Nel's New Day

September 23, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-five – Health Care, Russia Loom

The UN experience is over for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) although he’s still exchanging childish insults with North Korea. In addition to the cliffhanger question of a world war, Now the U.S. is waiting for a vote in the Senate about health care repeal and replace with less money to most of the states. Sen. John McCain has come out against the bill, but GOP Senate leaders want to buy Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) vote. The bill gives Alaska and Montana—just those two states—continued advantages of the Affordable Care Act: premium tax credits from Affordable Care Act repealed for other states, delayed Medicaid per capita caps delayed, and “an increased federal Medicaid matching rate. Less than three months ago, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), co-author of this bill, ranted against buying off people to get votes for a health care bill.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) explained the push to get the bill passed in the next week before the filibuster takes over:

“I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered. But Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign.”

Grassley means that the Koch brothers and friends will pull the plug on donations without legislation. At a June retreat, one donor declared that his “Dallas piggy bank” was closed until the GOP manages to “get Obamacare repealed and replaced, get tax reform passed.”

Congress wants DDT to continue his warmongering throughout the world. Sixty-one senators defeated a measure that would have limited DDT’s ability to wage war anywhere he wants. Congress has abdicated its responsibility to determine times and places of warring on other countries. An amendment from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to the defense bill would have repealed a post-9/11 military authorization allowing DDT to determine times and places of warring on other countries. Paul said:

“What we have today is basically unlimited war anywhere, anytime, anyplace upon the globe. Even if my colleagues say, ‘war, war, that’s the answer everywhere, all the time,’ by golly, come down and put your name on it.”

DDT plans to extend drone strikes and commando raids in any countries where Islamic militants are active without high-level vetting. Such action could lead to attacks in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Russia has threatened retaliation against the U.S. if their troops continue to come under fire. The recent shelling of Syrian government positions by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has also put Russian troops under fire.

Other Russia problems:

Difference of opinion between DDT and his administration:

“The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook.” – DDT

“It is clear, and this administration and the entire government has been clear that Russia meddled in the campaigns and the election. That is inappropriate. Absolutely inappropriate. No one takes issue with that whatsoever.” – State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert

Media reported that federal investigators allegedly secretly wiretapped former DDT campaign manager Paul Manafort before and after the 2016 election and plan to indict him. He was first surveilled for employment by a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party and then watched for his collusion between DDT’s campaign and Russian officials to get DDT elected. Two weeks before DDT became the GOP nominee, Manafort offered to brief a Russian billionaire with close ties to Russia. In July, Mueller executed a “no-knock” search warrant on Manafort’s home to stop him from destroying documents connected with violation of tax laws, money-laundering, and foreign lobbying. Mueller has also asked for documents in 13 areas of interest from the White House and Air Force One, including DDT’s firing former FBI director James Comey and DDT’s son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer.

Information about Michael Flynn’s secret meetings and lobbying for the U.S. to spread nuclear power across the unstable Middle East, possibly with Russia’s help, have been expanded with the knowledge that he was joined by Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner, who still has security clearance. Michael Flynn’s legal fees are supposedly about $1 million, and he’s asking for donations. DDT and Don Jr. don’t have problems with their legal bills: they’re using money from DDT’s 2020 reelection campaign and the RNC. This the first case of a sitting president using campaign funds for criminal matters.

Facebook’s advertising against Clinton paid by Russia continues with Mueller’s investigating DDT’s campaign digital operation and its overseer, his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Billionaire Robert Mercer’s data firm, Cambridge Analytica, made Facebook’s fake news into Propaganda Center for DDT.

Michael Cohen, former DDT lawyer, will be required to testify in an open hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee instead of a closed meeting with staff because he broke his agreement not to release a public statement before the meeting.

Nicaragua has decided to sign the Paris climate agreement leaving the United States alone with Syria in opposition.

Back on the home front:

White House staffers are flocking to headhunters, seeking positions in the private sector. The turnover date seems to be January, one year less than usual for new presidential administrations. White supremacist Sebastian Gorka, fired from the White House, already got a new gig as “chief strategist” with the “MAGA Coalition,” that supports political candidates who will “compete against globalist corporatists interests.” His first gig was with Sarah Palin—yes, the former VP candidate—at a rally for far right evangelist Roy Moore at the September 26 runoff for Alabama GOP senate candidate. A sample of Moore’s rhetoric about Native Americans and Asians from the state Supreme Court Justice who refused to follow the law on marriage equality:

“Now we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting. What’s going to unite us? What’s going to bring us back together? A President? A Congress? No. It’s going to be God.”

Opposing Moore is appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), the preference of DDT and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). DDT lukewarm comments at Strange’s rally won’t inspire confidence. “I don’t know him. I met him once.” And “that is the tallest human being I’ve ever seen.” DDT said that he might be making a mistake in backing Strange and would rather be home watching television. It was—“strange.”

The 10th Circuit Court ruled that BLM violated federal law by failing to consider climate impact of four coal leases on federal land in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. Three of the leases are actively being mined, and two of them produce about 20 percent of the coal used to generate electricity. A month ago, a federal judge made the same ruling in blocking the expansion of an underground Montana coal mine.

California is suing DDT in opposition to his “wall” because it is unconstitutional and breaches environment laws.

DDT is using a report that censored data in a refugee policy in attempt to show that refugees from war-torn countries “are not a net benefit to the U.S. economy.” His HHS report shows that refugees brought in “$63 billion more in government revenues over the past decade than they cost.”

A teamsters union representing 120,000 New York workers has declared itself a “sanctuary union” after ICE deported long time member Eber Garcia Vasquez. His asylum case was turned down in 2013, but he annually checked in with immigration authorities and had applied for a green card. Vasquez’s wife and three children are U.S. citizens.

DDT’s old travel ban expires tomorrow, and he needs new plans. One may be to extend the existing six countries that he thinks have not protected against terrorists and criminals coming to the U.S. The current ban goes to the Supreme Court on October 10 for argument. After over eight months since his inauguration and declaration of bans, DDT hasn’t been able to put together a vetting system.

The Trump Organization, still owned by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), has decided to clean up DDT’s bio for posterity. Gone are all references to his birther fight—his attempts to prove that President Obama was not born in the United States—and all his bankruptcies and other failed deals. It also removes any mention to Macy’s dropping DDT’s product line because of his racist remarks about Mexican immigrants and reference to Istanbul’s Trump Towers. DDT doesn’t own that property or most buildings labeled “Trump” outside the United States, but the Turkish owners bought his name for between $1 million and $5 million. A year ago, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted the towers to be renamed because of DDT’s Islamophobic comments.

