And you still think Joe Biden has all his marbles?

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Question at the Sept. 12 Democratic debate:

“Mr. Vice President, I want to come to you and talk to you about inequality in schools and race. In a conversation about how to deal with segregation in schools back in 1975, you told a reporter, ‘I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather, I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation, and I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago..’ You said that some 40 years ago. But as you stand here tonight, what responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?”

Biden’s response:

“Well, they have to deal with the — look, there’s institutional segregation in this country. And from the time I got involved, I started dealing with that. Red-lining banks, making sure that we are in a position where — look, you talk about education. I propose that what we take is those very poor schools, the Title I schools, triple the amount of money we spend from 15 to $45 billion a year. Give every single teacher a raise, the equal raise to getting out — the $60,000 level.

Number two, make sure that we bring in to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we need — we have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It’s crazy.

The teachers are — I’m married to a teacher. My deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them. We have — make sure that every single child does, in fact, have 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds go to school. School. Not daycare. School. We bring social workers into homes and parents to help them deal with how to raise their children.

It’s not want they don’t want to help. They don’t — they don’t know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the — the — make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.”

Moderator

“Thank you, Mr. Vice President.”

 

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Oregon’s new K-12 instructional mandates will erode quality education

Oregon’s already underfunded and overwhelmed K-12 teachers are getting ready to deal with the addition of  more labor-intensive, complicated and questionable  instructional mandates imposed on them by politicians.

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It began with the passage of legislation in the last session requiring all Oregon school districts to teach about the Holocaust and genocide beginning with the 2020-2021 school year.

Claire Sarnowski, a freshman at Lake Oswego’s Lakeridge High School, came up with the idea of mandating Holocaust instruction after hearing Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener tell his story. Sarnowski approached state Sen. Rob Wagner, who agreed to introduce a bill.

It all sounded so simple and straightforward at the outset, but the final legislation was a classic example of mission creep.

The legislation went far beyond mandating that students be taught about the Holocaust and genocide. Employing the coercive power of government, teachers are going to be required to address a slew of  social justice topics: the immorality of mass violence; respect for cultural diversity; the obligation to combat wrongdoing through resistance, including protest; and the value of restorative justice.

Do we really need teachers encouraging a hodgepodge of demands from children, resistance to authority and protest by K-12 students rather than learning and dialog, particularly when adults are using students as part of a cynical political strategy?

Tom Nichols, author of The Death of Expertise, wrote in The Atlantic  that too often faculty and administrators are engaged in “a shameless dereliction of duty” when they embrace student activism.

“Student activism can be an important part of education, but it is in the nature of students, especially among the young, to take moral differences to their natural extreme, because it is often their first excursion into the territory of an examined and conscious belief system, ” Nichols wrote. “Faculty (and administrators), both as interlocutors and mentors, should pull students back from the precipice of moral purity and work with them to acquire the skills and values that not only imbue tolerance, but provide for the rational discussion of opposing, and even hateful, views.”

Oregon teachers probably aren’t too enthused about another little – known new classroom instruction mandate either.

Starting this year, Oregon schools are required to teach tribal history and the Native American experience in class.

Senate Bill (SB) 13, enacted in the 2017 legislative session, called upon the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) to develop a statewide curriculum relating to the Native American experience in Oregon, including tribal history, tribal sovereignty, culture, treaty rights, government, socioeconomic experiences, and current events.

“When Governor Brown proposed SB 13 during the 2017 legislative session and subsequently signed it into law, it was because she deeply values the preservation of tribal cultural integrity and believes that honoring the history of Oregon’s tribal communities is critically important to our state as a whole, and to future generations of students,” said Colt Gill, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The legislation stated that the required curriculum must be:

(a) For students in kindergarten through grade 12;  (b) Related to the Native American experience in Oregon, including tribal history, sovereignty issues, culture, treaty rights, government, socioeconomic experiences and current events; and (c) Historically accurate, culturally relevant, community-based, contemporary and developmentally appropriate.”

