Hope For Some Positive Tipping Points

With climate change we often hear about tipping points in the negative sense; warming causes permafrost to melt releasing massive amounts of c02 and such. Of course not all tipping points are a bad thing, and this article got me thinking about positive tipping points.


The number I saw in there that blew my mind a little was that 40% of ocean shipping is just moving around fossil fuels.

And I thought about as that number comes down, which it must and will as more and more renewables are built out, the economies of scale that kept that amount of transport of fossil fuels cheap enough to justify start to fall apart, and it sort of causes a tipping point where moving oil and coal gets more and more expensive. Also at some threshold of demand reduction you hit a point where it multiplies in impact because not only do you not burn it, but you don’t move it, you don’t refine it, you don’t store it, you don’t go searching for more and build new deep ocean rigs, etc.

Then with rail transport in the US in particular, if all the trains moving coal  – we see a lot of these crossing Iowa, so maybe that skews my perception of how many of those exist – if those are out of the way, does passenger rail suddenly have a new opportunity on those lines? could this function to reduce demand for air, car, and long haul semis and does this becomes a tipping point for demand for the fuels those transport would have used? Given general disdain for trains in the US this is probably overly optimistic, but doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility either.

The article has some great links at the end that are all climate related too. Go read!

A characteristic that natural tipping points like glaciers and permafrost have which economic tipping points do not is they cannot be artificially suspended. On this note it worth pointing out that it seems coal for power generation crossed a tipping point a while ago, but something is not letting it “tip”. Inertia? Political corruption? Lack of awareness? I don’t know. Maybe it is in this report but in any case this blurb in the summary is :exploding_head:.

“99 percent of all U.S. coal plants (209 out of 210) are now more expensive to run than replacement by new local solar, wind, or energy storage.”


Car Dependency is a heavily subsidized by local taxes

Thinking about local taxes and private vehicles. A few points to expand upon

  • Registration fees and gas taxes are far to low
    • The current infrastructure maintenance burden is much to high given the revenue from these sources
    • Registration fees should be based on the burden the vehicle imposes on roads and society, so things like weight, size, utility, efficiency, loudness, etc. As is registration fees are primarily based on age or monetary value of the vehicle
      • the U in SUV supposedly stands for utility but these vehicles often have no more utility than a compact car while being a much larger danger and bigger burden on the environment. They should be heavily taxed. Large emotional support trucks too. They aren’t work trucks and everyone knows it.
  • Sales taxes on vehicles provide perverse incentives
    • New car sales taxes are a big revenue source for municipalities. This creates incentives for cities to enshrine car dependency and to measure local economic health by the sale of the very thing which guarantees to choke cities with traffic, pollution, and the need for subsidized parking
    • Trading an old inefficient behemoth for a newer much more efficient model is disincentivized by the current structure. Trading vehicles merely to get a better fit for current use should be encouraged, but with sales tax the way it is, it may not be worth it monetarily to trade for a economy commuter if your situation has changed and a work truck or minivan is no longer what you need on a regular basis.
    • Casinos and other institutions with known, clear negative affects on society are taxed in such a way that their proliferation is intentionally limited or offset – assuming lack of corruption of course – not so with cars. It is time to end the political favoritism towards car dealerships.
  • Public transit funding should come from private vehicle users until balance between public transit and private transit is achieved
    • Roads are public space that should primarily be for people not cars. If cars are going to displace the public they should foot the bill to enable the public to exist and transit safely again.
    • This would include protected bike lanes & free public transit. Think about it, If cars didn’t exist we wouldn’t need the protected bike lanes, and public transit ridership would be so high fares could be minimal or likely without the need to build and maintain insane amounts of infrastructure solely for cars it could be easily funded by all the state and local property taxes used currently to fund that along with the massively car oriented state DOTs.
    • obviously drivers will object, but one way to market it in a positive light would be to label it as a traffic reduction fee. The car infrastructure isn’t going anywhere in the short term, so essentially paying to move people into public transit or biking is going to reduce congestion which should make driving a fair bit more pleasant.

