Letter: Losing on ‘global warming’ as skepticism grows

Posted: Sunday, November 23, 2014 12:00 am

Letter: Losing on ‘global warming’ as skepticism grows

Increasing skepticism about global warming becomes more apparent every day. That’s why President Obama and key administration figures are politicizing it again. It’s the reason protesters were bused into New York City for a recent rally reminiscent of the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd. 

Clearly, environmental celebrities attending the rally were surprised by the media’s tough questions. PJ Media’s Michelle Field challenged Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s commitment to the cause, asking him what kind of car he drives and why he flies private jets.

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      Sunday, November 23, 2014 12:00 am.

      Women find their voice in Ferguson protest movement

      Johnetta Elzie saw that she was outnumbered. When she tried to answer students’ questions about the protests that followed the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, the men with her interrupted and answered instead. When she tried to tell her story, the men told theirs instead.

      It was about three weeks after Ferguson erupted in unrest last summer and Elzie, another female activist, and six men from the fledgling protest movement were speaking to a room full of Washington University students in St. Louis. Except only the men were talking.

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      FOR THE RECORD

      An earlier version of this post misspelled the name of fugitive Assata Shakur.

      ————

      “The other woman was silent. She was just sitting there,” recalled Elzie, 25. “So I just politely packed up all my stuff and went down to the library. I couldn’t take it.”

      Several young women involved in organizing the Ferguson protests have described similar encounters with a gender barrier: men bowling them over at meetings or not inviting them to help make decisions. The media, they said, also tended to focus on the guys, who sometimes delivered more inflammatory sound bites — about, say, the likelihood of a riot.

      But refusing to be silenced, Elzie and her peers have elbowed to the front lines of protests over the Aug. 9 shooting of unarmed, black, 18-year-old Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. As a tense Ferguson awaits a grand jury decision on whether Wilson will be criminally charged in the shooting, many women will be behind the protest bullhorns in the days and weeks ahead.

      With a partner, Elzie, who has more than 20,000 Twitter followers, puts out a daily newsletter about Ferguson that has more than 7,000 subscribers and has become a central repository of information about developments around St. Louis.

      Are Millennials savers? Conflicting studies say yes and no

      A new study claiming that young adults are spending more than they are saving has come a few months after a study that said Millennials are saving earlier and more for retirement than any other generation.

      “Adults under age 35 currently have a savings rate of negative 2 percent, meaning they are burning through their assets or going into debt, according to Moody’s Analytics. That compares with a positive savings rate of about 3 percent for those age 35 to 44, 6 percent for those 45 to 54, and 13 percent for those 55 and older,” reported the Wall Street Journal.

      Their reasons for the savings deficit are a combination of post-recession banking distrust mixed in with staggering student debt and underemployment.

      A negative savings rate “could be interpreted as Millennials plowing all their assets into paying off debt. Moody’s points out that average student loan debt stands at $17,200 for Millennials, while their median net worth averages out to just $10,400,” said the financial blog Main Street. Average student loan debt was only $6,100 in 1995.

      The Atlantic explained that Millennials are notoriously skeptical of banks, “not surprising for a generation that came of age during the Great Recession and Occupy Wall Street.”

      And some Millennials are not saving simply because they don’t have the financial freedom to do so. Widespread under- and unemployment for young adults is partly to blame.

      “There’s people who really can’t save because they don’t have the means to save and that’s not a small group of people,” said Shai Akabas, an economist at the Bipartisan Policy Center, to the Wall Street Journal. “If you’re in a $25,000-a-year job and starting a family, it’s going to be very hard to accumulate savings regardless of your consumption decisions.”

      This trend could have ramifications for Millennials in the future. “A lack of savings increases the vulnerability of young workers in the post-recession economy, leaving many without a financial cushion for unexpected expenses, raising the difficulty of job transitions and leaving them further away from goals like eventual homeownership — let alone retirement,” the Wall Street Journal explained.

