Interesting & Important News & Analysis, June 14, 2019

Hong Kong Authorities Bow to Beijing, Determined to Ignore a Million Protesters

Hong Kong residents have taken to the streets to protest against the growing influence of mainland China over the city. But, the protests are falling on deaf ears, says Prof. Sean Starrs.

Taking heat from critics, Bernie Sanders defends democratic socialist views

Roosevelt’s Depression-era New Deal policies, which included public works jobs, strong banking and financial regulations and the Social Security retirement program, made huge progress in protecting the needs of working families, Sanders said.

“Today in the second decade of the 21st century we must take up the unfinished business of the New Deal and carry it to completion,” he said in a speech at George Washington University designed to fight back against critics including Trump who have attacked him as an extremist for embracing the socialist tag.

Sanders … said Republicans were more than happy to exercise their own version of socialism by bailing out Wall Street and corporate interests that helped line their own pockets.

“We must take the next step forward and guarantee every man, woman and child in our country basic economic rights,” he said, including quality healthcare, education, a decent job, affordable housing, a secure retirement and a clean environment.

“This is what I mean by democratic socialism,” he said.

I don’t know why Bernie Sanders insists on incorrectly defining democratic socialism. What Sanders is for, at most, is a watered-down version of social democracy, not socialism, per se. He’s definitely for the welfare state, but that’s not a liberal or progressive invention. It’s a conservative invention designed to ward off socialism. It’s referred to as appeasement via compromise.

Is Labour’s fiscal policy rule neoliberal?

Most of the time, I think things degenerate into counter-productive hairsplitting. Let me say, however, that the those who trashed MMT who aren’t full-on Austrian School started it (the argument).

MMT is not new. It’s true. Keynes knew everything MMT claims today. I also understand a New Keynesian taking some exception to being called a neoliberal (a so-called neoclassical economist: market-oriented and laissez-faire). Nevertheless, there is no doubt that New Keynesians are way too close to the neoclassical.

Green Groups Sue Trump Administration for Gutting Offshore Oil Safety Rules

There was a time in the US when a Deepwater Horizon oil leak would have seen all offshore drilling stopped forever. That was before fake libertarians took over crony capitalism.

Near-Record ‘Dead Zone’ Forecast off Gulf Coast

The nutrients in the fertilizers feed algae that die, decompose and deplete the water of oxygen, the Louisiana scientists said.

Sewage run off, caused by the spring floods, also add to the problem, National Geographic reported.

Massachusetts Construction Industry Confronts Drug Addiction Among Ranks

The construction industry’s struggles with addiction aren’t unique to Massachusetts, either. In Ohio, construction workers were seven times more likely than other workers to die from an opioid overdose between 2010 and 2016, an analysis by the Cleveland Plain Dealer found in 2017.

“We have to take care of each other,” said Lyle, the laborers’ union recovery specialist, who has been sober for nearly a decade after struggling for years with addiction to prescription painkillers and later heroin. “This is tearing our industry apart.”

Study Debunks Theory That Legalized Marijuana Helps Prevent Opioid Deaths

When the new researchers included data through 2017, they found the reverse: States passing medical marijuana laws saw a 23% higher than expected rate of deaths involving prescription opioids.

Legalizing medical marijuana “is not going to be a solution to the opioid overdose crisis,” said Chelsea Shover of Stanford University School of Medicine. “It would be wonderful if that were true, but the evidence doesn’t suggest that it is.”

Standing Rock Fights On: Tribal Activism Goes Solar

While the Green New Deal and United Nations climate reports make regular headlines, a less publicized push for renewable energy has been blazing across Native American communities. On South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation aims to “overpower intergenerational poverty” by building a sustainable community largely powered by solar. The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska has already installed 400 kilowatts of solar with plans for more, and the Forest County Potawatomi in Wisconsin have developed several arrays under a strong pro-green initiative. “Solar energy is spreading like wildfire through tribal nations right now,” says Robert Blake, a member of Minnesota’s Red Lake Band of Ojibwe Indians and founder of a solar installation company called Solar Bear. Solar energy, says Blake, can bring jobs and economic development to tribal communities, and tackle problems like poverty and addiction by giving people purpose. …

… In July 2014, one million gallons of oil-industry waste spilled from a pipeline and into a ravine that drains into the tribe’s main reservoir for drinking water. Duke University researchers revealed in a 2016 paper that the spill laced the land with heavy metals and radioactivity. “It leaked for the whole July 4th weekend,” says DeVille. “Did it get into our creek? Did it get into our water intake? We don’t know, these are all the questions I’ve been asking.” Two Bears says one Fort Berthold community recently contacted him, eager to install a solar array.