Social Media Musings

“Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result — my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.” – Wynn Bruce

A couple days ago this man set himself on fire in front of the Supreme Court building. Initially there was very little anything about it in the mainstream media, and what did exist failed to emphasize – if they even mentioned – this was an act of climate activism.

In the movie “Don’t Look Up” I feel one aspect they got pretty right was the role of major media outlets. The movie didn’t really get into the ‘why’ of it as that is a much harder question, but i felt they had their finger on the what/how anyway. So what is the why? Frankly I am not sure, if I had to guess it is something like complicitness mixed with a bizarre apathy on top of a either a profound ignorance of the moral role of journalism in society or a deep corruption stemming from their late stage capitalist dependent business model .

I think a lot of us sense this, even if we wouldn’t articulate it in those sorts of terms, and social media, and platforms like YouTube and podcasts etc have filled a gap for a lot of people to at least supplement the information we get from the world. To let us bypass the largely corporate controlled channels and sort of democratically decide what we feel is important or worth knowing about. But, these forums and platforms haven’t proven especially robust to abuse, corruption, misinformation, or inappropriate censorship either.

Another billionaire moving to take over one of the better – i wouldn’t say great – platforms that in effect function as a public forum doesn’t bode well in my mind. Twitter limited political adds, and showed willingness to ban notable people – to little to late thought it may have been – so they have taken better steps than many others, but Musk most likely would be aiming to undo a lot of that.

So, now what, back to Facebook? Was OrangeMan right, will his shit social network be vindicated?

Well, at least for me, no.

Rather, I have been putting more energy back into things like this blog. Microblogging has its place, but plain ol blogs are good too and IMO have been getting neglected in favor of things like twitter threads more than they should have, I for one plan to re-curate my RSS feed reader, and do a bit more reading there.

I have been finding sources, journalists, channels, and platforms that are worth supporting financially and pitching in towards their funding via Patreon and OpenCollective

I am sharing what I am doing with you, dear reader. I guess that is something.

For social media itself there are very promising alternatives. Decentralized/federated options exist and are viable, but mostly under utilized. NextCloud, Mastodon, PeerTube, Element/Matrix, and so on. Ironically one of the most concise cases for Mastodon was made on the ol bird app very recently.

Similarly to this blog, this isn’t something all new to me I have had a Mastodon account for years now, and have played around with Element, and Nextcloud too, but now is certainly as good a time as any to renew my push in a good direction. Find me over on Mastodon via https://mastodon.social/invite/acHW86uF

The double edged sword of economic censorship

This got some traction on social media and I had thoughts sort of all over the place…

“You are required by western propaganda to treat these as fundamentally different. Indeed, huge numbers of people in the West denounce the former while applauding the latter.”

Glenn Greenwald

It’s an important point to contemplate for sure. The power to restrict the freedom to do economic transactions is a big deal, as that freedom underpins so many others, but to imply all such exercises of that power are fundamentally equivalent is also a mistake. The motivation matters a lot, and to sort of imply that government should never use this tool is – well, beside being unrealistic – may leave governments and society notably susceptible to the tyranny of the few, or especially the tyranny of the wealthy.

This twitter thread articulates a similar line of reasoning re the Canada situation, but I think makes a similar conclusion as Glenn that these actions in the headlines are fundamentally the same. I think the thread makes a lot of good points but I also think it gets a bit myopic

Then there is the Ukraine situation and sanctions. The whole SWIFT thing, and how Russians may be tempted to end around that with cryptocurrencies… My prediction is that when the Russians aren’t meaningfully able to avoid sanctions with crypto that may open a lot of (willfully blind) eyes. We’ll see I guess.

