Wednesday, September 19, 2018

“Is there nothing more important to Yale Law School than its proximity to power and prestige?”

From Glen Brown’s Excellent Blog of Today.  

While Dean Heather Gerkin of Yale Law School was quick to endorse with glowing accolades Trump’s pick of Brett Kavanaugh, the following backlash of students, alumni and those who worry about the rights of women in our country stands directly in opposition.  

Yale Alumni Characterize Kavanaugh as “Morally Bankrupt.”

July 10, 2018

We write today as Yale Law students, alumni, and educators ashamed of our alma mater. Within an hour of Donald Trump’s announcement that he would nominate Brett Kavanaugh, YLS ‘90, to the Supreme Court, the law school published a press release boasting of its alumnus’s accomplishment. The school’s post included quotes from Yale Law School professors about Judge Kavanaugh’s intellect, influence and mentorship of their students.

Yet the press release’s focus on the nominee’s professionalism, pedigree, and service to Yale Law School obscures the true stakes of his nomination and raises a disturbing question:
“Is there nothing more important to Yale Law School than its proximity to power and prestige?”

Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination presents an emergency — for democratic life, for our safety and freedom, for the future of our country. His nomination is not an interesting intellectual exercise to be debated amongst classmates and scholars in seminar. Support for Judge Kavanaugh is not apolitical. It is a political choice about the meaning of the constitution and our vision of democracy, a choice with real consequences for real people. Without a doubt, Judge Kavanaugh is a threat to the most vulnerable. He is a threat to many of us, despite the privilege bestowed by our education, simply because of who we are.

Since his campaign launched, Trump has repeatedly promised to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. Overturning that decision would endanger the lives of countless people who need or may need abortions — including many who sign this letter. Trump’s nomination of Judge Kavanaugh is a reliable way to fulfill his oath. Just a few months ago, Judge Kavanaugh ruled to deny a detained immigrant minor her constitutional right to abortion. Decades-old Supreme Court precedent makes clear that the government may not place an undue burden on a pregnant person’s access to abortion. But Judge Kavanaugh clearly did not feel constrained by precedent: what could be a greater obstacle than a cage? The minor had never wavered in her decision to seek an abortion and had received a judicial bypass from a state judge who found that she was competent to make the decision. Yet Kavanaugh condescendingly and disingenuously held that she must wait weeks until she was in a “better place” to make a choice about her own bodily autonomy — at which point she might not be able to have a legal abortion. Further, Kavanaugh argued that to require immigration authorities to stop blocking her from accessing this right would force the government into complicity.

The judge employed similar spurious reasoning in a 2015 dissent arguing that the ACA’s contraceptive mandate violated the rights of religious organizations, even though those organizations were granted an accommodation that allowed them to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage. Kavanaugh’s opinions give us grave concern that he will consistently prioritize the beliefs of third-parties over the rights of the oppressed — not only when it comes to abortion and contraception, but also regarding other forms of medical care (including care for transgender patients), family privacy, and sexual liberty. Litigants harness this same logic when arguing that institutions have a religious right to discriminate against LGBT people — an issue the Court is certain to take up in the years to come.

Judge Kavanaugh would also act as a rubber stamp for President Trump’s fraud and abuse. Despite working with independent counsel Ken Starr to prosecute Bill Clinton, Judge Kavanaugh has since called upon Congress to exempt sitting presidents from civil suits, criminal investigations, and criminal prosecutions. He has also noted that “a serious constitutional question exists regarding whether a president can be criminally indicted and tried while in office.” This reversal does not reflect high-minded consideration but rather naked partisanship. At a time when the President and his associates are under investigation for various serious crimes, including colluding with the Russian government and obstructing justice, Judge Kavanaugh’s extreme deference to the Executive poses a direct threat to our democracy.

