Stephen and a father from the studio audience read some rejected Father’s Day cards

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

June 16, 2019

First Drafts of Cards for Father’s Day 2019

Stephen and a father from the studio audience put on their dad jeans and read some rejected Father’s Day cards.

First Drafts: Father’s Day 2019

Stephen and a father from the studio audience put on their dad jeans and read some rejected Father’s Day cards.

Posted by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Saturday, June 15, 2019

Jim Carrey Says ‘Good Riddance’ to Sarah Huckabee Sanders in Biblical Fashion

The Wrap – Politics

Daniel Kohn, The Wrap        June 14, 2019

Trump official consulted global warming rejecters

Associated Press

By Ellen Knickmeyer and Seth Borenstein,     June 14, 2019 

Bernie Sanders Talks Democratic Socialism with John Nichols.

The Nation

Unions Did Great Things for the Working Class

Bloomberg – Opinion

Unions Did Great Things for the Working Class

Strengthening them could blunt inequality and wage stagnation.

Noah Smith is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He was an assistant professor of finance at Stony Brook University, and he blogs at Noahpinion.
On the right side.On the right side. Photographer: Stephen F. Somerstein/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Politically and economically, unions are sort of an odd duck. They aren’t part of the apparatus of the state, yet they depend crucially on state protections in order to wield their power. They’re stakeholders in corporations, but often have adversarial relationships with management. Historically, unions are a big reason that the working class won many of the protections and rights it now enjoys, but they often leave the working class fragmented and divided — between different companies, between union and non-union workers, and even between different ethnic groups.

Economists, too, have long puzzled about how to think about unions. They don’t fit easily into the standard paradigm of modern economic theory in which atomistic individuals and companies abide by rules overseen by an all-powerful government. Some economists see unions as a cartel, protecting insiders at the expense of outsiders. According to this theory, unions raise wages but also drive up unemployment. This is the interpretation of unions taught in many introductory courses and textbooks.

If this were really what unions did, it might be worth it to simply let them slip into oblivion, as private-sector unions have been doing in the U.S.:

It’s Been a While Since the Union Made Us Strong

But there are many reasons to think that this theory of unions isn’t right — or, at least, is woefully incomplete.

First, even back in the 1970’s, some economists realized that unions do a lot more than just push up wages. In a 1979 paper entitled “The Two Faces of Unionism,” economists Richard Freeman and James Medoff argued that “by providing workers with a voice both at the workplace and in the political arena, unions can and do affect positively the functioning of the economic and social systems.”

Freeman and Medoff cite data showing that unions reduced turnover, which lowers costs associated with constantly finding and training new workers. They also show that unions engaged in political activity that benefited the working class more broadly, rather than just union members. And they showed that contrary to popular belief, unions actually decreased racial wage disparities. Finally, Freeman and Medoff argue that by defining standard wage rates within industries, unions actually reduced wage inequality overall, despite the cartel-like effect emphasized in econ textbooks.

But the world didn’t listen to Freeman and Medoff, and private-sectors unions declined into near-insignificance. Now, four decades later, economists are again starting to suspect that unions were a better deal than the textbooks made them out to be. A recent paper by economists Henry Farber, Daniel Herbst, Ilyana Kuziemko and Suresh Naidu concludes that unions were an important force reducing inequality in the U.S.
QuicktakeIncomeInequality

Since past data tends to be patchy, Farber et al. combine a huge number of different data sources to get a detailed picture of unionization rates going all the way back to 1936, the year after Congress passed a law letting private-sector employees form unions. The authors find that as unionization rises, inequality tends to fall, and vice versa. Nor is this effect driven by greater skills and education on the part of union workers; during the era from 1940 through 1970, when unionization rose and inequality fell, union workers tended to be less educated than others. In other words, unions lifted the workers at the bottom of the distribution. Black workers, and other nonwhite workers, tended to benefit the most from the union boost.

Now, however, private-sector unions are mostly a faded memory and their power to raise wages has waned — Farber et al. find that although there’s still a union wage premium, it’s now much more due to the fact that higher-skilled workers tended to be the ones who stayed unionized. A 2004 paper by economists John DiNardo and David Lee found that by 1984-1999, unions had lost much of their ability to force wages higher.

Given the contrast between the golden age of 1940-1970 and the current age of spiraling inequality, wouldn’t it make sense to bring unions back? Perhaps. The key question is why private-sector unions mostly died out. Policy changes — right-to-work laws, and the appointment of anti-union regulators, probably played a key role in reducing unionization. But globalization may have also played a big part. Competition from companies in countries like Germany — where unions often bargain to hold down wages in order to increase their companies’ competitiveness — might have made the old American model of unionization unsustainable. Now, with even stiffer competition from China, the challenge of re-unionizing the U.S. might be an insurmountable one.

But it might be worth it to try. Other than massive government redistribution of income and wealth, there’s really no other obvious way to address the country’s rising inequality. Also, there’s the chance that unions might be an effective remedy for the problem of increasing corporate market power — evidence suggests that when unionization rates are high, industry concentration is less effective at suppressing wages. Repealing right-to-work laws and appointing more pro-union regulators could be just the medicine the economy needs.

So supporters of free markets should rethink their antipathy to unions. As socialism gains support among the young, both economists and free-market thinkers should consider the possibility that unions — that odd hybrid of free-market bargaining and government intervention — were the vaccine that allowed the U.S. and other rich nations to largely escape the disasters of communism in the 20th century.

It looks like it’s time for a booster shot.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Near Record ‘Dead Zone’ Predicted for Gulf of Mexico

EcoWatch

Near Record ‘Dead Zone’ Predicted for Gulf of Mexico

This map shows how pollution from cities and farms flows down into the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA

 

Every year the Gulf of Mexico hosts a human caused “dead zone.” This year, it will approach record levels scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — or NOAA — estimate, in a statement released Monday.

The researchers predict the hypoxic zone — an area with little to no oxygen that can kill marine life — to be nearly 8,000 square miles or roughly the size of Massachusetts.

NOAA wasn’t the only organization to estimate a near record dead zone this summer. Researchers from Louisiana State University (LSU) released a statement on Monday predicting this year’s dead zone to be 8,717 square miles, making it the second largest on record.

“We think this will be the second-largest, but it could very well go over that,” said Nancy Rabalais, a marine ecologist who studies dead zones co-authored the LSU report, as CNN reported.

The Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone is a result of nutrient pollution, including nitrogen and phosphorus from urban environments and farms, traveling through the Mississippi River watershed and into the gulf, according to NOAA’s press release.

NOAA pointed to the overwhelming spring rains along the Mississippi River, which led to record high river flows and flooding, as a major contributing factor to this year’s sizeable dead zone.

The record flooding brought a substantial amount of pollutants into the water. “This past May, discharge in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers was about 67 percent above the long-term average between 1980 and 2018. USGS estimates that this larger-than average river discharge carried 156,000 metric tons of nitrate and 25,300 metric tons of phosphorus into the Gulf of Mexico in May alone. These nitrate loads were about 18 percent above the long-term average, and phosphorus loads were about 49 percent above the long-term average,” NOAA said in its press release.

What happens is the nitrogen and phosphorus stimulate the growth of phytoplankton, which fall to the bottom of the water and decompose with the bacteria that uses up the oxygen, creating an area with not enough oxygen to sustain life.

“The low oxygen conditions in the gulf’s most productive waters stresses organisms and may even cause their death, threatening living resources, including fish, shrimp and crabs caught there,” LSU said in a statement. “Low oxygen conditions started to appear 50 years ago when agricultural practices intensified in the Midwest.”

To prevent the problem in the future, a task force of federal, state and tribal agencies from 12 of the 31 states that comprise the Mississippi River watershed set a goal of reducing the dead zone from an average of about 5,800 square miles to an average of 1,900 square miles, but that number is far from today’s reality, according to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.

“While this year’s zone will be larger than usual because of the flooding, the long-term trend is still not changing,” said Don Scavia, an aquatic ecologist at the University of Michigan who contributed to the NOAA report, in a University of Michigan statement. “The bottom line is that we will never reach the dead zone reduction target of 1,900 square miles until more serious actions are taken to reduce the loss of Midwest fertilizers into the Mississippi River system.”

In the meantime, farmers along the Mississippi can build embankments to stop runoff, diversifying their crops and using sustainable perennials like wheat grass, which will hold more nitrogen and soil in the ground since it has a longer root than corn and soybeans, according to CNN.

Plant Extinction Is Happening 500x Faster Than Before the Industrial Revolution

EcoWatch

Plant Extinction Is Happening 500x Faster Than Before the Industrial Revolution

By Jordan Davidson       June 11, 2019

Cyanea superba, endemic to the island of Oahu and now extinct in the wild. David Eickoff/ CC BY 2.0.

 

Researchers have found that nearly 600 plant extinctions have taken place over the last two and a half centuries, according to a new paper published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

The 571 proven plant extinctions lost since 1753 is twice the number of animal species lost in the same time frame and nearly four times as many plants lost as botanists recently estimated. The researchers with the Royal Botanic Gardens in the UK and Stockholm University also noted that many plant species disappeared without anyone ever knowing about them, pushing the true number of extinctions much higher.

The extinction rate — 500 times greater now than before the Industrial Revolution — is also quite alarming, according to The Guardian. This number, too, is likely an underestimate.

“This study is the first time we have an overview of what plants have already become extinct, where they have disappeared from and how quickly this is happening,” said Aelys Humphreys, Ph.D., of Stockholm University, the BBC reported.

The paper documented all known plant extinctions in the world, finding that most lost plants were in the tropics and on islands. The researchers created a map that showed South Africa, Australia, Brazil, India, Madagascar and Hawaii as particular hotspots for plant extinction, according to The Guardian.

So what’s causing the rapid rate of plant extinction? The main culprit is human activity like clear cutting forests for timber and converting land into fields for agriculture.

The researchers note that their paper also shows what lessons can be learned to stop future extinctions.

“Plants underpin all life on Earth,” said Eimear Nic Lughadha, Ph.D., at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, who was part of the research team, as The Guardian reported. “They provide the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat, as well as making up the backbone of the world’s ecosystems – so plant extinction is bad news for all species.”

Life on Earth relies on plants for oxygen and food. And, the extinction of one plant can lead to cascading effects that threaten to harm other species that rely on the plant for food or for a place to lay eggs, the BBC reports.

“Millions of other species depend on plants for their survival, humans included, so knowing which plants we are losing and from where, will feed back into conservation programs targeting other organisms as well,” Nic Lughadha said, as the BBC reported.

The researchers highlighted steps to slow down plant extinctions including, recording all plants in the world, preserving specimens, funding botanists and educating children to recognize local plants, according to the BBC.

The research comes on the heels of other grim reports that have highlighted the destruction humans have caused. Last month, a UN report said that one million of Earth’s eight million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction.