…count the ways [DOT 29/3/22]

or just the counts...

…there’s been a lot going on…for a while…but…sometimes it doesn’t seem like the going part involves much in the way of progress…because we do seem to cover the same ground a lot

The budget proposal includes $6.9 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative, NATO and countering Russian aggression to support Ukraine, among other partners.

“Here’s what this all adds up to— historic deficit reduction and historic investment in our security at home and abroad by modernizing our capabilities in both areas,” said Biden during remarks Monday.
“I’m calling for one of the largest investments in our national security in history, with the funds needed to ensure that our military remains the best-prepared, best-trained, best-equipped military in the world,” said Biden in a statement. “In addition, I’m calling for continued investment to forcefully respond to Putin’s aggression against Ukraine with U.S. support for Ukraine’s economic, humanitarian and security needs.”
The budget also proposes $1.7 billion for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to expand multijurisdictional gun trafficking strike forces with additional personnel and increased regulation of the firearms industry.

In addition, the budget invests $367 million, an increase of $101 million over the 2021 enacted level, at the Justice Department to support police reform, the prosecution of hate crimes, enforcement of voting rights and efforts to provide equitable access to justice.
The Billionaire Minimum Income Tax plan would impose a 20 percent minimum tax rate on U.S. households worth more than $100 million. Over half the revenue would come from those worth at least $1 billion.

The White House estimates that if it is enacted, the tax would reduce the deficit by about $360 billion over the next decade.


…but there’s that pesky part about “if it is enacted”…so…I don’t know if saying it qualifies as a step in that direction…but it’s hard to argue that government coffers wouldn’t be better off if the folks with greatest wealth didn’t find that paying taxes remains effectively optional for them…although…I’m having another of those two-nations-seperated-by-a-common-language moments about the part someone called a “neat trick”

President Biden is trying to pull off a neat trick with his so-called billionaire tax plan: to raise taxes on the wealthy without directly taxing wealth.

The 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives Congress “power to lay and collect taxes on incomes.” Wealth is not income, so courts have found that straight-ahead wealth taxes are unconstitutional.

Biden’s plan gets around that large obstacle by taxing billionaires on the increase in their wealth. That gain, the administration argues, can be considered income: If your horse farm or your Renoir painting doubles in value, that increase can be thought of as income — just like wages from flipping burgers — even if you don’t realize the gain by selling.

…because that sounds very much like something I’ve spent most of my life under the impression of being anything but a new idea…hense the phrase capital gains tax…but then…I’m not on the supreme court

Daniel Shaviro, a tax expert at New York University School of Law, wrote in an email on Monday that although he believes the Biden tax is constitutional, “the current Supreme Court might very well strike it down.”

Shaviro wrote that the Supreme Court might revive a “basically defunct doctrine” from a case decided in 1920, Eisner v. Macomber, which held that income that’s not actually realized (such as the gain in an asset’s value) cannot constitutionally be taxed. That would be unfortunate, he wrote, because “the legal academy predominantly agrees that this doctrine from the Macomber case is both obsolete (dating back at least to Helvering v. Bruun, a 1940 case) and wrong.”

Here’s the Neat Trick of Biden’s Billionaire Tax [NYT]

…there’s also the tricky part about how public money gets spent

Many who participated in what prosecutors are calling the largest fraud in U.S. history — the theft of hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money intended to help those harmed by the coronavirus pandemic — couldn’t resist purchasing luxury automobiles. Also mansions, private jet flights and swanky vacations.

They came into their riches by participating in what experts say is the theft of as much as $80 billion — or about 10 percent — of the $800 billion handed out in a Covid relief plan known as the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP. That’s on top of the $90 billion to $400 billion believed to have been stolen from the $900 billion Covid unemployment relief program — at least half taken by international fraudsters — as NBC News reported last year. And another $80 billion potentially pilfered from a separate Covid disaster relief program.

The prevalence of Covid relief fraud has been known for some time, but the enormous scope and its disturbing implications are only now becoming clear.

…for a given value of clear, that is

No one is sure exactly how much was stolen. An academic paper released last year estimated at least $76 billion in potential fraud, and the authors said that was conservative.

The SBA’s inspector general has identified $78.1 billion in potentially fraudulent Economic Injury Disaster Loans, another Covid relief program for businesses. The Secret Service has its own estimate: $100 billion.
The idea that there is a tradeoff between speed and security “is a false premise,” [Haywood] Talcove [the CEO of Lexis Nexis, which works with the government to verify identities] said. “It’s not true. If you believed that, then some of our biggest companies in this country that face consumers would be bankrupt, right? It is very easy to stop the type of fraud that we’re looking at. In fact, the private sector stopped this a decade ago.
an official who works on Covid relief and wasn’t authorized to speak publicly acknowledged that Talcove is correct. In the early stages of the loan program, he said, there were few controls. And it didn’t have to be that way.

“I agree,” he said, “that the notion that you had to sacrifice certainty for speed is categorically false.”


…at any rate…clarity is certainly useful…but it’s hard to be clear about things that depend upon complexity

A temporarily-posted three-hour call last week between government officials and private-sector cyber pros sheds light on the frustrations of critical infrastructure industries as they face cyberthreats.

