Nel's New Day

August 25, 2018

DDT: Week 83 – Outside the Courts

Frantic from his loss of loyal followers, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) attacked the DOJ and the FBI by threatening to fire his appointee AG Jeff Sessions and take over both agencies which are legally separate from presidential control. DDT sent out a long list of enemies that he wants investigation, starting with Hillary Clinton, and cited the 63 months of prison for Realty Winner for disclosing classified information about Russian hacking as an example of how easy these investigations could be. One useful investigation would involve DDT’s disclosing classified information to two Russians in the Oval Office of value to the Kremlin.

This file handout photo taken on May 10, 2017 from Russian Foreign Ministry shows shows DDT speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak in the White House. 
HO/AFP/Getty Images

These weekend tweets came after DDT fomented racial divide in South Africa to distract from the news that he is an “unindicted co-conspirator.” Before looking into false reports from Fox’s Tucker Carlson and white supremacists, DDT tweeted that he had directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to investigate “the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.” Until 1994, blacks, comprising 90 percent of the population, were barred from owning more than 15 percent of the nation’s land, allowing whites to own 90 percent of the land. Despite the 1994 South African policy allowing the government to buy white-owned farms for redistribution to black citizens when the seller is willing to cooperate,  whites still own 72 percent of the farmland. As for the false claim of “white genocide,” the numbers of white farmers’ murders dropped to below 50 a year, the lowest that it has been in over 20 years.  Murder rates in the country’s predominantly white suburbs are far lower than in the mainly black townships.

White supremacist leaders such as David Duke and Richard Spencer have expressed their gratitude to DDT for giving credibility to their lies. “White genocide” has been used for years to inspire violence; Dylann Roof cited this reason for murdering nine people at a prayer service in a black church.

DDT managed more destructive behavior in the past week:

In June, the United States was safe from North Korea’s nukes, according to DDT who referred to the skeptical media coverage as “almost treasonous.”  In August Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) gave lack of progress as the reason for calling off negotiations with North Korea. Since then, North Korea continues to build nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and China increased cross-border trade with North Korea after DDT laid tariffs on U.S. imports from China.

DDT has gone full Zionist by cutting $200 million from Palestinian humanitarian aid at a time with Egypt and the UN are trying to stabilize Gaza. Forty percent of Palestinians living in Gaza are unemployed. Because of the U.S.-backed Israeli blockade, everyone in Gaza lives with only a few hours of electricity per day and constant food and medicine shortages. Last January, DDT froze $65 million for a UN agency that provides aid to Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza as well as Jordan and Lebanon. DDT still promises that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will broker peace in the Middle East—perhaps through blackmail.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos hopes to use education money for lower-income students, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, for buying guns. Justification would be to “improve school conditions.” DeVos wants to arm teachers; one reason was to defend schools from grizzly bear attacks.

Conserving oil no longer has any value, according to DDT’s new policy. His proposal increases consumption by 500,000 barrels a day. Another EPA plan weakens regulations of coal-fired power plants by giving states authority to set standards for cutting emissions with incentives for keeping inefficient coal-fired plans with no pollution controls. DDT’s “Affordable Clean Energy rule” will kill up to 1,400 people every year by 2030, according to the EPA. Employment for coal is declining because of increased automation, cheaper natural gas, and healthier wind and solar power are healthier. DDT’s new EPA czar, Andrew Wheeler, is a former coal lobbyist.

The oil and gas industry claims that climate change doesn’t cause sea levels to rise, but it wants $12 billion from taxpayers to fix their problems in Texas including “floating gates” and “steel levees” for the coastline home to most of Texas’ 30 refineries. Texas has already spent almost $4 billion of that money to protect only oil refineries.

DDT may consider a plan from Blackwater founder and war criminal Erik Prince, brother of Secretary of State Betsy DeVos, to privatize the 17-year-long Afghanistan war by replacing U.S. soldiers with mercenaries, “private military contractors who would work for a special U.S. envoy for the war who would report directly to the president.” Although privatization never saves money, Prince claims it will. In an 85-7 vote, the Senate approved $675 billion for the military, over half the discretionary funds spent in a year. Under DDT, the U.S. drops an average of one bomb every 12 minutes; in his first year, he dropped almost half the number of bombs that President Obama did during the eight years of his two terms.

