Piggies, markets

A can of worms, wrapped in a puzzle, buried inside an enigma, with a little pink flag sticking up, the only thing visible, while the sound of one hand clapping faintly echoes in the background


By the time the subject of the movie finally comes up, we’d already spent half an hour discussing the ossification of our own culture. We talk about how New York City, the place in which Gray set his first five films, has changed so drastically since the mid 1990s; Gray says the Brooklyn of Little Odessa “is totally gone,” and that, while the 1920s tenements in The Immigrant are still there, they now tower above John Varvatos boutiques. Gray specifies that he’s less interested in romanticizing the crime-ridden city of the past than questioning what’s led to the kind of environment in which, he says, one of his friends seems to be the only person actually living in his apartment building on Central Park West, not using it as an investment.

The fundamental issue on Gray’s mind when we talk is how capitalism impacts our priorities as human beings. Saddled with student debt from the moment we set foot in a university, our ability to “study for the sake of learning” is over; instead, we’re “forced to become budding capitalists.” It’s a critique that received major airtime during Bernie Sanders’s campaign, and Gray’s clearly given it some serious thought. “We haven’t figured out a way to monetize integrity, and when you can’t monetize integrity, and you can’t incentivize integrity and incentivize individuality, and you pray at the god of the market, you get a very strange beast that almost consumes itself,” Gray says. “It’s almost like everyone is beholden to this market god, and nobody knows what to do.”

All in one place, this short article has it all. Best of luck to Gray with the The Lost City of Z.

Categorical Dissonance

hwy-80Not a Can’t be sure it’s not a GBV song but, one of the most visible business news outlets tisk-tisks environmental groups in Washington State opposing the upcoming carbon tax ballot initiative,

Those groups haven’t put their own proposal on the ballot, so they’re saying it’s better to do nothing than vote for Initiative 732. This position is absurd. Curbing carbon emissions is, or ought to be, the primary goal, and the plan would do that. In addition, it’s an opportunity to prove the viability of the carbon-tax approach and set a valuable example for the rest of the country.

While climate change goes all but unmentioned at all three four presidential debates

But none of the moderators asked about global warming at all. Not in the first presidential debate. Not in the vice presidential debate. Not in the second presidential debate.* Not in the third presidential debate. Hillary Clinton name-checked the topic, occasionally, but that was it. Humanity is departing from the stable climatic conditions that allowed civilization to thrive, yet the most powerful nation on Earth can’t set aside five minutes to discuss.

It’s possible the debate moderators don’t understand what’s at stake. It’s possible they don’t care. Or it’s possible they’re afraid that any question on the topic might seem too partisan. After all, Clinton thinks the issue is pretty serious and has a bunch of proposals around it, whereas Trump says it’s all a hoax invented by the Chinese. Under the circumstances, even a halfway intelligent question about climate policy would sound “biased.”

Here we go, looking for validation from the business press – even the single-bottom line thinkers are acknowledging reality, but it’s still okay not to ask prospective leaders anything related, for fear of seeming partisan simply because they still claim not to believe it’s a real thing. The folks on Tybee will be relieved to know.
Image: Weather.com photo of Hwy 80 to Tybee Island, Georgia

How a Bill becomes a Law

un-apNo, not that one – but I love that one. This one, directed at Earthlings, named for our universe’s cultural heart and designed to avoid the worst:

the Paris climate agreement had passed a critical milestone toward adoption. At a UN General Assembly meeting in New York this morning, 31 nations officially signed onto the accord, making it very likely that the deal will enter legal force this year.

You may remember that the Paris agreement—an international pledge to limit us to 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, by weaning every nation off fossil fuels—was adopted at an international summit in December 2015. But before it can go into effect, it needs to be formally ratified by 55 countries that together account for 55 percent of global carbon emissions.

The accord received a major boost earlier this month, when the United States and China, two carbon behemoths that together account for nearly forty percent of global emissions, jointly announced their intention to ratify the deal. Before today, 27 other nations that collectively represent some 2 to 3 percent of global emissions had also signed on.

This is the tipping point we were looking for, to try to put off that other one. So many other wires have been tripped in setting off the renewable energy cascade, we might as well formalize the shift. Many difficulties still afoot and Team Fossil is going to fight even harder, but this is continued progress to be promoted and echoed.

