Good Day Sky Dancers!
The Trumpist regime is sneaking a lot of bad policy in while all of us are focusing on the things the media wants to put on TV, Trump is definitely feeding our Treasury, our people, and our Country’s gifts of nature to his cronies. Here’s some links on what the Bureau of Land Management is doing to roll back land and animal protection and to ensure every bit of nature in the country is turned into oil, gas, and a dust bowl.
From The New Republic: The Trump Official Who Could Obliterate Public Lands. Bureau of Land Management Director William Perry Pendley believes the oil and gas industry should be allowed to plunder the country’s natural resources.”
Pendley, a 74-year-old former Marine who ran the MSLF from 1981 until his appointment last year at the BLM, pursued Watt’s vision with admirable tenacity and has continued to pursue it in his new office. This month, he greenlighted rampant expansion of oil and gas drilling on previously off-limits areas, including on one million acres in central California. On January 17, he announced the loosening of regulations for the public lands cattle industry, making it easier for livestock operators to violate federal environmental laws and not face consequences. He has sowed chaos at BLM by uprooting long-standing Washington D.C. staff with a forced move of the agency’s headquarters to Grand Junction, Colorado, where energy companies rule the roost. The goal, his critics say, is to bring BLM regulators into closer quarters with the oil and gas industry to be more easily captured. In response, staffers in the D.C. quarters have attempted to unionize: The National Treasury Employees Union filed a petition to represent BLM employees with the Federal Labor Relations Authority in December.
Pendley’s actions are accompanied by extremist and inflammatory rhetoric supporting lawlessness on the public lands. Pendley has praised the criminal Cliven Bundy clan, whose infamous armed standoffs against federal land regulators amounted to acts of domestic terrorism. When Bundyite militiamen pointed sniper rifles at BLM law officers in Nevada, in 2014, and took over at gunpoint the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016—in both instances announcing their willingness to kill federal law officers if need be—Pendley cheered in the pages of National Review, reiterating the Bundy family’s crackpot theory that the Constitution forbids federal ownership of land.
In an op-ed published last November in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Pendley stated it is now policy that BLM law officers will defer to self-proclaimed “constitutionalist” county sheriffs who have vowed not to enforce federal environmental laws on public lands. Pendley’s Review-Journal piece was “a dog whistle to the extremists of the anti-public-lands movement,” wrote Erik Molvar, executive director of the Western Watersheds Project, an environmental nonprofit in Idaho. That’s in part because of the belief system of the “constitutionalist” sheriffs, not mentioned in Pendley’s piece. The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which Pendley has long claimed as an ally, declares on its website that “federal agencies now claiming control of land within a state should be drastically downsized and/or dismantled. County sheriffs in these states should take their rightful position and use their authority to assist in the transfer of control of the land.”
Dennis McLane, who was deputy chief of law enforcement at BLM from 1996 to 2003, explained to me how this would shape out on the ground. County sheriffs allied in the CSPOA, he said, would serve as the local vanguard for the evisceration of federal public lands regulations. “In many western counties,” McLane told me, “the sheriffs would use their newfound authority to just ignore the enforcement of federal resource laws.” In other words, it would be a free-for-all of extractive interests engaging in lawless behavior for maximum profits—the vision of James Watt and the MSLF.
The New York Times Reports that” “U.S. Moves Ahead on Development Plans for Utah Monuments Trump Shrank” via Reuters.
The U.S. Interior Department on Thursday finalized land use plans for two Utah national monuments that President Donald Trump shrank soon after taking office, a move environmental groups said would leave cultural sites vulnerable to destruction and boost development in pristine wilderness.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proceeded with the plans despite pending litigation challenging the 2017 proclamation by Trump that slashed the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
BLM officials told reporters in a call that the land use plans for the Grand Staircase-Esclalante monument, as well as 860,000 acres (348,030 hectares) that were excluded from the monument by Trump, were necessary because the existing plan had not been updated in 20 years and that the number of visitors to the area had exploded in that time.
“Implementing these plans means that the BLM can improve visitor services and support local businesses and permitees and help them thrive, help the economy here, all while protecting this great American landscape,” Harry Barber, manager of BLM Utah’s Paria River District, said on the call.
Nothing is literally sacred. Not only are lands being pillaged for greedy extraction profiteers but the wall threatens native burials as well as the land. I’ve seen this park and the ones in Utah as a kid.
The grandeur of the land in the American West is simply unimaginable until you stand on it and look around! Seeing these natural wonders and parts of our history is the single most humbling experience you can imagine. You just stand there breathless. And then, you see your first herd of buffalo, or your first family of mountain goats, or a mother bear and her young! Ever scaled a cliff dwelling or crawled through a Kentucky cave with just an oil lamp? Seen a geyser erupt, ventured to peer over the deepest part of a canyon cut from water? Seen water weep over a huge cliff? I have and I want that experience to be available to every one!
It is so worth keeping for generations ahead and I am so glad that the generations behind me felt the same. This goal to monetize everything is just surreal to me. From CBS:
A national monument in Arizona, home to rare species and sacred Native American burial sites, is being blown up this week as part of construction for President Trump’s border wall, Customs and Border Protection confirmed to CBS News. “Controlled blasting” inside Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument began this week without consultation from the Native American nation whose ancestral land it affects, according to the congressman whose district includes the reservation.
“There has been no consultation with the nation,” said Congressman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, who is the chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources and whose district contains the reservation and shares 400 miles of border with Mexico. “This administration is basically trampling on the tribe’s history — and to put it poignantly, it’s ancestry.”
Customs and Border Protection told CBS News that the blasts are in preparation for “new border wall system construction, within the Roosevelt Reservation at Monument Mountain in the U.S. Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector.”
But there is more. Here’s more form the desert areas and again, it’s big energy related. This is from the LA TImes.
In step with President Trump’s push for more energy development in California’s deserts, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced Thursday it wants to transform 22,000 acres of public land in the southern Owens Valley into one of the largest geothermal leasing sites in the state.
The agency has determined that the aquifer deep beneath the surface of the vintage Old West landscape of Rose Valley, about 120 miles north of Los Angeles, is a storehouse of enough volcanically heated water to spur $1 billion in investments and provide 117,000 homes with electricity.
Yet the decision is sure to set off a new water war in an arid part of the eastern Sierra Nevada that is sprinkled with dormant volcanoes, spiky lava beds and rare species, such as desert tortoises.
Conservation groups are suing the Trumpist Regime. This is especially true for California. This is from the NRDC:
Conservation groups sued the Trump administration today challenging the last step in the administration’s plan to allow oil drilling and fracking on more than 1 million acres of public lands and minerals in Central California.
Today’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, says the Bureau of Land Management violated federal law by failing to consider fracking’s potential harm to public health and recreation in the region, as well as harm to the climate and possible groundwater and air pollution. The suit also notes the potential for oil-industry-induced earthquakes.
The BLM plan would allow drilling and fracking on public lands across eight counties in California’s Central Valley and Central Coast: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura.
“Trump’s illegal, deeply unjust fracking plan would be a disaster for Central Valley communities, as well as our climate, wildlife and water,” said Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We need to phase out fracking and oil drilling, not throw open our public lands to polluters. The future of our beautiful state and our children depends on it.”
