Saturday, May 06, 2017

Towards A Positive Future on the North Coast

Volunteers assemble a small section of a much larger array
Here on the North Coast of California, the future became tangible with the launch of a community-scale solar array micro-grid by the Blue Lake Rancheria, a 91 acre federally recognized and sovereign tribal nation.

“This is our piece of Earth that we’re not going to leave," said Arla Ramsey, vice-chairperson of the tribe, as quoted by Lost Coast Outpost. You can’t pick a reservation up and move it. So if we’re going to live here, and our children are going to live here, or seven generations from now, we have to keep it healthy and clean, and that’s our goal.”

According to  "decentralized energy" website reporter Diarmaid Williams:

Funded in part through a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission's Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program, the system allows the reservation to operate independently of the power grid in coordination with local utility Pacific Gas & Electric. This project incorporates the largest solar array in currently in operation in Humboldt County... is estimated to save the Tribe over $200,000 in annual energy costs, will reduce at least 150 tons of carbon per year and will grow Tribal clean energy jobs by 10 per cent.

The Lost Coast Outpost story continues:

The rancheria worked with an array of technology experts, national labs, local businesses, the state and PG&E. Plus, for almost a decade, the rancheria has developed a close relationship with Humboldt State University and its Schatz Energy Research Center, which played a key role in making the microgrid a success.

“The kinds of technology we’re installing and integrating together, it hasn’t been done before,” said SERC founder Peter Lehman. “So this project and the knowledge we gain from doing this, the lessons we learn from doing this, are going to be applicable in many situations in this country and around the world. So that’s how progress occurs — there are pioneers, and we’re the pioneers in this project, and people follow on after the pioneers.”

The Eureka Times-Standard added this:

California Energy Commission commissioner Karen Douglas said Californians across the state are stepping up to address the affects of climate change. “This is a real example of how we can help meet our greenhouse gas goals,” she said. “ ... There’s a community resource here as a result of this project.”

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Republicans To Vote Today To Begin Death Panels for Americans

Update: This bill passed with only Republican support.  Washington Post: Betrayal, carelessness, hypocrisy: The GOP health-care bill has it all."  Regardless of what happens next in its likely protracted and dubious journey through the Senate and back to the House, damage has already been done.  As the Post notes: "Tragically, the repeal-and-replace effort is causing so much uncertainty that, even if this bill dies in the Senate, it may unravel the existing health-care system."  Tragedy for real people, all to serve the greed of the few.  More on the politics if you're interested, as I am not.

The Republican leadership in the House announced to reporters that they will call a vote today on their latest Obamacare replacement plan, which contains provisions that will in effect create death panels to decide whether Americans with preexisting conditions will live or die.

At the same time, Republicans insist that Americans with preexisting conditions will be covered.  In comparison to the actual coverage guaranteed in Obamacare, this is perniciously false.

What the Republican's latest bill provides, according to reporting, is a complicated system that will allow for states to place people with preexisting conditions in a separate category, with much higher insurance premiums.  Those who are unable to pay these higher premiums may be eligible for federally paid relief, but there is an amount stipulated that will be available for these costs--an amount that analysts say is far too little.

Therefore,  there will be what amounts to rationing of these funds.  Some bureaucracy will need to be empowered to make the decisions of who gets the money for insurance and who does not.   If these panels decide you don't get it, or you don't get enough to afford the insurance, you may well have been handed a death sentence.

Today Obamacare is working for millions of Americans, especially those with preexisting conditions.  It isn't perfect, but in every possible way it has worked remarkably well, while the federal deficit and debt have gone down.  It has helped in ways that were unpredicted--for example, by helping a 50% drop in personal bankruptcies, which are often caused by healthcare costs.

There is no reason for this bill--especially for rushing this bill for a vote without the Congressional Budget Office estimate of its impact--except to give the regime a notch on their gun.  

And there are so many reasons this unusually cruel bill should never even be seriously considered, in particular for what it says about Americans telling other Americans that their lives don't trump political games.

This vote could come as early as 10 a.m. eastern time.  

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

The Gift

Robert Silvers receiving the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama at 
the White House, July 2013. Without naming Obama, Zadie Smith's 
tribute suggests that Silver admired him greatly  as  a "kind of genius." 
 So this moment must have been a wonderful one,
 and you can see that in his eyes.
The latest New York Review of Books, while functioning as usual as its spring art issue, also contains a number of tributes to its last founding editor, Robert B. Silvers, as well as salutes in this issue's advertisements.