Sounds admirable, but like the Holocaust legislation, it’s a classic example of mission creep.

First, the curriculum won’t be a limited add-on to current lesson plans. Instead, it will roll out as an extensive, complex set of 45 lessons in five subject areas, including English, social studies, math and science, for fourth, eighth and 10th grade classrooms.

It’s also a new responsibility for the Oregon Department of Education, which has never before been responsible for creating curriculum, and one more subject matter mandate imposed on already overloaded Oregon teachers.

Furthermore, it has the potential to become a tool for indoctrinating students in progressive social justice trends du jour.

According to OPB, The South Umpqua School District, which serves 1,500 students from Myrtle Creek, Tri-City and Canyonville, is already planning multiple days of teacher training sessions that will “expand beyond the tribal history and culture lessons to delve into racially sensitive topics, such as cultural appropriation, implicit bias and microaggressions.”

The basic idea of cultural appropriation is that a particular group, nationality or ethnicity who developed a practice should be the only ones allowed to practice it. Others insult the originating group if they practice it as well.

Too many Oregon adults have already disrupted lives by screaming cultural appropriation. This is not what we should want Oregon children to embrace.

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Two white women were forced to close down their Portland pop-up burrito shop, Kook’s Burritos, in  2017 after being accused of cultural; appropriation.

“…the worst aspect of cultural appropriation is that it is inconsistent with the cultural development and enrichment that a free society promotes,” wrote Mike Rappaport in Law & Liberty. “In a free society, people from different cultures bring their practices to the wider society and they are followed by others in that society, making possible a richer and improved culture.”

Author Cathy Young made a similar point in the Washington Post, arguing that cultural appropriation protests ignore history, chill artistic expression and hurt diversity.  “Appropriation is not a crime,” she wrote.  “It’s a way to breathe new life into culture. Peoples have borrowed, adopted, taken, infiltrated and reinvented from time immemorial.”

Filling the heads of Oregon children with the frightening specter that they are burdened with implicit bias would be unwise, too.

Implicit, or unconscious, bias is the idea that the assumptions, stereotypes, and unintentional actions we make towards others are based on identity labels like race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or ability. Because our implicit associations are stored in our subconscious, we may act on our biases without even realizing it.

The problem is that the implicit bias concept is of questionable validity, based on unproven suppositions and oversold as a solution to diversity issues. But buying into the concept of implicit bias is easy because it feels open-minded and progressive.

However, “almost everything about implicit bias is controversial in scientific circles,” Lee Jussim, a professor of social psychology at Rutgers University, wrote in Psychology Today. “It is not clear what most implicit methods actually measure; their ability to predict discrimination is modest at best, their reliability is low; early claims about their power and immutability have proven unjustified.”

Research suggests that implicit bias training can raise awareness, but there’s not much evidence it actually changes behavior. As John Amaechi, a psychologist and organizational consultant, puts it, the implicit bias concept has become “a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card for too many.” Implicit bias training, he says, is too often a “simply a way that organizations can achieve a level of plausible deniability” that they are addressing diversity issues.

And then there are microaggressions, well-intentioned comments or minor slights a speaker may not perceive as negative.

Several years ago, University of California President Janet Napolitano went so far as to tell faculty that saying “America is the land of opportunity” or “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough” or even  “America is a melting pot” were microaggressions. That’s because they delivered an inaccurate message that the playing field is even or that people of color are lazy and/or incompetent and need to work harder.

Teaching Oregon children about the horrors of microaggressions will turn them into perpetual victims hypersensitive to casual remarks. In other words, into carbon copies of a lot of today’s misguided college students.

What might be better would be to require that students spend 9/11 every year watching the videos recorded on that terrible day in New York City. Hours of it, the scenes on the street, the footage inside the buildings, and the aftermath. Then, a discussion about the heroism of the average American and the fact we have enemies who want to destroy us.

