Posted on

Biden-Harris team finally get their transition .gov domain

Finally. It only took almost three weeks, but the Biden-Harris transition has officially begun.

On Monday, the General Services Administration gave the green light for the Biden-Harris team to transition from political campaign to government administration, allowing the team to receive government resources like office space, but also classified briefings and secure computers. And, with it, comes a shiny new .gov domain.

Transitioning is an obscure part of the law that’s rarely discussed, in large part because outgoing governments and incoming administrations largely get on and try to maintain continuity of government through a peaceful transition of power. The process is formally triggered by the General Services Administration, the lesser-known federal agency tasked with the basic functioning of government, and allows the incoming administration to receive funds, tools, and resources to prepare for entering government.

But this time around, the agency’s head Emily Murphy had been reluctant to trigger the formal transition period after the Trump campaign filed a number of lawsuits challenging the election.

Murphy finally approved the transition on Monday after Michigan certified its election results.

Up until now, the Biden-Harris team buildbackbetter.com to host its transition website. Now it’s hosted at buildbackbetter.gov, a departure from the ptt.gov domain used by the incoming Obama-Biden administration in 2008.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that until now the Biden-Harris team was using a Google Workspace for email and collaboration, secured with hardware security keys that staff need to log into their accounts. That setup might suffice for an enterprise, but had security experts worried that the lack of government cybersecurity support could make the camp more vulnerable to attacks.

As for the domain, which you might not think much about, the shift to a .gov domain marks a significant step forwards in the camp’s cybersecurity efforts. Government domains, hosted on the .gov domain, are toughened to prevent against domain hijacking or spoofing. In simple terms, they’re far more resilient than your regular web hosting services.

Biden tweeted out the domain marking the change.

Read More

Posted on

President-elect Joseph Biden reportedly plucks Revolution’s Ron Klain as new chief of staff

President-elect Joseph Biden has plucked Ron Klain, a longtime colleague and confidant and the current executive vice president of the venture capital firm Revolution, as his White House chief of staff, reports The New York Times. 

Klain was Biden’s chief of staff for two years during the Obama administration and left his post as chief of staff in 2011 to join Revolution, the firm founded by former AOL chief executive and founder Steve Case. Revolution did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If Klain makes his second entrance into the White House, Biden will be bringing on a chief of staff he’s known for more than 35 years. The duo first worked together in 1989, when the president-elect was a senator and Klain was a newly graduated law student from Harvard Law School. He most recently worked as the White House Ebola Response coordinator from October 2014 to February 2015, and helped as a debate advisor to President Obama and President Clinton, as well as nominees Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.

Klain’s appointment could pacify some of the presumed tension that could occur between startups and the government under the Biden-Harris administration. Biden has been vocal about pursuing aggressive regulation on the tech industry, which could negatively impact behemoths like Google, Apple and Facebook. Klain has spoken up (in TechCrunch!) about how regulatory hurdles could hinder key innovation in startup-land. Klain also helped lead efforts for Higher Ground Labs, an incubator and accelerator focused on politically-focused (and Democrat-loved) startups. While that likely wouldn’t impact Big Tech, it doesn’t hurt that, reportedly, one of Biden’s closest confidants will have a soft spot for startups.

Read More

Posted on

If elected, Biden commits to rejoin climate accord U.S. just abandoned

On the same day that the U.S. officially withdrew from the global pact to reduce emissions that cause climate change, presidential contender Joe Biden committed that he would rejoin the Paris Agreement if elected.

In a tweet late Wednesday, Biden wrote, “Today, the Trump Administration officially left the Paris Climate Agreement. And in exactly 77 days, a Biden Administration will rejoin it.”

The Trump Administration announced that the U.S. would leave the agreement three years ago, in a move that was blasted by venture investors at the time.

“I have always believed that, while we can disagree on the scientific premise behind climate change, we should all agree that advanced energy technologies represent one of the biggest economic opportunities,” said General Catalyst managing director Hemant Taneja at the time. “To give that up is a threat to American prosperity … Our American companies will be at a huge competitive disadvantage globally if they don’t have a market to rely on in their backyard.”

Biden’s decision to rejoin the agreement should come as no surprise given the $2 trillion climate stimulus package that was a major plank of the former Vice President’s campaign.

For the Trump Administration, the official abandonment of the climate agreement was the fulfillment of a campaign promise made in what could be the waning days of its authority.

A permanent American exit from the climate accord would be a huge blow to the international community’s ability to stave off a climate disaster caused by rising temperatures related to greenhouse gas emissions. A year of wildfires, flooding and other climate-related catastrophes have shown how changing temperatures are already wreaking havoc on communities. As the second largest emitter of global carbon dioxide, the U.S. plays an outsized role in the success of any climate change mitigation plan.

The agreement, a centerpiece of the previous Obama Administration in which Biden served as vice president, was designed to limit the emissions that cause global warming so that temperatures would not rise beyond another 2 degrees celsius.

“If Biden wins, then the fact that the withdrawal became final on November 4 really won’t matter,” Todd Stern, who was the top U.S. climate negotiator during the Obama administration, told the Financial Times. “If Trump wins a second term, then it will have much more lasting impact.”

To date, the U.S. is the only country that has formally left the agreement.

Even if a Trump Administration were to eke out a slight electoral college victory and return for a second term, market dynamics could mute the effect of any fossil fuel industry advocacy or stimulus the government may try to initiate.

Simply put, renewable energy is making more economic sense within the U.S. than its fossil fuel competitors. Wind and solar are now basically cost competitive or cheaper than fossil fuels in many markets. The cost of battery storage is also falling dramatically.

A March report from Consumer Reports explained just how much better solar power can be for consumers. “Going solar is a money-saver in the long term, even though startup costs are higher for the consumer,” according to the publication. “Electricity from fossil fuels costs between 5 cents and 17 cents per kilowatt-hour. Solar energy costs average between 3 cents and 6 cents per kilowatt-hour and are trending down, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.”

Beyond market forces, a recalcitrant Trump Administration could be pressured to adopt more aggressive policies to reduce its emissions by international tariffs and potential sanctions, Sarah Ladislaw, a director of the climate change program at the Center for International and Strategic Studies at Tufts University, told the Financial Times..

“It is quite likely that other countries with ambitious emissions reduction targets, like the EU and China, will try to influence US behavior through cross-border carbon tariffs and a push to influence the global financial system to incorporate climate considerations,” she said.

Read More