Governor Scott’s blue sky thinking on climate change

Vtdigger.com reports Scott sees potential ‘economic boon’ in climate change .

At his Thursday news conference Governor Scott was asked about the climate change issue. “I’m not sure that there’s a financial threat” to Vermont as a result of climate change, Scott said. And he suggested that with California experiencing rampaging wildfires it makes Vermont look pretty good.

Governor Scott has quite a sunny view of what climate change will do for Vermont it’s an opportunity, you see! This is kind of surprising as barely a couple days ago it was revealed that his administration was so loath to use the term “climate change” in a draft policy paper a plan for the future development that they edited the reference out.

But now Republican (Phil, not Rick of Fla.) Scott says, “Climate change could be in some ways beneficial to Vermont, when we’re seeing some of the activity in California today, with the wildfires and so forth, and lack of water in some regions of the country, if we protect our resources we could use this as an economic boon, in some respects,” Scott said.

climatetrends

A reporter asked whether Scott meant that if refugees fleeing wildfires and drought “have to relocate somewhere, they’d come to Vermont.”

“They’d come to Vermont, right,” Scott said.

What do you suppose those now “seeing some of the activity in California today […] wildfires and so forth, and lack of water” (also called having their homes destroyed and lives regularly threatened by massive wildfires) might feel about Scott’s remarks?

A recent study published by The Impact Lab titled, Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States, and reported in the Atlantic.com  one of the first to apply regional economic models to climate change found: Climate change will aggravate economic inequality in the United States, essentially transferring wealth from poor counties in the Southeast and the Midwest to well-off communities in the Northeast and on the coasts.

Other sections of the U.S. will suffer alarmingly according to the report: The loss of human life dwarfs all the other economic costs of climate change. Almost every county between El Paso, Texas, and Charlotte, North Carolina, could see their mortality rate rise by more than 20 people out of every 100,000. By comparison, car accidents killed about 11 Americans out of every 100,000 in 2015.

From his remarks it sounds possible that our Governor Scott is familiar with this paper. And perhaps if the study’s predictions prove reliable and you want to think only regionally there might even be some advantage for Vermont, for now. The study does note: If climate change continues unabated into the 22nd century, the North will likely eventually “flip over” into much higher temperatures and more severe economic  damages.”

And critics of the study caution in the Atlantic.com about its predictions: But this emphasis on the observed [the impact study is modeled on previously observed data] means that the research omitted many serious risks of climate change — even those the researchers considered important — if the data describing them was too paltry. The estimates do not include “non-market goods” like the loss of biodiversity or natural splendor. In other words: Most people agree that dead polar bears have an economic cost, but there’s no consensus on how to approximate it.

The study also doesn’t account for the increased likelihood of “tail risks”—that is, unlikely events with catastrophic consequences. Many researchers believe that global warming will make social strife, mass migration, or global military calamity more likely, but those events are, by definition, hard to predict.

For now let’s everyone keep a sharp eye out to see how Phil Scott is directing his administration to plan for climate change [oops]. But it’s possible the Governor was just trying out a little blue-sky thinking at his Thursday press conference you know, B.S. for short.

Trump Dept. of Labor to employers: “Keep the change”

Last Labor Day The Nation.com took stock of what the Trump administration is doing for workers right… erm, make that doing to workers rights, and came to the conclusion that the rollback of labor rights and protections since Trump took office is staggering.

And now just in time for Christmas, Trump McScrooge and his anti-labor elves have rolled back an Obama labor regulation that let restaurant employees keep their tips instead of pooling them with non-tipped workers. They claim the Obama regulation had contributed to pay disparities between servers and other staff like cooks and dishwashers. Interestingly, though, Trump’s Dept of Labor supposed effort to change that will also allow employers to legally keep all the tips for themselves provided the tipped workers earn the minimum wage.notipping

Vox media’s Eater.com explains how it works: A big problem with the new regulations is that employers may now legally pocket tips. Under the traditional paradigm, an employer takes the tip credit, pays all of their “service-facing” employees $2.13 an hour plus tips, and pays cooks and dishwashers $7.25 an hour, no tips (the numbers would be different according to minimum wage laws state to state, but this is the general idea).

But if they decide to follow the DOL’s new rule and they don’t take the tip credit, and instead pay minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to all their employees, then tips are no longer considered the property of the employee; they become property of the employer. That employer could split those tips between back and front of the house. Then again, the employer could also keep them all.

The industry owners group the National Restaurant Association (yes, the other NRA) favors the Trump rule change. They have acknowledged the “loophole” that just happens to favor their members but haven’t asked for it to be corrected.

