Monday, October 31, 2011

The Job Creators—III

Legends and Lessons of the Past

Abandoned and rusting factory in the hollowed out industrial heartland of the US
 ~ We can learn from history—there once was a civilization of Job Creators that thrived in America because it created jobs that allowed millions to thrive. The Onion reports on the findings of latter-day archaeologists about how they once built
...highly distinctive steel and brick structures wherever they went, including many buildings thought to have held hundreds of paid workers at a time.

"It's truly fascinating—after spending a certain number of hours performing assigned tasks, the so-called 'employees' at such facilities would receive monetary compensation that allowed them to support themselves and their families," said archaeologist Alan H. Mueller, citing old ledgers and time-keeping devices unearthed at excavation sites in the region. "In fact, this practice seems to have been the norm for their culture, which consisted of advanced tool users capable of exploiting their skills to produce highly valued goods and services."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Last Chance

For The Nightmare

 ~ Tomorrow is your last chance this year to experience the best haunt in Greater Seattle, the Nightmare at Beaver Lake. See what 11,000 people have raved about—our best show yet.

Actors at The Nightmare at Beaver Lake

Whatever you do tomorrow night, be careful out there; not all the zombies have been fed.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Job Creators—II

The Invisible Hand (Out)

Cartoon: The Invisible Handout
 ~ I am a job creator.

But not one of the super-rich too paralyzed to hire or invest, supposedly because of oppressive taxes and regulation.

No, I mean I really create jobs, by founding new ventures, by investing in startup companies, and, as an executive, by growing opportunities from idea to revenue. Along the way value is built, customers are served, workers are hired, and taxes are paid.

I've been doing this for 18 years, and never once did I choose not to grow a business or hire a worker because the tax burden was too high or because the regulations were too onerous.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Climate Change Today

It's Lapping Ashore in Miami

Driving through Miami at high tide
 ~ Apart from those that think climate change isn't happening, there are those that accept the evidence of it, but think it remains a distant problem that is secondary to more immediate concerns. If you live in any number of Pacific islands of course, you know the problem is serious and immediate.

It turns out the signs go beyond inundated islands, melting glaciers, loss of shellfish, disappearing arctic ice, dying coral reefs and other evidence that seems to some perhaps to be far enough removed from where we live in the US.

Today, Miami is seeing rising ocean levels on its city streets. At high tide, salt water seeps up from underground, flooding roads. The problem is not remote, but is growing, with the flood waters are getting higher and more frequent. Unchecked, the problem threatens not just the natural beauty of the area and environmental treasures like the Everglades, but also the Biscayne Aquifer which supplies nearly all of South Florida's water supply.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Not Just Another Fish Story

Close-up of the head of a dead fish
 ~ In poker a person who doesn't know what's going on is called the fish. The fish is destined to lose all his money. There's a long-time saying at the poker table about this:
If you look around the poker table and you don't know who the fish is, it's you.
The 99% are really motivated because it's finally become undeniably obvious that they are the fish in Wall Street's greedy game of grift. They haven't been beaten, they've been ripped off. Here are some of the ways:
FREE MONEY. Ordinary people have to borrow their money at market rates. [Banks] get billions of dollars for free, from the Federal Reserve. They borrow at zero and lend the same money back to the government at two or three percent... and lend mortgages to us at four percent, or credit cards at twenty or twenty-five percent. This is essentially an official government license to be rich, handed out at the expense of prudent ordinary citizens, who now no longer receive much interest on their CDs or other saved income... Where do the protesters go to sign up for their interest-free billion-dollar loans?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Where's It Wednesday—LV

Another easier one... where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Cost of Energy

What We (Could) Pay

Infographic of US energy subsidies, prices over time, and comparison to other countries
 ~ The real price of energy in the US has not much changed in half a century. Except for oil, the price of which has hardly stood still, often on its way to sharply higher levels.

It is interesting how much people complain about energy costs, especially when one compares what people pay in other countries. The US has some of the cheapest energy in the world, partly due to the subsidization of energy by the US government.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Energy Lies—V

Getting Their Pander Up

Cartoon depicting pandering, hypocrisy on immigration
 ~ An Exxon executive complains that Democrats are pandering to the deficit "Super Committee" when they urge rolling back oil and tax breaks. He's evidently unfamiliar with political pandering, one definition of which is to assert views "merely for the purpose of drawing support ...and [that] do not necessarily reflect one's personal values."