The Trump administration also plans to allow fracking on an additional 725,500 acres across 11 counties in California’s Central Coast and Bay Area. In October conservation groups filed suit to challenge that decision.
“BLM’s ill-considered plan to fling wide the door to fracking on public lands is yet another assault on California’s efforts to protect its environment and move away from dirty fossil fuels,” said Ann Alexander, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Gov. Newsom just announced curbs on oil drilling, but BLM is charging full speed ahead with it. California is trying to find a way to rationally address its limited water supply, and now BLM is greenlighting activities that can contaminate it with toxic chemicals. This federal war on California really needs to stop.” In an expert blog, Alexander further explains the implications of this rash move by the administration.
Animals, historical sites, and our lands are not the only things subject to decimation. Politico reports: “Trump hits Medicaid, food stamps in push to slash domestic spending. He will also ask Congress for a slight spending increase for the Pentagon as he releases his $4.8 trillion budget blueprint for the upcoming fiscal year.” Again, the border wall is set to destroy a lot.
Under Trump’s plan, theadministration predicts the federal deficit would shrink to $966 billion next fiscal year and to $261 billion by 2030.That gap between government spending and revenue is forecast to exceed $1 trillion this year.
As with his previous budget proposals, Trump is once again seeking deep and unrealistic cuts to most federal agency budgets, according to the budget summary tables. The cuts are unlikely to be embraced by Congress.
For example, the administration is seeking an 8 percent cut to USDA’s budget over current funding levels. Trump’s plan would cut the Commerce Department by 37 percent, the Education Department by 8 percent, the Energy Department by 8 percent, the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 15 percent, and the Department of Health and Human Services by 9 percent.
The administration is also seeking a 13 percent cut to the Interior Department, a 2 percent cut to the Justice Department, an 11 percent cut to the Labor Department, a nearly 21 percent cut to the State Department and a 13 percent cut to the Department of Transportation. The EPA’s budget would see a nearly 27 percent chop, the Army Corps of Engineers would see a 22 percent reduction and the Small Business Administration would see an 11 percent decrease.
On immigration, health care, infrastructure and the deficit, the final budget pitch of Trump’s first term will look much different from the campaign platform he offered four years ago.
The border wall that he promised would be paid for by Mexico is instead being financed by billions in U.S. taxpayer dollars, and the administration’s budget request to Congress is expected to seek even more.
The president’s 2015 promise to protect Medicaid from cuts has been repeatedly ignored, as he has sought to slash some $800 billion over a decade from the health program for low-income Americans. The latest evidence of this came on Saturday, when he wrote on Twitter that the budget proposal “will not be touching your Social Security or Medicare.” He made no mention of protecting Medicaid, even though he had vowed to guard it during his first presidential campaign.
He is also seeking to gut the Affordable Care Act through the courts despite pledging to safeguard one of its key tenets: insurance coverage for people with preexisting conditions.
While it is important to focus on things that remove this abomination from the White House. We cannot ignore what is being pushed through by the white nationalist, radical rightist republican party. Please watch for these actions and write and call your congress critters as required!
What’s you reading and blogging list today?
Those of you that have known me for some time know that I am a big fan of our nation’s National Parks. I spent a good deal of my childhood travelling all over the country with the major destinations being our National Parks. This is because my mother was taken on camping trips to our new National Park System when she was a girl. I followed in that traditional and took my oldest daughter and youngest–mostly with my parents but sometimes with my husband in tow if he would actually leave work–and headed off to many in the west.
Yellowstone, Dinosaur National Monument and then the Anasazi Indian sites were my favorites. It was really dismaying for me to read this today because Chaco Canyon rates high in my all time favorite places. The evil extraction businesses wants to frack in our National Parks and Chaco Canyon is on the list. This is the kind of legislation the Koch Brothers love because they can wreck our national parks and earn billions by paying the U.S. government next to nothing to do so. What they pay to Republicans in Congress is a completely different matter.
Chaco Canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the Four Corners region of the U.S., preserves one of the most important pre-Columbian historical areas in the country. The site hosts the densest and most exceptional concentration of pueblos in the American Southwest and the area is considered sacred ancestral homelands by the Hopi and Pueblo people.
Click here to learn more about fracking.
Read Gloria Flora’s article ”Fracking the Commons.”
Read an essay on fighting oil and gas development in National Forests.
Take our partner’s call to action to ban fracking on federal lands.
This really rates up there with some of the absolute worst policy I’ve ever heard about. Considering that a lot of this energy is being sold to places in China and India, there is really no reason to rape our public lands for the benefit of a few folks.
The Koch Brothers are intent on keeping this country addicted to fossil fuel. They obviously want to frack us into some post apocalyptic hell realm while they continue to live off their daddy’s wealth. The Koch Brothers are pushing legislation all over the south to get rid of tax incentives for solar power conversion and to put taxes on it to make it more expensive.
As U.S. Solar electric capacity has expanded explosively – 418% – from 2326 megawatts in 2010 to 12,057 MW in February 2014, an increase of 9,731 MW reports the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Solar has moved rapidly from a niche market to 1.13% of total U.S. capacity. To stop the rapid growth of solar, which is threatening to break Americans from the death grip of fossil fuels, the Koch Brothers are demanding to tax the sun.
U.S installed solar capacity shot up over 400% in the last 4 years.
The rapid decline in the cost of solar panels and state and federal incentives have spurred investment in solar power at all scales from individuals to small businesses to large utilities. Net metering, which allows users to reverse their power meter when they produce more power than they consume, has incentivized rooftop solar. Moreover, states from Hawaii to South Carolina have developed programs to make the installation costs affordable to average consumers. Forbes reported in July 2013 on how Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii’s Democrats made solar accessible to renters. This is exactly the kind of legislation I advocated a decade earlier when I ran for a position on the board of Kauai’s electric power co-op. It’s great to see seeds planted finally coming up and bearing fruit.
Senate Bill 1087, which Gov. Abercrombie signed on June 27, makes solar photovoltaic systems, as well as solar thermal water heaters and big-ticket energy efficiency upgrades, available to all these underserved customers by eliminating the thorny issue of the upfront costs.On-bill financing enables residential or commercial property owners or renters to avoid the initial out-of-pocket expense to install energy improvements. Upgrades are instead financed with loans paid back via a line item on the customer’s monthly utility bill. If the property is sold or transferred, the loan stays with the meter and would be taken over by the new property owner or tenant.
But, this great progress in bringing clean energy to the individual threatens monopolists from the Koch brothers to electric utilities. The Koch’s AFP have conspired with utilities to write legislation to force individuals to pay a tax to the utility companies for accessing the grid. The Koch Brother’s AFP has demanded laws to tax the sun.
There are so many lobbying groups in Washington DC these days that money and tax subsidies go to a continued, horrifying array of policies that are not good for any one but a few people and power brokers. SOS John Kerry called the state of Israel a state of apartheid. He is most certainly right. The current government–cobbled together from right wing extremists–promotes policies aimed at Palestinians that are straight out of the playbook of South Africa. There is no way our government should be giving any government money and support when there are policies used to kill indigenous peoples.
Still, the most thorough comparison of the Apartheid system of racial segregation with Israeli practices can only be made of the West Bank and Gaza, where Palestinians are ruled by Israel but kept stateless and without rights.
