Nel's New Day

September 18, 2017

DDT’s Hires Selected to Destroy U.S.

Filed under: Executive action — trp2011 @ 10:19 PM
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People disappear from the world of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) soon after he starts addressing them by Mr., as with “Mr.” Bannon. Aides also say that another sign is his refusal to look them in the eye as happened with Gary D. Cohn, chair of the National Economic Council, after the former Goldman Sachs executive described his disgust at DDT’s white supremacist remarks after the neo-Nazis’ violence in Charlottesville (VA). Cohn is also no longer a contender for the next Federal Reserve chair after publicly disagreeing with DDT.

DDT’s world, however, is still filled with wealthy corrupt cronies who either benefited him in the past or could give him personal advantage in the future. A common characteristic among most Cabinet members is that they had no experience or knowledge to carry out the agencies’ missions. They are also very rich, which DDT justifies by claiming that they can make the nation rich because they made themselves rich. An increased normalization of DDT’s behavior has resulted in less commentary about inappropriate nominees and hires plus the Democrats’ lack of opposition in confirmations.

A job description for DDT’s nominees and hires could read:

Wanted for government service: no experience/knowledge about the job; desire to privatize all services at increased costs to taxpayers; beliefs in opposition to all agencies’ missions; loyalty only to the “boss.”

A few hires who didn’t need Senate confirmation:

Fred Malek, 80, as chair of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a think tank that is part of the Smithsonian Institution. Malek had served as Richard Nixon’s special assistant with the duty of listing “important Jewish officials” working in the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Four of them were demoted because Nixon believed that Democratic Jews in the BLS were conspiring against him with a report minimizing a drop in the unemployment rate. Until DDT, this episode was characterized as “the last recorded act of official anti-Semitism by the United States government.” Malek lied about not being complicit in the demotions.

Joe Grogan, lobbyist for a pharma company price-gouging in hepatitis C. treatment, for drug pricing policies.

Donald G. Kempf Jr., counsel representing corporations in antitrust and mergers, for deputy attorney general in the DOJ antitrust division, overseeing litigation.

Brad Bailey, lobbyist for H&R Block to stop a free federal tax filing system, for Legislative Affairs.

Scott Angelle, successful in ending moratorium on deepwater drilling after BP’s oil spill, for Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement that oversees safety for offshore oil and gas drilling.

Charles Faulkner, lobbyist for foreign governments, for deputy assistant secretary of state.

Wendy Teramoto, managing director at Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s former investment firm, for Ross’ chief of staff.

Michael Dougherty, prior CEO of the company that sells border and law enforcement technologies, for assistant secretary for border, immigration and trade policy at the Department of Homeland Security.

Mark Vafiades, climate-denying Hollywood actor who thinks that the U.S. suffers from massive voter fraud, for communications director at Health and Human Services.

Emily McBride, a former aide to Jeff Sessions, for special assistant to the head of the General Services Administration which is in charge of leasing DDT’s Washington hotel to him and reviews its finances.

Adam Kissel, a worker for Koch’s higher education programs and critic of investigating campus sexual assault, for deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs.

Jonathan Galaviz, consultant for foreign governments including Russian state-run investment firms, for adviser at the State Department’s Office of Security, Democracy and Human Rights.

Alexander Fitzsimmons, member of PR group supporting fossil fuels backed by Koch Industries, for chief of staff and senior adviser at the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Julian Schmoke, Jr. chosen by Secretary of Education to manage the Federal Student Aid Enforcement Unit to oversee for-profit college fraud cases. He is a former executive from DeVry University that agreed to pay a $100 million settlement for intentionally deceiving students with false advertisements about placement rates. Last month, DeVos stopped rules to keep schools from scamming students. With no investigation experience, Smoke replaces Robert Kaye who had years of previous experience investigating consumer fraud.

Pam Bondi, appointed to the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis after DDT made illegal campaign contributions for her successful Florida attorney general campaign. She keeps her current position while on the panel, but its work is supposedly finished by October 1, 2017. Bondi stopped investigations against “Trump University” after the donations from DDT’s charitable foundation.

A list of over 1,000 DDT political appointments for industry insiders and loyalists, including the 140 revealed in March by ProPublica, shows how their job descriptions are at odds with their beliefs. Of the approximately 500 new appointees on this list, at least 61 were registered lobbyists at the federal level.

Of the 277 people needing Senate confirmation, only 44 percent have been confirmed because of DDT’s delays. Gaps in federal agencies have been filled by at least 18 “senior White House advisers” with little to no government experience. Nominees who need Senate confirmation:

For the DOJ Antitrust division, DDT wants Makan Delrahim, a corporate attorney turned lobbyist who’s made his career on advancing corporate mega-mergers. One of his successes is to help Google become one of two tech giants that got 98 percent of every new ad dollar spent last year. Other clients—AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Merck, Oracle, Pfizer, etc.—face or recently settle antitrust litigation. Failure of antitrust laws is shown by the decrease of competition in the market place as companies charged 67 percent profit margins in 2014 compared with 18 percent in 1980.

Former attorney for the Russian bank Alfa Bank that has been connected to DDT’s campaign, Brian Benczkowski, has been appointed as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the Justice Department.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), nominated for director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), is a climate denier with no science or engineering qualifications. He is so ignorant that he said, “Global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago.” Commercial space companies support Bridenstine because he wants to privatize U.S. civil and military space activities.

Eric Dreiband, nominated to lead the DOJ Civil Rights Division, has worked for over a dozen years to defend big corporations against employee civil rights claims. He testified against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay act, saying that it would “create unanticipated and potentially ruinous liability” for employers, and defended banning transgender people from bathrooms matching their identities.

Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), nominated for “drug czar,” is “a hard-liner on marijuana issues and he recently said that he’d like to put nonviolent drug offenders in some sort of ‘hospital-slash-prison,'” according to the Washington Post. He’s a retread in nominations after pulling his name four months ago, claiming a “critical illness” in his family. He protected big pharma companies from their distribution of large amounts of opioids, ignored Columbian drug kingpins, judge-shopped in 1998 to get a cocaine-dealing expungement for a friend, and served as a personal reference for convicted felon Louis DeNaples to open a casino when his AG office was investigating DeNaples.

Sam Clovis, nominated for USDA’s under-secretary for research, education and economics, would oversee billions of dollars in research spending and serve as a cross-departmental science czar. A birther and another climate denier, Clovis made bigoted statements such as President Obama being “given a pass because he is Black” and declaring homosexuality a choice, linking marriage equality to pedophilia

DDT may fail to get his former campaign lawyer, James “Trey” Trainor III, as an FEC commissioner. Trainor, supportive of dark money, also retweeted anti-Protestant viewpoints such as “There is only one church” from the Catholic site Churchmilitant.com that states “Protestantism is poison.” As private lawyer, he represented Empower Texas in their fight to keep secret the donors to the Texas Ethics Commission.

DDT has nominated 42 U.S. attorneys general to fill the positions of the 46 who he fired. Of the 42 nominations, 41 are men.

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/trump-forgets-his-talking-points-empty-administration-posts?cid=eml_mra_20170829   DDT has gone 360 degrees in filling government jobs. Six months ago, he called federal positions “unnecessary” before whining about Democrats not confirming the people who he had not nominated. After Hurricane Harvey, he said:

“We are not looking to fill all of those positions. Don’t need many of them – reduce size of government.”

Missing are the Secretary of DHS, who supervises FEMA, and the director of NOAA, who is responsible for weather prediction. Also missing are two deputy FEMA administrators, one in charge of protection and national preparedness. South Korea has no ambassador.

Tomorrow, DDT gives a speech to the UN about the U.S. place in the world. Five of the six under secretary of state positions are unfilled and an Obama selection holds the sixth. Critical ambassador posts stay vacant, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that he doesn’t need most special envoys such as those for climate change, the Iran nuclear deal, and Afghanistan-Pakistan. Tillerson is ignoring important meetings this week with UN members. DDT said that he would hire the best people; instead, he has done exactly the reverse and shattered not only domestic policy but also the U.S. standing in the world.

On the other hand, maybe the nation is lucky that he isn’t putting more slimey creatures into the swamp.

May 5, 2017

DDT: Week Fifteen – Disasters Continue

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) now has his name on Trumpcare—although the bill is far from passing—but he told Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during a press conference that health care in Australia is better. For once, DDT is right: Australia’s universal health care system gives citizens free access to doctors and public hospitals paid for by the government, and it costs nine percent of the GDP compared to the 17 percent cost in the United States.

At least one GOP representative is in trouble with his local press about his yes vote for Trumpcare. A headline in the Buffalo News read, “Chris Collins admits he didn’t read health care bill.” Collins told CNN that he didn’t read the entire bill  and then the Buffalo News that he didn’t know that the bill took $3 billion from his state. Rep. Mark Sanford (R-NC) didn’t read it either, but he said he “turned through every page.” In 2010, he GOP signed “Pledge to America” that they will read bills and publish the text online at least three days before a vote so that “bills are debated and discussed in the public square.” With Trumpcare no reading, no posting, no three days.

More Disastrous Healthcare Information: Like a bad oil leak, the news from the bill keeps oozing out. Rape, domestic violence, sexual assault, Cesarean sections, and post-partum depression can all be classed as pre-existing conditions. Victims will have the choice of reporting any attacks against them or keeping their insurance. Medicaid, slowly eradicated by Trumpcare, covers half the babies born in the nation and 60 percent of people in nursing homes.

The lies keep coming. “We’re not taking a benefit away. Nobody on Medicaid is going to be taken away.” Falsehood by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). “Premiums will be coming down.” Falsehood repeated three times in two sentences by DDT. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/tweet-day-can-we-even-call-it-lying-anymore Kevin Drum wrote about DDT and GOP politicians saying whatever they want with no pretense of hinting at facts or searching for data. Trumpcare won’t benefit the rich, and Trumpcare won’t do away with protecting pre-existing conditions, and the lies keep rolling. Politicians’ lies are killing people to protect their ideologies.

The protests against Trumpcare started immediately, several of them in DDT’s home town of New York City where he returned for the first time since he was inaugurated. And where DDT blew off a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull who had flown 10,000 miles to meet with him. 

DDT’s New Vacation Spot: Unwelcome in New York and too hot in Florida this time of the year, DDT moved on to his estate in Bedminster (NJ) where he claims he’ll save the country money. His trip this weekend costs $840,000—enough to cover Medicaid for 4,000 people–in addition to the over $25 million that’s he’s spent at Mar-a-Lago. This website is keeping track of DDT’s vacation expenditures.

Easy Peace in Middle East: DDT declaimed that the Israel government and the Palestinian Authority “get along unbelievably well… They work together beautifully.” While DDT hosted Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas at the White House, DDT said there could be “no lasting peace” unless all Palestinian leaders spoke out against hate. Evidently Israelis can keep on expressing hatred. Last week, DDT said, “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians—none whatsoever…. It’s something, frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years.” Maybe like other things that he ended up finding “complicated.

No Comfort for Poor: On his photo-op “listening tour,” DDT’s HUD Secretary Ben Carson said that public housing is too good for poor people. He thinks that it should not provide a “comfortable setting” which makes people want to “stay here.”

No DDT Celebration for Latinos: Today is Cinco de Mayo and the first time in 16 years that the White House has not celebrated the day. Instead, a reception has been relegated to a building next door and hosted by VP Mike Pence.  

Swamp Spreading: http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/03/trump-lobbying-ban-transition-237850  DDT ‘s bragged that he has a five-year rule that people leaving the government can’t sign up as lobbyists seems to be failing. Nine people leaving his transition team have signed up as well as two people who left his administration, one who he fired.

DDT Departures:  “You’re fired.” DDT’s latest  Apprentice moment was directed at Sebastian Gorka because he can’t pass the security clearance. He’s gone, but not forgotten, because the man with ties to neo-Nazis and former editor of ultra-conservative Breitbart.com says that he’ll stay  with DDT’s administration with the other “alpha males.” He’s the third DDT employer to leave the National Security Council. Former DDT nominee and bigot Mark Green has also taken his name out of contention for Army Secretary, whining about “false and misleading attacks.”

Tax Reform: Press Secretary Sean Spicer said last week that 401ks aren’t “intact” with the new DDT plan until DDT “clarified” what he said. But who know what’s true if DDT says something.

Win for Poor People: Five Supreme Court justices ruled that the Fair Housing Act allows the city of Miami to sue two banks, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, for riskier and more costly mortgages to minorities than white borrowers.

Protection for Immigration: New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner has called on ICE to stop arresting undocumented immigrants at the state courthouses because it undermines the justice system. He wants to add these places to a list of “sensitive locations”—including hospitals, schools, and houses of worships—where ICE supposedly cannot arrest people. Gov. Chris Christie is not happy with Rabner.

The Extinction of Diplomacy: DDT will cut 2,300 U.S. diplomats and civil servants—nine percent of the workforce. Secretary Rex Tillerson doesn’t want to make eye contact with anyone—and now there won’t be anyone there.

State Department Called Out on Ethics Violations: First the State Department advertised Mar-a-Lago and, having been forced to take its commercial down, now  promotes Ivanka Trump’s new book. Like the Mar-a-Lago ad, it was taken down after a talk about ethics violations. Lack of appointments has left the department without people who understand the constitution and the law.

Vetting Not a DDT Strength: DDT has hired Steven Munoz as assistant chief of visits, an important State Department position. The 28-year-old has a staff of ten and is responsible for organizing visits of foreign heads of state to the U.S. and arranging meetings with the president. When Munoz was a Citadel military college students several years ago, he was accused of multiple sexual assaults by several male classmates. A school investigation found that “certain assaults likely occurred,” but a local prosecutor refused to seek an indictment. The year after Munoz graduated in 2011, he was also under investigation when he worked for Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign and banned from the Citadel campus. Munoz may now attend public events at the school but has only limited interaction with students. After employment with a political consulting firm hired by DDT, Munoz worked for DDT’s inaugural committee and then moved to the State Department on January 25. Except for Munoz’ lawyer, no one—not the White House, State Department, Citadel, etc.—is making any comment. In President Obama’s administration, even a drunk driving case or registering as a lobbyist kept people from employment consideration. DDT is not commenting about its vetting process. [Photo from OccupyDemocrats]    also

Vetting Michael Flynn: DDT tried to blame President Obama for not vetting his fired National Security Advisor, but insiders said that DDT did vet Flynn—“very casually.” DDT also knew about Flynn’s nefarious connection with Turkey and hired him anyway. Rachel Maddow discussed how everyone—including DDT, Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, and Sean Spicer—lied about Flynn’s criminal activities. Sally Yates may provide more information about the issue when she testifies before a Senate panel next week.

DDT Ad Campaign Pulled: Just 185 weeks before the next presidential election, DDT released his first TV ad and was forced to withdraw it for violations of military policy. The original video includes DDT shaking the hand of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, in uniform, at Mar-a-Lago. DDT had planned to spend $1.5 million to air the ad. Once it was revised, CNN still refused to air it because of its graphic branding CNN, among other mainstream media organizations, as “fake news.”

So Sad: Emails recently obtained through the Freedom of Information show DDT’s involvement in searching for a tweet showing that his inauguration crowd was one-third the size as the audience for President Obama. Soon after the inauguration, National Park Service director, Michael T. Reynolds, was pressured to give DDT photos supporting his false claim that up to 1.5 million attended the event.

Budget Deal: The best news from last week may have been the bill that Congress sent to DDT to keep the government running until September 30. No wall. No new money for immigration deportation. No cuts to Planned Parenthood or “sanctuary cities.” Another $30 billion to non-defense programs over sequester level. None of DDT’s $18 billion non-defense cuts. A $2 billion funding increase for the National Institutes of Health. A $17 million increase in energy efficiency. Protection of 99 percent of the EPA budget with increase in clean energy and science funding plus no staff cuts. Health benefits for retired miners that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) with miner constituents has fought for years. A $2 billion in disaster funding for California, West Virginia, Louisiana, and North Carolina because of flooding. Increased funding for transit infrastructure. Wildfire funding for Western states of $407 million. Funding the Northeast Amtrak rail corridor, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Head Start, and an early education program for disadvantaged kids. A $295 million bailout to cover a Medicaid funding shortfall in Puerto Rico. Healthcare subsidies continue. Withdrawal of almost 180 “poison pill” riders. The “great negotiator” lost everything except $12.5 billion in military with an extra $2.5 billion if he ever figures out a strategy for defeating ISIS.

More tomorrow!

