Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Grey

The Buffalo is father to the Wolf, the Wolf to the Buffalo.



The Cowboy is Death to both.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Silence Is a Commons

From remarks by Ivan Illich at the "Asahi Symposium Science and Man - The Computer-Managed Society," Tokyo, Japan, March 21, 1982:

On the same boat on which I arrived in 1926, the first loudspeaker was landed on the island. Few people there had ever heard of such a thing. Up to that day, all men and women had spoken with more or less equally powerful voices. Henceforth this would change. Henceforth the access to the microphone would determine whose voice shall be magnified. Silence now ceased to be in the commons; it became a resource for which loudspeakers compete. Language itself was transformed thereby from a local commons into a national resource for communication. As enclosure by the lords increased national productivity by denying the individual peasant to keep a few sheep, so the encroachment of the loudspeaker has destroyed that silence which so far had given each man and woman his or her proper and equal voice. Unless you have access to a loudspeaker, you now are silenced.

Just as the commons of space are vulnerable, and can be destroyed by the motorization of traffic, so the commons of speech are vulnerable, and can easily be destroyed by the encroachment of modem means of communication.

The issue which I propose for discussion should therefore be clear: how to counter the encroachment of new, electronic devices and systems upon commons that are more subtle and more intimate to our being than either grassland or roads - commons that are at least as valuable as silence. Silence, according to western and eastern tradition alike, is necessary for the emergence of persons. It is taken from us by machines that ape people. We could easily be made increasingly dependent on machines for speaking and for thinking, as we are already dependent on machines for moving.

Such a transformation of the environment from a commons to a productive resource constitutes the most fundamental form of environmental degradation. This degradation has a long history, which coincides with the history of capitalism but can in no way just be reduced to it. Unfortunately the importance of this transformation has been overlooked or belittled by political ecology so far. It needs to be recognized if we are to organize defense movements of what remains of the commons. This defense constitutes the crucial public task for political action during the eighties. The task must be undertaken urgently because commons can exist without police, but resources cannot. Just as traffic does, computers call for police, and for ever more of them, and in ever more subtle forms.

By definition, resources call for defense by police. Once they are defended, their recovery as commons becomes increasingly difficult. This is a special reason for urgency.

human rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The piddling contribution of wind power in New England

ISO New England: Seasonal Claimed Capability (SCC), Jan 2012 report

Total New England Claimed Capability (MW)
Winter (March):  34407.889;  125.964 (0.366%) from WIND
Summer (August):  31766.431;  50.735 (0.160%) from WIND

The SCC of Intermittent Power Resources generator assets are determined using the median of net output from the most recently completed Summer Capability and Winter Capability Periods across the Summer (HE 14-18) and Winter (HE 18-19) Intermittent Reliability Hours, respectively.

The ISO-NE report lists 34 wind-powered generators, only 26 providing any winter and 24 summer capability (two of which because they are still under construction or not yet connected and therefore deleted from the list below).

