Meet the Deniers Club — clouding the climate change debate


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❝ August tied July as the hottest month on record, according to NASA data released this past week. This year we’ve seen half a dozen thousand-year floods, along with epic droughts. Mother Nature is telling us there’s a problem. The long-term trend lines are clear. Yet we have a Republican presidential nominee who has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax.”

“Perhaps there’s a minor effect,” Donald Trump told The Washington Post’s editorial board, “but I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change.”

❝ So it goes in the madhouse of the climate debate. Even as the evidence has become unmistakable, and even though the alarm has been sounded several times, public policy has been paralyzed — sometimes from ignorance, sometimes from uncertainty, but often from a campaign of deliberate misinformation.

Click here to view some of the worst offenders.

Tom Toles rules!

A list of the excuses Trump offers for why he won’t release his tax returns

❝ Republican presidential nominee and self-described billionaire Donald Trump says he makes a lot of money, gives millions of dollars to charity and has no investments in Russia. But when it comes time to give evidence, he refuses to release the independently verified documents that could support (or refute) all of those claims: his tax returns.

All major presidential nominees over the past 40 years, including Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, have released their tax returns. They are important documents reviewed by accountants and federal auditors, and they must be accurate under penalty of law.

But instead of sharing his returns, Trump and his supporters have relied on a growing list of excuses to defend keeping them hidden. Those excuses are listed below, along with reasons to question them.

❝ Trump: “I’m being audited … so I can’t.” (See next section.) (Repeatedly since February)
Trump: “There’s nothing to learn from them.” (Fact checkers say this is false.) (February, February, May, May)
Trump: “Mitt Romney looked like a fool when he delayed and delayed and delayed and … didn’t file until a month and a half before the election and it cost him big league.” (February, July)
Trump: His tax rate is “none of your business.” (May)
Paul Manafort, former campaign chairman: American people “wouldn’t understand them.” (May)
Manafort: The only people who want them “are the people who want to defeat him.” (May)
Trump: “I don’t think anybody cares,” which is false. (May, September)
Eric Trump, son: Would be “foolish” to release; “you would have a bunch of people who know nothing about taxes trying to look through and trying to come up with assumptions on things that they know nothing about.” (August)
Mike Pence, vice-presidential nominee who released his tax returns: They’re a “distraction.” (September)
Donald Trump Jr.: “Would detract from (his dad’s) main message” (September)
Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager: “I just can’t find where this is a burning issue to most of the Americans.” (September)
Jeffrey Lord, commentator: Tax returns are “a political gimmick, a gotcha … Political opponents are going to go through there and look to make issues out of things.” (September)

What we would learn from Trump’s tax returns

❝ How much (or how little) money he makes
How much (or how little) he gives to charity
How much (or how little) he pays in taxes
How much (or how little) money he keeps in foreign accounts (including in Russia)

RTFA for many more reasons why voters need this kind of information. And for more excuses from Trump, of course.

West Virginia Attorney General accuses Epi-Pen’s owner of Medicaid fraud

The state of West Virginia is investigating Mylan, the maker of EpiPen, a life-saving autoinjector used to treat severe allergic reactions, for possible anti-trust violations, including skyrocketing price increases.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced the fraud investigation Tuesday against the company that was founded in his state. Mylan’s chief executive, Heather Bresch, is the daughter of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat.

The state filed documents in Kanawha Circuit Court to force Mylan to provide documents related to its EpiPen. Morrisey issued Mylan a subpoena on Aug. 26. The company initially agreed to cooperate, but has since failed to respond to the majority of the subpoena…

The drug maker, which has a manufacturing plant near Morgantown, W.Va., acquired the rights to the drug in 2007, when it cost about $57 and it has since that time raised the price to $500 for a two-pack.

The court filing documents the price increases as well as “failed attempts to introduce an EpiPen competitor, litigation over intellectual property and dominance Mylan has over the epinephrine auto injector market,” according to the release.

The subpoena also asks about rebates Mylan paid to participate in the state’s Medicaid program…The petition suggests such conduct, if proven, could subject Mylan to a potential Medicaid fraud action under state law…

Hope the greedy creeps at the top of Mylan get what they deserve.

Trump settled legal claims against his businesses by using $258,000 from his charity — you’re not voting for crooks and liars, right?

❝ Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses…

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.

❝ If the Internal Revenue Service were to find that Trump violated self-dealing rules, the agency could require him to pay penalty taxes or to reimburse the foundation for all the money it spent on his behalf. Trump is also facing scrutiny from the office of the New York attorney general, which is examining whether the foundation broke state charity laws.

More broadly, these cases also provide new evidence that Trump ran his charity in a way that may have violated U.S. tax law and gone against the moral conventions of philanthropy.

❝ “I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington. After The Post described the details of these Trump Foundation gifts, Tenenbaum described them as “really shocking.”

“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in a while,” Tenenbaum said.

❝ The Post sent the Trump campaign a detailed list of questions about the four cases, but received no response.

No doubt there will be a new lie to answer to the newest charges,

Plenty of folks say they’re voting for Trump as a protest against the crooks and liars in Washington, DC. What’s the difference between a government crook and a business crook?

Bigotry is expensive

❝ It seems like every day there’s a new battle being fought over discrimination in the U.S. There was the Ellen Pao trial and its claims of sexual bias at Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firm, the continuing revelations of endemic racial discrimination in Ferguson, Missouri, and the so-called religious freedom law in Indiana that many believe is a thinly veiled cover for anti-gay discrimination.

If racial and gender discrimination were purely matters of fairness, ending them would still be a worthy cause. But there is another reason to combat discrimination — it boosts the economy.

❝ The basic reason is misallocation of resources. In an economy functioning at tip-top efficiency, people do the job that they’re most efficient at doing, relative to other jobs they could be doing, and relative to other people in the economy. That’s called the principle of comparative advantage, and it dates back at least to the famous 19th century economist David Ricardo. Notice that nowhere does the principle of comparative advantage leave room for race or gender. These things, in and of themselves, are simply not important for economic efficiency — the only thing that matters is how well people can perform their jobs.

❝ So if a society bases its decisions of who gets which job on race and gender, it’s going to be sacrificing efficiency. If women aren’t allowed to be doctors, the talent pool for doctors will be diluted, and wages will be pushed up too high, choking off output. This would be true even in a bizarro world where every man was a better doctor than every woman! Of course that’s not even remotely true, but the point is, the theory of comparative advantage doesn’t care about average differences in absolute ability. If you’re making rules about which type of people are allowed to do which type of job, you’re hurting the economy.

❝ Just how big of a difference does this make? A team of top economists has recently studied the question, and their results are pretty startling. In “The Allocation of Talent and Economic Growth,” economists Chang-Tai Hsieh and Erik Hurst of the University of Chicago Booth Business School and Charles Jones and Peter Klenow of Stanford estimate that one fifth of total growth in U.S. output per worker between 1960 and 2008 was due to a decline in discrimination…

The authors’ approach is clever. They treat discrimination as a tax. If you think about it, this makes sense — just as taxes discourage business activity, discrimination in employment or education discourages its victims from taking certain jobs or getting training for certain skills. The authors explicitly allow for the possibility that different groups might have different average ability levels with respect to different occupations. They also count home production — child care and housework — as a real contribution to gross domestic product. They put these assumptions into a Roy model, which is a very flexible general equilibrium model that economists typically use when evaluating people’s occupational choices…

❝ Simply reducing individual prejudice would be a wonderful way of attacking discrimination at the source. That’s why the continuing social movements for greater racial and gender equality are valuable — not just for reasons of fairness but for our economic future.

RTFA for more about the study’s methodology. Should be required reading for all the politicians who waste thousands of hours, million of dollar$, defending the indefensible bigotry they install to please their favorite idjit voters.

The sugar industry paid for distorted health science for more than 50 years

❝ The sugar industry has a long history of shaping nutrition policy in the United States, working to mask the potential risks of consuming too much of the sweet stuff.

