Patriotism In Today’s World – Part 1

As most people likely know, yesterday was Independence day in the United States. Here in Canada, we celebrated our own version (Canada Day) 2 days earlier. No matter where you are in the world, you likely have an equivalent on your calendar.
Like many things I once took for granted, patriotism is one of the many things that I initially left unquestioned. As that statement hints, such is no longer the case. For a number of reasons, at this point.

For a long time, I relegated it to the realm of the Sheeple. Just another label and ideology for those that can’t seem to live without. Of course, one has to be careful not to take this conclusion too far, for it is also possible for blazing one’s own trail (for lack of a better description) to become just as powerful an ideology. It’s the reason why I don’t label myself as an iconoclast, contrarian or anything else of the sort. Whilst there no doubt exist good examples of the cohort, any viewpoint that discourages individual reasoning in favour of a generalized conclusion is suspect.

This is not to say that I don’t live without ideology. Such is not possible. I just don’t have a need to be dominated by one (or many) that mould most of my conclusions for me. Like everything else, it’s all about moderation. You look around and adopt what works, and the rest goes into the blue bin.

My earliest experiences with patriotism (a case that is likely true for most of us) came in a form that many may not recognize as such. That form is school spirit.

At least in the western world, high schools generally have a handful of sports teams, all competing under one common brand (associated with the school). My school had the Spartans, neighbouring schools in the city had the Vikings and the Plainsmen. Athletes usually enjoy a higher tier social status than most others, and school administrators themselves foster this status by cutting into educational time by scheduling often compulsory team spirit rallies. You know, get the whole school into the gymnasium for a couple hours to cheer on and celebrate the accomplishments of our athletes.

Our athletes . . . the indoctrination is still powerful LOL.

Being an inch over half way to 60 at this point, I don’t recall how many hours of my life were spent (wasted) sitting through such pageantry. However, for someone that didn’t give a damn in the slightest (even then!), one minute was too many. Of course, back then I didn’t care for a different reason (I didn’t care about anything ), but none the less, the point still stands.
I would not come to make the connection to patriotism until many years later. Though the connection likely isn’t anything more than coincidence, the parallels are interesting. Though the 2 (patriotism for one’s country and school spirit) exist independently of one another, I can’t help but think that one could influence the other. Even if one considers the dynamic of having many friends competing as Plainsmen, but being stuck attending a Spartan loyal school . . . you get the drift.

To be fair, a big component of this is the annoying nature of many sports fans. Canadian hockey fans tend to be some of the worlds worst (of course, based on my own anecdotal experience). If Cricket and Soccer can be viewed as unifying of cultures and nations, than hockey is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

However, we are now in the weeds. WAY in the weeds lol. Time to retreat.

Sporting loyalties aside, the parallels in traditions between the celebration of school spirit and patriotism are hard to miss. Both actively encourage division. As for whether school spirit traditions can influence patriotism based traditions throughout life . . . I have no idea.

Considering that most western world constitutions forbid mandating participation in such rituals (particularly in schools), however, giving the possibility some scrutiny can’t hurt.

Part 2 will explore the more recent problem of patriotism in collision with the growing trend towards fascism in recent years.

Part 3 (?) will explore the question of whether patriotism is still relevant in today’s increasingly borderless world.

“Autonomous Vehicles Might Drive Cities to Financial Ruin” – (Wired)

In a recent post exploring the rise of AI and the dramatic effects, it will have on contemporary society as we know it, one of the issues it (I) covered was the soon to arrive issue of unemployment on a MASSIVE scale. Comparisons are made to past transitions, but really, there is no precedent.  Not just on account of the percentages, but also due to our population alone. There are WAY more of us making tracks now than during any past transition. The stakes could not be higher.

I explored some possible solutions to make the transition less drastic, my favorite being universal basic income. Though I explored that in enough depth to be satisfied, Wired has highlighted a new and equally important problem with this transition.  The issue of local budgets becoming EXTREMELY tight on account to autonomous vehicles more than likely operating outside the traditional confines of must city revenue streams (gas taxes, parking tickets, etc).

If we go into these situations unprepared, the conclusion seems altogether terrifying. Cities that were already structurally deficient in many ways in THIS paradigm now fall apart, filled with aimless and angry people, automated out of existence.

Then there is the now past peak of worldwide oil production, a wall we will also begin to increasingly hit in the coming years. Then again, one terrifyingly dystopian issue at a time.

https://www.wired.com/story/autonomous-vehicles-might-drive-cities-to-financial-ruin/

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, last week, 125 mostly white, mostly male, business-card-bearing attendees crowded into a brightly lit ballroom to consider “mobility.” That’s the buzzword for a hazy vision of how tech in all forms—including smartphones, credit cards, and autonomous vehicles— will combine with the remains of traditional public transit to get urbanites where they need to go.

There was a fizz in the air at the Meeting of the Minds session, advertised as a summit to prepare cities for the “autonomous revolution.” In the US, most automotive research happens within an hour of that ballroom, and attendees knew that development of “level 4” autonomous vehicles—designed to operate in limited locations, but without a human driver intervening—is accelerating.

The session raised profound questions for American cities. Namely, how to follow the money to ensure that autonomous vehicles don’t drive cities to financial ruin. The advent of driverless cars will likely mean that municipalities will have to make do with much, much less. Driverless cars, left to their own devices, will be fundamentally predatory: taking a lot, giving little, and shifting burdens to beleaguered local governments. It would be a good idea to slam on the brakes while cities work through their priorities. Otherwise, we risk creating municipalities that are utterly incapable of assisting almost anyone with anything—a series of sprawling relics where American cities used to be.

A series of sprawling relics where American cities used to be.

Like this?

The fact that Detroit blight jumps right to the forefront of the mind when the topic of urban wastelands is broached, is unfortunate. I don’t live anywhere near the city (nor have I ever visited), but even I know that the remeaning residents are often doing anything in their power to improve their environment. The evidence is scattered all over Youtube and social media in general.

