Elected conservatives outsource all their work to corporations, leaving me wondering what they do all day

Excellent all-in-one-place piece on ALEC in ProPublica:

This week, both the Los Angeles Times and The Nation put the spotlight on a little-known but influential conservative nonprofit that creates “model” state legislation that often make its way into law. The organization has helped craft some of the most controversial—and industry-friendly—legislation of recent years.
The American Legislative Exchange Council,ALEC, crafted a model resolution for states calling the EPA’s attempts to regulate greenhouse gasses a “trainwreck” and asking Congress to slow or stop the regulations, the Times reported. A press release on ALEC’s site says that at least 13 other states have passed resolutions

It calls itself a “policy making program that unites members of the public and private sectors in a dynamic partnership” based on “Jeffersonian principles.” Critics say it has devolved into a pay-for-play operation, where state legislators and their families get to go on industry-funded junkets and major corporations get to ghostwrite model laws and pass them on to receptive politicians.

I know the information on ALEC has been floating around for months on liberal sites, so it’s heartening to see that news outlets (LA Times, NPR) are now picking it up.

Here’s where you can find the ALEC-drafted bill your state legislator is introducing as his or her own work, “word for word”, in the case of the recent Arizona immigration law:

The Center for Media and Democracy has obtained copies of more than 800 model bills approved by corporations through ALEC meetings, after one of the thousands of people with access shared them, and a whistleblower provided a copy to the Center. We have analyzed and marked-up those bills and made them available at ALEC Exposed.

Looking at the categories, it’s easy to understand why monied interests are drafting this legislation and introducing it in state legislatures all over the country. The profit incentives are clear when they are privatizing public schools and destroying unions, or limiting the right of individual citizens to hold a wrongdoer responsible for money damages suffered, or gutting environmental regulations, or rewriting a state tax code. Those are obvious. What’s interesting is the voter ID bill. That really sticks out. No profit incentive there, so what’s that all about, I wonder?



Kicking our fossil fuel addiction

I had no idea this was happening. Good news for us treehuggers:

Plunging prices and booming investments are beginning to reshape the energy market, according to a couple of reports that were released this week. A report produced on behalf of Bloomberg says that investments in renewable energy have gone up by roughly a third over the last year, to $211 billion. Led by China’s renewable push, the world is now on a trajectory that will see its investments in renewable electricity surpass those in fossil fuels within a year or two. As a result of these investments, the US is now producing more renewable energy than nuclear power. …

Part of the reason is cost. Although wind turbines are very mature technology now, their cost per MW still fell by 18 percent over the last two years; photovoltaics have dropped a staggering 60 percent in that time. “Further improvements in the levelised cost of energy for solar, wind and other technologies lie ahead, posing a bigger and bigger threat to the dominance of fossil-fuel generation sources in the next few years,” according to the report’s authors.

This is worldwide. The US is lagging a bit behind but if expenditures on expanded renewable energy capacity stays on the same trajectory, “we’ll be investing more in renewables either this year or next,” than is being spent on fossil fuel power plants. Also, too, no more justification for building new nuke facilities. Win-win. [Via the Great Orange Satan.]








Because, Because…Soshalism, That’s Why!

Not much blogging to come (will anyone be able to tell the difference?–ed.) this week, as I’m writing this from Doha, Qatar, where the biennial World Conference of Science Journalists is about to begin.

But as my body adjusts to the eight hour time difference, I chanced across this piece in The New York Times, which captures in the story of one small household appliance why American Exceptionalism may kill us all yet:

One high-definition DVR and one high-definition cable box use an average of 446 kilowatt hours a year, about 10 percent more than a 21-cubic-foot energy-efficient refrigerator, a recent study found.

These set-top boxes are energy hogs mostly because their drives, tuners and other components are generally running full tilt, or nearly so, 24 hours a day, even when not in active use. The recent study, by the Natural Resources Defense Council, concluded that the boxes consumed $3 billion in electricity per year in the United States — and that 66 percent of that power is wasted when no one is watching and shows are not being recorded. That is more power than the state of Maryland uses over 12 months.

That set-up:  the HD box and recorder, can add ten bucks or more per month to a household electricity bill, but the drain isn’t obvious, because the damn things are always on.

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It was said of Pythagoras that he was the only man who could hear the music of the spheres; the rest of us were so accustomed to it, having been cradled in such harmony from womb to grave…and so it is with that 60 cycle hum, or its metaphoric equivalent.  We can’t monitor that whose absence we’ve never known.

