Sunday, August 19, 2018

Climate Grief


Below is a pretty good description of what the author calls "climate grief"�the crushing realization that everything at all lovely about this world of ours is dying. I can certainly empathize with his feelings although for myself, grief would be a vast improvement over the the feelings that wash over me whenever I allow myself to think deeply about our rapidly changing climate. In no particular order they are:

Naked Terror. When a person grows up on the high prairie, the idea that mother nature is this incredibly beautiful, benevolent, life-sustaining force is tempered by the reality that mom can easily kill you with tornadoes, howling blizzards, sleet, brutal heatwaves, or tennis-ball-sized hail. When I was 16, I nearly froze to death changing a flat tire less than a half mile from our house in North Dakota. Add a few experiences like this together, and the idea that this will all get a lot worse very soon because humanity conducted an arrogant chemistry experiment in the atmosphere is enough to make me very, very afraid.

The wrath of natural laws. Science teaches a bunch of natural laws that work every time, all the time. Raise the temperature of water to 100�C and it will turn to steam. Step off a cliff, and you will fall to the bottom. This is a world where there is no appeal. This is the world of climate science. Pump excessive CO2 into the atmosphere and the planet will get hotter�of this there is no rational debate.

Head-pounding frustration. I have been writing about environmental matters since the 1980s. Almost all of it can still stand close scrutiny. When I think about the vast possibilities of the sustainable society, I can have feelings close to elation. When I consider that very little has been accomplished compared to the problems, the frustration can be overwhelming.

Disgust at useless symbolism. Nothing upsets me quite like a climate change enthusiast who outlines the sordid tales of woe followed by some lame suggestions of raising consciousness and political organizing, or more conferences followed by targets and carbon taxes. This is the biggest calamity ever faced by humans. Most of us in the "developed" world live in societies powered by fossil fuels at every turn. Without them, we have no drinking water, weather-sheltered housing, food, medicine, or mostly anything else. This infrastructure must be redesigned and rebuilt. Since it required hundreds of years to build what we have�building the new world will take a least a few decades. And that's if we immediately embark on an organized crash program.

The builder's perspective. I have been building things since I can remember. Some of my favorite memories are of industrial tours. I can hardly look at at anything without speculating how it was constructed. And what this has taught me is that everything, and I mean everything, is more difficult to build than anyone can possibly imagine without actually doing it. And even if one has carefully planned out all the relevant operations, it always goes much more quickly in one's head than in the real world where real-world problems show up on a daily basis. Of all the reasons for my despair over not accomplishing anything meaningful about climate change, the saddest fact for me that even those with the necessary credentials to build the new sustainable world will take more time than their worst guesses.

The Best Medicine for My Climate Grief

A climate scientist talks to a psychologist about coping with the crushing stress related to climate change. Here�s what he learned.

Peter Kalmus, Aug 09, 2018

Sometimes a wave of climate grief breaks over me. It happens unexpectedly, perhaps during a book talk, or while on the phone with a congressional representative. In a millisecond, without warning, I�ll feel my throat clench, my eyes sting, and my stomach drop as though the Earth below me is falling away. During these moments, I feel with excruciating clarity everything that we�re losing�but also connection and love for those things.

Usually I don�t mind the grief. It�s clarifying. It makes sense to me, and inspires me to work harder than ever. Occasionally, however, I feel something quite different, a paralyzing sense of anxiety. This climate dread can last for days, even weeks. It can come with nightmares, for example, my favorite shady oak grove baking in the full sun of a heat wave, the oaks all dead and gone. During these periods, writing about climate change becomes all but impossible, as if hundreds of thoughts are jostling to squeeze through a narrow doorway onto the page. My scientific output slows to a trickle, as well; it feels like it just doesn�t matter.

I sense a social barrier to talking about these emotions. If I bring up climate change in casual conversation, the topic is often met with awkward pauses and the polite introduction of new subjects. Aside from increasingly frequent articles in the news about the typically incremental and sometimes disastrous progression of climate breakdown, we seldom talk about it, face to face. It�s as though the topic is impolite, even taboo.

With so much at stake�our security and normalcy; the futures we�d envisioned for our children; our sense of progress and where we fit in the universe; beloved places, species, and ecosystems�the psychology is going to be complex. So I reached out to Renee Lertzman to gain insight into how we�re coping with such huge impending losses. Lertzman is a psychologist studying the effects of environmental loss on mental health and the author of Environmental Melancholia: Psychoanalytic Dimensions of Engagement.

�There is overwhelming research that distress and anxiety relating to climate is on the rise,� she told me. �Many people, I�d argue, are experiencing what I�d call a �latent� form of climate anxiety or dread, in that they may not be talking about it much but they are feeling it.�

If we�re feeling these emotions or if we know others who are, it would be helpful to talk about them. �The main thing is that we find ways to talk about what we are experiencing in a safe and nonjudgmental context, and to be open to listening. All too often, when anxiety or fear comes up, we all want to push it away and move into �solutions.��

A 2017 report by the American Psychological Association found that climate change is causing stress, anxiety, depression, and relationship strain. The psychological weight of climate change can lead to feelings of helplessness and fear, and to climate disengagement. Not surprisingly, those directly impacted by climate-augmented disasters fare even worse: For example, after Hurricane Katrina, suicide in affected areas more than doubled; the situation in post-Maria Puerto Rico is similarly dire. In general, suicide is projected to rise dramatically due to climate change; in addition to the psychological toll, our brains don�t respond well physically to excessive heat.

To think daily about climate change and any of its dire implications can be a crushing psychological burden. Each of us is just one mammal, with all our mammalian limitations�we get tired, sad, irritated, sick, overwhelmed�and the climate crisis wields the force of 8 billion humans with infrastructure, corporations, capital, politics, and imaginations heavily invested in burning fossil fuel.

�It�s important to remember that inaction is rarely about a lack of concern or care, but is so much more complex,� Lertzman said. �Namely, that we westerners are living in a society that is still deeply entrenched in the very practices we now know are damaging and destructive. This creates a very specific kind of situation�what psychologists call cognitive dissonance. Unless we know how to work with this dissonance, we will continue to come up against resistance, inaction, and reactivity.�

I�ve been working through my own climate dissonance since 2006, back when the atmospheric carbon concentration was just 380 parts per million. That year I reached a tipping point in my own awareness of what was happening and what it meant. It was challenging to carry that knowledge when no one close to me seemed to care. But, said Lertzman, �we need to be careful not to make assumptions about other people�s relationships with these issues. Even if people may not be showing it, research shows again and again that it�s still on their minds and a source of discomfort or distress.� If she�s right, maybe the sea change in public action we desperately need is closer than it seems. It would certainly be helpful if we could talk openly about how climate change is making us feel.

Things do feel somewhat different now, both because more people are calling for action than in 2006 and also because I�m now part of communities with people who are as concerned as I am (for example, my local chapter of Citizens� Climate Lobby). There are more people in my life talking openly about climate change. And that helps.

Another way I cope is by simply burning less fossil fuel. This eliminates internal cognitive dissonance by aligning my actions with my knowledge. It also brings some great fringe benefits, such as more exercise from biking, healthier eating through vegetarianism, more connection to the land through gardening, and more connection to my community through activism and public outreach.

Finally, I actively work to be hope-oriented. In the film Melancholia, about a mysterious planet on a collision course with Earth, the protagonist passively accepts, even embraces, apocalypse. Nothing can stop it; ecological annihilation is inevitable.

Modern climate change is completely different: It�s 100 percent human-caused, so it�s 100 percent human-solvable. If humans pulled together as if our lives depended on it, we could leave fossil fuel in a matter of years. This would require radical change across global society, and I�m not suggesting it will happen. But it could, and this possibility leaves open a middle path, something between sweeping climate action and an unavoidable planetary collision�a rapid cultural shift, one that we all can contribute to through our conversations and our daily actions. And that�s a very hopeful thing. more

Week-end Wrap - August 18, 2018

Week-end Wrap - August 18, 2018
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus


USA Conservatives Calling for New Constitutional Convention to Kill Off the "Welfare State"
by Jamiles Lartey, August 11, 2018 [The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 8-12-18]
This should be taken very seriously, despite the usual conservative idiocy of equating socialism with a lack of "free dumb." If conservatives, libertarians, and Republicans actually get a convention, they are sure to target the General Welfare mandate for elimination, though they dare not openly talk about it now. Randall G. Holcombe, who served on Governor Jeb Bush's Council of Economic Advisors. in the 2016 campaign, wrote a 1992 article arguing that the major improvement of the Confederate Civil War constitution was the elimination of the General Welfare mandate. They will also enshrine their doctrine of enumerated powers, which has been repeatedly rejected by the Supreme Court until now. They could then proceed at leisure to have the courts, packed with their Federalist Society ideologues, declare programs such as Social Security unconstitutional.
It�s been more than 230 years since America�s last constitutional convention, but there is growing confidence in some conservative circles that the next one is right around the corner � and could spell disaster for entitlement programs like medicare and social security, as well court decisions like Roe v Wade. 
�I think we�re three or four years away,� said the former Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn on Friday, speaking at the annual convention for American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) � a powerful rightwing organization that links corporate lobbyists with state lawmakers from across the country. 
Coburn, a veteran Republican lawmaker, now works as a senior adviser for the advocacy group Convention of States, which seeks to use a little known clause in article V of the US constitution to call a constitutional convention for new amendments to dramatically restrict the power of the federal government. 
�We�re in a battle for the future of our country,� Coburn told the assembly of mostly conservative state lawmakers meeting in New Orleans. �We�re either going to become a socialist, Marxist country like western Europe, or we�re going to be free. As far as me and my family and my guns, I�m going to be free."

