons wouldn’t let him play.

Guillotine Watch

New Analysis Shows Billionaires’ Dream of Space Tourism Would Be Disaster for Emissions, Climate Crisis Common Dreams. Everything’s going according to plan!

Google’s former CEO just committed another $1 billion to charity. But he’s spending it on buzzwords. Recode. The deck: “Schmidt could save an estimated 240,000 lives instead.”

Class Warfare

Minnesota school threw out hot meals of students with over $15 lunch debt, then apologized NBC

United States should make a massive investment in AI, top Senate Democrat says Science. Schumer proposes new subsidies for the California oligarch branch of the Democrat donor class. Clue stick, Chuck: Silicon Valley can handle bezzles all on its own, with no help from big gummint.

Can a Machine Learn to Write for The New Yorker? The New Yorker

Antidote du jour (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

197 comments

    1. polecat

      Those 777 hulls should make a most excellent headquarters for any future ruinmen guilds … I think JMGreer was on to something when he wrote Stars Reach.

      Reply
  1. John A

    Re new cold war and Ukraine. Note how the authors talk about the ‘much needed reforms’ that include the perennial favourites of cuts to education, healthcare, social security, employee rights, etc. Amazing how a formula that has never worked for anyone except for the 1% keeps getting promoted in more countries.

    Reply
  2. The Rev Kev

    “Switching Power Grid to DC Could Boost its Capacity”

    This story has a bit of history to it. Back in the 1890s there was a battle between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison as to which form of electricity to adopt. Tesla favoured adopting AC while Edison advocated for DC but it was Tesla that won this competition and the rest is history-

    https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/tesla-vs-edison-the-ac-dc-current-wars-make-a-comeback

    Unfortunately history does not record who Edison stole the idea of DC from.

    Reply
    1. dearieme

      1890s? USA? Come, come. WKPD:

      Incandescent light bulbs … the most successful early bulbs were those that used a carbon filament sealed in a high vacuum. These were invented by Joseph Swan in 1878 in Britain …
      Swan’s house, in Low Fell, Gateshead, was the world’s first to have working light bulbs installed. The Lit & Phil Library in Newcastle, was the first public room lit by electric light, and the Savoy Theatre was the first public building in the world lit entirely by electricity.

      Not only
      The first central station providing public power is believed to be one at Godalming, Surrey, U.K. autumn 1881. The system was proposed after the town failed to reach an agreement on the rate charged by the gas company, so the town council decided to use electricity. The system lit up arc lamps on the main streets and incandescent lamps on a few side streets with hydroelectric power. By 1882 between 8 and 10 households were connected, with a total of 57 lights. …

      The first large scale central distribution supply plant was opened at Holborn Viaduct in London in 1882. Equipped with 1000 incandescent lightbulbs that replaced the older gas lighting, the station lit up Holborn Circus including the offices of the General Post Office and the famous City Temple church. The supply was a direct current at 110 V; due to power loss in the copper wires, this amounted to 100 V for the customer.
      Within weeks, a parliamentary committee recommended passage of the landmark 1882 Electric Lighting Act, which allowed the licensing of persons, companies or local authorities to supply electricity for any public or private purposes.

      But also
      Although the first power stations supplied direct current, the distribution of alternating current soon became the most favored option. The main advantages of AC were that it could be transformed to high voltage to reduce transmission losses and that AC motors could easily run at constant speeds.

      Alternating current technology was rooted in Michael Faraday 1830–31 discovery that a changing magnetic field can induce an electric current in a circuit. The first person to conceive of a rotating magnetic field was Walter Baily who gave a workable demonstration of his battery-operated polyphase motor aided by a commutator on June 28, 1879 to the Physical Society of London.

      It was in the 1880s that the technology was commercially developed for large scale electricity generation and transmission. In 1882 the British inventor and electrical engineer Sebastian de Ferranti, working for the company Siemens collaborated with the distinguished physicist Lord Kelvin to pioneer AC power technology including an early transformer.


      Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti went into this business in 1882 when he set up a shop in London designing various electrical devices. Ferranti believed in the success of alternating current power distribution early on, and was one of the few experts in this system in the UK. With the help of Lord Kelvin, Ferranti pioneered the first AC power generator and transformer in 1882. John Hopkinson, a British physicist, invented the three-wire (three-phase) system for the distribution of electrical power, for which he was granted a patent in 1882.

      The first AC power station was built by the English electrical engineer Sebastian de Ferranti. In 1887 the London Electric Supply Corporation hired Ferranti for the design of their power station at Deptford. He designed the building, the generating plant and the distribution system. It was built at the Stowage, a site to the west of the mouth of Deptford Creek once used by the East India Company. Built on an unprecedented scale and pioneering the use of high voltage (10,000 V) AC current, it generated 800 kilowatts and supplied central London. On its completion in 1891 it was the first truly modern power station, supplying high-voltage AC power that was then “stepped down” with transformers for consumer use on each street. This basic system remains in use today around the world.

      Reply
      1. dearieme

        P.S. That was me being as parochial as an American. In fact there were various valuable contributions along the way by Krauts, Frogs, and Eyeties. But in the “First!” stakes the highlights are those pasted above.

        Two more “Firsts!” were:

        The modern steam turbine was invented in 1884 by the British Sir Charles Parsons, whose first model was connected to a dynamo that generated 7.5 kW (10 hp) of electricity. The invention … made cheap and plentiful electricity possible. Parsons turbines were widely introduced in English central stations by 1894; the first electric supply company in the world to generate electricity using turbo generators was Parsons’ own electricity supply company Newcastle and District Electric Lighting Company, set up in 1894.Within Parson’s lifetime, the generating capacity of a unit was scaled up by about 10,000 times.

        With the realization of long distance power transmission it was possible to interconnect different central stations to balance loads and improve load factors. Interconnection became increasingly desirable as electrification grew rapidly in the early years of the 20th century.
        Charles Merz, of the Merz & McLellan consulting partnership, built the Neptune Bank Power Station near Newcastle upon Tyne in 1901, and by 1912 had developed into the largest integrated power system in Europe. In 1905 he tried to influence Parliament to unify the variety of voltages and frequencies in the country’s electricity supply industry, but it was not until World War I that Parliament began to take this idea seriously, appointing him head of a Parliamentary Committee to address the problem. In 1916 Merz pointed out that the UK could use its small size to its advantage, by creating a dense distribution grid to feed its industries efficiently. His findings led to the Williamson Report of 1918, which in turn created the Electricity Supply Bill of 1919. The bill was the first step towards an integrated electricity system in the UK.
        The more significant Electricity (Supply) Act of 1926, led to the setting up of the National Grid. The Central Electricity Board standardised the nation’s electricity supply and established the first synchronised AC grid, running at 132 kilovolts and 50 Hertz. This started operating as a national system, the National Grid, in 1938.

        Reply
        1. inode_buddha

          What frightens me is that I heard not one word of all this in all of my education, here in the USA back in the 1970’s and 80’s.

          If they are that good at blanking out a chunk of history, then what else have they manipulated?

          Reply
          1. Lord Koos

            During my time in public schools I don’t recall learning anything about the history of the labor movement in the USA.

            Reply
            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              We go to school to qualify, if lucky and after years of hard work, as workers.

              Non-revenue generating history lessons do not impress at corporate HR departments.

              Reply
              1. JBird4049

                What did not teach me? Let me see:

                The pre-Columbian civilizations of North America.

                The betrayal of all the Indian nations, plus breaking of every single treaty written. They were only savages. Right? /s

                The genocidal actions of British colonies and American citizens.

                The persistent efforts of poor whites, free blacks, and Indians to form alliances.

                The usually successful efforts of the elites to stop it.

                The pro-Confederate Copperheads in the North and the often fierce resistance of Southerners to the Civil War and sometimes slavery.

                The many and varied socialist and communist parties, anarchists, Progressive, reformers, civil rights movements and the union movement from about 1870 to 1980.

                The usually successful, frequently illegal, violent, often lethal suppression using goon and death squads, the army, machine guns, police riots and assassinations.

                The cleansing of blacks, often from very successful multi generation farms, from rural and small communities in just about the entire North and West along portions South of the United States into the cities. They did not all go to the cities by choice.

                Eugenics including forced sterilization of the mentally ill, the physical disabled especially the deaf, convicts, poor whites, and (of course!) blacks from about 1920 to 2000.

                The presence, often large, in every major American war in the American military of blacks.

                I could go on and add more and expand on the rest. The erasure of most American history, which despite its horrific past, has had many good, even glorious things to be proud of. Also erased. Perhaps the worse crime of our educational system and, yes, our nation is not the lies of commission, but the lies of omission.

                Turned a glorious patchwork quilt created by many different hands into a white sheet.

                Reply
                1. Procopius

                  There is a film, Matulan of the long strike in the Appalachian coal mines. I couldn’t watch it after the scene where a preacher exhorts his congregation to beware of Satan in the form of the Union Man, the Communist pervert. I knew what was going to happen and couldn’t bear to watch it. I’ve found that as I grow older that kind of thing causes too powerful a visceral reaction. Can’t even read John LeCarre’s novels since The Night Manager.

                  Reply
            2. Procopius

              We learned a little at my high school, but it was an underground oral history kind of thing. Many of our teachers were strong unionists. I’m certain my Civics Teacher (yes, they still taught Civics then) would have joined the Wobblies if she could. This was in McCarthy’s heyday, too, so they were really risking their jobs if any of us had been foolish enough to tell our parents. “Which side are you on?” “Solidarity forever.” Oh, probably this was encouraged because it was a suburb of Detroit, and Old Henry was still widely hated.

              Reply
      2. Danny

        Tesla invented and perfected the first 3 phase electric motor, an incredibly important step to use electricity for motive power beyond lighting.

        Reply
          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Pyramids and grain storage.

            I think there is energy there, with the possibility of converting that potential energy to, say, beer which is then given to the people for free.

            That’d be free energy.

            Reply
        1. Acacia

          Tesla had two “big” ideas that went unrealized. The first was a wireless power transmission system, I.e., a giant Tesla coil. One prototype was built. The second idea was that there was enormous electrical potential between the earth and the upper atmosphere, being charged by cosmic rays from the sun. Tesla’s idea was to build an artificial lightning generator that would shoot bolts of lightning into the upper atmosphere, thereby establishing a circuit, and then drawing power for domestic use. A test station was built, way up in the mountains, but Tesla never managed to close the circuit, so to speak.

