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Archive for August 27th, 2018

House Republicans Have a Secret List of Trump Scandals They’re Covering Up

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In New York Jonathan Chait writes something that I find stunningly cynical even for the GOP:

Axios has obtained a list of Trump administration scandals. The list hints at the overflowing sewer of Trumpian corruption and incompetence, and the refusal of congressional Republicans to investigate any of it. Oddly enough, this list is being circulated by Republicans in Congress. The list, composed of Democratic requests for hearings that Republicans have blocked, is meant to warn of what Congress would look into if Democrats win the midterms. Axios reports that Republican “stomachs are churning” at the mere thought that any of the items on the list could receive a public hearing.

The list includes the kinds of policies a normally functioning Congress would probe, including “Election security and hacking attempts,” “White House security clearances,” and “Hurricane response in Puerto Rico.” (Congress held bipartisan hearings on the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, but has not done so for the response to the hurricane in Puerto Rico, where hundreds of Americans died.) But most of the cases listed focus on corruption: “President Trump’s tax returns,” “Trump family businesses — and whether they comply with the Constitution’s emoluments clause, including the Chinese trademark grant to the Trump Organization,” “Trump’s dealings with Russia, including the president’s preparation for his meeting with Vladimir Putin,” and on and on.

Probably the most picayune item on the list would be “White House staff’s personal email use,” though of course it might be difficult for Republicans to dismiss this issue given that they based their entire campaign on the premise that the use of personal email constitutes a grave criminal defense and continue to demand the imprisonment of Hillary Clinton for this very offense.

The most predominant theme of the list is corruption. Trump has maintained control of a private business empire, refused to disclose its details to the public, and has interwoven his private and public interests. Congressional Republicans refuse to take any steps to limit the potential for corruption and blackmail. Even the basic step of compelling disclosure of Trump’s tax returns, so that Americans could learn who might be bribing the president, is too much for them.

Republicans have so completely internalized their role as handmaidens to Trump’s corruption that they have turned evidence of his incompetence and guilt into an argument for maintaining their power to cover it up. Why are they emphasizing this point? Some Republican voters are unenthusiastic about the midterm elections, and fail to grasp the stakes. Since the base likes Trump much more than they do his congressional allies, it makes sense for the purposes of base mobilization to emphasize their role as Trump’s legal bodyguards.

Additionally, some of Trump’s allies have floated arguments that Trump would actually benefit from a Democratic Congress, giving him a useful foil to play off of. The Trump scandal list is likely aimed in part at Trump himself, reminding him of what he has to lose if Congress were to begin looking into his misconduct.

The public-facing version of the argument focuses on the specter of impeachment. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Later in the article:

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial echoes the argument made by the party’s congressional wing. After acknowledging that Democratic leaders might be saying they have no intention to impeach the president if they win the House, it proceeds to argue that they will anyway. And the reason it provides is that … Trump is a gigantic crook: . . .

The list published in Axios is in an article by Jonathan Swan that begins:

Congressional Republicans are getting ready for hell.

Axios has obtained a spreadsheet that’s circulated through Republican circles on and off Capitol Hill — including at least one leadership office — that meticulously previews the investigations Democrats will likely launch if they flip the House.

Why this matters: Publicly, House Republicans are putting on a brave face about the midterms. But privately, they are scrambling to prepare for the worst. This document, which catalogs requests Democrats have already made, is part of that effort.

It has churned Republican stomachs. Here are some of the probes it predicts:

  • President Trump’s tax returns
  • Trump family businesses — and whether they comply with the Constitution’s emoluments clause, including the Chinese trademark grant to the Trump Organization
  • Trump’s dealings with Russia, including the president’s preparation for his meeting with Vladimir Putin
  • The payment to Stephanie Clifford — a.k.a. Stormy Daniels
  • James Comey’s firing
  • Trump’s firing of U.S. attorneys
  • Trump’s proposed transgender ban for the military
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s business dealings
  • White House staff’s personal email use
  • Cabinet secretary travel, office expenses, and other misused perks
  • Discussion of classified information at Mar-a-Lago
  • Jared Kushner’s ethics law compliance
  • Dismissal of members of the EPA board of scientific counselors
  • The travel ban
  • Family separation policy
  • Hurricane response in Puerto Rico
  • Election security and hacking attempts
  • White House security clearances

The spreadsheet — which I’m told originated in a senior House Republican office — catalogs more than 100 formal requests from House Democrats this Congress, spanning nearly every committee.

