Thursday, January 31, 2013

You Are a Computer Criminal! Yes, You!

(for the record, I'm a gun owner)

As Predicted, Austerity Policies Send US Economy Downward

Thursday, January 31, 2013 by Common Dreams
As if the lessons of recent European policies weren't enough or a century of proven economics, the US trudges towards stagnation and financial pain... by choice
- Jon Queally, staff writer

Progressives economists who spent much of the last four years warning against the implementation of austerity policies in the US did not share in the surprise expressed by many lawmakers and mainstream pundits when new GDP data released Wednesday showed Q4 growth trending the economy back towards official recession.
No amount of evidence, advice or warning seems capable of moving lawmakers, including President Obama, away from the economic madness of austerity. As warned by experts not cowed by the "deficit hawk" alarmists who dominate the national conversation on the economy, the dip in growth was not the result of "uncertainty" in the private sector or the future demands of public spending obligations, but rather on the contraction of public spending and the tax increases prematurely foisted on low-income and middle class workers in the form of a payroll tax increase that took effect on January 1.

As Washington Post policy analyst Ezra Klein writes:

"The government is hurting the recovery, and badly. But it’s not because it’s spending too much, or because of concerns over future policy. It’s because government, at all levels, is spending and investing too little."

And as Robert Borosage, from the Campaign for America's Future, told the Huffington Post: "Inflicting austerity on a weak economy is ruinous and is likely to drive us back into a recession."

"Those dismissing the downturn as due to an odd drop in government spending should consider that more of these are on the docket," Borosage continued, making reference to further government spending cuts, known as 'sequestration,' that will likely be implemented in March.

And, "It's certainly the case that the disappearance of the payroll tax holiday is a drag on the economy," said Chad Stone of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Meanwhile, Josh Bivens and Nicholas Finio—analysts at the progressive Economic Policy Institute—said the new GDP numbers were disappointing, but argued the economy wasn't likely to teeter back into full recession. The essential lesson, they said of the report, was an easy and long-established one: when government spending contracts, so does a struggling economy.

"When government spending drops, the economy suffers," they said. "The rest of the economy is simply not growing strong enough to make up for losses in demand due to government spending cuts."

"Wednesday's GDP report, while overstating the current weakness in the economy, clearly illustrates what economists have known since the 1930s: Government fiscal contraction during periods of excess capacity—particularly when interest rates are already near-zero—is exactly the wrong thing to do."

And the Huffington Post adds:
Congress is still driving headlong into the forced austerity known as sequestration, scheduled to take effect in March, which requires across-the-board spending cuts at the Pentagon and among domestic policy programs.

"Today's GDP numbers show the toll that political conflict over fiscal policy is taking on U.S. economic growth," said Adam Hersh, an economist at the Center for American Progress, a think tank closely allied with the Obama administration. "The 0.1 percent economic contraction puts the United States on the precipice of recession. Our economy would certainly have grown at a faster rate last quarter, were it not for political brinkmanship over the debt ceiling and the risk of sharp fiscal contraction in the form of automatic 'sequestration' budget cuts. That contraction is now unfolding."

Warnings about the dangers of austerity have been growing louder in recent months, even from sources that conventionally applaud austerity regimes. In October, the International Monetary Fund issued a report concluding that global policymakers had dramatically underestimated the significance of government spending during a recession. As a result, lawmakers expecting modest drags from austerity instead saw their economies plunge back into a devastating recession. The United Kingdom, where unemployment now stands at 7.7 percent, has experienced a triple-dip recession. In Spain and Greece, unemployment is over 25 percent, with savage humanitarian consequences: HIV infections in Greece are up by over 1,500 percent since the austerity campaign began in 2010.

And Klein concludes his analysis on the situation in the US this way:
So yes, the government is hurting the recovery. But it’s not because of deficits or uncertainty, or at least, it’s hard to find evidence for either theory. The real, provable damage the government has done to economic growth in recent years has been in cutting back on spending and investment since 2010.

Which Way Do We Go? ‘Obama Recession’ or Full Employment?


There are lots of interesting economic stories in the last week, but we want to focus your attention on two topics. One shows the only path out of the economic collapse. The other shows the direction that will most assuredly take us into deeper collapse. So far, the bi-partisans in Washington, DC are on the path to an ‘Obama Recession.’

First, the wrong path: austerity. Great Britain has shown the world what austerity will bring – deeper recession. Britain may be going into its third economic collapse in four years with a 0.3% decline in its GDP in the last quarter and its worst year for manufacturing on record. David Cameron was elected on the promise of austerity and he delivered. The result is Britain has the worst economy on record dating back to 1830. That’s right, since the before the reign of Queen Victoria!

