February 2, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 5:35 PM


Lindsey Graham warns he'll "call in the FBI" if one witness is questioned in Trump impeachment trial (JON SKOLNIK, FEBRUARY 2, 2021, Salon)

In a Fox News interview on Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, cautioned Democrats against calling witnesses to the stand in Donald Trump's upcoming impeachment trial, warning that the GOP will retaliate by calling in the FBI for further testimony. 

Graham said in an interview, "If you open that can of worms, we'll want the FBI to come in and tell us about how people pre-planned this attack and what happened with the security footprint at the Capitol," adding, "You open up Pandora's Box if you call one witness."

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 PM


Economy Improving Faster Than Expected, Says CBO--What Does That Mean for Biden's Stimulus? (ALEXANDRA HUTZLER, 2/2/21, Newsweek)

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) upgraded its U.S. economic outlook on Monday, saying that the economy will return to its pre-pandemic size by the middle of this year--even if there is not another federal relief package.

The nonpartisan agency projects economic growth of 4.6 percent in 2021, compared with a 3.5 percent contraction in 2020. Real gross domestic product is expected to grow 3.7 percent in 2021 and average 2.6 percent growth over the next five years.

"CBO currently projects a stronger economy than it did in July 2020, in large part because the downturn was not as severe as expected and because the first stage of the recovery took place sooner and was stronger than expected," the report said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 PM


Joe Manchin Deals Blow to Democrats' Stimulus Plan, Won't Support It Without Bipartisan Agreement (MATTHEW IMPELLI,  2/2/21, Newsweek)

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said Tuesday he is opposed to passing an economic relief bill without bipartisan agreement.

Asked by reporters if he would support a budget resolution to pass the legislation, Manchin said, "I will only support moving in a bipartisan way." He added, "That means an open process. I've been very clear about that."

There are not 50 reliably Democratic votes in the Senate.  He'll need those breakaway Republicans and by working with them he makes them toxic on the Right. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:39 AM


Yahoo News/YouGov poll: More than two-thirds of Americans side with Biden on COVID relief -- and most support the rest of his agenda (Andrew Romano, February 1, 2021, Yahoo News)

[D]espite the distance between politicians on Capitol Hill, the Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows that ordinary Americans overwhelmingly favor most of Biden's agenda -- particularly his plan to end a pandemic that has killed more than 440,000.

Of all 20 policies covered by the poll, the two most popular were the ones at the center of Biden's current COVID proposal: $2,000 relief checks (74 percent favor vs. 13 percent oppose) and increased federal funding for vaccination (69 percent favor vs. 17 percent oppose). A full 58 percent of Americans also support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, another key element of Biden's COVID-19 rescue package. That's almost twice the share of Americans (31 percent) who oppose a wage hike. Nearly identical numbers favor (57 percent) and oppose (32 percent) a national mask mandate. [...]

After calling in his inaugural address for an end to America's "uncivil war," Biden also appears to be finding common ground with his constituents on the economy, health care, climate change, immigration and criminal justice. Two-thirds of Americans (65 percent) favor "more federal funding for research and development to assist domestic manufacturing" and "investing in renewable energy infrastructure," the core planks of Biden's separate COVID-19 recovery package, which he hopes to advance later this year. Opposition is negligible, at 13 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

More than 60 percent of Americans -- the equivalent of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate -- also support "stopping family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border" (64 percent to 20 percent); "creating a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children" (61 percent to 23 percent); and "enacting comprehensive criminal-justice reform" (63 percent to 12 percent).

And half or more Americans favor "cutting carbon emissions to zero by the year 2050" (54 percent to. 23 percent); "rejoining the World Health Organization" (57 percent to 28 percent); "giving all Americans the option of buying Medicare-like public health insurance" (57 percent to 22 percent); and "providing more federal funding for community policing measures" (51 percent to 21 percent); and "reversing the recent tax cuts for Americans making more than $400,000" (50 percent to 30 percent).

Meanwhile, opposition to most of the rest of Biden's agenda stalls out below 35 percent, including "rejoining the Paris Climate Accords" (48 percent to 30 percent); "reversing the recent tax cut for corporations" (45 percent to 32 percent); and "eliminating tuition at public colleges and universities for families making up to $125,000" (47 percent to 33 percent).

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 AM


5 reasons to be optimistic about clean energy in 2021 (Marcel Alers, 1/20/21, WEF)

1) Clean energy is a smart investment

Fossil fuels used to be less expensive than cleaner energy, but this is changing. Renewables are becoming more affordable every year, and some options are now cheaper than fossil fuels. The price of solar has decreased by 89 percent since 2010. It is now cheaper to go solar than to build new coal power plants in most countries, and solar is now the cheapest electricity in history. Amid an exceptionally challenging year, and despite suffering setbacks, the renewables sector has shown some resilience.

