Saturday, September 24, 2016

Here's why not

“This is not the time for a protest vote.” — Bernie Sanders, September 16, 2016

FOR THOSE of you who are planning to either vote for a third-party candidate or not vote at all because you detest both the Republican and Democratic candidates, consider what Charles M. Blow from The New York Times has to say.




The Folly of the Protest Vote

By Charles M. Blow 
September 22, 2016

Last week, after I delivered a speech at the impressive campus of Morgan State University, a historically black college in northeast Baltimore, a woman approached the mike during the question-and-answer period to raise an issue that she and I both found frustrating: What to say to young people, particularly young African-Americans, who have decided either not to vote in the forthcoming presidential election or to cast a protest vote for a third-party candidate who will most assuredly lose?

This is a very real issue this cycle. Many of these young people feel that there is no good choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

On Sept. 4, The New York Times published an article pointing out the devastating impact this lack of enthusiasm could have on Clinton’s prospects:

“Young African-Americans, like all voters their age, are typically far harder to drive to the polls than middle-aged and older Americans. Yet with just over two months until Election Day, many Democrats are expressing alarm at the lack of enthusiasm, and in some cases outright resistance, some black millennials feel toward Mrs. Clinton.”

The article continued:

“Their skepticism is rooted in a deep discomfort with the political establishment that they believe the 68-year-old former first lady and secretary of state represents. They share a lingering mistrust of Mrs. Clinton and her husband over criminal justice issues. They are demanding more from politicians as part of a new, confrontational wave of black activism that has arisen in response to police killings of unarmed African-Americans.”

Furthermore, as Farai Chideya pointed out on FiveThirtyEight:

“An ABC News/Washington Post poll released last week found that among black Americans of all ages, Clinton is leading Trump 93 percent to 3. But an August survey of young voters by GenForward found that 60 percent of black Americans aged 18 to 30 supported Clinton — or about 30 percentage points less than African-Americans at large. Fourteen percent of black millennials said they would not vote, 5 percent said they would vote for the Green or Libertarian candidates, and 2 percent planned to vote for Trump.”

When I am confronted by the “not voting” or “protest voting” crowd, their argument often boils down to one of principle: They can’t possibly vote for Trump or Clinton because both are flawed in their own ways.

I know immediately that they have bought into the false equivalency nonsense, and additionally are conflating the casting of a ballot with an endorsement of a candidate’s shortcomings.

Both ideas are incredibly problematic and potentially self-destructive.

First — and this cannot be said enough — Clinton and Trump are not equally bad candidates. One is a conventional politician who has a long record of public service full of pros and cons. The other is a demagogic bigot with a puddle-deep understanding of national and international issues, who openly courts white nationalism, is hostile to women, Mexicans and Muslims, and is callously using black people as pawns in a Donnie-come-lately kinder-gentler campaign.

Second, a vote isn’t just about the past — although comparing these two candidates on their pasts still leaves one as the clear choice — but about the present and the future.

There is a simple truth here: Either Clinton or Trump will be the next president of the United States. Not Jill Stein. Not Gary Johnson. Clinton or Trump.

There is another truth: That person will appoint someone to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court (assuming that the Senate doesn’t find religion and move on Merrick Garland before the new president takes office) and that person will also appoint federal judges to fill the 88 district court and court of appeals vacancies that now exist (there are 51 nominees pending for these seats).

These judgeships alone could cast a long shadow — not just for one or two terms of a presidency, but for decades, until those judges retire or die.

This election isn’t just about you or me, or Clinton or Trump. This election is quite literally about the future, all of our and our children’s and their children’s futures.

You can’t say you’re upset about police interaction with minority communities and not understand that the courts are where police tactics are challenged and where precedent is set.

You can’t care about this issue and risk having those judicial seats filled by a man who allowed Sheriff David Clarke to speak at his nomination convention. Sheriff Clarke has called Black Lives Matter “a separatist movement” comprising “slimy people” with a “hateful ideology” that should be added “to the list of hate groups in America.”

You can’t care about this issue and risk the ascendance of a man who last week was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, a group that in its questionnaire to candidates claims: “Fringe organizations have been given a platform by the media to convey the message that police officers are a ‘militarized’ enemy and it is time to attack that enemy.” The questionnaire goes further: “There is a very real and very deliberate campaign to terrorize our nation’s law enforcement officers, and no one has come to our defense.” This, of course, is cop fantasy, but this group is the nation’s largest police union, representing some 330,000 officers.

