03 May

The skies up there

So there is one thing that can unite Congress: getting together to vote on releasing money so that air travel isn’t effected (and therefore, traveling congresspeople).

Some people are more equal than others…

“Being a member of Congress also means never having to rush to catch a flight. The airlines allow lawmakers the special privilege of simultaneously booking themselves on multiple flights, so that if they are late or their flight is canceled, they’re guaranteed a spot on the next one. A few years ago, a prominent senator paused in the middle of a conversation with me to bark at an aide, ‘Book me on the 6, 7, and 8 p.m. shuttles!’”

(Via The Pampered World of Congressional Air Travel – Businessweek.)

25 Apr

Congress and ACA exchange provisions?

Fuuuckkk. This is not a good sign:

“Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, sources in both parties said…”

(Via Will Congress exempt itself from ACA exchange provisions?.)

If Congressional aides don’t want to have to use the exchanges, it’ll mean they have no incentive to make sure they’re good for the rest of us proles.

ACA is the only way I’d be able to get health insurance in this country as a freelancer if I was the sole earner. If these jackholes fuck up exchanges, my choices are to move to New York to access freelance healthcare, Vermont, or Connecticut.

Or move to the EU (I have a passport) or Canada.

My heart defect knocked 3 years out of my writing career, but I’m coming back (seen some announcements around here showing what I’ve been up to) of late. And I’m just getting back to the place I was in 2008.

At some point this is going to have a big impact on the how and where trajectory part of my life.

I’m keeping a close eye on this.

24 Apr

People on terror list… still can purchase guns legally

Well, I feel safer… except not…

“Under current laws, if a background check reveals that your name is on the national terrorism watch list, you’re still free to walk out of a gun dealership with a firearm in your hands — as long as you don’t have a criminal or mental health record.”

(Via People On Terrorism Watch List Not Blocked From Buying Guns : It’s All Politics : NPR.)

10 Apr

A town to run on nothing but solar power, by conservative mandate

Republican Lancaster, CA mayor orders a solar power mandate (not exactly a market-oriented solution):

“‘We want to be the first city that produces more electricity from solar energy than we consume on a daily basis,’ he said. This means Lancaster’s rooftops, alfalfa fields and parking lots must be covered with solar panels to generate a total of 126 megawatts of solar power above the 39 megawatts already being generated and the 50 megawatts under construction.

To that end, Lancaster just did what former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger failed to do in 2006: require that almost all new homes either come equipped with solar panels or be in subdivisions that produce one kilowatt of solar energy per house.”

(Via Lancaster, Calif., Mayor Focuses on Solar Power – NYTimes.com.)

08 Apr

Paging Charlie Stross: cops recording everything, and effects…

If you haven’t read Halting State, by Charles Stross, this is going to seem wild:

“Now, some police departments are using miniaturized video cameras and their microphones to capture, in full detail, officers’ interactions with civilians. The cameras are so small that they can be attached to a collar, a cap or even to the side of an officer’s sunglasses. High-capacity battery packs can last for an extended shift. And all of the videos are uploaded automatically to a central server that serves as a kind of digital evidence locker.”

(Via Wearable Video Cameras, for Police Officers – NYTimes.com.)

Even with only half of the 54 uniformed patrol officers wearing cameras at any given time, the department over all had an 88 percent decline in the number of complaints filed against officers, compared with the 12 months before the study, to 3 from 24.

Rialto’s police officers also used force nearly 60 percent less often — in 25 instances, compared with 61. When force was used, it was twice as likely to have been applied by the officers who weren’t wearing cameras during that shift, the study found. And, lest skeptics think that the officers with cameras are selective about which encounters they record, Mr. Farrar noted that those officers who apply force while wearing a camera have always captured the incident on video.

04 Apr

Tiger beatdown comes back with a close look at facts on NPR’s disability article, finds it wanting

“The boomer generation is aging, for one thing, which means more and more people are entering old age, and they’re starting to experience the disabling conditions that can come with aging for many older adults. Advances in medicine have also, of course, improved survival rates for older adults, which means more people are living after major medical events, and more people are requiring more advanced care. For younger disabled people, the same medical advances have improved lifespans and quality of life for people with conditions once deemed fatal at an early age; it’s a good thing that more people are living, and living well, not evidence of a bad thing.”