  • The spreadsheet includes  . . .

 

Written by Leisureguy

27 August 2018 at 3:40 pm

Student Loan Watchdog Quits, Says Trump Administration ‘Turned Its Back’ On Borrowers

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Corey Turner reports for NPR:

The federal official in charge of protecting student borrowers from predatory lending practices has stepped down.

In a scathing resignation letter, Seth Frotman, who until now was the student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, says current leadership “has turned its back on young people and their financial futures.” The letter was addressed to Mick Mulvaney, the bureau’s acting director.

In the letter, obtained by NPR, Frotman accuses Mulvaney and the Trump administration of undermining the CFPB and its ability to protect student borrowers.

“Unfortunately, under your leadership, the Bureau has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting,” it read. “Instead, you have used the Bureau to serve the wishes of the most powerful financial companies in America.”

The letter raises serious questions about the federal government’s willingness to oversee the $1.5 trillion student loan industry and to protect student borrowers.

Frotman has served as student loan ombudsman for the past three years. Congress created the position in 2010, in the wake of the financial crisis, as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. As ombudsman and assistant director, Frotman oversaw the CFPB’s Office for Students and Young Consumers and reviewed thousands of complaints from student borrowers about the questionable practices of private lenders, loan servicers and debt collectors.

Since 2011, the CFPB has handled more than 60,000 student loan complaints and, through its investigations and enforcement actions, returned more than $750 million to aggrieved borrowers. Frotman’s office was central to those efforts. It also played a role in lawsuits against for-profit giants ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges and the student loan company Navient.

Over the past year, the Trump administration has increasingly sidelined the CFPB’s student loan office. Last August, the U.S. Department of Education announced it would stop sharing information with the bureau about the department’s oversight of federal student loans, calling the CFPB “overreaching and unaccountable” and arguing that the bureau’s actions were confusing borrowers and loan servicers alike. Of the move, Frotman writes, “the Bureau’s current leadership folded to political pressure … and failed borrowers who depend on independent oversight to halt bad practices.”

In May, Mulvaney called for a major shake-up in Frotman’s division. The Office for Students and Young Consumers would be folded into the bureau’s financial education office, signaling a symbolic shift in mission from investigation to information-sharing. While the CFPB told NPR at the time that the move was “a very modest organizational chart change,” consumer advocates reacted with alarm.

Christopher Peterson, director of financial services at the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America, called the move “an appalling step in a longer march toward the elimination of meaningful American consumer protection law.”

In his resignation, Frotman also accuses the CFPB’s leadership of  . . .

Continue reading.

Full text of his resignation letter at the link. It’s worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 August 2018 at 2:45 pm

No One Is Safer. No One Is Served.

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David Eggers writes in the New Yorker:

The legendary Chicago oral historian and moral force Studs Terkel once said, “There is a decency in the American people and a native intelligence—providing they have the facts, providing they have the information.” During a lifetime of listening to Americans, Terkel came to believe that, when Americans have the information, they do the right thing.

So here is the information:

For a hundred and fifty-eight days, Malik Naveed bin Rehman, Zahida Altaf, and their five-year-old daughter, Roniya, have been living in the basement of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, Connecticut. There is an electronic bracelet attached to Malik’s ankle, which provides his real-time location to ice authorities. On a recent Saturday morning, Malik showed me the plastic bracelet, which looks like a snug black shackle. Though iceauthorities can send pre-recorded messages to him through the bracelet, he said that they prefer to call him on his cell phone, usually between 2 and 5 a.m.“Malik? Are you there?” they ask. He is convinced they do this to prevent the family from sleeping through the night.