 

“Domestic Terrorism”: the next excuse for an erosion of civil liberties?

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Dayton, Ohio – 9 dead; El Paso, TX – 22 dead; Virginia Beach, VA – 12 dead; Umpqua Community College, OR – 9 dead; Columbine High School, CO – 15 dead; Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, FL – 17 dead; Orlando, FL – 49 dead; Sutherland Springs, TX – 27 dead; Sandy Hook, CT – 28 dead; Las Vegas, NV – 59 dead.

And the tragic list goes on and on.

The perceived threat of mass shootings by American citizens now dwarfs the threat of attacks by Islamist terrorists, according to a recent Fox News poll. 60 percent fear the former more than the latter.

The poll revealed that this attitude holds true for Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, men and women, whites with and without a college degree, urban, suburban, and rural residents, and (by a margin of 53 percent to 23 percent) gun owners.

With this kind of public fear, it’s not surprising that there’s now a lot of talk about what should be done, what current laws need to be better enforced, what new laws are needed and what resources should be devoted to combating a rising threat.

“Now is the time to move past the politics that have prevented needed action, to get started on a comprehensive review of the actual threat and to recommend possible and substantive plans to public officials at the federal, state and local levels,” say Javed Ali, a Towsley Policymaker in Residence at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and Josh Kirshner, former special assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

John R. Alle and Brett McGurk, former special presidential envoys for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, asserted a similar view in an Aug. 6 Washington Post opinion column: “The United States now faces a new national security threat. The enemy is not the Islamic State but domestic and homegrown white nationalist terrorism. And “terrorism” is the term that must be used.”

History shows us, however, that we should be extremely cautious about over-reacting in the heat of the moment, heading pell-mell down the road of tougher, more intrusive measures designed to counter what is perceived as a rising threat.

Caution was certainly not the byword when, immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Congress considered The USA PATRIOT Act (officially titled the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act”).

The American Civil Liberties Union urged Congress to reject the Patriot Act. “The American Civil Liberties Union believes that the USA PATRIOT Act gives the Attorney General and federal law enforcement unnecessary and permanent new powers to violate civil liberties that go far beyond the stated goal of fighting international terrorism,” the ACLU said in a letter to Senators.  “These new and unchecked powers could be used against American citizens who are not under criminal investigation, immigrants who are here within our borders legally, and also against those whose First Amendment activities are deemed to be threats to national security by the Attorney General.”

But the objections of the ACLU and others went unheeded. President George W. Bush signed the Patriot Act into law on October 26, 2001.

As the Constitutional Rights Foundation noted, “Soon after September 11, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft brought before Congress a list of recommended changes in the law to combat terrorism. Some of these measures had long been opposed by members of Congress as infringing on the rights of Americans. But September 11 had swept away all previous objections.”

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Still, vociferous critics of the hastily written Patriot Act quickly emerged after it went into effect.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation said the law “gives sweeping search and surveillance to domestic law enforcement and foreign intelligence agencies and eliminates checks and balances that previously gave courts the opportunity to ensure that those powers were not abused.” The law and potential follow-up legislation “threaten the basic rights of millions of Americans,” the Foundation said.

The 9/11 Commission led by former New Jersey Governor Tom Keane and former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton, put forward a broad swath of recommendations that generated objections, too.

Critics said, for example, that the recommendations could lead to such things as: privacy violations; the development of massive databases about citizens who were not the targets of criminal investigations; lowering the bar for launching foreign intelligence wiretaps and searches; exposing people to guilt by association.

Another fast-track move after 9/11 was the creation of a massive Department of Homeland Security (DHS) because of concerns about the lack of coordination and intelligence sharing among government agencies. was a central concern that led to the cabinet department’s creation.

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 became law on November 25, 2002, combining 22 different federal departments and agencies. Today it has more than 240,000 employeesin a sprawling federal bureaucracy and is widely accused of general mismanagement, misallocated investment, and civil liberties abuse.

