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What is the Kansas Chamber of Commerce Hiding?

     Posted on Wed ,13/07/2022 by admin

” The answer is, “The Truth”.

Many high-profile disasters such as the Challenger explosion, the Deepwater Horizon debacle, and the Chevrolet Corvair which asphyxiated its passengers, can be traced to a failure of ethics. For Kansans who value people’s rights, healthcare, the environment, fiscal responsibility, lower food taxes, fair courts, and good schools – the 2021/2022 legislative session was an unmitigated disaster. The ethics failure that made it all possible was that of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce (KCC). In the 2020 election, they used unethical tactics to purge the legislature of moderates, leaving a supermajority of Republicans and far right extremists.

Two core values of the KCC are to be ethical in all that the Chamber advocates for and does, and to be passionate about the economic growth of Kansas and its people. However, the KCC is not passionate about the economic prosperity of all Kansans or all businesses as the KCC does not represent the small businesses in Kansas well. Those businesses are embedded in their communities and tax cuts take money away from things they value: roads, schools, hospitals, healthcare, and social services. This caused many local chambers of commerce to become disgusted with the KCC. As the Junction City Chamber of Commerce explained: “So when the Kansas Chamber decides to endorse a tax policy that only benefits very large industries… it just stands to reason that that tax policy is not a fit for most of their members.”

Under the leadership of CEO Alan Cobb, the KCC has increasingly aligned itself with Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which favors the prosperity of the already wealthy. That is not surprising, as Mr. Cobb once managed Government Affairs for Koch Industries and he later founded the AFP organization in Kansas. Not only does the KCC now favor the wealthy, but it has acquired questionable ethics.

After the 2020 elections, Don Hineman, past Majority Leader of the Kansas House, wrote an article, What is the Kansas Chamber of Commerce Hiding? Alan Cobb had recently claimed the Chamber’s political endorsements are 100% fact-based. Representative Hineman disagreed, writing “That is not the whole truth, and in some cases, it is an outright lie. Besides endorsements, the KCC sends out postcards that demonize the incumbent legislators they want to defeat. One of their most damaging postcards claims the targeted legislator voted to ‘retroactively raise our state taxes by $1.2 billion’. The card implies that, if re-elected, they would vote to raise your taxes. That is wrong, but it is only part of the story. That $1.2 billion tax increase, which passed in 2017, was deemed necessary by more than 2/3 of the Kansas Senate and 2/3 of the Kansas House. It was passed to correct earlier tax cuts that had devastated the state’s finances.”

He continued, “The state would have gone broke unless the tax increase passed. Most of the Republican Leadership and many staunch Republicans voted for the bill. However, the KCC is not targeting ALL the legislators who voted for the tax increase. The KCC’s leaders have mastered the craft of appearing unbiased and truthful when they are not. They are selectively targeting the independent-minded incumbents who do not obediently go along with whatever the Chamber wants.” My constituents received this card, even though I wasn’t even in the legislature then. So much for “100% fact-based”.

One thing the KCC really wanted was an additional tax cut for corporations who had repatriated intellectual property hidden offshore, even though those corporations had already received a lower Federal tax rate. The Republican leadership was happy to comply. They passed a tax bill which would have cost the state about $600 million over the next three years, most of that going to large corporations. The Governor vetoed it. Several moderate Republicans joined the Democrats in sustaining the veto, even though they had received severe arm twisting from the Republican leadership. One of the moderates spoke on the House floor, “We teach our children not to be bullies, yet the leadership is trying to bully us into voting for this bad bill “. He went on to explain how people had died on roads in his district because there wasn’t money to repair them, and how the state needed many things it couldn’t afford because of tax previous cuts. After the veto was upheld, the disappointed corporations proceeded to “Postcard” that legislator, flooding his district with postcards attacking him, until he had had enough and resigned in the middle of his term, citing stress as the reason.

In the next election, the KCC and AFP ran a smear campaign against many of the moderate Republicans who had voted to sustain the veto. They sent out dozens of postcards demonizing them, distorting their positions, misquoting them, and using misleading photoshopped pictures. The postcards were lies and bullying at its worst, but there was little the moderate candidates could do as political lies are considered protected speech. The negative campaigning worked, and the number of moderate Republicans in the legislature went from about thirty to just five. In the next session, the KCC got the tax cut they wanted, and Kansas is now suffering the disastrous consequences.

This article is specific to Kansas, but If your state has a chapter of Americans for Prosperity or a state Chamber of Commerce like the KCC, then you should try to to elect independent-minded legislators who will vote for legislation in the best interest of the average citizens. There is really no requirement for being a Chamber of Commerce. The Kansas City Greater Chamber of Commerce takes great pains to be sure they are not confused with the KCC.

Please note: This article was taken from one published in the Kansas Reflector at https://kansasreflector.com/2022/05/25/where-did-the-kansas-legislatures-moderates-go-the-kansas-chamber-targeted-them/.

Who Is Responsible for High Electric Rates in Kansas?

     Posted on Tue ,15/03/2022 by admin

“Evergy is responsible for the high electric rates in Kansas, but the Kansas Legislature is to blame for nothing being done about it. “

In 2008, Kansas disbanded the Kansas Energy Council, which sought to take a strategic approach to the development of the state’s energy system. This left the three-member Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) responsible for regulating electric rates in the state, along with regulating all the other state corporations. Besides being overloaded, the KCC is reactive rather than proactive. That is, Evergy brings their rate requests to the KCC and they decide how much of the rate request is justified. Neither the KCC nor any other state agency is responsible for proactively planning how to develop the electricity needs of the state in such a way as to balance Evergy’s needs with those of the consumers.

Until recently, the KCC had a majority of members who looked unfavorably on renewable energy. Mark Ruelle, past CEO of Evergy, attended an ALEC meeting where a strategy was devised to discourage net energy metering (NEM) customers from installing their own wind turbines or solar panels. The idea was to convince other customers that they were subsidizing NEM customers. That is not true. An independent study in California found that NEM customers provide a benefit both for other ratepayers and for the electric company. NEM customers allow utilities to avoid costs of generation and fuel, maintenance and upgrade of transmission and distribution infrastructure, transmission losses (which account for 7% of losses), capacity purchases, and compliance with renewable energy standards. NEM also reduces peak loads, transmission losses, and the need for new power plants. Similar research studies in Vermont, New York, California, Texas, Missouri, and Nevada also concluded that net metering provided a net positive benefit for utility companies and their customers. Still, the KCC allowed Evergy to impose an extra charge on those customers, even though they are helping to reduce electric rates. That policy was finally struck down by a court ruling which found it discriminatory to charge different rates for NEM customers.

The KCC has been generous with Evergy. Residential customers now pay a customer fee, an electricity fee, a fuel charge, a distribution fee, an environmental fee, an energy efficiency charge, and even Westar’s property taxes. Evergy has submitted 22 rate cases since 2008, and the KCC has allowed rate increases in most of those. In 2008, electricity in Kansas was 7.49 cents per kilowatt-hour but it has since grown to 12.7 cents per kilowatt-hour. That is less than inflation, but still much more than it needs to be. A decision was made by Evergy a decade ago to invest in coal-fired energy production, ignoring environmental concerns. Since then environmental regulations have escalated the costs of operating coal plants. Over 50% of Evergy’s energy is now produced from non-carbon sources, which are much less expensive than coal-fired power plants. Yet Evergy is still running their coal-fired power plants because they can charge more for fuel costs.

In 2019, the Kansas Legislature commissioned London Economics to study why Kansas had higher electric rates than the surrounding states*. Their main findings were that areas that need improvement are:

  • Residential rates of IOUs (investor-owned utilities) are high compared to similarly regulated utilities in regional states;
  • Ratepayers continue to pay for utility investments that are underutilized;
  • IOU cost recovery through surcharges and riders without a comprehensive ratemaking process is contributing to rising costs to ratepayers; and
  • Kansas lacks a mandated IRP ( integrated resource plan), as found in other states.

To correct this the London study offered four near-term recommendations:

  • Adopt a state energy plan;
  • Create a competitive procurement framework and require regulated utilities to submit integrated resource plans at regular intervals;
  • Allow KCC to explore the development of performance-based regulation mechanisms to incentivize efficiency and alignment with customer benefits and state policy objectives; and
  • Establish a framework for the retirement and securitization of assets where cost-benefit analysis demonstrates clear benefits to customers.

In response to the London study, the Governor submitted an Executive Reorganization Order (ERO) to develop a State Energy Plan and create an Independent State Energy Office. This would have given Kansas the ability to proactively plan for our long-term energy needs and to look for ways to decrease our electric rates. EROs routinely go into effect 60 days after submission, unless they are rejected by the legislature. However, when the Governor’s ERO was submitted to the legislature, they voted it down. The Republican majority did not want a Democratic Governor to get credit for creating the office or to be able to appoint members to it.

So there you have it. The legislature spent almost $1 million on the London study, but refused to implement its recommendation because of partisan politics. When your electric bill gets really high next summer, remember who is responsible.

*The Kansas Legislative Research Department has a guide to how electric rates are set and lists the history of legislative action on electric rates. It also contains a summary of the London study.

Global Warming: Alarmism Versus Denial

     Posted on Sat ,19/02/2022 by admin

Fossil fuel companies knew in 1979 that carbon dioxide emissions would cause the Earth to warm, creating undesirable consequences for the Earth. By 1981, the Exxon scientist concluded that the burning of fossil fuels could be catastrophic for some of the world’s population by 2030. The choice between huge profits and the possibility of harming the Earth and its inhabitants was a tough ethical choice for Exxon’s scientists, but not so much for management. They launched a campaign to keep the truth hidden and to keep themselves from being regulated. Their main strategy was obfuscation and denial.

Evangelical Christians were some of the first to become concerned about how global warming would impact the Earth’s population, mainly the poor. Genesis 1:28 says, ” Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”  Generally, those who argue for Christian stewardship think that “dominion” means “benevolent rule”. The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, in 2000, developed the Cornwall Doctrine. Its main goal was to address the challenges faced by indigenous communities and the poorer countries as they faced climate change.

