Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Crazy In The Cockpit: Could This Air Tragedy Have Been Prevented?


Germanwings-Pilot Andreas L. war bei Neurologen und Psychologen in Behandlung
The Psycho before he commandeered the controls of Germanwings 9525

The name "Andreas Lubitz"  will now live on in infamy along with that of Timothy McVeigh, James Eagen Holmes  and Eric Harris and Dylan Kliebold, the Columbine killers. As most of us are now aware, this Lubitz melted down just after the Germanwings flight took off from Barcelona, Spain, en route to Dusseldorf, Germany. After locking the pilot out of the cockpit he set the altimeter's  automatic flight path on a dive to 100' altitude. Of course, as we know, in a place like the French Alps, no such altitude would be reached and the jet actually crashed into the side of a mountain at about 4,000 ft. with all 150 lost.

The evidence now in, from German sources and others, is the guy had a "psychotic episode". The German paper Die Welt reported today he was being treated for "severe psychosomatic illness" and actually had been prescribed anti-psychotic meds for "strong subjective overload syndrome" . He tossed his meds away along with the prescriptions (according to reports).  In addition, he'd received a medical note of dispensation that he was unfit  to fly- including on the day he arrived for the Dusseldorf flight!  In other words, this psycho never should have been anywhere near the plane - far less inside the cockpit.

Reinforcing this, yesterday morning  on MSNBC, the clinical psychologist Dr. Ruth Wittersgreen proposed how the psychotic episode would have unfolded. First, there would be Lubitz dealing day to day with the stress of hiding his severe mental illness (which was so severe he had to be monitored over time) from the company. Second, if he fell into a pattern of sleep deprivation this would have directly triggered the "psychotic episode".

Amdist all this many have been asking, as one expert did on CNN this morning:

"Why this tragic communications breakdown between those treating Lubitz and the airline?"

Indeed. And here we also have parallels with the case of Aurora mass killer James Eagen Holmes, who was also being treated for severe psychological illness (at the Univ. of Colorado, Anschutz campus) prior to his rampage at an Aurora theater, slaying 12 and severely wounding dozens.  Why wasn't this information passed on to the proper authorities? The  canned excuse of "patient confidentiality" simply doesn't cut it -especially when the patient had produced violent diaries depicting himself as the "Joker" slaying people in a cinema. This all ought to have been out in the open, shared with the proper authorities.

In like manner, the fact Andreas Lubitz had been issued antipsychotic meds, as well as  been issued an "unfit to work" notice, ought to have been known by Lufthansa.  This was after he'd reported waking up screaming from nightmares.  THEY should have known of his condition in the immediate time sense and by virtue of the medical personnel informing them, not trusting a psycho to share it!  Of course, he would be determined to hide it, as we saw. Thus, this incident will militate in the future for medical professionals to directly share their diagnoses with airlines. No more hiding treatments, or "sick notes".

And no more balderdash that "he was fully fit to fly" - spouted out of abject ignorance  traced to dated information. With much higher scrutiny, including background checks - not just for criminality- this tragedy might have been prevented.

It also might have been prevented had people -e.g.  at least one of his ex-girlfriends, spoken the hell up after he was claimed to have said.

"After tomorrow everyone will remember my name."

Which interjects other famous declaratives issued the day before monumental tragedies, including:

"After tomorrow, those goddamned Kennedys will never bother me again!" - LBJ, night of Nov 21, 1963, to his then mistress Madeline Brown attending a party at Clint Murchison's Dallas home

"By tomorrow our names will be burned in everyone's memory!" - Dylan Kliebold in video diary kept by Columbine killers, Apr. 18, 1998.

Alas, no proactive moves could be made in response to the last, since it was only revealed after the Columbine massacre. On the other hand, timely action for the other two might have stopped an assassination, and a murderous airline crash.

Lastly, this incident is only the most recent in a string of deliberate pilot crashes since 1982 including:

- Feb. 9, 1982:  Japan Air Lines crash blamed on captain declared "mentally unstable" (174 lost)

- Aug.21, 1994, Royal Air Maroc flight intentionally plunged in Morocco by unstable pilot (44 lost)

- Dec. 19. 1997, Silkair plane deliberately crashed off Indonesia. (104 perished)

-- Oct 31, 1999: Egypt Air co-pilot yelling "I rely on Allah" crashed plane with 217 on board into Atlantic Ocean.

