Sunday, August 12, 2018

Week-end Wrap - August 11, 2018

Week-end Wrap - August 11, 2018
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Trump Tax Cuts Having Significant Impact - On Corporate Profits
August 6, 2018 [Yuxing Sun, via Mike Norman Economics]
Latest financial results from Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway:
Net income rose to $12.01 billion, or $7,301 per Class A share, from $4.26 billion, or $2,592 per share, a year earlier. 
Results also reflected a decline in Berkshire's effective income tax rate to 20 percent from 28.9 percent, following last year's cut in the federal corporate tax rate.

Zero Hedge — Ten Bombshell Revelations From Seymour Hersh's New Autobiography
[Zero Hedge, via Mike Norman Economics 8-8-18]
From a recent The Intercept interview and book review — If Hersh were a superhero, this would be his origin story. Two hundred and seventy-four pages after the Chicago anecdote, he describes his coverage of a massive slaughter of Iraqi troops and civilians by the U.S. in 1991 after a ceasefire had ended the Persian Gulf War. America’s indifference to this massacre was, Hersh writes, “a reminder of the Vietnam War’s MGR, for Mere Gook Rule: If it’s a murdered or raped gook, there is no crime.” It was also, he adds, a reminder of something else: “I had learned a domestic version of that rule decades earlier” in Chicago.
“Reporter” demonstrates that Hersh has derived three simple lessons from that rule:
  • The powerful prey mercilessly upon the powerless, up to and including mass murder.
  • The powerful lie constantly about their predations.
  • The natural instinct of the media is to let the powerful get away with it....

Monsanto ordered to pay $289m damages in Roundup cancer trial 
[Newsy, via Naked Capitalism 8-11-18]

Wells Fargo says hundreds of customers lost homes because of computer glitch
[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 8-5-18]

Trump Is Giving Protectionism a Bad Name
by  William G. Moseley, August 9, 2018 [TripleCrisis , via Naked Capitalism 8-9-18].
As a development geographer and an Africanist scholar, I have long been critical of unfettered free trade because of its deleterious economic impacts on African countries. At the behest of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the majority of African countries were essentially forced, because of conditional loan and debt-refinancing requirements, to undergo free market–oriented economic reforms from the early 1980s through the mid-2000s. One by one, these countries reduced tariff barriers, eliminated subsidies, cut back on government expenditures, and emphasized commodity exports. With the possible exception of Ghana, the economy of nearly every African country undertaking these reforms was devastated.
This is not to say that there was no economic growth for African countries during this period, as there certainly was during cyclical commodity booms. The problem is that the economies of these countries were essentially underdeveloped as they returned to a colonial model focused on producing a limited number of commodities such as oil, minerals, cotton, cacao, palm oil, and timber. Economic reforms destroyed the value-added activities that helped diversify these economies and provided higher wage employment, such as the textile, milling, and food processing industries. Worse yet, millions of African farmers and workers are now increasingly ensnared in a global commodity boom-and-bust cycle. Beyond that cycle, they are experiencing an even more worrying long-term trend of declining prices for commodities. 
One of the consequences of the hollowing out of African economies has been the European migration crisis. While some of this migration is clearly connected to politics, war, and insecurity in the Middle East and Africa, a nontrivial portion is related to grim economic prospects in many African countries.
....the recent Trump fiasco with tariffs is threatening to tar and feather the whole idea of fostering local economic development for decades to come unless the left pushes back with a more nuanced perspective. After the inevitable crash of the American economy, not to mention the collateral damage, the global policy community, and broader publics, will likely reembrace free-market policies because they appear to be the opposite of Trump’s racist, nationalist, and nativist stance.

