Global warming? Bring it on.

I live in New Hampshire. We're in favor of global warming. Eleven hundred more feet of sea-level rises? I've got beachfront property. You tell us up there, 'By the end of the century, New York City could be underwater,' and we say, 'Your point is?''

-- P.J. O'Rourke

 

 

 


Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/p/pjorour617291.html?src=t_new_hampshire

Chris Powell: Tolls another way to avoid tough decisions

 

According to the Democratic legislators who form the majority on the  Connecticut General Assembly's Transportation Committee,  the Nutmeg State needs to restore tolls on its Interstate Highways. The Democrats argue that state government's transportation fund is inadequate for the improvements needed, that all nearby states have imposed tolls, and that out-of-staters and truckers travel through Connecticut for free. Indeed, the Democrats predict that half the revenue from tolls would be paid by out-of-staters and truckers.

Of course, that means that the other half would come from state residents. But even as the Democrats tout the technology that would let tolls be collected by electronic means without slowing and endangering traffic as toll booths used to do, they do not propose programming such a new system to exempt Connecticut's residents from the tolls. That is, the Democrats are after Connecticut's money as much as the money from out of state and are using out-of-staters and truckers as political cover for another tax increase.

Ironically, even as the Transportation Committee was voting along party lines for tolls, Governor Malloy was announcing that a study had concluded that tourism is crucial to Connecticut because it contributes nearly $15 billion to the state's economy every year. No one explained how charging tolls helps tourism.

As a tax increase on state residents, tolls will serve mainly to relieve pressure on state government to economize generally. Thus tolls will help preserve all sorts of excesses, like the six minor paid holidays enjoyed by state and municipal employees (such as Columbus Day) that are not enjoyed by many  people in the private sector, the thousands of state and municipal government salaries that exceed the governor's own, the binding arbitration of government employee union contracts, and welfare benefits for childbearing outside marriage.

Avoiding such structural changes is the dearest hope of many legislators.

At least the legislature's Education Committee has noticed one of those excesses: the law that forbids most municipal school systems from reducing their spending as student enrollment declines. Connecticut's school enrollment has been declining for years even as school spending has kept rising, for the law's objective has been to ensure that all savings from declining enrollment are paid as increases in compensation for members of teacher unions rather than returned to taxpayers.

But now that the governor proposes to slash state financial aid to most school systems and transfer the money to the worst-performing city school systems (as if any amount of money will ever improve education much for parentless children), legislators see a chance to serve the unions even while having to take something away from them.

That is, with the governor playing the bad cop with school aid, threatening mass layoffs and program eliminations in most towns, the legislature can play good cop by restoring some aid while letting towns keep the savings from declining enrollment. Teachers might lose only their raises instead of their jobs.

Neither the governor nor the Education Committee has yet addressed the latest Superior Court finding that state government's formula for school aid is unconstitutional because it is "irrational."

But that case will be on appeal to the state Supreme Court for a while, and maybe, having prompted, with its decision in Horton v. Meskill in 1977, 40 years of legislative tinkering with school-aid formulas only to accomplish nothing, the court at last will recognize that nothing about school aid formulas is rational because the only thing that matters much to a child's education is his home life.
 

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Llewellyn King: America needs to fight the Trump folly of fighting science.

-- Photo by  Zuzanna K. Filutowska

-- Photo by  Zuzanna K. Filutowska

 

The man who popularized Greek-style yogurt, Hamdi Ulukaya, is probably one of the only, if not the only, billionaire of recent years who does not owe his fortune to the government. Jeff Bezos does, Bill Gates does, Mark Zuckerberg does, along with dozens of others who have amassed fortunes in the digital age.

They are smart men all who have exploited opportunities, which would not have existed but for the government’s presence in science. I applaud individuals who build on government discoveries to make their fortunes.

But government-backed science, which has brought us everything from GPS to the Internet, is in for a radical reversal, as laid out in the Trump administration’s budget proposal.