You can’t care about this issue and risk the ascendance of a man who said of black people this week that they are “absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before” and has said before that his key to restoring safety in black communities is in part “more law enforcement.

”You can’t have taken part in a march for Eric Garner, chanting “I can’t breathe,” and risk the ascendance of a man who has as one of his chief advisers Rudy Giuliani, the grandfather of the very “broken windows” policing strategy that sent officers after low-level offenders like Garner.

You can’t have supported the marching in Ferguson, and applaud the Justice Department’s findings that the city was systematically oppressing its black citizens, and allow Trump to pick the next attorney general.

You can’t have been enraged by the video of Freddie Gray and risk the ascendance of a man who tweeted about the unrest that followed: “Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore!”

You can’t be irate about the environmental injustice in Flint and risk the ascendance of a man who didn’t set foot in that city this cycle until the final stretch of the campaign, when he was engaged in his fake black outreach. And even after he did, he attacked the pastor who interrupted him and lied about details of the visit. You can’t allow that man to pick the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

You can’t have cried about Tamir Rice’s case and allow the ascendance of a candidate who would have his convention in the city where Tamir was killed and not even once reach out to Tamir’s mother or invite her to the convention. You can’t allow the ascendance of a candidate with the audacity to return to Cleveland to tape a town hall with his television booster Sean Hannity about issues facing the African-American community — taped in front of a largely white audience judging by the pictures — and still not reach out to Tamir’s mother to participate. Tamir’s blood cries out for better.

You can’t detest racial-dragnet-policy stop-and-frisk policing as not only morally abhorrent but thoroughly unconstitutional and risk the ascendance of a man who on Wednesday reportedly suggested that he would consider using stop-and-frisk more across the nation.

You can’t pretend to be “enlightened” or “woke” or “principled” and sit idly by and allow real and sustained damage to be done to the very causes you hold dear.

You can’t in good conscience compare Trump to the candidate who has embraced the “Mothers of the Movement,” has an expansive racial justice agenda outlined on her website, has been engaged with Flint for months and has won the praise of that city’s mayor, and will surely appoint more liberal judges.

As Bernie Sanders himself said last week: “This is not the time for a protest vote.”

Protest voting or not voting at all isn’t principled. It’s dumb, and childish, and self-immolating. I know you’re young, but grow up!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Colin Kaepernick backlash

“One of the things I’ve noticed throughout this is there’s a lot of racism in this country disguised as patriotism. People want to take everything back to the flag, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking racial discrimination, inequalities and injustices that are happening across the nation.” — Colin Kaepernick

RECENTLY I wrote a post called Colin Kaepernick's Protest which has proved to be the most debated, argued-about, criticized and defended posts I've ever written.


One commenter sent me an article entitled "Rob Lowe Just Took Down Every Anthem-Hater in the NFL With 1 Epic Tweet" which I freely admit I did not read. The title itself contained such an obvious logical fallacy, specifically a categorical syllogism . . . that I couldn't bring myself to take the time to discover how poorly-reasoned the content must surely be based on the aggressively illogical headline.


After delivering an unneeded explanation of the meaning of the various elements of the flag (I was awake during history class — but please, can we call it what it was actually was: white history class), another commenter owned that he thinks Colin Kaepernick is "privileged" "insincere" and "not authentic" whereas he, the commenter, is "very glad he was born here" — which of course implies that Colin Kaepernick isn't. 


He thinks that Colin has undertaken his "insincere" protest in a self-serving effort to garner attention for himself.


If Colin IS insincere, it's a really, really expensive insincere: he's pledged to donate a million dollars — $100,000 each month for the next ten months to charities that aid communities in need. He's also donating 100% of the profits from sales of his #7 San Francisco 49ers jersey, currently the NFL's 
best-selling jersey. (I don't even like football, but I just may buy one.)


The same commenter doesn't think Colin is underprivileged enough to be protesting in support of Black Lives Matter


So let me get this straight; Colin isn't downtrodden enough to care about those who are. Just how racist, not to mention categorically syllogistic is that?! I didn't know there was a ceiling on possessing a conscience and a heart or having justice and equality matter.



Notice if you will the contrast in facial expression between the the young woman holding the sign and the man at the far right holding a flag. Draw your own conclusions about which one is proud and which one is ugly-angry.

