The Way We Live Now Open Thread: “Infrastructure Weak”

Quote in the title from the Hoarse Whisperer tweet that linked this article. From the LATimes, “Unprecedented power shutdown coming as winds bring critical fire danger”:

PG&E said the power cutoffs will begin just after midnight Wednesday.

The blackouts will impact 34 counties in central and northern California, including the Bay Area. It would be the biggest power shutdown so far as utilities across California attempt to reduce wildfire risk due to heavy wind. Utilities malfunctions have been tied to some of the state’s most destructive fires, including last year’s Camp fire, which devastated Paradise, Calif., and the 2017 wine country blazes.

“It is very possible that customers may be affected by a power shutoff even though they are not experiencing extreme weather conditions in their specific location,” the utility said in a statement. “This is because the electric system relies on power lines working together to provide electricity across cities, counties and regions.”

Southern California Edison announced it too was considering preventive power outages. The utility said, in advance of possibly strong Santa Ana winds, power could be cut off to more than 106,000 customers in parts of eight Southern California counties.

Edison’s possible outage would primarily affect utility customers in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Also under consideration are areas in Ventura County and portions of Kern, Tulare, Inyo and Mono counties…

Thoughts & prayers to those in the affected areas, and Murphy only knows I wish that were more useful.








Excellent Read: “In the Land of Self-Defeat”

There has always been a strong strain of ‘Who do those snooty eggheads think they are, and why do they insist on shoving their values at us?’ in American culture… and for at least the past sixty years, the Republican party has grown fat feeding on the people most susceptible to that prejudice. Having (no doubt temporarily) exhausted its supply of Good Heartland Diner Voters anecdotes, the NYTimes permits Arkansan Monica Potts to tell the other side of the ‘rural values’ story:

I returned to Van Buren County at the end of 2017 after 20 years living on the East Coast, most recently in the Washington area, because I’m writing a book about Clinton, Van Buren’s county seat. My partner and I knew it would be a challenge: The county is very remote, very religious and full of Trump voters, and we suspected we’d stand out because of our political beliefs.

Since coming back, I’ve realized that it is true that people here think life here has taken a turn for the worse. What’s also true, though, is that many here seem determined to get rid of the last institutions trying to help them, to keep people with educations out, and to retreat from community life and concentrate on taking care of themselves and their own families. It’s an attitude that is against taxes, immigrants and government, but also against helping your neighbor…

In April, a local man who operates the Facebook group, “Van Buren County Today Unfiltered,” posted the agenda for a coming meeting of the Quorum Court, the county’s governing body. The library board wanted to increase the pay it could offer a new head librarian, who would be combining her new job with an older one, to $25 an hour.

Only about 2,500 people live in my hometown. The library serves the entire county, which has an estimated 16,600 people, a marked decline from the population at the last census in 2010. The library has historically provided a variety of services for this community. It has offered summer reading camps for children and services like high-speed internet, sewing classes and academic help. I grew up going to the library and visited it often when I returned. It was always busy. I thought people would be supportive.

Instead, they started a fight. The battle began on the Facebook post, which had 240 comments by the end. The first comment came from Amie Hamilton, who reiterated her point when I interviewed her several months later. “If you want to make $25 an hour, please go to a city that can afford it,” she wrote. “We the people are not here to pay your excessive salaries through taxation or in any other way.”
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Election 2020 Open Thread: Reverend Barber’s PPC Moral Congress

Kara Vogt reports for Mother Jones; Chelsea Janes (and Dave Weigel) for the Washington Post:

The Poor People’s Campaign is a clergy-led effort to revive the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s push to focus attention and resources on poverty. At the group’s forum in Washington, about 10 of the Democratic presidential candidates showed up to make their case on fighting poverty.