 

April 21, 2017

DDT: Week Thirteen on the Foreign Front

Right before Earth Day tomorrow, the planet won a victory when the Treasury Department refused to grant ExxonMobil a waiver for a joint drilling deal in the Black Sea with Russia’s state oil company. Current U.S. sanctions against Russia after its annexation of Crimea require waivers. President Obama opposed the same plan in 2015 after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson created it as Exxon’s CEO. In the words of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), “Are you crazy?” My cynic bone wonders what the current administration is planning that is worse that the waiver to the sanctions.

Thus far, DDT’s only victory in over 90 days was getting Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court although it required breaking Senate rules. Gorsuch made his first public decision—to kill a man. In its rush to kill eight inmates on death row for 24-26 years before state drugs expired, Arkansas decided to kill them in eleven days. Judicial stays kept these men alive for a few days, but Gorsuch joined the conservative block on the high court to kill at least one of them. Ledell Lee, the first man executed, had fetal alcohol syndrome disorder with significant brain damage and intellectual disability. He has always claimed that he is innocent and that one of his lawyers was drunk and another was mentally ill. The state refused to allow him to take a DNA test to compare evidence collected at the scene of the crime. The judge in the case was having an affair with the prosecutor and later married her. None of the blood at the crime scene belonged to Lee, and forensic evidence of hairs has been discredited. It’s not surprising for Gorsuch to kill the Arkansas inmate because he had ruled in Colorado that a man should lose his job if he chose to save his life.

In the Company of Tyrants: Even conservatives are outraged that DDT called to congratulate Turkish President ­Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his new, almost dictatorial powers by winning a referendum after possible election tampering. Erdogan’s authoritarian rule has destroyed any separation of church and state in an Islamic regime and arrested any critics as well as a roundup of journalists. After last summer’s attempted coup, Erdogan had already detained, suspended, or dismissed almost 200,000 people including state officials and teachers. The new referendum would replace the parliamentary system with a presidential one and abolish the prime minister. Erdogan, who could stay in power until 2029, could intervene in the judiciary, control the nominees for parliament’s nominees, directly appoint top government officials, and declare a state of emergency with no justification. DDT’s congratulatory statement not only contradicts the official message from the U.S. State Department but also was made before the vote is final. It is still being contested. Reasons given for DDT’s congratulations include ignorance, carelessness, or an agreement with Erdogan’s ideology. Or it could simply be because he has business interests in Turkey: in the past, he said that he had a “conflict of interest” in the country (tower on right). If the referendum wins the “yes” votes, Turkey will become a total dictatorship.

Question of Chemical Attacks in Syria: DDT may hope that problems in North Korea keep people from wondering if his April 7 preemptive strikes on Syria—his first open act of war—was based on false information. Although the deaths of people on April 4 have not been contested, questions about the type of gas and the perpetrators remain because of no independent, international investigation. Two longtime experts in war studies and missile systems maintain that DDT’s intelligence report about Syria’s role is “false” and “fraudulent” as well as a “coverup.” They purport that the intelligence report about an air attack is not substantiated by evidence and that the official report did not use the methodologies that it claimed: the information released by the White House is political, not scientific. In 2013, President Obama was given incorrect information that Syria perpetrated an attack but did not retaliate because intelligence did not support that information. Instead, DDT, like George W. Bush, made preemptive strikes against a country that didn’t attack the United States, without accurate information. Support for the experts’ information is that there is no plan for an investigation—just a move forward to inflame North Korea into military action. The world has become a far more dangerous place in DDT’s less than 100 days.

Ships Far from North Korea: One piece of DDT’s saber-rattling in northeast Asia was to declare that he had ordered an “armada” (actually six ships) close to North Korea. Two weeks later the media discovered that the ships “steaming,” in Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s words, toward North Korea were headed in the opposite direction several thousand miles away after the Navy released photographs and the location of the Carl Vinson in the Sundra Strait, 3,500 miles away. The White House blamed the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for the mistake although U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster mistakenly told Fox that the ships were rerouted from Singapore to the Korean peninsula as a “prudent” show of force. That’s DDT’s military’s second bad mistake this month: the earlier one referred to the biggest non-nuclear weapon that it used on Afghanistan as “the type of weapon for the type of target” and how it sent a message.

South Korea’s “Concern” with DDT: The egregious “mistake” about the ships’ location upset South Koreans who felt “bewildered, cheated and manipulated by the United States, their country’s most important ally,” according to the New York Times. AP went farther with words such as “unpredictable,” “unhinged,” and “dangerous.” DDT also angered South Koreans by his assertion that the Korean Peninsula “used to be a part of China.” Invaded by its neighbor and forced to pay tribute, Koreans state that the idea that they were once Chinese subjects is highly insulting. DDT is alienating one country almost every every week–South Korea, Great Britain, Mexico, Sweden, Germany, Australia, and China plus Canada after DDT scolded the nation for what the dairy industry did to our workers.” The addition of Colombia brings the total to nine.

Secret Meeting at Mar-a-Lago: Last weekend, DDT interrupted his golf games to meet undercover with former Columbian presidents Álvaro Uribe and Andrés Pastrana, former presidents of Colombia to undermine the current Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to end Latin America’s longest armed conflict. The White House also lied about the meeting: it claimed just a brief “hello” because the two men were at the resort, but Pastrana thanked DDT for the “cordial and very frank conversation” about Colombia’s challenges. DDT also ignored any diplomatic coordination with the State Department. Columbia reported that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), an opponent of the peace plans, set up the meeting with the three men.

State Department v. Tillerson: During his campaign, DDT called the Iran Deal “the worst deal ever negotiated” and promised to rip it up on day one. This week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the deal a failure, warned this week that Iran’s nuclear weapons could be as bad as North Korea, and accused the country of causing “alarming and ongoing provocations.” At the same time, he wrote House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) that Iran was upholding its commitments, and the State Department released the same positive information. In response to Tillerson’s criticism of Iran, its foreign minister, Mohammad-Javad Zarif, faulted the U.S. for trying to distract from its “abysmal” human rights record, which includes DDT’s Muslim ban, and the U.S. support of Israel, which Zarif claimed has an “illegal” nuclear arsenal. Tillerson made his comments about Iran as a disruptive force on the same day that he praised Saudi Arabia that is trying to reinstate Yemen’s ousted president by killing thousands of civilians in airstrikes.

Raising Prices: DDT signed his “Buy American, Hire American” executive order while in Wisconsin. Part of it changes rules for the H-1B visa program which keeps some highly skilled workers from coming to the U.S. and may send companies that employ them out of the country. At the same time, he saved the visa program for lower-paid workers, like his own because, as he said in the past, “it’s very, very hard to get people.” DDT wants to do away with the waivers in these mandates—except ones that let him buy all the products for his business more cheaply from foreign countries. DDT’s order has no weight unless Congress passes a law to support it or changes past laws, for example the Trade Agreements Act of 1979 that treats products made in foreign countries as domestic if the countries, almost 60 at this time, have a trade agreement with the United States. There are no plans to carry out his order, which would cause prices to skyrocket. China steel, for example, is 70 percent cheaper than what is made in the U.S., and a DDT order from last month raised steel prices 19 percent.

Obsession of Gold: Known for wasting taxpayer money in the United States, DDT is moving the selfishness to Britain on his upcoming visit in October. Despite the cost and the lack of security, he demands that he ride to a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II in a golden coach—just like Mexican President Peña Nieto, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Chinese President Xi Jinping. It’s the “ugly American” made more hideous than ever.

Tomorrow covers DDT’s damage in domestic issues.

February 28, 2014

Conflict of Interest, in the Eye of the Beholder

When is a conflict of interest not a conflict? Today it’s when the State Department says it isn’t. After the agency hired the Environmental Resources Management (ERM) as its consulting firm to review environmental effects of the Keystone XL pipeline, people complained about the connections of the consulting firm, but the agency’s inspector general investigated and found—no problem!

The State Department’s has again reported that the environmental impact study commissioned to ERM regarding the trans-country pipeline found no significant climate impacts. That’s the study from a company listing TransCanada as a client just a year before the Keystone contract while telling the State Department that it had been at least five years since ERM worked with the company building the pipeline. ERM didn’t mention that one of its divisions, ERM West, worked with TransCanada on the Alaska Pipeline Project until last summer—after ERM was hired to write the report.

Until the State Department was asked about the conflict of interest, ERM didn’t say anything about its bidding for contracts in Canada that could include two new TransCanada projects. As recently as 2010, ERM was part of a lobbying group, the International Carbon Black Association, that a subsidiary (Cancarb) of TransCanada owns—a company that includes major Keystone XL proponents and potential beneficiaries. ERM also failed to identify its membership in several trade organizations that support the pipeline, including the Western Energy Alliance, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association.

ERM must have understood its conflict of interest when the firm suddenly removed the names of subcontractors formerly working on TransCanada projects from its website. Later the names reappeared without their affiliations to TransCanada.

Although ERM was paid to prepare the environmental impact report, another firm, one that is outright owned by a tar sands developer, actually did the assessment. Jacobs Engineering’s most recent contract was with Canadian oil sands leader Suncor.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) has asked the Government Accountability Office to do a separate investigation into State’s process for vetting contractors, and he says the GAO is planning to act on his request. He added that the inspector general’s report focused on “whether the State Department followed its own flawed process for selecting a third-party contractor. The fact that the answer is ‘yes’ doesn’t address any outstanding concerns about the integrity of ERM’s work, the State Department’s in-house ability to evaluate its quality or whether the process itself needs to be reformed.”

Supporters of the Keystone XL think that it will solve their dual needs for jobs and low-cost energy. The short film “Keystone PipeLIES Exposed” explains how the Keystone XL project fails to do either one. Big business has highly inflated the number of jobs created, and most of the smaller number of jobs disappears after construction ends. Even with a rosy view, the State Department concluded that 3,900 direct jobs would be created during pipeline construction; at its completion, there would be 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs.

The pipeline would most likely increase fuel prices in the United States while generating no taxes from TransCanada after it files a “Master Limited Partnership.” Tar sands oil shipped to the Midwest current sells for about $70 per barrel, much less than the $100 a barrel possible on the open market. As the map shows, the oil will move through the U.S., be refined, and then ship off to the international market which has a higher yield than in this country.

pipeline

The United States gets higher fuel prices and almost no jobs, but it does get leaking pipelines across the country that destroy the nation’s water, especially in the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest freshwater supply in the middle of the country. As the leaks devastate the U.S. agriculture, taxpayers pay to clean up the spills because tar sands oil is exempt from corporations having to pay into the oil spill liability trust fund.

In its environmental impact, the State Department certified that the pipeline’s additional carbon emissions would be the equivalent of an additional 300,000 cars on the road. The contractor most closely linked to TransCanada reported, however, that this was negligible because TransCanada wouldn’t stop drilling.

So who benefits from the United States destroying its food supply, water, and environment? China, according to Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL). Now that the Chinese have our manufacturing jobs, they need raw materials and energy. Canada is the most stable country to provide energy, and people in the United States might be willing to let the oil pass through our country into China—all with no benefits for anyone in the U.S. China annually imports about $50 billion in goods from the United States and exports about $350 billion in mostly manufactured goods to the United States. Each year, China also buys about $300 billion in U.S. assets, mostly U.S. Treasuries.