(Via Tiger Beatdown › NPR joins liberal attacks on disabled people.)

02 Apr

Gun tautology

An interesting observed tautology in the gun debate:

“In the current debate over gun control, the pro-gun lobby has an ace card up its sleeve: We need weapons to prevent government tyranny, they say. These self-styled champions of liberty see guns as the ultimate insurance policy to protect the Constitution. The problem is that most of those making this argument also strongly support a massive U.S. military — exactly the behemoth we must be armed against.”

(Via Great Gun Gobbledygook: The Paradox of Second Amendment Hardliners – Dominic Tierney – The Atlantic.)

01 Apr

GOP wants to make sure domestic abusers have the right to pack heat

My outrage boils over on this one:

“In terms of just sheer extremism, if ever there was a succinct, simple-to-understand bumper-sticker-ready metric for understanding the fringe-iness of today’s Republican Party, the fight in the Colorado legislature over gun rights for domestic abusers is it. As the Denver bureau of the Huffington Post reports, the Colorado bill in question simply ‘prohibits gun possession from those convicted of certain felonies involving domestic violence or certain misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence (and) also prohibit guns from individuals subject to certain (domestic violence) protection orders.’ According to a recent statewide poll in Colorado, that is a concept supported by 80 percent of voters – yet Republicans are opposed.”

(Via New GOP plan: Guns for domestic abusers – Salon.com.)

29 Mar

Immigration thoughts

“A new survey finds that seven-in-ten Americans (71%) say there should be a way for people in the United States illegally to remain in this country if they meet certain requirements, while 27% say they should not be allowed to stay legally. Most who favor providing illegal immigrants with some form of legal status –43% of the public – say they should be allowed to apply for citizenship, but 24% of the public says they should only be allowed to apply for legal residency.”

(Via Most Say Illegal Immigrants Should Be Allowed to Stay, But Citizenship Is More Divisive | Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.)

I had a brief and related, thoughtful exchange with Cory Doctorow about this on twitter, in regards to the concept of ‘illegal aliens’ being a nasty piece of phrasing historically:

I’m a legal immigrant. I have a European passport, with access to many of the countries over there. I have legal resident status in the US. I can apply for a Caribbean passport as well (which is on my life agenda).

But the process and paperwork for applying for these things and what not are stultifying complex. And what is interesting to me is that many of the arguments made by certain people against ‘illegal immigrants’ actually all apply to me as a legal immigrant (and apply often to just citizens moving from one state to another. Americans, imagine making anti-immigrant arguments against people across your state’s border, do they still make sense? I usually find they collapse). And most denizens of a country would be unable to navigate their own country’s paperwork or tests to become a citizen thereof.

I’m glad to see about 71% of the country feels more or less the same. It’s rather encouraging, actually.

28 Mar

A certain political party’s still acting like solar’s stuck in 1979

Via Kristine Smith on twitter, this interesting post on Rachel Maddow’s blog about the continuing witch hunt against solar power:

“All told, the U.S. is on track to add about 4.2 gigawatts of solar generating capacity using photovoltaic technology this year, which would be up from 3.3 gigawatts, which was a 76% increase on 2011’s totals.

This is not what Republicans want to hear — the party’s 2012 presidential candidate said solar doesn’t count as ‘real energy’ and Fox News recently suggested the solar industry is ‘tanking our economy’ — but the facts are not in dispute. The only ‘ill-fated ventures’ to be found are the right’s talking points on energy policy.”

(Via Solar power coming on strong – The Maddow Blog.)

This narrative about solar is 30-40 years out of date with the current reality among certain people. By making it a cornerstone, it’s going to be yet another way in which the Republican party actively harms itself in the modern US by fighting against sea change. With parity of cost in the Southwest right now, and new improvements in the science, manufacturing and basic cost in solar constantly dropping the cost of solar, where do people think this script ends?

It doesn’t end with solar power failing, anymore than microchips, cellphones, or laptops have gone away. Technology gets cheaper, faster, better. Solar uses technology and science to get better. Oil pretty much remains where it is, you burn it, you use it, you have it.

Solar is not a dead end. Not when we’re already seeing use-case scenarios where it matches.