As part of DDT’s order for anti-leak training at all executive agencies, the EPA required its employees to undergo the hour-long training. Part of the instruction is that they cannot release any information even if unclassified. Training materials were leaked to the press. The EPA has received press about its cozy relationship with the fossil fuel industry, its purging federal scientists, and its removal of information about climate change from the EPA website. Other information includes the EPA’s rolling back regulations.

Could this be considered a death threat? Ann Coulter suggested “death squads” for removing the president who didn’t live up to her anti-immigration expectations.

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August 5, 2017

DDT: Week Twenty-Eight – New Sheriff in Town, Lawsuits

Catchup on State Department policies: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson decided to not spend Congress-allocated $79.8 million for fighting terrorist propaganda and Russian disinformation. All he needed to do was issue a memo of request for $60 million at the Pentagon and another $19.8 at the State Department. The money is lost if Tillerson doesn’t meet the September 30 deadline. Tillerson aide R.C. Hammond said that funding programs to oppose Russian media influence might anger Vladimir Putin.

A note on the proposed “merit-based” immigration bill: Amy Goodman points out that the requirements would have eliminated Friedrich Drumpf, grandfather of the man inaugurated as president in January; great-grandparents of senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, proponent of the bill at the press conference; great-grandfather of Dictator Donald Trump’s (DTT) counsel and spokesperson Kellyanne Conway.

The most surprising action taken in Congress before they went home at the end of the week was to block Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) from making any recess appointments. There is no recess although Congress is gone for a month. In the past Republicans blocked President Obama from making appointments through this tactic, but DDT is supposedly their own president. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) locked in nine “pro-forma” sessions each lasting about minute. Every senator had to agree to accomplish this move. They did—just before they left town a week before they promised.

DDT has decided to attack congressional Republicans after they took other actions against him such as limiting his ability to change sanctions against foreign countries—especially Russia—and introducing a bill that would also limit his ability to fire the special investigator. DDT’s tweets:

“Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us [healthcare]!”

On the first day of John Kelly as Chief in Staff and the last day of Anthony Scaramucci as Communications Director, the media reported that DDT dictated the memo stating that his son, Jr., had discussed only adoption in the son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer on June 9, 2016. The meeting was really about the DDT campaign obtaining “incriminating” information about Hillary Clinton. DDT had claimed that he knew nothing about the meeting, but he knew enough to dictate the nuanced, misleading memo that had to be revised several times as further information was revealed. Then DDT’s legal mouthpiece, Jay Sekulow, claimed that the president wasn’t involved in the memo. Summary: DDT’s team tries to collude with Russia; the president dictates a memo to lie to the public; and DDT’s lawyer tries to lie about DDT’s memo. Two days after Sekulow denied the participation on the part of DDT, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, press secretary, announced that DDT had “weighed in, offered suggestions, like any father would do.”

The Harvard Law School may have been prescient about Scaramucci’s firing. The new alumni directory has reported him as deceased. His lost job may force Scaramucci to pay capital gains if he makes $77 million from selling his company. If he had kept his job, he could have claimed that he was forced to divest any assets from a conflict of interest. The New York Post has also updated its cover.

DDT may have hired Scaramucci, but Kelly fired him, repeating the belief that DDT doesn’t fire anyone, not even on his former television program, The Apprentice.  Kelly is the first military man to occupy his position since Richard Nixon of Watergate fame hired Alexander Haig. Kelly had clarified that he is in charge and that everyone in the staff clears policy proposals, personnel recommendations, and advice from outsiders through him. The question is whether that includes those family meetings in the evening with DDT’s children and son-in-law.

Kelly also managed to fire another of Michael Flynn’s hires, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who had stayed because of support from white supremacist Steve Bannon and DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner despite protests from National Security Defense Adviser H.R. McMaster. Cohen-Watnick, the third Iran hawk to go recently, had leaked classified information to House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA), who then supposedly leaked the information back to the White House in a plot to falsely show that President Obama had eavesdropped on DDT.

Kelly’s background is supposedly discipline, and people on the left are saying that he’s a “great guy.” Yet he comes with his own baggage, most recently as “enabler-in-chief” in supporting the Muslim ban and deportation of innocent people after DDT had bragged about getting rid of the “bad hombres.” His history includes supervising Guantanamo prison during its times of torture. He may also go after the press because he has called leaks “close to treason.” Kelly also has a problem with understanding the Constitution: he has repeated the myth to Coast Guard cadets that the presidential oath of office was thrown together moments before George Washington was sworn in. He should read the U.S. Constitution—specifically Article II, Clause 8—that cites the oath.

The federal government is being inundated with lawsuits because of DDT’s cabinet secretaries and other officials. This week the D.C. circuit court ruled that EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt can’t delay Obama-era rules on fracking. The decision against Pruitt reaffirms a previous one from July. Other lawsuits against the EPA:

  • Eleven states: delaying rules to prevent dangerous chemical spills.
  • The NRDC: not enforcing punishments on Clean Water Act violators.
  • Health and agriculture groups: postponement of a pesticide decision that poisoned farmworkers.
  • Maryland: allowing Pennsylvania’s coal pollution to cross its border.
  • Judicial Watch: spreading propaganda on its social media accounts.
  • Youth: DDT’s inaction on climate change that places health and financial burdens on future generations.

Seven states and a dozen health and labor groups have also filed an administrative court challenge against the EPA after its refusal to ban the use of chlorpyrifos, a poisonous pesticide, on crops.

As of a week ago, the Brennan Center for Justice reported at least 17 legal actions against DDT’s new commission to suppress voting by collecting and assessing state voting lists. Although two lawsuits have failed in court, new ones use DDT’s own words and tweets in claims that he created the commission to back up his false theory that voter fraud is a massive problem. This case in Florida has caused the commission’s chair, VP Mike Pence, to tell states that they should wait to send him information until the case’s resolution.

San Diego may take DDT to court after DHS plans to bypass 37 environmental and other laws to build 15 miles of his “wall.” Legally, the agency can do this, but it plans to dodge environmental assessments of endangered species, migratory bird conservation, and the Clean Air Act. DDT has been allotted $1.6 billion which he hopes will pay for 74 of the 2,000 miles. DHS is paying $20 million for funding prototypes.

Chicago plans to sue DDT’s DOJ for withholding public safety grant money from so-called “sanctuary cities” with the claim that the federal government cannot legally take this action. AG Jeff Sessions had claimed that cities must claim that they are not sanctuary cities to get funds from the federal Byrne JAG grants. Sessions’ newly added mandates are to allow ICE access to detention facilities and provide ICE 48 hours’ notice before releasing “an illegal alien wanted by federal authorities.” He isolated four cities for punishment: Albuquerque, Baltimore, San Bernardino, and Stockton (CA).

