Tuesday, May 17, 2016

An Open Letter to the Clinton Campaign

This year, from Joe Scarborough’s vapid attempt to characterize the working class as “mad at Republicans for not keeping promises to reign in the debt”, to Chuck Todd’s ludicrous assertion that the reason people don’t warm up to Hillary is (mostly) about her inability to show her personal side, I’m struck by just how dumb the political class is about what is going on in America and about what is being thought about by most Americans.

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, one sincerely the other more or less fraudulently, are gaining traction because of one key and central theme, specifically the fate of average Americans.  Sanders and Trump are speaking to people’s frustration at having spent 30 years (since Reagan) buying into a myth, and during that time have seen their jobs leave, their wages fall or at best remain flat while costs rise, and the opportunities for their children to get an education and have at least as good a life, if not better, than they have, disappear.   This has come about due to competition with offshore labor, through attacks on the worthiness of work and was justified by/motivated from the idea that profit for the shareholders is first last and always the only thing that must be considered.  They (workers) were promised that by focusing on shareholder return there would be more and better paying jobs than those which left, and so more opportunity.  It has not done been true, not even close.  That idea has failed, and failed miserably.  It has lead to greater inequality as we destroyed overtime pay protections and most importantly cut taxes at the top end, motivating the very wealthy to seek and succeed in gaining access to a greater share of the profits they would now got to keep rather than see taxed.
The bottom line is this, if Hillary seeks to defeat Trump, a task which should be easy given the man’s enormous flaws, she MUST tap into that anger.  She needs to focus on demonstrating that the DEMOCRATIC PARTY has defended the working class far more than the Republicans, that the Democrats, not Republicans have repeatedly opposed easing restrictions on moving jobs overseas, repeatedly advocated for increasing wages, for making school accessible, making new industries (like renewable energy) the focus of our new manufacturing rather than, as Trump would advocate, reducing wages in stagnant industries so that US goods will be cost competitive with goods produced by impoverished workers in Indonesia, the Philippines or Ghana, so those goods can be sold in the poorest countries to the lowest bidder.  She must stake out the difference between not just her and Trump but Democrats and Republicans in terms of their recent history.  It has been Republicans who pushed the idea that corporate greed was good, even if it cost people jobs.  It has been Republicans who push so-called “right to work” ideas that destroy union protections and Republicans who protected corporations when they declared bankruptcy to shed themselves of pension commitments.  She must also show how her stance defends US worker’s wages and looks to the future rather than simply seeking to chase 3rd world countries down the rabbit hole of ever deflating wages.  Last, she MUST call out the wealthy in this country as having been unfair to those workers, allowing the US infrastructure to crumble, for making US universities to have to make up lost educational support by increasing tuition, and most of all, for not having shared the pain as jobs went offshore.  She must call them out for pocketing trillions, and not paying their share, while the country suffered and suffers.

So, while I find the issue of Trump's contemptuous, demeaning and blatantly sexist treatment of women in his life compelling, in the end it is hardly the only or even most important issue.  As Bill Clinton once said, "It's the economy, stupid."  That's something Trump seems to get more so than does Clinton right now and that has to change or we're going to elect a man to the Presidency who has an orangutan stapled to the top of his head and who has policy proposals to match.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Fossil fuels go the way of the dinosaur

processing whale oil

We see Oil Companies starting to relinquish their 'drill baby drill' grip on the more expensive-to- extract oil fields.  With high inventories and low prices for an extended period of months, it has become cost-ineffective to extract that oil, which SHOULD be left in the ground, particularly given the fragile eco-systems surrounding them.  We are beginning to see the key phrase 'stranded asset' appear, for example, in the context of Arctic oil drilling.

