Nel's New Day

August 8, 2019

Plant a Tree, Hug a Bee

Filed under: Climate change,Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:03 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The reign of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has badly split Republicans’ belief systems. While much of the media has concentrated on DDT’s enablers, conservative columnist Kathleen Parker has moved to the center since she started her column over 30 years ago in Orlando (FL). This one from late July resonated with me:

Sometimes big problems can be solved simply.

At the moment, our biggest problem — climate change — can be ended by simply planting trees. OK, so a trillion trees, according to a Swiss study published earlier this month in the journal Science. But how hard is that, really?

An equally serious and related problem is disappearing bees. Those cute little black-and-yellow-robed buzzers are essential to our survival, but our pesticides, fertilizers and climate change are killing them along with the insects we hate. Without bees, our ecosystems would collapse, and thus our food supply.

Over the top? Apocalyptic? Let’s just say, no. This is reality, and we have the means to change it: Plant trees, save bees. Since bees also like flowers, let’s go ahead and make America beautiful again. An emerging theory to combat crime in some parts of the country is called “busy streets.” Research has shown how simple cosmetic changes to urban communities — such as planting flowerbeds — can help reduce violence. And improve a city’s aroma to boot.

Saving bees and trees by planting with purpose would kill two birds, so to speak. If this sounds like a modern version of the Emerald City of Oz, I have no problem with that. Bees love poppies, which, though they provide no nectar, are an excellent source of pollen. That’s nothing to sneeze about, by the way.

Most people know that trees are good for them. They absorb CO2 (carbon dioxide), thus purifying the air for our breathing pleasure. Carbon dioxide is also one of the main greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere, leading to rising temperatures and climate change.

Estimates are that about 15% of emissions come from deforestation. Trees also curb other harmful gases, such as sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, again releasing pure oxygen into the air. If the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 150 million hectares of forests were lost, it would generate about three times the world’s total annual emissions in 2012.

But scientists, including Thomas Crowther, a co-author of the trillion-tree study, were quick to point out that planting trees alone wouldn’t work. And how does one go about planting a trillion trees? And where should they be planted?

Although tree-planting is a simple solution — effective and cheaper than any other remedies currently in circulation — it isn’t a simple matter to plant trees helter-skelter. A forest in the wrong place could have detrimental effects by upsetting the ecological balance.

But this seems a relatively easy obstacle to clear.

The countries with the most land available for building forests are Russia, China, Canada, Australia, Brazil — and the United States. The Switzerland-based researchers found that adding 1.2 trillion more trees would reverse 10 years’ worth of harmful emissions. Over the decades, Crowther says those new trees would absorb about 200 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere.

Several countries have signed up for reforestation, including the United States, which has seen an increase in its forestland, thanks in part to the Forest Service’s tree-planting initiatives. But we have to figure that the wreath of rainforests that fully wrapped around the globe until relatively recently was surely there for good reason. Satellite images show that the Amazon rainforest — the world’s largest — is disappearing at the rate of one and a half soccer-field-sized parcels per minute. What such decimation means to the planet’s future can’t be good — unless ridding the world of humans is Earth’s ultimate survival measure.

No trees, no birds, no bugs, no bees, no food, no humans. That’s pretty simple, too.

This past winter, a record share — 40% — of honey-bee colonies in the United States died, but bees aren’t the only ones disappearing. Forty percent of all the world’s insects are in decline, according to another recent study, leading scientists to declare that Earth is experiencing the Sixth Great Extinction. Nobody likes bugs — until they’re gone and their purposes finally appreciated.

Insects nourish birds and fish, serenade us to sleep. Animals pollinate 87% of flowering plant species. If current trends continue, there may be no insects by 2119, with one likely exception — the indestructible cockroach, whose sole purpose is apparently to recycle our messes, thus guaranteeing its survival after all else is gone.

April 12, 2018

The Judicial Branch, Sometimes on the People’s Side

Filed under: Judiciary — trp2011 @ 11:42 PM
Tags: , , ,

 

As the executive and legislative branches bring gloomy news into our homes, the judiciary branch sometimes provides for the rights of the people. From the past two weeks:

Lawsuits:

A federal judge upheld the Massachusetts law banning assault weapons because the U.S. Constitution does not cover military guns. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Second Amendment right for individuals to “bear arms” only for firearms kept in the home for self-defense. Last November the high court refused to hear a challenge to Maryland’s 2013 state ban on assault weapons.

A Montana judge determined that a properly trained advanced practice registered nurse and a certified nurse midwife may provide abortions in the state during the challenge of a state law allowing only physicians and physician assistants to perform abortions. Only the two plaintiffs in the lawsuit are covered by the injunction.

A federal court ruled that the EPA violated the Civil Rights Act by delaying investigations into environmental discrimination complaints for decades. The Flint (MI) case became a symbol of environmental racism from the 1990s when a black neighborhood fought a permit for a nearby scrap wood incinerator and were surrounded by armed guards at a hearing about the issue. The hearing was adjourned before community members could testify, and the incinerator spewed tons of lead into the air every year. The complaint was not resolved until the state caused lead from corroding pipes to spread throughout the city. Flint is not unique.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused an Arizona appeal regarding a 9th Circuit Court decision allowing DACA recipients to get driver’s licenses. Arizona is the only state, after Nebraska rescinded its policy, to attempt a law preventing DACA youth from obtaining these licenses.

Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment settlements of $45 million to at least six women have been unsealed after a New York court decision that ruled them judicial documents subject to public disclosure. The settlement required one accuser to lie under oath if necessary to hide information. The decision is part of an ongoing defamation suit.

A federal judge redrew boundaries in San Juan County (UT) that gave majorities to Navajo Indians in two of three commission districts and three of five school board seat, and Anglos say they feel “disenfranchised.” The county’s population of almost 17,000 has a minority of whites who complain that Navajo commissions won’t show up for meetings or know how to govern the county.

Filings:

China is suing the United States in a World Trade Organization court because of DDT’s proposed tariffs. The claim is discrimination against Chinese goods and violation of Washington’s commitment of tariff limits. If the situation isn’t solved by both parties within 60 days, China can ask for adjudication.

After a judge called Stormy Daniels’ filing to avoid arbitration “premature” because DDT has not filed a petition to compel arbitration, DDT’s lawyers filed the petition. Michael Cohen’s story about paying Daniels out of his own pocket leaves him open to charges such as defamation, professional malfeasance, fraud, and illegal contribution as well as Treasury Department investigation. DDT spent over $27,000 of taxpayer monies for TVEyes to track media the day after Stormy Daniels’ interview on 60 Minutes, “by far” the greatest amount DDT has paid the company and the highest payment by the Executive Office to the company since it began working with TVEyes in 2011.

Karen McDougal is suing the National Enquirer for buying her story about her affair with DDT and then suppressing it. This act led Robert Mueller to investigate the tabloid for protecting Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) while publishing negative propaganda about Hillary and Bill Clinton. his act could constitute an illegal campaign contribution. David J. Pecker, chair of the tabloid’s publisher, American Media Inc., is DDT’s close friend who worked with DDT’s lawyer Michael Cohen to protect DDT. The search warrant served on Cohen this past week included communications between him, Pecker, and Dylan Howard, the business’s chief content officer. The National Enquirer also suppressed a tip for a former doorman at one of DDT’s New York City buildings. He was given $30,000 for a story about DDT having an illegitimate child to the tabloid with the threat of charging him $1 million if he talked to anyone about the information.