What you probably don�t know about Social Security
by Alessandra Malito, August 17, 2018 [MarketWatch, via Naked Capitalism]
Social Security works. In fact, in works really well. 
Nancy Altman: The truth about Social Security today is that it works extremely well. It is completely consistent with the founder�s vision and in fact, although some revisionist historians today say the founders wouldn�t recognize it, not only would FDR recognize it today but they�d be shocked that it wasn�t larger and didn�t include Medicare for All, or paid parental leave, or medical leave, because those are all aspects they envisioned. They were very pragmatic, so they wanted to start there. FDR said he didn�t want to start extravagantly because he wanted it to be a success but it was a cornerstone on which to build.
MarketWatch: How does Social Security help Americans? How much would you say Americans rely on it? 
Altman: Social Security provides a foundation for economic support. We need insurance against loss and that�s what Social Security provides. It is extremely important to everyone. It is particularly important to women and people of color, who have been discriminated against, or people who have earned less in jobs that are more physically demanding 

Why US leadership stinks and drone assassinations are not winning
by Ian Welsh, August 13, 2018 [IanWelsh.com]
American leaders are obsessed with leadership because they lead organizations where no one believes in the organization�s goals. Or rather, they lead organizations where everyone knows the leadership doesn�t believe in its ostensible goals. Schools are lead by people who hate teachers and want to privatize schools to make profit. The US is lead by men who don�t believe in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Police are lead by men who think their job is to protect the few and beat down the many, not to protect and serve. Corporations make fancy mission statements and talk about valuing employees and customers, but they just want to make a buck and will fuck anyone, employee or customer, below the c-suite. They don�t have a �mission� (making money is not a mission, it�s a hunger if it�s all you want to do), they are parasites and they know it. 
Making organizations work if they�re filled with people who don�t believe in the organization, who believe that the �leadership� is only out for themselves and has no mission beyond helping themselves, not even enriching the employees or shareholders, is actually hard. People don�t get inspired by making the c-suite rich. Bureaucrats, knowing they are despised and distrusted by their political matters, and knowing that they aren�t allowed to do their ostensible job, as with the EPA generally not being allowed to protect the environment, the DOJ not being allowed to prosecute powerful monied crooks and the FDA being the slave of drug companies and the whims of politically connected appointees, are hard to move, hard to motivate, hard to get to do anything but the minimum. 
So American leaders, and indeed the leaders of most developed nations think they�re something special. Getting people to do anything, and convincing people to do the wrong thing, when they joined to actually teach, protect the environment, make citizens healthier or actually prosecute crooks is difficult. Being a leader in the West, even though it comes with virtually complete immunity for committing crimes against humanity, violating civil rights, or stealing billions from ordinary citizens, is in many respects a drag. 

Top CEOs� compensation increased 17.6 percent in 2017; The ratio of CEO-to-worker compensation grew to 312-to-1 
August 17, 2018 [Economic Policy Institute, via Naked Capitalism]


Some Illuminating Reactions To Elizabeth Warren�s Worker Rights Plan
by Nathan J. Robinson, August 16, 2018 [Current Affairs, via Naked Capitalism].
�Warren�s plan is similar, though less radical, than the employee co-determination scheme that operates in Germany. It would leave the basic structure of American enterprise entirely untouched. But, in a sign of just how extreme U.S. �free market� thinking truly is, commentators on the right instantly denounced Warren�s as representing the total destruction of economic life as we know it.�. 
Either way, though, this is a dispute about the best policy. It is not about whether the government is being a �dictatorship� or not, because no matter what you think the legal purpose of a corporation ought to be, there is a legal purpose, a.k.a. a government requirement. In fact, there are already tons of requirements that the government imposes on corporations, because the corporation is a creation of government. If Kevin Williamson thinks Elizabeth Warren�s proposal is dictatorial, just wait until he sees the Delaware incorporation statute, the law that defines how a corporation works. It tells corporations how their officers are to be selected, who has liability for what, what powers the stockholders have. It even tells them how often they have to have meetings! Dictatorship! Slavery! The road to serfdom!� 
For actual conservative shriking hysteria, see Elizabeth Warren�s Batty Plan to Nationalize Everything in National Review, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-18.

There continues to be a wide ranging discussion of socialism. Note, however, there is never any mention of republicanism, nor the creation of USA as the Enlightenment's culminating rejection of feudalism, monarchy, and oligarchic authoritarianism, including ecclesiastical. 

Socialists Need To Fight For Economic Change � Not Just Another Version Of Capitalism
[Huffington Post, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-18]

�Socialism� vs. �capitalism�: what left and right get wrong about the debate
[Vox, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-18]

What Is Living and What Is Dead in Social Democracy?
by Tony Judt, New York Review of Books. From 2009. via Naked Capitalism 8-18-18]


Corporate power on the agenda at Jackson Hole
[Financial Times via Naked Capitalism 8-18-18.

AP Exclusive: Google tracks your movements, like it or not
Lambert Strether, 8-13-18 [AP, via Naked Capitalism] 
AP excerpt followed by Lambert's commentary:
�An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you�ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so. Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP�s request�. Google offers a more accurate description of how Location j account webpage . There the company notes that �some locatio may be saved as part of your activity on other Google services, like Search and Maps.� � So, Google engineers are getting free lunch and backrubs at their desks to create �dark patterns� that screw their users over. I�ve helpfully underlined the dark pattern in the quote: It�s called �Privacy Zuckering,� where �You are tricked into publicly sharing more information about yourself than you really intended to.� We�ve got the patterns documented, and we understand the engineering. Why not outlaw the practices as consumer fraud? With criminal penalties?
August 13, 2018 [247 Wall Street, via Naked Capitalism]
August 15, 2018 [BBC, via Naked Capitalism]
Yves Smith comments: "I�ve assumed this to be the case, that if your device has GPS location, the only way to disable that is to put it in a Faraday bag or remove the chip."

Meet Dark Money�s Secret $68 Million Donor
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens, August 14, 2018 [Wall Street on Parade]
A nice, short profile of the recent doings of the Koch's Donors Capital Fund. 

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens, August 9, 2018 [Wall Street on Parade]

By Diana Gitig, August 16, 2018 [Ars Technica, via Naked Capitalism]
Wheat is the most widely cultivated crop on the planet, accounting for about a fifth of all calories consumed by humans and more protein than any other food source. Although we have relied on bread wheat so heavily and for so long (14,000 years-ish), an understanding of its genetics has been a challenge. Its genome has been hard to solve because it is ridiculously complex. The genome is huge, about five times larger than ours. It's hexaploid, meaning it has six copies of each of its chromosomes. More than 85 percent of the genetic sequences among these three sets of chromosome pairs are repetitive DNA, and they are quite similar to each other, making it difficult to tease out which sequences reside where. 
The genomes of rice and corn�two other staple grain crops�were solved in 2002 and 2009, respectively. In 2005, the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium determined to get a reference genome of the bread wheat cultivar Chinese Spring. Thirteen years later, the consortium has finally succeeded.

Report: Renewables will be as good as free by 2030
(8/13) [Financial Times (subscription required), via American Wind Energy Association]
The cost of renewables will be so low by 2030 that the energy source will basically be free, according to a UBS Investment Bank report.

Opinion: The US needs a national clean-energy standard
(8/14) [The New York Times, via American Wind Energy Association]
The US should adopt a national clean-energy standard as a means to curb greenhouse gas emissions and give states flexibility to encourage the use of low-emitting energy sources, write Justin Gillis and Jameson McBride. If Congress can't pass such a standard, they argue, then advocates must turn to states for support as they have more control over the electrical grid anyway
Liquid Battery Promises Safe Energy-Dense Power For Electric Aircraft
by Graham Warwick, August 17, 2018 [Aviation Week & Space Technology]
NASA is researching rechargeable flow-battery technology that uses active electrochemical particles suspended in water-based liquid.

Sydney metro high-speed testing underway
August 15, 2018 [Railway Age]
High-speed testing of Alstom Metropolis trains has begun on the first phase of the Sydney metro network, with trains regularly reaching speeds of 100km/h during daylight test runs. One test train reached 110km/h on the elevated section in the suburbs. Full Article
VIDEO: New Age plans for GE�s Brazil locomotive factory
August 15, 2018 [Railway Age]
One of the oldest producers of locomotives is introducing a new approach to manufacturing as it expands its global reach. GE Transportation announced that its plant in Contagem, Brazil, will employ a mixed-model moving assembly line. Full Article

North Carolina Senator Richard Burr finally talks about his investigation of Russian meddling in USA elections
August 17, 2018 [Associated Press, via Naked Capitalism]]
�For much of the last two years, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr has been the Russia investigator who is seen but rarely heard on Capitol Hill� Burr said there is �no factual evidence today that we�ve received� on collusion or conspiracy between Russia and President Donald Trump�s campaign. But he said he�s still open on the issue�.