@Dhh had a take that was I think was similarly — not great … https://world.hey.com/dhh/i-was-wrong-we-need-crypto-587ccb03

So economic censorship is definitely a double edged sword. Maintaining the availability of cash as a means of economic transaction is an important check on that. Crypto *might* also fill that rile someday, but not in most of its current permutations that I know of mostly because most crypto currencies don’t actually meet the criteria of money

If you want to nerd out on money and a with a lot of debunking of bad modern mythology around it this blog/newsletter is really good, and has a nice intro post https://brettscott.substack.com/p/top-10-reads?s=r

Vote Dilution

In 1912 Iowa had 11 Districts, and 11 US Representatives in the US Legislature
Plus 2 Senators makes an electoral collage vote count of 13 with a population of ~2.25 million1.

In 2022 Iowa will have 4 Districts, and 4 Reps. An electoral college vote count of 6. And a population of ~3.2 million2.

Do you see the problem?! Just by population growth within Iowa itself your voting power as an Iowan to elect your congressional representatives has been reduced by between 1/3 and 1/2. AND because the rest of the country has grown more than Iowa our representatives voting power within congress has ALSO been reduced by about 2/3. AND because where we live has also shifted “urban” voters influence have diminished even more4!

The power of your vote is diminishing, even more-so if you live in a city! None of this is the fault of minorities, or women voting, it is a result of our representative democracy not adjusting to a growing population a shifting demographic! 435 members in the “peoples house” is way to small! Especially in large states with not so large populations, such as Iowa. It leaves us with districts that are way to large. Overly large districts are very susceptible to favoring rural citizens over urban citizens, gerrymandering, and the influence of big money donors3. and it shifts the compromising balance the electoral college was intended to serve into a tool for minority rule.

Voter suppression is a really real thing, and there should absolutely be federal rules to combat that very undemocratic activity at the state levels, but voter dilution is also very undemocratic, and isn’t being talked about enough. If we can’t get a vote on voter suppression issues – the voting rights act that should have been a top priority for democrats early in Biden’s, but tenure is effectively dead at this point I think – we should at least raise awareness that increasing the size of the house is pretty damn important.

  1. in 1912 only maybe ~750,000 were eligible to vote. Women’s suffrage happened in 1920, and higher percentage of kids back then – population has shifted older since advent of antibiotics etc. If we just assume as many women would have voted as men we could have a voter turnout of double that of the actual number 492,356. so roughly 1 million
  2. of whom maybe 2.5 million are eligible to vote – I had trouble finding this number… and in 2020 less than 1.7 million actually voted
  3. you need a lot more money and time to campaign to so many people spread out in a large district. travel costs go up, obviously, but it also tends to force a reliance on mass media ads
  4. in 1910 census ~30% of Iowa was “urban”. In 2010 it was 64% and probably up a bit more in 2020. The classification of Iowa as a rural state is, both true and misleading.
  5. The senate was meant to be a check on more dense/less agricultural/urban states overriding the less dense/more agricultural/rural states, NOT CONGRESS! and even senate wasn’t intended to favor rural population states as with such a severe distortion as it does today. The founders did not anticipate a few REALLY large states in the west. The size of the senate has grown by less than 4x since while the population grew by almost 100x.

A Little Bit of Music Theory and Suddenly I Have Opinions

Premature opinions, maybe, but whatever, I claim no expertise! Worth listing to, probably not, but I felt like writing them anyway, so here we go.

I’ve been learning a bit of music theory lately, Nothing to deep really just the basics I never bothered with before. I am really enjoying it! Along the way I have gotten some good info and entertainment from this guy, Rick Beato. However, while he has hinted at this sentiment many times in his other material in this video I felt he went into bad territory. It’s not that he is completely wrong, and this isn’t me coming to the defense of most of the pop music on the radio either, but at the same time his critique of modern pop music has some very strong ‘OK, Boomer’ energy that I was having a hard time putting my finger on.

Yesterday my new instrument arrived. It a little mini analog synth, and had a great time playing around. I took some time to actually learn a some of what is happening when I twist the envelope and filter knobs on this little synthesizer, and, whadayakknow, it got me thinking more about sound stuff, and coming off of that I think I have part of a why the “modern pop is boring” is incomplete.