Washington Post investigation found that many DHS employees said they had “a dysfunctional work environment” with “abysmal morale.”

Making its job more difficult, a complex tangle of 90 congressional committees and subcommittees oversee DHS. I’ve worked on the Hill and I assure you that level of Congressional connections is simply unmanageable.

Keane and Hamilton have now resurfaced to advocate another commission on domestic terrorism similar to theirs with a similar mandate. Who knows what mischief could occur in another commission with this charge.

Robert M. Chesney, Director of the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas School of Law, has written in Lawfare about whether a federal ‘Domestic Terrorism’ statute should be created, a purely domestic surveillance system should be established or legislation should be passed to create a domestic version of the designated foreign terrorist organization list, complete with a ban on material support to such groups.

In the aftermath of recent mass shootings, President Trump vowed Monday to give federal law enforcement “whatever they need” to investigate and disrupt hate crimes and domestic terrorism.

Republican Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona and Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California have already introduced bills that would provide federal law enforcement with tools to combat domestic terrorism. Both bills they raise domestic terrorism to the moral equivalent of international terrorism,

The McSally and Schiff bills are essentially the same. Both would create a new crime of domestic terrorism, making it illegal to kill, kidnap or assault another person; create a substantial risk of serious bodily injury by intentionally destroying or damaging property; or threaten to do so “with the intent to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion[,] or affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping,” in the language of the House bill. The wording of the Senate bill is substantively similar.

Both bills also amend 18 U.S.C. § 2339A, which makes it a crime to provide material support or resources “knowing or intending that they be used in preparation for, or in carrying out, a violation of” certain statutes. The new provision adds to that list of crimes the new domestic terrorism offense.

“These bills would provide much-needed tools to federal agents and prosecutors who sometimes find themselves without adequate means for addressing domestic terrorism,” Barbara McQuade, a Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School, has argued in Lawfare.

But federal action could also lead to surveillance systems of once unimaginable breadth, all in the name of security. China is already well on the way to showing what can happen.

China is close to having 600 million surveillance cameras watching its population.  “The cameras feed government databases in real time and, with the assistance of sophisticated facial-recognition software,” F.H. Buckley wrote on Aug. 29  in the Wall Street Journal. “Beijing eventually expects to be able to identify everyone, everywhere within three seconds of anything happening. That may deter crime, but it will also enable the government to monitor people it thinks undesirable.”

 

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China’s facial recognition technology identifies visitors in a display at the Digital China Exhibition in Fuzhou, Fujian province, in May 2019.

Then there’s China’s emerging Social Credit System. Under this system, the government plans to create a big data–enabled surveillance infrastructure to manage, monitor, and predict the trustworthiness of its people and implement a punishment/reward system based on scores.

Proposals for combating domestic terrorism in the U.S. are also surfacing at the state level.

In New Mexico, for example, the governor, key lawmakers and members of law enforcement have said they will pursue several initiatives. Proposals include increasing penalties for hate crimes, improving mental health care, proposing additional gun safety legislation and creating a state counterterrorism unit.

And in Texas, the governor is launching a domestic terrorism task force that will analyze current and emerging state threats to improve prevention strategies.

All of this activity, and likely more to come, increases the likelihood of actions that are done in haste, not well thought out and potentially endanger civil liberties.

“…proposals tend either to be duplicative of laws that already exist or expansive in ways that violate First Amendment rights of speech and association,” David Cole, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the New York Times earlier this month.

Former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel advised never letting a crisis go to waste. Politicians and ideologues are unlikely to let the much- hyped threat of domestic terrorism go to waste.

Then there’s the law of unintended consequences. As James Risen, Senior National Security Correspondent at The Intercept, a left-leaning online news outlet, put it, “…simplistic answers like launching a domestic war on terror would certainly lead to unintended consequences that would cascade for decades, and might be worse than those that stemmed from the original global war on terror.”