Steel Giants With Ties to Trump Officials Block Tariff Relief for Hundreds of Firms
by Jim Tankersley, August 5, 2018 [New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 8-7-18]

How Liberalism Self-Destructed
Umair Haque, August 6, 2018 [Medium, via Naked Capitalism 8-7-18].
“Liberalism, once a great and noble philosophy, split into three factions — neoliberalism, libertarianism, and “classical liberalism” (I’ll come back to that one). These factions, like stone age tribesmen gleefully performing a lobotomy, hacked and chopped away at liberalism, blow by crushing blow, until all that was left was a drooling, snarling, spitting, twitching zombie: predatory capitalism… That fatal event, that lobotomy, rewound liberalism a thousand years. Because predatory capitalism created a class of oligarchs richer than the kings of yore — and in many ways, more powerful, too. Untouchable, above the law, beyond reproach. The wealthier this class of ultra-rich got, the more that the middle and working class collapsed. Inequality spiraled out of control. People lost faith in all the great liberal institutions — law, rights, constitutions, knowledge, democracy itself — because it seemed that the only real purpose of those institutions was to allow the ultra-rich to prey on the poor, exacting crippling tribute for the most basic of things. Not paid in wheat or silver, but cold, hard, cash. Insulin that costs $1000? Childbirth that costs $30K? These three factions… made liberalism self-destruct — by turning it into a mechanism for the one exact thing, a millennium or so ago, it was created to destroy: feudal, dynastic, untouchable, predatory elites skimming off an economy’s surplus, amassing all a society’s wealth for themselves.”

In 2008, America Stopped Believing in the American Dream
by Frank Rich, August 6, 2018 [New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism]
The mood in America is arguably as dark as it has ever been in the modern era. The birthrate is at a record low, and the suicide rate is at a 30-year high; mass shootings and opioid overdoses are ubiquitous. In the aftermath of 9/11, the initial shock and horror soon gave way to a semblance of national unity in support of a president whose electoral legitimacy had been bitterly contested only a year earlier. Today’s America is instead marked by fear and despair more akin to what followed the crash of 1929, when unprecedented millions of Americans lost their jobs and homes after the implosion of businesses ranging in scale from big banks to family farms. 
....It’s not hard to pinpoint the dawn of this deep gloom: It arrived in September 2008, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers kicked off the Great Recession that proved to be a more lasting existential threat to America than the terrorist attack of seven Septembers earlier.

....When that tide pulled back in 2008 to reveal the ruins underneath, the country got an indelible picture of just how much inequality had been banked by the top one percent over decades, how many false promises to the other 99 percent had been broken, and how many central American institutions, whether governmental, financial, or corporate, had betrayed the trust the public had placed in them. And when we went down, we took much of the West with us. The American Kool-Aid we’d exported since the Marshall Plan, that limitless faith in progress and profits, had been exposed as a cruel illusion. 
Unlike 9/11, which prompted an orgy of recriminations and investigations, the Great Recession never yielded a reckoning that might have helped restore that faith. The Wall Street bandits escaped punishment, as did most of the banking houses where they thrived. Everyone else was stuck with the bill. Millennials, crippled by debt and bereft of Horatio Alger paths out of it, mock the traditional American tenet that each generation will be better off than the one before. At the other end of the actuarial spectrum, boomers have little confidence that they can scrape together the wherewithal needed to negotiate old age. The American workers in the middle have seen their wages remain stagnant as necessities like health care become unaffordable. 
In the Digital Century, unlike the preceding American Century, the largest corporations are not admired as sources of jobs, can-do-ism, and tangible goods that might enrich and empower all. They’re seen instead as impenetrable black boxes where our most intimate personal secrets are bought and sold to further fatten a shadowy Über-class of obscene wealth and privilege trading behind velvet ropes in elite cryptocurrencies.
....It would be easy to blame the national mood all on Donald J. Trump, but that would be underrating its severity and overrating Trump’s role in creating it (as opposed to exacerbating it). Trump’s genius has been to exploit and weaponize the discontent that has been brewing over decades of globalization and technological upheaval. He did so in part by discarding the bedrock axiom of post–World War II American politics that anyone running for president must sparkle with the FDR-patented, chin-jutting optimism that helped propel John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan to the White House. Trump ran instead on the idea that America was, as his lingo would have it, a shithole country in desperate need of being made great again. “Sadly, the American Dream is dead,” he declared, glowering, on that fateful day in 2015 when he came down the Trump Tower escalator to announce his candidacy. He saw a market in merchandising pessimism as patriotism and cornered it. His diagnosis that the system was “rigged” was not wrong, but his ruse of “fixing” it has been to enrich himself, his family, and his coterie of grifters with the full collaboration of his party’s cynical and avaricious Establishment.

The Left's disastrous embrace of neoliberalism 1970s-1980s
An interview with Stephanie L. Mudge by Chase Burghgrave, August 6, 2018 [Jacobin]
In Leftism Reinvented: Western Parties from Socialism to Neoliberalism, Mudge looks at left parties in advanced capitalist countries over the last century and shows how the experts aligned with those parties pushed them in the direction of spin doctors and markets. In the process, left parties’ ability to represent the interests of their own working-class constituencies was eroded — and ordinary people were shut out of the halls of power.

....Right parties have never pretended to be representatives of the disempowered or advocates of policies that insulate people from market forces. The Right’s embrace of free markets in the 1980s was important, but it was not surprising. And I think it’s disputable that this was really a popular move, electorally speaking — this was a period of growing political alienation and declining turnout across the board. In this context, left parties were the only political force that was capable of critically engaging with market logic. But they did the opposite of this in the 1990s. 
I think this had electoral and cultural consequences. Electorally, the “losers” of “globalization” — that is, a whole lot of people, including whole communities — ended up with no party that spoke for them. Culturally, criticism of the neoliberal order was marginalized and hived off as a province of the “radical” left, rather than being the stuff of mainstream political discourse — where it should have been all along.
....So what do left parties do if they no longer have a way of responding to their constituencies’ economic concerns, but they still want to win elections? They turn to spin: that is, they try to build appeal by marketing rather than substance.

Socialism and the Liberal Imagination
by Mason B. Williams, August 8, 2018 [Dissent, via Naked Capitalism 8-11-18]
...a number of writers... point out that the New Deal was not, in fact, socialist—and to accuse Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, and their aspiring democratic-socialist counterparts of muddying the waters by conflating theoretically distinct concepts. These critiques rest on a set of uncontestable historical facts. The New Dealers—starting with Roosevelt himself—believed their basic mission was to save capitalism. For their part, many socialists saw FDR as a formidable adversary to their movement, a state capitalist who seduced the working class with a piper’s song of reform. (Socialists who worked in the Roosevelt administration saw the humorous irony of their situation: “We socialists are trying to save capitalism,” the New Deal lawyer Jerome Frank remarked to the economist Stuart Chase, “and the damned capitalists won’t let us.”) And there is no question that the depiction of the New Deal as “socialist” originated as a conservative effort to delegitimize liberal reform—indeed, as a number of commentators have pointed out, the fantastical way in which conservatives have contorted the meaning of the term to assail even moderate liberal policies like the Affordable Care Act has helped destigmatize socialism in the American political discourse.
....But look from another angle, and the picture appears different—and perhaps more useful in thinking through our own political moment. The New Deal was not “socialist.” But to end the story there is to miss the role of socialists in crafting the intellectual world within which the New Deal unfolded. Look not at what socialism was, but at what socialists did, and one sees that the New Deal’s progressive achievements do bear a significant historical relationship to reform socialism.
As the historian Daniel Rodgers argued in his seminal book Atlantic Crossings, the New Deal took shape against the backdrop of a half-century-long transatlantic debate about “the social question”—the implications of an economic modernization that had rendered individuals, families, and communities inescapably interdependent. What were the responsibilities and mutual obligations of each in a world where no individual could be reasonably assumed to control their own fate? What could governments do to mitigate the social costs of capitalist development—to tame a world of smoke, of sweated labor, of booms and busts and overcrowded tenements and epidemics of communicable disease?
.... Many future New Dealers engaged first-hand with reformist socialist thought. The young social worker Harry Hopkins registered with the Socialist Party and voted for Morris Hillquit in the 1917 New York mayoral election. As he was preparing to reenter politics in the 1920s, Franklin Roosevelt—no one’s idea of a socialist—spent “hours deep in conversation” with the socialist garment-union leaders Rose Schneiderman and Maud Swartz, friends of Eleanor Roosevelt’s. As the historian Annelise Orleck describes, FDR occasionally drove the two women from New York City to Hyde Park, listening as they told him “all we knew about the theory and history of the trade union movement . . . about the sweatshops and the tuberculosis rate in the printing industry before the unions were organized.” Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins later credited those conversations with teaching FDR much of what he knew about labor issues. 
Largely clamped shut by political orthodoxy, private interests, and the courts through the first third of the century, the policy toolbox that socialists had helped assemble was suddenly pried open in the wake of the economic catastrophe of the early 1930s. The labor lawyer Louis Waldman—one of the five Socialists expelled from the New York State Assembly during the Red Scare prompted by the Russian Revolution—recalled introducing then–president elect Franklin Roosevelt to Norman Thomas, who had run against him on the Socialist line in 1932. Roosevelt “looked like the cat who had swallowed the canary,” Waldman wrote. “Indeed, on shaking hands with Thomas, he chuckled, ‘Well . . . I took 99 per cent of your program, didn’t I?’” (“But you made very poor use of it,” Thomas replied.)
.... Yet the New Deal’s frank recognition of the interdependence of society, its acknowledgement that a good society rests on a sense of mutuality, reciprocity, and community spoke, if not fully to the socialists’ vision, at least to their understanding of what was wrong with a market society. 

