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Journal Archives

America and climate change : How America can rid itself of both carbon and blackouts

This is the moment for an ambitious attempt to deal with climate change


Texas prides itself on being different. Yet it is in the grip of a winter storm that typifies the Snowmageddon-size problems facing energy in America. Although nobody can be sure if this particular freeze is a sign of climate change, the growing frequency of extreme weather across the country is. Texan infrastructure has buckled. The problem is not, as some argue, that Texas has too many renewables. Gas-fired plants and a nuclear reactor were hit, as well as wind turbines. Worse, Texas had too little capacity and its poorly connected grid was unable to import power from elsewhere (see article). Texas shows that America needs both a cleaner grid and a more reliable one. Plans to overhaul American energy will come before Congress in the next few months. President Joe Biden has said that he wants fossil-fuel emissions from power generation to end by 2035 and the economy to be carbon-neutral by 2050. America is not just the world’s second-largest emitter, but also a source of climate-related policy, technology and, potentially, leadership. What is about to unfold in Washington will set the course in America for the next decade—and quite possibly beyond.

Time is pressing. Neither Mr Biden nor his successors may get a second chance to recast policy on such a scale. Global emissions from fossil fuels and cement production in 2019 were 16% higher than in 2009. It will be even harder to limit climate change to less than 2°C above the pre-industrial level, the global threshold from which America’s target for 2050 comes. To be carbon neutral, the world must curb emissions by 7.6% a year for a decade, a steeper decline than in 2020, when covid-19 cut demand for oil and coal. For America, delaying action to 2030 would nearly double the cost of reaching net zero or, more likely, mean it overshoots its targets. Yet there are grounds for hope. Although the Republican Party is against almost all action, voters are increasingly alarmed by climate change. Two-thirds of them think the federal government is doing too little about it, and that share includes plenty of younger Republicans. Although the fossil-fuel lobby remains powerful, many Republican business donors want more action—partly because asset managers are urging firms to align their strategies with the net-zero world Mr Biden envisions. Most encouraging of all, the costs of power from wind and solar have plunged by 70% and 90% over the past decade. Along with cheap gas, this has already helped America decarbonise at an impressive rate, despite Donald Trump’s rolling back of fossil-fuel regulations. Price has not been the only factor; more than half of the states have some sort of clean-energy mandate, a device that Mr Biden wants to introduce on a national scale.

This involves a regulatory framework that favours renewable-energy developments and grid connections to hook them up. It will take a lot of extra investment—about $2.5trn in the coming decade, say researchers at Princeton (see Briefing). In a new book, Bill Gates, a billionaire philanthropist, argues that research is needed into a host of areas such as energy storage, advanced nuclear reactors to complement renewables and technologies for clean concrete-making and other activities that are hard to decarbonise (see article). Without these, even if a clean grid is powering electric cars and light trucks, it will displace only around half of emissions. America is good at innovation, but new ideas need to be deployed at scale, not languish in the lab. One tool is a carbon price which, if it were high enough and if investors believed it would last, would signal what improvements were needed where. But for all its attractions, carbon pricing failed in Congress in 2009. Although many economists and opinion-makers on the right favour it, Republican politicians do not. And even if a carbon price were in place, public-private co-operation would still be needed for America to act as fast as Mr Biden proposes. For all those reasons, an ambitious climate-oriented infrastructure bill looks like Mr Biden’s best chance of getting new policy on climate through the Senate. Unfortunately such a plan will be lucky to attract any Republican votes. Yet, if mustering the 60 needed to see off a Senate filibuster is improbable, a plan could be stripped of some measures, including a clean-energy standard, and passed with a simple majority through the parliamentary manoeuvre known as reconciliation. The bill must still be of a scale and ambition that matches America’s challenge.

Failure to act would bring big risks. For a start, it would make America less competitive in the new clean-energy economy. China is the dominant producer of solar panels and batteries; it has also invested in foreign mines to secure minerals needed for them. Europe has its own “green deal” to boost its clean-energy industries. It plans to tax imports from countries that do not pledge to lower their emissions. America would also be deprived of global influence over climate. It has direct control over only about 10% of the world’s greenhouse-gas effluvia. If it wants the benefit of a stabler climate—and with it a stabler world economy, stabler geopolitics and much avoided suffering—it needs to influence the other 90%, too. Mr Biden has appointed John Kerry, a former secretary of state, to spearhead that effort (see Lexington). America is to rejoin the Paris agreement on February 19th, making it a full participant in the un conference to be held in Glasgow, in Scotland, in November, when countries will be able to lodge new and more ambitious pledges to cut emissions. If America tables goals and gives evidence that it will back them with domestic policy, it will gain influence. China’s two big development banks have doled out $51bn for foreign coal plants since 2008. America should be part of a push against such subsidies. Unfortunately, America brings little credibility to action on climate. Mr Trump took pleasure in subverting it, but his country’s poor record precedes him. George W. Bush declined to implement the Kyoto protocol. Congress has not considered serious climate legislation since 2009. Today must be different. There will never be a better chance for Mr Biden to show real ambition. If the blackouts in Texas are any guide, it would not just be the world that would thank him, but Americans, too.


