Friday, June 29, 2018

Volkswagen at Pikes Peak

The only time I ever drove the road to the top of Pikes Peak was back in the 1980s when the final miles were still gravel. Because the air is so thin and the road had so many treacherous drop-offs, I approached the whole project carefully�even though I was driving a rental car. By the time I got to the top (14,115', 4302 m) the car was hardly producing any power and I was worried I could even restart it if I turned it off.

I came away impressed by the courage necessary to race such a road and the technical problems facing anyone who wanted to do it fast. It required almost a half hour to drive a stretch of road the serious racers could cover in ten minutes.

So now we see that a new record has been set by an electric car. The final nails are being driven into the coffin for the internal combustion engine. This was the first time that an EV won an all-comers competition against ICE cars. It will not be the last.

It's a good thing that EVs are proving their objective superiority. It wasn't so long ago that owning an EV was an exercise in how many hardships one could endure. That has changed.

Other links:

Why electric vehicles will continue to dominate Pikes Peak after record-shattering run

How the VW I.D. R Went from Daydream to Pikes Peak Record Holder in 249 Days

7:57:148�Volkswagen makes racing history with record-breaking electric race car

Electric power beats the internal combustion engine fair and square in major motorsport.

JONATHAN M. GITLIN - 6/29/2018, 6:30 AM

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.�All it took was two visits to the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb for it to steal our hearts. The second-oldest motor race in the United States�only the Indy 500 predates it�is unlike virtually every other professional motorsports event we cover. And this year's edition proved to be novel in its own right.

Last weekend, we were on hand to witness French racing driver Romain Dumas and car maker Volkswagen stamp their authority on all 12.4-miles (19.99km) of the course, destroying the course's existing record and setting the first sub-eight minute time in race history. What makes the feat even more interesting around Ars is that the car in the record books is all-electric, marking perhaps the first time in major motorsport that a battery electric vehicle has beaten the internal combustion engine fair and square.

In retrospect, if any car has an advantage at Pikes Peak it's the EV. The start line is already at 9,390 feet (2,862m) above sea level; the finish line is an even higher 14,110 feet (4,300m) and much of the course is above the tree line where there's 40 percent less oxygen to breathe. Consequently, internal combustion engines will lose power�significantly�as they climb the route, even with the aid of forced induction or crafty fuel mixtures.

But electric motors don't care about partial pressures of oxygen, and these will output the same power and torque whether they're at the top of the mountain or the bottom. And with only one run per car allowed on race day, there's little reason to be anxious about range. Carry just enough battery to get you to the top, keep it in its optimum temperature window, et voila. It could result in history.

For decades, completing the course in less than 10 minutes seemed like a fantasy. It took until 2011, the last year before the entire route to the top was paved, for Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima to break that barrier with a time of 9:51.58. The following year, Tajima switched to electric propulsion and by 2015, the EVs were getting really serious.

Rhys Millen beat Tajima for the fastest run of the day with a time of 9:07.22 that year. Then in 2016, we embedded with Tajima's team, which once again faced off against Rhys Millen and his Drive eO electric racer. Back then, Millen had the fewest problems and even beat the nine-minute mark. Though none of the EVs were able to match Romain Dumas' gasoline-powered performance in his Norma M20 on that day. The Frenchman�still jet-lagged from having won Le Mans the previous weekend no less�completed his run in 8:51.445.

In the lead up to the 2018 race, VW's stated goal was clear�beat Rhys Millen's 2016 EV record. Everyone I spoke to from the team was singing from the same hymn sheet, though almost always with a wry smile or twinkle in their eye. The EV accolade would be nice, but there's only one Pikes Peak record that has meant anything since the transition to all-tarmac: it's the one formerly set by Peugeot and Sebastien Loeb.
The record we thought would stand for ages

In 2012, Peugeot had a bit of an image problem. It was set to continue its racing battles with Audi, fielding a clever new hybrid in the then-new World Endurance Championship and at Le Mans. But beating Audi wasn't cheap, and the optics of spending tens of millions of euros a year to do that while firing thousands of workers were pretty bad. Just weeks before the season started, Peugeot even killed its racing program. Several months on and with a new CEO running things, the hostility towards a motorsport program had faded. A bit of motorsports glory would offset a good deal of recent bad news, the thinking went. Whatever the plans, it had to be quick and cheap and really really fast. Usually, you only get to pick two of those.

Peugeot had success at Pikes Peak in the late 1980s, and the company did much to popularize the event with the short film, Climb Dance. The film is just five minutes long, less than half the time driver Ari Vatanen actually needed to cover the distance on his way to 1988's fastest time. But the footage of Vatanen at work showed us the racing driver as artist as well as athlete. Man and car put on a balletic performance of drifting and car control. Back then cameras were still heavy and fragile (or very expensive), and there was no Internet, so good in-car footage was hard to make and harder to find. Climb Dance quickly became one of a handful of works like C'�tait un rendez-vous, Faszination on the N�rburgring, and Steve McQueen's Le Mans that inflamed the passions of many a driving enthusiast.

By 2013, the Internet meant there was a way to reach many more eyeballs, particularly if Red Bull could be persuaded to take on that task. The company could, it turned out, which left a few months for Peugeot Sport to build a car and for nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastian Loeb to learn the course and prepare. The car was called the 208 T16; the only thing it shared with the road-going 208 was a vague similarity in size and shape (minus the wings, of course). The one at the rear was borrowed from the Le Mans car, which also donated suspension and brakes. The engine was a turbocharged 3.2L V6 that it had supplied to the Pescarolo Le Mans team, and Peugeot's rallying program provided a transmission and suitable all-wheel drive system. Body panels were ultra lightweight carbon fiber, and the chassis was a tubular frame design that kept weight as low as possible.

With 875hp (kW) in and a car that weighed just 1,929lbs (875kg)�plus one of the world's very best drivers behind the wheel�a new record seemed certain as long as the weather cooperated. It did. Loeb reached the top in 8:13.878, a time that many openly thought might never be bettered.

If only all corporate apologies were like this

Like Peugeot 2013, it's fair to say the VW of 2018 also has an image problem. The company remains squarely in the aftermath of the diesel emissions cheating scandal. With no future for diesel, VW is all about electric cars now. Some of this is court-ordered, like the $2 billion investment in a new network of high-speed charging infrastructure. But the courts didn't order it to develop a new architecture for EVs (called MEB), which we'll start seeing in a range of new cars bearing the I.D. name. According to Hinrich Woebcken�CEO of VW's North American region�success will require good charging infrastructure and good cars, but car makers also need to inspire passion about EVs. That's precisely where the I.D. R Pikes Peak comes in.

Like Peugeot five years ago, VW turned to the mountain to debut its creation. VW Motorsport director Sven Smeets similarly had a tight timeline: just nine months for the car and 10 additional weeks to test it. And like the Peugeot 208 T16, the I.D. R Pikes Peak has almost nothing in common with any road-going car that might share its name.