      However, the Moody’s study conflicts with the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies‘ annual retirement survey, released in July, which claimed that Millennials (who are currently working full- or part-time in a for-profit company of 10 or more people) are “an emerging generation of retirement super savers.”

      “Some 70 percent of Millennials started saving for retirement at an unprecedented young age, just 22, the survey found. By contrast, the average Boomer began saving at age 35, while Gen Xers got started at 27. Thanks to this early savings start, Millennials have amassed an average $32,000 in their 401(k) accounts, according to Transamerica,” reported Time.

      “Millennials are ‘much more likely’ to be recovered from its economic impact than older generations and 68 percent are confident they will be able to retire comfortably,” said Forbes, reporting on the study.

      “Millennials have seen what happened to their parents, many of whom lost their jobs and savings in the financial crisis — and they are taking steps to avoid a similar outcome,” Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center, told Time.

      So are Millennials savers or not?

      Catherine Rampell of The Washington Post suggested that before making broad assumptions about the Millennial generation, experts should make historical comparisons. “If you look at all of Moody’s data, going back several decades, you’ll notice that young people almost always have had a negative savings rate, with ‘dissavings’ for earlier generations of youth far worse than that among today’s supposedly irresponsible Millennials,” Rampell wrote.

      dsutton@deseretnews.com | Twitter: @debylene

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      Who’s Leading the Pope in Voting for Time’s Person of the Year Will Leave You …

      Ferguson, Missouri  protesters have certainly been in the news a lot this year.

      In fact, they are a contender for Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.”

      With  4.5% of the vote so far, the protesters are ahead of Ebola doctors, John Kerry (‘he’s traveled 600,000 miles!’), the Boko Haram girls and Pope Francis.

      The guy at the top of the list is the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with 14%.

      Image credit: Time Magazine
      Image credit: Time Magazine

      If the protesters win the honor, it wouldn’t be the first time. Some of the same people who have flocked to agitate in Ferguson were also celebrated in 2011 for their Occupy activism when Time honored ‘The Protester‘ as its Person of the Year.

      That year, Occupy Wall Street, Tea Party and Spanish protesters were tossed in with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Arab Spring, whose numbers included the brother of Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.

      You might think it odd Ferguson’s looters, assaulters and arsonists would be considered for this honor, but the group is also feted for its consciousness raising about police shootings.

      Time has been criticized for many of its choices over the years. For instance, genocidal madman Joe Stalin was a two-time winner and Hitler‘s visage was featured once in 1938 for ‘reunifying Germany with Austria’.

      Oddly, considering its penchant for feting world class despots and maniacal killers, Time has not put ISIS on the list for ‘Person of the Year’ consideration this year. It does, however, feature its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdati, who was tied with Kim Kardashian at 1.1% of the vote. Her husband, Kanye West, is also in the hunt.

      Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, and the Koch Brothers sit at less than 1% near the bottom, but eek out a small advantage over the man who’s dead last: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

      Time will announce the honoree in December.

      Opinion: It Doesn’t Matter Who Owns Public Plazas

      The dramatic entrance to the Richard Rogers-designed Leadenhall Building in London ostensibly invites pedestrians walking on the ground-level public plaza upwards. The building, however, is not so easily accessed. Image © Flickr CC User Matt Brown

      When it comes to , many assume that while truly is always good, “privately owned ” is always bad. However, in this article originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “A Plaza is No Guarantee of Democracy,” NBBJ’s Carl Yost argues that the distinction is not so binary. As architects, it’s our job to smooth over the difference between the two, while we’re at work – but most importantly while we’re not.

      The past few months have seen the opening of high-profile projects with contested public space. The Leadenhall Building, London’s “Cheesegrater,” rises above a public plaza that the Financial Times called “problematic,” with “an astonishing array of defensive measures to make it clear that while it may be open to the public, it is still ours” (that is, the landlord’s). In New York, the World Trade Center plaza has taken fire from critics, both domestic and international, who chafe at restrictions on visitors’ behavior.

