Monday, November 30, 2015

Something to Know (2) - 30 November

Mike Luckovich

With the emphasis on discussing "climate change" in Paris, we really need to know about overcoming our confusion and fear of Nuclear Energy.   This article attempts to open up our acceptance that we really have no choice but to trend to a serious alternate to the burning (or exploding) of fossil fuels.  The emergence of viable alternatives to the reactors and old school methods have given us new technologies and designs that we must adopt.  Wind and solar can only carry us so far in our need for renewable and sustainable energy.   There does indeed exist a safe and cost-efficient answer to our needs, while greatly reducing our production of greenhouse gases:

The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

The New Atomic Age We Need



THIS past summer, the Group of 7 nations promised "urgent and concrete action" to limit climate change. What actions exactly? Activists hope for answers from the coming United Nations climate conference in Paris, which begins Monday. They should look instead to Washington today.

The single most important action we can take is thawing a nuclear energy policy that keeps our technology frozen in time. If we are serious about replacing fossil fuels, we are going to need nuclear power, so the choice is stark: We can keep on merely talking about a carbon-free world, or we can go ahead and create one.

We already know that today's energy sources cannot sustain a future we want to live in. This is most obvious in poor countries, where billions dream of living like Americans. The easiest way to satisfy this demand for a better life has been to burn more coal: In the past decade alone, China added more coal-burning capacity than America has ever had. But even though average Indians and Chinese use less than 30 percent as much electricity as Americans, the air they breathe is far worse. They deserve a third option besides dire poverty or dirty skies.

In America, the left worries more about our five billion metric tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions and what it might do to Earth's climate. On the right, even those who discount the environmental effects of fossil fuels can't deny their contribution to economic volatility. We saw this in 2008 when a historic high oil price coincided with a historic financial crisis.

The need for energy alternatives was already clear to investors a decade ago, which is why they poured funding into clean technology during the early 2000s. But while the money was there, the technology wasn't: The result was a series of bankruptcies and the scandal of Solyndra, the solar panel manufacturer in California that went bankrupt in 2011 after receiving a federal guarantee of hundreds of millions of dollars. Wind and solar together provide less than 2 percent of the world's energy, and they aren't growing anywhere near fast enough to replace fossil fuels.

What's especially strange about the failed push for renewables is that we already had a practical plan back in the 1960s to become fully carbon-free without any need of wind or solar: nuclear power. But after years of cost overruns, technical challenges and the bizarre coincidence of an accident at Three Mile Island and the 1979 release of the Hollywood horror movie "The China Syndrome," about a hundred proposed reactors were canceled. If we had kept building, our power grid could have been carbon-free years ago.

Instead, we went in reverse. In 1984, Ohio's nearly finished William H. Zimmer nuclear plant was abruptly converted into a coal-burning facility: a microcosm of the country's lurch back toward carbon.

The 2011 Fukushima disaster seemed at first to confirm old fears: Nearly 16,000 people were killed by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. But nobody in Japan died from radiation, and in 2013 United Nations researchers predicted that "no discernible increased incidence of radiation-related health effects are expected."



Critics often point to the Chernobyl accident in the Soviet Union as an even more terrifying warning against nuclear power, but that accident was a direct result of both a faulty design and the operators' incompetence. Fewer than 50 people were reported to have died at Chernobyl; by contrast, the American Lung Association estimates that smoke from coal-fired power plants kills about 13,000 people every year.

Only recently has climate anxiety challenged nuclear fear. Just as the impact of coal smoke dwarfs the effects of radiation from Fukushima, global warming is predicted to be far worse than mere pollution. The problem is so big that some prominent environmentalists have already declared defeat.

However, none of these new designs can benefit the real world without a path to regulatory approval, and today's regulations are tailored for traditional reactors, making it almost impossible to commercialize new ones.
But not everyone has been paralyzed. While politicians prepare a grand bargain on emissions limits that future politicians are unlikely to obey, a new generation of American nuclear scientists has produced designs for better reactors. Crucially, these new designs may finally overcome the most fundamental obstacle to the success of nuclear power: high cost. Designs using molten salt, alternative fuels and small modular reactors have all attracted interest not just from academics but also from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists like me ready to put money behind nuclear power.

Fortunately, we have solved this problem before. In 1949 the federal government built a test facility at Idaho National Laboratory to study and evaluate new nuclear reactor designs. We owe our nuclear power industry to the foresight of those New Dealers, and we need their openness to innovation again today.