As part of his assault on the administrative state — based not in law, as he claims, but on policy preference — Judge Kavanaugh has undermined attempts to protect the environment and regulate predatory lenders and for-profit colleges. He has called now-defunct Net Neutrality regulations violations of the First Amendment. If elevated, the judge would pose an existential threat to the government’s ability to regulate for the common good and further twist the First Amendment beyond recognition, using it as a sword to advance his personal political preferences. His appointment would usher in a new era of Lochner, with “black-robed rulers overriding citizens’ choices.”

Judge Kavanaugh has consistently protected the interests of powerful institutions and disregarded the rights of vulnerable individuals. On the D.C. Circuit he denied a student with disabilities access to the remedial education he was promised after he emerged from juvenile detention. In a 2008 dissent, Judge Kavanaugh argued undocumented workers are not protected by labor laws. In 2016, Judge Kavanaugh ruled that employers can require employees to waive their right to picket. In a concurrence, he argued that the National Security Agency’s sweeping call surveillance program was consistent with the Fourth Amendment. As an attorney, he advocated for prayer at open public school events in brazen contravention of our country’s separation of church and state.

The list goes on. We see in these rulings an intellectually and morally bankrupt ideologue intent on rolling back our rights and the rights of our clients. Judge Kavanaugh’s resume is certainly marked by prestige, groomed for exactly this nomination. But degrees and clerkships should not be the only, or even the primary, credential for a Supreme Court appointment. A commitment to law and justice is.

Now is the time for moral courage — which for Yale Law School comes at so little cost. Perhaps you, as an institution and as individuals, will benefit less from Judge Kavanaugh’s ascendent power if you withhold your support. Perhaps Judge Kavanaugh will be less likely to hire your favorite students. But people will die if he is confirmed. We hope you agree your sacrifice would be worth it. Please use your authority and platform to expose the stakes of this moment and the threat that Judge Kavanaugh poses.

Signed,  (nearly 1000 Yale Law School graduates and undergraduates and other associates).  You can see the entire and increasing list of signatures at Glen Brown's blog.

“Is there nothing more important to Yale Law School than its proximity to power and prestige?”

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Methane - Colorless, Odorless, Tasteless, and Lethal

Colorless, Odorless, Tasteless & Lethal

My uncle used to play a simpleton’s trick on us when we were very young and qualified as purebred simpletons.  It was called “Pull my finger.”  It was also at that time in our pre-pubescent youth that all things poop, gross, and fart were golden moments of laughter.  

Uncle Ralph enjoyed a burger with jalapenos or a well-packed burrito; thus, a pulled finger might just bring an explosive drum roll from his nether regions.  Farts, by and large, are not only common but more usually a balance of sulphur and hydrogen in humans rather than methane.  Because of that, they usually smell and are also combustible. I won’t go any further.

Methane, a gaseous by-product often associated with ruminant cattle, is a lesser product of human consumption.  Nevertheless, methane is actually a hideously dangerous gas affecting our climate’s increasing warming, and recent determinations by the E.P.A. (once known as the Environmental Protection Agency) pose a serious threat to our universal experiences as warmest months on record, monstrous heat-fueled hurricanes, and summer fueled fires on our west coast.  


Simply put, the air around us is gaseous – mostly oxygen, nitrogen and argon.  BUT certain gases are more likely to produce “global warming” and have earned the dubious character description of Greenhouse Gases.  Most of us know that carbon dioxide has earned a special notoriety in the media for its increasing accumulation and increase environmental changes. The more C02 in the world, the more magnification and holding of heat in our atmosphere.   

Methane is far different than carbon dioxide.  Far different and far deadlier.

Before he left office, Obama signed a number of Presidential Orders, one of which was the Gas Reduction Rule of 2016.  As with all if not most Presidential Orders by Obama, the Trump Administration is rolling back the previous leader’s regulation by now allowing for the increased release of methane gas into our atmosphere and environment.  
You see, methane wasn’t a dangerous addition coming from Uncle Ralph’s extended finger or the likely addition of millions of belching and farting bovines in open pastures (which they do), it is the very nature of the gas methane and its influence on global warming that makes it most sinister and integral in the warming of our atmosphere.

Methane – or natural gas – is developed naturally over thousands of years underground and can remain in pockets for continuing thousands of years.  Do you have gas heat?   

Those who argue against methane’s likely influence in global warming cite methane’s quick breakdown in the atmosphere as compared to 02 or H20; that is within 15 – 20 years.  

Are you staying with me? I hope so.  In other words, while trying to capture fossil fuels for their markets, big businesses run by people like the Koch brothers "accidentally" release tons of methane and Obama's regulation forces them to financially assume the responsibility to prevent or limit this loss of methane into the atmosphere.   

It is true that methane breaks down faster than most other gases, but that defense by most oil industries is specious (a falsehood).  

Methane is far more dangerous than 02 or H20 or even C02.  

Some molecules are able to absorb more heat from the sun than others, and methane is a sponge of warmth acquisition.  Floating around out there in the environment, methane may last for a shorter period of time that major culprits like C02, but it has the capacity to create 34 times the potency of C02 over a century.   

The GWP (Global Warming Potential) of a gas is measured by life span and ability to accrue  and hold warmth.   in fact, methane’s shorter life-span in our atmosphere shows an actual GWP over 20 years of 86 times the negative influence of C02.  Methane may have a shorter lifespan, but it has nearly 100 times the destructive power to our climate.  

Now, the Trump Administration has allowed for the release of leaked gas (methane) into our environment as a natural occurrence by gas and fuel industries.  The original Obama Order attempted to reign in methane waste and release by 170,000 tons every year – equal to the greenhouse emissions of nearly 900,000 vehicles annually.  Trump's rollback of this earlier attempt to curb environmental destruction will also run parallel to rollbacks on vehicle fuel economy standards as well as his earlier curbs on the release of refrigerant gases (you’ll recall the hole in the ozone a few decades ago).  

Honestly, any nation looking for energy sources will likely increase methane release, but not always intentionally or arbitrarily.  The search and development of fossil fuels (especially coal) release methane. Beyond biogenic sources (cattle, etc.) the other two culprits are usually fossil fuel development, wildfires and intentional burning (think Amazon forest).  

Trump’s EPA proposal will reduce the need for monitoring methane release, create more exemptions to current standards, provide for alternative methods like flaring, and allow for increased release of methane during natural gas capture.  Flaring and venting is the process by which captured energy is wasted in an uncontrolled release into the environment by oil producers as an efficiency method during production.  Trump’s administration believes that this move to allow increased methane release into our environment will save the oil and fuel industry around $75 million per year. The current EPA under Trump has replied to environmental concerns that not enough information or data is available to quantify the possible health costs or later issues with such a release of methane into our environment. 

Breaking News: Summer will be extended.

Future news: Winter will be postponed.

You can call the Whitehouse at 202-456-1111.  


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Happy Labor Day, 2018.

Happy Labor Day in Illinois 2018

My Latin American friend Ernesto swung his new hybrid Escalade into the driveway the other morning and once again shook his head disapprovingly at my sign in the front yard.

“What is this doing here in open display, my friend?  It makes you both look so…so...very low class.”

Ernesto was chastising my wife and me for keeping a red, white, and blue sign that displayed “Proud Union Home” in front of our house.  Ernesto does not live in an area where such signs would be tolerated, nor would anyone ever likely see one.  There are codes to follow in Ernesto’s gated compounds, and there are the unspoken taboos.

You might remember Ernesto from several posts ago, when he disciplined me on the wrongness of contracts and the rightness of possible Illinois governors:

Collective what?...Are you joking?
This Monday, on Labor Day, Ernesto will celebrate with his family and friends, but it is very likely he will NOTcelebrate Labor Day.  Not in the traditional or even the authentic sense. Like the Chicago Tribune, which commemorated Labor Day a couple of years ago with praiseful editorials about the benefits of work for the soul and spirit, most of Ernesto’s people will avoid the real history.  Ignore the real significance.

And the Tribune will pay some lip service to the qualities of work and a day off for workers, and it wouldn’t be unlike the editorial board to make a passing neutral reference to the JANUS decision.  But Collective Bargaining?  Public pensions? Health Benefits? Equal Pay? Contracts as promises?  Workplace Safety? Costs of living? Not likely.  Not with any fondness.  