Socialism is becoming more popular with Baby Boomers
[YouGov, via Naked Capitalism 8-8-18]

Democratic Socialism Isn’t Social Democracy
by Michael A. McCarthy, August 7, 2018 [Jacobin]

Lots of discussion these days of socialism, social democracy, democratic socialism and so on. Thank God for the hopelessly ignorant right wingers, who can be reliably depended upon to wallow in hopeless but blissful ignorance as they howl SOOCIALISSsssssstT! at whatever it is they don't like that particular moment. Understanding the right wing position is so easy, it's almost as painful as understanding money can be created out of nothing. But here's McCarthy's central point :
In social democracies, public ownership of the main productive assets is limited in comparison to what it could be.... Democratic socialism, on the other hand, should involve public ownership over the vast majority of the productive assets of society, the elimination of the fact that workers are forced into the labor market to work for those who privately own those productive assets, and stronger democratic institutions not just within the state but within workplaces and communities as well.
Here's why I am not a socialist. Assume McCarthy's definitions are correct -- and I think they are -- then ask yourself: If Goldman Sachs were completely owned by its employees, would Goldman Sachs cease being predatory and become a socially useful organization? I think the obvious answer is "no." The point being, socialists' diagnosis of what's wrong is in many ways correct, except it overlooks completely the one really big, crucial problem of pecuniary culture. Adopting socialism to cure Goldman Sachs of capitalism will not solve the real problem. The problem is not that Goldman Sachs is capitalistic; the problem is that Goldman Sachs is predatory. 

Now, there are a lot people -- I could write "almost all people on the left" -- who think this is splitting hairs, because they believe capitalism by nature is predatory. It appears to me that most of these people really do not know much about the history of technological development. All technological developments originate with scientists and engineers. All. Capitalists do not originate any technological developments. Capitalists may finance some, but the actual technological developments come from the scientists and engineers they fund. The history of every industry attests to this. One of the most available is the history of the auto industry. And you cannot possibly understand my point if you don't know the functional difference between someone like Henry Leland or Charles Kettering, or Henry Ford, and someone like Alfred Sloane or Pierre S. du Pont, and, especially, someone like T. Boone Pickens or Wilbur Ross. 

In USA, since the election of Ruinous Ronnie Reagan, the financial system and financial predators have come to dominate the entire economy. The story of how financiers seized control of old-line industrial companies and looted them, including raiding the pension funds of workers, was covered by Donald Bartlett and James Steele in their important series of articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer back in 1992, which were published as the book America: What Went Wrong. (The link provides an extremely useful summary of the book, including excerpts and some graphics.) The best case study of a single industrial company destroyed by predatory finance is When the Machine Stopped: A Cautionary Tale from Industrial America by Max Holland, 1989, also released a few years later as From Industry to Alchemy: Burgmaster, a Machine Tool Company. Holland’s father was a production machinist for Burgmaster, which grew in the 1960s to become the largest machine tool maker west of the Mississippi, The destruction of Burgmaster began in the 1970s, when the company was bought by one of the first industrial conglomerates, Houdaille. The asset stripping of Burgmaster went into overdrive when Houdaille, in turn, was bought in a leveraged buyout by Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts – an “investment firm” that still bedevils us today. KKR is the base of wealth for Henry Kravis, one of the top contributors to the Bush family’s political operations. Kravis has been described in the business media as "high priest of private equity," and was considered by Donald Trump for Treasury Secretary. 

By the late 1980s, these financiers were being celebrated as "captains of industry" even though they had no interest in actual industrial activity other than looting it. Even Obama espoused this nonsense, hailing Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon as “very savvy businessmen" in February 2010. The predatory process of financialization is what drove the process of de-industrialization: the financiers were making money – lots of it – by literally destroying in months, industrial companies that had taken years to build up. Here is the great problem of pecuniary culture: these predators had become the great new heroes of the new American economic landscape, but their financial schemes were actually slowly grinding down the working class and dismantling the industrial base. Hardly anyone was willing to admit the past three decades have been a colossal economic disaster until the big crash of 2008, and even now people prefer to talk about how the middle class is under attack, rather than facing the truth that the American working class has already been destroyed. 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 8-5-18]
USA becoming less capitalistic as it transforms into a plutocratic oligarchy.
The number of publicly traded companies on exchanges in the United States. In the mid-1990s, there were more than 8,000 of them. By 2016, there were only 3,627, according to data from the Center for Research in Security Prices at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. 

Why is Thomas Frank Puzzled?
by Gaius Publius, August 10, 2018 [DownWith Tyranny]
We are indeed a nation in crisis (again). That crisis, that revolutionary discussion about the shape of our next constitution, our next agreement between government and the people, is not resolved. The radical right is in ascendance and will soon take complete and lasting control of the Supreme Court unless Democrats block their candidate and stop them. 
Will a completion of the radical rightwing agenda resolve this crisis and create a government most of us can live under? Of course not. The truly radical right — a small handful of people — is vastly outnumbered by those opposed to its ideas. No one, not even Republican voters, will live under the government this minority is determined to create. 
Will a return to neoliberal rule, to Obamism and Clintonism, create a stable order? Again, no. It's precisely that order that people in both parties rose to resist. The rebellion against that order, unheeded by Democratic Party leaders, created the opening the radical right just exploited. 
Even a Sanders-style government, supported by the masses as FDR's government was, will face a counter-rebellion, this time by the dethroned rich — and I strongly suspect the Obamists and Clintonists in the Democratic Party would join that "resistance" as eagerly as they join the present one. 

Bill Black: Pre-Crisis “4506-T Studies” Showed Massive Fraud in Liar’s Loans; Fed Ignored Warning, DoJ Refused to Target Implicated Banksters
by Yves Smith [Naked Capitalism 8-7-18]

Should Republican Billionaires Be Picking Democratic Candidates The Way They Already Pick GOP Candidates?
[DownWithTyranny! 8-5-18]
Last week, Fox News' James Rupert Murdoch, a British billionaire, put half a million dollars into one of Nancy Jacobson's shady No Labels SuperPACs that aims to fill Congress with candidates from the Republican Wing of the Democratic Party. Their current goal is a smear campaign against Alan Grayson. Most recently, Jacobson pulled off the same filth against Marie Newman in Illinois’ 3rd District House primary, spending $931,600 to spread absolute lies against Newman while bolstering anti-Choice Blue Dog Dan Lipinski. 
Jacobson, widely considered one of the most vicious and destructive players in American politics, runs a dark web of 8 of the most pernicious and sleazy SuperPACs in the country, United for Progress, United Together, Forward Not Back, Progress Tomorrow, Patriotic Americans PAC, Citizens for a Strong America, etc, entirely funded by contributions from 5 and 6-figure right wing donors, such as Rupert Murdoch, his son James Murdoch, Chicago White Sox and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, hedge fund manager Louis Bacon, former Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan Selig and Wheels Inc. executive Jim Frank.
A way must be found to limit the free speech of the very wealthy, probably by creating cultural norms and expectations similar to those which limit the free speech of military officers. This will probably involve a renewal of the classical republican ideals which held that the greatest threats to a republic were a standing army, and a cabal of the richest. First and foremost, of course, is the elimination of the Roberts Court's fatal Citizens United decision.

Barney Frank on His Regrets From the Great Recession
By Nick Tabor, August 8, 2018 (Daily Intelligencer, via Naked Capitalism 8-10-18]
The co-author of Dodd-Frank explains why Wall Street was rescued but not homeowners: Frank blames then-Treasury Secretary Paulson, but Obama had a very interesting role. Note how Frank twists the knife in two backs at once:
The problem was, this was now after the November election. He’s in a lame-duck administration. He says, “But I’m not gonna do that without Obama’s okay.” So I and others went to Obama and said, “Will you tell Paulson it’s okay to ask for the next amount, so he can do foreclosures?” Obama said what most presidents-elect would have said in that situation: “No, he has the legal authority to do it, and I’m not gonna take responsibility over something I have no control over. If he wants to do it, he can do it. We only have one president at a time.” It made me crazy. Obama overstated the number of presidents we had — because we didn’t have any! And people were getting fucked.
Frank admits that the failure to impose justice on Wall Street and predatory finance led to the rise of a populist revolt. But note how Frank dismisses and denigrates Occupy, while saying nothing bad about the Tea Party.
So you really did have both the tea party and Occupy grow up at the time. The problem for us was that the tea-party people, as people on the right so often are, were very smart politically, and they organized and they registered and they voted. My, ah, sometime ideological allies at Occupy decided that the way to change things was to smoke dope and have drum circles. Neither one of those did a hell of a lot to influence my colleagues.
At the end, Frank gives a short history of USA financial regulation, and throws in a good jab at Trump.
I was struck, recently, reading the economic report of the Federal Reserve. This is Donald Trump’s Federal Reserve, his appointees. What they say in the report is, from the standpoint of financial stability, we’re in very good shape. I think we put in a set of rules that make it very unlikely that we’re going to have another crisis, certainly not for the reasons we had the last one. We have built honest stability into the financial system without any loss of function. I mean, the odd thing is Donald Trump tries simultaneously to complain that we ruined the financial system, and to say the economy is better than it’s ever been. It would be hard to make that happen if you had ruined the financial system.

‘Why Elect Progressives? THIS’: Shredding of Social Safety Net Blamed as Bankruptcies Soar for Older Americans
by Julia Conley, August 6, 2018 [Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 8-7-18]
A study of rising bankruptcy rates among older Americans places blame squarely at the feet of a hollowed-out safety net and policy changes that have left people without adequate retirement savings, paying huge out-of-pocket medical expenses, and seeing their funds dwindle due to the student loan crisis that many people mistakenly believe affects only younger generations. 
Entitled "Graying of U.S. Bankruptcy: Fallout from Life in a Risk Society," the group's report found that older Americans filed for bankruptcy three times as often from 2013 to 2016 as they did a quarter of a century before. 
Those surveyed for the study blamed multiple factors beyond their control for their decision to file. According to the Times, "About three in five said unmanageable medical expenses played a role. A little more than two-thirds cited a drop in income. Nearly three-quarters put some blame on hounding by debt collectors."

by Nick Surgey, Zaid Jilani, August 9 2018 (The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 8-10-18]
This story was very popular and shared widely. I want to make two points I have not seen elsewhere. 1) The results are even more impressive given that the survey questions appear obviously designed to elicit responses that reinforce conservative and libertarian policy preferences. 2) Will the Kochs, conservatives and libertarians respect the judgement of the American people and adjust their policy preferences accordingly? USA is supposed to be a republic, and the classic republican principle of civic virtue requires that people surrender their selfishness when their interests conflict with those of the public. If the Kochs, conservatives and libertarians continue their campaigns for policy preferences that have been clearly rejected by a majority of citizens, as shown repeatedly by national surveys, should we not then treat that as evidence that the Kochs, conservatives and libertarians have no interest in sustaining the republic, and should be treated as such. There's this document that says something about "all enemies, foreign and domestic"..... 

by Lee Fang and Nick Surgey, June 30, 2018 [The Intercept]
....State Policy Network [is] an organization that steers a national patchwork of right-wing think tanks to advance policies favored by business lobbyists and GOP donors. The right-wing groups’ strategy was spelled out in a series of documents by anti-union operatives over recent months. The Intercept obtained copies of some of documents from State Policy Network think tanks.
State Policy Network members, however, have barely concealed their broad political motives. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the State Policy Network affiliate think tank in Michigan, emailed supporters in February to note that the Janus decision could provide a path for enough workers to leave their union to “remove $1.2 billion per election cycle from union budgets.”
“Imagine,” wrote Mackinac Center President Joseph G. Lehman, “the change we will see in policy debates over public education, taxes, social welfare spending and other issues if the fear of union backlash is cut by two-thirds.”
The Empire Center [State Policy Network branch in New York state] has predicted that the Janus decision will cost unions in New York alone more than $110 million annually.

Spontaneous wildcat strike walkout caught on film
Interview if Antoine Dangerfield, by Micah Uetricht, Augist 3, 2018 [Jacobin]
A thirty-year-old welder in Indianapolis, Dangerfield worked for a construction contractor building a UPS hub. On Tuesday, he says that a small number of Latino workers (millwrights, welders, and conveyor installers, in his telling) working for a different contractor but in the same hub were ordered home after disobeying the orders of a white boss he calls racist.... In response, the entire group of workers — over a hundred, in Dangerfield’s estimation — walked out.... Dangerfield caught their wildcat strike on camera at the moment they walked off the job.

by Lee Fang and Nick Surgey, February 25, 2018 [The Intercept]
Documents obtained by The Intercept and Documented show that the network of wealthy donors led by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch have taken credit for a laundry list of policy achievements extracted from the Trump administration and their allies in Congress.
by Yves Smith, August 8, 2018 [Naked Capitalism] 
Real estate is something that is not taught in any course in the United States economics. 80 percent of bank loans in America, England and much of Europe are real estate loans, but in the textbooks that students learn economics from, it is as if banks lend money to industry. Banks don’t lend a penny to industry to invest in capital goods and hire people. They lend money to buy out industry, to take it over, to cannibalize it and to strip assets, but not to create capital. They lend it as mortgages, they basically lend against assets, against homes, commercial real estate, stocks or bonds or some assets. So that I realized that in the textbooks, picture of how finance works were completely different from what I was taught at NYU. I had to take a money and banking course taught by an ideological Greek professor Stephen Rousseas, who had never worked in a bank in his life — none of my professors had ever worked in a bank, everything they know from the textbooks — and he had an article by a man who subsequently became a friend of mine, Hyman Minsky, who thought that the business cycle could be explained by savings banks putting their reserves in the commercial banking system that would be lent out to the economy. I said, “Look, what you called a commercial banking system is one bank, the bank I work for and we don’t make any loans at all to the economy. We buy bonds.”
So I got a C-plus in the course, he said I didn’t understand textbook economics. I realized that there was an absolute contradiction between how the real economy worked and what was in the textbooks.

Europe’s extreme summer is so hot it melted the highest peak in Sweden, and now it’s only the second-highest 
[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 8-6-18] 

Electricity Worth Less Than Zero Spreads as Renewable Energy Floods the Grid
by Jesper Starn, August 6, 2018 [Bloomberg]
With wind and solar farms sprouting up in more areas -- and their power getting priority to feed into the grid in many places -- the amount of electricity being generated is outstripping demand during certain hours of the day.... Once confined to a curiosity for a few hours over windy Christmas holidays, sub-zero cost of electricity is becoming a reality for hundreds of hours in many markets, upending the economics of the business in the process.

Details of China's and India's imports of oil from Iran 
[Moon of Alabama, via Naked Capitalism 8-5-18]

Russian gas turbine locomotive hauls 9000-tonne train
[International Railway Journal 8-9-18]
Russian Railways’ (RZD) GT1h-002 prototype liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuelled turbine-electric locomotive has completed a series of test runs on the Surgut - Korotchaevo line in western Siberia hauling trains with a gross weight of up to 9000 tonnes. Full Article

Testing milestone for Cuenca, Ecuador tram line
[International Railway Journal 8-9-18]

Hundreds of residents lined the streets of the historic city centre of Cuenca on July 27 to witness the inaugural test run of an Alstom Citadis low-floor LRV on the Ecuadorian city’s first 10.2km light rail line.
The city of Cuenca is located in the highlands of Ecuador at 8,400 feet above sea level, and has a city population of approximately 400,000, and another 300,000 in the larger metropolitan area. Full Article

Delhi opens metro Pink Line extension
[Railway Age 8-8-18]
The 8.1 km extension, which has six stations including interchanges with the Yellow Line and the Violet Line at INA and Lajpat Nagar, expands the Pink Line to 29.6 km. The initial 21.6 km section from Majlis Park to Durgabhai Deshmukh opened March 16. Full Article

NJT sets FY2019 budget for operations, and capex
[Railway Age 8-9-18]
New Jersey Transit, the nation’s third-largest public transportation agency, on Aug. 8 adopted a Fiscal Year 2019 budget consisting of $2.32 billion in operating expenditures and a $1.46 billion capital program. Full Article

Studies Seek to Industrialize Additive Manufacturing for Aerospace, including Charlotte NC
by Lindsay Bjerregaard, August 8, 2018 [Aviation Week and Space Technology]
The Swiss technology and engineering group Oerlikon is working with Lufthansa Technik (LHT) and Boeing to on research to establish “more easily standardized and qualified" processes for Additive Manufacturing in the aircraft MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) industry.”  
According to a spokesperson for Oerlikon, the collaboration’s research seeks to understand what process variability exists when the same component geometries are built on the same machine using the same powder batch, heat treatment, testing conditions and build parameters in different global locations. Oerlikon and LHT will print these components using an Oerlikon-produced IN718 powder alloy on identical printers at LHT Hamburg and Oerlikon’s locations in Charlotte, North Carolina and Barleben, Germany.... The collaboration’s research will initially focus on industrializing titanium powder bed fusion AM. 

Opinion: Wind delivers many benefits for North Carolina[Environmental Defense Fund (8/7)  via American Wind Energy Association 8-9-18]
David Kelly, senior manager of North Carolina Political Affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund, writes that wind enjoys broad bipartisan support in the state and expresses hope that state lawmakers will allow North Carolina's moratorium on new projects to end this year.

BNEF: Global installed wind, solar capacity surpasses 1 TW
[Renewables Now (Bulgaria) (8/6) via American Wind Energy Association 8-6-18]
The world has more than 1 terawatt of installed wind and solar capacity under operation and that figure is expected to double by mid-2023, says Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The report says that figure will rise to 1.1 TW by the end of 2018.

Solid-State Silicon Device Turns Waste Heat into Electricity 
by Stephen Mraz, July 31, 2018 [Machine Design]
Researchers from Sandia National Laboratories have developed a silicon-based device that converts waste heat into DC power. The device consists of common and abundant materials, such as aluminum, silicon, and silicon dioxide. It is also small, about 1/8 in. by 1/8 in., and half as thick as a dime. The top is aluminum etched with stripes roughly 20 times smaller than the width of a human hair. This pattern, though far too small to be seen by eye, serves as an antenna to catch infrared radiation. 
Between the aluminum top and the silicon bottom is a layer of silicon dioxide about 20 silicon atoms thick. The patterned and etched aluminum antenna channels the IR radiation into this thin layer. The IR radiation trapped in the silicon dioxide creates fast electrical oscillations—about 50 trillion cycles per second. This pushes electrons back and forth between the aluminum and silicon in an asymmetric manner. This process, called rectification, generates net DC electrical current.

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