Climate Change & Sea Life in the UK…early 2020

Life Enhancing

Allowing the seas to recover from the outrageous assaults of commercial fishing can help heal our own wounded lives.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 2nd January 2020


It’s going to be a rough year, perhaps the roughest I’ve ever witnessed. The fatal combination of escalating climate breakdown and the capture of crucial governments by killer clowns provokes a horrible sense of inevitability. Just when we need determined action, we know that our governments, and the powerful people to whom they respond, will do everything they can to stymie it.

Witness the disasters in Australia. In mid-December, on the day the nation’s killer heatwave struck, Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper The Australian filled its front page with a report celebrating new coal exports and a smear story about the chiefs of the state fire services, who were demanding an immediate end to the burning of fossil fuels. The response of the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, to the escalating catastrophe, was to continue his overseas holiday, fiddling as his country burnt.

Some of the Earth’s largest land masses – Australia, Russia, the United States, Brazil, China, India and Saudi Arabia – are governed by people who seem to care little for either humankind or the rest of the living world. To maintain their grip on power, which means appeasing key oligarchs and industries, they sometimes appear prepared to sacrifice anything – including, perhaps, the survival of humanity.

I know that the protesters who made 2019 the year of climate action will continue to step up. We will do all we can to focus the world’s attention on the greatest crisis human beings have ever faced. But with hostile governments blocking a collective, international response to this emergency, the struggle will feel increasingly desperate.

I admit that I’m feeling quite close to burnout. I believe resilience is the most useful human quality, and I’ve sought to cultivate it, but in 2019 I felt my resolve begin to weaken at times, as it has never done before. Part of the reason is doubtless my continuing health issues: the repeated complications and procedures that have followed my cancer treatment two years ago. Sometimes it’s hard to disentangle the external and internal sources of despondency. Continue reading Climate Change & Sea Life in the UK…early 2020

On dealing with the prospects

How to address the issues posed by the current administration

***by Timothy Snyder, Yale history professor, historian of Eastern Europe and Holocaust expert:

Here are 20 lessons from across the fearful 20th century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.

3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges. Continue reading On dealing with the prospects

What is the “shadow financial system”

A shadow banking system is a group of financial intermediaries facilitating the creation of credit across the global financial system but whose members are not subject to regulatory oversight. The shadow banking system also refers to unregulated activities by regulated institutions. Examples of intermediaries not subject to regulation include hedge funds, unlisted derivatives, and other unlisted instruments, while examples of unregulated activities by regulated institutions include credit default swaps.

  • The shadow banking system consists of lenders, brokers, and other credit intermediaries who fall outside the realm of traditional regulated banking.
  • It is generally unregulated and not subject to the same kinds of risk, liquidity, and capital restrictions as traditional banks are.
  • The shadow banking system played a major role in the expansion of housing credit in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis, but has grown in size and largely escaped government oversight even since then.

Understanding Shadow Banking Systems

The shadow banking system has escaped regulation primarily because unlike traditional banks and credit unions, these institutions do not accept traditional deposits. Shadow banking institutions arose as innovators in financial markets who were able to finance lending for real estate and other purposes but who did not face the normal regulatory oversight and rules regarding capital reserves and liquidity that are required of traditional lenders in order to help prevent bank failures, runs on banks, and financial crises.

As a result, many of the institutions and instruments have been able to pursue higher market, credit, and liquidity risks in their lending and do not have capital requirements commensurate with those risks. Many shadow banking institutions were heavily involved in lending related to the boom in subprime mortgage lending and loan securitization in the early 2000’s. Subsequent to the subprime meltdown in 2008, the activities of the shadow banking system came under increasing scrutiny due to their role in the over-extension of credit and systemic risk in the financial system and the resulting financial crisis. Continue reading What is the “shadow financial system”

A review of Peter Wallison’s assertions on the causes of the 2007-08 Meltdown

The WSJ and Barron’s Apologists for the Banksters Peddle Wallison’s Fables


Few people’s efforts at myth-making have been as devastatingly refuted as has Peter Wallison’s. But fables that are designed to make the banksters look less criminal are always welcome by the banksters. Any honest discussion of Wallison’s claims would begin with three points. First, Wallison’s adult life has been devoted, on behalf of the banksters, to pushing the three “de’s” – deregulation, de-supervision, and de facto decriminalization. He is therefore as culpable as anyone in the world for the epidemics of accounting control fraud that drove the financial crisis and the Great Recession.

