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Mainstream Dems finally embrace fight-for-15 [Sean Higgins / Washington Examiner]

In arguably the first positive thing to come out of the D party since losing the election, Congressional Democrat leaders Pelosi, Schumer, and a handful of other key Democrats introduced the “Raise The Wage Act” Bill, picking up on the popular $15 minimum wage element of the Sanders campaign.

It would’ve been a valuable plank for the party in 2016, had they embraced it unequivocally, but at least there is now hope the Democrats will have something to present to middle class and working class swing-state voters in 2018.


Comey story takes a weird turn… [WAPO]

This story talks about Comey’s decision to end the FBI investigation into Sec. Clinton’s emails and publicly announce his findings in dramatic fashion, simultaneously sending a message of support to Clinton’s supporters and a an implication of both guilt and special treatment to her critics. The WAPO story focuses on a Russian intelligence document as a significant part of Comey’s decision. That the FBI director would base such a big decision (US presidential politics at stake) on an foreign intelligence report, from a source they did not trust at the time, is not remotely plausible – unless the origin of the “intelligence” was obscured by the game-of-telephone process for which the IC has become famous. Anyway this is obviously not the point of this article; it’s a read-between-the-lines moment if you ever see one, though I lack the context to pick up on what is being communicated in this first part of the article. (other than that any leaked emails from AG Lynch on the subject of the investigation, should be treated as fake).

Continuing, buried in the story is this account of Comey’s motivations:

Then on July 5, Comey decided to announce on his own — without telling Lynch ahead of time — that he was closing the Clinton email case without recommending charges against anyone. Aides to Comey said he decided to act alone after Lynch met privately with Bill Clinton for nearly a half-hour on an airport tarmac in Phoenix about a week earlier — and have since said privately the Russian document was also a factor in that decision.

The appearance of possible conflict arising from the Phoenix meeting led FBI leadership to want to show it had reached the decision independently, without political interference from the Justice Department.

About a month after Comey’s announcement, FBI officials asked to meet privately with the attorney general. At the meeting, they told Lynch about a foreign source suggesting she had told Renteria that Clinton did not have to worry about the email probe, because she would keep the FBI in check, according to people familiar with the matter.

“Just so you know, I don’t know this person and have never communicated with her,’’ Lynch told the FBI officials, according to a person familiar with the discussion. The FBI officials assured her the conversation was not a formal interview and said the document “didn’t have investigative value,’’ the person said.

Nevertheless, the officials said, they wanted to give the attorney general what is sometimes referred to as a “defensive briefing’’ — advising someone of a potential intelligence issue that could come up at some future point.

The agents never mentioned Wasserman Schultz to Lynch but told her there was some uncertainty surrounding the information because of “possible translation issues,” according to a person familiar with the discussion.

Lynch told them they were welcome to speak to her staff and to conduct a formal interview of her, the person said. The FBI declined both offers.

Take-aways: (1) Comey terminated the investigation independent of the AG (and hence the Obama administration) (2) There was the appearance of impropriety in Bill Clinton’s meeting with the AG amidst the investigation and immediately before its termination, and this was the view of the FBI. (3) ?Lynch reacted defensively? offering a formal interview (4) no walk-back at all of the substance (kiss-of-death) of the Comey announcement.

If this part of the WAPO story is to be believed, the FBI was not on the same page as the rest of the “intelligence community” – since email comms of US government officials, and also citizens of earth in general, are accessible to investigators, and by this time they should’ve been verified or falsified.

Forbidden Questions? 24 Key Issues That Neither the Washington Elite Nor the Media Consider Worth Their Bother by Andrew J. Bacevich

Rise Up Times

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, What Obsessing About You-Know-Who Causes Us To Miss: TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich offers a cheat sheet of sorts: the real questions about war and national security that should be asked but never are in these United States.

By Andrew J. Bacevich  Tom Dispatch  May 7, 2017  Read Tom Engelhardt’s full introduction here.