The I.D. R might just be the most beautiful purpose-built racing car to turn a wheel in anger since the turn of the century. At first glance it looks like one of the prototypes that race at Le Mans or Daytona. Then you notice the proportions; it's a short car in length and height but makes up for it in width. It's actually small enough that you get in it through a roof hatch, but despite its relative lack of size it has a lot of stage presence. It would be hard not to when sporting such massive wings.

The Pikes Peak rulebook factors in here. The I.D. R was built to compete in the Unlimited class, which is pretty much what it sounds like. As long as the car meets the safety requirements, go bananas. The front and rear wings are much bigger than you'd get away with in any other series; ditto the floor extensions along the sides. The bigger the wings, the greater the downforce they can generate. But the aero bits have to be huge because the I.D. R has to chase cornering speeds at altitudes where there's 35 percent less air to work with than at sea level.

It's also a function of the I.D. R's electric powertrain. The main cooling requirement is the battery pack, and as long as it stays in the right temperature window everything is fine. (Exactly what this temperature was, nobody would say.) There's no engine to feed with air and few radiators to cool, so the body isn't scarred with intake ducts, scoops, or vents.

With such little time to design, build, and test the car before the 2018 race�scheduled for Sunday, June 24�VW used a proven hillclimb prototype as its starting point. Specifically, the carbon fiber tub and suspension come from a Norma M20 race car. And the two electric motors�one for each axle rated at 250kW (335hp)�are very similar to the motors being introduced into Formula E when season five starts later this year.

I was unable to find anyone who could tell me which Formula E team's motors provided the starting point, but the most obvious candidate would be the Audi team (after all, family's family). Porsche also chipped in a little on the aerodynamics side of things, but forget any rumor you heard that the I.D. R is related to the 919 Hybrid or R18.
A purpose-built racer

Also, forget any ideas about VW using the I.D. R to stress test some aspect of the new MEB electric vehicle platform. The lithium-ion battery pack�approximately 43kWh in capacity�is bespoke to the car, and the cell chemistry has been optimized for power density and performance rather than energy density and range. The car has not been designed with tech transfer as the aim; the point was to set a new Pikes Peak record.

But which record? From the moment the car broke cover in April until the moment it crossed the finish line on Sunday morning, VW remained on-message. The goal was to set a new EV record, which just meant going faster that Rhys Millen's 2016 time of 8:57.118. The time set by Loeb in 2013 was considered almost untouchable, of course, particularly in a car that was both less powerful and heavier than the Peugeot racer. (VW repeatedly told us it weighs "under 1,100kg" [2,425lbs], but if you guessed that no one was prepared to give us the car's exact weight, well done.)

The size of the wings alone should have made it plain that the true goal was a new overall record. Together with the decorated choice of Dumas in the driving seat, the ambition was practically screaming in our faces.
If you're going to build the fastest car, you might as well hire the fastest driver

You might think a day job as a racing driver on a factory team would be enough, but everyone needs a hobby and Dumas' is hillclimbing. For the past few years he's travelled to Colorado immediately after Le Mans to tackle Pikes Peak. What's more, it's an entirely private effort, racing on his own dime and not an OEM budget. He's proven good at it, with overall wins in 2014 as well 2016 and 2017. Every driver I've spoken to about the challenge of racing Pikes Peak tells me there's no substitute for experience, and it's hard to imagine that Loeb knew the road as well in 2013 as Dumas did in 2018.

Any doubts in my mind were dispelled shortly after sunrise on Friday. Barring weather or technical difficulties, Dumas and the I.D. R were going to smash the record, probably setting a time that started with a seven. I had made the predawn trip up to Devil's Playground, a cool 13,000 feet up, to watch the I.D. R's final practice session. Between 5:30am and 8:30am, competitors in certain classes were free to run the final two-and-a-bit mile stretch as often as they wanted.

From my vantage point, I could see the cars make a standing start, negotiate a fast right kink, then disappear behind behind a blind left. It was quite the sensory experience. Exhausts popped and banged as ECUs juggled fuel-air ratios to compensate for the lack of oxygen. Some cars left exotic aromas in their wake, betraying some fuel additive or other. After all, rockets bring along their own oxidizers, so why not race cars? Mostly these just further inflamed mucous membranes already unhappy with the rarefied air, although someone was running something that evidently came in Tropical Punch flavor.

When Dumas went out on his first run, what noise there was came from the whine of the electric motors and the annoying siren that EVs are required to run during the race. In the blink of an eye, the car was at racing speed, then it was gone from view. According to the stats, the I.D. R will reach 60mph from a standstill in 2.2 seconds. Only a rallycross car is faster off the line, but the EV does it with so much less fuss.

My own yardstick was to put this in the context of the various LMP1 hybrids exiting the final corner at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. One year the Toyota TS040 had the best punch out of the corner and down the main straight. The next, Porsche had found a way to get the 919 Hybrid to Vmax in even less time. Well, none of those cars compare to the way the electric VW picks up speed from a slow corner. It can't match the top speeds of those Le Mans cars, but that track has some very long straights and many fewer corners per mile than Pikes Peak.

With no rulebook to hold them back, VW's engineers have given the I.D. R a full suite of traction control, antilock brakes, and so on, all meant to give the driver as stable and forgiving a platform as possible. Dumas was more than happy with the car. "I just want the race to start," he told after these practice sessions. "The Car is set up to be as easy as possible to drive. I cannot say it�s relaxed but it�s OK, I like the car a lot to drive. We tested on a race track yesterday [Pikes Peak International Raceway], and this car is really really fast even compared to a lot of LMPs I�ve driven."

In a hill climb, the competitors race one at a time against the clock. Here at Pikes Peak, that run order is determined during qualifying, with the bikes running from slowest to fastest, then the cars running from fastest to slowest. Dumas, therefore, would be the first four-wheel run on race day�his qualifying time was seven seconds faster over the same stretch of road as Loeb had been in 2013.

Thankfully for all involved, the bike classes encountered few problems (in 2016, the cars didn't run until almost noon as a result of several red flag periods caused by accidents and icy conditions up top). It was time for the I.D. R. to leave its climate-controlled tent for the start line�just as soon as the horde of journalists assembled in front of it could be persuaded to make room.