“There is a story in our culture about a group of medicine men that had a meeting long ago,” says Kendrick Eagle, a leading voice in the climate change youth movement, and Director of a group called Indigenized Youth. “They prophesied how in seven generations young people would stand up all around the world and create a movement and spark change — that is us.”

Toxic PFAS Chemicals Found in Maine Farms Fertilized With Sewage Sludge

All sewage sludge recently tested by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection was contaminated with PFAS chemicals, according to documents obtained by The Intercept. The state tested the sludge, solid waste that remains after the treatment of domestic and industrial water, for the presence of three “forever chemicals”: PFOA, PFOS, and PFBS. Of 44 samples taken from Maine farms and other facilities that distribute compost made from the sludge, all contained at least one of the PFAS chemicals. In all but two of the samples, the chemicals exceeded safety thresholds for sludge that Maine set early last year.

The evidence of widespread sludge contamination comes just days after a Food and Drug Administration study revealed that PFAS chemicals were also found in food. The investigation, which was conducted by FDA chemists but made public by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Environmental Working Group, detected 16 PFAS chemicals in food samples collected from grocery stores in the mid-Atlantic region. Among them were PFOS, which was in almost half of the meat and seafood products (ground turkey, tilapia, and shrimp had particularly high levels); PFBA, which was found in pineapple; and PFHxS in sweet potato. A slice of chocolate cake with icing was found to have extremely high levels of a chemical called PFPeA.

What’s Worrying the Plastics Industry? Your Reaction to All That Waste, for One

In an interview, Johnson said industry leaders are starting to recognize sustainability is part of their social license to do business.

Rancher Refutes Impossible Burger Criticisms of Regenerative Grazing, Invites CEO to Leave His Lab and Visit a Real Farm

Will Harris, a fourth-generation farmer-rancher in Bluffton, Georgia, called out Impossible Burger for claims the company made today that regenerative grazing is “not sustainable at scale,” and that grassfed beef “generates more GHGs than feedlot beef.”

“As an independent professional rancher, who has practiced regenerative land management on our family farm for more than 20 years, I can state unequivocally that Impossible Burger’s claims about regenerative grazing are incorrect. Not only is our business financially successful on a large scale, but we are accumulating data showing that our practices are enhancing the carbon sequestration potential of the soil on the lands we manage.”

The Permafrost Nightmare Turns (More) Real

Gradual permafrost thaw is now passé: “Turetsky and an international team of researchers are looking at something very different: Rapid collapse of permafrost that can transform the landscape in mere months through subsidence, flooding and landslides,” Ibid.

Based upon observations as recorded by the Turetsky research team, a climate crisis has already set in. It is here now: “We work in areas where permafrost contains a lot of ice, and our field sites are being destroyed by abrupt collapse of this ice, not gradually over decades, but very quickly over months to years,” said Turetsky.

I think Xi is a terrible leader unfortunately being followed by other leaders and even being lauded by many self-styled “progressives.”

Xi Assailed on All Fronts as Hong Kong Adds to Trump Pressure

This will change after a higher tariff-rate kicks in.

Import prices drop 0.3% in May — cost of Chinese imports falling amid tariff fight

This next one was from June 5th. It’s already quite out of date. We’re certainly living in volatile times.

U.S. Recession Fears Spike As Market Sentiment Shifts In ‘Dramatic Fashion’

“The sharp escalation in US-China tensions has clouded the global economic outlook and is contributing to a slowing pace of economic activity in a number of economies, including the US and China,” said Elena Duggar, associate managing director at Moody’s, in a statement.

“In the event that trade tensions with China escalate into further rounds of tariffs, we would expect the Fed to cut rates by 25 to 50 basis points in order to support the economy.”

It’s amazing that they are just now doing this. I’d have done it decades ago. Of course, I’m still pushing the insurance industry to get on board with the Green New Deal or better (yes, better).

Natural disaster risk now considered in mortgage-backed securities ratings

The adjustment would add a new penalty to existing risk metrics. The hope is that it will better distinguish mortgage pools with high exposure to natural disaster risk, particularly those with high concentrations in Florida and California, said Bailey.

Last year, Hurricanes Florence and Michael caused a combined $49 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Wildfires in California cost a record-breaking $24 billion, displacing the prior record for losses due to wildfires set in 2017.

U.S. Core Inflation Cools, Bolstering Case for Fed Rate Cut

… inflation is showing signs of firming by another measure that the Fed prefers. That core price gauge — linked to spending and excluding food and energy — firmed in April for the first time this year, though remained below the Fed’s 2% target. It tends to run slightly below the Labor Department’s CPI.

PCE and CPI Inflation: What’s the Difference?

There are two common measures of inflation in the US today: the Consumer Price Index (CPI) released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Personal Consumption Expenditures price index (PCE) issued by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The CPI probably gets more press, in that it is used to adjust social security payments and is also the reference rate for some financial contracts, such as Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) and inflation swaps. The Federal Reserve, however, states its goal for inflation in terms of the PCE.

I’m no fan of carbon offsets or carbon credits.

More U.S. businesses making changes in response to climate concerns

… companies, for example, have directed more of their energy purchases toward wind and solar, especially as those sources become cheaper than fossil-fuel-driven power.

CDP said that 225 of the world’s 500 biggest companies say that climate change could generate more than $2.1 trillion of potential new business. More than half of that money would flow to financial institutions, which can move money into low-carbon projects and manufacturing. And more than a quarter of the money could flow into manufacturing ventures, such as electric-car makers.

How Young Buyers Are Redefining ‘Luxury’

Concerning the IoT, security, security, security!

Wealthy, older Manhattanites benefit most from rent regulation: report

In Manhattan, median regulated rents are 53 percent lower than median market rate rents. The Journal notes that many renters in the borough, particularly those who are 65 and older and haven’t moved in decades, have lower median regulated rents owing to some protections put in place through rent regulation laws, and therefore have a larger discount from market rate rents that helps create the large disparity.

Real estate appraiser Jonathan Miller says the proposed law awaiting Cuomo’s signature “will be a sea-change for multi-family real estate in New York,” with a potential byproduct of the law being a jump in rental to co-op conversions (made more difficult by a contingency that would require 51 percent of tenants to agree to a conversion, up from 15 percent.)

Miller continues: “This insures that insiders will be given significant discounts from market price to ensure conversion. This might result in fewer affordable rental apartments, but more cheaper co-op apartments.”

Wow! What a huge mess. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Better solve global warming ASAP!

Surveying the ‘existential threat’ posed by New York’s massive storm surge barrier

Like many waterfront advocates, Waxman is in favor of a response that includes more green infrastructure and natural measures. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to create oceanside topography that breaks up wave action, and that could eat up the energy of a storm surge, than it would be to build giant mechanisms which we are going to have to maintain and replace?” he says. “Unfortunately, we are taking a very American tack with this, which is building a machine to do something which nature would do better.”

The USACE storm surge gate proposals represent a pivotal moment for the future of New York City—and for those who know the waterfront best, the consensus appears to be that these proposals are inherently faulty. “The fatal flaw of the entire Corps study is that they are not proposing designs that would work for both sea level rise and storm surge flooding, and for that reason the entire study is fatally flawed,” says John Lipscomb, the vice president for advocacy at Riverkeeper, an organization which has been working to protect the Hudson River watershed since 1966.

“Either those communities are going to flood as sea level rises, or they are going to close the gates and the degree of contamination is just going to go up and up and up. And all our efforts at restoration are going to be made meaningless,” says Lipscomb. “To me, the only thing that is going to work for storm surge and sea level rise are a combination of shoreline protections, like floodwalls and levees and dikes, combined with strategic retreat. You can’t protect everything.”


Millennials are transforming African farming

Africa has 65% of the world’s remaining uncultivated arable land, an abundance of fresh water and about 300 days of sunshine each year, according to the ADB.

