Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Bad idea of the year, consumer division: Banks now trying to get children hooked on debit cards by enabling parents to use them for giving allowance

By Marc Jampole
If there’s an award for bad idea of the year, non-politics division, the early frontrunner must certainly be giving children their allowance on debit cards. Pushed by banks and app developers, the debit card spares parents the annoying task of getting cash to give the kids for their weekly or monthly allotment or as payment for chores. It also allows them to see all the purchases the kid makes and restrict purchases from certain stores. Many of these new cards attached to apps also give parents the option of designating some of their payments to savings accounts. The past few weeks have seen a very small but persistent media campaign about the paperless allowance, including an article in the New York Times’ “Your Money Advisor” column.
According to the Times’ sympathetic article, financial advocates say that the main benefit of the cards “is that they can prompt parents to talk with their children about money.” Prompt, by the way, means reminds. So even the so-called advocates admit the cards fulfill no real function, since any online calendar or the bugging of the kids for their cash can serve to prompt the parent. Of course, we can’t forget the convenience of not having to stop at the ATM or bank to make sure you have the bucks to pay the little dears. Just load up the cards.
These so-called financial advocates must represent the banks and app companies, because they certainly don’t represent families.
Forget about the fees, which give parents and children less buying power. The prepaid cards deny children the opportunity to learn firsthand what money is and what it can do: With a card, the child is unable to see money accumulate or understand what it means to exchange money for a product or service. With a card, the child doesn’t get the experience—and pleasure—of going to the bank to deposit or withdraw money and seeing principle grow in the passbook or knowing when you see the new deposit appear online the number and denomination of dollars and change it represents. The card thus denies the child the opportunity to use money to learn basic math and financial skills.
Because the child knows or will find out that the parent can use the card to monitor and veto purchases, the child loses the sense of ownership over the money. When the parent designates some of the allowance to savings, it’s not the child saving, it’s the parent. The child is the active saver only when she-he sees the money and makes the decision to put some away. Part of learning how to handle money is to make mistakes with the small amounts children get for their allowance. Parental supervision of how every penny of an allowance is spent is an ultimate form of helicopter parenting, keeping children intellectual slaves to their parents long after they should be stretching out and starting to take responsibility for themselves.
One app company makes cards for children as young as six. Imagine a six-year-old who never gets to convert ones to fives or to count out fifty pennies and stuff them in a paper roll. Moreover, think of the kind of consumer this child will grow into. A consumer who has primarily used debit cards. One who is used to paying fees, and in fact probably grows up not even knowing that his use of the card comes with fees. A consumer whose concept of money is completely abstract. One whose math skills may not translate into a practical understanding of what buying power is and means. In other words, a consumer trained to be a financial rube. Perfect for banks and retailers.
Frankly, I don’t see any use for a debit card, because federal laws free banks to pile on fees. No-fee credit cards I like, but only if you do what I have done since I got my first credit card 48 years ago—pay off the entire balance at the end of every month to avoid incurring any interest or fees. But use of both credit and debit cards should wait until a child has basic math skills and has demonstrated financial responsibility. Most college kids are forced to use credit cards to make purchases at their universities. That’s soon enough to be introduced to this very complicated and fee-ridden way of keeping track of your money.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Editorial: Mean Drunk Justice

There were plenty of reasons to keep Brett Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court, but Charles Grassley wasn’t interested in any of them. Sen. Grassley had one job and that was to get Kavanaugh out of his Judiciary Committee by any means necessary, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would take it from there.

After Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s emotional testimony that Kavanaugh and his friend, both drunk, tried to rape her at a 1982 house party in Bethesda, Md., when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17, Kavanaugh came back with explosive and contemptuous denials. He emphasized that he liked beer but had not been a blackout drunk in high school or college, no matter what his best friend wrote of their drunken high school exploits; his college roommate said Kavanaugh was a heavy drinker who became aggressive and belligerent when he was drunk. Kavanaugh certainly came across at the hearing as a potentially mean drunk.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., in what passes for Republican moderation, made his support for Kavanaugh conditional on an FBI investigation of the charges. The Republican leadership reluctantly agreed, and referred the case to the White House, which apparently told the FBI to make a few calls, but barred interviews with Ford, the two other women who have openly accused Kavanaugh of sexual abuse, or potentially corroborating witnesses, much less Kavanaugh.

Republican leaders knew a wide-ranging inquiry would be disastrous for Kavanaugh’s chances of confirmation, and his problems telling the truth under oath are documented: He had lied repeatedly to the Judiciary Committee in 2004 and 2006 about using documents stolen from Democrats to prepare judicial nominees when he worked on George W. Bush’s White House staff; he lied about which judicial nominees he worked with; and he lied in denying his role developing Bush-era detention and interrogation policies. And that was before the Sept. 27 hearing where he apparently lied about his drinking and sexual history.