DDT is also involved in a lawsuit by Paid Fox News commentator Rod Wheeler, who is suing Fox, reporter Malia Zimmerman, and DDT supporter Ed Butowsky for fabrications regarding its “political agenda for the Trump administration.” Wheeler alleges that Fox briefed DDT in advance about the false “news” report that murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich provided documents to WikiLeaks. Fox tried to use the “fake news” to distract from DDT campaign’s collusion with Russia. Fox & Friends and Hannity pushed the story for weeks, and DDT pushed it to be released immediately because he was being scrutinized for firing former FBI director James Comey.

The biggest news about DDT and Russia this week is a D.C. grand jury as well asking the White House for documents connected to Michael Flynn and considering senior FBI officials as possible witnesses. Special investigator is using this grand jury as well as one in Virginia. In a case about obstruction of justice, the White House may be a crime scene. The D.C. grand jury has already sent subpoenas connected to the meeting at Trump Tower with Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Natalia Veselnitskaya, and others concerning damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

How low has the person inaugurated has U.S. president sunk? Available on Amazon is toilet paper with DDT’s tweets for $11.99. A roll with DDT’s face is cheaper–$5.99.

DDT isn’t the only world leader in trouble. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is a suspect in fraud investigations, and his former chief of staff plans to testify against him. Accusations are favors in return for positive newspaper coverage and accepting bribes from Arnon Milchan in exchange for lobbying for a visa for the billionaire. There may be a contest to see whether DDT or Netanyahu does down first.

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!

May 1, 2017

Three Massive Protests, NYT’s Paid Climate Denier

Donald Trump Jr. is known for killing large animals in Africa such as elephant, leopard, kudu, civet cat, waterbuck, crocodile, antelope, buffalo, and great warthog. Last weekend he changed his sights to Montana and the fierce prairie dog, a species that supports entire ecosystems. They can’t be used for food, and killing them doesn’t provide wildlife management. Right now is the breeding system when female prairie dogs are most likely to be pregnant or nursing. For fun, Jr. went killing with U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte, who thinks it’s fun to use high-powered rifles that make the animals explode with “body parts severed and sent flying.” That’s what the son of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) did on Saturday, the same day that 200,000 marched in Washington, D.C. for the People’s Climate March.

 

The People’s Climate March was the second of three massive marches in the nation in just nine days, following the March for Science on April 22, Earth Day. The city was hot—91 degrees that tied the record high for April 29 in 1974—but people joined the 300 other marches in the United States and around the world. Here are photos of signs from WaPo.  The size eclipsed the crowds from the March for Science, one week earlier. Paul Getsos, the national coordinator for the People’s Climate March, said:

“It’s not just an enviro event. We have 43 labor union buses, we have indigenous [groups], we’ve been organizing communities of color, we have a big faith and youth contingent. … we are part of a larger resistance.”

A visual time-lapse of the march in Washington is available here along with more signs.

Science supporters are always important, but this year more than any other time in the modern era they are vitally needed. The Republican president, 142 representatives, and 38 senators who reject the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity causes climate change have received a total of $82,882,725 in donations from coal, oil and gas industries. Only seven states have no climate deniers in their delegations, and I’m proud that Oregon is one of those seven. The other six are five New England states and Delaware.

The Environmental Protection Agency celebrated the week after Earth Day “updating” its website with “language to reflect the approach of new leadership.” The Secretary is a permanent climate denier, and DDT thinks that the Chinese perpetrated the science of climate change as a hoax. This ideology will be reflected in the EPA’s “to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first.”

Adding to climate denial promotion, the New York Times has hired a known climate denier, Bret Stephens, to write about the climate. Stephens came from the Rupert Murdoch-owned, climate-denying Wall Street Journal where he was deputy editorial page editor. It’s expected that the conservative publication would hire a climate denier, but the NYT has long been considered so progressive than my Republican friend wouldn’t read it.

James Bennet, the newspaper’s editorial page editor, justified the action by saying that there are “millions of people who agree with him.” He added, “There’s more than one kind of denial,” indicating that he might agree with more than one kind of truth. Millions of people, many of them DDT-supporters, deny climate change, but far more believe that climate change exists and it’s caused by humans. Sixty-four percent of U.S. adults say they are worried a “great deal” or “fair amount” about global warming, up from 55 percent at this time last year and the highest reading since 2008. In addition, 68 percent of people think that there is climate change and that it’s caused by humans.

Pro-Israel war hawk Stephens once wrote a column on “the disease of the Arab mind” and thinks anti-racists are the real racists. He said that people who accept climate change science are motivated in part by the “totalitarian impulse” and they worship “a religion without God.” According to Stephens, “global warming is dead, nailed into its coffin one devastating disclosure, defection and re-evaluation at a time.” In 2015, Stephens described climate change a “mass hysteria phenomenon” for which “much of the science has … been discredited” and that global warming — along with hunger in America, campus rape statistics, and institutionalized racism — are “imaginary enemies.” He dismissed the well-documented “vanishing polar ice” as based on “flimsy studies.” The NYT itself has documented the problem of melting ice at the poles.

Stephens started his first column for NYT by explaining that scientists could be wrong about climate change because the polls projected a win for Hillary Clinton. First, the polls were right on target with their projections, but the Electoral College process put DDT into the presidency. But more important, scientific analysis isn’t the same as taking surveys. Science isn’t about opinions, it’s about evidence.

In an interview with Vox, Stephens explained that he doesn’t worry about climate change because he knows a climate change activist who “just had a baby.” His belief is that “if he thinks in 20 years we’ll be heading toward unsustainable climates and there will be tens of millions of people being displaced, presumably including himself, at the most apocalyptic level, then presumably he wouldn’t be having children.” So there you have it: people who have children know that climate change doesn’t exist.

His column was so bad that reporters and news editors from the NYT have panned it. Andy Revkin, former NYT climate reporter and blogger quoted twice in Stephens’ first column as justification for his ideas, tweeted that the column featured “straw men” and other flaws. Stephens used reports to support his position, but the report was opposite to what Stephens wrote. The rate of warming, cited by Stephens as “modest,” is 50 times greater since 1880 than the rate of cooling in the previous 5,000 years and drastically increases to probability of destructive catastrophes such as Superstorm Sandy.

The degree of global warming in upcoming decades depends on carbon pollution. Taking immediate action to cut these emissions can limit the warming to perhaps four degrees along with the accompanying climate consequences. Stephens, however, discourages people from doing this by cutting off any discussion about future climate crises.

Both the liberal and the conservative sides of media criticize people who slam the NYT for presenting Stephens’ columns as valid for debate. Yet how far are those “free speech” arguers willing to go in supporting the employment of people who present “alternative facts”? Would the NYT give space to columnists who argue that the world is flat? Or that the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School were faked by the government? At one time, the NYT provided credible journalism. Now it seems to just go with the flow—and the flow is sharply downhill. As Matt Gertz wrote about the NYT after DDT’s election, “The paper sold new subscribers on providing vigorous resistance to the ‘alternative facts’ that fueled his rise. Now, it’s publishing them.”

More protesters marched today, May Day. The White House website noted May 1 as “Law Day” and touted the importance of the Constitution and the partnership of law and liberty. It ignored the theme of the American Bar Association for this year’s Law Day, “Transforming American Democracy,” celebrating the 14th Amendment that “advanced the rights” of all people in the United States “through its Citizenship, Due Process and Equal Protection clauses” as well as “extending the reach of the Bill of Rights to the states.” And it ignored other meanings of May 1, for example International Workers Day and the labor protests in the United States that go back to Haymarket Square 131 years ago.

Although the White House website made no mention of any other meaning to May Day, it might take note because of the huge and angry protests in the United States joining those around the world. This year, the focus was a denunciation of DDT’s crackdown on and deportation of undocumented immigrants, many of them working in low-paying, non-unionized jobs—agriculture, fast-food, hospitality, child care, and other services. Others attacked his Muslim and refugee ban. Some protesters didn’t go to work today, and immigration-run convenience stores and other businesses closed in solidarity. A rally in front of Manhattan offices of Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase protested their dealings with private companies that build and/or manage government detention centers.

The term Mayday is also used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure. Considering DDT’s actions in his first 100 days, people may need the term.

March 17, 2016

Gov. Snyder, Government Isn’t a Business

The U.S. House actually did something today: they held committee hearings about the travesty in Flint with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder testifying. For those of you who lost track of Flint’s water problems in the midst of Trumpmania, a governor with no political experience who was hired on the basis of his “business” skills and anti-government policies said he saved money on the water supply to Flint’s citizens by poisoning them with lead and causing deaths from Legionnaires Disease. The brilliant minds behind the scheme that poisoned Flint residents were a think tank funded by the powerful, conservative DeVos family, owner of Amway marketing.

Leaked emails show that Snyder didn’t poison Flint residents to save money. He just wanted to privatize the utility.  The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) offered Snyder a deal of $800 million over 30 years, 20 percent cheaper than switching to the polluted Karegnondi Water Authority. It also offered a 50 percent reduction over what Flint had paid in the past to stay with DWSD. By breaking up DWSD and starve it of the Flint customer base, DWDS would be forced to privatize, sold off by Snyder. Snyder refused to release the emails from 2013 which would confirm this information. The governor has also slashed corporate taxes while instituting a flat tax and crippling public schools with budget cuts.

Ironically, Michigan could have saved billions of dollars and thousands of people suffering from serious health issues and brain damage for only $50,000 a year. A city administrator refused to pay to add orthophosphate to the process, as is done in Detroit to Lake Huron sourced water. That chemical would have prevented the corrosion of lead pipes.

Snyder came into today’s hearing after ignoring the problems for almost two years and said, “This was a failure of government at all levels. Local, state and federal officials — we all failed the families of Flint.” To Snyder, everyone else was responsible, and he is innocent, despite his appointment of an “emergency manager” instead of allowing elected officials to guide the city’s government processes. That was before he ignored all the complaints from Flint residents about the dangers of the water after his manager changed the water source and caused the disaster. According to Snyder, “Bureaucrats created a culture that valued technical competence over common sense.” He’s wrong only about his personal bureaucrats. No one valued “technical competence” and no one showed “common sense.”

The governor who believes in states’ rights—and would have screamed bloody murder if anyone had tried to violate them—blamed EPA’s Gina McCarthy for not fixing the problem while Snyder ignored it. McCarthy responded that Snyder’s people in Michigan’s DEQ told the EPA that they had done corrosion controls when they hadn’t done anything. She concluded, “We were strong-armed, we were misled, we were kept at arm’s length, we couldn’t do our jobs effectively.”

After the EPA sent Michigan’s DEQ directives about the Flint water two months ago, the state agency’s director questioned the EPA’s “legal authority” to “order a state and its agencies” to protect the health of its citizens. EPA had told Michigan to inform the public about upcoming steps, but Michigan is one of two states in the nation where the governor is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. In that way, the state thinks that it can legally violate the state’s open meetings act as the governor meets with all his emergency managers behind closed doors. Before this order from EPA, the state supplied the federal agency with altered documents and purposely skewed test results to support the falsehood that there was no problem with Flint water.

Snyder also blamed federal regulations. The Federal Safe Drinking Water Act requires chemicals to reduce corrosiveness in public water systems to keep water from leach lead from pipes. Michigan, however, misread the regulations.

With the disaster in the public spotlight, Snyder now feels really bad about what happened. Yet he refuses to provide any funding from the state’s surplus funds of $575 million to replace pipes and instead is spending $1.2 million on lawyers to deal with the crisis. Snyder’s AG, Bill Schuette, also appointed a special counsel, a donor to both Shuette’s and Snyder’s campaigns, to investigate whether anyone broke state laws. The governor also hired a public relations firm with no offices in Michigan in order to cover himself. Its senior vice president in the Florida office is married to Snyder’s Chief of Staff.

Today’s hearing was the second on the subject this week. On Tuesday, the committee’s top-ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings (MD), called the testimonies “sickening.” State-appointment Darnell Earley who switched the water moaned about how he’s been “unjustly persecuted, vilified, and smeared.” He claimed that the water was safe even after GM refused to use it because it corroded its auto parts. “I’m not a water treatment expert,” he said. At the same time that he denied any problem with the water, state employees were receiving bottled water at their offices.

Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech professor who largely contributed to exposing the sham, said, “Apparently being a government agency means never having to say you are sorry.” He said that the agency “covered up evidence of their unethical actions by authoring false scientific reports.”

The water is unusable, but parents were told that the state would take their children if they didn’t pay their water bills because they needed running water in their homes. Flint residents also pay more for unusable water than other U.S. communities pay for usable running water. Average  spending for each Flint household is $864.32—more than twice as much as homes served by public water utilities and ten times as much as Phoenix, Arizona. The average cost for private water utilities is $500, typically 58 percent more than other public utility systems and 2.7 times the average cost in Michigan. The cost in Flint skyrocketed after the emergency manager raised water and sewer costs by 25 percent. Over 40 percent of Flint residents live under the poverty line, and the media income is $25,000.

After Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton brought Flint’s inexcusable condition to the media forefront—soon followed by Bernie Sanders–GOP candidates spoke up. Sen. Marco Rubio, now out of the race, praised Snyder for taking “responsibility,” and Sen. Ted Cruz offered to send water, but only through anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers.” He also single-handedly blocked an aid package of $850 million to help victims in Flint and other cities suffering lead crises.

This week, a resolution “recognizing magic as a rare and valuable art form and national treasure” was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform—the same group holding hearings on Flint.  Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) said he did this as a matter of constituent services. Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) tweeted, “The House GOP believes in magic but not climate change.” Evidently representatives don’t believe in constituent service for Flint. Instead of helping Flint and other communities with lead pipes, the U.S. is scheduled to give Israel $30 billion in the next ten years—and Israel wants that increased to $50 billion. House Democrats are pushing a bill to block the appointment of emergency managers instead of elected officials, but it’s an uphill battle.

Michigan’s governor is a Republican dream: Snyder is anti-government and anti-regulation while strongly states’ rights. He firmly believes that government should be run like a business. At least that’s his belief until he wants to blame all his problems on someone else and complain that the federal government didn’t solve his problems years ago so that he wouldn’t be sitting in a House committee hearing. In reality it’s a  nightmare–what happens when GOP leadership is allowed to run rampant over people’s rights.

This week’s test of water shows higher levels than earlier ones. Snyder refuses to replace the pipes until he does extensive studies. People are still without usable running water. That’s Flint under a small government, business plan.

January 21, 2016

Flint’s Poisoned Water Problems Not Disappearing

In the wake of his PR disaster—and the Flint residents’ water disaster—Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder released 249 emails to show that he was not to blame. Heavy redactions in the emails don’t hide the administration’s dismissive and belittling attitude toward people concerned about health issues from the brackish water coming into their homes. After traces of “coliform and fecal coliform bacterium” appeared in the city’s water plant, officials just added chlorine to the water. An email from Snyder’s Chief of Staff shows how the administration refused to take responsibility:

 “I can’t figure out why the state is responsible except that [State Treasurer] Dillon did make the ultimate decision so we’re not able to avoid the subject.”

The emails accused residents of using their children’s health as a “political football” and refused action after a hospital and a university stopped using Flint water because it was corroding their metal instruments.  An email stated that Flint residents were only concerned about the aesthetics of the water, “taste, smell and color being among the top complaints.”

According to Snyder, the released emails represent all the Flint-related correspondence in 2014 and 2015. Missing are the ones from 2013 which began the debacle through key decisions. Aides have been non-committal when asked about release of these emails. Snyder has been “invited” to appear in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on February 3, 2016 regarding the poisoned water that government has provided Flint residents. He has not been “called” to appear because only Republicans can do this.

The EPA may also be asked to appear at a congressional hearing.

A few missing pieces from yesterday’s blog on the Flint water travesty:

In December 2011, Snyder appointed Michael Brown as emergency manager of Flint to replace elected Flint officials and act unilaterally as an extension of state executive power. Brown was George W. Bush’s head of FEMA during the 2005 Hurricane Katrina. He sent untrained rescue workers to the disaster area while telling fire and rescue departments not to send trucks or emergency workers without a direct appeal from state or local governments. Three days after the disaster, he told the media that he was not aware that the New Orleans Convention Center housed thousands of evacuees who lacked food and water and blamed those stuck in the city of not choosing to leave the city, despite the lack of transportation. Brown quit the FEMA job days after the hurricane. Later he declared that President Obama wanted the Deepwater Horizon oil spill so that he could “pander to the environmentalists.” Brown lasted in Flint for only nine months.

In March 2013, State treasury and Department of Environmental Quality officials ignored external reports showing that changing the water to the Flint River would not save money Three months later Flint’s emergency manager abandoned Detroit water.

In August 2014, Flint River water violated National Primary Drinking Water Regulations twice with more violations in September and December of that year. Last September, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services claimed that spikes in illnesses from lead were “seasonal and not related to the water supply.”

The first cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint in five years appeared two months after the water source was changed. After a year with 47 cases and five deaths, Snyder declared that the epidemic was over, but the numbers doubled in the next months. The incidence of this waterborne bacterial infection that can be deadly for between 5 to 30 percent of those who contract it is nine times greater in Flint than the national average. Doctors had predicted the onslaught of the disease because of iron caused by corrosion. No one will ever know the source of the Legionnaires’ disease because Michigan failed to take the appropriate cultures. The disease could return with warm weather because the state has not done any testing.

EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman, the director overseeing a region including Flint, resigned after it was discovered that she told the former Flint mayor that a report from one of its own scientists be concealed until it was vetted and revised.

The EPA has announced an emergency order requiring that the state and city “take a series of immediate steps to address the drinking water contamination in Flint.” It said the city and state’s response to the crisis has been “inadequate to protect public health.” The EPA will take over lead sampling because of repeated delays and a lack of transparency in the water crisis continue to pose “an imminent and substantial” danger to residents. Months after the EPA required corrosion controls be added to Flint’s water system and the water source be shifted back to Lake Huron water from the Flint River, “underlying problems” and “fundamental deficiencies” remain. The state has one day to comply with the order.

Michigan is also ordered to create a public website for all reports and sampling results, and the state is to inventory all homes in Flint with lead service lines. The EPA told Flint and Michigan to establish an independent advisory panel on drinking water issues and required that the city must show “technical, managerial, and financial capacity” before moving to a new Lake Huron water system.

At the U.S. Conference of Mayors, President Obama announced that the federal government will send at least $80 million next week, some of it to be used to rebuild water lines and other city infrastructure. The funding comes from a federal revolving loan fund that provides low-cost loans to eligible entities, including municipalities for water infrastructure projects. Replacing lead service lines and making other infrastructure repairs could cost as much as $1.5 billion.

The EPA, which could also be called to appear at a congressional hearing said to be set for early next month, also requested that its Inspector General evaluate Region 5’s supervision program for public water systems, a move U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., applauded as a way to “better understand how EPA could have helped prevent Flint’s water crisis and what they can do to keep this situation from ever happening again.”

Last September, a Flint lawmaker asked Michigan’s attorney general, Bill Shuette, to investigate the Flint water situation. Schuette, a Republican thought to be considering a gubernatorial run, refused. In December, his staffer said that an investigation was not necessary. Five months after building negative publicity about Flint water, Shuette said he would launch an investigation the day after Snyder asked the president to declare a federal emergency in Flint.

In the weeks after Schuette refused to investigate, national media attention on Flint increased, and on Jan. 14, Republican Governor Rick Snyder asked President Barack Obama to declare a federal emergency. The next day, Schuette had changed his tune. He said that he would launch an investigation “without fear or favor.” He office is already defending state officials in a lawsuit generated by protesting Flint residents alleging that officials ignored evidence of the toxic water.

Under state law, the AG has to represent emergency managers when they are sued, but the entity that the manager runs has to pay for the legal costs. Thus the same person who investigates the water poisoning also protect the officials who did it while the people bringing the law suit must pay for the defense’s legal costs. Schuette has not said whether he will bring in outside counsel.