Second, he was appointed by the Republican leadership to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) to assure that the banksters would have the benefit of their leading apologist. The chances that he would ascribe any problems to the three “de’s” was always non-existent because he does not have a scholarly instinct in his body. He is rabidly ideological and a willing tool of the banksters.

Third, the Republicans appointed three other members to the FCIC, each of them a highly partisan Republican who was known to oppose effective financial regulation – yet none of them was willing to join Wallison’s dissent. They were unwilling to do so because Wallison’s dissent was discredited so effectively by the FCIC investigation and report. The data destroyed Wallison’s screed – repeatedly.

But the WSJ editorial pages are no fans of data and huge fans of the banksters and anti-governmental dogma. In the WSJ’s alternate history:

“Peter Wallison, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, demonstrates in a new book that the subprime housing boom was fostered mainly by federal housing politics and policy, not by the rampant “deregulation” that many have imagined out of whole cloth.

Note the rhetorical game that Wallison and the WSJ editor play from the beginning – they refer to only one of the three “de’s” – ignoring de-supervision and de facto decriminalization. The formal rules do not matter if they are not enforced by the banking regulators and the Department of Justice (DOJ). Wallison knows that de-supervision and decriminalization of finance were very close to total – and that he and those who shared his dogmas such as Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke are all responsible for this result. Tom Frank’s Wrecking Crew captures Bush (II’s) approach to destroying effective regulation, supervision, enforcement, and prosecutions by appointing anti-regulatory leaders dedicated to the self-fulfilling prophecy of regulatory failure. Continue reading A review of Peter Wallison’s assertions on the causes of the 2007-08 Meltdown

Freedom in the World 2019 – Full Report

Download the full report in PDF format



Freedom in the World 2019 Report

The Struggle Comes Home: Attacks on Democracy in the United States

U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One. Photo credit: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images.

By Mike Abramowitz
President, Freedom House

Freedom House has advocated for democracy around the world since its founding in 1941, and since the early 1970s it has monitored the global status of political rights and civil liberties in the annual Freedom in the World report. During the report’s first three decades, as the Cold War gave way to a general advance of liberal democratic values, we urged on reformist movements and denounced the remaining dictators for foot-dragging and active resistance. We raised the alarm when progress stagnated in the 2000s, and called on major democracies to maintain their support for free institutions.

Today, after 13 consecutive years of decline in global freedom, backsliding among new democracies has been compounded by the erosion of political rights and civil liberties among the established democracies we have traditionally looked to for leadership and support. Indeed, the pillars of freedom have come under attack here in the United States. And just as we have called out foreign leaders for undermining democratic norms in their countries, we must draw attention to the same sorts of warning signs in our own country. It is in keeping with our mission, and given the irreplaceable role of the United States as a champion of global freedom, it is a priority we cannot afford to ignore.


The great challenges facing US democracy did not commence with the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Intensifying political polarization, declining economic mobility, the outsized influence of special interests, and the diminished influence of fact-based reporting in favor of bellicose partisan media were all problems afflicting the health of American democracy well before 2017. Previous presidents have contributed to the pressure on our system by infringing on the rights of American citizens. Surveillance programs such as the bulk collection of communications metadata, initially undertaken by the George W. Bush administration, and the Obama administration’s overzealous crackdown on press leaks are two cases in point.