At a conference on cyberbullying, First Lady Melania Trump said that “children are more aware of benefits and pitfalls of social media than most adults.” In the past few days, DDT cyberbullied his former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman (“dog,” “wacky,” “vicious,” “nasty,” “a loser” “hated,” “crazed, crying lowlife”); John Dean (“rat”); the media (“sick,” “fake,” “disgusting,” “enemy of the people”); Brennan (“loudmouth, partisan, political hack,” “limited intellectually”); his own attorney general (“BLANK Jeff Sessions”); Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT (“Loser!”); Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-NY (“haywire”); New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (“incompetent,” “really dumb,” “having a total meltdown”); Ohio Gov. John Kasich (“very unpopular,” “failed”); and those investigating DDT (“creep,” “McCarthyism at its WORST!” “zero credibility,” “corrupt,” “a fraud,” “lowlife”).

While overshadowing the First Lady’s work against cyberbullying, DDT held an event to “salute the heroes” of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that he consistently called CBC. About a Latino Border Patrol agent and dog handler in the audience who had arrested a smuggler trying to bring 78 people to the U.S., DDT said, “And he speaks perfect English.” He said that Democrats, who he called the “opposition,” “don’t mind crime” and claimed that between 88 percent and 93 percent of people support the work of ICE. Almost half the people view ICE unfavorably.

Acting ICE Director Ronald Vitiello said that his agency had a plan to reunite the thousands of migrant children with their families that was ruined by the federal courts. The government still can’t find families for about 700 children, including 40 who are four years old or younger with the deadline a month and more past.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lied when he said he would never sell public lands. A huge public backlash stopped him from selling 1,610 acres that had been part of the Grand Staircase national monument. After he shrank the national monument by 860,000 acres, he decided to put it on the market for private owners. One 120-acre is adjacent to land owned by Utah state Rep. Mike Noel (R).

Wildfire is covering hundreds of miles in California, and DDT’s solutions are to keep the water from going into the ocean and get rid of the trees. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue want to cut down all the trees, or what Zinke calls “robust fuels reduction and pre-suppression techniques.” The new farm bill, as yet in Congress, cuts out environmental review and permits logging for any reason. The House version of the bill that passed on June 21 would fast track road construction and commercial logging in national forests and exempt projects from environmental review.

The stock market is rolling for the top 20 percent, but the purchasing power of salaries has reverted to a 1974 level as the costs of living increase when workers get a small bonus from the massive tax cuts for the wealthy and big business. Pew Research Drew Desilver listed the peak of average hourly earnings at 45 years ago. Earnings for the lowest-paid quarter of workers are far worse than the past, with only a 4.3 percent increase since 2000 while the top tenth of earners have a 15.7 percent increase. The economy may be booming, but the vast majority of people in the United States are suffering.

DDT brags about “his” economy, but he fails to mention the current budget deficit—already 21 percent over that in 2017 with little hope for the future. President Obama’s deficits came from George W. Bush’s recession, but DDT’s disaster comes at a time of growing economy, the result of greater military spending and excessive tax cuts for the wealthy and big business. When Congress returns in September, the Republicans want another trillion-dollar tax cut, and the proposed “U.S. Space Force” can add hundreds of billions to the Pentagon budget. DDT also his wall that will cost $70 billion. Nobody is addressing the highly expensive natural and man-made disasters occurring more and more—or the ballooning interest on the national debt. The highly unpopular tariffs may also slow the economy.

As Republicans campaign, ObamaCare is more popular than the GOP tax law, according to Fox network poll, with the healthcare law at a 51 percent approval rating and the tax cuts at 40 percent approval.

DDT’s latest Gallup poll is 39 percent approval—the same as his average since he was inaugurated. Among Republicans, his approval is 82 percent, down seven points from last week. And next week may bring more disasters for DDT.

April 26, 2018

Zinke Possibly Next for Limelight

Much has been said about the corruption and environmental destruction by EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt while Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has flown under the radar. Yet Zinke is bent on razing public land in the United States while illegally using taxpayer monies. He also consistently brags about being a “geologist,” sometimes under oath, to give weight to all his opinions about endangered species, oil drilling, climate change, and anything else he declaims. Zinke’s only background in geology, however, comes from his college major. He attended the University of Oregon on a football scholarship and said he chose his major by “closing my eyes and randomly pointing to a major from the academic catalog.”

Zinke also failed to disclose information to ethics officials, promoted the birther conspiracy about President Obama, inappropriately reassigned a large number of Native Americans in his agency, frequently decried “diversity,” and inappropriately used taxpayer funds for his unnecessary travel and that of his wife who needed to go to her campaign events. He also reassigned a scientist who revealed the negative impact of climate change on Alaska Native communities. Zinke was also criticized for a 2014 campaign email asking for donations and reporting that he “served as a Team Leader on SEAL Team Six—the team responsible for the mission to get Osama Bin Laden.” Osama bin Laden was killed three years after Zinke retired.

