Tag: corporations

NYT’s Krugman “Their Own Private Europe”

You can read the entire column here.

Krugman nicely lays out the economic issues in Greece, Ireland and Britain. And he traces it to the deregulation of banking which resulted in the real estate booms both in those places listed above, and here in the United States.

I may have mentioned before a co-worker who is all for completely deregulating banks. The rest of us looked at him with horror and I exclaimed “How exactly do you think we got into the mess in the first place?” If the Bush Administration hadn’t gone full tilt to cowtow to the banks and peel back more regulatory layers then we wouldn’t have seen the tech bubble, the housing bubble, any of the bubbles at all!

Over the past 40 or so years banks and their lobbyists have fought to be deregulated, to buy up smaller banking concerns, merge with insurance companies and it goes on, all to enhance the bottom line for their shareholders. The banks promised us that they’d self-regulate. Yeah, you’re reading me, it’s right up in the category of “I’m not gonna hurt you, I’m just gonna bash your brains the fuck in!”

And it’s only going to get worse if we do nothing. That horrid US Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case pretty much sealed the ability of corporations to BUY elections.
I can understand why the Supreme Court did what they did. I’ve discussed it here numerous times that over a century ago, Corporations were endowed with the same rights as a flesh and blood human. The prior notion is nothing but absolute bovine effluent, but the notion has carried forward into case law. And law in general is nothing without it’s archival or case law.

So the reality is, it’s we the people who allowed this to happen. If you have a retirement 401(k) take a look at the prospectus. I’d be willing to bet there’s a bank or insurance company in there hiding in plain sight.

I remember in the 1970’s we had a number of banks to choose from. There was Industrial National, Hospital Trust, Citizens, Peoples, Eastland. Now you’ve got a few credit unionish banks and Bank of America, Citizens, and Sovereign.

Not much choice at all and the banks know this so they’ll try so screw you any way they can. Come on, 1.25% on six month CD? How stingy can you get?

The fix to this is for more citizens to become politically involved. And I don’t mean you necessarily have to join the Democratic or Republican (aka Tea Party) parties. Start a new party, we’ve done it here Rhode Island and for the first time in my memory we had not just two or three candidates for Governor but seven. Seven! A good chunk were independents and for the first time in it’s history, Rhode Island now has Governor Lincoln D. Chafee an Independent!

We need to have so many candidates running for office that it becomes economically infeasible for corporations to buy their way through. We need to recruit people who will tell lobbyists to take a hike. And we need to make it so ALL candidates accept public financing of their campaign. That’s the only way we’ll ever fix this mess.

Franken throws down regarding Net Neutrality!

If you’ve been reading for some time you know I’m a supporter of net neutrality and the FCC’s move to put the ISP’s into the common carrier column. It makes sense since in addition to data, video and telecom services run over the net. That makes them common carriers.

If you don’t understand net neutrality I’ll do a what-if for you.

What if Cox decided tomorrow to seriously degrade port 5060 TCP and UDP traffic. That’s the port used by SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) to setup VoIP calls? To me that would be a big no-no but Cox has a vested interest because they too offer phone service, overpriced phone service at that.

Or it could be Comcast blocking BitTorrent traffic, or any number of egregious behaviors by ISP’s who sold us UNLIMITED connections and are now trying to renege on the deal.

Franken really rips em’ though.

He begins with his usual deadpan:

“I believe that net neutrality is the First Amendment issue of our time, unless it’s freedom of religion, which, until last week, I thought we had kind of worked out.”

That last part in reference to the mosque they want to build NEAR the WTC disaster site.

But my absolute favorite part, which you must read even if you don’t read the source article:

“The FCC would publish an annual report on the effect of these additional services,” the proposal recommends, “and immediately report if it finds at any time that these services threaten the meaningful availability of broadband Internet access services.”

Franken had choice words for this plan, none of them good.

Google and Verizon’s scheme empowers the FCC to, “get this—’publish a report’,” he dryly commented, while his audience laughed again.

