Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Peak Oil in Wired and Forbes

I posted the following in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Science of Conflict edition) over at Daily Kos. Instead of including it in a sustainability news linkspam, even as the top story, I decided it deserved a post of its own.

Ars Technica via Wired: Researchers Argue Peak Oil Is Here, Bringing Permanent Volatility
By John Timmer, Ars Technica
January 26, 2012
The global production of oil has remained relatively flat since 2005 and peaked in 2008, declining ever since even as demand has continued to increase. The result has been wild fluctuations in the price of oil as small changes in demand set off large shocks in the system.

In Wednesday’s issue of Nature, James Murray of University of Washington and David King of Oxford University argue this sort of volatility is what we can expect going forward, and we’re likely to face it with other fossil fuels as well.

The notion of peak oil is fairly simple: Oil is a finite resource and at some point we simply won’t be able to extract as much as we once did. There is no getting around that limit for any finite resource. The issue that has made peak oil contentious, however, is the debate over when we might actually hit it. Murray and King are not the first to conclude that we’ve already passed the peak. Even as prices have climbed by about 15 percent per year since 2005, production has remained largely flat.
“We are not running out of oil,” the authors argue, “but we are running out of oil that can be produced easily and cheaply.”
It's not just the scientists in Nature and the geeks in Ars Technica and Wired that are recognizing that peak (conventional) oil is here. The hard-headed businessmen at Forbes have realized this, too.

The End of Elastic Oil
By Tim Conrad
January 26, 2012
The last ten years have brought a structural change to the world oil market, with changes in demand increasingly playing a role in maintaining the supply/demand balance. These changes will come at an increasingly onerous cost to our economy unless we take steps to make our demand for oil more flexible.

We’re not running out of oil. There’s still plenty of oil still in the ground. Oil which was previously too expensive to exploit becomes economic with a rising oil price. To the uncritical observer, it might seem as if there is nothing to worry about in the oil market.

Unfortunately, there is something to worry about, at least if we want a healthy economy. The new oil reserves we’re now exploiting are not only more expensive to develop, but they also take much longer between the time the first well is drilled and the when the first oil is produced. That means it takes longer for oil supply to respond to changes in price.

In economic terms, the oil supply is becoming less elastic as new oil supplies come increasingly from unconventional oil. Elasticity is the term economists use to describe how much supply or demand responds to changes in price. If a small change in price produces a large change in demand, demand is said to be elastic. If a large change in price produces a small change in supply, then supply is said to be inelastic.
The Forbes article isn't explictly about Peak Oil, but it does discuss what happens when supply has reached the bumpy plateau and what can be done about it. One of the best lines involves reducing demand by living closer to work, including the line "the most fuel-efficient vehicle is a moving van." I resemble that remark.
From 2000-2004, I regularly put 40,000 miles on my car. In 2005, I began driving 1000 miles a week when school was in session to three different colleges and a tutoring service. Then on the weekends, I'd judge marching bands or cover drum and bugle corps shows. From May 2005 to May 2006, I drove 48,000 miles. That was the year I put my house up for sale, stopped seeing my long-distance girlfriend, and eventually sold my house. In June, I moved to the middle of my jobs and cut my driving down to 700 miles a week. Then I changed one of my jobsites and cut it down to 500 miles a week. Then I got a full-time job and quit my part-time jobs and dropped to 300 miles a week. Finally, we moved and I now drive 70 miles a week. I'm so close to work I could ride a bike on a good day.
I still haven't put another 1000 miles on my car since my last update. That was in September. Look for the next one within a week.

Monday, January 30, 2012

More on when Romney came to town

I collected a lot of links and excerpts for my posts on Bain Capital and Mitt Romney, but didn't get around to using them until now. I decided to put together a meal of leftovers before the Florida primary tomorrow so that they don't go to waste. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Feds find Volt's battery safe

In Good automotive news to begin 2012, I embedded a WXYZ-TV video on YouTube reporting that the issues with the Volt's battery have been resolved and suggesting that the car will be found safe to drive. Last week WXYZ followed up.

The Chevy Volt was on the hot seat during a hearing about the recent fires following crash tests.
The fossil fools behind the GOP are again attacking the green energy agenda of the current administration and making false claims that the Volt is not a market-based solution. As the reporter pointed out, the Volt was approved for production before the bailout and government takeover, which worked out rather well, thank you very much. So much for that claim!

As for the safety concerns, I'll let Wired take over for me.

Feds Say Volt Is Safe, Close Battery Inquiry
By Chuck Squatriglia
January 20, 2012
Federal regulators have closed their investigation into the Chevrolet Volt, saying they are satisfied with the steps General Motors has taken to protect the car’s lithium-ion battery and minimize the risk of a fire in the days and weeks after a severe crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posted an explanation and summary of its inquiry on Friday and announced the conclusion of the investigation it launched Nov. 25.

“The agency’s investigation has concluded that no discernible defect trend exists and that the vehicle modifications recently developed by General Motors reduce the potential for battery intrusion resulting from side impacts,” the feds said in a statement.

The statement adds, “Based on the available data, NHTSA does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles.”
A battery is no worse and probably much better than a gas tank for immediate fire risk. Also, electrical fires in cars are nothing new. In fact, I lost a car to electrical issues 28 years ago.*  Therefore, I'm less than impressed with the argument that the Volt is any more dangerous than anything I've been driving for the last 30+ years.  In fact, it's probably safer!**

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sustainability news from commercial sources for the week ending January 21, 2012


Yes, I know this is from last week. However, I haven't started compiling this week's news for Daily Kos, so I'm reposting the relevant links and excerpts from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (South Carolina Primary edition) before I do. Besides, science, unlike most news, has a relatively long shelf life.

General Sustainability

This week in science: He who controls the spin controls the universe!
By DarkSyde
Our good friends at the National Center for Science Education are branching out to confront misinformation on climate change. The NCSE has a lifetime record of unbeaten on the legal battles over creationism, as in they've never lost. NCSE evolution education specialist Joshua Roseneua explains the new effort:
In our time on those front lines, we keep hearing from teachers facing similar pressure about climate change. We hear it from teachers in workshops. We see it in newspaper stories. We track legislation lumping evolution and climate change together as "controversial" issues in science class, even though both are supported by over a century of unchallenged scientific research. And as we looked around, we realized that, while lots of groups exist to encourage good climate change education and provide positive content for classrooms, no one else was focused exclusively on blocking bad science from climate change lessons.
I wish them luck in fighting both forms of denial in the classroom.

