Nel's New Day

March 3, 2021

Biden: DDT’s FollowersThreatening Lawmakers

Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) was exonerated by 43 Republicans in his second impeachment trial soon after President Joe Biden’s inauguration, despite DDT’s incitement of violence for his followers to breach the U.S. Capitol on January 6, kill and wound many people, and block the election of the next U.S. president by terrorizing congressional lawmakers. Yet DDT’s worshippers, usually QAnon conspiracy believers of DDT’s lies about voter fraud, are again stopping congressional work, this time on March 4, by again threatening to attack. House members had to change their voting schedule, staying late on March 3 to vote on a police reform bill instead of on March 4. This time QAnon believers ignore the 20th Amendment changing Inauguration Day to January 4, ratified in 1933. Convinced DDT will be inaugurated and return to the White House on March, MAGA people plan violence against elected federal lawmakers.

On March 4, the National Guard won’t be subjected to the same restraints to protect U.S. lawmakers as on January 6, when DDT was still in the White House. On March 3, National Guard commanding general Maj. Gen. William Walker testified in a Senate hearing that he was blocked on January 6 for over three hours from getting permission to stop the violent insurrection at the Capitol although he received immediate approval against Black Lives Matter protests last summer.

In the Senate hearing, Walker described how he put National Guard troops immediately on a bus after he received “a frantic call from then-chief of U.S. Capitol Police, Steven Sund,” with the report “that the security perimeter of the Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters.” He also alerted the city so he could quickly move the buses through traffic. Yet, Walker had to wait for “3 hours and 19 minutes” before he received permission to send the Guard. Miller supposedly gave approval for the Guard to support Capitol Police at 4:32 pm—almost three hours after the frantic calls, but no one told Walker for over 30 minutes. Walker said, “Seconds mattered, minutes mattered.”

Miller stalled his approval by demanding a complete explanation of how the troops would be used at the Capitol and what their assignments would be. While he stopped Walker from helping the Capitol Police, insurrectionists broke through window and doors, killed and wounded people, and vandalized the Capitol, inside and out. The officials in charge said they didn’t like the “optics” of the Guard protecting lawmakers. One of those objecting was Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, brother of Michael Flynn, who DDT pardoned after Flynn twice pled guilty to lying to the FBI about the investigation into Russian interference of the 2016 presidential election. Michael Flynn also wanted to declare martial law in overturning Biden’s election and promotes QAnon.

The intent to stop Walker from taking any emergency action on his own was evident. On January 5, Walker received an “unusual” letter preventing him from deploying any Quick Reaction Force service members without explicit approval from then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy.

Acting chief of the Capitol Police, Yogananda Pittman, also warned Congress that militia groups present at the January 6 riot “want to blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible” when President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress for the first time. Because of this, Pittman said Capitol Police must “maintain its enhanced and robust security posture,” including fencing and National Guard presence. The date for that address by Biden hasn’t yet been decided. MAGA supporters force taxpayers to fund the National Guard in Washington, D.C. for lawmakers’ protections and for the fence around the Capitol, protecting lawmakers, which MAGA members want removed.

The House of Representatives Acting Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett sent a letter to lawmakers warning of Capitol Police’s “new and concerning information and intelligence indicating additional interest in the Capitol” by a militia group on March 4 through March 6.

In a Senate hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that domestic “militia violent extremists” were responsible for the attack on the U.S. Capitol and are one of the biggest concerns for the agency. He specified those who “self-identify with the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers” in “white supremacy.” Several GOP senators, including Ron Johnson (WI) and Marsha Blackburn (TN), focused on the anti-fascists opposing white supremacists. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) still claimed anarchists were in the Capitol on January 6 despite Wray’s disagreeing with his position although Wray denied any “antifa” stormed the Capitol.

Wray also reported the number of domestic terrorist cases has doubled to 2,000 since last September because domestic terrorism “has been metastasizing around the country for a long time now.” Democrats criticized the failure of the FBI to highlight the terrorists’ threat of “war” at the Capitol, but Wray said the report was emailed to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force including D.C. and Capitol Police; posted on a law enforcement web portal; and mentioned in a command center briefing in D.C. He didn’t explain why the D.C. police chief was not phoned or why the information was not highlighted.

For months, people have complained about the ignorance of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) for his insistence at putting Russian disinformation into the congressional record, conspiracies used as propaganda to falsely discredit Democrats. Now he clearly has trouble reading. Johnson plans to force reading of the entire 600-page $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill aloud to the Senate, requiring up to ten hours. He may not realize that 76 percent of voters—including 60 percent of Republicans—support the package. Or may not care that a portion of the money is designated for distributing hundreds of millions of coronavirus vaccine doses this spring and summer. The question is how constituents feel about Johnson running for re-election in 2022.

Governors in both Mississippi and Texas have announced the reopening of their states claiming their residents will do the right thing about keeping everyone protected from COVID-19. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, perhaps diverting media from his disastrous power grid during the “big freeze,” said people are protected by vaccinations. By now, seven percent of Texans have managed to get at least one shot. In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves wants to keep media attention from the tens of thousands of people in Jackson who can’t get running or clean water. Over half the states in the U.S. have lower rates of infections and deaths than Texas, and Mississippi is the fifth in the nation in death rates—45 states more successful. Biden has described the decisions to lift requirements for wearing masks and maintaining social distancing as “Neanderthal thinking.” This could be an insult to the Neanderthals because of their adaptability to different ecologies, development of highly functional tools, and survival of injuries and illnesses with the help from others.  

False stories from left-leaning and centrist news publications get fewer Facebook clicks, but lies from far-right publications get more clicks—almost twice as many. Researchers at the cybersecurity for Democracy project at New York University reported the rewards for far-right publications posting faulty information.

Protests can succeed. A study in Scientific America reveals police killings dropped 20 percent between 2014 and 2019 in cities with Black Lives Matter protests. Travis Campbell, University of Massachusetts Amherst and the study’s author, concluded:

“BLM protests also increase the probability of a police agency having body-cameras, expand community policing, and reduce the number of future property crime-related arrests, which may partially explain the lethal force reduction.”

More benefits from protests here.

Fox network continues to hire ultra-conservatives to keep its audience, but thus far the strategy has been a failure. In both January and February, MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show was the #1 most-watched show, and her network was the #1 most-watched cable news network during the day in February. Sean Hannity’s viewership is down 31 percent, and Fox & Friends dropped 40 percent. Maddow thanked her audience, saying she was “grateful and humbled.” She said, “We will keep doing our best to be worthy of your time and your trust for you tuning in.” For the past year, CNN was up 76 percent, MSNBC increased 37 percent, and Fox News was down 32 percent.

In an attempt to boost ratings, Fox rehired DDT’s former press secretary Kayleigh McEnamy who started her brief tenure in the White House by lying about never lying to the media. Some of McEnamy’s colleagues are not pleased, according to Daily Beast reporters Diana Falzone and Justin Baragona:

“The addition of a known and frequent liar to the Fox News roster set off some alarms within a newsroom that has been ‘purged’ in recent months in favor of right-wing opinion programming and content geared towards keeping a diehard MAGA audience satisfied.”

Earlier this year, Fox fired Political Editor Chris Stirewalt because he called Arizona for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Biden won Arizona, but Fox hates facts. The network joined the alternate reality and prefers people who incite insurrection. Its journalists “don’t give a damn about facts and real news.” One Fox News staffer said McEnany was rehired because “the viewers are morons.”

Even in retirement, DDT is contributing to offshoring: his golden statue presented at CPAC by an artist living in Mexico was “made in China.”

February 19, 2021

Biden: Mundane Can Be a Relief

Tomorrow celebrates the one-month anniversary of President Joe Biden in the Oval Office, and the contrast to the four years of Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) in the White House is overwhelming. Before DDT, much news would have been mundane, reflecting ordinary governance—like now. News about DDT, however, usually reported his alienation of foreign allies, rejection of help for anyone except the wealthy and big business, and complete chaos as he rapidly changed his positions—sometimes before the end of a sentence.

Participating in the G7 summit, Biden pledged full commitment to NATO after DDT cursed it for four years. “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident,” he said. In a major address to the Munich Security Conference, he warned that “democratic progress is under assault” in many parts of the world, including the U.S. and Europe. The U.S. also officially rejoined the Paris climate accord and supports a global effort to equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines, donating $4 billion over two years for the effort. After cancelation of the G7 summit, scheduled for the United States in 2020, the UK plans the 2021 summit in June at a Cornwall seaside resort. 

Biden also offered to join European nations in diplomacy with Iran and backed away from DDT’s attempt to restore UN’s sanctions on the country. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reported the U.S. plans to join them for the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran. EU’s deputy secretary general asked the other original signers—Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China—to bring back the agreement, possibly with the U.S. as observer or guest instead of participant to work with Iran. The U.S. hopes to expand the agreement to control Iran’s growing missile ability as well as the country’s support of terrorist groups and the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

After DDT violated the agreement, Iran compiled and enriched nuclear fuel over the 2015 limits. Biden started negotiations by withdrawing DDT’s demand of UN international sanctions against Iran. Other nations had dismissed insistence from former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for invoking the “snap back sanctions” because DDT had dropped out of the agreement. Biden is also lifting travel restrictions on Iranian officials allowing them to attend UN meetings in the U.S.

Biden plans to “recalibrate” the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, communicating with King Salman instead of his son Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS). Next week, the U.S. will release the report of MBS’s torture and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and journalist, over two years ago. Biden also cancelled the arms sale to Saudi and criticized Saudi human rights abuses. DDT discounted his intelligence conclusions; protected MBS, a friend of DDT’s son-in-law Jared Kushner; and ignored a law passed by Congress in 2019 to submit an unclassified report about the Saudi involvement in the murder. DDT’s intelligence director John Ratcliffe’s excuse for violating the law was “a marginal ‘public interest’” in the declassification.  

In domestic issues, Biden will appoint Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. As a senior CMS official for President Obama, she helped implement the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansion and insurance-market reforms. Expanding insurance coverage is a goal of Biden’s administration. Brooks-LaSure also wants to improve health coverage and address high rates of maternal mortality, much worse than in other industrialized nations.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) promised Congress will approve the $1.9 trillion relief bill by March 14. The House plans to pass the bill next week and send it to the Senate perhaps Friday or Saturday, allowing that chamber to work through issues before returning it for final passage. Current $300 weekly emergency federal employment benefits expire on March 14, and the current bill would increase benefits to $400 until fall.

Also in the bill are $1,400 stimulus checks for those eligible to add to the $600 approved in December; $350 billion for city and states governments with massive revenue shortfalls; $160 billion for vaccines, increased testing and other health care assistance; approximately $130 billion to help schools reopen; food assistance and rent help; and an increased child tax credit. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) told GOP  House members to vote “no” and called it “Pelosi’s Payoff to Progressives Act,” referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). He accused the bill of keeping schools closed, bailing out blue states, and paying people not to work.

Although a split between the two parties in voting for the bill may seem to lack the “unity” Biden wants, the country is unified in supporting the relief. Earlier this month, 78 percent of people supported the stimulus checks, including 64 percent of Republicans. The entire bill has overall 68 percent support, and only 47 percent of Republicans oppose the bill. 

Republicans are suffering low polls compared to Biden’s 62 percent approval rating:

  • 19 percent: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • 27 percent: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
  • 26 percent: Congressional Republicans job performance
  • 23 percent: Approval of Republican Party direction 

Biden promised help for mayors in at least 17 large Texas cities and other county officials suffering loss of power because of the state grid’s failure and lack of potable water for almost half the state’s population. Republicans failed to get FEMA generators to hospitals so Biden is working with local governments to move them.

On Wednesday, Bill Magness, president of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), said rolling blackouts started on Monday because the state’s entire power grid providing power to 90 percent of the state “seconds and minutes” from crashing. Without that action, Texas could have suffered uncontrolled blackouts for an “indeterminately long” crisis, possibly for months. Gov. Greg Abbott, who appointed members of the three-member ERCOT board, has called for their resignations. 

Biden has been replacing DDT’s incompetent, conservatively biased loyalists, and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has two of them at the top of his list—Andrew Saul and David Black, Social Security Administration commissioner and deputy commissioner. Brown said they “cut the benefits that hardworking Americans have earned, attacked the Social Security Administration’s employees, denied beneficiaries due process, and needlessly increased disability reviews during the Covid-19 pandemic.” Current law protects them from firing except for “neglect of duty or malfeasance in office.”

To block unnecessary deportations, Biden signed orders and directives to reduce the excuses ICE agents use for deporting people and mandates greater oversight of ICE agents. The order is good for 90 days while the agency develops long-term guidelines, but ICE agents rebelled by attempting to release three men convicted of sex offenses against children, against Biden’s orders, until they were stopped. These orders lead into Biden’s immigration reform bill. 

President Ronald Reagan was responsible for the last big immigration reform bill in 1986 when Republicans believed in passing on “America’s triumph … into the next century and beyond.” Senate passed a bill in 2013 by 68 to 32 when, as Jennifer Rubin wrote, GOP Sens. Marco Rubio (FL) and Lindsey Graham (SC) “still sounded like Reagan.” Since then, Graham’s best friend Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) died, and Rubio decided he wanted to be president. And the House killed the Senate bill.

The paths to citizenship including not only Dreamers who arrived in the U.S. as children but also farmworkers and refugees fleeing danger in their home countries provide immediate eligibility for green cards and applications for citizenship after three years. Others will need to wait eight years. all need to have arrived in the U.S. before January 1, 2021. The bill also increases available diversity visas and assigns more funding to immigration courts and technology. Other provisions include “increased border technology to interdict drug traffickers and smugglers, higher penalties for employers who exploit undocumented laborers in the United States, and increased funding for immigration courts.”

The current administration rejected an anti-immigrant agreement signed by illegally appointed Ken Cuccinelli, acting DHS Deputy Secretary, on the day before Biden’s inauguration. The document gave the ICE union veto power over any changes and policies by the new administration. Biden had 30 days to “approve or disapprove” the directive; he denied it Tuesday, hours before the deadline. A whistleblower exposed the document as part of a complaint into Cuccinelli’s corrupt actions.

Biden told Congress the Equality Act has his full support. Adding sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation to protected classes in the Civil Rights Act, the bill provides complete anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community in areas like housing, credit, employment, public spaces and services, and federal programs. LGBTQ+ people have no federal civil rights protections and can be denied the rights of heterosexual people in 29 states. The new bill is the fourth one with these protections since the first one was introduced in 1974. Last June, the Supreme Court ruled Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in the workplace also covers sexual orientation and gender identity, but the ruling does not list other areas such as housing, healthcare, and education. The decision also lacks the power of a bill passed by Congress and signed into law by the president.

One of DDT’s actions in his last year was to remove conservation of water by passing new regulations against low-flow toilets and increasing water flow in many other household appliances and fixtures. Biden plans reviews of these regulations and other DDT’s energy-wasting rules such as using LED lighting, saving not only resources but also money in utility bills.

February 18, 2021

Faulty GOP Governance Destroying Texas, Killing People

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) carries his luggage at the Cancun International Airport REUTERS/Stringer

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) went to the top of the news on Thursday, and not in a good way. His trip to the sunny, warm Ritz-Carlton in Cancún ($309 per night) roiled his constituents, many of whom were freezing—sometimes literally to death—in Texas with below-freezing temperatures and no electricity or water. Cruz claimed he was being “a good father” by taking his children on a well-deserved vacation because of a “tough week”; his wife’s texts give a different story of escape from their “FREEZING” house. Heidi Cruz invited friends to come along on their getaway. Not until photos of Cruz and stories of his runaway dominated the media did he decide to return on Thursday. Critical hashtags included “#FlyinTed” and “#FledCruz,” and he was called Ted “Cancún” Cruz. Winning his 2018 election against Beto O’Rourke with under 51 percent of the vote, Cruz has indicated a goal of again become a presidential candidate in 2024. Opponents will have lots of material for response.

Because of regulations at the private school where Cruz’s daughters attend, they are not permitted into the classroom for a week after international travel unless they take a COVID-19 test three to five days after returning. Either way, they cannot go back to school next week. Before Cruz left on his trip, he said as many as 100 people could die this week. His advice before his departure:  

“This storm is dangerous, and there’s a second storm expected to hit this week, which will make things even worse, so if you can, stay home. Don’t go out on the roads. Don’t risk the ice… We could see up to 100 people lose their lives this week in Texas. So don’t risk it. Keep your family safe and just stay home and hug your kids.”

Cruz also commandeered Houston police to get him to and through the airport as he headed out on his vacation.

Exhibiting the attitude among millions of far-right Republicans, Tim Boyd, the now-resigned mayor of Colorado City (TX), posted on Facebook about people with no power:

“The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING! I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout!… If you are sitting at home in the cold because you have no power and are sitting there waiting for someone to come rescue you because your lazy is direct result of your raising! [sic]…. This is sadly a product of a socialist government where they feed people to believe that the FEW will work and others will become dependent for handouts…. I’ll be damned if I’m going to provide for anyone that is capable of doing it themselves!… Bottom line quit crying and looking for a handout! Get off your ass and take care of your own family!” “Only the strong will survive and the weak will parish [sic].”

After loss of electricity and running water came boiling advisories for seven million Texans, empty grocery shelves, and canceled deliveries to food banks and schools. According to Austin resident Jeff Goodell, “People wandering around with handguns on their hip adds to a sense of lawlessness.” Lack of power made ranchers and farmers destroy tens of millions of dollars of goods. Fruit and vegetables have frozen in the Rio Grande Valley, and dairy farmers daily pour $8 million worth of milk down the drain because they can’t get the milk to dairies. Hospitals face deadly horrific conditions, and last Monday, Harris County, including Houston, reported over 300 carbon monoxide poisonings.

Even with a thaw in Texas, which isn’t happening for a few days, people will suffer from lack of running water. Disruption in about 590 public water systems in almost 60 percent of the state’s counties affect almost 12 million people of the state’s population of 29 million. Houston asked people to not run water because “it is needed for hospitals and fires,” according to the city’s mayor. Earlier in the week, people were told to leave faucets dripping to keep pipes from freezing, but now they are asked to turn them off, leaving pipes to burst. Only 135 labs in the state can test water to determine when people should stop boiling it, if they are fortunately enough to have power to boil water.