1. South Africa created Bantustans as a way of denaturalizing Blacks, ensuring that they could not vote for the national government and were assigned citizenship only in their weak Bantustan.
Gaza and the West Bank function as Bantustans, as South African Blacks have no trouble recognizing. Indeed, a former Italian prime minister maintains that former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon told him he thought the Bantustan system was the best way of dealing with the Palestinians. The Palestinians living in these occupied territories have no citizenship in any real state. They are stateless. The West Bank has been segmented into 8 units. Palestinians cannot travel between them without going through numerous checkpoints. They cannot vote for the Israeli government, but they are ultimately controlled by the Israeli military. When in 2006 they were allowed to hold elections for a toothless “parliament,” and they cheekily elected a party the Israelis find unacceptable, the election results were overturned by Israel.
2. South Africa instituted a “pass” system to control the movement of Blacks.
Israel instituted a “permit” system to control the movement of Palestinians. West Bank Palestinians cannot live outside the 8 designated areas without a permit. Desmond Tutu, who knows a bit about Apartheid South Africa, remarked of seeing, on his visit to the Occupied West Bank, “the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about”.
3. In Apartheid South Africa, 80% of the land was set aside for white settlers.
Israel itself was ethnically cleansed of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948, and was designated “Jewish,” such that the expelled Palestinians (now millions strong) were denied the right to return to their homes. Some 70% of the residents of the Gaza Strip are from southern Israel, and cannot return to their nearby homes in cities such as Sderot, where Israelis have settled Ethiopians and Thai guest workers. In the Palestinian West Bank, some 600,000 Israeli squatters have usurped significant amounts of land from Palestinians, for which they paid nothing to the original owners, and their squatter settlements are off-limits to Palestinians, who cannot live in them.
4. In Apartheid South Africa, Blacks from the Bantustans could not attend universities designated for whites.
In the Occupied Palestinian West Bank, the Israeli military governor has recognized a squatter university, Ariel, built on usurped Palestinian land. Although Palestinian-Israelis can attend, stateless West Bank Palestinians cannot get on campus because they are barred from settlements by the Apartheid pass system, as Dahlia Scheindlin wrote at 972mag:
“Member of Knesset Zahava Galon, head of the Meretz party, scoffed at that. Ariel, she told me by phone, is off limits for Palestinians very simply because it is an Israeli-controlled settlement. Just as a West Bank Palestinian can’t go to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv easily, they are equally unwelcome in Ariel. For her, the move reeked of hypocrisy. “It’s a higher education committee approved by people in uniform, so what is the substantive meaning? It’s unbelievable.” She called it a sign of the government’s true program of “creeping annexation,” and remarked that it would legitimize the global movements calling for the academic boycott of Israel.”
5. South African Apartheid forbade marriages between people of different ethnicities.
Israelis of Jewish and Palestinian heritage cannot intermarry in Israel. Two Israeli citizens of different ethnic heritage can marry abroad and return to Israel. But Israeli-Palestinians who marry Palestinians from the Occupied West Bank are not allowed to bring their spouse to Israel. The same problem is not faced by Israeli Jews who marry squatters on the Palestinian West Bank.
Pink Floyd has joined the call to boycott Israel just as musicians boycotted South Africa when its government was destroying the civil rights, liberties, and lives of its indigenous peoples.
With the recent news that the Rolling Stones will be playing their first-ever concert in Israel, and at what is a critical time in the global struggle for Palestinian freedom and equal rights, we, the two surviving founders of Pink Floyd, have united in support of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), a growing, nonviolent global human rights movement initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005 to end Israel’s occupation, racial discrimination and denial of basic Palestinian rights.
The BDS movement is modeled on the successful nonviolent movements that helped end Jim Crow in the American South and apartheid in South Africa. Indeed, key figures who led the South African freedom struggle, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mandela’s close associate, Ahmed Kathrada, have come out in support of BDS for Palestinian rights. BDS offers us all a way to nonviolently pressure the Israeli government to fully realize that its injustices against the Palestinian people are legally and morally unacceptable and unsustainable.
Adelson loves him some Bibi so much that he is buying up Israeli media much of which is highly critical to the PM’s policies. This ensures that the ordinary Israeli hears even less of what’s really going on around them.
Israel’s news media are lively, but venues are not infinite, with four main national newspapers, three television news broadcasters and a handful of radio and news Web sites vying to inform and sway public opinion in a country known for its rough-and-tumble politics.
An investigative report by Channel 10 aired last year claimed that Adelson’s newspaper Israel Hayom was spinning the news to show Netanyahu in a more positive light. The newspaper’s editor, Amos Regev, dismissed the report, saying, “This so-called evidence doesn’t prove anything other than the routine workings of a news organization.”
Adelson’s new ventures are seen as a good thing for Netanyahu. Israel’s media is often very critical of Netanyahu — and loves engaging in what the Prime Minister calls “psychobabble” about his motives. Though he makes plenty of public pronouncements, Netanyahu rarely grants on-the-record interviews or does not host regular news conferences. Adelson’s purchase might also be a plus for Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, who regularly faces media scrutiny for what critics call her imperial lifestyle (she recently came under fire for yelling at a staffer for buying bags of milk instead of a proper carton).
Adelson has played a big role in GOP politics and is vocal about his support for Israel. In 2012, he spent millions backing the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney, not only in a bid to beat President Obama but also to ensure strengthened support for Israel in domestic U.S. politics.
And, more recently, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) apologized to Adelson after referring to the West Bank as “occupied territories” in a speech at the spring leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, an event Adelson hosted at his Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.
This reminds me of the same kind of treatment we’re getting at the hands of Australian Rupert Murdoch. Fox continues to put right wing advocacy of its billionaire owner and Roger Ailes above all kinds of facts, science, data, and reality.
A Scientific American editor must have struck a nerve over at Fox News this week when hetweeted about having a “Fox & Friends” producer shoot down his idea to talk about the impacts of climate change on the show.
On Thursday morning, the hosts of “Fox & Friends” went off on editor Michael Moyer for tweeting about having an uncomfortable experience on the show. During the segment, they showed a photo of Moyer with text on the screen that labeled him a “‘Scientific’ Coward.”
Hosts Steve Doocy, Anna Kooiman and Brian Kilmeade agreed they had a “nice chat” with Moyer on set when he appeared Wednesday. But they said Moyer apparently didn’t feel the same way.
“Clearly he has a problem with Fox,” Doocy said. “So why did he come on? Clearly, it was just to promote himself, and maybe his magazine as well. But, you know, hashtag classy. We put him on, we have a nice conversation and then he stabs us in the back.”
“The bone that he had to pick with Fox, he said, was that he wanted to come on here and talk all about climate change,” Kooiman added. “Well, our producers decide what we air.”
“We talk about climate change all the time,” Doocy interjected.
Moyer was brought on to talk about future trends in technology. He later tweeted that when he suggested the number one future trend would be the impact of climate change, he was “told to pick something else.” The experience, he told TPM on Wednesday, made him decide against future appearances on the program.
“There are some things that in science and scientific discourse are not controversial at all,” Moyer told TPM. “I hope that we can all as a society agree to at least discuss them and come up with good solutions. Just because you don’t want something to be true doesn’t make it not true.”
