Is Exxon Conning Its Investors?  The New York Times Editorial

By The Editorial Board

Nov. 25, 2018, 195
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Antonio Sortino
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CreditCreditAntonio Sortino

“In August, a lawyer for Exxon Mobil told a state court in Manhattan that New York’s attorney general should either sue the company for misleading investors about the impact of climate change on its finances or drop the case. “They should put up or shut up,” the lawyer, Theodore Wells Jr., said of a tangled case that had dragged on for more than two years. The weary judge, Barry Ostrager, agreed. “This cannot go on interminably,” he said.

Put-up time has arrived. Late last month, Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a fraud lawsuit against the company. Exxon responded with a 38-page brief basically denying everything. And Judge Ostrager has set a trial date for October of next year.

Much can happen between now and then. But the judge’s decision to allow the case to proceed could provide a rare teaching moment that allows the public to see a powerful company grappling with the kinds of choices that all legacy fossil fuel companies will surely face in a carbon-constrained world.

The case is not a rehash of the copiously documented charge that Exxon had for years subsidized climate change denialist groups even as its own scientists were acutely aware of the dangers of global warming. That charge is partly what inspired Ms. Underwood’s predecessor, Eric Schneiderman, to begin investigating the company in the first place. But Exxon has since agreed that climate change is a problem, supported the Paris agreement and invested in cleaner fuels. Nor does the suit hold the company responsible for climate change, unlike several cases against the fossil fuel industry brought by New York City and other localities seeking damages from the rise of sea levels and other consequences of a warming world. Most of these suits have been thrown out of court.”

Opinion | Midterm Climate Report: Partly Cloudy – The New York Times Editorial

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By The Editorial Board
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

Nov. 9, 2018,   143

CreditCreditAntonio Sortino
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made it clear that averting the worst consequences of climate changes (lesser consequences are by now all around us) will mean quickly cutting back on the use of fossil fuels that cause global warming.

Big Oil didn’t get the memo.

Faced with what they saw as an existential threat to their businesses, BP, Valero, Phillips 66, the Koch brothers and other members of the fossil fuel fraternity dumped more than $30 million into Washington State to crush a ballot initiative that would have imposed the first taxes in the nation on carbon emissions. Backers of the proposal hoped it would serve as a template for similar action elsewhere and perhaps for the country as a whole. But the theoretical elegance of a carbon tax, which most economists and scientists believe is the surest way to control emissions on a broad scale, was no match even in reliably Democratic Washington for relentless fearmongering about job losses, higher electricity bills and more expensive gasoline.

The defeat in Washington was the most disappointing setback for climate activists in the midterm elections on Tuesday, a day of decidedly mixed messages on climate change in particular and environmental issues more broadly.

via Opinion | Midterm Climate Report: Partly Cloudy – The New York Times

Editorial | America Needs a Bigger House – The New York Times

By The Editorial Board
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

“We’re nearly two decades into the 21st century, so why is America still operating with a House of Representatives built for the start of the 20th?

The House’s current size — 435 representatives — was set in 1911, when there were fewer than one-third as many people living in the United States as there are now. At the time, each member of Congress represented an average of about 200,000 people. In 2018, that number is almost 750,000.

This would shock the Constitution’s framers, who set a baseline of 30,000 constituents per representative and intended for the House to grow along with the population. The possibility that it might not — that Congress would fail to add new seats and that district populations would expand out of control — led James Madison to propose what would have been the original First Amendment: a formula explicitly tying the size of the House to the total number of Americans.

The amendment failed, but Congress still expanded the House throughout the first half of the nation’s existence. The House of Representatives had 65 members when it was first seated in 1789, and it grew in every decade but one until 1920, when it became frozen in time.”

“. . . . . There’s a better solution, which involves bringing America into line with other mature democracies, where national legislatures naturally conform to a clear pattern: Their size is roughly the cube root of the country’s population. Denmark, for instance, has a population of 5.77 million. The cube root of that is 179, which happens to be the size of the Folketing, Denmark’s parliament.

For all countries other than the United States, the size of the national legislature is calculated using only the larger chamber. For the United States, the number refers to the combined size of the House and the Senate. This is because the United States Senate is a more significant lawmaking body than the smaller chambers of other countries. Source: O.E.C.D.

This isn’t some crazy Scandinavian notion. In fact, the House of Representatives adhered fairly well to the so-called cube-root law throughout American history — until 1911. Applying that law to America’s estimated population in 2020 would expand the House to 593 members, after subtracting the 100 members of the Senate.

That would mean adding 158 members. To some, this might sound like 158 too many. But it’s an essential first step in making the “People’s House” — and American government broadly — more reflective of American society today.”

Editorial | Donald Trump and the Self-Made Sham – The New York Times

“I “what I built myself.” This boast has long been at the core of the mythology of Donald Trump, Self-Made Billionaire. As the oft-told story goes, young Mr. Trump accepted a modest $1 million loan from his father, Fred, a moderately successful real estate developer from Queens, and — through smarts, hard work and sheer force of will — parlayed that loan into a multibillion-dollar global empire.It’s a classic American tale of ambition and self-determination. Not Horatio Alger, exactly, but appealing, and impressive, nonetheless.Except that, like so much of what Mr. Trump has been selling the American public in recent years, this origin story was a sham — a version of reality so elaborately embellished that it qualifies as fan fiction more than biography. Also, as we’ve come to expect from Mr. Trump, the creation of this myth involved a big dose of ethically sketchy, possibly even illegal activity.As an in-depth investigation by The Times has revealed, Mr. Trump is only self-made if you don’t count the massive financial rewards he received from his father’s business beginning as a toddler. (By age 3, little Donald was reportedly pulling in an annual income of what today would be $200,000 a year.) These benefits included not only the usual perks of hailing from a rich, well-connected family — the connections, the access to credit, the built-in safety net. For the Trumps, it also involved direct cash gifts and tens of millions in “loans” that never charged interest or had to be repaid. Fred Trump even purchased several properties and business ventures, putting ownership either fully or partly in the names of his children, who reaped the profits.“I built what I built myself.”

This boast has long been at the core of the mythology of Donald Trump, Self-Made Billionaire. As the oft-told story goes, young Mr. Trump accepted a modest $1 million loan from his father, Fred, a moderately successful real estate developer from Queens, and — through smarts, hard work and sheer force of will — parlayed that loan into a multibillion-dollar global empire.

It’s a classic American tale of ambition and self-determination. Not Horatio Alger, exactly, but appealing, and impressive, nonetheless.

Except that, like so much of what Mr. Trump has been selling the American public in recent years, this origin story was a sham — a version of reality so elaborately embellished that it qualifies as fan fiction more than biography. Also, as we’ve come to expect from Mr. Trump, the creation of this myth involved a big dose of ethically sketchy, possibly even illegal activity.

As an in-depth investigation by The Times has revealed, Mr. Trump is only self-made if you don’t count the massive financial rewards he received from his father’s business beginning as a toddler. (By age 3, little Donald was reportedly pulling in an annual income of what today would be $200,000 a year.) These benefits included not only the usual perks of hailing from a rich, well-connected family — the connections, the access to credit, the built-in safety net. For the Trumps, it also involved direct cash gifts and tens of millions in “loans” that never charged interest or had to be repaid. Fred Trump even purchased several properties and business ventures, putting ownership either fully or partly in the names of his children, who reaped the profits.”

Editorial | Will Donald Trump Stand Up to China? – The New York Times

“President Xi Jinping has imposed China’s most sweeping internment program since Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution of 1966-76, when more than one million people were killed and millions of others were imprisoned, tortured and humiliated.

Citing credible reports, a United Nations panel last month said up to one million Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim minority, are being held in detention camps without benefit of any formal legal process. The repression is severe enough to have raised concerns even within the Trump administration — not known for a preoccupation with human rights abroad — and the administration is weighing possible sanctions against the regime, a step that justice clearly demands.

Mr. Xi is China’s most powerful modern leader, and he is turning his country into an economic and political powerhouse. But his achievements are deeply tainted by human rights abuses, including the repression of the Uighurs, the largest of the Muslim ethnic groups in the Xinjiang region of northwestern China.”

Source: Opinion | Will Donald Trump Stand Up to China? – The New York Times

David Lindsay:  I support this editorial, but not holding my breath.

Here are some good comments which I endorsed:

Jim Hugenschmidt
Asheville NC

How can we accuse China of violating the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights when was are the ONLY industrialized country that has never ratified that pact?

Our history of standing up for human rights in other countries has been based on self-interest. Why would we intervene on behalf of a people with no oil or strategic value?

I will say that while our own history of human rights violations is nothing to brag about, we have made progress, albeit uneven, and are doing better than many places. We need to hold the belief that we are committed to human rights here and abroad and that this commitment should be renewed by this administration.

The one thing that stymies my imagination is Donald Trump making a speech in sympathy with the Uighurs.

Larry Eisenberg commented September 18

Larry Eisenberg
Medford, MA.

I do hate at this point to tattle
D. Trump is outmatched in this battle,
Purely on IQ’s
Trump is bound to lose
The bars of his Playpen he’ll rattle.

Bikome commented September 18

Bikome
Hazlet, NJ

President Trump does not care two hoots about human rights. He instead admires dictators and autocrats. He could be hypocritical in many things but not when it comes to administration of totalitarian regimes.

Editorial | Make Voting Easier in New York – The New York Times

“Why is it so bad? For starters, blame the state’s “stupid policy,” as a political scientist described it to The Times recently. Sure, there’s reason to criticize other states for cutting back on polling places or hours, or passing voter-ID and proof-of-citizenship laws that make voting harder, especially for minorities and other vulnerable groups. But who are New Yorkers to judge? Their own electoral laws and practices are mired in the Dark Ages, prevented from entering the 21st century by lawmakers trying to protect their jobs.

It’s made worse by the city and state election boards, which run federal, state and local elections — a crucial job that needs to be done by professional, nonpartisan agencies. In New York, the boards are rife with incompetence.There are easy fixes, which have been associated with higher turnout in many other states that have adopted them.”