At the midpoint of his term, however, there remains little question that President Trump exerts an influence on American politics that is straining our core values and testing the stability of our constitutional system. No president in living memory has shown less respect for its tenets, norms, and principles. Trump has assailed essential institutions and traditions including the separation of powers, a free press, an independent judiciary, the impartial delivery of justice, safeguards against corruption, and most disturbingly, the legitimacy of elections. Congress, a coequal branch of government, has too frequently failed to push back against these attacks with meaningful oversight and other defenses. Continue reading Freedom in the World 2019 Report

“Someone’s gotta tell the truth about Liberty University”

At Liberty University, all anyone can talk about is Jerry Falwell Jr. Just not in public.

“When he does stupid stuff, people will mention it to others they consider confidants and not keep it totally secret,” a trusted adviser to Falwell, the school’s president and chancellor, told me. “But they won’t rat him out.”

Over the past year, Falwell, a prominent evangelical leader and supporter of President Donald Trump, has come under increasing scrutiny. News outlets have reported on business deals by Liberty University benefiting Falwell’s friends. Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen claimed that he had helped Falwell clean up racy “personal” photographs.

Based on scores of new interviews and documents obtained for this article, concerns about Falwell’s behavior go well beyond that—and it’s causing longtime, loyal Liberty University officials to rapidly lose faith in him.

More than two dozen current and former high-ranking Liberty University officials and close associates of Falwell spoke to me or provided documents for this article, opening up—for the first time at an institution so intimately associated with the Falwell family—about what they’ve experienced and why they don’t think he’s the right man to lead Liberty University or serve as a figurehead in the Christian conservative movement.

In interviews over the past eight months, they depicted how Falwell and his wife, Becki, consolidated power at Liberty University and how Falwell presides over a culture of self-dealing, directing university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make personal financial gains. Among the previously unreported revelations are Falwell’s decision to hire his son Trey’s company to manage a shopping center owned by the university, Falwell’s advocacy for loans given by the university to his friends, and Falwell’s awarding university contracts to businesses owned by his friends. Continue reading “Someone’s gotta tell the truth about Liberty University”

December ‘whitewash’ of Koshoggi killing. Facts are here…

Khashoggi killing: UN human rights expert says Saudi Arabia is responsible for “premeditated execution” 

GENEVA (19 June 2019) – Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a premeditated extrajudicial execution, for which the State of Saudi Arabia is responsible, according to a report published today by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings.

Following a six-month investigation, Agnes Callamard issued her findings into the killing last October of Mr Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, analyzing the evidence on the basis of international human rights law, and considering steps that could have prevented his murder.

“The circumstances of Mr Khashoggi’s death have led to numerous theories and allegations, but none alters the responsibility of the Saudi Arabia State,” the report reads. “Saudi state agents, 15 of them, acted under cover of their official status and used state means to execute Mr. Khashoggi.

“His killing was the result of elaborate planning involving extensive coordination and significant human and financial resources. It was overseen, planned and endorsed by high-level officials. It was premeditated.”

The report cites six violations of international law:

  • the prohibition against arbitrary deprivation of life, a fundamental principle of international law;
  • the prohibition against extraterritorial use of force as enshrined in the UN Charter;
  • the requirement that states use consular missions for official purposes;
  • the prohibition against torture, under the terms of the Convention Against Torture, ratified by Saudi Arabia, and;
  • the prohibition against enforced disappearance, and;
  • in killing a journalist, the State of Saudi Arabia committed an act inconsistent with a core tenet of the United Nations, the protection of freedom of expression.

“The killing of Mr Khashoggi thus constitutes an international crime over which other States should claim universal jurisdiction. I call on those States to take the necessary measures to establish their competence to exercise jurisdiction under international law over this crime of extrajudicial execution,” Callamard said. Continue reading December ‘whitewash’ of Koshoggi killing. Facts are here…

Saudis sentence 5 people to death for Khashoggi’s killing


RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death Monday for the killing of Washington Post columnist and royal family critic Jamal Khashoggi, whose grisly slaying in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul drew international condemnation and cast a cloud of suspicion over Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Three other people were found guilty by Riyadh’s criminal court of covering up the crime and were sentenced to a combined 24 years in prison, according to a statement read by the Saudi attorney general’s office on state TV.

In all, 11 people were put on trial in Saudi Arabia over the killing. The names of those found guilty were not disclosed by the government. Executions in the kingdom are carried out by beheading, sometimes in public. All the verdicts can be appealed.

A small number of diplomats, including from Turkey, as well as members of Khashoggi’s family were allowed to attend the nine court sessions, though independent media were barred.

The trial concluded the killing was not premeditated, according to Shaalan al-Shaalan, a spokesperson from the attorney general’s office. That finding is in line with the Saudi government’s official explanation, which has been called into question by evidence that a hit team of Saudi agents with tools was sent to dispatch Khashoggi.

While the case in Saudi Arabia has largely concluded, questions linger outside Riyadh about the crown prince’s culpability in the slaying.

Amnesty International pronounced the outcome a “whitewash.” Agnes Callamard, who investigated the killing for the United Nations, condemned the trial as a “mockery of justice,” saying, “The fact that that the chain of command and the state have not been investigated means that the system that made it possible for Jamal Khashoggi to be killed has not been touched.” Continue reading Saudis sentence 5 people to death for Khashoggi’s killing

Voting in opposition to one’s own best interest

Fascinating Statistic

Seventy percent of the ten highest GDP States per capita voted for Clinton in the past General Election, while 80% of the ten lowest GDP States per capita voted for Trump. Even more dramatic was that these percentages in both segments, increased to 90+% when the metric was “median household income”.

So another way of referring to this consideration is to say the programs initiated by Democrats like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, Unemployment Insurance, and HeadStart that primarily benefit low-income Americans the most, are constant targets of Republicans and are supported in their opposition by those who are most often the recipients of those benefits.

The End of 2019

The headlines – Dec. 2019

End of the Year Impeachment Wrapup


Dec. 20th, 2019

with Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) wants to see the documents being concealed by the White House even more than he wants to hear from the list of current and former aides who followed President Trump’s order not to testify during the investigation that led to his impeachment.

The House Intelligence Committee chairman recounted the texts and emails provided by Kurt Volker, the former envoy to Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union.

“The few messages we did get were remarkably incriminating,” Schiff said in an interview on Thursday night. “So you can only imagine, if this is what the small sample of documents that we have shows, just how damning many of the other documents the administration refuses to turn over may be.”

The second article of impeachment that passed on Wednesday is for obstruction of Congress. It notes that not a single document was provided in response to subpoenas by the departments of State, Defense and Energy, as well the Office of Management and Budget.

Contemporaneous emails don’t perjure themselves. The report Schiff’s committee released on Dec. 3 outlined, from pages 217 to 230, specific records that the administration refused to produce after witnesses testified about their existence. Among them are call logs, briefing materials provided to the president and notes taken by the National Security Council’s top legal adviser when employees expressed alarm about what the president was doing vis-à-vis Ukraine.

“If this were a logical and fair trial, it would begin with the production of documents,” said Schiff, a former federal prosecutor. “And those documents tell you what questions you need to ask the witnesses. Sometimes they lead to other witnesses.”

He’s not holding his breath, but Schiff’s continuing quest to unearth more material is freshly relevant against the backdrop of the stalemate between the House and Senate and the continuing negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) over the rules of the looming trial that will decide the president’s fate.

Pelosi announced Thursday that she will refrain from transmitting the articles of impeachment until McConnell sets rules for the trial that are accepted by Senate Democrats. The House then voted to adjourn for the holidays until Jan. 7, leaving uncertainty about when the Senate might be able to start proceedings.

