Monday, September 3, 2018

Notations From the Grid (Special Edition): On the Month That Was....


September is before us.     As we begin a new month, our team chose a selection of the discourse "from the grid" as we await a new and challenging month before us:

VenezuelaRethinking the revolution
Venezuela’s economy has contracted by more than a third since 2013. This week President Nicolás Maduro launched his plan to rescue it. It involves devaluation, an increase in both petrol prices and value-added tax, and a speeding-up of tax collection—plus a 35-fold increase in the minimum salary and the retention of subsidies for the 17m holders of government-issued ration cards.The scheme mixes sensible ideas with Bolivarian barminess
Australian politics
Uneasy lies the head
Australians are dizzy at the turnover in their leadership. From 1983 to 2007, they had just three prime ministers. Since then, the office has changed hands six times. Today Malcolm Turnbull stepped down and Scott Morrison, the treasurer, replaced him. Expect more churn: an election is due by May, and the governing coalition is behind in the polls. It seems unlikely to recover in time

What Other Dirt Is in David Pecker's Safe?
Let us assume that what was in the powerful Pecker safe still exists somewhere. (If it doesn't, someone's going to jail for that, too.) Is there any reason to believe that the president* was the only one with material concerning him contained in it? What if there was stuff about, say, his primary opponents that could have been damaging if slipped sub rosa into the national dialogue? Suppose there was stuff about fellow Republicans that could have worked that same dark magic after he got elected? Read More

Trump Is Now Cyberbullying His Attorney General Because He's Afraid of In-Person Confrontation
Does the president think that when he demands an investigation into his political opponent—something he promised from the presidential debate stage, too—it's not a form of political influence? Does he just not care? Or does he know his supporters won't care, and will just latch onto this murderer's row of conspiratorial nonsense and be distracted, for another day, from the corruption and scandal engulfing his presidency? Read More

250px-Hortus_Deliciarum_-_HellWhen the jury sent four questions to the judge after a day of deliberations, the defense team of Paul Manafort was buoyant.  It was viewed as a sign of skepticism over the case.  At the time, I took a different view and suggested that such questions can often reflect a single hold out juror and a desire to enlist the court to clarify standards.  After all, Manafort did not appear to be following an acquittal strategy rather than a hung jury strategy.  It was always more likely that he would face convictions across the board than a hung jury on all counts.
It now appears that it was a single hold out on the jury that prolonged the case and resulted in ten hung counts.  In the meantime, a juror who must have been viewed as a defense asset on the jury spoke out in surprising terms regarding the guilt of Paul Manafort. Read more of this post

The Water Crises Aren't Coming—They're Here
Here's a concept: paper water. Paper water is water the government grants certain farmers who are drawing water from a river or a watershed in, say, California. The phrase describes the water the farmer, under premium conditions, is entitled to. Practically, however, paper water is mostly notional water, conceptual water, wish water, since over the years California has awarded many times as much paper water as there is actual water—which, to distinguish it, is quasi-legally called wet water. Some paper water might be made real during years of exceptional abundance, but most of it will forever be speculative and essentially useless, since it can't realistically be traded, having no value. Paper water thus amounts to a type of hypothetical currency, backed by the Bank of Nowhere, Representing Nothing since 1960 (or thereabouts), when modern water troubles arrived in America and especially in California, where the wildly expanding citizenry required new state and federally managed water systems run by Watercrats.

Paper water is also a signifier of a domestic and global concern called peak water, a term proposed in 2010 by the hydrologist Peter Gleick in a paper he wrote with Meena Palaniappan that was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Gleick meant the phrase to be applied to worldwide circumstances, such as those that currently prevail in Cape Town, South Africa, where, as a result of a ferocious three-year drought, the taps might before long run dry, possibly in 2019—Day Zero, it's been called.

The U. S. is also afflicted. In fact, Gleick regards California, with its relentless, outsized, and wildly conflicting demands on water, as a "laboratory for all of peak water's concerns." Peak water derives conceptually from peak oil, a phrase first used by a geophysicist named M. King Hubbert in 1956. Peak oil means that the planet has only so much oil, and that eventually it will grow sufficiently scarce that what remains will be too expensive to collect. Hubbert predicted that U. S. oil production would reach maximum output between 1965 and 1975, and in 1970 it did, but it has risen lately because of new means of recovering oil, such as fracking. Some people still believe in peak oil, and others think there will always be plenty of oil, because there is more we haven't found yet.

That water was in a position similar to oil occurred to Gleick when people would ask if he thought that the world, with its population growing alarmingly and climate change causing certain places to become disastrously water-soaked (South Asia, Texas) while others (Cape Town, California) are water-starved, would ever use up its water. "My first reaction was 'We never run out of water,'" Gleick says. "But there's groundwater in China and India and the Middle East and in America in the Midwest and California that we really are using up just like oil."


The Last Detail
When Donald Trump won the presidency, many Americans hoped John McCain would live up to his maverick image and resist his agenda. But after the senator was diagnosed with brain cancer in July, his contrarian resolve revealed itself in unexpected ways that may shape his legacy—and our future. Last year, McCain spoke to David Usborne about his extraordinary year. READ ON
Dirty Business: In Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen Has the da Vinci of Spin
Lanny Davis is the person you call if you're famous, you're wealthy, and your reputation is in tatters due to crime or scandal. Bill Clinton brought Davis into the White House to battle campaign scandals and, later, impeachment. But Davis didn't realize that taking on Cohen as a client would test everything he thought he knew about crisis management. He told Esquire that Cohen is the toughest assignment he's ever had. Could someone like Cohen, who is despised by the anti-Trump Left for his years of suspect service to the president, distrusted by reporters for his threats and bullying over the years, and now under fire from Trump supporters, even be rehabilitated? READ ON

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