The Texas grid is designed to fail

“The culprit is pretty clear. Recent research has shown climate change made the South Asian heat wave 30 times more likely to happen, and it’s very likely the same will be true for the European and American heat waves. The peak of summer could be even worse. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts above-average temperatures in June, July, and August for most of the lower 48.

Texas may be the most vulnerable of those 48. Most states in the continental US are connected to power grids that sprawl across state (and at times even international) lines. But Texas is, somewhat infamously, an energy island: It operates a power grid that’s mostly disconnected from the rest of the country. Depending on whom you ask, this has its advantages and disadvantages. Keeping the Texas grid disconnected from the rest of the country means it won’t fall under federal regulations, as grids that cross state lines do. But it also means Texas can’t borrow power from other states when its power infrastructure fails, as it did in February 2021 when Winter Storm Uri hit, knocking out power across the state for days. Hundreds of people died as a result.”

“A little over 20 years ago, Texas deregulated its energy market. And Texas is not unique in that; deregulation obviously has been kind of the story of American policy for decades. And it came to the electricity market in Texas, as it did to other states. But in Texas, it took a form that we do not see anywhere else. Essentially, they created a competitive market where supply and demand are the rule of the day. There’s no one power company that you go to, like there is in a lot of the country. You get these competing electric providers. But the real thing that makes Texas unique is that it is what they call an “energy-only market.”

In other parts of the country, a power plant, also known as a generator, gets paid to be around in case they’re needed. But in Texas, in an attempt to create this kind of perfect competitive market, they said, “No, you’re only going to make money by selling electricity at the time that it is needed, at its time of use.” So our generators only make money selling power on the market.

When you take that approach and you couple it with the law of supply and demand, what you’re doing is you’re creating a system that is run on scarcity. The less electricity that is available, the more expensive it will be. So in our market, we created a system where power plant operators make their margins by relying on moments of extreme scarcity that will drive up the price of electricity. And this will be their big payday. These moments may only come a handful of times a year but this is where you make your money.

Proponents of this market said that it incentivizes efficiency. Like, you cut out all the fat, and you don’t have any electricity generators that are getting paid to just sit around. They would claim that that creates an efficient market. The reality, though, is that when you need extra power on hand, you have less of it available.”

“One of the things that’s been really wild for me to see happen in the aftermath of the 2021 blackout is the rhetoric around this market. I’ve been an energy reporter for years and years, and the Texas system was always held up as a kind of point of pride by politicians in power and regulators and industry people. We had this unique thing that was uniquely Texan and had created this efficient market. And in the aftermath of the blackout, it didn’t take long for a lot of the same people to suddenly start saying, “Oh, we have a crisis-driven market. We need to overhaul this market, we need to reform things so that it is now more focused on reliability.”

They were making all these promises they were going to change things. But — and this is where it gets really kind of confounding — they wanted to change things without actually overhauling the system. So their argument is that we are keeping our unique energy-only market, but we are also going to provide greater reliability within that framework. But the question right now is like, how do you do that? Or even, can you do that? I’ve interviewed a lot of experts in the world of energy that just are not buying it right now.”

” There isn’t just one fix. There are a lot of different things put together that could really help the situation. I think the most obvious one — the one that you don’t have to be a grid engineer to understand — is increasing interconnections between Texas and other neighboring grids. I’ve read very convincing analyses that say that if we were better connected, we still would have had blackouts in 2021 but they would not have been nearly as catastrophic as they were. They would not have lasted as long because after day one, maybe day two, we could have started pulling more power from other states and gotten people’s lights back on faster, and the kind of intensity of that disaster could have been muted.”

“I don’t want to be too techno-utopian about this, but investing in things like battery storage that would allow us to make renewable energy more dispatchable seems like a no-brainer. Building out solar is huge because we usually use the most electricity in the summer. And the conditions that drive that high energy use (i.e. the state being baked by the sun) are the exact same conditions that create a ton of solar electricity. So that seems like a pretty obvious one to try to meet that super-high demand.