Other Zinke issues:

  • Threatening Alaska’s GOP senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, with penalties for their state if they didn’t vote for a health care plan.
  •  Ignoring the National Park System Advisory Board—refusing to even meet with them—until three-fourths of them quit.
  • Relying on a top energy industry lobbyist for help with a list of regulatory rollbacks.
  • Requiring extra work from his staff for coordinating his wife’s access to high-level politicians and donors to benefit her position chairing the senatorial campaign for GOP Troy Downing who is running against incumbent Sen. Jon Tester.
  • Promising Florida that he wouldn’t drill of its coast after planning coastal oil drilling off the other 13 states despite their governors’ objections. (Zinke said that Florida is “unique”: he might mean that Mar-a-Lago is in Florida and that Gov. Rick Scott is running against Democrat Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate.)
  • Spending $53,000 on three helicopter trips, including one to go horseback riding with VP Mike Pence. (He paid for one of them out of wildfire preparedness funds until someone pointed out that it was inappropriate.)
  • Failing to disclose shares in a gun company that lobbies the government on “defense appropriations and authorizations” and “carbon fiber barrels.” (The company got an $11.4 million contract last year.)
  • Demanding confidential energy data for others’ use.
  • Illegally blocking plans to expand Native American tribes from expanding casino operations in Connecticut which benefitted politically connected MGM Resorts International.
  • Spending almost $139,000 to upgrade three sets of double doors in his office.
  •  Taking a taxpaid security detail on his vacation with his wife to Turkey and Greece.

More Zinke problems:

  • Changed regulations to allow seismic testing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Lifted restrictions on new coal leasing on public lands.
  • Proposed the elimination of safety requirements to protect communities from methane pollution by oil and gas drilling on public lands.
  • Renewed mining leases near Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
  • Proposed a 90-percent cut to America’s most important conservation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
  • Eliminated a policy asking parks to create plans for preserving natural resources and protecting them from threats like climate change.

Zinke has some esoteric positions. When he is in the building, he flies a special Department of Interior flag. A security staff takes the flag up the elevator to the seventh floor and climbs the stairs to the roof where he hoists the flag. At night, he repeats the journey to take down the flag. Zinke’s spokesperson called the flag “a major sign of transparency.” (The only other specialized flying flag in the government is above the State Department, but it’s always there.) Zinke arrived for his first day at work on horseback and kept a glass-case display of hunting knives until he was told to remove them because of security risks. His wood-paneled office walls sport animal heads. In a speech to fossil fuel executives, he complained that 30 percent of his agency are “not loyal to the flag.” (He didn’t say which one.)

Zinke also created a “challenge coin” for the Interior Department with his name emblazoned on the front. These coins began as a military tradition during World War I when Ivy League students slapped their coins on the table. The person without one had to buy a round of drinks for the others.

National Park Service officials have scrubbed every mention of humans’ role in causing climate change in connection with sea-level rise and storm surge. Delays in releasing reports have blocked information about hurricane forecasts, safeguarding artifacts, and locating buildings. (Over at the EPA, Scott Pruitt tried to create a better coin with his name but omitting the EPA logo.)

Zinke’s 15-member “Made in America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee is composed of representatives from fishing, shooting sports, motorized vehicles, hospitality, and national park concessions interests, three of them having conflicts of interests. Missing are any nominees recommended by the Outdoor Industry Association advocating outdoor sports. Most members on the Royalty Policy Committee come from fossil fuel and mining industries. His new International Wildlife Conservation Council is mainly comprised of trophy hunters and individuals with ties to President Trump’s oldest son, who is an avid hunter. Member Peter Horn owns a hunting preserve in conjunction with Eric and Don Jr. Trump.

Zinke has made BLM staff in Western states propaganda tools by requiring them to wear “vision” cards with illustrations of an oil rig and cows grazing. The cards reference “customers” instead of “public” and list the purpose as improving “the health and productivity of the land.” Because BLM has no director, Zinke has taken that role, moving forward with plundering the lands resources. A key phrase in supporting the America First Energy Plan is “to serve industry.”

Zinke’s BIA Director Bryan Rice, appointed only six months ago, has resigned. As of this writing, nobody is talking about the reason.

