Sunday, June 17, 2018

ANS -- Notes for the resistance, from the resistance

Here's a piece on resistance.  Read it all the way -- it's heartening at the end.  It's written by Amy Zucker-Morgenstern.  

Sermons in Stones

Finding the sacred everywhere. Thoughts on religion, art, books, politics, philosophy, and life in general from a Unitarian Universalist minister.

My wife and I are visiting Amsterdam, and today we went to the Dutch Resistance Museum. It's really excellent, with very creative displays and lots of information delivered in easily-digested-yet-substantial bites. For us, it also provided a lot of lessons that are all too relevant to our situation in the United States today.

The first is that resistance is messy: morally messy. The actions people took to hurt the occupiers, such as a railroad strike, also hurt the people (hunger increased) and the resistance itself (since members depended on the trains for transport). Few moral choices were perfectly clear or afforded an option that resulted in entirely clean hands. Forcibly called up to work in Germany, men could either go, thus unwillingly helping the German war effort; refuse, and be shot or sent to concentration camps; or hide, endangering their families. Those who weighed the options and went to Germany were castigated by many compatriots afterwards–"Why didn't you hide?"–but they had not necessarily chosen the worst of three bad options. And then there were the many civil servants and officials who faced the unenviable decision: do I stay in my position and try to intercede for my people, soften the effect of the Nazi takeover, or do I resist and, at best, be replaced by a member of the Dutch Nazi Party? Some were outright collaborators, but many others were simply trying to walk an impossibly thin wire.

It's the nature of violent regimes to set up such impossible choices. Divide and conquer was a common and effective strategy of the Third Reich. In the Netherlands as elsewhere, they instituted Jewish councils that were charged with carrying out Nazi requirements. Even those leaders who did their best to mitigate the decrees were set up to be perceived as collaborators by their own people; that was one of the occupiers' intentions.

Another effective strategy was the frog-in-the-pot approach. The Nazis didn't lower the hammer right away. People were devastated by the invasion, but it soon appeared that life remained pretty normal, even for Jews. Bit by bit, more repressions were added: a registry system, labels on passports, requirements that schoolchildren learn a Nazi-approved curriculum . . . Different people drew the line in different places, and some just kept their heads down and put up with all of it; some, no doubt, were even sympathetic to the German aims. But again, those who genuinely opposed fascism and anti-Semitism were still that frog in the pot, noticing a growing discomfort and wondering when to say "too hot."

Is this sounding familiar?

Those who resisted did not always agree on how to do it, when to do it, or how much was too much or not enough. In fact, the impression one gets from the museum's displays is that internal conflict was at least as common as unity. For example, people criticized even the bravest actions for coming too late. One heroic act of resistance was planned in intricate detail and attempted three times before modest success and devastating punishment (execution, imprisonment, exile). The German occupation required everyone to have papers; for many, forgeries were the only option since genuine ones would be marked with a "J" and thus be a sentence of internment or death; the forgeries, naturally, did not match what the Registry Office held. So, going to the source, the conspirators plotted to blow up the Registry Office. In the end, they succeeded in starting a fire that destroyed 15% of the records. (Today, someone wanting to carry out equivalent sabotage would have to be a hacker.) There was much rejoicing, but since most Jews had already been deported, many people also pointed out that if the bombing had been carried out earlier, many more lives would have been saved.

If this kind of sniping doesn't sound familiar, you can't have read any liberal or leftist responses to the news over the past year and a half.

I wonder how people responded when it was not the liberals, nor the socialists–both pillars of Dutch life, according to the museum–who rushed to the defense of Dutch Jews, but the fringe, mistrusted Communists. I wonder if, when this defense of the Jews was seized by the Germans as a pretext for vicious crackdowns that shed some of the first blood of the occupation, there was a wave of recrimination: "If we'd just stayed quiet, those people would still be alive." I don't know, but there are hints in the displays that some at the time were uneasy with the Communist-Jewish alliance, and that the protests gave the regime the excuse it was waiting for. If so, we've heard those arguments more recently and closer to home.

Also familiar was the way that some people were treated as heroes while their partners in resistance were virtually ignored. For example, Gerrit van der Veen, one of the conspirators in the Registry Office bombing, has numerous streets named after him across the country, while another, who was gay, gets little recognition. See?: I have already forgotten his name, while van der Veen's sticks because it's a major street and a tram stop. We enact unfairness like this constantly, giving white women credit for #MeToo without acknowledging the black woman who initiated it, or allowing our prejudices to influence which resisters of Trumpism get more attention and praise. Then these injustices prevent our unifying to fight our common enemy: sexual harassment or the administration's policies.