More stories over the jump.

Friday, January 27, 2012

President Obama speaks at the University of Michigan

Follow-up to this morning's post: WXYZ now has the complete speech posted on YouTube.

The speech covered both energy and education, so here are links to the relevant fact sheets from the White House's web site.

FACT SHEET: President Obama’s Blueprint to Make The Most of America’s Energy Resources

FACT SHEET: President Obama’s Blueprint for Keeping College Affordable and Within Reach for All Americans

Also, both the Detroit Free Press and AnnArbor.com have stories up. The Free Press's headline is Let's steer aid to colleges that keep tuition affordable down, Obama tells U-M crowd. AnnArbor.com had a more meta take in Campaigner in chief: Obama address to Ann Arbor crowd sounded like stump speech. I recommend reading both for a stereo view of the speech along with a good selection of the best quotes.

Obama at University of Michigan

WXYZ-TV on YouTube reports.

Anticipation is high on the University of Michigan campus with President Obama set to give a speech on Friday.
The Detroit Free Press reports that the President's speech at University of Michigan will focus on skills, college affordability.
President Barack Obama will focus on "American Skills and Innovation," including college affordability, when he takes the stage at the University of Michigan this morning in front of more than 3,000 students, faculty members and staff members.

Obama will talk about affordability and getting students and workers the education needed to develop a competitive work force, a White House official told the Free Press. It will be a follow-up to his State of the Union address earlier this week, in which he touched on the same topics.
Like most of the issues the President covered in his State of the Union Address, educational affordability is a sustainability issue. This is part of a pattern. As I pointed out the last time I blogged about President Obama visiting Michigan, "President Obama...really likes the idea of sustainable development packaged as making America competitive." Based on the reaction to the State of the Union, a lot of Americans do, too.
An overwhelming majority of Americans approved of the overall message in President Obama's State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, according to a CBS News poll of speech watchers.

According to the poll, which was conducted online by Knowledge Networks immediately after the president's address, 91 percent of those who watched the speech approved of the proposals Mr. Obama put forth during his remarks. Only nine percent disapproved.
As for how the positive reaction to the State of the Union and other actions Obama has taken are playing out in Michigan, I'll let WOOD-TV on YouTube tell you.

It's paying off very well, thank you. As for Willard:
Romney was expected to have a hometown...advantage in the state that [his] father once governed.
Romney barely has an advantage in the primary, but right now he's getting crushed in the state where he grew up in the general. Of the five states he calls home, Michigan, Massachusetts, Utah, New Hampshire, and California, he'll probably win all of their primaries, but at most two, Utah and maybe New Hampshire, in the general. The last candidate who didn't win his home state in the general election was Gore, and we all know how he fared in 2000. He wouldn't have needed Florida if he had won Tennessee.  That's not a good sign for Romney.

UPDATE: After I crossposted the above to Daily Kos and Michigan Liberal, WWYZ posted two more videos to their YouTube page.  View them below the fold.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gingrich shoots for the Moon while campaigning in Florida

Yes, really.

WESH-TV on YouTube has a better video, but it doesn't embed. Too bad, as it shows Gingrich using the idea of reviving the space program as a major selling point of his campaign in Florida, especially along the Space Coast. I don't know if it has helped him with Republican voters, but it certainly is getting him more attention.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Detroit, Michigan, and the auto industry in the State of the Union

Before the State of the Union yesterday, Paul Krugman managed to scoop one of the themes of the State of the Union address.
[C]an we think of a recent example in the United States where helping to preserve an industrial cluster was an important policy consideration? Indeed we can: the auto bailout. A key argument for the bailout was that if the major US firms were allowed to go bankrupt, a whole industrial ecology would be lost with them. And the auto bailout has been a huge success, not least because it did preserve that ecology.

Aren’t you glad that Obama didn’t listen to the other party on this issue?
Right on cue, immediately after President Obama listed his administration's foreign policy achievements, he pointed out the success of the auto company bailout in his State of the Union speech.
On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse. Some even said we should let it die. With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen. In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences. We got the industry to retool and restructure. Today, General Motors is back on top as the world's number one automaker. Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.

We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back.

What's happening in Detroit can happen in other industries.
In the same post in which Krugman praised Obama for bailing out the auto companies in the name of preserving the industrial ecology supporting auto manufacturing in the U.S., he posted this graph of the Michigan's unemployment rate.

That's quite a recovery, although it was interrupted by the short-lived slump that accompanied the rise in oil prices during the first half of the year. In fact, the following graph from Calculated Risk displaying the unemployment rates of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia shows that it was the best recovery of all 51 reporting.

Unemployment has fallen nearly 5% since Fall 2009, when Michigan had the highest unemployment rate in the Union. Now, Michigan is below 10% after three years of double-digit unemployment and is out of the ten worst states at 11th. Both Krugman and Bill McBride of Calculated Risk are showing that what happened in Detroit (actually all of Michigan) is indeed worth emulating. Isn't that a pleasant surprise?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Preppers in Reuters and National Geographic, a murmuration

James Howard Kunstler titled this week's missive of doom Murmuration. It was surprisingly dispassionate in tone while being full of factual content and rational analysis. I found that combination not to be an accident, but I digress. What Kunstler had to say about his topic showed more insight than usual into humans as a social animal.
Investment guru James Dines introduced another seminal idea on Eric King's podcast last week. Dines's work over the years has focused much more on human mob psychology than technical market analysis - which he seems to regard as akin to augury with chicken entrails. Dines now introduces the term "murmuration" to describe the way that rapid changes occur in the realm of human activities. The word refers to behaviors also seen in other living species, such as the way a large flock of starlings will all turn in the sky at the same instant without any apparent communication. We don't know how they do that. It seems to be some kind of collective cognitive processing beyond our understanding.

