Europe’s Debt Crisis Deepens

by Richard D. Wolff
Over the weekend, Fitch — the major rating company that, with its fellow majors, Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, dominate the business of assessing the riskiness of debt instruments — took a highly publicized step.  It downgraded the credit-worthiness of the sovereign debts of many European countries.  What a spectacle!  These rating companies were distinguished by their laughably inaccurate (to be extremely polite) assessments of the risks associated with asset-backed securities.  Those assessments contributed to the economic crisis we are living through.  Now the world is supposed to hang on — rather than laugh at — their credit reports.
Europe’s debts — and social tensions swirling around them — are clearly problems.  Governments collapsing in Greece, Italy, and Spain show that, among other signs of the obvious.  The rating companies’ downgrades of European debt are rather like downgrading the likelihood of good weather while the rest of us are already rushing to close the windows against pouring rain.
Still worse are the usual media reports and discussions of the Fitch action.  They are once again full of eerie references to steps European governments must take “to satisfy the markets.”  This strange metaphorical abstraction — “the markets” — is portrayed as some sort of Frankenstein monster threatening to eat Europe’s children unless the parents support government austerity programs.  Those austerity programs are, of course, already making those parents and their children suffer.
Let’s take a momentary step back from what is an ideological — or better said, propagandistic — usage of the term.  “The markets” is a conceptual device that serves to hide and disguise those particular corporations that stand behind and work those markets to pursue their interests.  The politicians’ and mass media’s language makes it seem as if self-interested pursuit by those corporations were the machine-like operations of some unalterable, fixed institution.  We need to remember that markets, like all other institutions, are human inventions filled with a mix of positive and negative aspects and open to change.  After all, the mixed effects of markets have made them objects of deep suspicion and skepticism at least since Plato and Aristotle profoundly criticized markets as enemies of community thousands of years ago.
The chief creditors of European governments today are banks, insurance companies, large corporations, pension funds, some other (mostly non-European) governments, and wealthy individuals.  When politicians and media speak of the need for European governments to “satisfy the markets,” what they mean is to satisfy those creditors.  The chief influences among those creditors are the major banks that represent and/or advise all or most of the rest of them.  The major European banks were and are the chief recipients of the costly bailouts by those European governments since 2008.  Indeed, those bailouts sharply increased the indebtedness of European governments because the latter paid for those bailouts by borrowing.
The bailouts worked in Europe much as they did in the US.  Banks had speculated badly in asset-backed securities and their associated derivatives leading up to late 2008.  When borrowers (e.g., mortgagors in the US) increasingly defaulted on the loans comprising those asset-backed securities, the values of the latter collapsed.  Banks stopped trusting one another to repay loans between them — central to the global credit system — because all banks knew that they all held huge amounts of asset-backed securities whose values had collapsed.  Each major bank feared that others — like itself – might have to default on its debts.
Bank transactions with one another stopped and thereby produced a credit “freeze” or “crunch.”  In modern capitalist economies, businesses, governments, and consumers have all become more credit-dependent than ever.  Such a freeze or crunch therefore threatened wholesale economic non-functioning (collapse).

The solution was for governments to intervene massively to unfreeze the credit system.  They did this on multiple fronts simultaneously, so serious was the crisis.  First, governments lent freely to the major banks that could not borrow from each other.  Second, governments guaranteed various sorts of loans and debts so banks that had feared to lend would resume lending.  Thirdly, governments borrowed massively so private lenders — especially banks — would have a safe and profitable outlet for their loanable funds.  In these ways, as agent of the people, European governments unfroze and rebooted a collapsed private credit system at enormous public expense.  They thereby enabled the survival and continued profitability of the banks and their major clients.
Over the last year or so, those banks and their clients — freed by government bailouts from worrying about loans to one another — have begun to worry about their loans to European governments.  They fear one thing: aroused and angry publics.  People in the streets may not permit their governments to impose “austerity.”  The people may not accept government cuts in basic public employment and services to save money and to pay off creditors that were bailed out at public expense just a short while ago.
So the creditors are now pressing governments to ensure the safety of the national debt (to themselves).  The Fitch downgrade is part of that pressure.  The references to “satisfying the markets” simply disguise the whole outrageous process.  The crisis drama deepens: creditors’ pressure on governments increases austerity policies that increase mass opposition that frightens creditors who increase their pressure on governments. . . .
The contradictions driving this vicious cycle agitate all of European society and the global economy interlinked with Europe.  European governments fear the creditors and fear their rising domestic oppositions to austerity.  They express irritation against Fitch and the other rating companies for making their dilemma worse.  They have no solution, bend toward “satisfying the markets,” and thus pursue austerity in fits, starts, and retreats.  Like animals frozen in the headlights of oncoming disaster, the players in this absurd European drama issue redundant credit reports (Fitch), hold endless and fruitless conferences and summits (Sarkozy, Merkel, et al.), and twitch with anxiety as general strikes proliferate and governments teeter and fall.  Meanwhile, phantoms like “the markets” haunt the media analyses and politicians’ statements, serving mostly to fragment and obscure what is happening.

Richard D. Wolff is Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and also a Visiting Professor at the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University in New York.   He is the author of New Departures in Marxian Theory (Routledge, 2006) among many other publications.  Check out Richard D. Wolff’s documentary film on the current economic crisis, Capitalism Hits the Fan, atwww.capitalismhitsthefan.com.  Visit Wolff’s Web site at www.rdwolff.com, and order a copy of his new book Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do about It.  His weekly radio program, “Economic Update,” broadcasts on WBAI, 99.5 FM in New York City every Saturday at noon for an hour; it can also be heard live and in podcast archive on wbai.org.
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Occupy Cherry Alley Interview with Mark Lawrence and Robin Jarrell

This interview highlights the importance of worker participation in corporate decision-making and the connection between Occupy Wall St. core principles and Christian values.  Robin Jarrell is rector at the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.

http://www.wkok.com/1070_WKOK/OTM.htm

 

Let’s get the Government off our Backs

The government interferes with free enterprise by creating red tape, wasting hard-earned tax- payer money and undermining market incentives.  The solution is to shrink government.  Fortunately we have managed to elect a number of representatives to Congress to ensure that we get the government off our backs.  It is important to support their efforts in order to achieve maximum prosperity.  Here are three reasons to support their efforts and what you can do to help.

 

First, we must keep in mind that there are two ways to make money.  One is by building new and better products that meet real social needs and generate much needed work for citizens.  The other is by taking advantage of people by developing financial instruments that generate wealth through speculation and the drain resources and eliminate jobs in the those parts of our economy that are productive.  Lately the latter types of investments have been much more profitable.  Eliminating government oversight makes it much easier to develop fraudulent financial instruments and to generate the fast money associated with speculative investment.

 

Second, all production generates waste and stresses the environment.  Profits are enhanced when the social costs of production are borne by others and the private gains are concentrated in the hands of a few.  Government oversight of the environmental impact of business makes it much more difficult to avoid paying the social costs associated with production.  By shrinking the EPA and by gutting State and local environmental regulations, we can more easily pass off the environmental cost of production while enhancing the corporate bottom line.

 

Third.  We all know competition is bad for business.  When we compete for markets we inevitably drive prices down, bid up wages and are forced to innovate to create better products.  All of this activity reduces profits.  Our bottom line is enhanced when we can erect obstacles to prevent competitors from entering markets.   Fortunately, once monopoly conditions are created, our monopolies create profits, profits that enable us to establish effective barriers to entry in industry, permitting us to gouge consumers and use the obscene profits to underwrite public relations, “think” tanks and journalists that celebrate the invisible hand of the market.  Governments are the main means by which monopolies are undermined and so government efforts to destroy monopoly need to be nipped in the bud.

 

What can you do to support our efforts?  Just keep buying the line that we are doing this for your benefit.  Keep voting for congress people we are financing – representatives that will help us to disassemble and disable government oversight of business.  After all, our interests are your interests, are they not?  Let’s all work together to get the government off of our backs.

Free the Free Market

submitted by Joe Detelj

Enter any institutional media outlet and you will be offered, gratis, a wealth of information engineered in private think tanks supporting the self-evident value of the free market and the evils of regulation. Common sense dictating my self interest and the pressure not to be isolated as an outcast, I have given studious consideration to the superiority of free market driven behavior over a collective regulatory environment and concluded that it is obvious that individuals and their parent corporations are not going to engage in a manner that is inconsistent with the public welfare because, quite simply, they are the public! This is axiomatic, logic only an ideologue would question.

 

Deregulating the undertakers of risk frees them up to create the wealth that precipitates the rolling tides that lift all the boats, yachts, and inner tubes in society at bay. Only the redundant, used up, and obsolete are washed away in the breath of fresh air that follows this tide. The latest, sexiest, and hippest survive and thrive. There is no more efficient organizational model this side of Utopia. Once the full import of this natural law becomes fully implanted in our brains it is outrageous that the policy implications are not are not more widely put into effect Just off the top of my head I can offer several modest proposals that would lead to a freer and therefore a more conducive economic development policy agenda.

 

Starting at the local level, it would be more than responsible to remove all traffic lights, stop signs, and speed limits. We ought to recognize them for the impediments to fast track progress that they inherently are. Once the pedestrian public becomes accustomed to their newfound freedom we can dispense with judges, lawyers, and police as the self-regulating invisible hand of self-interest guides us. For a moment, consider the enormous savings incurred as a result of the jettisoned penal colonies and their burdensome bureaucracies – abandoned to the junk heap of history. We would no longer be constrained by their non-productive hidden tax imposed on the undertakers of wealth creation and the liberated underlying population. We could expect to finally achieve a virtual free for all, and we can only imagine the vast potential for self-improvement that may be accomplished.

 

I cannot understate how overwhelmed I personally became once the full impact of this economic science became set in stone in my consciousness. I quickly realized the lost opportunities that I suffered as a consequence of misguided interference by misinformed cement heads. My life as a case study illustrates the folly of our ways. I am very handy with power tools. I own a Makita cordless drill and a full set of diamond tipped bits. Why, other than blind devotion to restrictive regulation, am I prohibited from setting up a dentistry practice? If a willing seller, myself, finds a willing buyer, an unfortunate patient in need of affordable care, and we come together, where does the government get off dictating prohibitive restrictions that curb our freedom to mutually satisfy each other?                                                                                                    Anyone can see the job creation potential here. With some imagination, astute vertical integration, and a loaded compliment of power tools I could easily operate a production line performing amputations  and minor organ removals. A Drill Baby Drill chain, and a Cut And Paste subsidiary are real possibilities if I were only able to liberate my capitalistic proclivities. As is readily apparent, there is no limit to the improvements and possibilities that await us once we end the class warfare obstructing our undertaking bent.

 

I am certain my readers  could easily come up with dozens of their own examples of government interference with the free market that defies common sense. No aircraft pilot wants a catastrophe so why waste our hard earned money on air traffic controllers? Enough of these union mandated make work schemes. The childish requirement for curbs, sidewalks, and cross walks are just the ego driven handiwork of bureaucrats who can’t find a job in the private sector. If an occasional frog or mouse turns up in your prepackaged salad, isn’t that a really small price to pay in lieu of FDA intrusions. Worms and maggots in your soup can would be a treat for the famine stricken people in North Africa. They would welcome the protein and thank God for it, and so should we for our rich blessings. We are not nearly thankful enough for the freedom we own and those brave souls who maintain it for us. It is my fondest wish that after considering these modest proposals, which incidentally barely scratch the surface mind you, that you will be motivated to engage in the current battle valiantly being waged by our job creators to free the market and liberate our full potential as human beings.

Political Typology Quizzes Annoy Me

I put this on Facebook.  Then, 40 minutes later, I had this stab at an explanation…

According to this: http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz I’m a a “liberal.” And in this one I am “solid liberal” or “post-modern” depending on how I answer. http://people-press.org/typology/quiz/. Why do I find myself arguing with lots of liberals then?

I find myself able to take either side in almost all of these forced choice pars in these things.  They are designed to squeeze people into set categories.  Neither one of them even has “progressive” as a political ideology.  I am not sure it is one, but it is worth thinking about. Off the top of my head, an embrace of pragmatism as an approach to knowledge and action is part of being progressive.  Let’s talk about what can work for this problem and not look to “ideology” to decide how we should approach an issue.

Three examples come to mind.

One, schools and religion.  I don’t think banning any whisper of religion from public schools is the best reading of the establishment clause.  As  I get it, even the supreme court recognizes religious expression as a form of culture.  The bright line is coercion or proselytizing.  However, for many schools or other public entities, it is simpler to ban than to handle the nuance of deciding if a menorah, cross, or whatever is clearly cultural as opposed to endorsement of a religion.  To pull it off, you need to trust officials to use judgement.  So, a pragmatic response is to figure out how to balance trusting judgement with means to redress clear violations of religious freedom and the establishment clause.

Second, educational funding.  I had an interesting discussion the other day with a friend and I mentioned that I would rather have MORE diversity among schools, and if a school choice- voucher system accomplishes that, fine.  Basically, focus public education policy on some broad outcomes and free up schools to differentiate and yes, compete, for families and their students.  Among his concerns was what happens if school officials are given too much autonomy and they enact discrimination or other harms.  He is invoking racial segregation under Jim Crow.  I get it; we don’t want to re-create that, but a system where each family and each school can be distinctive is not the same as forcing some to go to inferior schools.  Smaller schools that can create a sense of difference and cohesion will work better and hence a liberal approach of equalizing inputs through enforced sameness is a mistake.

Third, the tax code.  I believe in progressive taxes.  There are two reasons.  One, the wealthiest should pay more proportionally because their wealth is created and supported by more of government spending- courts, police, military, transportation, disaster relief, education (yes, we pay to educate the workers who create value in firms the wealthiest own).  Two, apart from economic fairness, we believe in social fairness.  Capitalism always exacerbates inequality and therefore it is good to tax progressively to create avenues to reduce inequality.  The periods of the greatest amount of activity to reduce inequality in the US, roughly the 1930s to the 1980s, saw the lowest rates of inequality.  Since the onset of neo-liberal economics in the a980s, roughly, economic growth increased along with gross measures of inequality.   Anyway, this is my case for progressive taxation.

However, that does not mean defending the current status quo tax code (at the federal level).  I’ve not done the math or seen anyone else do it, but I can imagine getting behind a simplified, progressive, LOWER set of tax rates.  The complexity of the tax code sucks up a lot of human capital.  Is it necessary?  Well, yes, for me.  I can’t stand doing income taxes.  What would happen if we had federal marginal rates at 0% (for people at living wage or less), 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25%  No other exemptions or deductions.  This would decouple a dynamic national economy, as well as personal financial decisions like getting a mortgage, from the tax code.

It would also obsolesce a chunk of the accounting profession.  But maybe their human capital could be redirected to tasks that they may like more and may create other economic or social value…

But, as to typology and ideology, I’ve never seen a “liberal” politician discuss anything like this.

Schneider Letter to DI

Here is the link and text of Geoff Schneider’s letter critiquing their coverage of Marino.

 

Text:

Daily Item

On Aug. 9, The Daily Item featured yet another lengthy story on Congressman Tom Marino on the front page. You reported his statements as if they were facts, and you did not ask for other opinions or assessments of his views. Let me offer the following points to provide some balance: Congressman Marino supports tax cuts for the super rich and cuts in programs that benefit working people. He continues to argue that tax increases hurt the economy in a recession while spending cuts do not. The reality is that both tax increases and spending cuts hurt the economy in a recession. Finally, it is quite clear from statements by Standard and Poor’s and Wall Street analysts that the unwillingness of Congressman Marino and other extremists to compromise on budget matters is a major factor driving the financial losses that global markets experienced in the last week. This panic will damage the economy and cause job losses. Congressman Marino should be ashamed of the role he has played in damaging the economy.

Geoff Schneider,

Lewisburg

 

Beltway Fantasies – Part 1

Corporate control of the media undermines democracy by displacing reasoned consideration of opposing points of view to the margins of public discourse.  In place of considered arguments, the corporate media simply repeats and amplifies the fallacious and self-serving fantasies of the corporate elites and their representatives in Washington.  As a result we base our economic and social policies on Beltway fantasies that succeed in garnering (bare) majority support but that bear almost no relation to reality or good sense.  These fantasies promote the short-term corporate bottom line at our considerable expense, threaten the viability of our ecosystem and make a mockery of the ideals of democracy for which our fore-bearers organized, fought and often died.  This article, written by the members of the Spilling Ink writers’ collective, is the first in a series of articles written to throw some needed cold water on beltway fantasies.  Comments or suggestions are welcome at http://www.SpillingInk.net.

Fantasy #1:  Regulation is bad – it burdens business, kills jobs, and hurts the economy. (Chris Schell)

Non-existent, poorly designed, weakly administered, under funded and intentionally ignored regulations have killed more jobs, bankrupted more businesses and done more damage to the economy than any over-regulation has ever done.  And that’s just the business and financial regulations.  Most Superfund sites (scenes of environmental destruction) were caused by regulation lapses of one kind or another.  The gulf oil spill – lack of regulation.  And the number of lives saved by regulation of cars, highways, medicines, hospitals, nursing homes, food supply, workplace safety?   Countless.  Someone is always willing to make money by endangering other peoples lives and homes.

Lack of financial regulation, deregulation, or unenforced regulation (through greed or ideological blindness) has been at the root of nearly every major economic disaster of my lifetime.  The Savings and Loan scandal, the buying and dismantling of businesses to raid workers pension funds, the recent housing and financial collapse all resulted in what can only be termed obscene wealth being reaped by bankers, Wall Street financiers and corporate CEOs.  All of these scandals resulted in devastation for working Americans.  This is true class warfare.   Alan Greenspan could have stopped this last collapse but he believed in the free market.  He believed regulation was not needed because Wall Street would not be so blind and greedy to risk economic destruction for short-term greed.  He really nailed that one didn’t he?

Today microsecond trading which makes huge profits for a few while adding value to absolutely nothing could easily be taxed or regulated out of existence but the SEC does nothing.  Today grain and oil prices spike without regard to supply because the Bush administration removed limits on the futures commodity market.  These limits could easily be replaced but Republican appointees on the Federal Trade Commission do not believe it is necessary.  People around the world are starving because of our ideological blindness, including in the Middle East, contributing to the current turmoil there.

Deregulation has consequences.

Fantasy #2. All tax cuts are good all the time. (David Kristjanson-Gural)

This belief follows from the following claims:

i)               that government run services are inefficient and should be replaced by privately run services which are efficient;

ii)             that providing money and assistance to people in need causes them harm because it undermines their initiative and causes them to become more dependent;

iii)            that tax cuts provide an incentive to businesses to increase production and create jobs;

iv)            that wealth and income distribution results from fairly rewarding individual effort so redistributing income through taxation is unjustified.

In fact:

i)               Many government run services are highly efficient and many privately run services are inefficient.  Monopolies, in particular, maximize profits by restricting supply and charging high prices and they lack competitive incentives to innovate.   Adam Smith advocated the regulation or elimination of monopolies because they impose “an absurd tax” in the form of monopoly prices.  Most mature industries – drugs, agriculture, insurance, banking to name a few – are dominated by monopoly.

ii)             Providing money and assistance to people in need most often allows them to regain self-reliance and contribute to their families and communities.  Incidents of welfare fraud or recidivism are very low.  Crime and health costs are higher when we fail to provide assistance to people in need.

iii)            Tax cuts are not associated with greater business investment.  Business investment is governed primarily by the expected future rate of return, which depends highly on the business cycle and consumer confidence.  Cutting taxes simply allows corporations and wealthy individuals to free ride on the social investments taxpayers finance including education, infrastructure, and research and development without which corporations would be less profitable.

iv)            Wealth and income distribution is not the result of individual effort and innovation but largely results from ownership and control of productive or financial assets.  These assets “produce wealth” only because they allow owners to lay claim to the value created by the workers they employ.  Furthermore, social investments in education, research and development, common property in the form of raw materials, the legal and political system – all publicly financed – form a collective basis for the privately acquired wealth.  Taxing income and wealth is a means of ensuring individuals pay their fair share of the social investment.

The belief that cutting taxes is good rests on self-serving beliefs concerning fairness and the role of government.  Many working class people, whose pay has been squeezed by private corporations for 30 years, have been hoodwinked into believing these false claims because taxes are one thing they can affect.  Instead of focusing on cutting taxes, it is time to focus on raising wages, breaking up monopolies and calling into question the legitimacy of corporate profits.

Fantasy #3.  Government should be run like a business.  (Joe Detelj)

This bit of corporate propaganda is actually based on a false equivalency.

A business is chartered for the express purpose of generating profits for the owners. A business offers products and charges what the market will bear in order to maximize these profits.  Any activity that generates revenue, no matter the social costs, is an institutional imperative.

Governments impose taxes in order to generate revenue for investments in infrastructure, human capital and public safety.  Governments are elected to promote the general welfare and are to function with the consent of the governed.  This arrangement was designed to provide a system of checks and balances.

Inadequate revenue is a prescription for bankruptcy for both entities.  The irony of the false equivalency is that were it to be implemented, taxes would be levied on the governments most lucrative market, our wealthiest citizens and businesses and increased substantially.  We would have ideological consistency – government run like a business – but I imagine, public policy that would drive the advocates of business-government equivalency insane with rage.

Fantasy #4: The Tea Party and the Founding Fathers have similar beliefs. (Chris Schell)

Most of the Founders were personally tolerant of others’ religious beliefs. A few were atheists; several were Deists, cafeteria Christians in today’s negative terminology. Most believed in religious tolerance because they had seen the result of religious hatred.   The Founding Fathers were freethinkers, scientists and lawyers – the educated elite of their day. They were at the forefront of scientific discovery and invention and of legal and political thought. Elite, educated, thoughtful, progressive, devoted to knowledge, tolerant.  They were also willing to negotiate and compromise for the sake of political progress. Does this sound like the Tea Party?

Naturally the Founders did not always live up to their ideals. They tolerated racism and bigotry for political success or financial advantage.  They thought land ownership was a requirement for political participation and that wealth should provide a path to political power. They particularly were interested in the rights of white males.  Some – but not all – of these belief dovetail nicely with those of the Tea Party.

But even if you disagree with these judgments, do you really think that Washington, Hamilton, Paine, Adams, Jefferson or Franklin would have any respect for Glen Beck?

Fantasy #5: Republicans Support our Troops. (Charles Sackrey)

Starting in 2003, George W. Bush and the Republicans used a witches’ brew of fraudulent evidence to justify sending over 1,000,000 military personnel to war in Iraq.  Of these, 4,440 died, and 30,000 were wounded.  About one third of the survivors have suffered mental illnesses since their return.  These facts alone dispel the myth that the Republicans support our troops: they sent them to war and to their fate on false pretenses.  (It always needs mentioning that, along with U.S. military losses, at least 125,000 Iraqis have so far died and 2.5 million have been displaced.)

Once the U.S. troops came home, the Republicans’ assault on some of them continued.  In 2005 Salon.com, and in 2007 the Washington Post, brought national attention to complaints from war-wounded patients at D.C.’s Walter Reed Army Hospital about treatment there.  The complaints were about understaffing, and about rats, roaches, black mold, cheap mattresses, and a lack of heat and hot water in some rooms. Investigations led to the sacking of the hospital’s head and to its overhaul.  Thus, during much of the Iraq War, the hospital was in a steady decline.

More recent examples are easy to come by.  In their war on spending, Congressional Republicans are now trying to eliminate $75 million from the budget of the Veterans Administration to be allocated to housing vouchers for at least some of the 76,000 veterans who are now homeless. And, Congresswoman Michele Bachman, a Tea Party fan from Minnesota, has proposed lopping $4.5 billion from the overall VA’s budget.

While they try to limit housing vouchers for Iraq veterans, the Republicans are working just as hard to retain the Bush tax cuts which each year provide about $40 billion of extra income to the nation’s richest 1%.

What do the veterans think?  Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) recently evaluated the Congress on the basis of support for the interests of U.S. war veterans. These grades were awarded strictly on performance rather than on party affiliation.

Here are the results:

The IAVA gave out 154 D and F grades. 142 of those went to Republicans and 12 to Democrats — meaning that 92 percent of the D and F grades went to members of the GOP.

Of the 94 congressmen that received A or A+ grades, 91 are Democrats and three are Republicans.

Fantasy #6: Cold Winters in the Eastern USA prove Global Warming is a myth. – Karl Patten

Snowstorms or colder weather do not prove much about global warming.  These events are simply weather experienced in a specific location at a specific time.  Climate, however, refers to the prevailing weather conditions – such as average temperature, precipitation, wind, humidity, and atmospheric pressure – observed over decades.

Climate data show that global warming is already having profound effects on precipitation patterns, intensifying rain or snowfall in places accustomed to such precipitation while decreasing precipitation in areas or times of the year that typically receive little.  These impacts are likely to become even more pronounced in the decades ahead if heat-trapping emissions continue unabated.  (See Union of Concerned Scientists – www.ucsusa.org/blueprint)

Fantasy #7:  Evolution is just a theory.  (Joe Detelj)

Actually this is true.  Evolution shares elegant company with the theory of gravity, electro magnetism, relativity and photosynthesis.  Just to name a few.