For now, Burr says, the committee is preparing to put out two reports by the end of September: one on the Obama administration�s response to Russia�s election interference, and a second on Russia�s election meddling on social media�. �I don�t think any of us when we started understood just how coordinated the disinformation and societal chaos campaign was. I think what probably will be shocking is how early it started.... 

Friday, August 17, 2018

What happens with the new round of sanctions aimed at Russia


Regular readers already know the party line around here is that sanctions have proved very beneficial to the Russian economy because they cut off the country from the worst of the neoliberal economic advice that shows up with integration into the global Washington Consensus institutions. The economics of self-sufficiency has again produced superior results.

One of the details about Russia I learned in 1972 on a tour of Leningrad was that she had within her borders commercial supplies of every element on the periodic table. When I heard that, the thought crossed my mind "if this country could get rid of their economic crackpots, it would be easily the richest country on earth."

Alexander Mercouris presents an informed argument for why Russia is well-prepared for another round of USA sanctions.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Is climate change finally going to get proper news coverage?


About ten years ago, I was conversing with a friend whose most interesting characteristic was, IMHO, that he was the only person who had been granted a PH.D in electrical engineering in 1943 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. USA was geared up for a major war effort but they also wanted breakthroughs in EE. That he was allowed to finish a degree put him roughly in the same company as the guys who got military deferments to work at Los Alamos. Smartest guy I ever met. Early on that evening, he leaned over and said very seriously, "There is one subject that is so important that every day there should be headlines in 144 pt type in every newspaper in the land. What do you think I am talking about?"

My response of "the only thing I can even think of is climate change" seemed to make him happier. The man is now dead for seven years. And only now do I see that there are a few glimmerings of wider serious interest in the subject. But the conversation, such as it is, is still pretty superficial. This morning I watched Chris Hedges interview none other than James Hansen on climate change. Hedges, ever the divinity student, kept searching for the bad guys, while Hansen pitched carbon taxes and a lawsuit filed in the name of the children who are inheriting our screwed-up atmosphere. While both had somewhat compelling arguments, neither seemed to understand that none of their suggestions would actually move the needle on atmospheric CO2. This was a conversation between a Harvard-educated, Pulitzer-prize-winning former NYT writer and one of USA's great astrophysicists. Too bad they never met my friend.

Below are two samples of what I consider the new awareness spawned by this crazy-hot summer with multiple wildfires including arctic Sweden. We will see what happens. The subject of climate change is just scientific enough so that if someone slept through basic high school chemistry, their judgment must be second-hand�your expert against my expert. In my experience, every climate change denier shows obvious signs of goofing off in science classes�or skipping them entirely. Which means you cannot convince that person with a scientific argument.

A Rip Van Winkle President Sleeps as Proof of Man�s Hand in Climate Change Multiplies and Disasters Strike

ARSHAD KHAN, AUGUST 15, 2018

To be rational is to know that weather events cannot be causally related to climate change, although exacerbation is another issue. Yet when the news is full of record setting fires in California and Greece and Australia, temperature records tumbling, and typhoons and hurricanes relentless in their intensity, one might be forgiven for wondering.

Those who are not climate scientists can only interpret research done by others for the general public and form opinions colored by their work. That sum of work as it develops becomes more frightening by the day, with a strong fear the predictions will come true earlier than anticipated.

Now there is new climate research on the troposphere, a region extending from the surface of the earth to 16 km (10 miles) at the tropics and 13 km at the poles. Researchers have studied the amplitudes of the annual cycle of tropospheric temperatures, the highs and the lows, and how these have changed over time. Above all, they have examined human agency.

The news, as they say, is not good. Their results the authors state, �provide powerful and novel evidence for a statistically significant human effect on earth�s climate.� They call it �anthropogenic forcing�.

As a consequence we have �pronounced midlatitude increases in annual cycle amplitudes in both hemispheres.� These are repeated in satellite data. It means higher tropospheric temperatures in summer and lower in winter.

Not only is there �seasonality in some of the climate feedbacks triggered by external forcings� (read human fingerprint), say the authors, but worse �there are widespread signals of seasonal changes in the distribution and abundance of plant and animal species.� In other words, we are screwing up wildlife, both plant and animal.

It is as if the air in the earth�s attic is warmer in summer and colder in winter. And its air conditioner, the tropical rainforest is on the blink. Greed for hardwoods and farmland has resulted in serious depletion.

Meanwhile, carbon dioxide levels continue to soar, exceeding 412 pp mon May 14, 2018. The last time the earth reached a 400 ppm threshold was several million years ago. The human footprint here is proven through the negative delta13C levels caused by fossil fuel use. Combining the CO2 rise with increasing tropospheric temperature cycle amplitudes only magnifies the problem.

A quick glance at recent weather disaster reports, several within a week, should satisfy skeptics of the exacerbation of extreme events:
+ The Mendocino Complex fire in California is the largest in the state�s history. It is uncontrollable and expected to burn through August.

+ Record breaking rains in Western Japan have resulted in floods causing over 150 fatalities and mudslides knocking over and destroying homes. �We�ve never experienced this kind of rain before,� said a weather official.

+ Floods in France have led to the evacuation of 1600 people. The flooding comes after the area and much of Europe suffered extremely hot weather. Thus in July, devastating wildfires in Greece killed 92 people. And as warning in Southeastern Australia, the bushfire season has been brought forward two months from October due to excessively dry hot weather.

+ Extremely heavy rains in Toronto have flooded the city. Two men trapped in a basement elevator were rescued through the heroic efforts of first responders, who swam to the elevator and used a crowbar to open the doors. There was just a foot of breathable air when the men swam out.
The climate story is not new; from Svante Arrhenius, the Swedish scientist who foresaw global warming from the use of fossil fuel (and thought it to be fortunate for Northern Europe) to James E. Hansen the climate scientist who, in historic Senate testimony on June 23, 1988, gave clear warning of the greenhouse effect that was changing the earth�s climate.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established later that year, although the Montreal Protocol a year earlier had set the stage. The Fifth IPCC Assessment was published in 2014 and the next one is due in 2022. Yet, what have we learned?

On July 19, 2018, the House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution, H.Con.Res.119, denouncing a carbon tax as detrimental to the U.S. economy. As we march to climate self-destruction, the president wants to increase the use of coal and has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement.

Must we wait for the melting Arctic ice to flood the Trump Tower basement? more

Climate Change Bites Big Business

by MANUEL GARC�A, JR. AUGUST 14, 2018

�Electoral politics is not the solution to the Earth-threatening problems we face.�

� Jeffrey St. Clair, 10 August 2018, Counter Punch

There is now no non-violent way to reverse climate change. Even with morally unrestrained action, it is probable that there is now no physical possibility of reversing climate change. The time for action was 1973-1979, the time of the two oil embargoes (the post Israeli War � against Egypt and Syria � Arab Oil Embargo of 1973; and the related-to-the-Iranian-Revolution vengeful price gouge oil embargo of 1979). This was the period of the Watergate-climax finale of the Nixon Administration, the Ford Administration, and the Carter �energy crisis� Administration. Politically, the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 killed the possibility of US climate change action.

From Reagan through Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama to Trump, the mentioning of climate change � as one of government�s highest priorities, as one of corporate America�s foremost concerns (to be addressed, not suppressed), and as one of mainstream media�s primary and continuing focuses and leading stories � was minimized if not altogether absent. If anything, climate change denialism was heavily promoted by corporate and partisan (right wing) media, and by legions of corporate agents, flacks and factotums masquerading as elected representatives in federal and state governments. That has now changed.

Climate change is now all over the front pages of the newspapers and is the headline story of the mainstream mass media, primarily because of the massive fires in California whose smoke has even reached New York City. Why this new overt and blaring mainstream news attention to climate change, a subject that was officially hush-hush, trivial and fake news so recently in the past? Obviously because climate change has begun costing big money to major sectors of American capitalism.

In the case of the 2017-2018 California wildfires, one of the costs to capitalism is the financial threat of bankruptcy via liability suits against Northern California�s regulated monopoly utility company, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), which is being held responsible for causing the Sonoma and Napa Counties fires of 2017, because electric power lines swung into too-near tree branches during high winds setting off sparks that ignited fires that raced across the dry countryside, incinerating many communities and much industrial infrastructure (e.g., for telephone, internet and TV distribution, and also numerous small business facilities, croplands and vineyards).

A second set of costs to capitalism from California�s vast wildfires of 2017-2018 are the high losses to fire insurance companies, prompting their threats to leave the California insurance market, which in essence would mean a very sharp increase of fire insurance rates for California residents, homeowners and businesses. It seems unlikely to everybody that multi-countywide wildfires like those of 2017 and 2018 are a fluke unlikely to reoccur next year and thereafter.

Companies offering flood, tornado and hurricane insurance along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States, and in Puerto Rico, may now also be smarting from the increased damage caused by more frequent and more powerful hurricanes, and the drenching and flooding rainstorms of the last few years. As with the vaster wildfires and longer wildfire season in the West, the more frequent and extensive flood and tornado disasters in the Great Plains and Gulf and Atlantic coasts have likely seeded thoughts of insurance flight and massive rate increases, and loan rate increases, in the minds of the moguls of the liability underwriting industry and the investment banking industry.

Higher insurance and loan costs hamper any business operation, and dampen real estate construction and sales activity, as well as adding usually unproductive costs to the living expenses of homeowners and renters seeking to buy a little security against unanticipated personal catastrophes.

It is good to remember that the reason the nuclear power industry (for electric generation) is dead is because the insurance industry worldwide rates nuclear power as an infinite liability and thus an uninsurable risk. Nuclear power can only exist where government assumes 100% of the liability in perpetuity. Insurance companies are starting to get the queasy feeling that perhaps wildfires in California (and probably the Great American Desert west of the Mississippi), as well as hurricanes along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States, are growing into potentially bankrupting infinite liability insurance risks.

A true and honest free market zealot would say: �So what, if companies like PG&E are at fault for wildfire apocalypses then let them get sued into bankruptcy. Another set of entrepreneurs will take their place as providers of electricity and natural gas for consumers, and profit as they deserve for providing safe and reliable service. Also, if some insurance companies are too scared to underwrite the risks of wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods, then let them run away or price themselves out of the market, because newer entrepreneurs will become new insurance providers who will take advantage of capturing an underserved market by offering affordable insurance, and thus profit by gaining a large customer base that would then dilute their aggregate risk.� Yes, zealot, but �true and honest� does not usually pair with �profit� when we are dealing with Big Money operators. So, what is more likely to happen?

In the official postmortem of the 2017 Northern California wildfires, PG&E was pointed to as the primary (essentially only) culprit because of the arcing contact between live electric cables and dry tree limbs during the high winds preceding the fires. PG&E is required by regulations to maintain a set clearance between its power cables and all trees near them. That clearance was obviously insufficient, either because of an inadequacy of the state regulations, or an insufficiency of tree trimming maintenance by PG&E�s tree trimming contractors, or both. Fingers will point, courts will be busy.

However, the idea of thousands of burned-out wildfire victims suing PG&E into bankruptcy will not happen because the state of California would then have the colossal headache of finding a new enormous and technically competent business entity to seamlessly take over the operations of producing and distributing electric power and natural gas to many millions of Californians populating a large and geographically diverse terrain. So, California state government will revise old laws or craft new ones to provide too-important-to-fail utilities like PG&E (and Edison International, and San Diego Gas & Electric) with some legal protection from the financial threat of bankruptcy over the liability of causing wildfires. (See the citation at the end for the legalistic details.)

The FIRE combine (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate; and their meshing as Wall Street speculation), along with the War Industries Complex, has a stranglehold on today�s U.S. Government. Recall that FIRE owned the political career of Barack Obama, who dutifully protected them from justifiable prosecution and punishment for the greatest robbery of all time, in 2008; and that military-related expenses and subsidies consume over 70% of the federal budget (our taxes). While American Big Business includes many other rich and politically powerful sectors, like Big Pharma, I think that FIRE and the War Industries Complex are the largest forces in American capitalism today.

It seems to me that now that climate change is biting Big Business in a big way, the mainstream media is excited to report all the lurid details of catastrophes spawned by climate change, because it is echoing the fears of their prime and patronizing audience: the loss of big money by Big Business, and its fear of the loss of future certainty of uninterrupted profitability. Big Capital is now openly scared about climate change, and that is what we are now seeing as headline news.

We will also be seeing urgent promotions � presented as mass media news and commentary � for varieties of government subsidized protection for those sectors of Big Business that feel most financially threatened by the biting furies of climate change. The little that California state government is now doing for moderating the potentially infinite liabilities of its wildfire-haunted electric utilities is only the beginning of what we can expect in the way of publicly subsidized climate change insurance for Big Business.

I think that the pretense of climate change denialism by the Big Money has crumbled, and we are now entering a period of overt climate change acknowledgment coupled with fanatical efforts to gain public subsidies for private interests to both insure and indemnify them against climate change-related financial losses, and to also preserve the nature of their businesses even if they are major CO2 and organic vapor polluters, like the petrochemical and coal companies. more

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

It's harder than it looks (part...)


Amid the soap opera of Tesla, Musk, and whether the stock market is "properly" valuing the EV car market, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that what Tesla is attempting to accomplish is nothing short of miraculous. Because an electric car can be built by a hard-working shade-tree mechanic, the idea that any established car company should be able to build an EV if they just put their mind to it tends to become a sort of conventional wisdom. Tesla shorts repeat this mantra until big money is involved.

It turns out that an EV is a dramatically different sort of animal because many of the skills required to make an ICE car are simply not relevant. Literally millions of hours have been spent over the years to make a smooth-shifting, reliable, transmission. An EV usually doesn't even need a transmission�or a fuel pump, or a bunch of other things that make cars so complex. But what they do need are reliable batteries�LOTS of them. And the problem of buying enough batteries for a backyard EV conversion do not scale up to the problem of producing thousands of battery packs for long-range vehicles every week.

So all the issues surrounding Tesla's driven, grumpy, charismatic leader are way less important than whether the company can produce enough batteries. And that makes Tesla's boring Nevada gigafactory important enough to (almost) justify its market capitalization�which is higher than GM which makes and sells more than 2.6 million vehicles per year compared to Tesla's goal of 250,000.

Electric Car Growth Produces Battery Shortages, Carmakers Can�t Match Production With Demand


August 12th, 2018 by Christopher Arcus

The earlier than anticipated onset of successful, fairly affordable, long-range electric vehicle (EV) demand has caught both battery manufacturers and car companies by surprise � even the most bullish of car companies.

Carmakers like GM, Renault, Hyundai, Daimler, BMW, and VW have all seen demand exceed capabilities and expectations, and battery shortages are evident.

As an example, in 2017, Hyundai encountered unanticipated demand for the Ioniq EV and was unable to satisfy the demand. But the lack of production capacity was related to a global issue, not just a Hyundai issue. The problem was Hyundai didn�t have enough batteries because LG Chem didn�t have enough batteries.

What seemed to be admission of the main cause was leaked in a company memo. The bulletin was originally posted to the IoniqForum.com website on April 21 by user �LLcoolB� from Ottawa, Ontario: �Over the 12 months since sales of the Ioniq Electric in the United States began in March of last year Hyundai sold only 544 of the cars despite an apparent backlog of pre-sale orders.

�Now, a premature ordering halt has been announced in a sales bulletin to dealers due to a Hyundai �temporary global battery supply shortage� apparently from their battery supplier, LG.

�It now appears as though demand for the IONIQ Electric is far higher than anticipated. As a result, Hyundai is attempting to increase production on its side, but LG Chem won�t be able to match that with increase battery production, at least not immediately.�

As InsideEVs dryly notes, �This is a unfortunate reality that InsideEVs has explained on many occasions whenever OEMs tout the ability to quickly �increase production� due to unseen demand (which as we know, rarely ever actually materializes) � without accounting for the fact they don�t have an existing commitment to a 3rd party battery supplier for those cells.�

While battery production volumes eventually ramp up, the increased demand results in delivery delays, as Norwegian customers have experienced with the Kona EV, with its rapid popularity.

Risks & Rewards

There is financial risk in battery factory investment. There is also risk in being unable to access battery cells. Failing to have their own battery factories and expertise puts EV makers at a serious supply, cost, and battery performance disadvantage compared to those with secured battery supplies.

Early EV entrants like Nissan, Renault, and Tesla have some advantage with existing battery supply volumes already in place. Renault and Tesla have been able to obtain increased production because of their existing relationships with cell makers.

Rather than invest in a particular chemistry, the issue is investing in a factory (or factories) so that supply is not in competition with other EV makers. That�s crucial at this stage, as long as battery demand exceeds supply. The risk in factory investment as opposed to battery technology investment is not that great. Battery manufacturing processing is similar for NMC, NCA, and other existing lithium cells.

Most battery technologies use the same roll-to-roll powder coating manufacturing technology and advanced future tech like solid state can also do so. (See the third-to-last slide, titled �Cell Processing,� in this slide deck.)

The Critical Role of Research & Development

Keeping up with technology is a matter of R & D. Tesla does it with an exclusive arrangement with a battery expert, Jeff Dahn, an NMC original patent author, who leads chemical research at Dalhousie in coordination with Panasonic experts and by continuously sampling and monitoring new technology cells. That way, Tesla is not at the mercy of battery company expertise.