Back At The Front, The Next Generation

NRG freedomI think if I was setting a new story in Florida, inventing a needlessly fictional version of Florida Man, he would work in a [solar-powered] cabinet pull plant in Even, Florida:

So did the legislators underestimate the popularity of Amendment 4? Did they think they’d assuage public opinion by putting it on the ballot, getting points, and then it wouldn’t pass? Or have the green energy entrepreneurs begun out-lobbying the utilities and Big Oil? Whatever it is, something big has changed. That Amendment 4 was put before the public at all, and that the public trounced the lobbyists, announces a sea change in which sordid deals in back rooms by the Carbon Moguls with fresh-facced and clueless state senators are no longer determinative. The people are getting a say, and they want to make it easier and cheaper to go solar.
The next big item on which voters will get a say is Amendment 1, this fall. It seeks to punish those who opt for solar power on the specious argument that non-solar customers shouldn’t have to bear the burden of upgrading the electricity grid or other infrastructural changes that will come with the extra solar energy.

Who knows? Maybe it’s a bit different with that rising tide gently lapping at your chamber door.

Image: I can’t believe that image actually exists.

What does the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo mean?

ghmapjpgFor the better part of a century, the southern US border was open, more or less, and people moved back and forth as need or desire dictated. From our friends at Balloon Juice, two maps and a few more words:

You’ll notice that on both the map prepared for the negotiations of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Rural Health Information’s map of Hispanic or Latino population of the US based on the 2010 Census that the area that the US would get from Mexico in 1848 is still where the largest percentage of the Hispanic or Latino population of the US live. This doesn’t count south Florida, which has a different historic pattern of Hispanic settlement. What the patterns of settlement shown on the maps show us is that the border was moved on the map, but the pattern of settlement remained largely unchanged.

Reckoning with the reality of steady demographics in this vast region despite changing borders or enforcement regimes is a prerequisite to sustainable immigration policy. It will come as a great surprise to many people that we can have a population that loves the land even if they call it something different and/or the name changes from time to time. I know: shocking.

Green My Card

naturalizationNobody goes there anymore – it’s too crowded:

In just the first quarter, more than 252,000 U.S. residents applied to become naturalized citizens, a 28 percent increase from the same period a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Besides the 41 percent increase in Florida, gains were registered in swing states: about 6,000 applications in Pennsylvania, 3,000 in Nevada, 4,000 in North Carolina and 3,000 in Colorado. There are 8.8 million permanent residents living in the U.S. eligible for citizenship, of whom 2.7 million are from Mexico, according to government estimates.

8 million, and the election won’t even be that close. This development is an unadulterated good – not just that all these people are becoming naturalized – that’s more of a civic responsibility on their part. But that in-migration is so strong, and especially with people who already take the responsibility side of citizenship seriously enough to not be afraid of the scary rhetoric and are actually moved to become a part of the solution. In sports parlance, we’re having a strong draft this year.
Via Washington Monthly.

Floating Solar

SOLAR-masterThe next innovation in solar power capture is here there:

But floating solar arrays are becoming more popular, with installations already operating in Australia and the United States, and more planned or under construction.

The growing interest is driven in part by huge growth in the solar market in recent years as the cost of the technology has dropped quickly.

Floating solar arrays — they are often referred to as “floatovoltaics,” a term trademarked by one company — also have advantages over solar plants on land, their proponents say. Renting or buying land is more expensive, and there are fewer regulations for structures built on reservoirs, water treatment ponds and other bodies of water not used for recreation. Unlike most land-based solar plants, floating arrays can also be hidden from public view, a factor in the nonprofit Sonoma Clean Power Company’s decision to pursue the technology.

The floating arrays have other assets. They help keep water from evaporating, making the technology attractive in drought-plagued areas, and restrict algae blooms. And they are more efficient than land-based panels, because water cools the panels.

“The efficiencies are what motivated us to look at this,” said Rajesh Nellore, the chief executive of Infratech Industries, which has completed the first section of a floating solar plant in Jamestown, Australia, that will eventually cover five water treatment basins.

And evidently, fish love them. The anti-evaporation properties alone are the worth the ticket. Plus: energy. Let’s rip up the freeways, build spill ways and fill ’em up with PV cells.