          Reply
      3. Anon

        And it is the high voltage (10,00 volts) of AC electricity that allows it to be distributed long distances using cheaper, stronger more durable steel (not copper) wires.

        Direct Current (DC) is easier/safer to install for lower voltage and shorter distances (your car or your cabin) but not so much long transmission distances. The higher voltage in AC is needed to overcome the “resistance” in length of transmission cable used in modern power grids.

        Reply
    2. ex-PFC Chuck

      About the turn into the 19th century Alessandro Volta invented the battery when he discovered that a stack of alternating silver and zinc sheets caused a current to flow if a wire was connected to the top and bottom of the “pile,” as the device was called at the time. (The word for “battery” in some languages is derived from the Italian version of the word “Pile” to this day.) In 1832 the Frenchman Hippolyte Pixii, building on the discoveries of Faraday and Ørsted, invented the dynamo, aka generator, which converted rotational energy into electricity. Unfortunately, or so they thought, it inherently put out AC. For half a century AC was regarded as a useless curiosity; all refinements of Pixii’s design aimed at first converting the DC to AC and then smoothing out the DC waveform. That is until Tesla came along. He actually worked for Edison briefly and tried to interest the great man in the concept but to no avail. After some tough times he presented his seminal paper to the American Institute of Electric Enginners in 1888, which got the attention of George Westinghouse. Together the advantages AC had at the time won the day.

      Reply
      1. Patrick Donnelly

        Napoleon sacked Egypt, but lost the booty to Nelson. It included the old designs for a pile. That pile is the “handbag” held in ancient sculptures across the old Aryan empire.

        Volta and others had access to the haul from Egypt.

        A similar sacking occurred in Iraq recently.

        Reply
      2. Kurt Sperry

        The Italian word “pile” for batteries has been dying out, often being replaced by “batteria”, which also means “drum kit” FWIW.

        Reply
      1. carycat

        This is in the realm of real life engineering, so context really matters. for short distances, to deliver The same power with the same percentage going to transmission loss, you need more conductor (almost always copper) with DC, so AC has the advantage here. Utility scale electrical power distribution has a hierarchy, so the trunk and feeder lines operate at higher voltages (lower current) and stepped down to the next level with lower voltage (higher current). AC can do this with early 20th century technology using transformers big hunks of iron and copper; not so easy to do with DC. Solid state tech has now advanced enough to be able to deal with the very high voltages involved with long haul power transmission so all modern transmission lines in the upper levels of the power distribution hierarchy are DC. With the growth of EVs, the cost for lower voltage DC to DC converters is going down. Path dependency is what is stopping the use of DC at the house hold level. It is already happening at the data center level.

        Reply
    3. Big Tap

      Didn’t Westinghouse beat Edison with AC and had Tesla’s help? Electrocuting an elephant was the best Edison could do to make his point that DC was superior.

      Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      The thing is, Kapernick was one of those NFL quarterbacks, whom the rest of the league figured out after a few years, his last season was atrocious.

      Reply
      1. WheresOurTeddy

        Kaepernick, 2016-2017: 16 TD, 4 INT
        rest of team, 2016-2017: 2 wins, 14 losses.
        quick – name his 2 leading receivers! Easy, right? The immortal Jeremy Kerley and Quinton Patton!
        It’s almost like it’s a team game, his personal stats were above average, and he got run out of the league for something else entirely…

        Reply
        1. Matt

          Don’t just look at the stats. I watched the games. Kaepernick was a system quarterback. Jim Harbough designed plays that lead to kaepernicks success. Kaepernicks main flaw as a quarterback was that he did not have any touch when throwing the ball. He would only throw it 100mph or not through it all. Which means he did not possess the ability to lob a ball over defenders and drop it in the basket. This lead to him overthrowing many receivers and tucking the ball to run it too often when a receiver was not open enough for his throwing capabilities.

          A system that Kaepernick would be able to be effective in would be something like what John Harbough is running with Lamar Jackson. The Ravens will not sign Kaepernick though because he is demanding $20 million per year. No NFL team is going to pay $20 millon per year for a back up quarterback.

          Reply
            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              I read that, back then, the Ravens were interested, and before the Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, and he was and is still highly regarded, could get anything going, the quarterback’s girl friend at the time (don’t know about the current situation) tweeted or said something immature, and that ended Ravens’ interest pretty quickly.

              Reply
      2. Bugs Bunny

        And – that last season is nothing that a good QB coach and head coach couldn’t fix. Athletic QB’ing is his talent. Play calling isn’t necessarily his talent. The man needs a line, backs and receivers. Look at him. He can still play ffs.

        Don’t mean to turn this into the Yahoo Sports comment section…but…

        Reply
        1. Craig H.

          He refused a trade to the Broncos.

          Every quarterback who has played for Kubiak reports Kubiak is the best quarterback coach they have ever known.

          It is difficult to sympathize with an NFL quarterback earning millions who destroys himself.

          Reply
  3. russell1200

    “Switching Power Grid to DC Could Boost its Capacity Machine Design (TW). Readers?”

    It is a solution, looking for a problem. Not necessarily a bad solution, but not particularly related to the renewable issue.

    For the uninitiated: Alternating Current has been the preferred method of transmission because the transformers that step up or down the voltage very efficiently with no moving parts in the conversion process: volts x amperage is how much power you have. Amperage is what makes wires heat up unless you make them bigger. So for the same amount of power (remember volts x amperage) if you keep the voltage really high at the power plant, you can conduit very large amounts of power on very small wires. As you get closer to the were the power is needed, you reduce the voltage (using AC transformers, or if you are using high voltage DC you would use an inverter) to make it more manageable and safer.

    The various renewable energy sources already have DC to AC inverters. So there is nothing saying you couldn’t put an inverter out there that is DC to HV DC inverter out there. And that might be a good thing to do in some circumstances.

    But that distance isn’t the main problem with renewables on the grid. The main problem is dealing with the intermittent nature of most renewables. For a grid system, there is a minimum level of energy that needs to be on the grid, to keep it useful. So even in periods were demand is low, you still have issues of keeping the supply of energy matching the needed level. That can be very hard to do (the math isn’t easy) on a system as complex as our grid.

    Which is why efficient energy storage, which would smooth out the source of power from renewables, has tended to be seen as the Eldorado of renewable energy.

    Reply
    1. vlade

      Nice summary. I’d add only two things – AC is more dangerous than DC (basically, the fact that the voltage changes interferes with your heart electric signals, creates its own closed loop and a lot of other things – it’s not as simple as it may seem at the start), and I don’t know about any storage that would be AC (i.e. it’s always DC + an invertor if needed).

      As you say, the storage is the key.

      Reply
      1. Zarate

        My understanding is the reverse. While working on movie sets the electricians showed considerably more respect for DC than AC. DC causes muscles to “lock” making it impossible to release once contact is made. AC automatically throws you off.
        (DC is probably not used on movie sets any longer as the ARC lights that require it are no longer used)

        Reply
        1. vlade

          In general, the answer is “it depends”. Your usual source of AC, the wall socket, tends to be these days (mostly) connected to circuit breakers that should kill the current fast enough as not to get any damage. Which means that you can be fairly cavalier around them, and less cavalier around DC if it doesn’t have any sort of circuit breaker like that.

          But for general info on AC vs DC safety:
          http://www.vias.org/feee/safety_03.html

          There’s a couple of points: For DC to enter your body, you have to have a closed circuit. AC, because it alternates, can create its own circuit more easily. AC, because it alternates, also can create more ways into the body (because for example it can induce the skin to sweat more), which, under normal circumstances, is actually fairly non-conductive (dry finger-thumb grasp will be around 10kOhm, which means that on 220V you’d get 0.02A. Which is just around the danger zone. But wet finger-thumb can be as little as 2kOhm, with current 0.1A, which is definitely enough to cause serious damage or death. Don’t try at home).

          DC tends to lock muscles, which was often considered as more dangerous (holds on you). That can be dangerous in medium current, as it can burn you much more than AC (where you could drop it in some situations).

          DC can stop your heart – but once the current is killed, chances are the heart will restart (unless of course it’s been too long there).

          AC will “flutter” (fibrilate) your heart, which is considered more dangerous, as it’s much much harder for it to restart once it gets into that condition (IIRC, the original defibrilators worked by delivering DC to effectivively stop the heart as it gets from that condition easier than from the flutter).

          So, DC can burn you badly. But AC can kill you w/o any burns.

          Reply
        2. russell1200

          They are both very dangerous. The arc from the DC coming off the solar fields has to be seen to believed.

          On storage: As you say, you would store on the DC side, and use your inverter(s) to change it to AC when needed. I suppose if you are using some sort of setup where you pump water up into a reservoir, and then drain it back out, you could use ac on both sides. But that doesn’t seem to be the wave of the future.

          Reply
      2. xkeyscored

        In the spring of 1888, a media furor arose over electrical fatalities caused by pole-mounted high-voltage AC lines, attributed to the greed and callousness of the arc lighting companies that used them. In June of that year Harold P. Brown, a New York electrical engineer, claimed the AC-based lighting companies were putting the public at risk using high-voltage systems installed in a slipshod manner. Brown also claimed that alternating current was more dangerous than direct current and tried to prove this by publicly killing animals with both currents, with technical assistance from Edison Electric. – Wikipedia, War of the currents

        How Thomas Edison Used a Fake Electric Chair Execution Film to Fight the Electricity War – Gizmodo
        An interesting article, a bit long and rambling, ranging from the Edison v Tesla struggle for AC or DC as a standard, through electrocuting elephants, effects of electrocution for execution (a bit graphic), the assassination of President William McKinley, and more.

        Reply
      3. ex-PFC Chuck

        At transmission level voltages, say 100 KV and up, they’re both dangerous, and transmission is where the author of the article focused. The key issues are operational and cost. Safety practices are largely the same for maintenance personnel, and consumers should never be exposed to these dangers.

        The author is correct in saying DC transmission is presently used mostly to move power from generation points to load centers that are hundreds of miles away. But they’re also useful to interconnect different synchronous grids, such as the four here in non-Hispanic North America.* In fact there have beenn some back-to-back, AC-DC-AC connections between grids in North America for several decades.

