Sunday, August 19, 2018

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 []
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.... 

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