At the national level the NRA for years has helped keep the federal minimum wage for tipped employees steady at $2.13 per hour since 1991. And they actively fight states efforts to hike their minimum wage and to pass paid sick-leave legislation. In the 2016 election cycle the group contributed $960,980  to the GOP, which is 81 percent of their total contribution to political parties for that period.

Commenting on the new “loophole,”  The Economic Policy Institute points out:  Recent research suggests that the total wages stolen from workers due to minimum wage violations exceeds $15 billion each year, and workers in restaurants and bars are much more likely to suffer minimum wage violations than workers in other industries. With that much illegal wage theft currently taking place, it seems obvious that when employers can legally pocket the tips earned by their employees, many will do so.

It’s almost as if the restaurant owners’ generous service to the GOP just earned them a big tip from Trump’s Dept. of Labor. Keep the change, boss.

Down the memory hole: Phil Scott’s Act 250 overhaul team strikes “climate change” from policy paper

Climate ChangeScottbalance

Vermont’s governor not only shares a name and party with Florida’s GOP governor but he apparently shares Governor Rick Scott’s documented problem using the term climate change. While using a maneuver right out of Florida’s playbook here in Vermont, Phil Scott’s administration has been caught eliminating the term climate change from proposed changes to Act 250 the state’s environmental development law.

The scoop from the Burlington Free Press: At issue is a report by Scott administration officials that was submitted in October to legislators who are reviewing the nearly 50-year-old land-use law. As part of their review, legislators are looking specifically at whether development should be judged through the lens of climate change during the Act 250 permit process.

Tayt Brooks  remember him? founder of right-wing conservative super pac Vermonters First, who now works as Director of Affordability and Economic Growth Initiatives for Phil Scott took credit (or blame) for the editing climate change. Tayt Brooks, […] said the Scott administration remains receptive to possible provisions in Act 250 that would address climate change.

“We didn’t view it as a substantial change,” Brooks said of the edits.

He pointed out that the final draft of the administration’s report suggests that lawmakers’ review “should include consideration of climate change in Vermont.”

Yeah, right: consider it but for god’s sake don’t write it or say it out loud!

Governor Scott (ours) after a little trouble with the issue during his campaign  in 2016 he was evolving  has made some encouraging noises about climate change since taking office. He was even tagged recently by governing.com as a glowing example of : “[…] today’s moderate governors.” Phil may have trouble with that moderate label if he continues to try to have try to have it both ways on climate change especially if he lets Tayt Brooks edit his policy proposals.

So, Tayt, when and where did you have your memory hole installed?

Catch-22 in the Hot Zone

“…There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions.”                                         -Joseph Heller, “Catch-22.”

Catch-22 cover detail.

This week, Entergy Vermont Yankee’s Government Affairs Manager, Joe Lynch, evoked the logic of “Catch-22” when he suggested that it would be unwise to look for further contamination of the Vermont Yankee site because doing so might redistribute the pollutants to new locations:

“…Additional testing of polluted or potentially polluted areas at Vermont Yankee would ‘introduce the risk of spreading any potential contaminants.’ ”

When further questioned by ANR, Lynch offered the following clarification:

“For instance, he warned that ‘invasive characterization and sampling’ could ‘create new pathways for water infiltration’ – a problem that’ s already causing extra work and expense at Vermont Yankee.”

Lynch also noted that the plant has “active systems still in place” such as fire protection mechanisms that rely on underground pipes.

Oh, those pesky underground pipes! I’m old enough to remember (2010) Entergy insisting to the PSB that there could be no leaks in the undergone pipes because there were no underground pipes.

Eager to get shy of the exhausted milk cow, Vermont Yankee, Entergy is once again indulging in whimsy so as not to further complicate a potential deal with NorthStar. Entergy reinforces its argument against independent sampling with the threat that, should the sale fall through, VY will be mothballed and left standing for decades, laying the exposure risks associated with sampling, as well as the mess of decommissioning, on a future generation of V ermonters.

Here’s your legacy, Kids.  Enjoy and don’t forget to say your prayers!

Nine Senate Democrats support GOP bill to weaken Dodd-Frank

I’ve got to admit not paying much attention lately to the daily barrage of political petitions that land in my email but this one caught my eye. Nine Democrats and one independent on the Senate Banking Committee have signed onto a GOP bill that, according to the Economic Policy Institute (a sponsor of the petition drive, link to sign on at end of diary) will weaken the already weak Dodd-Frank Act.