generatorcapacity (kW)wintersummer
MA:
BARNSTABLE_DPW_ID154520080 (40%)14 (7%)
BARTLETTS OCEAN VIEW FARM WIND25000
BERKSHIRE WIND POWER PROJECT150006988 (46.6%)1704 (11.4%)
CITY OF MEDFORD WIND QF10000
HOLY NAME CC JR SR HIGH SCHOOL60000
HULL WIND TURBINE II1800458 (25.4%)52 (2.3%)
HULL WIND TURBINE U5660180 (27.3%)46 (7.0%)
IPSWICH WIND FARM 11600342 (21.4%)125 (7.8%)
JIMINY PEAK WIND QF150000
MOUNT ST MARY-WRENTHAM MA WIND1004 (4.0%)2 (2.0%)
NATURE'S CLASSROOM WIND QF10000
NM-STONE6006 (1%)0
NOTUS WIND I1650500 (30.3%)187 (11.3%)
OTIS_AF_WIND_TURBINE1500199 (13.3%)125 (8.3%)
OTIS_WT_AFCEE_ID169215001200 (80%)1200 (80%)
PRINCETON WIND FARM PROJECT3000582 (19.4%)157 (52.3%)
RICHEY WOODWORKING WIND QF60000
TEMPLETON WIND TURBINE1650401 (24.3%)74 (4.5%)
TOWN_OF_FALMOUTH_WIND_TURBINE1650133 (8.1%)6 (0.4%)
ME:
BEAVER RIDGE WIND45001240 (27.6%)466 (10.4%)
FOX ISLAND WIND4500159 (3.5%)0
KIBBY WIND POWER13200034590 (26.2%)13375 (10.1%)
ROLLINS WIND PLANT6000020860 (34.8%)6207 (10.3%)
SPRUCE MOUNTAIN WIND 190009000 (47.4%)4500 (23.7%)
STETSON II WIND FARM255006740 (26.4%)2602 (10.2%)
STETSON WIND FARM5700015725 (27.6%)7056 (12.4%)
NH:
LEMPSTER WIND240008518 (35.5%)2457 (10.2%)
RI:
NE ENGRS MIDDLETOWN RI WIND QF10000
PORTSMOUTH ABBEY WIND QF66000
TOWN OF PORTSMOUTH RI WIND QF1500159 (10.6%)178 (11.9%)
VT:
SEARSBURG WIND (listed in Mass.)6600900 (13.6%)202 (3.1%)
SHEFFIELD WIND PLANT4000017000 (42.5%)10000 (25.0%)
TOTAL WIND459420125964 (27.4%)50735 (11.0%)


Note that several of these figures are obviously bogus, with round numbers and summer values an even fraction of the winter value suggesting developer reports rather than actual data, and the 80% claimed capacity for one of the Otis Air Force Base turbines is clearly impossible.

Therefore, the ISO-NE report of 0.37% of its power in winter and 0.16% in summer is an exaggeration of the true situation. That piddling contribution includes the output from nine very large wind energy facilities, all on mountain ridges that used to provide important forested habitat.

(Note that the 42-MW Mars Hill Wind Farm in Maine is not included here, because it is outside of the ISO-NE network. And according to the New England Wind Forum of the U.S. Department of Energy, there are two other large facilities currently under construction — Record Hill Wind Project [50 MW] in Byron and Roxbury, Me. and Kingdom Community Wind [63 MW] in Lowell, Vt. — and five more that have been permitted — Cape Wind [468 MW] and Hoosac Wind Energy Project [30 MW] in Mass., Spruce Mountain [19 MW] in Me., Granite Reliable Power Windpark [99 MW] in N.H., and Georgia Mountain Community Wind [12 MW] in Vt.; the Hoosac and Granite projects are in fact under construction, and the Record Hill project is operating.)

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Leahy loves fascism

Not only did Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy vote to further codify the USA's march to military dictatorship in the form of the NDAA, he is also the sponsor of PIPA, the Senate version of SOPA, adding censorship of the internet to his acquiescence to fascism.

human rights, Vermont

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Washington Post shakes things up

First, on Friday Jonathan Turley wrote "10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free":
Every year, the State Department issues reports on individual rights in other countries, monitoring the passage of restrictive laws and regulations around the world. Iran, for example, has been criticized for denying fair public trials and limiting privacy, while Russia has been taken to task for undermining due process. Other countries have been condemned for the use of secret evidence and torture.

Even as we pass judgment on countries we consider unfree, Americans remain confident that any definition of a free nation must include their own — the land of free. Yet, the laws and practices of the land should shake that confidence. In the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, this country has comprehensively reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded security state. The most recent example of this was the National Defense Authorization Act, signed Dec. 31, which allows for the indefinite detention of citizens. At what point does the reduction of individual rights in our country change how we define ourselves? ...

Americans often proclaim our nation as a symbol of freedom to the world while dismissing nations such as Cuba and China as categorically unfree. Yet, objectively, we may be only half right. Those countries do lack basic individual rights such as due process, placing them outside any reasonable definition of “free,” but the United States now has much more in common with such regimes than anyone may like to admit.

These countries also have constitutions that purport to guarantee freedoms and rights. But their governments have broad discretion in denying those rights and few real avenues for challenges by citizens — precisely the problem with the new laws in this country.

The list of powers acquired by the U.S. government since 9/11 puts us in rather troubling company.