Just under eight minutes later, the job was done. Dumas hadn't just beaten the EV record, he obliterated. His new record bested the old electric-one by almost exactly a minute. Loeb's overall record had fallen, too, by almost 16 seconds. Job done, history made. more

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Week-end Wrap - June 23, 2018

Week-end Wrap - June 23, 2018
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

The Supreme Court Has Decided to Shut Workers Out of the Courthouse for Good
[byCristian Farias, May 21, 2018 New York Magazine, via Avedon's Sideshow]
...the Supreme Court ruled ... that workers who are made to sign arbitration agreements that rule out class or collective lawsuits may not then band together and rely on federal labor law to give them legal recourse to sue their employers anyway. The ruling is a devastating blow to employees who are required to sign arbitration agreements as a condition of employment � according to one report, more than 60 million workers operate under such an arrangement, which effectively forces them to resolve their disputes with their employers in a quasi-judicial hearing rather than in a court of law. Of those, about 25 million are subject to a class-action bar. 
So high were the stakes in Epic, that during the hearing for the case � which saw lawyers for employers, workers, the Department of Justice, and the National Labor Relations Board all squaring off with everyone else � Justice Stephen Breyer openly wondered if a ruling for the employers would effectively cut out 'the entire heart of the New Deal.'" 
....Dissenting, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her liberal colleagues called the majority�s conclusion �egregiously wrong,� and in the process offered a brief history of labor law in the United States. In a sense, they seem to see the Epic controversy as part of a larger retreat of sorts to the Lochner years, when an activist Supreme Court was unafraid to strike down, among other things, child labor laws and other workplace protections under freedom-of-contract principles. That era is long gone, but Ginsburg wouldn�t be too far off in fearing a return to it, as some conservatives and libertarians have suggested we should. In one eye-opening footnote, Ginsburg puts the spotlight on some of the parties to this set of cases to undermine the majority�s entire premise for its ruling: that arbitration agreements are good and wholesome and statutorily sound because they�re freely negotiated between equals: 
Were the �agreements� genuinely bilateral? Petitioner Epic Systems Corporation e-mailed its employees an arbitration agreement requiring resolution of wage and hours claims by individual arbitration. The agreement provided that if the employees �continue[d] to work at Epic,� they would �be deemed to have accepted th[e] Agreement.� Ernst & Young similarly e-mailed its employees an arbitration agreement, which stated that the employees� continued employment would indicate their assent to the agreement�s terms. Epic�s and Ernst & Young�s employees thus faced a Hobson�s choice: accept arbitration on their employer�s terms or give up their jobs.
The link to the "suggestions" by conservatives and libertarians is to a Cato Institute (founded and funded by the Koch brothers and other rich reactionaries) June 2011 book review promoting a Cato book calling for the historical rehabilitation of the Lochner doctrine: "The Progressives� anger at the Lochner majority was not thus exclusively about its reasoning, but also to a great degree about its unwillingness to overlook constitutional controls that would limit the creation of a �union-led social democracy in place of a regime of general contractual freedom.� " It is short, and worth reading to get a sense of how the conservative and libertarian apparatus is engaged in a far-ranging attack on the achievements in social and economic justice under Democratic Party rule from 1932 until 1968. The framing of this attack is often amazingly sly and insidious:
But, as Bernstein shows, as despised as it was, �Lochnerian protection of liberty of contract was invoked to justify some of the most significant early decisions expanding constitutional protections for the rights of African Americans and women and for civil liberties, often over the strong opposition of Justice Holmes and his Progressive allies.�
Note that the conservative and libertarian apparatus is maligning and disparaging the word "progressive" just as it has "liberal" Democrats have yet to similarly frame the words "conservative" and "libertarian" in a negative light.

In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg called on Congress to reopen the judicial system to working Americans by setting strict limits on arbitration.  This obviously won't happen so long as the Congress is controlled by either Republicans or corporatist Democrats.

House GOP plan would cut Medicare, Social Security to balance budget 
by Erica Warner, Associated Press June 20, 2018 [Denver Post, via Naked Capitalism]
The Republicans are absolutely shameless and obviously think people will not connect the Trump tax cuts with the new jump in national debt.
House Republicans released a budget proposal Tuesday that would balance in nine years � but only by making large cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicare and Social Security, that President Donald Trump has vowed not to touch. 
....Nonetheless the budget serves as an expression of Republicans� priorities at a time of rapidly rising deficits and debt. Although the nation�s growing indebtedness has been exacerbated by the GOP�s own policy decisions � including the new tax law, which most analyses say will add at least $1 trillion to the debt � Republicans on the Budget Committee said they felt a responsibility to put the nation on a sounder fiscal trajectory. 
�The time is now for our Congress to step up and confront the biggest challenge to our society,� said House Budget Chairman Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.). �There is not a bigger enemy on the domestic side than the debt and deficits.�
Assets of world�s �high net wealth� millionaires surged to $70 trillion in 2017 
[World Socialist Web Site SWS via Naked Capitalism].
Perhaps we should join conservatives in proclaiming taxation is robbery. The difference would be, where banks are robbed because "that's where the money is," we propose to tax the rich, because "that's where the money is."

How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects Around the Country
by Hiroko Tabuchi, June 19, 2018 [New York Times, via Naked Capitalism]
In cities and counties across the country � including Little Rock, Ark.; Phoenix, Ariz.; southeast Michigan; central Utah; and here in Tennessee � the Koch brothers are fueling a fight against public transit, an offshoot of their longstanding national crusade for lower taxes and smaller government.... At the heart of their effort is a network of activists who use a sophisticated data service built by the Kochs, called i360, that helps them identify and rally voters who are inclined to their worldview. It is a particularly powerful version of the technologies used by major political parties. 
....In Utah, it handed out $50 gift cards at a grocery store, an amount it said represented what a proposed sales tax increase to fund transit would cost county residents per year. 
Another weapon in the Koch arsenal is Randal O�Toole, a transit expert at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington that Charles Koch helped found in the 1970s. Declaring transit �dead� and streetcars �a scam,� he has become a go-to expert for anti-transit groups. Crisscrossing the country, he speaks at local events and writes opinion pieces.... Public transit critics have long raised fears that rail projects are a conduit for crime, and Mr. O�Toole himself has made that argument: �Teenagers swarm onto San Francisco BART trains to rob passengers,� he warned in a blog post last year.
The front group funded by the Kochs is Americans For Prosperity. Increasing civic participation by getting people out to talk to fellow voters is supposed to be a good thing in a liberal democracy. But as income and wealth inequality become worse, only the wealthy and well off are likely to have the time and resources to support full time political organizers. This is one reason why, in a republic, the rich are as much a threat as a standing army. In August 2015, in The real reason American public transportation is such a disaster, Joseph Stromberg on Vox dismissed the conservative and libertarian argument that the United States simply does not have the population density to support good mass transit, by noting that Canada has built much better mass transit, despite a similar population density.
Although history and geography are partly to blame, there's a deeper reason why American public transportation is so terrible. European, Asian, and Canadian cities treat it as a vital public utility. Most American policymakers � and voters � see transit as a social welfare program.
And that is almost entirely the result of conservative and libertarian lies and propaganda, all supported by billions of dollars in support by the reactionary rich. Here is some typical conservative and libertarian anti-investment propaganda, from National Review in May 2016: High-Speed Rail Is a Fast Train to Fiscal Ruin, in California and Elsewhere

Japan has managed to invest in high speed rail, urban mass transit (check out this map of the Tokyo subway system and marvel at its density compared to Los Angeles) AND begin building the new infrastructure needed to replace gasoline-fueled cars with electric vehicles. From May 2016, two years ago: Japan now has more electric car charge points than petrol stations [The Guardian]

Hyperloop is Chicago-Pittsburgh option
[Rail Group News, June 22, 2018]
The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) has announced that AECOM and WSP USA will act as the lead consultants on the feasibility and environmental impact studies of MORPC�s Rapid-Speed Transportation Initiative (RSTI). Full Article