        A two wire DC line can carry close to the same amount of power as a three wire AC line built to the same insulation level spec and conductor size. The reason is the power on the AC line is calculated based on the root mean square of the peak voltage, whereas the DC line operates at that peak constantly. The construction cost of a DC line itself is considerably less, but as a comment upthread points out, the equipment at each end is more expensive. Another issue is the lack of cost effective high voltage DC circuit breakers – at least I’m not aware of them. But then I haven’t followed this tech much over the last decade. EHV AC breakers rely on the fact the current waveform crosses zero twice each cycle (i.e. Hertz), and blow the arc out at those times. DC current waveforms are never cross zero; the protection has to be done on the AC side of the converter/inverter gear. This fact limits DC transmission to point-to-point applications.

        * The four synchronous grids are: Eastern – everything east of the Rockies in the USA and Canada except Texas and Quebec; Western – the Rockies and west; Quebec – once part of the East but now separate because of unique operational issue pertaining to a high percentage of remote generation and vulnerability to geomagnetic storms because of the underlying granitic, high-impedance Canadian shield; and Texas – because it’s Texas.

        Reply
    2. mpalomar

      Is it possible that along with storage, the centralised nature of current generation is part of the problem?

      If wind, (they exist not as huge farms here in Nova Scotia but in groups of as few as two to 20) and solar collectors were used on all new buildings and retrofitted onto existing, would not this decentralisation of generation change the distribution paradigm to some extent?

      Centralised generation not only encounters distribution problems it reinforces the centralised political structure in which powerful special interests are engendered.

      Also wonder why storage systems using flywheel or other forms of non battery storage haven’t progressed further? Purely engineering shortcomings or some other factor at play?

      Reply
      1. vlade

        The problem is still that you could have a lot of power in Nova Scotia, but not much somewhere else.

        The question then becomes what should be the capacity you’d have to install to cover your needs, and it may turn out that you’d have to install a lot more capacity than you’d need for most time (i.e. > 50% of time), but would need in the top 10% of the cases.

        You may have a lot of baseload capacity that is not used most of the time in centralised situation, but the question is – what’s more efficient, the baseload capacity, or lots of empty capacity locally? The baseload has an advantage that it’s in one, single place (=less costs to install, maintain, less space taken etc.). It has some other disadvantages though, so as always, it’s a tradeoff.

        Reply
        1. mpalomar

          I’m suggesting a patchwork of local generation integrated into the grid including homes with solar, apartment complexes using micro turbine CHP (combined heat and power). Where I live the municipality built a wind generator at the nearby landfill

          Also some not insignificant part of the argument is power lost in transmission. https://ambivalentengineer.blogspot.com/2007/03/terrible-cost-of-moving-electricity.html
          “This is a really nice rule of thumb because it reduces away the actual costs of power and interest rates and so forth. We can now convert a distance into a cost multiplier. For the geeks among you, the multiplier is (1+power lost)/(1-power lost). Note that power lost is a function of the relative costs of copper and electricity, so that hasn’t been reduced away, but merely hidden.

          After 1000 miles, 8.71% is lost, and delivered power costs at least 19% extra.
          After 2000 miles, 17.4% is lost, and delivered power costs at least 42% extra.
          After 3000 miles, 26.1% is lost, and delivered power costs at least 71% extra.
          After 4000 miles, 34.8% is lost, and delivered power costs at least 107% extra.
          This, in a nutshell, is the argument for locating generators near their loads.”

          I have no expertise or qualifications, only what I’ve read. I seem to recall that Murray Bookshun argued along these lines. That is the political consequences of centralised industrial systems concentrating undemocratic political power.

          Reply
          1. vlade

            Well, we need to look at the area we’re talking. In Europe, 1000 miles is pretty much from the English Channel to the Black Sea, and from the northern tip of Denmark to Sicily is probably about 2300km, 1.5k miles.

            And we’re not talking truly “centralised”, as each country has its own grid with its own sources, which would be usually way more closer than that.

            Yes, it you’re talking the US, it doesn’t make sense to generate electricty in Colorado or Kansas for California or NY (which I doubt is what happens, but I could be wront).

            So we first have to really define what you mean by “centralised” vs “decentralised”

            Reply
      2. Zamfir

        Distributed generation (by renewables at least) tends to lead to more centralization, not less.

        First, good locations for renewables are usually further away from power consumers. Especially at scale. Second, renewables benefit from large-scale geographic averaging, over thousands of kilometers. If the wind is not blowing here, where is it blowing? The answer is usually “far away over there”, and not something local. Same for cloud cover for solar panels, and of course north-south transport to higher latitudes.

        That means larger unified grids, and even political considerations. Is northern Europe willing to rely on solar electricity from Spain? Probably. But what about Algeria? Wind energy from Russia? Not that long ago, the UK and Scandinavia had their own separate grids, but now they are deeply connected to the continental European grid.

        Capital is another factor. Renewables (and storage) have most of their cost up-front, while thermal plants have more fuel costs and running costs. They favour operators with good access to capital.

        Also, individual turbines or solar farms might be small (compared to thermal power plants), but economies of scale are more important. Thermal power plants tend to be one-off designs, they are run locally, and many operators have only a few of them. That model is not efficient for wind (and probably not fro large-scale PV). There, efficient builders/operators are the ones who can put down many near-identical units to get scale, and then run them remotely.

        I suspect that the “decentralized power” story was an artifact from the early days, when many renewable installations where effectively hobby projects. After all, you could always do decentralized power generation based on thermal power (i.e., diesel generators). This would be much easier than for solar or wind. The forces against the diesel generator paradigm are still there for wind turbines.

        Reply
        1. mpalomar

          “decentralized power generation based on thermal power (i.e., diesel generators”
          There are existing CHP combined heat and power generators that are not diesel but microturbines, mostly in use to avoid flaring in oil/gas fields but some are used as backup systems for hospitals, apartment complex, IT etc.

          Reply
        2. Olga

          “Distributed generation (by renewables at least) tends to lead to more centralization, not less.”
          Not true.
          On the contrary, suddenly a business can set up its own source of power – and even disconnect from the local utility. How is that increasing centralisation? No time for an extensive answer, but you’re only looking at a limited set of examples.

          Reply
          1. Zamfir

            In theory, sure. But that is not ’suddenly’. Businesses always could do that. Small electric generators are not new.

            But hardly anyone runs independent of the grid, even though they could. Some businesses with special needs have back-up generators, or co-gen installations. Those companies still rely on the grid. Consider why: the grid is several times cheaper, it’s more reliable, it’s flexible, it doesn’t take up space, it doesn’t require much upfront investment, you don’t have to organize maintenance.

            Those advantages are not going away. Some of them get more important with renewable energy.

            Reply
        3. Oregoncharles

          Rooftops are not ” usually further away from power consumers.”

          They’re a huge wasted resource, because the initial cost of installation is usually borne, one way or another, by the consumer – the party with the least capital. There are a number of proposals to solve that problem, but none being applied widely enough yet.

          Reply
      3. xkeyscored

        Flywheels are impractical for storing large amounts of energy.
        Imagine (or try!) tying a 10kg weight to some string, and whirling it round. If the string doesn’t break, it’ll pull itself out of your grip. And that’s a pretty insignificant amount of energy. A flywheel large enough for grid storage would simply and immediately tear itself apart. That’s basically why they aren’t used in vehicles.

        Reply
        1. mpalomar

          could be a series of small units but again I’m thinking of small systems. For instance instead of batteries for each home a flywheel system.

          Reply
          1. xkeyscored

            I think a home flywheel system for first world homes would be huge.
            The Minto Flywheel Facility in Canada can provide 2MW for 15 minutes. I think (engineers please correct me) that means 500 kWh, for ten flywheels, meaning each flywheel stores 50kWh. By comparison, a Nissan Leaf battery stores 30kWh.

            Reply
          2. Zamfir

            At the moment, that would be possible but many times more expensive than the batteries. Plus a flywheel loses energy just from spinning – it’s not a great technology if you want to store multiple days of energy to bridge a period of bad weather. (Edit: xkeyscored’s example shows where flywheels excel: situation where you drain the entire storage capacity in minutes. Batteries are not good at that)

            Apart from engineering aspect, I am not sure what you would really accomplish here when it comes to decentralisation of political power. There are many thousands of electric power companies worldwide. Would there be so many flywheel producers? That seems unlikely. Such machinery typically ends with a few handfuls of manufacturers. For example, 5 or 6 firms divide most of the lithium-ion cell market.

            Reply
            1. mpalomar

              Granted decentralized electrical power or most any other industry does not fit the current models of socioeconomic formation. Granted also the current models have delivered abundance at many levels but they have also resulted in gross inequality and an unsustainable industrial system underpinned by the philosophy of reckless growth and consumption that shows no signs of abating except possibly through apocalyptic upheaval which they also seem about to deliver on globally.

              From wikipedia, a not entirely reliable source but…

              – “Flywheel maintenance in general runs about one-half the cost of traditional battery UPS systems. The only maintenance is a basic annual preventive maintenance routine and replacing the bearings every five to ten years, which takes about four hours. Newer flywheel systems completely levitate the spinning mass using maintenance-free magnetic bearings, thus eliminating mechanical bearing maintenance and failures… Flywheels are not as adversely affected by temperature changes, can operate at a much wider temperature range, and are not subject to many of the common failures of chemical rechargeable batteries.They are also less potentially damaging to the environment, being largely made of inert or benign materials.

              Unlike most batteries which only operate for a finite period (for example roughly 36 months in the case of lithium ion polymer batteries), a flywheel potentially has an indefinite working lifespan… Most modern flywheels are typically sealed devices that need minimal maintenance throughout their service lives. Magnetic bearing flywheels in vacuum enclosures, such as the NASA model depicted above, do not need any bearing maintenance and are therefore superior to batteries both in terms of total lifetime and energy storage capacity.”

              Reply
    3. Typing Monkey

      Article oversimplifies the physics to get to incorrect conclusions.

      1. While it is possible to convert *some* AC to *some* DC (and HVDC has been around on grids for over 50 years), the AC grid is needed to stabilize the DC grid. You cannot simply replace AC with DC.

      2. DC is normally required for offshore power supplies (e.g. offshore wind farms). You typically cannot use AC unless it is for very short distances because of parasitic capacitance.

