April 7, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 PM


Scotland's renewable record cements its place as UK's onshore wind hub (Ketan Joshi, 8 April 2021, Renew Economy)

New provisional figures released by the Scottish government have shown that Scotland has just scraped under its target to produce the equivalent of 100% of its total demand from renewable energy sources by  the end of 2020, accounting for the export and import of electricity to other regions of the United Kingdom.

In 2020, Scotland's domestic renewable energy sources generated 31.8 terawatt hours, the equivalent of 97.4% of the amount of electricity demanded within the country.

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 PM


There's a surprising ending to all the 2020 election conflicts over absentee ballot deadlines (The Conversation, April 07, 2021)

Going into the election, the policy in a majority of states was that ballots had to be received by election night to be valid. Lawsuits seeking an extension of these deadlines were brought around the country for two reasons: First, because of the pandemic, the fall election would see a massive surge in absentee ballots; and second, there were concerns about the competence and integrity of the U.S. Postal Service, particularly after President Trump appointed a major GOP donor as the new postmaster general.

The issue produced the Supreme Court's most controversial decision during the general election, which prohibited federal courts from extending the ballot-receipt deadlines in state election codes. Now that the data are available, a post-election audit provides perspective on what the actual effects of these deadlines turned out to be.

Perhaps surprisingly, the number of ballots that came in too late to be valid was extremely small, regardless of what deadline states used, or how much that deadline shifted back and forth in the months before the election. The numbers were nowhere close to the number of votes that could have changed the outcome of any significant race.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 PM


Delaware legislature considers voting reform efforts (WYATT PATTERSON, 3/30/21, The Review)

Delaware Sen. Kyle Evans Gay recently introduced legislation to create an automatic voter registration system at the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the latest in a series of voting reforms to be considered by the legislature this year. 

Senate Bill 5 would allow all driver's license applications to also serve as voter registration applications whenever an applicant shows proof of U.S. citizenship. The information collected on those forms would be sent to the Delaware Department of Elections, and the applicant would receive notice in the mail confirming their new voter status and providing an opportunity to affiliate with a political party of their choosing. 

"The first step in exercising your right to vote is getting registered as a voter," Evans Gay said in a statement. "Many Delawareans do that at their local DMV and there are steps we can take to make that process even simpler. It's time we used all the tools at our disposal to make registering to vote as quick, easy and painless as possible."

Rep. David Bentz, the lead sponsor of the legislation in the House, noted that it should be the government's responsibility to make voting as easy and accessible as possible. 

"Delaware already does a great job registering voters but bringing automatic voter registration to our state gives us just one more tool to increase voter participation," Bentz said in a statement. "I look forward to passing this bill through the House once the Senate passes it." 

Bentz was also the primary sponsor of House Bill 75, the second leg of a constitutional amendment that would eliminate limitations to when an individual can vote by absentee ballot. 

"These legislative priorities represent an effort to move Delaware's elections into the 21st century and provide Delawareans with increased access to the polls," Bentz said in a statement. "States across the country have already instituted many of these initiatives, and it's time Delaware take the same steps to modernize its elections and get up to speed with the rest of the country." 

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


Biden to nominate gun control backer David Chipman to head ATF: WH official (Brittany De Lea, 4/07/21, Fox News)

President Biden is expected to nominate David Chipman, an advocate of greater gun control, to serve as the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), a White House official confirmed to Fox News on Wednesday.

Chipman served as an ATF special agent for 25 years and was named Special Agent in Charge of the bureau's Firearms Program.

Chipman also received an award from the Attorney General's office for his efforts aimed at preventing gun homicides in targeted U.S. cities, according to his bio as a member of the gun safety group started by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


Unstoppable: Rooftop solar market notches up new all-time high in March (Sophie Vorrath, 8 April 2021, Renew Economy)

Australia has notched up yet another record for rooftop solar installations, with homes and businesses around the country installing 317MW of systems in March - an all-time high for national monthly installs.

The new monthly record was marked in the latest data from industry statisticians, SunWiz, taking the cumulative total to 13.9GW and keeping the nation on track to install a record-breaking 3.5GW for the year, compared to the Covid-defying 3GW installed in 2020.

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 PM


Why Kentucky Just Became the Only Red State to Expand Voting Rights (Nick Corasanti, 4/07/21, NY Times)

The law in Kentucky establishes three days of early voting in the state; introduces voting centers that would allow for more in-person balloting options; creates an online portal to register and request ballots; and allows voters to fix problems with absentee ballots, a process known as curing.

The reasons that Kentucky Republicans have diverged on voting rights range from the political to the logistical. For one, they had an easier sell: With sweeping new rules allowing the election to be held safely during the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans in Kentucky had one of their best cycles in years, with both Senator Mitch McConnell and Mr. Trump easily winning in the state.

And expanding voting access in Kentucky was a low bar to clear; the state had some of the tightest voting laws in the country before 2020, with not a single day of early voting, and strict limits on absentee balloting.

The push in Kentucky and other states -- including the Democratic-controlled Virginia, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii and Massachusetts -- reflects an odd outcome of the pandemic: The most challenging election in nearly a century brought about expansive changes across the country to ease access to the ballot box.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


They're obsessed with trains. Will Biden bring them Nirvana?: Three rail superfans gathered on Zoom to take in the president's remarks last week. They geeked out quickly. (EUGENE DANIELS, 04/06/2021, Politico)

Dan Cupper owns more than 10,000 train timetables -- little cards and brochures detailing the accommodations, times and appearance of trains; his oldest is from 1858. Ron Goldfeder and his wife collect kerosene lanterns that used to light the way for trains. Larry Shughart owns hundreds of American Flyer model trains. And you're damn right they work.

These men have loved trains for years; and by love, we're not just talking about the type of affection young kids have for toys gifted from their parents; we're talking fanatical obsessions that take up every part of life's free moments and the mind's free space.

On Wednesday, that lifelong love affair hit a remarkable political climax as America's most powerful railfan -- President Joe Biden -- stepped behind a lectern to outline the most ambitious infrastructure plan since Dwight Eisenhower. Moments like these don't come along all that often; for lovers of trains, they are like a Halley's comet. Naturally, the three jumped at the invitation from POLITICO to get on a Zoom call and watch it together. Copper and Goldfeder are old chums but Shughart, who they've not met, fit right in.

For just over 30 minutes, Biden laid out the broad strokes of his $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which included investments in things like roads and bridges, electric vehicles, clean energy, affordable housing and public transit. The three men watched it on a shared Zoom screen, taking notes the whole time. Cupper, bespectacled, with white hair, sitting in front of his beloved timetables, Goldfeder, also bespectacled with white hair, in front of dozens of train books and the lanterns, and Shughart, sans spectacles but also with white hair, in his bedroom because the trains have their own space in a barn out back.

They had, by that point, already heard the toplines of the plan. Cupper paraphrased a quote from Daniel Burnham, the architect of D.C.'s Union station, to describe his feelings about it. "He said 'make no little plans, they have no power to stir men's blood.' And certainly what Biden has proposed is not a little plan, it's a visionary plan. And I think that is one of its strengths."

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 AM


Quarterly Gap in Party Affiliation Largest Since 2012 (JEFFREY M. JONES, 4/07/21, Gallup)

In Gallup polling throughout the first quarter of 2021, an average of 49% of U.S. adults identified with the Democratic Party or said they are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party. That compares with 40% who identified as Republicans or Republican leaners. The nine-percentage-point Democratic advantage is the largest Gallup has measured since the fourth quarter of 2012. In recent years, Democratic advantages have typically been between four and six percentage points.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


Fossil fuels get too many government handouts. Biden wants to cut them off. (Lili Pikelili,   Apr 5, 2021, Vox)

One of the great ironies of climate politics is that America continues to subsidize -- to the tune of billions of dollars a year -- the very industries that are most responsible for the warming of the planet. Biden wants to put an end to that.

His American Jobs Plan, released last week, recognizes that if the US wants to hit decarbonization targets, and get climate change under control, cutting off government support for fossil fuels is a logical first step. The proposal takes aim at tax preferences, loopholes, and laws that allow fossil fuel companies to dodge costs and avoid cleaning up their pollution.

As part of the tax reform section of the plan, removing preferential treatment for oil, gas, and coal corporations would also free up federal dollars to support dozens of other climate initiatives, for which Biden has proposed around $1 trillion in investment.

But let markets choose the alternatives, not subsidies. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 AM


Teachers' Union Head Rips Jews in Interview on School Reopening (Free Beacon, 4/07/21)

Union leader Randi Weingarten criticized Jews as "part of the ownership class" dedicated to denying opportunities to others in an interview released on Friday.

Weingarten--who is herself Jewish and draws a six-figure salary as head of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)--took aim at American Jews in an interview with the Jerusalem Post. When asked about parents critical of the AFT's resistance to school reopening, Weingarten took aim squarely at Jewish critics.

"American Jews are now part of the ownership class," Weingarten said. "Jews were immigrants from somewhere else. And they needed the right to have public education. And they needed power to have enough income and wealth for their families that they could put their kids through college and their kids could do better than they have done."

"What I hear when I hear that question is that those who are in the ownership class now want to take that ladder of opportunity away from those who do not have it," she said.

Just an FYI: we of the ownership class haven't had much trouble with remote schooling, given our digital infrastructure and ease of providing adult supervision at home.  Those who are starting out on the ladder of opportunity are more likely to lack these advantages. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


A Crazed GOP Wants to Cancel Baseball, Coke and Big Business (Wajahat Ali,  Apr. 07, 2021, Daily Beast)

What's left after the GOP cancels itself? You could get whiplash trying to track conservatives' hypocritical mental gymnastics, but there is a common theme: Conservatives believe in a one-way relationship with America where their terms reign supreme. Our role is to submit or face cancellation.

Incredibly, the party that continually whines about "cancel culture" while at the same time practicing it is now on the verge of self-cancellation after turning on the big business allies it's historically united with to push tax breaks, de-regulation, and the "creative" destruction of the unchecked "free market."

What caused the split was the GOP's latest voter suppression efforts in Georgia, which were so odious that they have done the unthinkable, forcing corporations like Coca-Cola, Delta, and United to publicly condemn them. Even Major League Baseball decided to relocate the All-Star Game from Georgia to Colorado. But the big businesses responding to their presumed interests and customers' desires are being condemned by Republicans as supposed agents of a "woke cancel culture," a made-up supervillain used to scare the conservative base. The Republican Party is even suggesting that the American pastime is, actually, part of a communist plot. If baseball and Coke are out, what's next? Apple pie? (Thankfully, we still have freedom fries.)

When everyone hates your racism you can either ditch the racism or try to cancel everyone. 

Why Mitch McConnell is struggling to keep the GOP's central bargain from falling apart (John Stoehr, April 07, 2021, Raw Story)

For the Old Right, national (and then multinational) corporations were not sources of stability, but the opposite. They competed fiercely for customers and they innovated nonstop, creating products and services that destabilized what the Old Right believed was the natural order of things.1 Corporations employed legions, including non-white people, who no longer behaved as they "should," as makers of their own destinies, as rugged entrepreneurs, as independent and free. Instead, the massive working class was beholden to the interests of their employers. As such, they often behaved as social parasites, especially when corporations worked together with the United States government in what I described last week as economics in the national interest.

Worst of all, corporations as the godless, profit-seeking face of modernity always challenged the social control of the white men who constituted this country's petty bourgeoisie. Sam Francis, the Ur-conservative, understood this better than most.

The cosmopolitan elite threatened the traditional values cherished by most Americans: "morality and religion, family, nation, local community, and at times racial integrity and identity." These were sacred principles for members of a new "post-bourgeois proletariat" drawn from the working class and the lower ranks of the middle class. Lacking the skills prized by technocrats, but not far enough down the social ladder to win the attention of reformers, these white voters considered themselves victims of a coalition between the top and bottom against the middle.2

For corporations, and the Wall Street traders who invest in them, the Old Right was a fount of dangerous crankiness. These people were not rational. They were emotional. These people were not forward-thinking. They were backward-looking. These people did not seek wealth through markets. They sought power through division. It took lots of work on the part of people like Bill Buckley and later Irving Kristol to get each side on the same page. Over decades, from the McCarthy era to Reagan's election in 1980, the Old Right bargained with corporate-minded Republicans to forge, later with white evangelical Protestants, what's sometimes called "movement conservatism"--which, as I have said before, was the foundation for what became a bipartisan consensus.

The Old Right's bargain frayed after the Cold War came to an end. It shattered beyond recognition after a Black man was elected president. The "Tea Party movement" as well as Donald Trump's upset victory were not only uprisings against "demographic change." They were uprisings against corporate power's never-ending challenge to the local authority of white men.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 AM


Calls Grow to Abandon Regulations Eased Under Covid (Hello, Cocktails to Go): After state and local governments temporarily eased rules over takeout alcohol, telehealth and other services, some want the regulations gone for good (Aaron Zitner and Julie Bykowicz, April 6, 2021, WSJ)

One day early in the coronavirus pandemic, El Arroyo, a Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin, banked just $186 in sales. Owner Ellis Winstanley put a cheeky plea on the marquee: "Now would be a good time to legalize drive-up margaritas."

Days later, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott did just that by issuing temporary approval of alcohol pickup and delivery from licensed bars and restaurants. Mr. Winstanley changed his sign to credit the governor's move with his ability to rehire 40 employees.

Across the country, state and local governments have temporarily eased hundreds of regulations during the pandemic, aiming to help consumers social distance and businesses avoid economic disaster. Now, some want to abandon them for good.

Lawmakers in Texas and at least 19 other states that let bars and restaurants sell to-go cocktails during the pandemic are moving to make those allowances permanent. Many states that made it easier for healthcare providers to work across state lines are considering bills to indefinitely ease interstate licensing rules. Lawmakers in Washington are pushing for Medicare to extend its policy of reimbursing for certain telehealth visits. States also are trying to lock in pandemic rules that spawned new online services, from document notarization to marijuana sales.

Deregulation has long been a central tenet among Republican politicians, but many of the coronavirus-inspired changes have gained bipartisan support.

"I'm a Democrat. I'm not instinctively antiregulation. But I think this pandemic reminds us that some regulations are from a bygone era and make no sense for anyone anymore,'' said Sen. Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii), who is leading Senate efforts to permanently expand Medicare coverage for telehealth.

Similarly, Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy of Alaska said in his state of the state speech in January: "If a regulation needs to be suspended during a crisis, we have to ask ourselves, why was it there in the first place, and can we live without it?"