Stockholm receives first Bombardier LRV
[Rail Group News, June 22, 2018]
The first 96 Bombardier C30 metro trains for Stockholm Local Transport (SL) arrived in the Swedish capital on June 19, with the trains set to enter service on the Red Line in the summer of 2019. Full Article

Connecticut makes big rail bet with Hartford Line
[Rail Group News, June 20, 2018]
The Nutmeg state is spending $769 million with the plan that the upgraded New Haven-Hartford corridor can lure commuters to the rails, boost development, and again make the inland route a key link in the region�s transportation network. Full Article

Bloomberg Report: World trending to hit 50% renewables, 11% coal by 2050, by Megan Geuss, 6/20/2018 [Ars Technica]
Bloomberg New Energy Finance released a new report this week that estimates how electricity generation will change out to 2050. The clean energy analysis firm estimates that in a mere 33 years, the world will generate almost 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy, and coal will make up just 11 percent of the total electricity mix.
Add in hydroelectric power and nuclear energy, and greenhouse-gas-free electricity sources climb to 71 percent of the world's total electricity generation. The report doesn't offer a terribly bright future for nuclear, however, and after a period of contraction, the nuclear industry's contribution to electricity generation is expected to level off.
Instead, falling photovoltaic (PV), wind, and battery costs will cause the dramatic shift in investment, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) notes. "PV and wind are already cheaper than building new large-scale coal or gas plants," the 2018 report says. In addition, BNEF expects that more than $500 billion will be invested in batteries by 2050, with two-thirds of that investment going to installations on the grid and one-third of that investment happening at a residential level.
European Union adopts 32% renewables by 2030 goal
[Reuters (6/14), S&P Global Platts (6/14) via American Energy Association]
The EU has approved a new goal to source 32% of its total electricity needs from renewables by 2030, with a provision to possibly revise it in 2023. The EU is currently working toward a 20% by 2020 renewables target.
Solar Eclipse Tests the Grid 
[Machine Design Today]
Last summer�s eclipse caused a loss of nearly 6 GW of electrical power, giving researchers an opportunity to measure the impact of such a loss on the grid.

Opinion: It's time for Cleveland to pledge 100% renewables 
[The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) (6/22) via American Energy Association]
Cleveland is known for having some of the worst air quality in the nation, but could finally turn the tide by joining the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 campaign and pledging 100% renewables, writes campaign coordinator Jocelyn Travis. "We can envision a healthy, thriving Cleveland -- and we can demand it start with a transition to 100 percent clean energy, as soon as today," she writes.

Connecticutt governor signs 40% by 2030 renewables bill 
[Hartford Business Journal (Conn.) (6/21) via  American Wind Energy Association]
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has signed two new clean energy bills into law, one requiring utilities to acquire 40% of their total electricity from renewables by 2030, and another pledging to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions 45% below 2001 levels by the same year. "The time to act is now," he says.

79% of North Carolina Republicans support clean energy 
[WRAL-TV (Raleigh, N.C.) (6/16) via American Wind Energy Association]
Seventy-nine percent of Republican and 90% of Democratic voters in North Carolina are in favor of clean energy, indicating that support for such energy sources continues to grow regardless of political affiliation, writes Conservatives for Clean Energy President and CEO Mark Fleming, citing a CCE poll. "[C]onservative voters in North Carolina and across the nation are strongly supportive of common sense policies that enable the growth of renewable energy and energy efficiency," he writes.
Opinion: Clean energy is the way of the future
[The Seattle Times (tiered subscription model) (6/18) via American Wind Energy Association]
The time has arrived for the US to cast off outdated energy sources, such as coal and nuclear, and embrace new clean energy options that are good for the environment and enjoy the broad support of states, businesses and educational institutions, write Bruce Speight and Kim Rice. "The organizations and governments that are setting goals for a clean-energy future are acknowledging a crucial truth: The future we dream of is only possible if we get our energy systems out of the past," they write.
DNV GL has completed a multiyear study into India's feasibility for offshore wind, paving the way for the country to begin considering the energy source, says the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. "India has a specific offshore wind policy, a government actively 'gearing up' for offshore and local and overseas stakeholders pro-actively considering this new endeavor," adds DNV GL CEO Ditlev Engel.
Consumers Energy unveiled a plan Wednesday that would close its five remaining coal-burning power plants by 2023 and add 550 megawatts of new installed wind capacity. President and CEO Patti Poppe noted that the utility doesn't see the retirement of nuclear and coal plants as a threat to grid security and supports moving to "a cleaner and leaner energy supply."
Climate change is a serious issue and one that could be addressed quickly by eliminating coal and replacing it with renewables, Pattern Energy President and CEO Michael Garland said after attending a climate change meeting hosted by Pope Francis this week. "We felt honored to be there. We added just enough flavor on the renewable side to make it interesting," he said.

New Airbus Narrowbody Line Is Blueprint For Future Production System 
by Jens Flottau, June 18, 2018 [Aviation Week & Space Technology]
�This is a quantum leap for us,� says Klaus Roewe, senior vice president for the A320 program. To Guillaume Faury, president of Airbus Commercial Aircraft, Airbus is now �in the early stages of a revolution,� and the �revolution is becoming a reality.� Robotics, digitalization and increased automation are key aspects of what has been introduced in Hamburg, parts of which are to be transferred across Airbus� production system�possibly including the new Bombardier C Series final assembly line construction, set to be started in 2019.

�In a world of digital nomads, we will all be made homeless� 
[Guardian, 6-20-18, via Naked Capitalism].
On WeWork and and �co-working�* spaces: �It is telling that this blurring of work and leisure, and the fading-out of any meaningful notion of home, is reflected at every level of the tech industry � from shared houses that double as start-up �incubators� (see the hit HBO comedy Silicon Valley), through the co-working and co-living spaces springing up in urban China, to the factories in the same country where workers churning out iPhones sleep in dormitories. The erosion of any barrier between grafting and downtime is reflected in big tech�s innate insistence that we are �on� at all times � checking our feeds, sending emails, messaging colleagues. You see the same things even more clearly among rising numbers of networked homeworkers � translators, CV writers, IT contractors, data inputters � whose lives are often a very modern mixture of supposed flexibility, and day-to-day insecurity�. Marx and Engels said that the bourgeoisie could not exist �without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society�; Tony Blair told us that the world of globalisation has �no custom or practice�, and gives rewards only to those �swift to adapt, slow to complain, open, willing and able to change�. And here, perhaps, is the ultimate proof. After a couple of centuries during which capitalism has recurrently tried to kill the inconvenient human need for domestic spaces where people can escape economic demands (witness such inventions as workers� hostels and old-fashioned company towns), that same tendency is being newly dressed up as a matter of aspiration and personal freedom.�

Life, Liberty, and Trade Secrets: Intellectual Property in the Criminal Justice System
by Rebecca Wexler [Stanford Law Review, via Naked Capitalism]
The criminal justice system is becoming automated. At every stage, from policing to evidence to parole, machine learning and other computer systems guide outcomes. Widespread debates over the pros and cons of these technologies have overlooked a crucial issue: ownership. Developers often claim that details about how their tools work are trade secrets and refuse to disclose that information to criminal defendants or their attorneys. The introduction of intellectual property claims into the criminal justice system raises undertheorized tensions between life, liberty, and property interests.
This Article offers the first wide-ranging account of trade secret evidence in criminal cases and develops a framework to address the problems that result. In sharp contrast to the general view among trial courts, legislatures, and scholars alike, this Article argues that trade secrets should not be privileged in criminal proceedings. A criminal trade secret privilege is ahistorical, harmful to defendants, and unnecessary to protect the interests of the secret holder. Meanwhile, compared to substantive trade secret law, the privilege overprotects intellectual property. Further, privileging trade secrets in criminal proceedings fails to serve the theoretical purposes behind either trade secret law or privilege law. The trade secret inquiry sheds new light on how evidence rules do, and should, function differently in civil and criminal cases.

Countries are Using Domestic Laws to Criminalize Health Care
By Dr. Dainius Puras, Jun 21 2018, via Naked Capitalism]
I recently requested a review of the role domestic laws play in fostering the criminalization of healthcare to understand how health workers experience extraordinary violence, harassment or sanctions. The findings are alarming: of the 16 countries analyzed in the report, authorities in at least 10 of them could interpret the provision of healthcare as supporting terrorism.
How Did JPMorgan Reverse an Arrest Warrant for its Mexico Bank Chief?
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 15, 2018 [Wall Street on Parade]

Why Are There So Damn Many Ubers in New York City?
by Josh Fruhlinger, June 15, 2018 [Village Voice via Naked Capitalism]
But America in 2015 was no longer the land of FDR and the New Deal. Uber fought back, hard, deploying politically connected (and liberal) surrogates like David Plouffe and Al Sharpton, and showing customers a �de Blasio mode� on their phones where their rides would take 25 minutes to arrive if the regulation became law. De Blasio�s perennial antagonist Governor Cuomo also weighed in against him, and City Hall eventually gave up, settling for a toothless agreement for Uber to share data with the city about traffic and restrict its growth to its existing level (which was a heady 3 percent a month).

From Hayek to Trump: The Logic of Neoliberal Democracy (DOWNLOAD)
by Martijn Konings [Socialist Register, via  Academia]
The motivating force, ethical appeal, and emotional purchase of the neoliberal image of the market have all too often eluded progressive critics. To the extent that they have recognized the affective aspects of neoliberal politics, they have tended to focus on its alliances with neoconservative philosophies and to view these as instrumental and external. According to such accounts, neoconservatives have legitimated laissez-faire economics and private enrichment through appeals to conservative religious values, and large sections of the American public have been curiously unable to see through this obvious hypocrisy � often giving rise to a despair at the people�s irrationality. Such approaches conceive of the legitimating spirit of neoliberalism as an external ideological moment, portraying populists� loyalty to neoliberal discourses as a kind of cognitive impairment or moral failure. 
To understand this properly, we need to attend carefully to what has sustained the legitimacy of neoliberalism. A key point of reference here is of course the financial crisis of 2007-2008, which was widely seen as heralding the end of neoliberalism. Explanations for why neoliberalism is at present still operational have tended to focus on the ability of financial elites to capture public discourses and institutions. But capture explanations are intellectually defensive, framed to provide a more or less plausible reason for something that was expected to occur yet has not rather than to explain what in fact happened. The question that needs answering is precisely how elites could continue to access such tremendous material, institutional, symbolic, and other resources even in a context where discontent with key neoliberal institutions was at an all-time high and the political air was thick with contempt and distrust towards bankers.
General Electric Co. (GE) was dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial Average on June 26, 2018. [Wall Street on Parade, June 20, 2018]
GE was replaced in the DJIA by retail drugstore chain, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA). Not sure why Wall Street insists on calling it an "Industrial" index, but clearly the post-industrial Kool-Aid has been drunk by everyone. WSoP suggests it was because GE's stock price has collapsed in the past two years. Can't have the most famous indicator of the stock market reflect anything negative about an economy that is supposed to be "booming", right?

The latest issue of Real World Economics Review is out. 
It is a special issue on the public economy and a new public economics. Download here. The Table of Contents does not yet appear on the website, and you fave to register (free) to download the new issue.

I encourage people to read any article that interests them, and write a summary of it for submission. Excerpting what amounts to four or five complete paragraphs is fine under fair use. The more people contributing, the more we all will learn and know. And knowledge is power -- about the only kind of power we have on our side. 

Edited by Michael Bernstein and June Sekera
Reconstructing a public economics: markets, states and societies          2
Michael A. Bernstein          download pdf

There is more than one economy          16
Neva Goodwin         download pdf

The public economy: understanding government as a producer.          36
A reformation of public economics
June Sekera         download pdf

Economic benefits of public services          100
David Hall and Tue Anh Nguyen          download pdf

Bureaucracy shouldn�t be a dirty word:
the role of people-responsive bureaucracy in a robust public economy          154
Janine R. Wedel          download pdf

The need for a new public administration          170
James K. Galbraith          download pdf

Industrial policy, then and now          178
Victoria Chick         download pdf

Putting the nation-state back in: public economics and the global economy          189
Michael Lind          download pdf

The entrepreneurial state: socializing both risks and rewards          201
Mariana Mazzucato          download pdf 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

James Hansen 30 years on

I remember James Hansen's 1988 testimony in front of the Senate as if it were yesterday�has it really been 30 years? Hit me like a lightening bolt. Most importantly, Hansen had instant credibility with me because I knew his backstory. We who live in the world powered by our land-grant universities like to tout the contributions of these revered institutions. James Hansen was one of us. He was the fifth child of dirt-poor tenant farmers in Iowa. But because of public schools like the University of Iowa he would graduate as a world-class scientist. In fact, he became one of James van Allen's fair-haired boys. Yes the guy who got his name on the Van Allen Belts was an astrophysics professor at Iowa. (NOW do you see why folks around here get touchy about insults to the land-grant university?)

Hansen must lead a miserable existence. He knows that while there are variations on the outcome of climate change, none are good. And as it gets increasingly worse with nothing more interesting happening than agreements to try to do better, it must get cripplingly frustrating. Compared to the problem, this is about on the same level as calling for prayer meetings. But as his frustration has grown over the years, he has engaged in symbolic actions like getting arrested at the White House. Don't blame the man but climate change is not a matter addressed with the tactics of Gandhi's Salt March.

My take is that climate change is a problem that lives at the intersection of technology and economics. Hansen is a true scientist and sometimes we forget that this is a different occupation from Progressive economist, industrial designer, or civil engineer. His revelations on climate change were sourced in his investigations of the atmosphere of Venus. World-class science. For this, Hansen is forever forgiven for tactics born of frustration. I just wish that once in a while, he would sound a bit more like that other towering intellect from Iowa, Henry Wallace.

Ex-Nasa scientist: 30 years on, world is failing 'miserably� to address climate change

James Hansen, who gave a climate warning in 1988 Senate testimony, says real hoax is by leaders claiming to take action

Oliver Milman in New York 19 Jun 2018

Thirty years after a former Nasa scientist sounded the alarm for the general public about climate change and human activity, the expert issued a fresh warning that the world is failing �miserably� to deal with the worsening dangers.

While Donald Trump and many conservatives like to argue that climate change is a hoax, James Hansen, the 77-year-old former Nasa climate scientist, said in an interview at his home in New York that the relevant hoax today is perpetrated by those leaders claiming to be addressing the problem.

Hansen provided what�s considered the first warning to a mass audience about global warming when, in 1988, he told a US congressional hearing he could declare �with 99% confidence� that a recent sharp rise in temperatures was a result of human activity.

Since this time, the world�s greenhouse gas emissions have mushroomed despite repeated, increasingly frantic warnings about civilization-shaking catastrophe, from scientists amassing reams of evidence in Hansen�s wake.

�All we�ve done is agree there�s a problem,� Hansen told the Guardian. �We agreed that in 1992 [at the Earth summit in Rio] and re-agreed it again in Paris [at the 2015 climate accord]. We haven�t acknowledged what is required to solve it. Promises like Paris don�t mean much, it�s wishful thinking. It�s a hoax that governments have played on us since the 1990s.�

Hansen�s long list of culprits for this inertia are both familiar � the nefarious lobbying of the fossil fuel industry � and surprising. Jerry Brown, the progressive governor of California, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, are �both pretending to be solving the problem� while being unambitious and shunning low-carbon nuclear power, Hansen argues.

There is particular scorn for Barack Obama. Hansen says in a scathing upcoming book that the former president �failed miserably� on climate change and oversaw policies that were �late, ineffectual and partisan�.

Hansen even accuses Obama of passing up the opportunity to thwart Donald Trump�s destruction of US climate action, by declining to settle a lawsuit the scientist, his granddaughter and 20 other young people are waging against the government, accusing it of unconstitutionally causing peril to their living environment.

�Near the end of his administration the US said it would reduce emissions 80% by 2050,� Hansen said.

�Our lawsuit demands a reduction of 6% a year so I thought, �That�s close enough, let�s settle the lawsuit.� We got through to Obama�s office but he decided against it. It was a tremendous opportunity. This was after Trump�s election, so if we�d settled it quickly the US legally wouldn�t be able to do the absurd things Trump is doing now by opening up all sorts of fossil fuel sources.�

Hansen�s frustrations temper any satisfaction at largely being vindicated for his testimony, delivered to lawmakers on 23 June 1988.

Wearing a cream-coloured suit, the soft-spoken son of Iowan tenant farmers hunched over the microphone in Washington to explain that humans had entered a confronting new era. �The greenhouse effect has been detected and it is changing our climate now,� he said.

Afterwards, Hansen told reporters: �It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.� He brandished new research that forecast that 1988 was set to be the warmest year on record, as well as projections for future heat under three different emissions scenarios. The world has dutifully followed Hansen�s �scenario B� � we are �smack on it� it, Hansen said last week � with global temperatures jumping by around 1C (1.8F) over the past century.

These findings hadn�t occurred in a vacuum, of course � the Irish physicist John Tyndall confirmed that carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping gas in the 1850s. A 1985 scientific conference in Villach, Austria, concluded the temperature rise in the 21st century would be �greater than in any man�s history�. The changes in motion would �affect life on Earth for centuries to come�, the New York Times warned the morning after Hansen�s testimony.

Three decades of diplomacy has blossomed into an international consensus, albeit rattled by Trump, that the temperature rise must be curbed to �well below� 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times. But in this time emissions have soared (in 1988, 20bn tons of carbon dioxide was emitted � by 2017 it was 32bn tons) with promised cuts insufficient for the 2C goal. Despite the notable growth of renewable energy such as solar and wind, Hansen believes there is no pathway to salvation without a tax on carbon-producing fuels.

�The solution isn�t complicated, it�s not rocket science,� Hansen said. �Emissions aren�t going to go down if the cost of fossil fuels isn�t honest. Economists are very clear on this. We need a steadily increasing fee that is then distributed to the public.�

Hansen faced opposition even before his testimony � he recalls a Nasa colleague telling him on the morning of his presentation �no respectable scientist� would claim the world is warming � and faced subsequent meddling and censorship from George HW Bush�s administration.

He eventually retired from Nasa in 2013 and promptly reinvented himself as an activist who was arrested, wearing his trademark hat, outside the White House while protesting against the Keystone oil pipeline.

The dawdling global response to warming temperatures means runaway climate change now looms. The aspirational 1.5C (2.7F) warming target set in Paris could be surpassed by 2040. Huge amounts of ice from western Antarctica are crashing into the ocean, redrawing forecasts for sea level rise. Some low-lying islands fear extinction.

�It�s not too late,� Hansen stressed. �There is a rate of reduction that�s feasible to stay well below 2C. But you just need that price on carbon.�

John Holdren, who was Obama�s chief science adviser, told the Guardian that the Paris agreement achieved what was possible without support from Congress and that legally binding lawsuits would be �problematic�.

However, he added that while he had reservations about Hansen�s policy ideas he was one of the �true giants� of climate science.

�Poor Jim Hansen. He�s a tragic hero,� said Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard academic who studies the history of science. �The Cassandra aspect of his life is that he�s cursed to understand and diagnose what�s going on but unable to persuade people to do something about it. We are all raised to believe knowledge is power but Hansen proves the untruth of that slogan. Power is power.�

That power has been most aggressively wielded by fossil fuel companies such as Exxon and Shell which, despite being well aware of the dangers of climate change decades before Hansen�s touchstone moment in 1988, funded a network of groups that ridiculed the science and funded sympathetic politicians. Later, they were to be joined by the bulk of the US Republican party, which now recoils from any action on climate change as heresy.

�Obama was committed to action but couldn�t do much with the Congress he had,� Oreskes said. �To blame the Democrats and Obama is to misunderstand the political context. There was a huge, organized network that put forward a message of confusion and doubt.�

Climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, who testified at the same 1988 hearing about sea level rise, said the struggle to confront climate change has been �discouraging�.

�The nasty anti-science movement ramped up and now we are way behind.�

�I�m convinced we will deal with the problem,� he said. �[But] not before there is an amount of suffering that is unconscionable and should�ve been avoided.� more

Renewable energy in India

While I was at the University of Minnesota, I had several neighbors from India�engineering and computer science majors (yes, there was a time when Minnesota had several leading-edge computer makers including Honeywell and Control Data.) These young men were very interested in India's modernization and discussed development issues a lot. At one point, one grumped, "Our problem is that we have but two sources of energy�nuclear and dung."

That might have been true in 1971 but as the clip below shows, it is not true any longer. India has a bunch of serious environmental problems but when it comes to converting to sustainable energy supplies, they have an enormous advantage�they don't have to replace as much embedded infrastructure as someplace like USA and Western Europe. Plus they have an excellent system for training young STEM students and a vast labor pool to maintain the sometimes fussy solar and wind systems.

Go India!


India eyeing a new monster 100GW solar-capacity goal

Country still working to meet its current solar goals and staggering under pollution.

