climate change

Joe Biden Asked Federal Agencies How Climate Would Affect Them. The Answers Will SHOCK You!

The answer is 'In every way possible. It's global, dumbass.'

We got another reminder yesterday that grown-ups are running things again, this time in the form of — we hope you're ready for the shock of your life — a set of reports from 23 government agencies on how they'll be affected by the climate emergency and what they plan to do to meet those challenges.

We know, it's a lot to take in. We'll give you a moment to catch your breath.

But as you can imagine, it's very srs bns, because a warming planet with more frequent extreme weather events will affect just about every aspect of how we live, and how the government does stuff. As the New York Times points out, some of it sounds like the stuff of dystopian fiction:

Less food. More traffic accidents. Extreme weather hitting nuclear waste sites. Migrants rushing toward the United States, fleeing even worse calamity in their own countries.

Some of it may sound more mundane, but will require costly changes to deal with. F'rinstance, as the Department of Transportation report notes, more severe weather is going to lead to airport closures, flight cancellations and delays, and snarls in the air traffic control system. Even without storms, warmer average air temperatures mean planes will need longer takeoff runs, and they won't be able to fly as far or carry as much as they did in the cooler past. Not gigantic changes, but enough to have an economic effect.

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Nice Time

USPS Testing Out Postal Banking. Thank The Postal Union!

You can still hate Louis DeJoy. We sure do!

The US Postal Service seems poised to make a whole lot of good-government nerds very very happy with a four-city pilot program that will try out an old idea whose time probably never should have ended: postal banking. From 1910 until 1966, when you went to the Post Office, you could not only get stamps or send a package or dodge bullets, you could also put some money in your postal savings account, or withdraw some after it had grown by a whopping two percent interest rate.

At its height, postal banking served some four million Americans, and before the New Deal created the stabilizing force of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, postal savings accounts were especially attractive because, unlike a bank that could go bust, the deposits were backed by the full faith and credit of the USA.

The USPS got out of the banking business in 1966, but for decades, think tanks and policy geeks have said it would be a great thing to bring back, because there are millions of Americans who don't use banks, yes in 2021. Instead, far too many Americans are unbanked — about five percent of us — and pay too much to cash their paychecks at payday lenders, (some) grocery stores, or Walmart.

Starting last month, the USPS began testing out a new system where people can cash business checks up to $500 and receive the money in the form of a gift card that can be used pretty much anywhere. As David Dayen puts it at the American Prospect, this is a big effing deal: He calls it "the most far-reaching executive action that the Biden administration has taken since Inauguration Day."

The move puts the USPS in direct competition with the multibillion-dollar check-cashing industry, which operates storefronts to allow unbanked or underbanked residents to cash their paychecks.

And if you cash your check at the Post Office, nobody's going to try to interest you in a short term high interest loan, either.

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climate change

Climate Vs. Jobs? Ford And Its New $11.4 Billion EV And Battery Plants Say STFU.​

Also 11,000 new jobs in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Ford Motor Company announced yesterday that it's partnering with South Korean energy firm SK Innovation to build two new factories in Tennessee and Kentucky to manufacture electric vehicles and the batteries that go in 'em. The two complexes — wait, they're "hubs!" — will employ some 11,000 workers total when they open in 2025.

The Detroit News reports the plant in Tennessee, to be called "Blue Oval City," will manufacture Ford's new electric F-series pickups in a

"vertically integrated ecosystem" consisting of a vehicle assembly plant, a battery plant jointly operated by Ford and SK, as well as facilities for suppliers and battery recycling operations. Ford says the new assembly plant will be carbon neutral with zero waste to landfill when it's fully operational in 2025.

Ford says it will be "among the largest auto manufacturing campuses in US history."

Ford and SK will also construct two battery factories in Kentucky, which will produce batteries to be used in Ford and Lincoln EVs built at other assembly plants around North America. An industry insider we just made up right now said the Kentucky and Tennessee sites were "chosen deliberately to fuck with Doktor Zoom," who can never keep the two states straight.

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Joe Biden Pretty Darn Sure He's Not In Disarray, You Knuckleheads

COVID, Build Back Better, and stuff.

Joe Biden followed his scheduled remarks on the COVID-19 response with a brief press conference today, taking the opportunity to make the case that nine months in just might be a little early for pundits to be declaring his presidency over, and he's still looking forward to getting his agenda through Congress, and would you all just settle down and let the process go forward, OK?