According to the United States Department of Labor, “the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.  It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country” (  

I think it’s always rewarding and refreshing for Ernesto to visit my “side” of town – not for Ernesto, but for myself.  I learn a lot more…

The origins of Labor Day are obscured by the variety of movements at state levels to recognize the good work of all of us, and eventually those sentiments coalesced into a federal observation of a holiday.  Even as early as 1885, various municipal ordinances were being written to celebrate workers’ contributions.  Oregon was actually the first state to pass a law of such recognition in 1887; however, by 1894 nearly two dozen other states had adopted similar laws recognizing a day to honor workers.  By 1909, the Sunday before the Labor Day Monday was reserved nationally as Labor Sunday, dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.  

 Many argue about the actual individual responsible for the first Labor Day observance, but make no mistake about it: it was a union member or union official.  Some consider one Matthew McGuire the founder of the holiday across the river in New Jersey, while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. Matthew was a machinist and member of Local 244 (International Assoc. of Machinists).

Others ascribe the incentive for the holiday to a Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and later co-founder of the American Federation of Labor.  I favor Peter only because of his supposed words defending such a holiday to honor all those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” 

Ernesto couldn’t have said it better.  Actually, Ernesto would never have said it.  

The first proposals of the holiday outlined a basic form for the observance and celebration, and remnants of that festivity are still observed in many towns and villages. Parades were considered the first order of business, followed by drinking and barbecues.  Children danced their last moments of summer freedom, and neighbors gathered to share a respite from the hard work of building a nation, day-by-day and brick-by-brick.  Of course, it was also a jamboree tailor-made for lengthy speeches by politicians seeking labor’s backing.   

Still is.  Have a wonderful celebration of Labor Day. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Continued Update on Trump's Family Separations

Continued Update & Actions by Indivisible Chicago

Action 1: Family Separations Update
On June 20, Trump signed an Executive Order ostensibly ending his administration's policy of separating migrant children from their families at the U.S. border. A federal court decided in Flores v. Reno in 1997 that the government cannot detain an immigrant child beyond a reasonable amount of time, defined in 2014 as 20 days. The Zero Tolerance policy clashed headlong into Flores with disastrous results captured in news stories. The administration has said it will now abide by the 20 day limit on detention but it’s also pushing for Congress to pass legislation that allows families to be detained beyond the 20-day limit and is making plans for further separations. Without the limitations set by Flores, migrant children and their families can be detained together indefinitely.
As of last week, the Trump administration states that there are still 528 children in government custody without their family (down from 565 on August 16).  Of these, 139 have parents who allegedly indicated a desire against reunification, 343 have parents presently outside the U.S., 29 have parents who have been released to the interior, and 17 have parents who have been red flagged for case review. 
The administration has officially agreed to a Reunification Plan with five processes:
  • Identify and Resolve Safety/Parentage Concerns
  • Establish contact with parents who have been removed from the United States
  • Determine parent’s intention for child
  • Resolve immigration status of minors to allow reunification
  • Transport minors to their respective countries of origin 
The following organizations are working to care for the children, reunite them with their families, and push our government to improve its lackadaisical response to the crisis it created. Follow the links below for more information and ways to help. 

Friday, August 24, 2018

Monsanto Eradicates Weeds and Us

Good Morning from Monsanto.  Snacks for All!


Have you been wandering along the aisles in Menards or Lowes, or Home Depot and seen the white plastic bottles of Roundup layered on pallets like rows of shark teeth waiting to be purchased at reduced prices?  

My last post warned about the continuing poisoning of ourselves and especially our children with the chemical, glyphosate, in Roundup.  Here’s another look in specifics at what levels we're feeding to our children, friends, or ourselves:

“In the United States, glyphosate was deemed safe for public use in 1974 and since then has been applied on crops by farmers. The most popular product that contains glyphosate as a main ingredient is Roundup, a product made by Monsanto. It is marketed not only towards farmers, but also heavily promoted towards people who have gardens at home. However, glyphosate, may not be as safe as the marketing claims suggest. Different studies have actually linked this herbicide to cancer and other health problems. [1]

“According to a 2013 study published by Thongprakaisang, et. al., glyphosate caused the growth of breast cancer cells in humans. Glyphosate was found to be an “endocrine-disruptor”, meaning it has detrimental effects on the body’s hormones, specifically on estrogen. High levels of estrogen is known to cause hormone-dependent breast cancer, where in breast cancer cells multiply and spread in the presence of estrogen. [2]

“According to an FDA- registered laboratory, popular American food contained worryingly high levels of glyphosate. Recent evidence suggests that glyphosate can pose a threat to human health at very low levels of 0.1 parts per billion (ppb). The laboratory found that popular snacks sold in most supermarkets had glyphosate levels between 289.47 and 1,125.3 ppb.
“Other countries all over the world, specifically the European Union, are more strict regarding glyphosate exposure – with the “safe” limit placed at 0.3 mg per kilogram of body weight per day compared to the US 1.75 mg/kg/bw/day. Here are the values of glyphosate content reported by the laboratory:

Call your Representative and Senator.  Inform that person you are concerned at the personal level as well when your neighbor is spraying Roundup around the yard and garden without any self-protection or comprehension of the breeze’s spread to your yard and children.
 Or?  Call your favorite snack company?  We are off Triscuits…and Nabisco.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Sure, I'm Being Poisoned, But My Grass Looks Great!

HT: Nick

How Long Does …

Kurt Vonnegut once opined before his death that humankind would, like yeast, die in “our own  shit.”  Kurt took a longer view of the likelihood; but that was well before the advent of GMO’s, Monsanto’s stranglehold on the world’s thoughtless backyard gardeners and collective farmers, and the dangers of a Trump EPA.  

Back in March of 2017, I posted a piece about the insidious and pervasive accumulation of the cancerous causing ingredients in Monsanto’s Roundup, namely glyphosate.  As of today, we have a report indicating that the eventually lethal and destructive element has entered the food chain of especially vulnerable children sitting at the morning breakfast table and having a “good” breakfast before going off to school.  Old guys like me are no longer developing.  My myelin sheaths are as hard and callous as armor on an sinful Arthurian knight.  But a child? Porous membranes and sweetly awaiting whatever you’d like to introduce to its nervous system.  

Alexis Temkin, a Ph.D. toxicologist with the Environmental Working Group, has written today,Popular oat cereals, oatmeal, granola and snack bars come with a hefty dose of the weed-killing poison in Roundup, according to independent laboratory tests commissioned by EWG.
"You kids can play in a few minutes."
“Glyphosate, an herbicide linked to cancer by California state scientists and the World Health Organization, was found in all but two of 45 samples of products made with conventionally grown oats. Almost three-fourths of those samples had glyphosate levels higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health with an adequate margin of safety. About one-third of 16 samples made with organically grown oats also had glyphosate, all at levels well below EWG’s health benchmark.
“Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, the Monsanto weed killer that is the most heavily used pesticide in the U.S. Last week, a California jury ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to a man dying of cancer, which he says was caused by his repeated exposure to large quantities of Roundup and other glyphosate-based weed killers while working as a school groundskeeper.”

Like the many suits that followed the first win against the smoking industries that tried to parry all thrusts by sickened people with the argument that no conclusive evidence was ever found in scientific research, of which they had furnished and paid for – there will be more suits coming against Monsanto and its German parent company Bayer.  
The finding indicated greater numbers of the chemical found in oat-based foods, from energy bars to our old Quaker familiar and friendly face. 

18.9 billion pounds used in the world since 1974
“Each year, more than 250 million pounds of glyphosate are sprayed on American crops, primarily on “Roundup-ready” corn and soybeans genetically engineered to withstand the herbicide. But when it comes to the food we eat, the highest glyphosate levels are not found in products made with GMO corn.