MEGAN GEUSS - 6/24/2018, 8:00 AM

Earlier this week, India's energy minister R.K. Singh suggested that the country is considering issuing a tender for 100 gigawatts of solar energy. PV Tech confirmed the report, which added that the tender could be tied to solar panel-manufacturing buildout. In 2015, India set a goal to reach 100GW of solar capacity as part of its larger aim of 175GW of renewable energy in general by 2022. This latest 100GW tender would be for a 2030 or 2035 target.

The existing goal is ambitious, so a stretch goal further into the future is even more so. The country's current total solar capacity is just 24.4GW, according to The Economic Times. (For context, as of this month the US has about 55.9GW of installed solar capacity total.) But although the solar sector there is still small compared to the US, it's growing quickly. Utility-scale solar capacity grew by 72 percent in the previous year, The Economic Times noted.

Johannes Urpelainen, an India-based fellow at the Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy, said that the 100GW tender wouldn't be for one massive plant but would represent financing for small projects.

"Solar is very popular in India," Urpelainen wrote to Ars. "It's not expensive, Prime Minister Modi repeatedly talks about it, and people everywhere now see solar being used. I have been going to India for the past six years, and in 2012 solar was still very rare. Now it is everywhere."

Keeping the momentum on buildout would be significant for India, a country where explosive economic growth and a continued reliance on coal have created terribly polluted cities and skylines drenched in smog. (Despite all this new solar, India also added 4.6GW of coal-fired capacity in the previous year, the Times noted.) In his comments this week, Singh said there is an urgent need for renewable energy in India, where 20 of its cities are ranked among the most polluted in the world.

In addition to adding capacity, India has also been building out its Inter-State Transmission System (ISTS).

Urpelainen told Ars that a single 100GW solar tender would be ambitious but feasible as long as India's economy keeps growing. "The cost of a 100GW tender at current prices could be in the ballpark of 100 billion dollars," he said, "but renewable energy prices will continue to decrease. If the government insists on domestic manufacturing, though, the cost could be higher because the inexpensive Chinese panels would be inadmissible." more

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Week-end Wrap - June 16, 2018

Week-end Wrap - June 16, 2018
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Sen. Sanders writes op-ed: Trump administration isn't slowing renewables' momentum
(6/6) [Wind Energy Association]
A renewable energy revolution is sweeping the US and will continue to do so as prices fall even further, despite the Trump administration's efforts to prop up fossil fuels and gas, writes Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Sanders touts his efforts to bolster renewables in Washington, D.C., including co-sponsoring a bill that would end federal support for fossil fuels and encourage a shift to 100% renewables by 2050.

IEA: Global renewable energy spending is outpacing other sources [Wind Energy Association]
Falling wind costs and other factors propelled global spending on renewables to $297 billion in 2016 -- more than double the amount invested in fossil fuels, according to the International Energy Agency. The report added that renewable sources will likely account for 56% of all generating capacity brought online through 2025. 

Solar Has Overtaken Gas and Wind as Biggest Source of New U.S. Power [Bloomberg, via Wind Energy Association]. June 12, 2018
�Despite tariffs that President Trump imposed on imported panels, the U.S. installed more solar energy than any other source of electricity in the first quarter. Developers installed 2.5 gigawatts of solar in the first quarter, up 13 percent from a year earlier....
Billions in U.S. solar projects shelved after Trump panel tariff [Reuters, via Naked Capitalism].
�President Donald Trump�s tariff on imported solar panels has led U.S. renewable energy companies to cancel or freeze investments of more than $2.5 billion in large installation projects, along with thousands of jobs, the developers told Reuters. That�s more than double the about $1 billion in new spending plans announced by firms building or expanding U.S. solar panel factories to take advantage of the tax on imports.

On trade, Donald Trump was right. The rest of the G7 were wrong. by George Monbiot, 13 Jun 2018 [The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism]. There were some people who warned before the 2016 election that the Democratic Party's refusal to actually deal with economic inequality (not just talk about it) would allow Trumo to run to the left of Clinton on many issues, especiallytrade.
In arguing for a sunset clause to the Nafta trade agreement, this odious man is exposing the corruption of liberal democracy.... 
Even if the people of the US, Canada and Mexico had explicitly consented to Nafta in 1994, the idea that a decision made then should bind everyone in North America for all time is repulsive. So is the notion, championed by the Canadian and Mexican governments, that any slightly modified version of the deal agreed now should bind all future governments. 
But the people of North America did not explicitly consent to Nafta. They were never asked to vote on the deal, and its bipartisan support ensured that there was little scope for dissent. The huge grassroots resistance in all three nations was ignored or maligned. The deal was fixed between political and commercial elites, and granted immortality. 
In seeking to update the treaty, governments in the three countries have candidly sought to thwart the will of the people.
The end of net neutrality: The US ruling elite escalates campaign of internet censorship [WorldSocialist Web, 2 June 2018, via Naked Capitalism]
This is not the outcome merely of a change in administrations. It is part of a shift in the class policy of the ruling elite. The 2016 election, with its broad abstention by the working class amid widespread hostility to Hillary Clinton, the favored candidate of Wall Street, and the subsequent strike movement by teachers independently of the unions, has made clear to the ruling elite that the imposition of internet censorship is necessary for the defense of its domination of society.
WaPo and SEC Commissioner Wake Up to Looming Crisis from Stock Buybacks, by Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 12, 2018 [Wall Street on Parade]. Unfortunately, no one is linking the stick buybacks to Republicans' tax cuts. We have pointed out that tax cuts do not work to spur investment because if tax rates are high, the only way for a company and its managers to keep profits is to reinvest in the company. When tax rates are too low, there is too much incentive for "profit taking"--which under the MBA-coma of the past half century, usually means asset stripping.

Rep. Keith Ellison introduces bill to curb stock buybacks, by Naomi Jagoda, 06/12/18, The Hill.

How Private Equity Helped Kill Toys �R� Us, by Eileen Appelbaum [The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism]

Crisis on the High Plains: The Loss of America�s Largest Aquifer � the Ogallala [University of Denver Water Law Review, via Naked Capitalism] "The Ogallala Aquifer supports an astounding one-sixth of the world�s grain produce...."

Beijing�s Building Boom: How the West Surrendered Global Infrastructure Development to China
By Bushra Bataineh, Michael Bennon, and Francis Fukuyama [Foreign Affairs]
Scholars and pundits in the West have become increasingly alarmed that China�s planned Belt and Road Initiative (B&R) could further shift the global strategic landscape in Beijing�s favor, with infrastructure lending as its primary lever for global influence. The planned network of infrastructure project�financed by China�s bilateral lenders, the China Development Bank (CDB) and the Export-Import Bank of China (CEXIM), along with the newly formed and multilateral Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank�is historically unprecedented in scope.
China�s Global Electricity Takeover, by Leonard Hyman and Willian Tilles, Jun 13, 2018 [Wolf Street, via Naked Capitalism]

Musk�s Boring Company wins bid to build high-speed system in Chicago [Reuters, via Naked Capitalism]
The system will be comprised of 16-passenger vehicles that will travel up to 150 miles (240 km) per hour through a tunnel that will cut the current 30 to 45-minute trip between the airport and Chicago�s business district down to 12 minutes....
Americans should be ashamed New York City's LaGuardia Airport has no rail service whatsover. And, a pertinent historical note: LaGuardia Airport was built during the Depression as a Works Progress Administration project.