It was greeted with derision when it was released, with many hoping Congress will reverse it. However in the science community, in the halls of the National Science Foundation, in the facilities of the National Institutes of Health, and in the sprawling world of the Department of Energy’s national laboratories, there is fear and alarm.

There should be. There should be from the world of learning a great bellow of rage, too.

The Trump administration has declared essentially that the United States cannot afford to be wise, cannot afford to invent, cannot afford to cure or to minister and cannot afford to continue the rate of scientific evolution, which has made science of the post-World War II period so thrilling, benefiting countless people.

The administration has identified 62 programs for elimination or severe cutbacks. It has done this in a mixture of ignorance, indifference and delusion. The ignorance is that it does not seem to know how we got where we are; the indifference is part of a broad, anti-intellectual tilt on the political right; and the delusion is the hapless belief that science and engineering’s forward leap of 75 years will be carried on in the private sector.

The broad antipathy to science, to learning in all but the most general sense, is the mark of the Trump budget proposal.

But science, whether it is coming from ARPA-E, (Advanced Projects Research Research Agency-Energy) or the National Science Foundation’s watering of the tender shoots of invention, the Department of Energy’s world-leading contribution to the Human Genome Project, or the National Institutes of Health’s endless war against disease (especially the small and awful diseases like Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and the rarest cancers) is the future. Without it, the nation is gobbling its seed corn.

In the Trump administration, there is money to build a giant wall but no money to surge forward into the future.

To the administration, as indicated in its budget proposal, the sciences and the engineering which flows from them, is a luxury. It is not. It is the raw materials of peace and strength in this century and beyond.

To take just one of the follies implicit in the philistine budget, cutting funding for medical research will come just when there is need for more – research which if not funded by the government will not be done. New epidemics like bird flu, Zika and Ebola cry out for research.

Increasingly, the old paradigm that new drugs would come from the drug companies is broken. It now costs a drug company close to $2 billion to bring a new compound to market. That cost is reflected in new drug prices, as the companies struggle to recoup their investments before their drugs go off patent. Shareholder value does not encourage the taking of chances, but rather the buying up of the competition. And that is happening in the industry.

The world desperately needs a new generation of antibiotics. The drug companies are not developing them, and the bugs are mutating happily, developing resistance to the drugs that have held bacterial disease at bay since penicillin led the way 89 years ago.

Fighting the political folly that threatens science is the battle for America. In 50 years, without amply government-funded research and development, will we still be the incubator for invention, the shock troops against disease, the progenitors of a time of global abundance?

Our place in the world is not determined by our ideology, but by our invention. Sadly, the pace of invention is at stake, attacked by a particularly virulent and aberrant strain of governmental thinking.­­

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS, and a frequent contributor to New England Diary.  His e-mail is llewellynking1@gmail.com. This first ran in Inside Sources.

 

How much can governors really help their states' economies?

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary'' column in GoLocal24.com

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo was understandably pleased when the state’s unemployment rate fell below the national average in January, to 4.7 percent, for the first time in almost 12 years. Meanwhile, some high-profile companies have moved to the state or expanded there and there’s quite a lot of newconstruction underway. To me, the best news has been that the  big projects at the Route 195 relocation land are starting to get cooking and that rapidly growingUnited NaturalFoods Inc. is now based in Providence.

How much of this was due to Ms. Raimondo’s leadership? Economics has so many variables that it’s hard to say. For that matter, the Ocean State is so tiny it’s hard to say that there’s a “Rhode Island economy.’’ It’s part of the much bigger regional, national and international economies. And note that a shrinking  state work force explains at least some of the recent jobless-rate drops.

I would say, however, that Ms. Raimondo’s knowledge of business and national connections as a former venture capitalist, her willingness to implement long-overdue reforms and her calm and intelligence have indeed inspired confidence in firms that might be candidates for moving to or expanding in the state. That she’s willing to get very able people from outside the state with fresh perspectives to join her administration rather than  automatically pick well-connected Rhode Islanders (“I know aguy…’’) has also been good, although it has, along with her fancy education, gotten her labeled an “elitist,’’ which I don’t believe this daughter of middle-class Rhode Islanders considers herself. The more new people moving into Rhode Island the better, to dilute the parochialism that is at the root of many of its political and economic problems.