Here, it is a White House video!

Biden started out with the FDA's and CDC's new approval of booster shots for some people who've had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The third shot is recommended six months after the second dose for

  • people over 65
  • residents in long-term care
  • people aged 50-64 with underlying medical conditions

Two other groups may want to get a booster: those aged 18 to 49 who have underlying medical conditions, based on their own particular risks, and people aged 18 to 64 who work in a job where they might be exposed often to COVID, like people working in healthcare, prisons, or schools. Biden said he looked forward to getting his third shot, even though "It's hard to acknowledge I'm over 65," which was nice and corny.

He also took the opportunity to call on the 25 percent of eligible people who haven't yet been vaccinated to go get the shot already, and noted that since hospitals in many areas are full of unvaccinated people, leading to people with serious medical needs dying because there were no ICU beds, then deciding not to get vaccinated isn't only affecting the person refusing the vaccine. He also noted some success stories: United Airlines, seven weeks after requiring employees be vaccinated, "now has 97 percent of their employees vaccinated," and just a month after the Pentagon ordered all military personnel to be vaccinated, a full 92 percent of active-duty service members have been vaccinated.

Then Biden took a few questions, saying first that the Border Patrol's treatment of Haitian migrants at the Texas-Mexico border was "horrible to see" and "outrageous," and saying once an investigation is finished, there should be consequences for those responsible. (He wasn't asked and didn't say anything about the deportations of many Haitian asylum-seekers, which led his own appointee as special envoy to Haiti, Ambassador Daniel Foote, to resign in protest yesterday.)

Asked whether his campaign message of bringing "competence and unity" back to the White House was in danger of evaporating in a cloud of Afghanistan, COVID, and a possible government shutdown, Biden rejected the premise, and noted that he had said it would probably take a year to accomplish his top goals, and also, not to make excuses or anything, did you see the state of this place when he got here? "So, you know, part of it is dealing with the panoply of things that were landed on my plate. I'm not complaining; it's just a reality. It's a reality, number one."

As for recent polling, he noted he's not worried because virtually every part of his economic plan is "overwhelmingly popular," and because Congress is moving forward on his Build Back Better reconciliation bill. He noted that its childcare and senior care provisions would be of particular help to women who've wanted to bet back to the workforce, and emphasized that worries about the national debt are overblown because tax increases on corporations and the wealthy, plus economic growth from the help going to the middle and working classes, will pay for everything in the plan.

On Afghanistan, Biden said that concerns about the US military withdrawal were legitimate, but also that America couldn't keep "spending $300 million a day for 20 years. There was no easy way to end that." He noted he'd be discussing Afghanistan later in the day when he hosted a meeting with the prime ministers of India, Australia, and Japan, and that the US is "still getting people out" as well.

Biden acknowledged that the resurgence of the pandemic, due to the Delta variant and about a quarter of American adults not yet getting vaccinated, had definitely slowed things down from the rate of progress he'd have hoped for, as have all the recent climate-related extreme weather events (which also highlight the need for the plan's climate measures). He said he was confident that both parts of his agenda, the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better reconciliation package, will definitely pass.

In response to a question about moderate Democrats' unwillingness to give him a top-line figure of how much they'd be willing to spend on Build Back Better, Biden again reframed the premise, saying he hoped that instead of pulling a number out of the air, they'd decide what parts of the plan they want to pass instead, and write the bill accordingly:

What do you think we should be doing? Is it appropriate, in your view, to cut taxes for working-class people by providing for daycare, providing for early education, three and four years old? Is it appropriate to do something about free community college? [...] I'm telling them, "What — what are your priorities?"

And several of them, when they go through their priorities, it adds up to a number higher than they said they were for.

Biden also repeated his calls for strong action on climate, pointing out he'd managed to surprise some critics by getting the three biggest American auto manufacturers to agree that all their vehicles will have to be electric, and noting that China is investing billions of dollars in clean energy tech.

The presser must have been a bit of a letdown for anyone expecting Biden to be down in the dumps. He was looking pretty optimistic, all in all — not defensive, just not willing to accept any premature obituaries for his presidency.

[White House transcript / CDC booster shot recommendations]

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