Dines goes on to suggest that the political stirrings and upheavals of the past year represent an instance of human "murmuration" that will lead to even greater epochal changes in geopolitical and economic life.
My response was to praise him.
I like the concepts of trust horizon and murmuration, as they connect me to my scientific roots. Trust horizon recalls event horizon, something that marks the surface of a black hole. If we hit the event horizon, then we'll be sucked into the black hole with no escape. Of course, the center of a black hole is a singularity, so I suspect you don't want to extend the metaphor that far! As for murmuration, that's an even better one, as I'm an amateur astronomer, but a professional biologist who has studied animal behavior. Since humans are just a very smart social mammal, we shouldn't be surprised at how our behavior reflects that of other social animals, including coordination of group behavior by murmuration. Thanks for adding those concepts to my vocabulary. I'll be sure to blog about them and credit you for inspiring me.
That was yesterday morning. Yesterday evening, I encountered the following on Reuters as an example of a murmuration that is starting to change behaviors and become noticed--and noticed in a big way.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Newt Gingrich throws core GOP interest group under bus while campaigning as a populist

In When Mitt Romney came to town, he exposed the GOP's disrespect for its own ideas, I quoted Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, who opined:
Here’s Newt Gingrich’s bizarre 28-minute video attack on Mitt Romney; bizarre not because of the subject matter (which is pretty devastating to Romney), but because of the political orientation. Gingrich is coming at Romney from a position that can only be described as “left wing” — criticizing Romney for precisely the Republican values that Newt (and every other candidate) espouses.

I don’t think I’ve seen a better demonstration of an absolutely amoral lust for power — from Gingrich and from Romney.  With this video, Gingrich is throwing the entire GOP ideology under the bus.
I wouldn't call it "throwing the entire GOP ideology under the bus," as major U.S. political parties don't have consistent ideologies. They do, however, have consistent core interest groups and Gingrich is throwing one of them, the northeastern business interests, which have been with the GOP since it formed out of the remains of the Whigs in the 1850s, under the bus. That ended up being smart in the short run, given that he was angling for the votes of Southern populists, who don't care much for the northeastern business interests and haven't since before the founding of the republic. They came through for him last Saturday when he won the South Carolina primary handily.

On the other hand, Gingrich's strategy is pissing off the GOP establishment, who are behind Romney and represent the core interest group of northeastern businessmen (and women), no end! For how that looks to one group of outsiders, the netroots progressives of Daily Kos, read The Republican civil war unleashed. For another, here's what the snarky animators over at Next Media Animation have to say about it.

Newt Gingrich's stunning victory over Mitt Romney in the South Carolina primary has breathed new life into the 2012 race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Despite a scandalous interview given by Gingrich's second ex-wife to ABC, the former speaker of the House has firmly established himself as the leading anti-Romney candidate.

Erstwhile frontrunner and shoo-in for the candidacy Mitt Romney has been dogged by one controversy after another, from having to defend his time at Bain Capital to accusations of dragging his feet over releasing his tax returns. Most importantly, many evangelical voters simply do not trust a Mormon with a moderate record as governor of Massachusetts when he says he would be faithful to their conservative agenda as president.

The only problem: If the evangelicals get their way and nominate Gingrich, they might be committing electoral suicide.
Keep the popcorn ready, folks. This will be fun to watch.

Happy Year of the Dragon!

Mandarin: Gong Xi Fa Cai/Xin Nian Kuai Le

Cantonese: Kung Hei Fat Choi

Hokkien (Fujian/Taiwanese): Kiong Hee Huat Tsai/Sin Ni khòai lok


Simplified Chinese: 恭喜发财 新年快乐

Traditional Chinese: 恭喜發財 新年快樂


Above originally posted in my LiveJournal two years ago

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Three stories about Detroit in the New York Times

No time for an essay tonight, so here are some links and excerpts.

Dismantling Detroit
We chose to focus our cameras on Detroit out of a gut feeling that this city — often heralded as the birthplace of the middle class — may well be a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the country.
One of the things I've been saying on this blog is that the solutions devised here will be exported to the rest of the continent, so it's important that we encourage the good solutions and stop the bad ones.

When the Lights Go Down in the City
BACK when I was growing up in Detroit, a bumper sticker appeared that read, “Will the last person out of Michigan please turn out the lights?”

It was supposed to be a joke.

Now they are turning out the lights. Cash-strapped Highland Park, Mich., has not only darkened two-thirds of its streetlamps, but removed them. Detroit is teetering on the brink of financial takeover by the state. Mayor Dave Bing plans to raze 10,000 empty structures; he also intends to provide full city services only to the more viable neighborhoods. This makes sense when you consider that Detroit has lost a quarter of its population in just the last decade, and around a million inhabitants in my lifetime.
Detroit’s troubles are self-evident. What’s harder to understand is what Detroit looks like to its citizens and the members, like myself, of the Detroit diaspora. For us, the city is not a symbol of despair or decay, but a source, believe it or not, of hope.
I also keep saying that exciting things are happening here, and I would miss them for the world.

Now, some good news from Detroit.

G.M. Regains the Top Spot in Global Automaking
DETROIT — After three years of settling for second place, General Motors reclaimed its title as the world’s largest automaker in 2011, a year when its sales grew in every region of the globe while Toyota sales were hampered by major natural disasters.

G.M. said Thursday that it sold 9,025,942 vehicles last year, 7.6 percent more than in 2010. Its closest competitor was Volkswagen, whose sales grew 14 percent to 8.156 million, with Toyota falling to third place.

Toyota has not released final sales results for the year but last month it estimated that sales totaled 7.9 million vehicles, a 6 percent drop.
As I've been posting over at Clusterfuck Nation lately, Happy Motoring--for now--from Detroit!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Two pictures worth 1000 words about last year's weather

In yesterday's post, I linked to 2 more billion-dollar disasters added to 'extreme' 2011 at MSNBC. That article had two images that illustrated the points nicely.

First, a map showing the record 14 weather-related disasters that resulted in more than a billion dollars in losses and damages during 2011.

One of the two disasters added was Tropical Storm Lee, which I blogged about at least four times. I expect the damage described in those entries was included in the estimate.

The second is a map of all the localities that had annual records for precipitation, drought, heat, and cold last year.

Looks like Michigan and Ohio weren't alone in setting precipitation records last year. Localities in a swath from Arkansas to Vermont and Massachusetts set precipitation records. Nearly all of those weather stations were in areas hit by either Hurricane Irene or Tropical Storm Lee, and some were hit by both.

I know weather isn't climate, but with 2011 tying for the ninth warmest year on record, one has to wonder.

Friday, January 20, 2012

First major snowfall and it's already late January

The first major snowfall of the winter is coming today. As the Detroit Free Press reports: Snow expected across metro Detroit as deep freeze blankets area. The odd part is that this didn't happen until a full month after the official start of winter. It's been a very mild winter so far, which is exactly what one would expect if the planet is warming, along with 2011 being the ninth warmest year on record (so far), having a record 14 billion dollar disasters, and record precipitation in Detroit and other Michigan and Ohio cities. Still, a couple of months that I didn't have to shovel snow or drive on slick roads makes for a small silver lining in the cloud of climate change.

In honor of the event, I present two videos about winter in Michigan. First, the fantasy.

Now, the reality.

Welcome to Michigan. If you don't like the weather, wait 10 minutes. It will change.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Jeff Wattrick has the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on the Troy Transit center

In New beginnings for two Metro Detroit transit projects, I made this prediction about the Troy Transit Center:
[I]t seems that it might pass by one vote. That would be enough.
Sure enough, that happened, as Jeff Wattrick of MLive reported.

Troy City Council passes revised transit center plan by 4-3 vote

Sure enough, the revised plan passed by one vote. The deciding vote both times was Council member Fleming, who voted against the original $8 million plan but voted for the revised $6 million version. As for the operating costs, Wattrick reported that the Chamber of Commerce will put together a plan to cover the station's $31,000 annual operating costs.

As for the bad, Troy City Council may increase transit center's operating cost per square foot to symbolically 'cut' federal spending. That occurred, in part, because the geothermal heating plant originally proposed for the site was replaced by a standard gas furnace. I really don't like this decision, and I'll probably have more to say about it later.

Finally, the ugly. Democracy's Earthy Aromas: Troy transit vote sparks colorful council public comment session. Wattrick had the following to say about the aftermath.
Troy's City Council approved the transit center plan Tuesday night. Public comment immediately following that vote, and boy howdy, you simply cannot beat municipal government public comment sessions for cheap thrills and unintentional comedy.

Quite naturally, I had the old digital recorder rolling to preserve in magical ones and zeros every explanation of how public transit was a Chinese plot to take our jobs, a UN Project 21 conspiracy to destroy America’s sovereignty, and the machinations of a shadowy cabal led by Rip Rapson, the dark overlord of the Kresge Foundation. All those things were said, but last night's public comment was so fantastic, none of them made the greatest hits album.
I highly recommend you read this article. It's local political comedy at its best.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stop SOPA blackout

Two videos today, the first silly and the second serious. As one might expect, the silly one is from Next Media Animation.

To protest SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), Wikipedia, Reddit, Boing Boing and other sites are shutting down for a day on January 18th. The blackout seeks to educate the public about SOPA, which opponents say will "break the internet."

As hard as it is to go a whole day without Reddit or the cute animals of the Cheezeburger network, the site participating in the blackout with the biggest impact is likely to be Wikipedia. Tens of millions of people around the world check Wikipedia daily for fast information for free. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales warned students with a tweet: "Student warning! Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday! #sopa."

As the backlash against SOPA continues, Congress actually announced that the bill will be shelved. However, activists are adamant that the blackout will go ahead, in case SOPA makes a comeback, either on its own, or as PIPA, or the Protect IP Act.
Now the serious one, which is from Russia Today.

The world's most popular online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, is going on strike on Wednesday. The "knowledge blackout" is aimed at protecting the Internet - and the website's very existence -- from online censorship.
The Wikipedia community and the Wikimedia foundation decided on a global blackout of the English version of the website for 24 hours starting at 05:00 UTC on January 18.
For more, read SOPA opponents gaining momentum; Wikipedia, Google join protest on MSNBC and Wikipedia to go dark Wednesday on Daily Kos. To sign a petition, there's one at Progressive Change Campaign Committee. I'm staying off this blog for the rest of the day. In fact, I'm not really on the blog today, as I programmed this post in advance the night before. If you're wondering what I'll be doing instead, check out the macro below.

May the 404ce be with you!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tom Tomorrow thinks Romney is a robot, too

The day after the Iowa caucuses, I snarked:
Romney is a corporate robot who will do whatever his programmers tell him to do.
Not even two weeks later, Tom Tomorrow has picked up that idea and run with it, explaining Romney's flip-flopping in the process.

Full-sized version at Daily Kos.

Whatever cartoon! Gingrich will do, it won't be any stranger than what actually happened in the real Gingrich's name.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to play SW:TOR with my wife.

Monday, January 16, 2012

When Mitt Romney came to town, he exposed the GOP's disrespect for its own ideas

Late last week, I wrote, "I'll have lots more to say about this video and the reaction to it later." After elaborating on my prior post, it's time to follow through.

P. T. Barnum is supposed to have said, "all publicity is good publicity." I'm not sure that Mitt Romney will agree with the man who also said, "a sucker is born every minute," something Romney and a lot of the other Republican candidates are banking on. Right now, Willard M. Romney is getting a lot of bad publicity, which is summed up in the half-hour-long attack ad presented as a muckracking documentary I posted in the first installment of this series. The blurb accompanying this video minces no words about what it sees as Willard's legacy and why he's bad for business, in more ways than one.
Mitt Romney was not a capitalist during his reign at Bain. He was a predatory corporate raider. His firm didn't seek to create value. Instead, like a scavenger, Romney looked for businesses he could pick apart. Indeed, he represented the worst possible kind of predator, operating within the law but well outside the bounds of what most real capitalists consider ethical.

He is exhibit number one the left wants to use in the coming election to give capitalism a bad name.
In other words, Willard is a liability, not an asset. While he might be "most electable," if his opponents want to score points based on economic philosophy, he's also the most vulnerable.

The blurb continues.
He and his friends at Bain were bad guys. Any real capitalists should disavow Romney's 'creative destruction' model that made him wealthy at the expense of thousands of American jobs.

Mitt Romney and his cronies pioneered 'deindustrialization,' a process by which they searched out vulnerable companies, took them over, loaded them with debt, and collected obscene fees while doing so. He sent jobs overseas or killed them altogether, and then picked apart the remains - including pension funds - before the companies went bankrupt.
If you wonder why America has lost so many manufacturing jobs overseas, look no further than Mitt Romney -- the King of Bain.
Willard, John Galt hates you. So, apparently, do a lot of other people who've seen this video and are commenting on both it and the reaction to it. One of them is Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Next Media Animation on the Hostess Cakes bankruptcy

I'll have more on Mitt Romney and Bain Capital and their business practices later. Tonight it's time to watch Next Media Animation's No more Twinkies? Hostess cakes declares bankruptcy.

Is this the end of Twinkies? Hostess Cakes, the maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonderbread, is declaring bankruptcy.