A lot to think about.

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The Gannett/GateHouse deal: diminishing diversity of thought in American media

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If you want to see how a multi-outlet media company can play politics, take a look at Sinclair Broadcast Group.

According to Acronym, a progressive organization focused on winning elections through innovative digital advertising and organizing programs, much of the spending by Donald Trump’s re-election campaign on Facebook + Google last week focused on the release of the campaign’s new red “Keep America Great” hats.  Right in sync, over the weekend, Sinclair, the conservative owner or operator of 191 television stations in the U.S., promoted “news” stories about the availability of the hats.

The planned merger of two other American media giants, Gannett and GateHouse Media, announced on Aug. 5, 2019, could bring more such coordinated propagandizing.

If the merger goes forward, it will not end well.

Completion of the deal would mean the creation of a massive media company with 263 daily media organizations across 47 states and Guam, plus USA TODAY and hundreds of weekly and community papers.

Newspapers across the country may be struggling, but this deal isn’t the best solution. It will lead to centralized editorial control, stifle local creativity, guarantee additional pressure to impose draconian cost cuts and bring brutal widespread layoffs.

Consolidation can also have major consequences in the coverage of elections.

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A study published in the Journal of Political Communication found that corporate-owned and large-chain newspapers were more likely to publish stories that frame elections as a competitive game than newspapers with a single owner.

Researchers for the study were Johanna Dunaway, an associate professor of communication at Texas A&M University, and Regina G. Lawrence, associate dean of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication Portland.

When journalists covering elections focus primarily on who’s winning or losing — instead of on policy issues — voters, candidates and the news industry itself suffer, a growing body of research has found, according to Journalist’s Resource.

Denise-Marie Ordway, a writer for Journalist’s Resource, says academic studies find that horse race reporting is linked to:

  • Distrust in politicians.
  • Distrust of news outlets.
  • An uninformed electorate.
  • Inaccurate reporting of opinion poll data.

Ordway adds that horse race reporting:

  • Is detrimental to female political candidates, who tend to focus on policy issues to build credibility.
  • Gives an advantage to novel and unusual candidates.
  • Shortchanges third-party candidates, who often are overlooked or ignored because their chances of winning are slim compared to Republican and Democratic candidates.

 

GateHouse, owned by the private equity firm New Media Investment Group (NYSE: NEWM), already has a reputation for aggressive cost-cutting and layoffs at properties it owns.

In Oregon, multiple rounds of layoffs have taken place since GateHouse took over The Register-Guard in Eugene on March 1, 2018,

“What’s happening with the Guard isn’t unique to the Guard,” Tim Gleason, former dean of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, told the Eugene Weekly.”It’s what’s happening all over the country as these venture capital firms buy newspapers and then largely gut them,”

In May 2019, Gatehouse laid off staff at a wide swath of papers it owns, including The Columbus Dispatch, the Lakeland (Florida) Ledger, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the Worcester (Massachusetts) Telegram & Gazette. the Providence Journal and The Beaver County (Pennsylvania) Times.  The Times newsroom had 60 staffers in the early 2000s; it is now down to 12 to put out a three-section paper six days a week.

Robert Kuttner and Hildy Zenger lay much of the blame for the evisceration of local newspapers on private equity companies like GateHouse.

“The malign genius of the private equity business model…is that it allows the absentee owner to drive a paper into the ground, but extract exorbitant profits along the way from management fees, dividends, and tax break,” they wrote in The American Prospect., a progressive political and public policy magazine.

“By the time the paper is a hollow shell, the private equity company can exit and move on, having more than made back its investment.”

It’s not a pretty picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Much ado about nothing: Joaquin Castro and Trump campaign contributors

Well, cry me a river.