Here's what I think: this outsized outrage over one man's personal protest that, by the way comes at no small cost to him — in addition to the $1 million and jersey sale donations and the hit his reputation and popularity are taking, he's received death threats — I think it's cover for white blindness and racism.


So is the fury directed at the Black Lives Matter movement itself. I've heard any number of (white) people say that the movement should be All Lives Matter. 


Here's how stupid I can be: when I first heard someone say that, I thought, "That's true, all lives should matter." 


Yes they should, but Paul immediately pointed out to me that saying that is just another racist cover . . . because white lives have always mattered. And still do. No need for a movement to convince white people that their lives matter. 


Here's one way black lives don't: The Washington Post maintains a database of every American killed by police, tracked by race and other demographics. Below is one statistical conclusion:  


"According to the most recent census data, there are nearly 160 million more white people in America than there are black people. White people make up roughly 62 percent of the U.S. population but only about 49 percent of those who are killed by police officers. African Americans, however, account for 24 percent of those fatally shot and killed by the police despite being just 13 percent of the U.S. population. As The Post noted in a new analysis published last week, that means black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers."


And what I'd like to know is this: why can't be call racism what is is? 


Recently an incident took place in my 'friendly' very white home town. You may have read about it in a Facebook post from Paul, or you may have seen it covered on Channel 13 News in Des Moines. I was so proud of him because in addition to championing it on FB, Paul alerted Erin Kiernan, who by the way has always been such a friend to victims of injustice and domestic violence, and her station covered it. (I've screen-capped the FB post below that explains the incident.)





Paul was more than a little disappointed in the Ankeny School District response; when interviewed, the ASD public relations person said that coaches would speak to athletes about what she called "unsportsmanlike conduct" . . . instead of calling it flat out what it is: racism.


On a more encouraging note, here's what happened that I think is way, way cool:


Entire Seattle high school football team kneels during national anthem before game


By Q13 Fox New Staff

September 16, 2016

SEATTLE — The entire Garfield High School football team, including the coaches, took a knee during the national anthem Friday night before their game against West Seattle High on Friday night to protest “social injustices.”


After the game, which Garfield won, Garfield High School head football coach Joey Thomas said that "the players decided to do this" to bring attention to "social injustices," emphasizing that it was "a player-driven" move and that his players plan to continue the practice during the anthem before every game "until they tell us to stop."





Here is an interview with head coach Joey Thomas:


About four or five players on the West Seattle High School team also knelt during the anthem at the Southwest Athletic Complex in the West Seattle area.


Seattle Public Schools issued the following statement:  “Students kneeling during the national anthem are expressing their rights protected by the First Amendment. Seattle Public Schools supports all students' right to free speech.”


The recent public protests during the national anthem at sports events began a couple of weeks ago when San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. After receiving some criticism that he was disrespecting the flag, Kaepernick started kneeling during the anthem. Several other NFL players have also begun kneeling during the anthem.


This is believed to be the first time that an entire high school football team knelt during the anthem.

   

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A history of enriching himself at taxpayer expense

“His whole MO is to exploit the government for everything he could get.” — Jerilyn Perine, city housing commissioner during Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations.

HEY, Republicans! Yes, you. Aren't you supposed to be the party against high taxes, wasteful spending and misuse of taxpayer money?


So riddle me this. How can you even consider voting for a guy who has sucked $885 million out of taxpayers' pockets — money that could have been used to let's say keep bridges from falling down or repair crumbling highways. You know the infrastructure your employees use to come to work and allow your goods to make their way to people who will buy them.


I'm sharing with you the first 500 words or so of a New York Times research piece that exposes Donald Trump's highly-profitable shell game that has enabled him to get rich using taxpayer money. Just think how he could game the system as President of the United States(The entire story is attached with a link at the bottom.)






A Trump Empire Built on Inside Connections and $885 Million in Tax Breaks


By Charles V. Bagli

September 17, 2016

The way Donald J. Trump tells it, his first solo project as a real estate developer, the conversion of a faded railroad hotel on 42nd Street into the sleek, 30-story Grand Hyatt, was a triumph from the very beginning.


The hotel, Mr. Trump bragged in “Trump: The Art of the Deal,” his 1987 best seller, “was a hit from the first day. Gross operating profits now exceed $30 million a year.”


