…it’s the weekend
In 127 years of record-keeping, the United States was never this hot in June.https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/us-just-experienced-hottest-june-on-record
NOAA also noted that the country has already experienced eight natural disasters that topped more than $1 billion each in damage this year, with total losses in the first six months at a near record high.
A California wildfire underwent explosive growth Friday as the area north of Lake Tahoe braced for triple-digit temperatures this weekend amid a summer heat wave.https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/california-wildfire-grows-explosively-prompts-evacuations
…& if you want to just go back to bed no jury in the land would convict you
California’s governor has asked people and businesses to voluntarily cut their water use by 15% as the western US weathers a devastating drought.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jul/08/california-drought-water-use-restriction
Reservoir levels are dropping throughout the West, as the drought tightens its grip on the region and intense summer heat further stresses both water supply and the surrounding landscape. Many reservoirs are at or approaching historic low levels due to lackluster rainy seasons combined with increasing temperatures due to climate change.Reservoirs are drying up as consequences of the Western drought worsen [WaPo]
More than 1 billion marine animals along Canada’s Pacific coast are likely to have died from last week’s record heatwave, experts warn, highlighting the vulnerability of ecosystems unaccustomed to extreme temperatures.https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jul/08/heat-dome-canada-pacific-northwest-animal-deaths
As the third massive heat wave in three weeks kicked off in the West on Friday, Death Valley, Calif., soared to a searing 130 degrees. If confirmed, it would match the highest known temperature on the planet since at least 1931, which occurred less than a year ago.Death Valley soars to 130 degrees, matching Earth’s highest temperature in at least 90 years [WaPo]
The US east coast was battered by extreme weather on Thursday evening as heavy thunderstorms brought flooding and travel disruption to the New York City area, while Tropical Storm Elsa dumped heavy rainfall and even sparked tornadoes in North Carolina and Georgia.
New York City witnessed dramatic scenes as subway stations were inundated by heavy rainstorms ahead of Elsa, which arrived late Thursday evening. Videos posted to social media showed people wading through a flooded station in northern Manhattan, while in a downtown station water poured from the ceiling, and a station in the Bronx saw water cascading down the stairs.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jul/08/tropical-storm-elsa-new-york-flooding-rain
Videos and photos posted to social media from around the city showed water pouring down subway stairs as undeterred riders waded through the flash floods to reach their trains. Police on Thursday had to rescue more than a dozen people on a portion of the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx, the New York Times reported, after flooding near 179th Street appeared to halt traffic.
More than an inch and a half of rain fell in New York City in just an hour, among the top 10 most intense hourly cloud bursts in the past 80 years. By midevening, underpasses and highways were flooding as water gushed into the subway system. While the flooding was caused by thunderstorms from a stalled front in the area, The Post’s Matthew Cappucci noted that moisture from Elsa probably intensified the downpours.https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/07/09/new-york-flash-floods-subway/
…judges on the other hand…well, who can say?
“Judges are not supposed to rewrite the law, reinvent the constitution, or substitute their own opinions for the will of the people expressed through their laws,” Trump said, hurling an implicit though unsubstantiated rebuke at liberal judges. “We reject judicial activism and policymaking from the bench.”
But on 1 July 2021, Trump’s three picks for the nation’s highest court joined the three other conservative justices in delivering a majority ruling steeped in judicial activism. The 6-3 opinion, drawn along sharply ideological lines, effectively rewrote the hallowed 1965 Voting Rights Act, the glory of the civil rights movement that guarantees equal access to the ballot box for American citizens of every racial group.
In the process, Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett and their peers substituted their own opinions for the will of the people. As Elena Kagan, one of the three liberal dissenters, put it in a scorching rebuttal, the court’s rightwing majority had taken the Voting Rights Act – described by Lyndon Johnson, who signed it into law, as “monumental” – and cut it down “to its own preferred size.”https://www.theguardian.com/law/2021/jul/09/post-trump-supreme-court-appears-willing-to-embrace-judicial-activism
In a hugely consequential ruling last week, the US supreme court upheld two Arizona voting restrictions and, in the process, significantly curtailed one of the most powerful provisions that remain of the Voting Rights Act.Conservative justices make it clear: they won’t stop anti-democratic voting laws [Guardian]
Several top civil rights leaders, in what was described as a “a very candid, no-holds-barred meeting” that stretched nearly two hours, urged President Biden on Thursday to take more assertive action to combat Republican efforts to change voting laws around the country.
The renewed efforts come as Democratic voting legislation has stalled in Congress, as courts have ruled against their efforts, and as the party heads into the 2022 midterm elections facing historical trends that put their tenuous House and Senate majorities at risk.
