Friday, April 12, 2013

Morning Reading -- April 12

This half dozen links caught my eye this morning before I hit something that will stop my browsing. 
(Google now has a feature that for lack of a better term can be called a "digital will." That's a subject for a separate post, plenty of reflection and a little more homework. That's next on my to-do list.) 
With Help From Nature, a Town Aims to Be a Solar Capital
LANCASTER, Calif. — There are at least two things to know about this high desert city. One, the sun just keeps on shining. Two, the city’s mayor, a class-action lawyer named R. Rex Parris, just keeps on competing. 
Two years ago, the mayor, a Republican, decided to leverage the incessant Antelope Valley sun so that Lancaster could become the solar capital “of the world,” he said. Then he reconsidered. “Of the universe,” he said, the brio in his tone indicating that it would be parsimonious to confine his ambition to any one planet. 
“We want to be the first city that produces more electricity from solar energy than we consume on a daily basis,” he said. This means Lancaster’s rooftops, alfalfa fields and parking lots must be covered with solar panels to generate a total of 126 megawatts of solar power above the 39 megawatts already being generated and the 50 megawatts under construction. 
To that end, Lancaster just did what former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger failed to do in 2006: require that almost all new homes either come equipped with solar panels or be in subdivisions that produce one kilowatt of solar energy per house. He also was able to recruit the home building giant KB Home to implement his vision, despite the industry’s overall resistance to solar power. 
[...]   Global warming, the mayor said, will eventually persuade others to realize that locally generated renewable energy may provide a safety net as the cost of cooling desert homes goes up. 
Is global warming indeed a threat? Absolutely, he said. “I may be a Republican. I’m not an idiot.

California State Assembly Seeks to Stifle Debate on Israel
Important to remember this is not legislation. This is a non-binding resolution. But it's like a mackerel in the sun -- it shines but it stinks. This illustrates how easy it is to make an idea appealing which has the seeds of problems not immediately apparent. Go to the link for details. 
A new resolution casts such a wide net over anti-Semitism that it includes legitimate opposition to Israeli policies. 
The California State Assembly has just passed a bipartisan resolution by voice vote which constitutes a serious attack on academic freedom and the rights of students and faculty to raise awareness about human rights abuses by U.S.-backed governments. While purporting to put the legislature on record in opposition of anti-Semitism on state university campuses, it defines anti-Semitism so widely as to include legitimate political activities in opposition to Israeli government policies.

The resolution was opposed by a wide variety of groups, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Asian Law Center, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, yet the Republican-sponsored measure received wide bipartisan support in the Democratic-controlled legislature. 
The non-binding resolution – which was sponsored by 66 of the 80 members of the lower house – demands that what it calls “anti-Semitic activity” should “not be tolerated in the classroom or on campus, and that no public resources be allowed to be used for anti-Semitic or intolerant agitation.” 
The resolution lists a number of examples of genuine anti-Semitic activities, such as painting swastikas outside Hillel offices. However, much of the text is focused upon criticism of the state of Israel.

Gold, Long a Secure Investment, Loses Its Luster
This article ends with an obligatory quote from a "buy gold" enthusiast still insisting that it's a good investment. As we see all the time, belief is stronger than facts. 
Below the streets of Lower Manhattan, in the vault of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the world’s largest trove of gold — half a million bars — has lost about $75 billion of its value. In Fort Knox, Ky., at the United States Bullion Depository, the damage totals $50 billion.

And in Pocatello, Idaho, the tiny golden treasure of Jon Norstog has dwindled, too. A $29,000 investment that Mr. Norstog made in 2011 is now worth about $17,000, a loss of 42 percent.
“I thought if worst came to worst and the government brought down the world economy, I would still have something that was worth something,” Mr. Norstog, 67, says of his foray into gold. 
Gold, pride of Croesus and store of wealth since time immemorial, has turned out to be a very bad investment of late. A mere two years after its price raced to a nominal high, gold is sinking — fast. Its price has fallen 17 percent since late 2011. Wednesday was another bad day for gold: the price of bullion dropped $28 to $1,558 an ounce. 
It is a remarkable turnabout for an investment that many have long regarded as one of the safest of all. The decline has been so swift that some Wall Street analysts are declaring the end of a golden age of gold. The stakes are high: the last time the metal went through a patch like this, in the 1980s, its price took 30 years to recover.

The Five Best Historical Graphs from the New Budget Data
Go look at them and decide for yourself what they indicate.
I see two identifiable conclusions. First, spending, which the graphs labels outlays, seems to mirror deficits during recoveries. And second, payroll taxes seem to be growing relative to income taxes (but it's not clear if state taxes are included).


The BBC's Not Sure How to Deal with the Sudden Popularity of 'Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead'
In the handful of days since Margaret Thatcher's death, there's been no indicator of her opponents' satisfaction more troubling than the resurgence of the near-century-old song, "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead." Thanks in part to a Facebook campaign, the Wizard of Oz classic has sold 20,000 copies and shot to the top of the charts in less than four days. It's now at number four — it's number one on iTunes — and with the official chart rundown show rapidly approaching, the BBC isn't sure what to do. On Thursday, the network's chief Lord Hall refused to bar the BBC from playing the song, but he also stopped short of taking a stance on the issue. Lord Hall nevertheless described the organized campaign to take the song to number one as "rather tasteless" and said the final decision would be an "editorial decision."

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