I decided to use the example, frankly, because I didn’t like the way the author seemed to gloss over the notion of the deterioration of cities using the term relics. A relic to me is something old and with former purpose, but now obsolete.
Cities (like Detroit) will likely never be obsolete.  They will just continue to suffer the continued effects of entropy, while still being necessary for the survival of their inhabitants.

It may just be a linguistic critique, but it still doesn’t sit well with me.

Moving on, the other reason why Detroit (and really, many similar cities all over the US) come to mind is that it’s not the first time innovation has left locales in the lurch.  Detroit (and the others as well) have other factors at play as well (white flight being one), but a big one lies in the hands of private entities. Automation itself requires fewer positions, and when combined with an interconnected global economy, the results can be tragic.
As much as I am fascinated by technology (and view it as being the new societal stasis from now on), it’s hard not to see it as one of the largest drivers of income inequality.
Workplace innovations are almost as a rule, NOT good for anything but the bottom line. As you need fewer workers (and can employ them in places with inhumanly low wages), it’s almost inevitable that inequality will only balloon.

In the past, one could balance this out somewhat with the service sector, an industry that is a necessity everywhere and can reliably create cash flow from essentially nothing. It has served as somewhat of a crutch for some unemployed people. These jobs are by no means on par with previous positions (something many slanted commentators overlook either ignorantly or deliberately), but none the less, they serve a purpose.

Or, at least they do for the time being.

The first big round of automation and economic shifts hit the manufacturing sector hard, leaving in its wake the many examples of civil and urban decay. Though the new economic realities of free trade were not really an issue for the service industry (generally, the opposite actually), that paradigm may well be starting to shift.
Already, automation is slowly making its presence seen in the world of service. On top of this, online retailers are gradually rendering once absolutely necessary brick and mortar retail stores and complexes obsolete. While I can see some areas of the service sector as being permanent, local retail is not one of them. At least not in the numbers it generates today.

Hot or cold food is a challenge from a logistics perspective (when the lengthy supply chains of your average online retailer are considered). This, coupled with people wanting to eat out every so often, will hold a place for the family restaurant (or possibly even the fast food outlet) in the local landscape for the time being. Stores on the other hand (particularly larger retailers) are a different matter.

There will exist local shops, I have no doubt there. But I doubt that the selection (or prices) would come anywhere close to what consumers can now get in big box retailers, or will then be able to get with big online retailers. This, combined with the increased automation of future service encounters, could make things very challenging for anyone with any hesitation towards technology. I suspect that many such people will move (or be pushed out) of larger cities and towns, far from the machine.

The demise of big-box retail is, on one hand, a good thing. They tended to be notoriously toxic when it came to local economies to begin with, not beyond many types of bullying tactics in order to maintain such perks as tax-free status. Consider the case of the big box retailer that relocates a couple miles over to another country in order to break a union, skip out on a local tax, or whatever action they deemed punitive. Therein the county ends up reaping all the negatives of such an enterprise without having any of the positives.

The world can do with less big boxes sucking up energy and contributing to an EXTREMELY energy inefficient way of life that we can no longer afford for a number of reasons. But having said that, economically, this will only succeed in turning almost the whole of most countries into the loser county to the big boxes relocation. One or 2 cities that are home to the distribution facilities will see some benefit, but that is it. The rest see nothing but the infrastructural wear and tear, and the trash.
And things probably won’t be rosy even for the seemingly lucky host cities of these distribution centers, because of the power these entities now have. Take the case of Seattle.

It would seem that I am now miles from where I started off (autonomous vehicles & city budgets). But it all plays into the very same thing. Just as I suspect that the majority of future retail distribution will be based out of a small number of warehouses and based around a largely autonymous transportation (be it truck, plane or drone), I can also see such a model for autonomous vehicle distribution.
When the time comes when rented autonomous vehicles are reliable enough to allow the majority of people to ditch one of the largest expenses in their lives (a vehicle), it will become increasingly financially feasible to own and maintain large fleets of always ready autonomous vehicles. Like how self-hauling rental services operate almost ubiquitously on the North American continent with one control center, I can see an alike entity operating huge fleets of self-driving vehicles.

Though these vehicles will utilize some local services (mechanics, cleaners, maybe electricity), as the article states, I doubt it will ever come close to covering the costs of maintaining the infrastructure on which they depend on for their operation. Which more than likely means that consumers will be footing the bill, be it through taxes or user fees.

The problem, as speaker Nico Larco, director of the Urbanism Next Center at the University of Oregon, explained, is that many cities balance their budgets using money brought in by cars: gas taxes, vehicle registration fees, traffic tickets, and billions of dollars in parking revenue. But driverless cars don’t need these things: Many will be electric, will never get a ticket, and can circle the block endlessly rather than park. Because these sources account for somewhere between 15 and 50 percent of city transportation revenue in America, as autonomous vehicles become more common, huge deficits are ahead.

Cities know this: They’re beginning to look at fees that could be charged for accessing pickup and dropoff zones, taxes for empty seats, fees for parking fleets of cars, and other creative assessments that might make up the difference.

But many states, urged on by auto manufacturers, won’t let cities take these steps. Several have already acted to block local policies regulating self-driving cars. Michigan, for example, does not allow Detroit, a short drive away from that Ann Arbor ballroom, to make any rules about driverless cars.

A preemptive strike.

Not that such surprises me. Auto companies already are blurring the line that once separated them from tech companies. I say this due to a bit of exposure to the computers that drive today’s vehicles, having helped a self-taught mechanic tinker with the tune of his 2013 Ford F150. The internet is a limitless resource for this sort of thing. I taught him the basics of how to use this tool, and he ran with it.

It’s not surprising that automobile manufacturers are greasing the gears in statehouses all over the country already. I wouldn’t be surprised that other tech entities are also doing the same thing.