Yet in 2017, African nations spent almost $65 billion importing food. “This is unsustainable, irresponsible, and unaffordable. It is also completely unnecessary,” says ADB President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina.

Although Africa produces almost three-quarters of the world’s cocoa beans, for example, it receives just 2% of revenues from global sales of chocolate. Dr. Adesina says that if African farms were to achieve their potential, the continent could become a major food exporter, with significant economic benefits.

Ayn Rand is on my short, short list of people I consider most evil.

Ayn Rand — a perverted psychopath

Symposium | Beyond NeoliberalismBuilding Post-Neoliberal Institutions

Some ideas that were considered laughable a few short years ago but are now part of day-to-day conversation—most notably proposals for far higher wealth and capital taxation, and ambitious public efforts to combat climate change or to expand public programs like free college and Medicare—are distinctly not neoliberal. Post-neoliberals are beginning to break through.

Neoliberalism’s vision for society made the market the prime organizing mechanism. By privileging markets above all other institutions, neoliberalism created a confusing, and contradictory, but ultimately extremely effective view of government. On the one hand, neoliberalism denigrates government. Anything that strays from market centrism is at best dismissed as inefficient and woolly-headed, and at worst demonized as collectivist socialism. On the other hand, neoliberalism is hardly anti-state. Neoliberals, as the historian Quinn Slobodian argues, built their project by using the state to “encase” markets in order to protect them from democratic challenges. …

Today, it is post-neoliberalism that is in an exciting, almost-out-of-the-wilderness, arguing-with-ourselves phase. We agree on plenty: the economic, social, and moral failure of market fundamentalism; the need to resurrect democracy against domination and to understand the democracy fight and the economic fight as one and the same; and the need for common values as part of our own statement of aims.

As was true for the neoliberals of 1947, we also have our own tensions. Are we in favor of more decentralization and community control (the Dakota Pipeline fight, or more centralized decision-making (Green New Deal industrial policy focused on the transformation of our energy grid)? Should we focus on more worker democracy and ownership (collectivists and network pragmatists) or more modern, sectoral, and inclusive federal labor law (a Wagner Act for the twenty-first century)?

… real-world policy and political shifts: A new focus on antitrust and monopolies in federal politics has Democratic candidates on the left and in the middle railing against the strictures of the consumer welfare standard and calling for breaking up Big Tech, industrial agriculture, and pharmaceuticals. Some lawmakers are calling for public banking, massive public investment in green infrastructure, and publicly provided health insurance. These are all post-neoliberal proposals, and they have become increasingly commonplace.

… Neoliberal institutions remain strong exactly where post-neoliberal (or at least non-neoliberal) institutions are weakest. Large, profitable, often extractive private corporations hold more market power than ever. Any hope of countering this with public power will first require digging out of a ditch decades in the making.

The court system, from the Supreme Court on down, holds to a doctrine that is clearly pro-business and anti-labor. The Department of Justice Antitrust Division, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Communications Commission, the Treasury Department, the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Trade Representative, the White House National Economic Council: All of these government agencies and institutions are certainly, in the Trump Administration, neoliberal. But even in previous administrations, Democrat and Republican, neoliberal beliefs about the primacy of the private sector and the secondary (at best) role of workers, consumers, and citizens dominated. The “consumer welfare standard” held that only price—and not worker well-being, community well-being, or long-term investment—matter in making merger and acquisition decisions. Split decision-making power across the DOJ, the FTC, and a range of sector-specific agencies (Department of Transportation for airlines, Department of Agriculture for livestock, etc.) make for diffuse, ineffective decision-making, and the five-member FTC structure makes split voting, and status-quo outcomes, the norm. Consumer voice and input is muted at best, and worker and citizen voice is nonexistent.

… When Franklin Roosevelt built the New Deal, he started more than 100 new government agencies. Today, that is startling. Some of Roosevelt’s institutions have disappeared into the mists of time: the Federal Theater Project, the Civilian Conservation Corps. But some remain: the National Labor Relations Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Communications Commission. How will we use or remake existing government entities, and what will our new institutions be?