It wasn’t until this year, for instance, that the US Dietary Guidelines finally recommended people keep their consumption of added sugars below 10 percent of their total calorie intake — decades after health advocates began pressing for the measure. The sugar lobby had fended off this recommendation all the while.

❝ New research, published…in JAMA Internal Medicine, shows that Big Sugar may have done more than just advocate for favorable policies. Going back more than 50 years, the industry has been distorting scientific research by dictating what questions get asked about sugar, particularly questions around sugar’s role in promoting heart disease.

❝ The paper focuses on a debate that first popped up in the 1950s, when the rate of heart disease started to shoot up in the United States. Scientists began searching for answers, and zeroed in on dietary saturated fat as the leading contributor. The energy we get from food comes in three kinds of nutrients: fats, carbohydrates, and protein…

Today, scientific consensus related to the role specific macronutrients play in the diet has shifted. Researchers have come around to the view that a person’s overall eating habits probably matter more for health than the particular percentages of carbs, fats, and proteins taken in. But they also generally agree that some kinds of fats are less damaging to health than others. (In particular, unsaturated fats appear to be better for one’s cardiovascular disease risk than saturated and trans fats.) And that too much sugar can be just as bad as too much fat for the heart.

❝ The new JAMA paper reveals why the public may know less about the sugar-heart link than it ought to…

Beginning in the 1950s, notes the JAMA paper, led by Cristin Kearns of UC San Francisco, a trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation was concerned about evidence showing that a low-fat diet high in sugar might raise cholesterol levels in the blood.

If sugar turned out to be a major driver of heart issues, the group surmised, that could be devastating for sugar producers…So the Sugar Research Foundation aligned itself with leading Harvard nutrition professors, and paid them the equivalent of $48,900 (in 2016 dollars) for a two-part research review, later published in the New England Journal of Medicine, that would discredit the link between sugar and heart disease.

It ain’t just ancient history. A couple generations of nutritionist were taught to believe the skewed analysis was holy writ, a premise so well established it must serve as the starting point for all following work.

RTFA for details. Yes, there’s nothing new about money buying results. Sometimes in science, though more rarely, say, than in American politics.

Kentucky governor joins the chorus of Republicans forecasting Blood in the Streets if Hillary elected

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin told religious conservatives at the Values Voters Summit Sept. 9 that blood might have to be shed if Hillary Clinton is elected president.

“I want us to be able to fight ideologically, mentally, spiritually, economically, so that we don’t have to do it physically,” Bevin said Saturday. “But that may, in fact, be the case.”

He added, citing Thomas Jefferson’s “blood of patriots and tyrants” quote: “The roots of the tree of liberty are watered by what? The blood. Of who? The tyrants, to be sure. But who else? The patriots. Whose blood will be shed? It may be that of those in this room. It might be that of our children and grandchildren.”…

Bevin, a tea party supporter who has been known to make a controversial comment or two, clarified his comments to the Lexington Herald-Leader, saying blah, blah, blah. The usual craptastic clarification ritual required for right-wing nutballs to cover their butts over advocating/foretelling violence, anarchy and insurrection…

Bevin’s comments echo a tea party rallying cry that has cropped up from time to time. Activists and even some lawmakers have cited Jefferson’s quote to reinforce the stakes for their political movement.

As for the 2016 campaign, Bevin’s comments are the latest example of elected officials promising very bad things if the wrong candidate is elected…Former congresswoman Michele Bachmann warned recently that a Clinton win might mean this could be the “last election” in which Americans would be able to elect a president with “godly moral principles…”

Conservative talk show hosts have warned of even worse, up to and including civil war. But Bevin’s comments appear to be the most full-throated warning about a Clinton presidency so far from a high-ranking GOP elected official.

Easy to blame demagogues. Half the responsibility must be laid at the feet of fools who vote thugs like this into office. It doesn’t matter if their excuse is ignorance or stupidity. They lined up in support of fear-mongering.