China has put about $30 billion of the trade surplus into Canadian tar sands. All the oil that passes through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline has to be sold in the U.S., but the Keystone XL Pipeline is permitted a tax-free zone to provide Chinese energy independence. The Koch brothers, who own the refineries, benefit; the people of the United States don’t.

If people in the United States were intelligent and far-seeing, we would keep the environment clean and sell food to China when they can no longer grow it. Their air pollution is so bad that it is like a nuclear winter. The slowing photosynthesis in plants may greatly decrease the possibility of growing food. This week’s smog in Beijing and large parts of six northern provinces is so bad that the PM 2.5 particles can enter the bloodstream through the lungs. A safe level is 25. Flights are grounded, highways are closed, and tourists are kept at home. Air pollutants adhering to greenhouse surfaces have cut the light inside by 50 percent.

Buildings are seen through thick haze in Guangzhou

In a first for China, a man in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province near Beijing, is suing the local environmental protection bureau for failing to rein in the smog. Li Guixin is also asking for compensation because of economic losses.

The Keystone XL pipeline has received publicity because it goes from one country to another, requiring presidential approval. Within the United States, however, pipeline construction is not inhibited in the same way. In the five years since the first TransCanada application, the 589-mile Flanagan South, moving through about 1,950 wetlands and waterways including the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, has been approved because of a loophole allowing companies to fast-track pipeline projects and bypass environmental protection laws. About half the length of Keystone XL, Flanagan South carries tar sands and Bakken crude from Pontiac (IL) to Cushing (OK).

FlanaganSouth

Although each part of the pipeline could not exist without the rest of it, the Army Corps of Engineers allowed each water crossing to be separate for the purpose of permits, thus avoiding any environmental review. A federal judge who heard a lawsuit last week will decide within the next few weeks whether the Sierra Club’s claims have merit. The same loophole was used on the southern half of Keystone XL, which began shipping oil last month despite the pipelines’ leaks.

Enbridge, the company in charge of Flanagan South, was responsible for the 1,000,000-gallon spill in July 2010 when tar sands crude went into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. Oil is still being removed from the area after Enbridge missed its EPA deadline to finish cleanup by the end of 2013.

Even conservative Nebraskans understand the danger of pipelines crossing lands vital for agriculture and water. After Gov. Dave Heineman approved the Keystone XL route through the state, a judge struck down his decision because it forced landowners to sell their property. Lancaster County Judge Stephanie Stacy ruled that only the state Public Service Commission can give TransCanada eminent domain powers. The commission was created in the 1890s to stop governors from giving political favors to railroad executives.

Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, said,”TransCanada learned a hard lesson today: Never underestimate the power of family farmers and ranchers protecting their land and water.” We need more Jane Kleebs to protect land and water across the United States.

January 31, 2014

State Department Dumps Pipeline on U.S.

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:55 PM
Tags: , , ,

Friday afternoon is known for “the dump,” when news is released to the media that the government would prefer that no one knows. Today’s Friday dump is the release of the State Department’s report indicating that the Keystone XL oil pipeline won’t significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions, giving the disastrous project a stamp of approval. Their theory is that oil sands extraction will continue even without the pipeline so sending crude oil across the entire United States in shoddy, leaky pipes doesn’t make any difference.

The report stated that the transport of 830,000 barrels of oil daily would annually add an extra 1.3 million to 27.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Headlines about the report, however, have ignored this disaster.

Today’s State Department statement concerns the 1,179-mile northern leg that would carry heavy crude from Canada into Montana and run to the small town of Steele City (NE). TransCanada started shipping oil through the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline.

The decision is still not made, and people who think that future generations deserve a planet to live on, will loudly proclaim the worsening climate change caused by the pipeline project. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) is one Congressional member who spoke out against the project, but the 20-term representative won’t be running again for the House again this year.

Eight government agencies now have 90 days to weigh in on the project; the public has only 30 days for comment. President Obama makes the final decision because it crosses a border from another country. He said that he would do this only if it would not “significantly exacerbate carbon emissions,” and he’s waited five years to make his decision.

The State Department also has a problem with the report that its Office of Inspector General is compiling regarding conflicts of interest with a contractor who helped develop the benign environmental impact statement. Some legislators asked the State Department to hold off on issuing its report until after the Inspector General had finished, but that didn’t happen.

During his presidency, Obama has displayed a quiet support for fossil fuels and their transport in the nation. During his second election year, the president issued an executive order that called for an expedited review of the southern half of the pipeline from Cushing (OK) to Port Arthur (TX).  Less than two years later, the segment opened, despite the multiple holes allowing leaks in the pipe. Last year President Obama appointed a former petroleum engineer for Mobil Oil Company as the Secretary of Interior.

Conservatives in the country demanding the pipeline for additional oil in the United States fail to understand that the tar sands sent across the nation and refined on the Gulf Coast will then be exported with most of it leaving the U.S. As a result, people in the U.S. will pay more for their gas, as much as $3 to $4 billion a year. Because the pipeline bypasses the Midwest, people there will be paying as much as $.40 a gallon more.

When the pipeline crosses land near them, however, some people grasped the seriousness of the situation and opposed it, with little effect. Michael Bishop (Douglas, TX) lives 120 feet from pipeline construction. Last year, he filed a lawsuit last year, claiming that the president’s fast-tracking broke environmental laws because Nationwide Permit 12 does not permit “activities that result in more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse effects on the aquatic environment.”

One little-considered impact from the pipeline is how it affects the people whose environments change from a stable community to the towns that pop up because of pipeline construction. The project will greatly impact Native American women in states with large Indian populations such as South Dakota. These women are two and a half more times likely to be sexually assaulted—many times from white men—than women of any other race. Groups trying to mitigate this violence are concerned that pipeline construction will endanger these women even more.

Native women are already considered easy targets for rapists, and men who know that they are not a permanent part of the community are even less likely to believe that they can be held accountable for their crimes. Spikes of violence in pop-up cities has already been documented in regions affected by resource booms. Large groups of men, for example in areas connected with the oil and gas industry, increase the incidence of sexual assault. Marginalized communities are frequently affect disproportionately by the crimes of rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence.

South Dakota is currently a sex tourism destination and magnet for sex trafficking and sexual abuse. Native women are involved in approximately 40 percent of the cases because a “Wild West” culture combined with the gas and oil boom creates a defiant atmosphere of lawlessness. The pipeline will make this problem far worse.

Everyone will suffer, however, if the pipeline spills into the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies 83 percent of Nebraska’s irrigation water. In addition, the Interior Department submitted a report to the State Department explaining how the pipeline would have “permanent impacts on wildlife” and seriously affect National Park Service lands and Historic Trails.

About two months ago, Milford (TX) was evacuated after a massive explosion of a 10-inch Chevron natural gas pipeline near a drilling rig. The fire, with an unknown cause, raged for over a day. A month later, a TransCanada natural gas pipeline exploded in Manitoba, shutting off gas for 4,000 residents in sub-zero Canadian temperatures. Sometimes explosions are the only way that gas leaks are discovered. Leak-detection software, special alarms and 24/7 control room monitoring leaks just 19.5 percent of the time, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

TransCanada forecast that its first crude oil pipeline, Keystone 1, would leak no more than an average of 1.4 times over a decade. Instead, it had 14 U.S. spills in a single year, and federal regulators had to temporarily shut it down. Since 1986, according to a ProPublica investigation, U.S. pipeline accidents have killed more than 500 people, injured over 4,000, and cost nearly $50 billion in property damages.

That’s what the State Department says is appropriate for the United States.

August 24, 2013

The Keystone XL Pipeline Needs to be Stopped

Good news came yesterday when the State Department announced that its decision on the Keystone XL pipeline may be postponed until next year because of allegations that the department hired a reviewer of the project who has a conflict of interest. Keystone needs a cross-border permit to finish the northern part of its pipeline carrying Alberta tar sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico. Environmental Resources Management, hired by the State Department to conduct the environmental review did extensive work for TransCanada and the many oil companies that stand to benefit if the pipeline is built. In addition, the company lied on its federal conflict of interest disclosure forms by declaring that it no such ties.

The tar sands of Alberta, containing an estimated 169.3 billion barrels of oil, are estimated to be the third largest reserve of crude oil on the planet, behind only Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, and are also the most polluting source of energy on earth. If the pipeline is approved, it will transport more than 800,000 barrels of oil every day and emit 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. Building the pipeline would be the equivalent of adding 37.7 million new cars on the road every day and firing up 51 new coal power plants. Substituting tar sands oil for conventional oil increases global warming emissions by 20 percent.

randy thompsonPeople are becoming more cautious about transporting the oil across the United States. Randy Thompson, a rancher in Martell (NE) is one person fighting the pipeline because it goes through the Ogallala Aquifer which lies under the eight states that the pipeline would cross.

Ogallala

He wrote that TransCanada said that people could use bottled water if the pipeline gets breaks, releasing oil into the water source. As Thompson said:

 “Now that’s a bunch of bunk. To get up in the morning and shower with a bottle of water? These guys have got to be kidding.  As far as I’m concerned, TransCanada and their Keystone XL pipeline can go to hell. I don’t want any part of them, not in my land and not in Nebraska.”

The existing parts of the Keystone Pipeline have shown serious flaws, including dents and welds that forced the company to dig up and rebuild dozens of sections in the southern section. TransCanada’s Keystone 1 pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Midwest had 12 spills in its first year starting in June 2010, the highest spill rate of any oil pipeline in U.S. history. The company had promised that there would be no more than one during that first year.

Whistleblower Evan Vokes, a former TransCanada employee, testified to a Canadian Senate committee this summer about the company’s “culture of noncompliance” and “coercion” with “deeply entrenched business practices that ignored legally required regulations and codes” and carries “significant public safety risks.” He said that he has seen the same “breaches of construction quality” in parts of TransCanada’s Keystone XL already laid in Texas.

“There’s thousands of cracks in the system — it’s just which ones will become the problem? It’s low probability, high consequence,” Vokes said.

Also in early summer, President Obama said that the pipeline would not be a major job creator and could actually raise gasoline prices. He added that his decision of whether to approve the pipeline would be connected to climate change, that it would receive the necessary federal permit only if the “net” effects of the pipeline did not “significantly exacerbate” carbon pollution. In his statements, the president also said that Canada could “potentially be doing more” to curb emissions from the oil sands.

Gasoline prices would rise because multinational companies investing in tar sands oil would ship more of the product pouring through the Keystone from Gulf Coast refineries to overseas countries which has a high demand for diesel and gasoline. Even the Canadian crude currently sent from Canada into the Midwest could easily be diverted into the Keystone to satisfy overseas demand.

At this time, the tar sands extraction site at Cold Lake, Alberta is suffering from a giant oil leak that, thus far, can’t be contained. Oil companies pressurize the oil bed to force bitumen to the surface; the resulting blowout has caused the bitumen to seep out of control, poisoning the environment. The company can’t find the location of the leak that’s been going on for at least three months.

Ordinary oil floats on top of water when it spills; tar sands oil sinks to the bottom of water or soil, thus creating far more disaster to its surroundings. The same thing happens with the hundreds of ruptures in the pipelines that have spilled more than one million gallons of tar sands oil in rivers, wetlands, and drinking water reservoirs.