Key Players in Battery Production

The battery design process is multifaceted. There are tiers to the process. Battery companies source separators, cathode and anode materials, and electrolytes from various providers. All of these are aspiring to become the preferred materials providers. Components come from companies like BASF and 3M, as well as more niche companies. Initially, those companies developed battery types like NMC as a means of selling the components they produced. Those cell designs are licensed to battery makers like LG and many others, with Argonne and 3M being NMC patent holders.

Some cell designs originated at universities, like Goodenough�s LiFeP chemistry, and are also licensed.

�The competing NMC patents go back a decade and a half. The first was filed in June 2000 by Michael Thackeray, a South African-born researcher working at Argonne. Ten months later, 3M filed a competing patent application on behalf of Jeff Dahn, a researcher at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.�

Jeff Dahn and Dalhousie University are familiar to those following Tesla, and they have an exclusive arrangement. A cadre of different companies exist at different levels, licensing proposed battery designs and materials. But a key factor in the industry is that they don�t generally own factories themselves. The design team sells or licenses to battery factories.

Volume Demand Drives Development

Owning the world�s single largest EV battery factory and having the highest product demand are two major Tesla advantages. The company can choose any new tech that develops and work it into the factory. Most important of all, they have the volume demand that justify it. Other automakers don�t have battery factories that compare to Tesla�s and don�t have the same level of consumer demand for their electric vehicles.

Because Tesla is so large, companies are continuously submitting samples to the company and are competing for its attention. Naturally, they want to sell or license to the biggest customer. On the flip side, Tesla is an EV leader in part because it innovates and leads on batteries.

No ICE company would dream of outsourcing engine expertise. Outsourcing core competency is the door to extinction, unless it�s used as a stepping stone to capturing that competency by admission to the market.

Investing in a particular set of battery tech is where Daimler got burned, not in owning a factory. They lacked the volume and expertise to make it profitable and to properly develop battery technology. It was too small, too early, too expensive.

The large conventional auto companies invested in a succession of failed technology, GM with Envia, Daimler with Li-Tec, and Nissan to some degree with AESC and the NEC joint venture, whose plans to sell the unit to China�s GSR were cancelled.

Battery Core Competency Crucial to EV Success

When Daimler failed with Li-Tec, Daimler incorrectly concluded that having a battery factory was not the way to go. The real reasons they failed were that they lacked both expertise and volume demand, and chose the wrong technology, not because they had a factory. They still need the expertise, and need to make compelling EVs with volume demand, and need to figure out which cell technology is best, but now they are at the mercy of all their competition � which bids for the same factory output and may delay shipments to Daimler, thus limiting EV volumes. Daimler, BMW, VW, Nissan, Renault, as well as various Chinese electric car and electric bus companies are in competition for cells from CATL.

Volume, Volume, Volume

Standard business concepts dictate a drive towards obtaining the highest volumes in order to lower costs and beat competition. Getting ahead in the drive toward greater volume works in both directions, with winners winning even more and losers losing faster.

The road to battery success may not be easy, but history provides us examples of failure and success.

The model for success is shown with Tesla. Carmakers must enlist battery expertise and partner with a battery company in an exclusive arrangement where they benefit from factory output. Failing to do that is like a conventional car company failing to owning an engine factory or have any significant internal combustion expertise. That would be unthinkable.

The situation is summarized in the following statement from a VW exec. �Quite frankly, if we compare ourselves today with Samsung and LG they are light years ahead of us,� VW Group�s Thomas Sedran, head of global strategy, said.

Conventional car companies are in a quandary, where the only sources for batteries to compete with Tesla are companies like LG Chem, SK Innovation, CATL, and Samsung SDI, which are just beginning advanced NMC 811 production over the next year.

It seems that only Tesla figured EVs would be successful this early and planned ahead to build a gigafactory to supply the vast amount of cells necessary to build the large numbers of electric cars consumers want. Even Tesla has to expand its battery factory size and efficiency by 3� to fulfill demand for both storage and EV batteries. The original plan was for 35 GWh for cars and 50 GWh total. The updated plan is for about 100 GWh for cars and 150 GWh total.

Tesla also throws in a bit of fun, as is typical of the firm and quite appreciated by consumers � who also like to have fun.

Tesla�s current rate of production of 75 kWh packs for the Model 3 is equivalent to 23�24 GWh annually. This production level is expected to rise as Gigafactory 1 is completed. more

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Week-end Wrap - August 11, 2018

Week-end Wrap - August 11, 2018
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Trump Tax Cuts Having Significant Impact - On Corporate Profits
August 6, 2018 [Yuxing Sun, via Mike Norman Economics]
Latest financial results from Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway:
Net income rose to $12.01 billion, or $7,301 per Class A share, from $4.26 billion, or $2,592 per share, a year earlier. 
Results also reflected a decline in Berkshire's effective income tax rate to 20 percent from 28.9 percent, following last year's cut in the federal corporate tax rate.

Zero Hedge � Ten Bombshell Revelations From Seymour Hersh's New Autobiography
[Zero Hedge, via Mike Norman Economics 8-8-18]
From a recent The Intercept interview and book review � If Hersh were a superhero, this would be his origin story. Two hundred and seventy-four pages after the Chicago anecdote, he describes his coverage of a massive slaughter of Iraqi troops and civilians by the U.S. in 1991 after a ceasefire had ended the Persian Gulf War. America�s indifference to this massacre was, Hersh writes, �a reminder of the Vietnam War�s MGR, for Mere Gook Rule: If it�s a murdered or raped gook, there is no crime.� It was also, he adds, a reminder of something else: �I had learned a domestic version of that rule decades earlier� in Chicago.
�Reporter� demonstrates that Hersh has derived three simple lessons from that rule:
  • The powerful prey mercilessly upon the powerless, up to and including mass murder.
  • The powerful lie constantly about their predations.
  • The natural instinct of the media is to let the powerful get away with it....

Monsanto ordered to pay $289m damages in Roundup cancer trial 
[Newsy, via Naked Capitalism 8-11-18]


Wells Fargo says hundreds of customers lost homes because of computer glitch
[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 8-5-18]

Trump Is Giving Protectionism a Bad Name
by  William G. Moseley, August 9, 2018 [TripleCrisis , via Naked Capitalism 8-9-18].
As a development geographer and an Africanist scholar, I have long been critical of unfettered free trade because of its deleterious economic impacts on African countries. At the behest of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the majority of African countries were essentially forced, because of conditional loan and debt-refinancing requirements, to undergo free market�oriented economic reforms from the early 1980s through the mid-2000s. One by one, these countries reduced tariff barriers, eliminated subsidies, cut back on government expenditures, and emphasized commodity exports. With the possible exception of Ghana, the economy of nearly every African country undertaking these reforms was devastated.
This is not to say that there was no economic growth for African countries during this period, as there certainly was during cyclical commodity booms. The problem is that the economies of these countries were essentially underdeveloped as they returned to a colonial model focused on producing a limited number of commodities such as oil, minerals, cotton, cacao, palm oil, and timber. Economic reforms destroyed the value-added activities that helped diversify these economies and provided higher wage employment, such as the textile, milling, and food processing industries. Worse yet, millions of African farmers and workers are now increasingly ensnared in a global commodity boom-and-bust cycle. Beyond that cycle, they are experiencing an even more worrying long-term trend of declining prices for commodities. 
One of the consequences of the hollowing out of African economies has been the European migration crisis. While some of this migration is clearly connected to politics, war, and insecurity in the Middle East and Africa, a nontrivial portion is related to grim economic prospects in many African countries.
....the recent Trump fiasco with tariffs is threatening to tar and feather the whole idea of fostering local economic development for decades to come unless the left pushes back with a more nuanced perspective. After the inevitable crash of the American economy, not to mention the collateral damage, the global policy community, and broader publics, will likely reembrace free-market policies because they appear to be the opposite of Trump�s racist, nationalist, and nativist stance.

Steel Giants With Ties to Trump Officials Block Tariff Relief for Hundreds of Firms
by Jim Tankersley, August 5, 2018 [New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 8-7-18]


How Liberalism Self-Destructed
Umair Haque, August 6, 2018 [Medium, via Naked Capitalism 8-7-18].
�Liberalism, once a great and noble philosophy, split into three factions?�?neoliberalism, libertarianism, and �classical liberalism� (I�ll come back to that one). These factions, like stone age tribesmen gleefully performing a lobotomy, hacked and chopped away at liberalism, blow by crushing blow, until all that was left was a drooling, snarling, spitting, twitching zombie: predatory capitalism� That fatal event, that lobotomy, rewound liberalism a thousand years. Because predatory capitalism created a class of oligarchs richer than the kings of yore?�?and in many ways, more powerful, too. Untouchable, above the law, beyond reproach. The wealthier this class of ultra-rich got, the more that the middle and working class collapsed. Inequality spiraled out of control. People lost faith in all the great liberal institutions?�?law, rights, constitutions, knowledge, democracy itself?�?because it seemed that the only real purpose of those institutions was to allow the ultra-rich to prey on the poor, exacting crippling tribute for the most basic of things. Not paid in wheat or silver, but cold, hard, cash. Insulin that costs $1000? Childbirth that costs $30K? These three factions� made liberalism self-destruct?�?by turning it into a mechanism for the one exact thing, a millennium or so ago, it was created to destroy: feudal, dynastic, untouchable, predatory elites skimming off an economy�s surplus, amassing all a society�s wealth for themselves.�

In 2008, America Stopped Believing in the American Dream
by Frank Rich, August 6, 2018 [New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism]
The mood in America is arguably as dark as it has ever been in the modern era. The birthrate is at a record low, and the suicide rate is at a 30-year high; mass shootings and opioid overdoses are ubiquitous. In the aftermath of 9/11, the initial shock and horror soon gave way to a semblance of national unity in support of a president whose electoral legitimacy had been bitterly contested only a year earlier. Today�s America is instead marked by fear and despair more akin to what followed the crash of 1929, when unprecedented millions of Americans lost their jobs and homes after the implosion of businesses ranging in scale from big banks to family farms. 
....It�s not hard to pinpoint the dawn of this deep gloom: It arrived in September 2008, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers kicked off the Great Recession that proved to be a more lasting existential threat to America than the terrorist attack of seven Septembers earlier.

