Look Around: The Costs of Not Acting on Climate Are Adding Up Fast

From major hurricanes and flooding to droughts and fires, the refusal to accept the science of global warming is getting very expensive.

— by Common Dreams staff

The La Tuna fire that raged in Los Angeles over the weekend was the largest ever seen in the city. Wildfires in California have been tied to the effects of climate change. (Photo: @climatesignals/Twitter)

As Houston begins a recovery from Hurricane Harvey that is likely to last several years and cost many billions of dollars, the threat of extreme weather events around the country and the globe are illustrating the impact of climate change—and the damage being done by right-wing politicians including President Donald Trump who have refused to heed repeated warnings from scientists and other experts.

Author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben summed up the current state of affairs in a number of major U.S. cities, juxtaposed with Trump’s decision earlier this year to withdraw from the 2016 Paris agreement on climate change:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has warned that the damage done to the country’s fourth-largest city could cost the government $180 billion—more than Hurricane Katrina cost in 2005. Aside from rebuilding costs, Houston-area residents may pay in other ways as well: as Common Dreams reported, the Center for Biological Diversity finds that “Oil refineries and chemical plants across the Texas Gulf coast released more than 1 million pounds of dangerous air pollutants in the week after Harvey struck.

On Monday morning, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said there is an “increasing chance” that the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Keys will see “some impacts” from the rapidly-approaching Hurricane Irma, and that “rough surf and dangerous marine conditions will begin to affect the southeastern U.S. coast by later this week.”

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, firefighters spent the weekend fighting what Mayor Eric Garcetti called “the largest fire in the history of” the city, covering about 7,000 acres and forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate. The wildfire, known as the La Tuna fire, broke out amid temperatures in the hundreds, and the Union of Concerned Scientists has noted that climate change is “fueling the frequency of wildfires” throughout the state in recent years.

As Andy Rowell, writing for Oil Change Internationalwrote in a column on Monday, Harvey’s damage in Houston and across the region “should also be a wake-up call to the climate-denying president that unless he acts on climate, there will be more Harveys.”

Rowell continues:

It is a wake-up call to the media to accurately report the disaster, including how climate change fuelled its intensity. It is also a wake-up call to the oil industry in so many, many ways.

On a national and international level it shows how our continuing dependence on fossil fuels will drive more extreme weather events. On a regional level it shows how ill-prepared the fossil fuel industry—and wider petrochemical industry—were to an event like this, despite decades of warnings.

Instead the fossil fuel industry’s complacency, malaise, self-regulation and capture of the political system are all to blame too. They have led to a system of peril.

Writing for Common Dreams on Monday, Randall Amster refers to it as the “new normal of destabilization”—a world in which climate-related disasters are happening more often and with escalating costs.

“In just the past week,” he writes, “we’ve seen record-breaking rainfall and wildfires plague parts of the United States. Globally, such extreme events appear to be increasing in frequency and magnitude. Droughts, floods, fires, and more can be seen as warning signs of impending ecosystem collapse at the planetary scale, with impacts felt in locales and regions around the world. While no single event may be able to draw a causal line directly from climate change, the cumulative correlation indicates escalating destabilization.”

Meanwhile, Trump and his cabinet remain reluctant to discuss the causes of disasters like Harvey as they strike. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt declared it was “misplaced” to discuss the storm’s link to climate change last week.

But that view was specifically countered by journalist Naomi Klein who said that it is in the midst of these climate-related disasters when the conversation about global warming and its impacts is most important.

“Talking honestly about what is fueling this era of serial disasters—even while they’re playing out in real time—isn’t disrespectful to the people on the front lines,” argued Klein at The Intercept. “In fact, it is the only way to truly honor their losses, and our last hope for preventing a future littered with countless more victims.”


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A License To Kill

— by CAP Action War Room

As Florida Governor, Jeb Bush Pioneered The Nation’s First “Stand Your Ground” Law

This Friday, Jeb Bush is scheduled to address the National Urban League, one of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organizations. He is going to be on the hot seat – and deservedly so. As Governor of Florida, Jeb worked hand in hand with the NRA to pioneer the nation’s first Stand Your Ground law, brought to national attention when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. The results, detailed in a new CAP Action report, have been devastating. Here are a few of the findings outlined in the report:

  1. Since the passage of the law, Florida’s gun homicide rate jumped above the national average – and has stayed there. In the 6 years prior to the law‘s passage, the rate of gun homicides in Florida was 3.7 per 100,000 residents, below the national average rate of 4 murders per 100,000 residents. After Stand Your Ground was passed in the state, the average gun homicide rate jumped to more than 4.5 murders per 100,000 residents in Florida while going down nationwide. In the two years following the enactment of the Stand Your Ground law, the number of gun-related homicides in Florida increased by more than 200 cases.