Stylophone X-1 run through old Crate practice guitar amp

Can it be as simple as previous generations explored and experimented with scales and keys more; Interesting variations of frequency was both novel within reach to them, but modern musicians are experimenting much more with the wave shape itself?

From my own playing around I notice that adding to much variation between notes can actually distract from the variation that and expression that is being done _within_ notes, meaning simplistic chord progressions and familiar melody patterns can be a feature not a bug.

If your perception is tuned to primarily hear sophistication and expression by the pattern of changing notes, a lot of modern music is going to sound uninspired to you.

On the other hand, if your perception is tuned to hear sophistication and expression within the waves of a more simplistic note pattern, then a ‘musically complex’ song might feel similarly uninspired.

So here is the thing. I recognize I am new to thinking on this level about music, I probably am not even using the right vocabulary, or maybe using the right vocabulary incorrectly. So many Grains of salt, alright?!

On the topic of sound engineering and music history stuff: if you got a fruity TV subscription for the sake of Ted Spasso anyway, go check out “Watch the Sound”. It is pretty good!

P.S. Had I seen this guys guys response I could have skipped this post probably. He seems to have a much better grasp of the concepts and terminology than I do — no surprise. YouTube rabbit holes aren’t always a bad thing.

Voter suppression is more than just blocking votes

This video really just scratches the surface of the current voter suppression push, There are certainly better sources out there…

If I were outlining the topic of voter suppression I would definitely cover things like:

  • The Reconstruction era and Jim Crow era. How voter suppression was done back then, its alarming effectiveness, and its massive lasting impacts
  • How the term “election integrity” has definitely evolved into an effective racist dog-whistle
  • How voter suppression is a multi pronged strategy; the aim is not just stopping votes themselves, but also sapping the power of the votes you can’t stop outright but generally don’t like
  • The role of gerrymandering in suppressing the power of a vote
  • The inordinate smallness of the US house of representative, and how redistricting after the recent census also dilutes representation of millions of more urban citizens why amplifying the representation of thousands of more rural or suburban citizens. – ie. the 435 cap was a voter suppression rule that passed a hundred years ago, but is still paying new dividends. And, how this arbitrary cap and the automatic redistricting it entails, might all by itself – without even the need for new voter suppression laws – result in the GOP winning the house in 2022 and the presidency in 2024 because of the way it redistributes house seats and consequently electoral college votes
  • The lack of representation of US citizen in DC and Puerto Rico – their lack of senators significantly suppresses their political power in 2 branches of government since senate seats also count towards Electoral College votes
  • How single winner districts leaves nearly half of the population in any given area without meaningful representation – an effect heavily amplified and purposely leveraged by those doing gerrymandering
  • How First past the post voting system along with closed party primaries amplifies the negative effects of both gerrymandering and single winner districts by selecting for more polarized candidates

Gonna be frank. I am losing hope in the trajectory of US to be a functioning democracy. I didn’t have a lot of hope in a Biden administration to start with, honestly, but a thin majority by the Democrats had imparted some hope towards reforms that could have slowed or potentially reversed the decent into fascism the GOP would drag us into. But that is withering quickly. The filibuster isn’t even the only hurdle. Plenty of democrats don’t want or see (or don’t want to see?) the need for crucial democracy reforms – Biden chief among them! Meanwhile the GOP is becoming ever more blatant in their comfort level in fighting for and exerting minority rule.

Midi keyboard & beep boop music

I’ve been wanting to tinker with using my computer to make / modify music for a few years, but finally got myself a dedicated MIDI keyboard, and spent good chucks of the last two weekends learning how synths, and DAWs, and audio interfaces all work. Yeesh! Kind of a lot it turns out. Anyway, I now have it working well enough and just enough understanding to actually jam out a bit.

Looking into better mics. Need to learn to balance sound better – though youTube’s processing did make it quite a bit worse than it was in the original recording. Oh well. Just for fun anyway.

All open source software by the way!