Republicans deliberately broke American politics

❝ As far as anyone can tell, Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House — and the leader of what’s left of the Republican establishment — isn’t racist or authoritarian. He is, however, doing all he can to make a racist authoritarian the most powerful man in the world. Why? Because then he could privatize Medicare and slash taxes on the wealthy.

And that, in brief, tells you what has happened to the Republican Party, and to America.

❝ This has been an election in which almost every week sees some longstanding norm in U.S. political life get broken. We now have a major-party candidate who refuses to release his tax returns, despite huge questions about his business dealings. He constantly repeats claims that are totally false, like his assertion that crime is at record highs (it’s actually just a bit off historic lows). He stands condemned by his own words as a sexual predator. And there’s much, much more.

Any one of these things would in the past have been considered disqualifying in a presidential candidate. But leading Republicans just shrug. And they celebrated when James Comey, the director of the F.B.I., broke with policy to lay a heavy thumb on the election scales; if Hillary Clinton wins nonetheless, they have made it clear that they will try to block any Supreme Court nomination, and there’s already talk of impeachment hearings. About what? They’ll find something.

❝ So how did all our political norms get destroyed? Hint: It started long before Donald Trump…

❝ Those of us old enough to remember the 1990s also remember the endless series of accusations hurled against the Clintons.

Nothing was too implausible to get on talk radio and get favorable mention in Congress and in conservative media…Nothing was too trivial to trigger congressional hearings…

❝ And since accusations of Democratic scandal, not to mention congressional “investigations” that started from a presumption of guilt, had become the norm, the very idea of bad behavior independent of politics disappeared: The flip side of the obsessive pursuit of a Democratic president was utter refusal to investigate even the most obvious wrongdoing by Republicans in office.

Paul Krugman suggests It would help “if the media finally learned its lesson, and stopped treating Republican scandal-mongering as genuine news”. Ain’t about to happen. A story that gets the most eyeballs is still the best story.

RTFA for lots more detail, making of historic points. I suggest Mr. Krugman has too much optimism about what can be done with a political party – the Democrats – that was happy for too many years simply representing the liberal side of Wall Street. Yes, there is one and it’s just as limiting as you might presume.

Being a lot older than Paul Krugman, I’d also take the Republican commitment to racism back to Nixon’s decision to lead his party into the valley of bigotry abandoned by LBJ and the Democratic Party – in response to Dr. King and the civil rights movement building into something large enough to challenge imperial war as well as racist American culture.

Truthiness on the March

lucy-p-marcus
Lucy P. Marcus

❝ The late US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” That may be true. But, entitled or not, politicians and electorates are constructing their own alternate realities – with far-reaching consequences.

❝ Nowadays, facts and truth are becoming increasingly difficult to uphold in politics…They are being replaced with what the American comedian Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness”: the expression of gut feelings or opinions as valid statements of fact. This year might be considered one of peak truthiness.

❝ To make good decisions, voters need to assess reliable facts, from economic data to terrorism analysis, presented transparently and without bias. But, today, talking heads on television would rather attack those with expertise in these areas. And ambitious political figures – from the leaders of the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom to US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump – dismiss the facts altogether…

❝ …The Iraq War was launched in 2003 under false pretenses. Intelligence reports had not established that there were weapons of mass destruction in the country, yet British Prime Minister Tony Blair dutifully followed US President George W. Bush in ordering his military to invade. The consequences of that decision are still emerging.

If our leaders can be so willfully wrong about such consequential matters, how can we believe anything they tell us? This question has opened the door for a new, more overt truthiness, espoused by the likes of Trump, who seems to introduce freshly invented “facts” on a daily basis. Trump’s surrogates, for their part, use television appearances and social media to restate the falsehoods, seemingly operating under the principle that if you repeat something often enough, it will become true…

RTFA for more details – if you need them. There is an added parallel example in the cupidity of British voters and how they were misled quite deliberately into the Brexit vote. Lies, agitprop both for and against voting at all. Not unlike Republicans who swear they haven’t a bigoted bone in their body – and never emit the slightest peep over that party’s vaguely-disguised voter suppression campaign.

Renewables capacity for energy passes coal in US, Europe

Click to enlargeSteve Braund

According to the International Energy Agency, 2015 was a banner year for renewable power, marking the first time that total installed renewable capacity passed coal. The agency just released its analysis of the medium-term prospects for renewables, which includes a look at the state of the global market in 2015. The report predicts that 2015 is only the beginning; by 2021, renewables will generae enough electricity to handle all of the demand in the US and Europe.

As of 2015, hydropower remained the largest global source of renewable electricity, accounting for just over 70 percent of it. But wind power is now 15 percent, and solar has grown from negligible to four percent. The new additions of capacity, however, indicate that these two power sources are just getting started.

…The addition of renewables will account for more than 60 percent of the new generating capacity and add up to 800GW over the coming five years, keeping them well ahead of any other power source. That’ll be driven in part by continued drops in the cost of renewables; while wind is expected to drop by low double digits, photovoltaics are expected to be 25 percent lower than they are already.

RTFA for regional differences, rates of change. The direction remains progressive and positive; but, economics demand independent patterns.