The Twinkie has been a favorite snack since it was invented in the 30s. Its purported shelf life is legendary. Some believe that Twinkies never go bad. Hostess Cakes says this is not so and that Twinkies should only sit on the shelf for a couple of weeks.

Hostess Cakes says the rising cost of flour and heavy pension obligations did it in. But some believe Hostess is declaring bankruptcy to wiggle out of pension fund obligations.
Number one on the list of people who think it was about the pensions is the author of Hostess Brands Goes Bankrupt (Again), Stiffs Workers For a Billion on Daily Kos. I suggest you read it for more detail on the history of the company. As for Twinkies and the rest of the baked goods put out by Hostess Cakes going away, advocates of healthy eating could only wish.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The New York Times on Bain Capital and KB Toys

In yesterday's post, I quoted a passage from Wikipedia's entry for KB Toys. On closer examination, that passage doesn't conform to Wikipedia's standards for citation style, so it's likely to be edited. The facts contained in it, however, are just fine, and they link to the following New York Times article.

Buyout Profits Keep Flowing to Romney

Here's the relevant section about KB Toys.
One lucrative deal for Bain involved KB Toys, a company based in Pittsfield, Mass., which one of the firm’s partnerships bought in 2000. Three years later, when Mr. Romney was the governor of Massachusetts, the company began closing stores and laying off thousands of employees.
While Bain’s deals typically yielded enormous profits for its investors and partners, several have led to serious financial problems — and sizable layoffs — at companies it acquired.

The 2000 purchase of KB Toys, then one of the country’s largest toy retailers, became one of the most contentious.

As in most Bain deals, the partnership put up a small fraction of the money — in this case $18 million — and borrowed the rest of the $302 million purchase price. Just 16 months later, the toy company borrowed more to pay Bain and its investors an $85 million dividend.

That gave Mr. Romney and the other partners a quick 370 percent return on their money. But it also left the toy company with a heavy debt burden. Before long, the company began closing stores around the country and laid off 3,400 workers. It filed for bankruptcy protection in 2004.
Also, that first bankruptcy didn't kill off KB Toys. The second one did. From Wikipedia.
K·B closed 156 stores on November 8, 2007. The Gordon Brothers Group[3] handled the liquidation of these stores. On February 9, 2009, K·B closed the remaining stores following the second bankruptcy filing in four years. In addition, K·B Toys' website was closed down.

The K·B Toys brand and related intangible assets were sold by Streambank LLC to Toys R Us on September 4, 2009 for a reported $2.1 Million. Because K·B Toys' 460 stores had been closed and liquidated, the sale applies mainly to the company's logo, website, and trademarks/intellectual properties. Toys R Us remains unsure of how the K·B name will fit into its future business plan.[2] So far, Toys R Us uses the K·B Toys brand in self-manufactured toys, under the name "KB Classics" with the K·B Toys logo.
None of that prevents me from thinking of Willard as the rat whose company killed off my kids' toy store, as the Ann Arbor location was gone by 2004.

Friday, January 13, 2012

When Mitt Romney came to town, KB Toys closed

The following half-hour-long attack ad presented as a muckracking documentary was released earlier this week by Winning Our Future, the Super PAC associated with Newt Gingrich.

I'll have lots more to say about this video and the reaction to it later. Right now, I'll just share my personal connection to the events protrayed in it.

The video briefly describes the role that Bain Capital had in the demise of KB Toys, where I shopped for my kids' toys all during the 90s. Later, a friend of mine worked there and lost her job about the time the chain first went bankrupt. Here's the relevant section from the chain's Wikipedia entry.
KB Toys was purchased and taken private in 2000 by the leveraged buyout firm of Bain Capital for $305 million, Bain announced the purchase on Dec. 8th, 2000. Only $18 million of the purchase money was cash, the rest was borrowed against the assets of the company. Sixteen months after the buyout, Bain Capital paid itself $85 million in dividends in early 2002. Two years later, due to increasing competition from national discount chains such as Wal-Mart and Target and its enormous debt, on January 14, 2004, K·B Toys filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and closed 365 stores.
I'd been wondering for years how such a successful and popular enterprise could have declined and disappeared so quickly. Thanks to this video, now I have an answer. Thanks a lot, Willard M. Romney. Your first name is truth in advertising. You are a rat.

More politicians visit NAIAS plus a cameo by Bill Ford, Jr.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Governor Rick Snyder weren't the only politicians to show up during the Press Preview at the auto show. The same day Governor Snyder showed up, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Commerce Secretary John Bryson, and, of course, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing all toured the show. In the category of "one of these things is not like the others," Ford Chairman Bill Ford, Jr., was also interviewed making important points about how changes in the auto industry have managed to diversify the economy. Energy storage (advanced batteries for electric cars) was not a major factor in Michigan and the U.S. 10 years ago. It is now.

WXYZ has the report.

As the saying goes, success has a hundred fathers, while failure is an orphan. Looking at how many important people want to be associated with the auto show, both the event and by extension the automotive industry look to be successes. Based on the good automotive news that began 2012, I can't say that I blame them.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Governor Snyder interviewed at NAIAS

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was not the only important political figure to visit the auto show. Governor Rick Snyder also attended and was interviewed by WXYZ-TV.

Governor Rick Snyder speaks with Action News Anchor Stephen Clark at the North American International Auto Show.
Snyder talks a good game, but if he's so interested in doing what is good for business, including attracting the best talent, then why did he sign a bill that discriminated against LGBT partners of public-sector worker, which resulted in his getting sued? Not everything that the "pro-business party" does is good for business.

On another note, he sounds like he wants to cooperate with Mayor Bing regarding Detroit's financial situation, although he's being coy about something he should be claiming as a great success, the unexpected surplus in the state's budget. It's almost as if he's not happy about losing an excuse for austerity.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visits NAIAS

From WXYZ-TV on YouTube comes this auspicious beginning to the North American International Auto Show.

Anchor Vic Faust speak[s] with United States Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at the auto show in Detroit.
Not only is Secretary LaHood talking about the auto industry and the show itself, but also about the revival of light rail in Detroit. He sounds cautiously optimistic while he praises Mayor Bing and Governor Snyder. I hope he's right.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Auto sales as economic stimulus

In my previous entry, I quoted Calculated Risk on how auto sales will have contributed to GDP when it is computed and released later this year.
Growth in auto sales should make a strong positive contribution to Q4 GDP. Sales in Q3 averaged 12.45 million SAAR, and sales averaged 13.46 million SAAR in Q4, an increase of 8.1% over Q3.
I also made the following promise.
Stay tuned for more news about the NAIAS and a digression about the importance of auto sales as part of increasing demand in an economy.
It's time to follow through by expanding on the second point by demonstrating how important consumer spending in general and auto sales in particular are to GDP, as well as make a point about how necessary demand is to keeping the economy as it is currently structured afloat.

Here is Calculated Risk's latest line graph of U.S. auto sales showing their relationship to recessions for the past 45 years. Note that auto sales declined both before and during each recession, although some of the declines during recessions have been more marked than others, as some of the milder recessions, along with those that began with already depressed sales display more stagnation than decline. Also note that auto sales rose coming out of every recession, sometimes even during its late phases.

Did you see the two sharp spikes at the ends of the past two recessions? Those are the results of government intervention to stimulate the economy, although of very different sorts, both consistent with the philosophies of the parties in power at the time. The first one occurred when George W. Bush told everyone, in so many words, to keep shopping.
Now, the American people have got to go about their business. We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don't -- where we don't conduct business, where people don't shop.
By memetic mutation, this became "go shopping or the terrorists win." Even if Bush didn't say exactly those words, people responded. Just look at the graph of real retail sales below.

Look at the big spike right at the end of the 2001 recession. People responded to their president's suggestion by whipping out their credit cards and spending. Within a month or two, the recession was over. Honestly, it was exactly what a party with a free enterprise philosophy should advocate, and it worked.  It also showed that Bush was far more afraid of a recession deepening than he was letting on at the time.

By 2009, just about everyone's credit card was tapped out, so that strategy wouldn't work. However, the government sill had credit and other incentives available, and the party in power believed in goverment intervention. So instead of just urging people to spend, it instituted Cash for Clunkers. That worked, not only in stimulating car sales, but increasing real retail sales as a whole. That it also removed a bunch of gas guzzlers from the roads was a bonus. Both instances show that increasing demand works. Keynes was right. So, no, Ron Paul, we're not all Austrians now.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Good automotive news to begin 2012

The local news about cars will be dominated for the next two weeks by the North American International Auto Show, which begins today with the Press Preview, but other things worth paying attention to happened this past week. To view and hear them before they get buried in all the auto show coverage, click "Read more."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Wolf Moon, the first full moon of 2012, is tonight

The first full moon of 2012 will be tonight, the first of 13 full moons this year. Each of these moons has a name (and one of them has two names), as Space.com (via MSNBC) explains.*

How 2012's full moons got their strange names
Origins credited to Native Americans and early European settlers
By Joe Rao
updated 1/7/2012 3:07:59 PM ET
The start of 2012 brings with it a new year of skywatching, and lunar enthusiasts are gearing up for a stunning lineup of full moons. But, where does the tradition of full moon names come from?

Full moon names date back to Native Americans of a few hundred years ago, of what is now the northern and eastern United States. To keep track of the changing seasons, these tribes gave distinctive names to each recurring full moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred.

There were some variations in the moon names, but in general, the same ones were used throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England, continuing west to Lake Superior.

European settlers followed their own customs and created some of their own names. Here is a list of all of the full moon names, as well as the dates and times for 2012: (Unless otherwise noted, all times are given in Eastern Standard Time.)
Tonight's full moon is the Full Wolf Moon which will reach maximum on January 9th (technically tomorrow) at 2:30 a.m. EST. The association of wolf with a full moon has cross-cultural connotations, particularly with superstitions about what else happens involving wolves, people, and full moons. Everyone, enjoy the light show and sing along with Warren Zevon. A-hoo!

Now that the show is over, click on "Read more" for the rest of the full moon names, along with important astronomical events associated with some of them.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

New beginnings for two Metro Detroit transit projects

This morning, the Detroit newspapers had good news about two transit projects, Detroit light rail and the Troy transit center, that had been left for dead. It looks like both might happen anyway.

First, the news about light rail in Detroit from the Detroit Free Press.

Detroit light rail revived, but with shorter route
Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing insisted Friday that a light-rail line for Detroit is still possible, backtracking on their decision last month to pull passenger trains out of the mix of modernized transit options for the city.

Snyder and Bing said they're supporting a plan for a shorter rail line from downtown to New Center that would be built as part of an upgraded system of rapid-transit buses crisscrossing the city and suburbs.

"We see light rail as a part of regional transportation, so light rail is not dead," Bing said at a news conference at his office with Snyder and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "It's back on the table."
The mayor and governor said a less-ambitious rail system, about 3.4 miles long, could still be built, largely with private funding through the M-1 Rail group of investors.

In order to secure federal funding, the group was given 90 days to produce a study showing it could make the line work.
So it's not a definite yes, but the project has the status of "not dead yet." That's cause for hope.

Next, the Detroit News reports that a Revised Troy transit center plan up for vote.
The City Council on Monday is expected to vote on a scaled-back proposal for the Troy Transit Center weeks after the panel failed to award a contract to begin the federally funded project.

The resolution released late Friday reduces expenditures by about $2 million and was proposed by Councilman Dane Slater. "The integrity of the project is still there," said Slater, adding the new plan is based on a smaller facility with fewer features.

"It's my hope that through these concessions we can get a majority vote on this project and move it forward."
The way this article is written, it seems that it might pass by one vote. That would be enough.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Governor Snyder sued twice this week

That's right, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder got sued twice this week and the suits were filed on successive days, Wednesday and Thursday. Both suits allege that legislation Snyder signed violated the constitutions of both Michigan and the United States.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

WXYZ begins its North American International Auto Show coverage

While the automotive highlight of the year for amateurs is probably the Woodward Dream Cruise, the automotive event of the year for professionals is the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), which also serves as the kickoff of the year for car enthusiasts of all kinds here. It's such a big event that hotels and motels are booked up for miles around, as I found out back in 2000 when I tried to book a room in Livonia--but that's a story for another post.

Like the Dream Cruise, the NAIAS attracts a lot of local coverage, in particular from WXYZ-TV. The station has already begun. Here are the clips from yesterday.

NAIAS To Exhibit Technology For People With Disabilities

Inclusiveness is something that is good for people and for profit.

Urban Wheel awards to kick off Auto Show

John Quinones should bring his 57 Chevy from San Antonio to the Dream Cruise. He and his car would be a big hit and he'd probably love the event.

Auto show behind the scenes

I'm glad to post such good news about a Detroit event that is so important for the local economy.

Expect a lot more coverage of this event between now and the 20th.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Last night was the beginning of the primary/caucus season for 2012

It was also the beginning of the end for some of the candidates, too.

WXYZ-TV on YouTube reposted the summary of last night's events from ABC News.

WOOD-TV on YouTube has the details on what Iowa's caucus results mean for the rest of the campaign, including here in Michigan.

Good riddance to Michele Bachmann! In fact, I don't have kind words to say about any of the candidates who actively campaigned in Iowa. Here's what I wrote about the field on Kunstler's blog Monday and reposted on Is this it?, the only other politics blog on the January 2011 Nablopomo blogroll.*
The Republican candidates are a bunch of clowns. Rick Perry is so dumb, a zombie was walking down the street in Des Moines the other day, saw Governor Goodhair, and turned away to look elsewhere for brains. Newt Gingrich doesn't even have the organization to get his name on the ballot in the state where he now lives, Virginia. Bachmann is exactly the kind of maniac that would promise cheap gas to keep suburbia alive. Ron Paul is stopped clock who is right twice a day, namely at 4:20. Rick Santorum is famous because his surname is a synonym for froth. Romney is a corporate robot who will do whatever his programmers tell him to do. Poor Huntsman had to sign on to climate denial in order to stay viable. Finally, when I tell people about Buddy Roemer, who has the closest thing to James's "My Tea Party" platform, the response is "who?"
Other than Huntsman and Roemer, neither of whom competed in Iowa, these candidates make me glad that I haven't been a Republican or conservative since 2000.

*It's only the 4th, and I'm already the only politics blogger actively participating in Nablopomo. Is this it? gave up after only two days. Too bad. She showed promise. Instead, I'll be reading The Crunchy Wife, who is very much about sustainability on the personal level.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012: The Mayan Apocalypse? Yeah, right

Last May, I concluded my first post on the end of the world with the following prediction.
This post takes care of your daily dose of DOOM! Expect repeats at irregular intervals at least until December 21, 2012.
It's that time again.

James Howard Kunstler began his first post of the new year with a tip of his writer's cap at the Doomsday du jour.
There's a lot to be nervous about, even if you don't subscribe to the undercooked Mayan apocalypse lore moving through the gut of the Internet like a Staphylococcus-infected tamale.
Count me out as one of those people who thinks there is anything either supernatural or cosmological coming to end the world as we know it by this year's Winter Solstice. I still hold to what I wrote last May and repeated in October.
No supernatural causes will be needed to bring about the collapse of civilization; the interaction of human behavior with limited resources can do that all by themselves. That end will be completely natural, not supernatural.

The flip side is that anything that could also postpone or even prevent that collapse will also be the result of exploiting human psychology and the available resources. It may look like a miracle, but it will be completely natural as well.
That written, I would be remiss if I didn't at least acknowledge the non-event on a blog that began as an examination of the collapse of civilization and evolved into an examination of sustainability from a science-fiction perspective.

Join me below the fold for the news stories about 2012 that I posted on Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Farewell to 2011 edition) over at Daily Kos.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Occupy the Rose Parade, plus an astronaut on gardening in space

While this is a Detroit-based blog (I brand it as a sustainability blog with a science-fiction slant and a Detroit perspective) and I have adopted Detroit as my home town, it's no secret to anyone who knows me that I'm originally from Los Angeles, which I left 23 years ago to move to Michigan. So, I'll occasionally stray from my Midwestern focus to look back at the places and events where I grew up. One of those is the Rose Parade, which I went to just about every year from the late 1960s (I can't even remember the first one I watched in person) until 1983. It turns out that the Rose Parade is back in the news in two ways that I can't resist blogging about.

First up, from KTLA: 'Occupy' Organizers Putting Last Touches on Rose Parade Human Float
PASADENA (KTLA) -- Bystanders hoping to catch a glimpse of the brightly decorated floats at Monday's Tournament of Roses Parade might notice something a bit unusual if they stick around to the end.

Occupy activists this weekend are putting the finishing touches on Occupy Octopus, a 70-foot squid puppet that will be paraded alongside thousands of protesters.

The so-called "Octupy Rose Parade" float is made entirely of recycled plastic bags and powered by 36 humans, with tens of people carrying the arms and a smaller group of people holding up the central body.

"We're calling it 'The People's Parade' to contrast against the corporate parade that the Rose Parade has become," an organizer said.

"It will represent Wall Street, the financial sectors [as] vampires, [with a] squidlike stranglehold," one organizer said.
If you were wondering when Matt Taibbi's "vampire squid" would make an appearance in an Occupy protest, wait no longer. It will make its debut in a few hours.
Demonstrators, flanked by a 250-foot recreation of the U.S. Constitution, will be gathering at 7 a.m. at Singer Park and are set to begin marching near the parades end at 9:30 a.m.
Those times are Pacific, thus three hours behind the time zone here in Detroit.  You have time to watch the end of the parade and catch the Occupy Octopus.

The Occupiers will not disrupt the parade, as the Los Angeles Times reports.
Protesters will march the parade route after the floats and marching bands have passed. The group has been working with Pasadena police and Tournament of Roses officials on how not to disrupt the parade.

"Our goal is to put Occupy's best foot forward," Thottam said, adding that activists expect more than 1,000 participants. "We recognize that this is a historic, iconic event geared toward middle America and the family."

The group says the protest will be "G-rated" and will stick to nonviolence in expressing Occupy's messages against income inequality and corporate power.
The organizers expect there will be no trouble with police and that thousands will show up. I believe the first, but am sceptical about the second.

KTLA has two videos showing Occupy the Rose Parade's efforts as part of the preparation for the Rose Parade. Unfortunately, neither is allowing its embed code to be shared. The first one is at the L.A. Times site and the second is hosted at KTLA.

Now, something a little more conventional--an astronaut riding on a float courtesy of MSNBC.

Astronaut stops to smell the roses
By Alan Boyle
One of the last astronauts to ride on a space shuttle will be riding a totally different vehicle on Monday: a flower-bedecked float in the 2012 Rose Parade.

Say what?

