NRA struggling to maintain its influence in 2020 race

❝ The National Rifle Association was already reeling from leadership shakeups and allegations of financial mismanagement when it dropped another bombshell.

The NRA accused Chris Cox — the man who had controlled the organization’s lobbying and political activities for more than 15 years — of trying to overthrow Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre, according to a lawsuit filed last month.

❝ Cox denied the charge to The New York Times, but quickly resigned. His unceremonious sacking stunned NRA board members, who saw Cox as a potential successor to LaPierre, and infuriated political staffers. Some started packing up their desks, unsure of whether they would be ousted too, multiple NRA sources said.

That’s when the Washington power brokers really started to worry. Cox’s departure, after months of turmoil at the NRA, only amplified the sense that the gun-rights group might not be the political powerhouse in 2020 that it has been for decades, including notably in 2016.

RTFA if you wish to catch up on details that sound like a very bad soap opera from the 1950’s. Which is where most NRA political ideology comes from.

new fossil fuel sources + overproduction = bankruptcy for greedy developers

❝ For decades, elected leaders and corporate executives have chased a dream of independence from unstable or unfriendly foreign oil producers. Mission accomplished: Oil companies are producing record amounts of crude oil and natural gas in the United States and have become major exporters…With a global glut driving down prices, many are losing money and are staying afloat by selling assets and taking on debt…

❝ In the last four years, roughly 175 oil and gas companies in the United States and Canada with debts totaling about $100 billion have filed for bankruptcy protection. Many borrowed heavily when oil and gas prices were far higher, only to collectively overproduce and undercut their commodity prices. At least six companies have gone bankrupt this year, and Weatherford International, the fourth-leading oil services company, which owes investors $7.7 billion, is expected to file for bankruptcy protection…

❝ One concern is that the industry will be forced to leave oil and gas in the ground as climate change prompts environmental restrictions on drilling or a shift to alternative fuels.

As usual, the fossil fuel barons relied on their political bubbas in the White House and Congress to stand in the doorway to blockade any changeover to cleaner and cheaper energy generation. Climate change deniers from both parties were doing their share. Trump was elected and pledged to continue his own variety of populist ignorance to support backwards as the only true American direction.

A funny thing happened on the way to the bank, though. The rest of the world ignored our crooks and hustlers. As did a number of state governments. Not the majority. Just the states that understand that science and engineering, progressive policies result in cleaner, forward-looking economies.

Doesn’t mean problems are all solved. “Backwards” still includes a lot of federal flunkies calling themselves Democrats and Republicans. Change is only coming in the fullest sense of the word if all the deadwood is cleared out of the way.

African Free Trade Pact Starts Up With 54 Countries


Apapa Seaport in LagosPius Utomi Ekpei/AFP

❝ A landmark free-trade agreement removing most tariffs and other commercial barriers in the African continent became operational on Sunday, as 54 member states agreed on the process to implement the accord.

❝ The African Free Trade Agreement commits the governments to greater economic integration, as the signatory states begin a multiyear process to remove trade barriers including tariffs on 90% of commodities. The duty-free movement of goods is expected to boost regional trade, while also helping countries move away from mainly exporting raw materials and build manufacturing capacity to attract foreign investment…

Trading with the slashed tariffs will start in July 2020 to give member states time to adopt the framework and prepare their business communities for the “emerging market,” said Albert Muchanga, the African Union’s commissioner for trade and industry…

No one asked for advice from our fake president. No invited suggestions from his sycophant advisors – all of whom were past their economics sell-by date some time in the last century.

French to build two roll-on/roll-off cargo ships…Sail-Powered


Renault

❝ France-based Neoline has selected a shipyard to construct to construct its first two sail-powered roll-on/roll-off cargo ships to operate between France and United States as soon as 2021…

❝ Neoline was established in 2015 with the intention of the becoming the world’s first shipowner specializing in modern sailing cargo ships. The company has partnered with French automaker Renault to develop the ships, which will be 136-meter long and equipped with 4,200 square meters of sail area.

The ships will initially operate on a pilot route joining Saint-Nazaire, France with the U.S. East Coast and Saint-Pierre & Miquelon off the coast of Newfoundland.

Oh, would I ever love to ship out aboard something like this. A truly modern adventure.

China figured out carrots work as well as sticks


Click to enlarge

Since the start of President Trump’s trade war, China has retaliated against US tariffs by raising tariffs on US goods. Less well known is that China has also been lowering rates for everyone else, putting US companies at an even greater disadvantage when trying to sell to China’s 1.4 billion consumers. Companies in the United States and elsewhere used to be on a level playing field, facing an average Chinese tariff of 8.0 percent. Now, there is a 14 percentage point difference between the average Chinese tariff US exporters face versus all other exporters. Some US goods are facing even wider differences in duties, like soybeans, farm and fish products, and certain manufacturing products.

Philadelphia oil refinery fires go back decades

❝ An explosion at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery in South Philadelphia early Friday is the latest in a string of fires, explosions, and incidents involving the city’s oil refinery compounds.

The five minor injuries pale in comparison to the deaths reported in some earlier blasts, but it was so large and so hot that it could be seen from space in satellite infrared images, according to the National Weather Service.

RTFA and follow a string of explosions and fires recorded as far back as 1931.

“Good Christian” Hospital Sues Its Own Employees When They Can’t Pay Medical Bills

Paid crap wages and, BTW, they have no choice in medical insurance. They can only sign up for the plan run by the hospital chain.


Andrea Morales for MLK50

❝ From 2014 through 2018, the hospital system, which is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, has filed more than 8,300 lawsuits against patients, including some of its own workers. After winning judgments, it has sought to garnish the wages of more than 160 Methodist workers and has actually done so in more than 70 instances over that time…

❝ It’s not uncommon for hospitals to sue patients over unpaid debts. In fact, as NPR reported Tuesday, recent research shows that more than a third of hospitals in Virginia do so. And earlier reporting from NPR and ProPublica found the practice in several other states.

But what is striking at Methodist, the largest hospital system in the Memphis region, is how many of the patients being sued are the hospital’s own employees. Hardly a week goes by in which Methodist workers aren’t on the court docket fighting debt lawsuits filed by their employer.

❝ On a single January day, there were 10 defendants on the docket whose place of employment was listed in court records as Methodist.

Employees in scrubs sat just feet away from the attorneys in dress suits — attorneys their employer had hired to sue them. The hospital’s role as a tax-exempt organization that both employs the defendants and is suing them went unremarked upon by judges, attorneys and the defendants themselves.

I don’t really think this is the vision of folks who started churches like this one. In truth, how does it continue to qualify as legitimate – and get juicy tax exemptions?

Fracking “Revolution” continues to be a disaster for investors and more

❝ Steve Schlotterbeck, who led drilling company EQT as it expanded to become the nation’s largest producer of natural gas in 2017, arrived at a petrochemical industry conference in Pittsburgh…with a blunt message about shale gas drilling and fracking.

“The shale gas revolution has frankly been an unmitigated disaster for any buy-and-hold investor in the shale gas industry with very few limited exceptions,” Schlotterbeck, who left the helm of EQT last year, continued. “In fact, I’m not aware of another case of a disruptive technological change that has done so much harm to the industry that created the change.”

“While hundreds of billions of dollars of benefits have accrued to hundreds of millions of people, the amount of shareholder value destruction registers in the hundreds of billions of dollars,” he said. “The industry is self-destructive.” [emphasis added]…

❝ “The technological advancements developed by the industry have been the weapon of its own suicide,” Schlotterbeck added, referring to the financial impacts of shale gas drilling on shale gas drillers. “And unfortunately, the industry still has not fully realized how it’s killing itself. Since 2015, there’s been 172 E&P company bankruptcies involving nearly a hundred billion dollars of debt.”

❝ “In a little more than a decade, most of these companies just destroyed a very large percentage of their companies’ value that they had at the beginning of the shale revolution,” he said. “It’s frankly hard to imagine the scope of the value destruction that has occurred. And it continues.”

Our fake president wants to make it easier for this clown show to borrow even more money. When this paper edifice crashes and burns – what do you think will be the effect on the nation’s economy?