I noted Silvers recent death in a previous post, and several years ago I wrote about this periodical's brilliant articles on political and geopolitical matters from the very beginning, when it was one of the most important sources on the Vietnam war in the late 60s.  That function continues.  For example in this issue, Jonathan Freedland's piece ("Dover and Out") is the best single narrative on the UK's suicidal Brexit process that I've read anywhere.

  But several of the just published tributes prompt me to focus less on content than on Silver's and the NYRB's effects on writing.

My afore-linked piece on a single issue of the NYRB prompted my only contact with Robert Silvers, which was an out of the blue email from him: "I was touched by what you said about the paper. During 46 years, I’ve never read a piece in which a writer said what was actually in an issue."

These tributes make me only more envious of those that had written for him.  All the writers agree that his genius was in editing to clarify but to maintain the writer's own voice, which is a rare editorial quality. But it was not necessarily an easy process. Mark Lilla for instance:

"Bob at work on a manuscript resembled nothing so much as a Jesuit spiritual adviser, minus the collar, helping the novice refine his raw inner awareness. It was a vocation, in the strict sense, an expression of magnanimity. He was determined to see that a book got the appreciation and criticism it deserved. But even more, it seemed to me, he wanted the writer to understand himself better than he already did. You say this, and you’re on to something, but what does it really mean? What are you trying to say? Bob had a profound abhorrence of vagueness. It was the cardinal sin because it was cowardly, a self-evasion. More than once I wanted to tear the hairshirt off. Icarus, c’est moi. He never permitted it because he was more loyal to me than I was to myself."

What were the enduring values that Silvers' editorial mission championed?  Former NYRB editorial assistant Nathaniel Rich summarizes:

"Good writing is capable of bringing to life even the most arcane subjects. Big ideas demand vivid prose. Academic jargon is fatal, as are stock expressions, terms of art, empty metaphors. Dead language not only obscures the ideas it means to describe. It blocks original thinking. Many writers will say that Bob brought out their best prose. He did more than that. He brought out their highest thoughts.

Clarity of prose leads to clarity of mind. And without clarity of mind, moral clarity is impossible."

As Lilla also points out: "In reading the Review, you always learn something."
Even if I didn't experience Silvers' editing, I absorbed some of this ethic simply by reading what Silvers' referred to as "the paper."  I'm sure it shaped my writing to some degree, and my reading.

But Lilla goes on to offer the ultimate tribute to an editor:

" In reading the Review, you always learn something. In writing for Bob, you became something. It was a gift none of us really deserved. But what gift ever is? That’s what makes it a gift."

What Was It For?

"The use of public office for private gain is the textbook definition of corruption," begins the Rolling Stone article, which goes on to say:

"In only 100 days, Trump has upended the country's anti-corruption norms by numbing everyone with a steady stream of serious improprieties that would have been treated as major scandals – if not impeachable offenses – during any other modern presidency."

The article calls it "corruption fatigue," a mind-boggling concept after barely more than three months.  But it's more than that.  The Americans who voted for this regime knew what they were voting for.  They knew they were voting for this kind of corruption, though perhaps not on this scale.

It speaks also to the steady erosion since Reagan of the distinction between public and private institutions, functions and funds.

That perhaps is why, while the big dailies and other major media report on it, they don't often call it "corruption."

So far, only publications like salon, the New Republic, and Mother Jones, plus columnists like Jonathan Chiat will use the word.

It's a potent word, or it used to be.  It has always been the greatest political sin.

Moreover this brazen corruption in the White House is accompanied by the regime's efforts to weaken anti-corruption and ethical standards laws and enforcement.

It includes as well the raiding of the federal treasury (current and, through tax schemes, future) by the super-rich, most directly rewarding those who specifically supported the regime and the Republican Party.  It can be more generally applied to the raiding of the ultimate commons, the Earth.

Given all the other catastrophes underway, and the relentless mind-numbing outrages blasting through the media from the White House, this may seem low on the list of priorities.  But, as playwright David Hare asked in a related context, "If democracy didn't care to defend what was owned in common, what was it for?"

Sunday, April 30, 2017