In 2008, the Cornwall alliance was taken over by Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, a Dominionist, who interprets the scripture to mean “subdue and exploit”, an interpretation which is received quite favorable by oil companies. Beisner argues that we should take what we wish from the Earth, without regard to its effect upon the environment. As far as the catastrophic effect on some of the world’s population, Beisner assuages his conscience by claiming that efforts to limit carbon emissions are actually harming poor countries by denying them fossil fuels. Poor countries do not have the resources or the infrastructure to use fossil fuels and distributive energy sources, such as wind and solar, would be most useful to them. And, indigenous communities will be hurt the most. The way of life that has sustained them for centuries is now being disrupted by climate change.  They do not have the resources to withstand prolonged droughts or protect themselves from sea level rise or flooding.

Beisner uses religious arguments as the apparatus of justification to reach out to conservative Christians and solicit donations. There is little evidence that the money goes to the poor. Charity Navigator says, “This organization cannot be evaluated by our Encompass Rating methodology because it files Form 990-N, as allowed by the IRS for charities with less than $50,000 annual revenue.” The Cornwall Alliance is funded by dark money and there is no way to establish how much money it collects, who supports it, or how the money is used. Critics of the Cornwall Alliance have accused the organization of being a “front group for fossil fuel special interests,” citing its strong ties to the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, which in the past was funded by oil industry giants such as Exxon-Mobil and Chevron. 

Beisner uses “climate alarmist”, in a pejorative way, to describe the 99.5% of climate scientists who know that climate change is caused by man’s activity. Of course, scientists are alarmed as Beisner, and others like him, are part of a disinformation campaign to keep governments from taking action on climate change. E Calvin Beisner does not like being called a “denier”, but denying scientific evidence is his main way of dealing with those “science alarmists”. And, he uses religious arguments to bolster his position.

Beisner is quite concerned that Katharine Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian, is infringing on his territory. Dr. Hayhoe is a Canadian-born climate scientist now living in Texas. She is excellent at communicating complex ideas, and her website and her recent book, Saving Us, are excellent primers on climate change, understandable to a non-specialist audience. Her explanations are not just limited to science but extend to religion, politics, and behavioral psychology. I sent a copy of her book to E. Calvin Beisner. He sent me a nice thank you for the book and said he hadn’t gotten around to reading it yet. Along with the letter were enclosed, not one, or two, or three…., but nine articles criticizing Katharine Hayhoe. The articles claim she is entangled in climate idolatry, has no business venturing into theology, is a climate alarmist, is wrong about global warming affecting the weather, and implies she could not believe in God and also man-made global warming. Beisner is sure these are true, even though he has not read her book.

Beisner likes to use religious arguments, but his views are at odds with both religion and science. Apparently, he has very little understanding of ecology. Pope Francis’s encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si, says that “climate change is real and mainly a result of human activity.” “The problem is urgent. Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.” Beisner claims that Pope Francis was just wrong, probably news to most Catholics. Beisner’s position is even at odds with his own Presbyterian faith. The Presbyterian Church is now recommending divestment from fossil fuels and it was one of the first churches to address global warming. The Presbyterian Church first noted its “serious concern over global warming at the 1990 General Assembly, when it warned that the global atmospheric warming trend (the greenhouse effect) represents one of the most serious global environmental challenges to the health, security, and stability of human life and natural ecosystems’’.

E. Calvin Beisner is certainly right about one thing. Scientists are alarmed because they understand that we are beginning to reach a tipping point from which we will never recover. Scientific models claim we have till about 2030 to reduce our carbon emissions – or the oil companies’ early predictions of catastrophes will come true. Beisner often dismisses any predictions about the future made by scientists by claiming they are based on computer models. However, computers are the way we now store and process information and models are the way that scientists understand complex systems. And, the Cornwall Alliance serves as a good model for understanding global warming denial. 

(c) 2022 JC Moore – all rights reserved.

The Kansas Marshall Plan: Good Ol’ Boy Politics

     Posted on Mon ,07/02/2022 by admin
Justice: Kansas Style

The Marshall Plan was initiated in 1948 to help Europe rebuild after World War II. Interestingly, Kansas also has a Marshall plan named for Kansan Roger Marshall. It helps prominent Republicans rebuild their political careers after committing a crime.

After a dispute with his neighbor in 2008, Roger Marshall attempted to run his neighbor over with his pickup and apparently hit him. Instead of being charged with attempted vehicular homicide, a felony, Marshall was charged with battery and reckless driving, both misdemeanors. But that was not all. As part of a negotiation with the prosecutor, the battery charge was dropped. Marshall pleaded “no contest” to reckless driving and was given a five-day suspended sentence plus a $225 fine. However, the reckless driving conviction was then wiped from the records and reduced to a minor traffic infraction, “failure to exercise due care in regard to a pedestrian” – something akin to stopping in a crosswalk.

It helped that Marshall was a prominent Republican, and the prosecutor was the son of his business partner. Marshall has always denied he hit his neighbor, but his neighbor thought otherwise and filed a civil suit, which Marshall settled out of court. But, with that minor traffic violation behind him, Roger Marshall went on to become a US Representative, and he is now a Senator.

