My opinions about politics. I'm a progressive. I hate conservatives. I hate modern conservatism with a white hot rage. Rush Limbaugh is the most evil man in the United States. I would say 'most evil person' except, you know, there's Ann Coulter.

Moral Questions in God-Awful Times

  • Posted on: 14 November 2016
  • By: Jay Oyster

The ball turret on a World War II bomberRecent events have me thinking on many unpleasant things. But the forefront among these is that I have two young boys and we're heading into a decade that will likely define the coming century, much like the teens did to the 20th.  We like to have the illusion that we are in control of our destiny, but when the world changes direction and moves in its inexorable way, we are dragged along with it, like a man chained to the back bumper of a fucking Dixie pickup truck. They're too young now, but in only six years for our older boy and in only twelve years for his brother, they will be old enough to be drafted, if that old tradition should ever be revived.  And who knows what we'll be asked to do for our country in the strange days ahead?

Thinking about authoritarianism and intolerance, and the way we become mere pawns in the hands of the idiots running things when the times go pear-shaped like they have now, my mind keeps drifting back to the famous poem by Randall Jarrell:

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

When the State is inhabited by men who've seen the horror of war, or at least who have a concept of it; men who have a moral code built on compassion, even compassion for the enemy, then . . then the State can be benign, even potentially a benefit to humanity. But when the State is inhabited by men and women of short attention spans and petty gripes and puerile motivations, then it has the potential to becomes a true horror to all.   

Fundamentally though, I know one thing, and it's starkly illustrated in Mr. Jarrell's poem. The State doesn't care about my boys.

Do Nothing, the Lazy Version of Fiddling

  • Posted on: 27 February 2014
  • By: Jay Oyster

I recently caught this blog from Rob Port at the Say Anything blog where he defends the concept of the Do Nothing Congress. First, let me say, Rob Port is a fucking idiot. They want us to be HAPPY that they're frittering away time doing nothing while problems need to be addressed?! I guess we should be happy that last Fall the Congress almost let the price of milk balloon to over $10 a gallon because they couldn't be bothered to approve a new Agricultural bill, preventing a 1940s law from kicking in and setting the price based on a 70 year old formula.  That's really not defensible. It's just idiotic.

So we're supposed to do nothing because the right wing in this country has created such a reality-altering echo chamber of lies and self-delusion that no consensus is possible . . .so we shouldn't even try to fix our problems?  We can't all agree on anything because, well, you don't believe science, or common sense for that matter. So that's supposed to justify all of us sitting back resignedly while our crops whither and ancient legislation kicks in to screw up the economy? That's fucking brilliant.

But hey, at least it plays us a happy tune while our oceans acidify and rise up to swallow our coastal cities, and our bread basket states alternate between devastating droughts and massive flooding.

Call Out the Fiddlin'!

  • Posted on: 25 February 2014
  • By: Jay Oyster

Fiddlin Bill Henseley, Mountain Fiddler, Asheville, North Carolina by Ben Shahn, 1937. Public Domain. Credit: Shahn/Library of Congress. Modified by Jay Oyster.I've decided I have to start something. Everywhere I look, I see the heights of 20th century civilization slowly fading; eroding into the sea.  The fading middle class. The rise of oligopolies. The power of corporations over the laws of nation states. The fading of idealism. The gridlock of democratic governments. The fiddling. The endless fiddling while real problems are burning our civilization down to ash.

2013 - The Good and the Bad

  • Posted on: 2 January 2014
  • By: Jay Oyster

2013 - a Year of ExtremesPersonally, 2013 wasn't that bad, particularly compared to the Hell that were 2011 and 2012. But from a more global and holistic perspective, 2013 was one heck of a rocky ride. Just in an effort to capture some of my thoughts about what just happened to us all, I thought I'd try to capture my view of what was particularly good and particularly sucky about the 13th year of this latest millennium. I think I'll talk about many of these things in more detail in other posts, so I'm just going to skim the topics.

Do you want the good or the bad first?


For Home solar, times have certainly changed

  • Posted on: 30 July 2013
  • By: Jay Oyster

Creative Commons license. Solar panel installation at an information center adjacent to Ögii Lake Source= Chinneeb Date=2010-08-06In a recent article on NBC.com, which is copied from her New York Times article, Dianne Cardwell documents how U.S. electricity companies are ramping up their efforts against residential solar.  You see, the issue is, and the power companies are sort of not really prepared for this . . . but after several decades of predictions that Solar power would finally become competitive, it actually now is competitive. People putting solar panels on their rooftops was fine with the power company executives for many years because, you know, it didn't really MATTER. It was sort of cute, really. All those naive environmentally minded citizens thinking they could get along with the grid. 