Scale as a type of Green

Wind_viewIn that, as a word, scale can mean many things – as a verb, to scale is to climb. As a noun, it can signify everything from a balance to the small overlapping bony plates protecting the skin of fish and reptiles. One can even use the verb form to remove the noun form in this latter case. And then we can use a scale as an instrument to determine the weight of objects (which gets closer to our focus here). But we shouldn’t leave out the very critical uses of scale to express an arrangement of notes in a musical system in ascending or descending order of pitch. Tres important, as they say, and also indispensable.

But the crucial sense envelopes the relative size, extent or magnitude of something. And no matter – it seems – the cheapness of fossil fuels or profitability of natural gas fracking (a walking three-word oxymoron if there ever was one) solar wind has eclipsed (ahem) former ideas about giantitude:

Standing in northern Denmark, where fjords cut through flat farmland, MHI Vestas Offshore Wind has erected the world’s most powerful turbine. The turbine produces 8 megawatts of power, enough for about 4,000 homes. It could challenge the lead in offshore wind accrued by Siemens, which has almost two-thirds of installed capacity, according to BNEF. MHI Vestas is in second place, with 19 percent.

A Siemens spokesman said a 7-megawatt turbine the company is working on has a “track record of reliability” that will reduce costs for customers. It won its biggest contract for the machine on Wednesday from the Spanish utility Iberdrola, which will buy 102 turbines valued at as much as 825 million pounds ($1.2 billion).

The 80-meter blades of the MHI Vestas V164 make the machine almost as high as the Times Square Tower in New York, and are so large that they were “a nightmare” to transport on narrow country roads, Jens Tommerup, chief executive officer of the venture, said in an interview. This prototype is built for use offshore and has been tested on land since January 2014 at the wind turbine field in Osterlid, managed by the Technical University of Denmark. The goal is to spot faults before they enter service.

Tilting at windmills, indeed.

Join the One Percent to Live Longer

Towards the BrinkI hope this is an admonition:

New research in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows top earning Americans gained 2 to 3 years of life expectancy between 2001 and 2014, while those at the bottom gained little or nothing. Plenty of research has already shown that health and wealth are intertwined, and that they generally improve in tandem as you move up the income scale. But this year, the vanishing middle class and wildly divergent incomes among Americans have been central issues in a vitriolic race for the White House. Today’s JAMA research shows in the starkest terms yet how disparities in wealth are mirrored by life expectancy, and how both are getting worse.

We yield the floor to Claude Manceron:

The foundation of all revolutionary thought lies in this idea that now is what matters, and don’t try to tell us about anything else. As one scans the images of that now, the temperature begins to rise. And keeps on rising until it reaches that irrepressible indignation at injustice, the burst blood vessel of Revolution, the wrath of love.

Income inequality slowing growth

QE4PRight. Water is wet. Mud, muddy. Dirt, still dirty. In other news, when people don’t have money to buy things, people that make things aren’t able to sell things. This model is fully scalable to the global economy:

Think of an economy as a large network of individuals and firms who make and use things, interact and exchange with one another. Any party can, in principle, transact with any other, buying and selling, the only constraint being the budget of the buyer. Economists have studied network models of this sort — called random exchange economies — to explore how normal trading activity might (or might not) make an economy approach equilibrium.

Now some European physicists have used such a model to examine a different question: How does a significant change in inequality affect the overall level of exchange? Their study makes use of some fairly abstruse mathematics coming from physics, developed precisely for messy network problems of this kind. What they find is troubling, although not all that surprising — rising inequality tends to undermine exchange.

The reason is quite simple. As inequality gets more pronounced, a larger fraction of the population faces more stringent budget constraints, and the spectrum of possible economic interactions open to them narrows. Fewer people have the wherewithal to engage in economic activity. This mathematical economy actually demonstrates a sharp transition, akin to the abrupt freezing of a liquid, as the level of inequality exceeds a certain threshold. Worryingly, the wealth distribution in the U.S. over the past few decades has been moving ever closer to this critical edge.

When will it sink in that you don’t have to be a dirty socialist or believe that everyone should have exactly the same income (and color VW in the garage) to understand that beyond some point, income inequality becomes poison for the entire system. Capitalism can’t work without broad participation, without a diversity of exchange, without the possibility that people may rise into the sphere of [at least] middle class consumption. The 1% idea is not just rhetoric; it’s unhealthy economically as well as politically.