We see oil economy nations like Saudi Arabia announcing their plans to get out of the oil business over the next twenty years (or less).  They clearly see the writing on the wall, that fossil fuels are done, over, finished, obsolete - and dangerous.  As noted Middle East observer and expert Juan Cole wrote recently:
Saudi crown prince Muhammad bin Salman announced Friday that Saudi Arabia would use its oil assets to back a $2 trillion sovereign wealth fund. The move suggested to many observers that the kingdom is preparing for a likely end of the petroleum business and transitioning to being primarily an investor. While it is true that the money for the sovereign wealth fund is expected to come from petroleum sales, it also seems clear that the kingdom recognizes that it has a stranded asset that won’t be nearly as valuable in a decade or two as it is now. It could even end up, like coal, being regulated out of existence in many countries.
Here are 3 reasons Saudi Arabia is likely making this massive change in economic strategy:
1. Climate change denial, which the Saudis pushed and helped fund, has failed. A majority of Americans now accepts that humans burning fossil fuels is causing global warming. And that’s in anti-science, capitalist-ridden America. Everywhere else in the world it goes without saying. Since the impact of global warming will become increasingly apparent in the coming decades, likely pressure to abandon burning fossil fuels will grow. Already, most new investment in power plants is in renewables, not coal and gas.
2. Another fossil fuel, coal, is being quickly phased out and will likely be illegal in fifteen or twenty years. It is being phased out by the Environmental Protection Agency because it puts out pollutants, including CO2. The writing is on the wall for coal and petroleum.
3. More affordable, longer-range electric cars are now coming on the market, with the Chevy Bolt due next December and Tesla 3 the following year. Most petroleum is used for transportation, so electric vehicles are deadly to that market. The new generation of electric cars is less than $30,000 in the US after tax rebates. And it typically can go 200 miles on a charge. Tesla is putting fast recharging stations everywhere it can, and people have already gone across the country in a Tesla. Battery costs are falling and batteries are becoming more efficient, so the writing is on the wall for the combustion engine. Consumers are combining electric cars with solar panels on their houses, getting free fuel. Low gasoline prices won’t impede solar car sales because prices would have to fall another dollar US before EVs would not be worth it.
In as little as fifteen to twenty years, petroleum may be illegal in some places; and will be in retreat everywhere. Saudi oil is a stranded asset. So they are attempting to create a revenue stream from investments. As for fossil fuels, their business model is under severe pressure.
And we see economic reports like this one, which for those international oil companies that aren't being open about their awareness of the obsolescence of oil, that their days are numbered if they don't get out of oil, and instead get into something else.  From Climate News Network:

Oil majors told to adapt or die

As profits and prices plummet, the oil conglomerates – some of the world’s biggest companies – have been warned they must change their ways or face extinction.

By Kieran Cooke
LONDON, 9 May, 2016 – At best, big oil companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron and BP face a period of gentle decline, but will ultimately survive.
At worst, if they do not adapt and change direction, “what remains of their existence will be nasty, brutish and short”.
That’s the core message of a research paper on the oil corporates by one of the UK’s leading energy experts, Paul Stevens, a senior research fellow at the London-based Chatham House thinktank, the Royal Institute of International Affairs.
Present management strategies within the oil majors have failed to deliver value to shareholders, and profits are declining sharply, Stevens says.
There are parallels in the coal industry, and in natural gas. Like the 'olden days' of the 19th century, when whale oil became obsolete (and harder to come by) and was replaced by petroleum products, beginning with kerosene and progressing to other petroleum distillates like gasoline and fuel oil.  Coal is dead; while there appear to be die-hards who cannot accept that change is inevitable, it does not change the reality that we have always evolved new forms of energy - including steam and gas in their heyday, which were then replaced by electricity.

This has been a key issue in the 2016 election cycle, the capacity to acknowledge the dead end of fossil fuel and the need to move forward with new infrastructure, new job training, towards cleaner renewable more modern energy.  Conservatives can't or won't make that change; but if they don't do so voluntarily, it will be thrust upon them.  Their only choice is how they respond to change, not IF the change will occur, or when.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

As our readers know, I make it a habit to fact check quotes for accuracy.  Snopes has already investigated the words below.

Those words are plausible, but not verifiable.

But they do seem to be at the very least apocryphal.  I prefer a definition for apocryphal that has always struck me as more satisfying, rather than the dictionary (or theological) definitions.  That more colloquial definition is that if it isn't strictly true or accurate, it could be true and SHOULD be true, that the statement in question captures something of value and validity in spite of origins.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Did it to themselves, while we all watched........the stupider party, with ugly values and priorities, the more conservative they became

Friday Fun Day!

As outgoing president, with the economy improved, and high approvals both foreign and domestic, one can afford a little happy dancing in the White House.

Poor dancing storm troopers, they don't get a chance to be recognized as individuals appearing with the president and first lady.  Still, it must have been a thrill for them to do this!

We have a president and first lady who are both current, and fashionable, and who manage to be fun without being embarrassing.

This is what 'being in touch' looks like!

As Gallup notes, by way of Politicus USA :

Obama’s Soaring Approval Rating Powers Democratic Optimism For 2016

President Obama's job approval rating now sits at 52%. As the President gets more popular by the day, optimism is growing among Democrats for a big 2016 election victory.

Here is Gallup’s Daily Obama job approval rating:
Notice a pattern? President Obama’s job approval has been a net positive for two weeks.
Donald Trump’s approval ratings have nosedived since last year. According to Gallup, “Since last year, Trump’s net favorable rating (% favorable minus % unfavorable) among all adults nationally has worsened, to -35 in March from -17 in August.” Trump has a 70% unfavorable rating with women. According to the Harvard IOP Spring 2016 Survey, Trump has a (-57) net favorability with 18-29 year olds. In contrast, President Obama has a 55% approval rating with millennials and an overall net approval rating of (+13).