This fall in price, coupled with technological progress and the introduction of innovative business models, means we are now at a tipping point. Energy efficiency technologies can also deliver climate benefits. The right efficiency policies could enable the world to achieve more than 40 percent of the emissions cuts needed to even without new technology.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


JOHAN NORBERG AND OPEN SOCIETIES: a review of Open - The Story of Human Progress (Madsen Pirie, 2/02/21, Adam Smith Institute)

The book is an instant classic, a complex and wide-ranging series of insights into what has led some societies to succeed and some to fail. "Succeed" here means giving their citizens the chance to lead decent and improving lives. Trade, Norberg shows, has been a key factor. Merchants take back and forth not only goods but ideas and innovations that can be copied. Open, trading societies learn from each other, whereas societies that close their borders to foreign goods in order to protect their own producers are denying their citizens access not only to goods from outside, but also to ideas that can improve their lives. 

Open societies that allowed movement of goods, people and ideas have prospered. Their openness has bred tolerance and welcomed diversity. Ancient open cultures have progressed in arts and science, in manufactures, agriculture and in ideas, as well as in wealth. People copy successful innovation.

Open societies are ones that do not require adherence to one set of beliefs and practices, but which allow different groups within them to follow differing values. They tolerate nonconformity, and are prepare to see new ideas develop and spread. All previous open societies have reverted to authority and imposed conformity. Some, Norberg points out, have succumbed to external shock such as conquest or plague. Others have seen innovation and tolerance repressed as traditional ruling √©lites and those benefitting from established powers have fought back to restore their advantage. 

There has been one exception - the one that fostered the Industrial Revolution in Britain and which has provided an economic template as the source of the modern world. It survived, Norberg suggests, because no-one had the power to shut it down as they had done elsewhere. Power in Britain was dispersed and multi-faceted, and neither crown, aristocracy, church or guilds had enough power to impose their will to silence the ideas or to stop the innovations. Norberg lists the Glorious Revolution of 1689 as a pivotal event in this, channeling monarchical power into constitutional government.

capitalism, democracy and protestantism.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


From CPTPP to welcoming the Hongkongers, Global Britain is taking shape (Matt Kilcoyne, 2/02/21, CapX)

Global Britain became very real this weekend. As the EU threatened to seize vaccines and impose a hard border on the isle of Ireland, the noises out of our own sceptred isle could hardly have been more different. With the vaccine programme going strong, ministers have started to sound off about handing surplus stock to friends and neighbours -- the hint being that Ireland will be given some extra doses, possibly along with the CANZUK states left hanging by the EU's export ban plan.

Beyond the vaccine drama, though, were two more important moves that set the scene for our post-Brexit foreign policy. Yesterday the Government righted an historic wrong, and granted all Hong Kong-born residents of the territory the right to a British National (Overseas) passport, with new residency and work rights here in the UK. Hong Kong Brits now have a home in Blighty and the cold, calllous grasp of the Chinese Communist Party is today a little looser. Nothing our government has done in recent years has made me prouder than the recognition that Britons can be found right around the world.

And it's a path strongly supported by the British people. Ministers were up front about the numbers involved in the British National's residency and work right offer. 350,000 BNO passport holders had the immediate right and up to 3.7m could claim a passport and move if they wanted to. That honesty was rewarded, with 64% of voters in favour of the plan and just 22% against. The public overwhelmingly see the British Hong Kongers as equal to those born in the UK, just as they see Falkland islanders or Gibraltarians as British. We're all British wherever we may be, irrespective of creed or skin colour.

Now ink a free trade and travel deal with NAFTA.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


At New York City's biggest power plant, a switch to clean energy will help a neighborhood breathe easier: Aging, pollution-spilling equipment clocks its final days at the Ravenswood Generating Station (Andrew Blum, 2/02/21, Popular Science)

When COVID-19 swept through New York City in the Spring of 2020, it did so unevenly. Hardest hit by far were communities of color, where the death rate was roughly double that of white neighborhoods. Overlapping constellations of reasons drove this--such areas house more essential workers, living in more crowded homes, with less access to health care--but among the more insidious was chronic exposure to air pollution. A nationwide study from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health found that COVID deaths increased by 8 percent with each additional microgram per cubic meter of fine particulate matter, the contaminant most closely linked to highways, truck traffic, and power plants. Given that the dirtiest and cleanest neighborhoods in New York City have an annual difference of about 4 micrograms per cubic meter, areas near heavy industries net a lot more deadly infections.