....When that tide pulled back in 2008 to reveal the ruins underneath, the country got an indelible picture of just how much inequality had been banked by the top one percent over decades, how many false promises to the other 99 percent had been broken, and how many central American institutions, whether governmental, financial, or corporate, had betrayed the trust the public had placed in them. And when we went down, we took much of the West with us. The American Kool-Aid we�d exported since the Marshall Plan, that limitless faith in progress and profits, had been exposed as a cruel illusion. 
Unlike 9/11, which prompted an orgy of recriminations and investigations, the Great Recession never yielded a reckoning that might have helped restore that faith. The Wall Street bandits escaped punishment, as did most of the banking houses where they thrived. Everyone else was stuck with the bill. Millennials, crippled by debt and bereft of Horatio Alger paths out of it, mock the traditional American tenet that each generation will be better off than the one before. At the other end of the actuarial spectrum, boomers have little confidence that they can scrape together the wherewithal needed to negotiate old age. The American workers in the middle have seen their wages remain stagnant as necessities like health care become unaffordable. 
In the Digital Century, unlike the preceding American Century, the largest corporations are not admired as sources of jobs, can-do-ism, and tangible goods that might enrich and empower all. They�re seen instead as impenetrable black boxes where our most intimate personal secrets are bought and sold to further fatten a shadowy �ber-class of obscene wealth and privilege trading behind velvet ropes in elite cryptocurrencies.
....It would be easy to blame the national mood all on Donald J. Trump, but that would be underrating its severity and overrating Trump�s role in creating it (as opposed to exacerbating it). Trump�s genius has been to exploit and weaponize the discontent that has been brewing over decades of globalization and technological upheaval. He did so in part by discarding the bedrock axiom of post�World War II American politics that anyone running for president must sparkle with the FDR-patented, chin-jutting optimism that helped propel John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan to the White House. Trump ran instead on the idea that America was, as his lingo would have it, a shithole country in desperate need of being made great again. �Sadly, the American Dream is dead,� he declared, glowering, on that fateful day in 2015 when he came down the Trump Tower escalator to announce his candidacy. He saw a market in merchandising pessimism as patriotism and cornered it. His diagnosis that the system was �rigged� was not wrong, but his ruse of �fixing� it has been to enrich himself, his family, and his coterie of grifters with the full collaboration of his party�s cynical and avaricious Establishment.

The Left's disastrous embrace of neoliberalism 1970s-1980s
An interview with Stephanie L. Mudge by Chase Burghgrave, August 6, 2018 [Jacobin]
In Leftism Reinvented: Western Parties from Socialism to Neoliberalism, Mudge looks at left parties in advanced capitalist countries over the last century and shows how the experts aligned with those parties pushed them in the direction of spin doctors and markets. In the process, left parties� ability to represent the interests of their own working-class constituencies was eroded � and ordinary people were shut out of the halls of power.

....Right parties have never pretended to be representatives of the disempowered or advocates of policies that insulate people from market forces. The Right�s embrace of free markets in the 1980s was important, but it was not surprising. And I think it�s disputable that this was really a popular move, electorally speaking � this was a period of growing political alienation and declining turnout across the board. In this context, left parties were the only political force that was capable of critically engaging with market logic. But they did the opposite of this in the 1990s. 
I think this had electoral and cultural consequences. Electorally, the �losers� of �globalization� � that is, a whole lot of people, including whole communities � ended up with no party that spoke for them. Culturally, criticism of the neoliberal order was marginalized and hived off as a province of the �radical� left, rather than being the stuff of mainstream political discourse � where it should have been all along.
....So what do left parties do if they no longer have a way of responding to their constituencies� economic concerns, but they still want to win elections? They turn to spin: that is, they try to build appeal by marketing rather than substance.

Socialism and the Liberal Imagination
by Mason B. Williams, August 8, 2018 [Dissent, via Naked Capitalism 8-11-18]
...a number of writers... point out that the New Deal was not, in fact, socialist�and to accuse Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, and their aspiring democratic-socialist counterparts of muddying the waters by conflating theoretically distinct concepts. These critiques rest on a set of uncontestable historical facts. The New Dealers�starting with Roosevelt himself�believed their basic mission was to save capitalism. For their part, many socialists saw FDR as a formidable adversary to their movement, a state capitalist who seduced the working class with a piper�s song of reform. (Socialists who worked in the Roosevelt administration saw the humorous irony of their situation: �We socialists are trying to save capitalism,� the New Deal lawyer Jerome Frank remarked to the economist Stuart Chase, �and the damned capitalists won�t let us.�) And there is no question that the depiction of the New Deal as �socialist� originated as a conservative effort to delegitimize liberal reform�indeed, as a number of commentators have pointed out, the fantastical way in which conservatives have contorted the meaning of the term to assail even moderate liberal policies like the Affordable Care Act has helped destigmatize socialism in the American political discourse.
....But look from another angle, and the picture appears different�and perhaps more useful in thinking through our own political moment. The New Deal was not �socialist.� But to end the story there is to miss the role of socialists in crafting the intellectual world within which the New Deal unfolded. Look not at what socialism was, but at what socialists did, and one sees that the New Deal�s progressive achievements do bear a significant historical relationship to reform socialism.
As the historian Daniel Rodgers argued in his seminal book Atlantic Crossings, the New Deal took shape against the backdrop of a half-century-long transatlantic debate about �the social question��the implications of an economic modernization that had rendered individuals, families, and communities inescapably interdependent. What were the responsibilities and mutual obligations of each in a world where no individual could be reasonably assumed to control their own fate? What could governments do to mitigate the social costs of capitalist development�to tame a world of smoke, of sweated labor, of booms and busts and overcrowded tenements and epidemics of communicable disease?
.... Many future New Dealers engaged first-hand with reformist socialist thought. The young social worker Harry Hopkins registered with the Socialist Party and voted for Morris Hillquit in the 1917 New York mayoral election. As he was preparing to reenter politics in the 1920s, Franklin Roosevelt�no one�s idea of a socialist�spent �hours deep in conversation� with the socialist garment-union leaders Rose Schneiderman and Maud Swartz, friends of Eleanor Roosevelt�s. As the historian Annelise Orleck describes, FDR occasionally drove the two women from New York City to Hyde Park, listening as they told him �all we knew about the theory and history of the trade union movement . . . about the sweatshops and the tuberculosis rate in the printing industry before the unions were organized.� Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins later credited those conversations with teaching FDR much of what he knew about labor issues. 
Largely clamped shut by political orthodoxy, private interests, and the courts through the first third of the century, the policy toolbox that socialists had helped assemble was suddenly pried open in the wake of the economic catastrophe of the early 1930s. The labor lawyer Louis Waldman�one of the five Socialists expelled from the New York State Assembly during the Red Scare prompted by the Russian Revolution�recalled introducing then�president elect Franklin Roosevelt to Norman Thomas, who had run against him on the Socialist line in 1932. Roosevelt �looked like the cat who had swallowed the canary,� Waldman wrote. �Indeed, on shaking hands with Thomas, he chuckled, �Well . . . I took 99 per cent of your program, didn�t I?�� (�But you made very poor use of it,� Thomas replied.)
.... Yet the New Deal�s frank recognition of the interdependence of society, its acknowledgement that a good society rests on a sense of mutuality, reciprocity, and community spoke, if not fully to the socialists� vision, at least to their understanding of what was wrong with a market society. 