For losing presidential candidate Rick Perry, death is better than have federal government involved. He reassured people that “the sun will come out.” Texas conservatives find regulation unacceptable, but they asked for charity from U.S. taxpayers for the disasters they personally cause. President Joe Biden sent generators, diesel, blankets, and water to Texas “at their request,” according to Jen Psaki, Biden’s press secretary.

Publicity probably forced Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to stop blaming the loss of wind power—seven percent of the missing energy from the big freeze. Of the total power shortfall of over 30,000 megawatts, only 2,000 came from wind. Instead, Abbott moved on to attacking his own energy department who maintain the missing energy comes from lack of winterizing power-generating systems, primarily from fossil fuels. The state refused to provide any fiscal incentives to power plant operators in preparation for winter: the state’s power companies get more money if they don’t weatherize all their plants and shut down some of them in winter.  

According to Texas Democratic Party chair Gilberto Hinojosa, Abbott is following a “pattern” of “lack of foresight and inability to manage.” Hinojosa cited lack of action for displacements during Hurricane Harvey, no planning for the coronavirus crisis, and “abysmal” handling of vaccine distribution. The loss of energy supply is being compared to the fallout from Hurricane Katrina. Lack of deregulation, i.e., mandating electrical equipment upgrades or weatherization, comes from reliance on free markets.

Deregulation in the 1990s created a grid emphasizing cheap prices instead of good service. Last summer, Cruz said California couldn’t “perform even basic functions of civilization, like having reliable electricity.” Now he tried to run away from the disaster in a state with the highest rate of uninsured, double the U.S. average in child poverty, and a greater unemployment rate than the federal rate.

Mayors in Texas cities are lobbying for the Democratic stimulus plan, writing Congress about “budget cuts, service reductions, and job losses. Sadly, nearly one million local government jobs have already been lost during the pandemic. … The $350 billion in direct relief to state and local governments included in President Elect Biden’s American Rescue Plan would allow cities to preserve critical public sector jobs and help drive our economic recovery.” Cruz opposes “blue-state bailouts” even for his red state and voted in December against the stimulus package.

Texan GOP leadership so adamantly refuses any involvement with Democrats that the 60 generators and fuel stays at the airport because Republican officials refuse to distribute them.

Proving that governments can manage reliable energy with regulation, the ten percent of the state not under the control of the mis-named GOP-appointed Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has had minimal outages despite also being hit by the storms. For example, El Paso, at the extreme left side northwest of Alpine, had about 3,000 outages, 1,000 of them for about five minutes. Outside ERCOT, regions invested in cold-weather upgrades after the 2011 big freeze while ERCOT assumed that cold weather wouldn’t return. The GOP control in Texas opposes regulations, but almost 70 percent of people in El Paso voted Democratic.

Fox network’s Tucker Carlson was an early spreader of the lie about Texas being “totally reliant on windmills” because “the Green New Deal came to Texas.” The much maligned “Deal” was only a proposal pushed to a 2019 vote in the Senate by Republicans so they could vote it down. Carlson may end up in court over his falsehoods: Bloomberg News is calling for lawsuits like the ones for Fox’s lies about the 2020 election.

More information about the Texas debacle. 

February 16, 2021

Climate Change Creates Havoc in the U.S.

The biggest story in the past few days has been the weather. In just the United States, about 150 million people—almost half the population—was under winter storm warnings. Texas may have been the worst problems across nation with more than 4.2 million customers losing power, many of them for extended periods of time. President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency for the red state so that FEMA can provide help.

On Fox network, anti-Democrat and anti-Biden Tucker Carlson declared wind energy was completely responsible for the electricity shortage because the “windmills froze.” He called wind turbines “fashion accessories” while ignoring their success in freezing areas such as Iowa and Denmark. Wind turbines help power thousands of homes in the interior of Alaska during the winter as well as in the Baltic, northern Scotland, and other cold areas.

Authorities explain that rolling blackouts to spread the power across more customers became necessary after natural gas, a fossil fuel, froze inside pipelines not made for the current weather conditions in Texas. Compressors for the pipelines and coal piles froze as gauges and instruments did at natural gas, coal, and nuclear plants. In some areas such as Dallas, the temperature as low as 4 degrees Fahrenheit was lower than Anchorage (AK). Plummeting temperatures caused spikes in use of electricity, leading to outages for unknown lengths of time. With the severe shortage of power, companies prioritized gas for heating homes and businesses instead of generating electricity, leaving people with electric furnaces, 60 percent of the population, in the cold with no electricity. Pipes will freeze because the shortage of electricity means no running water. Cell phone service is disappearing because backup generators at towers are freezing or running out of fuel or both.”

Meanwhile wholesale prices for natural gas went up as much as 4,000 percent. In northern Texas, the cost of a megawatt-hour went from an average of $18 to $300; Houston saw an increase in megawatt hour from $22 to $9,000. The increase in price was partly responsible for the lack of electricity: power management “shed load”—cut off customers—instead of dealing with the cost spikes.

A serious issue in Texas is its insistence on operating its own power grid, managed by the nonprofit Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), for 90 percent of the state’s electricity serving 26 million customers. Texas is the largest oil, natural gas, and wind energy producer in the country. Outside Texas, power company revenues pay to have generators on call during times of high demand, Texas electricity customers pay only for the power actually provided. Prices are lower during normal times, but the grid reliability suffers during times of spiking electricity demand.

Daniel Cohan, a Rice associate professor of environmental engineering, call ERCOT “an island.” In desperate circumstances, the state has nowhere to go to more energy, and the state hasn’t maintained its grid. Ed Hirs, an energy fellow in the department of economics at the University of Houston, said, “It limped along on underinvestment and neglect until it finally broke under predictable circumstances.”

The map (left) shows the widespread liability of a separate grid with lack of regulation. 

ERCOT’s predictions for the winter, using past winters, assumed it had sufficient resources and expected to lose about 8,600 megawatts in the winter for a peak demand of 58,000 megawatts. Instead, 34,000 megawatts went offline at the same time as a peak of 69,000 megawatts in the storm.

Texas built its own grid after the 1935 Federal Power Act regulated interstate electricity sales. ERCOT operates outside the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and assumes natural gas will always be available. Instead the liquid froze. As of Monday afternoon, over three-fourths of ERCOT’s gigawatts offline were from gas and coal. Yet publicity blames the wind and solar energy while using the current chaos as an excuse to raise utility rates. Ten years ago, when fossil fuel power underperformed, the conservatives falsely called the outages “a direct consequence of the Obama administration’s agenda to lay siege to the coal industry.” In that decade, Texas drillers have burned off massive quantities of natural gas–$750 billion worth in just 2018—instead of using it for the grid.

What Tucker Carlson doesn’t know—or refuses to admit:

  • Wind turbine outages are responsible for less than 13 percent of Texas’ power shortages.
  • ERCOT predicted wind turbines would produce only 10 percent of the state’s winter electricity; less than half the share of 22.9 percent in the summer.
  • Over 80 percent of the power shortfall came from problems at coal- and gas-fired plants.
  • During the power shortage this week, wind turbines exceeded expectations because of the winds generated by the storm spinning the blades faster than usual.

As of Tuesday evening, the weather has killed at least 25 people in the U.S. from tornadoes, fires, car crashes, carbon monoxide poisoning, etc. In Louisiana, a man died after he fell on ice and hit his head. The windchill went from Canada into Mexico, and snow fell on the Gulf of Mexico coastline. Snow covered over 73 percent of mainland U.S., the largest area since records began in 2003. All except three of the 48 mainland states had snow.

Delays in COVID-19 vaccine shipments and deliveries slowed the distribution as did the inability of people to get to vaccination sites. Medical personnel frantically looked for people to vaccinate after power and generators failed. The 2,000 record lows included -26F in Sioux Falls (SD) and -38F in Minnesota, and at least 20 cities experienced their coldest weather in history. More records are expected. 

Over 2,700 U.S. flights were canceled with 800 at Dallas-Fort Worth and 700 in Houston. Another 1,300 flights were delayed. In just Alabama, 100 school systems closed. San Antonio canceled all its flights.

The Dallas Stars postponed a National Hockey League game against the Nashville Predators, and the Houston Chronicle failed to print the paper after the plant lost power, something that didn’t even happen during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Abilene (TX) shut off water services at all three water treatment plants. At -16F, Tulsa (OK) had 113 broken water line since Sunday, and a parked patrol car couldn’t move because of frozen water around its wheels.

In Oregon, the coast stayed warm and wet, but much of the rest of the state was hit. About 330,000 people lost electricity, the largest number in recorded history. Heavy snow and ice brought down trees and branches, and the resulting blocked storm drains may cause flooding. Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order preventing price-gouging in nine Oregon counties because of unusual increases in lodging rates for temporary stays while power is out in homes.