      3. “Switching” from AC to DC is not trivial and, in fact, would likely cost as much as just building a new line. Moreover, unless using the most modern technology (VSCs) or some insanely complicated control scheme (impractical), it is not possible to tap off conventional HVDC technology, so power transfer is essentially point to point.

      Reply
      1. xkeyscored

        the AC grid is needed to stabilize the DC grid
        Can you give a link for dummies who can cope with basic technical stuff, please? I want to know a bit more about this, and don’t know what to search for on the net.

        Reply
        1. Zamfir

          TypingMonkey probably knows more than me, but I ll try. My understanding is that the problem is twofold:

          One is simple: the converter stations are (by the standards of grid equipment) somewhat on the unreliable side, and some of their failure modes are drastic split-second events. From the point of view of the grid, every DC link is a power-station sized producer or consumer that can just disappear in a moment – the overall grid must be able to handle that. That is not unique, a grid should to be able to handle the sudden loss of a power station. But from what I have heard, the DC stations are a tad more risky than usual.

          The second issue is more complicated, and I am not sure I fully understand it. The following might contain errors:

          The cheapest and most efficient HVDC stations are based on thyristors, and these cannot switch off by themselves. They need the zero-voltage point of the AC line to switch off. As a result, these systems follow the phase and frequency of the AC grid, and will directly follow any changes in that.

          Thermal power stations, on the other hand, run on net-synchronized turbines. These have quite some inertia. They resist changes in their rotation, and therefore they also resist changes in the phase and frequency of the grid. They are natural stabilizers. So I don’t think that such DC links directly destabilize the grid, but they do not add the stability that a thermal station would have done. Which means that you cannot have too many of them. There might also be yet more complicated issues with higher harmonics and what not, but that goes beyond my knowledge.

          As I understand it, these issues (but not the reliability) are mostly solved by the VSC technology that Typing Monkey mentions. Those are based on large transistors, and therefore they can be used to “shape” the desired AC wave. They can actively counteract destabilizing influences, not just resist them. But that comes at a cost, in euros and in efficiency. It is as yet mostly used on smaller projects, like connecting a group of wind turbines to the grid.

          Reply
    4. Ignacio

      If storage is going to be added to the grid both converters and inverters are needed for AC/DC and DC/AC conversion to and from the battery.

      Reply
      1. russell1200

        The inverters are already at the source of the renewable power. There are microinverters which are tied directly to the pv modules (aka panels), but they are, as far as I know, still considered to be an application for smaller systems sitting on top of homes and businesses.

        Reply
        1. xkeyscored

          The inverters you’re referring to work with relatively low voltages. Long distance electricity transmission works with much higher voltages, from 100,000 to 1,000,000 volts. You can’t simply plug a pv module into that.

          Reply
      2. Kurt Sperry

        I wanted to comment that this discussion on DC vs. AC power has been fascinating. Thank you to all that have commented.

        Reply
  4. Summer

    RE: Minnsota / Hot lunches / Shaming

    “Richfield is represented by Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who introduced a bill with fellow Minnesota Democrat Sen. Tina Smith in June to end school lunch-debt shaming called the “No Shame at School Act.”

    Seems to me like the little fascist were probably “just following orders” per usual and in light of more and more people standing up for themselves in these matters, a dog-whistle move to their other vile companions.
    This country is so sick, that compassion has become like kryptonite.

    Reply
    1. inode_buddha

      Whatever happened to the school and property taxes paying for it? When i was a kid, almost everything was done that way. The only fundraising you ever saw was the annual Girl Scout cookies.

      Reply
      1. KB

        I happen to live here in Richfield and watched this unfold live with videos posted to the local FB page….The debt is astonishing for a 35,000 population of $9,000 in debt carried over from last year and another $11,000 added just this year totaling $20,000 in lunch debt with the school year not even half way over!..This boomer who grew up in a neighboring suburb in the 50’s and 60’s always paid something for lunch. My recollection from maybe around 9th grade was 35 cents per lunch…Never free. Property taxes in this small suburb that is mostly working class is very very high paying for apparently 20 years of deferred maintenance of all infrastructure (roads, schools, gas lines, water and sewer, etc.) all now being picked up in a short time frame. Middle class boomers are leaving or considering leaving as they/we can’t afford this anymore. Anyway, waiting to find out how this huge debt became so large in the first place.

        Reply
        1. notabanker

          20K divided by 35 is oh, 57 cents? We are talking about feeding children at school here right? $20K is where we draw the line? Because boomers paid 35 cents for their lunch at the height of the post WWII economy?

          What a hill to die on. Hope FB fixes it for you all.

          Reply
          1. KB

            Na, not all 35,000 people that live here, are children going to school ya know. And, with open enrollment many that do go to school don’t live in the city….geesh

            My reply was to the commenter above who stated it should be free. Here in Minnesota it never has been…

            Reply
            1. inode_buddha

              My last 3 yrs in HS it was something like 75 cents, which was an amount I could earn myself. I don’t recall *any* charge for lunches prior to HS, in my part of upstate NY. Of course, our property taxes are on a par with California and Hawaii, if not more.

              Point being, they *should* be free, given the inflation that has happened in education … my alma mater had no problem coming up with the money for a new 100-acre sports complex I noticed.

              Reply
              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                From the Guardian link above, about teachers leaving the UK. One, not really representative of the schools outside of Britain, but it was given lots of coverage in the Guardian article, is described this way (it’s in Switzerland):

                While schools in England and Wales have been forced to cut jobs and close early to save money, here pupils are invited to bring their own horses, and meals are served in a high-end restaurant catering for every dietary requirement.

                It’s a different world for the very rich and their kids.

                Reply
            2. The Historian

              When I grew up, there was no such thing as hot lunches in schools, but in times of need the school district provided bagged lunches for free and in fact, if you had younger siblings at home, you could get bagged lunches for them too.

              But then I grew up in a union town that did a lot of very progressive things for its children.

              Reply
            3. notabanker

              http://www.richfieldmn.gov/home/showdocument?id=17497

              Let’s see, we got $111K for a Zamboni ice resurfacer
              $140K for four plug in hybrid vehicles
              $10K for public art
              $450K from the Liquor Operation fund for:
              Park Play Equipment ReplacementRecycling System in Parks;Development of adog park;andMajor park maintenance

              But those damn kids stealing $20K in free lunches from the schools, yes, that’s where the problem lies. Because ya know, we had to pay for ours when we were growing up 50 years ago. Oh, and taxes are too high, yeah, we’re paying for those lunches.

              God Bless America. It needs it.

              Reply
        2. Tom Doak

          $10,000 per year in lunch debt is 30 cents per year in taxes per resident . . . My God, that’s $1.50 for a family of five! Am I not understanding the math correctly or are you really going to move your house (and pay mortgage bankers $1000+ in closing costs) over a couple of dollars to feed kids who need help?

          Reply
          1. The Historian

            There is another issue here that people who are always complaining about their property taxes are ignoring. My property taxes doubled in the past six years, NOT because of more levies to build more schools or roads, but because the valuation of my house doubled. The tax rate has stayed the same. Do people really expect to pay the same taxes on a house that is valued at $300,000 as they did on a house that was valued at $150,000?

            If the county now gets more money to make improvements and finance the school system, am I really going to complain? Considering that my main asset has just doubled in value? That would seem very selfish to me.

            Reply
            1. chuckster

              Quick question: Why is it that a person living in a $300,000 house can’t afford to give their own child 57 cents for lunch every day?

              Reply
              1. The Historian

                I would assume that there are a lot of reasons – unexpected bills, medical bills, inability to work for some reason, etc., I think you need to walk in another person’s moccasins before you make judgements on them. I also think children shouldn’t be punished for the faults of their parents.

                Reply
                1. Beniamino

                  There you go. And for exactly the same reasons a person living in a $300,000 house might not be able to pay $4000-$6,000 per annum in property taxes. Regressive taxes tend to have that characteristic, that the non-rich can’t afford to pay them.

                  Reply
                  1. The Historian

                    I get your point, but that wasn’t my original argument here – my argument is that people blaming families who don’t pay their school lunch bills for their increase in property taxes are complaining about the wrong people.

                    Reply
            2. Amfortas the hippie

              re: valuations. it’s even worse,lol
              its common practice where i live to simply inflate the value of po folk’s houses…my old beat up trailer depreciated for a few years, and then suddenly quadrupled, and then began to appreciate, year on year…as it continued to fall apart.
              the actual bill was relatively small, out here, so i let it go, because…and here’s the rub…the remedy, while simple, involved going before the local board of volunteers, who are to a person wealthy and mean,lol.
              so shaming and looking down the nose is a big deterrent to po folks making use of the remedy.
              i didn’t give a damn about all that, and shamed those self righteous a$$holes right back…and that POS trailer went from $16K to $2k—still too high, since i could never sell it for that…which is supposed to be how the value is determined.
              up on the hill, where the well to do abide, it’s different(i have friends up there who are sympathetic to these issues)
              so in the barrios(we have 3), taxes get out of hand and the po folks thus encumbered either take out a loan, or sell something, or go begging to family(bake sales!)…or loose their place…and a handful of local slumlords buys up the barrio for pennies on the dollar, and turns around and rents the shacks for big bucks.
              the former tax assessor, retired after 20 years, is now one of those slumlords, having somehow accumulated numerous “distressed” properties during that time….and nobody bats an eye.
              nice gig, i guess…but he will definitely be on the menu, come the revolution.

              Reply
              1. a different chris

                >still too high, since i could never sell it for that…

                Haha our overlords in Allegheny County figured that out a long time ago. The gummint would use an assessment 1/4 of the home’s value. So it’s apparently just weird because you go to appeal your assessment and you look stupid showing pictures of your 150K house and arguing against an assessment of 50K. If you didn’t have decent comparables you were screwed.

                I think they finally changed that, not sure as I never had a house there.

                Reply
                1. inode_buddha

                  … which is why I’ve been looking at Wyoming county. Allegheny county is just nuts. Erie and Niagara are pure corruption (especially Niagara). For me, Wyoming county has all of the upsides (very low taxes, lots of open land) and none of the downsides save probably a much longer commute.

                  Reply
            3. Pookah Harvey

              Why do you have to pay increased taxes when the value of your main asset (your home) increases but when the main asset of the rich (financial assets) increases, they don’t?