The call, between more than 13,000 industry workers and top officials from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, provides insight into their tensions as the Biden administration warns that Russia could launch devastating cyberattacks on the United States amid the war in Ukraine.
For around 48 hours last week, the world got an unvarnished look at the call when CISA posted a recording of it online.
Attendees were told that the March 22 call would be recorded, but CISA Assistant Director for Stakeholder Engagement Alaina Clark also said the call was “not intended for members of the media, and the content is not for reporting purposes.”
CISA officials want organizations to lower their thresholds for reporting cyber incidents to federal authorities. That means they want organizations to report any unusual activity on their networks.
CISA officials want organizations to lower their thresholds for reporting cyber incidents to federal authorities. That means they want organizations to report any unusual activity on their networks.
The plea for more information comes after Congress passed legislation requiring critical infrastructure owners and operators to report hacks to CISA. But the rules could take years to go into effect, so CISA has to be persuasive now to get the reports voluntarily.

For one, officials repeatedly stressed that sharing information would make critical infrastructure as a whole more safe. CISA Deputy Executive Assistant Director for Cybersecurity Matt Hartman also repeated President Biden’s statement to business leaders that it’s a “patriotic obligation” for companies to invest in building their cyberdefenses.
CISA officials also faced questions about how to report hacks, given that the FBI and CISA both asked for organizations to report cyber incidents to them.
One caller who said he’s “responsible for a large part of critical infrastructure in the U.S.” vented about not having the proper clearances to get some cybersecurity information from the federal government because he’s a permanent resident, not a citizen.

Another caller said CISA has recently held briefings only for holders of security clearances, and that has denied key sectors access to important cybersecurity information.

CISA has long received complaints from the private sector about the agency’s inability to share more classified information with the private sector. The agency has argued that it can share information about vulnerabilities without sharing classified details about how it found out about them.

…thought it was meant to be the exception that proves the rule…not exceptions are the rule…but just in case no one got the memo on this lot the other I-dunno-how-many-times

The FCC called Kaspersky a national security threat

It’s the first time the Federal Communications Commission has added a Russian firm to its list of companies that are threats to U.S. national security, Bloomberg News’s Todd Shields reports. The designation means that federal subsidies can’t be used to buy Kaspersky services.
For years, the U.S. intelligence community has argued that Kaspersky software could operate as a spying tool for the Kremlin. The company has repeatedly denied the allegations.

The U.S. government ordered civilian agencies to remove the company’s anti-virus software in 2017.

…& speaking of exceptions

The Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework would allow data about Europeans to be stored in the United States, the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Michaels and Sam Schechner report. The deal tries to assuage European legal concerns by setting up a European appeals process that includes an independent Data Protection Review Court. The court would have the power to issue binding rulings.
European and U.S. officials said that “the new U.S. data-protection court, along with a commitment to limit disproportionate signals intelligence collection, will be created via a U.S. executive order,” Michaels and Schechner write.


…& yeah…”signals intelligence” might be one thing of which there’s been “disproportionate collection” from more perspectives than just the european…but…it’s hardly the only data getting hoovered up in questionable quantities by questionable entities for questionable purposes

U.S. lawmakers have tried and failed for years to catch up to European officials in creating privacy protections for people’s online data. Soon, they may be chasing Europe’s lead yet again, this time in reining in dominant tech platforms’ anti-competitive conduct and content practices.

On Thursday, the European Union finalized a landmark proposal known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA), aimed at blocking the world’s most powerful tech companies from squelching competition. In coming months, the bloc is poised to advance another sweeping measure to tighten regulations around how tech companies police content on their platforms, called the Digital Services Act (DSA).

Together, the proposals will create perhaps the most wide-reaching regulations for the Internet globally since the E.U. passed its sprawling data privacy rules, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

While U.S. efforts to match the E.U.’s privacy rules have languished for years in Washington, there’s been growing bipartisan momentum on Capitol Hill to pass new laws on digital competition and content moderation. That has led to the introduction of a flurry of bills that together would mirror some of the most punishing restrictions the E.U. is now poised to enact.
But even if U.S. lawmakers manage to pass many of their most ambitious tech reforms, the sum of those bills is unlikely to match the sheer scope of Europe’s incoming rules.

The dynamic highlights the uphill battle U.S. policymakers face in setting rules for the Internet, which up until now have been crafted almost entirely by foreign governments and at times U.S. states.


…& then of course there’s this part

I mean, they’re cooperative to a certain extent, but I think they all know how to slow-walk things. They know how to bury public interest law firms and state enforcement offices with lots of documents, lots of obfuscation. I mean, this has been the rule.

And I get it, tech has never wanted government looking at them. And but I have to say that over the years, the level of hubris and arrogance, particularly on the part of Facebook, has really astounded me. They’ll come at you and try to sell you with ideas of ways in which they’re helping out and advancing all this good.

And I think a little bit of it is they look at us all as sort of like ill-informed Luddites, right? That we surely possibly couldn’t understand their world. So I think there’s a little bit of that attitude that they don’t take us seriously and figure they can just stall and delay and market their way out of this. And I think that Facebook is realizing that may not be the case, but we just want the problem fixed. You know what I mean?


…but it probably shouldn’t be surprising when cognitive dissonance is still a defining characteristic of enough of the electorate that the grifting circus is still in full swing…not to mention denial

There was an unappreciated irony to the placard that graced the lectern from which former president Donald Trump spoke over the weekend. “Save America,” it said, reflecting Trump’s preferred descriptor for the threat the country faces should it fail to acquiesce to his whims. But it was from behind this apocalyptic imperative that Trump laughed off an actual threat the country faces.
Trump claimed we were at the “single most dangerous time for our country in history” thanks to the threat of nuclear weapons, somewhat downplaying decades in which the exact same threat lingered.