Fox News later denied that a producer “specifically” told Moyer that he couldn’t discuss climate change. In response, Moyer told TPM that he had proof: a producer had sent him an email specifically asking, “can we replace the climate change with something else?”
The refreshing thing is that most of these people are really old and we can just hope that when we dance on their graves, this kind of crap will be all over. There have been a number of books noting the decline in the number of people identifying as “Conservative Christian Evangelicals” which could eventually stop the influence of the millionaire preachers and their misogyny and homobigotry. The end of dominionists would put an end to popular support of the kinds of things billionaires like Adelson and the Koch Brothers finance.
The common thread in these books is the contention that Christianity, especially conservative Christianity, is rapidly losing strength and cultural authority in a changing America. Charting Americans’ religious beliefs is notoriously tricky, as comparison between any two religion-related polls will attest. Nevertheless, these authors’ argument that conservative Christianity — both evangelical Protestantism and conservative Catholicism — is losing sway in America has become the consensus view of most experts who study American religiosity. In 2012, the Pew Research Center made headlines with a study showing that for the first time, the percentage of Americans claiming no religious affiliation (19.6 percent) surpassed the number of white evangelical Protestants (19 percent). Other surveys conducted in recent years (by Gallup, the General Social Survey, Baylor University, and other research organizations) show declines in the number of people who identify as Christian, believe in God, and attend church regularly. American Catholicism has undergone its own similar involution, with nearly half of all Catholics under age 40 now Hispanic and a majority of Catholics favoring same-sex marriage, according to Pew. Meanwhile, the number of Muslims in America has risen rapidly, more than doubling since 1990. In the most recent (2008) American Religious Identification Survey, Islam surpassed Mormonism as America’s fastest growing faith.
For conservative Christians, the turnabout has been disorienting. Just 10 years ago, conservative Christianity appeared ascendant, with a coalition of evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics twice electing a born-again Christian to the presidency and, in 2004, outlawing gay marriage in 11 states. Today, laws against same-sex marriage are being rolled back and conservatives have failed to budge debate over access to contraception in the new health law. The Tea Party, which pairs evangelicals in an uneasy alliance with an increasingly assertive libertarian movement, is now a dominant force in Republican politics, shouldering aside once-feared evangelical organizations such as the Christian Coalition. Key evangelicals, stung by polls showing younger Americans are turned off by strident conservatism, have begun pivoting politically, as have Catholic bishops in response to Pope Francis’s attempt to reorient his church toward evangelism and social justice. Last year, prominent evangelical leaders, including the political director of the Southern Baptist Convention, spurned the Tea Party and emerged as prominent backers of comprehensive immigration reform. Evangelical leaders told me they were responding to demographic change in America: both the rise of immigrants in their churches and the emergence of a younger, more politically progressive generation of Christians. Yet in a sign of Christians’ diminished political clout, so far evangelicals’ fervent activism on this issue has failed to garner congressional Republican support.
The broader cultural implications of this shift in American religiosity are immense and deserve careful study. The books considered in this essay don’t supply such study — but then, that’s not their aim. Change has come so quickly to American conservative Christianity that conservatives are still scrambling to understand the challenges they face, and to persuade one another that their problems are real, which is telling. Reading these books is like listening in on a board meeting as corporate executives struggle to come to terms with sudden massive economic decline. The errors and off notes in each book — and there are plenty, ranging from counterfactual history to weird persecution complexes — are as valuable as the books’ many passages of sound reportage and insightful critique. After decades in which conservative Christians went from strength to strength in America, growing in numbers and political clout, suddenly they are facing a moment of acute self-doubt. The contours of that doubt can help more neutral observers gain a fuller understanding of America’s changing religious present, and its future.
Nothing else would be better than to get rid of what seems an endless parade of millionaire/billionaire racists. However, there are some that still exist and have managed to bundle up racism in a more subtle, “elegant” form.
Like Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling confirms our comfortable view of racists. Donald Sterling is a “bad person.” He’s mean to women. He carouses with prostitutes. He uses the word “nigger.” He fits our idea of what an actual racist must look like: snarling, villainous, immoral, ignorant, gauche. The actual racism that Sterling long practiced, that this society has long practiced (and is still practicing) must attract significantly less note. That is because to see racism in all its elegance is to implicate not just its active practitioners, but to implicate ourselves.
How can it be that in a “black league,” as Charles Barkley calls the NBA, an on-the-record structural racist like Donald Sterling was allowed to thrive? Everyone now wants to speak to Elgin Baylor. Where were all these people before? Where was Kevin Johnson? Where was the Los Angeles NAACP? When Donald Sterling was driving black tenants out of his buildings, where was David Stern?
Far better to implicate Donald Sterling and be done with the whole business. Far better to banish Cliven Bundy and table the uncomfortable reality of our political system. A racism that invites the bipartisan condemnation of Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell must necessarily be minor. A racism that invites the condemnation of Sean Hannity can’t be much of a threat. But a racism, condemnable by all civilized people, must make itself manifest now and again so that we may celebrate how far we have come. Meanwhile racism, elegant, lovely, monstrous, carries on.
Money still gives these people an oversized role in policy,culture, and politics. This is unacceptable in a democracy. It is easy to see how power and money create worse living situations for people. Most of the policies these cretons support are not supported by the majority of people. We need to find a way to keep their influence down to the same size as every other single voter in the country. Freedom of speech is about government suppression of religion and spoken ideas. It isn’t about giving people with oversized egos and wallets more say in everything than every one else.
It’s enough to make you miss the guillotine. I know this has been a long one today, but as you can see, I had a lot to get off my chest.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Here’s a little bit of this and that to get your political juices flowing for the week.
The NYT profiles potential FED chair candidate La La Summers as some one that has many flaws but much power and personal wealth. He has the credentials and the connections but does he really have the gravitas for the job?
Mr. Summers’s wealth comes mainly from two periods of private sector work between government postings. After a lengthy tenure at the Treasury Department in the 1990s, he became the president of Harvard — a job that Robert E. Rubin, who preceded Mr. Summers as Treasury secretary, helped him obtain.
But in 2006, Mr. Summers was forced out of the university presidency for a variety of reasons, including remarks he made questioning why few women engage in advanced scientific and mathematical work. Soon after, a young Harvard alum brought him into the hedge fund world with a part-time posting at D. E. Shaw. That firm, one of the largest in the industry, paid Mr. Summers more than $5 million.
Mr. Summers’s wealth soared from around $400,000 in the mid-1990s to between $7 million and $31 million in 2009, when he joined the Obama administration, according to a financial disclosure he filed at the time. Before returning to government service, he earned $2.7 million from speeches in one year alone.
As for his current work, representatives for Citigroup, Nasdaq and D. E. Shaw declined to disclose his pay. His speaking rates today run into the six figures, according to an associate who spoke on the condition of anonymity, and Mr. Summers has spoken to Wall Street companies like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup.
The job that is likely to generate the most scrutiny for Mr. Summers is his work with Citigroup, which was rescued from the brink of bankruptcy by the federal government’s bailout. Though he does not have an office there, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said he was a regular consultant. In a statement, Citigroup said he provided “insight on a broad range of topics including the global and domestic economy” to prestigious clients, and attended internal meetings.
