Friday, February 13, 2015

Why voting as an independent is the only way forward #indyvote

Good day all;

I have wiped the dust off this old blog because I felt like I needed a place to put down a screed as we move into our next election cycle.

I want to convey to my friends and colleagues my take on these issues. Please note that I am not willing to go into an endless debate on my point of view here. I have comments disabled on this blog. Further, since this will be linked from a FB entry, I probably won't entertain many disputations there either, and will likely delete the posting the moment it turns negative, as I am wont to do.

So, why is voting as an independent the only way forward? Well, it's like this. Neither of the two parties are deserving of your support. Both of them are extremely well funded, (despite their cries to the contrary) by folks who just simply put, could not care less about *you*.

It hasn't even begun, but we are already looking at what many are thinking is going to be a race between Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.

No, I'm not talking about a 3rd party, I'm talking about independents. Independent thinkers voting for independent, as in not subject to the sovereignty of the two party system, candidates.
Candidates who have only one constituent, only one special interest. That being the american people.

Change your registration to independent, green, libertarian, *ANYTHING* but republican or democrat.

"Oh, but that means I can't vote in the primaries".
That's true.
However, primaries, esp in recent elections are often a reflection of an individual candidate's fund raising prowess, and not so much an appeal to the electorate. It's true that a candidate cannot win without votes, but for the most part, those votes are assured by the delegate process and the dedication of the electorate to the two party system. What the democrats or the republicans put forth as their best candidates will assuredly be most loyal to the system that put them there. That is not the american people.

We need our next president to have been elected by the american people, not by the republican or democratic parties. Another president elected by the two party systems means, more 'governmental oversight' of your personal life. Less autonomy and voter input into societal issues. The citizen will be further marginalized. Yes, just like in the past. Keep doing what you've always done, and you'll keep getting the same results.

Hillary R Clinton is not a liberal. This is a democrat who believes in fracking, who believes in endless wars, who is cool with cutting the for-profits into any public service, be that health care or prisons. She isn't merely a DNO, (Democrat in name only) but doesn't qualify as a  'lefty' at all. While I haven't heard her talk about privatizing social security, I consider that a 'yet'. She's a republican's dream.

However, even if she wasn't such a shill for these interests, even if she was pure of heart, a Ms Smith Goes to Washington type, it would hardly make any difference, because, ,well,  she is a Democrat.

The Democratic National Convention is so shot through with special interests that it *cannot* represent the electorate. Even if it wanted to, it is financially joined at the hip to many other outfits with lots of agendas, many of which are at odds with the concepts of a free and democratic society. Our sitting president, Barack Obama, is considerably more progressive than Hillary Clinton, but even he is completely cool with assassinating American citizens on foreign soils. How many dispensaries were busted by his federal police after his speeches about no longer wasting the people's tax revenues on such things? Take a look at the budget he just signed. He gave all those folks in the DEA a raise for their work in the so-called War on Drugs, all the while doing very little on the education and rehabilitation side of things. The 'prison for profit' industries are doing quite well under his tenure. No, this is not the work of a progressive liberal. The list of sins against the people go on and on.
Is the ACA a better deal for the people? Maybe, but it also took the only real deal off the table, the 'public option' that would have put us on the road to joining the rest of the industrialized democratic societies of the world, when it comes to humane treatment of the citizenry. No, I don't like the ACA, which for those of us with a mind for history is more accurately titled RomneyCare than ObamaCare. But the then-governor Romney was working with a state, not a country. He did a fine job as governor.
Shame he lost his mind in pursuit of the RNC nomination really. But that's an aside. Obama's continued support for the DHS, the endless wars, and prepping right now to get us into yet still another shooting war doesn't speak well to his legacy as a progressive liberal.