Our policy makers could learn the same thing from U.S. history. When FDR came to power, he put in place stimulus programs that directly created jobs. He built a lot of infrastructure that is still with us today employing people in useful work as government employees. In 1936, FDR and Congress thought they had gotten the economy going and started worrying about deficit spending. They decided to cut the funding of the New Deal to decrease the deficit. The result: the Roosevelt Recession of 1937 and 1938. Roosevelt realized his error and started stimulating the economy again and quickly the recession ended and growth returned. Even before the attack on Pearl Harbor the U.S. economy was on the mend.

Lesson to President Obama: Pursue the path of cutting the deficit with cuts to human needs and you are risking an “Obama Recession.” You will have squandered an immense opportunity to get the country on track.

Second, what is the solution to end the economic collapse?  There is one thing that has paralleled deficit spending for decades.  When deficit spending goes up, this is always is going up; and when deficit spending goes down, this has reversed.  As the chart below shows that one thing is unemployment.  If unemployment is high, deficit as a percent of GDP is high. If we reduce unemployment, the deficit shrinks.

Chart from the St. Louis Federal Reserve shows the deficit as a percentage of GDP (red line) vs. the unemployment rate (blue line); for 60 years the pattern has held. When unemployment drops, the deficit as a percentage of GDP drops. When unemployment rises, the deficit rises.

JobsJob creation is the one solution that has not been tried by government. Jobs are the solution to so many economic problems. The deficit, which the bi-partisans in Washington are fixated on, is directly related and the only path to reducing the deficit is moving toward full employment.  Full employment solves so many other problems: poverty and hunger, eviction and foreclosure, personal debt, retirement savings – all are ameliorated by full employment. But, when was the last time you heard any elected official utter the phrase “full employment”?

Other News
There is a lot of news for you to review in our news section which is updated daily: how Geithner left the banking system more concentrated with already too big to fail banks growing bigger and how the solution is public banks or turning banks into utilities; Obama’s appointment to the SEC brings Morgan Stanley’s lawyer through the DC revolving door; reports from Davos show complacency and denial; the continued, precipitous decline of unions while non-union workers organize; the energy mess of tar sands, fracking and worse signs for climate change while billionaires continue to mislead on climate; how single payer is becoming more essential than ever; details on how tax havens operate and how a resignation of a top DOJ official shows there never was any serious effort to investigate or prosecute bankers who collapsed the economy.

Finally, don’t miss two other articles we’ve written: Margaret Flowers wrote in Al Jazeera how top CEOs are planning to loot the economy; and Margaret and Kevin Zeese wrote a must read hidden history of cooperatives and community work and how they relate to social change for Truthout. This history provides lots of clues as to how we can be more effective today.

Fluoride Is Literally Toxic Waste from the Phosphate Mining Industry

V3Solar Spin Cell = 8 Cents/kWh?

January 24, 2013 Zachary Shahan

Quite frankly, if the company’s numbers are correct, this could be the biggest solar news of the decade, or even a greater timespan. (And CleanTechnica got the inside scoop — due to our sincere passion for helping the world, and probably also our status as the top cleantech or clean energy site in the world.)

As a quick refresher, we’ve covered V3Solar before, back when the name was Solarphasec. See: Solarphasec — Solar Power Meets Art (I think that includes a good intro of the tech, as well as an exclusive, real-world photo of an early version of a V3Solar cone or “Spin Cell.”)

But a simple intro of the tech isn’t the groundbreaking story of the day (that’s old news) — the story of the day is the tremendously low cost of the tech, and that’s what could change the world; that’s what could stimulate a more transformative distributed energy revolution than anything we’ve seen to date.


Am I hopeful? Yes. In case you aren’t aware, the average cost of electricity in the US is about 12 cents per kWh. The average cost of electricity from solar PV in the US is now about 10-15 cents per kWh. The cost of V3Solar’s Spin Cell, as noted in the title (and based on tests that the company considers to actually be conservative — meaning the cost could actually be lower), was quoted to me as being 8 cents per kWh! Bill Rever, a very well qualified 3rd party solar specialist has apparently verified the cost projection. You can see his full technical review here.

When I received this information and was astounded at the low price, my source wrote: “Yes. We are excited. We think we can go below that, but we want to stay conservative.”

So, 8¢/kWh is two-thirds the price of retail electricity, and nearly half the price of current solar technology. If the cost projection is true, that’s astounding, and revolutionary. (Notes: the 8¢/kWh figure is LCOE; and the BOM cost is 59 cents/Wp, including racking, tracking, and the inverter.)

Here’s a chart showing how the Spin Cell would compete with other energy technologies:

Larger image via this link.