The 5.5-mile journey down the parade route in Pasadena, Calif., doesn't hold a candle in distance or danger to the 5.3 million-mile journey that NASA astronaut Rex Walheim made in July during STS-135, Atlantis' program-ending mission. But it's a perfect follow-up for several reasons:
  • Walheim will be riding on the "Garden of Imagination" float with his brother, Lance, a horticulturist who wrote the book "Roses for Dummies." Lance is the go-to garden guy for Bayer Advanced, an arm of the chemical conglomerate that makes lawn and garden prducts.
  • With Lance's encouragement, Rex carried up a dried rose as one of his personal items during a 2008 mission on Atlantis. That rose was featured on Bayer Advanced's trophy-winning Rose Parade float in 2009.
  • This Rose Parade appearance gives Rex a chance to smell the roses, literally, after a high-pressure spaceflight. It also gives him an opportunity to reflect on how a little gardening could come in handy for future generations of space explorers.
"If you think about it, that's one of the things we need to develop on our long-term vehicles," he told me this week. "We need to have a self-supporting ecosystem, environmental control systems for recycling air and water, and you have to grow your own food. We're doing that in space. ... These skills that any astronaut has as a young child when they work in the garden and help their parents, well, those turn out to be important on the most advanced vehicles ever made, and on the most complex exploration missions."
I told you this blog was about sustainability with a science-fiction slant!

The Atlantic on Tea Partiers disrupting planning commissions because of Agenda 21

I've blogged before about how Tea Partiers are fighting efforts to improve mass transit, build high-speed rail, protect endangered species, and prepare for climate change. Now, The Atlantic has an article about this topic with entirely new examples of people concerned about Agenda 21.

How the Tea Party Is Upending Urban Planning
Across the country, Tea Party activists have been storming planning meetings of all kinds, opposing various plans by local and regional government having anything to do with density, smart growth, sustainability or urbanism. In California, Tea Party activists gained enough signatures for a ballot measure repealing the state’s baseline environmental regulations, while also targeting the Senate Bill 375, the 2008 law that seeks to combat climate change by promoting density and regional planning.

Florida’s growth management legislation was recently undone, and activists in Tampa helped turn away funding for rail projects there. A planning agency in Virginia had to move to a larger auditorium and ban applause, after Tea Party activists sought to derail a five-year comprehensive plan and force withdrawal from the U.S. Mayors Agreement on Climate Change.

What’s prompting the ire is anything from a proposed master plan to a new water treatment plant, rules governing septic tanks, or a bike-sharing program. What’s driving the rebellion is a view that government should have no role in planning or shaping the built environment that in any way interferes with private property rights. And in almost all instances, the Tea Partiers link local planning efforts to the United Nations’ Agenda 21, a nearly two-decade old document that addresses sustainable development in the world’s cities – read as herding humanity into compulsory habitation zones.
It may not be time to panic. In some cases there are very few vocal activists leading the charge, but the Tea Party has been so well publicized, and their tactics are often so sophisticated, that their powers of intimidation appear outsized. This is also in part a case of everything old being new again. Property rights activists have always been well organized, and were energized by the Kelo Supreme Court case affirming the use of eminent domain. The sprawl lobby – the fanciful label from my first book, This Land – circles the wagons for corporate home-builders, road-builders and even the lawn-care industry invested in far-flung conventional suburban development. The anti-smart growth American Dream Coalition dovetails with the Tea Party view, giving some familiar contrarian voices new visibility. Wendell Cox and Ron Utt co-authored a grave warning against “radical environmentalists,” driven by, yes, the UN’s Agenda 21, in a recent fact-contorting essay for the Heritage Foundation.
Yet, as in national politics, the Tea Party view doesn’t leave room for compromise. Even the most open-minded and free-speech supporting planner can’t operate when the framework for the dialogue itself has been invalidated. Where does one go from there? The skirmishes at town halls around the country over the past year or so means that planners will have to try even harder to make their case. But in the mean time, the chairman of that sleepy planning board hearing might be eying the exits, looking for a black helicopter, to make a run for it.
Read the rest of the article, including the 325 comments, which the Tea Partiers are swarming.

The general outlines of this phenomenon, including the connection to the "sprawl lobby," but not all the details, such as the general anti-environmental hysteria, were forecast more than eight years ago during the filming of "End of Suburbia" by James Howard Kunstler. In Bachmann on $2 gas and Kunstler on maniac politicians, I put together quotes of his from two sources in which he outlines his prediction.
There will be a great battle to preserve the supposed entitlements to suburbia and it will be an epochal act of futility, a huge waste of effort and resources that might have been much better spent in finding new ways to carry on an American civilization.
Americans will elect maniacs who promise to allow them to keep their McMansions and their commutes and that’s going to produce a lot of political friction, probably a lot of violence, probably a threat to our democratic institutions.
Prophetic, wasn't he?

Kunstler has since escalated his language from maniacs to "corn pone Nazis." Even he thinks the Tea Party is his prophesy come to life.
The Tea Party people are the corn-pone Nazis I have been warning you about.
There is a reason why I use the "corn pone fascists" tag for posts about the Tea Party and the politicians they support.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Nablopomo for January 2012: Beginnings

From Nablopomo on BlogHer.
So what is the NaBloPoMo theme of the month?


January 1st is a blank slate, and you can make the year anything you want it to be? Leave your job and embark on a new career. Open that blank document and start that novel you always wanted to write. Join that online dating site, signup for a new class, or close your eyes and point to a place on a globe to plan your next vacation.

Beginnings can be scary, but as the adage by Lao-tzu goes, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." You can take a single step, right? And after that, it's just putting foot before foot, taking your new journey slowly and letting it unfold at its own pace. Along the way, blog about your experience, not only so readers can follow along, but so that you have a record of how far you've come any time you feel yourself falter.
So what are you beginning this year? If you can name at least five things, it means you have at least five blog posts inside of you. And if you can do five posts, you can certainly expand that and do an extra 25 or so.
I have no problem popping off a post a day, as blogging about sustainability and politics in Detroit means never running out of material, so I'm signing up again. As for what this theme inspires in me, it's music. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire playing "Beginnings."

Of course, there's always another version of this song, so I'll give you one that is distinctly mine--a drum and bugle corps playing it. If you want to skip to the most relevant section, click here to start playing at 5:59. You can stop on your own at 8:33. Of course, I recommend watching the whole thing. 27th Lancers were always better marchers than players.

This clip is doubly appropriate for Beginnings, as this is from the very first Drum Corps International championship in August 1972, 40 years ago. Welcome to the beginning of the modern era of drum corps competition, one that I think will draw to a close by the end of the decade because of sustainability concerns. For every beginning, there is an end.