              Reply
              1. Milton

                I like it. Your stock holdings are now worth 180k. Wealth tax on that should be 1.5% or $2700 annually. Funny how most people pay taxes on a home they don’t even have the deed to but are (mostly) free and clear on all other investments prior to realization.

                Reply
            4. Oregoncharles

              “Do people really expect to pay the same taxes on a house that is valued at $300,000 as they did on a house that was valued at $150,000?”
              Actually, yes, they should, if the services remain the same – probably not, but the cost of government won’t double because values do. Or it shouldn’t, unless the level of service was very bad indeed. If the values go up, the rates should go down, or it should be a political decision to take advantage of more gov’t income. MMT does not apply to local or state gov’ts.

              for one thing, people’s incomes don’t double because their property values do. That sort of thing is what led to property tax limitations in states like Cali and Oregon.

              Reply
              1. The Historian

                Trust me, I am not defending the tax system, I am only working with what is. And I personally do not think homes should be considered assets, but apparently I am in the minority. And yes, it was not anything I did that made my property taxes double. But if I sell my house today, I will have earned more free and clear than what I originally bought that house for – the same as if someone gave me a gift for that amount. How should those earnings be taxed? As capital gains? Actually the property tax rate is much lower, so I’d rather pay the property tax. The good news is that if my property value deflates as it will eventually, then my taxes will go down too.

                But consider another property under our current system. Say you buy a $20,000 Kia and I buy a $100,000 Mercedes coup. Should we pay the same amount of property tax on those? Both are just transportation.

                I know there has to be something better, but I don’t know of any completely fair tax system. If you know of one, I’d be glad to hear about it!

                Reply
        3. NotTimothyGeithner

          Probably because you weren’t paying enough taxes all these years. You’ll notice the boomers have been in charge for quite some time now.

          Reply
        4. Pierre Delecto

          Looks like you need to dig a little further than FB…

          https://www.kare11.com/article/news/education/richfield-schools-leaders-respond-to-lunch-incident/89-2b5c8a48-7239-4c11-9f26-9e61946ce25d

          “Richfield likely will foot a $20,000 unpaid lunch bill at the end of this school year – and that is with nearly 65% of the students in the district being on free lunch.”

          Also, with 65% of school kids already on free lunch, doesn’t that raise a red flag that the school district could be getting bilked by a multinational conglomerate like Chartwells or Sodexo? I work in a public institution where one of those is the vendor and, anytime there’s a contract renewal, we always have to counter since they’ll try to sneak in language like they are to be the exclusive vendor in perpetuity. It really is amazing how shamelessly sleazy they are and yet they still, for some unknown reason, still get our business.

          Reply
        5. Shonde

          Richfield, Mn should have a good real estate tax base. Best Buy built its main campus headquarters there about 20 plus years ago. Or did Richfield do the usual corporate welfare so all the increased basis is still in a TIF district and paying for the houses and commercial property torn down to build the campus plus the infrastructure?

          Reply
      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        Property taxes are an insane way to pay for anything. In more equitable times, this worked in areas, but what happens when a Walmart with tax incentives drives out the small businesses devaluing property and hence taxes as the result. Pretty soon no one is paying taxes dedicated to schools in a district. Even then you might be surprised what the state and federales were actually paying for. Bill Clinton and Ronnie Reagan blew holes in budgets everywhere with unfunded mandates and even funded mandates (which aren’t all bad, but the funds are often not enough).

        One problem with bank owned property was the banks simply not paying their taxes, and with the sale of mortgage backed derivatives, finding the owners is impossible for localities. Larger outfits make insane deals cash strapped localities are eager to take in the short run.

        Reply
      3. Monty

        “Whatever happened to the school and property taxes paying for it?”

        They spent it all on mandated chrome books, ipads and licensed worksheet print outs.

        Reply
        1. inode_buddha

          THIS. Thank you. And in the case of my alma mater, a new 100-acre sports complex.

          Of course, the entire district where I grew up is now gentrified; as kids, the choice was ford vs chevy vs chrysler. Now, most of the small town is driving Lexus, Mercedes, BMW. And arguing about paying for it.

          Reply
      4. Katniss Everdeen

        This doesn’t strike me as a very cost effective “strategy.”

        Effectively, they are buying two lunches for each person who apparently doesn’t pay for either one.

        Dollars and cents-wise, they could “save money” if they just gave them the “hot lunch” and added it to the bill, after an initial “investment” in sophisticated lunch debt data tracking software, of course.

        If they keep this up, they may need to add a line item to the budget–Punishment Food Waste Costs–or something like that.

        Reply
          1. a different chris

            And American culture in general has shifted, from the immigrant-based “save everything including aluminum foil” to “showing how rich I am by how casually I throw stuff away”.

            Reply
          2. polecat

            Yeah … Northern european immigrant Calvinist tendencies persist to this day .. to the detriment of the youngins.

            “Shame ! .. Shame ! .. Shame !”

            Reply
    2. marieann

      When I was growing up in Scotland the lunches were paid for by the parents…except if your Dad was unemployed, then it was free…..my Dad was mostly unemployed so we got free lunches.
      In Canada when my sons went to school there was a cafeteria and the lunch was paid, I don’t know how much, as my kids always brought their bagged lunch. I do know that if you didn’t have the money you didn’t get lunch…there was never anyone owing lunch money to the school

      Reply
      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Free education but no free lunch – what is the lesson to learn here?

        Is it, one learns better on an empty stomach?

        Is it, its OK to starve as long as one learns poetry? The mental/spiritual world over the physical one? Now one can starve happily?

        Reply
        1. marieann

          I never expected free lunches in school…I was glad to get them though when I was in school but my Mum would have come up with something to feed us, though the school lunches were really good.Whenever my dad was working we stopped getting the free lunch and went home to eat.
          I also never expected my sons to get free lunches….what I was peeved at, was them having to pay for school supplies…those were all covered in my school days.

          I know some areas in our city have free lunches and breakfasts…I think it depends on demographics. They also supply backpacks with school supplies….some of this is covered by the school and they do fundraisers for the supplies.

          I really don’t understand how schools get into a debt problem. If they are supplying lunch without money up front then they are daft,and if the kids can’t afford to buy/ bring a lunch then the problem is greater than the school system can deal with

          When my sons were in high school many times they didn’t take a lunch or buy a lunch and I will confess sometimes I would pack a lunch for them

          Reply
      2. Olga

        Even in a socialist country, tickets for lunch had to be bought. (Not sure about all, though.)
        Of course, some of use kept the money, since we did not get pocket $$. Ate dry keiser rolls instead (which were truly delicious, though).

        Reply
  5. Summer

    Re: Boeing

    I had found a nice little route via Sothwest for visits to the fam, while the 737 Max was out.
    Was hoping to get another trip in around Jan.
    But I read they’re rishing it back without the thorough pilot training.
    Looking at Delta now…

    Reply
    1. ChrisFromGeorgia

      No MAX flights from US commercial airlines until early March was the last update I heard. So we’re “marked safe” from a fiery death at the hands of mega corporate-captured regulators through then, at least.

      Reply
  6. Zamfir

    Regarding the conversion to DC , here is the pitch by a major supplier:
    https://new.abb.com/news/detail/11828/convert-from-ac-to-hvdc-for-higher-power-transmission
    From that link: they are doing some test projects in Europe, aiming at capacity increases in the order of 20% to 30% (for suitable locations)

    If the tests work out, (and if the cost of inverter stations goes down a bit further), then we might well see a lot of these upgrades over the next decades.That would be nice. I am not sure if it’s of major interest unless you already interested in power grids.

    Note: HVDC itself is not new, and is on the rise everywhere. This new development is about re-using existing AC lines for DC. This was not very interesting in the past. DC was a tad expensive, and you would only use it for “special” cases where AC doesn’t work well (very long distances, or under water)

    Reply
    1. ptb

      Yes a big change. The presumption is you’re in a situation where capacity is maxed out and any alternative also involves a major upgrade to substations etc. Otherwise it would be a bit crazy.

      But with solar, and especially if one is building for a world of electric cars, this becomes a natural step. A 20% boost would be about right for the car use, covering the overnight charger case well, but perhaps not the daytime fast-charger case.

      Power conversion equipment is an area that is continuing to develop. That ol’ tree of transistor technology is still bearing fruit.

      Reply
    2. ptb

      PS: there is one place where it might not be the best idea — squeezing a little more capacity out of the overloaded infrastructure in California.

      Reply
  7. The Rev Kev

    “Mist Showers: Sustainable Decadence?”

    The implication seems to be that eventually the luxury of having a full-on hot shower will be the preserve of only the rich that can afford the water and energy to afford it. Reminds me of the types that go around saying that we should all eat bugs to save the planet or something.
    Yes, the sponge bath mentioned is energy efficient but so is a “whore’s bath”. A Navy shower is nothing to look forward to either and I read that sailors can be rewarded with an extra long shower which is nicknamed “a Hollywood Shower”. I don’t know. Maybe they can get to work and develop the Sonic Shower –

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRmqNewzX1g

    Reply
    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I have seen how the old style bathing was done at a Korean bathhouse in Seoul back in the mid-1980s. It works well for getting clean and uses little water. Instead of sitting on the edge of pier and dipping water from a stream the Koreans have communal bathhouses.The bathhouse bathing area had drains in the floor and tile everywhere. The bathing area was kept warm and moist and there was a hot tub in the middle for a soak after washing and a cold pool for a quick dip before drying off and leaving. The Romans usually built bathhouses when they moved into an area. I believe they regarded a bathhouse as a basic feature of civilization.

      As an old guy, I would like a shallow tub long enough to lay down in. It should be raised wrt. the floor to about the height of a chair for easy entry and easy exit. I would like its surface to be soft and warm — some kind of lining over a soft material. A polyethylene closed cell foam covered with a replaceable polyethylene liner might work [vinyl is just a meal-truck for mildew]. I would want a water pillow too! — to rest my head on. The ‘tub’ should have a means to set a constant water temperature and include a circulation means like a spa pump — maybe something driven by compressed air. There should also be some way to make sure I can’t fall asleep and slip under. Using solar energy to heat water is a reasonably low tech affair. I can arrange my hot baths to fit a time of day — right after I quit work as the light is dying should be easy enough. I would want to use the water from my bathing and warm bath to water my garden. I suppose that means taking care what soap I use and running the outflow water to a watering cistern. I think such a bath would soothe my tired bones more than a half-dozen Ibuprofen pills.