This loss of city revenue comes at a harrowing time. Thousands of local public entities are already struggling financially following the Great Recession. Dozens are stuck with enormous debt loads—usually pension overhangs—that force them to devote unsustainable portions of their incoming revenue to servicing debt. Cities serve as the front lines of every pressing social problem the country is battling: homelessness, illiteracy, inadequate health care, you name it. They don’t have any resources to lose.

The rise of autonomous vehicles will put struggling sections of cities at a particular disadvantage. Unemployment may be low as a national matter, but it is far higher in isolated, majority-minority parts of cities. In those sharply-segregated areas, where educational and health outcomes are routinely far worse than in majority white areas, the main barrier to employment is access to transport. Social mobility depends on being able to get from point A to point B at a low cost.

Take Detroit, a city where auto insurance is prohibitively expensive and transit has been cut back, making it hard for many people to get around. “The bus is just not coming,” Mark de la Vergne, Detroit’s Chief of Mobility Innovation, told the gathering last week, adding that most people in the City of Detroit make less than $57,000 a year and can’t afford a car. De la Vergne told the group in the Ann Arbor ballroom about a low-income Detroit resident who wanted a job but couldn’t even get to the interview without assistance in the form of a very expensive Lyft ride.

As explored before, I suspect that the scaled economies of owning and operating massive fleets of self-driving vehicles may help with this problem. But with the shrunken job market and other local problems coming down the pipe, this hardly even seems a benefit worth mentioning.

That story is, in a nutshell, the problem for America. We have systematically underinvested in public transit: less than 1 percent of our GDP goes to transit. Private services are marketed as complements to public ways of getting around, but in reality these services are competitive. Although economic growth is usually accompanied by an uptick in public transit use, ridership is down in San Francisco, where half the residents use Uber or Lyft. Where ridership goes down, already-low levels of investment in public transit will inevitably get even lower.

When driverless cars take the place of Uber or Lyft, cities will be asked to take on the burden of paying for low-income residents to travel, with whatever quarters they can find lying around in city couches. Result: Cities will be even less able to serve all their residents with public spaces and high-quality services. Even rich people won’t like that.

America has been under-funding essential services across the board for decades. The fact that this is likely to REALLY bite the nation in the ass when they are least prepared to deal with it, is just the cherry on top.

Also, I don’t know that Uber and Lyft will necessarily get replaced. I suspect that they may still exist, but just with much fewer employees. Who knows, one (or both) may become one of the autonomous vehicle behemoths I see existing down the road.

As for the comment about rich people . . . get real. Nothing matters outside the confines of the gated communities in which they reside. Even when the results of their actions are seemingly negative to them in the long term.

Money is a powerful blinder.

It will take great power and great leadership to head off this grim future. Here’s an idea, from France: There, the government charges 3 percent on the total gross salaries of all employees of companies with more than 11 employees, and the proceeds fund a local transport authority. (The tax is levied on the employer not the employee, and in return, employees receive subsidized or free travel on public transport.)

This helps the public transportation angle, indeed. But it doesn’t even touch the infrastructure spending shortfall, a far more massive asteroid to most localities.

At the Ann Arbor meeting, Andreas Mai, vice president of market development at Keolis, said that the Bordeaux transit authority charges a flat fee of about $50 per month for unlimited access to all forms of transit (trams, trains, buses, bikes, ferries, park and ride). The hard-boiled US crowd listening to him audibly gasped at that figure. Ridership is way up, the authority has brought many more buses into service, and it is recovering far more of its expenditures than any comparable US entity. Mai said it required a very strong leader to pull together 28 separate transit systems and convince them to hand over their budgets to the local authority. But it happened.

It’s all just money. We have it; we just need to allocate it better. That will mean viewing public transit as a crucial element of well-being in America. And, in the meantime, we need to press Pause on aggressive plans to deploy driverless cars in cities across the United States.

Public transit is just a part of the problem. I suspect a very small part, at that. And likely the easiest to deal with.
You can not have a public transportation system (or at least not a good one) without addressing infrastructure deficits. And this is just the transportation angle. You also have to contend with water & sewage, solid waste removal,  seasonal maintenance and other ongoing expenses.

Indeed, it is a matter of money and funding allocation. However, the majority of the allocation HAS to start in Washington, in the form of taxation on wealth. As bitter of a pill as that is to swallow, the failure of that course of actions may well make us nostalgic of post-2016 turmoil. Pretty much every leader post-Regan added a little more fuel to the powderkeg, but failure to prepare for coming changes adequately may well set the whole damn thing off.

As for pressing pause on the deployment of driverless vehicles in the cities of the world, we already know that such a plan won’t work. The levers of power are being greased as we speak. Thus, the only option is preparation. Exploration. Brainstorming.

There likely is not going to be a paradigm that fits all contexts, and there will be no utopias. But there is bound to be something between the extremes of absolute privatization and dystopia.

“Comprehensive Animal Protein Study Compares Environmental Impacts” – (Ecowatch)

Interesting timing on the part of the publication of this article.

During this past weekend, a vegan co-worker of mine made an attempt to essentially sell the lifestyle to me. I don’t recall exactly how this conversation started, but either way, it ended with me grudgingly agreeing to watch a documentary called “What The Health”. Something I was a bit hesitant to do because:

1.) I don’t really trust documentaries anymore. The documentary Micheal Hates America does a good job of illustrating just how easy they can be used as a tool of manipulation.

In this age of podcasts and other such long-form platforms, consider how most of them handle information. Generally, you have an interviewer (or a small panel of interviewers and/or guests) unfamiliar with the often complex material being presented. If the information seems to have some semblance of sense to it, people often accept it at face value. This is amplified by the fact that these hosts often are considered trusted vetters of information, even though it’s not always clear exactly why. Whether it’s someone dabbling outside of their area of expertise, or just someone without any focused education playing the part of the academic gatekeeper, the result is essentially the same.

Online popular culture (which is increasingly bleeding into an offline popular culture, and beyond!) is littered with the end results of this flawed vetting method. Whether it’s Canadian psychologist’s that should never have seen any spotlight, or the reemergence of long-disproven hypotheses with obvious roots in racist starting points, this stuff is quite literally EVERYWHERE.