As in many states, her administration has had headaches with big computer systems (e.g., public benefits and the Division of Motor Vehicles). Could she have headed these headaches off by firing people faster who were charged with getting them going but didn’t succeed? Probably.

Hire Republican Ken Block, a brilliant systems guy, to oversee state computer systems?  That would be exciting.

Ms. Raimondo has gotten a lot of flak from some people about what former Gov. Lincoln Chafee calls the “candy store’’ approach of using tax incentives to lure businesses. I share a lot of this dislike. It can create a race to the bottom as states compete to get sexy companies. As I’ve written here before, for long-term economic success, jurisdictions must focus on broad improvements, especially in education and infrastructure. The governor says she is focusing on those things but the $130 million in tax incentives so far in her term understandably get a lot of attention. And how do you make these companies stay?

Pretty much every state and large city play the tax-incentive game in varying degrees.

Of course, the governor thinks that attracting such big companiesas General Electric to set up new operations in the state signals to other companies that it’s now a good place to do business and,  they find, a beautiful place to live for many.

She has had some success in changing the perception of out-of-staters about the Ocean State so that many  have come to believe that the Rhode Island is finally, if slowly, fixing its business climate. The deeply embedded tribalism, negativity and cynicism in the state militate against her but I believe she’s making progress – two steps ahead, one step back.

Meanwhile, I’m sure that Rhode Islanders would like to see a updated list of companies that have decided to stay and grow in the state as a result of Raimondo administration policies.

On two big issues she’s been embroiled in: the car tax, about which she is less enthusiastic about cutting than some other politicians, and “free college’’ for two years:

Cutting or eliminating the car tax, as hated as it is, will have little or no effect on the state’s economy.  And rather than “free college,’’ it might make far more sense to put some of the tax revenue to be spent on subsidizing students into creating a public-private vocational education system (including apprenticeships) like that which has been so successful in Germany.  And even more important is pushing asideRhode Island special interests in order to adopt a  K-12 public-education system with the rigor of Massachusetts’s, which has helped make the Bay State so prosperous in the past couple of decades.

'Minor Matterhorn' overlooking 'agricultural failure'

Mt. Chocorua.

Mt. Chocorua.

"Written over the great New Hampshire region at least, and stamped, in particular, in the shadow of the admirable high-perched cone of Chocorua, which rears itself, all granite, over a huge interposing shoulder, quite with the allure of a minor Matterhorn -- everywhere legible was the hard little historic record of agricultural failure and defeat. It had to  pass for the historic background, that traceable truth that a stout human experiment had been tried, had broken down. One was in presence, everywhere, of the refusal to consent to history, and of the consciousness, on the part of every site, that this precious compound is in no small degree being insolently made, on the other side of the continent, at the expense of such sites. The touching appeal of nature, as I have called it therefore, the 'Do something kind for me,' is not so much a 'Live upon me and thrive by me' as a 'Live with me, somehow, and let us make out together what we may do for each other -- something that is not merely estimable in more or less greasy greenbacks.'''

-- Henry James from his book The AmerIcan Scene (1907)

'My avocation and my vocation'

 

Out of the mud two strangers came
And caught me splitting wood in the yard, 
And one of them put me off my aim
By hailing cheerily "Hit them hard!" 
I knew pretty well why he had dropped behind
And let the other go on a way. 
I knew pretty well what he had in mind: 
He wanted to take my job for pay.

Good blocks of oak it was I split, 
As large around as the chopping block; 
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock. 
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good, 
That day, giving a loose my soul, 
I spent on the unimportant wood.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill. 
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still, 
You're one month on in the middle of May. 
But if you so much as dare to speak, 
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch, 
A wind comes off a frozen peak, 
And you're two months back in the middle of March.

A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
And turns to the wind to unruffle a plume, 
His song so pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom. 
It is snowing a flake; and he half knew
Winter was only playing possum. 
Except in color he isn't blue, 
But he wouldn't advise a thing to blossom.