So a whitewash was called for and, sure enough, two days before the deadline, the FBI returned a one-page report shown only to senators sworn to secrecy. Apparently they didn’t find proof Kavanaugh raped the girl and didn’t go into whether he committed perjury. Flake and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, two of three Republicans who claimed to be on the fence, said that was good enough for them. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, jumped off the fence, but Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., running for re-election in a state Trump carried by 42 points, supported Kavanaugh, leaving McConnell two votes to spare.

It was an ugly process throughout. Minority President Trump couldn’t resist the opportunity to mock Dr. Ford at a rally Oct. 2 in Mississippi. He may have been playing to the crowd, but he also distracted attention from the New York Times’ blockbuster report that same day exposing shady business dealings of Trump and his family. Far from being the self-made real estate developer who parlayed a $1 million loan from his father into a multi-billion-dollar business empire, it turned out that father Fred Trump used his children to dodge taxes and Donald received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler — he was a millionaire by age 8 — and continuing to this day.

But the master of distraction carried the day as his cruel mockery of Ford, and the laughter of the Mississippi crowd, overshadowed the Times report in the broadcast news.

So Kavanaugh was picked by a president who won 46% of the popular vote and he was confirmed by senators representing 44% of the population. That’s no way to run a government — much less maintain respect for the Supreme Court’s supposed neutrality.

If Democrats take control of the House, they should hold hearings on the administration’s manipulation of the FBI investigation and the extent to which Kavanaugh lied to the Senate.

If Democrats regain the White House and control Congress after the 2020 elections, they should move to expand the size of the court to offset the two illegitimate justices — Kavanaugh as well as Neil Gorsuch. “Changing that majority would not constitute politicizing the court because conservatives have already done this without apology,” E.J. Dionne wrote in the Washington Post Oct. 7.

A simple act of Congress could increase the number of Supreme Court justices to 11 or more.

“Court packing” will cause Republicans to shriek, but the size of the court was changed seven times during the 19th century and Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937 proposed to increase the court’s size by six justices after a conservative bloc on the Supreme Court overturned many of his New Deal programs during his first term.

FDR’s threat in 1937 got a couple conservatives to back down and the court allowed, among other things, Social Security, the National Labor Relations Act and a federal minimum wage. Roosevelt is said to have failed in his “court-packing scheme,” but he won the war against the “economic royalists” whose excesses brought about the Great Depression.

Eighty years later, the economic royalists returned to power under Lying King Donald and they hope Kavanaugh will be a solid fifth vote to reverse the progressive reforms that helped build the world’s greatest middle class. Republican royalists, with occasional help from conservative Democrats, have been undermining unions, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and New Deal reforms that regulated the financial industry, even after the reckless use of financial derivatives in the early 2000s nearly brought down banks that were “too big to fail,” requiring a massive bailout.

Too many working-class Americans have been lured to support the Republican royalists by “culture war” issues such as opposition to abortion, gay rights and gun control, which have obscured the damage Republicans have done to their economic interests.

Republican undermining of unions since the Reagan administration has reduced organized labor’s role as a balance to corporate power, at the expense of working people. The threat of strikes forced unionized industries to increase wages and benefits, and it also forced non-union employers to increase their wages to keep unions out of their business. The system made the US the envy of the world in the economic boom after World War II, as the typical worker’s wages increased along with productivity improvements from the late 1940s through the 1960s, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reported. But in the 1970s, that started to change. From 1973 to 2017, net productivity rose 77%, while the hourly pay of typical workers essentially stagnated — increasing only 12.4% (adjusted for inflation). That corresponds with the decline in union bargaining power.

When Trump got a $1.5 trillion tax cut, which heavily favors billionaires and corporations, through Congress in late 2017, Trump promised it would benefit everyday workers. Of course he was lying. The EPI found for the first half of 2018 very little increase in private-sector compensation — and that was mainly because some businesses used bonuses to attract or keep workers in a time of low employment. Overall compensation rose 7 cents per hour in the first six months of 2018 but actual W-2 wages fell 25 cents per hour.

That’s what depending on the good faith of bosses gets you — breaking even, at best, during a time of full employment and an “economic boom” on Wall Street. And Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court to make sure the “free market” is all you can count on.

Vote Blue no matter who. Even Joe Manchin, who might waver, will do on Nov. 6 as long as he votes for a Democratic majority leader and a Democratic Judiciary Committee chairman in January. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, November 1, 2018

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Copyright © 2018 The Progressive PopulistPO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652

Selections from the November 1, 2018 issue

COVER/Kevin Robillard
Democrats have a shot at winning the Senate — and blocking Trump’s court picks

Mean drunk justice


College unrest: Why Joe Hill, Mother Jones and Cesar Chavez are smiling

RURAL ROUTES/Margot McMillen
You know the type. Do you want him on the court?