“But there’s an even bigger issue here. It’s that when government will not act, corporations will. And unlike government agencies, which have a legal responsibility to protect American consumers, the only thing corporations care about, the only thing that they have a legal duty to promote, is their bottom line.”

“We can’t let companies write the rules that they’re supposed to follow,” Franken added, “because if that happens those rules are going to be written only to protect corporations.”

So true. We cannot trust a corporation to police its own activities. It’s sort of like the two foxes and the chicken discussing what to have for dinner tonight.

Look at the past abuses of corporations. I was speaking with a co-worker today and she and I both expressed the same level of outrage about the dominant energy distributor/provider here in RI, National Grid.

For natural gas they use a ‘therm’ factor which is cubic feet times something. In other words this translates to a “Because we can” fee.

Once you de-regulate, be it energy, net services, phone services, etc. you can see what happens.

So regulate the net. It’s about damned time that we got a regulation for net neutrality.

Someone gets it! The ludicrous nature of National Grid requests

There seems to be a general sense of outrage against corporate interference in our lives and our government. it’s not something you’ll ever see in the mainstream media, you have to be able to think for yourself and realize that all this time we’ve never had control of our government during the last century and a half. Instead, we’ve seen the ascendancy of the corporation as ruler.

Read up on the history of what General Motors did to striking workers in the 1920’s. They essentially paid thugs to beat the crap out of those seeking better working conditions and pay. Nice huh? People say you can’t battle a nameless, faceless corporation. Not true, those corporations have two things that we can use to control them.

The first is that the officers of the company have liability. We’ve seen this over and again when the heads of corporations have been put on trial, sentenced, and served their time. But I don’t think this is quite good enough as the corporation goes on and on, barely buffeted by the event.

Instead, I’d like to see revocation of corporate charter. Without that you can’t hide behind the false legal identity of a corporation. Without that charter it would be necessary to liquidate corporate assets. Maybe take the money that was gained from liquidation and roll it into government coffers and use it to pay for universal health care, or maybe fix our crumbling infrastructure.

Maybe it’s because I’ve seen far too many instances of utility and energy companies shitting upon their customers, and the customers paying for the ‘privilege’.

National Grid’s request for a rate increase to cover losses incurred through conservation efforts, when also coupled with their request that the ratepayers finance their advertising campaign to get more customers to switch to natural gas is just the icing on the cake.

It goes back to when it was Narragansett Electric. They were just beginning the I-195 relocation project and it involved moving high tension electric wires that ran over India Point Park. A long and lengthy battle ensued with the end result being that we the customer paid to bury those ugly cables.

How about the wasted effort and energy expenditure by the chief counsel for environmental affairs at the Department of Attorney General. I wouldn’t want to see Mike Rubin out of a job, but the crap he goes through just to get what was then PG&E to install scrubbers and water coolers is ridiculous.

It’s been proven time and again that installing scrubbers and other technologies would be a small cost for utility and energy companies. But through their insipid resistance, we see a change in our ecosystem. Cold water fish are migrating further out from Narragansett bay, all because a power plant operator doesn’t want to spend a little cash.

Put it this way, go down by National Grid’s power plant in downtown Providence and look at the water near it in the dead of January. Notice it’s still liquid and flowing? That’s the waste heat from the power plant. Even they won’t cool the water down before discharge.

Of course corporations in general don’t realize that if you keep stretching people, they’re going to break at some point and when they do, there go the profits.

I was talking to my father about this. He wants to go off grid with solar and wind but I explained to him that he should keep a close eye on the actions of the incumbent energy provider. Why? Read what I’ve written above about revenue protection measures for National Grid. Lets say my father goes off-grid and sells power BACK to the power company.

No way in hell he’d get from the company what he pays them for electricity. He’d be lucky if he got half. And I told him that he shouldn’t put it past the company to enact a tax the penalizes those going off grid. At least not when they have the stones that National Grid has where they asked for more money because of a revenue drop off due to conservation.

It’s similar to friends of ours. They have a cute house in the southern half of RI that uses a cesspool. Yet they still pay a sewer assessment because the pipe for the sewer runs past their house. I find it hard to believe the employees of the Warwick water board can keep a straight face when they tell people that even though they aren’t hooked up to the system, they still have to pay for it.