Okay, on the Jeb side, or the Republican side. I know *plenty* of republicans who are thoughtful, well considered, honorable, decent and generous folks. I mean that. I've been deep inside that world. But, the power-brokers on that side are -and I mean this in the literal (old-school literal) sense- insane. There are folks who wield immense power on the republican side of the aisle who -if you take them at their word- believe that the world is only 5000 years old, and at the same time sit the boards of major fossil fuel outfits. Further, these are the kind of folks who will say with no sense of irony that not only is the world 5000 years old, but that God put that oil in the ground for us to use. These are the folks writing, or at least funding the writing of the papers that become our countries domestic energy policy. Setting aside a list and litany of sins that just goes on practically forever, this and this alone should be reason to stop and take a careful few moments to consider if these are really the people who should be setting the road map for the US in the 21st century. The answer is quickly arrived at. No. Further, there are folks on that side of things who pretty much -as is shown by their actions- feel that anyone who is worth at least ten million dollars is prima facie a 'good person' and anyone who doesn't have a measurable net worth is de-facto 'worthless' at least in part because God hath Ordained and therefore underwritten and blessed the former with their money, and the latter with their curse. Yes, there are folks who actually believe this, and act upon it. But let's just set aside the religion hot-potato for a moment, and look at the facts:

The party of 'small government' directly supports and is therefore supported by the 'prison industry' and just as aside, the very concept of private prisons is an anathema to a free society. Further, these are the same folks who seek to legislate such ethereal concepts as morality, the extremely private and personal aspects of life such as one's sexual inclinations. These are the folks who have mandated the surveillance society that we are becoming. They support and are supported by the increasingly militarized police state that we are becoming. Ex Parte Milligan, Posse Comitatus, and other such legal protections that some of us grew up under are increasingly difficult to identify in this new world. Every time it seems that something actually manages to make it up to the Supreme Court of the United States to affirm our rights under law as citizens as defined and enumerated in the Bill of Rights, it seems that we the people lose. And these folks who claim to favor individual freedoms and small government rise up in applause.

I don't know if you read "Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime", but I did, and it was a real eye-opener. I recommend it before you start making choices concerning the character of the person you are willing to support for the office of chief executive of the US. This isn't about policy, it's about popularity and it's about power, and nothing else.

But what about their constituents?

Well, those of you who may have tea-party leanings, libertarian leanings and so forth are likely as upset about this as I am. By what quality does the republican party garner your support? Here, I'll answer for you. There is no such quality. They do not, and will not deserve your vote.

For those of you who may have socialist leanings, who may have progressive liberal leanings, no doubt you too are extremely upset by the power grabs of 'the government'. By what quality does the democrat party garner your support? Because they are not republicans? That's Not Good Enough.
They do not deserve your support. Your fellow citizens do not deserve what the government is doing to them with the tacit support that you lend by voting for the mainstream.

It's Wake Up Time.

It is the third millennium. It is the twenty first century.
I honestly no longer care what happened in the twentieth century, I don't care what happened in the second millennium. It's most certainly useful to study it, to learn it, to try to understand from whence we came in order to figure out what to do in the future, but the future is where things happen. Not in the past.

Folks start whining about 'communism', 'socialism', 'fascism' etc, don't listen to them. These are 19th and 20th century concepts that have no place in modern discourse. They are useful for study, absolutely, but that's not how they are used. They are used as sticks to whack folks with, usually without even a cursory understanding of the underlying concepts and principals. That folks are *still* arguing Adam Smith, who has been dead for over 200 years is preposterous. He's DEAD. Sir John Dalberg-Acton (power corrupts, absolute power, , blah blah) has been dead over a hundred years, He's DEAD. Stop listening to dead people, stop waving platitudes around, shouting slogans. Those things don't matter.

You matter, your vote matters.

Do Not Give Your Vote To People Who Have Not and Will Not Earn It.

Even if they wanted to, no federal level elected official will act on your behalf unless of course, you were the one who bought and paid for them to be in office. Since nearly all of these folks were elected under the rubric of Republican or Democrat and they will do as their party instructs them because it wasn't YOU that elected them it was their party that elected them.

Change that.

This is the twenty first century. No one *should* require a party to support them to win a national election. Yes, I said that. Look at the websites of candidates, most are just online brochures. Most of these folks don't even know what twitter is, much less reddit. There is so much that can be done. Should be done. And ultimately must be done.

Yeah, I too once thought that you pick the best of a bad bunch, and do what you can. But that was in the days when we were still building libraries, not shutting them down. That was in the days when we had music and art as part of the grade school curriculum. We played outside during the school day, rode our bikes to school. We got our polio vaccinations at school. Those days are gone.

The days when the parties could be expected to do the bidding of the electorate are gone.

Okay, a side note.
Folks are blaming all the ills of the world on the Koch Brothers. Personally, I don't see the boogy men that others do. I see a couple of seriously wealthy folks using their power, money and influence to re-draw the rules of the system to suit their ends.  Look. They have about (according to the numbers I've been able to research) 7 billion in tar sands holdings. So, anything short of 7 billion expended in making that 'resource' realized is a win. So, when folks jump and down about how they are willing to spend a billion to influence upcoming elections, well, guess what? Duh! that's A Bargain!
Of course they are. And why on earth wouldn't they? It's what they do. They take the money they have to make more money. That just makes sense.

If you don't like it, you take that to the polls. If you are voting for any main stream party candidate you are unlikely to get the results you wished.

There is noise that Senator Elizabeth Warren might throw her hat into the ring.
Three is noise that Senator Bernie Sanders might throw his had into the ring.

Folks are saying silly stuff like
"Oh, wouldn't that be nice, shame they can't win"

However they in fact, can win.
They can win if the American people vote them in.

I heard it said years ago, reading some report from Davos on behalf of a lot of the big-money movers and shakers that "We have solved the problem of elections".

And I'd have to agree.

But the real problem is (and let me break it down):

1996: Clinton/Dole  49% voter turnout
2000: Gore/Bush     50% voter turnout
2004: Kerry/Bush 56% voter turnout
2008: Obama/McCain 57% voter turnout
2012: Obama/Romney 55% voter turnout

Gee, 57%? Wow, folks touted that as some kinda of great accomplishment.

It's not.

It's shameful

Most folks I know who have not voted in a national election have claimed that there is no one they are willing to vote for.

I *totally* get that.

Look, most of these 'recent' elections were actually pretty close in the big scheme of things, further, they only represented around half of the folks who bothered to turn out and hold their nose and pick to vote for, or more likely, vote against one candidate or the other. These numbers don't speak well of any particular mandate when one considers that most recent presidents were elected with less than 30% of the voting public's endorsement.

Okay, in closing, I feel the need to equivocate a bit and state that it is my strong and somewhat informed opinion that both parties are liberally seasoned with a lot of very hard working, dedicated, sincere people doing absolutely everything they are able trying very hard to do a good job for the people of the United States.

I also feel with some first hand affirmation that the DHS is also staffed with some people who really are trying to do the best job they can to protect and serve the people of the United States, and so on. I could go through a litany of various 'big government' outfits and say the same thing. There are a lot of dedicated people out there, doing a good job in spite of the constraints they face at the whims of elected officials who are essentially 'hired' not by the people, but by very wealthy special interests with non-democratic agendas.

We need to free these people to do the work that we the people need to get done. We need to free ourselves from this overwhelming special interest and see to our own governance. We do that by voting for the best candidate who will be bound and beholden to us, the American people. They are out there.

Many, very many people will say this is impossible, that it cannot be done. The rational behind this statement will basically boil down to "It cannot be done, because it has never been done before."
Take a few to consider the logic behind that.


Monday, February 27, 2012

the first pint of maple syrup arrived.

Step 1, collect sap.

Step 2, boil sap

Steps 3 through 88, boil sap


Just in time for me dear ole Mum's 21st birthday, (leap year baby).

Happy Birthday Mom!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Doomer, Prepper, or just socially and personally responsible.

So, that's a question.

In these modern times, more and more of us are either becoming aware, or have been aware that 'these modern times' are moving in directions that make less and less sense. Lots of the folks we know, and for that matter, we ourselves more closely resemble what modern culture is trying to button-hole as 'Doomers', or is that 'Preppers', or maybe Hoarders? But is that really the case? Or is it more a case of trying to be personally and socially responsible?

So, what is a doomer? What is a prepper? Is there any difference between doomers and preppers, or the old-school survivalist?

I guess I encountered the term survivalist many decades ago. The term resonated with me, as it spoke to the old Boy Scout motto "Be Prepared". I grew up reading things like the classic text by Bradford Angier "How to Stay Alive in the Woods" and other such books. Having been born under Sputnik skies, and grown up under the threat of the mushroom cloud, the idea that 'all of this' is temporary and subject to a very quick end was ever present in my life, was then, is now. Later years the term survivalist became to mean someone who had read all of Kurt Saxon's work, and had lots of guns, huge amounts ammunition, and a hidey-hole deep in the wilderness,

heard of a van that is loaded with weapons
packed up and ready to roll
heard of some grave sites, out by the highway
place that nobody knows

--Life during Wartime
Talking heads

But after many years of pondering these things, it becomes pretty obvious, that the place that nobody knows doesn't actually exist. If you know about it, there's a pretty good chance so does somebody else.

Some of the more prolific writers on the subject of survivalism, like John "Wesley" Rawles started from the idea of holing up in a compound with some well trained and reliable friends and family, and riding out the coming hard times with eternal vigilance and military discipline. From that pretty understandable starting point, they have moved on to the concept that getting through hard times is more a function of having a community that makes sense. While vigilance and security are important, and most assuredly do matter, being able to participate in a real society is also of very great importance.

The Doomer.
A subset of survivalist, the doomer. Seems that doomers are folks who are 'peakists' or folks who believe that 'these modern times' are a product, put simply, of massive exploitation of a non-renewable resource, fossil fuels, that once a certain point of extraction is reached, must necessarily decline, and that decline will cause major problems. There is a great deal to this point of view. More on that later.

The Prepper.
Another subject of survivalist, the prepper is a synonym for the doomer, and often the terms are used interchangeably. But this isn't exactly the case. The prepper is a person who feels that having a basement corner dedicated to cases of food, coffee, cigarettes, maybe gold and silver coins/bullion is the best way to thrive in the coming hard times.
Fair enough. Ask yourself how much you are paying for coffee, how much you paid for coffee a year ago, and then extrapolate that out to what you will be paying for coffee a year hence. Now consider what interest rate you are getting on the money you have in your checking account (since hardly anyone has a savings account anymore) and ask yourself does it make any sense whatsoever to leave any budgetary surplus in the bank? Or bank your supplies in your basement. There are lots of guides out there to preparing for the coming hard times, there are lots of guides out there on preparing to deal with an ice storm, or an earthquake, or all kinds of such things. A lot of 'regular folks' think this is all silliness, and that their government will be there to deal with any real problems. Well, what does their government say? Their government says, "Be Prepared". The American Red Cross basically instructs folks to be ready to deal with 3 days with no support for bugging out, and 2 weeks of supplies for holing up at home. FEMA doesn't disagree. In short, the government thinks you need to be able to look out for you and your own. So, if you are sitting back thinking it's the government's job to take care of all this, and you personally don't need any preps, , well, to be blunt, no, you are wrong.

So, doomers, suvivalists, preppers, blah blah blah. What does any of this matter? It doesn't really. What does matter is folks like to toss these terms at folks, some of whom are basically aware that they, and their government know that in the end, they need to take care of themselves, and their dear ones. There is only so much anyone else can do. And how else should it be? it's the personally and socially responsible position to be able to fend for one's family and one's self. This means, "Be Prepared".

Sunday, August 7, 2011

solar powered parking lot.

A solar powered parking lot?

Sure, why not?

My favorite place to pick on for many years, has been the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. It's such an easy target, I suppose I should quit doing it. Anyway, here we have a shiny (literally) brand new 'Park and Ride' commuter parking lot. Out along Old Route 7 between Hamilton, Va. and Paeonian Springs, Va. (Paeonian, not Pierian, if there is a Pierian Spring anywhere near DC, no one has ever found it). A year ago, this was a fallow pasture. Does anyone want to get into a discussion about the relative value of locally produced pastured cattle or dairy versus yet still another parking lot? Seriously? Okay then, that's for another time. If there is to be a yet still another parking lot, then at least one could do some things right, (or rather, less wrong) and some things wrong. In this case, they -given the available options- did a lot of things right. I'm gonna focus on those. I won't be able to help myself though, I'm gonna pick on it, because I really don't like parking lots.

The Parking Lot.

There is no one here, just me, and yet the lights are still on. They are LED lights, but I don't get why they are on if no one is around. LEDs come up pretty fast, I'd think they could run them at half or quarter load with motion or IR sensors or something to bring them up when needed. But hey, at least they did this instead of that horrible mercury oxide lighting that has killed the night for so much of the US.

Update: I rolled by this place in the wee hours this AM, and the lights were off. So I guess they are timed. So, not as grim as I thought. Cool.

One of the lighting modules. (pic is kinda fuzzy, so no large image is available).

I was there in the deep of night, but the images didn't really show much, so I waited until early pre-dawn to take these so you could get a sense of what it's like.