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed a bill calling for reform of our national laboratories; recently, the White House hosted a summit meeting to support nuclear energy. However, now that the speeches are over, we still lack a plan to fund and prototype the new reactors that we badly need.

Both the right's fear of government and the left's fear of technology have jointly stunted our nuclear energy policy, but on this issue liberals hold the balance of power. Speaking about climate change in 2013, President Obama said that our grandchildren will ask whether we did "all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem."

So far, the answer would have to be no — unless he seizes this moment. Supporting nuclear power with more than words is the litmus test for seriousness about climate change. Like Nixon's going to China, this is something only Mr. Obama can do. If this president clears the path for a new atomic age, American scientists are ready to build it.

Peter Thiel is a partner at Founders Fund, which invests in technology, including nuclear energy, and is the author of "Zero to One: Notes on Startups or How to Build the Future."


Andy Borowitz

Fiorina: I Will Not Be Bullied Into Telling Truth



NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—Calling criticism of her misrepresentations about Planned Parenthood "typical left-wing tactics," the Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina said, on Sunday, "I will not be bullied into telling the truth."

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," the former Hewlett-Packard C.E.O. denied that spreading misinformation about Planned Parenthood was "in any way incendiary," but added, "What is truly incendiary is demanding that someone who is seeking the highest office in the land stop lying."

Fiorina noted that many of her rivals for the Republican nomination—including Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz—had successfully used lying as a key element of their campaign strategies. "All I am trying to do is level the playing field," she said.

Additionally, she argued that she had not singled out Planned Parenthood as the subject of falsehoods during her campaign. "Look at the things I have said about my tenure at Hewlett-Packard," she said. "I have steadfastly avoided facts from day one."

Striking a defiant note, she said that she refused to allow a "tiny cabal of left-wing truth-fetishists" break her resolve. "Anyone who thinks I'm going to start suddenly telling the truth doesn't know what Carly Fiorina is made of," she said.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Something to Know - 25 Novembert

Clay Bennett

Do you know what an "Inverted Corporations" is?   Well, read along with us, and discover how our American Corporations - you know those guys who make us proud so that patriotically-crazy people can run around yelling "We are Number #1".   Well, it seems like inverted corporations can skip out on paying their full share of taxes.  Just something more you should know.   Have a nice turkey tomorrow,  and think about the blessings that the merger between Pfizer and Allergan are to receive while you bite into your pumpkin pie, made by your local bakery who paid taxes to pave the road on the street between their place and your home so that you could drive to buy their product, and stuff like that:

The Opinion Pages | EDITORIAL

Pfizer's Big Breakthrough: Global Tax Avoidance

By NOV. 24, 2015

The $160 billion deal to combine Pfizer and Allergan, the maker of Botox, does not appear to be illegal. But it should be. This merger is a tax-dodging maneuver that enriches shareholders and executives while shortchanging the public and robbing the Treasury of money that would pay for a host of government programs — including education, scientific research and other services that also benefit corporations.

Pfizer, with a market value of nearly $200 billion, will be acquired by the smaller Allergan, which is run from New Jersey but technically headquartered in Ireland. This will allow Pfizer, which is based in New York, to pass itself off as Irish as well. Once the paper shuffling is complete, much if not most of Pfizer's earnings — including those that are made in the United States — will be taxed at global tax rates that are generally lower than American tax rates.

In recent years, dozens of American companies have used similar tactics, known as inversions, to reincorporate in Ireland, Britain and other countries with lower corporate tax rates than those in the United States — at a cost to the Treasury conservatively estimated at $20 billion over 10 years. Pfizer's merger is by far the largest such move.

But if it's a loss for taxpayers, it's a great deal for Pfizer. As with other companies that have "inverted," the only thing it has to lose is its tax obligations. Inverted companies almost invariably keep their headquarters and top executives in the United States. They remain listed on United States-based stock exchanges, where they raise capital under the protection of American securities' laws. The newly combined Pfizer Inc. and Allergan P.L.C., for instance, will be renamed Pfizer P.L.C. and trade under the ticker symbol PFE, Pfizer's current symbol, on the New York Stock Exchange, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In addition, inverted companies continue to enjoy the protection of patent laws in the United States, as well as their connections, official and unofficial, with federal research agencies — all of which are crucial to drug-company profits. Contrary to popular belief, much high-risk, pathbreaking research and development can be traced not to the big drug companies but to taxpayer-funded research at the National Institutes of Health.