A third woman, a campaign staffer, is suing DDT’s campaign for being forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement because it keeps her from telling about being subjected to a superior’s harassing comments and behavior.

Three weeks ago, the Center for Reproductive Rights received a temporary injunction stopping Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban that contravenes a Supreme Court ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016). A new complaint against Mississippi law challenges the ban punishing doctors for providing care after 15 weeks, a restrictive licensing system that singles out clinics providing abortions, the 24-hour mandatory delay and two-trip requirement, physician-only mandate, and the telemedicine ban. Mississippi has only one remaining clinic that provides abortions.

Daily Beast contributor and radio host Dean Obeidallah is suing Andrew Anglin after neo-Nazi The Daily Stormer accused Obeidallah of orchestrating the 2017 Ariana Grande concert bombing. The Daily Stormer may be forced to reveal its financial transactions through its shell company Moonbase Holdings because Anglin is in default by not responding to the first lawsuit.

After Juli Briskman gave a third-finger salute to the presidential motorcade passing her on her bicycle, she was fired because she posted a photograph of her action on her Facebook page. The contractor Akima cited a social media policy barring obscenity but admitted fear of federal retaliation. Briskman wants $2,692 for two weeks of promised severance pay and compensation for legal fees. Akima kept an employee who posted, “You’re a fucking Libtard asshole” in response to discussion of Black Lives Matter. Legal superstar Laurence Tribe explained that the firing undermines freedom of speech and Akima must be held accountable for its unlawful action.

California’s Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye has called for more specific rules that require state courts to disclose judges who settled resolutions regarding sexual harassment and discrimination. Documents show that the state’s court system paid over $500,000 in seven years to resolve sexual harassment complaints against judges and staff. California’s legislature already identified the name of lawmakers and staff in 18 cases of sexual harassment.

Elections:

The judicial system is looking up in Wisconsin after Progressive Judge Rebecca Dallet was elected to the state Supreme Court; she defeated Michael Screnock 56.5-43.5 percent for the ten-year term. Dallet’s election moves the state’s high court to a four-to-three conservative majority from the past five-to-two, and six of the seven justices are now women. The Walker-appointed state court judge forced him to hold a special election for empty legislative seats according to law, and the legislature wouldn’t support Walker in reversing the law.

In the executive branch, the DOJ has established a quota system for U.S. immigration judges to speed up their processing cases. The mandate to clear at least 700 cases a year for a “satisfactory” performance rating will be connected to annual performance reviews. The system also penalizes judges who refer more than 15 percent of certain cases to high courts or schedule hearing dates too far apart. Judges must complete 85 percent of removal cases within three days of a merit hearing to be considered “satisfactory.” Immigration judges complete 678 cases in an average year, but some clear far over 1,000, sometimes spending only a minute on a case. Although immigrations judges are supposed to have full independence, they are part of the executive branch, not the judicial branch, because they function as part of U.S. law enforcement.

The new mandates fail to recognize not only the supposed independence of judges but also the conditions of immigration court that deals with small children, people who don’t speak English, and those with extremely limited education. The evidence needed for court cases, such as medical records to prove they fled from persecution, can take time to obtain. Doctors performing an independent mental health evaluation may not get timely clearance into detention centers. With judges’ ratings based on how fast they finish a case, all final rulings will be suspect and therefore liable to appeals.

In an 18-minute episode on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver presented a type of “Immigration Courts for Dummies” as he walked his audience through the absurdities of deportation hearings. Most horrifying is that everyone— including three- and four-year-old children—who cannot afford a lawyer will not have one and thus required to represent themselves. A judge talked about teaching toddlers how to be their own lawyers. Watch the segment if you have the stomach for it.

If speed were of the essence, the government could provide an electronic filing system and more court clerks. Many times three judges are forced to share one clerk. Instead Sessions has eliminated the requirement that asylum seekers may have a full hearing before a judge.

Maybe all judges should be put into the judiciary branch.

 

January 6, 2018

The U.S. Headed for the Gutter

Left alone this weekend, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is still angrily tweeting about Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury and describing himself as “a very stable genius”:

“Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart….”

Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum describes DDT as “the country’s leading racist conspiracy theorist,” “the multi-bankrupt least trusted name in real estate,” and “the protege of Roy Cohn’s repeatedly accused of ties to organized crime.”  According to Frum, DDT’s danger is “not the man, but the system of power surrounding the man.”

DDT’s power system in just the past month:

Despite Department of Defense opposition, DDT wants to open drilling in all but one 26 areas currently off limits in the Arctic, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans and the Gulf of Mexico—over 90% of U.S. oceans. Atlantic-coast governors and legislators of both parties oppose the drilling from Maine to the Florida Keys. An oil spill the size of the Deepwater Horizon spill off the coast of North Carolina would cost almost 350,000 jobs and $35 billion in revenue. Even avid DDT supporters oppose his plan.

Republicans gave oil companies $500 billion this week when they let a tax of nine cents per barrel on domestic crude oil and imported crude oil and petroleum products expire, a tax used to respond to accidents. The current administration also plans to reverse safety rules created after the horrific Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and spill in 2010.

The Interior Department revoked a requirement for fossil fuel companies to reveal the chemicals in fracking fluids and regulations that tightened standards for well construction and wastewater. It also suspended a study on the safety of offshore drilling platforms and health risks of mountaintop-removal coal mining in central Appalachia. On February 8, 2018, two million acres of Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are available to mining and drilling for free. Gone are the wild red rock canyons, valued hunting and fishing, and tens of thousands of Native American archaeological sites while private companies reap the profits of the nation’s fossil fuel resources.

In addition to these rollbacks, the Interior Department renewed copper and nickel mining leases in the pristine Boundary Waters Wilderness Area, opening up the area to one of the most toxic industries. The leases are a gift to Chilean mining billionaire Andrónico Luksic, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s landlord for their house in Washington, D.C. People can oppose the decision by signing this petition and contact the Interior Department.

Other destructive administrative actions in December:

  • A plan to replace the Clean Power Plan.
  • Removal of climate change from global threats to national security, one of the Pentagon’s concerns. Exemption of the Endangered Species Act requirements in the $81 billion disaster bill.
  • Indefinite postponement of a previously announced ban of highly toxic chemicals methylene chloride, N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP), and trichloroethylene (TCE).
  • Executive order “streamlining” the leasing and permitting processes for exploration, production and refining of vaguely defined “critical minerals.”
  • Revocation of the Resource Management Planning Rule white advocated new technologies to improve transparency related to mining on public lands by stating that this rule “shall be treated as if it had never taken effect.”
  • Lack of prosecution for “incidental” killings of 1,000 migratory bird species by oil, gas, wind, and solar operators, illegal under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
  • Dramatic expansion of the neonicotinoid insecticide thiamethoxam proved damaging or deadly to bees.
  • Prioritization of oil and gas leasing and development near and inside greater sage-grouse habitat management areas.
  • Extinction of the beaverpond marstonia snail extinct, the first in DDT’s administration.

