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Pros and Cons of Biodiesel A look Ahead to 2016 Yep, the Government Is Listening
 

Pros and Cons of Biodiesel

I’ll tell ya, it seems like getting a straight answer on whether or not biodiesel is good for the environment is damn near impossible. First off, everything you hear is about how great it is and how it’s going to replace fossil fuels. I mean jesus, even Willy Nelson was hawking the stuff. Then it […]

A look Ahead to 2016

It’s hard to believe but folks are already starting to think about and plan for the 2016 election. I guess it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, elections are big business and the sooner they start the better it is for the lobbyists and consultants. It’s too early to tell which party will have […]

Yep, the Government Is Listening

The big news over the past few months has been the revelation that the NSA has been collecting hoards of phone calls and internet traffic not only from US citizens but from around the world. Apparently they were able to tap a number of world leader’s phones, including Angela Merkel of Germany, one of the […]

A look Ahead to 2016

2016 electionIt’s hard to believe but folks are already starting to think about and plan for the 2016 election. I guess it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, elections are big business and the sooner they start the better it is for the lobbyists and consultants. It’s too early to tell which party will have the clear upper hand going in. The last few have alternated between Democrat and Republican. If it were held today I’d give a slight edge to the right, not because they have better ideas or can connect on a personal level with more voters, but because the Dems have been getting too much bad press lately. The repubs did a good job shooting themselves in the foot with the whole shutdown mess, but the Dems have been doing a good job staying a couple steps ahead (or behind). Between the healthcare fiasco, NSA spying, drone attacks, and Benghazi, things have not been going their way. Who knows what will happen over the next couple of years though, things can change pretty fast. Continue Reading

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What Went Wrong with Obamacare

ObamaAs most of you know, I was tickled pink when the President passed his first major piece of legislation. And like him, I wasn’t offended at all by the name some pundits started using: Obamacare. The whole thing happened so fast. He introduced it and a few months later it was passed by both the house and the senate. This was during the time when our president could do no wrong. He was still viewed as a dashing young idealist who was going to do what no one had been able to do before him: change the tone in Washington. Well, that’s a discussion for another article, but the point is the president got what he wanted when he wanted  it. Continue Reading

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Yep, the Government Is Listening

NSA SpyingThe big news over the past few months has been the revelation that the NSA has been collecting hoards of phone calls and internet traffic not only from US citizens but from around the world. Apparently they were able to tap a number of world leader’s phones, including Angela Merkel of Germany, one of the US’s biggest allies. I have to say, I’m kind of impressed. I mean I kind of just assumed some government agency somewhere was monitoring my phone calls and browsing history, but to do the same to a world leader is kind of amazing. Continue Reading

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Hypocritical or Not?

Molle Tactical Sling BAG Backpack tanI’ve always considered myself a progressive. I mean, these days it seems everyone gets a political label in these ever escalating propaganda wars between the parties. There is no black and white anymore. Party hardliners are more prevalent than ever before, no one can seem to get along in D.C. The Right and the Left are getting further apart every year.

Of course, these labels are always being misconstrued and they get murkier and murkier. Fox News called Obama a liberal and he’s dangerous to America. Yawn. There are those supporters of his who don’t think he’s progressive enough, calling him moderate and leaning to the middle more than he should. Basically it means you can’t win either way. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

So what the heck is a progressive anyway? What are some of the beliefs we progressives hold to be true? For starters, I’d say we feel that basic human rights are paramount to those of corporations. Unborn fetuses are not people who can own property. Democracy is in danger of being corrupted and hijacked by the wealthy who feel they can buy elections. Wealth and income should both be taxed fairly.

Capitalism is fine except when it goes unchecked. Unregulated expansion, the destruction of the environment, the depletion of our resources and the pollution of our air is not okay.

War is never okay. Military spending is wasteful. Bring the Troops home now. In fact, the military industrial complex is raging out of control in ways even Dwight Eisenhower couldn’t have imagined but warned us explicitly against.

But now I feel like a bit of a hypocrite. As much as I decry everything about the military and what it stands for I have to admit they have the most amazing gear. In fact, I needed a new duffle bag bring to my poetry slams and book clubs, you know to carry all of my notebooks and paperbacks around. I was told about military style bags and the versatility and storage space they offer. I was skeptical at first but then I checked out this website that reviewed all kinds of military duffle bags and I found a whole bunch. Miltary duffle bags? Who knew that something related to war could actually be useful to a pacifist like myself? I can’t tell you enough how conflicted I feel.

Is it hypocritical to use this bag when I reject things like military spending and preemptive strikes against foreign targets just to line the pockets of hawkish politicians and greedy corporations?

I hope not, because I love this bag.

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A Progressive Guide to Camping: Everything from Tents to Watches to Campfires

campingNow that spring is in the air and midterms are still 6 months away I decided to take some time off for some good R&R. Nothing makes me feel better than a few days out in the in the wilderness to clear my head away from my computer and electronics. Also, it gives the NSA a few days off so they can stop monitoring my emails, phone calls, texts, and letters to my granny. I kid!

But anyhow, I really am looking forward to a few nights sleeping under the stars so I thought I’d share some tips for the progressive camper.

 

  • Tent: I like to tell people I’ll be sleeping under the stars but I’ll actually be sleeping in a tent with the rain fly off which will let me see the stars. Unless it looks like rain at which point the rain fly will be on and I won’t be able to see anything. If I’m out by myself I like to use the 1 person tent. It’s light and cozy which will help you stay warm. If I’m going with friends I try to get everyone to stay in one tent because it’s fun to chat while we’re lying there. When choosing a tent remember how much trouble the Mcmansions got us into a few years ago and don’t buy more than you need.
  • Campfires: Campfires are not a given when you’re camping. In some places with few trees or where it’s very dry you may not be allowed to light a fire. Always make sure to check in at the ranger station first ask about any restrictions. Burning wood from the forest can deplete the soil of the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and support future growth.
  • Hiking Gear: Stay on the trail and make sure not to disturb and trees or wildlife. Remember that you’re a visitor and that the ecosystem is fragile. When I’m hiking I always make sure to bring a water bottle, snacks, map, and a compass. I also started sporting a rugged and high tech watch which has a compass and barometer included. If you’re looking for one too you can do a search for the best military watches or check out this site.
  • Water: Lugging huge water bottles around is a pain in the butt so I invested in a quality water filter. It’s actually pretty cool. Instead of adding chemicals to your drinking water or buying a bunch of plastic bottles all you need to do is fill up a rubber water bag, hang it from a tree, and gravity will run it through a charcoal filter. In just a few minutes you’ll have great tasting water that you got in an environmentally friendly way. Congrats!

One of the things I really love about camping is that it gives me kind of a reboot. When I get back home I’m super pumped again about the progressive causes I care so much about like protecting our waterways, planting forests, and reducing CO2 emissions.

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Going Retro With Cool Silver Coins

very valuable silver coinsThe government has been pushing the use of $1 coins over $1 paper bills for a while now, but not many Americans are on board. A study I saw recently showed that 64% of people in this country are against using coins for the $1 denomination. I believe they’re wrong and personally am all for eliminating the $1 paper bill all together.

Coins are cheaper to manufacture than paper (in the long run). The average lifespan of a coin is 30 years, while paper bills usually only last 3-4 years. So even though coins are more expensive to manufacture at first, the longevity of the coins manufactured means that a lot less cost goes into maintaining the supply. The money the government saves can go back into schools or alternative energy or something else more meaningful than just creating bills.

Coins are better for the environment than paper bills. Due to the lower rates of manufacture needed, coins wouldn’t have nearly as much of the environmental cost of factory production. Also, the cotton that is used in paper bills is one of the most pesticide-rich plants that we grow in this country.

On a less quantifiable note, I personally just like the feeling of coins jingling in my pocket. The weight of the money makes it feel like I’m richer.

And there’s the fun potential of coins to become worth much more down the road. I don’t consider myself a coin collector, per say, but I do have a rare 1965 silver quarter that I’ve held onto for many years. The government officially stopped printing silver coins after 1964, but there are a few that still came out of mints at the very beginning of 1965. My father gave me the silver quarter many years ago and I’ve had a bit of a fascination with coins, and silver coins in particular ever since. If you have my same interest in silver coins then check these out.

The $1 coins that the government is now making are copper, which are probably less likely to grow in value over time like the silver coins of yesteryear, but hey, who knows?

My dream is that the bums in Washington will do something really cool, like a $2 coin. Let’s get rid of those flimsy dollar bills and embrace the $1 and $2 coins. They’ll be easier to keep track of and will save this country a ton of dinero in the long run. God knows we need it the way we burn through cash.

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Benefits and Limitations of Three Types of Renewable Energy

Wind PowerIn light of rising energy costs and environmental concerns, renewable energy sources provide a number of alternatives to fossil fuels and other traditional sources of the energy we need to power our world. Three major renewable energy sources are wind, hydroelectric, and solar power. Although there are many benefits to these alternative energy sources, each comes with limitations that must be considered.

Wind Power

Wind power has been used for centuries in a number of different applications, from windmills to sailing ships. As a modern energy source alternative to fossil fuels, wind energy provides many benefits. Wind is plentiful and readily available, completely renewable, produces no emissions, is incredibly space-efficient, and incurs low operational costs. However, both commercial and residential wind turbines require high up-front investment costs. Turbines can also threaten wildlife, primarily birds and bats, and their appearance poses an aesthetic concern to many. The variable nature of wind energy must also be considered; unless energy is stored or supplemented, wind energy cannot consistently meet base load energy demand.

Hydroelectric Power

Hydroelectric power is the most widely used renewable energy source. It is consistent and reliable, renewable, clean, and has low operating costs. Additionally, the reservoir system can also serve other purposes, such as fish breeding and tourism. On the negative side, hydroelectric dams and reservoirs are expensive to build, and take up an extensive amount of land, potentially displacing families or causing ecological damage during construction. Also, although rare, catastrophic failures of dams have occurred. There is always a theoretical risk that a reservoir may fill beyond the capacity of the dam to withstand its force, or a natural disaster such as an earthquake could cause massive structural damage to the system. Despite these limitations, hydroelectric power services many regions around the world.

Solar Power

Solar power is a quickly improving alternative energy source. Although the initial expense associated with solar cell purchase and installation is high, in certain areas they may be cheaper to install than traditional utility lines, and the actual operation of the system is comparatively inexpensive. Solar power is sustainable, silent, and readily available. The solar energy production process does not directly cause pollution, but there are harmful emissions associated indirectly through the production, transportation, and installation of solar equipment. Like wind power, solar power is intermittent, and is not typically able to meet base load energy demands.

Energy storage through batteries can be expensive, but is possible. Solar power may also be used as a supplement to other forms of power. Harvesting solar energy also requires space, which may make it an unreasonable alternative for denser populations. The limitations of solar power are almost entirely technological; there is much room for improvement in the production process and the efficiency of panels. Advances in fields such as nanotechnology and quantum physics have the potential to radically increase the output of solar power systems.

All three of these renewable energy alternatives are widely used today. They provide cleaner and more cost effective energy to homes, businesses, and communities in a variety of applications. Continuing technological advances ensure that many of the limitations of renewable energy sources will be reduced in the future, particularly in regard to solar energy. All of these alternatives can help to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and potentially harmful energy sources.

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Pros and Cons of Biodiesel

sunflower biodiesel

I’ll tell ya, it seems like getting a straight answer on whether or not biodiesel is good for the environment is damn near impossible. First off, everything you hear is about how great it is and how it’s going to replace fossil fuels. I mean jesus, even Willy Nelson was hawking the stuff. Then it turns out all the fertilizer and other chemicals needed to process the organic material into fuel might be doing more harm than just using good ‘ol gasoline. Well, I did my own research and here’s what I found.

Over the past few years the quest to find energy alternatives to the processing of fossil fuels have received new emphasis. As deposits of crude  interest to many is biodiesel–diesel fuel created through processing of living plant or animal matter (usually derived from soy or other energy-efficient plant matter) rather than crude oil. Across the world many organizations have begun the process of weaning themselves off of petrodiesel by using petro/biodiesel blends or switching to one hundred percent biodiesel fuel. However, significant obstacles remain to biodiesel’s widespread use.

Here are a few of the pros and cons of biodiesel:

Pro:

Like traditional fossil fuels, biodiesel offers significant energy output in a highly efficient package. Biodiesel burns more efficiently than diesel fuel refined from crude oil, meaning that less fuel needs to be used to produce the same amount of energy.

Because it burns more efficiently, biodiesel produces fewer particulates, and thus does not have as strong of a negative impact on air quality as traditional fossil fuels. Where fossil fuels release carbon that has been locked away for countless thousands of years as a side effect of combustion, burning biodiesel only releases the carbon dioxide the plants from which it is processed absorbed as they grew.

Any engine or furnace built to burn petrodiesel can burn biodiesel. There is minimal retrofitting involved in preparing an older diesel engine to accept the new fuel; newer diesel engines can process it with no retrofitting whatsoever. This conserves time, money, and resources, as existing vehicles do not have to be removed from service for long amounts of time, nor do extensive parts of their engines have to be rebuilt.

Con:

Traditional fossil fuels are already out there; they just need to be extracted, transported, and refined. Biodiesel has to be cooked up from scratch, quite literally. In order to create it one begins with living plants and must go through the steps of processing and refining that end with usable biodiesel. This is more expensive than extracting crude oil and refining petrodiesel from it.

Current estimates say that from start to finish, creating biofuels uses up twenty-nine percent more energy than what is provided when those fuels are used. Until methods of production can be improved upon, attempting to replace fossil fuels with biofuels like biodiesel will cost us more than we gain by implementing their widespread use.

Even in a society with a strong agricultural base like the United States, our ability to produce cash crops is limited. We can only grow so much of any given crop, and we only have so much space to grow it. In order to make biodiesel a widespread replacement for petrodiesel, significant percentages of current harvests would need to be diverted from production of food to the production of fuel.

There are significant benefits to using biodiesel, either alongside petrodiesel or as a replacement for it. However, a number of inhibiting factors reduce its viability as an alternative to cheaper fossil fuel derivative petrodiesel. In order for society to truly benefit from the use of biodiesel as a fuel, these problems will have to be addressed and resolved.

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Government Shutdown: Get It Together Folks!

Government ShutdownThe federal government shutdown beginning October 1st 2013 because the people we elected to represent us forgot that politics is about compromise. Instead of each side giving a little to get a deal done they both took hard line stances and refused to budge(t) at all.

Now this probably won’t come as a surprise to most people but I’ve got to side with the Dems on this one. The Right is still fighting against Obamacare which was also set to go into effect on October 1st. They’ve been making the same arguments for the last 4 years that it will ruin the economy and move us closer to a socialist state. Poppycock.

The budget they submitted  tried to tie de-funding Obamacare to funding the government. The Dems of course balked at this and since both sides have been unwilling to compromise the government shut down and we’ve been without important federal services ever since.

What really drives me crazy is the idea that the Right is holding the country hostage because they want to protect our personal freedoms and the economy. What they’re really doing is playing a dangerous game of budgetary russian roulette that could throw us right back into a recession.

While the government is shutdown important offices, like the Office of Labor and the Consumer Protection Agency, are not able to issue important reports on the status of the economy. So we have no idea what’s happened to the unemployment rate or if there have been any changes to GDP. The work those agencies do have major effects on not only our economy but the world’s economy.

This is why the repubs argument that they’re just trying to do what best for the economy really gets under my skin. They obviously don’t have the country’s best interest in mind or they would find a way to fund the government. They’re not going to get rid of this administrations signature accomplishment because a few whack’s in congress think providing healthcare for US citizens is a bad idea.

And while there are serious financial implications to the shutdown, there are other effects that are affecting me and my friends personally, most notably not being able to use our national parks. Here we are two weeks in to this mess and some of the greatest sites our country has to offer are off limits. I was supposed to take a week long trip with some friends to Yellowstone last week but we had to cancel because it’s closed.

And it’s easy for us to cancel the trip since Yellowstone is so close but think about the people who have traveled from all over the world to see half dome, or old faithful, or check out the national mall. What kind example are we setting for the rest of the world? We’re supposed to set an example for other countries to follow but instead we look like a bunch of petulant kids fighting in the lunch yard.

These yahoos in congress better get their acts together quick because I’m really starting to lose my patience!

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