- Nov. 29, 2013, Mozambique Airlines captain believed to have deliberately crashed  plane in Namibia, 33 killed.

While these incidents are rare, in terms of general aviation statistics, they do induce dread in people because we disdain the possibility that a psycho might grab plane controls and take us on a one-way trip to perdition. The only way to prevent such events in the future is to delve into personnel backgrounds for signs of psychological  'hiccups' . No airline (or pilot)  squeamishness on this score ought to be tolerated.

No one deserves to be in the position of  an unwilling captive on a flight commandeered by a psychotic, left screaming with fellow victims in the final minutes as they approach their certain doom.  And hundreds of distraught family members left to mourn in the aftermath. We wouldn't tolerate this BS for terrorists, and we shouldn't for psycho pilots or co-pilots!


Friday, March 27, 2015

Lower Living Standards For Generations To Come? Thank Global Monetary Policy

In many areas of the corporate Pollyannish press one reads about the expanding future and how many millions of more gadgets and processes will make our lives easier. Oh, and it'll all be much cheaper and we'll each even have our own drones and driverless vehicles.  To read some of this codswallop one would think a limitless cornucopia is soon upon us and everyone will basically be on "Easy street". Don't believe it for a second.

As the Mar. 25  Financial Times article ('QE Will Lower Living Standards Long Term')  puts it:

"The prospect of improvement in economic growth is largely a monetary illusion. ....Lacking the political will necessary to address the issues, central bankers have been left to paper over the global malaise with reams of fiat currency"

By "paper over" the FT means the ongoing practice of QE or quantitative easing  - which has already resulted in the Federal Reserve infusing more than $4 trillion into the U.S. bond markets and - combined with essentially zero interest rates - fed a girnormous stock market bubble.

Accentuating this low note, a report by the Bank of America -Merrill Lynch has projected that the year 2015 will mark the first decline in growth since 2009 the year after the financial meltdown and credit crisis. The FT piece notes how the Fed's QE, for example, has "perversely morphed into a new monetary orthodoxy" where central bankers themselves use their balance sheets as tools to implement fiscal policy.

This as opposed to politicians doing it via new regulations, tax reforms, monetary policy. But see - the politicos these days have no courage. They are all basically spineless worms who so fear the T-word they are afraid to actually practice representation. Thus, as the FT notes:

"The politicians lack the willingness or ability to implement labor and tax reforms."

So, because of these venal jackals, the banskters (in which I include central banksters)  are de facto allowed to set policy with their QE. But long term it isn't working and the world will become poorer for it, that is - the world our children will inherit.

Much of this follows from the extent to which QE policies damage fiscal health. For example, the FT points out correctly the negative impact of QE on interest rates. The depressed returns available on fixed income securities (such as commercial paper), largely as a result of QE, effectively act as a tax on investors, including individual investors.  At the same time the QE is providing a subsidy to borrowers.

If you have your money stashed in a money market fund for commercial paper - which is used to fund new  business investment - there is little reward given the 0.5 percent rates, so there is a bigger incentive to pull the money out and put it elsewhere for higher yield (say in an online bank for a fixed income account for which the interest is doubled.)  Practiced widely such pullouts will  dampen investment and stifle new business. As the FT puts it:

"The cost of QE is greater than the income lost to savers and investors. The long term consequence is likely to permanently impair living standards  for generations while creating a false illusion of reviving prosperity."


Less on the radar but surely playing a role in declining living standards is the ever degraded quality of energy sources. For example, current fracked oil (from shale) costs on average $70 a barrel to extract. If the oil price is less than this, that means the source isn't even at "breakeven" point in terms of energy returned on energy invested.. By contrast, the light sweet crude oil we'd been getting earlier returned nearly 18 times more than the cost to extract it per barrel. These are signs Peak Oil has come and gone (estimated in 2005) but most people don't even know what Peak Oil means. It doesn't mean the oil has stopped or slowed in production, it means the era of cheap oil is over,  making everything more expensive. Plainly put, our current energy -intense civilization is simply unsustainable in an era where only low EROEI oil is available.

You can read much more on this aspect here:

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2013/09/44-trillion-in-deficits-by-2024-minus.html

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Duck Commander" Phil Robertson's Degenerate Anti-Atheist Rant Reveals He's Devoid of Morals, Humanity

At the Vero Beach Prayer Breakfast  on Friday morning, Duck Dynasty "Commander" Phil Robertson - juiced on self-righteous indignation,  waxed on uninterrupted about some kind of grotesque fantasy situation in which a family of atheists is bound, gagged and raped. That the “Duck Dynasty” clan leader had a national platform upon which to spew bullshit was basically an indictment of our whole society, and in my opinion - a further sign  this society has lost its collective mind, judgment and reason.  What this asshole basically allowed is that he has no concept of atheism, nor any of morality - far less humanity. He's demonstrated himself, in so many words, to be vermin.

I’ll make a bet with you,” Robertson said in the talk which was later broadcast on Christian conservative radio host Rick Wiles’ program, “Trunews.” “Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. Then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot them, and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him, and then they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now, is there dude?”
But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun. We’re sick in the head, have a nice day.”

Back up, butt brain. No atheist says "there is no right or wrong". What we say, as I repeated in my recent book ('Beyond Atheism, Beyond God'), and earlier from 'The Atheist's Handbook to Modern Materialism' is that morality must be predicated on physical reality not an imagined supernatural one. It must be founded on practical ethics, not absolutist nonsense. This implicitly  means a pure Materialist philosophy which also implies provisional ethics.

Let me elaborate on the first. As genuine Materialists, we can examine the astronomical evidence and determine that our planet is possibly the only inhabited one, at least in our galaxy - if not the cosmos. We can also ascertain that this terrestrial life is possibly all that exists in the cosmos and hence that we must strive to enhance and support it in any way possible. We should emphatically not squander what we have now, while awaiting a mythical afterlife.  Nor squander the lives of others as this crazy co-pilot Andreas Lubitz apparently did  - killing 148 people in the French Alps because he wanted to take out himself.

As Materialists we refrain from looking to any hypothesized deity for deliverance, or lay blame for human ills on some mythical demonic entity. On the contrary, Man alone is responsible for his actions and is the ultimate master of his fate. As  Materialists, then, we  maintain that Man need not suffer extinction as a species if he has the courage and vision to assume control of his destiny through the use of reason.

It isn’t necessary to wave a bible or the ten commandments at a Materialist, nor quote the "golden rule". The true Materialist, by definition, respects his fellow men and reveres all life, since he recognizes (through his philosophy) that they share a planet that may be unique in the cosmos. Thus, the true Materialist treasures and conserves the Earth's finite store of resources, since he comprehends that Earth also has one life to live - and there is no more after the existing resources are consumed.

If dunderhead Robertson knew any of this then he'd realize that his confabulated deviant fantasy of raping little girls  and their mother not only flew in the face of atheism but  common decency and humanity. Indeed, only a depraved pervert deprived of any humanity would come up with such an abomination in his feral mind.  It,  indeed, shows Robertson lacks any scintilla of humanity....or residue of morality.

Now what about provisional ethics? Any persistent observer of human social interaction will note that the vast majority of people are law-abiding and decent folk who naturally practice a common-sense, utilitarian ethics similar to what has been described. For proof, one need only look as far as the upstanding Atheist or agnostic who inhabits every community and who - though he disdains a deity, nevertheless treats his fellows with compassion and respect. No supernatural law or commandment ordains this behavior. Instead it is the conscious and deliberate recognition that the promotion of the welfare of others is directly linked to one's own welfare.


Unfortunately, what the religionists have done is to take the natural code of ethics most people follow and embellish it with a blizzard of superstitious precepts and injunctions. When these are stripped away one arrives at provisional ethics. As described by Michael Shermer ('The Science of Good and Evil'):

"Provisional ethics provides a reasonable middle ground between absolute and moral relative systems. Provisional moral principles are applicable to most people, for most circumstances, for most of the time - yet flexible enough to account for the wide diversity of human behavior"

To fix ideas, in the case of the  nun excommunicated several years ago, for saving a 27 year old mother’s life at the expense of her fetus, the  moral choice was either to let the birth occur and see both mother and infant die, or prevent the birth (because of the mother’s blood pressure complications) and save the mother. She opted to maximize life chances for the mother as opposed to dramatically reduce them for both mother and child. 

This is a perfect example of atheistic morality  in action. Thus, in provisional morality the greater relative good is always chosen over the lesser one. In this case, two deaths with two life saving efforts represented  the lesser good, while one death with one life saving effort represents the greater one. 


