The Lianeon Weekly Topics | Trump still the Golden Boy

Week of February 22nd

The Essential Five

Journalists and the looming superstorm of climate disinformation

TEXAS HAD ONLY JUST FROZEN OVER. In the wake of a devastating winter storm, millions in the state were without power and struggling to find warmth. They boiled snow for water; some were dying. And against all evidence the anti-climate political right was grousing about windmills and blaming a Green New Deal that doesn’t yet exist.

“Unbeknownst to most people, the Green New Deal came to Texas,” Tucker Carlson said on February 16 on Fox News. “The power grid in the state became totally reliant on windmills. Then it got cold, and the windmills broke, because that’s what happens in the Green New Deal.” An hour later, on Hannity, routinely America’s most-watched cable news program, Texas governor Greg Abbott said his state’s predicament “shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America.” In the days that followed, similar disinformation was repeated across Fox News and Fox Business programming, on competitor right-wing outlets OAN and Newsmax, in right-leaning newspapers, and in myriad statements by Republican elected officials.

These claims were nonsense. Texas runs primarily on natural gas, and it was frozen pipelines and wells—amid an energy infrastructure not designed to withstand cold—that were most responsible for the blackouts.

Incredibly frustrating to see some in TX using this opportunity to distract from the fact that they did not winterize their power facilities. The Green New Deal, or “Green” energy, did not cause this disaster and it wont be solved by retreating back to ideological positions. Why can’t we just solve problems in America?

Claiming liberal bias in big tech, Iowa Republicans seek penalties if companies restrict online speech

Saying big tech companies like Facebook and Twitter are repressing conservative speech, Republicans in the Iowa Senate advanced a proposal Wednesday to outlaw tax breaks for and contracts with companies that "censor" free speech.

"These liberal executives out of the Silicon Valley are not going to control what Iowans hear, what they see — and they're not going to censor them," Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, said during a subcommittee meeting Wednesday.

Facebook’s Oversight Board makes an imperfect case for private governance

The idea behind this distinctive single-company private governance institution first appeared in 2018, amid other calls for externalizing content decisions, as a “Supreme Court” that would be the final say on content matters. The social media giant spared no expense in trying to make the global consultations as open and inclusive as possible. The process also benefited from at least two rounds of input from specialists in a wide variety of disciplines (the author was in one such meeting) and with a very diverse perspective on the company itself. Legal scholar Kate Klonick provided scrutiny and advice, also chronicling the experience for The New Yorker magazine.

While ostensibly participatory, the operation to create the Board still yielded a structure closer to Facebook’s needs: externalizing the ultimate decision making on tough cases, while retaining the significantly more consequential power to solely decide content moderation policies. The Oversight Board would be built entirely outside of Facebook, with independent members chosen from around the world to adjudicate a small number of cases. The result of the cases would, within the limits of technical feasibility, be binding for the tech company. However, the Board’s role in offering policy recommendations, an important and legitimate check on Facebook’s power, remained consultative and structurally uncertain.

I have chosen these two articles because I suspect that this topic will grow in importance over time. America needs to figure out how to combat disinformation while ensuring a diversity of information (partly the impetus behind this newsletter). See my article here: Why Misinformation Spreads So Easily

At conservative conference, Trump is still the golden boy

Washington – A conference dedicated to the future of the conservative movement turned into an ode to Donald Trump on Friday as speakers declared their fealty to the former president and attendees posed for selfies with a golden statue of his likeness.

As the Republican Party grapples with deep divisions over the extent to which they should embrace Trump after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress, those gathered at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference made clear they are not ready to move on from the former president – or from his baseless charges that the November election was rigged against him.

America’s young people need jobs. The federal government should pay for them

Young people just starting out in the working world are typically among the hardest-hit in a recession, and the current pandemic-fueled economic downturn is no exception. In the best of times, young people attempting to enter the labor force are often at a disadvantage by virtue of their smaller networks and relative lack of experience. Now, millions of young people are at the end of a much longer line of job seekers, greatly reducing their chances of finding employment.

Many young people get stuck in an experience trap after graduation. It’s like trying to get your first credit card, you can’t get one without a credit score, but you can’t get a credit score without a credit card. Govt subsided jobs could provide many young people a boost in their early career. Probably would be worth the cost.

Healthcare/Society

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring Houston COVID-19 vaccination site

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

FDA advisory panel endorses Johnson & Johnson one-shot COVID vaccine for emergency use

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday recommended the authorization of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot coronavirus vaccine for emergency use.

Why it matters: The FDA is expected to make a final decision within days on the J&J vaccine, which was found to be 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID. An emergency use authorization would allow distribution to immediately begin, helping streamline and speed up the vaccine rollout across the U.S

Although the topline efficacy is lower, the J and J vaccine prevents hospitalizations and deaths very effectively with just one dose. It could be a game changer.

About 20% of U.S. adults have received first COVID-19 vaccine dose, White House says

Nearly 1 in 5 adults and nearly half of Americans 65 and older have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said on Friday.

The big picture: The Biden administration has previously said it has secured enough doses to vaccinate most of the American population by the end of July.

Covid-19: Are 'hate crimes' against Asian Americans on the rise?

Here are some of the recently reported attacks:

An 84-year-old Thai immigrant in San Francisco, California, died last month after being violently shoved to the ground during his morning walk.

In Oakland, California, a 91-year-old senior was shoved to the pavement from behind.

