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Michael Cohen Testifies Against Trump and Admits Russian Connections!

Sketch of Michael Cohen in Court Yesterday

Dear Commons Community,

It’s been eight months since the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s New York law office and three since he pleaded guilty to illegal interference in the 2016 election. When all is said and done, the April raids by federal prosecutors targeting Michael Cohen’s office and other premises in Manhattan may be seen as a turning point for Donald Trump’s presidency. As reported in the New York Times:

“Those raids — and Mr. Cohen’s own malfeasance — opened the door for Robert Mueller, on Thursday, to convict President Trump’s longtime loyalist and personal lawyer of lying to Congress. What the special counsel has gathered since the raids provides the clearest proof yet to the American public that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry — derided by the president and his allies as an aimless fishing expedition — is rooted in the law and facts. To those critics, this latest move was surely meant to send another message as well: He’s not about to back down.

Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea, filed in the same federal courthouse where he already faces a steep sentence for orchestrating campaign-finance and other crimes, brings Mr. Mueller’s operation to New York, the heart of the president’s business empire and the self-made myth that propels it. If there’s anything that plea exposes, it’s that Mr. Trump’s mind never strayed far from his business dealings and how to further enrich himself and his family, even as he was campaigning for the nation’s highest office.

The facts to which Mr. Cohen admitted on Thursday don’t establish that Mr. Trump conspired with Russian efforts to win him the election, but they refute Mr. Trump’s frequent, vehement claim that he had nothing to do with Russia as he sought the White House. It was that falsehood that Mr. Cohen sought to protect by lying himself. “I made these statements to be consistent with” Mr. Trump’s “political messaging,” he said in court.

Well into the presidential race and as Mr. Trump’s chances of becoming the Republican nominee appeared certain, Mr. Cohen worked hard to get into the good graces of the Russian government — procuring meetings with high-ranking officials, planning trips for himself and Mr. Trump, and briefing the then-candidate and his “family members” on his progress.

These revelations, which Mr. Cohen concealed or obfuscated from congressional investigators conducting their own look into Russian election interference, put Mr. Trump at the center of an elaborate operation to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Reporting by BuzzFeed News, published in May, had previously detailed a concerted push to bring the Trump real estate brand to Moscow’s skyline. The plan, in Mr. Cohen’s own words, was to fly Mr. Trump to the Russian capital “once he becomes the nominee after the convention.”

The trove of documents and communications that are the foundation of BuzzFeed’s report now appear to be in Mr. Mueller’s possession. Before long, they could form the basis for additional criminal charges against or inquiries into other Trump figures who have sought to minimize their own Kremlin connections, such as Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort.

If investigating the Trump Organization and his business dealings was a “red line” for Mr. Mueller not to cross —  as Mr. Trump told The Times last year —  the special counsel blew right past it with Thursday’s charges. And with good reason: The conduct Mr. Cohen has attested to in his plea agreement and in open court falls directly within the special counsel’s mandate to pursue “any links” or “coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.”

Is there a clearer link to Russia than the involvement of President Vladimir Putin himself — as court documents now show — in a project meant to garner riches and a new edifice to a future American president?

Mr. Mueller’s interest in criminalizing lies and misdirections “within the jurisdiction of the legislative branch of the Government of the United States,” as Mr. Cohen’s charging document states, is an admonition to anyone who has testified on Russia before Congress — a body, despite its recent fecklessness, that, at least to Mr. Mueller, is meant to provide oversight of the executive branch on behalf of all Americans.

“I was campaigning. There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gotten back into the business, and why should I lose lots of opportunities?” was how Mr. Trump explained away Mr. Cohen’s conviction on Thursday. It’s a deflection that the president will rely on again, if history is any indication: Hours before Mr. Cohen appeared in court, the president was, for the umpteenth time, ranting and raving about Mr. Mueller, accusing him of searching for crimes that don’t exist.

But, as Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea demonstrates, the crimes are real. What’s more, there are already numerous cases filed in various federal districts that will likely bare others. It’s only a matter of time before even Mr. Trump won’t be able to tweet them away. “

Tony

P.S.:  Bloomberg Reports and other media were also revealing yesterday that related to the Michael Cohen testimony was another story that the Trump organization offered Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President, a $50 million penthouse in a new Trump Tower to be built in Moscow.

 

Video: Chris Cuomo called out Christians for their lack of compassion for immigrants, despite a religion that preaches love and grace!

Dear Commons Community,

Last night at the end of his CNN program, Chris Cuomo called out Christians for their lack of compassion for immigrants, despite a religion that preaches love and grace.

“Here we are staring at kids starving, and they are just a stones throw away,” Cuomo said.

He added, “No irony that Christians are about to celebrate Christmas, and there is no irony that is the story we are blocking out here. The poor and unwanted who ended up bringing the Savior into this world in a stable. Rejected, just as we are doing now.”

Watch the video above courtesy of CNN.

Tony

Harold Levy, Former Chancellor of the New York City Schools, Died Yesterday!

Dear Commons Community, 

Harold O. Levy, who as the chancellor of the New York City’s public school system from 2000 to 2002 waged war on its bureaucracy, created specialized high schools and attracted thousands of new teachers by insisting on higher starting wages, died yesterday at his home in Manhattan. He was 65.  I thought Mr. Levy did a fine job in the two years he was the chancellor.   He was always a gentleman and was willing to work with the teachers and others for the good of New York City children. Below is an excerpt from his obituary that appeared in the New York Times.

Tony


New York Times

“The son of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, Mr. Levy grew up in New York City, attended its public schools and became a Wall Street lawyer who immersed himself privately for years in state and city education issues. While he had no experience as an educator, he had headed a 1995 city commission that castigated the city over shoddy school conditions, and as a member of the New York Board of Regents he sought more state funding for city schools.

Appointed on an interim basis by the Board of Education in January 2000, explicitly against the wishes of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Levy, a small, energetic man who arrived at his new office in a pinstriped suit carrying a pillow embroidered with “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished,” faced daunting challenges directing the nation’s largest public school system.

It was a behemoth with 1.1 million students, 84 percent of them from minority groups; 78,000 teachers whose contracts were expiring and whose ranks faced heavy retirement losses; an aging infrastructure of 1,145 schools, most of them overcrowded and decrepit, and a $13 billion budget that experts called inadequate.

Mr. Levy, a Citigroup executive unknown to the public and even to many elected officials, was a progressive Democrat and had the support of Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, and some editorial commentators, including Bob Herbert of The New York Times, who called him “a dedicated and gifted man.”

Overnight, Mr. Levy became one of the city’s most visible figures, a wealthy man who did not need the townhouse that went with the job and whose children attended a private school. His selection, which required a waiver from the state education commissioner for a noneducator to qualify, set off a howl from conservative politicians, who called him a rich liberal indulging his social conscience.

But Mr. Levy, an admirer of poetry and of Sir Thomas More, whose chancellorship under King Henry VIII may have been the ultimate thankless job, plunged into his new position with optimism, nervous humor and the frenzied pace of a power broker eager to shake things up. “I know the system can perform,” Mr. Levy told a news conference. “So it’s going to. Simple as that.”

Mr. Levy’s take-charge approach and zeal for education soon won a following. Editorials urged the board to keep him and to stop searching for a permanent replacement for the former chancellor, Rudy Crew, who had been ousted after fighting with Mr. Giuliani over school vouchers. Mr. Giuliani finally endorsed Mr. Levy, who became the permanent chancellor after four months on the jo

An early task was to organize the biggest summer school in city history for 300,000 failing students required to attend the sessions under a new policy that ended automatic promotion to the next grade. Beyond anyone’s reckoning, his summer school largely succeeded, with U.F.T. help to recruit 17,000 teachers for the task. The city’s summer school is still the largest in the nation.

In his first year, Mr. Levy created his signature program — New York City Teaching Fellows, a local version of Teach for America. In its first two years, it recruited some 1,500 people from other professions, many of them African-American or Hispanic, to take crash courses and teach or mentor in city schools in exchange for tuition for a master’s degree leading to teacher certification.

With a businesslike approach that emphasized accountability, efficiency and organization, Mr. Levy instituted a series of reforms. He slashed a host of regulations and converted a number of failing schools to private management. He instituted the city’s first K-12 student-information system, and created programs offering college-level instruction.

Mr. Levy also opened three new specialized schools: the High School of Mathematics, Science and Engineering at City College; the High School of American Studies at Lehman College in the Bronx and the High School for Sciences at York College in Queens. The schools opened doors for thousands of minority students who might not have otherwise had access to specialized education.

In 2002, the U.F.T. won a new city contract, which raised entry-level teachers’ salaries sharply, to $39,000 from $31,900, and created an alternative form of certification that required far less training. As a result, thousands who might never have considered teaching in New York City — people just out of college or older people considering a career change — applied for jobs.

While Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the teachers’ union could claim credit for negotiating the contract, Mr. Levy said it was he who had “insisted that we have $39,000 and not a penny less.” After years struggling to recruit enough certified teachers to fill even half its classroom vacancies, the city hired a bounty of 8,300 applicants. Many accepted hard-to-fill positions in troubled schools.

In August 2002, Mayor Bloomberg, who had campaigned on a vow to take control of the school system, named Joel Klein to succeed Mr. Levy. In an editorial, The Times likened the school system to “a massive old battleship,” and hailed Mr. Levy for steering it “closer to the right direction.”

 

Harold Oscar Levy was born in Manhattan on Dec. 14, 1952, to Hugh and Alice Levy. His father had been a textile merchant in Nazi Germany. After his parents escaped, his father owned a hardware store in New York. Harold grew up in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan.

He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1970, earned a bachelor of science degree from Cornell University in 1974, a master’s degree in politics, philosophy and economics from Oxford University in 1978, and a juris doctor from Cornell Law School in 1979. He was a corporate lawyer for Citigroup and several of its predecessor enterprises.

In 1986, Mr. Levy married Ms. Sapinsley, an architect who now works in the Urban Future Lab at New York University. They had two children, Hannah and Noah. They survive him.

He became a liaison to community groups, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/Push Wall Street Project. In 1994, the schools chancellor, Ramon Cortines, named him to a commission on school facilities. It concluded that billions were needed to reverse years of deferred maintenance. He lobbied and raised funds for the task, and was named by the Legislature to the Board of Regents.

After his tenure as chancellor, he joined Kaplan Educational Foundation and founded its online master’s of education program. From 2010 to 2014 he was the managing director of Palm Ventures, investing in schools and educational technology. Since 2014, he had been executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which awards scholarships to thousands of low-income students.