“And yet you have people like John Kerry worrying about the climate! The climate!” Trump continued. “Oh, I heard that the other day. Here we are, [Russian President Vladimir Putin is] threatening us [and] he’s worried about the ocean will rise one-hundredth of one percent over the next 300 f—-n’ years.”

The crowd, pleasantly surprised by the vulgarity, cheered loudly.

In reality, of course, the risk of sea-level rise related to climate change is far more dire than what Trump presents. The increase in sea levels — largely driven by melting glaciers on land and expansion due to warmer water — is not measured in percentage-point increases, since that makes little sense given the ocean’s depth. Instead, projections are measured in meters or feet over less than a century, a rapid, large increase that poses a particular risk because of how close humans around the world live to the ocean. Trump’s private business recognizes the risk; his golf course in Ireland cited climate change in a permit application to build a sea wall.

But Trump recognizes the political value in pretending that it’s all a big joke, that this risk to America and Americans is a punchline about crazy leftists. That’s because his core political instinct is to play to the most reactionary part of the Republican base, and that part of the Republican base indeed sees climate change as a nonissue.
A lot of parallels have been drawn between climate change and the coronavirus pandemic over the past two years, many overwrought. But here, as with the virus, many of the most Trump-adjacent Americans see the whole thing as contrived ridiculousness. Partisanship and anti-elitism lead to treating climate change as a punchline.

That’s a seemingly intractable part of the slow pace of the country’s shift toward addressing the need to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. The day after Trump’s rally, though, the country was reminded of another, intertwined factor: economics.

[…] But a more robust response to climate change has not been passed despite the Democratic majority thanks in large part to opposition from within the party. Specifically, thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.).

Manchin’s career in the federal government began with an explicit rejection of climate-change legislation. Many Americans first learned about him thanks to a campaign ad in which he literally shot at a bill that would create a marketplace aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions. As then-governor of West Virginia, one of the country’s largest coal-producing states, this was not surprising rhetoric, even if it was a surprising visual.

Since then, though, his party has moved left on climate change — and his state has grown less reliant on coal mining as a source of employment. In part, that’s because the amount of coal extracted each year as a function of employees has increased, meaning that fewer workers can produce the same amount of coal. That’s beneficial to coal companies, if not coal miners.

Which brings us to the New York Times’s look at Manchin’s ties to the industry, published Sunday.

What’s driven much of the country’s response to climate change from the outset has been the massive economic strength of the fossil-fuel industry. When scientists first realized that releasing carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere risked warming the planet — something the fossil-fuel industry itself has recognized for decades — the industry moved quickly to raise questions about the idea that the planet was warming. (The effort has been compared to the effort to downplay the lung cancer risks of cigarettes.) In recent years, it, too, has shifted in a Manchin-y direction, often acknowledging the change while offering baby-step responses to the problem.
In one weekend more than a decade later, we see the effects of climate change’s injection into the national political conversation. A Democratic Party dependent on Manchin’s vote; Manchin with deep cultural and economic reasons not to shift away from coal. And on the other side, a baseline assumption that climate change is ridiculous, as ridiculous as wearing a high-quality mask to prevent the spread of an airborne virus.

And here we are.


…or rather…here we remain

When a new energy infrastructure bill was introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly earlier this month, people could be forgiven for paying little attention. Compared to the legislature’s recent follies — an abortion bill that would out-Texas Texas, or a book-banning bill that would override the recommendations of school librarians, or a handgun bill that would let 18-year-olds carry a gun without a permit — an energy-infrastructure bill seems like a big yawn.

Thing is, almost nothing undertaken by the Tennessee General Assembly can be safely overlooked. That boring energy infrastructure bill, which passed the Tennessee Senate last Thursday, would let the state override local laws blocking fossil-fuel projects in their communities. In other words, if this bill becomes law, the state could allow an oil company to run a pipeline through a city over the objections of the city itself.

This may seem like a picayune matter with no relevance outside the state of Tennessee, but it’s exactly the kind of bill that ought to attract national attention — not because it’s happening in Tennessee but because it’s happening, or is poised to happen, in red-state legislatures across the country, according to the Climate Reality Project. Republicans are using rising gas prices as an opportunity to give the fossil-fuel industry whatever it wants in their states, even when their own cities have been trying to protect the environment and their people from that very industry.

Legislative pre-emption is part of a political ground war down here. These routine bills rarely rise to the level of national attention, but their presence explains as much about our national politics — and about what shapes our national elections — as any newly restrictive abortion law or newly lax gun bill does.


…trying not to lose our damn minds…not least since it seems like entirely too many folks already have…some of them in positions of significant influence

The early defenses of Justice Clarence Thomas’s decision not to recuse himself from key 2020 election cases have run into an unhappy reality: This wasn’t just a matter of Thomas’s wife being an activist for causes that came up before the Supreme Court; this was Thomas possibly voting in a way that could shield his wife’s activities.
But these revelations have been followed by a predictable onslaught of whataboutery. What about other justices who could have recused from major cases in which they had alleged conflicts of interest?

…& I get that ever since russian diplomats first began starting their responses with “what about…” however long ago it’s been the favored term…but aren’t we really talking about sophistry?