      It might prove useful if I include some way to run warm water directly to my garden or growing shelter when unseasonable cold warm threatens my plants. A valve with one outlet routed to the cistern and the other to the plant shelter might work. I haven’t thought of how best to use that hot water to moderate the locale around my plants. I could also share some of the hot water from the solar to the plants on expecially bad cold snaps.

      Reply
    2. xkeyscored

      The implication seems to be that eventually the luxury of having a full-on hot shower will be the preserve of only the rich that can afford the water and energy to afford it.
      I think hot showers are already the preserve of the first-world rich who can afford them.
      PS What is a whore’s bath?

      Reply
      1. Lord Koos

        Many so-called third world countries are nearer the equator, so hot showers are not that appealing. In the 7 months we spent in Thailand taking a hot shower was a very rare event.

        Reply
        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          In Japan, where it can be quite hot and humid during the summer months (and comparable to the climate near the equator), taking a hot, steaming bath (don’t know if there are still public ones) can be very refreshing.

          Reply
      2. The Rev Kev

        Whore’s bath – A quick sponge bath by hand, using a wet washcloth or a pre-moistened towelette, to extend the interval between showers.

        Reply
  8. allan

    Facebook fetes Kavanaugh [popular.info]

    Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has kept a relatively low-profile since the Senate narrowly confirmed him last year amidst serious allegations of sexual assault. That will change tonight when Kavanaugh is the keynote speaker at the annual convention for The Federalist Society, an enormously powerful right-wing legal organization.

    Kavanaugh will find a friendly audience. After Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, Federalist Society President Leonard Leo took leave from his job to advise Trump on selecting Kennedy’s replacement. Trump chose Kavanaugh with Leo’s advice, and The Federalist Society played an enormous role in defending Kavanaugh as allegations of sexual assault emerged.

    The event tonight is black-tie optional and backed by a group of “Gold Circle” sponsors. Most of the sponsors, as you might expect, are law firms. But there are a few exceptions, including the world’s largest social media company: Facebook. …

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees that it would “suck” if Elizabeth Warren, one of the leading Democratic candidates, becomes president. Now, as the public impeachment hearings begin, Facebook is aligning itself with an organization that argues that the Democrats’ impeachment investigation is illegal.

    In an article published in The Daily Caller, an official Facebook fact-checking partner, Steve Calabresi, co-founder and chairman of the board of The Federalist Society, said the impeachment inquiry into Trump was “unconstitutional.” …

    The privilege of being an originalist strict constructionist is being able to spout utter nonsense
    and know that you have a straight flush in SCOTUS.

    A social utility that connects you with the authoritarians around you.

    Reply
  9. Anon

    The American Conservative article argues in favor of Warren‘s legislation reining in private equity. Never thought I’d live so long to see it….

    Reply
    1. Amfortas the hippie

      yeah, that’s truly amazing.
      but it’s becoming more common for me(libertarian socialist curmudgeon) to find myself in at least partial agreement with a bunch of former righties.
      (david stockman, most recently)
      “widening gyre…center cannot hold..” , “all that is solid…” and such.

      Reply
      1. Olga

        ATH… one can be a socialist curmudgeon or one can be a libertarian curmudgeon – but one cannot be a libertarian, socialist curmudgeon! ::))))
        You gotta pick one! (You know that sayin’ about yellow lines and dead armadillos.)
        (Unless, of course, you’ve morphed into a novel species – in which case, good luck!)

        Reply
          1. Aumua

            Hey, you know. You’re welcome. When I first read this article I thought “This is it.” This defines my political position better than anything else. Or at least I thought “Close enough.”

            Reply
            1. Amfortas the hippie

              small-l libertarian,lol.
              i got there via chomsky….and fleshed it out via extensive wikiwandering.
              i dig proudhon, too…and bookchin…and many others.

              “do i contradict myself? very well, i contradict myself.
              I am large; I contain multitudes.”-Uncle Walt

              Reply
  10. The Rev Kev

    “Bolivia: Jeanine Añez claims presidency after ousting of Evo Morales”

    Has anybody ever noticed that you never see Jeanine Añez and Juan Guaidó in the same room together at the same time? Just sayin’. Morales was lucky to get out. On the way to Mexico, traffic controllers in Peru, Chile and Brazil banned the aircraft from passing over their airspace before his plane managed to land in Paraguay. Already Maduro’s MPs are being kept away from parliament by the police so we can guess what happens next. Trump has already announced that he is setting up military bases in Bolivia in certain regions. He said “We’re keeping the lithium, we have the lithium, the lithium is secure. We will have some of our great companies develop the lithium.” At least he’s honest.

    Reply
    1. Methodical

      Just to add some context on Jeanine Añez: She’s a right-wing religious fanatic with a history of hatred for Bolivia’s indigenous population. Shortly after she declared herself president someone started deleting her old tweets like the one archived in the link below. She asks God to curse the indigenous Aymara new year, calls them satanists, and proclaims that nobody will replace God. She was also waving around a huge Bible as she entered the Government Palace Sunday.

      http://web.archive.org/web/20191113002729/twitter.com/JeanineAnez/status/347734496273113088

      Reply
      1. Carolinian

        The evangelicals are playing a role in Brazil as well. And yet the public there seems to be having second thoughts about their ‘coup.’ Meanwhile the same tactics have been a big flop in Venezuela. Perhaps the effort to reboot South American authoritarianism is more nostalgia by local and US crackpots than an enduring thing. Anti-communism and blocking the Soviet Union were the excuse last time. Naked greed and corruption as motives may prove harder to defend, even by the consent manufacturers.

        Reply
  11. Ignacio

    RE: More than 100 National Security and Foreign Policy Experts Call on Congress to Tackle Anonymous Shell Companies (letter) (PDF) The Fact Coalition

    If this advice is followed, then the more necessary would be an alternative payment system to avoid abuse from US authorities.

    Reply
  12. The Rev Kev

    “Stealthy Lockheed F-35 Breaks Down Too Often, Pentagon Says”

    Saw this yesterday and it does not bode well for Australia acquiring them. Maybe we can purchase some Russian S-400 missile systems to scotch the deal. Might be worth a try. It worked for the Turks. Going to have to do something. It seems that Indonesia is buying a batch of Russian Sukhoi Su-35s to add to their air fleet which means that they will have aerial superiority wherever they fly. Do’h!

    Reply
  13. marym

    Guardian 11/12/2019 Trump adviser Stephen Miller injected white nationalist agenda into Breitbart, investigation reveals

    Senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller shaped the 2016 election coverage of the hard right-wing website Breitbart with material drawn from prominent white nationalists, Islamophobes, and far-right websites, according to a new investigative report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

    Miller, one of the few surviving initial appointees in the administration, has been credited with orchestrating Trump’s restrictionist immigration policies.

    SPLC report 11/12/2019

    In this, the first of what will be a series about those emails, Hatewatch exposes the racist source material that has influenced Miller’s visions of policy. That source material, as laid out in his emails to Breitbart, includes white nationalist websites, a “white genocide”-themed novel in which Indian men rape white women, xenophobic conspiracy theories and eugenics-era immigration laws…

    Reply
      1. marym

        No, I wouldn’t necessarily consider either of them reliable as sole sources. Before linking I try to consider the source-of-the-source.

        Here’s a more nuanced take from the conservative Washington Examiner 11/12/2019: It’s high time for Trump to dump Stephen Miller

        This information has been laundered through the Southern Poverty Law Center, so you can’t take it seriously beyond the source material itself. For example, Miller’s embrace of a bad immigration policy from the Coolidge era probably doesn’t stem from the fact that Adolf Hitler liked the same policy, as the SPLC tries to put it. But the SPLC’s contribution here is almost irrelevant, unless the emails are fabricated.

        The WH press secretary yesterday condemned SPLC but so far there’s been no denial of the authenticity of the emails.

        Reply
  14. José Carlos

    Both Bolivia articles today basically accept the framing of a “popular uprising against the dictator Morales”, even though the mass marches support of Evo before and after the coup by indigenous groups contradict this. I would recommend these two articles which detail the far-right and fascist character of the coup leaders, and their deep ties to the US:

    https://thegrayzone.com/2019/11/11/bolivia-coup-fascist-foreign-support-fernando-camacho/

    https://thegrayzone.com/2019/11/13/bolivian-coup-plotters-school-of-the-americas-fbi-police-programs/

    Anti-coup march: https://mobile.twitter.com/OVargas52/status/1194666620490305537

    This is nothing other than a wealthy oligarch-driven coup, backed by the US, to reinstate the Washington Consensus in Bolivia. All the nonsense about a “popular uprising” and white “leftist” academics who talk about “respecting Bolivian agency” are helping to bring about a situation where the Bolivian people they claim to care about will suffer greatly at the hands of local racist elites and international capital.

    Reply
      1. Olga

        Yes, I don’t know why people even need to ask whether this was a coup. I wish folks would wise up … and others to stop sowing doubts.

        Reply
  15. JohnnyGL

    Fun fact on Cadillac Deval Patrick’s record in MA:

    He cut dental coverage for Medicaid recipients during the great recession. My sister had cancer and couldn’t get her rotten teeth fixed for several years because of that.

    https://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2010/09/07/masshealth-dental-cuts

    More fun facts….Romney, as Governor, was the one who originally expanded benefits. Charlie Baker, another Republican, restored the benefit cuts Patrick implemented.

    https://www.hcfama.org/blog/good-news-masshealth-dental-benefit-restored

    Strange how facts don’t fit the messaging from team blue that Repubs are just big meanies and dems are always sweet and nice to the poor!

    Reply
    1. Mr. Howard

      Anyone else think that Deval Patrick joining the Dem Primary is based on a soon to be announced endorsement by Obama? The logic being that Joe Biden will soon be dead in the water and is necessary to destroy his candidacy before Iowa and New Hampshire.

      Reply
    2. Pat

      Which only leads one to wonder about the conversion so many of our leading Dems have made from their Republican roots.

      Actually I think both parties are filled with self absorbed and self serving asses who make sure the winners do well and will do nice things for groups outside their inner circle when it does one or more of the following:
      Costs them personally little or nothing
      Enriches their donors directly or indirectly
      Hurts groups who didn’t support them
      Gives them public brownie points without upsetting too many rice bowls

      Most of the time they are proving their seriousness and/or worth to their sponsors and everyone else be damned. Once you figure that out a lot of the tribe good other tribe bad loses its luster.

      Reply
  16. David

    A quick note for anyone interested in the background to the poor French student setting himself on fire.
    In France, entry to higher education (including University) is by passing the Baccalaureat exam (the “bac”) at the end of the last year of school. The French dedication to Equality being what it is, everyone with a Bac is considered at the same level. If you have what’s called a “professional” Bac (some 60 different specialities including office administration, photography or training to be a butcher) then you can apply to University. Until recently there were no specific entrance requirements and no control on which courses you could enrol for. Theoretically (perhaps practically for all I know) after two years of training to be a pastry cook you could start a philosophy degree. The government has tried to bring a bit of order to this mess recently (the “parcour sup” initiative), to steer people towards appropriate courses, but this has been bitterly controversial and opposed by the student unions.
    About 70% of those who take the “bac” pass it and the vast majority go on to higher education. The government encourages this because it keeps the unemployment figures down, and young people prefer university life to unemployment. But it results in massively overcrowded classes, a demoralised and overstretched teaching profession, and a large tranche of students who frankly should not be there but have nowhere else to go. That seems to be the case with the unfortunate young man here. He failed his second-year exams twice, and the organisation that was giving him a grant was unprepared to keep funding him to be a perpetual student. (French students have never been well supported financially: most go to a local university and many live at home.)
    The case has received a lot of coverage in France (elites send their children to university, after all, rather than engineering apprenticeships) and it’s being seen as a symbol of the bleak future that many young people now face, unless they have wealthy parents or manage to get into one of the plush “Grandes Écoles” which take the best students and the best teachers, and look down on the mere universities. But that’s another story.

    Reply
    1. anon y'mouse

      one should view a philosophy degree holding baker as an asset, and not a “waste of resources”.

      you need philosophy to deal with the human condition, and i can think of nowhere that would be more helpful than in serving the public essential foodstuffs. considering that baking bread has been essential to civilization, and how important bakers themselves have been, perhaps it would be good to have something more in you mentally than mere techne. plus, it gives him something to talk about with customers. i say–a philosophy degree in every pot (or basket, as the case with rising bread)!

      a society that thinks that people need only to be fitted to what they are to do for a living is a very poor one.

      perhaps a key to the unemployment situation is to train and hire more teachers, so that the students are not in overcrowded classrooms?

      Reply
    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Thanks, David.

      Do I have this right, from reading your comment, that in France, to go to college (or university), you first finish high school, get your bac, then, you spend additional time getting a professional bac, and after that, you can apply to a college?

      Reply
  17. McWatt

    “New Analysis Shows Billionaires’ Dream of Space Tourism Would Be Disaster for Emissions, Climate Crisis”

    Sometime in the near term I feel it will be determined that blasting thousands of holes in the atmosphere,
    plane travel, and the dramatic increase in ocean shipping will be found to be the main drivers of planet destruction. But that is a completely uneducated guess.

    Reply
    1. Drake

      If all of those causes were removed the logic of capitalism would simply shift to other causes. The underlying problem is treating everything as a commodity whose profit and consumption growth rates need to be maximized.

      There was absolutely no need for plastic water bottles and straws, to name two of a million or more other items. But the petrochemical industry needed new growth drivers. Get rid of those, they’ll invent others.

      Reply
  18. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: The migrant debt cycle WaPo. Microloans….

    The family used well-known loopholes to secure the loans. Sabina Ceto lied to her loan officer; she said she needed the money for a family business. She enlisted six female relatives to apply for their own loans, each for about $150. Many of Guatemala’s lenders prefer to lend to women, in part because they are considered more likely to return the money. International aid agencies have also provided funding aimed at encouraging female entrepreneurs.

    It never ceases to amaze how much pure rentier evil the idea that every human being is just a successful “entrepreneur,” longing to be unshackled, justifies.

    As Thomas Frank put it in his discussion of the subject in Listen, Liberal (paraphrasing), microlending can be depended on to consistently create one thing–debtors.

    Reply
  19. anon in so cal

    Ukraine’s Zelensky and the mendacious NYT:

    “The November 13 edition, page-13 display of Kolomoisky’s interview, beside a report cut and pasted by the newspaper’s scissors expert, Andrew Kramer, on the meeting between President Putin and President Zelensky which US officials aim to disrupt. Kramer has spent more than a decade in the Moscow bureau without Russian official sources.”

    http://johnhelmer.net/igor-kolomoisky-makes-a-mistake-and-the-new-york-times-does-what-it-always-does/#more-21618

    Reply
      1. anon in so cal

        Thanks for posting the video clip of Tucker Carlson. Carlson is the only MSM pundit who speaks the truth about regime change wars and impeachment: at 1:15 Carlson identifies Trump’s impeachable offsense: “can we get along with Russia?”

        Reply
  20. xkeyscored

    Next in Google’s Quest for Consumer Dominance: Banking WSJ.
    I haven’t read this article, but I have read this from The Daily Mail, which I believe is substantially the same, and I think Clive is too dismissive. It may all fizzle out, the EU may spike it, or consumers may see no point in it and distrust Google. On the other hand, Google may see opportunities here, hoping to deeply partner (forgive the spilt infinitive) with banks as a foot in the door. I think Google has shown quite a bit of imagination in their expansion from a mere search engine so far; I doubt if this is an exception.
    Yves wrote yesterday in reply to a comment of mine, “Banks are not permitted to be in commerce. Google would have to quit being Google to become a bank. This is an absolute bright line in regulations. Moreover, being regulated as a bank sucks. No one sensible would want to get into that business, particularly on the low-margin retail end. Google would have much more fun and profit being a PE or VC fund. Only a little SEC oversight.”
    Google might not want to become a bank so much as replace consumer banking. Who knows what disruptive blue-sky alternatives they might come up with? And could they not start a new ‘independent’ company to try and get around this? My guess is they see this as a foot in the door, and they’ll see where it leads.
    I don’t know. Yves and Clive may well be right, and this might all come to nothing as Google comes up against reality. But Google, in my opinion, is not stupid. My guess is they’ll look for whatever opportunities they can find, and see if they can’t exploit them with their skills in shuttling data around.
    As for “Maybe people were trusting enough not to smell something bad about this 10 years ago. Not now,” I’d have thought few people trust banks any more, probably fewer than trust Google. Do most people care, so long as ‘the user experience’ is smooth, seamless and convenient?

    Reply
    1. xkeyscored

      SWIFT processes around 24 million messages a day. Google’s search engine processes 5.6 billion searches a day, Gmail now has more than 1 billion monthly active users, and that’s before we get to all their other activities.
      Banks have developed a system for doing one thing ‘well’ and reliably. Google has a track record for innovation in all sorts of fields.
      Banks rely on fairly old technology. Google’s is often cutting edge; it’s a world leader in commercial AI.
      Banks know a lot about our financial status and transactions. Google knows almost everything about us.

      For these reasons, I think Google aims to get its foot in the door, and explore the possibilities. Yves may well be right in saying they don’t want to become a bank, but I think that’s a narrow outlook, and Google’s probably got its eye on something way beyond our current banking and monetary system. I doubt if they have anything approaching a clear and detailed plan for all this if their venture into banking services gets off the ground, other than having teams of Google brainstormers trying to think out of the box and see what comes up. And they’ve quite a track record for coming up with things.
      This Google venture might fizzle out or fail, but I think, sooner or later, the banking/monetary sector’s going to be pretty shaken up by computer technology.

      Reply
      1. Yves Smith

        Don’t dismiss Clive, who is an expert both on bank regs and bank IT, when you know neither.

        You really do not understand banking at all. It is a regulated industry and you can’t be a bank and be in commerce. Period. Google would have to divest everything else to become a bank. Do you seriously think this will happen?

        All this is is an app, like Apple Pay, that connect to banking services provided by others.

        Reply
        1. Bugs Bunny

          Yves, IBM had a bank that was run as a separate entity. It provided loans to buy hardware… from IBM. It was subject to bank regs and all that.

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith

            It had only a single customer, itself, and so it got a waiver, and yet was STILL required to comply with bank regulations.

            Let me clue you in: no company with a non-trivial operating business is going to get a waiver for a banking license to deal with retail customers.

            The standard way of doing what IBM did was having a commercial finance subsidiary. I cannot fathom how they would have gotten any business or cost advantage via being set up as a bank. Maybe a propellerhead at IBM thought they’d be permitted to serve other customers and you can see how far that idea got.

            Tons of industrial companies did that without being banks. GE’s finance operation grew out of that sort of thing.

            The only other exception I know of was Ford had a small and pretty inconsequential bank and it was the opposite of the IBM case: it operated at an arm’s length from Ford, it was mainly if not entirely in Michigan, had no synergies save the name. And that was back in the 1980s and 1990s. Ford may still own it but I can pretty much guarantee it is even less important now.

            Reply
      2. Clive

        I don’t get at all what Google offers a bank. The proposals seems to only address what finance can do for Google, not what Google can — in a proven, implementation-ready way — do to address the difficulties which legacy banks (the Too Big to Fails) have.

        What comes across my desk, or pesters me in emails and conference calls are a slew of what Google is proffering: add-ons, extra bits of IT plumbing, and the tech equivalent of more duct tape and bailing wire. Things that you can tack on to the back-end and perhaps replace or replicate certain functionality. What none of these so-called solitons ever provide is the opportunity to genuinely reduce system complexity, maintainability and manageability. Google is apparently (and we’re left to guess because the various press pieces are not only short on detail, they’re even short of big-picture explanations) bringing yet more detritus to add to the swamp and another shade of lipstick to apply to the pig.

        The last thing I want to have to deal with is yet another interface or some other, new and different API or infrastructure or cloud offer. I’m drowning in interfaces. There’s a telephony interface (both real for onshore and virtual desktop for offshore), a retail distribution channel interface (which wants to get all clever with snazzy point-of-sale and point-of-service presentation layers and tablets, not just nice simple fixed PCs), an Internet channel interface for customer-self service, various flavours of apps such as iOS and Android, ATMs, oh and yes, I almost forgot, custom designed and differentiated security models (plus intrusion detection and prevention across the board) for each. iOS alone now has a team of 50 in my TBTF doing updates, testing and, joy of joys, Apple certification — just to keep that particular show on the road. A whole cottage industry that grew out of nowhere, for one app (which is merely a UI on existing transactions and APIs, there’s no bespoke functionality) on one platform.

