Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Image result for Henry rollins meme free education

You'd also have a country that wouldn't have elected Donald Trump for President.

Echoing what I said yesterday about a social safety net for coal workers, the editorial board of the New York Times wrote today:
When automation on the farm resulted in the mass migration of Americans from rural to urban areas in the early decades of the 20th century, agricultural states led the way in instituting universal public high school education to prepare for the future. At the dawn of the modern technological age at the end of World War II, the G.I. Bill turned a generation of veterans into college graduates. 
When productivity led to vast profits in America’s auto industry, unions ensured that pay rose accordingly. 
Corporate efforts to keep profits high by keeping pay low were countered by a robust federal minimum wage and time-and-a-half for overtime. 
Fair taxation of corporations and the wealthy ensured the public a fair share of profits from companies enriched by government investments in science and technology. 
Productivity and pay rose in tandem for decades after World War II, until labor and wage protections began to be eroded. Public education has been given short shrift, unions have been weakened, tax overhauls have benefited the rich and basic labor standards have not been updated. 
As a result, gains from improving technology have been concentrated at the top, damaging the middle class, while politicians blame immigrants and robots for the misery that is due to their own failures. Eroded policies need to be revived, and new ones enacted.
It's  an interesting editorial, and can be read in full here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Yes, Congress was spineless enough to approve Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, despite his radical anti-EPA record and the imminent (tomorrow?), court-ordered release of thousands of emails documenting his communications with the fossil fuel industry.  There may not be anything of substance in them, but wouldn't you want to know before you appoint him?

Meanwhile, the Washington Post today reported that two major coal-fired power plants will be closing prematurely.  Sadly, they are not the two Southern Company plants in Georgia and Alabama, but one in Arizona and two in Ohio.  Despite the rhetoric out of parts of Washington and the prevailing opinion in red states, they are closing not because of over-regulation by the EPA and other parts of the government, but simply because the low cost of natural gas has rendered them unprofitable and obsolete.  Times change, technologies change, and as a result, factories, power plants, and jobs have to change along with them.

Sadly, the closings will result in the loss of hundreds, possibly thousands, of jobs in the vicinity of the plants, many of them at the Arizona plant held by Native Americans.  No reasonable person finds happiness in the loss of people's livelihood due to plant closings, and Native Americans are already facing a staggering number of challenges. But the solution to the employment problem is not suffering the continued operation of old, outdated, and polluting power plants, but by creating and maintaining a viable safety net to care for, provide for, and retrain the displaced workers. Job outsourcing, new technologies, and changes in employment are particular problems in America, largely because there is little to no safety net here for American workers.

There is on longer a large number of jobs associated with the horse-and-buggy industry, but rather than insist that we ignore the automobile and retain outmoded forms of transportation for the sake of the horse-and-buggy workers, we moved on and embraced the car, and the buggy workers eventually learned how to manufacture Jeep Cherokees and Chevy Impalas.

So what do you want to do, America?  Continue to live in the past, embrace outdated technologies, and pollute the air for the sake of some anachronistic jobs,  or train our work force for the challenges of the future?  It's our call, but we can't trust Scott Pruitt to make it for us.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

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Writing in The Intercept about Scott Pruitt, Trump's nominee to head the EPA, Sharon Lerner notes,
Southern Coal is a division of Southern Power, which has been co-party in four of Pruitt’s 14 suits against the EPA. (A Southern executive, L. Ray Harry, contributed to Pruitt’s 2014 re-election fund.) An EPA investigation of Southern Coal found numerous violations of the Clean Water Act at its mines in Appalachia, which according to EPA records impacted waterways, killing fish and endangering the health of local communities. The EPA’s response, which included instituting preventive measures, data tracking, and training of mine workers, cost some $5 million and eliminated an estimated 5 million pounds of pollution from being released into local waterways.
At over 19 million tons per year, Alabama Power's Plant Miller, a Southern Company power plant located northwest of Birmingham, is the No. 1 emitter of carbon dioxide in the US.  At almost 18 million tons per year, Georgia Power's Plant Sherer, another Southern Company power plant located near Macon, is the No. 2 emitter.  Georgia Power's Plant Bowen near Cartersville (northwest of Atlanta) contributes another 12.5 million tons of carbon dioxide.  Together, these three plants  alone contribute about 50 million of the US's staggering total of 3 billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere (source: EPA).

Instead of working to find innovative solutions to reduce these emissions, the Trump Administration has instead nominated the man who sued the agency 14 times, and who was backed by the very polluters on whom the EPA should be enforcing their standards and limits.


Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Q: Tell Us, DEVO – What should we make of Betsy DeVos?

Gerald V. Casale of DEVO: Betsy will make sure that the poor remain uninformed and without hope. 

Wednesday, February 01, 2017


When the notification scrawled across my phone last night that the Trainwreck President had just nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, I initially misread it and thought that it said "Newt Gingrich."  While there are certainly issues with a Gorsuch Court - some of us are old enough to remember his mother, Ann Gorsuch, and her disastrous turn as Reagan's EPA Chief - it was actually a relief to learn that in fact it wasn't Newt who had been nominated.

The scary part is that in these "anything-can-happen" times, it was actually plausible that Newt might have been the nominee.