The water for which we may have to look
In summertime with a witching wand, 
In every wheelrut's now a brook, 
In every print of a hoof a pond. 
Be glad of water, but don't forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.

The time when most I loved my task
The two must make me love it more
By coming with what they came to ask. 
You'd think I never had felt before
The weight of an ax-head poised aloft, 
The grip of earth on outspread feet, 
The life of muscles rocking soft
And smooth and moist in vernal heat.

Out of the wood two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night, 
But not long since in the lumber camps). 
They thought all chopping was theirs of right. 
Men of the woods and lumberjacks, 
The judged me by their appropriate tool. 
Except as a fellow handled an ax
They had no way of knowing a fool.

Nothing on either side was said. 
They knew they had but to stay their stay
And all their logic would fill my head: 
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man's work for gain. 
My right might be love but theirs was need. 
And where the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right -- agreed.

But yield who will to their separation, 
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight. 
Only where love and need are one, 
And the work is play for mortal stakes, 
Is the deed ever really done. 

-- Robert Frost, "Two Tramps in Mud Time''

 

Jim Hightower: Trump's 'jobs' panel consists of fat cats who rip off workers

Via OtherWords.org

By golly, The Donald delivers.

Trump and his new blue-ribbon panel of working-class champions have announced a bold new initiative to create millions of American jobs. A spokesman for the panel, Steve Schwarzman, praised Trump as a leader who wants to “do things a lot better in our country, for all Americans.”

Wait a minute — Steve Schwarzman? Isn’t he a billionaire hedge-fund huckster on Wall Street? Yes — and holy money bags, there’s Jamie Dimon, head of the scandal-ridden bank JPMorgan Chase.

Working-class champions? Hardly.

Trump’s whole “jobs” panel, it turns out, is made up of Wall Street banksters and corporate powers like Wal-Mart that are notorious for laying off and ripping off workers.

Trump-the-candidate fulminated against such moneyed elites, calling them “responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class.” But now, in a spectacular flip-flop, he’s brought these robbers directly inside his presidency, asking them to be architects of his economic strategy.

Worse, he’s doing this in the name of helping workers.

Hello! To develop policies beneficial to working stiffs, bring in some working stiffs! But there’s not a single labor advocate on his policy council, in his cabinet, or anywhere near his White House.

Thus, the so-called “job-creation plan” announced by Trump and his corporate cohorts doesn’t create any jobs, but calls instead for deregulating Wall Street.

These flim-flammers actually want us rubes to believe that “freeing” banksters to return to casino-style speculation and consumer scams will give them more money to invest in American jobs.

Do they think we have sucker wrappers around our heads? Trump’s scheme will let banks make a killing, but it doesn’t require them to invest in jobs — so they won’t.

There’s a name for this: fraud.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown

Let the kids worry about it!

The carbon-dioxide cycle between the atmosphere and the ocean.  

The carbon-dioxide cycle between the atmosphere and the ocean.
 

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary'' in GoLocal24.com.

Not unexpectedly, President Trump is pushing to roll back Obama administration rules requiring that cars run at 54.4 miles a gallon of fuel by 2025, up from 27.5 miles a  gallon. That is projected to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 6 billion tons over the lifetime of new vehicles and save 2 million gallons of oil a day by 2025. Thus the Obama rules would be good for the environment and good for national security by reducing our need for oil, much of which still comes from nasty places abroad.

Car company senior executives always say that they can’t meet new fuel standards but because of always developing technology they always do. In so doing, they’re making more efficient, better-engineered cars. But they’ll take the easy way out if they can to maximize their short-term profits. Senior execs rarely hold their jobs for more than five years so why should they worry much about bad PR about the long-term environment?  Their children and grandchildren can fret about global warming.

But global warming aside, what about cleaner air?

Meanwhile such nasties associated with global warming as acidification of the oceans and the consequent death of coral reefs goes on.

'I'm a tribal chieftain as well'

James Michael Curley in 1922.