        I’ll leave it to your imagination what the regulators need to see evidenced for ongoing capabilities to effect change across this myriad of barely-integrated systems. And how for especially critical ones (which for a large bank can take out a significant chunk of the entire economy if they go inop) like payments, card acquiring and ATM, each end-to-end process has to be able to identify what is dependent on what and have proven resilience measure in place.

        Oh, and every so often, there’ll be a commercially-driven or on occasions regulatory-driven divestiture (unprofitable business units sold off), or acquisition (for example struggling smaller players transferred into the bank holding company in shotgun marriages as they are too much of a risk due to their being sub-scale to comply with increasingly onerous regulatory requirements or are undercapitalised or facing some other difficulties and the regulators want that problem child taken into care). So the entire shaky edifice is constantly being remodelled.

        So Sengupta from Google is, what?, going to show up at bank CIO’s offices and say as a salesman’s pitch “hey! terrific news! I’ve got this wonderful great toy, it’ll plug right into your IT estate, it gets really deeply entwined with the entrails then, and this is so the best part, guess what, it provides another interface! but this one’s really cool, it’s from Google! isn’t that great? it’ll be built right into people’s phones! no, it’ll hardly need any testing… I’m sure of that, well, fairly sure but we will help you on your Google integration journey, naturally… and of course it will scale, we’ve run all sorts of simulations which is practically the same thing… and your big opportunity is here, because you can be an early adopter! yes, you can steal a march on the competition before we sell this to them, too”

        Alrighty. This sounds a winning proposition.

        Reply
          1. Clive

            Yes, and while I deeply admire the Register, those guys are beyond parody. They realise they are a parody, but then, like Sengupta shows signs of, they start parodying their own parodies.

            Reply
        1. xkeyscored

          Thank you, Yves. You’re quite right, I know next to nothing about banking.
          And thank you, Clive. Your comment was posted quite late; I guess many people won’t have read it. I think it could do with being repeated, even fleshed out into a fuller piece, should this topic come up again. I do hope you don’t think I was trying to dismiss you. Thinking you were being over-dismissive of Google isn’t the same thing in my book.
          That said, you’ll both be dismayed to hear I’m not fully convinced. From what I hear, Google does not intend to become a bank. And from what Clive says, yet another app/interface/thingy won’t do much for system complexity, maintainability and manageability, let alone revolutionise money or banking. It’ll both be and require duct tape and bailing wire, and give another headache to the likes of Clive. But is it Google’s ambition or intention to provide another API or a bit more infrastructure to tack onto the existing system? Maybe. Nobody appears to know, not even Google themselves. I won’t be surprised if this isn’t the last we hear of this.

          Reply
  21. Synoia

    Switching Power Grid to DC Could Boost its Capacity Machine Design.

    Yes, an explanation:
    AC = Alternating Current, DC = Direct Current
    cosign is a trigonometry function, values for 1 to zero.
    * is multiply.
    Reactance: Causes current peaks in an AC Cycle (50 Hz or 60 Hz) to lag voltage peaks.

    In a Alternation Current network, peak voltage (volts) and peak current (amps) are not coincident, they do not happen at the same time, because the distribution network is reactive – like a large coil of wire.

    Losses, heating of the wires, is proportional the current * current * resistance of the wire.

    Power delivered (watts) is voltage * cosign(current).

    If the current peak in not coincident with the voltage peak, which is generally the case in AC networks, that there is loss due to the difference between peak current of the cosign of the peak current.

    Because cosign(current peak) < 1, due to the reactive effect.

    DC transmission does not have this characteristic, because cosign(0) = 1, so losses are avoided.

    BUT: and there is always a but,

    Transformers require Alternating Current. So there has to be some machinery to convert the igh voltage DC to AC. All machinery or solid state inverters have high costs and cause some loss of power.

    Rotating machinery requires maintenance (cost). Solid state machinery has to have extra machinery to eliminate the Radio Frequency interference caused by the solid state switching system (cost).

    DC transmission is currently only economic on longer transmission lines. It is unlikely to be economic to the (last mile) home, office etc, ever.

    These concepts are better explained with diagrams.

    In the UK this was second year material for future electrical engineers, in the US 3rd year or equivalent, with the equivalent level of Maths.

    Reply
    1. xkeyscored

      The article made it clear that this was not for the last mile.
      “High-voltage DC has traditionally only been considered a viable option for extremely long corridors, but the team’s work shows the conversion to be the cheapest way to increase capacity for many distances—even as low as 200 miles—challenging the conventional wisdom about HVDC.”

      Reply
    2. inode_buddha

      Interestingly, I had this material in first year trades school, USA. Of course, that was almost 40 years ago, things have changed since then. The first 6 months was solid maths and theory.

      Reply
  22. allan

    Uber Hit With $650 Million Employment Tax Bill in New Jersey [Bloomberg]

    Uber Technologies Inc. owes New Jersey about $650 million in unemployment and disability insurance taxes because the rideshare company has been misclassifying drivers as independent contractors, the state’s labor department said.

    Uber and subsidiary Rasier LLC were assessed $523 million in past-due taxes over the last four years, the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development said in a pair of letters to the companies. The rideshare businesses also are on the hook for as much as $119 million in interest and penalties on the unpaid amounts, according to other internal department documents. …

    The state’s determination is limited to unemployment and disability insurance, but it could also mean that Uber is required to pay drivers minimum wages and overtime under state law. Uber’s costs per driver, and those of Lyft, could jump by more than 20% if they are forced to reclassify workers as employees, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. …

    Criticize it all you want, but there’s no denying that the gig economy has turned out to be
    a Full Employment Act – for corporate lawyers.

    Reply
  23. Rod

    The migrant debt cycle WaPo. Microloans….

    Seldom see honest(without overt spin) reporting like this on the issue of Immigration to the USA. Not pretty.

    Confirms some of the Migration methods my students shared with me on how some got from there to here. Loans in various imaginations. Africa, Asia, Central Europe, Latin and South American–all had that commonality. Paybacks described to me varied–with money only being the most innocuous.

    In traveling through CA and SA over the years, it wasn’t unusual for people to ask where my home state was and upon hearing it was in the Southeast, venture they had a relative or more living somewhat proximate to me. What do you say to say to them–in their own country–in a situation like that?

    I wonder why and how the Washington Post Reporter got the lead on a story so ignored by MSM?

    What truly jumped out to me was really in between the lines–the Enabling System that is so, so, well organized and established from there to here. Relatives and willing employers in the USA down through to that Facilitator working in the local Tienda. And the willful ignorance of so many citizens(people) who see their communities and local economies changing without a second thought behind how and why it is occurring.

    Reply
  24. juliania

    Far be it from me to support Google in their ‘snuggle up to the banksters’ approach, but they didn’t split the infinitive. Had they said ‘to deeply partner’ that would have split the infinitive, the latter being, in essence, ‘to partner’. ( I hope my quibble is simply of use in drawing attention to their abominable behavior.)

    Reply
      1. shtove

        You can have, “to boldly split an infinitive”, without anyone complaining much. But can you have, “to too boldly split an infinitive”, without Washington launching a coup somewhere south of the Rio Grande?

        Reply
  25. Wukchumni

    Shelter cat put in solitary confinement for ‘repeatedly’ letting other cats out The Mirror.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    One of our hair’m is named Einstein and he’s the brains of the outfit, and knows how to open the sliding glass door if it isn’t locked. It took us awhile to figure out he was the miscreant allowing others to ‘bust out’.

    Reply
  26. Tim

    One of the few redeeming uses for AI would be traffic lights. How much fuel is wasted by the old “smart streetlight systems running ladder logic on PLCs? I’m not even talking about smart grids. I’m talking one light independently making good decisions.

    If you had a traffic light that could properly judge car quantity, velocity, and mass in each direction to calculate which right of way preference at any one point in time would result in the least change in total momentum and fuel burn, it would save a shocking amount of gas and time.

    As it is I keep waiting at a traffic light for a car to come in the opposite direction so the PLC wakes up and changes the light red on him so I can go. It’s so archaic.

    Reply
    1. Kurt Sperry

      The nearest traffic light to me has pretty sophisticated controller and it works pretty darn well I think. I know nothing about how it accomplishes that however. The software seems to have gotten better and better over time too, it almost never leaves you waiting at a red when there is no traffic approaching on the cross street. It’s probably more complex when multiple signals have to run in series along a primary thoroughfare.

      Reply
  27. Oregoncharles

    Correction: ” It’s very odd that Mifsud has never been interviewed ”
    The article says he WAS interviewed, in Washington, shortly after the FBI interviewed Papadopoulos. They convicted the latter on the grounds that his lies interfered with their interview with Mifsud. ???
    Not very competent investigators, you might think.

    Evidently he’s been in hiding and is now tired of it.

    Reply
  28. The Rev Kev

    “China’s messaging against the Hong Kong protests has found a new outlet: PornHub”

    This is going to need intense research to find these hidden messages. Challenge accepted!

    Reply
  29. EE in Mass.

    RE, DC vs AC: The issue is losses in the transmission line. AC schemes have additional losses due to the alternating nature of the current vs the static nature of DC current (physics is wonderful…). These additional losses are due to the frequency of the alternating current (60Hz in the USA). Without going into too much detail, the total losses in the AC scheme are greater than the total losses in a DC scheme. However, it’s traditionally easier to step up an AC voltage through the use of simple transformers than to create DC in the first place (generators are inherently AC devices) and then convert it to AC at the end using inverters. However, at really high currents, the AC losses become great enough that the cost of inverters and creating DC at the source is paid for by the savings due to lower losses in the DC scheme (the power company doesn’t always get paid for losses getting the power that you use to you). These topics are somewhat complicated but can be understood by just about anyone if they’re willing to dig into it enough. I’m in New England where we have power fed to us over DC lines from Hydro Quebec. As the article states, conventional wisdom is that this only paid at high loads and long distances which is the case here in N.E. However, apparently the scientists in the article are challenging this wisdom. I believe them, it strikes me as plausible. I’m a BS in electrical engineering as well as MS in EE.

    Reply

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