Carlson’s next false claim may be that record low temperatures prove the fallacy of global warming. The rapid heating of the Arctic, however, pushes the North Pole’s cold air further south. It’s all part of climate change. Winter storms have been strongly increasing in the U.S. Northeast since 2008 as Arctic has heated up at a rate over twice the world’s average. Cold air around the North Pole, an area of low pressure tightly circulating during winter like a spinning top, is moving because of interference to the jet stream, strong winds at lower elevations than the polar vortex. Arctic warming causes a shift in the jet stream which then hits the polar vortex. Judah Cohen, the director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, said, “Where the polar vortex goes, so goes the cold air.” In the past month, Europe has also seen huge gusts of snow.

The storm will likely continue across the nation on Wednesday with a return to average or above-average temperatures within seven to ten days. Wednesday, however, the sun will be out at my house on the Oregon Coast.

One bright spot: The United States no longer blocks assistance from states based on their politics. Biden promised unity, and the red state of Texas was the first to receive federal assistance. He made a call to red state governors Greg Abbott (R-TX), John Bel Edwards (D-LA), Andy Beshear (D-KY), Laura Kelly (D-KS), Bill Lee (R-TN), Tate Reeves (R-MS), and Kevin Stitt (R-OK). The call repeated that his administration is ready to answer requests for federal assistance and deploy federal emergency resources to help people in the storm.

September 13, 2020

More Court Cases, Etc. against DDT

The mainstream media gave Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) a walk on his racist, misogynist attacks about Hillary Clinton in his last campaign, but it may be reversing its acceptance during the current one. For example, this comment from the traditionally more conservative Associated Press:

“[T]he racism and sexism underlying Trump’s critique of the first Black woman and person of Asian descent on a major party ticket are part of an aggressive strategy to appeal to white suburban voters.”

In Colorado, a judge ruled the U.S. Postal Service must immediately stop sending disinformation about the voting system to its residents. One of several statements where registered voters automatically receive ballots, the USPS is distributing false postcards to households across the nation, including Colorado. Contrary to USPS directions, Coloradoans:

Do not need to request a ballot at least 15 days before the election. Like other states with automatic mail-in voting, people do not need to request ballots.

Do not need to mail their ballot at least seven days prior to the election. People may also deposit ballots at a drop-box or choose to vote in person up to and including on Election Day. And unlike what DDT says, depositing the ballot does not cause COVID-19.

Are not prevented from voting if they lose their ballot. Voters may request another ballot if the first one is lost.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold had asked the USPS not to send the postcards in Colorado, but they refused her request. Another five states are considering lawsuits about the postcards because they have different rules, deadlines, and requirements from those on the USPS postcards.

With more chaos in multiple Texas court cases, courts have made two rulings in the past few days affecting mail-in voting. A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit upheld the age limit of 65 and older to vote by mail. Democrats had appealed the law on the basis of discrimination against younger voters. This ruling vacated one in a lower court allowing all eligible voters to receive absentee ballots and sent the case back to a lower court. A state judge, however, ruled that Harris County clerk, Chris Hollins, could send absentee ballot applications to all 2.4 million registered voters in the county that encompasses Houston. People who are disabled, ill, or other 65 may vote absentee although concern about COVID-19 doesn’t fit these categories.

In an ongoing Florida dispute, the 11th Circuit Court ruled in a 6-4 vote that felons completing their sentences can vote only after they pay their fees and fines. The panel overturned a federal judge’s decision that this requirement is comparable to an unconstitutional poll tax. Florida residents passed a state constitutional amendment in 2018 giving voting privileges to all felons except those convicted of murder and/or sexual offenses, and the GOP state legislature passed a law in 2019 mandating the payment of felons’ charges to restore their voting rights. The current rule disenfranchises up over 774,000 voters, and DDT won the state by only 113,000 in 2016.

Ironically, surveys have shown that the felons who wish to vote lean toward the GOP. DDT sees Florida as a “must-win” state, and he’s tied there with Biden. DDT’s campaign is almost broke, and Mike Bloomberg just announced he is putting $100 million into Florida’s advertising. Hearing that, DDT said he will spend $100 million of his own money for advertising, but DDT is notoriously cheap.

The Treasury Department has sanctioned Andriy Derkach for being “an active Russian agent for over a decade.” Three other Russians were sanctioned for their part in the Internet Research Agency, Russia’s troll-factory writing and disseminating interference in the 2016 presidential election. Derkach was the go-to guy for DDT’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani when he wanted “dirt” on Joe Biden, and he spread information attacking former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch for her ouster. More recently, Derkach laundered disinformation through Ron Johnson (R-WI) who oversaw a Senate investigation of Biden as well as sent other disinformation to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Both Senators denied received any information from Derkach. Giuliani said he had no idea Derkach was a Russian agent but wouldn’t answer any questions about how he could have been so ignorant. Jonathan Capehart asked:

“You’re a former prosecutor from the Southern District of New York, a former mayor of New York City, you have a national security firm.How could you not know that this person you were talking to was a known Russian agent?“

Giuliani told Capehart to “calm down” and then started talking Robert Mueller’s team “wiping” their cell phones after their investigations, a new DDT theory. Last December, Giuliani met with Derkach to promote the conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 election. Capehart asked him why he was pushing conspiracy theories.

Over a month ago, DDT signed a measure allowing companies to defer payroll taxes for Social Security until next year when employees would take a big salary hit to pay it back. His plan was to improve the economy by putting those taxes into the economy before the election. Big business decided delaying the collection was too much trouble. DDT told federal employees they had no choice but to accept the deferral, but he has control for only the Executive branch. Even the USPS decided not to enforce the deferral for their workers. The House told staffers their Social Security payments wouldn’t be deferred. The rest of the federal employees don’t want a deferral: civilian federal employee unions pushed permission to permit workers to opt out of the deferral, and military officers wrote to Congress about how DDT’s plan hurts young enlisted women and men with no financial savvy.

The government has lost one of its ethical people after federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy resigned her position as John Durham’s aide. AG Bill Barr appointed Durham to investigate the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, hoping to destroy the Democrats. As Barr pushed to get the incomplete information out as an “October surprise” before the election, Dannehy sent in her resignation. Her resignation gave no reason, but the Hartford Courant’s Edmund H. Mahony wrote it was partly motivated by Barr using an unfinished report before the election for political reasons.

Barr also wants the report to exonerate Michael Flynn, set to be sentenced for lying twice to the FBI. Two DDT-appointed judges overturned Flynn convictions, but the complete D.C. Circuit Court voted 8-2 for the case to continue. Dannehy’s resignation showed Durham’s inquiry was pre-determined, and Peter Strzok’s recent book, Compromised, showed the Flynn dismissal was based on hoaxes.

A former judge, John Gleeson, assigned to analyze the case before  it continued, said:

“In the United States, Presidents do not orchestrate pressure campaigns to get the Justice Department to drop charges against defendants who have pleaded guilty—twice, before two different judges—and whose guilt is obvious. Yet that is exactly what has unfolded here.”

He concluded the DOJ decision to drop the criminal case against Flynn was a “corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system.”

A few successful court cases:

DDT can’t call off census-taking early at the end of the month after a temporary restraining order from a federal judge in California. A court hearing on September 17 will determine whether counting will continue through the end of October, the date originally chosen by the Census Bureau. A similar hearing for a federal lawsuit in Maryland is set for September 21.

In another census case, a three-judge panel, two of them DDT-appointed, ruled DDT violated federal law when he ordered undocumented immigrants excluded from census data determining the number of seats in Congress for each state. The court also blocked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from including information about citizenship status in the numbers reported to DDT at the end of the count.

After several years, a federal judge told the Saudi Arabia government to make 24 current and former officials available for depositions about the 9/11 airplane attacks. The purpose of the case is to prove Saudi officials aware of or complicit in the kingdom’s support for the hijackers of the U.S. airliners.

Despite the Texas courts opposing mail-in voting, a federal judge ordered voters be given meaningful opportunities to contest decisions for rejected ballots from suspect signatures. The ruling goes into effect for the November election. The method of finding mismatches between the ballot envelopes and the vote-by-mail applications “plainly violates certain voters’ constitutional rights,” according to the judge.

Brian Murphy, the whistleblower reporting how DHS officials concealed information, stated the agency’s risk threat assessment couldn’t be released because it described the threats of white supremacists and Russian influence in the U.S. Ken Cuccinelli ordered Murphy to rewrite the data so white supremacy seemed less severe and the left-wing more prominent to satisfy DDT.  

Three years after DDT praised the “good” white supremacists who beat up people at Charlottesville (VA), workers removed the statue of a Confederate soldier a block away the Robert E. Lee statue protected by deadly clash caused by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Two cannons and a stack of cannonballs accompanied the soldier’s statue on its trip to the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.

July 12, 2020

Week 181 – DDT’s Troubles Grow

“I think I made a mistake. I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not.” Those were the last words of a person in their 30s who died in San Antonio (TX) after attending a “COVID party” where people intentionally expose themselves to coronavirus to see if it’s real.  

Other people are beginning to realize the failure of the strategy in ignoring the virus. In the three states suffering most from the COVID-19 surge, 60 percent believe their economies opened too early and efforts to contain virus going poorly—69 percent in Arizona, 65 percent in Florida, and 62 percent in Texas. In Florida, 68 percent of the people consider it because of DDT’s pressure, 70 percent in Arizona, and 61 percent in Texas.