It’s all bullshit, and it’s bad for you. To quote the wise comedian that seen our future long before we were willing to even entertain it.

To bring it back to documentaries, this genre is (in a sense) just an older form of what is more or less the same methodology of information dissemination that we just explored (the podcast). You sit and watch / listen as a case is made, and you generally accept what you see / hear.  Because, why would they lie to you?

Unfortunately, long gone are the days of me being able to blindly trust almost anything at face value, let alone the known tool of manipulation that is the documentary.

2.) I don’t trust this documentary.

First, because it’s from the same producer as the infamous Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. And second, because even lightly scratching the surface unearths a world of nonsense, as demonstrated by quite literally the first Google search result one comes up with the query What The Health Criticisms.

Yes, that may seem like a loaded query. But when looking into something like this, you have to employ de-manipulation tactics like that. If not, you will almost certainly be digging through pages and pages of self-published propaganda and blind yes-men testimonials before ever hitting anything critical.
A fact that doesn’t escape me when I hear people talk about having researched a topic in depth, despite often times mysteriously ending up with a very niche and un-nuanced conclusion.

Either way, I may or may not watch the film. The Red Pill wasn’t nearly as biased as I thought it would be (though wise friends still have blunt critiques of it).
Some may thnk that watching it is the honest thing to do (“How can you critique what you haven’t even seen!”). Logic dictates that information within the film that is proven false is just as false without viewing it as it is WITH viewing it.

We will see.

Either way, onto the Ecowatch article. Alike my last encounter with Ecowatch, this piece will be less critical than it will be exploratory.

Let’s begin.

Scientists behind a study published less than two weeks ago said that avoiding meat and dairy is probably the single best consumer choice you can make for the environment.

There is no arguing this, PERIOD. To throw a bone to my militant vegan audience members.

There is much to say about the truth in that statement. Before you even get to the meat protein stage, energy has to go into feeding this food grade livestock in the form of plant matter.
Then comes the matter of cow farts and methane. Livestock agriculture leaves German car makers in the dust in terms of noxious emissions. Fine, cow farts leave most vehicle emissions, PERIOD, in the dust.

It had to be said, though. I still see many aging TDI’s on the road.

Along with the pre-production, production and post-production pollution associated with meat and dairy is the huge energy dedication just in storing it. With little toleration for temperature variation on the higher end of the spectrum, these items must ALWAYS be properly refrigerated.

We have all likely come across the end results of not following this process, at some point or another.  Here’s what happen’s when that person owns a bankrupt grocery store.

Meat,and dairy are extremely energy intensive. You won’t find me disputing that fact.

But if you want to watch your footprint while still eating meat, a study published Monday, which authors say is the most comprehensive comparison of the environmental impact of various animal proteins, has you covered.

The study, published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, compared farmed livestock, farmed fish and wild-caught fish and found that livestock and farmed catfish took the greatest toll on the earth, while farmed mollusks and wild-caught fish caused the least damage.

Livestock isn’t surprising. But the farmed fish observation is.

“From the consumer’s standpoint, choice matters,” lead author and University of Washington (UW) School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences professor Ray Hilborn said in a UW press release published by Phys.org. “If you’re an environmentalist, what you eat makes a difference. We found there are obvious good choices, and really obvious bad choices.”

But Hilborn said the study wasn’t only useful for guiding consumers. It could also help governments in charge of free trade agreements and agricultural or environmental policy.

“I think this is one of the most important things I’ve ever done,” Hilborn said. “Policymakers need to be able to say, ‘There are certain food production types we need to encourage, and others we should discourage.'”

Researchers looked at 148 assessments of the environmental impacts of different animal proteins along all stages of production, comparing each product’s energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient pollution potential and acid-rain-causing emissions.

The animal proteins that had the least impact on all four criteria were farmed mollusks like oysters, mussels and scallops and wild-caught sardines, mackerel and herring. Wild-caught pollock, hake and cod as well as farmed salmon also had a relatively low impact.

Unsurprisingly, farmed livestock had a high impact, with beef emitting about 20 times more greenhouse gases than farmed mollusks, chicken and salmon or some wild-caught fish.

Excellent. I can all the poultry I want.

However, farmed fish like catfish, shrimp and tilapia required more energy than most livestock because the water they live in has to be constantly circulated using electricity. Farmed catfish had greenhouse gas emissions about equal those of beef.

Fine by me, since I don’t really like any of those (short of tilapia, occasionally).

The mind wonders who would catfish. The stuff is wild in my neck of the woods, but it’s certainly not the first choice of edibles within our watershed. At least not for me.

Farmed mollusks actually had environmental benefits because they absorb the excess nutrients that are often the result of other types of agriculture.

The study also found that a diet that included low-impact farmed and wild-caught fish was actually better for the environment than an all vegetarian and vegan diet.

1.) I am not surprised by this finding.

The Zebra mussel, invader of many waterways thanks too improper disposal of bilge water in some areas and improper cleaning of pleasure craft when traveling from one watershed to another in other areas, is slowly choking off many North American waterways. Including Lake Winnipeg (as though that lake doesn’t have enough problems already).

2.) HA! Take that, militant vegans!

But enough gloating.

The study did not assess the impact of animal protein production on biodiversity, however, which researchers say they would like to tackle next.

As of 2016, nearly 90 percent of fish stocks were either overfished or fished to capacity, so examining the impact of various fishing practices on biodiversity would be especially important for assessing their true ecological cost.

I’ll be watching for that information.

 

“Tesla’s Giant Australian Battery Saved Consumers $35 Million In Four Months” – (Ecowatch)

Today we will be analyzing another Ecowatch piece. This time, however, the issue is not solely (or mainly) based on the source or the presentation of the information as published. The problem is more in a macro issue surrounding the emergence of this new technology that is often overlooked in its coverage. And not just Ecowatch either, almost all media platforms are prone to fall into this trap. Traditional, mainstream, independent and ideological. By ideological, I am mostly referencing niche oriented outlets such as Ecowatch, but one can also swap that out for political leanings.