Assassination of U.S. citizens ... Indefinite detention ... Arbitrary justice ... Warrantless searches ... Secret evidence ... War crimes ... Secret court ... Immunity from judicial review ... Continual monitoring of citizens ... Extraordinary renditions ...
And the week before (and appearing in our local paper this past Sunday), John Tirman wrote "Why do we ignore the civilians killed in American wars?":
As the United States officially ended the war in Iraq last month, President Obama spoke eloquently at Fort Bragg, N.C., lauding troops for “your patriotism, your commitment to fulfill your mission, your abiding commitment to one another,” and offering words of grief for the nearly 4,500 members of the U.S. armed forces who died in Iraq. He did not, however, mention the sacrifices of the Iraqi people.

This inattention to civilian deaths in America’s wars isn’t unique to Iraq. There’s little evidence that the American public gives much thought to the people who live in the nations where our military interventions take place. Think about the memorials on the Mall honoring American sacrifices in Korea and Vietnam. These are powerful, sacred spots, but neither mentions the people of those countries who perished in the conflicts.

The major wars the United States has fought since the surrender of Japan in 1945 — in Korea, Indochina, Iraq and Afghanistan — have produced colossal carnage. For most of them, we do not have an accurate sense of how many people died, but a conservative estimate is at least 6 million civilians and soldiers. ...

Why the American silence on our wars’ main victims? Our self-image, based on what cultural historian Richard Slotkin calls “the frontier myth” — in which righteous violence is used to subdue or annihilate the savages of whatever land we’re trying to conquer — plays a large role. For hundreds of years, the frontier myth has been one of America’s sturdiest national narratives.

When the challenges from communism in Korea and Vietnam appeared, we called on these cultural tropes to understand the U.S. mission overseas. The same was true for Iraq and Afghanistan, with the news media and politicians frequently portraying Islamic terrorists as frontier savages. By framing each of these wars as a battle to civilize a lawless culture, we essentially typecast the local populations as theIndians of our North American conquest. As the foreign policy maven Robert D. Kaplan wrote on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page in 2004, “The red Indian metaphor is one with which a liberal policy nomenklatura may be uncomfortable, but Army and Marine field officers have embraced it because it captures perfectly the combat challenge of the early 21st century.”

Politicians tend to speak in broader terms, such as defending Western values, or simply refer to resistance fighters as terrorists, the 21st-century word for savages. Remember the military’s code name for the raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound? It was Geronimo. ...

Perhaps the most compelling explanation for indifference, though, taps into our beliefs about right and wrong. More than 30 years ago, social psychologists developed the “just world” theory, which argues that humans naturally assume that the world should be orderly and rational. When that “just world” is disrupted, we tend to explain away the event as an aberration. For example, when encountering a beggar on the street, a common reaction is indifference or even anger, in the belief that no one should go hungry in America.

This explains much of our response to the violence in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. When the wars went badly and violence escalated, Americans tended to ignore or even blame the victims. The public dismissed the civilians because their high mortality rates, displacement and demolished cities were discordant with our understandings of the missions and the U.S. role in the world.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Faustian Bargain that Modern Economists Never Mention

Gary Peters writes at Our Finite World:

Historically people have shifted their belief systems in various ways. The Greeks and Romans believed in numerous gods and goddesses and attributed all kinds of powers to them. Then the great monotheistic religions came along and people began to believe in just one god, though they honored him under different names.

Recently, beliefs have shifted again, with people worshipping just one part of a god, the invisible hand. Thanks to Adam Smith and those who followed him, especially the current neoclassical economic theologians, we have seen such an increase in the world’s wealth and sheer numbers that it is hard to imagine life before the industrial revolution, with its shift from mostly human and animal muscle power to the energy dense fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas. It is also hard to imagine that humanity could someday slide back into another age of scarcer and more expensive energy, but that is a possibility that cannot be excluded from our thinking.

The Faustian Bargain

What about the Faustian bargain? It remains deeply hidden from view because its exposure by the high priests of modern economics would force us to rethink how we live and why we live this way, as well as what we’re planning to leave for future generations. The Faustian bargain goes something like this: Thanks to the discovery and exploitation of fossil fuels, humans (really just a small minority of them) are able to live richer lives today than even the queens and kings of yore could have dreamed of.