Citigroup hired Mr. Summers in part to advise Vikram S. Pandit, who resigned as chief executive last year. With his work there, Mr. Summers followed in the footsteps of his friend, Mr. Rubin, who joined Citigroup after he left the government and earned more than $100 million.
Another political analyst–this one writing for Bloomberg–thinks that the Republicans are inching towards civil war and that the next election may look like 1964. The focus has been on the Paul-Christie rift.
As Republicans continue to sort through their future, having lost the popular vote for president in five of the last six elections, they are having intramural battles with echoes of 1964, when Barry Goldwater won the nomination at a convention rife with division over the role of the U.S. in the world and civil rights at home. Derided as an extremist, he went on to lose to President Lyndon Johnson in a landslide.
Now, Republicans are squabbling over the National Security Agency surveillance program, immigration and gay marriage. The Christie-Paul rift last week highlighted the divide, with the governor calling the senator’s criticism of the NSA program “dangerous” and the Kentuckian responding that his critic must have forgotten the Bill of Rights.
“It’s always healthy to have discussions from different wings of the party as the party works on its identity going into the midterms,” said LaTourette, who chose not to seek re-election to Congress in 2012 citing the extreme positions among some of his Republican colleagues. “It wouldn’t be so healthy if this was next year or 2015 and the focus is on who the presidential nominee will be.
Martin Luther King III has a written a book on what it meant to grow up the footsteps of his father. Even better, you can get it to read with your child or grandchildren because it is written for children!! You can read about or listen to an NPR interview with King here.
Martin Luther King III recounts this and other stories from his childhood in his new children’s book, My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Martin Luther King III had been thinking about writing about his child’s-eye view of his father for almost a decade, but the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington became a personal deadline. The book, written for young children, has just been published, three weeks ahead of the anniversary.
Now Martin Luther King III and his wife, Andrea, have a 5-year-old daughter, Yolanda Renée. She was named for Martin Luther King III’s oldest sister, who died suddenly in 2006. In the book, young Martin Luther King III tells readers about the games he played with his father.
Martin Luther King III also retells stories of accompanying his father on marches from time to time. On one, they were confronted by a police officer “with a huge dog that growled at me. I was terrified.” That is, he was scared until his dad took his hand and told him they would be fine.
“I felt safe. My dad was not a tall man, but he always made me feel like he was a giant. I was never afraid when I was with him,” Martin Luther King III writes.
Long after his father’s death, Martin Luther King III has had to deal with others’ expectations that he would take up the cause. King is deeply grateful that decades ago, his mother relieved him of some of that pressure.
“You don’t have to be your father,” Coretta Scott King told him. “Just be your best self, whatever that is. We are going to support you.”
This has to be the worst use of tax dollars that I’ve seen in years. A report shows State-Funded Crisis Pregnancy Centers Talk Women Out Of Birth Control and Condoms. Is this really the way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions?
When a woman walked into a state-funded “crisis pregnancy center” in Manassas, Va., this summer and told the counselor she might be pregnant, she was told that condoms don’t actually prevent STDs and that birth control frequently causes hair loss, memory loss, headaches, weight gain, fatal blood clots and breast cancer.
“The first three ingredients in the birth control pill are carcinogens,” the CPC counselor said, adding that she always tries to talk women out of taking it.
The counselor also told the woman that condoms are not effective at preventing pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases because they are “naturally porous.”
“Safe sex is a joke,” she said. “There’s no such thing.”
NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia recorded the exchange, released Wednesday, as part of its undercover investigation into the 58 state-funded “crisis pregnancy centers” in Virginia. The organizations are part of a national network of about 2,500 Christian centers that advertise health and pregnancy services, but do not offer abortions, contraception or prenatal care. Instead, they are intended to talk women out of having abortions and to advocate abstinence until marriage.
These organizations receive state money through the sale of “Choose Life” license plates at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, sponsored the legislation that established that fundraising system during his time in the state senate.
NARAL sent undercover women into several crisis pregnancy centers throughout Virginia and recorded their interactions. The investigation revealed that 71 percent of the CPCs in Virginia give out medically inaccurate information about the health consequences and effectiveness of birth control, condoms and abortion.
According to the report, in addition to criticizing the use of birth control and condoms, 40 of the CPCs told women that abortion causes long-term psychological damage and leads women to develop eating disorders and drug addictions. One counselor allegedly told NARAL’s undercover investigator that if she was a certain blood type, the abortion could cause her body to create antibodies that would attack her fetus the next time she tried to get pregnant.
Paul W. Tibbets, pilot of the plane, the “Enola Gay” (named for his mother), which dropped the atomic bomb over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. died at 92 in 2007, defending the bombing to the end of his life. Some of the obits noted that he had requested no funeral or headstone for his grave, not wishing to create an opportunity for protestors to gather.
I had a chance to interview Tibbets nearly 30 years ago, and wrote about it for several newspapers and magazines and in the book I wrote with Robert Jay Lifton, Hiroshima in America.
The hook for the interview was this: While spending a month in Japan on a grant in 1984, I met a man named Akihiro Takahashi. He was one of the many child victims of the atomic attack, but unlike most of them, he survived (though with horrific burns and other injuries), and grew up to become a director of the memorial museum in Hiroshima. The August 6 bombing led to the deaths of at least 75,000 people in a flash and at least that many more in the days and years that followed. At least 90% of them were civilians, mainly women and children.
Takahashi showed me personal letters to and from Tibbets, which had led to a remarkable meeting between the two elderly men in Washington, D.C. At that recent meeting, Takahashi expressed forgiveness, admitted Japan?s aggression and cruelty in the war, and then pressed Tibbets to acknowledge that the indiscriminate bombing of civilians was always wrong.
But the pilot (who had not met one of the Japanese survivors previously) was non-committal in his response, while volunteering that wars were a very bad idea in the nuclear age. Takahashi swore he saw a tear in the corner of one of Tibbets’ eyes.
So, on May 6, 1985, I called Tibbets at his office at Executive Jet Aviation in Columbus, Ohio, and in surprisingly short order, he got on the horn. He confirmed the meeting with Takahashi (he agreed to do that only out of “courtesy”) and most of the details, but scoffed at the notion of shedding any tears over the bombing. That was, in fact, “bullshit.”
“I’ve got a standard answer on that,” he informed me, referring to guilt. “I felt nothing about i.” .I’m sorry for Takahashi and the others who got burned up down there, but I felt sorry for those who died at Pearl Harbor, too….People get mad when I say this but — it was as impersonal as could be. There wasn’t anything personal as far as I?m concerned, so I had no personal part in it.
“It wasn’t my decision to make morally, one way or another. I did what I was told — I didn’t invent the bomb, I just dropped the damn thing. It was a success, and that’s where I?ve left it. I can assure you that I sleep just as peacefully as anybody can sleep.” When August 6 rolled around each year “sometimes people have to tell me. To me it’s just another day.”
So, we have a few Texas Sky Dancers here. This Guardian article on Texas being all Oil and no Water is kind’ve frightening.
Beverly McGuire saw the warning signs before the town well went dry: sand in the toilet bowl, the sputter of air in the tap, a pump working overtime to no effect. But it still did not prepare her for the night last month when she turned on the tap and discovered the tiny town where she had made her home for 35 years was out of water.