But that book, and numerous interviews over the years, make little mention of a crucial factor in getting the hotel built: an extraordinary 40-year tax break that has cost New York City $360 million to date in forgiven, or uncollected, taxes, with four years still to run, on a property that cost only $120 million to build in 1980.


The project set the pattern for Mr. Trump’s New York career: He used his father’s, and, later, his own, extensive political connections, and relied on a huge amount of assistance from the government and taxpayers in the form of tax breaks, grants and incentives to benefit the 15 buildings at the core of his Manhattan real estate empire.


Since then, Mr. Trump has reaped at least $885 million in tax breaks, grants and other subsidies for luxury apartments, hotels and office buildings in New York, according to city tax, housing and finance records. The subsidies helped him lower his own costs and sell apartments at higher prices because of their reduced taxes.


Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee for president, has made clear over the course of his campaign how proud he is that “as a businessman I want to pay as little tax as possible.”


While it is impossible to assess how much Mr. Trump pays in personal or corporate income taxes, because he has refused to release his tax returns, an examination of his record as a New York developer shows how aggressively he has fought to lower the taxes on his projects.


Mr. Trump successfully sued the administration of Mayor Edward I. Koch after being denied a tax break for Trump Tower, his signature building on Fifth Avenue. Two decades later, in a lawsuit that spanned the administrations of Mayors Rudolph W. Giuliani and Michael R. Bloomberg, he won a similar tax break for Trump World Tower, a building on First Avenue with some of the city’s highest-priced condominiums in 2001.


Click here to read the rest of the story.




Friday, September 16, 2016

Bees are good, right?

“I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. I think they should disarm. Immediately. Let’s see what happens to her.” — Donald Trump, referring to Hillary Clinton

IN AN attempt to avoid sitting on a cat after visiting the bathroom in the small hours Saturday night, I missed the bed, fell and hit the back of my head on the nightstand so hard that I literally cried. 


Paul made sure my eyes were tracking and iced my head, but there wasn't much else to do until I could visit my NUCCA (National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association) specialist on Monday. 


She's the one who fixed me years and years ago when no one else could after an oversized pick-up truck blew through a red light and totaled my car with me in it. 


I thought I was okay at first back then, but over time, I started having blinding headaches for more than a year that no one could eradicate. I went to MDs, DOs, physical therapy, chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists to little or no avail. Eventually I found Dr. Deb Sesker who fixed me permanently. (That first visit is a story in itself that deserves telling, but not tonight.)


After sustaining such a wallop Saturday night, I knew I needed Deb to put me back together again, and by gently making fine adjustments to my cranium, jaw and neck vertebrae, she got the headache that had unsurprisingly developed, to disappear for a couple of days. We both reckoned as how it might take another visit or two to get my structure to stay in place, so I'll be back for another reset this coming Monday.


The returned headache isn't even close to being as bad as it was, but there's enough of it there to make me unwilling and unable to a risk a bigger one by talking about what's happening in the world — and by 'world' I mean that ignorant, pathologically narcissistic, hate-mongering, buffoon, Donald Trump


I can't contemplate him without making my head explode, so tonight we're going to hear a calming story about a swarm of Welsh bees and the good people who rescued them. A tale with a happy ending about 100% beneficial creatures. Yup, that's what I need. 


From Treehugger, sent to me by my pal, Terry Hanson.





Swarm of bees follows car for 2 days to rescue queen trapped in back


By Melissa Breyer

May 27, 2016

When Carol Howarth parked her Mitsubishi in the town of Haverfordwest, Wales, to do some shopping, little did she know the mayhem that would ensue.


While she attended to her errands, a swarm of 20,000 bees was drawn to her car. A local man, Tom Moses, saw the buzzing hubbub and concerned that the bees might be poorly handled, called in a team of beekeepers.


"It was spectacular. I was driving through when I spotted the big brown splodge,” he said. "A lot of people were really amazed by it, cars were slowing down and people were taking pictures of it."


"I was a little bit concerned, with it being in the middle of town outside a pub, that someone might do something stupid and get hurt or do something stupid and hurt the bees," he said.


With the beekeepers on the job, by the time Howarth returned the situation appeared to be resolved.


But, no. The swarm kept her in their sights and managed to track her down.


"The next day I realized that some of the bees had followed me home,” she said. So she summoned the beekeepers, who arrived ready for rescue.


“We think the queen bee had been attracted to something in the car, perhaps something sweet, and had got into a gap on the boot’s wiper blade or perhaps the hinge,” says Roger Burns of Pembrokeshire Beekeepers. “The swarm of around 20,000 had followed her and were sat around on the boot of the car.”


In the end, the adventurous queen and her subjects were reunited without harm.


Burns says that it was the strangest bee-thing he’d seen in three decades of beekeeping. “It is natural for them to follow the queen but it is a strange thing to see and quite surprising to have a car followed for two days. It was quite amusing.”


Thursday, September 15, 2016

When a crackpot runs for president

"For my part, I’ve never met a national politician as ill informed, as deceptive, as evasive and as vacuous as Trump. He’s not normal." — Nicholas Kristof

THANK YOU, Nicholas, for finally unequivocally calling it. His column from today's New York Times is below.



When a Crackpot Runs for President

By Nicholas Kristof
September 15, 2016

One of the mental traps that we all fall into, journalists included, is to perceive politics through narratives.

President Gerald Ford had been a star football player, yet somehow we in the media developed a narrative of him as a klutz — so that every time he stumbled, a clip was on the evening news. Likewise, we in the media wrongly portrayed President Jimmy Carter as a bumbling lightweight, even as he tackled the toughest challenges, from recognizing China to returning the Panama Canal.

Then in 2000, we painted Al Gore as inauthentic and having a penchant for self-aggrandizing exaggerations, and the most memorable element of the presidential debates that year became not George W. Bush’s misstatements but Gore’s dramatic sighs.

I bring up this checkered track record because I wonder if once again our collective reporting isn’t fueling misperceptions.

A CNN/ORC poll this month found that by a margin of 15 percentage points, voters thought Donald Trump was “more honest and trustworthy” than Hillary Clinton. Let’s be frank: This public perception is completely at odds with all evidence.

On the PolitiFact website, 13 percent of Clinton’s statements that were checked were rated “false” or “pants on fire,” compared with 53 percent of Trump’s. Conversely, half of Clinton’s are rated “true” or “mostly true” compared to 15 percent of Trump statements.

Clearly, Clinton shades the truth — yet there’s no comparison with Trump.

I’m not sure that journalism bears responsibility, but this does raise the thorny issue of false equivalence, which has been hotly debated among journalists this campaign. Here’s the question: Is it journalistic malpractice to quote each side and leave it to readers to reach their own conclusions, even if one side seems to fabricate facts or make ludicrous comments?

President Obama weighed in this week, saying that “we can’t afford to act as if there’s some equivalence here.”

I’m wary of grand conclusions about false equivalence from 30,000 feet. But at the grass roots of a campaign, I think we can do better at signaling that one side is a clown.

There are crackpots who believe that the earth is flat, and they don’t deserve to be quoted without explaining that this is an, er, outlying view, and the same goes for a crackpot who has argued that climate change is a Chinese-made hoax, who has called for barring Muslims and who has said that he will build a border wall and that Mexico will pay for it.

We owe it to our readers to signal when we’re writing about a crackpot. Even if he’s a presidential candidate. No, especially when he’s a presidential candidate.

There frankly has been a degree of unreality to some of the campaign discussion: Partly because Hillary Clinton’s narrative is one of a slippery, dishonest candidate, the discussion disproportionately revolves around that theme. Yes, Clinton has been disingenuous and legalistic in her explanations of emails. Meanwhile, Trump is a mythomaniac who appears to have systematically cheated customers of Trump University.

Clinton’s finances are a minefield, which we know because she has released 39 years of tax returns; Trump would be the first major party nominee since Gerald Ford not to release his tax return (even Ford released a tax summary). And every serious analyst knows that Trump is telling a whopper when he gleefully promises to build a $25 billion wall that Mexico will pay for.

Then there’s the question of foundations. Yes, Clinton created conflicts of interest with the family foundation and didn’t fully disclose donors as promised. But the Trump Foundation flat out broke the law by making a political contribution.

It’s also worth avoiding moral equivalence about the work of the two foundations: The Clinton Foundation saves lives around the world from AIDS and malnutrition, while the Trump Foundation used its resources to buy — yes! — a large painting of Trump, as a gift for Trump (that may violate I.R.S. rules as well).

The latest dust-up has been health care. Neither candidate has been very open about health, but Clinton has produced much more detailed medical records than Trump, and an actuarial firm told The Washington Post Fact Checker that Clinton has a 5.9 percent chance of dying by the end of a second term in office, while Trump would have a 8.4 percent chance.

So I wonder if journalistic efforts at fairness don’t risk normalizing Trump, without fully acknowledging what an abnormal candidate he is. Historically we in the news media have sometimes fallen into the traps of glib narratives or false equivalencies, and we should try hard to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

We should be guard dogs, not lap dogs, and when the public sees Trump as more honest than Clinton, something has gone wrong.

For my part, I’ve never met a national politician as ill informed, as deceptive, as evasive and as vacuous as Trump. He’s not normal. And somehow that is what our barks need to convey.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Addressing poverty — or not

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” — Hélder Câmara, former Brazilian Roman Catholic Archbishop

MANY of us who supported Bernie Sanders did so in no small measure because of his passionate and deeply authentic outrage at the staggering gap between the richest Americans and the poorest. Below is a recent New York Times Editorial Board piece evaluating Donald Trump's and Hillary Clinton's proposals — or lack there of — for addressing the issue of poverty in the United States

A homeless family living on the street in Chicago. Credit: BillMoyers.com/Scott Strazzante/The Chicago Tribune/AmericanPoverty.org

The Failure to Talk Frankly About Poverty

By The Editorial Board
September 13, 2016

Poverty in the United States is deeper than in all other wealthy nations. Yet neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump has a specific anti-poverty agenda.

There have been notable improvements in three crucial measures of economic well-being: income, poverty and health insurance coverage. On Tuesday, the Census Bureau announced that all took a sharp turn for the better in 2015, the first time since 1999 that the three measures improved in the same year.

The question now is whether the new data will inspire a deeper discussion about how to keep making progress. According to the report, the official poverty rate fell from 14.8 percent in 2014, or 46.7 million people, to 13.5 percent in 2015, or 43.1 million people, the largest annual percentage-point drop since 1999.

Although Mrs. Clinton has talked more about families, women, children and working Americans than about the poor, there is much within her economic program that would help those in or near poverty. She supports raising the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour ($15 is a better goal) and would increase investment in Early Head Start and child care subsidies.

Some of Mrs. Clinton’s other proposals, like those on housing, have received less attention but could do a lot to help the poor. She would increase affordable housing by including more cities in the Obama-era project to rehabilitate housing in Detroit and other areas hard hit by the recession; strengthen the federal program for low-income housing vouchers; and increase tax incentives for new development of affordable rental housing.

Mr. Trump has said that more jobs will help cure poverty — which no one disagrees with. His promises to create jobs, however, are hollow. Historical evidence and economic analysis indicate that his agenda — less trade, less immigration and huge tax cuts for the wealthy — would harm job growth. Even his recent attempts at a middle-class agenda, including subsidies for child care, and paid maternity leave have been fatally flawed. The former skews toward high-income earners and the latter relies on states to come up with the money.

The failure to talk frankly about poverty is especially regrettable in light of this week’s Census Bureau report. As the figures show, we know what works. The path forward is clear.

For example, the largest income gains in 2015 were among Americans at the bottom of the income ladder. Those gains reflect job growth, which has been supported by the Federal Reserve’s low interest-rate policy; the Fed should stay the course until the job market has returned to full health. The income gains also reflect minimum-wage increases in many states and cities, which have laid the foundation for the federal government to follow suit.

The data also illustrate how much worse conditions would be without existing federal programs. Using the “supplemental” measure of poverty that is more nuanced than the official measure, the poverty rate in 2015 was 14.3 percent. Without Social Security, it would have been 22.6 percent, with nearly 27 million more people in poverty. Without the earned-income tax credit and low-income provisions on the child tax credit, the rate would have been 17.2 percent, adding 9.2 million people. Without food stamps, the rate would have been 15.7 percent, adding 4.6 million people.

The statistics give the candidates all the evidence they need to make the case to voters that anti-poverty policies work. Mrs. Clinton, to her credit, has ideas on how to improve the lives of the poor. Turning those ideas into law, however, will require broad support from the public and Congress. The time to start that campaign is now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Sugar; oh sugar, sugar

“When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses.” — Shirley Chisholm, American politician, educator, author and the first African American woman elected to the United States Congress

YEAH SURE, let's reduce government oversight of everything and let the marketplace decide. Corporations will do the right thing. 

The attached article is from The Associated Press and ABC News.




Study Details Sugar Industry Attempt to Shape Science

By Candice Choi, AP Food Industry Writer
September 12, 2016

The sugar industry began funding research that cast doubt on sugar's role in heart disease — in part by pointing the finger at fat — as early as the 1960s, according to an analysis of newly uncovered documents.

The analysis published Monday is based on correspondence between a sugar trade group and researchers at Harvard University, and is the latest example showing how food and beverage makers attempt to shape public understanding of nutrition.

In 1964, the group now known as the Sugar Association internally discussed a campaign to address "negative attitudes toward sugar" after studies began emerging linking sugar with heart disease, according to documents dug up from public archives. The following year the group approved "Project 226," which entailed paying Harvard researchers today's equivalent of $48,900 for an article reviewing the scientific literature, supplying materials they wanted reviewed, and receiving drafts of the article.

The resulting article published in 1967 concluded there was "no doubt" that reducing cholesterol and saturated fat was the only dietary intervention needed to prevent heart disease. The researchers overstated the consistency of the literature on fat and cholesterol, while downplaying studies on sugar, according to the analysis.

"Let me assure you this is quite what we had in mind and we look forward to its appearance in print," wrote an employee of the sugar industry group to one of the authors.

The sugar industry's funding and role were not disclosed when the article was published by the New England Journal of Medicine. The journal did not begin requesting author disclosures until 1984.

In an editorial published Monday that accompanied the sugar industry analysis, New York University professor of nutrition Marion Nestle noted that for decades following the study, scientists and health officials focused on reducing saturated fat, not sugar, to prevent heart disease.

While scientists are still working to understand links between diet and heart disease, concern has shifted in recent years to sugars, and away from fat, Nestle said.

A committee that advised the federal government on dietary guidelines said the available evidence shows "no appreciable relationship" between the dietary cholesterol and heart disease, although it still recommended limiting saturated fats.

The American Heart Association cites a study published in 2014 in saying that too much added sugar can increase risk of heart disease, though the authors of that study say the biological reasons for the link are not completely understood.

The findings published Monday are part of an ongoing project by a former dentist, Cristin Kearns, to reveal the sugar industry's decades-long efforts to counter science linking sugar with negative health effects, including diabetes. The latest work, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, is based primarily on 31 pages of correspondence between the sugar group and one of the Harvard researchers who authored the review.

In a statement, the Sugar Association said it "should have exercised greater transparency in all of its research activities," but that funding disclosures were not the norm when the review was published. The group also questioned Kearns' "continued attempts to reframe historical occurrences" to play into the current public sentiment against sugar.

The Sugar Association said it was a "disservice" that industry-funded research in general is considered "tainted."

Companies including Coca-Cola Co. and Kellogg Co. as well as groups for agricultural products like beef and blueberries regularly fund studies that become a part of scientific literature, are cited by other researchers, and are touted in press releases.

Companies say they adhere to scientific standards, and many researchers feel that industry funding is critical to advancing science given the growing competition for government funds. But critics say such studies are often thinly veiled marketing that undermine efforts to improve public health.

"Food company sponsorship, whether or not intentionally manipulative, undermines public trust in nutrition science," wrote Nestle, a longtime critic of industry funding of science.

The authors of the analysis note they were unable to interview key actors quoted in the documents because they are no longer alive. They also note there is no direct evidence the sugar industry changed the manuscript, that the documents provide a limited window into the sugar industry group's activities and that the roles of other industries and nutrition leaders in shaping the discussion about heart disease were not studied.

Nevertheless, they say the documents underscore why policy makers should consider giving less weight to industry-funded studies. Although funding disclosures are now common practice in the scientific community, the role sponsors play behind the scenes is still not always clear.

In June, the Associated Press reported on a study funded by the candy industry's trade group that found children who eat candy tend to weigh less than those who don't. The National Confectioners Association, which touted the findings in a press release, provided feedback to the authors on a draft even though a disclosure said it had no role in the paper. The association said its suggestions didn't alter the findings.

In November, the AP also reported on emails showing Coca-Cola was instrumental in creating a nonprofit that said its mission was to fight obesity, even though the group publicly said the soda maker had "no input" into its activities. A document circulated at Coke said the group would counter the "shrill rhetoric" of "public health extremists."

Coca-Cola subsequently conceded that it had not been transparent, and the group later disbanded.