April 8, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 1:02 PM


Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar slams Biden for continuing 'shameful' Trump Mexico wall, condemns refugee cap (8 April, 2021, New Arab)

"It's shameful and unacceptable for @POTUS to continue the construction of Trump's xenophobic and racist wall," she said in a tweet, before releasing a lengthy statement.

"We cannot and we must not fall victims to politics of fear and hatred that drives the far-right," she said in a statement.

"I am deeply disturbed by reports that the Administration is considering further construction of Trump's wall."

Omar went on to criticise the government leaving Trump era limitations that make it difficult for refugees to enter the country.

"Joe Biden ran on a promise to increase the refugee cap.

"When meeting with the Administration, I have repeatedly urged them to follow through on these promises, yet the Administration has yet to reverse the harsh limitations of refugee admissions set by the previous administration.

"Because of this, hundreds of refugees had their hopes dashed last month as we cancelled flights to the United States. Abandoning those who fled unthinkable atrocities does not align with the promises set by this administration."

Amen, sister.

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Time to Take UBI Seriously?: MAmericans have gotten a glimpse of Universal Basic Income programs. They like what they see so far. And we should like its potential to disrupt our stale debates. (MICHAEL J. TOTTEN  APRIL 8, 2021, The Bulwark)

A UBI is hardly a new idea, nor are its advocates confined to the left. Libertarian economists Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek advocated their own versions of it decades ago. Charles Murray joined them recently with a book and a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Thomas Paine hoped to implement a UBI as far back as the American Revolution. It's one of the few big public policy ideas with champions on the left, on the right, and in the center--amazing, frankly, at a time when our hyperpolarized citizenry can't even count on unanimous support for the earth being a sphere anymore. Polls before the pandemic pegged support at roughly 50-50, with those for and against on both sides of the political spectrum. When it comes to a UBI, the tired debate between big versus limited government has been scrambled.

Progressives like it because it provides a shot in the arm for the working poor, the unemployed, the disabled, the retired, college students, and the struggling middle class generally. Conservatives and libertarians like it because it eschews central planning, the choosing of winners and losers, and the arrogant assumption that a distant bureaucracy knows how to spend money better than individuals do. Centrists have reason to hope that by reducing economic anxiety, populist rage on both the left and the right might at least be mitigated if not eliminated. Small businesses with razor-thin profit margins would benefit from there being less pressure to raise the minimum wage, while employees who earn the minimum wage would get a much-needed cushion.

Yang dismissed concerns that a basic income is socialist: "This is capitalism where income doesn't start at zero." Indeed, it's entirely contrary to a command economy's answer to hunger and privation: a ration card that can redeemed for basic goods at government "stores." In the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Vietnam, virtually everybody, not just the poor, was forced into this kind of imbecilic and tyrannical system. The United States responded by giving struggling people food stamps, the equivalent of a cash payment, that can be spent at the same grocery stores everyone else uses, thus preserving the market economy, leaving the middle class unmolested, and ensuring that nobody starved to death.

Unlike traditional welfare payments, a basic income wouldn't infringe on personal freedom any more than food stamps do. "People who get on welfare lose their human independence," Friedman said. "They become subjects of the dictates and whims of their welfare supervisors who tell them whether they can live here or there and tell them what they can do with their lives. They're treated like children."

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


Why Can't Europe Cope With the Coronavirus?: Three factors explain why most European countries have found it difficult to deal with the pandemic: an unsuitable level of integration, an inability to make rapid decisions, and a breakdown of trust between governments and the governed. (Stefan Lehne, 4/08/21, Carnegie Europe)

First, EU states are too integrated to manage the crisis separately and not integrated enough to do so collectively.

Several countries, such as New Zealand, South Korea, and Taiwan, have performed well in the pandemic because they have solid administrations and full control of their borders. In Europe, giving up control of national borders is part of the essence of integration. Many governments have tried to restrict travel during the pandemic, but in a haphazard fashion that has created disruptions yet hardly impeded the freedom of movement of the virus. The European Commission's efforts at imposing some order have failed, as it has been impossible to reconcile the interests of governments trying to keep their populations at home and those of countries that depend on tourism.

Top-down crisis management from Brussels was never a real option, quite apart from the fact that the legal powers for health policy remain with the member states. Imagine the European Commission issuing a quarantine order in Lombardy or Saxony! Only national leaders have the political authority to persuade their populations to accept infringements of basic rights. This will not change soon. [...]

The second problem is that in a pandemic, it is lack of speed that kills.

In normal times, governing a stable and prosperous Europe is largely a matter of administering the status quo. Legislation and administration work at a leisurely pace. Of course, there have been crises in recent years that required urgent responses. But the 2007-2008 financial crisis was a matter for political leaders and technocrats, and the 2015-2016 migration crisis had few immediate consequences for most people.

A dangerous virus spreading exponentially through the population presents an entirely different challenge. It requires a warlike mobilization with a speed of decisionmaking and administrative action far beyond normal state practice. Several Asian and African countries that had previous experience with MERS, SARS, and Ebola understood that and have coped well with the current pandemic. But despite the repeated warnings of experts, the crisis hit European states unprepared and revealed severe weaknesses in their health systems and public administrations.

Likewise, the EU institutions--specialists in careful and time-consuming consensus building--were overwhelmed by the urgency of this new challenge. By their usual standards, EU officials delivered both an economic response and collective vaccine procurement at great speed, but considering the severity of the situation, it was simply not good enough. Emergencies require risk-taking and radical innovation. Rather than rely on officials, Washington put a general in charge of vaccine procurement, and London a venture capitalist. Considering the results, this might have been the better approach.

