2009 - %3, January

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| Thu Jan. 29, 2009 8:07 PM EST
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Wind Employs More Americans Than Coal

| Thu Jan. 29, 2009 7:33 PM EST

wind.jpgThe wind energy industry is growing quickly and now employs more people than the coal industry. A report released this week by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) finds that 85,000 people work in wind, up from 50,000 a year ago. Todd Woody at Fortune's Green Wombat points out that 81,000 people work in the coal industry and notes, "Those figures are from a 2007 U.S. Department of Energy report but coal employment has remained steady in recent years though it's down by nearly 50% since 1986."

While there is growing demand for wind as an alternative energy source, and the industry is responding in kind—wind power generating capacity increased by 50% in 2008—it is not insulated from the broader economic slowdown. The AWEA reports that by the end of 2008 "financing for new projects and orders for turbine components slowed to a trickle and layoffs began to hit the wind turbine manufacturing sector." Notes AWEA CEO Denise Bode, granted with a vested interest:

"The U.S. wind energy industry's performance in 2008 confirms that wind is an economic and job creation dynamo, ready to deliver on the President's call to double renewable energy production in three years. At the same time, it is clear that the economic and financial downturn have begun to take a serious toll on new wind development. We are already seeing layoffs in the area where wind's promise is greatest for our economy: the wind power manufacturing sector. Quick action in the stimulus bill is vital to restore the industry's momentum and create jobs as we help make our country more secure and leave a more stable climate for our children."

So it's probably good for the wind industry that the House just passed Obama's stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, which, as the Congressional Quarterly noted, "includes $20 billion for the renewable-energy sector, including a three-year extension of the tax credit for producing electricity from wind." Needless to say, the investors are watching.

 

[Update: As commenters have pointed out, it seems I've fallen pray to a bit of an apples/oranges comparison here: The job figures for the coal sector only counted miners, while those for wind were all-inclusive. However, the trajectory for each industry remains clear: Coal is shedding jobs while wind is growing quickly.]

[Late update: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar—"Windmills off the East Coast could generate enough electricity to replace most, if not all, the coal-fired power plants in the United States."]


Photo used under Creative Commons license

Note to Trophy Wives: This Feminist Has Your Back

| Thu Jan. 29, 2009 6:49 PM EST

The Times ran an article about support groups for the wives/girlfriends of newly dispossessed Wall Street Banker types that bears feminist perusal:

The economic crisis came home to 27-year-old Megan Petrus early last year when her boyfriend of eight months, a derivatives trader for a major bank, proved to be more concerned about helping a laid-off colleague than comforting Ms. Petrus after her father had a heart attack.
For Christine Cameron, the recession became real when the financial analyst she had been dating for about a year would get drunk and disappear while they were out together, then accuse her the next day of being the one who had absconded.
Dawn Spinner Davis, 26, a beauty writer, said the downward-trending graphs began to make sense when the man she married on Nov. 1, a 28-year-old private wealth manager, stopped playing golf, once his passion. "One of his best friends told me that my job is now to keep him calm and keep him from dying at the age of 35," Ms. Davis said. "It's not what I signed up for."

So they get together, have (still) expensive cocktails and bemoan the halving of their monthly Bergdorf allowances while their men fall apart. Bien sur, they have a website defensively described as "free from feminist scrutiny." Well, this feminist feels you.

It would be inhuman not to expect someone whose living standard was suddenly pulled out from under them to bemoan its loss. If I can feel the pain of a recently laid-off Michigan autoworker's wife, why not that of a Bear Stearns' wife? Or the ex, with kids, who'd been living on alimony and child support from one of those Wall Street 'wunder kinds'?

Obviously, they should have saved, given that they had so much. But these women bemoan the loss of formally vital, go-getting men as much (ok, maybe as much?) as the lost ducats:

"It's a big blow to their egos and to their self-esteem," [one scholar] said of the endless stream of economic bad news, "and they may take it out on their partners and children."
Ms. Petrus, a lawyer, and Ms. Crowell, who works for a fashion Web site, started the support group when they realized that they were facing similar problems in their relationships with bankers last fall.
"We put two and two together and figured out that it was the economy, not us," Ms. Petrus recalled at a recent meeting in the lobby bar of the Bowery Hotel. "When guys in banking are going through this, they can't handle a relationship."(She and her boyfriend split up last year; he declined to discuss it.)
Many of the women said that as the economic crisis struck last fall, they began tracking the markets during the day to predict the moods that the men they loved might be in later. On big news days, like when the first proposed government bailout failed in Congress, or when Lehman went belly-up, they knew that plans to see their partners would be put off.
"I was like, 'O.K. I signed up for that, it's fine,' " said Ms. Cameron. "But all of a sudden," she said, her boyfriend "couldn't focus. If he stayed over he'd be up at some random hour checking his BlackBerry, Bloomberg, and CNBC."
One frequent topic among the group is the link between the boardroom and the bedroom. "There's actually the type of person who has a bad day on the trading floor and they want to have sex more," Ms. Spinner Davis offered as she sipped a vodka gimlet, declining to say how she knew.
Ms. Petrus chimed in.
"If you're lucky you'll get that guy," she said, not revealing whether she considered herself lucky. "Middle-case scenario: It gets relegated to the weekends.
"Worst-case scenario," she began, and then took another sip of her drink.

Is a fired steel worker, or Dollar Store worker, much different?

Granted, their men put us in the situation we're in. But we're all in free fall now. Resuming my humorless feminist persona, I'll just say that maybe now more women will make sure they have a financial fall back plan. All our hearts,of course, remain on their own.