Furthermore, we’ve used some of those finite resources to increase food supplies and to expand the human population, which provides the economic system with both more workers and more consumers, a necessity to keep the economy growing under our current economic model. The world’s population increased from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 7 billion today, and we add about 80 million more each year. Humans have quickly become the most numerous megafauna on the planet.

The other side of the bargain, the side hidden from view and never mentioned in economics texts is this: At some undetermined time in the future, one that creeps ever closer, this economic system, fed by energy and other resources at ever increasing rates at one end and spewing out waste products at rates that cannot be absorbed by Earth’s ecosystems at the other, is unsustainable. What that means is simple enough: Industrial society as we know it cannot go on as it has forever—not even close.

Our economic system must exist within Earth’s finite limits, so recent and current generations have sold their soul to the devil for temporary riches, leaving the Devil to collect his due when the system falls apart under its own weight and the four horsemen of the apocalypse ride again across the world’s landscapes. None of this will happen tomorrow or this week or this year, but our economic system is faltering at both ends.

For many, if not most, of the world’s population life may become more difficult, incomes lower, and uncertainty greater. It does not mean the end of the world, as some predict for 2012, but it will mean that future generations probably will not live like current ones. Rather than admit that the current system cannot be sustained, the affluent and powerful will do everything possible to maintain the status quo.

The Fallacy of Long-Term Economic Growth

Economic growth remains a mantra for politicians and corporate leaders, including the banksters who brought us the Great Recession. Even President Obama, like presidents before him, speaks regularly about “growing the economy.” But nothing in the real world suggests that economic growth can continue forever. Nor does much evidence support the notion that economic growth has been a good thing for either the planet or billions of its human residents. It looks more like a colossal Ponzi scheme.

One of the most optimistic supporters of modern economics and its marvels is Tim Harford, who wrote, in his book The Logic of Life, “The more of us there are in the world, living our logical lives, the better our chances of seeing out the next million years.” This may be the dumbest thing an economist has ever written and he shows not even the slightest understanding of the planet on which we live. Homo sapiens has only been around for about 200,000 years, so another 800,000 years at the rate we’re going seems absurd. If our population were to continue to grow at an annual rate of only 1.0 percent, slightly less than our current growth rate, then our numbers would increase to over 115 trillion in just the next thousand years. You can play with the growth rate if you wish, but you cannot escape the cold hard fact that human population growth must stop. Only economists seem to miss the fact that economic growth must stop.

Among the high priests of modern economic theology, Paul Krugman came closer than anyone to admitting that growth could not go on forever on our planet. In an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times (12-26-10) he wrote, “What the commodity markets are telling us is that we’re living in a finite world [my italics] ….” He went on to mention the possibility of peak oil production and even climate change, both of which threaten the modern economic system, but then, returning to the faithful fold, he wrote, “This won’t bring an end to economic growth….” He admitted that our lifestyles might have to change but gave no clue about where and how that might come about or where it might lead.

Economic reality and economic theology don’t fit together very well. In 1988 Edward Abbey wrote, in his book One Life at a Time, Please:
It should be clear to everyone by now that crude numerical growth does not solve our problems of unemployment, welfare, crime, traffic, filth, noise, squalor, the pollution of air, the corruption of our politics, the debasement of the school system (hardly worthy of the name ‘education’), and the general loss of popular control over the political process—where money, not people, is now the determining factor.
Today, 24 years later, virtually every word of Abbey’s statement is truer than ever, yet politicians and economic theologians continue to preach that if we can just grow the economy (local, state, national, and world) then all will be well again. You need not look far or deeply to see how wrong they are and what price we’ll pay when the Devil comes looking for our collective souls.

