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.

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