Traditionally, corporate taxation was a way to repay the public for benefits companies received from federal support. But in recent decades, corporate taxes as a share of federal revenue have shriveled. Inversions will only worsen that trend, effectively bolstering corporate profits at the expense of the public.

That claim does not stand up. American multinationals routinely take advantage of write-offs that reduce the top rate to a much lower level. Moreover, even an inverted company is supposed to pay tax on earnings generated in the United States at American rates. But by having a foreign parent company in one country — Ireland in this case — while remaining headquartered in the United States, a company can lower its tax bill through an accounting gimmick known as "earnings stripping," in which profits from the United States are shifted to the foreign parent in the lower-taxed country, thus reducing the American tax bill.
Pfizer executives, and the executives of inverted companies, don't put it that way. They say they cannot remain competitive if they have to pay tax on profits at the relatively high United States top rate of 35 percent.

It is not hard to write legislation and draw up rules outlawing inversions, and bills currently in Congress could put a stop to them quickly. What is lacking is political will to tell powerful corporate interests to stop. The Treasury Department under President Obama has issued rules to curb the practice. But the Pfizer and Allergan hookup is expected to get around these constraints. The administration could do more, but even more aggressive executive action would not be as effective as robust legislation.

Reincorporating abroad is a sophisticated variation on the old practice of avoiding corporate taxes by renting a post office box in the Caribbean and calling it corporate headquarters. Congress put a stop to those tactics in 2004. It is past time to shut down inversions as well.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Something to Know - 23 November

Mike Luckovich

Roger Cohen, op-ed writer for the NY Times, presents his view about the Paris that he knows, and gives it in almost a poetic verse.  Lately he has been frustrated at the lack of a spirited response by our president in confronting ISIS:

SundayReview | OP-ED COLUMNIST

The Danger of Placing Your Chips on Beauty

NOV. 21, 2015


Paris — MEMORIES, the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire wrote, are like the sound of hunters' horns fading in the wind. I have loved in Paris, had children, dreamed, wandered, gotten lost, found myself again. At every intersection there is an invitation, on every bridge a recollection. The carnage, in this city, feels like a personal matter.

The wound from the attack suppurates in the damp air. Anybody attuned to Paris feels it. The French have seen a lot, acquired a fierce realism that refuses to prettify life, and mastered the indifferent shrug. They will endure. Still, they are shaken. There is a void in streets too empty, a new suspicion in appraising glances, a wary numbness.

Continue reading the main story
The Paris Metro reports a 10 percent decline in passengers since the Islamic State slaughtered 129 people at random just over a week ago. Jumpy people run from phantom sounds. A friend, Anne Salazar Orvig, a professor of linguistics at the Sorbonne, tells me she tried to teach a freshman class but had to abandon it because "the students were simply not there."

Paris is afflicted with absences — the dead, of course; visitors frightened away; minds frozen by fear; and tranquillity lost. The city feels vulnerable. Its luminous tolerance is intolerable to the jihadi fanatics. In this sense it is a symbol of a Western civilization and an openness that now seem fragile. Terrorists are interested in potent symbolism. They passed on Brussels. Perhaps no metropolis carries as much symbolism as the French capital, home to the Enlightenment and the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

"Do they attack us for what we do or do they attack us for what we are?" Dominique Moïsi, a political scientist, asked me, wondering if France was a target because of its far-flung military campaigns against armed Islamist zealots or because it is a free and democratic country that has banished God from the political sphere. I think France is attacked above all for what it is. That in turn is terrifying.

Any member of French society, or by extension, of our civilization, becomes a target. Of course the threat is not new, but like a cancer metastasizing it suddenly feels ubiquitous. I don't think Paris has ever felt so precious or precarious to me as it did over the past week.

Insouciance is a Parisian pleasure. This is the city of aimless wandering and casual delight. But today, insouciance feels freighted with danger. There is too much of it in the West. The enemy has been underestimated. His maxim is maximum damage. He defies classification. He may be the middle-class, private-school-educated son of Moroccan immigrants in Belgium. Saving Paris from the Islamic State will take ruthlessness — but save it we must.

I went back this week to the area at the bottom of the Rue Mouffetard where I first lived in 1975. Aside from a Starbucks in place of the fruit and vegetable store where I once shopped, it looked familiar.

Paris has changed just enough to stay the same. Gone is the Gitane-Gauloise pall of the cafes, gone the mineral midmorning sauvignons blancs downed by red-eyed men, gone the horse butchers and the garlic whiff of the early morning Metro. Where artisans hammered and workers toiled in the ateliers of the 10th and 11th Arrondissements, restaurants now attract a young crowd — of the kind cut down last week by the jihadi fanatics.