Mr. Levy, in a commentary in The New York Times on April 8, written with the education journalist Peg Tyre, acknowledged his pending death and appealed for reforms to enrich the economic diversity of college students. He proposed ending the “legacy” admissions of children of alumni, and practices like pre-application college tours, which favor wealthy families; more aid to students from middle- and working-class families, and more high school guidance counselors to help them navigate admissions processes.

“Please stop giving to your alma mater,” Mr. Levy urged wealthy donors. “If you feel you must give, try earmarking your donation for financial aid for low-income, community college students who have applied to transfer to your alma mater.”

In his chancellery days, Mr. Levy kept a portrait of Sir Thomas More, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who, after a contretemps with King Henry over a point of ecclesiastical law, was beheaded in 1535. “He’s a lawyer, he’s an educator, he’s a real chancellor and he died for his principles,” Mr. Levy told New York magazine. “It’s a sort of inspirational reminder that things could be worse.”

 

Michael Moore: Donald Trump Was Played by General Motors!

Dear Commons Community,

The documentary film maker, Michael Moore commented on how  he believes President Donald Trump got “played” by General Motors, which this week announced it was cutting up to 14,000 jobs in North America.  On yesterday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “All In With Chris Hayes,” Moore said the automaker was “doing what it’s always done” — which he claimed was going back on earlier promises to create jobs in exchange for tax breaks and abatements.  As reported by The Huffington Post:

“That’s the thing about Trump. He doesn’t understand how he’s been played by GM,” said Moore, whose 1989 film “Roger & Me” centered on GM’s axing of roles in Flint, Michigan.

Moore said Trump’s indignation at the job losses “sounds right” but that the president “should know better.” He then expounded on Trump’s complicated relationship with big business.

“I’ve wondered in these two years why corporate America and Wall Street have been kind of quiet about Trump, because he has never been one of them,” Moore said. “To corporate America, to Wall Street, Trump’s been the trailer trash of the millionaire class. They never let him into their club, their exclusive high-end club.”

“You’re such a fool, Trump. You’ve been played again by these people who’ve never liked you,” he added.”

I was living just east of Tarrytown when General Motors displaced 2,000 workers and closed its plant there in 1996.  This was after the town had given General Motors substantial tax breaks year after year.  Moore’s comments ring true.

Tony

Betsy DeVos and USDOE are Restoring Federal Recognition to the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools!

Dear Commons Community,

The U.S. Department of Education is reportedly restoring federal recognition to the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (Acics), the controversial accreditor of for-profit colleges that saw its recognition revoked under the Obama administration.

The decision, reported by The Washington Post, has been largely expected ever since the department in September wrote in a letter to Acics that it was in violation of only two criteria necessary for recognition and should be given a year to come into compliance.

In a written statement, Liz Hill, the department’s press secretary, confirmed that Acics would be granted “continued recognition” on the condition that it submit compliance reports related to the two criteria, and that it also submit “annual monitoring reports” on four other criteria.

The council’s recognition was revoked during the Obama administration, which faulted the accreditor for what it called insufficient oversight of for-profit institutions like Corinthian Colleges Inc., which closed in 2015, and ITT Educational Services Inc. But a federal judge ruled this year that the Obama-era department had acted too hastily in revoking that recognition, and the department, now led by Betsy DeVos, has faulted its staff members as well as the federal advisory panel on accreditation as it sought to soften the blow to Acics.

Consumer advocates have criticized the department for its efforts to restore Acics’ recognition.

This is not unexpected given that the USDOE  is deep in the pockets of the for-profit college industry.

Tony

Daniel Greenstein, New Chancellor of Passhe Starts Planning for Change!

Dear Commons Community,

Daniel Greenstein, the new chancellor of 14 public universities of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, known as Passhe, has a daunting task ahead as he tries to plan for a future with limited funding and declining enrollments.  Greenstein’s background is a bit unconventional and represents an unorthodox choice to take over the system. A historian by training, he spent the past six years in Seattle as director of postsecondary success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, helping disburse about $600 million in grants and guiding policies aimed at shaping how higher education works nationwide. He has served as a tenured faculty member in Scotland and as a vice provost in the University of California system, but he has never run a university, much less a system of 14 of them.  As described in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“…this self-described “erstwhile postsecondary technocrat” must turn around a collection of public universities that have been linked as a system for only 35 years, and that still compete fiercely with one another, as well as with an overcrowded field of semipublic institutions, in a state where he has only tenuous connections. He must do so with — or, possibly, in spite of — forces beyond his control: a powerful faculty union and a state government whose stewardship of its public colleges in recent years has been laissez-faire at best…

…Through a lack of government oversight of higher education, the commonwealth has also worsened the competition for students and state resources. The 14 Passhe institutions don’t compete only with one another. They also draw from the same shrinking pool of in-state students as Pennsylvania’s three semipublic universities: Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Pennsylvania State University, as well as three Temple branch campuses, four Pitt branch campuses, and 23 Penn State branch campuses, spread across the state.

That’s 47 publicly funded four-year campuses in Pennsylvania, for a state of less than 13 million citizens. By contrast, Illinois has 12 public four-year universities for a population of similar size.

The proliferation of competing public campuses “is a failure of public-policy leadership,” says Joni E. Finney, director of the Institute for Research on Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania. “This wasn’t just Passhe’s own problem, or the other systems’. This is really a failure of the state to provide for higher education and to make sure there is some kind of reasonable plan for developing higher education in the future.”