It is too much of a stretch, however, to say that these Senate Democrats are pushing this merely for political support and even less credible to suggest it doesn't match their personal values. Rather, a $2B annual reduction in largesse to Big Oil appears as an extremely modest step to address the current deficit hysteria:
Despite the oil companies’ insistence to the contrary, we know from analyses by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service and Joint Economic Committee that cutting $2 billion in annual oil subsidies and tax breaks for oil companies would not make oil and gasoline more expensive. The price of oil and gas is set on the world market, and federal subsidies play no role in prices consumers pay at the pump. To put it another way, if the five largest and wealthiest private oil companies were willing to live with $142 billion in profits this year, rather than their projected $144 billion, they would be paying their fair share in taxes without raising gasoline prices one penny.
What does real pandering look like? Newt Gingrich does show and tell:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Climate Change Truth-Telling

Planets Don't Lie—People Do

Marx Brothers poster for Duck Soup
 ~ We're in the soup:
"Well, who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?"
--Chico Marx, Duck Soup
There are several kinds of opponents of a meaningful response to the threat of climate change. But the prize for intellectual dishonesty goes to those who, with unwitting hilarity, suggest we ignore evidence in front of our faces in favor of their insistent fiction.

There's plenty of evidence that comes straight from the Earth:
One can argue for hours whether this year was warmer or colder than last... [but] it doesn't matter. We should be reading the earth, not thermometers. The earth is clearly warming, and sea level is clearly rising.
The physical evidence can be measured, and generally has been measured over decades or centuries. Look at sea level rise, antarctic ice sheet collapse, retreat of glaciers, permafrost melting, ocean acidification, or any number of other indicators that don't require settling an interminable shouting match over temperature trends.

Skeptics confuse weather with climate, blather about putative "global cooling", mount endless ad hominem attacks against scientists, pretend to be authoritative, distort economic effects, strew red herrings, and cling tenaciously to comfortable fantasies. To believe such charlatans is to choose delusion.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

This is a repost from my earlier blog of 1/26/10.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Let's Build Infrastructure... Libya

Oh My Darling | Huckleberry Hound
 ~ GOP Senator Lindsay Graham thinks we should be doing more to build up infrastructure. Trouble is, he wants to do it in Libya, not here in the US. Of course, Huckleberry is really only interested in grabbing the oil, and ramming laissez-faire on the hapless Libyans, but a lot of other things would need to be built too just to enable access to a rebuilt oil operation. Video from TPM:

There seems to be a fair amount of Republican support for infrastructure projects in Libya and in Iraq, doubtless motivated by the prospect of controlling all that oil (and not incidentally enriching their Big Oil campaign contributors.) But there's also support for it in Afghanistan, which has no oil at all (although some potentially interesting mineral deposits worth coveting.)

Why are we spending precious taxpayer dollars in an era of deficit hysteria on infrastructure projects in other countries, especially ones that were once hostile to us and could conceivably be so again? Is there a good reason beyond a neo-imperial desire to control the next period of resource extraction? If there's a bona fide humanitarian motivation, then why do we not apply that same ethos here domestically? It's not as if we don't have a long list of needed infrastructure projects ourselves: roads, bridges, high-speed Internet, rail, HVDC transmission, smart grid... Many other countries are doing a better job on these things than we are. Where is the national impetus to retain our quasi-legendary standing as the greatest country in the world?

Some days I think we should invade ourselves, just so we can then embark on nation building here at home.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Nightmare at Beaver Lake

The Premier Haunt in Greater Seattle

 ~ It's that time of year again—the scary, the creepy, the repulsively loathsome, the downright terrifying.

But enough talk of political campaigns! Instead, why not enjoy the horror?

Yep, it's time for The Nightmare at Beaver Lake, the premier Western Washington outdoor haunted attraction.

The Nightmare at Beaver Lake

Nightmare at Beaver Lake 2011 art

Schedule and ticket prices here. Come for a nice 45 minute walk in the woods, and see who (or what) else enjoys the sights and sounds of seasonal death and decay...

Jason Voorhees mask
And this year is extra special! CJ Graham, who played Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th movies will be there on Friday the 28th and Saturday the 29th. Get a photo or an autograph. Before he gets you.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Climate Change Buffoon

The Parody that is Lord Monckton

 ~ Anyone who has followed climate change has doubtless heard of the 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, Christopher Monckton, the self-styled "Lord" Monckton. Even our appallingly ignorant Republican party has swallowed his schtick, notwithstanding that he could easily have been a contestant in Monty Python's Upper Class Twit of the Year.

He is the consummate blowhard, which makes this parody all the more exquisite:

Don't feel too much pity for this pompous fraud. He calls himself a member of the British House of Lords, although he is not. That institution took the unprecedented step of issuing him a letter setting him straight, and putting a notice on their website. Undaunted, Monckton stood for election 4 times, never receiving a single vote, apparently not even from himself. That's serious twit cred.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Where's It Wednesday—LIV

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Confusing the Simple

 ~ Controversy sells media and it sells ads. Explaining what is increasingly obvious? Not so much.

Hurwitt cartoon: They don't seem to know what they're protesting

Who owns the media anyway? Yep, it's corporations.

Still not sure what Occupy Wall Street is about? Watch this:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Picking Winners

And Picking Losers Too

Solyndra building and logo
 ~ In most things one must take the bad with the good. Who among us doesn't make mistakes even as we believe we aren't?

David Roberts at Grist has another incisive post in a series on the fall-out from the Solyndra bankruptcy filing, where he properly lampoons a popular current flavor of GOP hypocrisy:
In hyping the Solyndra faux scandal, Republicans have gone after the loan-guarantee program with guns blazing. It is, they charge, an example of big government trying to "pick winners." And by golly they just can't support big government picking winners!

Except, uh, turns out they can. In their haste to condemn everything connected to Obama, Republicans have stepped on a bit of a rake. After all, history—recent history!—is replete with examples of Republicans pushing for loan guarantees for energy businesses in their districts.
He goes on to list examples: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, and House Reps. Darrell Issa, Phil Gingrey and Cliff Stearns (about whom I also wrote).

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Feeding the World

It's Getting Harder To Do

Phytelligence-grown Pinot Meunier plantlet
 ~ World population continues to grow exponentially, but, as Malthus observed, our food production is not keeping pace. Worse, feeding those alive today is getting harder:
  • Some food crops (e.g. corn) are diverted for making fuels
  • Fresh water supplies are dwindling or under threat
  • Modern agriculture is heavily dependent on fossil fuel inputs for transportation and fertilizer
  • Arable land is vanishing to development and to erosion
To produce enough food for everyone there will need to be many coordinated solutions. One partial solution would be to grow more plants in less space with fewer energy inputs. A new startup company spun out of WSU has technology that does exactly that.

Phytelligence makes smarter plants, or rather, has a smarter process for propagating them and boosting them through their earliest (plantlet) growth stage. It's not genetic engineering, or GMO, but rather the smart application of proprietary technology to grow vigorous and healthy plantlets in less time, at less cost, and with less water and energy.

The Company has already successfully propagated 4 of the top 5 fruits in the US as measured by crop value and by acres planted. There is enormous opportunity in other fruits, tree nuts, and other kinds of crops generally. The nursery business has seen little change in generations; Phytelligence is aiming to bring to the industry 21st Century technology, sustainability practices and logistics.

Come learn more about Phytelligence at the NWEN First Look Forum, this Tuesday, 3:00-5:00 at the Arctic Hotel in Seattle. Reception to follow.

Update: Phytelligence finished in the top 5. Thanks to NWEN for a great event!

Saturday, October 15, 2011


What Are We Fighting For?

 ~ The chattering classes snipe that the Occupy Wall Street protesters are not clear about their demands. True. Not yet. It is still sputtering rage that can't quite decide which of the fat targets to pick first.

I'd like to suggest this one:

Graph showing wage stagnation of most while the rich have seen income grow enormously

Or perhaps some of this. Or this. One doesn't have to search very hard really to understand. The 1% get it quite clearly. Expect a harsh and authoritarian backlash soon; they're just waiting for a lull.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Solar is a Commie Plot

The Dear Leader Praises Solar

Kim Jong Il is very fond of Hennessy
 ~ Hereditary leader of reclusive North Korea, Kim Jong Il, toured various facilities in his country recently, including the Solar Equipment Centre, which is building solar hot water heaters "on a trial basis."

According to the press release, he was pleased with the work of the Centre, and appreciated the building's various features, including rain water collecting, a wind turbine, and solar energy harvesting. He "stressed the importance of the use of renewable energy sources."

How long will it be before some wingnut uses the support of Kim to attack renewable energy?

The press release itself is laughable for the hagiography of Kim, the stilted language and the way it strives to make the ordinary remarkable:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Grist for Elections

Politicking on Actions or on Aspirations?

Logical conundrum
 ~ The Australian House just passed a national carbon tax. It was quite a fight. While the merits of the law are worth discussion, more interesting is the light shone on the political process both in Australia and here in the United States.

Advocates championed the law, saying it would make polluters pay for their costs, address climate change, protect the environment, enable selected tax cuts elsewhere, and fund renewable energy investments.
“Today our MPs have voted yes to creating a stronger economy, yes to new jobs in clean industries and yes to giving our wildlife a fighting chance,” commented WWF Australia chief executive Dermot O’Gorman in a statement.
Opponents fulminated about the loss of jobs, unfair taxation, and the futility of action on climate change without international agreement and coordinated action.

Most MPs, however, were simply exhausted from the fight, which has gone on for years and more than one elected government.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Where's It Wednesday—LIII

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cradle to Cradle

Mazda Embracing Sustainability

Damaged car bumper
 ~ Despite our political leaders' posturing and dissembling, corporations are preparing for climate change. Some are also seeking ways to be more sustainable:
Mazda has developed a technology to recycle bumpers from end-of-life vehicles into bumpers for new cars, saying it’s the first automaker to “close the loop” on bumper recycling.

Bumpers make up a large proportion of the plastic used in vehicles, and when a car reaches the end of its useful life, bumpers are typically shredded and incinerated to recover heat energy, the company says. Because many end-of-life vehicles are over 10 years old, the composition of the bumper’s polypropylene plastic and the adhesive properties of the paint vary considerably, creating a challenge to recycling the bumpers into new products.

To overcome these barriers to recycling, Mazda began designing its bumpers to be easily recyclable in the 1990s and developed technologies to remove paint from old bumpers. In 2001, Mazda used the plastic harvested from old bumpers to reinforce new bumpers, but as its paint-removal technology improved, the company began recycling the plastic resin into new bumpers for select vehicles and replacement painted bumpers.
Mazda and others are doing this not (just) because it is the right thing to do, but because it saves them money, and because increasingly savvy consumers expect it, maybe even demand it. And, government didn't even need to regulate that they do so.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

An American Grandee

Short Term Self-Interest Prevails

US Rep Cliff Stearns (R-Fla)
 ~ A key Congressman on energy policy figuratively threw up his arms this week, declaring that against China in the global market for solar panels and wind turbines, the US "can't compete." He's wrong, and he's a hypocrite. He also repeats the interesting history of long-term losers clinging to the short-term gains of a vanishing status quo.

Florida Republican Cliff Stearns, Chair of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, stated that federal efforts to support renewable energy were a waste of taxpayer dollars, too risky, and weren't creating jobs. He stated that further green energy loan guarantees be halted "so that they could be looked at more carefully," which is Washington-speak for killing the program.

The White House showed some spine for a change, as spokesman Dan Pfeiffer shot back:
Chairman Stearns and other members of his party in Congress believe that America cannot, or should not, try to compete for jobs in a cutting edge and rapidly growing industry. We simply disagree: the answer to this challenge is not to wave the white flag and give up on American workers. America has never declared defeat after a single setback – and we shouldn’t start now.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Horse Race

Who's Ahead for the GOP Nomination?

 ~ Pundits and talking heads needn't bother with messy issues and difficult policy analysis! Now we can all follow the action with this elegant and essential animated graphic:

GOP horse race

Playing the animation shows the horse race from March 2010 to date. A news ticker displays contemporaneous events.

While the concept is amusing, it is also informative: notice how each new entrant initially sprints away from the laggards up near to the leaders, but then falls back. These nags may look appealing at first, but they can't keep it up.

The treatment is very accurate, but light on some of the details. All horses are accurately shown being ridden by jockeys; however, the jockey's colors (Koch Industries, Bank of America, etc.) are tastefully omitted. Even more generously, all candidates are represented by entire horses; some would be more accurately depicted by just the back end.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Full Accounting

Destruction As Usual

Businessman with head in sand
 ~ How much environmental damage results from business as usual? According to a forthcoming United Nations report about $2.2 trillion in 2008—from the activities of just the 3,000 largest global corporations. This amount is larger than the national economies of all but 7 countries in the world.
The report comes amid growing concern that no one is made to pay for most of the use, loss and damage of the environment, which is reaching crisis proportions in the form of pollution and the rapid loss of freshwater, fisheries and fertile soils.

Later this year, another huge UN study - dubbed the "Stern for nature" after the influential report on the economics of climate change by Sir Nicholas Stern - will attempt to put a price on such global environmental damage, and suggest ways to prevent it. The report, led by economist Pavan Sukhdev, is likely to argue for abolition of billions of dollars of subsidies to harmful industries like agriculture, energy and transport, tougher regulations and more taxes on companies that cause the damage.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs

He was no Charles Barkley

 ~ He actually was a role model. Started from less than nothing. Hit bottom and bounced back higher than ever. Completely changed three industries by sheer daring and force of will. A perfectionist, creative genius, relentless taskmaster, leader and visionary.