It is not all bad news, however. Let’s go through some of the positive, and work towards the criticism.

Since switching on in December, Tesla’s massive battery in South Australia has already drastically lowered prices in the region’s frequency and ancillary services market (FCAS) and has taken a major share of that market, Renew Economy reported.

During Australian Energy Week, McKinsey and Co. partner Godart van Gendt boasted about the stunning efficiency of the 100-megawatt Powerpack system, which is connected to Neoen’s Hornsdale wind farm.

For the purpose of the ignorant (me included), frequency and ancillary services market (FCAS) refers to mechanisms and infrastructure tasked with ensuring constant power grid reliability. To quote Wikipedia:

The term ancillary services is used to refer to a variety of operations beyond generation and transmission that are required to maintain grid stability and security. These services generally include, frequency control, spinning reserves and operating reserves. Traditionally ancillary services have been provided by generators, however, the integration of intermittent generation and the development of smart grid technologies have prompted a shift in the equipment that can be used to provide ancillary services.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancillary_services_(electric_power)

In this case, the Tesla setup replaces traditional natural gas (or other) backup options.

“In the first four months of operations of the Hornsdale Power Reserve, the frequency ancillary services prices went down by 90 percent, so that’s 9-0 per cent,” van Gendt said Thursday, as quoted by Renew Economy.

“And the 100 megawatt battery has achieved over 55 percent of the FCAS revenues in South Australia. So it’s 2 percent of the capacity in South Australia achieving 55 percent of the revenues in South Australia.”

The Australian Energy Market Operator calls upon the FCAS to provide back-up energy whenever generators fail or fall short. This service has typically relied upon costly gas generators and steam turbines, with electricity rates up to $14,000 per megawatt during these outages.

But Tesla’s big battery, which was designed to feed South Australia’s unstable power grid, has changed the game. Whenever it has needed to discharge its power to the grid, costs have hovered as low as $270 per megawatt, as The Guardian noted.

As Renew Economy noted, “various estimates have put the cost savings to consumers from the FCAS market alone at around $35 million, just in the first four months of its operation.”

What’s more, the Powerpack system has responded much quicker to power outages (within milliseconds), with the benefit of no greenhouse gas emissions.

There is no doubt that the North American and European markets would benefit from the mass implementation of such a service. A great way to help gloss over the problems associated with the operational capacity of carbon neutral generation methods like solar and wind. And with wide enough development, one could likely expand beyond just covering shortfalls and go right to helping to feed peak demand. Rather than having to rely on fossil energy to keep up with peak demand hours, one could just release from a reservoir instead.
Indeed, it takes a lot of energy to power the macro North American or European grids. But presumably, this power pack technology will go down in price with mass adoption (as is the case with new innovations). As such, which is cheaper in the long haul?

Feeding 12 gas/coal/nuclear plants indefinitely? Or making a big purchase (likely in stages over time, a gradual transition) but also saving money by not needing to have as many generation plants operating at any one time?

For the sake of interest (at least to me), here are the macro grids of both North America and Europe.

Being those enormously vast power grids are both vulnerable to all manner of human and nature induced disaster and inefficient, this new technology can possibly help in that regard as well. Huge grids are necessary when New York City or Montreal are far from Niagra Falls or James Bay (and other sources of electricity).  But in combination with new alternative energy sources, these power packs should help eliminate the need for these huge grids. If not entirely, then they should reduce overall reliance on them. Helping to keep technological outages hopefully isolated locally or regionally. As opposed to limited to 2 or 3 entire interchanges that happen to be running close to maximum capacity. Something that has happened at least twice in North America and once in Europe (if memory serves).

The only real issue that I see here (at least so far) is the source. At least at the moment, Tesla seems to be the only entity doing the legwork in terms of the research and manufacturing of this technology. Which seems to be working successfully both in central Australia and in Putro Rico. While that is alright at this early juncture (well, maybe not the Putro Rico part, if I am interpreting it correctly. As explored HERE), not so much with the further prevalence of the technology. Complete monopolies are not good for anyone (well, besides their beneficiaries), and this is no different.

This piece may come across as paranoid. But at this early time, long before any of this has become ubiquitous enough to be essential to smooth economic operations of societies worldwide, it’s good to at least attempt to find a new frontier than the previous. Though I come across many articles articulating a mid to long-term where future wherein the technology of renewables crushes old fossil fuel interests, one has to ensure that were not just trading one nemesis for another.

For example, by going all in on just one profit-driven entity just because their leader is held in high regard by many people. Or due to old interests starting to realize the way the winds are blowing, and buying their way into a seat at the table.

http://calgaryherald.com/business/energy/oil-companies-following-silicon-valley-in-backing-green-energy-startups

https://www.ft.com/content/648a25ce-116d-11e8-940e-08320fc2a277

http://money.cnn.com/2017/10/12/investing/shell-oil-buys-electric-car-charging/index.html

Big oil is dabbling in emerging energy markets because this is where the market is headed. Though their current forms may paint a different picture in the mind, the purpose of these companies is (and always has been) to make money. In the past, that revenue has mostly been based around petrochemicals. But we are headed in a different direction in coming decades. There is no better example than China to see this theory of mine, in action.
Only one country is betting on fossil fuels (possibly 2, considering Canada’s asinine desire to unload hard to prepare bitumen on a world that is moving away from petroleum).

In short, though the future is indeed bright, one has to stay vigilant. Where there is money to be made, the old ways of capitalism are bound to make an appearance if no attempt is made to keep them at bay.

DNA Genology Services, Baby Pictures On Social Media, And Other Privacy Issues In Today’s World

It’s interesting when something you were pondering in your mind suddenly makes an appearance in the media. Though it hasn’t happened for awhile (a few years), it did today.

In Hunt For Golden State Killer, Investigators Uploaded His DNA To Genealogy Site

Recently, advertising and popularity for services that help map out your ancestry by way of your DNA have been more prominent in the cultural matrix. I have been critical of these services from day 1 due to the prospect of a private company retaining a copy of your DNA profile. Though I have had naysayers question this conclusion (“What could they possibly use it for?!”), I was steadfast. Even if a use hasn’t been developed YET, we live in a rapidly technologically advancing world. I figured that if ever this DNA data was usable in terms of marketing data, then these private entities are sitting on a goldmine.
Do they have the right to sell or share your DNA profile as part of the agreement in using the service? Did you check that fine print?

Though that was my mid to long-term concern of such services, a story about law enforcement subpoenaing such services in looking for matches to samples they had come across opened a whole new avenue of concern. A concern that we don’t have to wait around for either.

Some years back, my family went through a genealogy tracking phase of sorts. Some family member had opened an account on some genealogy tracing platform, and most of my relations with digital access (me included. I was a teenager) contributed things like information and photos. Though the tree that we built is gone (the person paying decided not to renew), you can still find bits and pieces of information archived all over the public domain. When you combine these breadcrumbs with other breadcrumbs publicly (and likely unknowingly!) shared by family members on social media, you can build an accurate picture.
It’s the main reason why I was annoyed when may in my family were taken in after a medium childhood friend of one of my aunts claimed that my dead grandfather dropped by during a session. So strange that someone with a memorial Facebook page dedicated to him should drop by in a session by one of its main contributors. I chronicled this 2013 experience HERE.

A realization of all of this was that even if you are extremely careful at managing your information, photo’s etc, that is only half the battle. You can lock down and keep things under wraps, but it can easily be undone if friends and close relations either don’t know (or don’t care) about sharing these details publicly.

It occurred to me that this type of situation could also occur when it comes to these DNA sharing services. Since relations have DNA profiles that are fairly similar, then law enforcement could (in theory) find a close enough match VIA a family member, allowing them to force you to submit a sample (VIA a subpoena or warrant).
Of course, a common reaction may be “Well, if you didn’t do anything wrong, then what are you worried about?”.
Indeed, there will be a net benefit in some cases. However, because humans are humans, there will be inevitable cases where this is abused. Possibly to falsely imprison someone for a crime they didn’t commit. It’s happened many times already, even with so-called sophisticated forensic techniques.

Many (most?) law enforcement agencies still use the Polygraph. If that doesn’t give you some pause than I don’t know what will.

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-doug-williams-war-on-lie-detector/

In terms of my future DNA as a marketing toolkit hypothesis, these libraries are likely to be even more useful. Owing simply to the fact that marketing does not necessarily have to be about individual targeting (though that is certainly the most ideal). You can also effectively market to large cohorts.
These days, such blocks that come to mind could be based on geolocation (based on your IP address) or other metadata as collected from social media (gender, interests, hobbies, etc). In the future, you may be able to create cohorts from anything from ancestral information to character (or other) traits.

Another thing that I have been contemplating of late which goes hand in hand with the previous topic, is the sharing of information, photographs, and other personal material without the explicit consent of the people involved. People that don’t consent because they can not consent.

The dead come to mind. I have doubts that my grandfather would approve of his image and name being used so frivolously online. Much like his living siblings, as evidenced by the brick wall they put up when my families ancestry inquiries reached them.

The bigger concern for me, however, are among the living. That is, parents and family members of babies and children that share these images far and wide before the child is even cogent of their native launguage (let alone the possible far reaching consequences). Also worth noting is this annoying trend of opening social media accounts for these children.
We all likely see examples of this on a daily basis. A child of only 3 weeks can now get more public exposure than many past individuals could over their entire lifetime. Though most social media platforms have rules against underage accounts in their terms of service, this only covers those questionable acounts (and only if they are brought to their attention). But babies and children shared on legitimate profiles are generally of no concern.

This is a fairly new issue, yet another that has sprung up with the growth of social media’s prevalence in everyday life. Though social media has been around for a decade, like many other implications, I suspect this one has not yet been fully realized.

When someone brings up the age of consent, they are generally talking about when a young adult is considered old enough to willfully agree to sexual activity. This age varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
I wonder if it is time to take a similar step, only in terms of information and media. Since babies and children are young or too immature to fully comprehend the complexities of having their information and photos floating around online (and there is no reversing it by the time they DO come of age), is it time to restrict such public displays of the information?
Note that I am not saying that someone shouldn’t be allowed to share family photos between friends and family. Just that this stuff should not be made public (even inadvertently!) before the concerned individual has a say in the matter.

In most cases, I doubt that much will come out of this. None the less, however, it is only right that autonomous individuals have full control of their information. If we don’t tackle this issue now, could it result in future lawsuits down the road?

“Are Palestinian Journalists Being Censored by Murder?” – (Truthdig)

First of all, an admission. I don’t know what (if any) agenda may be in the mind of the author of this article,  David Palumbo-Liu. A quick search shows that he is certainly an interesting man, having been labeled a terrorist by the right-wing media only this February. All this for helping to set up (not long after the Trump victory) and being a member of an anti-fascist network on campus (I assume Stanford). He is even controversial on his own campus, with the Stanford Review taking him on directly. Twice.

When dealing with divisive material as we are with the geopolitics involved here, it dosesn’t hurt to be careful. Though everyone has a story to tell, the issue is whether or not it is a mere reiteration or a guided journey for your benefit.

I am not sure what the answer is in this case. None the less, the material is worth exploring.

On April 25, Ahmad Abu Hussein became the second Palestinian journalist Israeli snipers shot to death while covering the Great March of Return demonstrations, a series of weekly, massive Palestinian demonstrations demanding the right to return to their lands. Abu Hussein was 24 years old. Just days before, Israeli live ammunition killed 30-year-old Yasser Mourtaja. Like Abu Hussein, he was wearing a large, bright “Press” jacket that made clear he was a reporter.

The organization Reporters Sans Frontieres asserts that the Israeli Occupying Forces’ targeting of journalists is deliberate and systemic. This would be in direct violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2222 (2015), which states: “impunity for crimes committed against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in armed conflict remains a significant challenge to their protection and that ensuring accountability for crimes committed against them is a key element in preventing future attacks.”

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/are-israeli-snipers-censoring-palestinian-journalists-by-murder/

Here is some information surrounding both listed reporters deaths.

A Palestinian journalist who died on Wednesday “needed a miracle to save his life” after being shot by Israeli forces and made to wait two days to be transferred out of the Gaza Strip, health officials said.

Ahmad Abu Hussein succumbed to his wounds nearly two weeks after having been shot by Israeli forces while covering the “Great March of Return” in the besieged Gaza Strip.

A 24-year-old freelance photographer and correspondent for Al-Shaab radio station, Abu Hussein was shot in the abdomen with an expanding “dum-dum” bullet on 13 April east of the town of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, while standing several hundred meters away from the fence separating Gaza from Israel, according to witnesses.

He was transferred to the occupied West Bank for treatment in a Ramallah hospital two days later, only to be later admitted to Tel Hashomer hospital in Israel on 19 April. The ministry said the journalist died in Tel Hashomer.

Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for Gaza’s Ministry of Health, blamed Israel for delaying Abu Hussein’s transfer to the West Bank, saying it further endangered his life.

“He was supposed to be transferred to the hospital in Ramallah immediately, as his situation was very critical,” Qidra told Middle East Eye. “Unfortunately he was transferred two days after being injured, due to complications with Israeli security forces.”

Osama al-Najjar, spokesman for the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health, told MEE that Abu Hussein “needed a miracle to save his life” by the time he arrived at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah, adding that the journalist had parts of his pancreas and liver removed during surgery due to the damage inflicted by the dum-dum bullet.

Israeli authorities only authorised Abu Hussein’s mother Rajaa to accompany her son to the hospital in Israel, denying a permit to his younger brother despite Rajaa being diabetic and in need of assistance, relatives said.

http://www.middleeasteye.net/ahmad-abu-hussein-gaza-journalist-killed-israeli-army-march-return

And Yasser Mourtaja.

A Palestinian reporter killed last week by Israeli fire was detained and beaten by Hamas security forces in 2015, a global journalist body said Wednesday, after Israel accused him of being a member of the Islamist group.

Yasser Murtaja was shot dead along with eight other Palestinians during clashes on the Gaza border Friday while, witnesses said, wearing a press vest, leading to criticism of Israel’s open-fire policy.

Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday said the photojournalist had served for years as a Hamas officer with the rank of Nakib (equivalent to Captain A) in the Gaza Strip.

Lieberman claimed the 30-year-old had received a salary since 2011, but provided no evidence for the claims.

A case file from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) documented how Murtaja was detained and beaten by Hamas security forces in 2015 while filming.

The file, seen by AFP, said Murtaja and three other colleagues were filming the demolition of a home near the Israeli border when a man demanded to see their documents.

After they refused, a jeep belonging to the Hamas security forces arrived and “pulled the photographer Yasser Murtaja into their jeep without explaining what was going on.”

It said inside the van he was beaten by Hamas police, leading to his eventual hospitalization. After an interrogation, his photographs were eventually seized.

Murtaja and the other journalists were interviewed by an IFJ researcher at the time, the file said.

Indeed, it’s hard to shake the notion that we are being led by both pieces, the 2ed of which really illustrates a mess.

Original piece:

Any proper inquiry into the shooting should take into account that the demonstrations are not a matter of “armed conflict.” The protests have been largely nonviolent, even celebratory. But Israel is determined to take brutal, punitive measures toward anyone who even approaches the border fence, which marks off its illegally occupied territory. An Israeli investigation into a December 2017 shooting reveals that Israeli soldiers are ordered to shoot anyone who is approaching the border fence, regardless of whether or not they are armed. This military posture has led to hundreds of unarmed Palestinians being hit with live ammunition, including several children.

According to Diana Buttu, a political analyst and Palestinian citizen of Israel, Israel’s targeting of journalists is not new and not accidental:

For years the Israeli censorship office, as it is called, has used tactics to try to punish journalists covering Israel’s occupation of Palestine. For example, Israel threatened to close down the BBC for its airing of a documentary on Israel’s nuclear weapons. Israel is now threatening to close down the offices of Al Jazeera for doing their job: reporting critically on Israel’s denial of freedom. The targeting of Palestinian journalists in Gaza is an extension of this: in the eyes of Israel’s military establishment there ‘are no innocents in Gaza’ including journalists.

One might even say, “especially journalists,” or indeed, anyone documenting the military’s actions. The Middle East Monitor notes a new law that punishes anyone who documents army personnel in action: “The draft law calls for anyone who films soldiers during their military service to be handed a -year [sic] jail term which would increase to ten years if the content is classified as ‘detrimental to Israeli security.’ The bill also prohibits the publication of video recordings on social media or disseminating them to the media.”

Human rights activist and law professor Noura Erakat sums up the situation thus: “It is both an effort to ensure that the Palestinian story is not told to the world and to tell Palestinians themselves that no one is safe.”

Certainly a bold accusation there.

To understand the significance of Israel’s attacks on journalists, it is crucial to understand how their professional lives are inextricable from their private lives under Israeli occupation. Doing journalism under these material, political and military conditions is nearly impossible, in any conventional sense. To try to get the story of what doing journalism is like, I contacted Issam Adwan, a freelance journalist in Gaza. He agreed to listen to my questions, pose them to a few of his colleagues and then translate the interviews. As one begins to learn more about the situation of Palestinian journalists, one understands the particular difficulties of working under not only Israeli censorship and repression, but also under the complexities of the Palestinian political world.