�Is Durham a union town? Labor groups hope so.� [Herald-Sun, via Naked Capitalism].
�Union and labor groups in Durham are calling for a Worker�s Rights Commission, and think they have a city council who supports it. �Durham probably has the most progressive city council in North Carolina,� said Aiden Graham, campaign manager for the North Carolina State AFL-CIO. He thinks the city can be a leader in the state and the South. But he also said Durham has a low union density.'�
Poor Peoples Campaign Protests All Over US Ignored by Media June 14, 2018 by Yves Smith [Naked Capitalism] Lots of excellent links. Yves includes this excerpt from the Poor Peoples Campaign website page on �National Morality�:
In the history of this country, moral justifications have been offered for the genocide and forced removal of indigenous people from their lands, slavery, resisting the Brown v. Board of Education school segregation case and opposing the Roe v. Wade abortion case. Today, religious extremists focus on issues like prayer in school, abortion, and gun rights that distort the national moral narrative.
This distorted narrative became integral to the well-funded libertarian movement to redefine �liberty� as freedom from government. In 2016, Franklin Graham invested $10 million of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association�s money in his 2016 Decision America Tour to each state house in the country. Billed as �nonpartisan� prayer rallies, these gatherings framed the �moral crisis� as a decision between progressive atheist values and God. After the election, Graham called Trump�s victory an answer to prayer.

The Destruction of Latin America�s Left and Lessons for Everyone, by Ian Welsh, June 10, 2018
The norms are breaking down in many nations, including the United States. What is done to win is illegitimate, as with Republican vote manipulation and the 2000 Supreme court decision; what is done afterwards to opponents is also often illegitimate, and if the wrong person wins, they are gone after legally....
This is a very dirty game, and left-wingers keep treating it as if it is not: as if there are rules, and both sides play by them. Increasingly in the US that is not the case, and it is clearly not the case many other places. If your enemies win, they will destroy you by any means. You should think long and hard about what you will do to them if you get into power, because they know what they will do to you.
Republican incumbent Mark Sanford defeated in South Carolina primary for US House for refusing to support Trump. I saw this news in other places, but because I'm on the road, it's most convenient to just pluck these two links from Naked Capitalism:
VA-05: �Varying Degrees of Horror�: In 2018, the Republicans Are Really Just Running Against Themselves�and Their Party�s Future� [Vanity Fair]. Entertaining detail on VA-05. Then: �[O]ne of the defining characteristics of the 2018 cycle is the extraordinary number of House Republicans who are not standing for re-election�a number now approaching 50, and which exceeds any similar exodus in modern political history. [M]ore than anything else, the departures reflect the difficulty of acclimating to a political party increasingly defined by Donald Trump. Many Republican members of Congress view the G.O.P.�s transformation from a party based on principles of limited government to one that has become a populist front for Trump�s unique brand of Twitter demagoguery with �varying degrees of horror,� as Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, who also served three Republican presidents, put it. Trump�s strong hold on the base, which has apparently not eroded at all in the last 18 months, has made it politically difficult for those in office to confront this directly, and some are choosing retirement as a means of jumping off a �vessel that is . . . damaged and stained.'� And Chuck Schumer is waiting, with open arms, to catch them when they jump! Finally: �In the end, the 2018 midterms are not merely important for settling who will control the House for the next two years. Equally important, they will determine the changing composition of the Republican caucus, and help define the future of the G.O.P.� 
SC-05: �[Mark] Sanford�s fatal sin: Crossing Donald Trump� [Politico]. �The South Carolina congressman�s stunning defeat in Tuesday�s Republican primary effectively ended the turbulent two-decade career of a political icon who once harbored presidential aspirations. State Rep. Katie Arrington defeated Sanford 50.6 percent to 46.5 percent�. .Mark had a long and storied career, he was a very famous and successful politician. But he didn�t read the tea leaves right, and that came back to haunt him,� said former state Rep. Chip Limehouse, who hails from a prominent Charleston family and has known Sanford for years. �Mark misjudged it, attacking Trump. That�s what killed him.'� Then again: �In what was perhaps an early sign that his political strength was abating, Sanford received just 55 percent of the vote in his 2016 primary, against an opponent who spent little.�
[Below is from Naked Capitalism, including Lambert's comment in the final paragraph] 
�The Left�s Problem With Order, the Center�s Problem With Happiness, and the Right�s Problem With the Truth� [Benjamin Studebaker (via the excellent BLCKDGRD)].
The center speaks for the order we have�it emphasises the value of its order, the value of the institutions and norms that it defends. But it increasingly is unable to tell a story about its order which speaks to the values we have beyond order itself�. The right doesn�t buy the story. It�s sick of the center�s order. But the right�s solutions all involve trying to make the world more like it used to be�. The right tells compelling stories but there�s no truth in them. It is a movement built on lies and false hopes.
The left understands the economic origins of the problems which the right mistakes as racial, ethnic, or national. It understands that we can�t go on ignoring the mass unhappiness our order increasingly leaves unaddressed. But the left is order-phobic. It views powerful institutions like the state or major political parties as fundamentally corrupt, and it views the strategies and tactics necessary to capture those institutions as morally unclean. The left wants a politics of self-actualisation�it wants to prioritise happiness not merely in its policies but also in the political means by which it pursues its ends. Worse, it wants this self-actualisation on an individual level, making it difficult for people who self-actualise in different ways to work with one another. The left resists engaging with institutions, and it views efforts to engage with institutions and the constraints they impose as an assault on the purity and moral identity of its movement. It is so hostile to order that it is unable to tell a story in which its proposals to make us happy can be enacted or sustained through stable, lasting institutions. This makes the left increasingly irrelevant and allows the political debate to focus around the distinctions between the center and the right.
[This is Lambert's comment.] I like the �order, happiness, truth� trope, but I think Studebaker is stuck on the linear, �Overton Window� model that sees left, center, right� as a spectrum. I think this is a category error. To recategorize, I think that conservatives, liberals, and the left are on a plane, not a line: Conservatives and liberals put markets first; the left puts the working class first, and so are not simply more liberal liberals. Ergo, the identity politics crowd (�politics of self-actualisation�) needs to be taken out of the left bucket, and thrown into the liberal (�centrist�* bucket). If you unmuddy the waters like that, the willingness of the left, in the form of both Sanders and institutions like DSA, to �engage with institutions� becomes clear. I mean, surely the left�s call for #MedicareForAll brings about both happiness and �stable, lasting institutions,� in contrast to the �End ____ism� calls from the identity politics crowd, which cannot. NOTE * Both liberals and conservatives can be centrists, exactly as they can both be neoliberals. A good litmus test for a centrist, at least in the national security arena, is using the phrase �rules-based international order� non-ironically. After Iraq? Libya? I�m all for a �rules-based international order.� We should try it some time.

Climate Grief

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