“This is a matter that we are discussing,” Schiff said. “I think the speaker is appropriately giving Senator Schumer time to negotiate with Senator McConnell and hopefully arrive at the terms of a trial that’s fair to the president and the American people.”

Schiff is almost certain to be one of the impeachment managers presenting the case against Trump during the Senate trial, though Pelosi has not named the House’s emissaries. “I certainly think it makes sense to force the Senate to vote on whether they’re going to deprive the American people of these witnesses and tell the American people they’re not interested in seeing the documentary evidence,” Schiff said. “They just want to sweep this under the rug. If that’s McConnell’s position, then the members of his conference should have to vote on it and be held accountable.”

The Washington Post reported last month that a confidential White House review of Trump’s decision to place a hold on military aid to Ukraine turned up hundreds of documents that reveal extensive efforts to generate an after-the-fact justification for the decision and a debate over whether the delay was legal. The research by the White House Counsel’s Office includes early August email exchanges between acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House budget officials seeking to provide an explanation for withholding the funds after the president had already ordered a hold in mid-July on the nearly $400 million in security assistance.

Schiff believes the Senate is entitled to whatever materials that the White House counsel collected in his review. “The trial should begin with the documents being provided finally to Congress,” he said. Continue reading End of the Year Impeachment Wrapup

Review: urgent studies in the rise of authoritarian America

Can it Happen Here? 

Review of the book by Cass Sunstein The author writes on the US as an authoritarian state: ‘It has happened before. It will happen again.’


The 17 thinkers who have contributed to this new collection of essays come down firmly on all sides of its central question: is the United States destined to become an authoritarian state? Multiple points of view are expressed by the book’s editor, Cass Sunstein, alone.

In his introduction, Sunstein writes: “My own summary of this book: Absolutely. It has happened before. It will happen again. To many Americans, something like it is happening now.”

And yet 56 pages later, speaking only for himself, he says the opposite: “In my view, it really can’t.”

In another collection, such a contradiction might be a problem. Here, it isn’t. The medley of viewpoints expressed suggests something much closer to intellectual honesty than scholarly sloppiness. The truth is, no one can be certain. But whether you are an optimist, a pessimist or an idealist without illusions (John F Kennedy’s self-reverential description), this book bombards you with all the reasons that anyone who treasures democracy needs to be terrified by the current state of our republic.

It is, of course, the presence of Donald Trump in the White House that gives so many a sense of emergency. But like many other recent books, this one argues that the Trump catastrophe is really just the culmination of 50 years of constitutional decay, rather than some sudden, unpredictable event.

The Yale law professor Jack Balkin calls Trump a demagogue out of central casting, “unruly, uncouth, mendacious, dishonest and cunning”, his presidency a “symptom of constitutional rot and … dysfunction”. Balkin argues that the rise of American oligarchy is central to the steady decline of democracy.

He attributes the growth of oligarchy to changes in how political campaigns are financed (allowing gigantic amounts of dark money), basic changes in the structure of mass media which have “encouraged political distrust”, and the merger of “politics with entertainment”. Continue reading Review: urgent studies in the rise of authoritarian America

How to Lose a Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship – intro


I am one of the early birds…” Ece Temelkuran told me, “I saw democracy collapse in Turkey and tried to warn the United States, European Countries and Britain about this.  I’ve been telling people that what you think is normal, or a passing phase, is part of a bigger phenomenon that affects us all.  Somehow though, European democracies feel they’re exceptional – and too mature to be affected by neofascist currents.”

Ece has seen this all before.  In her incredible 2019 book How to Lose a Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship, she notes, “We have learned over time that coups in Turkey end the same way regardless of who initiated them. It’s like the rueful quote from the former England footballer turned TV pundit Gary Lineker, that football is a simple game played for 120 minutes, and at the end the Germans win on penalties. In Turkey, coups are played out over forty-eight-hour curfews, and the leftists are locked up at the end. Then afterward, of course, another generation of progressives is rooted out, leaving the country’s soul even more barren than it was before.”

Ece Temelkuran is an award-winning Turkish novelist and political commentator, whose journalism has appeared in the Guardian, New York Times, New Statesman, Frankfurter Allgemeine and Der Spiegel. She has been twice recognized as Turkey’s most-read political columnist and twice rated as one of the ten most influential people in social media (with three million twitter followers). In this exclusive interview, we discuss the dangers of populism, authoritarianism, and fascism, and why we need to act now. Continue reading How to Lose a Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship – intro

Excerpts from Edward Bernays Book: Propaganda

“Propaganda is of no use to the politician unless he has something to say which the public, consciously or unconsciously, wants to hear”

“When an Imperial Wizard, sensing what is perhaps hunger for an ideal, offers a picture of a nation all Nordic and Nationalistic, the common man of the older American stock, feeling himself elbowed out of his rightful position and prosperity by the newer immigrant stocks, grasps the picture which fits in so neatly with his prejudices, and makes it his own.”

“Propaganda becomes vicious and reprehensive only when its authors consciously and deliberately disseminate what they know to be lies, or when they aim at effects which they know to be prejudicial to the common good.”

Aid: Who Gets It & Who Doesn’t

Paul Krugman

December 17, 2019

Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang march outside of the Wells Fargo Arena before the start of the Liberty and Justice Celebration on Nov. 1 in Des Moines.Scott Olson/Getty Images

Every advanced country, the United States included, has an extensive welfare state — a set of government programs intended to give its citizens more economic security than they would have if we just let markets rip. Our safety net has far more holes in it than that of, say, Denmark. Even so, Medicaid and Medicare cover a third of the population, and most Americans over 65 get the majority of their income from Social Security.

We have, in other words, effectively decided as a society that many people should receive substantial aid from the government. But there’s a real debate, often obscured by political rhetoric, over who should, and maybe even more important, who shouldn’t receive that aid. This is a debate that rages both between the parties and, rather differently, within the Democratic Party.

The between-party debate mainly concerns how much we should do for low-income families. Republicans are obsessed with the idea that we’re providing too much aid to the undeserving poor. There are still 14 states, all Republican-controlled, that have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, even though the federal government would pick up almost all the tab. And Republicans are constantly coming up with new schemes to impose work requirements for programs like Medicaid and food stamps.

But I don’t want to say much in today’s newsletter about all this except to note that the cruelty of such schemes appears to be a feature, not a bug. There’s no evidence that access to public aid is a significant deterrent to work in 21st-century America, and attempts to limit access don’t even save much money, because they involve a lot of administrative costs. All they do is make it harder for people who really do need help to get it.

The debate among Democrats is, as I said, very different: it’s about whether we should be providing aid to affluent people who may not need it. At one end of this debate is Pete Buttigieg, who has attacked proposals for free tuition at public universities on the grounds that some of the beneficiaries would be millionaires, and called for an income limit. At the other end is Andrew Yang, who wants to give everyone a basic income whether they need it or not.

How should we think about these differences? As I see it, there’s a fundamental trade-off between dignity and cost. And if you ask me, Buttigieg and Yang have each moved too far on one or the other side of that trade-off.

Now, there are two advantages to universal programs that aid everyone, no questions asked. The lesser but still important advantage is that they’re cheap to run. Social Security and Medicare have low administrative costs and are surprisingly unbureaucratic, because there aren’t any questions about eligibility: if you’re legally here and the right age, you get the benefit.

The more important advantage is dignity. You don’t have to go cap in hand to the Social Security Administration with proof that you’re poor enough to be entitled to aid. You just get it.

The downside of universal programs is that they do indeed give aid to some people who don’t need it. Next year Bill Gates will become eligible for Medicare; why should middle-class taxpayers be subsidizing his health care?

Which side of this trade-off should dictate policy? My answer is that it’s mainly about the numbers.