In response to question about the future for Passhe, Greenstein said “he was drawn to the concept of “the sharing university,” as articulated in a recent paper by Georgia Tech and Deloitte Insights, a consulting firm. Under this model, which resembles the “One University” concept that the higher-education system in Maine is exploring, individual Passhe campuses would maintain their identities but share as many services and as much infrastructure as possible, along with programs, courses, and possibly students. The universities could save money, and students could find it easier to get the classes they need.”

We wish Dr. Greenstein luck as he moves forward with what will be a closely watch tenure at Passhe.

Tony

 

Data Farms Driving China’s Artificial Intelligence Development!

Workers at the headquarters of Ruijin Technology Company in Jiaxian, in central China’s Henan Province. They identify objects in images to help artificial intelligence make sense of the world.

 

Dear Commons Community,

Conventional wisdom says that China and the United States are competing for A.I. supremacy and that China has certain advantages. The Chinese government broadly supports A.I. companies, financially and politically. Chinese start-ups made up one third of the global computer vision market in 2017, surpassing the United States. Chinese academic papers are cited more often in research papers. In a key policy announcement last year, the China government said that it expected the country to become the world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030.

Most importantly, this thinking goes, the Chinese government and companies enjoy access to mountains of data, thanks to weak privacy laws and enforcement. Beyond what Facebook, Google and Amazon have amassed, Chinese internet companies can get more because people there so heavily use their mobile phones to shop, pay for meals and buy movie tickets.

Still, many of those claims are iffy. Chinese papers and patents can be suspect. Government money may go to waste. It isn’t clear that the A.I. race is a zero sum game, in which the winner gets the spoils. Data is useless unless somebody can parse and catalog it.

According to an article in the New York Times, the ability to tag that data may be China’s true A.I. strength, the only one that the United States may not be able to match. In China, this new industry offers a glimpse of a future that the government has long promised: an economy built on technology rather than manufacturing.  Here is an exceerpt:

“Some of the most critical work in advancing China’s technology goals takes place in a former cement factory in the middle of the country’s heartland, far from the aspiring Silicon Valleys of Beijing and Shenzhen. An idled concrete mixer still stands in the middle of the courtyard. Boxes of melamine dinnerware are stacked in a warehouse next door.

Inside, Hou Xiameng runs a company that helps artificial intelligence make sense of the world. Two dozen young people go through photos and videos, labeling just about everything they see. That’s a car. That’s a traffic light. That’s bread, that’s milk, that’s chocolate. That’s what it looks like when a person walks.

“I used to think the machines are geniuses,” Ms. Hou, 24, said. “Now I know we’re the reason for their genius.”

In China, long the world’s factory floor, a new generation of low-wage workers is assembling the foundations of the future. Start-ups in smaller, cheaper cities have sprung up to apply labels to China’s huge trove of images and surveillance footage. If China is the Saudi Arabia of data, as one expert says, these businesses are the refineries, turning raw data into the fuel that can power China’s A.I. ambitions.

 “We’re the construction workers in the digital world. Our job is to lay one brick after another,” said Yi Yake, co-founder of a data labeling factory in Jiaxian, a city in central Henan province. “But we play an important role in A.I. Without us, they can’t build the skyscrapers.”

While A.I. engines are superfast learners and good at tackling complex calculations, they lack cognitive abilities that even the average 5-year-old possesses. Small children know that a furry brown cocker spaniel and a black Great Dane are both dogs. They can tell a Ford pickup from a Volkswagen Beetle, and yet they know both are cars.

A.I. has to be taught. It must digest vast amounts of tagged photos and videos before it realizes that a black cat and a white cat are both cats. This is where the data factories and their workers come in.

Taggers helped AInnovation, a Beijing-based A.I. company, fix its automated cashier system for a Chinese bakery chain. Users could put their pastry under a scanner and pay for it without help from a human. But nearly one-third of the time, the system had trouble telling muffins from doughnuts or pork buns thanks to store lighting and human movement, which made images more complex. Working with photos from the store’s interior, the taggers got the accuracy up to 99 percent, said Liang Rui, an AInnovation project manager.

“All the artificial intelligence is built on human labor,” Mr. Liang said.

AInnovation has fewer than 30 taggers, but a surge in labeling start-ups has made it easy to farm out the work. Once, Mr. Liang needed to get about 20,000 photos in a supermarket labeled in three days. Colleagues got it done with the help of data factories for only a couple thousand dollars.”

Chinese development of A.I. applications will receive a real boost from the data farms described in this article.  The United States has nothing comparable yet.

Tony

 

 

David Leonhardt in Discussing The Monopolization of America Quotes Louis Brandeis: “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few but we can’t have both.”

Dominance of Corporate Behemoths

The combined market share of the two largest companies in many industries has grown in recent years, often because of mergers.

Source: IbisWorld and Open Markets Institute

Dear Commons Community,

New York Times op-ed columnist, David Leonhardt comments today on how in the United States  one industry after another, big companies have become more dominant over the past 15 years.  The chart above illustrates that the market share of the largest companies has increased significantly.  The new corporate behemoths have been very good for their executives and largest shareholders — and bad for almost everyone else. Sooner or later, the companies tend to raise prices. They hold down wages, because where else are workers going to go? They use their resources to sway government policy. Many of our economic ills — like income stagnation and a decline in entrepreneurship — stem partly from corporate gigantism.

Leonhardt makes point after point in his column (see below in its entirety) and concludes by quoting Louis Brandeis: “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few,” Louis Brandeis, the Supreme Court justice and anti-monopoly crusader, said a century ago, “but we can’t have both.”

Tony

—————————————————————————

New York Times

The Monopolization of America

By David Leonhardt

November 25, 2018

The popular telling of the Boston Tea Party gets something wrong. The colonists were not responding to a tax increase. They were responding to the Tea Act of 1773, which granted a tea monopoly in the colonies to the well-connected East India Company. Merchants based in the Americas would be shut out of the market.

Many colonists, already upset about taxation without representation and other indignities, were enraged. In response, dozens of them stormed three ships in Boston Harbor on the night of Dec. 16, 1773, and tossed chests of East India tea — “that worst of plagues, the detested tea,” as one pamphlet put it — into the water.

A major spark for the American Revolution, then, was a protest against monopoly.

A strong strain of anti-monopoly sentiment has run through our politics ever since. America was born as “a nation of farmers and small-town entrepreneurs,” the historian Richard Hofstadter once wrote, “anti-authoritarian, egalitarian and competitive.” Hostility to corporate bigness animated Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt, as well as the labor movement, Granger movement, Progressive movement and more.

Of course, monopolies and other corporate giants have fought back against these assaults on their power, and sometimes succeeded for years or decades at a time. It happened during the age of Rockefeller and Morgan. Over the past 40 years, it has happened again.

The federal government, under presidents of both parties, has largely surrendered to monopoly power. “The ‘anti’ in ‘antitrust’ has been discarded,” as the legal scholar Tim Wu puts it in his new book, “The Curse of Bigness.” Washington allows most megamergers to proceed either straight up or with only fig-leaf changes. The government has also done nothing to prevent the emergence of dominant new technology companies that mimic the old AT&T monopoly.

This meekness has made possible the consolidation of one industry after another. For a long time, though, it’s been hard to figure out precisely how much consolidation. The available statistics just aren’t very good, which isn’t an accident. In 1981 — around the time that the Reagan administration was launching the modern pro-monopoly era — the Federal Trade Commission suspended a program that collected data on industry concentration.

Fortunately, researchers in the private sector have recently begun filling in the gaps. On Monday, the Open Markets Institute — an anti-monopoly think tank — is releasing the first part of a data set showing the market share that the largest companies have in each industry. You can see the main theme in the charts here: Big companies are much more dominant than they were even 15 years ago.

Mergers are one big reason. Another is the power of so-called network effects — in which the growth of, say, Facebook makes more people want to use it. True, a few industries have become less concentrated, but they are exceptions. If anything, the chart here understates consolidation, because it doesn’t yet cover energy, telecommunications and some other areas. It also doesn’t cover local monopolies, such as hospitals that are dominant enough to drive up prices.

The new corporate behemoths have been very good for their executives and largest shareholders — and bad for almost everyone else. Sooner or later, the companies tend to raise prices. They hold down wages, because where else are workers going to go? They use their resources to sway government policy. Many of our economic ills — like income stagnation and a decline in entrepreneurship — stem partly from corporate gigantism.

So what are we going to do about it? It’s time for another political movement, one that borrows from the Boston Tea Partiers, Jefferson, T.R. and the other defenders of the economic little guy.

The beginnings of this movement are now visible. Top Democrats believe that anti-monopolism can be a political winner for their party. It’s a way to address voters’ anxiety over high drug prices, digital privacy and more. “The control of business over certain segments of the economy,” says Senator Amy Klobuchur of Minnesota, a potential presidential candidate, “I think it will be a much bigger thing going into 2020.”

Klobuchar has offered a good bill that would raise the legal standards for merger approval. But preventing future mergers won’t be enough. Eventually, the government will probably need to break up existing giants, as it did to the old AT&T and Standard Oil. One obvious candidate is Facebook, which has gobbled up Instagram, WhatsApp and other businesses.

And corporate bigness doesn’t need to be a partisan issue. Senator Mike Lee of Utah is among the Republicans who have expressed concern about it. Conservatives, after all, are supposed to care about the ideals that monopolies undermine — like market competition, economic dynamic and individual freedom. Ultimately, monopolies aren’t only an economic problem. They are also a political one.

“We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few,” Louis Brandeis, the Supreme Court justice and anti-monopoly crusader, said a century ago, “but we can’t have both.”

Fourth National Climate Assessment Report paints a dire prediction of the effects of climate change on our planet.

Dear Commons Community,

The Fourth National Climate Assessment Report was released late on Friday and paints a dire prediction of the effects of climate change on our planet and on our country.  The report  states unequivocally that “climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.”  

The 13-agency assessment, authored by more than 300 researchers  makes it clear the world is barreling toward catastrophic ― perhaps irreversible ― climate change. The report concluded that warming “could increase by 9°F (5°C) or more by the end of this century” without significant emissions reductions. 

“Observations of global average temperature provide clear and compelling evidence the global average temperature is much higher and is rising more rapidly than anything modern civilization has experienced,” said David Easterling, chief of the scientific services division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina. “This warming trend can only be explained by human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”

The report adds to an ever-growing, all-but-irrefutable body of scientific research that shows climate change is real and driven by human carbon emissions ― a reality that President Donald Trump and his team refuse to accept as they pursue a fossil fuel-focused “energy dominance” agenda.

A summary of the report’s findings follow below.

Tony

——————————————————————————

Fourth National Climate Assessment Report

November 2018

Summary Findings

These Summary Findings represent a high-level synthesis of the material in the underlying report. The findings consolidate Key Messages and supporting evidence from 16 national-level topic chapters, 10 regional chapters, and 2 chapters that focus on societal response strategies (mitigation and adaptation). Unless otherwise noted, qualitative statements regarding future conditions in these Summary Findings are broadly applicable across the range of different levels of future climate change and associated impacts considered in this report.

  1. Communities

Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.

The impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country. More frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities. Future climate change is expected to further disrupt many areas of life, exacerbating existing challenges to prosperity posed by aging and deteriorating infrastructure, stressed ecosystems, and economic inequality. Impacts within and across regions will not be distributed equally. People who are already vulnerable, including lower-income and other marginalized communities, have lower capacity to prepare for and cope with extreme weather and climate-related events and are expected to experience greater impacts. Prioritizing adaptation actions for the most vulnerable populations would contribute to a more equitable future within and across communities. Global action to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions can substantially reduce climate-related risks and increase opportunities for these populations in the longer term.

  1. Economy

Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.

In the absence of significant global mitigation action and regional adaptation efforts, rising temperatures, sea level rise, and changes in extreme events are expected to increasingly disrupt and damage critical infrastructure and property, labor productivity, and the vitality of our communities. Regional economies and industries that depend on natural resources and favorable climate conditions, such as agriculture, tourism, and fisheries, are vulnerable to the growing impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures are projected to reduce the efficiency of power generation while increasing energy demands, resulting in higher electricity costs. The impacts of climate change beyond our borders are expected to increasingly affect our trade and economy, including import and export prices and U.S. businesses with overseas operations and supply chains. Some aspects of our economy may see slight near-term improvements in a modestly warmer world. However, the continued warming that is projected to occur without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts. With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states.

  1. Interconnected Impacts

Climate change affects the natural, built, and social systems we rely on individually and through their connections to one another. These interconnected systems are increasingly vulnerable to cascading impacts that are often difficult to predict, threatening essential services within and beyond the Nation’s borders.

Climate change presents added risks to interconnected systems that are already exposed to a range of stressors such as aging and deteriorating infrastructure, land-use changes, and population growth. Extreme weather and climate-related impacts on one system can result in increased risks or failures in other critical systems, including water resources, food production and distribution, energy and transportation, public health, international trade, and national security. The full extent of climate change risks to interconnected systems, many of which span regional and national boundaries, is often greater than the sum of risks to individual sectors. Failure to anticipate interconnected impacts can lead to missed opportunities for effectively managing the risks of climate change and can also lead to management responses that increase risks to other sectors and regions. Joint planning with stakeholders across sectors, regions, and jurisdictions can help identify critical risks arising from interaction among systems ahead of time.

  1. Actions to Reduce Risks

Communities, governments, and businesses are working to reduce risks from and costs associated with climate change by taking action to lower greenhouse gas emissions and implement adaptation strategies. While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.

Future risks from climate change depend primarily on decisions made today. The integration of climate risk into decision-making and the implementation of adaptation activities have significantly increased since the Third National Climate Assessment in 2014, including in areas of financial risk reporting, capital investment planning, development of engineering standards, military planning, and disaster risk management. Transformations in the energy sector—including the displacement of coal by natural gas and increased deployment of renewable energy—along with policy actions at the national, regional, state, and local levels are reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. While these adaptation and mitigation measures can help reduce damages in a number of sectors, this assessment shows that more immediate and substantial global greenhouse gas emissions reductions, as well as regional adaptation efforts, would be needed to avoid the most severe consequences in the long term. Mitigation and adaptation actions also present opportunities for additional benefits that are often more immediate and localized, such as improving local air quality and economies through investments in infrastructure. Some benefits, such as restoring ecosystems and increasing community vitality, may be harder to quantify.

  1. Water

The quality and quantity of water available for use by people and ecosystems across the country are being affected by climate change, increasing risks and costs to agriculture, energy production, industry, recreation, and the environment.

Rising air and water temperatures and changes in precipitation are intensifying droughts, increasing heavy downpours, reducing snowpack, and causing declines in surface water quality, with varying impacts across regions. Future warming will add to the stress on water supplies and adversely impact the availability of water in parts of the United States. Changes in the relative amounts and timing of snow and rainfall are leading to mismatches between water availability and needs in some regions, posing threats to, for example, the future reliability of hydropower production in the Southwest and the Northwest. Groundwater depletion is exacerbating drought risk in many parts of the United States, particularly in the Southwest and Southern Great Plains. Dependable and safe water supplies for U.S. Caribbean, Hawai‘i, and U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Island communities are threatened by drought, flooding, and saltwater contamination due to sea level rise. Most U.S. power plants rely on a steady supply of water for cooling, and operations are expected to be affected by changes in water availability and temperature increases. Aging and deteriorating water infrastructure, typically designed for past environmental conditions, compounds the climate risk faced by society. Water management strategies that account for changing climate conditions can help reduce present and future risks to water security, but implementation of such practices remains limited.