“The day that we ran out of water I turned on my faucet and nothing was there and at that moment I knew the whole of Barnhart was down the tubes,” she said, blinking back tears. “I went: ‘dear God help us. That was the first thought that came to mind.”
Across the south-west, residents of small communities like Barnhart are confronting the reality that something as basic as running water, as unthinking as turning on a tap, can no longer be taken for granted.
Three years of drought, decades of overuse and now the oil industry’s outsize demands on water for fracking are running down reservoirs and underground aquifers. And climate change is making things worse.
Nearly 15 million people are living under some form of water rationing, barred from freely sprinkling their lawns or refilling their swimming pools. In Barnhart’s case, the well appears to have run dry because the water was being extracted for shale gas fracking.
The town — a gas station, a community hall and a taco truck – sits in the midst of the great Texan oil rush, on the eastern edge of the Permian basin.
A few years ago, it seemed like a place on the way out. Now McGuire said she can see nine oil wells from her back porch, and there are dozens of RVs parked outside town, full of oil workers.
But soon after the first frack trucks pulled up two years ago, the well on McGuire’s property ran dry.
No-one in Barnhart paid much attention at the time, and McGuire hooked up to the town’s central water supply. “Everyone just said: ‘too bad’. Well now it’s all going dry,” McGuire said.
Ranchers dumped most of their herds. Cotton farmers lost up to half their crops. The extra draw down, coupled with drought, made it impossible for local ranchers to feed and water their herds, said Buck Owens. In a good year, Owens used to run 500 cattle and up to 8,000 goats on his 7,689 leased hectares (19,000 acres). Now he’s down to a few hundred goats.
The drought undoubtedly took its toll but Owens reserved his anger for the contractors who drilled 104 water wells on his leased land, to supply the oil companies.
So, what is on your reading and blogging list today?
President Obama isn’t looking so “progressive” this morning (what else is new?). Yesterday, his “Justice” department announced they will ignore science as well as the health needs of women and girls by fighting a judge’s order to make Plan B emergency contraception available over-the-counter without age limits. NYT:
The appeal reaffirms an election-year decision by Mr. Obama’s administration to block the drug’s maker from selling it without a prescription or consideration of age, and puts the White House back into the politically charged issue of access to emergency contraception.
The Justice Department’s decision to appeal is in line with the views of dozens of conservative, anti-abortion groups who do not want contraceptives made available to young girls. But the decision was criticized by advocates for women’s reproductive health and abortion rights who cite years of scientific research saying the drug is safe and effective for all ages.
“Age barriers to emergency contraception are not supported by science, and they should be eliminated,” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement on Wednesday.
In December 2011 the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, blocked the sale of the drug to young girls without a prescription, saying there was not enough data to prove it would be safe. In doing so, Ms. Sebelius took the unprecedented step of overruling the Food and Drug Administration, which had moved, based on scientific research, to lift all age restrictions.
I could use some profane language here, but I’ll spare you for the moment. You may be mumbling to yourself too, after you read about Obama’s latest picks for the FCC and Commerce Department.
First the FCC. The New York Times reports: Telecom Investor Named to Be F.C.C. Chairman.
Tom Wheeler, President Obama’s pick to be the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, knows all about the most advanced telecommunications systems — of the 19th century.
In his 2008 book “Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War,” Mr. Wheeler, an investor in start-up technology and communications companies, documents how Lincoln was an “early adopter” of what has been called “the Victorian Internet.”
Lincoln’s championing and advancement of popular uses of the telegraph are not unlike the challenges Mr. Wheeler is likely to face as chairman of the F.C.C., which is waging an intense battle to keep Internet service free of commercial roadblocks and widely available in its most affordable, up-to-date capabilities.
Mr. Wheeler’s qualifications for “one of the toughest jobs in Washington,” Mr. Obama said, include a long history “at the forefront of some of the very dramatic changes that we’ve seen in the way we communicate and how we live our lives.”
“He was one of the leaders of a company that helped create thousands of good, high-tech jobs,” Mr. Obama said, referring to Core Capital Partners, the Washington investment firm where Mr. Wheeler is a managing director. “He’s in charge of the group that advises the F.C.C. on the latest technology issues,” adding that “he’s helped give American consumers more choices and better products.”
But does all that qualify Wheeler to protect consumers at the FCC? From Ars Technica:
President Barack Obama today announced his choice to run the Federal Communications Commission. As reported yesterday, the nominee is Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist who was formerly a lobbyist at the top of the cable and wireless industries, leading the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) and Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA).
The nomination continues the parade of lobbyists becoming government officials and vice versa, a trend that has favored moneyed interests over the average American citizen and consumer time and again. One can take solace in the fact that Wheeler will be tasked with implementing the communications policies of President Obama, who says he is eager to fight on behalf of consumers and to maintain thriving and open Internet and wireless marketplaces.
But the same President who said “I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over” when he was running for office has given the FCC’s top job to a former lobbyist. Wheeler donated $38,500 to Obama’s election efforts and helped raise additional money for Obama by becoming a “bundler,” arranging for large contributions from other donors after hitting legal limits on personal contributions.
Not surprisingly, the cable and telecom companies that Wheeler springs from are ecstatic about the nomination.
Gotta get rid of those nasty regulations that protect Americans from price gauging, internet censorship, and all that bad stuff.
Next up, behold Obama’s nomination for Commerce Secretary, old pal Penny Pritzker.
Making official what many Democrats have expected for weeks, President Obama plans to nominate Chicago business executive Penny Pritzker, a longtime political supporter and heavyweight fundraiser, as his new Commerce secretary on Thursday morning.
Pritzker’s nomination could prove controversial. She is on the board of Hyatt Hotels Corp., which was founded by her family and has had rocky relations with labor unions, and she could face questions about the failure of a bank partly owned by her family.
With a personal fortune estimated at $1.85 billion, Pritzker is listed by Forbes magazine among the 300 wealthiest Americans. She is the founder, chair and CEO of PSP Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and its affiliated real estate investment firm, Pritzker Realty Group. She played an influential role in Obama’s rise from Illinois state senator to the nation’s 44th president, serving as Obama’s national finance chair in his first campaign for the White House and co-chair of his reelection campaign.
The president is expected to make the announcement at 10 a.m. at the White House.
If confirmed by the Senate, Pritzker would take charge of the administration’s efforts to build relations with business leaders who were often on the sharp end of the president’s first-term rhetoric.
Sigh . . .
This next story is guaranteed to make your blood boil. Bloomberg reports:
It’s been almost three years since Congress directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to require public companies to disclose the ratio of their chief executive officers’ compensation to the median of the rest of their employees’. The agency has yet to produce a rule.
So Bloomberg decided not to wait around any longer and figured out the ratios for us. See the chart at the above link. More:
The similarity ends there. Johnson, 54, got a compensation package worth 1,795 times the average wage and benefits of a U.S. department store worker when he was hired in November 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Gonzales’s hourly wage was $8.30 that year.
Across the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of companies, theaverage multiple of CEO compensation to that of rank-and-file workers is 204, up 20 percent since 2009, the data show. The numbers are based on industry-specific estimates for worker compensation.