The DOJ may ask people about their citizenship status in the 2020 census, a move to skew the census’ ability to determine population for voting and federal funds. Since 1790, the decennial census, mandated by the U.S. Constitution, has been an effort to count everyone living in the nation, legally or otherwise. The question will further undercount the Hispanic population, giving white people an even greater advantage in elections. Families in the U.S. legally might decline to answer if they house friends or relatives who are not, increasing census costs for following up on nonresponders.

DDT is easing up fines for nursing homes that hurt or put residents in grave risk of injury. Since 2013, 40 percent of nursing homes—almost 6,500—have been cited at least once for a serious violation, and Medicare fined two-thirds of these homes. Some of these violations have led to the deaths of residents. DDT’s action follows the overturning of a ban on nursing homes from requiring residents to settle disputes through arbitration instead of court action.

Churches don’t pay taxes, but they’ll get tax money from the federal government after FEMA changed its guidelines to send them disaster relief funds. Religious institutions are now “community centers, without regard to their secular or religious nature,” FEMA said although “facilities primarily used for political, athletic, religious, recreational, vocational, or academic training, conferences, or similar activities are ineligible” for FEMA funds, according to the agency.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development will encourage continued racial segregation in housing by delaying until 2020 a requirement that communities submit plans to reverse patterns of racial residential segregation in applications for block grants and housing aid. Plans already filed will no longer be reviewed for segregation.

DDT erased the deal for federal funds to pay for half the multi-billion-dollar Amtrak tunnel connecting New Jersey to Penn Station.

Continued sabotage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) comes from encouraging substandard healthcare plans for small businesses and self-employed people that could defraud customers, refuse coverage for basic needs, and leave people with pre-exiting conditions and serious health needs with much higher premiums and fewer choices.

DDT has disbanded his election fraud committee after multiple lawsuits, including one from a Democratic member who sued to find out when the group would meet and what it’s agenda would be. An executive order turns the findings over to the DHS that will decide what to do next. Panel members were directed to keep their materials for future lawsuits. During the committee tenure, a 52-year-old Democratic commissioner died during surgery, and a staff member was arrested for possessing child pornography. The dissolution of this commission is less than a week after DDT fired every member of his advisory council on HIV/AIDS.

After DDT disbanded the voting fraud commission designed to suppress minority, women, and lower-income voting rights, he again claimed that a large number of people are voting illegally and called for voter suppression through mandated IDs:

“As Americans, you need identification, sometimes in a very strong and accurate form, for almost everything you do…..except when it comes to the most important thing, VOTING for the people that run your country. Push hard for Voter Identification!”

The DOJ is now supporting strict voter ID laws.

AG Jeff Sessions gave more money to employees by reversing a guideline about disabled people that requires them a greater chance at being in an integrated setting. Employing people in a segregated setting means that employees can be paid pennies on the dollar.

One DDT administrative plan with bipartisanship opposition is Sessions’ crackdown on state cannabis legislation. Despite federal belief that cannabis is equal to heroin, 46 states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes, sometimes reducing opioid and alcohol addiction, and eight states have legalized cannabis for recreational use. A law prohibiting the federal government from blocking state laws expires on January 19 with the end of the temporary spending bill, and Sessions is eliminating the “Cole memo” that stopped federal resources from interfering if states didn’t spread cannabis beyond their borders. Beyond the advantages of medical use, legalized cannabis has helped the economy through increased taxes and jobs. Legalization of cannabis could boost the market to $20 billion in annual sales that fund schools and other public services.

During his campaign, DDT promised that he would not use federal resources to block state laws; now he’s supporting Sessions, in opposition to 64 percent of the people in the U.S. who support cannabis legalization.

Conservatives are riled about Sessions impinging on states’ rights—usually a GOP position. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), known for supporting DDT almost 100 percent of the time, has said that he will put holds on all DOJ nominees in the six divisions needing senate confirmation if Sessions goes through with his crackdown. Gardner tweeted:

“This reported action directly contradicts what Attorney General Sessions told me prior to his confirmation. With no prior notice to Congress, the Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters in CO and other states.”

Within less than a year, DDT has declared war on all the offices that were created to protect people. He has trampled on endangered species, the nation’s resources, human rights, states’ rights, consumer protection, integration, health, open communication, transparency of government, any vestige of peace, and honor—every area that makes people’s lives better. He hates President Obama so much that he plans to destroy every accomplishment that benefits people while using his office to enrich himself personally and cause war around the world. The leader of the United States, a man filled with hate and revenge, is determined to drag the United States into the gutter. The question is whether the people in the nation will allow him to accomplish this goal.

June 28, 2017

Congress Churns Forward

Congress is getting ready for another vacation, gone for all next week for a week, before returning for a few days and disappearing for over a month. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has taken over for Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) as head of the House Oversight Committee and announced that he won’t bother with any investigation into the involvement of people such as Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner with Russia. Gowdy also ruled out looking into whether Trump White House adviser Jared Kushner’s security clearance should be revoked. This is the same man who spent millions of dollars and hundreds of hours examining Hillary Clinton’s email server and four deaths in Benghazi.

Chaffetz won’t be back to Washington after the break; he submitted his resignation in April. He did leave a legacy by calling on Congress to declare a monthly $2,500 housing stipend for each congressional member, equivalent to two annual minimum-wage salaries. Chaffetz is the same person who told people that they could pay for their health insurance if they didn’t buy an iPhone. People who asked why Chaffetz had quit a year and a half before the end of his two-year term now have their answer. He starts on Fox network Saturday—the day that he begins “retirement.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain (R-AZ), each met with Andriy Parubiy, founder of the neo-fascist Social-National Party of Ukraine that used Nazi ideology and Third Reich imagery. The SNPU banned non-Ukrainians and established a violently racist paramilitary group called the Patriot of Ukraine. Ryan called on “closer political, economic, and security relations between our legislatures,” and McCain said that he and Parubiy had a “good meeting.”

While the media concentrated on the egregious health care plan in the Senate and the Russian investigation into Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and his colleagues, the House passed a near-repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act. When the act was signed into law in 2010, it attempted to limit the riskiest types of securities to keep the United States out of another recession like the one a decade ago. Current Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin hates the Dodd-Frank Act because it keeps him from making more vast profits from disclosing on mortgages the way that he did before it went into effect.

Ironically the pro-Wall Street bill is called CHOICE Act. One part of it eliminates the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, requiring brokers to act in the best interest of their clients when providing investment advice about retirement. The legislation would also stop the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. from overseeing plans for banks with more than $50 billion in holding assets if they need to declare bankruptcy. It would also greatly lower capital requirements, a method of making bank safer by keeping them from loading up on debt.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) calls it the “Wrong Choice Act” because the anti-family, anti-consumer provisions block regulators from carrying out their jobs and allows big banks to ignore oversight. CHOICE allows banks to return to gambling in the market with federally guaranteed deposits and resume unlimited unfair banking practices to deceive customers. CHOICE permits unregulated payday and car-title loan sharks. If the bill passes, the president can fire the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and curb its oversight powers. The bill allows legislators to defund CFPB, the first step in doing away from it.

CFPB returned $11.8 billion to more than 29 million consumers defrauded by big banks, shady for-profit colleges, and debt collectors. Despite the banks’ record profits last year, they want to eliminate the rules that reduce foreclosures and protect borrowers.

The Dodd-Frank Act creates rules, processes, and organizations in the connected financial world of banks, hedge funds, mortgage originators, insurance companies, debt collectors, and payday lenders. Stripping away the pieces of Dodd-Frank is like mining by removing a mountain. With any luck, the CHOICE Act may not move through the Senate because eight Democrats would have to support it.

Before the Senate tackles CHOICE, it has to deal with the highly unpopular health care bill. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has found $188 billion, and he’s madly talking with reluctant GOP senators to bribe them with backroom “side deals.” Conservatives no longer want to use money to reduce the deficit. If he gets any kind of consensus, then he has to rush the revised bill to the Congressional Budget Office for another scoring in order to vote in the last two weeks of July. The bill has to be passed in coordination with the House by September 30 in order to need only 50 votes, and the Senate is in recess for all of August.

Compromise will be difficult: the far right wants no coverage mandates to lower premiums, and the right (called moderates) want more generous tax credits for the working class and less punitive Medicaid cuts. At least nine senators have said that they couldn’t vote for the present bill, and they’re split between those from states that expanded Medicaid and those who fought it. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wants permission for bare-bones plans that don’t offer much health care—back to life before the Affordable Care Act. McConnell continues to claim that Democrats won’t talk about the health care bill while Democrats are begging to be given a seat at the discussion table.

As could be expected, Democrats were upset about being left out of the process. In an odd twist, however, so were several Republicans. Those in the closed-door “listening sessions” reported that the leadership wouldn’t tell them what was and wasn’t on the table. They were just asked about what they could and couldn’t support. Some went so far as to say that the meetings were a box-checking exercise.  “I always believe legislation is best crafted through the normal order,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said. “I think it’s much better to have committee consideration of bills, public hearings and to have a full debate.” She was joined by a number of “moderate” GOP senators in calling on involvement of Democrats in the governing process.

The Senate has not had this type of closed-door partisan process to major legislation since before World War I, over a century ago. Don Ritchie, the historian emeritus of the Senate, said that Democratic leaders tried the same MO during the Great Depression, but senator revolted. A small revolt may be starting now as most GOP senators are non-committal about the bill. A  result of Senate support, people hate their version of Trumpcare even more than they hated the House bill. A USA Today poll reported 12 percent approval, and that newspaper is owned by Fox’s Rupert Murdoch. The House bill had gone as high as 20 percent approval.

The last time that members of Congress headed home for a recess, most of the Republicans refused to have town halls with their constituents. They will be increasingly reluctant this summer because the health care bills are causing far more anger than earlier—and the public was furious then. Some GOP legislators are using the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) as an excuse to avoid their voters. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) has an idea. During the last recess, he suggested that Democrats “adopt a district” as he did when he fielded questions in a town hall from constituents in a neighboring district after Rep. John Faso (R-NY) avoided any meetings. Rep. Reuben Gallego (D-AZ) “adopted” a neighboring district belonging to Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) when she wouldn’t host an event in her district. Maybe the idea will catch on this summer. Only two GOP senators—Jerry Moran (KS) and Bill Cassidy (LA) have scheduled town halls for the upcoming break.

A miracle did happen in the U.S. House during the past month! Republicans stood up for the environment! DDT’s budget eliminates more than 50 EPA programs, halves the scientific research, and decimates environmental enforcement and grants—in all, slashing $2.6 billion, 31 percent of the EPA’s budget. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) wasn’t buying the agency’s secretary, Scott Pruitt, when he defended the cuts by saying they didn’t need the funding. Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) defended the Great Lakes, calling them “a national treasure” and asking if Pruitt thought that it’s “fair to expect states and local communities to shoulder the burden of caring for them.” Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) opposed the 30 percent cuts in the Superfund program, affecting over 100 hazardous waste sites in his state. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) objected to zeroing out several tribal environmental grants and programs. It’s a start!

April 29, 2017

DDT: Nel’s 100 Day Report

“No administration has accomplished more in its first 90 days.” Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) statement might be right. Here’s a brief summary:

  • Jan. 21: The largest protest in history of the nation with the Women’s March
  • Jan. 28: Huge protests over Trump’s first Muslim ban.
  • Jan. 30: Order from Sally Yates for Justice Department to not defend Trump’s Muslim ban.
  • Jan. 31: Protests over Trump selection of Gorsuch for Supreme Court.
  • Jan. 31: Statehouse rallies to protest Trump’s immigration policies.
  • Feb. 2: 314 Action formed to promote science and scientists in politics.
  • Feb. 4: National judicial injunction against first Trump Muslim ban.
  • Feb. 7: National movement begins after Elizabeth Warren “persists.”
  • Feb. 7: First time in history that a VP had to break a tie for cabinet appointment.
  • Feb. 7: Launch of “Let America Vote.”
  • Feb. 9: Protest against Andy Pudzer’s nomination as secretary of labor.
  • Feb. 10: Rally for reproductive rights.
  • Feb. 13: Resignation of Michael Flynn as national security advisor.
  • Feb. 15: Withdrawal of Andy Puzder as nominee for labor secretary.
  • Feb. 15: “Day without Immigrants” protest.
  • Feb. 17: EPA employees protest against Scott Pruitt as Secretary of EPA.
  • Feb. 22: Millions of faxes to congressional offices supporting Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).
  • Feb. 25: Protests supporting transgender rights for students.
  • Feb. 25: Protests supporting the Affordable Care Act.
  • Feb. 25: Protests supporting a free press.
  • Feb. 27: Democratic win in Delaware special state senate election.
  • Feb. 28: Democratic win two of three Connecticut special elections.
  • March 2: Recusal of Jefferson Sessions III recuses from DDT-Russia connection investigations.
  • March 2: Protest march calling for resignation of Jefferson Sessions as attorney general.
  • March 15: Second Muslim ban blocked in court.
  • March 21: David Trott an example of GOP members of Congress afraid of their own “town hall” events.
  • April 5: Steve Bannon removal from the National Security Council.
  • April 6: Democratic filibuster of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court while GOP changes Senate rules.
  • April 6: Recusal of Devin Nunes from House investigation into Trump–Russia connections.
  • April 11: GOP bare win in Kansas special election, one of the reddest districts in the nation.
  • April 12: Continuation of GOP members of Congress running from their own town halls.
  • April 13: Vulnerable GOP congressman slammed at his town hall.
  • April 13: Children and Youth “Stand up to Trump” rally at White House.
  • April 17: Tax day protesters calling for Donald Trump to release his tax returns.
  • April 18: Democratic candidate within two points of majority, forcing runoff, in Georgia election for Newt Gingrich’s old district.
  • April 18: Protesters calling for removal of Bill O’Reilly for sexual assault.
  • April 19: Fox network firing of O’Reilly.
  • April 22: Hundreds of thousands of protesters in March for Science. [find sign from Ann]
  • April 24: Thousands of people at town hall meetings during the past two weeks for GOP members of Congress discouraging them from voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. https://business.facebook.com/AmericanProgressAction/videos/10154593852870847/
  • April 26: Failure to pass his budget that was postponed for another seven day
  • April 28: Failure put Trumpcare up for a vote.
  • April 29: People’s Climate March.
  • And much more!

DDT has been inspirational for country although he failed to pass any legislation, and almost all of his 30 executive orders were toothless–just setting up reviews or making comments. Others were blocked by the courts. The Guardian describes DDT’s signatures on “25 executive orders, 24 memorandums and 20 proclamations” during his first 93 days as “more cosmetic than substantive.”

The emphasis on the first 100 days of a U.S. president began with Franklin D. Roosevelt who faced a country in crisis on his first day, compared to DDT who inherited a growing economy and shrinking unemployment. A week after his inauguration, FDR reopened the banks and then restored public confidence in financial institutions with the Glass-Stegall Act, overturned 20 years ago. In his first 100 days, FDR signed 15 major pieces of legislation to alleviate the suffering in the nation and went on to create 250,000 jobs with the Civilian Conservation Corps and the predecessor of Social Security with the Federal Emergency Relief Act. His early successes led to the federal minimum wage, federal employees’ rights to unionize, the SEC, the Labor Relations Board, and on and on.

President Obama also inherited a disaster after the gigantic losses caused by George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy and expenditures for two enduring wars. A stimulus plan to stop the horrific loss of jobs and increases in home foreclosures was passed in eight days, and President Obama moved on to pass a budget resolution and major legislation on worker’s rights and health care that had been stalled or vetoed under Bush. At President Obama’s 100-day mark, polls showed an approval rate of 65 percent with only 29 percent disapproval.

What DDT has done:

  • Bombed two countries without provocation and alienated at least nine allies.
  • Overturned most of his promises for the “first 100 days” and charted up the greatest number of flip-flops.
  • Achieved the lowest approval rate during this time of any other president.
  • Collected a cabinet full of members who universally work to overturn their agencies’ missions.
  • Continued making money off his businesses in violation of the constitution’s emoluments clause.
  • Lost at least 16 of his nominations and hirings because of ethics problems, Breitbart smears, or “disloyalty.”
  • Revoked several orders from President Obama such as now giving “hunters” permission to kill bear cubs in their dens during hibernation while on federal lands.
  • Spent more on personal travel in less than 70 days than President Obama did in eight years.
  • Golfed more times—at least 17—than his predecessors put together.

Leonard Pitts wrote:

“The 12 weeks since January 20 have seen more scandal, international incidents, incompetence, instability, lies and jaw-dropping embarrassments than the previous 12 years combined. America is threatened as it has never been before.”

Mark Sumners list of DDT’s “Bans, Bombs, and Chocolate Cake” shows that no modern president has promised more and provided less. He sees his work as occasionally talking with foreign leaders, signing orders, and leaving all his responsibilities to others–primarily his son-in-law Jared Kushner. DDT’s total accomplishment has been to create a culture in U.S. leadership, law enforcement, and society of cruelty, polarization, and fabrication of facts while putting a person with the same philosophy on the Supreme Court. People in the United States now live in an atmosphere of hatred, fear, violence, and prejudice.

DDT promised to do the following on his first day: repealing President Obama’s healthcare, fixing the VA, putting a 35-percent tariff on companies that move offshore, designating China a currency manipulator, reverse every Obama executive order, propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress, and starting work on the wall. He promised a plan to defeat ISIS within 30 days. DDT reversed his opinion on China, signed one executive order on the VA, failed to repeal the health car, and has only enough money to build seven miles of the 2,000-mile wall. There is no plan to defeat ISIS.

On the campaign trail DDT described the United States as a dystopia and said that he would “make America great again” so quickly that “your head will spin.” People will get tired of winning, he claimed, but “I alone can fix it.” The only problem in the nation, according to DDT, was the problem of “stupid” leaders who didn’t know how simple these issues are. DDT discovered after his inauguration that some of these issues were “hard” and “complicated,” so much so that he has no legislative victory during his first 100 days even with a GOP-controlled Congress. There is no winning yet.

DDT’s economic plans are tax cuts for the rich, deregulation for the powerful, and wage suppressions the rest of the people. His overarching goal is to create the dystopia that he described. His white supremacist adviser Steve Bannon promised to “deconstruct” the United States, and the result is to destroy the essence of the nation by blending kleptocracy, government by leaders seeking only wealth and power, and kakistocracy, government by the worst leaders. EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt is a prime example because he plans to return the U.S. to a land of contaminated water and smog-filled air—in short, a plan unfit for habitation. DDT’s friend Carl Icahn picked Pruitt for the job because Pruitt opposed an ethanol rule that cost one of Icahn’s refineries over $200 million a year. Pruitt had already sued the EPA 14 times, 13 of them on behalf of his campaign donors and workers. DDT’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, says that climate science expenditures are “a waste of money…. We’re not spending money on that anymore.” DDT tried to build his supporter base by executive orders with the promise of bringing back coal jobs, but a few thousand jobs weren’t enough to raise his approval rating.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, who vowed to do away with the agency if he could remember its name, administrated one of the worst states in the nation in terms of health and education. Texas’ schools are among the worst in the nation, and the rates of teen mothers and uninsured people are among the highest. Perry is a strong supporter of pipelines; the two approved will provide 75 permanent jobs but create billions in losses for taxpayers from oil spills.

The latest Gallup poll gives DDT 41-percent approval rating, the lowest at this time of any presidency since polling on this issue started. Almost half of respondents—45 percent—told an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that DDT is off to a “poor start” in office. Forty percent said “good” or “great” start compared to 54 percent who said the same thing about President Obama for his first 100 days. Only 25% of people in a NBC News poll consider Trump honest and trustworthy, and only 27 percent consider him “knowledgeable and experienced enough to handle the presidency.” Only 21 percent said he had the “right temperament.” Fifty-seven percent said that the government should do more to solve problems compared to the 39 percent who think government does too much—the most progressive response since the poll began asking the question 20 years ago. About having his daughter and son-in-law in his administration, 61 percent disapprove.

Yes, DDT, no other administration did more in the first 90 days in vulgarity, lying, fraud, uncaring ignorance, and vindictiveness. He doesn’t even have the courage to go to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner today; instead he’s holding a rally to campaign for 2020. Peter Dreier pointed out on The Nation, DDT revitalized Alec Baldwin’s career and expanded Melissa McCarthy’s visibility on Saturday Night Live.

More sources about DDT’s first 100 days: A list;  damage to the workers; more harm to workers; business giveaways; failures in the Middle East; disasters in Asia/Pacific; harm to women and familiescorporate government; and   environmental damage.

About the presidency, DDT said, “I thought it would be easier.” It’s harder on the rest of us.

March 21, 2016

The U.S. Needs Another Frances Perkins

 

A century ago, the United States suffered from horrendous income inequality, rampant disease, atrocious living conditions, debtor prisons, and warehouses of mentally ill people. Although some people lived well in the 1920s, GOP president Herbert Hoover in his first elected position, drove the country into the greatest economic depression in its 250-year history through his pro-business and anti-government beliefs. Anti-civil rights, he appealed to white Southern voters with his use of religion in his campaign that warned people against voting a Catholic into the presidency. By the end of his four-year term, Hoover understood that his drastic tax cuts contributed to the disaster of the 1930s, but his change was too little, too great. Franklin D. Roosevelt was swept into office with an over 57 percent mandate.

FDR is typically given credit for the New Deal, beginning in his first 100 days, that instituted Social Security, minimum wage, work-hour limitations, CCC, etc.  Two people behind this 180-degree transition from Hoover’s catastrophic policies were two women—FDR’s wife, Eleanor, and the first woman in a presidential cabinet, Francis Perkins, who FDR appointed after his wife’s urging.

Perkins’ activism began in 1911 when she witnessed the deaths of 146 workers, primarily young Jewish and Italian women, during the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Horrified as she watched many of them die when they jumped from the fire, Perkins helped shape 30 pieces of legislation in fire safety and working conditions during Al Smith’s four terms as New York governor of New York, the most progressive governor in the nation. Perkins continued her work in New York in 1929 after that state’s new governor, FDR, picked her for Commissioner of Labor. During that time, she showed that Hoover’s claim of improving unemployment was false and moved FDR into national leadership.

frances perkins bookPossibly the best book about Perkins is Kirstin Downey’s The Woman behind the New Deal. The opening paragraphs of the book illustrates Perkins’ dedication to her cause in her conditions of FDR’s offer to become his Secretary of Labor:

“She ticked off the items: a forty-hour work week, a minimum wage, worker’s compensation, unemployment compensation, a federal law banning child labor, direct federal aid for unemployment relief, Social Security, a revitalized public employment service, and health insurance.”

FDR accomplished all these and more during his first of four terms: the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration putting millions of unemployed men to work, and the Civil Works Administration and the Public Works Administration that evolved into the Works Progress Administration.

Created during World War I, FDR’s “NRA” (National Recovery Act) was a way to “stabilize” prices that gave workers higher wages and the right to organize and collectively bargain in unions. Unfortunately, it didn’t go far enough because of the government’s lack of enforcement and toleration for labor inequalities—blacks and women could receive lower wages for doing the same job as men. Other weaknesses came from large companies that led writing the bill and used it to drive up prices, limit production, lay off workers, and divide markets among themselves at expense of smaller competitors. Even so, it moved the nation forward until the Supreme Court ruled the NRA unconstitutional in 1935. Other similar laws took its place but not before successful programs were interrupted.

FDR’s death was the end of Perkins’ great influence. President Harry Truman remembered that Perkins had given him his first federal job and fired her. She asked to be head of the Social Security program, but instead Truman made her one of three Federal Civil Service Commissioners. She resigned that position after her husband died and she no longer had to support him and her daughter, both bipolar. Perkins worked into her 80s, teaching at Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School. Her last lecture was two weeks before she died.

 

inequalityA century after Perkins began her reforms, the U.S. has the worst inequality in the developed world. The new Robber Barons have rolled levels back to the 18th century to where it’s more severe than it was in 1774.

Labor union membership shrank to 11.8 percent of the total workforce and only 6.6 percent of the private sector—percentages equal to 1900.

mentally illMentally ill people are now warehoused in prisons after being turned out on the streets instead of held in mental institutions. The three biggest jail systems—Cook County (IL), Los Angeles County, and New York City—have over 11,000 prisoners under treatment each day compared to the combined 4,000 beds in the three largest state-run mental hospitals.

Private companies now make money off prisons just like a century ago when private companies made profits off Convict Leasing—prisoners employed outside prison during the day and returned at night. Abuse, brutality, and neglect along with official corruption so rampant that prisoners barely survived longer than ten years, calling for more labor. Simple assault led to eight year sentences of hard labor, larceny was 20 year in prison, and stealing $5 of goods meant 12 months jail time–sentences mostly for black people.

Prison privatization leads to contracts with “occupancy guarantees” mandating a minimum number of occupied beds for prisoners, leading to the same abusive treatment as a century ago. At least 65 percent of all private prison contracts have such guarantees; Arizona has a 100-percent guarantee. With an imprisonment rate of almost 50 percent higher than Russia and 320 percent higher than China, the U.S. incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation. This nation imprisons more types of criminal offenders, including non-violent and drug offenders, and keeps them imprisoned longer than other developed countries. Prison overcrowding leads to putting violent offenders with non-violent prisoners. Many states face fiscal crises because of paying $20,000 to $30,000 per year for each prisoner. Five states pay more for prisons than higher education.

In 2010, just two prison corporations made $3 billion in profit. Judges have been found taking bribes for these companies to harshly sentence juvenile offenders—two judges making $2.6 million—because they provide the best labor.

The U.S. prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, uniforms, belts and shoulder belts, vests, ID cards, shirts, pants, tents, backpacks and flasks for the country`s army. In addition, prisons produce 98 percent of installation tools; 46 percent of bulletproof vests; 36 percent of home appliances; 30 percent of headphones, microphones, megaphones; and 21 percent of office furniture, aircraft and medical equipment; etc. (Imagine the low rate of unemployment if companies had to hire non-prisoners to make these items!)

Self-financing prisons means no economic pressure to close them. Corporate interests want to keep as many people in prison as possible.

Judges create debtor prisons by jailing people with no money to pay fines. Debtor prisons were abolished by federal and some state laws in the 1830s, and three Supreme Court rulings have declared that debtor prisons are unconstitutional. Yet almost one-third of the states permit poor people in prison for failure to pay even minor fines. These 15 states have the highest incarceration rates. With “poverty penalties”—late fees, payment plan fees, interest, etc.—people cannot pay their way out of prison. Alabama charges a 30 percent collection fee, and Florida allows private debt collectors to add a 40 percent surcharge on the original debt. People have no right to a public defender in some Florida county collection courts.

Public health almost eradicated such diseases as whooping cough, mumps, rubella, polio, and TB, but that success is being reversed. The religious right’s War on Science rejecting vaccinations and the loss of funding for public health is exposing people to a return of these and other diseases.

Monopolies were broken up a century ago because they are a threat to both economy and democracy, but the country no longer protects anti-trust enforcement. The result is loss of labor unions, increase in cost of living, and stagnating economy. Monopoly wipes out competition, but Milton Freedman and Alan Greenspan said that monopolies are good for free markets. Standard Oil and AT&T are back in control, and Monsanto monopolizes seed production.

Media monopolies are supporting oligarchies. Nine-nine percent of the 1,500 daily newspapers are the only one in each city. All but a handful of the 11,800 cable systems are monopolies in their cities. Just a few formats dominate the 11,000 commercial radio stations in all the cities. Only a few meagerly financed public stations offer any alternative to the four commercial television networks and their affiliates. Wall Street is a prize monopoly.

The nation’s Gilded Age of a century ago was characterized by excessive corporate influence, blatant corruption, and wars that made money for huge companies. For over 35 years, the U.S. sent Marines to overthrow governments to Central America and the Caribbean because they couldn’t pay debts to Wall Street banks. The wars stopped in 1934, the year that the Glass-Steagall Act regulated Wall Street. Now the oil and weapons corporations are making money off the Middle East. Iraq’s domestic oil industry, fully nationalized and closed to Western oil companies before George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion, is now largely privatized and completely dominated by foreign firms.

After decades of building the country’s infrastructure, the middle class, care for the mentally ill, and the reduction of poverty for the elderly, the government, now largely controlled by Republicans who declare gridlock if they don’t get everything they want, are killing the United States through corporate greed in prisons and wars. A century ago, Theodore Roosevelt began the great expansion of national parks; now the GOP wants to sell off all these lands. Ecological activists made inroads in the destruction of this nation until “conservatives” began to take over in the last half century.

Frances Perkins changed the United States and brought it into the 20th century; Republicans have taken this nation back to the 19th century. We need another Frances Perkins.

August 13, 2015

Toxic Spill a Lesson for Protecting the Environment

The Tang-colored Animas River in Colorado has recently been the subject of media mutterings with conservatives blaming the EPA for all the problems. Conservative officials, including New Mexico Gov. Susanna Martinez, are demanding that the EPA pay for all the cleanup and accusing the agency of incompetence.

yellow river

For those who haven’t kept up with the disaster that started in Colorado and moved downstream, the EPA was investigating an idled mine, the Gold King Mine near Silverton (CO), and trying to drain the heavy-metal-laden sludge that had been slowing leaking out into the Animas River. Instead, workers breached an unstable dam eight days ago, releasing three million gallons of the waste. The agency made no announcement for almost 24 hours and then underestimated the amount by two-thirds.

The Gold King, out of operation since 1923, is one of approximately 22,000 abandoned hard rock mines leaking toxic substances into the state’s waterways. (There may be 500,000 of these in the United States.) Mining exposes acidic minerals, and heavy metals and groundwater can wash them into rivers. This particular spill includes aluminum, lead, arsenic, and cadmium with tests downstream at Durango showing arsenic and lead levels peaking at 300 and 3,500 times historic levels. Despite the current fear, however, the levels of metal dissipated rapidly and only one fish of 108 in cages died during the first 24 hours. Prior to the spill, the Animas and San Juan Rivers had alarmingly high levels of human fecal bacteria. About 40 percent of Western headwaters have already been contaminated by these mines.

Within four days, the 500 gallons per minute emitted from the dam was diverted into two nearby settling ponds. The EPA plans to treat the waste so that it can be released into the river. By that time, however, the materials already in the river had gotten to Farmington (NM), more than 80 miles downriver where the Animas feeds into the San Juan River, on its way to Lake Powell and into the Colorado River. Towns shut off intake valves before the water arrived, but residents with wells within the floodplains of the Animas and San Juan have been directed to have their water tested before using it. The rivers will also be closed to drinking, irrigation supply, fishing, and recreation until at least August 17.

The water color has gone back to normal, but toxic metals settling in the river bottom can cause problems when disturbed by storm runoffs. Contamination in the area is not new: the Cement Creek where the problem originated was declared undrinkable in 1876. During most of the history of the West, miners were not regulated in their burrowing for gold, silver, and other valuable minerals. As they dug, they hit water that reacted with air and pyrite (iron sulfide) to create sulfuric acid and dissolved iron before it dissolved other metals such as copper and lead. The result is water with heavy metals.

Miners just dumped the water in creeks or put it in ponds with their tailings, making the water more acidic. The mines near Silverton are the worst, causing the largest untreated mine drainage in the state. Ronald Cohen, an environmental engineer at the Colorado School of Mines, said, “Problematic concentrations of zinc, copper, cadmium, iron, lead, manganese and aluminum are choking off the Upper Animas River’s ecosystem.” For several years, the EPA wanted to declare the area as a Superfund site to bring funding for cleaning up the mess. The people in the area resisted, worried that the label would be toxic to tourism. Recently, the town agreed that the EPA could call the site “the National Priority List” and let the EPA work to improve water quality near the mines.

The conspiracy crowd decided that, based on a letter to the editor of a local newspaper, the EPA deliberately caused the spillage “to secure Superfund money. If the Gold King mine was declared a Superfund site it would essentially kill future development for the mining industry. The Obama EPA is vehemently opposed to mining and development.” The EPA takes full responsibility for the debacle, but Gina McCarthy, the head of the agency, is almost sure to be appearing before a Congressional hearing.

The accident started when the EPA tried to plug the Red and Bonita Mine just below the Gold King mine. To keep water from flowing out of that interconnected mine, the EPA tried to reconstruct the portal at the Gold King to check changes in discharge caused by the Red and Bonita Mine bulkhead. Workers started in July, and the toxic water flowed on August 4.

Todd Hennis, Gold King’s owner, said that he predicted for the past 14 years that the situation was getting worse and tried to do something about the discharge. He blames Kinross Gold, a deep-pocketed Canada-based multinational mining giant, for using influence to reduce its liability for treating polluted water and passing the risks to nearby mines. The Kinross-owned Sunnyside Mine is at fault for the accumulation of wastewater, according to Hennis. In the mid-1990s, Kinross received permission to plug a part of the Sunnyside Mine called the American Tunnel after Hennis complained about the discharge of 165 gallons a minute from Sunnyside when he tried to reopen the Mogul gold mine. Before that time, Gold King discharged seven gallons a minute, but the Kinross project increased that to 250 gallons of water a minute. Hennis claims that the wastewater came from Sunnyside Mine through drill holes and natural fractures in the ground.

Although no actual mining is being done at the Gold King, Hennis completed $10 million in exploration during the 1990s, including 400,000 ounces of gold and four million ounces of silver. The mine also has large deposits of tellurium, used in high-tech alloys. Hennis just wants to find a buyer.

Locals aren’t the only people to blame the EPA and the president, and the message has gone viral in right-wing Internet blogging. Even the less conservative media fails to point out that the mining industry had no regulation until 1970. Since then, conservative members of Congress have fought for no regulations, claiming that it’s just “big government.” With a large majority in Congress and many states, lawmakers are constantly attacking the EPA and its mandate to “protect” the environment. While the Koch brothers pay for legislators to deregulate, the mainstream media reports nothing. For example, Republicans pushed deregulation in West Virginia responsible for the chemical spill because they want businesses to make more money.

Jonathan Thompson pointed out that pollution in the Animas is not new. Miners didn’t stop pouring their tailings into the creeks and rivers until the 1930s, and portals and shafts blasted into the mountainsides pull water flowing through fractures into mine tunnels and cause the contaminated water. When a huge tailings pile northeast of Silverton was breached in 1975, the 50,000 tons of heavy-metal-loaded tailings turned the Animas into aluminum color. Three years later, the American Tunnel was bored at Sunnyside Mine, and Lake Emma burst through, sending 500 million gallons of water throughout the mines, picking up tailings and sludge before blasting it out of the tunnel and sending it downstream. By 1991, many of the 400 mines released unmitigated discharges into streams. No fish could be found downstream from Silverton.

There is no doubt that the EPA made a mistake. If they had done nothing, however, the same thing would likely have happened with water and sludge breaking through the faulty dam. Many people believe that the disaster alerted people in Durango to the current problems; they may pressure those up in Silverton to accept Superfund and get some of the mess cleaned up. Durango cleaned up in the early 1990s with no problems to tourism and property values, and the tourism mecca of Moab (UT) is also being cleaned up.

The disaster could also save the Grand Canyon, one of the “Most Endangered Places” in the United States. Last April, U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell ruled against a request by the Havasupai tribe and a coalition of conservation groups to halt new uranium mining next to Grand Canyon National Park, just six miles from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. The U.S. Forest Service is allowing the Canadian mining firm Energy Fuels Inc. to reopen a uranium mine without formally consulting with tribal authorities or updating a 30-year-old federal environmental review. Wildlife, including the endangered California condor, will be threatened, and toxic uranium mining waste, a toxic heavy metal and source of radiation, will contaminate aquifers and streams that maintain the Grand Canyon and Colorado River. Geologists say that cleaning up such contamination will be “next to impossible.”

Uranium mining also spreads radioactive dust through air and leaks radioactivity and toxic chemicals into the environment. Every uranium mine ever operated in the United States has required some degree of toxic waste cleanup, and the worst have sickened dozens of people, contaminated miles of rivers and streams, and required the cleanup of hundreds of acres of land.

grand canyon

President Obama could protect the Grand Canyon by proclaiming its watershed a national monument. But Boehner would issue another press release complaining about the president’s “overreach.” Take a good look at this photograph of our national treasure because it, like many other important parts of our legacy, will disappear if conservatives get their way.

April 7, 2014

Ryan, Conservatives Support Increased Climate Change

Last summer thousands of king salmon in Alaska died because the hot, dry weather that broke heat records. Maine commercial lobster catchers are losing money because massive crops are bringing down prices. The industry is still reeling from the bacterial shell disease that destroyed 80 percent of the stock off Rhode Island and Connecticut coasts in 1999. Dr. Robert Steneck, University of Maine, called this “an ecosystem way out of balance.”

The 2012 drought that covered 80 percent of the United States raised feed prices to a record high, making meat prices much higher. Last year, the “severe drought” in 67 percent of Texas, the biggest cattle-producing state, was up from 33 percent the year before.  These are all effects of climate change that are hurting the United States right now.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) new budget would make the disasters worse:

  • Blocks environmental regulation, especially EPA’s plan to regulate CO2 from coal-fired power plants. Expands fossil fuel use, calling for legislation that Ryan claims is caught up in “complicated bureaucratic approval processes”—most likely the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Defunds environmental programs by curtailing domestic discretionary spending, including spending for public lands and conservation programs.
  • Reduces investment in transportation and infrastructure because he thinks that greater fuel efficiency has contributed to the deficit through less taxes.
  • Distributes money to Big Oil.

Ryan’s budget came out at about the same time as the second of four planned reports from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: a summary of “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.” The cautious report should cause terror although it omits the potential catastrophic impact of the planet warming from 7 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, there are few studies in this area because climate scientists thought, until recently, that people would try to slow down the disastrous climate change. It’s not happening.

climate

[Left – warming based on the report and taking action; right – levels of nine degrees over much of the United States.]

According to the report, impacts of climate change are likely to be “severe, pervasive, and irreversible.”

  • We’re already experiencing the impacts of climate change: shrinking glaciers that change river courses and water supplies; shifting ranges and behavior of species from grizzly bears to flowers; drops in wheat and maize yields.
  • Heat waves, wildfires, and coastal flooding are major threats in North America, causing death and damage to ecosystems and property. Athletes and outdoor workers are especially at risk. Europe faces freshwater shortages; and Asia should expect more severe flooding from extreme storms.
  • Food sources will become unpredictable, particularly with a booming population. Lower crop production leads to increased malnutrition, already affecting nearly 900 million people. Maize, wheat, and rice are at risk, and the ocean will be a less reliable source of food as important fish resources in the tropics either move north or go extinct. Ocean acidification will eat away at shelled food sources such as oysters. Lower supplies and higher prices increase food insecurity and social tensions, leading to conflict.
  • Flooding and erosion will increase in coastal communities, erasing metropolitan areas, military installations, farming regions, small island nations, and other ocean-side places. Damage from hurricanes and other extreme storms will also bring risks of “death, injury, ill-health, or disrupted livelihoods.”
  • People will become less healthy: heat waves and fires cause injury, disease and death; decreased food production means more malnutrition; and food- and water-borne diseases make more people sick.
  • Climate change means a need for more money.
  • An increase of climate refugees and climate-related violence can increase civil wars and international conflicts through additional poverty and competition for resources.
  • Violent conflict increases vulnerability to climate change because it harms assets that can help adaptation such as infrastructure, institution, natural resources, and livelihood.

The last two put together are terrifying. Climate change will cause conflicts, and conflicts will cause climate change. 

People can still reduce global warming by cutting emissions, but cable reporting is not likely to help people understand that even low levels of climate change will cause “breakdown of food systems” and “violent conflict.” CNN gave the report one minute and eight seconds in two segments. In comparison, people watching MSNBC could see 19 minutes and 49 seconds. Almost all the five minutes on Fox attacked the idea of studying climate change with no idea what the report contained:

  • “[It’s] alright for you to exhale without paying tax to the United Nations.”—Claudia Rosett on Neiil Cavuto’s program. The journalist-in-residence at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies recommended “doing things to stop North Korea.
  • Bill O’Reilly accused climate change activists of wanting to “destroy [the] economy or allow villains like Putin to blackmail with his fossil fuels” based on a “phantom global warming theory” when “no one knows whether it’s true.”

Stephen Colbert had more about the report than either Fox or CNN, and Jon Stewart had a ten-minute rant in January. Young people watch The Colbert Report and The Daily Show; maybe there is hope for them.

Last week, the U.S. House tried to stop study of climate change by passing a funding bill to improve forecasts of “high impact weather events” like tornadoes and hurricanes “for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy.” The House hasn’t passed a major weather-related bill in 22 years, and tornadoes are eminent. Yet these events are killing fewer people, frequently because they cannot afford better-built homes. There was no mention of increasing lower-profile weather and climate disasters that kill far more people every year. Heat waves now kill more people in the U.S. than floods, lightning, tornadoes, and hurricanes combined. Weather-related accidents kill 6,000 people per year—10 times more than heat waves do.

causes of death climate

The U.N. report probably won’t make any difference. As Andy Dessler, professor of atmospheric science at Texas A&M University, said, “If people are persuaded by evidence, they would have been persuaded long ago.” Conservatives blame President Obama because he can’t force GOP members of Congress to believe in climate change. An article in The Hill stated, “The skepticism of Republicans is exacerbated when Democratic lawmakers and Obama push for new regulations, such as the push for stricter fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks.” The conservative take is that corporations and conservatives would magically do something about climate change if there were no regulations.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) said the polarization over climate change is far more pronounced in Congress than in the country as a whole. In the U.S. 83 percent of the people think that the country should do something about climate change even if it costs more money. Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers continue their vocal disbelief about climate change to keep getting millions of dollars from corporations for their campaigns.

Bridenstein should heed the words of Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research:

“It is irresponsible not to mention climate change in stories that presume to say something about why all these storms and tornadoes are happening. The environment in which all of these storms and the tornadoes are occurring has changed from human influences (global warming). Tornadoes come from thunderstorms in a wind shear environment. … The basic driver of thunderstorms is the instability in the atmosphere.”

Emissions could be reduced by taxing carbons, but Ryan’s budget pays corporation to produce carbons. Corporate taxes of $25 per metric ton of carbon could reduce emissions by 10 percent while increasing federal revenues by $1 trillion. U.S. taxpayers provide carbon producers with $4 billion a year, making this country the largest single source of fossil-fuel subsidies.  Eliminating these subsidies world-wide could cut carbon emissions by 13 percent. The U.S. could control carbon production in other countries by levying taxes on imported goods imported from other countries.

We can make a difference by reinstating tax credit for wind energy, revamping public-utility laws to reward energy efficiency, and rewriting building codes to cut emissions from buildings. Under President Obama, the EPA has published rules governing emissions from new power plants, prohibiting new coal-burning plants. More plans include fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles such as tractor-trailers and emissions limits on existing power plants. It’s a start, but we need to push for more.

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