      It evokes the debate over “privately owned public space,” or POPS, that arose during Occupy Wall Street, when protesters camped out in Zuccotti Park, a Lower Manhattan plaza that is privately owned by Brookfield Office Properties yet must remain open to the public. Many rightly pointed out the restrictions that POPS pose to free speech and assembly, when owners can evict people they consider unwelcome.

      Protests in Ferguson demonstrate how public spaces can become easily—and quickly—militarized by authorities. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

      Yet for all the hand-wringing about privatization, what really matters is not who owns the space, but what activities are allowed to occur there. Take Ferguson, Missouri, where a militarized police force turned rifles and tear gas on unarmed protesters and the press in the most public place of all: the street. The major lessons of Ferguson aren’t about design or privatization—they’re about race, class, and the manner in which the state interacts with its citizens.

      Not for nothing have the events in Ferguson drawn comparisons to civil rights–era Alabama. In Selma, too, authorities responded with excessive force to peaceful protesters who had every right to occupy public streets. More recently, the NYPD illegally detained protesters during the 2004 Republican National Convention. Even non- activities aren’t immune from overreach. Despite a definitive legal setback, “stop-and-frisk” policing remains controversial, and Vice recently reported that loitering has essentially been criminalized on drug-prone streets of Camden, New Jersey.

      In each instance, the quality or ownership of the space matters much less than the authorities’ (sometimes brutal) restriction of (legal) speech and activities. The causes—autocratic leadership, institutional paranoia, and political or financial gain or some combination thereof—differ, but the result is the same: overreaction, and curtailed liberties within explicitly public space.

      Police officers oversee crowds in Times Square. Image © Flickr CC User Elvert Barnes

      And while public space can be restricted, let’s not forget that private spaces can also be productive sites of dissent under the right conditions. After all, Brookfield and the NYPD allowed the Occupy Wall Street encampment to exist for nearly two months before eviction, sparking a worldwide protest movement in the process. (And Mayor Bloomberg’s stated justification for finally clearing Zuccotti—health and safety—would also carry legal weight in a truly public space like Central Park or Times Square.)

      That’s not to say architects and developers are never guilty of over-celebrating space that is only nominally public. Do the Shard’s observation deck, with its £25 admissions fee, and expansive porte-cochère really qualify as “public”? (Or, back at Ground Zero, the observation deck of One World Trade Center?) Nor is it to say that design has no role to play in encouraging or hindering free speech—after all, Haussmann often justified those beautiful Parisian boulevards as a means of facilitating military movements.

      But it’s easy to assume that once public space (whether nominal or actual) has been created, we have done our job—democracy achieved! In reality, the hard work is just beginning. Even careful programming—whether with leisure activities, culture, or even demonstrations—won’t matter if the authorities stomp in with tear gas and pepper spray. It takes political action to ensure a democratic society, not just design.

      So when Dame Hadid says that architects aren’t responsible for the social context that surrounds their buildings, she might have a point. But citizens are responsible—and that’s all of us.

      Carl Yost is a communications manager for NBBJ and an architecture and design writer based in New York.

      Is The NY Fed Really Run By Goldman?

      Allegations have long existed that the New York Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States was a revolving door for regulators and bankers.  Many have said the relationship was too cozy and that Goldman Sachs held an unfair advantage due to this snuggly relationship.

      Well now it seems that at least in one instance, this was absolutely true. Zero Hedge reports today on a New York Times story stating that a former Fed regulator turned Goldman banker was busted colluding with other officials at the NY Federal Reserve Bank, sharing confidential information on another bank that the Fed regulated.


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      Zero Hedge states:

      Naturally, “the emergence of the leak comes as questions mount about a perceived coziness between the New York Fed and Wall Street banks — Goldman in particular. Revelations from a former New York Fed employee, Carmen Segarra, recently stoked that debate. Ms. Segarra released taped conversations suggesting that her supervisors went soft on Goldman, specifically over a deal that one regulator called “legal, but shady.””