The wastewater also destroys the environment. When 9.5 million liters of salt and heavy-metal-laced wastewater leaked into wetlands that the First Nation tribes used for hunting and trapping, every plant and tree died. Before that leak, other major spills included over 4 million liters of oil and water from pipelines run by two different companies.

As more people look into pipeline ruptures, the news gets worse and worse. The Apache Corporation claimed that their leak came from aging infrastructure, but the pipeline, designed to last 30 years, was only five years old. Alberta’s Energy Minister Ken Hughes hid a pipeline safety report pending the Keystone decision in the U.S. after a spill that leached 475,000 liters of oil into the Red Deer River, a major drinking water source. Over the past 37 years, Alberta’s pipeline network has had 28,666 crude oil spills plus another 31,453 spills of other liquids used in oil and gas production  from salt water to liquid petroleum. That’s an average of two crude oil spills a day—every day.

TransCanada’s proposed internal spill-detection systems for the Keystone XL in the U.S. would permit spillage of more than 12,000 barrels every day, 1.5 percent of its 830,000 barrel capacity before any warning occurred.

British Columbia is smart enough to reject the Northern Gateway, a pipeline across their land from Alberta to the Pacific Ocean. According to Environment Minister Terry Lake, Enbridge had not satisfactorily answered the BC government’s questions during the hearings. Unfortunately, the Canadian government has the ultimate authority over the pipeline decision, but the BC ruling may affect its ruling.

british columbia

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the corporate-controlled organization that writes conservative bills for states, has taken an interest in the Keystone. An oil-industry lobby group has provided them a model bill to limit states’ abilities to negotiate “low-carbon fuel standards” to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. The purpose of the ALEC bill is intended to block environmental agreements.

Inaccurate” is one way that the U.S. Department of the Interior described the State Department’s conclusions that the impact of the Keystone XL pipeline on wildlife would be temporary, saying that the impact could have long-term, adversarial—possibly permanent–effects. A 12-page letter from the Interior Department lists a number of serious issues from constructing both the pipeline and the related infrastructures that the State Department had ignored.

We can only hope that a U.S. permit for the Keystone XL pipeline is looking more and more unlikely.

April 23, 2013

All the United States Could Look Like This

ED athabasca River 2 This is the  Suncor Energy upgrading refinery on the banks of the Athabasca River.  [Copyrighted photo; photographer not identified.]

You can see more photos of the tar sands oil destruction in Canada at this website.

ED tar sands

Located in northern Alberta, Canada, within boreal forest and peat bogs, the Athabasca Oil Sands covers 54,000 square miles, an area larger than England. It is the world’s largest biome, stretching across Alaska, Canada, Sweden, Finland, inland Norway, Siberia, Northern Minnesota, Upstate New York, New Hampshire, Maine, northern Kazakhstan and Japan. The conifers such as fir, spruce, and pine are vital to our ecology because they provide carbon, regulate climate, and prevent mud slides and flooding. The history of these trees goes back over 300 million years, twice as long as flowering plants. These two photos demonstrate a before-and-after view.

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Imagine going to work and coming home to find this in your yard. That’s what happened in 22 households in Mayflower (AK) in mid March when the Pegasus pipeline broke. None of the people had any idea that there was even a pipeline in the vicinity.

ED Sludge in the Driveway at Mayflower

They found this when they drove into their subdivision.

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ed best paper towels

Exxon used paper towels to clean up the horrible mess–the same process BP used on the Gulf Coast after the its oil spill disaster.

ed gulf cleanup

Three years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill, people are still finding hundreds of beached dolphin carcasses, shrimp with no eyes, contaminated fish, and ancient corals caked in oil. More photos.

ed even  messier in wilderness

Outside Mayflower near the highway.

ED Nancy ZornOne of the best photos of the Keystone pipeline is of Nancy Zorn, a 79-year-old Oklahoma grandmother, who locked her neck to a piece of heavy machinery to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline. She said: “There is the Cree Indian prophecy, which inspired Greenpeace. ‘There will come a time when the Earth grows sick and when it does, a tribe will gather from all the cultures of the world who believe in deeds and not words.’”

Update: Yesterday, the EPA provided its report on the  State Department’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS); it rated the statement as having “Insufficient Information.” That means that the agency doesn’t know enough to assess the pipeline’s environmental impact. The EPA gave these reasons:

Increased carbon pollution: The EPA noted that the statistics for this are alarming and questioned the State Department’s assertion that the increase is inevitable even without the tar sands project.

Not inevitable: The State Department claimed that the oil would come out of the ground no matter what. EPA disagreed, stating that the report is incomplete, using outdated modeling. It also fails to consider the expense and infeasibility of rail shipping as an alternative to the pipeline.

Need for renewable energy to power pumping stations on pipeline: If this is not used, the pipeline itself will actively emit GhG emissions.

Difficulty in cleanup: Because diluted bitumen is extremely dense and sinks to the bottoms of lakes and rivers, tar sands oil is particularly dirty to clean up. The EPA notes that diluted bitumen is very dense and sinks to the bottom of rivers and lakes. Normal cleanup methods don’t work, and the highly toxic dilbit “could cause long-term chronic toxicological impacts” to wildlife. EPA wants a revised, rethought response plan before any permit is issued for a pipeline.

Affect on drinking water: The pipeline was moved away from the Nebraska Sand Hills, but it is still scheduled to cross the Ogallala Aquifer. The State Department’s report did not address any alternative paths to avoid the water pollution.

The difference between the assessments by the State Department and by the EPA are the same as the difference between a report prepared by a firm paid by the pipeline’s owner and by officials with environmental concerns.

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