The meeting at the White House, which came at Biden’s request, took place several hours after Vice President Harris announced that the Democratic National Committee was making a $25 million infusion into efforts to expand voting.
“This is the fight of our nation’s lifetime,” Harris said during remarks on voting rights, referring to new state laws and attempts to pass two bills in Congress.Civil rights leaders dial up pressure on White House to protect voting rights [WaPo]
The Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, is reportedly bringing charges that allege Rogers voted while on parole for a 1995 conviction for burglary and intent to commit theft.
In Texas, it is illegal for anyone convicted of a felony to vote until they complete their sentence, including probation and parole. Rogers’ parole began in 2004 and was set to expire in June 2020. The Texas primaries were held in March.Texas man who waited seven hours at polls is charged with voting illegally [Guardian]
…mind you, at least it’s pretty obvious who the bad guys are on the voting thing
…sometimes it seems like it’s hard to find a side to root for
Attorneys general in four states are looking into the online fundraising practices of both major political parties, according to court documents and a person with direct knowledge of the matter.
Attorneys general in four states are looking into the online fundraising practices of both major political parties, according to court documents and a person with direct knowledge of the matter.Attorneys general in 4 states looking into online fundraising practices of both major parties [WaPo]
Identical letters were sent to WinRed and ActBlue, a fundraising platform for Democrats, according to a person familiar with the inquiry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of the investigation.
…mostly, though…it’s still the same assholes pulling the same shit
Donald Trump charged the Secret Service nearly $10,200 for its use of guest rooms at his New Jersey golf club in May, newly released records indicate.
Currently, there are no laws that prevent Trump and his company from charging the Secret Service rent at his properties, and rates are at the Trump Organization’s discretion. The Secret Service is required by law to pay whatever is required to rent rooms in proximity to its clients.
Joe Biden is the only other protected person who has charged the Secret Service rent. During his vice-presidency, Biden charged a monthly rent of $2,200 for its use of a cottage on his Delaware property. However, since becoming president, Biden has not charged the Secret Service rent.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jul/08/trump-golf-club-secret-service-may-charges
In their second attempt to pass a sweeping elections overhaul, Republican lawmakers followed the broad outlines of the first, including a wide range of measures to limit voting access.Texas Republicans Reveal Bills of Far-Reaching Voting Restrictions [NYT]
…basically texas seems hell bent on…well…hell seems like it might be involved?
Ordinarily, enforcement would be up to government officials, and if clinics wanted to challenge the law’s constitutionality, they would sue those officials in making their case. But the law in Texas prohibits officials from enforcing it. Instead, it takes the opposite approach, effectively deputizing ordinary citizens — including from outside Texas — to sue clinics and others who violate the law. It awards them at least $10,000 per illegal abortion if they are successful.
“It’s completely inverting the legal system,” said Stephen Vladeck, a constitutional law professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “It says the state is not going to be the one to enforce this law. Your neighbors are.”
The result is a law that is extremely difficult to challenge before it takes effect on Sept. 1 because it is hard to know whom to sue to block it, and lawyers for clinics are now wrestling with what to do about it. Six-week bans in other states have all been blocked as they make their way through the court system.Citizens, Not the State, Will Enforce New Abortion Law in Texas [NYT]
…all in all, though…it’s hard not to suspect that it’s another case of things that shouldn’t be about money…being about money
The data have not been published, nor peer-reviewed. The vaccine makers said they expected to submit their findings to the Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks, a step toward gaining authorization for booster shots.
But the companies’ assertions contradict other research, and several experts pushed back against the claim that boosters will be needed.
“There’s really no indication for a third booster or a third dose of an mRNA vaccine, given the variants that we have circulating at this time,” said Dr. Céline Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York. “In fact, many of us question whether you will ever need boosters.”
Federal agencies also sounded a dubious note on Thursday night. Generally, Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time, the F.D.A. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a joint statement.Citing the Delta Variant, Pfizer Will Pursue Booster Shots and a New Vaccine [NYT]
…if it isn’t the root of all evil, it’s at least one of the best catalysts we’ve come up with
Few would dispute that China’s recent crackdown on cryptocurrency trading and mining has contributed to the recent plunge in the value of bitcoin and other cryptos.
But while the argument rages about whether the volatility of cryptos is a sign of fundamental weakness or merely a bump along the road, the initiatives coming out of Beijing are being seen by experts as a sign of China’s attempts to incubate its own fledgling e-currency and reboot the international financial system.
The People’s Bank of China aims to become the first major central bank to issue a central bank digital currency. While the PBOC’s counterparts in the west have taken a more cautious approach, it has held trials in several major cities including Shenzhen, Chengdu, Shanghai and Hangzhou.
The benefits of an e-currency are immense. As more and more transactions are made using a digital currency controlled centrally, the government gains more and more ability to monitor the economy and its people.