Am I cautious? Yes. Until a new technology is on the market, I’m always cautious. And I’m no solar scientist or engineer. A production prototype is still in development, and a low-volume production phase would follow that before advancing on to the mass-market production phase. A lot can change between the lab, the manufacturing floor, and the Home Depot shelf. I have no capability of saying if it will or not. But let’s not forget that we’ve put a man on the moon, we’ve now got a world of information in our computers and even on our phones, we can talk to people across the world via tiny microphones and can receives tweets from astronauts out in space, we can play video games with almost real-life visuals, and more. Changes happen. Technology advances. Every “breakthrough” doesn’t translate into a commercial product, but some do. We’ll simply have to wait to see if this is one of those technologies.


V3Solar’s Spin Cell

I shared a link above to a good overview of the technology, but if you’re not the type to click through on links, or simply want a bit more info, here’s another summary based on info from a “corporate overview” that was passed on to me:

Revolutionizing Solar

I think everyone can now picture a conventional solar panel. But a phone 20 years ago certainly didn’t look like a phone today. And solar technology today may look nothing like solar technology in 20 years. And if V3Solar’s technology is anything close to as cheap as presented above, there’s a good chance solar installations will soon look much different.

“V3Solar has invented, and is now in the process of commercializing, the first major change to flat panel PV technology in over 50 years – the V3 Spin Cell. For too long, the world believed solar was flat,” V3Solar writes.

“Using specialized lensing and a rotating, conical shape, the Spin Cell can concentrate the sunlight 30X onto one sun mono PV with no heat degradation. This increases the Power Density while lowering the Total Cost of Ownership and Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE), which is estimated to be $.08/kWh for the Spin Cell (see spreadsheet).”

Here’s more on this in a bit simpler language and more detail:
  1. Concentrated light reduces the amount of PV by a factor of the amount of concentration – 30X sun concentration requires 1/30th of the PV for the same power output.
  2. Dynamic Spin cools the PV so that one sun mono PV can handle a concentration of more than 30X suns.
  3. The dynamic spin increases the efficiency of the PV by 20%, effectively increasing 20% efficient PV to 24% efficiency.
  4. Spinning the PV under multiple lenses creates “an additive” effect of sunlight.

“The Spin Cell does have additional BOM costs for the magnets, the power electronics and the form factor, but these costs are mitigated by the increased production through integrated tracking, inverter, and racking.
 Bottom line is the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE). The company contracted with Bill Rever to complete a 3rd party technical analysis on the V3Solar technology and to verify all of the numbers for the LCOE.”

A second product based on the same technology, called CoolSpin, integrates with existing concentrated photovoltaics (CPV), but it lowers their material costs by 34%, because it addresses CPV’s key shortcoming.

“Being able to use the abundant and cheap one sun mono PV is a significant market advantage. Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) has been forced to rely on expensive, exotic, and scarce materials to handle the increased heat, costing up to 400X more.

Using less PV for the same power output is significant because the cost of the lensing material is 1/10th the cost of one sun mono PV.”

CoolSpin is a simpler product to design and manufacture and the company expects it will be in full production by the middle of 2013. You can read about Cool Spin on the V3Solar website.

Here are some more charts and tables on the above information:

Here is a slide from the company’s investment deck that explains how the automated manufacturing will work:

Preparing For Manufacturing & Mass Market

“The Spin Cell is currently undergoing refinement and cost analysis at, a Californian based industrial design house, as a precursor to commercial production. The Company is also engaged in negotiations with potential licensees in both the United States and abroad for high volume manufacturing of the Spin Cell.”

Through partnerships with manufacturers and major solar companies, and their specific licensing model, V3Solar is looking to get its Spin Cell to mass market quickly.

Notably, I also learned from my contact that V3Solar already has over 4 GW of requests for orders. To put that into perspective, the US currently has about 7 GW of installed solar power capacity. 4 GW is impressive! Again, we’ll see what happens after the prototype test, but it’s clear that a handful of big players are interested in this.

As one example of a potential order, a group specializing in military projects has signed a deal with V3Solar to develop 1000 Mobile Energy Production systems for the US Army, at $500K each. For this project, the Spin Cell would be integrated with the batteries of a major multi-national corporation (I can’t share the name, but they are huge). The batteries and Spin Cells will be held in shipping containers for transport, which will then open up like a flower upon arrival to cheaply produce clean energy. This will not only save money, but will also reduce supply-line casualties. A similar system is being developed for disaster relief.

The Mission

In a nutshell, here’s the company mission: “A new spin on solar to capture 3% of the energy market with a licensing model that eliminates CAPEX costs, mitigates risk, and diversifies production.”

Again, to put “3% of the energy market” into perspective, all solar power installed in the US to date currently accounts for about 0.5-1% of the energy market — V3Solar has some ambitious targets, and it plans to hit those through cooperation and partnerships that are good for the average citizen.

Spin Cell Benefits

In summary, here’s a list of the technology’s key benefits, according to the company:

  • Dual axis tracking from conical design
  • Increased Power Density
  • Lower Total Cost of Ownership
  • “Power Stair casing” — as the PV spins past multiple lenses, an additive effect of sunlight is created – a first for any solar device.
  • Integrated racking and ease of installation
Through the concentration of sunlight, the Spin Cell uses only 5% of the amount of PV as flat panels to produce the same power, thus reducing the cost/watt.

“The Spin Cell does have additional BOM costs for the magnets, the power electronics and the form factor, but these costs are mitigated by the increased production through integrated tracking, inverter, and racking. Bottom line is the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE).”

There’s a lot more to write about the company and the technology, but I think I’ll leave it at that for now. 8¢ per kWh would be astounding, and combined with some progressive goals the company has, we may genuinely see it transform the energy industry.

All images via V3Solar

Clean Technica (


Whatever Happened to “Good Jobs”?

Poverty on a Vast Scale

It is hard to pinpoint the precise moment when “good jobs” disappeared from national discourse, ignored by our leaders and the media that cover their agenda. The phrase was invoked during President Obama’s campaign—that is, his first run for the presidency. But it soon disappeared in a West Wing dominated by Wall Street men. This time around it was altogether gone from campaign rhetoric, a vanishing act with the potential for catastrophic consequences for millions of Americans. “Good jobs” continues to be banished from national discourse, as if the censors of capital wished it away.

Corporations have nothing to say on the subject, intent to hold down wages and sit on vast amounts of capital – some $3.4 trillion, by last count. Over the next decade, 7 of 10 new jobs will be low wage, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate of corporate profit is at its highest level in more than a century, according to Bloomberg. That’s quite a record… Coolidge, Harding, Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, Bush II… all left in the dust.

Wall Street is thriving. The stock market S&P index shot up 13% in 2012, and JPMorgan Chase had its best year ever that same year, with Goldman Sachs close behind. Indeed, the 1% continues to accumulate vast wealth, as U.S. economic inequality becomes even more pronounced, while alarms go off at the International Monetary Fund and elsewhere, sounding off that inequality undercuts growth with emphasis on the U.S.

In spite of it all, everyone knows this central truth: life is at a dead end in this country without a full-time job at a good wage and with decent benefits: a good payroll job.

Since the Inauguration earlier this month, official debate has focused on debt ceilings, women in combat roles and most recently on immigration. These are hardly irrelevant matters; but in the end they fill front pages and newscasts where we should see and hear the clamoring for good jobs.

The immediate goal of the Robin Hood Tax, whose profile has come up fast in just a year, is to put revenue into the many communities still reeling from the effects of the financial collapse of 2008. An estimated $350 billion can be raised annually from a small sales tax on Wall Street financial transactions, today embodied in The Inclusive Prosperity Act, sponsored by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN). He has 16 co-sponsors, to date. More than 125 organizations – labor, religious, consumer, health advocates and others – have endorsed the bill. Together these groups total millions in membership. They join financial transaction tax movements worldwide; 40 countries have such a tax in place today, as economists, even leading business executives, are raising their voices in support. The European Union moved forward this month towards implementation in 11 member countries, to start January 1, 2014.

Meanwhile, the corporate sector in this country staunchly refuses to invest in good jobs, making government action on jobs an essential step to move forward. Robin Hood tax revenue for good jobs in healthcare, in education, to provide a clean environment and to rebuild a deteriorating infrastructure would mark a significant turnaround.

Many millions need these jobs and communities need assistance without delay. There are a staggering 22 million adult Americans who are without full-time jobs today and for whom the hardship of enduring unemployment is taking a terrible toll. Some are recent college graduates, loaded down with debt from escalating school costs. A Rutgers University survey found that half the college grads in this country over the last six years do not have full-time employment. Robin Hood funds can help them get a start in life.

What we do not need are more of the low wage jobs being offered, as the numbers of working poor escalate each year to astonishing levels. According to the Census Bureau, one-third of adults who live in poverty are working but do not earn enough to support themselves and their families. A quarter of jobs in America pay below the federal poverty line for a family of four – $23,050. Close to half of food stamp allocation goes to households where an adult is working full-time- that’s taxpayer money paid to workers whose bosses won’t pay a living wage. Even with this critical food assistance, we have reached a point, the Department of Agriculture says, where nearly 1 in 4 young children in the U.S. lived with insufficient food in the last year.

Our government should join Rep. Ellison and his co-sponsors and embrace the Robin Hood tax and its call for good jobs in a real economy. Without it, and the yearly revenue it would provide for an enduring recovery, the legacy of our nation’s leaders will be poverty on a vast scale.