Donald Trump‘s election has elicited impassioned affirmations of a renewed commitment to unvarnished truth-telling from the prestige media.  The common theme:  you know you can’t trust him, but trust us to keep dogging him on your behalf.  The New York Times has even unveiled a portentous new promotional slogan: “The truth is now more important than ever.” For its part, the Washington Post grimly warns that “democracy dies in darkness,” and is offering itself as a source of illumination now that the rotund figure of the 45th president has produced…

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musical interlude CCVIII

more chiptune / synth / weather channel muzak  😉

Trump-Russia conspiracy theory in infographic format

centerpieces: Flynn (lack of disclosure, lying to Pence) and Roger Stone (generally shady political op, communicated with “Guccifer 2.0” in the course of digging up and publicizing election dirt, which turned up in the form of the Podesta leaks and the Comey kiss-of-death). The rest is fluff and business contacts that are pretty tame as these things go.

As before, my take on this is that a weak and scandal-ridden Trump who cannot do much generally keeps everyone out of trouble. A more active presidency, whether neocon or interventionist or economically or socially regressive – Pence is all of these – would be worse.

What if we all had electric cars…

A little tech detour. Electric cars are great – I tried out a Nissan Leaf for a while a few years ago, loved it for short hops but no desire to own one. Anyway one thing rarely mentioned is the impact to the electric grid.

Summary: To approach the filling rates of petrol (fill your vehicle in a few minutes), a single EV filling “pump” would need the electric service of a large office building.

Back-of-the-envolope numbers for electric service:

gasoline energy content = 2.7 kg/gal * 46 MJ/kg = 124 MJ/gal
fuel pump flow rate = 5 gal/min flow (typ US)=> 620 MJ/min = 10 MJ/sec

= 10 MW peak energy transfer rate, per petrol pumps in service today

Lets say 5x reduction due to inherent fuel efficiency of EV’s

= 2 MW peak energy transfer rate, for a single EV charger with same filling speed as today’s petrol.

Note that this assumes the same “tank size” for an EV as for a petrol car.

In that case, compare : this would be equiv to typ. US electric service for 200,000 sqft of office space (3.5 football fields of office, or space for 1300 people at US densities). That’s for a single “pump” capable of a typical fill (80% of your tank) in a few minutes. A large filling station (16 pumps) would need as much electric service as the Empire State building.

However, EV users would likely accept longer fill times (just as users of alt-fuels like LNG/CNG had to).

Next, Energy cost to charge a small electric car. This part is indeed a winner.

petrol vehicle typ fillup: 10 gallons = 1240 MJ = 1240 MW*s = 344 kWh

electric vehicle: 5x more fuel efficient = 69 kWh
=> $6.90 at $0.10/kWh  (current typ. US residential rates. the filling station wants to make money too.)

consider that in the long run, taxes may be added.

compare to existing petrol = 10 gal  x  $2.50/gal = $25

Lastly, charge/fill times at a private residence

petrol car typical energy content of one fillup = 10 gal * 124 MJ/gal = 1240 MJ
electric car, 5x more efficient = 248 MJ

private residence, total residential service in a well connected US single family home: ~36kVA (240V x 150A) ; spare capacity for vehicle ~= 12 kVA (240V x 50A)

=> time = 248 MJ / 12kVA = 10000 sec = 2.8 hours, to fill your electric vehicle at a home charging station that would be within reach of ordinary people in the near future.

So – if typical use pattern is overnight filling at home, and you want to take advantage of cheap solar energy, then energy storage is required. If you don’t have energy storage and you fill at night, you need some other fuel to generate the electricity. If you fill during theday, you are leaving work/school/kids, so we return to the issue above of how much electric power it would take to do it in minutes instead of hours.

Electric cars are still pretty awesome, but it would be cool to see these issues addressed.

musical interlude CCVII