      This story is a big deal and has not received the amount of coverage and notoriety in the press as you would expect after the 2008 real estate crisis, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the lack of prosecutions by the Obama administration of perceived Wall Street criminals like former Goldman banker Jon Corzine, who allegedly stole billions in client funds and illegally used them for other purposes.  Today, he walks around scot free.

      The bottom line is that if Goldman receives information in front of other market participants, they have a huge advantage.  That information could take the form of a heads-up on future monetary policy moves by the Fed, information of other competitors as it was seemingly in this case, or possible communications by the Fed on market conditions.

      There is a term in the market called “frontrunning.” It means putting on trades in front of your competitors with illegally gained information. This is very serious business.


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      If the market is not fair to all concerned, then obviously it’s not a free market.  Goldman Sachs has worked hard to change its image, true or not, of making obscene profits at the expense of the American people. This revelation is a setback in that effort.

      I believe this story deserves more investigation by Congress and the administration. Where there is smoke, there usually is fire.  However, our leaders may fail in that effort in their quest for Wall Street campaign contributions.

      Photo credit: Michael Daddino (Flickr)

      The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.


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      It’s Happening: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio doesn’t think Hillary is progressive …

      Appearing at a Politico breakfast this week, progressive icon and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio effusively praised his fellow liberal, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), but his plaudits for likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was far more reserved.

      In May, Clinton delivered a fiery,“populist” speech, according to press accounts, denouncing the scourge of income inequality. “Economists have documented how the share of income and wealth going to those at the very top — not just the top 1 percent but the top 0.1 percent, the 0.01 percent of the population — has risen sharply over the last generation,” the former secretary of state exclaimed. “Some are calling it a throwback to the Gilded Age of the robber barons.”

      Either he simply did not catch that speech, or even these stratospheric levels of hyperbolic pandering to the left were just not good enough for Mayor de Blasio. “I think whoever runs has to address income inequality. They have to do it morally and they have to do it politically,” he said, in a veiled effort to drive Clinton to the left. “The absence (of which) will lead to failure.”

      After saying that he thinks it is “necessary” for the next Democratic nominee to focus heavily on that issue which so energized the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, the NYC mayor added that he would be “honored” to offer his services to the next nominee (as he did when he served as campaign manager for Clinton’s 2000 U.S. Senate bid) to help him or her craft that message.

      “The Democrat should be willing to challenge the status quo,” de Blasio said of the eventual Democratic nominee. “The Democrat should be willing to challenge wealthy and powerful interests and should marry that with a grass-roots organizing strategy that epitomizes the message.”

      As for Clinton, de Blasio is still waiting to hear that populist income inequality speech she gave in May. “I don’t think we’ve had the opportunity to hear from her on this new (post-recession) reality,” he said, according to The New York Post.

      When even your former campaign manager believes you do not accurately represent the party from which you are seeking the presidential nomination…

      The curious condition here is that Clinton did not depart from the ideological center of gravity of the Democratic Party, the ideological center of gravity left her. In 2006, well after de Blasio committed to get Clinton elected to the Senate, the junior New York senator was described as the party’s scion of the “liberal wing.” Today, despite her slavish efforts to appease the restless progressive elements within her party by mimicking their tired dogma, Clinton cannot shed the image that she is a squishy centrist.

      This is yet another confirmation that the Democratic Party of the Obama era is well to the left of the Democratic Party of the last decade.