As the Thomas recusal debate has grown in recent weeks, a popular comeback has emerged: What about Ruth Bader Ginsburg? It was raised by a Republican lawyer who worked to confirm Thomas — in two separate op-eds — by many social media users and by a writer for The Federalist appearing on Fox News this weekend.
For a while, today’s recusal debate sounded somewhat familiar: Ginni Thomas had advocated for a cause that was coming before the court, but she wasn’t directly involved in business before the court. Early on, it was about her having signed on to a letter criticizing the Jan. 6 committee. That was still true when we learned earlier this month that she had attended the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the Capitol insurrection.

What changed last week is that we found out she had also strategized with a White House whose records her husband had voted to protect — and on the very same subjects the Jan. 6 committee is investigating. As we wrote last week, that means it’s possible the communications Justice Thomas voted to withhold could involve his wife. It’s possible her communications were wrapped up in those records — though the texts we’ve seen to date were sent to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’s personal phone — and it’s also possible the communications might merely mention her actions.


…still…I’m thinking that isn’t the most “hardly news” news going around…not when the current crop includes this

They are astonishing words to read just above the signature of a federal judge.

…well…they ought to be astonishing…but

“Dr. [John] Eastman and President Trump launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history,” U.S. District Judge David O. Carter wrote in an opinion published Monday. “Their campaign was not confined to the ivory tower — it was a coup in search of a legal theory.”

…heck…even the WaPo piece admits its first line is misleading

This is not particularly surprising, even if it is stark. What’s more important is what precedes those words in Carter’s opinion: a detailed argument, hinging at one critical point on Trump’s own words, explaining why it’s likely that Trump broke federal law in trying to retain power.
The judge was also asked by the House committee to evaluate if the material might need to be turned over because it was not protected by privilege due to the “crime-fraud” exception. In other words, if an attorney is discussing the commission of a crime with a client, that material may not be subject to being withheld under privilege. And earlier this month that’s precisely what the committee alleged: Trump and Eastman were engaged in an effort to violate more than one federal law and, therefore, communication related to that effort should not be privileged.
The first allegation was that Trump had tried to obstruct an official proceeding. For such a crime to be committed, Carter wrote, it needs to be shown that three things happened:

1. “the person obstructed, influenced or impeded, or attempted to obstruct, influence or impede”
2. “an official proceeding of the United States, and”
3. “did so corruptly.”

The second allegation — that there was a conspiracy to defraud the United States — has similar requirements: that “at least two people entered into an agreement to obstruct a lawful function of the government … by deceitful or dishonest means, and … that a member of the conspiracy engaged in at least one overt act in furtherance of the agreement.”

In each case, two of the three stipulations are easy to meet. Trump’s effort to obstruct (No. 1) an official proceeding (No. 2) — the counting of electoral votes — is obvious, though Carter outlines the specific path by which that occurred. Similarly, the first and third components of the conspiracy allegation are fairly trivial to identify: Trump and Eastman worked to twist Pence’s arm and called on the crowd outside the White House to march to the Capitol and pressure Congress, among other things. Again, the full filing makes each case explicitly.
“President Trump’s repeated pleas for Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger clearly demonstrate that his justification was not to investigate fraud, but to win the election,” Carter wrote in his opinion. He quoted Trump: “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”

“Taken together, this evidence demonstrates that President Trump likely knew the electoral count plan had no factual justification,” Carter continued.
“The illegality of the plan was obvious,” Carter wrote of the obstruction allegation. “… President Trump vigorously campaigned for the Vice President to single-handedly determine the results of the 2020 election. As Vice President Pence stated, ‘no Vice President in American history has ever asserted such authority.’ Every American — and certainly the President of the United States — knows that in a democracy, leaders are elected, not installed. With a plan this ‘BOLD’” — quoting Eastman — “President Trump knowingly tried to subvert this fundamental principle.”

There were legal implications from the ruling for the House committee and for Eastman. But, particularly when coupled with the finding last month that Trump probably entered into a civil conspiracy with extremist groups similarly aimed at blocking the 2020 election, Carter’s assertion that a preponderance of evidence suggested that Trump violated the law is historic and enormously significant.

A crime was likely committed by the sitting president to retain power.


…so…I get how it can be tempting to think about how nice it might be to be able to take certain people out of the equation more adroitly than normal procedure seems to allow for

The war has also forced millions from their homes. The UN high commissioner for refugees reports that more than 3.7 million Ukrainians have fled their homeland and that another 6.7 million have been internally displaced. The two figures together – children account for nearly half the total – comprise 20% of Ukraine’s population.

The shock and outrage at these and other dreadful consequences of Putin’s invasion are understandable, indeed appropriate. Animus toward Putin and the desire to make him pay a steep price, without delay, are running deep in the west, so much so that some believe that war cannot end so long as he remains in power.

…but…not unlike daydreams of trump-free political landscape…reasons to loathe the devil you know abound…but the clue to the problem with the devil you don’t is in the name?

Protests in Russia against Putin’s war, criticisms of it by prominent Russian tycoons and celebrities, and growing evidence that western economic sanctions are making Russians’ quotidian life much harder – because of shortages of basic necessities and rising prices – may strengthen the belief that this is the moment to bring Putin, and perhaps even his authoritarian political system, down.

Let’s assume for a moment that Putin does fall. What happens next?

One possibility: a new authoritarian leader replaces him, winds down the war in Ukraine in order to save Russia’s economy from disaster, and eventually seeks to repair the rupture with the west. Yet any successor to Putin who emerges from Russia’s current political order is more likely to share his animus toward Nato, and the west more generally, as well as his proprietorial attitude toward Ukraine. He – it’s certain to be a man – may continue the war, using different tactics, for fear that a defeat could imperil his position even before he has time to solidify it.

A second outcome might be that Russians, weary of the war and enraged by the economic pain created by western sanctions, rise up and overthrow their government, eventually clearing a path to democracy. But a rebellion could fail, so those who hope for this result must ask themselves if it’s responsible to encourage a mass revolt when they are in no position to protect protesters from the massive repressive machinery at Putin’s disposal.

There’s a third plausible scenario. Unrest in Russia segues into prolonged chaos, even a civil war pitting those who have a huge stake in the survival of the existing political order against their opponents who want to consign it to history’s rubbish heap. That could produce political turmoil, bloodletting, and a disarray in the world’s only other nuclear superpower – one that extends from Europe to the Pacific Ocean, has an area nearly twice that of the United States and land borders with 14 countries.

…& there sure is a lot of scope for a devil we don’t know behind door number three, there

Theories of nuclear stability have always assumed that the countries that deter one another remain stable. We have no conceptual framework for understanding, let alone experience coping with, anarchy in a nuclear-armed country.

Can proponents of regime change in Russia be certain that the denouement will be the one they have in mind and are confident about? The dismal record of the United States and its allies in predicting the results of the regime changes they precipitated – in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – are grounds for caution, not least because the consequences of getting this particular attempt wrong might prove disastrous.


…all in all…when it comes to the gap between “could” & “should”…we might be well advised to give some thought about how we go about bridging it?

Nicknamed the “Einstein of energy efficiency”, Lovins, an adjunct professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, has been one of the world’s leading advocates and innovators of energy conservation for 50 years. He wrote his first paper on climate change while at Oxford in 1968, and in 1976 he offered Jimmy Carter’s government a blueprint for how to triple energy efficiency and get off oil and coal within 40 years. In the years since there is barely a major industry or government that he and his Rocky Mountain Institute have not advised.

But for much of that time efficiency was seen as a bit of an ugly sister, rather dull compared with a massive transition to renewables and other new technologies. Now, he hopes, its time may have come. Lovins is arguing for the mass insulation of buildings alongside a vast acceleration of renewables. “We should crank [them] up with wartime urgency. There should be far more emphasis on efficiency,” he says.

He sees Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine as an outrage, but possibly also a step towards solving the climate crisis and a way to save trillions of dollars. “He has managed to bring about all the outcomes that he most feared, but he may inadvertently have put the energy transition and climate solutions into a higher gear. Whether or not we end up in a recession because of the disruption, [Putin’s war] may prove to be a great thing for climate economics.” As it happens, Lovins has family connections to Ukraine: all four of his grandparents were early 20th-century immigrants from small villages between Kyiv and Odesa. He has one relative left there; the rest, as far as he knows, were murdered in the 1941 massacre of Tarashcha, when a Jewish population of nearly 14,000 was slaughtered by the Nazis, leaving just 11 people who happened to be off in the woods gathering mushrooms that day.

“Solar and wind are now the cheapest bulk power sources in 91% of the world, and the UN’s International Energy Agency (IEA) expects renewables to generate 90% of all new power in the coming years. The energy revolution has happened. Sorry if you missed it,” he says.

But just as with the 1970s oil shocks, the problem today is not where to find energy but how to use it better, he says. The answer is what he calls “integrative, or whole-system, design,” a way to employ orthodox engineering to achieve radically more energy-efficient results by changing the design logic.
The prize for governments wanting to be truly energy efficient is huge. Lovins and RMI have calculated that at least two-thirds – and probably as much as three-quarters – of all fossil fuel-generated energy could be profitably saved in most industrialised countries, and even more in developing countries because they tend to be less efficient to begin with and can more easily build things right than fix them later.
Lovins fears that design has been chopped into little bits and we are losing the bigger energy picture that the Victorians had. In a recent podcast with the UK energy adviser Micheal Liebreich, he explains how savings of 80% and more can be made in the least expected areas. As an example he shows that far less energy is needed to pump heat or cold through fat, straight pipes than skinny, long and crooked ones, because there is less friction.

“In our house we save 97% of the pumping energy by properly laying out some pipes. Well, if everyone in the world did that to their pipes and ducts, you would save about a fifth of the world’s electricity, or half the coal-fired electricity. And you get your money back instantly in new-build or in under a year typically in retrofits in buildings and industry.”

And yet, he says, this sort of energy efficiency is not taught, and it’s certainly not in any government study or climate model. Why not? “Because it’s not a technology. It’s a bloody design,” he says.
Only half jokingly he urges a mass movement to knit millions of cheery yellow and blue woolly hats. That, and people turning down their thermostats by two or three degrees would save billions of cubic metres of gas.

“Putin’s war is being financed by those who buy Russian fossil fuels. In the first two weeks the west has paid €8bn to Russia. We have a new energy crisis, and efficiency is the largest, cheapest, safest, cleanest and fastest way to address it,” he says.


…mind you…given the way these always seem to pan out for me…I’m thinking I’m not exactly in any danger of providing examples of efficiency…but at least this might go up on time…so that’s something…& at some points some tunes will join it down here…though not until I’m the other side of more coffee…which might be the nearest I get to that efficiency thing today…well, that & not going off on a whole thing about the concept of opportunity cost, anyway?



  1. Once again I’m going to pause in the middle of the update.

    There is already precedent for taxing unrealized asset appreciation: the American local property tax. The more the value of your house (and maybe the land for your farm?) increases, the more you pay in property taxes. Most property taxes, I believe, are something like “.000X% of the assessed value of the property.” So cities and towns at their discretion conduct periodic assessments, which can then be appealed, and monthly property tax bills are levied accordingly. I think lots of Deadsplinters have personal experience with this.

    • In my area, northern NY (near Watertown), farmers do not pay certain taxes on their land. I believe they don’t pay school tax, I will admit I am ignorant, too a degree, on how the taxing works overall, but I have heard many people bitch that the farmers should be paying more in taxes.

    • …I’m no kind of expert…& there are literally experts in this stuff…but I think the general principle in the capital gains stuff is that an increase in the value of a holding…whether of an asset or an investment or whatever…is a profit in the same way as income directly increases the amount of wealth you have…so it wouldn’t just pertain to property?

      • Yes, but the difference is between realized and unrealized. With real estate, your taxes can (and usually do) go up even though you haven’t sold the thing. With other classes of assets, like money in retirement accounts and paintings and whatever, you have to actually sell them to pay any taxes. That’s what Biden is getting at.

        Say you start a company. If you take it public, let’s say you issue stock, 100 shares. You keep 51 (so you have a controlling interest) and let others buy 49. You issue it at $10/share. After 2 years the stock (the circulating 49 shares) are worth $100/share. Two years later they’re worth $1,000 a share. Those 49 shares have been circulating, people have been buying and selling, paying cap gains taxes on gains and deducting losses on…well, losses.

        You, with your 51 shares, have hung on. You started out with $510 in assets and 4 years later you have $51,000 in assets. You have accumulated $50,490 in wealth but you haven’t paid a nickel in taxes on any of it. That’s one way these vast fortunes are accumulating and why the super-wealthy seem to pay little or no taxes. Let’s say two years later the shares go for $10,000 and you decide to cash out. Now you have $510,000 and that’s when you pay taxes. Biden’s plan, if I am getting this right, would impose some sort of annual levy.

        The reason why this is completely impractical and will never pass is that the value of those shares change second by second if they’re publicly traded. You have to assess a value to the asset in order to tax it. Imagine the time is set for 11:59 PM on December 31st each year. Can you imagine the havoc? Or January 1st, at 00 hours. Or any other time. As far as I know no country on earth does anything like this, but again maybe I’m missing something.

        • …my (extremely imperfect) understanding is basically that on the one hand you have income & on the other you have capital…& that a lot of types of capital accrue income…but some just sort of grow…& if the balance sheet this year shows a pot of capital with a greater value than last year that’s a capital gain

          …generally I think the tax is due when the gain is realized…but there’s a lot of grey areas around where that line sits…so there’s definitely a mechanism for including that stuff in annual tax returns & the trick is in finding ways to either offset them or find a way to say they are the sort being asked about

          …you’d need an accountant to get a proper answer, though…probably at an hourly rate?

      • Interest is classified as income and is taxable. Rich people don’t keep money in banks. I mean, pocket change to pay bills but nothing over the FDIC $250,000 insurance limit. Interest is not a factor to them.

        Dividends are classified as income and are taxable. High-dividend companies tend to be old and very stable. Rich people may invest in them, but dividends tend to be a factor when you’re old and investing for income to live on. Rich people give no fucks on that front.

        Capital gains are taxable when the gain is recognized (the property is sold). They are divided into short- and long-term gains (held less than a year, more than a year) and there are LOTS of ways around them, the biggest being to simply not sell. You also get to balance gains against losses, so if your mansion is now worth more and your yacht is now worth less, you can sell them both and match losses to gains.

        Property taxes are kind of a unique beast. What you’re actually paying for is municipal services, like schools, police and fire, roads, etc. While it’s based on the value of your home, it’s adjusted assuming that if your home value increases, the share of services you pay for should also increase. And everybody that lives “like” you do, as far as neighborhoods and house and property, pays the same.

        I’m not totally sure that would function as a precedent for taxing other holdings, though. If I’ve got $500 million in an investment portfolio, I’m not really paying for much government services, plus in theory they’re already getting capital gains (in practice, not so much as noted above — see losses balancing gains).

        It’s gonna be an uphill struggle to tax assets, is what I’m saying. I’m on board with it, but Congress is packed with rich assholes who will fight it tooth and nail. And on this I have to say there are likely Democrats who won’t fall in line, either.

        • True! In old movies, like screwball comedies from the 1930s, sometimes you see rich people referred to as “coupon clippers.” They’re not combing a weekly circular hoping to save a few bucks at the Piggly Wiggly. No, what they’re doing relates to their bond investments. Bonds used to be issued physically, with sections, or coupons, and every month, quarter, or year you’d cut out or detach a perforated piece as the payment date came due and redeem it for cash. Much more civilized than being taken in by some late-night-TV boiler-room huckster shilling some “can’t fail” investment, like limited edition porcelains or novelty gold coins with spurious “buy back” guarantees.


          • Yeah, you still hear the phrase “coupon rate” when dealing with fixed-income investments. Us old folks nod sagely and watch the youngsters Google it on their phones.