Anyhow I’m not the only one who gets it. Apparently Mr. Charles Pinning gets it too. This is why you have to read the editorial sections of the newspapers. Sometimes a gem like this pops up. But Pinning does have a reputation for being a crank, as evidenced in this google search.

Charles Pinning: What to tell National Squid

01:00 AM EDT on Saturday, September 20, 2008

CHARLES PINNING

THIS IS A VERY DIFFICULT time of the year for me,” she said. “Don’t mind it if I buy you a box of crayons.”

It was Labor Day weekend, and she looked across to him. Her eyes were red and wet. Her daughters were grown-up and off on their own, but she talked about how much she had enjoyed getting them ready for school each year.

Fresh tears rolled forth. “Shall we visit them?” he asked.

She shook her head. “It’s not that. . . . I was at the Shaw’s in East Providence today . . . and the people — oh my God!”

“Just horrible-looking?”

She nodded.

“I don’t see these people. . . . I go to Whole Foods . . . East Side Market. God! They just looked — Aaaah! . . . ”

“Misshapen.”

She nodded again. “They were so skinny. . . .This one little man, his jeans were all bunched up behind,” and she pressed the heels of her palms together to show how small his bottom was. “Or they’re so fat!” she said, spreading her hands apart. “And their faces. . . . I have never seen faces like that. And they were filling their baskets with crappy food, and paying out their dollars one at a time. But they had their re-usable bags. That has been drummed into them. They are trying . . . but they don’t know where to begin. Go to Shaw’s — that’s where the rubber really meets the road.”

“I know, darlin’, ” he sympathized. “I’ve spent the last 25 years of my life living on the west side of Providence, seeing it every day.” “And the children crying and the mother’s slapping them and screaming at them and cursing and saying, ‘C’mon!’ ”

“I know, sweetheart. . . . It’s about education . . . and parents raising their children responsibly. Being home with them. Spending time with them. Reading to them. Guiding them responsibly. And being given a chance. They just. . . .” and she held her hands out, palms up, shifting them back and forth.

“Right — they’re always kept off-balance. It is the goal of corporations to do this. Deny traction, and you keep people herky-jerky, running in place and churning profits for you. Listen to this:” (He picked up the newspaper.)

“August 27, Business section, front page, headline: ‘National Grid asks rate hike of about 5 percent.’ It goes on to say . . . ‘National Grid also wants the Public Utilities Commission to restructure distribution rates in a way that would protect the company from revenue losses that result from the conservation efforts of its customers.’

“Got that? The raping has been so blatant for so long that National Squid feels it can come straight out and essentially say, ‘You can conserve all you want. We’re still going to squeeze the same amount of money out of you! We’re just shifting the charges to another area.’

“It’s the same thing that the Narragansett Bay Commission is trying to pull by asking the PUC to raise rates because of revenue loss due to customers’ conserving water over the past three years. People logically think they’re going to save a few bucks by using less water or less natural gas — but no! The utilities . . . Narragansett Bay . . . they’re petitioning the PUC to get the same level of bucks they want no matter how much water or gas you use. Where’s the incentive to conserve? We might as well keep nice and cozy and warm, or use as much water as we want because they’re gonna get the same amount of money, whether you use five therms of gas or five hundred; a thimbleful of water or a hundred gallons a day!

“How do I make it clear to people that these corporations have people on a gerbil wheel? That instead of being rewarded for doing the right thing, you will be punished.”

“Say it just the way you said it.”

“But will people hear it? Will they see that we are taking a screwing, so that Grid can show profits to its shareholders and pay its CEO Steve Holliday $3.6 million a year . . . so that Narragansett Bay can continue to funnel hundreds of millions to construction companies to dig a billion-dollar hole in the ground?”

“Just keep on telling it. Also, try to mention that natural gas belongs to everybody — National Grid only delivers it.”

“Oh, sweetheart — the Cherokee in you is coming out.” That brought the tears afresh.

Charles Pinning is a Providence-based writer.