Malik and Zahida are a middle-aged couple, originally from Pakistan, who have been in the United States for almost twenty years. They arrived as asylum seekers in 2000, and the first two attorneys they hired both absconded with their money—more than sixteen thousand dollars in total—and were later prosecuted for fraud. Over subsequent years, Malik and Zahida consulted eight more attorneys. In 2008, immigration officials denied their asylum application. They filed an appeal, which was rejected in 2010. Immigration officials then began court proceedings to remove them from the United States.

In 2012, Roniya was born; she is an American citizen. In 2014, Malik and Zahida gained protection under an executive action concerning enforcement priorities signed by President Obama. Immigrants who had committed no crimes and who had played by the rules—working and paying taxes, for example—were not prioritized for deportation. Then, in 2017, the Trump Administration reversed the executive action, and deportation proceedings were started against Malik and Zahida.

The family’s living quarters consist of a small bedroom and, across the hall, two rooms customarily used for Sunday school. They have the run of the church, but six days a week these three rooms are set aside for their use only. A shower has been fashioned in a bathroom by connecting a garden hose to the sink. A large picture of a beach scene brightens the windowless bedroom. A guitar leans against a wall. A pair of bongos rests on a bookshelf. Members of the congregation have been teaching Zahida how to play both instruments. “I always wanted to learn the drums,” she said. Because she and Malik can’t leave the church, they try to stave off boredom and depression by taking classes in yoga, needlepoint, and ceramics. There is a pottery studio in the basement, and the couple has made more bowls and plates than they can use.

There are at least forty-two families or individuals facing deportation who are now living in churches across the United States. It is only a form of courtesy that prevents ice from entering sensitive areas such as schools and places of worship; if they choose to, they can go anywhere they please. The forty-two cases are those that have been publicized in some way, but because more than a thousand churches have signed on to participate in the sanctuary movement, and because many more churches are providing sanctuary in secret, the total number of humans hiding in American houses of faith is not known.

Old Lyme, Connecticut, is a preppy town of old-growth trees, wide lawns, and twenty-seven miles of coastline, on the Long Island Sound. The First Congregational Church was established the same year the town was incorporated, in 1665. The church, with fluted white columns and a towering spire, was immortalized by the Impressionist Childe Hassam, in 1903. It stands on a manicured pea-green lawn in a neighborhood of similarly situated white Colonial and Victorian homes. American flags bow from wide porches; everywhere, the greens are very green and the whites are very white.

The church, not previously known as a bastion of progressive activism, began forging partnerships in 1985 with churches and social-justice organizations in South Africa, Haiti, and the Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux Indian Reservation, in South Dakota. According to the church’s brochure about its missions, the congregation sought “a deeper level of friendship with those of other races and cultures, recognizing, honoring, and celebrating both the diversity and the integrity and interconnectedness of all of God’s Creation.” When I arrived that Saturday, women and men were pushing shopping carts along the sidewalk, heading for the church. Outside, a large, handwritten sign resting on the steps read:

WE AFFIRM

Muslims
People of Color
Immigrants and Refugees
The LGBTQ Community
The Disabled
Women and Children
Jews
The Environment

Taught by our faith, we stand firm
You are our family

Lina Tuck, a longtime congregant and a steward of the church’s sanctuary program, greeted me outside. She is an energetic woman in her early fifties who, after the election of Donald Trump, helped create and now runs the church’s immigration committee. Inside, the church was bustling. A dozen or so people carried groceries through the narrow back hallways. “The Saturday food pantry,” Reverend Steve Jungkeit explained to us. The First Congregational serves as a distribution center for the Shoreline Soup Kitchen, so every week about a hundred and fifty families come to the church to collect free groceries.

Jungkeit, the church’s senior minister, just turned forty-four, though he looks no more than twenty-five. He wore immaculate canvas sneakers, ankle-pegged pants, and black-framed glasses. A newsboy hat was set back on his head. A graduate of Yale’s Ph.D. program in religious studies who still lectures at Harvard Divinity School, he came to the church five years ago. “It was really the emphasis on social justice” that attracted him, he said. “Drawing North Americans out of their comfort zones to get, for instance, a community in Connecticut to care about what’s happening in Palestine.” He added that the “WE AFFIRM” sign had gone up a week after the 2016 election. “We thought we had to clarify where we stood.”

“So it wasn’t a stretch,” Tuck said, about the church’s experiment with sanctuary. In April of 2017, she and Jungkeit proposed the idea of sheltering a family to its board of deacons, and they approved it.

Shortly after that, Jungkeit and Tuck delivered a joint sermon from the pulpit. Tuck shared her own immigration story. “We came from Portugal in 1970,” she told me. “My dad came in 1969 with a visitor’s visa, which expired. So he was here illegally. My mom was a seamstress, so she was able to get a contract to come to the United States with me and my brother. And, since immigration laws were different in 1970, my dad was able to be grandfathered in and stay.” They were given permanent-resident status, and when Tuck was twenty, she and her mother became citizens. Her brother joined the Marines and fought in the Gulf War with a green card and a Portuguese passport. “He just got his American citizenship, like, two or three years ago,” Tuck said.

After receiving approval to shelter a family, Tuck and Jungkeit attended an informational gathering of New Sanctuary Connecticut, a Hartford-based organization that helps place immigrant families in churches. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

27 August 2018 at 2:39 pm

Verizon Incompetence and Greed Leaves Firefighters Throttled During Wildfire

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Karl Bode writes in Motherboard:

A little more than a decade ago, Verizon Wireless settled a dispute with the New York Attorney General over the definition of “unlimited” data.

As part of the settlement, Verizon was forced to reimburse consumers to the tune of $1 million after a nine-month investigation found it was advertising wireless connections as “unlimited,” but then kicking users off of the Verizon Wireless network for “excessive use”—without disclosing the hidden limits of these connections.

Ten years later and it’s not clear that Verizon has learned much of anything from the experience.

The company made headlines again this week after a brief filed by net neutrality advocates highlighted that Verizon had throttled the “unlimited” data connection of the Santa Clara County Fire Department as it struggled to battle the Mendocino Complex Fire, one of the largest forest fires in California’s history.

Verizon Wireless routinely embeds all manner of limits in its unlimited mobile data plans, including restrictions on HD streaming, restrictions on the use of phones as modems or hotspots, and a general 25 GB consumption limit that results in users having their connections throttled to a crawl.

In this case, Verizon’s throttling caveat wound up crippling the cellular connection embedded in “OES 5262,” a mobile command and control vehicle the department uses to manage and coordinate emergency response. Instead of a 50 Mbps connection, the fire department was left trying to battle a raging fire with the equivalent of a dial-up modem (30 kbps).

Emails last June from Fire Captain Justin Stockman to Verizon show this wasn’t the first time this had happened.

“Verizon is currently throttling OES 5262 so severely that it’s hampering operations for the assigned crew,” Stockman wrote. “This is not the first time we have had this issue. In December of 2017 while deployed to the Prado Mobilization Center supporting a series of large wildfires, we had the same device with the same SIM card also throttled.”

Verizon’s own internal policies state that such restrictions aren’t supposed to apply to first responder connections. But when the department contacted Verizon, the company’s first reaction wasn’t to immediately fix the problem—but to try and upsell the Fire Department to a new wireless plan that was twice as expensive.

Instead of its original $38 per month plan, the fire department was told it would need to pony up for a $100 per month unlimited plan. And even that “unlimited” option involved very real limits, including a 20 GB monthly cap and $8 per gigabyte overage fees should that limit be exceeded.

That’s not particularly surprising for an industry with some of the worst customer satisfaction ratings in America. Nor is it particularly surprising for a company that routinely embeds arbitrary restrictions on its unlimited lines in a bid to upsell you to more expensive services they may not actually need.

For example, Verizon users need to shell out significantly more for HD video to actually function as intended on these lines. Thousands of rural Verizon customers sold “unlimited” connections have also frequently found themselves kicked off the Verizon network for using an unspecified but “significant amount of data.”

While not surprising, it’s still a major scandal for a company that just spent millions of dollars and countless lobbying man hours to dismantle the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules. Then repeatedly tried to claim that wasn’t actually happening. This denial remains firmly intact.

“This situation has nothing to do with net neutrality or the current proceeding in court,” Verizon told Motherboard in an email exchange.

But the FCC’s discarded rules allowed ISPs to throttle connections in period of network congestion under guidelines allowing for “reasonable network management.” Such throttling is only supposed to kick in during periods of congestion (the fire department says it was throttled all of the time, regardless of network load), and never for first responders.

Had the net neutrality rules still been intact, the Santa Clara fire department could have filed a formal complaint with the FCC about Verizon’s “unjust or unreasonable prices and practices,” a process that has since been dismantled thanks in large part to Verizon and FCC boss Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer.

Verizon was at least willing to concede that its support staff made a mistake in failing to adequately explain the hidden limits of the plan, and in failing to remove the limits when contacted by first responders. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

27 August 2018 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Business, GOP, Government

How the Trump Administration Went Easy on Small-Town Police Abuses

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Ian MacDougall reports in ProPublica:

The Obama Justice Department thought Ville Platte, Louisiana — where officers jail witnesses to crimes — could become a model of how to erase policing abuses that plague small towns across the nation. Jeff Sessions decided not to bother.

On a chilly morning in December 2016, 12-year-old Bobby Lewis found himself sitting in a little room at the police station in Ville Platte, a town of 7,300 in southern Louisiana. He wasn’t sure exactly how long it had been, but the detective grilling him had been at it for some time. Bobby was a middle school student — a skinny kid with a polite demeanor — and though he got in trouble at school from time to time, he wasn’t used to getting treated like this. He was alone, facing the detective without a parent or a lawyer.

A blank piece of paper sat on the table in front of Bobby. He and his friends were thieves, the detective insisted. They sold drugs. They trafficked guns. The detective brushed off Bobby’s denials. She knew what he was up to, and if he didn’t write it all down — inform on his friends and confess to his crimes — she’d charge him. She’d confiscate his dog, Cinnamon, she told him. She’d throw his mother in jail. Bobby was nothing but a “B” and an “MF,” as he later relayed the detective’s words to me, sheepish about repeating them. When his mother finally turned up at the station house, it seemed only to enrage the detective further. “Wipe that fucking smile off your face, and sit up in that fucking chair,” Bobby and his mother recall the detective barking at him.

Earlier that day, Bobby told me, he had been walking home from a friend’s house when a police cruiser pulled up alongside him. He recognized one of the officers. Her name was Jessica LaBorde, but like most people in Ville Platte, Bobby knew her only as Scrappy. The sobriquet was too fitting not to stick. Profanity prone in the extreme, LaBorde was known for her tinderbox temper and hostile disposition. She styled herself like a Marine drill sergeant — fastidiously pressed police blues, jet-black hair pulled back tight — and she would become Bobby’s interrogator. (LaBorde did not respond to calls or a detailed list of questions about the incident.)

Somebody had put a rock through a window in one of the abandoned houses that litter Ville Platte, and a neighbor had seen three boys taking shelter from the rain under a carport nearby. But, the neighbor later told Bobby’s mother, Charlotte Lewis, he didn’t know which of the boys had thrown the rock. Bobby admitted he had been there but insisted he wasn’t the culprit.

Police need probable cause — evidence sufficient to show there’s a fair likelihood that a person committed a crime — to take someone into custody. Generally, an officer can’t detain somebody just because that person was near the scene of a crime. “Mere propinquity,” the U.S. Supreme Court has written, “does not, without more, give rise to probable cause.” Whether LaBorde didn’t know that or didn’t care, she ordered Bobby into the back of her squad car.

LaBorde didn’t call Bobby’s mother to tell her that her 12-year-old was in custody, according to a complaint Lewis later filed with the police department. But eventually another officer did. Lewis says she told the officer not to let anybody question her son until she got there. She had to wait out a morning downpour before she could walk to the station house.

Lewis was familiar with LaBorde’s rough reputation. Still, she told me, she was shocked by how her son was treated. “She cussed him out like he’s a stray dog,” she said. “It’s like my child is a convict or a criminal.” After two hours of pressing Bobby fruitlessly, LaBorde finally let him go — but not before charging him with criminal mischief, police records show. (A judge later dismissed the charge, Lewis told me; a friend admitted throwing the rock.)

Two weeks later, on Dec. 19, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing report on policing in Ville Platte and surrounding Evangeline Parish. The investigation found that, for decades, the city Police Department and the parish Sheriff’s Office maintained an unwritten policy of jailing people without probable cause — for days and even weeks at a time — to pressure them to cooperate with law enforcement. These “investigative holds” ensnared anybody who might know something about criminal activity, from a suspect to a potential witness to a suspect’s relatives. As the Justice Department report put it, “Literally anyone in Evangeline Parish or Ville Platte could be arrested and placed ‘on hold’ at any time.” Many were. From 2012 to 2014 alone, the police unlawfully held at least 700 people in Ville Platte — close to a tenth of the town’s residents.

That, the report concluded, amounted to “a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct.” To end this cycle of abuses, the report prescribed an array of institutional changes to eliminate investigative holds, such as imposing new department protocols and overhauling training regimens.

The case wasn’t merely about Ville Platte. The Justice Department lawyers viewed it as a template. Similar policing practices exist in scores of towns and villages across the country, and Justice Department officials selected Ville Platte precisely because it was a pure embodiment of a widespread problem. They hoped it would provide a model for reform at other police departments.

Justice Department officials planned to negotiate a consent decree — a long-term reform plan supervised by a federal judge — with local officials. Systemic police reform was a defining feature of the Obama-era Justice Department, which considered judicial oversight key to dislodging unlawful practices as firmly entrenched as investigative holds were in Ville Platte.

But Jeff Sessions, who took office as attorney general just months after the Justice Department report, has a different view. He considers his predecessors’ reform efforts, particularly via consent decree, to be gross federal overreach that denigrates and demoralizes police. Sessions all but declared that the Justice Department was getting out of the business of meaningful police reform. There would be no consent decree in Ville Platte. Instead, the result is what former Justice Department officials say is an anemic reform plan, announced in June, that largely leaves the future of policing there to the police.

There’s little reason, they say, to expect that this plan will induce law enforcement in Ville Platte to change its ways. The town’s policing culture is defined by arbitrary arrest and detention — and it has been for a long time. It’s a culture that’s proven intensely resistant to change. “You do what you know,” one former Ville Platte police official told me. “And that’s all they know.”


When Neal Lartigue joined the Ville Platte Police Department in 1991, investigative holds were part of his training. “I’ve been here 27 years, and that was going on before I started,” he told me when I visited Ville Platte early this year. The practice was never enshrined in any manual, but it was as good as official policy at both the department and the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office, which is headquartered in Ville Platte. (For its part, the Sheriff’s Office didn’t have a policy manual at all until last year.)

Lartigue rose to become the Police Department’s narcotics officer, and in that role, he was a regular practitioner of investigative holds, according to a former police official who worked with him during that time. Lartigue would “put people in jail” — people he thought might be drug users or small-time dealers — “and he’d make them sit there, and say: ‘You gonna tell me something? I know you ain’t got the drugs, but you’re getting them from somebody. Who you getting them from?’” the former police official told me.

It was an unnerving experience. Lartigue is an intimidating figure — a stern, laconic man with a shaved head and a stout frame. If his detainee pleaded ignorance, the former official said, Lartigue’s response was inevitably, “Well, then you’re gonna sit in jail till you decide you want to talk.” (Lartigue did not respond to requests for comment on his practices as an officer.)

Nothing had changed by 2006, when Lartigue . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 August 2018 at 12:12 pm

Scientists Warn the UN of Capitalism’s Imminent Demise

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Nafeez Ahmed writes at Motherboard:

Capitalism as we know it is over. So suggests a new report commissioned by a group of scientists appointed by the UN Secretary-General. The main reason? We’re transitioning rapidly to a radically different global economy, due to our increasingly unsustainable exploitation of the planet’s environmental resources.

Climate change and species extinctions are accelerating even as societies are experiencing rising inequalityunemploymentslow economic growthrising debt levels, and impotent governments. Contrary to the way policymakers usually think about these problems, the new report says that these are not really separate crises at all.

Rather, these crises are part of the same fundamental transition to a new era characterized by inefficient fossil fuel production and the escalating costs of climate change. Conventional capitalist economic thinking can no longer explain, predict, or solve the workings of the global economy in this new age, the paper says.

Energy shift

Those are the stark implications of a new scientific background paper prepared by a team of Finnish biophysicists. The team from the BIOS Research Unit in Finland were asked to provide research that would feed into the drafting of the UN Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), which will be released in 2019.

For the “first time in human history,” the paper says, capitalist economies are “shifting to energy sources that are less energy efficient.” This applies to all forms of energy. Producing usable energy (“exergy”) to keep powering “both basic and non-basic human activities” in industrial civilisation “will require more, not less, effort.”

The amount of energy we can extract, compared to the energy we are using to extract it, is decreasing “across the spectrum—unconventional oils, nuclear and renewables return less energy in generation than conventional oils, whose production has peaked—and societies need to abandon fossil fuels because of their impact on the climate,” the paper states.

The shift to renewables might help solve the climate challenge, but for the foreseeable future will not generate the same levels of energy as cheap, conventional oil.

In the meantime, our hunger for energy is driving what the paper refers to as “sink costs.” The greater our energy and material use, the more waste we generate, and so the greater the environmental costs. Though they can be ignored for a while, eventually those environmental costs translate directly into economic costs as it becomes more difficult to ignore their impacts on our societies.

And the biggest “sink cost,” of course, is climate change:

“Sink costs are also rising; economies have used up the capacity of planetary ecosystems to handle the waste generated by energy and material use. Climate change is the most pronounced sink cost,” the paper states.

The paper’s lead author, Dr. Paavo Järvensivu, is a “biophysical economist”—an emerging type of economist exploring the role of energy and materials in fueling economic activity.

The BIOS paper suggests that much of the political and economic volatility we have seen in recent years has a root cause in ecological crisis. As the ecological and economic costs of industrial overconsumption continue to rise, the constant economic growth we have become accustomed to is now in jeopardy. That, in turn, has exerted massive strain on our politics. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s important.

Written by Leisureguy

27 August 2018 at 11:32 am

RazoRock all the way: Zi’ Peppino and the Old Type

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Zi’ Peppino has a wonderful fragrance and quite a good lather. Three passes with the Old Type always leaves a perfectly smooth result, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a nick from this razor.

A splash of the aftershave, and the day begins.

In my obsession with figuring out the aerobic points I’ve been getting on my walk, I ended up buying Ken Cooper’s most recent book to get his most recent recommendations. In reading it, I decided to take to heart his admonition that one should not exercise 7 days per week, so I’m now taking one rest day per week. Even so, the amount I’m exercising now is comfortably above the minimum he suggests.

Written by Leisureguy

27 August 2018 at 11:25 am

Posted in Shaving

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