Socialism is becoming more popular with Baby Boomers
[YouGov, via Naked Capitalism 8-8-18]


Democratic Socialism Isn�t Social Democracy
by Michael A. McCarthy, August 7, 2018 [Jacobin]

Lots of discussion these days of socialism, social democracy, democratic socialism and so on. Thank God for the hopelessly ignorant right wingers, who can be reliably depended upon to wallow in hopeless but blissful ignorance as they howl SOOCIALISSsssssstT! at whatever it is they don't like that particular moment. Understanding the right wing position is so easy, it's almost as painful as understanding money can be created out of nothing. But here's McCarthy's central point :
In social democracies, public ownership of the main productive assets is limited in comparison to what it could be.... Democratic socialism, on the other hand, should involve public ownership over the vast majority of the productive assets of society, the elimination of the fact that workers are forced into the labor market to work for those who privately own those productive assets, and stronger democratic institutions not just within the state but within workplaces and communities as well.
Here's why I am not a socialist. Assume McCarthy's definitions are correct -- and I think they are -- then ask yourself: If Goldman Sachs were completely owned by its employees, would Goldman Sachs cease being predatory and become a socially useful organization? I think the obvious answer is "no." The point being, socialists' diagnosis of what's wrong is in many ways correct, except it overlooks completely the one really big, crucial problem of pecuniary culture. Adopting socialism to cure Goldman Sachs of capitalism will not solve the real problem. The problem is not that Goldman Sachs is capitalistic; the problem is that Goldman Sachs is predatory. 

Now, there are a lot people -- I could write "almost all people on the left" -- who think this is splitting hairs, because they believe capitalism by nature is predatory. It appears to me that most of these people really do not know much about the history of technological development. All technological developments originate with scientists and engineers. All. Capitalists do not originate any technological developments. Capitalists may finance some, but the actual technological developments come from the scientists and engineers they fund. The history of every industry attests to this. One of the most available is the history of the auto industry. And you cannot possibly understand my point if you don't know the functional difference between someone like Henry Leland or Charles Kettering, or Henry Ford, and someone like Alfred Sloane or Pierre S. du Pont, and, especially, someone like T. Boone Pickens or Wilbur Ross. 

In USA, since the election of Ruinous Ronnie Reagan, the financial system and financial predators have come to dominate the entire economy. The story of how financiers seized control of old-line industrial companies and looted them, including raiding the pension funds of workers, was covered by Donald Bartlett and James Steele in their important series of articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer back in 1992, which were published as the book America: What Went Wrong. (The link provides an extremely useful summary of the book, including excerpts and some graphics.) The best case study of a single industrial company destroyed by predatory finance is When the Machine Stopped: A Cautionary Tale from Industrial America by Max Holland, 1989, also released a few years later as From Industry to Alchemy: Burgmaster, a Machine Tool Company. Holland�s father was a production machinist for Burgmaster, which grew in the 1960s to become the largest machine tool maker west of the Mississippi, The destruction of Burgmaster began in the 1970s, when the company was bought by one of the first industrial conglomerates, Houdaille. The asset stripping of Burgmaster went into overdrive when Houdaille, in turn, was bought in a leveraged buyout by Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts � an �investment firm� that still bedevils us today. KKR is the base of wealth for Henry Kravis, one of the top contributors to the Bush family�s political operations. Kravis has been described in the business media as "high priest of private equity," and was considered by Donald Trump for Treasury Secretary. 

By the late 1980s, these financiers were being celebrated as "captains of industry" even though they had no interest in actual industrial activity other than looting it. Even Obama espoused this nonsense, hailing Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon as �very savvy businessmen" in February 2010. The predatory process of financialization is what drove the process of de-industrialization: the financiers were making money � lots of it � by literally destroying in months, industrial companies that had taken years to build up. Here is the great problem of pecuniary culture: these predators had become the great new heroes of the new American economic landscape, but their financial schemes were actually slowly grinding down the working class and dismantling the industrial base. Hardly anyone was willing to admit the past three decades have been a colossal economic disaster until the big crash of 2008, and even now people prefer to talk about how the middle class is under attack, rather than facing the truth that the American working class has already been destroyed. 


[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 8-5-18]
USA becoming less capitalistic as it transforms into a plutocratic oligarchy.
The number of publicly traded companies on exchanges in the United States. In the mid-1990s, there were more than 8,000 of them. By 2016, there were only 3,627, according to data from the Center for Research in Security Prices at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. 

Why is Thomas Frank Puzzled?
by Gaius Publius, August 10, 2018 [DownWith Tyranny]
We are indeed a nation in crisis (again). That crisis, that revolutionary discussion about the shape of our next constitution, our next agreement between government and the people, is not resolved. The radical right is in ascendance and will soon take complete and lasting control of the Supreme Court unless Democrats block their candidate and stop them. 
Will a completion of the radical rightwing agenda resolve this crisis and create a government most of us can live under? Of course not. The truly radical right � a small handful of people � is vastly outnumbered by those opposed to its ideas. No one, not even Republican voters, will live under the government this minority is determined to create. 
Will a return to neoliberal rule, to Obamism and Clintonism, create a stable order? Again, no. It's precisely that order that people in both parties rose to resist. The rebellion against that order, unheeded by Democratic Party leaders, created the opening the radical right just exploited. 
Even a Sanders-style government, supported by the masses as FDR's government was, will face a counter-rebellion, this time by the dethroned rich � and I strongly suspect the Obamists and Clintonists in the Democratic Party would join that "resistance" as eagerly as they join the present one. 

Bill Black: Pre-Crisis �4506-T Studies� Showed Massive Fraud in Liar�s Loans; Fed Ignored Warning, DoJ Refused to Target Implicated Banksters
by Yves Smith [Naked Capitalism 8-7-18]


Should Republican Billionaires Be Picking Democratic Candidates The Way They Already Pick GOP Candidates?
[DownWithTyranny! 8-5-18]
Last week, Fox News' James Rupert Murdoch, a British billionaire, put half a million dollars into one of Nancy Jacobson's shady No Labels SuperPACs that aims to fill Congress with candidates from the Republican Wing of the Democratic Party. Their current goal is a smear campaign against Alan Grayson. Most recently, Jacobson pulled off the same filth against Marie Newman in Illinois� 3rd District House primary, spending $931,600 to spread absolute lies against Newman while bolstering anti-Choice Blue Dog Dan Lipinski. 
Jacobson, widely considered one of the most vicious and destructive players in American politics, runs a dark web of 8 of the most pernicious and sleazy SuperPACs in the country, United for Progress, United Together, Forward Not Back, Progress Tomorrow, Patriotic Americans PAC, Citizens for a Strong America, etc, entirely funded by contributions from 5 and 6-figure right wing donors, such as Rupert Murdoch, his son James Murdoch, Chicago White Sox and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, hedge fund manager Louis Bacon, former Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan Selig and Wheels Inc. executive Jim Frank.
A way must be found to limit the free speech of the very wealthy, probably by creating cultural norms and expectations similar to those which limit the free speech of military officers. This will probably involve a renewal of the classical republican ideals which held that the greatest threats to a republic were a standing army, and a cabal of the richest. First and foremost, of course, is the elimination of the Roberts Court's fatal Citizens United decision.


Barney Frank on His Regrets From the Great Recession
By Nick Tabor, August 8, 2018 (Daily Intelligencer, via Naked Capitalism 8-10-18]
The co-author of Dodd-Frank explains why Wall Street was rescued but not homeowners: Frank blames then-Treasury Secretary Paulson, but Obama had a very interesting role. Note how Frank twists the knife in two backs at once:
The problem was, this was now after the November election. He�s in a lame-duck administration. He says, �But I�m not gonna do that without Obama�s okay.� So I and others went to Obama and said, �Will you tell Paulson it�s okay to ask for the next amount, so he can do foreclosures?� Obama said what most presidents-elect would have said in that situation: �No, he has the legal authority to do it, and I�m not gonna take responsibility over something I have no control over. If he wants to do it, he can do it. We only have one president at a time.� It made me crazy. Obama overstated the number of presidents we had � because we didn�t have any! And people were getting fucked.
Frank admits that the failure to impose justice on Wall Street and predatory finance led to the rise of a populist revolt. But note how Frank dismisses and denigrates Occupy, while saying nothing bad about the Tea Party.
So you really did have both the tea party and Occupy grow up at the time. The problem for us was that the tea-party people, as people on the right so often are, were very smart politically, and they organized and they registered and they voted. My, ah, sometime ideological allies at Occupy decided that the way to change things was to smoke dope and have drum circles. Neither one of those did a hell of a lot to influence my colleagues.
At the end, Frank gives a short history of USA financial regulation, and throws in a good jab at Trump.
I was struck, recently, reading the economic report of the Federal Reserve. This is Donald Trump�s Federal Reserve, his appointees. What they say in the report is, from the standpoint of financial stability, we�re in very good shape. I think we put in a set of rules that make it very unlikely that we�re going to have another crisis, certainly not for the reasons we had the last one. We have built honest stability into the financial system without any loss of function. I mean, the odd thing is Donald Trump tries simultaneously to complain that we ruined the financial system, and to say the economy is better than it�s ever been. It would be hard to make that happen if you had ruined the financial system.