Last year, a Kansas Senator pulled off an even greater coup. About 2:30 in a morning in March, the 911 dispatcher received several calls about a white SUV driving the wrong direction on Interstate 70 in Topeka. A policeman gave pursuit, also going the wrong way, but the SUV ignored the lights and sirens and fled at speeds approaching 100 mph through Topeka, making multiple vehicles swerve to avoid head-on collisions. When the SUV was finally stopped, the driver reeked of alcohol and struggled to speak. The driver was none other than Gene Suellentrop, the Vice President of the Kansas Senate. After being taken into custody, Suellentrop was verbally abusive to law enforcement officers attempting to test his blood alcohol level. He called the arresting officer a “donut boy,” the officer wrote in his report and Suellentrop bragged that he could beat the officer in a fight because he had played sports competitively in high school.

Suellentrop refused to voluntarily take a breath test, and a search warrant had to be obtained to compel the senator to give a blood sample for testing. Even after the elapsed time, his blood alcohol was 0.17%, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08% in Kansas. The charges against Suellentrop, included a DUI, reckless driving, driving the wrong way on a divided highway, speeding, a felony attempt to elude the police, twice, and threatening to hurt the officer. That sounds like it should be some serious jail time.

But it wasn’t. The prosecutor said that since it was Suellentrop’s first offense, he should get leniency. How many first offenses does someone get? It seems like the first offense was driving while intoxicated, the second was driving the wrong way on a divided interstate, the third was speeding, the fourth was reckless driving, the fifth was avoiding a police officer, a felony, and the sixth was threatening the police officer. However, Suellentrop was a beneficiary of the Marshall plan. He was sentenced to six months in jail for the DUI.  It was reduced to 12 months supervised probation and a fine of $750. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail for reckless driving. It was reduced to six months of supervised probation with a $25 fine. Both probation sentences were to run concurrently, but he had to serve 48 hours in jail – time already served. The felony charge of attempting to elude police was dropped as part of the plea bargain. A felony conviction would have cost him his position in the Senate. His driver’s license was suspended until June of 2022, but after 90 days he was able to appeal for its reinstatement, and he already has his license back. Under public pressure, he was removed as Vice President of the Senate, but he remains in the Senate.

So – in summary – 12 months supervised probation and $775 in fines, and he gets to retain his Senate seat. Even Roger Marshall didn’t get a deal like that.

Partisan Politics Kills People: When Covid Came to Kansas

     Posted on Tue ,18/01/2022 by admin

“Had the United States Republican leaders developed strong guidelines for dealing with Covid 19, the Kansas Legislature would probably have followed them. However, no guidelines were forthcoming, and the pandemic became a partisan political issue. “

Covid-19 first appeared in the United States in January of 2020. It spread rapidly and by early March cases began to appear in Kansas. Two legislators were required to quarantine because they had been exposed to the virus. Governor Kelly declared a state of emergency and issued a series of executive orders designed to keep the virus from spreading. When cases began to appear in Topeka, some members of the Kansas House of Representatives became alarmed. Several of them had health problems that put them at risk. They realized that if they were exposed, the virus would be carried to all parts of Kansas when the legislature adjourned. They decided to pass the budget and adjourn as soon as possible.

To make sure someone was in charge of the virus response when the Legislature was not in session, the House passed a bill giving the Governor emergency powers to manage the virus response until January 2021. The Senate, however, did not want to give that much power to the Governor, saying she might take private property or take your guns away. She could not and would not, but that set up a week of haggling before the Legislature finally passed SB 40 which limited the Governor’s emergency powers. It put a time limit on the emergency declaration and gave the Legislative Coordinating Council, (LCC), whose majority is the Republican Leadership, the right to veto any of the Governor’s emergency orders.

The LCC and the Governor were able to reach acceptable compromises on most issues. However, with Easter coming up, the LCC canceled her executive order that limited the size of gatherings to 10. The Governor sued, and the court ruled she had the power to make decisions under the emergency declaration until April 25th. That prompted the Republican Leadership to call a Special Session to pass legislation to restrict the Governor’s powers. She vetoed it, and there were not enough votes to override her veto. Later, the Governor had to call another Special Session as it was necessary to extend the disaster declaration. There, the legislature passed legislation extending the emergency declaration, but it also gave counties the control of COVID restrictions. The Governor could not veto this, as it would have ended Kansas’s emergency declaration and cost the state billions of dollars in disaster aid. Giving the counties control of the Covid response turned out to be a disaster as many counties refused to enforce public health guidelines.

The Kansas Legislature did not set a good example. Our public health experts said we could stop the spread of Covid by wearing masks, following good hygiene practices, socially distancing, and avoiding mass gatherings. The first Special Session had rules for following those health guidelines, but the Republican leadership did not enforce them. It soon ended up with over 100 legislators, with few wearing masks, packed together in the House chamber. This was in violation of the public health restrictions, but the Republican leaders seemed not to care. By bad example, bad legislation, and inflammatory rhetoric, the Legislative Leadership politicized a public health issue and destroyed Kansas‘s opportunity to contain the virus. Those who complain about damage to the economy and the mental health issues caused by isolation have only the Legislative Leadership to blame. They managed to nullify the Governor’s plan to control the virus in the state, and that has been a disaster. By giving the counties control of the COVID-19 response, Kansas ended up with a patchwork of regulations across the state with 25 counties that followed the public health guidelines and 80 counties that did not.