Although only Florida is exempted from offshore oil drilling, Zinke is cooling off about drilling in the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic off Maine. He told the Senate Energy Committee that these places had little recoverable oil and gas. In another loss, he has backed down from a monstrous increase in park entrance fees of $45 to an extra $5, thanks to the vociferous public protest. He also postponed selling over 4,000 acres of leases near the sacred tribal site of Chaco Canyon after protests from indigenous people and withdrew 17,300 acres from a fossil fuel lease auction in Montana.  A big political loss was the election of Democrat Conor Lamb to be the representative after a special election in Pennsylvania despite Zinke’s show of presenting a check for a coal mine reclamation with GOP candidate Rick Saccone in attendance. Once again Republicans have gotten away with violated the Hatch Act.

Despite criticism, Zinke continues his destruction of public land. In his testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, he repeated his plans to cover the National Park Service maintenance backlog with revenue from mining and drilling. Republicans in both congressional chambers already have bills in accord with Zinke’s desires. If they get their way, they will sell off sensitive wildlife habitat such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil companies too build park bathrooms. Other national monuments would be opened to mining and drilling. The plan will likely fail because it requires an oil price that are double the current level.

Zinke is unhappy about being questioned for his profligate spending, and he’s sure to hate this hilarious—and accurate—segment on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight which includes the Interior Secretary throwing the “Second Lady,” Karen Pence, around like a “sack of unbleached flour.”  Zinke banned a reporter from Outside from his presence for pointing out that Zinke had rigged his fly rod backward. That’s considered bad form in Montana.

Recently dark money is paying for ads, and Zinke is meeting with deep-pocketed donors. A polling firm has called Iowa GOP voters, testing Zinke’s name recognition for a 2024 presidential run. With all his problems, he may need to wait before he measures for drapes in the Oval Office. He might first run for Montana governor because he exempted Montana from moving public lands to the private sector.

During Zinke’s confirmation hearings, he promised that he would follow Teddy Roosevelt in being a steward of the lands with his concern about global warming. Once confirmed, he started selling off national monuments to the highest bidder and dropping regulations to satisfy business interests. Sen. Ron Wyden said it best when he stated that voting for Zinke was “one of the biggest regrets of my time in public service.”

December 9, 2017

DDT: Week Forty-six – Make America Worse

The good news: Congress Republicans passed a funding bill to avoid a government shutdown yesterday. The bad news: it’s only for two weeks. Every day, 122 DACA recipients lose their protections. The total thus far since Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) issues his decree is over 11,000 of the 800,000 young people. CHIP, health care for children, also expired over two months ago.

Other questions of the week:

  • Will DDT fire his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson?
  • Can the two chambers of Congress combine their tax bill in time to give most people a lump of coal for the holidays?
  • Where will the courts go after the Supreme Court okayed DDT’s travel ban?
  • How many people will die or be injured because DDT tore up 70 years of U.S. policy and gave Jerusalem to Israel?
  • Who is the next to leave Congress because of sexual assault/harassment after the departures of Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), and Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ)?  (Clue: Reps. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) and Blake Farenthold (R-TX) are on the chopping block, and as many as 40 congressional members–ten percent of the males–could be affected.)
  • And will the GOP elect pedophile Roy Moore for its senator from Alabama?

At the inauguration ceremony of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), Michael Flynn texted a former associate, promising that U.S. sanctions against Russia would be “ripped up” and plans to build nuclear interests in the Middle East with Russian interests was “good to go.” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who has a witness to these statements, asked Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to subpoena the White House for Flynn-related documents. Gowdy, who led a crusade against Hillary Clinton regarding Benghazi and the continuing focus on her emails as well as targeting former FBI director James Comey, responded, “Congress doesn’t investigate a crime.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller has asked a federal judge to deny Paul Manafort’s request to release him from house arrest because of an op-ed that Manafort edited for an associate “assessed to have ties” with Russian intelligence. That act was in violation of a court order.

Republicans are trying to destroy Mueller with the most recent attacks fueled by disparaging texts about DDT from Peter Strzok, who has been removed as top FBI agent on the investigation team. New FBI director Christopher Wray repeatedly defended the FBI when Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee bombarded him with questions about anti-DDT sentiment. Hillary Clinton’s name came up at 76 times, and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) complained about no special counsel “addressing the Clinton administration.” On Fox, Gregg Jarrett accused the FBI of being “like the old KGB … a shadow government.”

Donald Trump Jr. talked to the House Intelligence Committee for eight hours behind closed doors with no released transcripts. He cited attorney-client privilege to refuse answering questions about his conversation with his father about the meeting between Jr. and others, including a Russian lawyer, on June 9, 2016. Neither DDT nor his son is a lawyer, but Jr. said one was in the room. Mueller also questioned Hope Hicks, DDT’s current Communications Director; the FBI had earlier warned her that Russian officials had tried to contact her during the presidential transition.