Rod, We Hardly Knew Ye

| Thu Jan. 29, 2009 5:50 PM EST

ROD, WE HARDLY KNEW YE....The Rod Blagojevich soap opera is over. The Illinois Senate has voted to convict him on abuse of power charges and has removed him from office. Our long regional nightmare is finally over.

Antony and the Johnsons Score Huge European Hit

| Thu Jan. 29, 2009 4:36 PM EST

mojo-photo-antonyalbum.jpgNew York combo Antony and the Johnsons have made what Billboard magazine is calling "a dramatic debut" at No. 1 on their European Albums chart with their new full-length The Crying Light. The album is a Top 5 smash in countries from Sweden to Spain, and beats out both Duffy and Pink in the pan-Euro chart. Light is Antony and the Johnsons' third studio album, coming nearly four years after the Mercury Prize-winning I am a Bird Now, but its popularity may have something to do with singer Antony Hegarty's part in Hercules and Love Affair, whose "Blind" was one of the biggest dance songs of 2008.

The Crying Light, released last week, is getting good, if not stellar, reviews: Pitchfork gives it 8.6 out of 10 hipster points, but most other reviews come in below that. Rolling Stone and The Guardian both offered three out of five stars, with the latter saying the album feels familiar, stuck under "its predecessor's shadow," while acknowledging that Hegarty's voice is an "acquired taste." The album has yet to make much of an impact in the U.S., showing up only at #38 on the iTunes Alternative Albums chart. I'm kind of with the Guardian: I'd listen to Antony, with his rich, strange warble, sing his way through the phone book, but after the blast of shocking originality and heartrending emotion that was I Am a Bird Now, perhaps they could have pushed forward musically just a smidge. It's still beautiful music, though, by anyone's standards. Check out track one below.

"Her Eyes Are Underneath the Ground"

LOST: Slowly, Answers Are Coming

| Thu Jan. 29, 2009 3:12 PM EST

Last night's LOST episode, the second of the season, "Jughead," was full of answers. Or not even answers, but new information that gives reasons for answers. Now that the writers have an end date in sight, they seem to be picking up the pace and wrapping things up more tidily than last season. So what did we learn last night? Here are the highlights.

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Quote of the Day - 01.29.09

| Thu Jan. 29, 2009 2:06 PM EST

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From Alison Singer, who recently quit as head of communications at Autism Speaks, on the overwhelming evidence that vaccines have nothing to do with the development of autism in children:

At some point, you have to say, "This question has been asked and answered and it's time to move on." We need to be able to say, "Yes, we are now satisfied that the earth is round."

There was a time when investigating vaccines and thimerosal as possible contributing factors for autism made sense. That time is long past. The Jenny McCarthyization of the autism movement needs to be put finally and firmly to rest, and research money spent on actual science. Enough's enough.

Factoids

| Thu Jan. 29, 2009 1:40 PM EST

FACTOIDS....How is a factoid like Schrödinger's cat? Answer here.

Take a Sneak Peek at MoJo.com 2.0 in Beta

| Thu Jan. 29, 2009 1:34 PM EST

Next week (god willing) we'll be relaunching MotherJones.com. Gone will be the cluttered layout that you see here and the clunky code that we deal with. If you'd like to take a sneak peek, and along the way help us with load testing and bug targeting, go to http://www.motherjones.com. You'll be asked for a login and password. That's mojo/fearless (all lower case). Once you're in the site, you can read about why we did what we did, poke around, register and pimp out your profile, etc. Please bear in mind, however, that:

1) Your username will stay valid after the new site launches, so choose wisely...
2) Content is a few weeks out of date, and some old comments have yet to migrate too. Don't worry, we'll get the latest articles and all the comments moved over when we launch.
3) Comments you leave on the beta site will be overwritten when we switch over. Please do leave comments and try out the discussion system, just remember that if you've written any great pearls of wisdom, you should save a copy elsewhere.
4) Any questions, bug reports, or general input about the site, please leave a comment on our inaugural blog post, or email us at web-feedback@motherjones.com.

Eager to hear what you have to say. (And yes, we know it's slow, we're running compression programs...)

Employment

| Thu Jan. 29, 2009 1:15 PM EST

EMPLOYMENT....The latest on the employment front:

The total number of U.S. workers filing claims for jobless benefits lasting more than one week has soared to a record high, a government report showed, a sign of the severe toll the deepening recession is taking on the unemployed.

....The U.S. has lost jobs in each of the last 12 months, and employers slashed payrolls at a rate of about half a million per month in the final four months of 2008. This month's claims figures point to another drop of that magnitude when January data are released next week.

Indeed, the hemorrhaging of jobs shows no sign of abating.

The stimulus bill making its way through Congress right now obviously isn't perfect. What is? But all the evidence suggests that employment levels are going to remain anemic for another couple of years at least, which means that spending stimulus will remain effective through FY2011 at a minimum. And since virtually all of the spending in the current bill gets disbursed before then, this means it's all reasonably well targeted.

Still, isn't the bill just a hodgepodge of unrelated spending? Sure. What else could it be? There's no way to spend $800 billion on infrastructure over the next two years, so most of the money has to be spent on other stuff. But so what? Employing clerks or crossing guards or home care workers counts every bit as much as employing backhoe operators or engineers. Spending money on contraceptives does as much for the economy as spending money on rebar. An unemployment check gets spent on food the same way a paycheck does.

In an ideal world there's stuff about this bill that all of us would change. Overall, though, what we have isn't bad, and the real world being what it is, I'd give it a B or a B+. So it deserves to pass, and quickly. But once that's done, it's going to be time to start talking seriously about what happens after that. Our economy is way out of kilter, and has been for a while, and President Obama needs to let us know what he thinks needs to be done about that. Pass the bill, then let's talk.