For example, the Sedgwick County Commissioners immediately voted to relax the health guidelines. The number of Covid cases in Sedgwick County soon grew to over 11,000 with over 130 deaths – and the toll is still increasing. It is now at 75,671 cases with 891 deaths. The virus toll soon grew in Kansas to over 75,000 cases and over 1000 deaths and is now at 500,400 cases with 6,900 deaths. Humans are the virus’ main host, so every case increases the chance of further spread – or even mutation of the virus. This did not have to happen. Our Republican Leadership has shown that they are incapable of keeping us safe.

Vaccines for Covid 19 became available in December of 2020 and were made free to everyone in the United States. Two doses of the vaccine and a booster have proven to be effective in preventing or lessening the severity of Covid 19 and its variants. Booster shots are very important, as they make the vaccines more effective against the Omicron strain of the virus. In spite of effective, free vaccines, the number of cases of Covid in Kansas is still increasing. The partisan battles undertaken by the Kansas legislature have shifted from size restrictions on meetings, mask mandates, testing, and contact tracing – to resisting vaccinations. Though effective vaccines have been available for almost 2 years, over 39% of eligible Kansans still remain unvaccinated.

The Federal government mandated that Federal employees, healthcare workers, and employees in large private businesses either be vaccinated or tested weekly. The Kansas Legislature leaders were so incensed by this that they wanted to call another Special Session in November to discuss how to end the Federal government’s overreach. It is strange that Speaker Ron Rychmann supported this as he had a serious case of Covid in July. Though he kept it a secret and made light of it when discovered, he spent ten days in the hospital and was quite sick. Still, he fought to hold the Special Session with the goal of ending vaccination mandates. The November Special Session required the signatures of two-thirds of the legislators, but with a little help from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce (KCC), they were able to get signatures from all the Republicans. How did that come about?

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act allowed corporations who hid their intellectual assets offshore to bring them back at a reduced tax rate. During the 2019 legislative session, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce thought Kansas businesses that had hidden their assets offshore, should get a Kansas tax cut as well. The bill would have cost the state about $600 million over three years. There was little justification for doing that and it failed as a number of moderate Republicans opposed it. During the 2020 election, the KCC targeted the moderate Republicans and they were purged from the legislature. In 2021, the KCC got the tax it wanted but it had unintended consequences. The purge of moderate Republicans gave a supermajority to the far-right Republican legislators who were opposed to vaccines and public health restrictions. There is little the KCC could have done that would have hurt Kansas and its businesses more.

The Special Session to end Federal vaccine mandates ended up with a compromise bill which the Governor agreed to sign. It allowed employees to opt out of vaccines and required employers to accept medical and religious exemptions without question. If an employee is terminated for refusal to be vaccinated, they may file for unemployment. Employers who deny an exemption request or terminate an employee for not being vaccinated can be fined up to $50,000 per violation. This puts businesses in a tough position as the federal and state requirements are different. This comes in spite of the Republicans’ claimed pro-business stance, and their concerns that the depletion of unemployment funds might cause a tax increase.

Several states, including Kansas, sued the federal government to stop the vaccine mandates. This should have had little chance of success as there are precedents for vaccination mandates. A 1905 Supreme Court ruling, Jacobson v Massachusetts, upheld the state’s right to require vaccinations. Although the ruling only applied to Massachusetts, it made clear that the liberty we enjoy does not give us the right to act to the detriment of others. In December of last year, the Supreme Court refused to hear cases appealing New York’s and Massachusetts’ Covid 19 vaccination mandate for healthcare workers. These decisions reflected a long-standing precedent for upholding the ability of the government to impose mandatory vaccination requirements.

However, in January of 2022, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases concerning vaccine mandates, one involving businesses and one involving healthcare workers. If they had followed precedents, the Court would have upheld the mandates. Even the Justices who rely upon originalism should agree. George Washington ordered the Continental Army to be vaccinated against smallpox, and the soldiers complied. However, the Supreme Court upheld mandates for healthcare workers, but not for businesses. This ruling denied OSHA, which is charged with protecting the health of workers, the best way to protect workers from the Covid virus.

Kansas is now in the midst of another surge in Covid cases as the Omicron variant of Covid is spreading in the state. The Governor has just issued another emergency declaration, along with mandates, because the states’ ICU units and emergency rooms are filling up with Covid patients. The 2022 legislative session is just beginning, and we can only hope that the Kansas Legislature and the Governor will put aside partisan politics and form a united front to keep Kansas citizens safe.

Covid and Its Omicron Variant

     Posted on Mon ,10/01/2022 by admin

Coronavirus is the type of virus that causes common colds, but it can also cause more serious diseases such as SARS, MERS, or COVID – 19. The virus is only about 0.025 µm in diameter, far smaller than the human eye can see even with the best optical microscope. In comparison, a fine human hair is about 40 µm in diameter. When people talk, cough, or sneeze they eject small droplets which vary greatly in size but the average is about 1 µm. Each small droplets can hold hundreds of thousands of viruses and the droplets can persist in the air for several hours.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Coronavirus-2.jpg

This image is that of a coronavirus as taken by an electron microscope. The virus gets its name from the small structures on the surface which look like crowns. When the virus encounters a human cell, the crown attaches to the cell’s surface and injects its own RNA into the cell, which then takes over the cell mechanisms and produces copies of the virus. They eventually cause the cell to burst which can release up to 50,000 new viruses. The Omicron mutation of the virus has a second new type of crown – which makes it more effective at attaching to a cell.

