Nel's New Day

May 12, 2017

DDT: Week Sixteen, Moving into Paranoia

The week began with all eyes on testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee from former Attorney General Sally Yates, but attention rapidly segued to Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) firing of James Comey, the FBI director who refused to stop investigation his involvement with Russia. The third senior Justice Department officials investigating DDT who was fired in less than four months, he follows DDT’s victims Sally Yates and Preet Bharara. Less media attention, however, was paid to DDT’s hosting Russian officials in the White House the day after Comey’s unorthodox firing. U.S. journalists were banned from the event, and the only visuals of the meeting with Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were photographed by the Russian state-owned news agency. The Washington Post raised questions about a security breach, citing issues about listening devices or other surveillance equipment being brought into the Oval Office. Intelligence officials noted that standard screenings might not identify an espionage device. The White House claimed that they were told the photographer worked for Lavrov, not that he worked for the Russian agency. A White House official, “They tricked us.” Either it’s true, which is scary. Or it wasn’t true, which is scary. A White House spokesman explained that DDT hosted the meeting “because Putin asked him to.” Again, scary.

Melissa McCarthy has already started preparing a Saturday Night Live sketch imitating Press Secretary Sean Spicer hiding in the bushes from reporters. A group of journalists caught him after he finished up a short interview with the friendly Fox business folks and met with his staff behind a tall hedge, but a groups of journalists wanted to ask him about Comey’s firing. He came out of the shrubbery and shouted, “Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off…. Can you just turn that light off?” Since WaPo issued the following correction about its story:

“Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to more precisely describe White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s location late Tuesday night in the minutes before he briefed reporters. Spicer huddled with his staff among bushes near television sets on the White House grounds, not ‘in the bushes,’ as the story originally stated.”

How many FBI officials does DDT need to fire for control?  Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the FBI had not lost faith in Comey, contradicting a DDT reason for Comey’s firing. He added that it was the “greatest privilege” of his professional career to work with Comey. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to quit because DDT presented him as the architect of the firing. And DDT now contradicts everything that his White House officials and VP Mike Pence have presented to the media. In an interview with Lester Holt, DDT said, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself … this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.” Firing someone to deliberately block an investigation is an impeachable offense. After the Holt interview, in which DDT called Comey a “grandstander” and “showboat,” the FBI disinvited DDT to FBI Headquarters, saying that “the optics would not be good.”

The Senate has subpoenaed fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to appear at a hearing about Russian interference in the recent election. The joint chairs of the Intelligence Committee had requested materials from him on April 28, but he refused. Flynn had previously offered to testify before the Senate and House intelligence committees in exchange for immunity, but he didn’t find any takers. Among Flynn’s problems are his taking payments from Russia and Turkey while giving them information. The committee has received only two responses in requests for documents from DDT associates.

In DDT’s attempt to find those three million voters who voted for Hillary Clinton last year and gave her a majority, he signed an executive order for a commission to review fraud and voter suppression in the nation’s election system with the possible intent of rigging the 2018 elections. If he were sincere, he could find almost zero of the first and a massive amount of the second—mostly through state legislation. After the election, ABC contacted officials in all 50 states and found that voter fraud was “very” or “extremely” rare. DDT’s leader, however, is Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who is extremely successful in finding voter fraud everywhere in places where it doesn’t exist for the sole purpose of voter suppression.

In another action, DDT broke a century-long tradition requiring senators to approve judicial nominees who sit on federal courts in their states. To ensure a right-wing court system, he has nominated ten unvetted lawyers for lifetime judges on federal courts without consulting any senators.

A few days after DDT defunded members of the Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), claiming it was “unconstitutional,” Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was booed when she gave the graduation address at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach (FL). DeVos has her own issues with HBCUs, referring them as a sort of pilot program for schools of choice while ignoring the fact that people went there not out of choice but because they weren’t permitted into white schools. In the speech, the billionaire who forced legislation to move many Michigan students into failing religious schools funded by taxpayers said:

“We must first listen and then speak with humility to genuinely hear the perspectives of those with whom we don’t immediately or instinctively agree.”

Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index lost half the gains it made since DDT’s election, going from +16 to +3. Fewer Americans last week said the economy was “getting better” (45%) than said it was “getting worse” (49%), leaving the economic outlook component at -4, its worst score since Nov. 7-13, when it measured -5. The rating is almost 20 points below its recent high of +15 set in early March. DDT is down to a 36 percent approval, and that was before he fired Comey. The percentages for his characteristics are also very low.

No matter the intention behind Comey’s firing—distraction, avoidance, shock, chaos—scholars on authoritarianism agree that DDT’s goal is to “uproot the system,” according to Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Professor of History and Italian Studies at NYU. We’ve watched his obsession with issuing executive orders, his aggressive opposition toward the media, and his love for “alternative facts” while GOP politicians enable him for their own personal advantage. In a recent event, a reporter was arrested for asking Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price whether or not domestic violence survivors would have difficulty getting insurance under Trumpcare.

Ben-Ghiat said, “Democracy is threatened in drips.” She draws parallels between DDT and authoritarian leaders of Turkey and Hungary who undermine society by chipping at democratic institutions while greatly expanding their power. The people of the United States, however, may be developing a bit more savvy about DDT’s techniques after 16 weeks: 54 percent of the people think that the firing was inappropriate, and only 24 percent think that the reason was Hillary Clinton’s emails, DDT’s original stated reason.