The Senate tax bill suffers a $300 billion glitch that may take more money from the less than wealthy. Hurried writers forgot to lower the alternative minimum tax (AMT) after putting it back into the legislation. Protests are accelerating as the two chambers try to reconcile their positions.

The decision allowing financial advisers to act in their own best interests for another 18 months will take $10.9 billion from their clients saving for retirement in the next three decades. Permanent implementation of the rule would be more devastating.

U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte ordered 23 DDT businesses including Mar-a-Lago to keep their records for a lawsuit against DDT regarding his violation of the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution. In District of Columbia v. Trump, attorneys in Washington and Maryland claim that his business empire is profiting from foreign and domestic governments.

Project Veritas may lose its license to collect donations in New York because it failed to disclose the criminal record of founder James O’Keefe from a 2010 conviction.  DDT is one of the donors to the group that uses editing and lies in order to produce fraudulent videos, the most recent one by a woman who lied about Roy Moore impregnating her and getting an abortion for her. The group’s paperwork also failed to disclose that Utah and Mississippi had already removed its rights to raise money in their states. The DOJ is now using O’Keefe’s fake videos about Planned Parenthood to launch an investigation into the organization.

Fox is calling for the arrest of a president. Lou Dobbs wants Barack Obama arrested for saying that people should “think before you speak. Think before you tweet.”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the reason that DDT is taking almost two million acres from the public in the Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments is that “public lands are for public use and not for special interests.” Possibly Zinke’s “public use” comes from the fact that over three-fourths of the property that DDT took from public land sits on fossil fuel reserves. Five Utah tribes—Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Ute Indian, Hopi, and the Pueblo of Zini—plan to sue DDT to save approximately 100,000 cultural and ancestral sites, some dating back to 1300 AD. Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred said:

“More than 150 years ago, the federal government removed our ancestors from Bears Ears at gunpoint and sent them on the Long Walk. But we came back.”

Zinke hopes to shrink more national monuments, including Oregon’s Cascades-Siskiyou so that he can cut down its trees.

Last week, DDT destroyed a ceremony with the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II; this week he described the bombing of Pearl Harbor as a “pretty wild scene” during a ceremony.

DDT refused to take on-the-record questions on Air Force One during one his newsiest days. Ken Walsh, journalist covering six presidents, said, “The briefing has become a battleground, not a place for public education or enlightenment or even the discussion of basic information.”

The RNC gave $170,000 to Roy Moore for his campaign because DDT told them to give him money. Sexual assault isn’t Moore’s only problem; he also said to a black man that the last time the United States was great was when the nation had slavery. In the meantime, lawyers are working to preserve electronic images of all paper ballots cast in the December 12 election and ensure the electronic scanners will capture the digital ballot images. Different states have struggled with out-of-date computers and mysteriously destroyed records, most recently in Georgia. Elections have already shown through hand-counting that many votes are not detected by the optical-scan device.

In another move toward “Make America Alone Again,” DDT withdrew from UN attempts to develop compassionate global refugee policies. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said that the U.S. will make decisions alone. The nomination for Haley’s fill-in if she is not available, white supremacist Patrick Murray, has passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Secretary of State Betsy DeVos’ brother, Blackwater founder Erik Prince, is proposing a private spy group to fight “deep state” political enemies in federal intelligence agencies and allow DDT to send spies for covert operations into “denied areas” such as North Korea and Iran. Prince also wants a global rendition force to capture terrorist suspects around the world and set up propaganda campaigns in the Middle East and Europe. The plan copies the old British East Indian Company private army that colonized the British empire in India. The group would be “off the books” with no government oversight: funding would come from picking off Afghanistan’s rich deposits of minerals such as lithium, uranium, and “rare earth elements.” Another actor in the plan is Oliver North, who set up the same type of network 30 years ago to wage war against the leftist government of Nicaragua after Congress refused funding for military intervention in Central America’s civil wars.

DDT’s lawyers have a new defense tactic: the president is above the law. The current DOJ said 18 years ago that no one—even the president—is above the law when the president was a Democrat.

Forget about price shopping for airline flights; DDT withdrew a proposed rule for transparency in baggage fees.

The 28 of 30 Jewish House members who are Democrats weren’t invited to DDT’s partisan Hanukah party, five days before the beginning of the celebration. The tiny menorah brought into the room only for the ceremony and lighted by DDT’s grandchildren was in the midst of four huge Christmas trees. Afterwards, the party moved to DDT’s International Hotel for the “Hanukkah Nightcap” party funded by Sheldon Adelson’s Republican Jewish Coalition.