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This past Tuesday, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D – TX), brother of Democratic presidential hopeful Julián Castro, posted on Twitter the names of 44 San Antonio, TX residents who have contributed the maximum allowed under federal law to President Trump’s reelection campaign.

“Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders,’ “ the tweet said.

From the firestorm of criticism that erupted, you’d think Castro paid a group of Antifa thugs to attack conservative journalist Andy Ngo.

“Democrats want to talk about inciting violence? This naming of private citizens and their employers is reckless and irresponsible,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement. “He is endangering the safety of people he is supposed to be representing.”

“People should not be personally targeted for their political views, period,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who was shot and during a Congressional baseball game two years ago, posted on Twitter.  “This isn’t a game. It’s dangerous, and lives are at stake. I know this firsthand.”

Seven Republican members of the House Freedom Caucus, which includes many of the more conservative House Republicans, have even called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate Castro for his Twitter post.

“Posting a target list of private citizens simply for supporting his political opponent is antithetical to our principles and serves to suppress the free speech and free association rights of Americans,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent to the Ethics panel Friday.

“Joaquin Castro shared personal info on Trump donors. Despicable!,” Donald Trump Jr. said in a text message to the president’s supporters.

Cry me a river!

The fact is all the information Castro tweeted is readily available to the public.

Federal Election Commission (FEC) guidelines provide that individuals can contribute up to $2,800 to federal candidates per election, with a primary and general election counting as separate elections. That means a donor can give $5,600 combined. Cash contributions of $50 or less can be anonymous.

Once contributions add up to more than $200 during a two-year cycle to a particular candidate, campaigns are required to report the donations to the FEC. Reports must include the amount donated, the date of receipt, and the contributor’s name, address, occupation, and employer.

All that data is then posted on the FEC’s website, which can be easily accessed by me, you, Tim Murtaugh, Steve Scalise, the House Freedom Caucus,  Donald Trump Jr. and anybody else, even the Russians.

The non-partisan non-profit Center for Responsive Politics also aggregates the FEC data in multiple formats on the website Open Secrets.

So, if you want fake political news, here it is.

Is TriMet “riding the winds of change”? Not really.

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Think TriMet’s New Electric Buses Run on Wind Power? Think Again.

By Rachel Dawson

TriMet unveiled five new battery-electric buses (BEBs) in April 2019, the sides of which all donned images of windmills and sweeping gusts of wind. The BEBs each cost around $1 million, nearly twice as much as a traditional diesel bus. And these buses are just the beginning: The TriMet board voted last year to replace the entire fleet with battery-electric buses for $1.18 billion by 2040, a $500 million premium over a diesel fleet.

TriMet has been hailed an environmental hero for “riding the winds of change.” TriMet Spokesperson Roberta Altstadt claimed that TriMet was the first in the United States to “operate an electric bus on 100% renewable energy.” Without further research, it would be easy to think that TriMet’s new buses ran on clean wind energy. And that is exactlywhat TriMet is hoping you would think. But you would be wrong.

If the buses don’t run on 100% wind power, how is TriMet able to get away with saying they do?

TriMet spends $228.75 per month on what are known as renewable energy certificates (RECs) from PGE. RECs are a tradable commodity sold by renewable energy facilities (such as wind farms) to the wholesale market, that purport to represent the “environmental amenities” of certain renewable energy projects. By purchasing the RECs, TriMet has bought the legal right to claim it is using renewable energy; however, the agency has not purchased any energy itself.

This would be like my paying someone else to exercise at the gym for me, and then telling my family and friends I go to the gym. The person I pay reaps both financial and physical benefits while I merely get to pretend I have them.

Supporters of RECs claim the certificates offset fossil fuels and pay for the generation of new renewable energy. However, these claims are not entirely accurate. According to Daniel Press, a Professor of Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz, “RECs do little to reduce emissions in the real world because they have become too cheap to shift energy markets or incentivize businesses to build new turbines.” The income generated from RECs does not come close to the millions needed to construct more wind turbines, which means that RECs themselves don’t offset fossil fuels.

Despite its claims, it would be impossible for TriMet to run on 100% wind power unless it disconnected from the regional mixed grid and hooked up to its own personal wind farm. Even then, TriMet would be forced to rely on other backup power sources due to the volatility of wind generation.

While a wind turbine may be available to produce energy around 90% of the time, the average wind farm in the United States in 2018 had a capacity factor of only 37.4%. The capacity factor refers to the amount of energy produced in a year as a fraction of the farm’s maximum capacity. Wind farms produce electricity when winds reach about nine miles per hour and stop at roughly 55 mph to prevent equipment damage. If the wind isn’t blowing (or isn’t blowing strongly enough), little to no power can be generated.

This poses problems, as the electrical grid requires constant equilibrium or blackouts will result—power supply must meet energy demand. Every megawatt of wind power has to be backed up by an equal amount of traditional, “non-green” sources like coal and natural gas to account for times when wind energy isn’t generated. This would be like keeping a car constantly running at home in case the one you’re driving on the road fails.

Instead of a wind farm, TriMet receives its electricity from Portland General Electric, the same mixed grid your home is likely powered by. In 2020, this mixed grid will be made up of 37% natural gas, 28% coal, 18% hydro, 15% renewables, and 2% purchased power (power purchased on the wholesale market). Since wind only makes up a portion of renewables used by PGE, less than 15% of the electricity used by the “wind” buses is powered by wind. A greater percentage of the electricity used by TriMet’s BEBs comes from coal plants than wind farms.

If TriMet were honest with its riders, it would replace the windmills on the sides of the new buses with coal, natural gas, and hydroelectric power plants. In the name of accuracy, TriMet could place a windmill in the corner, demonstrating the small percentage of power generated by wind farms.

So instead of riding the “winds of change,” keep in mind that you’re just riding a really expensive bus.

Rachel Dawson is a Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

 

The Baltimore brouhaha: Trump is an attention whore and the media are complicit

President Trump threw out the lure last Saturday and the media leaped at it like steelhead going after spinners. For almost a week now, the the media has been salivating over the Cummings/Baltimore story, playing right into Trump’s hands.

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I’m sure that Trump, a manipulative narcissist if there ever was one, has been absolutely loving it.

“Rep, Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has been a brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous. His district is considered the Worst in the USA…..,,” Trump Tweeted to start it all..

“….As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded,” Trump continued. “Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place.”

According to Politico’s Daniel Lippman, despite Trump’s public anti-media screeds, he religiously reads four daily newspapers — The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, as well was a daily print-out of the Drudge Report, all of which have covered the Cummings/Baltimore contretemps like a thick blanket.

Thankfully, at least one outlet, the babylonbee.com, a satirical news site, has approached he whole tempest as a joke with stories such as, Futuristic, Utopian Paradise Of Baltimore Completely Baffled By Trump’s Attacks:

“BALTIMORE, MD—President Trump launched into a deranged attack against the city of Baltimore, calling it “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” and a place “no human being would want to live.” This caused extreme confusion within the city — as, having been run exclusively by Democrats for decades and decades, it is a nearly perfect, progressive utopia and a beacon of hope to all.”

But most news outlets have pursued the Cummings/Baltimore stories with the kind of moral outrage and hand-wringing usually reserved for stories of great import.

The New York Times, for example, has been all over the story, with headlines like, “The Rot You Smell is a Racist Potus,” “Trump Accuses Black Congressman and Allies of Being Racist,” and “Some very Specific Things the President Could do to Help Baltimore.”

The Times went so far as to run a story featuring Trevor Noah of The Daily Show defending Baltimore and Fox News asked Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Tavon Austin, who grew up in Baltimore, what he thought about Trump’s comments. Even though Austin said he hadn’t even read Trump’s comments about Baltimore, Fox gave him an opportunity to opine on the city’s tough times.