Among economists, Herman Daly is one of the few who has tried to reveal the Faustian bargain for what it really is, as is apparent in this statement from a Dec. 26 article, Rio+20 Needs to Address the Downsides of Growth:
Even though economies are still growing, and still put growth in first place, it is no longer economic growth, at least in wealthy countries, but has become uneconomic growth. In other words, the environmental and social costs of increased production are growing faster than the benefits, increasing “illth” faster than wealth, thereby making us poorer, not richer. We hide the uneconomic nature of growth from ourselves by faulty national accounting because growth is our panacea, indeed our idol, and we are very afraid of the idea of a steady-state economy. The increasing illth is evident in exploding financial debt, in biodiversity loss, and in destruction of natural services, most notably climate regulation
Click here to go to the complete essay.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Veritas Papers: A Crash Course on the Truth

A crash course on the truth about the struggle for Palestinian human rights: The Veritas Papers

Download:

1.  Occupation from Scratch — Confused? Have no idea what this is all about? Find out here!
2.  Myths vs. Reality — Don't believe everything you’re told about the occupation of Palestine
3.  The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine — The “Nakba” of 1948 and continuous policy of ethnic cleansing
4.  Israel’s “Right” to Exist — Why don’t Palestinians accept or support this “right”?
5.  The West Bank and Settlements
6.  Apartheid — The separation and privilege of one people over another another
7.  Breaking Gaza — Collective punishment and incarceration of an entire population
8.  International Law — What does the UN & International Law have to say?
9.  Resistance — Is the Gandhi way the only way? Violent vs. non-violent resistance
10.  A Real Partner for Peace — Who is preventing peace in the Middle East?
11a.  Canada's Role in Occupation — Is Canada the “peace-maker” we think?
11b.  America: Israel’s Biggest Ally — Unconditional American support and funding of war crimes
12.  Boycotting Israel — The international boycott, divestment & sanctions campaign
Addendum 1.  Companies to Boycott — Be a responsible buyer and stop supporting apartheid
Addendum 2.  Famous People and Things Who Support Palestine

All 15 Veritas Papers

The Veritas Handbook — A guide to understanding the struggle for Palestinian human rights

human rights

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Military spending: USA vs. the world

Military expeditures 2010 (in billion 2009 USD, as % of 2009 GDP, and per capita) according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute:

Worldwide total:1,604b2.5%$229
Non-USA total:917b1.9%$137
USA:687b4.7%$2,196
China:114b2.2%$85
France:61b2.5%$938
UK:57b2.7%$915
Russia:53b4.3%$371
Japan:51b1.0%$399
Germany:47b1.4%$575
Saudi Arabia:43b11.2%$1,587
Italy:38b1.8%$626
India:35b2.8%$29
Brazil:28b1.6%$146
South Korea:24b2.9%$494
Canada:20b1.5%$578
Australia:20b1.9%$877
Spain:16b1.1%$346
UAE:16b7.3%$1,928
Turkey:16b2.7%$217
Israel:13b6.3%$1,667
Netherlands:12b1.5%$714
Greece:9b3.2%$833
Colombia:9b3.7%$194
Taiwan:8b2.4%$345
Poland:8b1.8%$210
Iran:7b1.8%$92
Venezuela:3b1.3%$112

The military expenditures of the next highest 22 countries after the USA, including the two most populous nations, China and India, all together equal those of the USA alone.

Military expenditures by the USA account for 43% of the worldwide total, are equal to 75% of the rest of the world's combined, and per capita are 16 times the average of the rest of the world.

Iran's military expenditures are one one-hundredth of the USA's, Venezuela's four-tenths of one one-hundredth. Per person, the USA spends 24 and 20 times more than Iran and Venezuela, respectively.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Obama's useful idiots on the left

Ron Paul certainly deserves criticism on many issues. So does Obama. That has been Glenn Greenwald's point. You can't avoid criticism of Obama by changing the subject. A more interesting article would have been "Obama's useful idiots on the left", since, as Greenwald notes, Obama has relentlessly attacked civil rights, entrenched executive secrecy and authoritarianism, and used war to further the economic misery of most Americans (not to mention the misery and demise of the people who happen to live in his "theatres").

I would go further and note that Obama has not been even center-left on almost all social and other domestic issues. The balance of good and bad in a candidate is one that must be weighed by each of us, but Paul's "positives" are transformative and Obama's are tepid (at best). There is no shortage of negatives from either of them.

The obvious worry of the Obamacrats is that they would actually have to answer to Ron Paul as the Republican nominee instead of one of the mainstream candidates, who, since Obama is already so far right, are easily dismissed as extremists in their efforts to outdo him.