Less than one year after his inauguration, DDT is welcome only at rallies with vetted audiences of Trumpettes. Early this week, neither DDT nor his wife attended Kennedy Center Honors, the first time the president was not in attendance or represented since its inception in 1978.  Today DDT did not attend the public opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson because of protests, including by NAACP and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) who had been injured and jailed during the 1960s civil rights protests. DeNeen L. Brown and Cleve R. Wootson Jr. describe the tragedies depicted in the museum.

After DDT may have admitted obstructing of justice in his tweet about Michael Flynn, White House staff is considering making rules for how messages are posted on social media.

The latest Pew Research puts the approval rating for DDT at 32 percent with 63 percent disapproving. At the same time for his first term, President Obama’s approval rating was 49 percent. DDT’s loss of evangelical voters may be painful; the approval rating among that group has fallen 17 points down to 72 percent.  Further drops for DDT: Adults 50 and older – from 47 percent to 38 percent; whites – 49 percent to 41 percent.

April 22, 2016

Earth Day 2016 – Keep What We Have, Make It Better

[Once again, thanks to Ann Hubard for the photographs, showing the benefits of Oregonians because we still have public land.]

Multinomah FallsEarth Day turned 46 today, and I went looking for some good news. These five items from Julia Whittey:

The huge drop of toxic PCBs and related contaminants in polar bears on the island of Svalbard shows that international agreements to ban PCBs are showing some success. As polar bears go, there go humans.

Wildlife preserves in Russia and China for highly rare Amur leopards show that the countries are working together to save endangered species.

Fog in WallowasForty individual projects and nine larger projects received almost one-half billion dollars since last November—the greatest amount of funding that it has provided. One is a proposal to protect at least 5 percent of Brazil’s ocean territory through marine protected areas, and another is a project to investigate the potential of creating ‘blue forest’ preserves in the ocean for the storage of carbon by mangrove and coral ecosystems.

Southern right whales, extinct from ancestral calving grounds off New Zealand for over a century, are finding their way home. Before the whaling industry, 30,000 whales lived in that area.

The  Arabian Oryx, thought to be extinct in the wild since 1973, has moved up to “vulnerable” since captive breeding efforts through Operation Oryx.

Ortho, a gigantic pesticide manufacturer, is stopping the use of neonicotinoids, known for killing honey bees. Europe banned these pesticides in 2013, and Ontario was the first North American region to ban them last year.

For the first time in a half century, greenhouse gas emissions are staying static while the economy grows.

For the first time in U.S. history, solar power increased more in generating capacity than natural gas. Over 29 percent of all new power capacity came from solar photovoltaic (PV) panels in 2015, a 17 percent increase over 2014.

 

Mountain in WAArch Coal, one of the biggest in the U.S., will abandoned plans to build the biggest new coal mine in the U.S.,  the proposed Otter Creek coal mine, after Indigenous activists, ranchers, and landowners asked for prevention of permits. In Reno, no one showed up to bid at the federal oil and gas auctions. And in Oregon, the federal government denied an application for the proposed Jordan Cove Liquefied Natural Gas terminal at Coos Bay. FERC said that there was no need for the project that takes fracked gas from Canada through a proposed pipeline before it is shipped out of the country.

Today’s Earth Day will also be known as the anniversary for the 170 world leaders who gathered at the UN to sign the Paris Agreement, bringing the nations together to tackle climate change. Countries have already been building programs to increase clean energy and stop the pollution. To take effect, 55 percent of the countries representing 55 percent of global emissions must ratify the deal. Both the U.S. and China, together representing 40 percent of global emissions, signed today.

An extra one: The earth’s protected areas cover eight million square miles of land and sea, over twice the size of Canada. Maps and charts since 1872 here.

Tom McCall PreserveUnfortunately, that number may shrink if the Republicans get their way. After the Bundy tribe threatened federal officials in Nevada a few years ago and occupied a bird sanctuary in Oregon last winter, more GOP legislators are talking about privatizing public land. If they don’t want to go that far, they want to log, drill, mine, bulldoze, and develop that lands available for everyone.

Federal land is used for camping, hiking, climbing, fishing, bird watching, rafting, bicycling, and just plain enjoying with over 600 million visits a year. In just 2011, federal lands provided two million jobs and $385 billion in economic development. National forests provide water—generally clean and pure—to 60 million people. Public land cuts down on pollution because it lacks industry and produces oxygen while removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. I live next to the most beautiful beaches in the United States because they are not privately owned. Anyone can walk or run along the Pacific Ocean in Oregon, unlike in California which sells its beaches.