What’s truly galling, though, is that there is no technical reason either to spend that money, or to burn the fuel — much of it coal — to make the power required: Read more








I have a 2008 Romney I’d like to sell you

Mitt Romney is in Michigan so I thought I’d read a Michigan newspaper and see how his campaign is coming.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney begins a swing through Michigan tonight with a dinner fund-raiser, followed by events in Birmingham and Grosse Pointe on Wednesday.

Democratic activists were holding a sign-making event tonight in Detroit targeting Romney for a column he wrote two years ago for the New York Times in which he argued against providing financial investment for Chrysler and General Motors. President Obama and the White House have been using the carmakers’ turnaround as a success story.

Here’s the 2008 NYTimes Romney column that’s getting the activists all worked up in Michigan.

Briefly, he loves cars, he loved his dad, he loved his dad’s cars, everyone everywhere should be either fired immediately or paid much less.

I thought this next part of the column was much more interesting than Romney’s boilerplate business blather.

Out of nowhere, there’s this:

I believe the federal government should invest substantially more in basic research — on new energy sources, fuel-economy technology, materials science and the like — that will ultimately benefit the automotive industry, along with many others. I believe Washington should raise energy research spending to $20 billion a year, from the $4 billion that is spent today. The research could be done at universities, at research labs and even through public-private collaboration.

20 billion dollars a year in federally-funded research! Science and the like! This he believes. Deeply. I wonder if he’ll stick to it in 2011. If he does, it will be the first time he’s ever stood by anything he ever said or did, but who knows. This was the 2008 Mitt Romney, and he’s a different person now. People change. Some people change a lot, and frequently. Following him is going to be a lot of work. I suggest we identify which version of Mitt Romney we’re talking about by using model years: 2004 Romney, 2008 Romney, 2010 Romney, and finally, the newest model, the 2012 Romney.



Greasy Koch Fingerprints on Your Jacked-Up Fuel Bills

Via commentor Alex S., Lee Fan at ThinkProgress has a Special Report on “How Koch Became An Oil Speculation Powerhouse, From Inventing Oil Derivatives To Deregulating The Market“:

In April, ThinkProgress caused a stir when we uncovered a series of Koch Industries corporate documents revealing the company’s role as an oil speculator. Like many oil companies, Koch uses legitimate hedging products to create price stability. However, the documents reveal that Koch is also participating in the unregulated derivatives markets as a financial player, buying and selling speculative products that are increasingly contributing to the skyrocketing price of oil. Excessive energy speculation today is at its highest levels ever, and even Goldman Sachs now admits that at least $27 of the price of crude oil is a result from reckless speculation rather than market fundamentals of supply and demand. Many experts interviewed by ThinkProgress argue that the figure is far higher, and out of control speculation has doubled the current price of crude oil…
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Charles Koch, the CEO of Koch Industries who is worth a reported $22 billion, likes to call his business an example of something he describes as the “Science of Liberty.” In reality, his company’s deregulation crusade has contributed to rolling blackouts, consolidation and monopolies in financial markets, and economy-wrecking oil price spikes. In comments to the CFTC, the reform-minded nonprofit Better Markets noted that, “the history of these markets is a history of anti-competitive, self-interested, predatory conduct that serves the interest of the exclusive few at the expense of the many and the system as a whole.”
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After working furiously to unleash oil speculators like Koch and Enron, the Gramm family was rewarded with plum jobs, including spots on corporate boards and placements at speculator-funded think tanks. Wendy Gramm still holds a position at the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University, although she hasn’t authored a paper in years. While the Gramm family has faded somewhat from the public eye, their actions have radically changed the global economy. Since the Koch-Gramm-Enron deregulation bonanza, non-commercial oil speculators have flooded the market and increased the price volatility of oil in leaps and bounds, hurting consumers and businesses across the globe while making a small set of oil barons and financial giants very rich…

Phil and Wendy Gramm! Another phun Republican couple, two busy legacies of the Reagan era, still hard at work (under the radar) stealing money from the 90% of us at the broad end of the income pyramid in service to their Robber Baron masters. Go read the whole report, for a timeline of the Koch’s very successful quarter-century campaign to destroy the American economy, and possibly the global biosphere, in pursuit of their insane ideology.