Yet, despite its gentrification, Paris has resisted the brand-obsessed homogenization of our age. If capitalism works less well here, it also works less cruelly. The city is still itself — with its parks of satisfying geometry, its strong Haussmannian arteries, its gilt and gravel, its islands pointing their prows toward the solemn bridges. It is a refuge of our hopes, a repository of our fantasies, a redoubt of a quaint old word — solidarity.

Paris has placed its chips on beauty, a gamble of course, because beauty invites destruction from those who would subjugate rather than uplift the human spirit. The barbarians multiply. Look at Palmyra in Syria, or what is left of it.

Halfway up the Rue Mouffetard I met Nicos Moraitis, a Greek immigrant who came to live in Paris 30 years ago. He owns a crepe restaurant called, predictably enough, Chez Nicos, and his crepe maker, less predictably, is an Indian called Nishan Singh. An Indian who makes French crepes for a Greek — that, too, I thought, is Paris. Moraitis told me business had been down about 40 percent since the attack. People are staying home. "I'm 57, I've lived my life, I don't worry about myself, if I die, well, goodbye, I don't believe in God. But I do worry about the next generation and my grandchildren."

What, Moraitis asked, do they want, these slaughterers? He came to France, adopted it, took a loan, started a business, and eventually bought a small apartment. His family benefited from free health care and education. France's model worked for him, as it has for generations of immigrants.

Then, abruptly, the model buckled with the arrival of millions of North African immigrants, many hostile to their former colonial overlords, some living in St. Denis, just north of the city, where the police fought a pitched battle with a jihadi cell this week. Europe's border-banishing integration is more threatened than at any time since 1945. "We need tranquillity," Moraitis told me. "This is a city where if you feel sad, going for a stroll can lift your mood. But one more attack and all bets are off."

Only a fool would say another attack is impossible. I asked an old friend, Goran Tocilovac, a Serbian writer who long ago adopted Paris, what he thought of Moïsi's question about the motives for the attack. "I think it's above all what we do in Mali or Syria," he said. "But that is the result of what we are. We are accustomed to loving certain liberties and we will defend them."

That answer consoled me somewhat. Democracies are slow to anger but formidable when aroused. I'm not sure if — after Afghanistan, after Iraq — the greatest democracy of all, the United States, has the capacity to rouse itself to a convincing military response against the Islamic State. For Paris, as well as New York, it must.

"We'll always have Paris" — Humphrey Bogart's comment to Ingrid Bergman in "Casablanca" — is one of the most famous movie lines. Yet her desperate question that precedes it is sometimes forgotten: "But what about us?" Bogart is telling Bergman to leave him and be with her husband so that the Paris of their brief but eternal affair can be preserved. He is telling her that Paris — their Paris, the Paris of so many dreams — is a delicate and infinitely precious thing whose survival requires painful, courageous decisions such as his.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Andy Borowitz

TODAY 12:28 PM

Jindal Returns Seventy Dollars Raised for Presidential Campaign



BATON ROUGE (The Borowitz Report)—Just days after withdrawing from the 2016 Presidential race, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal said that he would return the seventy dollars raised by his campaign.

Speaking to reporters in Baton Rouge, Jindal said he was proud that his campaign war chest "came entirely from small donors."

"This wasn't a campaign financed by fat cats," he said. "We raised all of our funds from nine small donors, for an average of $7.78 per donor."

He bemoaned the high costs of running a political campaign in the current environment, however, and acknowledged that his staff was never able to acquire the replacement toner cartridge that they needed.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Andy Borowitz

TODAY 10:25 AM

Carson Announces Detailed Plan to Google Syria



DES MOINES (The Borowitz Report)—In a major foreign-policy announcement on Wednesday, the Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson unveiled a detailed plan to Google Syria.

Speaking in Iowa, the retired neurosurgeon told an audience of supporters, "Any responsible policy on Syria must begin with a fact-finding mission, and such a mission must begin with Googling."

He said that "Google holds the key" to many questions about Syria. "Where is it? Who lives there? How many square miles is it? These are all things that have to be pinned down," he said.

Carson, who leads several Republican Presidential polls, said that while his search for answers would start with Google, he would "not rule out" seeking information at Wikipedia and beyond. "No Web site should be taken off the table at this time," he said.

In closing, he said that he had "no plans" to Google Egypt, since he was already extremely well versed in that nation's history.