Another thing is energy efficiency. The energy efficiency goals in Texas are lower than most other states, and increasing our energy efficiency goals and programs would really help with grid reliability, because it would decrease the spikes in demand. I’m thinking of everything from insulation to more efficient appliances to energy efficiency at power plants, because it takes so much energy to produce power or drill for oil. If you have a better-insulated home, you’re just not going to be running the AC the same amount even on a hot day, so in aggregate it can make a huge difference statewide. And it’s so much cheaper than anything else.”

Pro-gun rights lawmakers want to arm teachers, but there’s little evidence these programs work

“There is no evidence supporting arguments from pro-gun rights lawmakers that training and equipping teachers with guns will make students safer. A 2019 study by researchers at the University of Toledo and Ball State University reviewed 18 years of US school security measures — including placing more armed teachers in school — and found no evidence of reduced gun violence.

Denise Gottfredson, a criminologist at the University of Maryland, called the policy of arming school personnel “ill-advised.” Beyond substantial research linking gun accessibility and increased gun violence, firearms brought into school by educators “might be fired accidentally, the teachers who carry them might deliberately use them for unintended purposes, and, even more likely, the guns might end up in the hands of students,” Gottfredson told Reuters.”

“The US is not the only country in the world where mass shootings have happened, but it is unique in how frequently these mass shootings occur within its borders.

In his widely-cited 2016 study, Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama, analyzed data on global mass shootings between 1966 and 2012 and found that 31 percent of perpetrators in mass shootings worldwide during that time were American.

Adjusting for variables, Lankford also found that a country’s rate of gun ownership correlated with the odds of it having mass shootings. When it comes to gun ownership, the US is practically in a league of its own: the US population only makes up less than 5 percent of the global population yet Americans account for about 45 percent of the world’s gun ownership. It is estimated that US civilians own a total of 393 million firearms — meaning there are more guns in civilian hands than people.”

A study gave cash and therapy to men at risk of criminal behavior. 10 years later, the results are in.

“What if someone told you that you could dramatically reduce the crime rate without resorting to coercive policing or incarceration? In fact, what if they said you could avert a serious crime — a robbery, say, or maybe even a murder — just by shelling out $1.50?

That’s such an incredibly good deal that it sounds too good to be true. But it’s been borne out by the research of Chris Blattman, Margaret Sheridan, Julian Jamison, and Sebastian Chaskel. Their new study provides experimental evidence that offering at-risk men a few weeks of behavioral therapy plus a bit of cash reduces the future risk of crime and violence, even 10 years after the intervention.”

“999 Liberian men were split into four groups. Some received CBT, while others got $200 in cash. Another group got the CBT plus the cash, and finally, there was a control group that got neither.

A month after the intervention, both the therapy group and the therapy-plus-cash group were showing positive results. A year after the intervention, the positive effects on those who got therapy alone had faded a bit, but those who got therapy plus cash were still showing huge impacts: crime and violence were down about 50 percent.”

“10 years later, he tracked down the original men from the study and reevaluated them. Amazingly, crime and violence were still down by about 50 percent in the therapy-plus-cash group.”

“The most plausible hypothesis, according to Blattman, is that the $200 in cash enabled the men to pursue a few months of legitimate business activity — say, shoe shining — after the therapy ended. That meant a few extra months of getting to cement their new non-criminal identity and behavioral changes. “Basically, it gave them time to practice,” Blattman told me.”

Alito’s Leaked Abortion Opinion Misunderstands Unenumerated Rights

“Noting that “the Constitution makes no reference to abortion,” Alito argues that “no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely—the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Although “that provision has been held to guarantee some rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution,” he says, “any such right must be ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition’ and ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.'” Alito concludes that “the right to an abortion does not fall within this category.”

That analysis falls short in at least two crucial ways.

First, Alito fails to grapple with the argument that the right to terminate a pregnancy can be understood as a subset of the right to bodily integrity. As the legal scholar Sheldon Gelman detailed in a 1994 Minnesota Law Review article, the right to bodily integrity can be traced back to the Magna Carta. That makes it one of the many rights “retained by the people” (in the words of the Ninth Amendment) that were imported into the Constitution from English law. That right, in other words, is “deeply rooted” in American history and tradition.