Progressives had one win this week. After a spate of successful bills overturning President Obama’s regulations, the Senate voted against a resolution to nullify a clean air regulation the last day before the GOP could do this without a filibuster. In the 51-49 vote, Sens. John McCain (AZ), Susan Collins (ME), and Lindsey Graham (SC)  joined the Democrats. The Congressional Review Act, successfully used only once before DDT allows repeal of regulations within 60 days of being submitted to Congress, has been used in he past 100 days to reverse 15 regulations from President Obama.

The regulation that stayed updates 30-year-old regulations about venting, flaring, and leaks of natural gas on public and Native American lands to help stop waste of natural resources. It helps protect the climate while saving taxpayers $330 million a year. Colorado, one of the two states that already have this regulation, have seen an overwhelmingly positive response from the residents, including Republicans, and increased both job production and natural gas production, a contradiction to arguments from the conservative opposition.

DDT didn’t wait until this weekend to issue crazy tweets. First he threatened to stop press briefings from the White House after the media pointed out all the inconsistencies regarding DDT’s method and reasoning for firing Comey. He ratcheted up his paranoid almost to the level of former President Richard Nixon when he threatened Comey:

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

DDT has not denied that he taped meetings or records conversations in the Oval Office. Witness intimidation is a crime, and DDT threatened former Attorney General Sally Yates before she testified last Monday to a Senate hearing:

“Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Council [sic].”

DDT also violated the Presidential Records Act by attempting to scrub the tweet with the misspelled tweet and replacing it with the corrected version. All his tweets must be kept as official records of his public remarks. DDT may still not know that all his tweets belong to the people of the United States.

Hard to believe that these are the actions of a man supposed to be the leader of the “free world.”

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December 24, 2014

Thank you, Santa!

Filed under: Environment — trp2011 @ 3:55 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

This week Santa was joined by Mrs. Claus and seven elves in an environmental protest following nine weeks of protesting that saw 170 arrests. Monday’s arrests followed 28 arrests a week ago led by many prominent local musicians the day after 41 arrests led by local teachers. Crestwood Mainstream, a Texas fracking company, wants to dump two billion cubic feet of explosive methane gas in salt mines near the shores of Seneca Lake in upstate New York. The New York State DEC temporarily halted plans to stockpile propane and butane (LPG) due to ongoing concerns for safety, health and the environment, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave approval for the storage despite geological instabilities, fault lines, possible salinization of the lake, and public health concerns. [Photo credit, We Are Seneca Lake.]

santaarrested1

The unlined salt caverns, formed by decades of salt mining, date back to the Erie Canal days of New York’s history and are not designed to serve as vessels for highly pressurized, explosive gases. FERC gave approval for storage in a cavern that has had a history of instability, including a collapsed roof. Repressurizing the cavern with compressed gas can force brine or methane through cracks and fissures.

Salt caverns are more prone to catastrophic accidents than the other more common types of underground storage for natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas. Eighteen instances of catastrophic failure of underground gas storage facilities, all in salt cavern facilities, have occurred since 1972. Several have included explosions with fire and death as well as evaluations of entire towns. A 2001 explosion in Kansas came from gas migrating seven miles to Hutchinson where the methane rose to the surface in abandoned brine wells. The explosion killed two people, destroyed buildings, and required the evaluation of residents.

In trying to justify their claim that storing methane in the salt caverns was not a serious problem, Crestwood used the number of catastrophic occurrences in all types of gas storage facilities, not just salt caverns. Although a small percentage of the gas storage facilities, they account for all the catastrophic incidents. The safety of highly pressurized natural gas stored in a salt cavern beneath the bank of a large lake that serves as a drinking water source has never been evaluated. Seneca Lake is a drinking water source for 100,000 people, and salt contamination cannot be remediated. Last summer Crestwood Midstream was at fault in a million-gallon spill of toxic fracking waste into a drinking water reservoir in tribal land in North Dakota. The accident killed vegetation, poisoned the soil, and threatened Lake Sakakawea.

The area near the proposed storage is a renowned part of New York’s grape and wine industry that annually contributes $4.8 billion to the state’s economy. The Finger Lakes area was also named the #1 Lake Vacation in the world last year. Over 20 million people visit the area each year.

Among those opposing Crestwood’s actions are more than 200 businesses, more than 60 wineries, 11 municipalities (including neighboring Watkins Glen), and thousands and thousands of residents in the Finger Lakes region who are concerned about the threat it poses to human health, drinking water and the local economy, including the tourism industry.

Santa, aka Stefan Senders, explained his participation in the protests by saying, “The North Pole is melting fast due to climate change and I felt we should throw our considerable weight behind this nice bunch of folks called “We Are Seneca Lake.’ “

Sandra Steingraber, a biologist, further explained:

“As a greenhouse gas, methane is carbon dioxide’s younger and more dangerous brother. Methane is eighty-six times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. Methane will inevitably leak from this facility as well as the surrounding pipeline infrastructure.”

santaarrested2 When he tried to block the gates of the facility, Santa and his party were charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct in front of children. As he was hauled off in handcuffs, he called out to them, “Don’t worry, boys and girls, I’ll be out of jail in time to deliver your presents.” Santa is already giving children their presents—trying to save the planet.

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