The residents of the Queensbridge Houses, the nation's largest public housing project, worry this puts them at greater risk. "I've heard the conversation in the park over the last three months more than in the last five years," says Suga Ray, a neighborhood activist and community builder. "People are talking about the plants over there," he says of the Ravenswood Generating Station, whose iconic red-and-white-tipped smokestacks create an omnipresent frame for the skyline.

Queensbridge consists of 26 Y-shaped buildings in the shadow of the bridge that connects midtown Manhattan with the borough of Queens. Forty percent of its approximately 7,000 occupants live below the poverty line; 96 percent are nonwhite. Ravenswood, which can supply up to 20 percent of the city's peak electricity needs, sits kitty-corner to these projects, and started generating power in 1963. The Queensbridge Houses opened in 1939. "That's how you know it's systemic," Ray says. "They could have put it anywhere else. We create these structures in communities dominated by Black people." [...]

In their place, Ravenswood's owner--private equity firm LS Power--has received approval from New York state to build 316 megawatts of battery storage on-site, which will be among the largest such installations in the United States. The cells will physically and functionally take the place of the aging peakers, ultimately charging up with renewable energy from the grid and then dispatching it on the high-demand days. "The goal is to be able to maintain the same level of reliability that we have currently but with a lower level of emissions," says Clint Plummer, CEO of Rise Light & Power, a new entity created to operate Ravenswood Generating Station as well as future projects. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden turns the page on Trump in push to streamline US immigration process (CHARLOTTE PLANTIVE, 2/02/21, AFP) 

US President Joe Biden will call Tuesday for his administration to streamline the naturalization of nine million migrants, senior officials said, as part of a raft of steps aimed at rolling back the "failed" policies of his hardline Republican predecessor.

The Democratic president will sign a series of executive orders overhauling the US immigration process Tuesday, officials said, signaling a return to a more inclusive policy.

Biden is also set to order a review of all legal obstacles to immigration and integration that were put in place under Donald Trump.

"The review will likely lead to dramatic changes in policies," according to a senior government official, saying the goal is "to restore faith in our legal immigration system, and promote integration of Americans."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Auto Industry Accelerates Toward A Clean Energy Future (Froma Harrop, Feb. 1st, 2021, National Memo)

Oh, and while Washington was trying to hold domestic carmakers back, China was building dominance. China leads the world in making battery packs for electric vehicles, by far. It's grabbed control of much of Earth's raw materials needed for electric cars. And it is offering princely subsidies for the vehicles' purchase.

Biden wants to extend the $7,500 tax incentive to buy EVs and says he will build 500,000 charging stations coast to coast. Both moves would further boost domestic demand for electric vehicles. That would lower the automakers' per-vehicle costs in a global market, raising the companies' profits.

But how strong is current domestic demand for electric vehicles? Let's put it this way: One day after GM started taking orders for a zero-emission Hummer, the first year's production was sold out.

Back in the days of oil supremacy, the Hummer had become the epitome of polluting excess. Some owners seemed to like it for that reason. But power is no longer the province of fossil fuels. The electric Hummer has 1,000 horsepower and can go zero to 60 miles per hour in three seconds.

Meanwhile, the Ford Mustang Mach-E sport utility vehicle was a star at the recent Beijing Auto Show. The Mach-E is a complicated concept. Not your pony car of yore, it is an electrified SUV cosmetically altered to look a bit Mustang-like. It has four doors! Whatever. Edmunds just made this car its top-rated luxury EV, beating out Audi, Porsche, Jaguar, Polestar, and Tesla.

Funny to read that Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat and former GM executive, said she told carmakers: "When Joe Biden gets elected, your world will turn upside down. You've got to be at the table or else this thing gets jammed down your throat."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New York City council proposes sweeping NYPD reforms (Pro Publica, February 02, 2021)
The New York City Council has announced an ambitious slate of legislation to reshape the NYPD and increase accountability at the nation's largest police force. Among the proposed changes, the police commissioner would be stripped of final say over disciplining officers.

In an ongoing investigation, ProPublica has detailed how NYPD officers who've mistreated civilians have escaped significant punishment and even been promoted to top positions, while commissioners have often dismissed proposed penalties for officers.

The proposed reforms, unveiled on Friday, are laid out in 11 bills and one resolution sponsored by several City Council members, including Speaker Corey Johnson, Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo and Public Safety Committee Chair Adrienne Adams.

City Council member Stephen Levin, who also helped craft the legislation, drew a "direct line" from ProPublica's coverage to the proposed changes on discipline.

Another bill in the package would remove NYPD officers as the default responders to emergency calls related to mental health. As ProPublica recently detailed, the NYPD has killed at least 16 civilians in crisis over the past few years, including 32-year-old Kawaski Trawick, who was shot just 112 seconds after officers arrived at his apartment.