Florida now has the record for the greatest number of COVID-19 cases on one day—15,300 cases—even worse than New York’s worst day. The number of cases is almost one-fourth of all cases in the U.S.  

The Supreme Court ruling about the U.S. illegally taking land in Oklahoma from Native Americans may give victories to other tribes. In an earlier case, the same court ruled the U.S. illegally took land in the Black Hills in 1873. Mt. Rushmore carvings from 1927 to 1941 on Native American sacred grounds were deemed an illegal act. After the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty guaranteed the Black Hills as part of a permanent “Great Sioux Reservation” to the Sioux tribe, which included the Black Hills, Lakota men, only ten percent of “adult male Indians,” agreed to cede the Black Hills to the U.S. government in 1873 in exchange for food. White people have already started looking for gold in the area and destroyed the Native American bison herds. “No treaty for the cessation of any portion or part of the reservation” could be sold or traded with agreement from 75 percent of the “adult male Indians.” The SCOTUS majority opinion in United States v. Sioux Nation stated:

“A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealing will never, in all probability, be found in our history.”

A group of protesters, concerned about the spread of COVID-19 from a speech planned by Dictator Donald Trump (DD), blocked the road to protect the reservation from the virus. South Dakota National Guard shot close-range shells at their feet and sprayed then with pepper spray. Fifteen protesters who remained were arrested. Part of DDT’s speech concerned “a merciless campaign to wipe out our history.”

A federal court gave the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes a victory by ordering the Dakota Access Pipeline to stop its operations by August 5. According to the judge, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to assess the environmental risks from the pipeline designed to run under the large reservoir Lake Oahe, despoiling sacred land and contaminating the water supply. If the government completes an assessment, the pipeline could go back to court again. Until then, the pipeline must be drained.

The controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, stretching 1,661 miles from Canada through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, was also excluded from the Supreme Court permission for a fast-track permitting process. The lengthy environmental review process required for the Keystone could delay the pipeline until after the November election. In another victory for environmentalists, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy cancelled the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The 10th Circuit Court sent a case filed by three Colorado municipalities back to state courts instead of federal courts. Boulder County, San Miguel County, and the City of Boulder are suing ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy in 2018 because of the corporations’ contribution to the climate crisis. The 9th Circuit Court also sent cases by three counties and five cities back to state courts.

A U.S. court ruled Yellowstone grizzly bears remain federally protected and not be hunted for sport.

A UK judge ruled adoption agencies can discriminate on the basis of religion but not against gay and lesbian parents. The case involved an agency working only with evangelical Christians.

The Scottish Parliament unanimously voted to immediately stop exporting rubber bullets, tear gas, and riot gear to the United States for police violence. Having sold about $7.53 billion of munitions to the U.S. in the past decade, UK licensing prevents the sale of this material if there is a “clear risk that items might be used for internal repression.” UK Parliament is considering a similar ban because “the brutality now aimed towards protesters and reporters across the country is unacceptable.”

AG Bill Barr is firing attorneys general who can investigate DDT and charge him for crimes, but Barr has no control over Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance who works for New York, not the U.S. After the Supreme Court ruled Vance had the right to subpoena DDT’s financial records, analysts assumed nothing would be done in the courts until after the election. Yet courts could fast-track the process.   

The National Association of Immigration Judges is suing the DOJ for blocking them from speaking about their work and other immigration issues. Part of the lawsuit is Barr’s “case completion quotas and other performance benchmarks.”

In other losses for DDT:

DDT’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump recorded a robocall this year telling people to use mail-in ballots—which are safe and secure—to support GOP Mike Garcia, running for the position of Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA) who resigned. Garcia won. Lara Trump’s brother-in-law Donald Trump Jr also recorded a robocall supporting vote-by-mail.

NASA renamed its Washington, D.C. headquarters for Mary W. Jackson, the first Black female NASA engineer made famous in the book and movie Hidden Figures. She began her career during a time of segregation in 1951 and became a human “computer” before the machines filled rooms and had less power and storage than a smart watch. In 2017, the new computer center at Langley was named for Katherine Johnson, Jackson’s Black colleague.

After the 2019 college admissions scandal ending with 53 people charged in cheating the system by paying people to take standardized tests and paying to get into schools,  the University of Pennsylvania stated it would revoke the degrees of graduates who falsified admission applications, cheated on exams, or tampered with records. In her book about DDT, his niece, Mary Trump, claims DDT paid someone to take the SATs for him, and DDT’s degree comes from Penn’s Wharton School.

The next White House book is about Melania Trump. Melanie and Me, a memoir from Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, former friend and senior adviser to Melania Trump, hits the bookstores on September 1. Wolkoff lasted a year until the public learned that DDT’s inaugural committee paid her firm $26 million for her help with the inauguration. The next year, Wolkoff said she “had been thrown under the bus”; the book has been described as “largely negative,” “explosive,” and “heavily trashes the first lady.”

After Mississippi removed the Confederate emblem from the state flag, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) described the law as long overdue and NASCAR’s banning of the Confederate flag as “absolutely the right thing to do.” He added, “It’s a symbol that more and more represents a day in the past that we don’t want to celebrate.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) warned DDT that Congress would likely override his veto of changing Confederate names on military bases. A Pentagon official also said Defense Department leadership considers a ban on Confederate flags on all bases following other ban by the Marine Corps and Navy. 

While the Democrats are moving forward with their virtual convention in August, the fate of the GOP convention is in question. Not only are several prominent Republicans not attending the meeting in Jacksonville (FL), including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), but the virus crisis may cause the event to be called off. Houston already called off the Texas convention, causing the GOP party to sue the city, with the highest number of coronavirus cases in a hot-spot state. A district court judge rejected the request so the GOP went to the state Supreme Court, arguing Houston permitted social justice protesters to congregate. A June 24 study found no evidence the protests increased COVID-19 cases.  State GOP leaders, including the governor and lieutenant governor, don’t plan to attend in person, and the Supreme Court has only virtual meetings.

The judge in charge of Michael Flynn’s case is appealing a three-judge panel decision to drop the conviction for Flynn’s lying under oath to the entire DC Circuit Court.  

The Commerce Department caved in, and its inspector general released a report about NOAA hurting public trust by defending DDT’s lies about Hurricane Dorian heading into Alabama—even changing a NOAA map with his Sharpie pen. 

The boycott against Goya Foods is growing after its CEO Robert Unanue doubled down on his effusive praise of DDT, calling him an “incredible builder” with the U.S., saying the people are “blessed” to have him in the Oval Office, and comparing DDT to Unanue’s immigrant grandfather from Spain. Fox is touting its own “buy-cott,” meaning lots of White people will have lots of Latinx food.

World COVID-19 cases have hit 13 million with 571,674 deaths, almost one-fourth–137,782–in the U.S. On July 12, the U.S. has 3,413,999 infections as the new ones in the past 24 hours “dropping” to 58,349.

 

May 31, 2020

Week 175 – Sunday Good News

In the midst of protesting George Floyd’s killing throughout at least 75 cities where police attack and arrest law-abiding reporters, one place in the United States provides a model of reaction to demonstrations. In Flint (MI), a sheriff and his officers put down their riot gear and joined with protesters. Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson (left) told the crowd marching on the Flint Township police station he wanted to hear them. He added he and his officers are in service of their demands and their protest. The leaders talked with Swanson, and law enforcement joined with protesters to “make this a parade, not a protest.”

Local photographer Leni Kei Williams documented the event in a photo essay posted to Facebook. He wrote about the inception of the interaction:

 

“When we reached the police station, the officers were lined up and everyone immediately took a knee. The Sheriff asked one question… ‘We are mad too! What can we do?’ and the crowd responded, ‘Join us.’”

“You got little ones here, you got dogs,” the sheriff said to the crowd in remarks caught on camera. “So listen, I’m just telling you, these cops love you. That cop over there, hugs people. So you just tell us what to do.”

Later, Swanson said:

“We can’t forget on all our police cars across the nation it says, ‘protect and serve.’ That means all people, that means all people deserve the same dignity. If you can’t call out what’s wrong, try to make it right. And that’s the magic we saw tonight. Nobody’s arrested, nobody got hurt. This is how it’s supposed to be.

“This is the way it’s supposed to be—the police working with the community. When we see injustice, we call it out on the police side and on the community side. All we had to do was talk to them, and now we’re walking with them. … The cops in this community, we condemn what happened. That guy [who killed George Floyd] is not one of us.”  

More of Williams’ photographs.

Similar actions happened in Camden (NJ), Coral Gables (FL), Santa Cruz (CA), Norfolk (VA), and probably other areas.

As DDT grows more desperate in his opposition to mail-in ballots, including raving about bands of children stealing ballots from mail boxes to get them signed and mailed in, a large majority of people in the nation, including 57 percent of Republicans, want mail-in ballots. We all feel we can safely cast our votes without long lines or dangers of crowded places. A new Brennan Center poll finds 80 percent of U.S. people, 90 percent of them registered to vote, want all voters to have the option of mail ballots for the 2020 election.  A Reuters poll found 65 percent of Republicans want the mail ballot option. In addition, two-thirds of people in a poll want voting available for as long as two weeks to eliminate long lines. Republicans are also creating organizations supporting mail ballots, for example former Pennsylvania GOP governor Tom Ridge who has co-founded “VoteSafe.” 

Ridge’s definition of democracy differs from Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons who said, “If you don’t [feel safe], don’t go out and vote.” He’s the same guy who passed on the question about who was responsible for the massive crowds at the Lake of the Ozarks who kept gathering because the county said it was the state’s responsibility. With an answer fitting every question, Parsons said, “It is what it is.” And about the tragic death of George Floyd, Parsons said, “It didn’t look too good.” [Parsons may not fit the “good” part of Sunday’s blog post, but his comments are too good to pass up.]

The Texas absentee voting lawsuit is still ping-ponging through the courts. State AG Ken Paxton wants mail-in ballots greatly restricted, but people want to maintain social distancing by voting from home. The latest state Supreme Court ruling is that concern about COVID-19 is insufficient to obtain a mail-in ballot. But the news for people isn’t all bad. The court also decided voters can assess their personal health to see if they have a disability, defined as a “sickness or physical condition” preventing a voter from appearing in person without the risk of “injuring the voter’s health.” Voters are also not required to explain what their disability is; they just check the box on the application form. And Paxton cannot prevent local election officials from sending ballots to voters who cited lack of immunity to the virus.

In an attempt to exonerate Michael Flynn and DDT, Congress released what the media calls “transcripts” of Flynn’s communications with then Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak when Flynn personally negotiated with a foreign country while Barack Obama was president. The conversations followed President Obama’s sanctions on Russia because of the country’s interference in the U.S. 2016 election. Flynn asked Kislyak to be “even-keeled” about the president’s punishment because “we can have a better conversation” about the relationship between U.S. and Russia after DDT’s inauguration. What has been released is enough of a condemnation of Flynn, who lied to the FBI in denying details of the conversation and undercutting a sitting president. Rep. Adam Schiff (R-CA) said the conversations also prove Flynn liked to VP Mike Pence. DDT had fired Flynn for his lies and admitted Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. The released material, however, is only a summary of the interactions with some quotation—transcripts of every part of their conversations. DDT’s allies are still claiming Flynn did nothing wrong, and AG Bill Barr called Flynn’s actions “laudable.”

After protests from media such as The Rachel Maddow Show and legislators including Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Gary Peters (D-MI) and Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Max Rose (D-NY), DDT extended the deployment of over 40,000 National Guard troops fighting COVID-19 through mid-August. He originally removed the deployment on June 24, 89 days, to refuse Guard troops any federal retirement and education benefits. Earlier deployment would also have caused problems for states depending on the Guard in new hot spots caused by reopening economies. Troops help understaffed and underfunded public health agencies with testing, contact tracing and other health services. Deploying on June 24 would have meant troops would leave by Jun 10 to quarantine for two weeks. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and National Guard Chief General Joseph Lengyel endorsed an extension last week, and 42 governors sent DDT a letter demanding continued federal support for the Guard.

Paul Manafort got out of prison because of COVID-19. So did Michael Cohen. But DDT wanted to leave all the other prisoners in danger of infection in place despite a virus hot zone in a federal prison in Ohio. For once, the Supreme Court disagreed—at least temporarily—with DDT. 

Late Friday, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to reject a California church’s challenge to the restrictions intended to protect people’s health. Chief Justice Roberts wrote that Gov Gavin Newsom could impose these restrictions because he didn’t single out specific places of worship. The court also turned down a request for Illinois churches to reopen. Both states had already removed some restrictions and permitted in-person services on last Sunday’s Pentecost, 50 days after Easter.

In the midst of DDT’s fight with Twitter, one of his judges rejected a lawsuit alleging Twitter, Facebook, Apple and Google conspired to silence conservative voices. Right-wingers accused the four companies of stifling First Amendment rights. Washington, D.C. appeals court Judge Trevor McFadden said First Amendment rights regulates the government, not the private sector and the plaintiffs didn’t prove the companies are “state actors.”

Opponents of Keystone XL and other pipelines picked up another victory from the 9th Circuit Court in a ruling that upheld a lower court ruling suspending a federal fast-track permit for the tar sands project. The court’s ruling stated the government and fossil fuel companies behind the project “have not demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of success on the merits and probability of irreparable harm to warrant a stay pending appeal.” This decision followed a U.S. district court in Montana which ruled DDT’s Army Corps of Engineers violated the Endangered Species Act when it used the fast-track “Nationwide Permit 12.”

The League of Women Voters of Michigan has the right to be interveners in a lawsuit attempting to stop the mandate for Detroit to conduct an aggressive purge of voters, some of them most likely eligible because of the questionable and unsubstantiated data used in the process. The purge risks removing voters with similar names and allegedly “deceased” voters who are still alive. The League asserts federal law doesn’t require purges from third parties using questionable data, Detroit meets federal law requirements, and the process would threaten voters’ rights.

Twenty-three U.S. states, four cities, and the District of Columbia are suing DDT’s administration for weakening fuel efficiency standards. The lawsuit also pits auto manufacturers against each other: GM, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, and others support DDT, and Ford, Honda, BMW, and other automakers oppose him.

President Trump’s job approval sank to 42 percent last week in a two-year low from the highly conservative Rasmussen poll. During several days of protesting, DDT’s rating dropped four points from the previous Friday.

May 24, 2020

Week 174 – Some Good News, Voting Squabbles

A federal judge overturned a new Florida law requiring felons to pay court fines and fees before they can register to vote, as permitted by an initiative passed in 2018 by 65 percent of the voters. The constitutional amendment expanded voting rights for those who completed “all terms of their sentence including probation and parole.” Judge Robert L. Hinkle compared the state law to a tax, unconstitutionally illegal.

In addition to using security agents as servants, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had them pack household goods and move his mother-in-law into a retirement home. Pompeo also ordered state Department officials to fabricate a justification for the emergency authorization to force an $8 billion arms deal without congressional approval and then hide it. To keep from firing Pompeo, DDT is trying to persuade him to run for Kansas senator. June 1 is the deadline for filing for candidacy.

Rachel Maddow is off the hook, at least temporarily, for a $10 million defamation lawsuit by One America News Network (OANN) after she said a writer for the right-leaning channel publishes the same material for Russia’s state propaganda network. On July 22, 2019, Maddow cited a Daily Beast article on her show, saying it reported OANN “has a full-time on-air reporter who covers U.S. politics, who is also simultaneously on the payroll of the Kremlin.” Maddow added, “The most obsequiously pro-Trump right wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda.” OANN plans to appeal the lawsuit’s dismissal.

Two Democratic FCC commissioners claim a $48 million fine with no admission of guilt for Sinclair is insufficient punishment for the conservative network’s violations of regulations and asked for harsher punishments and greater scrutiny into whether Sinclair should be allowed to own any television stations.  Sinclair lied for an FCC review in its attempt to buy Tribune Media, causing the merger to collapse; didn’t report its providing accounting services to TV stations it didn’t own to the FCC; and aired sponsored programming 1,723 times without telling viewers the content was paid by a hospital group and not news.

The EPA admitted ignoring serious problems with rolling back the regulation to reduce automobile pollution through mileage standards. The agency had not seen about two-thirds of the 1,000-page document that Transportation Department staffers gave the White House as justification for the changes, and the top EPA official said that the Transportation had not addressed over 250 comments from EPA experts. Documents about objections from EPA staff may create legal problems for the rule mandating an improvement of average fuel efficiency because of the rules that the EPA broke. In the margins of the new regulation, agency staff wrote:

“The action revising the [greenhouse gas] standards will result in increased climate impacts and air pollution emissions compared to the existing standards.”

Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-DE) wrote that the EPA failed to enter document into the public record, changed the rule after it was signed, and didn’t follow it obligation to write part of the mileage rule:

“The result is a policy that fails to protect public health, fails to save money, fails to result in safer vehicles and will, ultimately and undoubtedly, fail in court.”

Even without protection from DDT’s EPA, scientists say that the worldwide drop in carbon emissions from coronavirus shutdowns could be the largest in recorded history. The 17-percent decrease from the same month last year is the same as emission levels in 2006, according to an analysis of the 69 countries responsible for 97 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Forty-three percent of the decrease came from reduced surface transportation.

DDT is launching the latest phase of his pre-election smear campaign against Democrats, and faithful loyalist Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), chair of Senate Homeland Security Committee, wants to help him. He declassified an email former White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote herself as a reminder immediately before DDT’s inauguration about a discussion with President Obama and his team concerning Michael Flynn. Rice’s email states:

“[President Obama] stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective. He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book.”

Rice – 1; Johnson – 0. And Flynn – 0. 

Rice called on DDT to release the transcripts of phone calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador during the transition while Barack Obama was president. Flynn pled guilty—twice—to his private conversations with a foreign country with the goal of undermining his own country’s foreign policy. No release is impending.

Watching judicial decisions regarding Texas absentee voting is like watching a ping-pong game. The state’s AG, Ken Paxton, has fought to keep from expanding the extremely narrow parameters for absentee voters, even if people are in danger of being infected and dying from COVID-19. With no evidence, his excuse is “fraud.” The latest ruling from a Texas federal judge permits absentee ballots for voters afraid of catching the virus, applying the law to all registered voters who “lack immunity from Covid-19 and fear infection at polling places.” This ruling supersedes the decision from the state Supreme Court stopping five counties from issuing mail-in ballots. The next Texas election is July 14, and July 2 is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot. Paxton filed an appeal.

COVID-19 caused almost 30 states to change rules or practices for this year’s primaries or the general election, affecting roughly 86.6 million registered voters and more than 40 million people who now have the temporary right to cast an absentee ballot. Over a dozen states postponed primaries because of the virus, and 11 states requiring an excuse to vote by mail may use the virus for a reason. Another 12 states and the District of Columbia are proactively sending absentee ballot applications or request forms to voters specifically because of the coronavirus. Roughly 34.7 million people will receive the forms. Maryland, Montana, Nevada, and New Jersey sending absentee ballots for the primaries to approximately 11.3 million voters joined five other states that already mailed ballots to voters. In the 34 states that already do not require an excuse to vote absentee or by mail, the number of requests have shot up by ten times over 2016. Before the onset of the virus, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Utah already conduct elections by mail. Only Kentucky made voting more onerous by requiring government-issued photo IDs. ID-issuing offices are closed in the state.

With no evidence, DDT told reporters that mail-in ballots lead to “forgeries” and “thousands and thousands of fake ballots.” He added a diatribe about people printing “fraudulent ballots” and said “a lot of things can happen.” “To really vote, and without fraud, you have to go and you have to vote at the polling place,”  said DDT, the man who voted by mail from an address that Florida says he can’t have as a legal residential address. Previously, he said that Republicans need to block mail-in ballots to keep electing Republicans. DDT’s family also votes by mail.

DDT is so desperate to keep blue states from voting by mail that he threatened to block funding to Michigan and Nevada because he was under the impression that the states were mailing ballots. In fact, the states mailed applications for absentee ballots. GOP-led states such as Nebraska, West Virginia and Georgia made similar plans to offer applications for absentee ballots, but DDT has no comments about these red states. Interference with elections is unconstitutional.

Colorado, the third state after Washington and Oregon to legislate complete vote by mail, found the practice popular and relatively free of fraud—only 0.0027 percent out of 2.5 million ballots. In 2018, the state had the second highest turnout rate in the country after a 9.4 percent increase among registered voters. In April, 79 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of Republicans supported mail-in ballots for 2020. Yet the RNC and DDT’s re-election campaign are paying $20 million to fight voting changes in battleground states. Many Colorado Republicans advocate mail voting, and supporters say it’s safe because of paper ballots, signature verifications, a risk-limiting audit, and voter list checks make it safe. Research shows that neither party benefited from the mail-in system.

Vote by mail is also safer health wise. Wisconsin’s in-person primaries on April 7, mandated by the state Supreme Court and the GOP legislators, led to a “large” spread of coronavirus, according to a study.  

DDT may think that he can postpone the November election, mandated by the U.S. Constitution. About postponement, DDT’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, said, “I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other, but right now that’s the plan.” Backlash forced Kushner to backtrack to the media: 

“I have not been involved in, nor am I aware of any discussions about trying to change the date of the Presidential election.”   [photo – Kushner]

A  federal judge allowed a federal lawsuit against DDT, his three oldest children, and his company of collaboration with a fraudulent marketing scheme to prey on investors. The case involves an exchange of “secret” payments for use of DDT’s former reality TV show The Celebrity Apprentice and other promotional events to boost ACN Opportunity, a telecommunications marketing company linked to a nonprofit that used Trump’s brand to appeal to teens. According to the lawsuit, the Trumps profited off the poor and vulnerable by “systematically defrauding economically marginalized people.”

May 24: COVID-19 deaths are 99,300—just 700 short of 100,000.

October 11, 2018

United States, A Banana Republic

“Banana Republic” is a term to describe governments with countries that suffer from lack of democracy and corruption. How the United States fits the description of a “banana republic”:

An extremely stratified social class with a large impoverished working class and an ultra-rich ruling-class plutocracy with a lack of a middle class and lack of upward mobility: The U.S. has had the highest income inequality and lowest upward mobility of any country in the developed world for several years, and it keeps worsening.

Government’s corrupt connection with big business: As in fascist countries, U.S. conservative politicians have supported the merger of state and corporate power by removing regulations, giving corporations billions of dollars in tax cuts and subsidies, and putting banks and corporations above the law. The person occupying the Oval Office is profiting with millions—possibly trillions—from domestic groups and foreign government encouraged to use his businesses despite his constitutional violation of the Emoluments Clause.

A male business, political, and military elite controlling the nation: In a circular pattern, politicians take money from business for campaigns in exchange for subserviency, and conservative politicians vote for increased military expenses to keep money flowing into their states. Lack of regulations moves wealth offshore while workers suffer. Conservative politicians put white conservative males into control on the courts, protecting only white males and big business and permitting illegal tax evasion. All new DDT judicial nominees are male, recognizing that “we the ruling males” are in charge instead of the constitutional “we the people.” Less than one-third of the U.S. population is white male, but they still control the nation.

Police corruption and expanding police state: The frequent pattern of using military equipment for police actions is like military actions in Iraq, and law enforcement increasingly kill people in “accidents” or badly orchestrated sting operations. Laws since 9/11 permit warrantless wiretapping and other tactics common in dictatorships.

Highest incarceration rate in the world: The 716 prisoners per 100,000 residents in the U.S. far exceed the 114 in Canada, the 79 in German, and even the 162 in Saudi Arabia. Privatized prisons have greatly increased the number of prisoners because the government gets kickbacks from these businesses for their campaigns that keep them the ruling party.

Lack of access to healthcare: Despite the Affordable Care Act, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) created a path to health insurance that doesn’t provide for pre-existing conditions, hospitalizations, maternal care, and other health needs by conning them into believing that they save money. DDT’s newest plan is like a person paying less for a car that doesn’t run. People in the U.S. pay more than most developed countries for healthcare expenses and are reduced to medical bankruptcies but are convinced that universal health care is evil.

Much shorter life expectancy in poor than wealthy: In one West Virginia county, life expectancy for males is 63.9 years compared to 81.6 years, 17.7 years higher, in affluent Fairfax County (VA)—a difference of 27 percent. Bangladesh life expectancy is higher than McDowell County (WV). U.S. women’s life expectancy was #41 in 2010.

Hunger and malnutrition: Banana republics are associated with food insecurity, but the need for food stamps in the U.S. has increased from one in 50 during the 1970s to one in eight with 50 million people, including 12 million children, suffering from food insecurity.

High infant mortality: Fifty-seven countries have a smaller infant mortality rate than the U.S. In first-day death rate, babies dying the day that they are born, the U.S. has the highest rate in the industrialized world, twice as many as in the European Union.

One idealistic view of saving the United States is to vote, and millions of people want to exercise their right to select their representatives in this republic. Yet conservative politicians block the ability for millions to vote. Beyond white males rigging the districts so that a state with a majority of Democrats will elect almost all Republicans for state and federal elected officials, voter ID laws that prevent people from voting. The following states have created these ways to keep people from voting:

Arizona: Secretary of State Michele Reagan won’t be required to update voter registration addresses of 384,000 Arizonans who moved since the last election, even if the Motor Vehicle Division system won’t change addresses until people “opt-in” to update their information in conflict with the National Voter Registration Act. When people show up at the wrong polling place because of Reagan’s inaction, the voter can go to the new address and cast a provisional ballot. The state, however, has a record of destroying these without recording them. Reagan said that she’ll fix the system sometime next year—after the midterm election. Maybe.

Florida: Whether prisoners and released felons can vote is dependent on state law. A few states don’t have restrictions against voting after the felons serve their sentence, but a few rely on “individual petitions.” Of the 6 million people with felony convictions permanently barred from voting, about 1.5 million of them are from Florida, and over 20 percent of them are black. Gov. Rick Scott is in charge of deciding whether each one can be permitted to vote, and he has granted only 8 percent of those requesting the right to vote with a backlog of over 10,000 not yet reviewed.

Georgia: Brian Kemp is the state Secretary of State and in charge of elections. Kemp is also running for governor. He is keeping 53,000 voter applications from being processed because of typographical errors. The list has a disproportionately high number of black voters. Kemp’s opponent is Stacey Abrams, a black woman. Because Kemp is in charge of elections, there is no proof that he legitimately won the primary to become candidate in the general election, especially after indications of voting corruption within the past few years. Kemp is also being sued for using a racially-biased methodology to purge 700,000 voters from the rolls in the past two years and failing to send notices of the removal to voters. That’s ten percent of registered voters. Kemp also kept the state from having a paper trail to its woefully inadequate digital voting system, allowing him more election corruption.

North Dakota: A state law, challenged but approved in court, mandates that all voter IDs have residential addresses. Even the Supreme Court thinks that people without street addresses should not have the right to vote. This law takes voting rights from the homeless and people living on Native American reservations who lack the “residential address.”