 In the case of Brittany Maynard's decision to end her life after being diagnosed with inoperable brain tumor, her choice to end her life was a greater good over merely existing in a debased vegetative condition based on the specious presumption of "sanctity of life" demanded indiscriminately for any and all conditions. (Absolutist morality).  Hence, the greater good here is her ending the suffering and degradation of her life quality rather than allowing it to progress to the stage she was unable to make any authentic choice.

In both cases and many others the atheist disdains and rejects morality that (in the words of Sam Harris): "pursues aims that are flagrantly immoral, in that they needlessly perpetuate human misery, while believing these actions are morally obligatory. "

Adding that such   "pious uncoupling of moral concern from the reality of human suffering" is unacceptable.

We see then that Robertson's portrayal of atheists as total scalawags and renegades with no moral compass is totally off base and in fact, insane. The atheist family he has raped and killed in his debased mental ideation then, must be seen as actually reflecting HIS own lack of morality and no one else's. We assess  from this that his "morality" is debased and perverted since it would slaughter and rape those with a different life philosophy under the assumption they don't care and  believe that "anything goes".

At root, not only is Robertson responsible for hatching such vile swill glorifying  child rape and murder, but the media shares blame for giving this depraved piece of filth  a stage on which to spout his degenerate fantasies - as a basis to supposedly condemn atheists.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pentagon Getting Away With Fiscal Murder Using Spending Gimmick





It fairly boggled my mind when wifey read the piece on salon.com to me yesterday a.m. while having coffee. It had to do with a little known slush fund program that the author (David Dayen) compared to "crack cocaine for the Pentagon".  This slush fund goes under the eye- glazing title "Overseas Contingency Operations" fund or OCO, but it is really an underhanded device to bleed monies from government's tax commons without any accountability. It was one of the things former defense analyst Chuck Spinney warned the warhawks would try if they were never forced to account for "misplacing" $1.1 trillion of funding back in 2002.

That our leaders could actually aid and abet them in this, discloses they are - if not outright traitors - at least lacking any respect for the general welfare clause of the Constitution.  Indeed, this slush fund program (which borders on a black budget)  has enabled other non-military, domestic programs to face severe cuts - including under the draconian sequester baloney while the Pentagon got away Scot free. The reason is that our noisome rat politicos had set the program up so it could suddenly  - at any time-  morph into an "emergency funding" hole . Thus,  taxpayer money could be instantly funneled to the military and no one would be the wiser. Hence, while on paper the Pentagon and military appeared to be sharing in the budget cutting pain, in reality they were sitting pretty and laughing all the way to the bank.

DO the poor little bastards - admirals, five stars and others - need this extra hidden money? In two words, fuck no! In the words of one academic critic, the Pentagon is “a bureaucratic juggernaut accounting for 57% of the federal discretionary budget and nearly 40% of all military spending on this planet.”  But instead of bringing our tax dollars home with our troops as they come home from Afghanistan, the Pentagon and allies in Congress want to protect the profits of Pentagon contractors by adding billions to their off-budget slush fund. Oh wait! Did I say troops come home from Afghanistan? Even that's now put on hold and the money to keep them there will come from - you guessed it - OCO!

Meanwhile, 15 million hungry kids had to suffer at the end of 2013 when the federal SNAP (food stamps) program was cut by an additional $9 billion.   Many kids forced to raid dumpsters to try to get adequate food stuffs to eat. But did our bloated military-industrial complex care? Hell no! Why stop the gravy train when our own paid off political whores were behind it?  It is enough to make any proper citizen puke as I nearly did as the account was read to me.

Now, as we read Obama & Co. plan to extend the U.S. presence in Afghanistan we can be sure OCO monies will fund it as opposed to forcing congress to approve the taxes to pay for it. OR...to raise taxes to pay for fighting ISIS. No rational taxpayer would have complaints about fighting the ISIS rats but don't fucking do it under the table!  Put it out there in the legislative domain for citizens and taxpayers to see who will vote to raise taxes out in the open to pay for foreign military expeditions and engagements and who won't,

But let us admit here that this behind the doors sort of operation is inimical to democracy and the democratic process because there is no genuine oversight. There is no fiscal accountability because hidden funds can be piled in anytime it's convenient. This is what tyrants do, for god's sake - usually in military dictatorships.

The development of OCO represents a new mechanism for funding American wars since 9/11, another gift handed out by the George W. Bush Administration. “There’s no prior instance of such a thing in American military practice,” said Gordon Adams a professor at American University who worked on defense budgets at the Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration.