  1. Health

Impacts from climate change on extreme weather and climate-related events, air quality, and the transmission of disease through insects and pests, food, and water increasingly threaten the health and well-being of the American people, particularly populations that are already vulnerable.

Changes in temperature and precipitation are increasing air quality and health risks from wildfire and ground-level ozone pollution. Rising air and water temperatures and more intense extreme events are expected to increase exposure to waterborne and foodborne diseases, affecting food and water safety. With continued warming, cold-related deaths are projected to decrease and heat-related deaths are projected to increase; in most regions, increases in heat-related deaths are expected to outpace reductions in cold-related deaths. The frequency and severity of allergic illnesses, including asthma and hay fever, are expected to increase as a result of a changing climate. Climate change is also projected to alter the geographic range and distribution of disease-carrying insects and pests, exposing more people to ticks that carry Lyme disease and mosquitoes that transmit viruses such as Zika, West Nile, and dengue, with varying impacts across regions. Communities in the Southeast, for example, are particularly vulnerable to the combined health impacts from vector-borne disease, heat, and flooding. Extreme weather and climate-related events can have lasting mental health consequences in affected communities, particularly if they result in degradation of livelihoods or community relocation. Populations including older adults, children, low-income communities, and some communities of color are often disproportionately affected by, and less resilient to, the health impacts of climate change. Adaptation and mitigation policies and programs that help individuals, communities, and states prepare for the risks of a changing climate reduce the number of injuries, illnesses, and deaths from climate-related health outcomes.

  1. Indigenous Peoples

Climate change increasingly threatens Indigenous communities’ livelihoods, economies, health, and cultural identities by disrupting interconnected social, physical, and ecological systems.

Many Indigenous peoples are reliant on natural resources for their economic, cultural, and physical well-being and are often uniquely affected by climate change. The impacts of climate change on water, land, coastal areas, and other natural resources, as well as infrastructure and related services, are expected to increasingly disrupt Indigenous peoples’ livelihoods and economies, including agriculture and agroforestry, fishing, recreation, and tourism. Adverse impacts on subsistence activities have already been observed. As climate changes continue, adverse impacts on culturally significant species and resources are expected to result in negative physical and mental health effects. Throughout the United States, climate-related impacts are causing some Indigenous peoples to consider or actively pursue community relocation as an adaptation strategy, presenting challenges associated with maintaining cultural and community continuity. While economic, political, and infrastructure limitations may affect these communities’ ability to adapt, tightly knit social and cultural networks present opportunities to build community capacity and increase resilience. Many Indigenous peoples are taking steps to adapt to climate change impacts structured around self-determination and traditional knowledge, and some tribes are pursuing mitigation actions through development of renewable energy on tribal lands.

  1. Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services

Ecosystems and the benefits they provide to society are being altered by climate change, and these impacts are projected to continue. Without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, transformative impacts on some ecosystems will occur; some coral reef and sea ice ecosystems are already experiencing such transformational changes.

Many benefits provided by ecosystems and the environment, such as clean air and water, protection from coastal flooding, wood and fiber, crop pollination, hunting and fishing, tourism, cultural identities, and more will continue to be degraded by the impacts of climate change. Increasing wildfire frequency, changes in insect and disease outbreaks, and other stressors are expected to decrease the ability of U.S. forests to support economic activity, recreation, and subsistence activities. Climate change has already had observable impacts on biodiversity, ecosystems, and the benefits they provide to society. These impacts include the migration of native species to new areas and the spread of invasive species. Such changes are projected to continue, and without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, extinctions and transformative impacts on some ecosystems cannot be avoided in the long term. Valued aspects of regional heritage and quality of life tied to ecosystems, wildlife, and outdoor recreation will change with the climate, and as a result, future generations can expect to experience and interact with the natural environment in ways that are different from today. Adaptation strategies, including prescribed burning to reduce fuel for wildfire, creation of safe havens for important species, and control of invasive species, are being implemented to address emerging impacts of climate change. While some targeted response actions are underway, many impacts, including losses of unique coral reef and sea ice ecosystems, can only be avoided by significantly reducing global emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

  1. Agriculture

Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands, and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity in the United States. Expected increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality, and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad threaten rural livelihoods, sustainable food security, and price stability.

Climate change presents numerous challenges to sustaining and enhancing crop productivity, livestock health, and the economic vitality of rural communities. While some regions (such as the Northern Great Plains) may see conditions conducive to expanded or alternative crop productivity over the next few decades, overall, yields from major U.S. crops are expected to decline as a consequence of increases in temperatures and possibly changes in water availability, soil erosion, and disease and pest outbreaks. Increases in temperatures during the growing season in the Midwest are projected to be the largest contributing factor to declines in the productivity of U.S. agriculture. Projected increases in extreme heat conditions are expected to lead to further heat stress for livestock, which can result in large economic losses for producers. Climate change is also expected to lead to large-scale shifts in the availability and prices of many agricultural products across the world, with corresponding impacts on U.S. agricultural producers and the U.S. economy. These changes threaten future gains in commodity crop production and put rural livelihoods at risk. Numerous adaptation strategies are available to cope with adverse impacts of climate variability and change on agricultural production. These include altering what is produced, modifying the inputs used for production, adopting new technologies, and adjusting management strategies. However, these strategies have limits under severe climate change impacts and would require sufficient long- and short-term investment in changing practices.