Texas: Delivering a letter demanding that Waller County address its problems with rejecting registrations of students at Prairie View A&M resulted in the arrest of the campaign staffer presenting the missive to a clerk. Jacob Aronowitz, a field director for Democratic congressional candidate Mike Siegel, photographed the clerk taking the letter, and the clerk objected. When he was arrested, Aronowitz called Siegal who heard Aronowitz asking why he was being held and telling the detaining officer that his lawyer, Siegel, was running for office. Aronowitz was asked for Siegel’s political party, and the officer kept Aronowitz’s phone with his records when he was released. The county gave students the address to use for registration because all students use one post office box and then refused to accept it on the last day to register, jeopardizing the registrations. The letter demanded that the county update the existing registrations because students had followed the county’s direction. Waller County is uncomfortable with students voting because the student body is 82 percent black while the county is 70.5 percent white. It opposed students’ right to vote until a 1979 case in the U.S. Supreme Court upheld students’ right to register at their college address. The county wouldn’t obey the high court ruling, declaring in 2004 that students were ineligible to vote because they failed to meet the residency requirement. The campus did not get a polling place until 2013. So the county, which does not want the students to vote, gave them the wrong address for registration, refused to accept the address they gave students, arrested a person obtaining verification that he delivered a letter of complaint, lied about his not identifying himself, asked for the political party of the person objecting, and refused to return the arrested party’s possessions when he was released.

Voting could help move the United States from a banana republic—if citizens get the permission to cast a ballot and their ballots are counted. Until that time, the U.S. will remain a banana republic.

September 1, 2017

Hurricane Harvey’s Disasters

First a Category 4 hurricane followed by a 1,000-year rain/flood. What can be worse? Explosions!  After EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt delayed rules for chemical plants, organic peroxide at the Arkema chemical facility in Crosby, about 25 miles northeast of Houston, continues to blow up because of refrigerator loss from flooding. Arkema officials refused to keep the chemicals from exploding because it would then be unsalable. They aren’t even required to tell first responders what chemicals are at Arkema to provide safety for the firefighters. In more explosions, the “extremely flammable” chemical will just have to “burn itself out,” producing “incredibly dangerous” fumes, according to a facility spokesperson.  Interview with Houston Chronicle reporter Matt Dempsey regarding Arkema’s refusal to talk.

The rules that Pruitt delayed came after a 2013 explosion at a chemical facility in West, 200 miles north of Houston, that killed 15 people. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is erasing any federal responsibility in disaster response and discouraging corporate investment in new infrastructure. The newest refinery is 60 years old. Millions of pounds of pollutants have been released from flooded and shut-down refineries and chemical plants. Two nuclear reactors are still operating at Bay City, 65 miles southeast of Houston, where people have been evacuated, and flooding could cause electrical fires leading to core damage as well as a meltdown from loss of cooling water inventory.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez lied about the explosion, describing them as a “pop” followed by smoke; FEMA director, Brock Long, said a plume of chemicals leaking from the plant was “incredibly dangerous.”

Rebuilding in Texas will fail because DDT rescinded the requirement that future building company meet tougher flood standards set by President Obama. A bipartisan plea to keep the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard was overwhelmed by real estate developers and builders. DDT announced his change in an executive order at his August 15 press conference when he ranted support of white supremacists at Charlottesville (VA). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) wife and Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, will be implementing DDT’s order. She is a former banker with Citicorp, vice president of Bank of America Capital Markets Group, and board member of Wells Fargo.

DDT’s lack of personnel and budget cuts will also ensure worse flooding and other disasters in the future. The U.S. has no director for either NOAA, which includes the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center, nor DHS. Two FEMA deputy directors await confirmation. DDT’s budget slashes $667 million from FEMA programs and grants, including cuts to the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, which provides funding states and cities to better withstand the impact of hurricanes and coastal storms. He wants the funding moved to “the wall.” Proposed NOAA cuts: 16 percent overall; 32 percent to the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, the agency’s main ocean, weather and climate research office; computer modeling of storms and observation of storms and data dissemination; and 22 percent to NOAA’s satellite division used for weather prediction.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) submitted an amendment to the federal government’s 2018 spending bill preventing funds for the government’s National Climate Assessment.

Texas wants FEMA money but turned down other aid. People of Quebec offered blankets, beds, and water as well as other relief effort such as equipment and crews to help restore power, but Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos refused everything. He asked for “prayers from the people of Quebec” instead. Mexico has also offered help, but the U.S. has not yet accepted.

Both GOP Texas U.S. senators, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, begged DDT for “any and all emergency protective measures available by a major disaster declaration.” Along with over 20 GOP Texas representatives in the House, they voted against the emergency aid package for Sandy that hit the East Coast. Thirty-nine GOP senators and 179 GOP representatives opposed money for Sandy, and senators stalled for 91 days.

After two months on the job, FEMA Director Long explained that he didn’t order an evacuation of Houston because it would take too long to get people out of the city. People left in the city sat in water if they couldn’t get out on their own—like these women in a Houston nursing home.

As usual, DDT treated the hurricane disaster as his own television reality show. Balanced on a ladder between two fire trucks in Corpus Christi, he held up a Texas flag and said to a few hundred people, “What a crowd, what a turnout!” He talked about the “ratings” from Hurricane Harvey and bragged that FEMA Director Long “has really become very famous on television over the last couple of days.” He seemed self-congratulatory when he tweeted, “WOW – now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood!” DDT even lied in his tweet about “witnessing first hand the horror & devastation.” In Texas for only three hours, he went to Austin and Corpus Christi, met with the Texas governor, and was briefed at a Corpus Christi firehouse. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to cover for DDT by saying, “He met with a number of state and local officials who are eating, sleeping, breathing the Harvey disaster.”

The piece missing from his impromptu speeches was any reference to the people who died in the storm or were forced to leave their homes from the floods. As a germaphobe, DDT may not have been able to touch any of the victims.

DDT did advertise the items for sale on his campaign website through product placement. The “USA” hat that he consistently wore is available for only $40.

While people in Texas were suffering, DDT concentrated on forcing transgender service members out of the military, pardoning white supremacist Joe Arpaio, advertising racist David Clark’s new book, and demanding his “wall.” At no time did he ask for donations for the people in the disaster areas. President Obama did that.

DDT promised to donate $1 million to an unspecified Harvey relief fund, but it is unlikely that he will. Although Sanders said the money might come from the Trump Foundation, donations from other people, that might be difficult because the Foundation is under investigation. When DDT collected money for veterans during his campaign, he didn’t release the money until the media embarrassed him into giving at least part of it to veterans. His statement that he had given $1 million of his personal money turned out to be false.

From Amy Goodman:

“Hurricane Harvey has been downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to a tropical depression as it moves over Louisiana and into Mississippi. In Houston, floodwaters have begun to recede, revealing corpses and mass devastation. Texas officials say at least 44 people [now 47] have been killed by the storm. Nearly 100,000 homes are damaged by flooding. More than 30,000 people remain in shelters. Health officials are taking steps to minimize the spread of diseases such as cholera and typhoid, and nearly 150,000 homes have been told to boil their water. East of Houston, in hard-hit Beaumont, drinking water is completely shut off, and emergency workers are evacuating Beaumont’s main hospital. Meanwhile, flooding continues in North Houston as the Neches River surged beyond its banks and is expected to rise another foot by Friday afternoon.”

In another segment on Democracy Now, guest Renee Feltz talked about the release of waters from reservoirs that increases flooding and one of the polluted areas that EPA is still trying to clean up. Houston is home to over a dozen Superfund sites requiring cleaning up from pollutants, and DDT has cut that budget by almost one third.

Five public health problems after flooding in Houston: contaminated water, especially because of the release of pollutants by the oil and gas industry and explosions from the Arkema chemical plant; mosquitoes, bred in standing water and spreading disease; lost medicines left in evacuated homes, perhaps when people don’t know the names of their medications; mold from underwater conditions in many homes and other buildings; spread of infectious diseases from close contact in shelters; and long-term mental issues such as depression.

Eric Holthaus (Politico):

“Harvey is what climate change looks like. More specifically, Harvey is what climate change looks like in a world that has decided, over and over, that it doesn’t want to take climate change seriously.”

Michael Mann (The Guardian):

“Sea level rise attributable to climate change – some of which is due to coastal subsidence caused by human disturbance such as oil drilling – is more than half a foot (15cm) over the past few decades (see here for a decent discussion). That means the storm surge was half a foot higher than it would have been just decades ago, meaning far more flooding and destruction. In addition to that, sea surface temperatures in the region have risen about 0.5C (close to 1F) over the past few decades from roughly 30C (86F) to 30.5C (87F), which contributed to the very warm sea surface temperatures (30.5-31C, or 87-88F).”

Two high pressure systems kept Harvey in place longer than any other tropical storm in history. The disaster is consistent with last decade’s trend with nine of the past 11 years of Atlantic hurricane seasons producing more storms than normal. And now, Hurricane Irma, suddenly turned into a Category 3 hurricane, is headed for the U.S.

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