It’s always about the bottom line

Despite record government handouts, ostensibly to keep jobs from leaving the state, Chicago-based Boeing company cares more about profit than labor wellbeing. Its recent decision to jettison staggered work shifts is one more case in point. In a brief memo, the company said:

“This change supports the factory vision of standard work, continuous flow and scheduled job times; and is anticipated to support our competitive advantage in the market.”

There is nothing unusual about Boeing’s behavior. It will seize every opportunity to reduce costs and increase revenues. Avoiding taxes in the form of government subsidies is certainly one way to achieve the former. Exploiting federal programs like the Export-Import Bank helps boost revenues by transferring a portion of the sticker price to taxpayers from foreign businesses and countries seeking to purchase airplanes.

Trump and Putin: mutual self-interest

Much has been written about Trump’s views of Putin and Russia. Even more has been written about Russian operatives, either directly or indirectly, hacking the emails of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, and releasing them to Wikileaks for public consumption.

It is illegal, of course, to steal digital communications. But Russia’s behavior is consistent with an overarching Putin strategy to engage in cyber wars as the preferred alternative to a conventional war. Using the Internet is cheaper and far less messy than actually bombing people and things, especially if your principal enemy is the U.S.A.

Zach Beauchamp, writing for Vox:

…Russian strategic leaders came to see the internal politics of other countries as a key battlefield.

Fisher points to a 2013 article, by Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, as key evidence of this new Russian thinking. Gerasimov argued that “non-military means” had eclipsed weapons in their strategic importance. Controlling the information and propaganda environment can inflict serious blows on one’s enemies.

“The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness,” Gerasimov writes. He advocates using “military means of a concealed character,” including “actions of informational conflict” in order to accomplish Russian strategic objectives.

Beauchamp rightly concludes that Putin would prefer Trump to Clinton. The biggest reason concerns NATO, which would essentially unravel should Trump occupy the Oval Office.

If Trump put his ideas into practice and actually renounced commitments that didn’t do what he wanted, it would destroy NATO. The alliance depends entirely on an ironclad guarantee on behalf of all allies to defend any one of them — that is literally what it does. If the US won’t do that, then NATO is effectively dead.

This is music to Putin’s ears. He sees the NATO alliance (correctly!) as a major bulwark against Russian expansionism in Eastern Europe, and would be thrilled if it fractured. That would make it far easier to install friendly dictators in small nearby countries, like Estonia, or even annex them entirely.

Party does matter

Our election system, with winner-take-all outcomes, virtually guarantees but two choices. In partisan races, that means a single Republican faces a single Democrat—in most cases. It’s understandable, then, that newspaper editorial boards and the general electorate focus on the presumed qualities of Candidate A vs. Candidate B. Thus we find editorial endorsements for members of both parties, as if in particular contests one is judged better than the other.

But this is a lousy way to get anything done in a democracy. Suppose, instead, that both voters and editorial boards decided a set of policy prescriptions. These might include environmental protection, support for public schools, provision of social services, and so on. The next step is to determine which political party is more likely than the other to advance those prescriptions. Democrats or Republicans?

The final step is then easy. Select the preferred party’s candidate, even if you might think the other party’s candidate is more attractive in certain respects, such as perceived enthusiasm, apparent diligence, or whatever.

The point should be obvious. It is parties that propel or retard political agendas and not individual politicians.

For example, if you are like me, you favor the Democrats’ policy prescriptions. To achieve those ends, you want as many Democrats in office as possible. Republicans would simply get in the way.

Wasn’t that easy?

Perfect killing the good

The Everett Herald‘s editors weighed in. They urge a “no” vote on Initiative 732. They write:

Revenue forecasting is difficult enough now, without having to estimate what would come from a carbon tax.

And while it won’t generate any revenue for the state, we now have a carbon cap being put into place. At the direction of Gov. Jay Inslee, the state Department of Ecology in September announced its Clean Air Rule, which sets a limit on carbon for industrial producers. Phased in over the next 20 years the cap will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.7 percent each year.

Assuming the cap survives challenges by industry and others, we will have the reductions in carbon that I-732 offers without the uncertainty it would bring to the state budget.

Fixing our regressive tax system will have to be left to another initiative or state lawmakers who can find the courage.