James Michael Curley in 1922.

“You see,’’ he said, my position is slightly complicated because I’m not just an elected official of the city; I’m a tribal chieftain as well. It’s a necessary kind of dual officeholding, you might say; without the second, I wouldn’t be the first.’’

“The tribe,’’ said Adam, being the Irish?’’

“Exactly.’’

Conversation between fictional Mayor Frank Skeffington, based on the corrupt and charming Boston Mayor James Michael Curley, and his nephew in Edwin O’Connor’s novel The Last Hurrah, which was made into a movie with Spencer Tracy starring as Skeffington.

Mr. Curley was mayor in 1914-1918, 1922–1926, 1930–1934 and 1946–1950, and governor of Massachusetts in 1935-1937.

'scandal of Mrs. N and Professor D'

 

the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls 

are unbeautiful and have comfortable minds 

(also, with the church's protestant blessings 

daughters,unscented shapeless spirited) 

they believe in Christ and Longfellow, both dead, 

are invariably interested in so many things— 

at the present writing one still finds 

delighted fingers knitting for the is it Poles? 

perhaps. While permanent faces coyly bandy 

scandal of Mrs. N and Professor D 

.... the Cambridge ladies do not care, above 

Cambridge if sometimes in its box of 

sky lavender and cornerless, the 

moon rattles like a fragment of angry candy 

-- E.E. Cummings,  "the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls''

 

A sign for the '60s

 

Kenmore Square, with the world's most-famous  Citgo sign.

Kenmore Square, with the world's most-famous  Citgo sign.

Adapted from an item in Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary'' in GoLocal24.com

The famous  glowing Citgo signatop a building at Boston’s Kenmore Square will be saved, thus keeping fresh in the minds of now aging Baby Boomer potheads a significant landmark from their youth. Boston officials helped broker a deal between Citgoand a real estate company with the weird name of Related Beal to keep the sign up.  The current, “psychedelic’’ version of the sign went up in 1965, just in time to appeal to the hordes of mostly young people in the area who were “experimenting’’ with marijuana.

Daniel Bluestone, an architecture-history professor at Boston University, told The Boston Globe he was very happy about the agreement: “It’s a landmark in the truest sense of the word. It helps people know where they are.”   Above-the-street landmarks are particularly important in a city with as confused a layout as Boston. 

Of course in the late '60s, many people didn't know 24/7 where they were going.

Public-private partnership seeks to expand Mattapoisett River Reserve

In April, the Buzzards Bay Coalition is expected to open trails at two newly protected properties at Tinkhamtown Woodlands, in Mattapoisett, above, and New Boston Road in Fairhaven, growing the Mattapoisett River Reserve to 530 acres of publicly accessible forests, wetlands and cranberry bogs for hiking, paddling, fishing, hunting and wildlife watching.  -- Buzzards Bay Coalition photo

In April, the Buzzards Bay Coalition is expected to open trails at two newly protected properties at Tinkhamtown Woodlands, in Mattapoisett, above, and New Boston Road in Fairhaven, growing the Mattapoisett River Reserve to 530 acres of publicly accessible forests, wetlands and cranberry bogs for hiking, paddling, fishing, hunting and wildlife watching. 

-- Buzzards Bay Coalition photo

By ecoRI News staff

See ecori.org

The Massachusetts towns of Fairhaven, Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester, working in partnership with the Buzzards Bay Coalition, permanently protected from development 1,468 acres of forests and wetlands in the Mattapoisett River valley between 2001 and 2016 — an average of 98 acres annually — to safeguard public drinking-water supplies.

The Mattapoisett River Valley, which spans from Snipatuit Pond in Rochester to Mattapoisett Harbor, is one of the most important water resources in southeastern Massachusetts, according to the Buzzards Bay Coalition (BBC). The underground aquifer supplies drinking water to more than 24,000 residents.

A recently released report details how the Mattapoisett River supports outdoor recreation, a historically active river herring run, and a number of rare and threatened plant and animal species.

Conserving land is one of the most important ways to protect water for drinking, swimming and fishing. Forests, streams and wetlands work together to shield water supplies from harmful pollution. Preserving this land not only safeguards clean drinking water, but it also protects clean water downstream in Buzzards Bay for people, wildlife and aquatic life, according to BBC’s president.

“Many places in Massachusetts and along the East Coast are actually losing much more than 100 acres of sensitive land to development every year,” Mark Rasmussen said. “In the Mattapoisett River valley, with the strong commitment of these four towns, we’ve been able to reverse the trend and permanently conserve our land and water for generations to come.”

In 2000, the BBC partnered with the Mattapoisett River Valley Water Supply Protection Committee, composed of representatives from the four towns, to conserve land in the river valley to safeguard drinking-water supplies. At that time, just 8 percent of the river valley was permanently protected from development. Today, that number has increased to 17 percent.

“Over the years, the Mattapoisett River Valley Water Protection Advisory Committee has developed a successful partnership of land ownership with the Buzzards Bay Coalition,” said Vincent Furtado, superintendent of the Fairhaven Board of Public Works. “This has resulted in preserving open lands for the survival of our environment, which includes protecting our drinking-water supplies, promoting healthier, active lifestyles, and sustaining habitats for native plants and animal species.”

Of the 1,468 acres that have been conserved, 768 acres (52 percent) are in Rochester, 598 acres (41 percent) are in Mattapoisett, 67 acres (5 percent) are in Fairhaven, and 35 acres (2 percent) are in Marion. Altogether, these land-protection efforts cost $13 million, which was split nearly equally between federal, state and local government grants (53 percent) and private funding sources (47 percent).

Land-protection opportunities in the Mattapoisett River valley are strong because many of the remaining undeveloped land exists in large parcels that have been passed down for generations within local families. Most of the total acreage (898 acres, or 61 percent) was protected through outright fee acquisition, in which landowners sold or donated their land to the towns or the BBC.

The rest of the land (571 acres) was protected with conservation restrictions, which allow private landowners to permanently protect their land while still keeping ownership of it.

GOP would cost-shift massive obligatory medical costs to states

Adapted from  an item in Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary'' in GoLocal 24

The Congressional Budget Office figures that the Republican healthcare bill would reduce the federal budget deficit by $337 billion through fiscal 2026. I doubt that, but even assuming that it’s true, it doesn’t project how much the bill could cost the states.

A problem is that every state mandates that all sick and/or injured people who show up in inefficient and expensive hospital emergency rooms (which is most of them), and indeed at many other providers, must be treated regardless of ability to pay. There will be a heightened flood of such people at ERs over the next few years if the GOP bill is enacted because many of these folks would no longer have coverage that has let them get preventive treatment as part of a regular clinical relationship with a physician, especially with a primary-care doctor.

Hospitals and other providers and state governments would have to eat much of the cost of caring for the low-income people cast off with the demise of the Affordable Care Act. Unless state governments decide that they’ll just let a lot of poor people die on the street. Now that’s libertarian!

As former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said in 2006 in explaining his health-insurance plan for the Bay State: “Some of my libertarian friends balk at what looks like an individual mandate {as in the future Affordable Care Act}. But remember, someone must pay for the healthcare that must, by law, be provided: Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay.’’

As for the alleged evil of “individual mandates,’’ states have long had them for auto insurance, and generally those who want to own a home are compelled to buy property insurance to get mortgages.

In any event, the Republican healthcare plan, among other things, is a great big inefficient cost-shifting to the states.

There are elements of the GOP approach that, in principle, have merit. For instance, the Trump administration wants the states to charge Medicaid patients at least some premiums, require them to pay part of their emergency-room charges (Medicaid patients tend to overuse ER’s) and push recipients to get jobs. These changes might reduce some of the vast amount of waste pervasive in American healthcare. And everyone should be reminded that healthcare is never “free’’; it’s just a question of who’s paying for it. But what percentage of Medicaid folks can meet these demands is unknown.  Many of them are already under a lot of economic and other stress.