Means-testing the basic hospital benefits under Medicare would be a terrible idea, because only a small number of older Americans are actually rich enough to do without it. So you’d be saving at most a small amount of money, while sharply increasing the costs of running the program and taking away the dignity of everyone else by forcing them to prove they need it.

Buttigieg’s demand that we place an income test on free tuition falls into the same category. It would add bureaucracy and intrude on peoples’ lives in return for fairly small savings.

But Yang-type proposals for universal basic income are different: they would cost a lot of money. As of 2012 only 21.3 percent of Americans participated in programs designed to alleviate poverty — like food stamps and Supplemental Security Income — and even so these programs were clearly inadequate for many families. Expanding income support to everyone would either offer such support at a drastically inadequate level or require a huge increase in revenue; Yang is talking about a 10 percent national sales tax, and it’s not clear even that would do it.

This might be worth doing if we really were, as Yang claims, facing mass technological unemployment. But so far, at least, we aren’t.

So, which programs should be universal, which targeted on those who really need them? The unsatisfying answer is, it depends. It’s a messy world, and one-size-fits-all solutions usually fall short.

Quick Hits

Medicare Part A isn’t means-tested, but the cost of supplemental benefits actually does depend on your income.

Medicaid work requirements are a solution in search of a problem.

So are tightened work requirements for food stamps.

Mass technological unemployment isn’t a problem now, but it will be in the 23rd century, at least according to the great science fiction series The Expanse.

Greta Thunberg: “I shouldn’t {have to} be up here


Young climate activist Greta Thunberg was just named TIME magazine’s Person of the Year, and many celebrated. It is, indeed, a well-deserved honor. It also summarizes the depth of humanity’s systemic failure on an unprecedented global crisis. As Thunberg herself said, in a justly celebrated speech a few months back:

This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!

Most people were most struck by the passion and pain of her challenge: How dare you! But at least as important was her context:

I shouldn’t be up here.

Greta Thunberg should not be the face of the climate crisis. She should not be the voice of climate activism. That she has become both speaks to the entire world’s systemic failure in addressing climate change. That it took a teenager to wake the world up is a stark condemnation. And that was the core of her outrage. It’s a given that the Republican Party will do nothing but make things worse, but the media should be calling them to account on it. Every day. The media should put climate scientists front and center. Every day. Continue reading Greta Thunberg: “I shouldn’t {have to} be up here

A note to Americans from a friend

Increasingly a Necessity: A 15-Point Guide to Surviving Authoritarianism

Rule #1: Always think critically and fight ignorance with facts.

A 15-Point Guide to Surviving Authoritarianism

Nearly a year ago, intuitively recognizing the Trump administration’s authoritarian aspirations, Polish journalist and activist Martin Mycielski wrote “Year 1 Under Authoritarianism.” In those early, nerve-racking days following Trump’s inauguration, the piece was shared across social media, an ominous portent of what was to come. The document — helpfully subtitled, “What To Expect?” — offered a list of predictions and warnings about Trump’s first year in office, and exhortations to fight back at every turn. In his introduction, published just days after Trump’s inauguration, Mycielski noted the article was based on his own experience in Poland, where extreme-right nationalists have taken over the government, and in a recent ugly demonstration, the streets. The piece should be read as an instructive manual of sorts, culled from firsthand observation of the “populists, authoritarians and tinpot dictators” leading right-wing movements across Europe.

“With each passing day, the [Polish] government is moving the country further away from the liberal West and toward the authoritarian models of the East,” Mycielski wrote. “Hundreds of thousands have protested against every illiberal, unlawful step. Every time we believed it couldn’t get any worse. We were wrong. This is why we want you, our American friends, to be spared the shock, the awe, the disbelief of this happening to you. Let’s hope history proves us wrong and the US wakes up in time…[H]ope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

Mycielski’s “survival guide” has only become more disturbingly relevant with time, its predictions proved frighteningly accurate. Like Umberto Eco’s guide to fascism, it presciently notes the actions and attitudes that now unquestionably define this presidency; the lies and obfuscation of truth, racist fear-mongering, historical revisionism, purposeful chaos and anti-First Amendment agenda. Manipulation and malice are the Trump regime’s forte. (To see how quickly a country can be remade by a charlatan and his abettors, go back and review some of the earliest entries from Amy Siskind’s weekly list tracking changes under Trump. It’s all pretty scary, especially seeing it unfold in real time.)