Gig workers: guinea pigs of the new world of work

Most discussion of gig workers has focused on their material insecurity. More attention also needs to be paid to what goes on in their heads.


The ‘gig’ economy has grown to become an intrinsic part of our society and yet the benefits and risks of this new way of working are still much debated. Understandably, the employment status of gig workers captures most public attention. Most European Union member states lack clear regulations on this, so a platform’s terms and conditions determine the status of its ‘users’, based on the existing regulatory framework. Although there are instances of platforms offering employment contracts, most consider gig workers as self-employed. This is often referred to as ‘bogus’ self-employment: workers are treated as such for tax, commercial and company-law purposes, yet remain subject to subordination by and dependence on the contractor and/or platform. As new forms of work outpace regulation, the key legal challenge is to ensure no workers are left outside of the regulatory framework. That should, however, not hide the fact that gig workers deal with unique challenges when it comes to working conditions. In addition to the specific hazards entailed by the different types of activities mediated through online labour platforms, there are also risks related to the way gig work is organised, designed and managed. Addressing these is essential, to safeguard working conditions and ensure a socially responsive transition to the new world of work.

Digital surveillance

The gig economy has essentially been made possible by concurrent advances in digitalisation and telecommunications. Digital platforms not only allow the remote connection of customers and contractors everywhere in the world but also maximum standardisation of the organisation and delivery of work. By assuming duties conventionally assigned to human-relations departments, algorithms are given responsibility for making the decisions that affect work, limiting human involvement in the labour process. Digital surveillance is an essential component of algorithmic management: automated decision-making requires a substantial amount of data, which can only be achieved by intensively tracking workers’ activities and whereabouts. This aspect of supervision is often illustrated by the ‘panopticon’ metaphor—a prison system allowing a single observer simultaneously to watch each prisoner from a central point. Such architecture is intended to ‘internalise’ the supervisory function, as the prisoner cannot know when the observer is watching and so assumes this could be at any moment.

While most gig workers are unclear about which data are being collected and how they are used by the platform, the internalisation of the supervisory function is potent enough to create an overall climate of discipline and control. There is evidence that constant monitoring and automated managerial techniques contribute to an increasingly hectic pace of work, a lack of trust toward the platform and pronounced power asymmetries, limiting workers’ opportunities to resist or develop effective forms of internal voice. The implementation of automated and remote management practices eliminates the need for shared physical premises. Most of the tasks are performed individually, separated and often in competition with fellow workers. Gig workers also lack organisational forms of support, such as coaching or career mentoring. Physical interactions with supervisors or co-workers are considered obsolete—even counterproductive, as they introduce undesired variability into matching demand and supply. Such a work environment lacks the warmth of face‐to‐face interactions, which are crucial for developing a sense of oneness and of belonging to the same community. Rather, multiple studies underline a logic of ‘everyone for themselves’, leading to disputes within the working class.

Redefining boundaries

Platforms’ remote technologies are also redefining the boundaries between private and public space. The fear of missing out on lucrative gigs leads to an obsessive relationship with the platform’s app and encourages a mindset of ‘always and everywhere’ availability. Gig workers are required to approach their working life as a project in which they must invest, leading to an internalisation of external risks. In this ‘onlife paradigm’ of fluid reality, everyday experience and personal assets are exposed to financialisation or value extraction. More permeable boundaries means work interrupts non-work behaviours, thereby adding to overtime and work-family conflicts. Working in isolation is also detrimental to professional identity, as workers are short of role models or career mentors. Without the protective cloak of such identity, workers are more likely to experience occupational stress and to suffer from anxiety, burnout and depression. In this regard, research shows that micro-workers represent an especially vulnerable population, their identity rendered fragile by lack of meaning.

Short-term assignments......


Dems push 'No Glory for Hate Act' to keep Trump from being buried at Arlington National Cemetery


As part of an overarching bill involving monuments and memorials, Democrats have introduced a bill that would prevent any president impeached more than once to be buried at Arlington National Cemetary.

In a statement from Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) said, "for years, Donald Trump poured gasoline on lies, encouraging racism and hatred, then lit the match on January 6th. A president who has been impeached twice does not deserve the honors bestowed on a former president. We should never glorify the hatred Donald Trump personified as President. This bill ensures that there is no glory for hate – not a building, statue, or even a park bench." The bill would also "prohibit the use of Federal funds for the commemoration of certain former Presidents, and for other purposes," said the text, according to ABC4.

House Bill 484, says that federal funds would not be allowed to be used to:

"Create or display any symbol, monument, or statue commemorating any former President that has been twice impeached by the House of Representatives on or before the date of enactment of this Act or has been convicted of a State or Federal crime relating to actions taken in an official capacity as President of the United States on Federal public land, including any highway, park, subway, Federal building, military installation, street, or other Federal property."


Flyin' Ted

Light a candle for the kids.......... The freeze in Texas exposes America's infrastructural failings


WHEN IT RAINS, it pours, and when it snows, the lights turn off. Or so it goes in Texas. After a winter storm pummelled the Lone Star State with record snowfall and the lowest temperatures in more than 30 years, millions were left without electricity and heat. On February 16th 4.5m Texan households were cut off from power, as providers were overloaded with demand and tried to shuffle access to electricity so the whole grid did not go down. Whole skylines, including Dallas’s, went dark to conserve power. Some Texans braved the snowy roads to check into the few hotels with remaining rooms, only for the hotels’ power to go off as they arrived. Others donned skiwear and remained inside, hoping the lights and heat would come back on. Across the state, what were supposed to be “rolling” blackouts lasted for days. It is still too soon to quantify the devastation. More than 20 people have died in motor accidents, from fires lit for warmth and from carbon-monoxide poisoning from using cars for heat. The storm has also halted deliveries of covid-19 vaccines and may prevent around 1m vaccinations from happening this week. Several retail electricity providers are likely to go bankrupt, after being hit with surging wholesale power prices. Other states, including Tennessee, were also covered in snow, but Texas got the lion’s share and ground to a halt. Texans are rightly furious that residents of America’s energy capital cannot count on reliable power. Everyone is asking why.

The short answer is that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the grid, did not properly forecast the demand for energy as a result of the storm. Some say that this was nearly impossible to predict, but there were warnings of the severity of the coming weather in the preceding week, and ERCOT’s projections were notably short. Brownouts last summer had already demonstrated the grid’s lack of excess capacity, says George O’Leary of Tudor, Pickering, Holt & CO (TPH), an energy investment bank. Many Republican politicians were quick to blame renewable energy sources, such as wind power, for the blackouts, but that is not fair. Some wind turbines did indeed freeze, but natural gas, which accounts for around half of the state’s electricity generation, was the primary source of the shortfall. Plants broke down, as did the gas supply chain and pipelines. The cold also caused a reactor at one of the state’s two nuclear plants to go offline. Transmission lines may have also iced up, says Wade Schauer of Wood Mackenzie, an energy-research firm. In short, Texas experienced a perfect storm. Some of the blame falls on the unique design of the electricity market in Texas. Of America’s 48 contiguous states, it is the only one with its own stand-alone electricity grid—the Texas Interconnection. This means that when power generators fail, the state cannot import electricity from outside its borders.

The state’s deregulated power market is also fiercely competitive. ERCOT oversees the grid, while power generators produce electricity for the wholesale market. Some 300 retail electricity providers buy that fuel and then compete for consumers. Because such cold weather is rare, energy companies do not invest in “winterising” their equipment, as this would raise their prices for consumers. Perhaps most important, the state does not have a “capacity market”, which would ensure that there was extra power available for surging demand. This acts as a sort of insurance policy so the lights will not go out, but it also means customers pay higher bills. For years the benefits of Texas’s deregulated market structure were clear. At 8.6 cents per kilowatt hour, the state’s average retail price for electricity is around one-fifth lower than the national average and about half the cost of California’s. In 1999 the state set targets for renewables, and today it accounts for around 30% of America’s wind energy. This disaster is prompting people to question whether Texas’s system is as resilient and well-designed as people previously believed. Greg Abbott, the governor, has called for an investigation into ERCOT. This storm “has exposed some serious weaknesses in our free-market approach in Texas”, says Luke Metzger of Environment Texas, a non-profit, who had been without power for 54 hours when The Economist went to press. Wholly redesigning the power grid in Texas seems unlikely. After the snow melts, the state will need to tackle two more straightforward questions.