Of course, if we had an actual democracy here in the U S of A, we could talk about Rocky Anderson, running in the Justice Party, who deserves our votes more than either Paul or Obama or anyone else spewed up for us by the two Wall St parties.

Would Romney treat America as he treated his dog?

Steve Nelson, "Sensibilities", Valley News (White River Junction, Vt.), Jan. 8, 2012:

It is nearly the eve of the New Hampshire primary and, despite the surprising Iowa results for Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney appears to be the man to beat. I suppose this is no great surprise, as Romney is a known quantity and seems relatively sensible despite his opportunistic lurch to the right during this campaign. While his reputation for flip-flopping is well deserved (health care, abortion rights, gay rights, etc.), there are few politicians who don't pander or at least play to the base (both meanings intended) during primary campaigns. Bill Clinton was, somewhat affectionately, dubbed Pander Bear by some during his presidential campaigns.

Ambition and opportunism are not qualities that should disqualify Romney. If they were disqualifiers, we'd have few if any candidates for high office. Romney is ill suited for the presidency because he once drove to Canada with the family's Irish setter on the roof of the car, as New York Times columnist Gail Collins never fails to humorously note in her Romney-related columns.

But unlike Collins, I'm quite serious. America is in trouble. Poverty is at the highest levels since the Great Depression. Unemployment is tenacious and debilitating for millions of families. The gap between rich and poor is shameful. Folks don't have access to decent health care. Schools are underfunded. As the Occupy Wall Street movement chaotically reminds us, life is better for 1 percent and decidedly worse for the other 99 percent. While this may be slight statistical hyperbole, the general point is indisputable.

Mitt Romney was and is among the 1 percent. He was born into privilege and, like too many others with this birthright, believes deeply in the myth of opportunity and meritocracy. There is not a shred of evidence in his personal, professional or political life that he is self-aware enough to recognize his own unearned privilege or empathic enough to understand the deep structural disadvantages that plague millions of Americans. He believes that decisions can be made by analyzing mounds of data and trusting the ethically blind mechanism of free markets.

He embraces his religious faith with the same uncritical certainty that he embraces the other "values" he learned in the privileged and exclusive confines of his private schools, his Mormon university and his gated communities. It's not that these things are necessarily bad. It's that they are his world, not the world.

It is not that wealth and privilege should disqualify anyone from public office either. Other privileged folks in American political history have shown great capacity for genuine empathy. The Kennedy family, despite imperfections among some family members, comes to mind. Their privilege was accompanied by a deep commitment to social justice that continues to play out in the lives of the current generation. The convictions of wealthy progressives may be a form of noblesse oblige, but noblesse oblige beats the heck out of no sense of obligation whatsoever, which is what Romney displays in word and deed.

Romney's treatment of the family dog during a road trip 25 years ago offers a clue to his political sensibilities. I am, quite admittedly, an unrepentant dog lover who mourned the loss of my last dog with intensity that surprised even me. But my excesses aside, I cannot imagine what would lead someone to put his dog in a carrier and strap it to the roof of the car. He claimed that the "dog liked it." The dog, of course, couldn't verify or deny that claim, but it was certainly put at significant risk compared with the human passengers who enjoyed relative safety and comfort inside the car. I can't know the dog's experience, either, but an empathetic person can reasonably deduce that it wasn't a joy ride up there with the roaring wind and isolation from family members.

But just like the struggling Americans that Romney doesn't seem to really see, he may have assumed the dog was lucky to be along for the ride. Romney has never been buffeted by the winds of misfortune or been at risk because of poverty, lack of health care or substandard housing. He's never felt the sting that comes with being denied basic human rights and dignity because of race or sexual identity.

Mitt Romney can't help that he's never had these experiences, but he can't be excused for failing to understand them.

Steve Nelson lives in Sharon (Vt.) and New York City, where he is the head of the Calhoun School.

Opportunity Knocks: Romney vs. Reality

Editorial, Valley News, White River Junction, Vt., Jan. 8, 2012:

As Mitt Romney tells it, the 2012 presidential campaign will be a titanic struggle for the very soul of America, in which the Republican hero (played by … Mitt Romney) seeks not only to unseat President Obama but also to rout the incumbent’s dark vision of transforming America into “an Entitlement Society.” By contrast, the shining Republican knight will fight under the banner of what Romney calls “the Opportunity Society.” We take it the candidate is Big on Capitalization, as well as Unfettered Capitalism.

