Saturday, March 31, 2012

Worthy Website

Following Wind

 ~ I've periodically enjoyed intresting and unusual web sites, especially those that are both useful and stylish, that are helpful with flair. So, I've decided to make it an irregular feature.

Thanks to my friend Stan Krute, here's an animated and hypnotic rendition of the way the wind blows in the US:

Animated depiction of wind blowing in the US

Some earlier worthy web sites:
Want to Get Away?
Periodic Tables
The Earth
Political Horse Race
Be Funky

Friday, March 30, 2012

Jobs Fraud

The Regulatory Race to the Bottom

Joel Pett | cartoon on jobs, con jobs, and snow jobs
 ~ The JOBS Act is part of a broader trend, actively encouraged by large corporations, laissez-faire devotees, and the investor class, relentlessly to pare away regulations, all, we are told, in the name of creating jobs.

Will it? Only if we refuse to notice its fundamentally deregulatory nature, and the 10 facets of insanity that are part of the ideological motivation that produced the bill:
The JOBS Act is insane on many levels. It creates an extraordinarily criminogenic environment in which securities fraud will become even more out of control. One of the forms of insanity is the belief that one can “win” a regulatory “race to the bottom.” The only winning move is not to play in a regulatory race to the bottom.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


A Grim Future

 ~ As the old saw puts it, who will buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Naked Capitalism:
[As] the chart below underscores, the US changed in the early 1980s from a model where rising worker wages were seen as the driver to ...growth and hence a focus of policy, to one where rising consumer debt levels and asset appreciation were used to substitute for stagnant incomes.
Chart: rising productivity, stagnating wages

There are some disturbing parallels to the rise in the value of slaves prior to the Civil War, and the insight into capitalist thinking is disquieting in light of current events:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Where's It Wednesday—LXXVI

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, March 27, 2012

Want To Get Away?

The World's Your Oyster

 ~ Very cool web site that shows at a glance the cost of flying anywhere in the world:

World airfare map comparison

The Caribbean is looking mighty nice about now...

Monday, March 26, 2012


Passes the Senate

Poster for film Boiler Room
 ~ With the passage of the Senate version of the JOBS Act, the plans for a House vote on that version, and President Obama's support, it seems it will become law.

We should all be careful what we wish for.

I've posted my fears, criticisms, and misgivings already, and won't repeat them all here.

Some further thoughts:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Record Wind

In Two States

Wind farm in West Texas
 ~ The overheated and ignorant rhetoric on gas prices continues its steady drone.

Meanwhile, renewable energy from wind recently set records in two states.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Media Map

Who Reads What?

 ~ Forbes has a really interesting interactive map that shows the primary source of news in each of the US states.

Map of primary new source by state

The most interesting result is that three states--Minnesota, Wisconsin and New Mexico--get their news from The Onion, a leading on-line humor and satire site. This is much like getting one's news from The Daily Show, but without the addition of any actual facts.

Also noteworthy:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Move to Amend

Reclaiming Our Government

Move to Amend banner logo
 ~ An idea, on which I've posted before, and whose time has come: to get the corrupting influence of money out of our politics. The problem is not big government, but rather big money.
“Big government” isn’t the problem. The problem is the Big Money that’s taking over government. Government is doing fewer of the things most of us want it to do—providing good public schools and affordable access to college, improving infrastructure, maintaining safety nets and protecting the public from dangers—and more of the things big corporations, Wall Street and wealthy plutocrats want it to do.

Some conservatives argue that we wouldn’t have to worry about this if we had a smaller government to begin with, because big government attracts Big Money. On ABC’s This Week a few months ago, Congressman Paul Ryan told me that “if the power and money are going to be here in Washington…that’s where the powerful are going to go to influence it.” Ryan has it upside down. A smaller government that’s still dominated by money would continue to do the bidding of Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, oil companies, agribusiness, big insurance, military contractors and rich individuals. It just wouldn’t do anything else.
"Small government" makes a good sound bite, perhaps, but not a good objective. Giving more money to those who already have plenty as part of an austerity program to shrink government and deficits will not solve the problems of our economy or our society:
"Conservatives say if you don't give the rich more money, they will lose their incentive to invest. As for the poor, they tell us they've lost all incentive because we've given them too much money."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

World Water Day

Billions Staying Thirsty

Earth water drop
 ~ World Water Day has been observed on March 22 since 1993. It's purpose is to draw attention to the importance of water to sustain life, and the critical need to maintain clean fresh water supplies.

Climate change threatens our fresh water supply by melting glaciers that provide summer water, by raising ocean levels that render fresh water saline, and by severe weather that disrupts the hydrological cycle, changing the historical availability of water.