It is not only the Israeli state that is targeting journalists—the Palestinian Authority does so as well. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports the case of Hazem Naser, who was arrested by Palestinian Authority security forces in the middle of the night at his house. Anas Dahode, a 26-year-old journalist with Al-Aqsa TV, vividly describes the result of these pressures. He told Truthdig:

Being a journalist in Gaza only means death. Either you die trying to cover the massacres of Israeli Occupation forces as what happened to my friends like Yasser Mourtaja and others before him who were killed with cold-blood despite showing their identity as press personnel, or you die of watching others dying, it’s deadly any way. On one hand you face the political disputes between Hamas and Fatah which are derived from different ideologies and affect our media focus and the future or our jobs. On the other hand, the Israeli occupation that violates human rights almost every single day here in Gaza.

A nothing like being caught between a wall, a sea, and 2 terrorist organizations.

Mohammed Shaheen, 24, from the Voice of Palestine spoke about both the material and psychological challenges of doing his work:

We live in an open-air prison, we have few resources to live daily lives. In terms of my job as journalist, the Israeli authorities occasionally ban cameras, photographic materials, the use of safety gear that we need to do our jobs.

In normal cases, working as journalist omits the normalcy of your life. You should be always ready to work on breaking news to be a successful journalist. Imagine trying to do all this hard work when we are living in Gaza, a place we have martyrs and injuries almost every day. We have drones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You live the war—feeling every single moment of your life, not only because you fear to die in any moment or losing someone you always loved but also that you can wake up at dawn for a call from your agency to start working on some cases that related to Israeli massacres.

Shaheen added a striking, terrible afterword:

It is unfortunate that world community turned a blind eye and deaf ears to the Israeli massacres on Gaza. We have had three deadly wars, with Israel vastly armed against a people with few resources, military and otherwise. Thousands are killed and injured when all they wanted was to return their homes and villages, where their grandparents expelled from. We have been calling for the world community for 70 years—even when they know the truth, do you think it care? Israel always has the support of U.S., which will use the veto in any Palestinian-related voting. This is futile.

Despite this sense of futility, he and others still try to carry on their work. It is our responsibility to read and listen and watch the news that is brought to us at such a high cost.

 

Freedom Of Speech & Expression – Should Political Beliefs Be A Protected Class?

Today, I bring you a segment from the David Pakman Show which caught my attention. The news story being covered was about a Trump supporter who found himself removed from a bar seemingly because of the hat (and it’s representative political affiliations).

The first thing that needs to be said (though it should be obvious) is that this is in the context of the United States. When Free Speech and Expression are concerned, international boundaries matter. How this plays out in the US is likely different than it would play out almost anywhere else.

To start, when it comes to the free speech debate, I no longer really stake out a position. It is one of the only debates where the status quo logical position is positioning yourself right at the extreme, the so-called Free Speech Absolutist. Though I used to be there as well, further life lessons have taught me that occupying the extremes of an ideology often times means overlooking various (and often times important) nuances.
While the absolutists are in good company in their chosen position (following people like Christopher Hitchens and Noam Chomsky), I can’t help but wonder if the position overlooks some important nuances. Particularly in the context of the last 2 years, with the rise of the fascist right all over the world.

If sunlight is truly the best disinfectant for these toxic ideologies, then should they not be falling away instead of growing? Is it REALLY that important that ideas that have rightfully fallen out of favor DECADES ago, be allowed to be spoken?

Again, at this point, I don’t stake out any position. I don’t have enough data to do so.

To bring it back to the original topic, I have a definite position on this. Which is, this is ridiculous.

The first thing that must be acknowledged is that private businesses are essentially sovereign entities, entitled to enforce whatever rules and regulation they choose (short of discrimination). This judgment and legal precedent seem to state clearly that political affiliations and beliefs do not count as a protected class, and therefore removal based on such is not discrimination (at least in the eyes of the law). A risky proposition, if you ask me.

http://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/2018/04/25/judge-rules-new-york-city-bar-can-refuse-service-to-trump-supporter-wearing-maga-hat.html

http://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/384911-judge-rules-that-a-bar-was-allowed-to-kick-out-trump-supporter

https://nypost.com/2018/04/25/judge-bars-are-allowed-to-throw-out-trump-supporters/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5658483/Trump-supporter-lawsuit-against-NYC-bar-tossed.html

From what I can tell, there were no behavioral reasonings for the refusal of service and subsequent removal from the establishment (other than the highlighted). The spirituality and mention of the 9/11 memorial are a bit ridiculous. But in all honesty, this should not have happened.

I am not without empathy. I remember January 2017. The first 3 months of that year were a blur of horror. Having to deal with THIS walking into your establishment was no picnic. Particularly when it was likely deliberately in your face. Let’s be honest.
None the less, there is a reason why law tends not to be driven by emotional reactions. Emotions are messy and often irrational. Short of the patron giving a legitimate reason for removal, one should just have done the capitalist thing and taken his money.

As for the court decision . . . I can’t help but think that this could be troubling.

This happened in New York City, so those involved live in the liberal side of the nation. Included in this is also David Pakman and his co-host Pat, both residing in Boston. There is not much chance of finding yourself a democrat in a republican owned establishment in this area. Neither coast for sure, and possibly even most major cities (since cities tend to vote liberal). One can not say the same thing for a Democrat in middle America, however.

This has come up before, in the context of establishments refusing to serve openly GLBTQ+ patrons. I say openly because how would the business owners know otherwise, and I use the + sign to encompass the ever-changing additions to the acronym.

Either way, I used to not care about businesses not serving any clientele for any reason, because they can go elsewhere. However, my mind was changed after the I realized that such businesses as pharmacies could also enforce such restrictions. If you live in a town with a private pharmacy that refuses to provide contraceptives or birth control for religious reasons, there may be no easy alternative. I doubt that your corporates like CVS or Walgreens would allow such policies in their stores. But they are not everywhere.

Though political affiliations are not considered a protected form of speech, I can’t help but wonder now, if they should. Because now that this obviously left-leaning establishment in the heart of the American liberal bubble has opened this can of worms, will the business owners in Trump’s 30% or so base start utilizing this loophole? Possibly to masquerade their true bias (insert protected class here)?

Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?