… any new institutions must be alert to the realities of power: the importance of countervailing power, and of stewarding power well. Politics, after all, is about power at its core. Neoliberal intellectuals tried to assume away power, and built an entire discipline and way of thinking that competes power away. But neoliberal real-world actors used that as a vacuum to build vast institutional networks that are about nothing but power—the Chamber of Commerce, the American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Prosperity—while at the same time marketizing government such that most of its decisions are made in the service of private actors—large corporations with armies of lobbyists—rather than in the public good. To get better economic and social outcomes, government simply must be structured to do its job, and led by people who understand what that job is and don’t act as handmaidens for an increasingly rent-seeking corporate sector.

… subsidies, vouchers, and tax credits, which we know are all neoliberal and insufficient in terms of delivering actual results. Our new institutions, and the norms embedded within them, should begin with realities of challenging for power (and not a “not red America, not blue America, but one America” ideal that sounds terrific but ends up, when legislation is actually on the table, negotiating against itself). Stewarding power well is essential. But imagining that it does not exist is naïve, and ultimately foolish.

Bayer Dangles $5.6 Billion Olive Branch to Roundup Critics

Bayer’s purchase of Monsanto, known at the time as the “Most Hated Company in the World,” will go down in history as one of the dumbest buys ever made. It’s right up there with this one by Bank of America.

I guess “love of nature” is not his strong suit. Nevertheless, we have to reach people starting with something to which they can relate.

Talk of Managing Earth as an Asset Wins Over Congressional Climate Change Skeptic

“I did not expect to come and be inspired, but I really have been,” Woodall said. “Dr. Shiang, it was your testimony about managing the climate—managing the Earth—as an asset that got me started in the right place, because I think that’s something we can agree on, up and down the ideological spectrum. We all understand managing assets.”

Washington Insurance Fraud Cases Result in Guilty Pleas

Two insurance fraud suspects pleaded guilty and one suspect entered a diversion program after investigations by Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s Criminal Investigations Unit.

It’s my understanding that those in Britain who decided to use the cladding were informed that it should not be used on buildings taller than 40 feet. We’ll have to see how this turns out.

Lawsuit Filed for ‘Defective’ Products Linked to London’s Grenfell Tower Fire Disaster

Three U.S. companies have been slapped with a wrongful death and products liability lawsuit for manufacturing products linked to London’s Grenfell tower fire. The fire, which has been called the worst UK residential fire since the 2nd World War, killed 72 people and injured many others on June 14, 2017.

Climate Change and the Reinsurance Implications

The litigation landscape has been changing, which in turn has implications for the reinsurance industry, especially those transacting commercial general liability, D&O and property business. And reinsurers as investors must appraise their investment strategy, including fossil fuel and renewable energy companies, to help mitigate the projected impact of climate change, according to the paper.

The paper notes that 2017 was the costliest year on record for natural catastrophe events, with $344 billion in global economic loss, of which 97 percent was due to weather-related events, while insured loss estimates from natural catastrophes totaled $140 billion in 2017.

A 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that global economic damages by 2100 would reach $54 trillion with a 1.5-degrees Celsius of warming of the planet, $69 trillion with 2 degrees Celsius of warming and $551 trillion with 3.7 degrees Celsius of warming.

If we don’t reverse global warming, which we could have already started, as in a real war-footing against excess greenhouse-gasses, we can expect more and more challenging choices where one way or another some large group will be hurt.

Mississippi Requests Pumps from Federal Govt. to Ease Flooding

The following linked-article doesn’t mention climate, warming, weather, or carbon. It’s Texas: the oil state.

Texas Governor Signs Disaster Relief, Preparedness Bills

Unfortunately, “conservatism,” as today’s usage dictates, is synonymous with shortsightedness. Consider the irony in the following title: Australia approves vast coal mine near Great Barrier Reef.

Coal mining leads to coal burning leads to global warming leads to ocean acidification leads to bleaching and destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s money now over a habitable planet in the not too distant future. What’s doubly sad is that more money could be had without coal mining.

Carnival Cruise Ship Fleet Pollutes Almost 10 Times More Than All Cars in Europe: Study

This statement arrived days after Carnival agreed to a $20 million fine and undergo increased scrutiny of its plastic and sewage disposal practices, which included dumping both directly into the ocean in large quantities. Carnival allegedly tried to hide these activities from regulators by falsifying records or pressuring the United States Coast Guard to relax the terms of its environmental compliance agreement.

Despite automobiles releasing a significantly smaller proportion of harmful emissions than cruise ships, European regulators are taking to the law books to reduce the environmental impact of all transportation.

Critically Important News & Analysis, June 8, 2019

The employment situation is pretty stagnant. The Green New Deal (GND) will take care of that.

I called for a GND plank-by-blank but not by that name shortly after the first Earth Day in 1970, when I was 16, long before the Greens (in Europe) announced their GND platform in 2006. I read Rachel Carson’s, New York Times bestseller, Silent Spring. The “conservatives” hated it.

It’s interesting to note that conservation is exactly what Rachel was about: being conservative but also restorative and protective. The “conservatives” who hated Rachel’s book were the radicals: radically dangerous. Look at all the destructive “prosperity” they’ve wrought.

It hasn’t been creative destruction in the positive but negative. Their externalities aren’t external to anything. We’re living with them, those “externalities” and often right within us, in our bodies as toxins damaging and killing us prematurely.

We can take care of the planet, ourselves, our loved ones, our entire race, the Human Race, and our entire planet’s economy all at the same time and rather quickly. It requires vision and bringing that to fruition.

It’s been a very long slog because of the selfish forces arrayed against us. However, the time to break through and win has come. Things had to get much worse before enough people woke up. That’s a shame, but it’s better late than never.

People had the right vision in 1970 and before, but they were ignored and then fought against by laissez-faire capitalists, who always put their shortsighted, selfish goals before everyone and everything else.

Envision a world without unemployment, poverty, pollution, global warming, war, etc. Envision the “Employment Situation” being reported as perfect rather than the stagnant situation we hear about over and over for decades.

We shouldn’t have been living with systemic unemployment now since the 1970’s. We have been living with it because the wrong people have been in power bringing forth the wrong policies and practices. Many of them have wrongly called themselves liberals and progressives and conservatives.

We need a hugely liberal fiscal policy where our government creates and doesn’t borrow money. We need progressive policies and practices to restore us back to what should have been conserved in the first place: a clean and healthy planet.

The stagnant Employment Situation Summary.

We can easily pay for it all: The Monetary-and-Banking-Democratization Platform for The United States of America.

How about building a receiving room into the housing? There was an experimental company that delivered groceries to a refrigerator with two doors, one on the outside of the house and one on the inside for the residents. I’d rather have the deliveries dropped off in a portion of the house or apartment that doesn’t allow the delivery personnel to have access to anywhere else.

Walmart Will Put the Groceries in the Fridge While You’re Out

Federal Crews Begin Assessing Ohio Tornado Damage

The survey crews will tally up the damage to determine if Ohio qualifies for federal disaster assistance.

10 Democratic Candidates Support Fracking Ban. Biden Stays Mum.

Candidates Bernie Sanders, Jay Inslee, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard, Peter Buttigieg, Bill de Blasio, Marianne Williamson, Wayne Messam and Eric Swalwell all support a ban on hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” according to a survey updated Monday by The Washington Post. Several other candidates, including Kirsten Gillibrand and Beto O’Rourke, would not ban fracking but support tougher environmental regulation of the oil and gas industry. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris did not respond to the survey.

Biden released his much-anticipated climate plan on Tuesday, but it says nothing about fracking. …

The anti-fracking positions taken by a number of prominent Democrats stand in sharp contrast to the Trump administration, which has declared itself the oil and gas industry’s “best friend” and feverishly rolled back environmental protections and federal efforts to respond to the climate crisis.

Widespread fracking and the disposal of fracking wastewater has been linked to water contamination, air pollution and even earthquakes. The industry has rapidly expanded its infrastructure as a result of the fracking boom and a glut of cheap natural gas, forcing communities to contend with new pipelines, oil and gas storage depots, petrochemical refineries, plastics plants and other potential sources of pollution.

It is still early in the primary season, and many Democrats have yet to solidify their energy and climate agendas. Senator Booker, for example, supports a fracking ban but also supports expanding nuclear power plants as a source of carbon-neutral energy, a position that puts him at odds with many environmentalists. Biden has taken heat from opponents on his left for approaching climate change with a “middle ground” energy policy that would likely embrace fracking. The debate is expected to center around the term “net-zero emissions,” because carbon offset programs, cap-and-trade schemes, carbon capture and other forms of climate mitigation would allow the fossil fuel industry to continue fracking and drilling for decades.

For the record, I opposed fracking before it even came on line. I had said it will cause earthquakes and damage property, not to mention contaminate ground water. It’s also increased air pollution.

Scathing attack on the US healthcare system:

The Neoliberal Disaster of US Healthcare

In 2018 the UK spent 18% (£145.8 billion) of the total government budget in order to provide free universal health care.

By contrast, in 2018 the US spent 28% ($1.5 trillion) of the total government budget in order to apparently subsidise a woefully inefficient private health care sector.

The US government spends 55% more than the UK government on health care: yet somehow fails to be able to offer free universal health care for all its citizens.

It would appear that in relying upon private sector health care provision the US taxpayer is getting spectacularly bad value for their tax dollars.

Indeed anyone looking at this spending difference would assume that the country spending 28% of its budget was the one providing free health care and the country spending 18% was more likely using the private sector model.

The whole article is well worth reading. Just because I’m in the insurance industry doesn’t mean I support the private health-insurance portion of the sector. I’d rather everyone be fully covered and have zero out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare than for anyone in the private health-insurance industry to be rich by keeping the US from having a National Health Service (NHS) even better than the one in Britain.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m completely for private insurance in this mixed economy. What I mean is that I’m for private coverage over none. Plenty of people providing private coverage are fine people, ethical people who fully empathize with those needing care. I’m not disparaging the insurance industry, per se, though I’m far from saying it’s perfect. What I am saying is that we can, should, and, frankly, must provide quality healthcare to everyone at no out-of-pocket costs to them and do so without pulling the financial rug out from under those in health insurance.

By the way, the “horror” stories you might hear or read about the NHS in England are due to privatizers undercutting funding and not due to anything inherently bad about the program.

I’m always against the greedy under funding or taking away from the poor what’s working. The NHS works very well and should be receiving more funding, not less.

Fed uses Chicago conference to signal it will use quantitative easing aggressively to fight next recession

“The next time policy rates hit the effective lower bound [i.e. zero] — and there will be a next time — it will not be a surprise. We are now well aware of the challenges the ELB presents, and we have the painful experience of the global financial crisis and its aftermath to guide us,” Powell said in a speech opening the conference.

“Our obligation to the public we serve is to take those measures now that will put us in the best position deal with our next encounter with the ELB,” he said.

He better start talking up fiscal stimulus. The ground needs to be prepared for a stimulus that will make the last one look like a drop in the bucket.

Gas surges globally as green groups cry foul

The IEA told AFP that gas consumption in 2018 prevented the burning of around 60 million tonnes of coal, which produces around 40 percent greater emissions.

“In a world where millions of lives and livelihoods are already being destroyed by rising global temperatures, there is no future in fossil fuel growth.”

Jo Michell didn’t like Richard Murphy’s article on James Meadway’s anti-MMT campaign for the Labour Party.

Jo Michell is missing the point. Richard’s point is that Labour’s “fiscal rule” is a self-inflicted (neoclassical/neoliberal) wound that will severely hamper Labour’s ability to deliver. Richard is completely correct. I think John McDonnell knows it too and that Labour will not retain its “fiscal rule” once it gets in the way of Labour delivering. Perhaps the US will have to beat Labour to it via MMT so Labour can have cover by pointing to how well the US is doing bringing forth the Green New Deal.

California Senate Shelves Bill Tying Affordable Housing to Climate Crisis, Public Transit

Senate Democrats have removed SB 50 from the docket for the 2019 legislative session. Aiming to tackle housing, public transit and wildfires, it came under fire for loopholes and weak mandates, but policy conversation now proceeds in other venues.

‘Grenfell inquiry taking too long’ – North Kensington resident

“With the inquiry, everything is taking so long, that when we look at the Hackitt Report and we look at recommendations… It’s too long” – Melanie Wolfe, North Kensington resident, Campaigner, as the second anniversary of the Grenfell fire approaches.