The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Part 1: What’s all this, then?

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In Part 1, I’ll outline the broad framework and some key provisions of the TPP. In Part 2, I’ll address the secrecy issue, the  corporate make-up of the advisory committees, and offer some brilliant thoughts.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an international trade agreement under negotiation among 12 member countries/Parties: the US, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. This agreement, if approved, would encompass 40% of world GDP, one-third of all global exports, and almost half of the world’s foreign direct investment. If it goes through, it will end up covering about 60% of our own foreign trade. Due to this enormous scope, what’s agreed upon here will have impacts on trade rules for decades to come. I’m going to explain what I know about the major provisions of the TPP, and give you a rundown of points of interest and/or controversy.

But before I do that, you need to know this: I can’t read the official text of the TPP. It’s secret. Not classified, exactly, but secret from the general public. In fact, those who are cleared to read it have to agree that they won’t talk about it. So, as Michael Wessel explains, this presents a hilarious Catch-22: you can’t criticize what you can’t read. If you’re cleared to read it, you can’t talk about the specifics of what you’ve read. If you can’t talk about the specifics, President Obama can slam you for not being specific in your criticisms. BAM. SUCK IT, CRITICS Continue reading

Why we can’t have nice things, Part 532: Our electricity situation

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One question I’m often asked is why low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuel energy haven’t taken off here to the extent that they have in other countries. Clearly, there isn’t just one reason. We have LOTS of ways to avoid progress! Today I’d like to explain one reason among many, because I think it illuminates a fundamental philosophical mistake in how we think about energy. We will be talking today about demand response resources. 

If you’re planning out how to meet energy needs for a given region over the next few years, you’re working out a balance between supply and demand. In the electricity game, generation resources are suppliers who generate megawatt-hours of electricity; e.g., power plants, wind farms, etc. You need to know how much electricity can be reliably generated, when, and where. But you also need to be able to predict and (to an extent) control demand. Enter demand response resources. DRRs are ways to reduce demand from the consumer end. This can be done a number of ways: reducing use during critical times, increasing efficiency of delivery, shutting the goddamn door, for crying out loud, were you born in a fucking barn, etc.

Here are some examples of demand response resources: Continue reading

Jen Reads: the REINS Act… so you don’t have to!

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I made an announcement last year to the effect of “Don’t get me started on the REINS Act, man,”  but Rand Paul did not heed my warning. So this is what you get: me, started on this bill. You need to know about it because it already passed the House last year and has a decent shot of passing the Senate. That’s probably because the author of the Senate version is Rand Paul, who recently announced his candidacy for president. I’ll summarize it and give you my take (hint: no).

What is it? The REINS (Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny) Act proposes that major federal rules must be approved by both chambers of Congress. Congress would have 70 legislative days to approve a major rule via joint resolution, or it’s considered disapproved. Each rule submission would have to include a cost-benefit analysis, including a jobs report. Continue reading

Jen Reads the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act… so you don’t have to!

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Indiana’s governor signed the state’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law this week, and if you get your information solely from memes, you either think this means the jack-booted government thugs have once more been driven back from the doorsteps of God-fearing Americans, OR that “Straights Only” lunch counters will be popping up on every corner. What is it actually about?

I’m going to argue that this law does not open up any new paths for Indiana businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. You careful readers will note that this implies Indiana businesses can already discriminate on this basis. That is correct. It’s my contention that this law was passed as groundwork for a much larger, much more evil project. Let’s get to it, shall we? Continue reading