The first is whether it needs to increase reserve capacity. “If we impose a capacity market here and a bunch of new cap-ex is required to winterise equipment, who bears that cost? Ultimately it’s the customer,” says Bobby Tudor, chairman of TPH. The second is how Texas can ensure the reliability of equipment in extreme weather conditions. After a polar vortex in 2014 hit the east coast, PJM, a regional transmission organisation, started making higher payments based on reliability of service, says Michael Weinstein of Credit Suisse, a bank. In Texas there is no penalty for systems going down, except for public complaints and politicians’ finger-pointing. Texas is hardly the only state to struggle with blackouts. California, which has a more tightly regulated power market, is regularly plunged into darkness during periods of high heat, winds and wildfires. Unlike Texas, much of northern California is dependent on a single utility, PG&E. The company has been repeatedly sued for dismal, dangerous management. But, as in Texas, critics have blamed intermittent renewable power for blackouts. In truth, California’s blackouts share many of the same causes as those in Texas: extreme weather, power generators that failed unexpectedly, poor planning by state regulators and an inability (in California, temporary) to import power from elsewhere. In California’s blackouts last year, solar output naturally declined in the evening. But gas plants also went offline and weak rainfall lowered the output of hydroelectric dams. In California, as in Texas, it would help to have additional power generation, energy storage to meet peak demand and more resilient infrastructure, such as buried power lines and more long-distance, high-voltage transmission. Weather events that once might have been dismissed as unusual are becoming more common. Without more investment in electricity grids, blackouts will be, too.


The GOP Is Now the Party of Thugs, Terrorists, Racists and Dopes


In successful organizations, the cream rises to the top. In dysfunctional ones, something else floats to the surface. Nowhere has this been clearer than in the Republican Party, which has in the past several weeks yet again demonstrated that it has handed over control to the worst of its members. It is now the party led by and for thugs, terrorists, racists, and dopes. After a relative handful of Republicans acknowledged with their votes and in their words the indisputable truth that Donald Trump led an insurrection against the United States government, the rest of their party made their position absolutely clear: These folks had chosen the wrong party if they were going to let truth or conscience influence their decisions. Dave Ball, a Pennsylvania GOP official, said the quiet part out loud with respect to Senator Pat Toomey, one of the seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump in the Senate: “We did not send him there to vote his conscience. We did not send him there to ‘do the right thing’ or whatever.”

As if that did not make their position clear enough, some Pennsylvania county Republican party chapters voted to censure Toomey and the entire state GOP was considering following suit. County GOP chapters in Nebraska have passed resolutions calling for Senator Ben Sasse’s censure. The Louisiana Republican Party and the North Carolina Republican Party took even swifter action against Senators Bill Cassidy and Richard Burr respectively, censuring them within hours of their vote to convict Trump. Following her vote to impeach, Rep. Liz Cheney, a staunch conservative with impeccable GOP bloodlines, was immediately censured by the Wyoming GOP and then targeted by one of the party’s leading dopes, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz. In Arizona, Republican Governor Doug Ducey, former Senator Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of Senator John McCain, were all censured weeks before for failing to help Trump invalidate election results. In other words, while Toomey, Cassidy, Burr, and Cheney were censured for following their consciences and upholding their oaths, Ducey was censured for obeying the law and Flake and McCain were censured for speaking the truth.

The GOP social media universe has not only seen condemnation of those who vote to convict, even Mitch McConnell who effectively ensured that Trump would not be convicted, was getting battered for simply having stated the facts of the case and justifiably excoriating Trump after his vote to nonetheless acquit him. He has since been targeted by the likes of Sean Hannity, who declared that, “The time is now coming for new leadership in the U.S. Senate.” Another noted Republican from the same wing of the party, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted, “If only McConnell was so righteous as the Democrats trampled Trump and the Republicans while pushing collusion bullshit for 3 years or while Dems incited 10 months of violence, arson and rioting. Yea then he just sat back and did jack shit.” Trump Jr. then called for impeaching “RINOs” and kicking them out of the GOP. And all of that was before Trump Sr. emerged from his post-election silence on Tuesday to rip McConnell as “a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack.” As if those were not personal enough attacks, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the Illinois Republican who has become one of the leading voices for making a stand against Trump’s abuses, was the target of a two-page letter from 11 relatives saying that the congressman had “embarrassed the Kinzinger family name.” (It’s worth noting here that, absent his courage and service, no one would even know the Kinzinger family name.)

A recent poll shows Trump still dominates the potential GOP 2024 primary field. Trump has 53 percent support which is more than four times that of the next name of the list, his former vice president (and potential victim) Mike Pence. Next on the list is Donald Trump Jr., who despite never having done a lick of public service in his life and generally being a ne’er do well, garnered half the support of Pence. (Admittedly the no-public-service, ne’er-do-well formula was the one that his father followed all the way to the White House.). Also on the list, co-insurrectionists Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley. The only Trump critics on the list were Nikki Haley, who turned anti-Trump about a minute ago, at 6 percent, Mitt Romney at 4 percent and Larry Hogan at 1 percent. That’s not a poll so much as it is a stage four cancer diagnosis for the GOP. It shows the consequences of four years of Trump. But it shows something worse. It shows the consequences of tens of millions of Americans buying into Trump’s lies, embracing his anger, celebrating his prejudices and seeking to make the party stand more as testament to the flaws of one man than it does for any ideas or values of any sort. It is a party that is not just defending but is actively promoting white supremacist domestic terrorism. That is no longer an aberration.


N.A.S.T.Y Ft. Crazy Titch, D Double E, Hyper, & Riko Dan - Cock Back

N.A.S.T.Y ‎– Cock Back
After Shock ‎– ASF003
Vinyl, 12", Limited Edition
Sep 2003

Violators - Gangland (with a mash-up video of the classic 1979 film The Warriors)

one of the best hardcore punk songs ever (and the video is great too)


Violators ‎– Gangland... / The Fugitive
No Future Records ‎– Oi 9
Vinyl, 7", Single
17 Apr 1982
Punk, Oi

Charlotte Forten Grimke: A Living Witness (1st Black Female Writer at The Atlantic Magazine)


Charlotte Forten Grimke was a Philly, Pennsylvania Black woman, poet, abolitionist, teacher, and diarist. As a freed Black woman in the mid-late nineteenth century Forten’s pedigree was one of privilege in her day. To add to the rarity of her social class Charlotte was also from a wealthy Black family (her grandfather was a successful sail salesman) of influential socialite abolitionists who and associated with prominent figures of the day. "Forten's paternal aunt Margaretta Forten worked in the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society along with her sisters Harriet Forten Purvis and Sarah Louisa Forten Purvis. Forten's grandparents were Philadelphia abolitionists James Forten, Sr. and his wife Charlotte Vandine Forten, who were also active in the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society." (Civil War Talk)

Despite their status, their Blackness rendered them social pariahs: the family experienced exclusion from the majority of white social spaces, institutions, and leisure activities (restaurants, ice cream shops, museums, etc.). This anomaly of a juxtaposition of class, education, and free Blackness during the era of slavery and the pervasive prevalence of prejudice would exact a mental conundrum on Charlotte’s psychological navigation through womanhood. Charlotte spent the majority of her adolescence in her grandfather’s house, kept out of segregated schools and homeschooled via private tutor. By being so sheltered and concentrated in that controlled environment, Charlotte would become a well-read polyglot. Though protected from sociocultural racism consequently missed out on the formative social interactions/ experiences most young girls have in childhood. She was introspective, quiet, and very accustomed to being alone. It was this isolation that caused Forten’s father to send her to the Higginson Grammar School in Salem, Mass. where Charlotte started her first journal.

In her first journal, Forten drafted poetry, reflected on her Blackness and privilege that did not serve as much protection from racism and segregation; she ruminated through her privilege as an upper middle class Black women whose people were experiencing the cruelties of slavery and other grave injustices; and she especially processed her daily experiences in racism there in Massachusetts. Later in her time in MA Charlotte would contribute essays and poems to local papers, no doubt encouraged by her peer and penpal Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier. She’d eventually become the first Black teacher to be hired in Massachussets. Some suspect Grimke was the first Black teacher to teach white students in US history…

Grimke kept journals pretty much all of her life, the bulk of which were for the decade between 1854 and 1864 (minus 2 years 1860-62) as there was a HUGE gap of 20 years between her final two journals. Her initial objective in keeping a journal was to autobiographically chronicle her personal development. Charlotte’s journals are dynamic explorations of herself against her surroundings as a part of the Black elite and in the trenches and frontline for abolition. The bulk of her early entries are her inner workings of daily navigating the tensions and confrontations with whiteness' hatred and ignorance; hoping for retribution to be seen in her day.


40% (100's of BILLIONS) of small business PPP loans were snapped up by the giant corps, much of it

fraudulently, under the Trump administration.

President Biden tonight during his CNN Townhall

surely that needs to be clawed back!
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