An 89-year-old Chinese woman was slapped and set on fire by two people in Brooklyn, New York.

A stranger on the New York subway slashed a 61-year-old Filipino American passenger's face with a box cutter.

Education/Science/Technology

The robotification of e-commerce work

What's happening: In a report released late last week about the post-COVID-19 labor force, McKinsey predicted 45 million U.S. workers would be displaced by automation by the end of the decade, up from 37 million projected before the pandemic.

That increase is a function both of permanent changes in the economy because of the pandemic — less business travel and more remote work — as well as an acceleration in investment in automation and AI.

The Pandemic likely accelerated trends that were already occurring. It is unlikely that the world of work will ever return to “normal.”

Economy/Business

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

The highlights of the bill:

Expanded federal funding for COVID programs, including $46 billion for testing and tracing; $7.6 billion for pandemic response at community health centers; $5.2 billion to support research, development and manufacturing of vaccines, therapeutics and other medical products; and $7.7 billion to expand the public health care workforce.

$1,400 stimulus payments for Americans making less than $75,000. Individuals who make between $75,000 and $100,000 would receive less, with a cap for those earning more than $100,000.

$128.6 billion to help K-12 schools reopen.

$350 billion in state and local aid.

$25 billion in aid to restaurants and other food and drinking establishments.

$19 billion in emergency rental assistance.

$7.25 billion in funds for Paycheck Protection Program loans.

Unemployment benefits would be extended until August 29, and the supplemental benefits would increase from $300 to $400.

Will minimum wage hike be part of US Covid relief?

The US is poised to pass its third major spending package of the pandemic - a $1.9tn (£1.4tn) plan that President Joe Biden has championed as a way to help struggling Americans.

No

House nears relief bill passage; Dems mull wage hike rescue

Washington — Democrats edged a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package to the brink of House passage early Saturday, even as party leaders sought to assure agitated progressives that they’d revive their derailed drive to boost the minimum wage.

A virtual party-line House vote was expected on the sweeping measure, which embodies President Joe Biden’s plan to flush cash to individuals, businesses, states and cities battered by COVID-19. Passage would send the measure to the Senate, where Democrats may try resuscitating their minimum wage push and fights could erupt over state aid and other issues.

What is potential GDP, and why is it so controversial right now?

What is potential GDP?

Gross Domestic Product is a measure of the value of all of the goods and services produced in the economy in a given period. It is calculated by the federal government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis each quarter. Potential GDP is a theoretical construct, an estimate of the value of the output that the economy would have produced if labor and capital had been employed at their maximum sustainable rates—that is, rates that are consistent with steady growth and stable inflation.

Understanding potential GDP is important to Federal Reserve policymakers as they decide when and how to change interest rates or use their other tools to deliver on their mandate of price stability and maximum sustainable employment. Having good estimates of potential output allows them to calibrate their choices based, in part, on projections of the output gap. Similarly, Congress and the President will look to the output gap to contemplate whether the economy needs fiscal stimulus or restraint.

Fascinating read. Although there are ambiguities in calculating GDP and potential GDP, I am concerned about stoking inflation with Biden’s stimulus. I know the Biden Administration is unconcerned, but things are different this time. Past inflation was partly alleviated by trade with China (a trade relationship that is now has heavy tariffs driving up prices on both sides. )

Dow drops more than 460 points to end losing week on rate fears

All three major averages posted weekly losses as fears of higher interest rates and inflation deepened. The S&P 500 slid 2.5% this week for its second negative week in a row. The 30-stock Dow fell 1.8%, and the Nasdaq was the relative underperformer this week, losing 4.9%.

Seems that many in the market share the sentiment that Biden’s stimulus may be too large.

Policy/Politics

Airline CEOs, Biden officials consider green-fuel breaks

Chief executives of the nation’s largest passenger and cargo airlines met with key Biden administration officials Friday to talk about reducing emissions from airplanes and push incentives for lower-carbon aviation fuels.\

United Airlines said CEO Scott Kirby asked administration officials to support incentives for sustainable aviation fuel and technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere. In December, United said it invested an undisclosed amount in a carbon-capture company partly owned by Occidental Petroleum.

A United Nations aviation group has concluded that biofuels will remain a tiny source of aviation fuel for several years. Some environmentalists would prefer the Biden administration to impose tougher emissions standards on aircraft rather than create breaks for biofuels.

“Biofuels are false solutions that don’t decarbonize air travel,” said Clare Lakewood, a climate-law official with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Real action on aircraft emissions requires phasing out dirty, aging aircraft, maximizing operational efficiencies and funding the rapid development of electrification.”

Michigan man wants to form Patriot Party as GOP alternative

Lansing — Inspired, in part, by former President Donald Trump, a Zeeland man and Republican precinct delegate wants to officially form a new Patriot Party in Michigan as an alternative to the GOP.

"I’m sick of the Republican Party," Brian VanDussen, 44, said this week. "So are a lot of other people."

Similar efforts are underway in other states as Trump backers voice frustration with the Republican Party, contending that party officials haven't done enough to support the former president, who left office Jan. 20.

What should we expect from Biden’s commission on Supreme Court reform?

In short:

Progressive groups call for “big, bold solutions” to deal with “courts . . . in crisis.” History suggests that incremental change is their best, and most likely, hope.

Last line of the article really sums this up. Don’t expect any major breakthroughs.

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