But if there’s any hope, it will only come from recognizing the reality of what’s happening here, how much damage is being done, how much earth already scorched. The year has somehow flown by, yet seemed interminable. It’s good to remember the very big, very frightening picture before us, how far we’ve already come, and to consider what recourse we have with complicit and corrupt forces standing in the way. — Kali Holloway

Here is Mycielski’s 15-point guide to surviving authoritarianism. Continue reading A note to Americans from a friend

Photo of the Year: 2019

Applause for the Orang

President Donald Trump turns to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., as he delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence watches, on Feb. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Why the Christian Right Loves Trump – Rolling Stone Article

False Idol — Why the Christian Right Worships Donald Trump

Illustration by Marco Ventura for Rolling Stone

trump false idol, christian right, antichrist trump On  the morning of September 29th, six weeks before the 2016 election, Donald Trump was in a conference room at Trump Tower in New York talking to leaders of the religious right about sex-reassignment surgery. In a way, he was bringing about his own transformation. Having quashed the idea that his run for president was a lark or a publicity stunt, having come from behind to take the Republican nomination, and having fought his way up the polls to the extent that he was within striking distance of Hillary Clinton, Trump was now trying to seal the deal. And that involved something he would soon become much more known for: a discussion of other people’s genitalia.

“With the operation or without the operation?” Trump asked the conservative Christian leaders gathered specifically to ascertain whether to grant him their support. In other words, would HB2 — North Carolina’s so-called bathroom bill — apply to transgender people who had not undergone surgery to alter their sex?

“Without the operation,” Christian radio talk-show host Frank Turek confirmed, according to a tape of the meeting exclusively obtained by Rolling Stone. “If you’re a man but you feel like a woman that day, if you’re Shania Twain, you can go into a woman’s bathroom, and no one can say a word about it.”

Trump seemed to ponder this deeply. For much of his political run, the thrice-married, swindling, profane, materialistic, self-styled playboy had appealed mainly to the more fringe elements of Christianity, a ragtag group of prosperity gospelers (like his “spiritual adviser” Paula White, a televangelist who promises her donors their own personal angel), Christian dominionists (who believe that America’s laws should be founded explicitly on biblical ones — including stoning homosexuals), and charismatic or Pentecostal outliers (like Frank Amedia, the Trump campaign’s “liaison for Christian policy,” who once claimed to have raised an ant from the dead). Considering their extreme views, these folks had an alarming number of followers, but certainly nothing of voting-bloc magnitude.

And without the evangelical voting bloc, no Republican candidate could hope to have a path to the presidency. Evangelicals — a term that today refers to people who believe that Jesus died for their sins, that the Bible is the word of God, that every believer has a “born again” or salvation moment, and that the good news of Jesus should be widely disseminated — make up as much as a quarter of the country, or close to 80 million people. Around 60 percent vote, more than any other demographic, and among white evangelical voters, more than three-quarters tend to go to Republicans, thanks to wedge issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, and transgender rights.

Trump was exactly the type of character you would expect “values voters” to summarily reject — even before the famed “grab ’em by the pussy” tape, the optics weren’t great. He never gained a majority of Christian votes in the primary. Even after he secured the nomination and named Mike Pence to be his VP, a survey of Protestant pastors conducted by Christian polling group LifeWay Research that summer found that only 39 percent of evangelical pastors planned to vote for him. Continue reading Why the Christian Right Loves Trump – Rolling Stone Article