Getting to the post petro-fuel era

This is a fantastic analysis of what the obstacles are to reducing our dependence upon fossil fuels.

Jose Etcheverry doesn’t dance around the main obstacle, entrenched corporate interests. It is said that Tesla figured out how to transmit power without wires and that Westinghouse and Edison officials at that time didn’t like the idea because they couldn’t slap a meter on it. Based on what I’ve been able to glean from my electric bill and the occasional newsletter inserts is that the cost to produce and distribute the power is far less than the 14 cents per kWh I pay. And energy usage is fairly consistent throughout the year. So explain why we couldn’t shift our electricity to a subscription usage, where for $x you get y kWH usage per month. Hell if you ask they’ll put you on a budget plan and you pay a fixed amount each month.

The entrenched corporations have the money to pay for big shot lobbyists. That much should be clear to all of us.

But we need to start moving past this. There are many encouraging discoveries being made, things like Thermal De Polymerization (TDP), using plant cellulose to generate gasoline, wind and solar systems to name just a few.

One of the main fields that is lacking is energy storage. In the case of TDP and cellulose fuels they are closest to what we do now.

Wind and solar have a drawback. During sustained winds and full daylight they produce a huge amount of electricity. But storing that electricity is a problem.

Current battery technology isn’t showing much progress. The students at M.I.T. did figure out that with solar or wind you could generate and capture hydrogen from water during the day when usage is light, then run the hydrogen through a fuel cell at night to provide power. That might work.

Energy and what it means to me

We are awash in energy. Sunshine is the king, the god of energy for without it there would be no energy at all on the planet Earth.

The fossil fuels we burn now? They’re mostly from dead plant matter that was kept under immense pressure for eons. And there is probably some fauna in there too, natural gas after all is probably a byproduct of decay of both flora and fauna from eons past. All of them depended on Sol to provide the light and energy they needed to grow.

The issue is extracting those resources. It’s difficult and expensive to do so particularly since now all the low hanging fruit has been picked off which results in new extraction methods. One of those is shale extraction which has gotten a boost recently. But it still won’t be enough oil to satiate world demand.

Right now we are a Kardashev Type 0 society. We use petrochemicals. But we’re on the cusp of becoming a Type 1 society, those that use all the energy resources of a planet. We’re seeing that in the solar and wind projects that are being put up all over the world.

This evening I was talking to one of the deli clerks at the supermarket about the price of gasoline. It’s going towards $4 a gallon now which is ridiculous. I mentioned that I’d heard that a group managed to make the electrolysis of water into hydrogen and oxygen run at 85% efficiency. This is a very big deal considering that current electrolysis only achieves 3-4% efficiency. If this pans out, it means you could outfit a car with it’s own electrolysis unit and the only fuel you’d ultimately need is water.

And because burning hydrogen creates a byproduct that is basically water, it’s kind of a closed loop system. That’s the other thing, why burn the hydrogen, catalyze it in a fuel cell and create electric current to run electric motors. Do away with the internal combustion engine entirely. For those out there that are gearheads I should remind you that electric motors have more power and torque available at higher efficiencies than internal combustion could ever provide. Is it any wonder railroads use Diesel-Electric hybrid locomotives?

Other energy projects include the generator that goes onto your knee and generates enough juice to power 10 cell phones, which would be about one laptop. It only generates on the braking aspect.

Solar photo-voltaic cells are also getting a boost. Research in nanotechnology has come up with a paint on solar cell that runs at very high efficiency;

I think you see a trend here. The future is electric. Electricity can be used to do so many things and can even be transformed into mechanical work at fairly high efficiencies over using other methods.

The interesting part is living through the transition from Type 0 to Type 1. Part of it is very exciting, while another part is very scary. The scariness is the fact that it will be difficult to break big business grip on us in order to move forward with inexpensive and relatively cheap energy. I’ve offered a method of doing so but it will require a massive grass roots movement to quash the oil and auto industry objections to moving toward a new way of powering civilization.

But remember, water is the key. It’s where the vast amount of hydrogen is locked up. But unlocking it, using it and then having it return to water is just too attractive not to pay attention to it.