Almost three years after Congress ordered public companies to reveal actual CEO-to-worker pay ratios under the Dodd-Frank law, the numbers remain unknown. As theOccupy Wall Street movement and 2012 election made income inequality a social flashpoint, mandatory disclosure of the ratios remained bottled up at the Securities and Exchange Commission, which hasn’t yet drawn up the rules to implement it. Some of America’s biggest companies are lobbying against the requirement.
“It’s a simple piece of information shareholders ought to have,” said Phil Angelides, who led the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which investigated the economic collapse of 2008. “The fact that corporate executives wouldn’t want to display the number speaks volumes.” The lobbying is part of “a street-by-street, block-by-block fight waged by large corporations and their Wall Street colleagues” to obstruct the Dodd-Frank law, he said.
Are you angry yet? These greedheads are going to keep pushing the envelope until Americans wake up and take to the streets with pitchforks and dust off the guillotines.
My birthplace, North Dakota is changing rapidly–and maybe not in a good way. It turns out the state’s oil is even more plentiful than anyone has realized up till now.
The sea of oil and natural gas underneath North Dakota is far larger than first thought.
There are 7.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the western part of the state and extending into Montana, according to the latest estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey.
That’s more than twice the oil the USGS estimated could be recovered five years ago. What’s more, the USGS has nearly tripled its estimate of the natural gas available in the area.
The revised totals could make the North Dakota field the greatest oil and gas find ever in the continental United States, topping the fabled East Texas field that made Texas synonymous with oil wealth. And it would put North Dakota second to Prudhoe Bay as the largest oil producer in U.S. history.
And even this estimate may have to be “revised upward”:
“We think it’s even a little bit conservative,’’ said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.
The new estimate will give fresh momentum to an economic boom within the state that has made it the fastest growing in the nation in both population and incomes. Per capita income has risen to $52,000 a year, sixth-highest in the nation, and once quiet farm towns have been overwhelmed by oil field workers, creating shortages of housing and services.
The USGS said the drilling of 4,000 wells since 2008 in what is known as the Bakken formation has given geologists a better idea of the riches underground. The new analysis also highlights the rapid ascent of North American oil and gas production driven by the advent of the technique known as hydraulic fracturing.
I guess I’m happy about the new jobs and population growth, but it will be sad if North Dakota no longer has clean air and vast open spaces.
You may have heard about this fascinating story–it was up toward the top of Google News much of yesterday. Archaeologists have found strong evidence that Starving Settlers in [the] Jamestown Colony Resorted to Cannibalism. From Smithsonian Magazine:
The harsh winter of 1609 in Virginia’s Jamestown Colony forced residents to do the unthinkable. A recent excavation at the historic site discovered the carcasses of dogs, cats and horses consumed during the season commonly called the “Starving Time.” But a few other newly discovered bones in particular, though, tell a far more gruesome story: the dismemberment and cannibalization of a 14-year-old English girl.
“The chops to the forehead are very tentative, very incomplete,” says Douglas Owsley, the Smithsonian forensic anthropologist who analyzed the bones after they were found by archaeologists from Preservation Virginia. “Then, the body was turned over, and there were four strikes to the back of the head, one of which was the strongest and split the skull in half. A penetrating wound was then made to the left temple, probably by a single-sided knife, which was used to pry open the head and remove the brain.”
Much is still unknown about the circumstances of this grisly meal: Who exactly the girl researchers are calling “Jane” was, whether she was murdered or died of natural causes, whether multiple people participated in the butchering or it was a solo act. But as Owsley revealed along with lead archaeologist William Kelso today at a press conference at the National Museum of Natural History, we now have the first direct evidence of cannibalism at Jamestown, the oldest permanent English colony in the Americas. “Historians have gone back and forth on whether this sort of thing really happened there,” Owsley says. “Given these bones in a trash pit, all cut and chopped up, it’s clear that this body was dismembered for consumption.”
There’s much more at the link.
Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a great day!
I don’t know if it’s simply the election cycle or what, but more and more frequently the world seems to be spinning out of control. Problems and/or issues everywhere. Which one to prioritize? How to “fix” what is going wrong? Is it leaving you with an overwhelming sense of helplessness? It does me, all too often.
Here is a list of the serious issues that are bombarding my senses:
- The economy
- Wall Street’s continuing abuses
- Wealth inequality
- Offshore oil drilling
- Renewable energy
- The condition of our oceans
- Climate change
- Endangered species
- Pesticides, herbicides
- Food safety
- Pollution of our air and water
- Violence against women throughout the world
- Pay equity
- Abortion rights
- Access to contraception
- ALEC’s legislative initiatives
- ALEC’s co-opting of our political process
- The need for campaign finance reform
- Voting rights
- Union busting
- Health and health care
- The dismantling of our educational system
- The privatization of the prison system
- Hate speech & hate crimes
- Gun rights & gun control
- The billions of non-human animals killed each year worldwide, not only for food, but on our streets, in our homes and in our shelters
- Wars, seemingly everywhere
- The aftermath and attempted recovery following both natural and man-made disasters
There is little doubt in my mind that most people have shut down and they have chosen to ignore many, if not all of these critical issues. For so many others they don’t have a choice. They don’t even have the time or energy to think about them because they are struggling to survive, to put food on their tables, to pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads. Their focus is on their personal problems, not the bigger issues that are taking a heavy toll on their day to day lives, their future and the future of their families.
What can we do? How can the majority of the people on the planet, especially those whose personal resources are sorely limited make a difference, not only in their own lives, but for the future of all life on our planet? Here are a few simple each of us could try:
- Educate ourselves so we make conscious decisions that will benefit our finances, our health and the impact we have on our environment, whether it’s our home, our community or the planet.
- Reduce the amount of plastic, especially disposable plastic, that we buy. For example, opt for fresh foods over processed, prepackaged foods when possible. Use refillable containers instead of individual bottles of water. Avoid individually packaged food items – opt for a full size bag or container. Separate into individual servings at home. Don’t buy disposable plates and cups. Recycle and/or reuse plastic – and don’t forget to cut up those plastic rings that hold bottles and cans together – and return plastic bags to the stores for recycling. Take reusable bags when we shop, instead of the store’s plastic bags.
- Donate unused items to community groups or thrift stores.
- Pick up trash when we see it: in our yards, in the parking lots, on the beach, or participate in an annual beach or waterway cleanup in our area.
- Volunteer our time in schools, nursing homes, soup kitchens, for non-profits or wherever our time and expertise can be used.
- Eat lower on the food chain. It’s good for our health. It’s good for the planet, and it’s good for the animals.
- Write letters or send emails to our local media, to our elected officials, and to policy makers. Sign up for the action alerts of groups who address issues of concern to us.
- Adopt a homeless animal from a shelter or local rescue group. It will save a life and the animal will enrich ours. And if you can’t adopt, consider volunteering for a local rescue group or even fostering an animal until he/she is ready to be adopted.
Many of you are probably already doing some or all of these, or you may be doing others that I haven’t mentioned. By all means, if you have additional personal solutions or tips, please add them in the comments. Most of these ideas will only cost a bit of your time. Many of them will actually save money. I know that even doing what seems like something small, I feel better. I feel like I am doing my part, however little it might be. We rarely know the full impact of the choices we make on a daily basis, or how our actions might influence others. Even if we can’t always make waves, we can, at least, generate some ripples.