  1. Infrastructure

Our Nation’s aging and deteriorating infrastructure is further stressed by increases in heavy precipitation events, coastal flooding, heat, wildfires, and other extreme events, as well as changes to average precipitation and temperature. Without adaptation, climate change will continue to degrade infrastructure performance over the rest of the century, with the potential for cascading impacts that threaten our economy, national security, essential services, and health and well-being.

Climate change and extreme weather events are expected to increasingly disrupt our Nation’s energy and transportation systems, threatening more frequent and longer-lasting power outages, fuel shortages, and service disruptions, with cascading impacts on other critical sectors. Infrastructure currently designed for historical climate conditions is more vulnerable to future weather extremes and climate change. The continued increase in the frequency and extent of high-tide flooding due to sea level rise threatens America’s trillion-dollar coastal property market and public infrastructure, with cascading impacts to the larger economy. In Alaska, rising temperatures and erosion are causing damage to buildings and coastal infrastructure that will be costly to repair or replace, particularly in rural areas; these impacts are expected to grow without adaptation. Expected increases in the severity and frequency of heavy precipitation events will affect inland infrastructure in every region, including access to roads, the viability of bridges, and the safety of pipelines. Flooding from heavy rainfall, storm surge, and rising high tides is expected to compound existing issues with aging infrastructure in the Northeast. Increased drought risk will threaten oil and gas drilling and refining, as well as electricity generation from power plants that rely on surface water for cooling. Forward-looking infrastructure design, planning, and operational measures and standards can reduce exposure and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and reduce energy use while providing additional near-term benefits, including reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

  1. Oceans & Coasts

Coastal communities and the ecosystems that support them are increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change. Without significant reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions and regional adaptation measures, many coastal regions will be transformed by the latter part of this century, with impacts affecting other regions and sectors. Even in a future with lower greenhouse gas emissions, many communities are expected to suffer financial impacts as chronic high-tide flooding leads to higher costs and lower property values.

Rising water temperatures, ocean acidification, retreating arctic sea ice, sea level rise, high-tide flooding, coastal erosion, higher storm surge, and heavier precipitation events threaten our oceans and coasts. These effects are projected to continue, putting ocean and marine species at risk, decreasing the productivity of certain fisheries, and threatening communities that rely on marine ecosystems for livelihoods and recreation, with particular impacts on fishing communities in Hawai‘i and the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands, the U.S. Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. Lasting damage to coastal property and infrastructure driven by sea level rise and storm surge is expected to lead to financial losses for individuals, businesses, and communities, with the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts facing above-average risks.

  1. Tourism and Recreation

Outdoor recreation, tourist economies, and quality of life are reliant on benefits provided by our natural environment that will be degraded by the impacts of climate change in many ways.

Climate change poses risks to seasonal and outdoor economies in communities across the United States, including impacts on economies centered around coral reef-based recreation, winter recreation, and inland water-based recreation. In turn, this affects the well-being of the people who make their living supporting these economies, including rural, coastal, and Indigenous communities. Projected increases in wildfire smoke events are expected to impair outdoor recreational activities and visibility in wilderness areas. Declines in snow and ice cover caused by warmer winter temperatures are expected to negatively impact the winter recreation industry in the Northwest, Northern Great Plains, and the Northeast. Some fish, birds, and mammals are expected to shift where they live as a result of climate change, with implications for hunting, fishing, and other wildlife-related activities. These and other climate-related impacts are expected to result in decreased tourism revenue in some places and, for some communities, loss of identity. While some new opportunities may emerge from these ecosystem changes, cultural identities and economic and recreational opportunities based around historical use of and interaction with species or natural resources in many areas are at risk. Proactive management strategies, such as the use of projected stream temperatures to set priorities for fish conservation, can help reduce disruptions to tourist economies and recreation.

 

 

Hillary Clinton: Fox News is “Superb Propaganda”

Dear Commons Community,

In an interview with The Guardian published yesterday, Hillary Clinton  had harsh criticism for Fox News.

“You watch Fox News, it’s always, ‘Something terrible is about to happen,’ ‘Something terrible did happen,’ ‘These people are doing all these awful things,’” the former Democratic presidential nominee told the paper.

“It is totally divorced from reality, but it is superb propaganda,” Clinton said. “I don’t know the best way to puncture that. You have to hope that reality catches up with politics and entertainment at some point.”

She went on to say that “the press does not know how to cover these candidates who are setting themselves on fire every day, who are masters of diversion and distraction.”

Citing research on fascism by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Clinton compared Trump to authoritarian leaders abroad, describing him as someone who “craves dominance” and attacks those news outlets that challenge his assertions.

 “Now [Trump] doesn’t attack Fox News, because they’re like a wholly owned subsidiary of Trump and the Republican Party. So he attacks the press and the broadcast media that raise questions about him, that don’t give him fidelity and loyalty,” she said. 

Clinton called on the press at large to “get smarter” about its approach to Trump and the Republican Party, because “that’s basically how most voters get their information.” She cited Lesley Stahl’s “60 Minutes” interview with Trump in mid-October, saying Stahl should have asked about a bombshell New York Times piece on the Trump family’s tax dodging.

She suggested the press rethink its quest for “balance” when it comes at the expense of fact.

“This is a person who believes in very little,” Clinton said. “He does have visceral responses to what goes on in the world around him. He does have a strong streak of racism that goes back to his early years.”

All true, Hillary but you had your chance and blew it!

Tony