Various quotes and sound bites have filled Facebook for the past day. What Steve said: good, and powerful, because the words and what they express are unashamed and backed by the force of being authentically lived.

I remember the hush-hush prototypes of the SAND (Steve's Amazing New Device, what would be the first Macintosh) that we engineers got to see and work on at Microsoft back in 1983. I remember looking at that, and then at the PCjr, the Osborne-1 and the other timid advances of the time that could hardly compare. I think many of us were envious of the technical virtuosity and the daring of something so different, so unexpected, so compelling.

Today, in a gesture of respect, Microsoft lowered the flag at the Redmond campus. Interestingly, it wasn't the US flag or the state flag:

Windows flag at half-staff on Microsoft campus 10/6/11 in honor of Steve Jobs

Apple never did acknowledge its debt to Xerox PARC, but evidently Microsoft Windows can respect its elders.

Our country could use a lot more like Steve Jobs--creative entrepreneurs who don't make excuses or complain about the government, regulation, taxes, laws, China, the competition or much of anything else, but just boldly and relentlessly be a champion for their vision, their industry and their customers.

Steve Jobs, RIP.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Where's It Wednesday—LII

This should be easy for some of you. Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Organized Climate Change Denial

Its Advocates are Anarchists

Cartoon: Libertarianism is just anarchy for rich people
 ~ While organized climate change denial is correctly seen as an attempt to protect incumbent financial interests, it is also a proxy fight in a larger ideological battle between unconstrained individual freedom and the structures and strictures people adopt as groups in more or less civilized societies.

The United States, uniquely among all nations, has a constellation of corporations, politicians, "think" tanks, foundations, front men and astroturf entities working tirelessly to advance organized climate change denial. Now in chapter 10 of the Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society, professors Riley E. Dunlap and Aaron M. McCright provide a footnoted catalog and scholarly analysis that details the who, how, and why. Their conclusion is understated but precise:
Because of the perceived threat posed by climate change to their interests, actors in the denial machine have strived to undermine scientific evidence documenting its reality and seriousness. Over the past two decades they have engaged in an escalating assault on climate science and scientists, and in recent years on core scientific practices, institutions, and knowledge. Their success in these efforts not only threatens our capacity to understand and monitor human-induced ecological disruptions from the local to global levels, but it also weakens an essential component of societal reflexivity when the need for the latter is greater than ever.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Seattle Coffee Culture

Deeply Ingrained

Cup of black coffee
 ~ I just knew it!
According to an NPD Group study, Seattle/Tacoma ranked as the #1 coffee city with 1,640 coffee shops. That’s about 35 stores per 100,000 residents.

This is 261 more shops than San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose combined; a metropolitan area with a million more people than Seattle/Bellevue/Tacoma.

This is also nearly twice the number of shops in Portland and 8.2 times more than Austin, Texas.
In terms of density, it’s four times higher than New York City.

So, both anecdotally and quantitatively, Seattle has a penchant for coffee and coffee shops.
I like this town, going on 30 years now.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Respiring Minds

 ~ Our power comes from within ourselves:
The ability to breathe, stay calm and centred during challenging situations is an invaluable tool in life. Bikram yoga practise allows us to develop life skills, such as patience (learning to master a difficult pose), honesty (to do the pose honestly and not try to fake it, or change it so it is easier) dedication and commitment (coming to class even when we would prefer to sit on the couch), hard work (being prepared to go beyond our desire for the easy way, and submit to working hard in the poses, fearlessness as some parts of the class can bring up emotions and limitations that require bravery to move through), as well as just taking the time out of our lives to spend 90 minutes with ourselves, to get to know ourselves and all that we are. This teaches us that we are responsible for ourselves, our health, our thoughts, our feelings and provides us with a tool through which we can develop this responsibility. It gives us the chance to deal with our emotions, thoughts and even pain and sometime discomfort.
And, in the interest of presenting a, er, balanced viewpoint, I also include this illustrative graphic from the quoted post above:

But I feel charged afterwards. Mental attitude is everything. And finally, I must include this hysterically funny Craig's list ad from Bellevue, reprinted in its entirety, since such ads have a way of disappearing over time:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

After You

Oh No! After You!

 ~ Please, I insist:

You must be the change you seek—Gandhi

In many places if you take the bus you'll get home first, and more pleasantly as well.

Update: typos and attribution.