The Rev. William Barber II, a founder of the campaign, asked attendees not to cheer or hiss, but rather to greet all the candidates with polite applause. Even in this subdued setting, however, the response to Biden was noticeably muted, and he left the stage to applause that was less enthusiastic than that which greeted him…

Joy-Ann Reid, an MSNBC host who moderated the session, asked Biden how he would pass his plans through a stubborn Congress — in particular, how he would work with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who makes little secret of his satisfaction at blocking Democratic initiatives.

Biden bristled at the suggestion that his approach was misguided. As he wound through his response, Biden moved nearer to Reid, who was seated, and leaned over her.

“Joy-Ann, I know you’re one of the ones who thinks it’s naive to think we have to work together,” Biden said. “The fact of the matter is, if we can’t get a consensus, nothing happens except the abuse of power by the executive branch. Zero.” He added that “you can shame people into doing the right thing.”

Biden’s suggestion that he could persuade McConnell to cooperate prompted skepticism from those who have interacted with McConnell…


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C.R.E.A.M. Open Thread: Senator Warren, Leading the Way Again

“Identity politics”, assuming (part of) the average voter’s identity is taxpayer

Using a surtax, rather than raising the corporate rate, would allow the tax code to target larger, more profitable companies.

Warren said the tax code is “so littered with loopholes that simply raising the regular corporate tax rate alone is not enough” to combat the “armies of lawyers and accountants” that large businesses have to lower their tax bills. The tax code has an array of breaks for corporations to lower their liability — by, say, depreciating their buildings and machinery, deducting interest on debt and taking tax credits for research costs…

The 2017 Republican tax overhaul slashed the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent. Democrats have criticized the overhaul for reducing the levy too much.

Warren’s tax plan would effectively increase that rate for many publicly traded companies on profits of more than $100 million to 28 percent, a rate that other prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, have backed.

Amazon has faced public criticism for using the U.S. tax code to get a refund for 2017 and 2018, even as it made hundreds of billions in revenue and about $10 billion in profits in 2018. The online retail giant gets both the benefits usually used by technology companies — deductions for paying employees in stock — as well as the write-offs for companies that rely heavily on building physical infrastructure…

The 2017 tax law also eliminated the corporate alternative minimum tax, a calculation that prohibited companies from taking too many tax breaks to reduce their liability. Warren’s plan would be a backstop for savvy corporations who are now able to use the full force of the tax law to cut down their tax bills…

(Should’ve posted this earlier in the day, but at least the left-coast Amazon stans will be able to have their say… )








Late-Night Movies Open Thread: Scammers All the Way Down (The Theranos Grift)

I haven’t paid much attention to the Theranos scandal, because marketing a literal version of the classic Magical Money Box con to Silicon valley ‘edgelords’ hardly seemed innovative. Of course they knew it was almost certainly fraudulent, but like the medieval barons buying papal indulgences, just getting the offer was a mark of social status (to these marks.). And they figured they could always leverage it regardless, by selling the deed to a more gullible investor, or one looking to them for a favor.

(Besides, most ‘educated’ Americans know as much about medicine / medical technology as a feudal lord knew about actual Catholic theology. Throw your money in the offertory basket at Easter and Christmas, and be proud you can afford to pay for a private pew!)

Getting Henry Fekkin’ Kissinger hooked into her grift, though — that’s genuine craftsmanship. Like having the Papal nucio put his personal seal on those prettily-illuminated parchments…

A review, from Matt Zoller Seitz at RogerEbert.com:

Theranos sounds like a creature of myth, and in the end, that’s what the company was. Appealing to the common fear of having blood drawn invasively in large amounts, Holmes spun an enticing pitch about building a compact, portable analysis machine named after Thomas Edison and able to perform 200 different kinds of tests quickly, using a pinprick’s worth of blood. Holmes styled herself as a Mozart-caliber wunderkind. She started her company when she was barely old enough to drink. Within a matter of years, it employed 800 people and was valued at $10 billion.

Unfortunately, Holmes’ machine couldn’t do what she promised. She wasn’t a scientist, and her own experts had warned her that it was physically impossible to build the device she’d envisioned. …
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