What it also does - by skirting traditional legislative channels and processes -  is pave the way for perpetual war. As long as money is no object because this slush fund exists, any war can be launched at any time by any nut who might assume the presidency - including Ted Cruz. It is time we held our representatives accountable, including that their setting up slush funds for the military outside of constitutional oversight  is the epitome of being un-American!

 See more at:

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/crack-cocaine-pentagon-exposing-defense-hawks-secret-slush-fund


and

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/pentagon-slush-fund-pays-for-isis-airstrikes-irking-some-in-congress/


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Solution of Dimensional Analysis Problems

1)     Use the method of dimensions to obtain a formula for the force experienced by a sphere of radius r moving at velocity v through a fluid of viscosity h.  (Hint: Set out the force as:           
  F = k hx v y r )


Solution: Use the table for dimensions to write them out for each factor:


For Force :  F has dimensions M L T -2


Velocity v  has dimensions L T - 1


h has dimensions M L-1 T -1


r has dimension L


Then, equating dimensions on both sides:


 M L T – 2  = [M L-1 T -1]x [L- 1] y [L]z



We next equate indices for M, L, and T on both sides:


For M:  1 =   x 

 

For L: 1  = -x  - y   + z 

 

For T:   -2 = -x – y


 
Next, solve for each of the indices:

a)  x =  1

b) y =   1

c) z =   3
 

Finally:  F = k h v  r  3  


2)  Repeat the exercise above to obtain the equation  for the period (T) of a pendulum’s swing. (Hint: The pendulum's period T should depend on its length L and the acceleration of gravity, g.)

Solution: Write out the provisional eqn.:

t  =    x  M  y r z


Write out dimensions for each side:

[T]   =  [ L - 2 ] [M]y  {L] z 

Solving for the indices:

1 = - 2x or x = - 1/2

0 = y

0 = x + z or x = - z = - (-1/2) = 1/2

Then:

t  =    k - 1/2   ℓ  1/2


(k  will be found  by separate analysis to be:  2 p)

So that:

t  =    Ö   / Ö g  

Ted Cruz - A Real Life "Greg Stillson" - From the 'Dead Zone'?

Our end-of-the-world obsession is killing us: Climate denial and the apocalypse, GOP-style
Ted Cruz has recently announced his presidential candidacy but there is no doubt that anyone who knows about this guy's background ought to be nervous, especially if he manages to bamboozle enough dopes to vote for him in primaries.  Given the stupidity of too many American voters it's quite possible this zealot could be the Reepo's candidate come 2016.

The New York Times, in a recent piece, describes him as "a conservative with sharp elbows" but he is more than that, he's a damned narcissist - which we certainly don't need occupying the White House.  The Times also described one incident in 2000 in which his inability to take orders became manifest while a junior Bush campaign aide. Cruz had originally secured a ticket to be present in the Supreme Court for Bush v. Gore but was asked to relinquish it to Donald Evans -long time Bush buddy. Cruz "chafed at the very idea, refusing to hand over his ticket and only backed down after an angry phone call from a senior staffer."

"Classic Cruz", according to the Times, but also classic narcissist and egomaniacal zealot - who believes his own ego, desires and pride dominate all other issues. The fact this renegade went so far as to shut the government down with his Tea Party crazies shows where his interests lie, and they aren't invested in the nation's welfare.

The more I saw of Cruz speeches and demagoguery the more they evoked the zealot fictional presidential candidate Greg Stillson, from the science fiction flick. 'The Dead Zone'.  In the movie, Stillson was a junior  Senator  whose messages of "personal responsibility"  and "small government"  combined with firebrand speeches and charisma catapulted  him to the top as a presidential candidate.

Poll after poll showed him locking up the nomination, again, because too many morons bought into his shtick.  The only suspicious  citizen turned out to be a former school teacher: Christopher Walken's crippled character.  However, after a nasty car accident he came away with an unusual talent: being able to see the future merely by making hand contact with a person.

Thus it was during one Stillson campaign stop, the teacher stands in line for the glad-handing and when he does make contact the image of Stillson as President takes hold.   There Stillson is, with a gun pointed at the head of his VP,  demanding he enter his own nuclear codes to complete Stillson's aspiration for a first strike missile launch   "sending the missiles forth to launch Armageddon."

The Veep complies as the new Prez receives the call that "the missiles are flying" and he screams in a voice eerily resembling Ted Cruz': "Hallelujiah! We have made history and fulfilled Bible prophecy!"