Finally, for democracies, trust is key in managing crises, but it is so easy to lose. [...]

As the European public began to lose faith in its leaders, the leaders likewise lost faith in the public's readiness to cooperate. Caught between health experts advising tough restrictions and mounting societal pressure to return to normal life, governments often adopted half-hearted measures that were only partly followed, resulting in yet more infections and more public frustration.

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 AM


The Air Force Is Making an App That Basically Does What a General Does: The nascent app aims to generate options, recommendations, and mission orders. (Patrick Tucker, APRIL 7, 2021, Defense One)

Tentatively titled Arachnid, the nascent decision-support tool is a product of DARPA's Adapting Cross-domain Kill-webs program, The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs and other service vice chiefs were briefed on the app on Monday as part of a trip by the Pentagon's Joint Requirements Oversight Committee, or JROC.

"You identify a threat and it's supposed to give you multiple options for what effect do you want to achieve on that threat," said Lt. Col. Antony "Bigfoot" Braun, director Of operations at the Western Air Defense Sector of the Washington Air National Guard.  "It says, 'You want to scramble this base over here? You want to scramble this base over there? Here are the pros and cons and pluses and minuses associated with your timelines and all of those things.'" 

"It's trying to automate the decision-making cycle and then, from a machine-to-machine perspective, allow you to press a button and when you press that button it generates all the command messages."

In other words, it's a general in app form.  

UBI for privates is socialism: for officers it's capitalism. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


Norway's giant oil fund invests in renewable energy for first time (Ketan Joshi, 8 April 2021, Renew Economy)

In a strategy report also released yesterday, the fund detailed its plans for energy. "We will gradually build up the renewable energy portfolio. We will primarily aim to invest in wind and solar power. We will focus on projects with reduced power price risk, stable cash flow and limited risk to the principal investment", wrote the fund's managers.

Norway's oil fund recently found that much of the cash flowing into the fund from fossil fuels was lost due to subsequent investment in poorly performing oil an gas investments. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


New Poll: Biden Jobs Plan Favored By 73 Percent Of Voters (Josh Israel, April 08 | 2021, American Independent)

The vast majority of Americans back President Joe Biden's American Jobs Plan, according to a new poll from Data for Progress and the pro-infrastructure group Invest in America.

But that has not stopped congressional Republicans and their corporate funders from attacking the infrastructure plan.

The April survey of likely voters found 73 percent support the $2.25 trillion investment plan, compared to just 21 percent who oppose it. Even among Republicans, 57 percent said they back Biden's proposal, while 38 percent oppose it.

The poll also found broad support for the main areas of investment included in the plan -- physical infrastructure (76 percent support), care economy (74 percent), American manufacturing (65 percent), clean energy (64 percent), and housing (61 percent).

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


The 2022 Senate race no one is talking about (Josh Kraushaar,  April 6, 2021, National Journal Hotline)

Recent polling bears out the Republican opportunity in the Granite State. A St. Anselm College survey conducted last month showed Sununu leading Hassan by 6 points in a hypothetical matchup, 47 to 41 percent. The poll showed Sununu receiving a stellar 67 percent job-approval rating as governor, bolstered by his management during the COVID-19 crisis. Hassan's approval stood at a respectable 47 percent, with 44 percent disapproving of her performance.

On the flip side, Sununu's high ratings are reflective of the less-partisan politics that executive leadership provides. In a more ideological battle for Congress, voters typically retreat to their partisan corners. The same poll found Democrats holding an 8-point edge on the generic ballot, 48 to 40 percent. Against Ayotte, whom she narrowly defeated in her first campaign, Hassan led by 5 points, 48 to 43 percent.

Sununu, who boasts one of the highest gubernatorial approval ratings in the country, has been coy about a Senate run, though he hinted at his interest in federal office during an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio last month. "How does my skill set fit the service? And if I can find where there might be a need there, if I can find where my skill set fits, where it might fit my family dynamics and in kind of long-term planning and vision," Sununu said. If he runs, he'd be expected to clear the field of intraparty competition.

New Hampshire has become a shade more Democratic than the national electorate, but it also swings significantly based on the national mood. The state nearly voted for Donald Trump in 2016 (he came fewer than 3,000 votes short) before swinging big towards Biden in last year's election. New Hampshire's 1st District has been a perennial bellwether, swinging back-and-forth between parties in four consecutive elections from 2010 to 2016, while remaining competitive in the previous two cycles. Sununu has won three consecutive elections for governor, in good Republican years and bad (the state has two-year terms). To Hassan's credit, she won reelection as governor in 2014, a tough year for Democrats, and then unseated Ayotte two years later in an otherwise productive year for Republicans.

The final factor making New Hampshire's Senate race so intriguing--beyond the Senate balance of power--is the likelihood of a political grudge match. If Sununu runs, it would give his famous political family an opportunity to make up for his brother John's tough reelection defeat in 2008 against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. If Ayotte ends up as the nominee, it would be a chance for her to avenge her excruciatingly close defeat against Hassan five years ago. New Hampshire is a small state where all these political rivalries take on outsized significance.

In winning the governorship in '16, Mr. Sununu ran so strongly he nearly carried Donald over the line with him.  Meanwhile, Ms. Hassan seems indistinguishable from Ms. Shaheen to me--successful female ex-governors with identical voting records--but is somehow far less popular.  Her constituent services must be non-existent or something.