Even resisters were prejudiced and entitled. When Jews who survived the camps returned to Holland, many of their neighbors downplayed the Jews' suffering, didn't want to hear about it, or drew facile, false equivalents. A young girl who survived Bergen-Belsen heard all about the rationing of food and confiscation of bicycles that her neighbors endured, though they didn't want to hear about the camp.

Do that failure to hear each others' experience, and a defensiveness about others' greater suffering, sound familiar?

Most Dutch, inheritors and upholders of a global empire, were slow to acknowledge their hypocrisy, and the people they colonized made deals that also sit uneasily on the conscience. Many Indonesians took up arms against Dutch and Dutch-East-Indian residents of Indonesia, some of whom had lived there for generations. The Indonesians wanted to be a free republic, and saw the Japanese fight against the Dutch as an opportunity to free themselves from colonial rule. So, despite Japan's own imperialism and the repressiveness of the Japanese army, they joined forces with Japan to drive out the Dutch. Many Dutch East Indians and Dutch were bitter about this and didn't understand for years, if ever, that the struggle for Indonesian independence was much like their own struggle against German occupation. Resistance to oppression created uncomfortable parallels and unsavory coalitions, then as now.

And there was the passionate support of the Dutch royal family, which had fled to England, which might seem an odd rallying cry for a pro-democratic movement but also inspired and unified the people; and the almost comically bourgeois forms of resistance, such as the woman who, when compelled by the Nazi officers to darn their socks, claimed ignorance and sewed them shut. Gasp!–but, laughably minor though it seems, it got her into trouble.

It seems as if we have been here before. Here's the thing to remember, then: the Dutch resisters were victorious. Even before the Allies liberated the country, the Dutch had liberated the southern region themselves. And they hung in there through starvation and repression and outright murder, until they won and the Nazis lost. This, even though their resistance movement was filled with infighting and compromise and sniping.

Maybe that's just what successful resistance looks like. Maybe even when your efforts are messy and you get a hundred things wrong, it can be enough. Maybe we should stop worrying about being such a flawed, frustrating resistance movement, and just keep on keeping on. They also serve who only sabotage the officers' socks. And if enough serve in enough ways, we will win.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

ANS -- Why utilities don't think Trump will stop the clean energy transition

This is a bit long, but read the first part at least.  It's a report from the energy industry and what they think about renewables in the face of Trump trying to revive the coal industry.  One thing that is about halfway down the article is the idea, I think, that power companies will continue to expect to be able to charge you for going solar to make up their lost revenue.  (the people who bring you renewables clearly don't agree with that.) And security is a big new issue, very important (and why we should go for distributed energy.)

Why utilities don't think Trump will stop the clean energy transition

Utility Dive's 2017 State of the Electric Utility Survey shows a sector reshaping itself for a cleaner, more distributed future — no matter what happens with the Clean Power Plan

Today, President Trump is poised to release a long-anticipated executive order to roll back the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration's signature climate initiative.

The order is expected to be accompanied by directives to lift a moratorium on federal land coal leases and to cease the use of the social cost of carbon — all part of a broad campaign to dismantle environmental regulations on the power sector that Trump blames for the decline of the coal economy in the United States.

But while rescinding the rules could help slow coal power's decline in the short term, analysts say it is unlikely to reverse its long-term downturn, mostly due to the economics of natural gas and renewables.

That attitude is shared not just by market observers, but by electric utilities themselves. According to Utility Dive's fourth annual State of the Electric Utility Survey, the sector plans to keep moving steadily toward a cleaner, more distributed energy future — no matter what happens with the Clean Power Plan.

2017 State of the Electric Utility Survey Report
For an in-depth look at the survey results and insights into the state and future of electric utility, get the full report »

Early in 2017, Utility Dive surveyed more than 600 electric utility professionals across the United States. The results indicate that utilities expect to source more power from renewables, distributed resources and natural gas in the coming years, while coal continues to decline.

The outlook of utility executives on the future power mix

The results reflect a sector that largely supports some form of carbon regulation on the federal level. Though more than two-thirds of respondents indicated their company owns generation resources, only a quarter said they do not want the federal government to pursue a policy of decarbonization whatsoever.

Utility executives' sentiment on federal decarbonization policy

Those responses are two of the top-line takeaways from this year's 92-page report, which reveals a sector that is grappling for policy certainty on both the state and federal levels as it deals with an influx of new technologies and customer demands. Here are some more key findings from the report.