Gov. Snyder was an accountant with no elected office experience before he took over a state with a population of almost 10 million people. Before the Flint water crisis, he had contemplated a run for president. Snyder is a prime example of what happens when the private sector attempts to take over government functions.

After almost two years of Flint water’s fiasco, the state Department of Environmental Quality Director Keith Creagh said that “we should have been more aggressive. He blames two top officials in the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance for the misinterpretation of the federal Lead and Copper Rule, but both officials still have state jobs. They just been reassigned to keep away from the Flint water issues. No one has been fired over the catastrophe.

flint safe to washTen days ago, Rick Snyder told the media that the Flint water is so safe that he would let his grandkids bathe in it. It’s a safe assertion because he doesn’t have grandchildren. This poster on the right has been removed from the government website.

This is Republican leadership at its “finest.”

After I wrote the above, I went into the kitchen and ran the water a few seconds, grateful that I don’t live in a state with governor-appointed emergency managers instead of elected officials.

 

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.

June 28, 2014

Election Have Consequences

Election years between presidential elections are usually pretty ho-hum. Primaries come and go with almost no one caring except for the people who lived in the states where they occur. No longer. The Tea Party obsession with destroying the U.S. government which hit a peak in 2010 makes primary-watching right up there with the World Series and the World Cup. Some pundits may have thought that Rep. Eric Cantor’s loss to an unknown Republican two weeks ago was the high point, but Tuesday’s struggle in Mississippi surpassed that in another GOP crisis.

In early June, incumbent GOP Sen. Thad Cochran failed to get over 50 percent in the Mississippi primary and was forced into a runoff with opponent Tea Partier Chris McDaniel. The night before the runoff, he described his election as “unstoppable,” and then lost by 6,693. Cochran won by 1.8 percent after he asked for help from black, probably Democratic, voters. Mississippi law doesn’t require recounts, but McDaniel has refused to concede, saying that he’s looking into voting “irregularities.”

In a campaign that could be called McCain v. Palin, an extremist radical conservative tried to paint a conservative as too far left. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) politely described McDaniel as inexperienced, and his running partner in 2008, Sarah Palin, was joined by former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) to defend McDaniel.

Before the primary, an attempt to sneak into a nursing home to take photos of Cochran’s wife, who suffers from dementia, led to arrests. One of those arrested, a McDaniel supporter and founder of the state Tea Party, killed himself this week. The campaign also attacked Cochran’s daughter, Kate, for criticizing McDaniel on her Facebook page with a creepy photo of her and the hash tag “#Who’s Ya Daddy?”

In the early morning hours after the primary, three McDaniel supporters, Tea Party members, mysteriously locked themselves into the basement of the Hattiesburg courthouse next to the ballots. According to a report, Constable Jon Lewis, a big McDaniel supporter, had helped them get in. They claimed they wanted to see how the ballot count was proceeding, but the building was empty after the task had been completed hours earlier.

The day before the runoff, a McDaniel supporter filed a lawsuit to stop crossover voting. Mississippi has no party registration, but state law prohibits voters from participating in the GOP runoff if they voted on a Democratic ballot in the primary. Another state law requires any voters in a party primary to support that primary’s nominee in the general election. Although a federal appeals court struck down that law as unenforceable in 2008, the South keeps unconstitutional law on the books in perpetuity. The lawsuit was dismissed.

Far-right GOP gubernatorial loser in Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli threatened to send poll watchers into precincts with largely black voters. The watchers didn’t materialize, but the Tea Party is crying “foul” about blacks voting in the runoff.  “Our whole system is corrupt,” said a woman who attended the McDaniel post-election party. “We deserve to be called the most corrupt state in the nation.”

Two days after the runoff, Palin called for Tea Party members to leave the GOP and form a third party. She commiserated about McDaniel’s loss with Sean Hannity on his Fox program:

 “Well, if Republicans are going to act like Democrats, then what’s the use in getting all gung ho about getting Republicans in there? So yeah, if Republicans aren’t going to stand strong on the planks in our platform, then it does no good to get all enthused about them anymore.”

Palin’s sour grapes comes from more than just Mississippi. Tea Party candidates lost in New York and Colorado, and Palin’s pick for the U.S. senator from Oklahoma, T.W. Shannon, lost by almost 23 percent. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had also backed Shannon as an “outsider.” It seems that John McCain has been replaced in Sarah Palin’s heart.

ted-cruz-sarah-palin-485x324 Already elected Koch-Republicans want to shut down government because of the EPA’s proposal to control carbon pollution from the country’s power plant. Congress has no authority to change the EPA’s proposal without without amending the Clean Air Act. The ultra-conservative Supreme Court also sided with EPA’s authority to impose specific standards for carbon emissions. This month’s SCOTUS decision upheld the plan to regulate power plant and factory emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Loonier yet, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has decided it’s in his best interest to sue President Obama because “the president is not faithfully executing the laws of our country.” The man who spent over $5 million to fight marriage equality now wants to waste more taxpayer money on a lost cause. After years of complaining about activist judges, the GOP is looking for an activist judge to rule against the president. The organization behind the suit would be the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) which is controlled by the GOP.

Boehner’s House of Representatives is actually the government branch that suffers from failure to perform. Jobs, immigration, tax reform, Export-Import bank, the Senate’s high-way-funding bill—these are a few of the areas in which the House takes no action. About Iraq, Boehner said, “It’s not my job to outline for the president what tools he should use or not use.” According to the U.S. Constitution, deciding about war is Boehner’s job. About the serious immigration problem, Boehner said, “I want to get our members to a place where they are comfortable, whatever that is.” He’s named a “working group” to eventually “suggest to the administration things that we think can be done.”

When asked what specific executive actions he intended to challenge in court, he said, “When I make that decision, I’ll let you know.” He’s left Washington for over a month. By September he may have some ideas.

Even Fox network Neil Cavuto blasted a Republican, specifically Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN), for the proposed lawsuit:

“There are far more important things that you guys have to be addressing than filing lawsuits passed by each other. BY THE WAY, ROME IS BURNING.”

Bachmann’s said that the GOP needs to defund the executive branch, and Cavuto proclaimed:

“Think about what you are saying. Defund the Executive, Congresswoman? If Democrats had said we are just going to defund President Bush, defund the Executive, you would have laughed them out. … I think Democrats would be in their right minds to laugh you out now. … Rome is burning and you are filing.”

After it was clear to President Obama that Boehner had abdicated his responsibilities, the president made 180 executive orders compared to George W. Bush’s 291 and Ronald Reagan’s 381. Boehner’s 112th Congress passed only 284 bills, the fewest since the 1940s, and his 113th Congress is on track to pass fewer. Currently, it has passed 121 bills with only 48 days—many of them not full days—until the session is over.

The conservatives are going off the rails in three different directions: shut down the government, keep the president from taking any actions, and form a third party. We’ll see how well these ideas work in hiding the GOP incompetence from the voters.

Far-right conservative Erick Erickson said it best on redstate.com: “I’m just not sure what the Republican Party really stands for any more other than telling Obama no and telling our own corporate interests yes. That’s not much of a platform.”

Yup. Erickson is right.

September 7, 2013

House GOP Opposes Fracking Regulations

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:16 PM
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The House of Representatives used to spend its time passing bills to void Obamacare, thus continuing its threat to shut down the country by now raising the debt limit or deal with hungry people in the farm bill. Although the the GOP has scheduled a vote next week for avoiding the government shutdown in 23 days, they don’t have a draft for the bill. Maybe just kick the can down the road for another two or three months, but they don’t know. Right now, none of the 12 annual appropriation bills for the next fiscal year has been enacted, and that’s a lot of work.

The vote on attacking Syria might come to the House week after next, but they haven’t decided on that either. The House GOP leadership has a plan, however: they’re going to work to block new regulations on fracking. Lawmakers in the House will focus in coming weeks on a measure to combat new regulations on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said that Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) has a bill to force the Interior Department to give up regulation for fracking that already have their own regs. Cantor even has the gall to describe the disastrous bill as environmentally friendly.

Fracking is the form of getting fossil fuel from deep underground that destroys the water supply for the people in the United States, pollutes the water and land with unidentified chemicals, and sickens and kills people and animals with all the air and water pollution. To get an accurate description of fracking, people should watch this short video.

Although fracking has been around for quite a while, it didn’t become profitable until the last few decades. The George W. Bush administration (actually the Dick Cheney dictatorship) gave great latitude to oil companies in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 when the Halliburton Loophole exempted fracking from the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Act. Chemicals used in fracking fluid were declared a “trade secret”; the public aren’t allowed to know what oil companies inject into land, water, and air. The act also legitimizes nation-wide fracking. Complicating the protection of the country is President Obama’s appointment of Ernest Moniz as Secretary of Energy, who has worked for oil companies and has appointed others as assistants who have similar resumes.

The U.S. Department of Energy-run Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA) is largely owned by oil companies.  Its research is also frequently done by oil company employees who work for higher education. Let’s call them “frackademics” who enrich politicians through “shalesmanship.” Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) earned as much as $1 million since 2010 from the company holding mineral rights along the Barnett Shale, according to the Sunlight Foundation. Hall helped write the part of the energy bill allowing oil companies free reign to the countries land, water, and air.

In January 2011, Youngstown (OH) got its first earthquake ever, followed by 108 more in the next year. Studies show that these earthquakes came from fracking

North Dakota, Texas, and Pennsylvania have been overrun with frackers, and California may be the next victim in its Monterey Shale formation running in the state from the north-central to the southern areas. Even worse there, however, is “matrix acidization,” injecting high volumes of hydrofluoric acid (HF), a powerful solvent, into the oil well to dissolve rock deep underground and allow oil to flow up through the well. The system of fracking, using high pressure pumping of water and other chemicals to create rock fissures, doesn’t work as well in low permeable rock.

HF is one of the most dangerous fluids used in oil production and must be trucked into the state and mixed at oilfields. It’s also largely unregulated. Problems include severe burns to skin and eyes, damage to lungs not immediately painful or visible, deep-seated and slow-healing burns and ulcers, and, of course, death. Volatility at low temperatures is also a problem: at 67.1 degrees F, HF boils into a dense vapor cloud that, if released into the open, does not dissipate, hovers near the ground, and travels great distances.

In another problem, the California Coastal Commission recently discovered that its seafloor has been fracked for the past 15 years. Although these drilling operations are under federal jurisdiction, being more than three miles out, the state can reject federal permits in the case of water quality endangerment. New drilling leases in the Santa Barbara Channel’s undersea oil fields are banned, drilling rights at 23 platforms were grandfathered in because California wasn’t aware of these permits.

If the government won’t fight fracking, the people will. The first fractivist organization in northeastern U.S., Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, started in 2007. This summer the two major gas companies leasing land there canceled 1,500 leases covering over 100,000 acres of land.

In 2010 and 2011, Greenbrier (AR), a farming town, got more than 1,000 earthquakes. The quakes stopped when Arkansas Oil and Gas commission ordered the fracking shut down. Over a dozen Greenbriarites filed five lawsuits in federal court against Chesapeake Operating, in the first cases that people have sued gas companies for causing natural disasters. Earlier lawsuits focused on health and environmental concerns.

In Kentucky, the Sisters of Loretto are fighting the 1,100-mile Bluegrass Pipeline that would carry natural gas from the Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia fracking fields to the Gulf Coast. The nuns refuse to allow company representatives to survey their 800-acre campus and are telling everyone who will listen, sometimes through singing. The Abbey of Gethsemani, with another 2,200 acres, have joined them.

In California, the legislature is on the verge of passing a bill that would regulate fracking within the state, despite frantic lobbying from the oil industry to destroy the bill. The U.S. government has a lawsuit against an oil company for contaminating water in Pennsylvania from fracking. The case alledges that XTO Energy allowed flowback fluid and wastewater byproduct to reach water supplies. The Exxon subsidiary had already agreed to pay a $100,000 fine and spend $20 million to improve wastewater management practices. Yet this amount is a drop in the bucket compared to the money that these companies make from fracking.

A $750,000 settlement for one family to relocate from their fracking-polluted home came with a strange proviso. The couple who owned the house were forbidden to talk about Marcellus Shale, not unusual. But the two children, ages 7 and 10, had the same restrictions against ever talking about their family’s experiences for the rest of their lives. Because of the gag order, there will be no public record of the serious health issues that the family endured. A 2012 Pennsylvania law requires companies to tell doctors the chemical contents of the fracking fluids. The catch is that doctors can’t tell anyone, even the patients who they are treating for fracking-related illnesses.

The drought in the Southwest, primarily Texas and New Mexico, has caused such dire financial problems for farmers that they are selling water to oil companies for fracking. The serious problem is that it’s the water from the aquifer that supplies water to everyone in the region. They can’t sell their primary water source via the irrigation because it’s a government project so they apply for a change of use permit to sell their well water for commercial use. If the entire water supply for the area disappears, the oil companies can just leave the people who live there without sufficient water for even personal use.

The EPA, sometimes at odds with the Interior Department, has tried to conceal the problems with fracking. In May 2012, it declared the water for wells at 61 homes in Dimock (PA) was safe, despite the presence of pollutants. A year later, however, whistleblowers broke news that the EPA had abandoned its investigation after they discovered the pollution was likely caused by pollution.  The EPA also dropped an investigation into water contamination in Texas and postponed another investigation in Wyoming.

When the House comes back, we can look forward to hearing the GOP representatives extol the virtues of contaminated water, polluted land, earthquakes, drought, and illnesses—all to give more money to oil companies. You an expect to hear the term “freedom” a lot. The GOP spends its time talking about leaving a debt-free nation to future generations, but they ignore leaving a country to them.

July 12, 2013

Fracking: Legacy to Our Children

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:39 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Gasland II made its debut on HBO this week. Sequel to the 2010 film Gasland, Josh Fox again addressed the disaster of fracking throughout the country, picking up after the U.S. House hearing on the FRAC Act that would have regulated the industry of natural gas drilling. The bill never received a vote.

After great difficulty, Fox managed to fly over the Gulf of Mexico. He said, “Journalists would call up the FAA to clear flights, and BP would answer the phone.” In an interview with Mother Jones, Fox explained why fracking causes great damage in climate change: “Methane, when it’s in the atmosphere, is up to 105 times more potent at warming the climate than CO2 is in a 20-year time frame—in this short window of time that we have now to tackle climate.”

Much of this methane comes from leakage: 9 percent in Colorado and Utah; 3 percent in New York City; and 17 percent in Los Angeles, making it 17 times more powerful than coal. Replacing coal with gas doesn’t solve the problems of greenhouse emissions.

Corporations who want to use land to frack are destroying aquifers because the benzenes can’t be taken out of the water. Because of the breakdown of cement in wells, 5 percent of these leak immediately after installation, and 50 to 60 percent will leak within the next 30 years.

Fox must be making a difference in his investigation. One of his sources reported that an EPA representative was told to stop their investigation. As Fox said, when science conflicts with policy, science disappears.

The grassroots efforts may save the country. Fox reported that every small town in the southern part of New York state has an anti-fracking organization. The same thing has happened in Pennsylvania.

A non-profit group in southern Illinois has set up plans that other areas could model to fight fracking. SAFE (Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment) has a number of practical ideas starting with taking “before pictures” and making recordings for documentation. Test for radioactivity; do water testing, including the flow test; update appraisals and tax assessments; test blood for chemicals; organize EMT and first responders for emergencies; enact restrictions; and educate people about objecting to permits.

In May, the poor, conservative ranching Mora County (NM) became the first county in the United States to ban hydraulic fracturing. Roger Alcon, 63, said, “I don’t want to destroy our water. You can’t drink oil.” In November 2010 Pittsburgh was the first city to outlaw fracking, and more than a dozen cities in the East have followed suit since then.

In publicizing his new movie, Fox has appeared on a variety of talk shows, including Bill Maher. Another guest, Jonathan Alter, made a classic statement after he dismissed Fox’s expertise of researching the subject for over five years. Alter said, “I read an article in Scientific American” to show that Fox was wrong about  the dangers of fracking. First, Alter’s reading “an article” scarcely qualifies him as able to make any talking points about the subject.

Second, Scientific American articles give both sides of the issue. In reporting on Radisav Vidic’s assessment on fracking’s impact in Pennsylvania, the article also pointed out that Vidic had no baseline data and could not anticipate what would happen. He also did not evaluate the water or the health of people in proximity to the gas wells. Other scientists also disagree with Vidic’s conclusions.  To learn about a subject, people need to read more than “an article.”

Samples of more articles about fracking:

Major earthquakes thousands of miles away can trigger reflex quakes in fracking areas, according to a recent study published in the journal Science. Fracking waste fluids “kind of act as a pressurized cushion,” said lead author Nicholas van der Elst of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. “They make it easier for the fault to slide.” The study looked specifically at Prague, Oklahoma, linking  the increased tremors there to Chile’s February 27, 2010, quake. The study also found that big quakes in Japan and Indonesia triggered quakes in western Texas and southern Colorado.

Fracking may contaminate drinking water near these natural gas wells. Studies have found increased amounts of methane and other gases up to six times higher in drinking water located within less than a mile from drilling operations, according to Robert Jackson, an environmental scientist at Duke University in Durham (NC).  Research suggests that the gas may come not just from the ground but also from leaky steel pipes using in extraction.

Fracking may be threatening the sufficiency of water in the United States. The process not only contaminates underground supplies but also uses 2 million to 4 million gallons of water for each job. The EPA estimates that the 35,000 oil gas wells will demand between 70 billion and 140 billion gallons of water each year, equal to the water use in 40 to 80 cities with populations of 50,000 people. Water is already at a premium in areas when the most fracking is done. The nonprofit Ceres found that 92 percent of the wells in Colorado are in extremely high water-stress areas, and in Texas more than half were in high or extremely high water-stress areas, even without the terrible droughts that the state is suffering.

The gas industry is considering the use of propane instead of water; Texas already has about 100 wells that use propane instead of water. The use of propane requires the addition of toxic chemicals, again secret ones as fracking with water uses. The flammability of propane caused two fires in Alberta (Canada) in 2011 which injured 15 workers.

Fracking is also inefficient. Cornell University engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea, who has studied fracking for over 40 years, reported that using millions of gallons of water per well to yield what he says is just 10 percent to 15 percent of oil and gas out, is “very inefficient and inelegant.” Propane, he said, “is expensive and nobody really knows how much it takes to develop a typical shale gas well with a lateral that is a mile or two long.”

An explosion at a well near New Milton (WV) shows the dangers of fracking. Last week the Hinterer 2H well on the Ruddy Alt pad, operated by Antero Resources, had a serious underground fire that burned for days and injured at least seven. Four or five workers were flown to West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh although their condition is not known. This isn’t the first time that specific well has had problems.

Almost a year ago, three workers were injured when a spark ignited methane gas several hundred feet underground. DEP cited Antero for failure to control the well. Antero has had 17 violations of state code in the past three years, including failure to prevent waste runoff, report discharges, and contaminating waterways. In January 2013, a violation warned “imminent danger water supplys [sic] threatened by allowing pollutants to escape and flow into the waters of the state.” Two years ago, another Antero gas well was shut down after mud contaminated with drilling chemicals spilled into a nearby stream.

Almost two years ago, the EPA concluded that fracking by the drilling company Encana had caused contaminants in drinking water wells near Pavillion (WY). Unexpectedly, the EPA turned over the investigation to the state of Wyoming that received a $1.5 million dollar from Encana to continue the effects of fracking.

Now the EPA has moved its timeline for the release of its fracking student from 2014 to 2016. In the meantime, the gas and oil industry continues to take over the country—especially in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Ohio. “In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted,” Mario Salazar, a former EPA engineer, told Scientific American. “A lot of people are going to get sick, and a lot of people may die.”

That’s the legacy that we are leaving our children.

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