“Increasingly, glyphosate is also sprayed just before harvest on wheat, barley, oats and beans that are not genetically engineered. Glyphosate kills the crop, drying it out so that it can be harvested sooner than if the plant were allowed to die naturally.”

Letting little ones play with Cheerios may not be the best idea anymore.

Meanwhile, like those emboldened by so many broken rules and regulations given the White House and its new swamp of characters: “There were good people on both sides.”  The companies who are under scrutiny with this new revelation of glyphosate in our foods and especially our children’s are simply reminding us that they have done nothing wrong; in fact, they are under the levels of recommended by the current EPA.  

“The Environmental Working Group is disappointed that General Mills and the Quaker Oats Company have brushed aside consumer health concerns raised by new research that found the cancer-causing weed killer glyphosate in Quaker Old Fashioned Oats, Quaker Dinosaur Egg Instant Oatmeal and Cheerios.  
“The companies claim that the levels of glyphosate remain within the regulatory levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Below is a statement from EWG President Ken Cook:
“We are deeply disappointed by the tone-deaf response of General Mills and the Quaker Oats Company to the news that EWG research has found a toxic weed killer in their products at levels of concern to human health—especially the health of kids.
“Simply stated, there is far too much glyphosate in their products for parents to feel comfortable feeding them to their kids.
“It is especially disappointing because these two multi-billion dollar companies can take the simple step of telling their oat farmers to stop using glyphosate as a harvest-time desiccant on their crops. That simple step will reduce or eliminate the contamination and ensure the safety of American families that consume their products. The oat products we tested from a number of other companies had glyphosate levels well below our children’s health-protective benchmark, so it is possible to produce and sell foods that do not contain unsafe levels of glyphosate.
“General Mills and Quaker Oats are relying on outdated safety standards used by a government agency that is notorious for neglecting new science on chemicals.  Our view is that the government standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency pose real health risks to Americans – particularly children, who are more sensitive to the effects of toxic chemicals than adults.”
I’ve just written my exhausted Senators and Representative who are currently knee deep in Supreme Court, the wall, the separation of children, the Russian intervention, etc.  I begin with Kurt’s observation in less profane concepts, but one urging immediate investigation.
You should too.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani?

An Elegant Eulogy

A recent interactive history of the fumbling starts and stops by humans to handle the oncoming crisis of climate change is replete with hope and remindful of our sadly inherent and political shortcomings.  

The narrative by Nathaniel Rich in the New York Times is “a work of history, addressing the 10-year period from 1979 to 1989; the decisive decade when humankind first came to a broad understanding of the causes and dangers of climate change.  Complementing the text is a series of aerial photographs and videos, all shot over the past year by George Steinmetz.  With support for the Pulitzer Center, this two-part article is based on 18 months of reporting and well over a hundred interviews.  It tracks the effort of a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians to raise the alarm and stave off catastrophe.  It will come as a revelation to many readers – an agonizingly revelation = to understand how thoroughly they grasped the problem and how close they came to solving it. (Editor’s note by Jake Silverstein)”

The scientific writer(s) of this continuing Cassandra complex understand that it now will take the unfortunate stings of climate change’s effects to awaken the younger generations, to mobilize and counter the elders who have long ignored or procrastinated for many reasons.  Like the children of Parkland who have faced the issue dead on, our progeny will be likely left to pick up whatever pieces remain.  (Cassandra was given the power of prophecy by an amorous Apollo, but when rebuffed he cursed her with the inability to convince anyone of her vision's accuracy).

“The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution.  The Paris climate agreement – the nonbinding, unenforceable and already unheeded treaty signed on Earth Day in 2016 – hoped to restrict warming to two degrees.  The odds
Houston Underwater
of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are one in 20.  If by some miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf.  The climate scientist James Hansen has called a two-degree warming ‘a prescription for long term disaster.’  Three-degree warming is a prescription for short term disaster; forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities.  Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum.  Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.”

This is serious, thoughtful material.  I hope it helps all of us return to a critical conversation that has been left behind, a tragic tale with a cast of many antagonists and a distracted, compliant populace.