I think the season of the political lie is upon us. I have never seen so many tired old tropes being trotted out on TV in all my years of fascination with the bloodsport of politics. I’m going to try to concentrate on folks out there fighting the memes and lies with facts. My first selection is from Baseline Scenario. Simon Johnson explains that unemployment insurance isn’t around to keep lazy people on extended vacations. In the process he takes on the lie that our government is broke.
Fire insurance is mostly sold by the private sector; unemployment insurance is “sold” by the government – because the private sector never performed this role adequately. The original legislative intent, reaffirmed over the years, is clear: Help people to help themselves in the face of shocks beyond their control.
But the severity and depth of our current recession raise an issue on a scale that we have literally not had to confront since the 1930s. What should we do when large numbers of people run out of standard unemployment benefits, much of which are provided at the state level, but still cannot find a job? At the moment, the federal government steps in to provide extended benefits.
In negotiations currently under way, House Republicans propose to cut back dramatically on these benefits, asserting that this will push people back to work and speed the recovery. Does this make sense, or is it bad economics, as well as being mean-spirited?
(For details on the current benefit situation, see this information from California, as well as this on the political background. After a two-month extension of benefits at the end of last year, the terms of continuing it are currently before a House-Senate conference committee.)
The United States has lost more jobs than in any other recession in the last 70 years – and jobs have been slower to return, as this chart shows.
In raw numbers, we lost more than eight million jobs, most of which have not returned. Paul Solman of the PBS NewsHour prefers a measure he calls U-7, which includes “the underemployed and those who want a job but have been out of work so long that the government no longer counts them; this currently stands at 16.9 percent of the workforce (see this story and also, for background, a discussion Paul and I had in the fall on the “shape” of the recovery, in which we rely on the B.L.S. data.)
However you want to count it, the financial crisis of 2008 brought on a jobs disaster — and the scale of this disaster is still with us. We like to say that the recession is “over,” but this just means that the economy is growing again. In no meaningful sense is the jobs crisis over.
Typically in the United States, most people are unemployed for relatively short periods of time, with a lot of movement in and out of unemployment. The fraction of long-term unemployed as a percentage of all unemployed is usually 10 to 15 percent. In the early 1980s, it briefly reached almost 25 percent.
Again, however, our experience since 2008 has been dramatically different – the share of long-term unemployed in total unemployed is close to 45 percent. And it appears to be staying at or near that level for the foreseeable future.
The House Republicans now propose to change many rules under which the federal government provides “extended benefits” to people who have exhausted their state benefits.
In most countries, unemployment insurance is managed primarily by the central government and its agencies – in our federal structure we have preferred, as with other kinds of emergencies (such as natural disasters) to have the states provide the first line of defense, with the federal government providing back-up. It is the federal government that has the strongest ability to borrow at low interest rates; most states are much more strapped for cash.
Do not be deceived by claims that the federal government is “broke,” in the sense that it cannot afford to provide additional support to states and people at this level. This is a myth, pure and simple.
Paul Krugman takes on Charles Murray’s new whine about declining morality in the poor down trodden white folks and how it’s hurting our country. Krugman shows that one of the traditional measures of social problems is teenage pregnancy and it’s way down. So, is violent crime. So what is it that Murray is really complaining about?
Reading Charles Murray and all the commentary about the sources of moral collapse among working-class whites, I’ve had a nagging question: is it really all that bad?
I mean, yes, marriage rates are way down, and labor force participation is down among prime-age men (although not as much as some of the rhetoric might imply), But it’s generally left as an implication that these trends must be causing huge social ills. Are they?
Well, one thing oddly missing in Murray is any discussion of that traditional indicator of social breakdown, teenage pregnancy. You can see why — because it has actually been falling like a stone:
So, is economic stagnation really the result of less church going? I doubt it.
Jonathan Chait takes on another right wing lie. That’s the one about how the job creators pay so much in taxes they are really down trodden billionaires! Veronique de Rugy doesn’t stand a chance.
De Rugy wrote a column centered around the claim that the United States has a more progressive tax system than any other advanced country, and as her sole piece of evidence cited the fact that rich people pay a higher share of the tax burden in the U.S. than in other countries. I wrote a response, noting that this reasoning is completely idiotic. Rich Americans pay a bigger share of the tax burden because they earn a bigger share of the income, not because the U.S. tax code is more progressive.
De Rugy’s reply is an incoherent collection of hand-waving that does not come close to addressing this very simple and fatal flaw with her claim. She introduces a series of other fallacies, like conflating the marginal tax rate (the percentage tax you pay on your last dollar) with the total tax rate (the overall percentage of your income paid in tax), using “income tax” as a stand-in for total taxes, and trying to broaden the debate into a bigger philosophical dispute. But it’s not a philosophical dispute. It’s a simple case of her making up false claims based on extremely elementary errors.
And this is why I am forced to be so mean. There are just a lot of people out there exerting significant influence over the political debate who are totally unqualified. The dilemma is especially acute in the political economic field, where wealthy right-wingers have pumped so much money to subsidize the field of pro-rich people polemics that the demand for competent defenders of letting rich people keep as much of their money as possible vastly outstrips the supply. Hence the intellectual marketplace for arguments that we should tax rich people less is glutted with hackery.
No discussion of reprehensible lies would be complete with out Santorum and without the numerous conspiracy theories and untruths told about the concerns of environmentalists. Don’t you know, science professors just want to get rich so they make up shit about climate change and fracking?
I know everyone has already heard about the outbreak of tics and verbal outbursts (described in the media as “Tourette’s-like symptoms”) in the small town of LeRoy, New York. I thought I’d pull together some information on the case anyway. I have been skeptical about the diagnoses that have been publicized (“conversion disorder” and “mass hysteria”) since I first heard about it.
The media descriptions of conversion disorder haven’t been particularly accurate or helpful, and now that school and county officials are trying to limit investigations into environmental causes for the outbreak, I’m even more suspicious that these symptoms may be caused by exposure to toxins in the environment.
The LeRoy students began having symptoms in September of last year, meaning they have continued for about four months. Here’s a description of the symptoms from CBS News:
Last fall, 12 teenage girls from LeRoy Junior-Senior High School – located in a town about an hour outside of Buffalo, N.Y. – began to show symptoms similar to those of Tourette’s syndrome, including painful shaking and jerking their necks….
The condition was so bad for at least one of the girls that she has yet to return to school. School and state officials investigated the outbreak and school building for several months, and concluded no known environmental substances or infectious agents were found that could have caused the symptoms in the teens.
Dr. Laszlo Mechtler of the Dent Neurologic Institute in Amherst, NY, has seen a number of the girls and has diagnosed them with “conversion disorder,” which is really just more politically correct name for what Sigmund Freud called hysteria. The term is drawn from the Greek word for “uterus,” and of course mostly females receive the diagnosis. Mechler is claiming the symptoms are a result of stress and the students who are affected may have are unconsciously acting out their anxieties through physical symptoms. He’s calling it “mass hysteria,” because a number of girls reported similar symptoms.
Mechtler said today that the media hype is just making the symptoms worse and that students who have kept to themselves have improved while those who went to the media got worse; and now that the national media is focused on the situation, those who had improved are now having increased symptoms.
So I guess we should all STFU and leave poor little LeRoy alone, then?
Lots more after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »