“An epidemic we can’t allow to continue”

The National Mall between the Capitol and the White House was decorated with over 1,800 miniature flags Thursday, the lawn a sea of little old glories in the cold morning light, snow still on the ground, each flag waving in the spring air a veteran lost to suicide this year alone.

According to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an average of 22 veterans take their own life each day…The IAVA is in Washington for its yearly action campaign to petition the government on veteran’s issues.

This year, they’re working together with Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., to introduce the Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act, a bill aimed at reducing the veteran suicide rate by extending eligibility for Veterans Administration health care and mandating a review of mental health care programs the VA offers…

Walsh, who, commanded a Montana National Guard battalion in Iraq, said, “When we returned home, one of my young sergeants died by suicide, so this is very personal to me.”…The Senator called suicide, “an epidemic we cannot allow to continue.”

Walsh and the IAVA are calling on Congress to pass the Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act by Memorial Day.

Considering that it’s taken three months for the “humane” Senate to pass a bill restoring unemployment insurance extended benefits to the longterm unemployed. With nothing in sight from the Congress-cruds in the House of Representatives. I wouldn’t exactly hold my breath waiting for timely action from Congress over veterans committing suicide.

Even easy-peasy vote-getting issues face difficulty confronting the Party of NO and Know-Nothings in our national legislature.

Republicans kneel to kiss the ring of Billionaire Sheldon Adelson

Adelson's Ace
Adelson and his Israeli Ace

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who along with his wife plowed more than $92 million into efforts to help mostly losing candidates in the 2012 elections, is undertaking a new strategy for 2016 — to tap his fortune on behalf of a more mainstream Republican with a clear shot at winning the White House…

In 2012, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson spent so much of their money on long-shot candidate Newt Gingrich that they helped extend an ugly intraparty fight that left the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, severely bruised by the time he faced President Obama in the general election.

This time, the Adelsons are plotting their investments based not on personal loyalty but on a much more strategic aim: to help select a Republican nominee they believe will have broad appeal to an increasingly diverse national electorate…

So, if you’re dumb enough to believe the lies they’ll be shoveling out onto the airwaves – you might think the Republican Party has had a change of heart and doesn’t belong just to the rich and powerful. A position chosen for them by the rich and powerful.

This strategy would favor more-established 2016 hopefuls such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. All four will descend this week on Adelson’s luxury hotel in Las Vegas, the Venetian, for an important step in what some are calling the “Sheldon Primary.”

Officially, the potential 2016 candidates will be at the Venetian for the spring meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which begins Thursday with a golf outing, followed by a VIP dinner featuring Bush and hosted by the Adelsons in the private airplane hangar where Adelson keeps his fleet.

But some of the most important events will occur between the poker tournament, Scotch tasting and strategy workshops. That’s when Adelson is scheduled to hold casual one-on-one chats — over coffee, at dinner or in his private office — with the prospective candidates.

Victor Chaltiel, a GOP donor and an Adelson friend who sits on the board of Las Vegas Sands, said at this early stage in the 2016 sweepstakes, Adelson is “neutral” and has his eye on a number of potential candidates, including Bush and Christie.

He doesn’t want a crazy extremist to be the nominee,” Chaltiel said. “He wants someone who has the chance to win the election, who is reasonable in his positions, who has convictions but is not totally crazy.”

What that means in plain English is who is the best liar? There are no proposals to change Republican policies. The War on Women, the War on Children, the War on Hispanics and Blacks, the War on Gays and Lesbians, the War on working people and unemployed – remain priorities for Adelson and his followers.

Everything that can be done to cut taxes, national fiscal responsibilities to the nation where Republicans used to make most of their money – remains target number one for Adelson. Killing the Affordable Care Act, stopping anything to do with equal pay for equal work for women, these still are top of the charts for Kingmakers like Uncle Sheldon.

Pimps like Karl Rove are waiting in the wings for Adelson to turn over matching funds to compete with ideologues like the Koch Bros who prefer a platform more like the old days of the John Birch Society and Barry Goldwater. Either road, they’ll settle for outright ownership of a mortgage on the White House to match the one they have on Congress.

The carbon tax in British Columbia works just fine

A carbon tax is just what it sounds like: The BC government levies a fee, currently 30 Canadian dollars, for every metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions resulting from the burning of various fuels, including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and, of course, coal. That amount is then included in the price you pay at the pump—for gasoline, it’s 6.67 cents per liter (about 25 cents per gallon)—or on your home heating bill, or wherever else the tax applies. (Canadian dollars are currently worth about 89 American cents).

If the goal was to reduce global warming pollution, then the BC carbon tax totally works. Since its passage, gasoline use in British Columbia has plummeted, declining seven times as much as might be expected from an equivalent rise in the market price of gas, according to a recent study by two researchers at the University of Ottawa. That’s apparently because the tax hasn’t just had an economic effect: It has also helped change the culture of energy use in BC. “I think it really increased the awareness about climate change and the need for carbon reduction, just because it was a daily, weekly thing that you saw,” says Merran Smith, the head of Clean Energy Canada. “It made climate action real to people.”

It also saved many of them a lot of money. Sure, the tax may cost you if you drive your car a great deal, or if you have high home gas heating costs. But it also gives you the opportunity to save a lot of money if you change your habits, for instance by driving less or buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle. That’s because the tax is designed to be “revenue neutral“—the money it raises goes right back to citizens in the form of tax breaks. Overall, the tax has brought in some $5 billion in revenue so far, and more than $3 billion has then been returned in the form of business tax cuts, along with over $1 billion in personal tax breaks, and nearly $1 billion in low-income tax credits (to protect those for whom rising fuel costs could mean the greatest economic hardship). According to the BC Ministry of Finance, for individuals who earn up to $122,000, income tax rates in the province are now Canada’s lowest.

RTFA. Long, detailed, convincing. Half of anyone quoting the details in the American press will only quote the part about the outbound costs. You already know who.

But, the intricacies aren’t especially difficult, didn’t require an excess of negotiation excepting with the most overtly bought-and-paid-for politicians in Western Canada. Might be worth the effort in some of the leading edge cities and counties in the GOUSA.

Panasonic’s solar power plant in a box

In an effort to bring reliable electricity supplies to emerging regions and remote island communities, Panasonic has developed an expandable, portable, self-contained photovoltaic system. The “Power Supply Container” comes equipped with 12 of Panasonic’s HIT240 solar modules on the roof and generates approximately 3 kW of electricity, with 24 lead-acid batteries capable of storing 17.2 kWh of energy used to store excess electricity…

The self-contained units were designed to be portable, easy to assemble and not require any professional construction work to get them up and running. Panasonic also notes the container’s form allows it to be moved with relative ease. They are being manufactured by PT. Panasonic Gobel ES Manufacturing Indonesia, which is aiming to lower the price of the units through mass production.

As part of Indonesia’s “Educational Environment Improvement Policy for Isolated Islands,” the first location set by Panasonic for trials of the Power Supply Container is the National Elementary School in Karimunjawa, an archipelago of 27 islands in the Java Sea, Indonesia. Panasonic chose Indonesia as a test region because of the country’s approximately 13,000 islands, many of which either lack electricity altogether because of power generation and development issues or whose access to reliable electricity is limited…

According to Panasonic, power to the school will be sourced from the energy-generating containers during the day, but excess electricity generated outside of school hours will be supplied to the local community. Over the next few years, Panasonic plans to continue developing and implementing its Power Supply Container program in an effort to bring secure and reliable, 24 hour electricity to other Asian countries and emerging regions.

Another example of how dramatically the cost of off-the-shelf solar power components is dropping, availability increasing. I’m encouraged.

I think if Konosuke Matsushita were still alive he would be pleased.