The rollout is also seen as part of Beijing’s push to weaken the power of the US dollar, and in turn that of the government in Washington. China believes that by internationalising the yuan it can reduce its dependence on the dollar-dominated global banking system, just as its Belt and Road Initiative is building an alternative network of international trade.
Alarm in western governments is such that the threat posed by the digital yuan, which could put China out of reach from international financial sanctions, for example, was discussed at last month’s G7 meeting.https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/09/currency-and-control-why-china-wants-to-undermine-bitcoin
As digital currencies break through to the mainstream, it’s becoming clear that their future is far from statelesshttps://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jul/05/cryptocurrencies-financial-system-digital-future
…particularly if that state happens to be texas, it would seem
In the world of crypto mining, having all your computers shut down at once, and stay down for hours, as they did in June, sounds like a disaster. Crypto miners compete with one another the world over to generate the computer code that results in the production of a single bitcoin, and the algorithm that governs bitcoin’s production allows only 6.25 bitcoin to be produced every 10 minutes, among the perhaps 70,000 crypto mines that operate around the world. If you’re not able to generate the code, but your rivals can, you are out of luck.
But thanks to the way Texas power companies deal with large electricity customers like Whinstone, Harris’s bitcoin mine, one of the few owned by a publicly traded company, didn’t suffer. Instead, the state’s electricity operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), began to pay Whinstone — for having agreed to quit buying power amid heightened demand.
That sort of arrangement has helped make the state one of the go-to locations for expanding crypto entrepreneurs the world over, despite its continued agonizing over power shortages. Indeed, Whinstone’s new owners are undertaking a major expansion of its facility outside Rockdale, with the intention of doubling its capacity. When fully developed, the crypto mine here is expected to require 750 megawatts of power — enough to power more than 150,000 Texas homes during peak demand.The Lone Star State is at the center of global attention to produce bitcoin [WaPo]
…so…seems like the hardware market is going to continue going nuts
What’s the current state of the U.S. economy? A quick summary might be “booming with bottlenecks.”
And some of those bottlenecks reflect the mess created by Donald Trump’s trade policy.
And there’s another bottleneck that may be an even bigger deal than the container shortage: a global shortage of semiconductor chips.
You see, these days almost everything contains silicon chips. So an insufficient supply of chips is a problem not just for producers of computers and smartphones; there are chips in just about all durable goods, including household appliances and, crucially, cars.The Trumpian Roots of the Chip Crisis [NYT]
But as Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics documents in an important new article, the Trump administration’s trade policy made the situation much worse.
…& speaking of nuts…sure would be nice if it looked a little less like the inmates were in danger of taking over the asylum
Brace yourself, America. Next year’s midterms have the potential to stock the Republican Party at all levels with rabble-rousers that make the Gingrich revolutionaries of 1994 and the Tea Partiers of 2010 look like RINO squishes.
Call it the Kook Caucus.The Nation Needs a Reality-Based G.O.P. Only the Kook Caucus Is Stepping Up. [NYT]
…it’s enough to drive you to drugs
In the past two years, a new drug policy reform movement called Decriminalize Nature has persuaded local governments in a half dozen municipalities, including Washington, D.C., to decriminalize “plant medicines” such as psilocybin, ayahuasca, iboga and the cactuses that produce mescaline. Last month, the California State Senate passed a bill that would make legal the personal possession, use and “social sharing” of psychedelics, including LSD and MDMA, a.k.a. Ecstasy or Molly. Political opposition to all these measures has been notably thin. Neither party, it seems, has the stomach for persisting in a war that has achieved so little while doing so much damage, especially to communities of color and our civil liberties.
But while we can now begin to glimpse an end to the drug war, it is much harder to envision what the drug peace will look like. How will we fold these powerful substances into our society and our lives so as to minimize their risks and use them most constructively? The blunt binaries of “Just say no” that have held sway for so long have kept us from having this conversation and from appreciating how different one illicit drug is from another.How Should We Do Drugs Now? [NYT]
…or…just to work less?
Several large-scale trials of a four-day workweek in Iceland were an “overwhelming success,” with many workers shifting to shorter hours without affecting their productivity, and in some cases improving it, in what researchers called “groundbreaking evidence for the efficacy of working time reduction.”
Some of the trials’ key findings showed that a shorter week translated into increased well-being of employees among a range of indicators, from stress and burnout to health and work-life balance. These issues have become more pressing as reports of burnout among employees around the world have risen following more than a year of pandemic-related stress and deteriorated mental health.Iceland tested a 4-day workweek. Employees were productive — and happier, researchers say. [WaPo]
…sure is easier to think of tunes about drugs than a four day week, though