Second, Alito’s draft opinion distorts the relevant legal history and thus misstates the historical pedigree of abortion rights. “When the United States was founded and for many subsequent decades, Americans relied on the English common law,” explains an amicus brief that the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians filed in Dobbs. “The common law did not regulate abortion in early pregnancy. Indeed, the common law did not even recognize abortion as occurring at that stage. That is because the common law did not legally acknowledge a fetus as existing separately from a pregnant woman until the woman felt fetal movement, called ‘quickening,’ which could occur as late as the 25th week of pregnancy.”

A survey of founding-era legal authorities confirms this view. William Blackstone’s widely read Commentaries on the Laws of England, first published in 1765, noted that life “begins in contemplation of law as soon as an infant is able to stir in the mother’s womb.” Under the common law, Blackstone explained, legal penalties for abortion applied only “if a woman is quick with child, and by a potion, or otherwise, killeth it in her womb.” That means abortion was legal in the early stages of pregnancy under the common law.

Blackstone’s writings had an important influence on America’s founding generation. In his 1790 Of the Natural Rights of Individuals, for example, James Wilson, a driving force at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and a leading voice for ratification at Pennsylvania’s convention, repeated Blackstone’s gloss. “In the contemplation of law,” Wilson wrote, “life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb.”

At the time of the founding, no American state had the lawful power to prohibit abortion before quickening because the states adhered to the common law as described by Blackstone and Wilson. We might call this the original understanding of the states’ regulatory powers. That original understanding contradicts Alito’s assertion that abortion rights—at least during the early stages of pregnancy—lack deep roots in American history.”

How Anti-Critical Race Theory Bills Are Taking Aim At Teachers

“This spring, a high school English teacher in Missouri lost her job following parents’ complaints that one of her assignments taught critical race theory.

The teacher had assigned a worksheet titled “How Racially Privileged Are You?” as prep material for reading the school-approved book “Dear Martin,” a novel about a Black high school student who is physically assaulted by a white police officer. But despite the teacher’s insistence that she wasn’t teaching her students critical race theory, an academic legal framework that asserts that racism is systemic and embedded in many American institutions, the local school board disagreed and determined that the material was objectionable.

The Missouri incident wasn’t an anomaly. In Tennessee, a teacher was reprimanded — and later fired — after telling his class that white privilege is a “fact” and assigning a Ta-Nehisi Coates essay that argued that white racial resentment was responsible for the rise of former President Donald Trump. Meanwhile in Texas, a principal was suspended after parents accused him of promoting critical race theory based on a letter he had written more than a year earlier, calling for the community to come together and defeat systemic racism in the days following the murder of George Floyd. His contract was subsequently not renewed.

In none of these schools was critical race theory actually being taught, but that is largely beside the point. Rather, these fights make up the latest chapter in the GOP-initiated culture war and are more broadly about how teachers should — and shouldn’t — talk about race and racism in America.

Since January 2021, Republican state legislators have introduced nearly 200 anti-critical race theory bills in 40 states “

The Twisted Logic Behind The Right’s ‘Great Replacement’ Arguments

“This more mainstream version of the replacement theory hides behind justifications that the criticism of changing American demographics is about politics and power. It’s a narrative so prevalent on the right that nearly half of Republicans believe that immigrants are being brought to the country for political gains. According to a poll conducted in December by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 47 percent of Republicans agreed with the statement that “there is a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants who agree with their political views.”

But those justifications are built on false assumptions about American demographics and immigration: that white people will soon be a minority in this country, that immigrants and non-white voters are all Democrats, and that no longer being the majority group means a loss of power. When those assumptions are torn down, the true justifications for these fears become transparent.

The theory’s first inaccurate assumption is that white Americans will soon become a minority population. But using any nuanced reading of the data, that’s not true. Yes, in 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau published a population projection that by the year 2044, non-Hispanic white Americans would no longer be a numerical majority in the country. But not being the majority is not the same as being a minority: Even in that projection, non-Hispanic white Americans would still make up a plurality of the population compared with any other race. And non-Hispanic white Americans are not the only white Americans. When you include American Latinos who identify as solely white, you wind up with “more than 70 percent of the population identifying at least in part as white in 2044 and over two-thirds in 2060,” according to research published last year in the journal “Perspectives on Politics.””

“The same research showed that presenting the demographic-shifts story as “majority-minority by 2044” prompts white Americans to say they feel more anxious and less hopeful. But when you present the same demographic changes in a more nuanced (and accurate) narrative around a rise in multiculturalism and Americans who identify as more than one race, white Americans’ self-reported anxiety was lower, even compared with a control group presented with basic facts about demographic changes with no narrative framing, according to the same study.

It’s almost like inaccurately framing demographic shifts as a zero-sum game leads to inaccurate perceptions among Americans that can amplify fear and resentment.”

“Another plot hole in the mainstream replacement narrative is the assumption that immigrants will solely support the Democratic party. Stefanik’s campaign ran a Facebook ad in September that echoed replacement-theory rhetoric. “Radical Democrats” were planning “a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION,” the ad claimed. “Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.”

Carlson, too, has repeatedly warned of a so-called Democratic plot to “import an entirely new electorate from the Third World and change the demographics of the U.S. so completely they will never lose again.”

But even he concedes that this narrative is flawed, pointing out in his show last week that many non-white and immigrant voters are, in fact, Republican. In the 2020 election, roughly 2 in 5 Latino voters cast a ballot for then-President Donald Trump. And, as my colleague Alex Samuels has written, messaging about racial grievances might, perhaps counterintuitively, attract some Latino voters to the Republican Party. In fact, the GOP attracts voters from every racial group, and while white voters may be its base, not all nonwhite or immigrant voters are Democrats.”

Senate Committee Approves Climate Treaty

“Overall, the presence of these coolants in the atmosphere accounts for about 11 percent of the rise in global average temperatures attributed to man-made increases in greenhouse gases.

Negotiations for the Kigali Amendment phasing down the usage of these gases by 85 percent over the next 15 years were completed in 2016 in Rwanda, and it has, so far, been ratified by nearly 130 other countries.

Bipartisan comity over what is essentially a treaty addressing climate change has been largely achieved because American manufacturers are the leading developers and suppliers of replacement coolants with significantly lower GWPs.

“The business community applauds the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for its bipartisan vote approving the Kigali Amendment for consideration by the full Senate,” reads the joint industry press release. “This is an important step in ensuring the U.S. joins this global effort while accessing international markets that will grow American jobs. It is a win for the economy, the environment, and U.S. leadership.”

Ingesting the proverbial grain of salt, a 2018 industry analysis found that implementing the Kigali Amendment would slightly reduce U.S. consumer cooling costs. Since it is estimated that unabated HFCs would add 0.4 degrees C to projected man-made warming by 2100, ratification would be a relatively cheap way to address the problem of climate change.”

The Pandemic Killed Dissent in Hong Kong

“When Great Britain returned control of Hong Kong to China in 1997, a condition of the transfer was that Beijing would allow the territory to maintain its own government until 2047. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has never liked this agreement, and the COVID-19 pandemic provided the excuse to all but erase the “one country, two systems” distinction.

The CCP began its authoritarian assimilation of Hong Kong in 2019, when Beijing encouraged CCP loyalists in Hong Kong’s legislature to pass a law allowing extradition of residents to mainland China. That proposal sparked pro-democracy protests and a police crackdown in Hong Kong, which captured the world’s attention.

In June 2020, Beijing responded to the pro-democracy movement by requiring Hong Kong to implement a national security law that “introduc[ed] ambiguously defined crimes such as separatism and collusion that can be used to stifle protest,” as The New York Times put it. But the pandemic provided Beijing with an even bigger opportunity to suppress dissent.

Citing public health concerns, Hong Kong postponed its Legislative Council (LegCo) elections for a year. In the interim, Beijing changed LegCo election rules to reduce the number of directly elected seats and to require that candidates pledge their loyalty to mainland China.

With only Beijing-aligned “patriots” on the ballot, CCP loyalists swept the 2021 LegCo elections. Many leading opposition politicians went into exile, while others were jailed. Voter turnout was a paltry 30 percent—the lowest since the handover in 1997. By comparison, a record 71 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the 2019 district council elections. The high turnout was reportedly driven by opposition to the extradition treaty, and pro-democracy candidates won 85 percent of the available seats.

The pandemic also has facilitated suppression of pro-democracy protests. Every June since 1990, residents of Hong Kong had marched and held a vigil in memory of the Tiananmen Square dead. But in 2020, Hong Kong announced that it would extend social distancing restrictions until June 5, the day after the massacre’s anniversary.

Hong Kong’s COVID-19 rules banned public meetings of more than eight people, with a potential penalty of six months in jail. As a result, only a small vigil was held. Organizers nevertheless were arrested and sentenced to up to 14 months in jail. The sentencing judge remarked that they had “belittled a genuine public health crisis.””

Marco Rubio Wants To Fight Abortion and Trans Battles in the Tax Code

“With the passage of state laws intended to restrict access to abortion, some companies like Bumble, Yelp, and Salesforce have announced programs to assist employees who have to travel to other states in order to obtain the procedure. After the apparent leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion which would overturn the right nationwide, Amazon announced that for any employees who have to travel in order to receive an abortion, it would reimburse up to $4,000 annually.

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) responded by threatening legislation.

Employees’ health care costs are typically tax deductible as business expenses for their employers. Rubio’s bill, the No Tax Breaks for Radical Corporate Activism Act, would bar a company from deducting the costs of reimbursements not only for abortions but also for gender-affirming medical treatments for transgender children. In a statement accompanying the legislation, Rubio said, “Our tax code should be pro-family and promote a culture of life.”

But directly disincentivizing behavior is a fundamental misuse of the tax code, and it’s unlikely to work anyway.

To be sure, government policies are inherently incentivizing: For example, laws against robbery and murder are intended to keep people from robbing and murdering. Regarding taxes, people with incomes near the top of their tax brackets are disincentivized to increase their income, to avoid paying a higher rate.

But writing specific incentives into the tax code is an inherent market distortion, where politicians choose what products and activities they think people should be buying and partaking in. This can take the form of cronyism when certain types of products are favored. Even something as seemingly benign and beneficial as a tax credit for purchasing electric vehicles can just become a giveaway to favored companies. Additionally, when a benefit exists, it makes it that much easier for a politician to threaten to take it away: Even the health cost deduction Rubio is targeting is, itself, a distortion that incentivizes employer-provided health insurance plans.

Politicians use the tax code to achieve social policy goals because it is typically easier to insert a targeted tax credit than to pass a bill creating a new welfare program. But in practice, these carve-outs make everything more complicated: When the various COVID-19 relief bills apportioned money for stimulus checks, even with funding for additional staffing, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was slammed with calls from people awaiting their payments. When the tax code is the means by which benefits are distributed, then the tax collectors must also function as a social services agency.

Worse, it’s not even apparent that these benefits have their desired effect. A 2014 study of a tax on high calorie foods showed that such a tax can lead to more purchases of high calorie foods. In 1997, Iris Lav of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank, told The New York Times, “There’s very scant evidence that the tax code has ever changed people’s behavior.”

Ironically for Rubio, this used to be Republican orthodoxy. In 1964, Ronald Reagan declared, “We cannot have [true tax] reform while our tax policy is engineered by people who view the tax as a means of achieving changes in our social structure.” But since then, Republicans as well as Democrats have used the tax system as a shortcut to achieving their desired policy outcomes. As a result,filing one’s annual taxes is an expensive, grueling process.

To the extent that taxation has any legitimate purpose, it is to fund the basic function of the federal government. Anything further, like incentivizing family or “a culture of life,” is simply government coercion by another name.”