COVID-19 Virus is a new virus in humans that entered the population for the first time in 2019. The virus cannot live long outside a human host, and the main vector for its transmission is those who travel to and from infected areas. We have little natural immunity to the virus and about 97% of those infected recover within 14 days. Particularly severe cases must be put on a ventilator to keep the patient breathing until the virus runs its course. The virus is sometimes lethal for the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Symptoms: The symptoms of the virus are headaches, fever, pink itchy eyes, coughs, sneezes, sore throat, tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, inflamed toes, and loss of smell or taste. The incubation period after exposure is from 5 to 14 days. People exposed may transmit the virus to others before they experience symptoms. However, some people with the virus may never have symptoms, yet still be able to transmit the virus to others.

Transmission: The virus is transmitted by direct contact between individuals from small droplets ejected when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. The social distance of 6 feet is usually enough to prevent the virus being transmitted directly. However, small droplets from coughs or sneezes may travel much further than 6 feet and may contain hundreds of thousands of viruses. The droplets may persist in the air for several hours. They eventually settle on surfaces where the virus may live for up to several days, depending on the type of surface. For example, the virus is found to exist for a day on cardboard and up to three days on tile or plastic.

Infection: The virus infects a person by entering through their eyes, nose, or mouth. It may happen from being near an infected person, particularly if they are coughing or sneezing. Small droplets that settle on surfaces are transferred when you touch the surface and then they may infect you when you touch your face. Once on your hands, you will transfer the virus to everything else you touch until you wash your hands or kill the virus with hand sanitizer.

Precautions: The best precautions aim to keep the virus from being transmitted from person to person. From what we know about the virus, the following guidelines have been developed to keep it from spreading:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home as much as possible, particularly if you may be sick.
• Keep a social distance of at least 6 feet from other people when you are in public.
• Avoid touching surfaces in public places. Assume anything you touch may be contaminated.
• Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your face, particularly rubbing your eyes.
• Wear a mask when in public, primarily to keep you from infecting other people. Remember you may spread the virus even though you have no symptoms.
• Avoid traveling to and from areas that have high levels of infection. Human movement is the main vector for the spread of the virus.
• Avoid gatherings, particularly those which have more than 10 people.

Get vaccinated. Vaccines are now available which are free and effective. Two doses plus a booster will prevent most infections or, in case of an infection, will make the symptoms much milder. Avoiding hospitalization is very important, especially now as many hospital emergency rooms and ICUs are overloaded with Covid – Omicron cases. It is much less likely that a fully vaccinated person will get the Omicron virus. Even if they do, it is usually a much milder case that does not require hospitalization. Over 90% of the patients in ICU or on ventilators with Covid have not been vaccinated. The Omicron virus tends to infect the upper respiratory system rather than the lungs, so it tends to be milder, but like any infection- it can move to the lungs.

Omicron and Masks: You may have heard that masks are less effective against the omicron strain of the coronavirus. That is NOT correct. An N95 mask blocks 95% of small droplets that are 0.05 µm in size, no matter what the droplet contains. Recent studies have shown that the omicron variant is more infectious because it is more effective at entering cells. Because of this, it takes fewer droplets to cause an infection.
Masks are still the most effective way to prevent the transmission of the virus from one person to another. If both people are wearing masks, there is a 99.8% chance that the virus will be blocked from being transmitted. If both people are wearing standard green surgical masks, the probability drops to 99% – but that is still pretty good.


The Future: Most states have issued orders based on the precautions above in order to keep their citizens safe. Some states were worried that the restrictions would hurt the economy – but they relaxed them too soon and we experienced the Delta and Omicron surges of the virus. That prolonged the pandemic and hurt businesses even more.

No matter what your state orders, it would be a good idea to follow the precautions above until the OK is given by healthcare professionals. It is imperative that you become vaccinated to protect yourself and your loved ones. The decision is ultimately yours. Please follow the guidelines above to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

The Beatles Get Back: An Inexpert Review

     Posted on Mon ,13/12/2021 by admin

I really like the Beatles so I was excited to see that “The Beatles Get Back” was now available on Disney. It was a three-part series with each part lasting over two hours. What could be better than almost 8 hours of the Beatles? It turned out it wasn’t exactly what I expected.

I first saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. Like most everyone else, I really liked them. They had a fresh new sound and immediately became a hit. I bought some of their albums, I listened to them on the radio, and I saw Paul McCartney perform when he was in Wichita in 2017. Other than that, I didn’t know much about what happened to them after they returned to England. I was interested in finding out more about their early years, their families, and what happened to them after the band broke up. I thought that this series would fill me in on that.

Part One started off great. It described how the band got together, their tours, how their popularity grew, and snippets of some of their greatest hits. They became so popular that they decided they would not perform in public because of all the commotion it caused. In 1968, they took a trip to India where they studied Transcendental Meditation (TM) with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The trip had an influence on their music and their lives as they denounced the use of drugs in favor of Transcendental Meditation. After that 20-minute introduction, the series shifted to the Beatles’ 1969 decision to perform in public again. The next two hours of Part One described Days 1 through 7 of practice for that new public performance. It gave some insight into their interactions and a bit of information about their special friends. Mostly, it was just them playing a bit, talking, and much smoking. It might be of great interest to diehard Beatles fans, but otherwise, it was mostly uninteresting.

Part Two was day 8 through 16 of practice, and very little of interest happened except that George Harrison decided to leave the band. John, Paul, and Ringo convinced him to rejoin the band – and they moved the jam sessions to Apple Studios. They changed their plans for their upcoming public appearance from Libya, then to outdoors in London, and finally to the rooftop of the Apple Studio.

Part Three finds them finally moving to the roof of the studio and giving their public appearance to the people who happened to be on the street below. It spent an inordinate amount of time focusing on the police officers who tried to close them down because of the public disturbance. Still, it was much like attending one of their concerts and the music was great. Unless you’re really a serious Beatles fan, I would recommend you watch the first 20 minutes of Part One and all of Part Three. That will be about two hours and 40 minutes long and you will get the flavor of the series without spending 8 hours.

I was curious about what happened to the Beatles after the band broke up. Though most people liked the Beatles, a few on the religious right considered them non-Christians and socialists. In 1980, John Lennon was shot to death on his doorstep by a religious fanatic. Yoko Ono, John’s wife, has since become known worldwide as an artist and activist. She has used Lennon’s fortune for philanthropic causes and to spread his message of peace and love.

In 1999, George Harrison was stabbed by an intruder who hated the Beatles and thought George Harrison was a witch. Harrison survived the attack but died two years later of lung cancer. He had earlier survived throat cancer which he attributed to years and years of heavy smoking. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are both alive and well and have recently been doing tours. They did one performance together that brought the house down with their rendition of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. However, their touring days now seem over. I felt very lucky to be able to see Paul McCartney on one of his last tours. 

Is Carbon Capture and Storage a Viable Option?

     Posted on Sun ,17/10/2021 by admin

The countries of the world have reached a consensus that we need to reduce our carbon emissions. One proposal to do that is to switch to a hydrogen economy. The problem is that currently about 95% of the hydrogen we use is made using fossil fuels, which is an energy-intensive process that produces more CO2. The fossil fuel companies plan to get around that is to capture the carbon produced and store it (CCS). The questions that must be answered are how to capture the carbon, where to store it, and how much it will cost.

It is possible to capture the CO2 and there are now several plants currently doing it. Much of the captured carbon is currently used to produce more fossil fuels, so there is little gain in doing it. The chart below will give you an idea of the magnitude of the problem. Currently, we are adding 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year. The amount of carbon currently captured is 0.006% of that, an amount so small that it could not even be seen on the chart.


If carbon capture could be scaled up to capture most of the CO2 we are emitting, then where would we store it? The most obvious solution is to store it where it came from. The carbon from coal is mostly from strip mines and open mines, and it cannot be stored there. For petroleum and methane, storing it back underground is a possibility. However, burning them combines them with oxygen – and increases the mass and volume by a factor of two or three. It would be impossible to store more than a fraction of the CO2 back underground.


Assuming we could capture the carbon and find a place to store it, what would be the cost? This would involve acquiring the land, building the thousands of CCS plants required, and providing the energy necessary for the process. That cost has been estimated to be about $5 trillion a year, at current prices, for the rest of this century. There are certainly much less expensive options available.


So there you have it, the amount of CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere is far too great to capture, there is no adequate place to store captured CO2, and the cost would be astronomical. However, the fossil fuel companies are willing to try if we subsidize their costs, fund their research, and wait 80 years. It will be painfully obvious, long before then, that CCS is unworkable. The best plan is obviously to stop putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a solution the fossil fuel companies are unwilling to accept.


The Effect of the Increasing CO2 on the Earth

     Posted on Fri ,27/08/2021 by admin

Science is about using observation and reason to understand the physical world. Here are some of the latest observations showing how increasing greenhouse gases are changing the Earth.

CO2: Man is now putting about 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year. About half of it dissolves in the ocean, making them 20% more acidic, and the rest increases the concentration in the air.

 

Temperature: CO2 is one of the greenhouse gases that warm the Earth, and NASA’s graph shows how its increase is changing the Earth’s temperature:

NASA GISS Data

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The Sun: The current global warming is often wrongly attributed to an increase in intensity of the sun. The sunspot activity does not show up above the noise in the temperature record above – and the solar irradiance increased slightly until 1960 and has declined slightly since then.

Arctic Ice: Many of the changes in the Earth are subtle but this NASA picture clearly shows  how the Earth is changing:

The Arctic is Warming: This is affecting the ocean currents and the jet stream – and causing extreme weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere.

Arctic ice:  The next two graphs show quantitatively how both the extent and the volume of the Arctic ice are changing.

Antarctica: Research by Steig and by O’Donnell  show that Antarctica is warming. The warmer oceans result in more snowfall which increases the inland glacier mass, but the erosion of ice by the warmer oceans is causing an overall loss of ice mass.

Antarctic ice mass from GRACE satellite data.
Antarctic ice mass from GRACE satellite data.

Greenland: The Greenland ice sheets are also beginning to decline. Melting Greenland’s ice would cause sea levels to rise 10 feet,

Ocean Level Rise: The melting ice sheets, melting glaciers, and thermal expansion are causing the oceans to rise by about 3 mm per year which, though it seems small, amounts to an increase in ocean volume of 1190 cubic kilometers/yr.

Severe Weather: Warmer temperatures increase both the rate of evaporation and the energy and moisture in the air. This has doubled the incidence of severe weather, floods, droughts, and wildfires.

Permission Courtesy of Munich Re.
Permission Courtesy of Munich Re.

Economic Costs: Large secondary insurance companies such as Suisse Re now consider global warming a risk factor as there has been a fivefold increase in billion-dollar weather events in the last 30 years.

Droughts:  Since 1980, drought conditions have grown worse worldwide, and no one disputes the effect of droughts on food production. Here is how droughts have become worse in the Southwest United States.

Food Production: The increasing CO2, temperatures, and droughts are expected to decrease food production worldwide.

Figure-28

Extreme Temperatures: Climate scientists now have enough data and computing power to estimate the probability of extreme weather events. The figure below, from a paper by Hansen et. al., shows how the distribution of temperature has varied over the past 60 years. Extremely hot temperatures, those over 3 standard deviations from the mean,  are now over 20 times as probable as for the 1950 – 1980 period and 10 times as probable as for the 1980 – 2010 average.  That means that extreme temperatures that affected 1% of the landmass in 1980, now affect almost 10% of the landmass annually.

Note: This was posted on 08/31/2011 and updated on 04/03/2012,08/11/2012, and 02/12/2013. It was reposted on 08/27/2021.

(c) 2011  J.C. Moore

Related

Science, Global Warming, and the Ice Age MysteryDecember 31, 2010 In “Climate Change”

Is Global Warming Naturally Occurring? November 12, 2010, In “Climate Change”

Science, Climate Change, and the Greenhouse effect December 13, 2010, In “Climate Change”

Tags: Acidic OceansAntarctica iceBillion-dollar weather eventsClimate ChangeCO2droughtsextreme temperature probabilities.global WarmingGreenhouse Effectice-agesJames-HansenKeeling CurveMunich ReNASA’s temperature graphOcean level risePalmer Drought Indexpolar ice meltingSolar irradianceSunsunspot activity

Why the Rich Are Getting Richer and the Poor Poorer

     Posted on Mon ,09/08/2021 by admin

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act (TJCA) really did a job on the American people. The results were predictable. A similar tax cut in Kansas in 2012 was a disaster for Kansas. It benefited the rich, led to a stagnant economy, took money from infrastructure and schools, and put Kansas far in debt. States cannot run a deficit, so Kansas finally had to make up for it in 2017 with the largest tax increase in Kansas history.  

The TJCA was based on the trickle-down theory which, as experience has shown, increases public debt and makes the wealthy wealthier – at the expense of the middle class and low wage earners. The CBO estimated that the TJCA would increase the national debt by almost $1.9 trillion over the next 10 years. It cut the corporate tax rate from 39% to 21% and allowed companies to bring their intellectual assets (GILTI) back to the United States at an even lower tax rate. Those who profited the most were the wealthy and corporations, as it gave permanent tax cuts to corporate profits, investment income, inheritance taxes, estate taxes, and preferential tax treatment to pass-through income*. Some banks, for instance, will pay far less than the 21%. Some of the tax cuts went to the middle class, but they will sunset in 2025 while the tax breaks for businesses and corporations do not sunset.

What is better than lobbying? It is electing Legislators who the large corporations can depend on to cut their taxes. For Republicans, adding to the national debt has always been anathema. Sadly, it was a Republican President and Legislature who passed the TJCA. The chart above lists some of the corporations who donated heavily to Republicans who they could depend on to vote to cut their taxes. It also lists the amount they gained from the tax cuts. Those corporations received about a 6000% return on their investments in electing compliant politicians. Not bad, especially when your bank pays you about 2%. Not only that, but the New York Times reported that there were 55 very profitable companies, such as Nike, FedEx, and Duke Energy, that paid no taxes at all last year. Considering subsidies, some of them had an effective tax rate of as much as a -50%.

Also, the US subsidizes oil and gas companies so that investors never lose. Every year, the U.S. federal and state governments pour around $20.5 billion in subsidies into the oil and gas industry. New research, published in Environmental Research Letters, puts a value on the effect that the16 tax breaks and exemptions will have on the 1,000 U.S. oil and gas fields projected to be built before 2030. The paper found that if fossil fuel prices stay high, most of the subsidies — 96 % in oil, 87% in gas— will go directly to the pockets of investors as profit. And if prices go down, these subsidies will help 60% and 74% percent, respectively, of new oil and gas fields to remain profitable.

So there you have it. If you’re wondering why you pay so much in taxes yet receive so little back, it is because your state and federal governments give away so much money to help the wealthy and profitable companies become wealthier and more profitable. Please consider that when you vote.

*A recent study by Treasury economists found that the top 1% of Americans by income have reaped nearly 60% of the billions in tax savings created by the pass-through provision. And much of that went to the top 0.1%.