            • When rationing books were introduced during WWII there was debate about how to track people’s points (like for a pound of flour you needed one point, and you only got so many points per month.) Should people be given ledgers, and the grocer would sign to affirm the sale, or maybe cross off a symbol or fill in a circle and initial that? Maybe use a government-issued stamp or seal, like notaries? Many of the New Dealers were “Dollar a Year” men, rich, public-spirited men who didn’t need their salaries. They were all well aware of coupon bonds so they decided to issue coupon books, and you’d detach your little ration stamp and hand it over when you bought your flour, just like redeeming a bond coupon.

              Why reinvent the wheel?

        • Speaking of the Democrats, did you know that Dianne Feinstein’s husband died late last month?

          “Blum was the chairman of an equity investment management firm[…]”

          Nancy Pelosi’s husband is still with us:

          “Paul Francis Pelosi Sr. (born April 15, 1940) is an American businessman who owns and operates Financial Leasing Services, Inc., a San Francisco-based real estate and venture capital investment and consulting firm.”

          Chuck Schumer (this is referring to campaign contributions):

          TOP INDUSTRY 2017 – 2022
          Securities & Investment


  2. Also, from what I am able to understand, albeit, somewhat limited, rich people can fight assessments and either win or threaten towns with litigation and basically avoid higher taxes on their properties, where as, people like my dad, who owns a chunk of land deemed a “woodlot (that doesn’t have soil thick enough to grow wood)” that gets assessed for higher and higher regardless of the land.

  3. One of the more irritating things in the GTA is that the surrounding burbs like where I live pay more in property tax than similar holdings in Toronto proper.  What’s worse is that the rich fuckers in Rosedale, Forrest Hill, the Beaches and The Bridal Path (the exclusive rich neighborhoods of Toronto) pay even less in property tax on their 10000 sq ft+++ luxury homes as a % of their income than a lot of people with homes 1/10 the size because of the way the property tax code was written.

    These rich fucks hide behind seniors who (rightfully) shouldn’t be taxed out of their homes.

    • The talking head bit is one of those tropes that has infected TV and needs to stop.

      If you ask a producer why they do them, they cannot come up with a coherent explanation.

      99% of the time they confuse audiences, they don’t contain news, and they don’t expand on what people know about the character of the person on the screen.

      They’re a holdover from the days when news studios might only have at their disposal two cameras weighing roughly a ton each. It’s not 1956 anymore, but TV producers are stuck in an Adlai Stevenson world.

  4. No matter how hard the GOPers try, they can’t put Ginni back in the bottle.

    Since well Jan 6/21, there have been rumors about Ginni’s role in the coup.  Some conjecture.  Some dismissive (from GOPer operatives or Ginni herself.) But the ones that pointed to her role said she played a very large role in the background (and not just organizing buses for the morons) initially played out and then died in the din because nothing was substantiated.

    Thanks to voter fraudster Mark Meadows it has all come to the foreground and exploded over the Trump admin and the GOPers like a coke can covered with pubic hair.

    The irony of the Thomas Coup Affair being that what was once thought to be a safe 6-3 right wing margin has become uncomfortably worse for the GOPers especially if calls for Thomas to resign or be impeached grow louder and louder.

    The one thing I learned while playing the office politic game is that the ground shifts quickly and the plans of mice and men often go completely sideways. You always have to plan that things don’t always go your way no matter how cunning/smart you are.

    We’ve seen that the GOPers don’t adjust well when the environment changes (voter fraud “protection” aka voter suppression acts because they can’t/won’t adjust to the fact that cities are where most people live AND that a lot of them aren’t their base of mostly white assholes so they don’t know how to reach them.)

  5. I want to dig into the word “astonishing” here. I think the Post’s use of the term “astonishing” is quite good, even when contrasted to the phrase “not surprising.”

    It’s true that part of the word means “unexpected” but they are most definitely not synonyms.

    Imagine your house is on a fault line. You watch videos of earthquakes. You have architects and engineers visit and draw up schematics of what will happen, and insurance adjusters give you a list of what you will lose.

    And then an earthquake hits, and you are not surprised by the damage, but you are still astonished.

    The reason, as Edna St. Vincent Millay once wrote, is “the heart is slow to learn/What the swift mind beholds at every turn.”

    The power of the word “astonishing” is that it encompasses a situation where pure facts are unable to prepare you for the reality — the destruction of your home, the birth of a child, a federal judge starkly calling out a president for a distinct and defined crime.

    I think it’s fair to say “astonishing” gets overused, and gets trotted out to describe a salad, a network sitcom joke, or a shirt cuff.

    But I think reducing “astonishing” to “surprising” robs English of an important meaning. I don’t think “shocking” or “appalling” captures the sense either — both I think tend to lean toward a level of judgment which may be appropriate, but don’t quite capture the sense of something which breaks the capacity of the swift mind to behold.

    The potential for contradiction is a part of the point.

    • …fair enough…but it’s still hard to be astonished by something that isn’t any more obvious after the judge said it than it was before…& for upwards of a year, at that?

      • I think one of the corrolaries to the admonition that we shouldn’t cheapen language by overextending terms is that we shouldn’t diminish language either by underusing them.

        Astonishment is about a lot more than surprise. We’ve all been astonished by things we’ve experienced many times before — fireworks, Beethoven’s 9th, a mass of cherry blossoms.

        I think one of the things that has hampered reactions to Trump is overreaction — OMG, he flushed documents, OMG, he served fast food, OMG he stayed in bed watching TV until noon instead of reading briefing. Those are bad things, but minor components of larger issues.

        But I think the twin problem is underreaction — a tendency to treat everything as trivia. The judge’s ruling is in fact astonishing. But one of Trump’s sly instincts is to encourage supposedly savvy observers to treat everything he does on the same basic level as document flushing and Big Macs. And he has conspirators in people like Maggie Haberman in that effort.

        It’s sort of like the equivalent of the naive jazz fan who thinks the proper response to every solo no matter what is a tepid clap and murmur.

        He’s tried all his life to screw with our judgment, but we don’t have to go along.

        • …yeah…I don’t actually agree with kind of an important part of that, as it happens

          …I may not have been able to resist throwing the fight club .gif in there…& the line in that is about surprise…which linked back nicely to the tommy lee jones image…but I don’t personally confuse the term astonish with surprise…& to get to the part I don’t agree with…I don’t think the judge’s opinion is astonishing in the slightest…it’s the only conclusion the facts support…it in no way, shape or form ought to be astonishing that a judge would duly record that interpretation

          …what was…& indeed continues to be…the astonishing part is that a sitting US president…albeit a lame duck…actually tried to pull this shit…& that there were plenty of useful idiots on hand to try…& thankfully fail…to enable his sorry ass

          …that’s my read, any road?

  6. Also yesterday I had to deal with a bit of assholishness on the road.

    Some arrogant fuckwad in a pickup literally tried to merge with me on a local four lane road because there was an accident. He expected me to simply get the fuck out of the way because HE wanted me to. No signal.  Just tried to shove his nose into my car like I would surrender like a fucking idiot. Fuck that and eat shit. I ignored his glares and middle finger waving.

    A school bus signaled and I politely let it in.  See?  Not a total asshole if everyone cooperates, but be a dick and you’ll find out I can be a dick right back at you.

  7. The Washington Post has another scoop from the 1/6 Committee saying the White House call logs for January 6 have a gap of over seven hours, including the period of the assault on the Capitol.


    This adds to the body of evidence for possible obstruction of justice charges down the road, but looking backwards suggests what DOJ investigators have already done — by releasing this information now, Congressional investigators are signalling that DOJ has already gone after phone records of the people Trump was talking to, and possibly the people who would have lent Trump their phones on that day.

    What’s also notable is that the NY Times got shut out again. Michael Schmidt has a story out today rehashing old 1/6 Committee information as something new, but they’re getting killed on an issue that is almost certainly going to get bigger. I pretty strongly suspect the editors and management there still don’t get that they have a major problem with their DC bureau’s basic value.

    • The judge’s choice of words in this latest ruling is interesting.  By saying it is “more likely than not” that Trump broke the law, he is suggesting that there is a preponderance of the evidence, at least given what was presented.  That is significantly higher than the probable cause needed to charge him with a crime.

    • While this is beside the point of the NYT’s generally inept coverage, it does deal with idiocy.

      Can we take a moment to examine how incredibly fucking stupid the Trump Cartel is? So we’ve got a 7-hour phone gap. Trump claims to have never heard of burner phones. Everybody’s hiding their phones which they probably loaned him or also pretending they never heard of burner phones.

      It doesn’t matter, morons. You’re in the fucking White House. All they have to do is examine the cell phone tower records during that 7-hour period, and tie those back to their location. Anybody in the White House using any phone can be pinpointed, typically to the exact room. It doesn’t matter if you used Stephen Miller’s phone or a burner phone. They know.

      Burner phones are only effective if the police don’t have a location and time. If they do, they can start there and work back to the phones that were making calls during that period.

      I’ve watched police pinpoint a phone to a specific NYC apartment on a specific floor, and that was over a decade ago. And that’s for a normal person. Communication in and out of the White House is going to have levels of scrutiny WAY beyond that.

      It’s like Laurel and Hardy turned to crime.

      • I think these releases of information are definitely designed to put people on notice that they’re not asking questions they don’t already have answers to.

        The same people should be asking what it means that they’re not keeping this information under wraps.

  8. I think all of Matt’s and others FYCE has rubbed off on me.

    Just finished eating a lunch of brats and Spatzel (German food???)

    I braised the brats with 2/3 of a bottle of lousy wine then reduced the wine.

    I had some generic gravy in a can for the Spatz and Brats (I’m a lazy cook) and mixed the reduced wine into the gravy.

    Made some carmelized onions to put on top. Turned a blase meal into something less than blase.

    Now I need to pass out for a while due to the food coma.

  9. welp…guess i dont have natural immunity

    brimming with positivity me…course i do it a week after all measures including needing to quarantine when positive have been dropped

    currently debating if i’m asymptomatic or not

    i mean…i have a chronic cold and its hayfeever season

    i always feel like this this time of year (which is to say..fine..just coughs n sneezles)

      • beer is hydrated right?

        looks like ive got at least a full day off tomorow as HR cant figure out what to do with me…as my normal is obviously not asymptomatic

        anyways cheers mate

      • probably already had the worst of it…would have got tested last friday as i figured my hayfever was being a bit extra…but the HR woman gave me shit for wanting a self test so i figured well fuck it then

        today the missus tested positive so congratulations HR woman! ive spent 3 more days around everyone in the shop than i probably should have

        tho…its a moot point…as thats obviously where ive caught it

        feel a bit guilty about the missus tho…she’s having a worse go of it than i did…or maybe just not used to hayfever/cold combos..

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