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What We Read Today 03 June 2017

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).

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Topics today include:

  • World Bankspeak – how to hide the failure of a mission!

  • Distributed generation: New report flags utility threats and opportunities

  • Tesla looks to energy storage aggregation

  • The beautiful solar roof

  • Here’s How Much a Tesla Solar Roof Will Cost You (and How Long It Will Last)

  • The New Normal: Demand, Secular Stagnation and the Vanishing Middle-Class

  • How Climate Change Saved Steve Bannon's Job

  • ‘Pittsburgh Not Paris’ rally at White House thanks Trump

  • Senators want governors involved in health talks

  • Maher, Griffin, Colbert: Anti-Trump comedians are having a really bad moment

  • Jermey Corbyn is Surging by Usinf Using Bernie's Playbook

  • Let’s welcome Leo Varadkar. He’ll play a big part in our futures

  • Gay Lawmaker, Leo Varadkar, Is in Line to Be Ireland’s Prime Minister

  • Pakistan defence spend may rise 30% but its real enemies are Chinese debt trap, poverty

  • Kashmir terror funding: NIA raids on conduits were long overdue, but are inadequate

  • Congress goofs up, publishes incorrect map of Kashmir in booklet on Modi government

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

U.S.

  • How Climate Change Saved Steve Bannon's Job (The New Yorker)  The rumors of Bannon's demise as a force in the White House have been decisively put to bed with Trump's climate change decisions.

  • Senators want governors involved in health talks (The Hill)  Republican senators from states that expanded Medicaid enrollment under ObamaCare are pressing for their home-state governors to be involved in the Senate talks over a new healthcare bill. The senators are skeptical of language in the bill approved by the House that cuts Medicaid by nearly $900 billion and ends the expansion of federal funding to states in 2020. Republican senators want governors from their home states, who would have to deal directly with a cap on federal spending, to give their conference an analysis of the potential impact.  Sen. Jeff Flake (R), of Arizona, where Medicaid enrollment under ObamaCare has expanded by more than 400,000 people:

“There are obviously concerns because we’re impacted big time.  Twenty-eight, 29 percent of the population is on Medicaid, it’s a big number.” 

  • ‘Pittsburgh Not Paris’ rally at White House thanks Trump (The Hill)  Republicans and Republican supporters gathered near the White House on Saturday for a “Pittsburgh Not Paris” rally supporting President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.  There were also anti-Trump demonstrators Saturday under the banne #MarchforTruth protests were organized to call for an independent commission to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, to press Trump to release his tax returns and for more information to be made public in ongoing federal probes into the Kremlin's efforts to meddle in the 2016 election.  No disordrly interactions have been reported.

  • Nunes-led House Intelligence Committee asked for ‘unmaskings’ of Americans (The Washington Post)  The Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee asked U.S. spy agencies late last year to reveal the names of U.S. individuals or organizations contained in classified intelligence on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, engaging in the same practice that President Trump has accused the Obama administration of abusing, current and former officials said.

The chairman of the committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), has since cast the practice of “unmasking” of U.S. individuals and organizations mentioned in classified reports as an abuse of surveillance powers by the outgoing Obama administration.

Trump has argued that investigators should focus their attention on former officials leaking names from intelligence reports, rather than whether the Kremlin coordinated its activities with the Trump campaign, an allegation he has denied.

UK

Ireland

Mr. Varadkar’s rapid rise to the country’s highest political office, only 10 years after he entered Parliament, owes much to a willingness to speak his mind, a novelty in the normally cautious world of Irish politics.

Pakistan

recent UN report has rightly warned that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) traversing through PoK might create "geo-political tension" in the region by igniting further tensions between India and Pakistan.

Making the all-dominating military even more powerful and escalating tensions with India would only harm Pakistan even more and its 195 million population. The threat India poses to Pakistan’s national security is far less than what it faces from the fast-spreading Chinese influence, mounting debt-trap, unemployment levels and deep-rooted poverty in that country. It is still not too late for the Sharif-government to wake up and fight the real enemy.