Over the years, laws have been put in place to promote home solar. Many states have tax rebates or credits to help a homeowner buy a solar panel system for their house. I've wanted to do this for several decades, so I've been following the trends. Home Power magazine is THE source for people who want to install solar on their homeI read Home Power Magazine for a long time before home solar became a real thing . . .  you know, serious and less fun.  Back in the 80s, a full solar array for a home with the supporting electronics and cabling could run $50,000 or more. Most home systems are around 2.5kW, which is enough to run basically everything except the two big things; home heating and home air conditioning. A typical home roof isn't big enough for a system to run everything, and most people don't have a spare acre or two on which to ground mount enough panels to do that. Plus, having a full 10kW of solar panels is pretty inefficient since you only need it about 20% of the time in most locations, so the extra power generated would be wasted. So homeowners who wanted to go solar had a choice, either cut back on comfort in the form of heating and air conditioning, go to some other old-school method like wood stoves and fans, spend a lot more money for another system like a ground temperature cooling system, or figure out a way to have both solar and regular grid power.

Proposed science education standards in Kentucky bring out the Know Nothings

  • Posted on: 30 July 2013
  • By: Jay Oyster

Kentucky StatehouseSo . . . Kentucky is attempting to adopt an evidence-based broadly accepted educational standard for teaching science in public schools, and during public comments, religious groups oppose it as oppressive and promoting socialism.   The quote from a Baptist minister is, perhaps, typical, but still appalling, "Outsiders are telling public school families that we must follow the rich man’s elitist religion of evolution, that we no longer have what the Kentucky Constitution says is the right to worship almighty God."

The quote comes from a Huffington Post article about the controversy, but there is much more detail about the nuances of the debate over at The Spectrum. (I gather that the latter is an AP story.)

It's all projection with these people, isn't it? (Along with an inability to sense irony.)

For Wind Power, 2012 was a Good Year

  • Posted on: 5 April 2013
  • By: Jay Oyster

Wind Turbines at Holderness, Wikipedia, Creative CommonsI like to follow news about alternative energy. I have ever since I was a kid and the only people who installed windmills were farmers on the prairie to pump water to their cattle, and those weirdos in California. We've come a long way.  Last year was the first year in history in which of all of the new electrical generating capacity installed in the United States, more than half was wind turbines.  We, humanity, are finally learning, I guess.

The best place I've found to find info about wind generating capacity worldwide is what's now known as Wind Power Monthly. Although they've closed off most of their content now to only subscribers . . . a natural outgrowth of the fact that the industry itself is becoming more real as a business, they still provide some basic statistics to the unwashed masses. Being one of the most unwashed, I like to read their year-end reviews. This years', in particular, is outstanding.

More than 51GW of new electrical generating capacity was installed around the world in 2012.  To put that in real-world terms,  (at least terms that are real in my world)  that is enough new power generated annually by wind turbines to send a Delorean time machine on 42 trips through time.  Emmett Brown and I are ecstatic about this.

The Sunlight Foundation - Great Juxtapositions

  • Posted on: 23 September 2011
  • By: Jay Oyster

I absolutely love the Sunlight Foundation. They do all the research to provide some 'light' into how the U.S. federal government actually works. The absolute best thing that they do is, when there is a particularly interesting hearing or session occurring, they broadcast it live, overlaid with information about each speaker as they are speaking. I love seeing each congressperson or senator with a list of their top 10 donors across the bottom of the screen as they speak.

It's Going to Snow Soon

  • Posted on: 11 October 2005
  • By: Jay Oyster

[First posted on the Daily Kos website on October 11, 2005 -- I have to say, looking back over this from 8 years in the future, I wasn't too far wrong in this. GM went bankrupt, and we had the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression since I wrote this.  I hope that those events were *all* the bad things in the future that my aunt was foreshadowing.]

"It's going to snow soon."

I had a nice visit this past Saturday with my favorite Aunt. My Mom's sister is named Ann, but I always knew her as Keresthmama, which is 'Godmother' in Slovak. It was always nice to have a chat with her. What was odd about this conversation, however, was that Keresthmama died three years ago.

Now, I'm not one to believe in ghosts or to even have much faith in an afterlife. But this conversation hit me hard. Yeah, I was asleep on Saturday morning when the conversation occurred. I knew I was dreaming, and I know a bit about how the mind works. But I was curious, so I asked her why she had come. We sat in the kitchen of my mother's farmhouse in Ohio, and she looked at least 10 years younger than the 84 she was when she died. In the dream she was still old, but hale and smiling. She spoke as she had in life, with good syntax and a clarity she worked hard at, since she wanted to make herself understood through the strong Eastern European accent she had retained from her youth back in Czechoslovakia.