Kavanaugh fight turns Fox News white supremacist.
Kavanaugh accuser reacts to confirmation.
Prominent conservative says GOP must be destroyed.
GOP mulls Murkowski reprimand.
Dems have narrow edge in key House districts.
Climate report predicts crisis as early as 2040.
Dairy farmers say NAFTA redo won’t solve milk problems.
Postal unions fight privatization. Steel booming but workers fuming.
Steel is booming, but workers are fuming.
No 'States' Rights' fo Trump when California wants open internet.
FCC's 5G vote blasted as handout to carriers.
Trump attacks Dems for immigration billl that does't exist.
Trump says China can pay for pre-existing conditions.
Wait, Judge Kavanaugh told us he would be fair and impartial ...

Iowa is a trade casualty

We need to talk about masculinity

The toxic public unraveling of a would-be justice

The mean drunk and the mendacity

Trump’s NAFTA 2.0 is a win for big oil — but a huge loss for workers and the environment

Brett Kavanaugh does not have proper judicial temperament or neutrality to be a Supreme Court Justice

A tipping point: Kavanaugh and Trump

Tax carbon or watch temperature continue to rise

HARD TRUTH/Sally Herrin 
Out of time

Under cover of Kavanaugh, Republicans passed the huge tax cuts for the wealthy

Trump subsidizes companies that send jobs overseas

HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas
Methane and you

Is Brett Kavanaugh the kind of guy you’d cast as a judge?

BOOK REVIEW/Heather Seggel 
A republic ... If you can keep it

Wages of Trump: The sequel

Recognizing the global climate crisis

Discrimination against female workers in Asia: A neoliberal paradigm

Bad farm policy contributes to natural disasters

SATIRE/Rosie Sorenson 
The make-a-reprobate-great-again redemption tour

How do you access ‘The Shield’?

BOOK REVIEW/Seth Sandronsky
Undoing patriarchy

Bethany Hamilton is ‘Unstoppable’

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Time to do more than just protest immigration policies. Comment on a bad new regulation Trump wants to inflict on immigrants

By Marc Jampole
The latest Trump scheme to suppress immigration is to give immigrants a Sophie’s choice—two equally onerous options: either forgo all government benefits or forgo the option of becoming a citizen.
Immigrants must meet many qualifications before they can obtain permanent residency and citizenship. Part of the process is the requirement to undergo what is called the “public charge assessment,” which evaluates, on a case-by-case basis, whether an individual applying for permanent residence is likely to become dependent on the government for public assistance. If an applicant is categorized as a potential “public charge,” immigration services can reject their green card application. The “public charge assessment” has been part of federal immigration law for decades, but up to now has always been narrowly defined. The proposed rule, however, would make the assessment consider many more federal programs than in the past, including, for the first time, health and nutrition programs.
Critics rightly point out that this proposed new regulation will discourage poor people, including virtually all refugees, from crossing the border, and encourage many to return to their country of origin. Critics assume that the regulation won’t affect the wealthy, who don’t need benefits. But that ends up being a miniscule number of immigrants, as most people in all countries are poor or middle class. Much of the middle class in the United States has to take government benefits like subsidized healthcare, disaster relief or unemployment compensation from time to time, so we can imagine that many if not most immigrants will fear having the same experience and therefore face the dilemma of deciding between the security of citizenship or the pressing needs of food, shelter, healthcare, education and disaster relief.
The new regulation will thus negatively affect virtually all immigrants from all countries. To view it as another example of the rich getting special treatment while the poor suffer is to miss the broader problem: that it will lead to far fewer immigrants, which will be disastrous to the American economy. We are already facing labor shortages, which are expected to grow as more baby boomers retire. Caregiving, agricultural, hospitality and construction are just a few of the industries already crying out for new employees.
A heap of current research proves that immigrants—legal and illegal—increase the rate of employment of native-born Americans and also increase the average wages of the native-born. Immigrants also pose less of a crime threat than native-born Americans, since both legal and illegal immigrants commit fewer crimes overall and fewer violent crimes.
In other words, if we stem the flow of immigrants, as the Trump administration intends to do, we shrink the economy and the average wage while increasing the crime rate.
There is still something we can do to prevent this awful new regulation from taking effect. We are in the middle of the comment period on the regulation, a time when anyone—corporations, think tanks and individuals—can publicly comment. By law, the administration must take those comments into account when creating the final rules.
The easiest way to comment is to follow the instructions on a special web page set up by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), the lobbying arm of the Quakers. Now FCNL is framing the issue primarily as one of rich and poor, and they are absolutely right that the rich will end up having a much easier time to citizenship under this nasty reg. But don’t let that cloud the main point. This regulation will lead to far fewer immigrants at all economic levels, from all countries, which goes against the best interests of every American.
You can also go to a special web page that the pro-immigration nonprofit organization, the Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign, for an easy way to make your comment on the regulation.
The deadline to make comments is October 21, so don’t tarry. Link to FCNL or Protecting Immigrant Families today, follow the instructions, and tell the Trump administration you oppose the reg.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Research shows carbon markets don’t reduce pollution as much as regulation, yet world governments insist of carbon trading to address global warming

By Marc Jampole
The Spring 2018 issue of Jewish Currents had my latest “Left is right” article that uses the latest research to show that the left position on environmental issues is the correct one: that the government has a role in addressing climate change and that the best way to do so is with regulation and not market solutions.
There are no current plans to post the article on the Jewish Currents website, so I thought I would give you a taste of it in hopes that you will buy the issue to read the whole piece, and maybe even start a subscription. Jewish Currents is a leading left-wing journal of politics and the arts.
Here’s the excerpt:
Instead of regulation, conservatives and even some liberals have proposed letting the market fix what the market broke. Their solution is government-administered markets in which an agency gives or sells a set number of permits (or credits) to emit specific quantities of a pollutant over a specific period of time, requiring polluters to hold permits equal to their emissions. Polluters that want to increase their emissions must buy permits from others willing to sell. In this fantasy, polluters who can reduce emissions most cheaply will sell their permits to heavy polluters, achieving the emission reduction at the lowest cost to society. This solution—called “cap and trade”—is embraced by most governments of the world today and many Democrats, including former president Barack Obama.
Tamra Gilbertson and Oscar Reyes, both of the Carbon Trade Watch/Transnational Institute, demonstrate in Carbon Trading: How It Works and Why It Fails that carbon trading markets are ”a multi-billion dollar scheme whose basic premise is that polluters can pay someone else to clean up their mess so they don’t have to.” For one thing, Gilbertson and Reyes argue, the process of setting emission levels is easily tainted by lobbying and politics, resulting in too many permits issued, and major polluters granted additional revenue streams. Moreover, carbon markets do nothing to speed the transition to solar, wind and other alternatives, but merely manage the use of fossil fuels.
As an article of faith, however, right-wingers believe that simple regulation, be it setting efficiency standards for appliances or assessing fines on companies emitting too much greenhouse gas, stifles the freedom to innovate that they fantasize produces more efficient and higher quality solutions. The reality is that companies will “innovate” to meet a regulation just as readily as they innovate to adapt to any market change. The claim that market-based solutions like emissions trading are “less bureaucratic, less centralized, less coercive, and more supportive of innovation than other forms of regulation does not stand up to scrutiny,” write Gilbertson and Reyes.
Recent history serves as some guide here. Starting in the 1990s, both the U.S. and the European Union decided to combat acid rain by reducing the levels of sulfur dioxide in the air. As stipulated by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, the U.S. established a sulfur dioxide trading scheme, while the European Union instituted a series of strict regulations. Using the cap-and-trade strategy, the U.S. obtained mediocre results, reducing sulfur dioxide emissions by 43.1 percent by the end of 2007. Over the same time span, EU countries reduced emissions by a robust 71%.
Yet nations persist in creating carbon markets. For example, China recently announced it was forming a giant national market to trade credits for the right to emit greenhouse gases; the New York Times noted that the trading plan “is not a sure bet to succeed.”
The conceptual problem with cap-and-trade is that it is a market mechanism meant to fix an inherent flaw in the market: The health and environmental costs of fossil fuel extraction and use are not assessed to the companies involved, but are spread to society. This flaw in the overall market repeats itself in the carbon-trading market because it is inherent in all markets not to consider hidden costs to third parties. Further, the reduction of pollution to the lowest common denominator of money conceals the absolute value of an unpolluted environment not threatened by excessive warming. When we reduce all values and inputs to money, it is easy to neglect the overall objectives of society — e.g., the protection of people, the ending of hunger, the maintenance of a clean, safe, biologically diverse environment. These values are better expressed and pursued through regulations and mandates established by a democratic government than by the “logic” of the marketplace.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

When Conservatives say regulation kills jobs, they are ignoring a pile of research that says otherwise

By Marc Jampole
The Spring 2018 issue of Jewish Currents had my latest “Left is right” article that uses the latest research to show that the left position on environmental issues is the correct one: that the government has a role in addressing climate change and that the best way to do so is with regulation and not market solutions.
There are no current plans to post the article on the Jewish Currents website so I thought I would give you a taste of it in hopes that you will buy the issue to read the whole piece, and maybe even start a subscription. Jewish Currents is a leading left-wing journal of politics and the arts.
Here’s the excerpt:
It is too early to say with 100% ironclad confidence that government intervention can work to address the damage of climate change. But once we accept the premise that it does — as do virtually all governmental and economic experts around the globe except conservatives in the United States —  it is easy to demonstrate that government solution such as regulations and mandates can effectively address a changing climate, while market-based solutions are bound to fail.
The case against government regulation to control and reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases or promote the development and use of alternative energy is built on the myth that every additional government regulation leads to a reduction in jobs and hurts the economy. An overwhelming amount of evidence shows that regulation has little, if any, impact on the number of jobs in the economy in either direction. The best start for reviewing the research on the impact of regulation is Does Regulation Kill Jobs, a collection of 14 articles by a total of 23 leading economic and governmental researchers. In the introductory chapter, the editors conclude that the number of jobs lost through enhanced regulation virtually always will equal the number of jobs gained because of the regulation. They also compare the impact of regulation on jobs in cleaner, less regulated parts of the country with that in dirtier, more regulated areas; these studies indicate relatively few job losses without even taking intoaccount job creation that the regulation produces elsewhere..
As Wayne Gray (Clark University) and Ronald J. Shadbegian (Georgetown University, now at the Environmental Protection Administration) detail in another chapter, the overall effect of pollution abatement on employment is very small: a 10 percent increase in overall abatement costs typically leads to a loss of roughly thirty jobs in industries averaging 40,000 employees. Moreover, they report, the cost to buy, install and maintain pollution-abatement equipment is quite small, measuring about 0.4 percent of all manufacturing shipments (which is far from the entire economy). Coglianese and Carrigan conclude: “The empirical evidence actually provides little reason to expect that U.S. economic woes can be solved by reforming the regulatory process.”
Having failed to prove that regulations remove jobs from the economy — and in fact fully demonstrating that the number of jobs gained through regulation equals the number lost —many economists are now busy trying to quantify the loss in lifetime earnings, self-esteem and other factors that negatively affect those who do lose their jobs.
There can be no doubt that those who lose their jobs because a dirty plant closes down or a toxic material is no longer permitted will suffer, and that there are political costs to that suffering (see: Wisconsin’s, Pennsylvania’s, and Ohio’s swing for Trump in the 2016 election). For every worker who suffers, however, another gains a job in inspection, compliance, or the development and manufacturing of non-polluting technologies. It comes out about even, unless the new jobs pay less, or the newly unemployed receive a lower level of unemployment compensation and other government aid. That’s not a problem with regulation, but reflects critical flaw in America’s advanced free-market economy: a low minimum wage, great inequality in income and wealth, a diminished labor union movement, and the decades-long shredding of the social safety net.
These analyses of jobs lost and gained exclude many substantial benefits of governmental action to address climate change. For that, we can turn to the White House Office of Management and Budget reports to Congress on the benefits and costs of federal regulations.
The agency’s 2016 report, for example, provides a stunning justification for environmental regulation: In the previous ten-year period, thirty-seven EPA regulations produced between $176 billion and $678 billion of benefits (in 2014 dollars) while costing between $43billion and $51billion. That means for every dollar spent on conforming to EPA regulations, the country benefited anywhere from $3.45 to $15.70. Conservatives are ignoring the evidence when they repeat time and time again that environmental regulation hurts the economy and reduces jobs.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Early European settlers in North America ignored weather patterns with disastrous results. Lesson: government must address global warming

By Marc Jampole

The Spring 2018 issue of Jewish Currents had my latest “Left is right” article that uses the latest research to show that the left position on environmental issues is the correct one: that the government has a role in addressing climate change and that the best way to do so is with regulation and not market solutions.
There are no current plans to post the article on the Jewish Currents website so I thought I would give you a taste of it in hopes that you will buy the issue to read the whole piece, and maybe even start a subscription. Jewish Currents is a leading left-wing journal of politics and the arts.
Here’s the excerpt:
Another recent book about how weather affects human history, historian Sam White’s (Ohio State) A Cold Welcome: The Little Ice Age and Europe’s Encounter with North America, reminds us that the 21st century is not the first time that Europeans in North America have ignored the climate or tried to impose their will on it, thereby creating human disasters. In the 16th century, several European nations founded a number of settlements in North America, yet any attempt to colonize north of Florida ended disastrously with crop failures, deaths from freezing, famine, cannibalism, and retreat. White documents how European arrogance in reaction to the Little Ice Age, which peaked in the 1500s, contributed to their many failed settlement attempts.
Following the Greeks and Romans, the European science of that time postulated that all geographic regions at every latitude would have the same weather. The weather in New York would be the same as in Madrid, in Quebec as in Paris, in the north of Canada as in London. In every case, of course, the weather was and is much colder and subject to more extremes in the North American locale than in the European city at the same latitude. Despite the evidence before their eyes, however, European settlers and adventurers assumed and prepared for the milder European clime. Promoters of North American settlements who had experienced the harsh North American winters of the Little Ice Age first hand nevertheless painted a rosy picture of mild climes and long growing seasons for the folks back home. Royal governments, which commissioned and financed the settlements, tended to believe this nonsense.
Europeans also ignorantly assumed that the same crops and domesticated animals they cultivated in Europe would transfer readily to the New World, and that they could grow the crops at the same time of year. Thus attempts by the Spanish to grow winter wheat and barley and raise goats and sheep in Florida ended in complete failure. Bad harvest after bad harvest led to cannibalism during the “starving time” that the English colony at Jamestown endured later in the century. Like the Spanish, the English ignored the empirical truth of the weather they encountered — and the recommendations of Native Americans — instead arrogantly persisting in ideas disproved time and again.
Europeans finally learned the way humans have always learned: through observation of empirical phenomena and the accumulation of evidence. With an assist from the warming climate, Europeans applied the knowledge gained from observation and learned how to survive and thrive in North America, building permanent encampments from the beginning of the 17th century onward.
We are just at the beginning of studying how groups of humans have responded to climate change through recorded history. The examples of the Roman Empire and the European early experience in North America came during the only periods of sudden weather change in the 2100 years before the 20th century, and suggest that organized intervention under the aegis of government has often helped human populations adjust to the effects of climate change, while ignoring climate change leads to disaster. Other examples — the actions of the Egyptian government to combat the famine described in Genesis, the British and French governments’ differing responses to the Black Plague, and the lack of response of the Ming dynasty to the famine of the 1660s — all strengthen the premise that government intervention works a lot better than doing nothing. Keep in mind that until about 1800, human activity was not a major factor in causing temperatures to turn warmer or colder, and that it took another century to develop the tools to measure its impact.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Editorial: Supreme Power Play