Most pressing challenges

President Trump's push against carbon rules may grab headlines, but the 2017 survey indicates utility executives are significantly more concerned about other issues.

For the first time, physical and cyber security topped the list of utility sector concerns in 2017, with nearly three quarters of respondents indicating it is either "important" or "very important" today.

Security concerns were followed by more familiar utility issues with distributed energy policy, rate design reform, aging grid infrastructure and reliable integration of renewables and DERs — all issues which tracked close to the top in past Utility Dive surveys, the report notes.  

The full chart of 20-plus utility challenges is available in the survey report.

The responses reflect a "deep unease in the utility industry over the state of its cyber protections," according to the survey, after media reports of Russian election hacking and a scare over possible Kremlin malware at a Vermont utility.

But security worries, while paramount to utilities, are far from their sole concerns. A majority of respondents indicated that the top nine issues facing utilities are either "important" or "very important" today, suggesting that the "growing complexity of the power sector and a rapid influx of emerging technologies are combining to create new concerns for electric utilities, while long-standing issues remain unresolved."

Power generation

While utilities largely expect to add more renewables and gas in the coming years, the 2017 survey does include one bright spot for coal.

A plurality of respondents indicated their outlook on the resource is generally more favorable as a result of the Trump presidency, though they also overwhelmingly indicated they do not expect to source more power from coal plants themselves.

How utility executives believe the election of Donald Trump will affect various generation resources 

Even if new coal plants are not planned, a rollback of the Clean Power Plan could allow some existing plants to operate longer in the future.

The future impacts of any regulatory actions still remain unclear. Earlier this year, the EIA forecasted that rescinding the Obama-era rules could allow coal to recapture the top spot in the U.S. power mix. But, the federal agency warned, an expansion of natural gas production could easily counteract that and contribute to an even faster decline for coal.

The sector's uncertainty over the impacts of future environmental and market policy looms large in the 2017 survey. For the first time, respondents named policy uncertainty as the top challenge associated with their changing fuel mixes, beating out both customer cost and reliability concerns.

Utility executives' greatest concerns with their changing fuel mixes

DERs and rate design

While utilities appear less sure about the future of bulk power resources, they are more confident about the trajectory of distributed energy resources.

More than 70% of respondents indicated they expect moderate-to-significant growth in rooftop solar, demand-side management and behind-the-meter storage. To facilitate the interconnection and control of those resources, more than 80% said they expect to see growth in grid communication technologies

Utility executives' outlook on various distributed energy resources

As distributed resources grow, utilities expect to push for rate design reforms to mitigate their impacts and recover fixed grid costs. As in 2016, the sector indicated broad support for time-of-use rates and fixed charge increases, while demand charges were less popular.

How utiltiies want to reform their rate designs to better recover their fixed costs

But more than controlling the spread of DERs, the survey shows electric utilities are eager to get in on the game themselves. 90% of respondents believe their company should have a DER business model, with over half indicating they should pursue rate-based investments in distributed resources.

How utilities plan to build business models for DERs

Sentiment for rate-basing DER investments was strong across the industry. About 95% of respondents indicated utilities should be able to rate-base DERs under some circumstances, and more than 70% said they should be considered appropriate in most cases. This comes in stark contrast with the opinions of prominent solar advocates, who believe that utilities should typically not be allowed to rate-base DERs given their monopoly advantages. 

Utility regulation

Utilities may prize certainty in most things, but if there's one aspect of the industry they overwhelmingly want to change, it's their regulatory models.

For the third year running, utilities named their regulatory model as the largest impediment to the evolution of their business models — edging out cost concerns.

The greatest obstacles to utility business model transformation

Though cost-of-service regulation has largely governed utility investments for the last century, respondents indicated they expect to move away from the traditional model in coming years and integrate more performance-based ratemaking.

Utility executives desire more performance-based regulation

That move would largely be welcomed by the sector. Fewer than 10% of respondents indicated they think pure cost-of-service regulation is appropriate in the 21st century, while a plurality favored a mixture of traditional models with performance-based incentives.

Market reforms, plant retirements and more

The full State of the Electric Utility 2017 report contains a treasure trove of other findings on electricity market reforms, power plant retirements, utility regulation, DER policy and more. To date, it is our most comprehensive look at the attitudes of sector professionals and includes analysis by region and utility business model types. 

We will further explore a number of trends from the report in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the broad narrative for the sector is clear: Even in the absence of federal action, favorable economics, customer sentiment and proactive state policies will combine with existing utility plans to continue to push the transition toward clean energy forward.    

"In 2017 and beyond," the survey concludes, "the continued evolution of the power sector — and the goal of decarbonization — may well rest with these states and their utilities."

You can read more and download the full report here

ANS -- Trade sanctions against America won’t work. Sanctioning Trump himself might.

Here's an opinion on what to do about Trump.  Tell me what you think.  

Trade sanctions against America won't work. Sanctioning Trump himself might.

Scott Gilmore: Instead of taxing American goods, Canada and the western allies should collectively pressure the only pain point that matters to this President: his family and their assets


Police officers gather outside the front of the Trump International Tower & Hotel during the official opening on February 28, 2017 in Vancouver, Canada. The tower is the Trump Organization's first new international property since Donald Trump assumed the presidency. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

French President Emmanuel Macron, who entertained President Trump with pomp, circumstance, and backslaps could not prevent him from abandoning the Paris Agreement. Germany's persuasive Chancellor Angela Merkel could not stop him from undermining NATO. And our own government's exhaustive diplomatic campaign has failed to protect us from the punishing steel tariffs announced today in Washington.

For Canada and the western allies, diplomatic success in the era of Trump has only meant delaying the inevitable. Eventually, with the inexplicable exception of Russia, Trump punches everyone in the nose.

We are fighting back. Within hours Prime Minister Trudeau announced that we would be adding duties to imported American paper products, among many other things. Likewise, Mexico has promised targeted tariffs, hoping to inflict retaliatory pain on those states which are considered the most politically important to the President.

READ: These are all the U.S. products Canada may hit with tariffs, including pipes, pizzas and pens

These efforts, like the diplomatic strategies before now, will not work. If Trump revokes the tariffs, or begins to support NATO, or returns to the Paris Accord, it will not be because our diplomats became more persuasive, our offers more generous, or our tariffs more painful. That is not how this President operates.

As I've pointed out before, the President can be successfully engaged, and countries like Ukraine, China, and Qatar have demonstrated this. When they want something from the United States, they skip the State Department, and even the White House staff. Instead of approaching their problem state-to-state, they go state-to-man. These countries focus on what Trump wants on a personal level – to enrich his family. So Beijing granted Ivanka trademarks, Qatar invested in one of Jared's office towers, and Ukraine, with Slavic candor, simply wired half a million dollars to the President's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

READ: How to save NAFTA in one day, by sucking up to Trump

For the most part, the western allies understand that if we want the U.S. to do something we must negotiate with the man himself. What we have not grasped yet is, as strange as it sounds, the President of the United States is more concerned about promoting his interests than defending America's.

Consider that Trump refuses to censure Russia for interfering in the election, because while it may have hurt America, it helped him. And even though these new tariffs will likely cost the U.S. over 140,000 jobs (according to the conservative Heritage Foundation), he will not repeal them because they make him look strong to his base. Other countries that have figured this out have begun to openly bribe the President to get the foreign policy decision they need.

WATCH: Trudeau and Freeland responds to Trump tariffs

America's erstwhile allies must also recognize that the President has adopted previously unimaginable new rules, and play accordingly. But, instead of bribing him with personal carrots, I would suggest we consider applying personal sticks. Instead of asking ourselves how we can help the President or his family, we should ask: How can we hurt him? And, Trump has already given us an answer.

Until this President, every previous modern occupant of the White House divested their assets upon assuming office. This eliminated the possibility personal business interests might benefit from political decisions. Conversely, it prevented others from threatening the President by attacking those assets. Trump, by refusing to give up his businesses, and by flagrantly violating the emoluments clause, has inadvertently handed us the perfect stick.

I propose that instead of taxing the import of American serviettes, we tax Trump. In the spirit of the Magnitsky Act, Canada and the western allies come together to collectively pressure the only pain point that matters to this President: his family and their assets. This could take the form of special taxation on their current operations, freezing of assets, or even sanctions against senior staff. Canada could add a tax to Trump properties equal to any tariff unilaterally imposed by Washington.  The European Union could revoke any travel visas for senior staff in the Trump organization. And the United Kingdom could temporarily close his golf course.

Arguably, the legislation to do so already exists. Canada's Special Economic Measures Act and the Foreign Corrupt Officials Act permit us to sanction public officials who are "complicit in ordering, controlling or otherwise directing acts of corruption". In the case of Trump, we already have several open examples of this and the various ongoing criminal investigations (of his own government) are expected to produce many more.

I recognize this column has the stench of bad satire about it. I am sane enough to know this proposal does not sound sane. But I also know we are confronting an unprecedented crisis and one that would have sounded insane if we'd been warned of it just three years ago: the President of the United States is dismantling the entire liberal international order we have spent a century building, and he is completely focused on promoting his own interests, at the expense of American allies, and at the expense of Americans themselves.

Our attempts to use traditional diplomatic strategies to deal with this crisis are failing. If we do not ask ourselves now, "How do we hurt Trump?", I predict we will reach that point in the not too distant future. In this case, then, delaying the inevitable will not be a failure, not a success.

ANS -- For Trump and His Strategists, Separating Children from Their Parents Is ‘Leverage’

Here is an interesting take on what Trump thinks he is doing with his policy to separate kids from their parents.  He's blackmailing Dems and than blaming it on them.  

For Trump and His Strategists, Separating Children from Their Parents Is 'Leverage'

Photo: Alex Wong (Getty Images)

Donald Trump and his strategists are specifically targeting children and committing government-sponsored child abuse by separating thousands of migrant children from their parents to gain political leverage.

Read that again.

Trump already had shown his willingness to go after kids by ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in an effort to force Democrats to fund his proposed border wall. When that didn't work, the president and his strategists decided to take it up a notch and go after migrant children by separating them from their parents and placing them—literally—in detention camps.

This is all with the hope that Democrats—and some Republicans—will cave to the administration's repressive demands on immigration.

According to The Washington Post, citing an unnamed White House official, "The president has told folks that in lieu of the laws being fixed, he wants to use the enforcement mechanisms that we have." The official added: "The thinking in the building is to force people to the table."

In just six weeks starting in mid-April, nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their families, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

But with midterm elections around the corner this November, there is little chance that broad immigration reform legislation will be passed in the short-term. This means that the Trump administration is committed to continuing its abusive and horrendous policy of ripping children away from their parents as a long-term strategy.

Officials also believe the policy will deter other migrants and asylum-seekers from attempting to make the journey to the United States. As the Post noted, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Trump adviser Stephen Miller all support the family separation policy. And, of course, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was the one who announced the "zero tolerance" policy last April. This week, facing a public backlash, Sessions tried to justify it again by quoting the Bible.

But there's a big problem politically: Even many Trump supporters are troubled by the president's use of children as political leverage, which child psychologists say will cause them lasting harm.

From the Post:

"There's definitely a groundswell of opposition from virtually every corner of the Christian community," said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. "People are able to understand immediately the drive of parents to protect their child and to understand the horror of splitting up vulnerable children from their parents."

Some prominent Trump supporters from the religious community already have called the family separation policy "horrible," "terrible," and "disgraceful."

Trump has realized he has a problem here, so his immediate reaction has been to lie, lie, and lie again. Most of these lies entail blaming the Democrats for the policy he and Sessions enacted. On Friday at the White House, Trump said, "I hate the children being taken away." Then, he blamed the Democrats for his own administration's policy.

In a tweet the same day, he said, "The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda. Any Immigration Bill MUST HAVE full funding for the Wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration. Go for it! WIN!"

But lying about the Democrats probably won't be enough to counter the ongoing rage over migrant children being torn from their families. So, on Saturday, Trump reverted back to an older tactic of stoking the fear of violent street gangs among his base and linking MS-13 to the Democrats.

In his weekly address Saturday, Trump accused Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of protecting MS-13 gang members, whom the president referred to as " vile savages" and "animals."

"MS-13 gang members are truly, and you've heard me say it, animals—and yet Nancy Pelosi and Washington Democrats continue to protect them and to push for open borders," he said.

This man is truly ill.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

ANS -- a short note on innovation in states

This was on Facebook.  I wanted to show it to you because I hadn't realized before why the Republicans are not letting cities up the minimum wage and other things like that.  Here is the reason, and I'm sure it must be done with great intention -- part of that plan they hired think tanks to come up with.  If only the liberals could be this intentional and follow through too.  

In red states, one of the ways the Republicans keep the Democrats down is by making it illegal to test out new policies at the municipal level. In Indiana, cities can't raise the minimum wage and need to pass a referendum to lift taxes to gives schools a boost. How can you demonstrate your credibility to the working people of your state if you can't actually do anything for them locally? Why should people in red states get excited about Dem candidates for state legislature when the statehouses are monstrously lopsided and even the election of 10 or 15 more Dems wouldn't change that?