�Why Elect Progressives? THIS�: Shredding of Social Safety Net Blamed as Bankruptcies Soar for Older Americans
by Julia Conley, August 6, 2018 [Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 8-7-18]
A study of rising bankruptcy rates among older Americans places blame squarely at the feet of a hollowed-out safety net and policy changes that have left people without adequate retirement savings, paying huge out-of-pocket medical expenses, and seeing their funds dwindle due to the student loan crisis that many people mistakenly believe affects only younger generations. 
Entitled "Graying of U.S. Bankruptcy: Fallout from Life in a Risk Society," the group's report found that older Americans filed for bankruptcy three times as often from 2013 to 2016 as they did a quarter of a century before. 
Those surveyed for the study blamed multiple factors beyond their control for their decision to file. According to the Times, "About three in five said unmanageable medical expenses played a role. A little more than two-thirds cited a drop in income. Nearly three-quarters put some blame on hounding by debt collectors."

by Nick Surgey, Zaid Jilani, August 9 2018 (The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 8-10-18]
This story was very popular and shared widely. I want to make two points I have not seen elsewhere. 1) The results are even more impressive given that the survey questions appear obviously designed to elicit responses that reinforce conservative and libertarian policy preferences. 2) Will the Kochs, conservatives and libertarians respect the judgement of the American people and adjust their policy preferences accordingly? USA is supposed to be a republic, and the classic republican principle of civic virtue requires that people surrender their selfishness when their interests conflict with those of the public. If the Kochs, conservatives and libertarians continue their campaigns for policy preferences that have been clearly rejected by a majority of citizens, as shown repeatedly by national surveys, should we not then treat that as evidence that the Kochs, conservatives and libertarians have no interest in sustaining the republic, and should be treated as such. There's this document that says something about "all enemies, foreign and domestic"..... 


by Lee Fang and Nick Surgey, June 30, 2018 [The Intercept]
....State Policy Network [is] an organization that steers a national patchwork of right-wing think tanks to advance policies favored by business lobbyists and GOP donors. The right-wing groups� strategy was spelled out in a series of documents by anti-union operatives over recent months. The Intercept obtained copies of some of documents from State Policy Network think tanks.
State Policy Network members, however, have barely concealed their broad political motives. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the State Policy Network affiliate think tank in Michigan, emailed supporters in February to note that the Janus decision could provide a path for enough workers to leave their union to �remove $1.2 billion per election cycle from union budgets.�
�Imagine,� wrote Mackinac Center President Joseph G. Lehman, �the change we will see in policy debates over public education, taxes, social welfare spending and other issues if the fear of union backlash is cut by two-thirds.�
The Empire Center [State Policy Network branch in New York state] has predicted that the Janus decision will cost unions in New York alone more than $110 million annually.

Spontaneous wildcat strike walkout caught on film
Interview if Antoine Dangerfield, by Micah Uetricht, Augist 3, 2018 [Jacobin]
A thirty-year-old welder in Indianapolis, Dangerfield worked for a construction contractor building a UPS hub. On Tuesday, he says that a small number of Latino workers (millwrights, welders, and conveyor installers, in his telling) working for a different contractor but in the same hub were ordered home after disobeying the orders of a white boss he calls racist.... In response, the entire group of workers � over a hundred, in Dangerfield�s estimation � walked out.... Dangerfield caught their wildcat strike on camera at the moment they walked off the job.

by Lee Fang and Nick Surgey, February 25, 2018 [The Intercept]
Documents obtained by The Intercept and Documented show that the network of wealthy donors led by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch have taken credit for a laundry list of policy achievements extracted from the Trump administration and their allies in Congress.
by Yves Smith, August 8, 2018 [Naked Capitalism] 
Real estate is something that is not taught in any course in the United States economics. 80 percent of bank loans in America, England and much of Europe are real estate loans, but in the textbooks that students learn economics from, it is as if banks lend money to industry. Banks don�t lend a penny to industry to invest in capital goods and hire people. They lend money to buy out industry, to take it over, to cannibalize it and to strip assets, but not to create capital. They lend it as mortgages, they basically lend against assets, against homes, commercial real estate, stocks or bonds or some assets. So that I realized that in the textbooks, picture of how finance works were completely different from what I was taught at NYU. I had to take a money and banking course taught by an ideological Greek professor Stephen Rousseas, who had never worked in a bank in his life � none of my professors had ever worked in a bank, everything they know from the textbooks � and he had an article by a man who subsequently became a friend of mine, Hyman Minsky, who thought that the business cycle could be explained by savings banks putting their reserves in the commercial banking system that would be lent out to the economy. I said, �Look, what you called a commercial banking system is one bank, the bank I work for and we don�t make any loans at all to the economy. We buy bonds.�
So I got a C-plus in the course, he said I didn�t understand textbook economics. I realized that there was an absolute contradiction between how the real economy worked and what was in the textbooks.

Europe�s extreme summer is so hot it melted the highest peak in Sweden, and now it�s only the second-highest 
[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 8-6-18] 


Electricity Worth Less Than Zero Spreads as Renewable Energy Floods the Grid
by Jesper Starn, August 6, 2018 [Bloomberg]
With wind and solar farms sprouting up in more areas -- and their power getting priority to feed into the grid in many places -- the amount of electricity being generated is outstripping demand during certain hours of the day.... Once confined to a curiosity for a few hours over windy Christmas holidays, sub-zero cost of electricity is becoming a reality for hundreds of hours in many markets, upending the economics of the business in the process.

Details of China's and India's imports of oil from Iran 
[Moon of Alabama, via Naked Capitalism 8-5-18]

Russian gas turbine locomotive hauls 9000-tonne train
[International Railway Journal 8-9-18]
Russian Railways� (RZD) GT1h-002 prototype liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuelled turbine-electric locomotive has completed a series of test runs on the Surgut - Korotchaevo line in western Siberia hauling trains with a gross weight of up to 9000 tonnes. Full Article

Testing milestone for Cuenca, Ecuador tram line
[International Railway Journal 8-9-18]

Hundreds of residents lined the streets of the historic city centre of Cuenca on July 27 to witness the inaugural test run of an Alstom Citadis low-floor LRV on the Ecuadorian city�s first 10.2km light rail line.
The city of Cuenca is located in the highlands of Ecuador at 8,400 feet above sea level, and has a city population of approximately 400,000, and another 300,000 in the larger metropolitan area. Full Article

Delhi opens metro Pink Line extension
[Railway Age 8-8-18]
The 8.1 km extension, which has six stations including interchanges with the Yellow Line and the Violet Line at INA and Lajpat Nagar, expands the Pink Line to 29.6 km. The initial 21.6 km section from Majlis Park to Durgabhai Deshmukh opened March 16. Full Article

NJT sets FY2019 budget for operations, and capex
[Railway Age 8-9-18]
New Jersey Transit, the nation�s third-largest public transportation agency, on Aug. 8 adopted a Fiscal Year 2019 budget consisting of $2.32 billion in operating expenditures and a $1.46 billion capital program. Full Article

Studies Seek to Industrialize Additive Manufacturing for Aerospace, including Charlotte NC
by Lindsay Bjerregaard, August 8, 2018 [Aviation Week and Space Technology]
The Swiss technology and engineering group Oerlikon is working with Lufthansa Technik (LHT) and Boeing to on research to establish �more easily standardized and qualified" processes for Additive Manufacturing in the aircraft MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) industry.�  
According to a spokesperson for Oerlikon, the collaboration�s research seeks to understand what process variability exists when the same component geometries are built on the same machine using the same powder batch, heat treatment, testing conditions and build parameters in different global locations. Oerlikon and LHT will print these components using an Oerlikon-produced IN718 powder alloy on identical printers at LHT Hamburg and Oerlikon�s locations in Charlotte, North Carolina and Barleben, Germany.... The collaboration�s research will initially focus on industrializing titanium powder bed fusion AM. 

Opinion: Wind delivers many benefits for North Carolina[Environmental Defense Fund (8/7)  via American Wind Energy Association 8-9-18]
David Kelly, senior manager of North Carolina Political Affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund, writes that wind enjoys broad bipartisan support in the state and expresses hope that state lawmakers will allow North Carolina's moratorium on new projects to end this year.

BNEF: Global installed wind, solar capacity surpasses 1 TW
[Renewables Now (Bulgaria) (8/6) via American Wind Energy Association 8-6-18]
The world has more than 1 terawatt of installed wind and solar capacity under operation and that figure is expected to double by mid-2023, says Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The report says that figure will rise to 1.1 TW by the end of 2018.

Solid-State Silicon Device Turns Waste Heat into Electricity 
by Stephen Mraz, July 31, 2018 [Machine Design]
Researchers from Sandia National Laboratories have developed a silicon-based device that converts waste heat into DC power. The device consists of common and abundant materials, such as aluminum, silicon, and silicon dioxide. It is also small, about 1/8 in. by 1/8 in., and half as thick as a dime. The top is aluminum etched with stripes roughly 20 times smaller than the width of a human hair. This pattern, though far too small to be seen by eye, serves as an antenna to catch infrared radiation. 
Between the aluminum top and the silicon bottom is a layer of silicon dioxide about 20 silicon atoms thick. The patterned and etched aluminum antenna channels the IR radiation into this thin layer. The IR radiation trapped in the silicon dioxide creates fast electrical oscillations�about 50 trillion cycles per second. This pushes electrons back and forth between the aluminum and silicon in an asymmetric manner. This process, called rectification, generates net DC electrical current.

Climate Grief

Below is a pretty good description of what the author calls "climate grief"�the crushing realization that everything at all lovely...