“In an Entitlement Society,” Romney wrote last month in USA Today, “government provides every citizen the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to innovate, pioneer or take risk. In an Opportunity Society, free people living under a limited government choose whether or not to pursue education, engage in hard work, and pursue the passion of their ideas and dreams. If they succeed, they merit the rewards they are able to enjoy.” What happens if they fail is not specified.

Anyway, it’s easy to understand why this fable appeals to Romney, with $200 million in the bank and houses from sea to shining sea. One might even say the former venture capitalist exudes a sense of entitlement. It has apparently escaped his attention that the average guy has approximately as much chance of succeeding in the Opportunity Society of Romney’s fantasy as he does of hitting the Powerball numbers.

The Opportunity Society as many Americans experience it consists primarily of the opportunity to switch careers in middle age because their job was hijacked and taken overseas by corporate buyout specialists; to run the risk of not carrying health insurance because it is literally unaffordable; to see their children graduate under a mountain of higher-education debt; to watch their savings flushed down Wall Street’s 401(k) sewer because traditional pensions hardly exist any more. These are the sorts of opportunities created over the past few decades not by Obama, but by a philosophy that very much mirrors Romney’s faith in the wisdom of the market.

For the moment at least, people can still fall back on “entitlements” like Social Security and Medicare, benefits to which they become “entitled” by a working lifetime of taxes borne by themselves and their employers. Perhaps if he’s elected, Romney will create the opportunity for people to forgo these debilitating obstacles to the entrepreneurial spirit.

And what of this Entitlement Society allegedly being constructed by the current president? In the Romney version, Obama seeks to transform a merit-based nation of natural-born strivers into one of those notorious European-style social democracies. As it turns out, that might not be as bad as Romney imagines. As The New York Times reported Thursday, many researchers have concluded in recent years that Americans enjoy far less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe, where unionization remains strong, the social safety net is more robust, and income inequality is less sharp.

All this is not to say that creating an Opportunity Society in the United States is impossible or undesirable. The question is, opportunity for what? Our answer would be the chance to live a good life, however each person defines that; a chance to fulfill one’s potential and to use one’s abilities to their fullest. How to get there? The first prerequisite is a level playing field. In our opportunity society, no one would suffer a disadvantage by the circumstances of his or her birth, and educational opportunity would be equal. Inherited wealth would confer no permanent advantage. Talent and hard work would be valued and rewarded by society in proportion to how much they contribute to the commonweal. A sturdy safety net would prevent those who stumble on the way up from going into free-fall. Risk-taking would not be confused with recklessness. Access to affordable health care would be a given, and those nearing the finish line in the race of life would enjoy secure retirement. In short, constructing a true merit-based democracy requires providing opportunities starkly at odds with many of Romney’s priorities.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

What is the alternative to wind power?

If you are against industrial-scale wind power, than what alternative do you support?

That question is in fact a means of changing the subject.

The alternative to erecting industrial wind turbines is obviously to not erect industrial wind turbines. The burden is on the developers and proponents to answer whether the benefits outweigh the costs — and not in theory, but in actual practice.

The first question above is an attempt to avoid answering the second question, which nobody should be tricked out of continuing to ask.

(Recognizing this rhetorical deception is helpful in many other situations as well, wherever the status quo or accepted wisdom or tribal consensus is being challenged: Keep the guilty and the hypocritical on the defensive!)

Nevertheless, even the theoretical benefits of industrial wind can be easily obtained by simply using a little less electricity, which would also save the planet and the neighbors from the impacts of wind development.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism

Wind development math

The existing 6-MW wind energy facility in Searsburg, Vt., generates an average of 11,000 MWh per year.

Its proposed 30-MW expansion into the Green Mountain National Forest in Readsboro is projected to generate 92,506 MWh per year.

This figure has been blindly accepted by both the state Public Service Board and the USDA Forest Service, both of which have approved the project. (Spain's Iberdrola is the developer.)

The 30-MW expansion is 5 times larger than the original 6-MW project.

But nobody questions that its output will be 8.4 times more!

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