India

As a result of all the agitations, narratives and discourses that various funders promoted over the past decade, the fire of jihadi determination has been lit and has spread in the generation of teenagers who were at the forefront of last year’s uprising.

  • Congress goofs up, publishes incorrect map of Kashmir in booklet on Modi government (India Today)  In a major embarrassment for the grand old party, the Uttar Pradesh Congress released a booklet that incorrectly labels Kashmir as India-Occupied Kashmir. The booklet is aimed at targeting Narendra Modi's BJP-led NDA government as it completes three years in power.  The official map of India shows the territory (Jammu & Kashmir) as part of Ondia with some border areas occupied by Pakistan and China.  There is an active movement within Kandahar that wants to see an new independent country there.  The 'mistake' on the Congress party map seems to give tacit recognition to the validity of that movement.

Click for large image.

Other Scientific, Health, Political, Economics, and Business Items of Note - plus Miscellanea

  • World Bankspeak – how to hide the failure of a mission! (Bill Mitchell, billy blog)  Hat tip to Roger Erickson.  The neo-liberal era has required organisations like the World Bank, which was set up to ensure poverty was reduced through the provision of infrastructure (physical and social), to shift into becoming conduits for moving real resources from nations to advance the interests of First World capital.  Of course, their current role indicates they are failing their original mission. So to obfuscate and hide that reality, the language had to change.  Now we read their accountability documents (such as Annual Reports) and we haven’t a clue what they are up to and that means their wordsmiths are doing their job.

A 2015 analysis of World Bank Annual Reports from 1946 to 2012 is illustrative of the way in which framing, grammar and word usage can be used to clothe reality. The analysis published by the Stanford Literary Lab – Bankspeak: The Language of World Bank Reports, 1946–2012 – documents the shift in language by the World Bank between the first two decades of Annual Reports to the second two decades. They show how the Bank shifts from a language that is readily understood and considers a concrete world and offers very little prescriptive input to a narrative that becomes so opaque and filled with financial buzz words that comprehension is lost. They document the emergence of what they refer to as “Bankspeak”. Groupthink requires a certain language to reinforce the increasingly unsustainable reality that the group lives within. That is the role of the World Bankspeak! The Literary Lab analysis is worth reading because it provides a coherent analysis of the way words and sentence structures (grammar) are manipulated to shift focus, allay concern and basically, undermine accountability mechanisms that were established to ensure an institutional mission was being faithfully pursued. 

  • Distributed generation: New report flags utility threats and opportunities (Enerati)  Growing levels of distributed generation and the rise of prosumers present some key challenges for utilities. On the one hand, the need is to maintain the balance of the grid with this intermittent generation but on the other, there is the potential loss of revenue that could occur as consumers reduce their utility energy spend.  While these are obvious disruptions to the traditional utility business, they also present opportunities. The consensus view is that utilities will need to transition to a smarter, platform and service-oriented model – in whatever form that may take – in order to secure their business into the future.  

This view is given further impetus with the latest Digitally Enabled Grid study from Accenture, which finds that utility executives regard the integration of distributed generation as the business challenge that has grown most over the past two years

  • Tesla looks to energy storage aggregation (Enerati)  Tesla has taken its next step into the energy storage market with a project to aggregate energy storage to provide services to the grid.  The project is being launched with Vermont utility Green Mountain Power, and will aggregate utility scale and residential storage into a single resource. The aim is to enable more renewable energy and increase grid efficiency.  The project will utilise Tesla’s Powerpack and Powerwall batteries and its GridLogic software platform.

To introduce the project, Green Mountain Power will install Powerpacks on its utility land and deploy up to 2,000 Powerwall batteries to homeowners.

The Powerwall customers will benefit from backup power over the next 10 years as well as receive compensation for its use on the grid.