The land in the West has never been “private” land. The federal government took it from Native Americans, not the ranchers who claim that they should “take it back.” The Homestead Act gave away some of this land, but much of it was set aside as national forests and parks.

It’s not “we the people” who think that the public lands should be put into private hands; it’s the corporations and industries such as the Koch brothers and Exxon Mobile—the companies that own the GOP lawmakers. In their attempt to take over private lands, the Koch brothers directly funded the group that occupied an Oregon bird sanctuary earlier this year.

BeachThe move toward privatizing comes from federal government haters in Congress trying to turn federal lands over to the states because they would supposedly be the best to manage them. Of course, they would have to pay for the management, including paying for jobs, firefighting, roads, etc. Complaints about not having access to public land would vastly increase if these were managed by the states instead of the federal government. Many Western states don’t consider state lands to be “public” and thus make them off limits to recreation, trapping, and firewood cutting. Ranchers and farmers would lose grazing rights and federal water.

Former GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio’s top energy priority was to “work with Congress to ensure that states and tribes—and not the federal government—have the primary role in oversight of energy development within their borders.” He meant selling, transferring, or privatizing U.S. private lands and energy resources—and waive environmental protections. The RNC has officially endorsed efforts to force U.S. public lands to state ownership, and last year the Senate passed a budget proposal that would do just that. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) has a group of House members, the Federal Land Action Group, with the goal of determining “the best congressional action needed to return these [federal] lands back to the rightful owners.”  The Koch brothers’ conservative network is lobbying Western state legislatures to demand state ownership of national forests and other public lands. Their supporters are anti-government activists, white supremacists, militias, and other extremist groups whose ideas are dribbling into the Tea Party that some people consider “mainstream” instead of fringe groups.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is aligned with Cliven Bundy and the land grab movement. No longer a presidential candidate, he’ll still be in the U.S. Senate and will surely continue to push legislation for the loss of federal lands. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), proud of his connection with the conservative ALEC, is right up there with Paul and will remain as senator or be president. As Ohio governor, John Kasich opened state parks to oil and gas drilling before reversing his position three years later because the state lacked “the policies in place yet to properly do it.” In a little over a century, the GOP has changed from the conservation party of Teddy Roosevelt to the takeover party that gives only to corporations and the wealthy.

Then states will sell the land that the federal government “gives” them. New Mexico has sold over one-third of its original 13 million acres, Nevada has just 3,000 acres left from its 2.7 million, Idaho sold 1.2 million acres, and Colorado and Arizona each sold off 1.7 million acres.

Earth Day is a time to appreciate what we have and fight for keeping it—and making it better!

March 21, 2014

GOP on National Parks: Follow the Monday

Tired of trashing just people, GOP members of the U.S. House has decided to throw away the country’s most wonderful resources—the national parks. These people are in a snit because the President of the United States has had the right to declare new parks and monuments for 108 years. Rep. Bob Bishop (R-UT) introduced a bill this month that would give Congress the sole power to create new public resources. HR 1459 is called “The Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of Monuments and Parks,” but it would better be called “No New Parks.” The GOP members of Congress that wants to be responsible for our public resources has opposed every piece of legislation that would protect the environment or conserve land in the nation.

Once again, the GOP opposes what the public wants. A few months ago, three-fourths of respondents to a survey indicated that the government is not doing enough to protect national parks or public lands. In another survey, almost 70 percent of the people said they would more likely vote for a candidate who protects the environment and cares for the land.

HR 1459 is on schedule for a vote next week. That fast work is amazing for the House because bills sent over from the Senate such as immigration reform or helping the unemployed are still unattended.

Such quick action from the GOP calls on a response called “follow the money.” Bishop’s home state of Utah is sitting on a possible three trillion barrels of oil, more oil than used thus far in human history. Utah is getting ready for all this extraction with a $80-million highway into the Book Cliffs after a request from an oil shale lobby. A year ago BLM and the president allocated 800,000 acres of public lands for oil shale and tar sands leasing.  Benefiting companies are Enefit American (Estonia), Total (France), and Red Leaf Resources (Canada).

Tar sands oil is a mixture of sand, clay, and water. Usually the rock is “stripped” from the land, crushed, and then separated from the oil with the use of heat, water, and chemicals. Transport to a refinery requires dilution with some kind of petroleum solvent. As with other methods of fossil-fuel removal, tar sands oil mining uses a great deal of energy and water and causes massive and dangerous waste.

Below is the already mined Black Cliffs in Alberta and the Book Cliffs area before any mining.

black cliff alberta

book cliffs #3U.S. Oil Sands already got approval because the state’s Water Quality Division’s director, Walt Baker, doesn’t think there is any groundwater in the area in the high country between Vernal and Moab (UT). That site is called PR Spring, the name of a nearby freshwater spring, and the company plans to use groundwater for its processing. The total of that mine’s production over seven years will provide six hours of the fuel supply in the United States.

Jeremy Miller, of the environmental group Living Rivers, described the process during its seven years:

“Heavy machinery would scour bitumen from the pit around the clock … The sand and mineral fines remaining after the oil has been removed will be combined, shoved back into the pit and covered with topsoil. But processing expands such wastes by as much as 30 percent. The overflow will be dumped into surrounding ravines—a method starkly reminiscent of Appalachia’s mountaintop coal mining. And the project will create miles of light pollution, illuminating one of the country’s last great ‘dark’ regions.”

The mining company plans to use an untested “citrus-based solvent.” Miller said:

“In order to utilize the solvent, the sands must first be sent through a series of on-site crushers. Hot water is added to the resulting slurry, generating a ‘froth’ of oil, solvent, and fine sand particles. This mixture is then passed through a series of separation towers, where the crude oil is isolated. It’s then trucked to refineries in Salt Lake City for processing. Unlike conventional light crude oil, the heavy crude generated from PR Spring—like Canada’s—requires extra, energy-intensive refining steps to remove impurities, such as sulfur and heavy metals, before it can be turned into anything useful.”

arch parkThis site, however, is small compared to the largest deposit further south in the Tar Sands Triangle between Canyonlands National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and the Dirty Devil River Watershed. These are near some of the most beautiful places in the United States, including the red-rock canyon country of Canyonlands National Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and inside Capitol Reef National Park.

white Canyon

[White Canyon in Natural Bridges National Monument. White Canyon, just outside the monument’s boundaries, is a designated tar sands development area. Credit: Bobby Magill]

canyonlandsTar sands mining would, in the words of BLM, “completely displace all other uses of the land.” Its environmental impact statement would mean that the air nearby could be:

“… contaminated with carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants, while air close to the site could be contaminated with benzene, toluene and formaldehyde. More than 100,000 acres of wilderness-quality land could be industrialized, construction of reservoirs would alter natural streamflow patterns, hydrocarbons and herbicides could cause ‘chronic or acute toxicity’ in wildlife and habitat for 20 threatened or endangered species could be lost.”

That was the report from the federal agency that approved the tar sands mining.

These “before and after” photos shows the change in a northern Alberta forest on the Suncor Millennium tar sands site. [Photo by Peter Essick; complete article in March 2009, National Geographic.]

tar-sands-before-after Alberta

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has asked Secretary of State John Kerry for a “comprehensive human health impacts study” analyzing the respiratory ailments, cancer and other illnesses related to harvesting and refining the dense hydrocarbon bitumen in Alberta’s oil sands. In a press conference, she said:

“The health impacts of tar sands oil are being ignored. This press conference is about waking up Americans that more tar sands coming into this country is a danger to the health of our people, all along the way, from the extraction to the transport, to the refining.”

She noted that people living near the facilities suffer from “higher rates of the types of cancers linked to these toxic chemicals, including leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.” The letter to Kerry stated, “Putting more Americans at risk for asthma, cancer and other serious health impacts is not in our national interest.”

Her concern was about the pollutants from tar sands mining in Canada and piping it across the United States so that companies can make billions by shipping the product to Asia. The GOP wants tar sand mining to destroy the country’s public lands.

Water from the area targeted for the mining goes into the Colorado River watershed. Aside from taking water from a source for 30 million people, the resulting pollution would greatly damage the fragile Colorado River watershed.

Boxer needs to expand her concerns about what could happen to the land of Utah as this photo from the Alberta mines shows. Photo by Garth Lenz.

Alberta sands at night

As president, Theodore Roosevelt conserved over 230 million acres of U.S. land. He created five national parks (doubling the previously existing number); signed the landmark Antiquities Act and used its special provisions to unilaterally create 18 national monuments, including the Grand Canyon; and set aside 51 federal bird sanctuaries, four national game refuges, and more than 100 million acres’ worth of national forests. Now the Republicans want to again reject Roosevelt’s policies and destroy the beautiful lands of Utah. The GOP has one goal: follow the money.

 

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