The Senate Banking Committee will also take two major steps toward reshaping federal financial regulatory and economic policy on Tuesday. The panel is expected to approve the nomination of Jerome Powell to be Federal Reserve chairman, then mark up a bipartisan bill to exempt small and mid-size banks from portions of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, champion of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said about this deal: “This bill shows once again how Washington values short-term profits for big banks ahead of the interests of consumers or the safety of the financial system.”

The bill exempts certain size banks, “smaller firms” from the risk-mitigation regulations included in the federal stress and oversight provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act.

The Democrats on board with this maneuver include former vice presidential candidate Senator Tim Kaine (VA). The other eight are : Senators Joe Donnelly (IN), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), Gary Peters (MI), Jon Tester (MT), Mark Warner (VA), Michael Bennet (CO); along with Independent Angus King (ME), who caucuses with the Democrats. According to Open Secrets from 2013 to 2018 the securities and investment industry was one of the two  top contributors to all the Democratic senators who support gutting Dodd-Frank except Senators McCaskill and Independent Angus King. zong!

It is particularly discouraging in normal times to see Democrats cheerfully offering the Republicans a helping hand gutting Dodd-Frank regulations. But it is doubly so now, in the time of Trump and with the GOP’s tax bill so recently inflicted on us. Makes me want to holler and… Zong!

Link to sign petition: HERE Unbelievably, a contingent of 10 corporate Democrats in the Senate is lining up behind this plan, hopeful their constituents won’t notice – but knowing their Wall Street donors will.”

“Cryin’ won’t help you and prayin’ won’t do you no good!”

Cryin’ and prayin’ won’t help if the GOP keeps on passing bills like their tax “reform” package. In lieu of what is by now a familiar rant about the dastardly GOP and the increasingly erratic President Trump, here’s an updated cartoon by the late Jack Ziegler I found on Twitter that says it all well most of it.

Altered Ziegler found on Twitter
Altered Ziegler found on Twitter

Here’s more on Jack Ziegler and the unaltered version of the cartoon.

ZIEGLER-newyorker-boardroom orig.
original text

National forecast: privatization and chance of shady deals

In the torrent of horrific appointments coming out of the Trump administration it is easy to miss specifics that wash by. Allgov.com, for those brave enough to face them all, regularly posts an up-to-date list of Trump appointments.

Among the most recent batch: Seema Verma, who has been tagged by Trump as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at Health and Human Services (HHS); William Beach was named Commissioner of Labor Statistics part of the Department of Labor (DOL); and Bruce Lee Myers will be head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA operates as part of the Commerce Department under Wilbur Ross, recently alleged to have business ties to Russians close to Vladimir Putin.

Prior to her appointment as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma redesigned Indiana’s healthcare program for former Governor now Vice President Mike Pence. Under her Healthy Indiana Plan the state’s care rating went from the 33rd healthiest state nationwide (bad) to 41st (worse). Part of the re-organization was removing people from Medicaid eligibility if they didn’t contribute to health care savings accounts.

At the Dept. of Labor, recently appointed Commissioner for Labor Statistics William Beach was formerly the longtime president of the Koch-brother-funded Institute for Humane Studies (“called a haven for climate change deniers”) and more recently was at the right–wing think tank Heritage Foundation. There he advocated abandoning Social Security and supported privatization of retirement in financial markets. During the Great Recession he favored cutting unemployment benefits.

forecastNOAAThe first two of these far-from-qualified appointees embody the kind of bumbling incompetence and/or extreme ideology we’ve come to expect from this administration. But for pure self-serving grifting potential it may be hard to beat the appointment of AccuWeather CEO Bruce Lee Myers to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA operates as part of the Commerce Department and runs the National Weather Service.  Under normal circumstances this conflicted appointment might attract substantial attention, but given the thick  fog of questionable ethics engulfing President Trump it hardly receives the kind of notice it deserves.

Allgov.com reports: [… Bruce] Myers was executive vice president and general counsel for AccuWeather. In 2007, Barry took his brother’s place as chief executive officer of the company.

The Myers brothers for years financially supported Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania). In 2005, Santorum introduced a bill that would have restricted NWS [the National Weather Service] from providing regular weather reports to the public. Instead, it would reserve the taxpayer-funded product of NWS for use by companies such as AccuWeather. Santorum’s bill was not passed.

In 2014, AccuWeather made a deal with the Chinese government to disseminate weather information there for 20 years. The agreement was made after Chinese hackers were accused of having accessed into NOAA’s computers to disrupt satellite data dissemination.

AccuWeather has been critical of the Weather Service and Myers has made no secret his desire to privatize all or parts of the weather service for profit. Congress recently passed and Trump signed legislation that should speed that process along. The Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 has provisions to expand and pursue pilot programs to use and coordinate commercial data options and private-sector weather solutions among various federal government weather stakeholders.

So thanks to Trump and the GOP Congress it looks like the sun (and our tax dollars) may soon be shining down on for-profit private-satellite operators like Bruce Lee Myer’s family business AccuWeather. Who says you can’t control the weather (or at least control access to crucial weather information)?miamiclimatech

The question is whether the USA can survive the blatant conversion of government resources to inform and enrich the President’s friends. Those folks must have very deep storm cellar-bunkers many hundreds of miles from major sources of water  as well as their own private line to what will become secret government disaster warning information. Duct tape and plastic isn’t going to help as climate change drowns Miami.

Shipwrecked: Trump and the GOP crew

Although Democrats made significant gains on Election Day last week, which was hopeful news, sadly it was also the one-year anniversary of Trump’s “BIG” victory of course Donald narrowly won but he continues to lie about it. So, a little late, here is what seems an appropriate poem to mark the event. (Sadly a Russian language version of the poem was unavailable):

 

capntrump2Disaster at Sea

It was a calm, still day in Yarmouth,
The channel clear and wide,
As the last of the timber sailing ships
Sailed out on the evening tide.

They never saw that ship again;
They searched when it was light,
But that fine old timber vessel sank
That clear and peaceful night.

No one knows what happened
On that night in 1910;
But the crew and her cargo of woodpeckers
Were never seen again.

Les Barker – 2005

#Me too.

I am not a young woman. Truth be told, though I refuse to call myself “old”, I am not even a middle-aged woman anymore. Nevertheless, I feel the weight of obligation to my gender to add mine to the voices of all the other women who testify to sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of men in positions of power.

For me, coming of age in the late 60’s was less about the freedoms that the so-called sexual revolution was supposedly opening up in the culture, and more about the license it seemed to offer in the minds of predatory males, who now could freely cross the boundaries of consent that had customarily limited women’s exposure to assault from perfect strangers.

As a teenage girl riding the Chicago transit system to parochial school I had my first nauseating experiences of leering lechers who took advantage of the crowded conditions to press their bodies against me before I could extract myself from the throng. That probably was commonplace long before the sexual revolution, but as the decade advanced, there seemed to be an uptick in easily witnessed breast and ass grabs in passing and crude remarks loudly exchanged amongst snickering groups of men in ties and coats.

Summer jobs provided an ideal opportunity to learn about misogyny in the workplace, as junior file and supply clerks routinely vented their feelings of inferiority by sexually harassing the only candidates that they could bully: teenaged girls who were trapped by their low status and “shameful” lack of experience at deflecting such unwelcome behaviors.

Each invasion felt profoundly confusing and humiliating for me as a kid. I could think of no defense other than to hurry out of reach with my head down, face burning in helpless anger.

I guess I was lucky. Perhaps the worst experience I had was with an x-ray technician working for the Dept. of Immigration in Canada who exploited his official job in order to grope me as I stood in my underwear for the required chest x-ray. I was only nineteen but I had a keen sense of injustice and realized at once that he must be fondling all of the women who passed through his x-ray room. They, like me, would feel unable to protest, for fear that he might do something to affect their immigration status. My silent outrage was off the charts.

The experiences weren’t flattering or even remotely pleasurable for me. As I grew into adulthood, I reached a saturation point with no warning, and, one day, I simply snapped.

At twenty-four, I was living in Berlin, Germany. My boyfriend Mark (now my husband) and I were climbing hurriedly up the crowded subway exit stairs. We became separated in the shuffle and suddenly, as I reached the top step, I felt a hand grab my bottom from behind and give it an almost painful squeeze. Without thinking, I whirled around, grabbed the perpetrator’s arm and twisted it forcefully behind his back as I pushed him against the wall; then slugged him in the face as hard as I could with my free hand.

It all happened in an instant without anyone observing the initial assault. Suddenly the man cried “Was ist los? Was ist los?” Roughly translated, he meant, “Why? Why?” There were plenty of witnesses at this point as I replied, “You know damn well ‘was ist los’; you grabbed me!”

He was a pitiful sack of human rubbish; a poor excuse for manhood; and he took off at a brisk trot as soon as I released him.

My husband was quizzically looking back at the scene in confusion until I told him what had happened. When he heard the whole story, he was utterly delighted with my reaction, but I was shaking with lingering fury and the growing realization that something quite dangerous had been unleashed in me.

Months later, when we were walking on the street late at night, a group of drunken teenaged boys jostled us as they passed. My husband is rather small in stature and I don’t think they realized that he was a man. One of the boys grabbed both of my breasts as he passed me and ran away with his friends. I snapped once again.

I happened to be carrying an umbrella and I took off at a dead run, waving that umbrella ahead of me like a sword. I don’t recall if I said anything, but I pursued them for a block and a half until Mark caught up with me and persuaded me that I could get hurt if I actually connected with the umbrella and started a fight.

I realized in an instant that he was right but the adrenaline flow was almost overpowering.

That was pretty much the conclusion of my vendetta against gropers. I found it very disturbing that a deep well of violent potential clearly existed in me and had twice been provoked into eruption. It took me days to recover from that last episode, and I have to say that I haven’t revisited those feelings in the forty years since; but I had clearly turned the corner on my vulnerability. I would no longer be the humiliated victim of unwanted contact.  After that, I think the message to stay clear must have wafted from me like a pheromone.

I realize that my complaints are relatively minor when compared with those of other women, but I also realize that it is a mistake to dismiss any of these lesser assaults as unworthy of that designation. It is a mistake that we women of the past have made far too often and for far too long. For our silence we owe an apology to our daughters and our granddaughters for whom generations of misunderstood victimhood have set the table for the continued mistreatment of women.

Can you imagine what would happen if men behaved to other men as some do to women? There would be blood in the streets in short order because sexual abuse isn’t about sex, it is an act of violence, whether great or small.

During our annual Halloween party, when my son was in middle school, the most popular boy in the class, a “star” hockey player, upended the smallest girl into our dense shrubbery. Everyone laughed hilariously, including the victim who was flattered by the attention and struggled feebly to extricate herself. When I came upon the scene, I put an end to it and promptly sent the boy and his crew home. Then I sat all the girls down on the porch steps to explain why it was never a good idea to succumb to a boy’s bullying, even if it seemed to be all in good fun. I explained that soon they would be dating, and a relationship that begins with that kind of flirtation could one day end in the girl’s very real victimization.

That lecture had been building up in me for about forty years. I don’t know how much penetrated their hormone flooded brains that day, but I hope the timely intervention made some lasting impression on the little gal in the bushes. It felt really good to do what I could to empower the next generation of women against precursors of abuse that had been quietly accepted when I was young.

This is my testimony and I urge every woman who reads it to give her own.

The ACA and nine “threatening” words

Nine “threatening” words: generalized trust, better functioning democracy, less corruption and crime. ninewords

A recent study from Sweden indicates that in the first few years since it was enacted, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is reversing a general decline in trust one that has taken place over the past five decades. The research was conducted by the Swedish Universities Umeå and Lund

The research study indicates a fact about the healthcare issue and the ACA that could explain why the GOP and now Trump have been determined from the start to kill and or sabotage it at all costs: Obamacare might be key to reversing the trend of declining social trust that has plagued the United States since the 1970s.

“Before 2010, worsening health in the U.S. led to a decrease in people’s generalized trust. Coinciding with the introduction of Obamacare in 2010, this negative relationship no longer holds true,” says Jan Mewes, associate professor at the Department of Sociology at Umeå University in Northern Sweden.

Generalized trust is defined as the belief that most people, even strangers, can be trusted. Past research shows that societies with higher levels of generalized trust also have better functioning democracies, with less corruption and less crime. Over the past five decades, the U.S. has undergone a steady decline in generalized trust. [Added emphasis]

The Swedish study concluded just about at the time the GOP completed the takeover of Congress and Trump became President and they note: it will be interesting to see if the ACA will be retained in its current form […] Will it last, or will US citizens eventually ‘revert to form’, where poor health coincides with a lack of trust in others once again?

ACAcoverageWhile something dynamic has been driving the GOP  and president Trump to kill and/or sabotage ACA, their actions may prove self-destructive. A recent Kaiser poll found a solid majority of respondents, 66%, thought lawmakers should work to stabilize ACA markets rather than repeal the law. The breakdown by party showed strong support among Independents (67%), 85% support among Democrats, and even a sizable minority of 43% support with the GOP.

Ronald Reagan pretty much summed up his philosophy when he  quipped that the nine most threatening words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.”  Any success for the ACA, a government program, carries an existential threat to that longtime GOP mindset.

And it sure looks like an increase in generalized trust and a better functioning democracy with less corruption would make  life a little harder for President Trump and his scheming administration.