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      MoMA’s Schemes for Fixing Urban Problems Are Either Too Dainty or Too …

      If there is one figure who distills everything that MoMA’s ideologues loathe, it’s Michael Bloomberg, the quintessential billionaire bureaucrat. Bloomberg’s administration saw rising land values as the ultimate measure of New York’s success, but it also delivered bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, temporarily car-free boulevards, pop-up cafés, small-business incubators, microapartments, prefab construction, community-­based zoning, and so on — a record that might have been extracted from the Street Plans Collaborative’s tactical urbanism manual. Mayor de Blasio has pursued his ostensibly more inclusive, progressive agenda with similar tools: a 25-mph speed limit, new street designs — and policies intended to encourage developers to keep doing what they do. These on-the-ground ironies get lost in the political muddle of MoMA’s analysis. Professor Nader Tehrani sounds the usual warnings against neoliberalism’s “pattern of privatization,” but also praises Bloomberg’s signature project, the High Line, as an example of “informal process” and a “testament to resilience.” Never mind that to create the High Line, activists collaborated with a sympathetic mayor, a gaggle of city agencies, the federal government, and the publicly traded freight company CSX — or that the main driver of its success has been the creation of billions in real estate. There’s nothing “informal” about Chelsea’s new super-luxury architectural zone, and in any case all the bashing of the wealthy and powerful feels disingenuous coming from an institution that has raised fortunes to take over virtually an entire city block.

      We’re All Pirates Now

      Do you feel like a thief when you click on a website link and find yourself reading an article or listening to a song you haven’t paid for? Should you? Are you annoyed when you can’t copy a movie you’ve paid for onto your computer’s hard drive? Should you be? Should copyright, conceived in England three centuries ago to protect writers from unscrupulous printers, apply the same way to creators and consumers in the digital age?

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      What Matters To Online Communities? Breaking Free Of The Technology Trap

      Technology changes conversation. It changes how people interact, and how they organize themselves. In the two decades since the Netscape IPO in 1994, the growth of digital networks from singular phenomenon to common thread that binds half of humanity in thought and commerce has forced a slow reckoning for organizations and causes in what I usually call the “social sector” – a term that is purposely broad enough to encompass almost any group of people working beyond profit for social benefit.

      Yet it’s not really about technology. Yes, the software matters but too many organizations believe the IT department or tech consultants can close the authenticity gap with their supporters and the rest of the public. And in falling into the technology trap, they ignore their own unwillingness to engage with people where they find them in the online world.

      That tension between the needs of organizations and individuals – really, between marketing and listening – has been on the mind of my friend and occasional colleague Allison Fine for the last decade. Today, her new book Matterness: What Fearless Leaders Know About the Power and Promise of Social Media hits the bookstores, virtual and otherwise. For nonprofit and cause leaders, it’s a terrific fulcrum for considering what stage they occupy in a movement toward digital relevance – a movement that has seen terrific foot-dragging and angst in the social sector. Matterness moves beyond the era of guideposts and manuals to the kind of post-nascency stance that demands active participation and relevance. It’s also a good read.

      Here’s my recent back-and-forth with Allison on Matterness.

      Tom Watson: Allison, we’ve known each other a long time. Yet your idea of “matterness” is completely new. You’ve coined a new one. What does it mean?

      Allison Fine: Matterness is the sweet spot created between people and organizations where each is heard, their unique needs are met, and a greater whole is formed. Matterness is powered by social media that enables people to speak, but also requires organizations to listen.

      Watson: I have heard you talk about the many “big small towns” that we live in the digital world – some friendly, some mean, some heterogeneous and others wildly diverse. Why is it important for organizations to understand this organizational idea?

      Fine: I really love the idea of “big small towns.” Big Small Towns are the sum of on-land and online communities that combine the intimacy and caring of old-fashioned towns combined with the ease of connections, expansiveness, and never-ending resources of the Internet. Traditional organizations, and the people who lead them, have too often dismissed the online ecosystem as a distraction from the “real” world. However, every successful social change effort over the past decade has combined on land organizing (for which there is no substitute) and online social networks.

      Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 10.03.46 AM

      These include the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Ferguson, and now the student protests in Hong Kong. These kinds of efforts are going to ebb and flow as the passions and energy of individuals wane over time.

      That’s why still need organizations to sustain these kinds of efforts through lulls by continuing to train and organize people, develop new strategies and build grassroots capacity for future protests.