The aggregated storage will provide a variety of grid services, delivering dynamic capacity and additional grid stability, while lowering costs for all utility customers through reduction of transmission and capacity costs, especially during peak energy times like hot summer days.

... participating homeowners are effectively supporting the utility in its storage goals, and are able to purchase the storage batteries for only $15/month or a $1,300 one-time payment – a substantial discount on Tesla’s standard $6,200 price.

  • The beautiful solar roof (Enerati)  Tesla has announced a solar roofing tile which is viually similar to traditionalal roofing materials but constitutes and array of solar PV panels.  See also next article.

With the solar roof concept Tesla is targeting primarily the niche of new roof opportunities. Musk claims there are from 4 to 5 million new roofs per year in the US and perhaps 20 times that number worldwide. He envisages that as homes in neighbourhoods have roof replacements, over time they will all come to have solar roofs.

“It’s all about making solar desirable,” he said, noting that there is still a “huge market” for the traditional solar PV systems. “Beautiful, affordable and seamlessly integrated.”

However, there were also some things he didn’t mention. He didn’t put a price to the solar tiles, nor did he mention their efficiency or for example the assembly requirements.

  • Here’s How Much a Tesla Solar Roof Will Cost You (and How Long It Will Last) (Green Tech Media)  Tesla now has a website that allows homeowners to figure out how much it will cost them. Here are the most important details that we know so far.   According to Tesla, the product will cost $21.85 per square foot for an average American home -- making it competitive with standard tile, metal or slate roofs. You can read more about Tesla's assumptions here.  Speaking on a briefing call with reporters, Musk said a solar roof covering 40 percent of the average-sized American home would generate 10 percent to 20 percent more electricity than a standard solar system. Musk said, comparing the product to conventional roofs:

"It's a better product at a slightly better price." 

Click for large image.

  • The New Normal: Demand, Secular Stagnation and the Vanishing Middle-Class (Servass Strom, Institute for New Economic Thinking)  This paper examines total-factor-productivity (TFP) growth of the U.S. economy since World War II and concludes that supply-side theories are insufficient to explain the observed data.  The paper argues that there is no such thing as a Solow residual and demonstrates that TFP growth can only be meaningfully interpreted in terms of labor productivity growth. Because labor productivity growth, in turn, is influenced by demand factors, the causes of secular stagnation must lie in inadequate demand. Inadequate demand, in turn, is the result of a growing segmentation of the U.S. economy into a ‘dynamic’ sector which is shedding jobs, and a ‘stagnant’ and ‘survivalist’ sector which acts as an ‘employer of last resort’. 

This paper argues, with a focus on the concept of TFP-growth, that this neat separation between ‘actual’ and ‘potential’ output growth is the Achilles’ heel of supply-side explanations of secular stagnation (Storm and Naastepad 2012). My ‘modest doubt’ stems from the mounting empirical evidence that potential output growth is not independent from actual—demand-determined—growth. Study after study show that the current (demand) recession is causing permanent damage to potential output growth in the OECD (e.g. Haltmaier 2012; Reifschneider et al. 2013; Ball 2014; Ollivaud & Turner 2014; Anderton et al. 2014). In what is perhaps the most comprehensive study of the issue to date, Blanchard, Cerutti and Summers (2015) find, analysing 122 recessions in 23 OECD countries during 1960-2010, that in one-third of all cases, the recession is followed by permanently lower output growth relative to the pre-recession output trend—an outcome they call ‘superhysteresis’. 

In terms of Figure 1, this means that the observable slowdown in actual economic growth has helped depress potential output growth—which is the exact claim made in this paper. However, I will not scrutinize this concept of ‘super-hysteresis’, but instead try to theoretically and empirically deconstruct the notion of ‘total-factor-productivity growth’, as it is the cornerstone on which the mentioned supply-side explanations of secular stagnation rest. The paper argues that TFP-growth is not a supply-side concept, unlike what is commonly believed to be the case. 

gdp.1950.2017
Source: Federal Reserve Economic Data (https://fred.stlouis.org ).


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