I find the editors unduly and cavalierly dismissive. While the initiative may be an imperfect attempt to limit carbon emissions in Washington state, and one certainly embroiled in controversy—mostly on the progressive side, it is the only game in town for the moment. If voters reject the measure, as the Herald‘s editors recommend, future opportunities to accomplish its objectives could be few and far between.

David Roberts, writing for Vox, dives into the initiative and its controversies. He begins:

It’s a fight happening within the left, and like a great many such fights in US politics these days, it reveals sharp differences over how to make progress in the face of Republican intransigence. In this case, the subject is climate change policy, but the fissures being exposed are relevant to all of left politics in an age of hyperpolarization.

Here’s the situation. There’s a carbon tax on the ballot in Washington this November, meant not just to put the state on the path to its climate targets but to serve as an example to other states.

The measure, called Initiative 732, isn’t just any carbon tax, either. It’s a big one. It would be the first carbon tax in the US, the biggest in North America, and one of the most ambitious in the world.

And yet the left opposes it. The Democratic Party, community-of-color groups, organized labor, big liberal donors, and even most big environmental groups have come out against it.

Why on Earth would the left oppose the first and biggest carbon tax in the country? How has the climate community in Washington ended up in what one participant calls a “train wreck”? (Others have described it in more, er, colorful terms.)

That turns out to be a complex and ill-fated story, revealing divisions among climate hawks — over who pays, who benefits, and who decides — that will not long stay confined to the West Coast. The future of climate politics is playing out in Washington state, and it is not pretty.

After reading Roberts’s lengthy report on the internecine battle being waged on the left, I’m struck once again by the stiletto approach of progressives, who seem so enamored of their own niche that they lose sight of the larger picture. In this case, the initiative, if successful, will surely result in fewer carbon emissions. Making something harmful more expensive will reduce its consumption—all other things being equal. Economists of every political stripe will say as much. Also, a carbon tax will increase the value of alternatives, including renewable energy and conservation.

But, according to Roberts, people’s noses got bent out of shape, resulting in self-destructive pettiness. So, Washington voters have before them a ballot measure that is officially rejected by the state’s large liberal organizations, including labor.

What I fear, if the measure fails, is that it will be a long time before Washingtonians get another bite of the carbon-reduction apple. However, this unfortunate outcome cannot be blamed on the left. As Roberts emphasizes, it’s the Republican Party’s stubborn refusal to accept the science and reality of global warming and its steadfast and foolish resistance to any solutions that stand in the way of progress.

This situation will only get worse should voters shoot themselves in the foot by electing more Republicans. The Party of No is intent on ruining everything, including our children’s future.

Leave the trees alone

Here’s an idea. Let’s cut down then burn trees to produce electricity. After all, there are millions of trees and they’re renewable, right? Besides, the carbon released in combustion will be replaced with new trees. Simple.

If you’re a bit skeptical that this is a winning proposition, then you have no place in the U.S. Senate. In the coming weeks, the body is poised to give bipartisan support for declaring trees a renewable energy source and should therefore be counted under the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

As it happens, and the cynics in each of us could hardly be surprised, this whole notion is loony and completely refuted by facts. And, as we’ve learned, facts just don’t matter anymore. Here’s Eduardo Porter, writing for the New York Times:

There are a few problems with this thinking. Wood is not very efficient. In fact, burning trees to generate electricity generates more carbon per unit of power than using coal. Power companies would produce fewer emissions if they burned coal and left the forest alone to keep sucking carbon out of the air.

And there is the problem of timing. Sure forests regrow. But it takes many decades for seedlings to grow into trees and recapture all the carbon emitted.

“It’s a double whammy, because you remove an active sink that was sucking carbon out of the air,” said Mary S. Booth, director of the Partnership for Policy Integrity, which opposes the assumption that biomass is carbon neutral. “Under the most conservative assumptions you are worse off for 40 to 50 years.”

The world simply does not have that kind of time.

Meh. Ignore the headlines, deny the science, and just sit back and enjoy our warming future. Our grandchildren will surely thank us.

The big duper

Donald Trump has managed to fool most of his supporters, who, aside from being “deplorables,” are mostly angry white men. Few, if any, occupy the top one percent of income earners.

Both Hillary Clinton and Trump have proposed tax plans. Here is a telling chart from Vox on how each candidate would tax the one percent.

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