    License2Kill

  2. Florida’s Stand Your Ground law appears to have a disparate impact on black communities. A study by the Tampa Bay Times of nearly 200 Stand Your Ground cases in Florida found that defendants seeking to avoid criminal liability for a homicide by mounting a Stand Your Ground defense were significantly more likely to be successful if they killed a black victim than a white victim. In fact, from 2005 to 2012, defendants who raised a Stand Your Ground defense in Florida were 24 percent more likely to avoid criminal liability for a homicide if they killed a black victim.
  3. The impacts of Stand Your Ground have translated to an additional 600 homicides per year across the country. Within one year of Gov. Bush’s signing, 21 other states had introduced the legislation and 13 had enacted expanded self-defense laws. A 2012 study by researchers at Texas A&M University found that Stand Your Ground laws led to more homicides: States that enacted such laws saw an 8 percent increase in homicides, which translated to an additional 600 homicides per year across all states with these laws. National Urban League’s own 2013 study found that in states that enacted Stand Your Ground laws between 2005 and 2007, the rate of justifiable homicides increased by 53 percent.

A new op-ed drawn from CAP Action’s report and written by Ben Jealous, former president and CEO of the NAACP, highlights how Florida’s Stand Your Ground law poses an even larger threat in Florida because the states gun laws are so weak. In fact Florida’s gun laws remain so lax that George Zimmerman, who in addition to shooting and killing Trayvon Martin, was arrested for assaulting a police officer, the subject of a domestic violence restraining order, arrested 3 times for domestic violence, and threatened to kill a man during a road rage incident, is still permitted carry a gun in Florida.

BOTTOM LINE: America has Jeb Bush to thank for Stand Your Ground. And as research continues to suggest, America has this NRA-backed law to thank for hundreds more gun homicides every year and a disproportionate impact on communities of color.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center forAmerican Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Fixing the Voting Rights Act — HR3899

Fix the Voting Rights Act

Nearly 50 years ago, with Martin Luther King Jr. standing beside him, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law to protect African-Americans and other minorities from racist policies that made it harder for them to register to vote and participate in the political process.

But last summer, the right-wing ideologues on the United States Supreme Court, in the Shelby County v. Holder decision, gutted the Voting Rights Act, ending 40 years of protection for minorities against discriminatory and unfair attempts to limit voting based on one’s race.

Fortunately, Representatives John Conyers, John Lewis and others have now introduced legislation that would restore and modernize the Voting Rights Act for the 21st century. We need to stop Republicans in states around the country from enacting racist voter ID and voter suppression laws. Passing the Voting Rights Amendment Act now is the best way to do it.

“The Voting Rights Act (VRA) is one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation ever passed and is vital to our commitment to never again permit racial prejudices in our electoral process.  It began a healing process that ameliorated decades of discrimination and helped distinguish a democracy that serves as an example for the world. Free, fair, and accessible elections are sacrosanct, and the right of every legal voter to cast their ballot must be unassailable. The VRA broke from past attempts to end voter discrimination by requiring federal preclearance of changes to voting laws in areas with documented histories of discrimination. There is no acceptable remedy for an unfair election after the fact.  Section 5 of the VRA was the only federal remedy that could stop discriminatory practices before they affected elections.

Shelby County vs. Holder severely weakened the election protections that both parties have fought to maintain.  The Court disregarded years of work by Congress.  In a 5-4 decision, the Court eliminated the VRA’s formula for determining which areas are covered by section 5. The result is that the pre-clearance requirement remains, but it no longer applies anywhere except in the handful of locations currently subject to a court order. By striking down Section 4, the Court presented Congress with both a challenge and a historic opportunity.  We are again called to restore the critical protections of the act by crafting a new formula that will cover jurisdictions with recent evidence of discrimination.

The Voting Rights Amendment Act is bipartisan, bicameral, and compliant with the Supreme Court’s ruling.  I am confident that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle can work together to ensure Americans’ most sacred right is protected. Voter discrimination still exists, and our progress toward equality should not be mistaken for a final victory.”  — Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner

Bill Text
Section-by-Section Analysis
House Cosponsors

While the Supreme Court did not invalidate Section 5, a key part of the Voting Rights Act was thrown out. They threw out the basic formula that has been in use since the bill’s passage in 1965. That formula determines when the Justice Department must review local election rules, that might suppress the votes of African-American and Latino citizens, before they could be put into effect. Voter suppression rules can still be challenged by the Department of Justice after the fact, but this often happens too late to prevent minority voters from being blocked from the polls. The court’s decision effectively guts the Voting Rights Act, rendering it useless until Congress updates the coverage formula for Section 5.

Republicans didn’t waste any time in taking advantage of this ruling for electoral gain. Within hours of Supreme Court’s decision, several states in the South immediately announced that they would pursue onerous new voter ID laws that were clearly designed to make it harder for African-Americans and Latinos to vote.

It’s the same old story of using the irrational fear of voter “fraud” as cover while they work to disenfranchise eligible voters. The truth is, voter fraud is exceedingly rare. More Americans are struck by lightning than commit voter fraud. The real problem, the one that can adversely impact election results if we’re not vigilant, is voter suppression.

Tell Congress to fight voter suppression and pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act now.

TakeAction

For decades the Voting Rights Act protected voters in pockets of the country with a history of racially discriminatory voting practices. In 2012, it allowed the Justice Department to block attempts by Texas, South Carolina and Florida to implement discriminatory voting rules. But until Congress restores the Voting Rights Act, right-wing efforts to make it harder for African-Americans and Latino citizens to vote will run completely amok.

The Voting Rights Amendment Act would fix Section 5, our strongest tool for fighting voter suppression efforts, by updating the formula for determining which states and municipalities need pre-approval from the Department of Justice to change their voting laws. We need to show Congress massive public support for this crucial bill. Let’s put the extreme right-wing Republicans in Congress on the hook for not going on the record against efforts in the states to make it harder for African-Americans and Latinos to vote.

Resources:

1. “‘Shelby County’: One Year Later,” Brennan Center for Justice, June 24, 2014
2. “H.R. 3899: The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014,” Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner
3. “Voting Rights in the Post-Shelby county Era,” American Constitution Society, June 20, 2014

4.683 Million Unanswered Questions in Halbig

Appeals will continue, but let’s take the Halbig decision at face value. How much will this decision cost the working poor? The amount varies with income and other variables, but for a 40 year old individual making $30,000 a year, the tax credit was estimated at $1345 (KFF estimate here). Retroactive tax bills under Halbig will be significant and everyone impacted will have trouble paying for health insurance going forward (about 57% of exchange participants were previously uninsured, according to a KFF survey).

How many people will be hurt?

Read more here at “The Incidental Economist” ….

Paul Ryan Envisions New, State-Based Castigation Opportunities

Rep. Paul Ryan has released yet another “plan” to fix poverty and the Safety Net.  He’s release a new discussion draft, “Expanding Opportunity in America.” This latest draft proposes a new “pilot project” which he asserts will strengthen the safety net.  He also proposes a number of reforms to the EITC, education, criminal justice, and ‘regressive’ regulation.

Upon releasing the discussion draft, Chairman Ryan made the following statement:  “Hardworking taxpayers deserve a break in this country. Too many Americans are working harder and harder to get ahead, and yet they’re falling further and further behind. Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, we can all agree: America deserves better.   “So with this discussion draft, I want to start a conversation. I want to talk about how we can expand opportunity in America. I don’t have all the answers; nobody does. But by working together, we can build a healthy economy and help working families get ahead.”

I can agree that we need much better than Rep. Ryan, who is now proposing state-led pilot programs.  Under his latest rendition, he proposes to consolidate funding for 11 federal programs, including food stamps, housing vouchers, heating aid, child-care assistance and welfare payments into an “opportunity” grant that would be managed at the state level by those opting into his grand experiment.  Participating states could then “experiment” with various methods for delivering services, as long as they meet certain standards defined by Rep. Ryan and his GOP cohorts.  Something tells me execution of this approach will go about as well as executions of death row prisoners have performed of late by Republican governors. As Rep. Ryan envisions our Safety Net should be handled, a “life plan” contract would be developed for each recipient by case managers working for non-profit or for-profit organizations.  I guess he’s proposing to get around “big government” by having private contractors administer any services to be received (the first step in siphoning off monies from those block granted funds, like Haliburton did in Iraq).  At a minimum, each “life plan” contract would be required to include, at a minimum:

  • A contract outlining specific and measurable benchmarks for success
  • A timeline for meeting those benchmarks
  • Sanctions for breaking the terms of the contract
  • Incentives for exceeding the terms of the contract
  • Time limits for remaining on cash assistance
  • A commandment that to receive any benefits at all — “thou shalt work”

Holy crap!  The GOP may talk “small government” — but they certainly don’t walk that talk.  His grandiose plan is going to take some serious bureaucracy, albeit a huge state-level network of private contractors, to get that done.  Just think about it.  It’s like having to hire a whole bunch of parole officers, oops, I mean case managers, who would need to monitor things like parenting skills, substance abuse, finances, living situation, and relationships with friends and family members. Plus—they would need to have authority to castigate those whom might not be in conformance with their “life plan.”  What I see is “overseers” and shaming for the recipients, but I don’t see—is oversight for the castigators. I also don’t see assurances of consistency from state to state, or across audiences of recipients within a state. Ryan claims that states, being closest to the recipients of these programs really do know best what their citizens need.  Really?  Just like they really know who should vote and who shouldn’t?  How long before “Jim Crow-like” permutations begin spreading through the disparate “life plan” contracts being imposed on certain citizens based on race, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, etc.?  How long would it take before governors like Sam Brownback of Kansas, or Rick Scott of Florida, or Pat McCrory of North Carolina can find ways to channel those grant dollars into the pockets of rich and powerful individuals and corporations across their states instead into programs helping the truly needy? Those funds they’ll be doling out are our Federal tax dollars that, as it is now, are disparately disbursed to States, with Red State taking a larger portion of that bucket of available dollars. If the GOP truly believes those programs should be State-based programs, owned and managed by the States, then they should have the intestinal fortitude to propose eliminating those programs entirely from the Federal budget and tell the States they’ll just need to increase their taxes to fund what they’re willing to provide. Modifying National programs which have been created over time to help those in need in such a way as to victimize and unjustly punish them for seeking help, is flatly contrary to our Nation’s established moral principles.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s well past time to end Mr. Ryan’s tenure as House Budget Committee Chairman.  I’ve had enough, thank you! Know Thine Enemy — Other References:

 

State-by-State Reports: The Economic Benefits of Fixing Our Broken Immigration System

— by Megan Slack, August 01, 2013

America has always been a nation of immigrants, and throughout the nation’s history, immigrants from around the globe have kept our workforce vibrant, our businesses on the cutting edge, and helped to build the greatest economic engine in the world. But our nation’s immigration system is broken and has not kept pace with changing times. Today, too many employers game the system by hiring undocumented workers and there are 11 million people living and working in the shadow economy. Neither is good for the U.S. economy or American  families.

Commonsense immigration reform will strengthen the U.S. economy and create jobs. Independent studies affirm that commonsense immigration reform will increase economic growth by adding more high-demand workers to the labor force, increasing capital investment and overall productivity, and leading to greater numbers of entrepreneurs starting companies in the U.S.

Economists, business leaders, and American workers agree –  and it’s why a bipartisan, diverse coalition of stakeholders have come together to urge Congress to act now to fix the broken immigration system in a way that requires responsibility from everyone —both from unauthorized workers and from those who hire them—and guarantees that everyone is playing by the same rules. The Senate recently passed a bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform bill would do just that – and it’s time for the House of Representations to join them in taking action to make sure that commonsense immigration reform becomes a reality as soon as possible.

In addition to giving a significant boost to our national economy, commonsense immigration reform will also generate important economic benefits in each state, from increasing workers’ wages and generating new tax revenue to strengthening the local industries that are the backbone of states’ economies. The new state by state reports below detail how just how immigration reform would strengthen the economy and create jobs all regions of our country.

We must take advantage of this historic opportunity to fix our broken immigration system in a comprehensive way. At stake is a stronger, more dynamic, and faster growing economy that will foster job creation, higher productivity and wages, and entrepreneurship.

STATE REPORTS

Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas
California Colorado Connecticut Delaware
Florida Georgia Hawaii  
Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa
Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine
Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota
Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska
Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico
New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio
Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island
South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas
Utah Vermont Virginia Washington
West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming  

Reprinted from The White House Blog.  For more information: