Sunday, September 24, 2023

Bits n’ pieces from east, west and beyond

by Compiled by Lorraine H. Marie
| November 11, 2022 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact.

A recent sampling:

The billionaires buying elections report, from Americans for Tax Fairness: new data shows 465 billionaires contributed “at least” $881,000,000 to this year’s elections, a figure 27 times over that of 2010, when certain members of the Supreme Court gave a thumbs-up to unlimited campaign contributions to Super PACs from the wealthy and corporations.

ATF says billionaires represent 0.000002% of the population. Both political parties have billionaires, but Republicans have far more. In 2020, billionaires provided 11.9 percent of campaign funding; now the figure is 15.4%, according to The New York Times.

Wild card mid-term elections, from numerous sources: it’s often the case that the president’s party does poorly in the mid-term elections, but the Nov. 8 outcome has been a big question mark.

This time, more voters may have turned out because of the Supreme Court’s overturn of abortion rights. As well: more than half of Republican candidates are 2020 election outcome deniers, and it’s not known to what degree voters support that theory.

Another influence: a Russian oligarch has claimed that Russia has been interfering in the election (via “troll

farms”) “carefully, accurately and surgically…” for the purpose of undermining trust in the elections and voting in candidates who will offer less support for Ukraine.

Faith in the election outcome is further challenged by claims that if Republicans don’t win, Democrats stole the election. There has also been a Republican movement to deny votes not counted on Election Day, even if it is not possible to tally all votes that day.

Republican operatives are seeking to toss mail-in ballots, particularly in swing states. In 24 states the Department of Justice monitored polls for voter intimidation, to make sure federal voting rights laws are observed.

Economists expected job availability to drop in September due to Federal Reserve efforts to cool the economy. Instead, CNN said job openings were at 10.7 million, contrary to expectations of 10 million.

Recently the Federal Reserve approved another interest rate increase intended to slow inflation. The Financial Times notes that while wages have been rising, prices are rising faster, making the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Jay Powell a “playground bully” when he raises interest rates (which he admits will result in job losses).

According to a FT analysis, companies are passing higher costs on to customers, while using inflation excuses to “expand profit margins.”

That has been encouraged by consumers not curtailing their spending, so higher prices remain in place. FT suggests Powell clarify what higher interest rates are supposed to achieve, since inflation is not declining.

Food and other industries are also jumping onto the higher prices bandwagon: Chipotle Mexican Grill, which saw a $257 million profit last quarter, said they will raise prices by almost 15% higher than last year, when their profits were up 26% over the previous year. Basically, says Accountable.US, corporations hide behind pandemic and supply chain problems as an excuse to exaggerate their costs.

Climate negotiators at this week’s COP27 climate gathering are aware: China is the world’s leading producer and user of solar panels and wind turbines, and a top user of energy from hydroelectric dams and nuclear power plants. But China also burns more coal than the rest of the world combined, The New York Times says.

Former U.S. energy official David Sandalow says there is “no solution to climate change without reducing China’s coal combustion.”

Some regions of China are reducing use of coal, others are increasing it, and more coal-fired power plants being prepared to come online.

Brazil’s recent presidential election returned their former president to office, which is expected to have a positive impact on the nation’s rainforest.

According to Axios, when Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was previously in office, Amazon deforestation fell 43.7%. It rose 72% when President Jair Bolsonaro, who was defeated, was in office.

Under Bolsonaro Amazon defenders were attacked and killed, and cleared forests were used for agricultural products, including cattle grazing.

C-19 cases are rising due to more indoor time and more transmission of C-19 sub-variants. So far the sub-variants can attack those who are healthy and vaccinated; treatments may not work as well for the morphed variants.

Numerous media sources peg current C-19 deaths at 400 per day in the U.S.

Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol Building riot case: Federal prosecutors have spent over a month claiming that Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and four co-defendants are guilty of seditious conspiracy, CBS reported.

Rhodes recently testified that he never ordered any attack by his militia. Prosecutors say Rhodes’ texts and open letters defy his claims. Rhodes says “being open about wanting to crack heads is what got the Proud Boys prosecuted,” in a reference to previous events the Oath Keepers attended.

Blast from the past: “Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope…Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love.” Rienhold Niebuhr, 1892-1971, son of German immigrants, born in Missouri, awarded the presidential Medal of Freedom. He was an ethicist and political commentator.