Of course, that would be the future had Walken's character not made contact. But he did. Thus, the film ends with the teacher making an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Stillson at a local confab.  Stillson survives, but only by snatching an infant from a supporter- which he holds up in front of his head. In the next instant the would-be assassin is felled by bullets from bodyguards, and Stillson leaves with his entourage,  shaken. However, the media are there with cameras at the ready and catch him using the infant as a shield. He (baby held up in front) makes the cover of all the major news magazines the following week.

The day after, staring at his cowardly image on the cover of Newsweek, he blows his own brains out, his Armageddon dreams unfulfilled.

But, of course, that movie was fiction. There are in reality no such things as crippled school teachers with precognitive powers who can see a presidential candidate's future actions.  If, indeed, Ted Cruz is a real life "Greg Stillson" (even in some limited but disturbing ways) it will be up to the American electorate to ensure he doesn't progress to the stage of being a GOP 2016 nominee.

Then there is the matter of funding. Will the GOP's deep pocket contributors really be prepared to back a zealot like Cruz? I doubt it.  But hey, the "race"  is still early so we will see. I somehow think Cruz jumping the gun on the rest of the field will show them what a narcissist he is and why his claim  to history will be short-lived. If nothing else, the debates next year should expose him to the nation as the Sen. Joe McCarthy-like creepazoid he really is.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Solar Energy Comes of Age in the U.S.

Barely ten years ago, the idea of solar power was still mostly mocked as the limited energy purview of assorted "tree hugger", arugala-munching  elites, but too expensive for the average person.  Even the arugala-munching  elites mainly used it for water heating. The expansion to utility power companies and multi-purpose uses had not yet occurred. Basically, thin -film photovoltaics (PV) had not yet emerged. Silicon had been the element of choice for solar panels, which was more efficient but expensive and difficult to mass -produce. Now that's changed.

Favorable economics for the PV thin-film panels have led to an explosion in solar energy potential most Americans are only dimly aware of. For example, most don't know that on February 9th a utility -scale solar power plant (run by "Desert Sunlight") was officially dedicated.

This occurred on 3,800 acres of land administered by the Bureau of Land Management - and most noteworthy - is now the 6th operational plant on federal property. (The gov't operates 250 million acres, mostly in the sunny, arid West, perfect for solar panels.)

The problem of utility scale solar plants poses an interesting conundrum. They need to be somewhere with year round sunlight, in a space vast enough to contain hundreds of thousands of solar modules, but close enough to civilization to easily connect to the grid.  Fortuitously, Desert Sunlights plant meets all the criteria, situated just outside Desert Center - a tiny town southeast of Joshua Tree National Park.

The site features millions of 1.2m by 0.6m panels each covered by a thin film of glass that absorbs sunlight and captures elections creating an electric current that flows into wires in the rear of each module. This represents d.c. (direct current) power which is then converted into a.c. by inverters. The converted power is then transferred to the electrical grid via a nearby substation. Each panel generates 90 to 100 watts,

Other facts of the burgeoning solar power industry with which you may be unaware:

- Desert Sunlight's solar plant has 8 million solar panels in all.

- About 160,000 homes are solar-powered by Desert Sunlight

- Fifty two utility scale renewable energy projects have been approved since 2009, including 29 solar plants.

- Solar power is now a $15 billion a year business in the U.S., employing more people than coal mining

- In 2014 alone, solar energy accounted for 36 percent of the country's new (installed) energy capacity

- First Solar has plans to build a 750 MW plant in Riverside, CA, even bigger than Desert Sunlight's.

All these ought to give Americans reason to hope that we've turned the corner on solar energy and perhaps very soon we might be able to pull back a bit on fossil fuels, including fracked oil and natural gas. In any case we have to, there's no issue on it.

Bill McKibben's 2, 795 gigatons is perhaps the scariest number most people never heard of- but Americans need to drill into their craniums. . It represents the total stored reserves of carbon held by coal, gas and oil companies. It was first highlighted and brought to global attention by the Carbon Tracker Initiative - a group of London financial analysts and environmentalists.  It is what the fossil fuel industry plans to exploit in the future by its whole spectrum of methods, whether deep sea drilling, oil shale fracking or natural gas fracking.

It is, in other words, five times more carbon than will already blow a gasket in our world and send it toward runaway greenhouse. It is a number we cannot afford to realize if we want to pass this planet on in any form to future generations.

And solar power may be the key to helping us avoid reaching it!