Senate Republican leaders continued to insist they would put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court despite mounting stories of his sexual misconduct in high school and college.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told a crowd of conservatives at the Values Voters Summit Sept. 22 in Washington that the Senate was going to “plow right through” on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, dismissing the possibility that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony about Kavanaugh’s alleged attempt to sexually assault her at a Bethesda, Md., house party in 1982 would derail the nomination.

When McConnell made his proclamation to the cheering crowd, Senate Republican staffers were aware that Deborah Ramirez was also alleging that Kavanaugh sexually abused her during a drunken dorm party at Yale University in the 1983-84 school year. Senate Republicans called to accelerate the timing of the committee vote. After The New Yorker on Sept. 24 reported her account that Kavanaugh thrust his penis in her face at the party, McConnell characterized the allegations against the judge as a “smear campaign” and, with contempt for the rising outrage of women, promised Kavanaugh would get an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor “in the near future.”

Michael Avenatti, the attorney best known for representing Stormy Daniels, also reported he was representing a third woman who had “credible information” about allegations of “gang rape” involving Kavanaugh, his friend Mark Judge and others at house parties in the Washington, D.C. area during the early 1980s.

McConnell has been draining good faith from the Senate since 2009, when, as Senate Republican leader, he led the opposition as Barack Obama became president with Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. McConnell determined to use the filibuster, which required 60 votes to move legislation, to block Obama at every turn as he sought to stimulate the economy and pull it out of the recession that started in the last year of George W. Bush’s administration.

McConnell was adamant that Republicans thwart the Democrat’s plans. Vice President Joe Biden told Michael Grunwald, in The New New Deal, the 2012 book on the making of the economic stimulus, that during the transition seven different Republican senators told Biden that “McConnell had demanded unified resistance” to make sure Obama did not succeed. In October 2010 McConnell admitted to National Journal, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

In 2009, Democrats had a relatively small period of time with a supermajority of 60 votes, as Sen. Ted Kennedy had a seizure during Obama’s inaugural luncheon and he never returned to vote in the Senate. Kennedy died in August 2009 and his seat was temporarily filled by Democrat Paul Kirk on Sept. 24, 2009, which finally gave Democrats 60 votes in the Senate — for all of 14 weeks, through Feb. 4, 2010, when Republican Scott Brown won Kennedy’s seat in a special election.

Under McConnell, Republicans also filibustered Obama’s judicial nominees until then-Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, in 2013 was forced to eliminate the filibuster for presidential appointees and lower-court judges. The number of votes needed for presidential appointees was reduced from 60 to 51 votes, a simple majority, so bipartisanship no longer was needed on those nominations.

When Republicans gained the Senate majority in 2015, McConnell again slowed down consideration of Obama’s nominees for judicial positions. In the most notorious case, after Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death in Texas in February 2016, McConnell refused to allow a hearing on Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy, Merrick Garland, the moderate chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. McConnell even refused to allow Senate votes on 25 of Obama’s judicial nominees who had advanced from the Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support, as the majority leader ran out the clock with the 2016 election approaching.

Senate Republicans kept 103 judicial vacancies unfilled, including the Supreme Court seat, and handed them over to Donald Trump when he was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017. That was nearly double the 54 openings Obama inherited from George W. Bush. Trump let the far-right Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation draw up lists of reliably right-wing candidates and McConnell removed the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees — which had been the last position requiring bipartisan approval — to speed Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and other judicial nominees through the Senate. As of Sept. 4, Trump had appointed 26 circuit court judges, with a median age of 49. Obama appointed 55 circuit judges in eight years, with a median age of 53.

So now, with the opportunity to fill a second seat on the Supreme Court, Trump picked Kavanaugh, a partisan who worked for Kenneth Starr on the inquisition of Bill and Hillary Clinton in the late 1990s.

Kavanaugh later worked in George W. Bush’s White House, helping to push partisan judges to confirmation using documents stolen from Democrats, and he later lied under oath about the use of those stolen materials during hearings in 2004 and 2006 when he was up for his seat on the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Perhaps what appealed to Trump in his selection for the Supreme Court was Kavanaugh’s opinion that Republican presidents should not be investigated. That would put a vote on Trump’s side on the Supreme Court in what appears to be the inevitable showdown when Trump tries to shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation. The appearance that Kavanaugh also is a sexual predator just gives Trump something else in common with the purported jurist. But Kavanaugh also carries radical GOP views against healthcare protections, environmental protection, consumer protection, workers’ rights and women’s rights. He is presumed to be a fifth vote to overturn women’s right to abortion, but he also could be the fifth vote to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which would eliminate the mandate that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions and allow insurers to reinstate limits on “lifetime” coverage, which could make your lifetime a lot shorter if you can’t pay for the difference.

Don’t feel sorry for Kavanaugh having to account for his sexual predations. Remember his recommendation, in a memo to Ken Starr, how President Clinton should be questioned regarding his past sexual behavior: “I have tried hard to bend over backwards and to be fair to him and to think of all reasonable defenses to his pattern of behavior. In the end, I am convinced that there really are none. The idea of going easy on him at the questioning is thus abhorrent to me,” Kavanaugh wrote. “He should be forced to account for all of that and to defend his actions. It may not be our job to impose sanctions on him, but it is our job to make his pattern of revolting behavior clear — piece by painful piece.”

As we go to press, Trump has reiterated his support for Kavanaugh, who is determined to go ahead with the process, no matter how many women come up with accusations against him. Of course, either the White House or Kavanaugh could decide tomorrow to withdraw and let Trump pick another right-wing judge with a cleaner record to make sure they get another “winger” confirmed to the high court before this Congress adjourns in December.

It’s still important to vote Democratic if you are in a state with a contested Senate election Nov. 6. If Democrats flip two seats held by Republicans — and at least four are in play, in Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee and Texas — and if Dems hold onto their incumbents, they will regain the Senate majority, they can shut down the flow of right-wing judges onto federal courts, possibly keep Anthony Kennedy’s old seat open, and block all sorts of damage Republicans hope to do to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to pay for the tax cuts they gave to billionaires. — JMC

Editor's Note: The headline on this was changed from "Supreme Embarrassment" in the printed edition after the Sept. 27 Judiciary Committee hearing in which the Republican majority refused to refer to the FBI Christine Blasey Ford's accusation that Kavanaugh tried to rape her, refused to allow witnesses to corroborate Dr. Blasey Ford's account and also refused to hear Deborah Ramirez's and Julie Swetnick's claims to be victims of sexual abuse by Kavanaugh, but instead proceeded to plow on through to approve Kavanaugh's nomination. But Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., forced Senate leaders to ask President Trump to order the FBI to conduct a review of the accusations against Kavanaugh lasting no more than one week, saying he would not vote to approve Kavanaugh without that review.

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2018

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Selections from the October 15, 2018 issue

COVER/Paul Mason
Ten years since the financial crisis we’re still getting screwed

Supreme power play


Ohio officials show no grace

RURAL ROUTES/Margot McMillen
Thought for food as farmers hit the wall

Data shows little evidence tax cuts trickled down to workers.
Trump is biggest middle-class tax raiser of all time.
GOP Senate candidate vows to protect pre-existing conditions while working to end ACA.
Pharma exec claims ‘moral requirement’ to raise drug price 400%.
In crosshairs of ‘right-to-work,’ Kentucky bourbon workers strike.
Trump cuts Head Start, cancer research to fund child detention.
Trump passes 5,000 lies.
US is second-biggest lower from climate change economically.
US ambassador Haley conradicts Giuliani, says US notseeking regime change in Iran after terror attack.
Electric car batteries' 'second life' could be clean energy game changer.
Despite progressive rebranding, Nike still donates more to GOP.
Keeping Kavanaugh off court more important to Maine and Alaska than re-electing Collins and Murkowski.
Trump judges make it easier for prosecutors to convict innocents ...

Monsanto-Bayer merger hurts farmers and consumers

Why women don’t report sexual assault

Mr. Vice President, you are one big phony

A new roadmap for getting change done

Cue the visigoths

Suspicions confirmed, Woodward on Trump

Two pot bills pave the way for better health research, decriminalization

The view from Iowa: Where immigrants are at the heart of America’s culture war

BOOK REVIEW/Heather Seggel
Stay nasty 

Nobody in the White House is part of ‘The Resistance’

HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas
Beware The Bill

Table manners make the candidate

New legislation would put the brakes on wave of ag mega-mergers

Who runs the police?

The rhinestone cowboy

Men’s bodies and the politics of abortion

Brain injuries, US military and NFL

Of course, it’s racial

Henry Ford would fire Ford CEO Jim Hackett

Rise above the clergy scandal

Birth and death of joke tellers

SATIRE/Rosie Sorenson
Tell all, tell fast

Michael Moore turns up the heat in Fahrenheit 11/9

Analyses of the Roman climate show government action to address climate change works

By Marc Jampole

The Spring 2018 issue of Jewish Currents had my latest “Left is right” article that uses the latest research to show that the left position on environmental issues is the correct one: that the government has a role in addressing climate change and that the best way to do so is with regulation and not market solutions.
There are no current plans to post the article on the Jewish Currents website, so I thought I would give you a taste of it in hopes that you will buy the issue to read the whole piece, and maybe even start a subscription. Jewish Currents is a leading left-wing journal of politics and the arts.
Here’s the excerpt:
There are two conceptual differences between the left and the right when it comes to the environment and environmental policy. The first difference is fundamental: The left believes it is appropriate for the government to coordinate or dictate action to respond to environmental degradation and climate change, whereas the right questions the effectiveness of any governmental solution that impedes the freedom of individuals or corporations. The second difference is tactical: Once a nation or a group of nations has decided that government intervention is necessary, leftists prefer simple regulation, whereas right-wingers insist on complicated, market-based solutions like carbon trading. Readers may immediately think that I’m leaving out the fundamental issue of whether global warming is actually occurring and, if so, whether humans have caused it. In fact, that question has been decided by science.
Recent research gives us a fresh perspective on the impact of climate change on past societies, and the ways that past governments reacted to sudden modifications of weather patterns. Historians are poring over statistics from carbon dating, tree rings, ice bores, human records of harvests, food prices and plagues, population estimates and fossils to understand how weather has affected humans in the past. Although the discipline of history has only recently begun investigating the impact of climate on past civilizations, a fair amount of research already suggests that government intervention works better than denying the realities of weather.
Before the industrial revolution and the development of vaccines and advanced agricultural techniques and sanitation systems, sudden environmental change typically led to famines and epidemics. A decade of droughts or cold summers could ruin enough harvests to create widespread hunger. As classicist Kyle Harper (University of Oklahoma) details in The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease and the End of an Empire, a change in temperature could also force a carrier of disease such as rodents or mosquitos to move to a new region and infect human populations already weakened by famine.
Harper finds that weather change is implicated in the entire history of the Empire. From circa 200 [BCE] to 150 [CE], the Roman world had such good weather that climatologists call the period the “Roman Climate Optimum—warm, wet, and stable across much of the territory the Romans conquered. In an agricultural economy, these conditions were a major boost. The population swelled yet there was still enough food to feed everyone. But from the middle of the 2nd century, the climate became less reliable. The all-important annual Nile flood became erratic. Droughts and severe cold spells became more common. The Climate Optimum became much less optimal.
According to The Fate of Rome, the unrest throughout the Empire in the second half of the 2nd century is tied to cooling weather at the end of the Climate Optimum and the epidemic, probably of smallpox, that it helped to cause. Two hundred years later, a large and significant drought in the Asian steppes turned the Huns into “armed climate refugees on horseback.” In the 530s and 540s, a series of violent volcanoes, highlighted by the “year without summer” in 536, ushered in the Late Antique Little Ice Age, which saw the greatest decline in the energy the Earth receives from the sun over the past 2,000 years. This Late Antique Ice Age likely led to the first known outbreak of bubonic plague in 541. Over the next century or so, the Eastern Roman Empire’s population fell by as much as 50 percent, as the plague recurred about every ten years.
How did the Roman Empire react to these weather crises? Harper documents that the Roman governments took aggressive action to ameliorate the damaging impact of climate change on the economy and society. Because the emperors and their advisors perceived the menace of climate change as epidemics, their actions primarily related to population management: From Augustus onward, the Roman state penalized childlessness and rewarded fecundity in its policies. About 30 years after the Antonine plague of 165 to 180 CE, Caracalla took the unprecedented step of granting citizenship to all non-slave residents of the Empire, leading to an infusion of talent, growth of the imperial bureaucracy, and the dissemination of Roman laws and customs throughout imperial territory. Diocletian and Constantine’s answer to the Cyprian Plague in the 250s—which devastated the population and led to severe food shortages—was more government control of the economy and the military, producing the economic good times of the 4th century
Justinian, however, ruling from 527 to 565, could not add new peoples into the imperial system in his response to the disasters of the Late Antique Little Ice Age because there was no additional population left to integrate. Instead, writes Harper, Justinian built cisterns, aqueducts, granaries, and transport depots, reclaimed floodplains, and moved riverbeds, trying to “control the flux of nature.” But in the end, the Eastern Empire could not do enough to overcome the depopulation caused by a severe cooling of the Earth that lasted about two hundred years.