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Sunday Train: West Virginia River Runner Rail and the Steel Interstates (from 1 May 2011)

Tonight's Sunday Train crosspost is a repeat of the 1 May, 2011 Sunday Train, from before the Sunday Train came to Voices On The Square

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

The flashy rail projects are the very HSR projects to build bullet trains serving urban areas with millions of people.

But the role of rail in supporting sustainable extends beyond the bullet train system alone. It may not be critical to the financial success of these bullet trains to provide service to people living in urban areas of 50,000 to 200,000 ~ but its critical to these people to have access to some form of sustainable intercity transport.

Indeed, if we are going to be harvesting wind power, solar power, sustainably coppiced biocoal, geothermal, run of river hydro, and other sustainable resources ... we are going to be creating incomes in areas away from the 1m+ cities. We best look after the needs of the people who come to those areas looking for work. Read below the fold...

A parallel take on "The Potemkin Moment" using even fancier words

("The Potemkin Moment"[1].) From an article by Steve Denning Forbes, of all places, on "vampire talent" and rental extraction:

We are thus about to witness a vast societal drama play out. That’s because we have reached that key theatrical moment, which Aristotle famously called “anagnorisis” or “recognition.”  This is the moment in a drama when ignorance shifts to knowledge. Just as King Lear in Shakespeare’s play eventually recognized that his apparently virtuous daughters, Goneril and Regan, were a rather bad lot, and that his apparently disrespectful daughter, Cordelia, truly loved him, so society is learning that much of ‘the talent’ it thought was adding value have in fact been extracting value for themselves.

As usual with anagnorisis and the shock of recognition at a disturbing, previously-hidden truth, there is a disquieting sense that the accepted coordinates of knowledge have somehow gone awry and the universe has come out of whack. This can lead to denial and a delay in action, even though the facts are staring us in the face.

If the recognition of our error comes too late, as in Shakespeare’s Lear, the result will be terrible tragedy. If the recognition comes soon enough, the drama can still have a happy ending. We are about to find out in our case which it is to be.

Anagnorisis = The Potemkin Moment. Read below the fold...

ObamaCare Clusterfuck: Covered California gives no-bid contracts to cronies

Corrente readers could see this coming in May 2013: "California exchange spending and contractors exempted from open records law". I'm sure there are plenty of rationalizations for exemptions like that, but it's hard to think of any good reasons. And so we come to today's story from AP:

AP Exclusive: California gives no-bid health pacts

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- California's health insurance exchange has awarded $184 million in contracts without the competitive bidding and oversight that is standard practice across state government, including deals that sent millions of dollars to a firm whose employees have long-standing ties to the agency's executive director. ...

Several of those contracts worth a total of $4.2 million went to a consulting firm, The Tori Group, whose founder has strong professional ties to agency Executive Director Peter Lee, while others were awarded to a subsidiary of a health care company he once headed.

Awarding no-bid contracts is unusual in state government, where rules promote "open and fair competition" to give taxpayers the best deal and avoid ethical conflicts. The practice is generally reserved for emergencies or when no known competition exists. ...

The agency confirmed some no-bid contracts were awarded to people with previous professional ties to Lee, but emphasized Covered California was under pressure to move fast and needed specialized skills.

What a steaming load of crap. They had four years to build the system,[1] and "specialized skills" are always a rationalization for cronyism. I mean, come on. The bidding process is meant to find out if the needed skills really are all that specialized! Read below the fold...

Democratic apparatchiks turn Jack Trammell into just another third-way, "Grand Bargain" loser

You remember the Trammmel (D) vs Brat (R) race, right? Brat, a conservative, took down House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia's 7th district -- from the right. In a stroke of fate, both Brat and Trammell were professors at Randolph-Macon College, setting up the possibility of a race where sharp distinctions could have been draw between both parties, even with a debate between the two at their own college! Well, that potentially useful bit of political theatre happened, and this is the result. This is just sad:

Brat, Trammell support raising retirement age to preserve Social Security

Dave Brat, the Republican candidate running for Eric Cantor’s former seat in the 7th Congressional District, and his Democratic opponent, Jack Trammell, don’t agree on much. But both propose raising the retirement age to ensure Social Security payouts for future generations.

Trammell said he would consider increasing the eligibility age by two years, “but that decision would need to be weighed against changes to other programs to be certain there are no gaps. There are many moving parts to these programs.”

Brat has proposed increasing the age by five years, but he said this measure alone won’t solve the problem of what he called an underfunded program.

While Trammell acknowledged that changes are needed to protect payouts of Social Security benefits for coming generations, he accused Brat of “promoting the illusion” that the program is in severe financial trouble.

“This is just not reality,” he said. “The truth is, Social Security has paid its benefits in full and on time for 76 years. It is a strong and effective retirement program that provides millions of Americans some financial security.”

Social Security, Trammell said, is projected “to deliver full guaranteed benefits through 2033 and with modest changes the program can meet its obligations indefinitely.”

So, it boils down to this: Read below the fold...

Greenwald has a second NSA source, higher-up than Snowden, says documentary "Citizenfour"

Hollywood Reporter:

A second National Security Agency whistleblower exists within the ranks of government intelligence.

That bombshell comes toward the end of Citizenfour, a new documentary from filmmaker Laura Poitras about NSA informant Edward Snowden that had its world premiere on Friday at the New York Film Festival.

In the key scene, journalist Glenn Greenwald visits Snowden at a hotel room in Moscow. Fearing they are being taped, Greenwald communicates with Snowden via pen and paper.

While some of the exchanges are blurred for the camera, it becomes clear that Greenwald wants to convey that another government whistleblower -- higher in rank than Snowden -- has come forward.

The revelation clearly shocks Snowden, whose mouth drops open when he reads the details of the informant's leak.

Interesting, if true. Read below the fold...

letsgetitdone's picture

Beware of Policies and Legislation Based on the Generational Accounting Scam

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation (PGPF) and its allied army of associated deficit hawks want the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the General Accountability Office (GAO), and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to do fiscal gap accounting and generational accounting on an annual basis and, upon request by Congress, to use these accounting methods to evaluate major proposed changes in fiscal legislation. Generational Accounting is an invalid long-range projection method that doesn't take into account inflation, the projected value of the Government's capability to issue fiat currency and reserves in the amounts needed to fulfill Congressional appropriations, and re-pay its debts, the projected non-Government assets corresponding to government liabilities, the likely economic impacts of Government spending, surpluses, and deficits, the impact of accumulating errors on projections, and the biases inherent in pessimistic AND contradictory assumptions. It is a green eye shade method that ignores both economic and political reality.

If you want America to end deficit terrorism and austerity, and to have the fiscal policy space it needs to begin to restore the American Dream, then you need to defeat proposed policies or legislation which puts building blocks in place to bias fiscal policy towards austerity and the economic decline it will surely produce for ourselves, our children, and for their children. Proposed policies and legislation of this kind must be defeated for the following seven reasons. Read below the fold...

Common Household Remedies Request

Actually, I don't have much of a request, except for a collective crossing of fingers, unless any of you heat with steam: Read below the fold...

All Hail Hillary's Bud Henry K, Oldest Living War Criminal!

David Corn in "Hillary Clinton Praises a Guy With Lots of Blood on His Hands," Sept. 5, 2014: Read below the fold...

letsgetitdone's picture

Paul Krugman Still Believes That “teh Debt” Can Be a Problem for the U.S.

The deficit is now down to under 3% of GDP, and in contemplating that fact, Paul Krugman asks why the deficit hawks aren't celebrating the precipitous fall from nearly 10% of GDP a few years ago. He then explains that:

Far from celebrating the deficit’s decline, the usual suspects — fiscal-scold think tanks, inside-the-Beltway pundits — seem annoyed by the news. It’s a “false victory,” they declare. “Trillion dollar deficits are coming back,” they warn. And they’re furious with President Obama for saying that it’s time to get past “mindless austerity” and “manufactured crises.” He’s declaring mission accomplished, they say, when he should be making another push for entitlement reform.

All of which demonstrates a truth that has been apparent for a while, if you have been paying close attention: Deficit scolds actually love big budget deficits, and hate it when those deficits get smaller. Why? Because fears of a fiscal crisis — fears that they feed assiduously — are their best hope of getting what they really want: big cuts in social programs.

Read below the fold...

EBOLA Crisis Dooming Legacy of West's Capitalism/Imperialism

Thread: 

So far there has been only a relatively tiny amount of international aid to combat the profoundly dangerous Ebola epidemic. There have only been a few hundred international volunteer doctors and nurses, many of whom are now dead or who have withdrawn to avoid infection. Read below the fold...

How understanding the immune system of plants leads to greater yield without poisons

The Atlantic:

Kempf is the unlikely founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture, a consulting firm established in 2006 to promote science-intensive organic agriculture. The entrepreneur’s story is almost identical to Zook’s. A series of crop failures on his own farm drove the 8th grade-educated Kempf to school himself in the sciences. For two years, he pored over research in biology, chemistry, and agronomy in pursuit of a way to save his fields. The breakthrough came from the study of plant immune systems which, in healthy plants, produce an array of compounds that are toxic to intruders. “The immune response in plants is dependent on well-balanced nutrition,” Kempf concluded, “in much the same way as our own immune system.” Modern agriculture uses fertilizer specifically to increase yields, he added, with little awareness of the nutritional needs of other organic functions. Through plant sap analysis, Kempf has been able to discover deficiencies in important trace minerals which he can then introduce into the soil. With plants able to defend themselves, pesticides can be avoided, allowing the natural predators of pests to flourish.

[I think I just injured my fist pounding the table and shouting "Yesssss!"] And here's the contrast to "organic agriculture" Read below the fold...

In the garden: One red leaf

This is the baby oak tree I should transplant to a nicer location, maybe if I get rid of my other evil Norway Maple. Also, good yield on that butternut squash, and good yield on the mildew, too. Maybe I'll rotate the tomatoes into this patch next year. And speaking of squash:

Focus issues -- the iPad wanted to go for that hairy stem, not the flower -- but that bee died happy! And a flower whose name I forget, with a background tapestry: Read below the fold...

My humiliating demographic

OK, so I've mentioned that I've gotten hooked on a podcast, the excellent History of Rome, that I use both to fall asleep to, and to listen to, as content[1]. (Is America the New Rome? Not, so far, even in the same league.) Anyhow, one too many crazy emperors, and one too many battles, so I moved on the next series of podcasts, Revolutions.

So, the podcaster (Mike Duncan) finally got to the stage where he could do a little monetizing, and the first ad I hear is for this company: Read below the fold...

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