This is a park and ride parking lot. This is in a declining rural area. Very little of the land that was once being farmed is still being farmed. The development pressure is still on in the greater Washington DC area. Those of you who live in the rest of the US might think that economy has stalled and is contracting. But you'd never know it in the area around Washington DC. That all by itself tells you a lot of what you need to know if you still think politics can fix things. Anyway, in order to help mitigate some of the effects of ever upwards spiraling growth, this region is doing some things to encourage more mass transit/public transportation to try to alleviate the ever worsening traffic congestion in this completely car commuter dependent region.

Wait'n On The Bus.

This seems like a good idea, get folks to drive here, park, and hop on the bus, taking all those cars (SUV's and Pickup's actually) out of competition for queuing up at red lights. However, every SUV driver you turn into a rider, creates a gap, which is always filled. It's the nature of traffic. You can read all about this very well studied phenomena elsewhere The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion, but that doesn't mean that offering alternatives is a waste of time, it's not. it's incredibly important. If folks want to opt-out, they must have alternatives.

I think there's an aspect here, this is a pretty cool place. Of course, it's new, it's clean, it's not broken yet, and seems like a good space. I expect it's pretty peaceful in the AM, and these shelters appear perfectly adequate. And, they don't use much energy.

Handicap Parking Done Right!

Look at that! The handicap parking area is right where it should be. Right next to the target service. Not across a traffic lane, like in nearly all parking lots built in the last 30 years. And! (this is a big and) No Ramp. Look, there is no curb, so you don't need a ramp. I personally despise curbs, they are a cheap and nasty way handle things. and they exist where there is no need. Here, no curb is needed, so no curb is built. Good design.

But what's that down at the end?

A ChargePoint Electric Vehicle Charging Station.

Actually, this facility has a few of these:

Pretty neat, eh?

Let's see, what else?


You could be forgiven for thinking this was a generator housing or some other box belonging to the utility or something. But no, It's a bicycle box. A nice weatherproof shelter for storing a bicycle.

And this is the bike rack. Now, I know it looks like something to keep cars from running into that transformer/generator/utility box, but no, it's a bike rack. and that's not a utility box.

Now, this whole parking lot can be approached from the east, or from the west, on a narrow, no shoulder country road. how are the bicycles and pedestrians supposed to get here in the first place. The main bicycling corridor, the WO&D rail trail is on the OTHER side of the divided 4 lane that is the boundary to the back of this property. There is no way to get here from there, without a few miles of sprinting down a sketchy road.

So, there are 24 of these assemblies, each with 2 what I'm guesstimating as being 240 watt PV panels, a pair of Enphase grid tie power inverters, and 1 or 2 of those street lights.

So, that's 11.5KW of solar power. The latitude of the site according to my GPS is 37 plus. Let's call it 40 for quick and dirty numbers. According to my hand held inclinometer, the panels are pitched at 50 degrees. So, that's lat +10 or so. According to the NREL redbook numbers, this system should output about 13.5MWH (thousand kilowatt hours)per year, not too shabby! however, *if* the array was tilted at 40 degrees (tilt=lat, pretty common) that would go up to 14.4MWH, pretty significant.

Okay, so this is all actually pretty cool, in a geeky sort of way. The kind of thing I should just love, right?

Well, sadly, I'm sorry to report, no.

What's wrong with it? Well, it's A Parking Lot. Yet Still Another Parking Lot. I don't like parking lots.

It's another asphalt slab. It'll be sanded/salted in the winter, it creates another heat island, it's impervious to water, so the water will run off, (is running off) creating the need for yet still another mosquito pit:

Of course, the landscaping isn't complete, so some erosion is to be expected. But I imagine this will be another exercise in futility. They'll get a handle on it, then a big (no one expected) weather event will cut a channel, then it will be remediated, then a channel, and so on.

So, anyway, in summary;

The folks in northern Va/Loudoun County have invested in an interesting experiment. I'm hoping that this is studied and mimicked and lessons are learned. So, good on'em for going this route. I just really hope next time someone decides; "Oh! I've got an idea, let's build a parking lot to overcome the need for more car infrastructure" that someone will point out that accommodating more cars just accommodates more cars. I think converting farm land into asphalt is a great big step in the wrong direction, and will ultimately have to be reversed.

The automobile has not merely taken over the street, it has dissolved the living tissue of the city. Its appetite for space is absolutely insatiable; moving and parked, it devours urban land, leaving the buildings as mere islands of habitable space in a sea of dangerous and ugly traffic. ~James Marston Fitch, New York Times, 1 May 1960