On the Sunday, July 28 talk shows, commentators couldn’t stay away from the topic, relishing the chance to fulminate ad nauseam about Trump, racism, inequality, inner-city troubles, etc.

Tuesday evening’s network news shows continued with one quoting Trump saying that living in Baltimore is like “living in hell” and interviewing residents for their reactions.

Online news outlets have latched onto the story too. On Tuesday, The Bulwark, an American conservative news and opinion website, ran a 1048-word story, Republicans Can Defend Elijah Cummings Any Time Now. Huffpost has gone wild with Cummings/Baltimore stories, too, posting eight different stories just on Tuesday.

And the whole thing has presented an opportunity for all sorts of detestable people to raise their profile, aided and abetted by the media. For example, Al Sharpton, who shows up repeatedly at hot spots like Nadia Vulvokov in the Netflix series Russian Doll, has jumped on the Cummings/Baltimore flap.

At a Monday news conference in Baltimore with former Maryland lieutenant governor Michael Steele (R), Sharpton said Trump “has a particular venom for blacks and people of color.”

The story continued to draw in the media on Wednesday (July 31). A CBSN reporter, for example, asked a Republican National Committee official whether the controversy would alienate voters of color from the Republican Party.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), also apparently unable to move on, continued the barrage on Thursday, saying Trump should ask “slumlord” Jared Kushner about Baltimore. Here comments generated multiple news stories, including a lengthy story on The Hill and television news stories across the country.

The hand-wringing continued on Friday, Aug. 2, as academics and politicians worked to find an angle they could exploit. William A. Donohue, a Distinguished Professor of Communication at Michigan State University, wrote a piece for The Conversation, an online publication, likening Trump referring to Baltimore as a “disgusting rat and rodent infested mess” to the “pattern of dehumanizing language in the lead-up to the genocide committed by the Turks against Armenians, where Armenians were “dangerous microbes.” Donohue went so far as to equate Trump’s remarks to Germans describing Jews as “Untermenschen,” or subhumans, during the Holocaust.

All of the country’s major news outlets, and many secondary ones, have been rabidly pursuing the Cummings/Baltimore story, elevating it to major coverage, as though it matters.

If the media had simply ignored Trump’s blathering, it would have died a natural, and appropriate, death.  OK, maybe the Baltimore Sun had a reason to go with news coverage and a scathing editorial, but that’s it.

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Instead, major media have seen in Trump’s tweetstorm an opportunity to promote rancorous public disputes and contrived mud fights, just as the Eugene Robinson, a Washington Post columnist, observed that the “clear intent of the (CNN) moderation was to spark fights” in Tuesday night’s Democratic debate.

Atlantic magazine writer Adam Serwer got it right. “The mainstream press has internalized Trump’s own reality-show standards for what counts as a significant political development,” Server wrote. “All the world is trashy television, and the president and his opposition are merely producers.”

Trump’s Cummings/Baltimore tweet storms were designed to be a distraction, and they’ve worked particularly well with an American media with a hive mentality, a kind of “On est tous dans le même bain, ” and a consistent race to the bottom. It’s likepornography has gotten more and more crude and explicit in order to compete for attention.

Trump’s outrageous tweets divert the world’s attention, and reporters, from real issues that matter. He manipulates the media by transforming out-of-the-blue poisonous rants into free, must-cover press opportunities. “I remain astonished by the ability of this former reality TV star to be our assignment editor,” bemoaned Kyle Pope, editor of the Columbia Journalism Review.

Frankly, Trump has led the media by the nose, as they’ve pursued audiences with ferocity, their eyes more than ever on the bottom line in this difficult time for journalism.

As a Wall Street Journal opinion column by Holman W. Jenkins Jr. put it, “He delights in making us dance to tunes he wantonly types out in the wee hours.” Jenkins went on to mourn “…the apparent ease with which he elicits ritualized behavior from our media.”

When are the media going to wise up?