Meanwhile, private interests seek to control access to water for profit, even as 10,000 children die every day from preventable water-borne diseases or lack of clean water. Access to water is a human right.

Read more about water.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Where's It Wednesday—LXXV

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Well, here obviously. What's the context? 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, March 20, 2012

Useless Opinions

Energy Marketing

Slimy huckster working his mark
 ~ Have you ever bought something that turned out to be useless? Perhaps you had a real need or a strong desire, and the thing you bought seemed to perfectly satisfy it. The magic of the marketing and its well-timed and well-targeted message got you to buy it. The need may have been real, and the thing purchased properly functioning, but the marketing created a poor match. What you bought didn't meet your actual need.

Our economy needs abundant and cheap energy. It also needs jobs. Big Oil and its sycophants in government and the media relentless argue that we should be doing more to "develop" our oil and gas resources in the US. That message is getting traction with the public as the price at the pump rises. But it is only a very slick piece of marketing designed to convince us that fulfilling their industry wishlist will solve our problems. Many are buying the political blather, but the results are destined to be disappointing at best, if not mostly useless.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Best Efforts on Jobs

Picking the Right Targets

Broken wind turbine
 ~ I remain astonished at the hullabaloo drumming up support for the JOBS Act. Many people I know and respect, and legions more, are posting, tweeting, updating LinkedIn status and so forth to urge me to call my Senator, sign another petition, and spread the word.

How many are taken with the bill's title and the me-too tsunami and have not even read the bill? Despite its name, the bill will not create jobs, at least in startups and small businesses. It's a bill that makes investors wet, but won't make it rain for beleaguered entrepreneurs toiling to generate positive cash flow. And it opens a Pandora's box in crowd funding that will not end well.

Meanwhile, legislative alternatives, like renewing the Production Tax Credit, that are proven to create jobs remain in danger of dying, in part due to neglect from the same entrepreneurial community that so uncritically champions the JOBS Act.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Who Speaks for the Muppets?

On Small Government

Muppets Waldorf and Statler
 ~ David Rothkopf, ex-Clinton Administration official and Seattle WTO attendee in a Grist interview:
I love it when Ron Paul says, “If we get rid of government, freedom will sweep right in.” That’s just not what happens. What happens is that a bunch of elephants stampede in because they’re in a position to take advantage of it. Meanwhile, if you get government out of the way, the people who need government, they don’t have it.

There’s this myth that government doesn’t belong in the marketplace. If that were true, there would be no canals, no railroads, no highways, no internet. The government was a critical partner in many of the biggest innovations in U.S. history.

But if you buy into that for 20 or 30 years, and you say, “smaller government, smaller government programs,” who gets squeezed by that? It’s the cities. And the problem is that, as that happens, it accelerates. Kids drop out of school. Neighborhoods decay. Businesses leave. The tax base goes down. Cops get fired. Teachers get fired. It’s a cycle of pain.
The small government types don't like the comparison, but the question begs an answer: how does what they propose differ from Somalia?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Jobs Kabuki

The Appearance of Action

Jumper cables poster
 ~ Last week the US House passed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act (HR 3606). Sadly, the bill will do little to help early startups, and even less to create jobs.

The media seized on this as a bipartisan success story, a rarity in an election year and especially in this one, after the past 3+ years of shamelessly party-first demagoguery.

The bill may be bipartisan, but it's no success. It has almost nothing to offer startups, unless your definition of startups is limited to enterprises already measured at close to a billion dollars, or the investment and financial professionals that work with late stage companies preparing to go public.

What does the JOBS Act do?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Muzzle Gun

I Want One

 ~ Researchers in Japan have created a speech muzzling gun. When pointed at a speaker it replays what is said 0.2 seconds later. The slightly delayed echo interferes with the speaker's ability to make anything but unintelligible sounds. They are rendered speechless!

Dear Japanese industrialists: Please, please put this into production immediately. We are in the throes of another rebarbative election marathon and the need is desperate. You could probably sell millions of them.

Researchers' paper here [PDF].

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Where's It Wednesday—LXXIV

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, March 13, 2012

Political Calculus

Supporting the Right Jobs

Chart of renewable energy sector job growth
 ~ Renewables and the environment are leading the economic recovery. You might think our national politicians would pay attention and move to encourage and support this industry.

You would be wrong:
The renewable energy industry's hope of extending a slew of federal programs was easily defeated on the Senate floor Tuesday.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., had introduced an amendment to a transportation bill that would have, among other things, extended the Production Tax Credit for one year and revived the expired 1603 Treasury grant.

But that amendment fell far short of the 60 votes required as Senators split 49-49, according to a message sent by the Solar Energy Industries Association on Tuesday afternoon.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Job Growth

Strongest in Renewables, Environment

 ~ If Republicans were serious about creating incentives for job creation and real "job creators" they would swiftly enact legislation favorable to the renewable energy industry. While the pace of economic growth and job creation has been difficult for a few years, it isn't uniformly bad, as these analytics from LinkedIn show:

Chart showing job growth by percent and size by sector

Renewables and the environment are leading the recovery.

Fostering this leading sector wouldn't be hard; they could just continue what has already been proven to work. Examples include permanent Production Tax Credits, restoration of the 1603 Treasury Grant program, and a national Renewable Portfolio Standard.

Sadly, until a Republican is in the White House, they appear to care less about supporting job creation than about supporting so-called job creators, i.e. by passing yet more vague tax cuts for the wealthy with little demonstrated benefit to the broader economy.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Energy Lies—XI

"Renewable Energy Mandates Raise Electricity Rates"

Cartoon of electricity bill shock
 ~ A common trope among defenders of fossil energy is that mandating renewable energy punishes ratepayers by forcing utilities to pass on increased generation costs.

But there's no truth to the charge:
Upon examining electricity rate data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration spanning the decade from 2000-2010, a Center for American Progress analysis found zero statistically-significant difference in how renewable electricity standards affect changes in rates.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Leadership is Action

Kicking It

Cartoon on kicking the can
 ~ Teddy Roosevelt:
In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do. The worst thing you can do is nothing.
Better to make a decision that has a poor result than to make no decision at all. Observing, thinking, planning are all important, but no leader can make things change without taking action.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Acid Redux

Oceans in Trouble

Map of ocean acidification
 ~ The amount of carbon in the atmosphere is increasing and the ocean is becoming more acidic. It may be an "experiment" that the Earth has run before, but it's not the same this time.
The world’s oceans may be turning acidic faster today from human carbon emissions than they did during four major extinctions in the last 300 million years, when natural pulses of carbon sent global temperatures soaring, says a new study in Science. The study is the first of its kind to survey the geologic record for evidence of ocean acidification over this vast time period.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Boulder, Braver


 ~ To succeed, entrepreneurs need balance between observing, thinking and acting. It isn't easy.

The father of my wife's youngest son died unexpectedly, and too young, so we've been in Boulder, Colorado the last couple of days making arrangements. Today was tough, especially going through his apartment, his things, his papers.

Later, I went outside our hotel and watched the full moon rise huge and orange. I was joined, abruptly, by this rabbit:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Where's It Wednesday—LXXIII

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, March 6, 2012

Periodic Tables

Many Elements in Common

 ~ The periodic table is a useful way to organize the natural elements based on their chemical and physical properties. While all such tables have the same logical organization, their actual display can be quite imaginative.

For example:

Here's a video showing the periodic table as a piece of furniture, with embedded samples:

Monday, March 5, 2012


A Necessity for You or for your Business?

Kid riding a bike with training wheels
 ~ Initially, most of us learn to ride a bicycle with training wheels. Most of us can’t wait to get the training wheels off, and many take them off too soon. Sure, we all want to look like the cool kids, whipping along apace like we were born with the 27-speed as an extension of ourselves. Greg Lemond and other top riders capture our attention and admiration, but who saw Greg Lemond learning the basics of riding through trial and error on his bike? We know of him only as the consummate expert; his ascension to the top tier of competition was mostly unseen and unknown.

If we ride, we all aspire to be Greg Lemond, or some other world-class cyclist who makes the exhausting hill climb and the later leisurely triumph down the Champs-Élysées look easy, even effortless.

Learning to build a startup is much like learning to ride a bicycle; you need to start with the training wheels.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Who Cares About Carbon?

Merely the Living, Really

Carbon symbol from the Periodic Table
 ~ Climate change deniers cannot dispute the evidence that carbon concentrations in the atmosphere are increasing.

Instead, they argue that it doesn't matter because it's happened before. Indeed it has, and that history should give us all pause.

Geologist Bryan Lovell explains:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Friday, March 2, 2012

Gas Price Blame

Whose Fault Are High Gas Prices?

Ed Stein cartoon | Right wing complaints about gas prices
 ~ Gas prices always go up in spring (why?) and this year they are rising faster and farther than ever before. Especially since it's an election year, the GOP wants to blame Obama.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Crowd-Sourced Investment

Frenzy, then Funk

Wheelbarrow of cash
 ~ There's some plans afoot to allow crowd-sourced funding of entrepreneurs, something like a Kickstarter for startups. Instead of helping non-profit causes and getting something of nominal value in return, these ideas would allow very small investments by hundreds or thousands of people in high-risk, for-profit fledgling businesses.

It's a bad idea.